Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies
Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain
For we have received orders to sail to old England
We hope in a short time to see you again
"Tch," came the voice of a boy in the corner, munching noisily on an apple. "Almost everyone in here is sick, and they're up there singing."
Gon sat up straighter, taking a break from helping some of the many seasick occupants of the boat to realize that he recognized one of the singing voices. He made his way out of the room and to the pilot house, to find Cerridwen and the Captain dancing merrily, passing a flask of what he could only guess was some alcoholic beverage between them.
Now let every man drink up his full bumper
Let every man drink up his full glass
We'll drink and be jolly, and drown melancholy
And here's to the health of each true-hearted lass
We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors
We'll rant and we'll roar all on the salt sea
Until we strike soundings in the channel of old England
From Ushant to Scilly 'tis thirty-five leagues
The two laughed as they finished their song, the Captain returning to the helm and Cerridwen sitting in a nearby chair with the flask, kicking her feet up on a table.
"Amazing!" Gon applauded from the doorway.
The Captain jumped and whipped around, and Cerridwen almost dropped the flask.
"Gon!" she exclaimed in surprise, standing up and walking over to him. "What's up?"
"I heard you singing from below deck," he answered, grinning, "so I came to see what all the fun was about."
The Captain looked confused. "You know this kid, Cerridwen?"
"Of course I do!" was her reply. "This is Ging's son, Gon."
"You know each other?" Gon asked, cocking his head to the side.
"Oh, yeah!" The Captain responded, with uproarious laughter. "We go way back! I sailed her and her little snowflake boyfriend to the Exam way back when they were rookies like you."
Cerridwen whipped her head around and glared at him. "But if anyone asks, this is my second attempt at taking the Exam, and I'm not a Hunter."
"Oh, right, sorry, I forgot," The Captain mumbled sheepishly.
"It's fine," she chuckled, giving the Captain back his flask and turning toward the door. "Now, if you boys don't mind, I think I'm gonna go take a nap."
"Okay, sleep well!" Gon called after her.
"Cerridwen! Cerridwen, wake up!"
The sound of Gon's voice startled Cerridwen awake, making her sit bolt upright in the hammock she had been sleeping in. The hammock swung violently, tipping to the side and making her fall to the hard wooden floor below.
"...ouch," she grumbled, turning her head to see three pairs of feet standing near her. One was Gon, another clad in light blue slip-on shoes, and the last in black dress shoes.
"Oh no, I'm so sorry!" Gon exclaimed, as the dress shoes made their way closer to Cerridwen. She felt someone take hold of her arms and help shift her into a sitting position, leaning her against a wooden beam. After gaining her bearings, she found herself looking into a pair of warm brown eyes, peering at her over a pair of dark round glasses.
"Are you alright?" the young man asked her. "Did you hit your head?"
Behind him, a boy with medium-length blonde hair (and the owner of the blue shoes) crossed his arms. "Don't crowd her, Leorio. Give her a chance to completely wake up before you interrogate her."
"I'm not interrogating her, Kurapika!" Leorio snapped, his head spinning to glare at his grey-eyed companion. "I'm trying to make sure she doesn't have a concussion, alright? Geez!"
"Woah, ok, everyone calm down," Cerridwen managed, sounding like she was coming out of a daze. "First of all," she continued, looking at Gon, "it's fine Gon, don't apologize."
Gon let out a huge sigh of relief.
Cerridwen turned to Kurapika. "Secondly, thank you, I'm incredibly confused right now."
Finally, she turned back to Leorio and said, "Thank you for helping me, but I'm pretty sure I don't have a concussion; I've survived worse blows from well-intended punches and come out unscathed."
"Well, if you're sure," he mumbled, rising to his feet and reaching a hand down to her. She grabbed hold of it, and he pulled her into a standing position.
Cerridwen took this chance to take a better look at him. He had short, ruffled black hair, striking facial features, and he wore a dark blue suit with a green-teal tie. He looked to be about twenty, give or take a year.
"Again, thank you," she smiled.
"Oh, don't mention it!" he replied, rubbing the back of his neck. "Anything to help a friend of Gon's!" he finished with a nervous chuckle.
Kurapika rolled his eyes and smirked.
"Cerridwen," Gon began, running up to her, "these are my new friends, Kurapika and Leorio! They're going to take the Hunter Exam too!"
"Pleased to meet you, Cerridwen-san," Kurapika said with a smile. He looked about seventeen, and had a strange air of determination about him that Cerridwen had rarely seen on someone so young, almost like he was on a mission. He wore a blue tabard with orange detailing, over a full white training suit.
