As he came up for air, the salty sea water splashing about him, Fabien listened to the hiss of the foam. He tilted and tossed his head with relish, adoring the cool breeze that moved about the sea waves. It was a relatively calm day, with the air crisp and the sky clear, but the waves always bobbed and shifted a little about this bay. Fabien cupped a hand over his eyes and stared out at the ripple of movement, the natural burbling and rolling of the waves. It was perfectly pleasant, perfectly temperate.
He prepared to dip his head under again, taking in a long deep breath, but just as he was about to descend something caught his eyes. He pulled his head up again, blinking his eyes to relieve the sting of displaced sea water. He wasn’t sure whether he had imagined it, the strange flicker against the horizon had been so swift and ambiguous.
The bay was deserted, that was a fact. Fabien had already tip-toed slowly over the hot sand, picking his way across the stretch of bare beach. It was a private area, even when the adjoining beach house was occupied by its holidaying owners. While the house was unoccupied there certainly shouldn’t be anyone around, not for miles.
Fabien tried to convince himself of this, feeling foolish and jumpy as he paddled about in the water, watching for movement but he couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. He also thought he had heard, along with the strange flicker, the soft sound of murmuring voices.
He moved himself around in the water cautiously, letting himself slip beneath the surface slowly until the water had covered his mouth and nose. With only his eyes exposed he tilted his head back and continued to search the waves, paranoia working its way through his system.
Laughter. The unmistakable sound of laughter came to him from tossing waves. It made him rise up sharply, gasping and gulping prematurely. He could still hear the echo of the sound, reverberating ever-so-slightly across the walls of rock about the bay.
The voices were high in pitch and melodious; they sounded young. Were they perhaps children? Fabien wondered. Or, perhaps, around his own age but just a few years younger or older? The sound had long since faded now and it had been so distorted that it was impossible to tell.
Fabien was thirteen and a little fearful about being discovered by strangers. He knew very well that he was not supposed to be swimming out here, amongst these waters. If he must be discovered though, by some children even, then he would rather that there was a quick confrontation. He didn’t want to be watched from a distance, being made a spectacle of.
He moved out, further into the sea, and began to cast about for the owners of those laughing voices. Once he was in deep, his feet working furiously against the tide he managed to catch a shimmer of movement out of the corner of his eye.
Jerking his head quickly he was able to make out two faces just before they dipped under the surface again. Fabien felt his skin prickle with shock and, without thinking, he kicked forward and called out to the strangers,
It had been a reflex more than anything else; it was a natural human instinct to seek contact. He saw the heads emerge again, breaking the surface of the water smoothly. The two bent close to one another, whispering, too quiet for Fabien to hear. He decided he should call out again, a little louder this time.
‘Hello?’ he cried, a little louder and more clearly than he had done before, ‘hello can you hear me?’
The strangers seemed to be arguing. Their teeth glinted under the sun as they chattered and hissed at each other. That they both seemed young but, at the distance, Fabien couldn’t tell their gender.
In the end one of them made a decision and, pulling away from the other, dipped back beneath the waves. Fabien saw that the stranger was swimming towards him, intently. The other figure hesitated for a moment but seemed to decide that there was no other option than to follow. In just a moment they emerged just in front of him. Fabien was unsettled by their sudden proximity.
They appeared to be quite close to his age - two boys, although they were both very fair and smooth. They had light hair and almond eyes the colour of the sea they swam in. They looked somehow unnerving although there was nothing explicitly strange in their appearance, other than an absolute beauty. Their skin was smooth and clear and their lashes were long and fair. They looked so alike that Fabien assumed that they must be brothers if not twins. The one closest to him smiled.
‘Hello,’ he said clearly and sweetly. He sounded younger than he looked but very sincere. Fabien smiled back at him, shyly, but then there was an awkward moment when none of them seemed to know what else to say.
The boy who had spoken twisted about in the water excitedly, still smiling at Fabien. He was apparently pleased to have found another companion although lost for words. Eventually he asked,
‘Do you want to play together?’ Fabien blinked at him, in astonishment, before replying.
’S-sure. What do you want to play?”
‘um,’ the boy murmured uncertainly, glancing at the other boy beside him. His friend, or perhaps relation, still looked uncertain. His pale lips were tight and he moved about in the water restlessly. ‘Do you know how to play - ‘
‘We shouldn’t,’ his friend cut across him, narrowing his eyes, ‘really. We should go.’ Fabien was surprised at how high and soft his voice was, considering his fierce expression. His voice was much softer than the other boy, the approachable one. He who looking back up at him with a piteous expression.
‘But,’ he said, trying to smile again, ‘just for bit - ‘
‘We shouldn’t be here,’ his friend said firmly. Fabien realised that he wasn’t angry so much as scared. His eyes were wide and he was twitching, nervously.
‘No,’ Fabien said, bashfully, ’ no, none of us should really be here – but it’s okay I won’t tell.’ Both boys looked at him. Fabien had thought that his rushed assurance would be another but it appeared that further explanation was needed.
‘My father runs the project testing the water,’ he told them, ‘further down the bay, so I sneaked-in, even though its closed off. I like to swim down here and I know it’s not unsafe. We’re living in a small place around fifteen minutes away.’ He gestured vaguely as if to prove his statement to be true.
Both boys stared at him with their bright blue eyes. They still seemed uncertain but somewhat comforted.
‘We come here often, though we’re not supposed to,’ the first boy told him, ‘we thought it would be okay because no people are allowed here at the moment. We saw you though, swimming and diving for shells.’ He grinned widely.
‘What’s your names?’ Fabien asked, ‘I’m Fabien.’ He expected comment, as his name was fairly unusual but the other boys didn’t seem surprised.
‘I’m Luka,’ said the first boy, ‘and this is my cousin, Aden.’ Aden did not speak but he gave a weak, nervous smile. Luka seemed to take this small gesture as acceptance of the situation and began to swam about Fabien excitedly, now and again splashing them.
‘Let’s play then,’ he said eagerly, flicking more water towards his new friend. Fabien glanced at Aden uncertainly who still seemed somewhat anxious.
