Title: seeing your world from the outside (1/1)
Author: Northlight
Fandom: The Little Mermaid
Summary: She isn't the child she once was, and her dreams are no longer what they once were.
Rating: PG13
Distribution: My site, and those who ask.
Disclaimer: This particular version of The Little Mermaid belongs to Disney.

Eric loves the sea. He strips to his skin under the hot midday sun, and leaves blurred footprints in the sand as he rushes the waves. His skin glows, his hair grows heavy and dark with water, and his smile is brilliant as he turns to her.

He turns to her, arms open, smile joyous, and Ariel does not go to him. She stands barefooted on the shore, toes curled into damp sand, unmoving. The sun makes her eyes sting, turns her skin pink and hot to her own touch, and Ariel can not swim.

She is small, and the sea vast. Her legs are unwieldy in water, awkward, graceless, and she remembers how they ached with the effort of holding her aloft. She is not afraid, not afraid of the home she loved, but she knows now why men fear the sea. She loves it still, but the sea would not welcome her were she to slip beneath its surface. The sea would no longer embrace its daughter, for she had left it for sun and air, for sand and stone beneath her feet.

She had left the sea for the man before her. For this man, her husband, cutting through the water, away from the shore, away from her.

The waves carry with them the memory of the Sea Witch's laughter.

They live in a castle overlooking the sea. The room they share overlooks the shore. The windows are high, and arched, and are left open during warm summer nights. The windows are thrown wide, the drapes pulled back, and their room is full of moonlight and the sound of waves, murmuring and crashing far below them.

They lay tangled together, the prince and his bride. Her legs tremble, slip from around his waist. Eric's hand rests in the curve of her hip, against human skin and memory. He breathes hotly against her neck, and Ariel presses her lips to his temple. His skin tastes like salt. He tastes as if he carried the sea inside his skin.

Eric loves sailing, and swimming, and old sailor's;s tales. He collects shells and driftwood the way Ariel once collected the detritus of human life. He holds shells in the palm of his hand, traces their ridges with the edge of his thumb. He presses his ear to seashells, and hears the sea. Eric loves the sea, and he loves Ariel. When he asks, she tells him of her father, and of her sisters. When he asks, she tells him of the colours, and creatures, and of the music which she had loved, and never thought to notice.

Eric listens, fascinated.

She can't begin to make him understand.

She hardly knows what she wishes he did.

Their room is moon bright. Their legs are tangled together. The beat of her own heart is as loud, louder, than the rush of waves beyond their open window. They are together, Ariel and Eric, husband and wife, and she does not have to make herself remember that this is everything she has ever wanted.

(She hadn't understood.)

This is everything she has ever wanted.

She is Ariel, favoured daughter of Triton, the Sea King. She is princess of a kingdom as vast as any man has ever known. She is nothing, no one, the prince's bride only by trickery, by seduction (so they whisper, the women with painted smiles and sharp eyes).

She is Ariel, and she is a curiosity in the man's world, in Eric's world. They do not believe in King Triton, and the kingdom under the sea. The truth has been made a story, unbelievable, and is rarely spoken of at all. They do not believe, but know that she does not belong. She is as simple as a child, and less knowledgeable still. She places her feet awkwardly (still, even now), and grows weary of the confines of her shoes. Her dresses are heavy, hot, and she must remember that skin is a sin.

The surface is full of wonderful things, but things, things are not enough.

Eric is. Eric is enough.

She loves Eric, has loved him since she first saw him: young, and strong, and beautiful. Eric is everything she had ever thought to dream of, and she loves him, she loves him with all of her heart, butshe isn't the child she once was, and her dreams are no longer what they once were.

Eric is everything she has ever wanted.

(Except when he is not).

Beyond their window is a balcony. Ariel leaves her dressing gown on the bed and stands outside, eyes on the horizon. Eric makes a sound like pleasure, a sound like pain at the sight of her. He comes to stand at her side, and together they watch seagulls in flight. Watch them rise and drop, sweep. Listen to their raucous cries until Eric speaks.

"What are they saying?" he asks.

Eric has a library. He does not love his books as he does the sea, as he does swimming, and sailing, and old sailor's tales but Eric is a prince, and there are things a prince must know. Eric knows literature, and history, and he speaks more languages than Ariel had thought humans had need of. He has spent years studying, and the language of seagulls is not one that can be taught.

She leans against the balcony railing, raises her face to the sky. Listens. "They are saying," she says, "they are saying. . ."

The language of seagulls is not for humans to know.

Eric holds her as she cries.

Sailors bow their head respectfully to King Triton's daughter. The sea lives behind her eyes. Ariel had grown pale, and quiet, and hardly stirred even at the press of Eric's lips against her own. Her eyes are bright, now, and her face flushes with wind and pleasure. Her body rolls with the waves, and she clutches as Eric's hand.

Eric stretches his other hand towards the water. "I always wanted," he says, voice as distant as a dream. His eyes are full of longing. He doesn't look at Ariel.

Yes, Ariel thinks.

The sea is vast, and they are small.

They wait.