Author Topic: Three Little Fishies  (Read 1012 times)

Cian Granger

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Three Little Fishies
« on: February 01, 2020, 02:52:12 PM »
January in Rhy'Din wasn't the best time of year for swimming or sailing, even for those who weren't exactly human, but life for Cian and Leilani revolved around the water. And so what did one do when winter rolled around and the water turned icy cold? Like migratory birds, they left their home on the east coast of Rhy'Din for a warmer clime farther south on the continent to spend the winter where the weather was milder. No one would miss them anyway, and those who did understood why they'd left.

Without jobs or any other ties to hold them down, they'd set sail well before winter and had rented a cottage near the sea, where they'd remain until it was time to go home. Though it wasn't tropical, the climate here was far milder than that of Rhy'Din and allowed the little family to bask in the ocean they so loved. Even their pet tabby had become accustomed to life seaside and enjoyed prowling for unsuspecting birds and fish. It was a particularly mild day today, and the little family had decided to take advantage of it by taking a swim in the ocean.

At eighteen months, Kai was a vibrant, cheerful little girl who liked nothing more than messing around in water with her parents. Today was a special day, though. Today, she was going to go for her first swim in the sea with Cian and Leilani, who had finally deemed her strong enough to handle the currents. She bounced impatiently on the sand, waving her hands toward the little cottage.

"Come swim, come swim!"

Cian laughed at his daughter's summons as he and Leilani stepped out of the cottage, hand in hand. This was a Cian who had not only grown up over the last few years but found happiness in his new life with his little family. He had no only found the freedom he'd always sought, but the love and devotion of a wife and family, and from the smile on his face, it was obvious, he loved them in return. He waved a hand back at the little girl, dark eyes bright with happiness.

"Wait for us!" he called back at her. It was something of a comfort to know he never had to worry about her drowning, but the waves could still prove too strong for one as young and small as their daughter. If the currents took her too far, they might never find her.

For all her enthusiasm, Kai was an obedient little thing, staying a good five feet from the surf as she waited for her parents to join her. Leilani giggled softly as she emerged from the cottage with Cian.

"I am glad she is so excited to try this," she murmured as they crossed the sand.

"So long as she stays close," Cian murmured with a slightly worried frown. Though he wasn't too worried about their daughter drowning, there were other things to worry about.

"I can move faster underwater than I can on land," Lani reminded him gently. "You keep close to her, let me keep you both safe for once. Okay?"

"Don't worry about me, Lani. I'll be fine," he assured her. "Just keep her safe, okay?" He leaned sideways to touch a kiss to the top of her blond head. She was as rare and precious to him as the most treasured jewel - her and their daughter both.

"I will keep you both safe," she reiterated, tilting her head to kiss his cheek. Bored waiting on her own, Kai came running over the sand to barrel straight into Cian's legs, clinging on so she didn't fall over. Lani laughed quietly. "So impatient, little one."

Cian laughed as he reached down to scoop the little girl up into his arms, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement. "She is eager for the sea. Can you blame her when it is right there?" he asked, not really expecting an answer. He suddenly set the little girl on her feet, crouching down so that they were almost eye to eye. "But you must promise never to swim alone, Kai. Not until we deem it safe," he told her, his expression turning serious, even as he tapped a gentle finger to her nose.

Blinking solemnly, Kai nodded in reply, very serious just because Cian was. But then the familiar sunny smile came out. "Swim now?" she asked, a little plaintively. They hadn't let her do more than paddle in the shallows of the sea yet, strengthening her swimming in fresh water pools further inland before they tried this.

Cian couldn't help but smile back. Their little girl was the light of their lives and there was nothing they wouldn't do to keep her safe and happy. "Yes, we can swim now, you little imp," he told her, tweaking her nose playfully once again.

"Yay!" The little girl clapped her hands, reaching up to claim each of their hands in her own and pull them toward the water.

Leilani laughed as they were tugged forward. "You stay with your papa while I get into the water, little one," she told Kai. "I can't walk once I get salty-wet, remember?"

Cian paused a moment to tug his shirt off and hang it over a branch, a talisman in the shape of a shark's tooth hanging from a cord around his neck. He'd let his hair grow back a little and was sporting a short beard, the baby face of a few years ago replaced by that of a man grown to maturity.

"Mama will be okay," he assured their daughter. "She grew up in the ocean."

