Cian chuckled silently and opened his arms to her as she swim back toward him. He seemed to be having no trouble breathing or moving around in the water, despite the fact that he didn't have any webbing or a tail. He did, however, have gills - but it wasn't biological so much as it was magic.
And, of course, being underwater meant that Kai could finally see the other half of her mother's state of being as it truly was, her attention drawn to the shape of Leilani swimming out just a little deeper to flip and spin in and out of the colorful shoals, her blonde hair moving in a liquid cloud about her head, displaying her smile whenever her face came into view.
Cian was still smiling as Kai watched her mother moving gracefully through the water. Floating there with Kai, he gestured for her to try swimming toward her mother to join her, with him close behind.
Catching the gesture, Leilani calmed her swimming, turning to open her arms to Kai invitingly. The water was clear and surprisingly warm, despite the time of year, thanks to the warmer climes they always sought when the cold weather came to Rhy'Din city. Tentatively, the little girl floated out of Cian's arms, her awkward movements slowly taking her toward her mother as she grew used to being completely submerged in salt water.
It was Cian's turn now to show Kai how to swim without a tail, using his arms and legs to help him glide through the water. Without the aid of webbed fingers or toes or a tail, he moved a little slower and more awkwardly than Leilani, but he had always been a good swimmer.
For Leilani, it was a beautiful sight, to witness her husband and mate teaching their daughter how to move through the water; seeing Kai try to replicate Cian's movements and gain some kind of elegance in her motion as she steadily floated closer. It would take time before Kai was truly strong enough to swim in the ocean without her parents close by, but this was a very good beginning.
After a while, Cian knew Kai would get tired, but before they called it a day, he wanted her to see how much fun swimming could be, even if she wasn't the one doing the swimming. He waved the two of them over, and with hand gestures he and Leilani had developed over the last few years, gestured for her to take Kai on her back so the little girl to see what it felt like to glide through the water with her mother.
Nodding in agreement, Lani gently guided Kai over to Cian, pausing for a moment to capture her loose hair and braid it into a coil on her head, so that the little girl wouldn't just be enveloped in her mother's hair. Then she turned, offering her back to the two of them, and Kai looked curiously at Cian.
But Cian was confident they could make this happen, and he glided over to Leilani, lifted her onto her mother's back and laid her little arms around her mother's neck. He mouthed silently to her, "Hold on", while gesturing with his hands so that she'd understand what he meant.
Unfortunately, Kai then wrapped her arms so tightly around Lani's neck that she was in danger of choking her mother. It took a moment of adjusting, and Lani's hand laid gently over the toddler's joined hands at her clavicle, to get her settled more comfortably. And then, with a flick of that bright tail, Leilani swept away, gliding out over the deeper corals with Kai clinging to her back, laughing in a stream of bubbles at the unexpected ride.
Cian couldn't help but laugh, too, as he watched wife and daughter gliding through the water, before he dove after them, swimming right beside them. He reached over to grasp Leilani's hand as they swept through the water, and though he wasn't nearly as graceful as her, somehow he managed to mostly keep up.
But this, too, was something he and Leilani were used to, though she no longer hooked her hands beneath his shoulders to swim him at speed through the water. Perhaps it was a strange outing for a little family, to dive beneath the ocean's wave and investigate together, but it matched them perfectly.
But all good things must come to an end, and they didn't want to wear their little girl out, and so at last, Cian broke away, gesturing for them to return once again to the surface.
Leilani had one last piece of mischief in store for Kai, pulling her around so they could both watch Cian break the surface. Then, with a soft kiss to Kai's cheek, Lani put on a burst of speed straight up, breaking the surface herself with enough momentum that both mother and daughter left the water together. Kai cackled with delighted laughter as Lani tossed her toward Cian before dropping back beneath the waves, splashing happily toward her father.
Fortunately for Kai, Cian had been watching and waiting for them to surface, so that he was ready when their daughter was tossed his way, catching her easily in his arms and loudly smooching both her cheeks in playful affection.
"What do you think of the water now, sweetling?" he asked as he gathered her into his arms to wade back to the shore. His legs always felt so much heavier after the weightlessness of the water, and he almost wished he was more like Leilani.
"It's fun!" the little girl declared, hugging him about the neck as he began to take her weight once again. "All the fishies!" She didn't notice Leilani following them, swimming as far as she could before beginning the laborious process of pulling herself up and out of the surf with her arms.
But once they were close enough to the shore that there was no risk of losing Kai, he set the little girl on her feet and playfully patted her behind. "Go on and see what Harper is up to. We'll be right there," he told her, knowing how hard it was for Leilani to acclimate back to land.
Of course, Kai's gills and webbing wouldn't go away until she was dry again, but under the warm sun, that wouldn't take long. "'kay, Papa!" Skipping into a run, the little girl scurried off, buoyed up by her new experience under the sea.
Cian watched, until he was sure she was safe, before turning and going back for Leilani. He sometimes felt bad that she had traded her life beneath the sea for him, but if they wanted to be together, there was no other way. Reaching her side, he scooped her up in his arms, just as he had their daughter, to carry her back to shore, until she had her legs again.
Lifted up into his arms, Leilani smiled, kissing his cheek tenderly. "Thank you," she murmured, looping her arms about his shoulders comfortably. "She seemed to enjoy that, don't you think?"
"I think she loved it ... and she did really well, don't you think?" he asked, as he carried her toward the shore, eyes tracking momentarily to locate their daughter. "She's a natural, like her mother," he added with a smile.