High in a tree, the former Prince of Austria-Hungary and the much decorated Midshipman Deryn Sharp were having an interesting discussion. At the very least, the discussion was interesting to Bovril. To the humans, and especially to Alek, it was merely some exellent end of the day banter; an old past-time for the pair. He was feeling especially tired today, and was especially glad when Deryn had suggested a trip to the park.
Working for Dr. Barlow was hard work, especially since now he had to alternate between being a diplomat-slash-spy and a translation machine. Who knew how many Darwinists had written old manuscripts in one of the many languages he'd been spoon-fed as a child?
He didn't mind it, mostly, because wherever he was, Deryn came with him as his guard and escort. Being of like age and having fought together for so long made them an ideal pair, according to Dr. Barlow. Depending on where they were going, he was escorted by Deryn or Dylan. And somehow, though they saw nearly the same people each time, no one seemed to notice that they were, in fact, exactly the same person.
The one thing people did seem to notice was that his companions rarely, if ever, spoke anything other than English. The strange thing about that was his companions also seemed to have very keen eyes-- as though perhaps they understood what was going on, but simply couldn't contribute. More than one person had confided this to Alek, while Deryn was off somewhere else. Of course, it was true. Deryn had picked up a great many words.
In fact, it was the topic of the banter in the tree.
"If you tried, you'd certainly be able to speak full German by now." Alek said lightly, swinging his legs and peering down at her.
"And sound even more like a barking Clanker?" she said with half-hearted vitriol, "not bloody likely. Even if I tried, I'd get addled with all those words in my head. Doesn't it scramble your attic trying to keep them all straightened?" Deryn pestered, sprawled across a thick branch, holding Bovril above her like one might a baby.
"Addled," the Loris agreed.
"Well, no. I mean, you know enough German and that doesn't confuse you," the ex-prince replied lightly from his perch just above her, enjoying seeing her long body stretched out in the tree with the sunlight glinting in her flaxen hair. Beautiful. "Furthermore, I suspect you can understand French as well, but you just won't admit to it."
"Bloody right I won't speak Frog," she said with a snort, "I only know enough Clanker to call you a dummkopf and not think you've lost it when you call me whatever kind of liebe you think I am any given time."
"You know plenty of German, liebe, meine liebe, liebling," he mused thoughtfully and twirled a leaf in his fingers.
"Meine," said Bovril gleefully.
"Aye, meine, you favor that one too. Don't tell me you've been calling me mine, mine, mine, you greedy bloody Clanker," even as she said this she grinned up at him, clearly not offended by the prospect of being his, his, his.
"Well I suppose I have, at that. But I'm yours too, so you can't be too upset about it," he reasons with trademark diplomacy in his voice, but is betrayed by his own wide smile.
Alek is still not used to love. To being near her every day and working alongside her and he has definitely not gotten used to the way they are able to kiss and hold hands on a normal basis. It still spins his head when she brushes her lips over his cheek before she leaves a room.
"Got to wonder who it's less fair to," she mused, and gives the loris a little toss and catches him again. It makes a sweet, keening noise it must have picked up from a small child in the park.
Being in love has shed some light on other subjects, like Shakespeare. He remembered a particular line that never made sense to him before and recited: "Lady, as you are mine I am yours. I give myself away for you and dote upon the exchange,"
"Dote upon the exchange," Bovril says, mid-toss.
"That doesn't make any sense," she says, catching the perspicacious little beastie deftly.
"It's Shakespeare, and English, liebe."
"Shakespeare!" Bovril cries as Deryn tosses him a little higher.
"I don't see how you can remember all of it. But I suppose your attic is a bit scrambled."
Alek makes a face that she can't see, "It's the same way you remember everything in the Manual of Aeronautics. Just, with words instead."
"But the manual is pure dead useful. I don't see anyone around here trying to talk Church with you."
"Well, that isn't fair, Latin is mostly a dead language. But really, I bet you could speak German and French, and I could teach you Italian and Greek and--"
"Oh aye, I know you've a bloody ridiculous vocabulary, your princeliness! I've got no use for speaking Church or Frog or Clanker--"
It's Alek's turn to interrupt, especially as speaking six languages (and he's working on Japanese) is basically his job now, "All I told Eddie Malone was Latin, and it shut him right up."
