Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Susan Cooper. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This story was written for Lesserstorm in the Yuletide 2009 fic exchange, in response to the following request: I'd really like to see Cally and West meeting again in our world. I'd love you forever if you can include a background of real-world unrest/violent coups/refugees that ties in with West's backstory in the book but I won't need that to be happy with the fic.
Susan Cooper is extremely vague, presumably deliberately, about where and when Westerly and Cally live. I have taken the liberty of assuming that the book occurs sometime between 1978 and 1982 (based on its copyright date and General Zia ul-Haq's military coup), that Cally is from England, and that West is from Pakistan.
Summary: Cally and West meet again after several years.
And Both Shall Row
Someone jostled Calliope's back as she looked out over the Mediterranean Sea. She would have ignored it, but the person then stopped dead, elbow still pressing against her. She twisted, craning her neck to face this person who had invaded her space so abruptly and rudely.
Then she also froze.
Black hair over brown skin, high cheekbones and an old, knowing expression in dark eyes. A worn backpack slung over his left shoulder. A small leather pouch around his neck, keeping three white bones safe and secure.
Thousands of half-remembered dreams rushed back into Cally's mind and connected to the real memories they were based on.
"West!" she said, and spun the rest of the way about, throwing her arms around him.
"Cally. I thought you were a dream," Westerly said as he absorbed and returned her embrace. "What are you doing in Gibraltar? Is this your country?"
Cally shook her head, marveling at the accent in his words. He had never sounded any different from her in Taranis's country, but she supposed that was part of the magic, the same way they had understood all the people boarding ships for Lugan's islands. "I'm from the UK," she said. "England, specifically - Sheffield, when I met you, though I live in London now. I'm here on a sort of vacation. I took a three day layover on my way to South Africa. I'm a photojournalist now." She held up her camera bag by way of explanation.
"Chronicling oppression and unrest?" asked Westerly, letting his arms drop from around her waist. He stepped back to lean against the rail of the lookout spot. Overhead, gulls whirled and cried, wheeling from land to sea and back again.
Cally shrugged, oddly embarrassed. "I try, I suppose. I think that what happened to your family stayed with me more than I knew." She hoped he didn't think her presumptuous for sticking her nose into the internal affairs of countries that had pried themselves out of her country's grip with such difficulty not so long ago. "What about you? Where are you from? Why are you here?"
"Pakistan," said Westerly. "Baluchistan, specifically, though when I met you, my mother and I had moved to Karachi in Sindh. I'm here because I'm between jobs." At Cally's confused look, he added, "I paid my passage from Kenya by working on a cargo ship. That's how I travel. When I run low on money, I'll find another ship and go somewhere new."
His mouth twitched upward, a private little smile for Cally alone to see. "We switched, didn't we? You have something to fight for. I have the sea."
Cally returned his smile. "Do you ever look for Snake in the waves?"
"I didn't know that was what I was doing, of course, but yes. I look for him." Westerly reached across the gap between them and took Cally's hand in his. "You said you took a three day layover. How many days do you have left?"
"Two," said Cally. "It's not enough time."
"That's the trouble with being alive," said West. "We always run out of time. But let's not worry about that now. We'll make the most of the next two days, and when you get back to England-"
"To London," Cally reminded him. "Oh! Let me write my address and telephone number for you." She dropped his hand and pulled her notepad and pencil from the inner pocket of her summer jacket. "Tell me yours, too- but wait, do you have an address anymore, if you're always at sea?"
"I don't, but I might soon. Give me your address now, and when you get back to England, I'll be waiting," said West.
Cally paused, her little sheet of contact information only half torn from the notepad. She wanted more than anything to see West again - to show him who she'd become, to learn everything about him, to build a life with him - but when had anything ever come so easily for either of them? "It won't be that easy," she said. "You know how people are, probably more than I do. This is Taranis's world as well. Too many people let their hearts turn to stone."
West shrugged. "Lugan never promised us our lives would be easy. It's up to us to make them worth living. We reached the sea together, no matter what obstacles Taranis put in our way. We can do this together as well."
"We did reach the sea," agreed Cally. She handed him her address, which he tucked into the back pocket of his jeans. "Come on. Let's have lunch and figure out what we want to do in Gibraltar before I leave for South Africa."
It would be hard to fit their lives together, but Lugan had only promised them a meeting and a chance to try. He could only give life, as Taranis could only give death. People had to choose what to make of those gifts for themselves.
"I missed you," West said, glancing down at the endless meeting of sea and shore. "I didn't know it, but I was always looking for you, even more than I watched for Snake and the selkies. I should have known you'd be looking for me too."
"We found each other in the end," said Cally. "That's the important thing."
"That and lunch." West held out his hand. When Cally took it, he twined their fingers together and led her away from the ocean.
AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I appreciate all comments, but I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.