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Auf dem Lande

Chapter Text

Aaa

 

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.”

“Dogs?”

“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.

Chapter Text

… The autumn weather brought many changes upon the island. The storms got more frequent, destroying life on the sea and land alike. But even with the elements wild and unrestrained, the locals have continued to celebrate the Harvest moon for centuries. All the damage that was done to the local harvest and to the fisheries did not stop to attract other people. The Locals were used to seeing merchants and sailors stopping at their ports, though the number of people that have arrived to the island (and even their looks) were too odd for just a simple business trade.

While in the past, many believed in all kinds of myths and folklore, either saying that the people fascinated with the most ordinary plants, trinkets, and everyday household items, were either coming from the moon or the sea. The present more sensible overlook suggest that the records of these people were actually the first appearances of common tourism.

Comparing these records with the local calendars, all points suggest such a phenomenon. The sudden increase in population would help get rid of the losses of the local economy; no matter how many dead fish or burned fields and gardens they had, the visiting people would always even the gap out. Unfortunately, the last record of this periodic appearance is over 150 years old.

Finally, Paul found something that could help him and the mermen to start their research with. He read through the books deep into the night before he almost face-planted into them, deciding he will leave some of the work for the next day.

So here he was, with a coffee and a breakfast, pouring over the books once again. He took some notes, scribbled down anything he deemed important and skipped over the useless stuff. He was quite eager to show all of this to Richard, perhaps he will know more, or maybe Doom will. Paul barely acknowledged Till; a concentrated hum was his answer to the bigger man’s good morning.

The beeping of the stove disrupted his focus on the writing; Paul looked up and left his notepad be and ran into the kitchen.

“What’s all this supposed to be?” Till looked over the mess Paul had left all over the room.

“I’m making the guys some pancakes, I don’t think they had them yet,” Paul said proudly as he threw the last of the batter onto the pan.

“Well, how nice of you. Just try and don’t burn the house down while doing so, okay?” Till ruffled Paul’s unkempt hair, successfully turning it into a bird’s nest. He stole a couple of pancakes for himself and headed to the table. “Did you find anything interesting?”

“Yeah I did, I’m gonna discuss it with the guys today.”

“Okay, but don’t forget we have to finish our work from yesterday. I don’t want to abandon it when we’re almost done.”

“Don’t worry.” Paul smiled as he put the fresh mountain of pancakes into a basket, together with some fruits, jams and a big jar of Nutella. “I’ll show it to them now or when we’ll have lunch.” He picked up his notes and the books as well and added them into the basket. Right before Paul left, he stopped behind Till and ruffled his hair too, laughing at the other man’s annoyed grunts.

Paul made his way down to the sea, the air around him was already warm, promising another hot day. He went straight onto the pier and sat down at the widened end, where some of their blankets were left. Before he could completely straighten one of them for himself he already heard the familiar splashing of water behind himself.

Not far from him two tails twisted and turned and soon enough, their owners appeared just as well. Both of the mermen did not waste their time and crawled onto the pier, making the poor wooden planks creak under their weight.

“Good morning!” Paul chuckled as he slowly took out the prepared breakfast and turned around, both hands holding plates full of food.

“Good morning, Paul.” Doom smiled, patiently nestling next to the blanket.

“Paulie!” Richard beamed, crawling to the smaller man’s legs and attempting to hug him.

“H-hey, calm down! Why can’t you behave like your friend here, huh?” Paul laughed, putting the plates down. “A little thank you for yesterday’s work. You guys can choose whatever topping you want, but be quick. Once Till discovers I took the whole Nutella jar he’s gonna be mad.”

Paul laughed even more as he watched the mermen devour their plates. Neither of them tried to eat properly and soon both of them were covered in jams and totally dirty. He gladly gave them more, passing them a bowl of strawberries, blueberries and bananas to go with it. He occasionally stole a berry or two, waiting for them to finish up. He could hear some noise behind them so he turned around and saw Till heading back to the platform, overlooking it and planning their work for today. Doom turned around too and as he saw him he swallowed the last of his food and jumped back into the water.

“Thank you Paul, it was delicious!”

“No problem!” Paul shouted back and turned towards Richard, “and what about you? Satisfied as well?”

“Mmhm.” The merman nodded, cleaning some of the Nutella from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. “You’re the best.”

“I know.” Paul smirked. He leaned closer as if to kiss the merman but turned his head to the side and licked off the last remains of the chocolate treat. Richard’s breath hitched and he immediately turned his head, catching Paul’s lips with his own.

“I love when your kisses are this sweet,” Richard mumbled, licking Paul’s bottom lip in return, “makes me always crave for more.”

“There’s always more for you.” Paul chuckled. “But not now. We have to get back there and help them out.” He had to smile at the merman’s rolling eyes and disappointing sigh, “but before we do, I have something to show you.” He raised his finger to catch his attention. Paul collected the empty plates and put them back into the basket, exchanging them with his collected notes.

“I managed to find something for you. It’s not much, but it’s something,” he opened the books in front of the merman and laid them down onto the blanket and then he handled him the notes he managed to take.

“Uh, interesting.” Richard nervously laughed as he squinted at the notes.

“Right?! This might help us after all!”

“Uh-huh.”

“Is something wrong, Richard?” Paul’s excitement faltered as he looked at the merman.

“I- well, that depends, really.” Richard embarrassingly looked down, feeling blood rushing to his cheeks. “We’ve never talked about this, as I didn’t deem it important but, well-” he looked up and sighed. “-it looks like you worked really hard on it, but I can’t read any of it. I can’t read at all.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“That’s okay, Reesh. I can teach you.” Paul smiled reassuringly, sneaking his arm around Richard’s shoulders. “Let me tell then you what I found and later today I can start teaching you.”

