Notes: Thanks to Cheryl for giving it a once over!
by Twilight (Dawn)
"I can't believe you talked me into this." Simon looked from his son to the crystal blue waters.
They stood on the deck of the twenty foot cruiser, squeezing their bodies into the tight fitting wet suits. Gentle waves lapped at the sides of the boat and other people milled about, getting their own gear ready.
"Come on, Dad. You promised." Daryl smiled, laughing as his father nearly tipped backwards when the instructor loaded the oxygen tank into his back harness.
"I did, I just didn't know..." he waved his hand around, frowning as fat flippers hit the deck near his feet. He sat carefully on one of the benches, fitting his feet into the rubber fins.
Daryl stood, suited up and ready to go. "Come on, Dad. We spend almost two hours sitting through the safety classes you insisted we take. Time to dive."
Others had already hit the water and there were four instructors to help out with the twenty or so people spending a perfectly good Saturday doing something this crazy.
"Okay, let's roll." Simon headed toward the back of the boat where a man waited, helping a woman turn and sit on the side. She flipped off backwards and Simon tried to turn around the way he came, but his son pushed him on.
"Dad..." Daryl moved around him and sat, patting the space next to him.
"Okay, nice and easy. Just lean back." The instructor said.
Daryl leaned back and resurfaced as soon as he hit the water. He waved to his father, turning to swim away from the boat.
Now or never...
He slid back, until his rear hung off the edge and then he let go, flopping into the water, not the most macho move.
"Nice." His son teased, "Come on, I want to catch up."
Their instructor waited for them a few yards from the anchored boat. She slipped her airtight mask over her face and put the tip of the regulator in her mouth. They followed suit, and Simon thought it was a little weird to only breathe through his mouth. Maria, their newbie class instructor, had gone over the correct procedure for using the regulators and he and Daryl had both taken turns in the class room practicing, but this was different...weird.
After allowing a few minutes to get used to the new breathing pattern, she submerged, diving down and flipping up her feet. Six or so other people dived down and soon they were all following Maria.
The water was phenomenal, clear and beautiful and very deep.
They came across a school of fish breaking off into different directions as the divers passed. Daryl jabbed him in the side and Simon turned to see a dark shadow moving slowly in the water, its body gliding and twisting.
It turned quickly and resurfaced and Simon caught sight of a streak of white on black. An island lay a few hundred yards off the port side of the diving boat and the passengers were told they would likely see the penguins residing there.
Continuing on, they spotted a few different species of fish, diving down deeper and deeper until Simon looked up and saw more water above than below.
It was a surreal moment, but peaceful and a little tug on his arm brought his gaze around to his son's beaming face and in that moment he let go of all the built up tension that had been plaguing him since their helicopter took off without them.
He wondered how Jim and Blair's day was turning out...
"I can't believe you talked me into this, man." Blair said.
They stood in the hanger, watching the plane fuel up, holding their chute packs. Blair paced back and forth, wind flapping through his jazzy blue jumpsuit. Memories of his first very safe and supervised tandem jump were quickly replaced by his crazy lone descent over the jungle, the hysteria that had overcome him and the uncontrollable screaming and begging all the way down before being snagged in a tree and ending up with a visitor in his pants.
He wondered if Jim was going to bring up the lizard anytime soon.
"It was your idea, Chief." Jim had his back up canopy on the pack table, folding and refolding the chute until it passed his inspection. "Give me yours."
"Uhh...should you be doing that...I mean the experts have already double checked the main and backup."
"Relax. I know what I'm doing." Jim smiled, snatching the pack away from Blair.
"My idea? Yeah man, but I didn't think you would like, take me up on it." Jim totally ignored him.
He pulled Blair's canopies from the pack, checking all the lines and cords, then pulled on his harness and checked all the connecting rigging. Jim creased the canopy, tucking it back into the pack and handed it back to Blair before repacking his own.
Their instructor jogged over, waving them toward the plane. A few other people boarded ahead of them, all suited up and ready to go. The ground training was intense, but this was the real thing and Blair nervously backed up right into Jim.
"The plane's that way buddy." Jim moved around him, looking over his shoulder. "Coming?"
Right, this was his idea.
He moved forward, jogging up the short flight of steps and sat next to Jim along a row of benches. The other jumpers chatted as the plane took off and ascended higher and higher, but Blair was suddenly tight lipped and dry mouthed.
Jim leaned back a bit, casually laying his arm along the back of the bench, brushing it along Blair's shoulders. "So your first jump was a couple years ago?"
"What?" He turned to his friend, taking the offer for distraction. "Yeah. Lisa and I took a trip to Daytona over spring break our first year together. She was into all kinds of daredevil sports. Needless to say it was a wild week." He smiled at the memories, the knot in his stomach untying just a bit. "We spent a few days at ground training and did a tandem jump at the end..."
The instructor stood, moving to open the hatch, the pressure in the cabin changing just a bit. The engines sounded even louder now that the door was open.
The knot in his gut was tied tightly once again.
"Okay, we'll do the tandems first." The instructor hollered over the roaring engines. "I want you to step to the yellow line when it's your turn and wait until I attach your safety line. We'll give further instruction then."
A row of people moved as instructed, the man at the door counted them down using his first three fingers and each jumped out at his closed fist.
Once the new jumpers and instructors dove, the single jumpers moved into position.
Jim pushed him to the front, holding and squeezing his shoulder as the instructor at the door secured his safety line. "Okay, on three jump feet first, pull your rip cord as soon as you're clear. Remember the guide lines move left with left hand, right with right hand. If you chute doesn't open pull the back up." And then he held up his right hand, holding out his first three fingers.
Jim knocked on Blair's helmet, "Have a nice ride. See you on the ground."
Nodding, he looked back to see a closed fist and stepped out of the opening.
Much better than his swan dive out of the last plane.
It was phenomenal. The air was cool and crisp, rushing him toward the ground that was very far away.
He pulled his cord, closing his eyes and thanking every deity he could think of when he felt the tug of the canopy opening. His hands rose to the guide lines and he floated down for awhile, catching sight of Jim off to his left giving him a thumbs up sign.
It occurred to him that Jim must have freefell longer in order to catch up.
He looked up at his rig and the blue sky above, pulling the toggles to slow his decent, spotting his target landing below.
It was a surreal moment, but peaceful and in that moment he let go of all the built up tension that had been plaguing him since he had gotten the call from Janet, Dr. Stoddard's secretary.
Tomorrow they would be home and he would have to return her call, having already made his decision.
The ground rushed up and he lifted his legs just like he was told, landing easily and rolling up to his knees and then his feet, pulling in his chute as he moved back and watched Jim make a perfect precision landing, just like he said he would.
There goes that bet. He should have known.
Now he would be spending his next free weekend painting the loft while Jim lounged on the couch and drank beer.
Jim ran toward him, slapping him on the back. "That was great...let's do it again."
Great...He wondered how Simon and Daryl's day was turning out...
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