‘We can have a race,’ Luka told him and before Fabien could reply he held up his fingers, slowly putting down one after another. Once his fist was closed he dived underwater and started heading off. Fabien quickly gave chase but Luka was unbelievably fast and swam the entire way up to the far rock wall without even coming back up for air.
Aden outstripped Fabien too, even though he had hung back and hadn’t even started out until Fabien was almost halfway there.
‘You’re such fast swimmers,’ Fabien gasped. They both giggled delightedly, moving about amongst the waves.
‘You swim so strange to us,’ Aden said, softly, ‘we were surprised when we first saw people swimming, we found it so hard to believe they could swim at all. That strange kicking and paddling, it’s so odd.’
Fabien found this comment very strange but assumed that it must be some sort of private joke because both boys exchanged glances and smirked. Then Luka grabbed at Aden in an odd way, giggling , and leaned in to whisper to him. They started talking but it was a language that Fabien couldn’t quiet recognise, though it sounded similar to English. He started to feel embarrassed.
‘Don’t talk like that in front of me,’ he said forcefully, ‘I don’t know what you’re saying.’ They both turned to him and smiled gently. It looked as though they had reached a point of agreement on something.
‘Sorry,’ Aden said, his tone very polite. He looked Fabien straight in the eyes when he spoke, apparently to convince him of his sincerity, but Luka began to swim about energetically. Soon he was circling Fabien, coming quite close to him, apparently intent upon drawing him in to some new game.
‘We want you to come underwater with us,’ he said, ‘you can come can’t you? We’ve seen you go under the water for a few moments though you always come up again. Can you stay under long?’
‘My record’s a minute and a half,’ Fabien said. He had timed himself a few weeks back. Aden frowned uncertainly.
‘That’s not very long…is it?’ he replied slowly. It didn’t seem like he was trying to tease him but appeared genuinely surprised and confused.
‘Dive under with us for a moment,’ Luka said eagerly, and before Fabien could object he was pulling him down. He usually kept his eyes closed underwater, for the most part, but Luka nudged him hard so that his eyes flew open in surprise. What he saw, when his eyes settled upon Luka, shocked him so much that he took a gulp of water and ended up spluttering.
As he came up for air the other boys rose with him. As he coughed he stared fiercely though the water trying to see again what was obscured; the lower halves of their bodies.
They were both, apparently, naked. This was somewhat irrelevant though, because it was not the unexpected sight of flesh which had startled Fabien. From the waist down both boys ceased to be boys, in the technical sense. In fact, they ceased to be human.
Their pale white skin smoothly transitioned to fine scales and their hips extended forth into one long , twisting limb. The glittering tails ended in wide-tipped fins, perfectly designed to flick through the water at a pace no human being could match.
‘You’re mermaids,’ he choked out, astounded, as soon as he caught his breath, staring at them in disbelief.
‘Is that what people call us?’ Aden asked. ‘I don’t know, I suppose we must be.’
‘We’ve never seen a human so close,’ Luka gushed in excitement. ‘We’re not supposed to talk to them or go near them. Usually we wouldn’t we only see ships or maybe sometimes a man’s legs as he swims near one but we don’t see their legs up close.”
‘There are human bodies some places at the bottom of the sea,’ Aden told him, ‘but they’ve wasted away and are all bone. They look so strange. Some of our older relations have seen other bodies though, that have just drowned, but we never have.’
‘We went looking for a body for ages and ages once,’ Luka told him, now pulling up his tail to flick with abandon above the surface, ‘we swam out and out and went everywhere we knew the ships sailed but we never found any bodies.’
‘My mother says that sailors don’t drown as much as they used to,’ Aden said, ‘because your ships are so well built now. They’re hard and sturdy and all the paddles and things make them go fast and deal with big waves and things. That means that all the human bones in the sea are old bones now.’
‘We thought though,’ Luka said quickly, ‘that there might be someone who had swam out to see and drowned but we couldn’t find anyone.’
‘I think,’ Fabien said quickly, ‘that if people swim out and drown the current usually brings them back to shore and then they’re found and their family is told. Please though – let’s not talk about dead drowned people.’ He felt a little sick suddenly. He shook his head, trying to dispel the feeling.
‘Sorry, does it upset you?’ Aden said quickly. He reached out to brush Fabien’s shoulder softly. His fingers felt smooth and cool.
‘Are you all one family?’ Luka asked, ‘we’ve heard that somewhere.’ His eyes glistened intently as he looked closely at Fabien’s features, as if analyzing him.
‘No,’ Fabien replied, slowly, ‘Are you all one family?’
‘Oh no,’ Aden said quickly, ‘we have big families though and it’s impossible to keep track. We hear humans are born one at a time – do you not have any siblings?’
‘I have a older brother,’ Fabien told him. ‘My mother had him three years before me.’
‘Just one though,’ Luka said, quietly, with wonder, ‘I can’t imagine having such a small family. It must be lonely.’
‘How many brothers and sisters do you have?’ Fabien asked, ‘is it really a lot?’
‘I have twenty,’ Aden said, ‘and Luka has thirty-two.’ Thirty-two. Fabien ran the figure over in his mind, marvelling at it.
‘There must be so many mermaids in the sea,’ He commented, imagining all those slender, humanoid bodies drifting in the blue ocean. Aden shrugged, vaguely in response.
‘There’s a lot of sea.’ He said simply. ‘It’s not as if we’re over-crowded.’
‘Hmm,’ Fabien murmured, kicking his feet beneath the surface sluggishly. His legs were beginning to ache from paddling. ‘could we go over to the shore? I’m tired.’
The two boys considered the request for a moment, before nodding. They seemed a little anxious but followed after Fabien when he began to swim, purposefully, towards the shore. Although their smooth, scaled bodies were perfectly attuned to the water - and Fabien had already seen an example of their superior speed – they moved slowly towards the beach. When Fabien got out onto the sand they edged after him carefully, only gradually pulling their tails up onto the sand.
‘We’re always afraid of lying on the sand,’ Aden explained, apparently aware of Fabien’s curious gaze, ‘or even getting close to the shore because the tide might change or we might get stuck and that’s the most frightening thing to think about – being beached.’
