Will’s father had never been one for prayer or God in general, the bitter drunk tending to find his sort of redemption at the bottom of a bottle. The few things he did religiously though was always carry an iron knife with him on his person. Whenever Will’s father stepped onto a boat, he would use that knife to carve a simple symbol into the vessel, whether it be its side or mast. He would then pass the iron knife over the hooks and nets while saying a blessing, the words of a long dead language falling easily off his lips. The boats he set foot on were never threatened by weather, and his hauls were always the most bountiful, whether the catch was in season or not.
Knife, prayer, symbol.
The son of the last true fisherman, these three things were the sum of Will Graham’s inheritance after the shell of man who was his father died from life’s misery.
Like the delicate dilution of blood in water, the merman’s tail was long and sharper than it looked. The accenting black spines and fins of it like razors made of ruby tinted scales that were harder than most stones found above and under the water‘s surface. The appendage and merman’s clawed fingertips could cut through the hulls of human vessels whether they were made of metal, fiberglass, or wood like a shark’s teeth could tear through a guppy, and often did for the merfolk found the flesh of humans quite tasty.
So this merman found it quite odd when he was unable to do just that to a tiny boat that was threatening to fall apart all on its own. The boat rocked from his attacks but for some reason, his fingers and blade of a tail could not get a grip on boat or leave a mark on its creaky hull, like there was an invisible barrier in the shape of a bubble around it.
Swimming around the unexpected yet tantalizingly interesting anomaly, the merman ran his taloned fingertips over the boat’s protection, feeling out the ancient magic of it. He had not encountered something like this in a very, very long time, and had thought the knowledge of such things had died out in the world of men after the sea reclaimed Atlantis and the wizard Merlin was sealed in his cave, betrayed by his lover. Studying the boat, the merman considered speaking outright with the owner of the vessel, toying with what to tell the human.
It could be great fun to converse with a human again or at least to attempt to. If this man knew of such magic, he might be worth the effort, the merman deciding on a name for himself for introduction purposes. The merfolk’s language didn’t translate well into human speak, not that the merman would try to do so. The human language was so basic and vulgar, it was a small wonder the species had managed to accomplish anything noteworthy in the last few centuries.
The concept of chivalry and politics of politeness had always appealed to the merman though, one of the few things that the creature embraced from the human realm with an open mind. If this particular merman had one flaw, it would be an extreme overabundance of curiosity, a trait that had served him well up to this point. The human even had a chance of surviving this encounter. As long as he remained civil, Hannibal would do the same.
Name decided upon, the merman who deemed himself Hannibal for now never got the chance to fully make up his mind on the matter as a net was cast out onto the water, sinking into the sea. Amused by the rudimentary entrapment, Hannibal made no move to avoid it, having every intention of destroying the net just because he could and had done so numerous times before in the past.
Whipping his tail up at the net, it came as a shock when it was caught up in the fibers instead of cutting straight through them. The entanglement only worsened when Hannibal tried to shake the netting from off his being. It clung to him with all the tenacity of barnacles on a ship’s ass end, snagging and twisting around his tail and up to his arms like an overly affectionate octopus. Displeased, Hannibal thrashed and struggled to no avail, only realizing belated when he was thoroughly bound that there was magic flowing through this net as well. It was a simple yet effective spell, an almost primitive magic that Hannibal had not noticed until it was too late.
A definite tug on the net signaled that Hannibal was being hauled in as a fresh catch, the merman’s renewed struggling not making it easy to do so. When his head broke the water’s surface, Hannibal made ready to summon the sea and storm to do his bidding only to find he had no voice to do so with, his throat only making the softest of clicking sounds as he was pulled into a tiny boat that bobbed precariously up and down under his additional weight, deciding if it could handle it.
Frustrated and angered, Hannibal lashed out at the fisherman who had dared to make this grievous insult upon him, the merman flailing his bound tail about. With any luck, he would strike and kill the human with one blow. A spell caster’s death tended to end any magic cast so Hannibal could look forward to a well deserved meal if he succeeded.
What the merman was met with was not contact with another body but blinding pain. The extent of which made Hannibal scream silently, his gills ceasing to work as his rarely used lungs expanded to help accommodate him in efforts of breathing. Something had managed to get past the armor of his scarlet and onyx scales to wound him, the merman feeling himself bleed out near the base of his tail on the right side of it.
Forcing himself to grow still and concentrate on his unusual surroundings, Hannibal let his third and second eyelids recede, the addition protection to his eyes unneeded and made useless up here on the surface. He found that he was curled up in one end of the boat while a very frightened looking human clutching a knife inhabited the other. The blade the man held onto like his life depended on it, and it did, was coated in a fresh sheen of blue merman’s blood.
Looking down at his tail to access the damage to it, Hannibal was relieved to see that the wound was nothing more than a scratch, hardly life threatening. The reason it hurt so much was not the depth or length of it but from what caused it. The stink of repugnant iron was coming off the knife, Hannibal feeling an old magic coming from the weapon, the grey metal of it simple to the point of crude in design with long forgotten symbols carved into its hilt.
The iron was being held by an upset human with dark hair that curled into loose ringlets from the salty air and interesting eyes the color of a coming storm, a sparkling mixture of grey and blues mingled together with just a hint of jade. Those storm eyes were set in an attractive face worthy of attention, a delicate jaw line covered in facial hair that mermen could not grow. If these were different circumstances, Hannibal knew he would stroke that strange growth of hair known as a beard before he ate the human’s face off. As it was though, Hannibal found himself completely at this human’s mercy. His body was bound, his magic harnessed, and his voice trapped within himself. Hannibal didn’t fear death, found the concept of it even comforting, but he had been hoping his demise to be a touch more eloquent. Being butchered like a tuna by some fisherman did not hold any appeal, and that was only if the human decided to kill him. He might have other plans, some of which made Hannibal shudder as he considered them.
