VIV

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Have you ever been underwater?

Not just submerged, but deep. Your head against the sand and your eyes to the sky. You are completely alone, surrounded by both a penetrating and protective mass, depending on how you look at it. And if you listen closely, you can hear a 

thump

thump

thump

The seconds passed like hours and the minutes passed like seconds as every bone in Keith's body screamed for a release he could not provide. You see, Keith did not know which way was up. In the distance, there was a figure that he dismissed as a fish. He was only half-right.

Lance had been watching him the entire time, chomping at the bit to come save him. But he knew that if he did, Keith would be much worse for wear. There was no danger, he reassured himself half-heartedly. It was foolproof, really. His natural instincts would kick in and his gills would appear, just like for any other mermaid. Or at least, that's what happened for Lance.

But still, watching him fall through the inky void was agonizing. The what-ifs and you should haves berated him mercilessly as his twisted and writhed in pain. All he could hear was a

thump


thump


thump

Keith struggled for breath. His eyes and mouth opened against his will, letting in water that shouldn't have been, that he didn't want to be. He watched the smallest of his bubbles trickle up to the surface, and wondered.

is this all that's left of me?

His eyes closed for the last time, and he drifted off to sleep.

***

thump




thump


thump

thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump

Keith woke up. To his surprise, he was not facing God or Gabriel or whoever was supposed to be up there, but right back where he was before.

Holy shit.

He sat up, amazed at how clearly he saw the many shapes that made up the seafloor. He felt more energized than he ever had in his life, and kicked his way back to the surface.

It was fun. Keith never thought that he'd ever say this, but swimming was enjoyable for him. Floating along, drifting with the currents- he couldn't help but feel a sense of belonging, one he had never felt before. In the water, he was free. He was alone.

Except for one.

The fish he had seen earlier gradually began to take the shape of a man, a tall, lanky man with fins and a tail. Lance. 

Lance looked absolutely overjoyed, his tail pumping faster than it ever had before as he sprinted towards Keith.

"OhmygodIamsosososoSOsorrybutIhadtobecauseotherwiseyouwouldn'thavebeenabletobreatheandohmygodareyouhurtohmygodohmygodOHMYGOD-" Lance's svelte arms encompassed Keith with a strength that should have been impossible. His webbed hand reached to his neck, where three slits lay, now pumping water in and out of his body. 

"I'm so sorry." 

Keith didn't know what to do. His hands lay motionless at his sides, his mouth and eyes agape in shock.

Part of him wanted to be angry. But something about this man, something about how he now groveled at his feet, made him understand. He reached one of his free hands to his neck.

The gills before hadn't "worked" before per se- they had been more like piercings than a method of breathing. They hadn't been activated during any of the showers or baths he had taken over the last couple of days or so, and it had certainly taken a lot to get them to function now. He was angry, sure- but he understood now.

He had to let go. He had to let go to find himself, his purpose. 

These words seemed alien as they rattled through his head, as though they had been implanted during his sleep. But he knew better.

***

"Fish make the same movements every year, Keith. So do crabs and lobster. It's called a migration. That's how fishing works; you predict the motions of your quarry, and you intercept them. Be that with a hook, a net, or with a trap, the ending is always the same."  Keith's father explained as he finished tying a surf fishing rig on their porch.

"But how do the fish know where to go? Don't they get lost?"

"They've got instinct," The fisherman stated, biting off the end of the line with his teeth. "Do you know what that is?"

"No?"

"It's a voice that's inside of us that tells us what to do. It's primal, and it doesn't talk to us with words. It's a feeling, Keith. A powerful feeling that you can't ignore. It shows us the way when we need guidance. Now I need you to promise me one thing," Keith's father grasped his son's adolescent shoulders and kneeled down, looking him square in the eye. 

"Promise me that you'll listen to your instinct, Keith. I mean it. Now help me bait this shrimp." He smiled warmly.

***

"I won't forgive you," Keith stated softly. Lance looked up to him, confusion apparent on his face.

"But that doesn't mean I'm not thankful. Lance, this is very hard for me to say, but I want you to know that-" The boy faltered. "Thank you."

"You're... not... mad?" His brow furrowed in confusion.

"I'm absolutely furious. But it was necessary," Keith smiled. "Now let's get back to shore, you asshole."



AN: Wow! two chapters in one day! I'm being productive?!?! how?!? I guess this works out tho, since im not really going to be active next week T.T hopefully im wrong, but this chapter is here just in case. Man, I'm tired. I'm gonna go eat some strawberries.

-alt <3



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