The sensation of falling barely registered before she hit the cold water. The shock to her system too great to react and then it was all black and cold around her. She didn't know where up was. The water trashed her around, her lungs burned- something grabbed her ankle. She screamed with the last of her air and kicked with the last of her strength. She broke the surface and managed to get a lungful of precious air before a wave crashed over her, tumbling her all around, her ankle still in the hold of, of something. Then her knee. Then her belt. Two arms encircled her waist and though she couldn't see him, she knew him. He was the only warmth, the only true thing right now. She grabbed a firm hold of him, together they would be alright.
They kicked out together, fighting the water, demanding to be brought up to air- but the water didn't care. He stopped swimming, went limp. She panicked. There was no up or down, no place to swim to, only her burning lungs and his rapidly cooling body. Desperately she found his mouth with her own, trying to pass him the last air in her body. If she had to die, she did not want to die alone. It was to no avail, he didn't wake.
There was no more air, no more strength and all she wanted to do was save him, save him and breathe. Her body responded though her mind had no idea. Water filtered through her gills, her tail-fin shuddered. She took his shirt between her teeth and dragged him through the water. She found him air, though the air choked her. She found him land, though she could not walk it herself. Exhausted, she pushed him up the beach as far as she could. Staying with him until the tide went out and dragged her along.
She watched him as best she could, until she saw someone standing over him. With powerful strokes she fought against the tide, trying to get to the beach and protect him from whoever that was. But soon she saw there was no danger, he was safe.
He didn't notice her fins slapping the surface of the water. He didn't notice her at all.
Disappointed she turned around, hoping to find the Nomad. But the sea was big and full of currents. Soon she was hopelessly lost.
"Hello little fish," it was Dim-Dim's voice in her head.
"Master! What do I do?" Maeve cried out.
"You learn the last thing an apprentice needs to learn before becoming a sorceress," he unhelpfully said.
"Which is what?" She asked, not in the mood for riddles.
"You already know it, you turned yourself into a fish, didn't you?" He pointed out.
"I don't know how I did that!" Maeve protested. "And I certainly don't know how to turn back."
"Do you ever wonder what white magic is?" Dim-Dim asked her.
"It just is." She answered, her temper short because of her current state and worry over Sinbad and Dermott and the crew.
"When a carpenter wants to change the nature of a pile of planks, he gets his hammer and nails and makes a table. Why should a magician be able to make a table out of thin air?" Dim-Dim persisted.
"I don't know, to save time?" Maeve guessed.
"Can you turn yourself back now?" Dim-Dim asked kindly.
Maeve tried her hardest. "No."
"Then that's not the right answer," Dim-Dim pointed out.
"I bet Rumina never had to go through anything like this!" Maeve angrily said.
"You're welcome to go to her for advice," Dim-Dim said.
"Funny," she snapped.
"Good luck little fish," Dim-Dim said and his essence disappeared.
"Wait! Come back!" Maeve shouted after him, but he was already gone.
Sinbad stood with his feet in the sea, watching the sun come up. The beach was deserted, a perfect place to gather his thoughts after his harrowing and emotional adventure in Scratch's domain.
"What are you thinking, little brother?" Doubar asked, coming to a halt next to Sinbad, his eyes on the sunrise.
"Something Mala told me struck a chord," Sinbad confessed.
"Yeah? What was that?" Doubar asked, having told Sinbad that Mala was actually the spirit of their mother days ago.
"She said it was OK to feel hurt," Sinbad said. "I guess that because Dim-Dim took Maeve I felt that it was for the best- he always knows what's best, so I shouldn't feel hurt about it. But when I did feel it, I felt like I was… I don't know, a bad person? So I tried to make it go away."
Doubar put a comforting hand on his little brother's shoulder. A fish appeared by their feet, bobbing up and down in and out of the water.
"Hello little fish, are you volunteering to be breakfast?" Doubar asked the fish.
The fish shook from left to right.
"I think that's a 'no' big brother," Sinbad smiled.
"I'm sorry little brother, here you are pouring your heart out and all I can think about is food," Doubar said.
"That's alright Doubar, you go on back, get breakfast started. The fish will keep me company," Sinbad said, feeling like being alone anyway.
"If you're sure…" Doubar eyed him warily.
Sinbad just nodded and watched his brother walk away. The fish head-butted his leg.
"You're stronger than you look!" Sinbad told the fish. "So I guess you really are going to keep me company, aren't you?"
