Cress & Caitlin

a fifth-gen one-shot

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It was a hot, sticky day in July, when Caitlin was visiting one of her few childhood acquaintances. And to beat the heat, he wanted to swim. It was really a simple request, but not one she could acquiesce to.

"I am not allowed to swim. You of all people should be able to guess why. There is too much danger of me losing consciousness. Add in water, and the situation becomes especially precarious. I could not do it safely. I will agree with you, though, that it is a nice day for such a pursuit, given one is able to pursue…." She trailed off her explanation dreamily, pale eyes blinking as if fighting off an impulse. Underneath her exterior, she longed to be like any other girl, who could go off and do these things whenever the whim took her. Summer was always written as a carefree season, but not for her. She so rarely experienced things as others did.

"Cress gathers though, if one had the appropriate escort, then one should have nothing to fear about the water. The lake is so soothing; one finds it lifts his spirits like nothing else can. Lady Caitlin must try it, and try it with him. He would not let her fall into danger."

She eyes him plaintively, trying to find a line of logic that would counteract his. But none could be found. And it did sound like it would be enjoyable. Maybe she should try.

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She is trembling in the shallows, shrinking back from the task before it's even begun. Cress can feel her valet's eyes on them both, ready to intervene from his perch on the dock if she should show the slightest hint of not wanting to go through with this. And he fears that if given too much time to consider, she will fall into that label with ease. He is a willful thing by nature, though one would not immediately suppose this by first glance. It would take careful observation to piece things together, to see the whole picture of this young man's persona. He wants to swim, so swim they must. He wants to swim not only because he loves it, but so that they can drift away far enough to have some privacy. There's a conversation they haven't been able to have, and he wishes to visit the subject before the day is out. He must know how she feels.

So he reaches for her hand boldly, and with only the smallest of squeaks from her, he pulls them both farther out into the depths. She can feel embarrassment welling up inside her, parallel to the joy of finding out that this is fun, it is not a frightening as she perceived it to be. A rare smile affixes to her face, and she allows him to lead.

They wade out until just above waist-deep, and then he gives further instruction.

"He is going to let you try it now, by yourself. So take a deep breath."

She inhales, and then after an appropriate pause, lets the breath go. Caitlin's as relaxed as she can be, and she waited patiently for the rest.

"Will yourself to float on your back. Don't worry, you won't sink. Cress will be right here to keep an eye on you, lady."

The action seemed so improbable to carry out; she wasn't sure how she would accomplish it. How would her body have to move before she was on her back? It wasn't like flopping onto a couch or a bed. This was water, and the physics were very different. The feel was different. Her body felt weightless-without substance-in the lake, and so it seemed a miracle that she could float at all, be anchored in any sort of position. She felt so insignificant without the weight of her form, like she could just slip down into the depths with a twitch of a finger, and be lost to the lake bottom forever.

It was terrifying, really.

But all she had to do was look at his cerulean eyes, so contented, so encouraging, and the lack of space in between them, and she was content too. It would take maybe two seconds for him to grab her if she faltered. He was allowing her the freedom to try new things in complete safety. It was one of the reasons she felt so fond of him. He seemed to understand her need to do more, even though she felt - and was often told - she was unable to do more.

She let go, subtly leaning back. Her stomach dropped out beneath her, the fear coming swinging back, but then, she was suddenly level. Water lapped at the sides of her face, and her eyes were open wide, staring up at the clear summer sky. The lake felt like an invisible pillow underneath her, as if someone had filled up the bottoms with with cushions, leaving no room to drown. A Pidove flew overhead, cooing softly.

"Oh."

Another smile worked itself up, and she exclaimed in childish delight.

"It's wonderful! I wasn't sure I could, but oh!"

Cress drew nearer, also bearing a grin. He knew she would like it if she tried it. But never had he expected such a pretty smile for his efforts. In the end, he couldn't help being tempted, so he he also couldn't help what he did next.

He reached down to take her hand in his, and gave it a faint squeeze.

He whispered, "Caitlin, I think you can do anything you want to."

She heard. And promptly gasped. No, but he couldn't have done it? Did she honestly just hear him say it?

"Cress, you said... you said I!" She 'sat up' too quickly and then panicked as she felt the feeling of sinking for that briefest moment.

He panicked too, and taking advantage of the fact that he was still holding her hand, he pulled her to him in an embrace, and they tread water together, breathing erratically. She found herself indulging in another deep breath, and even though otherwise weightless, the feeling of his other arm around her waist wasn't something she could ignore. It was borderline improper, but the haze in her mind was leaning towards permitting it.

"Why did you decide to change now?" she asked.

"Oh... I don't know." His face was cutely bewildered as a whole, as if even he was taken aback by his slip in speech.

It was something remarkable, after all. He had spoken of himself in the third person since they were about eight years old. That was the year his father had left his mother and walked out of his three sons' lives forever. Cress had always thought of his father as a hero, so the effect the rift brought was understandable. Children often sustained trauma when their families were torn apart. Being a loyal friend, Caitlin had grown used to the quirk over the yearsto where she barely even thought of it when they were together. But to hear him now, using personal pronouns, well, that was quite a shock!

"It's good though," she encouraged him now, still in whispers. Their foreheads were nearly touching, and it hit her that she could feel the breath on her face when he spoke, and that he could probably feel it when she spoke to. The realization caused her to flush. She didn't know why.

"You think so? It's a change..."

"Well I like it," she told him imperiously.

It was his turn to be embarrassed. But if this is what it took to please her, he'd make a mental note of it. She didn't seem to know what feelings he harbored for her, but that was okay, as long as she never stopped being his friend.

Any other man probably would have gone in to kiss her, and yes, he was tempted. But if the water they were surrounded by today ever taught him anything, it was patience. Steadiness. He had to court her in his own way, or none at all. Rashness was more of his flame-headed brother's style. Not his.

So he simply raised the hand that was intertwined with hers, and planted a small kiss on the back of her hand.

"I would be happy to oblige, anytime, Lady."

Caitlin only thought that she was likely to extend this visit, if they could have more fun like this. She didn't know why this summer their dynamic seemed so different, but it was a curiosity she desperately wanted to explore. Wanted to see if this was the only thing he would surprise her with.

From the dock, Darach wanted to jump in for his own reasons, but knew enough to see that he'd be better off bowing out gracefully, or this time, staying put.

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Author's Note: Ah, water. I love it. Grew up on a lake, moved near the ocean, and then back to a lake. It was therefore nice to write about it.

I had more fun than should be possible writing these two. Not sure if you were all aware, but I kept the habit of Cress speaking in third-person that he has in the anime. It just seemed too unique of a quirk to let go of. It was the first time writing either of these two character for me. Let me know how I did, and if you enjoyed this one-shot, please and thank you!