“Who do you think that is?” Q asks his sister.
“Hmm?” R flutters her wings and settles down next to him. “Dunno, Haven’t seen them before. Male, I think, pretty well built as well.”
“He’s certainly very graceful.”
R laughs. “Is that what we’re calling it now? ‘Graceful?’ I’ll be sure to call Eevi that this evening.”
Q’s forehead wrinkles. “Please keep it down when you do. You can both be… somewhat loud.”
R settles down next to him. “Well, we’ll use a spell to keep it down, promise.”
Q knocks her shoulder good-naturedly. “It’s good to see you so happy.”
“Whelp, assignments to see the fae folk tend to have that effect.”
“You are one of the fae folk.”
R’s smile is wide. “I know! But you know how certain people get about that. It’s nice not to have to hide my wings whilst we’re here.” She twirls her wand around her fingers before sliding it back inside her sleeve. “What are we supposed to be watching for, anyway?”
“You mean me.”
“I do, but I wanted to keep you company, Eevi is training some of the littluns and I didn’t really want to be roped into that.”
Q raises his eyebrows at her. “Ah.”
“Yeah. One of the downsides about being from two worlds - three, I guess - they have so many questions that I can’t answer and some, quite frankly, that I don’t want to.”
“Kids always ask the worst questions. Why do you think I stay in my laboratory most of the time and manage to avoid ever giving demonstrations.”
“Probably for the same reasons I do. But anyway, your merman appears to be approaching. Which means he’s not dangerous, not if he can see you.”
He glides through the water, his powerful arms cutting through it effortlessly; his tail is various shades of shimmering blue, with powerful fins making light work of avoiding other sea creatures.
Q is already captivated by the time he breaks the surface. Blond hair, ice-blue eyes and a smile that makes him want to melt.
R waves. “Hello,” she says.
“Good day, fae folk,” he says with a bow.
R chuckles. “Just me, my brother’s all wizard.” She waves her wand to show him she is too and the merman smiles at her.
For a moment Q misses her quiet, nervous self whenever she meets new people. But here she really and truly can be herself and she’s bubbling with it; he can’t deny her that. He also can’t seem to find his voice.
“Well, then, good day magick folk, what brings you here? I haven’t seen you before.”
Q feels like he’s simmering when those eyes are fixed on him and the bites the inside of his mouth to stop him from embarrassing himself.
“No, ah, we’re here because the local folk asked us to check their wards and work a few spells. My sister is a Charms and Spell Master and me, well, I work with potions and some spell work as well so they sent us both.
“It’s part of the new treaty; to make sure we all work together to prevent another war.”
The merman’s face goes dark for just a moment, a sadness flickering across his features.
“Yes. It raged for too long, I’m afraid. Many were lost, but with you here it looks like it might be improving.”
“Slowly,” Q agrees. “But it’s something.”
“I’m James,” the merman says, offering them his hands.
Q watches as the webbing between his fingers retracts as his hand reaches them, it feels cool to the touch but his grip is firm and sure. He lets go numbly and watches R take her turn.
“You are safe and welcome to swim here if you choose to. No one will bother you, and if they do tell them my name.”
“We’re… ah,” Q looks to his sister. “We’re Q and R.”
James nods in understanding. “The power of names,” he says. “Needless to say James is not my only name but it is the one I’ve been given to use with the rest of the world.”
“I like it,” Q tells him, immediately wanting to disappear.
“Hmm, yes, so do I.” Their gazes lock for a moment and Q’s face heats up.
R giggles - actually giggles - under her breath. “Well, then. I’m going to head back and get some lunch. Lovely to meet you, James. I might well take you up on your offer of swimming here but probably later.”
He smiles at her as she flutters upwards and heads off with a wave.
When Q turns back around, having watched her go, he’s met with James, who’s higher up in the water. Or, rather, the water is higher up and he’s inside it.
“Merfolk have magic too,” James says after Q’s staring as gone on for a tad too long. The smile he gets when he looks up at James’ face again is knowing and cheeky and wonderful.
“I… ah, yes, I, I’m aware.”
James’ laugh is warm and deep, settling inside Q’s bones and resonating. He grips his wand inside his sleeve tightly and thinks calming spells. He can count on two fingers the people he’s been attracted to in the past and this… this is another level. Magick folk - wizards and the like - tend to wear a lot of clothing for status reasons. And here’s a beautiful, magnificent merman with all that skin and those eyes and, well, Q has spent a lot of time cooped up in the last year and he finds that he wants things he likely shouldn’t. At least not within minutes of meeting someone.
“I can go,” James says, backing away and lowering himself and the water back to normal.
Q shakes his head. “It’s not… it’s not that,” he tries to explain.
James tilts his head and looks up at him, sat on the strong branch leaning over the water.
“If you’re on duty I can come back later?”
“No, I’ve ah, I’ve done what I need to do.” He tries to smile whilst he thinks of all the things he knows about merfolk. James isn’t a siren - none of the usual markings or voice - and there’s no spell being woven over him. This should be reassuring but instead, he’s mortified that there’s no magic making him wanting to jump this man. Just pure attraction.
“Q?” James looks very unsure of himself. “Am I reading you wrong?”
“Are you attached to someone?”
“No.” He coughs and looks down at James, whose head is the only thing still above water, his beautiful and powerful tail moving gently below him.
“Can you not swim?” James asks, clearly concerned now.
“I can swim. I’m not used to… shit.” He tries to calm his breathing down. “I’m not… I’m rather taken off guard.”
