Battening Down the Hatches

Chapter One

Boil It Slowly Up

It felt like a completely ordinary day in many aspects, Emma had got to admit that. The sun was shining down, colouring the sky with its streaks of light, there was not a cloud to be seen and the wind had almost completely disappeared. It was the perfect day for a long swim with Cleo and Rikki, and Emma wanted nothing but to jump into the water with her two best friends and race to Mako in such a hurry it seemed like a shark might be following them.

The only reason she was not in the water yet was just because she was supposed to meet Rikki and Cleo right here at the Juicenet café for a juice before heading off. Lewis was busy today so maybe Cleo would actually be possible to be around. After they 'fell back into love' the two of them had been gooey and nauseating – it was even worse than when they first got together. Emma thought that they were very cute, but Rikki always pretended to gag and rolled her eyes when they were too much in love.

Now Emma, didn't understand that. Rikki had Zane herself, but apparently all that stuff wasn't really their thing. They usually just argued about silly things and mostly it was very stupid, but they always made up, and Emma hated to admit it, but they were kind of good together and Zane wasn't nearly as horrible a person as he used to be. And if they didn't argue, they definitely always had their 'something is going on' vibe, that was certain. Emma herself had Ash now, which she really appreciated – after she came clear about what they really were, their relationship had been as good as she could wish for. Ash had taken it all so cool, gotten involved with full moons and protected them whenever water was near. It was kind of nice to have someone special for those things like Cleo and Rikki had.

Anyway, Ash was supposed to be teaching a class today and after that he was taking Rebel out, so he wouldn't interrupt her plans for a nice mermaid-day. She believed she had also seen Zane and Nate head off with their bikes towards the track, so he wouldn't be calling out for Rikki's attention.

Emma entered the Juicenet café, still very much excited about her plans for the day, and she couldn't wait to share it with her two best friends. Cleo was already sitting in a booth and she waved her over with an excited smile, "Emma!" she cheered.

Emma crossed the table and ordered a juice from Wilfred on the way. She took a seat opposite from Cleo and placed her hands on the table, "Hi Cleo, how's it going?" she questioned the brunette.

Cleo already had a juice and she sipped it for a few seconds before her hand reached for the straw and she started to stir her drink slowly, "I'm alright..." she said in her usual Cleo-kind-of-way, "It's just that Dad told me I couldn't go out today because I hadn't done the dishes."

Emma shrugged, "Why weren't the dishes done?" she asked, afraid to know where this was going. Sometimes Cleo's logic wasn't really the most sensible one, but there had been a problem with dishes and her before – it seemed to be an unstoppable reason for arguments between Cleo and her sister Kim.

Cleo made a face in her direction and said, as a matter of factly, "Kim."

Nothing more was needed to be said in the brunette's opinion, Emma could tell that, but for it to make any sense at all, she would need it explained just a wee bit more, "What did she do now?" she asked.

"She slept over at her best friend's place, and then who can do the dishes?" Cleo explained, staring at her juice as if it was the most important thing in the world for just a few seconds, before she looked up and locked her eyes with Emma's, "I can't do the dishes!" she continued to whine.

"Well if she wasn't home." Emma replied, just as Wilfred placed a strawberry juice in front of her. She gave him a quick smile, "Thanks," she said, before she continued to talk to Cleo, "she's still allowed to have her own life, you know. Of course she's a pain, I do know that." she added, when Cleo was about to object because she was defending Kim, but it still made more sense that Kim was able to spend some time with her friends, "....but," she paused and raised an eyebrow, "it's still your chores, you should appreciate the effort she puts in for you."

Cleo's mouth tightened slightly, "Do you have any idea – of how much money I give her each day for doing the dishes?"

Emma shrugged, "A lot, I guess."

Cleo didn't reply to that, she consumed half of her juice instead.

Emma took a few sips of her own too, before she said, "But what's the problem? Why didn't you just tell your dad that you'd do them later?"

Cleo sighed heavily and crossed her arms as she leaned back in the seat, "He doesn't like the mess all day."

"So how did you get out?" Emma wanted to know in a light voice, hoping that soon they could talk about something else. She glanced around the busy café. If just Rikki would show up.

