Moon and Sun
Pairing: Ariel (The Little Mermaid) & Kaldur'ahm/Aqualad (Young Justice)
Notes: written for the Young Justice meme on live journal.
She's the rare kind—naturally curious, a little troublesome, and headstrong. People say she sets horrible examples of being a noble. She is, after all, born to be involved in the Court. Several have stated she will cause nothing but problems for Atlantis. Though these are low mutters and hushed whispers, he still hears them and he knows she does too.
They call her difficult. He calls her beautiful.
He hadn't meant to tell her that. Ever. He always had believed she knew that already.
Queen Mera has an older brother, who had married before her, a mermaid, somewhat common in Atlantis. Her family had been born into higher society, of class and wealth. Her sibling—Triton—holds a place in the Council, amongst the lawmakers of Atlantis, where his children are expected to serve their empire.
Being in the academy, he grows with several friends—including Mera's nieces. Triton has seven daughters; the youngest is three years to Kaldur's senior. While Kaldur finds friendship within Garth and Tula, the sisters uncover him as a family extension, akin to a brother.
It is Queen Mera who introduces him to their world. Due to his mother's high position, the King and Queen of Atlantis come to see him something like a nephew, thus connection with her family is inevitable. Through muffled giggles covered in their palms at the sight of him, sing-song voices and high pitched screams when they didn't get their way, Kaldur discovers another perspective. These are princesses—or at least they are looked upon that way. He's nothing but a pauper in their midst, yet they accept him. That's what Queen Mera says anyway.
"Teasing means they like you, Kaldur'ahm," she reveals when he's leaning against a pillar of the large estate, knees pulled against his chest. Kaldur chooses to believe his Queen.
They mock his two legs often. Kaldur has trouble keeping up with them in their games of racing and tag—making fun of him is expected by now.
Not all of them, however.
She's always stood out and when he first met her, he hadn't believed she was truly related. Vibrant crimson hair, pale skin and cobalt eyes. Her difference attracts him, though he does not draw near. It will always be her who closes the distance between them.
Her first words to him: "Can I have your legs?"
Kaldur, at the age of nine, blinks and shakes his head. How can one simply take his legs? He's never wished for fins; legs have contented him, legs are what the King possesses. It had been the defining moment of a vain imagination for Kaldur—wishful thinking is what he acknowledged it as.
"Because you cannot."
While this answer is followed by tantrums and many tears, Kaldur remembers this being a factor in their relationship. She'll be that mermaid who wanted what he had.
And he'll be that boy who felt guilty for it.
The sisters fight for his attention. He realizes this at ten years of age. They swim and play at the palace, in corridors, under the surveillance of servants. Aquata, the oldest, starts it. Kaldur'ahm is my friend, not yours and He likes me more's comments are thrown around and a strange and prideful feeling swells in his chest. Whilst Garth and Tula often show affection, he's never been fought overand watching presents some self-importance for him.
Ariel involves herself, not because her sisters are doing it, not because she wants him for herself—it's because it's a challenge. These things come easy for her and this shouldn't be any different.
Until he actually picks one of them. It's childish and very expected (well, not to the kids, of course), but it shocks them terribly. To this day, Kaldur doesn't remember but she does. The oldest, naturally. It's a quiet and vague decision but the rest of the sisters see it and Ariel feels like she's lost a battle. Kaldur remains oblivious as he merely sways to Aquata's side and she flashes everyone a triumphant smile.
Ariel still quarrels though, even though the small child has no idea what she is fighting for anymore.
"Are you a prince, Kaldur'ahm?"
All he can do is shake his head and frown.
"I was not born that way."
"But you can become a prince."
"No, I cannot."
Ariel glares and pushes him unexpectedly and he knows there could be a potential tantrum heading his way. "Yes, you can!" she screeches and he winces. "You're one of us!"
"But I am not," he interjects, feeling as if he must make his status known in her world. "And you are not like me."
Nine year old Ariel stares back and he sees something change in her. Unhappy, Ariel nears and tentatively touches his neck, ever the bold one and he halts. The slits upon his neck, gills, she covers for a brief moment before withdrawing and holding fingers to her own neck.
"But I can be," she murmurs.
But he shakes his head again and she offers another shove.
"You don't understand," Ariel tells him because she knows he doesn't. Not just yet.
Garth and Tula serve as friends in his life and Queen Mera's nieces are like sisters. Except for Ariel, who will always stand apart from them. Different and ever-so strange, she's proud and yet so envious. And though, here she is, always by his side now.
She follows him everywhere. He can't tell her no, even when he wants to. The little princess refuses to accept such a command. (But he's never ordered her around—it's the other way around.) Ariel strives to learn sorcery as he attends the academy. Kaldur reluctantly teaches her what he learns, which doesn't take them far.
Getting him in trouble is common now. Ariel laughs as he stammers before authority figures, grasping for a lie to cover for her—it's never serious but she comes clean in the end anyway. His honesty balances her deception as well as her curiosity equals his lack of concern (or simply: he'd rather listen to what he's told). His loyalty will amaze her constantly and her willingness to press forward astounds him. They begin to learn from each other, taking what they can in their development.
