When I was seven years old, my mother took me to see Finding Nemo. Twice. I was enamoured. I have written Nemo fics since the seventh grade, but none of them came out quite good. Now, a decade after I saw one of the most wonderful and heartfelt films in cinema history, this little beauty popped into my head at approximetly 1:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. My best friend lent me her copy of Nemo because my VHS copy had given up. I watched it over and over, and then I had an idea.
Long ago there was a different version of this story which I had wrote, with different characters. They didn't really work for me, so they were changed into fish that I hope everybody will love and miss. This story will be mainly Gill-centric, because he is one of my most beloved characters of all time. He is complex and hardhearted, but you can tell he has been through a great deal of pain and cares greatly for a little clownfish we all know and love.
This goes for all of the following chapters: I do not own Finding Nemo or any affiliates. It all belongs to the geniouses Andrew Stanton, John Lassater, Bob Peterson, and Lee Unkrich. The only characters I own are the two OCs in upcoming chapters. Without further ado, here is Memories Kept Alive.
Chapter One: The Trek Begins
The skies far above Sydney Harbor were dark and grey, casting a desolate air upon the normally-cheery city. There was clearly the threat of rain, but the fish that swam throughout their harbor home didn't take notice. That is, except for seven fish that clearly didn't belong in the harbor. The fish that lived there were drab colors that helped them blend into the grey, silt-filled environment around them. These seven fish, with their bright colors and beautiful adornments clearly didn't fit in with their surroundings. No, it was obvious that these fish were meant to live in a much different home than around the docks and in the harbor. They were meant to swim between bright slabs of coral, colorful outcroppings and live life on the largest living community on the plant: the Great Barrier Reef.
However, these fish weren't going anywhere anytime soon. All seven of them were trapped in little plastic baggies, the tops tied and the plastic pliable. In one bag sat a Yellow tang. The insane little fish paced back and forth. His entire body was twitching and he was mumbling constant gibberish to himself. Some sentences could scarcely be made out, such as, "Bubbles, I miss my bubbles." In the baggie corresponding to the poor tang was a slender, purple and yellow Royal Gamma. His indigo eyes were open wide, staring straight ahead, and he was trembling all over. The poor thing looked like he was about to have a nervous breakdown. Another baggie held a black and white Humbug (although she was actually a very pretty azure). She was chattering away happily with her very best friend and sister – her own reflection. She wasn't quite sure how her sister fit with her in this little baggie, but she did, and it was wonderful! A very small baggie held a Pacific cleaner shrimp. The little man was meticulously cleaning his long, whiskery feelers, for there was nothing else in which he could do. Two more held a large brown puffer fish who looked bored out of his mind, and he was chatting aimlessly with a pink sea star in front of him. She, too, looked bored as she sat back against the side of her baggie.
The last baggie held a handsome and regal-looking fish, a male Moorish Idol. He was completely silent, his stunning, dark ruby eyes downcast. He looked incredibly astringent, but if you looked closely, you could see a deep sadness within the poor fish. He slumped against the side of his baggie. The fathomless ruby eyes watched as several grouper swam below him, free. How cruel was this? He was right in the ocean, but he was trapped within a baggie, mere millimeters the thing he had been longing for, for nearly fifteen years. And so were the fish he'd called "friends" all these years, his tankmates. He was meant to be a strong, smart leader, but look where he'd gotten them all. They may have escaped, but they were still trapped.
The poor fish took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment. He knew that, if they stayed trapped within these baggies, then the oxygen within the water would run out. They would all suffocate. Or even the dentist across the street, Phillip Sherman of 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, would discover his missing fish and place them back into that godforsaken tank. But perhaps it would be for the best. His friends would still get to live, as well as himself. True, they would never be free again, but he wasn't going to ever put his friend's lives in danger again. He had tried one final time, but this time, he was done. Truly done. He was meant to live the rest of his life in a glass box, swimming in circles for the next God-knows-how-many years.
At least he had done one good thing in his chaotic life. He'd saved that little boy, the crippled clownfish child that he'd found he'd bonded with. Which was insanely stupid. The child already had a loving and caring father that was willing to cross the entire ocean to save his son. He'd had his chance, and failed. Failed as a husband, and as a father. He'd risked his life to save the little clownfish, whose name meant "no one." Considering, from what the boy had told him, he was very nearly no one…and so was he.
"Gill?" A soft voice asked from behind him. The Idol opened his dark eyes and turned around in his baggie, facing the Humbug woman. Her large blue eyes were open wide in concern for her leader. The others were looking now as well, all eyes on him.