"I just left!" Cleo whined and closed her eyes tightly together and Emma pictured what she was imagining in there – how her father would react when she came home tonight. It certainly wouldn't be pretty. Don Sertori had always been very strict with his two girls. "I don't wanna go home tonight, Emma." she finished when her eyes were open again.

Emma didn't really know what to say to that, so she decided to change the subject completely, "So what do you wanna do today?" she asked her long-time best friend. It was hard to believe that it had just been the two of them, as best friends, for so long before Rikki came. Things had certainly changed after the blonde, big-mouthed rebel showed up. But Emma wasn't complaining. Sure, she and Rikki had their differences (often, actually), but Rikki did bring a bit more sunshine into their lives, there was no running from that.

Cleo unlocked her arms from their cross, probably happy to be thinking about something other than her father and shrugged instead, "I don't know?"

"'Cuz I was thinking..." Emma quickly begun, pleased with the fact that Cleo didn't have any wishes for their agenda, "maybe we could go for a nice, long swim? It seems perfect outside, and I could really use a cool-down. It's unbelievably hot today." she rambled off. She knew she didn't have to pursue Cleo as much as she was doing, she probably wouldn't have to convince her at all, but sometimes when she started speaking her case, she just couldn't stop.

Cleo nodded and finished off the rest of her juice, "That sounds great. Do you reckon Rikki wants to join us?"

Emma felt her smile grow even wider – it seemed like it was a perfect day today, "Zane's doing boy-stuff with Nate, so I'm sure she'll be up for it. She loves our swims."

The idea of a day in the water, just all three of them, seemed very appealing to Cleo. She relaxed her shoulders a bit more and gave Emma a bigger smile, "So when will she be here?"

Emma shrugged, "I don't know, seems kind of weird she's not here yet."

Cleo turned around in the seat and glanced through the room, trying to locate Rikki between the many bodies that turned to juice for a momentarily cool-down from the boiling sun outside. Emma turned her head to the side too and searched through the throng of people with Cleo, but paused when she saw a white-haired, pale-skinned girl by the counter. She was talking to Wilfred, but something didn't quite add up-

"Oh! There she is!" Cleo exclaimed, and Emma followed her finger with her eyes to see who Cleo was pointing at, but realized that it was the 'Rikki' by the counter. Except that couldn't be Rikki. There was something about her that just wasn't Rikki.

Emma shook her head, "That's not Rikki, Cleo." she firmly said. It just couldn't be, there was something off about her.

"What are you talking about?" the brunette questioned again, with wide open brown eyes, "That's Rikki, Emma. She's got the same curly hair, the same posture, the same milky skin..." she trailed off and turned to look at the former swimmer.

Emma reached a finger out, and even if it was impolite to point at people, she made a small gesture towards her, "She's too tall, Cleo, taller than Rikki, and that's not even her, because she's wearing pink."

That was the thing most off about her. Never in her life would Rikki be caught wearing something like that. Not on an ordinary day like today – in the Juicenet café.

Cleo raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow, "So?" she stated.

"Rikki never wears pink!" Emma argued back and finished off her juice, pushing the glass into the centre of the table, up against Cleo's.

"Yeah she does!" Cleo argued back as she rested her hands on the table, "She has that dress that Zane got her! She wears that from time to time..."

Emma shook her head again and gave Cleo a sideways smile, "It's still not her, Cleo." she firmly said and just then, the woman turned around from the counter. She was wearing sunglasses, but as she pushed through a line, she also pushed them onto the top of her head, and Emma was stunned for a second, because her eyes were exactly like Rikki's – so was her smile. It was too much alike, it was almost scary. "She does look like her, though." Emma couldn't help but blurt out.

And so Cleo turned around again, and Emma could see her eyes widen, as they landed on this Rikki-clone. "Wow." Cleo exclaimed, probably a bit too loud, because the woman paused in her tracks and gave them a curious look.

"Can I help you?" she wanted to know. Her voice was light and very feminine. She sounded quite fancy. Emma didn't get a very good vibe from her, and she was often right about first impressions.