“You’d do that for me?”

“Of course.” Paul nodded and kissed him again, enjoying the merman’s eagerness to return each purse of his lips.

“Love you.”

“Love you too.”

He was about to kiss the merman again when a shout had interrupted him: “Leave this for later! It’s time to work again!”

Richard chuckled at Till’s additional comments and with a sigh turned towards the sea. “Looks like we have no other choice, huh?”

“No, we don’t. Let’s go.” Paul ruffled Richard’s hair and rose to his feet, collecting his notes and the books back into the basket. The merman rolled off the pier and slowly made his way towards Doom and Till.

They once again started to move the stones about, turning the beach into a small construction site. They managed to pave most of the platform, even though the mermen had problems with moving around once they got out of the water; they still helped a lot with the heavier pieces, setting them down themselves. Till and Paul then busied themselves with smoothening and aligning the rocks and before they knew it, their work was almost finished. So after their afternoon lunch and afternoon pause, Paul and Richard managed to slip away, taking the boat and leaving for one of the many deserted beaches, leaving the other men to finish the work alone.

“I hope Till won’t be mad at us for going away,” Richard said as he crawled to Paul, who was setting down a blanket and taking out the books.

“Nah, you saw him. He likes to finish his work alone, that way he knows if everything is okay.”

“Alright.”

Richard had settled above Paul, laying on his side and letting the other man lean on his body, acting as a makeshift headrest. Paul automatically handed him a packet of cookies and let him have it. Richard chuckled and kissed his cheek as a thank you, ripping the seal open.

“I’ve never realized that you actually can’t read.” Paul smiled as he thumbed through his notes.

“I never thought I’d have any use for it. There’s no need for learning your alphabets when we barely come in contact with you.”

“Well, that’s about to change.” Paul found an empty page and then began to write down the alphabet, trying to do it as neatly as possible. Once he was finished he turned towards the merman and slowly started showing him each letter, giving the merman a pen and a piece of paper too, for him to try and write the individual letters down. It took him some time but eventually Richard managed to copy Paul’s movements, intently listening to him and trying to read out simple words and then sentences. Paul knew it will take him at least a few days to read and write on his own, however he could already see the progress the merman was making and felt rather proud.

When Paul felt like he taught him enough for that day he took the papers away and put in front of them the books instead. He opened them at the pages where he left his bookmarks and read everything that was in them to Richard. While he was explaining the stuff he found he saw Richard’s concentrated stare as he nodded to all the new information he received.

“So, what do you think?”

“I think that the elders are keeping a lot from us. While tourism makes sense, those people could also be some of ours.”

“You really think that those people the books mentioned were you guys? How was that even possible to see you walking among us?”

“I don’t know. If the elders weren’t so stuck up I’d ask them, though I doubt they’d tell me anything at all.”

“Well, the last mentions of these people in the book are 150 years old and the book itself was written in 1950s, so it has been over 200 years since the last appearance, if not more. I don’t think anyone will know anything about it.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem. I know they know, that’s why they keep us away from those caves.”

“Which caves?” Paul sat up and turned towards the merman. “I know you’ve mentioned something about forbidden places.”

“A system of caves on the north-east of the island. It’s pretty in there, but you can get easily lost.”

“Okay, fine. So, we have weird people walking among the locals in the past, a system of caves and your restlessness during full moons, and on top of that, bad weather,” Paul counted on his fingers, “This is getting weird with each new thing we put together.” He leaned back onto the merman, resting his head on his chest.

“I find it interesting actually,” Richard sighed and leaned down, stealing a quick kiss from the man, “we could uncover this mystery together and maybe I’ll be able to spend some more time up here.” He patted the sand on the ground.

“Reesh, I don’t want anything to happen to you. This could be dangerous. Also it sounds ridiculous. What if it’s just not dead fish and drowned people during that time, what if it kills you too? Lightning striking the water and all that jazz, y’know.”

“I’m glad you’re worried.” Richard took Paul into his arms and moved him off of himself and onto the blanket. “But you don’t need to, I’ll be fine.” He lowered himself onto the man and started kissing him. He moved his hands all over him, squeezing his hips and massaging his nipples, liking the way Paul hummed in pleasure. It didn’t take him long to take away Paul’s clothes and soon he had the man laying under him, completely naked and fully responding to every touch.

“You persuasive bastard.” Paul supported himself on his elbows and lightly pushed the merman away and onto his back, throwing one of his legs over him for support. He lowered himself onto the merman and trailed a row of kisses from his mouth down his throat and chest, nipping at his skin all the way to where his skin disappeared into the smooth scales. He was well familiar with the swell of the scales right under it and didn’t hesitate to run his mouth across it, his tongue disappearing between the scales. Right as he did so, the merman arched up and moaned in shock, his left hand shooting down and grabbing Paul by his hair. Paul snorted and with a smirk lowered himself down to run his tongue over and over again, right over the bulge.

He stopped when Richard’s cock started peaking out and helped it out with rhythmic strokes of his hand. Richard himself brought Paul back up, hungrily kissing him and sneaking his own hand down to the smaller man’s cock as well. They started stroking each other, moaning into their mouths and pumping their hips into the other man’s hand. Paul from time to time switched from his ardent strokes to fingering the merman, his fingers disappearing right below Richard’s cock into the slit, making him wail and trash in pleasure.

“Fuck, I’m close,” growled Paul and bit into Richard’s jaw, immediately licking the bite. His muscles were tense and he could feel the building of warmth that was about to be released.

“I know, baby.” Richard bit into Paul’s lip then continuing to kiss him. “Me too,” his voice hitched as Paul’s fingers once again disappeared into his body.

