A reader PMed me with a request to write a oneshot of Mai meeting Naru's parents at the end of this story. Thus, for her time and her kindness in sending me a message, I am granting said request.
As requested by miamu-chan
All those who could sleep in a plane had super powers, she decided. Mai had never been in an airplane before, and the initial launching into the air, with the G-force pressing her back into her seat, had been quite exciting. So had been staring out the window-at least until they left land far behind them.
And now it was dark, the cabin had been dimmed, most of the passengers were out cold with their tiny stiff complimentary pillows-even Naru.
But her? Ugh.
Maybe it had to do with the fact that she had been sleeping in the ocean for the past month, where 'support' had never been a problem. You floated or laid like a leaf upon a pond on a sponge bead. Or perhaps it was because the stupid airline seats only went back, like, two inches (because that made such a difference), and sleeping upright, first time in a plane, going to go see your in-laws who may or may not even know they are your in-laws wasn't exactly sleeping material.
Thus, at some bloody-only-God-knows hour of the morning, she tottered off the plane with plans to find the nearest bit of unmoving floor and sleep. She didn't care about a new family. She didn't care about her new husband leading/dragging her along by the elbow. She didn't care that she had to meet the people whose son had just married a mermaid...
So many stupid bright lights.
When the hand keeping her in motion came to a stop, she cracked her eyes open to zone in on her patch of undisturbed industrial airport carpet.
"Mai, meet my parents. Luella and Martin Davis."
They blended in with all the other moving bodies around her. She squinted at them, mildly wondering why she was so tired. She'd done all-nighters before, right? Right? Wait, had Naru and her even gotten any sleep the night before? Damn newlyweds. Damn sex.
It took her a moment to recognize the long silence that followed this statement. The tall, blond woman in comfortable, but nonetheless designer slacks made no move towards Mai, and neither did the equally tall rectangle man besides her, as brown as she was fair.
Mai blinked at the once. Twice. Maybe she should say hi?
"Hi." Did they know what she was? Wait, they had to know, right? Naru had said something about that. Naru, Oliver, Noll, hee.
She felt Naru's arm hold her waist, bracing her up. "I'm sorry, she wasn't able to sleep on the plane, and it's been a...exciting week."
Exciting? Yeah. Wait, week? Just how far back was a week? They had just gotten married like...wait, that had been yesterday, hadn't it? Oh gosh, it had. And before that, sinking boats and some really good chocolate milk from a Chevron and oh gosh, it had been so long since chocolate milk and she wanted more and...
They were walking. Her legs were walking. Naru was pulling her along, and voices were talking. The blond woman was talking, and her British accent made Mai smile.
"...could have at least ordered her some chamomile, did you just sleep the entire way?"
"I did everything I could. She's never been on a plane before."
"I suspect not. They don't exactly have those underwater, do they?" Her tone sounded a bit wry at that, as though she meant it as a joke.
"Mother!" His irritation was just curbed by fatigue. "I told you, she's grown up a normal human. And do you have to talk like that in public?"
His mother snorted. "It's practically empty, and even if anyone heard what are they going to do with that? Start running around in circles screaming about mermaids? Tch, Noll, dear, look at the poor thing dragging her feet. Be a man and carry her, won't you?"
"Dear..." rumbled the reproach from the dark rectangle next to the blond.
But Naru did stop, and Mai found herself waking up a bit more as he pulled her behind him and crouched down to the floor. It took her a moment of more stupid blinking before she climbed on and let him loop his arms under her knees in a piggy back. His shoulders were nice and wide. And he smelled so nice. So very, very nice.
Oh. So they did know what she was. Awkward.
Something connected in her brain that his mother was angry, and only feeling the urge to do something about it, she mumbled, "I'm sorry."
"Why is she apologizing?" Luella snapped.
"How should I know?" Naru retorted coolly.
"What have you told her to make her feel like she has anything to be sorry for? And what is it that she's wearing? Couldn't you have gotten her something warmer? And one night on a plane couldn't have done this to her, what have you been making her do?"