Having Ariel as a friend never registers to Kaldur; having Kaldur as a brother doesn't ring true. There is something unspoken between them—something that tingles over the top layer of his skin as she reaches to hug him, something that causes her to hold her breath as he returns a smile. But they're children and other things matter, like school and playing.
Perhaps it is not strong enough for now. After all, Tula and Garth seem to matter more to him, Ariel realizes with some bitterness one day. That's fine, she decides. She'll merely seek out more friends than he; she'll find more purpose than he holds.
People say things about her and Kaldur wishes he never heard them. He doesn't care for such rudeness and as a young teen, he takes it too personally.
"You are not what they say," he says one morning as they lay on the ocean floor, near crevices that fall deep inside the earth.
Rolling over on her side, Ariel meets his gaze and her eyes flicker over his face. "But I am what they say, Kaldur'ahm. What else is there?" She glances upwards, towards the surface, towards dreams. "There's nothing else."
There is me, Kaldur could say, but she would only laugh.
She drags him into explorations and he reluctantly keeps by her.
They discover old, sunken ships made from so long ago. The other sea creatures make it their home, eels slinking in and out of the cracks, schools of fish travel together from corner to corner.
Kaldur looks upwards, where the skylight somehow reaches below the surface, finding its way through the broken cracks and deteriorating wood. It finds her, skimming her fingertips along the walls, grasping onto rusted things she calls treasures. It won't find him—he's never understood by anyone, as he drifts against the wood and in crooks within the darkness.
Her obsession with the surface brings about conversations of what dwells there. Her father—and most of Atlantis—despise what is there, what lives in the other world. Kaldur has never held such prejudice for he does not comprehend the hatred. Ariel embraces what is unknown. While he lies in the middle of the spectrum, she is on the far right, wishing to know more of the humans and sometimes Kaldur thinks she wants to be them too.
"Do you come along to see what is here?" Ariel asks while on one of their expeditions.
Kaldur places a hand on the ship's wall, blinking away. "No, I do not."
Ariel turns to him, raising an eyebrow and ready to tell him he can just leave. He's honest and sometimes that gets her so annoyed. Whether he approves or not, he's still with her and maybe that means something—but if he's unwilling and would rather be with them, she doesn't want to deal with him.
His eyes find hers and she instantly scowls when he shrugs. "You wish me to be here."
Ariel sniffs and flicks her wrist in the other direction. "Then go back to Garth and Tula. If you don't want to be here, you don—"
"I do," he states and smiles gingerly. "I want to be here too."
"With me," she states and there's a small question within and he detects it.
"With you," he confirms and they don't mention it again.
Perhaps she's feels like the sunken ships they uncover; she's rooted and will remain in the light she wishes to pursue. He's like the fish, drifting about but keeps near because what else can he do? He has opportunity, she doesn't.
Or maybe it's something entirely different.
There is a cavern she keeps secret. They discovered it together by accident.
Ariel uses it as a hiding place, he knows. Kaldur has only been there a few times when he needed to hunt for her. It's when she has an argument with her father or does not get her way while in the academy. In a way, it's their little secret as she fills it with those odd things she calls treasures.
When he slips through the cave's opening and locates her in the center, lying on a flat bolder, their eyes meet immediately.
"I didn't want to be found."
"Yes, you did," he replies, already turning to leave.
She doesn't answer because it's true. And she follows him out; their skin touch for a brief moment and she knows he sees how broken she looks.
She sings lullabies and songs she remembers her mother singing. He listens intently, though it doesn't look like it. Singing is common in Atlantis and it's not exactly out of the norm, but Triton's daughters are known for it.
Ariel bumps her shoulder with his and prompts him to sing along. Smiling to himself, Kaldur does what she wants, their voices strangely matching in some way, only for them to hear.
Tula has found a place in Kaldur's heart and it's something both Kaldur and Ariel try to ignore. The rest of the sisters find it adorable, once they probe him long enough, asking what that wrapped gift in his hands is for. Ariel narrows her eyes and crinkles her nose, though no one takes mind to it.
"Are you going to marry her?" Adella asks, innocently and Kaldur flushes.
"I—no. I am simply giving her a birthday present!"
Ariel scoffs abruptly and everyone turns their attention to her. "She'll never know if you like her or not if you don't tell her, dummy."
He frowns at her flippant comment and the gift in his hands feels heavier suddenly. Self-consciously, "I cannot."
"Ariel," Andrina hushes her.
"It's true," Ariel protests. "Besides, I've met Tula. She's not a princess. She's not even like us. I don't see her with a crown. Why would you like her?"
Kaldur feels the need to defend Tula, however he is unsure. If Ariel can so easily dismiss Tula, will she do the same to him? And Tula does not know about his crush. It would be disastrous for things to fall apart now. Kaldur sighs and turns away as the sisters bother him further, though Ariel stays behind, crossing her arms defiantly.
When she catches his gaze for a moment, Ariel sticks her tongue out, rebelliously. Kaldur purses his lips for a moment before ignoring her.