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If I Fail You One More Time...

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“Come on,” a dart of light blue flashed in front of her. Vanya laughed as her brother weaved in front of her around the turbulent waves that shook the water. It had been a while since she had seen her little, well not little, he was the same size as her now but she was so small herself, her younger brother so happy. They had spent the last couple of weeks carefully hidden along the seafloor within a small cave system, but the storm gave them the freedom to get out and stretch their fins for a little bit. The sirens couldn’t focus so easily in the chaos of an ocean storm, so there was less fear of being found like this. 

“Five!” she called out to him, chasing the blue sparks he made as he darted around the waves. It warmed her heart to see the moments where he could act as the child he was rather than like the adult he tried to be. He didn’t get a chance to be a child very often. 

“Come on!” he insisted again, pointing up towards the surface. They tried not to go anywhere close to the surface. Usually. On nights like these, where the two could enjoy a bit of freedom, they would venture up to see the lightning that would streak across the sky above. Five called it “absolutely magnificent,” something that would make Vanya smile, especially when he admitted he loved it because it looked like her eyes and her…

“Careful!” Even with her warning, she still followed him, like he knew she would. The two waited for one of the rolling waves to pass, before breaching the surface. 

Five lifted one of his hands up, the rain pouring down from above him. It was like the whole world was relishing in the water that filled it. Another crack of lightning appeared, blinding Vanya for a brief moment with its light. As her vision cleared, her brother grabbed her hand and pulled her back under with him as another wave rolled up behind them, crashing over where they just were. The two stayed there for a moment as a ferocious storm rolled above them, the froth of the waves crashing into each other creating a stark contrast against the lightning that continued above them. 

A tug at her hand-pulled Vanya’s attention to her brother, a grin stretched across his sharp teeth, “Can we play?” 

Vanya stiffened slightly, “I don’t know, Five. We still don’t know if those creatures are hanging around. I don’t want to risk it.”

His grin dropped into a pout so quickly, it made Vanya’s head spin. “Please,” his voice had softened. Five had somehow made himself seem so much younger than he was.

Vanya sighed and she saw the grin returning to Five’s face, but it was too late and he knew it, “Fine, but only for a bit and we go back.”

She pulled back and braced herself as she reached deep into her core, pulling at that ball of power. White sparks flickered down her tail, growing stronger as she pulled the sound of the roaring wind from above her. Five had told her once that her eyes glowed bright silver whenever she did that and she knew he could see it from the way his excitement grew and he took off quickly when her eyes opened. He was already fast, but when Vanya shoved her arms forward, creating her own waves in the chaotic sea, blue sparks started and he appeared to vanish as he darted around the froth and booming lightning that seemed attracted to Vanya’s own storm. Occasionally, when he got close, she could hear him giggling, something so beautiful but so rare. 

After a few minutes, Vanya released the sound she was latched onto and the worst of the storm died. Another burst of laughter and Five was beside her, holding onto her arm. “You okay?” she asked as she always did after they played. 

“Of course,” he said with an eye roll.

She hummed and looked up at the dying storm. The thunder was fading and the waves were not nearly as high as they were before they played. “Okay, time to go,” she said. With a mere nod, the two took off back into the depths of the dark ocean. 

Chapter Text

An old beat-car rumbled down the beach road. Blue eyes looked up into the rearview mirror at the boy sitting in the backseat. He leaned against the window, looking out at the crashing waves of the ocean hitting the cliffs they drove along. “You excited, Harlan?” the woman asked as she rounded another turn. “We get to move into our new home today.” She tried smiling at the boy through the mirror, but he didn’t answer, still staring out the window. “New home, far, far away,” she said, more to herself this time. 

Another turn and a small cottage came into view. Sissy smiled, for real this time, and pulled into the small driveway that was beside the cottage. “Here we are, Harlan!” she said as turned the car off and climbed out. The ocean breeze immediately whipped around her, making a right mess of her hair, but carrying with it the salt and freshness of the ocean just ahead. 

Sissy breathed in deeply, standing in the sun for just a moment before turning as she heard Harlan’s door open as he finally climbed out. “Here we are, Harlan, baby. Just like Momma promised. A new home by the ocean. Just the two of us.” Harlan looked up at her as he slowly stepped forward. “Do you remember the movie you liked to watch on the tv? With the pirate on the beach?” she asked. Harlan looked at her before lifting one of his hands to cover his eye. 

“Yes!” Sissy smiled. “With the eyepatch! Do you wanna go look for some of your shiny rocks on the beach like he did while Momma gets the bags inside and makes lunch?” He nodded and she shooed him off watching as he went scrambling across the sand, sinking his fingers in as he leaned down to comb through it. 

“Okay, time to get things inside,” she turned to the car and pulled out her and Harlan’s suitcases, carefully closing the trunk before carrying them to the front door. The door stuck, but she managed to free the lock and shove the door open. Dust floated through the air as she looked around the dark room. She was grateful as saw that the realtor had been correct in that the place was furnished, but it was very unused as she spotted the sand across the floor, the dirt on the kitchen counter and couch cushions. It would take some work to get it clean enough for Harlan to come in and she only had till lunch. 

Sissy turned and looked back out at her boy who had curled one of his hands to resemble a hook while he still combed through the sand with the other. She smiled and took in a deep breath, “Okay, Sissy. You are safe. Harlan is safe. Everything else will be okay. No matter what.” She carefully placed the suitcases by the door and started opening cabinets to take inventory of what the house had in terms of dishes and cleaning supplies and got to work. 

Despite working as fast as she could, she was only able to get the front room cleaned up and the kitchen just barely clean enough to make sandwiches for her and Harlan. She knew there were two rooms just off the main room and a bathroom. It wasn’t a large cottage, but it was perfect for her and her boy. And she had found a record player and put on one of Harlan’s favourite records she dug out of her suitcase. 

“Harlan, baby, time for lunch,” she called out the front door. She watched as her boy scrambled across the sand, picking up rocks along the way. “Uh-uh,” she stopped him when he reached her. “I won’t be having all those rocks in my new house.” Harlan’s face dropped and Sissy sighed as she could sense the oncoming tantrum. She kneeled down and pointed to the rails surrounding their small porch, “Why don’t we put them on the rails. They can guard the outside of the house.” Harlan was still for a moment before nodding and she helped him carefully arrange the rocks along the rail. 

“There,” she said as they finished. “Now we have a magic guardian protecting our house.” Harlan shook his head. “No? What are they then?” He waved his hands in a circle. Sissy sighed and shook her head, “I’m sorry, honey. I don’t know what you are saying. Come on, let’s eat lunch.”

Chapter Text

Five swam slowly along the seafloor. He looked back every couple of minutes at his sister trailing behind him, her silver eyes scanning the sea around them. He slowed down slightly to allow her to catch up to him. Her long hair tangled around a piece of twine wrapped around her neck and he stopped her for a moment to pull it free. “You’re nervous,” he said as he pulled a stubborn piece out of the charm strung onto the string. 

“When are we not,” Vanya sighed. 

He dropped his hands to hers, “I know, I know.” He grimaced, worrying one of her fingers between his own, “We have kept moving. We will keep moving. But you know the sirens don’t care for the cold just as much as you don’t. We’ll have to head further south again, but we needed a respite. So just breathe. We’ll be okay.”

Vanya laughed, “You are supposed to be my little brother. When did you grow up on me, kid?”

Five scowled, looking more like the teen he was at the moment than usual. “I’m not a kid. I never was,” he growled. 

Vanya’s uneasy smile dropped and she dropped one of his hands, reaching out to run one of her hands through his hair. “Hey,” she said, waiting for him to look back up at her. At the glare in his eyes, the dare still within them, she sighed and said instead, “Your hair is getting long.”
He snorted, “So, is yours. What do you wanna do about it?”

“Complain?” Five rolled his eyes, shoving her gently away. He started swimming away, but slow enough that Vanya was able to easily follow him with none of his easy speed that Vanya knew she could not match. “Five!” she reached out and took his hand, something he allowed despite his faux-madness at her. She tugged slightly as he continued to ignore her. She smirked and pulled on that core of power, allowing a bit of those power sparks to manifest and travel up her arm to shock him. 

He yelped, tugging his arm away with a scowl. Those blue sparks flickered in and out along his tail, but he didn’t leave, just commenting, “And you call me the child.”

“You were ignoring me,” Vanya simply shrugged. “Now come on, we are wasting time.” Five stayed still, however, staring at something behind her. She turned and noted the strange purple and blue glow behind them. “Is that…”

She didn’t get a chance to finish before Five grabbed her hand again and pulled, swimming as fast as she could reasonably keep up. Her arm felt like it was being ripped out of its socket already from Five’s speed and she could see his own sparks starting to appear. “Five!” she cried out, causing him to stop, his eyes wide as he took her in. Even though her arm hurt, she kept a tight grip on his hand, noting how he kept looking behind him to see if he could spot that glow again. “I can’t go that fast,” she whispered, keeping her voice low. 

“Sorry,” he said, just as quietly. “But we need to keep moving. That was…”

“Siren magic, I know,” Vanya bit back the whimper that wanted to escape. “They decided to come further north.” 

“They usually don’t, why are they doing that?” Five muttered, his free hand reaching up to grab at his own charm. 

Vanya reached up to wrap her hand around his clutching the matching charm, “Hey, use that clever brain of yours. Find a hiding place.”

She waited, trying to appear as patient as possible while watching his eyes dart around their surroundings. She nearly cheered when he locked onto a spot deep within the dark water, “Can you do your location thing and see what is over there?” 

She nodded, locking onto the thudding of their hearts and very carefully directed a sound wave to ripple through the water towards the spot Five have pointed out. She nearly grinned as she felt the echoes of the waves coming back, “There is some sort of structure over there. Lots of holes.”

“Which means we can hide,” Five took off again and Vanya didn’t complain as she let him create most of their momentum and nearly yanked her arm out again, pulling her along. She could see that glow approaching and if they could hide and let the choir of sirens pass them by. Hopefully, they wouldn’t stop and search the cave system they were approaching. It was hidden away and a small system. Maybe it would be a place they could hide for a couple of days. Five would probably chastise her for holding onto any hope, but she needed it. It kept her alive and, in turn, it kept Five alive. She would hold it as close as she did him for as long as she could. 

Chapter Text

Vanya jerked away when a hand shook her. Five jerked back lifting one finger over his lips, motioning for her to be quiet. She winced slightly out how tired he looked, but listened, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. Then she noticed just how quiet the sea was. It was unnerving and she reached out and grabbed for her brother’s hand. He was not watching the entrance to the tiny cave they took shelter in for the night, but the roof, his eyes locked onto something. Vanya forced herself to relax to pick up disturbances in the waves above their cave and, sure enough, there was something moving above them. 

She pulled her brother closer and they both stayed still for several minutes as they listened to whomever it was circle above the cave. Finally, she turned back to her brother, tapping at his arm. They didn’t know what it could be, it could be a circling seal or shark or something similar. It didn’t mean it was…

Vanya stopped when Five quickly covered her hand, his eyes snapping towards the entrance. The creature was moving. Vanya closed her eyes, hiding the slight glow they had even this deep. And she could hear it, what the creature did. There was screeching in the distance.

She moved quickly to the back of the cave, to the small tunnel that would be a tight fit for either of them. Neither picked a hiding place to sleep unless there was a hidden exit, which led to many tiring and sleepless nights. And it had been a couple of days since either were able to sleep and Five had taken first watch that night. That is why Vanya shoved him to slip into the tunnel first, not sparing the entrance a glance before slipping in as well. She could only just see her light reflecting off the white on Five’s tail to know he was in front of her, but her panic still rose until they reached the other end. 

Five immediately turned back and pulled her out as well, hugging her close and burying his face into her neck. She held her little brother close, doing a quick scan as well before closing her eyes as well to pinpoint the screeching was still behind him. A quick tug and the two were swimming again, Vanya just able to keep pace with her much swifter brother. They needed to get as far away as possible from those things chasing them.

They couldn’t go back. Neither of them could. It was that thought that kept them moving, swimming as quickly and as quietly as they could. Finally, Vanya tugged at her brother’s hand and he looked back at her, slowing to a stop as he cautiously said, “Vanya?”

Vanya gave him a small smile and was about to respond when there was a sudden screech, far too close for comfort. Vanya whipped around and she could see them, their teeth sharper than Five’s, the green tangled in their hair, their eyes narrow and locked onto them. The sirens had spotted them. 

The two took off again, Vanya leading this time as they moved along the ocean floor, weaving back and forth as they struggled to get ahead of the creatures chasing them. She risked a glance back at the chasing sirens, her tired brother, the delighted screeches as the sirens made chase. They couldn’t keep doing this. She thought back to one method that had worked a few times in the past and she pulled Five closer to her as they rounded a sea stack. She hated to do this but, “Five, you know our last place?”

Five whimpered, she could hear how tired he was and she hoped desperately that he had enough energy left to do this. 

“Go,” she gasped out. “As fast as you can, I’ll meet you there.”

“No!” he finally got out, tightening his grip as she tried to drop it.

“Five!” she snapped back. “You go towards it, I’ll hide. And then I’ll find you. I promise!” They rounded another sea stack and paused for a moment there.

Five looked at her, reaching out to touch the charm that floated around her neck, “Or I’ll find you.”

“Exactly, now go!” Five looked at her for just a moment before he took off one way, blue sparks appearing as he sped up as fast as he could. Vanya smiled and took off the other way. While she moved, she gathered the sound of her pounding heart around her before turning to whip it back as a wave against the still chasing sirens. It knocked them back and Vanya took off again, hoping to put as much distance between her and them before they recovered. 

She knew that the sirens now knew where each of them was. The sparks that appeared with their powers were a dead giveaway, but Five was fast, he could get away. She just needed to try and fight until she could find someplace to hide. 

She did this a few more times before noticing blue sparks ahead of her, “No!” She screeched to a stop as Five appeared in front of her. He didn’t go hide, the little shit. Damnit, it was going to be much harder with him nearby to hit those damn sirens without hitting him, especially with how fast he could move. She caught a quick glimpse of his smirk as he took off again, right past her and the sirens chasing her, causing a few to peel off after him. 

With less there, her waves did have more impact, but Vanya knew when they were somewhere safer she was going to yell at him so much for stupidly coming back. They knew this plan worked, why wouldn’t he just let her deal with the sirens. The same reason you wouldn’t let him do it alone, said the voice in her head. She quickly beat that voice back down as she threw another wave back at the sirens. She didn’t have time to deal with that. Maybe later, but not right now. 

The screeching faded more and Vanya risked another look back. The sirens were losing speed, the chase clearly tiring them out. They couldn’t do this forever. Neither could Five and Vanya, but the desperation of survival could keep them going for far longer. It was a matter of outlasting and knowing how to hide. 

Vanya looked forward again and quickly came to a stop. The siren in front of her already had a ball of blue energy in front of them, their long curly hair floating around them. Vanya narrowed her eyes. She could try to swim away, but she couldn’t guarantee that she could escape whatever spell this siren was casting. The siren was silent and mouth closed, but the flapping gills along their neck gave them away. And the spell. Only sirens could do that. 

Blue sparks appeared behind the siren and Vanya felt her heart stop for a moment as Five appeared. No, she could deal with this siren alone, but trying to keep them from her brother was another matter. The screeching was beginning to catch up again. She needed to act now. “Swim!” she screeched as loud as she could. She could see Five’s eyes widen as he realized what she was doing. “Swim!” Vanya yelled again and dove at the siren who had begun to turn to look behind herself. Five quickly sped off and the siren appeared to panic as Vanya made contact with them and their spell. There was a blinding blue flash and everything hurt. Vanya felt herself slip away as she thought about how weird a look of panic was on a siren’s face.

Chapter Text

Harlan wanted to go into the ocean. It was an exciting prospect considering they lived on a beach and had the ocean right there. But it was also terrifying considering Harlan hated the kiddie pool that they had at their old home. He had stepped in once, screeched, and Sissy wouldn’t force him back into it. No matter- no matter how much certain people complained about how much the pool had cost. Like it had cost that much. It was a relatively cheap plastic pool. That she had bought off a neighbour. And sold it to another for just as much. She didn’t end up wasting any money. She didn’t-

Something was shoved into Sissy’s hands, breaking her from her distracted thoughts. She looked down to see the large rock that Harlan had placed there, blinking up at her with his unwavering stillness. Sissy smiled down at him, shoving down the growing panic and locking it back away. It would do her no good to start panicking now. She was safe. Harlan was safe. She was safe. Harlan was safe. She started repeating the mantra, using those words to calm her racing heart like a desperate prayer. Like it was all they had. 

Harlan started towards the ocean again and Sissy trailed behind, the wind twisting and sweeping her skirt around her. The consistency of the waves rolling onto the beach, in and out with the tide, calmed her more than she thought possible. Harlan appeared to love it too, easily becoming entranced by just watching them go back and forth. Sissy worried if he would still find them just as safe and beautiful when they got their first sea storm. The noise alone could very easily upset him. Maybe…

Sissy threw those thoughts out as she carefully placed the rock Harlan handed her with the rest of his pile he had given her and followed him out to where he was waiting by the water’s edge. She had promised to go in with him today. And this was really the make or break of whether they would stay here. Because as much as Sissy loved their little beach home, she would move somewhere more inland in a heartbeat for her son. She wouldn’t fail him again. She absolutely refused to. 

