Fishing You a Fintastic Day
If asked, Lance would admit that he made some mistakes.
The first was going up to the surface in the first place. He’d been visiting the surface ever since he was a guppy despite his mother’s warnings. At first, it was quick trips that grew longer and more adventurous the older he got. He eventually grew bold enough to explore the shallow beaches in hopes of seeing humans on a regular basis. They were always more interesting than dangerous in his opinion. And that led to his second mistake.
Lance had waited till the sun set before getting close to the shore, keeping just under the surface to avoid being seen. He got close enough that he could sit on the sand and still stick his head out of the water, enjoying the breeze and the moon slowly rising over the ocean. From a rocky cliff at the other end of the harbor, a white tower swept beams of light across the waves.
After basking the quiet for a few minutes, Lance grew bored and followed the beach towards the human town. Despite staying hidden, he enjoyed being close enough to satisfy his curiosity. Sometimes he would find groups of humans by their boats, talking and laughing through the evening, or a couple at the edge of the boardwalk, watching the stars as they held hands. There were less people at night, a disappointment for Lance but also safer for being so close.
Lance surfaced by one of the boats, frowning when he saw no humans out enjoying the night. He kept his head above water as he followed along the boardwalk, weaving around docks and boats but still seeing no one. With a huff, he dove again, heading towards a small cove at the base of the cliff.
It was one of his favorite spots, far enough from town that it felt safe to go near the beach but still gifting him with the solitary figure that visited. Lance had made it a habit to stop by the cove each night to watch.
Sometimes the human went to town and returned, a trip that Lance shadowed from the water. Most nights they would sit on the beach or the small dock at the center and watch the sky until the moon was gone and dawn was on the horizon. Only when the weather was cold or storming did the human skip his nightly visits.
A few times, Lance tried calling to them, desperately wanting to meet a human up close, but always guppied out and ducked behind a rock when they turned his way. Once they had even followed his voice into the water, trudging as high as their waist, scouting around the cove. Lance panicked and swam out to open water before they got too close. He avoided the cove for a whole day but curiosity won out and he returned to see his human pacing the dock before disappearing towards the cliff at dawn.
The more he visited, the braver Lance felt. Each night, he would swim closer, staying behind rocks or hovering near the sandy ocean floor. He finally got close enough to recognize the human’s features; pale with dark hair and sharp eyes that studied the sky. In the past week, Lance had built up enough courage to surface under the dock, floating just under his human as their feet dangled in the water.
That ended up being his third mistake.
Lance made it to the cove, frowning when he didn’t see the human in sight. Keeping below the water, he swam over to the dock to wait. He was too busy scanning the shore, he didn’t notice what was underneath until he swam right into it.
Something wrapped around his arm the same instant he felt another something press against the side of his face. Lance jolted back, using his tail to swim backwards, but the thing around his arm tightened, pulling the shape closer to wrap around him. He used his other hand to tug at it, only succeeding in getting it caught as well. Lance realized too late that he had swam right into a waiting net.
Lance panicked, thrashing his tail, trying to untangle the ropes from around it. The rough material chaffed at his skin while his scales were scraped and threatened to break off. He tried to dive, jerking to a stop when the net tightened around his shoulders and neck without yielding. He tugged at them with one hand, clawing at the sand with the other, searching for something sharp enough to cut him loose.
His fingers barely brushed the bottom no matter how hard he worked his tail. The ropes dug deeper into his skin, one pressing against his gills and making it hard to breathe. His tail was tightly bound, each movement grating against scale and fin.
The water around Lance became rough and choppy as his fear climbed. The once clear sky turned dark as sudden clouds billowed in, blocking out the stars and bright moon. Gusts of wind stirred the surface of the water, kicking up rippling waves that slammed into the dock.
The sky brewed, thunder and lightning rattling the land and water alike as Lance fought with the net, his fear bleeding into feral rage the longer he was trapped.
Amongst the chaos of the incoming storm, a loud splash next to Lance caught his attention. Bubbles and sand flew in his eyes but he could still make out a pair of human legs kicking in the water.
Lance’s terror spiked as he let out a shrill cry, closer to distressed dolphin than human, and lashed out in defense. Hands pulled at the net, one clutching a knife that shone in a flash of lightning. Lance left out a serious of angry clicks and bared his sharp teeth when they grabbed for his neck.
Lance tried to squirm away, freezing when the knife hovered closer to his sensitive gills. He closed his eyes and waited, but the hand pulled away, the rope unraveling so he could breathe. Lance snapped his eyes open as the hands attacked chunk of net, the knife gently easing between rope and skin before slicing and freeing him bit by bit.
