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Pearls, Shark Teeth, and Other Baubles

Chapter Text

“Dad! Look!” A child frantically points out towards the sea to the splashing out in the waves.

 

Meng Yao straightens himself from working in his garden and goes to the dock to see what his son has to show him. When he gets to the dock, he loses his smile because of the reminder of his past life. He thought he could shield his six year old son longer from the truth but it looks like he will finally have to confess his past. If he doesn't, he might lose his son to the truth.

 

“Dad, why are there people with tails playing in the water? Who are they?” The child is genuinely curious and confused. Why wouldn't he be? He and Meng Yao are the only ones who live on the coast of Cyan Bay in this age.

 

Kneeling by his son, he explains, “Those are sirens, dear. They are people who live in the ocean... just like your daddy used to.”

 

The child is amazed, asking, “Really? You lived in the ocean?!”

 

Nodding, Meng Yao says, “It was shortly after you were born that I brought you to the surface to live as a human with me. You care for a story?”

Sitting down on the dock with crossed legs, the child nods eagerly. Meng Yao joins him in that position on the dock, starting the story. “I was called an Omega among my kind. I gave birth to you and realized I needed a better life than the ocean for you. It started long ago... in this very bay.”

 

The child knows better than to ask questions until the end of the story but also prepared for this story to last hours. Regardless, he scoots closer so his father can wrap an arm around him while telling the story and listen to what secrets that Cyan Bay holds.

...

 

With the melting of snow at the end of winter, the waters in Cyan Bay are still chilly and not quite ready for the habitation of sirens. Vast coral reefs, sinking cliffs, seaweed gardens, and plentiful of fish now that the humans have mysteriously disappeared from their coastal settlement, the bay has been reclaimed by nature. The water is fairly warm all year but even sirens are picky with colder waters that are not quite suitable for giving birth to young in the early spring. Most siren pods won't return to the bay until the snow melt from the mountains has waned.

 

Wei WuXian came back early to the miles upon miles long bay in order to establish his own territory away from the pod he left last autumn, having braved the deep, open ocean during the winter by himself. He survived the hardest thing a siren can do in their first year on their own; being alone in the open ocean usually means a siren is eaten by the gargantuan creatures that lurk in the depths. He is lucky to have survived. The Jiang pod raised him well but he had to spread his tail fins and do what he instinctively needed. Freedom, no matter the danger.

 

He's twenty now, of breeding age coming this summer with his first heat. One of the first things he needs to do is find an established territory for himself. That may be difficult in Cyan Bay because of how populated it will become in spring, meaning that coming back early is necessary.

 

Following the current at first, Wei WuXian tastes the water for scent marks left by other pod leaders. The lead Alphas and Omegas will reserve territory in the autumn for their families to return to in the spring so Wei WuXian needs to be cautious of where he decides to take residence. The last thing he needs is a mated Alpha with a bone to pick with him intruding. In the past, sirens would stay away from the shores because of humans but now that the humans disappeared, the shallow waters are fair game for territory for lone sirens... at a price. Single Alphas tend to know this and will search there first for Omegas who are without mates. Wei WuXian, who has no desire to find a permanent mate this early, wants somewhere he can relax.

 

It seems he has been riding the current for an hour, needing to breach the surface for air soon, when he notices the lack of a scent mark in this one area. Curious, Wei WuXian uses his crimson, scaled tail to propel himself to the shoreline into the seaweed garden that appears to be unclaimed. He quickly breaches for air, his long black hair tied back with a seaweed tie clinging to himself temporarily, before investigating the grove of climbing greenery protecting a soft seabed. Plentiful in fish, clams, crabs, and other prey, Wei WuXian is very satisfied with this piece of unclaimed territory. It's good, almost too good to be true but Wei WuXian is naive enough to pick this immediately for the time being.

 

He makes work of claiming the half-mile worth of seaweed garden. The scent glands in his cheeks and tail leave scent where he rubs them against smooth rocks and the sea plants themselves. Each mark has a single message in the scent; mine.

 

Relaxing with the quiet lull of the current and the lack of other sirens, Wei WuXian addresses his complaining stomach. He is hungry, very hungry since his last meal was early morning at the previous day's sunrise, at the hour of the lobster, and it's merely a couple hours from sunset at the current day. It's the sixty-third day of the year of the dolphin in siren time-keeping and it's in the hour of the shark. He has some time until sunset, the hour of the crab, to find food. It's not hard when he can see some reddish-shelled crustaceans already. Lobster is one of Wei WuXian's favorite delicacies but the crabs he sees will do just fine.

 

Wei WuXian uses an ability he has had since birth; he is able to change his pigment and appearance to blend in with his environment like the octopi he sees in the coral reefs, using it now to make him blend in with the ocean as he sneaks up on his prey. The pod that raised him thought he was a hellion for using the ability other than hunting, like startling the hell out of his adopted siblings.

 

The crabs don't suspect a thing. Wei WuXian is able to slowly close in on them before he strikes a hand quickly to grab one from behind. The action startles the other crabs and he lets his camouflage disappear as he uses his other hand to break the shell with brute strength. Wei WuXian slurps up the tasty meat of the crustacean and soon only a broken shell is left. Done and not needing the shell, he buries it in the sand so another creature won't confuse it for a live crab and be sorely disappointed. Also, it's only courtesy to bury the dead and return them to nature.

 

Just as soon as Wei WuXian thinks he can relax and see where he can make a den for sleeping, he tastes the scent of an Alpha on his tongue. He rolls his gray, double-lidded eyes. Oh great, another siren had the same idea he has. He feels the Alpha's movement in the water before he sees them. Using his camouflage, he hides from the Alpha so he can get a better look at them. The Alpha appears male, with dark skin compared to Wei WuXian's olive tone that he rarely sees unless he travels to far southern waters. The Alpha seems confident, very sure of himself as he tastes the water for Wei WuXian's scent. Amused, Wei WuXian watches him search after his scent in what Wei WuXian would interpret as desperation. Alphas without mates can be relentless, courting any Omega they see in hopes they'll sing for them and reveal they are that Alpha's soulmate.

 

That is how sirens find compatible mates, usually. It's common knowledge that Alpha sirens are literally deaf to every sound that isn't the singing of their soulmate. However, Wei WuXian is not naive that some Alphas only care about procuring offspring. That's the vibe Wei WuXian gets from this Alpha; he wants a mate but only to procreate and start a pod of his own, not a life partner to love and cherish.

 

As the Alpha visibly grows frustrated, showing visible vibrations in the water of some unknown hunting ability, Wei WuXian considers how to approach this. It's possible the Alpha will try to bully him into becoming his mate or won't take a hint with traditional methods that he's not interested. In his mind, the involuntary celibate Alphas tend to be the most gullible as well. He knows what he'll do; he will teach this Alpha a lesson. Call him selfish but he can make use of this guy for a short period of time.

 

Faking a smile, Wei WuXian reveals himself to the Alpha. The Alpha quickly feigns a smile of relief, obviously trying to put Wei WuXian at ease. I'm not that stupid. I know you just want to fuck me during my heat and start a harem of Omegas starting with me, thinks Wei WuXian.

 

Hello, Alpha.” Wei WuXian uses his hands to sign flowing characters in the water. That's how sirens communicate most of the time since they live underwater and Alphas are born deaf. Only Omegas ever use spoken words to sing and talk to each other above the ocean surface. He continues, “What brings you here, sweet cheeks?”

 

The Alpha releases a sickeningly sweet scent into the water meant to allure Wei WuXian towards him. Wei WuXian keeps his distance but the Alpha still tries to approach him. The Alpha isn't taking a hint yet, replying with his hands. “Not much. Just thought I would investigate who left such an... intoxicating aroma.

 

Wei WuXian wants to vomit. This Alpha isn't subtle. There isn't anything that says 'hey, I'm just here to fuck' more than telling someone you like how they smell. Ugh, Wei WuXian wants to gag the longer he's in this guy's presence. He manages to hide his disdain enough to flirt, “I see. Hey, you're a strong Alpha, right? I could use some help.

 

The Alpha blinks in confusion and Wei WuXian internally smirk. Ha, gotcha, he thinks. As soon as an Omega asks for help with anything, the lower quality Alphas will immediately start to regret their pathetic attempts at courting. Wei WuXian gives him doe eyes and asks in sign, “Could you get me something to eat? I'm so hungry! I can't catch the fast tuna and slippery salmon. If you can bring me one, I would be very grateful.

 

Now obviously floored that Wei WuXian isn't obviously rejecting his advances, unaware of Wei WuXian's tactics to get him uninterested in him by being needy, he replies, “I guess? I'll... be back then.

 

Wei WuXian watches with hidden amusement as the Alpha swims back into the current to indulge the request. Now, two things can come of this. One, the Alpha could lose interest and not come back at all or two, come back only to find Wei WuXian is nowhere to be seen because he's using his hunting ability to disappear from sight. Either way, Wei WuXian will find it hilarious.

 

As the Alpha disappears from his territory, Wei WuXian relaxes and goes back to what he was doing before. He needs to find where he's going to sleep. When living in the deep sea, he did what most porpoises will do when they sleep; he would sleep for short periods until he needed to resurface to breathe. Essentially, he would get an hour of sleep at a time before waking up to breathe since he floats near the surface anyway. It's different now that he's in the relative safety of Cyan Bay because now he can float on his back on the surface and sleep like a floating land mammal, not needing to hold his breath. Or, he can even sleep on land in his human form.

 

His kind are the result of a human wizard casting a curse on a romantic couple they were jealous of to forever live in the ocean. The couple's offspring are supposedly the ancestors of every siren in the ocean. At least, that's the legend to explain why sirens can take human form but Wei WuXian isn't sure if it's true or just something that sirens evolved to be able to do.

 

Nearing the middle of the hour of the crab, sunset, Wei WuXian finds a resting place in his territory under the ruins of an old, rotting dock left behind by human civilization. The dock is huge, obviously meant for the gargantuan ships that were used by the humans to explore the vast seas to find faraway lands. In the distance, Wei WuXian can see the edges of an abandoned ghost town. Perhaps Wei WuXian will explore the town when he has time to take his human form but for now, he wants to rest.

 

Wei WuXian floats on his back, staring up at the bottom of salt-stained wooden boards. Lulling himself to sleep, he closes his eyes and thinks about calming things. He counts jumping swordfish until he falls asleep.

 

 

A week passes and the Alpha never returns. Good, thinks Wei WuXian. He has no interest in mating so early anyway. Having seen the aftermath of Alphas and Omegas who mate out of obligation instead of love, Wei WuXian has no desire to end up like that. Unhappy, angry, and only together for the sake of the children, that is the fate of Alphas and Omegas who let their lust or sense of survival of their species rule them. Jiang FengMian and Yu ZiYuan, his adopted parents, are the prime case of that.

 

They were pressured by their birth pods to mate since their parents were getting older and couldn't bear anymore children. As a result, Yu ZiYuan settled for being a the pod's Omega matriarch while Jiang FengMian settled unhappily to be a submissive Alpha under her. Wei WuXian knows the story all too well even further than that; his Omega mother's song had reached Jiang FengMian's ears long after the couple had their first child. It was too late for Jiang FengMian to try and court her when he was tied to a very jealous Yu ZiYuan who refused her mate to even glance at another Omega. Jiang FengMian had to watch as Wei WuXian's mother fell in love with another Alpha who could hear her voice. However, Jiang FengMian was civil, treating Wei WuXian like his own child after Wei WuXian's father died from being eaten by a sea dragon and his mother died from illness.

 

Now, Wei WuXian vows never to become like his adopted parents. He'll find a mate when he is ready and when the right one comes along. All these sex-driven, single Alphas can fuck off. Wei WuXian is his own siren, no compromise.

 

He notices the waters are starting to warm and can already taste the scents of sirens returning to their territories in the currents. Soon, Omegas and female Alphas will be giving birth in spring waters while mateless Alphas and Omegas will be preparing for their mating cycles in the summer. It's the seventieth day of the year, at least sixty to seventy more days until his first heat will set in. Wei WuXian has an idea what to expect since he helped care for his adopted brother, Jiang WanYin, during his first heat last year but he's nervous because he plans to spend it alone. He saw how desperate Jiang WanYin seemed during it that it almost scares him. Will he be that wanton and needy? He has no idea since every Omega is different.

 

Wei WuXian is hunting for prey when he tastes the scent of another Alpha but the scent is subdued, being the scent of a mated Alpha. Furrowing his brow, Wei WuXian wonders what a mated Alpha is doing in his territory. Swimming down to the sea floor, Wei WuXian blends in with the rock formations and watches for the passing Alpha.

 

Not just an Alpha but a pod of three appears. The Alpha in lead has long black hair and olive skin like Wei WuXian but is a lot bulkier with intense eyes. He is the prime example of dominance, most like able to break boulders and strangle sharks with his muscular body and large hands. He is at least a foot longer than Wei WuXian. The other two are Omegas; the first is graceful and a half-foot shorter than Wei WuXian with brown eyes. The second seems to be skittish and watchful but shares the trait of black hair and pale skin like his companion Omega. Wei WuXian has no idea why they're in his territory but he watches them signing to each other in conversation.

 

I told you that you should have left scent marks before we left for the winter.” The graceful Omega has his Alpha's attention.

 

I didn't think any other sirens would take our place. The seaweed is too close to the shore for most sirens.” The Alpha seems annoyed, his fierce eyes softened from pouting at his partner.

 

The skittish Omega chimes in with his hands. “The newer sirens aren't going to share that mindset, Nie MingJue. This Omega who took our territory smells new to breeding. They're probably a loner.

 

Not just new, inexperienced as well.” The graceful Omega seems amused.

 

The Alpha shakes his head and signs, “I'll mediate this. I'll make a compromise with them.” He gazes around the garden, suspicious. “We're being watched. Stay close to me, Meng Yao. You, too, Nie HuaiSang.

 

The Omegas nod, staying close. That's when Wei WuXian decides to reveal himself. If he needs to forfeit his territory, so be it. Releasing a submissive scent, Wei WuXian reveals himself and approaches with caution. The pod regards him with some surprise at first but remain neutral, maybe even suspicious. Wei WuXian smiles to show friendliness and greets them. “Good day.

 

Hello.” The graceful Omega, Meng Yao, seems friendly enough but the brothers still regard him silently.

 

Is there an issue? I thought this place was free to take.” It's better to be upfront with issues, he assumes. No need to chit chat.

 

The Alpha, Nie MingJue, narrows his eyes and signs, “Partly an issue. This is my pod's homeland. I forgot to scent mark last autumn.

 

Licking his lips nervously, Wei WuXian can tell this Alpha means business. His gaze is like a spotlight on Wei WuXian, not letting him out of his sight but there's something hidden that Wei WuXian can only detect partly from the scent in the water. It's Meng Yao's scent of curiosity that seems to be calming Nie MingJue, his mate. As long as the Omegas are calm, Wei WuXian is not a threat.

 

I apologize.” Wei WuXian decides it's not worth challenging this pod for territory. He'll leave. “I can leave. I didn't realize this was taken.

 

Just as Wei WuXian turns to disappear into the current, Nie MingJue's strong hand stops him and holds him in place. Wei WuXian's eyes widen and a shriek of fear rises in his throat in warning. He's not strong enough to hold this Alpha off and he knows it just from the hand on him. What is he going to do? Surprisingly, the Alpha lets go when Meng Yao makes a growling sound in the water. The mates share a gaze, somehow communicating without their hands, and Nie MingJue does something that surprises Wei WuXian. He backs down. Instead, the Alpha calmly starts to sign. “... What is your name?

 

Wei WuXian.” He replies in sign quickly, not wanting to agitate the unpredictable Alpha.

 

The mates share a gaze and the other Omega watches with anxiety in his eyes. The moment lasts longer than Wei WuXian likes but soon the Alpha softens and offers, “Would you like to stay with us? We won't make you leave as long as you make yourself scarce.

 

Now, that's rare but Wei WuXian will take it. He likes this territory and there's a benefit to sharing a territory with another pod. Single Alphas are less likely to court Omegas who seems to be apart of a pod. Nie MingJue must know this and is being very kind.

 

Nodding, Wei WuXian signs, “Sure! If you need anything, you can ask me!

 

Perhaps signing that was a mistake because Meng Yao smirks and asks, “Anything?

 

Swallowing, Wei WuXian sees the entire pod is staring at him. What could they ask of him?

 

 

“What did you ask of him?” Meng Yao's son asks.

 

Meng Yao snorts and says, “I'm getting to that. I'll tell you more at bedtime.”

 

Disappointed, the child complains, “Aww, that's lame.”

 

“Be patient. I promise to tell you more after you help me with dinner when you go to bed.” Meng Yao pats his son on the head and stands, going back to the garden.

 

The child doesn't leave the dock, pouting but distracting himself by watching the sirens still playing in the waves until they disappear when the sunsets.

 

Chapter Text

Meng Yao's request is actually quite simple and reveals the true dynamics of the pod. Wei WuXian carries out with the task asked of him before doing his own daily hunting the next day; Meng Yao's request is that Wei WuXian assist the pod occasionally with gathering food for the pod as a whole. It's a relief because Wei WuXian is worried the Omega would ask him to become part of Nie MingJue's harem or something. In the end, his wandering mind proves ridiculous. It becomes obvious within a day that it's actually Meng Yao who is in charge of the pod. Nie MingJue is nothing more than a tamed, guard Alpha for the Omegas.

 

It's really obvious when Wei WuXian watches the mates interact while he gathers clams on the seafloor. Nie MingJue is wading in front of Meng Yao, letting his mate clean sea lice off him while making a low rumble of a purr in his chest. The whole display is very submissive for an Alpha, especially in front of other sirens. Either Nie MingJue is very comfortable with being humbled in front of his pod or Meng Yao has the dominance between them. Surprising to humans, Omegas often are the matriarchs or patriarchs of their pods because they can bear young easier than Alpha females. Further, female sirens of both dynamics are more commonly leaders than males. When Wei WuXian thinks about it, it makes sense in the big picture of the survival of their species but it does bug him that somehow older, conservative sirens claim that Alphas should be in charge. It's simply not in their species interests for survival to have Alphas solely in charge so that's most likely why it never became the norm.

 

Siren social dynamics have always been complicated, Wei WuXian supposes. It's just something he doesn't think about it since he doesn't like Alphas in general regardless of their social status.

 

Having gathered eight or so clams, Wei WuXian brings the woven seaweed bag of them to Meng Yao. Meng Yao stops cleaning his mate, who watches them indifferently, and signs, “How many did you find?

 

One handed, Wei WuXian responds, “Eight? Maybe a few more.

 

Pleased, Meng Yao takes the bag from him and motions with his hand. “You can go now. We won't hold back a young soul like yourself.

 

Almost snorting in the water, Wei WuXian grins and waves goodbye as he disappears into the current. This is a part of the agreement they came to. Wei WuXian will assist with daily food gathering before he is to make himself distant from the pod. It's so Wei WuXian can have his freedom and Nie MingJue can slowly get used to Wei WuXian being resident in the territory without stressing the Alpha out. It would be jarring for Wei WuXian to suddenly join the pod so they're working on a trial period before Wei WuXian decides he wants to assimilate into their social group. It works for Wei WuXian because he's not committed to joining but the option is there if he's still around come winter time and needs a pod to join out of survival interests.

 

Wei WuXian stares up at the surface and figures out the time of day by the position of the sun in the sky at this time of year. The hour of the salmon just ended and the hour of the mackerel is beginning, signaling that midday is soon. He still has several hours until sunset so he just needs to figure out what he wants to do.

 

A hand on Wei WuXian's shoulder gets his attention and he sees Nie HuaiSang, the skittish Omega, by his side. The Omega has seaweed green scales like his Alpha brother that glint in the sunlight and his eyes are wide with curiosity. Wei WuXian raises his hands and asks in sign, “What's up?

 

The surface.” Nie HuaiSang jokes at first but then continues, “No, really, I have something to ask of you.

 

Not threatened as he is of requests from the mates, Wei WuXian smiles. “What do you need?

 

Fidgeting, the Omega shifts his eyes to make sure Meng Yao and Nie MingJue are distracted before he requests, “Come to the mating grounds with me? Brother has been... a bit pushy for me to find a mate. If I have another single Omega come with me, I'll feel better.

 

Wei WuXian would sigh if he wasn't underwater. He has been avoiding the mating ground specifically because he's not interested in searching for an Alpha but he supposes he can help a fellow pseudo-pod mate. He's not searching for a mate so it shouldn't be a problem, right?

 

Sure, why not? I'll accompany you.

 

Nie HuaiSang brightens in mood like he could hug Wei WuXian and quickly motions him to follow in the direction of the mating grounds. Wei WuXian lazily follows into the currents and knows it will take over an hour to reach the mating grounds. Internally, he hopes the Alphas are more interested in Nie HuaiSang's prettily petite features than his own long, flowing body.

 

 

The mating grounds are at least thirty miles from the pod territory but the currents and their own swift swimming get them there before the hour of the dolphin, around the start of afternoon. The mating grounds are a cluster of smooth and jagged boulders that are comfortable for sirens to climb onto and sunbathe. There are towering cliffs where seagulls and other birds nest that protect the area from over-baking in the sun. During low tide, there are dozens and dozens of tide pools ripe for snacking on mussels, crabs, and small fish. The place is perfect for what the humans would call 'speed dating', so to speak.

 

Nie HuaiSang immediately makes himself comfortable on a high rock to preen himself before singing. One of the key points to attracting mates is looking the part; being desirable and seductive with one's voice and posture is vital. The higher the ground an Omega can get, the more desirable they are and prized.

 

Wei WuXian stays in the water, not interested in singing since he doubts any sub-par Alphas in Cyan Bay are going to hear his voice and sadly, he knows from the amount of desperate ones that have tried to court him that none of them are interested in true love or anything outside of growing a pod.

 

The problem for Nie HuaiSang is that there are other Omegas already there, trying to preen themselves. They glare and narrow their eyes at Nie HuaiSang for boldly taking a high position on the grounds to make himself look more desirable. The skittish Omega is losing his confidence and looking to Wei WuXian for help. It isn't long before Wei WuXian groans and realizes he needs to join him in order to give him the boost he needs to stand up to the other Omegas present.

 

Wei WuXian climbs the rocks to join Nie HuaiSang and says aloud, “You're a baby, you know that?”

 

Pouting, Nie HuaiSang complains, “The other Omegas are intimidating and I need all the help I can get, okay?”

 

Somehow, the other Omegas avert their gaze when Wei WuXian joins them, some murmuring among themselves about him. Hey, Wei WuXian knows he has a reputation. There are many rumors about him because of all the Alphas he rejects and because of how boldly he survived on his own during the winter. He can hear them mutter about him defeating a sea dragon with his bare hands and his singing voice being so pure that no Alpha will ever be able to hear it because of how divine it is. Now, the second rumor Wei WuXian will take as a compliment. He is a good singer and would like to believe he's too high class for any basic grade Alpha.

 

“So... I just sing?” Nie HuaiSang seems unsure of himself.

 

“Yeah! Didn't any other Omegas teach you songs to sing? Maybe you have a song you taught yourself?” Songs are something precious to Omega culture. They pass songs down through their families as heirlooms and rarely do Omegas write songs better than what is passed down to them but it does happen.

 

Thinking, Nie HuaiSang hums and then responds, “My mother's song. The one she used to woo father.”

 

“Sing it.”

 

Nie HuaiSang takes a deep sigh to steady himself before drawing air again and starting his song along with the songs of other sirens singing.

 

Love is kind and fleeting thing,

 

Never did I think I would find it with you,

 

Your star-colored gaze finds me even now,

 

How could I ever forget it?”

 

The Omega sirens close by who don't bother to sing are listening in intrigue at Nie HuaiSang's song. The song is one of the more uncommon ones. It was written by a human and appropriated by sirens to fit their culture. However, it's a song usually learned by more traditional, long-lineage pods in Cyan Bay. What Wei WuXian doesn't expect is for a familiar singing voice to join Nie HuaiSang's.

 

Even now I sing for a new beginning,

 

Can you bring it to me?

It's okay, you don't need to.

 

Only I can bring myself hope.”

 

Wei WuXian turns to the new voice with Nie HuaiSang and smiles. Jiang WanYin, Wei WuXian's adoptive brother, has joined them on the mating grounds. His violet tail, intense but pretty face, and tied-back black hair are accented by sun-tanned skin. It's obvious he has been at the mating grounds for a few days in hope of finding a mate but Wei WuXian knows his brother is a bit uneducated about mating courtesy. Neither does he realize that singing along to another Omega's song is considered courting to that Omega. Nie HuaiSang and the other Omegas seem to know this and are amazed at how bold Jiang WanYin seems. What surprises them all is that, despite the blushing and wide eyes, Nie HuaiSang sings back to join him as a duet for a chorus.

 

Never have I,

 

Seen the world like this, will you join me?

 

I want to share it with you,

 

Now and forever,

 

Can you hear it now?



The beating of my heart that beats alongside yours?”

 

Both Omegas seem to stop at the end of the chorus and share a gaze between them. Wei WuXian doesn't need to be in the water, tasting scent, when he can see it in Nie HuaiSang's eyes. He's smitten by the boldness of Jiang WanYin. It's not uncommon, but it's discouraged by their culture, to have Omegas mate with other Omegas. Alphas share this same expectation of the Alpha-Omega bond but it still happens. Wei WuXian is glad that Nie HuaiSang has found a potential mate so easily. Sometimes, love is that simple.

 

Well, maybe not. Jiang WanYin gets closer but the first thing he says is, “Where the fuck have you been, Wei WuXian? You fucking vanished into the goddamn ocean without a word and left us!”

 

Nie HuaiSang is dumbstruck, left to stare between the two brothers in confusion. Wei WuXian bites his lip because shit, he wanted to just be free and on his own. Playing dumb, Wei WuXian says, “What do you mean? I warned you I wanted freedom. Besides, I thought it was obvious why I left.”

 

Jiang WanYin grits his teeth and practically growls his words. “You've been weird ever since I had my first heat. What the fuck happened? You suddenly distanced yourself from me and our sister like we were chopped abalone.”

 

Not wanting to discuss it, Wei WuXian tries to distance himself. “It's not you or the pod why I left.” A half-lie, maybe a white lie. “I wanted to be by myself. I wasn't going to let our parents try to mate me off to the Jin pod like their did with our sister.”

 

“Jiang YanLi was not 'mated off'!” Jiang WanYin is exasperated and his gaze softens in concern. “She heard Jin ZiXuan's voice. She wasn't being given to pod leader Jin GuangShan as a concubine either. She's an Alpha, Wei WuXian... Don't be stupid.”

 

Wei WuXian doesn't want to admit he assumed the worst but hearing that actually puts him a little more at ease. Was he worried Yu ZiYuan and Jiang FengMian would throw him away to be apart of some large pod leader's harem? Yes. It's not uncommon for adopted children to be disregarded once they're of age so Wei WuXian basically disowned himself before they could do it to him themselves. Not just that, Yu ZiYuan was getting desperate to find her Alpha daughter a mate before she left the pod to find one herself so naturally, Wei WuXian would be next on the list since he's not considered a 'legitimate' child of the pod.

 

Wei WuXian decides to inquire further. “How is she? Jiang YanLi seriously heard the voice of that proud as a lionfish bastard?” The Jin pod is filled with proud, pompous sirens with varying shades of pyrite scales if they're biologically related to the Alpha pod leader, Jin GuangShan. Being the first legitimate child to the pod leader's first mate, Jin ZiXuan is known for being a prissy asshole. That's just Wei WuXian's opinion though since he has had direct confrontation with the Omega. Wei WuXian mentally thinks this but he recalls Meng Yao's metallic scales of a gentle gold and suspects he must be a bastard child of the pod leader and half-brother to the Omega in question.

 

Jiang WanYin shrugs. “I'm not sure. She heard his voice and somehow tamed him from being too much a brat. He's not as insufferable now he's mated to her. Maybe once one of them gives birth to a child, he'll chill out even more because he still is an asshole.”

 

Chuckling at first, Wei WuXian gets more serious and says, “I'm sorry... for leaving so suddenly.” They used to be close, so close, as brothers. Now that they're both on their own, perhaps the bond can be repaired.

 

Jiang WanYin frowns and softens more, responding, “It's okay. I know you didn't mean to hurt me but... I missed you so much.”

 

Wei WuXian wants to hug him but Nie HuaiSang interrupts with, “Um, sir, how do you know that song?”

 

Jiang WanYin turns his attention to him and snaps out of his melancholy at seeing his brother again. He replies, “My mother used to be a historian. She learned most of the songs we know in the ocean and taught them to me.”

 

Wei WuXian decides to leave them to talk and court each other. Wei WuXian can see in Nie HuaiSang's eyes that he's interested in Jiang WanYin as a mate despite him being another Omega and Jiang WanYin is friendly enough to accept it. Perhaps something good will happen for both of them.

 

As Wei WuXian is about to slip back into the water, another Omega stops him from leaving the rock. With tangled hair, feral and almost yellow eyes, and skin with chestnut undertones, the female Omega blocks his path and asks, “Aren't you going to sing?”

 

“No, I-”

 

“We wanna hear you sing!” Another Omega says loudly. A small group of Omegas are obviously intrigued by the rumors they've heard about Wei WuXian, wanting to see if his singing voice really is that awe-inspiring.

 

Sighing, Wei WuXian forces a smile and says, “Fine, sure, I'll sing.” If it will make them leave him alone, why not?

 

The sirens allow Wei WuXian to climb onto the highest rock where only the most prized Omegas usually can be. He clears his throat and admires the view for a moment. At this vantage point, he can see the edge of the ocean and knows just how voice will travel from here. A siren's voice can travel for miles, if not dozens of miles. It's how their species widens their opportunities to find mates. If their voice can travel far, it widens their options for the amount of Alphas to hear their voice. However, getting even one Alpha to hear one's voice can be a god-like task in itself.

