The Gift
By: Verin Mystal

Summary: Modern AU. A re-imagining of the Little Mermaid tale.
Disclaimer: I own nothing except for the original ideas in this D:

Note: The main purpose of the next few parts is to show how young, cute Ivan turned into angry!scary! adult Ivan. (The same goes with Natalia and Katyusha). I want to get the character building/set up out of the way so we can have room for fluffy, teeth rotting romance later on. Also, sorry for the lack of Alfred in this part.

Ivan stared at his plate and pushed the remains of his food around with his fork. Three days had come and gone, and the boy never returned to the cove.

It is my fault. I shouldn't have said anything.

Sadness filled him at the prospect of never seeing his new found friend again. He had enjoyed the boy's company, as he seemed endlessly enthusiastic and happy when ever Ivan came back to the cove to visit.

I'll go back tomorrow. Ivan resolved. He'll definitely show up tomorrow.

The thought gave him hope, but he continued to push his food across his plate. Katyusha peered at him in worry.

"Vanya, what is wrong?" Katyusha glanced at his dinner plate, the contents barely touched. "You have hardly eaten."

"Ah-" Ivan quickly shook his head. "It's nothing, Katya. I'm just not hungry."

Grandfather glanced at Ivan. "Are you not feeling well?"

Ivan nodded, deciding it would be better to lie rather than tell them the truth about his friend leaving him.

"I don't feel well." Ivan sighed mournfully. "May I go to bed?"

Grandfather nodded, excusing him from the table. Katyusha took his plate while Natalia smacked her spoon on the table repeatedly.

"No!" She cried, watching Ivan leave the room. "No, no!"

Ivan escaped to the bedroom and dressed for bed, sliding under the covers and pulling them up and over his head.

Tomorrow. He promised himself. He'll come back tomorrow and I'll apologize.

The boy never came back.

Ivan sat on the beach and waited for hours. Taking time to wade in the pool, to fish with his special lures, to watch the baby fish hatchlings, crabs and plant life in the shallow, clear waters of the cove…but the boy never came back. The only thing Ivan had to remember the boy was the pearl. Fishing it out of his pocket, he sat down on the sand and stared at it. The milky white surface of the round sphere felt smooth under the rough pads of his fingers.

He's never coming back…and it's all my fault. Ivan sighed again and closed his hand around the pearl. But at least…I have this to remember him. Maybe… someday he'll come back for this? Ivan felt hope fill him, despite knowing it might never happen.

Closing his hand around the pearl, he tucked it into his pocket, picked up the fishing pole and his ton box of hooks and lures…and left the beach without looking back.

School started, and Ivan threw himself into the activities and learning. Katyusha went to the same school, being only a few years older than him while Natalia stayed at home with Grandfather, as she was still too young. The days passed by slowly as the warm summer months melted into Autumn. The strange event that happened all those months ago seemed almost like a dream. Did it really happen? Was that boy really a merman or was it something I dreamed? Whenever he thought this, he would return home…and one look at the pearl made those doubts wash away.

Grandfather seemed to be spending more time reading letters and taking phone calls. Assuming it was his job, Ivan didn't concern himself with it and focused on school. Only Katyusha frowned worriedly whenever Grandfather would pick up the phone.

"Yes, of course." Grandfather rumbled into the phone while scratching his grizzled face. "I understand."

Ivan sat at the table, cleaning his hooks and lures of fish and salt residue. Natalia sat across from him, scribbling colorfully on a piece of paper. Katyusha sat beside Ivan, her homework laid out before her untouched as she stared at Grandfather, worry and apprehension filling her face.

"I agree." Grandfather admitted with reluctance and leaned against the wall where the phone was perched. "I think it would be for the best. Right…yes. Goodbye." He hung the phone and sighed, scratched his face a bit more before turning to the table.

"What is it?" Katyusha asked. "Who was that? What's going on?"

Ivan glanced at his sister before turning to Grandfather, frowning. Natalia continued scribbling, oblivious to the situation.

Grandfather stepped over to the table, pulled out a chair and sat down.

"That was your father."

Ivan stared, blinking periodically. …Father? Like… our real father?

"Father?" Katyusha asked, frowning. "What did he want?"

"He wishes for you three to live with him in America." Grandfather exclaimed. "He wants to raise you."

"But- Mother died two years ago!" Katyusha cried tearfully, standing up. "He's just now calling for us?"

"He said when your mother died, he wasn't ready to take on three children." Grandfather explained. "Now he lives in a bigger home and can afford to raise you."

Ivan stared with his mouth hanging open. Natalia stopped her scribbling to stare at her sister.

"So…we're leaving?" Ivan asked, utterly confused. "We're…going to live with him?"

Grandfather nodded. "He lives in San Francisco."

Ivan whispered the name to himself. It sounded forced and awkward with his heavy Russian accent.

