Crossing of Ingo AU

AN: Noticed the severe lack of Ingo fics. Decided to alleviate that little problem. This is a moment that should have happened but never did happen in Crossing of Ingo.

'I'm tempted to nudge him, accidently on purpose; just to be sure his eyes will open. He'd be cross though. He's having a good dream, I think. He's smiling in his sleep. Maybe he's dreaming it's all over and we've made the Crossing and all the Mer are welcoming us home! His lips move as if he's talking to someone in his sleep.'

Crossing of Ingo, p182

"Sapphire...Sapphire..."

I smile. Whatever his dream is, it involves me. I don't know why, but I feel warm, but slightly guilty. This is his private time.

But he listens in on your thoughts...

I leaned in a little closer and brush the long tendrils of dark hair away from his face and waited.

"Sapphire...I love you..."

Though his murmured words should have warmed me just as much as his dreaming about me, but all I felt was lonely. It may have been Ingo, where we were now, but we were a long way away from home. Anyway, I was only his little sister. And Faro was turning into a man...mer...whatever they'd call it.

I rubbed our deublek and lightly brushed his cheek before lying back; more ready to sleep.

Does your Atka protect you?

An image of the Nanaq flashed past. What was an Atka? The image faded into the scene of the world above the spot where we must have slept. There, on top of a scooped-out ice floe, a girl sat serenely. She looked around my age, but she couldn't have been human. Her hair was silver and her skin, as pale as the moon. She reminded me of Elvira's tales of the Northern Mer, but I knew at once that she couldn't be.

"Who are you?" I asked, hoping she wouldn't hear me. My wish was not fulfilled. She laughed and each note tingled like an icicle, beautiful but deadly. I shivered as she spoke again

"Don't you recognize me?"

"Am I supposed to have seen you before?" I asked, despite the strong feeling of déjà-vu.

"Oh yes, I think so. But humans don't remember, do they? All their memories from before they are bornare hidden from them." Her words set a chill down my spine. Was she really saying she knew me from before I was born? Common sense told me she was mad, but a voice eerily like Faro's whispered, 'Things are not always as they seem'

I gulped. "Come closer," she whispered and all of my body yearned to move. But my deublek burned on my wrist.

"I can't! I won't!" I yelled, without even realizing it. Her mocking smile was more than answer enough and the longing to swim towards her increased.

"Who are you?" I parroted back, sheer terror at her power, overwhelming the unnatural yearning.

She laughs coldly. "I'm your Atka, of course!"

"Can you tell me what an Atka is?" I attempted, hoping my voice hadn't cracked too much.

"Your Atka protects you. Didn't you hear Nanaq?" she called mockingly. I ignored her.

"Where did you come from?" I asked again, only feeling slightly braver.

"I've always been here, Sapphire. I was waiting for you..." Her last word seemed to pull at my heart and reluctantly, I was pulled forward a metre or so.

Struggling to move, I retorted, "You can't have been! I didn't know I was coming here! No one did."

"Baby reindeer says to Mummy reindeer, 'Where did you get those berries?'. Mummy reindeer says, 'Under your nose'." I scowled at her patronising tone and swam back to my original position.

"Where's Conor? Where's my brother?" She opens her eyes wide and the smooth contrast of black and white shocks me.

"How would I know where your brother is? I'm your Atka, not his."

"Then you are of no use to me!" I yelled at her, attempting to dive back into Ingo.

The Atka laughs at my futile attempts to escape and defy her, as if it was extremely amusing. All I knew was that she was the Spider and I was her fly, waiting to be caught. She spun a full circle on her ice floe then leaned forward demandingly.

" Do you even know what an Atka is?"

"Obviously not!" I felt like slapping her but I was sure she was made of air and not solid substance.

"I am neither Mer nor human, but perhaps you already realised that?"

I nodded, waiting for the answer to what she truly was.

"Alatuk, Alatuk, Atka. Atka, Amaluk, Alatuk." crooned the girl, like she was singing to a baby.