 

With the crisp wind and scorching sun on him, Wei WuXian remembers a song he started writing while in the ocean by himself. His voice rings out as he projects his flute-like voice out towards the ocean.

 

How does one forget envies?

 

Home is where I find myself at heart.

 

Can you show me where my heart has gone?

 

I don't know if I'll ever find it again.

 

Envy is all I have left now,

 

Praying someone will bring me back my heart.”

 

He pauses as the emotion when he wrote the song comes back.

 

Fleeting, fleeting heart beats are a distant memory,

 

Perhaps a heart is always missing?

 

How would I know?

 

I only know my own words and trust none,

 

The songs of love seem so damn romantic,

 

But are they true?”

 

Wei WuXian has no chorus to his song, having never had time to finish it while he was out at the deep sea. However, he is pleased by the amazement in the faces of the Omega sirens listening. Even with that, hollowness fills Wei WuXian's heart. Perhaps the song will never be finished because in his mind; it's a duet. When the right Alpha or mate comes along, they will know how to complete the song with him. However, Wei WuXian isn't sure that will ever happen. Not like when he was a child.

 

Confusing the other sirens, Wei WuXian hops off the rock and disappears into the depths of the ocean. He leaves them so he can clear his mind of thoughts he tries to keep buried. It's always when he sings that the thoughts return and regrets indulging in the action. It's better he return to his territory and distract himself with hunting for food.

 

 

Miles out at sea, about a hundred meters underwater, an Alpha with light gray, almost silver skin, flowing dark hair, and amber yellow eyes meant for the deep depths of the ocean hears a familiar song he hasn't heard since he was a child. Turning to the sound of the song, he realizes where that old friend had gone. A friend who has likely forgotten him and he never got to confess he could hear his voice.

 

Observing what his other podmates are doing in the darkness of the sea, he senses his twin brother and uncle are still stalking a young shark they plan to spear using makeshift tools. The shark is aware it is being followed, trying to escape. It gives the Alpha an opportunity to do the unexpected of what his family would expect of him.

 

He vanishes towards the surface and follows the familiar voice. His mate is out there; he just needs to take action.

 

 

“Dad, you didn't ask anything ridiculous? You could have asked that guy to do anything for you.” The child asks Meng Yao that, curious.

 

Meng Yao rolls his eyes and says, “I'm not a monster. I only wanted him to pull his weight if he was going to live with my pod. Well, live in the territory of my pod.”

 

“Also, you mentioned that you had a brother. So, I have uncles and aunts who are sirens?”

 

Meng Yao pats his child's head to relax him. They're sitting in the child's bedroom, on the bed. The child is tucked into bed as Meng Yao is telling him about the past. Meng Yao responds, “Yeah, I have a lot of siblings because my dad wasn't a nice guy. He didn't commit to one mate but I'm not bitter about it.”

 

“Oh.” The child loses his smile. “That isn't fair. It's nice to have brothers and sisters but not when it means grandpa wasn't faithful.”

 

“I know.” Meng Yao weakly smiles and continues, “Your other dad was the pinnacle of faithful. He wouldn't be comfortable around other Omegas unless I was comfortable with them. He never wanted me to feel unloved and forgotten.”

 

“Why isn't he with us?”

 

Meng Yao goes quiet for a moment before responding, “I'll tell you when I'm ready. It's painful to think about.”

 

“Okay...” The child senses he hit a nerve. “Thank you for telling me that story. Will you tell me more about the sirens tomorrow?”

 

“I will. I love you.” He kisses the child's forehead and blows out the candle so his child can get settled down and sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Another week passes, perhaps more as the waters warm further and prey becomes more and more abundant. Many Omegas and female Alphas have given birth recently, with the scent of it in the water and the sight of wandering babies becoming a more common sight. Wei WuXian sees this first hand since a neighboring pods have a few young ones who try to wander into the seaweed gardens to play before their parents and podmates quickly guide them back home.

 

Only a couple times, Wei WuXian sometimes indulges the children in playing. The Wen pod is so large that they have at least five youngsters that wander their territory and outside of it. Wei WuXian never leaves his own territory but it's not uncommon for one of the adults of the Wen pod to swim over and ask if they've seen one of their little ones who likes to wander. After three days of the same little one escaping his pod's watchful eyes and the same babysitter wanders over searching for him, Wei WuXian learns their names. Wen Yuan apparently likes otters and he was told that otters like seaweed gardens so he wanders away from Wen Ning's side to search for the furry creatures in Wei WuXian's pseudo-pod's territory. The visiting toddler may only be two weeks old but he is very adventurous, something very stressful for Wen Ning who looks like he's shedding scarlet scales out of stress from it all.

 

Wei WuXian blinks in surprise as the toddler appears again but with something in his hand. Wen Yuan has scarlet scales like his relatives but his large brown eyes and chubby face scream of youth. He's pale since his skin hasn't been exposed to the sun beating down on the water like his older podmates. The toddler swims closer and tries to force whatever it is into Wei WuXian's hands. Indulging him, Wei WuXian takes it and examines it. Slightly imperfect and not all one creamy color, a small pink pearl is in Wei WuXian's hand.

 

Smiling, Wei WuXian signs with his other hand. “Thank you, Wen Yuan.

 

The toddler seems pleased and then asks in sign, “Otters?

 

Putting the pearl in his mouth so he has both hands to sign, Wei WuXian asks back, “Where is your uncle?

 

The child loses his smiles and then seems deep in thought. His response is, “At home.

 

You can't keep wandering off without permission, Wen Yuan. I know you want to see the otters and I'm a nice guy but the ocean is usually dangerous if you don't stick with your pod.” Wei WuXian isn't this child's parent but he will step in if he needs to. Sirens look out for each other regardless of pod or age.

 

Frowning, Wen Yuan signs, “I'm sorry...

 

Softening, Wei WuXian swims closer to pat the kid on the head before tasting the water for any sign of his guardian. He sees the guardian before he smells him. Wen Ning, frantic and worried, rushes over and signs to the child, “Don't scare me like that! You're lucky I found you.

 

Wen Yuan stays quiet as Wen Ning takes him into his own arms. Wei WuXian can taste that Wen Ning is an Omega who has lost his fertility early in life somehow. He doesn't have the strong taste or scent of an Omega who can breed or have heats. In conclusion, he's a Beta biologically now. Betas are often given the responsibility in larger pods to help raise young to make them 'useful' since they can't breed. Wei WuXian finds that mindset discriminatory but there's nothing he can do about it. Regardless, Wen Yuan doesn't struggle as his uncle holds him with his hands free enough to sign.

 

I don't know why he always visits you. I'm very sorry he keeps wandering into your territory, Wei WuXian.” Wen Ning is very apologetic, concerned that Wei WuXian is upset by the visiting.

 

I don't mind. He's very cute.” Wei WuXian is honest. Don't get him wrong; even though he has no interest in mating right now, he isn't a Beta. He has desire to start a pod when he is older or has found the right mate but right now, no Alphas have met his criteria or hear his voice either. Also, he doesn't mind having other pods' children around him since he does enjoy being around children.

 

Relieved, Wen Ning responds, “Thank you. I'll take him to go see the otters now. They're at the mouth of the river, correct?

 

Wei WuXian nods and that's when Wen Ning guides Wen Yuan in that direction so they can go visit the otters. Wei WuXian watches them swim away with some amusement. The Wen pod is mostly peaceful but their concept of territory sometimes bleeds into other pod's territory, causing conflict. Wei WuXian isn't the type to cause conflict over territory but he's not sure how Nie MingJue and Meng Yao would respond if they knew the Wen pod members are wandering through.

 

It's very early morning, just about sunrise in the hour of the lobster, and Wei WuXian already has gathered clams and mussels for Meng Yao. He needs to do some hunting at the communal hunting grounds since the tuna will be passing through just outside the bay. He is hungry for something larger to eat than small shellfish. Licking his lips after putting the pearl into his hand again, Wei WuXian supposes he can put the pearl back in his den under the dock before he heads out to sea.

 

Wei WuXian is unaware that an Alpha has their sights on him right now, hiding their scent as they watch him from the currents with their trained eyes.

 

 

The hunting grounds really aren't a 'grounds' but a stretch of ocean that is labeled off-limits for claiming as territory because it would give the pod living in it an unfair advantage over access to food. Many decades ago, it was established by the pods of Cyan Bay that these hunting grounds would be left unclaimed, like the mating grounds, so sirens can use it equally. This treaty of sorts has prevented war and bloodshed between the sirens. The ocean of the hunting area is a series of deep ravines, cliffs, reefs, and spawning grounds for prey. Throughout the day, sirens from both friendly and enemy pods will gather here under the understanding that fighting is disallowed and etiquette must be followed. Sirens are taught by their parents how to be a fair hunter, how to share, and when they are in the right to take prey. If a siren does not follow this etiquette, they will be banished from the grounds by the pods of Cyan Bay.

 

Wei WuXian is representing himself as he enters the grounds and solely himself. No pod leaders have agreed that Wei WuXian is apart of Nie MingJue and Meng Yao's pod so he is still considered a rogue. He can see other lone Omegas and Alphas are there but they avoid him in favor of hunting. That is another etiquette on the hunting grounds; courting is frowned upon and very discouraged while hunting. It's understood that hunting is a necessity and all sirens are entitled to do it in peace. Wei WuXian is grateful for that since he doesn't need to worry about Alphas trying to court him.

 

Everyone is gathered around a current far out at almost the edge of the grounds, so far out that the ocean bleeds into depths of a drop off cliff. Tasting the water for the scent, all of them are on the edge for the opportunity to strike. If they squint, they can see the outline of the school of tuna about to pass through.

 

Wei WuXian uses his hunting ability to blend in with the open ocean while various Alphas and Omegas try to blend in other ways to prepare for a strike. He realizes upon closer inspection that a large number of sirens from the Jin pod are out here today. His adoptive sister, Jiang YanLi, is cloaked in the sea grass and too focused on the hunt to greet him. However, Wei WuXian knows she knows he's here by the friendly scent she gives off. Wei WuXian grows more and more aware of other sirens he knows; Jiang WanYin, Jin ZiXuan, Jin GuangShan, and members of the Wen pod such as Wen Ning's Alpha sister, Wen Qing.

 

The tuna schools have certainly drawn a lot of sirens, each readying their natural abilities and handmade tools. Some have whale bone spears and knives, others have projectile weapons with shark tooth tips, but many are prepared for today's feast.

 

Sirens hide so well that it's like they're not there at all. The tuna don't suspect a thing despite their instinctual knowledge that they are being hunted. They know they are some of the fastest fish in the ocean but that won't save them all. Wei WuXian can even sense the other creatures in the waters that are drawn to the tuna; sharks and orca whales stay a good distance away from the sirens who will cause the tuna to scatter before they take advantage of the chaos. Sharks and orca whales sometimes eat siren toddlers but they are intelligent enough to take advantage of adult siren hunting habits, only attacking adults if they're desperately hungry. Dolphins who have been tamed by pods sometimes assist in herding the tuna right into traps but it looks like the Jin pod does not have any of their own with them.

 

The tuna flood in through the current in a school of at least a dozen at a time and all hell breaks loose. Spears, arrow-like objects, and siren bodies launch towards the school in the water. The tuna who aren't caught panic and swim into the mouths of sharks and whales. Any who actually escape are lucky. Wei WuXian managed to catch a smaller tuna than those who used weapons. Wei WuXian kills the tuna immediately by ripping its gills to suffocate it into not struggling anymore. While Wei WuXian is ripping into his prey, he notices Jiang WanYin and Jiang YanLi use their hunting ability that is the their electric currents to stun and stop the heart of the tuna caught. The Jiang pod from Yu ZiYuan's side of the pod can use electricity to stun and kill their prey, something Wei WuXian has always admired.

 

Just as quickly as it happened, it ends. Most of the sirens have prey in their hands and are leaving the area in order to eat. It's dangerous to congregate around sharks and orca whales while they're feeding on the leftover tuna. Wei WuXian carries the small tuna all the way back to the edge of his territory before eating it. Carefully peeling back the skin to reveal the meat inside, Wei WuXian takes large bites around the bones. Now, most sirens are are civilized and will peel the meat off the bones but Wei WuXian is a bit too hungry for that right now.

 

That's when Wei WuXian notices he has been followed. The scent of the Alpha is muddled by the blood of the tuna but Wei WuXian senses them still, turning to face them. When Wei WuXian sees who it is, his mood drops.

 

Jin GuangShan is the face of siren royalty, a proud and showy as a lion fish. His long brown hair is decorated with strands of pearls and wears sea glass beads around his neck. His tail is a golden pyrite that shines metallic in the sunlight. The Alpha pod leader is at least two feet longer than Wei WuXian because of his age but he's very much still of breeding age... and courts every Omega he sets his narrow, walrus brown eyes on. Wei WuXian, being an unmated Omega, already knows why this Alpha is here in his territory.

 

Wei WuXian does the first thing he can imagine to protect himself and releases a foul, uninterested scent, hoping the Alpha takes a hint early on. He takes another bite of his tuna before letting it sink to the sea floor, signing in greeting to the Alpha. “Good morning, pod leader.

 

Smiling in feigned friendliness, Jin GuangShan responds in sign, “As to you as well, Wei WuXian.” He licks his lips, as if tasting scent. “I see you were successful with your hunt.

 

Jin GuangShan scrunches his face at the foul scent but does nothing that suggests he understands that Wei WuXian is not interested. Wei WuXian can taste the sweet scent the Alpha is trying to use to allure him and it's disgusting. Wei WuXian is trying to wade backwards into the seaweed stalks to avoid the Alpha but he simply wades towards him to stay close. He has no choice but to socialize his way out of this situation because he understands why many Omegas submit and allow this siren to mate them even if they don't want to.

 

If it's not Jin GuangShan's persistence, his size and position of power persuade or force many Omegas to allow him to mate with them.

 

Swallowing nervously, Wei WuXian signs, “I was. I'm very adept at caring for myself! Don't you have a mate who needs help?

 

My mates are fed at home. But, I was concerned about you. I saw you hunting all by yourself and felt I should let you know that I can provide for you.” Wei WuXian has no time to avoid Jin GuangShan as he finds himself backed against a large rock with the Alpha only inches from his face. Trying to not show how uncomfortable he is, he allows the Alpha to cup his face with a free hand and use the other hand to sign, “You know in your heart that you can't survive on your own forever. Why do you think most find a mate within their first year? You must have been something special to survive a winter on your own.

 

Wei WuXian hates his own stupid Omega body. Jin GuangShan is brushing the scent gland in his cheek and it stimulates his body to produce an aroused scent, even Wei WuXian feels his own body reacting to the touch. His mind has no interest in this asshole but his dumb body is reacting to mating instinct. Shivering a little and trying not to show his body is obviously stimulated from the touch, Wei WuXian gets snarky with his signing. “What's it to you? Haven't you got enough Omegas to birth children for you? Who says I want to birth out your bastard children?

 

Jin GuangShan smirks and takes his hand away. He backs away about a foot before signing, “The option is there, Wei WuXian. You must be hardy to survive on your own by yourself. I'm just saying I'm giving you a chance to make sure you're cared for. My pod can give you a family and power. I will be back to offer you again and again. Bye for now, sweet little Omega.

 

As the Alpha swims away, Wei WuXian feels his gut sink. Jin GuangShan, being the persistent siren he is, will keep coming back until mating season to make sure he can secure young with him. That's how he is and always has been. He's a bully who pushes to get what he wants... and what he wants is to breed with Wei WuXian.

 

Wei WuXian shivers and tries to wipe away every part of himself of this gross feeling. He's going to have to get creative to avoid this Alpha. Sure, this is the first time he's dealt with an Alpha like this on this level but Wei WuXian is up to the challenge.

 

He has to be since he has no choice.

 

 

It's the seventy-eighth day of the year and Wei WuXian is slowly getting fed up with Jin GuangShan's courting. It always seems that Jin GuangShan knows exactly how to find him at any part of the day and will seek him out to try and court him with gifts and eloquent signing. Ugh, go away, thinks Wei WuXian every time the Alpha makes an appearance.

 

First, Jin GuangShan tries to give him gifts of pearls and sea glass like Alpha children do when they're learning their dynamic instincts. That kind of gift-giving stops being cute when Alphas turn into their teenage years but Jin GuangShan must have not gotten the memo. Obviously, Wei WuXian rejects these petty gifts from the Alpha but will happily accept them from Wen Yuan when presented with the same things. When that doesn't work, the Alpha brings him different types of food; tuna, sardines, clams, and even lobster are given to him. Wei WuXian only accepts those in order to re-gift them to his pseudo-pod, who seem quite happy to receive the food and the action successfully infuriates Jin GuangShan. Lastly, the Alpha tries to win him over with displays of dominance. As if that would work because the first thing Wei WuXian does when the siren even tries to impress him is that he uses his camouflage to hide from the Alpha until he grows frustrated and leaves.

 

Wei WuXian is growing tired of the behavior only after a little more than a week. He thought he would be able to stand up to him longer but it's grower harder and harder to do so. Imagine being stalked for days on end with constant unwanted gifts and lustful gazes. The scenting, the lack of personal space, and he can't stress enough, the fucking gifts are getting on his nerves. It gets to the point Wei WuXian has trouble sleeping because he's worried Jin GuangShan will eventually try to follow him to his den under the dock. Anxiety fills Wei WuXian because he has heard and seen the horror stories from other Omegas of just how aggressive some Alphas can get.

 

It drags up an unpleasant memory for Wei WuXian. When he was caring for Jiang WanYin, a lone Alpha in rut encountered the two and tried to force himself on Jiang WanYin. Jiang WanYin might have been clouded in his mind from heat but he had enough consciousness to use his hunting ability to electrocute the Alpha so he and Wei WuXian could get away and find a new place to wait out the heat. Jiang WanYin couldn't even bring himself to tell his parents what happened until late autumn and that was when Wei WuXian left the Jiang pod to go on his own. The guilt he felt not being able to protect Jiang WanYin was the final straw for him deciding to live on his own. Wei WuXian remembers hearing from other sirens that the Alpha tried to attack another Omega that winter in the Wen pod and it was Wen Qing who murdered that Alpha. No one punished her for it; the murdered Alpha broke one of the most sacred laws of breeding etiquette, which is getting consent to mate.

 

Right now, it is so early in the morning that the sun won't rise for another hour. The end of the hour of the starfish is very quiet with the tide being at its highest. Wei WuXian hasn't slept at all and he can see the moon through the rotting boards of the dock. He can't do this anymore; he needs to ask Nie MingJue and Meng Yao for help. Maybe joining their pod officially will offer him protection from Jin GuangShan's advances. Or, it could mean he'll be rejected. If Nie MingJue offers to protect Wei WuXian, it'll look like he's taking Wei WuXian as a mate. That might upset Meng Yao since the Omega is most likely possessive of his Alpha and will not want to jeopardize his pod in any shape of form. In the end, Wei WuXian feels hopeless and wonders what he should do.

 

In the back of his mind, he considers leaving Cyan Bay all together and relocating to another area. He likes his current territory but it's not worth it if he's being harassed by an aggressive Alpha with full intention to knock him up and leave him with the child. On the other hand, he's furious. How dare this Alpha get the better of him? He is his own Omega and he refuses to let this Alpha tell him what to do.

 

When the morning comes and the Alpha appears, Wei WuXian is going to stand up for himself no matter the consequence. He doesn't have much to lose.

 

 

Exhausted and motivated by pure irritation, Wei WuXian waits in the seaweed groves with his arms crossed and ready for confrontation. At the top of the hour of the shark, Jin GuangShan appears with his new gift for Wei WuXian; it's a set of bronze keys from a shipwreck. Wei WuXian is aware of the large ships made of wood, some being metal, that have many baubles and collectibles hidden like treasure troves but has never had the desire to search one for things to keep on his own. Even more, he has no desire to take anything given to him by Jin GuangShan. When the Alpha offers him the keys, he turns his nose up at it in defiance.

 

Gritting his teeth, Jin GuangShan drops the keys and signs, “What now? You don't accept anything from me or you hide from me. Why are you resisting? I can give you anything you desire!

 

Wei WuXian glares at him and angrily voices his opinion through his hands. “Because you're not who I want! How fucking dense are you, pod leader? I don't want to mate with you and be another one of your whores!

 

Flaring his nose in disgust, Jin GuangShan responds, “Then who do you want? No one? Do you desire to be alone, like a damn useless Beta? The only purpose in an Omega's life is to bear children and you should know that by now. Didn't your pod teach you anything?

 

So the truth comes out. How backwards can this siren get? Apparently, all it took was for one Omega to reject his advances and actually show some nerve to get the Alpha to reveal himself for the asshole he really is. Wei WuXian almost starts laughing in the water. Instead, he narrows his eyes and replies, “My adoptive mother has a hundred times more backbone than you will ever have and you say her life is nothing more of worth than to bear children? You're really stupid then if you think you even had a chance of fucking me.” Swimming away about ten feet, Wei WuXian only turns to sign, “If I see you in my territory again, I won't hesitate to ruin you.

 

That reveals itself to be a mistake to have signed that. Wei WuXian does not see the darkening in Jin GuangShan's eyes as he turns to swim away to go speak with Meng Yao. Wei WuXian is not prepared as Jin GuangShan grabs him from behind, turns him around, and then slams him towards the seafloor so he's pinned in the soft sand. Wide-eyed and in shock, Wei WuXian finds himself eye to eye with the Alpha who has his hand threatening to crush Wei WuXian's throat. Pinned and realizing how much danger he's in, Wei WuXian is shaking with fear because this Alpha could kill him in an instant.

 

Ruin me?” Jin GuangShan signs with his free hand, his eyes dark with malicious intent. “How would you plan to do that? I'm the one who can ruin you. I can disfigure your pretty little face so no Alpha would take you even with your rumored-to-be pleasant voice. I can stuff my cock in you right now and take your purity first. I can even kill you. What possibly could you do to me?

 

As the Alpha presses closer against him, Wei WuXian closes his eyes and feels tears leak through his eyelids. Someone save me, please, help me, thinks Wei WuXian. He's genuinely believing in this moment that he's powerless and prepares for whatever wrath this Alpha has for him.

 

Just as he start to feel the hand start to close more on his throat, suddenly the hand is ripped away and Jin GuangShan's body weight is lifted off him. Confused, Wei WuXian cautiously opens his eyes to the sight before him. An Alpha male siren about the size of Nie MingJue is holding Jin GuangShan by his throat. The siren has the silvery skin of racially deep sea sirens, obsidian hair that flows well to the middle of his tail, and eyes that are an amber tone to reflect light deep below the ocean's surface. Powerful in aura and physically larger than Jin GuangShan, this Alpha could kill the other in an instant.

 

Jin GuangShan stares with fear as the other siren raises a free hand to sign, “Leave. Never come back or I will kill you.

 

Nothing else needs to be communicated; the scent of the other Alpha screams of dominance while Jin GuangShan's radiates submission. When the deep sea Alpha lets go of Jin GuangShan, he flees at his full swimming speed back into the currents and far away from Wei WuXian.

 

Wei WuXian, cautious, observes as the new Alpha turns from hardened savage to giving Wei WuXian a soft gaze. The Alpha offers a hand and asks with the other, “Are you okay?

 

Wei WuXian, swallowing in uncertainty of whether to trust this Alpha, responds, “Better.

 

Where's your pod? I'll take you home.

 

Realizing how afraid he was, Wei WuXian lets himself cry and release a relieved scent into the water. He takes the Alpha's hand and offer, leading the Alpha with him to Nie MingJue and Meng Yao.

 

 

“This is boring.” The child complains to Meng Yao.

 

“You've helped me shear the sheep before; be patient and I'll make you some eggs.”

 

Groaning, the child submits to his task since he does like the eggs that his father makes for him. Shearing the sheep is a common task for the small family but it's one of the child's least favorite chores since the sheep like to shy away from his shears and sometimes will kick him. It's even worse if they have to shear one of the rams because they have horns.

 

Working well into the hour of the seahorse, after sunset, the child is tired during the spring evening and wants to go to bed after dinner. Of course, he then remembers that bedtime means a story is expected and that makes him excited. Eggs are fried on the wooden fire stove in a frying pan, eaten by both of them, and then the child is led to bed. Getting tucked in, the child asks, “Can I get another story?”

 

“What kind of story?” Meng Yao's tone is teasing, almost.

 

Pouting, the child answers, “I don't know. Is there any story you want to tell me?”

 

Unsure, Meng Yao hums in thought and suggests, “I can sing you a song to help you to sleep and tell your a story while doing it. How does that sound?”

 

Smiling again, the child nods.

 

Laying on the bed beside his son, Meng Yao makes up a song and gently sings almost in a whisper. As he sings, his son starts to doze off to the tune:

 

The sun shines on the sea,

 

In a orange-colored daze,

 

A little siren and his mate,

 

Happy as can be.

 

When the storms roll in,

 

The Omega clings to his mate,

 

While the Alpha hums a tune in wait.

La la la, sings the Omega to his Alpha,

 

Hm hm hm, hums the Alpha in return...

 

The child falls asleep before the end of the song. Leaving Meng Yao to kiss his forehead and leave him to sleep.

 

 

In the middle of the night, the child wakes when he hears singing outside the house. He first searches for his father around the house but can't find him, figuring he's doing weaving in the barn, so he goes outside to investigate the source of the singing.

 

When he gets outside, he discovers the source of the singing is from his father. Meng Yao is standing outside in the moonlight on the dock, singing out to the ocean and the child can hear the ending to the song he never got to hear before falling asleep:

 

... As the thunder rumbles through the oceans,

 

And the lightning crashes down from the sky,

 

'I will protect you,' says the Alpha,

 

But he made a promise he could not keep.

 

With a bite and a swallow,

 

The sea beast takes the siren's breath.

 

Poor Omega all alone,

 

Left only to sing until his Alpha comes home.

 

The child can only watch as his father finishes the song, sinks to his knees, and sobs loudly into the night. He doesn't know what to do but joins his father on the dock, trying to be comforting for whatever sorrow the song symbolizes for Meng Yao.

 

Chapter Text

Wei WuXian wants to say his thanks to the Alpha who saved him but he can't seem to find him again. After the incident with Jin GuangShan, Wei WuXian led the Alpha with him to Meng Yao and Nie MingJue. The mates were horrified to hear what had happened to Wei WuXian and Meng Yao promised to protect Wei WuXian from now on to make sure Jin GuangShan doesn't return to their territory. The only thing Wei WuXian knows about the Alpha before he disappeared back into the depths of the ocean is his name. Lan WangJi; Wei WuXian brands that signed name into his memory.

 

On the eighty-sixth day of the year, as the waters grow warmer still, Wei WuXian has been searching almost every day for the Alpha for a week. He's starting to wonder if the Alpha returned to the deep ocean where his race typically live already. If he did, Wei WuXian is wasting his time searching and that makes him feel guilty. It's going to eat at his conscious that he never got to thank him. He has asked sirens from every single nearby pod if they've seen the Alpha and all of them say they haven't. It's frustrating.

 

The worst part is that Wei WuXian even has dreams about the Alpha. He's not sure why but the Alpha intrigues him in a way he's never felt before.

 

It's morning, halfway through the hour of the salmon, when Wei WuXian starts to lose hope he'll see the Alpha again. Perhaps Wei WuXian is being ridiculous, searching out an Alpha just because he rescued Wei WuXian like a damsel in distress. He has no idea what a deep sea siren would be doing in Cyan Bay but it's definitely not a common sight; deep sea sirens usually court among their own race while shallow water sirens like Wei WuXian stay in bays, coves, and coastal regions. It's a mystery why the Alpha is so far away from his own kind unless he's a rogue searching for a mate. Even then, the fact that the races don't interbreed often that that seems unusual to consider.

 

The Alpha did not scent the water or show any interest in courting Wei WuXian, leaving him very confused as why Lan WangJi saved him in the first place.

 

Dejected, Wei WuXian feels his stomach rumble for food. Nie MingJue watches him with concern, maybe sensing his hunger, and asks in sign, “Are you okay? Is there anything you need?

 

Hungry. I'll go by myself to the hunting grounds.” Wei WuXian's signing is blunt.

 

Are you sure?” Meng Yao shows concern as well. “We can accompany you if you don't feel safe.

 

I said I'm fine-

 

I'll go with you.” Nie HuaiSang signs that, determined. He cozies up to Wei WuXian like they're close friends. “You helped me out at the mating grounds. I'll help you hunt!

 

Wei WuXian is a little overwhelmed by all the help the pod wants to give him but he internally sighs and nods to Nie HuaiSang's offer. That puts the mates at ease and Wei WuXian swims side by side with Nie HuaiSang on the way to the open ocean. Wei WuXian supposes he can use the other Omega's help and he can distract him from searching for the Alpha. There are other things to worry about, he supposes. Like, he needs to start nesting already for his heat in summer. One of the important parts of that is building up a healthy layer of fat in order to be able to go up to two weeks without eating since he won't have an Alpha to care for him during it.

 

Nie HuaiSang chats with him as they enter a current to speed up their journey. He signs, “I know you're not found of being around others but maybe even having me around will keep Alphas away. Besides, you can tell me more about Jiang WanYin! I can't seem to get anything out of him when we talk...

 

Amused, Wei WuXian grins as he signs back, “You have a crush on him, don't you?

 

The blush Nie HuaiSang has is comical. He responds, “It's not that simple! He's another Omega. Nie MingJue keeps saying I need a proper Alpha... and I'm not interested in anyone else right now besides Jiang WanYin. He's not biologically an Alpha but he acts like an Alpha. Do you understand what I mean?