"I'm sorry." Cleo quickly mumbled and gave Emma a desperate look. Her eyes said everything; she needed help to get gracefully through this.

Emma quickly came to her rescue as she so often had done in the past, "You just looked an awful lot like one of our friends. We didn't mean to bother you."

The woman raised an eyebrow and gave them a once-over, "Alright." she said and put her sunglasses back onto her nose as she turned to walk out of there, "Enjoy your day." she mumbled, as she walked off.

Emma and Cleo turned to look at each other, both very confused about what had just happened. Emma could see in Cleo's eyes that she was freaking out on the inside – it had just been too weird. That woman had looked too much like Rikki. Sure, often enough one could find similarities between some people, but this had been very extreme.

Cleo's eyes were just turning normal when Rikki – and this time it was the real Rikki, Emma was certain of that; her hair was in two braids, she was wearing her usual skirt and her red t-shirt – sat down next to Cleo and gave them both a smile, "What's happening?" she questioned them both and reached for the menu on the table.

Cleo was about to open her mouth, but Emma firmly shook her head; there was no need telling Rikki about their encounter with this strange woman, because Rikki would either just laugh at them or freak out and stalk this woman into the next century. Cleo shut her mouth again and kept it there.

Rikki gave them both her something-is-up-and-I-wanna-know-what-it-is look, but when no one said anything, she stood up again, "I'm gonna get a juice." she told them, and as soon as she was out of earshot, Emma gave Cleo the eyes one more.

"Don't tell her about it!" she firmly said, "Nothing good is gonna come out of it."

Cleo nodded and offered Emma a smile instead, trying to act as normal as possible. The former swimmer looked around though, gave the room another look, but the strange woman was not there. There was just this weird feeling in her body, and Emma couldn't shake it off.

This meant trouble, she was sure of it.


The water in the moon pool was hotter than the three of them had ever experienced before, except when they got their powers and everything had boiled up. But it was still nice to be in the water, even if it was hot, because the sun didn't reach them there and their skin was cooling down after the sun outside.

Rikki was still slightly suspicious about what had occurred in the Juicenet café. Cleo and Emma had acted very strange. Usually, they weren't the ones who hid stuff, it was always her. They told her everything, and that was why it was so strange that she had a feeling today that there was something, they just weren't telling her. It wasn't really a nice feeling, but she didn't want to dwell on it for too long. Usually, she would poke them and push them until something came out, but she just wasn't sure this time. Something didn't quite feel right.

"How long do you think this unbelievable heatwave is gonna last?" Emma questioned them, as she flopped her tail gently, pushing water first left, then right.

Cleo, who had been resting her elbows near the side of the pool as they always did, turned around, so she could look at them both, "I don't know, it's so hot outside, all I want to do is pour water over my head, but if I do that, I think someone's gonna notice my tail!"

Rikki gave her a funny, sarcastic look, "Oh really? You think?" she teased her.

Cleo just smiled right back at her, "No I'm serious!" she said with a thoughtful look, "I've gotten used to this mermaid thing now, but sometimes it would have been much easier to just be an ordinary girl."

Rikki shook her head as she played with the water in front of her, "Pffth." she said, "Ordinary is boring. I like being different."

"You would have been different even if you weren't half fish." Emma said and therefore butted into their little conversation, "I don't think you've got anything to worry about."

Rikki offered the other blonde a huge smile, "I'll take that as a compliment, Emma, thank you." she chuckled and moved her tail slightly, sending a cascade of water splashing onto her friend. She laughed even harder when Emma reappeared from beneath the water with a bothered look across her face. "No, I'm serious," Rikki continued, so Emma wouldn't have any excuse to get back at her right away, "you sound like it's so horrible to have these amazing powers, but truth is – all three of us have these wonderful boys, and they don't seem to like us any less even if we have scales."

"That is true." Emma said and turned her head to Cleo, who was always the one to doubt herself and their secret.

Cleo reached her hand out and moved a finger softly up; a drop of water parted itself from the sea and moved into mid-air. The brunette smiled innocently at Emma before she flicked a finger in her direction, and the drop of water splashed right onto Emma's nose.

