37 A Dream And An Arrival

***CONTENT WARNING: Language And Slight Gore***

Iris' heart pounded within her chest at Atlas' declaration. She couldn't believe he'd been so worried about telling her that. 'Did he think I'd reject him and never want to see him again or something?'

'Trident' was looking at her with a gentleness that made her breath catch. Something in it called to her; beckoning her to him.. Without thought, Iris cupped his cheek.

His eyes locked onto hers; searching for an answer she was already giving him. Atlas glanced down at Iris' full pink lips, and felt a new kind of struggle surfacing..

Iris saw the turmoil within him. Like parts of himself were battling for dominance. Iris didn't know what it was about, but he seemed calmed by her touch. Leaning in; Iris closed her eyes as she placed her forehead against his..

Atlas tensed, then sighed at the comforting, but also confusing gesture. His heart hammered in his chest as he looked at her beautiful features. 'Is she mad at me, or does she..?'

As if reading his thoughts; Iris' eyes lightly fluttered open, and met his gaze. Her vibrant blue eyes, haunting as they were; broke his composure. He reached up and cupped her cheek on the opposite side of her hand, then tilted Iris' head up..

When their lips met, all sense drained away from Iris as her body hummed and tingled. His lips were tender, yet firm. They didn't feel like Matt's, but the way he pressed them against hers sent a familiar shiver throughout her body, and a searing pain to her heart.

She was so happy in that moment, but then it came crashing down with the reminder that he wasn't Matt. As she broke the kiss, a heavy sense of guilt and betrayal filled her heart. Overwhelming the fleeting happiness that had just filled her entire being..

Atlas' entire body zinged when their lips had met. He felt her press against him with just as much need as he felt for her.. But then he felt her jolt in place, and she broke their kiss.

For a moment, Atlas could've sworn that he was... home.

It wasn't the same as when he'd kissed Serenity right before they died, but it sparked an image of her in his mind that he'd thought faded a long time ago.

Matthew had been in the Aquarian World for over three years now. His mental imagery of Serenity had long-since faded. It was why he'd made the drawing of her: so he'd never forget what she looked like.

'I know that I'll never get back home, but maybe I can build something meaningful with Iris? We are going to be married; it's not fair to her for me to hold onto a ghost of a life I'll never have again.'

As Atlas came to terms with his situation, Iris was internally ripping herself a new one. She knew that she could go back to Matthew once she had finished her Labors, and dealt with the Charybdis, but...

Can I even beat that thing? What happens if I can't? How long will it take?! Poseidon said that everyone is basically frozen until I either win or lose.. What if it takes centuries?! Undine live for over a thousand years! Won't I have a life here by then? Will I even remember Matt then?'

Conflict covered Iris' features, making Atlas nervous. 'Does she regret the kiss?'

"I'm sorry if I overstepped. I just thought-"

"No, no, I wanted it.. That's the problem," Iris stated as she looked anywhere but at him.

She really was attracted to 'Trident', that much she was honest about. But that was what was causing her issues.. 'I love Matt! How can I be attracted to another guy?! And he's not even like, a guy-guy! He's half fish! What in the Hell is wrong with me?!'

"Why is that a problem? I know that you care for me, and I obviously care for you. So-"

"Because you're a Merman Guard, and I'm the Undine Queen. Even if we wanted to be together, it won't work. The Council is already pressuring me to marry when I don't want to. If I show up with you, one of two things will happen: I'll be forced to watch you die, or I'll be forced to marry you, and I Don't Want either."

Atlas' heart sank. 'She doesn't want to marry at ALL?! Crap! Crap! Crap! Crap! What do I do?! The Fate's Spindle Necklaces will Definitely light up tomorrow whenever we get close to each other! And I still haven't told her who I am!'

"I, umm... I think I'm gonna head back now. I don't even know if I'll make it over the wall, I'm so exhausted.. I guess I'll see you tomorrow? At the summit then?" Iris stated as looked up to 'Trident' with a melancholy expression.

'FUCK!'

'Trident' grabbed her hand softly, gaining her attention; "Iris.. Tomorrow at the summit, just.. Please don't hate me.."

Iris flashed a small smile at him; "I won't hate you, Trident. And I promise I won't blow your cover.. Goodnight."

As Atlas watched her swim away, his gut twisted into a knot. She'd called him by his fake name, making him realize how badly it was all about to blow up in his face..

'Dammit! I kissed her, and she doesn't even know my real name! She might actually kill me tomorrow.. At least then this would all be over.. Maybe I could see Serenity again? No.. I'll never see her again, and I need to accept that.'

'If Iris and I can move past this, I might be able to find some happiness here.. But can we?'

As his thoughts tortured Atlas, he swam away to go prepare himself for the second worst day of his existence...

************

Iris didn't talk to Levi when she came back to her quarters. She'd simply slipped into her clam bed, and fallen into a restless sleep. Every time she'd start to dream, an image of Matt would pop into her mind's eye, and she'd wake up.

It wasn't until she'd fallen asleep in the carriage, on the way to the Kingdoms' Summit that she'd finally dreamed...

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He and Trident were side by side, and far away from her. She tried to run to them, but simply floated in the air whenever she pumped her legs...

'Legs? I don't have legs anymore..'

Right as the thought came to her, Serenity's legs melded together, and shifted into her tail. She swam for them, but they stayed the same distance away no matter how hard she flicked her tail. Only when she had decided to use her powers to propel herself towards them, did she find the gap closing.

As she reached both her hands out to them, they both extended one hand towards her. As she closed the distance between them, they began to merge into one person. Iris couldn't see his face, but the figure silently called to her..

She was so desperate.. Swimming like her life depended upon reaching him.. Right as Iris was about to grab the mystery man's hands, she jerked to a stop...

A cold, shapeless darkness had reached up from beneath her, and began to drag Iris down. She called out for both Matt and Trident, but the mysterious figure didn't move. Deeper and deeper she went into the darkness until there was nothingness all around her...

Peering into the darkness, Iris suddenly saw a pair of glowing yellow eyes with bright-red dots for pupils. As she sucked in a breath of shock and fear, the eyes disappeared again...

Iris whipped back and forth in the pitch black. She turned her head in rapid succession until the creepy eyes were right in front of her! As she went to scream, a sharp pain tore through her gut..

Looking down, Iris saw a slender black hand being pulled out of her stomach; covered in her own blood. The creature it held up to show her as it flashed a cheshire smile at her...

Iris shot up in her carriage with a yelp; startling Selena and Levi. They'd been quietly chatting while Iris caught up on her sleep. The journey to their destination took a few hours, so it wasn't a big deal to them to simply keep their voices down.

The Kingdoms' Summit was at the Undine Palace last time because the official building they usually used needed repairs. It had been standing nearly since the planet's creation, and needed have regular upkeep done.

The Aquarian Edifice looked like it was made out of Bismuth metal, and shimmered as the small amount of light hit it. They were at a deeper part of the Aquarian world, so less sunlight reached them than what Iris was used to. She could also feel the difference in pressure.

"What was that?! Did you have a nightmare?" Selena asked with concern covering her face.

"...That was the worst dream I've ever had in my entire life.. And that's sayin' something.."

As she told them about it, Selena grimaced. She didn't like the Merman to begin with, and now she was dreaming about him.. 'That's a bad sign...'

The three wanted to talk more, but the carriage had just arrived...

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