"He will be here in three days." Grandfather continued. "He is arranging transportation."

Katyusha clenched her fists and left the room, tears brimming in her eyes. Natalia watched her sister leave the room with an inquiring stare before jumping down to the floor and rushing after her. Ivan stared at Grandfather, still holding a hook and damp, soapy rag in the other. Grandfather sighed reached across the table.

"Here, clean it like this." Grandfather took the hook from Ivan's prone fingers, and showed him how to clean it properly. "See?"

"Mmm." Ivan hummed, and looked up at the elder man.

Grandfather stared down at him and smiled sadly. "Are you angry at me?"

"No." Ivan answered truthfully. He didn't really know how to take this. Should he be happy? Sad? He felt excited andscared at the prospect of living a foreign city. His stomach twisted into knots at the thought.

"Good." Grandfather's smile widened and he set the clean hook in the tin case. "You will not be able to bring this with you on the airplane, so I will make sure it is sent to you by mail."

Ivan nodded, seeming unable to comprehend all of this.

"Your father is more successful than I am at his…career." Grandfather admitted, his voice rough and hesitant. "He is a businessman. You will have a large home with your own room. Plenty of food …and a nice school, I assume."

Ivan nodded again. Something inside his chest shuddered and twisted about.

"Your mother and father may have divorced before you can remember them together, but they loved all three of you." Grandfather nodded, as if he were trying to convince himself. "I am sure she would have wanted this for you three…due to the situation here."

"Deda…" Ivan started. "I don't-"

"Go to bed."


"Go to bed!" Grandfather ordered, fixing the boy with a narrow look.

Ivan swallowed tearfully and ran to his room. Upon entering, he found Katyusha laying on her bed and hugging a pillow to herself. Natalia lay pressed to her side. Ivan stepped close and peered at her tear-streaked cheeks, frowning after a moment.

"Go to sleep, vanya." Katyusha sighed, forcing a smile to her face for his benefit. "Everything will be okay."

"I…alright." Ivan gave in to his sisters demands and went to his own bed to burrow under the covers. After a minute, the covers were pushed aside as Natalia crawled into his bed. Ivan, thinking nothing of it, let her cuddle against him.

If Katya says it will be okay…then I won't worry.

Father is coming.

Ivan bounced a red ball to another boy. The boy grinned as he caught it, and bounced it back to Ivan. Other children filled the playground, playing various games and activities.

I wonder what he looks like. Will he be nice and take us fishing, like Grandfather? Ivan thought, catching the ball and bouncing it back. Grandfather says he loves us…but Katya has fought with grandfather a lot. Does she want to stay, like me?


Glancing up at his teacher's call, he found the young woman waving at him. Ivan bounced the ball back to the boy and crossed the playground to come at her side. Once he came close, his teacher smiled at him.

"Your Grandfather is here to pick you up early." She opened the door for him, letting him step inside before walking ahead. Ivan followed her to the office, where Grandfather was chatting with the secretary and signing an assortment of papers. Katyusha sat in one of the hard chairs with her book bag sitting on her lap. A deep frown filled her face as she crossed her arms over her chest. Ivan walked up to her.

"Is it…is father here?" Ivan couldn't help but feel strange saying "father".

"Yes." Katyusha sighed and opened her arms, gathering Ivan into them. "Everything will be okay."

Ivan peered at her and wondering why she was acting so strangely.

"Come, let's go." Grandfather came to them, a packet of papers tucked under his arm.

Leaving the office, he walked outside to the old, green truck. Katyusha and Ivan sat squished in the passenger seat while Grandfather drove. The air felt thick inside the cabin. Grandfather stared into the horizon, eyes dark and face grim. Katyusha glared out the passenger window. Ivan stared at Grandfather for a long moment before turning to Katyusha.

"What's wrong?" Ivan finally asked, not liking the atmosphere. "Why are you upset?"

Katyusha turned to him and smiled reassuringly. She wrapped an arm around him and squeezed him to her side.

"Nothing's wrong." Katyusha pressed her face to Ivan's hair. Something wet touched his scalp. "Everything will be okay."

Why does she keep saying that? Ivan frowned. Something is wrong.

Grandfather said nothing and continued to stare through the wind shield.

This doesn't feel right.

Their tiny house finally came into view. Another car sat out front. The sun reflected off the black paint, sparkling slightly.

Once the truck rumbled to a halt, Katyusha and Ivan stepped out, with Grandfather following close behind. Before they could cross the yard, the front door opened and Natalia exploded from the doorway.

"No, no!" Natalia cried, slamming into her brother and hugging his legs fiercely.

"Not so hard, Natasha." Ivan scolded gently, prying her arms from around him.

Ivan looked up.