"Hey!" she whined and rubbed it off with the back of her hand, "What's with the torturing me today? What have I done?"

Cleo and Rikki locked eyes and giggled with each other; it was always fun to tease Emma, she got so mad, and together, the two of them would always beat her. Emma might be the fastest swimmer when they raced – Rikki still hadn't admitted aloud that she would be second in this, always – but when they fought with water, the two would always conquer.

"Anyway," Rikki said and leaned back slightly, resting her hands behind her head as she stared up, into the blue sky in top of the volcano, "speaking of the boys... Zane asked me to meet him later at the Juicenet café, he was talking about having a pool contest, you guys could come join and we'll play teams."

Cleo wrinkled her nose, "I don't play pool." she simply said.

"Ash and I will be there!" Emma was quick to agree, ignoring Cleo and her constant belittling of herself, "We'll beat you and Zane hands down."

Rikki turned over, floating slowly closer to Emma on her stomach, "In your dreams." she whispered, before she gave Cleo and sideways glance and burst out, "Race ya' back to the beach!" in a sneaky voice; she dived under water and was the first one out of the moon pool, speeding off to win the race.


Zane met Rikki just outside the track where they had agreed to start going out together again. He was wearing his helmet still, but he pulled it off and gave Rikki a short kiss, "Hello." he said, with the smile that Rikki couldn't quite resist. It was just too cute.

They locked their eyes for a few seconds, just staring at each other. Rikki couldn't hide her smile; she genuinely wasn't a very happy or positive person, she'd always search her hardest to find the negative sides to most things, but when she had moments like these with Zane, her lips had a mind of their own and moved upwards until it was impossible for them to go further – the smile reached all the way into her eyes, and she was sure that Zane could just see how much she loved him.

She whispered, "Hi."

Zane placed his arm around her shoulders and started to lead her away from the track and towards the trailer park, which was in the opposite direction of where his amazingly big house was. But even if he had everything at home – all the stuff they would need to have plenty of fun – he still preferred to go to her place. He said that there was much more love there, and the chance of running into his father was greatly weakened too. (But of course, what would his father be doing in a trailer park?).

"So what did you friends think about my idea?" Zane questioned as they crossed the grass and went around the back to her house. Her father would probably be home, perhaps starting up the grill for some supper. They could grab some and then head off to the Juicenet café.

Rikki smiled up at him, completely comfortable wrapped in his strong arms; she had never really thought of herself as girlfriend material. She liked to be alone too much, she liked to take long walks (though now it was rather long swims), she had never really handled getting close to someone. It was a wonder she had even let Emma and Cleo get so close, but that was probably because they had a secret to share, and it hadn't been optional. And then there was Lewis of course, but he and Cleo had always been a package deal. But Zane had never been a part of that. There had never been any reason for her to grow closer to him, but still – she did. And it was because she could relate to him so much. It had never been her intention to get a boyfriend whilst living here; they'd probably have to move away quickly anyway, but now that she had Zane, she didn't want to lose him for anything. Their relationship was exactly like she wanted it to be. He gave her space when she needed it, yet he still pushed her and poked her, which she needed a lot of the time too.

And like she had told Cleo and Emma when they first found out about her secret boyfriend – Zane got her.

He really understood her.

"Emma was excited about it, said she and Ash would beat us." she made a face in his direction as his arm dropped from her shoulders, so she could climb the three steps onto the small makeshift terrace. There was no way that the two of them would beat them at pool. Zane was a winner and he always had been. He wasn't good at losing, just as Rikki wasn't either; she had to be right in every way possible.

Zane shook his head in his usual I'm-superior-kind-of-way and winked at her, "Let them try." he said.

The grill was on and Zane took the liberty of checking on the sausages and the corncobs as Rikki poker head head through the slide glass door to let her father know that they were there for supper. But she paused, when he wasn't sitting at his usual spot with his afternoon/cooking supper-beer, a spot where he could watch the grill from inside and go check on it every once in a while.

