You are Dave Strider, and you are going to kill your cousin Rose.
Or more specifically, you are going to kill her mother, your bro, and everybody who thought this was a good idea. And then you’re going to kill your cousin Rose for living out here.
The beach is so stupid. Man, you are way too cool for this shit. There’s nothing to do, there’s just sand and like a trillion more gallons of water than actually need to exist and rocks and crabs and whatfuck. Down the road a ways is the touristy part of this godforsaken town, with a hell of a lot of shops and people walking around, but it’s all fucking quaint and so cute and old and fuck
you fucking hate New England.
There are trees. There are fucking trees that give way to the fucking ocean and everybody says that it is such a fucking beautiful tourist place and oh let us go take a historical tour of Boston and then come back to Rose’s lovely beach home and look at the beautiful sea.
Bro called it “culture” with half a smirk that told you he knew exactly how much of an asshole he was being. Rose insists that you need to lighten up and try to enjoy life. Her friend Jade (how the two of them are friends you cannot fathom, they’re polar opposites) thinks you’re the fucking best.
The one good thing about this is that there is delicious ice cream.
Rose and her mom have this old Victorian-esque house, it probably has some sort of past. There’s a widow’s walk at the top that you can still access, and that was pretty cool, going up and looking out and picturing the wives staring out across the vast expanse. The whole property costs a fortune and will go down with a massive fucking fight if there’s ever a hurricane.
But you’re not in the house now – you’re out in the sun (“you’re so pale, Dave, you ought to get out more often” quoth your oh-so-concerned aunt) with the breeze whipping your hair all over the place. At least Rose doesn’t make fun of your shades out here, since you actually have an excuse. The first day here, you got the worst fucking sunburn of your life –
“Fucking hell, I’m from Texas, I thought I was immune to this shit” –
“The sun is highly reflective from the water so it’s as though you’ve been exposed to twice the normal amount of UV rays” –
“I look like someone tried to bake me into a pancake and then got bored halfway through.”
Now you use about half a bottle of sunscreen before you do anything.
“Dave.” Jade tugs on the sleeve of your t-shirt. “Dave, let’s go tide pooling.”
You sigh. “Okay.”
Tide pooling isn’t that bad – actually, a part of you thinks it’s pretty fucking cool, you’ll have to collect some of the dead stuff in here and see if you can preserve it – but it means climbing over rocks. And jumping between them. While salty sea spray washes around with the rolling of the tide. It’s out now, just starting to come back in, and it’s weird watching the water inch slowly closer.
Also, you can’t swim.
One bad experience in the kiddie pool when you were little – falling into the five-foot-deep end and feeling like you were going to die before Bro jumped in and fished you out (fully-clothed, you remember, and he kept patting your cheeks and making sure you could breathe and weren’t hurt). That was it. Done with the water.
Of course, now he finds your fear hilarious (asshole), and it’s not like you’re going to explain to Rose.
“Dave, I thought you of all people would be excited to show off in a bathing suit.”
“Are you saying I’m hot? Do you want a piece of this, Rose? That’s kinda messed.”
“I’m saying you think you are.”
“I wouldn’t go swimming in that sewage and fish shit for all the irony in the world.”
You’re drawn out of your thoughts by a glint of something sharp on the rocks. You turn – some douchebag probably left a beer can out here – and just catch what looks like a glimmer of fish scales disappearing under the waves. Huh. Weird. “Are there dolphins out here?”
“Um, I don’t know! Maybe. Why, did you see one?”
“Just saw a hugeass fish is all.”
“Oh, cool! I think there’s a lot of big fish in the open ocean, but not many near here. Hmm, I’ll have to look up the dolphin thing. Oh – Dave, what is this, is this a hermit crab?”
She’s kneeling by one of the pools, staring into the depths. You plop down beside her, making sure your sneakers have a firm grip on the stone. The two of you are relatively far out – these rocks extend ages into the water – and suddenly a wash of spray blows straight into your face.
Jade bursts out laughing as you wipe your glasses with your shirt, not that that’s all that dry either. You groan but then give her a tiny smile, because whatever, she's having fun. “Yeah, it’s a hermit crab.”
It’s the next day (day four of twelve of this shitty vacation) that you see the weird scales again. You’re leaning on the railing of the widow’s walk, blasting hip hop beats through your ear buds so loudly you can’t hear the fucking sea gulls. A crow lands on the railing five feet from you. You flip it off.
You catch the weird sheen in the water, sunlight sparkling even more fiercely than it does on normal ocean. But before you can focus on it, it’s disappeared – only to resurface a few feet away. There is a fucking fish stalking me, you think as shitty rap lyrics destroy your eardrums. Or stalking Rose. It’s a fucking duck that gets fed bread. Keeps coming back.
Or maybe you’re just losing it.
Someone tugs on your hand, and you nearly topple off the roof before you realize it’s just Jade. Whoops.
“I startled you,” she says as you rip out your ear buds. “Ha.”
“You didn’t startle me. Those were my fucking ninja reflexes getting tested. Check it out.”
“Uh-huh. Well, Rose says we’re going out on the motor boat tonight! They do fireworks displays near the main beach every Wednesday and she wants to watch without braving the crowds.”
Another tourist thing.
You’re going to fucking kill her.
“Are you scared, Dave?”
Rose smirks at you across the table.
“No, man, I’m so chill. I just like having lungs.”
She taps purple-painted fingernails, matching her eyes, against her lips. “Repressing phobias is universally considered to be an unhealthy practice, you know.”
“Showing your face is universally considered to be an unhealthy practice.”
“Look, I’m just not seein’ the point of being on a fucking boat if I can’t swim. If we sink, the rest of you will be all, ‘Shit, this is cool, I mean the Atlantic is cold as piss but other that we’re fine’ and I’ll be all, ‘Welp, I’m fucked.’”
“You’re quite welcome to stay home if you’re too frightened to come.”
“That’s a challenge, isn’t it?”
“A mere suggestion.”
“I will take that fucking challenge and roast it so hard you couldn’t eat it.”
“You’ll probably enjoy the fireworks. They’re not quite as spectacular as the fourth of July, but they’re pretty.”
First of all, it’s freezing. Second of all, Rose and Jade managed to get you and Bro to remove your shades so you’d “actually be able to see” (you get an amazing sense of satisfaction from the amount of time Bro spends grumbling about this). Third of all, you can’t get your life vest to buckle right and have weighed the embarrassment of asking for help above the fear of drowning. Fourth of all, you’re still scared shitless of drowning.
Apparently this is clairvoyance. You swear you see a flash of silvery scales again and lean over the side, trying to tell whether you’re hallucinating or the fucking fish thing has actually stalked you guys all the way out here. At the very same moment, you hit a wave wrong and salt water washes over the railing, over your hands, making them slick, and they’re slipping, and your weight is shifting wrong, you’re pitching forward –
You expect your life to flash before your eyes, but there’s only one real thought: Oh fuck, Rose and Bro are gonna feel like shit.
Your ankle catches on the railing for a second that’s too brief, just long enough to set your legs on fire, and then you’re airborne.
You face plant in the water; it feels like being slapped with a slab of ice. Someone shouts behind you as your body rights itself. Then the life vest slips over your head, leaving you unprotected.
Holy fuck, you are actually the world’s biggest fucking moron.
The boat is going like thirty miles an hour. They cut the engine before remembering that you can’t fucking swim over to them, and the cold is numbing you so badly you can’t feel your body anyway. Moonlight and stars swing above you. You hear the engine start again, they’ll have to loop around, it’ll be fine, Dave, you’re fine.
A wave washes over your head. You kick out blindly, panicked, desperately attempting to stay afloat. It’s fine, Dave, it’s fine, just need to keep sucking in air, paddle above the surface, fuck are these waves choppy tonight, fuck there’s water everywhere fuck you can’t breathe fuck you fucking moron why the fuck didn’t you fix your life vest fuck fuck there’s no air fuck where’s the surface fuck you’re spinning in darkness and you need to collect your thoughts but you’re fucking frenzied with terror
You struggle upward, kicking, writhing, but the water isn’t cooperating with you, you can’t fucking do this, and the moment your head breaks the surface and you try to suck in a gasp, you end up with a mouth full of salt. You’re coughing, spluttering, choking, you can’t fucking breathe you can’t stay afloat fuck your lungs burn so badly fuck where’s the boat fuck you’re going to die oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck I don’t know which fucking way is up –
The cold is everywhere, it’s inside you, you are actually going to die holy fuck this is kind of hilarious who has a phobia now Rose oh fuck oh man your chest is burning so bad and bubbles pour from your mouth and you’re pulling in please god I need air and nothing but more burning oh fuck this is the worst fuck fuck air I need air there is no fucking air and you can feel the weight of the water dragging you down too much water it’s all around you it’s trapping you.
And then it starts to feel different.
Not warm so much as empty, like you’re losing your grip on yourself and you know you’re losing consciousness and okay, if you are going to die then losing consciousness right now sounds pretty chill, you can deal with that, hopefully they find your body before the salt disfigures it and what the fuck are you even thinking about this for and all sensation is fading.
You wake up to pressure on your chest and a volley of water erupting from your throat. It burns even more on the way up than on the way down, as if that was possible. You reach for the strength to groan, but you can’t find any, and before you can dwell on this too much you feel a warm mouth on yours, air rushing into your lungs. More pressure, more water, leaving you gasping like a beached whale.
“Oh good, it worked,” a voice says. “Are you awake?”
There’s the groan.
Your back rests against something cool. Shivers race up and down your arms. Maybe you have hypothermia. It wouldn’t surprise you.
“Can you open your eyes?”
You manage, blearily, to make your eyelids work. They flutter, giving you a glimpse of a night sky, shimmering moonlight, and a boy in serious need of braces or something. He has the bluest eyes you’ve ever seen, they gleam almost silver in the dim light, and dark hair plastered to his forehead and neck. Sweet. You don’t seem to be as dead as you thought. Must be some badass lifeguard.
Your gaze travels down to find a bare torso that melts into –
You take it back.
You’re definitely dead.
Another second allows you to process that it’s the same silver glint you’ve been seeing all over the fucking place, and it matches the sort of silvery glint in his eyes. It ends in a silky gray fin, the tips of which trail into the water.
He strokes your cheek with his fingertips. Thin webbing stretches between each one. He’s warm, warmer than anything else right now, you guess he must be if he’s a merman who has to live in the fucking ocean all the time, fuck, is this real life, this can’t be real life, you’re having a weird dream, you’re actually dead and this is your dying brain consoling you about the fact that you’re a fucking moron, fuck.
“I have to get you back to the main land, you’re freezing,” he says.
“Aren’t we…?” You twist your head to the side and discover that nope, you’re on an outlying rock. The main beach, ablaze with twinkling lights, is maybe five hundred feet in the other direction, separated by black ocean. You think you can hear people calling your name. “Ah, fuck.”
“Yeah.” He smiles slightly at you. “I think you’re going to be fine, though. I’m John.”
John the fucking merman.
What is even happening.
“Dave Strider,” you croak.
“Can’t you swim?”
There’s a fucking mermaid dude
asking you if you can swim.
You shake your head. “I never learned,” you say. “Just so I could fully enjoy the irony of this moment.” Fuck, talking hurts, scrapes your chest inside out.
You’re so cold.
He pulls you into a sitting position. You sort of flop against his shoulder. “I have to carry you back,” he says.
“Fuck no, I’m not going back in that water.”
Ow. Ow your fucking chest ow.
“Sorry. I can swim fast, I promise it’ll be less than thirty seconds.”
“I’m a human icicle right now, man.”
“I know.” He pats your head, pushing hair out of your eyes. You want to protest that the gesture is condescending, but you can’t waste precious breath. “But you need to wrap up in a blanket or something, and I sure don’t have one. Better we go now than never.”
One absolute shitfest thirty-second frozen ride from hell later, you’re lying on the sand and John is calling for help. You think he’ll probably melt away all mysterious merman-like before anybody can get there, so you reach out and catch his wrist.
“Why d’you hang around Rose’s so much?”
John smiles. The water washes up around his glimmering tail. “I’m lonely, I guess.”
“Did you give me fucking mouth-to-mouth?”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
“Oh man. I made out with a merman and I wasn’t even fully conscious for it.”
People are coming closer now, you can hear them yelling your name, edging down the beach. You’re not sure whether they heard John’s call or not. Either way, they’ll be here soon.
“Wait,” you say as he starts to slide back towards the water. “Be my redhead princess and live in my castle.”
He gives you the weirdest look you’ve ever seen.
“The Little Mermaid…? No?” You really need to stop talking. “Shit, if you’re gonna stalk me more, at least make your presence known.”
He smiles, teeth and eyes sparkling. Everything about the guy apparently sparkles. Maybe that’s a merman thing.
Holy fucking shit you’re talking to a merman.
You’re still not quite over this.
“I could teach you to swim,” he suggests.
The footsteps are coming closer.
“I promise I won’t let you drown,” he adds with a little laugh.
You can’t believe it, you blame it on the absolute surrealism of the moment
but you nod.
john starts to teach dave to swim.
holy shit, i am sort of overwhelmed by the response to this fic... o_o;;
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING AND SCHTUFF
love you guys.
You end up having to go to the hospital to make sure you don’t die of hypothermia. Rose and Bro both apologize about a million times. Bro offers to take you home, and you say no, you’ll stick the rest of the vacation out. He says you clearly hit your head. You say you’re a fucking rebel.
When they ask you how you came ashore, you say that you dog paddled. They say you’re lucky you didn’t die. Your voice is hoarse from all of the salt and they want you to rest, so you just shrug.
You know you can’t come up with any excuse for why you mysteriously want to go hang out by the beach after nearly drowning, so you’re glad when everybody decides it’s time for a town outing. They’re all leaving, but you opt to stay home to “rest” while they eat dinner and walk around and socialize. A few hours to yourself.
As soon as their cars have pulled out of the driveway, you’re loping across the beach, to the outcropping of rocks you and Jade used for tide pooling. Far enough out, it dips down so you’re out of sight of the houses, and even though it’s not technically on Rose’s property, people don’t usually come out here. The rocks are slippery, and there’s the main beach if they want to go have fun. Where there’s actually people and lifeguards and shit.
You feel a bubble of anxiety start to form in your chest and try to shrug it off. No way. No way are you going to flip out, you’re not even in the water. You’re just going to come out here and make sure that last night wasn’t a hallucination, and if it was a hallucination – well, then you’ve got some problems on your hands.
“John,” you call, dropping to one knee, gripping the stone with your hands, feeling kind of stupid. “John, are you out here?”
“Over here,” a voice says.
You turn to the right and find a head poking over the rocks. John is holding himself up by his arms, and as you inch closer, you realize he’s lifted about half his torso out of the water. He splashes backward, flicking a spray of water into your face with his tail, and comes up laughing like a maniac.
“You’re a dork,” you say, shaking out your now-wet hair.
“So are you.”
“Truth. You’re the dorkiest guy I’ve ever seen.”
“I’m the only guy you’ve ever seen.”
“Only one you’ve ever talked to.”
He huffs. “Fine.”
“It’s good to know last night wasn’t an extremely strange drug trip,” you say. “I’d hate to wonder what being saved by silvery mermen means about my subconscious desires. Although my cousin Rose would probably have a field day with it. She’s into that shit. All up in your psychological business like yeah, let me into your head” –
“Do you always ramble like this, or are you nervous?”
“Shit, I don’t get nervous. I am so chill. Everything about me is chill as fuck.”
“Well, that doesn’t seem like a normal human reaction. Maybe you have no soul.”
“There’s no ‘maybe’ about it.” You smirk. “I’m going to hell.”
“Yup, definitely. Good thing I bought you some time, right?”
“Yeah, thanks for that.” You stretch out on your stomach, looking over the lip of the rock. “You know, for a mythical creature, you seem pretty human.”
His eyes are even more impossibly blue in the sunlight, flecked with gray and clearer than the ocean. Which is a pretty stupid analogy considering the ocean around here is polluted as fuck, but it’s the thought that counts. Little streams run down his face and neck from his hair, disappearing under the water. And he’s tanner than you, a fact you note with some annoyance even though it makes sense: he’s dark-haired and outside all the time.
Actually, that plus the massive overbite make him look sort of cute. You banish the thought. You are absolutely not going to crush on a mythical creature. Nope.
He grins. “We just borrowed a lot from human culture. Or humans borrowed a lot from us. What, do you think you’re dreaming?”
“I sure hope not. If you are, don’t wake up. I like existing.”
You reach down and he grasps your hands, letting you tug him onto the rock. Jesus fuck, he’s a lot heavier than he looks. He apologizes as he scrambles up next to you, flipping onto his back – “It’s all muscle.”
“You look like a pretty scrawny rat to me.”
“I have more muscle than you naturally. Mer thing.”
His tail is longer than a human pair of legs would be too, hanging lazily over the side of the stone. You realize you’re staring at it, and then fuck it, you are taking this whole mermaids-are-real thing very well so you should be allowed to gawk a little. After a moment you realize that he’s staring at your legs; you’re wearing a pair of swim trunks and a t-shirt, so they’re fairly exposed.
You lift your toes into the air and wiggle them. “This isn’t that exciting.”
“It’s weird,” he says. “How do you balance with your tail split in two?”
“I don’t have a tail, man. I just have two excellent legs.”
“Looks like a split tail to me.”
“You balance on your feet and move your muscles, I guess. Like swimming through the air, only not at all.” You scoot closer to him. “What’s it like to have your legs fused together?”
“I don’t – oh. You’re a jerk.”
He wrinkles his nose at you, but he seems to be giving the question some thought. “Our tails are a lot bendier than your legs for swimming and stuff,” he says. “I mean, it just feels normal? Dunno how exactly I’m going to teach you to swim, though. We usually use mostly our abs and tails to propel us through the water, and you’ve just got scrawny little sticks.”
“I resent that.”
“You can breathe and stuff, right?”
He offers you one of the most spectacular eyerolls you’ve ever seen. “No, I’m suffocating. Dying here. Of course I can breathe. My lungs are smaller than yours, though, so in a second I’ll probably duck back under so I can get some real air. Plus if I stay in the sun too long I’ll dry out. I’m not really built for dry land, Dave.”
“Whoops,” he says, covering his mouth briefly with one of his webbed hands. “This is actually not interesting at all, is it.”
“I’m talking to a fucking merdude. Not much could make this uninteresting, so no worries.”
“Well, I’m talking to someone for the first time in ages, so I might ramble even worse than you do,” he says.
“Hmm? Don’t have any hot mermaids macking on you?”
“I told you, I’m lonely.”
You frown, although he probably can’t see it behind the shades. “Dude, what happened to your family?”
He waves a hand impatiently. “It doesn’t matter. Am I teaching you to swim or not?”
“Oh. Right here?” Your voice is oh-so-steady. “The tide’s coming in and this is over my head. Do you want to see me drown? I thought we had something special.”
“You’ll be fine,” he says. “I’ll hold you up.”
Guess that part of your culture doesn’t translate. “Never mind,” you say.
You pull your shirt over your head, acutely aware of how stick thin and pale you are. You slathered sunscreen on before taking off (not taking off, you remind yourself, you were so cool walking here, you fucking loped, that was the word you used).
“I’m gonna pull you in now,” he says.
You sigh. “It’s okay, they said, you won’t fall off the boat. It’s okay, they said, you won’t almost drown. You fall off the boat and almost drown anyway.”
“We’re gonna be right by the rocks. There’s no way you’re drowning,” he says, and then he literally lifts you off the ground – Jesus Christ he wasn’t lying about being muscular – and wriggles back into the water.
It hits you like an ice skate, instantly bringing back panicked memories of the night before. You gasp, starting to kick blindly, digging your nails into John’s back like a cat stuck in a tree, although you don’t realize how deeply until he winces. His arms are wrapped tightly around you, chest pressed against yours. It’s the only warmth while his tail flicks from side to side, keeping the two of you afloat.
This feels vaguely not platonic and awfully close and you’d make a joke about it if you weren’t so fucking freaked.
No, not freaked, just unsettled. You don’t freak. You are not a freakable person.
“Relax,” John says. “I’ve got you.”
“Do you not see how relaxed I am?”
“I think your fingernails are making my back bleed.”
“Fuck.” You try to ease up, but it’s hard when you’re so wholly convinced that you’re going to die.
“See, the problem here is you’re panicking,” John says with all the patience of a well-rested elementary school teacher. “Trust me, I won’t let you drown. If I wanted to do that, I could’ve dunked you under about sixty times by now.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I’m freezing my ass off,” you grumble.
The initial reaction is beginning to subside, so you can actually feel the pulsing of the current. You’re bobbing up and down beside the rock (what if something goes wrong and you get your brains bashed against the stone, wow Dave stop that you are stupid), and the waves are more ripples than anything.
“I’m fine,” John says, smirking.
“Shut up, we can’t all have extra-thick hydro mermic skin or whatever you have.”
“Actually, we’ve just adapted to living in colder…”
“John. Just appreciate the brilliance of the phrase ‘hydro mermic’ for a second.”
“Yeah, you’re the biggest dork,” John says.
He spends a fair amount of time trying to teach you not to flail your legs in such a spastic manner, and then turns you around so he can help you move your arms. You call it quits about two minutes into this, firstly because you’ve been in here way too long and you actually will freeze, secondly because that involves him letting go of you for periods of about two seconds and you are not ready for that yet.
You dry off with your shirt, because you were so smooth you forgot to actually bring a fucking towel. John hoists himself onto the rocks next to you again. You can’t help noticing how carefree and pleased he looks, like a little kid who just got the biggest fucking chocolate bar from the candy store.
…ugh, you are definitely crushing on him.
You haven’t explained to anyone that you’re gay as fuck, mostly because nobody has ever asked. There’s no way Bro doesn’t know what with some of the shit he’s found in your room – whoops, nope, you’re not thinking about that now or you’ll flush – but anyone else?
Okay. They all probably know. Whatever.
“John,” you say, a thought from earlier nagging at you.
“Seriously, what happened to your family?”
He stretches his whole body, his tail reaching out in a straight toothpick line before flopping down again, joints popping. You think you’re not going to get an answer, but then he says, “Lots of stuff. Bad things were happening around the beaches so a lot of them migrated, a bunch died – you know. Fish things.”
Good thing he can’t see your eyes right now, you are staring at him something fierce. “I see,” you say.
“Yep. Then my dad died in a fight against a predator and – well, I’m the only one left around here.” He shrugs. “Guess you could say I’m one little fish in a big sea.”
kisses, strange erogenous zones, tickling, a ticking clock.
that's about it.
long authors note alert
i am SO OVERWHELMED by the response this has gotten HOLY SHIT?! uh yeah. i hope you're all enjoying reading it as much as i'm enjoying writing it ^^ (unfortunately this means i'll probably shove my other multi-chapter fic to the back burner or at least be slower in updating it ff)
toddler dave and bro watching disney movies together is a headcanon that i might need to make a oneshot out of
also can dave just be tickled all the time
probably gonna write the next chapter in john's pov, which means we get to learn about mer things! in particular emotion-related stuff that's going to be really fucking important.
also HAVE SOME FANART HOLY SHIT by the lovely AnMochi (on here) / 27teacups (on tumblr): http://img32.imageshack.us/img32/8200/try4c.png
one last thing i was a slight pervert writing this ok i just want dirty mermaid sex but i want this to be a teen rated fic
The next day – day six of twelve of this shitty vacation that’s slowly becoming less shitty – you manage to do a sort of flailing dog paddle without flipping the fuck out. John says he’s proud of you in a really snarky, condescending voice. You flip him off, a gesture that’s becoming second nature.
“Love you too,” he says.
“Let’s go back to the beach,” you say. “Nobody will see. Even if they do, you probably have mermaid magic or some shit to make them forget.”
“I’m not magic.”
“Man, you just crushed all my childhood hopes and dreams.”
“Crushed them, John, like an ice pick hammering through my soul. I’ll never recover. I’m going to wither away and die and it’s all your fault for taking the magic out of life. We humans need magic, it’s the only thing that distracts us from how shitty and pathetic our lives actually are.”
He waits patiently for you to finish.
“We get all up in arms over our fairy tales and pixie dust and smutty puppets so we can pretend true love exists and fuck each other senseless under blazing stars and whoa I forget where I was going with that.”
“I figure you have to burn yourself out of rambling eventually,” John says.
“I don’t burn, I blaze.”
“You keep telling yourself that, Dave.” He offers you the widest and most innocent smile possible. “You just keep telling yourself that.”
You haul ass out of the water because you’re cold, and he does his usual flopping beside you. The weather has been ridiculously warm for New England Early May – mid seventies this whole time – but it’s still nothing compared to Texan heat. Rose says that you really can’t predict weather in New England, that it’ll probably snow next week. You're pretty sure she's kidding. Hopefully.
John rolls onto his back, sunning himself on the stone. It’s mildly adorable even though you’re definitely not thinking about that nope.
“I think you and Jade would get along,” you say. “You and Rose too, except you wouldn’t be able to make out half of what she was saying.”
“Maybe,” he says.
He’s squinting at the sun, his pupils tiny. It makes the touch of gray in his eyes more pronounced.
“So how come I got to see you if you’ve spent so much time trying to keep out of sight?”
“’Cause I liked you,” he says. “You weren’t supposed to see me anyway, I just felt obligated to save your ass after you fell.”
“Well, that and I was curious about what your eyes looked like, because Rose’s and Jade’s are both really pretty, but you always had the shades on, and also you just seemed interest – mmph.”
His voice cuts off abruptly because your mouth is on his.
...There is a plausible explanation.
You’re sorting through your reasoning even as you’re assaulting his lips. He smells like salt, which you guess is to be expected. He probably tastes like it too, but you’re keeping your tongue firmly inside your mouth (where it should be) so you’re not sure.
1) You are single and will make out with anything willing
2) He saved your life
3) He’s sort of really fucking cute and you’re crushing, what with the blue eyes and massive overbite
4) How many teenagers can say they kissed a mermaid or merman
5) It’s fucking vacation
6) You’re going home soon
7) You only live once.
Yep. You use fucking YOLO as an excuse.
John goes completely still; you don’t think he’s even breathing. You’re about to pull away and explain your brief moment of impulse (dude, there was a fly that was gonna go down your throat and I had to suck it out) when he wraps his arms around your back and pulls you down on top of him.
Your chest presses against his, legs splayed over the stone. His heartbeat feels weird, thudding unevenly; maybe that’s the merman equivalent of a racing pulse. You tangle your fists in his hair. There’s no real manual on how to kiss a merman. Or kiss in general. This is the first time you’ve done this since sloppy tonguey Truth or Dare make outs.
He makes this sound that seems part purr, part bubbling laugh. You’re sucking in breaths through your nose, and then you remember that his lungs are smaller and pull back about an inch so he can get some air.
Your noses press together, and you can feel his chest heaving, his breath wafting across your chin. “Why’d you do that?” he asks.
“Had to make you shut up.”
“Is that usually how you make people shut up?”
“Nope, you’re a special case.”
“So do I just have to start rambling like you and you’ll kiss me again?”
You press your lips to his, just for a second. Teasing.
“Yeah, not bad for a fish,” you say.
He snorts. “Not bad for a lame hipster.”
“Man, how do you even know what a hipster is?”
“I don’t. I’ve just heard Rose and Jade both call you that like five times.”
“I am not lame. You’ve offended my sensibilities, dude. If anything, you’re the lame one. Because, you know, lame means ‘unable to walk’, and you’ve got a tail. So. Suck it.”
“I know what lame means.”
“Well, I am sorry for not knowing which parts of my vocabulary seem foreign to you. Sheesh.” You kiss him once, twice, again. He hasn’t released his grip on you, he’s a warm body, you’re soaking wet and cold, he’s cute, and also this is just pleasant. All fairly good excuses. “Anyway, you’ve got an advantage over me. Kissing me back to life earlier like I was Snow White and you were my manly prince.”
A blank look.
“Oh man. No Little Mermaid, no Snow White, you are so deprived. We gotta get you some classic Disney. Bro and I ironically watched that shit all the time when I was a kid.”
“Whatever you say.”
You try to wiggle into a sitting position, but John isn’t having it. Fine then. “What do kisses mean in mermaid culture, anyway?” you ask.
“They’re like… affection. Mating.” A faint blush rises on his cheeks. “I sure hope that’s what it means in human culture too.”
“Yup. That’s our way of saying we want to sex it up.”
His flush becomes more pronounced. “I don’t…”
“Chill, I’m kiddin’.” You kiss the tip of his nose this time. “It is a mating thing though, I guess, if you want to put it that way. Like hey, I like your face, let me suck it.”
“You like my face?”
You can’t tell if he sounds so confused because of the notion that you might find him attractive or because of your wording. Either way, it’s hilarious.
“I’m a real subtle guy, John. Don’t know if you’d noticed or not.”
“You’re being sarcastic.”
“Now, when have I ever been sarcastic?”
Since he doesn’t seem to be planning to let you go anytime soon, you decide it’s time to seize opportunities. You duck your head and press your lips against the spot just below his earlobe, testing his reactions. Either he’s going to shove you away and tell you to stop being a pervert, or he’s going to be confused, or you’re going to be very entertained.
“Yup, I like your face,” you murmur. “Also the rest of you. And vaguely your personality, except you’re a huge douchebag.”
“So’reyou,” he says.
You’re taking his breath away again. Excellent.
You nuzzle against his hair, skim your nose across his neck. Hmm. Curiously, you trace your tongue over one of the gill slits on the side of his throat, just under his jaw.
His reaction is instantaneous. A strangled, mewling noise erupts from his throat, his back arching against your body, arms circling you so tightly you think you might be crushed. He relaxes when you stop, loosening his death grip, gasping.
“Sorry,” he says. A quick glance shows that his flush has spread to the tips of his ears. “It’s just – sensitive.”
You, on the other hand, are smirking something wicked. It’s not even a cool kid act right now, you’re just really fucking amused. “Sensitive.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Shut up I will kill you.”
“So where are your other weird erogenous zones?”
“I am never telling you.”
“Guess I’ll just have to make do with this,” you say, kissing him there, letting your lips linger for a lot longer than is wholly necessary.
He whines, a shudder racking his body. “Dave! Dave I am going to kill you!”
“Well, that’s not a very sexy thing to yell in bed.”
“You are the worst person.”
“What d’you expect me to do when you’re not letting me get up? Gotta rest my head somewhere. Or my mouth.” You wriggle in his arms, and this time he loosens his grip enough for you to move away.
He sits up beside you. “I’m going to get revenge for that,” he says, his face still flushed but not quite as deep a red.
“What, are you gonna grope me?”
You see an evil glint in his eyes –
“I’m gonna do this.”
- and don’t quite move out of the way fast enough. All the ninja reflexes and strifing in the world could not possibly have prepared you for a merman on a mission.
He manages to wrestle you underneath him (for a minute, you two are a flailing tangle of limbs and flopping fish out of water), flattening his tail against your legs so you pretty much can’t move them at all (holy shit how the fuck is he so strong screw “mer things”). “Fuck you fuck you fuck you,” you chant, at least until he starts to tickle you and you can’t talk anymore.
You flail your arms, unable to do much more than that, trying to keep your shades on. The rest of you is paralyzed by laughter that hurts your stomach and ribs. “Gerroff,” you manage to gasp, but he’s fucking relentless, his hands everywhere he can feasibly reach. Bro used to tickle you like this when you were little (right after your ironic Disney bonding), but Jesus Christ it’s been years.
“Can’t breathe,” you wheeze, trying your hardest to kick him off.
“Too bad,” he replies.
As he tickles your neck, your hands find purchase on his shoulders. You shove him away just enough to wiggle out from under him, and he rolls you over and tries to pin you again. The two of you end up locked in yet another intense wrestling match, which ends when you pitch over the edge of the fucking rock and hit the ocean with a tremendous splash.
His arms are around you instantly, making sure you stay above the surface. “Shit! Sorry, are you okay?”
“Fuuuck,” you say, a little surprised that the sudden icy shock didn’t panic you. Must just be getting used to John saving your life. “Of course, now you let up.”
“It was revenge.”
“Pretty shitty revenge.”
“I won’t stop next time.”
Suddenly the rock is at your back and John is kissing you softly, hesitantly, like he’s not sure how far he’s allowed to push. He's being gentle and sweet and perfect and you want to kiss back, except find yourself overcome by an unfortunate bout of semi-hysterical hyena-esque laughter.
“What?” he says. “What’d I do?”
It’s a side effect of being tickled. Obviously. “You just dumped me in cold water, dude. This is not going to work.”
“Oh man, John. John. What the actual fuck are we doing.”
“I don’t know.”
“Besides trying to kill me.”
“What do you want to do?”
“This whole thing.”
You wrap your arms around him. Over the past few days, you’ve gotten a little more used to the ice of the ocean. He probably needs a few minutes to breathe anyway, so you don’t try to haul yourself out yet.
“What do you want to do about it?” you ask.
You half expect him to respond with an I asked you first, but he just frowns and begins to chew on his bottom lip. “I want you,” he says after a short pause. “I mean, I wanted you when I first saw you, it’s weird emotion stuff that I can’t really explain…”
“Mermaids have love at first sight programmed into them or something?”
“Sort of, I guess? I don’t know. But you’re also human and stuff and like. Human.”
“That’s my only detracting quality? Damn, I’m flattered.”
“Well, you don’t – you don’t feel stuff like we do. It’s complicated. So… it’s really up to you, I guess, because I can definitely be an asshole but I really don’t want you to get hurt.”
He’s still holding you up, his tail flicking reflexively. His head leans forward and rests against your shoulder. “Mmm?”
“Let’s just take it one day at a time, okay?”
Day six of twelve of this not-so-shitty vacation.
You try not to think about what’ll happen after that.
john needs to hold someone, and dave is a prime candidate for the job.
ahhh once again thank you guys so much for reading this :') i know i haven't replied to all of your comments, but i've read them all and appreciate them so much you have no ideaaa
this chapter got fairly angsty
so this is probably a fine time to warn you that there's going to be a fair bit of angst in this story
and wanting to wrap john up in a blanket and feed him soup
You are John Egbert, and you are slightly paranoid.
You’ve earned the right to be slightly paranoid, you think. Pretty much everyone you’ve ever loved has either died in a gruesome manner or left you alone. It’s been two months since your father was torn apart, two endless months of eavesdropping on conversations at the beach and people’s houses and pulling dangerous I-could-get-caught-but-it-doesn’t-really-matter pranks. Two months chatting with nothing but the voice in your head – to migrate or not to migrate.
In those two months, you think you’ve gone a little crazy.
For example, the first person you talked to was human.
As in, a member of the species that your dad constantly warned you about. A member of the species that's universally too blind to know anything about each other. A member of the species that’s responsible for fucking absolutely everything up and killing your mom when you were too young to remember and with what happened to Vriska when you were unfortunately old enough to realize –
Actually, fuck it. The insanity started way before you first talked to him. The insanity started before he was even in the picture, when you discovered Rose and Jade and their quirky little senses of humor and Rose’s pretentiousness and Jade’s constant smiles and the way they clicked together and tasting the connection they had, it was like a net holding them together, and watching the way their eyes sparkled in the reflected light of the sea and you were all alone so alone in this huge fucking expanse that a tiny part of your mind begged to call out to them.
C’mon, John, you thought at the end of March when there was still frost on the beach and Rose always wrapped up in a huge coat but Jade let the salty air whip her bare arms because “it felt more natural.” What’s the worst that can happen? They freak out? You can migrate… they’re just teenage girls… it’s not like they can do anything…
Except that, you know, Rose’s mother is a scientist.
Absolutely nothing is scarier than a scientist human. That’s not paranoia. That’s just cold fact. Tie you down and poke you with knives and needles until you’re bloody, broken, shriveled. It’s not like their species is famed for empathy, and you’re positive it’ll be even worse if they discover a boy with fins instead of their standard of normal. It’s okay, let’s just take him apart and put him back together again, we’re blind anyway, can’t feel what he feels, it’s all in the interest of science. There’s enough cruelty and hatred on the beach on a daily basis to confirm that. Bitter. Suffocating.
So you were exhausted and just about ready to migrate, head to deeper cleaner waters and face whatever lay down there and see if you could find a family who wouldn't reject you for being a sap. After all, you weren’t totally stupid. The lack of contact was killing you slowly, and if that didn’t do you in, something else would. Poisoned fish, predators, humans with fishing nets – the possibilities for disaster were unlimited.
Then Dave showed up.
That’s when you turned totally stupid.
About a week ago, yep. You’ve been totally stupid for a whole week. And haven’t died yet. Someone should give you an award.
You don’t know how to explain to him in terms he can understand. How humanity has survived all these years without an empathy sense is beyond you. Their relationships are different. From what you can tell, it took Rose and Jade ages to build up their connection, and it could still snap in an instant. Takes even longer for real mates. They’re all so fragile and clueless that it sort of boggles your mind, but at the same time so volatile that quite frankly they scare the shit out of you.
So. Dave. Dave who’s pretty and pale and always wears shades so you can’t see the emotions in his eyes and doubles as just about the pissiest person you’ve ever seen. But that’s just it: he’s pissy. Doesn’t go deeper than that. Some kind of feud going on between him and Rose. Underneath that, actual caring. (Pretty damn far underneath, though. Sheesh.)
He also seems to go to stupid lengths to hide his emotions from others, presenting more problems in explaining. You have no idea how he’ll react to so, uh, I can kind of tell how you’re feeling at all times and also I’m forming attachment that I probably shouldn’t so uh yep let’s just make out some more on this rock and pretend I’m just as blind as you are.
“So is your name just John, or do you have some kind of full title like John of the Sparkling Western Seas?” Dave asks as the two of you sit on your usual rock. It’s been sunny constantly since he got here. Must be a sign.
You hold up your hand. “And here comes the comment about how disappointingly not magical I am.”
“Damn, beat me to it. Seriously though, Egbert? That’s fucking normal. That’s as fucking normal as a name gets. You weren’t kidding when you said you guys borrowed a lot from human culture.”
“Do you read a bunch of fantasy novels where everyone has stupid names like Multaghdarkwind?”
“Nah, that’s all Rose.”
You curl tighter against him, your tail draping over his legs. He’s in a good mood today. At peace with the world and whatever.
“You’re being awfully clingy,” he observes as you play with his hair. He hasn’t even been swimming yet; his skin is just wet where you’ve touched him, so the strands are silky and soft.
“Sorry. I like snuggling.”
“Nah, I don’t mind.”
You close your eyes. You have to explain this to him, so you take a moment to gather your thoughts. He fits very snugly against your body, a soft and warm and firm weight that you want to keep beside you as often as possible. It’s distracting and calming at the same time.
“There is some magical mer stuff you should probably hear about,” you say.
Nice segway, John. Really nice.
“Ah. Do I get to hear about the mysterious emotions of yours that are apparently too complicated for me to understand? I’ll play dumb and everything if it’ll make you feel better. What are feelings? We just don’t know.”
“First, yes, and second, shut up.” You kiss his forehead. You have become slightly obsessed with kissing him. “Okay. I am going to draw on all the power of human analogies to try to do this.”
“This is going to be painful, isn’t it.”
“It definitely is.”
“So,” you say, ignoring him, “you know how humans have five senses? Sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, right?”
“Actually, I mentioned that once to Rose and she started going on about how we also sense heat and equilibrium and” –
“Okay, okay. Humans have five senses. For the purpose of the discussion.”
“Well, mers have six. Yours, plus empathy.”
“Yep, you’re gonna have to elaborate,” he says.
“It’s like… all creatures have the same base instincts. And then more advanced species have more defined feelings. So we can sort of sense… emotional balances. Of sea creatures. And each other. And humans. And stuff.”
He lets out a long breath. “That’s a hippie psychic power if I ever heard one.”
“It’s not a power. It’s just an extra sense. Like seeing or smelling or whatever.”
“What the fuck are emotional balances?”
“Like…” Ugh, you are doing a terrible job of explaining, and you hope he doesn’t notice how you’re starting to blush. “Like the feelings that sort of make up people’s personalities and reactions and stuff. And then on top of that, how people are feeling at a given moment. We… our relationships are based more on connections than yours. Like… ugh, I’m not very good at this.”
“It’s all right. Keep going. I’ll raise my hand at the end and you can take my questions.”
“It’s like, okay, you guys usually do your own thing, right? You sort of interact with each other, but you don’t usually connect on a deeper level unless you have some chance encounter or you’ve known each other a while. But with us, it’s more like puzzle pieces. Yeah, puzzle pieces, okay, that’s good. We’re constantly gauging and judging and feeling who we fit with. Who we won’t get along with, who we’ll be friends with, who, uh. Who could be our potential mate.”
“Oh, really.” A customary smirk curves the right side of his mouth. “So you’re saying you’ve got a huge feelings kink. Good thing I’m so wishy-washy and emotional, right.”
“So that’s seriously how it worked? You looked at me and were like, bam, soul mate?”
“Um. Sort of. I just knew we were, um, compatible. Which is weird since you’re a different species.”
“Compatible meaning you got a merman boner as soon as you looked at me, right?”
The blush heats the tips of your ears. “Oh my god no that’s not what I meant,” you say, your voice squeaking.
He’s shaking with silent laughter. Jerk.
“We just fit together, okay?” You take his hands in yours, pressing them between your chests. “Like this. We fit together, so I was thinking about saying something to you, and that’s why you kept seeing me, because I was being dumb and almost getting caught. Maybe on purpose, I don’t know. And when you fell off the boat, all I could think was that I didn’t want you to die. I really needed you to not die.”
“Guess that was a pretty good excuse to talk to me, huh?”
“I guess so. I just. Fuck. I like you a lot. And you don’t even know because you’re fucking blind.”
“So if I'm blind, does that mean you see emotions? Like hippie auras?”
“Not really… I mean, how do you explain another sense to people? It’s just there. Like, how are you supposed to explain color to someone who can’t see?”
“The only blind chick I know wasn’t born blind, so I don’t have that problem.”
“What can I say? I’m just a human who doesn’t understand feelings.” He squeezes your hands. “I actually am curious, though. How does it work? You can feel what I do plus your own emotions, or what?”
“It’s more like… smelling and tasting than anything, I guess. I feel them mostly in my chest and the back of my throat.”
“Skipping over a really obvious ‘back of your throat’ innuendo, what you’re saying is that you can literally smell my soul.”
“Ugh shut up I told you I’m terrible at this.”
“Does my soul smell like chocolate? I’m gonna be really fuckin’ disappointed if my soul does not smell like chocolate.”
“Okay, okay.” He lets go of your hands in favor of pressing his fingers against your bare chest. It sends a little shock of electricity down your spine; the bottom of your tail curls even more, the very tip of your fin brushing against his back. He notices, of course, but the little glow of self-satisfaction is marred by something else.
“What’s wrong?” you ask.
He starts to trace light circles across your skin. Trying to distract you, you think. A good job he’s doing, too. “You guys don’t really do casual dating then, huh?”
You're pretty sure that means "dating that means absolutely nothing."
You're pretty sure Dave is saying that's all he wants.
You're pretty sure that would make sense, since how is he supposed to know anything about you when he's dumb and human and hasn't been talking to you for very long at all.
Dread plummets into your stomach. “I freaked you out, didn’t I?”
“No, I just. Shit. John…”
“I’m not staying here.”
The dread twists into your chest, knotting into something like terror. He feels your heart stutter. He’s trying awfully hard to keep you calm. It isn’t working. “What are you talking about?” you say.
“Rose is my cousin,” he says. “It’s my spring break. But I live in Texas. Shit. Shitshitshit. I thought you knew that. But listen, okay, I’m gonna come back here as soon as school lets out, that’s only in like a month, I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay and shit but yeah, I’m definitely gonna come back” –
“I’ll be back.”
You wrap your arms around his waist, pulling him as tight as possible against you. He squirms with discomfort, but he’s not hurt and he’s not pulling away, and you wish he wasn’t blind so he could understand a fraction of the sheer panic choking you; it’s a wave tossing you helplessly against sharp rocks. All you can see are wide expansive endless empty waters, hollow purposeless aching in your chest, watching from a distance, rejection, nobody to look forward to, nobody to understand, nobody to hold like this -
“What the fuck? Oh Jesus fuck, you’re hyperventilating, you need to get some air…”
“No,” you say, burying your face into his hair, “I need you.”
“Breathe. Jesus. It’s fine, okay? A month and a few days isn’t that long.”
“I need you to stay,” you mumble, frantic, and you sound sort of crazed and you don't really care because you are sort of crazed.
His worry blooms into much more defined apprehension. You know you have an advantage over him, that you’re being manipulative, but you don’t care. He doesn’t understand. Of course he doesn’t understand.
You readjust your grip so you can kiss his ear and jaw and neck like he did to you two days ago. It doesn’t have nearly the same effect, but he still shivers, squirming more. “Stay with me,” you say, dragging your lips across his shoulder. “I can’t be all alone again. What do I have to do?”
