Share Your Flavor

Jenifer K. Leigh


“I just think it’s weird that you talk to her almost every day.  You don’t even talk to me every day.”

“No, no, no,” Vanessa said, pointing at Clara. “You don’t get to put that on me. I would talk to you every day but you don’t want to.”

Clara leaned away from Vanessa, or at least from her finger. “I didn’t think we were there yet.”

“We’ve been dating for six months!”  

Six months exactly. Vanessa had made a nice dinner for the occasion. But then she’d mentioned something Kwix’ut had said, and now she and Clara were sighing and staring at the tablecloth.

“I just,” Vanessa said, then paused. “Do you think we have a future?”

Clara’s head popped back up, her eyes wide. “Of course we do.  I don’t want to be with anyone else!”

“But do you want to be with anyone at all?” Vanessa asked, putting her fork down and gesturing with her hands. “Do you want to move in together eventually, maybe marry, start a family?  Because that’s the future I want, for myself, and you know that.  You decided to date me knowing that.  And at some point between now and then, if we’re going to share our lives, we’re probably going to have to start talking every day!”

“Is that the test?” Clara asked.

Vanessa let her arms fall. “There’s no test.”

“Because there are a few steps between just fucking and having kids.”

“I know that.”

“Sometimes I’m not too sure that you do.”

They didn’t speak for a while after that.   

“There’s key lime pie in the fridge if you’d like some,” Vanessa said, once they’d finished eating.  

“From Billy’s?” Clara asked, not making eye contact.

Vanessa shrugged. “It’s your favorite.”

They went into the kitchen, Clara helping to clear their dinner dishes and put them in the recyculator.  Vanessa took the two slices of pie from their bakery box and put them onto the plates that Clara handed to her.  They ate their dessert standing in the kitchen, and something about the change of rooms helped.  Or at least, the air didn’t feel quite as thick as it had at the table.  Vanessa wanted to feel reassured by Clara’s declaration, but she wasn’t sure that she did.

Vanessa put their plates into the recyculator and checked that everything was on the proper shelf—to clean, to compost, to seal and store—before flipping the switch.

“I don’t want to fight,” Clara said, looking at Vanessa at last.

She shook her head. “Me neither.”

Clara came closer, sliding her fingers into Vanessa’s mass of dark kinky hair, and massaged her scalp. “I want to take you into that bedroom and take you apart, and I want to make you breakfast in the morning.”

She leaned into Clara’s touch. “I’d like that.”

Clara nodded and pulled her into a kiss—sloppy, a little desperate, but no less sexy for that.  In the back of her mind Vanessa thought how domestic they were being, with the making out in the kitchen and the promises of breakfast.  But that idea would only start the fight again, so she pushed it away before it came out of her mouth.

By the time Clara pulled back, resting her forehead against Vanessa’s, they were both breathless.  She took Vanessa’s hand. “Come on,” she said, and Vanessa followed her into the bedroom.


***

“Was the sex good, at least?” Kwix’ut asked the next day.

“Yeah,” Vanessa replied.

Kwix’ut rolled her head to the side, her standard gesture for “really?” and Vanessa sighed.

“It’s always good.”

“You don’t seem enthusiastic. I thought humans didn’t have sex if they didn’t want to.”

“I did want it.”

“But you’d just had a fight.”

“It’s complicated.”  Vanessa tapped her fingers on her desk, trying to figure out how to put it into words. “I was looking forward to it all week and I’d put clean sheets on the bed and I didn’t want the same old argument to get in the way.”  

“And it’s always good,” Kwix’ut said, nodding.

Vanessa laughed. “Maybe that’s the problem.”  Then, noticing something on the monitor, she said, “Hey, behind you.”

Kwix’ut turned to see a male dolphin swimming up to her in what even Vanessa could recognize as a mating stance.  Kwix’ut’s disinterest was very clear, even though the combination of quick speech and dolphin slang overwhelmed the translation device on the communicator affixed to her jaw.  The male dolphin didn’t take her seriously at first, but she slapped her tail hard against him, and he backed away.

