For those of you who don't know me, I am an author almost exclusively for Maximum Ride fanfictions. For those of you who know me from the past, it's been a while, I'm sorry. I've always been a fan of Disney, The Little Mermaid in particular. The other day I was watching TLM with my nieces and my childhood dreams began to war with my adult understanding of the world. The urge to write was unparalleled. Thus this story was born. I could keep it for myself and be just as happy as publishing it but I've always enjoyed reading other peoples takes on an original story so I've posted this for anyone who is interested in reading it.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Little Mermaid or any of its characters. I do own this plot.
It was the booming lights and the shadow of the ship passing over Ariel's cavern that got her attention but when she surfaced it was the music that kept it. The jovial chattering of masculine voices, the echoing thump thump of something striking the solid deck repeatedly that drew Ariel closer and closer to the ship.
"Ariel…Ariel!" Sebastian hissed as he fluttered his many legs, trying to keep up with her, Flounder at his side. "Please, come back!" But Ariel persisted.
As she came along side the ship she ran her hands over the smooth, polished surface of the wood. The only ships she'd ever touched before had spent years below the waves in her father's domain where he did not look favorably upon anything of human origin. Her gadgets and gizmos were the sole remnants of human culture below the sea surface. They were small enough that they escaped her father's ever-vigilant attention. The texture of the ship was unlike anything she'd imagined. Nothing like the soft splintering mass that the shark had chased her and Flounder through earlier that day.
Ariel pulled herself up the side of the ship towards a pocket of light. When she pulled level to it it provided her with a window into the foreign world.
Human men playing instruments like the snarfblatt, creating the lively tune she had heard over the blasts of the sky lights. Their legs, which Ariel had only ever seen from a distance or in the pictures in her cavern, moved up and down in strange but entertaining movements as their feet thudded against the ship deck. So that's what the thumping was, Ariel thought to herself as she continued to soak in the scene. A new noise joined the mêlée. Roof roof! A hairy creature came bounding into her line of sight, the source of the noise, followed by another human man.
"Oh," Ariel breathed as she watched the newcomer, head cocked to the side with intrigue. He was beautiful.
Many young mermen had pursued Ariel in her sixteen years. Her friend Urchin when she was younger had had a crush on her, though she treated him as a friend. He'd left Atlantica but he wasn't the last merman to pursue her. Her sisters, too, endured male attention. It was flattering but Ariel had never sought it out. Alana and Adella reveled in it. But as Ariel watched the man she felt something she'd never felt for any of her pursuers. Intrigue. Curiosity. Desire.
Just then Scuttle came crashing beside her, squawking about 'in trepidation' and 'discovering' and she lost her focus. When she managed to calm him down and returned to the scene before her a thin old man with a silver ponytail was presenting the younger man with a stone rendition of himself.
The man, Eric, according to the silver haired man, looked embarrassed as he thanked him.
They moved to the edge of the ship, directly above Ariel and Scuttles hiding place. She pressed her back tightly against the large ship and waited on baited breath as the two started talking about weddings and a princess of Glowerhaven.
Ariel couldn't hear the entire conversation over the sounds of the waves roughly crashing against the ship and the sudden booming of storm clouds.
"Hurricane a'commin'!" A voice echoed above all other sounds. "Stand fast. Secure the riggings'," Eric dashed away from the boats edge as the storm around them got worse.
The wind picked up and Scuttle went soaring into the sky.
A large wave crashed against the side of the ship just as another gust of wind knocked it sideways.
Ariel was tossed into the roiling sea.
Stunned and momentarily disoriented, Ariel worked to right herself beneath the waves. In her own domain it was deceptively calm. Strange, she thought, how different the worlds above and below the sea can be at exactly the same moment. But it was dangerous above the sea right now. She could do the smart thing and turn tail and head home, away from danger and away from any chance of her father discovering how much she had disobeyed him tonight. But what about Eric? her mind whispered. He's in danger up there.
And that settled it.
For some reason, one that Ariel didn't entirely understand herself, she was scared for the human she'd only just seen. Seen not even met! But she gave a few quick thrusts of her tail and rocketed to the surface once again. She broke the surface and watched as the ship was consumed with fire.
Fire. She'd just been singing about it earlier. What was it? The people in the picture in her cavern looked happy near it. But the sailors didn't. They were terrified as they leapt from the ship and into the harsh waves where smaller boats were waiting for them. Eric was in one of them, pulling sailors aboard.
