Finding Home: The Story of a Guardian Fish

            Mr. Skimmer, Stroke, Niches, Chang, Tanachi, Maisey, and Rosie all belong to me. Gill, Nemo, the Tank Gang, and all other characters with names not mentioned above belong to Disney/Pixar.

            Author's notes: There are a few things you need to know before you start reading this story. There are a lot of mistakes throughout the entire thing. The problem is that I didn't do much research before I wrote this. I'm horrible with geography, and I don't even know where half this story is taking place. Don't try to figure it out. However, I still believe it is a good story because of my use of the first-person perspective and its ability to get inside his mind. Please don't send me reviews saying how horribly I messed up with fish facts, because I already know. I did do some research afterwards and tried to fix whatever I could without damaging the storyline. I still have no idea about how many eggs Moorish idols have. I just figured there would be a lot. If somebody knows, please tell me!

I know the part about him having fishy asthma is a little out there, but it will make sense in the end.

            There are no Marlin and Dory in this story until the very end; this is a fic focusing on Gill. They'll turn up in chapter 11.

            I've heard of another fic out there called "Finding Home," and this is in no way connected to that one. I did not copy its title or story. I even extended the title so that that one would not get mixed up with mine.

            Okay, that's it! Enjoy the story and please review. (Just no nasty comments!)

Chapter 1- The Cheese Stands Alone

            Here I am, only but a few miles from where I began, but what an incredible journey I have endured to get to this favorable point. Many brilliant colors flash before my eyes. Somewhere in my heart, I wonder where the others are, and if they survived. Sometimes I wonder what happened to the 99 other monotonous clones, and I wonder about Niches. However, I know my place in life now, and the purpose of my existence. No matter how horrid and meaningless a certain event might seem, it is just part of a grand tapestry, developing your character, setting up future, wondrous experiences.

            I can feel my breath coming more freely. Various half-wits swim around me, making me sigh in disgust. My concealed emotion is love- love for these helpless dummies. How nice it must be to be so optimistic and bright: how nice, and yet how frightening.

            This is the place we yearn for, the place the others can only dream of: horrendously beautiful, violently peaceful, at all times open to attack, yet maintaining a strange sort of serenity unmatched by any simulation.

            I have somehow attained the title of "Uncle" and in order to assume this title, our fearless leader insists that I not use Nemo's nickname of Shark Bait. (Sometimes I forget, but that's not my fault and he lets it slide. Hey, do you think Bubbles' real name was Bubbles?) Dory doesn't mind at all. She admits that she's bad with names, and I don't find that surprising. She calls me something like "Uncle Roadkill", which is partly good, since it is incredibly entertaining.

            It's time to recount my awe-inspiring story of how this came to be. Even I don't believe half of it. I must record this so that others will at last know my real story, and to hopefully follow my example. (On some parts.) At last, I shall divulge everything about my life, and how I became a guardian fish.

            The story of my life begins where all other life stories begin- with birth. We lived in a sheltered portion of the reef. A giant rock covered this section, leaving it partially in shade. A spiny shell protruded, driving away intruders. This is the reason 100 of the initial 300 eggs survived. Of the 100 little wriggling eggs, I was #100. My mother and father were going nuts with so many children. Imagine if you had 99 brothers and sisters looking exactly like you.

            My parents knew from the start that I was special. For one, I just barely escaped being eaten by the ravenous red spotted fish that happened to squeeze by the spiny shell and eat the other 200. Mom and Dad were from opposite parts of the ocean. Geography told them they couldn't be lovers, but fate and pure coincidence gave them that opportunity. All of my brothers and sisters took after my mother in their coloring pattern. I took after my father. As soon as I started to take shape, they could see the glowing yellow tinge on my side. Unfortunately, in the eyes of my siblings, "different" equaled "weird", and "weird" equaled "evil."

            In addition I had (and still have a bit of) an asthma problem. How can a fish have asthma? Well, a small malfunction in my gills sometimes restricts the flow of oxygen and makes me cough. Mom and Dad were running out of names. If I were a girl they would've named me Buttercup, but I was a boy and a real pain in their thick necks. Not knowing what else to call me, they named me after my weak spot- Gill.

            Often, my folks wouldn't see us and would just let us out by ourselves to play in the open reef area. Very rarely did we actually get to communicate with our parents. This may seem like a mean and cruel thing to do in your world, but if you have 100 children, there's no way you can talk to them all the time.

            Once, when I was very little, I tried to join in a group of my siblings hopping on the sponges. "Um…Excuse me. Can I play with you?" I asked them, very politely. The whole hundred of us had special classes in the afternoon by a skate called Mr. Skimmer. He had already taught us the importance of being polite and courteous to others and I had taken his advice to heart.

            Most of the other young fish looked around at each other in confusion. Weirdo had never approached them before and they weren't sure how to react.

