Liz arches her back, tilts her head up, breathes deeply, and closes her eyes. She smiles as Jimmie lets out a soft moan. She wriggles with delight and looks around, drinking in all of the sensations. This is why she agreed to this adventure! Jimmie squeezes her hand tightly and puts his lips close to her ear. "I've never been so high before!" he tells her.

Liz laughs and hugs him playfully. "I think it's time," she tells him. Liz turns and rolls into a kneeling position and then puts her hands on his shoulders as she carefully straddles Jimmie's legs. He obligingly shifts in response and they spend a few moments holding eye contact. Jimmie shifts again and Liz lowers herself carefully. A sudden lurch drops Liz the last few inches onto his chest and they both laugh. She lays there for a moment and feels his body responding to hers.

The pilot, who claims to be named "Egg", clears his throat. Egg has agreed to tolerate them swapping seats back and forth, as he only has the two of them on board, but his patience has limits. Liz hastily rolls to the side and settles into the right-hand seat. As the helicopter banks to that side, Jimmie hurriedly finishes inching over and buckles himself into the other rear seat. Liz squeals a bit as they tilt. Jimmie mutters and pulls his prayer beads from his pocket. An "Anglican rosary," he calls it, a nod to his former membership of the Catholic Church. Jimmie had told Liz that Father Tom had given it to him for the trip as a joke, but he seems fairly serious about it right now.

The helicopter straightens from the bank and clears another snow-covered peak. On the other side a glacial crevasse appears, and Liz sees plumes of moist air rising into the cloud-dappled blue sky. "I see it!” she cries. Jimmie pockets the beads again, and leans his head over to peer out her window. He turns to look at her. "I'm always in the wrong place," he observes mildly, two inches from her face. "Maybe not!" she responds and leans in to kiss him.

Jimmie turns an endearing shade of pink and grins as he returns to his side. The helicopter is crossing over a highway now, a thin black ribbon bisecting a huge expanse of pristine snow. A single car rushes along the road, like a drop of dew sliding down a strand of spider web. Liz sighs as she eyes the crisp white expanse of virgin powder and wishes for skis.

Their destination appears to be in sight now, but to her surprise the plumes are from some sort of industrial plant rather than a geothermal. Liz groans and Egg laughs. Jimmie joins in with a touch of giddiness that reveals he’s still quite nervous. Liz gives him "the look" but it only makes him laugh harder.

They’re back to doing the "skimming over mountaintops" thing again, and Liz presses her nose to the window, ignoring the men and their merriment. Now they’re crossing above a narrow mountain stream, and Liz imagines it racing to join an impressive waterfall somewhere ahead. Jimmie taps her shoulder and points out his window. She leans across, resting her head against him as she looks out. Jimmie has spotted another plume, one that seems to rise at an angle rather than the vertical ones that fooled her before. "Don't worry folks," Egg says, "this one's the real deal."

Patches of mossy green and sandy brown break up the slope of the mountain, and the helicopter zooms low. Liz claps her hands as they see the steam rising from the ground. The helicopter thrums its way through a steam cloud. Jimmie inhales deeply through his nose. He drops his voice an octave. "Brimstone!" he announces sonorously. Liz shakes her head. One minute he has the rosary out, but the next he can't resist playing the Devil himself to get a laugh. They're pursuing the stream again, and now it's on her side. A larger vent appears, with a curving line of yellowish runoff spilling from it to disappear into a rent in the glacier. They circle around and skim back over from the opposite direction. The down draft from the helicopter whips the steam, sending it boiling away so they can clearly see the dark crater that’s the source of the steam. The helicopter settles in to land and the rotors spin down. They wait until Egg tells them it's OK to unbuckle.

Egg helps Liz out, then Jimmie, who seems very pleased to be back on the ground. They lean in to set their headsets on the seats and then step carefully to a rock and look down at the geothermal vent. After a moment, Egg follows them and produces a pair of wine glasses and a small bottle of Prosecco. He fills their glasses they toast. Egg takes Liz's camera and gets a few shots of them together, then they switch places to get a show with the sleek black "NORDUR FLUG" helicopter as backdrop. The wind whips a cloud of sulfurous steam towards them. Liz hands Jimmie her glass so she can jump up and down with excitement. They make their way carefully down a short trail and inspect the geothermal area and snap some more photos.

All too soon it's time to get back in the helicopter and fly back to Reykjavik. Jimmie and Liz sit comfortably together, pointing out sights and listening to Egg’s narration. As they approach the airport Jimmie points to the spire of the Hallgrímskirkja. Egg says something into his headset, then nods and does a circuit around the church. Liz admires the cheerful red, blue, and green roofs of the town as Jimmie and Egg discuss the church. Then they fly back to the airport.

They tip Egg generously and take their leave, walking to the taxi stand. "See, that was amazing!" Liz exclaims. "And see, flying wasn’t so bad!" Jimmie spreads his hands and smiles. "Good company makes anything bearable, darlin'," he says. Liz hugs him.

At the hotel, they make their way down the hallway. An awkward silence has developed as each of them wonders how to proceed. Jimmie stops in front of the room he shares with Sean, with a bemused expression on his face. A sock dangles from the doorknob.

"That’s a signal, Jimmie," she says. He nods in a distracted way. "I may not be a college lad, but I ken that much," he says. "But I’ve seen Sean’s entire wardrobe by now, and there’s not an argyle sock among them." He ponders. "Jakob’s flight came in today, and Sean said he was going to pick him up...." Liz laughs again. "It seems like he did!"

"It does, indeed!" Jimmie says. Jimmie stand silently for a bit, then turns to Liz and makes a small shrugging gesture with his hands. "I guess I’m off to the lobby." He backs gingerly away from the doorway. Liz has been texting rapidly the whole time, and now she takes his hand. "Oh, no," she says. "My roomie’s out with Scott and she says not to expect her back. So I seem to have an extra bed."

"Do you, now?" Jimmie asks, his eyebrows raised. "But I don’t have my pyjamas." Liz giggles at his odd maritime way of saying 'pajamas.' "I don't think you're going to need them!" Liz grins at him, and pulls him along towards her room.

behind ... quest ... ahead

References and inspiration:

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