Seeing her parents preparing to get wet, Kai plunked her backside down onto the sand to tug at the bindings on her sandals. She was just a little distracted by the sight of her mother very carefully tiptoeing over the rocks that jutted out into the deeper water before diving straight in. As soon as the saltwater touched Leilani's skin, her legs transformed into a shimmering green-blue tail, visible for just a moment before she was completely underwater. A few seconds later, her head and shoulders bobbed back into view, an encouraging smile on her face.

Cian stood transfixed for a moment as he watched his wife transform from a human woman into a Syreni - or what was more commonly known as a mermaid. He never tired of watching her transform and it never failed to fill him with wonder and admiration, his heart brimming with love for this gentle, beautiful creature. "She's beautiful, isn't she?" he asked aloud, almost forgetting their daughter was there waiting for him.

"Kai be like fishie mama?" a small voice intruded on his thoughts. His daughter was sitting at his feet, struggling to undo her sandals on her own, just as fascinated by Leilani's transformation as he was.

"Hmm?" Cian asked, his attention drawn away from that of Leilani by the sound of his daughter's voice beside him. He knelt down in front of her, his knees in the sand, to help her with her sandals, smiling at her question. "That's what we're about to find out," he told her.

"Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss."

- Alexandre Dumas

Cian Granger

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Re: Three Little Fishies
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2020, 02:52:30 PM »
"If I go fishie, I fall," she pointed out, apparently quite concerned about face planting into the surf when they walked out into the water together.

"It's okay. I'll carry you," he assured her, unbuckling each sandal and setting it aside. "Are you ready?" he asked, a gentle smile on his face. The talisman around his neck wasn't just for decoration, but would allow Cian to breathe underwater, just as Leilani and their daughter did.

She nodded, excited but just a little trepidatious now the moment had come. Kai knew her parents wouldn't let anything bad happen to her, but she had never tried breathing underwater before. Lifting her hands to Cian, she let him lift her up, waving to Leilani as her mother swam a little closer to shore.

"Don't be afraid, little one," Cian assured his daughter as he lifted her into his arms. "Your mama and I won't let anything happen to you, okay?" he asked, almost as if he could read her mind - or maybe he was just read her facial expressions and moods.

"'kay, Papa."

Hugging him about the neck, Kai beamed, feeling much better now Cian had addressed her unspoken concerns. The only thing that could have made any of this better would have been bringing Harper with them, but the grey tabby cat had made it absolutely clear that the only part of himself he would willingly submerge in water was the paw he was using to kill a fish.

"Are you ready?" Cian asked her, just to be sure. He knew she was excited about her first real swim in the ocean, but she was nervous, too. It was a big ocean for such a little girl, but he and Lani would never let anything bad happen to her.

"M'ready," she promised, though she still clung tight to his neck. It seemed very likely that she was not going to let go of him, even when he submerged them both in the water.

That was just fine with him. You had to walk before you could run, so to speak. "The water shouldn't be too cold. Look how your mama is enjoying it!" he said, catching sight of Leilani's tail as she dove once again. He started toward the water, clad only in swim shorts. The weather was mild enough here that even Cian could tolerate the temperature.

"Mama gone fishie," Kai pointed out, as though that made any difference to how Leilani perceived temperature under the water. She did wave, though, as Lani broke the surface again, giggling excitedly while Cian bore her into the sea.

"Here we go!" Cian warned, as he waded into the water, taking it slow. He didn't want to scare or overwhelm her, but they needed to know whether she would take after her mother and be able to breathe underwater. Slowly, he waded deeper, until he was waist-deep in water and Kai's feet were immersed in the water.

Leilani swam up to them, smiling brightly for Kai's benefit as the toddler looked down at her feet in the salt water.

"Did you feel something, little one?" she asked, though she could see what was happening. Slowly, soft gills were making themselves known beneath the line of Kai's jaw, and deceptively fragile webbing was forming between her toes and fingers.

"Feels funny," was all the little girl came up with, however.

"Because you're becoming fishy, like Mama!"  Cian declared with a grin. It was a relief to know that little Kai would inherit her mother's abilities. They'd never have to worry about her drowning, but they would have to teach her about other dangers.

"No tail?" Kai asked, wriggling her toes.

Lani smiled at her fondly, reaching up to stroke the webbing between her small fingers. "This will help you to swim, Kai," she promised. "You will swim like your papa."

"Shall we try?" Cian suggested, letting Kai go at her own pace. If she didn't want to try immersing herself in the water just yet, she could try again tomorrow. There was no need to rush.

