Iris couldn't think straight. Trident was so close to her, she could smell him. He stared intently at her, waiting for a response to his advice. Which made her cheeks flush as her heart hammered within her chest.
"I understand what it means to be Queen, I just don't know if I'm ready for it," Iris replied, happy at get any words out at all.
'Trident' scoffed at the memory of thinking the same thing; "You don't have a choice, Iris.. You're already the Queen. All that's left to do is embrace it."
He realized how close he was to her, but Atlas couldn't stop himself. He patted the top of her head, then slid it down to cup her cheek. The pink of her cheeks and ears grew brighter, making it hard for him not to smile. Somehow, he managed to keep his poker face.
Removing his hand, 'Trident' said; "You'll be fine as long as you remember what it is you want most. Don't lose focus of that, and you won't lose yourself."
Iris looked down so she could think of a reply that didn't come out like gibberish. Processing what he said, Iris asked; "What do you want most?"
A sad smile covered his features; "Something I'm not sure I can ever get back, but I'll fight like hell and die trying before I give up."
Iris had the strangest sense that he was talking about a person, but didn't ask. The way he'd worded himself made it seem like it was a touchy subject. They didn't know each other well enough for her to pry, so she kept her fifty questions to herself.
After nodding her head, Iris followed Trident out into her courtyard. She was about to thank him for his company, but didn't get the chance..
In the blink of an eye; Iris was in his arms, and being rushed back into her room. She took a breath to talk, but Trident covered her mouth before she could speak. Rounding the corner, he quietly shut the door, and waited to hear the guard on the wall call out.
They didn't hear anything at first, so Atlas removed his hand and backed up slightly. That was when they'd heard a swooshing noise, like someone was swimming around in the courtyard. Panicked, Atlas pressed himself up against Iris even more.
'Damn it, we stood there talking too long! Or is it that our talking stopped him from getting caught already? Ahh! I don't know! Just like I don't know what'll happen if I get caught with a strange Merman in my room!'
Iris could only hear their ragged breaths, and her rapid heartbeat as her panic started to take hold. 'Trident' pressed up against her with his entire body. To the point of their tails nearly entwining. It hadn't been overwhelming until he locked eyes with her.
As Atlas stared down at Iris, he realized their position, but couldn't do anything about it. He'd instinctively tried to make them seem non-existent because their silhouettes projected against the window cover. If the guard would've looked, he would've seen two separate bodies in the Queen's room, in the middle of the night..
He wanted to pull away, but a noise from right outside of the courtyard door made him freeze. Atlas pushed himself against her almost to the point of smothering her. A tiny grunt escaped Iris' lips, making Atlas realize how hard he'd been pressing against her.
Easing up, 'Trident' mouthed an apology, but he didn't move away. Someone was right on the outside of her door, and he was willing to bet it was a guard. His heart hammered in his chest as he tried to think of what to say if they got caught together.. He had nothing.
'Iris doesn't even know who I am! If we get caught together, it'll just make things far more complicated later.. But there's no way that the guards won't recognize me!'
As Trident's eyes darted back and forth in panicked thought, Iris knew she had to do something before they opened the door. Squeezing Trident's arm to get his attention, she took a calming breath before yelling; "Who is in my courtyard?! Answer!"
A second of silence past before someone answered; "Forgive me, Your Majesty. I thought I saw another person with you-"
"The Acolyte Selena was just here. Senator Arlong has called her away. Now answer Me: Who Told you to look into the Queen's Windows?!"
A short silence fell before the guard stuttered; "I-I wasn't l-looking in on p-purpose, my Queen! I-I swear! I w-was just looking into the courtyard w-when-"
Iris sighed loud enough for the guard to hear; "Don't bother.. I understand what you are trying to say, but hear this Now: if I catch Anyone peeking in on me again, I'll have your eyes plucked out!"
"Y-Yes! Your Majesty! M-My apologies again!"
The guard had literally yelled the last bit as he swam away in fear. Iris exhaled deeply with relief as Trident leaned back a bit to let her breath easier. His body was shaking slightly, which concerned her until she looked up into his face..
It was beet-red from his efforts to hold in his laughter. Hearing such a stern and angry tone from her was akin to hearing a toddler acting like an adult. It was outrageous and cute at the same time.
Feeling a tad indignant, Iris gave him a flat stare as she tried to keep her cool; "Do you understand how Close you just came to being caught?! It's not funny!"
Trident let a restrained chuckle slip as he replied; "No, but you being threatening to someone was.."
"That's because as far as most know, I still have my powers! Maybe I should call that guard back.." Iris threatened, even though it was empty.
Trident smiled devilishly at her as he retorted; "And what will the guard say why he realizes you'd hid me before? Two single Aquarians in a room, all alone, and this close? ...I'd be lucky to survive."
"That's the point," Iris quipped back.
After a bit of familiar banter back and forth, the two decided to try the wall again. Iris checked to make sure that the coast was clear, then signaled Trident to come out.
He was wary at first, but that only hastened his exit from the courtyard. He looked at Iris one last time, smiled and winked, then took off up, and over the wall. Iris sighed in relief, but a pang shot through her heart. 'I don't know when I'll see him again..'
Without Trident, the large, empty courtyard was a little creepy looking with the dim lighting from her room being the only illumination. Rubbing the tops of her arms, Iris quickly turned around to go inside, but stopped.
She turned back around to face the darkness, and stared up at the darkened waters above the palace. 'The original Iris wouldn't have been scared of her own courtyard! What the hell is wrong with me?!'
'I used to walk around campus at night with no issues. I survived my dad, and nearly drowning at sea multiple times.. Where's my freakin' nerve at?! Back with my body?!'
'No... That's my problem right there.. Whether I still have my human body or not is irrelevant now..'
As Serenity's mind started to race, so did her pulse. She found herself swimming back and forth in the water. When she realized what she was doing, it occurred to her that the water didn't feel the same as it did when she swam in her human body.
Serenity imagined it was comparable to living in thunder clouds. It didn't feel like she was living in water; more like really humid and dense air. The more she thought about the differences, the less relevant her comparisons became..
When Serenity's mind shifted to the memories that she had made since waking up in this crazy water world, Trident's words started to click into place..
'It's not about when I was human. It's about the memories I make! My experiences and emotions..'
'My name doesn't matter...'
'My body doesn't matter..'
'My limitations don't matter, not anymore..'
As her thoughts bombarded her, a cold, heavy pressure began to build within the pit of her stomach. Akin to a raging torrent; it threatened to rip her apart. Fear began to creep up in the back of her head, but she pushed it back with the frantic adrenaline pumping throughout her body.
Of all the random memories to pop into Serenity's head; an experiment she'd done in the fourth grade came to mind. She'd filled up one bottle with water, put a metal washer on top, then put an empty bottle on top and taped it. After swirling the bottles, it demonstrated how a vortex worked..
Focusing on the torrent within, Serenity imagined it flowing like the vortex. The chaotic energy conformed to her will, but it continued to build. While maintaining control, another memory flashed through her mind.. Watching anime with Matt on her lumpy old couch..
'I have to! When am I Ever gonna get a chance to say it, and have something ACTUALLY happen?!'
Bringing her hands together, Serenity pulled the vortex up from within her. Letting the cold rush flow through her body..
As the magic reached her hands, she extended her arms into the air, released the tension, and cried out with a giant smile; "Kamehame-HA!"