A tall man with jet black hair, trimmed goatee and cold grey eyes stood in the doorway. He was very tall and thick chested. He wore a heavy black coat, dark blue jeans with a white button-top. Katyusha stood rigid beside him. Natalia turned and peered at the man for a moment before hiding behind her brother.

"Ivan." The man smiled. "It is nice to see you again."

Ivan stared and remained where he stood. The man seemed vaguely familiar…and a complete stranger all at once


"You probably don't remember me…" The man started, taking a hesitant step forward. "But I raised you until you were four years old."

Ivan didn't move. The man waited for a long moment before he turned to Katyusha.

"Hello." Katyusha greeted him, but kept her arms crossed.

Father studied her a moment before turning to Grandfather.

"Their things are packed." Grandfather explained. "You have my number and mailing address?"

"Yes." Father nodded. "And I gave you my home number and mailing address already. Thank you for being so understanding in this. I only wish I would have been able to pick them up sooner…"

Katyusha glared at him. Natalia peered at him from around Ivan's left leg.

"Well… the plane ticket has us leaving six hours from now. We have a long car ride ahead…"

Father awkwardly crossed the yard and opened the car doors. Grandfather remained standing by the house. Katyusha ran across the yard and flung her arms around Grandfather, who hugged her in return. Ivan looked from his father and back to Grandfather, eyes widening with fearful realization.

"You…are not coming?" Ivan asked, voice wavering.

Grandfather smiled despite the sadness in his gaze.

"I cannot go with you, vanechka." Grandfather admitted. "I must stay here."

Ivan choked on a gasp. Natalia peered up at Ivan for a moment before looking back at her sister. Releasing her brother, she raced across the yard to Grandfather, who picked her up and hugged her to his chest.

"Nyet…" Ivan whispered, eyes growing hot with tears. "Deda…"

Ivan clenched his fists and stood rooted to the ground. Grandfather isn't coming. Is this why Katyusha was angry? Is this why Grandfather was upset?

"Nyet… Ya ne hochu uezzhat'!" Ivan shouted, the flood gates opening as hot tears started streaming down his face. "Ya hochu ostatsya s dedushkoy!"

No… I don't want to go! I want to stay with Grandpa!

He ran across the yard into Grandfather's open arms. Shaking and trembling like a leaf while he sobbed into the elder man's right leg. Grandfather finally knelt and wrapped his arms around the three of them.

"Do not be sad, Ivan." Grandfather gently admonished. "Ya vsegda budu pomnit' o vas."

I'll always remember you.

"We will visit again." Father reassured them from across the yard.

"Vse budet horosho." Katyusha wrapped an arm around Ivan and squeezed him to her. "Slyshish, papa govorit, cho my yesche smozhem priehat' syuda. My vsegda mozhem pozvonit' dedushke ili napisat' emu pis'mo."

Everything will be alright. Look, father says we will come and visit again! We can write letters and call grandpa whenever we want!

"Nyet…" Ivan sobbed into Grandfather's chest. "Nyet…"

"Ne grusti, Vanya." Katyusha asked while rubbing a calming hand on Ivan's back.

Don't be sad, vanya

"Ya vas ochen' lyublyu." Grandfather said to all three of them.

I love you very much.

Katyusha was the first to pull away from Grandfather. Reaching for Ivan, she gently tugged him away while picking up Natalia and holding her in the crook of her arm.

"Come Ivan…we must go."

"Nyet…" Ivan cried, reaching for Grandfather again. The elder man didn't move. "Nyet Katya…"

Father took Natalia from Katyusha and tucked her into a car seat, buckling her up. Ivan finally stepped into the car, sitting beside Natalia. Father buckled him in before shutting the car door. Katyusha sent one last look at Grandfather, waving goodbye before stepping around the car and getting into the back seat beside Natalia. Ivan pressed himself to the glass, palms spread. The car rumbled to a star and slowly pulled away. Ivan watched the house and Grandfather pull away, and slowly shrink until they disappeared into the horizon.

Sniffing nosily, Ivan turned back around in his seat and stared ahead. A cool cloth pressed to his face.

"Shhh…" Katyusha whispered. "Everything will be okay. Don't worry, Ivan."

Gently, she wiped the tears and snot away from his reddening face.

"Father…" The word rolled off his tongue, feeling strange and unused. "Will we be truly be able to call Dedushka? And write letters?"

"Yes." Father glanced at him through the rearview mirror. "I promise."

The thought gave him a small measure of comfort, but the pain of possibly never seeing his Grandfather again still throbbed at his chest. Sighing, he relaxed back against the car seat and stared at the passing scenery beyond the window.

Next Part: Ivan and his sisters arrive in the states. At first everything is going well, until their father reveals a dark side to him that he kept hidden from Grandfather…

Russian (Thanks to atrocity13!)

Deda = Grandpa, but it's more like informal variant but very cute.

Vanechka = A variant of the nickname "vanya".