"What does that mean?" I asked, fearfully, frightened she was casting some kind of spell.

"Not a spell dear. Only a song. It means, little one, listen to your Atka, that's all. Only your Atka can tell you when it's time to leave the world."

Suddenly, I am very, very afraid. She is invading my thoughts. I don't mind when Faro does it; not really, I know Faro.

I looked at her face. It had changed, come more into focus. The colouring was different, but there was no doubt about it, the Atka had taken my face.

"Come a little closer so you can see me properly. There's nothing to be afraid of!" I can feel her tugging at my body. But my fear rules over her willpower, yet again.

"No, No, NO! I'm not coming anywhere near you!"

"The Atka raises her eyebrows. " Haven't I told you there is nothing to be afraid of? The Atka protects you. Nanaq knew that. Nanaq knew that only your Atka knows when it is time for you to change one world for another. And I am not telling you that now. You must stay in your world and fight its battles. I am only showing myself to you so that you will know me again, when it is time."

But the Atka is moving closer on her throne of ice. The floe glides across the water towards me, faster and faster. I am frozen. If the Atka touches me, I'll dissolve into terror, like ice into water. And yet, at the same time, I want to touch her. I want to know what she really is: a dream or a spirit or a living creature. I hang in the water, staring mesmerised into Atka's pupils. She doesn't look like me anymore. She reaches one hand out to touch me.

But before she can, my deublek burns. Faro. His hair plaited with mine. His wrist under my hand. I hear Faro in my mind: Two together. And strong as we were strong in the Deep. Sapphire...I love you. It's only a dream.

His words melt the spell I was held in and I dive under the sea, back into Ingo.

Faro is shaking me. My heart is thundering. 'Wake up! Wake up, little sister!" His words rouse me. I gently move his hands away.

"Where is she?" I ask.

But only Faro is there, wide awake watching me with concern. And a hint of something else. "You had a nightmare. You were screaming."

"It wasn't a nightmare Faro. It was real. It was the Atka." Just saying her name made me shiver.

"What's that?"

"A girl, I think. A girl like me. She had my face but no body; at least, I couldn't see a body. There was a fog surrounding her and she had a crown and...and...it wa-was horrible." I threw myself in his arms, the memory turning all of me cold, a feeling I had never experienced in Ingo.

I could feel the deublek stronger than ever as I buried myself in his shoulder, inhaling his scent, which I had come to associate with Ingo; salt and seaweed.

His arms tightened around me and he whispered, "Are you crying? Because if you are, you'll have to teach me..."

I laughed, and elbowed him. He face turned serious.

"I think you were visited by a spirit. I have always been told the North was haunted by spirits, some good, some bad. I suppose your Atka was a bad spirit."

"I don't think so. She wasn't either type of spirit. She was...neutral. She wanted to protect me, but not anyone else. I wish you'd told me about the spirits, Faro, I would have chosen the sharks!"

He smiled at my pathetic joke but the worried look in his eyes never faded. He didn't look convinced but I knew Faro was wrong. Now, in front of him, I knew that she wasn't bad...just very scary.

You will know me again when it is time

"Maybe you've got an Atka too, Faro," I say, but Faro wrinkles his nose in disdain. I almost laughed, he lookd very human in that moment.

"No evil spirit of the ice is going to run my life," he says. "If I see my Atka, little sister, I will—what is that word you told me for not looking at a person?"

"Blanking," I said, stifling a peal of laughter.

'I will blank my Atka," Faro said so grandly, I couldn't keep it in anymore and burst out laughing. Faro looked confused and I shook my head and composed myself.

"Good luck with that, Faro!"

"We had no choice," he said, and it takes me a moment to realize he's talking about our route.

"I know, the sharks would have killed us if we went south. I was trying to joke it away..." Faro gripped my wrist and I gripped his.