            "Sorry," one of the more vocal little boys called. "These sponges are only for us normal fish!"

            I stared at him for a while, unable to comprehend the matter. "I'm normal. Why won't you let me play with you?"

            At last, the others began joining in. "Who told you you're normal?" one boy said. "Yeah!" the others cried. "Look at you!" "Did something pee on your side?" "You're sick; stay away!" "Mr. Skimmer said you were an impurity."

            The last one had me puzzled. "What's an impurity?"

            "It's a bad guy!"

            Shocked, I pulled away from their section. I retreated behind a lumpy mass of coral and cried, as a fish cries. This was the terrible first time I'd been rejected, put down, and utterly disappointed. The first was definitely not the last.

            I believe another important factor in the level of their degrading remarks was their level of jealousy. There is a common misconception among most fish that Moorish idols are generally air-headed and care only about their appearance. In an effort to break this stereotype, Mom and Dad had us rigorously schooled. Most of my siblings were terribly lost in the illegible worlds of mathematics, sciences, and language. They lacked motivation and any kind of desire for learning. Being shunned by all but my parents and Mr. Skimmer, I focused all of my energies on learning, instead of playful interaction and sociality. Mr. Skimmer was always sure that whatever question he asked, he would see my little fin waving in the water above my head. I was also the only fish in my family that actually learned to write and read in human language. I was actually praised a couple of times by my parents during one of our rare meetings. This only increased the jealousy and hatred that my fellow 99 brothers and sisters held for me. Now they were beginning to call me a smarty-pants, a nerd, and an even bigger weirdo.

            One fine, clear day, we were in the middle of a class, but Mr. Skimmer had decided we needed a little recess. I hated when he did this, because everyone would just go on playing without me. You would think that if I were called the same names over and over again, eventually they would get tired out and they wouldn't bother me anymore, but at that young, tender age, it doesn't get any easier to take no matter how long the teasing persists.

            Seeing that everyone else was distracted and not paying attention to me, I happily snuck into a darkened corner and pulled out a book to read. Mr. Skimmer said he had found it on the ocean floor one day and read it. Some human must have dropped it into the sea by accident. A few minutes later, I was totally enthralled by the book. I couldn't put it down, even though my fins were beginning to hurt from holding it up for so long. I had entered the magical world of the land-dwellers, where there were no 99 siblings to bother you all day. I was so consumed I did not notice the large group of shadows creeping up on my little crevice.

"Hey, whatcha got there, Mr. Smarty-Pants?" an annoying voice piped up, snapping me out of my magical world and hitting rock bottom back in the real world.

I closed the book and looked fearfully up at them. "It's…a book. Mr. Skimmer found it for me to read."

The fish at the head of the group crossed his fins. "Do they write about your kind in them books?"

"Wh-what do you mean?" I was cowering in their large, intimidating shadows.

"You know…impurities."

"Th-there's no impurities. There is a bad guy, though…he tries to stop the sailors in the bay…" Before I knew it, I was giving them a full synopsis of the book, suddenly unaffected by their stares.

Before I was halfway done, someone near the back spoke up, "You're crazy. You're talking like a lunatic."

The fish at the head of the crowd grabbed my book lying innocently in the sand. "You think you're better than us just because you're smart and can read."

The fear returned and I retreated back into the crevice. "Oh, no, not at all! I-I was just t-telling the story…"

The others all gave me dirty looks. "You're gloating over us, aren't you," said the one at the head. "You're trying to make us look stupid. Well guess what, you won't anymore!"

I watched in total horror as he grabbed it tightly in one fin, and tore one page completely out of the book. The others cheered and joined in on the sides, tearing out more pages. I turned my face away from the gruesome sight. My heart was teeming with sorrow, but also burning with anger.

At last, I turned around, mustering up all my courage and yelled at them. "L-Leave my book alone! Stop it, stop it!" For the first time, my loudest, demanding voice burst out. "Stop it!"

My brothers and sisters were so astonished that for a moment, they dropped the book.

I took that opportunity, now that I was revved up and lunged at the head fish (I believe his name was Stroke), pinning him to the soft sea floor. Stroke lashed back out with a fin punch. It didn't really hurt much, because fins are only thin material, but it pushed me back off of him. I lunged at him again, frenzied. He quickly floated out of the way, whooshing up and stabbing with his pointed snout. It smacked me on the neck, and from the amount of pain it gave me, I knew it would only be a bruise. Thinking fast, a brainstorm came upon me. When I twirled around fast, my long, flag-like dorsal fin cracked like a whip and whacked the side of Stroke's face, leaving a mark.

It was at that bad moment that Mr. Skimmer decided to drop by and check on his students. "Oh my…" he looked down at Stroke, now getting back up from his fall to the sand. He looked over at me, running out of oxygen and choking on the flying dust particles. "…Gill?!" he said, softly. He could scarcely believe that I had been involved in a fight, since I was such a quiet, studious fish.

