Change of Heart

By: Sokai

Disclaimer: I, Sokai, do not claim ownership to the Australian television program, "H2O: Just Add Water" -- I leave that honor up to Jonathan M. Shiff Productions. Nor do I own this story's primary skeleton plot basis, as it was originally created by as a story challenge. However, I can and DO claim to own anything further created from said idea.

Note: Now, that's more like it. More of a response to the second chapter. LoL I knew I'd get ya, especially ending it with that cliffie about Zane and Rikki. Well, guess what? I'm gonna torture you all a lot more and worse than that before it's over, believe it. LoL Ask anyone who reads my fics regularly . . . they've never been the same. LoL

Anyway! Uh . . . oh yeah. As eagle219406 had mentioned in review, apparently Ash's level of education has been under great speculation among this H2O community or what have you. I honestly never cared enough to truly wonder. LoL However, since eagle and a couple other people seem to think he'd already graduated high school, and while I, too, semi got that impression when I first saw him, I mainly lean more towards the notion that perhaps he'd participated within one of those dual credit programs that some high schools offer to students. In other words, which allows them to take college-level courses while still in high school, and then those earned credits go toward both graduating high school as well as a college degree.

And, yeah. Since he does seem pretty knowledgeable/a lot more mature than the other teenage boys featured on that show (in addition to just generally knowing a lot more than he should about business management at his age), I'm definitely leaning more towards this theory . . . especially since it's too late to go back and re-write things for him, even if I'd wanted to (which I don't LoL).

So, yeah. Let's just stick with that "back story," shall we?? LoL

Onto chapter three!

This chapter was created/written in September 2008.

Chapter Three

"So . . . wait. I still don't understand, Rikki. Why would Zane ever want to break up with you, let alone actually go through with it? He's practically worshiped the ground you walk on for the past year or so, he's that crazy for you," Cleo offered in continued confusion, as she, Lewis and Emma tried their best to keep up with a fast paced Rikki effortlessly leading the way towards the JuiceNet Café after school later that afternoon.

None of them had had the proper opportunity to speak with the still quite the apoplectic, cornflower haired girl about her unexpected news of her premature break up with Zane all day, as the only time period all four of them shared together this year was lunch. And given that Rikki had conveniently opted out of showing up, there was nothing further any of them could have done, save simply wait until the end of school day to try again.

However, now that the trio once again had Rikki within their sights, it was swiftly becoming quite the chore to get a word in edgewise upon the very pressing matter.

"Look, Cleo. The only reason I'd agreed to come with you guys to the JuiceNet was so that I could pick up a Mango Orange Sunrise drink to go, before heading home," Rikki avowed with distinct crispness riddled within her voice, as she practically cantered the rest of the distance towards the festive entrance of the quartet's regular hangout spot. "And anyway, the only crazy one is me, to have ever believed that that lying sack of cud could have been trusted."

"Well, that has got to be the single most disgusting . . . although pretty accurate statement about Zane ever uttered," Lewis, trailing behind the rest of the group, murmured from behind Emma, before abruptly colliding into her the moment she'd unexpectedly whirled around to face him.

"Ow!! Ugh, Lewis, please! We're all here to try to comfort Rikki and calm her down, not take advantage of the situation by making it worse!" she hissed in scolding, after the both of them recovered from the sharp impact to each of their chests. "Now, I'll be busy working my shift, so it's up to you and Cleo to find out exactly what's happened between she and Zane, all right?"

After watching Rikki, and then his girlfriend both vanish behind the beaded entrance of the Internet café, Lewis rolled his eyes in defeat once he'd turned his attention back onto the remaining blonde standing before him.

"All right, already, Em -- I've got it. Don't have to beat it over my head a million times for it," he spoke with tiredness, although a small, but growing smirk began to appear upon his creamed complexion. "You know, it's certainly a good thing that Cleo's my girlfriend and not yourself, or else you'd drive me mad with your excessive control . . . 'freakiness'."

Emma merely mimicked her friend's previous actions, as she too directed her own eyes heavenward at the remark, before the two began to resume their walk.

