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Flying and Falling

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     Balan based his life on the firm and steadfast belief that nothing was truly impossible. It was why he studied spyrixes, why he switched to spyrites, and why he never gave up on Alfred. There was always a chance— if you were willing to risk believing in it.

     Life continued to prove him correct. Case and point: Balan was flying.

     The wind rushed in his ears as the wyvern glided in gentle turns, circling over the jagged and curved rocks of Kijara Seafalls. It graced Balan with a view painters dreamed of. The clouds had never seemed closer, the world had never seemed more complete— more open.

     This was not how he had expected to spend the middle of the work week, but that was how it was with Ivar. Nothing expected; everything perfect.

     “Check it out—” the man in question shouted, voice loudly cutting through the roar of the wind. “Crab man nest!”

     “Beg pardon?” Balan replied, directly into Ivar’s ear. He liked to think his wyvern-riding had improved throughout the course of their relationship. At the very least, he’d become adept at keeping Ivar’s ponytail from slapping him in the face midair. Following Ivar’s point as best he could, he found himself staring at what appeared to be a large hole on the side of a spire.

     “CRAB MAN NEST!” Ivar shouted. Several large crabs appeared to be slowly ambling their way out.

     “Ah,” Balan replied, drily matching Ivar’s enthusiasm. “I’m impressed you were able to spot it so quickly.”

     Ivar grinned, pointing a thumb at his chest. “Ha! It takes years of practice. I’m the crab man master. Stick with me and you’ll be spotting them too.”

     “I think I will,” Balan provided. “Crab man master.”

     “Ha-ha!”

     Ivar’s voice had gone up an octave, a pink blush dusting his cheeks as he expanded with the praise. Balan barely held onto his heart. It was adorable, truthfully, the way Ivar had opinions on every view— little nuggets of information on polwigle breeding grounds and rappig farms. Balan felt he’d never get tired of the Ivar tour of the world— it was inventive, fresh, and new.

     Balan was in love.

     He pressed himself a little closer against the man’s back as they continued to turn…

     …and turn…

     “Not that I’m opposed— but is there a reason we’re circling like this?”

     “An excellent question! We are going to land at the top of the Seafalls! ” Ivar shouted. He cleared his throat, petting his wyvern’s massive neck. “There are just some minor concerns about the rock formations.”

     “Minor…concerns?”

     Ivar swallowed, but the grin remained on his face. “They might be a bit sharp for my— HER— legs. Wyverns are very sensitive about this sort of thing, you know.”

     “Ah, perhaps we’d be better viewing the Seafalls from the ground, then? For her sake?”

     “That might be safer but…it’s…it’s nothing I can’t handle!” Ivar announced, with definitive authority. “Drop us off at the top, as close as you can!”

     The order was clearly intended to get them nearer to the peak of the falls, but evidently, this was as close as the wyvern thought they could make it. Their slow turning stopped as the wyvern flapped her wings, rearing up to drop both of them off her back.

     Ivar leapt before they could fall, taking Balan with him.

     Balan didn’t even yell this time. It was amazing how bodies adjusted, and Balan's certainly had. In the four months of dating Ivar, he’d acclimated to falling great distances— allowing that he could hook his legs around his boyfriend’s back.

     Ivar somehow landed on his feet, every time. A true wonder.

     “Not here!” Ivar shouted up at the wyvern, landing with a wet thud near the base of the waterfall. Balan’s body rocked with the impact, but he simply rested his forehead against Ivar’s shoulder. His heart barely raced as his legs took him back down to the ground. It was truly incredible what a person could get used to.

     The wyvern settled down beside them, preening her wings a bit. Ivar approached her without hesitance, stage-whispering as he pointed up the massive waterfall.  We’re trying to get there! We have to stand at the top of the falls for it to work.”

     The wyvern sneezed. Balan couldn’t help but notice how forced the sound seemed, but Ivar’s face immediately changed.

     “You have a cold!? Now? Well, why didn’t you say anything earlier? Yeah, of course health is the most important… Look, I’ll sort it out, okay? You rest!”

     The wyvern seemed to nod, before sluggishly taking off in a way that didn’t at all match her previous flight patterns.

     A wyvern faking sick to get out of a difficult landing. Remarkable.

     “All well?” Balan offered, lightly resting a hand on Ivar’s back as he stared forlornly after their ride. Balan playfully waved a hand in front of his face. “You in there…?”

     Ivar tilted his head back in a confident— if slightly manic laugh.

     “All according to plan!” he yelled, pointing a finger in the air. It would have been convincing if Balan didn’t know that, often, the louder Ivar’s voice got, the more he was trying to convince himself.  “We will climb the seafalls ourselves, like the pioneers of old!”

     “The pioneers of old, you say?” Balan replied, dryly tapping his leg. “That might be a little difficult for me. I don’t believe they had spyrixes in those days.”

     “The pioneers of old, with spyrix.” Ivar amended, and then added.“Fear not! I shall carry you if you get tired.”

     Balan kicked him gently, already stepping toward the the safest-looking climbable rock formation.

     “Oh, trust me, climbing will not be a problem. You should see some of the places I’ve ended up in Helioborg.”

     He placed his foot on one of the rocks and found it slick, but stable. He climbed up, noticing Ivar quickly following behind him, eyes wide, the wonder plain on his face.