She stopped next to her son and held out a hand, giving him the option of grabbing it if he wanted. “Are you ready?” she asked. Harlan nodded, choosing to grab her hand. They each took a tentative step forward into the ocean. She watched as Harlan froze, ready to grab him and pull him out if she needed to. Relief flooded Sissy as she watched Harlan’s face break into a huge smile and he dropped her hand to run further into the ocean bouncing among the waves, splashing the water as it rolled in and out. “Be careful!” she couldn’t stop the worry from coming out, but even as she said it, she was laughing and chasing him through the water. Everything glistened around them as they played, like a picturistic day.

Chapter Text

Everything blurred around Vanya, light nearly blinding her. She closed her eyes, the darkness much more welcome. She didn’t know why the world was suddenly so bright, like constant lightning. The pounding in her head weakened ever so slightly with her eyes closed. Holding a coherent thought proved difficult. She could feel every one of her neurons aflame and her mind struggled to process any of it. What happened? Where was she?

She tried to think, how did she get here floating through the water? A flash of blue cut across her memories and she gasped in fear. Then stopped. Her eyes shot open. The lightning nearly blinded her again, but she tried to grasp onto something, anything as she blinked to try and adjust. Squinting seemed to be the best she was going to get at the moment, but everything was still far too bright. Lightning didn’t last this long , it was the first full sentence she had managed to form, but that thought scared her more than almost anything. Except for…

It took a few minutes, but she managed to move an arm that was floating out beside her to her chest. Her chest that was slowly moving up and down. Her chest that was taking in air. Because she wasn’t floating through the air, she was on top of the water. 

She tried to think back to that blue flash. Did the sirens do something? There were rumours that they ran across occasionally that they could do some strange dark magic, but to change someone to something completely different was something almost on the same level as…

Her brother’s green eyes flashed across her memories again. Her hand reached slightly higher and grabbed at a charm that was still fastened around her neck. She let out a long sigh of relief, she didn’t lose it. She had told him to swim. To get as far away as he possibly could. He was fast and still as tiny as her, he could easily swim and hide. Vanya hoped he listened. He tended not to sometimes, but she was scared that her sparks and powers would hurt him someday. She could only hope he was somewhere safe and would stay there until she could get back. If she could just…

Her eyes shot open. The lightning had darkened considerably. Still unnaturally bright, but closer to the level of a storm than what it was before. She was worried, wasn’t she? She started to move, to flip her tail, but froze. She slowly moved her hands along her sides, but couldn’t feel her scales. Her body felt far too exposed and her fingers stung as pain shot through them with every small movement. Everything. Everything felt wrong. So wrong. It echoed through her brain, the pounding increasing as she choked back a gasp. Her new, air-breathing chest was heaving and hurt so much. What was happening? She felt like she was going to die. 

The lightning had completely disappeared, leaving just the stars that Five would sometimes ask for a glimpse of emerging above her. Make a wish, a voice whispered as the brightest one shone above her. 

I just wanna stop hurting, she begged as the darkness overtook her again. 

She drifted in and out, barely able to move through the night. She didn’t know how long she was floating there. Would she just be trapped here until she drowned? Cause that is what the humans did on land, right? If they were trapped in the water, they drowned because they couldn’t breathe below-water like… like she used to be able to. Vanya had only heard briefly of humans in the past, but from the stories she heard, she supposed she had to be one now. Which meant, she had to get to land. Cause she couldn’t die. No. Her brother needed her. She had never left him alone like this before. He was all she had. She had to…

The lightning was back by the time she reopened her eyes. What was this? The pounding grew as she tried to avoid it, lifting one arm to rest over her eyes after much difficulty. She hated it. She just wanted to…

“Oh, sweet biscuits…”

Chapter Text

Harlan stood by the front window, staring out at the ocean rhythmically beating against their little sand beach. He had been fascinated by it, watching as music played off the record player for hours. Sissy smiled at him as she plunged her own hands back into the soapy water. The sun shone brightly down on the water, causing it to glisten and shine. It was certainly a beautiful sight. Maybe Harlan and she could really be happy and safe here. Hidden in their own little paradise. 

A knock on the window startled her and she looked up to find Harlan had his hand on the window. His stare intensified as he appeared to be watching something. She turned to peer through the window, expecting a couple of seagulls on the beach. There was something floating in the water. Sissy carefully placed the plate she had been scrubbing back into the water, barely pausing to wipe her hands before speeding out the door, Harlan following her as he noticed his mother moving. It was probably just a piece of driftwood based on the colour, but she would rather confirm it than have Harlan find something dead out on their beach. She couldn’t imagine how upset that would make him. 

Sissy’s steps slowed as she grew closer, seeing the thing drift closer to the sand. It wasn’t driftwood. By any means. The thing in the water rotated slightly with the tide and Sissy gasped. “Harlan, baby,” she crouched down beside him, turning him away from the water. “I need you to do something very important for me. You know the sheets Mama hung up earlier?” Sissy pointed towards the clothesline and she waited for Harlan to track where she was pointing and nod, “I need you to go grab one for me. Please?” 

She waited for Harlan to take off for the fluttering white sheets before kicking off her sandals and plunging into the cold seawater. She waded to the body of the young woman floating there, her skin puckered and tinged blue, one arm draped over her eyes. How long had she been floating there? “Oh, sweet biscuits,” she whispered as she grabbed the woman under her armpits and started to drag her towards the beach. She nearly laughed in relief as the woman moaned as she made contact. That was good, it wouldn't scar Harlan as much if the woman was still breathing than if Sissy had to somehow bury her. 

She looked behind her as the water dropped to see Harlan had returned, one of their white sheets gathered in his arms. “Shake it on the ground,” Sissy called to him, letting go of the woman for a moment to mime what she wanted. He did so and Sissy tried not to wince as some of it went into the water. It would make it easier for her to get the young woman onto the sheet, but it wouldn’t ever be the same again. She tried not to mourn the loss of one of her sheets as she dragged the woman onto it and wrapped her. She had no idea how she was going to get her back into the house unless she managed to wake her up first.

“Hey darling,” Sissy brushed some of the woman’s brown hair out of her face. Her arm had dropped to where it clutched at a dark green charm, a triangle with a hole through the middle that twine ran through. The woman moaned again, squeezing her eyes shut. She was in pain. Sissy heard a whine above her and looked up at Harlan who was staring down at the woman. She was surprised he hadn’t taken off yet, but he seemed just as worried for this strange woman as she was. “It will be okay, baby,” she said. 

Her eyes darted back down as the woman groaned again. “Hey darling, open your eyes for me,” she said, softly. The woman’s eyes flickered open and closed, squinting against the sun. “Hey, I can’t get you off this beach myself, girl. Come on, you can do it.” She leaned forward, allowing her shadow to fall across the woman’s face. As it did, the woman’s eyes finally squinted open, her eyes a bright silver. It was unnerving and Sissy could hear Harlan shift backwards in the sand behind her. But she just gave her a soft smile, “Hey girl. Can you stand up? If you can walk into the house, it will be darker inside. Just need to get you in.”

“W-walk?” the woman’s voice was hoarse before she started coughing. Sissy helped her shift up and rubbed her back as the woman’s coughing fit continued. When it subsided, the woman opened her eyes again and Sissy noticed they were a dark brown. She frowned but decided that what she saw before must have been just a trick of the sun shining just right. The woman reached down to where one of her legs poked out from under the sheet, barely touching her own knee, something almost unreadable in her eyes. 

“Hey sweetheart,” Sissy whispered. The woman’s jerked as if just remembering the other person besides her. “Let’s get you inside.” The woman finally shakingly nodded and allowed Sissy to pull her to her feet, but she winced with every step moving through the sand. Harlan came upon her other side, causing the woman to jerk closer to Sissy. “It’s okay,” she reassured her, rubbing her arm. “That is my little boy, Harlan. He is the one who saw you. He doesn’t say a lot, so it is okay if you don’t either. And my name is Sissy.”

The woman merely nodded, the arm not clutching at Sissy’s for balance coming up to grab at the strange charm again. The three slowly made their way to the house, Harlan darting forward to open the door. Sissy winced as the sound of the record player they forgot about came flooding out. She gently lowered the woman onto the couch and then clicked the player off. “Harlan, sweetheart, can you go play in your room for a bit?” 

He nodded and darted off and Sissy turned back to the woman, who had let the sheet fall off her shoulders. She was staring across the room, one hand still rubbing at her charm, her hair falling in sand-crusted strands over her face. “Hey darling,” she gently approached, barely brushing the woman’s arm to get her attention and wincing when the woman practically lept back. “I’m sorry, I was just wondering if you wanted to clean up?” she asked.

“C-clean up?” the woman asked, her voice still painfully hoarse. 

“Yes. We don’t have a shower, but we do have a tub. And you are small enough, you can borrow some of Harlan’s clothes seeing as you don’t have any of your own,” Sissy offered. The woman lowered her gaze again, still rubbing at her necklace. Sissy’s brow furrowed and she stepped closer, “I’m sorry to ask, but was there someone with you? You seem worried.”

The woman’s breathing hitched then and if Sissy wasn’t watching so closely, she may have missed the way the woman seemed to shudder. But she quickly looked up, a faint, well it must be a smile, even if it could really only be generously called so. And she spoke, “Tub?”

Chapter Text

Vanya had no idea what to make of the strange world she seemed to find herself in above the water. She had no idea how long this transformation would last, but as she felt herself slowly dry out after the strange experience with the tub the woman had led her to, she slowly realized she was truly stuck. The woman, Sissy she said her name was, had pressed weird things like the large white thing in her arms and when Vanya had slowly blinked at them, she just smiled and said, “I don’t know if these clothes are anything you are used to. But I’m afraid you are just too small to borrow any of mine.”

Eventually, Vanya figured it out and got the items on. It was like a second skin, one that was looser and less protective than her scales, she noticed as she buttoned the last one under her throat just like Sissy had shown her. As she stepped out of the room the tub was in, she spotted the boy had moved back into the large room and was watching her as he sat on the floor. 

She stared back for a long moment before his mother stepped in front of him and said, “There you are all fixed up, good and new. Oh, but your hair.” She reached out to run a hand through Vanya’s hair and quickly got caught on a knot. Vanya barely noticed, her eyes caught as the lightning from outside streamed in behind more of the clothes that had been pulled across the opening and glinted across Sissy’s hair. It made it shine like the lightning that Vanya sometimes made. It was beautiful. She was pulled from her thoughts as Sissy said, “Take a seat, I can brush it out.” 

She nodded and sat down on the object that Sissy pointed at beside where the boy sat on the floor. Sissy stepped out of the room and came back with something covered in bristles. Vanya flinched slightly as Sissy came up to her, but she just gently placed the bristles on Vanya’s hair and carefully pulled it through. Like what she did with fingers earlier. After a moment, she finally spoke, “What is your name, darling? I can’t keep calling you the strange woman or any number of nicknames. I could, but I would feel a lot better if I could call you by your actual name.”

Vanya blinked and it took a moment for her to remember how to get her voice working again, “I’m-” She stopped, should she really trust this human. She glanced down towards the boy who had decided to lay down and was playing with some strange fake seagull on the floor. “I’m Vanya,” she finally decided. 

“Vanya,” the woman said and something strange fluttered around inside Vanya’s stomach. “Now that is awful pretty. Where did you come from Vanya?”

Vanya’s heart sank a little. She wasn’t sure how much she could trust these strange humans and they were asking so many questions. But then she looked down at Harlan, humming to himself on the floor, and thought to the feeling of Sissy gently pulling the bristle brush through her hair and decided to try. She had to if she wanted to find her brother. So she lifted her hand and pointed towards the door where she could remember the ocean being, “There.”

“But,” she could hear the doubt flooding into Sissy’s voice. “Vanya, darling, I know I pulled you out of the ocean, but you couldn’t have come from there. I mean the only things out in the ocean are the fish, the sharks, and the…” Sissy’s hands suddenly pulled away from Vanya’s hair, “You- you aren’t- you aren’t a siren, are you?”

A flash of sharp teeth and blue light darted across Vanya’s memories. She whimpered, curling into herself. Some part of her brain was happy that she could do it so much easier in this form, but the other cried out as gripped her pendant tightly. “Okay, okay,” she faintly heard Sissy say. “Oh darling, I’m sorry,” she felt a hand gently appear under her chin and she lifted her head to see that Sissy had come around and dropped in front of her. “You were attacked by them? Weren’t you?” Vanya mutely nodded and Sissy let out a long sigh. “Okay, I will admit, I’ve only heard of them in passing. I have no idea what sort of hell you went through with them. But you are okay now. Just lower your legs. You are safe now.”

“I’m not,” Vanya whispered. “I’m stuck. I need- My brother- I need-” 

Her voice hitched as she felt her eyes fill with tears. She felt Sissy’s arms wrap around her as she said, “Okay, Vanya. We’ll find him. Wherever your brother is. We’ll find him. But we need our heads to do so. So whenever you can, we will go looking.”

Sissy waited, rocking her slowly as Vanya managed to get her breathing back under control and unwound from her ball. “There, that feels a bit better, doesn’t it?” she said with a slight smile. “Now, why don’t you tell me where you last saw your brother? We can start there.”

Vanya pointed back out the door, “Out there.”

“The ocean?”

“Yes.”

Sissy frowned, “Honey, we established that you came from there because the sirens got you. Did they get your brother too?”

“They were chasing us. I told him to hide. I was going to get them away. He was tired, he couldn’t swim like usual. But they- I-” Vanya waved her hands vaguely to herself. “And I don’t know how to get back to him. He is still so little. He needs me! I need to get back and I can’t.” Her voice cracked and she winced as she felt the air shift around her with the crack. It felt so different from when she made the water shift and she could feel herself curling around that inner ball of power she kept tucked deep within her core.

“Oh,” Sissy gasped, leaning back. “You two are- Oh.” She lifted one hand to her face as she stared across the room. “Okay, so the ocean. It is very difficult to search the entire ocean. And right now, neither of us can go under to look. Maybe there is another way for you to reach him?”

Vanya worried her lip as she felt the tears return, “Maybe, I just-”

“Hey, I know,” Sissy gently took one of her hands. “I can’t imagine how much pain I would be in if I lost Harlan. He is my whole life. We’ll find a way to get to your brother, okay? You can stay here until then.”

Vanya looked up at the woman, the beautiful woman who had opened her home, given her clothes, who had let her break down in her arms. Vanya wasn’t sure she had ever seen someone like that before. Just her brother. “Thank you,” she carefully breathed out, her lungs aching with something new.

Chapter Text

Green eyes slowly blinked within the dark cove. Five had pulled himself as deep as he could within the cove, eyes carefully tracing every shape that swam by, looking for any sign of his sister's long tail or sparks. He could feel the minutes slowly dragging by as the light outside grew and darkened. Swim, her voice screeched in his head. He had been tired as they had been evading the siren pod that seemed to be hunting them for days. One hand clutched at his own charm. 

The blue flash that had appeared in the corner of his vision, so much darker than the own flashes he could make, haunted him. They got his sister, it wouldn’t be the first time. But they had always only captured one and they had always escaped. She should be here by now. 

He choked back a whimper, he couldn’t afford to lose control here or now. Vanya could be back any moment and he needed to keep it together. She was often disoriented after having to escape, especially when she had to use her strange lightning to do so. 

He hated the silence, almost as much as Vanya did. The two of them were always making some sort of noise, chattering or humming or just splashing when they could, when they weren’t hiding. They had spent far too long hidden away where they couldn’t make any sound or be found. The silence that surrounded Five now, without even his sister nearby, was stifling. He clutched his charm tighter as he felt his heart speed up. He needed to calm down, to keep a level head. Vanya could be back any moment. He needed to…

He froze, a strange sound appearing way too close to the cove’s entrance. He tucked himself back against the wall, one hand drifting to a rock, one that if he pushed out, he could slip out of the cove if needed. It was the whole reason Vanya and he had even picked this cove because they could escape into the coral if needed. Otherwise, it would have been far too close to the surface for either of them to consider. 

Five closed his eyes as he heard the scraping sound again. He focused on the movements in the water, the sound of whomever it was crawling over the rock outside his cave. The entrance was hidden, which discouraged most wandering fish, but the creature outside seemed determined to find whatever they were searching for. And if the thing they were searching for was Five, well it would be a bad day for someone. Five would rather swim far away than fight whatever was outside, but he needed to stay here if possible. This was the hiding place, if he left, Vanya wouldn’t be able to find him. He needed her to find him. He would stay here as long as possible, until…

The scraping stopped for a moment, before happening again much closer to the entrance. This time it was accompanied by a low hiss, a strange voice, “Are you sure you saw the child?”

Another hiss, one almost musical but gargled answered, “I saw him flee. We need to find him.”

Shit shit shit! Five started screaming in his own head. They were looking for him, they had to be. Who else would they be looking for? Did this mean they still had his sister? He couldn’t think, his brain whirling around with a thousand different thoughts and emotions. He hated this. He needed…

“She got away? Where would she be now? We could follow her and find him,” the first voice, deep, broke through the fog of his brain. He could barely stifle a gasp, his hand finally dropping his charm to cover his mouth. Vanya did get away. So if these creatures could just go, he would wait here. She would come back and they could go far away and find a new hiding place. This one was too close to the latest attack for them to stay. He just had to…

“No, she won’t look for him,” everything in Five froze. The gargled voice continued, “I sent her to the surface. She has no way back.”