After a few cuts, Lance felt the ropes loosen enough to wiggle out of them. In a flash, he tugged himself free, whirling around to smack the human with his tail. He felt one of his fins graze them and a slight taste of blood tinged the water as he swam away.
Lance was halfway across the cove before he felt safe enough to look back. The winds and waters calmed as he hid behind a cluster of rocks, panic fading away into shaky exhaustion. He leaned heavily against a boulder, his head barely above the water line as he peeked around.
A head of dark hair surfaced after a moment, the human gasping and coughing as they slumped onto the dock. Lance was almost worried but the knife at their belt and the net dangling from one hand shoved any sympathy down. He glared as they stood and shuffled towards the beach, pausing to scan the stirred water.
Lance’s anger dwindled to anguish as he recognized his human, still dragging the net while his other arm was cradled gingerly against his side. He watched them leave with a frown, glancing at the bruises already forming on his arms and chest.
His mom had been right, humans were dangerous. Even the ones he wanted to trust.
With a final whine, Lance dove and swam out to sea, bitterly regretting the night he found the cove and the human that haunted it.
“Why is it so miserable outside!” Matt shouted over the entry bell, closing the door behind him with a shiver.
“Morning, Matt!” Coran greeted, toting a box filled with snorkels and masks to the back room.
“Morning, Coran,” he sniffled back, making his way around the counter to the office. Allura and Shiro were already huddled around the desk, studying at a map of the harbor. Matt knocked on the open door, snickering when they both jumped.
“Oh, Matt!” Allura gasped, “You scared us!”
“Just be lucky it wasn’t Pidge,” he shrugged, taking a seat by the space heater. “There would have been more air horns involved.”
“Already happened. More than once,” Shiro said. He glanced at Matt’s shivering form with a raised brow. “Cold?”
“Damn right,” he chattered, rolling his eyes at Shiro’s disapproving look. “What are you doing here so early, Shiro? I should have brought donuts.”
Shiro shook his head, fighting back a smile. “You’re just as bad as your sister. I’m getting Allura to fill out a report. One of the Marmora guys got injured this morning. The fishermen involved say it was just a boating accident but–”
“This is the fourth ‘accident’ in two weeks!” Allura interrupted, eyes flashing with rage.
“Let me guess,” Matt glanced from Allura’s lived expressing to Shiro’s tired sigh. “Was it a Galra fishing boat?”
Shiro nodded. “Yeah. It’s suspicious but with Thace recovering in the hospital and no other witnesses, we can’t exactly get anything to stick. Our best bet is to fill out a report and be extra careful of anything else.”
“But what am I supposed to do with half of my divers either scared off or injured,” Allura said, gesturing to the map. “It’s already been a slow season; less tourists are visiting because of all the fishing trying to overtake the harbor. We can show tourists the town and Keith’s been gracious to allow us visits to the lighthouse but without the Marmora divers, we’re going to lose business. Our biggest attraction is our sea and diving tours and I’m running out of hosts.”
“Allura, it’s going to be okay.” Shiro put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Kolivan said he would try to get more divers together to help run the tours. It may not be as many as we’re used to but we’ll get buy. Maybe we can find some experienced divers in the area to hire.”
“Great idea!” Matt spoke up, pulling out his phone. “I can get Pidge to put up a job posting. Besides, the cold weather might buy you some time and encourage more land-ish excursions. I’m always willing to give a tour here and there if you need me and maybe Keith can let us visit the cove.”
Shiro nodded. “I’ll visit later and ask him. I’m sure he won’t mind.”
“Thank you,” Allura smiled, both happy and tired at once. “I appreciate your help. I just hope we don’t run into any more issues.”
The harsh clanging of the front bell and the slamming of the door made all three jump at once.
Shiro winced at the voice. “Or I guess I can ask him now?”
“Maybe wait till he’s less murderous,” Matt suggested as the sound of thundering footsteps approached.
“Yeah good idea.”
Keith stomped into the doorway, hair and clothes dripping wet, teeth bared, and eyes wide with rage. Dragging from his hand was a lumpy bag, soaking water onto the floor.
“Really, Keith? You couldn’t leave that outside?” Allura asked, taking in his wet, shivering appearance. “You’re going to catch your death at this rate.”
“I need Shiro to see this,” Keith said sharply, untying the bag and dumping it upside down. A mass of soggy ropes splat to the floor.
Everyone else narrowed their eyes. “Are those…?” Matt started, grabbing one of the frayed pieces.
