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Here There Be Monsters

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The creature flops heavily to the shore as Jared releases it, sand sticking to its wet hide and Jared's cheek as it lashes out, squirming fitfully from underneath Jared's weight. Its movements are sluggish and unsteady as it beaches itself further up on the little island. Sandbar really, only a few palm trees and some grasses. Even at its farthest edge, Jared can still reach the creature's...

Tail? Tails? They don't seem nearly flexible enough for tentacles, all straight lines and funny angles. More like crab legs than anything. But surely two of them wouldn't be enough to hold it up, would it?

Back pressed up against one of the trees, it stares at him; big kelp-green eyes with sunny shards scattered throughout. It’s pretty, actually, in the face at least. Possibly in the upper body too, assuming the strange billowy white stuff that’s plastered to the shape of its chest now isn't part of its body - some sort of a hair or algae, perhaps? Very light, pinkish skin with tiny darker speckles, especially across the bridge of its nose. If not for the lower half it would look practically Mer.

It isn't moving now except for the rapid rise and fall of its chest that Jared assumes must mean it's breathing. Not that he can guess how.

When he'd seen it - floundering amidst the torn carcass of one of the big brown whales that swims along the surface of the water - he'd tried prodding at the smooth curve of its neck to make sure there wasn't anything gumming up its gills to keep them from flexing, but as far as he can tell there's nothing. As far as he can tell it doesn't even have gills.

It seems to like the air, based on the way it kept clawing for the surface. Maybe it's some sort of a whale too? The calf of the big brown one, maybe? He's never heard tell of how those spawn - he'd have thought the striking resemblance of their young to Mer would have been worth mentioning - but they must come from somewhere. And the stories always made it sound like they lived as much out of the water as in it, which seems to fit the way it's acting. He certainly can't imagine it being much of a swimmer; no proper webbing on its hands, no ulnar or spinal dorsals, those things where a tail ought to be.

Technically speaking, Jared's not supposed to get in close to the big brown whales. The elders say that they're dangerous, that they have spines like urchins that they hurl at smaller creatures to drag them to the surface and eat them and that they can unfold thick membranes from their sides that trap whole schools at a time. But the whale was obviously dead or dying, big pieces of its hard, dark hide – shell? - floating along the surface while the rest of its body sank toward the bottom and its... its baby, he supposes, was just floundering there! There were already bodies of the ones that hadn't been able to fight as hard falling toward the depths - Jared couldn't just leave the poor little thing there to die!

Fine, Jared's a sucker for animals. That this happens to be a particularly adorable, helpless animal is just further incentive to try and take care of it. Not that it's making his job easy.

Tentatively, Jared reaches out a hand, only intending to touch the very tip of it's- alright definitely legs. The way it moves them, those must be legs. Weirdly constructed, confusing legs, but legs. Although maybe that’s not how they’re supposed to work because now it’s grapping at its side as it flails and making a very pained face.

Oh it’s hurt! The poor thing! It’s touching its ribs gingerly, shooting Jared a nervous look before pulling at the clinging algae-stuff until…

Ah, the white membrane on its torso is some sort of a shell after all and the calf is peeling it back to reveal the same soft skin as its face and arms. All along its ribs on one side the flesh is a mottled red that Jared thinks must be a bruise, if whale calf skin works the same way Mer skin does.

To reach it this time, Jared has to drag himself a little further out of the water, grit scraping against his stomach and insinuating itself under his scales. The whale-let looks none too happy about this turn of events, but there isn’t much place for it to go. It tolerates Jared’s proximity warily, hands tucked in close to its body, one clutching something shiny and sharp looking. So they do have spines, then. Given its size and the weakness it had fought against him with, Jared's honestly more concerned about how quickly the color is draining from its face than any damage it could do.

“It’s alright,” Jared says in his most soothing voice, which doesn’t actually seem to soothe the calf at all from the way its eyes go wide and its mouth falls open. After a moment of hesitation it starts jabbering some sort of noise that Jared can’t make sense of, brandishing its tiny spike. Its face is blanching further as Jared watches, though, eyes turning heavier and its breath more labored as it struggles to look fearsome.

It still flinches when Jared very slowly reaches out toward its injured side, but doesn't quite manage to bristle at him again. He lays his finger just to the side of where the bruise fades out, keeping his touch gentle. A small, hurt noise leaks free of it and sets Jared crooning softly as he probes for breaks in the bone. By the time he's satisfied that there's no significant damage, the calf has subsided into quiet huffed breaths, glittering slits of green peeping out through its eyelashes before they close altogether.

***

"Jensen."

The whale slants a look toward him out of the corner of his eyes – Jared’s decided to call it a he; on a Mer those features would be male - a curve playing at the edges of its lips.

"Jared," he replies, with that funny twist on the sound that seems to color everything that comes out of his mouth. For a moment he looks up from the strange light he's made out of coconut shells, flittering orange throwing strange shadows onto his face in the dark as he smiles.

Pleased heat laps at Jared's insides like the sandy slush rising and falling around him. He's resting half out of the water, chest to the damp grit, chin resting on his crossed arms as he watches the w- Jensen do whatever it is he's doing with the fish Jared brought him and the wavy light.

He’s a strange thing, Jensen, but clever. Even slowed by his injury, he's managed to make a... a something out of the big pieces of the mother whale’s brown shell that have washed ashore, lashed together with long strands of seaweed. Jared's not really sure what the point of it is, but Jensen had been very intent about it all afternoon and he's letting it take up most of the dry space under the trees now that the tide's come in.