James’ forehead wrinkles, probably trying to work out what Q means. They may share a common(ish) language but some phrases are difficult to parse out.
Q winces at the look on James’ face. He looks baffled and maybe, perhaps, a little offended?
Well, in for a penny… “You’re probably the most magnificent, ah, person, I’ve ever actually seen.”
“Thank you,” James says, and there’s red in his cheeks now.
“And I seem to be having a very strong and probably inappropriate reaction.”
James raises himself up again. “Not inappropriate if your attraction is reciprocated, surely?”
Q makes a sound that could, by some, be called a low squeak. He grabs his wand, runs a few checks over himself and James then, once they all come back fine - aside from a warning of the water being cold - he makes up his mind.
One whispered spell and his clothes are neatly - and securely- piled on the thick branches, and another transforms his underwear to swimming trunks. He tucks his wand into his arm holster and puts his glasses on top of the pile of clothes.
James watches all of this with calm amusement.
“I’m going to jump, okay?” Q says, hoping the cold water does quell his ah, reaction.
James nods so Q jumps in, pointed feet taking him down into the sharp shock of cold.
He returns to the surface with a fair amount of grace and smiles at James when he resurfaces.
“Can you see alright?” The merman asks.
“Hum, Oh, Yes. Spell. I’m just rather attached to my glasses.”
James moves closer to him and it’s majestic and mesmerising to watch his tail move through the water.
“Q?” he asks, that half-smile not leaving his face.
James raises his hands from the water slowly and this time the webbing doesn’t retract. They feel warmer than the water around them - which has helped his condition - as they cup his face gently.
“Is this Alright?”
One brief blinding smile and then the pressure of James’ lips against his own.
A little gasp and Q’s eyes close as he moves his mouth against James’, his heart fluttering in his chest.
He puts his hands on strong shoulders and hums in approval when James uses one large hand to wrap around his waist and pull him closer.
When he feels James’ tail wrap loosely around his legs his heart skips a beat or two and Q slides his arms around James’ neck get closer still.
With a half-fairy for a sister, he’s always been open to the possibility of love at first sight. Not that he’s sure what this is, but it’s certainly something. Deep attraction? He doesn’t care. James’ kisses are deep and expressive. He smiles and grins into them whenever Q makes a sound or does something he likes.
James slows and moves to rest his head against Q’s shoulder; panting heavily.
Q, in the same state, is smiling wider than he has in months. He also realises James is keeping them both upright.
“I don’t suppose you have a spell to allow you to breathe underwater?” James asks, raising his head back up. His eyes wander over Q’s face to take him in.
“Maybe, yes. Should last for an hour or so.”
“Will it interfere with this?” James asks, kissing him again.
Q swallows. “Not if I do it properly, no.”
“Need me to let go?”
“Probably, just for a moment.
James obliges him and unwinds his tail from Q’s legs.
Q takes out his wand and mutters the spells under his breath. He’s glad he learnt to do this - as most children do - as they learn to swim.
As soon as it’s cast he ducks back under the water and tries a small breath - it works.
James grins at him below the surface, his eyes shining brighter down here.
“Follow me,” he says, taking Q’s hand and he’s not sure if the words have travelled through the water or his arm.
James takes them down into the sandy, clear depths. An area surrounded on three sides by coral and a seafloor made of sand and sea flowers. There are rocks set about and it looks to be a place merfolk can gather and take in the sun whilst enjoying the cool clarity of the water.
“This place is incredible,” Q comments, running his hand through the sand as they swim past it.
“Thank you, we try.”
James swims above him, taking his hand and settling down on the sand, bringing Q down beside him and kissing him again. It’s blissful and wonderful and proof positive that peace between different species is the only way forward. He’s so glad he and R got this assignment.
James runs his hands down Q’s back, and cups his ass, bringing them flush together and his tail around them once more.
Q gasps, the air bubbles rushing past them and up to the surface.
“Is this okay?” James asks him, running webbed fingers down his cheek.
Q nods but takes a breath, the spell taking the oxygen from the water to fill his lungs.
“Is this too fast?” James asks, shifting his tail back in the sand a few inches.
“Yes, probably. Definitely for me.”
“If I promise I’ll still want to see you again tomorrow and for however long you’re here would it help you to feel better?”
“Yes.” He pants, not sure if he’s taxing the spell or his lungs.
“And if I tell you that merfolk are no more promiscuous than any other species. But something about you draws me in. And I want to know where it leads.”
Q smiles, rolling onto his back but taking James’ hand.
“So do I.”
They keep space between them by silent agreement, looking up at the shoals of fish that swim above and beside them.
“Well, we should start somewhere. Favourite colour?” James asks and Q laughs before replying.
James takes Q back a few hours later, they’d surfaced to redo Q’s spell an hour or so ago but he’s now both hungry and exhausted from the swimming and, well, grope fests. He hasn’t been a teenager for twelve years but he doesn’t remember feeling like this then either.
R and Eevi are waiting for him when he gets back, linked hands swinging between them.
Q makes the introductions and glares at R’s very obvious stares.
“We just wanted to make sure you got back okay,” R explains.
Eevi nods and looks to James. “If your kind ever walks on the land you should know you’re welcome here.”
“There are certain times of the year that we can, I will bear that in mind next time.” He lifts Q up with the water and settles him down on the branch. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Q nods. “Yes. Early. I don’t have any duties for the whole day.”
James’s smile beams. “Good. I’ll see you tomorrow.”