"What is it, Deb?" He asked, his deep, gravelly voice sharp and his ruby gaze severe. Deb gulped, for the Idol always made her nervous when he glared at her like this. Turning to her crumpled reflection, she whispered to her sister, Flo, "Don't worry, sis. He's just a little cranky. I'll sort this out." Turning back to Gill, coughing discreetly, Deb continued. "Um…it's just that you've been awful quiet. Is everything okay, Gill? We're all…kinda gettin' worried about you." The others all nodded in agreement, brows furrowed in concern for their long-time leader. The Idol huffed and turned his back to them all, staring down at the silt-riddled sand merely ten feet below him. How close he was…and yet, still so far.
"I'm sorry, Gang." He said quietly, addressing the six fish behind him. "I'm so sorry. I tried to get us out. Just one last try. And now look where we are. Stuck out here in the harbor, in these damn baggies. I just…I thought…" he sighed. "I'm sorry." The others all shared glances of sympathy for their poor leader. They knew how he felt. Everything was quiet for a moment, albeit for the calm splash of the waves against the walls of the harbor, the swooping zoom of cars speeding by above, and the gentle cries of gulls as they flew in the darkening skies. Deb was the first one yet again to speak to her disgruntled, ashamed friend.
"Gill, ah, it's okay! Um, maybe someone can help us, and just pop the top off of these baggies!" Deb said enthusiastically, triggering an onslaught of encouragement from the others.
"Yeah, Gill. You've got us this far, we're gonna make it all to the Reef. I know it." Peach, his closest friend, the sea star that was like his sister, said firmly.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah!" Bubbles cried out eagerly, his deep pink eyes shining. "We will be okay!"
"Oui. Je suis ne pas mort. Tu est intellegenté." Jacques chimed in with the classic French spirit, raising a fist (although his encouragement wasn't really understood).
"Yeah, man. C'mon, we're gonna get out of here, and we're gonna get home." Bloat said, playfully bumping Gill's baggie with his own and winking one big brown eye. The Idol offered his gang a small smile of gratitude, his expression softening.
"Thanks, Gang." He said quietly, and the rest of the fish all returned the smile. Suddenly, there was the sound of gently flapping feathers (that were in need of preening). Then, the sound of a body lightly landing in the water, and the ruffle of even more feathers as wings were folded against said body was heard.
"Well, well, well, who do we have here?" An amused, deeply-accented voice said from behind the fish. They all whirled around to see a very familiar brown pelican swimming up to them, his gentle brown eyes shining in amusement.
"Nigel!" Gill exclaimed, surprised to see the pelican whom had befriended the seven fish long ago, and had spent countless hours watching uncountable (and sometimes violent) dental procedures alongside their tank…that is, until he was caught and shoved out the bloody window.
"Blimey, mate! Love a duck, it worked! Well done, mate, well done." Nigel congratulated Gill heartily, opening a wing and touching his forehead in a salute to the aging Moorish Idol. Gill scoffed and cast an irate look up at the pelican, his stare icy.
"Yeah, well, look where it got us, featherbrain. We're all trapped in these baggies." Gill said stonily, and the smile faded from the pelican's bright orange beak. He looked quite aggrieved for a moment as he realized the danger of the predicament his friends were in. He was dismayed, knowing how dangerous it would be for him to try and help them escape their plastic entrapments.
"I wish I could help you, mate, but I'm afraid I'll hurt yah. I don't wanna rip some fins as well as these bloody baggies." Nigel said, touching the tie at the top of Bloat's baggie with the tip of a primary wing feather. Gill watched through narrowed eyes. He then gasped, a plan formulating quickly within his brilliant mind. The vigor returned to his eyes, and he looked to the smiling puffer fish. A wide smile of craftiness appeared on his lips, his jagged white teeth showing.
"Bloat! Nigel! I've got a plan. Look, Bloat, if you could just poke a little hole in the side of your baggie, then you, Nigel, will have leverage. Hook your beak into the hole and pull." Gill said excitedly, his eyes bright and a smile on his face. "It's foolproof." Nigel's eyes lit up and the smile appeared back on his beak. Some of the others cheered around them.
"Brilliant, mate!" Nigel said. He then looked down at Bloat, who winked one dark brown eye.
"Careful, Nigel. My spikes are worse than my bite." Bloat chuckled at his own wit, then sucked in a huge mouthful of water. He immediately puffed up, but it just wasn't enough. Bloat continued to inhale as much water as his little body could intake. He gave a little, annoyed flick with his left fin. One of his incredibly sharp spines was driven into the plastic. Water immediately began to spill from the hole and back into whence it came – the ocean. Nigel acted fast, as Bloat was quickly running out of water. The pelican grasped at the hole, and pulled both up and down. He used one of his webbed feet as leverage, ripping at the plastic. Bloat gave a breathless shout of triumph as he leapt from the bag and into the ocean for the first time in his life. The elated puffer fish did a few somersaults, relieving in the feeling, stretching his fins. That bag had been rather cramped!
"C'mon in, guys, the water's great!" Bloat teased lightly as he poked the top of his head through the surface.
