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Fair Winds and Following Seas

Author: Leopard
Rating: Moderate
Status: In Progress



A Cabin Pressure AU in which everyone is a mermaid. You literally do not need to know a single thing about CP if you read this :)

In which mermaids are technically fish, with gills and so on, and live in little tribes in shipwrecks. Living in the wreck of Gertie are Carolyn, the fearless leader; Arthur, the fish enthusiast; and Douglas and Martin, who cannot go a whole five seconds without teasing one another. Eventual Herc/Carolyn, possibly and probably Martin/Douglas as well, or maybe Martin/Douglas/Arthur, I haven't decided yet.


one.

Arthur's favourite thing to do was to go swimming through the reef. He also enjoyed collecting shells and following Douglas and Martin around on hunts. In the reef, he loved to brush his hands over the brightly coloured corals, and swim alongside the shoals of fish, his own red tail either blending in or providing a vivid contrast to the surroundings.

The ship in which he lived was large, though not as stable as it could be. The name painted on the hull in peeling white letters was 'Gertie', though a split in the wood had long since obscured the 'e'. The ship, was not far from the reef, so Arthur often visited.

There were two other tribes living in the other nearby ships: English Sea and HMS Caledonian. They were both larger than Gertie, but then the tribes that lived there were larger, and more aggressive. The three tribes were in constant opposition, though to everyone's relief, big conflicts were quite rare and they all co-existed more or less peacefully.

Living in Gertie was Arthur, his mother and their two friends. Carolyn led the tribe, allowing the others to live in what was very much her ship. Douglas and Martin both seemed in a state of permanent opposition, though they were in fact close friends and often hunted together. That in itself became a frequent source of competition.

In one of Gertie's unused rooms, one of the ones that wasn't crumbling too much, Arthur kept a shoal of fish like pets. The others chose not to question it, preferring to let him be as long as he was occupied and staying out of trouble. However, Arthur seemed to be a magnet for trouble, so he was often accompanied by Douglas or Martin while venturing out. The three enjoyed trips to the reef together, weaving through the corals and watching the fish. Arthur was almost encyclopaedic in his knowledge of what everything was: he could name every fish and plant in the reef, and did so, much to Douglas' distaste.

Arthur had been more excited than usual to go to the reef that day, as he had been trying to track the migration of a group of sharks, and they were due to to be passing through. As ever, he had asked his mother's permission to go, even though he was an adult. Carolyn had sent him off with as little conversation as possible, making sure that Douglas and Martin went with him. She didn't want her list of things to deal with to get any bigger, as her plan of assessing Gertie's structural integrity was going already going to be a pain.

Douglas swam alongside Arthur as they travelled to the reef, Martin lagging behind. It wasn't a long way away, but there was still plenty of time for Arthur to ramble.Douglas had, over time, perfected the art of nodding along and sounding interested in assorted fish facts. This disinterest Douglas had frustrated Martin to no end, who did have a genuine interest in what Arthur was saying.

There were few things Martin and Douglas did not butt heads on. It was rare that they were not bickering or complaining over anything and everything. Often it was Douglas teasing Martin about how fast he could swim, or how superior his own hunting ability was, which left Martin wound up and trying to make clever retorts, which usually just led to more teasing. But despite the relentless teasing, it was hard to deny their friendship, as they were rarely apart.

Although Arthur was attracted to shiny things and danger, Martin was the clumsiest of them all. He would often knock things over with his tail or arms, or simply forget to look where he was going and crash into things. Both Douglas and Arthur turned at his yelp to see him looking furious at a large rock.

Douglas stifled a laugh. "Come on, Martin, let's try to get to the sharks without knocking the whole reef down." Martin shot him a glare.

"Yes, thank you." he grumbled, shaking his dorsal fin and hurrying to catch up. They swam along in comfortable silence after that, with only an occasional taunt from Douglas or Arthur pointing out various bright fish.