"Same to you, Kurapika. Just Cerridwen is fine, please," she responded.
Leorio gave a weak smirk, hand still on his neck. "Nice to meet you, Cerridwen."
"Likewise," she answered, fighting back a chuckle. Turning to Gon, she inquired, "You've made two good friends already? How long was I asleep?"
"All night," Gon stated. "I came in to check on you once or twice, but you were sound asleep every time."
"What?" Leorio roared incredulously. "How did you manage to sleep through that storm?"
Cerridwen arched an eyebrow. "Storm?"
Kurapika tilted his head. "You mean you really didn't know?"
"It was a really big storm, Cerridwen!" Gon recalled enthusiastically. "There were enormous waves! And gale-force winds! Someone even went overboard!"
"Oh no!" Cerridwen gasped, covering her mouth in horror.
"Two people, actually," Kurapika clarified.
Cerridwen's eyes widened.
"Gon jumped over the side of the boat to save the boy who went overboard," Kurapika explained. "He grabbed onto the boy, and Leorio and I grabbed onto him and pulled them to safety."
Cerridwen clutched her chest and leaned back on the post. "Thank you both for looking out for him! His aunt would murder me if I let anything happen to him."
"So," Leorio began, putting his hands in his pockets and tilting his head quizzically, "are you only here to look after Gon, or are you taking the Exam too?"
"Oh no, I'm taking the exam too!" she replied with a grin. "It's my second, and hopefully last, year. What about you two?"
"It's my first try," Leorio answered.
"Mine as well," Kurapika said.
"Great!" Gon shouted, jumping in the air. "We should all go together!"
The two older boys smiled warmly at the twelve-year-old, as did Cerridwen. Her heart swelled with joy to see the bright-eyed optimist that Gon had become.
"Well," Cerridwen declared, picking up her bag from the floor and slinging it over her shoulder, "I have no objections. The more, the merrier."
"Yay!" Gon exclaimed, darting for the exit to the boat's deck. "Come on, you three! We're gonna become Hunters!"
Leorio gave a quiet laugh, picking up his black and red briefcase and turning to Cerridwen.
"Has he always been like this?" he asked, as the two of them followed Kurapika to catch up with Gon.
"You mean an absolute bubble of sunshine?" she giggled.
He smirked. "Mm-hm."
"Then yes," she replied, brushing her bangs out of her face. "Ever since he was a baby."
"So are you, like, his sister or something? Because you don't look related."
"Oh no, I'm his aunt."
Leorio's jaw dropped. "What?"
"Well, I mean, I'm not really his aunt. He just called me that when he was younger. His dad was my mentor since I was Gon's age, and when I turned twenty or so he asked me to drop in occasionally and help Mito and Abe with young Gon. So, I was officially Aunt Cerridwen."
Leorio arched an eyebrow. "Why doesn't he call you that anymore?"
"Because I told him to just call me Cerridwen." She smiled proudly. "He's about to become a Hunter, and go find his dad...which I know for a fact won't be easy. I know someone else who had to find Gon's father after he completed the Exam, and it took him years."
"The boy who he mentored with me," she replied as they walked out onto the sun-drenched deck of the boat, reaching up to touch the pendant around her neck: a round bluish-purple glass stone, with mirrored pewter crescent moons on either side of it, attached to a silver chain. "Kite."
"Ahhh," Leorio crowed knowingly, "Kite, eh? So, is this Kite your lover?"
"Yes," Cerridwen laughed as the two of them joined Gon and Kurapika in the middle of the ship's deck. "That and so much more."
"Oh no," fourteen-year-old Cerridwen giggled, holding baby Gon in her arms. "Don't eat that, little one...Ging! I need a little help with your squirmy potato!"
Cerridwen had never held a baby before, and suddenly she found herself alone in the middle of Gon's nursery, in the childhood home of her mentor, trying to hold the rambunctious infant as he tried to eat her necklace.
Ging walked in the doorway, then doubled over laughing at the look of sheer panic on the girl's face.
"Cerridwen," he forced, leaning against the doorframe and catching his breath, "it's just a necklace. The edges aren't sharp. He'll be fine."
She gawked at him. "I haven't cleaned this necklace in years, Ging."
His eyes widened. "Oh god, get that thing out of his mouth!" he exclaimed, dashing over to her and gingerly removing the pendant from the grasp of his son.
"I'm sorry, Ging," she said, shifting the position of her arms around Gon slightly. "I'm just not used to babies...I don't seem to have enough hands."