 

Sadly, Wei WuXian understands all too well. Jiang WanYin is biologically an Omega and pretends he sees himself as one but it's very obvious that he's lying about how he truly feels. When they were growing up, Jiang WanYin did not display Omega traits. He would bring Wei WuXian and his parents gifts of pearls, sea glass, and driftwood like Alpha children do to practice courting instead of practicing nesting like Wei WuXian and other Omega children do. It is like his instincts are backwards to what an Omega usually does. The worse part is that Jiang WanYin only stopped doing it after his own mother beat him for displaying such behavior on multiple occasions. You're an Omega! Act like it! Wei WuXian remembers Yu ZiYuan's furious signing at Jiang WanYin the last time he did the gifting. It broke Wei WuXian's heart to see his brother be treated so cruelly and it hurt even more to see his brother force himself to practice nesting just to satisfy his mother.

 

Maybe Jiang WanYin is one of those sirens who were born the wrong dynamic but he has internalized his true identity because of his mother. Wei WuXian feels like it's not fair and hopes that maybe Nie HuaiSang can help his brother realize who he truly is instead of believing what Yu ZiYuan beat into him.

 

I know what you mean...” Wei WuXian responds weakly. He doesn't sign anything else because Nie HuaiSang senses it's a sore subject. Instead, they continue swimming until they reach the coral reefs inside the hunting grounds.

 

Many types of colorful fish flit about their day, hiding for cover when the sirens swim too close. Nie HuaiSang licks his lips, tasting for scent of his prey of choice in such an environment. Wei WuXian can taste it in the water, too. An octopus has been through here, hiding somewhere in the reef. Wei WuXian observes around him for possible hiding places the creature could choose. Octopi are clever but sirens are the more intelligent predator. Wei WuXian focuses his senses to feel out any movement in the water hidden beneath the coral and rocks. Not necessarily interested in eating the octopus, Wei WuXian is interested in helping Nie HuaiSang catch it as a distraction. Once the animal is caught, Wei WuXian will look for his prey of choice; lobster.

 

Nie HuaiSang is up-turning rocks and reaching his arms into nooks and crannies for any hope of catching an octopus. He pouts every time he comes up empty-handed. Wei WuXian can't blame him even if he's not a fan of eating that type of creature. Wei WuXian assists, reaching his hand into little caverns that they like to hide. He finds rock shrimp, various species of exotic fish, and crabs but no octopus. Both Omegas grow frustrated the closer it gets to noon. Both are hungry and this is turning to be a waste of time to find the delicacy. Wei WuXian is about ready to call it quits and leave Nie HuaiSang on his own.

 

That is until Wei WuXian feels a tap on his shoulder from another siren. He turns and goes slack jaw at who it is. The Alpha from before, Lan WangJi, is there with a neutral expression. Wei WuXian just stares in surprise because he didn't think he would see the Alpha again.

 

Blinking his amber eyes, Lan WangJi asks in sign, “Looking for something?

 

Wei WuXian does the equivalent of stuttering in sign. He starts to sign something but then shakes his hands in reconsideration before getting the message across. “I-I can't find it- I mean, I'm looking for where the octopus is hiding with my friend.

 

Making a humming sound in the water and letting some air bubbles escape through his nose, Lan WangJi focuses his eyes on the reef by narrowing them. Wei WuXian soon realizes what this siren's hunting ability is; Lan WangJi has heat and movement vision. Wei WuXian watches the Alpha's eyes scan over every coral formation and rock structure, soon settling above a large rock and motioning Wei WuXian to join him. Wei WuXian swims over as Lan WangJi grips the rock, as if he's about to pull it up.

 

With a motion of his head, Wei WuXian understands what Lan WangJi wants him to do. The octopus is hidden under the rock but Lan WangJi wants him to be ready to catch it as it flees. Turning invisible, Wei WuXian readies himself to catch the thing. In an instant, the large rock is pulled and hurled to the side and the octopus flees for its life. However, it swims right into Wei WuXian's hands and he grips the head of the creature so hard it probably causes internal damage. The octopus struggles and wraps its tentacles around Wei WuXian's arms but it's no use since it won't survive long even if he lets go.

 

Nie HuaiSang takes notice and swims over. He seems to be in awe as he signs, “Whoa, you're strong, Alpha.

 

Lan WangJi can't respond with the large rock in his hands but nods. Wei WuXian reveals himself and offers the octopus to Nie HuaiSang. When Nie HuaiSang takes the octopus, he bites into it and paralyzes it with his venomous saliva. The poor thing struggles at first but soon goes limp. Ripping off tentacles, Nie HuaiSang offers them to Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi. Both sirens decline. Shrugging, Nie HuaiSang takes the octopus and goes off somewhere private to feast on the catch, leaving Wei WuXian alone with the Alpha.

 

When Wei WuXian turns to thank the Alpha, he's gone. Clenching his fists, Wei WuXian mentally curses. Dammit, you leave me before I can say 'thank you'? How rude!

 

Irritated, Wei WuXian starts heading to another part of the hunting grounds to look for lobster. Fine, if the Alpha wants to play hard to get then he won't get a 'thank you'. Wei WuXian tells himself he doesn't give a shit but damn, he really cares more than he should. Fuck that guy, I don't care, he lies to himself mentally.

 

 

Wei WuXian will admit he ate too much through the day. Eating five lobster and at least six small crabs, his stomach is very full and Wei WuXian returns to his den under the dock to take a nap. When he wakes, he senses it's the beginning of the hour of the sea lion by the darkness and position of the crescent moon in the sky. The stars serve as a directional guide and form constellations that he can't name. The tide is rising higher but it doesn't concern Wei WuXian. He listens to the sounds of the surface that many never really pay attention to; crickets, chirps of gulls settling into their nests, the ebb and flow of the waves, wind caressing the trees on the shoreline, and the sound of his own heartbeat in his ears.

 

He slept longer than he intended. The expectation is to only sleep for two hours at most but Wei WuXian practically wasted the day away with snoozing. He supposes it will mean he will be able to take advantage of the lonesome waters while other sirens sleep but being nocturnal often is lonely.

 

Stretching, Wei WuXian feels his joints pop from over-reaching and he groans slightly from discomfort. Waking up always is a chore but a necessary one. Wei WuXian dives underwater and takes inventory of his small, growing nest. Wen Yuan's little gifts of pearls and interesting shells litter the nest along with weaved seaweed bedding. Driftwood is carefully being built to form a protective barrier for any storms that crop up during the late summer to mid-winter. It won't be much but it might protect his tiny den from being destroyed when he returns in the spring or at least, give him privacy during his mating cycle even sooner.

 

What alarms him at first is when he tastes the scent of an Alpha in the water but slowly realizes he recognizes the scent as an Alpha he knows. Almost thinking it's Nie MingJue, he realizes it's from a different one all together. But, how does he recognize this scent without being sure who it is? If it was Jin GuangShan or the tropical Alpha before that, he would know immediately.

 

Curious, Wei WuXian exits his den and peers into the darkness. He can't see anything but the faint scent is there, heading down the coastline towards the mouth of the river. It can't be Wen Yuan since the tiny Alpha has a scent too weak to be this noticeable and it's way past the child's bedtime. Even the Wen pod would notice if one of their little ones left in the middle of the night. Propelling himself through the water, Wei WuXian cautiously follows the scent to investigate who the Alpha is.

 

The scent becomes more profound when he reaches the mouth of the river where a seaweed grove in a tiny cove is home to sea otters and various fish species. There is almost a resting place where the sea lions and seals rest periodically on the rocks and beach. Wei WuXian stays away from the current from the river since the freshwater feels uncomfortable against his eyes and skin; the lack of salt is uncomfortable and he is not like the freshwater nymphs, another race of sirens, who can live in the rivers. Sure enough, the Alpha must have the same aversion since their scent leads to the coastline where the seals are currently resting.

 

Breaching the surface, Wei WuXian uses the moonlight to investigate his surroundings. Dozens of seals either sleep or lazily rest in the sand, seemingly unperturbed by Wei WuXian's presence since sirens are not a threat to them. The coastline abruptly ends at a small cliff lining the cove the seals are taking refuge. It's cozy and comforting. However, Wei WuXian finds the Alpha on the beach.

 

Lan WangJi is simply sitting on a high rock, watching the seals rest. The Alpha is majestic in his own way; his now dry hair gently blows in the wind, framing his neutral expression while his eyes show curiosity about the furry mammals. It's a sight that oddly traps Wei WuXian's gaze into something admiring. He's beautiful and Wei WuXian will admit that to himself.

 

Somehow, the two sirens meet eyes. Wei WuXian almost can't breathe because he's not sure how to react. The Alpha blinks and then continues to stare at him in a questioning gaze that seems to ask 'what-is-it?'. How is Wei WuXian supposed to proceed? Sure, he searched for this Alpha for over a week but now he has a chance to communicate and he's floored.

 

As the awkward silence continues, eventually Lan WangJi breaks the tension by signing, “Join me?

 

Breaking the tension, Wei WuXian obliges and climbs onto the rock beside him. Up close, Wei WuXian can see the detailed shimmer of Lan WangJi's tail and skin and the contrast of the metallic shades. His tail is darker in tone than his upper body. Damn, Lan WangJi really is gorgeous. Maybe it's because Wei WuXian has always found the deep sea sirens to be stunning because of how exotic they seem compared to himself but maybe this Alpha seems more interesting to him because he was saved by him.

 

That reminds Wei WuXian what he's been trying to do for awhile now, signing frantically, “Thank you! I mean... thank you for saving me from the pod leader back then.” The neutral expression from the Alpha doesn't change but he's obviously paying attention, letting Wei WuXian continue. “You didn't need to save me but I'm really grateful.

 

Are you sure? Even I am told the rumors about Jin GuangShan's crimes against Omegas. I felt you were in danger of being another victim.” The bluntness makes Wei WuXian frown because Lan WangJi is correct. He was going to be a victim if it had not been for the Alpha's help.

 

However, Wei WuXian does have some pride and changes to a frustrated pout. He argues, “I'm not completely helpless! I have enough backbone to stand up to him, at least.

 

Earning a smile, Lan WangJi agrees. “You do. It was quite impressive.

 

That turns Wei WuXian's cheeks slightly pink with the flattery but he composes himself and remembers some other things he wanted to ask. Leaning in close and smirking, Wei WuXian asks in sign, “What brings you to this part of the ocean? I thought your kind lived with the sea dragons and sharks?

 

Raising an eyebrow, Lan WangJi doesn't reply at first but Wei WuXian's waggle of the eyebrows coaxes an answer out of him. Lan WangJi dubiously answers, “Oddly enough, mating.

 

That loses Wei WuXian's amusement. Oh, so he's like any other Alpha. Moving away from the Alpha, Wei WuXian continues with flowing movement of his hands. “An Omega's song? Or, is it just to procure offspring like every other Alpha in the ocean?” Perhaps there is annoyance and distrust in his signing and expression. Wei WuXian might find this Alpha attractive but he's not tying himself down to the first Alpha who seems nice to him.

 

Seeming disappointed and wary, Lan WangJi answers slowly. “... A song. I heard an Omega but I have yet to find them.

 

Breathing a sigh of relief, Wei WuXian is put at ease. Lan WangJi isn't like the rest, wanting to seek out his correct mate through song. After encountering so many Alphas who are only interested in sex, it's a breath of fresh air. However, the way Lan WangJi won't meet his eyes suggests there is something hidden in his answer. Like, a truth is hidden but Wei WuXian hasn't earned the right to know it yet.

 

He decides to not push and simply reply, “That's actually quite noble of you. Most Alphas don't have that kind of romance anymore.

 

There's a hum of agreement from the Alpha and Wei WuXian feels satisfied. The two simply share space under the moonlight until Lan WangJi taps his shoulder and asks, “What about you? Are you interested in mating?

 

Wei WuXian audibly laughs. That's hilarious to him and he allows himself to get the giggles out before he rants, “I have no desire to be tied down unless an Alpha can hear my voice and I want to mate them! The whole purpose of mating is to procure strong offspring for the next generation, right? Why would I do that when I don't feel I can do that... and why would I do that when I'm one of the idiots who still believes in true love when it doesn't exist? Doesn't that mean I'm destined to be unhappy? I wouldn't put a child through that.” The tone of his sign drastically changes to something somber towards the end.

 

“...” Lan WangJi regards him quietly with a vulnerable expression. He is motionless and thoughtful for a long time until he responds, “I don't think you're idiotic for believing in such a thing. If you're an idiot for thinking that, what does that make me?

 

He has a point but Wei WuXian tries to pretend it means nothing and asks, “Do you need help finding your mate? I can help you while you're searching for them adjust to life in Cyan Bay. Is that alright?

 

First wide-eyed and then melting into a gaze of complacency, Lan WangJi nods.

 

Wei WuXian is internally excited because he wants to spend time with this Alpha. He may not be his Alpha but he is handsome enough to indulge in his presence for awhile, right? Wei WuXian might as well take advantage. He is blissfully unaware what truths Lan WangJi hides from him and perhaps it should stay that way. He is comfortable enough to invite the Alpha to his den as a friend and the Alpha accepts, seemingly fatigued from a long day. Somehow, Wei WuXian is able to fall back asleep with the Alpha resting on his back beside him.

 

Chapter Text

Perhaps inviting Lan WangJi to sleep in his den is a mistake because Wei WuXian can tell that other sirens somehow still know about it. Sirens have nothing better to do than gossip; all it takes is one to see something happen and word spreads like wildfire. Wei WuXian is invisible, using his hunting ability, while accompanying Lan WangJi at the mating grounds but he can see the gossip the other Omegas are spreading from his place in the water. Lan WangJi is here to scout out for his Omega and Wei WuXian is an extra set of eyes to help but damn, the gossip about himself is pretty spicy considering he has no idea who started it.

 

A female and a male Omega are signing when Lan WangJi's back is turned. The female starts with, “That Alpha is only here because Wei WuXian rejected him, I bet.

 

Huh? I thought they were mates? They sleep in the same den together most nights from what I hear.

 

I thought the same after hearing Jin GuangShan tried to rape him. I thought Wei WuXian would choose that new Alpha after that but I guess you can't change Wei WuXian's independent spirit.

 

I mean, what if Wei WuXian is actually a Beta? Who wouldn't want to mate that guy? He's hotter than most of the Alphas who show up here to court and he insists he'll only mate an Omega that can hear his voice!

 

Shrugging, the female signs, “It doesn't matter, I suppose. Wei WuXian isn't here to refute or clarify what I heard from Wen Ning.

 

Ah, so Wen Ning is the one I need to have a chat with, thinks Wei WuXian. Wen Ning must have seen the confrontation with Jin GuangShan and couldn't help but spread rumors. How fucking annoying.

 

Frustrated, Wei WuXian reveals himself in order to make the Omegas shut up about his mating life. The Omegas freeze for a moment before going back to singing their mediocre songs. Lan WangJi turns and smiles when he sees Wei WuXian. Smirking, Wei WuXian joins him and signs, “Any luck yet?

 

I haven't heard his voice all day.” Lan WangJi replies in monotone sign.

 

Wait, a male voice? You know your Omega is male?” Wei WuXian is genuinely curious.

 

With a nod, Lan WangJi clarifies, “I remember a male voice. My mate is male and I have had yet to hear him today. I don't think he's here.

 

With a sinking feeling, Wei WuXian reminds himself to keep himself from getting his hopes up. Honestly, maybe his mating instincts are getting to him because fuck, he is attracted to this siren and he needs to keep reminding himself that it can't be him that belongs to the Alpha. There's no way Lan WangJi could have ever heard his voice so why is he so expectant for him to claim him? He realizes he can put the nail in the coffin of this one way: Wei WuXian can try singing himself.

 

Wei WuXian hides his emotions behind a smirk and signs, “I guess I'll try singing while I'm here. It's not like you can hear my voice anyway, right?

 

“...”

 

Taking the silence for agreement, Wei WuXian climbs back onto the highest rock like he did before and hums the song he sang before. Staring out at the ocean, a wave of melancholy washes over him and he is reminded of the loneliness he experienced on his own in the open ocean. It's a sinking feeling, humming the words of the verses before singing so low that it's barely a whisper:

 

With a face just like a child,

 

I want to take your hand for just awhile,

 

Perhaps it will be this song that I will finally find you,

 

I want to cry knowing I may never find you.

 

Will you bring me my beating heart?

 

Even if I might not know where I misplaced yours?”

 

 

Lan WangJi knows that Wei WuXian has no idea he can hear him but he's not ready to reveal that he can... especially when it allows him to casually hear such words of pining love and desire to sing a response to it.

 

When Wei WuXian pauses his singing, Lan WangJi feigns ignorance of having heard such a divine voice. Wei WuXian has always been hard to get, untouchable, since they were children. Lan WangJi hasn't earned the right to have Wei WuXian as his mate. Not yet. Not while Wei WuXian doesn't remember anything and is reluctant to commit to any Alpha. Lan WangJi doesn't want to appear like all the other Alphas who just want to father children.

 

He has no choice right now but to pretend he can't hear him. Otherwise, Lan WangJi fears he will scare off his one true mate.

 

 

In another part of Cyan Bay, Meng Yao and Nie MingJue are sharing clams and mackerel. They two are deep in a conversation, signing between bites of food as they pass their meal between each other. Meng Yao signs, “As much as I stay away from the gossip, it's curious that Wei WuXian might have found a mate already.

 

With a tired and dubious gaze, Nie MingJue rationalizes, “Come on, you know better than to assume. What was his name... Lan WangJi? He's probably only visiting because he heard some other Omega and Wei WuXian got caught up in it all.

 

Pouting, Meng Yao counters, “Regardless, it's obvious Wei WuXian is smitten and I barely know him. He doesn't seem to be the type of Omega to allow any Alpha to waltz into his territory and go 'oh sure, you can sleep in my den'.

 

You don't even know if Wen Ning is just talking whale shit because he's jealous. Seriously, don't be gullible.

 

With a roll of the eyes, Meng Yao signs, “Whatever. It's all rumor and banter.” He pauses before he admits, “I'm worried for Wei WuXian, even if he's not part of our pod officially. If what you say is true and that Alpha is pursuing another Omega, Wei WuXian is going to get his heart broken.

 

The sentiment is shared by Nie MingJue's deep frown and the two keep eating until only bones and empty shells remain. Burying the remains in the sand, Nie MingJue seems distracted. Meng Yao can't entirely place the reason why but feels it's something unrelated to Wei WuXian's plight. His mate can be read by his scent and Meng Yao's own instincts. They wouldn't be as close of mates if not for it. As Nie MingJue starts to swim off somewhere into the seaweed grove, Meng Yao stops him with a hand.

 

Nie MingJue is confused until Meng Yao releases him and asks in sign, “What's wrong? Is something on your mind I don't know about?

 

Conflicted in expression, Nie MingJue takes his time to figure out how he wants to word it before he replies, “We became mates five years ago, right?

 

Meng Yao softens at the memory. He remembers being at the mating grounds, having sung his heart out for days on end that turned into weeks, and losing hope he would ever find a mate. It was the year of the starfish and a soothsayer of their species had warned Meng Yao that he had to expect trouble in his life because he was born under an awful star sign. Just when he felt his voice start to become hoarse, it was Nie HuaiSang who approached him and said, “My brother is too shy to admit this but he thinks your voice is heavenly.” Sure enough, Nie MingJue was in the distance with flushed cheeks as he watched Meng Yao. It was the sweetest, yet most awkward, way Meng Yao could have ever imagined meeting his mate.

 

That's right. What about it?” Meng Yao feels some uncertainty about what his mate could be thinking.

 

Nie MingJue stares pitifully at his mate for a long moment before he gets to the point. “Other pods are starting to talk. I know you and I have really tried but is it possible that one of us is sterile? We keep trying to get pregnant and it never seems to happen. I know you don't like it when I bring it up.

 

Meng Yao grits his teeth as he tenses. He knew this would come up between them again. They both worry about this; the first two years of mating season felt like something they could ignore but after the third year, it is obvious that Meng Yao is not as fertile as he thought he is or Nie MingJue might be having difficulties himself. Neither is sure who is at fault or if it's just the environment they are in but both are concerned since they desire to have children, to grow their own pod.

 

We can't be sterile.” Meng Yao explains, “If one of us was sterile, there wouldn't be a mating cycle. I wouldn't be having heats if it were me and you wouldn't be having ruts if you weren't. Neither of us are Betas. We just need to keep trying, okay?

 

Seemingly doubtful, Nie MingJue shakes his head and responds, “If it doesn't happen this year, we're going to have to start trying other things. You know what I mean, right?

 

Meng Yao knows what he means; they need to try things that are said to help promote fertility. He already has increased his intake of seaweed and fattier fish, like mackerel and salmon, because it helps with that. Even Nie MingJue has been eating more shellfish to help on his end to prepare for mating season. Both are trying, really hard, but Meng Yao can tell that Nie MingJue has growing insecurities about it since it is the fifth year and most Omegas get pregnant by their second or third year, if not the first. Any siren couple would worry about it by now.

 

Feeling his heart sink, Meng Yao answers by hugging his mate. Nie MingJue holds him close until he lets go to sign, “We'll do whatever it takes. I'll see a sea witch or soothsayer if I have to. I know we can have a child but it's taking a long time...

 

Meeting eyes, the two meet in a brief kiss before going off their separate ways to tend to their daily routines. They need to focus on collecting food and preparing for the worst... especially when Meng Yao can feel the brewing of a storm on the surface.

 

Chapter Text

Time passes. Now, it's the ninety-fifth day of the year and closer to the middle of spring. The closer it gets to summer, Omegas start to feel their nesting and mating instincts take over. For Wei WuXian, it's so different than what he's used to. He wonders if this is what Jiang WanYin suffered with last year; the erotic dreams, the intrusive day dreams about sex, and the standard increase of nesting. He notices all Omegas around him are starting to show the same behavior as hormonal changes causes Omegas to be, well, more horny.

 

Wei WuXian notices it in Meng Yao and Nie HuaiSang since he's closest to them; Meng Yao is showing more affection to Nie MingJue in a teasing way to spur on the Alpha to act and Nie HuaiSang is away most days to go and court Jiang WanYin. It's almost funny to see Nie MingJue get flustered by his mate and show obvious interest in the seduction techniques but still restrain himself under the reasoning of not putting his lust out in the open. That doesn't fool Wei WuXian, or Meng Yao, because it's obvious that Nie MingJue really just wants to make love to his mate and not care who sees but he's practicing restraint anyway. Meanwhile, Wei WuXian can catch when Nie HuaiSang falls into his erotic day dreams every once in awhile. His face makes a funny expression when it happens and he gets flustered when interrupted.

 

Regardless, Wei WuXian notices himself getting more... brazen, to say the least. He knows he's taking it out on Lan WangJi because of how horny he is. The Alpha sleeps in his den, for the goodness' sake. How can he not let out some of his pent up energy? Besides, Lan WangJi must have the restraint of a saint because he barely seems to react to Wei WuXian until the Omega goes too far.

 

Since they haven't found Lan WangJi's Omega yet, Wei WuXian finds excuses to tease Lan WangJi to let off some steam. His mating instincts just want him to court Lan WangJi but that's doesn't seem like an option. Instead, he uses his sign language to tease the Alpha with combination signs, or puns.

 

Lan WangJi.” He does the equivalent of calling his name by tapping the Alpha's shoulder while they're at the hunting grounds. When the Alpha turns, Wei WuXian signs, “Could you kelp me hunt?

 

Lan WangJi immediately rolls his eyes at the combination of the sign for 'kelp' and 'help'.

 

Hey! I didn't do it on porpoise! You gotta believe me!

 

Shaking his head and avoiding a laugh underwater, Lan WangJi tries to swim away. Wei WuXian stops him to make him read the signing of, “Come one, you know my puns are krill-iant.

 

Stop it.” The signing from Lan WangJi is deadpan, as if he's trying not to laugh.

 

Okay, I'll stop since you won't survive my next wave of jokes.

 

After that Lan WangJi stops him by asking, “You want lobster?

 

That stops Wei WuXian's puns because his hungry belly wants food. “Yes.”

 

That leads into them searching the rocky crevices for the crustaceans. Sure, there's quite a few crabs but Wei WuXian is being picky. He tosses aside the crabs he finds that Lan WangJi happily picks up and breaks the shells of to eat. Lobster are more clever than many would consider. They can sense movement in the water and know how to hide efficiently from predators, making it even difficult for sirens to find them too often. Wei WuXian can taste the scent of them in the area but just can't find one.

 

Licking his lips after eating a fourth crab, Lan WangJi joins his side and gets his attention. “You're not going to find them that easily.”

 

No shit, it's not going well for me.

 

They're hiding under the larger rocks because they know you're not strong enough to lift them.

 

Wei WuXian narrows his eyes and challenges, “Then help me, big strong Alpha. Use your meaty hands and lift some boulders.

 

The dubious gaze Lan WangJi says it all and Wei WuXian immediately apologizes, “Maybe that was too condescending. I'm sorry.

 

Forgiven.” Lan WangJi replies before he swims over to a boulder and inspects it. Wei WuXian is familiar with Lan WangJi's hunting ability so he trusts that the man knows where to hunt for lobster despite his deep sea upbringing.

 

As it turns out, Lan WangJi overturns a boulder structure and lobster scatter everywhere. Wei WuXian is faster and catches two of them while Lan WangJi captures a couple as well. The rest flee for safety. Wei WuXian starts to crack open the shells for his current ones at hand while Lan WangJi watches with interest.

 

When Wei WuXian finishes the ones in his own hands, he's surprised when Lan WangJi has disconnected the tail meat from the lobsters in his hands and offers them to Wei WuXian. “Still hungry?

 

Nodding, Wei WuXian is about to take the tails into his own hands but Lan WangJi seems insistent on hand-feeding the Omega. Wei WuXian is a little shy by something that would normally be considered courting but cautiously allows the Alpha to feed him from his hands. For some reason, the kind gesture seems to make the meat sweeter.

 

Both with free hands after burying the empty shells, Lan WangJi asks, “What now?

 

Maybe your mate is with the Wen pod? We've checked the Jin pod, Nie HuaiSang, and my brother. You're not able to hear any of their voices.Thankfully, think Wei WuXian. It would be disastrous if Lan WangJi somehow split up some existing mates. Well, if one of Jin GuangShan's Omegas were Lan WangJi's mate, it would be a blessing to that Omega to be free of the pod leader but disheartening to Wei WuXian's mood.

 

Lan WangJi doesn't seem enthused but replies, “We can try. Wen RuoHan is not fond of outsiders, right?

 

Pod leader Wen RuoHan is very distrusting of outsiders if they have no ties to the pod. Wei WuXian is an exception since his mother is related to one of the pod leader's great aunts. Technically, Wei WuXian is family but the pod won't accept him since he's the child of an exiled member from a generation ago. Wen Ning and his sister, Wen Qing, are the only ones who are mostly civil with him, even when he was a child. Wen RuoHan will let him sometimes enter their territory but will never let him stay too long.

 

Correct. We both need to be cautious since the pod leader is not above murder of outsiders.” Wei WuXian puts himself in deep thought for a moment on whether they should go there today and decides, “Let's go.

 

Following, the two sirens make their way to the territory of the Wen pod. Wei WuXian knows the pod has a few biological Omegas he could have heard the voices of.

 

 

The Wen territory has some volcanic activity under the surface of the water, allowing heat vents where lava flows warm the waters so the older sirens can stay in the bay during the winter. Because of this advantage, the sirens of the Wen pod often live a lot longer since sometimes the pod is prepared for years when the monsters of the deep ocean are more active by simply staying in their homeland and only the younger Alphas leave home to hunt. On the other hand, summers are almost unbearable because of the heat. The naturally warm waters are pleasant now, relaxing Wei WuXian but he can tell that Lan WangJi is not liking the heat. Deep sea sirens are used to colder waters; it's natural for them.

 

Wei WuXian reaches the edge of the territory where the heat vents appear and Wei WuXian asks, “Ready?

 

Yes.”

 

Wei WuXian leads the Alpha through the safe paths around the heat vents so neither are burnt. In some places, the water is boiling hot. They get through the heat vents without a problem but are met with a pint-sized surprise.

Wei WuXian!” Wen Yuan appears and his excited signing begins. “I missed you!

 

Wei WuXian smiles and brings the tiny Alpha into a hug. When they let go, Wen Yuan gives Lan WangJi a cautious gaze. Children know to be cautious around sirens they don't know. Infanticide used to be rampant until a mass extinction caused by climate change less than a century ago. Wei WuXian was not alive yet during it but children are taught not to trust strangers so readily. Which is interesting because Wen Yuan has never feared Wei WuXian even though he's a stranger, technically.

 

Wei WuXian comforts the tiny Alpha, “This is Lan WangJi. He's from the deep sea. Say hi.

 

Wen Yuan is braver than most children and does something Wei WuXian finds so cute. The little Alpha puffs up his chest in challenge at Lan WangJi and signs, “What brings you here? You're not scary.

 

Who said I wanted to be scary, little kelp?” The nickname deflates Wen Yuan because he's being treated like a child and shies away when Lan WangJi ruffles his hair with a head pat.

 

Wei WuXian finds it endearing that Lan WangJi is gentle with the child. Wen Yuan swims to hide behind Wei WuXian and the Omega comforts the child by signing to him, “Lan WangJi is a good siren. He won't hurt you.

 

He's trying to court you, isn't he? He's going to take you away from me.” Wen Yuan seems so sad to sign that.

 

Wei WuXian blushes so deep that he is flustered to correct Wen Yuan. “N-No! He's looking for his Omega and they might be in your pod! Don't be silly, Wen Yuan.”