"I do remember that," she agrees, and gives Bovril another toss, "Who is Felix, anyway?"
Alek laughs, "Bella gerant alii, tu, felix Austria nube, so Felix isn't a person."
"Well what does it mean, you daft prince?" She stops herself from throwing the loris at him, since it seems it wouldn't be fair to the beastie. Alek is quiet for several long moments. "Well?" Deryn presses.
"Nube, nubere, nupsit," Bovril chants. Alek has no idea where he learned his conjugation.
"It means, let others wage war..."
"I knew that part," she interrupts.
He takes a deep breath and says the Hapsburg motto in the most dignified voice he can muster, "Let others wage war, you, lucky Austria, shall marry."
At that, she nearly forgets to catch Bovril, who complains, "marry lucky Austria," in a sullen voice as she snaches him up.
"Marry?" She says, her voice betraying her as it climbs just a bit too high to pass as a young man's.
"It's a figure of speech," he says quietly, with his eyes fixed on the leaves above him.
"Were you, did you mean, me?"
"Well, I mean, not quite so literally as that. But yes, I suppose, that's what it means, eventually."
Suddenly she's standing on the branch instead of lazing on it, her blue eyes blazing and Bovril tucked unceremoniously under her arm. "Really?" she asks, a bit breathlessly. They are nearly eye-to-eye with him sitting and her standing. He has just one moment to enjoy feeling taller than her, but then realizes he must answer her question.
"I mean, if we, if we wanted to, when we were ready, we could. I mean, you aren't a Midshipman and I'm not an emperor, so we're just free people of the world who can--"
Then she's kissing him. And kissing him. Who knows where Bovril has gone but who cares because everything that is or was confusing just falls into place. He loves her. He trusts her more than anyone he has ever known. They part just briefly and he marvels at how beautiful she is with her sun-warmed cheeks and her strong shoulders and her powerful hands poised on his shirt buttons.
She clamors up to his branch and straddles his lap. It's clear to him now why they are rarely left unsupervised. Conversations about vocabulary and languages inevitably lead to kissing, not that he minds, but it seems inevitable with the two of them.
Alek decides, as Deryn bites down on his lip in a way that hurts and sends a jolt of pleasure through his entire body at the same time, that he will chalk the inevitability up to providence. Destiny. Because that's what it feels like, to have a hand on her waist and a hand stroking her cheek. To hear her almost uncharacteristically soft kissing noises. To feel her whole body pressed warm against his and knowing, truly the definitions of abstract words like desire, passion and love.
That yes, someday, and perhaps someday soon, Deryn Sharp will be his wife. Because it's providence. Because it's destiny. Even in six languages, he can't think of a better word for it than that. He is pondering the word divined, as it has divine as a root and it all does seem rather divine as she is running her hand over his chest and rocking her hips against his, but that thought flickers away and all he can think about is how incredibly soft her lips are and how wonderful her mysterious hip-rocking feels.
Unfortunately, there are some limitations to being in a tree. He stills her hands as she is reaching for the fasteners on his trousers. She sighs resignedly, but relents. His heart tugs as she swings off of him and sits on the branch with her fingers laced in his. They are quiet for a long time, and Bovril reappears and curls up in Deryn's lap.
"And," she says as they are leaning against one another and watching the sun set, "Ich kann ihnen nicht sagen, ich spreche Deutsch. Diese Arschlöcher konnte uns trennen. Ich will nicht, dass neben Ihnen, Ihre Durchlaucht."
Alek is a little surprised at how good her German really is-- or at least how good her accent is, if her grammar is somewhat lacking. Either way he can't argue with her logic. If anyone knew how quickly Deryn could pick up a language, they would be separated for sure. It's part of what makes them an incredibly powerful and balanced tactical team. And he feels the warmth spreading across his chest. Love sounds different in every language he knows, but it always feels the same.