‘but if that happened, you’d help us wouldn’t you?’ Luka said quickly, looking at Fabien earnestly. The fear and uncertainty was blatant upon his young, smooth face.
‘Of course,’ Fabien said quickly, ‘yes, of course I would!’ The pair seemed soothed and, a little to Fabien’s surprise, Luka moved over on the sand to lie right against Aden. He pressed his head to the other boy’s chest and put this arm around him, cuddling him with undisguised familiarity.
Fabien stared at their position, so lovingly entwined for a few moments, before directing his attention to their lower bodies. He found the curved shape of their tails, gently being washed with each tide, intensely fascinating. They were very long and muscular, capable of strong rapid movements and wild flicks. He imagined that those thick limbs might be far stronger than even the most firm, toned human legs.
They were also very elegant though, very beautiful, in their texture and colouring. The scales were bright in shades of green, blue and white and fitted neatly together in a rippling pattern. In the area at the waist, where the tail met the torso, the scales began to sink into the skin, leaving just a little rib of flesh about the final pale ones – like the lip of a cuticle about a nail.
The two sea-boys seemed just as interested in Fabien’s legs as Fabien was in their tails. Their eyes roved over the bumps of his knees and the whispers of his fair, adolescent hairs with an ardent appreciation. Tentatively, Luka reached across to touch at Fabien’s feet. He looked into Fabien’s eyes as if seeking permission and when Fabien smiled he pressed the tips of his webbed fingers to arch of his foot.
He seemed intrigued by the multitude of small wrinkles that gathered about the curve of flesh and the contrast between that and the smooth flesh of Fabien’s heel. He stroked, gently, and then flicking his fingers mischievously he reached up to tickle the boy’s toes. Fabien giggled, surprised by the action.
‘They’re smaller and fatter than fingers,’ Luka commented, ‘what are they for? Can you use them like fingers?’ He proceeded to slip his fingers in the gaps between the toes, seeing how wide they stretched.
‘No,’ Fabien said, wiggling his toes about Luka’s fingers and making the sea-boy laugh, ‘but…well. They help us to grip the ground I suppose. They would also be useful to grip tree branches so I think they were once lived in trees, or something. ‘
‘Ooh!’ Exclaimed Luka delightedly, ‘when did your people live in trees? We never heard about that!’He had curled his fingers around Fabien’s toes and brought his palm to meet the sole of his foot. Fabien enjoyed the sensation of the fine webs at base of Luka’s fingers, tickling his own flesh.
‘Oh,’ Fabien he murmured, sheepishly, ‘I don’t know for certain that we did, it’s just something we think happened, years and years ago.’ He flicked his toes, lazily against Luka’s hand, making him smile. Aden had raised himself up however, on the sand, and was taking the conversation seriously.
‘Why do you think it?’ Aden he asked, frowning, ‘How many generations ago was it? Who remembers being told about it?’ He pushed Luka’s body down away from him a little so that he could lie more comfortably upon the warm beach.
‘Oh, God, I don’t know how long ago,’ said Fabien, ‘no one remembers. It would have been back when we didn’t know how to speak.’ He tried to think of an easy way to summarize what he had learned about evolution but it seemed such a complicated subject to explain, especially to a mer-creature.
‘When did people not know how to speak?’ Luka asked. He seemed curious but completely dumbfounded by the concept. He raised his head up on his hand, compressing his cheek and sticking out his tongue. He licked at Fabien’s big toe in a sudden motion that surprised him.
‘Oh don’t do that,’ he giggled, wiggling his toes more vigorously and amusing his assailant, ‘don’t! It really tickles. I don’t like it.’
‘it’s so funny though,’ Luka protested and stuck out his small, pointed tongue as if to repeat the motion. His cousin shook his head at him though, his eyes still upon Fabien’s face. His brow was wrinkled with thought.
‘Don’t do it, Luka, if it bothers him.’ Luka complied, drawing back in his tongue. Aden addressed Fabien again, with a persisting curiosity, ‘how is it that your people did not know how to speak?’
‘We wouldn’t have been people then,’ Fabien tried to explain, ‘it was… a long time ago.’ Aden did a strange clicking with his tongue and shook his head with impatience. It was obvious that he was unhappy with this explanation.
‘You’re being…untruthful,’ he told Fabien slowly, ’ people have never not been people. That doesn’t make sense.’
‘Well…’ Fabien tried to think, ‘we think that people…changed slowly over time. We have skeletons which change shape and toes become smaller…’
The sea-boys were quiet for a while, apparently satisfied by this explanation. It seemed that they trusted the evidence of bones. Aden looked away, thoughtfully and trailed his fingers in the sand. Luka returns his attention to Fabien’s feet and, boldly, began to trace the incline of his ankle.
‘Why do you still wear clothes when you swim?’ he asked unexpectedly. His eyes had moved up to the faded blue fabric of Fabien’s trunk. He reached out to pick at the at the hems that hung at Fabien’s thighs, running his sharp nails about the stitching.
‘Because,’ Fabien said slowly, ‘well…its more comfortable. And when we’re with other people we don’t want anyone to see our… genitals…’ He was aware he was flushing. The two boys were staring at him intently, curiosity filling their wide blue eyes.
‘What are a person’s genitals?’ Luka asked, rolling his tongue as he pronounced the word. He was obviously completely unfamiliar with the term. Fabien wondered what he could say that might be more appropriate, acutely aware of the possible language barrier between him and the two mer-creatures. He did not want to resort to the casual slang that many boys his age used for their privates.
‘um…’ Fabien murmured, twisting his hands in the sand uncomfortably, ‘their…sex organs…you know…the bits they use to have sex with…’ He trailed off feebly, uncertain if he had been understood. Luka nodded vaguely but his eyes still remained fixed upon Fabien’s trunks, as if he were trying to picture what the flesh underneath might look like.
‘Won’t…you show us?’ He asked, eventually, ‘I don’t really know what you mean….’
‘Yes, please,’ Aden joined in, leaning over with a sudden burst of energy, ‘we’ve never seen a human naked before. Please, do.’
