the First

There Be Pirates

"Kai?"

I pivot in a full circle, but he's no where to be seen.

"Kai?" I shout, my voice rising an octave.

Where did he go? Why would he leave me out here? I don't even know how to use this thing, much less how to get back to his house!

"Hello?"

A few tears start to fall, I angrily swipe them away. No more crying. Everyone must think I'm a child. A soft tap on my lower back sends me whirling around, and the small yellow fish jets back into the coral. I let out a teary giggle, and practice a slow glide towards the reef.

"I'm sorry," I say, "please come back."

Am I really talking to a fish right now? I expect nothing to happen, but the little fish pokes his head out of his hiding spot. I smile at it, and extend my hand.

"Come on out. I won't hurt you."

The fish swims forward very quickly, and weaves between my fingers. I laugh with excitement. Does it really understand me? Suddenly, the coral reef comes alive with fish, at least two hundred, and they're all swimming at me. The school ranges from tiny silver fish the size of my pinky, to large blue and yellow fish the size of my arm. I'm surrounded, they swim through my hair and around my tail, creating a colorful tornado. It tickles, I'm soon laughing uncontrollably as the fish dart around me.

"Okay, okay. Stop!"

They cease their swimming and back up, floating like little soldiers waiting for my next command. They really do understand me!

"Um," the idea hits me and brings a smile to my face, "find Kai, please."

They all jet around to the side of the reef, and I hear a shout of surprise and joy as Kai is pushed around the corner by my army of fish. He's laughing, I start to laugh, too. They deposit him in front of me, and split on either side of him.

"You guys can go back to your reef now. Thank you for your help."

They swim away to the reef, swimming through its holes and around each other.

"I see you've already discovered one of our gifts." Kai says.

I turn my attention to him, "Gifts?"

"Mermaids can speak to fish."

I cock my head, "That's very interesting."

He chuckles, "I wasn't sure that you would be able to do that, what with you being a half breed and all. You're very far from normal, you know."

I look up at him, a grin playing on my lips, "I'm going to take that as a compliment."

"You should."

I watch the fish glide through the water.

"What's the other part of me?"

"Not entirely sure. Human? It all depends on if the Queen is your mother, and who her lover was, if there actually was one. It's kind of up in the air right now."

Hm. I suppose we'll find out. The sunlight falls through the waves, creating shadows against the bright colors of the coral. Being here next to Kai, I don't think I could be happier. That pain was almost worth it. How many kids dream of becoming mermaids? The fish dart through my hair and around our tails. We both burst into laughter, their fins tickling every inch of us. I could get used to this. Kai moves a little closer to me. I'm not sure, but I think we're feeling the same way right now.

Suddenly, I inhale a huge gulp of salt water. I'm supposed to be able to breathe underwater. But it happens again, I can't breathe. Then, that familiar fire starts burning in my legs, in reverse. It feels like my tail is being split apart. It is. I'm turning back into a human. My eyes open wide in terror, Kai pulls away.

"What's wrong?"

I'm trying to convey what's going on using my eyes, but he's not getting it. I can't hold my breath much longer. My legs are on fire, I can feel my bones shattering. Kai looks down. His face goes pale. He looks up at me again, fear in his eyes, just as I let out my last breath in an explosion of bubbles. I'm crying again. Darkness edges into my vision, my legs are twisting on each other as my bones form again as a set of human legs. Kai rushes forward to me, and grabs hold of my waist. He shoots up towards the surface. My vision is growing dimmer by the second. I begin to go limp against him.

"I don't know if you can hear me, but-" his voice breaks, and he pauses. I can feel the water rushing around me, and the now setting sun on my face.

"You're going to be okay."

My world goes black.


I'm weightless, floating on a cloud. I can't see the world below me, only miles and miles of clear, blue sky. I don't have a care in the world, I don't feel worried at all. It's nice. I know I was feeling worried about something, but I can't remember what it is anymore. I don't mind, though. I close my eyes and settle back into the soft, warm cloud.

A drop of water hits me right on my forehead, I open my eyes. My beautiful sky has turned black with storm clouds, and it is beginning to rain. A bright flash of lightning streaks across the sky, followed by a booming clap of thunder. The rain is falling hard now, I can't seem to get away from it. It fills my nose and mouth. My cloud begins to disintegrate beneath me. I'm going to fall out of the sky! Thunder cracks through the air again as the water continues to pour into my body. I begin to fall. Down, down, down, it seems as if my fall will never end. I don't scream, but I feel a sense of panic begin to well up within me. The water makes me feel so heavy…

"Relia!"

My name? My fall slows, I can feel the water begin to ooze out of me. I don't feel so heavy anymore.

"Come on. Wake up!"

My eyes snap open, I cough violently. The water inside of me flows out of my mouth, I keep coughing until all of the water is drained from my lungs, the salt scratching my tongue. I'm wrapped in a hug from behind, and a chin resting on top of my head.

