1: prologue: SCHOOL DAYS


Grateful to these beautiful stories and their wonderful authors:

"Saltwater Love" by TideRider925

Certain scenes Inspired the title and helped to birth the original plot bunny

"Help! We're Not Human" by LuluCalliope

Seeing another unashamed Gill fangirl proudly acting out her fantacies via fanfiction is really encouraging

"Memmories Kept Alive" by CelestialRainstorm

One of my favorite Gill fics on this site, and one I never get tired of rereading, along with Lulu's story

Annoying disclaimer: this is fanfiction, therefore, I own no copywrited material…if someone from Pixar did find this fangirl's fanfiction, I'm not sure how I'd feel about it

Please Note: I've never actually seen anything besides light/dark contrast and splotches of color (no details). A tv screen is a blue light. So I'm not that confident in my visual descriptions/gestures/etc. My visual knowledge of Finding Nemo/Dory is limited to the audio descriptive narration of the movies and the little things I've picked up through fan forums and fanfiction. I listen way too hard to the dialogue, the descriptive details from the narration, the sound effects, and even the location of the sounds in stereo.

Here goes…enjoy.

Gill couldn't understand why he was so introverted-dangerously introverted and not as empathetic as a fish should be to other fishes-growing up. He swam with a little school, much like the average moorish idol, but he showed signs of breaking away and growing up far sooner than the other juveniles. He never seemed too interested in his schoolmates' lives or thoughts-or their anything, for that matter. Gill would much rather be on his own, in his own head, wandering and wondering about what else was out there that he had not yet had the chance to explore-what was outside the water, even. Rather than discuss the latest school gossip, Gill wanted to know if anyone knew what more there was to the boats than their underside. Rather than debate about the best way to win a mate from competition, Gill would search for good hiding places and plan diver-watching.

In the eyes of the other fish he came across, Gill was different: he was acting how an idol should act at first glance, majestic and contemplative and (so to many females) extremely atractive; but to those who really knew him and tried to talk to him, he seemed too interested in the world outside the water: the world that could never-should never be reached willingly. That rule of never provoking the creatures who swam in the air-humans especially-was the Number One rule of the ocean. It was unsettling to others, therefore, that Gill be so intrigued by that other world. And the fact that this curiosity was unsettling for them and not for him kept Gill isolated.

With the setting of the moon came the rising of the sun; with the rising of the sun came a new day. The ocean water of the Great Barrier Rief changed from a deep indigo to a clear aquamarine as schools upon schools of fish emerged from their beautiful homes to find breakfast and start the day. . And past the dense, colorful coral, away from the crowded but seemingly friendly underwater neighborhood, Gill sighed in relief.

Each morning, when the sun rays first reached down through the water, Gill rose early and snuck away from his small school to diver-watch. Sneaking away from a school was always hard. It was hard when you had parents or teachers or older fish who's job it was to watch you. If there was no authority fish, it might be easier if the school was big enough, but Moorish idols didn't live in large groups. So Gill had to be quiet and quick about sneaking away. It wasn't that he didn't want any friends…it was the opposite really, but his schoolmates just never understood how much he really liked to watch humans. And if they did find him diver-watching, or if he even brought it up, there was a guarantee that things would end ugly.

It was times like that when Gill envied other types of fish who had parental figures. His school joined others for some time during the day for lessons on how to survive, but the lessons were the only time that he interacted with an older fish. Besides, more and more often, the little school was reminded that they were growing up and getting more mature with each passing day…and soon, they should be looking for mates.

Gill pushed all that from his mind, though. This was the only time that he would get to himself all day, and he was going to take advantage of it. Now, where were the divers? They should be out by now.

"Hey! Gill! Found ya!"

It was the smirking self-appointed leader of the little school. So much for alone time. Gill wished that Tyranos would just find a mate already so Gill didn't have to exist to him anymore. Once a moorish idol found a mate, no other fish existed. And if an other fish got in the middle, intentionally or not…well, the gravity of that threat was known to just about everyone. Even humans knew of a mated Moorish idols agression, and that was saying something. The one thing that humans seemed to know about idols of the ocean was that they were extremely protective and possessive of their mates. Humans didn't know much else, though, and they were supposed to know minimal…that was how it was supposed to be. Don't bother them, they won't bother you; don't get curious about them, they won't get curious about you. But humans didn't follow the rules, so the fish had to teach them…by getting the message of "leave me alone" across the best they could.

Gill thought different though…if the humans wanted to learn about idols, why not let them? And why not learn about humans too? Gill had observed them, and they seemed really unlike the horrible, life-destroying, air-breathing monsters that the stories made them out to be.

No sense in trying to convince anyone, though. Even if Tyranos was a bully, his opinions were shared by everyone except for Gill. "Humans and fish don't mix," Tyranos Was saying now. "Why don't you just play your role as an ocean fish like Mother Nature demands and leave the barbarians be? I tell you the same thing every single time, Gill. And everyone agrees: humans are best avoided."

"And who is everyone, Tyranos? Oh. Just you, Toady, and Stooge." Gill always felt better standing up to his rival when his lackies were not around. Although it was true that every idol but Gill did avoid humans, nobody tried to enforce it so brutally like Tyranos.

