Luck was on Marcelina's side, as well as her sense of direction. In a system of caves, a small group of nereids played a game of modified tag. Two smaller ones, both female, chased each other in giggling circles. One fully grown male watched from a higher up cave, giving out pointers. Marcelina smiled and carefully began to sneak on the younger ones, going so far unnoticed. With a stealthy speed, Marcelina surged up from a small hole and caught the nearest girl, tickling along her sides. "Fast, but not aware of your surroundings. You should work on that, Ana," she teased, easily able to hold onto the squirming child.
Ana squealed out peals of laughter, trying to wiggle free but unable to. "Tia Marcelina! I've missed you," called out the second girl, approaching slowly. Her hands traced the rock and sand along the way, providing a path to compensate her blind eyes. Releasing Ana, Marcelina met the other half way, gathering her up in a tight hug. "Hello, Louisa. You've gotten so good at swimming, I'm proud." Marcelina kissed the tip of her nose. Louisa giggled, wiggling it after. Ana lingered nearby, wide eyes bright and red tail slowly working with the current.
"Marcelina, who do you think you are? You've been gone for a decade, and you decide to say hello by ambushing us? I oughta pull your dorsal fin." The scolding came from the lounging male, but it was half-hearted at best. Marcelina looked up and smile, feeling her stress just lift at the sight of his face. "Don't be like that, Ramon, it's been a trying decade." Marcelina left the girls to continue their game in favor of swimming up to the ledge Ramon was on. He rose an eyebrow at her, then burst into laughter. The moment he opened his arms Marcelina wasted no time putting herself in them. "I've missed you, old man," she teased, nuzzling his collarbone. Ramon huffed, his hand gently combing through her hair with all the ease of familiarity. Perfect lips pressed kissed to the crown, then her forehead and cheeks. "I'm not old, don't be rude.", he said, his voice deep and soft. Locking their eyes, Marcelina took in his face.
Of course, he hadn't aged beyond his peak, though his hair had been cut. At least he was still clean-shaven. Marcelina lightly pouted at that, having liked his longer hair. The sunlight that managed to filter into the caves glinted off his numerous earrings, highlighting the perfect angle of his jawline. Having his hair short meant less obstruction of his eyes, a pure gold like the coins found in abandoned ships. They sat evenly placed apart, only slightly forward-set, and framed by short but thick black eyelashes. An elegant, but strong Roman nose led to the cupid's bow upper lip and a thick, always pink lower one. Marcelina let a slow smile creep on her face. No, he hadn't changed at all. Ramon was patient with her staring, getting an eyeful of her face himself. The pair pulled back to laugh at each other, and Marcelina gestured to the still-playing girls. "You've done such a good job raising them, Ramon. I've never seen Louisa so comfortable and able to keep up with Ana." She praised, allowing herself to rest on the ledge.
Ramon watched the two below, eyes full of affectionate pride. "Yes, she's made excellent progress. Having you around less to coddle her let Louisa experience independence. Ana still waits at the mouth of the cave every night. She hasn't lost hope of calling you mother," he began, then paused to look at Marcelina with nothing but tenderness. "Neither have I." He moved his hand slowly along her back, resting right where skin began to mix with scales. Marcelina shivered, a part of her feeling unsettled at the touch where it didn't before. Against the sudden discomfort, she let his hand stay. "Ramon, if it was meant to be, it would've happened before I left." She sighed, risking a glance at him. Ramon just shrugged, used to hearing that. "Maybe, but there are less and less of us around every passing century. We could break a few rules for the sake of happiness and continuation, couldn't we?" Ramon laid next to her, nudging her shoulder with his cheek.
He wasn't an idiot, he knew his chances with her were nonexistent, but he could only see his future with her in it. They had been through so much together, and their chemistry was magic. Marcelina was kind (and cruel) enough to let it feel like love, let him entertain a pseudo-domestic life with her until she left. Now she was back, and Ramon knew it would be even more foolish to let her leave without at least trying to convince her to stay. Marcelina felt her heart throb, not answering him. Ramon kissed her shoulder instead, in a series of light but sincere presses of lips to skin. Marcelina felt that uncomfortable shiver again, biting her lip. "Don't play mute now, dear. You just got here." Ramon smiled against her shoulder, gold eyes peeking up at her.
Marcelina looked at him with a resigned smile. "Let's go in the lounge cave, Ramon. We have much to talk about." Marcelina rose off the ledge, a small frown on her face that she thought Ramon didn't see. He did, and easily, for he knew every inch of Marcelina's face even in the dimmest light. Seeing her like that worried his heart, and he nodded. "Girls, go to the private caves, I won't have you this close to the open ocean without me to watch you." The children whined and pouted, but a sharp hiss from Ramon had them swimming into the safety of the cave system. Alone now, Marcelina and Ramon swam at a leisurely pace to the lounge cave. It was richly decorated with plush pillows and chairs, along with a bed in the center. It was one of the larger caves, meant for guests, but only they knew it existed.
Marcelina gravitated toward the large bed, laying flat on her back and staring at the small cluster of sea lights on the roof. Ramon swam over her, lowering himself so that he could see each speck of her eyes, each individual strand of her hair. She could hide nothing from him. Marcelina eyes fluttered shut for a moment, drawing in a slow breath. Ramon saw it as her steeling herself for confessions. "I've been captured and bonded to a ship of pirates. So much has come out of it, old friend, I'm not sure what to do." Ramon recoiled hard hearing that, eyes going wide in terror before forcing it back. Marcelina was right in front of him, looking none the worse for wear, he didn't need to fuss. "Start from the beginning, Marcelina."