"Oh, yeah, like that was meant to wound me. Face it, Lewis: Some people just aren't capable of handling both organization and precision within their lives; that's why Ash and I get along so well, because we compliment one another in every way," she replied with a thoughtful grin, before it broadened into an ecstatic, breathtaking smile once her shimmering blue eyes met with the mesmerizing brown gems of her boyfriend, as though on cue.

"Annnd, she's gone. Better hurry on over to your dreamboat, 'Miss Organized and Precise,' before you unravel -- And we wouldn't want that, now would we -- while I go man the fort over there with Cleo and Rikki," Lewis teased the now desperately abashed girl standing beside him, cheeks brilliantly red as the two offered a simple wave to the brunet in question, standing behind the employee counter after setting down what looked like a banana smoothie in front of a female customer before him.

Dressed within the new maroon and royal blue striped uniform that he, himself, had designed, as one of many new changes implemented to the JuiceNet Café once he had become head supervisor a couple of months ago (admittedly, much to Emma's original chagrin, as she had been the one in hopes of said position), Ash truly did resemble a flawless dream to the structured and disciplined blonde mermaid, and couldn't help but to let out a vaguely uncharacteristic, nervous giggle as she watched him move from behind the counter and approached her.

Emma felt Lewis gently pat her upon her shoulder with a smile, as though to say "Go get 'em, Tiger!", before joining Cleo at the nearby booth she'd somehow managed to sit the very visibly irate Rikki within.

"There's my wonderful girl -- An exquisite vision of loveliness, as always. I've never been more happy to come to work, because I finally get to do this," Ash gushed softly, the moment he was close enough to his now deeply embarrassed girlfriend, before slowly pulling her into his arms and bending down to kiss her upon the lips.

Emma, still adjusting to exhibiting displays of public affection, let alone having a premiere boyfriend, immediately placed both of her palms against Ash's strong chest as she leaned away from his oncoming embrace.

"U-Uh, as much I missed and thought about you all day, as well, I don't really think that that'd reflect well, professional wise," she said with a crooked smile, unable to ignore the increase of growing attention from various customers and onlookers seated around them, most of whom were fellow classmates of hers. "I mean, after all, you are my boss, and I'm on the clock."

Ash merely chuckled softly at this, gently encasing both of Emma's small and delicate hands within his own.

"Is that right? Well, I'm not your boss, and you're not officially 'on the clock' until you've punched in . . . and I don't seem to recall you doing that, yet. Although, I can manage to remember a certain, irresistible blonde having no trouble planting one on yours truly, ironically right in this very spot a couple of months back, when she'd finally decided to admit that she had a thing for him -- And for all to see," he playfully accused, watching in amusement as Emma tensed up a bit at the appropriate and quite valid reference.

"Yeah, well . . . t-that was different. I wasn't working that day," she weakly defended, before trailing her eyes over to Rikki, who appeared busy arguing quite animatedly with both Cleo and Lewis, no doubt over the still boggling topic of Zane's curious action against her. "And anyway, I also really don't think it's a good idea, on Rikki's behalf. . . ."

"R-Rikki? Why is that? What does she care if you and I kissed??" Ash asked with a raise of his dark eyebrow, idly pointing over his shoulder towards the girl's booth, as Emma seized his other free hand and swiftly led him into the cool room towards the back of the café.

"Shh! Rikki's going through a really . . . rough time right now, apparently, and I just don't think that she'd really appreciate seeing us . . . you know," Emma trailed off, her cheeks growing flushed once more, as she quickly averted her eyes away from her simultaneous boyfriend and boss's inquisitive gaze. She then maneuvered around him to put her school belongings down upon the table in the corner, before walking to her employee locker to get her apron and uniform from out of it.

Ash let out a soft sigh, smiling gently as he kept his back to the retreating girl. Although he truly adored Emma in every way, the frequent block she would place upon herself whenever it came to freely expressing either hers or their mutual emotions to one another -- Even in private, was about the only problem he could currently cite within their growing relationship. And although he was always more than understanding as well as patient to the blonde's feelings, it did not mean that it didn't discourage him at times . . . and he was about to say as much.

"Yes, I do know, Em, and it's called 'kissing.' It's something couples, like you and I, frequently do -- It's nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about," he replied soothingly, turning around to look at Emma, who paused at her place in front of her locker upon hearing his words.