Tales of merfolk captured by human were filled with the horror of dying slowly in tanks of putrid water far from their mother sea. Merfolk were essentially immortal thanks to the sea and the moon‘s influence, but that could be viewed as a curse for any who found themselves caught and separated from their true home. Existence on land would be a half life of sorts until the imprisoned merfolk simply gave up the ghost on a new moon, too miserable to carry on and finally able to die without the celestial lifeline.
The few and far between who had endured such things and lived to tell about it had warned others of how their brothers and sisters had died after being made spectacles to be gawked at. Gritting his sharp teeth, Hannibal vowed not to be one of those who gave up. He would endure, resolved to do so no matter what, and once he returned to the ocean, he would kill any and all humans he came across. Hannibal realized he was getting ahead of himself though, the human having yet to make a move or even speak.
The man simply watched the merman, and Hannibal watched the human back, waiting patiently for the man to come to a decision. A patience that was sorely getting tested upon noticing the sun had completed a good length of its journey from one side of sky to the other. Not only was he beginning to dry out to the point his scales itched, but Hannibal was also getting bored. If this continued on much longer, he would have to change his beautiful tail into legs which was always more of a hassle than it was worth.
Uncomfortable and getting unbearably itchy, Hannibal wondered if the spell on the netting would allow him to shift, the merman wiggled about a bit to see how much room he had to work with. The movement seemed to break the fisherman out of his spell, the human finally falling upon him with knife in hand. Given his limited space, Hannibal flinched away as far as he could, preparing himself for the killing blow.
Instead of a searing metal length being plunged in his chest like he had expected, Hannibal held himself in rigid shock as the knife cut through the netting instead of his flesh, all while the fisherman shoved and bodily lifted Hannibal over the side of the boat. A swift, solid kick to the merman’s backside sent Hannibal falling back into the water, watching miffed as the netting fell harmlessly away from him. Hannibal shredded it on principle, to see if he could and to take pleasure from his confinement’s destruction. Hannibal theorized that the knife must have been used to place the spell on the netting thus making it the key to its removal. Even the small wound on his tail was healing up, though it would forever have a scar upon it from the iron.
Turning his attention back to the boat, Hannibal found it was already gone, the human paddled madly back to the shoreline like he had any chance of escaping a merman in the ocean. Intrigued, the merman followed the boat easily enough back to where it docked though Hannibal kept himself hidden under the water. He risked nearing the human structure, using the other boats there as cover to watch his human disembark in a great hurry.
“Catch anything, Will?” asked another fisherman, burned red by the sun with his own catch in hand, the greeting allowing Hannibal to learn his former captor’s name.
“Yes…N-no…It got away.” the human Hannibal knew now as Will stammered back in answer, ducking his head to avoid eye contact as he all but ran from the docks and down the beach, keeping his distance from the water. The merman watched him go, following alongside him in the rip currents until Will reached a small structure that humans tended to live in. It was near enough to the water that Hannibal could see it clearly, its yard filled with broken boats and parts of boats. Hannibal realized it was this human’s job to either fix vessels and their mechanisms or make them or both.
Fixated upon the dwelling, the merman watched as the human Will came out again after a while to sit outside his home, surrounded by strange furry animals that Hannibal recalled were called dogs. Will drank straight from a bottle full of amber liquid, and stared out at the sea, but made no move toward it. The hateful iron knife was still sheathed at his side, the human touching it often enough as if to reassure himself that it was still there. Intrigued, Hannibal stayed and watched Will until the human stumbled back inside his house, letting all the dogs enter before slamming the door shut.
Tapping his tail thoughtfully with his talons, Hannibal found himself wondering about the strange human, why he had shown the merman mercy. Hannibal knew if he had been in Will’s position, he would have killed his prey without a second thought. It wasn’t often anything interested Hannibal but when it did, that curiosity was focused upon fully by the merman until he was satisfied.
By the time the moon had fully come up, Hannibal decided that legs might just be worth the hassle.
Will has a hangover and Hannibal is a bag of dicks.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Whiskey had seemed like a really good idea at the time. Groaning, Will covered his head with a pillow to try and block out the hateful Florida sunshine that was pouring though his window. Why had he drank so much last night anyway? Oh yeah, because he was either crazy or everything his dad had ever told him about the sea was right and he had caught a merman by accident yesterday. Will didn’t know which option he preferred, his head pounding against his skull to take revenge for his liver.
It didn’t help that the dogs were whining and crying around his bed, the shrill sounds like nails on chalkboard. Why the hell were they upset anyway? They knew how to let themselves out if they needed to go to the bathroom. His lock was nonexistent and the door itself barely hung right on its hinges. It wasn’t like Will had anything to steal, the only thing of any value strapped to his hip nearly at all times.
A noise came from his living room, making Will sit up in alarm. All his dogs were accounted for so that meant someone was in his house. Tourists didn’t come out this far or were interesting in bothering a boat repair man, and most locals knew better than to try and harass him before noon. Like his father before him, Will was the small beach town’s drunk but a dependable one that was good with his hands. It was common knowledge that if it were salvageable, a Graham could fix just about anything maritime. His prices for fixing things written on the side of his house in peeling paint, Will was used to finding new work sitting on his porch or left in his yard with a note attached to it and money placed in an old coffee tin by his door, the container weighed down with sand. No one was stupid enough to shortchange or steal from crazy Will Graham who seemed to be able to just look at a person and know everything about them.