Frowning in fierce concentration, Kai considered her webbed fingers and toes for a long moment. "We try," she said eventually, nodding with a certain amount of stubborn insistence. She had absolute faith in her parents, after all.

"Okay!" Cian said, a proud smile on his face. "We won't go too far to start. Just a little way. You let me know if it's too far, okay?" he asked, not wanting to overwhelm her.

The little girl nodded. "Yes, Papa." It was easy to feel confident with her father holding onto her, and her mother circling them with lazy but powerful flicks of her iridescent tail.

"Okay, here we go!" he told her as he dove beneath the water, not swimming so much as floating there, holding her so that she could float along with him. He kept a firm hold on her, so that the waves wouldn't pull her away from them, and watched to see what her reaction would be.

Instinctively, Kai held her breath as they dipped below the water, blinking to clear her vision as the unexpected addition of a protective inner lens made itself known from beneath her eyelids. Leilani swam around in front of her, exaggerating her own breathing to show the little girl how to use her gills, but it still took longer than either parent was probably happy with for Kai to let go of that breath and try it for herself.

If it had taken just a moment longer, Cian would have surfaced and let her take a few breaths before trying again. It wasn't something that could be taught or explained, though Leilani was trying; it was instinct, pure and simple. Cian smiled and nodded when Kai finally gave it a try, not only pleased but relieved. The sooner she learned how to breathe and swim in the sea, the more she'd enjoy it.

Breathless, pulling faces at the sensation of letting water pass through her mouth and out her gills, Kai started to move her limbs, discovering the advantages of having webbing almost immediately. Relieved, Leilani swam back a little way to give them room to begin moving through the water, unsurprised when a shoal of brightly colored fish abruptly enveloped all three of them in a fast-moving cloud for a moment before swimming away.

Cian nodded silent encouragement at their daughter's progress, grinning and pointing at the fish that’d surrounded them in a sea of color before swimming away. There were so many wonders he wanted to show her - wonders he'd never known existed until Leilani had shown them to him.

Startled by the sudden flash of color and motion, Kai flailed for her parents, swimming awkwardly back to Cian's arms to hold on and look around properly. She had never seen the world from under the surface of the sea before, and it really was a whole new world to her young eyes.

"Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss."

- Alexandre Dumas

Cian Granger

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Re: Three Little Fishies
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2020, 02:52:48 PM »
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.

"Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss."

- Alexandre Dumas

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Re: Three Little Fishies
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2020, 02:53:04 PM »
"Like her father," Lani corrected him cheerfully. "I have a little more biological help when it comes to swimming." As she spoke, she flicked the water off her tail, hoping to speed the process of drying off and regaining her legs.

"She'll only get better with time," he told her as he stepped out of the water and onto the sand, the waves still lapping at his legs and carried her over to a small rock where she could dry in the warmth of the sun.

"I am so proud of her," Lani admitted as he set her down, leaning back on her elbows to make the most of the warm sun. Nearby, Kai was chattering excitedly, probably to the cat. "She did not seem afraid at all."

"I think she was a little, but more excited than afraid," Cian told her, looking over at Kai, as if to make sure she was safe, before plunking down on the sand beside Leilani. "At least, she doesn't have to worry about a tail," he said, even as he stroked his fingers against Lani's tail, which would slowly change back to a pair of legs once she was dry.

"No, she does not," his wife agreed with a wry smile. It was the worst part of being a creature of both land and sea, this having to wait after leaving the ocean until her legs returned to her. "She showed no sign of weapons, either," she added, absently touching the barely noticeable lump on her inner forearm that hid the venomed bone spike she could thrust into the flesh of any threat.

Cian glanced briefly at the place Lani was touching, a small frown on his face. She had never used that so-called weapon on him, as he had never been a threat. He'd never really been a threat to the other Syreni she'd grown up with, but he knew that hardly mattered.

"Maybe she just hasn't developed it yet," he suggested. Hopefully, she'd never need to defend herself, but he wanted her to know how, just in case.

"Perhaps," Leilani mused. "But I would prefer her to wear a knife at her belt, as you do, than develop a deadly weapon in her own flesh that she is not always in control of. It took me several years to learn how to control the reflex that makes an attack."

"We will teach her how to defend herself, when she is old enough," Cian agreed. After all, what better teacher than a master swordsman, like himself? He'd even been employed as in a fencing school at one point in time, but that had been years ago.