“First, you need to chill the fuck out.”
“Probably not going to happen, sorry.”
“Look, I’d stay if I could, okay? It's not really my choice. Funnily enough, Bro actually wants to see me pass high school. I’ve known you less than a week, but hey, I’ll buy into all the mermaid voodoo shit. So we’re mates or whatever. We can stay apart from each other for a month without losing our shit. You’re flipping the fuck out because I’m the only dude you’ve got to talk to, right?”
“Yeah, that would probably flip me the fuck out too. ‘Cept I’d do it more quietly since I’m a fucking Strider and all. And then you’d be all, ‘Actually, I can use my psychic powers to totally invade your privacy and discover your deep soul feelings.’ And then I’d call you a douchebag.”
“That was a pointless story, Dave,” you say, but you feel yourself starting to calm down. His voice has that effect on you.
Mating makes you really dumb, wow.
“Tell you what – and don’t flip shit on me. What if I were to introduce you to Rose and Jade?”
Your whole body tenses up, muscles locking in place.
“See, that’s a buildup to you flipping shit. See how much I know about you already? And you say I don’t understand anything.”
Maybe he’s manipulating you more than you were manipulating him. He’s calming down now, the usual self-assurance replacing his earlier worry. But yeah, there’s the caring bubbling to the surface, it wraps through your chest like a warm bath. That’s what’s making it easiest, you think, being able to tell he cares. So far as you can tell, he isn’t stupid. You just hope he knows what he’s doing.
“You’re the one who gets all up in their feelings, so you tell me: d’you think they can keep a secret?”
“What if they can’t?”
“Do you think they can?”
You close your eyes. “I don’t really trust people.”
“You mean humans.”
“Mers and humans both.”
“Well, that’s gotta make your life pretty shitty and depressing. Better pour your heart into me, then. I’m the only trustworthy person in the world, since I’m your soul mate and all." He pauses, taking a minute to stroke your hair. "Honestly though, get off your high horse. You can either mope around being sad in the big blue sea or whatever, or you can let me introduce you to a pair of lovely young ladies. C’mon, I bet Jade’ll be falling all over squealing about how adorable you are.”
He’s not lying.
Or at least, he fully believes what he’s saying.
“But your aunt,” you say.
“What about her?”
“She does science stuff.”
“Ah, who cares. It’s not like Rose is gonna tell her. They’re not exactly close. They have this whole silent war going on, I don’t get it at all, but the point is that she’ll keep you just as secret as the creepy wizard yaois she has tucked under her bed.”
“If they’re so secret, how do you know she has wizard yaois?”
He raises an eyebrow.
“Oh my god you went through her room didn’t you you are such a creep.”
“I’m going to interpret your lack of flipping shit as, ‘Okay Dave, please do introduce me to your cousin and her cute friend.’”
You want so badly to trust him. Or at least, to trust his judgment. It’s hard to doubt his sincerity when his emotions all line up with his words. Nothing suspicious lurking. Humans have a tendency to lie more than mers do. Dave has a tendency to act obnoxious more than humans do. But he lies less.
(Seriously, how have they survived all these years without an empathy sense.)
“If this ends up a total disaster, I’m going to seek revenge upon your head forever,” you solemnly announce.
He grins. “Sweet.”
new friendships are made, secrets are kept, dave is jealous and clingy, and there's more empathy stuff.
oh my god i'm so sorry this has taken so long to get out writer's block and school and finals and akdjfklsadjflaf
school will be over in a week and a half though and then i can write ALL THE TIME FUCK YES
john's memories next chapter
man oh man am i gonna have fun with that
i like a jealous dave
and a possessive john
leave me alone
You duck under the surface when you sense their approach, a serious debate warring in your mind. You’ve gotten really good at having serious debates with yourself. It’s probably a side product of having gone half-nuts from being alone so long.
Pretty much every rule you’ve grown up with is void now: no parental supervision, no law, no nothing. But you still have common sense. Common sense is telling you that you are about to triple the amount of exposure you have to the human race, which obviously endangers not only you but whatever is left of your species. Wherever they might be. Not to mention that the last time a human found out about you guys was like three or four years ago and totally Vriska’s fault, and it didn’t go down quite as well as this whole scenario.
Your dad would so not be proud of you right now.
But your dad is also dead, so you guess it’s a moot point.
On the other hand, these humans happen to be Rose and Jade and also Dave trusts them and Dave has proven to be pretty trustworthy himself over the short time you’ve known him.
You’ve lost count of the amount of time you’ve wasted repeating this to yourself. It’s not like you have anything better to do.
A shadow falls over the rippling waves above your head – someone leaning over the water. Before you can change your mind, you flick your tail and rise the few feet to the surface. At least you can get a good laugh out of the looks on their faces when you startle them.
You push a little harder than you intended and sort of propel yourself toward the rocks. Whoops. You grab the edge of one to keep from accidentally smashing your face in. There’s a squeal. You look up and grin. “Hi.”
You’re greeted by three solid walls of skepticism, squee, and silent laughter. (Not too hard to guess who is who.) Most of your torso is out of the water, but your tail is still covered. If they lean over (which Jade is in the process of doing, yep) they’ll be able to just barely make it out.
“Told you,” Dave says.
You roll your eyes. “What did he tell you?”
“He said, and I quote, ‘There’s a cute half-fish kid with more stalking prowess than Edward Cullen who hides out behind your house, he’s mackin’ on my face like it was the end of the world, and you ought to come meet him and grope his manly silver tail.’ I assumed it was part of an elaborate plan to drown me.” Rose shrugs.
“I only think I followed about half of that,” you say. “Promise I won’t drown you?”
“I appreciate it.”
“Nobody ever knows what Dave is talking about,” Jade says. Then – “You really do have a tail, don’t you? Oh wow.”
“That’s so cool!”
You grin. “It’s not that exciting.”
“Yes, it is! I wish I had a tail.”
“I wish I had legs,” you tell her, which is partially true but not really.
Rose fiddles a strand of hair that’s escaped her headband. Up close, you can definitely see the resemblance between her and Dave. “It could be a trick of the light, Jade,” she says. She’s fairly skeptical about this whole thing. She seems to think it’s Dave trying to play a joke, even though this is way more your type of humor than his.
“It could be,” you say. “But what would be the point of that?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
“Well, how about if I don’t prove it to you until you swear to keep me secret?”
“We wouldn’t tell anyone about you,” Jade says immediately.
Rose rolls her eyes. “Even in the throes of a passive-aggressive war, I’d refrain.”
“Okay,” you say, and then you clamber onto the rocks.
You feel a lot more exposed than you did the first time Dave saw you, which probably has to do with the fact that he was barely conscious and you were trying to make sure he didn’t die, and there’s not nearly as effective a distraction at hand now. The sun beats down on your shoulders and the back of your neck as you flop on your stomach. You are going to be lazy today.
Dave’s amusement and relief mix with the girls’ surprise. “You can touch my tail if you want,” you offer.
“So forward,” Dave says. “How come I never got an invitation like that?”
“Because you attacked my face before I could give it.”
There’s a smile in Jade’s voice. You can picture it, stretched so wide that it looks like her bottom lip will split, although your eyes are closed. The sun is nice, at least as long as it doesn’t burn all the moisture in your skin away. “So you and Dave are really boyfriends?”
“I would never lie about being boyfriends,” Dave says, mock hurt. “How could you possibly doubt that this kid wants a piece of me?”
Cold fingers trace the scales on your hip, right under the spot where they blend seamlessly into your skin. The touch definitely feels weird. Clinical, almost. You resist the urge to squirm. Dave notices.
“All right,” Rose says after a few moments, “I believe it isn’t a costume.”
“You know how I almost died the other day?” Dave says, totally casual, like they’re discussing upcoming weather or what they want to wear tomorrow. “Yeah, you mostly have John to thank for me not being a bloated corpse on the ocean floor. Give the kid a gold star.”
“I knew you couldn’t have swum back to shore on your own. You’re far too incompetent.”
“I get no respect. Do you hear this, John? Absolutely no respect.”
“Maybe you’ll get respect when you stop acting like a prick,” you suggest.
Jade announces that she likes you.
The four of you end up literally talking for hours, stretches of time unbroken save for them going back the house once for a snack and your occasional ducking under the surface to make sure you won’t pass out. To your surprise, Jade fires about a million more questions at you than Rose – although she asks mostly about your culture (she latches onto the empathy sense like a barnacle, God), and Rose’s quiet queries are usually more about the differences between mer and human physiology. Unfortunately, you can’t help her much because you’re not interested enough in science to know more than the basics of your anatomy.
“The tide is going out,” Rose says at one point. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“Nope! It would only be a problem if I was closer to the beach, ‘cause if I got beached and couldn’t get back to the water… well, that would suck. ‘Sonly happened something like once in a hundred years though, ‘cause we’re smart enough not to do that shit, and they got the body off the beach way before the humans found it.”
Whoops. You’re in ramble mode again.
“It would kill you?” Rose says, genuinely surprised.
“On a hot day, dehydration and suffocation kill us pretty quick.”
“Everything kills you pretty quick,” Dave observes.
“Yeah, that’s why I’m the only one still here.”
His poker face masks a swell of bitter-tasting worry.
It’s only when the coolness of dusk is finally starting to settle in that they hesitate. “I should probably go back home,” Jade says. “My grandpa will worry.”
You’d been wondering who she lived with. “But you’ll come back, right?” you say.
She grins at you. “Of course! Why wouldn’t I? It’s been fun talking to you. Hang on” – and she pulls off her shirt.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Dave lazily looks up from where he’s snoozing on the rock. He’s tired. Hasn’t been sleeping enough. Might be from stress, might just be a hiccup in his routine. “Didn’t peg you as the Las Vegas stripper type, Harley. Why didn’t you tell me sooner? I could’ve made such use of this before the end of my vacation.”
“Shut up, Dave, I’m going swimming with John.”
“You’re literally gonna freeze your ass off, dude.”
“I’ll be just fine.”
Jade is a good swimmer. A daring swimmer, really, which you know because you were sure she’d be the one to drown. She always goes into dark waters far above her head, floating, sinking, carefree, and you think she’s going to get caught in rip tides so sometimes you’ll swim below her, in the murky depths where she can’t see. You’re just a regular savior. Lifeguard for the humans. Dave would find the irony hilarious if you could explain it to him without flipping him the fuck out.
She’s also very pretty, which you think Rose has noticed more than once, although Rose is fine with passing that off as a schoolgirl crush – nothing to act on. Dave is noticing right now, or at least, he must be because you feel hot jealousy singing the back of your throat.
Dave is the most ridiculous person.
You’ll deal with it in a few minutes.
Jade gets done stripping down to her swim suit and jumps into the water next to you. With the tide out, it only comes up to her chest. She shivers in the cold. Rose sighs. You ask her if she wants to go to deeper water. She says this is like swimming with dolphins, only way cooler.
You only move out a little farther, so that you can properly stretch out your tail and she can properly swim. She grabs onto your shoulders, complaining that she’s tired, and then (once she’s firmly established it won’t hurt you), the fin at the end of your tail. “Tow meeee.”
“Well, now I can’t balance for shit,” you say.
“I don’t caaare.”
You playfully duck under and try to flick her off. The attempt is successful the third time, when she has to surrender to get air. “You’re a jerk,” she says.
“Come on, let’s get back before you get eaten by a shark,” you say.
You don’t know how to react to all of this. Trusting them still feels difficult, even if you believe they won’t tell on purpose. If Rose gets angry at her mom – or if one of them lets it slip without thinking about it –
No. Too late now. You are not going to worry about that.
You are going to be absolutely fine.
You are going to have your two friends and your mate for whatever short time is probably left of your life and it will be perfect and you will be fine.
(And then you’ll get eaten or sick or trapped and die but whatever.)
Rose goes home with Jade amid a complaint of cold and a need to tell her mom where she is. Dave casually asks her to make him hot chocolate. She scowls at him, but you know she’s going to do it anyway.
When the two of you are left alone, Dave latches onto you and fucking clings like a barnacle, his legs wrapped around your waist, face buried in the crook of your neck. His breath is heavy against your collarbones. His jealousy is a solid weight.
“You know I like you different from how I like Jade, right?” you say, and when he doesn’t move, you borrow one of his lines. “Chill the fuck out.”
“She gets to play aquatic fucking Sea World with you and I can’t even fucking swim. It’s enough to drive any guy insane.”
“Relax. You are so not relaxed right now.”
“Well, I’m more goddamn attached to you than I should be and I have to leave and you’re going to be fucking upset and she’ll make it better by swimming through fucking hoops with you and I just. I’m going to miss you, okay? I’m going to fucking miss you. There. How’s that for emotional. Getting all the emotions up in this shit.”
“Dave…” You wrap your arms around him and hug him close, and holy shit does his pain hurt. “I’m going to miss you too. But like you keep saying, it’s only a month, right? It’s fine.”
A lot can happen in a month
it’ll be fine
“I feel like something’s gonna fucking happen to you,” he says, like he can read your thoughts. “You don’t have anyone left to protect you – c’mon, John, I’m not stupid. You keep talking about everyone kicking the bucket all casual like it’s just fine, but it’s fucking not.”
“Dave, relax.” You’ve never been so thankful for his blindness. “Nothing’s going to happen to me, okay? I have a safe place to sleep, I know the currents, I know how to fight, and I know how to stay away from super polluted areas. It’s fine.”
He presses a kiss to your collarbone, some of the tension in his body easing. “Sorry. I just don’t want anything bad to happen.”
“Same,” you say. “Losing a mate fucking sucks.”
“Has that happened to you before?”
“It was three years ago, though. No big deal. We probably wouldn’t even still be together now.”
“When Jade was interrogating you, you said something about mates sometimes making long-distance connections.”
A flush spreads from your cheeks to your ears to the roots of your hair. You’re glad he’s still curled up so tightly against you that he can’t see. “Uh.” Your voice comes out a high-pitched squeak. “That’s a really, uh, intimate thing to do.”
“You mean like there’s sex involved?”
“No oh my god why is everything about sex with you.”
He smiles against your skin, completely unapologetic. “Well, can you tell me more? I’m a fucking awesome listener. If I listened to my teachers half as much as I listened to you, I wouldn’t be in danger of failing my sophomore year.”
“Gee, that’s flattering. Uh, okay. No comments about mermaid magic, though. This is just an evolved instinct. Since we’re far superior to you in every way.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.”
“So, sometimes mates sort of tie themselves together. They – over long distances – we’re getting back into the ‘I’m terrible at explaining things’ shit. Okay. It’s like, their feelings are sort of in the back of your mind at all times, so you know if something’s wrong or whatever. And if you really desperately need to, you can… borrow from their strength. If you’re hurt. Or something. But usually that’s a last resort.”
Dave is so warm.
“So it’s like you’re in each other’s heads?” he says.
“Sort of. You don’t hear the other’s thoughts or anything, you’re just sort of… aware of their presence. And it’s a really fucking intimate thing to do and it can be painful so if you’re thinking about asking me to…”
“Dave, if I got hurt…”
“But you’re not gonna get hurt.”
“John, what’s going on?”
Don't freak him out don't freak him out. “Nothing. I’m just more likely to get hurt than you are, that’s all,” you say, running your hands over his hair. “Even with all my safety precautions and stuff.”
“Well, that’s double the reason to do it then. Borrow from all of my fucking awesome strength. It’ll probably give me an excuse to lie around in bed and look pale and sickly for a day, which is always a plus. ‘Specially if I’m still in school.”
His words are calm even though he can’t hide his worry from you. Damn it.
“Stop flipping out,” you tell him. “It’s not like you can do anything about my situation.”
“I am not flipping out. I’m chill as fuck. And I can open this whole empathetic connection shit with you – I don’t mind having to put up with your wishy-washy feelings 24/7.”
“It’s like… it’s like saying you own each other, Dave.” You try not to think about just how much you like that idea, how much you want to hold him and bite his ears and whisper minemineminemineminemine forever.
“Look, I don’t care. Unless it won’t work with humans. Or you’re rejecting me because it’s too intimate for you or whatever. Which I can understand. I wouldn’t want me in my head constantly if I was you.”
“You’re not even making sense. I don’t know if it’ll work with humans. This is pretty much the most unconventional relationship ever.” You smile. “I just – sometimes it takes a while to get used to the, uh, the other presence. Which usually expresses itself, uh, subconsciously, like you dream about their really strong memories…”
“Eh, no worries, you’d probably just get a mind full of puppet ass and swords in refrigerators.”
“I’d be more worried about you seeing – I’ve had some pretty sucky experiences.”
“Oh.” He kisses your collarbone again, tracing his tongue slowly across your skin. Damn it why is that so distracting. “I can take it.”
“Don’t rush headlong into something like this oh my god.”
“What happens if one of us dies?”
It sounds like he asked the question as soon as it sprung to mind, not thinking too hard before it spilled from his lips. You shut your eyes, breathe out through your nostrils. “The connection would break before the final moment. Even if we didn’t break it manually, once the body and mind started completely shutting down it would fade.”
“I really don’t like the thought of that.”
“Is it easy to break a connection like this, then?”
“Did you have one with your other mate?”
He hesitates. “Can I ask…?”
“It broke as she was dying. Look, if we do this then you’re probably going to dream that whole ordeal, in which case…” You wince. “Sorry in advance.”
“Still not deterred.” He raises his head and presses his lips against yours, twining his fingers through your hair. “I’m going home in like way less time than we should have. I don’t have ages to wallow in self-doubt. We’re doing this, man. We’re making this happen.”
“You’re such a dork.”
“Show me what to do.”
You kiss him.
mer culture isn't quite as benign as john may have implied it to be
and dave is not nearly concerned enough that his new boyfriend is an accessory to murder.
have some mer!vriska fanart by the lovely LostinFiction!! :D http://dft.ba/-2KY0
i am sleep deprived as fuck and posting this mostly unedited. i'll edit it when i wake up later but until then you guys get the rough patches yay!!
finals are this week and then i'm on summer break and will have much more time for writing so that is good.
this chapter is pretty dark
edit: okay chapter has officially been edited.
You have screwed up big time.
You and Vriska both.
You are screwed you are screwed you are so screwed.
The man is middle-aged and has a scruffy beard and an unpleasant smell like cigarettes and pollution and you take an instant dislike to him. This is probably a good thing. Makes life a lot easier.
Vriska takes an even more instantaneous dislike to him.
That doesn’t surprise you.
He’s looking at you.
He’s looking at your tails.
You’re thirteen years old and you have completely screwed up everything.
How did you not feel him.
Well, you know how you didn’t feel him.
You were awfully distracted by Vriska’s mouth.
She was awfully distracted by yours.
And her thick matted black hair that still fascinates you even though you’ve known her all your life.
Her tail is a darker blue than yours but it’s flecked with copper spots that shimmer just like your silver in the evening light.
It’s pretty obviously not silly body glitter.
It’s pretty obvious you two aren’t human.
The guy is opening his mouth to yell when Vriska’s hand catches his ankle.
His back cracks across the rocks as he falls.
Your mind is working in short bursts.
You know you’re panicking.
How do you stop panicking?
Vriska, unsurprisingly, knows what she’s doing.
You really hope so.
Her hand is around his mouth and the world speeds up again.
“Shh,” she says gently, and he struggles against her but she’s stronger than he is, he’s made of bulging veins and a pot belly and flabby arms and she’s made of dark hair and manipulation and muscle. “Shhh…”
He tries to twist his head away, to scream for help. She’s not having any of it.
“Vriska, don’t,” you hiss.
But her mind is made up. Of course her mind is made up.
“Vriska my dad will kill me” –
“Yeah, well, your dad is a legs-lover.”
“Is so.” She grins at you, and the smile is predatory. Her teeth are a lot sharper than yours. “Maybe you should go home.”
No no no no no no way. “Vriskawedon’thavetodothis…”
“We just let him go back and tell everyone he saw a pair of mers kissing by the rocks?”
“Nobody would believe him, anyway.” Pssh, fish kids, what fish kids? You just had a weird dream.
“Or maybe they would.” The light catches her eyes, making them shimmer with something almost manic. “Even if they didn’t, it could still get back to camp, some crazy guy convinced he’d seen merpeople. And then we’ll have a lot more problems than just your dad.”
You hate it when she makes sense.
“Look, I’ll feel kinda bad about it too, okay? But he’s only human. I’ll take care of it.”
The man shudders, groans, continues to struggle. He’s so frightened, the bitter feeling is all you can focus on, it’s wrapped up in your head and making your heart thud unevenly.
“John.” She’s speaking softer now. You rub your temples. “I mean it. Stop stressing out. It’ll be fine. Go home, I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
You nod reluctantly, turn, and splash back into the shadows, cool water enveloping your body. Safe.
The scene dissolves, shifts, assembles, returns in a jumbled mess of your own terror. Something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong. You’re weak and shaky but you know you aren’t sick and her presence in your head is stronger than usual and she’s scared and she’s never scared so that’s a scary thing in itself and you don’t know where she is but
you know she’s hurt.
It’s the middle of the night and she’s not in her cave, you check, and you’re dizzy and you don’t know if it’s from your strength draining or from your own damn emotions overwhelming you. You need to calm down. You don’t want to wake anyone up. You’re not sure why you don’t want to wake anyone up, you just feel like it must be a really bad idea.
Your mind is going over paranoid scenarios wondering if she’s been caught if she’s stranded above land it’s not sunny so even if she’s beached she’s probably okay so what is it what is it what if she screwed up again and another human found her and this time she was the one who didn’t come home
a wave of nausea overcomes you
You’re thinking this can’t happen right now because you’re thirteen and yeah merpeople don’t usually live as long as the fucking humans do but at least you usually make it past thirteen come on this can’t be happening Vriska you’re so stupid what were you doing going off on your own where are you what did you do
you check all of the places where she might be and she’s still alive she’s still alive so that’s good but she’s weakening oh god she’s dying help help you need to go back to camp and get help
WHERE IS SHE
just one more place to check it makes sense but god oh god if she’s there you’re going to kill her before her heart gets the chance to stop beating on its own
is she fucking suicidal
you arrive with all the caution and carefulness in the wide wide ocean because it really won’t do any good for you to get yourself hurt too now will it
it’s harder to navigate in the middle of the night even though your night sight is better than a human’s and the moon is full there’s silver light dancing across shallow shapes rippling pulsing hypnotic but you’re not going to get distracted you are going to find Vriska and then you are going to get the hell out of here
the forbidden spots where you dare each other to swim when you’re ten eleven twelve little kids silly you can take on the world can’t you nothing can hurt you your dad can protect you from anything all of your friends are fine
it's a human dumping ground everything is metal and glass and murk
water this fucked up is probably burning your eyes out of their sockets
yes you see something you see someone
a certain someone with a copper shimmer and a halo of matted black hair.
“Vriska,” you say.
She’s conscious; her tail twitches weakly at the sound of your voice. You swim to her side. She’s barely ten feet under the surface, resting on a sand bed. Too tired to be feeling much of anything except relief that you’re finally here. Why is she…
Your eyes light on the reason she can’t move much.
A tangle of wire that she’s somehow swum straight into.
It’s snarled around her, and it’s sharp, damn, she’s bleeding and it must feel like jagged razors slicing under her ribs and across her neck and shoulders and through her scales. She’s cut deep; apparently the more she struggled with it, the tighter it pulled
(she’s losing so much blood)
(oh god is that why the water is so murky tonight)
“Vriska,” you say again.
Three coils of gray metal loop around her throat. You need to get them off, they’re strangling her, but you’re worried that if you move them the wrong way you’ll break her neck.
This cannot be happening.
How is this happening?
“What are you even doing out here?”
She smiles at you. “Had to prove I could,” she rasps.
She can still talk. That’s a good sign.
“Yeah, that worked out really well,” you say. “Hang on, I’m gonna untangle you and then we’ll get you back to camp. It’ll be fine.”
Her eyes flutter closed. “We’ll get eaten.”
“Blood… in the water. You should leave.”
“Ha. No way, I’m staying right here.”
You search through the wires, trying to decide where to start and wincing slightly as they cut into your palms. Why the hell does metal like this exist? Of course you only find it here –
She lets out a soft cry as you tug on one that doesn’t look like it should be attached to anything, and constrict her ribcage even tighter. More blood spills.
You’re not panicking you’re not panicking you’re not panicking
“John, stop,” she says.
“You’re fine. Just hang on, okay? I’m gonna…”
“I’m really hurt.”
“No, you aren’t. They’re just flesh wounds. So long as I can get you out and get you patched up…”
Dread plummets into your stomach. You move around her side, probing at her skin, lifting her torso just the slightest bit. She hisses with pain, but it’s enough for you to notice the sharp metal plate digging deeply into her skin, stabbing, god knows what kind of damage it's doing.
You touch her face, kiss her forehead. What the hell are you supposed to do?
“I’m going to die,” she says.
“How did you even do this?”
“I couldn’t see – I fought with Fef and then I came here and” –
“Of course you fought with Fef. You are the only person in the fucking world who could get on Fef’s bad side.” You stop, try again. Don’t sound pissed, John. She already knows you’re pissed. “I could still get you out of this.”
“Lost too much blood.”
“You’re still conscious, aren’t you?”
“Not for long...”
You wake up sweating.
Aside from those two memories, your dreams have been a jumbled mess. Kisses and laughter and humans (inferior) and merpeople and color and darkness and moving and emotions and a guy who must be John’s dad and shifting confusion.
Your head hurts.
You pull out your laptop and do a quick Google search. After about ten minutes of narrowing down keywords, you find what you’re looking for – a forty-two year old man named Matthew Jameson who drowned on a beach near here three years ago. The article has a photo. It’s obviously the same dude, if a little younger.
You pull on a jacket, sneak downstairs (making sure to avoid the creaky bottom step), and slip out the door. John decided to sleep by the rocks tonight, making a nest between two of them, in case you had nightmares. It seems, given what you’ve just witnessed, a terrible idea to go out alone in the middle of the night, but there’s no way you can fall asleep
and John saved your life
so you really don’t see why he’d hurt you now
especially after opening this connection with you
feeling the one he had with Vriska
is serious business.
Your bare feet crunch over the rock, toes gripping the stone. “John,” you hiss, just like the first time you’d come out here. You close your eyes, try to focus. You think he’s awake. But then again, you don’t know what a sleeping John presence versus a waking John presence is supposed to feel like in your brain.
You jump halfway out of your skin. It’s chilly in the evening, not cold enough that you can see your breath or anything, but cold enough to raise goose bumps on your arms.
He’s already pulling himself onto the rocks. “You okay?”
You plop down next to him. “Explain something to me.”
“I’m kinda curious as to why you let your girlfriend murder someone.”
“Oh. Shit. You saw that.”
“Yeah, I saw that.”
He swallows, the motion visible even in this light. “I would never hurt you.”
“That doesn’t really answer the question.”
“I’ll answer the question in a second, but before I do… I’d never hurt you, okay?”
“See, that’s not making me feel any less apprehensive about the answer.”
“Dave, I’ve never killed anyone. I’d never kill anyone.”
“You just let your girlfriend do it. That’s totally chill.”
“Stop acting like I’m some kind of monster.”
You roll your eyes. “Dude, if I was gonna treat you like a monster, I wouldn’t have come out here. I would have run screaming around the town about a murderous fish being on the loose. So, are you gonna tell me or not?”
“There’s not much to tell.” John rubs his eyes. You just woke him up, you realize. Oh well. “You know all those legends about mermaids luring sailors to their deaths?”
“I don’t think you understand how desperate we are not to be discovered.”
“Well, I sure as fuck understand now,” you say. “I get it. Humanity sucks. Kill ‘em all.”
“Dave, I don’t want to kill people! I never did! My dad and I never did, that’s part of why we didn’t migrate with everyone else – we didn’t fit in with them, we thought too much of humans. But when that guy saw us… Vriska was willing to do it, and what else could we have done?”
“Let him go act like a madman?”
“But if people had believed him…” John’s voice is a soft, agonized whisper. “Dave, if they knew we'd let him go, you don't know what they would have done... I didn’t kill him. I didn’t.”
“What I don’t get is why you saved my ass if you’re willing to let people die to keep yourselves secret. That seems like the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to be doing.”
“Because I’m the only one left so I can do whatever the fuck I want,” John says. “And also because I l…” The sound chokes off.
“If you were about to say you love me, you’d better back the fuck up.”
You reach out and touch him for the first time, and you realize he’s shaking. “So what I gathered about mer culture is that humans are like… parasites.”
“Well, you do fuck everything up,” he offers.
“I resent that.”
“I kind of can’t join another clan because this thing I’m doing with you is like seventeen million different kinds of illegal.”
“Forbidden romance. I like it.”
“Dave.” His breath catches.
“I’m scared I made a mistake.”
“Look, I lived that memory. I know you didn’t want to kill the dude. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little freaked." You search for the right thing to say to relax him. His stress is really not helping your state of mind. "But I mean, shit, I’d probably do the same thing. Although I might be a little biased now since I just saw the whole thing through your eyes.”
“I guess what bothers me is it could’ve been Rose or Jade or my bro or basically anyone.”
“I’m really not going to hurt anyone.”
“You know, if I was sane I’d be running away screaming now.”
“Good thing you’re not, then?”
You give in and wrap your arms around him.
“Mers tend to think of it more as a constant war than anything,” John murmurs finally. “Waging battles against the blind humans. But I’m not… my dad brought me up differently. Which is probably why I’m being so dumb now. Breaking basically every rule that exists to be with you.”
“Yeah, we’re a regular Romeo and Juliet. Don’t poison yourself in grief over my dead-but-not-actually-dead body.”
He shrugs. “I wouldn’t be that dumb.”
“We, uh.” You cup his cheek in your hand. “We should probably not tell Rose or Jade about this.”
“Yeah, I figure.”
You take a deep breath. “I’m sorry about Vriska. Shit, I don't know what I'd do if my bro or Rose or someone died. Keep going, I guess, there wouldn't be much else to do, but holy hell.”
“I'm sorry about her too.”
“I’d give you a lecture about how not all human beings suck, but I think the fact that I’m still alive is proof enough that you’ve grasped the concept.”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“You would be in way deeper shit with me if you hadn’t saved my life.”
“I’m gonna go back to sleep, I’m tired as fuck.”
He smiles, kisses your lips. “Sweet dreams.”
john and dave are having an angsty goodbye and then john discovers dave is kinky and that's basically the whole chapter whoops.
this wasn't in my outline
i'm actually incapable of writing a nonkinky dave or a nonpossessive john i mean that's just how they are in my head
if you've read any of my other stories you could probably have guessed this was sort of inevitable
i'm one of the kinkiest motherfuckers on the planet
speaking of which you mostly have my matesprit to thank for this
i had writer's block and then e was all "well i'm not going to roleplay gratuitous torture porn with you until you've finished your chapter" and i was like WELP GOTTA FINISH THE CHAPTER
Your goodbye is mostly wordless.
You lie on the rocks together, your legs wrapped around his waist in a way that’s not exactly polite for company. His tail is flattened against the stone, torso aligned with yours, so you’re half-pinned underneath him (which, you decide, you like way more than you should). Good thing you’re alone; you told Rose and Jade to give you guys some time before they joined you. Of course, they’ll probably walk in on you two like this, especially if John gets too distracted to notice their approach. Oh well.
He’s kissing you harder than he ever has before, pained and desperate and so rough it almost hurts. It’s a nice distraction from the general hurt currently inside you, a combination of his (palpable in your mind and in the air between you) and your own. His lips are soft but the kisses aren’t – you can feel his uneven heartbeat, his longing, his loneliness, and it’s a little overwhelming, and he should be running out of breath but he isn’t even though he hasn’t pulled his mouth from yours in what feels like ages.
So you kiss back because it hurts and you need to stop his hurting even though you know you can’t, not fully. You’re surprised by how badly you want to stay with him, how important he’s become in the span of a few short days. There are a lot of rational explanations for this, the most rational being that teenager hormones are completely irrational and mermaid hormones are even worse.
Just a month, just a month, just a month.
You wrap your arms around his back, fingernails digging into his skin, and it’s a lot like when you panicked the first time he taught you to swim except you’re not panicked now and he’s definitely not complaining. You slip your tongue into his mouth, running it along the bottom row of his teeth. He tastes like sea salt. His hand presses against the back of your neck, tilting your head up, and goddamn the two of you are so close and it still feels like you’re not close enough.
He separates his mouth from yours, nuzzling your neck, sucking under your collarbones. Your back arches, a soft whine building in your throat. His tail flexes, pinning you harder against the rock. You’re not sure if he did it on purpose or not – either way, the whine gets louder.
John pulls away for a second. “Holy shit,” he says. “You’re really into this, aren’t you?”
He grins evilly.
“John shut the fuck up.”
In one swift motion, he tugs your arms away from his back and holds them above your head, his fingers closing around your wrists. “How about this?”
You can't help it - your body reacts before your mind can and you fucking whimper.
His eyes widen. “Holy fuck, Dave.”
“Fffuck you,” you say, experimentally tugging. No give. The weight of his body and his oh-so-superior mermaid strength both have you pretty much completely trapped.
“Do you want me to let you up?”
“This is the greatest thing that’s happened since I met you.”
“I feel like we’re even now. You know about my neck thing and I know about… this.”
There’s heat rising in your cheeks. You’re pretty much nowhere near the calm, collected coolkid persona right now. Calm collected coolkid has flown off somewhere on a skateboard and left you to drown in a pool of uncool teenage hormones with your mermaid boyfriend. How nice of him.
You pull harder against him, experimenting. He seems to push back reflexively, holding you against the stone like you’re a fly and he’s a hungry spider, every curve of his body pressed against yours. Then he realizes what he’s doing and loosens his grip. “If you want me to let you up, you should just tell me.”
Because his first instinct when you struggle is to pin you harder.
“Then why do you keep… oh.”
“Don’t say a fucking word.”
“You’re this hot and bothered and I haven’t even done anything yet.” John laughs softly. “Wow. This is seriously the greatest thing.”
“More like the other way around.”
“Has anybody ever told you you’re the biggest douchebag?”
John readjusts his grip on your arms, then leans down and casually continues sucking on your skin. You not-so-casually make the most embarrassing sound you ever have in your life, and you’re glad he’s distracted because that way he can’t tell that you’re pretty much red to the tips of your ears. On the other hand, him being distracted is the reason you’re red to the tips of your ears…
You decide that if you had any doubts before, they are officially gone. You are on board with the whole soul mate thing. There’s no fucking way he’d be able to mess with you this effectively if you two weren’t totally meant to be.
You’re about to breathe another “Fuck you” but then he bites down hard on your shoulder and it turns into “Oh my fucking god John oh my god John John John fuck augh mmm fff” –
There will definitely be a bruise there later. There’s probably one forming now, actually, nnnfuck won’t that be a great trip souvenir to bring home. And then John’s tongue is lapping roughly at the sensitive skin, and you feel electricity crackle all the way up and down your spine and wow just wow and you half-scream because Jesus fucking Christ how does he know how to do all this can he just sense all this shit through your empathy connection because not fair, John, not fair.
Without missing a beat, he shifts again, so he can pin both of your wrists in one of his hands (which still doesn’t increase your chances of escape because fucking hell is he strong when he wants to be). His free hand covers your mouth, cutting off the noise. “Shh,” he murmurs. “We don’t want to get caught.”
Jesus fucking Christ.
Then he resumes lapping at your skin. While your wrists are still pinned. And his hand is still over your mouth. And you can’t move for shit.
There are no words.
“This is seriously all it takes to drive you crazy,” John says, laughing again. “Oh man. I guess I’ll be nice now, but I’d love to see what would happen if I did anything worse. I mean, you’re practically writhing.”
“I think I like this way more than I should? I mean, I really like having you be mine. All mine. I’m gonna torture you, Dave.”
Jesus fucking CHRIST.
“You’re – already doing – a pretty fucking good job of that,” you manage when he finally lets you talk again. “Sadist.”
“You’re having fun.”
“You’re still a sadist.”
“Okay. Dude, you gotta let me up.”
He rolls off of you immediately. “Sorry. Too much?”
“If you keep touching me like that then Jesus Christ, I’m not gonna be able to stop myself from jumping you. And I don’t even know how that shit works.”
“Maybe I’m okay with you jumping me?”
“Yeah, but man, exhibitionism ain’t my thing. Not particularly into the thought of my cousin and her best friend catchin’ me doin’ God knows what with you.”
“You. Just. Slipped into a Southern accent.”
“What? No I didn’t!”
You definitely did.
“You said ‘ain’t.’”
“How do you even know what a Southern accent is.”
“I know a lot of miscellaneous trivia. For example, that you totally have a Southern accent and don’t want me to know it.”
You bury your face in your hands.
“You’re so cute,” John says, pulling your hands away so he can brush his lips against yours. “I'm sorry for teasing. Sort of. Ish. You okay?”
“Yeah, I'm fine. I mean, if I really need it I've got the whole ocean next to me for a cold shower. It’s cool. It’s… more than cool.”
He smiles at you. Something is off. You can’t put your finger on it exactly, and you don’t know if it’s from your connection to him or something in his expression. “I really am going to miss you,” he says.
“Same. Stay safe, okay?”
“I will. Promise.”
You snuggle up to each other then, and it’s a lot more nuzzling and hair touching than super heated sex. John will be fine. A month really isn’t that long. You’ll have to make a paper chain or some shit like it’s elementary school. Rip off a piece for every day you survive.
Your phone vibrates. A text from Rose. Tell John to get his hands out of your pants, we’re on our way.
You text back. Cockblock.
A few minutes later, the four of you have reunited. Rose is carrying a laptop under her arm. She’s going to begin the grueling task of teaching John how to use it, and he’s going to get himself a Pesterchum and email and all that good shit so you can keep in contact with something other than your mind-feelings. Mind-feelings are great and all, but words are even better.
(You and Jade watch the first lesson with a fairly huge sense of amusement. It can basically be summarized with “No John stop you are going to drop it in the water no John don’t hold it like that John no you are doing it wrong” “leave me alone okay I have webbed hands this isn’t easy!”)
Except then it’s getting late and it’s actually time to go and sigh.
“I’m going to bug you all the fucking time,” you say. “Seriously. You’re gonna wake up to six-page-long emails from me. ‘John. I’m eating a sandwich. It’s a fucking delicious sandwich. The bread is lightly toasted and yet it still melts in my mouth’” –
“If you really think I’m going to read all of that, you seriously overestimated my patience.”
“Jerk. Everyone knows sandwiches are the epitome of fascinating. Who doesn’t love that shit?”
You lean in and make a big show of nuzzling his neck because aww aren’t you two so cute saying goodbye, then flick your tongue over one of his gill slits, because doing that in front of Rose and Jade seems like pretty good revenge for earlier.
His breath hisses out, but other than that he manages to hide his reaction. He wrinkles his nose at you.
“See you around, John,” you say.
Then you strut away.
Later, after you’re all packed and saying your final goodbye to Jade, she frowns. “Has John been getting enough to eat lately?”
“What? Did he look unhealthy to you?” Did she notice something you didn’t?
“No, he just must have been pretty hungry today.”
You narrow your eyes suspiciously, even though she can't see past your shades. “Where are you going with this.”
She grins and nods at your shoulder. The fabric of your T-shirt covers the bite mark, but she’s obviously seen it already. “He tried to have you for lunch, cool kid.”
dave is a dork and bro is a pain in the ass.
i'm not even sorry for this
i just really like striders ok
and i like to write extensive pesterlogs of dave rambling
also thanks to my friend camel for coming up with the chumhandle gladiatorTurtle for me
Your flight gets delayed two hours because of incoming storms or something (apparently the good weather is finally abating now that you’re leaving, how nice of it to wait). You’re bored as fuck, so you pull out your laptop and start drawing an ironically shitty comic in which Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff are stuck in the airport. Of course, that only takes you about five minutes, and then you’re bored as fuck again. You watch Youtube videos until Bro isn’t sitting right next to you, because he’s looking over your shoulder.
As soon as he leaves to grab a bite to eat, you pull up Pesterchum.
began pestering gladiatorTurtle
at 23:51 --
TG: so i know youre offline and whatnot
TG: probably nestled between two rocks drifting through pleasant dreams
TG: of smuppet ass
TG: is that still a thing thats happening
TG: im still not in the clouds
TG: this is such bullshit man
TG: if theres anywhere i would sleep well its in the sky right
TG: i mean fuckin clouds are like cotton candy
TG: did you ever think that when you were a kid
TG: like oh yeah sweet dad someday imma live up there all snug in those white puffs of sugary goodness
TG: and then he was all sorry kiddo its just condensed droplets of water
TG: gravity would do its job and crush you into a pulp
TG: because thats what happened to me
TG: surprisingly enough it wasnt bro who ripped my dreams to shreds
TG: wait hang on
TG: yeah hes not back yet
TG: fourth grade science teacher
TG: crushed every nine-year-old childs dreams
TG: fairies arent real there is no magic clouds are water and life is essentially meaningless
TG: there are no mermaids
TG: dude im bored as fuck
TG: how do people deal with this
TG: i know dudes who get bored on a daily basis and its like how can you possibly cope with that shit
TG: im normally a pretty busy guy
TG: i am sort of a big deal
TG: i have shit to do
TG: for example geometry homework so i dont fail
TG: this shit is so pointless though
TG: like how the fuck am i ever gonna need to know how to calculate the surface area of a sphere on top of a prism on top of a pyramid
TG: even engineers dont have to know that shit
TG: i mean i guess if i was gonna be an architect
TG: build weirdass towers of building block shapes into the sky
TG: but in literally no universe would that ever happen
TG: thank the good lord jesus im taking mostly film and art classes next year
TG: where the fuck is bro
TG: ill just keep talking to you
TG: do you know what a plane is
TG: i have no idea what shit youve picked up on the beach
TG: ok on the off chance you dont
TG: its a big metal tube that soars through the sky like a massive fuckin seagull
TG: and its dragging me back to texas
TG: and its not fucking here
TG: or it is or whatever
TG: they delayed takeoff
TG: because of fucking rain
TG: is there a hurricane or something coming in
TG: i should probably google it
TG: hang on
TG: ok no just super inclimate weather
TG: dont think its gonna hit your beach too hard anyway
TG: maybe we should come up with super secret code words to talk
TG: they will be both ironic and also totally legit
TG: government spies could be watching you know
TG: theyve got nothing better to do than watch a couple teenage boys converse about absolutely nothing except fourth grade teachers crushing dreams
TG: or watch one teenage boy ramble
TG: same difference
TG: here ill be sweet bro you be hella jeff
TG: wait you wont even get that
TG: i see what youre up to government spies
TG: im on to you
TG: tax dollars at work
TG: shit bro is on his way back ok
TG: whoa theres a mcdonalds in this airport
TG: taste the heart attack in a bag
TG: talk to you later i guess
--turntechGodhead [TG] ceased pestering gladiatorTurtle [GT] at 00:09--
Once the pair of you have finally boarded the plane, you put your earbuds in and play hip hop softly for white background noise. You actually are tired as fuck; you don’t even remember hearing the latter half of the safety regulations before you fall asleep. When you wake up you discover that your head has fallen onto Bro’s arm, and he has very kindly not woken you up. John is still asleep, you think, or at least his presence is really dull in the back of your mind.
“You snore,” he says when you raise your head.
“I do not. I’m a ninja even in my sleep. Speaking of which, why aren’t you asleep?”
“Can’t sleep on planes, lil bro. Who’s John?”
He shrugs and nods at your laptop.
“You went through my computer?” you hiss. “Do you have any idea how fucking creepy that is?”
See, this is where you get the sketchy snooping-through-Rose’s-room thing from. You’ll have to explain the complicated nuances of your genes to John later.
“Needed to do something to pass the time while you were drooling on my arm.”
“I do not drool. And how the fuck do you even snoop through my Internet when we’re on a plane? I didn’t know that was a thing that could happen.”
He shrugs again. “Magic?”
“Oh my god,” you say. “You went through it when I went to take a piss before we left, didn’t you? And now you’re trying to catch me all sleepy and unguarded. That’s a low blow.”
“Keep your voice down. The poor middle-aged passengers are trying to catch some shuteye.”
“John is just a guy I met.”
“Aha. Suddenly everything makes sense.”
“What makes sense?”
“Why you stopped fuckin’ bitching about everything, decided to stick around, and kept disappearing on me.” He ruffles your hair. “You got yourself a boy toy.”
“Do not. Ever. Say. That phrase. Again.”
“Is he hot?”
You groan. “This conversation is not happening.” Especially not at three in the morning in near-silence on a plane within earshot of who knew how many complete strangers.
“Hey, my little brother has his first boyfriend. Or crush or whatever the fuck. You can’t expect me not to bother you about it.”
You breathe out slowly through your nose. He’s not going to leave you alone. “Boyfriend.”
“I repeat – is he hot?”
“What does he look like?”