". . . . I know that," she murmured as unaffected as she could manage, knowing there was truth within his words. She forced herself to concentrate upon putting in the correct locker combination, as she listened to Ash slowly approach her from behind.

"Kiddo . . . listen to me. You don't have to be afraid, or have any reservations about us. There's absolutely nothing left that's standing in our way of being really happy together anymore, you know?" he inquired quietly against Emma's ear, causing a great shiver to run up her spine, especially once Ash had wrapped both of his arms around her slim waist. "I mean, you were always so guarded and distant in the beginning, even though we both knew how much you liked me as I liked you. But, now that you finally trusted me enough to let me know . . . you-know-what, there's no reason to hold yourself back. . . ."

Emma nodded slowly, exhaling.

"I know, Ash . . . and I do trust you, of course," she began with a whisper, slowly allowing her body to relax and rest comfortably against Ash's chest, as he continued to securely hold her. "I suppose it's just . . . still a bit hard for me to let go, and completely, each and every time whenever we're together. I mean . . . as you now know, you're really the first, real boyfriend I've ever had, because even though I've had crushes in the past, I've always been too busy with my swimming to ever really pursue anything. And . . . besides that, anything outside of things of the structured nature, I'm pretty much at an admitted loss -- And dealing with any sort of emotion pretty much ranks right up there with anything but structured. . . ."

The infrequently vulnerable blonde could then feel the dark haired boy standing behind her begin to smile against her right shoulder, before gently turning her around to face him.

"Exactly, and that's what makes it so . . . so exciting and scary all at once," Ash said warmly, his smile deepening as he watched Emma blush once again, however still managed to be brave enough to freely wrap her arms around his waist while smiling back. "But, like I said, you don't have to be scared, Em, because nothing's going to split us up. . . ."

Without another word, Ash leaned in towards Emma in an attempt to kiss her once more, and this time, she was more than receptive as she let him, all of her reservations and overly thinking taking a back burner to their mutual passion . . . if only for the time being, at least.

When at last the two had parted, with Emma softly giggling as she caught sight of the remnants of her peach tinted lipgloss now coloring Ash's lips, she reached up to wipe it off when he'd asked, "Now, then . . . what's all this about Rikki and her not caring to watch us do precisely as we'd just done?"

In all of the unexpected commotion over their relationship, Emma had completely forgotten that one of her best friend's own had recently ceased to be. A large knot of guilt immediately began to form within the very pit of her stomach upon the realization, before letting out a long, and saddened sigh.

". . . . It's a long story, Ash, and one I can only hope that Cleo and Lewis know more about within its entirety by now. . . ."

"Come on, Rikki. You know that Lewis and I only want to help, and we're both sorry that you and Zane apparently didn't work out. But you shouldn't keep taking your frustration out on us like this," Cleo tried her best to contain Rikki's short fuse that had long since been ignited, reaching across their booth's table to gently pat the girl's hand in comfort.

Both she and Lewis had been trying their ample hardest to calm the nettled blonde, at the same time that they also tried to gather more information upon the increased enterprise that was understanding Zane's reason for leaving the feisty, although quite caring girl.

In the last ten minutes or so, the most either individual had managed to uncover was that the breakup had indeed been unexpected, entirely Zane's doing, and that Rikki was, without any intended puns, boiling mad over it.

"Well, maybe I don't want your help, Cleo! Did you ever hear me say anything of the sort??" Rikki snapped, recoiling her hand away from the concerned brunette seated across from her.

"W-Well, no, but --"

"-- If you don't want us to learn the full story of what happened between you and Zane, then why are you still here? You have the drink that you'd come for," Lewis couldn't help but interject with careful softness and pointing of his finger toward the half empty glass in front of Rikki, interrupting his girlfriend in order to defend her at the same time. Although he too was just as concerned as Cleo was for their mutual friend, he was nonetheless beginning to lose his patience as well as sympathy to the girl's plight.

Nothing was getting accomplished, except for perhaps the growing headache that was steadily pulsating against his temples as a result of Rikki's grand and foul tantrum, that only seemed to escalate the more either he or Cleo pried into her affairs.