The… the surface? That was… That was far more dangerous than being dragged to the deep to that horrid creature, that snake that was looking for them. There was a chance of escape from him. Five and Vanya had done it. They had escaped the siren pods that had hunted them. That was easy. The surface, that is where the humans were. Five had no idea if they were more dangerous because they were an unknown and that terrified him. And they had his sister.

Five’s eyes shot open as he heard the deep voice sound again, “Hey, I found something.” No, no, no, he needed… He needed to find his sister and get her back. He would find her, he had to. Who knew what was happening to her out there. He reached deep into himself and found the emotion he needed, the one that was slowly growing, the one that he usually stifled as it could scare his sister so much. But he needed it now. He let the anger, the rage, the absolute fury build in his chest, clenching his jaw as he waited for the scraping to get closer to the entrance. As strange orange-like eyes moved into his vision, he pushed the hidden rock out, and let out a dark, feral scream. It caused the creature to jerk back from the entrance and Five used the moment to allow his blue sparks to appear and he darted out the tiny hole he revealed in the back, moving as fast as he could, faster than I can see you move his sister’s voice reminded him and swam as far away from the cove as he could. He would find his sister. If it was the last thing he did, he would find her and make sure she was safe.

Chapter Text

It had been a couple of days since Vanya had become trapped on land with Sissy and her little boy Harlan. They had been nice, far nicer than Vanya had known possible. Sissy made some excellent food and Vanya marvelled at the different tastes for unlike anything she had had back home. She insisted that Vanya wear the strange clothes she provided every day from one of the smaller rooms. As they couldn’t go into the ocean very long, a fact Vanya learned when she felt her new body began to shake despite her happiness, Sissy insisted she cleaned up inside in the strange bowl that she called a tub. The water in the tub was different. Sissy had said it was because it wasn’t the ocean water, it was something safer for humans called freshwater. 

The constant lightning in the sky had taken getting used to, but it didn’t hurt as much. Her whole body felt less like it was on fire now as it appeared to settle into this strange shape. Everything about it felt so wrong, but she listened to Sissy as she tried to help her adjust. She didn’t have much of a choice after all.

Vanya stood on the beach, watching Harlan scramble over the rocks. He wasn’t fast by any means, but every move was sure and deliberate. It was such a stark contrast from her little brother, but it only made Vanya miss him that much more. She had no idea how she was going to find him when she was stuck like this. Sissy had asked if there was a way to get a message to him, but Vanya had to explain that she really had no idea how to. 

It felt like continuous torture, like what she had long buried in her memories and kept carefully locked away. She needed to find him. 

Vanya startled as a hand carefully brushed her arm. She turned to see Sissy carefully drawing back, “Hey Vanya. I have lunch ready. Are you hungry?” Vanya blinked at her for a moment before nodding. Sissy turned to her son, calling out, “Harlan, baby? Time for lunch!” 

The two watched as the boy carefully scrambled off his rock and led the way back into the small house. It was small, Vanya had realized over the last couple of days. Maybe it was a lot of space for humans as it was certainly larger than many of the caves that Five and she had hidden in, but it was so small compared to the endless expanse of freedom swimming in the ocean gave them. 

“Come on,” Vanya snapped her head down as she felt Sissy take her hand. Her hand was rough, but it carefully gripped Vanya’s much more sensitive skin as she led her inside. She didn’t realize she was holding her breath until Sissy dropped her hand and motioned to where Harlan was already sitting at the table. 

There was silence and it made Vanya squirm until Sissy placed something soft and brown in front of both her and Harlan. She poked at it, glancing up at the boy who lifted it to his mouth and started munching. Cautiously, she chose to copy him and almost didn’t notice when Sissy sat down too. “So, any further ideas on how to contact your brother?” she asked.

Vanya shook her head, “What can I get to him? That would be safe?”

“Well,” Sissy hummed. “Is there anything that you can only see on land that he would recognize?” When Vanya just stared at her, she tried again, “Like did you ever come close to the surface?”

Vanya shook her head, “Nowhere near any land.”

“But you did come to the surface? Even in the middle of the ocean?” she pressed.

“Well, to watch storms, they are pretty,” Vanya admitted softly. 

“Storms in the ocean? Aren’t those dangerous?”

“Not for us,” Vanya lifted her chin, staring at Sissy. “The calm ocean is a lot more dangerous. Lot... A lot harder to…” She cut herself off. “But occasionally, we would also come to the surface to glimpse the stars. He… my little brother loved them.”

“How about that then?” Sissy asked. When Vanya just tilted her head in confusion, Sissy said, “The stars are different depending on where you are. So draw a star map tonight, based on how they look.”

“But, how would I get it to him?” 

Sissy hummed for a moment before standing and walking over to dig through a few of her cabinets. “I really don’t know if this will work. I have only heard of it in the past. But I still have a few good bottles.” She returned holding a long cylindrical bottle, “I let Harlan make a few of these as a child. I know how to seal them so it will be waterproof. It is worth a shot. Probably a one in a million. But at least you could try?” 

Vanya frowned, taking the bottle, “How would he know it was me?”

“Your charm.”

Vanya snapped her head up, her eyes wide. Sissy leaned back raising her hands, “Sorry, I just noticed that was the only thing you came ashore with, so I thought he might recognize it. We won’t put your charm in there. Heaven knows it would never fit. But we do have to seal the bottle with wax and we could carve the charm shape onto there. You think it might work?”

“No,” Vanya said, resoundly. “But I suppose that is the only idea we have.”

That night, Sissy helped her trace down some of the brighter stars onto a piece of paper and carefully roll it with a different type of paper and put it in the bottle. “The trick is to make sure to use the same cap,” Sissy whispered as if Harlan wasn’t sleeping inside far away from them. “It fits the bottle already which guarantees it seals it.” She picked up the candle and carefully tilted it, letting some of the weird water drip onto the bottle. “Wax adds some extra protection. But it also hardens. So once we get enough on here,” she carefully lowered the candle and picked up a small stick instead, carving a small version of Vanya’s pendant into the liquid. “There. Now, if he sees it, he will know it is about you. But to anyone else, it would look like just a random message in a bottle. We can send one out once a week as the stars shift.”

“As the stars shift?” Vanya asked, looking up at the stars which seemed to sit perfectly still to her. 

“Yes, they don’t move often. But there are a few that used to be called wandering stars. They slowly shift over the year. And maybe he won’t see the first bottle. But if we keep sending these out, maybe he can find you,” Sissy explained, placing her free hand over Vanya’s. “Until we can think of something else.”

“We could always go out in a storm,” Vanya suggested.

Sissy just shook her head. “Sorry darling,” she said. “But a storm is far too dangerous for humans to be out in. Especially on the ocean. Otherwise, I would go out with you in a heartbeat.”

Vanya lowered her eyes as she looked down at the bottle in Sissy’s hands, “I suppose you’re right. I’ve never seen any humans out during a storm.” 

Sissy tilted her head slightly, “That something you and your little brother did a lot.”

Vanya smiled, “Yeah, the waves crashing. The rain coming down. The wind swirling. And when the lightning lit up the world showing the beautiful colours of the storm swirling above. It was terrifying and beautiful.” She smiled as the memories came back, “We were alone, just me and my brother. And that is a dangerous thing to be. Most creatures even in the sea try to hide away when there is a storm. So that is when we got to play. That is when…” She stopped and wiped at her eyes, staring down in confusion at the tears. 

“Hey darling,” two gentle thumbs wiped at her cheeks and she looked up into Sissy’s eyes. Her heart twisted as she realized how close the woman was to her, looking at her with such caring. “It is going to be okay, darling. I’ll take good care of ya until we can find your brother and get you home, okay?” Vanya nodded, her voice refusing to work. “Okay, now we can’t put this out tonight. The tide is coming in and it is much easier to wait until it goes out so the ocean can take the bottle with it. But tomorrow, we will send it, okay?” Vanya nodded again and accepted Sissy’s hand as she pulled her up and back into the house.

Chapter Text

Sissy felt a hand tugging at her pants. She looked down to see Harlan holding out a few iridescent pebbles. “Hey, baby, what do you got there?” She quickly clipped the sheet she was holding onto the line and kneeled beside him to examine the rocks. “Yes,” she nodded her approval. “I think these would be perfect for the… what are you making again?”

Harlan huffed and waved his hands in a circle again. Sissy shook her head, “I’m sorry, baby, I just don’t get what you are-”

“Shield?”

Sissy startled and she looked up at the young woman that had been staying with them the last few days. Her hair had been pulled back, but she stood with the sun silhouetting behind her. “Shield?” Sissy asked, her voice weak suddenly.

Vanya nodded and looked at Harlan, shifting so she no longer stood directly in front of the sun. Sissy blinked at the light shining back down on her face, dropping her gaze to Harlan who was nodding. “Oh,” she said. “A shield, duh. Of course. Let’s add these to the shield.”

She watched as both Harlan and Vanya started to the porch to add the rocks to the line already on the railing. They aren’t wearing sandals , Sissy realized. Harlan had taken to copying Vanya, following her around like a little duck. Vanya didn’t appear to mind. In fact, she seemed aimless whenever she wasn’t helping with Harlan. It made Sissy’s heart sink, but she just reminded herself that Vanya was clearly just missing her little brother. She didn’t mention him often, hell, Sissy didn’t even know his name, but it was clear Vanya missed him something fierce. 

And if Vanya was willing to help with Harlan and play with him on the beach, exploring and such, that gave Sissy so much more time to make sure everything was done. She had decided to finally start tackling the attic, which would make a lovely storage space if she could clear out all the junk. Or maybe it could…

Sissy stood up as Vanya and Harlan headed towards the water’s edge again, bouncing along as Harlan occasionally paused to examine something in the sand. He seemed, almost happier, Sissy noticed. Now that he had a friend. Maybe, if they could find Vanya’s brother, they could…

Sissy shook her head. No, that wouldn’t work. Vanya probably would want to go back home with her brother and whatever other family they had. Back home to a world that Sissy could barely even imagine. 

Vanya hadn’t given her a lot of details in general other than vaguely pointing out to the ocean. It was entirely possible that Vanya was just extremely confused and had bumped her head in some sort of accident and now had amnesia. Sissy thought that only happened in films, but she didn’t have the strongest grasp on medical things so perhaps she was just mistaken. But Vanya had memories. Her mysterious brother. Things that scared her that she refused to explain. A gaze that watched the restless sea that knew exactly what it was missing but with no idea how to get back. 

Of course, Vanya really could just come from another island in the area. There were certainly enough in the area. And she could just not want to talk about where she was from. Maybe it wasn’t a great place. And maybe she didn’t mean to leave. She could have been forced out. She certainly seemed exhausted when she washed up. 

But the message in the bottle threw Sissy off every time she tried to rationalize the situation to herself. Vanya appeared to genuinely believe that it would reach her brother somehow. Sissy knew how unreliable those bottles could be with travelling anywhere. But she had seemed so confused when Sissy tried to suggest, and then explain the regular postal service. There was the fact that Vanya appeared to have no idea where they were other than north and cold. The littlest things around the house baffled her. She knew some words, but not others, calling the sun “annoying lightning” once. 

And arriving on Sissy’s beach of all places, washed up from the sea with only that strange charm she clung to. Sissy knew that many people inland considered the creatures of the sea to be nothing more than urban legends made up by the coastal fishermen and sailors to scare possible competition away. When she arrived in the area, many people, especially her realtor who was the one she talked to most, assured her that many of those ‘legends’ were certainly real. Sirens had been listed as a very real threat along with the sharks. But she was also told that most of those creatures tended to avoid humans. 

Sissy finally clipped the last of her laundry to the line and picked up her basket, turning back to see Vanya and Harlan bounding through the water near the shore, splashing each other as they ran back and forth. Harlan’s laughter bounced through the air, bringing a smile to Sissy’s face. It really didn’t matter where Vanya came from, Sissy decided then and there. She would stop second-guessing herself and worrying so damn much. Vanya really wasn’t anything like, well… No, she wasn’t going there. Not now. Not when Harlan and she were finally happy. Finally safe

Lunch. She should probably start on that. Make some sandwiches with that tuna salad that Vanya had found to be so amazing. Yes, that would work. Sissy took one last look at the two, her own joy and the beam of light that had joined her family, before heading inside. It didn’t matter if Vanya used to have scales or sharp teeth or a different coloured skin or whatever kind of mer creature she was. What mattered is that she was there with her and Harlan and that they were making her feel more alive than she had in years.

Chapter Text

The water in Sissy’s tub felt so strange against Vanya’s skin. All the water that came out of the metal bits did. Something was gone and it was like the humans tried to make it better again, but failed miserably. Vanya pulled on some more of the strange clothes Sissy had given her, the feel strange. Vanya was small enough that Sissy had told her she would have to wear Harlan’s clothes rather than hers, but the softness of most of his clothes made her cringe. She had taken to picking out the loosest pieces just to try and avoid feeling it against her skin. 

Thinking about it, everything felt wrong against her newly sensitive human skin. It was soft and took in all the sensations around her so easily, quite unlike the roughness of her scales. She carefully padded to the kitchen where Sissy was stirring something in a bowl. She looked up with a smile (one without sharp teeth, which was weird but also comforting), and said, “You feeling better? Sand can be quite irritating, I know.” 

“Why does your water feel weird?” Vanya asked, carefully sitting at one of the chairs on the other side of the counter Sissy was working at. 

“The water?” Sissy looked confused at that. “Is there something wrong with it?”

Vanya nodded, “It feels weird. Sorry, I don’t know what it is.”

Sissy had turned towards the sink, picking up one of the glass things and filling it, taking a cautious sip. “No,” she still looked confused. “The water tastes fine. So, maybe it is just different.”

Vanya shrugged, “Maybe.” She allowed her gaze to drift over to one of the large windows. It was too dark to see much beyond the porch, but the sound of the rolling waves still broke through, providing what little comfort it could. 

“Hey,” Vanya’s attention was brought back over to the other woman who was now leaning down onto the counter to be closer to her eye level. “Are you doing okay?” Vanya shrugged again, not really sure how to explain what she was feeling. Sissy frowned and straightened up, “You know what you need?” 

Vanya tilted her head, “What?”

Sissy had pulled out some of the brown sweet things that Vanya had forgotten to ask what it was at dinner and a larger bottle, “To forget, just for a bit. You get caught in your head. Sometimes it is good to just forget and live in the moment.” She handed the items to Vanya, before sweeping up a few more things and leading her out onto the porch. 

Vanya followed her and watched as Sissy shook out a blanket onto the sand and then carefully took the bottle from her, sitting down on the blanket, gesturing for Vanya to join her. “I usually don’t drink very much of this,” Sissy whispered, her eyes sparkling with a smile. “But I think since Harlan is down for the night, we can enjoy a little bit of fun. Red liquid sloshed out of the bottle as she poured some into each of the glass things she had brought and handed one to Vanya before taking a long drink of her own. Vanya looked down at her own before copying Sissy, nearly coughing and spitting it back out at the strange taste. 

Sissy laughed, reaching over to rub Vanya’s back, “It can be a bit of an acquired taste, sweetheart. But you don’t have to drink it if you don’t want it. You can just have some cake if you want.”

“No, I was just,” Vanya shook her head, taking a much smaller sip this time, letting the strange taste wash over her tongue. It tasted closest to some of the fruit that Sissy made sure was always around. Weird, but not as bad as the white goop Sissy had called oatmeal. 

Sissy pulled back into herself but didn’t drop her smile, setting down her glass thing to pull out one of those sticks she liked to light on fire. Vanya kept forgetting to ask what it was, always caught up in weird beauty that was something so different from the water she usually knew. It reminded her of lightning in a way. Vanya got the feeling that Five would love to play with it just cause it was something so different and new. Sissy pulled the stick out of her mouth and looked back over at Vanya. “This was my dream for so long,” she said, gesturing towards the beach. “Maybe not this exact location. But to be somewhere where I could just be. I thought for a long time that I would never find it. That I would forever be in that cage. Especially after Harlan came along. But being here now, it feels like I’m dreaming and haven’t quite woke up yet.”

Vanya blinked, tilting her head as she tried to process what Sissy was saying, “You were stuck in a cage?” 

Sissy chuckled, ducking her head, “No, nothing quite so dramatic. At least not literally.” She took another long drink, taking her time before saying, “I was never quite the same as people around me growing up. My momma would say I was just shy, but I don’t think that is quite right. I loved people. But I was living in a small town with small minds. And I did what people wanted. Harlan’s father… he wasn’t a bad man. At least not like I saw other men being. Certainly not like my- my father.” Sissy’s smile had dropped and she stuck her stick back into her mouth. Vanya looked back into the house, towards where Harlan should be sleeping soundly and back towards the woman beside her. 

