Some references to motion sickness and being sick.
"Sapphire! Sapphy!" Mum's voice calls from the stairs, I groan but sit up and grunt a monosyllabic answer to satisfy her. "Breakfast! Come on."
With an eye roll I dress myself and brush my hair, plod down the stairs while rubbing the sleep from my eyes – why was I so tired? I wonder for a moment before shrugging and accepting the plate Mum hands me, mumbling a greeting to Roger and patting Sadie's head as I plunk myself onto the sofa, tucking my feet up as I eat the toast with just a little too much jam, as Mum always does.
"I'm so glad you're feeling better, Sapphy. I'd been getting so worried what with you sleeping so much and disappearing like that. I know you're worried about your results, but you can't let it affect you, it's unhealthy."
I roll my eyes while turning my head so she won't see. "Yeah, I'm feeling so much better." I say semi-sarcastically, but she won't be able to tell. "I think I'll take Sadie for a walk after breakfast."
Sadie leaps from where she had had her head in her bowl and wags her tail, hitting Mum's leg repeatedly with it until Mum scoffs and moves back into the kitchen. "That's fine Sapphy, just don't be too long, don't want to exhaust yourself." she pauses for a moment then comes back just as I finish my first slice of toast. "She's missed you you know, she's never quite as happy when Roger or I take her out, even when we bring her St Pirans."
I grin but say nothing, just continue to eat my toast as Sadie sits on the floor beside me, making a thumping sound with her tail every few seconds.
Dogs are such strange creatures. Scylla murmurs. You have thoughts of them as comparable to the seals and their relationship with the Mer, but I think it is far more complex than that, humans feel so differently to Mer, their emotions are so external and detached where Mer are so intrinsically linked together. It is why no good ever comes from the unions of mixed couples.
I wince and stroke Sadie's head with one hand to calm myself. Not true. I think back. Not... It doesn't have to be.
How could it not, when you have a race whose every breath is in tune with the world around them, whose every thought is available to the others, who all speak the same language, and then you have a species so divided from their fellows, so broken in themselves that they cannot prevent from fighting to the death amongst each other, cannot even decide on a universal language because it would be too much hassle for some to learn, are not even equal to one another for such ridiculous things as attraction, or deep things as love? How could worlds so different ever truly unite?
I swallow the last of my breakfast with a gulp, closing my eyes against the horrific images of Scylla's suggestions, accompanied by so many things I had read and seen in the news or school or my history books, had witnessed myself. It doesn't have to be like that. Not all humans are horrible. There's whole organisations founded on love, charities like the Salvation Army, or, um, Stonewall, which is all about letting people love who they want.
Scylla's voice tinged with sadness. I am sorry Sapphire, I wish I could have your youthful optimism, but in my nonexistence I have witnessed both worlds for so long, and all my evidence comes from your own thoughts and experiences, your memories support all I have said. You cannot deny that you have seen humanity's cruelty.
No. I can't. But I can deny that it is as unanimous as you seem to think. And with that I ignore her, despite the fact that she continues to talk, throwing example after example up to prove that my relationship with Faro is doomed from the start.
I try hard not to take it to heart, not with what we must already struggle against. I take a deep breath. Just focus on today.
Sadie woofs as she leaps to her feet, panting in excitement as I put the plate in the sink and grab the poop-bags and a few treats. She rushes out the door the moment I open it, investigating the scents around the garden, smelling if anything's changed, and undoubtedly chasing a few insects for fun. She continues her usual excited re-exploration of known and relatively unchanging territory as I make my way to the gate, pushing it open only enough for the two of us to walk through, calling for her and knowing to start shutting the gate again the moment her name left my mouth, she could move quickly when she wanted. "Good girl, Sadie." I praise her, handing over a treat, knowing full well she'd done nothing particularly special, but she's so obedient that it is hard to find special reasons. She munches on the pork nibble as we walk, occasionally pausing to rescue a crumb which has escaped her mouth.
The scent of the sea wafts over us, she whines a little at it, I open my arms and smile, though quickly lower them as tired muscles complain. Sorry... Comes the expected apology and I immediately feel guilty for enjoying the day when there is another person literally trapped in my head who I keep forgetting about.
Don't worry about me. I'm quite used to being a non-entity by now. Just enjoy your life, I do try to interfere as little as possible.