The water soon began to get shallower. More plants and animals started to appear the closer they got. The grin on Arthur's face also widened as he swam around in circles as well as straight on. Martin made another startled noise as a small shoal of fish brushed past his tail. Arthur took the lead at that point, heading to the place the sharks would pass through. For some time they waited at a large, mossy rock, Arthur bobbing up and down in excitement.

Douglas, however, was not so patient and quickly became bored, swishing his tail to and fro and swimming back and forth as if pacing. Eventually he sighed and asked "Are you sure it's today, Arthur?"

"Yes, completely! They should be here soon, promise!" Arthur continued to gaze out into the ocean in wait.

Douglas groaned. "Couldn't we at least have come a bit later?"

Martin flicked his arm with a small shake of the head. "Oh, come on, Douglas. It hasn't been that long, and these sharks do only come once a year."

"I apologise, of course, because our usual sharks are incredibly dull compared to these special sharks. It's like you've never even seen one before! What next, 'oh, look at those magical and special fish, let's go and watch them!'"

Any reply Martin might have had was cut off by Arthur pointing and shouting "Look! There they are!"

They turned to look in the direction Arthur was pointing in. Sure enough, several large sharks were looming into view, their silhouettes becoming clearer the nearer they got. In a hushed voice, Arthur said "The humans call these 'Great Whites'. They're terrified of them!"

"How many human words do you even know, Arthur?" said Douglas, not expecting the answer to be 'a lot'. He, of course, was fluent in what - so far as they could tell - was the human language.

"Not very many. But-"

"Shh!" Martin shushed them. "We'll miss them by arguing!"

"I really doubt that we will, Martin-"

"Shut up, Douglas!" Martin too was interested by the sharks, and it was one of his secret dreams to study them. He knew all the species and could easily identify them, even from a distance. He had just never had the chance to go into studying, as he had always had to hunt for his family and help look after them. Even after moving to Gertie, though he did have more free time, hunting and keeping an eye on Arthur occupied a lot of it.

As the group swam past, Arthur and Martin were both captivated. Douglas too was somewhat impressed, but he has seen plenty of sharks in his life, so watching a few Great Whites was nothing new. One of the sharks snatched a fish from the water and ate it in front of them, looking warily at the three mermaids.

"Hello!" Arthur said with a small wave and a smile. Douglas rolled his eyes.

"They won't understand us, Arthur. Sharks have their own language."

"Actually, sharks are highly intelligent and some have even been known to hold a conversation." Martin interjected, keeping his own wary eye on the shark. They weren't in any immediate danger, as sharks tended not to attack mermaids, preferring instead an easier meal. Even so, a hungry shark was still not something one wanted to anger.

Douglas rolled his eyes theatrically again, sighing. "Alright, Mr Brain, let's just watch the beasts now and save the lecture for later." Martin frowned, huffing as Douglas smirked at him. It was far too easy to wind him up.

The three watched as the sharks continued to float past and stayed until they had at last disappeared into the depths. It was only then that Arthur's excited energy seemed to lessen.

"As good as you were expecting, Arthur?" Douglas asked with a faint smile.

Arthur beamed. "Yes! It was brilliant! Thank you, Douglas!" With that, he flung his arms around Douglas in a hug, knocking them both backwards a little. Martin grinned, then found himself receiving a large hug as well.

The whole way home, Arthur babbled about how much further the sharks would travel and where they were going. Douglas and Martin both nodded along, knowing that he would sleep well that night.

two.

Gertie had never been the most well built ship. Carolyn had known this all along, even when Gordon had been living there and trying to stop her from knowing anything about her own home. It had been hard to keep everything together after Gordon had left - or to be more accurate, had been told never ever to come back. Carolyn had been left alone to balance looking after a young Arthur, and trying to maintain her ship by herself, but she was not one for giving up, and no-one in their right mind would question her leadership. 

Whilst the others were out looking for sharks, Carolyn had decided to take advantage of the ship to herself by checking to make sure Gertie wasn't going to fall down around them. Though she wouldn't ever admit it to the others, one of the things she worried most about was their home falling to pieces. If it did, there were few other places they could go, and she felt responsible for their safety. 