"Thank Neptune. I thought you were dead." Kai says softly, not letting me go.

We're sitting on top of the rock Peter and I sat on earlier today, now the sun has almost set behind the mountains.

I glance around, and realize something. I'm not wearing any pants.

I remember my bikini bottoms wrapped around my wrist, and hastily pull them off.

Keeping my back to him, I say to the water, "Uh, Kai. Could you…" I make a circle motion with my finger.

He gives a strangled cough as he realizes why, "Sure, sure."

I hear him shuffle behind me as he turns his back, and when I decide it's safe I slip them on.

"All clear."

I turn to face him as he turns to face me, and I notice he still has a tail.

"You didn't change?"

He gives me a confused look, "What do you mean?"

"To a human. Why didn't you?"

"I can't. Only half breeds can. It's a gift unique to you. After all, you're the first mermaid half breed we've ever known." he flashes a charming smile, "like I said, you're very very special."

A question pops into my head, and before I realize what I'm saying I say it, "Then how do mermaids reproduce?"

He bursts out laughing as I clap my hand over my mouth, a blush creeping up my cheeks.

"Sorry. Never mind." I mumble.

He pulls me in to his chest, my back is to him and I lean my head against his shoulder. We stare out at the waters of the lagoon.

"To answer your question," he starts, a teasing tone in his voice, "it happens when a mermaid and a merman mate. When a mermaid falls in love, they fall hard. So mating is a really big deal. After the ceremony is completed, and the Queen gives her blessing, the couple selects a spot on Neverland to have what humans call a honeymoon. A strange force compels them to pick a certain spot, and when they do, they change. Then they, um, reproduce. As soon as the child is born, they come back to the lagoon and the child is christened by the Queen. It's a cool process, really."

"Have you ever mated?"

"No. I haven't."

"How old are you?"

Damn, I need a filter. He pauses, I can feel his heartbeat against my back as I stare up at the sky, now inky black and filled with twinkling stars. A crescent moon shines light upon the water.

"Ninety seven."

I crane my neck to stare into his face, "Ninety seven?"

He chuckles, "I'm kind of immortal, after all. You don't age in Neverland."

"Oh. Right."

I lean back against him again, he tightens his arms around me. I look at the shore, a little ways away, and notice a small, shining object buried in the sand. The moonlight makes it shimmer.

"We should get back," Kai says, "Marina will be looking for us."

"Okay. I'll meet you down there. I have to figure out how to change back."

He releases me, "Right. You remember where the house is?"

"Yep."

Before I can protest, he leans in and kisses me. Soft and gentle. I kiss him back before it hits me. How long have I known him, a few hours? I can't do this. It goes against my morals. That I absolutely shattered when I was with Austin. I want this! No, I don't. Yes, I do! No. Nope. Absolutely not. I pull away and look down. He gently grasps my chin and pulls my face up. His eyes make me want to melt, he looks hurt and confused.

"What's wrong?" he asks.

I give a forced smile, "Nothing. There's just a lot going on, and I don't know if this," I gesture to me and to him, "is a good idea for me right now."

I don't want to explain that I don't feel comfortable kissing someone I just met. But I want to kiss him! I do. I really do. It feels so right to kiss him.

His expression becomes neutral, and he lets go of my chin, "I understand."

Clearly, he's upset. What did he say, mermaids fall in love very easily and very quickly? Is he falling in love with me? Am I falling in love with him?

"Kai, that's not what I-" I start, but he cuts me off.

"It's fine. I'll see you back at the house."

He turns and dives into the water without a backwards glance. I sigh and take a deep breath. It's for the best. I take off my bikini bottoms and wrap them around my wrist, and prepare myself for pain. I jump into the water, I'm engulfed in its warm caress. I cringe, hoping it doesn't hurt. A tingling sensation spreads up my legs, but it's not painful. I slowly open my eyes, and take in a deep breath. I'm okay! Glancing down, my shimmering tail gleams up at me. I give it a flick to pop my head up out of the water. I glance around, but the night is still. I paddle to the shore, and reach out to the shiny object. As soon as I pull it out of the sand, a crude net buried beneath the beach snaps up around me and lifts me high into a palm tree.

I scream, my change comes quickly. I grab my bikini bottoms as fast as I can and slide them on with quite some difficulty. I shift slightly, trying to make myself more comfortable, but I only make it worse. I take a few deep breaths, trying to remain calm. It's going to be okay. I'll be fine. I need to get help. I can't call for Kai. But he's the only one that knows where I am. At that moment, I hear footsteps crashing through the trees. Glancing in their direction, I notice torches being carried through the forest. Drunken shouts of joy fill the night air as a band of pirates emerges from the foliage.

"We got one!"

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