A/N: This was a request by Aqua girl 007! If you would like a request, please take a look at my profile for guidelines. Please enjoy the story!
The sea was cold today.
Her flesh shuddered at the thick touch of the ocean water. She edged carefully out of the cove she had slept in, out into the dim ocean. The sun was not shining today.
Anzu, a dolphin sang to the Song of Happiness. It zoomed up and nuzzled against her. Good morning!
Anzu smiled and rubbed the baby dolphin's head.
Good morning, she sang back to the same rhythm, the sound vibrating from beneath her currently unused lungs.
Anzu, can we dance today?
She laughed softly, but the laugh of the Ocean People is less a sound and more a happy glow from beneath their scales.
Of course we can. Give me a moment to get ready.
The dolphin squeaked happily and zoomed off to swim in happy circles. Anzu sucked in water through her gills as she smile, then settled herself on the stone above her underwater cove. She ran her fingers through her cropped brown hair, but there was little to do with that when she was underwater. It would flow around her face as normal. Her friends took pride in their own long hair, but she had always found it troublesome to swim about with all that hair being moved into her face by the currents. It was better to keep it short.
She carefully massaged her deep magenta scales, working the grime out from the cracks that had gathered in the night. When she was finished, the light pink veins just beneath the slightly transparent scales were more clearly visible once again. Little lights glowed in different patterns along the veins.
Her morning routine completed, she joined her dolphin friend.
Let's dance Anzu, let's dance! The dolphin hummed.
Anzu's laugh glowed along her tail. She could feel the soft currents beckoning her, the rhythm of the sea beginning its morning song. Already the other Ocean People and sea creatures were awakening and joining their soft hums to the ocean's melody.
The dance began. Anzu gave herself to the currents and the waves, her dance glorious in its grace. Other Ocean People, some her friends, some she had never met before (there were always Travelers passing through), swirled around her. Every now and then she would join hands with two or three of them and it would become a group dance. But then they would part and return to experiencing the ocean's song alone. Occasionally, she would catch a glimpse of a Pair Dance beginning, and would smile to herself as she heard a Pair Song hum at the edge of the Main Melody. This was the beauty of the ocean, of her home. The endless Melody that they would dance to, fall in love to, travel to, sing to. The song that only the Ocean People shared.
The Song of Warning screamed across the dance, shattering the Main Melody.
Freak current, it sang. Take cover!
Instantly, the dance broke apart. Anzu grabbed a hold of her dolphin friend and together they zoomed down towards the ocean floor. Others followed suit – but the warning had come a little too late.
A horrible wrenching current exploded through the middle of the dance. The Ocean People were thrown in all directions. Anzu hummed to the Song of Fear.
Her hands were ripped from her dolphin's fin. They screamed to the Song of Terror as the two were thrust apart from each other. The current snatched Anzu up like a doll and flung her around. Her vision grew hazy as she struggled in vain to fight against the current. Twice she was thrown above the surface and twice she hit the water on the way back down wrong, the breath being driven from her.
She could do nothing but tumble helplessly. On and on and on, not even the strength to hum with the melodies screaming in her mind.
Then pain exploded in her tail and everything went black.
The sound of the waves against the shore came in a steady rhythm, like the undertones of a melody just waiting to come to life. It was a cool morning, overcast, with the hints of the morning fog still twirling across the cold gray sands. He walked carefully down the beach. It would be all too easy to pick the wrong spot and slice open the soles of his feet on stones hidden under the sand.
He really wasn't supposed to be here. It was well past the time he was supposed to be at the dock, helping his brother shove off to check the lobster traps.
But the sea was calling. He could hear it, just the faint hum of a melody. It was one he had often heard as he was trying to fall asleep, or at the edge of waking in the mornings. Never before had he heard it while he was wide awake.
Yugi reached the edge of the ocean. The cold water nipped at his toes. He bent down to have a look at the water lapping up on the beach, digging his bare toes into the soft wet sand. There was a peace here. A silence and calm that he could never get when he was just on the boat with his older brother.
He lifted his his head, staring across the dark water. Was he just imagining the faint hum and beat? Was he imagining the frantic staccato?
He glanced either way along the edge of the water. And then he saw her.
A girl was laying on the beach, half in and half out of the water, arms sprawled across the sand. Was that blood on the sand? Oh no.
He jumped to his feet and bolted over to her.
"Are you all right? Are you awake? Oh no, oh no, oh no..."
His eyes widened as he knelt next to her.
"Oh," he breathed.
She was a mermaid. For a moment, old warnings popped into his head, tales of sailors dragged away by carnivorous women with tails instead of legs, the old tradition of bringing cotton on boats in case the alluring song of a mermaid was heard and needed to be blocked out, stories told in the dark about the dangers of the ocean fiends.
But those warnings were forgotten quickly. Because she was the most beautiful being he had ever seen.