It really didn’t take long, as Richard once again arched in pleasure and moaned right into Paul’s ears the smaller man came. The merman continued to stroke him, spreading his cum over his cock and letting some of it fall onto him. Paul whimpered and as his body shook his strokes became more powerful, making the merman orgasm as well. With a final stroke of his fingers and a pump of his fist, Richard’s cock twitched and spurted cum all over himself in thick stripes of translucent white.

Paul collapsed onto his lover and buried his head into the crook of his neck, taking deep breaths and inhaling his scent. When his heart slowed down a bit, he raised himself onto his elbows and looked down at the merman; Richard was already looking back at him with a gentle smile across his lips. Paul stroked some of Richard’s hair out of his face and buried his fingers in it, slowly caressing him across his head.

He still felt butterflies in his stomach when he looked down at the other man; he would have never guessed that he’d end up with somebody so kind, gentle yet strong as Richard. He felt funny how quickly he got used to the merman. Till still had to occasionally nudge him or shut him up in front of other people, the smaller man not realizing that people did not have everyday interactions with mermaids. Or mermen in his case.

Of course that sometimes he got irritated as well; Richard could be quite headstrong and reckless and it always took Paul a lot of energy to keep the merman in line so he wouldn’t cause any trouble. But thankfully these occasions were rare and if they had any disagreement, most of the time it ended in intense fucking.

“What?” Richard whispered, kissing one of Paul’s palms.

“Nothing. Just thinking how lucky I am.”

“Oh you’re very lucky.”

Richard took Paul’s head into his hands and brought him closer, giving him a long, deep kiss. They stayed on the blanket for some time and after they both felt rested, Paul dragged Richard into the sea to wash off their bodies. Richard then took Paul into his arms and swam with him for a bit, letting him lay on his chest while he floated on the water.

“Do you really want to look into the whole moon thing?” Paul asked after some time, sneaking his arms around Richard’s neck.

The merman stopped swimming around and grabbed Paul around his waist for support, “I’d like to, yeah. Will you help me?”

“We’ll have to be careful, okay? And you will listen to me, no talking back.”

“Yes, sir!” Richard smirked as he bent his head down and left a row of feather-light kisses on Paul’s neck. “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

“No, no, that’s a b, d is written the other way around.” Hearing the irritated huff made Paul smile. For the past few days he’s been teaching Richard how to write and read and was quite amazed by the merman’s fast progress.  He was still making mistakes, though even those didn’t sway him away from his goal; he could understand and write simple sentences and was overjoyed whenever he spelled a difficult word the right way.

The path to the gazebo was practically finished so any free time Richard had he spent it either learning or forcing Paul to read, to help the merman gather as much information as possible about the oncoming full moon. Unfortunately, there was not anything else apart from the small excerpt from one of the old books, the rest was just theories which Richard quickly rebutted, explaining their absurdity. Paul didn’t say it out loud, but he was happy that they didn’t find anything else; since the mermen confessed how the moon phases made them twitchy, he could clearly see how Richard became a bit more snappy and emotional – usually, he wouldn’t recognize anything different in his behaviour but the notes he made and the information the mermen gave him slowly made more and more sense. He tried not to think about all the possible outcomes of the moonlight; on one hand he was scared and paranoid about it possibly harming either him or Richard, on the other hand he was absolutely curious about what would actually happen.

Right now, he was sitting on the pier, correcting Richard’s texts of sentences and becoming more and more amused by the merman’s wonky writing. He had his feet submerged in the water while Richard swam in circles in front of him, impatiently waiting for Paul to be done. The merman knew that if he asked about the books again the man would get angry, yet the unscratchable itch within him grew stronger every single day, turning the small curiosity into a full-time obsession. Since he was not bound by the rules of his school anymore, he wanted to know more, even if there was a risk of getting hurt in the process.

“I thought that p is written the other way around,” he said, vaguely sketching the letter in the air with his finger.

“P is upside down b. Well, kinda.”

“Aah, okay.”

Paul watched the merman for a while, contemplating the past few days and the information they discovered.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said after a while, nervously twiddling his pen between his fingers.

“What?”

“The caves and stuff. I don’t like it. There must be a viable reason for the elders to forbid you from going there.”

“Oh, come on.” Richard’s tail twitched in irritation, “I’ve been bossed around my entire life by them and what good did it bring me, huh?”

“Well, they might be right with this though. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Hey,” Richard swam closer, putting his arms on Paul’s thighs, “It’s gonna be okay. We’ll be okay. Let me have this, I’ve been restricted by the school for long enough and now I can finally do whatever I want.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you must find the most dangerous thing on this island and try it out.”

“Who said anything about trying? I just want to learn more.” Richard smiled and hoisted himself up, briefly kissing Paul on his brow before falling back into the sea.

“Fine. Learning is fine, but nothing more, okay?” Paul smiled in defeat, watching the merman grin back at him in joy.

For the couple of the few next days, Paul kept bringing all kinds of books to the merman, reciting anything that mentioned either the island, the weather, the moon, or the population of the island. Of course, most of it was useless; the books were old and only had passages about ship trade, local businesses, or traditions. These dead ends made the merman quite irritated, he wanted to know more but his inability to read properly and the slow process of getting any new information only added more fuel to the fire.

Right now, the merman was playing with a pen, laying on one of the many beaches, and listening to Paul thumbing through the last book he brought with him. The ever ongoing splashes of the waves were forcing his mind to repeatedly wander away, his thoughts once again running astray, not really being able to catch the mumbled words coming somewhere from Paul’s direction.

“Did you hear me?”

“Hmm? What?”