“Thanks for the warning,” Kwix’ut said, and then made her little trilling noise of disgust. “Hey, I think it would be a fair exchange, since we helped you humans fix that climate mess, that you help us dolphins get over all this terrible mating nonsense.”

“It took us hundreds of years!” Vanessa said. “And a lot of work. And we don’t want to step on any toes, you know? Your culture is your culture.”

“Eh, we don’t have toes to step on.”

“Tell that to Kye’ut Tai,” Vanessa replied.

Kwix’ut trilled again. “Separatists!  The planet would be dead if we listened to them!  I hate the way they scare humans away from making suggestions that would actually be really helpful for us.  The Knowledge Link was never supposed to run only one way.”  She sighed. “Sorry, I know you’ve heard this all before. From me, even.”

“Maybe I was trying to get you riled up before the conference,” Vanessa said.  

“I can just read terrible articles on the internet for that.”  Kwix’ut sighed. “Well, I need to go hunting now, anyway.  Help the family before I go.”

“Talk tomorrow?”

“Definitely.  And I’ll stop by Miami next week on my way down to the conference, so we can have a swim.”

“I’m looking forward.  It’s been too long.”


***

Vanessa sat on her desk as her students filed into the classroom.  It was impossible to think that she’d been the same age, fifteen, when she and Kwix’ut had had their first halting conversations.

“All right, settle down, we have a lot to do,” she said, getting up and walking to the other side of her desk. “Put your screens away; no taking notes today.  The outline that will appear behind me will be in your materials once class ends, but while we’re together, I just want you to listen and ask questions.  Okay?”  

She looked around the room, paying particular attention to the more rule-oriented students who might balk at not jotting down every word, but most of them were nodding and all of them had put their screens back into their bags.  

“Good.  Now, in a week you’ll be receiving your Knowledge Link Dolphin Communication Partner, or DCP.  In your first conversations with them, you’ll probably want to refer to all you’ve learned in the past year’s intensive study of dolphin history, culture, and ritual.  Maybe you want to put them at ease, or maybe you kind of want to show off.  I’m telling you not to do that, because you know nothing.”

She paused for effect; at this moment her students, particularly the sharper ones, were generally surprised and confused.  She wanted them to sit with that feeling for a moment.

“And what I mean by that is,” she continued, “you know nothing compared to the dolphin you’re communicating with.  Human biologists assumed that dolphins lacked a sense of smell because they lived in the water, but now we know that they can process water in ways similar to land animals using air for scents, and that’s just the most obvious example of something key to dolphin culture that humans got wrong until Knowledge Link was formed.  So, Svetlana, if another person came to you with a degree in twenty-second century Russian history and proceeded to tell you about your family’s decision to emigrate to North America, how would you react?”

Svetlana scowled.   “That’s just some history book?” she said. “Our life isn’t in that. It’s more than that.”

“Exactly,” Vanessa replied. “If someone came to me and talked about slavery in the American South or late twentieth century immigration from Africa and expected me to replace my own family history with their general one? I would not do that.”  The kids snickered, partly at the look of disgust on her face, and partly in recognition of the concept. “Would you?”

They shook their heads.

“Good.  So don’t do that to your DCP.  Don’t be that kind of human that gives the rest of us a bad name.”  She saw a hand go up. “Dave?”

“Shouldn’t that go both ways?” he asked.

“Very good question,” Vanessa said, nodding, and stood up from where she’d been leaning against her desk. “I would hope that you would show your DCP the same understanding that you will need from them, but it’s fine to correct them.  You don’t want to be put in a human-shaped box, either.  They’ve had even less time to learn about us, and while I could say that our culture is more varied than theirs, the truth is, we don’t know that for sure.”

“Humanity bias,” Crystal said.