Lewis was beginning to think that he probably should have followed his own advice that he'd offered up to both Cleo and Emma earlier that morning of not getting involved, when Rikki's sudden, loud exhale interrupted his thoughts.

". . . . All right, okay?? All right. . . . I'm . . . sorry, you guys. I do know that you're only trying to help, and . . . I appreciate it," she said stiffly, although also with distinct awkwardness, while her baby blue eyes began to soften and recede in fieriness. "It's just . . . this is something pretty hard to contemplate, let alone talk about and explain. About the only real emotion I've been able to feel has been pure, unbridled anger . . . as I'm quite sure you've both been able to tell."

Feeling it now safe to venture a joke, Lewis, his headache at last beginning to subside a bit, spoke, "Hmm, well now that you mention it. . . ."

"Lewis. . . ." Cleo softly nudged her boyfriend's side, before smiling warmly in understanding towards Rikki. "It's perfectly all right, Rikki. I mean, a breakup is never easy, or fun. . . ." She trailed off for a moment at the thought, her own heart beginning to ache just a little bit, in the same manner Rikki's undoubtedly was.

Even though her own break up with Lewis, by her own hand, no less, was now a thing of the past and put behind the two of them, the regret and remorse Cleo had constantly felt during their time apart had nearly been too much for her to take . . . whether she had wanted to own up to nor talk about it with others at the time.

She suddenly felt herself becoming profoundly empathetic towards Rikki's plight, in addition to the sympathy she'd already felt for her, after having finished with her thought, as she then realized that that had to be precisely how the other girl was consistently feeling. . . .

Taking another chance, Cleo extended the both of her hands across the table and securely wrapped them around Rikki's own, who naturally tensed up momentarily within a mixture of surprise and unease.

"Listen, Rikki . . . you know that you'll always have our support -- Lewis, Emma and mine, I mean. Even Ash's, too, I'm sure, if you want it," she began with a tiny, yet thoughtful smile, gently squeezing her fellow mermaid's palms in emphasis. "And, when you're ready to tell us all about it, we'll be there. . . . Come on, Lewis. We'd better give Rikki some space. . . ."

Lewis immediately turned his attention away from the now taken aback Rikki, and shifted it squarely onto the brunette, a look of pure perplexity upon his visage.

"Wait. We're going to do what, now?? I thought --"

"-- No, wait . . . it's all right, Lewis; Cleo. . . . I mean, you're all going to find out eventually, right? Might as well hear the full story now while it's still fresh," Rikki interrupted with weak sarcasm, which was quite normally a specialty of hers, as she softly tapped the table's surface to reclaim both of her friends' attention after Cleo had let go of her hands.

Taking a deep, although shaky inhale, looking over her companions' heads and towards the cool room's entrance to see both Emma and Ash reemerging from it as though on cue, Rikki at last divulged every last detail of what had transpired between she and her former boyfriend that morning before class.

". . . . Zane had called me last night, telling me he'd wanted to give me a lift to school this morning, since his first class of the day over at his school is a free period," she began, gently licking her suddenly dry lips and fixing her gaze down towards her half finished beverage. "I, of course, was pretty psyched about that, because it meant getting to ride within the new sports car his father had just bought for his birthday the other day, as it also meant getting to spend a little bit of extra time together, you know? But . . . the entire drive over there felt sort of . . . different; funny. . . . We barely really said much to one another, and honestly acted as though it was the first time we'd been alone together or something. . . .

So, naturally . . . once we'd arrived at school, I'd finally asked him what was up, but he couldn't -- Or wouldn't, rather, even look at me . . . l-like I was diseased or something! And . . . the next thing I know, we're having at it right there in the parking lot, with me demanding he tell me what was the matter with him and not to keep any secrets, when he just callously blurted out how things were 'getting a bit too complicated' for him, and that he needed some space!!"

Rikki, without realizing, had balled up her fist, in the same way that she had earlier that morning while in the school's hallway with Emma, and this time around succeeded within activating her Thermokinesis in the process, although unintentionally. Before neither she nor either of her friends could have stopped her, the blonde effortlessly began to heat up the remaining portion of her mango and orange beverage within the glass before her, to the point of unbearable boiling temperature.