     “Think you can keep up?” Balan offered, relishing the competitive glint in Ivar’s eyes.


     “BEHOLD!” Ivar bellowed, completely out of breath. “I stand at the top of Kijara Seafalls! Challenge: met! Victory is mine!”

     “Well done!” Balan called up sweetly, about twenty feet below him. Ivar had taken his joking words in complete seriousness, scrambling up the cliff face at mach speed. It had been boundlessly entertaining.

     Balan leisurely finished his climb, enjoying the steady roar of the waterfall and the sounds of Ivar attempting to describe the view from the peak. Eventually, Ivar doubled back around to offer his hand to Balan, eager to pull him up the rest of the way. Smiling, Balan accepted.

     It never failed to send a quiet jolt through him, the way Ivar could lift him up so effortlessly.

     They reached the top together, Ivar’s hand still closed tightly around Balan’s.

     It really was an incredible view. Not only could Balan make out the beaches and curved spires beneath them, but the stillness of the view made the sky look utterly endless. The sun was starting to set too, lighting the area in warm pinks and reds.

     It was breathtaking.

     “It truly is a lovely view,” Balan provided, and felt Ivar’s fingers proudly squeeze his.

     “Well of course! I wouldn’t take you to an ugly view. Only the best!”

     “Only the best with you. I’m honored,” Balan repeated, fondly patting Ivar’s cheek. “Shall we sit and look out for a little?”

     Balan settled down on a somewhat dry pile of rocks, enjoying the quiet almost as much as the sound of Ivar loudly settling down next to him.

     “Check it out,” Ivar piped up, voice rasping just a little. He had talked the entire time Balan was climbing. Balan was impressed he still had a voice at all. More than that, Balan was surprised he still loved his voice. “You can see Nia Khera, right over there.”

     “Your hometown?”

     Ivar nodded, pointing out at what appeared to be a set of globe-shaped yellow dots in the distance. Balan smiled, heart warming at the open affection on Ivar’s face.

     “Perhaps we should stay there tonight,” he suggested, and Ivar’s eyes flicked to him, then back to the huts, then back to him.

     "It’s sort of uh— communal. We wouldn’t get a lot of privacy.”

     Balan couldn’t help himself. “Anticipating needing privacy?”

     Ivar choked, clearly caught between arguing and agreeing. “Well— I—”

     “Mmhm?”

     Balan leaned closer, and Ivar’s argument faded into vague sputtering as he kissed him.

     It was meant to be a quick kiss, friendly and teasing, promising more later after Balan had showered all the sweat and mist from his skin— but Ivar was never one to be moderate in the passion department. The kiss deepened, and continued, and continued, until two hands abruptly pushed Balan away, giving him a good look at an extremely flustered handmaid.

     “HOLD ON!”

     Balan held up his hands, eyebrows raising as Ivar stood and started pacing.

     “I didn’t think it would be this effective. Jude— you cad! To think that you went here with Lady Milla. To think the falls had this kind of power—!”

     Balan sighed, leaning back on his forearms. “Er, Ivar. Dear. Penny for your thoughts? Care to inform me why you’re bringing up my coworker at a time like this?”

     Ivar stopped, eyes widening in horror.

     “I didn’t mean— no!”  Balan noted that his ears had gone completely red as well. Cute.

     “I know you didn’t. Still, do fill me in.”

     “Jude claimed this place used to have a rumor about it. That…if a couple…” Ivar pointed between both of them, illustrating his point. “If a couple stood at the top of the falls together…they’d developanintensebond.”

     Balan repeated, biting his cheek to keep from cracking up. “Develop an intense bond.”

     “An intense bond.”

     “And that’s why you wanted to go up here with me? To have an intense bond?”

     Ivar looked caught. Balan decided to have mercy. He stood up and dusted off his coat.

     “Well then, Ivar, why did you stop kissing me?”

     “I uh— thought you should know. About the power of the falls. So it wasn’t an accident that you—”

     “Found myself falling for your charming self?”

     Ivar swallowed. “Yeah. Wait. Are you saying you…did?”

     Balan smiled. “Let me put it this way: I think the falls were very effective. But I think you were, more so."

     “Me?”

     “Indeed,” Balan bragged. “You’re more powerful than Kijara Seafalls.”

     Ivar cleared his throat. “Well, yeah, of course. That’s— of course. You’re pretty effective yourself.”

     “Why, thank you.”

     Balan stole a quick kiss, which Ivar moved to deepen.

     At the same time, out of the corner of his eye, Balan noticed something carefully tucked in the shadows of a neighboring spire. The words slipped out before he could consider them.

     “Crab man nest.”

     “No way!” Ivar sprung back, quickly following Balan’s gaze. He squinted his eyes, stepping forward a few feet before shaking his head. “How’d I miss that one?”

     “It seems the student has become the master,” Balan drawled, mentally kicking himself for ending what would have likely been an extremely pleasant few minutes for the sake of a crab nest. But it made Ivar so happy.

     “Best two out of three— I was distracted!” Ivar insisted.

     His eyes were so bright, the regret dripped off Balan instantly. He shook his head and smiled.

     “Best two out of three is quite alright with me.”

     They had plenty of time.