Familiar Surroundings (Part 2)
Location: Wizard Island/Bethany's room
Timeline: Saturday, August 28, 2010/Afternoon
There was an awed silence as Bethany took in the underwater view, her eyes widening and blinking a bit slowly. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much water. This is amazing...” she said quietly, glancing over at Abby with a smile. The rest of the room was all but forgotten as she watched schools of fish swim and sway with the backlit currents, and she continued, almost absently processing the information that she was being given. “A volcano? No wonder the whole world went hot when I was seeing in infrared.”
Pausing briefly, turning to watch the nurse with the green-and-gold hair, her brow furrowed in thought as she seemed to vaguely recall the webbing that Abby had between her fingers. Or had she just dreamed that? “I guess it’s only fair that I get to see yours, since you saw mine,” Bethany said with another weak, but genuine smile, seeming blissfully oblivious to just how suggestive that innocent statement could be.
Abby beamed. "That was my thought. I have to go out into the hall. You'll see me again in a second. You have a red button on the bed. Press it and I'll be back in here in less than a minute, okay?"
The bed-bound young woman glanced around for a moment and spotted the red button, then nodded. Bethany glanced back to Abby and said, “You’ve really got me curious. I can handle a few minutes alone.”
With a nod Abby turned and left and from the hall there was a soft hiss then utter silence. But moments later something far larger entered her field of vision in the water. At first it was just a blur, a current that looped the schools of fish, making them move and dance in beautiful patterns, then chasing a sluggish salmon before it looped and slowed right in front of her. Abby had changed greatly, her milk chocolate skin now shimmered slightly in the light, small strands of hair floating around her head that had come loose from the tom-boyish braids. The slight webbing had expanded, her nails gone to tiny dark points. That was where her humanity ended. Along her ribs were wide gils that opened and closed in slow, rhythmic motions as water rushed through them. Her tail, for she had a strong fish tail, was toned muscle like the rest of her body. The scales were mostly dark green with sparkles of lighter color and fins that faded to brilliant gold.
The mermaid did another loop or two, speeding through the water joyously, completely in her element, before she turned back the way she'd come and disappeared from view. As promised, within a minute, wet foot falls could be heard behind the bed and Abby appeared, dripping a bit but carrying a large, fluffy towel. She didn't look quite fully back to herself, though the tail and fins were gone. She still had those sparkling scales, clear but irridescent in the light, anywhere water touched or dripped. She breathed a little heavy, her double set of eyelids flickering, but smiled as she pushed water off with the towel. As her skin fully dried the scales faded back into her skin.
Bethany gasped as Abby came into view, her attention having been drawn to the colorfully patterned fish that were being swirled about by the unseen force. The tactical teen’s eyes widened and the only thing that her mind gave her was one word: Seiren. Well, a few words, technically, but they all meant the same thing. A mythical, howling marine creature had suddenly become not so mythical.
And she was green. Bethany blushed a bit as Abby enjoyed her swim, remembering how she went on about green not being a natural color for a person. Of course, the green-and-gold haired nurse hadn’t been green at the time, nor did she have scales, so the battered brawler couldn’t have known, but still. She watched the young woman enter and dry off for a moment, then asked, “You’re a seiren... umm... a mermaid?”
The girl’s internal conflict played out on her face, a small half-smile sitting on her lips, and her skin started shifting to a deep red as the silence played out before she finally seemed to find her voice again. “I’m really not trying to be rude. That really is awesome, but I’ve always...”
Her voice dropped as she continued, rambling a bit, but Bethany looked the friendly young nurse in the eyes as she spoke. “I’ve always been taught that there were demons... monsters in the world. Nephilim are the half-breeds of demons. It’s what they said I was, what the others were. What all of you are. So this is all kind of hard for me right now. You’re truly beautiful and you’ve been so very kind, so I’m really trying not to insult you. I’ve learned enough since I escaped to know that not everything the Preacher said was true. I have two friends that I love dearly that are prostitutes, and, well, Jon’s no angel, but he’s always been very good to me and I would gladly die for him...” Her eyes dropped to her hands, her voice trailing off as she realized she was probably just making things worse and gasped when she realized that she had gradually, literally, been turning purple with embarrassment.