Fabien stared back at their excited faces, feeling his own face grow hot. He shifted his shoulders, feeling acutely embarrassed but began to work at the waistband of his trunks.
‘I…don’t know what you’ll think though,’ he breathed, shakily, ‘I mean you’re different. You’ll probably just think I look gross.’
‘We won’t,’ Luka insisted, ‘Go on! Please!’ Unable to deny the request Fabien, slowly, pulled down the damp shorts. Both boys leaned over further still to stare at the pale flesh and hair exposed.
‘Don’t touch!’ Fabien said sharply, as Luka reached out in an obvious motion. The boy curled his webbed fingers away, looked embarrassed.
‘I wasn’t going to tickle you,’ he said, softly, ‘couldn’t I…touch a little?’
‘No,’ Fabien replied firmly, ‘you can’t…you mustn’t touch me there…’ He put one hand on his hip in agitation, ready to cover himself up or push Luka away if he tried to reach out to him again. The boy remained stationary but did not, entirely, draw away his hand.
‘Why?’ he asked, softly. He looked a little afraid as he asked the question, as if he was worried that Fabien might become angry with him. It seemed that he couldn’t help himself though.
‘Because…well…It’s sensitive,’ he bit his lip, feeling the heat rise in his face once more, ‘It’s…too sensitive and…I’ll feel…’ He trailed off, awkwardly. They both stared at him, willing him to continue, their bright eyes full of expectation.
‘We’ve seen whales and dolphins mating before,’ Aden told him gently, ‘your parts are like their parts but they do look very different.’
‘Well, of course,’ Fabien said, flustered by the statement. ‘I’m not the same type of animal, am I?’
‘You’ve got hair there,’ Luka observed, ‘could I maybe… just touch that?”
Fabien considered the request, feeling his heart thudding furiously in his chest. He felt moved by the desperation in Luka’s eyes, made so poignant by the innocent tone of his request. He understood that the boy was only curious and felt as if it would be cruel to deny him this opportunity to explore a human’s anatomy.
Swallowing deeply he nodded. Delighted to have received consent Luka reached down, carefully to brush at the small tuft of pubic hair. His fingers were very gentle as he pushed and stroked, exploring the transition from this downy growth to the fair hair that ran the length of Fabien’s legs. He then reached up to touch Fabien’s head, running his free hand through the smooth brown locks. It made Fabien shudder, feeling acutely self-conscious.
‘It’s not like the hair on your head,’ Luka noted, ‘it’s all short and thick and curly.’ He giggled, returning his full attention to the small stretch of pubic hair.
‘I want to touch,’ Aden protested, bringing his hand down into the nest of rough hair, vying for space with Luka. His hand ended-up jerking unexpectedly, shifting down to brush against Fabien’s testicles.
‘No, don’t,’ Fabien moaned, pulling at Aden’s wrist, ’ you…you mustn’t touch any lower!’ Aden looked apologetic, aware that he had broken the rules that Fabien had set.
‘Does it hurt?’ he asked, visibly concerned.
‘No. No, it doesn’t hurt,’ Fabien said quickly, ‘you just…you just can’t do that. They’re my privates, you can’t touch them unless you’re…unless you’re a mate…you know…a sex partner…’
Aden and Luka seemed all the more curious, stirred by this information.
‘How often do humans mate?’ Luka asked him.
‘Well,’ Fabien muttered shyly, ‘well…it depends…if you’ve got a partner then…maybe once a week or even once a day.’
‘Once a day?’ Aden repeated in disbelief. His eyes narrowed in concentration as he tried to digest the information, ‘you mean, with every sunset? Humans mate that often?’
‘Yes,’ Fabien replied, ‘sometimes. Well, I suppose it depends on the person.’
‘But you have so few babies,’ Luka said in astonishment. He didn’t seem to quite believe it.
‘Yes but…’ Fabien thought about how to explain, ’ our females…don’t produce many eggs.’ He hoped this explanation would be sufficient but Aden still seemed unconvinced.
‘If they mate at every sunset though…’ he murmured, tailing off thoughtfully. His bright eyes were narrowed as he considered the puzzle.
‘Well…’ Fabien began, wondering how he might explain better, ‘humans…don’t just mate to make babies, sometimes we mate just for pleasure.’ He rubbed at his hot cheeks, shly.
‘Pleasure?’ Luka repeated in surprise.
‘Yes…just to feel good,’ Fabien clarified, carefully, ‘not for baby-making. Do you, I mean, do mermaids only mate for babies?”
‘That’s what ‘mating’ means to us,’ Aden told him, ‘I don’t understand what you mean.’ He glanced across at his cousin, as if to see if the other boy comprehended the concept better than himself. Luka had leant back down on the sand, resting his chin on his arms. He looked completely clueless, his bright eyes vague and distant.
‘Yes but…’ Fabien considered anxiously, ‘well… do you do anything for pleasure with each other?’
‘Oh yes,’ Luka said quickly, ‘We could show you, if you like?’ He pulled himself up off the sand by his arms and grinned at Fabien, bristling with excitement and unabashedly eager.
Fabien wasn’t sure how to replyto this startling proposition but Luka didn’t give him much time to respond. Without any warning he rolled over, on top of Aden. The other boy wrapped his arms about him, hugging him tightly to his chest and then, to Fabien’s astonishment, they started kissing.
Fabien stared at the two boys in their passionate embrace, completely astounded. He could see that they were shifting their tongues about in each other’s mouths, french-kissing with abandon. Their hands ran down each other’s backs, stroking and teasing, and they wrapped their tails around each other. When they eventually broke apart they both smiled and giggled, innocently.
Luka couldn’t bear to fully part from his friend before coming back to place a few, quick kisses to his lips. He pressed his lips over Aden’s lips and cheeks at least a dozen times and then rested his head into the hollow of the other boy’s throat.
‘Don’t human’s do that?’ Luka asked Fabien, his eyes still bright from the thrill and his voice soft and heavy with pleasure.
‘Oh – oh yes,’ Fabien said as quickly as he could manage to form words, he was aware that his heart was thumping and he was sweating. ‘Yes, of course but…’ he reached up to run his fingers through his hair and then lowered his eyes, shyly.