"Yes, you will." Lani giggled, leaning over to kiss his cheek. "I love you. I love our family. Thank you for giving all this to me." After all, she would never have known what freedom was if he had not been shipwrecked so close to her original home.

"I love you, too," Cian said, smiling softly, dark eyes warm with affection. "I love our little family, and I love our life together," he told her further, leaning closer to press a soft kiss to her lips. He'd never thought it was possible to be so happy, especially after all the sadness in his life before he'd met her.

"I wub joo too!"

Little arms wrapped about both their necks as Kai leapt on her parents, smooshing her own kiss directly on top of theirs with rather more enthusiasm than care.

Cian laughed, his arms going around their young daughter pull her close and smooch both her cheeks with warmth and affection and pure joy. "And we love you, too, you little imp!"

Kai cackled with delight, more than happy to join in with her parents' affections. "Not a nimp!" she protested, her huge grin belying any sense of indignation. "M'a fishie like Mama!"

Cian chuckled at their daughter's silliness. "Not a fishie. A Syreni," he corrected her. Though Lani's kind were more commonly known in Rhy'Din and elsewhere as mermaids, there was a difference.

"Sigh-weenie," Kai repeated, patting Lani's tail fondly. "Fishie Mama."

Leilani laughed cheerfully, leaning over to kiss the little cheek fondly. "I do not mind being your fishie mama, little one."

"Well, if your mama is a fishie mama, what am I?" Cian asked, feigning indignation. He was obviously not a fishie father. Though he could breathe underwater, it was only because of the talisman that hung around his neck, and he had definitely had no tail.

Kai apparently didn't need to think about this one. "You is the bestest," she informed her father sweetly, clasping his face between her hands as she beamed at him.

Cian grinned back at his daughter, his heart melting at her declaration. Though she might not have many people to compare him with, it touched his heart that she adored him as much as she did. "And you is the bestest, too, fishie girl," he teased, making a fishie face at her.

"Happy fishie Kai," she agreed happily, planting another of those enthusiastic kisses on her father even as she giggled.

Leilani snorted with laughter, lying back against the smooth rock as the iridescent shimmer of her tail began, slowly, to fade into a more muted shade that matched her skin.

"What do you say we make a sand castle?" he asked, seeing no reason to put an end to their fun in the sun now that they'd had their swim. Leilani looked in no hurry to be going inside, and they were all enjoying the warm weather.

"Can I put shells on it?" the little girl asked hopefully. Her recent obsession with sea shells was only going to get worse now she could scour the sea bed for them, but with luck, they'd be able to teach her quickly what was and wasn't safe to pick up down there.

"Sure, why not?" Cian was quick to agree. "Why don't you go collect some while your mama's tail dries?" he asked. "But don't go too far. Stay where we can see you, okay?"

"M'kay, Papa!"

Scrambling off Cian's lap, Kai toddled off toward her favorite rock pool - shallow and well sheltered from the waves, and within sight of where her parents were sitting. Leilani was smiling as she watched the little girl.
"Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss."

- Alexandre Dumas

Cian Granger

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Re: Three Little Fishies
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2020, 02:53:21 PM »
"Every day, she is a marvel to me."

"She is a marvel to us both," Cian said, stretching his legs out on the sand as they watched their daughter. If they never had another child, he'd be happy just as things were. He couldn't imagine ever loving another child as much as he loved Kai.

"And to think, we never thought we could have children," Lani mused, lying back once again, one hand shading her eyes. "She was a beautiful surprise." Soft fur rubbed against the back of her hand, and she laughed softly, reaching up to scritch Harper's head as their fearless cat came over to say hello as well.

"You're not bored?" Cian mused, lazily reaching over to add another scritch to Harper's head. Theirs was an easy life these days, but he thought the deserved, especially after all they'd gone through to get there.

"Why should I be bored?" she asked through her smile. "My life is fuller now than it ever was before we met. Each day brings something I never expect. That is worth the world to me."

"And you are worth the world to me," Cian told her, sincerely. "You and Kai are everything to me," he added, though she had to know this already. She was the only treasure he'd ever needed.

"I am the key," she said, and it was not an immodest comment. All her life, she had been told she was the key to the greatest treasure that had ever been created, and until just two years ago, she had fully believed that treasure to have been the planar jewel she and Cian had liberated from her mother's treasure vaults shortly after their first meeting. Now they had a daughter, though ... "She is the treasure."

