The Gift
By: Verin Mystal
Russia/America (Main), FrUk
Summary: Modern AU. A re-imagining of the Little Mermaid tale.
Disclaimer: I own nothing except for the original ideas in this D:

Ivan stood on the edge of a dock. A wooden plank stood between the dock and the fishing boat his grandfather was stomping around on, checking the nets, the electronic equipment and the engines. It was his sixth birthday. In celebration, his grandfather was taking him out onto the Okhotsk Sea on his fishing boat. Normally his mother would never allow him to go out onto the open sea, but… things had changed since her death.

The memory of her sent a pang of longing stabbing into his chest.

"Now do you have everything? Extra gloves? Food? Water?" Katyusha, nine years old, tucked the cream scarf tighter around Ivan's neck. "When you stand close to the edge, hold onto the side as hard as you can! If you fall in-"

"I know, Katyusha." Ivan grumbled, not wanting to be reminded of his lack of swimming ability. "I will be fine."

Natalia rushed up to him and flung her arms around his waist. "No, no!"

Ivan looked down at his two-year old sister, who was just learning how to talk. So far all she could say was no.

"Stop it, Natasha." Ivan pried her arms away and edged closer to the plank. "I won't fall in, I'll be fine!"

"Ivan!" Grandfather's voice carried from inside the boat. "Hurry up! I want to start while the seas are relatively calm."

"C-coming, dedushka!"

Ivan clutched the ends of his scarf, sent a reassuring smile to his sisters, and ran up the plank into the boat. His grandfather knelt beside the nets, spreading them out and preparing them to be cast off and dragged in the ocean currents.

"Set your things inside." Grandfather pointed to the tiny open room enclosed around the helm. "We will be leaving."

Ivan followed his Grandfather's instructions, setting his bundle of clothing, food and water down and rushing back across the boat.

"While I manage the helm, I want you to get these nets ready to be cast off. Understand?" The older man explained, his eyes a crisp violet. "You make them look like this-" He motioned to the position of the nets. "-and you keep them from tangling together."

Ivan nodded. "I will do it, dedushka."

Seeming satisfied with his answer, Grandfather left him and went to the helm, starting the engine and opening up the throttle. The water swirled and gushed as the boat slowly moved away from the docks. His sisters waved at him for a moment before turning and walking back down the dock. Natalia shouted and pulled at her elder sister's hand, but Katyusha held firm and dragged her back home. Ivan waved back with one hand, and clutched the side wall of the boat with the other. Once they were out of sight, Ivan turned away and focused onto the flat horizon of the northern pacific. The stark, salty air filled his nose and mouth with each breath he took.

Returning to the nets, he continued to straighten them as his dedushkashowed him, making sure they were not tangled, twisted or wrapped around each other. Upon finishing his task, he returned to his grandfather's side and peered up at him and the controls of the boat. It was something his grandfather had been doing for his entire life. Fishing from the local sea's off the coast, and using what he caught to live off of. He lived fairly comfortably alone, but once his three grand children came to live with him, things got tight. They moved into a larger home, with two bedrooms instead of one, so Ivan and his sisters could share one room, while his grandfather had another. How large their meals at home were depended on how well Grandfather did out at sea for the day. Their clothing was mostly home made, thanks to the efforts of his elder sister.

Ivan had leaned back against the inner walls that surrounded the helm and taken to watch his grandfather's slow movements and intense, albeit thoughtful, stare.

"There," was all he said before setting the helm on a straight path before turning away. "Come Ivan. It is time to cast out the nets.

"Ahh… its soooo~ cold!"

Alfred shivered and hugged his arms around his chest. His twin swam beside him, his stormy-blue tail moving easily through the frigid water.

"I like it here." Matthew smiled and shot ahead at the sight of a school of killer whales. "Look! Let's go talk to them-"

Arthur grabbed the twin by the tail and tugged him back. "Ah-ah…those creatures are notorious for mistaking us for a meal, Matthew." Arthur chided, flicking his own green, fully grown tail behind him. "They are as stubborn as crustaceans, damn little buggers."

"I want to go back to the south pacific. I like it there!" Alfred complained, still shivering, his sky-blue tail quivering softly.

"I am showing you the oceans of the world, as tradition states when you two reach six years, on the second moon of the New Year." Arthur explained. "We've only this, and then the arctic ocean."

Alfred whined a keening high pitched cry as he clutched his hands tighter around himself. "But that's even colder!"

"It's not thatbad, Alfred." Matthew grabbed his twin's arm and tugged him close, wrapping his small arms around him to warm him up. "You're just used to the warmer Caribbean waters back…home…"

Canada trailed off at the sound of a distant roar. The twins looked around in bewilderment, eyes growing wide with confusion and fear. Arthur glared of into the distance and swam ahead. The twins followed him. A dark, looming shadow moved over head, thin, wispy tendrils all tied together stretched out behind it.

"What is it?" Alfred asked, voice rising in alarm. "What-" His young, sky-blue eyes caught sight of the fish caught within the webs. "Look, those fish are caught!"