The anger and energy drained out of me as I gazed at his disappointed face. "He…he took the book." I coughed another couple of times, filled with shock and fear at what I had done.

Mr. Skimmer frowned at me. "I don't care who you are and what you've done right in the past. You know what everyone who breaks the rules gets…"

I looked down at the ground in even more shame. Now everyone would be totally convinced that I was an evil lunatic. If any one of us broke the rules, Mr. Skimmer would report us to Mom and Dad. He'd never had to do that to me before. In the back of my mind, Mom and Dad were far-away ominous figures. Meeting them by myself had been a small distant nightmare in my life. Being afraid of your own parents is pathetic, but I suppose it happens to you humans too.

He pulled me out by the fin and dragged me back up to the upper level of the reef. Thankfully, my father was away at that moment. To this day, I still have no idea what he was doing out of our little sheltered hole. My mother was lying regally on her bed of soft sponges. She shot up into the water above in surprise as Mr. Skimmer approached with me in tow.

"Gill?!" she cried, mimicking the skate teacher's initial reaction. My special markings could be recognized a mile off and she didn't have to float there, trying to find the right name.

I could not look at her and stared at the sponge below, suppressing tears. Not only was I a freak and a lunatic in my siblings' eyes, now I would be a freak and a lunatic in the eyes of my teacher and my parents.

Mom slowly glided up beside me, sensing my distress. "Mr. Skimmer, you may leave us to ourselves now." The skate gave me one last confused glance before hightailing it down to the reef clearing.

My gelatin body shook even more as Mom scooted closer and laid her fin gently on top of my head. She could feel me shivering and rubbed, trying to get me to calm down.

"It's okay," she told me. "Don't be afraid. I don't hate you."

I looked up at her in astonishment. How had she read my mind like that?

She gave me a smile. "Would you please tell me what happened? I promise I won't be angry."

Slowly, I began to recall the incident. I coughed a couple of times, the pressure pouring back in and I was having trouble breathing again.

She rubbed my head again. "Well good for you," she said.

I stared at her, dumbfounded. I expected something like, "Don't ever do that again, it was very naughty."

"You have to start learning to stand up for yourself. If you just let everyone else push you around the rest of your life, you'll never be happy." She nudged me a little, lovingly. "I'm very proud of you, Gill. Just next time remember that you're a special fish- proud and graceful, not a fighting fish." Mom let go of me and patted the sponge beside her. "Your father isn't going to be back for another couple of days. Why don't you stay here for the night? I don't want to send you back to face them so early."

As my body relaxed once again, I found myself breathing easier and the coughing ceased. That night I spent comfortably sleeping on the sponge bed with my mother. That night is the best memory I have of my childhood.

Of course, afterwards there were rumors about what had really happened to me. I never told them about my stay with Mom, not wanting to stir up more jealousy, but they certainly bugged me enough about it for the next week or so.

I was devastated over the loss of my book, and recess I spent writing in the sand what I could remember of the story. Things carried on like this for the next two weeks.

Suddenly, a tragedy flashed in upon us. This incident would give me a vague sense of what I now know to be completely true: No matter how safe you think you are, you are still susceptible to outside attacks. That fateful day, Mom and Dad became a tasty meal for a small reef shark that managed to squeeze its way by the spiny shell. Thankfully, those two fully-grown fish were enough and he didn't come looking for us.

Mr. Skimmer was trying to explain what had happened, but my brain-dead siblings kept interrupting. "Why did they leave?" "Don't they care about us?" "I knew they hated me!" It was as if the whole 99 were only one and speaking as one. They had no personality and no individuality; they simply mimicked whatever their neighbors did. Their underdeveloped little minds were unable to comprehend the concept of death.

I knew as soon as I heard the first sentence from Mr. Skimmer, "Kids, I'm sorry to say this, but your parents aren't here anymore. They had to go away. They're not coming back."

Turning sadly from the scene, I knew this was the end of this part of my life. I had to be strong, take matters into my own fins, and do what was right for me. I shot up to the surface of the water, quickly gathered a store of sponge pieces in a seaweed satchel, and attached the sack onto a stick pole. This was it, I reminded myself, it's now or never. Taking a deep breath, I gathered my courage again and swam as fast as I could, away from the shelter with the spiny shell, away from the tragedy of death, and away from the constant ridicule of my kin. This was a very naïve flight, and it didn't dawn on me until much later that I had no idea where I was going. At that moment, all I knew was the pain in my heart and the need to get away from that terrible place.

Mr. Skimmer looked around frantically, suddenly realizing that someone was missing. "Gill!" he called, "Gill, where did you go?" At last, he thought to look outside, and popped out beside the spiny shell. By that time, I was only a small speck in the distance, and soon to be only a small speck in his memories.