"I cannot argue with that," Cian murmured, looking over at their daughter, who was in earnest search of seashells worthy to use on their sandcastle.

"Perhaps one day we will take her on an adventure," Leilani suggested with impish good humor, lifting Harper over her own head to let him curl up on the drying cloth of her dress.

"Perhaps," Cian agreed. After all, they had a ship of their own and all of Rhy'Din to sail in, not to mention the jewel that would take them literally anywhere they wanted to go. "But for now, I think we should just let her have fun growing up."

"She is certainly doing that," Lani agreed warmly, lifting her head at the sound of a splash. Kai raised her hand triumphantly, turning to look at her parents. In that hand was clutched ... a crab. A very alive crab that did not seem all that happy about having been pulled out of the water.

"Oh, no," Cian murmured, chuckling to himself. "Let him go, Kai!" he called over to their daughter as he climbed to his feet.  It wasn't so much the crab that concerned him as it was the fact that it might pinch their daughter.

"I got a snapper!" the little girl was declaring happily, waving her prize around with delightful ignorance. Her parents, on the other hand, had a beautiful view of just how close those snapping claws kept coming to their daughter's ear.

"Kai!" Cian exclaimed, practically vaulting across the sand to get to their daughter, just in time to snatch the crab away from her before it snapped the tip of her ear off. He tossed the crab back into the sea, well away from his daughter. "Are you all right?"

As protective as he was, he probably hadn't thought that reaction through. The consequences, however, were abruptly right in front of him. Kai stared at the splash her crab made in the water, looked up at her father in shock, and burst into tears. Behind Cian, Leilani rolled her eyes, deciding to keep out of this one.

Cian blinked, a little shocked himself at the reaction from his daughter. Had she been planning on keeping the crab as a pet? He felt his heart still thumping hard in his chest out of fear she might have been hurt - by a crab no larger than his hand. He frowned, realizing his error. "Kai," he murmured in a soft voice. "Sweetheart ..." He reached for her hands to draw her close. "I thought he was going to pinch you."

She went into his arms easily, sobbing into his shoulder purely for the fright he had given her. "Why ... why y' ... y'yell?" she managed between those sobs, more concerned that she had upset her father than for the crab.

He took her into his arms, rubbing her back gently in an attempt to soothe her. "I didn't yell because I was angry. I yelled because I was afraid you were going to be hurt," he tried to explain, unsure if she was old enough to understand. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

"Was jus' a shell wiv ... wiv hands," Kai whimpered, rubbing at her nose as she slowly began to calm down. "No hurt. No yell." She shook her head, looking up at Cian with a worried pout on her lips.

"No, it was a crab," Cian told her, gently brushing the tears from her face. "Want to see?" he asked, not only hoping to distract her from her tears, but wanting to show her why he'd been concerned.

Tear-stained and utterly confused, Kai looked up at him curiously. "Kwab?" she repeated. It was difficult sometimes to remember that she was not yet two years old. Her speedy vocal development was explained by the Syreni in her blood, but she was still a very small infant, nonetheless.

"Mmhm," Cian said.  "Where did you find him?" he asked, hoping he could turn this into a little lesson that wouldn't leave her too upset.

Sniffling, she pointed at the rock pool she had been rummaging through. "Inna, inna weedies," she said, indicating a clump of seaweed clinging to the bottom of the little salt-water pool.

Cian glanced at the pool and nodded. "Okay, I need a branch," he said, looking around for a small piece of driftwood he could use to poke around in the pool. It was likely there was one than one of them hiding in there.

Kai reached down, lifting up the stick she had been using to scour the pool for pretty shells. "Like dis?" she asked, waving the damp length of ragged driftwood about hopefully.

"Just like that," he told her. "May I?" he asked, reaching for the stick.

Rubbing her nose with her knuckles, the little girl offered her stick to her father, curious now about what he proposed to do. "You isn't gonna make them go 'way?"
"Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss."

- Alexandre Dumas

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Re: Three Little Fishies
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2020, 02:53:37 PM »
"No, I just want to show you something," he said, taking the stick from her and poking around in the pool, searching another crab. "Not everything is harmless as it looks," he told her, unsure if she'd understand without seeing what he meant. It took a few minutes, but his patience paid off, as he not only found a crab, but had one hanging off the stick by a claw.

"Crabs look funny, but see these claws?" he asked, holding the crab up so she could see what he meant. "You have to be careful of the claws, or you might get pinched, and that would hurt."

