Disclaimer: I do not own, nor did I create any of the characters in the Leviathan series; Scott Westerfeld did.
I realize it may not be too interesting right now, but it's just getting started. Please read and review, if at all possible.
A Fan Fiction. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” -Dr Seuss
The three of them were seated around the dinner table, for once without any guests. It was strange that the room was so empty; usually the large table was swarmed with visiting boffins and wealthy men anxious to donate to any of the zoo’s numerous projects. Now it was just the three of them, though, with the boffin at the head of the table and Deryn and Alek to either side of her, across from each other. Deryn exchanged lots of glances with Alek, who occasionally even made faces when Dr. Barlow wasn’t looking. Deryn had the suspicion that the boffin knew of this but made no show of it.
“I’m quite stumped upon what path to take with my next fabrication, boys.” Dr. Barlow said in German. Deryn was secretly pleased at how well she’d continued to pick up the language since departing from the Leviathan for the last time. Mr. Newkirk had been sad to see her go, even to the point of an ashamed tear, that she was leaving. He’d swiped that single tear from his cheek like it was poison, looking around to make sure none of the officers noticed. It was all Deryn herself could do not to squeak like a girl when she told him goodbye, promising they’d see each other someday, and gave him a gruff hug.
“Do me a favor and don’t get yourself killed while I’m gone,” she’d told him.
“I’ll try. You either. That boffin business is tricky stuff.”
“Aye, I’ll try too. But at least I’ve got that daft prince to save me if something goes wrong.”
“Fah! Daft princes!” Bovril had exclaimed from her shoulder.
“And I’ve only got a ship full of men behind my back,” Newkirk said, ignoring the loris.
“Um, Dylan?” Alek and Dr. Barlow were looking at her expectantly. Barking spiders, she’d drifted off into a memory again.
“Oh, um, sorry.” she said in her deep impression of a man’s voice. Quite convincing, it seemed, as it had fooled the entire crew of the Leviathan and almost everyone else for the last year. “What was that again?”
“I asked you, Mr. Sharp, if you had any ideas for which path to take on the latest fabrication. Or perhaps you find our conversation boring?”
“Of course not, Madam, I was just thinking about my reply. I believe we should try to accomplish something new, which will be difficult considering how many beasties there are. Or perhaps a companion creature to the perspicacious loris.” Deryn spoke in slow, clear German, looking at Alek to confirm she’d said everything correctly. He nodded.
“Certainly an idea. And what is your opinion on the matter, Aleksandar?”
“I quite agree, Dr. Barlow. Mr. Sharp’s suggestion has potential.”
“Thank you for your helpful input,” the boffin raised an eyebrow at him, and he smiled at her, rather smugly, for just a moment. The lady boffin had become much more tolerant of the two in the recent months.
The lorises, who had been chatting with the other under the table for the duration of the meal, chose that moment to pipe up. “Barking spiders,” Bovril said seriously.
“A suggestion with potential!” replied the other loris. This set them off giggling uncontrollably, and Deryn could easily picture them rolling around on the floor.
“Please quiet your loris, Aleksandar,” ordered Dr. Barlow. He leaned under the table and shushed them.
“Shush!” was the reply, but they spoke quietly again after that.
“I read something quite unsettling in the newspaper this morning,” Dr. Barlow said and stirred her tea. “The Danava caught fire and exploded early Tuesday off the eastern coast of America, according to The New York World.”
“Barking spiders! How did that happen?” Deryn paused mid-chew and let her mouth hang open in shock, earning her a stern glare from the boffin.
“Mr. Malone theorizes that a German zeppelin in the area had something to do with it. He states that one of the few survivors told him they heard strange, high pitched noises and the message lizards panicked right before the explosion, and there were radio disturbances in the ares. Quite eccentric, if you ask me, but it does start me wondering.”
“That’s terrible.” Alek pushed the remnants of food around his plate, seeming to have lost his appetite. Deryn frowned and took another bite.
The three of them settled into silence as dessert was served--there were barking servants here--, the only sound the clanking of plates. Deryn only picked at the strange pudding and studied the ornate tablecloth, tracing the flowers with her eyes. Finally they were dismissed from the table, and she and Alek hurried back to their rooms, Bovril sitting contentedly on Deryn’s shoulder.
“What was that, Deryn?” Alek grabbed her arm and pulled her around to face him, switching effortlessly to English. She took a quick glance around to make sure no one had heard him call her that, avoiding his gaze. His face turned serious. “Were you thinking about the Leviathan?”
There was no point in denying it. He knew her too well. “Aye,” she admitted.
Alek paused a moment before speaking. “I know that thing with the Danava it horrible, and that it could have been the Leviathan. Is there anything I can do?” he asked carefully. His eyebrows were creased with concern. He knew how much she missed the ship.