He's safe, Ariel thought with a sigh of relief. But she had thought too soon. Eric dove into the waters once again, headed for the ship.
Ariel was knocked below the surface again and when she clawed her way to the surface the ship went down with a loud boom and a billow of smoke.
"Eric!" Her cry was lost to the loud night but she hurried forward into the wreckage searching for the man that had so enthralled her.
She caught sight of him just as he slipped beneath the waves.
There were no thoughts of what she was doing, what her father would say, the danger she was putting herself in. Only one thought passed through her mind: save him.
She put on a burst of speed and reached out, looping one of her arms underneath the thick chorded muscle of his own and lunged for the surface.
It wasn't easy with the burden of his dead weight. He was a full grown male, much heavier then she'd expected. Merpeople had light bones that were very buoyant and easy to maneuver in the water. Humans were built without such considerations.
At last she heaved them both to the surface. The ship had been reduced to a pile of debris on the top of the water, the smaller boats containing the rest of the sailors were nowhere in sight.
Land, Ariel thought. Get him to land.
She struck out on her arduous task.
Ariel woke up dazed and confused. Without opening her eyes she took an evaluation of her body. Her body felt heavier then ever, both from aching muscles and from the environment. Her tail felt dry and sand clung to her abdomen and arms in a way it never had before. She was still trying to piece together where she was when her head rose and fell not of its own accord.
Ariel froze and opened her eyes.
It was bright, brighter then her eyes were accustomed to. The world around her was a riot of colors, not muted by the blues of the sea. She had beached herself. And her head rested on Eric's chest.
Ariel didn't dare move in fear of drawing attention to herself. Was Eric awake? His breathing seemed too even for that. He was asleep. He was alive!
Ariel barely remembered dragging them onto the beach in the wee hours of the morning.
Atlantica, and the shipwreck, were several hours swim from the beach. Combined with the heavy rain, harsh winds, and choppy waves it had been all she could do to keep herself and her burden above the surface as she headed for land.
She could feel the reminder of the night in her muscles. Her arms felt like seaweed and her tail burned from the exertion.
But she had to move. Her curiosity was too great.
She eased herself off the human and to the side where she rested her upper body on her elbows. She felt the slightest brush of the ocean on her fins. So close, she should have just headed for the water. But she was enraptured by the man before her.
His hair was darker then even the deepest trenches she'd braved. His skin was lightly browned by the sun. Her own skin was several shades lighter then his, having never spent long above the water. His clothes were torn from the night before but something had remained strapped around his waist, a brown band that held something triangular to his hip.
He's beautiful, she thought again. As she lay there watching him, gently reaching out to move lose strands of hair aside, she sang. Softly, mostly to herself, she sang of her dreams of coming ashore and experiencing the world like humans did.
She didn't expect him to stir.
She certainly didn't expect him to startle awake so quickly that his forehead banged against her own and sent them both reeling.
She fell backwards over her own flexible tail and towards the water. Her head hit the wet sand and the cool water shocked her after so long on the shore.
Dazed, she didn't recover fast enough.
Humans are very resilient, Ariel learned in the worst way possible. He was back and lashed out quickly. Ariel scrambled for the water but wasn't fast enough. She had pulled herself mostly into the water, the shallow waves lapping around her parched skin, when something flashed in the early morning light and pain spiked in her fin.
She cried out, more from shock then pain, as she looked down at her fin.
A triangular metal object pinned her fin into the shallows, red blood curling from the wound and into the water around her.
She looked up at the human, shocked. Why had he hurt her? She'd saved him.
Eric looked shocked too.
He looked from her face, to her bleeding fin, and back to her face. His head throbbed, his throat burned with thirst, and he couldn't be sure that what he was seeing was real.
"You…you're a mermaid," he half whispered to himself. He watched as the beautiful girl regarded him with wounded eyes.
When he'd first woken up he'd only heard the singing. The beautiful voice unlike any he'd heard before. He'd heard singing in town, at festivals and balls, from the maids in the palace and other hired entertainment. None compared to what he heard on that beach. He'd sat up too quickly, trying to find the source of the singing and smacked his head against what was unmistakably another person. The grunt of pain had confirmed it. So when he'd sat back up and seen only the flash of a fin he'd been confused. His mind had automatically jumped to shark. He'd pulled his knife from his belt and pinned the creature without another thought.