“Oh my god. Bro. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were planning to steal him from me. You’re literally acting like the most stereotypical gay man in existence.”
“I can act however the fuck I want.”
“You’re embarrassing me.”
“Well, while we’re on the subject – when school gets out, can we go back to Rose’s?”
“Sure, if you tell me what he looks like.”
“Why are we doing this right now.”
“Why wouldn’t we do this right now?”
“Uh, because we’re sitting in the middle of a fuck ton of people and I feel like a sleep-deprived woman in a mattress commercial?”
“All the more reason for it.”
“He looks like a Hollister swimsuit model. Happy now?”
“Details, bro. Details.”
“Tall, tan, messy dark hair, really blue eyes?” Hmm. “He’s a lifeguard,” you add for the hell of it. Close enough.
“See, having you approve of any guy I like makes me sort of feel like I should dump his ass right now.”
“You cut me deep.”
You yawn and settle your head on his arm again. “I’m going back to sleep.”
“You do that.”
“Also, challenging you to a strife over snooping through my computer.”
“Sure thing. I’ll gladly kick your ass after we’ve both slept and unpacked.”
began pestering gladiatorTurtle
TG: so bro just kicked my ass
TG: not much more to say about it
TG: except you dont even know what strifing is do you
TG: or maybe you do i dont actually know what you saw in your dave dreams
TG: anyway im just bruised no worries
TG: he went through my computer like a bigass fucking creeper
TG: dude its not creepy enough that you run a puppet porn site you have to go through my internet too
TG: theres not even a proper metaphor for how skeevy that is
TG: imagine if i had hot porn saved
TG: well no id never do that
TG: im not dumb
TG: obviously i just memorize all the links to hot porn by heart
TG: so he saw my messages to you
TG: i guess its karma for going through roses shit
TG: and interrogated the fuck out of me on the plane
TG: my brain was cape cod on a foggy day so im not sure exactly what went down
TG: as far as i remember i just told him i had a boyfriend with a rockin bod
TG: also were officially coming back for summer break so sweet
TG: rose just texted
TG: says shes meeting you to teach you more laptop shit
TG: do me a favor and dont drop it in the water
TG: if you piss rose off shell skin you slowly with her knitting needles
TG: then probably eat you or something
TG: who even knows
TG: and if she agonizingly tortures you to death then i dont get to talk to you anymore
TG: nobody to ease the pain of my boredom
TG: how do i live
TG: oh yeah also i guess it would also suck for you
TG: where are you
TG: talk to me
TG: i am praying to the pesterchum gods
TG: let the gladiatorturtle icon say online
TG: do it
TG: do it
TG: do it
TG: i wasnt kidding about sending you pages of texts man
TG: did you get the ones i sent you this morning before i fell asleep for real
TG: because i dont remember what they said
TG: and i was too worried about what sort of drivel sleep-deprived dave could possibly have spammed you with to reread it
TG: oh well
TG: you dont have the patience to go through all of this anyway
TG: oh hey youre online now
GT: you are the biggest dork in the world.
GT: …i read them all.
You hug a pillow to your chest and bite down on one of your knuckles to hold in your grin.
terezi is dave's best friend and you should not mess with her around him
also empathy connections fuck shit up
i have a lot of terezi and dave friendship feelings
that being said this is literally the first time i've ever written for terezi
i mean i've never even rped her
so please go easy on me ahahaha /sweatdrop
GC: H3Y D4V3
GC: HOW W4S N3W 3NGL4ND?
GC: D1D TH3 SW3LT3R1NG H34T BURN YOU 4L1V3?
TG: yeah man its like an oven up north
TG: couldnt even handle the scorching flames of hell
TG: its not like i live in texas
TG: man my life would be so much easier if i lived in texas
TG: i bet i would have a chill friend named tz who had nothing better to do than pester me all day and fiddle with the controls on her computer
TG: i see youve repaired your speech synth thing or whatever you call it
TG: or maybe you havent and i am just monologuing for nothing
GC: 1 D1D 1N F4CT F1X 1T
GC: 4CTU411Y 1 M4D3 1T 3V3N B3TT3R
GC: 1 4DD3D MOR3 VO1C3S
GC: YOURS 1S UN1QU3
GC: TH3 R4SP OF 4 G3RM4N M4N WHO H4S SP3NT H1S 3NT1R3 L1F3 DR1NK1NG 4ND SMOK1NG
GC: 1 FORG3T WH4T YOUR R34L VO1C3 SOUNDS L1K3
GC: 1 V1SUAL1Z3 YOUR F4C3 BUT 4LL 1 H34R 1S H34V1LY 4CC3NT3D G3RM4N
TG: well you cant even visualize my face
TG: you can just visualize thirteen-year-old dave chilling being all aloof with his shades and hipster myspace photos
TG: ive gotten far more attractive since then
TG: take whatever dave strider mental image you have, amp the hotness factor up by 117.4% and youll get a relatively close estimate
GC: 1M SORRY
GC: 1 C4NT T4K3 YOUR HOTN3SS S3R1OUSLY 1N 4NY UN1V3RS3
GC: M4YBE 1LL H4V3 TH3 COMPUT3R R34D YOUR T3XT 1N 4 J4P4N3S3 SCHOOLG1RL VO1C3 1NST34D
TG: i am sort of offended that it only took you a week to forget the smooth sound of my voice
TG: is that seriously all the time it takes
TG: here i am slaving for like ten years to work my way into your affections
TG: and you just dump me out cold on the streets
TG: sorry dave i replaced your sweet tones with scary bearded germans
GC: WHO S41D 4NYTH1NG 4BOUT B34RDS
GC: 4NYW4Y 1 ST1LL R3M3MB3R YOUR F4C3 WH1CH 1S 4 COMPL1M3NT 1N 1TS3LF
GC: F33L HONOR3D COOL K1D
TG: oh i do
TG: you know why you remember my face
TG: its because
TG: wait for it
TG: im so hot i dont even need a metaphor for it
GC: OTH3RW1S3 KNOWN 4S YOU B31NG TOO L4ZY TO COM3 UP W1TH ON3
TG: fu im tired
GC: S3R1IOUSLY HOW W4S N3W 3NGL4ND?
GC: 1S YOUR 4UNT 4S CR4ZY 4S YOU R3M3MBER?
TG: new england was
GC: 1 S3NS3 4 STORY BR3W1NG
TG: well my aunt left me alone for most of the time
TG: i got an awful sunburn
TG: chilled with rose and her lone friend
TG: almost died
TG: didnt die due to this sweet dude named john
TG: made out with him
TG: i guess were a couple now
GC: TH3R3 1S SO L1TTL3 D3T41L 1N TH4T
GC: SOM3HOW 1 F33L L1K3 TH3R3 1S MOR3 TO TH1S STORY
TG: you can consider this me coming out to you i guess
TG: i am straight as a circle
TG: i shit rainbows
TG: im a walking pride parade
TG: etc etc
GC: 1TS NOT L1K3 TH4T W4SNT TOT4LLY OBV1OUS FROM S3V3N M1L3S 4W4Y
TG: you could at least pretend to be surprised that im a flaming homo
GC: WOW D4V3
GC: 1 N3V3R WOULD H4V3 GU3SS3D
GC: 3XCUS3 M3 WH1L3 1 K33L OV3R FROM TH3 SHOCK
TG: much better
GC: NOW 3L4BOR4T3
GC: DO YOU G3T TO JO1N M3 1N TH3 N34R D34TH 3XP3R13NC3 CLUB?
GC: 1TS INCR3D1BLY 3XCLUS1V3
It takes about fifteen minutes to fill her in on the details of the escapade, obviously leaving out the bits about fish tails and gills. She grants you entrance to the near death experience club and laments the fact that your vacation was a million times more exciting than hers (hers apparently consisted mostly of hunting down people on her “Justice List” and thwacking them with her cane amid apologies of “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m blind, I didn’t know you were there!”)
TZ has been your best friend since you were seven and in the same second grade class. She was getting frustrated over her inability to draw dragon wings, so you showed her how with a purple crayon. Then you spent most snack times sprawled out on the rug together with blank paper and endless Crayola stubs, because everything was a little too loud for your taste and she just liked the colors. (Red smelled like sugar and yellow was lemon drops. You told her colors didn’t have smells, that was stupid. She hit you.)
The blindness hit in the form of a sleeping driver who swerved into the wrong lane in the early evening. It was the onset of your eighth grade year and Bro drove you to the hospital at two in the morning so you could sit quietly and wait for them to finish operating. You’ll never even admit to yourself how worried sick you were, that your stomach tied itself into knots and your heart skipped every fourth beat. It was pretty obvious that you won the prize for most caring friend, at least, when you were finally allowed to talk to her at 4:37 AM and hold her hand and give a casual “sup, this is a sweet excuse to stay up all night.”
The whole my-best-friend-is-blind thing would have been a hell of a lot more tragic if she hadn’t adjusted so damn quickly to it. Actually, she was impressively manipulative about it – is impressively manipulative about it. (“Man, I wish I had a crippling disability so I could get everyone to kiss my butt” “are you implying I’m not a traumatized snowflake? Rude, Dave”)
Anyway, you two are a pair of lone fish at school, which is how you prefer it. You have better things to do than give people the benefit of the doubt, and she just likes to be alone. Cool exterior aside, you’d rather hole up in a basement somewhere playing video games than get trashed at a party. The whole mermaid deal is the only thing you’ve kept from her in god knows how long. You almost feel bad, but then it’s not like she’d believe you anyway. Or if she did, it could potentially ruin John’s life, so whatever.
School starts again. It’s unsurprisingly boring as fuck. The first three nights, you stay up ridiculously late on the Internet doing Internetty things. Your English and biology teachers are kind enough to let you wear your shades in class (no such luck with the other faculty), and you’ve perfected the art of sleeping sitting up, so you take naps behind the lenses and nobody is ever the wiser. You probably could be a straight-A student if you felt like it. You just… don’t feel like it.
The biggest downside is that TZ is either in all honors classes or getting one-on-one tutoring to fit her “special educational needs”, because she’s going to be a fucking defense lawyer and have late-night commercials advertising her face. So no time together to draw dragons on the classroom rug. It’s a damn tragedy.
(you’re not lonely
your lack of friends is 100% your choice and school is almost over
you have an awesome boyfriend to distract you
not lonely nope)
Speaking of awesome boyfriends, you’re becoming rapidly used to this dual-emotion thing. It’s still a little unnerving when John sometimes guesses exactly what’s happened in a day before you’ve gotten a chance to ramble about it, but as far as the whole “I can tell what my boyfriend is feeling at any given moment” shit goes, you’re all good.
It helps that for the most part, John is a tranquil presence. He keeps you grounded. Sometimes the calm is tainted with sadness or bitterness, which you obviously can’t blame him for. Most of the time, though, it’s just soothing. You focus on it when you’re having trouble sleeping, which happens frequently. Works better than any fucking sleeping pill.
-- gladiatorTurtle [GT] began pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 17:59--
GT: look, i’m one minute early tonight!
TG: hold the phone
TG: john showed up a minute early to our daily internet rendezvous
TG: giving me sixty whole more seconds to spend with him
TG: before the tides inevitably ripped us apart again
TG: how poetic
TG: youre getting better at using the laptop huh
GT: well, i haven’t dropped it yet.
GT: and my typing is getting a little faster.
TG: aka jade got so frustrated watching you type slow that she shoved you over and grabbed the laptop and made you dictate your commentary
GT: fuck you.
GT: that only happened once.
GT: she’s just sort of glaring at me and my slow fingers right now.
TG: called it
TG: how is everything
GT: kind of boring.
TG: tell me about it
GT: it’s a good thing i never get tired of listening to people talk.
GT: seriously, hanging out near the beaches and eavesdropping on conversations is the best.
GT: don’t worry – i’m good at staying out of sight and stuff.
TG: i wasnt worried
GT: yeah you were.
TG: i had like a two second mild twinge of concern would you stop making everything into a huge fucking deal
TG: just because you are so attuned to the subtle shifts and nuances of my feelings doesnt mean each one means something
GT: rose says to tell you that all of your emotions mean something.
GT: and that you are secretly very in tune with your inner thoughts.
GT: and that your soul is a fluffy bunny rabbit.
TG: tell rose her soul is a fanged wildebeest that preys upon the fear of lost children in dark forests
GT: uh huh.
TG: call her a justin bieber fan
TG: you have to make this shit hurt
TG: you okay
GT: Sorry, Dave.
GT: He’s having a coughing fit.
GT: Hold on.
You close your eyes and still your breathing, wondering if there’s some way to force air into his lungs. You’re not exactly sure how to control this whole connection, but you can feel a vague sense of John-panic, and you imagine yourself kissing him, sweeping anxieties so far out of sight they might as well be on a separate fucking planet. You imagine your care pulsing through him like rippling ocean waves.
After about two minutes of this, John starts typing again.
GT: thanks for that.
TG: that actually worked
TG: everything okay
GT: yeah, i think i just inhaled something the wrong way.
GT: my lungs were like, nope, we are going to close up shop for a minute.
GT: so i ducked under while i waited to be able to breathe again.
GT: not being able to breathe is scary as shit.
TG: yeah sounds it
So empathy shit is actually pretty nice.
Which is what you think until the next day, when the final bell rings and you and TZ are chilling beside your locker. The hallway is almost empty. Her carrot top is tucked into two messy braids (she calls it her Pippi Longstocking look), and she’s shooed her paraprofessional somewhere else (“Dave is more than capable of making sure I don’t die, now leave me alone”).
You’re going to catch the late bus home since her apartment building is only a block from yours. Maybe go chill at her place for a while, maybe not. At least that’s the plan until you two start walking, you carrying her cane like some kind of glorified walking stick because she doesn’t need to use it here, and some random douchebag decides it sounds fun to trip the blind dragon obsessed ginger.
She goes down with a thud, her book bag flying over her head. This isn’t the first time she’s taken a spill in the hallway and you know she’s perfectly fine, and the guy is like twice your size, but he’s laughing. And nope. Not okay. You don’t fucking laugh like that, not when that tripping was definitely not a friendly joke. You don’t mess with her. You have protective older brother instincts that come out in this sort of situation.
Your reaction is instantaneous – you swipe the cane toward him, dragging his legs out from under him. He yelps when he hits the ground. Then you grab TZ’s hand and haul her to her feet, preparing to race for the doors and escape into Texan humidity and collapse laughing against the side of the school building. What you didn’t count on is 1) this kid having a temper and 2) this kid being faster than you bargained for.
A fist clips between your shoulder blades, making you lose your balance. You right yourself and whirl around.
wait wait wait dave what are you doing wait
But there’s something you’ve never felt before pulsing through your veins, the epitome of “fight” in fight-or-flight. Your blood is burning. That threatening punch has awakened some dormant instinct but no, no, it’s not coming from you at all, it can’t be coming from you, this doesn’t feel like a balanced or right reaction.
You’re a black hole of prickling danger, warrior, adrenaline, pulse pounding, and this is how they fight predators isn’t it, they feel like this, like they’re a collapsing star with their own gravitational pull sucking in everything and mashing it to pieces –
Normally you’d run anyway, end up laughing outside the building despite the bruise on your spine, but your only focus is on this kid and you’re an animalistic guardian angel and you have your own damn self and a girl to protect and you’re itching for a good fight you’re itching for blood
dave stop it stop it stop it you’re human you’re not a fucking mer this is a fucking teenager not a shark
dave stop calm down think dave THIS ISN’T YOU THIS IS JOHN ABSCOND IMMEDIATELY
Your fist smashes into the moron’s nose.
even striders have feelings, terezi and karkat are a thing, and dave fucks with john's emotions.
so i'm rereading homestuck and i got to the page [S] Jade: Enter
and i had to write striders bonding to assuage my feelings
also hahahahahaha everything is going to go to shit in the next chapter YES i'm excited
When the altercation is over, you have a black eye and a split lip. You had the sense to rip off your shades and toss them away in between punches, so they survived unscathed. The other kid has a broken nose, minor concussion, and probably a fuck ton of bruises on his chest.
A faculty member had to come pull the two of you apart. Now, as you sit in a chair outside the principal’s office (never thought you’d have to put up with him this late in the day), you’re pretty sure you’re completely screwed.
Terezi stuck around for the sake of explaining to the faculty member how you had to leap on the kid because he had victimized her tragic blind ass. She missed the late bus home, but her mom showed up and busted her out. How nice of her.
So you’re alone save the glaring office secretary. You lean your head against the wall and groan quietly, making plans to first, ask John what the fuck happened, and second, kill John. That’s when you hear a voice say, “You’re in deep shit, kiddo” and decide you need to be alive to talk to John in the first place.
“Hey, Bro,” you say.
You’re not going to lie – you’re surprised that they even managed to get a hold of him during the day. Bro does mysterious shit most of the time, there’s no telling when his phone will be on or when he’ll be home. You don’t know if his presence makes the situation better or worse for you.
“So did he deserve it?”
You open your mouth to give your list of excuses, but he probably won’t have the patience for them, so you change tactics and shrug. “Yep.”
He settles in the seat next to you, reaching out to take your chin in his gloved hand. Then he pushes your shades up with his other hand and whistles softly. “Damn. And the other kid looks worse?”
“Way worse.” You resist the urge to pull away, uncomfortable with him seeing your eyes.
“Nice. I’ll take you out for ice cream when they’re done talking my ear off.”
A grin twitches at the corners of your lips. “You’re not mad?”
“Nah. You finally kicked someone’s ass. Today you become a man.” He pauses, and then sighs. “Just don’t let it happen again, okay? I’m pretty attached to my cash. Don’t want to use it to bail you out of jail.”
“Yeah, no problem. Let go of my face.”
He releases his grip. “You see the nurse about that?”
You wince, tugging your shades back down. “She was sort of busy with the other guy.”
“You are in such deep shit. If his parents sue me, kiddo, you’re paying for it. I’m not that proud of you.”
“So long as I still get ice cream.”
“I’m probably a bad parent.”
“The worst.” You smirk. “I don’t mind.”
So you end up getting suspended for five days (an impressive length of time – having a million detentions under your belt already probably contributed). You can feel the Disapproving Adult Stares burning into your face, even if you’re not looking anyone directly in the eyes. They can’t tell where your gaze is directed anyway. When Bro says, “Oh yeah, I gave him a stern talking-to,” you stare at your lap and hope nobody notices your smirk.
You escape back to the apartment.
“I’m trying to decide how a responsible parent would punish their kid,” Bro says, lounging on the couch and eating from a bag of potato chips. “The list of shit I could put you through is endless. I could make you do the laundry for the next month” – (“since when do either of us do laundry anyway”) – “I could cover your room in smuppets, I could take apart your computer” –
“Oh man, you wouldn’t.”
“Nah, I wouldn’t. My brand of revenge requires a little more ninja stealth than the average parenting book would advise. ‘Sides, I’m really not mad. But listen, is there something the matter? This ain’t like you.”
“Your Southern charm is coming out,” you say. “I’m fine. I don’t know what came over me.”
Jesus Christ. You let out a long sigh, plopping down next to him. Being forced into feelings jams with Bro has to be the most effective discipline you’ve ever encountered. The dude isn’t supposed to have emotions, save when you do things like almost drown.
“I’m honestly and unironically fine,” you tell him. “Chill as fuck. Hell frozen over. Could lay down some nasty rhymes about it.” But you’re going to have to come up with some excuse, so you go with, “I guess I’m still a little shaken over the almost-drowning thing. I mean, I know near-death experiences are hot and all, but they’re not much fun in practice.”
A split second decision. “John saved my life.”
“When I fell out of the boat. He pulled me out of the water.”
“What the fuck was a kid doing swimming all the way out there?”
Come up with a rational explanation. “He wasn’t. I dog paddled like half the way and then I swallowed down half the fucking ocean like the lamest of Disney princes. He dragged me out and…”
“He gave you mouth-to-mouth, didn’t he?”
“He did. And then you were suddenly head over heels in yaois for the kid.”
He laughs – laughs a lot more than even irony would normally permit – and then asks, “Why did you lie about it?”
“Pride thing, I guess. I don’t need no stinkin’ lifeguard, et cetera. And also because John took off after it was clear that I wasn’t going to bite the dust. Or sand or whatever.”
“Well, I guess I have to approve of any boy who makes sure you keep kicking. I mean, think about it. Without you I’d be a midthirties guy who pioneers ironic puppet porn. With you, I’m a midthirties guy who pioneers ironic puppet porn but is also raising a teenager. Definitely makes me sound more heartwarming and approachable.”
“Nah, it just makes you sound like a fuckin’ creep. But that’s cool.” There’s a shit-eating grin breaking out over your face, and you don’t care enough to bite it back. “We can both be on the principal’s bad side.”
“Yeah, don’t think the dude approved of me. I could almost hear the ‘So that’s where this poor juvenile delinquent picked up his habits’ monologue.”
“Almost? I heard it loud and fucking clear, ringing like the sweetest of bells. Because clearly I have a shit home life, right.”
“If you think you’ve got a shit home life, kiddo, better pull those grades up so you can escape. Spread your wings and learn how to fly.”
“Do what it takes ‘til I touch the sky?”
“I’d finish the song if I could remember the rest of it.”
“Ha!” You don’t know why you’re so triumphant. “I know more Kelly Clarkson lyrics than you do. I win every irony competition ever.”
“Irony isn’t a competition, man. Irony is just the sweetest humor this world has to offer.”
“Sure, it’s not a competition if you’re losing.”
“Exactly. You’re starting to figure out how things work around here.”
“Wait a second.” You sit straight up on the couch, staring at him. “Are you admitting that I just bested you at something?”
“Nope. Don’t go gettin’ a big head or I’ll have to prove myself on the roof.”
“Sure. Whatever you say. Someday you’ll admit that I’m growing up too fast and I’ll beat you at your own game.”
“I worry sometimes,” he says abruptly.
You’re about to give a snarky reply, but then you recognize the set of his jaw and slight tension in his frame and realize, holy fuck, he’s actually being serious. Bro Strider is admitting to occasionally feeling something other than a chill breeze and totally ill jams.
What are you supposed to do with this.
You move a few inches closer to him, half-expecting him to push you away, because shit you are not touchy-feely people. When he doesn’t, you touch his cheek. “C’mon,” you say. “Worry isn’t cool. Worry is the opposite of coolness, it’s fucking east to cool’s west.” It’s a little scary how much you sound like him. “You are the best guardian, it is you. You don’t need me to tell you that.”
“I know. Guess I’m about as shaken up from you almost dying as you are. Believe me, a week from now I’ll be back to treating you like the little shit you are.”
“I’m gonna abscond to my room before we break down sobbing and hugging or some shit. I don’t think I can handle that much deviation from the normal routine.”
began pestering gallowsCalibrator
TG: plz tell me your parents havent written me off as a drug-addled gay hooker who wants to corrupt their precious dragon baby
TG: because that would be one sad situation
TG: except then our friendship would just have to continue under cover of darkness
TG: its like a torrid romance novel
TG: we can be twilight
GC: NO D4V3
TG: no listen dude well be the sweet evil vampires who wreck shit
TG: ive already got burning red eyes
TG: and stunning good looks
TG: where doin this man
TG: where makin this happen
GC: HOW DO YOU 3V3N KNOW TH1S?
TG: im a wealth of knowledge and intellect about shit i should probably know nothing about
TG: do you know how many romances i have stomached
TG: i could rival vantas
TG: speaking of which how is your relationship
TG: are you off or on
TG: banging or curling your lips at each other
TG: oh no wait i got it
TG: how about we be fifty shades of grey
GC: OH MY GOD
TG: that prospect is actually so horrifying i need to go find where bro keeps the brain bleach brb
GC: WHY WOULD YOU 3V3N S4Y TH4T
TG: yeah that might have crossed the carefully toed line i was treading
TG: anyway your parents
TG: and vantas
GC: MY P4R3NTS JUST 4SSUM3 YOU 4R3 GO1NG THROUGH SOM3 “TROUBL3D T1M3S”
GC: 4LSO YOU G3T BROWN13 PO1NTS FOR D3F3ND1NG M3
GC: K4RK4T 4ND 1 R3M41N 1N 4 COMPL1C4T3D… 3X1ST3NC3
GC: TH4T 4T TH3 PR3S3NT T1M3 DO3S 1NVOLV3 SOM3 1NT3R3ST1NG R3L4T1ONS
GC: 1 T4ST3D H1S BLOOD TH3 OTH3R D4Y
GC: 1T W4S D3L1C1OUS
TG: and then it was your turn to cross the carefully toed line
TG: for the last time tz i do not want to hear about your weird kinks
TG: jesus fuck youre worse than i am
GC: K4RK4T 4PPR3C14T3S TH3M >;]
TG: oh my god
TG: why did i even ask
TG: chugging brain bleach as we speak
GC: WH4T SORT OF TROUBL3 D1D YOU G3T 1N?
TG: five day out-of-school suspension
TG: guess im lucky i didnt arrested or whatever
TG: i cant do hard time do you know what they do to guys like me in the slammer
GC: TH3Y M1GHT 4S W3LL H4V3 PUT YOU 1N J41L
TG: what are you on about
TG: if youre talking about bro theres no worries cause hes down with the whole thing
TG: just proud i finally kicked some fuckers ass
TG: hes finally proud of me dave whispered as a single anime tear slid down his cheek
GC: NO 1 M34N
GC: TH3R3S R34LLY NO W4Y YOUR3 GO1NG TO G3T C4UGHT UP W1TH M4TH 4ND SC13NCE NOW 1S TH3R3
GC: 3V3N BL1ND 1 C4N ST1LL S33 SUMM3R SCHOOL 1N YOUR FUTUR3
GC: N1C3LY DON3 COOL K1D
TG: fuck oh man john is gonna slaughter me
TG: well i need to have words with him anyway
TG: speaking of which jade is online brb need to sort some shit out
GC: TH4TS NOT CRYPT1C 4T 4LL
began pestering gardenGnostic
GG: hey dave!! :D
TG: ok harley i need you to do me one huge goddamn favor
GG: i am a little apprehensive…
TG: nah no worries i wont ask you to strip on camera or anything
TG: no offense but im not really interested in your boobs
GG: well, that’s a relief! :P
TG: can you get a hold of john for me
TG: go sit on the rocks and send out psychic emotion vibes until he shows up
TG: and then stick a phone or laptop or something in his hand and tell him to fucking talk to me
GG: yeah, i guess i can
GG: its not like i have anything to do except procrastinate homework! :)
GG: is everything ok? is he ok?
TG: i think so yeah i mean our magical mermaid connection isnt killing me with death vibes if thats youre asking
TG: just some shit went down earlier and ive gotta sort it out
GG: you know i will probably know everything that happened when i see him
GG: so you might as well tell me now
TG: yeah i know that im just too lazy to type it all out
TG: please just do this for me
TG: look how polite im being
GG: okay okay, im going!
GG: be back in a few minutes i guess
--gardenGnostic [GG] ceased pestering turntechGodhead [TG] at 16:21--
You spend the next ten minutes resisting the urge to chew on your fingernails and instead pestering Terezi, until a new chat pops up on your screen.
began pestering turntechGodhead
GT: are you okay?
GT: what happened?
TG: yeah i couldnt be better if i was fucking miley cyrus poledancing in a blonde wig
TG: and i could ask you the same thing
TG: what the fuck was that
GT: what was what?
TG: one minute this kid is screwing with me and my friend and were gonna abscond into the sun
TG: the next im all hulk smash and trying to rip out his throat with my teeth
GT: …oh god.
TG: that is a pretty accurate reaction
GT: are they okay?
TG: theyre not dead
TG: i mean theyll live it wasnt that bad
TG: just a broken nose and shit
TG: im suspended from school though and whatever else
TG: so explain
GT: i just sensed you were in danger and i…
TG: you just accessed my pituitary gland and pumped like a million volts of adrenaline through my heart
TG: cool thanks for that
TG: it was fun
TG: what have we learned today class oh ive got this one
TG: not to fuck with interspecies emotions
GT: …are you saying you want to break the connection?
GT: i'm sorry, wow, i screwed up.
You feel a stabbing throb of rejection. Damn.
TG: shit no that came out wrong
TG: look i just
TG: im not built to deal with mer fight instincts same as youre not built to live on dry land ok so try not to do that to me regardless of the situation
TG: i could seriously hurt someone and thats sort of scary as fuck not to mention the repercussions it would have on my life
TG: i was completely out of control dude i dont want to feel like that
TG: being calm and collected is sort of my thing
GT: yeah, i know.
GT: it wasn’t really a conscious choice… it was more doing what i thought would protect you.
GT: i’m so sorry.
TG: yeah whatever its cool
TG: i mean i get that its like a built in thing for you guys because you need to wreck shit with your bare hands a lot more often than we do
TG: goddamn though its intense
TG: youre being pretty quiet
GT: i’m not sure what i’m supposed to say.
TG: well as long as youre wallowing in remorse and were talking about repercussions, ive got something else i ought to get off my chest
TG: all right promise not to kill me
TG: or jade since shes in closer proximity
TG: well with the suspension im gonna miss like a billion classes and ill lose time to make shit up
TG: theres basically no way im not flunking out of at least two courses
TG: and ill have to go to summer school to make them up
TG: so it might be a little longer than a month before i can see you
TG: but theres still pesterchum and phones and rose and jade right
TG: would you stop posting ellipses
TG: i can feel your emotions storming dude at least put real words to your inner torment
yay finally finished this now i can go to bed.
song i listened to when writing this: no light, no light - florence and the machine (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGH-4jQZRcc if you're interested)
TG: quick tz tell me how to calm an angry boyfriend
GC: WHY TH3 H3LL 4R3 YOU 4SK1NG M3?
TG: youre fucking karkat vantas
TG: the real question is why wouldnt i ask you
GC: GOOD PO1NT >:]
GC: 4FR41D 1 DONT H4V3 M4NY M4G1C4L WORDS OF 4DV1C3
GC: JUST W41T FOR H1M TO G3T 1T OUT OF H1S SYST3M
GC: MY NORM4L M3THODS FOR C4LM1NG 4NGRY BOYFR13NDS PROB4BLY WOULDNT WORK LONG D1ST4NC3 4ND WOULD B3 CONS1D3R3D TM1
TG: right i forgot
TG: never ask tz for romance advice you will inevitably come away with your brain corroded by psycho shit
GC: 1 AM NOT TH4T B4D >:[
TG: nah youre not im just messing with you
TG: seriously though angry boyfriend alert so imma stop pestering you for a sec so i can check the damage
You are John Egbert, and you don’t have time.
You can feel it buried in your chest like a blade, scraping the back of your throat. Jade sits beside you, her hand resting at the base of your spine, staring intently over your shoulder.
GT: dave no.
TG: look calm the fuck down its not like its even that big a deal
TG: itll just be like
TG: another six weeks or something
TG: and then i will fly my ass down to new england and we can make out passionately against the rocks like the most sensual of lovers
I don’t think I have six weeks.
You don’t know how to tell him, and you certainly don’t want to tell Jade. This has been happening for ages, slowly, surely. It’s why everyone migrated. You were so fucking stupid to think it wouldn’t be the same for you. So fucking stupid.
you knew this would happen.
you just didn’t care
dad’s gone vriska’s gone you’re basically ostracized and you’ll be skinned alive if anyone finds out what you’re doing with dave.
dying has stopped being super high on your things to fear list.)
GT: i have to see you again.
You have this planned out, morbid contingencies that are basically part of your culture. Shit happens. You fix it. It won’t be that bad anyway, not for them, they’re blind. They can’t feel like you can, they can’t feel what you can. Even Dave – especially Dave – will be perfectly okay.
You’re going to have to break his heart, you know. You’re going to have to snap the connection (tell him you’re getting tired of him? stage a fight?) and say goodbyes that don’t sound like goodbyes. You’re going to have to apologize to Rose and Jade. Tell them you’re migrating, that you’ve found a group who can take you in and…
you’ll be fine.
Then lie down near Vriska’s and Dad’s graves and take one much needed nap.
TG: you will
TG: fuckin hell john dont be such a drama queen
TG: you flip your fucking shit whenever i mention anything to do with time
TG: is there something going on because im honestly a little concerned
GT: no, i just…
GT: you are majorly screwing things up.
TG: ok bullshit
TG: youre lying to me
TG: you stopped being able to take advantage of my tragic blind human weakness when you shoved a piece of your soul into my brain
TG: this is more panic flavored than the usual dave is an insufferable prick whining
TG: believe me
TG: i have become greatly accustomed to your dave is an insufferable prick whining
GT: shut up.
GT: it’s the loneliness thing again.
GT: which you wouldn’t know anything about since you are interacting with dozens and dozens of people a day.
GT: you’re the only one i have a tangible emotional connection with and i’m really craving that.
GT: whine complain moan.
“Hey!” says Jade.
“Oh, you know what I mean,” you say, waving your hand impatiently at her. “Don’t read my chats if they’re going to offend you so much.”
“I have to police your internet usage, young man,” she gravely replies. “Who knows what sort of depraved human culture you’d try to learn about if I wasn’t here?”
You grin. “I can barely use this thing, Jade.”
GT: plus it’s not like you’re the easiest person to deal with anyway, sheesh.
TG: whoa hold up
TG: id stick my nose in the air and look down my shades at you if i had any cause to be offended
TG: its not like this is even my fault
TG: may i direct you to the “stop fucking with my pituitary gland” conversation we just had
GT: i’m sorry!
TG: well dont get all pissy at me for shit that was your fault in the first place
TG: your rationality is about on par with a pregnant woman whos puking twice as hard as usual because she ate bad seafood the night before
TG: . . .
TG: that came out
TG: way ruder than i meant it to
“Tell him he’s a sexist jerk.”
GT: no, that pretty much sounded like all of the random shit you spew.
GT: also jade says you’re a sexist jerk.
TG: hey harley sup
TG: guess this is an inappropriate time to ask you to make me a sandwich
GT: she says she’s going to kick your ass when you come up here this summer.
TG: yeah probably
GT: come see me as soon as you can, okay?
You’re about to type out a “you’re still a pain in the ass” when a strangled cough bursts from your chest. Fuck fuck fuck you don’t want to do this again, not right now, you hate this, you feel like a doll being smashed against cliffs by relentless angry waves. You suck in half a breath only to have it forced all the way out of you, a shudder racing all the way up your spine as something tries to dislodge itself from where it’s gotten stuck. Lungs straining, searching for air, you wheeze in another ragged breath, trying to hang onto the oxygen.
This is what drowning feels like.
Jade tugs the laptop away from you, and you hunch over, palms pressed flat against the sunbaked stone, your whole body almost convulsing. You need to get back in the water but all your bones are locked and you can’t do anything except choke.
This is worse than the coughing fit you had the other night, this time you can’t see an actual end to it and holy fuck holy fuck no way you’re not this sick yet, you are not this sick yet, that is not a thing that is happening. Nope.
You feel heat rising in your throat, exploding from the tightness in your chest, muscles contracting and expanding. Nose almost touching speckled gray rock, hair flopping into your eyes, you spit out bitter mouthfuls of the stuff. It tastes like someone decided to mix salt and papery fish skin and seaweed into one disgusting concoction, and oh man the vile shit is running out of your nose too, you must look like the biggest mess there is.
Liquid rock apparently stuck inside your lungs.
Jade thumps you on the back, making sure it’s all gone. When you’re finally done hacking, you drag in breaths that sound exactly as ragged and desperate as the ones Dave took when you got the intruding salt water out of him the first night you talked.
She’s frightened. You try to push yourself back into a proper sitting position, but the world swings dizzily around you and you decide nope, you’re going to take a minute to rest. You need to get back in the water, that’s the most surefire way to clear your head. Unfortunately, you still don’t trust yourself to move. Instead, you just scoot to the side the tiniest bit to avoid the sludge puddle and press your cheek against the ground.
“I’m okay,” you say.
“You… just threw up black slime.”
“Really? Looks more rainbow to me.” You give her a weak smile, still trying to remember how to breathe. In and out. In and out. You have lungs for a reason. Gills are more effective but for now lungs are fine, lungs are okay.
“You’re sick, aren’t you?”
Your eyes close.
“Okay, no, that was a stupid question, of course you’re sick.”
“Don’t tell Dave,” you mumble. “He’ll worry.”
“You’ll… be okay, right?”
It won’t be long now. You really don’t have time. You can try to hang on for as long as possible, cling to Dave’s psyche, quietly leech off of him to prolong the agony a few days. But you’ve never seen someone get better. You’ve just seen them wither away to nothing, weight dropping faster than the tides shift, skin greying, even their eye colors dulling. Fevers spiking, delirium.
Being slowly poisoned does that.
You need to leave but it’s too late.
And if you’re alone again, there’s really no point in being alive anyway. Fuck that.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” You sit up slowly, wiping off your mouth and nose. “It’s nothing too serious. It’s like – what’s the name of that human disease? It starts with an F.”
“Yeah. I’ve got the mer version of the flu. Sucks.”
“Aww.” She rubs circles over your back. “Mer vomit is even grosser than people vomit.”
“It’s okay. The ocean will probably just wash it away. Oh, eww.” She wrinkles her nose. “What happens if you puke underwater?”
“You – I am not even going to answer that.”
“Okay, yeah, that’s a good idea.” She thrusts the laptop back at you, where you’re greeted with a wall of bright red text. Dave is rambling, starting with “hey dude would you take a fucking breath whoa calm down” moving all the way down to –
“Oh no,” you say, staring horrified at the screen.
Surprisingly, being sick like this is not the most physically painful ordeal you’ve ever experienced.
There was one time when you were about five years old and you sort of casually swam away from everyone, just letting your body flow with the currents, and you ended up facing down a fish that was the size of you. When you look back on it, it wasn’t even that big – but to little you, everything was huge. Anyway, said fish ended up clamping down tight near the bottom of your tail. Your dad heard you scream and killed it. The scales around where its teeth sank in are just barely discolored now, as close to a scar as you can get without real skin.
That was the most physically painful ordeal you can remember.
But there is something deeply and endlessly unpleasant about feeling yourself deteriorate. There are days when you’re too weary to even go near the beach and listen to people talking, so you lie on the ocean floor, not too far from the place you always meet Rose and Jade, eyes closed. Resting. Mostly focusing on Dave and what he’s feeling. Not taking anything from him, just reassuring yourself that he’s there. If you pretend hard enough, you can almost convince yourself that he’s next to you. Phantom Dave.
Usually if you dwell on those fantasies for a while, you start thinking about how that would never actually happen because Dave can’t breathe underwater, which is a little depressing because there’s nothing you’d like more than to go to sleep next to him and for both of you to wake all wrapped up in each other.
Which is a dumb thing to dwell on when you’re not even sure if you’re even going to see him again.
If you’ve let your thoughts go this far (you generally try to cut them off when they head in this direction), you’ll feel a sharp stab of upset, bluh, which more often than not is followed by Dave sending you soothing ripples of calm. He got the hang of it pretty quickly; you have to admit you’re sort of impressed.
Each minute is relatively the same as the last, which you think is part of why you haven’t flipped out about being sick. The worst part is going to be goodbyes. Until you don’t have to think about that, there’s nothing to worry about. Just the present, unfolding in its own infinite way.
You meet Rose and Jade at the same time every night, 6 PM by their clocks. You know when time is getting close by the rays of the sun slanting through the water, and you go to lurk near the rocks and wait for them. Rose gave you an old tattered white shirt of hers and told you to put it on the highest point if you ever had an emergency, that she’d be able to see it from her widows walk. You took it even though you don’t think you’ll ever use it.
Fever sets in.
TG: theres something seriously wrong
TG: rose god dammit check your phone
TG: log onto pesterchum
TG: god dammit you and jade arent online and neither one of you are responding to texts what the fuck
TG: are you avoiding me on purpose
TG: forever alone
TG: rose i mean it something isnt right youve gotta go find john
You are –
you are –
y ou a e r –
all mixed up.
You woke up thrashing in the grip of a jumbled nightmare that you can’t remember. Your body hurt and there was something curled around your tail and you wrenched it away before realizing it was just a long snaky plant tendril, innocent, nothing to be scared of
everything is a cacophony of diluted indigo color and you can’t remember your name.
You move through the water, breaking the surface, searching wildly for something, something, fuck, what is it? It’s high tide and you make for the rocks, for the beach, you can see glittering trails inscribed in the sand and you need to get a hold of what you lost and then everything will be okay, everything will be just fine
the world is
TT: We were spending some time in the town with a few peers.
TT: What’s this about John?
TG: look hes been feeling off for a while
TG: i dunno
TG: i thought he had a cold
TG: or like
TT: That was a terrible pun, Dave.
TG: shut up
TT: I’m disowning you.
TG: point is i woke up in the middle of the night and staggered into the bathroom to lose my lunch
TG: and believe me as shitty as the cafeteria food is the sick feelings were not me
TG: and i only feel shadows of what he does
Darkness edges at the corners of your vision, creeping, encroaching. You lash out with both hands and then pull back, swimming faster, until your fingers dig into soft sand. Glittering, glittering, like your scales, like the copper sheen to Vriska’s tail.
You’re dizzy and the sun is too hot, the water is boiling around you, you need to bury yourself and never come out. A glance to the side – nobody can see you, rocks separate you from their view. The sky is gold and peeling away from the stars and your nightmare is coming back to you, there were a million dead Daves –
You sense the tides shift the way only someone who’s lived in the ocean for sixteen years can and scrabble backward, submerging yourself entirely again. You need to get away. You need to get back to – to – where are you going?
The dizziness overwhelms you, you’re a twisting mass of limbs in the middle of the water and you can’t remember how gravity works. You surge upward and hit your head hard against a rock, somehow up and sideways switched directions on you when you weren’t looking.
You need to stop for a second.
Get your bearings.
Remember who you a r e –
You reach out and grab the stone, clinging to it. It’s only partially underwater, you’re in such a shallow space, but that’s fine because you’re just going to rest. Just going to put your head down and let the world stop spinning and close your eyes.
You are so disoriented.
Your head hurts so bad.
TT: You’re saying he’s ill?
TT: And you think it’s serious?
TG: im saying that after i got done puking the shit in my brain calmed down for a while
TG: guess he fell asleep
TG: and now its back only its a million times worse
TG: somethings wrong with him all of his feelings are messed up and i can tell hes sick as a dog
TG: sick as a fish
TG: we need to come up with mermaid sayings
TG: tailor them to suit our needs
TT: So he’s in immediate need of assistance.
TG: yeah thats what im getting at
TG: rose it feels like
TG: it feels like something went even more wrong than the normal sick stuff like
TG: freaky mermaid death vibes i am getting them
TG: hes really weak and fuck theres
TG: a lot of pain
TT: Are you all right?
TG: ill be fine ill just roll around in bed and moan a lot
TG: rose please go look for him
TG: please i know theres probably nothing to find but i need to know
TG: nothing i do is helping
TT: He hasn’t put up the emergency signal, but if he’s really in the kind of state you’re describing, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
TT: I’ll go check the beaches and see what I can find.
TT: I’ll bring Jade with me.
TG: thank you
TT: Wow, you used manners. Now I know it’s serious.
TT: Much better.
When you open your eyes again, the first thing you realize is that you fell asleep. Or passed out. Not sure which.
The second is that your lips feel awfully dry and cracked.
The third is that your everything feels awfully dry and cracked.
The fourth is that you can’t catch a breath.
And the fifth is where is the water.
You’ve sunk down between two stones, sort of trapped between them. You don’t know where you are exactly, but you grab the lip of a rock and try to haul yourself over. It’s dry. The rock is dry. Your whole body is dry and you can’t breathe and it’s low tide and you need to get back to the water you’re beached you’re fucking beached how did this happen you’re feverish and you need water you need water you need water you need water
water water water water water water water water water
the need scorches through your dry throat and parched lips and overheated limbs you can feel yourself boiling alive
your internal organs cooking while there's no air and nothing to cool you down and the moisture slowly
s l o w l y
but all too quickly evaporates
this is literally the worst way you can think of to go.
The unforgiving sun beats down on your body and shrivels your skin and burns and you wheeze for breath that won’t come because your lungs are half full of slime anyway and
why did you wake up
why can’t you just lose consciousness again.
You’d scrape out apologies to Dave for your stupidity but you don’t remember how this happened.
fevers and angst and knights in shining armor, oh my.
wow hurting john is fun
i've been up for about 30 hours so i'm pretty sure my editing is not up to par rn so i'll probably edit this chapter some more when i'm rested.
but for now here you go.
edit: ok fixed
You barely register the voices above you. Your eyes are closed, your throat is raw, everything is dry, and you want to lose consciousness. How do humans stand living like this day in and day out? But then, they’re built for it – just someone please give you water, please, you’ll do anything. You’ll die a thousand times over, you’ll kill, you’ll say whatever you have to. Just please. Please, water. Just a drop.
The sun is burning holes through you, plastering you to the rock. Your tail twitches weakly as you feel a hand against your cheek, eyes fluttering. The blue swallows your pupil when you squint through the glare of day.