“Nets. I just spent the last two hours combing over my cove and finding about seven nets scattered everywhere!” Keith snapped, kicking at the lines. “I wouldn’t have even known if something hadn’t gotten caught in one of them last night!”
“Something got caught?!” Matt and Shiro both parroted back at once.
“Don’t worry I cut it loose before it could get too tangled up.”
“What was it?” Matt asked, taking out a pen and paper to jot down the details.
“I don’t know. It was too dark to see exactly. I think it was big fish. Or maybe a shark.”
Shiro crossed his arms, aiming his ‘disappointed big brother’ frown at Keith. “You jumped in the water. Alone. At night. To cut a shark loose. From a net.”
“Well I couldn’t just let it die!”
“And you could have gotten seriously hurt! What if it decided to bite you? Or got your tangled up too?”
“I’m fine! The shark got loose, I didn’t die, and I found the nets. I think there might be a few more I need to take down but I have to double check.”
“And you don’t know who put them there?” Matt asked, frowning in full ranger mode.
“Oh I know who put them there,” Keith seethed. “It’s those Galra fishermen again. They’ve been trying to get to my cove for months. Last time, I told them I would report them for trespassing.”
“But you didn’t see anyone set the nets?” Shiro asked, face pinched with irritation.
“No I think they set them when I was in town the other day. Heck, they might be out there setting more right now with me gone!”
Shiro sighed. “Keith–”
“Nope,” Keith cut in, crossing his arms. “I know what you’re going to say already.”
“As much as I believe you…”
“I can’t accuse them without evidence,” Keith finished, scowling down at the nets. “How much more evidence do you need!? They’ve been trying to fish at my cove for months, chasing off all the competition in the harbor,” he waved a hand at Allura, still sitting quietly in the corner as she mulled over the conversation, “Even Allura’s had problems with their harassment. Don’t think I didn’t hear about what happened to Thace.”
“Look I don’t like the Galra fishing any more than you do.” Shiro placed his hands on Keith’s shoulders, giving a reassuring squeeze. “I want to see them brought to justice but to do that, I need proof first. If we can catch them in the act or find evidence to make it stick, then we can shut them down. I can make patrols by the cove if you want but I need you to keep an eye out too and report any suspicious behavior.”
Keith wrinkled his nose like he wanted to argue but settled for a curt nod. Shiro gave him a final pat before grabbing the bag and shoving the ruined nets back in.
“Matt and I will take care of the nets and see if we can find anything to lead them back to the fishermen. You let us know if you find anymore, alright?”
The fight drained out of Keith as his shoulders slumped in defeat. “Fine. I need to get back to the lighthouse, anyways.”
“Oh wait! Speaking of the lighthouse!” Allura called as Keith backed out of the office. “Since Thace and a few other divers are out and the weather is being finicky, would it be possible to arrange a few lighthouse tours for this week?”
“Sure, no problem,” Keith nodded, “Just give me a heads up so I’m awake this time. Pidge barging into my room with a bunch of strangers once was more than enough.”
Matt started cackling as the others shook their heads, stifling their own laughter.
“That’s my baby sister!” Matt wheezed with pride, almost falling out of his chair.
“Your sister’s a demon,” Keith shot back, huddling into his wet jacket as he turned to leave.
“True that!” Matt shouted as the door opened and the cold air invaded. “At least you don’t have to live with her!”
“She spends so much time at the lighthouse, I might as well! I’ll see you guys later!” Keith closed the door and shivered as a gust of wind ruffled his damp hair. He stuck his hands in his pockets and started walking, following the path out of town towards the lighthouse.
After escaping the cove, he found a grotto near the coral reef and huddled inside, sulking for nearly two days. His feelings kept flipping back and forth between anger and sorrow. He had been so excited to see humans and finally get close. For a moment, Lance had honestly believed he could put his trust in one. It had been a fragile, hopeful trust but it still hurt to have it broken.
The more he hid away in his cave, half buried in sand and despair, the more his mind wandered, replaying the horrible memory. After the initial shock and panic faded with each reminder, Lance focused more on actually remembering, analyzing each piece like a chip of sea glass.
By day three, the anger and sorrow had been replaced with confusion. Nothing about the encounter made sense. Lance had been caught in a net, unable to get loose, completely at the human’s mercy. They even had a knife; one quick cut would have been enough to kill Lance, or even hurt him enough for an easy capture. But instead, they had cut the ropes, being careful not to even nick him with the weapon.
But Lance couldn’t understand why a human would try to trap him in a net to only to turn around and set him free once he was caught. Cautious thoughts and hopeful excuses whirled like a swarm of krill, making his head spin with the possibilities.
Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. Lance flicked the sand off his tail and swam out of the cave. He wanted answers and the only way to get them was to confront the human.
Lance arrived soon than expected. Cold air hung heavy over the waves while the sky loomed a dreary gray. It was still too bright out for comfort but Lance refused to turn back. He skirted the edge of the cove before surfacing behind the rocks, keeping his distance.
He scanned the cove, surprised when he saw movement and shied closer to his hiding place. The same human was at the dock but instead of perching at the end like usual, they were underneath it, water reaching nearly to their waist. They were struggling with something, muttering and stirring up the water around them.
Lance waited till he was sure they were distracted and dove, keeping close to the ocean floor as he swam closer. He stopped a few yards away, crouched low to the sand as he watched them yank on something under the dock. A tangle of rope floated with the waves, making Lance shudder.
He braved another few feet closer, frowning when he sensed blood in the water. It wasn’t enough for the human to notice but even the slightest hint was enough to attract unwanted attention. Lance frowned as they yanked the net loose and flung it up onto the dock, wading to deeper water where another trap was waiting.
Instead of swimming forward, Lance gave them a wide berth. He circled to the side as they started cutting at the next net, water splashing near their shoulders. The smell of blood and the erratic splashing put Lance on edge. In any other situation, he would assume the commotion was caused by an injured seal or dolphin. He frowned at the thought, circling in just a bit closer as he scanned the rest of the cove.
An hour passed as Lance made his fourth loop around his human. Behind the clouds, the sun was slowly dipping towards the horizon, stretching dark shadows through the water. The human had swum their way to the end of the dock, pulling at the sixth and final net. Lance was passing the beach when he noticed another shape coming into the cove. It was large and fast, a dark dorsal fin cutting through the waves. Dread crawled up his spine as Lance darted towards the dock.
A bull shark had wondered in from deeper waters, following the scent of blood and sounds of distressed swimming. It made lazy arcs, sensing out the area, but kept weaving closer and closer to the oblivious human.
Lance hovered to the side, half hoping the human would notice in time but half fearing the worst if he didn’t intervene. The other shark was quickly closing the distance while the human tugged at the last of the net.
A jerk of the head and a flash of widening jaws were Lance’s only warning as the shark lunged in for the attack. With a powerful flick of his tail, Lance swam in its path, gnashing his sharp teeth and flaring his fins in challenge. Luckily, he sudden intrusion was enough to startle the bull shark and it turned tail, retreating back to easier hunting grounds.
Lance’s relief barely lasted a second. The splashing was behind him and louder than ever, the carelessness grating on his nerves. Huffing a stream of bubbles, Lance swam the last few feet up and stuck his head above the water, less than a tails length away from the human.
He frowned when he went unnoticed, his human still cutting at the last net as they splashed enough to draw every shark in the harbor. Lance took a moment to adjust his breathing, studying the human up close.
Their black hair was slicked back against their neck, some stray pieces dripping over their forehead. Dark eyes glared ahead while a thin frown pulled at their lips. Toned arms and nimble hands wielded the knife from before, hacking and cutting at the net anchors. Lance made a mental note to keep out of reach.
The scent of blood was even stronger up close. Lance didn’t see any major bleeding but slight wisps of red trailed from a poorly wrapped arm before disappearing in the disturbed water.
Nearly a minute passed as the human wrestled with the last piece of netting, still oblivious to the shark floating right behind him. Lance’s patience finally wore out.
“What kind of an idiot goes swimming with an injury?” he snapped, smug satisfaction replacing irritation at the human’s surprised squawk.
They nearly dropped under the water, resurfacing again with a cough before turning towards him in shock. Then anger.
“Who are you?” they said, teeth clenched and eyes blazing. “How did you get here?
Lance rolled his eyes. “I swam. Obviously.”
The human glanced around towards the shore before narrowing their eyes back on Lance. “You can’t swim here; this beach is private property.”
“Excuse me,” Lance growled, floating closer till he was in arms reach. The human didn’t back down from his chilling glare. “But I can swim wherever I want.”
“Not on my beach,” the human spat back. They help up a length of net that Lance immediately backed away from. “I’m already having trouble with poachers trespassing. I don’t need entitled tourists, too.”
Lance wrinkled his nose in confusion. “Wait, what are poachers?”
“Poachers are assholes that think they can fish wherever they want for whatever they want,” they answered, giving Lance a dry look. “Kind of like swimmers that don’t know when a beach is private.”
“I already told you, I swim wherever I want. I don’t need your stupid beach,” Lance hissed, eyeing the net warily.
