Heat and Light

Rydia knew she was awake when she felt the heat. The wonderful dream where she'd been sailing alongside Leviathan through a cool sea had suddenly dissolved. Now, instead of a light spray and lovely breeze, she felt the deck of the Falcon pressing into her back through her sleeping bag.

Accepting reality, she opened her eyes and was greeted with the same dark glow that had been the backdrop of their journey for days. Some part of her continued to rebel against sleeping in the open without the distant light of the moons and stars. And the heat! Sleeping on the deck, without any covers, was the only way to avoid waking up a sweat-soaked mess.

Rydia closed her eyes and tried to fall back asleep, but her mind was wide awake at this point. As she tried to imagine a cool ocean mist and the night sky, her thoughts drifted.

Leviathan, carefully ferrying his charge to the Feymarch, safe between jaws so gentle and caring, nothing like the gnashing, snapping teeth of the trap doors in the Sealed Cave, the terror of every passage being alive and hungry turning to exhaustion, even Edge's bluster fading into a grim silence like Kain's, Kain who carried the crystals to Golbez, Kain who with Cecil brought the fire to Mist, the fire that destroyed everything, burning so hot-

She opened her eyes again and pounded a fist into her sleeping bag. Quietly, she got to her feet, trying not to wake the others sleeping nearby. Maybe a walk would trick her body into thinking there was a breeze, and would help her relax. There were a few slight thumps as she unrolled the rope ladder and let it fall, its knots bumping against the wooden railing. Rydia turned to look behind her. It was just possible to make out the three sleeping lumps that were her friends, and it didn't look like she'd disturbed them. Carefully, she started down the ladder.

Rydia had forgotten her boots, but the rock here was smooth under her feet, melted down ages ago when the magma stretched further inland. She walked slowly toward the ocean of lava, feeling the air as it ran along her exposed skin. It was like a breath along her shoulders, her arms and her legs. Glancing around to make sure no coeurls or armadillos were hunting her, she looked back toward the Falcon. She hadn't strayed too far.

There were a few clumps of rocks closer to the shore, forming low hills not yet eroded by the lava, and Rydia headed towards them. She wanted to stay out a while longer and knew it would be wise to climb up a bit to be able to see anything approaching. As she drew nearer she suddenly stopped.

Over the faint sizzle of the lava she could hear a murmuring. Rydia slowly took another step toward the small rise – the voices were coming from somewhere on the other side. She could guess who it was, but mentally prepared herself to cast an Ice spell just in case.

Rydia quietly crawled up the smooth slope of the rock until she reached the top. She looked over, then quickly went flat against the hot stone beneath her. She moved a bit closer to the edge, peering over again. Cecil's features could just be made out as he lay on his back some distance away. Rosa was curled against him. Their voices were clearer now but still indistinct – the couple faced away from Rydia and toward the orange sea. She was surprised they were comfortable, that close to the magma.

She watched the two laugh before Cecil rolled to one side and leaned in to kiss Rosa. Rydia blushed, but didn't look away. She thought back, but couldn't recall ever seeing the two kiss before. Their feelings for each other were obvious, yet they never showed affection in public.

And, of course, they weren't in public now. Rydia knew she should respect Cecil and Rosa's privacy, but found herself unable to turn away as Cecil drew his face back from Rosa's, pausing for a moment before slowly moving lower. He planted kisses on her neck and shoulders before moving a hand to the strap of her top. Cecil looked up as Rosa said something, or maybe just laughed, and Rydia could a little flash of white as he smiled before sliding her top off and lowering his head.

Rydia looked away, focusing on a rock beside her and thinking about how she was going to quietly slip back to the Falcon. She would lie on the deck in the heat and wait for sleep to come. Her legs shifted and her hips pressed slightly harder against the warm stone. Biting her lip, she raised her head again.

Rosa's hand had moved to Cecil's back, urging him on as his lips and tongue ran along her skin. Her head gently fell back against the ground, but immediately rose back up as Cecil pulled away. He smiled at her again and moved further down. Rosa's hands followed Cecil's head to her waist, and she slid down her lace leggings.

Rydia could hear Rosa moan as Cecil lowered his head again. The white mage's arm moved, hand blindly trying to grip the ground before quickly moving to her lover's shoulder, and the summoner felt her own fingernails scrape against the stone beside her. Rosa ran her fingers through Cecil's hair, the magma's light giving his silver strands a deep orange tint. As she watched Cecil move and Rosa's outline quiver in response, Rydia was very conscious of the how warm the rock was against her body. The heat wasn't so unpleasant now.

Abruptly, Rydia turned her head away again and started to crawl back down the slope, straightening up as she reached the bottom. She took a deep breath and looked at the faint silhouette of the Falcon. As she started toward it, she felt the faint breath of the warm underworld air brush against her skin again and she paused.

Rydia took a step and her toes involuntarily curled against the stone underfoot. She took another breath and turned slightly, heading toward another small cluster of rocks some distance away. A small drop of perspiration beaded on her brow and then broke, haltingly running down the side of her face as she reached the cover of the rocks and sat down. She faced the hot sea, her back against the stone.

The heat of the rock slowly worked its way into her calves and thighs as she stretched her legs out along the ground. Another drop of sweat ran down her neck and out along her shoulder. Rydia's fingers shook slightly as she rested them on her thigh, and she looked out at the glowing expanse before her.

Her fingers ran slowly up her thigh, moving smoothly on the light sheen of moisture starting to form on her skin. Her muscles tensed as she reached the edge of her one-piece and Rydia looked down as her fingers brushed the fabric. The green of her outfit suddenly looked strange, clashing with the orange glow the lava cast on her pale skin.