“V – Vriska…?”
Your voice is barely a whisper. This is it, then. You’re hallucinating your dead mate and you’re going to die here and your body will be discovered on the beach and suddenly everybody will know about the existence of mers and it’ll be your fault.
Coherence slips away again, the confusion overtaking.
“Shh. It’s Rose and Jade. We need to get you back to the ocean.”
Oh. Even better dying hallucination, thinking you’re going to be rescued.
You shut your eyes again. Don’t want to face anyone. Vaguely you’re aware that you’re babbling, a soft string of words that doesn’t make any sense, tone fluctuating as the
breath you can barely catch moves in and out of your lungs. The hand on your face doesn’t move. It’s dry like everything else, not quite as dry as the rock or your skin though. A soothing touch.
“Rose, I think we’re going to have to drag him.”
“Ugh. John, can you hear me?”
“Mmm,” you murmur, interrupting your string of babbling. “Water.”
“This is probably going to hurt, but we don’t have time to think of anything better.”
They take hold of your arms, one on each side, dragging you over the stone. You know you’re too heavy even with your lost weight and you can hear them panting with exertion and jagged pieces scrape against your back, sending shocks of searing pain through your body. You’re still confused, but you’re too far out of it to protest and too weak to struggle, instead staying limp. They manage to yank you onto the level part of the beach, your tail dragging through granules of blinding white sand.
You want to pass out so badly.
You’re a living oven, roasting inside, and the icy shock of the ocean is so sharp at first you don’t realize what it is. It’s not even the full ocean yet, just damp sand, and you almost want to start sobbing from the relief of the moisture against your skin. When real waves do start lapping gently at the scrapes on your back, the scales on your tail, you feel like you’re being greeted by an old friend. Wrapped in a blanket. Soothed.
The pain certainly isn’t gone, but the edge sure as hell is, and you can breathe again. And breathe you do, wriggling backward with what’s left of your strength, your heart thudding unevenly in your chest. When you’re deep enough that you’re fully submerged, you stop and just rest against the sand. Just for a minute. Then you have to get out of here. Have to flip over and swim away from – from –
Your head still hurts. The water cools your roasting body but it doesn’t do anything to quell the fever. You’re slipping in and out of delirium, colors morphing and shifting and becoming hallucinations that bleed into new kaleidoscopes.
Two presences above you in the golden air, two panics. Familiar but different from how they should be because they’re not anyone you know, but they are? They taste like friendship and you shouldn’t be apprehensive, but paranoia curls into your chest and stays there.
humans humans they’re humans john you have to get away you have to get away they’ll hurt you they’re looking at you they can see you john you have to get rid of them john you’re ruining everything john stop stop stop escape get OUT
You press your tail against the ground, trying to push into deeper waters. They can’t follow you there, you’ll be safe, it won’t matter, you can just curl up and hide and everything hurts why does everything hurt? Your shoulders and neck feel sticky, the oxygen flowing through your veins is bringing you everything you could need, that’s what you think, but there are stabbing pains in your stomach and chest and aching everywhere else and a tail that’s a solid block.
You think you’re going to throw up.
As you wriggle into the sea foam, fingers grab your wrist and hold you by the beach, they’re too tight and they hurt and you can’t pull away, you should be strong enough to pull away, why can’t you pull away? When you struggle, the hand turns into a slimy vice with digging fingernails and malice –
and your face breaks the surface and you scream.
Your throat is still raw and the screams are hoarse. No real power behind them, your lungs won’t work right, won’t move like they should, nothing’s moving like it should. All the same, another hand comes down over your mouth with a shout of, “John, it’s okay, it’s okay!” which only makes you more panicked. Get off get off get off and there’s something coming from inside you, it feels like calm but the calm can’t settle in your chest because it’s not yours, it’s not yours, there’s somebody else in your head…
The hand that’s still free flails wildly, closing around the arm on your mouth, trying to wrench it away. Your nails rake across skin and you’re rewarded by a sharp yelp of pain. Have to fight. Have to get out, have to get away, and they’re scared, they’re both scared, good, but that doesn’t stop your rogue fingers from being pinned.
They hold you so you can’t swim away, you thrashing against them and fighting as hard as you can, screaming around the hand at your lips, until finally your strength gives out and your hysteria turns to quiet sobbing.
TG: rose calm him the FUCK DOWN
TG: i am not messing around here this is total self preservation
TG: im literally locked in the bathroom leaning over the sink with my bangs flopping into my eyes like some kind of hardcore emo anime character undergoing a dramatic transformation
TG: gonna look up and see a monster in the mirror
TG: i hope the reason youre not replying is because youre too busy fixing whatever the fuck just got screwed up
TG: if it gets much worse than this then there is going to be much wailing and gnashing of teeth
TG: you can explain to bro why i suddenly morphed into the bible
Once you give in, they let up.
“John, it’s okay. Can you hear me? We’re not going to hurt you, John. John…”
“I can’t,” you whimper.
“Come on, John, don’t you remember me? You have to remember me.”
“I – I…”
“He’s delirious, Jade.”
“Rose,” you breathe.
“Oh, so you do recognize us. I’m a little more offended by the scratch on my arm now,” Rose says.
You force your mind to work right. The water washes around your shoulders, whitecaps rolling in. You’re not out far at all – it’s shallow enough for Rose and Jade to both sit (in their normal clothes, you notice, pleased to be able to recognize these details) with you propped against Jade’s lap. She tugs your torso partially out of the water, so most of the gill slits between your ribs are still submerged and you can breathe, and hugs you against her. Rose lays the back of her hand on your forehead.
“You’re spiking a fever.”
“Jus’ warmer than you,” you mumble, tongue heavy.
“You’re flushed and shivering and I can guarantee that your skin feels hotter than it usually does.”
“Wonder why. Couldn’ be from the sun killing me, righ’?”
You sound drunk, your speech thicker and more slurred than it should be. Fuck. You’re not supposed to be this far gone yet. You blame it on being beached.
Rose and Jade are both scared and they’re not going to take no for an answer. You need to come up with some way to make them let you go – a lie? a half-truth? - but for this one second, you just relax in the closeness. What the fuck were you thinking earlier? You weren’t thinking anything… you’re barely thinking straight now.
This time you let Dave’s comfort in, taking the peace of mind and making it your own. In turn you can feel him calming down, knowing you’re okay, or at least more sane than you were a few minutes ago.
“Dave told me your physical condition has been deteriorating. And Jade told me that you’ve been sick. You’ve lost enough weight that anybody can clearly see your ribs, and you weren’t strong enough to fight us off when we held you back. If you were in prime physical condition, you would have been able to. Not to mention the delirium.” Rose is so worried. It hurts and you can’t deal with emotional hurt on top of physical, you don’t want to.
“Okay, so I’m a little sick,” you say, resting your head on Jade’s tan shoulder.
“I’m taking you home with me.”
She says it abruptly, no room for argument.
Of course you argue anyway.
“Wha… no no no no way no way don’ you fucking dare.”
Another wash of calm. Is it possible to overdose on the shit? You mentally flip Dave off. This is a pretty new side to an empathetic connection. Vriska wasn’t exactly the type to be all cool and chill and content all day. It’s annoying as all fuck.
“It won’t be long.” Rose is speaking softly, quickly. “Not at all. I have a private bathroom off my room so my mother wouldn’t see you. There’s a relatively large bathtub – and then we have a swimming pool. All I have to do is devise some way to get my mother out of the house and it’s yours until she comes back. I’ll figure something out. I’m not bad at coming up with plans on short notice.”
“No no no no no no no no no.”
“John, listen.” She’s pleading with you. Pleading with you. Pleading you to let her drag you into a human house, away from the sea entirely, dunked in a culture you don’t understand with absolutely no means to escape if need be.
You don’t trust people.
You can’t trust people.
You want to trust people but you just can't, not with something like this, and there are so many things that could go wrong it's ridiculous.
“No,” you hiss.
“If we let you go in this condition, you’ll be vulnerable to predators. And I doubt you’ll be able to gather food or anything else necessary to survival. It’s just until your state improves a little. It won’t be long. I’ll help.”
She’s trying to reassure herself as much as you.
“Rose…” She has it all wrong. You don’t want to do this, you don’t want this, why can’t they just listen to you and let you go? “I’m going to die.”
“This – this disease, I’ve never seen anyone recover… ‘specially once it gets this far. Nothing you do will fix it. Just stop taking such huge risks on a los’ cause.”
“And what disease specifically is this?”
“Something in the water – they all had to migrate, something in the water.”
Jade has gone perfectly still, a whole swell of negative emotions broiling. Fuck. Even though she tries to be comforting, her feelings aren’t helping things.
“Then obviously it’s imperative that we get you out of this water.”
“No!” You’re almost ready to break down sobbing again, so frustrated and in so much pain and she doesn’t get it.
You gave up hope.
You were okay with giving up hope.
Having hope forced upon you just knifes through your heart.
“I d-d-don’t want you to see me die.” Yep, you’re crying. “I d-don’t w-want you to watch, I would’ve gone already b-b-but I had to see Dave one more time, and now I’m n-not even going to get that, please, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I don’t want you t-to see…” You break off, shuddering, choking a little.
It’s going to be a lot harder to forget that silly John kid they knew for a few weeks if they keep a mental image of him glassy and blue-tinged. Wow, that sure was haunting, wasn’t it? Just like the memories of Vriska and your dad’s corpses, they’ll be tattooed across your brain until the day you take your last breath.
(not much longer then)
"Fuck that," Jade snaps, rage blazing through her and singing the back of your throat. You're abruptly terrified. "You're not going to die."
“No. Just shut the fuck up! You’re not going to die. You’re not. You’re not even fighting. You’re not allowed to give up without fighting!”
“I don’t really have anything to fight for.”
“Oh yeah, I’m nothing. Rose is nothing. Dave is nothing. I see how it is. Some friend you are.”
“It won’t matter!” you protest, but it sounds weak in the face of her wrath. She's trembling, her hands clenching into fists, her jaw working. Eyes narrowed. The perfect picture of a hurricane personified. “You’re human.”
“That has nothing to do with it!”
That has everything to do with it.
Before you can voice this, Rose stands up, water sloshing from her jeans. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
You bite down on your response, instead watching as Rose rushes back toward the sand and fumbles around by the rocks for a moment. In a second, you realize she’s pulling out her phone – she must have left it there so it wouldn’t get bogged down with salt water. She glances down, taps the screen a few times – dialing a number? And then she starts talking to someone.
For one irrational, panicked second, you think it’s her mom.
Then she turns around, phone still in hand, and heads back to the pair of you. She kneels in the white spray and holds the metal up to your ear.
“Sup,” says a familiar voice.
The relief makes you literally almost double over. Even if he’s not here, even if you can’t touch him in person – you realize you’d been scared you’d never hear his voice again. Just the slight touch of an accent, just the subtle inflections and the way he rambles. You were so scared, even before you knew you were sick, you were so scared when he left and now you can hear and the relief lets you know how great your fear really was.
“Hey, Dave,” you croak.
“Okay, dude. Listen up. You just put me through one fuckin’ ordeal, I’ll have you know I’m sitting on the bathroom floor drenched in a layer of fine Strider sweat. Not as sexy as it sounds.”
“No, dude, you’re listening. Put your listening ears on right the fuck now. I have just suffered through the most intense migraine and emotionally draining experience of my life all to help your ass. Think I’ll go crawl into bed and wither after this. So if you think you’re gonna put me through that and then up and kick the bucket, we need to have some serious words. Otherwise known as I’m gonna have some serious words with your ass while you shut the fuck up.”
“Yeah, that’s already happening.”
“So you fucking do what Rose tells you, because to be honest I trust her with you a hell of a lot more than I trust you with you right now.”
“Nope, ‘I can’t’ is a dish we only offer with a hearty side of fuck you and delectable shut the fuck up dessert. I mean it, John. I’m not screwing around. I don’t know what your deal is but all this martyr bullshit or whatever you want to call it is stopping right this second. Accept help from the lowly peons. And don’t tell Rose I called her a peon.”
fuck you weren’t kidding when you said mating makes you stupid.
“I hate you,” you groan.
“Nope, the correct answer was ‘Wow Dave, that sure is a reasonable offer.’ Though ‘I hate you’ is pretty much the same sentiment since you wouldn’t tell me that unless you knew you had been bested. So, thanks.”
“I really hate you right now.”
“Yup. Just hang on to your life and shit, I want to make sure you can hate me in person soon.”
we all knew this was coming :3
anmochi is great and gave me ideas for this
wow this should have been up days ago I'M SORRY
the end of this was fun to write hahaha oh my god
we all knew this was going to happen
we all knew
also why are so many people reading this holy fuck i ajkdlfjdsk?!
kisses you all
Rose disappears for about ten minutes so she can run home and get her laptop. She sits on the edge of the rocks with her legs hanging over the side while you float in the water, alternating between bobbing up and down and lying submerged on the sand. Meanwhile Jade alternates between swimming around you and resting beside Rose, stretching out.
“I don’t want to accidentally screw something up and make things worse,” Rose explains when you ask what she’s doing. “Google is great.”
She and Jade both decide that there’s no way they can get anything together properly before parents come home from work. Neither one of them want to leave you out here on your own, but you figure you can survive one more night. You manage to convince them after swearing up and down that you won’t go near the shore and you won’t go into too-deep water and you’ll put up the emergency signal if anything is wrong and you’ll be right by the rocks et cetera et cetera. It’s like dealing with a pair of overly concerned parents. Sheesh.
During the night, you seriously consider just swimming away. Would make everybody’s lives a whole lot less complicated.
Then your body and mind put up a rebellion that sounds an awful lot like Dave! and you mentally grumble a lot about mating. Again.
It’s late in the next afternoon by the time Rose and Jade decide they’re set to kidnap you. Jade runs back to her house to grab her grandpa’s unused wheelchair. Apparently it’s only around for when his right hip or left knee starts acting up. Half the time he refuses to use it anyway, she explains, because he is the most stubborn old man who was ever born. When she gets back, she complains a lot about the weird looks she was getting from people in the streets. You wince a little and look around to make sure nobody followed her or something.
Coast is clear.
You basically don’t relax until you’re in the bathtub, which is filled with cold salt water they got from who-knows-where and equipmenty stuff you can’t figure out for the life of you but that Rose says is a pump to oxygenate the water. When you ask where she got it, she just shrugs and says she and Jade have saved-up money to use for emergencies. Rose’s mom is at work, so the house is huge and empty and… safe, you guess. You don’t feel particularly safe. In fact, you kind of feel tenser than you’ve ever been in life and you’re breathing funny.
“Can you really take care of me?” you ask, sinking down until the water is at your chin. “Because there is a lot of stuff that’s just going to be gross and embarrassing and I don’t…”
“It’s fine, John. Are you breathing all right?”
You nod, because the uneven rhythms are more from anxiety than illness.
Indoors smells funny, mostly because there’s none of the tangy sea air in here. Everything is more plastery. Rose’s bathroom is on the first floor, decorated with a weird combination of cat decals and knitted... decorative things. She wasn’t lying about her bathtub being big, it could probably fit a couple people, but your tail still curls over the side. Oh well. It could be more uncomfortable, you think. And you can curl up on the floor to sleep. All the same –
“I really hope you can get your mom out of the house quick,” you tell her, “’cause I might go a little crazy not being able to swim properly.”
Rose lays the back of her hand against your forehead. “There’s more color in your cheeks,” she says, “and at least you’re more coherent now. But you don’t feel much cooler. And I promise I’ll figure it out.”
“You’re just making this up as you go along.”
“We have backup plans and...”
“But you’re just making this up as you go along.”
You sigh. This was a terrible idea.
“You know,” Jade says thoughtfully, “I bet I could flood my basement and you could stay there if we can’t get rid of Rose’s mom. My grandpa never goes down there.”
You laugh – really laugh – for the first time in ages. The movement scrapes your chest and throat, but it’s worth it. “That’s an even worse idea than Rose’s plan.”
“I don’t know! I could probably make it work!”
“You both have the worst ideas. End of story.”
“They’re better than yours, Mr. Leave Me To Die.”
“Whatever.” You shut your eyes, lean against a smooth edge. You feel a little like you’re sticking your head on a chopping block. Why do you come up with terrible analogies at the worst possible times.
Rose’s number one priority seems to be bringing your fever down. Unfortunately she’s not a doctor and is being more of a fluttering presence than anything. “I can’t even tell if anything is working,” she says, frustrated, “because your normal body temperature isn’t the same as ours!”
You shrug. “Tried to tell you.”
“You are a pain in the ass, John.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“I’m glad you’re lucid, at least.”
Jade plays with your hair, perching beside you. “Does that mean you’re getting better?”
“No, it means I’m enjoying a day or two of peace and quiet before the fever spikes again. Can I talk to Dave?”
“Sure, I’ll call him.”
This whole situation is honestly… a little too overwhelming to process properly. You’re pretty sure your dad would kill you if he could see you now, despite whatever oh-it’s-not-so-bad feelings he might have had for humans as a whole. You’re being loaded with new smells and instincts and you’re separated from the ocean for the first time in your life, which has you a lot more anxious than you expected – it’s like the first time you spent more than a few days away from home, except way worse because it’s infinitely more dangerous.
All the same, it’s nice to have Rose and Jade here. You briefly consider the fact that you’ll probably be able to feel Rose’s emotions while she sleeps, and then decide you’re not going to dwell on it because that’s a little weird. Right now they’re concerned, but they’re not as panicked or overly worried as they were earlier, so it’s more sweet than bitter.
Just one second at a time. Just one second at a time.
(you’re still going to die)
Then the phone is in your hand and Dave’s voice is acting like a drug. “Hey, you feeling better?”
“I. I’m still in a lot of pain. And kind of freaked out. But sane for the moment.”
“Safely nestled in Rose’s bathroom?”
“Is there anything embarrassing that I can hold over her head? I didn't get a chance to creep in there.”
Rose narrows her eyes at you, evidently sensing where the conversation is going.
“Nope, not really.”
“Damn,” Dave says. A pause. “You’re gonna be okay.”
“Okay,” you say, because you don’t want to argue.
“I mean it. You know why you’re gonna be okay?”
“Because I haven’t screwed you yet and that is a thing that needs to happen.”
“Dave oh my god.”
“No, I’m dead serious. I didn’t even know screwing a merdude was something that could be on my bucket list, but now it is and it is not leaving.”
“Oh my god you’re so lame.”
“We’ve been over this, John. You are the lame one here.”
“What d’you think of your first taste of human housing?”
You frown. “Everything smells weird.”
“Is it all sterile and hospital-y? Because if that’s what you’re talking about, I promise that’s not a human thing. That’s just the Lalondes.”
“I don’t know. Just doesn’t smell like home.”
He pauses. You wonder what he’s doing. A mental image of him hanging halfway off a bed like Rose’s, hair everywhere and shades askew, shirt riding up, makes a grin twitch at the corners of your lips. God, you miss him.
“So tell me more about this whole fever illness shebang,” Dave says. “’Cause I’ve been feeling like absolute fucking shit lately, and I’m guessing it’s about a million times worse for you. How’d it start with all of you guys?”
Come to think of it, you really should break the connection.
Just in case you have another unfortunate fit of delirium.
Just in case you end up acting like a parasite.
Just in case Dave ends up resenting you for making him feel awful.
Just in case you die.
“A couple of the mers just started… getting sick,” you murmur. “It wasn’t like an epidemic or anything, they didn’t think, but they were… people started dying. I’m n-not sure exactly what causes it, if it’s the food or the water or pollution or a combination of stuff. We c-couldn’t figure out how to fix it once somebody was sick, so a lot of us just left to try to get away from the environment.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Dad and I were kind of outcasts at that point. Not officially ostracized or anything but…” You break off so you can heave a cough. Jade reaches for you, but you wave her off, shaking your head. You’re not hacking up your lungs. You’re fine. When you recover, you finish your thought. “…Dad had too much faith in humans.”
“Dunno if I mentioned this before, but mer culture is fucked up.”
“Yeah, you might’ve mentioned it once or twice.” You’re not going to debate the merits of mer culture in front of Rose and Jade. “He thought we’d probably be okay, that it was like a contagious thing we’d both avoided? And he knew these waters better than anywhere else, so.”
“And then you still didn’t move when he kicked it.”
“You can’t exactly go swimming around looking for other mers and then head up to them and be all, oh, hi, I’m just going to make my home here. It doesn’t work like that. Some of us get pretty territorial. Wouldn’t want to risk that.”
“And then you still didn’t move when you realized you were sick,” he presses. “God fucking dammit, you’re so stupid.”
“By the time I realized I was sick, I was involved with you!” you protest, voice squeaking. “Hang on – Rose, Jade, can you leave me alone for a few minutes?”
“Call us if you need anything,” Jade says before the two of them exit to some other room.
“Right. The humans-are-scum thing. I forgot,” he says in a tone that makes it pretty clear he didn’t forget at all.
You cough again, a sharp staccato sound. “I actually can’t integrate back with merpeople now. Like, I’m pretty sure literally no one has ever broken laws to this extent. I’m in a fucking human house.”
“Yeah, I noticed.”
“And it’s all because of you. Because of this fucking mating. It’s keeping me from thinking straight and I. I don’t know. I guess I’m kind of scared.”
There’s a long silence on the other end of the line. You try to get a grasp on his emotions, but it feels about the same as usual.
“I’m sorry,” Dave finally says without a trace of irony.
“No. No, I… it’s not your fault. I mean, I guess it’s kind of good in a way? If it wasn’t for you, I’d probably still be on my own. Dying on my own.”
“Yeah, that would suck.”
“Even if I do die” – which you think is still probable –
“John no” –
“ – I’d rather die with you and Jade and Rose for my friends than be all alone again and live for a hundred years. I don’t. Like. Being alone.”
“Jesus Christ,” he says, hoarse, “don’t say shit like that. Bad enough that you can use psychic weirdness to toy with my feelings.”
He really is upset. You don’t have the energy to soothe him. Which brings you to your next point –
“If I’m hurting you too badly then we should break the connection.”
“Whoa, hold up.” In one second, his whole tone has changed, shifting back into his normal self. Your mental image involves him holding his hand in the air and looking like an idiot. “Is you being able to eat my strength going to increase the chances of you not dying?”
“This is going to end up parasitic and…”
“And it’s going to help you.”
“Look, how intense is this energy-sapping stuff going to get? Because I’m not really down for ending up in a coma or dead or some shit, but if we’re just talking being weak and shaky and sweaty and a little pukey for however long, I can take that. I’m a fucking Strider. We’re built for withstanding stupid crap.”
“That. That last one. Not the being dead or in a coma one.”
“Yeah, I can take it. Don’t worry.”
“It’s fine. And dude, I’ve got ten days until I’m done with school. Then fucking summer school shit – but maybe I can still avoid it? Or just skip it altogether and repeat the courses because who gives a fuck. And then I’ll be down there.”
“Do whatever you think is best.”
“If I repeat the courses, I swear I’m gonna get straight As just to laugh at everyone’s shocked looks.”
You’re interrupted when Rose steps back into the bathroom, shutting and locking the door behind her. “Sorry,” she whispers. “Mom just got home from work. I hope I’m not barging in on anything important.”
“Nope, we’re just talking about how Dave is a failure at everything.”
“I hate you,” he says at the same time Rose says, “Well, that doesn’t surprise anybody.”
You hear footsteps outside the door and every muscle in your body tenses.
“Rose, do we have any olives left?” asks a woman who has one of the weirdest balances you’ve ever sensed. Like, you actually can’t decide if you can stand her or not. You do know you don’t trust her, obviously you don’t trust her, but aside from that…
you really can’t make any snap judgments.
“Your aunt is here,” you barely breathe into the phone.
“Then stay quiet?”
“I don’t know,” Rose says. “Did you check the refrigerator?”
“Didn’t see any.”
“Then there probably weren’t any.” She rolls her eyes. “Could you please knock on my bedroom door next time you come in here?”
“Sure. What are you hiding?”
“Um, nothing? I just like privacy.”
Oh shit her mom is suspicious.
“Wellll, Jade is acting strange and you’re suddenly getting obsessed with privacy. I think I have a right to be a little curious.”
“When doesn’t Jade act strange?” Rose asks. “And I'm not obsessed with privacy, I'm just a normal teenager. I’ll be out in a second to see if I can find the olives for you.”
“Is she being a pain in the ass?” Dave says.
“She wants olives,” you breathe in a voice that should be low enough that normal people can’t hear it.
Unfortunately Rose’s mom is apparently not a normal person.
“Is there a boy in there with you?”
Rose shoots you a single panicked look.
You really didn’t think her mom would find out this quickly.
Anxiety claws its way up your throat.
“Calm down,” Dave murmurs. “It’s fine.”
“Yeah,” Rose says, only missing a single beat, “my friend John from school. He scraped his leg up out on the rocks and I brought him back here to put some Neosporin on the cut so it wouldn’t get infected.”
There’s a pause.
“Rose, dear, you don’t keep Neosporin in your medicine cabinet.”
“Yeah, I – I got it out of yours, but your bedroom is upstairs and his leg hurt so…”
“Honey, open the door.”
“Shit,” Dave says, “I can tell something’s up. Stay on the line so I actually know what the fuck kind of drama is unfolding.”
“It really is just a scrape.” Rose’s voice is getting higher in her panic, which is definitely not helping her case. “Don’t you trust me?”
“Hi, Ms. Lalonde,” you call on a whim. “Sorry, my leg is just gross at the moment, that’s all.”
“Hi, John,” she calls back. “Sorry, but I think you’re full of bullshit. Anyway, if it’s really that bad, you should let me have a look.”
“Ughh. Mom, you’re ruining my life,” Rose says in such a Teenage Whine that you have to stifle a laugh despite the direness of the situation.
“The locks in this house are old, hon. I can pick them with a bobby pin.”
“Okay, fine. We were having sex.”
You choke. “We were what?”
“I know I should have told you, Mom, okay, but you just walked in on a really bad moment.”
“You’re still full of bullshit.”
“You can ask Jade. I was being awfully rude to her, I guess, leaving her out in the kitchen. She’s just been over here so many times that she can make herself at home.”
Rose what the hell are you even doing what
“I’m kind of worried you’re hiding a body in the shower or something,” Ms. Lalonde offers.
“Please, I bury bodies in the basement.”
“I still want you to open the door.”
“Mom.” Rose presses her palms flat against the bathroom mirror, her gaze flicking back and forth between the bathtub and the doorknob. “Please just believe me when I say that I love you and I trust you and I really need you to trust me.”
“I will actually pick the lock with a bobby pin, don’t think I won’t.”
Your heart sinks into your stomach.
You tried to tell them this was a bad idea.
You just hoped that this wouldn’t happen.
Rose locks eyes with you. She’s probably trying to rationalize it, tell herself how if she lets her mom into the bathroom then it’ll actually be better because her mom can help out and make sure you don’t kick the bucket and everything will be sunshine and rainbows. It’s fine, she’ll think.
(it’s not fine)
“Everything is about to go to hell,” you whisper to Dave.
“If I open the door, you have to promise not to freak out,” Rose says without looking away from you, in a kind of detached voice, like she doesn’t want to get emotionally invested. She’s forcing herself to calm down. You aren’t calm.
“I won’t freak out.”
“And you’re also sworn to secrecy.”
“I solemnly swear that I’m sworn to secrecy. That was a fun sentence. Now open up.”
Rose hesitates for one more second.
Mouths an apology at you.
You swallow hard.
She turns the handle.
The lock clicks.
It sounds like death.
The wood paneling swings inward.
And you find yourself locking gazes for the first time with Ms. Lalonde.
wow guardian feels
wow okay xarnluz mentioned the possibility for dad/mom and i was like HOLY FUCKING SHIT because i like dad/mom and also because it helps me a lot with the rest of this story and my outline and shit so even though it wasn't in my plan IT IS NOW
i'm drowning in guardian feelings
also this is inspiring a prequel involving the guardians which i'm working on idk when it'll be up but yeah
lol john's brain is broken
edit: shit, there were some amazing fanarts i needed to link and forgot to!!! blarghhhh
http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m70i03Qe5H1r7tedko1_1280.jpg "Swimming Lessons" by affectionatetea on tumblr
http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m735oeEPtU1qd9cn1o1_1280.png a pretty mermaid john by zipra on tumblr
god bless oh man they're both gorgeous
She’s tall and curvy and shocked. Except shocked isn’t the right word for it. More… startled, more oh-I-wasn’t-expecting-this than oh-merpeople-exist-my-world-was-just-turned-upside-down.
There’s a moment of tense silence, in which you can see every single horrible outcome that could happen. Well, maybe not every single one. But enough that your stomach turns over. You’ve gained maybe a bit too much faith in people from knowing Rose and Jade and Dave, but the fact still remains that this is a scientist you haven’t figured out and –
“Um. Mom, this is my friend John. John, this is my mom.”
Your imagination is doing a number on your mental health and you’re so tense as she steps into the bathroom and the full implications of what’s going to happen are only just starting to sink in and the phone is still pressed to your ear and that’s when she says –
Suddenly you have no idea what’s going on.
“…how do you know my last name?”
“Oh. God.” She braces a hand against the wall opposite the mirrors. “Well, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you.”
Suddenly the whole world makes absolutely no sense.
“I. You. Know John?”
That’s Jade. She’s reappeared in the doorframe, looking suitably nonplussed. Rose too. You’re pretty sure the confused frown on your face could be used for comedy routines.
“And here I thought I could mix a martini and go to bed early,” Ms. Lalonde says. “Well, damn.”
“How do you know me?” you squeak.
“Wait, she knows you?” – and only when you hear Dave’s voice do you remember he’s still there, listening to all of this transpire. Fuck it must be even weirder hearing it over the phone. “How the fuck did that happen?”
“I don’t know, I…”
“Who’s on the phone?”
“He and John are dating.”
“I really can explain why he’s in the bathtub.”
“I’m sure there’s a great explanation for why he’s crammed up here when there’s a perfectly good ocean right outside” –
“How the hell do you know who I am?”
“I mean. Ms. Lalonde, I am respectfully requesting that you tell me how the hell you know who I am.”
“That is a really good question!” Jade says. “And how do you know about merpeople in general?”
“Please. Just because I haven’t seen a mer in years doesn’t mean I don’t know they exist.” She rolls her eyes – shockingly pink, as though the red in Dave’s was infinitely brightened and then washed out.
You try not to let this revelation throw you for a loop, but it’s hard. She’s telling the truth, which makes it weirder, and her initial shock is fading to something almost…
What is this.
“Um. Please. Explain?” you say. You should get a prize for your coherence.
“Put the phone on speaker, Dave ought to be in on this conference.”
“I don’t know how…”
“Here.” Rose takes it from you and presses some kind of button. “The rest of us can hear you now, Dave, so do us a favor and stop talking about all the dirty things you want to do to John.”
“Man, I know you all want to hear that shit. Hey guys.”
“Hey, Dave,” Ms. Lalonde says. “I hear you have a boyfriend?”
“Yeah, I’m gay.”
“Nobody is surprised, honey.”
“Goddamn, would it kill one of you to act shocked? Can’t I have a bad coming out experience so I can write angsty music and act soulsearchy and have an excuse to hate my life?”
“Sorry, sweetheart,” she says, grinning.
“It’s okay. I forgive you for not hating me.”
“Good, I was totally worried I’d alienated my favorite nephew.”
“Your only nephew.”
“I was totally worried I’d alienated my least favorite nephew, then.” She hasn’t made any move to come closer to you, which you’re grateful for. You don’t know if you can handle her touching you.
You’re still kind of terrified out of your mind and the confusion isn’t helping things.
“So how do you know John?” Dave asks, his voice crackling out of the phone speaker.
“It’s a little complicated.”
“All right. I guess you guys had better all buckle in for the sordid details, and then you’d better explain what the fuck he’s doing in our bathtub. Nice filtering system, by the way. Good forethought.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Rose says, perching on the edge of the bathtub. She and Jade are both feeling sort of protective. Sort of hurt-my-friend-and-I’ll-stab-you-with-a-rusty-fork.
You have good friends.
“It’s actually a really pretty fairy tale. Once upon a time there was a young lady with a baby daughter. One day the young lady was sick of her baby daughter keeping her up all night with needing to be fed and rocked and shitting her pants et cetera. She’d hired a baby sitter, had half a bottle of wine, and was drunkenly wandering around on a beach because when you’re single and lonely, there’s nothing better to do.”
“Oh my god, Mom,” Rose groans.
“Shh. This is my story, I’ll tell it how I want to.”
“Hey, Rose, I am really enjoying this,” Dave says. “Go on. You could probably write this down and publish it into a book of fairy tales written for mature adults.”
“I’m not going to tell you anything pornographic.”
“Anyway. Okay so admittedly this woman’s baby was like eight months old and almost not a baby anymore, but that is beside the point. She was wandering around on the rocks and all of a sudden, she hears this little wail. So she looks, and what is there but a really tiny baby hanging onto the rocks. And a guy trying to grab hold of him.”
She pauses, opens her arms with a dramatic flourish.
“They both had tails.”
“What a plot twist,” Dave says dryly.
“Hush up, I’m trying to talk.”
“All right, all right.”
You want to say something, anything – pull a sarcastic comment out of thin air – but you can’t find your voice.
“So being the conscientious young lady she was, she went over and gave the guy back his kid. Then they fell in love. The end.” She raises her eyebrows at you. “The baby was you, in case you hadn’t guessed.”
“You can’t just stop there!” you protest.
Yep, there’s your voice again.
“There’s really not much else to tell. He was nice enough not to kill me, we had a sordid love affair, I broke it off when you were about two and a half because I didn’t want him to get hurt. Or you to get hurt. For the record, I never told anyone about mers. It's been my super dark secret all these years.”
“I’m glad I was already born,” Rose says without missing a beat, and how is she not stunned into silence. “Otherwise I’d be worried he was my father and John was my half-brother.”
“No, dear, your father was a man I had a drunken one-night stand with. I can’t remember his name.”
“I don’t. Believe you,” you say, even though you can feel the truth to her words, because you can’t process and your head hurts and your dad was fraternizing with Rose’s mom.
“His name was Thomas, he was obsessed with being a good dad, and he loved you to pieces. Good enough?”
“I can’t. I can’t think.”
“Last time I saw you, you were asleep on my shoulder. We got along pretty well back then. Never expected to see you again, though. So tell me, what the hell are you doing in my daughter’s bathtub? And is your dad still alive?”
You shake your head. “Died a few months ago,” you tell her, and feel a bitter flash of pain. As she chokes it down, you can almost hear the thought – no use grieving a man who she hasn’t seen in years.
And you’re trying to figure out how to explain the sickness to her when you’re seized by a bout of coughing that explains it more thoroughly than you ever could. You move so that you can grip the sides of the tub, leaning over and hacking onto the bathroom floor, choking, gasping. You’re coughing shit up and making a mess and the fever is probably going to spike again soon and you just
to do this.
you don’t like being sick.
you don’t like it you don’t like it you don’t like it you’re exhausted.
Your nose and eyes are streaming by the time you’re done, and your chest hurts so bad – everything aches at least a little but right now your chest is the worst, scraped open and rusted and burning. Determined not to cry in front of Rose’s mom, you just press your cheek against the tub and shut your eyes.
Rose hands you a towel to wipe your mouth. This is disgusting. Absolutely fucking disgusting.
“Shit,” Ms. Lalonde breathes.
“Do me a favor and fix him,” Dave says. “This ain’t a walk in the park for me either.”
You’re too busy being in pain to make fun of his resurfacing accent.
If the older woman says “have an empathetic connection,” you think you’re going to pass out. Just pass out from the sheer weirdness of all of this. Especially if she had one with your dad, which is a thought that is actually unthinkable so you shove it out of your mind before you lose it.
This is just too much it’s all too much.
You guess this is a better turn of events than her poking and prodding at you with her scientist fingers but
This is a really fucking strange coincidence.
Unless you can blame it on genes or something.
Ha ha, falling in forbidden love runs in your families.
She doesn’t finish her sentence, though, because Dave interrupts with, “And prepare for me crashing down there because as soon as I can get my ass to an airport, you can bet I’ll be snuggling the fuck out of John up close and personal.”
It doesn’t take you long to explain everything you can about the sickness.
Ms. Lalonde disappears from the room for a long enough time that Jade can perch on the tub next to Rose, delicately avoiding the disgusting black shit on the floor. And when the woman comes back with a pair of latex gloves and a bucket of cleaning supplies, you’re starting to feel more than a little claustrophobic. Too many people and emotions bearing down on you at once. The bathroom is too small. The bathtub is too small. Too many walls.
Rose moves out of the way to let her mom get to you which is stupid because you don’t care if she knew you when you were a baby or if she mated with your dad, you don’t know if you like her and you still don’t think you can trust her and you’re
fuck, you’re going to dissolve into panic again, aren’t you.
You won’t even have delirium to blame for it either, which sucks.
But when she reaches out to touch you (and you flinch, shuddering involuntarily, and she promises that she’s just feeling your heart rate, she’s not going to hurt you, bluh bluh), something else happens instead.
She says, “Thomas would be pretty pissed at me if I let you die.”
The surrealism of everything finally sets in, something in your mind breaks a little, and you curl up in mildly hysterical, near-sobbing laughter.
Five days after the whole John-in-bathtub fiasco, you are lying on the couch with your eyes closed. Lying down with your eyes closed has become a favorite pastime over the past few weeks. There is seriously nothing better in the world. Even the glorious joy that is the Internet cannot compare. You know your boyfriend is in a swimming pool filled with salt water. You also know your boyfriend is not getting better.
But he's not getting worse, really.
“You okay, kiddo?”
You crack an eyelid and peer at Bro. “Hmm?”
“You’ve seemed pretty out of it lately.”
Your mouth opens. You’re not really rehearsing your response, but you expect it to sound something like School sucks, I hate my life, piss off.
What comes out is, “I have a psychic connection with my mermaid boyfriend. And he’s dying. So yeah, I feel like shit.”
“…Do I need to have you drug tested?”
“Mhmm. Been hanging out with all the gangsters. Smoking on street corners, robbing jewelry stores. That’s why I’m so tired all the time.” You pull a threadbare blanket off the back of the couch and wrap up in it, curling on your side and facing the cushions, even though it’s about a hundred degrees outside.
It’s totally the air conditioning’s fault.
“I just need a nap.”
“What the fuck.”
“I’ll go nap in my room, then? You have fun on the couch.”
“You should probably be working on schoolwork if you want to pass the year and shit without me signing your ass up for summer school.”
“Maybe I’ll just quit school,” you grumble, “and make puppet porn and become an instant millionaire.”
He ignores the jab. “I mean it. What the fuck is up with you?”
Fuck, he isn’t going to take no for an answer.
“Wasn’t lying about my boyfriend being a mermaid, dude. You can call up the Lalondes and ask about it. Just don’t tell anyone else. It would spell utter disaster for human and mer kind.”
“Are you fucking serious?”
“You seriously couldn’t have gotten a hot vampire boyfriend or something? You go with a mermaid?”
“Yeah, okay, you don’t believe me at all.”
“Can’t say I do. Sorry, kiddo.”
You roll over, sigh. “Can you at least believe he’s dying? The Lalondes will tell you that, too. I’ll even get up and do fuckin’ schoolwork if you give me the benefit of the doubt. I mean, I’m not pulling dramatic teenage shit. I just need to see him. So. Yeah.”
He folds his arms.
“John’s gonna kill me for telling you he’s a mermaid, by the way. But whatever, might as well let the whole fucking world know. Sing praises. Except don’t actually let the whole fucking world know, holy shit, that would be a terrible idea.”
You're just too tired to deal with this dumb secret shit anymore.
Especially with Bro.
Anyway, you're giving like half of your energy to John anyway so he has no right to get mad at you.
Justifications are great.
Yeah okay he's still definitely going to kill you oh well.
“You know what? I think I am going to call. And if your stories don’t match up, I’m definitely drug testing you.”
Bro turns to leave.
“You’re the best guardian!” you call at his retreating back, and are rewarded by him flipping you off before pulling out his cell phone.
and then drama
oh wow okay this fic has suddenly gained even more hits and followers which i'm pretty sure is because of a bunch of really fabulous fanart that's been circulating HI NEW READERS
check it out
http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7g0aw6xpo1rucj9so1_1280.jpg a merjohn by soul-color on tumblr
http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7hynjmtg01qcp00lo1_1280.png a merjohn by icebomb on tumblr
http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7hjncBwjM1royp14o1_1280.png fanart of chapter seven (bahaha the scene is pretty obvious) by crunchycrowe on tumblr
http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7fv4kQMjx1rogx6xo1_1280.jpg a merjohn and dave by life-writer on tumblr
IT'S ALL CUTE AS FUCK OH MY GOD
on that note, if you guys ever want me to see stuff or whatever, i track the mermaidstuck and merstuck tags on tumblr
chapter's been properly edited now
oh this chapter also involved a headcanon anmochi posted like back when this was only 2 or 3 chapters long or something omg
I'M SORRY FOR THE LONG-ASS AUTHOR'S NOTE
You shoot Rose a text to make sure they don’t lie about John’s half-fish status. That would be just great – Dave, c’mere, time to piss in a cup.
After the call, which you unfortunately don’t get to listen to (and oh man, you bet it was hilarious), Bro still seems pretty skeptical. But he doesn’t make you piss in a cup, so you assume it went okay. He also strikes a deal with you – you spend this last week of school making up everything you possibly can, and he’ll try to get you the first plane ticket he can to Rose’s.
You spend the last week of school getting no sleep. On top of already being pretty damn weak and shaky.
It’s not exactly great for your health.
And you still don’t understand geometry for shit. But you get your teacher to take pity on you. You’re awfully motivated, Mr. Strider, she tells you, and your shades are in your jeans pocket so you give her your best puppy stare. My girlfriend is sick, you gravely explain. I may be lazy, but I’m not heartless. I have to get my grades up or I’ll be stuck in summer school when I could be seeing her. It’s kind of a long distance thing.
You figure that’s close enough to the truth.
Your teacher’s version of “pity” involves letting you stay after school until about four o’clock while she patiently talks you through plans for finding areas and slopes and a bunch of other shit you don’t care about. It is torture. Straight up torture from the fiery pits of hell.
(john still isn’t getting better)
On the last day of school, a half-day, you literally collapse when you get up from your desk after first period. You have to spend most of the rest of the day lying down in the nurse’s office and drinking water while she berates you for not sleeping. But it’s worth it in the end. Because when you have a hold of your report card,
you are magically passing every class.
Barely, but still.
Who says miracles don’t exist.
Terezi high-fives you and comes over to the apartment to play blind chick video games. It’s early evening by the time she goes home, and then you sort of demand that Bro gets you to John. He tells you that you look like shit and makes you go to bed instead.
You sleep for a solid sixteen hours. By the time you wake up, you feel like you are one with your mattress. You could stretch to encompass universes, you and your mattress. Magic.
You’re groggy as fuck, obviously.
Then the second miracle of the past 24 hours: Bro buys you plane tickets. Just one for you, he has to stay home and work with his website and you don’t know how long you’ll be staying.
You sing him praises for about fifteen minutes.
The trip is uneventful. You get picked up from the airport in an uneventful manner, you get into the car in an uneventful manner, you drive to the house in an uneventful manner. When you ask your aunt why she dressed in all black for the occasion, she wiggles her fingers and tells you it's because you are all running covert operations.
So basically nothing exciting happens until you find yourself staring at the Lalonde pool of glory, which has been drained and refilled with salt water. You have no fucking idea where they got that much salt water in such a short amount of time, but you’ve sort of come to accept that your aunt is an endless wealth of random resources. Like the fuckin’ backpack in Dora the Explorer or something.
It’s early evening and cloudy, so you haven’t bothered with sunscreen. You’re wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but when you see John curled up in the shallow end of the pool, you wade down the steps clothing and all.
There are about five stairs into the pool. If you sit on the third one down, the water comes up to your neck. At least you’re smart enough to take your phone and iPod and shit out of your jeans pockets.
“John,” you hiss.
He uncurls slowly, way too slowly, and a pang of something half-terror half-pity reverberates through your chest. It feels sort of like when Terezi was in the hospital after her accident. But when he swims up to you and his head breaks the surface, he has the hugest grin possible. Looks like it’s going to break his face.
“Dave!” he cries, throwing his arms around you.
You snort. “Missed you too, dude.”
“You look like you got attacked by a shark,” John tells you.
“You don’t look much better.”
You scoot up a step so that you can lean back without drowning, and then pull him against your chest. His torso is partially out of the water and he’s still pretty damn heavy, but you can tell how much weight he’s lost. Jesus. That can’t be healthy.
Well duh it isn’t healthy Dave talk about stupid thought of the century.
“You breathing okay?” you ask, and he nods, burying his face against where your shoulder meets your neck.