“Till gave me some old diary. I think it has something that could interest you.” Paul had to snicker at Richard’s abrupt movement; the merman shot up, partially entangling himself into the blanket he was lying on and then slowly crawled into the shade Paul was sitting in.

“A diary?”

“Yeah, stole it from some granny apparently. And while the most of it is just filled with recipes and the guys she found hot, there’s a couple of pages dedicated to some trip to the north-east of the island.”

“To the caves?”

“Seems so.”

“Well? C’mon read it to me!” Richard nudged Paul’s thigh, straightening the blanket under himself.

“There’s not much so far, really.” Paul turned a couple of pages before starting to read out loud: the woman decided to go on a trip with her friend, hiking across the island and searching for new, undiscovered places for the two of them to enjoy. One of the days they were scouting around the territory near the caves; she described it as a very-hard-to-reach place but that the cave system was wonderful and scary at the same time. Among her entries, there were small sketches which worked for her as pseudo-map – she described how she and her friend had to tie together multiple ropes to not get lost in there as it was multi-levelled and each tunnel had at least one crossroad, leading towards many more crevices and caves hidden within.

Paul had to stop for a moment as the handwriting suddenly changed, becoming more jagged and uneven, as if she was writing it in a hurry.

We found bodies. Oh my God we found skeletons in the little ponds of water that were scattered all over. And not just human, but of some big fish too. Sharks? Killer Whales? I don’t know. But it’s scary as hell. My guess is that the sharks got lost here and couldn’t find their way out. The same goes for the human bodies. Fuck this. I’m not getting near this place ever again.”

“Well, shit.” Richard said, siting up and leaning over Paul’s shoulder to see at least the doodles of the caves and skeletons in the diary.

“Something tells me,” Paul whispered, “Something tells me that those weren’t sharks and humans. Those were your people.”

“Yeah, sounds like it.”

“It’s a goddamn death trap. Promise me you won’t go near that place, please. Whatever is inside is not worth it.” Paul set down the diary and grabbed Richard’s hand, slightly massaging it. The merman did not need to know that it was more for his own comfort.

“Is it though?”

“What more proof do you need?” To emphasize his words, Paul got up and straddled the other man, lifting his head into his palms, “They came in there, for whatever reason, they got lost and they died. Or worse, there might be undercurrents and they got imprisoned there, starving to death. It makes sense to get as far away as possible and not to allow anyone in.”

“Yeah, but why is the place connected with the moon cycles and us? Why that specific place? Why the secrecy?”

“Richard, please, stop.” Paul squeezed his hands, stroking his thumbs across the merman’s smooth cheeks. “I know it drives you crazy, but please, listen to me. That place is a trap. Don’t go near it. Just stay here with me, okay?” He smiled, letting his eyes linger on the merman for a moment and then diving down to steal feather-light kisses from his lips. He could feel how the frown and the tension slowly left the other man’s face, gradually being replaced by quiet chuckling.

“You’re the devil incarnate, do you know that?” Richard snaked his arms around the smaller man’s waist, “with you persuasion techniques and all.”

“Don’t know if I should take this as a compliment or not.” Paul laughed in return, letting his arms slide down, bumping over the merman’s collar and stopping on his collarbones. “Just promise me you won’t do anything stupid alright?”

“… Fine. Anything to make you happy.”

Raising his arms to Paul’s shoulders, he brought the smaller man towards himself, cutting any additional conversation with his lips. And when his kisses were this persistent and needy, Paul knew that there is going to be only one outcome out of this. He let himself enjoy the wandering hands on his body, the occasional squeezes and the sinfully skilled tongue that was too good at undoing him bit by bit. He knew that the conversation was far from over but as long as the other man is kept busy, he won’t have to stress over him getting hurt just because of his curiosity.

Meanwhile, Richard was in the process of trying to untie the string of the other man’s swimming trunks, only being successful on the third try. As soon as the knot loosened, he tugged at the hem, waiting for the man to step out of them. Just as Paul did so, the merman was ready to flip them over though Paul’s hand on his chest stopped him.

“Let me try something out,” he whispered, his hand travelling down Richard’s chest, “I think you’re gonna like it.”

He grabbed the merman’s dick which was already halfway peaking out and started stroking it, twisting his fist in circles to coax it completely out. It took him only a few short moments to get him to his full hardness; after all, he knew what the other man liked quite well. And on top of it, the moans and mewls made him stiff too, without any help or touch.

When he was finally satisfied with the situation down there, Paul collected as much of Richard’s slick as possible, letting his hand anchor by the base of the merman’s cock. He then rested his brow against Richard’s and let his breath calm down a bit before continuing. With his eyes wide opened, Paul searched for Richard’s reaction as he slowly let his middle and ring finger disappear under Richard’s cock into the slit. Immediately, the the merman let out a loud moan, one of his hands grabbing Paul by the bicep and squeezing hard.

“You okay?”

“Fuck,” Richard panted, “do it again.” He nudged him with his nose, waiting for more.

Chuckling, Paul once again pushed his fingers inside, absolutely loving the moans the merman let out. He could feel the tail twitching under him, every stroke making the muscles spasm and coil in pleasure. He slid with his head to Richard’s shoulder and anchored it there, repeatedly licking and kissing the taut tendons in his neck. A stray hand grabbed his own dick and before he could realize what’s going on, it was guiding him down, towards his working fingers. Richard stroked himself with it, bumping it against his own cock and letting it glide down across the slit showing Paul what he wanted.

“Shit” Paul panted, his hip gyrating on their own, humping down onto Richard, “Are you sure?”

“Fucking do it before I lose my mind.”