Not convinced, Wen Yuan gives Lan WangJi a glare and Lan WangJi simply gives a smug look when Wei WuXian isn't looking. After that, Wei WuXian insists they all follow to the main pod's settlement. He has no idea that Wen Yuan and Lan WangJi are occasionally exchanging challenging gazes behind him. Aside from that, he focuses on the upcoming settlement. At least a dozen sirens are flitting about with harvesting seaweed and using small spears to collect fish, storing their catch in woven baskets that must have been made from materials from the land outside the ocean. They regard the newcomers with suspicion and soon enough, Wen Ning and Wen Qing appear. Wen Qing has a lithe but muscular figure, signaling the Alpha dominance she possesses. Her hair is unrestrained, unlike her brother. Her brother has a more timid form but she is anything but. Her eyes only soften when she approaches and greets, “Welcome, Wei WuXian. Who is the Alpha?

 

Wei WuXian notices Wen Ning is watching not too far away. Good, he can have a talk with him about the rumors he spread. He turns his attention to the Alpha and introduces, “This is Lan WangJi. I'm helping him find his Omega.

 

She raises an eyebrow and signs, “Oh, really? What makes you think his Omega is here?

 

Where else? Jin pod, Jiang pod, and Nie pod have all been checked. There's the Ouyang pod outside the bay but he insists they're a Cyan Bay siren. Can you at least allow us to investigate?

 

She seems reluctant but eventually caves. “Fine, don't make a fool out of yourself.

 

He smiles and turns to Lan WangJi is ask in sign, “Want me to help you talk to the Omegas or...?

 

Lan WangJi shakes his head and signs, “Do what you want.”

 

Wei WuXian is relieved since he's not too excited to see Lan WangJi claim an Omega. Instead, he lets Lan WangJi wander about to chat with the other Omegas while he does what he wants to do; talk with Wen Ning.

 

Chapter Text

A little too miffed, Wei WuXian knows his gaze is intimidating. Wen Ning visibly swallows as he approaches and signs rapidly, “How dare you spread rumors about me and Lan WangJi? He's not even courting me! He only saved me and that was it!

 

Fidgeting, Wen Ning stutters through his signing. “I-I swear it was for your own good! Just let me explain. Please...

 

Wei WuXian manages to get his annoyance under control and let Wen Ning continue an explanation. “I saw everything. I couldn't do anything!” Wen Ning looks around to make sure no one is watching their conversation and signs, “When I saw that deep sea siren save you, I knew Jin GuangShan was afraid of him. I spread rumors you two could be mates so other Alphas wouldn't try to court you. I know you're not interested in courting but I might have screwed up. I'm sorry. I... I didn't want you to end up like Wen Yuan's mother.

 

Relaxing and understanding the logic behind it, Wei WuXian wants to sigh. He knows what Wen Ning's motives were; it's known that their species is recovering from almost extinction and Alphas are more aggressive to find mates partly because of it. It's part of the reason why romance is dying and less sirens are searching for partners who are compatible using their songs. As a result, rape and forced mating are becoming more common. While both are considered the most heinous acts in siren culture, it's becoming more common due to desperation and survival of their species. It's not right but Wen Ning is trying his best to help Wei WuXian avoid the fate of many lone Omegas. Perhaps, it's because Wen Ning was once an Omega himself before his breeding cycles ended; he wants to look out for Omegas.

 

However, Wei WuXian puffs out his chest and advises, “Don't spread anymore rumors. I'm only helping Lan WangJi find his mate, nothing else. Got it?



But... what if he chooses you? You know very well that romance and soulmates are becoming a dead idea within our community. In fact, what if he's compatible with you and you two can raise strong children together?” Wen Ning is blunt, like there's an ulterior motive to saying that.

 

Wei WuXian wants to blush and be angry but manages not to make an outburst. Instead, he makes sure no one is still watching and signs a reply. “I don't think that would happen.” He pauses, feeling his heart sink. “He wants the siren he can hear the voice of. He's strongly enriched in the belief of soulmates from what I've gathered. I'm not his soulmate; it's impossible he would choose me.

 

But, have you found his soulmate yet? If you don't and he stays by you, what will you do?

 

Wei WuXian is unsure what to say about that, floored by it. He takes almost a couple minutes to come to the conclusion of, “I... don't know. Shoo him away? I won't mate an Alpha unless they're my soulmate, Wen Ning. I promised myself I wouldn't be like all the other Omegas forced into breeding pairs instead of finding a mate. If it breaks my heart, so be it.

So, you admit you have feelings for him already.” Wen Ning has a pitying gaze as he signs that.

 

I do and it sucks.” Wei WuXian is honest with him. They're family; he can trust Wen Ning with a secret like that.

 

As if on cue, Lan WangJi approaches and informs Wei WuXian, “My mate isn't here.

 

Both sirens blink at Lan WangJi. It's Wei WuXian who puts on a metaphorical mask and pretends to be fine, whining, “That can't be! There are no other pods in the area we can ask! Are you sure they're a Cyan Bay siren?

 

Lan WangJi nods with a pathetic gaze. If his mate isn't in the Wen pod, where are they? Have they left Cyan Bay? This is ridiculous. Even more, it's ridiculous that Wei WuXian is anticipating his heart to be broken already just to get it over with. Observing around them, Wei WuXian suggests, “Let's call it a day then. Go back to the drawing board, so to speak.” The human idiom is one of Wei WuXian's favorites, even if he doesn't know what a drawing board is.

 

A little confused by it, Lan WangJi ignores the idiom and nods in agreement. It's just in time because the last siren they wanted to see, Wen RuoHan, arrives back from whatever he was doing. The Alpha leader is almost larger than Lan WangJi, making him huge, his hair flows wispy in the water, and his eyes are almost carnelian red to the point it's like they're staring into a person's soul. Glaring at them, Wen RuoHan approaches with an aggressive scent radiating off him.

 

It's Wen Qing that stops him from approaching further and causing any bodily harm to any of them. She tries to calm the pod leader. “They're visiting. They mean no harm.

 

Lan WangJi releases a submissive scent, trying to signal he doesn't mean any harm. That makes Wei WuXian uneasy, unsure what to do now. It's Wen RuoHan who narrows his eyes and asks in sign, “State your reason for being here. What is an unknown Alpha doing in my pod's territory and why is Wei WuXian here?

Gritting his teeth, Wei WuXian is cautious as he answers honestly, “I'm here with this Alpha. I am helping him search for his mate. His mate is not here; we will leave, pod leader.

 

The moment is tense for almost minutes on end as Wen RuoHan looks them over with his cruel eyes. Damn, he's scary, thinks Wei WuXian. Of course, Wei WuXian has no standing in the pod being the child of an exile. He can't persuade the pod leader to let them go unpunished. He can sense there's something horrifying planned in the pod leader's mind from his scent alone.

 

Another agonizing moment passes and Wen RuoHan admonishes, “Who gave you the right to come and mingle with our pod? And, you also bring an Alpha to our pod I do not know? Wei WuXian, you certainly are brazen. I don't put blame on the Alpha for your impish decisions.” The suggestion in the Alpha's signing signals punishment is nigh. Wei WuXian backs away and hides behind Lan WangJi submissively. This is his fault but he instinctively feels safer behind Lan WangJi. Wen RuoHan smirks as he proposes, “Perhaps a roasting of the flesh is of demand? Something to teach the exile's child a lesson.

 

The other pod members are gathered around and all seem to uneasily go along with the brutal suggestion, except Wen Ning and Wen Qing who have their bodies tense and ready to intervene. However, it's Lan WangJi who raises his hands and signs a threat. “Touch him and I will kill you.

 

Wei WuXian is wide-eyed at the threat, seeing malice in Lan WangJi's eyes upon closer inspection. Lan WangJi is protecting him? He can't believe the Alpha would do that again. In fact, the rest of the Wen pod seems nervous that this won't end well.

 

Surprised, Wen RuoHan furrow his brow and asks, “Excuse me? Are you sure you know who you're speaking to?

 

You saw my signing correctly, pod leader.” Lan WangJi continues, “We are only here to investigate. We'll be leaving now. If you follow or try to touch Wei WuXian, I will make you suffer for it.” He motions Wei WuXian to follow, signing, “We're leaving.

 

Wei WuXian is so stunned by the dominance display that he simply obeys Lan WangJi. Looking over his shoulder, he can see the entirety of the Wen pod stare in fear as Wen RuoHan looks like he's about to boil over in anger. Wen Yuan is hiding behind Wen Ning in fear as the pod leader swims off to what appears to be his den in the distance in a huff.

 

Later on, Wei WuXian will have to make sure the pod is not suffering from one of Wen RuoHan's moods. He worries for Wen Yuan since he's likely to be neglected because of a pod leader's fickle moods. In fact, it makes him remember that Wen Ning mentioned something about his mother. What happened to her that her son is under his uncle and aunt's care?

 

When they're out of the Wen territory, Wei WuXian doesn't question it when Lan WangJi punches a large crack into a boulder. It's probably just some Alpha behavior thing when two dominants go head to head. At least, that's what Wei WuXian assumes.

 

 

“Dad, I want to know about my other dad.” Meng Yao's child asks this for what seems to be the dozenth time. “You always avoid talking about him! I wanna know more about him.”

Frustrated, Meng Yao scolds, “Nie Shuang, I told you we are not going to discuss this!” Realizing he spoke too loud and startled the sheep around them, Meng Yao takes a breath to calm and softens a bit. “Talking about him brings me a lot of pain. Please, son, don't make me relive his death.”

“So... he is dead?”

“... Most likely, yes.” Meng Yao sighs because he realizes he might as well tell the rest of the story. “Your father's name was Nie MingJue. That's where you got your pod name. He died... at least, that's the only logical explanation no matter how much I want him to swim to the shore and live with us. He promised he would live with us and he couldn't keep his promise!” Meng Yao is tearing up, wiping his eyes so he can concentrate on the task of checking the hooves of all the sheep.

 

“... If you lived in the ocean before I was born, how do you know how to live on land?”

It's a good question, one that he never thought his child would ask. It's a safer question because it makes Meng Yao think about the good times, not the bad. Nie Shuang seems to realize this, too. Meng Yao considers telling him about it and decides he should. He lets the sheep flee from him and motions his son to sit beside him on a wooden crate. Nie Shuang sits beside him as he starts to explain, “Some sirens know how to live on land. It's knowledge passed onto us from those who were born on land before they came to the ocean. Some mated humans and others were born living in two worlds. It was long before the humans disappeared.”

 

“How long ago? Before I was born? Before you and Dad were born?”

 

“Before even I or your other father were born.” Meng Yao explains. “When I became your other father's mate, he explained to me he had human ancestry. He's not a full siren by blood. His father has been taught how to live on land his his father and so on. One of the things your other father wished for was a life free of the challenges of the ocean... He taught me about the surface and how the humans disappeared. We wanted to live on the surface together when the time was right but it didn't happen before you were born. H-He-” He stops himself because it becomes too painful remembering the winter when Nie MingJue disappeared, maybe even died. He knows his son has heard the song he sings to try and guide his mate home in desperation for him to be alive but it's really no use.

 

“Dad taught you how to raise sheep?” Nie Shuang asks, curious and trying to distract his father from bad memories.

“Yes and no. He taught me how to read human books but I learned how to raise sheep from reading human texts on how to do so then put it into practice. It's the same with weaving and everything else I do to care for you.”

 

“... Can you teach me how to read, too? Also, what's a book?”

 

Meng Yao chuckles and stands. They've checked most of the sheep's hooves; it can't hurt to take Nie Shuang to one of the last remaining human libraries, can it? “I'll show you. Follow me.

 

Chapter Text

Humans have left behind a skeleton of their former civilization. Sure, literal bones remain but the true value of what they left behind is in their building structures and libraries that Meng Yao has scoured for all the little bits of knowledge he can. With Nie Shuang beside him, he wanders through the concrete and wood buildings that remain. His son has never asked what happened to the humans explicitly but it's assumed they're all dead. All that remains are the paved streets and baubles of a civilization destroyed and faded from existence.

 

Nie Shuang is ahead but not very far, wonder sparkling through his eyes over the tall structures that make their own home pale in comparison. Meng Yao feels his parental instincts worry at him because sometimes the large buildings collapse. In fact, it will be only a matter of time before the library will be gone from decay of the structures around them. If only there were a way for sirens to make books of their own that can survive underwater, the knowledge could be saved by the sirens.

 

“Dad, where is the library?” Nie Shuang asks, easily confused where they're going at this point having never been in the skeletal city before (or at least that he remembers).

 

“Keep going straight. You see the building with the green arches? That's it.”

 

Nie Shuang sees the building in the distance and grins before sprinting to it. Meng Yao scolds a bit before he runs after his own child. He has a bow and a quiver of arrows with him in case they meet any dangerous foes; the humans might be gone but creatures like goblins, kobolds, and other wildlife still inhabit the lands. Humans could not destroy all the wild creatures and lower intelligent life that live in this world while they existed.

 

Arriving at the library, Nie Shuang waits for his father to catch up. Meng Yao pouts at his son when close enough and admonishes, “Don't run too far ahead! I can't protect you if you do that.”

 

“I got excited! I wanna know what a book is and how you read it.”

 

Softening, Meng Yao goes to the door and opens it for his son. “I'll show you.”

 

Inside, Nie Shuang's breath is taken away by the tall bookcases that reach the high ceilings and the sheer size of the interior of the library. Thousands upon thousands of books on every topic exist here, waiting to be read. Nie Shuang walks past windows that are cracked and withering wood on tables and chairs. His only question is, “Where do we even start?”

 

“The children's books. I'll teach you how it all works.”

 

Of course, sirens have intelligence beyond human range. They can learn the most complex things from an early age and never lose their ability to learn new skills, even as adults. If Meng Yao hadn't been taught to read by his mate, he would have been able to decode human language within four months and read at a child's reading level. He was able to learn everything he needed to know to survive in a year with his ability to read already taught to him. He knows his son picks up on how the organization system of the library works very quickly; he knows his son will learn to read even faster than he himself did.

 

The library visits become a ritual for the two sirens three days a week for three months, when autumn ends and turns to winter. Even as the snow falls on the landscape, the two don't shy away from taking pleasure in reading. As much as Nie Shuang loves fiction novels, which he brings home some for Meng Yao to read to him before bed, he loves learning even more. Humans are fascinating, both the good and the bad. He learns everything from mathematics to the political struggles humans faced while living. He learns humans were so scared of their own demise they chose to believe in gods to make themselves feel there was something more after death. He learns they fought against each other because of skin colors and culture differences, even killing sirens because of their ability to live in water.

 

The most troubling fact Nie Shuang learns alongside Meng Yao is that humans caused their own demise as a species. They polluted the earth until the temperature rose to where mass amounts of life died off, a substance called plastic filled the oceans, and food became so scarce that humans starved to death. Even worse, humans killed each other to try and survive but it was no use. Sirens, obviously, were the only race to survive but even their numbers were cut drastically. Sirens were almost gone by the time the last human book was written. It's a sobering fact for Nie Shuang because he realizes he's lucky. He's lucky to be alive in the first place and it's a lot for the six year old to comprehend at such a young age.

 

When reading that, Meng Yao brings his son comfort by telling him, “We don't need to worry now... The earth is cooling again and we're alive. We have learned from the human's mistakes, right?”

“Right.” Nie Shuang suddenly doesn't want to read books about how the humans went extinct anymore (or from what their perspective was before they went extinct). He decides to looks in other sections for different books and asks his father, “Is there a book on how to craft things?”

Snorting, Meng Yao answers while holding a book in his hand, “Of course, there is! It depends on what you want to craft.”

 

“A fishing net. You always feed me fish but you never take me fishing with you.”

Meng Yao frowns. He wanted to keep his son away from the ocean but... letting his son help him with fishing shouldn't hurt. “Net fishing? Well, I guess I can take you out on my boat one of these times... Would you like to learn how to use a bow, too?”

 

Nie Shuang seems excited and runs to hug his dad. Meng Yao smiles, glad his son is becoming independent enough to want to learn survival skills now. Living as a human is hard but it's a learning experience he'll happily have with his son.

 

 

In the spring, Nie Shuang turns seven years old. After spending the winter learning how to hunt and fish, Nie Shuang's gifts from his father are a bow with a quiver of arrows and a crab pot. He's excited for the gifts because his father says he can do hunting and crab fishing on his own now he's proving he's more independent (as long as he finishes his chores at home).

Extremely happy, the first thing he does is ask his father permission to go off and try out his gifts. Of course, Meng Yao lets him go off on his own for awhile. Nie Shuang leaves home early in the morning, baits his new crab pot with meat and gets in his father's boat to go out just far enough in the bay where he can catch some crustaceans. He's not too far out because he can see his house from there but it's amazing to feel this new freedom.

 

However, the longer he spends out on the bay with no catch, the more he feels drained. Perhaps crabs aren't showing him any luck today because none are taking his bait. He might be too impatient; who knows? By mid-afternoon, Nie Shuang is ready to go home and take a nap when he feels something pull on his crab pot. Confused, he looks over the side of the wooden boat to see what has caught on it. He's startled by a trio of black figures swimming under the boat.

 

What was that?! He thinks that as tries to bring his crab pot back into the boat. When he pulls it up, something else is grabbing the crab pot; a siren about his age.

 

He screams and lets go of the pot out of surprise. The other siren seems startled when he sees Nie Shuang. When Nie Shuang regains his composure, he realizes the black figures are sirens. The siren about his age stares with confusion, curious. The other two sirens come to the surface; all three sirens have black hair but have varying degrees of confusion upon seeing Nie Shuang. They have their hair tied back with seaweed strands. One looks perpetually annoyed, the other a bit goofy, and the one who grabbed his pot is very fair-faced. All of them are pretty in their own way and all boys.

 

The first siren boy puts the crab pot back in the boat and signs, “I'm sorry for startling you. Who are you?

 

Nie Shuang almost doesn't understand because he hasn't seen signing in what seems like forever. His own father only uses sign language when he's angry at him or wants to explain something he doesn't know the human words for. He realizes that he must be a strange sight to the sirens since they aren't used to seeing anyone who looks human. Nervous, he raises his hands to sign back, “Does it matter? You're scaring away all the crabs!” He doesn't know what to do other than point out what he just realized. This must be a siren hunting area and that's why he's having no luck.

 

The other two siren boys look dubious about him but the leader simply smiles and offers in sign, “I can bring you some. Is Meng Yao your dad?

 

Nie Shuang relaxes. They know his dad; they can't be dangerous. Unsure, he simply nods and the head siren boy submerges back underwater. The other two approach the boat, the annoyed one speaking out loud, “You're the weird siren's kid, aren't you? The one who wants to live on land?”

 

“What? You got a problem with that?” Nie Shuang is defensive, he doesn't know these people and yet they're confronting him about personal things. He also realizes this siren must be an Omega if he can speak so clearly. Alphas tend to have accented voices from being unfamiliar with their speaking. Sure, they can speak but it's never as fluent as hearing Omegas.

 

The goofy faced siren answers, “It's not a problem. Your dad is just weird.”



Nie Shuang wants to get angry. He's protective of his dad; no one is allowed to call his dad weird. However, the pretty siren boy returns with crabs in his arms that are pinching him. He dumps them into the boat and Nie Shuang can't believe it. At least five of them in his boat; enough to feed himself and his dad.

 

Before Nie Shuang can sign his gratitude, the pretty siren gives him and smile and signs, “If you need help, I'm willing to help you. Fishing is not easy in this part of the bay.” He pauses and introduces himself. “I'm Wen Yuan. This is Jin Ling,” pointing at the annoyed siren. “And this is Lan JingYi.” He points at the kinda goofy siren, who Nie Shuang realizes is just putting on a weird face on purpose.

 

Wen Yuan asks in sign, “What's your name? We don't want to forget a new friend.

 

Nie Shuang blushes at the wording. A friend; he's never had one besides his own dad. He thinks of how his father signs his name and repeats the signs of 'to whisper' and 'boat' to signal his name to the other sirens. Lan JingYi chuckles, as if amused by the sign of 'boat' but Jin Ling smacks him in the arm for making fun of Nie Shuang's name.

 

Wen Yuan seems pleased and hands something else to Nie Shuang; a lava rock.

 

You can have that. I found it and thought it was cool.



Thank you.” Nie Shuang can't help but smile, not used to being treated like this (or interaction from anyone outside of his own father).

 

Another siren appears, an adult with his hair tied back, signing, “Wen Yuan! Jin Ling! Lan JingYi! Leave Meng Yao's son alone, we have things to do!

 

The three boys seem disappointed and give a sad wave of goodbye to Nie Shuang. When Nie Shuang is all by himself, he giddily starts rowing back home because he's excited to tell his dad he made new friends.

 

Chapter Text

It's the one-hundredth day of the year and a storm is rolling in. Wei WuXian is on his own for once because Lan WangJi had to do something. What exactly? Wei WuXian isn't sure because he honestly wasn't paying attention at the time. All he knows is Lan WangJi has been gone for two days, leaving Wei WuXian to continue on his routine before trying to help the Alpha find his mate.

 

As for the storm, Wei WuXian knows one is coming because there are thick, dark clouds in the distance out over the deep ocean and the wind and waves are getting stronger. Oh, and the thunder. The loud booms have had Nie MingJue on edge because Meng Yao is afraid every time one of them sounds from the distance. The mated pair disappeared the day before to find shelter to wait out the storm while leaving Nie HuaiSang to manage the territory with Wei WuXian... but Wei WuXian wants nothing to do with that.

 

Come on, Wei WuXian! You can't leave me by myself!” Nie HuaiSang complains in sign as Wei WuXian tries to leave for his own den.

 

It's not really my territory to begin with. Why don't you invite Jiang WanYin to keep guard with you? He's your mate.” Wei WuXian is trying to be reasonable and practical.

 

... My brother doesn't know I'm mated to him. Remember, my brother is insistent I mate with a biological Alpha. He won't understand that Jiang WanYin is really an Alpha at heart.

 

That makes Wei WuXian frown deeply. Right, most sirens are not progressive thinking in regards to trans-dynamic genders and he has no idea where Nie MingJue stands on the topic. It's understandable why Nie HuaiSang would be scared to bring Jiang WanYin into their territory. Jiang WanYin's scent will linger in the territory even after the storm and it will make Nie MingJue ask questions, becoming angry. If Nie HuaiSang explains the truth, it might start a rift in the pod.

 

Wei WuXian makes a suggestion that he knows will probably not be received well. “What if... you just leave to go spend the storm with my brother? It won't matter if your leave the territory alone for a few days, right?” The only reason Nie MingJue is having his brother watch the territory is for bullshit Alpha insecurity reasons anyway.

 

Seeming to consider it, Nie HuaiSang signs, “You're right. I don't need to watch over anything but I will check in just to keep my brother happy.

 

Smiling in surprise, Wei WuXian replies, “That's the spirit!

 

What about you? Your den is going to get destroyed by the waves if you're not careful.

 

Wei WuXian smirks and signs, “I'm going to deconstruct my nest and move it into one of the buildings on shore left behind by the humans.” He taps his temple like it's a genius idea, mimicking a 'meme' that was explained to him by Jiang FengMian when talking about human culture when he was a child. “The waves can't destroy my den if I move it where it can't be destroyed.

 

With an open mouth in awe, Nie HuaiSang replies in sign, “That's brilliant! Those human structures must have lasted so long for a reason.

 

Exactly. I won't let the storm destroy everything I've collected for my nest and den.

 

But, what if Lan WangJi returns? You two have been close; he'll worry if he cannot find you during the storm.” Nie HuaiSang has concern in his body language.

 

Wei WuXian waves a hand and assumes, “He's smart enough not to come near the shore during a storm, right? I'm sure he will take cover like other sirens and not worry about me.

 

The unsure look on Nie HuaiSang's face is obvious. However, Wei WuXian isn't concerned. The location of his new den on land will have a propinquity to his old den's location so it shouldn't be hard for Lan WangJi to find him once the storm is over.

 

With that, Wei WuXian stares up at the surface of the ocean and signs, “I need to hurry before the water gets rougher. I'll see you after the storm.

 

Nie HuaiSang nods and watches as he leaves to go and start moving his den somewhere on land. Wei WuXian's idea shouldn't have any unexpected consequences, right?

 

 

Despite the rain and wind, Wei WuXian managed to deconstruct his den and move it onto the dock for now. In human form now, he squints to observe the abandoned human village closer. The village sprawls out for a couple miles, most of the building made from wood with glass windows. It's nothing like the large city that exists miles from here up the shore. Whoever lived here in the past were not technologically advanced like the other human settlements abandoned along the coast. Wei WuXian realizes he needs to actually venture into the town to find a proper place to move his den temporarily. Determined, he marches up the dock and beach to step onto the dirt roads.

 

Wei WuXian is unfamiliar with using a human's body; the action of walking to so unusual yet he's able to stay upright and run, if needed. The cool rain feels colder in a human-like body since his siren body can accommodate changing ocean waters while the human body is more climatized to a certain moderate temperature. Wei WuXian had heard the rumors that the humans died because of this flaw and that sirens are lucky to be so adaptable to temperature.

 

He also remembers that humans wore 'clothes' to help moderate their temperature. Wei WuXian is in nothing but the body the deities above gave him on the day of his birth so maybe taking shelter on land was not the best idea.

 

Entering the town, there are winding roads going up hills with overgrown yards and gardens. The road itself is barely there. Wei WuXian hums as he makes a choice; which building will he take shelter from the wind and rain? He finds himself on some road that leads into the heart of the town and decides on the first building that catches his eye; a tall structure with a sign that has the symbol in siren pictograms, the bare bones of a written language for sirens, for 'resting house'. In human language, it would translate to 'hotel'.

 

The front door opens easily and Wei WuXian takes in the sight. The 'lobby' is circular and homey, a fireplace and lounge area to the left and the remnants of an elevator that obviously doesn't work and stairs leading to the dozens of rooms there to house people in the past. From the pictograms on the sign outside, it must have been a siren-friendly establishment considering that many humans hated sirens for a long course of human history. There is decoration of sealife in the blue-green paint and nautical objects hanging on the walls. It may have been siren-friendly in the past but it's obviously a human-oriented place.

 

Wei WuXian exercises senses he rarely uses in the water, listening for sounds and sniffing with his nose for scents he would normally taste in the water. When he wanders to the fireplace, he finds it empty and all that's left is a weird, table-like object with a small bench in front of it and an open top nearby. Of course, there are couches but they're aged and have lost their softness. Oh well, it will do if he plans to sleep here since the upper floors might be too dangerous to wander into.

 

Deciding he'll stay here, Wei WuXian investigates the weird table. He's never seen anything like it. It looks like it was polished at one point but now the wood is grainy and the wires on the inside are rusting. Investigating further, he opens a wooden slab to reveal rows of white wooden sticks with accompanying black ones. When Wei WuXian presses on one of the white sticks, he yelps from being startled when the table makes an off-key sound.

 

It takes him a minute, hiding behind a couch, before he approaches the table again and presses more of the white sticks, no, keys. The sound is out of tune but Wei WuXian realizes in awe that the table is a large instrument. In fact, he remembers the name: a piano.

 

Like a child finding a new toy, Wei WuXian's eyes sparkle as he sits at the little bench and experiments by individually playing each key. His siren brain quickly remembers each sound the keys make, even if it sounds awful at times. His hands are not use to moving to play on the thing but he finds himself able to play songs requiring less than five keys. It's fun; he wishes something like this could exist in the ocean.

 

He is interrupted by the loud crash of thunder, jolting him out of his concentration, and remembers he needs to move his den in here before the storm fully hits. It's going to be hurricane force winds incoming, he can sense it.

 

Leaving the piano there, he hurries back to the dock to get his things. He struggles against the wind and rain, finding himself shivering from the cold. By the time he gets everything into the hotel lobby, he is freezing. Decorating the lobby to feel more at home, Wei WuXian wonders if there's something he can find to get warm. He remembers humans would use cloth items like 'blankets' to keep warm and starts searching for some. He doesn't find one until he bravely wanders to the first floor and breaks into one of the bedrooms. Wrapping it around himself, he feels warmer and goes back down to the lobby to lay on one of the couches.

 

He feels so tired. Being in a human form is such exhausting work. He pulls a coffee table closer to him with all his baubles on it and rolls around the lava rocks and pearls gifted to him by Wen Yuan to entertain himself. He misses the ocean already; it's his home and always will be. He'll be grateful when the storm is over.

 

While lulling himself to sleep, he hums a song to relax himself to the sound of thunder, pelting rain, and gale-like winds. He thinks about Lan WangJi. He must be resting out the storm in the open ocean with his own pod. The last thought Wei WuXian has before lulling to sleep is, Deep sea sirens must have a natural sense for storms because Lan WangJi was acting weird before he left...

 

 

In a cave miles away from their territory, Nie MingJue and Meng Yao huddle together for warmth in human form. The cave isn't something impressive but it protects from the rain and gale winds that only get stronger as the hours pass. Meng Yao shivers and holds his mate tight with each strike of lightning sounds thunder in the distance that only seems to get closer and closer. The orb-like interior has a way out through the ceiling if someone climbs and a way to swim out of the cave, back into the ocean. Very little light filters in through the ceiling but it's enough so the mated pair can sign to each other.

 

Curled up in the sand, the mated pair rest with Meng Yao laying his head on Nie MingJue's chest while the Alpha rubs his Omega's back. Meng Yao is singing a soft tune and Nie MingJue hums it back as an accompanying melody. This isn't the first time the couple have ridden out a storm together but this one is going to be worse than the ones before. One of Meng Yao's siren hunting abilities is to be able to detect the changes in his enviornment at will, allowing him to predict the weather and calamaties in an area. He can sense there will be death because of this storm but that isn't why it scares him.

 

He's scared because his own mother died because of being struck by lightning while out in the ocean. The chance of it happening is so rare; he was only thirteen years old when she died. He had to survive on his own at such a young age, mooching off other pods and being rejected constantly for being a bastard child of Jin GuangShan. As a result, thunder brings him fear he will lose someone else close. It's a bad omen.

 

“Meng Yao...” Nie MingJue's voice is tender, trying to comfort his shaking mate after another loud boom.

