Sorry, this chapter might be a little bit of a info-dump. Bad habit of mine. Trying to get out of it, however.

Chapter Two

The sound of seagulls calling woke Finch from an uneasy sleep. Much as they did every morning. She blinked blearily, then fumbled for her phone. 05.35. She groaned, but still, the possibility of getting back to sleep was rather unlikely. Once she was awake, that was it.

The light flickered on as she entered the bathroom, yawning and adjusting her glasses. Her fringe dropped across one eye. Irritated, she pushed it off to one side. She could really do with a haircut soon. Normally she was fairly good at keeping it neat and tidy, but money had been tight recently, and right now her hair was starting to look rather like a mullet. Ah well, couldn't be helped.

Her phone beeped as she was crunching through her second piece of toast. She glanced at the message.

You up?

Yep. Guessing you're also awake, unless you wrote that text in your sleep. I'll be down on Gylly beach, if you want to join me.

The beach was quiet. Not really surprising, given the time of morning. Finch had seen a few solitary runners, but apart from that, it almost seemed as if she was the only person awake in the whole world. Almost, anyway. The crunching of shingle behind her alerted her to the fact that she wasn't alone.

"Probably could've guessed you'd be here, even without you telling me."

"Hello to you too, Sam," Finch muttered without turning round, the corners of her mouth turning up. "Y' know, you didn't have to come."

She could almost sense Sam rolling her eyes. "And miss the chance of watching you beach comb yet again? You wound me."

Finch glanced over her shoulder, winking at the dark haired girl. "Ah, you love it. Don't try and tell me otherwise."

Sam shook her head, though a smile tugged at her lips. "I have no idea why I put up with you sometimes."

"Because you're my friend? Or maybe because we both usually end up waking up at unholy o'clock in the morning, and normally find ourselves coming down here?"

"Maybe," Sam shrugged. "Then again, maybe not. Waves look good today."

"Yeah. Not as calm as it was yesterday."

Sam couldn't help noticing that Finch's pockets already seemed to bulge slightly. She didn't know why beach combing held such a fascination for her friend, but to be honest, it was a pretty harmless pastime. And she did enjoy watching as Finch would excitedly hold up her latest discovery.

"So," she said at last. "Found anything good?"

Finch shrugged. "Couple of nice stones. Few shells. A hedgehog."

"A...what? Why would a hedgehog be on the beach? Or are you pulling my leg?"

Finch dug a hand into one pocket, pulling out a decent sized ceramic model. It sat balanced in her palm. A few of the spines were broken, but overall it really didn't look that battered.

"Spotted it in a rock pool over there. Guess someone left it?"

"...Only you could find something like that, Finch. And only you could treat it like finding a seashell."

"Ah, makes life interesting. I also found this. Not sure what to make of it, however." She dug in her pocket again, fishing the object in question out. She'd found it in the same rock pool as the hedgehog, and though it was clear what it was, there was something about it that puzzled her. Now she handed it to Sam, who stared at it for a long while.

"It's a scale," Sam said at last. "Looks like a...lionfish?"

"That's what I thought. Except lionfish aren't found in these waters. Bigger as well. Tried to think of what else might have similar markings to a lionfish, but...drew a blank. It's strange."

"Humm. Maybe it's fake?"

"Does it look fake to you?" There was a trace of annoyance in Finch's reply that made Sam glance up at her. "Sorry. It's just...I keep getting this feeling of being watched. Not all the time. Usually while I'm scrambling over the rocks. But there's never anything there when I look up."

"Maybe it's just your imagination? I know that when I first moved down here, I felt like something was watching me."

"Possibly? Not a far fetched idea. Still, I thought I saw something yesterday, Sam. In the water. Thought it was just seaweed at first, but something seemed a little odd about the way it moved."

"A seal?"

"No. Wrong time of year for them to be so close to shore. Probably was just seaweed, now that I think about it. Maybe my brain was trying to trick me into thinking it was something else."

Sam nodded. "Yeah, probably." She glanced at her watch. "Don't know about you, but I could really do with one of those hot chocolates you make. It's getting pretty chilly just stood here, especially with this wind."

Finch smiled. "Okay. Let's go."

She loved watching human beings. Even when she'd been young, surrounded by her siblings, she'd take any opportunity she could to sneak off to the shallows and just watch humans going about their daily lives. Though she couldn't understand why they wore funny pieces of cloth over their skin. Were they embarrassed by their nakedness? Or was it something else? And the way they talked. She was fascinated by the different accents she heard, though she didn't understand anything that they were saying.

Her family...well, she had no idea where they were now. They'd been seperated years ago, and she'd ended up in much cooler waters than she was used to. Over the years, however, she'd grown used to it. She missed the lush coral reefs, but did enjoy wrapping herself in seaweed at night. And watching people, of course. There was one in particular. A tallish female. She'd often watched her scrabbling over the rocks, and seen her peering into rock pools. Something about the human attracted her. Maybe they could even be friends?

All she had to do was find a way to meet the human.