‘We don’t…I mean….young boys don’t usually do that kind of things with each other… kissing and things,’ Fabien licked his lips and shook his head, ‘it’s only usually males and females…’
‘Really?’ Luka said, astonished. He had reached up to coil his fingers in Aden’s hairs, stroking tenderly at the fair locks.
‘Don’t you kiss your friends and cousins?’ Asked Aden, his voice sweet and low.
‘No,’ said Fabien firmly, ‘do you kiss all your friends?’
‘Most of them,’ said Luka without any hint of shame, ‘but I love Aden the best.’ He wrapped his arms around the other boy again and kissed at his cheek and neck. Fabien flushed, embarrassed by their free and easy intimacy.
‘How do your kind mate then?’ he asked, changing the subject somewhat, ‘do your females lay eggs?’ Aden nodded, his hand still stroking at the small of Luka’s back.
‘Yes, they lay eggs and then the boys take care of them,’ he titled his head suggestively and gave a little smile, ‘you know, during the mating season.’
‘We make fun of girls when they’re laying,’ Luka said, tittering, ‘they have to do it whenever they’re in season. So they have to stay inside with a nest, all hunched over, for days and days.’ His face was transported as he remembered the humiliation of the females of his species.
‘They get so angry too,’ Aden commented, ‘all fussy and irritable, especially during their first cycle. My sisters are the worst.’ He rolled his eyes, amusing Fabien a little.
‘What do they do with the eggs if they don’t have a mate?’ he asked, curiously, ‘just leave them?’
‘Of course,’ Aden said, ‘girls have to do it for years and years before they are ready to actually have babies.’ He shrugged his shoulders just a little, beneath Luka’s weight.
‘We don’t like it,’ Luka said in a very childish tone, ‘we leave them alone when they’re laying, we think it’s disgusting.’ He nuzzled against Aden more fervently and reached up to put his fingers in his mouth, sucking at the saltwater like an infant.
‘Do you…’ Fabien began, tentatively, ‘do you ever…mate within your families?’
‘We mate with our cousins,’ Luka said cheerfully, ‘but not usually with our siblings.’
‘Our families are so very large,’ Aden explained, ‘It’s about as common to mate with half-blood siblings as it is with cousins but full-blood siblings mating is pretty rare.’
‘Aren’t humans allowed to?’ Luka asked, curiously, his voice a little distorted because he was still sucking at his fingers. His fair hair had fallen over his eyes and his lids were half-lowered, lazily.
‘We’re not allowed to mate with our siblings or close family for pleasure or children,’ Fabien told him seriously, ‘cousins…are okay, sometimes, but not generally approved of. There’s rules about different types of cousins too…’
‘Humans are so strange,’ Luka murmured indistinctly. He nuzzled against his cousin and closed his eyes completely, apparently completely at his ease.
‘Well…’ Fabien said, pausing for a moment to think about how to explain, ‘it’s different for us…’ He suppressed a little shiver as he considered the delicate matter of incest. He didn’t know how to explain human insecurities to beings that were apparently without shame.
‘Do you know what ‘sin’ is?’ he asked, after a while. Luka’s seemed oblivious but Aden’s became sharp with concentration. He rubbed at his head, thoughtfully, while he considered the question.
‘Does it mean…doing bad things?’ he asked, very uncertainly, ‘I think I’ve heard about it…from a song…’ He licked his lips and hummed the tune of a hymn. He ventured to sing a few words but apparently had little idea of their meaning and mostly resorted to wordless harmornies. His voice was sweet and pleasant, just as Fabien had always expected that the singing voice of a mermaid might be. Luka’s eyelids fluttered as he listened to the song and he smiled, contentedly.
‘That’s very pretty,’ Fabien told him, with a little smile, ‘yes, you’re pretty much right. Sin is something human’s believe happen when you do bad things. It’s supposed to be like…a kind of dirt. It’s an invisible filth which attaches itself to you when you do something bad – and once it’s on you, you can’t get it off.’
Luka eyes slid open wide and he stared at Fabien in alarm.
‘How do you know it’s there?’ He asked, a clear edge of panic in his voice. Without waiting for Fabien to reply he pulled himself up and began to brush at his own flesh, fearfully. He went so far as to scratch at the surface of his skin, pausing momentarily to examine at what he brought up, under his smooth translucent nails.
‘It’s not real,’ Aden told him angrily, reaching out to pull the other boy’s hand away before he resumed scratching at himself, ‘there’s no such thing as sin.’ Luka was not soothed however. He continued to examine his skin closely, bringing his hands up to his face again to stare at the interlacing fingers.
‘My grandmama says that there are things so small you can’t see them though,’ he protested to Aden, ‘little tiny bits of dirt that are bad for you…bad bits of water…’
‘You can always see or smell bad water,’ Aden argued. He pulled Luka’s hand away again. He ran his own slender fingers over each digit and brought it up to his face, to breath in the scent, ‘you’re fine.’
‘Can you ever see or smell sin?’ Luka asked Fabien, unconvinced, ‘how do you know if it’s there?’
‘You know it’s there if you’ve done bad things,’ Fabien said, but added quickly, ‘but I don’t think it is real, it’s just a story, something people have believed in for a while. It’s a myth, you know?’
He had hoped that this would reassure Luka, who seemed so worried by the idea. Strangely enough though this explanation seemed to worry the sea-boys even more seriously, rather than comfort them.
‘We trust what our ancestors pass on,’ Aden said anxiously, his doubt fading. ‘If it’s been known of for generations then it might be real…’
‘What will sin do to you?’ Luka asked hurriedly, ‘will it make you sick?’
‘Well, yes…I suppose,’ Fabien murmured, uncertainly, ’ it’s complicated…’ He wished, most fervently, that he hadn’t mentioned it. Luka curled his body back about Aden, seeking comfort like a child. He twisted his tail tightly around him and pressed his face into his neck, whimpering pitifully.
Aden frowned and began to click his tongue irritably, losing patience with the situation.