“Oh Fuck.” The smaller man slowly let his fingers slip out of the merman, the smooth flesh inside rhythmically squeezing the fingers until they were gone completely, quickly being replaced by his cockhead instead. Paul wanted to go slowly, to test the waters, but that impatient hand had returned, grabbing him and almost forcing him into that tight space. So he slowly pushed inside, his groan being accompanied by Richard’s loud moan. The more he pushed himself in, the less strength the merman had; at first he fell back onto his elbows and when even that was not enough, he let himself go, sprawling across the blanket and arching, his body helping Paul to move forward.

Paul fell on him, only managing to catch himself on his elbows, burying his face into Richard’s chest.  When he finally got his breath back he spread his legs and supported himself on his knees. Looking down, he saw Richard’s face twisted in pleasure, his teeth sunken into his bottom lip and head thrown back. He saw the quickly rising and falling chest, droplets of sweat running down, pooling around his navel and some rolling further down to his cock. Richard’s dick was sandwiched between them, rubbing against Paul’s belly with every push of his hips.

What ever he was doing felt apparently great, as the merman’s pleas turned into a high-pitched chant, his own hands anchoring on Paul’s ass, forcing him to fuck harder and deeper. He didn’t really need to persuade him a lot, the tight wet flesh squeezing around Paul was making the smaller man delirious without any outside encouragement. His tempo gradually sped up, his hips quickly slapping against Richard’s and the delicious wets sounds chasing them towards their own climaxes. Paul tried to shut Richard up by his mouth and tongue, though neither of them had the strength to focus on the sloppy kisses, both ending nestled in each other’s neck, licking and biting the sensitive skin, each chasing their own pleasure.

It didn’t take long and Paul came with a ruff groan, ramming his hips twice to Richard’s and spilling inside, staying that way. Richard answered with a few quiet moans as his hand immediately disappeared down, grabbing his own cock and finishing with a few rough strokes. Once his own orgasm hit his muscles tightened in spasm, making Paul howl; the overstimulation being too much for his spent cock. He pulled out, completely dosed in Richard’s slick and cum.

“Ah fuck, shit,” he managed to pant out before collapsing next to the merman, exhausted and still basking in the afterglow. He swept the sweat away from his brow, letting his forearm rest on his head, “I didn’t know we could do that.” He silently laughed, peaking at his lover from his make-shift shade.

“Oh we could’ve. I just didn’t want you to know that I’m that sensitive down there.” The merman sniggered, poking Paul’s side. He then turned over and nestled atop of Paul’s chest, getting comfortable.

“Sure, sure.” Paul grabbed one of his arms and snaked it around his chest, letting Richard lay his head on his shoulder; he was too tired to even talk and a mid-afternoon nap sounded like the best idea ever. So he let his head rest on his forearm, the other hand finding its place on the merman’s shoulder and his mind quickly drifting away, being carried by the soft splashing of the sea waves nearby.

The man woke up with an uncomfortable dull pain in his neck, he laid at an odd angle, his limbs and torso turned to one side while his head laid on the other, wonderfully straining the muscles around his shoulders. While he sometimes woke up in unusual positions, this one was too much even for his sleep-induced body. As if somebody turned him that way. As if somebody carefully shoved him aside. Shit.

Rapidly sitting up, Paul firstly cursed his spinning head and then his aching neck; not only was the merman gone but all the papers and books, including the diary, were opened, thrown about and a familiar line in the sand was leading from them straight into the sea.

“Stupid motherfucker,” Paul cursed. It was quite easy to deduce what has happened – once Paul was fast asleep the merman detangled himself and with a last, fast search he crawled into the water, heading to the godforsaken place.

“I’m gonna kill him if he survives that.” Paul nervously joked under his breath, quickly collecting all his stuff into his back, heading to the boat. He didn’t know what to do or who to call. The only thing he knew was where to go and boy, he didn’t want to go there.

Chapter Text

It didn’t take him long to drive back to the cottage; Paul had become quite skilled at navigating through the waters in any kind of weather or daylight. It may have been only early afternoon though the angry heavy clouds that suddenly surrounded the island gave him the impression of an oncoming evening.

“Till! Till! Where are you?” He shouted as he ran inside the cottage, throwing away empty plates and glasses, “Of course he’s not here when I need him.” Paul’s nervous blabbering intensified, his hands shakily grabbing a hoodie and a raincoat off the hooks on the wall - he was expecting that it’d start to rain any second. He picked up his bag and stuffed it with a flashlight, some bandages from the bathroom (just to be safe), and grabbed a couple of the many ropes Till had laying around in one of the sheds outside and threw it into the pickup parked outside. As the last measure he took out his phone and dialled up the bigger man, running to the garden to check if he’s not working there. Nothing. Not even anywhere else around the property and the phone’s deaf answer only riled Paul up more. It’s ironic that Till had demanded to have his phone with him, because when it came to him, Till only answered Paul’s calls when he felt like it.

Ah fuck this. Paul sighed, throwing the phone onto the passenger seat next to the backpack and hopped behind the steering wheel. And fuck everybody too. He started up the engine and with a strong push onto the gas pedal the car shot forward, quickly disappearing onto the road curving above the cottage.

He didn’t even know where to go, just the general direction of the damn place. It wasn’t that difficult to get to that part of the island, after all, the only proper road connecting the cardinal points of the island was the one he was on, circling the entirety of the land. There were of course other, smaller ones, but he didn’t want to risk getting stuck in one of the many villages with the road being too fucked up even for the pickup.  There was only so much the car could take, and a ‘road’ made out of boulders the size of Paul himself was just too much.

While driving, Paul picked up his phone and began scrolling through the maps in it, finding the best way to get to the cave system. Luckily, the North-East didn’t have that many rock formations and steep rocky cliffs as the south did so the search for a (in)conspicuous peninsula was quickly resolved. He set his GPS to what he guessed was the place and pushed the pedal to the metal, hoping to catch up with the merman.