Alfred pulled away from Matthew and swam toward the surface, but Arthur caught him by the arm.

"No, Alfred!" Arthur warned. "Those are humans. We can't interfere with them!"

"But the fish-"

"They are going to be caught and be eaten." Arthur explained savagely. "There is nothing we can do."

Alfred frowned and ripped away from Arthur, flicking his tail at Arthur's face before shooting towards the thing.

"Alfred, no!" Arthur went after him. "Stop!"

Alfred gripped the underside of the thing and tried tearing the tendrils apart, but it held firm, the strands soft as kelp but strong as coral. Growing desperate, he brought the strands to his teeth and chewed at them for a moment. Having no success, he was about to start yanking at it when the net twisted suddenly, and he entered the wake from the dark shadow. Fast moving water slammed into him, and he toppled head over heads, falling inside the web. Arthur reached the side and gripped the strands.

"Alfred!" He called eyes wide with worry. "Alfred!"

He tried tearing the strands away while fighting the strong current caused by the shadow, but they held firm. A low, groaning sound erupted, and the thing started pulling up towards the surface. "No!"

"Alfred!" Matthew called, reddening eyes glistening with invisible tears.

Fear finally taking hold, and Alfred pressed himself against the bottom of the web and reached through to grasp at Arthur's shoulder. "Papa, save me!"

"Hold on, I'm trying!" Arthur cried, chewing at the tendrils and managing to shred one apart. "No, stop!" He yelled at the thing, yanking at it and tearing through another. "Wait-!"

Alfred cried and reached for Arthur again, his fingers wide and outstretched as he passed beyond the surface.

"Ahh we've gotten something big!" Grandfather exclaimed with a smile. "Come, let's unload it over here."

Ivan helped pulled the net over to a larger, roped off section of the boat, where the fish that was caught for the day was stored in the chunks of ice and snow until they returned to the docks. Holding the bulging net over the area, Grandfather moved to the opposite side, reached up and opened the bottom of the net. Large salmon, tuna, smaller ocean fish, and a large, fantastical creature fell into the roped off area.

Ivan gasped and stared wide-eyed. It was a boy…only instead of legs, it had a long fish tail that was twice as long as its torso. It lay sprawled among the fish and ice chunks, soaking wet and keening softly, tears streaming down its human face. Grandfather gawked openly, his grizzled face growing pale with shock.

"It is a merman…or a selkie? A merrow…?" Grandfather stuttered. "But-but how?"

Ivan stepped closer, his wide violet eyes glistening with surprise. "A merman…but it's like me." He exclaimed, referring to his young age. "He's sad, dedushka."

"Do not touch him!" Grandfather ordered suddenly, making Ivan jump slightly. "I need to use the radio. Do not stand so close, understand? This will finally help us live comfortably, Ivan. I can finally afford for you and your sisters to go to a nice school, wear new clothes, and never have to worry about food again."

Without waiting for an answer, Grandfather entered the room where the helm was, shutting the door behind him. Ivan watched him for a moment, eyes wide with hope after listening to his Grandfather's words before turning back to the creature lying before him. It was still crying, only now he turned on his side and curled into a ball, its tail curling up and around its head. The happy, elated feeling rapidly receded.

"Boy… why are you sad?" Ivan asked, frowning. Maybe he has sisters, like me…if I was taken away from my sisters, I would be sad too."Will you miss your family?"

The boy finally turned to look at him, sniffling and shivering. Ivan clenched the robe, eyes shining with worry. The merboy peered at him, blinking back tears. Ivan motioned to the ocean and then pointed at him.

"You want to go back home?" Ivan asked, feeling sorry for the creature. "Back to your family?"

The creature nodded frantically, and tried dragging himself over the ropes. Ivan stepped forward and grasped him under the arms, lifting him up with a grunt and slowly staggering backwards. Water exploded on the side of the boat, splashing both Ivan and the creature. Ivan turned around, eyes widening into saucers when another creature appeared, this time a fully grown adult. It growled at him and lunged for Alfred, angry desperation filling his emerald green eyes.

The boy cried out, and reached for the merman, who grabbed Alfred by the hand and jerked him to his chest.

Ivan heaved a sigh of relief and moved to step back, when the creature encircled clawed fingers around his wrist and yanked him forward.

"Ahh!" Ivan cried, fear filling him. "Dedushka!"

The door from the helm exploded open, grandfather staring wide eyed, Dropping the receiver, he lunged forward, reaching for Ivan. The merman hissed at him and flung himself over board, taking both the merboy and Ivan with him.

"Ivan!" Grandfather shouted, clutching the side of the boat. "Give him back!"

"No, Arthur!" Alfred cried, trying to tear himself away from his adoptive father's death grip. "He was helpingme escape!"

"It serves the old saltright after attempting to take you away from me!" Arthur growled, swimming deeper and pulling the struggling, drowning human boy with him. "He should know better than to cross me!"

"No!" Alfred cried, clawing at him and reaching for the boy. "He was trying to save me! Don't drown him! Please!"

