It was a mild day—not too hot and not too cold—perfect for the whole family to get out, Alie included. They decided to go to the park, a place they were rarely able to take Alie because of his almost constant illness. Lately, though, things were seemingly better for the little Shimmer.

Many of the peasants greeted their king and "queen" with some surprise, but not because it was rare that royalty left the castle. In their small country, monarchs often mingled with the common folk. The only reason it was any different for their current rulers was because of their six rambunctious children—well, five rambunctious children and little shy Allie. Still, they were glad to see the rather strange royal family and made sure that their king and queen knew it.

"If I have one more person say I look well, I swear I'll murder them," Kanda grumbled to his wife as another family of commoners ambled off in better spirits because they'd met their monarchs.

"Well, you can't blame them for being excited," Lavi replied, smiling at yet another well-wishing passerby. "The weather's been horrible lately, so we haven't been out and about as much. Besides," he added, watching Allie making flower chain crowns with his sisters, "it's gotten out that Allie's been ill. We've had just as many people wishing her well as we have ourselves."

Kanda grumbled some more, but only Lavi knew what it was about this time. He still didn't want to acknowledge that Allie was mentally female despite the fact that even the castle servants actually thought he was a she. Whenever they weren't in public, he refused to refer to Allie as a girl, and the only reason he did in public was because the public at large—except for Allie's physician—thought him a girl too. It wasn't like he was ashamed of his son; it was just awkward knowing one thing while everyone else thought they knew another.

"Oh, go play with them," Lavi said at last, nudging Kanda with his elbow. "You know you want to."

"And what about you?"

Lavi smiled vaguely. "I'm a little tired is all. I think I'll stay here and put up with all the well-wishers that you can't stand."

Kanda smiled and gave Lavi a gentle, chaste kiss before going over to the older litter who were playing tag and joining in. The younger litter jumped up and joined in the game, little Allie included. Lavi smiled at them all, happy to see Allie willingly running after his siblings. He was also happy to see them involving the little Shimmer rather than tagging him and not giving him a chance to possibly catch up to his older siblings or not tagging him at all. Sure they babied him a little, tagging him and then making it easy for him to catch up, but that was better than what Lavi would expect of most kids their age. It just went to show how tightly knit siblings could be in the underwater world.

The fun didn't last long for Allie, though. Soon the child was too tired to continue running and sat with his mother in the shade of a tree, and moments later, the boy was sleeping his head in his mother's lap.

Lavi wished he could take a nap as well, but for the past week, he hadn't been able to sleep. It wasn't because of Kanda. In fact, Kanda was the only reason he could sleep. Kanda was the only one who could dispel the bad feeling that always rose to the surface whenever he was alone. He'd tried to explain this bad feeling to his husband, but Kanda could only swear he'd protect Lavi from anything, which hardly lifted the feeling whenever he wasn't around. Worst of all, their psychic daughter, Haruhi, didn't have these feelings of unease at all. She had inherited her grandmother's clairvoyance and could accurately predict the weather and even where the twins hid their pranks, but for some reason she foresaw no reason for Lavi to be so frightened.

All that and more made Lavi constantly worried whenever Kanda wasn't there holding his hand. And soon he found the cause.

A gun barrel pressed between his shoulder blades. "Don't move."

Lavi froze.

Another barrel joined the first. "Don't say anything, hee."

So there were two assassins. "Are you going to kill me?"

"No. We have to bring you back alive," said the first gunman.

Lavi tried to turn his head, but the gun barrels pressed harder into his back.

"No moving, we said, hee!" the second gunman hissed.

"Now tell the king that you're going back to the castle for a nap," the first gunman commanded. "Do it now."

Lavi slowly moved and repeated to his husband, "I'm heading back to the castle for a nap."

Kanda stopped chasing Darius and looked over. Lavi hoped to Poseidon that he could see the gunmen hiding in the bushes next to the tree, but Kanda just said, "Sure. Is Allie staying here with us, then?"

"We're taking her with us," the first gunman said, shoving the barrel of the gun harder into Lavi's back.

"She's coming with me," Lavi said, hoping that Kanda would hear the stiffness in his words, would know that he didn't really want to leave.

Kanda frowned and started coming closer. Lavi winced when the guns were pressed into him even more. "Are you sure? We could all just go back now, if you both are tired."

"You don't want to ruin his fun."

"Oh no, it's okay. I don't want to ruin your fun. We'll just go back together."

Kanda hesitated. "If your sure," he said uncertainly. "I'll see you a little later than."

Lavi wanted to cry, but the sharp jab in the back reminded him of his captors. He had to settle with a quick flit of the eyes, which was too little too late. Kanda had already turned back to their children who were tugging impatiently at him to continue their game.

"Now stand up," the first gunman said roughly.