She gave Zane a look above her shoulder, but he seemed pretty occupied with the grill, so she stepped inside their humble trailer in curiosity. Her father was a man of habits; he liked to do the same things every day, she could always count on him, he was dependable. He woke up late, worked on his bike, some days he had to work, some days he didn't, then he worked some more on his bike (even if it ran smoothly now after Zane had looked at it), he would make supper and then he'd sit out front and watch the sea until he went to bed. There wasn't more to it, and therefore it was weird that he wasn't at his usual spot.

Rikki held her breath and sighed in relief when she heard her father talk to someone. He was probably on his cell phone. She smiled to herself and followed his voice to announce that they were there. But then she stopped again. He didn't sound very happy. He sounded quite angry.

"No! Don't you dare come here to us. She's doing so good now, she's made friends as I'm sure you already know." there was a pause and Rikki felt her brow tighten in worry as she leaned against the wall outside the bathroom, where he was currently in. She was sure that he was talking about her. Who else could it be? It was just the two of them. She bit her lip as he continued, "Yeah, she's got the fella too." he mumbled, pretty distraught, "Just don't do anything to mess her up, okay? I don't want to see her mope around, I've had enough of that."

Rikki swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat as she listened to her father, doing his best to take care of her, protect her from whatever it was that was threatening them. And it was true; she didn't want anything to change right now. As far as she was concerned, her life was as good as it could get. Thanks to her best friends and boyfriend, her father and her had enough money to stay put (whenever they were spent, they'd figure something else out; they always did), she had those wonderful friends, and that amazing boyfriend. And she was actually doing better in school after settling down so nicely around her. And it was the perfect place to be a mermaid because it almost never rained.

She didn't want to listen to this anymore, so she tiptoed away from the door and into the sunlight again, trying not to think too much about what she had just heard. She snug up behind Zane and placed both arms around him, "Cooking anything good?" she mumbled into his back and took in the scent that was all him.

He turned around, a knife in one hand and with a smile on his face, "It smells good, don't you think?" he said, and with a look around the terrace, he continued, "Where's Terry?"

She shrugged, didn't really want to talk about it, "Not at his usual spot, he's probably inside somewhere."

Zane seemed alright with that explanation, even if he could usually tell when something was wrong. He turned back around to continue working on the food and Rikki turned away from him too, still deep in thought about that phone conversation she had overheard. She just didn't feel good about it.

She looked up when her father stepped outside as well, stuffing his old Nokia cell phone into his shorts as he went, "Love!" he said and pulled Rikki in for a short kiss on the hair, "I didn't hear ya' coming." he smiled and Rikki did her best to give him the smile he loved so much; the smile that was identical to her mother's, as he so often reminded her of, "Hey Zane." he added as he stepped closer to the grill to see if he was able to control everything.

"Hey Terry." Zane added and handed him a fork, "I was just making sure that everything's cooking alright."

Terry gave Zane a pat on the back and Rikki smiled to herself, happy that her father also accepted her boyfriend; it wasn't everyone who was that lucky. Cleo's father had always been strict on her considering boys – well, when wasn't he strict on her, really?

"Love," her father begun and turned around with a smile on his old face, "you wanna grab us all something to drink?"

Rikki decided to forget the disturbing phone call for now and just enjoy the evening, first supper with her father and Zane, then spending the entire night at the Juicenet café with her best friends. "Sure Dad." she replied and turned to go inside, "Be right back."


Cleo thought that Rikki seemed awfully quiet this evening. She wasn't one to keep any opinions to herself, so the brunette found it rather odd that she hadn't yet gloated with her and Zane's outstanding pool abilities. She seemed alright from a distance; she played pool, supported Zane, drank juice and made sarcastic comments, but when Cleo looked closer at her friend, she thought that there was something wrong. She wasn't quite sarcastic enough, not really that ironic, she didn't lash out at Lewis or Cleo herself, she just wasn't herself completely, she wasn't all Rikki.

For a moment Cleo wondered if something was up with her and Zane, but they didn't have that vibe that was so characteristic for the two of them, so she completely pushed that idea aside. Emma didn't seem to think that something was wrong, otherwise she would have commented on it, but maybe she was too busy cheering on Ash to really take notice to anything else.

