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In Most Directions, Water

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Nita dreams sometimes in colors and sounds that are not any more irregular than any other human's dreams. She doesn't mind her wizardry, of course; that's impossible, wizardry doesn't live in the unwilling heart, and her heart is very willing, her magic something like breath to her. It's difficult to imagine life without being able to talk to trees or stars or cars, these days, without Dairine popping off to foreign planets after school, without Kit as her partner. Wizardry has caused her pain, too, but it hasn't weakened her resolve or dulled her craving for its voice shaping her life.

And it's not as if she minds her wizardly dreams (the increasing iridescence as her soul is drawn inwards to Timeheart, or the foresight that she finds coming in, coming on, stronger and stronger as she grows).

Only sometimes, amidst all that rapturous terror and terrified joy, curiosity, yearning, wariness - it's good to have dreams that are gentler. They take her back to a time when things in her life and Art were simpler. Smaller. Less frightening, less important. Or at least when she'd been hurt less by these things.

And then sometimes her dreams turn her Errands on their heads in mortal ways, and she finds herself looking at old places in a new light. The nondescript street corner where they once met the Lotus Espirit, under normal sun with a man selling hot dogs under an umbrella, relish and mustard and ketchup on the side, Kit buying one for each of them and them strolling away finding a place to sit for a normal conversation. Normal groves and glades where the trees rustle kindly, shading the sunlight with leaves like stained-glass, welcoming and friendly but without prominent voice. A greasy garage smelling of gasoline, sitting on the steps watching Kit work on the old Edsel, his face still and calm, noble in spite of being smeared and grotty. Or sunlight moving through seawater, which touching on skin becomes the gentlest thing in the world.

New York's waters are cold even in summer, hard to get used to and not hospitable for people inclined to cold-bloodedness, but that's the sharp kind of detail that gets blunted in dreams, along with things like needing breath and whaleform, deadlines and anxious parents on shore.

When Nita dreams of swimming she dreams of being held gently above the hungry dark, which hungry thought it is remains indifferent to her - enough at least to let her traverse above it without any trouble. She can hang forever, supported gently like a peach hanging from a branch, between air and the dangerous deep, the water luminescent gold with sun above, shading to green and then jade darker and darker until her vision can go no further, close enough to touch Kit if she needed to reach out to him for some reason, but never having that need to. Just knowing, not even in her head but in her belly, in her bones, that he's there, just a handspan or less away from her.

The whale became familiar to her, during that assignment on the shore; the way sound stroked her entire sleek body, the way the water closed around it like a cool glove. How far an echo could carry, under the water; a voice grinding or crooning from miles away could sound as clear as someone speaking clearly right behind her ear. The whale knew the resonance of bodies, the pleasure of pod-mates close by even if they were quiet, sleeping, breaching for air, and maybe a little bit of that memory comes through when Kit is next to her: he is her partner after all, and what's a partnership between wizards but a pod of two?

Either way, he's there, with a presence like a hand touching her bare shoulder even when they don't look at each other at all. They swim and rise in tandem, just their sea-slicked heads crowning above the waves, hair wetted to their scalps like babies, and Nita feels very young and very vulnerable, her body carried in the rise and fall of swells.

They look into each other's eyes carefully. Kit reminds her of a seal, small and lean in the water, a fast swimmer, strong. Water distorts what otherwise might be a breach of modesty for the both of them. They hold themselves away from bumping into each other with little motions of hands and feet. Still, still, it's close, like lying skin to skin with him in a bath, never not aware of water caressing her skin, the small of her back, the nape of her neck, the lengths of her thighs and the curve of her stomach. Partners only need to talk a little, even in dreams. "Getting cold?" he asks her.

"A little bit."

And Kit nods, usually, in this watery dream, spitting out sea water as he does. His dark hair slicks over his forehead, hanging into his eyes. "Want to sun for a while?"

The old jetty where they rest is warm, even under cloud cover; Nita would think it came from absorbed heat from the sun if it wasn't a dream, where why shouldn't the jetty be warm? The water is cold, after all, and land-dwelling mammals need somewhere steady and firm to restore themselves. The structure is streaked with guano, although there are no gulls within seeing or hearing distance while they rest. Just the moving water stretching horizon-wards, Nita's skin pulsing under the touch of air, aware of its own expanse, where moisture collects and where moisture is wicked away by the persistent breeze, leaving her stretched taut like a drum under that empty sky.

It's a good place to stretch out and rest, think of nothing at all except the distance between them that zings with energy. It's easy to ignore the pervasive, insistent emptiness of the sea and the sky and how they're the only speaking things there; even the rocks are silent, the universe compressed into just the two of them. It's just a dream, though - that's what love in the stories is anyway, right? The compression of a universe down to two. Time stops, each silent moment sliding past slow and viscous as honey. Everything silent and mindless, the voiceless sea gnawing persistently at the pier. The sky going up and up, storm-colored.

The sea breeze moves her hair so it tickles her face. Kit moves closer to her himself, without looking at her, just the feel of his spiky damp hair against her thigh letting her know that he's moved. "Jeez, say something, why don't you?"


Nita breathes out, breathes in. Kit doesn't move, and after a moment she reaches down and touches the crown of his head to ruffle her fingers through his salt-stiffened hair. "Like hedgehog quills," and then, because he's there and close, she lifts her head and looks down at him, because it's not as if she can see anything anyway. He's all sprawl and quiet breaths, and she wants to shiver. In these dreams, even when they're just dreams - it's uncanny to feel so distant from everything except him. A flea clinging to the back of the universe, feeling only the rumblings and rapid movement of the beast and understanding nothing.

"Kit," she whispers, and he flattens his palm against the round of her calf, comforting. Nita combs her fingers through his hair again and then rests her palm flat against her stomach, feeling her body rising and falling with the rhythm of her breath.

When she finally wakes up she'll see him the same day, Kit, her partner, good-humored and reliable like always. A part of him is uniquely hers. They're teammates, after all; their first joint works of wizardry they worked together.

When she wakes up, the world and their work will unfold them again. The inevitability of this is reassuring, in a way. Welcome.

Wordless as it is, isolated, silent, disturbing, mortal… All of this - the tossing sea, Kit's head resting against her thigh, the salt breeze wicking away moisture from her skin - is welcomed by her as well.