“This whole cove is mine,” the human shouted, arms swirling in the water to emphasis the space. “From the tree line back there all the way to where those rocks circle around belongs to me.”
“That’s stupid, you can’t own the ocean.”
The human groaned in frustration. “Are you for real right now? I don’t own the ocean, just this area.”
“And what do you do with the ocean you think you own?” Lance sneered.
“Mostly keep tourists like you from coming in and messing it up.”
Lance raised a brow. “Messing it up?”
“Yeah! The noise scares away the wildlife, the littering messes up the beach and the water, plus I don’t want people coming down here anyways.”
The human turned to toss the net onto the dock with a huff. Lance frowned, glancing from the human to the tangle of ropes. “So you try to protect the ocean?” he asked after a moment, confusion coloring his words.
“Yeah, I guess?” the human said with a shrug. “I try to help out. I mostly want to keep assholes off my land.”
“But if you’re trying to protect the cove, why put those up everywhere?” Lance pointed to the net dripping on the dock. “Is that your idea of protection? Catching me in one of those again?”
“Catching you? Why would I–wait what do you mean again?” the human turned from confused to suspicious. “Were you here before?”
Lance gulped as the knife hovered closer. He backed away as the human continued to glare. “I was here the other night. I got caught in one no thanks to you!”
“No thanks to me?!?” The human looked even more furious than before. “You think I’m responsible?!? Poachers keep sneaking in and putting these nets up!! I’ve been out here for three days cutting them down!! I didn’t even know they were here till some fish got caught–”
“Shark,” Lance corrected, crossing his arms with a pout.
“I’m not a fish,” Lance muttered, sinking lower till his mouth was almost bubbling in the water. “I’m a shark.”
The human looked truly at a loss, staring silently as they processed the input.
“I don’t know what that means?” they finally said.
Lance sighed. “I was the shark in the net,” he admitted. Turning on his back, he lifted his tail, fins easily seen above the water.
The human’s eyes widened, one trembling hand pointing at the tail. “You’re a…a…a…”
“Merman?” Lance offered with a weak smile. “Well, mershark, technically.”
The initial shock shifted to fear as the human backed toward the dock. “You’re…you’re not going to eat me, are you?”
The question was so bizarre, Lance snort a laugh before he could think better of it. “What?! No! I’m not going to eat you, jeez.”
The human didn’t seem convinced. “But you said you’re a shark.”
“A mershark. I’m not interested in eating you. That’s better than the bull shark from earlier.” The pale complexion paled further as the human quickly looked around. “Relax, I chased it off. Not a good idea to swim while you’re bleeding, by the way.”
Lance pointed to the wrapped arm. The human glanced down, finally noticing the seeping blood. They frowned and shot Lance a glare. “That was your fault.”
“When I was cutting you loose?” they said, one hand covering the bandage.
“Oh.” Lance glanced down, scratching at his gills as he floated closer. “Sorry. I was…well I panicked. I couldn’t get out then suddenly you were there. With a knife.”
The human glanced at the weapon, still clutched in their hand. With a shrug, they set it on the dock out of reach. “Better?”
“And you’re not going to eat me?”
“I already said no,” Lance huffed. “I don’t eat humans. I like humans.”
The human scoffed. “Lucky you. You must have met the few decent ones.”
Lance laughed. “I guess. You’re actually the first human I’ve ever talked to.” The human’s face turned pink before bobbing under the water, reappearing a moment later in a splutter. “You okay?”
They nodded, face still flushed but no longer floundering. “What’s your name?” they asked after few seconds.
Lance’s concerned smile sharpened to a smirk. “What? Feeling special knowing you’re my first?”
The human went from pink to red. They turned and started swimming towards the dock ladder, refusing to look at the mershark. “Never mind. I don’t want to know anymore.”
“Aw wait come on!” Lance swam to cut them off, grabbing at the ladder the same instant the human did. The human flinched but didn’t move away and Lance realized how close they were. His arm was drifting near the human’s side while his long tail trailed past his ankle. It was the closest he’d ever been to any human and the thought was both exciting and terrifying.
Shaking the shock off, Lance arranged his face into a pleading pout. “You sure you don’t want to know my name?”
He internally cheered when the human frowned but didn’t escape up the ladder. They crossed their arms and raised a brow, waiting. Lance smiled again, more playful than cocky.
“I’m Lance,” he said, sticking his arm out straight like he saw other humans do.
His human had to cross their eyes to see the hand hovering in front of their face. The stony expression softened to a subtle smile as they grabbed Lance’s hand with their own, giving it a small squeeze.
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