"You're outnumbered," Tyranos deadpanned as the lackies themselves came swimming up behind their leader. The two new arrivals dutifully threw patronizing looks to Gill before fixing there gazes on Tyranos, who glanced carelessly around before ordering them to line up behind him. "It's almost time for lessons and we don't want to be late." As always, Tyranos in front, then Stooge, then Toady, and Gill at the back. Tyranos cared least if Gill got killed, and Tyranos, being the leader, was most important anyway, he said.

The lesson on that particular day was a cautionary tale of a fish getting captured and not getting eaten, but becoming a "pet" to the humans that captured her. "And so," the teaching idol concluded, "the fish was fed and cared for, but only to be a decoration. She knew that when she died, she might be eaten too…or perhaps just fed to a larger creature. We never know what humans are truly capable of…all we know is how they have treated us thus far. And after studying them over the years, we have concluded that humans view all other creatures on this planet as things to make profit or pleasure from. And that is why contact with humans is strongly discouraged and approaching one is strictly"—the teacher was looking directly at Gill now—"strictly forbidden."

"A pet. How degrading," Tyranos was saying afterword. "better than being food, but still—humiliating." Toady and Stooge just mumbled in agreement. As if they ever did anything else. They always followed Tyranos like mindless little clumps of algae, no matter what. Yeah…Gill couldn't wait until they all got mates and left him. For now, though, Tyranos had succeeded in making Gill's intrest in humans known all over the rief, and so nobody wanted to go near the "human-loving freak."

Several days later, Tyranos, Stooge, and Toady were "mate hunting." Gill hated that term. Hunting was what predators did to prey, not what mates did to mates. Gill sometimes fantasized about having a mate, but could never see their face. What's more, he wasn't even sure if they would be a Moorish idol. Whoever they were, Gill knew by instinct that the two would be together for life, and that not a soul living or dead could tear them apart; so at the very least, life with a mate should be worthwhile for both mates. So, when Gill got a mate—if he ever got one, his mate would feel like the luckiest creature in the world. If Gill felt that way about them, they should feel the same about him.

The one good thing about his school off searching for mates? Gill had a whole day to watch humans without being disturbed! Near the dropoff, Gill found his favorite little alcove and waited patiently. Not far behind him, the rief hustled and bustled as per usual, and nobody knew nor cared that Gill was where he was. It was perfect. Soon enough, the familiar shape of a boat's underside appeared; the low sound of a motor reached Gill's ears; the sealife around him quickly rushed away from the approaching boat, some yelling "It's a butt! Swim!" But Gill stayed, feeling that familiar rush of excitement that comes with doing something you shouldn't—that also came with watching the creatures he could never get enough of.

The rumbling stopped. The anchor came down. And minutes later, human feet descended into the water. There were two divers today, with thick water skin and big faces and air tanks strapped to them. Gill liked to watch their faces when they saw his ocean home. One diver seemed the more experienced; she was talking to the other one, telling him not to touch any choral. Good, one educated diver at least. Diver Number Two seemed to be focusing intently on what Diver Number One was saying, staring around at the dazzling choral and abundant plantlife, in awe of the beauty of the ocean. And now, Gill could just relax and watch.

After doing this for awhile, Gill liked to think he knew much more about human divers than other fish. True, he had visited the living spaces of fish that were known to have had contact with humans at some point and learned valuable things like some proper terminology, but the more Gill observed divers, the more he learned and the more he was convinced that humans were more complex than even the rief he lived in.

Some divers came down with no experience, and looked a little silly. Unfortunately, these were the ones that all the fish talked about: they touched, they grabbed, they forced their fancy technology in on the sealife—and some didn't care about throwing their waste into this underwater world. No wonder everyone thought humans were horrible when these stories spread and infected the mind like parasites! Those that came down to take fish away were feared even more, and the fear of not knowing what fate awaited the fish once they were gone (food? Pet? Decoration?) only fueled the panic, and so those fish-takers were deemed just as bad as the rief-destroyers.

But the divers that no one ever talked about were the ones Gill liked to watch. They just looked around mostly. They sometimes had those flashy things that snapped and (so Gill was told once) took "pictures" so the diver could see the rief later, but they made sure not to disturb any bit of marine life and even picked up human waste that they could see—even if it wasn't their own!

The two divers Gill was watching today were doing just that now. Diver Number one was collecting human waste in a net and looking sadly at it, and Diver Number Two was inspecting the environment like he was checking for some damage and smiling at everything.

Diver Number One's mouth moved again. 'I've got a full net here, Ben. Think I need to get another?'

'Nah. Looks good. Just take it up. Wow, Kaylee, it looks amazing here! I think we're not really needed here.'

'Well then, I guess we could enjoy ourselves for a bit.' Kaylee was smiling along with Ben now.

These were okay humans…they would know not to hurt him. So Gill swam out from the hiding spot.

Both Ben and Kaylee smiled wide when they saw him. 'Oh. Hello, hansome! It's nice to meet you, buddy. Look at that…nice coloring, graceful shape…wow, you're a beautiful fish. I can't believe it: we saw an idol! How great is this day?'

Feeling appreciated…liked…this was also why Gill came out here