His hands were softer than she had imagined. She had always thought they would be hard with rubbed callouses and scratchy skin. But they were smooth and smelled faintly of leather with a sharp hint of steel.
"Where are you taking me?" She asked softly.
"It's a surprise," Vyse replied, and she should feel the smile in his voice.
The decking beneath her boots squeaked as her feet shuffled cautiously forward. Not that she didn't trust him. She just… didn't want to trip. Didn't want to look foolish. Not in front of him.
He was patient. And gentle. He always was. It was part of why she loved him. Just a small part.
"I'm going to open the doors. No peeking, ok?"
With the grind of old, well oiled hinges, Fina felt a rush of cool air hit her in the face. It wasn't cold, just… cool. Like autumn at dusk. And it smelled… fresh. The way it smelled after a hard rain in summer, when the sun comes out and bakes the moist earth. It was also… noisy. Not loud, but the air was full of the sound of wind rushing through itself. As well as… something else. Something high pitched and sonorous.
Then the hands were back and she smiled at the warmth and feel of them. He led her a few more paces forward and when they stopped, Fina realized she must be near the edge.
"Put your hands out," Vyse instructed, his breathing short and excited.
Fina did as he asked, clutching the wooden railing with both hands, still not sure what to expect.
"You once told me of a legendary creature from the ancient days of Arcadia," Vyse said, his voice wisping over her ear. "I've spent a lot of time tracking them down. I hope you like them."
Then the warmth was gone and light flooded her eyes. At first, all she could see was an expanse of white swirling in a sea of blue. Then movement caught her eye. a group of blue, cylindrical creatures were moving in and out of the white expanse. A Sky Rift, her brain finally understood. They twisted and writhed, their limber bodies diving in and out of the strong currents of cloud, letting it carry them upward before diving out again, their white wings unfurling to catch the slower air, then tucking in to dive and skim the edge of the rift on the way back down.
"Delphinus…" Fina gasped, bringing her right hand up to her lips sharply. Her eyes darted behind her to Vyse, who smiled at her delightedly. "But… they're… they're extinct."
"Mostly extinct," Vyse corrected, his smile faltering only a little. "I've been checking in with the Sailor's Guild for years, sending out feelers, offering rewards…" his voice trailed off as he leaned on the railing, watching Fina as she continued to watch the rare animals. "It all led here. A Yafutoman trader stumbled upon them by accident."
"You… did all this… for me?" Fina stammered, biting her lower lip and tearing her eyes away from the pod of delphinus to look at Vyse, his eyes shining, brown scruffy hair tangling in the wind. Vyse met her eyes and suddenly every desire she had to watch the creatures he had spent years to find evaporated. There was only him.
"You're worth it." He said simply, and started to turn his attention toward the delphinus again.
Before she knew what she was doing, Fina pushed her way into his arms, pressed herself close to him and kissed him desperately. When he turned, something in her felt as though she were losing him, losing this moment, and she could not accept that. Would not accept that.
He was too surprised to kiss her back and she was too surprised to continue the kiss. Awkwardly, she brought her stepped back hastily, bringing her hands up in front of her chest. She started to mumble an apology, but then she felt his hands again, clasping her own. Her eyes were drawn back to his and there it was again. The moment.
He kissed her forehead lightly and nodded toward the delphinus, who carried on as though they were swimming in joy itself.
She didn't know how long they stood there watching them, fingers intertwined. But by the time dusk came and they started the voyage home, she was swimming in a joy of her own.