“I really really missed you.”
“I know. But hey, I’m here now.” You grin, kissing the top of his head. “I stayed awake for like a straight week doing schoolwork just so I could get back to you.”
“Well, that explains why you look so bad. Sorry that I’ve been kind of… yeah, sorry.”
You heave a dramatic sigh. “We’ve already been over this, John. Even though it’s exhausting as fuck, I don’t care if you borrow some of my health points. It’s like we’re in a video game. Share the wealth. Socialism is great.”
“You’re making even less sense than usual.”
“As usual, it made sense in my head. Everything's just getting lost in translation.” You tug your fingers through a few of his tangles. “How are you feeling? Okay, no, that’s a shitty question. But how are things away from the great and vast sea?”
“I feel better with you here.”
You just rest on the steps together for a good few minutes. It strikes you that yeah, from what you can tell, his spirits are about a million times higher than they’ve been for ages. You’re not sure if that’s a testament to how depressed he was or what a fucking fantastic personality you have. Either way, you’re just glad that you have him snuggled in your arms again. The separation kind of really sucked a lot.
“I was so scared I’d never get to see you,” John finally says, his voice soft. Vulnerable.
“Shoosh. We’re not going to do any of that depressing shit right now,” you reply. “You haven’t kissed me yet.”
He smiles and unburies his face from your shoulder, pressing his lips to yours. “Can’t do anything too exciting,” he says, “because I’ll probably just start coughing on you, which would be gross.”
“Yeah, okay. As much as I’d love to shove my tongue down your throat, please spare me.”
“Sorry. This whole sickness is gross. You can ask Rose and Jade, ugh.”
“It’s sounded pretty nasty the few times I heard you choking shit up on the phone.”
“It sucks. I feel terrible.”
“Well, I’ve got you now.”
Shit that sounded sappy as all fuck, time to follow up.
“Humans are almost as magical as mermaids, you know,” you say. “I possess the powers to make you magically stop feeling terrible. It’s wizard voodoo I learned from Rose.”
“Yeah. You just have to chill here and let me cuddle the fuck out of you. You’ll be cured in no time.”
John’s cheeks go a little pink. “Rose was so right about your soul being a fluffy bunny rabbit,” he mumbles. “You’re being sweet enough that I think I’m going to puke.”
“Well, do me a favor and don’t puke. You’ve spent the past few weeks scaring the everloving fuck out of me, so I think I’m entitled to some hardcore snuggles. I don’t want to hear a fuckin’ word about it.”
“You appreciate the snuggles.”
“Oh, I’m definitely not protesting the snuggles! I just figured you were going to pull more of your lame cool kid bullshit and complain a lot. Make me actually work for your oh-so-tender affections.”
“Yeah, because the cool kid thing to do is make your sick boyfriend suffer all by himself. Come on, John, I’m not a total douchebag.”
“And also you have to make me feel better so you stop feeling like shit.”
“Well yeah, that too. But mostly I just want to hold you.”
“No, shut up. I said I don’t want to hear a fuckin’ word about it.”
“Well, I want to be held, so I guess that works out nicely.”
He tucks his head against your shoulder again, kissing your neck. A short cough erupts from his throat, air hot on your skin, but it’s nothing serious. No projectile black goo to ruin your gorgeous t-shirt.
“You sure you’re breathing okay?”
“Shut up, oh my god, you’re worse than the girls.”
Three days into your stay, you discover John has an affinity for goldfish crackers.
You’re lounging on the concrete slab next to the pool with a carton of apple juice and a box of the fucking stuff and, sure enough:
“What are you eating?”
“Boring human food.”
“Can I try it?”
You reach over the side of the pool to idly muss up his hair. “Aunt Roxy will get on my case about changing your diet or whatever. Tell you what – how about we just don’t tell her. They’re shaped like fish anyway, it’s close enough.”
You pour a couple crackers into his outstretched hand. He frowns at them for a second. “Why bother shaping them like fish?”
“Who the fuck knows?”
“It seems pointless.”
“Just eat them.”
He brings them up close to his face, squinting to make out the detail. “Oh god, they’re smiling.”
“Why would you make the crackers smile at you right before you devour them oh my god that’s sick.”
“You should see the commercials for ‘em.”
“You’re a sick race.”
“You are so fucking weird, dude.”
“No, look! They are just smiling all innocently at you, and they have no idea what’s in store for them with their fate, and then you betray them and ground them into sawdust!”
“John. They’re crackers.”
“They are inanimate emotionless sacks of salt and cheddar cheese.”
“Jesus Christ, you let your girlfriend kill a dude but you get worked up over fucking goldfish crackers,” you say, snorting. “Glad to see you’ve got your priorities straight.”
“…Okay, that’s probably a good point.”
He sticks his tongue out at you before tossing all of the fish into his mouth at once. After a second of chewing, his eyes get hilariously wide. “They’re salty.”
“Ew, you’re spraying me with crumbs. I just said they’re emotionless sacks of salt and cheddar cheese.”
“Yeah, but still, they’re so salty.”
“Your observations are so fucking astute, I just don’t know how to handle it.”
“I like them.”
“Even with their smiles?”
“Yeah, I’ll cope.”
You spend the next twenty minutes or so trying to toss crackers directly into his mouth, the both of you laughing despite his occasional winces of pain.
That night you accidentally fall asleep beside the pool, your hand hanging into the water, loosely twined with John’s.
You think it’s going to be okay.
Of course, you’re wrong.
The fifth day, John gets worse.
You’re 99.9% sure it had nothing to do with him eating goldfish but you resolve to keep him away from them anyway.
You thought he was getting better. His condition had seemed sort of stagnant the whole time you were there – he felt like shit, his temperature was running high, he was exhausted and coughing up the occasional black slime – but you figured he’d recover from here. Slowly but surely and all that. As long as he was out of the ocean, he had to be okay, right?
His fever spikes through the roof for the second time, sending him into another panicked delirium. It also results in you puking again, shaking and sweating on the bathroom floor. Once you’ve collected yourself, you stumble out to the pool to try to take care of him, but your aunt waves you off and says she has it covered. You’re pretty sure the last person John would want to see right now is Aunt Roxy, so you head over to them anyway.
He’s curled tightly in the shallow end, refusing to come to the surface. You find yourself desperately wishing you’d learned more about swimming – that you wouldn’t panic if you went underwater – because you have to comfort him somehow. Touch his cheek, rub his back, kiss his shoulder. It’s okay, John. It’s okay. Nobody’s going to hurt you.
Maybe you could nudge him with your foot? But you can feel his confusion and terror (i am in a concrete prison and i can’t get out), so maybe that would just scare him more. Jesus, you don’t want to scare him. You’re just glad he isn’t thrashing around.
John, it’s okay. It’s okay.
Let it be okay.
It’s not okay.
The seventh day, he’s drifting in and out of consciousness
and you don’t know what to do.
And Rose doesn’t know what to do and Jade doesn’t know what to do and even Aunt Roxy doesn’t know what to do and
It’s this sort of numbing terror that’s different from the panic when you nearly drowned. This fear snakes up your spine, twists slowly in your gut, lodges in the back of your throat. It’s a constant beating in your head, a constant stutter in your heart. Instead of pulse-pounding adrenaline and instinct, you can just feel a heavy sense of dread, weighing everything down.
You don’t know what to do.
He’s been sick for what seems like ages and maybe you just staved it off for a while but Jesus.
Jesus he might actually die.
Like there’s kind of no getting around the possibility now.
When John wakes up from one of his naps, he’s lucid enough to recognize you, which you would take for a good sign if you couldn’t still tell exactly how sick he is.
You feel sort of dizzy.
Your aunt tells you it’s time for a conference. You think this is a shitty-as-fuck time for her to stage a conference, can she not see that you are trying to maximize time with your boyfriend here? Then you realize she’s talking a private meeting between Rose, Jade, her, and you. Not including John. She promises it won’t be long at all. Does responsible parent things like making sure John is actually sane for the moment (he rolls his eyes a lot, trying to hide the amount of pain he’s in, and you let him).
John is highly suspicious of this whole endeavor.
So are you.
“I’ll be back soon,” you say, kissing his lips lightly. “Just hang on.”
“Can’t really do anything else,” he murmurs, just so fucking tired that it makes you ache.
Once you’re all situated at the kitchen table, Aunt Roxy doesn’t beat around the bush. You can tell she’s stressed out because she’s actually acting serious and mildly professional. It’s been easy for you to forget that she knew John as a kid, but right now the fact suddenly surges to the front of your mind.
This has to really suck for her too.
This whole thing just all-around sucks.
She pulls a piece of paper out of her pocket and flattens it against the tablecloth. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” she says.
You lean forward, peering at the scrap. Looks like a list of names.
“What is that?” you ask.
Rose and Jade are both staring curiously, too. You’ve been sort of neglecting them since you got here. Oops. Oh well.
“I’m a geneticist,” she says. “I’m not fucking stupid and there’s a lot of shit I could try to fix him, but he’s getting sicker by the day, it would probably do more harm than good, and we don’t have time. I’m not a veterinarian or a marine biologist or a doctor.”
Oh shit you know where this is going.
“This is bigger than I can tackle on my own.” She rakes her fingers through her hair. “So this is a list of trusted friends and colleagues of mine who I think might be able to help. I’ve called each of them – I haven’t told them anything yet” –as three mouths open to protest. “I just told them I had an emergency and that I would explain more soon.”
“Ms. Lalonde, no,” Jade breathes.
You might actually pass out.
“I know just as well as you how important it is to mers that their existence is kept secret. But at the rate he’s deteriorating now…”
You close your eyes.
“...if we want to figure out how to cure John, then we’re going to need some help.”
does anybody else feel like they'll never recover from the end of act 6 act 3
also holy SHIT there's been a LOT of absolutely beautiful fanart circulating aksdjfksdkl there's too much for me to link to in my author's notes, so i made a masterpost on my tumblr. it's linked in the first chapter notes of this story now yes
also this doubles as "hi my tumblr is luciditydream i'm not a quality blogger but you guys should come say hi to me because i like you touches your faces"
the song for this chapter is hold me tight - your favorite enemies
(also i swear to god the rest of the fic won't be so bogged down with i love yous just let me bask in my otp for this one chapter please)
You have to tell him.
Or rather, you volunteer to tell him, because you’re the one who has him in your fucking head, and you’re probably the only one who can keep him calm.
You hold him on the pool steps again. Before you can even say a word, he goes into a coughing fit so bad that it just leaves him leaning over the side, choking shit onto the concrete, horrible hacking sounds issuing deep in his chest like he's literally spitting up pieces of his lungs. It flips you the fuck out and you’re about to call for Aunt Roxy when he finally quiets and breathes, wiping his mouth before snuggling back into your arms.
“Sorry,” he whispers.
“Hey, you can’t help it. Just relax. Relax.”
“For a second there I thought that was the end.”
“Yeah, it was freaky.”
“You’re being awfully gentle.”
“Just glad you’re coherent.”
Of course he knows something is wrong.
You rub his back, between his shoulder blades, until he makes a noise that sounds like a cross between a contented purr and bubbling laugh. “I’m gonna tell you,” you say, “but you have to promise me you’ll try to stay calm. There’s nothing to be scared of. Trust me.”
“I. Okay?” he says, apprehension flickering. “I trust you.”
You nod, smiling just the slightest bit. “And also remember that everything I’ve done for you so far has turned out to be a good idea, so that is definitely going to hold true now.”
“All right, so first of all, you’re getting worse,” you say, careful, slow, gauging each reaction.
He squirms a little, mouth pulling down at the corners. “Is that all? I know I am. It’s really okay if you guys can’t fix me. I didn’t really expect you to.”
“No, you moron, that’s why I said ‘first of all.’ Now shut up and let me talk.”
“What a caring boyfriend.”
“Seriously, be quiet. Just hear me out here, okay?”
“You’re getting worse and shit, and obviously that’s a fucking problem considering I definitely don’t want you to die, and neither does anybody else around here. So we’re going to get you some help. My aunt knows a bunch of pretty sweet people who can figure out how to patch you up again. That’s it. Just a couple more humans poking around in your business. Nothing to get worried about. A way better alternative than kicking it.”
You say the words in a rush, getting them out in the open, and feel his sudden fear in the silence between you.
“Only kind of,” you say, continuing to rub his back. Shh, calm down, calm down. “People who actually know what they’re doing with this sort of shit. I mean, you’re kind of a special case. Nobody has any fucking clue how exactly your biology works. So I guess we’re getting people who can make educated guesses to make you better because we don’t really have time to figure it all out on our own.”
He’s not calming down.
“D-do you know them?”
“I don’t live around here, remember? Rose apparently knows two of them, though. One lady who used to babysit her and one guy she says is kind of a creep but harmless.”
“…will they expose me?”
You consider your reply for a second. Don’t want to flip him the fuck out, not now, but it’s probably better to tell the truth. Just in case something does go wrong. “As far as I can tell, my aunt doesn’t want your ass getting exposed to the public. We’ve got this whole mer thing under wraps. And she says she trusts these guys. But I don’t know. This is a pretty fucking big thing to keep secret. I just… I don’t know.”
He’s frozen ice, tidal waves of terror.
“No. No, no, you can’t do that, no.”
“We don’t really have other options, dude.”
“Dave, no, please…” His voice is getting higher in his panic. “Please, just let me go, it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine, you’ll be fine, you’re blind, you’ll get over me quick enough and then” –
“Shh.” You stroke your fingers gently through his wet tangles, holding his head against your shoulder. His breaths are ragged, which isn’t anything unusual lately, but his chest is heaving and that’s how you know he’s sobbing. His whole body trembles and he simply is terror, there’s nothing else there, nothing rational. Fuck. Fuck, you don’t know how to help, you don’t know the right fucking words to say, you’ve never been the best at comforting people. “John, shh. It’s okay. I promise it’s okay. I wouldn’t let anybody hurt you, right? I have this whole dramatic protector thing down to a science.”
He exhales another sob against your skin. Nothing you say is going to make a difference, you don’t think. This is literally his worst fear. Like if someone told you that mers were going to drag you under the surface and pick at your bones and watch you drown. Shit would kind of fuck you up. You press your face into his hair, offering comfort with your closeness, wishing there was something you could do with the connection to make him calm down.
But his fear is too consuming.
“Why can’t you?” he asks. “You d-d-don’t care about me like I c-care about you. You could get over me so fast…”
He’s wrong, though.
You know he’s wrong.
shit, i dont know what id do if my bro or rose or someone died. keep going, i guess, there wouldnt be much else to do, but holy hell
guess it applies to you now too.
Your chest kind of seizes up with the realization, mouth going curiously dry. For once, you’re at a loss for words. No sick rhymes or metaphors to throw out. Just this boy who’s taken less than two months to get tangled up so completely in your heart and mind that you feel like you’re breaking.
“Dave? Dave, please…”
“I love you,” you say, low and measured, like there’s not a shitstorm of emotion going on and he isn’t completely fucking losing it. “John, I love you. I’m not going to let you go.”
His tail curls over your legs, and he goes silent. Dead silent.
“It doesn’t make any fucking sense because a few months ago I didn’t even know you existed, but I’m starting to think putting time limits on when I’m allowed to love someone is bullshit. You’ve made my life a fuck ton better since you’ve wrapped yourself up here, and I basically want to spend all of my time with you, and you’re a good friend, and you said yourself that we’re soul mates and shit, and I love you.”
“You don’t usually…”
“Get emotional? I’m not being fucking emotional, I’m stating facts. The sky is blue, the ocean is salty, Bro is weird, Aunt Roxy is crazy, and I love you. So no, I’m not going to just get over it if you die. Stop that bullshit right now.”
You really do love him, wow, fuck, and it's not because of empathy connections or weird mer soul mate shit or whatever the fuck else. Well, maybe it is a little. But it's more that here is this boy, and he clicks with you and he gets you and you care about him and you want him to be kept safe and you ache and that's not him, that's all you, that's all you aching and hurting and feeling fucking helpless because you
You love him you love him you love him you're going to go yell it from the roof or something you love him.
“I’ve known a lot of people who have died, Dave. I’ve gotten over it okay. You’d be okay too. I mean you’d be upset, probably for a while. But that’s better than… Dave, I can’t handle… and if this ends up being bad, if we end up being exposed to the humans and it’s all my fault, this is bigger than you and me, Dave, please, you don’t understand, you have to understand…”
And you're angry.
“You don’t even care, do you? You’ve been dead set on dying from the beginning.”
“I’d come to terms with it! What I haven’t come to terms with is that you’re going to fucking expose my race!”
“You’re being a selfish bastard.”
“I’m the one who’s being selfish? I’m being fucking practical! And you’re just going to throw everything away even though you know how much we have to keep secret because you’re too selfish to let me go. Oh my god, I should never have talked to you, I’m so stupid, I’m so fucking stupid, I keep saying mating makes me fucking stupid.”
Your breath leaves your lungs in an instant. “You. You’re saying you’d rather I’d have drowned?”
“Shit – shit no that came out wrong Dave I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry…”
“I’m so fucking sorry that I don’t want you to die. Really deep and remorseful about it. You’re right, I’m the most selfish bastard who’s ever lived. I fucking suck. I’m the scum of the earth. But hey, you’re the one who wants me to go through what you did with Vriska! So don’t tell me that you’re the most selfless person on the planet.”
He flinches. “I don’t want you to…”
“Then accept this help and don’t be a fucking moron. More likely than not you’re not going to end up exposed anyway. You can go back to the sea and swim around and have your happy little mermaid adventures.”
“You’re so mad.”
“Yeah. I’m fucking pissed.”
“I don’t want you to get hurt, Dave.” His hands reach up and scrub through your hair; he presses a kiss to your cheek and then your temple. “I really don’t. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry this is happening. But I guess, in the long run, I’d rather just a few people got hurt than potentially a whole bunch? I wasn’t exaggerating when I said merpeople consider it like a constant war – if we’re suddenly exposed, I don’t know what will happen, and it scares me. I’d rather I was dead and everyone was safe, even if one of the people getting hurt about it is you.”
You can’t stay pissed when he sounds like he’s actually being kind of rational.
God you kind of hate him even though you love him.
“Then I’ll be extra sure to make sure you don’t get exposed. I promise, okay? I promise.”
“I love you too, Dave.”
You suddenly feel kind of like you might cry, which would be fucking stupid considering you haven’t in years and years. Striders are tough. Striders keep their chins up and don’t succumb to sissy shit. It’s a staple of life. So instead you kiss his lips and say, “I’ll keep you safe.”
“What if you can’t?”
“What do you mean, what if I can’t?”
“You’re not omnipotent.”
“I’m pretty close. I am a big deal.”
“You’re a huge fucking dork who doesn’t know what to do with himself.”
“I’m powerful enough to make sure you don’t get hurt.”
“I’m so scared of scientists.”
“I know.” You brush your hands against the base of his spine. “I know you’re worried about them doing weird experiments and shit. But they won’t. I mean, even if they were psychopaths who wanted to torture you, they wouldn’t when you’re this weak.”
He laughs, a little hollowly. “That’s so comforting.”
“Plus we’re not all as insanely psychopathic as you think, and I’m not going to leave your side for a second. And I kind of trust Aunt Roxy not to be friends with a bunch of insane psychopaths. So there.”
“I really, really don’t like this. I don’t.”
“I love you,” you say again, like that can solve everything. Love conquers all and shit.
“But I can’t really… you guys really aren’t going to let me out of it, are you?”
“Nope. Decision’s already been made.”
“Can you just promise me one thing? And please don’t be upset.”
“If I do die – if you can’t stop it – can you take my body out to the open ocean? I don’t want to be buried on land. And I don’t want any scientists dissecting me even after I’m gone.”
Your throat closes up. You nod. “Mhm,” you hum, because you don’t exactly trust yourself to speak.
“Thanks.” His eyes are red-rimmed and his smile is one of the saddest you’ve ever seen. “I love you so much. I’m really glad I can say that now without worrying about you freaking out.”
“I’m glad too.”
“Have I ever told you you’re really warm?”
“Nah, you’re usually bragging about your hydro-mermic skin.”
“Well, you feel warm right now.” He slides down so that he’s more submerged in the water, his head resting on your chest. “I’m tired. Can you stay here? I don’t want to be left alone.”
You keep holding him long after he’s drifted off to sleep.
new characters and secrets
i had writer's block, this chapter should be longer and i don't really like it but w/e here you guys can finally have some kind of update
i'm going back to school soon and i don't know how busy i'll be so i don't know how quickly i'll be able to update x.x sorry guys
i love you all touches your precious faces
“I’m right here,” Dave is mumbling in your ears, “and the faster we get the whole introduction thing over the faster we can get this whole ordeal over with, and…”
“I know.” You’re clinging to him, which has become a pretty regular activity lately. You think that you’ve sort of gotten used to all of the strange human scents and presences over the past however long, which might make meeting other people easier. Maybe. Not really.
Truth be told, you’re still scared out of your fucking mind despite how much you’re trying to fight it back because you don’t want to hurt Dave and you don’t want to make him angry and you’re so tired and you want this over one way or another. It’s all you can do to stay focused and keep from slipping back into delirium. If you meet them when you’re not in your right mind, you’re going to panic. You know you will.
And then there’s… if you get better, which you’ve slowly come to accept might be an actual possibility. You’re ninety-nine percent sure that your body is too damaged to make a full recovery, so how are you supposed to live on your own in the ocean again? You think you’d prefer that to spending the rest of your life living in a swimming pool or tank, though. You miss the sea so much it’s like having a fucking piece of your chest scraped away. The pool may be filled with water that’s as close to the ocean as it gets, but it’s not home.
You’re not very picky about where you live and sleep and eat. You stick to familiar territories and such, that’s about as far as your limits go.
But if you have to live with humans your whole life you think you’ll actually go insane.
You want to live with Dave and be able to fall asleep near him like you have a few times and snuggle and be mates in every way mates should be. You want to be friends with Rose and Jade. You want to give yourself a chance to warm up to Ms. Lalonde and maybe ask a little about her relationship with your dad. You really, really want all of that.
You’re just not meant to live on land.
It would all be so much easier if they could live underwater or something.
You’re not going to dwell on this right now.
Rose’s mom trots out of the house, her usual martini glass clasped in her hand. When Dave silently raises his eyebrows at her, she shrugs. “I need to calm my nerves. This is a very stressful experience, you know.”
“Yeah, you should give John some alcohol too. Hear that, John? The secret to calming all of your fears is to get drunk off your ass.”
“Okay, first of all, I am not drunk,” she says, holding up her free hand. “Second of all, don’t drink, don’t smoke, stay in school, et cetera, et cetera. Am I a responsible parent yet?”
“The most responsible,” Dave says. “Everybody marvels at how functional and put-together your family is.”
She leans down and tweaks his ear.
“Ow. Okay, I no longer love you. You’re no longer my favorite aunt.”
“Oh, really? Then who is your favorite aunt?”
“I’m adopting Mrs. Butterworth as my aunt.” He pushes his shades down his nose, staring at her over the tops of the lenses. “She’s five times the woman you’ll ever be.”
“Interesting that you picked syrup.”
“Yeah, it’s sweet and homely.”
“There’s also a lot of sweet innuendos you could make.”
“I win this round.”
“I suddenly understand Rose perfectly,” Dave says, pushing his shades back up and curling up next to you.
“Are we… ever going to be serious? Have you been traumatized enough?” you say. Talking kind of hurts. You poke his stomach. He sticks his tongue out at you in a gesture that is shamelessly uncool.
“Yeah, okay,” Ms. Lalonde says. “There are four people coming over to help for now. Might call for more backup if we need it, but I think for now our hands are full enough.” She smiles, evidently forgetting that you can still tell she's overtired and stressed as all hell. “I think it’s probably best to introduce them one by one, right? So you don’t get overwhelmed.”
Your chest seizes up with a wave of anxiety. Dave reaches over to rub your back, humming quietly, doing his best to calm you. You’re exhausting him. It kind of sucks.
“Actually, can I just meet them all at once? I want to get the dread over with,” you say. “Just tell them not to crowd around. They’re n-not going to start messing with me until after I know who they are, right?”
“Right. But John…” She crouches down, frowning, taking another sip of her martini. “You’re still very, very sick, and we don’t have time for you to get used to them. People have to work quickly in emergencies. It’s going to be a little uncomfortable but I swear, I swear, I won’t let anybody hurt you. And if you still don’t trust me, it’s pretty obvious that Dave and Jade and my daughter won’t let anybody hurt you either.”
“Mmm, I’d kill anyone who tried,” Dave says.
“We all appreciate what a big strong protector you are, but cut the theatrics.” She straightens up again, squaring her shoulders. “All right. We’ve stalled long enough.”
As she moves back to the house, she drains whatever is left in the glass.
“She’s stressed as fuck,” Dave observes as soon as the door shuts behind her. “All right. You ready for this?”
“Yeah.” You smile as well as you can, trying not to focus on more humans know more humans know more humans know.
“It’s okay,” Dave whispers, continuing to run soothing circles over your back.
“Well, I’m all about first impressions,” you say. “I just hope I like them.”
You fall silent again because you hurt and you’re going to save your breath. As usual, you’re hanging over the edge of the pool, the gills at your ribs submerged even if the rest of you isn’t, Dave beside you. When the door opens and the four newcomers file out, every muscle in your body locks up. Your first instinct is to swim as far as possible in the opposite direction – but you’re in the fucking swimming pool. The best you’d be able to do is curl up in the deep end and that still wouldn’t do fucking anything, you tried that when you were confused and delirious.
Dave hums more, kissing your nose, fingernails scratching light and comforting against your skin. Grounding you, so you don’t try to abscond and end up smashing into a concrete wall or go into hyper attack mode.
“Best boyfriend,” you whisper to him.
“I know, I’m fuckin’ fantastic.”
The newcomers are sensory overload incarnate, so you close your eyes tight and try to sort through all of the shit battering at your brain. Two women and two men, all registering various levels of shock and skepticism and then, a sense of professionalism. Shit to get done. You know immediately that you’re not going to get along with at least one of them – a tall, pale guy who looks kind of out of place. You guess this is the guy Rose said was kind of creepy. But harmless. Harmless.
The other three are… okay, you guess. They’re human and you’re obligated not to trust them but you think that under less dire circumstances with less at stake, you could get along well. Maybe if you ignore the dire circumstances, you can still get along well. That’ll be a lot easier than torturing yourself over this, right?
Rationalization is easy. Following through with said rationalization is hard.
The first lady to step forward is dark skinned and smiling. Her hair is short and glossy black, eyes a pretty brown. She’s… late twenties? Maybe early thirties. Younger than Rose’s mom, older than you. Ms. Lalonde probably warned them that you’d be spooked, which would explain why she’s moving kind of slowly, like she’s trying not to flip you out.
You can tell she doesn’t mean any harm, so you try to force yourself to relax, even if it’s hard. Intentions can change in an instant and – no, you’re going to just breathe, there’s nothing you can do about this so there’s no point worrying, John, relax.
“Hello,” she says, kneeling down and stretching out her hand. You stare at her until Dave hisses that you’re supposed to shake hands, and then slowly reach out to touch her fingers. A short cough erupts from your chest, nothing serious for now, nothing serious, but wow you just want to go to sleep.
“I’m formally known as Dr. Maryam, but you can just call me Kanaya.” You nod. “Dr. Scratch” – she nods over her shoulder at the tall man who rubs you the wrong way, and he nods back – “is my colleague. We’ve worked together before in the field of marine biology and ichthyology, though never anything quite as abnormal as your case.” At your blank look, she adds, “I mean we study fish. And we both work to raise awareness about beach and ocean conservation. Basically, we want your home to stop being polluted just as badly as you do.”
You swallow, sinking a few inches lower into the water.
The man you don’t know anything about steps forward next, but he doesn’t try to shake hands. He speaks with a slight lisp, and you can almost hear his thoughts of what the fuck am I supposed to be doing here. “Dr. Captor,” he introduces himself. “Or you can call me Sollux, I honestly don’t give a shit. Dr. Megido and I” –
“Aradia and I work in the field of medicine, usually studying and preventing infectious diseases. She also knows more than her fair share about pollution and poison. Between the four of us, we can figure out how the hell your body works and exactly what the hell is wrong with it. And how the hell to fix it.”
You manage a smile.
“Told you it would be fine,” Dave says.
“Shut up,” you reply.
“Dave?” Rose says. “Dave, you really should come inside to sleep tonight.”
“’M fine out here,” you mumble.
“He’s asleep, Dave. Come on.”
Hours of uncomfortable poking and prodding have frayed John’s nerves down to fucking splinters. They haven’t even done anything fucking painful – but having a bunch of people taking notes on his body, examining him, looking in his mouth, shining lights in his eyes – it would stress you the fuck out too, especially if you’d never had a normal physical before. You sat beside him and soothed him the whole time, letting him hang on tight to your hands.
When he went into a coughing fit, Kanaya collected some of the sludge and said she and Aradia would have to study it together, which was pretty fucking nasty. While you're all for preserving dead shit, hacked-up vomit-slime is a lot less awesome. But okay. Anything for science and making John better, you guess.
Rose tugs you to your feet, pulling you away from the pool and your sleeping boyfriend. You don’t know what time it is, but it’s completely dark and there are clouds rolling in. Might rain.
“Also you need a shower,” she says, wrinkling her nose. “You smell like chlorine and sweat.”
“Oh. Yeah. Showers are a thing that exist.”
“They are indeed.”
“He really didn’t like that Scratch guy.”
“Nobody does. But he’s trustworthy,” Rose says, sighing. “I wish there was a way we could make this more comfortable.”
“Doing my best here.”
“Yes, well, please make John more comfortable without sacrificing your personal hygiene completely. Other people have to function around you, you know.”
“Love you too.”
Aunt Roxy is half-drunk on the living room couch, a laptop balanced on her knees and a martini glass in one hand. She’s typing with the other, but when you and Rose enter, she slams the lid shut. You sort of automatically assume she was watching porn.
“What’s so secret?” you ask.
She shrugs. Her voice is slurred as she gets up and makes her way to the kitchen, probably to refill her glass. “Nothing secret. Just automatic habit with prying eyes in my house. The usual, reliving memories, going through old shit I need to clean off the hard drive, charting out cultural differences…” You hear a wide yawn as she disappears through the door, calling over her shoulder. “For how human merpeople seem, there are a lot of cultural differences, wowzers.”
Something twists uncomfortably in your stomach. Rose raises her eyebrows at you. “What is that supposed to mean?”
You shrug. “Is she supposed to make sense?”
“Dave, honey, come out here.”
You do. There’s really no telling how Aunt Roxy will act when she’s drunk, although usually it’s a combination of Overzealous Teenager and My Life is Going Nowhere Adult. As you enter the kitchen, she clasps her hands on your shoulders, staring intently at you. You think she might be a little drunker than you originally guessed.
“You’re connected to John, right?”
“Gee, what gave it away? The shadows under my eyes or the way I’ve been trying to spend every waking second next to him?”
“Now is not the time for snark,” she says, patting your cheek. “Do you trust him?”
“Completely and implicitly?”
She surveys you for a few seconds before stepping back. “Okay, cool.”
“Mom, I think you’ll feel better if you go to bed and get some sleep.” Rose has walked in after you. As she takes hold of your aunt’s arm and steers her firmly in the direction of the stairs, she glances over her shoulder and mouths an apology at you. You shrug. It’s not like you’ve never seen a drunk person. Contrary to popular belief, you are not actually the perfect picture of innocence. And considering the last time you saw Aunt Roxy completely smashed, she was trying to dance on the kitchen table, you think that was pretty mild.
You’re just overly suspicious.
You snoop through the laptop later, after everyone is passed out in bed and the house is mostly dark. You are turning into Bro. Oh well.
She never got a chance to delete her internet history. The last websites she was on are all about suspicious deaths and drownings on beaches and off boats around here. Seven articles, seven people, including the Matthew Jameson dude that you know Vriska killed. Six years, seven victims, and suddenly it hits you that
she’s been protecting john all this time.
Later you’re going to have to find out more about whatever Ms. Roxy Lalonde has been hiding.
why am i publishing this
ok you know that plot i'm supposed to be advancing and those just barely introduced characters i'm supposed to be developing and emotional issues i'm supposed to be exploring
yeah none of that happens here
i don't even know what this is i'm so sorry i just wanted to let you guys know i'm not dead and i'm too tired to write out a more plotful chapter i'm SORRY I'M SORRY ok im' sryr this is nothing but crakc srry u deserve moar im frazzle drn
Three days go by and you’re marginally better and Dave is happier and you think he might literally kiss the feet of everyone on the team. You’re not out of hot water (so to speak, har har bad puns) yet, but they all agree you definitely have a fighting chance. According to Kanaya (you’ve been talking to her the most and you definitely like her the best), you’ve been poisoned by pollution and even after all this time, some still lingers in your system like a lifesucking parasite. They’re flushing it out of your body so you can combat the actual sickness, which is still a thing that’s happening. Apparently you can’t blame it all on poison. Damn.
It’s not a hundred percent guarantee or solution, but it’s definitely something. You’ve had a bit more energy lately, and you haven’t been in quite so much pain, and haven’t been throwing up as much, and haven’t been delirious from the fever. Although the last one might just be a fluke because your temperature is still fluctuating something fierce.
Dave is giddy enough to discreetly feed you an entire package of goldfish crackers.
You think you’ll have to almost die and then miraculously start getting better more often.
Afternoon of the third day, the sun is up, it’s warm and bright, and you and Dave are alone. No Rose or Jade or guardians or teams. Just you and your mate hanging out by the pool.
Which means sex.
Ok no it doesn’t because Ms. Lalonde is right inside and could look out the window at any moment and you are not an exhibitionist and even if Dave is, that is not a thing you are doing. No.
It does mean, however, that with a lot of wheedling and maybe a tiny touch of emotional manipulation because you’re a jackass, you convince him to push his shades up. You figure your whining is worth it if you get to stare at his eyes. They’re really fucking pretty, like the shiny glass you find near the beaches except redder. If he gets to see your eyes all the time, you should get to stare at his. But since your eyes aren’t that great above the surface, you pull him close so you can make out all of the tiny little details, and then instead of making out details you’re just making out.
You are a horny teenage boy shut up.
“Mmm, hang on,” he says after a while. He’s not wearing his swim trunks and his phone is buzzing in his jeans pocket. He pulls it out, pushes a button, has a short conversation.
It concludes with,
“So, TZ wants to meet you.”
“Not in person or anything, just over Pesterchum.”
“She doesn’t know you’re a mermaid, keep it on the down low.”
“I… can do that?”
You’ve barely sent the contact request when an acceptance and chat pop up on your screen.
GC: 1 4M 4SSUM1NG TH1S 1S TH3 JOHN OF WH1CH 1 H4V3 H34RD SO MUCH 4BOUT
You squint. “What’s with her typing, Dave? It’s hard enough for me to see the screen as it is.”
“She thinks it’s hilarious to listen to her computer try to read it back.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty fuckin’ fantastic.”
GT: yep, that would be me!
GC: NOW JOHN
GC: 1T H4S COM3 TO MY 4TTENT1ON TH4T YOU 4R3 D4T1NG MY B3ST FR13ND
GC: 4ND 1 4M SUR3 H3 H4S D3L1C1OUS T4ST3 1N M3N
GT: uh, thanks?
GC: BUT TH3R3 4R3 SOM3 GU1D3L1N3S W3 N33D TO GO OV3R >:[
GC: 1F YOU BR34K H1S H34RT
GC: 1 W1LL B3 FORC3D TO HUNT YOU DOWN 4ND SL1T YOUR THRO4T
GC: 4ND SPR1NKL3 YOUR BLOOD OV3R MY MORN1NG C3R34L
GC: WH1L3 YOUR BODY BURNS 1N 4 PR1C3L3SS S4CR1F1C3 TO TH3 D3V1L >:]
GT: i think i need an adult.
“Oh sweet, she likes you.”
“Just roll with it.”
GT: i am not planning to break his heart?
GC: YOU MUST M4K3 4N O4TH 1N YOUR OWN BLOOD
GC: W3LL 4T L34ST PROM1S3 M3
GT: i promise that i will not break dave’s heart.
GT: i don’t think dave’s heart is capable of getting broken.
GC: H3 1S A S4D VULN3R4BL3 PUPPY ON TH3 1NS1D3 >:]
GT: i will not break dave’s sad vulnerable puppy heart.
GT: or you can burn my body in a priceless sacrifice to the devil or whatever.
GC: NOW TH4T W3V3 GOTT3N TH4T OV3R W1TH
GC: H1 JOHN 1M T3R3Z1
GT: hi terezi, i am dave’s boyfriend!
GC: WOW 1 N3V3R KN3W
GT: this is awkward.
GT: what are we supposed to do now.
GT: dave is laughing at me.
GC: W4TCH FUNNY C4T V1D3OS?
GC: HOW SHOULD 1 KNOW
GC: 1 DONT SOC14L1Z3 V3RY OFT3N
GT: yeah no shit
GT: its cool its dave i just took over this rad keyboard so im allowed to be as rude as i want
GT: ive got best friend privilege
GC: 1 W4S 1N TH3 PROC3SS OF H4V1NG LOV3LY CONV3RS4T1ONS W1TH YOUR OBJ3CT OF 4FF3CT1ON
GC: DOUBLY RUD3
GT: ugh back.
GT: dave was being an ass and holding the computer out of reach.
GT: because he can.
GC: SOUNDS L1K3 H1M
GC: SO T3LL M3
GC: 1F 4 TR33 F4LLS 1N TH3 M1DDL3 OF A FOR3ST 4ND NOBODY 1S 4ROUND TO H34R 1T
GC: DOES 1T M4K3 4 SOUND?
GT: is this a trick question?
GT: so what’s the right answer?
GC: JUST1C3 >:]
“She’s playing up her weirdness, dude, she’s not normally like that.”
GC: 4ND TYR4NNY
GC: SP34K1NG OF WH1CH 1 H4V3 TO S3T 4 VO1C3 FOR YOU
GC: 1M GO1NG TO US3 H4NN4H MONT4N4 1S TH1S 4CC3PT4BL3
“Well, okay, she’s normally like that, but not quite to the same extent.”
“Dave, I have no idea who that is.”
“Just say yes. It’s perfect.”
GC: YOU 4R3 4 M4J3ST1C B34UTY
GC: 4NYW4Y 1 H4V3 TO GO
GC: 4PP4R3NTLY 1M GO1NG OUT TO LUNCH W1TH MY P4R3NTS
GC: 1LL T4LK TO YOU L4T3R
Dave’s friends are weird.
Dave’s friend is weird, at least.
The next thing you convince Dave to do with you is to come swimming, because he still doesn’t know how to swim and seriously he should learn how to swim. You coax him into the deep end, your arms wrapped around his waist. He doesn’t weigh much in the water, you’re about two feet away from the concrete lip of the pool, it’s calmer than the sea, and Ms. Lalonde is still inside, which are all excellent reasons why he is not going to die. They’re logical enough reasons that he’s not even all that worried. Although that might just be because his recent worrying has taken all of the energy out of him.
You two do reach a milestone, though! Dave ducks underwater for all of one second and discovers that he is not dead. You are very proud of him and as usual, tell him so in a snarky, condescending voice. As usual, he flips you off before going to hang out at the side of the pool for a few minutes, promising he’ll get back in after he basks in the sunshine for a little while.
“Would it really be so bad if TZ knew you were a mer?” he asks.
“Dave,” you say. “I almost can’t count on my hands the number of people who know about me. Don’t add to that.”
“All right, all right. It’s not like she’s ever gonna meet you anyway. Or maybe she will, who knows. Cross that bridge when we come to it and all that good stuff.”
“Speaking of which, did I tell you that my bro” –
“I know your bro knows about me.”
“You’re not lecturing me.”
You sigh in a Deeply Exasperated Boyfriend Way. “I’m not even going to bother anymore. You are going to do stupid shit whether I tell you to or not.”
“So why are you telling me this?”
“Well. You see.”
“This can’t be good.”
“Bro called me this morning.”
“This is not good.”
“And wanted to know when I was coming home.”
“I do not like where this is going.”
“And I said you were still sick but getting better and also I wanted to chill with your mermaid ass for as long as the Lalondes can put up with me.”
“And he said he should come up here too, at least for a little while.”
“Remember when I said I didn’t like where this was going?”
“Yeah, fifteen seconds ago.”
“I was totally right.”
“Aw, c’mon. Bro is chill.”
“He’s creepy,” you complain, wrinkling your nose.
“He has unconventional interests.”
“He has a controversial career.”
“He drops it like it’s hot.”
“Dave. He’s creepy.”
“It would be cool if you two could like, make an effort to get along.”
“Because I don’t have enough people prodding at me already.”
“You’re not really mad.”
“No, I’m just marveling at how much of a pain you are.”
“Love you too.”
Your heart stutters for a second before you tug him back into the water with you and kiss him hard on the mouth.
there are a lot of characters in this chapter wow
that real plot is coming next chapter
cross my heart
also wow i'm really really really busy at school and shit so i'm sorry updates are so sporadic ily guys thanks for reading kisses your faces
Most of the time when you’re not in the pool with John, you’re talking to the team or Rose and Jade. Mostly because you’re a protective boyfriend. At least at first. After a couple conversations, you discover you really like them.
Well, you like Kanaya and Aradia best. Sollux is okay, when he isn’t being cynical as all fuck or all “I hate myself but at the same time I’m fucking awesome.” Scratch… rubs you the wrong way. You get what Rose was saying about him being creepy. It’s not that he actually does anything overtly creepy – he just talks a little like a socially awkward robot and seems too smug for his own good.
“Aunt Roxy, do you have any old Disney classics?” you ask, flopping over the back of the couch.
“Sorry, hon, I had most of those on video and they’ve all disappeared over the years.”
“D’you think Bro will bring old Disney classics with him if I ask like the polite Southern gentleman I am?”
“Don’t know. Why do you want to watch Disney classics, anyway? I pegged you more for a hip hop music video kind of kid.”
“You know nothing about me and I am ashamed.” You roll over, lose your balance, and slither onto the floor. “I am all about classic Disney shit. Sign me up for those princesses.”
“Also John’s never seen any Disney movies, and I’m not letting him go through his life without them. I don’t care whether or not he’s got a tail, but I cannot just let him sit by and be tragically deprived.”
Aunt Roxy prods you with one of her boots. “You know, following that logic, he hasn’t seen any movies.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re right.” You sit up straight, staring at her, like you’re about to have an epiphany and go running naked through the streets yelling ‘Eureka!’ “I have a whole world of terrible cinema to introduce him to.”
“This shit is overwhelming. What am I supposed to show him first?”
You consider it a moment. “I think he really needs to lose his movie virginity to The Little Mermaid. Shit is important.”
“Whatever you say.”
“You don’t sound very invested in this.”
She leans down to pat your head. “I trust you to make smart movie decisions with your boyfriend for the first time, Dave. Just be sure you’re responsible and take all necessary precautions beforehand.”
“Aren’t you clever.”
“I honestly cannot wait for Rose to get her first boyfriend so I can bother her. Or girlfriend. Whatever. In the meantime, you have to be my target.”
“See, it’s times like this when I can actually tell you and Bro are related.”
This is clearly the most pressing problem you have. You need to find a copy of the Little Mermaid and make your boyfriend sit through it. Or. Swim through it.
But you can’t find the fucking movie on Youtube, and after about three pages of Google, you conclude that you’re not going to find a place that you can easily stream it. It’s not instantly watchable on Netflix, and the movie rental place in town went out of business two months ago.
Fuck your life.
You’ll find it eventually.
It is Very Important.
Speaking of Very Important things, you ought to turn your attention to your second biggest problem right now. Bro. And Bro’s visit.
“Okay, are you two doing boyfriend saving shit right now, or can I ask you for advice?” you say, sliding into a seat at the kitchen table, across from Kanaya and Aradia.
“What kind of advice?” Aradia asks.
“Now, okay, before we get into this,” you say, holding up a hand, “I want to mention that I’m not talkin’ to Aunt Roxy about this because she’s, you know… her.”
“And from an objective standpoint, I’m not so gay I can’t tell you two are very lovely ladies who probably have all the guys clamoring at your asses.”
“The point here being?”
“All right, so let’s just assume you two have at some point had some kinda significant other. Or you at least know a little something about having one. Now let’s just assume that your parents don’t like said significant other, or vice versa. How do you handle it.”
“My mom doesn’t like Sollux,” Aradia says, nonchalant as can be.
“Since when are you two a thing?”
“…Okay, whatever, that’s weird. But how do you deal with it?”
“I mostly just ignore her.” Aradia smiles. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, I know there’s like a million more pressing issues here, but John’s already got it in his head that he’s gonna dislike Bro, and chances are Bro’s not gonna like John considering John has this habit of being a snarky asshole, so. I was making contingency plans.”
