Cast Your Soul
Eric wakes up. That already is a better outcome than the oe he had been expecting. Hi head pounds and he's dizzy, his stomach heavy: too much ocean water.
Then he remembers: Ariel, the Sea Witch, the fight. Eric stands up, ignoring the way his stomach churns, the heaviness in his chest much more important than that the water and a storm coul cause.
"Ariel!" he calls, looking around, frantic, terrified that maybe he found her just to lose her, this time for good.
And then he sees her, sitting by the rocks. He smiles, relief flowing through his body as he rushes to the ocean, the water lapping at his feet, his ankles. But he stops smiling soon enough: Ariel is crying, her eyes misty and sad, so very sad.
"Goodbye," she says before she jumps from the rocks and into the ocean, the scales of her tail shimmering jade and turquoise before she disappears.
Eric wonders if this is what she felt when the Sea Witch cast her spell upon him, nd if her heart had broken the same way as his.
Grimsby tries in his own way to cheer him up: there are a lot of other princesses, milord. Anyone of them would be so happy to become your queen. Why, even if you chose someone who wasn't royalty, our kingdom has plenty of beautiful and kind maidens.
"You don't get it, Grimsby?" Eric asks, his eyes still on the ocean. "I don't want anyone else. I love her."
Grimsby's eyes are sad on his, pitiful to a degree, yes, but the sadness, Eric knows, is genuine.
"I know that, prince Eric. But there is no way for you two to be together. She is a mermaid, and you..."
"I'm not, I know!" Eric glares at his reflection on the window, yearning for the ocean the way he has never yearned for it, and he has spent half his life or more in love with it.
Grimsby sighs before he lets him be, walking out of the room.
Ariel comes back when the moon is full upon the sky. She sits on her rocks and she sings for him through the night, as long as Eric doesn't come near. Instead, Eric plays his flute by the shore, separated by the ocean they both love.
He kisses his fingers when the sunrises and Ariel smiles a brief smile before she goes back to her father and her family.
And through the rest of the month, as they wait for another full moon, she leaves presents for him, sea shells and coins from times gone by. Eric keeps every one of them, even the forks. He gets a room for all his ocean treasures, for a year.
Autumn turns into winter, and with it dignitary visits. Eric complains late at night as he walks by the ocean shore, and ever now and then he swims around, so he starts talking about his day, about things he liked, about what he saw, sharing his world with her the same wa she has been giving him her world in bits and pieces, one at a time.
And with spring, festivals, music, dancing.
"I'd love to dance with you again," Eric tells Ariel, and then he regrets it when her eyes look pained. Other than her songs, she doesn't speak to him, as if that would make it easier for them both, but it's useless when her eyes can say so much, and right then they are saying 'I'd love that, too'.
Spring brings storms and rain and he barely sees her, coming up as dangerous to her as it would be for him to go into the ocean. Eric imagines he can hear her voice in the howling winds.
Summer, summer he goes to her, and they dance in the water, and play and laugh. They swim with the moon shining like silver and Ariel is tiny and almost fragile in her arms when he kisses her.
"I love you," Eric tells her, around the familiar pain of losing with the waves.
"I love you too," Ariel says, and her eyes are bluer than any ocean Eric has ever seen.
Fall comes again and then, a night before Ariel comes to him, it's king Triton the one who appears, as serious and intimidating as ever, and Eric thinks that the stories and songs about him don't make him justice at all.
He bows. "Your majesty."
"My daughter is suffering," king Triton says as an answer, and Eric's heart twists inside him. "Because of you."
"I know. I would make it better if I could," because his heart is breaking too.
"What would you do?" Triton asks, his eyes on Eric's.
Eric doesn't hesitate when he says: "Anything at all."
Ariel counts the waves, each treasure and each song she'll give Eric in just a few more hours. It has to be enough, she thinks, and then she fears what will happen when it's not. Her sisters keep telling her that one day she'll find someone else, and so far thinking about that just makes her cry.
Hands cover her eyes then and she sighs, trying to shrug them off.
"Adella, I told you I'm fine," she murmurs, and when the hands remain covering her eyes, she pushes-- but a hand traps hers, a masculine hand.
She turns around.
"Surprised?" Eric smiles at her, turning around, fins instead of legs.
"But--" A dream, perhaps. She has had those a thousand of times, a way for them to be together.
"Your father and I talked," Eric says. "Six months here in Atlantica, six months in my kingdom. If you'll have me."
She flings her arms around him, kissing him around his laughter, around her own joy. Eric's hand cradles the back of his head before he pulls away for a moment, looking at her.
"I have one condition, though?"
He flips his fin.
"Help me learn how to deal with this thing."