Abby patted Bethany's hand and smiled. The girl could see that her fingers were no longer webbed and her nails were back to normal, though the pale gold polish was gone. "It's really okay. Everyone thinks we are demons of one kind or another. It took falling in love for me to see my other form as beautiful. I don't expect everyone else to. I have one of the more extreme physical mutations so it can be a bit of a shock. Take slow, deep breaths and calm your pulse or your vision might go again, and we're closer to the heat shield than before."
“I’m trying not to think of myself, or anyone else, as monsters. But...” the girl’s voice fell off as she thought about the white-clad woman at the commune. Bethany tensed a bit at being touched, but didn’t say anything about it, or move her hand. She swallowed a bit thickly, then gave Abby another tentative smile, “Thanks for understanding. I’m trying to absorb all this, I really am. I thought being clueless about mundane things was annoying. Now I turn funny colors and I’m not sure why, or what to do to keep it from just... well, doing this.”
As Bethany took steady, controlled breaths, the battered girl raised her hands a bit to display them, and while they were starting to fade back to a more fleshy color, they were still a garish hue of purple. The young woman chuckled softly before continuing, “Oh, and the overwhelming reds, glowing... purply-blue people, and seeing people’s bones through my eyelids? That’s just a bit more weird than I was really ready for.” The green-eyed brawler sighed heavily, then finished, “Adapt or die, though. Right?”
"That's how it happened for me," Abby said, smiling at the double meaning. "I was in a boating accident. We would all have drowned, but that form can convert the oxygen in the water to air for my swim bladder and can feed that air out of my lips to other people. It's why I am in charge of swimming lessons for the younglings. We have a camp of refugees from Nexus in another facility and we try to make sure they get access to all those important things that normal kids would do, but with our own special twist, hence a mermaid giving swimming lessons."
“Oh wow, that sounds horrible. I mean, I’m glad you made it, but still. I may have to take some of your swimming classes, though. I know enough to keep myself from drowning, but that’s probably not saying much,” Bethany said softly, shifting in the bed with a wince. She paused, took as deep of a breath as she could without hurting herself, then pushed through the pain and got herself situated more comfortably. Being used to having to deal with injury in her own ways, the little morphine box lay forgotten next to her and the battered young woman let that breath out slowly as she looked back to Abby, giving her a strained smile, as if trying to reassure the young nurse that she was fine, then asked, “Does it always take some horrible, violent thing to make it happen?”
"No, sometimes it can be a wonderful thing. It takes physical or emotional stress, but it doesn't have to be bad stress. It usually is, but we have one that awakened from great sex," Abby answered honestly.
No sooner had Bethany’s skin started to look normal, at the mention of someone awakening during sex the virginal young woman’s uncontrolled color-shifting lit her entire body up in a bright neon pink, with thin, orange streaks fanning out from the outline of her face and into her hair. She opened her mouth a few times, as though to speak, then it would snap shut as the words seemed to fail her and she looked away, feeling like her face was on fire. The young brawler had always sworn that she’d shoot a man before she let him do the things her mama had told her about, but then Jon had come along and her mind seemed to love bringing her torrid dreams about him to the surface whenever that silly, three-letter word was mentioned. “I... um...” the girl cleared her throat, “I see.”
Abby laughed, but there was nothing about the sound that was demeaning or mean. It was good natured, the kind of laugh that made you want to smile too. "Slow breaths and focus on bringing your heart rate down. You'll have to get used to such frank talk or you'll be purple permanently. There are a lot of couples around here... and at least one trio." She didn't mention that she was one of the trio, that would have been mean to spring on the girl.
NPC Maggie Somerset