 

“I'm fine.” Meng Yao's voice is clipped, hiding his fear.

 

His face turns to his mate, enough to see Nie MingJue bring his hands up to consider signing something. It takes a moment but Nie MingJue manages to ask, “Are you going to be okay?

 

Meng Yao nods and brings his hands up to sign back. “I'm fine... I promise.

 

It's quiet for longer as the two lay together, waiting through the storm. The night comes and the two are in the dark together with the storm raging when Nie MingJue admits, “I hate living in the ocean.”

 

Meng Yao cannot see his mate now but he asks, confused, “What do you mean?”

“You remember when I started teaching you human language and told you about my ancestry?”

 

Meng Yao does remember, humming in agreement. He listens as Nie MingJue says in a gruff voice, “I'm tired of living in the ocean. There's a secret I've been hiding from you for a couple years now but I think it's time I show you it when the storm is over.”

 

Meng Yao doesn't question it because he already knows the secret. He knows about the cottage Nie MingJue is building on land. He just always wondered when Nie MingJue would tell him about it. Meng Yao says, “Okay. I trust you.”

 

That seems to please the Alpha because Meng Yao feels his body moved so Nie MingJue can kiss him. He returns the kiss, feeling his body growing warm. Meng Yao is one of the sirens who can accidentally spur on his heat too early if he's not careful. He has felt his body start reacting to stimuli like all other Omegas in the region but he knows he's one of the oddities that can will a heat if he wants to... and right now, he wouldn't mind having a heat to distract him from the fear of the thunder. Nie MingJue seems to sense Meng Yao doesn't mind an early heat because Meng Yao gasps with surprise when Nie MingJue's fingers wander to lower places he wasn't expecting.

 

“M-MingJue, I need to be in siren form to conceive-”

“That's a damn wives' tale, Meng Yao.” Nie MingJue's voice is husky with lust.

 

“...” Meng Yao is only quiet because he remembers that is true. Even with the thunder, Meng Yao soon forgets his fear because his mate's fingers feel so good stretching him. He feels himself growing wet with slick, making his mate's fingers soon feel like almost nothing. Meng Yao asks, “More, please!” The sound of his voice is breathy... but he knows Nie MingJue likes it like that since the Alpha can only hear him and no one else.

 

With his cock pressed against his stomach, Meng Yao closes his eyes as his mate lines up and breaches him with his own thick cock. It's a bit awkward making love in human form but at least Meng Yao is grateful his genitals, both sets of male and female, are still there despite the different placement compared to where they would be on his siren tail.

 

As the heat sets in, Meng Yao can only let out short moans and spurts of his mate's name with each stroke. The coiled tension inside grows and grows with each thrust. Nie MingJue's panting and grip on his waist are a reminder he's not alone in this pleasure. Nie MingJue almost whimpers when he's close, not even realizing he's making the sound.

 

“Knot me.” The command is clear from Meng Yao, who is desperate for it. He knows his heat will only get more intense from here on out but he almost prefers this to a forced heat in the summer. Being in control makes him feel powerful, knowing his mate is lucid enough to not blindly follow a rut's instinct.

 

Hearing a grunt from Nie MingJue, Meng Yao screws his eyes shut more as he feels the knot swell inside him and makes him come with the sudden fullness. He feels Nie MingJue release inside him, filling him in a way that makes him want to purr with satisfaction. His mate can't pull out because of the knot but he doesn't care.

 

If anything, it's a perfect excuse to wrap his arms around Nie MingJue and whisper in his ear. “I love you, Alpha.”

 

Nie MingJue rests his head on his mate's shoulder, too tall to rest on his chest, and gives his neck kisses. He manages to say, “I love you, too.”

 

That's how the pair ride out the storm, comforting each other.

 

Chapter Text

Byarg, ta narak!

 

Wei WuXian slowly opens his eyes in confusion because of someone speaking in tongues. He can hear the wail of the winds outside, the pelting rain, and the rummaging sound of something going through his baubles. With that realization, he whirls himself over to observe who is going through his things during the storm. He's shocked at what he sees.

 

Small, only about two to three feet tall, green-skinned humanoids with long noses and beady eyes are all staring at Wei WuXian with curiosity and are in various stages of disturbing Wei WuXian's possessions. It's like catching at a cat in the act of trying to eat the goldfish from its bowl. The creatures are obviously taking shelter from the storm but Wei WuXian is the unluckiest siren in this moment for one reason; goblins are notorious even from human legend for rape, pillaging, and murder.

 

At first, Wei WuXian wonders if he stays still that they will not attack. His eyes are wide and his heart pounds in his chest with fear. They will kill him, or worse, if he doesn't make the right decision. The goblins, all four of them, could easily overpower Wei WuXian with the fact they're in a pack. It's fight or flight.

 

The two of the goblins pause in the middle of fighting over a large pearl, one has a handful of lava rocks as it stares at Wei WuXian, and the last one is staring Wei WuXian with a grin. Wei WuXian chooses fight. He screams as he grabs a piece of driftwood he brought with him at the side of the couch and swings it wildly as he stands. The goblins shriek and yell in their foreign tongue in surprise. One screams, “Syren en locratrk!!! Korosk!!! Korosk!!!

 

“Get away from my stuff!” Wei WuXian yells, trying to get them away from his things and adrenaline coursing through his veins.

 

It doesn't work; the creatures are more organized than he thought. They avoid blows of the driftwood and manage to lure Wei WuXian into a position where he's surrounded. Wei WuXian desperately tries to keep his eyes on all of them but simply ends up having to guard himself as they try to dogpile him by jumping away from them and ripping their grimy hands off him. He manages to get to the front door or the hotel and realizes it's more dangerous to run out into the storm than it is to stay in the building and fight. He'll die from the exposure to the weather or he needs to try to not get killed by the goblins.

 

As the goblins shout and try to corner him against the door, Wei WuXian suddenly remembers the most important defense he has: his voice.

 

Wei WuXian starts to sing with gentle 'la's and the goblins immediately lose all their aggression. To the siren's pride, the goblins are lulled into a state of compliance, drawn to Wei WuXian's voice and will. Wei WuXian doesn't think sirens have had to use their voice as a weapon in centuries but remembering it in an emergency is a relief. He focuses more of a 'will' into his voice and an intent for the goblins.

 

The sinister request that Wei WuXian's voice begs the goblins is to snap their own necks. Wei WuXian didn't think they'd actually do it... but now, four dead goblins now lay on the floor in front of him from taking their own heads and violently wretching their own necks.

 

Staring in horror, Wei WuXian leans back against the door and holds his hands to his mouth to silence himself. His eyes are wide and finds himself crying. He didn't mean it but he was terrified. He didn't think they would actually die from him singing that request into their minds. For the first time, Wei WuXian starts to understand why humans feared and hated sirens. It is because sirens have the power to control them and take their free will in the cruelest ways.

 

Trying to pretend what he did didn't happen, he quickly drags the bodies of the goblins behind the desk at the front of the lobby. Out of sight, out of mind. Longing for comfort, Wei WuXian finds the blanket he had before and curls up back on the couch. The difference is that he can't fall back asleep. It's the dead of night and he won't be able to rest with the atrocity he committed on his mind.

 

Staring at his scattered things in the lobby, Wei WuXian prays for the storm to end and for his sanity to remain intact.

 

That is... until he hears sounds from the upper floors of the hotel. Wei WuXian comes to a horrified conclusion when he hears the voices of more goblins above him. Being nocturnal, goblins are waking up and the hotel itself is a goblin den on the upper floors. Wei WuXian sits up again and finds a sea of glowing, beady eyes staring back at him from the staircase.

 

 

The goblins dogpiled Wei WuXian and gagged him with a piece of cloth so he can't sing. They tie him up with woven ropes they must have crafted themselves and assign a group of five guards to make sure he doesn't escape. As hours pass through the night, Wei WuXian has no idea what the goblins plan to do with him. They eye him suspiciously and discuss amongst themselves about him. Wei WuXian has figured out that the word 'syren' is a borrowed word for 'siren' in goblin language. There's more emphasis on the first vowel in their language but the meaning is the same.

 

Wei WuXian, however, knows he's in danger. There is one goblin who is larger and brutish, who eyes Wei WuXian like he's a piece of meat. The siren is not sure if it's hunger or lust in the goblin's eyes. Goblins are notorious for trying to 'breed', putting it politely, with anything that moves. Wei WuXian is much more conscious of his anatomy because... despite having male genitialia, he knows his coexisting female genitalia might be a temptation for these heathen beasts. Maybe, Wei WuXian is making assumptions based on horror stories told to him by the Jiang pod. Who knows at this point?

 

The large goblin tries to touch Wei WuXian's cheek before another smaller, female(?) goblin swats the hand of the larger and starts to scold him. The two argue, the word 'syren' coming up multiple times while the other goblins watch the two like this is a lover's spat.

 

Jian hark za syren!” The smaller goblin with a higher voice says.

 

Za syren en mengjyk! Cyen ta blisz ma?” The bigger goblin has a deeper voice and crosses his arms.

 

“...” The goblin glares at the other with a look that could cut metal. She threatens, “Hark za syren an ta vil ge koroskva. Uvertar? Ne granvekla.

 

Dejected, the bigger goblins pouts and repeats, “Ne granvekla...

 

Meanwhile, while the goblins are talking, Wei WuXian struggles to get a hand free with no luck. He's stuck like this, afraid and with no one to save him. Frustrated, Wei WuXian flails and screams as much as he can through his bindings and gag. It startles the goblins but they realize he's not going anywhere as Wei WuXian finds himself laying on his side, crying because of how angry he is at himself. He fucking hates being in distress like this. Just because he's an Omega, that doesn't mean he should be a little damsel always in need of saving. He's reminded of the situation with Jin GuangShan and more tears fall. This is so ridiculous!

 

Wei WuXian tries to meditate and calm himself while being captured, yet still watch the goblins carefully for any signs of them planning to harm him. Hours pass and the end of hour of the lion fish arrives with the rising of the sun, gentle rays shining into the windows and the wind and rain are gone. The storm has passed early. Wei WuXian is exhausted from lack of sleep and the goblins are starting to get tired, too.

 

That's when Wei WuXian tries to break free again. This time, he gets his feet free. The goblins are all falling asleep when Wei WuXian contorts himself to pull and break the weakening rope on his wrists. Once he's free, he quickly pulls the cloth from his mouth and is faced with the decision: run or sing. If he runs, he has to abandon all his things with the goblins. If he sings, he will dirty his conscious by killing an entire colony of goblins.

 

It's a tough decision but he makes a painful choice; he decides to abandon his baubles and gifts from Wen Yuan in exchange for his own life.

 

Wei WuXian runs as the goblins wake, screaming about their prisoner escaping, and quickly runs out the door of the hotel. He makes a straight-away for the ocean. See ya later, you goblins bastards! he thinks. The goblins chase after and screech, perhaps not realizing or are too stupid to notice Wei WuXian still has his voice to use as a weapon.

 

Wei WuXian is almost to the ocean when he notices someone familiar waiting for him in the coast in their human form: Lan WangJi. Perhaps Omega instinct but he runs to the Alpha hides behind him from the goblins. He can tell Lan WangJi is confused what is going on at first but then notices the group of five goblins trailing behind. The small humanoids stop in their tracks, confused to see the silver-skinned siren in his human form protecting Wei WuXian.

 

All Lan WangJi has to do is narrow his eyes that glow yellow and growl deep in his chest at them for the goblins to collectively piss themselves and run for the safety of their den. Alphas don't necessarily sing but their have the same ability of influence as Omegas... it just manifests as growling more often than singing.

 

With wide-eyed admiration and a slack jaw, Wei WuXian feels gratitude and, unfortunately, an burning of arousal from his Omega instincts that he can't ignore. Stupid instincts because Wei WuXian can't control himself and hugs Lan WangJi close from behind and whispers sweet-nothings of gratitude he is completely unaware that Lan WangJi can hear. Lan WangJi can sense the intention in his voice and blushes slightly.

 

When the goblins and adrenaline are gone, Wei WuXian lets go of Lan WangJi and moves so the Alpha can see his signing hands. “Thank you so much! I thought I was a goner!

 

Are you sure you're okay? You have bruises on your wrists.” Lan WangJi's expression is concerned and observant.

 

Wei WuXian pauses and feels his mood sink again. Tears from remembering being captured prick at his eyes and admits in sign, “I don't know. I was so scared...” He then asks, “Why are you here?

 

... I knew you were in trouble.

 

How?

Lan WangJi seems unsure how to explain but decides to just go for it. “My brother is a sea witch. He said, 'Someone who is important to you is in mortal danger.' There was only one person I could think of and it was you.

 

Surprised, Wei WuXian has many questions but he decides they can wait. He's so shocked from the whole ordeal he just cries against Lan WangJi's chest, hugging him again. He's safe with the Alpha and that's all that matters. He doesn't care if they're not mates in the moment because they're friends. The sun continues to rise on the horizon and the two eventually break apart.

 

I lost everything in my den because of the goblins...” Wei WuXian informs.

 

That's what those things are called?

 

Wei WuXian nods and signs, “I'll meet you at the dock. We'll get up to speed of the past few days.

 

Lan WangJi seems to agree and nods. The two have a lot to catch up on.

 

Chapter Text

The two sirens meet each other on the dock and sit with their legs hanging above the water. The tide is still high from the storm and a few gusts of wind still blow, reminders of the weather that just passed through. Wei WuXian is uncharacteristically shy being in Lan WangJi's presence. The Alpha came just in time to scare away the goblins from catching him again; it's also endearing that Lan WangJi would be concerned enough about him to come and check up on him, even with a full on storm blowing through. Wei WuXian is glad they're not in the water because Lan WangJi would be able to taste the scent of his arousal spurred on by Omega instincts to mate with a strong Alpha. It's embarrassing.

 

Lan WangJi must be pretending not to notice because he just stares out to the horizon and hums to himself a familiar tune, one that Wei WuXian swears he recognizes but can't place where the Alpha would have learned it. Licking his lips, Wei WuXian taps the Alpha's shoulder for his attention then signs, “I'm glad to see you, you know. I wondered where you went.

 

Returning a passive gaze, Lan WangJi signs back. “I needed to see my family. I... I left my pod so suddenly awhile back when I heard my Omega's voice. I figured my uncle and brother would worry about me since I left without any word on where I was going.

 

Wei WuXian nods in understanding. Most sirens would worry if a pod member disappeared without a word and most sirens at least explain where they're going before leaving to find a mate and such. Wei WuXian is not like that since the Jiang pod never bothered to search for him when he left on his own. In fact, Wei WuXian will admit his memory isn't the best but a swirl of terrible memories are linked to his time with the Jiang pod; beatings from Yu ZiYuan, the attempted sexual assault on Jiang WanYin during the siren's first heat, Jiang FengMian's distance when Wei WuXian tried to take to him as a father figure, and so much more. Wei WuXian wishes another pod had raised him, if he's honest, after his mother passed away and left him alone.

 

A tap on Wei WuXian's shoulder snaps him out of his remembering and he sees Lan WangJi sign, “I told my uncle and brother about you. I told them how you were... helping me find my mate.” The signing feels like a half-truth. “My brother wants to meet you. Perhaps he thinks you will be compatible with him.

 

That makes Wei WuXian audibly laugh and then sign back, “Hilarious. Your brother doesn't understand I'm not an easy catch.

 

That's what I told him. He didn't believe me.” The deadpan in Lan WangJi's expression makes Wei WuXian break into giggles again.

 

When Wei WuXian stops his laughter, he gets a sponteneous idea. He meets eyes with the Alpha and asks, “Can I meet them? Your family, I mean.” He's aware that Lan WangJi's family are all deep sea sirens as well, meaning they live out in the deeper ocean where it's dangerous for a shallow water siren like Wei WuXian. However, he's curious. Whether it's because he's attracted to Lan WangJi or not, he wants to meet the pod of the Alpha who has kept him company for so long and would willingly stay by his side for almost a month.

 

Lan WangJi seems unsure, replying, “You realize the deep ocean is a dangerous place, right? I would have to protect you.

 

Wei WuXian smirks. “But, I have you to protect me, like the big ang strong Alpha you are.

 

The blush on the Alpha's face is satisfying as he signs, “Shameless.”

 

Wei WuXian chuckles and hugs Lan WangJi close, causing the Alpha to tense in surprise. Wei WuXian feels a bit of pity for himself well up in his heart, whispering in Lan WangJi's ear since he figures the Alpha will never hear what he says anyway. “I like you so much. I just want to know you better... I want to know if your family would like me if I just... tried to court you. Even if we aren't mates.”

 

Wei WuXian doesn't notice as he nuzzles into Lan WangJi's neck that the Alpha balls his fists, resisting to just confess right then and there. But, Wei WuXian is right. He doesn't know if his brother and uncle will still like Wei WuXian now as an adult. When they were children, it was different. Wei WuXian was just a stray child his pod picked up that he happened to be able to hear the voice of. Lan WangJi had no choice in the matter whether Wei WuXian was to be raised with the Lan pod... because the Jiang pod took claim of him before Lan WangJi could confess to his uncle he could hear the small siren's voice.

 

It lights a fire in Lan WangJi; he needs to reintroduce Wei WuXian to his uncle and brother. His mother might not be alive anymore but he knows she would have approved of him... he just needs to know his remaining family still likes him before he confesses. Lan WangJi can't take this anymore; he'll confess if his family approves of Wei WuXian.

 

Pulling Wei WuXian off him, who whines at the loss of contact, he signs to him. “I'll introduce you to my family.

 

Really?!” Wei WuXian excitedly asks, smiling wide.

 

Nodding, Lan WangJi softly smiles.

 

“Aw, hell yeah!” Wei WuXian says aloud before switching back to signing. “What will I need to be aware of before I visit?

 

... Watch out for sharks, giant squids, orca whales... you get the idea.

 

Wei WuXian hums, understanding. The deep ocean is dangerous and cutthroat. “So, let's eat before we go?

Lan WangJi simply hums. “Mmhm.”

 

With that, the two sirens sink into the waves off the dock. Wei WuXian feels a little bit better about losing his things because at least he has Lan WangJi's company. That's better than any worldly possession.

 

 

Wei WuXian at least told Nie HuaiSang and Jiang WanYin where he is going before starting to follow Lan WangJi to the depths of the ocean.

 

Lan WangJi is rummaging for crabs while Wei WuXian gets scolded by Jiang WanYin. “You realize going to meet his pod is something mates do, right?

 

As Wei WuXian blushes heavily at the accusation, Nie HuaiSang looks like he's saying I-told-you-so with his expression. Wei WuXian figures Nie HuaiSang probably made a comment in the past about Wei WuXian courting Lan WangJi but his memory is bad. Regardless, Wei WuXian retorts through gestures. “We're not mates! He's just my friend... I want to meet his family. That's it.

 

The gaze of dubious assumptions shared between Jiang WanYin and Nie HuaiSang screams of doubt. The two obviously don't believe Wei WuXian's explanation for justifying something that is a romantic gesture in siren culture. Wei WuXian gets flustered and argues, “Whatever! Don't believe me, fine. When are you two going to fess up to Nie MingJue?

 

Nie HuaiSang frowns and twiddles his own fingers as Jiang WanYin runs a hand through his hair and admits, “When he gets back with Meng Yao. I've had time to think about it; I am an Alpha, right? It's my duty to care for my Omega.

 

The fact Jiang WanYin is accepting his identity as an Alpha relaxes Wei WuXian. It's a big step for the siren and he can see Nie HuaiSang is proud of his mate for doing so. They'll probably be fine confronting Nie MingJue on their own. Nie MingJue might be scary at first to confront but on the inside, he's an Alpha who just wants to care for his pod. He'll understand his little brother is happy with Jiang WanYin in the end, right?

 

Wei WuXian smiles and signs, “I'll be back but I don't know when. Surely, it will be before the mating season. Carry on that message to anyone who is looking for me?

 

There's nods of agreement from the mates and Wei WuXian swims away. Well, that went well. At least, other sirens will know where Wei WuXian went if they're looking for him. Going to Lan WangJi, he finds the Alpha with his mouth being stuffed with crab meat before quickly chewing and swallowing. It seems uncivilized of the normally composed siren but Wei WuXian supposes it's because the Alpha is letting his guard down around Wei WuXian. How cute.

 

Ready?

 

Lan WangJi drops the crab shells to answer, “Yes.

 

As if on cue, Lan WangJi propels himself into the current heading out towards the deep sea and Wei WuXian follows behind him. The two start their journey out to the depths of the sea that most shallow water sirens only see during the winter.

 

Chapter Text

The start of the journey involves Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi heading through the hunting grounds one last time before drifting into the currents that lead into the depths of the sea. Naturally, the two aren't that hungry so Wei WuXian stops into one feeding area that he discovered a long time ago as a teenager that is a breeding ground for clams and other shellfish; a sunken shipwreck.

 

At first, Lan WangJi seems dubious about approaching the man-made object that is covered in rust on the metal parts and rotting away at the wooden parts but Wei WuXian signs to him, “It's safe as long as you don't touch anything too fragile. We're just going to eat some clams and go.

 

When Wei WuXian swims inside the husk of a structure, Lan WangJi follows. Inside, the winding hallways can be confusing but Wei WuXian once mapped out the structure in his mind enough not to get lost and quickly find clams even in the dark. Sure, there are windows that still exist on the structure but they're mostly clouded over so it's pretty dark inside. As Wei WuXian finds out, Lan WangJi's vision in the dark is better than his own because the siren doesn't have to touch and feel his way around for corridors and doorways.

 

Wei WuXian finds some clams in what would be the 'bridge' of the ship. The windows make it easy to see the clams gathered around and Wei WuXian breaks into their shells to slurp up their insides. Wei WuXian is aware of Lan WangJi beside him, copying him in eating clams and then discarding the shells. A bit of mischief comes to Wei WuXian's mind.

 

He approaches Lan WangJi, who notices him right away, and taps him on the shoulder before signing, “You're it. Catch me!

 

Lan WangJi blinks at first in confusion but then smiles and chases Wei WuXian as he speeds off into the darkness of the ship. Wei WuXian thinks Lan WangJi can't see him because he's using his hunting ability to turn invisible but then remembers when he's in the very dark hull of the ship that Lan WangJi has heat vision,. Oh shit, he thinks, he's going to catch me! Wei WuXian tries to evade Lan WangJi by swimming through a narrow open window after back-tracking through some corridors but suddenly finds himself stuck in the window because his tail is too wide.

 

There's a few moments where it takes Wei WuXian awhile to process his scenario. He's stuck in a goddamn window because his tail is too fat. Wei WuXian's cheeks heat up because he can feel the swish of water near his back tail that is Lan WangJi's presence. He even blushes deeper when he feels Lan WangJi put his hands on him and tries to push him through the window. He can't help but notice Lan WangJi's hands are too close to his genital slit for his own comfort, whether on purpose or not. Stop it! he thinks and violently bashes Lan WangJi with his tail to get him to stop touching him.

 

After that, it's quiet for a few minutes until Lan WangJi swims around to where Wei WuXian's front end is. The Alpha has a large, purple bruise on his cheek from Wei WuXian's thrashing. Wei WuXian releases a submissive scent and gives pleading eyes, apologizing, “S-Sorry, I didn't mean to do that. My tail is sensitve.

 

Lan WangJi relaxes with a small smile and replies in sign, “It's okay. I should have known better.

 

Tasting the Alpha's calming scent, Wei WuXian relaxes and dejectly signs, “I'm stuck, pull me.

 

Lan WangJi wastes no time to grab Wei WuXian's hands and pull. Wei WuXian tries to wiggle and manages to move a couple inches. The two take a two-second break before Lan WangJi pulls again and finally, Wei WuXian is free. Wei WuXian smoothes his scales that threaten to peel off and signs, “I'm getting fat...

 

Maybe it's heat hormones? Don't Omegas start building up to their heat in mid-spring, if not already starting their heat?

 

Wei WuXian grimaces and corrects, “Older Omegas tend to go into heat earlier than those fresh into a breeding year. This is supposed to be my first heat so my body shouldn't be that close to one-” He pauses because there's an intrusive thought, one he ends up signing. “Unless I'm one of the unlucky Omegas with a more limited breeding cycle...” If that's the cause, Wei WuXian might be building up to a heat quicker than most Omegas who are having their first heat. That's depressing; Wei WuXian might become a Beta like Wen Ning within a couple years if that's the case. His body shouldn't be swelling in the tail already, preparing to be able to carry a baby, so he rationalizes that he's getting fat.

 

Frowning, Lan WangJi signs, “Maybe you're getting fat then. I don't think you're less fertile than any regular siren.

 

Wei WuXian almost snorts underwater because he knows Lan WangJi means well even if what he just signed could be taken as really piggish by the wrong Omega. Wei WuXian rolls his eyes and suggests, “Maybe, we should just keep going. I don't want to think about being fat.

 

Maybe you're not 'fat', per say, but you're 'thicc'.

 

Wei WuXian is in open mouth shock and asks rapidly and in exaggerated sign, “WHO THE FUCK TAUGHT YOU THAT MEME PHRASE???

 

Lan WangJi deadpans, “My brother, why? Is that bad?

Wei WuXian cannot even comprehend it. He's in shock and silence for a solid minute before he signs, “It's not bad but you don't seem like the type to know what memes are.

 

Shrugging, Lan WangJi admits, “I only know the ones my brother and uncle have told me about. So, not many.

 

Shaking his head, Wei WuXian signs, “Unbelievable.”

 

That makes Lan WangJi smile. Wei WuXian starts swimming off towards the deep ocean and motions Lan WangJi to take lead. With his mind on the topic, Wei WuXian calculates how much time he may have before his heat will become unavoidable. He has thirty to forty-five days if his tail is swelling already. He's not in pain from it but he does notice now that his tail is a lot more sensitive to the current and anything that touches it. Also, he has noticed his arousal around Lan WangJi is more sensitive as well, being sparked just by being around him.

 

When Lan WangJi isn't looking, he bites his lip. He doesn't have much time; it's either he'll have to shoo Lan WangJi away so he can go into heat when they return after awhile from visiting his family or accept Lan WangJi as a mate. However, his mind is torn because he swore to himself he would only give himself to his soulmate... and Lan WangJi has someone else anyway.

 

Wei WuXian is unaware that Lan WangJi can taste his distressed scent but the Alpha doesn't pry, assuming the Omega is still worrying about the fact his tail is swelling. Lan WangJi can taste Wei WuXian's hormones are overreacting to his own presence but he wants Wei WuXian to accept him on his own terms... or confess after his family approves.

Both are torn on what to do.

 

 

After about two days, the two are quite far out into the open ocean. They're so far out that they cannot see the horizon of land anymore when they breach the ocean's surface for air. This reminds Wei WuXian of leaving the shallows for the deep sea in winter, yet it's only mid-spring. Far too early in the year for the sea dragons and krakens to have migrated south from their icy waters in the far north so that danger is not present but orca whales and sharks are still milling about in the deeper waters, common predators for sirens.

 

Wei WuXian, naturally, stays near the ocean surface and it's Lan WangJi who hunts for the both of them since Wei WuXian is allowing Lan WangJi to baby him a bit. It's more for the Alpha's pride than anything; Wei WuXian knows how to hunt food in the open ocean but he secretly likes Lan WangJi shyly bringing him food like he's trying not to make the gesture look like courting. It's an entertaining experience.

 

Lan WangJi returns with a barracuda he's holding by the gills. Almost submissive, Lan WangJi carefully offers the fish to Wei WuXian. The Omega never has eaten barracuda since the fish are aggressive and hard to catch. Out in the deeper ocean, Wei WuXian relies on eating tuna, seabream, and sardines, among several other varieties of schooling fish, to keep himself full but Lan WangJi is able to catch bigger fish he normally can't. Wei WuXian smiles, nodding, and Lan WangJi starts stripping the fish down so the two can share it for a dinner.

 

With the hour of the tuna bringing sunset, the two are going to have to rest for the evening. The two traveled miles upon miles in one day alone. It makes Wei WuXian wonder if they're close to the Lan pod territory yet. He asks in sign after eating, “How close are we to your pod's territory?

 

Lan WangJi answers, “We're already in my pod's territory. We are just looking for where my brother and uncle are at this point.

 

Frowning and almost groaning underwater, Wei WuXian complains. “Really??? We're already where we need to be and they're not around?

Our territory is about one hundred square miles in size, Wei WuXian. My race takes larger territories than your race does.

 

I get that but that means that's a hundred square miles we need to search!” Wei WuXian pouts and crosses his arms.

 

As if to comfort him, Lan WangJi softens in empathy and replies in sign, “Brother will sense us soon and have uncle find us. Don't worry.

 

Wei WuXian finds himself softening to Lan WangJi's expression. He nods and Lan WangJi suggests, “We can take a nap or keep searching for them, it's your call.

 

Wei WuXian thinks on it and remembers the game of tag at the shipwreck. He has another idea for a game they can play. Giving a mischievous look, Wei WuXian can obviously tell that Lan WangJi senses something is up. Wei WuXian gets closer and asks in sign, “Lan WangJi, can we play another game? It's a bit childish but it should be a good distraction.

 

Intrigued, Lan WangJi nods with a curious gaze. That's when Wei WuXian tackles Lan WangJi and tries to grab his wrists. The Alpha is surprised but manages to wrestle away from the Omega to stare at him in confusion until Wei WuXian clarifies, “Wrestle me! Like children do!

 

Lan WangJi soon has a look that Wei WuXian finds fascinating; Lan WangJi grins. Wrestling is a common activity for Alpha children to train them for dominance displays as they become adult sirens and compete for mates. It's rare for Omegas to participate in such behavior unless courting an Alpha but Wei WuXian doesn't see it as courting in this context. He used to wrestle with Jiang WanYin all the time before his brother identified as Alpha. Because he and his brother were both considered Omegas, Yu ZiYuan never scolded them for wrestling. As a result, Wei WuXian is one of the rare Omegas who takes enjoyment in play-fighting.

