(A/N: I came up with this idea a few weeks ago when thinking about how the 30th Anniversary of The Little Mermaid was coming up, so I saved it just for today!)
In the six months between first turning human and the start of her marriage, Ariel had learnt a lot about being human. Her favorite part, of course, was learning what items were called and how they were used, but there was one thing Ariel paid extra close attention to when she was learning about it: a wedding.
She had been human for just two months when Eric brought her as his guest to a wedding of "the daughter of a friend of his father." Since his father's passing, Eric had no connection between him and the bride—he had never even met her—but he had to attend to keep up appearances. Eric, in all honesty, found the event rather boring, having already attended a few weddings before, but Ariel could not have been more interested. She took mental notes of how the bride acted and dressed, how the ceremony proceeded, and the key objects involved, excitedly sharing her abundance of knowledge with Carlotta once they returned. Ariel couldn't have been more excited for her wedding.
Then, after months of waiting, it was her turn to be the bride, and she found much of her excitement to have been replaced with anxiety. She nervously waited for her cue to begin walking down the aisle. Ariel repeated in her head: Don't trip in your heels. Don't trip over your dress. Don't drop the bouquet. Don't mess up...
But when the moment came, all her worries washed away. She forgot about her reminders when she saw Eric, grinning widely and looking handsome in his best suit. Ariel walked down the aisle with confidence and a smile of her own. They shared their vows and were proclaimed a married couple, and that's where their journey began.
Which was how, she supposed, she found herself exactly one year later being practically dragged by Eric down the beach to find their picnic location. On his face was a huge grin as if he was a young, proud boy excited to show his mother something. It wasn't as if they were just a little ways down the stretch of beach. They had been walking for a good ten minutes or more and the castle had begun to grow smaller in the distance.
"What is the purpose of this?" Ariel asked. She left out a laugh despite finding the whole scenario ridiculous.
"You'll find out!" Eric replied, stepping over a section of rocks and stopping to help Ariel over too.
They stopped at that part of the beach. Ariel looked to Eric, and he nodded, gesturing around them. "This is it. This is the place."
"Aren't you gonna tell me what's so important about it?" she questioned. It wasn't like this was the only part of the beach they owned, and it looked no different from the rest. There was plenty of sand, large rock piles, and the ocean lapping against the shore.
"It's where we first met."
"First met?" Ariel questioned, recalling the moment. A smirk grew on her face. "Ohhh. You must be mistaken. I think you mean this is where I dragged you ashore that night. We first met out there." She pointed out towards the ocean.
"I know. I know," Eric conceded. "But I was sort of unconscious then, so forgive me for considering the place where I regained consciousness and became aware of your beauty as where we first met. Besides, this is where you sang to me."
He set down the picnic basket he was holding and stepped closer to her, placing his hands on her waist. Ariel's grasp of the picnic blanket loosened as she grew more focused on his touch instead. The blanket fell to the ground.
"This is where your voice became stuck in my head, and I don't think I'll ever managed to get it out," he told her, a soft smile forming on his face as he could once again hear her voice singing in his head. She had sung to him many times by then since that first song, only keeping his amazement for her beautiful voice alive.
Ariel used her voice sparingly, too, always saving it for when Eric needed to hear it most. Sometimes, it was when he found himself too stressed about his duties to fall asleep. Her voice would lull him to sleep. Sometimes, it was when the old politicians had him worked up. Her voice would calm Eric down and remind him he was loved.
Eric recalled a time when he was sick, so much so that Carlotta told him to stay in bed the whole day. He had requested for some paperwork to be brought to him so he could accomplish something that day, but he found his sinuses to be too inflamed and head pounding too much to focus on anything. His constant and harsh coughing made his throat sore. When he wasn't asleep, he laid there miserable.
That's when Ariel knew it was her cue to brighten his day.
She sat next to him on the bed, an arm cradled his head as she caressed his cheek and sang a soft song.
"You shouldn't be near me," Eric warned her. He yawned. His illness and her song already taking him to the verge of sleep. "You'll get sick, too."
Ariel shook her head. "That doesn't matter. You need a song."
And so, she stayed and sang him another song and her warm voice filled his chilled body with warmth and comfort until he fell asleep.
"Your voice always manages to stun me each time I hear it," Eric told Ariel, pulling her closer and kissing her as they stood there on the beach.
