Seems I would never get over a real physical fear of heights, no matter how safe the Glow made me. As the cleansing waters covered my head, I thought: It would be a very good idea to experiment with dropping from various levels of buildings or trees.
A new theory was beginning to form: once I felt any fear of injury or death, the Glow would light, cushioning the fall. Just not backwards--even today I still remember the painful surprise after bouncing up from jumping into the Lifestream.
Falling face down, I was protected. Falling back, I was not. Were visual clues necessary, or did I simply need some practice? How would I get it, except by accident? Landing backwards just hurt too much to allow for any deliberate experimentation. Besides, one wrong theory taken a tad too far could kill the test subject--me. Furthermore, the Glow did not simply ignite when I wished; it had to be triggered by danger or anxiety.
Okay, I admit it: that was a lot of thinking for someone who was chucked into a pond in the middle of the night. My mind often races in some pretty odd situations. So many unique thoughts occur to me in stressful or strange circumstances, I have to send myself messages on the PHS afterwards, just to keep track of new ideas when I'm out and about.
The water got colder as I sank. The tarn was probably fed by an underground spring, so I began to kick my feet; there would be no bottom. My eyes opened as soon as I began to rise again. The moon played on the surface, yet penetrated even to where I was paddling upwards, on my way to breathe. Bright, sparkling moonbeams filtered through crystal clear water, making the experience seem almost mystical! Those green hills remained untainted by the filthy reach of Shinra, Incorporated, even though they were not far from the reactor-polluted ocean off Junon. The unsullied water in the wooded valley welcomed me as surely as if it were my native habitat. Only my clothes prevented me from feeling completely one with my environment.
Barely a moment before, when Vincent had tossed me into the water, I could hear the usual sounds rushing past and filling my ears. The sensation on my skin was something like a wet version of crawling into a cool, clean bed, freshly dressed in silken linens. Full-body immersion has always been a delight for me, especially in wilderness waters. I can become one with a pond, river or especially the sea, allowing it to overwhelm me. A skinny-dip in the ocean is an all-encompassing experience for my senses, especially through sound, what with the crashing waves resonating both above and below the water.
That night I allowed the pond to swallow me whole, leaving me completely surrounded by fluid, bubbly noises. They came from all directions, and could be felt as well as heard. I slowly worked my way back to the surface, enjoying them as I ascended.
My idyll was interrupted well before I broke the surface. I ran out of breath, and panicked.
From that moment, the air seemed unreachable, and I scissor-kicked my legs in tiny, frantic movements, with one hand pointed to the moon and the other clamped firmly over my mouth and nose. I watched and felt as the Glow enveloped my body. At once, the entire pond became my sounding board, amplifying and transmitting every little creature motion, ping or splatter back to me.
All underwater noise registers as musical notes to my ear, even if the melody is somewhat atonal. That night, however, the music was very gentle, a subdued version of the usual daytime concert of busy underwater activity. All so very natural; at that moment not even air-hunger prevented me from marveling at my liquid environment.
So even though I knew that Vincent’s toss could not have dropped me very deep, it seemed an eternity before I broke the top of the water, my newly-ignited aura and all. Once I surfaced, the world returned to normal, and I listened to the water rush off and splash all around me, as Vincent’s harsh whisper--not at all musical!--came to me over the night air. I ignored him for the moment and dove back under, eager to further explore my newfound element.
When I returned below the surface, the Glow changed even the dive, and I was surrounded in a bubble of air that matched my shape. The water was buffered a good inch or so away from my skin. If any passed through the field, it came in microscopically, like fog or mist. It was breathable; the wetness did not choke me. At the moment I was intrigued, but not brave enough to inhale in large gulps.
My defensive, semi-osmotic barrier was holding back the pond, radiating just a little in all directions. From the looks of it, I was protecting a small circle of water. Why not the whole spring? Or why any of it, for that matter? I rose to breathe and immediately dove to just directly below the top of the water, and found that again, a very small skin of air came along, forming a sort of coating around me. Opening my mouth just a tiny bit more, with my tongue back against my throat, I could feel that air, and took in a mouthful.
Just like inhaling a dense fog, the breath was both water and air. I could taste the moisture on my tongue, and again shut my mouth against it. Nevertheless, it felt as if that damp air was in my nose when I resurfaced, in contrast to the dusty, autumnal atmosphere of the little valley.
Theoretically, if the Glow lit before I hit the water, then my body wouldn't even get wet. I made a mental note: when safe, dry--and calm!--it would be instructive to try this at home. But where? In Nibelheim, nobody indulged in swimming anywhere, not even at the nearby seashore. What's more, whenever I felt safe and calm, the Glow wouldn’t ignite!