“Very much so, and this is your opportunity to see that idea in action.  Even to see it in action in your own words.  Because no matter how much we try to avoid it, we still have it, because we’re human.”

“Even you, Ms. Johnson?” Svetlana asked.

Dave added, “Yeah, aren’t you like, still friends with your DCP?”

“Kwix’ut and I have been friends for over fifteen years now,” Vanessa said. “And I still say things out of ignorance that upset her, and she still says things out of ignorance that upset me. Sometimes we let it slide, sometimes we just say ‘hey!’ and sometimes we get angry and talk about it.  But if you do want one piece of advice, from my specific experience?”

They all nodded. “Please,” Svetlana said.

“All right,” Vanessa said, and sat down on her desk. “Don’t talk about mating.  Human, dolphin, whatever.  You’ll want to, but it will only cause trouble.  If I were you, I’d avoid the topic entirely.”


***

“Maybe there’ll be some hotties at the conference,” Vanessa said. “You never know.”

“Doubt it,” Kwix’ut said.  She was a dolphin of few words currently, as she was doing her limbering exercises, getting ready for the long swim to the conference in the waters off the South American continental shelf.

“Why aren’t you getting a tow?” Vanessa asked.

“Want to see you,” she said. “Only shallow water tows from Maine to Miami, no thank you. Taking a nice deep water one from Miami down, though.”  She flipped to her other side and continued to undulate. “Anyway, it’s better to ease your way into the warm water.  Don’t want to get sick.”

“No.”

Kwix’ut changed the subject. “How are your classes doing? Matching is coming up.”

“Curious,” Vanessa replied. “They always ask about you, and I never know what to say. I can’t give them advice based on us; they’d cause too much trouble for themselves.”

“I set such a bad example,” Kwix’ut said, laughing in the head-bobbing way that dolphins did. “I was such a brat.”

Vanessa laughed, too. “We were both brats!  We were brats together.  That’s why we’re still friends.  But I can’t tell them that!”

“Probably not,” Kwix’ut agreed.  Her movements slowed. “I think that’s enough for tonight.  I’ll stretch later.”  

They were silent, just looking at each other, listening to each other breathe.  It was Vanessa’s favorite part of their chats, the way they could just be still and present.

“I read that some females don’t discover and accept their lesbian tendencies until later in life,” Kwix’ut said slyly. “Maybe there’ll be some lady hotties at that conference.  Less troublesome.”

In this idea Kwix’ut was so similar to Vanessa’s straight human female friends that putting her off was easy. “Not in my experience.”

“Different trouble, then,” Kwix’ut said. “Maybe not so interested in sexual assault as a means of introduction.”

“I’ve had a woman or two try to push me further than I wanted to go,” Vanessa said. “And when things do get physical… ”

“I’m sorry,” Kwix’ut said, abruptly. “Guess I never stopped being a brat.  It’s true, I can fight off the men better than you humans can. I’m just tired of doing it.”  

Vanessa shook her head. “I know you’re frustrated.”

“I am but… mostly I’m lonely.”  Kwix’ut rolled in place a few times, something she often did when she had too many feelings for speech. “My brother tries, and he’s sweet about it, but I know he wonders why I don’t have a family of my own.”

“As opposed to his babies?” Vanessa asked.

“Maybe they’ll be the only babies I ever have,” Kwix’ut said, her snout lowered.

Kwix’ut had a twin, Baktun, who had a male partner.  Kwix’ut had mated with Bro’key, but the three calves were being raised by Baktun and Bro’key.  Kwix’ut was an aunt to them; she hadn’t been ready for children at the time.  It was an old dolphin tradition, for homosexual partners to mate with opposite-sex family members of their partner to ensure the continuation of bloodlines.

“Maybe not, if you want them,” Vanessa said. “I think you’re great, and I’m just some silly human.”

Kwix’ut laughed a little at that. “I’ll make a new dating profile and put that as the headline. ‘Approved by human teacher.’”

“That’ll get them pouring in to see you,” Vanessa said.