Ariel returned the gesture, then replied, "Well, your voice is pretty great too."
As Eric had warned, Ariel had gotten sick a few days later, and Eric decided to return the favor by singing to her when she was sick in bed. This wasn't the first time he had sung to her, but she considered it the sweetest, because he stayed by her side when she looked and sounded awful.
Of course, Ariel considered any time anytime Eric sang to her as sweet because he was too shy to sing in front of just anyone, even though he had one of the most beautiful voices she ever heard. He would only sing to her if he knew no one else would overhear, whereas even though Ariel didn't like singing in front of crowds, she never minded if someone passing through the hall would hear her.
"I wish you sang more often," Ariel confessed as she watched Eric pick up the blanket and spread it across the sand. They sat down.
"I've sang to you quite a few times," Eric said. "But I can make an effort to do so more. However, you still have to wait until we are completely alone."
Ariel smiled at this. She found his shyness to be cute, and it made her heart flutter at the fact that she was one of the few people who he would let hear him sing. Of course, she knew she wasn't the only one.
"But you certainly enjoy singing and dancing with your ship mates."
"Yes, but I'm also so close with those men too. I have been for years, and when I'm on the ocean, I just feel so much calmer and more carefree," he looked out at the ocean they both loved.
Ariel had to agree with this. It was a noticeable change she saw in her husband when they were out sailing. His royal duties would always grow a bit much for him, as they would for anyone, and it was during those stressful moments Ariel would always try to make some changes in their schedules and then suggest they use the free time to go sailing, an idea he would eagerly agree with if he saw an opening of free time.
After setting sail, she would then watch as Eric smiled more as his worries and stress seemed to wash away with the waves. The crew would then begin singing the numerous sea shanties they had picked up during their voyages, and Eric would gladly join in. There was plenty of dancing involved with the songs too! Ariel always thought it was a fun sight to see, her husband and his friends singing upbeat songs and dancing along. And it always made her heart spin when he would make his way over to her and twirl her around, bringing her into the fun.
But dancing with Eric always made Ariel's heart flutter. It had ever since they first shared a dance during her tour of the kingdom. Their first dance as a married couple also held a special spot in her heart. But there was a time they danced together which she would never forget.
It had only happened a few weeks prior. The night before she had sung him a song in Old Atlantican. He had it stuck in his head all day, but having never known the language, he had to resort to only humming the tune. They had both just gotten ready for bed, and Ariel was about to throw back the covers to climb in when she heard Eric's humming grow closer to her. She turned around as Eric grabbed her hand and pulled her close, her feet soon mimicking the motion of his.
He spun her around and her nightgown twirled outwards at her ankles. It was refreshing to not only share such a carefree moment with him, but also to see a smile on his face, full of energy at the time of day he would usually be completely exhausted. Ariel had begun to realize it was those little moments that were the most important in a marriage.
Moments like that and the one they were sharing right now.
She turned her attention back to Eric sitting beside her. "I love it when you're carefree."
"Well, you're the one who makes me so. Before I met you—right here," he gestured around the beach with a smart smile before returning to seriousness," I was starting to doubt I would ever have a happy life."
When Grimsby and everyone started pressuring him to marry, Eric wasn't sure he would find the right girl. Each one he met seemed to lack that connection Eric was hoping to feel. He had begun to fear he would have to marry for the sake of the crown, even if it meant being with someone he didn't truly love. From that, he pictured taking up the crown and living a life full of endless royal duties with no one to make his days worth living for.
But then he met Ariel, and he felt the spark he was waiting for. It electrified him more than he ever imagined it would. She made him want to get up in the morning. She made his days worth living, and Eric was so thankful for that feeling.
"Hey," she started out, cupping his cheek. "I'm so glad we found each other. I hate the thought of you living a miserable life, and if we hadn't met, I probably would have never become human. Don't get me wrong. I loved my home, but I always told you how it felt like I was missing something—someone. It wasn't until we met that you gave me everything I never knew I was missing."
"Darling, I'm glad to have made you happy. It makes me feel…" he leaned back on his hands as he debated the word, "important."
"Oh, I'm so glad we found each other! I love you!' she said before nearly toppling him backwards by kissing him, overwhelmed with happiness and love she didn't know how to express any other way.
