Chapter 39: Loving Focus
I was helping to set up the wedding party area in the canyon where Kaitlyn and I were wed last year when my best friend Jess arrived with her live-in boyfriend Vin, my wife’s little brother. We’d rented a spare room from Jess for the price of weekly four-handed nude massages for several months up in Salt Lake, but we hadn’t seen them since leaving back in April.
“You two are looking awesome!” I greeted them.
This wasn’t simply puffery or my personal opinion. It was obvious to anyone who could see, since they’d chosen to backpack in nude. The straps did wonderful things for Jess’ cleavage!
Vin — “only my mama calls me Vicente!” — Gutierrez had a farmer’s tan when I’d first met him, pale under his clothes, the farm work giving him a sort of swimmer’s body, skinny and lightly muscled. He wore an all-over tan now and had probably put on 25 pounds of muscle.
Jess was borderline overweight for most of the time I’d known her due to her dual passions for high-calorie coffee drinks and sedentary pursuits: math, computers, hobby electronics, and role-playing games. Once we converted her to home nudism, she could no longer hide the results of her bad habits with loose sweaters and baggy pants. Her tan now matched his, but she’d lost at least as much weight as her boyfriend had gained.
“We’re still on your exercise program,” Jess replied into my ear from a full-body embrace, her backpack’s strap ladder locks pressing into my ribs.
Our choice to involve her in that program was largely selfish, though not for the prurient reasons you may be thinking of: Salt Lake is a miserable town to bike in during winter, depriving us of our main form of exercise, so we’d taken up martial arts instead, and our housemates had joined in.
We chose that path to solve a dilemma: nature mages fall outside the mundane spectrum on rightful use of violence.
At one extreme, you have the viewpoint that the state has an absolute monopoly on use of force. Under this viewpoint, the use of violence for defense of life, limb, and property is delegated to the police, but a smartphone is mage kryptonite, so there’s an excellent chance we wouldn’t have a phone nearby to call 911 on in the first place. Even if we did, we’d have to either be able to get dressed fast or be willing to risk an indecent exposure charge after the cops eventually did show up.
At the other extreme is the absolute right to self defense, with the scope of morally allowed violence being proportional to the danger to one’s self or to another. Conventional solutions along that line didn’t work for us either. Utah’s one of those odd US states that allow open carry…but only to those that have a concealed firearms permit! While it’s amusing to ponder a nature mage with a Wild West revolver in a suede holster slung low on a rawhide gunfighter’s belt to minimize the impact on the mage’s powers by technological artifacts, it’s not very practical. Proper concealed carry is right out, too, there being no weapon that’s both effective for self defense yet small enough for a nude mage to carry. That’s assuming the mage maintains a healthy body weight; the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
No, mage problems require mage solutions, so for us, that meant we needed hand-to-hand combat training, the sort perfected by groups precluded from possessing or using military weapons: karate among the government administration classes of feudal Japan, shillelagh fighting among the Irish under British disarmament, capoeira among enslaved Africans in Brazil, and so on.
You may wonder why we didn’t just rely directly on our magic for self-defense. Simply put, word gets around town quickly when you sink bad guys up to their necks in the good earth. (Ask us how we know.) It’s a safe and effective defensive technique, letting the mage get away at leisure without unduly harming the assailant, but we didn’t need the resulting stories circulating.
Anyway, Jess and Vin joined us in this martial arts program, and they’d clearly kept it up after we left Salt Lake.
Vin looked cut, to use my wife’s term. I judged that I’d kept ahead of his new development, but not by much. I had a few inches on him — and yes, that’s a double entendre — so I expected that I could take him in a sparring match.
That sparked a thought. “Vin, wanna put on a show for the group? Krav Maga vs. Brazilian jiu-jitsu?”
“Sure, bring it,” he said with an easy, confident smile.
This was another new addition, his initial demeanor with me being shy, almost timid.
Jess was beginning to look like a fantasy glamor model with glasses: five-five, hourglass shape, and the exercise affecting her belly, butt, and thighs much more than her 35DDs.
“The hard work’s showing, you two.”
Jess smiled at me, and said, “There’s more than meets the eye, Davie. I’ll take this sparring challenge of yours, too.”