Kwix’ut let her tongue loll out of her mouth. “Well, I should get to sleep.  Leaving tomorrow.  Promise I’ll text every night, and I’ll see you soon.”

“You’d better!”

“I’ll be fine! Bro’key is taking me as far as the Cape, where I’m meeting up with five others for the trip to Miami, and then we’re meeting with some more friends of theirs for the tow down to the conference.  I won’t be alone at all!”

“Still!  I’ll feel better when I see you.”

“You humans are so funny about travel.”

Vanessa stuck out her tongue. “Go to sleep!”

“Yes, teacher!” Kwix’ut said, but she was laughing as she signed off.


***

At least the DCP match meant Vanessa was busy at school, because Kwix’ut was traveling and only good for a short text each night. Not that Vanessa didn’t have plenty of human friends, but during the week they were all busy with children and their own work.  She missed having a daily check-in.  And she was trying very hard not to put all of that on Clara, especially after their argument a few days back.

Vanessa and Clara went out Wednesday night, just dinner at a neighborhood place, and talked about work for a while.  

Then Clara asked, “How’s Kwix’ut?”

Vanessa wasn’t sure she’d ever heard Clara ask after her. “She’s traveling.  She has a conference in a couple of weeks, so she’s swimming down to Miami now.”

“Will you see her?” Clara asked. “Do you—do you swim with her, or whatever?”

“We try to have a swim once a year,” Vanessa said. “It’s good to see each other in the flesh, you know?”

“Sure, I can see that it would be,” Clara said. “It’s just so weird.”

“I know,” Vanessa said. “My best friend is a dolphin and sometimes it’s weird.”

Clara laughed at that. “Have you ever had a girlfriend get jealous of her?”

“Of Kwix’ut? In college once, yeah, but that was back when people were talking a lot about having affairs with dolphins anyway.”

“Oh I remember that,” Clara said. “Did any of those last?  I wonder.”  She reached into her bag for her miniscreen and wrote a quick note.

“Give you a story idea, did I?” Vanessa asked.

“Sure, a Where Are They Now.  I wouldn’t do it—I don’t have the connections—but I can suggest it to my editor.”

“The Herald honestly has good enough dolphin-human reporters that I can almost trust you guys not to be gross about it.” She paused. “But don’t let them be gross about it.”

“I’m not the editor, but if it’s gross I’ll apologize to you myself.  So you never thought about it, I guess?”

Vanessa shook her head. “Kwix’ut is very heterosexual,” she said.

“I didn’t ask that.  I asked if you’d ever thought about it.”

“Oh, well, no more than any other close friend?  You know, when you’re lonely, and you look around and think, ‘maybe’ or ‘I wish’ but you’d never do anything about it.  Even had that thought about Donna once or twice.”

“Me too,” Clara said, which stood to reason, as they’d met at one of Donna’s parties.  

“But, also, I’m not sure how it would work,” Vanessa said. “Physically, I mean.  Kwix’ut has to hold back so much just when we’re swimming together.  With sex—I want my partner to be able to lose themselves in it.”

Clara smirked at her. “Well, you’re very good at that.  Speaking from personal experience.”

“Good to know,” Vanessa said, smiling back.

“I was thinking about this weekend, if you have the time?” Clara asked, her words coming quickly.

“I’m free,” Vanessa said, sitting forward in her chair. “I have to do some grading, but other than that.”

“Maybe we could spend it all together, just the two of us. I could meet you Friday night and bring you back Sunday evening.”

“I’d like that,” Vanessa said, smiling, and trying not to show her surprise. “Did you have anything planned?”

“No, but I’m sure we can come up with something,” Clara said, and ran one finger down Vanessa’s forearm.

The touch gave her chills, and she bit her lip.  Which also helped her from saying something like, “I hope we spend some of the weekend not in bed.”  Over two nights and two days even they could find other things to do, right?