"Carry the girl if you can. If not, wake her up, but make sure she doesn't know what's going on, hee."

This isn't happening, Lavi thought, scooping up his son. Kanda's going to turn around any minute and see those two trying to abduct me.

But it didn't happen. Kanda didn't turn. He didn't see them. He didn't try to save them. Lavi didn't blame him. He'd been on edge for days, and Kanda probably chalked up his odd behavior to nerves.


Lavi didn't need another prod in the back, though they gave him another sharp reminder anyway. Whoever they were, they must not have stood out, for while people glanced over and waved to their queen, they didn't seem to notice the two who must have been following them.

They reached a carriage just outside the park, and at last Lavi got a good look at his abductors. One had long blond hair and the other short messy black hair, and both were wearing the strangest clothing he'd ever seen. How they'd followed him unnoticed was beyond him.

"Get in," the shorthaired one said, brandishing his pistol.

Carefully, Lavi got in and laid his son's head in his lap once more. The boy had been too still as they walked, and Lavi realized it was because the boy was trying to stay silent. His son had opened his eye a crack and glanced around the small carriage in fright. "It'll be okay," Lavi whispered, running his fingers through Allie's shoulder-length hair.

"So the brat's awake, hee," the blond-haired man said, grinning.

"Moron! Get the stuff!" The shorthaired man lifted his gun and swung it like he meant to hit his fellow abductor with the butt of his gun.

"Oh, right, hee!" The blond dug in the bag sitting next to him on the plush seat and retrieved a bottle and a cloth. He poured whatever was in the bottle onto the cloth, soaking it in moments. That done, he tried to press the cloth over Lavi's nose and mouth.

Lavi fought back. He could smell whatever chemical was on that cloth, and he knew that it would knock him out in moments if they managed to make him breathe it in. After a few minutes of fighting, the shorthaired gunman held Lavi's arms while the other forced the cloth against his face. He held his breath and tried to fight them away, but he had no means of escape. He couldn't hold his breath any longer. He gasped for air, and the chemical filled his screaming lungs.

Before the darkness completely engulfed him, Lavi tried to protect his son, but within moments, both were unconscious.

The darkness receded what felt like moments later. Lavi found himself in a strange canopy bed, and Allie was nowhere. Lavi bit his lip to keep silent. Wherever he was, his kidnappers had to be nearby, and he didn't want to alert them that he was awake, should they want to make him breathe in more of that horrid chemical again. But he soon realized the only sound around him was that of running water.

He drew back the curtains surrounding the bed. The room he was being kept in was large with a giant pool surrounding the tile island the bed was on and a small marble bridge connecting that island to the tile surrounding the outside of the pool. On the outside tile there was an odd table that wasn't flat but instead had a surface that tilted to the center.

Something's not right here. Lavi climbed out of the huge bed continued expecting the room. But it wasn't the room that was wrong. It was Lavi himself. It took him a few moments to realize that his former clothing had been swapped for a lacy nightgown and that a ribbon had replaced his eye patch.

"So our dear mermaid's woken up."

Lavi spun toward the door, where a tall fat man stood, grinning. Both of Lavi's abductors stood on either side of him, grinning stupidly.

The fat man continued talking, despite Lavi's obvious fear and confusion. "I hope you don't mind the costume change, but a mermaid really ought to dress like a woman, regardless of what form she might take as a human."

"Um... obviously you saw I'm a guy," Lavi replied, still confused. "And what did you do with Allie?"

"Oh, she's safe." The fat man grinned. "For now. But let's not speak of such things. If you cooperate, after all, your sweet little girl will be perfectly safe."

Lavi glared. "What have you done to her?"

"Nothing yet." The fat man ambled over and crossed the little bridge. He took Lavi's chin in his hand and turned it this way and that. "You're quite pretty, even if you choose to be a man in human form."

Lavi smacked away the hand. "For the last time, I'm not a woman. I was born a man and will forever be a man."

"Then how'd you have kids, hee?" the blond gunman asked.

The fat man shot a look in his direction. "Jasdero, don't ask our guest unnecessary questions. She obviously was able to have them because she can choose her gender in human form. She just can't tell us that."

"Get a life," Lavi grumbled. "I'm not a woman! I'm a guy; always have been, always will be! Now tell me where my daughter is!"

The fat man sighed and turned to his two flunkies. "David, go bring the girl. It seems our mermaid refuses to cooperate without her."

The two gunmen nodded and left the room. The man in charge, however, turned to Lavi and flashed a big, toothy smile. "I'm known as the Millenium Earl, by the way. Everyone calls me that because I collect all sorts of oddities from all over time."

"So I'm just an oddity to you, then?" Lavi asked. "A 'mermaid' for your collection?"

