Disclaimer: Fic is mine, that's about it. 3
The Sea is Her Song
1. Part of Your World
The first time Sora hears Ariel sing like she means it, they are in her grotto and she's showcasing her vast collection of sunken human artifacts. There's a cigar box filled with corkscrews, pocket watches dangling from stone rafters along with necklaces, music boxes, and many other typically mundane things that have her entranced and curious. Watching her sift through her treasures, Sora finds himself just as mystified, as though he'd never seen any of these things before.
And just as suddenly as it starts, it ends.
But who cares? Ariel sings, leaving behind one of her many trinkets. No big deal. I want more.
She swims upward, twirling and she has everyone's attention now. Sora notices the look Sebastian has on his tired face, a mixture of awe and pity, and he feels his heart dropping to the pit of his stomach as he realizes just how bored and lonely this princess is.
He looks up in time to see Goofy offer his back fins to her, and she giggles as she remembers humans have those strange, fascinating things called "feet" attached to their "legs". She then pushes backward and flips her tail about to prove her point, that it isn't good much else aside from that, but legs are made for so much more. Then she continues to ascend.
Wouldn't I love, love to explore that shore up above? and she's reaching up, out through the hole in the ceiling of the cove where the sunlight shines through, and for a moment Sora forgets to breathe.
Out of the sea. Wish I could be part of that world, her voice has dropped considerably as she lets herself fall back down to the ocean floor slowly. She comes to sit where she lands, and keeps her eyes on the sunbeam, oblivious as Sebastian begins to usher the trio and Flounder away. But Sora resists the crustacean and lingers behind, coming up behind her and just watching her silently until she snaps out of her reverie.
Before she says anything, he puts a finger to her lips and winks. "Maybe someday," he says, hoping to make her feel a little bit better.
The smile is slow to show itself, but once it's there it's bright and beautiful. She takes his hand in hers, kisses his knuckles and turns her gaze upward once more.
"Maybe," she says, but there's not a doubt in her mind that one day she will surface.
2. The Edge of the Edge of the Sea
The giant seahorse is beautiful with its silver mane and rich purple coloring. But it is also dangerous, Sora can see it in it's eyes as it struggles against it's reigns. It comes as no surprise that Ariel is instantly taken with the beast.
"Keep your distance, Princess," the seahorse's caretaker warns as she gets just a little too close, "Stormy's too wild too tame, and too ornery to love."
The animal bucks, sending Ariel backward through the water, into Sora's arms. He can't find any words to say as he watches her watching Stormy thrash against his bonds, eager to be rid of them.
"Someday," she says softly, pulling out of Sora's grasp to move in closer, hands fisted in front of her because she knows she can't touch him – yet, "I'm gonna ride that wild seahorse."
Sora doesn't ask why, he knows she sees something in that wild animal no one else can, or cares to. Instead, he lets her have her moment, then takes her by the hand and leads her back to the palace.
That evening, she brings up the subject of riding to her father, and Triton says if she cares to ride with him, he has an old mare ready for her. She protests this, blurts out that she's seen Stormy and it's him she wants to ride. Triton, naturally, becomes enraged and tells her she will never ride the beast.
Inevitably the outburst leads Ariel back to the corral, back to Stormy, and Sora's struck senseless as she approaches the thrashing seahorse, strokes his snout and begins to sing.
What am I to do? She asks, and she's looking to Stormy for answers. There's so much of me in you.
Sora feels his heart picking up its pace the way it often does when Ariel sings, except this time it beats faster than usual because she's going for the ropes now.
Someday, we'll break away and we'll ride, you and me, to the edge of the edge of the sea.
Her fingers play across the thick knot and Sora is moving closer and he's hoping she won't do it because she just doesn't know what this animal is capable of.
Come on, let's try it. So many worlds to explore, and she's beaming as she takes hold the worn end of Stormy's bindings, beginning to give it a tug. I don't have a plan, you'll just have to trust my hand.
"Ariel, wait – !" Sora finally gasps as he sees the knot coming undone, and the seahorse is deadly silent and still now, just waiting to be free. And when the knot is no more and Ariel's taking hold of the reigns and mounting him, Sora reaches for her in vain. They make eye contact for only few seconds before Stormy takes off into uncharted waters.
As Sora rushes back to the palace to tell Triton what's happened, he can't help but be blown away by Ariel's performance, regardless of the situation that brought it on. He's never seen the princess so raw before, and it was possible the most beautiful thing he had ever laid eyes on.
Sora's watched Ariel perform many times, and each time she manages to take his breath away and make his heart pound within his chest. But this time it's different as she lays on the beach, bent over the man she'd saved from the shipwreck, stroking his cheek with her knuckles, singing sweetly to him.
His breath still hitches, but he's sure it's because there's something nasty brewing inside of him, and his heart still pounds, but only out of fear that he's going to lose her.
The dog barking in the distance startles her, and she drags herself quickly back into the water, diving beneath the waves before the man regains complete consciousness. Sora follows, and when they surface a safe distance away, hidden behind a boulder, the man is on his feet with the ocean lapping at his boots. Sora scowls childishly when he sees that he has the same dazed expression his face as Ariel.