It was another long minute before Sissy started again, “He wasn’t bad. At least, that is what I keep telling myself. Even now. He never raised a hand against either of us or even tried to suggest sending Harlan away for how difficult he was. Not after I shut him down the first time. But that didn’t stop me from saving. Didn’t stop me from putting every penny I could away. Because, when it comes down to it, I never loved him. And I wanted out. So bad. When I finally got the courage to give that man the divorce papers, that was when he got mad. And I left. I was Harlan’s primary caretaker for years. And he fought at first, but he got worse as everything went on. And then he got apathetic. And as soon as it was done, I had to get as far away as possible. Carl didn’t want anything to do with either Harlan or I anymore. So I came here. It isn’t quite what I want. But it is so much closer than where I was.”

Vanya put down her own glass thing and reached over to put one hand on Sissy’s knee, something she had seen her do for Harlan many times, “Well, I don’t blame you. From my experience, father’s are all real assholes.”

Sissy laughed at that, a bit shaky, but nodding, “No, I’ve seen the occasional good one. But not from personal experience. Yours was bad as well?” She stiffened slightly at that and Sissy frowned, taking Vanya’s hand and rubbing a small circle on it as she said, “Hey, it’s okay. He isn’t here now. Just like mine isn’t. Just like Harlan’s isn’t.”

Vanya’s mind went blank as she stared down at their hands, the feel of the roughness of Sissy’s hands mesmerizing against Vanya’s own soft skin. It was almost like her scales. She forced herself to look up, but it became easier as she met Sissy’s blue eyes. “What do you want?” she found herself saying.

Sissy laughed, “You know, I don’t think I quite know anymore. I wanted to be free from that cage I felt like I was in, and I think I got that. But now…” She trailed off, looking out at the ocean. “I may have to get back to you on that.”

“I’ll hold you to it,” Vanya said with her own laugh.

Sissy smiled and turned back towards Vanya, “What about you, darling? What do you want?”

Vanya’s smile dropped at that. How could she answer that? She wanted her brother back, she knew that for sure. She wanted them both someplace safe, not just… She turned to look at the ocean. Some part of her wanted to go back, but, at the same time, some part of her found that she couldn’t picture it. Going back to a life running and fearing every strange sound. She felt her gaze dropping locking onto the small container in front of them. “I think, right now, I want some more of this.”

“Agreed,” Sissy dropped Vanya’s hand and Vanya tried not to flinch at the loss of the contact as Sissy pulled the box closer to them. “Wine and chocolate cake are one of the best things. I try not to indulge too often, but some days, I just can’t help myself.” She rubbed her stick against one of the rocks nearby, before dropping it back into the box she pulled them out and opened the box. Gesturing at the cake, she said, “Isn’t that just one of the most beautiful things you’ve seen?”

Vanya smiled, her eyes still locked on Sissy as she said, “It certainly is.”

Chapter Text

“Fuck!” Five snarled as he slammed into a large rock arch. He barely took a moment to shake himself off before taking off again. He thought he had lost the sirens that had been chasing him since last night, but he wasn’t taking a risk. It didn’t matter if he was usually faster than them. If there was a slight chance that they could catch up, they would. And without his sister, he had to keep moving. He was fast alone, much faster. But alone meant vulnerable. Case in point, he slammed into another rock arch and felt something jar up his entire side. He grabbed at the offending rock, poking at the spot with his other hand. He hissed in pain at the slight prodding but deemed it okay for the moment. 

He stayed still for a moment, listening for the slightest hint of a siren hunt, but nothing. Good, he could keep searching. His first thought when getting separated from Vanya was to head south, to the warmer waters. She preferred it there, so obviously she would go somewhere more comfortable. Of course, that put him directly into the siren territory and far too close for comfort to… that place. But it was the best idea he had. Warm waters meant warmer air up on the surface and that must be pretty much the same thing. Five was doing his best to avoid the populated areas, but searching for his sister was proving extremely difficult. He had no idea what state she was in when she went to the surface if what that strange creature said was even true. But it was all he had. He had to find her. He had to… 

Rest. He had to rest. The water was becoming hazy, which meant he was tired. He really didn’t have time for tiredness. But returning to warmer waters meant resting more for him as he wasn’t nearly as suited for it as Vanya was. Which he didn’t have time for. He slammed his fist against the rock he still leaned against. Why was it so hard to just live with his sister. He just wanted her to be safe. Shit, his tiredness was getting to him. He was scared, his side hurt, his chest hurt. This was not good.

Five pushed off the rock arch, drifting downwards to a larger rock opening, carefully scouting it as he went in. Empty. Probably. It took longer to search everywhere without Vanya’s help and her sound location she could do. But should be safe for just a bit. Should be.

Shit. His thoughts were becoming more and more fragmented. Five started to curl into himself at the back of the cave but stopped when a pain shot through his side. He looked down, noticing absently that he was still holding onto his side, the discomfort of his scales digging into his hand nearly unnoticeable due to the rest of the radiating pain. Five was good at ignoring stuff like that though. And he could continue to. Just until he found his sister. 

The warm water really wasn’t helping either. He usually disliked coming this far south, but he was holding out hope that his sister kept moving like he did and moved south as well. Into the warmer weather. But what if she didn’t, that bit of self-doubt nagged at the back of his mind. She could have stayed put. But even if she was sent to the surface, Five had no way of knowing where she was. Going to the surface was practically a death sentence for any underwater creatures. Humans were cruel just like… Just like…

A faint screech cut through Five’s mind and he opened his eyes in shock. He must have passed out while trying to plan his next move. Shit, he thought to himself again. It was dangerous to sleep when you are alone. Maybe the last couple of weeks of minimal sleep was starting to catch up. It wasn’t like Five ever had slept that much, to begin with. But now, it was extra difficult. Any little…

The screech came again, closer. Sirens. They were nearby. Five quickly moved to the front of the cave he was hiding in, ignoring the pain that started up again as jostled his side. He was going to have to go back. To where he last saw Vanya. Moving south had provided no further clues as to where she was. He was going to have to start over. Which frustrated him. But he would do what he had to. He would find her. 

Five regathered his energy, flinching as he could feel the strain on it as he shot off, moving through the water as he headed back north. He just needed to stay focused and stay moving and he would find her and keep her safe. He had to.

Chapter Text

Vanya woke to the sound of music. That in and of itself wasn’t an unusual thing. Harlan loved music and Vanya would quite often lay in the bed for quite a while as she picked out all the different kinds of sounds in the, what was the word Sissy had used, octostra? No, that wasn’t right. But there were so many different kinds of sounds and Vanya could almost see them whirling around her. Sissy had shown her a book that showed the different kinds of instruments making the sounds, but she wasn’t able to explain which kind made which kind of sound. She looked sheepish at that, explaining that music like this wasn’t something she was good at, she only knew as much as she did because Harlan loved it. 

It saddened Vanya, because she would love to know more about the different sounds, but seeing all that Sissy did, even with Vanya trying to help as much as she did, Vanya didn’t get mad. Maybe one day, she would be able to learn more. Vanya often stopped herself at moments like that, because that was a strange sensation, thinking about the future. Like it was a guarantee she would be here. Like she didn’t throw two more bottles out in the hope that something, anything, would get to her brother. She hadn’t heard his voice, seen his eyes, felt his hand in hers in such a long time. There were a couple of days when the realization would become too much and Sissy would come in to find Vanya curled up and shaking from the terror that she had no idea where he was. He was okay, he had to be. Five was a fighter and he was a swimmer. If anyone could run and hide and be safe from the sirens, it was him. But he wasn’t here and that is what caused Vanya’s whole chest to seize and what caused Sissy to wipe at her cheeks and let her stay put, only disturbing her to bring a little food and let Harlan in when he would usually nap in the afternoon, where he would curl up next to her, not close enough to touch but close enough to be there. 

But that wasn’t today, as the strangeness of the music ringing through the house caused Vanya to sit up in confusion. She could hear other voices, singing along. Her trembling vanished as she realized that it wasn’t the hypnotizing melodic that she had heard from the siren’s, but something else entirely. These voices didn’t have singing imbued in every part of their being, it was just… just singing? Vanya carefully crept out of her bed and peaked out of the room towards the living room where the music was coming from. The record player was producing the music like usual with the voices this time. Or most of them. Vanya froze as she noticed Sissy spinning around the room, her clothes swishing around her as she carefully brushed the large furry object around the room, carefully clearing the dust that would gather on every surface. 

Vanya slowly walked out of the room, pausing as she entered the living room. Harlan was scribbling at something at the table and Vanya could see the dark storm clouds outside, the first storm since she had first arrived. 

“Oh!” Vanya jerked her head over to Sissy who had spotted her, one voice cutting off while the rest continued on without her. “Good morning, Vanya!”

“You were singing?” Vanya asked. 

“Oh, yes!” Sissy didn’t seem to notice Vanya’s concern. “Stormy days are for my old music. Harlan seems to prefer it then. I loved this stuff growing up, but it still amazes me every time that I still know at least most of the words.” 

“Oh,” Vanya carefully sat down on the couch, watching as Sissy continued. The music died down, before starting back up with a different song. There were fewer different sounds than the music that Vanya had grown accustomed to hearing in the mornings, but the voices were strange. Much rougher than anything Vanya had heard. Beautiful, but not terrifying. Sissy joined in again, but her voice was slightly off from those voices. Not quite in the same tune. It was comforting. Vanya smiled softly as she watched her spin around, her hair pulled up high but still swinging around with her. 

As Sissy moved to the kitchen, the rain started coming down, the clinking on the roof mixing with the music. Vanya moved to the table, looking down over the drawings Harlan had been making. Most were shells, many of which looked like the ones lining the porch. But there were a couple of drawings with people as well and Vanya fought back a smile as she recognized the people as the three of them swimming or playing or dancing. 

“It is a bit late for breakfast, so would you like a cup of coffee till lunch? I’ll be starting it soon. Soup is always best on days like today,” Sissy’s voice called out.

Vanya shrugged, she still wasn’t sure what she thought of the strange and bitter drink, but Sissy placed the sugar beside the mug she brought and Vanya spooned lots in as she heard the rain grow. Light flashed across the room and Vanya glanced out towards the crackling lightning. Harlan’s crayon jerked as the rolling thunder shook their little house, but he just continued to colour. Vanya felt the coffee warm her as she stood to get closer to the large windows, watching the storm. 

After a moment, she heard a whine behind her and turned towards the boy that was there who had started to rock. She carefully sat down beside him to see the storm he was colouring in. “You know,” she said, quietly. “My brother loves storms like these. He and I would go up to the surface just to watch the lightning. The sounds aren’t quite so loud underwater, but the clouds and lightning are still quite beautiful.”

Harlan still rocked, but his colouring stopped as he lifted his head to look up at her. Vanya smiled, “He is about as big as me, so a little bigger than you. His hair is a little darker, but he is just as curious and loves exploring new places. He wasn’t super good at hide and seek cause he was brighter, but he was fast. One of the fastest things I have ever seen. Sometimes I could have sworn I never even saw him when he moved, he was there one second and somewhere else the next.” 

Harlan pointed towards his pile of crayons and Vanya picked out a bright blue crayon that reminded her of the sparks Five used to make and handed it to him. She watched as Harlan started scribbling a new figure with the crayon, watching the storm and sighed, “I think you would like him, Harlan. And I know he would like you. When we find him, you’ll see.” She turned to look back out at the storm, not catching Sissy watching them both from the kitchen.

Chapter Text

There was nothing there. Or he was in the wrong place. Or maybe he was remembering what those unknown creatures hunting him said wrong. Or maybe they were purposely trying to trick him. The point was, Five had no idea where his sister was or where else to look. The place he thought he last saw his sister was in the middle of nowhere, with no nearby landmasses. The cave he may have hidden in where he was supposed to meet her was empty. But maybe he just couldn’t find the cave anymore. Where he thought it was looked completely different without any of the usual openings to hide in. Which meant he must be in the wrong place. The coral looked right, but the rocks definitely weren’t. 

He pulled at his hair, as he circled a rock column, trying to think. Where else could he look? They were nowhere near any land, which meant, if she was still on the surface, a human must have picked her up. Or this was the wrong place. And he had no way of knowing anymore. 

A screech, far too close for comfort. Five lowered his hands, trying to stop the trembling as he tried to figure out where to swim. Another melodic screech came from the other direction and Five made his decision. He shot downwards into the depths. He usually hated going this far deep as it was difficult to see where he was going and he was without Vanya’s sound location to help direct them. But if he couldn’t see that well, that meant the sirens couldn’t either. If he remembered correctly. His brain was far too foggy to be sure. 

Which was a detriment. Especially in this case. The screeching was following him. Five was moving quickly, but he knew he could go faster. If he could just find the energy to move faster. He dug deep and shot forward again, but he quickly slowed down, even more tired than before. Shit, he was almost out of juice. He looked around trying to find a different path or somewhere to hide. Maybe he could just, he dropped deeper into the trench and immediately regretted it as the pain in his side grew worse. It was, it was bad. Spots were beginning to appear across the little visual he still had of where he was going. 

And that is was what he told himself was the issue when he almost didn’t see the edge of the trench until he slammed into it. He turned, but he cried out as he felt whatever was causing him pain shift within him. Five immediately slapped a hand over his mouth, but it was too late. The screeching had stopped. Five stayed still. Maybe just maybe. They would pass him. He knew that was baseless the moment he heard a rhythmic growl from just feet away. He shot upwards, the pure panic driving him as far away as he could. Which wasn’t far when he was immediately surrounded when he reached the top of the trench. He spun around, looking for a gap, but the sirens surrounded him, their teeth bared and spears and swords all pointed towards him. 

“You are hard to find, child,” one of them swam a little closer, their light hair drifting around them. Five instinctively moved backwards, but quickly stopped when he felt the point of something sharp behind him. 

“I’m not going back,” he growled, doing his best to keep his voice steady. 

“Of course you are,” a larger one sang out, his deep voice dissolving into laughter that was quickly joined by several of the other sirens around him. 

“I’ll escape again. You know I will. I always do.”

“Not this time,” the first spoke again, their spear moving forward so it pressed against Five’s chest. “Not if you want to protect your precious sister.”

“What?” Five snarled, but his anger quickly dissolved into horror as their spear caught through the hole in the middle of his charm, lifting it up. 

“You are such a sentimental fool,” the siren sneered. “It is going to get you killed. Gonna get your sister killed. Come on child. It is time for you to go back home.”

“No!” Five slapped his hands over his ears, but he had spotted the pink wave of magic far too late. It swept over him and he could feel his mind slowly detach from the rest of himself. He struggled to keep himself at least aware of what was happening even as he lost any control of his body. His hands were quickly bound and a pouch tied over his head and tightened around his vocal cords. He tried to dig for that core of power to try and get away in a last-ditch effort, but he nearly screamed in frustration as he couldn’t find it. He had drained himself trying to get away and it was all for nothing. He didn’t want to go back to that awful place. 

Not if you want to protect your precious sister, that sentence drifted through Five’s mind again. Did that mean? Did he have his sister all along? Five could feel his chest tighten again at that thought. He didn’t want to go back. He and his sister had risked so much to getaway. What if while he was uselessly searching, she was trapped there again. He couldn’t... he couldn’t believe he did this. Why did he do this to Vanya? How could he abandon her like this? The fog was making things so much harder and Five grasped for the last trends of thought before he felt himself slip under entirely. 

I’m sorry, Vanya.

Chapter Text

Sissy glanced over at the woman beside her, staring out at all the buildings and people they were passing. She carefully turned a corner and pulled into a parking spot in front of the pharmacy. Vanya hadn’t said a word since the three of them had gotten into the car to take Harlan to his check-up and pick up groceries, choosing to take in everything as the trio drove further and further away from the ocean and their little home. Just carefully followed them through the doctor’s office and the shop, holding Harlan’s hand probably just as tightly as he held hers. It was strange, having both her own hands-free, but Sissy just made a point to move as quickly as possible. She had no idea if any of this could be overwhelming Vanya with how quiet and still she was, but she had wanted to come. 

“Last stop,” Sissy said, unbuckling her seatbelt. “I always take Harlan somewhere with ice cream after his checkups as a treat. They are always a bit much, I know.”

Vanya blinked, turning slowly to Sissy, “Ice cream?”

Sissy smiled, “Come on you two. I’ll show you.”

Sissy ordered for them, just some simple vanilla, and they sat at a small table outside. Harlan had immediately dug into his, but Vanya just stared down at the concoction in her bowl. “You might want to get started on that, or it will melt,” Sissy dropped a spoon into Vanya’s bowl, before scooping up some from her own. 

Vanya watched for a moment, something Sissy had noticed she would do when met with unfamiliar food of any kind and then took a scoop of her own. “It’s…” her voice trailed off as her brow furrowed, staring down at the bowl and then taking another bite. 

“It’s vanilla. I thought I’d start with something simple for you. It’s Harlan’s favourite. But they have different flavours,” Sissy explained.

“Like the cake?” Vanya asked.

Sissy laughed at that. Vanya had been confused the other day about why the new cake Sissy had baked was a different colour and she had to explain how stuff could be similar and taste different based on what flavourings one put in. “Yes, like cake,” Sissy agreed. “If you are still here next time we come into town, you can try something different.” 

Vanya nodded as she took another bite. The three were quiet as they finished their treats, but Vanya was next to break the silence, “Thank you.”

“For what, darling?” Sissy asked, pulling out a napkin to help Harlan wipe off his face.