Kai focused hard on the little crab hanging off the stick, frowning as she scratched her head absently. "Why?" she asked, the question that was the bane of all parents across the multiverse.

"Why what?" Cian asked, brows arching upwards. "Why might you get pinched?" It wasn't always easy trying to sort out what a two-year old was talking about.

She nodded, reaching out with a finger toward the dangling crab. "Why it not like me?" she clarified herself, sounding a little hurt that something might not like her.

"Careful," Cian said, more gently this time, but watching to make sure the crab didn't snap its remaining claw at her. "It's not that it doesn't like you. It's just that it's probably scared. The crab uses its claws to protect itself, see?"

"I didn't mean to fwighten it," Kai offered, withdrawing her hand slowly. She couldn't seem to be able to take her eyes off the dangling crab, fascinated by the mere prospect of a creature that might hurt her without meaning to.

"Here ... Lay your hand flat, like this," Cian suggested, holding out his free hand, palm upwards. Maybe he could make this work without hurting either Kai or the crab.

Obediently, Kai did as she was told, her faith in her father absolute. She even made sure to carefully press her thumb against the side of her hand, so as not to offer something easy for pinching.

"Now, stay very still so you don't scare him, okay?" he asked, as he carefully maneuvered the stick so that he could release the crab onto the palm of her hand. Of course, he had no idea how to tell whether the tiny crab was male or female.

As the little crab found its footing on Kai's palm, a soft sound reached Cian's ears from behind him. He knew it - it was Leilani singing softly, the way she did underwater when they needed to clear a path for themselves through the native fauna. She had their backs when it came to keeping the crab calm, it seemed.

Cian smiled when he heard Leilani singing. It hadn't occurred to him to ask her to calm the crab that way, but he hoped it helped. It seemed important to Kai that the crab like her, but he'd be happy if the crab simply didn't pinch her.

"What do you think?" he asked his daughter quietly.

The tiny crab settled on her palm easily, releasing the stick to snap its claws a couple of times, almost the way a human might roll their shoulders or stretch their neck. Apart from that, though, it barely moved, settled comfortably on Kai's hand for the time being. The little girl's face was a-glow with delight, an amazed grin coloring her expression affectionately.

"He so small."

"Yes, he is, but those claws are sharp, and he's pretty strong!" Cian said, reminding her of the hold the crab had on the stick. "But you know, we should probably let him go, so he can go home to his family," he told her.

"Can I do it?" Kai asked, finally looking up at her father hopefully. "D'you think they lives in there 'cos they likes me?"

"I don't know," Cian replied, lying a little for his daughter's sake. He knew it was unlikely the crab had any clue who Kai was, but it did seem to enjoy Lani's singing. "Why don't we let him go and then maybe you can say hello again tomorrow?"

"'kay, Papa!" Tears and fright forgotten, Kai leaned down to put her hands in the water of the pool, giggling as the crab scuttled off her palms and dropped to the bottom, scurrying away into the weeds that obviously obscured its home.

Cian felt a little bad now for flinging the first crab into the ocean, but with any luck, the little guy would survive and find his way back to wherever he belonged. "Maybe next time you should try singing it a song, like your mama," he suggested. She was half-Syreni, after all.

Kai blinked, looking over at Leilani, who had stopped singing by now and was cuddling with Harper, apparently completely oblivious to what was going on next to the rock pool. "Mama was singin'?"

"Didn't you hear her?" Cian asked, brows arching upwards. Had Leilani been singing so softly that Kai hadn't heard, or was it just that Kai had been so focused on the crab?

"I was listenin' to the kwab," she informed him blithely, as though this was perfectly normal. "You not hear him? He all grumbly about sticks." She giggled impishly.

Cian blinked. "You ... heard the crab?" he asked, uncertainly. If that was the case, then she probably didn't need any help where sea creatures were concerned.

"He wasn't speakin'," she told him, utterly oblivious to the fact that this was not, strictly speaking, a normal thing for people to be able to do. "I just knowed what he was sayin'."

Cian furrowed his brows, unsure if she really had heard what the crab had been thinking or feeling or if it was just a case of an over-active imagination. "What did he say?" he asked, his curiosity getting the best of him.

"I only heared him when he was on my hand," she offered innocently, examining the webbing between her fingers once more. "He was grumpy 'cos he was nappin', and then there was a stick, and then he was in the dry."

