She ran down the path, tears blurring her eyes and sobs choking her throat as her small feet propelled her further and further away from the house. She couldn't hear her mother calling after her; she didn't want to stop. This wasn't supposed to happen. This weekend was supposed to be about family. Her father wasn't supposed to say he was leaving. Her mother wasn't supposed to say they were moving away. They were supposed to stay by the ocean as a family forever.
Ami didn't stop running until she was ankle deep in sea water. The sun was starting to set, and it was getting colder. She looked out at the roaring ocean. The sound of the waves crashing against the shore used to be like music to her ears. Today, it was a death toll. It proclaimed the death of everything she loved. She hiccupped a sob. Why? Why was this happening? Why was her daddy leaving them? Why?
The cool Pacific waters lapped at her ankles. She looked down at the foamy water. Small fish swam in the tide. They circled her feet for a few moments before swimming away with the retreating waters. "Wait!" she cried. She ran into the water, stopping when the waves came up to her waste. "Come back!" Why was everything leaving her?
A large wave swelled in front of her. Ami looked up in time to see it crashing down upon her. With a cry, she was dragged under the water and into the grasp of the rip tide. Her tiny arms and legs struggled to get her to the surface. Her head broke into the open air for only a few precious seconds. "Mom!" she sobbed before another wave pulled her down. The tide was taking her out into the open sea.
She couldn't breath; couldn't fight the pull of the tide. No matter how hard she struggled, she could not break free. She sank deeper and deeper into the cold darkness of the ocean. Fear and sorrow overwhelmed her. She was going to die.
Something grabbed her. Strong arms pulled her against a warm chest. Lips pressed against hers, breathing fresh air into her lungs. Ami gasp in shock, her eyes opening. She could breath!
Soft green eyes watched her, green eyes framed by blond curls that floated in the waters. Her young eyes widened at the sight of the stranger. A mermaid! her mind cried.
The stranger smiled and shook his head, as if knowing what she was thinking.
Ami blushed. Merman, she corrected.
He pulled her close and pressed his forehead against her. Do not worry, he whispered into her mind, I will protect you.
In a swirl of water, Ami found herself back on the beach. She blinked a few times and looked around.
"Ami!" her mother called, relief flooding the older woman's voice.
Ami stood and ran into her mother's arms. "Mommy!" she cried.
"Don't ever do that again!" her mother scolded desperately. "I was so worried about you!"
"I'm sorry, mommy," Ami said. Through her mother's arms, the little girl looked out over the waves. There was no sign of her merman.
* * * * *
A beach ball hit her on the head, knocking Ami out of her memories. "Ami-chan!" Usagi waved at her from the circle further down the beach. "Come play with us!"
Ami smiled softly at them and picked up the ball. It was a beautiful day; perfect day to be at the beach. Their first day of summer vacation was going according to plan. A full day on the beach, followed by dinner at the beach house and ghost stories around a fire; it was going to be the highlight of a well deserved summer break. Ami trotted down the hot sand to join the others.
"Finally!" Minako exclaimed. "I thought you'd be spacing out the whole time!"
"Yeah," Rei chimed in. "That's Usagi's job."
"Hidoi!" Usagi cried to the laughter of the rest.
Minako served the ball, resuming their game.
Makoto hit it to Rei, who passed it to Usagi. True to her nature, Usagi stumbled backward and tripped over a stray shell, resulting in her tumbling down the beach into the wave. Minako jogged after her while Rei laughed. Makoto shook her head before turning her deep green eyes onto Ami. "What were you looking for?" she asked.
"Hn?" Ami turned to her.
Makoto fixed her with a knowing look. "You weren't spacing out. You were looking for something. What?"
Ami blushed. "I wasn't looking for anything. I like the ocean. Watching it relaxes me."
"Sure." Makoto's tone indicated that she didn't believe her blue-haired friend. However, the matter was dropped when the others returned.