Carolyn swam thorugh the rooms to see how they were. Her own room was the best in the ship, not the largest but one of the safest. The two other more or less safe rooms were Arthur's and their main living room. The living room was the largest, and it had been a fight to stop Douglas from taking it - a fight that she had won. Arthur's room was the brightest in the ship, covered floor to ceiling with trinkets and shells. 

Martin had the smallest room, after having lost the other, nicer room to Douglas in a bet. He had patched the larger holes with woven seaweed, and built some sort of wooden support system for the ceiling. Even so, Carolyn suspected that it would be one of the next to fall down.

The exterior of the ship was just as damaged as the inside. The whole hull had begun to fracture, and all the rooms at the front of the ship had caved, leaving them unusable. Carolyn thought she had seen an octopus slithering around in the cracks a few times. She had said nothing. It would only be a problem if Martin found out, as he was frightened to death of them, and if Douglas found out, it would not end well. 

As she circled the central mast, or at least the remaining stump, she saw the figures of the three boys in the distance. She smiled. She could recoginse exactly who was who from their movements and how exaggerated they were.

Just before they reached the ship, Arthur broke away to bound towards Carolyn, who he had seen waiting. He beamed. Carolyn greeted him warmly, and then found herself wondering for just how long he and Martin would go on about their expedition.

"How was it? As good as you were expecting?"

"It was brilliant! They were huge and really scary and one ate a massive fish right in front of us and they were really amazing!" Arthur bobbed up and down and he babbled, emphasising his excitement. He was also prone to exaggeration, as Carolyn well know, through she couldn't fault him for being happy.

"It was brilliant, wasn't it Skip?" Arthur turned to Martin. He and Douglas had at last caught up with the younger mermaid.

"It was quite amazing." Martin agreed with a nod, trying hard to appear calm. Douglas rolled his eyes.

"It was just a few sharks swimming past some carol, it was hardly anything we'd not seen before." Douglas frowned, leading Martin to nudge him in the side with his elbow.

"Well actually, Mr Grumpy," said Martin, echoing the earlier taunt. "Great Whites are becoming hunted more and more by humans, so it was quite special to see them, as well as the fact they only come by once a year. Also-"

Douglas groaned. "Oh no, please spare me from the lecture." He turned to Carolyn, who had folded her arms as they had been talking. "How fares our noble ship?"

"Falling apart, as usual. Nothing major."

"Ah, good old Gertie." Douglas began to head inside before turning back around to make one final remark. "Oh, by the way, Martin, did you see the rather enormous octopus following us back?"

Martin squeaked and flapped, his face flushing. He chased Douglas inside, who was chuckling as he swam away. They disappeared, leaving Carolyn and Arthur on deck. Arthur had adopted the face he make when he wasn't sure whether or not to be worried about something.

"Mum?" he asked cautiously.

"Yes, Arthur?" Carolyn has learned over the years that the best way of dealing with Arthur was to be him be curious, as he often was, and then answer as honestly as possible. Arthur might have been terrible at lying, but he was startlingly good at recognising when he was being deceived about something important.

"Is Gertie going to fall completely apart?"

Carolyn sighed, unsure how to answer. The short version was yes, but even for her, to say that would be harsh. "Eventually, yes, but with any luck we can hold her together for a little while longer."

Arthur nodded slowly, understanding that his worry was not misplaced but was not the most important worry at that moment. Carolyn smiled softly in the way she did when only Arthur could see her. She placed a hand on her son's shoulder.

"You needn't worry, Arthur. We may not have all the resources or power in the ocean, but we'll keep patching Gertie up for as long as we need to. What you now need to do is to tell Douglas to stop being so lazy, and actually help Martin fix that hole in his wall." The smile returned to Arthur's face as he let out a small giggle.

"Oh! That reminds me, I need to add this-" He produced a shell from the seaweed pocket he had crafted long ago and had worn around his waist ever since. He showed it to Carolyn, who nodded with exaggerated interest. "-to my collection! See you later, mum!" He swan off with a grin, leaving Carolyn alone once more.