The rain caught up with him pretty quickly, the downpour made his curses even more colourful as he angrily let the wipers sweep the little rivets running across the windshield. He didn’t mind the temperature drop, but if the rain continued this strong, it would take him twice as much to get there and he was already counting with about an hour or two of travel. At least the pitter-patter of the droplets calmed his mind a bit, it had been some time since it rained there.

When he was over halfway there, Paul already had a more or less concrete plan; he gets as close as he can, ties all the ropes together and ties them to the car or a nearest tree, then he gets inside and will hope that he will find his way in and won’t get stuck there as the other unlucky visitors. He was about to call Till again when the radio broadcast caught his attention:

“…let’s hope that the weather gets better, yeah? What a sad start it would be for the festival. Luckily, we were able to hide all the fireworks before they got wet, so don’t worry people, unless the storm gets stronger, we are still going to have our beautiful annual fireworks ready…”

Oh fuck. The festival. The goddamnn moon. Paul growled in frustration and sped up, hoping to make up any time he might have lost. Maybe if the clouds stay, everything could turn out okay. Maybe. At times like these he wished he could just strap a walkie-talkie to the merman and shout at him whenever. It still got him pretty angry when the merman’s stubborn head decided to go or do something reckless and there was no way of stopping him once he disappeared under the water. Though even if he managed to do that, Richard would probably lose it in the first hour. He still had to come up something, even if he had to glue a GPS to his tail.

While he was musing about a glue strong enough to hold onto the merman and the hilarious image of Richard looking like a dolphin with an antenna sticking out, the North-East coast unveiled itself in front of him. The rain turned from a heavy downpour into a slight drizzle and to Paul’s annoyance, the sun was already poking through in some places, quickly evaporating the fresh moisture from the ground. His phone beeped and he got off the road onto a dirt one which led him towards the coast; the closer he got the more anxious he became – what if Richard’s not there? What if he already managed to hurt himself? He sped once again, dangerously making his way down towards the only rock formation nearby.

Ten more minutes and suddenly he came to a stop; the road had ended in front of him, the only indicator that it might be the place was the wall of rock in front of him surrounded by bushes and trees, plus the faint sound of the nearby sea. He jumped out of the car, strapped his backpack onto himself, took all the ropes and headed to the wall. He quickly discovered that the wall was a giant slate of the rock leaning against another rock, much larger, and that there was just enough space between them for a couple of humans to walk through.

Tying the rope to the nearest tree, Paul jumped and crawled over some bushes and started abseiling between the two jagged rocks. His foot slipped once or twice; the rain didn’t make it easy to get inside but his grumpy mood got boosted once he got to the lowest point and saw a giant crack, leading inside the rock.  Paul took a deep breath and walked inside, hoping for the best. On one side, he was glad that it was much drier inside and he did not have to worry about slipping. On the other, it got quickly dark and he had to pull out his flashlight, illuminating the tall walls around him. So far, it only lead straight down but once Paul moved about ten meters in, the crack rapidly turned right where there were two possible ways to go; either continue forward and up or  left and down. Logically he went down; Paul knew he was still pretty far from the water and it will take him some time till he gets on the same level as the sea.

Continuing with this logic in mind, Paul moved deeper and deeper into the cave. He had to return a couple of times as all he found was either a dead end or a steep way up, ending with a crack and bit of sunlight coming through. It didn’t take him more then half an hour before he encountered one the many ponds. He took out the old diary and compared the woman’s notes to the progress he made. He was going the right way alright, meaning if the right way lead across the many ponds to the largest one, where supposedly were the bodies. He tied the rope to another one and continued deeper, completely getting swallowed by the surrounding darkness.

With the diary it didn’t take him long to get to his destination; he entered a sudden bubble in the cave, tall and spacious, with a large pond of the sea water merging with one of the tilted walls. There was a slight light as well, the cave was tall enough to reach the top of the rock and have a hole in the ceiling with some grass and bushes falling into it. Paul set his backpack down and immediately ran to the pond, looking inside. Not only he could see some scattered bones inside, but also deep down were holes, small and big tunnels twisting and creating an underwater maze. Paul got up from the pond and started looking for more possible entrances, though this looked like the final dead end of the cave system. The only thing he found were torn pieces of clothing and other unidentifiable rags.

“Fucking hell.”

And of course, the merman was nowhere to be seen. Paul fished out his phone and speed dialled Till, hoping he would answer him and tell him that Richard is back at the fishery, stuffing himself with some food. No such luck. He didn’t even had any signal in there, so he quickly put the phone away and ran back to the pond looking for any signs of movement. Nothing. How was he supposed to attract the merman to him?

Then it hit him. There was one way Richard had found him in the past, while he was stranded in the middle of the sea. Picking his flip knife and opening it, Paul wasted no time and slashed across his palm. Red hot blood immediately started to follow the sharp steel end of the blade, making Paul cringe and hiss in pain. Of course, he was careful not to make the cut too deep so he wouldn’t end up with a scar. He then submerged the bleeding hand into the water, wincing at the sharp sting shooting up his arm. He watched as the blood dissolved, faint red stripes merging with the water and getting carried away. Over time the sting got replaced with numbness and Paul just decided to lean against a nearby stone, relaxing and keeping his hand below the water line.

He barely had the time to let his muscles properly rest when he felt a wave of water, as if something was pushing it from the bottom up. He immediately looked down, just in time to see a familiar shape peek from one of the many holes in the pond. In a matter of seconds the merman swam up and breached the water, a surprised grimace coming face to face with Paul’s own.

“Wh-what are you doing here?” The merman slurred, his eyes jumping all over the smaller man.