***

TEXT FROM: Vanessa

Hey I see you guys are making good time by your tracker but don’t wear yourself out!  We have a swim!  

Clara wants to spend the WHOLE WEEKEND together and I am really trying not to make a million super cute domestic plans in my head like going to the produce market or making pancakes in our underwear.

What am I saying? She never has any food in her house!

I can go slow. I can do casual, right?  


***

TEXT FROM: Kwix’ut

Checking in from Virginia, staying here for the night. Not tired yet, don’t worry about me.  There’s a male traveling with us, friend of friends and heading to the conference, who is actually intelligent and good to talk to and didn’t charge at me the first time we met.

Suggest your super domestic plans because that’s who you are and then compromise when she doesn’t want to do all of them. The more casual you try to force yourself to be the more you’ll freak out.

Trip beautiful. Might post some photos later. See you on Monday night.


***

Vanessa’s friends Donna and Ray both gave her the same advice as Kwix’ut, and Donna knew Clara, so Vanessa decided to take it.  Mostly.

“So I thought,” they both said at the same time as Vanessa climbed into Clara’s transport.  They laughed.

“You go first,” Clara said.

“No, you,” Vanessa insisted. “It’s your weekend.”

“Okay, well, tonight we should order in some noodles or something and watch a vid. I have a backlog in the queue, and also that one about the nineteenth century sailors that you wanted to see a while back.  What did you want to do?”

“Well, maybe the produce market tomorrow? Get some things to make dinner or even breakfast?”

Clara smiled. “You think I’d say no to your cooking?” she said.

They ended up watching a documentary instead, something Clara wanted to see for work.  Or, part of the documentary, because about halfway through they gave up and started making out on the couch.  Shirts had already been slipped off when Vanessa’s chime rang out.

“Need to get that?” Clara asked.

Vanessa lifted her head. “What time is it? Eleven? No, it’s just Kwix’ut checking in.”

“Oh,” Clara said, but her body tensed.

“Hey,” Vanessa said, turning Clara’s head to face her. “Because she’s traveling, and I asked her to. She’s safe off the Carolinas someplace, and I can check her message in the morning.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.  Okay?”

Clara smiled. “Okay,” she said, and pulled Vanessa’s lips toward hers.


***

TEXT FROM: Kwix’ut

So that male I was talking about? He’s straight and single. He smells really good and he swims like a dream and he talks a lot. To me. This cannot end well.

Have a good weekend with Clara and stop worrying!!


***

TEXT FROM: Vanessa

He sounds great. Just go with it and see what happens! Don’t predict disaster yet.

We’re off to the produce market this morning. So yes, you were right.


***

After the market they ran some errands together.  Their “swing by” the Herald offices turned into a two-hour stay plus lunch, which was fine because Vanessa had brought her grading along and got nearly all of it done while Clara talked to her editor and a few fellow reporters and did some research.  Vanessa had never been at a professional news office, only little college ones, so it was all new enough to be interesting.

“You’re sure you didn’t mind?” Clara asked as they walked out. “I try to keep my days off clear but sometimes things come up.”

“I understand.  It’s not like teaching stays within class hours, either.  Besides, I liked seeing you in action.” Vanessa leaned in close enough to whisper in her ear, “Kinda sexy, actually.”

Clara gave her the side eye. “You’re a weirdo,” she said.

“A weirdo who’s making you pasta primavera for dinner.”

“My favorite kind of weirdo, then.”

Back at Clara’s they started up the documentary again, getting through it this time, then made dinner together.  It was a very cozy evening, reading on the couch, their feet overlapping between them.  Domestic, even, and Vanessa was trying very hard not to guard herself against a freak out that Clara might not even have.

“Heard from Kwix’ut yet?” Clara asked around eleven. “Getting late.”

“I don’t start to worry until after midnight,” Vanessa replied. “But thanks.”

Clara shrugged, nonchalant.

And it was only a few minutes later that Vanessa’s chime did sound.  She switched her miniscreen to her messages, and giggled as she read.