"Jensen," he says again, teasingly. Rolls over onto his back with a quiet splash as his caudal breaks the surface and looks at Jensen upside down to earn a laugh. Or a sound anyway. Categorizing Jensen’s actions by Mer standards may not be the most acurate explanation for the things he does, but by Mer standards, the things Jensen does make it seem like he likes Jared and that’s enough of a reason to keep assessing them that way, as far as Jared’s concerned.

He may be a bit enamored with the funny little creature.

"Jared," Jensen returns indulgently.

He's busy with that shiny spine he carries around again, running it along the dorsal of the fish he's rescued from the swaying orange light. The fish's skin has gone black, its insides stark white when Jensen peels it open and starts pulling bits off to chew on ravenously. The poor baby hadn't even been able to hunt for himself, Jared shouldn't have trusted him to be able to feed himself properly.

Jared can't really say he's ever understood whales much, but he's starting to think Jensen might be odd even by whale standards.

He must be making a face as he watches Jensen eat because when the whale slants a glance over at Jared he makes one back. With a sigh, Jensen gets up on his strange legs - yes, two of them are enough for him to stand on, evidently - and moves to the edge of the dry sand just in front of Jared to settle again.

Just like Jared had earlier, he holds the fish out in offering, although Jared's much less enthusiastic about the prospect now than Jensen had been. Picking up on Jared's skepticism, Jensen carefully picks a morsel of the opaque flesh off of the rib cage and slowly raises it to his own mouth, as if he's the one who needs to teach Jared how to eat. He smiles as he swallows and proffers the fish again.

Jared had had his fill earlier when he was hunting for the both of them and just looking at how Jensen has mangled the food makes his stomach twist, but Jensen's looking at him so encouragingly and pulling another bit of fish loose and, oh, offering it to Jared from his own hand. What can he do but lean in and nibble it gently from Jensen's fingers?

Unexpectedly, Jensen shudders when Jared's tongue sweeps over the rough texture of his skin. Draws his hand back and rubs the tips of his fingers together, staring as if he's just discovered them. Trying to decide what that's all about is almost distracting enough to keep Jared from paying attention to the bizarre texture of the flesh in his mouth. Almost.

Oh. Dear. He wonders if Jensen would notice if he spit it back out again.

The answer, naturally, is yes, he would notice. Luckily, though, it just makes Jensen laugh, mouth splitting into a wide grin as his nose scrunches and his eyes crinkle up. How could anyone blame Jared for being charmed by something so pretty and sweet-tempered? If he didn’t seem so determined to stay on the land, Jared would be tempted to keep him as a pet. Might, in fact, be tempted to try anyway. He’s just so…

Jared doesn’t stop to think about what he’s doing until Jensen nearly topples backward jerking away from him. The soft-edged lines from Jared’s teeth scraping against his jaw are only just visible in the light. Less so as the rest of Jensen’s face darkens, pink spreading from his cheeks down his neck, disappearing beneath the white membrane that covers his chest.

Just to be certain he’s not misunderstanding, Jared pushes gently at the membrane, lifting it enough to reveal the softness of Jensen’s belly flushed bright too. Well then. Whales mate much younger than Jared realized.

Back to that skittish look from before, Jensen is babbling more of those weird sounds at Jared, but he doesn’t put much effort into escaping, just sinks back onto his elbows as Jared drags himself on top of him, and then further until he’s flat in the sand.

This is so much more complicated on land. Jared has to keep watching himself not to put too much pressure on Jensen’s injured side and it’s infinitely harder to get a decent motion going. His tail keeps spattering them both with salty water as he tries to propel forward against Jensen’s body.

The shocked-wide eyes Jensen turns on him as Jared starts to unsheathe almost stops him altogether. But then Jensen’s hand is moving softly over his back, even more tentative as his fingers brush scales, still urging him on and rolling his body up against Jared’s. His other hand slips between them and does something Jared can’t work out before Jensen’s unsheathed too – definitely male – and Jared’s existence falls away save for the heat and the smoothness and the drag of rocking against Jensen.

He’s occupied rasping his teeth against the stretch of skin behind Jensen’s ear, so close to completion his fins are flexing to the rhythm of their hips, when Jensen’s strange, separated fingers slide into his hair and pull until Jensen’s mouth is pressed firmly against his. It’s bizarre, but not unpleasant; soft lips and the slick warmth of Jensen’s tongue moving against his, the ticklish vibration of a deep noise shivering against Jared’s lips. Then Jensen his tipping his head back and the space between their bodies turns sticky and hot, thick fluid clinging to skin and painting a thin veil of heat over scales. Jared follows him a breath after, the shape of Jensen’s slack mouth painted by the orange glow coloring the back of his eyelids.

Jared slumps down heavily before he remembers Jensen’s bruises and slips off to the side instead. So much more complicated on land.

He doesn’t intend to go anywhere, but he couldn’t manage it anyway with Jensen’s arm sliding across his middle, one of his legs crooking up over Jared’s tail as Jensen presses against his side.

The color of his eyes is muted in the light, but the shine of them is bright when he nestles his head against Jared’s chest and looks up at him through his eyelashes. His smile is a quiet thing Jared has to touch the edge of with his fingertips. Jensen turns into it, his lips rubbing against Jared’s skin sending a warm rush through Jared all over again.

Carefully, moreso than he has since the first time, he shapes the word, “Jensen.” Tries to put all of the words he knows Jensen won’t understand into to murmur of sound.

A more open version of that same smile echoes up at him, curling sweet and tender around a low sigh of, “Jared,” that says everything he needs to know.