"Luella." Her name from the bear-like man was like a slap.
"What?" she clicked back. "We're his parents! We're responsible for his actions! That poor girl is homeless, orphaned, underaged-"
Naru stopped abruptly. Mai found the heat burning into the side of her cheek nice until she shifted her head and realized the Naru's hot neck was also sweating on her. She also had a really ugly feeling in her chest that made her want to cry, but she didn't have the coherency to try and figure out rationally. Why was this going so awful already? Couldn't any of them see all she wanted to do was go to sleep? She wasn't there to cause trouble or make Naru feel bad.
"I am not some pedophilic predator, Mother," Naru all but hissed. "And for someone implying they care for the welfare of my wife better than me, you're causing a fair amount of strife before we've even reached the baggage claim. She can hear everything you say, have you stopped to think how that must make her feel? Homeless, underaged, victimed-"
But it was the rumbling voice of his father that cut her off. "That's enough."
They finally stopped talking after that, and the tears burning against the back of Mai's eyes drained away. She dozed until Naru dropped her down into the back of some dark vehicle with leather seats. She was pleased to find the seats heated and curled up like a cat on them. No one disturbed her with clipping in a seatbelt around her, and the only adjustments to her horizontal position was Naru lifting her head onto his lap. His warmth was a blanket. His scent was a bed. And in her dreams, she swam through the ocean keeping the underbelly of his ship in sight.
The next thing she knew, she was waking up in the softest, biggest, fluffiest bed she'd ever been in. She almost couldn't tell where the honey colored pillows ended and the white comforter began. Four white posts held up a sunshine-butter canopy, complete with ruffled skirt and sheer curtains filtering out a the gray light of indirect daylight.
She was half-way back into a dream when she realized what was wrong. Naru wasn't there, nor were there any sign that he had been asleep next to her either. For all intents and purposes, the bed was but a pillow and blanket nest made to hold her.
Though she knew there was no reason to worry about Naru in his own home, anxiety snapped all chances of sleep away and pushed her out of the fluffy haven and through the gossamer bed curtains.
Somehow, it was waking up in the sea palace all over again. The room was white instead of the polished obsidian and volcanic stone, and the furniture was wood instead of laced coral, but the grandeur was the same: not for her.
A nauseating roll of homesickness washed over her. Not back to the foster home she had, no. That room had been much the same too in that it was far too nice. No. She thought back to the little one room apartment she had shared with her mother. She ached for the crystal doodad in the window, throwing the Arizona sun into rainbows across her bed. She ached for the hot sun, the red rocks, the smell of sage and open, thirsty land with not a brush of moisture in the sky.
She wanted her mom.
Overwhelmed, she curled up on the floor so the massive bed blocked any view of her from the door, and cried. Her tears made transparent dots on her white T-shirt, which had a picture of some national monument on the front. Looking down at the strange, ill fitting clothes just made her cry harder. No, she wanted her mom's ratty handmedowns that they shared between the two of them. She wanted her old, holey jeans that her mother had patched up for her one too many times. She wanted to be at the river, finding bellybutton stones and singing to patchy country songs on the radio.
As she let out one of the many broken sobs, the door behind the bed clicked. She shoved a fist into her mouth, fighting against the urge to sniff.
Her face flamed. That wasn't Naru. She couldn't be found like this, she wanted this moment to be alone-hold some sort of dignity-
The blond, middle-aged mother of her new husband peered around the end of the bed. The instant she saw her she let out a little gasp that made Mai want to roll under the bed and cease to exist. Instead, she settled for clenching her eyes closed so she couldn't see the pity on the other woman's face. Mai expected her to make some sort of sympathetic exclamation or just throw herself on her in a hug. When none of that happened, Mai tentatively opened her eyes.
His mother had crouched down in front of her, with a good foot or two between them. This close up, Mai found her gaze brushing over the crown of gray starting at her scalp, which had cinnamon freckles sprinkled down to her chin.
