A soft breeze blew in, light enough that it wasn't blowing out the surface of the water, but strong enough to pick up the grains of sand and swirl them through the air around the girl on the beach. They clung to her skin, sparkling in the sunlight like drops of water. Instead of brushing them away, the fifteen-year-old scratched her toes along the surface of the beach, letting the warmth of the same sand surround her feet. And she watched as a man out in the water tried to teach a little girl how to duck dive. He showed her how to place her knee on the surfboard, how to grip the rails, and how to push down with her weight so she would go safely under the wave and out the other side.
The little girl mastered the move perfectly.
Most people agreed there was only one real way to duck dive. Once you were in the water, with a wave coming at you, you had to go under it or over it. Under it was usually easier. But getting in the water? Well, there were all kinds of ways to do that, weren't there?
Some people might tell you that there was an art to diving in. Arms up, fingers in a point as you sprang from your perch, spine curving, body disappearing as you break through the glassy surface of the water. Those were the people who perfected their technique like ballerinas at a barre, who weighed their options, and barely made a splash when they hit. They were graceful, they were calculating, and they took care to stay safe.
Fiona 'Fly' Watson was none of those things. She was rarely described as graceful, constantly tripping on the top step of the stair case, dropping her text books, running into people. Calculating? She didn't usually have the mental energy to be calculating. That made you sound devious, intent on working out a way around the guidelines. She wasn't devious. Staying safe though, she was all about safety. When it was appropriate. Sometimes, safety was more of an afterthought.
Other people might tell you that diving was not an art form. That the idea was to get into the water as quickly as possible, and to have fun doing it. Those were the people who flopped in, their skin marking the surface of the water with a loud slap, making the people around them wince in sympathy or amusement. These people were funny, attention seeking, even rule breaking.
Now, again, Fly wasn't really a flopper. She had her moments where her jokes landed true, but more often than not, she was the person laughing at someone else's story. And she didn't really go seeking attention. As the baby in the family, attention had always found her exactly when she didn't want it. When it came to rule breaking, Fly agreed that some rules were just put in place to be broken. But, more often than not, the rules were there for a reason. She wasn't someone who was going to commit a criminal act just for the fun of it. And flopping always sounded like it would hurt.
There was, of course, a variation on the flopper – the trickster, or the cannon-baller. These were the people who would stand above the water, waiting until all eyes were on them, announcing just how amazing of a feat they were about to pull off. There were twists and turns and flips, and the splashes they made were almost as big as the regular floppers. These people didn't just seek attention, they were hungry for it, the life of the party, they surrounded themselves with admirers. And sometimes they earned themselves a few enemies.
As much as Fly would have loved to be surrounded by people who admired her, it all would have made her a bit uncomfortable. Credit was all well and good when credit was due, but she didn't need everyone looking at her, wanting her to raise the stakes each time she performed a new trick. It would be pretty overwhelming to be at the center of everything like that.
And then, there were others who preferred to dive from a bit of height. They would fall from diving boards or piers or rock ledges. Their bodies would cut through the air like knives, plummeting to the deep blue. It was about that rush of satisfaction, they would say. It was all about knowing you've accomplished something just a tad extra, you've gone just a bit further, than anyone else.
Fly didn't like to compare herself to anyone else. She didn't like that idea at all. There was already so much competition in her life. And she was always afraid she was going to come up short. So the high divers, she wasn't one of those either. Sometimes, she would watch, a little wistful, as someone did just enough to edge her out, but she didn't have it in her to climb up to the next ledge just to prove that she could jump in with the big boys.
The walker was someone who didn't need any fancy tricks or eye catching spectacles. The walker was someone who was already confident that they knew just what they were getting into. They didn't allow temperatures to shock them, and they breathed through their anxiety, making it work for them, stepping into the water, and simply keeping on until it was deep enough to swim in. Walkers were determined, and they held a fair amount of conviction. They believed in themselves first.
