'What are you doing?'

“Vash! What are you doing?

Her chin trembled, and her cheeks were already wet with tears of exasperation, but Vash could not have known it. He had not once turned his head to look at her.

“Come, Iylaine! Hurry!”

“I can’t follow you into the water!” she squeaked.

Nevertheless she was already stepping down onto the soft bank.

Nevertheless she was already stepping down onto the soft bank.

“Yes, you can,” he said. “I am with you.”

“But I don’t even want to! What are we doing here, Vash?” she whined. “Come out, please!”

“Hurry, Iylaine.” His voice was soft but anxious. He already stood ankle-​​deep in the water at the edge of the pool.

“What are we doing? Tell me! Look at me! Ohhhh!” she groaned as her bare feet squished into the mud.


“I don’t want to – to go swimming!” she spluttered. “Come out here! I can’t go!”

'Come out here!  I can't!'

She hoped he would not force her to admit she was pregnant – to say the words that seemed so obscene. She was beginning to fear he did not even know. Perhaps he had not looked at her long enough to see it.

“We’re not going swimming,” he said. “We’re going down into the water.”

“What?” she gasped.

He turned his profile to her for a moment, but it was the side of his face that was hidden by his hair. Perhaps he did not see her even then.

“Don’t you ever want to go down into the water, Iylaine?”

'Don't you ever want to go down into the water, Iylaine?'

His voice was gentle but sad. She stopped her thrashing and listened.

“Don’t you want to go where the water is still and dark, and not struggle to stay up near the air, but to go down where there is only water?”

Her feet were slowly sinking into the muck, but that was not what caused her to shudder.

“I don’t want to die!” she whimpered.

“Not to die, Iylaine!” he gasped.

'Not to die, Iylaine!'

He briefly turned to her. Something about his face struck her, but his words troubled her more.

“I’m with you. That’s why we’re here. I want to show you what you truly want, so that you don’t drown yourself someday looking for it.”

“Why don’t you simply tell me?”

She heard a splash as he took another, agitated step deeper into the water. “It is me you want.” His impatience was audible. “My name is Vash: it means still, dark water. But it is not merely my name. It is my nature. And it is what you want. It is me you want. More than anything. Isn’t it?”

She was stunned.

It was not truly spoken as a question, so she did not feel the need to answer. Nor could she have – she was stunned.

“Didn’t you understand that?” he asked softly. “Give me your hand and I shall make everything plain.”

His hand reached back for hers.

His hand reached back for hers.

Not since that terrible September night had she felt the desire to go down into the water, but she had never lost her longing to be near him, to touch him, to hold his hand – not since that distant March night – not since the first and only night she had ever slept by his side.

She took a step toward him. She felt the weight of her gown on her belly lessen as the hem touched the water and began to float. She was in the water. He was about to take her hand.

She was in the water.