"We'll do it this way like no Mer has done for a long time. We will not fail." I knew hw was saying this for himself just as much as he said it to me. The Atka's words echo in my head. You must stay in your world and fight its battles.

Daylight sends a dark red tint to the water as it had been turned to blood and I shiver. Could this really happen if war between the Mer broke out?

It's the second day now, the day we go North but now without Elvira and Conor.

"Oh Faro, I wish they were here!"

"So do I."

"There's got to be something more we can do."

Faro doesn't answer, instead begins rubbing my hands between his.

"You look ill, little sister. When I was very young, I remember my mother rubbing my hands like this. She said it was to make the blood run faster in my body." He looks up with a quick brilliant smile with sends a sharp spike in my chest and continues rubbing. I lean my head on his shoulder. Then startle up as I notice something.

"Faro, stop! Our deubleks have got tangled. They'll break an—"

"No they won't." Carefully, Faro begins the ease the bracelets apart, but they refuse to separate.

"Two together. And as strong as we were strong in the Deep." I say aloud, a dawning comprehension, coming into my mind, an old superstition.

"What's that?"

"The deubleks, Faro! Maybe they've joined together for a reason! Maybe they know something we don't!" I say, ignoring Faro's sceptical look. "Listen, let's try to say it again, together. It might give us a chance."

"Say what? Two together—"

"No, not that! I mean, I wish they were here. Say it, Faro, say it. Make the wish while the deubleks are joined.

I can tell he thinks it's pointless but he goes along with it anyway. "If you want it so much, Sapphire."

My voice shakes with hope as I say, "Now."

Both together, we say the words. Nothing happens. 'Let's try again."

This time, Faro rolls his eyes impatiently, but when I squeeze his hand, repeats the words anyway. Again, nothing happens, except when I look down, our deubleks are untangled. Our wrists separate and drop to our sides.

"Well, that's that then." I say, flatly.

An 'I told you so' was probably on the tip of Faro's lips if he was anything like Conor, but he tactfully keeps silent.

"We must make plans to travel on, little sister," he says quietly with a sad smile on his face, "We must rely on ourselves now, not any magic."

I feel like I'm betraying Conor so much and it feels like I'm swallowing a stone. An image of Conor's face welled up in my mind. He wasn't looking at me, but downwards with a small frown on his face, a serious stern expression Conor used when he was learning a new chord on the guitar. Conor often looked serious when he was happy. A silent tear dropped down in front of my cheeks in memory of Conor, my bog brother—

"Stop thinking!" yelled Faro. I started, Faro never yells. 'Stop...thinking. I can't hear her." He says, slightly calmer.

"Hear who?" I ask.

"Elvira!" he says with a smile but shushes me when I make to speak again, a teasing grin on his face.

"Think of something else, someone I don't know." Faro says urgently.

I think of the whale; my dear friend, the sperm whale, who saved my life back in the deep. I though of her rough skin, large size and gentle spirit. I relived her awful jokes and the tones of her voice when she spoke of her daughter at the bottom of the world How she talks to me, calling me 'little barelegs'.

"She's there!" Faro says.

I'm so deep in the whale, that for a moment, I imagine her swimming along towards us.

"Elvira! I've found her! She's far away, but she hears us too."

"And Conor?" I ask, dreading the answer.

"Conor's with her!"

The next moment, I grab Faro into a tight hug, and before I know it, I'm kissing him, holding on to him like all of our dreams came true. And in a way, they did. He responds enthusiastically, tenderly holding me face in his hands. And when I stop for breath, his perfect teeth gleam as his smile widens.

"I suppose I can't call you little sister anymore..."

I grin back at him, doubting that the moment had ever happened, that I'd ever managed to pluck up the courage to test a stolen thought on a whim. 'I suppose you can't..."

And I kiss him again, just because I can, and I've plucked up enough courage to come this far and he picks me up in his arms and spins us round in pure joy. The water funnels around us and a stream of bubbles flow behind us.