And, as if to illustrate exactly why Scylla couldn't just not interfere at all, the squall of the gulls as Sadie and I walk along the cliff-path in the general direction of Gloria's house, the sound seems almost overwhelming, battering at my eardrums so that my head feels too small, unequal pressure trying to escape.
But as we walked, another sound whispers on the wind around us, and Sadie's ears fold back a little to hear it. "What is it, Sadie?" I ask absently as I also strain to deduce what the noise is.
As we near Gloria's house is becomes apparent that it is her voice, she's talking about crutches but that's the extent of what I can make out. I cannot see her in the garden, and would not be able to hear her from inside the house, so she must be in the little enclosed patio behind the cottage...
"Ow..." I can hear Faro complaining too as I edge around the house to peer through a gap in the tall fence.
Faro is teetering around on crutches with Gloria watching calmly in her dressing gown, on a deckchair, Richard emerges from the house carrying two steaming mugs – the bitterly rich aroma of coffee wafts from them, feeling like a mud pie in my nose.
The two sip their drinks while watching Faro struggle, occasionally calling out obvious advice and exclamations when he is about to fall. All in all I feel a little sorry for Faro, but I also can't help but laugh a little when he starts falling, catches himself on one crutch, spins on loose stones and manages to fall flat on his bum. He glances in my direction and Gloria mutters worriedly before Richard opens the side-gate, revealing me.
I wave shamefully, murmuring a "sorry" that we all know I probably don't fully mean, until Faro pushes himself back up and manages to waddle over to me, leaning on one crutch to hug me.
"How dare you laugh." Having to part lean on the crutch means that he is shorter than normal, speaking into my neck rather than the side of my head, breath warm as the waters of Australia.
"You laughed at me." I remind him. "Diffuses tension and all that."
"Given that I don't know what 'diffuses' means, I choose to ignore this conversation – what are we doing?"
"Well, given what I know of what Saldowr said, and what Yvonne said, but didn't say – if that makes any sense – then I think the idea is you have to be in public a lot, pretending to be human until they are convinced. Though, as logical professionals I find it really weird that they even answer calls like that, surely it's like aliens and they have better things to do, it's for rubbish TV channels, not pro-scientists?"
Richard gives a half-smile. "You'd be surprised just how ignorant even professionals can be."
"Rich, tell her your idea." Gloria prompts, nudging him.
"Ahh, yes – I was quite proud of myself when I thought of this, even if I do say so myself."
"I don't understand any of it." Faro whispers to me, reluctance clear in his tone, and it hits me suddenly how different this is, but how similar at the same time to my first visits to Ingo. I was terrified and holding onto Faro for dear life, but I was much younger, and not entirely believing of any of it, completely out of my depth, where Faro has known about humans for a long time, knows, even through references, the people around him. But no offence to Ingo, but in Air there's just so much more to know, so many laws and rules and cultures, where the Mer are one (well, sort of, but the outliers are in the middle of nowhere like the kelp-Mer).
"What is it?" I ask, squeezing Faro's hand.
"Well, I checked on Google earlier, and the info's slightly off but no-one is going to know the exact dates off the top of their head, so I'm pretty sure you two can act it well enough, you're experienced in deceit after all – wrong word, sorry, but it's true."
"What info?" I ask.
"Rumspringa – that's what it's called. Have you heard of the Amish, Sapphire?"
"Um, yeah, sort of? Religious cult who don't shave?" I venture, unsure as to why it was relevant.
"Bit more than that, but yes, a sect of Christianity devoted to traditional methods, in the belief that technology distances them from God – there's a lot more involved, but that's the simple explanation – but that means they live in communities amongst themselves in the middle of nowhere, staying pure and farming, raising their kids without computers or heating or electricity."
I wince at the very idea. Faro just raises an eyebrow at me. I stick my tongue out at him. And before I can say anything, he whispers.
I do know what those things are you know. Sounding quite pleased with himself.
I do too. Scylla murmurs and my vision fuzzes over for a moment.
"Sapphire?" Faro whispers aloud this time, touching my wrist. "What's wrong?"
I shake my head, smiling. "Nothing, just a little headache. What were you saying Richard?"
"Anyway, the point being, that a little younger than you and Faro are, Amish kids get the choice to experience modern life and decide whether to leave home or not."
Gloria grins even whilst Faro and I stare blankly at her.
"Don't you see how brilliant it is? Being raised in that purist environment would supply an explanable reason for Faro's – no offence – ignorance, about certain things."
"What about the crutches?" I ask, doubtful that it could be this easy.