Cleo was still very concerned though, it seemed like something might be bothering Rikki, and she knew that Rikki – even if her methods often consisted of pushing and nagging and poking fingers – if it was her, would have asked her if something was up. She would have gotten it out of her, so they could talk about it. In her own kind of Rikki sort of way. But she did it, even if it wasn't exactly her cup of tea.

Cleo took a sip of her banana beat box and turned her head to the side, where Lewis was busy fingering with his cell phone, "Lewis...?" she softly begun, hoping that she wouldn't exactly interrupt him.

Lewis looked up from his phone though, placed it on the table, and didn't look bothered at all, "Yes Cleo?" he questioned right back, a huge smile on his face. Cleo loved the way their relationship was headed this second time around; it seemed like he knew not to pry and to give her a bit of leash at times, he wasn't nearly as clingy.

"Does Rikki seem..." she paused, as she searched for the right word, didn't exactly know how to phrase herself, "odd to you?" she finally decided, but didn't quite like the way that word slipped across her tongue, "At all?"

Lewis glanced briefly at Rikki as he had that thoughtful look across his face, "Well yeah." he said, as if stating to obvious, "But Rikki's always odd, she has those days when she's really sarcastic and then at other days she talks to me like a completely normal person – seems a bit odd to me." he nodded as he finished off his answer.

Cleo sighed and decided not to ask him further. Lewis might be a smart person, but when it came to certain things, he knew squat – and Rikki was one of those things; he just didn't get her. Sure, they were friends, but they annoyed the hell out of each other, and it was only because of Cleo herself that they even hung out together. The only thing the two of them had in common was their taste in music – and their love for Cleo, of course. She smiled at the thought, "Never mind, Lewis." she said and turned her head to look at her friends again; just then Zane gave Rikki a humongous hug and she kissed his cheek lightly.

"That's it for now." he announced and flexed his muscles slightly, "I can't be bothered to compete with you anymore, Ash, I'm sorry, but that's just not very good."

Ash sneered, "Oh come one, you know I'm about to gain in on you, that's why you're quitting now, just admit it!"

Rikki and Emma gave each other a look, before the each grabbed their boyfriend by the hand and dragged him back to their table. They all scooted together to make room for everyone, and Cleo quickly opened her mouth to speak about something else, so they wouldn't continue their game with a discussion instead.

"So how about that maths quiz we had yesterday?" she questioned them all, knowing just how lame a subject it was to talk about school on a Saturday evening, but it was the best she could come up with.

"Talk about school?" Rikki questioned with an arched eyebrow and a slight sarcastic voice, "Tonight? Really? Cleo, really?"

Cleo rolled her eyes, "I was just trying to make conversation!" she argued back, and Rikki leaned slightly over, nudging her head against Cleo's shoulder to let her know that she was only kidding and that it was all out of love.

"Does anyone want more juice?" Emma questioned then, seeing that there were a bunch of empty glasses sitting in the middle of their table.

Ash gave it a look too and nodded to his girlfriend, "Yeah, I'd love something – mhm, with chocolate?"

"I need chocolate too!" Rikki butted in, completely lighting up with the thought of chocolate; she was unchangeable. That girl could eat anything, and she'd still be thin as a stick. It was seriously freaky at times, the girl never stopped eating.

"Surprise, surprise there." Lewis commented too, taking notice to it just like Cleo had done, "Rikki wants chocolate."

"Well excuse me," the blonde rebel shot back, her blue eyes firing up, "I eat chocolate when I need to think clearly."

Zane pulled her in for a kiss on the cheek, "And what exactly do you need to think about?" he asked her with a cheesy grin.

Rikki looked up at him, and Cleo could only smile because when it was Rikki and Zane, anything was possible, they could never know how the two would react to each other, but it seemed like, this time, Rikki would be all smiles, "Hey, I've got stuff on my mind from time to time." she softly said and turned to them all with a fancy look.

Emma couldn't help but laugh, "Just like you can actually act nicely from time to time."

"Orh, you know what, you guys are funny, you are hysterical." Rikki fired back and stood up from her seat; she was sitting furthest away from the wall, so it was easiest for her to get out. She reached for Lewis' wallet on the table and grabbed it before he managed to snatch it first, "I'll get us some juice, Lewis's treat." she said, her eyes bubbling with playfulness.