* * * * *
The night was crisp and clear. Ami breathed it in deep. It sent a pleasant chill through her body. She shouldn't be out here, she knew that. She told herself that a thousand times, and yet, each time, she found herself here, alone, on the beach, waiting. Everything in her screamed that this was wrong. She could not keep returning here. It was illogical. She needed to be focusing on the here and now, not trying to relive a past that would be best forgotten. She had a life here as Mizino Ami, a doctor-to-be and a Sailor Senshi. She had many friends and multiple romantic prospects. Her future was set.
So then why did she give in? Why did she heed the call of the ocean? Why did she let that side of her come out? These were the questions her logical mind kept asking her even as she let the robe slip from her shoulders and allowed her feet to breech the chilled ocean water. The moment the water touched her skin, she knew. It was because this was a part of her. She was wild. She was not the calm student everyone thought she was. There was a side of her that wanted, no needed to come out in order for her to truly be whole. Princess Mercury wanted to feel alive, and it was only through the sea that she could. She smiled, relinquishing herself to the ocean's embrace, and walked.
With each step, the water surrounded her. She waded out into the surf until she was waste deep. There, she dove in and swam out with the tide. She opened the flood gates of her heart to the magic that surrounded her. It filled her, awakening every sense, driving her to a supernatural level that she had once lived upon so many years ago, when she had truly been the Lady of the Seas. She breathed in the water, gasping in surreal pleasure as the arctic chill filled her blood. She opened her eyes to the brilliant colors reserved only for the few who could truly become one with the ocean.
She followed brightly colored coral reefs and tropical fish deeper into the mysteries of the sea. She knew this path well. She had swum it so many times in the past. She knew where it would lead. She knew who would be waiting for her at the end.
The oceanic floor opened up into a glorious garden that glowed in welcome. Blues, reds, yellows, and pinks surrounded her as her feet touched the warm sand. A gown of sea foam settled over her petite frame and a crown of coral was placed upon her head. The ocean welcomed back its queen.
And, standing at the far end of the garden, was her king. Standing in a robe of shimmering scales and flowers, he reached for her, his long strawberry curls floating freely around his face, teasingly hiding his laughing green eyes from her for a moment before moving away to grace her with the right to gaze into him. "Athena," he greeted tenderly.
Athena grasped his hand and allowed him to pull her near. "Genbu," she purred before capturing his lips with her own. "I've missed you."
He nuzzled her cheek, placing reverent kissed over her skin. "Come," he whispered, "The sea await us."
Together, they walked into the realm reserved only for them.
* * * * *
The dawn broke over the waters. Ami breathed heavily as she walked back onto the beach. She had lingered too long. It was becoming harder and harder to return. She feared that if Mamoru did not assume his role as ruler of Terra and summon his advisers back from the spiritual realms for which they were trapped, she would fully relinquish her place among the living to remain by Genbu's side, forever a part of the sea. She turned back to the sea, the phantom sensations of his touch still burning her skin. Yes, it was becoming so very hard to leave.
Ami jumped, turning immediately and exclaiming in shocked surprise, "Makoto?!?"
Makoto handed her a towel, a knowing smile on her lips. "It's hard, isn't it, leaving him?"
"I…" Ami began as she reluctantly took the towel.
Makoto shook her head. "Don't even start. I understand. Why do you think I love storms so much?" She sat down on the sand.
Ami wrapped the towel around her bathing suit and sat down as well. "You mean?" she asked.
Makoto watched the sunrise, her mind taking her elsewhere. "Seiryu, Dragon of the West, Lord of the Sky. He only comes when it storms. He rides on the clouds." She blushed and looked down as she said, "I go to meet him. We only have that time together."
Ami laid her head on folded arms, her mind taking her back to her lover trapped beneath the waves. "Genbu can't leave the ocean."
"Makes you want to beat Mamoru's face in, doesn't it?"
Ami started at the strong language directed at the one who would one day be there king.
Makoto smiled apologetically. "I mean, he's taking his time. We can't tell him he's got more power than he thinks. He has to figure it out on his own. And no offense to the future king, but he is almost as dense as Usagi."
Ami chuckled at that. "Very true."
The two sat in companionable silence as the sun rose high into the sky. Soon, they would have to go back to the house, but for now, they wanted to remain here, to remember and take comfort in knowing that at least one other person understood.