Work Header

till human voices wake us (and we drown)

Chapter Text

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.


"We should go to the beach sometime," Tyler says one day in late spring, his first season in Dallas.

Jamie freezes; he's lucky that Tyler's too caught up in CoD to notice. Behind Tyler, he sees Jordie's head snap up, the knife he was using to prepare lunch pausing, before he shakes himself and goes back to cutting vegetables. "What makes you say that?" Jamie asks lamely.

"Dude, the beach is awesome," Tyler says, as if that explains everything. "Galveston isn't that far away."

"Chubbs burns if he's out in the sun for more than about three minutes," Jordie says easily. "Wouldn't want to turn him into a lobster."

"Aww, c'mon," Tyler turns pleading eyes on Jamie--his incredibly hard-to-resist pleading eyes, as a matter of fact.

"Let's see how the postseason goes," Jamie says. He can always keep making excuses.

~ ~ ~

They found him when he was still small, washed up on a rocky beach on the far end of Vancouver Island. Jenny had been the one to stumble across him, unconscious and still bleeding sluggishly from a gash in his leg; Jordie had found his pelt tangled up in a log a handful of metres away.

They were island folk. They knew what that meant.

But, as his mother had told him later, "We couldn't just leave you there when you so obviously needed help." They took him home, cleaned him up, nursed him back to health, taught him to speak their words and eat their food. And, once Jamie was better, they gave him a choice.

"You can go home," the man who'd become his father had said, carefully holding Jamie's pelt in front of him. "But you're always welcome here."

He'd thought about it; the pull of the ocean was strong, and without his pelt he felt naked and wrong-footed. But he wasn't sure if there was any family left for him beneath the waves, and he was still very young.

And he'd watched the way the elder Benn had cradled Jamie's pelt in his big, strong hands, had seen how gentle and caring they'd been to a strange inhuman child they'd discovered on a lonely beach. He could be safe here, at least until he was stronger, until he was grown and could go back into the water on his own.

"I'd like to stay," he said quietly, and knew it was the right decision, as Jordie hugged him and everyone else laughed with relief, and if his mother had cried, he knew better than to mention.

He'd never asked how it was they'd managed to integrate him so seamlessly into their lives; maybe it was because they were island folk, maybe because the neighbors were island folk too. He'd never wanted to know--never needed to know. In the summers they'd go to the beach and he'd wade into the cold water, thinking about the pelt left behind, folded carefully in a box under his bed. Thinking that one day he'd disappear into the depths, wondering what that would be like, because the older he got, the less he remembered of his time beneath the waves.

His second winter, his mother had taken him to the ice rink and strapped a pair of Jordie's old skates on his feet. "I think you'll like this," she said with something of a knowing twinkle in her eye. And--once he'd gotten his balance and learned how to move across the ice--she was right.

Skating was like flying; he imagined that in some way it was like swimming, if he'd had his pelt. He could move gracefully in ways he didn't even dream of on dry land. If he couldn't ride the currents, at least he could slide across the ice.