The trio watched in slight surprise as the traditionally cold treat continued to crackle and sizzle within the glass, before unexpectedly shattering into a multitude unrecognizable fragments, that both thankfully as well as miraculously managed to miss each of their faces and clothing.

"Ahh!!" both Cleo and Lewis cried out in alarm, the three of them immediately rising to their feet and out of the booth in order to avoid being burned by the dangerously hot liquid, that then began to trickle down from off of the now messy, splattered table, and onto where they had each been previously seated.

"Oh, my God! Is everyone all right??" Ash queried in concern as he and Emma swiftly rushed over to their friends' side to help, while numerous customers looked in with ample affect of their own. He protectively pulled his girlfriend away from the debris, right as she'd then made a move to get closer in order to begin cleaning it up, before doing the same to Cleo and Lewis who were both closest to him.

Rikki, meanwhile, mutely gazed upon the chaotic mess she'd unintentionally made, before looking at her now open palm that had caused it all. This was not the first time that she had allowed her temper to get the better of her, to the point of triggering her mermaid powers. In fact, it was how she had discovered possessing them in the first place, in nearly the very same manner.

And, through experience, the blonde was well aware of how dangerous and the most unpredictable her aquatic abilities were within the general sense; however, now that she was growing increasingly upset, there was no telling what could happen next.

Lewis had then opened his mouth to reply to Ash, offering the damage control he was, by now, an expert at conducting in relation to the girls and their mermaid secret, while Cleo, Emma and her other fellow employees went off to gather cleaning supplies in order to properly take care of the now cooling down spill.

"Uh . . . y-yeah, Ash, everyone's fine. Just a little . . . accident," he said with a weak smile, carefully placing a bit of tactful emphasis upon the last word, in order for the other boy to understand his secret meaning.

As the chocolate locked boy merely nodded slowly in response, before the both of them carefully began to pick up a couple of broken glass from off of the floor so that no one could step on it and get hurt, Rikki had decidedly taken that as the best opportunity to retreat from the premises . . . before she'd caused any further damage to the establishment.

At first slowly backing away from the scene, so as not to be heard nor noticed, she then quickly rushed towards and through the beaded dual entrance and exit. Her heart grew heavy with betrayal and sadness, while her mind swirled with unanswered questions of how Zane could have done such a thing to her . . . especially after all they had been through together.

One thing's for certain, though: One way or another, I am going to make him pay. . . . Rikki thought with embittered agony, breaking into a swift jog away from the JuiceNet Café and towards her home, as a single tear, the first of many in the near future, she was deplorably sure, had then escaped from one of her eyes before cascading down her inflamed cheek.

-- End of Chapter Three

(A.N. Yay, done! And six pages this time, although that's not terribly long at all for me. Oh, well. It's still more/longer for yooze guys, at least. LoL I do so enjoy whenever my chapters, regardless of whatever story I'm doing, just flows out of me and turns out so well. I really do. Less stress that way. LoL AND, just in time, too, since I'll be extra extra busy for the majority of tomorrow, so wouldn't have time to sit and write anything further. I wonder, though, how many reviews I shall receive for this one? Don't be shy, now, people, especially since I know a lot of you are really diggin' it. LoL I also wonder how long I'm gonna make this story, since honestly the intended plot given to me really isn't all that complicated and is pretty straightforward. So, I'm thinking probably around ten to twelve chapters at best, maybe. But we'll see, since I never keep my word on story length, and end up going overboard, anyways. LoL

But yeah! There you have it! Chapter three, with a fairly equal amount of "stage time" for each character and their separate as well as mutual relationships, and feelings, even. Figured I might as well get all of that out of the way now, to provide a better establishment and connection, emotional-wise for you readers, before I really shake things up later on. So yeah, sorry if all you wanted was to jump RIGHT into why Zane dumped Rikki, all you "Zikki" lovers. LoL Which I'm pretty sure you're still not satisfied, because it just seemed so odd and like a lame reason why he had, right? I know. Did it on purpose, so ah well! LoL

Be patient for the next chapter, please, thanks, as always, for the growing interest and support, and review, review, review! LoL)