„How long are you going to be that way?”
Man decided that Sarawat’s question didn’t deserve an answer and just lowered himself even deeper into the bathtub, blowing up bubbles with his mouth.
Sarawat rubbed his hands over his face and looked like as if he wanted to return their best-friends-forever cards they made each other in high school.
“He’s like this since yesterday,” Boss commented who stood at the sink and shaved. He only had a tiny towel around his waist and Man didn’t want to talk about how Boss had walked into the bathroom half an hour ago and had announced that he didn’t care about Man’s pity party he needed to pee. Man was going to add a day in the bathtub just for that.
Sarawat sighed and sat down on the edge of the tub and swatted at Man’s tail to have more room.
“What did he say to you?”, Sarawat asked and Man made some more bubbles. He didn’t want to talk about it. The words of P’Beam still played like a loop inside his head and made something in his chest burn. ‘Uncomfortable and dirty life’… HA! Man had paid for his bike with his own money, had worked a whole summer at the café to be able to afford it! There was nothing dirty about that. He bet P’Beam had gotten his car from his parents, for graduating or something equally stupid…
“Should I talk to Tine about his brother…”
“No!” Man spluttered and swallowed water and while he coughed his whole body shook and Sarawat had to get himself towards safety otherwise Man’s tail would have knocked him out.
“Do you have to splash around so much?”, Boss asked and threw a towel on the puddle of water.
Man still coughed.
“Just leave me alone,” he was able to say with a rough voice and Sarawat and Boss glanced at each other before they left him alone. He knew they weren’t able to let him be for very long, but he hoped that whatever was currently brewing between Tine and Sarawat would distract Sarawat until Man was ready to leave the bathroom. He was able to survive awhile without food in that form so it may take a while…
He was about to submerge wholly when their bell rang. He heard Boss walking through the tiny living room slash kitchen slash bedroom of their dorm room and hoped that it wasn’t Sarawat who wanted to interrogate him once more.
“It’s P’Type,” Boss yelled, and Man jerked in surprise. Type? What was he doing here? He had made his decision when he had climbed in the car of that stupid asshole with his stupid face. How did he even know where Man lived?
“I don’t want to see him,” Man yelled. Shouldn’t it be allowed to wallow in peace for a few weeks until the wound of rejection wasn’t bleeding anymore?
A dull thump was heard.
“He pushed me,” Boss screamed, and Man wanted to jump out of the tub in panic, but he had a freaking fishtail, so he just flailed around a lot and splashed water everywhere. He hung half out of the bathtub as the door flung open and Type appeared in the doorway.
They stared at each other.
“Are you… are you in a costume?”, Type asked, and Man let his head sink on the cool rim.
“Sure,” he said against the tile, “that’s what I do when I’m sad, I wear my merman costume. How dare you to judge me.”
Type squinted at him, and it was so familiar to the way he always looked at Man that his heart started to ache. He was in fucking love with this man and got ridiculed for it and he was only a stupid 19-year-old and Type had made his decision and he needed to respect that, but he hated it!
He raised his head when he heard the door closing and blinked in surprise when Type was still inside the bathroom.
“You are a merman,” Type said, and it wasn’t a question, so Man moved his tail a little bit. His scales shimmered in myriads of green and brown colours and even though he never felt naked in this form the way Type eyed him up and down made him blush.
“I change when I get wet,” he explained when the silence had dragged on too long for his state of mind. Why was Type not asking questions? Man wanted to squirm under his gaze.
Type frowned. „Are you changing every time it rains?”, he asked finally and Man had to snort because of all the questions he didn’t think Type would ask about that.
“Why? Are you going to be there to protect me with an umbrella?”, Man asked and the delight about his own idea trumped over his guilty feeling for lying.
Type opened his mouth but Boss’ voice was heard from the living room. “I think my ankle is broken!”
Man rolled his eyes but wasn’t surprised. He knew Boss’ brittle bones. Type turned his frown towards the door. “He fell against a pile of pillows.”
Man waved his hand around – semantics – and when Type turned back to him with a ‘tell-me-now’ face he grabbed the big bag from the floor and showed the pink crystals to Type.
“Only saltwater can change me.” He took a handful of the Himalayan salt and let it trickle down into the water. If his scales could sigh, they would. They freaking loved that brand.