She smiled to herself. It was never easy dealing with the three of them, but she wouldn't trade it for anything, and certainly not for her past life. Their ship, their home was crumbling more with each day, and their territory being threatened by the annoying idiots from HMS Caledonian, but it was, in the end, worth it for the family they had made.

Above, the faint light of dawn began to filter through the water.

three.

"Come on, Martin, can't you keep up?" Douglas teased with a smirk. Martin glared, his arms tangled in one of their nets. "I'm carrying everything!" he said with a huff, beating his tail to catch up with Douglas. "And you're faster than me anyway."

Douglas raised an eyebrow at Martin's frown. "Yes. Yes I am. Your point is?" Though he continued to tease, he did slow down a little for Martin to catch up. Teasing him was only fun when he was flustered, if he became angry then it just made everyone miserable. Douglas had learned long ago not to cross that line. The last time Martin had become furious, he disappeared to the reef for a few days, leaving the others worried for his whereabouts. Arthur had at last found and brought him home, and it had been one of the few times Douglas had apologised immediately and with sincerity.

Having finally untangled his arm, Martin shoved one of the nets towards Douglas who took them with an exaggerated sigh. They chose to hunt with nets that they had stolen from fishing boats, catching the fish and taking them back to Gertie. Some of the other tribes thought them weak for this, preferring themselves to hunt with their bare hands. However, the Caledonians didn't have Arthur who was firmly against cruel fishing.

Martin and Douglas' favourite fishing spot was at some algae covered rocks near the Caledonia border. It was just close enough that they could sometimes see some of the other mermaids, but was far enough that there was no question they were within their own territory.

Several months ago Douglas had been swimming near the border and had -in his words - been ambushed by some of the idiots from HMS Caledonia. He had come close to a proper fight as they had accused him of straying onto their territory, which he swore he hadn't. Martin wondered just how much Douglas had taunted them, but even so, since then they had tried to stay well inside their own border to avoid any real future blows.

Douglas handed Martin a net as they stopped by the rock they used for fishing. "Did you hear some of the fish from Caledonia had a run in with some from S.S. England?" Martin lowered his eyebrows and shook his head.

"No, I didn't. Was anyone hurt?" Martin asked with genuine concern. Douglas shrugged. He didn't care a whole lot for most of the other mermaids who lived nearby.

"No idea. Not badly, I don't think." He paused as he helped Martin tie the net to the rock, knotting it securely to a ridge that had become more and more pronounced as they had used it. "Were they the same group who attacked you?" Douglas laughed at the question, leaving Martin looking bemused.

"Attacked is a strong word, Martin. All it was was that old piece of seaweed Herc trying to look superior, and let me tell you, his growl is far worse than his bite." Douglas wrinkled his nose at the thought of the Caledonians.

"Even so, do you think it's a good idea to go our usual way? I mean, we don't want to bump into any of them, do we?" Martin flicked his tail back and forth, his face still contorted with worry. Douglas chuckled.

"Honestly, Martin, it'll all be fine. I think we can handle the self-proclaimed gods of the sea. Come on." Without waiting, he set off, leaving Martin open mouthed behind him. It was part of their routine to go for a swim after setting up the nets. They usually followed their border all the way round, going in a big loop. Their territory only bordered that of HMS Caledonia to the west - to the south lay a stretch of unclaimed territory and the reef, and beyond the Caledonian's lived the tribe of S.S. England. The border itself was long and in several places was not so well defined, which had led to arguments in the past.

Martin was on edge, and became increasingly twitchy as they followed the border along. This had begun to annoy Douglas, and eventually he decided to get him to loosen up a little. He flicked Martin in the head and swam quickly away. Martin yelped in surprise and glared at Douglas before giving chase. They swam around in circles for some time, Martin failing miserable to even get close to Douglas who taunted him relentlessly.

Douglas tired of circling first and returned to their previous path. Martin swam alongside him, arms folded and features set in a cross frown, swishing his tail more than was necessary to swim. They swam in silence for a little while before Martin broke it by flicking Douglas on the shoulder in revenge. He smiled in triumph. "Ha! Got you!"

