Hands Under the Water
rating: +7+x

It was calm, it was cold, it was reflective – and it was perfect.

Kit took a deep breath and then dived into the semi-clear water of the river, breaking through the surface. Dead reeds and grass strands stuck to him as he swam through the water, going as deep as he could in one breath.

He could only half remember the argument that had driven him out here, into a quiet area of the nature reserve near where Gabriel lived. Something about defacing his walls, something about throwing a knife, something about a deep gash on his thigh that burned in the calm waters around him.

It was always something about something, he concluded glumly as he popped back up again, breathing free for a moment, doggy-paddling in place. And to boot, it was frigging cold out here, with his clothes folded neatly on the bank and the sun sinking on the horizon. But if felt like the refreshing cold was helping him think clearly, pushing the anti-psychotics and z-drugs through his system, out of his system, detoxing him.

He absently pulled his long hair over one shoulder, where it grazed, chilled, just below his collarbone. He squeezed some of the water out, then stretched his legs so he could find pebbles under his feet, their edges softened by time pushed by the gentle stream.

It was then that he felt something colder than the water, like icicles, dragging themselves around his ankles. The grip was sharp, and strong – he could feel every individual bone that would be present in a human hand, traced in freezing relief against his skin. 'You’re on her turf,' his thoughts supplied grimly. 'The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water.'

The Spirit was pulling him down – she was strong and meaningful and determined – well, he could be all those things too. He wasn’t going down without a fight. He pulled back as the hands yanked at him greedily, working their way up his shins to get more purchase. But he quickly found himself in the water to his chin, the hands pulling him in the direction the stream ran.

His own hands clasped at the surface, grasping blindly for help – he didn’t want to go with her. 'Live now. Tomorrow, we die,' his thoughts reminded him mockingly. The reason for the argument. The dark thought the reason there was blood in the water as he felt the hands grab at his thigh, dig into the self-inflicted wound. He was sinking, and fast. He could feel weeds enveloping him and suddenly realised the hands hid here, grew here, grabbed here – neither good nor evil, just waiting for an unsuspected swimmer. An unsuspecting him.

With one swift pull, all of him was under water, and hands were snaking up his body – some anchoring him at the ankles, but others pushing themselves over his mouth. His lungs burnt as he tried to take a breath and to fight against the alien concept, but the world was quickly growing dim at the edges.

Next thing Kit knew, hands that weren’t as cold, hands that were human, were pulling at him, rolling him out of the water and onto the bank, where he spluttered and drew shaky breath. Kit’s eyes darted to the water and, amongst the clouds of dirt that had been kicked up, he saw the hands disappear back into the weeds, disappointed they hadn’t sunk their target.

Gabriel was next to him, his clothes soaked; evidence of what had happened.

“Kit! Jesus wept, Kit!”

Kit blinked slowly, trying to get his bearings, turned his head towards his boyfriend friend boyfriend(?).

“You were laying face-down in the water! I thought you were dead!”

Tears were streaming down Gabriel’s face. Kit couldn’t breathe, turned, coughed pond water.

“…I was only pretending,” he managed to wheeze out.

Hands under the water. Gabriel would never believe him.

“You shit!”

Gabriel didn’t swear. Gabriel never swore. Gabriel was always in Wise Mind. Deep blue. Murky pond water.

Kit struggled to his feet and grabbed his clothes by the armful. Gabriel was already storming away; the silent indication there that Kit should follow him.

Behind Gabriel, pace slightly slowed, Kit took a lungful of clean air and was grateful.

Later, in the afterglow, Gabriel would see long, finger-shaped bruises on Kit’s bare ankles and wonder about creatures in the water.

But sleep came heavily over him before he could imagine exploration, capture, containment…

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