“As long as your brother doesn’t forbid you from seeing John, it shouldn’t matter,” Kanaya says. “And I doubt he will. He seems like a fairly… open-minded man, from what Roxy’s told me.”
You snort. Running a porn industry probably qualifies a guy for openmindedness, you guess.
“Being gay is complicated,” you say.
“Tell me about it,” Kanaya replies.
You’re totally prepared for Bro to come. Totally. Completely. Yep.
You pick him up at the airport the day after your pretty useless but still okay attempt to get a hold of classic Disney movies. He gives you a fist bump in true Bro nature, high fives Aunt Roxy. She spends the whole walk out chattering about people in town who you haven’t even met yet because you’ve been too busy being antisocial inside, only dropping the whole hyperactive mom façade when you step into the car.
“He really is a mermaid,” she says.
“Sure, I’ll believe it when I see it,” Bro replies.
The one problem with having two adults in the car is that you’re inevitably relocated to the back seat. Although you make good use of it, sitting in the middle and folding your body across all three seats, curling in on yourself.
“If we get into a car accident, you’re going to die,” Aunt Roxy points out.
“I’m technically wearing my seat belt. And I’m taking a nap.”
“Sure,” she says. “Whatever you say.”
Which is when you feel stirrings of something unpleasant in the back of your mind and sit straight up. “Drive faster.”
Aunt Roxy takes one look at you in the rearview mirror and lays on the gas.
“Jesus Christ,” Bro mutters.
John will be fine. John is totally fine. John is with people who actually know what the fuck they’re doing, plus Rose and Jade, and he is totally completely fine. You lean your head against the seat, groaning low in the back of your throat. What the fuck is wrong this time. Is his fever seriously spiking again? You thought you were past this stage.
But no, this doesn’t feel like delirium. It’s more like –
It’s more like the whole defensive punch people in the face shit that you felt that day after school with Terezi.
You’re fine, John, you think, sighing aloud, hoping he hasn't tried to drown anyone. What triggered it this time.
When you pull into the driveway, you pelt into the backyard before even grabbing Bro’s bags out of the trunk. First priority is seeing what’s wrong with your boyfriend. He’s above the surface, which is a relief. Rose has her hand on his shoulder and appears to be talking quietly to him, calming him down. Jade is nowhere to be seen. Neither are the scientists.
“Hey,” you say, approaching slowly, all the better to not freak you out with my dear, “can I come sit too?”
“What the fuck happened?”
“Kanaya was going to take blood. They moved too fast around him, and he panicked,” Rose helpfully explains. "Jade had to go home earlier to help her grandfather with a few things."
You settle beside them, wrapping your arms around John, petting his hair. “You’re a big dumb gay shit. How many times do I have to tell you nobody’s going to hurt you?”
“I don’t like needles.”
“Me either. Between you and me, needles make me pass out.” You glance up at Rose. “Don’t ever tell anybody about this shameful weakness.”
John stiffens suddenly in your arms.
For a second you think it’s because you’ve said something wrong, but then you realize he’s staring over your shoulder, at the edge of the backyard.
You look over –
“Dude, that’s just Bro,” you say before mentally hitting yourself, because duh, he already knows who Bro is. That apparently doesn’t change anything.
It would be cute if you weren’t in the middle of such a terrible situation.
“It’s fine,” you say again, more exasperated than anything.
Bro, for his part, does a good job of looking every bit as surprised as he should be.
“I told you my boyfriend is a merman, but yooou didn’t believe me.”
You’re way too smugly satisfied right now.
“So no drug test necessary,” you add.
He takes a step toward the pair of you, and John growls louder.
“You should probably go inside until my lovely merman boyfriend stops flipping the hell out, though, so the pair of you can get a proper introduction without wanting to tear each other’s throats out.”
He does so without comment, apparently too shocked to snark at you or express how deeply and poetically apologetic he is about assuming you were on drugs. Thank the good lord Jesus. Best guardian.
You kind of quietly pet John’s hair until he lets out a soft breath and starts to relax again, resting his head on your shoulder.
“I can’t breathe,” he says.
Rose takes his hand, the pair of you helping to ease him all the way back into the pool, so his gills are submerged again.
“I don’t like him.”
“You haven’t even talked to him,” Rose points out.
“I can just tell okay I don’t like him.”
“Well, you don’t like anything right now.” You kiss his hand. “I love you, okay? Can you two just try to get along for me?”
He groans. “I hate you.”
“You do not.”
“You’re a manipulative bastard and I hate you.”
“But you’ll try to get along?”
He gives you the most longsuffering look you’ve ever seen. “Do I really have to spend a lot of time pretending to like him? Because I’m pretty sure at this point I can’t count on two hands the number of people who know about me, and I am getting very tired of socializing with humans. Especially ones I don’t like.”
“Whine complain moan groan. You’d rather socialize with us than be alone.”
He wrinkles his nose, then concedes. “Fine. That’s true.”
“As for counting on both hands… the team is four, plus me and Rose and Jade is seven, plus Aunt Roxy plus Bro is nine.”
“That’s a shitload of people.”
“You can still count it on both hands, though.”
“If it makes you feel better, John, I’ll distract certain unsavory parties so they pay less attention to you,” Rose offers.
“You are a good friend.”
You kiss the corner of his mouth. “I’m not gonna force you two to like each other. I know you’ve got a lot of shit on your plate anyway. I’m just asking you to at least be civil.”
“Fiiine. I will do that. But only under one condition.”
“And what’s that?”
“I get paid in goldfish crackers.”
You and Rose both laugh.
"You think I'm joking."
“I guess I can bribe you in goldfish crackers. And if you’re up for it, another swimming lesson would be nice when I’ve made sure Bro is all unpacked and shit.”
“Gasp. You’re initiating a swimming lesson?”
“I know, it’s shocking.”
“But Dave, what if you drown in the terrifying three foot deep water?”
“Shut up,” you say, snorting.
“I will make a fish out of you yet,” he vows.
You figure it's fair enough to try.
make outs and drama
if you're interested, there's a nsfw twoshot here http://archiveofourown.org/works/468827/chapters/810214 about dave and john having sex
finally an update hi guys nice to see you n.n
You end up kind of busy for the rest of the evening, so Bro doesn’t get a chance to talk to John until later that night. The first order of business is to actually let Kanaya take blood. The problem being that she needs like four vials because they’re running a whole battery of tests, and John is still not okay with the needle thing.
“I don’t. Like. Needles,” he says to you, face white. “Like okay, you know that thing I have where I am really fucking terrified of getting experimented on well needles factor a lot into those fears and I do not like them Dave.”
“I do not like them, Sam I am, I do not like green eggs and ham,” you say.
“Are you rapping at me in my dire time of need.”
“Nah, it’s a children’s book. I’m putting Dr. Seuss on the list of human culture things you have to get acquainted with.”
“I’m going to pee on you.”
“You’re stuck in the pool.”
“I am going to haul myself out of the pool, drag myself over to you, and take the greatest piss known to man or merkind.”
“Nice to see you’re feeling better than usual, at least.”
“Yeah, so you clearly don’t need to stick me with any nee” – He breaks into a fit of hacking. “Fuck.”
You laugh. “God fuckin’ bless perfectly timed coughing. Now I don’t even have to argue with you.”
“Hold my hand.”
So being a good boyfriend and all, you keep his hand tightly clasped in yours when Kanaya takes blood (she has to tell him to relax his arm three times before giving up). He buries his face in your shoulder and doesn’t look, which is a thing you do when you have to get stuck with needles too, since needles are basically the spawn of Satan. At least it’s not so bad for you when you’re not the one being pricked. Still, you have to look away when his blood is actually flowing, because no.
You’re chill with blood and gross shit in general, you think dead preserved animals are the coolest fucking things you’ve ever seen, but you can’t for the life of you deal with needles.
Ah, the things you and your boyfriend have in common. It is actually beautiful.
“Now was that so hard,” you say when she’s done.
“Yes,” he huffs.
“I would literally be unconscious by now, so I guess you’re doing better than me? Congratulations.”
“I do better than you at everything.”
“Except not having near-death experiences.”
“You almost drowned.”
“We’re even.” He slips under the water purely for the sake of flicking his tail against the surface, dousing you with spray. You peel off your shirt and hop into the shallow end after him, fully intending to do… something retaliatory… but are rudely interrupted when he tugs your ankle out from under you and then comes up to wrap his arms around your waist.
“You’re getting less scared of swimming,” he says, smiling.
“Like you said, it’s three foot deep water.”
“Even so.” John pulls you down so he can peck you on the lips before a slight frown creases his brow. “Can we go in the deep end?”
“Because it’s easier for me to shove you against the cement and make out with you if we’re in the deep end.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be, like, sick and not overexert yourself?”
“Dave I think the problem here is that you’re underestimating exactly how much I want to make out with you.”
“Jesus Christ, are you in heat or something?”
“No but see, with you not being here and then me being hurt, I haven’t been able to kiss you like I want to. Otherwise known as I haven’t gotten to pin you to anything and I want to make out with you and I do not understand why this isn’t happening.”
“Bro is probably watching us.”
“Aunt Roxy is probably watching us?”
“Still don’t care.”
“Rose is probably watching us?”
“I reeeaaally don’t care.”
“We should have sex sometime,” you muse.
“That’s the best idea you’ve ever had.”
“But not now.”
“Obviously not now.”
He guides you into the deep end with his arms wrapped around you, making sure you don’t totally flip out. After a brief second of oh shit my feet aren’t touching the ground abort mission, you pull it together. Easy does it, Dave.
The fact that John is feeling well enough to do this makes your heart pound in a fluttery yay-life-is-good way in addition to the traditional welp-boyfriend-is-making-out-with-me thrumming. He presses your body against a concrete edge, his tail flicking underneath him to keep him afloat. You wrap your arms around his neck and casually suck his face for a good ten minutes. It’s not really a super hot and sexy make out so much as it is “yay I’m close to my boyfriend and he’s warm and kissing is fun and his tongue tastes good.”
At least until John untangles your arms from his neck and pins your wrists to either side of your body.
It’s another five minutes of whining and squirming and growling against him when you say, “Wow, we really need to have sex at some point in the very near future.”
“I’ll warn you right now I’m an awkward virgin.”
“Yes, I suspected this.”
“Oh, screw you.”
He grins and pecks your nose. “I am also an awkward virgin.”
“You and Vriska never did the dirty?”
“Dave, we were thirteen.”
“I know plenty of thirteen-year-olds who” –
Later that evening, when you guys have gotten a chance to relax a little and John (despite much complaining) says he’s up for it, he and Bro have their first conversation.
It’s prefaced by him telling you, “Sorry for not believing your boyfriend’s a fish, but you still should’ve gone with a vampire.”
“Ew. The whole undead thing is gross.”
“Whatever. Hey kid, I’m Bro.”
It’s evening, but there’s enough light from the moon and the back door that you can easily see John roll his eyes. “Do you even have a name other than Bro.”
“None that you need to worry about.”
“Right. Wow. So cool. I am swooning,” your boyfriend deadpans. “I’m John.”
(You think they probably won’t get along purely because in some ways they’re so goddamn different, and in others they’re just too similar. It’s not going to end well.)
“Hey, John. Nice to meet you and shit.”
“I have no idea what to goddamn say.”
“What do you and Dave usually talk about?”
“How much I want to bite your fingers off but I’m not allowed to.”
You groan. Loudly.
Bro snorts a laugh. “Okay, kiddo. Look, I can tell you’re tense and shit, so how about I leave you alone until you feel less like biting my fingers off.”
“How courteous of you.”
“I’m a damn gentleman.”
Well, that was anticlimactic.
You’re starting to relax about the whole Bro thing, and you’re realizing that John’s probably out of the danger zone, and you think that ninety-nine point nine percent of your problems have been solved. Except then it turns out they aren’t solved at all, and you should really give up on being relieved. There is always more shit to deal with.
You’d almost forgotten about the weird search history on Aunt Roxy’s computer. Managed to push it into a locked drawer in the back of your mind and not open it again. Figured that hey, she chilled out with a mer for like two years, so she probably knows a little about the whole murderer thing, right.
No big deal.
The next morning at like ten AM, which is an hour any self-respecting person would still be fast asleep, you stumble into the kitchen, raid the fridge for a bottle of apple juice – it’s the best morning pick-me-up – and start as Jade bursts through the door. “My grandpa’s right behind me, so if any of you are talking about secret stuff then you should stop.”
Aunt Roxy casually strolls into the room with a wine glass. She’s not drunk yet, but seriously, who the fuck starts drinking before noon. You think she should invest more of her time in apple juice.
“Why is your grandpa coming?” she asks.
“I have no idea.” Jade pinches the bridge of her nose. “He insisted. I would have given you some warning, but it was a sort of spur of the moment decision! Sorry!”
“This is warning enough.” Aunt Roxy smiles and takes a sip of wine. “We just have to keep him out of the backyard is all.”
You’ve never actually met the older Harley. From what Jade’s told you, though, the man who walks through the door pretty much lives up to your expectations. At first glance, he kind of looks like the typical New Englandy stereotypical fisherman type, with dark green eyes and a moustache so impressive it should have its own cult following. Kindly old adventurey dude.
Also something’s up.
“What brings you here on this fine summer morning?”
“I was wondering if it would be possible to have a private word with you?”
Something flickers in Aunt Roxy’s eyes. Jade gives you an uneasy look behind her grandfather’s back.
“Sure. You know you could have called. You still have my phone number, don’t you?”
“I just prefer talking in person.”
They walk into the living room, leaving you and Jade to stare at each other. Rose is either asleep or being antisocial in her room, and you know Bro must still be asleep too. John’s probably asleep, but maybe you'll go out to check as long as you’re conscious at this godforsaken hour. And the team’s not coming in today unless there’s an emergency, given that they have shit to do that doesn’t involve poking and prodding John, and John’s overdue for a break.
“What the hell is going on with them?” you whisper to Jade.
“I don’t know. He’s been acting really weird lately! But he might just want to talk about, like, old person stuff, I don’t know.”
“Call me paranoid, but I’m standing here wondering if it’s John-related.”
“Well, if it’s John-related, I’m pretty sure we’ll know about it soon enough.” Jade frowns. “He didn’t say anything, though. He and your aunt are friends and stuff, it could be about any number of things.”
“Like… weird blue ladies, or movies coming out, or…”
“Yes, you clearly need to drop everything and run when you have a blue lady emergency.”
She sticks her tongue out at you.
Which is when Aunt Roxy’s voice filters through the wall, angrier than you’ve ever heard. “You’re paranoid!”
Yeah okay this isn't a blue lady emergency.
“Then prove that to me!”
“I don’t need to justify myself over things that happened years ago. You have absolutely no right to walk in here and stir all that back up for no reason. I’m sorry you’re a suspicious old man, but” –
“And you’re not doing anything to ease my suspicions, Roxy!”
“The fuck do you even think I’m doing? I thought I made it very clear that I’ve cut off all ties with my past. You're my friend, Jake, but I'm not going to put up with this. Next time call me and I can cuss you out over the phone.”
Their voices carry louder and louder – well, Aunt Roxy’s does, Jade’s grandpa just seems to be shouting over her to be heard.
You resolve to never piss her off, ever.
“Holy shit,” you say.
“This is reeeaaally not good,” Jade replies. “Should we go in there?”
“No, I want to find out what the fuck they’re yelling about.”
You have this sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that you already know, though.
Grandpa Harley’s voice drops to a low murmur. You creep to the entrance to the living room, Jade right behind you, being sure to avoid the creaky spot on the floor. Lots of creaks in the kitchen.
“ – I have a responsibility to keep my granddaughter safe.”
“Everybody is safe.” Aunt Roxy’s voice drops too, so you can barely make out the words. “Do you honestly think I’d do anything that I thought would put Rose in danger? I’ve proved time and time again that I wouldn’t, and this is just insulting.”
“And yet you refuse to prove to me that you’re not lying.”
“Look. I know you. You can’t honestly look me in the eyes and tell me you wouldn’t save a dying sixteen-year-old boy, no matter how much you might distrust him.”
“So it is true.”
“And I do trust John, so that's not even an issue on the table.”
“And that's going to be your biggest mistake -”
Okay, cool, you’ve listened long enough.
You have no idea what the fuck is going on but you really don’t like it and it’s time to set a few things straight in a way that only you, in your obnoxious teenage form, can.
You straighten up, grab Jade’s hand, and walk into the room.
don't mess with roxy lalonde she will cut you
look an update
my mood music for this chapter was hanging on by ellie goulding
idk why it was just good mood music shrug
“All right, so I’d say I wasn’t eavesdropping, but I was definitely eavesdropping.”
“I was too, and I’m not really sorry,” Jade says.
Aunt Roxy perches on the couch, her wine glass resting on the small table beside the cushions, and Jade’s grandpa sits in a rocking chair. You settle down beside your lovely kin, reaching over her for her wine glass to see if she’ll let you have a swig. She rolls her eyes and lets you take half a sip (it tastes nasty) before pulling the glass back.
Jade is apparently too lazy to sit in a chair and just flops down across the floor, propping herself up on her elbows.
“If you have any questions about my boyfriend, feel free to direct them to me,” you say, flat and stiff as a board. “Otherwise I really think you should shut up and get out of here.”
“Ughh.” Jade sits up crosslegged, resting her hands on her knees. “Can I be the mediator here?”
“Did you have any idea about this?”
“No! But on one side of the room we have super angry Striders and Lalondes, and on the other side we have an angry Harley, so the normal sane Harley is going to sit here and make sure nobody’s throats get torn out. Okay?”
You roll your eyes. “Whatever you say, Jade.”
“I’m not angry,” Mr. Harley says.
“Yeah, that’s why you came all the way over here for a confrontation instead of calling me up,” Aunt Roxy snorts.
“You would have hung up on me.”
“And I can very easily kick you out of my house.”
“And wouldn’t it be interesting if it got out that you were keeping a humanoid marine creature in wherever you are? Your swimming pool, was it?”
Aunt Roxy instantly goes pale as a ghost – no, fuck that, she goes grey. Her face looks like an overcast drizzly day. There’s probably a one second pause, but it stretches like a fuse between a stick of dynamite lighting and exploding.
“You’re threatening me?”
“Maybe. If that’s what it takes.”
She swallows hard, setting the wine glass back down on the table. You assume it’s because she’s worried about shattering the stem.
“Get out of my house!” she screams, launching herself off the couch, and you actually have to wrap your arms around her waist and hold her back to keep the older Harley from getting a face full of manicured fingernails.
“What the fuck happened now?”
Enter a very sleepy Bro rubbing his eyes, not even wearing his shades, unshaved stubble on his face, apparently woken by all the noise. At the sight, though, he straightens up and moves straight to your aunt, helpfully taking her out of your hands. “Roxy, calm the fuck down.”
She shoots one last glare at Mr. Harley and then backs off.
“All right.” He spreads his arms wide, a human shield between the pair of them. Jade gets up from her perch on the floor and stands behind him. “Now what the fuck is happening, and let’s not claw each other’s noses off, all right?”
“My grandpa,” Jade says, glowering over her shoulder, “pretty much completely deserves the smackdown.”
“Roxy,” the older man tries again, “I’m sorry I upset you. Clearly I underestimated how important this boy is to you.”
“He’s practically my fucking son, you dickface, you should fucking know that and I will fucking disembowel you I swear to God...”
“He is also one of my best friends,” Jade says, interrupting the tirade, “and if you threaten him again I’m never ever ever going to forgive you. Ever.”
“Ah. More drama.” Bro seems more exasperated than anything. “Everybody sit the fuck down and calm their tits. We’re going to settle this like civilized human beings. Although, if you really are threatening John, I’m going to snap your neck.”
“Thank you,” Aunt Roxy says.
Everybody sits the fuck down and…
well, nobody’s exactly doing much to calm their tits, but you can’t have everything in this world.
“Okay,” you say, “I’ve heard Aunt Roxy’s story, so right now I want to find out what the fuck is your beef with mers, Gramps, and then we can yell at you again.”
“They’re bloodthirsty and dangerous creatures.”
“John isn’t bloodthirsty!” Jade protests.
“Okay cool nice assumption there, but why do you even think that in the first place.”
Mr. Harley sighs and rubs at his eyes, leaning back against the chair. “Years upon years ago, when I was a much younger lad, there were several inexplicable drownings in one summer along the beaches. It was a summer that was unexplainable to everybody – as far as I’m aware, it was put down to coincidences and bad luck with rip tides. My younger sister and I – she was younger by about a year or so, no age gap all that significant – decided to investigate.”
“Oh god,” you say. “I don’t like where this is going.”
“Yeah, you shouldn’t,” Aunt Roxy mutters.
“It was the goddamn mers. I managed to escape with my life, but my sister… well, she got too close.”
There’s dead silence for a beat.
“You just said she drowned,” Jade says.
“Who would believe the story without hard proof? I don’t have any photographic or otherwise physical evidence. I only have what I’ve seen with my own eyes. But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t spent much of my life quietly researching mer legends.”
You know all those legends about mermaids luring sailors to their deaths?
You snort. “Since when are legends real? Anyway, it’s like with spiders, dude. John’s a lot more freaked out by us than we are by him.”
Aunt Roxy pinches the bridge of her nose. “Even if merpeople in general having a reputation for killing humans, I still trust John.”
Bro gives her a sharp look. “You’re telling me these guys are murderers.”
“Holy shit, could this get any more tedious?” You fake a wide yawn. “Need I remind you guys that John saved my ass? And he’s… never hurt anyone.”
Every eye in the room turns squarely to you.
“You hesitated,” Bro says.
“I did not.”
“You kind of did.” Thank you, Jade.
“I did not! He saved my ass and his dad raised him to not kill people because his dad was a fucking conscientious soul and all. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
Aunt Roxy puts a hand over yours.
“Not to mention,” you add, “that all of the mers around here have either left or are dead. John’s the only one left.”
“Impossible,” Mr. Harley says. “They’re usually nomadic, but they wouldn’t leave a young boy alone.”
“Yeah, well, apparently nobody liked him or his dad much because they don’t like killing people. Holy shit, what a plot twist. And now John’s first mate is dead, his dad’s dead, a bunch of other people are dead, and everybody’s gone. He was surviving just fine on his own and then he met me and shit. That’s all there is to it. So if you want to make more baseless accusations, go right the fuck ahead, but don’t expect me not to think you’re a sad old man who can’t get over his sister’s death or whatever.”
“If you expose him,” Aunt Roxy says, “it would be baseless, painful for him and for the rest of us, and cause completely pointless upheaval.”
“Do you know how important it is to have proof of mers existing? Especially if he’s as harmless as you state and having him here isn’t dangerous.”
“No. Mostly what I know is how important it is that I don’t claw your face to ribbons, and what a miracle it is that I haven’t.”
Aunt Roxy’s hands are shaking. She picks up the wine glass and drains it in one gulp, closing her eyes.
“I want you to get out of my house,” she says.
A pause. “All right. Fine. I’ll go. But I don’t want Jade involved in these matters.”
“Too bad.” Jade folds her arms, glaring. “And too late.”
“Correction: I don’t want Jade involved in these matters anymore.”
“You can’t make me stop seeing John.”
“How’d you even figure out he was here?” you ask.
Mr. Harley stares you full in the face. Those green eyes are more than a little unnerving. “I’m not stupid. My granddaughter’s explanations weren’t matching up, and well, Roxy does have experience of her own with mers.”
Glass tinkles as the stem of the wine glass finally does snap in your aunt’s grip.
“I’m leaving,” Mr. Harley says, standing up.
Jade looks up at your aunt, her voice coming out small and timid. “Is it okay if I stay here?”
Aunt Roxy makes a valiant effort to sound normal. “Of course, sweetie. You can’t help that your grandfather’s a horrible bastard.”
“Jade, I’m your guardian and I” –
“You just threatened my best friend and I don’t want to talk to you. John won’t hurt me. I think you might. So go away.”
After he’s gone, everyone kind of sags.
“What are we going to do?” you ask.
“I don’t know.” Aunt Roxy takes the two pieces of glass out into the kitchen. You and Jade follow behind, Bro on your heels.
Jade runs a hand through her hair. “I can try to talk to him.”
“He means well, he does. He just believes mers are killers by nature and I… don’t. Because they aren't.”
“They do kill people, though?” Bro asks.
“It’s irrelevant. John doesn’t.”
“But they do.”
You interrupt. “Ughhhhhhhh how many times do we have to go over the fact that John saved my fucking life Jesus Christ shut up.”
“You did hesitate, kiddo. Earlier, I mean.”
“Look, all right, fine, his girlfriend may or may not have killed a guy or whatever but he never has and also his girlfriend’s dead now so this whole conversation is stupid and I am absconding the fuck out of here.”
And abscond you do, before any of the other three can respond. John’s a sleepy but conscious presence in the back of your mind now, so you move out to the pool and dip your feet in the shallow end.
“Good morning,” he greets you, surfacing. His eyes are very blue and very tired-looking. “What’s wrong?”
You sigh and shift so you can kiss his nose, fully aware that the other three are probably going to follow you out here and make for a very unpleasant confrontation. Time to warn him. “Life just got complicated again.”
people process and go in circles
sorry about the lack of updates, real life and writer's block are both bitches
i'm not particularly satisfied with this chapter but at least you have something
<33 i love you guys a lot
“Complicated as in Jade’s grandfather is a huge douchemaster and” –
“Dave, what happened?” John asks.
Jade skids into the yard, shrugging off her jacket and leaping into the pool fully clothed, because she is Jade Harley and apparently Jade Harley doesn’t give a flying shit. “I’m sorry in advance for all the drama about to explode,” she says, sighing.
“Seriously, what the fuck just happened.” John raises his eyebrows at the pair of you.
“Well, it seems Mr. Harley is a little more educated on mers than we gave him credit for, and is also a huge douchemaster, and might know a little more about your culture than he should.”
“Oh. Well. Shit.”
“Yes. You see, John? That’s an appropriate response. ‘Shit’ is an entirely appropriate response to this.”
“You need to relax, though,” John says. “Because you are seriously going to stress me out more, Dave. Stop freaking out.”
“Is it true you let your girlfriend kill someone?”
“Jade,” you say.
“Oh, we’re going to have this conversation.” John rubs at his temples. “I’m tired. Can I go back to bed and ignore this, please? Because it’s just going to be dumb and pointless. Plus I kind of like having you guys not hate me and stuff. Especially having Ms. Lalonde not hate me.”
“She wouldn’t hate you.”
“I seriously doubt you can do anything to make her hate you, okay. Anyway, we’ve already established that Aunt Roxy is crazy as a loon, so.”
“I resent that. I’m disowning you for like the twelfth time,” Aunt Roxy says, joining the party. Bro follows behind her like he has absolutely no idea what the fuck he’s doing, because he really doesn’t.
“Wow, I really don’t want to do this!” John says.
What a stunning revelation.
“What if I just go chill in the deep end of the pool until you all go away. Is that a thing I can do?”
“I’d go poke you,” Jade says.
“I just think we should clear up exactly what has and hasn’t happened so we’re all on the same page. Okay, John?” Aunt Roxy says, sounding shockingly enough like a voice of reason. “Nobody’s accusing you of anything, and there’s no reason to freak out.”
“No reason to freak out? Jade’s grandpa is fucking” –
“One thing at a time, John. Honestly. Come here.”
John reluctantly swims to the side of the pool, his eyes narrowed, muscles tense. Aunt Roxy plops down on the ground and swings her legs into the water before gently running her fingers through his hair, combing through tangles. After a few seconds of this, he sighs and relaxes, sinking down to rest his chin on the concrete.
“You’re going to be just fine, I promise,” she says. “You’re not so sick anymore, right? We’re overcoming that obstacle, and we’ll overcome this one too. I love you, John. I just want to get to the bottom of all of this.”
“This is dumb,” he mumbles. “Too many humans love me now.”
“I’ve loved you since you were a baby, honey. You’re not getting away from it that easily.”
Bro runs a hand through his hair, about as out of place in the feelings jam as a penguin in a tropical forest. You know the feeling.
“Fine. I’ll tell the story. It’s not very exciting, though.”
John goes through the whole tale from the beginning, repeatedly stressing just how much shit they’d be in if they’d left the guy and exactly how much he hadn’t wanted to kill him, as though to placate the group. You reach into the water to take his hand, acutely aware of how frightened he is even with Aunt Roxy still making soothing petting motions through his hair.
Bro, you note out of the corner of your eye, becomes more and more tense throughout the whole thing, which you guess you can’t really blame him for. And there’s a frown deepening on Jade’s face.
“B-but I’m not a killer,” John concludes, nervousness creeping into his tone. “I m-mean, if there was a law that said you had to kill people or you’d be killed yourself, you can’t – you can’t hold it against someone if they listen, right? And I s-saved Dave, and there are no more mers so we don’t even need to worry.”
“No more mers here, anyway,” Jade says.
“I’m glad that’s the only killing you’ve been involved with,” Aunt Roxy says. “I mean obviously I’d prefer you weren’t involved in any at all, but still.”
“So are we just going to let this go?” Bro asks.
“I’m n-not dangerous.” It’s a testament to how tired and freaked John is that he doesn’t bother sounding defensive against Bro, considering how much he dislikes the guy. “I’m really not. If I wanted to hurt any of you, I could have done it earlier. And now I’m pretty much too weak to hurt anyone.”
“I know, sweetheart. I was worried for a while, because I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of shit you’d gotten yourself into, but I know. I trust you. We just need to figure out what we’re doing about Mr. Harley.”
“What has my life become,” Bro mutters.
“You pioneer puppet porn and have a strangely big following in Japan,” you say, glancing at him over the top of your shades. “You don’t get to talk about weird lives.”
“All right, point taken.”
“Tell me exactly what Mr. Harley said.”
You take a couple minutes to get John up to speed, telling him about the whole encounter with Jade throwing in the occasional input. Your boyfriend pales. You lean over to kiss his nose, doing your best to send him gentle waves of calm.
“So he’s threatening to totally expose me – like call the police expose me.”
“I can try to talk him out of it!” Jade says. “But he seemed very upset. I think sometimes when you keep a secret for this long, having the chance to tell it seems sort of relieving. Especially since he thinks it will help other people.”
“How could it possibly fucking help” –
“So there’s no more drownings.”
“No more drownings? They’d start a war” –
“John, take it easy. We’re not going to let that happen.”
“I’m sorry, I just…” He swallows hard, closing his eyes. “I don’t want any of you to get hurt, especially because of me.”
“We’re not going to get hurt. We’re going to protect you,” Aunt Roxy tells him.
“I… Don’t.” John’s tail flicks with agitation. Apparently he can't come up with a better argument.
“John, baby, there is a pretty fucking large part of me that still considers you my son, and therefore I reserve the right to go mother bear at all times.” She pauses, takes a deep breath. “A mother will always do what’s best for her children.”
Something about the tone of voice sends a chill down your spine.
“Don’t do anything completely crazy."
“It's not like I’m going to kill the old man,” she says, looking sort of affronted.
“What a relief,” Bro replies. “You scare the shit out of me.”
“How are you holding up?”
“I’m still processing,” he says.
“Jade, hon, if you don’t want to be involved in all of this then you don’t have to be.”
“No way! I am like the middle ground. I am the ambassador here. Especially since I can kind of agree with Mr. Strider about you being scary sometimes.”
She opens her mouth to reply, but it’s drowned by Bro’s really fucking loud snort of laughter.
“Sorry. ‘Mr. Strider’ makes me sound like a respectable old gentleman. Just call me Bro, kiddo.”
“I don’t try to be scary.” Aunt Roxy pouts at you all, a guilt trip that’s definitely not working. “It just happens.”
“I’m glad to have the scary lady on my side?” says John.
“Still need to figure out what to do.”
John opens his mouth, and you brace for what will inevitably be a tirade of self-sacrificial bullshit, because your boyfriend is a self-sacrificial idiot. “Okay. Just hear me out. What if you take me back to the ocean so I can’t be exposed? I’m almost better, and I can probably survive on my own. Maybe.”
“Sweetheart, you’re still sick.”
“And too weak to fight off predators, and maybe too weak to find your own food, and there’s no telling whether you’d get sick again. And I’d worry a lot about you being all alone out in the open ocean. You shouldn’t be by yourself, even if you aren’t human.”
“I don’t mean leaving entirely, I just mean like it was before – visiting by the rocks, and living by myself.”
“I know. But you still shouldn’t have to live on your own.”
“Well, I can’t really go find another clan of mers to adopt me. Sorry to burst your bubble.”
“I know, baby, that’s why I’m saying it’s not a good idea. I’d much rather I knew you were safe here with us.”
Jade starts a lazy backstroke, floating in circles. “I’ll talk to my grandpa. Try to explain it to him.”
“That’s not going to fucking be good enough,” you almost growl, and only realize you’ve spoken aloud when every eye turns to you. Whoops. “I mean, he obviously has this huge stupid fucking vendetta, which is ridiculous because it’s judging a whole species by this one isolated incident so wow, what a dick, and in my experience dicks don’t often back down from this kind of bullshit, so. Wow. What a dick.”
“I can see where he’s coming from, though,” John says. “I mean, just because I’m a legs-lover doesn’t mean everyone else is.”
“Arghhh no we are not even going to justify his jerkassery, all right. Jade, can you kick him in the balls instead of talking to him?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Dave.”
“Is it really the end of the world if people find out that mermaids exist?”
“Yes,” John snaps before you’ve even gotten a chance to glare at Bro.
“Okay, okay, Jesus. I’m just considering all the options here.”
“I think I’ll need to talk to him,” Aunt Roxy says, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I just don’t know what to say.”
“Just don’t poison his water with arsenic or anything.”
“You’re terrible, Dave.”
“That’s my job.”
“This has not been very productive, has it,” John says.
Jade swims up behind him and kisses his cheek lightly. “I won’t let you get hurt, ever. None of us will.”
“You guys are ridiculous.”
"I will do just about anything I need to in order to protect you." Aunt Roxy ruffles his hair one last time. "I don't think anything incredibly dire will have to happen, but you had better believe I'm willing to face it if it does."
Which is when Rose joins the meeting, her brow creased. “I think we may have a slight problem.”
You tense. Great. More issues.
“What is it?”
“I found a stray kitten. I’ve fallen in love with it, and it is never leaving this house.”
It’s the statement that finally breaks the tension. John snorts, and you can’t help it – you grin.
john likes cats and dave does not
this is badly edited but i wanted to put something up so here
have some passive aggressive lalondes and kittens
You can safely say you had not witnessed the full might of passive aggression until the Lalondes got a pet.
Aunt Roxy suggests they name the kitten after their dead cat Jaspers. Rose sweetly tells her that while that’s a fantastic and ingenious idea, she is going to name the kitten Viceroy, because that is an incredibly regal and official sounding title.
They go through all the normal motions of nursing the raggedy scrap of fur back to health, since it’s pretty fucking tiny and skinny. Aunt Roxy calls the local vet to make plans to have Viceroy neutered, and then proceeds to go online shopping for the most ridiculously expensive cat toys on the market. You’re pretty sure you saw her buying a diamond-encrusted flea collar.
“Holy shit, how rich are they?” you ask Bro one night when you’re hiding from Aunt Roxy’s drunken cloud and Rose’s quiet mutterings.
“I don’t even know,” he replies.
“Dave, I need your photography expertise,” Rose says, barging in on the pair of you.
“Yeah? What for?”
“I intend to make a scrapbook for my dear mother. It will be filled with sickeningly cheerful pink trim and endless photos of Viceroy.”
“You need to chill out.”
“I can’t let her one-up me.”
“I’m so glad I got the kid who’s cool taking out aggressions with a sword.” Bro stretches and practically prances out the door. “You guys hash this out. Have fun.”
“Dave, there’s no better way for me to get back at her. Please help me out.”
“It is so messed up that you think she’s out to get you, I mean maybe you both just really want to spoil this cat” –
“Yeah, all right, I’ll take a couple pictures of your goddamn kitten being cute and shit.”
Rose kisses your cheek. “You’re the best cousin a girl could ask for.”
“Yeah, I know.”
For the record, you and the cat really do not get along.
Viceroy started it.
Stupid thing clawed your nose the second you picked it up. You weren’t even doing anything wrong – you were supporting his back legs and everything. He’s just an obnoxious, moody kitten. You dropped him on the ground and he hissed at your toes.
It was the start of what’s sure to be a long and bitter rivalry.
You are now John Egbert, and cats are mysterious and fascinating creatures that you enjoy a lot.
Rose’s new kitten is a gray tabby with a white underbelly and paws. It is very fuzzy and good at getting into things it shouldn’t. It has little tufts of fur coming out of its pointy little ears. It makes high-pitched squeaking sounds to communicate and rubs its head against your hands.
One evening, at around ten PM or so, you are greeted by a small mewling noise. You haul yourself out of the pool and flop on the grass. Viceroy wastes no time leaping onto your chest, a warm and soft weight. He then proceeds to lick the water off of your collarbones with a tongue that feels like shale.
“Hi,” you say, petting his head.
He licks the webbing between your fingers.
“Hey, that tickles!”
“Is that so?”
The kitten starts up a steady purr, nuzzling against your chin. You really like the sound of a cat’s purr.
“Meow,” you say.
“Oh my fucking god.”
“Yes, Dave?” you say, grinning at him. “Is there a problem?”
“You’re talking to it.”
“He is quite a philosopher. He’s challenging my views of the world.”
“Oh my fucking god.”
“Cats have a lot more personality than fish.”
“That thing is the spawn of Satan.”
“Look what that fucker did to me.”
He comes closer, kneeling beside you. You’re sure you hear Viceroy’s purring intensify.
His hands are coated in like a million scratches. There’s a nick on his nose, a line on his cheek.
“Well, don’t antagonize him and he won’t scratch you!”
“That fucking cat has it in for me, dude.”
“Here.” You lift Viceroy toward him.
“Just take him!”
You sigh and settle back down. Dave lies next to you. The second he snuggles up close, body soft and warm, Viceroy growls.
You giggle. “Maybe he does have it in for you.”
“Yeah, see? Fuckin’ cat wants to kill me.”
“I think you two just need some time to work out your differences,” you say, petting Viceroy’s head. He flops over on your chest, sticking his paws in the air, stretching out. You rub his tummy. He gnaws on your knuckle.
“His teeth don’t even hurt, Dave.”
“Yeah, he’s not TRYING to mutilate you.”
“You are a huge drama queen.”
You roll over onto your side, away from Dave, and snuggle the kitten up close. The second he can’t see Dave anymore, he’s back to purring and nuzzling against you. Dave presses against your back, kissing the back of your neck, groaning. “I hate everything.”
“When you’re holding the cat, I’m obligated to hate you. Sorry.”
“I thought what we had was special.”
You touch your nose to Viceroy’s, blowing air on his little white chest. He rolls to his feet and scampers away.
“Oh no, better grab him. Rose doesn’t like him being alone and unsupervised at night,” you say.
“You grab him.”
In response, you make a big show of flopping five feet to the right, pushing yourself along the ground with your tail. “Wow. Dry land. How do.”
“Fine fine fine I’ll get him.”
What ensues is a chase the likes of which you’ve never seen before, between bushes and the side of the pool and the grass. The second Dave looks like he’s going to get a hold of Viceroy, the cat is a silhouetted blur through the yard. You pretty much spend the entire time snickering at them until Dave slips and falls hard on the concrete, just barely managing to keep from sliding into the deep end of the pool.
You dive in and swim over to him, propping yourself up on your elbows. “You okay?”
“I HATE THAT FUCKING CAT.”
“Yeah, I got that. But are you okay?”
“I’ve gotten worse in strifes. Still hate the fucking cat.”
You grin, leaning up to kiss his cheek. “Call Rose and have her catch him.”
“I can’t. Now it’s a matter of pride.”
…In the end, Rose has to catch the cat.
Dave mopes about it for like an hour until you kiss it out of him. He also dozes off beside the pool, which gives you an excuse to watch him sleep like a creepy fucker. His shades dangle halfway off his face, so you can see his eyelids and the tops of his cheeks. You seriously don’t get his hangups about his eyes, considering his eyelashes are long and thick and wow your boyfriend is just really pretty.
“I think it’s time for you to go to sleep,” you whisper, poking him.
“Daaave, go inside and go to bed.”
The next morning, Ms. Lalonde and Kanaya come to tell you that from the looks of things, you are Officially Going to Be Okay. According to before-and-after tests they’ve taken, most of the pollution has been flushed out of your system, and the combination of medicines and diet you’re on has helped your body to fight off the remaining illness. You’re still weak and thin and need to gain a lot of weight, but you’re out of the danger zone.
“So dump me back in the ocean and all our problems are solved.”
Ms. Lalonde grins and ruffles your hair. “We both know it’s not going to be quite that easy, John. But I promise you you’ll be able to get the fuck out of our swimming pool soon. I’d be getting antsy if I was you.”
“Yeah, concrete isn’t exactly homely. Although it’s much better than Rose’s bathtub!”
“I’ll say. Just hang tight.”
“And what about the whole Mr. Harley thing?”
There’s a flash of worry, even though her face relaxes into an easy deceptive smile. “Well, nothing’s happened yet.”
“Yo, are you doing antagonizing my boyfriend yet? I have shit to do.”
Kanaya makes a face at Dave as she stands, followed closely by Rose’s mom. After they disappear into the house, he flops beside you, hugging a laptop to his chest in vaguely the same manner you hold Viceroy.
“Guess what we’re doing.”
“We’re giving you your first taste of human movies.”
“Oh my god.”
“You can’t escape. This is happening.”
“Are you serious.”
“Is this really necessary.”
“John.” He pushes his shades up, staring at you with a super deadpan expression so you know this is Serious Business. “Yes."
"It is time to watch The Little Mermaid.”
the little mermaid
this was the best chapter to write because it gave me an excuse to watch the little mermaid and feel productive at the same time
“You found it online?”
He opens the laptop with the biggest grin on his face. It’s cute enough that you decide to stop complaining. For the most part.
“I am literally expecting nothing from this experience,” you say.
“Shh. I need to draw a million parallels between us and the timeless Disney romance.”
“This is so dumb.”
“This is duuuumb.”
You let out a longsuffering sigh and settle down, resting your chin on your hands and watching the laptop screen.
“How do they make the drawings move like that, though?” you ask about fifteen seconds after he opens the bookmarked site and clicks the ‘play’ button.
“That’s the beauty of animation.”
“By being fuckin’ awesome and good at drawing?”
“That is not an answer.”
“They just draw every sequence and flip ‘em so fast you can’t see the pictures changing.”
“You guys do such weird things to waste time.”
“But it looks good, doesn’t it?”
You grudgingly reply, “I guess.”
He leans over and kisses the top of your head, wrinkling his nose. “You just can’t admit that you’re enjoying a movie because it means I win.”
“You don’t win anything! This isn’t a challenge.”
“Oh yes it is. It’s been a challenge since the second I brought the laptop out here.”
“Shh. I’m trying to watch.”
Dave’s shit-eating grin gets wider as he settles down and watches the movie. A bunch of singing drunk guys on a ship, which quickly merges to pretty ocean scenes. Whee.
“I like the music. It’s nice.”
“What’s with the seashell boobs?”
“Can’t show nudity in Disney movies, dude.”
“Humans are so dumb. Dave, why are humans so dumb?”
“We’ve been asking ourselves that for ages.”
“Hmm. I still like the music, though.”
You’re silent for a while after that, just watching the scenes go by. To be quite honest, you’re not paying much attention to the actual plot of the movie. More you’re flicking your eyes between the screen and Dave’s expression.
Dave, for his part, seems to be trying hard not to laugh at you. What a terrible boyfriend. He’s terrible. Why do you put up with him.
Because he’s warm and soft and even though he’s really smirk-y now, you SUPPOSE you can put up with it.
You like the mermaid. Ariel. You’re a little like her. You don’t understand how someone’s hair can be that red, but you figure that’s the beauty of drawing. And you like her whole ooh-let’s-go-look-at-shipwrecks thing. And her whole ooh-humans-are-wonderful-beautiful-creatures thing. And her whole fuck-everything-i've-got-shit-to-do thing.
“This is total propaganda,” you say, leaning up to kiss Dave.
“This is fiction.”
“It is romantic mermaid propaganda.”
“We’re romantic mermaid propaganda.”
“Very good point.”
He pulls off his shirt and slips into the water next to you, amazingly comfortable. That’s probably due to the fact that it’s three feet deep. And the fact that you're right here, and the fact that he's too distracted by the movie to think about how terrifying and horrible the pool is. His arm wraps gently around your waist, head resting on your shoulder.
“I like the fish friend. Flounder.”
“Me too. He was one of my favorites when I was a kid.”
“I can’t actually talk to fish, though.”
“Nah, you just talk to cats.”
“As long as they talk back, I will keep talking to them.”
“Shhh and watch.”
