"Papa! Come look!"
"No, thank you, I'm perfectly happy right here," Kamir said.
"But it's so high!" Chiri said.
Kamir had to close his eyes to keep from demanding she get away from the edge of the cliff right now. Jader was right there with them, as well as a few of his brothers—all of them grinning like absolute brats at the way Chiri and Chara were excited, while Kamir was firmly of the mind that cliffs were not meant for standing at the edge of.
He should have stayed in the village, but there'd been no arguing with Jader's mother when she'd taken Taliana and ordered him to go have fun. Considering they were both still abysmal with one another's languages, she could be impressively clear about her orders.
"It's really high," Chara said, sounding not quite as impressed as his sister. Well at least one of his children had sense. "Do you really jump from here?" He looked up at Jader, as adoring as always. Both of them had been ecstatic to hear that Kamir and Jader were getting married, but it was Chara who had shown uncharacteristic boldness when he'd asked what the island word for 'papa' was and could they call Jader that?
Jader, of course, had not stopped preening all week.
His familiar laughter carried on the wind, accompanied by the chuckles of his brothers. "This isn't even the highest cliff we dive from, but I think your father will have some rude words for me if I take you to Bird's Eye Cliff."
"I do not like that name even a little," Kamir said. "I would indeed have some rude words for you."
Jader grinned at him. "Never fear, sunshine, I know very well to wait until you're asleep."
Kamir narrowed his eyes. "I bet if I ask nicely, your brothers will shove you off that cliff."
"You don't even have to ask nicely," said Jende, one of Jader's elder brothers and the one translating for the others so Jader could have a break from doing so. "Mother said we're to listen to you, so if you want him pushed, off he goes."
"I have some rude words for you," Jader retorted.
Chiri in the meantime had crept even closer, giving Kamir palpitations. He moaned and covered his eyes again. "Why are we doing this?"
"Because it's fun," Jader said, grinning shamelessly like the absolute wretch he was as he gently tugged Kamir's hands away and kissed him. "Are you sure you don't want to try it?"
"No, thank you. Wading about the beach is all that interests me. You're sure they're not too small?" He glanced past Jader to where Chiri and Chara were quizzing the brothers at a rapid pace, determined to know everything they possibly could. Kamir had the feeling there was going to be a great deal of protesting when they had to return home at the end of the month.
"I promise," Jader replied, holding his hands firmly, but gently. His poor skin was already looking pink, despite the special lotion he'd rubbed thoroughly into it. His nose was definitely burned. Wearing nothing but the loose, bright blue pants that ended right above his knees, a simple leather cord around his neck with coral charms shaped like fish, all his tattoos fully on display, he was breathtakingly beautiful, sunburn and all. "I was younger than this when I started diving, and I'm fairly certain Jende was diving before he could walk. Mother complained all the time about having to go into the water and drag him out. She used to say it was easier hauling in the fishing nets when they're overfull.
Kamir gave him a look. "I'm sure you caused your poor mother no trouble whatsoever."
Jader just grinned and kissed him again.
Kamir should be used to it by now, surely, and yet every time Jader kissed him like this, smiled at him with so much open adoration and affection, it took his breath away. "I love you."
"That's good," Jader said. "Otherwise you might not let me teach your children to jump off a cliff into the ocean."
"Never mind, I take it back," Kamir said, jabbing a finger in his stomach. "I hate you."
"Lies, lies, lies," Jader said, wrapping his arms around Kamir's shoulders and kissing him far more thoroughly than he really should with an audience—and two of them children. Although right then the entire island chain could be on fire and Chiri and Chara wouldn't notice. Unless of course it was to ask if they could get closer to the erupting volcano.
Drawing back, Jader nuzzled his cheek. "I love you deeply, sunshine. And now I'm going to go give diving lessons."
"I'm going to cover my eyes. Tell me when it's over."
Jader snickered, kissed his cheek, and returned to his impatient overlords. "All right, little shimi. Are you ready to jump?"
"It's really high," Chara said, looking torn between complete excitement and utter terror.
"No different than all the practicing off rocks we've been doing," Jader said. "You're just in the air a little bit longer. Do what you've been practicing and by the time you're of age, you'll be the best pearl divers on Shahira. But the first time is just a simple jump, to get used to it. Then we'll work on diving properly. Do you want to jump alone? With someone? Or shall we toss you off? Mikkai here had to be thrown off. So did my mother, although she denies it."
Jende translated, and Mikkai said something that got him a warning look from Jende.
"I'm jumping!" Chiri said, hopping from one foot to another. It had taken her exactly thirty seconds to adjust to Islander dress—the amount of time it took her to get her clothes off and put the new clothes on, though clothes was perhaps a bit generous. Like all children, she wore only a loincloth, her hair braided but already a complete tangled mess from all the playing they'd done. Combing it all would take forever later, but it would be well worth it just to see how happy they were. "Can I go now?"
"Do you want me up here, or down in the water when you land?" Jader asked.
The twins paused as they gave this question the grave consideration it was due, sharing a look and having some silent exchange, something they'd been doing with increasing frequency. Finally they said, "In the water."
"Then into the water I go," Jader said, and ruffled their heads. "If you want someone to throw you, or jump with you, Chara, just ask Jende. That's how a lot of us get our start on doing this. I'll be at the bottom to help you. All right, shimi?"
Chara nodded with all the solemnity only a child could muster. Jader tousled his hair one last time, then stopped Kamir's heart by leaping from the edge in an admittedly-beautiful arch and vanishing from sight.
Gathering his courage, Kamir ventured closer, grateful when the third brother, Kita, offered a hand and then rested a steadying arm around his waist. The easy way Islanders were always touching was more than a little disconcerting, but Kamir was slowly getting used to it, and right then he definitely appreciated the comforting presence.
"Go on, then," he said as the twins looked to him. "Don't keep Jader waiting."
Chiri nodded—then in a sudden burst of speed ran to the edge and jumped. Kamir balled his hands into fists and bit back a cry, making himself smile reassuringly as Chara looked to him again. Terrified as Kamir was, it would be easy to tell Chara that he didn't have to if he didn't want to—but that would only encourage him to always retreat from his fears, and Kamir didn't want that for him. "Do you want to jump with someone?"
After a moment of hesitation, Chara nodded.
"Then what did Jader tell you to do?"
Chara gave him a pleading look, but Kamir only regarded him sternly. Finally, after a few more seconds of hesitating, Chara turned to a patiently waiting, smiling Jende and said, "Would you please jump with me?"
"Of course, little shimi, it would be my honor. Come on." He took Chara's hand and led him to the edge of the cliff. "On three, all right?"
"Yes," Chara said.
Kamir half-expected him to falter, but as Jende cried out, "Three!" Chara jumped with him, and they vanished from sight.
Praying for strength, Kamir ventured tentatively to the edge and looked down. It wasn't even really all that high, but it was plenty high enough. Down below, his spouse and children waved up at him, the children cheering and demanding he look at them, did they do good?
"You did wonderful!" Kamir called down. "I'll see you back in the village! Don't drown each other, you hear me?" When they'd dutifully replied in tones that said they weren't really listening, Kamir fled the cliff edge.
Kita offered his arm, and Kamir took it gladly as they headed back to the village, eager for a cool drink with generous amounts of alcohol. But mostly just happy that his children were having so much fun, and seemed to already consider the Islands a second home.
Happier still that not a one of his children was where he could see them, and he didn't have to fear for or worry about them. Even if he really wished the twins had picked something other than cliff diving as their new favorite activity.