Deryn couldn't believe what shed said to him. How could I have been so stupid!, she thought, storming into her cabin and slamming the door. He hand seemed to act of its own accord as it rammed into the wall, crunching the wood beneath it.
"Fool! I'm a bloody fool!" she yelled, stomping over to her bed and throwing herself on it, burying her face under her pillow. There she sobed for a good twenty minutes, unable to help herself.
She hadn't ment to be so rude. She was jsut fed up with Alek tryign to pry things out of her. She couldn't tell him her secret, even though it was tearing her up inside to keep it from him. It was only fair that he knew, seeing as he had told her jsut abotu everything. But if he knew she wasn't a boy....she was sure he'd flip over the moon and never speak to her again.
When she'd finally had her fill of girly nonsense, she changed into her work clothes and ran up onto the ships topside, pushing every single thought of the prince ot hte back of her head to be mulled over later. There was work to do and she was slacking. She quickly began helping Newkirk check the ratlines for any needed repairs, her mind focused on her love for the ship.
Deryn's night was hell. After keeping herself busy all day with work, she found that she had nothing to do but think about Alek all evening. She sat on her bed, staring at the sketch of him shed done just the other day.
"Why do things have to be so difficult" she said aloud, tossing the book onto her desk. "If I had just been born a boy none of this would be the way it is."
She laid down but no matter how hard she tried, sleep would not come. So she crept out of bed and took a walk around the quiet gondola. The sky was clear, and she sat at a window staring out at it, the moon huge over the ocean. Alek would love this, she thought. The view was spectacular, the stars shining brigtly, making the airbeast glow a silvery blue.
Alek.....He was still furious at her, no doubt. What she'd said had been so far out of line she was sure Alek would never speak to her again. Telling him he was too important and shouldn't care about her was bad, then insulting his very heritage had done a nasty blow, ending with him storming away without even a backwards glance. She knew he cared about her and her wellbeing. He was just being a friend. If he only knew that her secret would tear them apart.....
Deryn had to talk to him. She walked down the hall and paused before Alek's door. She reached out to knock, but pulled her hand away quickly. No, not in the middle of the night. He was probably slepping like a baby. She imagined his face, snoozing away happily while she stood outside his door having a silent war with herself. She wanted, needed, to talk to him. She couldn't stand not knowing what he was doing, how he was feeling. But now was not the time to do it. Deryn backed slowly away from Alek's door and hurried back to her room.
Deryn jumped out of bed as soon as the smell hit her nose. Breakfast. The previous days work had left her starving, not to mention she'd skipped dinner to avoid Alek. Thankfully she'd slept in her clothes, so with one swipe of the brush through her hair, Deryn was out the door and into the mess hall.
She gathered her plate and filled it with eggs and pancakes, drowning the entire thing in maple syrup. She sat down with Newkirk and a few of the other men, shoveling the sticky slop into her mouth at top speed, But the frenzy was over as soon as Alek entered with his plate, looking dishevled and much like he'd been run over by an elephantine. Deryn set her fork down and sighed. Now or never.
She waited for Alek to get comfortable before she went over, setting her plate next to his.
"You look quite the mess, your princelyness."
Alek looked up at her, his face more wretched than she'd thought, but still Alek. She plopped into her chair and picked up her fork. He didnt answer so she continued. "See you didn;t get much sleep either."
"Not a wink" he finally replied. He took a dainty bite of food and Deryn smiled. Still proper, even when he was half asleep.
He wasn't very interested in the conversation, so Deryn decided to take a different route. She took a gulp from her glass to prepare.
"I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry for my outburst yesterday." she said. "I was out of line, and you didn't deserve what I said to you. You were just being a friend and I wasn't ready to accept that someone actaully gave a damn about me. Ever since my Da...well, you know....I've only had Jaspert, and brothers don't always make the best friends, you know. Well, you don't know, but I'm sure you get what I mean." she smiled at him, which seemed to lighten him up a bit.
Alek smiled back at her. "Thank you, Dylan. I was tryign ot figure out how I would go about talking ot you today. but you had it all sorted out." he laughed, and Deryn joined in, feeling better that she'd gotten that off her chest. It was nice to see him smile at her.
After breakfast she went off to do her duties before Mr. Rigby had her head on a platter. Deryn had a bounce in her step as she trotted across the topside to assist Newkirk in hoisting up on a Huxley for his afternoon watch. There had been talk of German ships in the waters below, so they were on alert. Deryn had kindly offered to stay on the ship as opposed to doing the watch so she could spend more time with Alek. It was only a few weeks now before they arrived at theyre destination, which meant she might never see him again. Deryn shivered at the thought, glad that she had decided to talk to him.
Boys are such crybabies!, Deryn thought as she scampered up the ratlines with her bag of fletchette food. She was almost topside and Alek was abotu halfway down, struggling to carry the bag as he climbed.
"Oy!" she called, grinnign down at him. "What's taking you so long?" Alek made a face at her and she laughed. "What, prince, you all tired out already? We're only getting started, you know the drill. Get moving or I'll send a hydrogen sniffer after you!"