“And how do you change back?”, Type asked.
“When I’m fully dry.”
Type nodded as if that made sense and Man had to give him points for not freaking out like Boss who had wanted to perform an exorcism on him.
“Does Tine know?”
Man shook his head. “If Wat hasn’t told him, then no.”
Type nodded again and Man realized that he maybe wasn’t as composed as he wanted Man to believe. Which was good because Man wanted him to be a bit panicked about this revelation. He was still mad at him.
Type frowned again and then looked at Man as if he had remembered something.
“You are sad?”, he asked, and Man huffed.
“Of course, I’m sad! And mad!”
Type came closer and then looked down at his feet and with a bit of satisfaction Man saw that he had walked into the puddle with his socks. Served him right.
“I’m sorry,” Type said and sat down at the edge of the bathtub. He was close enough to touch and Man suppressed the urge to pull him down into the water with him. He wanted to say that it wasn’t Type’s fault, but he hadn’t exactly defended him either. Whatever his colleagues had said wasn’t on him but…
“I was a coward for not telling them to shut up.”
“It’s not like you were in a great position,” Man murmured, “you are just an intern.”
“That’s not an excuse for letting them be assholes. There are other internships if they fire me for that.”
Man crossed his arms in front of his chest. It was nice to hear that from Type but… but he was still a freshman with a motorbike that was on the verge of falling apart and not someone suave in a suit and a black SUV. He wasn’t mature enough for Type and it sounded more and more like Type had come to make sure his junior was okay instead of wanting to make amends with someone he was interested in. Why were age-gaps a thing? They should have been born in the same year then he would have a chance. He doubted that he could change that quickly and thoroughly to be a competitor next to P’Beam.
His fin’s fluttered in distress.
“Could you please don’t tell anyone about my ‘condition’? I don’t want to end up in a research facility,” he said in an attempt to change the subject. He felt pitiful enough without having Type here to see how distressed he was.
“How about you dry yourself up and I’m going to buy you an apology cake,” Type asked and under that coarse shell really was a soft core, Man thought.
“Are you going to help me?”, he asked and wiggled his brows. It was a lame attempt he knew that and then squeaked when Type leaned forward and holy moly was he really… He felt a hand on his scales and that was very forward why was…?
“Dry yourself up,” Type said, straightened and put the drain plug on the edge. Man felt how the water flowed towards the drain and that had been really dirty. He told Type as much who just stood up and pulled off his wet socks.
“I’m going to wait in the living room.”
“Please check if Boss is still alive,” Man yelled after him and took a dry towel off the rod to start drying his upper body.
Type wasn’t sure if he dreamed but even as he discreetly pinched himself he still sat on a beanbag and was sure he would never be able to get out of that, while Man’s roommate showed him an arrangement of moles on his back which apparently looked like a constellation. Type pinched himself again, not because of Boss but because of Man who was a merman.
Type never had been a drinker, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a shot right now he thought.
Man was a merman.
“Are you freaking out now?”, Man asked from the bathroom door, one towel around his waist the other busy rubbing his hair. And there it was again, the way Man looked at him as if he knew exactly what was brewing under Type’s emotionless façade. It was so weird to have someone who was really seeing him, and Type regretted it heavily how he had behaved in that parking lot. He wanted nothing more than turn back time, but he had the feeling if that happened, he wouldn’t have seen Man’s true form.
Which was beautiful he could acknowledge in a corner in his head he kept under wraps at all times.
“Is it difficult if you’re not in your merman form?”, he asked because he wanted to know if chasing him around Bangkok took a toll on Man.
Man blinked at him. “No? I’m both you know… both forms are right.”
Type slowly breathed out in relief and then tried to stand up from the beanbag with his dignity intact. Which wasn’t possible but Man was occupied with the inside of his closet, so he didn’t see how Type almost fell on his face.
“I’m waiting outside for you,” he said when it looked like Man would just change with him right there but hesitated in front of the door.
“One thing,” he said, and Man turned towards him with a shirt in his hand, “I don’t care about fast or expensive cars or the people who think that is important. I’m happy to sit behind someone with a dirty moped.”
Man stared at him and Type felt how his cheeks warmed up.
“This is so cute,” Boss said from where he sat on his bed and while Man jumped towards him to kick him Type quickly left the room with a small smile on his face.