 

Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi circle each other, taunting the other to strike first with their eyes. It isn't until Lan WangJi dashes towards him that Wei WuXian dodges and tries to grab Lan WangJi's tail. However, Lan WangJi suddenly dives and slips away from Wei WuXian before contorting his body to swim back up and wrap his arms around Wei WuXian's waist.

 

Wei WuXian finds himself unable to move but he doesn't struggle either. The feel of Lan WangJi's body pressed against his makes his instincts react. His body releases a submissive pheromone and and relaxes, letting Lan WangJi hold him like that. Well, so much for wrestling because Wei WuXian is a little bit turned on and this was a bad idea.

 

Lan WangJi only lets go when Wei WuXian can obviously feel some arousal threatening to lengthen further from Lan WangJi's slit and the Alpha only lets himself be in sight long enough to sign, “Excuse me, I'll be right back. I have to uhh... calm down. Sorry.

 

Wei WuXian doesn't question it when Lan WangJi suddenly disappears into the depths to hide himself. Wei WuXian is just glad that Lan WangJi cannot see the blush on his face and know how embarrassed he is. Dammit, Wei WuXian, you can't just let yourself get turned on so easily, he thinks. Of course, what was he supposed to expect Lan WangJi to do? Not react to his scent??? Wei WuXian feels a little guilty, too, because Lan WangJi belongs to another Omega.

 

The even more guilt-inducing part is Wei WuXian is extremely tempted to just... let himself court Lan WangJi and say 'fuck off' to any other Omegas who want him.

 

Shaking his head, Wei WuXian tells himself to get a grip. He's going to meet Lan WangJi's family soon and it's as a friend. Nothing more.

 

 

Lan WangJi is embarrassed with himself for getting aroused while wrestling. However, he can't just ignore it any longer. This time, he hides in the depths to touch himself and relieve some of the sexual tension that has built up over the month of being around Wei WuXian.

 

There's guilt as pleasure builds with each stroke of his hand and his knot swells. Wei WuXian, I'm sorry I can't just be honest with you, he thinks. Eventually, he feels his release and is able to think clearly again. Right, he can confess once he reintroduces his family to Wei WuXian. He needs to do that.

 

He's startled by a touch on his shoulder and turns to relax at who it is. Lan XiChen smiles softly and greets, “Welcome home, WangJi.

Chapter Text

Did Lan WangJi expect his brother to approach him just after masturbating? No. Does it surprise him though? Absolutely not. This is, as the humans would say, on 'brand' for his twin to do. The twins have shared many moments together, both good and bad, and it's not the first time Lan XiChen caught his brother masturbating. There's no privacy in the ocean, after all.

 

However, Lan WangJi finds himself narrowing his eyes in the wind down from his release at his brother. He brings his hands up as his cock softens back inside himself and signs, “How long were you watching me, you pervert?

 

The neutral expression says it all but Lan XiChen answers, “I've been watching since you and your Omega were having a little courting match. Your hormones are making you react to him so boldly.

 

Finding himself blushing a deep purple, Lan WangJi responds in sign, “H-He's not my mate, yet. He... He doesn't know yet I can hear his voice.

 

I know, WangJi, but it's obvious you both have feelings for each other... It's been so long since we've seen him. I thought we'd never see WuXian again.

 

Frowning and feeling tears well in his eyes underwater, Lan WangJi feels his emotions overwhelm him with his brother. He can't hide anything from his brother who can read minds and see the future with magic. He allows Lan XiChen to hug him close and rub his back. Lan XiChen knows Lan WangJi is trying to be a good Alpha, one that Wei WuXian will respect. He watched Lan WangJi using his mage-sight for awhile now, making sure his brother is safe in Cyan Bay, and knows Lan WangJi's reasonings for being so closed off. He also knows Lan WangJi's plans to confess with familial approval but there's a hitch in that... something Lan XiChen won't approve on until it's resolved.

 

When Lan XiChen pulls away from the hug, he signs, “You should know how I feel on you and Wei WuXian by now. My thoughts haven't changed since last time.

 

Lan WangJi gives a hurt expression. “You... You want Wei WuXian to remember the past before you'll approve of us being together?

 

Lan XiChen nods. “I told you this before the storm hit Cyan Bay. Until he remembers his past, he'll never be able to truly love you. He'll reject you no matter what until the past is remembered. If you're not honest, you two will never be able to be together. Even Uncle agrees with me.

 

Dejected, Lan WangJi can't look his brother in the eyes. He has tried but he's not exactly sure how to do that. Lan WangJi knows Wei WuXian's memory is terrible because the Omega is purposely trying to guard himself from past trauma but he hoped just his presence would be enough for Wei WuXian to remember when they were children. He hoped that searching for a non-existant mate would make Wei WuXian realize he's the one that Lan WangJi can hear, that hunting with him and living in his den would jog his memory of when they used to do that together as children. Obviously, it never worked.

 

Perhaps he's a fool and the answer all along is to just confess but... it doesn't feel right. He feels if he confesses before Wei WuXian remembers, Wei WuXian will reject him again... like when they were teenagers and he tried to reconnect. The missing piece to the puzzle is how to make Wei WuXian remember.

 

“... How do I make him remember, XiChen?

 

Lan XiChen grimaces as he replies in sign, “I don't know... I've tried using my gift to figure that out myself. All I know is if you make him remember, he's destined to be with you.

 

That brings back a pang of guilt because Lan WangJi apologizes, “I'm sorry I'm taking him from you.

 

My future is with another Omega... I just don't know who they are yet. My gift won't show me yet.” Lan XiChen can hear Wei WuXian's voice as well. They're twins with similar ears. Biologically, they're both compatible with Wei WuXian but Lan XiChen has claimed since he was small that images of another Omega come to mind when he uses his gift to predict his own future. Lan WangJi is always reassured that he is not taking away Lan XiChen's mate whenever he apologizes for loving Wei WuXian. The question is: Who is the one that Lan XiChen belongs to?

 

Before Lan WangJi can reply, they both sense another presence approaching. Wei WuXian appears, looking unsure, as he dives towards them. The Omega seems surprised to see Lan XiChen and signs, “Why are there two of Lan WangJi?

 

Lan WangJi blinks in confusion but Lan XiChen has air bubbles escape his mouth trying to keep a laugh from happening, covering his mouth with a hand. Lan WangJi realizes he needs to answer and signs, “Wei WuXian, this is my brother. We're twins.

 

Lan XiChen composes himself and greets, “Hello, Wei WuXian. I'm Lan XiChen.

 

Wei WuXian softens into a curious gaze and replies, “Nice to meet you!” He then smirks and teases, “You're quite handsome. It must be genetics.

 

W-Wei WuXian...” Lan WangJi blushes again.

 

You're such a charmer.” Lan XiChen smiles and asks, “What brings you here with my brother?

 

Wei WuXian answers honestly. “Lan WangJi promised he would introduce me to his family. So, here I am!

 

If that's the case, we should find Uncle?” Lan XiChen signs and Lan WangJi nods. With that, Lan XiChen informs, “Uncle should be at the Island. That's where I saw him last.

 

It's obvious Wei WuXian doesn't know what the 'Island' is but Lan WangJi motions them both to follow him, all three of them heading to this location. Wei WuXian doesn't question it, trusting both of them. They don't sign much after that but Lan WangJi can sense that Wei WuXian is at least comfortable in his brother's presence... but still no memories coming back. This is going to eat at Lan WangJi's mind the entire visit.

 

 

Wei WuXian soon learns what the 'Island' is. About five miles away from where they met up, they start seeing floating trash. Wei WuXian knows what plastic is; it's a toxic material that makes fish poisonous to eat when they consume it themselves and it kills other animals that get it trapped in their stomachs. Sirens still die from plastic toxicity to this day if they're not careful. Cyan Bay sirens are lucky since the currents tend to not feed into the same ones that carry an abundance of plastic throughout the deep sea but Lan WangJi must have had to grow up learning how to remove plastic from his food before filling his belly, just like Wei WuXian himself and most sirens in this day and age after the extinction of humans.

 

So, this is the Island?” Wei WuXian asks, pushing a floating plastic bag away from himself.

 

Yes,” answers Lan WangJi.

 

It's a floating trash heap. Well, not entirely trash. At least, we sirens find use of it sometimes.” Lan XiChen's answer is very hopeful despite the reality of how many lives plastic has taken. “Uncle finds the harder plastics so we can make spears. Sometimes, we find cool little trinkets, too. The entire thing is a toxic miasma if we're not careful but 'when life gives you lemons, make lemonade'. Isn't that what humans used to say?

 

Wei WuXian knows that is the correct idiom but he feels a pit of despair knowing this trash heap is the cause of many siren deaths yet the deep sea sirens treat it as if it's a good thing. Lan WangJi seems to notice his sour mood and tries to comfort him by taking his hand. Wei WuXian squeezes the hand, not considering the possible romantic context it could hold. He just wants to feel safe when he has been taught to fear the presence of plastic.

 

As they swim through the miasma, Lan XiChen is ahead of them and clears areas for them to breach for air when needed. The sunlight is dim here since the trash blocks the surface of the water from letting it in. Wei WuXian feels more uncomfortable the longer they spend here, like his brain hurts and something is threatening to reveal itself to him. He's scared of this place and it's not just the plastic... as if there's a memory of this place he has tried to bury for a long time.

 

Eventually, Wei WuXian tastes the two Alphas' relieved scent and then sees a figure in the distance. The third Alpha to appear is older, probably in his fifties or older from what Wei WuXian can tell from his scent, and he's huge. If Lan WangJi and Lan XiChen are almost a foot longer than Wei WuXian, this Alpha is at least three feet longer in the tail than Wei WuXian. Deep sea sirens are larger in size than shallow water sirens but this Alpha would outsize Jiang FengMian, Nie MingJue, and Jin GuangShan easily.

 

Wei WuXian feels an odd sense of relief seeing this older Alpha. What is with him today? Why is he feeling a sense of nostalgia? Wei WuXian doesn't quite understand but he rolls with the feeling because he doesn't want to face the feelings head on.

 

As the oldest Alpha approaches, Lan WangJi greets him. “I'm home, Uncle.

 

The older siren doesn't smile, holding a neutral gaze as he runs his eyes over the three of them. When he locks eyes with Wei WuXian, the older Alpha signs, “You must be Wei WuXian.

 

How did you know?

 

I just do.” The bluntness is familiar, so Wei WuXian isn't offended.

 

Wei WuXian,” interrupts Lan WangJi. “This is my uncle, Lan QiRen. He is our pod leader.

 

Wei WuXian is unsure how to react but he signs, “Nice to meet you.

 

Lan QiRen regards him blankly at first before offering a brief smile. “I'm sure Lan WangJi is treating you well. I know you're treating him well from how highly he speaks of you.

 

Wei WuXian finds himself almost grinning with joy. He's happy to have Lan WangJi tell his family nice things about him.

 

Uncle, can Wei WuXian stay with our pod for awhile? To visit, of course.” Lan WangJi signs with a cautious expression, as if he's worried what his uncle will say.

 

Wei WuXian finds himself tense. This all feels horribly familiar but he can't place how. He's developing a headache from it all. Lan QiRen seems to gaze between his nephews as if they're communicating without signing and responds, “He can stay as long as he likes. He should help us with hunting though. No dead weight in our pod. Are we clear?

 

They all nod, even Wei WuXian. With that, Lan QiRen orders them in sign, “Help me find sharp pieces of plastic. These spears are not going to make themselves.” Lan QiRen pauses for a moment, smirks, and signs, “Don't get yourself stuck in a tire again, WangJi.

 

Lan WangJi blushes heavily and retorts, “That happened when I was four! Give me a break!

 

Regardless, Lan XiChen and Wei WuXian resist laughter. Wei WuXian can't help but feel oddly at home. It won't leave Wei WuXian alone; how does this feel so familiar yet he can't remember?

Chapter Text

A week passes since Wei WuXian meets Lan XiChen and Lan QiRen, now being the one-hundred tenth day of the year.

 

Out in the depths of the ocean, Wei WuXian is amazed by the lives the deep sea sirens live. Wei WuXian can only dive a fraction of the depth they can before his inner organs feel too much pressure and his body can't adjust to the darkness. He also cannot hold his breath as long as the deep sea sirens can; they are built for spending prolonged periods of time away from the surface, searching for food that hides near the bottom of the ocean.

 

Wei WuXian truly thinks evolution gave Lan WangJi and his pod an advantage yet a curse. They may be able to live deep out in the ocean but they are faced with far more predators than shallow water sirens. Wei WuXian has to use his hunting ability to hide from giant great white sharks and orca whales, creatures that are larger out in the open water than they are closer to shore. Wei WuXian is scared several times about how the Lan pod will handle such beasts until he watches the Lan pod band together and bully their predators with spears into fleeing. Apparently since the sharks and orcas are ambush hunters, Lan WangJi and Lan QiRen have an advantage being able to see heat and movement because they alert the others to danger before the sharks and orcas can even get a chance to attack. It's amazing in itself and Wei WuXian knows he's lucky to not have died on his own last winter since he doesn't have the abilities of the deep sea sirens for survival.

 

Unable to say the week has been uneventful, Wei WuXian finds himself as one with the Lan pod. They seem to accept him as one of their own while hunting, scavenging, or just socializing. As Wei WuXian thought before, this all feels too familiar. He can't compare it to the Jiang pod but a sense comradery he never experienced with his old pod surfaces in his mind that he can't place... everytime he tries to place where he has felt this before, his head hurts and warns him of painful memories he's not sure of.

 

Right now, it's midday, around the end of the hour of the mackeral and the start of the hour of the dolphin. The weather is getting warmer as it gets closer to summer than spring and the days become longer. Wei WuXian notices Lan WangJi is more affectionate than he was back in Cyan Bay, not that Wei WuXian minds. He notices Lan WangJi brush his tail against his own, almost as if checking up on him or comforting him in his new enviornment. Deep sea sirens show affection towards others they like with touch and actions rather than signing and gifts. Well, gifts are a given in both cultures but deep sea sirens are more touch-oriented. Meeting eyes, Wei WuXian smiles and returns the affection by nuzzling his face into Lan WangJi's shoulder, staying close to show the same closeness.

 

Even more satisfying, Wei WuXian sees a blush and a soft smile on Lan WangJi's face. Neither of them care that Lan XiChen and Lan QiRen can see the blatant courting; they just want to be close and Wei WuXian has stopped worrying about 'stealing' Lan WangJi away from another Omega. The two barely notice that their barriers between each other are breaking. They both feel at home.

 

The two only break out of their cuddly daze when Lan QiRen swims over and signs, “We're hunting down a shark that ate a few toddlers in the past two weeks. Focus, you two.

 

Wei WuXian frowns but lets go of Lan WangJi, who frowns as well. The two understand they need to be alert; this great white shark is a menace to the deep sea folk and is aggressive. The damn thing is at least twenty-five feet long with scratches from previous fights with other sharks. The only reason the Lan pod is helping another pod to kill the shark is because it tried to eat Lan XiChen a few years ago. Lan XiChen used his mage-gift to save himself but it was a close call. No other siren should have the same thing happen to them, much less a toddler have their life taken so early but a large set of jaws.

 

All carrying spears, the Lan pod and Wei WuXian enter an area of ocean where the shark tends to linger. Wei WuXian's eyes widen as they approach the hiding place of the shark; man-made buoys, a remnant of the naval base that used to be here during human times and the pillars that used to hold the base up. The pillars create a place where sealife would naturally flock to, making this an obvious place for a shark to hunt and not surprising that curious toddlers would wander here into danger.

 

Lan XiChen takes lead, only turning to sign, “This is where I was attacked. Stay close, everyone.

 

They all carefully follow Lan XiChen and taste the water for the shark's scent. A school of sardines swim by as the four sirens sure for signs of the shark they have been tracking. It's uneventful until Lan XiChen motions for Lan WangJi to follow him ahead and leave Wei WuXian with Lan QiRen. Lan WangJi is reluctant but eventually allows it to happen, following his brother towards the next field of pillars into a dark opening of the sunken base.

 

Wei WuXian almost follows until Lan QiRen stops him and assures, “They have each other, they'll be fine.

 

Watching with anxiety, Wei WuXian stays behind. It seems dangerous to linger in one area for too long so he follows Lan QiRen as the Alpha leads him towards another area to search for the shark.

 

It's not that Wei WuXian dislikes Lan QiRen but the older Alpha intimidates him a little bit, like a father figure often intimidates a timid child. Despite that feeling, Wei WuXian recognizes it's not a bad thing. It means he respects Lan QiRen's opinion of him. He is Lan WangJi's uncle; he must play a father figure in Lan WangJi's life so Wei WuXian wants to make a good impression... especially if he decides to pursue Lan WangJi as a mate.

 

Lan WangJi cares about you.” The message is blunt from Lan QiRen, whose expression is unreadable.

 

I-I know.” Wei WuXian isn't sure how to reply to that.

 

That's when Lan QiRen stops and approaches Wei WuXian. He signs with a serious expression. “He wants to be your mate, Wei WuXian.

 

It's so tense that someone could cut the water around them with a knife. They stare at each other, as if trying to read each other. Wei WuXian must look dumbfounded with his open mouth of shock. When he closes his mouth, he signs, “You must be mistaken. H-He has another siren he's pursuing-

 

You don't remember him. You don't remember us...” Lan QiRen's expression turns melancholy as he continues, “He's desperate for you to remember your past, to remember us. He loves you. We love you. You're part of our pod... Please, remember.

 

Defensive, Wei WuXian is confused. What is Lan QiRen talking about? He has no idea what he means by that. He's... he has never been apart of their pod until now, right? Yet, his mind seems to be screaming at him that he's lying to himself. Lan QiRen is somehow telling the truth but at the same time, it doesn't seem like it should be true.

 

Lan WangJi... loves him. The Lan pod loves him. He wants it to be true. That revelation in itself really changes Wei WuXian's perspective. The memories are on the cusp of revealing themselves but... Wei WuXian doesn't believe it, as much as he wants to.

 

Being able to taste Wei WuXian's tears from the stress of suppressing the memories, Lan QiRen loosens his shoulders and apologizes, “I'm sorry... I just hope you remember soon. For my nephew's and my sake.

 

As Lan QiRen starts to swim away, Wei WuXian quietly follows while contemplating. A brief flash of something comes to his mind but it's unclear... but it's enough to make him wonder if it's okay to face the past. For now, he needs to focus on the shark but when he gets time to himself, he'll revisit Lan QiRen's words.

 

 

Halfway through the hour of the dolphin, Wei WuXian calms down enough that he forgets most of what Lan QiRen said to him earlier. It's slightly frustrating but Wei WuXian figures it must have not been that important if he's forgetting it. Or, he'll find out later and regret everything. His mind right now is focused on the fact Lan QiRen picked up the shark's scent and they're trailing after it. The ocean is eerily tense, as if being watched, when they enter a shallower section of ocean where seaweed stalks are growing towards the surface. Where is the shark?

 

Lan XiChen and Lan WangJi appear soon after. Lan WangJi immediately joins Wei WuXian's side and Lan XiChen asks, “Have you seen the shark?

 

No, have you?” Lan QiRen responds with the question.

 

That makes both Lan brothers share a confused expression. Lan XiChen signs, “That's... odd. It should be here. I saw it in my vision... there!!!” He stops and points frantically because the shark is below them, swimming by.

 

The shark seems to pay them no mind at first until they all react. It tries to swim faster as the four swarm it from all sides. Wei WuXian notices it becomes agitated and lashes out at Lan XiChen. The Alpha dodges but the shark circles around, angry and ready to attack. Lan QiRen is in the direct path, blocked by stalks of seaweed for a quick escape. Lan QiRen seems to understand he's in danger because he flinches and braces for impact from the shark's jaws.

 

It all happens so quickly; the Lan brothers desperately try to race to their uncle, the shark opens its jaws to prepare to bite, but it ends because Wei WuXian reacts first to save Lan QiRen. Wei WuXian uses Lan QiRen's dropped spear and charges. With a sickening sound, the shark is diverted off course for the bite because the force of Wei WuXian stabbing it in the gills does so. The Lan pod watches in shock as the shark is bleeding as it tries to swim off with the spear in it's gills. It's going to die... and Wei WuXian saved Lan QiRen.

 

Cautiously, the four track the shark until they find it floating belly up. Lan QiRen is the one who retrieves the spear, with a shocked expression still. In fact, the Lan pod seems to regard Wei WuXian with a gaze of praise and wonder.

 

Wei WuXian swallows nervously. He did what his instincts told him to do... protect his pod. The thought he wanted to resist at first but now he's starting to realize it's true. He's spent only a week with this group and he would happily die to protect them.

 

Lan QiRen observes the spear and shark for a moment, pensively, before smiling and signing, “Wei WuXian deserves a reward, don't you think?

 

Both brothers nod and Wei WuXian blinks in surprise. A reward?

 

I agree. He killed the shark so he should be rewarded.” Lan XiChen signs that with a smile.

 

Lan WangJi softly gazes at Wei WuXian in admiration and pride. Wei WuXian eventually blushes. Well, he did kill the shark so he supposes he can accept a reward. What will it be? Just as he wonders that, Lan QiRen asks Wei WuXian, “What would you like?

 

Wei WuXian is like a deer in the headlights, as humans would say. He's not sure what he wants. However, he stares between the Lan pod for answers. Between the smiles of all the pod members, Wei WuXian racks his brain for ideas and finds himself coming to the answer of, “I want... to have a pod.

 

They don't seem to have an answer to that and Wei WuXian curses his own mind coming to that. He has the Jiang pod, he-

 

You have us, Wei WuXian.” Lan WangJi replies.

 

You're already one of our own.” Lan QiRen responds.

 

As if to confirm it, Lan XiChen nods and signs, “Come up with something you don't already have. What do you really want?

 

Wei WuXian isn't sure how to feel. It's like a weight lifted off him after years but can't quite place how it is. For his mind, it's like there's a crack in the barrier that's keeping his past from him and the memories from over-flowing. To keep it from cracking further, Wei WuXian just signs, “I want to eat something.

 

After that, the Lan pod proceeds to lead him to the shark again so they can eat. Wei WuXian oddly feels like he's home more than ever in his life.

 

 

Do you want to go back to Cyan Bay?” That's the question Lan WangJi has that night after his brother and uncle have already gone to sleep.

 

Both floating on their backs under moonlight, Wei WuXian considers that and admits, “I don't want to go back. I want to stay with your pod.

 

Wei WuXian expects Lan WangJi to make an excuse to go back to Cyan Bay, as if the two are not meant to be, but it never happens. Instead, Lan WangJi takes his hand and squeezes, signing with his free hand. “Then stay.

 

It's decided in Wei WuXian's mind. He's not going back to Cyan Bay. He doesn't want to as long as the Lan pod will have him.

Chapter Text

XianXian, I love you.”

 

Little Wei WuXian is crying over his mother's dying body. Floating on the surface near the Island, Wei WuXian has depserately been bringing dead fish to his sick mother so she won't starve... but it is the fish that seems to be the problem. He speaks, frantically. “Please don't leave me! I don't want you to die!!!”

 

With clouded eyes and a sickly shade of skin, Wei WuXian's mother gently cups her son's face and says, “It's okay... You will survive without me. I know you can.”

“Mama! Mama!!!” Wei WuXian watches in horror at the tender age of three as his mother's eyes slowly become lifeless and her sick body floats limply.

 

Wei WuXian wants this to be a bad dream, please... PLEASE!!!

 

 

Wei WuXian jolts awake from someone touching his shoulder. At first, he's unsure where he is but with the first rays of dawn on the horizon, he remembers. He's with the Lan pod out in the deep ocean; he's safe. Looking around himself, Wei WuXian finds Lan XiChen beside him. Wei WuXian has learned to discern the two by their general demeanor and expression. Lan XiChen smiles more than Lan WangJi but that is questionable these days since Lan WangJi smiles more than before because of Wei WuXian.

 

Lan XiChen signs once he has Wei WuXian's full attention. “Good morning, WuXian.

 

Good morning...” Wei WuXian rubs his eyes and breathes a sigh of relief. He had a nightmare about his mother's death but it's only a dream. He knows how his mother died, having witnessed it, but he hasn't dreamed about it in years. It was something he thought he suppressed... but he supposes a lot of things he held back are now coming to the surface, threatening to consume him. Wei WuXian asks in sign, “Where's Lan WangJi?

 

Hunting with Uncle. They're going to bring back breakfast from fresher waters... You know as well as I do that it's not good to eat the fish near the Island all the time.

 

Wei WuXian nods in agreement. He knows first-hand that the fish from the Island are toxic. How does he know that? He can briefly bring his mother to mind for the answer to that and it hurts. “What should be do while they're gone?

 

Lan XiChen shrugs and answers, “Have a chat? You can tell me about Cyan Bay. I've only been there once.

 

With the distraction, Wei WuXian smiles and the two proceed to have small talk through signing about Cyan Bay. Wei WuXian gossips about the drama of the bay of the last year; Jin GuangShan being threatened for his place of power by Jiang YanLi for pod leader, Jiang WanYin being mates with Nie HuaiSang, various squirmishs between the Wen pod and the Ouyang pod over territory borders. It's not much but Lan XiChen seems enraptured by the gossip.

 

Aside from gossip, Wei WuXian complains that the weather is changing too much now that the earth is cooling and the humans are gone; Wei WuXian has noticed that the storms that normally only come in winter are coming in spring and autumn as well. Lan XiChen agrees that the weather is returning to how the climate was before humans ruined the earth and now the sirens are faced with the inconvenience... but it raises another question.

 

Do you think the predator migration patterns will change with the waters getting cooler now?” Wei WuXian asks. If the waters get cooler sooner in the year and for longer, it may mean sea dragons who prefer cooler waters might stick around longer and migrate sooner in autumn towards the southern oceans that sirens live.

 

Lan XiChen's eyes glow a slight color, which makes Wei WuXian blink in confusion, and the Alpha answers, “If my mage-sight is correct, the sea dragons are already becoming more active in our southern seas. They haven't entirely migrated north for the summer... I see a large amount of death and suffering to come for the sirens of Cyan Bay and the open ocean.

 

Frowning, Wei WuXian asks, “Does all you see with your mage-sight have to be doom and gloom? Just wondering because even Lan WangJi said you predicted I was in danger.

 

Shaking his head, Lan XiChen signs, “No, I see good things, too. I often can predict the routes the tuna schools will take and I can predict pregnancies among the other deep sea pods.

 

Wei WuXian is in awe and asks a bit curiously, “Can you see my future?

 

Lan XiChen seems thoughtful and changes to a wading position, signing, “Give me your hands. I'll give you a reading, if you want.

 

Changing to a wading position as well, Wei WuXian offers his hands. He's a bit nervous to know his future. What could the Alpha see in his future? Lan XiChen closes his eyes and grasps Wei WuXian's hands. Nothing happens at first but then Wei WuXian gasps as Lan XiChen's hands glow slightly and Wei WuXian feels a weird energy flow through him for about a minute. It's not uncomfortable but the feeling is ethereal.

 

When Lan XiChen opens his eyes, his gaze is conflicted with a strained smile. Wei WuXian frowns. Why does he seem so... pitying? “Is it bad?” signs Wei WuXian.

 

Lan XiChen considers his thoughts before signing. “Promise me you won't jump to conclusions if I put it in blunt terms.

 

Wei WuXian nods cautiously and Lan XiChen continues. “You're going to be a parent by the end of the year. The pod you are sired from will be destroyed. However, you will find happiness in the most unexpected way but you will have to face your past in order to reap the rewards. That's all I can say.

 

Wei WuXian is so confused by that. He's going to be a parent??? How??? Also, he immediately thinks of the Jiang pod for the second part of the prediction but then remembers it can't be them. It means the pod he is sired from. Is that the Wen pod since his mother is the child of an exile from that pod? Lastly, facing his past to gain happiness. Wei WuXian's mind is a swirl of confusion and assumptions.

 

Lan XiChen returns a sympathetic smile and admits, “My predictions are often cryptic and aren't always how they seem. Don't let it worry you too much since the future is a fluid thing... in the end, you control your own fate.

 

“...” Wei WuXian wades a bit away from Lan XiChen. “... How did you get your powers? Were you born with them?

 

Yes and no.” Lan XiChen seems to brighten as he explains, “My powers were triggered by my mother's death. I may have been born with mage-gift in my heritage since my ancestors were sea witches but all sirens with magic gain it after severe trauma... any siren can become a sea witch, honestly, but it takes the right amount of emotional or physical distress to trigger the powers to come to fruition.

 

Not to be offensive but... losing your mother was that traumatic?

 

Lan XiChen grimaces and admits, “I was a momma's boy. Losing her made me never want to be unsure of the future... and suddenly I was able to see it. I'm surprised WangJi didn't become a sea witch, too, because he loved Mother just as much as I do.

 

That lightens the mood somewhat and Wei WuXian doesn't ask anything further. However, his mind does linger on the first prediction. He's going to become a parent somehow... and he wonders if it will be because of mating with Lan WangJi. Oddly enough, he wouldn't mind co-parenting with Lan WangJi even if they're not officially mates but mates by choice rather than fate.

 

As if on cue, Lan WangJi and Lan QiRen breach the surface near them and hold up freshly caught fish. Wei WuXian's stomach growls but a sudden thought comes to mind; he's going to confess to Lan WangJi at sunset. It just feels... right. If he gets rejected, it will hurt but he's willing to face it. However, he doubts he will get rejected. He's not ignorant of Lan WangJi's affection towards him and suspects there's a hidden truth behind the claim that Lan WangJi's mate is a Cyan Bay siren.