“No,” Deryn gritted her teeth and pushed down her sadness, dragging him down the corridor. “Now come on, you softie, we need to get some exercise!” Once they had reached their rooms, Deryn hurriedly stripped from her dining clothes--she still found it ridiculous that all the fancy-boots had special clothes for barking eating--and put on more sensible ones, suitable for their nightly adventures. She stepped out into the hall just as Alek did, nearly running into him. Bovril leaped onto Alek’s shoulder now. “Ready?” she asked.
“As ever, Mr. Sharp.” They crept into a guest room, and Deryn led them out to the balcony. She turned to face him, and reaching out her arms...
And grabbed the ledge above, hauling herself up. Her muscles strained with the effort, but eventually she scrabbled up to the next balcony. It took Alek a bit longer. The process was repeated until they were atop the building. The burning pain in her knee was an old friend by now, and in the back of her mind she was always convincing herself that the pain was growing weaker, that she was healing still.
Alek huffed out a breath. “That never gets any easier.”
“It will. Probably,” she said, flexing her knee.
“Not quite like climbing the ratlines, is it?”
She shook her head sadly, “But now--”
“--Comes the fun part,” he finished for her and strode to the edge of the roof, staring at the gap between it and the next building. Deryn flew past him and leaped over to the next rooftop, trying to make the landing look easy, even though it sent a jarring pain up her leg. She let out a hiss.
“Hurry up, bum-rag,” she called jokingly. He shook his head, but took a few steps back and made the jump, barely reaching the side. She grabbed his shirtfront to steady him, resisting the urge to pull him in close. At this point, Bovril found it wise to cling to Deryn’s shoulder instead.
“I still don’t understand why we can’t take the street,” he mumbled.
“Because that would be absolutely no fun.” The next jump was shorter, as were all the others to their destination, and they made good time to the park.
“So, Deryn,” Alek began, “Are you going to tell me what your fascination with this place is?”
She sighed, thinking he should have guessed by now. “It’s the trees. The way the tops sway in the wind is the closest I can get to flying these days. And the view, if you look straight up from on the highest branch, is almost like I’m topside again. Almost.”
“Oh. Okay.” he cast her a wary glance, as if thinking there were something she hadn’t told him. But there wasn’t. She would never break their oath. “So, which one are we climbing tonight?”
Deryn made a quick survey of the surroundings, and pointed to the highest tree she could find. “That one. Come on, I’ll race you!” she shouted, and broke into a dead sprint for the oak a hundred yards away. Her longs legs carried her to the base of the tree, slowing just soon enough not to run into it. Alek followed short seconds later. They both took great breaths for a moment.
“I need a warning next time, dummkopf,” he said around wheezes. “Totally, completely, unfair.”
“Aye, I’ll remember that.” she grabbed the first branch and swung herself up, Alek in quick pursuit. Soon the two of them were swarming up the tree like they were ratlines, the limbs swaying under their weight. Deryn lunged for a branch, but somehow her aim was off and her hand missed. Alek had taken hold of the same one, pulling it down. A curse escaped her mouth as she plunged toward the ground--and felt a tug on her leg, swinging her body around, barely avoiding a head bashing. She was stunned, speechless.
“Deryn!” His voice came from above, full of terror. “Deryn! Are you okay? Did you hit anything?” he cursed, “Did I catch the wrong leg?”
She took a shaky breath. “No, I--I’m fine. Thank you.” He grabbed her other leg and she climbed with her arms until she was above level, swinging her feet onto a nearby perch.
“I’m so sorry, Deryn, I didn’t see you. You could’ve been hurt, and I would have never--” his voice quavered uncontrollably, the color on his face completely drained.
Deryn chuckled shakily. “Silly how this sort of thing gets us worked up. How boring our lives are. This would be just another day on the Leviathan, nothing to worry about.”
“Are you sure you didn’t get knocked in the head?” He was still being so fearful. She squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath. She was about to reassure him that she was fine when she felt a sharp pressure on her mouth. Her eyes flew open. Alek was smiling now. “It worked when you did it.” Deryn’s mind shot back to the night on the Leviathan when Alek had fallen and hit his head, and they’d made their vows to never keep secrets from each other, or give the other’s secrets away. When she’d kissed him to keep him awake.
She took a halfhearted punch at his shoulder, “You knew I was fine. You just wanted an excuse for that, you ninny.”
“That’s complete nonsense,” he said, and kissed her again. “I merely found and opportunity and took advantage of it.” with that he clambered up the tree the rest of the way, stopping every few seconds to make sure she was following. The top branches bent under their weight, and Deryn could see the unease on Alek’s face mixed with awe. “You were right.”
He leaned back, gazing at the sky. “It is kind of like we’re topside.”
“Aye, it is. Look! Over there, an airbeast!” she cried, pointing. It was passing to the right, and though it was not as grand as the Leviathan, she imagined the Clanker engines rumbling on it’s sides, and even Newkirk in the huxley ascender floating lazily above.
“Hmm. Yes. There certainly is.”
“Certainly,” Bovril echoed gravely. Alek put his arms around Deryn, holding her steady as they watched the beast pass, remembering their days on the ship.