"Oooh, ooh, ooh! Do me and Flo next!" Deb begged, pressing her fins to the front of the baggie. Bloat was more than happy to oblige, poking the side of Deb's baggie. Nigel immediately went to work on ripping the plastic so Deb could flow out and into the harbor. She gave a loud and joyful squeal as she did so. The process was repeated with Bubbles, Gurgle, and Jacques. Bloat and Nigel helped free Peach, and she gently drifted down through the water until she landed in Gurgle's outstretched fins. She giggled and patted her friend's violet cheek with her hand. Deb swam in a few circles, noticing in her excitement at finally being in the ocean that her beloved sister was nowhere in sight.
"Flo, wait up for us! You know you can swim faster than I can!" Deb whined, waving an indignant fin in the general direction of Flo's flight to freedom. Bloat then poked a hole in the side of Gill's baggie. Before the Idol knew it, Nigel was working deftly and frantically to free him. He swam back a little to avoid getting in the way of the long orange beak of the brown pelican. Then, so suddenly, he was forced forward, and engulfed in something smooth, cool, and simply amazing. Gill took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, his eyes closed. In the back of his mind, he was terrified that once he would open his eyes, he would be laying in that plastic skull, the red light of Mount Wannahockaloogie illuminating his scales a deep crimson. However, as he floated for a few more seconds, he realized that he must be in it…he must be in the thing he'd longed for, for fifteen years.
Opening his eyes, Gill saw that he was indeed submerged in the harbor's calm, yet choked and dark waters. The other fish were exploring their newfound freedom. However, the feeling of freedom, of being back in his home, nearly overwhelmed the stony Moorish Idol. Blinking furiously, he swam up to the surface and allowed his head to peer into the world above.
"Thank you, Nigel. Thank you. You saved our tails." Gill said, immensely grateful to the pelican. Nigel shrugged, but smiled down at the fish below him.
"No problem, mate. It was your quick thinking. Now, how're yeh plannin' to get back home?" He asked, and Gill blinked. He knew exactly where home was, and what home looked like, but it had been fifteen years. He never saw the path from his reef to the dentists' office. When he didn't answer Nigel, the pelican understood, and waved a noncommercial wing.
"I can help yeh! I'm an outie, I like to stretch my wings e'ery now and again. I can take you right where yeh'll need to go." Nigel said, puffing out his feathered chest and winking at the others, who were now poking their heads out of the water as well, listening to the pelican's proposition. Gill heaved a sigh of relief, closing his eyes for a moment and picturing the beautiful azure waters, flowing gently, the brilliant coral and the home he'd missed for so very long.
"That would be great, Nigel. Thanks a lot." Gill said, flashing his pelican friend a smile. The bird grinned and winked. He flapped his wings against the water, lifting his light body into the air.
"If yeh will just wait here, I have to…eh…stock up on essentials for the trip. I'll be right back, mate!" Nigel called as he flapped away, his form soon disappearing into the darkening sky. Gill blinked, and he realized that Nigel was trying to be polite and discreet about having to go and catch dinner. Gill shrugged. It wasn't his problem. Diving back under the water, he watched as his friends explored the waters that were so much larger than the confines of a tank or fishbowl for the first time in their lives.
"So, how does it feel?" Gill asked, grinning (if not a bit smugly), as he watched Bubbles swim in multiple cartwheels and Gurgle playfully throw Peach upwards and catch her as she gently drifted down through the water again. However, the Gamma cast his leader a pinched look, the poor germaphobic fish less than happy with his surroundings.
"Yeah, it's great and all, Gill, but…erm, isn't a little…dirty?" He asked, his face wrinkling, wincing as a black particle of an unknown substance floated dangerously close to his tail. Gill chuckled, unable to help it.
"Just you wait. In the reef, the waters are so clear and blue, you can see for miles. And a fish can breathe, can swim…can just be free. You just wait…" Gill said, his mind filled with fuzzy images of his memories of his coral reef home. However, he had to immediately push all these images away into the forgotten corners of his mind when two very familiar faces cropped up…two fish he hadn't allowed himself to think of in years. The seven fish just mulled around for a few more minutes, waiting for their guide to return. And soon, he surely did, smacking his beak appreciatively. Looking down at his fishy friends, the cheerful bird motioned with his long, tapering head to follow him.
"C'mon, y'all! Follow me." He called down into the water and beginning to flap his wings against the forceful breeze wafting through the city. He rose higher into the sky, as Deb looked at Gurgle down below the water, her azure eyes wide.
"G-Gurgle, did he just eat...?" She began to ask, but Gurgle cut her off, looking sick.
"Just don't ask. Just don't." The poor Gamma begged his friend, waving a long, thin fin in front of her face. Gill rolled his eyes at the scene and waved his single good fin, beckoning his gang to follow.
"C'mon, Gang. Let's go home." He said, turning as he began the trek he'd been waiting to take for fifteen years.