The fish shook up and down.
"You know if you want a real conversation I can just go get Bryn," Sinbad offered, feeling a little silly for taking a fish that seriously. It was probably nothing anyway.
The fish just looked at him. He squatted down, careful to keep his butt out of the water.
"Have you ever lost someone, fish?"
The fish shook up and down again.
"Then can you tell me how to get over it?"
Side to side again.
"Because the thing is, even though I know she's safe with Dim-Dim, I still need Maeve here with me. I only knew her a year and now another year's gone by without her… You'd think I'd be over it by now," Sinbad said.
The fish head-butted his shin, so Sinbad stuck his hand in the water and tickled its belly. Sinbad smiled for a moment before the sadness came over him like a wave.
"Can you tell me how to get her back, little fish? Please?"
The fish stilled and looked at him. Sinbad, against his better judgement because seriously, what did fish know, suddenly and desperately wanted the answer to that question that he had been chasing this last year.
"Please? I need her here, with me," he pleaded.
He watched the fish's mouth open and almost expected it to start talking but the mouth just kept on opening, the eyes widening, growing farther apart, moving to the front of the face. Parts of the fins detached from the body with a tearing sound and started filling and growing until there were elbows and knees and hands and feet.
"I did it!" The fish, now curiously in Maeve's body, screamed excitedly.
Sinbad just stood there, stunned.
"You know why a white sorcerer would conjure a table if a carpenter could just make one?" The fish asked.
Sinbad shook his head from side to side, still dumb-struck, having no idea if this was some magical fish who had taken on Maeve's form to comfort him or if this was actually Maeve.
"He wouldn't because there's no need!" Maeve said, dragging at his hand as she stumbled towards the beach. "Because white magic is about fulfilling the needs of the world and we sorcerers are just channels to get the magic to where it needs to go. Channels and generators both," she collapsed onto the sand.
"Maeve?" Sinbad carefully touched her cheek, trying to make sense of it all.
She pulled at his arm and then he was down on the sand with her. "I'm sorry I didn't figure it out earlier. I was so scared I was going to be a fish all my life, but it would've been worth it because I saved you," she said, looking him in the eye, still panting from the exertion of morphing her body.
"Are you real?" Sinbad asked.
"What?" Maeve asked, only now registering that Sinbad had been pretty unresponsive up to this point. "Sinbad it's me. That night of the storm, I fell in and you dove in after me. We held on to each other until you stopped breathing- I was so desperate that I accidentally turned myself into a fish so I could save you. I just couldn't figure out how to turn myself back and Dim-Dim only gave me a riddle. You have no idea how good it feels to have dry land under my feet, my actual feet, not fins, and I have hands and skin and a mouth to talk with. I think I am going to talk non-stop now, it was so lonely down there-"
Sinbad stopped her babbling short with a kiss. "There's more than one thing you can do with your mouth," he suggested, his grin back like it had never vanished.
Maeve laughed, she let herself drop back into the sand, her whole body laughing, flooded with relief, completely overjoyed.
"Are you going to join me down here Captain Tightpants? Or is your hair getting in your eyes? Need me to plait it for you?" Maeve laughed.
"Keep teasing me and I think I'll throw you back in to mature for a couple more years," Sinbad grumbled but lowered himself by her side, getting sand all over his clothes.
"I missed teasing you, and laughing with you and talking-" Maeve said, looking up into his handsome face.
"Yeah I think we've established that you missed talking," Sinbad interrupted.
"And arguing with you!" Maeve finished. She planted another kiss on his lips before abruptly jumping back up onto her feet. "Now take me to Dermott, we've got a lot of catching up to do!"
"You keep forgetting that I'm the one giving the orders," Sinbad reminded her as he jumped up next to her, but there was no sting in his words - his lips couldn't resist finding their ways to hers again.
"I'll have you know that no one orders a full-fledged white sorceress around!" Maeve grinned at him.
And so they walked back to camp, arguing and teasing and kissing, too happy to stop and too stubborn to change. And if it took Maeve a while before she could look at a roasting fish without tearing up, no one mentioned it, and if someone noticed Sinbad hold his breath every time Maeve neared the railing, they kept it to themselves. Only one thing was remarked on often: That the ship sailed under a blessed sky once more now its captain was happy and content. Well that and the phrase: "Get a room you two!" was uttered a lot too.