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Don't You Need a Breath of Air?

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Jim stretched his sore neck in various directions as he followed the rest of his band to the baggage claim in Sydney Airport. He’d managed to be saddled with a middle seat on both flights, and on the second he’d been sandwiched between Tom, who’d passed out onto Jim’s shoulder before the plane even left the gate, and Hannah, who’d very deliberately curled up in a ball in her seat, using her selkie pelt as a blanket and Jim’s lap as a pillow. 

This producer Hannah had insisted they record with had better be pretty fucking extraordinary, Jim had griped to himself the whole 28 hours they’d been traveling. He’d better be worth the likely irreparable damage to Jim’s spine.

They got their bags with no issue (at least they hadn’t flown halfway across the world and lost their luggage) and Jim finally began to relax a little...That is, until Hannah stopped them on the way to the taxi pickup lines with a sly, somewhat guilty expression.

“Actually,” she admitted, “I have some, er, friends coming to get us.”

“You have friends in Australia?” Tom wondered incredulously. “How did that even happen?”

Hannah shrugged. “I’ve worked a lot of festivals.”

“Han!” someone shouted.

Jim started to look around for the source of the voice and was startled by the sound of Hannah dropping her bags. He watched in bewilderment as she darted into the arms of a grinning brunette in an oversized t-shirt.

...And started making out with her.

Jim suddenly understood why Hannah wanted to record their EP in Australia so badly.

Hannah took the girl’s hand and led her back over to Jim and the others.

“Boys,” she announced with a grin, “This is my girlfriend, Bonnie. Bon, this is my flatmate– and best friend– James and our wonderful bandmates Tom and Deller.”

So this was the Bonnie that Hannah had been going on about since Slam Dunk festival. And this was also the reason Hannah had spent half an hour in the airplane bathroom applying makeup and fixing her hair before they landed. Had she mentioned that Bonnie was Australian? Jim couldn’t remember for sure. He studied her briefly while they shook hands. She was admittedly very pretty, with a friendly, contagious smile and prominent cheekbones, and...there was something familiar about her. Jim couldn’t quite figure out what. 

Bonnie was accompanied by her friends, long-haired guys called Jonno and Potter, who helped them get their bags outside to where a third bloke, Miki, was pulling up in a van. They all looked vaguely familiar to Jim as well.

“Where have I seen you before?” he was unable to stop himself from asking as they all climbed into the van.

“James, you’ve done lights for their band,” Hannah reminded him from Bonnie’s lap in the passenger seat. “They’re Stand Atlantic.”

Oh, God he had worked with them, hadn’t he? Bands started to blend together after a while, especially because he usually only saw them from the back of a room.

The eight of them made friendly conversation on the drive to the small hotel Jim had booked. To no one’s surprise, Hannah announced that she’d be staying with Bonnie instead of sharing the one room with Jim and the others. Jim was pretty sure nothing Hannah could throw at him would ever surprise him again...

 

 

 

As much as Jim wanted to just climb into bed, he found himself unable to resist Stand Atlantic’s offer to go out and get day-drunk on a boat (that wasn’t quite how they’d phrased it, but that was Jim’s plan). If nothing else came of this trip, at least Hannah talked them into a vacation. They could consider it band bonding. Yeah.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day–much better than the British winter they’d left behind– and the members of Stand Atlantic were excellent company. They all took turns driving the small motor boat in a mostly-empty area off a quieter beach, laughing at the dumb stories they shouted to each other over the noise of the engine. Eventually, Miki stopped the boat in a calm patch of water and Bonnie, Jonno, and Potter all jumped in, splashing the rest of them with cool ocean spray. Jim hadn’t realized how hot it was until that moment. He eyed the water longingly as he started to take off his shirt. 

To his right, Hannah downed the last of her third can of Strongbow Dark Fruit, tugged her seal pelt out of her backpack and draped it over her shoulders. 

Jim halted, dismayed. “Han, are you sure that’s the best idea?” he asked his selkie flatmate with hushed tension in his voice. She was usually so careful to hide her powers from people. 

“Don’t worry about it, Jim,” Jonno called amiably up from the water next to them, startling Jim a little bit. “Her secret’s safe with us.” He ducked forward into the water and Tom spit his drink into Jim’s lap. Jonno’s torso was attached to the tail half of a shark.

Deller leaned over to Jim and Tom. “You saw that, too, right?” he whispered urgently.

Jim nodded slowly and looked out a little further, where Potter and Bonnie were treading water. They saw him looking and waved before swimming back towards the boat, revealing sleek shark tails of their own.

Tom was examining the label of his beer can in confusion, as though it might contain some hallucinogen that caused friendly Australians to look like mersharks. He turned to Hannah, who was still sat on the edge of the boat, smiling widely. “Did you know about this?”

“Of course,” she replied. “Wicked, innit?” She slipped into the water, re-emerging as a seal a few meters away. She barked at them playfully before swimming up to Bonnie and nosing her from behind.

“Boy, and we felt lame having one band member with cool powers,” Deller said, attempting to commiserate with Miki. “Can’t imagine being the only one that doesn’t have ‘em.”

Jim pinched the bridge of his nose and blushed with secondhand embarrassment. “Charming, Deller. Really.”

Miki stood up and stretched. “Nah, mate it’s alright. I’m actually more shark than they are.” 

Jim straightened up in surprise. “You what?”

Miki grinned at them. “Watch this.” He took a running leap off the back of the boat and transformed mid-air into a petite brown shark covered in spots. He hit the water with a slap and disappeared from view.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Jim complained to no one in particular. 

“Sharks,” Tom muttered with at least mild levels of concern in his voice. “They’re all...sharks.”

“Oh fuck, sharks eat seals, don’t they?” Deller realized.

Potter’s voice from the back end of the boat made them all jump. “Damnit! They’re onto us, Jonno.”

Jonno popped up next to him and flashed them a grin that would’ve been a lot sweeter-looking had it not shown off his mouthful of pointed shark teeth. “He’s kidding of course. None of us would ever hurt Hannah, ‘specially not Bon.”

“Besides,” Potter added, resting his forearms on the boat’s platform. “we’re shark people and we prefer people food.”

“Anyway, you coming in the water, boys?” Jonno asked with another pointy-toothed smirk. “We won’t bite ya.”

“Promise,” Potter assured them, displaying his own razor teeth.

A dorsal fin had been approaching during the exchange that then revealed itself to be Bonnie. She pulled herself up to sit on the boat platform, her striped grey tail hanging down into the water, where Hannah’s mischievous seal face poked out to stare adoringly up at her. 

“Han, your friends aren’t scared of sharks, are they?” Bonnie wondered innocently.

“No,” Jim lied hurriedly. “We just...weren’t prepared.”

She nodded. “Alright,” she addressed her aquatic companions, “we could’ve warned them, to be fair.”

“Hey, this is Oz, remember,” Jonno shrugged. “We’re probably not the weirdest wildlife they’re gonna see down here.”