Gloria speaks this time, smirking around her mug, pleased with herself. "Ahh, another thing about the Amish – you may have heard on the news that some religions refuse blood transfusions, that it's dirty and the powers that be won't like it, I'm not entirely sure, but that's what I remember it sounding like – given the lack of technology, healthcare won't be as good. Therefore, slight leg injury could be permanent without proper treatment, even just setting a broken leg wrong can mean permanent damage."
"I do hope you're getting this Sapphire." Faro mutters, clearly having heard it before and still not understanding, therefore placing all the responsibility on me.
"Sort of, maybe?" I answer. "So basically, you don't know anything cos you've lived cooped up in the mountains somewhere without TV, and cos you can't get decent doctors your legs don't work. It's a good excuse, but not if we have to outright tell someone suspicious."
"Yes, but that's where you two come in. You're teenagers, I'm sure there's something you can come up with to avoid adults speaking to you." Gloria actually winks, and I'm not sure whether to feel affronted or a little proud at my age group.
I decide on proud when Faro waggles his eyebrows. "Sure we'll think of something." he says.
"By which you mean I'll think of something, given that I have come up with all the last-second ideas in the past— Humanity sucks sometimes."
"I believe many philosophers have expressed that exact thought in hundreds if not thousands of pages in the past." Richard comments dryly.
"Cos it's true, never had to make really complicated plans to get me into Ingo."
"It's not exactly Mission Impossible Sapphire." Gloria says kindly.
"No," I say. "Mission Impossible was an overstatement, there's gonna be five of 'em."
"You know what I meant." Gloria sighs. "The walking is as good as it's going to get anytime soon, it's just practice, practice, practice now."
"So..." I say hesitantly. "Only the big reveal left now really."
"'Fraid so." Richard nods. "Probably best to see Conor or... what was it? Ah, yes, Rainbow. Probably best to see them first to smooth it over a little."
"How am I meant to get him all the way to St. Pirans!"
"Bus." Gloria smirks. "Just takes a bit longer to get there, and you leave earlier and all too."
In frustration I glance at Sadie. "What do you think, girl?"
She pants where she sits at my feet.
"You wanna go see Rainbow?" I ask her.
Her eyes light up and she jumps to her feet, wagging madly.
"Looks like we've got to try to catch the next bus."
"Then 10:15, you've got twenty minutes to get there, it would normally take you ten at a good pace." Richard estimates as Gloria wanders back into the house.
Amusingly enough, as I reach into my pocket to text Mum that I'll be visiting Rainbow and spending the day in St Pirans, my phone vibrates against my hand, trilling the opening bars of 'Walking On Sunshine'
You wanna get an ice cream or something? You need to pick up your camera and Pat gave me money.
I put up a finger apologetically, typing back:
Sure, I'll get next bus.
I send another to Mum quick to say I'm bringing Sadie to see Rainbow, then look up to see Faro putting something in his pocket.
"What's that?" I ask.
"Should be enough for a bus ticket and a snack or something." Gloria says with a grin. "Since you can't exactly ask your Mum for a fiver for him."
"I swear I'll pay you back."
Gloria shakes her head. "No, but only once mind you."
"Okay – Faro, let's go, we gotta get the bus before we miss it!"
He rolls his eyes. "Easy for you to say."
"Since you're all leant on the crutches I can't even help you, if I tried it'd just knock you over. Come on then, we've gotta move." I start towards the gate, holding it open for him, Sadie trotting on ahead.
He grunts with the effort of the first few steps... hops? They're not really steps, but oh well – movements. The clear exertion doesn't fade, the focus remains so obvious on his face the whole way, but he stops vocalising the trouble he is having a quarter of the way, instead spending his energy on moving instead of complaining. I cannot help but feel guilty for letting him do this to himself.
We don't miss the bus Sapphire is so anxious to catch, it arrives a few moments before we do, and she thanks the driver profusely for waiting. "Come on Faro!" she calls. "We'll be late!"
"And if we don't arrive the exact moment of truth you've chosen in your mind Rainbow will be devastated." I tease, grinning at her while trying to take even deeper breaths. Waves and tides, this was so much effort. My tail had never been this heavy.
The driver, as Sapphire mutters while 'paying', snorts "Women, nag, nag, moan, the lot of them – you alright there fella?"
I nod curtly, anger surging strong and lasting as the Tide Knot, too much to give any other answer lest it be to throttle him. I grab Sapphire's shoulder as the bus moves, threatening to send me sprawling to the floor.