Unless the intruder had a gun, Will liked his odds of confronting the person, having his knife and pack of dogs, even if most of the canines would sell his ass out for something to eat. Getting out of his bed as quietly as possible, Will padded on bare feet towards the only other room in the tiny house, his knife ready in hand.
As expected, Will found his intruder. The surprise came in the form of the stranger’s nudity, a man standing in Will living room bare foot and bare assed like it was the most natural thing in the world. He appeared to be perusing Will’s small collection of books, all second and third hand bought from garage sales and such.
The rush of dogs giving Will’s position and state of awareness away barely caused a reaction from the uninvited guest though. To Will’s bemusement, the nudist acknowledged his host’s presence with a nod before turning his attention back to the books, even going so far as to select a slim volume, leafing through its pages.
“Um, excuse me, but are you lost?” Will tried, finding his tongue in working order even if his mind was a bit put out at the moment. After yesterday, Will felt he wasn‘t up for company, much less the crazy kind. He wondered if the man was a tourist who had gotten lost and dehydrated. Sun sickness did some strange things to people.
“Hardly. I’m am exactly where I need to be.” the nudist answered without hesitation, his accent thick and unrecognizable. He didn’t sound confused. If anything, Will thought he sounded a little offended, his guest losing interest in fishing lures to exchange the book for a volume dealing with abnormal psychology.
At a loss, Will studied the man who appeared to be a couple of inches taller than himself with broad, well defined shoulders and back. His legs were long and well shaped, almost like a dancer’s with delicate ankles and fine boned feet. Oddly enough the man’s lower half was an entirely different shade, being much paler than his tanned upper half, like his legs had never seen the light of day.
Trying to be a gentleman about it and failing because if he were being honest with himself it had been a long while, Will attempted to keep his eye above the waist. A detail kept nipping at his mind though as he studied the fall of silvering wheat blond hair and the glitter of strange maroon eyes that flitted up from their reading to him from time to time. When Will’s gaze alighted upon the man’s ankles, it finally clicked, a freshly healed wound upon the right side. In exactly the same spot were it would have been if the man had a tail.
“Oh hell, you’re that thing from yesterday.” Will said in a rush, falling back to his bedroom, the knife held in front of him now. A quick whistle to his dogs had them scurrying back as well. The canines may not be the best guard dogs, but they were well trained companions, the pack instantly obeying him.
“Indeed, though I prefer the title of Hannibal to ‘thing’.” the merman intoned a warning in his word, setting the interesting reading aside for now. He needed his full attention on Will who was becoming interesting again. Hannibal had toyed with the farce of finding clothes and pretending to be human, but had decided against it.
Mind boggled, Will could only blink in answer. “Like the general with the elephants? Hannibal doesn’t sound like a name a merman would have.” he said slowly.
“I would have to tear out your tongue and poke several holes in your throat for you to pronounce the first syllable of my true name correctly.” Hannibal said with a slow wicked smile like he was envisioning doing just that. Will responded by slamming his bedroom door shut and digging his knife into the woodwork to form an all too familiar emblem upon it. Praying to anyone who was listening, Will hoped that his father’s symbol would work on land like it did at sea.
To one’s chagrin and the other’s relief, it did. Frowning, Hannibal trying to push at the door the human was hiding behind to find that his hands were stopping several inches before it, left to press against an invisible surface.
“I never said I was planning to do so.” Hannibal muttered at the door after futilely clawing at air.
“I don’t care. Go away!” Will yelled back, clutching his knife to his chest. He didn’t know how far his protection extended or if it moved with him or was linked to the room. The only bathroom and other source of water besides the kitchen all lay outside his reach in the company of the merman. If he didn’t convince the creature to leave, he would more than likely die here. It was not as if he had any friends, family or neighbors who notice that he would be missing. Hell, he didn’t even have a cell phone or a landline. If people didn’t find his services useful, Will would have been an island unto himself. As if was, Will was more worried about his pack’s survival than his own safety.
“I didn’t come here to harm you.” Hannibal said to be met with a thoughtful sort of stillness, Will obviously considering his words.
“Then why are you here?” Will made himself ask. He risked cracking the door to find the merman standing right outside of it, but seemingly unable to move past the threshold. The protection held, the merman attempting to push the door fully open to find that he couldn’t.
“I owe you a boon for sparing my life. I have come to fulfill that debt.” Hannibal made up a reason on the spot.
“You’re lying.” Will shot back, his eyes settling on the merman’s still face to pick it apart. It was a nice enough face with its sharp cheekbones, thin lips, and broad masculine features. Though Hannibal’s visage tended to lack expression, his bizarre scarlet tinted eyes were bright and alive. Will could easily read the intent that tried to secret itself away there, and also the merman’s displeasure at his lies being found out so quickly. “Fuck off back to the sea.”
“Gods forbid we act civil and associate like adults. We could be friendly with one another.” Hannibal huffed, letting the human know he didn’t not appreciate the crass language.
“I don’t find you that interesting.” Will spat out. “Go away. Please.” He added the magic word to see if it worked. It didn’t.
“I would if you came out and had a proper conversation with me.” Hannibal said, drawing away from the door to give Will some room.
“We can talk here. Here is good.” Will said sullenly from his spot on the floor.
“We could share a meal and have coffee. Do you have coffee? I’ve always wanted to try it.” Hannibal asked, moving to Will’s piss poor excuse for a kitchen which consisted of a stove with only one working burner, a sink full of dirty dishes, and a refrigerator had only held an empty six pack and half an onion.
