Jon liked to watch the humans. Of course, he liked to eat them even better, but he enjoyed watching.
They were all so interesting, going about their little lives. Fussing with their devices and having their bonfires and watching the waves. It was almost a shame when one of them grabbed his cloak, because then he had to become a part of the scene.
Introduce himself, make an effort to determine their nature and intentions, and, most times, drag them screaming into his domain. All so tedious.
(Of course, he let a few go. He wasn’t like Jonah, who enjoyed the uncertain ones most of all. No, Jon respected the taboo more than he resented it.)
This human though… this one isn’t doing much of anything. He’s been wandering back and forth along the shore for days on end now. But he won’t chat with any of the other humans and he doesn’t seem to have any little modern playthings to entertain himself with…
He just paces in the sand in between long stretches of sitting still on the sun-warmed stones. The man pays no particular attention to the waves, so he’s at no risk of spotting Jon.
Jon is certain that he’ll have to do something eventually. Humans don’t tend to just wait around for no reason. Maybe he’s going to meet with someone. Maybe something exciting will happen. He certainly hopes so.
It’s after about a week that Jon finally admits to himself that it seems his time has been wasted. This human is unacceptably dull. No wonder the others of his kind pay him no heed, if he’s so relentlessly boring.
Perhaps he’s been shunned by his community. It would serve him right.
By now, he’s been putting off feeding for days while he observed, sure that the moment he left would be the moment the man finally did something .
He slings his cloak on the stones the man had been resting on. Perhaps having him for a meal would enlighten Jon as to his purpose, if any, on the beach.
But, of course, a passerby takes up the cloak before the object of Jon’s ire can even lay eyes on it. A man, with a stern set to his face and a rather diminutive stature. Ah, well. One does what one must.
Jon tries to see if his previous target is in view before he rises from the water. He seems to have disappeared, and it’s just as well. This part is best without an audience.
He approaches quietly, walking up behind the man who holds his pelt. For all that it functions first and foremost as a lure, he still hates to see it in the hands of another. To watch mortal hands stroke along his fur. Run inquisitively over the many marks of experience he’s gained during his time in the world.
“That’s mine,” Jon says, making his voice sound ragged and desperate.
The man whips around. He clutches the pelt closer to himself as he looks Jon up and down, eyes lingering on Jon’s scars.
“Is it.” The man’s voice is unkind. Jon barely stops his mouth from watering.
Jon starts to answer, but is briefly distracted by a distant cry carried on the wind. A single scream, from further down the beach. His prey doesn’t seem to notice, and so he carries on.
“Yes, please. I need it, or I’m trapped. I can’t take it, it must be freely returned.”
He tries to make his eyes wide, his face vulnerable. To speak in the old-fashioned sort of lilt that always goes over well for some reason. He’ll be the first to admit that he’s not the best at this part. Although, in all fairness, he’s always had to do more to get them to act their worst.
Georgie barely needs to say a word before humans reveal themselves as monsters. It’s all a matter of perception, he supposes.
There’s a smile around the man’s eyes, even as his mouth stays in a firm line. His grip had loosened as soon as Jon said he couldn’t take his skin back. Points for gullibility.
“What happens if I don’ t give it back?”
This is the best part. When the taboo against eating innocent flesh is lifted. When the man proves himself monster, and it is time to feast. The sudden feeling of freedom, of a meal soon to be had, is delicious all on its own.
Jon smiles, and he takes care to show his teeth in their deadly glory. His prey goes suddenly, deathly pale.
The man is too stunned to put forth any sort of fight when Jon pushes him down, pins him against the sand. Leans down and, ignoring the weak shove aimed at his chest, rips a neat chunk of flesh out of his throat.
There’s a short, horrible shriek as he does so, and Jon grins at the sound.
Blood immediately darkens the sand beneath them. The man’s eyes have gone vacant, even as he wheezes for breath and shakes violently. He’ll live for a while yet, but he’s definitely not in any condition to flee.
Jon rises to his feet, reclaiming his coat and wrapping it around his shoulders as he does so. He’s grabbed one of the man’s hands, and is about to start dragging him into the waves when he hears the scream again.
He frowns and glances down to his prey, voiceless and limp on the sand. That’s not right. And come to think of it, the scream had sounded wrong when he had started to feed, too. He should have been able to feel it in the throat.
He looks up, and finds himself observed.
It’s the other human. The one that roamed the sand. The boring one.
He’s on his knees, clutching at his hair with white-knucked hands. His face is twisted in agonised grief.
That’s not good.
Jon looks back at his victim, then at his observer. They don’t… look related. Perhaps they were friends? Lovers?
...What is he supposed to do?
This other one doesn’t look as if he will be inclined to take the cloak. Hrm.