Her tail was a deep magenta, a jewel-like substance that glittered. Beneath the scales he could see faint pink veins in beautiful, swirling designs. Her hair was short, a deep chestnut color, heavy with water and framing her softly curved, fair skinned face. He was so busy being surprised at her that it took him a moment to realize that she was wearing no covering over her upper body. Blushing, he ducked his head away.
The motion let him notice the blood again, and he stopped being amazed, stopped thinking about the old stories of warning.
"Miss? Miss, are you all right?"
He couldn't tell where the blood was coming from. Her eyes fluttered slightly, but she did not awaken. He bit his lip.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he muttered. "I swear I'm not looking, I swear..."
He carefully rolled her onto her back. There was a thin gash down her stomach, but it looked deep. He could see some blood in the water as well, and carefully lifted her tail up so he could examine it. He sucked in a breath. There was a giant rock embedded in her tail, at least three inches deep. That would be difficult to remove. Moving her tail caused her to flinch. She cried out in pain, eyes flying open. He flinched and almost dropped her tail, but managed to set it down carefully.
She screamed once more.
"Sh, sh, sh!" he said, putting his hands up soothingly. "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay."
Her chest heaved with quick breaths. Her eyes were a little bigger than a human's, a little fuller, with less white around her deep blue irises. It was a little disconcerting, and he suddenly remembered that she was not human at all.
But then her deep blue eyes fixed on his, and he forgot that her face was inhuman. There was fear and pain in her expression. She needed help.
"I'm going to help you," he said, keeping his voice calm. "I want to help."
She didn't seem to understand. A humming sound seemed to vibrate from her chest, crescendoing into a melody that made Yugi's heart race a little faster and his mouth go dry. Again those tales nudged at his brain. The song of the mermaid was dangerous. He forced himself to stay calm.
"I'm going to help," he said again.
He hoped she would understand.
Pain. Pain, pain, pain. The Song of Hurt and the Song of Emergency battled for dominance in her mind. Then she felt her tail being moved, and the pain exploded. She screamed. Air. There was air in her lungs. She was above the water. Her gills had sealed against the cold air. Air, air, air, she was on land, she could feel the sand, the current had tossed her so much farther than she had expected –
There was a Walker kneeling over her.
The Song of Terror overcame the other two melodies, and she started to hum desperately.
The Walker spoke, in his rhythm-less voice, a language of only sounds without melody. She wanted to move, to flee, but the pain in her tail throbbed continually and it was hard to think past it. But it was a Walker. She knew the stories about Walkers, about what they did to the Ocean People. Walkers with their strange floating things, shooting huge sharp slivers into ocean creatures and the People and dragging them on board, forcing them to the Land from where they never returned.
Again the Walker spoke, holding his hands out in front of him. He was a small thing, she realized. His face was a little rounder than that of the Ocean People. His eyes were a little smaller as well. But they were a deep, calm violet, framed by golden bangs and dark spikes outlined with red in the half light. The Walker pointed to the gash on her stomach. He mimed something. She shuddered softly, not understanding.
He held up his hands again. He pointed to her tail next. Her tail, the source of the horrible pain. She swallowed. He mimed pulling something, then pointed at her tail again. Her fingers dug into the sand. Slowly, slowly, he put his hands on the thing stuck in her tail. He looked at her, speaking constantly in that strange tongue of his, his eyes focusing on hers. The sound was so constant it reminded her of a song. It was a little bit calming even though the Walkers had no music in their talk.
Then he yanked the piece from her tail.
She screamed out the Song of Pain, flailing her tail. Her fluke smacked him in the chest and he wobbled backwards. He dropped the stone that had been embedded in her tail and put his hands on her tail instead, even as she flailed. He made this sound through his teeth, a soothing sort of whoosh sound.
"Sh..." he said. "Sh..."
It sounded a lot like the Song of Calm. Could he actually speak to her? No, it must be a coincidence. She managed to calm down, sucking in wrenching breaths.
Meanwhile, the Walker was removing some things from a pouch at his belt. First he took out a ball of white stuff and a small circular box. He opened the box and held it out to her for her to see. It smelled wretched, and it was a strange green color. He pointed to it, and then to her tail. Was it a healing poultice? That would explain the smell.
She let him move her tail out of the water so he could work. She was surprised at the gentleness of his hands. He moved her carefully. Perhaps this was not a Walker. Maybe it was something else that just looked like one. Why would a Walker help her?
He started to rub the green stuff onto the gash her tail. She sucked in a breath. The touch sent a flutter of pain through her, but the poultice felt cool and refreshing. When he finished rubbing it into the wound, he picked up the white ball and began to unwrap the thin fabric from it. He wrapped it around her tail, just tight enough to stall the blood. Finished with that task, he started to take some other things from his pouch. He pointed to the gash on her stomach, and then at a small silver thing in his hand. She blinked, not understanding. He mimed an action, but she still didn't get it.
She understood soon enough.
He covered the gash with the green stuff first, which seemed to numb the pain. Then, with quick, gentle fingers, he poked the little silver thing beneath her skin. Despite the numbing, it still hurt, and she almost flinched. He made that "sh" sound again and she tried to stay still. He was sealing up the wound, she realized, by mending it together with his silver sliver and some long thin stuff that reminded her of very thin seaweed.