“Great! I’ll get Kaitlyn in on it, and we can give them all a show. One main rule: we’ve got to avoid anything that could cause us to need healing. Most of those here know about us, but there are a few that don’t, and we’d prefer not to widen the circle to them, okay?”
“It’s fine, Davie,” Vin replied. “We’ve had to scale our sparring intensity back since you two left anyway. Turns out, hospital visits are expensive. Who knew?”
“You haven’t had to find that out the hard way, have you?” I asked worriedly.
“Almost,” he admitted. “Jess had to tape up a sprained thumb for me a few weeks ago. I just got full mobility back. Still sore, actually.”
I took his hand in mine without a pause and finished healing his thumb joint.
“Thanks, brother,” he told me with feeling, and pulled me into a hug. “Missed you.”
I was going to ask Jess if she’d brought her sports goggles — the ones she wore in place of her regular eyeglasses when sparring — when I realized I was being dense.
“Jess,” I began tentatively, “I’ve always assumed you choose to wear glasses rather than get contacts or whatever because they’re part of your identity.”
She shrugged, then said, “Sure, I’ve had them since I was seven. It’s like a badge of nerd-hood, part of the package.”
I just raised an eyebrow at her.
Jess is awfully bright, so that was all she required to see where I was going with this line of inquiry. I’d worn glasses when we first met, after all. Now I didn’t, and she knew quite well why not.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “You’re offering… Oh, wow!” A small smile came over her face, but she was looking down at the sand, sort of bobbling from one foot to the next, creating a soft pendulum effect up top. When she raised her eyes, it was to Vin, not me. “Captain,” she asked him, “will you still love me without glasses?”
“Of course I will, Angel Puss!”
Jess turned her attention back to me and asked, “How long will this take?”
I just told her, “Take off your backpack, and give your glasses to Vin.” She did, so I stepped just close enough to put a hand on either side of her head, elbows locked, and used my minor talents in animal magic to see through her eyes.
I almost laughed out loud when her sight saccaded from a close study of my beard to an in-focus picture of my man-nipples to a myopically blurry vision of my dangly bits below. I realized I was experiencing firsthand the limits of her nearsightedness; her far-focus distance limit was apparently about half a meter. I decided to use these two points as focus targets.
“Jess,” I told her, “just relax your eyes. Don’t try to refocus them, fighting against me. Keep looking at my man bits.”
With a flutter of laughter, she said, “Oka-a-a-ay.”
I proceeded to reshape Jess’ ocular orbits, tweak her corneas, and sculpt her lenses until I slowly brought the far target into sharp focus.
Jess smile broadened. Not — I am certain — because my man bits are so nice to look at, but because she realized perfectly what was going on.
I told her, “Now look over my shoulder at the canyon wall.”
Her distance-focusing ability was still off, so I polished my adjustments a bit more until that came into focus, too.
Her smile fell a bit when she looked down again and things were back out of focus there again.
Remembering my visits to the optometrist, I made another adjustment, then asked, “Better A… or B? A…or B? A…or B?”
Jess chuckled at my joke, but it turned into full-bellied delight once I made another tweak, and her eyes began darting between near and far objects. I tried to let her go so she could look around better, but she grabbed me up into another full-body hug!
“This is awesome, Davie! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!”
I kissed her on her hair, then quipped deflectingly, “You do know Harry Potter isn’t a documentary about real mages, right? No actual mage or friend of a mage needs to wear glasses if they don’t want to.”
Vin twiddled her glasses in midair by their bridge, asking, “What’m I going to do with these?”
Jess looked over at them and got a bit of a concerned look.
I made a guess at her worry, reassuring her, “The Poulsens are still up-canyon setting up their tent, and everyone else here knows I’m a mage. Besides, they’re giving us space, not staring. If you hide those glasses away, I expect anyone who even remembers you wear them will either assume you got contacts or laser eye surgery.”
Jess gave me another quick hug while Vin squatted down and slipped his girlfriend’s now-useless eyewear into a side pocket of her backpack.
“Oh, stop that. If I wasn’t such a self-centered ass, I’d’ve offered this to you as your present last Christmas, after you tumbled to our secret. I’m sorry, Jess!”
“Piffle. I didn’t even think to ask.”
The three of us caught up and chatted while I helped them get their tent set up, down past his older brother’s, then I went off and got into my formalwear, as the rest were also doing.