That was enough speculation for the night: it was time to return to reality, so I frog-kicked towards Vincent.
“Josephine, what in the name of Holy are you doing?” He wasn’t shouting, but there was that tight, metallic edge to his question. Not really a whisper, but not spoken normally, either.
Vincent was visibly irritated until I answered, dismissing his tone with a wet wave of my hand, splashing in his direction.
“Just checking the possibilities of the Glow. What’s wrong?” I swam up to him, whereupon he took my arm and lifted me straight up out of the water and onto the bank, in one almost effortless move. We were left facing each other, he a warm, dark form almost hidden in the night, and me soaking wet, the water beads reflecting the moonlight as the Glow faded. Vincent was already pulling my top over my head before he responded.
“Nothing, now. What did you discover?” He dropped the wet shirt in the grass and began to fiddle with my jeans, trying to yank them down off my hips.
“Vincent! I think there may be a way to manipulate the Glow. Underwater, it keeps a little layer of air around me; it may be breathable. My own private diving bell. I have to make a note to myself to investigate it further. Where’s my phone?”
And at that moment, I did not have any personal devise at hand. It was in my kit, back on the corral fence, along with my change of clothes. We’d had just stripped the sopping stuff when I decided to retrieve the PHS.
It would be necessary to sneak naked in the dark to get them. What if I roused the chocobos and they alerted the Cyans? They would find me wearing nothing, not even my Damascene band. As unfair as it was, I was peeved at Vincent for putting me in such a touchy situation. What was he thinking? Any noise at all could awaken the high-strung birds. Naturally, even the dry grass crackled loudly under my bare feet, as I tried to move silently along the shore.
"Josephine. Where are you going?" His harsh whisper actually sounded disappointed, or maybe just impatient with me.
"To the corral. The wet clothes can hang on the fence. Besides, my dry things are in the kit, with my PHS."
"Ahh, always thinking ahead. Fine, but please hurry back. Here, catch! Wear my pullover. Just leave the other clothes there, too. We won't need them for a while." His shirt caught the back of my head, and I fumbled with it to find the openings. From the darkness behind me came the sound of feet being forcibly yanked from shoons, the heavily armored boots Vincent always wore on the road.
Weehee! I chortled under my breath, grinning to myself as I wiggled into the shirt. All was forgiven in that instant. I crept as quietly as possible into the corral, arranged the wet things over the split-rail fence and then hurried back to the tarn, feeling my way along the bank. The phone, and all my fancy speculation was forgotten.
"Over here, Josephine. Watch for the armor." No problem: it gave off a dull glow in the moonlight. I wandered closer, but was still unable to pick out my playmate.
Then his heavy broadcloth cape enveloped me. I was lifted off my feet and lowered to the earth, where I could feel something cushioning me from the grass and gravel. After a few seconds I realized that Vincent had set out his trousers to use as a bedroll. The black pullover soon joined them, and we rolled around, quietly chuckling and kissing at the same time, our subdued hilarity muffled by the voluminous military cape that easily covered us both.
My lover then set about warming my damp skin. He vigorously rubbed my hands and feet, before paying similar attention to my arms and legs and, lastly, my body’s core. Eventually, I returned the favor, even though Vincent decidedly did not need it. After a while we no longer wanted to find ways to warm ourselves; the fire deep inside me matched his. It became more to the point not to betray our activity with our merry-making noises: his teasing purrs and murmuring, along with, of course, my intermittent cooing and giggling. In no time we lost any awareness of the ranch or our woodsy surroundings, conscious only of one another’s pleasure.
Our separation made the reunion celebration at once a little fiercer, rougher and more satisfying. We became one body moving about under a woolen mantle, oblivious to the cool night air and surrounding trees. Not even the bright, full moon sparkling off the rippled water could distract us, while we found comfort and enjoyment in the dark grasses on the edge of the forest.
Nothing more was said all night. We didn't need to rehash past hurts and domestic troubles. We were always able, even from the beginning of our relationship, to excel in this one shared activity: physical intimacy came easily to my man of few words and seemingly less emotion. As for me, it was often like a game of cuddles and tickles, one we played in many ways, each variation spurring us to try to create new pleasure for one another. Words were no longer a part of our repertory; we were all action, sometimes gentle and slow, other times rough and ready for anything.
That night, high in the hills outside Junon, Vincent enjoyed me, with kisses and caresses from my ears down to my toes, and I him, purring and nuzzling and burying my face in his long silky hair, until the moon moved from behind the corral. It paused a while over our lusty abandon by the tarn, then finally dipped behind the hilltops. At last, satisfied that our reunion was properly consummated, we snuggled until we slept, luxuriating in the cool night air and the sounds of the surrounding woodland.
It was good to be a couple again.