“How the hell do you know about coffee?” Will snapped before he could stop himself. He really didn’t want to talk to the merman rummaging through his kitchen, making a terrible mess of things by the sound of it as Hannibal went through his cupboards.
“Don’t mistake unfamiliarity for ignorance.” Hannibal sniffed empirically, displeased with what he turned up which wasn‘t a whole lot. The human had a serious lack of foodstuff. He sniffed at the few and far between boxes to find their contents stale and unfit for consumption in his opinion. He didn’t know what grits were but they smelled bland.
“Well, I don’t have any coffee. Now will you go away?” Will sighed, petting a whining dog to hush it. He didn’t want to draw any attention to his pack. For all he knew, dogs could be a rare treat for merfolk.
“I have no intention of leaving.” Hannibal sighed, very disappointed with what human’s considered to be food. He’d had such high hopes after reading so much about strange dishes in books lost at sea. Merfolk were avid readers of human’s literature, often sinking vessels to refresh their stolen libraries. Spells to preserve the fragile things of paper and ink were known by all merfolk. Humans could be ignorable things but the stories they came up with made up for their existence and interference. The dozen or so books alone in Will’s possession were well worth the effort of splitting his tail, a painful process for any mermaid or merman.
“Look, I didn’t mean to catch you. The boat was rocking, I slipped, and my nets flew out into the water. I was only trying to pull them back in. I’m sorry about your tail…ankle…” Will tried the only other thing he could think of.
“And yet you did catch me, something that should have been impossible to do. How do you know such powerful magic?” Hannibal asked, opening up bottles now to see what their contents were. He didn’t care for anything he found. “Are you a wizard?”
“A wizard? What the…? No, I’m most definitely not a wizard. It’s just some blessing my dad taught me.” Will sputtered, wondering how the hell to get himself out of this mess. His kitchen and what little food he had was being ruined, thrown carelessly over shoulder by the merman onto the floor. “Could you stop doing that?”
“All this is vile. Do you actually consume this?” Hannibal asked, glaring at a half eaten bag of Cheetos that had been Will’s dinner last night along with a bottle of whiskey. The two had not paired well together.
“Not after it’s been dumped on the floor like that. Thank you for that. Now I have to go shopping and clean up.” Will griped more to himself than to the merman who let the Cheetos fall to the floor along with the rest. “That is if you don’t kill me.”
“I find you too interesting to kill at the moment if that’s any consolation.” Hannibal said as he ate some cornflakes right out of the box, spongy from humidity.
“That’s comforting. So I’m dinner if I become boring. Good to know. I’ll try to keep that in mind.” Will grumbled as he watched the merman spit out the cornflakes in disgust. The box’s contents joined the rest on the floor.
“Will, quit be difficult and come out here.” Hannibal ordered sternly, tired of their placement. The barrier’s existence irked him. He had been looking forward to interaction with Will, like the kind he had so often read about.
“How do you know my name? Oh crap, you followed me…” Will realized, replaying the events of yesterday, at least the parts he could remember. “I don’t suppose you would put on some pants?”
“Why would I do that?” Hannibal furrowed his brow, not liking the idea of pants. They had never looked comfortable to him.
“Because human don’t usually talk to each other while naked.” Will tried and failed to not look over at Hannibal or below his waist.
“Your legs and external sexual organ are hideous, but I don’t understand the correlation between clothing and being able to have a conversation.” Hannibal looked down to cup himself much to Will’s annoyance who had been trying not to look.
“It’s distracting.” Will decided to ignore the commentary about human genitals as he looked around his room. Snagging a pair of relatively clean sweatpants off the floor, he chucked them at the merman’s head who caught them in time to delicately scent the material. Hannibal wrinkled his face at them, but put them on anyway, much to Will‘s amusement and mortification.
“Is this better? Do you feel like coming out now?” Hannibal said, shifting himself around in the pants. He still didn’t like them, the material rubbing against his overly sensitive skin where scales usually were.
“Yes and no.” Will answered blithely, quite content with not being dead where he was.
“I swear by the push and pull of the tide and the moon above, I will not kill you.” Hannibal said, catching Will’s eye to hold the human’s gaze. Will seemed quite adapt at reading him so hopefully he would see how sincere Hannibal was being. It was after all a merfolk’s most solemn oath to swear by the moon and sea, and considered unbreakable.
“Or hurt my dogs.” Will added.
“Or hurt your dogs.” Hannibal amended.
“If you want me to trust you, give me that boon you were talking about while under the same swear.” Will said, biting his bottom lips in thought.
“What is it that you want?” Hannibal considered the demand. He did owe the human something for not killing him, his own personal code of conduct in agreement with this.
“Promise first.” Will said.
“I swear to honor the boon as long as it is in reason for me to do so, along with not killing you or doing harm to your dogs. Obviously I will not harm myself either for your pleasure.” Hannibal said after a moment of thought.
“That’s fine. Do you promise?”
“Yes, I swear it.”
“Good.” Will nodded, finally picking himself off of the floor to point to the door. “Leave.”
“Pardon me?” Hannibal blinked but made no move to do so.
“I want you to leave. That’s the boon, that’s it. Go away. Get out of my house.”
“You’re being quite rude. I’m a guest.” Hannibal said reproachfully, frowning at the fisherman.
“Guest are invited! You’re trespassing and even if I did invite you, you’re being a shitty guest. Are you planning on paying for all the food you’ve just ruined?” Will said, suddenly feeling beyond tired. Giving up, he trudged back to his bed, flopping face down upon the mattress. The bubble of protection seemed to be holding along with his hangover’s headache so Will decided it was a good time to pretend that this day had never happened.