Rydia maneuvered one digit under the edge of the fabric and her head fell against the rock behind her. She breathed in as she slowly moved her finger, searched for something.

When she found it, her eyes snapped shut and she exhaled shakily. Her leg twitched and she was adrift for a moment before she found her place again. Rydia's back pushed harder into the rock behind her and a small noise, a little moan clothed in a whisper, escaped her.

She moved her free hand up and worked her way under the fabric there as well. Her eyes fluttered open and she stared up at the distant, dark ceiling of the underworld, her mind's eye trying to fill the black space.

Long silver strands, reflecting the lava's light as they moved down toward her chest, tickling her skin as she lay flat on the ground and rested a hand on his back…

Rydia's hands slowed and her eyes refocused. She looked away from the roof of the giant cave and out at the sea again. The magma churned slowly and she saw a single bubble form and then pop on the surface, the heat inside rebelliously dissipating upwards. A different picture began to form.

He leaned into her, young and eager lips gently but insistently moving on hers, nothing hiding his mouth anymore, and he moved a hand to her chest, soft flesh cupped in his palm.

Her eyes closed again. Sweat beaded on Rydia's chest and she sighed aloud.

His lips withdrew and then returned to kiss her again, like he'd asked a question and still hadn't gotten an answer, like he wasn't moving his hands, both of them now, along the sides of her breasts before sliding a hand down her stomach and then along the smooth crest of one hip.

Rydia's lips pressed against each other and then broke apart as she took another shaky breath. Her hips arched forward slightly, wanting something to fill the space between them.

As he shifted to give his arm more room he brushed against her and she could feel how he was holding back, with a ninja's restraint and discipline, skills used for something better than fighting and killing now and she hoped or knew or wondered if that was how he wanted to use them, and his head was moving down to follow his fingers, that mop of short silver hair was between her thighs now and she felt his tongue move between parted lips.

She could feel the sweat openly running down her body now, her hair damp as it brushed against her back while she moved in little aimless rhythms.

And would it feel like that, soft and wet and warm like she was – so warm now – and she wanted it and maybe she wanted him and would he raise his eyes from what he was doing and look at her like this – like that, like she was imagining – not look down at her but up instead as she

And Rydia couldn't think about it anymore, there was no more room for thought as she felt the tension build and fill her until it seemed like every muscle in her body was clenched at the same time and she arched and she quivered and her mouth opened in a silent cry.

Some time passed before Rydia's eyes moved again. The lava still glowed before her, the slowly shifting mass indifferent to what had just happened on the shore. Heat radiated out from the surface and Rydia realized how utterly drenched she was. She gingerly withdrew her fingers and then moved her top back to cover herself, the fabric making a squeaking sound as it moved along her skin.

Rydia closed her eyes again and stretched. She felt almost like she could go to sleep here, but knew she should go back to the ship. Stretching her limbs, she stood up. There was something on her back and her legs and she brushed at them, her slick hand coming away with a streak of dirt and fine rock dust. Rydia looked around quickly, then closed her eyes and concentrated.

It was suddenly much cooler. Rydia opened her eyes and saw Shiva before her. Without a word, the eidolon raised her hands and Rydia suddenly found herself in the middle of a small shower, little crystals of ice forming above her and melting as they fell. She quickly scrubbed off and silently thanked Shiva. The ice goddess smiled coyly and disappeared back to her realm.

The Falcon's dark gray outline was barely visible as Rydia turned and started back to the ship. Almost immediately she was sweating again, but there would be no evidence she'd been gone. She looked over toward where she'd come across Cecil and Rosa, but all she could see was the small hill she'd lain on some minutes before. The ladder still hung over the side of the airship and she climbed it, wincing once when the rope squeaked against the hull.

When she reached the top, Rydia was greeted by the sight of a shirtless Edge sitting up on his sleeping bag, munching on something from their supplies. A lantern by his side was turned down low. "I was wondering when you all would realize how much you missed me," he said, grinning at Rydia around a mouthful of bread as she paused, straddling the railing. He chewed and swallowed. "Where're Rosa and Cecil?"

Rydia finished dismounting the ladder and leaned against the railing, trying to level a cool stare at the ninja, who wasn't looking at her as he rummaged through a bag. "They aren't here?"

"Oh, come on. You don't think that little of me, do you? I wouldn't have a light on if they were trying to sleep here." Edge glanced up at her and motioned to a spot on the deck beside the lantern. "Here, sit down and join my midnight feast." Rydia remained where she was for a moment before walking over and sitting down on her sleeping bag. Edge shrugged.

"So where were you, anyway? Enjoying the colorful and varied scenery?" He smiled and tossed something in Rydia's direction. She caught it and poked gently, finding it to be a pouch of nuts they'd gotten back at Giott's castle.

"I couldn't sleep, so I decided to take-"

"Hang on a sec, I can barely see you over there. Feels weird talking to a shadow." Edge leaned toward the lantern and turned it up. More light spilled out across Edge's chest and Rydia could feel her own form suddenly illuminated as well. "Yeah, it's too hot to sleep," the ninja continued. "Too bad you can't take your top off like me."

Edge grinned as his gaze shifted down a bit, and Rydia popped a berry into her mouth. She could see the muscles in Edge's arm flex ever so slightly as he tore off another piece of bread, a smaller one this time. Their eyes moved back up and they watched each other eat in the glow of the lantern and the distant lava.