"I see," Cian murmured, making a mental note to ask Leilani about this little development later. "Can you hear Harper?" he asked, wondering whether she could "hear" any animal or only sea creatures.

"Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss."

- Alexandre Dumas

Cian Granger

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Re: Three Little Fishies
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2020, 02:53:52 PM »
Kai gave him a look that suggested he'd lost his mind, as children are so good at doing. "No, Papa," she said, coming close to condescension as she patted his hand. "Cats don't talk."

"I bet they do to those who can understand them," Cian remarked. Other cats. Werecats maybe. It stood to reason that any sort of feline would probably understand another feline.

"Not me!" Kai giggled happily, plunking down onto her backside to sort through the shells she had managed to find before her little escapade with the crab.

"Do you still want to build a sand castle?" he asked, glancing at the shells she'd collected. "Maybe we should build one closer to your mama, so she can watch." Or help, whichever she chose.

The little girl nodded happily, gathering up her shells into the apron of her shirt. "Mama can look after the shells," she said magnanimously, clambering to her feet once again.

"That sounds like a good idea," he agreed. "Do you need any help?" he asked, as he watched her gather up her collection of shells.

"Carry?" was the inevitable reply, hopeful eyes looking up at her father as she hugged her shirtful of shells to her chest. Not that carrying her shells was making her legs stop working, but what toddler doesn't push for a lift every now and then?

Cian smiled, understanding her request without needing further explanation. Somehow, he instinctively knew she wasn't asking him to carry the shells, but to carry her. "Sure," he replied. "Hang onto your shells!" he warned her, before sweeping her up off the sand and bringing her closer to where her mother was sunning herself before setting her back on the ground.

Crowing with delight, Kai was ready when he set her back down, stumbling over to Leilani to show off her haul. "Look, Mama, shells!"

Lani sat up carefully, her tail almost at the point of splitting by now, and looked over the treasure that was spilling out onto the sand beside her. "Oh, how lovely, Kai!" she exclaimed with a smile. "You are so good at finding pretty shells!"

"Good at finding crabs, too," Cian murmured with a smirk, just loud enough for Lani to hear him. "Be right back!" he told his girls, turning to go in search of a pail and shovel. He was only gone a few minutes before he returned with the tools they'd need in order to make a proper castle.

By the time he was back, his wife was fully back to human, sitting cross-legged on the sand with Kai in her lap as the two women in his life sorted out the shells together with the same simple pleasure. Leilani was never going to be a woman who craved jewels or wealth; she loved the natural world around her, something she shared with her husband, and something they were passing on to their daughter.

"Papa, look, I founded a teeny one!" Kai declared, holding up a tiny, sparkling spiral snail shell between her thumb and forefinger.

"That's a beauty!" Cian praised his daughter. "Can you imagine how tiny the snail must have been who once called that his home?" he asked, as he knelt down and started scooping sand into the bucket.

Kai's mouth formed a perfect "oh" as she put this together in her head, an expression that brought a soft laugh to Leilani's lips.

"I wonder how big he is now," the mother said teasingly. "Some snails leave their homes for bigger ones as they grow."

"You know, if you hold a shell near your ear, you can hear the sea," Cian told his young daughter, though that wasn't really true. It was just a myth, but one that seemed to ring true.

The little girl looked confused. "But the sea's there," she said, pointing to the surf lapping the shore not more than a few meters away.

"I know! But they say you can hear the sea inside a shell, too. Of course, it has to be a pretty big shell," he told her, with a wink at Leilani.

"Yes, you cannot put a shell in your ear to hear the ocean," Leilani agreed with a low laugh. "All you will get from that is an earache."

Kai giggled, carefully putting her tiny shell safely down on the sand. "I not want a near ache!"

"I'll look around for a bigger shell later and you can see," Cian promised, but for now, it was castle-building time. Even Harper seemed to want to help, as the tabby helped them scratch in the sand.

Leilani watched them, unable to wipe the smile from her face. She could never have imagined, trapped on that island so far away, that this could be her life - a husband, a daughter, a home. Her father might have nudged Cian toward her, but he had chosen to claim her. She would never not be thankful that he had taken a chance on her, and brought her out of her seclusion into the world. This was the family her father had wanted for her. She was determined to protect it.
"Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss."

- Alexandre Dumas

Cian Granger

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Re: Three Little Fishies
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2020, 02:56:28 PM »

Kai
"Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss."

- Alexandre Dumas