“Very well. I will take my leave of you then.” was heard from the doorway, the merman sounding very disappointed with Will. The fisherman felt unexpectedly guilt about it and then felt stupid for it.
“Fantastic. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” Will mumbled into his pillow to the sound of receding footsteps that were mistimed from inexperience. Will didn’t know if the merman actually left or not, but figured Hannibal could keep destroying his home without him being there to witness it. Sleep crept up on Will in increments until he was pulled soundly under and knew no more for a time.
When the fisherman woke up for a second time that day, his dogs were whining again but this time it was just the usual bitching to be fed. Sighing, Will made himself get up, hoping everything that had happened this morning was some sort of bad dream. The mess in the kitchen and his missing books said it was not, Will feeding his pack before grabbing a broom. He might not have much or care about decor, but he did like to keep the floor free of debris.
Hoping that there might be something in his coffee tin so he didn’t have to go fish his dinner out of the ocean because that didn‘t seem like a great idea at the moment, Will was quite shocked to find the rusted container filled to its brim. Heavy gold doubloons spilled out onto his porch, glittering in waning light, the metal still wet and ice cold from being at the bottom of the ocean.
Will Graham, the last of his line and keeper of the Blade of Tides, got a very bad feeling that he would be seeing the merman who called himself Hannibal again and soon.
Do you like fish sticks?
Thanks for reading. Comments and kudos are the lube for the mind that eases stories in and out.
How's that for a mental picture? lol
Will has a very long day.
Ok....so I wrote more for this...
Not Beta Read.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Knocking on door interrupted Will’s new morning ritual of contemplating where his life had gone so terribly wrong and drinking heavily till noon. It was an irritating persistent knock, the kind that hinted the person on the other side of the door was fucking perky and horribly awake, so Will supposed he had no choice but to answer it. It didn’t sound like the knock of someone who was going to go away anytime soon. To Will’s chagrin, it turned out not to be one irritating person but three irritating people. An Asian woman and two men, one neatly dressed and the other not so much, were standing on his porch.
“I gave at church.” Will told them, moving to shut the door and regretting he had bothered to open it in the first place.
“No you don’t. You don’t go to church, you charming little heathen.” The woman said with a wide grin and sparkling dark eyes, pushing past Will to let herself and the others in.
“Hey, wait…” Will protested, but it was an already losing battle. “You just can’t barge in here. He really needed to train up the dogs, most of the pack not even bothering to get from their napping spots to investigate. “The prices for my services are on the side of the house.”
“Oh, we’re not here for that.” the neat as a pin man with a jaunty little cap on his head told him. “Plus, you should reconsider how you say that and to whom.”
“Ok, then fuck off.” Will was tired of strange people trespassing on his property. He’d had his fill of it with Hannibal. At least the trio didn’t look like they were going to steal the rest of his books. The merman had taken quite a few with him.
“Not an option.” said the other man wearing the rather tacky Hawaiian shirt and cargo pants, helping himself to a beer from the fridge. “Will Graham, last of your line and keeper of the Blade of Tides…”
“The what?” Will interrupted, arching a brow at the three’s wide eyed answering looks of disbelief and open dismay.
“The knife on your hip, dumbass.” the beer stealer huffed, rolling his eyes. Will looked back at him blankly, obviously waiting for a proper explanation.
“Oh my wings, how don’t you know what it’s called? Are you serious, Graham?!” the woman threw her hands up in the air, looking like she wanted to smack Will upside his head.
“We’re so fucked.” Hawaiian shirt sighed, doing his best to chug his stolen beer as quickly as possible.
“Not helping.” Cute cap guy said out of the side of his mouth, endeavoring to keep a pleasant look on his face.
“What’s going on here? Quit talking at me. I have no idea what you’re rambling on about so try talking to me instead.” Will snapped, rescuing his beer from the mooch. Despite recently encountering a rather pompous merman with boundary issues, life had been looking up for Will. Hannibal had gifted the fisherman with gold doubloons in payment for all the food he ruined. For once in his life, Will had a hell of a lot of money in the bank. Even better, he hadn’t seen scaled tail or bare butt of the merman ever since.
“Ok, sweetie. Here’s the deal with the knife. The Blade of Tides is kind of like a wand…” the woman started to explain to have Will motion for silence.
“I swear to god, if you tell me I’m a wizard…” Will growled, narrowing his eyes. It didn’t have the desired effect of them leaving or disintegrating that he wanted.
“No, no, no…” Cap guy started.
“You’re more like a warlock. Less flash, more substance.” Hawaiian shirt answered instead, trying to get the beer back away from Will. He got kicked in the shins for his troubles.
The trio were met with a flat look, watching as Will walked slowly over to the front door to hold it open from them. “Get out.” he ordered.
“Hear us out. I know it sounds like complete bullshit.” the woman huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.
“And you all are? Warlocks too, right?” Will asked, and instantly regretted his sarcasm.
“We are your fairies.” he was informed by cap guy with a relieved grin and a flourish.
“I’m straight.” Will pointed out to receive a mixture of looks from the gathered fae.
“No. No, you’re not.” Cap guy said dryly causing Will to deflate a bit.
“Straight-ish.” Will tried again. He looked to Winston for support, his most faithful of the pack, to have the canine yawn at him.
“Nope.” Hawaiian shirt guy shook his head, finally managing to snag the six pack away from Will.
“It’s complicated?” Will sighed, slumping his shoulders in defeat. His dreams of late had been starring a certain very naked merman and a whole lot of awkward boat sex.
“That’s better.” Beverly patted his cheek.