Lewis made a face "Sure, my treat." he whispered, as Rikki took off, zigzagging through a bunch of people.

"Man," Ash said and gave Zane a pat on the back, "I don't know how you two put up with each other, you're both damn stubborn and pushy and it's like you've got fire in your eyes."

Zane hit Ash with a closed fist on his shoulder, "Why do you think Rikki is the one with the most dangerous power."

"She has the shortest temper of everyone I know." Emma added in with a smile in Cleo's direction, and Cleo nodded in agreement. Rikki really was short-tempered, and of course that could be very annoying, it had also helped them a lot of times. Especially when Charlotte was around. Rikki wanted things done her own way, and she certainly did them like that. It was just dangerous when she got really angry, because then she'd close her fist and suddenly everything would boil up around her.

Cleo leaned in closer to Lewis and sighed out heavily. She was kind of tired and she hadn't been home since this morning when she was in a huge argument with her father. She had no idea how she was ever going to get past doing those dishes. She'd probably have to bring Lewis with her to do them for her, or else she'd have to invest in some reeeeally long gloves.

Cleo sort of blocked the others out for a few seconds and closed her eyes; listened to how they talked and played with each other. She couldn't believe how lucky she was to know all these wonderful people. Of course she still disliked Zane a lot for everything he had done to her (and everyone else for that matter) in the past, but for some reason he really made Rikki happy and that was all she needed to know to put up with him.

"Can we help you?"

Cleo zonked out of her thoughts and tuned back in on her friends when Zane's sneer caught her attention. She sat up straight and turned her head to the side, totally struck with seeing that blonde woman from earlier standing there again, sunglasses on the top of her head.

"I thought I recognized the two of you earlier." she explained with first a look at Emma and then a look at Cleo herself, "You're Emma and Cleo, right?"

Emma swallowed and leaned slightly forward, while Cleo felt herself scoot closer to Lewis, "Yes." the blonde firmly replied, a suspicious look written across her face.

The other woman placed a gentle hand on Zane's shoulder, which he didn't seem to appreciate, judging by the look on his face, "...and you're Zane Bennett." she continued with a smile to him.

"Excuse me?" Ash butted in, and Cleo could tell that he was very uncomfortable with the entire situation, "But who are you?"

The woman chuckled lowly, "Sorry, I didn't introduce myself, how rude of me." she said, and Cleo squeezed her eyebrows together, slightly worried, slightly curious as to who this woman was, and how she knew about them. All their eyes were on her, her blonde hair, her smile, her blue eyes, and it seemed like everyone was thinking the exact same thing – how much she looked like Rikki, "I'm Katherine Chadwick," she said, and Cleo felt her eyes go wide, "Rikki's-"


They all turned their heads to the side at once and saw Rikki stand there, completely in shock.

Hello everyone, thanks for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed this first chapter, because I really enjoyed writing it. This is not really a story with a certain couple in mind, it's just all about Rikki – I thought I wanted to play a little more with her, dig a bit into her background, which is fun, because I get to make it up! :) This is following the storyline of the show, but it's supposed to be before Emma leaves as you've probably all guessed.

There's going to be two more chapters, so please tell me what you think, I'd love to hear from you.

And the title? Oh yeah. That's a sailing expression. It's what sailors do to prepare their ships for any storms at sea. Battens are thin pieces of wood and hatches are the openings in the deck. Before a storm, sailors cover the hatches with waterproof material, then they nail on battens to hold the hatch-coverings firmly in place. This will keep rain and waves out of the ship. Now the expression is used differently – people use it so it means to prepare for any kind of trouble, which is why I thought it was so perfect for this story; there's certainly trouble on the way. Now, of course I'm no expert on sailing, so all this, I didn't know, but I do like to research before writing a story, so Google is my lovely friend ;b I hope everything was correct.

Anyway, thanks for reading again, and sorry about my rant, I tend to ramble a lot.

Disclaimer; I don't own H2O: Just Add Water.