So Ariel’s dad is a total dick. He reminds you of Vriska’s mom. Thankfully you had an excellent father in every way. Who was off having forbidden romances with young ladies, apparently. This still sort of throws you for a loop. Your dad is not the kind of guy you picture romancing young ladies.
Before you can get too distracted by that train of thought, you’re brought back to earth by Ariel singing about like, hating her life and wanting to go have legs and fuck humans. Obviously that’s paraphrasing, but that’s the general gist of it. Normal merpeople are just not good enough for her. She's gotta go after people with two tails and weird toes.
“So I’m supposed to be Ariel and the annoying prince guy is supposed to be you.”
“Yes.” Dave kisses your neck.
“I don’t even know his name. I’m just going to call him Dave.”
“His name is Eric.”
“Yeah, I’m just going to call him Dave.”
“Oh hey now there’s a storm.”
“Oh hey now he’s drowning.”
“I see where this is going.”
“Uh huh.” He kisses your shoulder.
You’re silent for a while after that, watching the movie play out. Saved princes, asshole dads, deals with the scary octopus witch, and a new pair of legs. Actually, you’re pretty entertained. It’s a fairly predictable story, but watching it in this sort of medium is a new and unfamiliar experience. That combined with the fact that you really enjoy Ariel doing various dumbass things makes the whole movie much more bearable. Also the Dave prince is absolutely nothing like Dave. These people are absolutely nothing like you two. Not at all. Sheesh.
The only surprising plot twist comes when the scary octopus witch decides to turn herself into a human. Or a sort-of humanish person? She’s clearly evil and all, but Dave-prince doesn’t seem to notice that. Because she’s busy using Ariel’s stolen voice.
“Is she supposed to be like a siren?”
“I think she’s just supposed to be a witch.”
“Do sirens even exist?”
You yawn, resting your head on his shoulder. “Only the royal mers can do it.”
“Your mermaid magic never ceases to amaze me.”
“It’s to do with the whole empathy thing. Instead of just sensing emotions, they can sort of manipulate them? Usually they use their voices. But it’s a pretty rare talent, which is why only the royal ones can do it. Runs in families. Wait, what just happened? Oh, Ariel's sad. Cool. That's been like half the movie.”
“That’s how you guys choose royalty?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“Weird. Well, the crazy witch siren chick doesn’t actually get to fuck the prince, much to everyone’s disappointment.”
“Shh! No spoilers.”
“You’re really into this, aren’t you?”
“I won. I totally won.”
You shut him up by planting a kiss squarely on his mouth, nibbling on his bottom lip until he stops trying to make noise. Once he’s gone silent, you pull away and go back to watching the movie, letting him grumble under his breath and wrap his arms tighter around you and bite at your shoulders.
There’s not a lot of the movie left after that – just a botched wedding and some drama and a fight scene. Everything turns out perfect in the end, just like you were predicting from the beginning. The movie closes on a human Ariel and Dave prince on a boat, waving happily while all the mers congratulate them on their wedding.
It leaves you with the strangest hollow aching in your chest, and you’re not sure why until Dave kisses your nose. “Why are you upset?”
“I’ve got you in my head, dude. I know you’re upset.”
“I wish it could be that easy,” you say, closing the laptop as the credits roll, resting your chin on your hands.
There’s a brief flash of pain on his side, and you know he understands. But he hops out of the pool and covers your hands with his for a moment before tilting your chin up and kissing you. “Go to the steps on the shallow end, I want to snuggle you.”
You quietly oblige, lying down with him and wrapping your arms around him, and it’s like it was the day he first told you he loved you. The memory makes you smile. You’ve come a long way since then, thank goodness. Done the impossible. Lived. Maybe you can do the impossible again and carve out your own happy ending with Dave. Somehow.
You have a team of excellently equipped people on your side, even if they do have legs. A happy ending can’t be completely impossible, can it?
“It wasn’t easy for Ariel, man,” Dave says with another kiss to your neck. “She lost her voice, almost saw her man get married off to a witch, and almost got turned into a worm. Did you not see all of the drama in the movie?”
“Yeah, I also saw all of the mers and humans happily united.”
“Aw, c’mon.” His teeth close lightly around your earlobe. “It’s fiction.”
“I know. I’m just saying, I wish it was that easy for us.”
“We’ve done okay so far. I bet we can keep it up.”
“I sure hope so.”
“I love you.”
You grin and kiss his nose, his cheeks, his chin. And then proceed to kiss every other inch of his face because why not?
“I love you too,” you say.
“Glad we got that settled.”
“Love conquers all.”
“It so does. You’re more of a hopeless romantic type than I am, come on, have a little faith.” Dave smiles at you, a genuine smile that makes your chest ache in a nice way. “So besides the sadness, what do you think of your first cinematic experience?”
You tuck your head under his chin, pressing as close as you can, your tail flicking.
“Yes, Dave, I’ll be your redhead princess and live in your castle.”
terezi makes a reappearance. john and bro talk.
i am so fucking sorry it's taken so long to get this chapter out. i have no excuse aside from being lazy.
GC: H3LLO D4V3 >:]
TG: this isn’t dave! hehe.
TG: shh. he doesn’t know i know the password to his pesterchum.
TG: it’s john.
TG: i watched him type in his password and decided to fuck around on here.
TG: see if he had any poetry saved in his drafts.
TG: about his feelings.
TG: he doesn’t.
TG: i’m very upset.
GC: 1 S33
GC: DO3S H3 H4V3 4NYTH1NG OF 1NT3R3ST S4V3D 1N H1S DR4FTS??
GC: 1TS B33N 4 TR4G1C4LLY LONG T1M3 S1INC3 1 H4D 4NYTH1NG TO US3 4G41NST H1M FOR BL4CKM41L
TG: no!! it’s very disappointing.
TG: although if you want something to use as blackmail, you should know that he loves you a lot.
TG: deep down in his fluffy bunny rabbit soul.
GC: 1 KNOW TH4T 4LR34DY
TG: well that’s all i can think of. sorry to disappoint.
GC: 1TS OK4Y 1LL SURV1VE
GC: 1 4M SUR3 H3LL DO SOM3TH1NG 4M4Z1NGLY 3MB4RR4SS1NG 1N DU3 T1M3
TG: that’s true. that’s very true.
TG: oh shit.
TG: hey tz
GC: H3Y D4V3
GC: 1 W4S JUST CH4TT1NG W1TH YOUR BOYFR13ND
TG: yeah dude apparently has no sense of personal privacy
TG: wow rude
TG: he can practically read my mind and hes still not satisfied what an asshole
TG: ima smack him when he stops hiding in the pool
TG: dont even question it hes weird as hell
TG: i love him but hes weird as hell
GC: H3S CUT3
GC: 1 WOULD ST1LL S4CR1F1C3 H1S BODY TO S4T4N
TG: yeah but if you did that i wouldnt talk to you for like
TG: a week
TG: id give you the silent treatment for a whole week tz how would you like that
GC: OH HOW WOULD 1 SURV1V3
TG: so how are you how is everything down there
GC: 1 M1SS CH1LL1NG W1TH YOU
GC: DO YOU KNOW WH3N YOUR3 GO1NG TO COM3 HOM3?
TG: thats a really goddamn good question
TG: the thing is much as i miss you i really dont want to leave b/c you know
TG: god do i love having sloppy makeouts
TG: plus john gets lonely pretty easily
TG: i guess ill have to come back to texas in time for the school year though
GC: YOUR L1F3 1S SO H4RD
TG: at least johns feeling better now i guess i mean he was p sick for a while
TG: and when i get home at least ill get to chill with you and like
TG: tp the principals house
TG: can we do that oh my god can we tp the principals house
TG: if we get caught you can say i kidnapped you
GC: 1LL D3F3ND US BOTH 1N COURT
“What are you smirking at?”
“Terezi and I are making plans to wreck shit is all. When I eventually leave. Which hopefully won’t be for a while.”
“I don’t want to think about you leaving.” You make your way to the side of the pool and prop yourself up on your elbows. “I’d rather you kissed me.”
“Hey, I’m holding off kisses for the next ten minutes. That’s what you get for invading my personal privacy.”
“Oh noooo.” You haul yourself over the lip of the concrete and dramatically flop your way over to him. Despite the fact that it’s still a little difficult to breathe, you’re pleased that you can get this far. It’s a far cry from how weak you were just a little while ago.
On a less euphoric note, you’re getting dirt and grass all over your chest and stuck in your scales. Ew. You’ll have to wash it off in the pool, but then there’s going to be gunk floating around everywhere. Although that’s really not too different from seaweed. But still. Anything to give you a reason to complain.
“Look at the fish out of water.”
“Look, I just dragged myself like, ten feet just to see you.” You flop over and put your head in his lap. “Give me a sec to catch my breath.”
“You’re a dumbass.”
“I just went through a great and terrible struggle to get to you. You must pity me deeply.”
“You get no pity. ‘Sides, if I kiss you now, you’re not gonna be able to breathe.”
“Here, fine, I’ll help you back into the pool. And then just let me finish up my conversation with TZ and we can swim a little. And cuddle and make out.”
It’s not long before Dave wraps up the conversation amid a promise to get online later that night so Terezi can keep hassling him. He slips into the water with little to no difficulty, wrapping his arms around your neck.
“Is it okay if I swim out to the deep end? You can hang onto my neck like this and I’ll keep us afloat.”
He nods. “Yeah.”
You flick your tail to propel you into the deeper end, keeping your arms wrapped tightly around his waist. He’s awfully light in the water, easy to hold. You kiss his nose and then his cheek, dragging your tongue up his jaw and nibbling at his earlobe.
He shivers. “Y’know, you’re pretty good at getting me lightheaded. Don’t even have to drown me to do it.”
“I’m a magical mer, remember?” You lean down and kiss his neck, teeth scraping gently over his skin, far too gently to leave a mark.
The pair of you are in the midst of making out when Dave’s bro makes an appearance. You notice it first without even looking up because you sense him, and you sort of growl in the back of your throat before you can stop yourself. Dave pulls away with a frown, then looks over his shoulder. A wave of understanding washes over him.
“He’s not that bad,” he whispers to you.
“Shut up,” you whisper back.
“Take a break from being teenagers, kids.” He shucks off his shoes and socks and rolls up his pant legs, dangling his feet into the shallow end of the pool. “I wanted to talk to John alone for a minute.”
A crease appears between Dave’s eyebrows. “About what?”
Your heart starts to beat faster. Whatever this is, it definitely can’t be anything good. Great.
"Stop lookin' like I'm gonna poison you. I just want to talk."
“Okay, fine, I’ll talk to you.” Your hands clench into light fists under the water, and you pull Dave closer.
“Just for the love of all that’s holy, don’t kill each other. I want the rest of our stay here to be mildly pleasant.” Dave kisses the shell of your ear. “All right, lemme out of the pool. I’ll leave you two wise gentlemen alone to converse about tea and the weather.”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. How could you tell,” Bro deadpans.
You let Dave clamber out of the water before making your way into the shallow end. As far as you’re aware, Bro is perfectly capable of swimming, but you stay out of arm’s reach anyway. Just an instinct.
“It’s nothing bad, so stop looking at me like that.” Bro kicks a small splash of water into your face. You wrinkle your nose.
“You could have told me that first, sheesh. I figured you were going to give me the ‘you are not good for my kid, begone’ speech.”
“No.” He shakes his head. “No, it’s not that at all.”
“Then what’s up?”
There’s a long pause. Not only is he uncomfortable in general, but he’s showing outward signs of uncertainty – fidgeting, running his fingers through his hair. His tongue darts between his lips a couple times.
“You’ve made it very clear that you don’t like me, and I’ll be honest here, I wasn’t your biggest fan at first either. But despite all of that, I wanted to thank you.”
“Thank me? For what?”
“For keeping Dave safe. My personal opinions on you aside, the fact remains that I would have lost him were it not for you.”
“Oh.” You swallow. “Uh, you’re welcome I guess? It kinda benefited me too, you know.”
“I know. You make him really happy, and I’m grateful to you for that.”
“No problem. I do that part pretty much without trying.”
Another pause. You can tell there’s more he wants to say, but he seems to be having trouble wording it. For a guy who’s usually so smooth with talking, he seems to be amazingly at a loss. You wait patiently while his mouth works.
“If he had died that night when he fell out of the boat, it would have been my fault.”
You’re quick to jump on this one. “No it wouldn’t. That was just a freak accident, a chance thing” –
He holds up his hand. “It would have been my fault for dragging him here in the first place. And for making fun of him. I cannot tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve spent over that one goddamn thing.”
“He didn’t die.”
“I know. And I’ve had some time to think over the past few days. Even though you may be involved in a couple crimes - and I’m still not sure how much to trust you - the fact that you saved Dave outweighs all of that. I will never be able to thank you enough.”
“It’s okay. You seriously don’t have to feel indebted to me or whatever. I wasn’t saving him out of the goodness of my heart so much as I didn’t want to watch him drown.”
“Irrelevant.” He kicks his legs, making water swirl around his calves. “Did you know that biologically, he’s my son?”
“Yeah. But at the time I was nineteen and I was like, holy shit, I am too fuckin’ young to be a dad. Like hell I’m gonna be a proper father figure.” The corner of his mouth quirks upward. “Sixteen years later and I’m still not cut out for parenting.”
“I love him more than anything in the world. And if you’re making him as happy as you have been, then the affection sorta has to extend to you. Even if you don’t like me or you think I’m a shit parent. You’ve got every right to think that. I am a shit parent.”
Slowly, you swim closer. He reaches down to ruffle your hair.
“As long as you aren’t hurting Dave, I’m pretty damn happy to consider you my family.”
For some reason, there’s one hell of a block in your throat. You swallow hard to unstick it. “Thanks.”
“Do me a favor and don’t tell Dave I said any of this. Little shit needs to keep thinkin’ I’m cool and aloof.”
“No problem,” you say with a small grin.
“Thanks. And thanks for not flipping your everloving shit about me wanting a one-on-one conversation.” He pulls his legs out of the water and gets to his feet, stretching. “And John?”
“Welcome to the family.”
i can't sleep so here have a chapter
That’s your lovely wakeup call on a sunny Saturday morning when any respectable Strider should be sleeping. You roll over and bury your face into your pillow, then yank the whole thing over your head so you can ignore the sound of Rose running through the house.
“Shut the fuck up,” you yell in the direction of the door.
Rose pokes her head into the room. “I am having a crisis.”
“I’m out of maxi pads.”
“Oh. My. God.”
“As you’ve never had to deal with having a river of blood flow from your genitals, I would suggest not saying anything.”
“I’m going back to sleep.”
You roll over and knot your fingers in the sheets, but the sun is very insistently peeking through your window and it’s hard to get back to sleep. After a while, you roll off the bed entirely and inch your way toward the door, still wrapped up in a blanket burrito. You inch headfirst down the stairs, trailing white blankets behind you, sincerely hoping not to trip.
Aunt Roxy nudges you with her foot as you flop at the bottom of the landing, curling up in your fabriccy cloud. “Good morning.”
“Rose was looking for you earlier.”
“I know. I resolved the situation.”
“Oh, good.” You inch into the living room, still too lazy to actually get to your feet.
“Having fun there?”
“Woe is you.”
You search your mind for your boyfriend, and you find yourself ninety-five percent sure that he’s still asleep. The lucky bastard. Your body drags across the rug on the living room floor. You casually arrange the blankets into a proper nest and curl up in the middle of it.
“I am a bird. I’ve found my true calling. Nobody bother me.”
“If you lay eggs, I’m not helping you.” Aunt Roxy wanders her way deeper into the kitchen, presumably to nurse a glass of wine. It is, after all, a little after nine in the morning. The horror of not having consumed any alcohol yet.
“What the fuck kind of babies would those be anyway? Fishy bird-humans?”
Curling up in the middle of the living room gets you just as little rest as flopping around in bed. God dammit. After a while you abandon your nest and go out to the pool, dipping your feet into the shallow end. John’s curled up in the middle of the deep end, drifting through the land of peaceful slumber or whatever. You guys really do have to come up with some kind of plan for what to do to get him back to the sea. He’s been antsy.
“John. Johnjohnjohn. Jooohn.”
He doesn’t stir. You do your best to turn your brain into an alarm clock. He still doesn’t stir.
“Jooooohn John I want to make out Johnjohnjohn.”
He doesn’t move.
Damn. You thought the promise of macking on you would get him up for sure.
You lie down on the concrete and curl up, closing your eyes. Strangely enough, it’s here that you fall asleep. Probably because you aren’t even trying this time. Sleep’s got a funny way of creeping up on you like that.
The thoughts fly from your mind, though, when you register why you’re even waking up. Rose is shaking you, an alarmed note in her voice. “Dave. Dave, you have to get up.”
“The police are here.”
You sit bolt upright. “What.”
And you feel it in the back of your mind, feel John’s fear. You shift to stare into the pool. Your boyfriend surfaces and stares at you, the midday sun sparkling off his terrified blue eyes.
“Hey, shh. Just go hide out in the deep end and we’ll figure out what the fuck is going on, okay?”
He nods, not saying a word, just turning and splashing back into the deep end. His fin flicks a spray of water into your face, but you have bigger things to worry about. You wipe droplets out of your eyes and get to your feet, following after Rose.
“Oh god, is your mom drunk?” you hiss under your breath.
“Not completely inebriated. She’s definitely handling herself,” Rose hisses back.
By that time, you’ve skidded into the kitchen, sliding on your socks. Rose makes a face. Two officers sit at the kitchen table, and you instantly hate them, although that might just be because their presence raises hairs on the back of your neck.
“…lucky I even let you walk through the door,” Aunt Roxy is saying. “Why are you here?”
“A neighbor expressed concerns.”
“Concerns about what?”
“That there might be disruptive goings-on on the premises.”
“The complaint was fairly non-specific,” the officer says, avoiding her eyes.
Clearly nothing ever happens in this town. Either that or he’s being evasive on purpose. You guess it’s probably the second one.
“Oh, for f – goodness sake,” she says, censoring herself. “Look. Let’s run through a list. If you’re concerned about my parenting or something, I would recommend having CPS get in touch with me. We can have all sorts of entertaining chats. In the meantime, d’you want to ask my daughter how the state of the house is? What sort of illegal operations I’m in the middle of?”
“My mother and I have definitely had our disagreements,” Rose says as casually as possible, going to the refrigerator and taking out a container of apple juice, like she has police officers in her house all the time. She takes a glass from the cupboard, and then inclines her head to you. “Want any, Dave?”
“Okay.” A second glass. “As I was saying, my mother and I have definitely had our disagreements, but she’s never done anything illegal. We’re not even serial killers. I know. It’s shocking. The most I can say is that she has an unfortunate drinking problem, but that’s never interfered terribly with our lives.”
“Did Jake Harley send you?”
“I’m not at liberty to” –
“Okay, Jake Harley sent you.” Aunt Roxy steeples her fingers and closes her eyes. “Mr. Harley and I have been having conflicts of interest as of late, but I can promise you I’ve never done anything illegal. He’d love to get me in hot water at the moment. You know I’ve never had any sort of altercation with the law.”
“We were just following up.”
“Well, you’ve followed up. Now you can get out.”
“Do you mind if” –
“Yes, I mind. Out.”
“Ms. Lalonde.” She gives them the most scathing look you’ve ever seen. You shrink a little even though it’s not directed at you.
“I’m sorry. Ms. Lalonde.”
“Do you have a warrant?”
“You've overstayed your welcome. If you don't get the fuck off my property in the next thirty seconds, I will sue your asses for all they're worth. Goodbye now.”
She watches them leave with her lips pursed. Her shoulders are a straight, tense line, and as soon as the police have cleared the premises, she starts digging through the cupboards.
“Mom, what are you doing?” Rose asks.
“I’m going to kill him,” she mutters under her breath.
She pulls a bottle of pure vodka from the top shelf of a cupboard and uncaps it, bringing the whole thing to her lips without even getting a glass. You, for your part, grab your own glass of apple juice and drink like a man dying of thirst. You know you should go out and calm John down, but right now the top priority seems to be pulling Aunt Roxy off the ceiling. So you just send as many calming waves as you can muster when there’s rage boiling under your skin.
God. Yeah, you might have to get in on the killing Mr. Harley action.
“Mom.” Rose’s voice is soft as she steps forward and reaches for the bottle. “Now isn’t the time.”
“Like hell this isn’t the time.”
“I know you’re angry and need to calm down, okay? But we also need to figure out what to do, and we can’t do that effectively if you’re drunk.”
Aunt Roxy swigs down a couple more gulps and then puts the vodka down on the counter, rubbing at her eyes. “You’re right. Sorry.”
“It’s okay. You should sit down for a little while and get your bearings. Dave, go explain what happened to John. I’ll call Jade and find out if she has any idea what’s going on. Then we can all formulate a plan together. Okay?”
You can’t get out of there fast enough.
It takes you a moment to locate John in the pool, because he’s huddled himself in the corner of the deep end, hidden well from a first cursory glance. You lean over the water, making a face, and dip your hand in up to the elbow.
“John, it’s okay,” you call.
He surfaces, watching you warily.
“They’re gone. It’s all good.”
“Are they going to come back?”
“I don’t know. They need a search warrant if they want to get anywhere, though.”
“Why were they here?”
“Because Jade’s grandfather is a horse’s ass.”
John’s face whitens. “He told them?”
“Not about you specifically. I don’t think, anyway. He can’t really start rambling about mermaids unless he wants people to think he’s nuts. I think he was just hoping that they’d poke around the house and find you. Dude’s a sad, sad old man.”
“Aunt Roxy’s really mad.”
“Yeah, no shit!”
After a few minutes, you’ve all convened in the backyard for an emergency meeting. Rose clicks her phone onto speaker. “I’m on my way,” Jade says. “Keep talking, I can hear you all just fine.”
“We need to get John back to the ocean,” Rose says. “That ought to be our first priority. That way if they do come back, there will be nothing to find.”
“Someone is finally on my side. Gasp.” John flicks his tail above the surface, splashing.
“I still don’t like the thought of you being alone out there when you’re this weak,” Aunt Roxy says. “And what if you have a relapse?”
“’M not gonna have a relapse.”
“Well, we’ll have to find out sooner or later! Because no offense or anything, but I am not going to live in your pool forever.”
“I know.” She rubs her temples. “I just worry.”
“You’re sweet,” John says.
The oh-so-heartwarming moment is interrupted by the arrival of a pitbull personified. “I am so mad!” Jade yells, skidding into the backyard, red-faced. Apparently she ran the whole way here. You admire her dedication to sprinting. She’s barefoot in a pair of short shorts and a t-shirt, which she immediately peels off in favor of leaping into the pool, bra and shorts and all.
“Better?” Rose asks, grinning.
“Hi, Jade,” John says.
“Quite an entrance.”
“Thanks, I thought so too!” She wrinkles her nose. “I really am mad, though. What the fuck is wrong with him! If he wasn’t old and like, my flesh and blood, I’d kick his ass.”
You and John both let out identical snorting breaths of laughter.
“Are you guys going to get in trouble if you take me back to the ocean – I mean, I don’t really know how you would, but.”
Aunt Roxy shrugs. “Probably not. And that’s not really your concern.”
“It sort of is my concern, though.”
“We can handle ourselves.”
John runs fingers through his hair, briefly closing his eyes. “But what if I could convince him I don’t mean any harm?”
“John, I don’t think” –
“I mean, the information he has about us is from the legends he knows and the one encounter he’s had, right? He’s never had a real conversation with any of us.”
“I want to talk to him.”
“That’s a terrible idea,” you say before anybody else can interject.
“I want. To talk. To him.”
Aunt Roxy frowns.
"That is actually the worst idea you've ever come up with, dude. And you've had some pretty terrible ideas. I'm impressed here, I wasn't aware you could reach new levels of idiocy."
"Sometimes you have to pick your battles, John," Rose says, ever the sane one.
Jade rests her chin on the cement, closing her eyes. "Maybe John could convince him, though. Or both of us together! He doesn't really listen to me because he thinks I've been brainwashed or something, I don't know. But maybe..."
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” you mutter, “you can’t be telling me you’re considering this. There's not even any fucking point.”
“I want to talk to him,” John says again, earnest.
Your aunt lets out a long breath through her nose.
“We’ll see,” is all she says.
john and mr. harley talk.
i really have no excuse for the lack of updates besides laziness and distractions. i'm gomen but i'm back now hi guys
In the end, it's Jade who finally manages to convince Ms. Lalonde.
"Grandpa isn't going to let me come over here anymore if something isn't done," she says. "And he's never going to trust you, and he's not going to let me see Rose, or Dave, and seriously my whole life is going to suck! So can you please just let John talk to him for a little while? I don't think he would hurt John... not knowing he's my friend. He's just doing what he thinks is right. And he needs to see that what he's doing isn't right at all!"
Two days later, Ms. Lalonde finally relents. You're mildly surprised Jade's grandfather agrees to talk to you, but maybe he wants to resolve this just as much. Maybe he just wants to yell or justify himself. The latter seems a lot more likely to you. All the same, you're determined to make him listen. You shoo Dave into the house ("john i need to be around" "you're going to run your big mouth and totally ruin everything!") and nervously flick your tail against the surface of the water while you wait for Mr. Harley to arrive.
Jade comes into the backyard with him. She's become the bridge between your two worlds - she's the reason he trusts you not to try to murder him, and she's a pretty big part of the reason you're going to all this trouble in the first place. Getting Jade in trouble was never on your agenda. You feel bad about it.
"So you're him."
You sort of shrink. He has enough suspicion and anger sparking off his form that it feels like the heat will singe your scales. You resist the urge to dive to the deepest reaches of the pool and hide; instead you swim closer and prop yourself up on the cement edge.
"Um, yeah. Hi."
He sits just out of reach. Jade perches next to him, her anxiety searing the back of your throat. Mr. Harley smells like tobacco and spice and he's already on the defensive and another thrill of nervousness wraps around your spine. At least you have empathy on your side - you'll be able to tell if the conversation is taking a turn for the worse. And hopefully use that ability to sort of pedal it on a course that's... not completely disastrous?
You're still nervous as all fuck.
"I'm John. It's, uh, nice to meet you? I guess? I mean, I know you don't really want to be meeting me right now, or maybe you do, but that's beside the point, I mean, I'm just going to stop talking now. Yeah."
"So the goal of this conversation is to convince me that you mean no harm, my granddaughter is in no danger whatsoever, and you are not a dangerous creature in the slightest. Well. I'd say you have your work cut out for you, boy."
"Okay, well, for the record, humans have murdered like literally millions upon millions of people over the years, and have polluted the fuck out of the ocean which isn't too helpful to us, so if you're going to judge me by my species then at least look at yours first!"
The words are out of your mouth before you can stop them. It was more put-together and less aggressive in your head. God dammit.
Mr. Harley cocks his head to the side. "The difference being that your species teaches aggression whereas mine has actually evolved to a point where we can have civilized society."
"You'd teach aggression too if you had to hunt and fend for yourselves against predators instead of holing up in your houses and..." You stop just short of saying 'sitting on your asses watching your TVs all day.' Bad John. Bad. You are supposed to be the reasonable one here. It's hard not to be defensive, though. "Look - I can already tell you that this conversation is going to go in circles. But see, the thing is, I'm the only mer left around here, so the culture and laws and stuff don't really apply anymore? Like, I have absolutely zero desire to hurt anybody, 'cause my dad taught me better, which I guess was because he was in love with Ms. Lalonde and all, but anyway." You wet your lips with your tongue, realizing just how much nervous babbling you're getting up to. "I'm not bound by any of the dumb 'kill humans who know' laws, so I'm not going to. Jade is one of my best friends. Rose too. And I am kind of in love with Dave, so."
He's silent for a long time, and you can feel him pondering the information. You think, yes, I have made a breakthrough. I did it. I have explained everything just fine and he's going to see that I'm not like he thinks and everything is going to be just fi -
Which is when he says, "Have you ever hurt humans in the past?"
"I..." Your voice falters. Fuck. "I haven't hurt any humans, no."
"You're lying." He stands, quick and sharp as the snap of a rubber band. You didn't realize he could move that fast. "I've heard enough."
"No no no, let me explain, let me explain! Please don't leave, okay, just let me explain."
He turns to look over his shoulder and then turns fully back around, which you count as an improvement, even if it's a small one. He doesn't, however, sit back down, and you think, I only have a few seconds to make this right.
"I really haven't hurt anybody, I really haven't. Not myself. But at one point I was seen by a human and the girl I was with... she... yeah."
He takes a step backward like you're a lion crouched to attack.
"No no no, listen, that was back when there were still mers around here, I didn't want her to do it but there really wasn't another choice, we'd be risking so much and I was scared, okay, I was thirteen and I was really really scared and I'm sorry. I'm sorry. It's a lot to put on a thirteen-year-old and I was scared and she said she'd take care of it so I let her. But it's like I said, they're all gone now, they're all dead or they left so I'm all alone. And Jade is honestly one of my closest friends and Rose and Dave and Ms. Lalonde are like family and I don't want anything bad to happen to them."
This is more than nervous babbling; your voice is becoming higher in its desperation, the words spilling from your lips like a tidal wave. You have to make him understand. It's as though a clock ticks down, you can hear the maddening sound but you can't seem to slow it down, so you cram as much into the small timespace as possible.
"I wouldn't ever do anything to hurt them or anyone else or even you, I wouldn't, but if you send the police in and they find me then I don't know what's going to happen to me. And I don't know what would happen to Dave or Rose either and it scares me a lot to think about. I need you - I need you to please, please, I just need you to stop trying to sabotage me. It's okay if you don't like me or don't approve of me, but what you're doing isn't fair."
You've been so wrapped up in your desperation that you haven't even been keeping tabs on his balance. So it takes you by surprise when his face softens slightly and he steps back toward the pool, sitting on the grass. Still out of reach, but at least he seems to be listening again.
"My sister is dead because of your kind," he says, but this time it's quieter. Less aggressive, more explanatory. "That isn't fair either."
"I am too."
After years, grief becomes a scar that can hardly be penetrated. But you feel a dull throb of pain on his part.
"I'm really, really sorry."
He rubs his temples. "I'll admit I'm still deeply mistrustful of you, though you've managed to quell some of my worst fears a bit. But that's not even the problem. My first instinct was to react out of spite and vindication - to attempt to ruin you as though that could somehow avenge my past losses. And in retrospect, that was an irrational reaction. But...
"Dozens upon dozens of people drown along the coast each year. Often it's put down to freak accidents or rip tides, but God knows how many mers are actually involved. All of those people are just like my sister. They have lives, families, hobbies, hopes, dreams, people who will miss them. They're people who are innocent, people who had futures, and they're murdered in cold blood in the name of protecting your species.
"I can't warn people about the dangers because I'd come off as a madman. You see it all the time in movies! The man tells everyone a demon or vampire or mythical creature of some sort is on the hunt, and everyone laughs at him. And then everybody ends up dead. I cannot tell you how much it's bothered me - no, tormented me - for the vast majority of my life.
"If I have proof that mers exist, then the warnings will be heeded. Precautions will be taken. People will be safer and possibly stay away from the coasts entirely - which would help your pollution problem at least a tad. Investigations could be launched... so many things could change, and all I need is proof. All I need is you.
"It's not fair to you, I know, but one unfair action against a boy and his family seems an acceptable trade-off for the safety of who knows how many human lives. All I want is to keep people from suffering the way my family did when my sister was taken from us."
His eyes are very green and bright in the light. You think about the fact that he was a teenager once, and a young boy, and he hasn't always been this grizzled tired old man. Underneath the gruff exterior, there is real caring. Not everything is about petty revenge. Like, he is still being a dick, but you get why he's being a dick. Man, that sucks. You really want to hate the guy.
"You can imagine my initial panic when I realized what Jade was dealing with. I was terrified of losing another family member."
"You're not going to lose me, Grandpa," Jade says, leaning against his side. "You're stuck with me."
Of course, amid your realization that Mr. Harley is actually a (possibly) decent human being is the panic, because his words lead up to one terrifying conclusion.
"So - you're saying you're not going to stop."
"No. I'm sorry."
"B-but what you said... about the safety and stuff... that's not true. The rest of them - the rest of the mers - they'll retaliate."
"John, don't underestimate the power of human technology. It can easily combat whatever attacks you throw at us."
"But people will die! So the safety thing is complete bullshit!"
"Mers will die." He stands and stretches. "And it will have been their choice to continue showing aggressive and dangerous behaviors. My aim is to protect the innocent, not the guilty."
Jade stares between the two of you, horror painted so clearly in every line of her body that she looks carved from ice..
Mr. Harley turns and begins to walk away.
"Wait!" you yell.
"I have nothing left to discuss."
His footsteps fall casually against the grass, and Jade stays frozen on the ground.
The door opens and shuts with a finality that sends shivers running down your spine.
For a few minutes, you honestly think Aunt Roxy might leap off the widow's walk in the heat of her rage. Be all fuck yeah, I am going to turn into a bird and fly the fuck away and shit on everything that I don't fucking like.
However, Bro successfully manages to peel her off the ceiling, rubbing her back and telling her to get her shit together. Really it's a very loving gesture. She groans and clings to him, Rose hovering in the background for Lalonde Backup 101.
"I hate people," your aunt mutters. "All the people. All the people suck. Every one of them. God. Fucking people."
Jade disappeared with her grandfather, not daring to stick around in order to make sure he didn't do any other fucking stupid things. At least having her with Mr. Harley gives you guys a tactical advantage - she can text when he's up to no good. You're trying very hard to sort through and find the bright sides of this situation, because right now you are a flaming ball of rage and you want to walk straight out there and kick some old man ass. That's all you, too. Can't blame mer instincts. Fucking Christ.
"I hate people too," Bro says. "We should start a club."
"I'm gonna get really really drunk and pee in his front lawn. I'm gonna do it."
"Okay, Mom." Rose presses her lips together, obviously trying not to smile.
"We need to get John back into the ocean," you say. "He's a sitting duck out here."
"If you guys want to keep running tests to make sure he doesn't get sick again or some shit, then be my guest. But we gotta get him out of the pool. He feels like shit in there anyway. Hell, maybe being back in the ocean will help him recover fully. And if worse comes to worse and it does make him sick again, we just move him back while we find a non fucked up place for him to live. But that's last resort. We have to get him out of here."
"I know. The problem is..." Aunt Roxy's hand twitches toward a wine bottle on the counter and then drops. "Life for a mer is much more dangerous than life for a human. With the more nomadic ones, society's much more primitive and they're susceptible to predators, starvation..."
"You sound like a textbook."
"John sustained damage to several major parts of his body - his muscular structure weakened, his ability to breathe above the surface diminished, and I wouldn't be surprised if he has only a tenth of the endurance he used to. For us to throw him back in the ocean right now would be like tossing a wounded gazelle into an empty plain and telling it to survive on its own."
"So it's dangerous as hell on land and dangerous as hell in the water. Fucking great."
"Nooot if we take safety precautions." Her hand twitches slightly toward the wine bottle again, and then she moves to the cupboard and takes out a glass, filling it with plain water instead. "I have connections, I can get - fuck, a shark cage or something for him to sleep in, to stay safe from predators. And there's emergency signals, and we can check in with him every night, and feed him if he's having trouble, and..."
"Well sheesh, I wish you'd get this maternal over me," Rose says.
"But we can't bring him back to the ocean tonight. Too risky."
"Well you'd better fucking act fast because time is ticking."
"I will." She drains the whole glass of water in one gulp. "Fuck, I have a headache. I need to make some phone calls."
She sort of sashays out of the room, leaving you with Bro and Rose.
"She hasn't had a drop of alcohol all day," Bro observes.
"It won't last," Rose says, and retires to her room.
Aunt Roxy comes up with a shark cage within a day. You're not even going to ask.
You sit with her and John as she explains.
"Have to put it deep enough in the water that nobody'll notice it, but not outside your natural habitat. It's a tough life. I'll take you and it out on the boat tonight and find a spot to dump you, as close to home as possible."
John nods eagerly. "Okay."
"And if you have any problems while you're in the ocean, you'd better tell us, and we'll find a way to take care of it. Okay?"
"I suppose." He wrinkles his nose.
You kiss him lightly on the mouth.
"I can't believe I'm finally going home!" He beams. "This was a widely over-extended stay, you know. Not that I don't appreciate your hospitality and all, but seriously. So stressful."
"Don't think you can just go running off now, though." Aunt Roxy kisses his hand. "We're your family. I'm like your adopted mom."
"Oh god, don't say that, that makes him my adopted cousin."
"We are all adopted cousins on the road trip of life," she says sagely.
You grin, but the moment is interrupted by Rose, as moments seem to frequently be. "Hi guys, I know you're probably discussing fascinating topics and I hate to be a bother, but we've sort of got a fucking emergency on the line so can you please move your asses."
"What is it?"
"According to Jade, the lovely bag of dicks has decided that the best course of action is to get the police involved again. There's a chance they'll obtain a search warrant from a judge, in which case we're royally fucked. There's also a chance that they'll completely ignore Mr. Harley and write him off as a grumpy old man - they wouldn't want to risk you making a fuss and complaining to the press or something. But there is sort of a chance that police will show up on our doorstep, so! The point here is move your asses, please and thank you."
She bounces anxiously up and down on the balls of her feet, and John's fear spikes. You ruffle his hair. "Shh, it's okay."
"I guess it's time to go then." Aunt Roxy stands up, all business, smoothing her shirt and pants down. "John, are you ready? Not having any second thoughts about staying in our humble abode with all the shit humans and needles?"
"Hmm." He pretends to consider. "Nah, I'm good. I have said a goodbye to Viceroy and everything. Please get me the hell out of here."
Getting John out to the ocean and properly into the boat is an ordeal in and of itself, which involves a slight bit of driving, a slight bit of carrying, a slight bit of flopping, and a whole lot of "owowow what the hell are you doing my joints don't bend that way ow god."
Eventually, though, you are in the boat, which has the shark cage attached. It's smaller than some you've seen on TV, rectangular, just big enough that John will be able to sleep in it. "I'll drag in a bunch of sand and seaweed and stuff, it'll be paradise," he says.
"Everything's paradise now that you're finally going home."
John's excitement burns in the back of your mind. You can't help grinning as you help him settle down. He keeps hauling himself up to peek over the edge of the craft at the ocean below. You shrug on a life jacket as Aunt Roxy starts the motor and bug John to help you. "I am not going to forgo this this time. Hell no. No more drowning in the open ocean for me, no thank you."
John kisses your mouth and tugs you down on top of him.
"Gross PDA," calls Aunt Roxy from the steering wheel.
"I am just cuddling him! Sheesh."
"Sure you are."
You stay flopped on John to ignore the rocking of the boat as you slice through the water. The sea is relatively calm tonight, but you still feel a tiny pit of anxiety in your stomach. It's hard to focus on, though, considering John's utter euphoria, singing through your mind and body. He's so psyched to be back at home. And even if that means not getting to see him 24/7, it does mean that he's happy, and hopefully safe, and that's what matters.
God you love him.
"I forgot how good it smells," he sighs.
"Seaweed and dead fish are great if you grow up around them, I guess," you say, tucking your head against his shoulder.
"It smells like fresh air and salt and wind and..." He hugs you close. "It smells great, fuck you."
"If you say so."
"Hey, Ms. Lalonde, how far out are we going? And if it's going to be a while, can we take a quick break so I can breathe? My lungs are a pain in the butt."
"Only five more minutes tops. Can you hold out until then?"
"Yeah, I think so."
You slide off of him to help conserve his air, keeping your face nuzzled against him. "Almost there."
"I know." He squeezes your hand.
Aunt Roxy cuts the motor after maybe three more minutes. John heads down to poke around and make sure everything's okay - that he'll be safe and able to find food and all that good stuff. You settle down and close your eyes and focus on him rather than the water surrounding you. Pretty dumb to be scared of water with a merman under you after all, he'd just drag you to shore.
You're reveling in the pleasantness of his thoughts rather than scanning for any signs of danger, so you're startled when you hear a whooping voice break the stillness. A quick glance over the side of the boat shows that it's just your boyfriend diving out of the water like an overexcited whale or dolphin. What a fucking dork.
He clears the water and then dives back down before surfacing and swimming over to the boat. "It's good! It's really really good. It's great."
You lean perilously over the side, heart pounding in your chest, and kiss him lightly on the mouth. Then you pull the fuck back because there is no way in hell you're falling in again. Nope.
"You'll check in every day."
"Yessss, I will, stop naaaaggiiiing meeeee."
You finish setting up for him and then make your way back to the mainland, and there are no police officers in the house, and you rest easy for the first time in days.
Wow. You really love the ocean. You have never properly appreciated how great the ocean is! The tides are great, and the sand is great, and the seaweed is great, and the depth is great, and the caves are great, and the sparkly shit is great, and basically everything is great. Wow. The ocean is really, really great.
You're almost surprised by how quickly you adjust to living on your own, almost like you never left. The relief from being out of that concrete prison cell makes you nearly giddy. Despite Dave and co. being worried this might be bad for you, you haven't felt better in ages. Not sick, just ready to take on the world.
You are also surprisingly fond of the shark cage - at first you weren't sure whether you'd bother to use it, but you didn't fight the notion too hard because you knew they'd do it anyway. After making the metal into a comfortable as hell sandy plant bed, you don't mind at all. Being able to sleep without the fear of getting eaten by predators is pretty sweet.
Also, being able to see Dave is great. Just like before. Getting to see Rose and Ms. Lalonde and hear updates on how things are going and whether the cops have showed up or if they're being followed or if things are safe. You get to kiss Dave and laze around with him and spend the rest of your day exploring the water and fucking reveling in the fact that you are finally home.
You don't see Jade as often anymore, but she's snuck out a few times to swim with you. She's not on lock down so much as worried about being followed, because if your meeting spot was discovered that would really suck. You'd probably just find a new meeting spot, but still. This one has character, you think. And memories.
You measure time more with the shifts of the tides than the rise and fall of the sun, because holy shit you've missed being able to feel the tides, something you took for granted before. It's like having a constant external clock gently weaving and pulsing around you. God you love being home.
So now that everything is really great - barring Jade not being able to see you so often and the Mr. Harley drama currently going unresolved - there's nothing to worry about. Nothing but the occasional pesky humans getting in the way. You're home, you have a family, you're relatively healthy, you're not scared, and nothing can possibly change that.
You urge Dave into the water and get him to paddle out with you, out of reach of the rocks. He's willing to let go of you as long as you stay within arm's reach. He's not a bad swimmer, honestly, he just needs to get over his dumb fears.
Something tickles the back of your mind, but you barely acknowledge it, assuming it's just a hiker passing through or something.
But as you wrap your arms around Dave, the shape grows to a more defined presence, and strangely seems to be coming from...
A small crease appears between your eyebrows. What the hell...?
And then you recognize it.
You very calmly bring Dave to the rocks and lift him out of the water, setting him on dry land. "Dave," you say.
"Listen to me very carefully. You need to go home right now. Go inside and stay inside for the rest of the night. Don't come back out here. Don't have any of the others come out here. I'll put up the signal when it's safe."
"Dave. I mean it. Go. Now."
He opens his mouth to argue and then shuts it.
"Dave, for fuck's sake, go!"
He jumps and then gets the fuck out of dodge. Took long enough.
You very carefully calm yourself and back away from the rocks, ducking under the water. Your eyes open, staring through it, and you flick your fin in search of the nearby person. Okay. This is okay. This is all okay. Everything is okay. You just have to keep telling yourself everything is okay, because if you panic you won't be able to make everything okay.
It's not hard to find her. She's probably been waiting. You smile and try to show nothing but pleasure and mild bewilderment. You're pretty sure you're failing. Fuck, okay. An old friend. How do you greet friends again?
You lick your lips and tilt your head to the side. Right. Anything to break the ice and all.
cute mermaid princesses aw
please forgive me for writing mermaid princess feferi with no fish puns
Her eyes are wide and very very purple, matching the scales rippling along her tail. The last time you saw Feferi, she'd been pale and tired, stressed from watching her friends die and being able to do nothing to help. Now she's grinning, the pallor cast away. Apparently she found somewhere warm and safe to stay. What wonderful stress relief.
All in all, it's probably a good thing that out of everyone, Feferi is the one to come back. She's never been all that intolerant of humans - in fact, back when you guys were younger she helped you with a prank or two. Although she'd obviously never let her parents know. Even if she did see Dave, you can probably sucker her out of obeying the law if you just explain it well enough... she'll listen. She has to.
"What are you doing here?" you ask, managing to find your voice.
"My parents and I came back to check the water. See if anyone new had come, or if anyone was left, and if the water was safe, and stuff. And we were just about ready to leave, but now I've found you!" She smiles. Her teeth are even sharper than yours, and her skin nearly gray. Though she's beautiful in an odd, ethereal way, you realize suddenly how much living with humans for so long has softened you. In addition to her beauty, Feferi looks absolutely terrifying.