The boring one cries out again, and the scream is so sharp and long as to be unearthly. He’s started to sob violently, tearing at his hair and scoring long red lines down his face with his nails.
Jon, for his part, is feeling very uncomfortable. Can he just... leave? He considers his victim, who has stopped breathing and is looking very dead.
Surely the other man can’t want the corpse, right? Jon is the only party here that could make use of it. (And it is his, in a manner of speaking. He made it, he has the prior claim.)
He starts, slowly, to drag the body towards the water. The man continues to wail, has bent forward till his face meets the sand, wracked with mourning. Unusual, that someone who would fit Jon’s criteria for consumption would be so passionately missed.
In all likelihood, this man is better off without him.
But that thought doesn’t do much to mitigate the uncomfortable core of guilt that’s been slowly growing in Jon’s chest. Perhaps they can reach an accord.
Jon drops the hand of the corpse, leaving it just at the edge of the waves, and walks hesitantly towards the mourner. The man is crying in deep, aching sobs that Jon can practically feel in his own lungs, face still pressed into the ground.
Oh, well. Worth a try.
“H- hello?” he says, leaning down a little.
No response, beyond a wet gasp and a muffled keening sound.
“Um, hello?” he tries again, moving closer and speaking a little louder.
Again, there is no reaction. The mourner has started to tear at his hair again, ripping it out in dark tufts. Jon winces. Should he… let him do that?
“...Hello? Can you… hear me?”
The sobbing is starting to become slightly repetitive. Honestly, shouldn’t this man want to confront the murderer of the man he apparently loved so damn much?
“Okay… well, I’m offering to let you keep part of this man… if, if you like.”
“I’m not really aware of human mourning customs, so I don’t know if you’ll want an arm or…?” Jon trails off, increasingly self-conscious.
This is going nowhere. It was a stupid idea anyway.
“Well, sorry for the trouble,” he says, reaching out to offer an awkward little pat on the shoulder.
The second he makes contact, the man flinches. The loud, monotonous weeping stops instantly, and the man sits up fully.
Jon’s astonished to see that his face is dry and his eyes aren’t even red. (Though when he looks back at the sand, it’s certainly wet enough. Not to mention the little clumps of black hair recently torn out, now drifting on the breeze.)
And the expression on his face is nowhere near the agony that he glimpsed so recently. Instead, he looks at Jon with polite surprise. More than anything, he looks like someone who was just woken up from a nap.
“Sorry, were you talking to me?” the man says, and Jon has to push down how suddenly unnerved he feels. What is going on here?
“Yes,” Jon manages. “I was trying to… You, um, you were crying? And screaming.”
“Ah,” the man says, looking a little uncomfortable. “So you saw all that?”
“Well, yes . It was kind of hard to miss.”
“Sorry for the noise, I suppose?” the man says, with an awkward little smile. “Can’t exactly help it.”
Jon is missing something, something obvious. He can almost hear Jonah scoffing at him, saying that he watches , but never really understands .
“Sorry for the noise... You can’t… help it,” Jon echoes helplessly. “Is there- sorry, is there something I’m missing here?”
The man looks at him inquisitively, his smile going a little incredulous.
“I mean, unless you’ve missed that I’m a banshee, then… no?”
A… a banshee? What?
“You know...like, spirits that manifest when death is nearby? A lot of screaming and crying? That kind of banshee?” The man is looking increasingly disbelieving as he searches Jon’s expression and apparently doesn’t find what he’s looking for.
Jon has heard of banshees, but he had thought…
“I thought banshees were exclusively female?” he blurts out, and then cringes internally. Nice one.
The man frowns slightly and Jon fervently wishes to be in his seal skin, where he can’t talk. Where he can’t trip over his words like an idiot .
“I mean, sorry, don’t take it like- okay, I’m a male selkie, I know it’s a whole thing , I really didn’t mean to imply-”
“It’s fine, really-” the man cuts in while Jon is busy digging himself deeper. “It’s fine. You didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yes, I mean , no. No, I didn’t. I mean -"
He cuts himself off when the banshee laughs. Not meanly, but almost… fond. He gets to his feet, brushing the sand off his knees. His eyes briefly catch behind Jon, landing on the corpse behind him, and he wrinkles his nose briefly, before looking back at Jon.
“If it’s any consolation, I didn’t know that um, selkies ate… um, the way that you do.”
“Ah, yes.” Jon smiles at him, happy to be back on firm footing. “We put a lot of work into keeping that a secret, for obvious reasons. No one would take the skin if they knew what it meant.”
The banshee nods, looking a little green.
“I mean, it makes sense. And it’s fair, I suppose, if they’re already trying to steal part of you...do people ever, um, take it without knowing what it means?”
