As requested, this is the swimming chapter for Knight Mistress. Although it isn't your exact request. This one takes place right after the Behemoth, so Alek doesn't know Deryn is a girl.
Not for the first time Deryn wished she was born male. Men were allowed to rip their clothing off and jump, buck naked, into the lagoon while she had to stay back and watch. It was scorching outside. The boffins claimed it was approaching 100 degrees so the captain had ordered a necessary respite for the beasties and the crew. They had docked the airship near a deep lagoon on the outskirts of a Turkish village where most of the men had taken the opportunity to go swimming. Deryn, unfortunately, was unable to participate in such activities.
Instead she found a pier beneath a shady willow tree where she could dunk her sweaty feet into the water while still remaining fully dressed. It wasn't nearly as nice as swimming, but she wouldn't dare remove any of her clothes and the men would think her strange if she went into the water while wearing her uniform. So she had to remain as she was; hot, miserable and annoyed with nothing but some shade and a canteen of stagnant drinking water to fight off the heat. There wasn't even a breeze to help relieve her from the swampy weather.
"Dylan, are you ill?" Said someone from behind her. She didn't have to turn around to know it was Alek. She grumbled to herself that she should have found a better hiding spot.
"Go away, I'm fine." She said to him before taking a long swig from her canteen.
Alek didn't listen though and was soon standing right beside her, naked as the day he was born. She spit out the mouthful of water once she noticed him there. He must have just stopped swimming because his skin and hair were shimmering with droplets as he moved to sit beside her.
"You don't look fine." He said with concern.
Deryn managed to pull her gaze away from his muscular chest so she was looking at his face.
"What makes you say that?" She frowned.
Alek's worried eyes scanned her slowly.
"Not even you can deny that the heat is atrocious." He began. "It isn't good for your health."
He had a point. She probably looked terrible. Her hair was damp with sweat, her skin was red and blotchy and she felt dizzy and a bit nauseous.
"I'm fine." She stated again and took another sip of water. It was warm on her tongue from sitting out so long.
Alek crossed his arms and scowled at her. "Would it be so difficult for you to jump in the water like the rest of us?" He suggested.
There it was. The comment she had been dreading. Now all she needed was a good excuse to counter his request.
"I….I can't." Looking at Alek was too distracting so she started fumbling with the strap that held the lid of the canteen in place. "Ummm….I can't swim."
There was a long pause and for a moment and she thought he hadn't heard her. She tilted her head ever so slightly to see him better without appearing too strange.
He was gazing at her with amusement, one eyebrow arched and a small smirk on his lips.
"Can't swim?" He snorted. "So that entire fiasco with the Behemoth and the way you swam the channel to release metal eating oysters to destroy the German nets was all a lie."
He had her there.
"Well…..no! I had a breathing apparatus on. But without it I can't swim a foot! Honest!"
It was such a lie. She was one of the best swimmers in her age group. Back home, she could outswim all the girls in school and more than half of the boys. Yet for some reason Alek seemed to be starting to believe her.
"I suppose that makes sense. Either that or you're just afraid of the water." He stood then, and Deryn quickly turned away before she saw too much of him again. "I'll leave you alone then. Just make sure to drink plenty of water."
"Aye, will do!" She said with relief as he turned away. To prove him right she drained the rest of the canteen in one gulp. A moment passed before she figured she should refill the small metal bottle. Alek had left the pier by then so she took her time standing up. There was fresh drinking water back by the Leviathan. She would need to walk over there, but right now she was feeling very lightheaded and stood still for a moment with a hand to her forehead as she waited for her eyesight to clear.
An instant later there was a strong shove against her shoulders and Deryn fell belly first into the lagoon.
The cool water that surrounded her body instantly sharpened her senses. It was an amazing relief and her head was suddenly making up for the hours of fogginess from sitting on the dock. She was about to break the surface to catch her breath when she heard the distinct tinkling sound of Alek laughing from the pier.
That bum rag! She thought He just pushed me in even though I told him I couldn't swim!
She was sinking fast to the bottom of the lagoon but her anger was too strong to swim to the surface. What if I drowned thanks to his stupidness? Then he wouldn't be laughing so hard.
The idea was like a delicious piece of chocolate; she couldn't get enough of it. Perhaps she would have a little fun with Alek. If he thought he had in fact drowned her then he wouldn't be so eager to push her anymore. Plus he wouldn't make fun of her for lying to him about not being able to swim.
Pleased with her plan, Deryn allowed herself to sink even deeper into the murky water. She had plenty of breath left and the water got colder the deeper she went. It was almost like the lagoon supported her prank on the prince.
In the distance she thought she heard someone screaming for help before a large splash erupted above her. It wasn't long before a pair of strong arms had encircled her waist and started pulling her back up to the sunlight above the water. The pressure of his bare chest against her was dangerously pleasant, so Deryn didn't dare move as Alek pulled her to the rocky shore of the lagoon. Even then she was too stubborn to open her eyes or lift her head. Let him worry a little longer. She thought.
"Dylan!" He screamed frantically, shaking her shoulders and slapping her face. "Dylan, wake up!" And without any further warning she suddenly felt a delicate softness against her lips. It took a second to register that Alek was kissing her. But it was a very odd kiss. He also had grabbed her nose between his fingers and plugged it shut while blowing warm air from his lungs into her mouth.
Terrified, Deryn opened her eyes and shoved him off of her in one smooth movement.
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" She yelped.
He looked completely flabbergasted and adorable sitting there, drenched in water and almost to tears with fear.
"You're alive!" He screamed and she was in his arms again for a brief moment. Very brief, because he instantly pushed away from her again a second later. "Dylan, were you really drowning?"
Her anger from before was swiftly replaced with shame. The look he was giving her was one of such hurt, Deryn immediately felt like she had been stabbed in the gut.
"No, Alek, I wasn't drowning." She admitted fully.
He didn't say anything to her, only stared blankly. It would have been so much better if he yelled at her, or even hit her.
It also didn't help that they were surrounded by nearly a dozen naked crew members who must have appeared when Alek had screamed for help. Some of them were mumbling to one another while others were laughing to themselves and a few were giving Deryn angry looks. She was about to apologize to them all when she realized that Alek had vanished. A quick look around saw him retrieving his clothes from a nearby tree and slipping his pants on before returning to the ship.
Drenched, miserable and ashamed, Deryn pushed herself out of the throng of nude men and hurried after Alek back to the ship.
To be continued