While some people, like myself, spend summer dying from the heat and humidity, other people go off and have those oft-fabled summer romances. In the case of this week’s Fanfiction Fridays, the emphasis is on the “fabled”. Todays’ fanfiction is a collection of things I enjoy immensely: well-done AUs, Tales of Vesperia, and a dash of fairy tales. If any of those things catch your interest, I implore you to read on beyond the cut.
Child of the Sea by Nightfoot wastes none of the reader’s time with a “is he, isn’t he” situation. From the moment Yuri shows up to Flynn on that beach during their childhoods, we know that Yuri isn’t entirely human. Each summer, Flynn visits his grandparents in a more rural area of the country. As a city slicker, Flynn’s really not thrilled about this, believing there’s nothing to do there outside of suffer through his grandparents’ affections and practice his flute. However, upon traveling down to the beach one Midsummer’s Day, he attracts the attention of another young boy, Yuri, who insists Flynn joins him exploring the town, instead of sucking at playing the flute. Each year, the boys meet up like this—Yuri admitting that he’s only around for this one day because his family is visiting his grandmother for her birthday—and they continue to grow closer until one year Flynn has the realization that he may not be coming back. Though he wishes for nothing more than the chance to continue hanging out with Yuri, the sparks of World War I have ignited, and Flynn is duty-bound to enlist in the British army alongside his other friends. Yuri makes Flynn promise that he won’t die, and that he’ll return to see him again, casting “selkie magic” on Flynn so that he’ll return safely. Years later, the war is over and Flynn survived, however it’s apparent that nothing will ever be the same.
Usually I’m not really one for fics that use historic wars as setting pieces, and before I started reading Child of the Sea I wondered if Nightfoot would really be able to pull it off. However, I needn’t have worried. The best thing that Nightfoot did for their story was leave out the fighting and focus entirely on the social effects with Flynn as a focal point. As the war inches its way into civilian life, we see the subtle effects on Flynn’s grandparents’ lives, especially in terms of rationing. Yet, where this story truly shines is in how Flynn accepts his duty to enlist despite his apprehensions, and how he remains, and will remain, affected by the war for the rest of his life. Upon returning home, Flynn shows many symptoms of PTSD, and even questions why he should remain alive when so many of his comrades didn’t make it.
After the service, he spent the long afternoon shaking hands with family friends and distant relations. Over and over, people told him they were sorry for his loss and Flynn tried his best to put on a grieving face. He wondered how many other people were forcing the grief, too. His grandfather had been far from the only person to die of the flu, and he knew he had distant cousins who’d also gone to war, but unlike him, they hadn’t come back. Many of the great-aunts and second-cousins he was shaking hands with today probably resented him for making it home when their sons or brothers hadn’t. Flynn didn’t blame them. He wasn’t sure why he deserved to have lived, either.
At last the funeral ended and they were able to go home. They ate a simple supper and then Gran kissed him on the cheek and retired to her room. It had been a long day, she said, and she wanted to be alone for a little while.
Flynn nursed a cup of tea in the quiet, dimly lit kitchen. His hands were folded in front of him and his cane leaned against the table. The windows were open, letting in a cool breeze, the chirping of crickets, and the rustle of waves. It was so… quiet .
The silence was maddening. At least in the city, he had the bustle of neighbours next door, the clip-clop of horses on the streets or the rush of an automobile. It was so strange to sit in the comfortable, familiar room that reminded him of his childhood. Everything looked the same as it had the summer before he’d left. How could he come back to a home that was exactly the same when he had changed so much? How could someone who had stabbed a young man in the face with a bayonet, because he’d known the same would happen to him if he didn’t do it first, quietly sip in a cozy kitchen as if the past three years hadn’t happened?
He’d come home, just like he’d promised, except he really hadn’t. He’d left part of himself behind – buried under mud, blood, and tears – and he wasn’t sure if his altered self still fit into the Flynn-shaped hole he’d left here. It had been a mistake to come home. He shouldn’t be here. He ought to have died with the rest of them.
While Yuri brings some peace to Flynn, it’s obvious that this is a pain that can’t be willed away by fairy tales or love.
The trope of summer romances tends to be shown in whirlwinds of passion, with the underlying sense that things won’t last once the clock strikes twelve, so to speak. Despite this, Flynn and Yuri find compromises to make sure their newfound happiness lasts. Child of the Sea ends up being a somewhat bittersweet tale of growing up and self-discovery, yet still grants the audience a happily ever after. Completed at just under 12k words, it’s a refreshing bit of sea breeze for your day. Make sure to check it out here at AO3!