 

He knows his resolve and values are changing because of Lan WangJi... and he's oddly not as angry at himself as he thought he would be.

 

 

Something isn't right.

 

Wei WuXian hunts with the Lan pod as usual but he senses they are tense. It started when Lan XiChen's eyes started to glow for a moment around mid-afternoon and his scent turned to something very stressed and anxious. Wei WuXian didn't see what Lan XiChen signed to his uncle and brother but both Alphas immediately shared that anxiety. The three are being extra protective and watchful over Wei WuXian for some reason; it irritates the Omega because they won't tell him what's going on either.

 

Getting tired of the secretive nature of them all, Wei WuXian confronts Lan WangJi and demands, “I want you to tell me what's going on right now.

 

As Lan XiChen and Lan QiRen swim ahead, Lan WangJi slows down and seems uneasy. He signs, “It's just another one of my brother's predictions. We're trying to avoid it coming true is all.

 

“I should still be in the know. I hate that all of you have been babying me for the past few hours as if something's going to happen to me!”

 

Lan WangJi's eyes avoid Wei WuXian's and that answers it. Lan XiChen saw something happening to Wei WuXian in his visions and that's why they're acting weird. Narrowing his eyes, Wei WuXian demands again. “Tell me right now.

 

Wei WuXian-

 

Tell me!!!” Wei WuXian's signing is exaggerated before he feels the change of motion in the water and an instinctual chill down his spine that he's being hunted... that they're all being hunted.

 

Wei WuXian makes a decision that changes his fate and saves both his and Lan WangJi's life. He tackles Lan WangJi to push him backward and he feels the rush of water behind him of something swimming up from the depths and snapping its jaws shut as it was about to swallow the two sirens whole before Wei WuXian made his move.

 

Lan WangJi's scent immediately turns distressed with confusion and fear and Wei WuXian's eyes widen when he sees the predator. With a long winding body like a snake, the head of a barracuda, and rows of iridescent fins along its body, the sea dragon is at least forty feet long. It's a young one since the sea dragons can grow to almost seventy feet long.

 

Both sirens stare in horror as the sea dragon turns to find them again and flairs its gills threateningly. The one predator that sirens have spoken horror stories about for centuries reveals itself. It was said that the sea dragons would go extinct when the waters warmed but this is proof that some managed to survive.

 

Regardless, both sirens know they need to do one thing; they need to swim for their lives.

Chapter Text

The sea dragon tracks their movements carefully, slinking back into the depths to stalk them before striking again. True to its nature, the sea dragon is an ambush hunter; it won't waste its energy chasing after Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi as they burst through the water to escape the area. However, it will track them for as long as it likes until it can catch them off guard. Sophisticated in hunting, the sea dragon will track their scents so they need to warn Lan QiRen and Lan XiChen quickly.

 

Lan QiRen and Lan XiChen immediately jump at their sudden appearance and it's Lan WangJi who frantically signs, “Sea dragon!!! We need to hide!!!

 

But Wei WuXian cannot dive deep enough to hide in the caves!” Lan QiRen doesn't question it, believing them. However, he continues to sign, “What's a sea dragon still doing out here in spring this close to summer?!

 

Lan XiChen interjects, “Their migration patterns are changing... We need to inform the Council of the Ghost Ship. They'll protect us until the dragon leaves the area.

 

Ghost ship???” Wei WuXian is extremely confused. The Council of the Ghost Ship is a wives' tale. It's a floating ghost ship said to belong to siren ghosts who protect over the siren race and provide guidance... but they're not supposed to exist. Do the deep sea sirens know things that the Cyan Bay sirens have lost touch with?

 

Lan QiRen nods and clarifies, “The ghost ship isn't what you think. I'll explain as we go there but we need to hurry. That dragon will attack again. We cannot let our guard down-

 

He is interrupted when the vibrations in the water change and they feel the movement of the dragon looming underneath them. Collectively like fish scattering at the first sense of movement, the whole pod follows Lan QiRen towards a direction Wei WuXian doesn't expect. Fear is palpable; they could die the same way Wei WuXian's father did. A threat of memories pricks at Wei WuXian's mind again but he keeps suppressing it because he needs to focus on survival.

 

Wei WuXian is unsure of how they're going to find this ghost ship until he notices Lan XiChen's eyes glowing and his signing is in a dialect that seems ancient... a type of signing that is reserved from the older times when spells of mage-gift were signed into existence. The signs are signed as symbols as the following: 'Ghost'-'Ship'-'Elder'-'Transport'-'Rescue'. With that, Wei WuXian is in awe as a whirlpool starts to form in the water with Lan XiChen's mage-gift. Did he... just summon a portal?

 

Everyone! Inside the whirlpool!” Lan QiRen signs.

 

It's too late to avoid the sea dragon's next attack. The beast charges and the group is forced to scatter at the last moment. Lan QiRen, Lan XiChen, and Wei WuXian avoid the attack but Wei WuXian watches in horror as the beast chomps down on his tail and drags Lan WangJi deeper into the water.

 

Blood. Air bubbles from Lan WangJi's screams. It all feels like slow motion but Wei WuXian suddenly feels like time stops. This... can't be happening. He's panicking until he realizes that time has literally stopped. Lan XiChen's words ring in Wei WuXian's mind: Mage-gift is triggered by trauma. Right now, Wei WuXian realizes this must be the tipping point for him because everything clicks into place in a matter of moments. Losing his father was painful at only a year old, losing his mother at three to plastic toxicity made him suppress his feelings so he would not feel pain and made him forget his time with the Lan pod as an adopted orphan, and now he's faced with losing Lan WangJi and realizes he would lose everything if he loses his mate. His mate, it clicks in his mind.

 

I can't let this happen, he thinks. I refuse to let my mate be eaten!!!

 

Wei WuXian holds out a hand towards the sea dragon and orders in his mind, Release him. Release him and die. Die. DIE!!!

 

Suddenly, time starts again and the sea dragon suddenly freezes before releasing Lan WangJi from its jaws. The creature gasps for water to pass through its gills but it can't seem to catch anything through them, dying from being suffocated. Wei WuXian is unaware of his eyes glowing a bright red as his mage-gift awakens and kills the beast that dared to consume his mate. As the sea dragon struggles for its life, Lan QiRen and Lan XiChen rush to rescue their gravely injured family member.

 

Wei WuXian feels like a blur after that. He vaguely remembers Lan QiRen crying over his injured, maybe crippled, nephew while Lan XiChen guides Wei WuXian through the whirlpool portal. His mind is a mess; the combination of remembering the past and knowing he's a sea witch now is almost too much for him. His mind doesn't force him unconscious from exhausting his newly found mage-gift until he's pushed through the portal.

 

 

Darkness turns to dim orange light inside a candle-lit ship. Candles? Wei WuXian can feel himself underwater yet somehow he is able to breathe? This strange magic allows fire to burn underwater and mammals to breathe without swallowing water. Wei WuXian observes around himself and finds himself laying on what seems like a bed; there is a dresser and a porthole window showing sealife outside, along with four groups of three floating candles. It's incredibly macabre but oddly enough, Wei WuXian can sense its mage-gift. It's not his own but... the mage-gift of sirens long dead for centuries who now haunt this old wooden ship.

 

His head hurts but he supposes it should. He remembers everything like a bandaid being ripped off, so to speak; his parents' deaths, his time with the Lan pod when they adopted him, and being forced to join the Jiang pod because Jiang FengMian convinced Lan QiRen that Wei WuXian would be safer in Cyan Bay... with his own race since his body is not meant for living for long periods of time in the deep sea.

 

Even worse, he remembers his teen years he tried to bury... he remembers that he and Lan WangJi met at thirteen when the Alpha tried to confess his feelings and Wei WuXian rejected him out of fear. It's no wonder why the Alpha is reluctant to confess he can hear Wei WuXian's voice even now. Lan WangJi wanted to be a better Alpha than all the others who tried to bully Wei WuXian into being his mate.

 

Wei WuXian isn't angry at Lan WangJi but he is at himself for being so oblivious and not willing to face the past. They could have been mates sooner than this; the night near the sea lion and seal beach could have been when they could have confessed. Wei WuXian is sure of it now in hindsight.

 

Wei WuXian stares at his hands. He killed a sea dragon by... willing it to kill itself. His skin is covered in goose flesh at how cold he suddenly feels with that revelation. He may have saved Lan WangJi by waking up a power inside himself that has always been there, sleeping and waiting for Wei WuXian to snap. Instinct tells him what his powers are strongest at; he has the ability to control minds and reality at will. However, he's not sure just how powerful he is yet. It will take some experimenting to test how powerful he is and his limits.

 

Lan WangJi... where is he?

 

Sensing the mage-gift inside him perk up at that thought, Wei WuXian wonders if Lan XiChen's mage-gift whispers to him like this, too. The powers draw a thin red line in the water that leads outside the room, as if telling him where Lan WangJi is. Wei WuXian swallows as he follows the red line leading him out of the room he's resting in.

 

Outside his room is an even more haunted experience. The floating candles burn different colors of green, blue, red, and yellow. Wei WuXian holds his breath as a skeleton of a fish swims by and the wispy spirits of sirens who have already passed away float by. They mostly pay no mind to Wei WuXian but some wave in greeting or he can hear their voices greet him.

 

As Wei WuXian follows the red line through the ship, he encounters a large dining area that is now like a throne room. There are at least a dozen wispy spirits and all of them seem to lock eyes on Wei WuXian. Trying to avoid their gazes, Wei WuXian ignores the stares and continues to to follow the red line until a spirit stops in front of him and says in a hollow voice, “Wei WuXian.”

 

Wei WuXian looks up to meet their gaze and freezes. He finds his voice and asks, “Mom?”

 

She smiles at being recognized and holds a hand to her son's face before saying, “You're doing so well... You've survived for so long. I knew you could live without me.”

“Mom, wait, how are you here?”

 

She keeps smiling as she answers, “The dead come and go here... Just so you know, your power is more than you think. If you train it, you will guide the generation of sirens that survived the warming world. With the sea dragons coming back, we all need you. The All-Wise One here believes so, too.”

 

Wei WuXian becomes distressed as he asks, “What do you mean???”

 

“Ask him yourself.” Another female siren's voice answers. Wei WuXian turns to see a stunning deep sea siren spirit whose face reminds him of a certain pair of twin Alphas. Her amber eyes last even in her ghostly form. She disappears after finishing with, “Take care of Lan WangJi and my pod. Lan QiRen can't take care of my boys by himself with the seas a'changing.

 

When Wei WuXian turns to speak to his mother, she's gone, too. Lan WangJi's mother and his own... he has no time to cry. He needs to see Lan WangJi.

 

Wei WuXian doesn't linger on his mother's words too much because he finds relief to see Lan QiRen and Lan XiChen in a hallway. The two Alphas are crying, foreshadowing bad news. They are huddled close, signing something only the two can understand. They don't seem to notice Wei WuXian as he approaches until Wei WuXian realizes his own mage-gift is hiding him from them. Wei WuXian suddenly become aware that his hair is no longer bound in a ponytail with seaweed, floating around him, as he reveals himself and the two Alpha freeze in what seems like fear at the sight of him. No, not fear, it's admiration and respect. They must know it was him that killed the sea dragon using his newly formed mage-gift.

 

Wei WuXian brings his hands up and signs to them. “He's in this room?” He motions to the door where the red line leads into.

 

Cautious, they nod and allow Wei WuXian to enter.

 

The sight of Lan WangJi is almost too much. The poor Alpha is mangled in a painful way, on his back with his eyes closed, and his face shows a grimace. He audibly whimpers in pain and Wei WuXian doesn't blame his mate. His silver tail is obviously being held together with some kind of spiritual force to keep the Alpha from bleeding out and the scars once it heals will be there for life. Lan WangJi's tail is now crooked, meaning he will have to relearn how to swim once he recovers... if he even can.

 

Wei WuXian softens in his eyes out of pity. In the ocean, severe injuries are often death sentances. If a siren can't swim, they will be eaten, starve, or drown from being unable to breach the surface for air. His poor mate is destined to die from being crippled even if he heals. His tail bones won't heal correctly if they're not reset, Wei WuXian remembers Wen Qing making a comment like that towards another siren that broke his tail and forever swam crooked until his death. Wei WuXian wonders if any damage happened to his mate's internal organs. If they're only bruised then... he can reset the bones himself.

 

“Lan WangJi... wake up.”

 

Lan WangJi opens his eyes and they widen more when he realizes he just gave up his secret in that simple action of responding to his name. He weakly tries to sign, “I-It's not what you think-

 

Shut up, it's okay.” Wei WuXian forces a smile to put his mate at ease at first but then says, “I'm going to reset your bones because whoever treated you is obviously incompetent. It's going to hurt like a bitch, though. Do you want something to bite down on-?

 

Wait, wait, wait, you're going to what???

 

Wei WuXian sighs and signs more slowly, changing his mind. Instead, he asks, “... Do you realize you're going to be crippled? You won't be able to live in the open ocean with how dangerous it is now... Especially if you and I are mates. I can't bear losing you.

 

The silence and revelation between them is like the calm before the storm. Neither moves or breathes for a moment or two before it's Lan WangJi who reacts first. The Alpha is crying. Wei WuXian is confused at first but slowly realizes why. It becomes obvious why he's crying when the Alpha licks his lips and does something that shocks Wei WuXian:

 

How does one forget envies?

Home is where I find myself at heart.

Can you show me where my heart has gone?

I don't know if I'll ever find it again.

Envy is all I have left now,

Praying someone will bring me back my heart.

 

Lan WangJi's voice is unfamiliar with speaking, much less singing. His voice only repeats the lyrics of Wei WuXian's song from before... not Wei WuXian's song, but the song that he learned from his own mother before being orphaned.

 

Wei WuXian sings the next verse back to his mate, feeling relieved and happy tears fill his eyes:

 

Fleeting, fleeting heart beats are a distant memory,

Perhaps a heart is always missing?

How would I know?

I only know my own words and trust none,

The songs of love seem so damn romantic,

But are they true?

 

Both of them speak the lyrics of the next verse, eyes overflowing with tears:

 

With a face just like a child,

I want to take your hand for just awhile,

Perhaps it will be this song that I will finally find you,

I want to cry knowing I may never find you.

Will you bring me my beating heart?

Even if I might not know where I misplaced yours?

 

Wei WuXian finds himself squeezing one of Lan WangJi's hands. He always knew deep down his song would reach the right Alpha but never thought it would be this way. Regardless, he asks Lan WangJi with his free hand, “Can you remember the last verse of the song? The one I've truly forgotten how to sing?

 

There's a soft smile on Lan WangJi's face despite the pain as he finishes the song that Wei WuXian thought he had completely forgotten after all these years:

Thank you, my love,

It's you who found it,

My heart is was never lost but,

I found it with you.

Never lost, only waiting for you to come back.
Thank you, I'll never lose it again.

 

Wei WuXian can't stop himself from bawling. His face presses into Lan WangJi's chest and he laments. They both are true with each other but the future is uncertain. Lan WangJi will most likely be crippled and unable to survive on his own. If the sea dragons are starting to come back longer through the year, it's likely either one of them will be eaten if Wei WuXian doesn't learn to control his mage-gift.

 

It makes Wei WuXian come to the conclusion of what he must do; the Lan pod won't be able to survive easily without Wei WuXian's newly discovered gift. Lan WangJi will die in the end if he doesn't learn to control his power. If Lan XiChen's predictions are correct, no siren will be ready for the next major change in their world.

 

Wei WuXian sits up from where Lan WangJi is laying on his bed and he asks in sign, “Will you let me be your leader? Not just your Omega.” Before Lan WangJi can ask, he clarifies, “I will master my mage-gift so you and I can live together even if you're unable to swim the same when you're healed. I want to care for you.

 

You... You want to be a pod leader, with me by your side.” It's a statement, not a question.

 

Wei WuXian nods. “Fate is trying to make things... difficult. I won't allow our future to be ruined. I'll save you from what would normally mean death. I fully intend to live a long life with you as my mate... maybe even father my children if you still can. Is that okay?

 

... I'd love that. Why would I say no? I love you and I'd literally die at this point without you.

 

Wei WuXian grins and signs, “Then it's settled... I'm sorry for all the heartache I've caused.

I'm sorry for lying about not hearing your voice and I should have confessed earlier.

 

All's forgiven.

 

Both sirens can't resist pulling each other close, even if Lan WangJi winces from how much pain he's in. He must be putting up with it for Wei WuXian's sake. Wei WuXian has a different reel going through his mind now. Now that the future is uncertain, Wei WuXian lingers on the past because there's a few things he needs to sort through while Lan WangJi is recovering in this ghost ship.

 

Even Wei WuXian senses it; he cannot truly move on to the future until he fully faces his past... it will take months but Lan WangJi will take just as long to recover, they have time.

Chapter Text

At three years old, Wei WuXian has been alone for three days now since his mother passed away in front of his eyes.

 

The open ocean is a monster that stalks its prey without any warning when it's going to attack. It's the middle of winter, when sirens from the shallow waters leave for the deeper waters to avoid young sea dragons and krakens looking for an easy meal, and it's not safe no matter where a siren goes. Little Wei WuXian only knows what his mother had taught him to prepare him for later in life; stay near the surface, don't approach sirens you don't know, and be vigilant for any sign of predators.

 

Wei WuXian is lucky that his hunting ability is invisibility because most predators are sight-oriented hunters but being all alone for a child means death. He's hungry, only able to catch small fish, and forced to take solace in a cess pool of garbage left behind by humans since the predators know better than to attack anything that lives there... the toddler knows it first hand since his mother grew sicker and sicker the more fish she ate living in the miasma.

 

The toddler knows he's growing sick, too. His stomach aches for some reason after eating whatever fish he can catch. Many days, he wants to vomit because of the feeling but won't let himself because he needs whatever nourishment he can get... also, he cannot leave the garbage heap because dolphins will swarm him and bully him with their hard noses. If it's not dolphins, it's sharks. If it's not sharks, it's some other predator that can eat him whole. Plus... he cannot leave his mother's body behind. Grieving, he wants to believe she'll come back to him. It's an irrational thought but he's only a child with hopes.

 

Right now, Wei WuXian is close to his mother's body since he still leaves scraps of his small morsels of sardines near her... as if she'll wake and eat them. It's the year of the whale, day 354, and it's the hour of the starfish, in the middle of a night of a full moon. The air is cold, the clouds release flecks of snow down over the water.

 

Come on, Mama, wake up already, he thinks, in denial that she's dead since it hasn't been long.

 

Her lifeless eyes don't move, nor does her body, before Wei WuXian deflates and decides to find a safe place to sleep. He's so tired. Earlier, there was a shark hanging around searching for his mother's corpse so he had to drag her away from the outer part of the miasma. The dragging took all the little siren's energy and he's just grateful that the shark left. With only moonlight to guide him, he finds a stranded buoy floating among the trash and manages to climb on top of it. The flat part is made of metal, cold enough to make him shiver but he won't freeze. The toddler is hardier than even he realizes.

 

Staring up at the sky, all the tired child sees is clouds and the outline of the moon behind them. He cried so much already that he can't bring himself to cry anymore. Will he ever have a home? If his mother won't wake up, where will he go? It's a lot for a child to process, the fact that life is finite. His mother used to sing for him before she passed so he decides to sing for himself.

 

The cold metal under him, the soft flecks of snow on his body... he closes his eyes and comforts himself with the song his mother used to sing... the song she used to woo his father.

 

How does one... forget envies?

Home is... where I find myself at heart...

Can you... show me where... my heart has gone?”

 

His voice is weak but can still project at least a mile or two. His newly found voice won't attract predators but he's sure that no one will find him in this soupy bog that is a trash heap. The familiar lyrics bring some ease to his mind that he starts to fall asleep, curling up on his side.

 

I don't know... if I'll ever find... it again.

Envy is all... I have... left now,

Praying someone... will bring.... me back my... heart.”

 

After the first verse, Wei WuXian lulls into a steady breathing rhythm and lulls off into sleep. He's alone, doomed to die on his own, but he's slowly accepting it... even if it will be too late.

 

 

Only a mile away, the Lan pod is floating on the surface as they sleep... but they recently suffered two family deaths, leaving the twin Alpha toddlers of the pod under the care of their only known living relative, their uncle. Lan WangJi, the younger twin, is the only one still awake because his brother is crying in his sleep. The death of their mother is what broke Lan XiChen's emotional state, the poor older twin unable to sleep peacefully and nothing seems to soothe him. Lan WangJi is perceptive to his brother's emotions even if he cannot hear the crying.

 

Lan WangJi turns to watch his brother with a strained expression in his sleep with heaving sobs, signing with a hand on his sleep. “Mom... don't go...please!

 

Tempted to wake his brother, Lan WangJi swims closer to cuddle his distressed brother. The poor older twin has been having scary visions in the past two weeks... predictions. It's mage-gift, from what Lan QiRen explained. The trauma of losing their mother must have activated it since both twins were almost unaffected by their father dying. Their father was murdered by their own mother after he suggested be was going to abandon the pod anyway. The entire pod felt betrayed and felt no remorse when their mother took things into her own hands. However, their mother fell ill from a disease spread by sea lice bites. The brothers weren't allowed to touch their mother as she developed white puss bulbs on her tail and soon couldn't swim much farther from weakness. They suspect she died from the high fever among anything else. Her last request before her death was to Lan QiRen to raise her children. The Alpha siren had never had a mate or children of his own, now under the care of twins, but took over without any choice in the matter because he couldn't abandon his nephews to die. Regardless, life is hard now but they are managing... even if life seems hopeless now.

 

Lan WangJi considers this scenario that fate has thrown at them and thinks of Lan XiChen's recent predictions; the older twin predicts vague emotions and singular events since he has no control over his powers. The most recent prediction is that they'll meet someone who will bring them comfort and, of course, Lan XiChen assumes they'll find a way to bring their mother back. Lan WangJi is a bit more realistic for his age and knows that can't happen. The toddler is acquainted with the fact that death is inevitable. They eat fish to survive, other big fish eat sirens so they can live, and many other things kill other sirens and fish, too. Lan WangJi isn't wise for his age but the cold hard reality of life has graced his mind earlier than most. The question is: Who will bring them comfort? They've lost two of their podmates in one year, both being parents, and they only have their uncle left. Who can bring them happiness in a time like this?

 

As Lan WangJi is about to wake his crying brother, he hears it. He hears for the first time a voice, singing weakly. Blinking in confusion at the new sensation, the tiny Alpha wonders in his mind, A voice? I can hear a voice? Why?

 

The sensation is foreign but Lan WangJi is aware what it means; he knows Alphas only hear the voice of their soulmates... or as Lan QiRen explained it, someone who they will be compatible at breeding age to produce children with. Siren children are taught about sex in their first year of life since many toddlers are left with Betas while their parents go off to satisfy their heats and ruts in private. It's vital for children in siren culture to know about sex so they understand why they are left alone during the summer for up to a week. Besides, sirens are very open creatures about their sexuality since their lives often revolve around being able to survive and bear children.

 

The one irrational thing Lan WangJi does believe in is that whoever he can hear singing right now must be his soulmate... because his young mind is open to the idea of having someone destined for him, even if Lan QiRen tried to explain it in a way to not get the child's hopes up since the Alpha siren himself has yet to find a mate... even one that cannot hear his voice.

 

Even more interesting, Lan WangJi watches as his older brother opens his eyes and has the same confused look as himself. In those long moments, the brothers slowly come to realize they heard the same thing as each other.

 

They both heard the same Omega singing. The song soothed Lan XiChen enough to stop crying and Lan WangJi feels a little bit of a red heat inside his heart at knowing his brother can hear the same siren. Jealousy? The child never has felt that emotion before. At least, not to this extent.

 

WangJi, you heard that, too?” Lan XiChen signs.

 

Nodding, Lan WangJi takes a moment before he signs, “... We should go find them. Whoever finds them first gets to be their mate when we're older.

 

W-WangJi!!!” Lan XiChen signs exaggeratedly before his younger brother stubbornly swims off in the direction of the voice.

Lan WangJi is determined in his young mind to find the Omega first. He cannot let his brother find them first. Of course, Lan XiChen reluctantly follows despite being worried their uncle will worry where they went when he wakes up. Both Alpha twins follow the direction of the voice, soon realizing they're heading towards the Island. Even after the voice fades away, they don't deter, curious and both twins having their own mindsets about being able to hear another siren's voice.

 

 

Wei WuXian is woken up by something touching the buoy. He wipes his eyes, worrying the dolphins found him again and plan to bully him more, and peers over the edge into the water. His eyes widen and he makes a distressed chirp in surprise as he jumps back at the sight over the buoy's edge. Two sirens, both around his age and of the deep sea race, are curiously watching the buoy for any movement. The action from Wei WuXian recoiling from the water's edge is enough to make the twin boys breach the surface and watch him curiously.

 

Taking in the sight before him, Wei WuXian isn't sure how to feel exactly about the newcomers. His mother told him not to communicate with strangers but these two are about his age. What should he do?

 

Both twins share a gaze and one signs, “Are you okay?

 

The question makes Wei WuXian stare silently at them until tears come to his eyes and he's loudly bawling. He's not okay; his mother is dead and he's all alone, left to die.

 

Both twin brothers frown at hearing the bawling, realizing they found the right Omega. They aren't sure why he's crying until Lan XiChen swims off to the side to investigate the area. Wei WuXian's mother's corpse is nearby, the sullen appearance of Wei WuXian shows obvious malnutrition and illness, and Wei WuXian's crying is so loud it pains the twin Alphas to their core. Alphas instinctually want to make Omegas happy, especially their 'mates'.

 

Lan XiChen signs something so quick that Wei WuXian can't see it but Lan WangJi does. Find him something to make him happy.

 

Both brothers scatter in a competitive nature due to their Alpha instincts to try and make the crying Omega feel better. Wei WuXian eventually stops crying but he sniffles and watch as the Alpha brothers are rooting through trash and garbage for things that are shiny or anything that could be pretty looking.

 

He's so confused what they're doing until one of them, Lan XiChen, returns with a crinkly and shiny plastic human toy that reflects in the moonlight. Wei WuXian takes it in his hand out of curiosity and shakes it. There are rusted bells on the shaken toy. Not good enough to raise Wei WuXian's mood, he sets it aside and Lan XiChen visually deflates at his failure.

 

Lan WangJi takes longer but brings back a bike tire. Wei WuXian sniffles and Lan WangJi unceremoniously sets it on the buoy and watches expectantly. Wei WuXian is confused on the appeal of this gift but holds it a certain way and it able to spin the tire. With that unable to raise his mood, he sets it aside and Lan WangJi frowns heavily at his own failure.

 

When Wei WuXian holds his stomach and gives them a pitiful look, the Alpha twins know exactly what they need to do: They need to feed him.

 

Both brothers are competitive, especially now that Lan XiChen is a bit aware of the gravity of the fact he can hear Wei WuXian's voice. Both boys scatter underwater and Wei WuXian simply watches the water for them to come back... and almost falls asleep because it's sunrise when they return... with another adult siren.

 

 

Wei WuXian's experience meeting Lan QiRen is almost complete fear because the older siren takes one look at him and signs, “Poor thing, you're going to die if you've been eating plastic...

 

The twins knew they couldn't catch good fish on their own after about an hour of trying, so they woke up Lan QiRen and explained what was happening. Of course, Lan QiRen scolded them for leaving on their own but immediately could tell the situation is dire. Lan QiRen had to make Wei WuXian vomit up all the food he tried to eat in the past week to reveal he ate a lot of plastic. The little Omega toddler would have died from starvation and toxicity in a week if the older Alpha didn't intervene, so he's grateful his nephews were comfortable enough to get him for help.

 

Wei WuXian is scared at first of the Alpha but soon forgets his fears when Lan QiRen offers him actual good fish to eat; tuna scraps and cleaned sardines. Anything that isn't fish from the Island.

 

However, Wei WuXian won't tell the Lan pod anything about himself at first; nothing about which bay he's from, who his family is, or his name... but they do know his mother is dead and the Omega child is furious when Lan QiRen tries to move the body. It takes a week of Lan QiRen coaxing but he manages to get Wei WuXian to at least sign his name and explain his mother died. It's obvious at this point she died from the plastic since bay sirens often don't know how to survive around the Island.

 

Lan QiRen honestly becomes attached to Wei WuXian for some reason. He's not sure why his parental instinct is acting up more with a random child than his own nephews but he's not worried since he notices his own nephews are attached to Wei WuXian like he's a fellow podmate.

 

None of the Lan pod questions it in the first week. They simply accept they have a new pod member since the poor toddler would die on his own. Lan WangJi and Lan XiChen usually sign secret conversations about the situation and come to an agreement that Lan WangJi found Wei WuXian first so he gets to be his mate. It's childish banter. However, neither tell Wei WuXian they can hear his voice. The brothers simply allow Wei WuXian to be with them. It's obvious that Lan WangJi is the one who is more attached but it means Lan XiChen is the one who has to encourage his brother to bond with their traumatized, shy, new podmate.

 

On day 1 of the new year, the year of the starfish, Lan WangJi warms up to attempting to bond with Wei WuXian. It all starts with one sentence.

 

What's your favorite thing to eat?

 

Wei WuXian, by then, is cautious but opens up to Lan WangJi and the two become as close as sworn brothers. That's it. Their relationship wasn't too deep other than podmates but... at the same time, it was Wei WuXian's everything. The child, and the Lan pod themselves, grew to form a bond that gave Wei WuXian hope for the future, gave Lan WangJi a friend other than his brother (and mate in the future), and Lan QiRen learned how to be a parent in his own right within a winter.

 

It ended in spring...

 

The Jiang pod found the Lan pod and Wei WuXian feels anger in his heart now that he remembers the past. There was fighting; Yu ZiYuan didn't even want Wei WuXian to join their pod but Jiang FengMian threatened to abandon his own pod if she didn't accept Wei WuXian. Lan QiRen resisted for as long as he could but Jiang FengMian manipulated the situation to convince Lan QiRen that he was helping Wei WuXian by abandoning him with the Jiang pod.