“All this. Everything. I just,” Vanya reached up for that strange charm, squeezing it. “I just showed up out of nowhere. And you just, you just took me in. You helped me. I- I’ve never had someone do that before.”

“Hey,” Sissy reached out and took Vanya’s free hand and squeezed it. “Of course I did. You needed help. I know what that is like. And now…” Sissy stopped as she felt her own heart swell and her brain race. “I am so glad you did. You are so amazing with Harlan and he’s never had that with anyone else that wasn’t his family. I moved here so Harlan and I could have another chance, so we could be free. And you…” Sissy trailed off, but her thought didn’t, you make me feel like seeing the ocean does. 

Vanya had ducked her head down, “I really didn’t do that much. Just tried to repay what you showed me first.”

“That is more than enough,” Sissy insisted. She grabbed another napkin and carefully wiped off a spot of ice cream that was sitting on Vanya’s nose. Vanya lifted her head in surprise, meeting Sissy’s eyes for a moment. Sissy smiled, “Come on, let’s head home now.”

Sissy felt like she was living the rest of the day within that moment outside the pharmacy. She couldn’t quite explain it, but seeing Vanya sitting on the couch while she poured each of them a drink after Harlan went to bed seemed so natural. So perfect. It almost reminded her of… 

Sissy blinked back those thoughts. The ones of a bonfire, long red hair, and mischievous smiles. Ones that she had all before marrying Carl and having Harlan. One she hadn’t thought about in so long. Ones that left as soon as she could.

Vanya was going to go back to her brother as soon as they could find him and Vanya could get back. Sissy wasn’t sure how that would be possible, Vanya hadn’t shown any signs of changing back and wouldn’t give any details about how she came to be here in the first place. But Sissy would be fooling herself if she thought that Vanya would stay with her afterwards. This wasn’t Vanya’s home. But Sissy… “I don’t want you to go.”

Vanya’s head jerked up to where Sissy was standing over her, holding the wine glasses. “What?” That look of confusion was so common that Sissy almost took comfort in it, but, instead, she was just mortified she let that slip out. “What do you mean, Sissy?” she asked after another moment. 

Sissy shook her head, “Sorry, I’m just…”

“Hey,” Vanya cut her off, standing slightly to guide Sissy to sit next to her, taking the glasses and putting them on the table. “What do you mean?”

“You’re going to find your brother one day. I don’t know how long it is going to take, but you will find him or he will find you. And then you will leave with him. And I will never see you again. I don’t want that, I want you to stay here!”

Vanya just listened to her, but it was only when she reached up to wipe something off Sissy’s cheeks that Sissy realized that they had both started crying. “Sissy, I…” she trailed off as if she wasn’t sure how to respond.

“But I have to be okay with it, don’t I?” Sissy said. “Because you don’t belong here, no matter how much I wish you did. Something terrible must have happened. That’s how you ended up here. And I’m just a silly girl who went and got attached to a mer-creature. The legends, the stories, they always end in tragedy. Which means this has to as well. And I don’t know how I will be able to handle it once it does.”

Vanya was silent as Sissy’s rambling trailed off, taking a breath before saying, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t… I didn’t mean to do this to you.”

Sissy laughed at that, “Don’t you dare apologize. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.”

Vanya gave her a small smile, before whispering, “I don’t think I would either. I miss him, yes. But meeting you and meeting Harlan. I… This is the happiest I’ve been in so long and I…” She dropped her hand from Sissy’s face to her hand, squeezing it like it was a lifeline. “I don’t know how to even get back. And I don’t know if I want to.”

Sissy leaned forward, squeezing Vanya’s hand back, “Then stay. Stay here with Harlan. Here with me. Don’t go back.”

“Sissy, I-” Whatever Vanya was going to say, Sissy cut it off as she leaned the rest of the way forward, kissing her. 

Sissy quickly pulled back, whispering apologies as her brain screamed at her. She had to have ruined everything now. Vanya was going to leave for sure and… Her brain cut off as Vanya leaned forward to kiss her back, her hands going to tangle in Sissy’s hair. 

The room was soon abandoned, with one of the bedroom doors closing, the wine glasses remaining untouched on the coffee table till morning.

Chapter Text

It was dark wherever he was. Dark and cold and small. It reminded him of the caves he and Vanya would hide in. Five glared at the dark green spirals that crossed each other over the entrance of the little alcove he had woken up in. But even though he was glaring, his hands shook as one clutched at his charm, keeping himself pressed to the back of the space. It wasn’t exactly like the cages he used to be in, the one he grew up in. He reached up to grab at his hair and barely bit back a whimper as he realized a large portion had been cut off. 

There wasn’t enough room in the little alcove to really swim around and he was still far too close to the entrance for comfort. His side continued to radiate pain that pulsed with his own heartbeat. He looked down at it, but could barely see his own side through the utter darkness. Carefully, he ran one hand over the spot. The scales were loose and the pain grew worse while he had barely brushed the area, but no blood. That had to be a good sign. 

Deeming his injury not important enough for the moment, although could cause a problem if the pain continued to affect his energy levels, Five turned his attention to the possibility of escape. He slowly inched forward to brush his hand over the spirals. They weren’t enchanted with that same energy that Vanya would sometimes create, which was good. Unfortunately, if there was some other enchantment that Five hadn’t seen before, he couldn’t detect it. Which would be bad. If it was actually there. He started to follow a spiral towards the bottom of the entrance, winced when the pain grew worse as he bent down, and changed tactics by following it to the top. The spiral wasn’t exactly flush with the rock, which meant it was like the ones from his first cages. The ones before he had started experimenting with the sirens' different enchantments on them. 

Five drifted back the foot or so to the back of the cave, wincing slightly as his fin pressed against the rock. There was still no movement that he could see, but with how dark it was, Five was gonna have to rely on other senses. He cursed to himself and his own bad luck for being so brightly coloured. White was not good for sneaking and tended to shine whenever there was any slight chance of light. He reached down for that little core of power, testing his energy. His best chance was to swim as soon as he had an opening. He was fast, faster than most of the idiot hench sirens around this dark trench. It was just a matter of having the stamina to get far enough away. There wasn’t a lot. Not good.

The sound of something clinking beyond the spirals caused Five to jerk his head up again. He was bracing himself when a voice whispered in his head, Vanya. Shit, he had no idea if she had been captured as well or if she was long gone, trapped on the surface. Okay, new plan, he thought to himself as he saw pink wisps of energy float around the spirals and they began to retreat into the rock. Find out if Vanya is here. Play along until you do. 

One of the sirens reached in and pulled him out, keeping a hand clasped around the back of his neck, the other pointing their spear at him. Five allowed himself to be dragged along, focusing on keeping his shaking down and carefully looking around as much as he could without being able to turn his head. It was far too dark to really see anything and as he was dragged deeper into the trench, his field of vision got smaller and smaller. He was pretty sure he was being taken all the way to the bottom, before… A memory flashed before his eyes, dark green light illuminating a silhouette about four times Five’s size in the memory, large and billowing and not unlike the jellyfish that terrified Vanya so much the first time they had encountered them and a long chain swinging around it. 

Five had never seen his face. He wasn’t a problem or that impressive until he had disappeared with Vanya. But now… 

The sirens swimming with him stopped and Five vaguely realized they had been talking, his mind automatically filtering out their melodic tones as it used to before. “I didn’t hear anything,” the larger one, holding onto Five was saying.

“How close are we to D?” the other one asked. “Could be her.”

“Too far. Nothing down here, but us.” The group started forward again, but Five heard it this time, the slightest ripple through the water as something turned nearby. “Maybe it is D?”

“Nah man, pretty sure she would make a ton more noise.”

“Boss has been encouraging her to work on her stealth.”

“Trust me. It would take a lot more work to get to that point.”

“I think it is D.” There is a long moment of silence. “You think it could be another escapee?”

The one with the spear barked out a laugh, just scratchy enough to cause Five to wince, “The only one who would come is smaller and more of a scaredy-coral than this one. I doubt it is her. Plus she tended to rely on range, remember?”

Vanya? It sounded like they may be referring to her. He didn’t remember these two particular sirens who had started moving again without stopping their debate, but that didn’t mean anything. Five was pretty sure that the rotation of sirens around the trench was set to random specifically to make planning escape that much more difficult. The grip on his neck tightened when there was suddenly a squeal and the larger siren had stopped them. “Cha?” he said as Five reached up one hand to claw at the hand holding him. “Hey!” the siren shouted, turning Five so he was looking right at those long, sharp teeth and stormy, dark eyes. “I suggest you stop that right…”

He didn’t get a chance to finish as Five’s fist connected with his nose, causing him to finally let go of Five. Immediately, Five shot upwards, his own only thought pushing him to get out, out, out. The pain and pressure on his side lessened as he heard a shouting below him and then a snap and silence. 

Five reached the top of the trench, glancing down into the darkness. He was trying to push down the surprise that no one was following him. Someone helped him escape. He looked around, hoping to maybe see his sister, but nothing but a wide-open ocean. He had to get moving, he knew that. He had no idea where to go. He glanced down again and jerked in surprise at a figure emerging. He knew instantly from the dark grey colour and the sheer size, whoever this was was not Vanya. He shot backwards, digging deep to get ready to bolt as this large merperson stopped in front of him. They were easily at least twice as large as Five with long arms that easily went halfway down their tail length. But their teeth were straight, not sharp. 

Five blinked in confusion as the creature slowly opened their mouth and said in a deep voice, “Sorry about that. Didn’t want them to alert the other sirens.” Five just blinked, part of him painfully aware that he needed to get moving if he wanted to get away before the sirens realized he was gone and get a proper head start. The other merperson continued, “I’m Luther. We’ve been looking- hey are you okay?” Why were his teeth flat? Five ran a tongue over his own sharp teeth in confusion. Sirens teeth were long and pointed. Vanya’s were a lot shorter but still pointed. Why were-?

The other merperson lifted a hand towards him and everything in Five screamed as he darted away. He had wasted too much energy trying to get out of the trench as fast as possible, so he stuck as low to the seafloor as he could, searching for somewhere, anywhere to hide. He heard the swish behind him and risked a glance to see the, he said his name, didn’t he? Shit. Five spotted an alcove and darted inside. Shit, it was smaller than he thought and Five curled up, one hand pressing into his side to try and alleviate his protesting side. 

The other merperson stopped outside the alcove with a deep sigh that rippled through the water around Five, “Look, buddy. I’m sorry for scaring you. As I said, my name is Luther. I know you are looking for that other merperson, the one with the long greenish tail, right? I don’t know their name, sorry. My… My friend helped them escape the sirens. She tried to help you too, but you were too fast and disappeared.” 

There was a long moment of silence as Five processed what he said. “You know where my sister is?” he finally asked. 

“Well, I don’t. No. But I know who does.”

Five gripped at his charm, trying to rationalize how likely it was that this Luther was telling the truth and would help him. But it made no sense that he would. “Why?”

The mercreature pulled back so he wasn’t such a large mass across the small entrance and Five could see his face a little clearer. He wasn’t smiling, just staring back, his eyes unreadable. Finally, “Escaping the umbrella man isn’t easy, is it?”

Chapter Text

The mercreature, Luther, was so slow. Painfully so. If it wasn’t for the fact that Five was in literal pain as his side seemed to grow worse, he could have probably easily gotten far enough away that Luther could never find him again if he wanted. Probably could even with the pain. But the slightest hint, slightest chance , that he knew where his sister was kept Five there. Well, knew someone who knew where his sister was. 

They travelled in silence, only questioned when Five asked about the possibility of the sirens chasing them. Luther shook his head, saying that they likely won’t check the now-empty cage for a few days and wouldn’t be able to find them by then. So, Five had no choice but to just follow. Slowly. Unbelievably slowly. 

“They are going to catch up to us,” Five said.

The other creature again shook his head, “No, they aren’t.”

Five groaned, frustration flooding him, “Look, I’ve been swimming from those things for a long time. They are gonna catch up to us if we do not move!”

“They won’t,” Luther said again. He slowly dropped into a trench they had approached, dropping just a few feet before moving forward again at the same agonizingly slow pace.

“Yes, they will!” Five tried to swim around him, but it was way slower than he wanted it to be. His energy levels were far too low still. Shit.

“You say that, but you were still captured.” Five stopped as Luther glanced back at him before continuing, “We are moving at my pace. Trust me.”

“I don’t.”

“You should.”

“No,” Five hated the fact that he sounded like a stubborn child saying that. But it was true. This person had shown up and helped him escape from the sirens, yet still expected Five to blindly follow him. And he wouldn’t. If he had anywhere else to hide. Shit, he had grown too used to being with someone with his sister and missed her. He was blindly trusting this Luther. Damnit. 

It felt like forever, and very well could be with how slow the other merperson was moving, before Luther finally pulled to a stop, shouting out, “Hey, I found him,” before dipping into a large cave opening.

“You fucking idiot,” another voice echoed from deep with the cave and Five pulled to a stop outside the entrance as he tried to place where he had heard it before, panic building up. “Do you want to let everyone know that we are here? This is supposed to be a safe cave. A hiding place.”

“I thought Allison warded it so we didn’t have to worry about that,” Five was losing sight of Luther as he disappeared into the darkness.

“You know what, fuck you! I don’t want to test how good those are!”

“Seriously?”

Five started backing away. No, he couldn’t do this. This guy had helped him escape and that was great. But he couldn’t just attach himself to the first merperson not trying to kill him until he could find Vanya. He had to find her. This, whatever this was, wasn’t worth it. Yes, time to go.

“Hey, kid.” 

Five would like to say he, at the very least, cut off his screech and he was going to insist on that at least. But the strange merperson with multiple... tentacles? Yeah, that is what those looked like. He did startle him. Back into the cave. And he was back beside Luther. Shit.

“Really, Ben?” the strange voice said. “You could not be a pain to the kid.”

“Not my fault he was so easy,” the other merperson, Ben, slowly floated forward, his dark eyes glittering in the last of the light. 

“Not a kid,” Five growled, turning towards the other voice, stopping when he saw the orange eyes. The weird ones. 

It was the merperson who had been looking for him after his sister disappeared. He smirked, showing sharp teeth, an almost startling comparison after seeing Luther and then Ben’s own flat ones. “Sure, kid,” he said. 

“What do you want?” Five felt so small in that moment. These creatures had rescued him, sure, but they had to want something. And he had to make sure they didn’t trick him or trap him or do worse. He resisted the urge to reach up for his charm, this was not the time for comfort. He had to get out. Which meant making sure they couldn’t find any weakness. They already know. That mocking voice had returned and Five couldn’t just ignore it. They were looking for him after knowing that something had happened to Vanya. “Where is my sister?”

“Your… what?” the creature in front of him looked confused. 

Five’s lip started to curl, but he flinched as he felt a hand land on his shoulder, “The girl he was with, Diego.” A glance down and Five saw Ben’s tentacles reaching forward to poke at the other mer-creatures thicker ones. Shit, that was a lot of limbs. Why didn’t they just have one tail like normal sea creatures?

“I know what he meant!”

“Sure you did,” Luther had drifted further back into the cave and Five could barely see him anymore.

“You know what!”

Five watched in a sort of morbid fascination as the other creature took off after Luther and the two started arguing. Didn’t they say they had to be quiet? Or did they say they were protected? Wards were siren magic. 

“Hey, drop the tension,” Five manage to repress the flinch this time as Ben drifted in front of him. “Allison’s magic is good, they could argue for hours, and have, and never be found by someone outside the cave.” 

Five just stared back for a long moment before asking, “Why am I here?”

“Oh! Right!” Ben clapped his hands together before shouting back to the others, “Hey guys, do you wanna tell him or should I?” 

The arguing stopped and the other creature said, “Right, we saw the sirens hunting you. And Allison said we should help you two get away. She managed to help the girl, your sister I guess. But you disappeared on us! Now, we didn’t intend it to go quite the way it did. Allison panicked.” 

“She didn’t panic,” Luther huffed from behind the other two.

“Oh, she totally did,” Ben nodded in agreement.

“No! She had to make a quick decision and…”

“Well, she made the wrong one.”

“That is kind of the definition of panicking.”

“And we lost the girl.”

“Hey, we’re working on it!”

“Well, you know that bottle idea of his is stupid!”

“Hey! When has he been wrong before?”

“When he got me stung by that horde of jellyfish.”

“When he got you stuck in that cave for two days till we could dig you out.”

“When he said that I could eat that one fish with lots of spines.”

“That was kinda funny.”

“Yeah, only cause it wasn’t you dealing with…”

Five rubbed at his head as the other three continued to argue. This really was impossible to deal with. They knew something about Vanya, but they couldn’t stay on track long enough for him to find out what they knew. He could feel his side clench in pain again and he shouted, “Hey! If you three idiots know something about my sister, you better tell me! Or I am leaving!”

The other three stopped for a moment before Ben spoke up, “Oh, yeah. We don’t know where she is.”

There was silence for a moment before Five just turned and started to swim away. Something wrapped around his wrist, stopping him, and he yanked at his arm, trying to pull it out of the tentacle that had wrapped around it, “Let me go!”

“Kid, stop it,” the other creature said. “Enough with whatever that is.” Five glanced down to see his sparks had started up in his panic and he let them fizzle out before glaring at the three in front of him. Ben had still not released him. “We don’t know where your sister is, but we are looking for her. One of our circle, Klaus, he is a low-key psychic and he is actually useful for this sort of stuff when he isn’t being a douche. He is finding what we need to find her. Something about bottles. Said he would have it by the time we found you. We just need to go to him and we’ll be able to find her.”