He finished. With a sighing sound, he sat back on his legs. Anzu watched him curiously. Could this little thing really be a Walker?
They sat in silence for a long time, with nothing but the wind and the lapping of the waves.
Then he pointed to himself and said:
She blinked. He repeated the strange sound again, pointing at himself. Was that his name? Did Walkers have names? She cocked her head as he repeated it one more time.
"Yu...gi?" she said, to the tune of Question.
He smiled, and his whole face lit up with the action. He nodded vigorously. She stared at him a moment longer, a little transfixed by the emotion. She had been told Walkers were vicious creatures, with only two emotions: hunger and hate.
She swallowed, her lungs a little rusty. She hadn't used Spoken Ocean in a long time.
"Anzu," she said, pointing herself.
"Anzu?" Yugi said.
She nodded. He smiled again.
She really liked his smile.
Yugi stayed with the mermaid called Anzu for the rest of the day. By afternoon, she was able to sit up by herself. He changed the bandage on her tail only once, and when he did, he was surprised to see that the wound had mostly closed. He knew his poultice was strong, but not that strong. Perhaps mermaids healed faster than humans?
Anzu spoke in a strange language, a combination of sounds with melodies, and once or twice he saw her tail light up along the pink veins in different patterns. Maybe mermaids could use the lights to communicate?
They tried to exchange words. He pointed at the sky.
"Sky," he said.
"Sky..." she repeated.
She said a word of her own, which he tried to repeat. She grinned at him as he lost hold of the tone. Her tail lit up and he blushed.
She pointed at the water and spoke. He again tried to repeat the sound, but wondered if he'd be able to remember all these words along with their sounds and tunes. Everything she said seemed to have a tune attached to it, a hum from her chest that he couldn't quite copy. He tried a few more times to use her word for ocean, and shook his head.
"Ocean," he said, pointing at the sea.
"Ocean," she whispered.
By the time the clouds had cleared and the sun had begun to set, her wounds had fully closed. He helped her remove the stitches and bandages, and then helped move her into deeper water so that she could swim again.
The two of them lingered for a moment, he standing up to his chest in the water, his feet sinking into the seaweed, she with only her head above the water, soft currents flowing from her tail moving softly.
He didn't want her to go. He swallowed. He raised his hand.
"Good-bye," he said.
She said her own word. He couldn't be certain if it meant good-bye, or something else. But there was a horrible sadness, a new tune that her speech went along with. He tried to copy it. She smiled.
Then, as the sun set, she ducked under the water and disappeared.
He stayed standing in the ocean until the light was completely gone from the sky.
"Where were you?" Atem had demanded.
Yugi had merely given his older brother a shrug and mumbled something about wanting to look for clams, but not finding any. Atem had sighed, given Yugi a smile and a tease about being absent-minded while ruffling his hair, and the two had gone to bed.
Then Yugi had sneaked out again before dawn the next morning and gone back to the beach.
This time, he didn't plan on being here very long. After all, it wasn't likely that she would come back. He just wanted to sit on the beach.
And then a song drifted to him. He perked up, eyes widening.
There she was, poking her head out of the water. Her unnaturally large eyes glittered at him, even from this distance. He stood up and ran to the water.
She didn't know why she came back. Her friends had all rushed around her with concern when she had returned home, wanting to know what had happened, if she was all right. No one had believed her when she said a Walker had saved her.
That night, her dolphin friend had snuggled close to her while she slept. And when she slept, she dreamed about the boy with the gentle hands and the kind smile.
In the morning she found her way back to the beach. He wouldn't be there, she knew, but she wanted to see the place one last time before she filed the memory away.
But there he was. Sitting on the beach. Had he had the same thoughts?
Before she could think about it, she called out with the Song of Greeting. His head popped up. That beautiful smile lit up his whole face. He stood and ran into the ocean to her.
They lingered again in the ocean, Yugi dripping wet as he stood chest deep in the water. Anzu smiled at him.
He started speaking, and although she didn't understand the words, she thought her heart understood the meaning, because she felt the same.
"I didn't think you would come back."
I didn't think you would come back.
I'm glad too.
"People said you were dangerous. I don't believe that anymore."
I don't either.
He smiled at her. She smiled at him.
A faint melody grew in the back of her mind. It wasn't the Pair Song, or the Main Melody, or any tune she could ever remembering hearing or dancing to before. It was something different. Something new. She hummed it softly.
Then she stopped in surprised as she realized he was humming it too. He stopped as well, eyes wide. She hummed a measure. He hummed the next measure. She joined back with him. The song. They both knew it – it meant they were both hearing it.
It was a song with no name, one that none of the Ocean People had ever sang before.
They came to a stop, as neither of them seemed to know the rest. They stared at each other, violet eyes to blue. Anzu smiled hesitantly. He smiled back. She thought she knew what they were both thinking.
They were looking forward to learning the rest of the song together.