Just move with it, like a current. Sapphire thinks at me, supporting my weight and swaying gently to match the movement.
He insulted you. I think back, furious and unbidden memories of Ervys and the other traitors flood my mind and weave across our connection, putting a grimace on her face.
Don't argue with a bus driver, you can't win... Dad always used to say 'Don't argue with something a ton heavier than you are' and a bus is, it'd be like arguing with a whale.
Why would I argue with a whale? What could a whale possibly want to argue about? I think in bemusement as she drops onto a multicoloured chair, pulling me down beside her
Sapphire grins and whispers dramatically, "I don't know, but Muakara seems to think you need watching, or else you'll make off with my innocence."
"What innocence, wise and powerful Sapphire?" I mutter back, grinning just as much.
I intend to bring back the insult to her, but while I carefully arrange my thoughts we are left in silence for a moment, in which the bus keeps moving and the land blurs passed us, I blink to try and clear my vision but the interior remains clear like the centre of a current, but a current has never felt quite like this.
"Faro, you okay?"
"We're moving." I say slowly, eyes bulging plaintively at her. "Moving." I say again, somehow feeling like I am spinning while sure that I am in the same place.
"Well, yeah, that's the idea." she replies, nonplussed.
I swallow, trying to articulate what is actually wrong. Of course, in panic even the greatest warriors and minds can forget the obvious.
"Faro, turn so your feet are in the aisle and lie on my lap." Sapphire commands, pressing at my shoulders to help me. I'm confused enough that I obey her, and the moving sensation lessens. "Close your eyes like you're sleeping, we'll be there soon." she says aloud.
And continues in our mindlink: You must be motion sick, you look positively green. I never knew it was that fast.
What happened? I ask, hunching a little in on myself, utterly mortified at how feeble this makes me look.
Some people just are, wonderful advantage of gravity to the human brain. It's not often that thoughts can sound sarcastic, but Sapphire manages it. Some people have pills or coping methods, some just need to get out every so often, or just be sick then go on. One of the girls at school had to have a window open all the time or she'd throw up.
It's like my head and insides are moving in opposite directio— My very thought trails off as she strokes my hair and face, and I can feel her soft smile across our link.
Sorry, I hadn't considered it as a possibility – I guess I thought currents and vehicles would be similar. Good thing it's not a long trip – you'll perk up again once we're off.
Then back to the joys of the crutches(!)
I could carry you again if they're that difficult.
No, thank you. I reply, grimacing at the mental image she supplies with a slightly frightening rush of glee.
"We're here," she says aloud, tugging at my arm. "C'mon, up."
I struggle down the aisle after her, the rocking motion required to move on crutches not exactly helping the uncomfortably hot sensation in my belly.
"Thanks!" Sapphire calls to the rude driver as she helps me down to the pavement beside her. "Not far to Rainbow's house, it's just down there." she points along the road, towards the beach.
I don't know how I hadn't noticed the sound of Ingo grow louder on the journey, how close the waves were, but now the lapping, lilting song called out. I had forgotten what Conor used to call 'The Ingo Face', but now I am quite sure my expression matches it, and a glance at Sapphire shows she does too.
"Come on, if you're seen going into the water in crutches that would look stupidly suspicious." Sapphire says uneasily, having to push the words out. She reaches out to squeeze my wrist before leading the way, immediately shortening her stride to allow cleft me to keep up.
That quote is a real thing my stepdad says, and he got really angry when I asked if he means a metric or Imperial , confession time. I have finished planning this story, figured out the connections between scenes at the end and all that, but I am not motivated at all to write it, I haven't really got the energy or time to do so, I have been fighting to get my exam conditions so I can actually attend my exams, and everyone's telling me I need to take another course which would add another year to my time in college and I don't want to do that... Anyway, you don't need to hear about my life. For various reasons, I am taking this story off my things to do (I know, it's hard to believe, but it has been on my things to do list every day, and I have opened it and looked at it in despair every few days, and thought about it every day, occasionally able to write a sentence if I was lucky). I seriously don't have the energy for a multichapter at the moment. I might do some odd AU oneshots since I have silly ideas in my journal at the moment, but I'm really sorry to put this story on semi-permanent hiatus. I might get my energy back, but it looks unlikely - since I've got all the notes I'm happy to give them to anyone who'd like to take it on. Anyone who wants to know how it was meant to continue I can give you the basic notes if you PM or review me./strong/p