“Psychic?” Five looked between them. “Are you serious?”

“Hey,” Luther said with a smile. “If this doesn’t work, you can go back to whatever you were doing before just randomly swimming everywhere looking for a clue. Which will get you nowhere cause she is on land. We know that for sure. Just try it.”

Five looked down to the tentacle that had yet to release him, catching sight of the charm floating in front of him. He hated this. He hated everything about this. He needed Vanya. He had to find her. He gritted his teeth, “Fine.”

Chapter Text

The next few days certainly seemed like a whirlwind of bliss. The little smiles Vanya gave her. The way she would look back for just a moment before chasing after Harlan. The way Vanya would always stand just a little bit closer. Vanya had admitted that she missed just holding hands and being close to someone one early morning in a quiet whisper. It had been an easy way of making sure her brother was close by when neither could easily see due to hiding in the dark. It was one of those things that Sissy was slowly learning about her that she was carefully collecting and holding close to her heart. Vanya still didn’t share much about before she had her brother always right there, which it sounded like he was decently younger, so there had to be a before. 

Vanya listened back on those early morning talks though. She listened as Sissy explained how she met Carl, how things went sour after Harlan was born, how she and Harlan came to live here. Sissy wasn’t sure why she was sharing so much. She had grown so used to holding everything so close, but Vanya’s wide eyes and gentle smile caused her heart to just spill out so much she had kept bottled up. 

The third bedroom had become quite unused.

Nothing else changed, which Sissy found the most beautiful part of all. She continued her cleaning of the cottage attic, continued to cook and clean, continued to help Vanya with creating star charts and sending out her bottles during the high tides. 

The sea breeze whipped through her hair, threatening to blow out her cigarette, but Sissy couldn’t find it in herself to care as she leaned forward on the porch railings. She felt someone slide up beside her and the cigarette carefully extracted, but she just leaned into Vanya’s side. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she said.

Vanya smiled, carefully extinguishing the burned down bud, “It is.”

The two just watched for a moment, watching Harlan pulling on his kite string that was fluttering with the wind. “This is why I came here, you know,” Sissy finally spoke up again. “The sea breeze. The ocean. I loved it when I was a little girl. My daddy used to take us here once a year during the summer holidays. It was where I was happiest. And when I needed to start new, I just came back.” She chuckled, “Well, not this exact beach. But you know what I mean.”

Vanya laughed, “I get it. Being somewhere so open. Somewhere where you aren’t trapped. It is exhilarating. You would do anything to stay.”

“Exactly,” Sissy smiled back. She looked out over the rolling waves that were growing, “Do you think we got another storm coming in?”

Vanya straightened up, “Let’s see.” Sissy looked over to catch just the slightest glow before Vanya closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath, tapping against the worn wood of the porch. The wind grew for just a moment, fluttering around both of them before dying back down. “No, I think this one will miss us,” Vanya slumped back over the rail.

“You think?” Sissy tilted her head in confusion. 

“I’m really good at finding storms,” Vanya shrugged. “My brother loved them. It is difficult, one of the hardest things because storm clouds are not nearly as easy to spot as something solid like rock or coral. But worth it.”

“Interesting talent. You must have a knack for it. Only other person I knew who could tell a storm was coming was my grandfather. Said he could feel it in his joints,” Sissy said with a laugh.

“Not natural. Just practice,” Vanya insisted. She straightened up as Harlan came running up, a dark shell in his hands that he held out to her. “Oh, this is an interesting one!”

Sissy chuckled at the two, “Come on in you two. It is nearly lunchtime.” The group started inside, Sissy running a hand through Harlan’s locks with a sigh, “I think you need a haircut again, buddy.”

Vanya turned at that, “A haircut?”

“Yeah, he hates his hair getting past a certain length. Of course, he doesn’t much care for haircuts either, so I usually do it myself so I can go slowly for him,” Sissy explained. She looked up to see a strange look on Vanya’s face, “Are you okay, dear?” 

“Yeah, I just, could you cut my hair too?” Vanya asked. “I didn’t know if you could, which is why I didn’t ask sooner. But, it had been a while since my brother or I were able to and having long hair is such a… I just hate it.”

Sissy blinked, watching as Vanya pushed her hair back out of her face. Looking closer, she could see how her hair was slightly uneven like someone had tried and failed to give her a haircut. “Okay,” she said. “It will have to be after I do Harlan’s, but yeah, I think I can do that.”

Vanya gave her a soft smile back, the kind that sent Sissy’s stomach spinning, “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

Five was still pissed. Or annoyed. Or boiling over with rage. He wasn’t quite sure which but his emotions were definitely leaning towards that range. The three he had found himself in the company of, they were so loud. And slow. They took their time as they travelled to wherever this Klaus was and argued nearly the entire time. Mainly Luther and the other creature, who the other two kept calling Diego or Dee. Ben seemed to alternate between mediating and egging them on at seemingly random intervals. And Five was stuck, trailing behind their slow meandering. 

It had to have been hours since they set off before Five spotted something in the distance. Large and sharp, nothing like where he and Vanya used to shelter in and actually looking more like the… “Oh, hell no,” he came to a quick stop as he realized they were heading right towards one of the submerged ships that sometimes littered the seafloor. 

Diego looked back at him, “What do you mean no? This is where Klaus is. Come on.”

Five darted backwards, out of reach of the tentacles starting to reach out towards him, “I said no. Those places are occupied by colonies and choirs. All of which are very protective of their territory. I’m not going near one.”

Diego groaned, looking back towards Ben and Luther who had stopped as well, “Look, kid-”

“Not a kid!”

“-This is where Klaus is. We claimed this area, so there is no one else here to attack. You’ll be okay.”

“Says you.”

“Yeah?” Luther looked confused as he gestured towards the ship. “Come on, let’s see what he found. If there is nothing yet, you can go on and keep searching your way.”

Five glared at them for a long moment, then started forward without another word. He didn’t want to be here. But they were right. Hopefully. Either that or he was swimming right into the siren’s song and about to be eaten alive. But he wasn’t unwilling to take these fools down with him if they decided he was a threat. He could probably take at least Luther down. He looked soft enough. 

“Hey! Klaus! Where are ya!” Ben shouted as they approached the ship. There was a loud thud from within the woodwork and Five flinched backwards. No tentacles reached out to grab him though as both Ben and Luther ducked into one of the openings. 

Diego stayed though, crossing his arms as he appeared to wait. He didn’t turn back towards Five, as if fully expecting that he would stay nearby. Which he was. Dammit, he really was playing right into their hands. Of whatever they were planning. He really couldn’t figure it out. 

Another thud and Ben poked his head back out, “Found him. He- he’s got something.” 

Diego finally turned towards Five, “After you kid.”

“I’m not a kid,” Five grumbled, but headed towards the opening anyways. He couldn’t help that he was curious. He had always wanted to explore one of these things, but each one was already swarmed by territorial or less than friendly creatures and he wasn’t about to fight anything he didn’t have to with his sister there. It was dark inside, which was annoying and there was a strange sound warbling through the water, almost like the singing of a siren but horribly off-key. In a larger cave within the ship, there was another mer-creature, which the singing appeared to be coming from. He was larger, about the size of Diego, with bright spots across his tail and torso. He was floating along, upside down, his hair almost as long as Vanya’s was, poking and adjusting a large gold device pinned to the side of the ship. 

“Shit,” Diego groaned, moving towards the other creature, using one tentacle to push at the mer-creature to right him. “Hey, Klaus, you bonehead. What the fuck are you doing?” 

The creature, Klaus apparently, blinked and then grinned, showing teeth as flat as Luther and Ben’s, “Hey bro! Did we ever figure out what this did? Cause it wasn’t in the other ships I’ve explored. Maybe it is an ancient navigation tool from before the humans got those stupid smaller things. Or a timekeeper of some sort. They do have weird ideas of how to keep track of that stuff.”

“Pretty sure we decided it was just some sort of decoration.”

“That’s boring. What if it is some sort of enchantment for the ship? Or is it a device to hold the souls of the sailors from this ship? Think this ship is haunted.”

“Pretty sure you’re haunted,” Ben muttered from beside Five.

“I fucking doubt that. Did your bottle idea pan out or did you just get freaking trashed instead of looking like you said you would?” Diego said. “Cause you look trashed.”

“Look, it is not my fault that half the bottles are filled with that red liquid and I didn’t know they were half-destroyed when I checked that room!” Klaus whined. 

“Unbelievable,” Diego groaned.

“But I did find bottles!” Klaus had been slowly floating backwards towards some weird box and now picked it up. “Lots of bottles! At the surface, not just in this ship. See!” He turned the box over and about a dozen long glass things fell out, floating into the water and rising to bounce against the top of the cave. “I don’t know which one it is but- Who is this?”

Five blinked as he realized that Klaus had caught sight of him and was now staring. His eyes were dark, eerily so like Ben’s and were now locked onto his. He darted forward, causing Five to jerk back right into Ben. He could faintly hear Diego saying, “Yeah, we found the kid. Don’t fucking scare him, you idiot.”

“Where did you get that?” Klaus asked, his voice suddenly a lot slower and quieter than the high-pitched giggle it was before. His finger reached out to poke at the charm around Five’s neck and Five quickly reached up to grab it and hide it, holding it closer. 

“Don’t,” Five warned, flashing his teeth as he growled. The two stayed still for a long moment, neither blinking. Five wasn’t about to give in, no one was going to take it. Especially not this crazed weirdo. 

“Guys,” a hand pulled Klaus back. “Stop whatever this is. Klaus, the bottles?”

“You okay?” Five jerked at the voice behind him and then jerked again as he realized that there were hands on his arms, holding him in place. He pulled out of them quickly, turning to see Ben looking at him, his dark eyes a lot softer than before. 

Five decided not to justify that with an answer as he turned back towards the other two. “You don’t know which one?” Diego was groaning. “Where is Allison? Wasn’t she supposed to be keeping an eye on you?”

“Resting,” the chirpiness had returned to Klaus’s tone. “I’ve been dragging her everywhere looking for these. Luther went to wake her up.”

“Like I got any rest with your singing,” a rasp sounded from behind Five from the entrance he had come through with the others. “Honestly.” There was a cough as Five turned towards it and froze. The creature in the entryway. This one was familiar. Much more than the rest. The overall sharpness. The glinting scales across her cheeks. A ringing started in his ears. The twisted tail. This is one of the creatures that had been hunting them. A siren. 

It wasn’t till much later that Five realized the ringing had been him screaming.

Chapter Text

“Hey,” a voice tickled against Vanya’s ear. In the past, this may have startled her bad enough to cause her to grab Five and swim far, far away and panic for days about how some stranger managed to get so close. But wrapped in warm sheets and the familiarity and fondness of the voice caused her to just blink her eyes awake and smile at the woman leaning above her. Her hair wasn’t pinned back for once and the ends were tickling against Vanya’s face. 

“What’s going on?” Vanya whispered back. It was still dark out, but Sissy appeared to have pulled on an old sweater and had a strange glint in her eyes. 

Sissy cocked her head towards the door, “There is something I’ve wanted to do. Get dressed and meet me on the porch.” With that, she slipped out of the bedroom, pausing only to grab a pair of sandals from the floor. 

Vanya sat up, glancing towards the window to confirm it was indeed still nighttime, but did as she was told, finding her pants from the day before and an oversized sweater. She slipped outside to find Sissy helping Harlan fasten the sandals, a large basket beside them. 

“Okay, can I know what is going on now?” Vanya asked, the smile growing larger as she took in the two in front of her.

“Of course,” Sissy scooped up her basket and Harlan reached for Vanya’s hand as Sissy led them out onto the beach. “There is something I always wanted to do again. My ex-husband, he wasn’t keen on the idea so I haven’t since Harlan. But my sister and I would do it as children when we got the chance and I wanted to share the little tradition with Harlan. And now, you’re here. And I thought I would share it with you as well.” Sissy paused as they reached one of the larger rock plateaus on the beach and set down the basket, pulling out a large black checkered blanket to spread. “When the moon was full, we used to have little moon-themed picnics. Nothing fancy and sometimes our idea of what is moon-themed got a little wild. But we were silly girls who found the idea great fun. Time to see if it really was.”

“Sissy, that is,” Vanya trailed off as Harlan let go of her hand to plop down onto the blanket. “That is brilliant.” 

Sissy looked up, her smile turning bashful as she continued to pull a couple of things out of the basket, “Well, I don’t know about that. But I thought I would surprise you. I had to tell Harlan, he does not like surprises. But I wanted to surprise at least one of you, so I hope you don’t mind me dragging you out here in the middle of the night.”

“Hey, not at all,” Vanya sat down, reaching out to squeeze Sissy’s arm in reassurance. “Now, let’s see what you put together for us.” 

Circular sandwiches and sliced fruit quickly emerged, followed by something brown wrapped in plastic and a large container, a thermos if Vanya remembered right. “It mainly is just cutting things to look like the moon,” Sissy said. “Crescent-shaped apples. Sliced cucumbers. I would have left the peaches whole, but I know Harlan won’t eat them like that. But we do have moon pies. I saw them when we were in town and they reminded me of this little idea, so I grabbed them.”

The three started eating and Sissy poured them each a cup from the thermos, which turned out to simply be warmed milk. Sissy would share a story from previous moon picnics from when she was little, Harlan would stack the sliced food in weird ways and hand them to Vanya to eat, and Vanya laughed. The bright moon shone above them and the sea even stayed calm.

None of them appeared to realize how long they were out there until Vanya had a sudden weight against her lap. She looked down to see Harlan had tipped over so his head was in her lap, asleep. She chuckled and Sissy sighed, “I guess we were out here a little longer than I thought. We should probably get him to bed.”

Vanya ran one hand carefully through his hair and said, “Leave him just a bit longer.” She laid back onto the blanket herself, careful not to jolt Harlan who shifted as she did and grateful that her shortened hair meant she didn’t have to worry about laying on it, something she found extremely annoying when she first arrived.

There was the sound of shifting beside her and a weight appeared. She glanced slightly down to see Sissy had laid down beside her too, looking up at the sky. “You know,” Sissy said after a moment, “I am so glad you washed ashore here. I don’t know if that sounds selfish. I know you do miss your brother and I hope you find him. But I am glad you are here. And…” She trailed off for a moment but seemed to regain whatever courage she needed to finish what she was saying, “And I don’t want you to go back. I don’t want to let you go. You are good to Harlan. And you are good for me. I will. It would be so wrong to keep you here especially since I know what it is like to be stuck somewhere. Even somewhere where I think I am happy. But I want you to know that I would miss you so much if you do go.” 

Vanya blinked. Sissy’s words filled her with something. There had been so many weird new things to experience both physically and emotionally since she arrived here. She had tried to navigate them the best she could. But every time she thought she had figured out Sissy, something new happened that took her breath away. Harlan had been easy. The swelling of her heart, the worry as he did something, that was the same feeling she got with her brother. Easy. But Sissy was something else. Something new. Vanya was usually closer to being like Harlan, honestly. She hated new things. She hated surprises. She hated what she was dealing with being here on land. Or she thought she did at first. But now…

“I don’t want to go either.”

Chapter Text

At some point, Five must have blacked out. Which was a terrifying concept. There was a siren in the room. A bunch of other mer-creatures he barely knew. Which was bad. But it was another thing he didn’t realize until later. That there was a gap in his memory between the siren coming into the larger cave and being in a smaller one with tentacles wrapped around his torso, one hand running through his hair. At the moment, he only had one concern, “Why are you touching my hair?” 

“It calms Klaus down from his weird moments. Ben too when he gets too high-strung. Figured I’d try it. And it worked,” there was a voice behind him. “You were panicking, dude.”

“Was not.”

“Sure thing.”

Five looked down at the thick tentacle wrapped around him. It was strangely comforting. Like when Vanya used to wrap around him. He was just as big as she was now, but that didn’t stop her from still doing it, twisting her tail around his. It was way more flexible than he ever was. One of those weird differences between them. “Where is Vanya?”

“The girl?”

“My sister. Where is she? You said Klaus would know.”

The tentacle began to unwrap as Diego moved around to be in front of Five, “Hey, Klaus did find something. The weird charm thing around your neck? There is a symbol that looks just like it on a couple of bottles. We’ll ruin the contents if we open them down here. Learned that through trying in the past. Klaus lamented the loss of those contents for weeks. It was annoying. But tonight, we’ll go up surface-wise and see what is inside.”

Five looked down at the charm, carefully grabbing it to look closer, “Why would my charm be on the bottles?”

“Who else knows about that charm? And where did you get it anyway? It doesn’t look like anything that would come from the asshole and his siren troupe.”

Five looked up at Diego, a little startled, but peeved, “It didn’t! Like I would do that. It is just a stupid rock. That is all!”

“You seem to be rather protective of this stupid rock,” Diego raised an eyebrow, arms crossed. “Your sister knows about it?”

A flash of a memory, Vanya showing him the two charms she had found shortly after they first escaped, him finding the twine that allowed them to keep the charms close, struggling to knot the twine with shaky fingers. “Yes,” was all he said. He didn’t need to share any of the rest. Especially not with these creatures.