“Me?! What the fuck are you doing here? For fuck’s sake, why haven’t you listened to me?” Paul grabbed Richard’s head, letting his fingers snake into his wet hair.

“I did listen to you. I just couldn’t resist.” Richard smiled back, focusing on the smaller man’s face.

“Are you okay?” Paul whispered, turning Richard’s head from side to side. Immediately, he could see that the merman had extremely dilated pupils. Looking at his body, he saw multiple bruises and scratches – his shoulders were scratched, the red lines twisting around his biceps to his elbows, his bottom lip seemed to be split and puffy, and as he glanced down, he noticed that Richard’s knuckles were in no better shape than the rest of his body. As he let his fingers rest in Richard’s hair, he could feel and then see a warm trickle of blood running down his temple; he definitively had to bang his head against something while he was down there. “What has happened to you?”

“I’m fine, really.” The merman cuddled into one of Paul’s palms. “The currents are just strong down there and I bumped into a couple of walls. Can’t see much in the dark and all that, y’know.”

“Oh god. Richard I fucking told you this is a death trap. How are you gonna get out of here?”

“I don’t really care at the moment, I only want to take a nap now. It was really difficult to get in here.”

“Of course it fucking was! You weren’t supposed to come here in the first place!”

“Hey, we’re both okay, that’s all that matters now.” Slipping out of Paul’s grasp, the merman made himself comfortable at the bank, crossing his arms and resting his head on them.

“Oh fuck you!” Paul got up, exasperated by the merman’s indifference. He knew that Richard wouldn’t usually act this way, so the carelessness coming from him unnerved the man even more. He got up and got back to his backpack, thinking of the ways how to safely get the merman out of there. While opening his water bottle, he already knew the probable answer; there was no other way than either the way he came from or one of the many holes in the bottom of the pond, and all of those ways were a no go for the merman. The strong currents underneath would sooner or later knock him unconscious and kill him, while the way he came from was too difficult for the merman to crawl out of. Paul ran out of ideas sooner than he started to come up with any possible way out and he did not like it. At all. At least the merman is okay, Paul would probably go insane within the caves if he haven’t found him.

“How the hell am I going to get you out of here?” Paul mumbled as he washed his wounded palm, “Will I have to drag you out of this damn cave?” He looked back up at the merman, who kept laying on his arm, letting his tail lazily wave in the water behind him.

“Don’t know. It’s comfy in here though, we could stay.”

“Stay? For the rest of your life? The fuck is wrong with you?” Paul bandaged his hand and picked the merman by his chin, looking into his eyes. They were almost black, his green irises barely visible and his lids heavy on his eyes. His worry started to outweigh the anger in him pretty quickly; not only did Richard get bruised all over, his slurred speech and lazy behaviour did not sit well with him. Paul himself felt perfectly fine (as one can in such situation) and seeing Richard act this way made him worry over all the things he had read in the books. This damn place definitively had a bad influence on him.

“God dammit,” Paul sighed and sat down in front of the merman, trying to come up with something at least a little bit sensible.

All his ideas were for nothing. He always got stuck in the same places. If he brought the scuba set, he’d die down there as well, if he brought Till here, it would take them forever to take the merman out and the hole in the ceiling was not big enough for the merman to fit it, even if they managed to somehow hoist him all the way up by their ropes.

Speaking of the hole, Paul looked up in alarm. He knew that it was already late in the evening, coming close to midnight, what he didn’t expect though, was the moon beam coming from the crack down into the cave. Straight onto the pond. Oh no.

“Richard?” He got up and walked over to the merman who was letting himself being carried by the water, completely stretched over the pond.

“Hm?”

“Get out of the water.”

“Why? It’s really comfortable right now, like swimming in that sparkling water of yours.”

“Please get out. I don’t like what’s going on.” The tension in Paul’s voice reached its peak; maybe he was insane but all those things aligning so perfectly made the hairs on his arms stand up.

“Paul, relax, it’s just light and bubbly water. Look, it’s harmless.” Instead of listening to Paul, Richard did the complete opposite. He turned over and dove down, disappearing under the silvery shimmering water.

“Come on!” Paul shouted, trying to make out any kind of shape under the strong reflection of the moon. Nothing. He put his hand into it, trying to disrupt the surface and see what’s going on but nothing has happened, the pond still held its watertight silver mirror on top of it.

The sound of a thunderstorm gave Paul a bit of hope, perhaps the clouds will obscure the moon and let him see properly. Still nothing. Only the rain returned, some of it falling through the crack and soiling the soft sand and smooth rocky ground around him. The complete quiet brought back the anxiety. A lightning and a sudden booming thunder. Drizzling rain. Nothing more.

“Richard! Please!” He was an adult man, but god, was he scared as a little kid right now. “Where are yo-“

Before he could even finish the sentence, the surface of the water started to move as if it was boiling and suddenly Richard jumped out, hissing in pain.

“Oh fuuuuck-” He turned around, his upper torso laying outside the water, “-it hurts!”

“Shit shit shit shit!” Paul grabbed him by his armpits and tried to drag him up from the water. The merman was absolutely hot to touch, Paul’s hands burned under Richard’s skin though he did not dare to let him go; Richard’s guttural wails of pain worked quite well as a fuel for Paul to get the merman to safety. He dragged and dragged him, putting all of his strength into his legs and moved away from the pond, which reflected not only the moonlight but every single lightning hitting all the places in the sky above them.

When he was far enough he collapsed onto his butt and hoisted Richard into his arms, cradling him and trying to calm his hyperventilating lover. He stroked his hair and panned his eyes over him to the pond when suddenly-

Paul held Richard in his arms, but instead where his chest would merge with his scales, there was just more skin, continuing down, to two strong, very human legs.