“But fairies don’t exist.” Will said, making Hawaiian shirt drop to the floor, his hand clutching his chest over his heart like he was dying. He managed not to hurt the beer in his death throes, which was quite impressive considering how much he was hamming it up.
“Quick! Clap your hands!” Cap guy said, mimicking the action to receive a very unimpressed look from Will and an eye roll from the woman.
“Why?” Will toed the deceased fairy who swatted his foot away with renewed vigor. He couldn’t continue to play dead much longer as too many cold, wet noses prodded him, the dogs taking an interest cause technically anything on the floor was theirs.
“Because it saves fairies. Read a book.” Cap guy huffed, gently shooing away the pack who huffed at him before wandering off to resuming napping.
“No. Why would I want to save him?” Will clarified as he retrieved his beer.
“Wow, fuck you too, man. That’s cold.” Hawaiian shirt bitched at him, picking himself up off of the floor to made a valiant attempt at getting all the dog hair off of him without a lint roller.
“Ice cold.” said cap guy, shaking his head.
“You guys are idiots. I’m Beverly, Beverly Katz, by the way.” The woman sighed, pointing about as she made introductions. “That’s Jimmy Price in the hat, and Brian Zeller whose trying to channel Hawaii Five-O.”
“What’s wrong with my shirt?” Zeller demanded, looking down at his brightly flowered shirt.
“You mean besides everything?” Price countered, giving the attire a pointed look.
“Those are some very fairy sounding names there.” Will said, popping open a beer for himself. His sarcasm was not lost on the fairies.
“C’mon, do you really call a grown ass man Bluebell? Or Bumblebee?” Zeller pointed it. “We could give you our fae names, but that’s what is on our drivers licenses so deal with it.”
“What’s wrong with Bumblebee?” Price muttered, glaring over at Zeller.
“Nothing. I’m just saying.” Zeller said, having the look of someone who had just stepped in it and deep.
“I like bees.” Price grumped, making Beverly snicker as Zeller tried to backpedal.
“So, warlock?” Will prompted. He had a feeling that tangents were threatening to lead this conversation awry, and he really didn’t have the patience or enough booze in his system for it at the moment.
“Yes, a warlock of storm.” Beverly said grandly, giving Will that grin again, like Will was going to solve all her problems. The fisherman wished he could have smidge of her confidence.
“More like a stormlock.” Zeller added, making Beverly look like she was going to throw a dog at him to make him shut up.
“Nice.” said Price, Zeller apparently back in his good graces.
“And you are all fairies?” Will asked, attempting to get some answers. His simple life of fixing boat motors and generally ignoring everything that wasn’t a dog had suddenly gotten very complicated. It really didn’t seem fair.
“Yup.” Beverly said a little too enthusiastically for continuity of his normalcy. Will placed a mental bet with himself that she had been the one knocking on the door as he watched Beverly plant her feet, the fairy obviously on a mission. “You are going to need our help.”
“Where were you when I would have given a damn about this? Aren’t things like this supposed to happen when you’re a teenager? For fuck’s sake, I’m almost in my forties! You can’t spring shit like this on me now.” Will grumbled and snapped. Confusion was quickly becoming a close friend of his, followed by resentment. Will wanted to become better strangers with both, but that meant facing the world at large. The idea of that was a little daunting considering Will had gotten so good at hiding from it all in his little house on the beach.
“Well, we weren’t planning to, but then you had and go catch a merman.” Zeller said defensively like the idea was as distasteful to him as it was to Will. “Nice going there, champ.”
“Damn it.” Because of course this all went back to Hannibal. “That isn’t everything though, is it?” Will could just tell there was more. There was always more. The fairies were wearing the look of ‘important shit’ he would need to know.
“Well…” Price hemmed and hawed for the fairies who looked distressed.
“There’s more.” Will sighed, walking off with a ‘why the fuck me’ face to put the rest of the beer away. He exchanged it for a bottle of whiskey and a very big glass.
“There might be this sea witch…” Beverly admitted as she studied Will‘s ceiling like it was the most fascinating thing in the world.
“A sea witch. Yeah, that sounds about right.” Will nodded, pouring himself one shot, two shots.
“…Who’s looking for the Blade of Tides, the knife…” Zeller continued.
Three shots, four shots hit the glass.
“…And wants to murder you for it so she can rule the seven seas unopposed.” Price finished for them, having the grace to wince.
Will patted the bottom of the bottle to get out the last few drops. “Oh, is that all? That’s…that’s just perfect.” Will grumbled as he poured all his whiskey down the kitchen sink. He had a very bad feeling he was going to need to be very sober for this next part.
All in all, Franklin was pleased with the vacation his therapist suggested for him. Well, his former therapist, having received yet another referral before his departure. Franklin reminded himself to look for another one as soon as he got back. Bedelia, though he had been never allowed to call her that, Dr. Du Maurier had been so beautiful, all poise and cool confidence, but so frigid to his overtures of friendship.
Exhaling heavy sadness, Franklin just knew that they could have been such good friends, if only Dr. Du Maurier had let herself see it. He could have melted that icy fortress of her soul, the one she hid behind to protect her tender heart. She would always have a special place in his own heart, along with his eight other therapists, forever his winter queen of lost love.
“Better to have lost and loved.” Franklin lamented dramatically as he tossed white roses into the sea at sunset of course, because that was what sophisticated people did when they were in mourning.
“You’re misquoting that.” said a voice, deep and low and so eloquent it made Franklin tremble. That voice was the very embodiment of self-assurance, and it was coming from somewhere below the docks Franklin stood upon. Peering over the wooden railing, Franklin spotted a man staring up at him. He was floating in the water so Franklin did the first thing that came to mind.