Diego nodded, “Klaus seems pretty certain on these bottles now that he has seen your charm. Worth a shot.”

Five rolled his eyes. This group seemed to be putting a lot of faith into the idiot, which actually seemed pretty on par for this larger group of idiots. After all, who would be willing… “Why is there a siren here?”

“Allison?” Five didn’t answer. “She is part of our group just as much as Ben is. Sirens don’t take kindly to one of their own being injured. Not to the one doing the injuring, no. To the injured. Tend to leave them behind for dead. Luther and Klaus found her. She can still do some magic, mainly low-grade protective stuff. Can’t sing anymore though, so don’t worry about that. Klaus decided he would sing for her instead, but I think that drives her up the wall more than anything else.”

“So, you just let her stay around?” 

“Obviously. She is part of our family.”

Five narrowed his eyes at him. “I don’t like any of you,” he decided. “I’m only here cause you might know where my sister is.”

“Dude, chill,” Diego shook his head with a chuckle. “Luther literally rescued you from a cage, so you can relax for a moment.” He turned and pushed open a part of the ship, slipping through the opening that appeared. Five stared after him for a moment before following him back out through the tunnels and out of the overturned ship. 

He stopped upon seeing the others all gathered outside, a couple of bottles being held by Ben’s tentacles as he watched whatever debate Luther and Klaus were having. Well, based on the growing look of confusion on Luther’s face, it was less a debate and more, something else. The siren was beyond them, looking out into the ocean. Five moved a little closer to Diego.

“Let’s get going,” Diego called out, gathering everyone’s attention and started moving, the others slowly starting to follow behind. To Five’s relief, Diego was moving faster this time, but that relief waned as the seabed below them started to change and they approached large cliffsides jutting up beyond the surface. 

“We are not going up there,” he snarled, coming to a stop as he saw Diego start to turn upwards, causing him to stop as well.

“Do you seriously not remember what we said earlier?” Diego rolled his eyes. “We can’t open these underwater or we’ll ruin the contents. Now come on.” 

Five watched the others start to follow Diego, Ben lastly with a shrug and smile, and muttered to himself about them being idiots before following as well. He breached the surface, watching in confusion as Klaus and Luther helped push while Diego heaved himself onto one of the larger rocks. “Um, isn’t that-”

“It’s okay, kid. You aren’t the only one who can do weird things,” Five snapped his head towards Ben ready to snap at him about the kid nickname but stopping at the second part of that sentence. 

“What do you mean?” Five was getting really tired of being the one asking all the questions. 

They watched as Diego shook off his hands, water droplets flying as Ben handed one of the bottles to Klaus who brought it over to Diego. “It means that Diego has this weird double-breathing thing. He doesn’t need to stay partially underwater in order to breathe. He can also breathe the regular air like humans can,” Ben explained.

“Seems pretty useless considering he still has a tail,” Five said, watching as Diego bit at the bottle, breaking off parts of it and spitting it to the side. “That doesn’t seem right.”

“Shhhh,” Ben hushed him with a slightly dramatic flourish, putting one finger to Five’s lips. “I don’t think it is either, but it is freaking hilarious because Diego is convinced it is and then he gets all that disgusting sticky stuff in his mouth. Klaus and I have a running bet of how many bottles he will accidentally break before he admits he may be wrong.”

“Break?” a cracking sound echoed through the open air around them and Five looked back over to see that Diego had somehow broken the top of the bottle off and was now frowning down at the two pieces of the bottle in his hands. His annoyance was quickly forgotten as he saw Diego toss aside one piece and pull something out of the other side and he swam closer. “What is it?”

Diego was frowning down at the piece of… whatever it was he had opened up. ”It’s spots? I think,” he turned the item around and, sure enough, there were little black spots covering the item at random.

“That is weird,” Klaus mused. “Aren’t they usually covered in writing?”

“Every single one so far,” Luther nodded. He turned to grab another bottle from Ben and hold it up to Diego, who had stuck the item under the other half of the bottle he still had on the rock beside him. 

This one showed the same thing, spots covered in random, and Five groaned as he started to drift backwards, away from the group. He knew this was going to turn out to be freaking useless. He leaned backwards, looking up at the glittering lights above. His eyes traced over them, picking out a few shapes that he and Vanya used to come up with on the rare times they would make it up to the surface without the cover of a storm. They didn’t have a lot of info on what they were, these little lights, having been taught so little before being out on their own, but there was something comforting in them, their movement as they travelled through the oceans, the brighter ones always seeming to be there, the-

“Why do they all just have these random spots? These are freaking useless! Who would do this? Seriously, what was the point?” a voice cut through Five’s thoughts and he frowned, as he recalled the spotted thing.

“I’m sure there has to be a reason, Klaus. Have you had any other-”

“No! This is all I got! Fucking useless ‘gift’. Can’t even call it that. Drives me up the wall all the fucking time-”

“Hey, that’s enough. Maybe it is a puzzle?”

“Ben, not everything is a puzzle or riddle to solve.”

“It’s the stars.” 

Everyone turned towards Five who was still looking upwards. ‘Uh, yeah kid. Pretty bright here,” Diego said.

“No, no,” Five shot forward, reaching the rock he was on. He used one arm to heave himself up slightly, reaching for the spotted things just out of reach. Diego carefully removed one from under the bottle and handed it to Five who sank back into the water slightly and gratefully, the spots that were beginning to form clearing. He lifted the paper up above his head, pointing upwards, “They aren’t spots. They are the stars.”

“Okay, why would they be the stars?” Luther asked as he swam closer to squint at the paper himself. 

“Stars change depending on where you are,” Five tried to suppress the flinch as he heard the rasp again. He had almost forgotten about the siren with them and turned towards Allison. “She must be trying to help you know where she is. Do you recognize the patterns?”

Five frowned, turning back towards the paper, looking between it and the sky above him. He turned slightly, facing away from the rock and lifting it higher. “It almost matches the sky now. But it is shifted. We are in the right area, almost.”

“Shit, there is a decent amount of seaports near here, this won’t be easy,” Diego muttered. 

“But we’ll do it,” Five blinked as the siren rasped again. “Let’s get going.”

Chapter Text

Five was struggling to ignore the growing pain in his side. There was nothing he could see that was wrong, his scales covered the area and they appeared to be fine. But Diego grabbing him with his tentacles earlier had shifted whatever was causing issues. Again. He didn’t really want any of the fish that one of the mer-creatures he was travelling with had caught anyway, but it was disturbingly easy to turn it down when the thought of even trying to eat it made him queasy. 

Travelling with them was slow progress, what with Klaus getting distracted and swimming off on occasion and how neither Allison or Luther could seem to go at a semi-decent pace for a long period of time. But Five was having a hard time continuing to muster the energy to stay angry about this like he wanted to. 

“It’s gonna get harder to look for the right place during the day,” Luther’s voice cut through Five’s thoughts and he looked up at the others.

“I’m aware, but we could keep trying. What if she is out wandering during the day? Looking out at the ocean wishing to be back instead of stuck up there?” Diego snapped back. 

“Hey,” a rasp came from Allison. She stayed quiet most of the time, none of the usual haunting songs that Five expected from a siren. She spoke like it hurt. “Not all mer-creatures long to be back as soon as they can be.” 

Diego huffed, turning away to swim forwards, shooting slightly ahead of the group to meet Klaus and Luther at the front of the group. Allison turned back towards Five, but he refused to look back at her, even as he pulled slightly closer towards Ben, who was the closest to him right now. His heart continued to pound even as she turned away and picked up the pace slightly to get closer to the others. 

“You doing okay, kid?” Ben said from beside him.

Five huffed. He was getting really tired of being called a kid by everyone. Just because he was the youngest there didn’t mean he was one. “Not a kid,” he snarled, jerking back away from Ben as he felt a tentacle poke at him. 

“Look, Five, I know-” Ben cut himself off suddenly, jerking to look behind him. 

“What?” Five dropped his voice to a barely audible whisper, but he got no answer. Ben just stared behind them for a long moment before grabbing Five’s wrist and pulling him forward, to quickly catch up to the others.

“Allison, we got a situation,” Ben hissed when they reached them. 

Allison frowned, “I don’t hear anything.”

“I’m certain. I don’t know if it is his sirens, but there is something nearby,” Ben insisted. Five squirmed, still caught in Ben’s grip. For someone who seemed at least more passive than the others, he was certainly strong. 

“Ben, you get weird feelings about something being nearby every time your stomach starts to roll funny. Sure it wasn’t just something you ate again?” Luther suggested.

“Really?” Diego groaned. “Look, why don’t we just take shelter for a bit. Just to play it safe.”

“Nothing is protected near here,” Luther pointed out. “Allison would have to do new wards and I thought she was supposed to conserve her energy.”

“Right here,” Allison muttered. 

“We can just skip them if you need us to,” Ben groaned. “Maybe it is just something I ate.”

“Look, the stars are gone anyway. We can shelter till night.”

“Weren’t you the one just saying we should keep searching cause what if she is wandering the beach like a love-sick whale?”

“Hey, maybe you’ve changed my mind. Ever think about that, ya big lumbering-”

Five wriggled out of Ben’s grip, finally, as the arguing broke out. Every bit of him was on high alert and Five tried to tune the others out as he turned to scan the ocean around them. Vanya could see so much further, she would be able to tell if Ben really heard or saw something. And it was so hard to think between the pounding building in his head and the voices behind him. There were too many sounds, too much happening. 

“We won’t find her right now anyway.” 

Five jerked his head up to look at Klaus who had floated over to be disturbingly close to him without a sound. “What the fuck does that mean?” Five snarled as Klaus’s words caught up to him. “We are out here because of your bottle idea.”

Klaus’s eyes had grown less and less hazy as they had travelled and he stared at Five now with that weird intensity that he had when he had locked onto Five’s charm. “When the storm breaks. That is when. That is Ben heard.”

Five tilted his head, trying to understand what the hell Klaus was talking about when Allison shushed everyone. After a moment, she said, “Not a siren choir. It’s a storm, Ben. Come on, it will be here soon.” There was a grumble, but Five realized that everyone was listening to her this time.

“We’re stopping?” Five snarled.

“Of course. It is dangerous for mer-creatures to be out in the ocean during a storm. Thought even you would know that kid,” Diego huffed as Luther started to lead the group down deeper in search of a cave to shelter in. 

Five didn’t move, “Not if you are faster than the storm.” 

“Kid, we don’t have time for this. Come on.”

Five jerked backwards, his sparks lighting up again. He could hear the thunder rumbling through the water now. He had spent the last two years playing amongst the lightning strikes with Vanya. “I’m not stopping,” he said, taking off into the water, ignoring the collective sounds of protest behind him.

Chapter Text

Vanya couldn’t say that things had changed over the last couple of days since that picnic. Sissy still cooked and pulled things out of that attic and changed the music on time. Harlan still searched for shells and took his kite out whenever the wind picked up enough, which seemed to happen more and more often. Vanya still chased Harlan in various games around the beach and helped wash the dishes after meals and stared out at the ocean for a sign, any sign. The fact that Sissy and she had grown closer and closer, sharing a drink or a bed every night didn’t seem to change anything else they did.

That faint sense of anxiety that followed Vanya all her life from the cages to hiding to when she first washed ashore disappeared looking at either of them. She was safe here. It was strange to know that for sure, but she did. The ocean still ran through her veins, calling her to come back, but it was easy to ignore that feeling as she looked into Sissy’s eyes, a dark blue that reminded her of the calm deep of the ocean. Much softer than the wildness of her brother’s blue. 

Her brother. That was the only thing that stopped her every time. The ache, the utter pain that she experienced at first upon realizing he wasn’t there with her was fading. And that did terrify her. She had been with her brother as much as she could for nearly his entire life. Spending the last two years, she thinks, hiding and scraping by to survive. Bolting at the first sign of the siren’s haunting song. According to Sissy, it had been nearly two months since Vanya had arrived. Two months since she had last seen or heard him. Two months since she had to worry about the sirens as well, but that seemed like a horrible thing to relish when she knew her brother was still out there somewhere. 

“Vanya!” She turned upon hearing her name being called to see Sissy waving from the porch. “Dinner is ready! We got a storm rolling in, so you better hurry!”

She turned back out to the ocean, watching the waves roll over her feet where she was standing on the edge. A deep breath, locking onto the call of a seagull overhead, and she could see into the dark clouds gathering over the sea. They were heading straight for them. She turned away. “Let’s go, Harlan! Did you find anything you like?” she walked over to the boy, wincing as she realized that the ocean had soaked through the bottom of the short pants she was wearing that day. Dried ocean clothes were not fun to wear, she had learned. Harlan shook his head, brushing off the sand from his hands as he stood from the beach he was combing through. “Race you to the porch?” He nodded, a slight smile appearing at the suggestion and the two took off running. He won, like always. Vanya still wasn’t quite used to running like he did. They entered just as the first crack of thunder washed over them. 

Sissy had already switched the music to the storm music. Vanya didn’t like it as much as the usual music, but the strange voices that poured through the player were interesting. They weren’t the ocean songs that sirens sang, these were something simpler, something without a purpose. They were still safe. 

By the time dinner ended, the storm was going strong. Vanya just stared out the kitchen window at the flashes of lightning and the turbulent waves as she absently dried a plate. Behind her, Sissy was trying to interest Harlan in something she called a puzzle, which didn’t sound like it was going well. “Okay, we can just put it away, do something else,” there was defeat in Sissy’s tone and Vanya turned to see Sissy sweeping the crooked pieces of whatever that puzzle was back into the box she had pulled them out of. 

Another crack of thunder, this one much closer, and Harlan flinched. The music screeched and he shoved the table back. “Shit,” Sissy abandoned the puzzle and rushed over to the player to fiddle with it. Vanya put her plate down and hurried into the living room.

“Hey, Harlan, do you want to colour something with me? Or maybe your mom can pull out one of your books and read to us?” she crouched where Sissy was sitting on the other side of the table. Harlan shook his head, clasping his hands over his ears as another crack of thunder happened. “Do you want me to tell you a story?” she tried. Sissy got the music going again and Harlan pointed towards the door. Vanya jumped this time as the windows rattled and then everything went out. 

“Harlan!” Sissy’s voice was panicked and Vanya barely caught a glimpse of him in the dark moving across the room before the door slammed open. “Shit!” Vanya followed her to the door, the two stopping on the porch. “Harlan!” Sissy called out again, trying to call out above the roaring wind. 

A flash of lightning and Vanya caught a glimpse of a figure scrambling over the rocks. What was he doing? There was too much happening with the wind and the rain and lightning. He was going to get hurt! Her heart was practically pounding in her ears, building and building and building.

“Vanya!” Sissy’s voice snapped her attention and Vanya looked over at her. Sissy was watching her, her hair blowing wildly around her, her face lit up by a… white glow? Almost like… 

Vanya looked down at her hands, which were glowing white. She could feel that power core, the one that made her sparks, the one that made her so different. So special. So… Ordinary? Hardly. Dangerous? Absolutely. Why do you think I keep them here? An old memory flashed across her mind. 

Look! Another voice echoed through her mind, this one far younger. Far kinder. I bet I can swim faster than the lightning can strike!

But what if it hits you? 

It won’t! Even if I was somehow too slow, which is impossible by the way, you wouldn’t let it. Don’t be so ridiculous, Vanya.

A flash began to build. A figure on the rocks. That thrum under her skin. She thrust out her hands, allowing the energy to pulse outwards. The lightning did not strike the rock. The clouds pushed back away from their beach. The rain stopped, rushing away as the water pulled back from the beach. 

The lights came back on in the house behind them as the glow faded from Vanya’s hands. There was silence for a moment, then the player kicked on, music once again playing. “Vanya?” Sissy’s voice cut through. She turned to the woman beside her, her eyes wide as she watched her. “I- what was- shit, Harlan!”

Vanya turned back out to the beach, where a boy, now illuminated by the house lights, was staring out a wave. A wave that was coming for their beach. “Harlan!” she shouted, rushing down the steps and out to the boy. She hated doing this, but she had to get him inside. She grabbed his wrist and pulled, trying to lead him back to the porch. Harlan cried out, pulling away quickly, but he at least ran back towards the house. 

The three ran back inside as the wave crashed onto the beach and over the rocks. The house was high enough and the wave small enough that it didn’t reach it, but Vanya watched out the window, trying to see if another one would come. After a couple of minutes as they all tried to catch their breath, Vanya looked over at the mother and son. “Sissy,” she started, but Sissy shook her head. 

“I think we need to all get cleaned up and unwind from that excitement. I’m gonna take care of Harlan first. I’ll let you know when I got us cleaned up so you can have your turn. Please stay here in the kitchen till then, you’re dripping.” Sissy started to lead Harlan down the hallway towards the bathroom. She stopped right before disappearing and turned back to Vanya, “Whatever that was, whatever you did, thank you for saving Harlan. We’ll talk about it later, okay?”

Vanya nodded and waited till the two disappeared before sinking to the floor. She looked down at her hands, which were noticeably not glowing anymore. How was she going to tell Sissy about this?