“I take it she’s okay,” Clara said.

Vanessa nodded. “She has a thing for a male who’s traveling with her.  Apparently he charged at her today, after a few days of talking, and when she told him she liked him but didn’t like that sort of thing he said he was relieved because he doesn’t either.”

“Then why did he do it?”

“To express interest.  They really haven’t figured out another way. It’s expected—even a progressive dolphin like Kwix’ut would have doubted either that he was attracted to females or that he was interested in her if he hadn’t charged at her eventually.”  Vanessa looked down at the miniscreen.  

“What’s this conference about, anyhow?”

“That’s the thing—it’s all about gender roles in the new dolphin society.  They’re both activists and they’ve been talking about these issues the entire trip.”

“Seems like a good place for her to find a male like that.  I hope it works out.”

“Me too,” Vanessa replied. “Thanks for asking.”

Clara shrugged. “She’s your friend.  You ask about my friends.”

Vanessa cocked her head and stared for a moment, because it was more than that; it was her trying.  Both of them trying.  Then she looked down at her screen and started typing.

“What are you saying?” Clara asked. “Are you telling her what I said?”

“No, no, I’m just saying that of course he likes her, because she’s great.  And that now I’m going to go have sex with my excellent girlfriend, after spending the day with her.”

“Your excellent girlfriend who maroons you in her office for hours but at least is really good at eating you out?”

Vanessa set her miniscreen aside. “That isn’t the trade I’m making.”  She sat up on her knees, putting a hand on the back of the couch behind Clara, and took her miniscreen as well.  Then she leaned in for a kiss loaded with intent for more.

“Bed?” Clara asked, breathless and wide-eyed.

“I think that would be best,” Vanessa replied.

Later, when they were just about to drift off, Clara said, “I had a nice time today.  I’m glad you’re here.  I’m glad you’re still here.”

Vanessa kissed Clara’s shoulder. “Me too.”


***

TEXT FROM: Kwix’ut

His name is Bit’ka.  He was the one I mentioned a few months ago who works on non-aggressive masculinity; I didn’t realize he was near Cape Cod or that he knew my friends there. Last night we hunted together and then drifted, sleeping, for a while. We played until the others were ready to keep traveling.  He birthed with two sisters and one of them is carrying calves now.  He’s so gentle, but a good hunter and easily got rid of some silly shark that was nosing around.  Perhaps all males should be raised among females and all females among males?  Or perhaps that’s just him.

He’s seen my work on alternate family groupings and had some things to say about it, mostly good.  I suggested he speak to more males who have paired with other males and be less focused on mating.  We probably would have met at the conference but I’m glad we met now.

Did I mention how nice he smells? He smells so nice, Vanessa.

Tomorrow I will be very excited to see you because of all my excitement about Bit’ka that I cannot express around him so don’t tease me too much.  But also excited to swim with my dear friend!


***

TEXT FROM: Vanessa

I am excited for you too!  He sounds lovely.  And yes you did say he smells nice but you can tell me as many times as you like.  You’ll have such fun at the conference.  

Clara enjoyed our weekend and would like to do another very soon, perhaps around some brunch plans we already have with friends in two weeks.  If you have any time on your way back from the conference I’d love for you to meet or at least see her.  

Tomorrow!!!


***

The Miami facility for coswimming was housed over what used to be Miami Beach before the sea levels started rising.  A great deal of engineering had been done once the climate stabilized to make the waters safe for dolphins and humans alike, since the abandoned and razed buildings made the area entirely unsuitable for shipping.  Floating walkways led to each berth, well-lit for night swimming as they could be reserved for hours, even days.  Food was available for humans and dolphins, plus sleeping pods for humans.  