‘It’s a human imagination,’ he told his cousin firmly, running one hand over his back, ‘I’m sure. We’ve never seen it affect us…’
‘Yes,’ Fabien said quickly, ‘It’s not really real. It’s just that a lot if people still believe in it. It makes people scared to do things they think are bad for them.’ He tried to give a little laugh, sitting up and reaching to pat the smooth curve of Luka’s shoulder.
‘It’s not real,’ he whispered, ‘I’m sure it’s not real.’
Luka raised his head from his cousin’s shoulder to glare at Fabien with a sudden ferociousness and spoke to him in a fierce, hateful tone.
‘I don’t like humans,’ he spat.
Fabien recoiled from him, alarmed by the way this shift in emotions seemed to have transformed his face. His smooth skin had become tight and unearthly and his eyes blue and piercing. His neat little teeth bared to show a pointed, red, tongue that flickered, like a lizard’s.
Fabien was not only shocked by the change in the boy’s demeanour, but pained by his attitude. He felt tears begin to prick at his eyes and had to breathe deeply and steadily to try and recover himself.
‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered shakily, ‘I’m so sorry…’
He didn’t want to cry while looking at them so he looked away and stared at the sand, trembling with emotion. He heard them exchange harsh, foreign whispers and then, to his surprise, he felt the touch of gentle hands caressing the curve of his hot cheek.
He found, to his continued surprise, that it was Aden who was touching him. He moved his fingers over to Fabien’s neck and then around chest in slow circles. He was looking at the human boy with a terribly sweet and tender expression.
‘It’s okay,’ he told him softly, ‘it’s just a misunderstanding.’ Then, to Fabien’s pure and absolute shock he leant over to start kissing him, pressing his cool, wet lips to his cheeks and then, after a moment, to his wet eyelids.
Fabien felt hot and unable to move while Aden leant over him, feeling the creature’s tongue lick gently at the tears that clung to his lashes. He kept his eyes closed for quite a while even after Aden had moved up and away. He heard the boy’s voice announce, delightedly,
‘His tears are all salty!’
‘Really?’ Luka’s voice came hushed and curious. Fabien raised his eyes to look up at him. The soft, young look dominated Luka’s smooth beautiful features once again. All traces of the malicious expression had faded away and, instead, he looked ashamed and uncertain. He peeked at Fabien in a tentative, sideways glance then slid over carefully to lie beside him. He wrapped an arm around his waist and leant-in, slowly.
The kiss he pressed to Fabien’s cheek was definitely delivered in an apologetic matter.
‘I didn’t mean it,’ he said quietly, ‘we both think you’re nice.’
Fabien smiled at Luka, but only for a moment, before he found his attention turned back to Aden. The boy had taken his jaw in one hand and was beginning to lean in a deliberate way which Fabien could not mistake. He gave a little, panicked gasp and pressed his hands firmly against the boy’s chest to stop him descending and kissing him full on the lips.
‘No – don’t ,’ he protested desperately. Aden pulled his head up again looking embarrassed and disappointed.
‘Why not?’ he asked, ‘don’t you…like me?’ He tilted his head self-consciously and Fabien felt his insides twist. He was unhappy with the thought of offending Aden, but found the idea of being kissed by the member of his own sex highly disquieting. The fact that the male in question was of a different species only made the situation stranger, more disarming.
‘No, it’s not that,’ he said quickly, ‘you’re very beautiful.’ He felt his face burning as he said this but it seemed only fair. As he considered Aden’s features at close quarters all he could see was smooth, beautiful skin, shining fair hair and delicately parted, flushed lips.
‘It’s just….” He swallowed trying to explain, ‘it’s like I said, humans don’t usually do this kind of thing – not, not like this. Not boys together…’
‘So…you’ve never kissed anyone before, on the mouth?’ Aden asked curiously. Fabien felt his skin burn but his kept his face firm and shook his head. If he were amongst his peers he would find this fact even more difficult to admit, although he knew it was not uncommon.
‘I’m sure you’d like it though,’ Aden said, with a kind tone, ‘won’t you try with me?’
Fabien stared up at the boy’s face anxiously, relishing the pleasant wetness where Aden’s fingers lightly gripped his shoulders. He considered the prospect of those pale, wet lips touching his own with an internal shudder. He cast a sudden guilty glance across at Luka with wide eyes.
‘Wouldn’t you mind, though?’ he asked him as the thought occurred. Luka looked astonished by the question.
‘No,’ he said, smiling, ‘why would I mind? It would be nice!’ His voice was almost a purr as he said the words; there was not a hint of jealousy. He leant his head down on the sand, close enough to Fabien so that he was touching his cheek. It was startlingly intimate and perfectly easy. Fabien swallowed.
‘Okay then,’ he said, turning up to face Aden, ‘just…a little.’ Aden smiled, and leaned in so that Fabien could feel his breath on his face.
‘If you don’t like it,’ he whispered, ‘that’s okay, just let me know..’ Fabien couldn’t even nod. He remained frozen by the sensation of Aden’s breath on his face, knowing that soon the beautiful creature would be closing the gap completely.
He closed his eyes. He felt Aden’s lips caress his own in a soft, gentle motion. They felt very smooth, not especially masculine, although Fabien couldn’t know whether the lips of a girl were really softer than a boy’s. Aden’s mouth was wide and dipped, like a sweetheart, as he sucked and applied pressure. Fabien realized that he wanted him to open his mouth so that he could give him a full kiss, a tongue kiss, the kind of kiss he had given Luka earlier. Fabien felt frightened but he opened his mouth awkwardly.
Aden didn’t slip his tongue in straight away but rather massaged at Fabien’s lips, playing with them until, eventually, Fabien felt a wet little flicker. Fabien, gradually, tried pushing his tongue up to meet Aden’s. With practice and guidance he learned to stroke and play.
Aden’s tongue was surprisingly long and flexible and he managed to tease Fabien quite effectively. Fabien, awkwardly, tried to tilt his head up to meet Aden’s pace and this made their teeth clash for a moment. Aden didn’t seem to mind at all though, adjusting his jaws and showing Fabien how to move his lips, carefully, while slipping his tongue in and out, curving about Aden’s delicately.