"I'm not good with them either," he chuckled, crouching alongside her and brushing small, wispy hairs off of Gon's forehead. "Why else do you think I'm leaving him with Mito and Abe?"
"Because you're a Hunter," she stated matter-of-factly, turning her head slightly to face him. "You crave adventure above all else."
Ging wanted to be angry, but all he could do was smile at her. "Well, I can't argue with that. I have a few more things to straighten out with Mito before she'll let us leave, I'll send up a couple more hands to help you out with him in the meantime."
"I'd definitely appreciate it," she admitted with an exasperated sigh as Ging walked out the door and into the hallway.
"Kite!" she heard him call as he walked downstairs. "Go help Cerridwen settle Gon down!"
From the sound of Ging's voice shouting through the house, Gon started to cry. Cerridwen looked down at the infant in horror, absolutely no idea how to handle the situation.
"It's a baby, Carrie, not a time bomb," Kite chuckled as he strode into the room.
Cerridwen glared at the older boy in the white turtleneck. "You know damn well I have no experience with kids; I have no idea where to even begin with this."
Kite walked up behind her chair and placed his hands on her shoulders comfortingly.
"Try singing to him," he suggested. "You have a lovely voice."
"Singing?" she repeated, blushing slightly at the compliment.
"Yeah," he confirmed with a shrug. "That's what I always used to do to get you to relax when we were younger, don't you remember?"
She did. Vividly. And fondly. It didn't matter what song it was; whenever Kite sang to her, she felt safe.
"I don't know if he'll find the same comfort in bouncy Irish folk songs that I do, Kite," she managed as she adjusted the wriggling, wailing baby in her arms.
"Do you remember that night," he inquired, "after you were almost jumped by that big burly bastard, not long after we met?"
Cerridwen smirked, despite struggling to hold Gon. "You mean the guy eight times your size that you almost beat to a pulp for touching me? How could I forget?"
"You couldn't sleep at all that night," Kite recalled. "You were terrified. I remember lying there on the other side of the straw pile, listening to you cry, feeling my heart breaking into pieces because nothing I could think of had helped. So I tried the next thing that came to my mind: I moved over to your side of the straw and held you, and sang you the most comforting song I knew until you fell asleep."
Cerridwen smiled distantly. She remembered that night, she remembered how safe and warm she felt in Kite's arms, and she remembered the power that song had over her. But she couldn't remember the song.
He leaned over and wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on her shoulder and looking at the screaming baby.
"Do you remember how it starts?"
"I-I'm not sure," she confessed quietly.
Kite chuckled gently, before singing the first line.
Nothing's gonna harm you
Not while I'm around
Cerridwen felt tears begin to brim in her eyes, and she joined Kite in singing as the words came back to her.
Nothing's gonna harm you, darling
Not while I'm around
Demons are prowling everywhere nowadays
I'll send 'em howling, I don't care
I got ways
No one's gonna hurt you
No one's gonna dare
Others can desert you, not to worry
Whistle, I'll be there
Demons'll charm you with a smile
For a while
But in time
Nothing can harm you
Not while I'm around
Tears running down her cheeks, Cerridwen looked down to see that Gon was fast asleep in her arms, a smile on his tiny lips. Kite walked around to the front of her chair and crouched down, reaching up to tenderly wipe the tears from her face and kissing her forehead.
"Maybe that should be your special power when you train your Nen enough," Kite commented, resting a hand on her cheek.
"Pfft, what, crying?" she said with a half-hearted chuckle.
"No," Kite answered gently, looking intently into her eyes. "Singing."
Cerridwen blushed. "It's a nice thought, but we don't even know what kind of Nen I have."
"Well then," came Ging's voice from the doorway, "maybe it's about time we found out."
The two teenagers pivoted to face him, clearly startled.
"How long were you standing there?" Kite asked, using Cerridwen's knee as a support to stand up.
"The whole time," Ging responded casually, a wry smirk on his face. "Which you would have known if you'd been practicing your En."
Cerridwen rose to her feet and gently placed the sleeping Gon in his cradle, leaning over to kiss his forehead before looking back at Ging. "In all fairness, we had a restless baby to settle down."
"That's no excuse for a lapse in vigilance, Cerridwen," Ging argued in a sing-song voice, turning and beginning to walk down the hall. "Come on you two, we have training to do!"
Kite and Cerridwen turned to each other before dissolving into quiet laughter.
"By the way," she began as they started to walk toward the door, "you never did tell me where that song is from."
"It's from a musical about a homicidal barber," he answered nonchalantly.
"Oh," Cerridwen said, flipping the lights off as they exited the nursery. "Good to know."