"Tell me what to do," she said quietly. Her eyes didn't shin with tears, but that didn't make her gaze any less serious or focused.
And in that moment, Mai heard Naru.
Her air supply ran out about then and Mai was forced to take her hand out to breathe, which came as a hiccup. To her horror, her knuckles hung with snot that lead back to her nose. She nearly broke said nose mashing her hand back to her face.
To her relief, the older woman didn't laugh. Nor did she smile. She did, however, reach into the pocket of her rather fashionable floor-length skirt and brought out a handkerchief, which she handed to Mai. Once she did that, she dropped down to the floor and crossed her legs.
"Everything's going to be all right," she said, but not as one usually said it-like empty words meant to comfort. Rather, she said it like a promise. She then just sat there, patiently, watching her.
Once Mai got the snot-works under control, she folded the handkerchief and pressed a clean side to her eyes. "I-I'm sorry. This h-has nothing t-to do with you, I'm just...just..."
The woman nodded to the sentence hanging between them, as though understood completely. "Would you like some breakfast? What do you like?"
Mai sniffed. "Sorry, I...I don't really feel like eating right now."
"Understandable. Some tea then?"
That gave Mai pause. Naru had Lin make her tea whenever he perceived she was upset. The thought made her smile.
His mother nodded. "You come down when you're ready. No rushing." She moved to stand, then hesitated. "Can...can I call you Mai?"
"What else would you call me?"
His mother's mouth twitched. "I forgot. Americans. Pardon my bluff." But she still lingered, something Mai couldn't quite read crossing over her gaze. She seemed to come to some sort of decisions, as she settled back down, this time a bit closer to Mai, with her hands folded over her ankles. "Dearie...I want you to know that no one doesn't want you here. If you sense any...tension in the house it's all directed at Oliver, not you."
When Mai lowered the handkerchief to give Luella her water gaze, the other gave a warm, soft little smile and rubbed her thumbs under Mai's wet eyes.
"You poor, sweet girl. I'm sorry it's been so hard on you. Probably homesick to death, aren't you?"
Mai choked back a wail at Luella's accuracy and settled for staring at her in shock.
In response, Luella patted her softly on the head, her smile ever loving. "Well, I know it may not feel like it now, but you're home now, okay? Even if you decide to kick my son to the curb, I'm keeping you, kay? I've always wanted a little girl."
Moved, hot, face full of snot, Mai hiccupped and threw her arms around the other's neck. She felt soft and firm, and yet oddly frail, against Mai.
Luella hugged her back and rocked her till Mai pulled away and let her leave to make the tea she promised.
Perhaps the worst really was over.
Perhaps...she had finally found home.
The next time the door clicked open, it was Naru.
Mai got up and around to meet him, where she allowed herself to be swallowed up in yet another hug.
"I'm sorry, Mother insisted on giving you your space and made me sleep in another room. I don't think she knows I'm here."
Mai smiled against his chest. "She's sweet."
Naru snorted. "She's a Nazi. Aren't I the one she's suppose to be all over-protective about?"
"I guess I'm just cuter than you."
He pulled back a bit, but didn't let her go.
"I never thought my mother to be shallow in that regards."
Mai rolled her eyes. "Come on. Let's go have a beverage."
"Tea, water, liquid, whatever you Brits take with breakfast. I think I'd like to start today. I got a good feeling about it."
Oh! Almost forgot. I've got my youtube channel up and I've finished recording the first audiobook, "Cumin," for all those who wanted a chance to listen to or download stories. I only have two chapters up so far because I have to edit the audio and then convert it into an MP4 format that Youtube can support, but it's there! Just look up 'LoweFantasy' or 'Cumin Audiobook' ^.^ Let me know if you hit any snags. I plan on getting the rest of the chapters up as soon as I can-maybe one every day if I can manage it. I don't like making you guys wait, because I hate waiting myself.