Chapter Text

Crash. Bang. Another strike that Five zipped around. He turned to roll with the wave, taking advantage of the current to help him move faster. His vision was starting to grow hazy from the pain in his side, but he ignored it. Well, it had actually grown hazy a while ago, but he was good at ignoring stuff like this. They were close. They had to have been. He wasn’t going to stay away from his sister any longer than necess-

He barely dodged another strike. Damn, it was harder to do this without Vanya there to spot him. She could see the strikes coming long before he did. He looked up at the swirling clouds, barely visible over the continuous spray of waves crashing together above the surface. Shit, this was getting worse. He dove back into the rolling waves, pushing through them where he had to and travelling with them when he could. He was going deeper into the storm, he knew, but he had to. He had to find her.

He barely zipped around another bolt of lightning and winced as the crash of thunder rolled through the waves, propelling him further along. Then, in the small second of silence between crashes, he heard it. The song. They were coming. 

Five took off faster. He was not getting caught by those damn things again. Maybe he shouldn’t have… No, not thinking about that right now. Five moved faster, his sparks pushing him further ahead. The song grew louder. Shit. 

Another crash, right in front of him. His momentum was too much and he went right through the freshly struck water, everything stinging and burning as he did. His vision went black as he drifted to a stop, arms wrapped around himself. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t think, he couldn’t… Yes, he could think. He was doing it right now. But he needed to move and he couldn’t. He tried to pull an arm away, flick his tail, lift his head, anything! It all hurt. The sound of the song grew, pounding deep within his head above the continuous crash of the storm. He pried his eyes open, looking up to see shapes moving towards him, all carrying weapons, teeth glinting in the flashing lightning. He was gonna get caught again. He needed to get away now. 

Then, something happened. A different ringing sound. One that was almost familiar pushed through the waves, rippling right through him. He could see the sirens slow and he tilted his head in confusion before realizing that he was moving again. The water swirled and pushed against him, bringing him further and further away from the danger. Back the way he had come. Shit, he didn’t want to go back. But he needed to be safe. But he wasn’t swimming himself, was he? 

He allowed the waves to pull him, not like he really had much of a choice. He couldn’t really move, just keeping himself pulled in tight instead, letting the waves jostle and move him along with the storm as it travelled on. Shit, everything was getting harder to track. The song rang out again as whatever this weird wind was faded. The sirens were hunting again. 

Five flicked his tail once and then again, managing to get himself propelling forward once more. But the speed at which he was moving before was gone. He was out of energy, out of power. Fuck, he really should have just stayed with-

He stopped as he noticed two figures approaching. Shit. He turned back towards the siren choir, then towards the figures again. They were too blurry, but one had an orange glow to their eyes. Diego, right? Yeah, it must be them. He started forward once more but was stopped by a sudden jolt. Something had him. He turned back to see some sort of strange twine had wrapped itself around his tail. They were closer than he thought. 

“Five!” He turned back towards the other two. They were still too far away, moving quickly. Who was with Diego, he couldn’t make them, oh… The darker figure pulled to stop, blue light gleaming as she spun her hands and shot out whatever she was creating towards him. The siren. The same light he saw before his sister disappeared. “Swim up!” Diego shouted. Maybe, it was all kind of muffled. He was stuck though, wasn’t he? He moved upwards. That seemed right. 

He broke the surface, glancing around at the storm that was beginning to move on without him, just leaving flashes of purple in the clouds above as lightning struck, this time well away from him. The waves pushed him along the surface and he turned to see the cove nearby, some strange flat structure sticking out into the water. He looked back down, the twine was gone and he could just barely see or hear the sounds of the clash going on beneath him between Diego and Allison and the sirens. 

One broke away, apparently catching sight of Five and the blue light of Allison’s magic still around him. He took off swimming towards the structure. Shit, he was still too slow. Something slashed through him and he looked down to see a sinking spear that wasn’t attached to a siren’s hand. He turned back to see Diego having grabbed the siren, one arm pulled tight around the creatures neck, tentacles tightening around their torso. “Go!” he shouted again. 

Five kept going, grabbing onto the wood of the structure that stuck down into the sandy beach. He coughed. Everything hurt. His chest, his side, his… He looked down to where the spear had struck him as the blue light started to fade with his vision. His tail was gone, the blood dripped from something else. He pushed himself backwards, keeping one hand on the structure. That damn siren had really done it. He chuckled to himself as the last bit of his consciousness finally faded. He was stuck too, wasn’t he?

Chapter Text

Five wasn’t really sure how long he slept on that beach, water lapping over him. The storm moved on, but the clouds stayed, lowering themselves over the ocean. Which was really annoying considering how blurred everything already was for him. Air passed down his throat, causing his chest to heave and something to rattle. Five had tried to stop it, but that just led to the pain growing worse and nearly passing out again, so he just accepted that it must be a human limitation he was now stuck with. 

Shit, he pushed himself up eventually, looking out to the ocean. He didn’t want to be here, stuck on a sandy beach, he wanted to be somewhere safe and hidden with his sister. His sister. It took way too much effort for him to pull himself up, having to grab onto the human structure-thing to actually get his balance. Damn, these stick-like legs were practically useless, weren’t they? Way too shaky, but still expected to hold up the rest of his body? Unbelievable. 

He collapsed onto the structure, leaning against one of the poles as he tried to clear the spots that were already beginning to form across his vision, his chest heaving more. He looked down at his legs, one of them still with a deep cut across it. It looked clean at least, no doubt the ocean water made sure of that. But there was blood still coming from it, looking as sluggish as he felt. Like his whole head was just full of sea moss.

He took another deep gulp of the air, finding it was more clearing than ignoring this new need. Okay, so he just needed to keep going along the beach. Just like he was travelling in the ocean before- Five turned his head back out towards the ocean, remembering why he was here and not there. Allison had done some of her creepy siren magic. Because they were under attack. The sirens. They never went into a storm. It was dangerous. Why were they there? 

Flashes that he had caught of Diego and Allison fighting them popping into his head. Who was that group? Why were they helping him? They never really explained themselves, but they knew who they were rescuing him from. Shit, if he wasn’t so focused on Vanya, he could of- Vanya.

Five pushed himself back to his feet, noting with satisfaction that they were slightly less shaky. One step forward, then another. He let go of the pole and slowly made his way along the beach, ignoring the pain that was flaring up. He had to find her. Then he would figure out how to contact that group again to change them both back. Then they could go-

His thoughts were jolted as he stumbled, the cut leg nearly giving out under him. He had to stay upright and keep going. Five hissed as he pushed forward again, stumbling towards a cliff-face and leaning against it. His hand went to the pain in his side, brow furrowing as he realized the skin around it was a deep purple and black, nothing like the rest of the skin around it. That, that wasn’t right, was it?

He looked up at the clouds that continued to roll just out of reach all around him. The stupid things really made it darn near impossible to see anything. He could be walking straight into a human group or off a cliffside and not even know it. Fuck, this was bad. He kept one hand braced against the cliffside and took another step forward and another and another.

Five really wasn’t even sure how long he had been walking for. He kept pushing forward as the little bit of hazy light faded. He kept pushing forward as the clouds finally started to rise once more, which was almost useless considering how his vision was refusing to clear as well. He kept the ocean in sight, one hand on a cliff whenever he was near one. 

The shaking in his legs didn’t stop and then his hands started it as well. That just wasn’t fair at this point. Like, come on. He was just trying to keep going. If he could only get to that next cliff-face… 

He blinked and stumbled his stomach heaving. If he had actually bothered eating earlier, he felt like whatever he had eaten would have come straight out. He reached out to grab at the rock, pulling himself back up. He was… Further along, then he thought? He looked back behind him and then forward again. Shit, he was blacking out now. He was gonna collapse soon.

It did only take a couple more steps before he stumbled again. Landing on his side, he wasn’t even sure if he could pull himself back up. Maybe just a small break, then he would keep going. He rolled onto his back, blinking at the sky that was beginning to emerge behind the clouds, showing just a couple of stars. He smiled slightly, wondering if they were similar enough to that paper that Diego had pulled from the bottle. The one they believed to have come from his sister. All because of the comforting weight of the charm resting on his chest. 

He didn’t stay conscious long enough to find out. Blackness took over before the last of the clouds cleared. He didn’t see the sun emerge from below the horizon, lighting up the beach around him, or the tide receding from where he had been walking through it, leaving him on a drying beach. And he didn’t hear the screech as someone spotted him, passed out while chasing after another little boy.

Chapter Text

“How long have you been able to… Oh Lord, I can’t even think of how to put it…”

There was a body lying on the beach. She screeched, catching the attention of the others, and took off after it. 

“I’m sorry.”

“No, no, I just. I’m trying to wrap my mind around what I saw you do. It is… It’s a lot.”

“Should I leave?”

It was a boy. He was breathing but did not look good. He was small and far too thin. His hair hung limp and sand-crusted and there was a nasty looking bruise on his side and blood trickling down a cut on his leg. But a charm around his neck was what caught her eye.

“Heavens no!”

“What?”

“I… I don’t want you to go. I just… You saved Harlan’s life today. I don’t know how you did it. But You did. I just need to understand.”

She heard the gasp beside her as Vanya reached them. “Five?” she whispered, dropping to her knees beside Sissy, giving her the confirmation of who this child was. 

She reached out one hand to place it on her arm. “Let’s get him inside,” she said, softly as she could.

“I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”

“What is it that you did out there? Exactly?”

The boy was way lighter than Harlan, but it still took both women to carry him inside and lay him on the couch. Sissy dug out an old sheet to cover the boy. Vanya sat next to him, clutching his hand in a death grip. He hadn’t woken up at all.

“It is some sort of, I guess the best word would be magic. It isn’t normal, even for us in the sea. But I’ve always had it, as far back as I can remember. I guess that is why he…”

“Vanya?”

Harlan seemed content just watching and colouring once Sissy placed some paper and crayons in front of him, so she turned her focus to the siblings. She knelt beside Vanya and carefully moved the sheet up to reveal the cut on his leg. It was full of sand and the blood appeared to still be trying to flow sluggishly, so she set to work cleaning it. 

“Why who, darling?”

“I… I’ve known Five since he was a baby. I know exactly how old he is. I know so much about him. I know I am definitely quite a bit older. But I don’t know those kinds of details about myself.”

“What?”

There was something black starting to form in the cut. Sissy prayed it was just an infection starting up. It wouldn’t be that surprising considering the amount of sand she had to clean out. She carefully moved up to the bruise on his side. The one that looked half-healed, but still mottled and far too wide-spread to not be concerning.

“My memories from my own childhood are muddled. My… Five and I were raised by this creature. An ancient creature who lived far deeper than most would dare venture, in the trenches. The sirens, at least the ones we knew of, they worked for him.”

Carefully touching the bruise got the first reaction from the boy as he hissed and took in a sharp breath that rattled. Vanya shoved Sissy’s hand away. “Don’t hurt him,” she snarled. Sissy carefully lifted her hands, dropping the cloth she held as she did so. 

“He was interested in our special kind of magic. I don’t know if he caused it in us or just found us. But he was not a good one.”

“Vanya, I’m trying to help him. He is injured and I need to know how bad,” Sissy said. 

Vanya tightened her grip on his hand, staring for a long moment before relaxing. “Okay, just please be careful,” she finally relented. Sissy carefully reached forward towards the bruise, aware of Vanya’s sharp eyes on her the whole time.

“Oh, Vanya, sweetie…”

“I didn’t even know I could do that stuff out here. I just wanted to protect Harlan. He was going to get hurt and I… I couldn’t…”

“Sweetheart, hey, it’s okay. I got ya.”

“...Thank you.”

“Of course. Do you mind if I ask, couldn't what?”

Something wasn’t right with the boy's side. Sissy frowned, wishing she had a bit more medical knowledge to be able to tell what, but something was loose. Really, he should go to a doctor, but she wasn’t sure how to explain a badly injured boy without it seeming bad, especially since he had no record and she really didn’t want him to get caught as some sort of mer-creature. She sighed, wondering when exactly her life became this complicated.

“I… we weren’t the only ones. But he… I…”

“Hey, it’s okay. Take your time.”

She watched as Vanya reached up to carefully brush the boy’s hair out of his face and felt a smile grow on her face. No, her life wasn’t complicated. The reason she was still here with two strange beings that had been through far more than she could imagine. This woman that she loved. 

“I don’t remember. I hurt someone. And then I was alone. I wasn’t alone before. At least, I don’t think I was. But I was alone till Five came. I hated it.”

“I’m going to run the bath and see if I can find something to fit him,” Sissy repacked her first aid kit and stood. Vanya gave the slightest nod but was otherwise locked onto the boy in front of her. She sighed and leaned down to carefully place a kiss on top of her head, “Hey, you have him back now. It’s going to be okay, okay?”

“Hey, Vanya, look at me. Hey, I know it is hard. Thank you so much for telling me. You have been through so much, I can’t even imagine…”

“You have too-”

“No, we are talking about you right now. You have been through so much. But we will find your brother. And until then, you are more than welcome to stay here. You saved my son’s life today. I am so grateful for that. I don’t… I don’t know what I would do without him. And I can only imagine that pain is what you have been experiencing without your brother. But you are more than welcome to stay here till you find him. Where you go after that is up to you. But I won’t let you be alone.” 

“Thank you…”

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

Washing an unconscious boy proved to be far more difficult than either of them anticipated, but once he was clean and dressed and lying in Vanya’s old bed, she just laid next to him, one hand still locked onto his. Sissy had merely nodded and left them be, the door open to allow the sound of Harlan’s records to drift into the room. Soon, the smell of spice and fry joined it, showing that Sissy had started the cooking. 

Vanya just watched her brother, who looked exhausted even as he slept. When was the last time he even rested? They had been separated for several weeks now. He had to have stopped and rested at some point during that time. Surely. 

His face was twisted up, tense even when dead to the rest of the world. She hated how he never seemed to relax, always on alert or stuck in some memory. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. She also remembered the joy he would express on the rare occasions that they would get a chance to just play, the way he would dart through the waves and the lightning of a storm in glee. 

A presence appeared at her side and she turned her head to see Harlan had appeared in the room, looking down at both of them. They were both silent for a long moment before he reached out to touch her charm, looking at the matching one around Five’s neck. She smiled and scooted closer to her brother, giving Harlan space to sit on the bed next to them. “You remember me telling you about my brother?” she asked. “This is him. His name is Five. I believe he is just a few years older than you. He is hurt right now, but when he wakes, you can properly meet him.”

Harlan tilted his head looking from one of them to the other. Vanya sighed, “I don’t know how he got hurt. He probably pushed himself too much. He does that too often when he feels like he needs to prove himself too much. The last time…” Vanya’s voice trailed off. She had turned her head to watch her little brother’s sleeping form. “We used to be in a very bad place. There was this man, the siren’s called him ‘The Umbrella Man.’ I don’t know what his actual name was. He was not a nice man, he… Five and I were held by him. Literally our whole lives. At least as far as my memory goes. Being captured and trapped in one place, unable to move and migrate and explore. That goes against any mer-creature’s very nature. And Five, my brilliant brother, came up with a plan to get us out. He was so young. And he did it. Did what I couldn’t in years. Did what hadn’t been done since that man became more strict when…” She trailed off again as another memory hazed across her mind, the details too blurry to properly capture. 

A shuffling movement snapped her out of it and she turned her head to see Sissy had appeared behind Harlan, a plate in her hands. “How do you think he got here then?” Sissy asked, her voice quiet as she approached, placing the plate on the bedside table. 

Vanya frowned, turning back towards her brother, “I feel like it may be similar to how I got here. Some weird siren magic that changed him.”

“No,” Sissy paused as she appeared to think about what to say next. “I meant, do you think he found your star bottles?”

Vanya blinked, a slight smile appearing from the memory, “We’ll have to ask him. I think he would find the idea clever if he hadn’t. With how hard he probably searched, I don’t see how he could have not.”

There was another beat of silence and the bed shifted as Sissy sat down on the edge next to Vanya and Harlan. “Are you gonna want to go back? Now that you have found him?”

Vanya bit her lip as she thought about it. “I do want to go back to the ocean,” she admitted. “It is in my blood. I don’t think I could spend the rest of my life on land without going insane. But I also don’t see how it is possible. And also…” 

She turned back towards Sissy. “What?” Sissy asked, her voice dropping to just above a whisper. 

“I don’t want to leave you two,” she whispered back, sitting up and capturing Sissy in a kiss. “I don’t know what to do,” she admitted. 

“Hey,” Sissy placed one hand on her cheek, guiding her face up to meet her eyes. “It will be okay. And I will be okay no matter what you decide. Having you here has been the most amazing thing and I wouldn’t trade the last several weeks for nearly anything. But,” with this, she glanced over at Five’s sleeping form. “But, your brother needs you too. And whatever you two need to do, you do it. I know there is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for Harlan. Even leaving you.” She closed her eyes, leaning forward so her forehead bumped against Vanya’s. “I’m sorry if that makes me seem like a horrible person, but there really isn’t…”
“Hey,” Vanya couldn’t lift her own hand with one holding herself up and the other clasped firmly around Five’s. “I get it. Thank you.”

Sissy opened her eyes, relief in them, with a smile and opened her mouth to start to say something when there was a groan behind Vanya. All three in the room turned towards the boy who had begun to shift, his face twisting up again, likely from the pain. They watched as slowly his eyes began to blink open, the haze in them clearing slightly as they locked onto one of them, “Vanya?”