They pulled away, Ariel asking, "How long do you plan on staying out here away from everyone? Other people want to celebrate our first anniversary too. Carlotta said she got us something, and I kind of can't wait to see it."
"Me too, but I want to forget about everyone for just a little while. I mean, isn't this our day? We've been busy lately, and I want to make sure we have time for ourselves, especially today."
It was hard trying to balance a happy marriage and being king. Eric had learned that. It had led to their fair share of fights and arguments over the past year. None of them were very serious, but they always dampened the mood until they made up.
Eric recalled one night just over a month ago. He had been overwhelmed with work and the never-ending piles of papers or the countless meetings he needed to attend. He had known that Ariel had tried to work her magic during these times to find an allotment of time for him to get a break and decompress, but that week, there had just been too much going on. Still, when she had stopped by his study to ask him to come to bed on time that night, he promised he would. That's when he learned not to make promises to your wife if you can't keep them.
Night had fallen, and he knew Ariel was going to bed, but he wanted to get one more stack of papers done. He had to if he hoped to keep on top. But that stack turned into another one, and then another one. Eric had started to assume Ariel had fallen asleep by then, so what would be the point of going to bed now?
But she hadn't. It had looked that way when he crept into the room after one in the morning. In the darkness he could see the outline of what he thought to be her sleeping form curled up on her side in the bed. However, after he changed and got under the covers as carefully as he could, he heard her say without even moving, "I don't know what time it is, but you are very late."
He remembered pausing in fear upon hearing her voice. She sounded angry and hurt, and he immediately regretted his decision.
Eric cautiously put a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to make peace. "I know, darling. I just needed to finish up more than I thought."
She shook his hand off, remaining faced away from him. "You promised."
"I know. I know. And I'm really sorry-"
Ariel finally rolled over on her back to face him. He had a hard time making out her facial expression in the dark, but he could clearly hear her say, "No, you're sorry that I'm mad at you. If you actually felt sorry for making me wait forever for you, you would have been up here hours ago."
Eric moved from his propped-up position to on his back, throwing his hands over his eyes tiredly. "Listen. I'm tired. I don't want to hear it tonight."
He rolled over to face away from her, but Ariel grabbed his shoulder and forced him back her way. "You're tired? Well whose fault is that? I'm only trying to make sure you get enough sleep so you don't work yourself to death! And don't you think I get tired sometimes? But yet I still try and make time for us."
She laid back down, turning away from him. With a quieter voice, she added, "I know you don't mean it, but sometimes it feels like you don't try enough while you're busy to make time for me. I'm always the one pushing things aside for the both of us in an attempt."
His heart had broken from the accusation because he knew she was right. During his busiest weeks, Eric's life became centered around getting through the workload while his attention on other things in his life were lost. He couldn't deny that this had caused him to spend little quality time with his wife. His justification for doing so was that getting his work done meant he could spend time with Ariel while not under stress so the both of them could better enjoy themselves. That, however, didn't succeed in making Ariel happy.
Eric didn't know what to do, so instead he only told her he loved her and fell asleep knowing they were both too tired to even argue productively.
The next morning, after they were both well rested, they had talked things over and forgiven each other. Eric had since become much more subconscious of how he spent his time when he was loaded with his duties. That's why, on this day meant just for the two of them, he wanted to be as far away from the commotion as possible, even if for just a few hours.
"I really appreciate you making the extra effort," Ariel told him, scooching even closer to him on the blanket until she was practically on his lap. She grabbed his hand and Eric gently squeezed it back.
"You know I want to spend as much time with you as possible. Heck, sometimes that's what gets me behind with work in the first place!"
Ariel laughed. "So maybe our time management needs work, but I think so far, we've done a pretty good job as a married couple, don't you?"
Eric contemplated the thought. "Yeah, I guess we have," he said, wrapping an arm around her and nuzzling her neck. "Have I been a good husband?"
"Yes," Ariel giggled at the affection. "You're good at showing me you love me. Have I been a good wife?"
She kissed him on the cheek, followed by another one and another one. Eric smiled at this. "Yes, you're good at showering me with kisses."
Ariel laughed again before capturing his lips with a deep kiss.
They then broke apart and she looked him in the eye. "I love you, Eric. More than anything."
"I love you, too, and I can't wait to spend so many more years with you."
Ariel smiled as her thoughts briefly returned to their wedding day: their start. "Me too. This year was only our beginning."