Douglas raised an eyebrow. "Really, Martin? Was 'got you' the best comeback you have?" Martin huffed, the broad smile dropping from his face. No matter how hard he tried, he never seemed able to get anywhere near Douglas' level of teasing. The annoying part was that Douglas calling himself the 'King of teasing' wasn't even that large an exaggeration, which wound Martin up to no end.

However, Martin's sulking was soon interrupted as Douglas squinted into the distance and said "Is it just me, or does that look like a couple of mermaids to you? Or are they just really big jellyfish?"

Sure enough, three mermaids were swimming along the other side of the border, coming towards them from the other direction. Martin forgot his sulking to begin worrying. "Oh no, it is. Let's go."

"Martin. We can handle these idiots. They're almost the equivalent of plankton and they probably won't even look at us." Douglas wasn't at all fazed, half hoping to be able to throw insults at the Caledonians as he had a few excellent ones pre-prepared.

Uncomfortable with the idea of confrontation, Martin shook his head and tail rapidly. "Please, Douglas, just for once can you put your petty argument to one side. Let's go before something bad happens."

Sighing, Douglas gave in. "Fine, alright. I reckon the nets will be more of less full now anyway." He would have been more than willing to argue with the others for a while, but seeing how tense Martin was had made him waver.

Martin's relief was visible as they headed away from the border, his arms relaxing and floating more freely beside him. The whole way back to the nets, Douglas moaned, which Martin had expected. He nodded along as though he were listening. It was the usual rant about how awful and pathetic and stupid the Caledonians were, one Martin had heard many, many times. He knew that Douglas really hated them, and he knew there was a time he had almost lived with them, but Martin wasn't sure of the exact details and didn't dare ask.

It took some time for them to get back to the nets as they cut through the middle of their territory. The path they took was unfamiliar and rarely used, the sea floor covered in sharp rocks and tangled plants that Martin caught his tail on a few times with a frustrated cry of pain. Each time, Douglas stopped and turned to make sure his friend wasn't hurt. Though he pretended otherwise, it was obvious to those who knew him that he wasn't at all heartless and uncaring.

As they had returned to the nets earlier than usual, their catch was smaller than expected. Martin frowned as he retrieved his net. They only hunted once or twice a month as using nets meant they could carry far more fish than they would be able to by hand. Once they returned to the ship, Arthur would take the nets. No-one really knew what he did with their food, but it always tasted excellent.

Douglas slung his net over his shoulder, letting it float behind his back as though it were no bigger than a loose piece of seaweed. Martin preferred to pull his along in front of him, keeping the ropes held tightly in both hands. He wasn't as strong as Douglas who, annoyingly, was the strongest mermaid he'd ever met. However, they were both stronger than Arthur, whose only strength was in accidentally breaking things.

They returned to the ship just as evening was setting. Arthur greeted them, beaming with enthusiasm as usual. "Hello chaps! Did you have fun?"

Douglas replied as Arthur took the nets from them. "Not so much. We saw some of the fish from Caledonia on our way round the border."

Arthur's smile morphed into worry, mirroring Martin's expression. "Oh no! Did you fight with them again?"

Shaking his head, Martin said sharply "No. We moved away before we could talk to them at all." Growing bored of the conversation, Douglas excused himself, swimming off into the ship to find Carolyn to report on the situation. He knew she would be pleased they hadn't created a conflict, but also knew that even if she wouldn't show it, she would be worried about what was happening.

With nothing better to do, Arthur and Martin swam up to the deck. Douglas had taken the nets back off Arthur to put them inside, so they were alone. Arthur reached down over the bow to brush his fingers over the painted letters. He liked the texture of the wood, tracing the splits and spelling out the name of their ship. He turned Martin who had begun to circle the stump of the mast.

"Do you think Gertie's going to fall apart soon, Skip?" The question surprised Martin, causing him to stop his circling.

"Not yet, Arthur. She mightn't be the sturdiest ship in the sea, but we'll keep patching her up. You shouldn't worry about it." Martin tried to give a comforting smile. They all knew the ship was going to fall down one day, but with any luck they would have moved on long before then.

four.

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