“Yes, very often. But they’re not free to eat unless they would have a selkie for a prisoner. So, we make sure they know what they’re doing, and if they don’t return the pelt, then…” Jon trailed off, gesturing behind him at the body that lay between him and the waves. “It’s a very efficient system.”
“I’m sure,” the banshee says, keeping his eyes trained away from where Jon indicated. “To each his own, I guess.”
“Wait, you don’t eat humans?” Jon asks, tilting his head. Sure, he’d never heard anything that suggested it, but he of all beings knew better than to mistake rumors for fact.
“N- no! Not at all,” the banshee insists, again looking faintly nauseous. The poor thing seemed to have a weak stomach.
“Well, how do you sustain yourself, then?” Jon asks, suddenly very curious. Didn’t everything have to eat?
“I mean… I suppose you could say that it’s death that keep me around,” the banshee says, with an expression that Jon might describe as wistful. “I’m not alive , I’ve died and everything, but… I’m pretty sure that the grief of the living, as well as the soon-to-be-dead, is what stops me from fading.”
“Ah, so just now you were-”
“Feeding, yeah, I guess. In a way.” The banshee shrugs one shoulder.
“Do you need to eat often?” Jon asks, fascinated.
“Well it’s less eating and more... renewing my being but, um, it depends on what it is. If I were to pass a funeral, then… yeah, it’d keep me around for a while, though it’s longer if I was there for the actual death.”
“Would any death be able to feed you?”
“Yes, as long as it’s tragic enough. And you certainly helped to ensure that was the case,” the banshee says with a little smile.
Jon forces himself not to preen. It probably wasn’t meant as a compliment. It was interesting, though, that they could feed from the same death without either of them having any less for themselves. It seemed very convenient.
“So… do you actually have to mourn the death, or is it just enough to be there?” he asks, thinking of the disaffected manner the banshee had adopted after Jon snapped him out of his grieving. It certainly didn’t seem that he’d be shedding many more tears over Jon’s prey.
The banshee’s smile becomes slightly embarrassed, and he rubs the back of his neck as he answers.
“Well, you saw my little display back there. I can’t really help but mourn any death I encounter. It’s sort of an unconscious thing. Like jumping at a loud noise.”
“Ah.” Jon couldn’t say he was envious of such a reflex.
“Yes, so you can see why-” the banshee cuts himself off, raising his eyebrows at something behind Jon.
“Hey, you might want to…” he trails off, and points.
Jon looks, and curses loudly when he sees that the tide was starting to carry away his supper while he was distracted.
He rushes to the water’s edge and drags it back in, settling it out of reach of the rising tide. Damn him for getting distracted.
He looks back at the banshee, and shrugs in a kind of what can you do ? The banshee shrugs back, looking rather amused.
Jon treks back to him, trying to pretend he isn’t embarrassed by that whole display.
“It looks like I should go attend to that before it floats away again,” he says, more stiffly than he means to.
The banshee nods, looking like he’s trying not to laugh. Which Jon doesn’t appreciate , but well…
“Do you mind if I come back later and ask you more questions?” Jon asks, getting it out before he changes his mind. It’s only so often that you run into another creature like him, and even rarer to find one so amiable.
The banshee’s eyes go wide, and there’s a long pause before he nods, and then vehemently shakes his head.
“Yes! Or, well, no, I don’t mind. Please feel free to come and find me,” he says, looking slightly stunned, speaking in a slightly higher register than earlier.
Jon stifles a smile at the way the banshee is tripping over his words. At least he isn’t the only one.
“You’ll be at this beach later?” Jon asks and the banshee nods.
“Yeah, I died here, so… I’ll always be back, sooner or later.”
Jon narrowly resists the urge to ask how the banshee died, reminding himself that while the question could wait, the meat was definitely starting to grow stale. He could come back, and quiz him to his heart’s content.
“I’ll see you later, then,” he says while he makes himself start to leave, offering the banshee a smile.
The banshee grins back at him, his teeth shiny and white. (Jon doesn’t notice the dimple that the banshee has in his right cheek. Or notice how his smile meets his eyes, and makes them scrunch up at the edges. He’s not the type to notice things like that.)
“I hope so. Enjoy your meal.”
It’s only later, after he’s fed, while he’s fussing over the mostly healed worm-holes in his pelt and bickering with Georgie about the particulars of what differentiates a banshee and a ghost that it hits him.
He stops mid-sentence and groans loudly, pressing his face into his pelt. Georgie, who knows him entirely too well, only watches him with amusement.
“Georgie…” he says, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes.
“Yes, Jon?” she says, a smile in her voice.
“I forgot to ask him his name .”