While they kissed Aden ran his fingers through Fabien’s hair, seemingly fascinated by the thick texture, and then down Fabien’s back in the same, sensual way he had done with his cousin. Fabien, his skin burning, tried to follow suit, stroking at Aden’s arms and back delicately. He steered his hands down, curiously, to explore the section of Aden’s hips where the skin transformed to scales. The curve of Aden’s tail was smooth and cool and Fabien quite enjoyed the sensation of it beneath his fingers.
In response, however, Aden let his hands wander down to stroke at Fabien’s own jutting hips, not realising that this action was more provocative then the equivalent upon his body. He even ran his hands across Fabien’s buttocks and under the hard ridge of his pelvis. Fabien’s heart beat wildly at the extreme nature of this touching, carrying an eroticism that he had never before experienced. He considered telling Aden to stop but he thought it would be difficult to explain and he knew that, to the mer-creature, this was quite an innocent, uncomplicated action.
Aden clearly remembered what Fabien said about his genitals being sensitive, and his earlier protestations about any touch there, as he took special care to avoid the region. He moved hands steadily about the boy’s hips and was even careful to not press down upon the flesh with his tail. He freely stroked at Fabien’s body in all other areas though, rubbing him on his nipples and in the small of his back and running his hands firmly and lovingly all over his legs. This meant that, despite Aden’s polite care, Fabien felt his body reacting in the core of his most private flesh.
He felt acutely embarrassed, uncertain of what to do, but he feelt certain he could not let things continue with his condition unacknowledged. He carefully pulled away from Aden, pushing at his chest. Aden murmured a little and opened his eyes wearily. He didn’t realize anything was wrong until he took in the uncomfortable expression on Fabien’s voice.
‘What…did I do something wrong?’ he asked with concern.
‘No,’ Fabien whispered, his face hot, ‘but…we just, need to stop now…’ He swallowed and pursed his lips then glanced downwards in a brief, agitated fashion. Aden followed the line of his eyes and stared down intently at the area in-between Fabien’s thighs. His hand extended, almost instinctively, as if to examine Fabien, but then he remembered and twitched his fingers away.
‘Is it…normal to be swollen like that?’ He asked, hesitantly.
‘Yes,’ Fabien replied, shyly. ‘I mean…it happens sometimes…’ He knew that Aden would not understand, that he could not understand but that was not his fault.
‘Then…’ Aden murmured, worriedly, ‘is it okay?’
‘It’s fine,’ Fabien said, ‘It’s just…well it’s a little uncomfortable. I just need to stop, calm down a little…’
Aden conscientiously moved away from Fabien, rolling off of his body to lie on his left side, just one arm remaining wrapped around him, pressing his hand into his shoulder. Fabien, pulling his knees up, to obscure his erection, and glanced across at Luka.
Luka’s eyes were wide and shining with an intent curiosity, having watched the entirety of the performance from just beside Fabien. His eyes remained on the dip of Fabien’s narrow hips where his member was still just visible, sticking up obscenely. He lifted his eyes up briefly, and then moved a hand towards Fabien’s chest.
‘Can I just touch you there,” He asked, indicating Fabien’s shuddering rib cage. Fabien, uncertainly, nodded and Luka pressed his cool palm to the trembling flesh. He seemed fascinated by the thumping motion of Fabien’s heart.
‘Your body’s so warm,’ he whispered in amazement, ‘how can it get so hot?’ His hand seemed unbelievably cool against Fabien’s burning skin, and still moist although it had been sometime since they had been in the water.
‘It’s my blood,’ Fabien replied, ‘it pumps around my body fast, when I’m…excited…’ Luka pressed his hand down against the point where the powerful organ was beating, curling his fingers as if he wished to clasp it in his hand. He licked his lips softly, leaning close as he felt Fabien’s heart thudding at a even sharper pace.
‘It’s so strong,’ Luka said, appreciatively, he danced his fingers along Fabien’s veins, ‘Does it go everywhere?’
Fabien nodded and smiled. Luka’s eyes were so bright, shining with interest and delight. He moved forwards, tilting his fair head towards the heat he felt in Fabien’s chest, eventually leaning right against the skin and pressing his ear to it.
He hummed pleasantly along with the pulsing of Fabien’s heart; it was delicious but also very soothing. Absent-mindedly Fabien slid his hand down between his thighs, not in order to pleasure himself, but to cup his flesh and attempt to contain his arousal. As the sea lapped against the sands softly and Luka hummed Fabien felt the pressure in his genitals lessen, along with the powerful heat.
‘When we were young,’ Luka said to him suddenly, unexpectedly, ‘we used to imagine what it would be like to be human, to walk on the surface, we used to play at it - ’ he paused for a moment and then concluded, ‘we never expected that a human body would be so…different though.’
Fabien didn’t know what to say to this so he just murmured, an indistinct sound. Aden stirred restlessly, craning his head over to look at them. Fabien saw his pale face through the curls of Luka’s hair. He looked a little worried, perhaps he thought that they had all lingered too long.
‘Leave him alone for a while,’ he told Luka, ‘you’ve been butting his chest hard.’ He might have still been concerned about Fabien feeling uncomfortable.
‘His bones are strong,’ Luka protested, ‘I can feel them.’ He bumped his face against the hard ridges of Fabien’s ribs as he did so.
‘Don’t,’ Fabien said gently, curling his fingers in Luka’s hair, lovingly, pressing the softest part of his fingers against the boy’s cheek. He was surprised to find that some of his own body warmth had heated the soft, smooth flesh. Luka misunderstood – he lifted his head up quickly, displacing Fabien’s fingers. He looked at Fabien with concern, his fingers pressing tenderly against those hard ridges of bone.
‘I’m not hurt,’ Fabien whispered, quickly, ‘I’m fine.’ Luka’s bright eyes ran over the flesh again and he bent his head to examine his human companion, to be sure. His lips puckered, softly, as if he was thinking about saying something in particular, preparing his words carefully but the words never made their way out. Before he could speak a sudden, wild, shout tore the air viciously.