“I’ll save you!” Franklin yelled, kicking off his sandals before attempting to climb over the dock’s railing with some difficulty.
“Wait, that is quite…” Franklin heard the man say as he managed to get himself on the other side, and leapt off. In his mind, Franklin gracefully dove through the air with all the skill of an Olympic diver. That image was shattered when he belly flopped into the ocean, making the merman wince from the painful sound of it.
“…unnecessary.” Hannibal sighed, waiting to see if the human resurfaced or not. He needed a guide of sorts if he were to live up on land, especially if he wanted to see Will again. Much had changed since the last time he had done so, human continuously inventing things and changing the world around them. He couldn’t afford to have his true nature to be found out. As mercurial as the human world was, the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. There were still hunters, people who would seek him out to either capture him or kill him for profit or sport, both bringing an abrupt end to his freedom.
To avoid suspicion, Hannibal knew he needed a human stupid enough to manipulate yet still intelligent enough to be able to obtain everything he needed. This human had fit the bill up to this point, though Hannibal reasoned if the idiot drowned he could always eat him.
“You’re a mermaid!” were the first words out Franklin’s mouth when he resurfaced to flounder about in the water. The statement was met with equal amounts of amusement and disappointment.
“You are partially correct in that assessment,” Hannibal said, resisting the urge to point out the complete absence of breasts on his chest. He needed this human on his side, and pointing out that the man was a complete idiot might not be the best way of obtaining his loyalties. “Though my sister would argue with you on the maid part.”
“You’re real!” Franklin gasped out. Doggie paddling was harder than it looked.
Hannibal had read that air deprivation had adverse side effects on the human brain, but he was positive that Franklin really hadn’t been under that long. “Indeed.” the merman decided was safe to say.
“Have you fallen in love with me!?” Franklin said, bubbles of excitement making him giddy.
“…” Hannibal was drawing a very rare blank about how to respond to that. The merman stared back in confusion at the human who was staring at him with besotted puppy dogs eye filled with hope, foolish love, and a daunting amount of clinginess. “…What?”
“You don’t have to turn into sea foam for me! I’ll break your curse!” Franklin managed to cry out before slipping under the water’s surface, his legs and arms cramping from overexertion.
Hannibal briefly considered letting the fool drown, the merman weighing the pros and cons of showing himself to another human. It was always fraught with peril, and he couldn’t risk drawing certain attention down upon himself or Will, at least not yet.
With a heavy sigh, Hannibal dove after Franklin. If the human had even an iota of intelligence, he could spit out the ocean and breathe on his own. Hannibal would rather make out with a ravenous tiger shark than give that man mouth to mouth.
“Hello, Mr. Graham. I’m Jack Crawford and this is my partner Miriam Lass. We’re with the FBI, the Abnormal Sciences division.”
“I’m not buying whatever you’re selling.” Will said in greeting back to the heavy set man and the slim blonde woman standing on his porch, shielding his eyes from the bright Floridian afternoon sun. He didn’t bother waiting for a reply or an explanation, slamming the door in their faces. There was more than enough on his plate on the moment without getting some obscure division of the government involved. The fairies had just left after giving him a tome of spells and history to memorize. His life depended on it.
“Sir, open the door. We’re federal agents, and we are armed.” Miriam Lass called through the door.
“Open it yourself then. It’s about to fall off the hinges anyway.” Will yelled, covering up the noise of him shoving the spell book under the filthiest, largest dog bed on his living room. He motioned Winston to sit on top of it and stay there, the dog chuffing out grumbling noises as it obeyed.
“Not fond of people are you?” Agent Crawford mused as he let Miriam and himself in, just as Will untucked his ratty t-shirt in time to cover up the knife. The agents looked around, though Will had no idea what they were looking at or for. He didn’t have much and the little he did have wasn’t worth the effort, the only thing noteworthy and of any value either strapped to his hip or under a dog’s fluffy behind.
“Was it the lack of a welcome mat that gave it away? I can see why you‘re FBI.” Will snorted, wandering into his kitchen to retrieve one of his surviving beers. He decided it was best to keep up the appearance of being the tiny beach town’s drunk though Zeller had done his damnedest to try and drink all his alcohol. Mooching fairy fuck.
“At least you’re honest. I can work with honest.” Agent Crawford said, looking very pleased with himself. It set all the warning bells off in Will’s head. “Tell me, Mr. Graham, how do you feel about merfolk?”
“Oh fuck.” Will’s gift of observation and empathy kicked in, whispering to him. “This one is looking for something. Something specific. The other one is his hound. Her eyes will be quick and her mind quicker.”
“Act drunk.” His second thoughts murmured. “Be useless. Make them lose interest.”
“It’s not even noon.” First thoughts were the responsible ones here.
“Even better. If they’ve been talking at all to the neighbors, this will only confirm that he was a waste of skin and not worth their time.” Second thoughts were cruel, but the truth always was. Will told his head to shut up, doing this silent musing all while keeping a carefully blank face of boredom.
“I would say you’ve been out in the sun a little too long, Agent Crawford. My opinion on the matter would be to keep hydrated, and good luck with that kind of investigation. The gossips here haven‘t had any new material in ages.” Will made himself shrug his shoulders in a lazy roll, walking back over to the front door to open it. He attempted to wave the agents out. It worked about as well as it had on the fairies.