For once, I initiate thought contact with Faro and feel his exhilaration, happiness and pure sheer adrenaline, pulsing through his brain.

How did you know? Did you feel the same way...?

I projected the memory of the night to Faro and relived the emotion, the warm spike when he said my name.

I don't know what I felt. But this...it's meant to be, I can tell.

Faro smiled at my comment and gently pulled me into a tight embrace. I feel my blood rushing through my veins and wonder when Conor and Elvira will arrive, but push my thoughts to the side when Faro tenderly kisses me.

"Sapphy? What's going on?"

Both Faro and I break apart and turn around and see Conor and Elvira quite far away. Faro propels himself ten times faster than me, with his tail towards Elvira. I launched myself at Conor. The force of my hug pushes him back.

"Whoa Saph! Don't knock me over-"

He sounds just the same as ever, just looks paler with a bruise on his forehead, and much more tired. I squeeze him tight, hardly believing he was still alive.

"Saph, stop! Pain!" I let go of him as quickly as I hurled myself at him and brushed him down.

"You're okay! You're alive!" I said. He nodded.

But then, something completely unexpected happens inside me. Instead of joy and relief, I feel overwhelming anger. It's the sight of my brother and Elvira together...looking so composed and normal. How can they look like that when I was desperate for the past two days? Thinking they were dead, that I'd never see Conor again.

"Where have you been?" I demand, furiously. "We thought you were dead. Why didn't you stay close like we said?"

The smile vanishes from Conor's face. "Calm down Saph. It's okay." This is the last straw. I pummel his chest with my fists.

"I thought- I thought you were—dead!" I gasp out. "And you're just—grinning!"

Conor's expression changes. "Hey Saph, I'm alright. Come on you eejit, take it easy. Anyway, what were you doing with Faro?"

I ignore him. "You're the bloody eejits, you and Elvira, scaring everybody, making us think you were dead."

Conor frowns, as if he's just woken up and was trying to remember a dream. 'Did you really think we were dead?"

"What else were we supposed to think?"

"Anyway, it's great to see you sis, even if you do beat me up the minute I get close enough."

The storm inside me dies. Conor's back and Faro's mine. Everything is okay. I become aware of Faro and Elvira clasping hands looking at us.

"You will be able to take on Ervys and Talek and Mortarow all at once if they catch up with us, Sapphire!" Faro teases, a wicked smile on his face.

"I'd put my money on Saph!" Conor agrees. Elvira however, looks shocked at my violence. I decide to ignore all the reactions.

"So what happened to you?" I ask Conor and his face suddenly ages ten years and Conor glances warily at Elvira and I know at once that something went very wrong. Faro sees the glimpse too and catches on quickly.

"We must move on. We have lost too much time already and these two look exhausted. Save our strength for swimming until we can find shelter. The four of us are together and that's all that matters. We can tell our stories as we travel north."

While Faro and Elvira scout with their minds for a place of safety and rest, Conor lags behind to catch up with me.

"When we were in front of everyone, you seemed to ignore my questions. What were you and Faro doing?" asked Conor, in an undertone.

"Kissing. I wasn't aware your eyesight was that bad." I replied flatly.

Conor looked at me with a hint of amusement in his eyes. "I got that part. I was just wondering why."

"Because I feel the same way about him that you feel about Rainbow. Except stronger." I said.

"You love him then?" asked Conor, his voice quiet and his tone closed.

"Yeah," I said, "Yes, I love Faro."

"I would tell you to be careful but you already know that. What I am going to tell you is, don't go away like Dad did. Don't break Mum's heart like that."

I nodded and followed Faro as they called out that they had found our safe resting place. As Conor and I swam past Faro, he slung an arm around me and I leaned on him.

I love you, Faro.

And I you, Sapphire.

AN: You'll probably recognize a lot of chunks of text from the Crossing of Ingo, the parts that I didn't want to change. Please tell me if there are any mistakes, Sapphire is a difficult person to write as. Her motives are quite difficult to personify.