Vanessa came straight from school on Monday.  It had been a stressful day, giving all the students their DCPs, guiding them through that first awkward message and, for some, reading the first reply from their dolphin partner.  So she was glad she’d opened the reservation an hour before Kwix’ut’s expected arrival so she could relax, have a snack, and slowly warm up in the water.  She was floating, looking up at the fluffy clouds floating by, when she heard the announcement tone of a dolphin coming through the bio-lock on the ocean side.  She let her legs drop and turned around.

Kwix’ut leapt out of the water, shaking her tail in welcome, and Vanessa waved back.  They both had their communicators wrapped around their heads but when they were together they tended not to speak, to enjoy each other’s company nonverbally since so much of their relationship was through electronic communications.  They’d probably slip out of them later.

When Kwix’ut drew near she slowed, aware of her superior strength, and nudged Vanessa lightly with her nose.  They nuzzled, rolling around in the water, laughing together.  

“I’m too happy,” Kwix’ut said. “Let me take you for a ride.”

Vanessa gave her friend a hug—a human expression of affection that Kwix’ut understood—and then grabbed hold of her fins and let Kwix’ut pull her through the water.  Kwix’ut was excited, happy and laughing, and it was the best way they’d found to be physically close while Kwix’ut let out some of her energy.  But Vanessa had never seen her quite this keyed up.  They zoomed in a big circle around their area, like making laps in a roller rink,  and when Kwix’ut finally started to tire she swam into the shallow end so Vanessa could catch her breath without having to tread water.  Kwix’ut continued to roll and chirp, and Vanessa laughed to see her friend so happy when she’d been so down just two weeks before.

“I brought you dinner!” Kwix’ut said at last. “Some for Clara, too!”

“Of course you did,” Vanessa replied, smiling, because Kwix’ut was a provider.  She knew where the safe-for-humans fishing areas were and had likely brought enough for Vanessa to take home and put in her freezer. “Did Bit’ka help?”

Kwix’ut laughed again, slightly lower in pitch, and Vanessa wondered if that was the dolphin equivalent of a giggle.  At least, she’d never heard that noise from her friend before. “He wanted to, but I said maybe next time.”

Vanessa raised her eyebrows and Kwix’ut giggled again. “Well, if he smells so good he must catch very nice fish.”

“If you keep teasing…” Kwix’ut said, but she was blinking kindly. “At least I’m not nervous about speaking at the conference any more.”

“You’ll be fantastic,” Vanessa said.  

The yellow light flashed, indicating that they’d fixed some fish for Vanessa, and she swam over to call it into the berth.  She had a standing order for them to clean her fish and put it on ice, and slice a bit of sashimi off whatever white fish Kwix’ut had brought in.  Vanessa had been eating mostly fish for the last few days, in order to smell better for Kwix’ut.  Eating some of the fish raw in front of Kwix’ut was the best way to honor her friend’s catch.

Kwix’ut watched her take the plate from the waiter and immediately put a piece in her mouth. “You humans and your tiny tiny throats,” she said. “The bones are the best part!”

“And I will cherish them and make them into a lovely soup,” Vanessa said.  She scarfed down the rest of the fish, which was adorned with nothing other than a few flakes of sea salt, and put the leaf it had been served on back in the hanging service basket.  Then she dove back into the deep water, coming up next to Kwix’ut, and nuzzled her gently in thanks.

“Ready?” Kwix’ut asked.

Vanessa nodded, pushing away from Kwix’ut so she could shake her head and slip off her communicator.  Vanessa swam them both back to the bench at the shallow end, and put on her goggles.

Kwix’ut’s chirping wasn’t translated now, but Vanessa didn’t need to know the words her friend was saying.  It was clear in her every gesture: “Come swim. We’ll have fun.”  And so they swam around each other, touching, bonding, enjoying the sea until long after the sun went down over the land the humans called home.


 
Jenifer K. Leigh toils in the New York media industry, as befits someone who read TV Guide cover to cover as a child. When she's not writing stories about love, her interest in history and cooking results in her making a lot of classic American fruit desserts. Her patron saints are Hildy Johnson, Anne Elliot, and Cleopatra Jones.