"We jus' gonna forget this whole t'ing eva happened," Sebastian says from beside Sora, and it sounds like an excellent idea. Except Ariel's dragging herself up the slant of the boulder, propping herself up on her arms to watch as the young man – a prince, apparently – stumbles away toward his castle with the help of his man servent.
I don't know when, Ariel starts, and Sora feels his heart clenching inside of his chest again, this time almost painfully. I don't know how, but I know something's starting right now.
And it plays out like a movie scene, so beautifully as the waves crash behind her and the wind picks up, tousling her damp hair. Sora can only watch in awe and horror as she comes to a final conclusion: watch and you'll see, someday I'll be part of your world.
He doesn't return to Atlantica for some time after that, knowing she's too far gone to be brought back, that she's not his for the taking anymore.
4. Athena's Song
The next time Sora sees Ariel, she's human, married, and has a baby daughter.
The maid leads him to the baby's bedroom, where Ariel is rocking her to sleep as she sits on a windowsill that overlooks the ocean. She smiles at him, wide and bright and so Ariel, but she doesn't greet him right away. There are other matters to tend to first, namely putting her daughter to sleep.
Oh, the waves roll low and the waves roll high, she sings quietly, and Sora realizes this is the softest he has ever heard her sing before. It's, as always, breathtakingly beautiful. And so it goes, under a bright blue, endless sky.
The baby gurgles happily, then yawns, her eyes closing and then opening as she stubbornly tries to stay awake. Watching this, Sora has no doubt in his mind that Melody will grow to be a spitting image of her mother: stubborn beyond belief.
Waves try to measure the days that we treasure, Ariel continues, smiling warmly down at her daughter, pleased to see her (reluctantly) giving in. Wave hello and wave goodbye.
And, amazingly, by the time her voice drops off into silence, Melody is sound asleep. After she puts the baby down in her crib, she rushes over to Sora, walking expertly in her extravagant gown and expensive high-heeled shoes. She wraps her arms around him and he returns the hug, and both are at a loss for words because it's been too long.
"That was beautiful," he says after they break apart. "Your lullaby."
She giggles and looks toward Melody, whom is now cuddling with a plush turtle. "It was my mother's."
5. For A Moment
Sora finds himself under the sea once more nearly twelve years later with Ariel at his side as they search the ocean for Melody. He has never seen Ariel so distraught before, has never heard her sing such a haunting, mournful tune. There are no words yet, only sorrow and worry as they hunt her daughter down. But when the words do come, Sora can see how much Ariel has grown.
If only for one moment, I had shared with you all I know, the sea wouldn't be a mystery. Her voice is loud and clear, a proclamation of regret that makes Sora's stomach churn. Oh, why did you have to go?
They swim for what feels like forever, and Ariel continuously sings wordlessly for all the ocean to hear. It is a song that chills Sora to the bone, and he remembers why mermaids are alternately called sirens.
I will find you, my darling, and the moment that I do I'll hold you close, my Melody, and sing the song of the sea with you.
"Ariel?" Sora speaks for the first time in hours, and the Queen of the land above looks at him with tired blue eyes. "We'll find her," he assures her.
"I hope you're right," she says before she carries on ahead. Determined to make her smile, he takes hold of her hand once he catches up with her.
Before he takes what he fears to be his final leave, she takes him out to the beach, to a shore they're both very familiar with.
"What are we doing out here?" he asks, eyebrow raised, hands behind his head in that boyish manner he will never outgrow.
"I just thought..." and she trails off, a wistful smile on her lips. She knows they may never see each other again after this, too. She looks toward the ocean, "I wanted to give something to you, Sora."
"Give me something?" he asks with a shy chuckle. "You don't have to – "
"I know I don't, but I want to," she says with that smile he's come to adore. She takes his hand as she turns her attention toward him. "Please?"
He nods. "How can I resist?"
She giggles and leads him into the water, soaking her dress up to the waist as they stop by that boulder. He climbs onto it first, then helps her up, figuring the weight of the waterlogged dress would be too much for her. They make themselves comfortable; him with his back to the high ledge and her between his legs, her head on his thigh. He doesn't ask – because he's never asked when it's come to Ariel – he just waits, and his patience is rewarded when she starts to sing.
Dreaming is something that we both know how to do, she begins quietly, her hand finding his again. You wish upon that evening star and hope that it comes true.
There is a lump forming in his throat all of a sudden, but he doesn't dare silence her.
Dreams connect us even when we're far apart, and she looks up at him as she sings these words with a soft smile on her lips and a glassy look in her eyes.
When she finishes, she leans up and places a kiss on his cheek, then buries her face into the crook of his neck. "This isn't goodbye," she murmurs, because they've been through so much and they've come so far and this just can't be it.
He wraps his arms around her, runs his fingers through her red hair and breathes her in. She smells of bath salts and roses fragrance, so human. After a moment, he pulls away and grins at her – because she's right, this isn't the end.
"Far from it," he says with a wink.
He leaves, and he does return every now and again, but while he's away he remembers the song she sang to him on the rock until he's able to see her again.