Author’s Note: I couldn’t help being reminded of the lake not far from my sister’s house when I wrote this. Well, that and the lake my uncle lives next to.
“Something go wrong at the bank?”
Cress shook his head, taking the first chair he could find. “No. Just… did our best not to lead them back here. If we are going to attempt to stay in one place, to plan and let Enya work on her control for a while before we make our move, the last thing we need is them knowing where we are.”
“So you drained yourself creating fake storms again?”
“He drained himself trying to teach me to make fake storms. Poor baby. He was so frustrated,” Oceana said, touching her brother’s cheek with a smile. He’d been rather patient, but she knew how much that had taken out of him, not just in teaching her and not intervening, but in keeping himself from yelling at her every time she failed to do what he wanted.
Cress sighed. “I don’t know how to teach someone to do it, not even Occie. For me, it’s so simple and I don’t really think about it, but I’ve been trying to show her, and it doesn’t make sense. I don’t… I don’t understand why I am the way I am—and a part of me doesn’t want to know.”
“I don’t blame you for that,” Oceana told him. She gave his cheek a kiss. “Go on. You’ve more than earned your lake time. I’ll see if I can find a beach ball or something…”
He glared at her, but it fell away to a smile. Playing in water almost always cheered him up, turning him more into the child he never had much of a chance to be. He pulled away from her, and she grinned as he walked toward the back door, opening it to let the smell of the lake water rush in at them.
“Oh, this is one of those places I could stay forever.”
“I think just about all of us could,” Moira said, coming over to Occie’s side. “If not for your parents, maybe we could have bought one of these kind of run down hotels out off the beaten path, each of us made a cabin our own, and lived out a quiet, peaceful life.”
“That what you’re interested in?”
“It’s not you, Firebug, that’s for sure.”
Oceana frowned, and Cress laughed, shaking his head as he ducked out the door. Moira rolled her eyes, shaking her head as she did. “He’s loopy now, isn’t he?”
“Cress? I don’t know. I guess that depends on if he goes down there and skinny-dips or not.”
Flint frowned. “You have got to be kidding. That man does not skinny-dip.”
“Not in the daytime, at least,” Oceana said with a smile, looking back at the door. “So if anyone decides they want to go down there, they don’t need to fear being flashed or anything. It is just that the more contact he has with the water the better it is for him. He needs to get as much of him under the water as possible and keep it that way for as long as he can.”
“Yet you two still get mad when I call you ‘guppies’ or mention anything about fish.”
Oceana gave Enya a look. “I thought you knew why he was so sensitive to that. Hannah throwing him over because he was ‘like a fish’ after she’d led him on for so long…”
“Yeah, there’s that, but he’s such a kid when he’s in the water or around it. I remember telling him about this lake I used to see from work, all drained because of drought, and when I lost that job, I walked over and sat on the beach, just watching that pathetic bit of water, and next thing I know, it’s up against my feet and he’s sitting next to me, telling me to take some of the money our parents had to tide me over until the economy got better. First time I’d seen him in years, and it was like he hadn’t aged a day over ten when we used to take those trips to the lake and he’d claim it for his own. Of course, that didn’t last forever. I could see it all when he said he was going—the life went out of him, the worry was back, and he looked like someone way past his age all over again.”
“That’s my brother,” Oceana agreed. She let out a breath. “We left what was in the safe-deposit box in the car. I’m not sure I ever saw the key before, not in any of the times we went to look at that thing and see what we might need from it, neither of us know what it’s for, but it’s got his name on it. I think he’s going to need a while before he can deal with that, so… Just let him be a kid in the water for a change.”
Moira nodded. “He can have some time. We won’t be ready to go after Stone right away, and we still don’t know for sure where he is.”
Oceana closed her eyes. “I’m going down to join Cress.”
Terra put a hand on her arm. “We’ll get him back, Occie. We have to get him back.”
Oceana pulled away from her. She couldn’t afford to let those floodgates open right now. She had to keep that back, hold it in until—well, she would rather just get Stone back and never deal with those feelings at all. “I hope so.”