 

Wei WuXian doesn't blame Lan QiRen; the Alpha was convinced by Jiang FengMian that Wei WuXian wouldn't survive out in the open ocean for long and needed to grow up in Cyan Bay. Wei WuXian knows as an adult that Lan QiRen was trying to be what Wei WuXian never got to experience from his biological father... a good father.

 

However, that seperatation event affected Wei WuXian for the rest of his life because he felt like his pod abandoned him after all this time, even if that's not the case. He remembers the last day with the Lan pod... he remembers the pained looks in the Lan pod's eyes. The memories of being with them play in Wei WuXian's mind; Lan WangJi getting stuck in various tires and floating objects since he was the more curious of the two Alpha twins, Lan XiChen predicting Wei WuXian's next meals, Lan QiRen's awkward hugs, and all the other small moments.

 

As time fades back to the present, Wei WuXian hurts. Now, he wants to forget as much about the Jiang pod as he can and only remember the Lan pod but that's impossible. He has to live with the fact he has two families; his true family and one that captured him.

 

Perhaps how Lan WangJi handled his disappearance wasn't perfect. When Wei WuXian was either thirteen or fifteen, he vaguely remembers the Alpha came to Cyan Bay to try and confess to Wei WuXian but it ended up feeling like the siren was stalking him. Wei WuXian remembers telling him to 'get lost' and figures that might be why Lan WangJi was reluctant to confess he could hear Wei WuXian's voice the second time around.

 

Regardless now, the past is now the past. Wei WuXian can only hope to move on to the future now.

Chapter Text

Meanwhile in Cyan Bay, Meng Yao can feel another storm rolling in. It's not a thunderstorm, thankfully, but the rain will be heavy and bring in higher swells in the waves. The overcast says it all but Meng Yao's instincts can predict the intensity of the rain set to arrive within hours. It makes him wonder how Wei WuXian is doing; the stray siren grew on Meng Yao and he hopes the Omega is doing okay. Nie HuaiSang told him where Wei WuXian disappeared to after the first storm but Meng Yao has a nagging feeling that Wei WuXian is going to get himself in trouble out in the big ocean they live in.

 

Meng Yao rationalizes to himself that the Omega is fine; he has Lan WangJi to protect him, right?

 

“Meng Yao...” His name sounds so pitiful in Nie MingJue's rarely used voice. Meng Yao and Nie MingJue are in their human forms as Nie MingJue is leading him to the cottage the Alpha has been building. After Meng Yao's heat, the Alpha promised he would officially introduce his Omega to his pet project, so here we are. Meng Yao's feet hurt from the walking since he's not used to it.

 

In fact, Meng Yao noticed in the past week that his menstration hasn't started yet. It's odd since normally, Omegas often feel bloated and irritable (aside from the bleeding) after an unsuccessful heat at conceiving within a week or two after their mating cycle. Of course, he's not getting his hopes up this early that this might be the year he finally gets pregnant because his cycle might just be late. He has to remind himself that his feet probably only hurt because he's not used to his human form and that's it.

 

Meng Yao meets eyes with his mate and signs, “Yes, my love?

 

Nie MingJue changes to signing now he has his mate's attention. “We're almost there. I built a dock recently and it's still within our territory... so we can visit the ocean whenever we like if you're not ready to live on land full-time.

That makes Meng Yao smile. Nie MingJue knows Meng Yao isn't exactly sure about the idea of moving on land but Meng Yao would do anything to make his Alpha happy. The Alpha is being considerate of Meng Yao and it pleases the Omega. “I already told you; I'll decide when I see what you have of the cottage built.”

 

That calms Nie MingJue, as if he's confident in how Meng Yao will feel. The Alpha continues to lead through the trees, muttering something about needing to cut them down for a better view of the ocean, before Meng Yao's breath is taken away when they reach the clearing. It's more than Meng Yao ever expected.

 

The cottage is more or less a skeleton of what to expect but Meng Yao can see where Nie MingJue is going with it from what is built; two stories, a wood structure with brick reinforcement, and a barn for livestock. The barn is complete from what Meng Yao can see, looking exactly like the pictures in the books his mate showed him in the library of the abandoned city. Nothing is painted but that's not a requirement since they only need to lacquer the wood to protect against the elements. However, the cottage is a work in progress with a roof and a basic floor plan built... it needs walls to completely protect against the elements and it needs tile floors.

 

Nie MingJue rubs the back of his neck out of embarrassment and admits in sign, “I have had to rebuild things over the years due to storms and it should have been completed by now... It used to belong to my ancestors, this land, but I needed to rebuild their home from scratch. Only the barn has survived from over a century ago.

 

Meng Yao approaches for a closer look and he can tell Nie MingJue puts a lot of care into this project. There are plastic coverings that must be from the abandoned 'hardware' store in order to protect the project from the elements and the hand-carvings on the siding and doorway of boats speak of craftsmanship... Nie MingJue is quite talented to build this all by himself.

 

“... Do you need help with anything? With building, that is.” Meng Yao turns to sign that, thinking ahead of what needs to be done to complete their new home. Meng Yao has made up in his mind that he's going to live here with Nie MingJue; it's private, they won't need to worry about other siren clans trying to 'steal' this territory from them, and they can return to the sea to hunt whenever they wish. Living on land already has advantages in Meng Yao's mind as a pod leader.

 

Nie MingJue seems cautious but admits, “This would go a lot faster if I had more people than myself to help me build...

 

Meng Yao hums and his mind comes to a conclusion. But, he needs answers. “How many rooms will this house have? How many people can live here?

 

Four bedrooms, one for us and I got ahead of myself and figured the other three would be for our children. There's a kitchen planned and a bathroom planned... I figured out how to access the old sewer and water supply but it will need to be restructured to use sea water since fresh water makes our kind sick in too much exposure.

 

That makes Meng Yao snort. Of course, Nie MingJue would think that far in the future when they haven't even had one child yet. Additionally, Nie MingJue is a lot more clever than he gives him credit. The Alpha managed to tap into a system that has long stopped running since human times? Amazing. He figures Nie MingJue must have scavenged everything he needed from the abandoned city and that's admirable in itself.

 

Now that he knows how many people can live in the house, it gives Meng Yao an idea. “What if we ask for help to build the house?

 

Nie MingJue frowns at that, obviously wanting to keep the house a secret from everyone else. He concedes and asks, “Who would we ask?

 

Your brother? I can ask my siblings in the Jin pod... if they want to bother with me... Wen Ning is a friend of Wei WuXian and can be trusted. We have options.

 

Distressed, Nie MingJue argues out of fear. “You can't t-tell anyone else about our house! T-They'll try to take it from us-

 

MingJue... Do you honestly think anyone else is going to want to live on land? Or, have you forgotten you're the weirdo who wants to live on land?

 

That makes Nie MingJue freeze in open mouth shock, not sure how to respond to that. He seems like he wants to argue more but ends up pouting and conceding to his mate's point. He is the weirdo in the ocean who wants to live on land... but Meng Yao is just as weird and wants to live on land too because he sees method to his mate's madness. No one else will understand their genius in wanting to live on land, at least not yet. So, it can't hurt to ask their fellow sirens to lend a hand on a project to distract them from their daily lives, right?

 

“... Fine.” Nie MingJue signs. “If anyone decides they want to live on land with us, I'm not letting them live in our house.

 

Why can't we just help them build their own house then?

Nie MingJue sighs and facepalms.... but he doesn't disagree to the idea. They wordlessly decide on a plan. They're going to ask for help to build their house over the summer. It's not like anyone else is going to want to live in their house so there's no harm in asking.

 

If anything, other sirens will just consider it a craft project or laugh at Nie MingJue for wanting to do something so absurd. Either way, Meng Yao doesn't mind.

 

 

“... Dad, you say that I shouldn't play with Wen Yuan and the Omega boys but you literally just said you relied on the help of other sirens to build our house years ago. Isn't that... hypocritical? Is that the word?” Nie Shuang is irritated. Of course, Meng Yao found out that Nie Shuang was playing games with the siren children in the bay from his boat and became furious. Right now, Nie Shuang is sitting on his bed with his arms crossed because he's trying to argue with his father out of being grounded.

 

Meng Yao purses his lips because he knows he'll end up yelling at his son if he speaks. He doesn't like it when Nie Shuang gets rebellious, even if the boy has a point.

 

Don't argue with me. It doesn't matter what happened in the past. Things have changed and I'm not comfortable with you playing with the sirens.” Meng Yao signs his words to keep from raising his voice. It's the only way he can be civil with his son.

 

Nie Shuang grits his teeth and angrily responds with his own signing, throwing a tantrum. “It's not fair!!! I get friends and you won't let me play with them! Why are you so stubborn? It's not like the bay is dangerous to be in, right? Your friend drove away all the sea dragons and krakens so it's not like I'll get eaten!

 

Meng Yao clenches his fists for a moment and manages to retort in sign, “That's not the point! Wei WuXian might protect the bay now but that's not why I don't want you to play with them.” Taking a deep breath, Meng Yao tries to calm himself. He realizes that being dictatorial in his parental role will only make his son act out and argue more. He finds his voice, calmly, and explains further, “I... I don't want you to decide you want to live in the ocean when you grow up... It would defeat the goal your father and I wanted for the future. Living on land is safer, even with Cyan Bay under Wei WuXian's protection. He may be the Grandmaster of Mage-Gift now but what if he dies? The sea dragons will return. The krakens and other sea beasts will return in full force. Do you get where I'm going with this?”

 

Nie Shuang is about to yell but then slowly understands the root of this. His father is scared of him growing up and because of what happened to his other father; Nie MingJue is dead, as far as anyone knows. He disappeared after trying to help get rid of the kraken that devoured all the members of the Wen pod except for Wen Yuan. Nie Shuang knows this because Wen Yuan told him so; it was something Meng Yao didn't want Nie Shuang to know but secrets can't be kept forever.

 

In the end, the realization doesn't fill Nie Shuang with sympathy. It only makes him think his father is being a coward.

 

The moments are tense as Meng Yao notices his son seem to get more agitated, then sign, “You suck. You're scared of something that doesn't matter anymore. I'm going to play with my friends. Leave me alone.

 

Meng Yao is floored by the blantant disrespect from his son, in open mouth shock. He finds his voice and can't control his yelling now, stopping his son from daring to stand and try to leave his room. “Like hell you are!!! You're going to sit in here and think about what you just said to me!” Nie Shuang shrieks as his father grabs him by his shoulders and shoves him back on his bed. After the action, Meng Yao swiftly turns and goes to the doorway before turning back to say, “If you dare come out of this room before sunrise, I will make sure you have nothing but chores to do for the next week. Don't you dare think about going fishing out on the boat anymore either.”

 

Before Nie Shuang can even try to complain, Meng Yao slams the door behind him and locks it so Nie Shuang can't even dare come out. The child bangs on the door once he reaches it and voices his regrets, “I'm sorry, please! You can't do this! I-I just want to play with my friends... please...”

Silence. Nie Shuang soon realizes he's stuck in his room until his father decides otherwise and promptly starts to cry in frustration. It's almost the beginning of summer now. He had time to get to know the other siren children in the bay besides the three he originally met while fishing in the spring. Sure, those three are his best friends but he's also fond of Wei YinMao, who is pod leader Wei WuXian's Alpha daughter. She is quiet like her stoic Alpha father, Lan WangJi, but she is kind and brings him cool rocks and pearls. If he's honest, he was anticipating having her bring him a 'surprise' she had been planning but now that's out the window. Now, he's just suffering because his father is being too strict.

 

Nie Shuang off-handedly wonders if his own father is nearing a heat and that's why he's being extra irritable but that's beside the point now. He knows now why his father gets emotional when summer nears because it means he'll be alone for his heat without his other father around anymore. But, that shouldn't keep him from living his life. He wants to have fun... like the children in the books he reads going out and having adventures with their friends.

 

Punching a pillow, Nie Shuang finally sobs as his tantrum goes through it's course. He supposes he'll be left alone to play pretend with his toys...

 

 

The sound of something hitting his window wakes Nie Shuang at the end of the hour of the starfish. He knows this because the clock in his room that his father made has its hands near the starfish symbol and the minute hand is near the top of the clock. Rubbing his eyes, Nie Shuang soon realizes what the sound is. Pebbles. Pebbles are hitting his window.

 

Curious, the child gets out of bed and opens the window. He gasps at who he sees. Wen Yuan, Jin Ling, Lan JingYi, and Wei YinMao are waiting below, eager to see him.

Chapter Text

W-What are you guys doing here?” Nie Shuang signs this, confused as why his friends are outside his window below. He observes closer and notices something else; they have a ladder that must be stolen from the abandoned city.

 

Wen Yuan is the first to reply in sign. “We got worried. I asked Uncle XiChen if he had any insight on what happened to you and he said he foresaw us breaking you out of your room. Is your dad really punishing you for playing with us?

 

Jin Ling interjects, “It's not like we're going against our own parents' wishes either. My mom said it's not right if your dad isn't letting you have friends.

 

It was my dads' idea to get the ladder and break you out.” Wei YinMao adds, smirking a bit with mischief and pride.

 

Nie Shuang cannot believe it. His friends care that much about him that they went to so much effort for him to defy his own father. In a way, it says a lot how the sirens feel about Meng Yao's values and parenting, too. However, Nie Shuang gazes around suspiciously before he signs, “Get the ladder up here, quick. I need to be home before sunrise and we need to be quiet.

 

A few of them nod and Lan JingYi and Jin Ling quietly set up the ladder so Nie Shuang can climb down. The Omegas of the group cringe when Nie Shuang almost falls and causes the ladder to make a rustling noise. Other than that, the 'jailbreak', so to speak, goes to plan. Nie Shuang wonders in sign, “What are we going to do this morning?” Might as well call it morning since it's still nighttime and after midnight.

 

Wen Yuan answers, “We're going to play with the dolphins and sea lions. The sea lions are still sleeping but the dolphins are awake... 'Omega' dad is scared of dolphins so 'Alpha' dad is going to supervise us.

 

Nie Shuang understands what he means. Wei WuXian, his Omega adopted father, is scared of dolphins so it makes sense that Lan WangJi, the 'Alpha' adopted father, would supervise. But, Nie Shuang frowns. “How can I play with the dolphins? I can't swim.

 

That makes them all frown in confusion, as if he grew a second head. Either they didn't think that through or....

Can't you turn into a siren like us?” Wei YinMao brings up the question. “I mean, Dad said you are technically a siren like us. You can turn into one, right? You're not entirely a human.

 

Nie Shuang feels like he wants to shrink. He has always played with his friends from the boat, never going into the water. He's not even sure if he can turn into a siren; his father never taught him how to turn between the two forms. Nie Shuang almost wants to go back to his room and curl up in embarrassment until Jin Ling proposes, “Can we find someone to teach him? It isn't hard.

 

The others seem on board with the idea while Nie Shuang feels nervous and scared. He's never swam before. If he can't swim as a human, how is he supposed to swim as a siren?

 

Wei YinMao seems to notice the apprehension and goes to Nie Shuang's side. She rests a hand on his shoulder while signing in shorthand language with the other. “It's not hard because it's instinct. You'll know how to do it in your heart.

 

YinMao is right! You'll get it quickly.” Lan JingYi seems optimistic.

 

Before Nie Shuang can try to insist they play on land or something else, they all lose their smiles when someone else joins them. Nie Shuang knows Lan WangJi is tall in his human form but the Alpha is intimidating, just a little. Lan WangJi signs, “Is there a problem?

 

Everyone except Wei YinMao shows submission by adverting they eyes from directly meeting the glowing amber eyes of the Alpha. However, the Alpha's daughter gets right to the issue, “Shuang can't turn into a siren... or doesn't know how. Can you teach him, Papa?

 

There's some stillness and quiet before Lan WangJi smiles and motions them all towards the water. Nie Shuang is apprehensive but follows. He's a little curious what it's like to be a siren but he's more interested in being able to play with his friends in the bay. Nie Shuang is a little far behind because he thinks of something; he removes his clothes so they don't rip during the transformation. He at least knows to do that.

 

Eventually, he catches up, eager to see how this will work despite his fears.

 

 

Nie Shuang notices the little things; Lan WangJi has a limp in his human form because from what Nie Shuang remembers, the Alpha was attacked by a sea dragon years ago. Supposedly, his doesn't swim too good either but he miraculously manages to still be able to hunt. Although... rumor has it that he is spoiled by his Omega mate so he doesn't hunt that often. He also notices how Lan JingYi and Jin Ling hold hands and Wen Yuan smiles at the action. Nie Shuang knows the rumor behind that is they pledged to be each other's mates when they grow up but it's a rumor and nothing else... one spread by Wei YinMao of all people.

 

Regardless, they reach the water and Nie Shuang feels his heart in his throat. They all look at him expectantly, wanting him to learn how to become one of them. The rickety dock creaks with their steps.

 

Luckily, it's Lan WangJi who takes lead and signs, “Come on, I'll teach you. Get in the water.

 

Nie Shuang swallows and goes forward, allowing himself to climb into the water off the edge of the dock but he hangs onto the edge out of fear. What has he gotten himself into? The others seem to sense his fear and share a collective frown at Nie Shuang. Is is that obvious?

 

Lan WangJi hums in his throat and gets into the water, easily turning into his siren form and wading beside the child. He signs to him. “It's very easy once you cast aside your fear of the water. Close your eyes, imagine yourself with feet as fins and your legs as a tail together. Feel yourself be free, as if you've never been in your whole life.

 

That's easy for Lan WangJi to explain it but not easy for Nie Shuang to do when he feel freezing in the water and his whole mind rings with the idea that this is going against his father. It isn't long before the rest of them jump into the water around him and turn into their forms as well while he just holds onto the dock, trying not to panick himself into not being able to do it.

 

He closes his eyes and does as instructed, trying to abandon his fears. I am a siren, he thinks. I was born for this.

 

He's aware of Lan WangJi's hand on his shoulder and surely enough, he starts to feel different. It's as if his body molds itself to the new form like flowing water. His legs become one, his feet lengthen into fins, his lungs feel like he can hold more air than ever, and his instincts to sing awaken. When he opens his eyes, he looks down and sees the edges of deep green scales at his hips and can feel a tail move when he tries to move his legs. He's shocked.

 

His friends around him seem to be energetic at the movement but Lan WangJi quiets them with a hand before signing to Nie Shuang, “Let's start slow. You'll need to get used to using your air bladder and the movement of your tail. Just like how toddlers learn.

 

Still scared, Nie Shuang looks around at everyone around him and he feels like a newborn all over again. They simply watch as Lan WangJi gently guides him to swim a few feet while holding onto him before encouraging him to hold his breath and practice diving. Within minutes, Nie Shuang no longer feels fear because the action becomes second nature. Easily, he's swimming for the first time and following his friends through the water out towards deeper waters.

 

Nie Shuang almost feels angry his father would ever try to deny him this feeling of freedom.

Chapter Text

Together, the children and Lan WangJi swim farther out to sea where the dolphin pods play. Nie Shuang is a bit nervous by how expansive the ocean is at first, haunting and mysterious about just how big it actually it, but finds himself safe with Lan WangJi and the others. Wei YinMao even holds his hand when she tastes his stressed scent come through the water, perhaps responding to her Alpha instincts. Nie Shuang will be honest with himself; because of human literature, he's a bit shy of the idea of a girl holding his hand since human books have ingrained some of their culture of heteronormativity into him. It's ridiculous, he realizes, but it's still an thought in his mind, forgetting he's a siren himself sometimes.

 

In the vast ocean, Nie Shuang just barely sees the dolphins in the distance. There's about five of them, gray skinned and lithe in their movements. He hears their shrill cries in the water as they approach, obviously curious. There's something curious about dolphins that makes them different than any other animal; their clicks and cries in the water can be heard by most Alphas. It's something even the sirens can't explain, possibly because siren ears have evolved to pick up tones in the sound of their cries, but it's possible for sirens of both dynamics to communicate with them.

 

Nie Shuang somehow understands the messages the dolphins are sending in their clicks as one younger calf approaches, “Are you... friend?

 

Another dolphin, the pod matriarch, greets Lan WangJi. “Hello, siren Alpha.

 

As if by instinct, Lan WangJi mimicks the clicks of the creatures and says, “Hello, madame. Have you been hunting well?

 

Out of the five, two are young calves and the other three are two females and a male. The calves immediately take to the children, the other calf clicking, “Let's play! Chase me!!

 

The first calf clicks, annoyed, “Hey, don't get too excited. They're just weird water monkeys.

 

Ignoring the comment from the first calf, the second calf eggs Wen Yuan to chase them. Wen Yuan gives chases, going in circles and figure eights in the water. Jin Ling and Lan JingYi join, designating Wen Yuan 'it' in their game of tag. Meanwhile, Wei YinMao lets go of Nie Shuang's hand to respond with clicks of her own to the first calf. “How are you? Been eating well?

Nie Shuang listens, amazed he can understand them. “I'm good! I like sardines. Do you have a favorite fish to eat?

 

Wei YinMao encourages Nie Shuang to respond first and he freezes. Will the clicks come natural to him, too? He bites his lips before he experiments, focusing on a meaning, “I like...crab and tuna. I don't eat tuna often though.

 

Pleased, the dolphin calf clicks in excitement and responds, “That's cool. You wanna play catch or hide-and-seek?

 

Nie Shuang isn't sure but Wei YinMao takes over and says, “Catch.”

 

The calf seems satisfied and swims off to find something for them to play catch with. Nie Shuang is anxious if he'll disappoint his new friends, balling his fists in stress. Wei YinMao notices and signs to him. “It's okay, you know. Don't worry so much. I can smell how stressed you are.

 

How can I not? I've never done this before...

 

Trust me, it'll be fine.” She offers him a smile and says, “Just have fun.

 

Somehow, her Alpha scent of comfort actually helps him relieve his nerves. He can't explain it but Wei YinMao knows how to make him feel better, whether it be her smile or words. Even Wen Yuan, as comforting and nice as he is, doesn't bringing him that much comfort. He takes her word for it as the dolphin calf returns with a decent sized rock to toss back and forth.

 

That's how they send a good hour, tossing a rock back and forth. The game they play is that you gain a point if you catch the rock and you lose a point if you don't catch it. By the end of the hour, Wei YinMao is the winner with the most points while the dolphin calf is the loser. Pouty in body language, the dolphin sulks once the adult dolphins declare they need to move to other parts of the ocean. They wave goodbye and they realize where they will go next; the sea lions.

 

Lan WangJi guides them to the sea lions, taking awhile to go there that Nie Shuang worries he won't make it home before sunrise. On the beach, they turn into their human forms because they realize the sea lions are still sleeping. Lan WangJi allows the children to be by themselves on the rocks, chatting. Their conversation is nothing but meaningless gossip at first; Wen Yuan mentions something about his uncle Jiang WanYin wanting a child with his mate this year; Jin Ling complains his grandfather, Jin Guangshan, is being insufferable to be around and recalls a story where he signed 'Ok, boomer' to the Alpha's face; Lan JingYi talks about learning to hunt with his adoptive father, Lan XiChen; and Wei YinMao mentions something about Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi being insufferably flirty lately and how pod leader Wei WuXian might be nearing a heat if he's being that way. The conversation is light, comforting despite Nie Shuang's worries about getting home before his father knows he's gone.

 

Nie Shuang is slightly distracted but catches Wen Yuan tease Wei YinMao in sign, “I bet I can beat you in a fight now.

 

She narrows her eyes, signing back, “Try me, bitch.

 

In an instant, the two are running to the soft sand before colliding in play-fighting. Typical Alpha behavior. Jin Ling and Lan JingYi snort at the two Alphas battling it out in the sand. Jin Ling says out loud since only the Omegas are left on the rocks, “How many times do Wen Yuan and Wei YinMao wrestle a day? Two? Three times a day?”

 

Lan JingYi shrugs and answers, “I don't keep count. They're technically my adoptive cousins but I don't pay attention.”

 

“Typical for Alphas to be so barbaric.” Jin Ling comments.

 

Nie Shuang frowns and asks, “Isn't it...natural for Alphas to be rowdy? Their lives revolve around protecting their pods and impressing mates?”

 

“That's not the point!” Jin Ling tries to argue. “They're so... uncouth. Like, who gets enjoyment out of fighting and being showy? Not me. I'll stick to singing to get attention.”

“But you're an Omega, just like me. That's... in our DNA? To be different from Alphas?” Nie Shuang says.

 

Jin Ling gets more frustrated and Lan JingYi facepalms at the sight. Nie Shuang is obviously missing something and he supposes it's because he was raised on land and not in the ocean to know what the hell Jin Ling is talking about.

 

However, Jin Ling gets angrier and demands, “If you know so much about what you're talking about, prove you're a true Omega! If you can sing better than me, you're a better Omega. If I win, then you suck.”

 

Nie Shuang wants to shrink in on himself. He... has never sang before. His dad will sing to himself and he enjoys listening to his dad sing but he's never tried it himself. How is he supposed to compete with Omegas who sing on the regular? Nie Shuang licks his lip nervously before saying, “... I've never sang before. Are you suggesting you're already better than me?”

 

Jin Ling frowns and relaxes. As if realizing how combative he's being, he responds, “Well... no. I'm sorry, I just got angry... If you want to sing, you can. Or, we can sing first and then you can. Your call.”

 

Relaxing himself, Nie Shuang nods and motions for Jin Ling and Lan JingYi to sing. The two Omegas share a look and grin, they must know what song they're going to sing. In time, the two Omegas break out into song of an old sea shanty the pirates of old used to sing. Nie Shuang knows the song because its lyrics are in the books he reads about pirates. The fact that anyone knows the song anymore is a miracle created by the sirens themselves.

 

The singing of Jin Ling and Lan JingYi seems to wake the sea lions and they start to go about their day, the sun rising. Nie Shuang is painfully aware that he needs to go home... but doesn't allow himself to.

 

When the two are done singing, Jin Ling says, “Your turn, Shuang.”

 

Nie Shuang swallows nervously and tries to remember the songs his dad sings. All of them are sad songs since his father is still in mourning after all these years about losing his mate. However, he recalls one of the sad songs that holds a little bit of hope.

 

Clenching his fists, unsure of his voice, Nie Shuang starts to sing.”

 

 

Can you hear it? The sound of my voice?

I thought no one would hear me.

Can you see me? I'm not sure you will.
I feel like I'm hiding my true self.

Can you feel my beating heart? I know it's there.

Come and see if it beats for you.

Let's see.

 

Wei YinMao almost freezes when she hears the soft voice of Nie Shuang's singing. It's like a jolt of electricity through her body in realization she can hear for the first time besides the dolphin calls. She manages to keep Wen Yuan pinned underneath her as she listens.

 

Alone I'll always be, or so I thought.

Oh, I'll find someone.
Whether it's a friend or foe, they'll find me.

Maybe I'll find a lover, but that's too hopeful.

Oh, find, me,

I'll always be searching in all the wrong places.

Only fate really knows what's meant for me,

But I can hope for more, right?

Nos-tal-gia be damned, I'll find you,

And you'll find me.

 

Wen Yuan seems to notice Wei YinMao is listening to Nie Shuang because he stops struggling... because he's listening to the Omega sing, too. The other Omegas seem amazed as Nie Shuang reaches the chorus.

Oh, find, me! My love.
We'll search a thousand seas, for friend and foe,

We'll travel a thousand miles for a sip,

I know it seems dumb, but I'd do it with you.

Hold my hand and we'll find solace,

It's amazing, isn't it?

When you find the one?

 

Nie Shuang stops singing and the whole group of siren children freeze when they see what caused Nie Shuang to stop singing.

 

Meng Yao, with a furious expression, has arrived on the beach.

 

 

Nie Shuang finds himself crying, even days after being caught with his friends. He remembers Lan WangJi tried to argue his case to let Nie Shuang be excused but it didn't work. Meng Yao is still furious about the whole situation. Nie Shuang disobeyed without even trying to negotiate... or Meng Yao had no intention of ever letting him play with the other sirens ever again. Either way, he finds himself forced back into his old routine of helping with the sheep and household chores. The difference is that Meng Yao doesn't let him out of sight.

 

Right now, it's been a week since that morning he was singing. Sprawled out on his bed with tears drying on his cheeks, Nie Shuang tries to not be angry at his father but he can't help it. He knows his father is scared and he didn't respect that but what about him? He deserves some freedom, doesn't he? It's not like he's in danger as long as he stays in the bay. Hell, even goblins in the abandoned city are more dangerous than anything that's in Cyan Bay now that Wei WuXian is there.

 

At least, he's allowed to open his window. He stands and opens the window so he can look out over the bay. Maybe, if he sings, Jin Ling and Lan JingYi will hear him? Nie Shuang takes a deep breath and indulges in the new instinct that woke up inside him after turning into a siren; he sings out towards the ocean, hoping someone will hear and his father won't scold him for it.

 

 

Good morning, good morning,

Do you hear me? My soft voice?

I'm seeking out someone's voice.

Will someone hear me? I swear,

It's lonely, like Rapunzel in her tower.

Will you hear me out?

 

Of course, Wei YinMao clenches her fists when she hears Nie Shuang's pitiful singing. She's in the middle of helping her fathers gather crabs and lobster for the day's breakfast and her Alpha strength breaks one of the crab shells in her hand. It's not fair; Nie Shuang doesn't deserve to be to kept from his friends and the outside world like a princess locked in a tower in need of saving.

 

However, it makes Wei YinMao get an idea. If Nie Shuang is the princess, she'll be his prince and save him. At least, that's how she rationalizes it. She sees her Omega father, Wei WuXian, and decides she's going to confide in him that she can hear Nie Shuang's voice.