She saw him wince and climb a littel faster.
She beat him to the topside, of course, and set out to the bow before Alek could catch up. Feeding the bats was alwaus interesting. She heard Alek huffing beihnd her and stopped, then clipped theyre safty lines together before they got any farther.
The bats started getting antsy as they approached, and were alreayd waiting when they arrived. Alek split his bag open and tossed first. Deryn knew he kind of enjoyed watching the bats consume metal spikes so she let him go first.
They finished feeding the bats quickly and headed back to the central topside. Deryn was eager to fence today, though she wasn't sure why. Usually the prince was smug abotu it, but today she felt confident she could at least get a blow in.
She grabbed they're sabers from the hidden spot behind the Huxley wench and tossed Alek his, smiling widely.
"Alright, your highness. I'm ready to beat you this time!" Deryn wasted no time, going right after Alek before he had time to get ready. But he was quick, parrieing her attacks faster than she expected. She was remembering all the things Alek taught her now, and using then quite effectively. She could see the surprised and impressed look on Aleks face as she fenced with him. Deryn smiled, so happy that everything was going so well.
Then he said it.
"So, are you ever going to tell me what your hiding from me? Or will I have to start guessing?" Alek had a sly look on his face, his mouth crooked into a half smile. Deryn immediatly became furious, and lost her concentration. Alek charged foward and slapped his saber across her leg. Deryn could feel her face start to get hot. Leave it t othe barning price to ruin her day.
"Ow! You sod! No, I'm NOT going to tell you!" She shook the pain away and continued, going at Alek more aggresively than she had before. She could see him begining to get overwhelmed. but she fought on, not feeling the least bit bad for him.
"Come on, you know I'm not going to judge you. I've kept nothing from you, and yet I KNOW theres something your not telling me. And I just can't understand why?" Alek said, his face still calm, with a hint of remorse. Deryn's scowl fell for a moment. She really did feel terrible for not telling him everything. But if he knew why he wouldn't be asking this of her at all.
"Well, your Highness, I'm very sorry to dissapoint you, but I've got my trap shut. Besides, it's not a huge deal anyway. Why should it matter?" Deryn snapped, trying ot keep her face angry as best she could.
"Because, your my best friend. I think I have a right to know when something is up. Whatever it is, it bothers you every day, and as your best friend, I feel I should be there for you when somethings amiss."
Deryn's heart panged for a moment, but she kept up the facade. She made a most vile face at him, going after him with much more force than necessary. She saw Alek start to loose his footing under her harsh attacks.
"Sorry, but I think I'm doing just fine. My business is MY business, Alek, so stop sniffing about." Deryn gave a last slash of her saber, sending Alek's flying out of his hand. She lifted the sword under the princes throat, staring him in the eye. She smacked him in the side, causing him to stumble to the ground. She threw her saber at his knees and ran away from him. She fled down the ratlines and into the gondola faster than she ever had before. She knew Alek would be right down here after her, so she locked herself into her cabin. She felt tears start in the corner of her eyes, but she refused to let them come. What now?, she thought. He was obviously never going to stop pestering her, she had to tell him. How?
Deryn paced around her room, yanking her hair out. "Barking prince!" she mumbled. There really wasn't any easy way to do it. No matter which way she did it, he was still going to hate her, still going to rat her out. And, without a doubt, she knew he would never look at her the same way again.
Then it came to her. If she was going to do it, she should do it with style. Deryn didn't know what had come over her but that stupid boy just HAD to know. He just did not understand that it would ruin everything if he knew. She began unbuttoning her shirt, then shut the light off and stood next to the door. It was only a matter of time before she heard the prince's footsteps hurrying down the hallway. He stopped outside her door and jiggled hthe handle. She heard him sigh and yank at it again.
"I know your in there, Dylan, open the door." She didn't answer him, still unsure if this was going to work out like she hoped.
"Please, lets talk. Theres no need for all this fighting over something stupid. Just let me in, please!"
This was it. Deryn unlocked hte door and opened it a crack, sliding silently to the side to give Alek room to come in. He hurried inside, and Deryn quickly shut the door and relocked it. She saw his woried expression in the two seconds of light from the hallway before she shut the door.
"Whats going on, Dylan? Why isn't there any-"
"You wanted to know so bad, right? Well, I don't feel like talking, so I'll show you instead." she blindly seized Aleks jacket and shoved him into the wall. He tried to struggle against her, but she was stronger than him and was able to pin him there. Then she did what she'd been wanting to do for a long time - she kissed that prince square on the lips.
It was unbelieveable. After so long of being a boy she felt strange doing something so.....feminine. She tried to make it last, the warmness of Alek's lips, but he pushed her roughly backwards, nearly sending her falling to the floor. Alek flipped the light on, ripping Deryn's fantasy from her and bac into the real world. She righted herself and looked at Alek, wiping her mouth. Alek had a savage look on his face, which fell instantly when he saw the bandages binding up Deryns chest.
