"Kaldur'ahm," Sha'lain'a greeted, clasping her son in an embrace almost as warm as her smile. "Welcome home. It has been too long."
Kaldur returned both the hug and the smile as she ushered him into their house. It was every bit as small and tidy and pleasant as he remembered, and he breathed in the scent of his mother's favorite seaweed tea as he swam through the entryway to sit down in the living area.
"I apologize for my long absence," he said as his mother took a seat on the soft coral bench opposite him. "I had intended to visit sooner, but other matters distracted me, and I forgot even to send word. I hope you have not been too worried."
"Of course not," she reassured him. "You are a soldier and a grown man, Kaldur. A few weeks' silence from you does not trouble me."
"In that case, I hope you have not been too lonely without me," Kaldur teased gently. His mother laughed, shaking her head; her golden curls rippled in the water.
"As dear as you are to me, Kaldur, you know I have a rich life here," she replied. "But you have traveled a long way just to come home – to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Am I not allowed to return home just to see my mother?"
Sha'lain'a arched one eyebrow.
"Certainly," she said. "But you are hardly one for casual visits, Kaldur'ahm."
Kaldur hesitated a moment, then sighed and gave a rueful smile.
"You know me too well."
"I have had some time to get acquainted," she reminded him. "What business brings you back to Shayeris, then?"
Shifting in his seat, Kaldur hesitated, a strange mixture of excitement and trepidation crossing his face for a moment.
"I…have something I wish to tell you," he said at last.
"Then by all means, do."
Kaldur took a big breath.
"I am seeing someone."
Sha'lain'a stared at him expectantly.
"A land-dweller," he added.
Her expression did not change.
"Yes?" she asked, giving him a quizzical look.
He was uncharacteristically uneasy, unnerved by her lack of a reaction.
"Oh, no, not at all," she said. "I am sorry. I was waiting for you to finish."
"I was finished," he said, rubbing the back of his arm in confusion.
"Kaldur…" began Sha'lain'a, her expression amused but gentle. "It is sweet of you to come all this way to tell me these things, but I have known most of that for some time now."
He blinked, utterly lost now.
"I am not blind, kopsari," she told him, using an old nickname for her 'little fish.' "I have been in love before too, you know – I know what it looks like. And I am your mother. Did you think I would not notice?"
"But…when?" he asked, trying to process this. How long had she known?
"When you came home last, and the time before that," said Sha'lain'a. "I could tell."
"Kaldur," his mother laughed, taking in his bewilderment. "You are not half so subtle as you think you are. You drift and you daydream and you smile too much. Not many could have mistaken it, least of all your own mother."
"Why…why did you not tell me you knew before?"
It would have saved him several weeks of internal debate.
"Your life is your own," Sha'lain'a replied. "I assumed that when the time was right, you would come to me. And you have."
She gave him a warm smile, reaching out to place her hand on her son's knee. After a moment's hesitation, he took it in his own, a strange sense of relief washing over him. He had envisioned this conversation over and over again, but never had he imagined it going like this – it was better than he'd thought. Much better.
"Now, Kaldur'ahm," said his mother with mock sternness, "you cannot bait me with trifles I already knew. You must tell me about this land-dwelling man."
Kaldur gave a shy smile, averting his gaze to the floor.
"His name is Roy," he said as his mother leaned in expectantly. "Roy Harper. He is…a friend of the team. An ally."
"But a soldier like you? A warrior?"
"Yes. A gifted archer."
Sha'lain'a nodded her approval, settling back in her seat.
"And is he a good man?"
"Most of the time," Kaldur laughed softly, rubbing the back of his neck. His mother raised an eyebrow.
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"I…never mind. It is difficult to explain. You would understand if you met him."
"I would like to."
Sha'lain'a's tone was absolutely serious.
Kaldur considered that a moment, pondering the logistics of such an arrangement. His mother did not often travel to the surface world, but there was no convenient way to bring Roy to Atlantis, either, at least not yet.
"You need not figure it all out now, Kaldur'ahm," his mother told him, interrupting his thoughts as she rose from her seat. "You have traveled far to come here. You must be hungry. Let me make you something to eat."
With a soft, grateful smile, Kaldur abandoned his thoughts, then stood and followed his mother towards the kitchen.
"You really knew, all this time?" he had to ask as they drifted through the room.
"Of course," Sha'lain'a replied, laying a warm hand on her son's shoulder. "Only a fool could miss it."