“Sir, this is a serious matter. We know you’ve had contact with a mermaid, merman, or a sea creature of some perceived mythical variety.” Agent Lass stated firmly, making Will wonder if the pair were intentionally playing ‘good cop, bad cop’ with him. Agent Crawford was still all smiles and softly spoken words, an air of amusement hanging about the man. It was an illusion, Will seeing past the farce of it. There lay a hard man underneath it all, one who would be willing to do anything to find what he was looking for. Agent Lass wasn’t his equal, she was his weapon, and he was looking to find another for his arsenal. He currently had his sights set on Will, the focus making his skin itch.
“How?” Will wasn’t even trying to be a smartass this time. He was genuinely curious to know how that had been managed by the agents.
“That kind of information if on a ‘need to know’ basis.” Agent Lass said in a voice of finality.
“And I don’t need to know.” Will snorted. He should have guessed. This was a game and everyone here was bluffing.
“Got it in one.” Agent Crawford smirked. “I had a feeling that you would be smart.”
“Cute. Get the fuck out.” Will thumbed his final verdict out the door. He had faith in their abilities as FBI agents to figure out the clue. “Unless you got a warrant or some other piece of paper that says I have to talk to you, get the hell off of my property.”
“This isn’t over, Mr. Graham. We also didn’t have this conversation.” Agent Lass said, moving to leave only after receiving a nod from Agent Crawford.
“Already forgotten, ma’am.” Will mock saluted her.
“We’ll be in touch. We will also be keeping as eye on you, Mr. Graham.” Agent Crawford smiled, the unspoken threat cradled neatly between his word.
“I hope you enjoy wasting your time and taxpayer’s dollars then. My busy schedule of fishing, drinking, and occasionally fixing something can be daunting to follow.” Will rolled his eyes at the agents’ backs as they waded through the sand in their inappropriate dress shoes.
When he was confident that they were gone and not coming back, Will retrieved his tome from under the dog bed and Winston. He had a lot to learn and not nearly enough time to do so.
When someone came knocking on his door that evening, Will wasn’t even surprised. He considered not opening it, but the door gave up the ghost, doing the thing it had been threatening to do all damn day by falling off its hinges.
“Charming. Do you this hole ‘rustic’ or ‘beachy’?” asked the red headed woman wearing too much animal print to be considered fashionable or classy.
“I’ve been incredibly popular today. Who or what are you? Animal, vegetable, mineral? FBI, Loch Ness monster, lost tourist, or other?” Will grumbled more to himself than at her, not bothering to extract himself from the pile of dogs who slept on top of him. It was cool enough in the evening for some pack cuddling.
“May I come in?” The tacky woman with the crimson curls and a saccharine smile asked.
“Door’s on the floor. What’s stopping you?” Will pointed out. Not that having a door had stopping anyone today. He considered leaving it there on the floor. It just might discourage future ‘guests’. The woman made no move to enter though, giving herself away by doing so.
“Oh…you can’t. That’s interesting.” Will smiled, though it was not out of good humor. After the agents’ departure, Will had spent a good hour or so working on decorating the house’s ins and outs with an array of symbols. “I’ll put you down as ‘other’.”
“Don’t make this more difficult than is has to be. Just give me the knife, and I’ll be on my way.” the Other told him with a smile of her own that was all needle sharp teeth.
“So do I call you Sea Witch or make something up for you?” Will named his enemy.
“I use Freddie Lounds when I’m topside.” the sea witch said, leaning in as close as she dared to have the ancient protections spells spark all around her like ethereal fireworks. She stepped back quickly to keep herself from being incinerated on the spot.
“You’re that trashy blogger? You really are evil.” Will snorted. He had to go to the supermarket in town sometimes if he wanted to eat something other than fish. He had seen her byline being mocked or quoted by other more legit news sources before.
“I can make your life a whole lot easier. I can also make it incredibly difficult, which is saying something considering the state of this place. So be a good boy, and quit wasting my time.” Freddie cooed, her words sweet and sharp as rock sugar.
“But you didn’t say the magic word.” Will mimicked her tones, his own smile poisoned honey. “I know a few now though.”
Freddie Lounds, one of the most feared sea witches of the seven seas, didn’t even have time to scream before a violent wind carried her far, far away from Will Graham’s door.
It was late that night when Will noticed a pudgy man standing on his porch, studying his fallen door with a puzzled look. Will hadn’t bothered to put it back up yet if at all. He ignored the man in favor of finishing off his last beer.
“Mr. Graham, I can see you.” the rolly polly man huffed, pointed at Will where he stood in his kitchen, leaning up against the counter. The dogs went over investigate the latest intruder, woofing at the man when he tried to shoo them off.
“How the hell does everyone know who I am and where I live?” Will asked the universe at large. He had gone from a hermit no one with any sense would bother with to someone of supposed value that everyone wanted to use, bother, manipulate, steal from, and/or kill. It was very disconcerting.
“And you!? Who the hell are you!? What do you want? What are you?” Will demanded, turning his attention back to man fussing about the dog hair on his overpriced clothing.
“Um, I’m Franklin Froideveaux. I am here on my master’s behalf who wishes to extend this invitation to you.” Franklin sniffed, his opinion on the matter crystal clear. Will was too busy smothering his chuckling into his beer to give a damn about Franklin‘s distain. The fuckwit either took his job way too seriously or his employer was a complete ass for making him say ‘master’ in this day and age.
“I have an invitation.” Franklin fussed, holding a large card out for Will to take who accepted it with a shrug. The invite was made from heavy cardstock that felt expensive. Inside was matching stationary embellished with silver around its crisp edges, its space filled with elegant copperplate calligraphy, the writing artistically loopy.
***You are cordially invited to dine with Dr. Hannibal Lecter…***
Thank you for reading. Your comments drink all of Will's beer with Zeller. Your kudos throw roses into the ocean with Franklin.