Fly was most definitely not a walker. Not that she wasn't determined, because she was. Fly was not the kind of girl who would ever give up once she put her mind to something. It was that confidence that she had never been able to find in herself. As someone who had always been the youngest and the smallest, she was used to getting beat out for just about everything. When she was the one rising to the top of the tidal wave, she always found herself pleasantly surprised.
Feet first was another option. Just stepping off the edge, arms straight at your sides, feeling your way with your toes in case you have to move your body out of harm's way at the very last moment. It was one of the safer ways to dive, the way life savers were taught to jump in to prevent head injuries. These were cautious people, people who followed the rules as carefully as they could, but people who were willing to dive in for someone else.
To an extent, Fly could see herself a bit like this. The only problem was, she thought, if you went feet first, how were you supposed to see where you were going? You wouldn't know if there were rocks below, or if the water was even deep enough for you to swim in. You wouldn't know anything. And Fly didn't like that blind spot right in front of her. She liked to see what was coming, even if what was coming was scary or hard or dangerous. After all, that blind spot might hide something wonderful from you as well.
The tester was the last in the long line of divers. The tester would examine every single millimeter of the area where they wanted to dive. They would feel the breeze on their face. They would check the temperature of the water with a finger, a toe, maybe a whole hand or foot if they were really brazen. They would check where the drains in the pool were, how fast the waves were coming in on the beach. Maybe they'd even sniff out chlorine levels or taste the salt. They'd even keep a sharp look out for fins. For the tester, there was no such thing as being too cautious. The tester was a bit paranoid, really.
Fiona 'Fly' Watson never really thought of herself as someone who tested the waters out with the tips of her toes. She didn't do things gradually. She was an all or nothing kind of girl, running into the waves, duck diving under them, heading out to the break. At least, that's what she had always believed. She had always been the first one to run down the beach, the first one to get on her board and make her way through the blue water. More and more often now though, she found herself edging in a toe, then her foot, then maybe a knee. She was increasingly becoming a worrier. As much as she wanted to just rush in and dive below the surface, there were certain things in life in which she wasn't prepared to fully submerge.
Heath Carroll was one of them.
Her toes tingled in their place in the sand just thinking about him. And she felt that familiar nervousness creep in.
If Fly had to classify him in a specific way, Heath Carroll was more of a flopper. He liked to make everything fun and entertaining. He didn't care if he got hurt or embarrassed, as long as the people he cared about were happy. He had been known to break a few rules, and he definitely liked to be showered in attention. He wasn't the kind of guy who tested the waters, checking temperatures, looking for potential sharks. He was willing to let other people pull him back, but by then, it was usually too late to avoid whatever mistake he'd been in the process of making. His skin was already slapping down on the water, and his admirers were torn between their sympathetic winces and grins of amusement.
And maybe, just maybe, that was why he made her a bit nervous.
As the little girl and the man she had been watching earlier came in, she decided it was time to head back. It was getting late. Everyone at the house would wonder where she was. So she hopped to her feet, dusted the sand from her clothing, and started to walk back along the beach, just in time to see another girl, this one about her age, hesitating down at the water's edge. She felt out at the wetness cautiously with her foot, smiling at the boy next to her who shook water out of his shaggy hair. When she bit her lip and took a few steps back, the boy unceremoniously took her in his arms and crashed them both into a bit of the white water. And they both surfaced laughing and gasping for air.
There was something to be said for floppers. They forced testers into action, made them enjoy things a little bit more. And testers could urge the floppers to use a smidge more caution, minimize the sting of the contact with the surface.
And maybe, just maybe, what Fly Watson needed was a bit more Heath Carroll in her life. Maybe it was time to dive in with a little less testing, and a little more flopping.
A/N: Though there are seven styles of diving here, and I wrote them with the season one characters in mind, some of the characters would fit more than one of the styles. Realistically, I don't think Fly would stay a tester. I think there are, especially in the first season, moments where that part of her personality comes out though. She worries. A lot. And she gets called on that. A lot. So, I thought I would let her compare her own style of "diving in" to the others.