Not human... not human... not human... I tried to make my brain stop repeating the words over and over again. It wasn't working. The idea... at first it had seemed so alright. So Darren wasn't human! Amii wasn't either, did that make her any less easy to trust? No, so why would Darren not being human effect how much I loved him? I sighed at the closed porthole, watching my breath fog the glass as the knot of fear and confusion tightened, causing a nauseous feeling to rise in my throat. Everything I had believed in had been knocked off-balance. The laws of the world, the idea of love, the belief that legends were just that: legends.
It was like the veil between physical and spiritual had been ripped off my eyes and suddenly I realised I didn't truly want to see what was behind it. Because if Darren wasn't human, what was he? Some kind of male siren who bewitched girls into love with his ocean-colored eyes? Some kind of half-breed between mermaid and human? No, that would make him half human, he said he wasn't human, but for all I know he could be twisting the truth, or the sea could be twisting the truth.
I pressed the forefingers of my good arm into my temple, shaking my head to try to dispell the constant stream of thoughts. This was so not helping. Why did I even let him kiss me after that? And that sapphire gem? The nauseous feeling in my stomach suddenly doubled, and I ripped open the porthole window to throw up into the ocean, feeling seasick for the first time in my life.
And for the first time since boarding the Stardust, not wanting Darren to come and comfort me.
Captain Argon kept both hands firmly on the wheel at the helm. The feeling in the air was taught, full of fear and worry... and pain. He could see it in Darren's eyes as he spread his arms to catch his balance on the main mast, something he'd never had to do. Something had happened between him and the lass, he could feel it. And the fact two days had passed without her letting him into her cabin or coming out herself was a hint.
He suddenly wished he had more experience as a father, even an adopted one. As a Captain, he had never had time to have one-on-one time with Darren. The lad was practically just another sailor in the crew, another cabin boy. There had been moments of connection, but he had always been Capt'n, never Dad. A memory tugged at his mind:
Darren crawled spider-like down the rigging, as lithe as an acrobat despite his mere twelve years of age. He swung onto the deck's railing, balancing precariously on the ten inch wide piece of wood, smiling up at the helm where a younger, less gray-haired Captain Argon stood. Argon tried to ignore the twinge of worry at the less than safe occupation of his adopted son, but Darren made his way surely up the rail, a ten foot drop to the water on one side, a two foot drop to the deck on the other, until he jumped down next to the wheel. His expression was one of pride.
"Some good balance ye've got there," Argon said, slightly more gruffly than he'd intended.
"You really think so?" The twelve-year-old Darren beamed.
The memory changed.
The mutinous crew had him backed up against the wall of the cabins, and he could hear Darren's sobs from where he lay on the deck. Blood was seeping from a deep cut in his upper arm, while bruising rapidly purpled around his eyes.
They hadn't stopped, even after Argon had said he would give them anything... anything! The sharp pains in his heart were like nothing he'd ever felt. It was all his fault. If he hadn't been so consumed in translating the charts to the Hidden Isles, he would have noticed the crews murderous looks.
"Please, ye can have anything ye want... just, please, don't hurt my son," Argon's voice sounded strained.
"We want you... dead," his first mate, the man he'd trusted, said. And they picked Darren up and dropped him over the side. Something in Argon snapped, and he threw himself against them, until he broke out of thier ring, and threw himself over the side of the ship.
Because suddenly there was something more important to him that The Eagle had ever been. There was Darren.
A voice broke his thoughts. "...Argon? Captain Argon, are you alright?"
The Captain focussed his eyes on the bearer of the voice, suddenly realizing he had his hand pressed hard against the left side of his chest over his heart.
It was Marina, emerald-green eyes full of concern, with underlying confusion and fear as she glanced past him at the ocean, seemingly satisfied that he was alright. She brought her gaze back to his, a gaze as piercing as Darren's.
"Captain, tell me the truth, how close are they?" Her voice was anxious, and she clutched something tight in her hand, only a sliver of shiny black showing between her fingers.
He looked towards the ocean behind them, towards the familiar black-trimmed sails of what had once been his ship.
He saw Marina's mouth set in a firm line, knowing his eyes showed it all.
Because the truth was: Too close, much too close.