"But of course," the Earl replied, his grin widening. "After all, mermaids are just objects since they don't have a soul."1

Lavi's eyes narrowed. "'Don't have souls'?" he repeated, somehow keeping his voice even. That made the Earl flinch back slightly. "If anyone doesn't have a soul, it's you."

"We got the kid!"

Both turned their attention to the door, where Jasdero was roughly dragging Allie by the arm. The poor boy saw his mother and burst into tears.

"Now what should we do with her, hee?"

"Give her to her mother," the Earl said dismissively. He watched as Allie rushed across the room toward his mother, a hundred-watt smile plastered on his face. "Now, Mrs. Mermaid, would you mind telling us the truth?"

Lavi knelt down and hugged his daughter, who clung to him and sobbed in fear. "It's all right, Allie," he murmured. "Everything's all right."

"H-he has a weird thing that stops Haruhi from 'seeing' us," Allie whispered. "It was in the room they put me in with a label on it."

Even blind sharks find fish, Lavi thought ruefully. So they were on their own to guide rescue. Either they'd have to break whatever it was blocking Haruhi's vision—something impossible for Lavi at the moment and difficult at best for little Allie—or they'd have to find their own escape. Neither was looking too possible from where Lavi stood.

"Mrs. Mermaid?"

"For the last time, I'm a guy," Lavi snapped. "We're going home."

Before Lavi could take so much as a step, Jasdero and David whipped out their guns and pointed threateningly at Allie.

"One move and the girl gets it," the Earl said. It was Lavi's turn to flinch. The Earl hadn't seemed threatening before. His dark look and voice vanished as quickly as it had appeared. "We wouldn't want your cute little daughter to get hurt, now would we?"

"You bastard," Lavi growled. He'd never approved of swearing, but at a time like this, the colorful language seemed appropriate. "Yuu will come for us, and when he does, you all will be—"

"Will be what?" The Earl smirked. "Your husband has no idea where you are, and you're little soothsayer of a daughter can't tell where you are. And you don't know where you are either."

So that was it. There was no hope. Lavi knew Kanda would look to the ends of the Earth for him, but if he had no idea where to start... There was no way Kanda could find them before the Earl did whatever he had planned, and their abductors seemed to know that well.

"Mommy," Allie muttered.

Lavi looked down into his son's pale face. The child gave a nod so small and brief, his mother almost missed it, and then coughs racked his frame. Lavi's eyes widened and he clutched the boy closer to him, to keep Allie from collapsing.

"Get a doctor!" Lavi shouted. The three kidnappers just stood there at a loss. "Get a doctor! Hurry! She'll die!"

That got their asses in gear. The Earl rushed out of the room with his two flunkies on his heels. They didn't, however, forget to lock the door before they left in search of medical assistance.

Allie coughed again, this one real, and then started pulling off his dress and petticoats. "There's got to be a channel or something leading to the ocean for all that seawater," he explained before slipping into the water and letting his legs transform into his ivory-colored tail. "I'll go get help."


Allie paused and turned back to his mother.

"I'll go with you."

But ever-pragmatic Allie shook his head. "The hole will be too small for you. If the Earl is smart enough to kidnap us so that Father can't find us, he'd have thought of you trying to escape. He probably didn't count on me, though."

"Then be careful," Lavi said, trying to keep the worry from his voice. "Go straight to your uncle and aunt. I don't want you alone in the ocean if you don't have to be."

Allie nodded, then dive below the surface. Lavi watched him flit around the large pool, a streak of shimmering scales searching for a way out. A few moments, and he seemed to find one. The small boy tugged on what Lavi assumed to bars blocking off a waterway connecting to the ocean. It took a few tries, but the bars weren't very well made and the cover popped right off. Then Allie squeezed through and was out of sight.

"The doctor is on his way," the Earl said, his false cheerfulness returning as he came back into Lavi's prison. He glanced around the room in search of his other prisoner, but when Allie was nowhere to be found, the Earl's expression became dangerous.

Lavi hid his budding fear with a smirk. "So then," he said nonchalantly, as if the Earl weren't looking like a madman ready to kill, "what's for lunch?"

Allie swam as fast as his tail could take him, a glittering blur racing through dark water. Nothing in the strange ocean seemed familiar, though he'd had only been under the sea a couple times in his whole life because of nearly constant illness. His heart was thumping hard in his chest. He felt out of breath and sick to his stomach, but he knew he had to hurry. If he didn't... Allie didn't want to think of what would happen.

In his rush, he didn't notice the dark shadow creeping up close behind him as he got into deeper waters.

"Watch out!"

Something barreled into Allie and knocked him out of the way just as sharp teeth closed around the water where he once was. The shark spun toward them and charged again.

The person that had shoved Allie away from the aquatic beast lifted a spear and stabbed mercilessly at the shark, which was enough to deter the less than determined creature. The anti-climactic situation over, the person—a Shimmer older than Allie—grinned down at the smaller merman.