"Dylan, what's that?" he sounded genuinly worried, even though she had just assaulted him.
She smiled. He was so daft. "You wanted to know so badly." she said, pausing nad taking a deep breath, not sure if she could keep going. "Well, here it is. I'm not Dylan. My name is Deryn Sharp, and I'm a girl." she gulped. "And Im pretty sure I'm in love with you."
She could nearly see the cogs turning in Aleks head. He blinked dumbly, his eyes wide, staring right at her. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. She knew he was searching for something to say.
Finally he opened his mouth again and spoke, his voice low and shaky."Wait, so.....your a....a girl?" he swallowed loudly, his hand running through his hair. His eyes searched her up and down, then deep into her eyes. Deryn put her ands in her pockets nad gave him a sly smile, tryign to cover up her embarassment. "But....but how did you get on here without getting found out?"
Of all the things he could have asked her, he chose that? She laughed at him, then sat down on her bed, avoiding his gaze and trying to figour out what to say. It really hadn't been so difficult. She had wanted it so badly that doing it wasn't a chore, it had been an easy way of life. She looked up at Alek, thinking about her Da and knowing she'd done the right thing by ending up on the Leviathan.
"Well, its called practice, a hair cut, and sucking it up when things start to get tough. I was't going to let my last ride with Da be my last time in the air ever."
Alek had become more composed now and continued. "So you snuck yourself in here as a boy?" She could hear the disbelief in his voice, and she looked away again. She could hear it, he was going to tell the whole barking world. She knew it would happen. Deryn got a sour taste in her mouth at the thought.
"So let me guess, your going to go blab to everyone?" She shook her head, angry that she'd been so stupid. "Well, Volger, the clever boots that he is, has already figured it out, so don't expect much there. And I think Dr. Barlow is on to me, too. But the Captain doesn't know yet, so if thats your plan, best just go right to him." she spat the foul taste from her mouth onto the floor.
Then Alek said something she didn't expect. "Dyl...erm...Deryn, I would NEVER do such a thing. If thats your secret, then it's safe with me. What business is it of mine to have the Levaithan loose it's best midshipman over a stupid secret?"
Deryn knew the look on her face must be incredulous, but the prince just said he would cover for her. Her head was spinning. So all along I could have told him and it wouldnt have mattered?, she thought. She stood up, her stomachtied in knots inside her. She strode over to him and stuck her face in his, inspecting his eyes for truth. And it was there. He was sincere about it all.
"You mean that, don't you? Your not going to tell a soul?" she chuckled akwardly. "Unbelieveable, a barking prince covering for me? Un-barking-beliveable." her stomach was doing sumersaults. Why didn't she realize before that he would be like this. He wasnt like the others. "Thank you. You are my best friend. I don't know why I every doubted you." She turned away from him and started rebuttoning her shirt, feeling like if she went topside she'd float away into the sky.
Alek took hold of her wrist before she could finish. She looked at him to see a smile on his face. "Thats not all, though. I belive you said something about me, what was it now....Oh! Yes, you said you were in love with me? Did I hear correctly?"
His face was bright, happy, like Deryn had never seen it before. She smiled too, caught up in his charm like a swooning shcoolgirl. She could feel her cheeks burning but she kept her eyes on him, not sure what to expect.
"Yes, you dumkopff, I think I am. But I'm still not sure." she felt suddenly confident and comfortable with him. Of course she was in love with him, but she'd never admit it to him so easily.
"Well, I guess we will have to find out, then." and with that he scooped her up and kissed her.
If she hadn't been sure before, she was now. She loved the barking archduke of Austria-Hungary. The kiss seemed to last a lifetime, and when they finally parted, he was breathless, and he had the biggest smile.
"Why did that feel like something i should have dont a long time ago?" he asked her, still not letting go.
She laughed, tugging herself out of his grasp. He reached for her but she swatted him away. "Because, I've had my eye on you since you got here, your Highness." he went to take her hand but she pulled away, teasing him. "Don't get yourself all worked up, now. Theres work to be done, you lazy sod." She punched his arm and he grabbed her again, kissing her before backing up and holding the door for her.
Deryn finished buttoning her shirt and strode out the door, Alek on her heels. He reached out and grabbed her shoulder.
"Wait....what do we do now?" he had a genuinly confused look on his face.
Deryn sighed. "Look, don't do anything differently. Im still Dylan, and don't mess it up or I'll be out of here faster than you can say 'girl'." she gave him a stern look and he shied away. "I can't loose my spot here, Alek. You and Volger are the only ones who know and you can't ruin this for me."
He sighed. "I would never do anything to hurt you Der.....uhm Dylan." he sighed again, angry at himself for messing up.
Deryn laid a hand on his shoulder. "It'll be okay. Just watch yourself. Please."
They continued down the hall, Deryn slowly loosing the feeling Alek's kiss had given her. All too soon Alek would be leaving the Leviathan for good, and she would most likely never see him again. She shook her head, not wanting to think about that, and walked with Alek to check on the boffin.