Looking into the scared and hurt eyes of the girl in front of him he regretted it.
His eyes drank her in from fin to hair. The fin he'd mistaken for a sharks wasn't the grey he'd initially thought, rather a deep emerald green that cast other iridescent colors when hit directly by the sunlight. Her body transitioned quickly from scales to smooth, alabaster skin over her flat stomach. His mind barely registered the purple shells covering her chest before coming to her face. Full lips, button nose and shocking blue eyes. Everything about her was shocking, including her hair. Scarlet hair half stuck to her skin with the saltwater, tickled a faint memory from the night before when he'd fallen in the water.
She still hadn't said a word.
"You…you saved me. Last night in the water…I remember your hair."
She didn't respond, simply looked down at her injured fin.
"I'm…I'm sorry," he said, quickly pulling the blade from her fin. She quickly yanked her tail back towards her, hugging it to her body similarly to how humans hugged their knees. "I'm sorry," he repeated. "Please, say something."
She'd been singing, right? So that meant she could talk. He waited and was beginning to doubt himself when she spoke.
"Why did you hurt me?" Ariel asked, more emotionally hurt then physically. She'd saved him and he'd repaid her by hurting her. Was her father right? Were all humans barbarians? She didn't believe so. But she'd never intended to meet one. To talk to one. And here she was.
What would Eric do now that he'd seen her?
"I…" he was shocked by her voice and almost forgot what to say. "I acted without thinking. I'm sorry. I hope I didn't hurt you too badly."
"I should go," she said by way of answer, releasing her hold on her fin and turning as if to leave.
"Wait!" Eric called, splashing into the water and reaching out. His hands closed around her slim wrist.
They both froze as their skin made contact. Ariel reveled in his strong grip and rough hands. Eric marveled at how dainty and smooth her wrist was.
"Please," she said, "please let me go. I'll get in trouble."
"Because I saved you," she said as if it was obvious.
"Why would you get in trouble for that?" he asked, kneeling beside her in the water. He didn't release his grip on her, afraid that she'd swim off if he did.
"Because it's forbidden. Letting humans see us is forbidden. If my father finds out…" she trailed off.
"I didn't even know mermaids were real," he whispered, staring into her eyes. "I always through they were a myth."
"That's how it's supposed to stay. I really must go."
"If it's forbidden then why did you save me?" he asked.
Ariel was starting to panic. She shouldn't be here. This is what Sebastian and her father had warned her about. Start talking to humans and they won't let you go. But…but she didn't want to go. This was the closest she'd ever been to a human before. He could teach her so much about the world she was dying to understand.
His question took her by surprise. "Because you would have died if I hadn't. You helped save all your friends. I couldn't let you die."
The hand that had been clutching her wrist so firmly moved to cup her face. She froze beneath his touch, hardly believing that a human was touching her so gently. She wanted to lean into the touch but held back.
"Thank you," he said.
Roof roof! The sound echoed off the cliffs surrounding the beach. Ariel startled, pulling away from the mans touch.
"Max," Eric breathed. "They'll be coming for me soon."
"I have to go," Ariel repeated, pulling herself into deeper water. Eric followed her out, not willing to leave her presence yet.
"Please," he said. "I don't want you to leave yet."
"I have to. I didn't come home last night. My father will be furious! Besides I can't let anyone else see me."
"Will you come back?" he asked. "Tomorrow morning. I'll be out by that rock," he pointed to a rock protruding above the gently rolling waves about a hundred feet off the beach. "Please say you'll meet me there."
"I-I…" Ariel wanted to say yes. Oh how badly she wanted to! But a nagging voice in her head, one that sounded suspiciously like Sebastian, threatened that it was a terrible idea.
Like everything else Sebastian said, she decided to ignore it. She nodded
"Okay," she agreed quietly.
Eric's face split into a huge grin. "Thank you!"
"Goodbye, Eric," Ariel said, finally in water deep enough that she could swim away. The noise the hairy creature, Max, was making was getting closer. Voices could be heard with it. They would be there any second.
"You know my name," he said, dumbstruck.
She couldn't help but giggle at his slack-jawed expression as she turned away.
"I don't know your name!" he called as she started to swim away.
"Ariel," she called over her shoulder. "My name is Ariel."