Fabien jerked his head up in alarm because the cry did not come from him or his companions but from a man who was running towards them. He was advancing towards them at a terrifying pace. Aden was began to flail uncertainly, his tail cutting through the sand, in a desperate kicking motion without effect. Luka only had time to recoil and stare, in horror, at the tall man hurtling towards them.
In just a few seconds the man was upon them and had seized Luka by the shoulders, shaking him fiercely. Luka stared up at the man, his eyes bulging with terror, unable to respond or defend himself.
‘Get off of him!’ The man screamed, wildly, ‘get off of him!’
Fabien brought his knees up hastily to his chest, a ripple of horror and fear running through his body as he stared up at the man. He knew the face of this man well, familiar with the fine features that were so like his own, but he had never seen such a look of panic and confusion upon his father’s face.
He choked wordlessly, a startled splutter, as his father continued to shake Luka and attempt to wrench his body further away from his son’s. Luka’s eyes had begun to water and he was struggling, desperately, clearly thinking that this man meant to kill him.
It was beginning to feel like a nightmare, a sensation underlined by the fact that Aden had started to scream. His scream was an unearthly, high-pitched wail which seemed to echo all about the beach. It was a terrible, heart-breaking sound which made Fabien’s insides twist and writhe. He could see Aden from beyond his father, writhing desperately towards them, his hands raised and lunging as if to attack.
‘Don’t - ’ Fabien hiccupped, ‘please – Oh God - ’ but his wavering tones went unheard because Luka, fevered by the sound of Aden’s cries, had begun to scream too and struggle violently. He reached out to scratch at the man’s face to bear his teeth madly, all the while writhing with a hideous panic and lunging his tail about powerfully.
‘What are you?’ Fabien heard his father hiss, fear and pain flashing across his features. Fabien found that his heart was now thudding painfully in his chest and there were tears running down his face. It all just seemed too much for him, so frightening and confusing, it threatened to overwhelm him entirely. He took a deep breath and then forced himself up, lunging towards his father and grabbing at his arm.
‘Let him go!’ He begged, ‘please! Please, dad!’
His father turned to look at him, startled and disorientated. In this single moment, apparently inadvertently, he relaxed his grip and Luka took the opportunity to scratch his face again and struggle free. He and Aden were still screaming and, even though he was now free, all Luka could was flail desperately on the sand, his powerful tail stunted by the stretch of dull, heavy sand.
Fabien pulled away from his father as fast as he could, moving to grab at Aden’s arms and pull him towards the sea. It was difficult because Aden had chosen to cling, fiercely, to Luka’s arms and was also still struggling madly.
He didn’t know how he managed to do it, except that the adrenaline in his system surged powerfully, but he pulled the two writhing bodies just far enough across the sand so that the water began to lap at their skins again. As soon as the sea was at Aden’s shoulders he managed to push himself forward, flicking his tail about and then forcing Luka after him. In just a moment they were both submerged and then, without a moment’s uncertainty or hesitation, they had swam away with an unfathomable speed. Barely a ripple remained to mark out the way they had gone.
Fabien sunk back down into the sand, he’s knees burning as he settled into the hard ridges where he had dragged two bodies in uneven lines. He was shaking and sweating and very aware of how naked he was. His father’s eyes were darting out across the sea and then back at him, settling on his son with a stunned intensity. Fabien self-consciously covered himself up, looking around on the sand for his swimming trunks. His father followed his eyes and got up, uncertain on his legs. He moved over to pick up the small, wet, piece of fabric from where it lay and handed it to Fabien, wordlessly.
Fabien pulled his swim shorts on hastily, feeling the sand which had filled them scrape against his skin painfully, immediately beginning to irritate his privates. He tugged uncomfortably, more tears running down his face and his chest shaking. He began to sob, uncontrollably. It was all just too much.
He felt his father lean down and touch him gently, on the shoulder. He was swallowing heavily, deep gulps. After a moment he wrapped his arms right about him and Fabien felt him start to lift him up as if he were an injured infant. Numbly he draped his arms over his father’s shoulders and let him carry him away.
He felt himself being placed into a car, the rough upholstery rubbing against his already sore skin and the edge of the strap catching at his cheek as his father strapped him in. He turned his face away, burying it into the headrest and continued to sob.
‘Don’t cry,’ he heard his father say, gently, leaning over him. His voice broke with nerves. It was rough and raw, as if strained from his shouts. He didn’t sound at all right. Fabien heard him move away, trudging through the grit and sand to the back of the car and opening and shutting the trunk. He returned with a bundle in his arms, Fabien perceived that it was pile of blankets.
Tenderly, his father leant in and wrapped the blanket about his half-naked, trembling body. He took care to tuck the stray corners underneath Fabien’s crumbled frame and adjusted the strap of the seatbelt beneath his neck. Fabien could feel his breath on his face when he leant close, as if he were going to whisper something into his son’s ear or kiss him upon his wet cheek – but he did not.
He moved away again and walked round to the drivers’ seat, slamming the door hard behind him. Then he just sat, in silence, without putting his key in the ignition or making any move to start the car. Fabien sniffed and swallowed, quietly, and reached up to wipe at his face with a shaking hand.
‘I’m okay dad,’ he murmured, at length. The miserable, stuttering way in which he formed the words suggested anything that he was anything but that. ‘They didn’t – they didn’t hurt me.’ He found that he couldn’t speak any more. He rubbed his eyes and then pulled the blanket tightly about himself.
His father leant forward against the steering wheel, one hand running through his hair distractedly.
‘You shouldn’t even have been there,’ he choked out, distractedly, madly. ‘I told you. I told you that it was private property and I told you that it wasn’t safe. I told you!’ He shook his head over and over, remorsefully, as something had been broken which could never be repaired.
‘I’m sorry,’ Fabien cried insistently, his voice high and piteous, ‘I’m so sorry!’
His father was quiet a few moments more, continuing to shake his head mournfully, but then he reached out immediately to put a hand upon Fabien’s head, running his fingers through his wet hair. Fabien lay still, swallowing, feeling the rough calluses of his father’s hand against his scalp.
‘It’s okay,’ his father told him quietly, ‘it’s okay now. It’s all over now.’