The afternoon sun was shining, warming up every single piece of land it had touched. The peaceful serenity of moving waves and chirping birds was repeatedly interrupted by clangs of metal meeting metal, excited chit chat and muffled music. The shore near the cottage was alive with movement as four men tried to anchor down a platform, which was leading straight out of the sea into a makeshift gazebo. Two of the men were surrounding the edges with stones, while the other two were hoisting it up from the water, their powerful tails easily helping them out.
“Just a bit to the right and it’ll be perfect!” shouted Till as he watched the mermen move. With a few strokes of their tails the platform had moved, automatically fitting in the prepared hole.
“There, perfect!” Paul smiled in triumph as he slowly moved onto the platform. “Now you’ll be able to easily move all the way to the gazebo.” He moved down and jumped into the waist-high water, checking for any bumps.
“You really didn’t have to do this, we already have the pier.” Richard smiled as he tested the newly made space for them. He hoisted himself up and turned to Paul.
“How many times did we have to pick splinters out of you already? I think this is gonna be better. Especially once it’s properly covered in stones and smoothed out,” Till returned, holding two beers in each hand. He handed two to Paul and then sat next to Doom and opened one for him.
“Well, thank you. I’m sure we’ll find a way to repay you somehow.” Doom raised his beer and clinked it with Till’s, immediately downing half of the bottle.
“You guys help us enough already.”
“Yeah. And I’m pretty sure Richard will properly thank Paul sometime later in the night.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake, Till.” Paul facepalmed, not being able to witness Till’s wiggling eyebrows. He could still hear the other men’s laughs and only took his hand away when he felt a light peck on his cheek. He looked to the side, eyes meeting witch Richard’s, who was laying on his belly, smiling back at him.
“Well, y’know, he’s not wrong.”
“Please stop encouraging him, Reesh. You have no idea what I have to listen to when we’re alone.”
“I’d like to be spared the details just as well,” Doom chimed in, turning his head away from the lovebirds.
They all laughed, enjoying the quiet which had settled above the fishery and listened to the birds and the radio. It has been some time since they got all together like this. There have always been some work to do, something to repair or to build, not giving the men the free time they craved. Once Paul had some time, his kids came to visit him and he had to spent all of his time with them. He still was afraid of showing them the merman, so even with protests coming from Richard, he did not tell them about him. Oliver and Flake were swarmed with tourists and had no time at all. The coming autumn promised them more free time and the men could not wait to have a holiday of their own.
After some time the music was interrupted by the moderator’s voice, announcing the local news. As they lived in the middle of nowhere, nothing really surprised them; the news weren’t really ground-breaking. A small fire there, a new shop opening over there and so on. What caught their attentions though, was the change in the moderator’s tone - he suddenly started talking with more enthusiasm, describing the oncoming celebrations.
“As you all might know, the night of the Harvest Moon is coming up, which means a whole month of celebrations across the country! Do not miss the chance to celebrate with us! Don’t forget the fun starts when the moon rises on the 1st of October!”
Paul straightened a bit, looking back at Till with a raised eyebrow, “the Harvest Moon? What’s that?”
“You’ve never heard of it?” Till sipped his beer. “In the past farmers could work long into the night as the moon rose right behind the last sunrays, meaning they gathered all the stuff they grew during the summer. This all climaxed with the Hunter’s moon but right now it’s more or less just an excuse to drink and party excessively - straight for a month. It’s quite fun.”
“Huh, never heard of it.” Paul furrowed his brow as he looked at Richard. The merman himself had turned around, an expression of worry written all over his face as he silently looked at Doom.
“Is something wrong?” Paul asked.
“Well, that depends,” Doom spoke, slowly sliding his sight from Richard to Paul, “how far away is this 1st of October?”
“Not far, it’s in ten days.”
“Well, every year during this time the elders get a bit twitchy. They get all strict and forbid us from going to certain places. Do you think it has something in common with your celebrations?” the merman combed his curls back and looked at Till.
“I don’t think so. The people aren’t doing anything weird, they’re just hanging up fancy lanterns, shoot some fireworks and then they drink a lot. Why would your people be afraid of that? And where exactly can’t you go? And why?”
“I- well, honestly I don’t know.”
“I think it has to do something with the moon.” Richard sat up, playing with the throat of the bottle. “I mean, we always become bit restless when the moon is full, so maybe there are places that could get us hurt in our restlessness? Or maybe it’s the weather. The storms are more frequent and the sea gets dangerous, with the currents changing a lot and stuff, y'know.”
Paul turned around while Richard was talking and idly started to stroke the merman’s tail; his fingers ran over the faint, almost invisible scar after the stab wound, the only evidence of the fight were the few missing scales. He squeezed the tail and looked in thought back at his partner, a small smirk tugging at is lips.
“What do you mean by being restless when the moon is full, huh? That you guys are actually werewolves in disguise?” He laughed and leaned against Richard’s tail.
“Werewolves? What’s that?”
“People turning into monster dogs when the moon is full.”
“The four-legged animals that run around, people have them as their pets.”
“I know what dogs are, I’m just fucking with you.” Richard laughed, squeezing Paul’s side. “The elders always herd us more during these times, is all. But since they don’t give a fuck about me anymore, I can go wherever I want.”
“Huh.” Till finished his bottle. “There still might be something more to it. We can certainly look into it.”
“Tell us if you do, they never share with us anything and it can get pretty irritating at times.” Doom gave his empty bottle back to Till and laid into the water letting the current sway him.