"You all right?"

Allie pushed away from the other and nodded meekly.

"You really should be more careful. Don't you know you're not supposed to swim around when injured?"

Now that the other had mentioned it and his race against time had been momentarily interrupted, Allie did feel a painful burning on his tail and arms where he'd scraped against the stone shaft. By now, though, he was used to his second-rate healing ability and promptly ignored them.

Then he realized he was with another merperson who might know where they were. Taking advantage of the situation, Allie asked, "Um, do you know where the castle is?"

The other Shimmer seemed a little surprised. "You're heading in the completely wrong direction, then."

"Oh." Color rose to Allie's cheeks. He felt really stupid now.

"I could take you there, if you want," the Shimmer continued, choosing not to notice Allie's embarrassment.

Allie's eyes lit up. "Thank you so much." He bowed as best he could while underwater.

"But we ought to wait for your wounds to heal."

"That'll take hours, and there's no time for that," Allie said, trying his best to keep his voice even despite the welling panic. "Please, take me there now!"

The Shimmer frowned. "Hours? But..." he stopped when he saw that what Allie said was, in fact, true. The wounds weren't healing, nor showing any sign of healing. He sighed and ran his fingers through his short hair. "All right, all right, but hold on to me. No one's faster than me in any of the seven seas."

Allie did as the other Shimmer asked and wrapped his arms around the merman's neck. And with that, they shot off like a rocket.

It only took a few minutes at this pace to reach the underwater city at that pace. There were a few odd looks from passerby as the Shimmers continued to zip through the water, but the other Shimmer ignored them, so Allie did too.

Soon they reached the castle. Much to Allie's surprise, the guards didn't stop the two of them; instead, they just got the same odd looks as in the city surrounding them. The servants within the castle also gave them odd looks but didn't say a word. Something was weird about the whole thing. When they reached the throne room without any trouble, Allie figured out why.

He'd only ever met his cousins a few times, but he'd only seen them in their fins twice. The Shimmer pulling him along must be one of those cousins. He did seem a little familiar, and it was understandable that he couldn't remember them all considering he had at least twenty last count. He hadn't realized any of his cousins were like himself, a Shimmer.

"Father!" the Shimmer called when they swam into the empty throne room. "There's a Shimmer who wants to... to..." He turned to his cousin. "What is it that you want here, exactly?"

So his cousin hadn't realized they were related yet. "I need to speak with Uncle Allen," Allie replied. He was starting to feel a little dizzy and forced had to force his vision to keep steady. It was probably the pain from his injuries as well as the panic catching up to him.

The Shimmer gaped at Allie. "Uncle?" he repeated dumbly. "Why didn't you say so before!" He shook his head and swam off down a hall Allie assumed to lead to Allen's chambers. He returned a few minutes later with Allen in the lead.

"What's happened?" Allen demanded, taking in Allie's injuries and pale face all at once. "Why are you here by yourself?"

"Mommy was kidnapped," Allie tried to say, but he wasn't sure if the sounds had come out right. He was really dizzy all of a sudden and felt faint. His perpetual illness was catching up with him again.

Allen frowned. "Where is he, Allie?"

"I dunno..." Darkness was pressing in on Allie. He was going to faint again. He just knew it.

"Joshua, where did you find your cousin?" Allen asked.

"About five miles from here, near the land border," the Shimmer replied.

Allen cursed quietly and returned his attentions to Allie. "You're staying here the night," he said firmly. "If you feel better in the morning, I'll take you back to you father and tell him what's happened."

Allie tried to nod, but he was too numb to move right. Warm arms encircled him, and that was all he remembered.

1 In the original "Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Anderson, the mermaid didn't have a soul, which is why she became one of those winged beings who circle the earth.


Well, that's the end of the chapter. I took some liberties with it, as Shim and I are on opposite sides of the country, but it's all Shim approved.

Omake II: Life Sucks

"What's this?" Lavi demanded.

The Earl smiled innocently. "Clothes. We can't expect you to stay in a nightgown all day."

"But why a dress?"

"Because you're a mermaid."

"I've told you once, I'll tell you a thousand times, I'm a guy." Lavi threw the dress the Earl had given him on the tile floor. "Where are my old clothes?"

The Earl made a face. "But you'd look so much better in a dress, Mrs. Mermaid."

Lavi shot a cold look the Earl's way. "And my eye patch?" He'd discovered soon after Allie left that the rich collector had replaced his old eye patch with a large ribbon.

"We burned that. There was just so much seawater in it that no one could wash all the salt out." The Earl's smile grew. "Would you like a different dress than the one I've given you?"

Lavi sighed and picked up the fancy dress. "No. Now go away."