The boy twisted and pulled desperate at Arthur's grip, scratching him and clenching his lips shut until his chest clenched, and a gush of air escaped. Water filled the boy's throat as his body reacted violently.

"No!" Alfred hit Arthur with his fists, who released them both in surprise. Alfred grabbed the drowning boy, clutched him to his chest and pressed his lips to his in hopes of drawing the water from his lungs and filling them with much needed air. It worked, and Alfred rushed him back to the surface.

Ivan gagged and coughed up salt water upon breaking the surface. His lungs burned, his throat ached and his head felt light. The world spun around him as he wheezed for air.

"Ivan-Ivan!" Grandfather shouted, looking more worried and scared than he'd ever seen him before.

"Dedushka…" Ivan wheezed between coughs, tears gathering in his eyes from the traumatic, near death experience. He reached out to him as the merboy grunted and brought him alongside to the boat.

The moment Ivan was within arm's reach, Grandfather grabbed his out stretched hands and gathered him into his arms, hugging him fiercely. Ivan clung to him and relaxed in the protective, familiar presence his grandfather held. Turning his head around, he caught sight of the boy, his blonde hair and bright blue eyes shown brilliantly under the late-winter sun. Ivan smiled gratefully in thanks.

The boy smiled back and raised a hand, curling the fingers at him in an awkward goodbye before disappearing beneath the surface.

"Ivan, are you alright?" Katyusha cried, gathering him in her arms. "You're all wet!"

"No! No!" Natalia cried, clinging to her brother's right leg.

"I..I just fell in." Ivan explained, having rehearsed this answer multiple times with his grandfather on the way back. "I leaned over too far and fell in."

"Oh thank god you're okay." She hugged him again, and reached for a blanket, wrapping it around him and rubbing his still damp hair. "I think it will be a while before you go out with Grandfather again."

"Aww…" Ivan frowned and pouted up at his elder sister. "But I liked going fishing with dedushka."

I want to see that boy again.

Natalia ran up the ganway to her grandfather. Katyusha followed after her, growing worrying at her wobbly legs as they scurried up the path. Grandfather scooped her up and hugged her warmly, offering an arm for Katyusha to enter, so she could be hugged too.

Ivan smiled at them, happy his family was alright. Just as he was about to rejoin them, a splash sounded nearby. Turning towards the sound, he walked down the dock and found a large pearl sitting on the edge. Eyes widening, he picked it up. It was as large as a golfball. Gasping, he picked it up and went to show it to his grandfather when a hissing, gasping sound emerged from under the dock. Frowning, Ivan stooped over and found the boy from earlier staring back at him.

"Ah- it's you!" Ivan cried, but quickly muffled by throwing his hands over his mouth. After his family made no move towards him, he lowered his hands back to his sides. "What are you doing here?"

The boy smiled and pointed to the pearl he clutched, and then pointed to himself.

"You left this for me?" Ivan asked.

The boy nodded.

Ivan smiled in thanks and pointed to his chest. "I am Ivan." He then pointed to the boy. "Who are you?"

The creature frowned in confusion for a moment. He opened, closed and reopened his mouth. Finally, he gave up, frowning deeply. Ivan shook his head.

"It's alright-"

"Ivan!" Katyusha called. "We're going to the market to see the fish!"

Ivan turned around to find his sister motioning for him to follow. Natalia clung to the ends of her skirts while Grandfather carried a canvas bag filled with their small catch for the day.

"Ah- coming!" Ivan called.

When he turned back to say goodbye, the boy was gone.

Extra Notes:

Dedushka = grandfather/grandpa

Sea of Okhotsk – [Wiki] "…is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean,[1] lying between the Kamchatka Peninsula on the east, the Kuril Islands on the southeast, the island of Hokkaidō to the far south, the island of Sakhalin along the west, and a long stretch of eastern Siberian coast (including the Shantar Islands) along the west and north. The northeast corner is Shelikhov Gulf. It is named after Okhotsk, the first Russian settlement in the Far East."

About the merman/merrow = basically, I took attributes from both of these and mashed them together. Most of you already know what a merman/maid is, but a merrow and selkie are different. [wiki] "(A merrow) is the Scottish and Irish Gaelic equivalent of the mermaid and mermen of other cultures. These beings are said to appear as human from the waist up but have the body of a fish from the waist down. They have a gentle, modest, affectionate and benevolent disposition."

Selkie(s) = [Wiki] "Selkies (also known as silkies or selchies) are mythological shapeshifting creatures that are found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish, and Scottish folklore. Selkies are seals that can shed their skin to become humans. The legend apparently originated on the Orkney and Shetland Islands, where selch or selk(ie) is the Scots word for seal (from Old English seolh).[1]"

Killer Whales = [Wiki] "The killer whale (Orcinus orca), commonly referred to as the orca, and less commonly as the blackfish, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family. Killer whales are found in all oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas. Killer whales as a species have a diverse diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals such as sea lions, seals, walruses and even large whales. Killer whales are regarded as apex predators, lacking natural predators and preying on even large sharks."