"How long have you been here? And how long have you been traveling?"
"A week or so. Just scoping things out! But we figured that the water probably wasn't safe considering nobody was here... and yet here you are!" She giggles. "Where have you even been hiding?"
"Well, I am excellent at not being found." You wiggle your eyebrows. "You forget you are talking to the pranking master."
"Oh no, believe me, I have not forgotten you that easily. Hmph. I'm so on my guard." She flicks her tail. "Where's your dad?"
"Oh. Oh god, I'm sorry. Was he sick...?"
"And everyone else?"
"Either dead or gone. I'm the last one left."
Feferi claps a hand over her mouth, her concern rippling between you. "You've been here by yourself that whole time?"
"But how have you been getting by? Ugh, it's a good thing we found you when we did."
"Well it's not like I'm a little kid. I know how to fend for myself." You chew on the inside of your cheek.
"You won't have to anymore. We can bring you back with us, get you reacclimated and stuff."
"No!" You realize a second too late how vehement the protest was, and close your eyes, amending. "I mean, my dad's buried here. I feel kind of tied to this place, you know? I've been here my whole life."
"But the water might still not be safe, and..."
"I think I'm safe from sickness." Haha. "Besides, I kind of like being on my own."
"You do not." Feferi puts her hands on her hips, sticking her tongue out. "Besides, you were talking to someone - I felt it. I'm not going to be all offended if someone's randomly decided to adopt you, I suppose. Although that would be awfully strange, wouldn't it? Some clan moving in here and letting you stay on the territory?"
"Fef, drop it."
"Aha, that's it." She gives you a knowing smile and starts to swim away. "Weird we didn't see any of them. Lucky, maybe. I guess you guys are staying just out of where we were searching."
You swim after her, surprised by the effort it takes to keep up. God you really are weaker than you were before, aren't you?
"Yeah, okay, I'm staying with others."
"So not to be offensive or anything," she says, her tone casual, "but why didn't they murder you in your sleep?"
"Fucking rude, Fef."
"I'm just asking!"
You smile and speed up, eventually managing to swim neck in neck with her, close enough that the fins of your tails brush. "I connected with one of them," you say, laying heavy emphasis on the word. "In the most romantic way possible. Swooooon."
"Oh reeeaaally? Are they cute?"
"Very much so."
She stops so abruptly that you feel the current around you shift. You pull back and frown.
"John," she says.
"You are going to need to lie way better than that to my parents."
"I'm not lying!"
"You are, about the other mers. I don't know what's going on and honestly, I don't want to know. I'm going to feel super guilty if I have to cover anything bad. So I'm going to keep being my oblivious self, and you're going to either come up with a better lie or tell that lie better."
"How am I supposed to - I mean, I'm not lying."
"Okay, how am I supposed to tell that lie better?"
"I don't know, but you are screaming guilt and suspicion. Sheesh."
"Look, Fef, you're a better liar than I am. Can't you just go back to your parents and tell them you didn't see me? Say the place is as empty and desolate as you guys originally thought. Then there's no harm done."
She chews on her lip, and then you feel her steely resolve. "Okay. But please don't do anything dumb. Please stay safe - keep us safe."
"I will. I'm not completely insane. Promise."
"You're lying again." She shakes her head. "Like I said, I don't want to know. But you're sure you're safe? You're all right? There's nothing I can say to make you come back with me?"
"Nothing at all."
"Then... I guess I'll go. Take care."
"Thanks," you say with the warmest wash of relief you've ever felt. "And Fef?"
"It was really nice to see you again. I'm glad you're safe. Sorry I can't come back with you, but I promise I'll be okay."
"I believe you. I should get back to my parents - and you get back to whatever illicit adventures you were having before." Her eyes sparkle. "I hope whatever you have is worth it."
"It's worth it."
Once Fef disappears, far enough in the distance that you can't see or sense her, you turn around and make your way back to where you were. It occurs to you, an uncomfortable prickle going down your spine, that now she knows the location of your meeting place. But she was also completely sincere - there wasn't a trace of suspicion that you could detect. Fef's a good friend. She wouldn't want to get you in trouble.
You put up the safety signal, figuring it's better to reassure Dave now rather than later. His worry prickles in the back of your mind, and you look up at Rose's house to see a figure standing on the widow's walk. A suspiciously Dave-like figure. Has he been up there the whole time waiting for the signal? Jesus, it's a good thing you convinced Feferi to leave - god, if you hadn't been able to lie effectively to her parents, you don't want to know what would have happened. You shiver.
Dave Figure disappears from the widow's walk, and five minutes later he's trotting out to the rocks, leaping down to see you. He skids on the slick surface and almost loses his footing, and you automatically put out your hand, trying to catch him. But then he rights himself and settles down, gripping the stone.
"What the hell was that all about?" he demands.
"It was a false alarm. One of my friends came back, but she and her parents are leaving... tonight, I think? She didn't say exactly, but I think tonight. Soon at least. They were just checking out the area."
"She saw you with me."
"She didn't see anything. I think she suspects, but she's covering for me. She's a pretty cool friend."
"Christ, I hope so. I'd say you should come back to the pool, but I'm pretty sure you'd punch me in the face. Not to mention now the land isn't exactly safe for you either. Ugh. Why is everything so fuckin' complicated, I hate our lives."
"Hey, it could have turned out way worse." You peck him on the mouth, hopping up onto the rocks. "Relax. As soon as she's gone, we're safe."
He thaws a little and wraps an arm around your shoulders, pulling you closer. "I am not going to lose you. I won't let that happen."
"It's not going to happen." You nuzzle against his neck. "I love you. I know everything's been... really dramatic and awful lately, but it's okay now."
"I love you too." He lays his head against your shoulder, and you play with his hair.
You return to your shark cage to sleep later that night, once you're exhausted. There's nobody around, thank god; you reach out in all directions, senses on hyper alert, but nothing out of the ordinary catches your attention. So you swim inside the metal structure and latch the door, curling up and drifting off.
You're dragged rudely out of sleep what feels like a short time later. For those first few groggy seconds, you're not sure why. Fucking sleep schedule messing up. Why can't your brain just let you nap, god.
But then you become aware of the sharp point pressed against your throat. Your eyes fly open.
Mers, fuck, there's mers. That's your first groggy realization. Your second is that it's Feferi's family - Feferi outside the shark cage, chewing on her nails; her dad behind her; and intruding in the cage itself is her mother. Whose trident is pressed up against your jugular. Ohhh fuck. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck. Fuck. Fuck shit fuck shit fuck shit fuck. You can't even come up with any words that aren't fuck shit because holy shit fuck oh fuck. Fuck.
"Fe..." Your voice cracks, and you try again. "Feferi?"
"I'm so sorry, John, I'm so sorry, I had to - I'm so sorry, I had to, I couldn't, I'm so sorry."
You don't even dare to swallow for fear of the prong piercing your skin. Fuck. Your heart beats in your ears, adrenaline flooding your system. You are so screwed. You are so fucking screwed. Every instinct in you screams to attack, but there's no way to do that with the weapon, and terror wraps through your spine and chest. "O-okay," you say, your voice coming out high-pitched, "I'm going to sit up, all right? Don't slit my throat, I'm not going to try to swim away or anything, I'm just going to sit up. So we can talk. Yeah."
And sit up you do, as slowly as possible. The trident follows your movement, and you back up against the farthest bars of the cage. Feferi's mom tilts your chin up with the weapon, so your neck is fully exposed. You close your eyes. Fuck. No. This has to be some kind of nightmare, this can't be happening, you have to lie, you have to fix it, you have to...
Apologies continue to fall from Feferi's lips, mixed with frantic explanations. "I thought he might be human, I thought so, I had to follow you back, I kept my distance and my senses are better than yours so I could - I'm so sorry, John. I had to see and I couldn't just let you, not like that, I'm sorry."
"So you're going to kill me."
"Don't tempt me." The trident presses harder against your skin, and you barely keep back a whimper. "We're not going to kill you. Yet."
"Business to take care of first. Gotta tie up loose ends."
The panic makes it hard to think. Fuck fuck fuck what if she accidentally slits your throat or something fuck she could just kill you now fuck.
To this, you're greeted with an eyeroll that could likely rival Rose's. Fef's mom has never been the perfect picture of maturity. "The boy, moron."
Your heart, beating so frantically before, now completely stops.
Feferi buries her face in her hands.
"You get to stay alive for that. I'm bein' nice. Bet you want to bury your human."
"Shut up." She finally pulls the trident back. "In the morning. Fef can sing him out."
"No, Feferi, you can't, you can't."
"I'm so sorry."
You sag against the bars. Fuck, fuck, you have to fix this, you have to do something, anything, or -
Vriska won't be the only mate you've seen die.
don't do the thing
there is a song for this chapter. smoke by moddi
She sits still and looks straight ahead, completely ignoring you. Distress sparks in waves from her skin, and her lips press into a thin line. You think, I can get through to her. I just have to make her understand. Then she can convince her parents and everything will be okay.
There's no way you're going to let Dave die. You'll do anything if it means Dave will be safe.
"Feferi, please talk to me at least." You keep your voice low. She's supposed to be guarding you right now, but you're not sure exactly how far away her parents are. Don't want to make them come back. You need the alone time. Have to convince her. Have to set everything right.
"There's nothing to say," she whispers.
"Fef." You reach through the bars of the shark cage to touch her hair, floating around you in the gentle currents. "I know you're probably angry at me. And I know you're supposed to like, do the whole 'you're dead to me' thing now that I've been caught fraternizing with a human. But can you please, please, please give me a few minutes to explain it to you?"
"You knew how much trouble you'd be in for this." She turns to make eye contact, her mouth pulling down at the corners. "You knew and you still did it."
"I never even meant to talk to him, Fef. I mean he came here on vacation and I sort of connected with him from a distance because I'd been spending a lot of time around humans - not talking to them or letting them see me, I swear!" you hastily add as she gives you a Look. "I was the only one left around here, all right, I needed something to entertain me. Drawing lines in the sand and trying to talk to fish only gets you so far."
The corner of her mouth tilts upward. Just barely, but there's the hint of a smile. Good. You're making some headway.
"So I kind of connected with him, right? But even then I wasn't planning to talk to him - I mean, Fef, I'm not stupid. You know I'm not stupid. I knew how dangerous it was. I've seen how dangerous it is."
"He was going to drown."
She sighs, blowing a string of bubbles. "John."
"I couldn't let him drown."
"So you should have saved him and then left! Gone before he got any glimpse" -
"Fef, I was so lonely."
She goes silent.
"Just imagine it, okay. Imagine if your parents die and you have to bury them. Your best friends have all either died or moved away. There's nobody left. Nobody to talk to, nobody. And you're just... stagnating. Then you find some human you connect with and save their life and you have the chance to talk to them, to have real contact with something sentient..."
You trail off, blinking at her. You're getting through to her. You think you're getting through to her, anyway. You have to be getting through to her.
"You can't tell me you wouldn't jump at that opportunity."
"I don't know."
"Feferi," you say ever-so-softly, touching her hair again. "It's okay if I die. Honestly I'm pretty used to thinking I'm going to die. If you want to kill me, that's fine. I broke the law. I surrender. But he hasn't done anything wrong. He hasn't done anything wrong. And he's got all these people who care about him - just because they're blind and sort of imbeciles doesn't mean humans are completely ruthless. You can't hurt him."
The salt of her tears crusts at the corners of her eyes, and she moves to wipe at them with a hand.
"I love him, Fef."
"I'm so, so sorry." She reaches through the bars to stroke your cheek, and you know then that you've lost, and you bite back a sob. "I can't defy my parents. If I was leading the clan then you know I'd let him be in a heartbeat, but that's not the way things are."
"Then convince them," you say, and it hurts so bad, and in the back of your mind Dave is worried sick about you and he doesn't know to worry about himself. "Please. He's trustworthy. Please. Please, you can't kill him, not just because he has legs, please."
"I promise he won't feel anything," she says, wiping a bit of salt that's somehow ended up in your eye. "I'm good at what I do. He'll be too dazed to be frightened or to feel the water - I swear, I can make it that way." She presses her forehead against the bars. "But that's the most I can do."
You back up against the cage wall and curl in on yourself, biting your cheek. Can't cry now. Have to think of a plan. Have to fix this. Can't let them know about the others, can't let Dave die. Okay. Even if you can't fix this, that's a bright side. They don't know about the others. Everyone else will be okay. Right. Everyone else will be fine.
You think about Dave's bro and Ms. Lalonde and Rose crying at his funeral and the dam breaks.
The sobs rack your body for the next few hours, making you shake so hard you create currents around you. Feferi stays as still as possible, but you can feel her own sorrow, and Dave's worry. He knows something's terribly wrong. You can picture him, pacing along the widows walk or the beach, or maybe talking to Rose, seeing if she knows anything. He's fine for now, but soon he won't be, unless you can do something something something to fix it.
You really don't want to hurt Fef or her parents, but if it comes down to it you will. If it's between hurting them and the safety of your family (and yourself, you really don't want to die), then the choice is obvious. You have to keep Dave safe. It's imperative.
After a while, Dave sinks into sleep. You draw as much comfort as you can from his peace, shivering despite the fact that the water doesn't bother you. Maybe you'll throw up. Gross.
One more try.
One. More. Try.
"Feferi," you say, inching back over to her. She's still awake, still staring straight ahead. Her parents will be here any minute to take over. "I cannot watch him die."
"It'll be okay."
"I can't go through it again."
"Tell that to my parents."
So you do, the second they show up. Her mom doesn't seem to appreciate it much.
"So lock him in the cage until it's over and bring him the body."
"No, no, that's even worse - I don't want to feel the connection snap, that's happened before too. Look, look, just let me break it with him, all right? Just let me break it off and then you can - just let me break it first."
If they allow you to hold Dave, you can come up with some way to fix it. Snap him back to his senses and tell him to run. Casually grab a rock and bash in the heads of Fef's parents. Just the usual stuff. No big deal.
Oh. There is a trident pointed at your throat again. Okay.
"He's gonna be a pain in the fins if we take him with. And the sun's just starting to come up. Lock him in."
"He's not awake yet!" you protest.
"No no no, listen, I'll come with you, I'll come with you, it's okay, don't don't don't please fuck listen to me - listen to me!"
You snatch the key and hold it out of reach, but the trident digs deep enough to just barely pierce the skin, and you really really don't want to attract predators so you instinctively loosen your grip.
They turn the lock and you're trapped.
You sag down against the wall, holding your bleeding throat so the cut will scab over. At least that's one problem solved. Admittedly not one you particularly care about, but you digress.
It's when they're out of sight, out of hearing range, out of any distance where you can sense them, that you feel the stirrings of Dave's consciousness. But it's marred by sleepiness and the confusion of siren song.
And that's what makes you snap.
Your vision goes completely red and you flick your tail, slamming your shoulder against the door of the cage, trying to break the lock. It rattles but doesn't budge, so you slam your shoulder again, and again, and again. A small snarl rises in your throat. Like hell you're going to let them take Dave away from you. He's yours.
The same instincts that lend you strength in a shark fight awaken, pumping adrenaline through your veins. You're electric, energy personified, and there's too much rage and fear to be contained in a single body. This is how your dad must have felt when he saved you from the predator when you were little. This is the accumulation of years upon years of evolution and survival, leading up to this one moment where Dave is your world and your survival links to his. This is need in its purest form, liquid in your blood, because if he dies you die and you want to live.
On the fifth try the lock breaks. You're a fucking bullet through the waves, but you stop to search along the ground for something, anything sharp. Can't find any fucking proper weapons, don't have the time, but you can get a stone or two or five. Enough to fight. They'll regret trying to take him from you. You'll make them regret it.
You're going to save him.
No matter the cost.
don't mess with mers
the next chapter is technically the last one. then there will be an epilogue following uvu
In your dream, the waves and sea foam are warm and inviting rather than a source of terror. You walk slowly into them, dipping your head under the crest, opening your eyes. The water is clear around you rather than blurry, and you swim forward, trying to free yourself from the tide. A line of bubbles escapes your mouth. You kick further down, toward the sand beds and the dancing darkness, looking for - you're not exactly sure what, but you'll know when you find it. Your mouth opens and you pull in the first breath of choking salt, and that's when you wake.
The air seems strange around you. You sit up slowly, rubbing the back of your neck, searching out the source of the oddity. It's almost like it's shimmering, and a persistent voice in the back of your thoughts insists you climb out of bed. You do, blinking and reaching for your shades, but stop at the last moment. There's something much more important you need to do. That dream was a sign, you realize. You need to get to the voice.
"Dave? What are you doing up?" Rose asks. She's sitting at the kitchen table, cuddling her kitten. You don't have time to stay and chat - the voice presses urgently against your mind - but you need to keep her from being suspicious. Something inside you warns that she won't like where you're going.
"Morning," you say, moving for the kitchen door.
"Where are you going?"
"Out for a walk. Guess I'll take a nap after that. Just kind of restless."
"Where are your shades?"
"Don't need 'em."
"Right." She frowns. "Are you okay?"
"Fine." You step outside, calling a goodbye over your shoulder. "I'll be around later. Just got shit to do. See you."
Clouds stretch across the sky to the left, promising rain later. But the sky to the right is clear, bleeding red and orange. A hot summer day ahead. Not nearly as hot as the days in Texas, but hot enough. Good day for a swim. The ocean needs you.
You break into a jog, wishing you had a car. The faster you make it to the beach, the better. It's like an itch you can't scratch, or a rope pulling taut. Right now, you probably couldn't turn around even if you wanted to. But you don't want to. The warmth promised at the end of the journey is enough for a lifetime.
Not the meeting place, not quite. You have to go a little to the left, then wander out into the sea. The need consumes, rockets through you with little licking tongues, whispers of shhhh come to me come to me cometomecometomecometome ineedyou ineedyounowcomecomeshhcomeshhhhhhshhh but wordless. More like a sweet melody ingrained into your mind that no one else can hear.
Shh. Come. Almost there.
You climb over the rocks and onto the sand, stepping into the foam. It washes around your ankles, so cold it hurts. Only now do you recognize that you didn't put on shoes, your bare feet sliding deep into the sand as water wets your pajama pants.
You step forward, and the water laps against your knees.
You swim faster than you have in your life, and you can feel Dave's muddled confusion in the back of your mind, and you don't have enough time. You know you don't. Your brain calculates the seconds as you move, silently begging the tides to change and carry you closer. For Feferi to pull him into the ocean, for him to drown - you don't have enough time. You believe what she said about there being no pain, but that doesn't mean you want to lose him. Can't allow it. No.
For you to be able to fight off her family, drag him out of the sea and revive him before it's too late - that will take a miracle. God, you hope there's a miracle. You don't even believe in a higher power, but you're praying anyway, begging anyone and anything that will listen. Please please please don't take him from me.
Feferi and her parents will sense you coming before you sense them. They're sharp. The element of surprise won't be on your side, so you need to rely on your rage to carry you through. All you need is to break Dave's trance and get him home safe. That's all you need. Everything else is irrelevant.
You're reaching the shallower waters now, and the emotions of humans walking along the beach begin to come into focus. But that's not what you need. You scan for them, come on come on come on where are you where ARE YOU, and light upon mers and a siren-washed consciousness.
The water is inching up your thighs when you feel the hand close around your wrist. There's a blind moment of confusion - the rocks separate you from view of the main beach, so who could possibly be following you? You turn and blink.
"What are you doing?" Rose half-screeches.
Your voice comes from far away. "Let go of me."
"You're not even - just come back home, Dave."
"Let go of me. I need to do this."
"To do what?"
A small crease appears between your eyebrows. To do... what? For one second, sharp awareness slams into you. You're standing in your pajamas in the middle of the painfully cold ocean while clouds roll in. A storm brewing. What are you doing?
But then the voice in your mind - the song - escalates to a high reverberation, a mournful note. The clarity slips away. All that matters in the world is her, whoever she is, and you need to get to her. You desperately need to get to her.
"Dave. Come on."
You shove hard at Rose. She goes down with a startled little yelp, releasing your wrist so she can keep her head above the water. You take advantage of the opportunity to move deeper, letting waves inch over your chest, the larger ones lapping at your neck.
"Busy, Rose," you say, and again it comes from far away. "Leave me alone."
Dave's not the only human there. A sick bolt of dread stabs into your stomach.
"There's a girl following him," you hear Fef's father say.
"So we kill her too. Big deal. I just want to get this over with."
Fef's mother turns to intercept you, trident in hand. But in her arrogance she's not prepared for your anger. Not prepared for the rage and pain and strength of a boy who's already lost everything.
Point for you.
You grab the handle of the trident, trying to wrestle it out of her grasp, the two of you locked in an underwater dance. She's stronger than you, but you have the weight of pain on your side. Her tail fin brushes against your face while she tries to twist and wrench the weapon away, and you sink your teeth in as deeply as you can and yank.
She howls, and suddenly the weight of the trident rests heavy in your hands. You pull back, spitting out the bitter piece of fin you ripped off, and point the prongs at both of them.
"Call Fef off," you snarl.
"Snap their necks. I'll take care of this," her mom says, her face fins flared out, her tail flicking back and forth as she tries to dull the pain.
You growl low in the back of your throat and play your last card.
"They're not the only ones who know."
"If they die, the others will know who killed them, and there will be war."
She knows you're speaking the truth, even if half of it comes from the empty anger deep in your chest. There's another second, an endless second where you keep eye contact and wait, and Dave's head slips under the water.
"Call Fef off, dear," she says.
You smile viciously, teeth almost cutting into your bottom lip. "That's what I thought."
Full awareness slips back like a rubber band snapping. The water, rather than a soothing blanket, becomes a suffocating wall of ice. A wave washes further over you, pushing you deeper down. You open your mouth to scream, and your throat floods with salt. For a moment the panic is far too consuming for you to do so much as move, but then you kick your legs. A hand grabs your underarm and yanks you upward, and your head breaks the surface.
You spit out your mouthful of seawater and drag in gulps of fresh air, staring wildly around. Rose has a hold on your arm and is dragging you bodily toward the rocks, swimming with the pull of the tide. She grabs the edge of a stone with her free hand, and you come back to yourself enough to scramble out of the water. Your pajamas are plastered to your skin, and you're shivering so hard your teeth chatter, heart pounding in your chest.
"W-w-what was I d-doing?" you ask.
"I don't know. We need to get you home and into warm clothes, come on." She kisses your cheek.
"No, but I d-don't understand why I'm even h-here."
"I can explain that," says a soft voice from behind you. You search for the source of the noise and find an unfamiliar mermaid smiling sheepishly, holding her hands out.
"Don't you dare touch my cousin." Rose stands, movements jerky, and takes your hand. "Dave, we need to go."
"No, no, I'm not going to hurt you, I promise."
"You're John's friend, aren't you? The one who showed up earlier," you say.
"Yes. Hi. I'm Feferi."
John's a mass of broiling emotions in the back of your mind, which means he's still alive. But where he is you don't know, and the fear presses against your chest, because he's told you repeatedly how forbidden this relationship is and what would happen to him should anyone ever find out.
"Where is he."
"I'm right here." John breaks the surface and swims to the rocks, hopping up beside you. In his hand he holds a golden trident straight out of the movies. You take a wild guess that it's stolen. "See, um, we all sort of need to talk. Nobody's going to hurt you two, because if they try I'll kill them." He smiles pleasantly at Feferi, and you feel like someone's dropped an ice cube down your back. This is the terrifying side of mers, the one you only got a taste of when a stupid asshole dared to trip your best friend a lifetime ago.
"And if we leave?" Rose asks.
"I guess you could do that. But see, I kind of really need to threaten Fef's parents properly, and for a human you are really good at being scary. So you should help me out."
"I see." After a moment Rose settles back down. "Explain what's happening to me."
"They came back and found out I'm with Dave and freaked out and decided Feferi needed to siren sing him out and drown him but then I broke out and got a hold of her mom's trident and told her that Dave's not the only one who knows and you're not the only one who knows and that people will know what happened if you disappear so you guys can't disappear and now we need to talk." John takes a deep breath. "Also I'm in super deep shit but that is my problem, not yours. The important thing is that you guys are safe and we really really need to talk about all of this."
"Ah." You're still processing the explanation, and you know Rose must be terrified out of her wits, but a small smile spreads over her face. She's just as terrifying as the mers. Jesus Christ. "I think talking sounds like an excellent idea."
"Nobody kill anybody," you mutter.
"Oh no, I have no intention of killing anyone. But I do think they should know exactly what they'll get if they hurt my family." Rose's smile grows wider. You make a mental note never to meet her in a dark alley.
"Right. Okay. So we can talk and - and sort of reach a solution?" Feferi says.
and i'm trying my best to be tough
to pretend i am strong and can siphon it off
but i'm not who i wanted to be
in my heart i belong in a house by the sea
-house by the sea, moddi
thiS CHAPTER IS SAD DON'T READ IT IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SAD RIGHT NOW
but yes, this is the last chapter.
here you'll cry harder if you listen to this
Feferi's parents join the lovely party, and you keep a tight grip on the trident. Her mom really wants to tear your throat out with her teeth, but you're confident enough in Feferi's protection. The anger will ebb, anyway. There are more important matters at hand.
"So how many people know?"
"Several." Rose answers for you before you can try to come up with a proper reply. "Don't blame John for that, though. He caught the sickness in the water and was more than willing to die rather than expose himself to more humans. We forced him into medical treatment. It was very rude of us."
"Dave was pretty distressed about his boyfriend dying, you see."
"Right. So fuck knows how many people know."
"The thing is," Rose says, and she's completely in control of the conversation now, confidence masking the worst of her fear, "as the information stands, we have enough knowledge of mer physiology and behavior that we could effectively combat any attacks. You no longer have the element of surprise on your side. And if Dave and I mysteriously drown, the people back home will know what happened. Believe me, they will not be happy about it."
You and Dave both stare at her.
"That being said, every person who knows is trustworthy. We have absolutely no intention of attacking or harming your species if you do us no harm. We can't even prove the existence of mers with our information, as photos can be doctored and data can be made up. I cannot stress this enough - we have no intention of harming you."
You realize your mouth is open. Whoops.
"So the logical course of action is to pretend this whole fiasco never happened. You go back to live with your people and John stays with us and continues living his life. He's family. We won't hurt him."
"I don't think we can do that," Feferi's dad says.
Your heart sinks into your stomach. "They really are trustworthy, you can tell from the emotions, you don't have to - "
"I'm coming up with compromises so nobody gets hurt."
"So what are you thinking." Your voice comes out flat, and you bite down on your tongue. "I mean, I'm sorry, I'm sure you're trying and all. But I'm a little frazzled."
"They can't prove the existence of mers. Unless they have a real mer."
"I told you they're trustworthy, they wouldn't."
"There are people who would."
You immediately think of Mr. Harley and try to force him out of your mind, but you know your emotions have shifted enough for them to pick up on it. Fuck.
"See? You know there are people who would. And that threatens you personally as well as our race. Your human friends should care for your safety."
"Yeah, I do care for his safety," Dave snaps. "Pardon me for being worried that the second he ducks under the water you're going to stab him to death."
"I won't let them," Feferi says. "I think sometimes rules need to have exceptions. John was all alone. I think we can forgive him. Right?"
Her parents do not seem particularly convinced, but still, Fef's protection is enough to make you feel safe. She's a fierce motherfucker.
"So what are you saying?" Rose asks.
"I'm saying that if there's even the slightest chance mers are being hunted, it's not safe for any of us to be in these waters. Including John."
"Holy shit nope nope nope how about no." Dave reaches out and grabs your arm like he can hold you here, like he's a lifeline, his fingers digging into your skin.
Your heart twists in your chest. You swallow hard.
"What I'm thinking is this," Feferi's father says. "John comes home with us. No punishment for breaking the law. We tell the others that these waters are too contaminated to be safe. Nobody ever finds out this little mishap happened, and no potential wars are ever started."
"Or," Dave says almost before he's finished, "you leave John here with us and go home and pretend this little mishap never happened. That sounds good too."
"It's too dangerous."
"You're not in a position to bargain," Rose says.
"Dave. Rose." Your voice chokes off. It's getting hard to breathe, like when your lungs were filled with sickness. "They have a point."
"No they don't" -
"As long as Mr. Harley and people like him are still in town, I'm not going to be safe. And I'm not going to kill him or anything. I'm not. I've had enough of murderous drama for a lifetime." You let out a shaky little laugh, but it trails into a noise that's almost-not-quite a sob. "I need to think logically, right, I need to think about how to keep myself safe, and the Peixes are still sort of like family even if I haven't seen them in ages. They can take care of me."
"No you're not leaving me."
Dave is all denial and resolve and a bone-deep grief, because he knows the decision's been made already and he can't accept it. You wish you could do something, anything, to help him, but your own pain is too great for you to ease his. God knows this was one of the last things you wanted to happen. And now that it's come to pass there's nothing you can do.
"No. You're not. You don't get to do that. You don't get to be all, 'Oh, well I'm caught, guess I'd better give up and go fuck around god knows where and never see Dave again.' You don't get to do that. You need to stay with me."
"Please." You pry his hand off of your arm, then pull him into your lap, hugging him close. He's trembling and you're sure only part is from the freezing water. "Dave, listen, shhshhhhshh. I don't want to go, god I don't I really really don't."
"Dave listen, shh, if I go then I'm safe, and I can make sure you're safe because I can keep tabs on Fef's family" - you glance over your shoulder, debating on apologizing - "and make sure they keep their promises, and everyone will be okay."
"Everyone will be okay if you stay too."
You're crying now, and you press your palms against your eyes to stem the flow of tears. "If I go then there are no more mers here. Nobody can hurt you. And if I stay then I have no way of making sure that they d-don't come back to finish the job and..."
You can picture it, Dave being dragged under the water, Rose with him. If the mers have too much time to think, they might decide the slight risk of war is worth the end of humans who know too much. You've seen Dave wander into the waves, you know that terror, and you'll do anything to keep it from happening again. Dave is going to live a long and happy and healthy life. Even if you're not in it.
Mers and humans were never meant to be together anyway.
"I'll take that risk."
"I won't!" You're shaking harder now, and you wrap your arms tightly around his waist, giving up on stopping the tears. "I'd rather never see you again than risk you g-getting hurt, I just spent the last day thinking you were going to drown so believe me when I say that I have had time to think about it. I mean. Not consciously, but I know how I feel."
"So we take you away from here, we go somewhere..."
"How? By dumping me in another swimming pool?" Your laugh this time is more helpless, and you don't even care that Feferi's family can hear you. Who cares if they know you swam around in a human home. "Like I wasn't miserable enough the first time."
"You can't leave me."
"I love you so much." You kiss the top of his head. "I love you enough to do anything to keep you safe, even if it hurts. And I need - I need you to be able to do that too. I need you to let me go."
"But what if they kill you anyway."
"I won't let them," Feferi says. "I know that you probably don't believe me because you can't feel everything I'm feeling, but believe me, it is a very steady resolve."
"That it is. She is very resolved, Dave. The most resolved." You try for a smile, but it's hard with the tears still choking you. "I promise I'll be safe. I promise. And so will you."
Dave exhales a long breath. "I feel like I'm going to throw up."
"Shh, it's okay, it's okay."
"I can't lose you. Do you have any idea how hard I fought not to lose you earlier? I put myself through heaven and hell to make you better, you do realize that, right, you can't just turn around and be like yeah, thanks for that Dave, time for me to swim out of your life forever."
"You know I need to go."
"Fuck. I know. I'm going to throw up."
Fef's mouth pulls down at the corners. "I think we need to leave as soon as possible. And I wouldn't recommend getting any of the other humans who know near my parents," she adds, only half-teasing, waving a hand at them. "Can you, um, say your goodbyes now?"
"That's not enough time," Dave says.
"Dave, it's happening whether or not you keep me here a few more hours." You kiss his nose. "It's okay, shh, we can say our goodbyes, it's okay."
"We'll go underwater for a bit. Give you guys privacy."
After the other mers politely disappear, you turn to Rose, blinking so you can see straight. "C-can you tell your mom and Jade both that I love them?"
"And you, Dave, you tell your bro that I'm glad I got to be part of your family even if it was just for a little while, and you guys tell the team that I'm really glad they saved me even if I didn't want them to at first, and Dave you tell Terezi that I said she has a great best friend and she should keep you around forever."
"Well of course Terezi has a great best friend," Dave says, struggling to maintain his composure. "We've already established that I'm fucking amazing."
You gently push him off your lap so you can inch over to Rose, wrapping her in a tight hug. She clings to you, tucking her head against your shoulder, and though she's forcing herself to stay dry-eyed you can tell how upset she is.
"I love you to death. You've been like the best friend ever, even if you're also scary as hell."
"I'll take that as a compliment. And I love you too." She pulls back and smiles as well as she can. "You take care of yourself, okay? Keep yourself safe. I'm so glad I got to know you."
"I'm glad I got to know you too."
She reaches out to touch your cheek, stroking your skin with her thumb. "I'll leave you and Dave alone to say goodbye, okay?"
She picks her way over the rocks and to the beach, giving the two of you some privacy. Dave immediately latches onto you, squeezing tight, and pecks every inch of your face. His lips leave burning trails of kisses over your cheekbones, your nose, your chin and forehead and jaw, and last of all your mouth. His fingertips trace the curve of your ribs and your spine and your sides, fluttering.
"What are you doing?" you murmur.
"Memorizing. I didn't do it well enough earlier, I thought there'd be more time, I gotta remember what you feel like."
You kiss the corner of his mouth. "You know it's okay to move on, right? If you meet some really cool guy who you like a lot and you want to settle down, then you settle down. Just because we love each other doesn't mean you have to keep loving me forever or that you're not allowed to love other people or something."
"No fuck don't say it like that that makes it sound like you're dying fuck John stop stop don't do that don't do this holy shit." His breath creeps toward hyperventilation. "John please please please I'm sorry I'm trying to be all strong and shit and like, sacrificial, like you're being all noble and whatever but John I don't want you to leave I don't I don't oh god I don't. Please John I want you to stay here with me and we can wake up at the same time and kiss and I can feed you goldfish crackers and you can teach me to swim and then someday we can have like I don't know some kind of mock marriage ceremony and John please. John no no listen it's okay for me to be in danger I don't mind just. Don't."
He's never sounded so pathetic and desperate and small.
You lie down across one of the larger rocks, tugging him down on top of you. "Rose and the rest of your family would be in danger too," you remind him.
"Fuck. I'm sorry. I know. I know you can't stay. I know you gotta keep us safe - I gotta keep Rose safe and shit. I know. Shit. I'm sorry. I'm just kind of freaking out, shit, I'm sorry."
"It's okay, I'm freaking out too." You trail your hands over his arms, examining every dip and scar and freckle and rough patch. He pillows his head on your chest and shakes and shakes.
"Shit oh fuck oh fuck no no no nope I am not going to cry Striders don't cry we don't cry nope. Not doing it. Not doing it."
"It's okay if you cry, Dave." You rub his back. "I'm crying a bunch too, just in case you hadn't noticed."
He exhales a sob, curling up on top of you, fighting for breath. "I love you."
"I love you too. So much. I'm so sorry."
"I'm sorry I can't keep it together. Jesus."
"It's okay, no, don't apologize." You continue rubbing his back, humming softly. "Just promise me you'll be okay. That you'll be sad for a while, but then you'll pick yourself up and go on with life like normal. You'll do that, right?"
"Well duh." He laugh-sobs. "Just because I'm a basketcase now doesn't mean I'm going to be a basketcase forever. Just for a little while, y'know."
"I love you so very much."
"I know." He inches up to kiss your cheek and your mouth. "I love you too. Should've done more, should've like, mixed you songs and made more of the time, I'm sorry I didn't."
"Stop that. No regrets, no apologies. I am happy for the time we had together even if it has to come to an end. And I hope you are too."
"Wouldn't trade it for anything." He moves to lie on his back beside you, twining a hand tightly in yours. "God I'm gay."
You really do laugh at that. "Yeah, you're going to be fine."
He swallows. "And you? You'll be fine?"
"I'll be okay."
The two of you simply lie there together for a few minutes, a small infinity, your breathing evenly matched while you get a hold of yourselves again. Once you've finally stopped crying and Dave's regained his control, you sit up, leaning against the rocks.
"We need to break the connection."
"What if we don't, though." Dave rests against you. "What if we just keep it in place and have the most ridiculous long distance relationship in the history of long distance relationships."
"Dave, I'm pretty sure that would be cruel to both of us."
He sighs. "Yeah. Figured it was worth a shot."
You turn his face toward you and kiss him, bracing a hand on the back of his neck. He leans into the touch, parting his lips, his tongue flicking along your teeth. You press him back against the stone and kiss harder, memorizing the exact texture of his tongue and his teeth and his mouth. If there's one thing you want to remember perfectly, it's how kissing Dave feels. How he tastes, the desperate breath against your skin and the different emotions he holds inside. His fingers, the way he holds you, every little intimacy you've ever shared -
He's crying again, his tears salty against your tongue, like a tiny piece of the ocean. You stroke his side with your free hand, trying your best to soothe him, to keep him close and safe and warm. God, you're freezing.
After you've given yourself enough time, you slowly start to disentangle yourself from him. Your lips still press against his, but you target every part of you that you've hidden inside his mind and pull, like undoing the threads in a tapestry. It's a slow process, painless but strange, and he whines low in the back of his throat. After you've extracted every essence of yourself - after you can't feel him in your mind though his grief and sorrow still permeate the air around you - you pull back.
"I c-can't feel you," he says.
"It's weird, isn't it?"
"I think I'll m-miss it."
You kiss him again, lingering. "Dave, I need to go."
"I know. Just. Can you stay a little longer."
"If I stayed as long as I want to, I'd never leave."
He lets out a long, shaky breath. "Okay. Yeah. Okay. Fuck. That's true. You need to go. I just. Am I ever going to see you again?"
"I don't think so."
"Okay. Fuck. Okay. I know you need to go. It's just hard."
"I know. It's hard for me too." You pull him into one last embrace, nipping at his neck. "Stay safe. I love you."
"Love you too." He kisses your nose. "Have amazing mermaid adventures for me, all right?"
"Will do. Have amazing human adventures for me."
One last kiss and you slip beneath the waves. Feferi's family is waiting for you. You silently hand her mom back the trident, and true to their word, they don't harm you. Feferi gives a sympathetic little hum, but you're hardly paying attention to her. The full grief hasn't hit you quite yet, you think. You have a family and it's not the Peixes - it's the humans you've left behind on the shore. You're going to miss them so much that you can't stand it, like there's a larger pressure on your body than the water. It's the kind of dull pain that makes you want to sink into the sand and sleep forever, but it'll pass eventually. You know it will. Even if you never fully stop missing them.
Even if you never stop loving Dave.
Ever since you healed from your sickness, your heart's been beating strangely. It pumps a different rhythm than a human's regardless, but lately the blood's felt even more out of sync. You assumed it was a long-standing side effect, and it probably is. But right now the alien rhythm seems more apt than ever. The blood pumps through your veins and you swim deeper into the sea and you think about Dave's lips and how someday you'll forget the way he tastes and smells and laughs and the sound of his voice and you think about all of these things, and your heart clenches and unclenches and it hurts. It hurts. The blood flows through your body and it hurts.
Your heart isn't whole, after all.
Chapter 33: Epilogue
okay, this is the final installment. which means i need to give a rather long authors note thanking everybody who's stuck through this, whether you've been here since the beginning or you've latched onto the bandwagon over the past year. this whole story has been a blast to write and a great way for me to interact with the homestuck fandom. also you can never have enough johndave.
i'm still in shock at the amount of people who have read and enjoyed this... i know my writing style has improved over the course of the fic, and i can't really fathom how people can like my writing so much, haha. i really really appreciate it though!! your kind comments and encouragements were what made me push through to the end.
here's your casual reminder that i have a tumblr - http://luciditydream.tumblr.com
i also have two other multichapter fics i'm working on right now should you be interested in more of my writing / more johndave. ashen feathers, in which dave is a fallen angel; and silver bullets, in which dave is a vampire, jade is a werewolf, rose is a hunter, and john's a normal teenage boy.
(they're currently on semi-hiatus once i finish school but i should be updating regularly again in a month or so.)
again i thank you all for reading this and i hope you have had as much fun reading it as i had writing it uvu
That’s how long you spend without going ashore.
The Peixes watch you like circling sharks for the first while, convinced that you’re going to slip away in the dead of night and wreak havoc among mer and humankind. But eventually even they relax. They keep your secret because Feferi is your friend, and you stay hidden in the water and you’re part of a community again. People with tails and all six senses are much easier to deal with than people with legs. Ha. Silly of you to forget that. Of all the things you should remember, mer superiority is at the top.
You never mate.
You’re very quiet, quieter than usual, and they know you have secrets buried, but they never pry. You’re the freak who lived alone for months. Of course you must have gone a little crazy.
Ten years and their holds have relaxed, their gazes are softer. Ten years and you feel utterly miserable and alone and you have morphed into a legs lover, it is you, this is so dumb.
Miles and years away from where your journey started, you still remember the way back. A lot's changed since then - Feferi taking over the clan, the occasional lack of food - but ultimately everything goes back to the status quo. You’re curled in a cave considering this when Fef joins you, gently touching your hair. “You should go back.” A small line of bubbles escapes her lips.
“I mean it. You’re so unhappy. Maybe if you went back you could get some peace of mind. If you came back to us I’d welcome you, but – everyone knows how unhappy you are, John.”
“Right. I’m an embarrassment.”
“No, you’re my friend.” She settles next to you and smiles. “And to be honest, the more I think about it, the more I think a lot of our laws are really dumb! Sure, humans are terrible in every way” – you wrinkle your nose at her – “but they did nurse you back to health. And I could tell how much that boy loved you.”
“Your point being?”
“I just keep thinking team work with humans would be a lot more productive than this rivalry stuff. But I am not going to change our whole society by myself. However…” She reaches out to take your hand. “I am definitely powerful enough to cover for you if you go back.”
“I’m sorry, it must be news to you that I lead our entire clan.”
You crack a smile. “Right.”
“Please don’t start a war.”
"I won't. I promise."
You are twenty-six years old, which is about the same age your dad was when he met Ms. Lalonde. Funny how those things work out.
You take your path through miles and years and you find familiar beaches. Follow them to find familiar homes. You hope they still live in that big old house by the water. You’re sure once you heard Ms. Lalonde say she’d sell her soul before she gave it up.
The old signal, the tattered shirt, is under the same rock it was before. Granted it was buried deeply there, but it’s survived ten years of changing seasons and tides and hurricanes. It’s a miracle. It’s a sign.
You put it up and wait.
The past ten years have been surprisingly good to your motherly figure. She’s not even drunk, although granted it is early afternoon, and you wonder whether she’s living all alone now. But she does come. She comes and perches on the rocks and you break the surface and smile.
“Jeeesus Christ. I finally did it. I finally cracked.”
“No, I’m really here.”
“Time to call up my daughter and tell her I’m losing it.”
“I’m reeeaaally here. Look, I look older, right? That’s because I’m real and not your imagination.”
“Time to call up my daughter and tell her the prodigal son has returned.”
“Where does she live now?”
“Other side of town.”
“And… what about Dave?”
Dave comes. Of course Dave comes.
He’s taller and has finally grown into his figure, past the awkward teenage stage between childhood and adulthood. There’s a sunburn on his nose and shoulders, a scattering of stubble around his jaw, and he still wears his dumb shades. He reeks of found maturity. It intimidates you for a minute, because you left him as a boy and came back to an adult, and only now do you realize that you’d still been expecting the same sixteen-year-old you left behind.
After the initial moment of shock passes, the feeling resolves itself into a warm familiarity. Dave is still Dave, despite being ten years older. Just like you’re still John despite ten years living among the super wild mers.
“Hey,” he says.
You pull yourself out of the water and sit beside him. His feet dangle over the edge of the rocks, dipping into the ocean spray.
“I’m not scared of the ocean anymore.”
“No. After you left I was really goddamn pissed at myself because I thought of all these little moments I should have been able to share with you in the water, and I couldn’t because I was too fucking terrified. And I was really regretful and shit because gasp, emotions are terrible, so I kinda faced up to my fears. I can even swim now.”
“It’s like I don’t even know you anymore.”
“I guess I just liked to think you might come back. Rose thought for sure you were dead, but I ain’t as pessimistic as she is.”
“Well, I did come back. So you were right.”
“It’s been a long time.”
“I know. Are you… with anyone?”
He shakes his head. “Nah. Had a couple one night stands, but nothing’s really stuck. Although I can tell you lurid and fascinating tales about my sex life.” He stares down at his hands. “And you – can you feel – I mean, your whole knowing I’m your soul mate thing – can you still feel that? Would you still want me? Because I’m not really sure how we’d work it out, but I am totally willing to try this shit if you are” –
You kiss him to shut him up, and it’s like being ushered to a new beginning.
Welcome home, John.