Sitting on the dunes leading down to the beach, Ianto watched the ebb and flow of the tide; with three moons in the sky of this world, all influencing the rise and fall of the turquoise seas seemingly at random, it was hypnotically soothing. If there was a pattern to the tides, which logically there had to be, he had yet to figure it out, but that was okay; it wasn’t something he needed to know in order to enjoy the view. Indeed, knowing would likely take away some of the magic and mystery from the idyllic setting.
“There you are! I wondered where you’d disappeared to!” Jack’s voice cut through the peace and quiet, startling Ianto out of his reverie, but he didn’t turn, just sat quietly waiting as Jack’s footsteps scrunched towards him through the coarser sand and the tussocks of dry grass further inland before the man himself flopped down beside him. “Everything okay?”
“Mm. It’s so beautiful and peaceful here,” Ianto murmured, still not taking his gaze away from the water sparkling before him. It was gradually fading from its bright daylight turquoise to a deep indigo as the sun set somewhere behind him.
“It is,” Jack agreed, speaking more quietly now he’d located his missing lover.
They’d set the Happy Wandering down on a flat expanse of blue-green grass half a mile or so inland in order to deliver agricultural equipment to one of the planet’s widely scattered farming communities. While Jack was winding up the business end of things after the cargo had been offloaded, Ianto had wandered away by himself, irresistibly drawn by the distant sound of the sea.
It was one of things he missed most of all now he spent most of his time aboard a cargo ship in the depths of space. He missed sunlight too, trees and growing things, birds, even clouds, wind and rain, but the sea had always held a special place in his heart and the longer he was away from it the more he missed it. Places like this one restored his soul.
He’d soon discovered in his and Jack’s travels that planets similar to earth, with landmasses amidst vast oceans, weren’t as common as he would have thought. Many worlds were almost entirely land, with vast mountain ranges and wide plains, where scattered lakes and rivers provided most of the water, the rest being acquired in various ways from mountain glaciers or the ice fields at the poles. This planet, however, was one of the more earth-like, albeit a pre-industrialised version of earth, since it was given over almost entirely to agriculture and horticulture.
The settlements weren’t primitive by any means; they had abundant electricity, but all of it came from the sun, wind, and water. There was no heavy industry permitted, which meant minimal air pollution, even in the few cities further inland. They had all the modern conveniences, including extensive public transport networks, but since all were powered by clean energy, smog of any kind was nonexistent. The only smoke came from forest or grass fires started by lightning strikes, and from the occasional bonfire or controlled burn. All in all, it seemed to Ianto like an unspoiled paradise.
“You know, we could stay for a while if you like,” Jack suggested. The farming supplies had been their last cargo on this trip as they hadn’t been able to pick up loads going in this direction at their last three ports of call. This planet, Mirabeau, was a bit off the beaten track. “If we stick around we might be able score a few transport contracts; all the farming communities export their excess crops at harvest time and if we’re already here with empty holds they won’t need to send agents offworld to secure transportation. Besides, I think we’re about due a bit of a vacation, don’t you?”
One of the best things about being their own bosses was that they could take time off whenever they wanted, as long as they didn’t have cargo to deliver. Ianto looked at Jack for the first time since he’d sat down. “I’d like that. How long do we have until harvest time?”
“It’ll be about ninety days before they have the crops all in, maybe another twenty or so for sorting everything and preparing the goods for export.”
Ianto mulled it over for a few moments. “That would be more than a bit of a holiday.”
“So what? If we get bored we can always help with the harvesting or other farm work. The fresh air and sunshine will do us both good. There’s even a lagoon a couple of miles down the coast that the people around here use for swimming; apparently it’s safer than risking being accidentally swept out to sea by the ebb tides.”
That seemed a sensible precaution to Ianto; with the way the tides flowed it would be easy to get caught out, especially for someone unfamiliar with the rhythms of the sea hereabouts.
“A working vacation then, with time to explore and enjoy ourselves, maybe a shopping trip to the nearest city?”
“If you like, but no work for at least the first two or three weeks; we’ve been working hard the last few months with no time off and we’ve earned a rest.” Jack phrased it that way because he knew Ianto still thought in earth terms, with seven-day weeks and twelve months to a year; it was a hard habit to break since it was what he’d grown up with, although every civilisation they visited had its own way of measuring the passage of time.
“Three weeks’ rest, then offer our services,” Ianto agreed, turning back to the water, dark now and splashed with shimmering silver beneath the three moons. Since he’d last been looking at it the tide appeared to have turned and he watched the water flow in, lapping further and further up the beach with each rippling wave. “Is it safe to paddle?”
“As long as we don’t go in more than knee deep.”
Ianto nodded. “We can just walk a little way towards the water and let it come to us. The beach is pretty level along here.” He was already pulling off his shoes and socks, rolling up the legs of the coveralls they wore aboard the Wanderer.
Jack followed suit. “We can dig out some of our casual clothes from storage in the morning; if we’re on holiday we should dress like it, get ourselves properly into the holiday spirit.”
“Good idea, but for now this will do.” Ianto got to his feet, taking Jack’s hand, and together they made their way across the sand towards the water’s edge. Then, letting the incoming tide lap around their feet, they turned to follow the line of dunes, clearly visible in the moonlight, feeling all the stresses of shipboard life melting away. Yes, a holiday was exactly what they needed, and Ianto couldn’t think of a better setting for a little rest and relaxation than right here, lulled by the soothingly familiar sound of the sea.