Chapter 16

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Ethan and John had come to a difficult decision and had decided to leave their friend behind. Jeffery had talked it out with them and eventually convinced them that he would be alright. Encaca even stated that visiting the land whenever they stopped at the port was possible. Aquas felt a little guilty yet overwhelming happy that Jeffery had decided to stay back with his people.

Apart from healing Jeffery Encaca had spent her time looking through the witch's cave. Magic in the surface world was not exactly the same as the one beneath the waves and it extremely interested her. She even put a hold on her cove visits so she could monitor Jeffery until he was completely healed, and of course, satisfy her curiosity concerning surface world magic.

The others had already returned to the cove with the good news. Jeffery, Aquas, and Encaca were the only ones left on the surface.

Aquas had been helping Encaca care for Jeffery, watching as his wounds healed with the aid of magic, leaving behind white thin scars. It would take a while before he would be ready for Encaca to perform the ritual that would make him a Merperson permanently.

The time Aquas and Jeffery spent on the surface was needed. It was like it was required to reflect on the things that had happened and plan for the things that were about to happen.

"It's still strange seeing you with legs," Jeffery muttered from the ground where he was sitting. Aquas stopped carving into the bark of the young tree with a blunt blade to look over at his human. He shrugged, giving him a small smile before he continued carving into the tree.

He was startled when a pair of hands found their way around his waist moments later. Jeffery muttered a short apology before resting his head on the smaller man's shoulder.

It was midday already. The heat wave was prevalent with the sun that shined brightly. The sound of small animals and birds perching from shaking branch to branch tinted the silence that would have existed if it was only Aquas carving into the tree with Jeffery holding him loosely around the waist as he dozed on his shoulder.

The knife in Aquas' hand slipped from his grip when he felt Jeffery kiss his neck.

"I'm sorry," Jeffery muttered as he undid his arms from Aquas' waist to pick the blade from the ground. He dusted the sand from the blade before handing it back to a now red faced Aquas.

"It's okay," Aquas muttered, looking at the tree that he had been aimlessly carving into. He wasn't sure why he was so conscious of Jeffery touching him now — he loved Jeffery touching him, he really did. The only problem was that he wasn't familiar with the amount of intimacy Jeffery wanted to share with him in their human form. It made him shy and gave him mixed feelings of embarrassment and joy. He wasn't sure why he felt that way, maybe it was because Jeffery often mentioned being in love with him now. It made him happy but he wasn't sure where their relationship was going.

"Jeffery?" Aquas called as he gazed at the markings he'd made on the tree's bark as he dwelled in his thoughts. He heard Jeffery respond with a low hum, giving him the confidence to continue talking.

"Are we courting?" Aquas finally asked as he felt his cheeks heat up. He regretted his words immediately they left his mouth. He wanted to take them back. He didn't want to seem like he was pushing the motion, he just sincerely wanted to know what Jeffery thought.

"Courting? I assume so, or you don't want to?"

"I do!" Aquas said, cutting Jeffery off before turning around so he was face to face with him.

He drummed his fingers against the blade he was holding before looking down at the ground.

"I—I wasn't sure. I just wanted to know..." he found himself mumbling before Jeffery's low laugh put an end to it. He wasn't so sure how bright red his face was, but all the embarrassment seemed to fade away when Jeffery pulled him into a hug.

They stayed like that for a while before Jeffery broke the hug to put the smaller man at arm's length.

"I love you," he muttered, bringing back that embarrassing feeling he had taken away from Aquas only moments before.

"I love you, so I'll do anything. I'm not sure how you merpeople do it, but I want to be with you," Jeffery continued only making the blush on the smaller man's cheeks deepen.

"It's not much of a process, all you need will be his family's and the council's blessings," Encaca's voice said, ringing through the clearing as she stepped out of the bushes.

She let her towering figure lean against a nearby tree, her kinky hair brushing against the low branches of the tree. A smile made a way on her face as she looked on at the human and Aquas. The merman was looking at anything but her, but the human sent a smile of greetings towards her way.

"Really?" Jeffery asked as he squeezed Aquas' clothed shoulders in comfort.

Encaca nodded in silent answer before looking away from them and towards the scenery at the entrance of the cave. A small rodent was running about, picking the berries that had fallen from the bushes that hid the cave's entrance.

"We're leaving by the end of the moon cycle," Encaca muttered to no one in particular as her eyes watched the small brown rodent stuff its mouth with berries.

"You mean by the end of the week then?" Jeffery asked with a chuckle making the sorcerer smile. Aquas somehow made his way under Jeffery's arm, resting his head on the blonde man's shoulder.

"Let me be. I'm not familiar with how you humans measure time," Encaca said in a partially playful tone.

Aquas watched the two engage in banter. From time to time, his mind would wander back to Jeffery's works from before and his cheeks would heat up as a warm feeling overcame him.

"Why are you so quite Aquas? Are you excited about getting assigned?" Encaca said, pulling Aquas from his thoughts. He shook his head, looking down at the ground. Encaca had been nothing but nice to him during their interactions together as they cared for Jeffery, but she still held an intimidating aura to Aquas.

"Well you should be, it's an honorary position," Encaca said as she looked at him.

While they'd taken care of Jeffery together Encaca had noticed a gift of healing in Aquas. He was patient, quick to improvise and had the ability to stay calm. She'd read into him and saw that he'd not been assigned a position yet by the council. She'd startled him by randomly bringing up the topic of her talking to the council about assigning him to be a healer.

Aquas didn't personally believe in his abilities but Encaca believed that he had everything it took and would with no doubt communicate her feelings to the council.

Aquas nodded at Encaca's words as Jeffery ran a hand through his hair.

"When we get back I'll have to find another school of migrating fish to follow so I can continue my visits. I've postponed it for so long and I'm sure the school of fish I was following is long gone," Encaca said with a small smile. The afternoon sun was getting dim, signaling the nearness of the evening.

"We should head back to the cave. Fishermen come around this time to check their nets," Jeffery said, earning a nod of approval from Encaca. He lifted her weight from the tree before starting her trek back to the cave.

Jeffery squeezed Aquas' shoulder, making the smaller man look up at him.

"Let's go," Jeffery said, lowering his hand to take Aquas' in his. The merman nodded before they followed Encaca into the cave.

Aquas couldn't help the smile that formed on his lips when Jeffery picked him up playfully as they got to the cave's entrance. They laughed quietly before sharing a short kiss.

Aquas was happy. His human was fine and they'd be together only in a matter of time.

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