Richard waited for a while and when he saw that the other merman wasn’t paying any attention, he slowly and quietly slid back into the water, ready to sneak up on him. Paul and Till watched him; Richard stuck to the ground underwater, which wasn’t really difficult as the water was quite shallow, and crawled right under the merman. There was a pause before he sprung up and with one swift movement grabbed Doom and jumped with him into the air, laughing at his yelp of surprise. They both twisted in the air and fell back into the water, wrestling each other and twisting, trying to gain the upper hand. Paul laughed at the interaction, the mermen kept repeatedly breaching the water and then dove down, their horseplay causing ruckus and making the two other men wet just as well.
Richard’s laughter was mixed up with splashes of water, the radio’s music and whoops of Till and Paul. They kept playing with each other for a few minutes, tails tangled and their hands trying to grip the other man – Doom finally caught Richard from behind, locking his arms around him and successfully immobilising him.
“You still have a lot to learn.” Doom laughed into his ear and slowly loosened his tail, freeing the other merman. Once he was free, he grabbed Richard’s shoulders for the last time and shoved him underwater, laughing at Richard’s muffled protests.
After some time the men began to work again, laying down some of the stones to complete the newly made terrace for the mermen. Moving giant sandstones and setting them into position took them the better part of the afternoon and before they could realize it, the sun started to slowly set, telling them it was about the time to stop.
Till made his way to the cottage, calling dibs on the shower. He waved his goodbye and soon disappeared inside. Paul still kept cleaning around the place, setting tools back into their boxes and collecting any kind of stuff that needed to be taken back to cottage, be it empty bottles or discarded clothing. From time to time he looked at the sea and watched the mermen, swimming laps around and chasing each other. After putting all of the things into a basket, Paul made his way onto the pier and waited for the mermen. They eventually made their way to him, Richard automatically hoisting himself up while Doom stayed under them.
“It’s time I head back too, we’re gonna see each other soon enough.” Doom looked up and smiled at the men.
“Oh, we will. We can’t finish that thing without you.” Paul nodded his head towards the platform. “Good night.”
“I know.” The merman smirked, meeting eyes with Richard and nodding, quickly disappearing into the water.
“So, now that we are alone…”
“Oh god Richard, you really can’t wait, not even a second, huh?”
Paul’s groans were drowned in Richard’s laugh as he tugged the other man down to sit next to him. The smaller man sat down and leaned back onto his elbows; he had to smile at the merman’s immediate need to be close to him and so he let him to partially crawl onto his stomach. Richard nuzzled his belly and left a few pecks there before looking up and returning the smile. Paul also felt how Richard sneaked his arms around him and was now stroking his lower back in small, repeated circles that sent pleasant shivers through his whole body. He felt him deeply inhale before the merman pushed himself up onto his arms which were anchored by Paul’s sides.
“Well? Are we going somewhere, or do you want to stay here?”
“We’ve done a lot of work today, Richard. I don’t think I have enough energy for anything.” Paul could see the disappointment behind the merman’s eyes; he knew that in comparison Richard barely felt any tiredness at all. “I can stay here with you for a while, but don’t expect me to be active.”
The merman sighed and then looked up, a small smile tugging at his lips. “I understand, if you want to go, go.”
“Oh no, no, no.” Paul took Richard’s face into his hands and brought him closer. “I’m not going anywhere yet.” He kissed him slowly, savouring his lover’s lips with each connection of their mouths. Paul had to chuckle at Richard’s eagerness to return the kisses, soon his tongue was attacking Paul’s mouth with confident licks across his lips.
“This is also a nice way to spend the evening,” Richard mumbled into his lips before he moved under Paul’s jaw and started to nibble at the sensitive skin there. Paul put one of his hands into Richard’s hair and swept it back, tangling his fingers into it and scratching the back of the merman’s head. Richard kept kissing him for a few moments and then moved away, slowly settling down onto the wooden planks and tugged Paul down, letting him let his head rest on his outstretched arm.
“Do you want me to look into the whole moon thing?” Paul whispered after few minutes.
“I don’t know. I’d be lying if I said I’m not curious but I doubt you’ll find anything.”
“Well, it’s worth a shot. I know Till had some weird books and we can always try to search for more in the shop where he found them. And then there’s of course the internet, there has to be something.”
“Well, it’s all in your hands. Do whatever you want, baby.” Richard leaned over and kissed the other man, once more initiating a row kisses, filling each purse of his lips with love and tenderness.
They stayed there embraced till the sun got low and the last rays finally left the skies. Paul let the merman slip into the water and with a final kiss he left for the cottage, eager to get to the shower just as well. He was pleasantly surprised with the smell of dinner when he came inside and grinned at cooking Till. After a quick warm shower he settled together with the bigger man at the table, happily wolfing down his share of the food.
“Till, do you still have some of the books?” He asked as he swallowed his last bite.
“About the mermaids? Yeah. You want to look into it?”
“I’d like to. There’s nothing to lose and we can help the guys.”
“Alright. They’re just under the TV. If you’ll need any help with them just call me over.” Till opened his notebook and started writing, returning to his unfinished poems.
Paul took their empty plates back to the kitchen, washed them and set them aside to dry. He then poured himself a glass of red wine and headed to the TV, where he immediately found the books. They were easily distinguishable; they were old, their paper yellow and wrinkled, faintly smelling of the sea itself. Paul took them and settled across Till, taking a notepad and a pen with him. He started to feel a certain kind of excitement as he opened the first book, hundreds of words spilling into the light, ready to flood Paul’s brain with new information.