Chapter Text

Legs. Two human legs. Like he has. Paul could not believe what he was seeing; he tried to shake his head, to blink away any hallucinations, he even almost tried pinching himself, but nothing had worked. He looked down at Richard’s face to see his reaction, though the merman was still clutching onto him, eyes screwed shut and trying to calm his own hissing breaths. He yet had to discover the change that had happened to him and by the state of shock he still was in, Paul could only imagine what his reaction is going to be.

“Richard? Are you okay?” Paul took his face into his hands and twisted him towards himself, trying to distract him from the news. While Richard had been hinting the past couple of days that he would love to know what it was like to have legs, the reality of it actually felt and looked quite different. Paul knew that Richard was strong both in mind and body, but this sudden and painful change looked like it was too much even for the merman. He just hoped that Richard will have enough strength not to do something (too) stupid.

 “I don’t know I-“ The merman paused, wincing as he unconsciously slid one of his arms down his side, “What’s-“ He turned onto his back, his heart skipping a beat. He expected his fingers to slowly move from his skin onto his smooth scales yet they never came; instead, there was just more and more skin. His hand retaliated in shock, immediately griping Paul’s bicep instead.

“What the fuck!” he screamed, kicking his legs back and forth, not believing what he was seeing.

“Calm down, Jesus fuck! You’ll hurt yourself!” Paul grabbed the other man with his entire body, hugging him with his legs and arms from behind. He watched and listened how Richard sobbed and slowly began to realize what had happened. The merman attempted to claw his way back to the pond but Paul just flexed his muscles and didn’t give him any more chance at hurting himself.

“Please, calm down, Reesh, please,” he whispered into his ear, peppering him with kisses and light strokes of his hair, “Deep breaths, okay? In and out.”

With that, Richard grabbed him by his forearms and stared down at his legs. He tried to follow Paul’s advice but like with all things – it’s easier said than done. His brain still refused to cooperate with him and his lungs had a mind of their own as well, the erratic breathing was starting to make him dizzy. Any tears that threatened to escape Richard immediately blinked away, focusing hard on Paul’s soothing voice by his ear. His lover’s deep baritone helped to calm his breathing bit by bit; he gradually calmed his hyperventilating, his sobs turning into quiet wails filtered through his gritted teeth.

When Richard calmed him self enough to not to faint, he looked back down again, thoroughly studying his new appendages. He kept bending them in turns at his knees, raising them in the air and kicking the dust and sand on the ground. He wiggled his toes and rubbed them together, not knowing what to do with them. Paul watched him the entire time and if his partner wasn’t so stressed out, he would find it very endearing; he still felt how strong Richard’s heart kept beating and how his short breaths tickled the fine hairs on his forearm.

Only when Paul felt that the merman’s heart had slowed down and his breathing became a bit less laboured, he let his gaze follow Richard’s to properly see the changes himself. First immediate thing he had noticed was the lack of body hair; his shins and thighs were smooth like a new-born baby. He checked Richard’s face once more, looking for any sign of uncontrolled panic and when he saw none, he loosened the hold with his legs a bit, slowly pulling them aside. He could feel the flexing muscle under him, the pale but strong and thick legs wonderfully complimented the upper part of Richard’s body. They weren’t as long as he had expected, though that was only because he was used to the inhuman length of the merman’s tail; still, he seemed to end up a bit taller than Paul himself. When he finally set his legs next to Richard’s, his eyes also had the chance to skim across the merman’s new crotch; well nothing new when it came to the general shape, but seeing him so hairless even down there made Paul’s lips’ corners twitch into the tiniest smirk. The situation did not change anywhere else on his body – his belly, his chest, his arms – everything was hairless.

Finally, Richard took a few deep breaths and looked above himself, meeting Paul’s eyes. “Holy shit.”

“Yeah. Holy shit.” Paul soothingly smiled. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah.” The merman swallowed. “Yeah, I think so.”

Paul slowly scooted away from behind the merman, choosing to sit beside him instead, letting one of his hand gently stroke Richard’s thigh. Richard cautiously did the same; he grabbed one of his thighs and lifted it up, feeling his muscles flex under his fingertips.

“Why did you not listen to me?”

“Because I wanted to know.” The merman let his leg go and covered Paul’s resting hand with his own. “I’m still freaking out, but a tiny part of me is also excited.”

Paul knew he was still unwell, as Richard’s breathing was far from normal and the small hysterical laughs he emitted once in a while only underlined the merman’s state of shock. He could also see the tiny tremors rocking his new body and all the goose bumps appearing across his it – Richard started to slowly cool down and being buck-ass naked in a wet cavern in the middle of the night was quite vividly showing on him.

“Stay here.” Paul squeezed Richard’s shoulder in reassurance and got up, jogging to his abandoned backpack. He dug into it, trying to find the rain coat and a blanket he brought with himself - that will have to do, he’d roll Richard into it and hope that the merman won’t get too cold and catch something. He was just setting aside the blanket when he heard the merman was moving. Of course he wouldn’t listen. Turning around, Paul sharply inhaled in surprise; Richard was trying to crawl back to the pond, one of his hands already grabbing the wet edge of the rock.

“No you don’t! You’ll drown, you idiot!” He ran over, grabbing the merman by his chest and wrestling him away from it, towards the blanket.

“Let me go, Paul! I wanna go back!” Richard’s raw dry wail shocked Paul into stillness, the panic had to momentarily overtake the merman again.

“Did it fry your brain too? You’ve got no gills and you can’t even walk-“ Paul overcame his surprise and moved in front of him, obscuring the view of the water, “-there’s no moonlight nor storm outside anymore, it’ll do nothing!”

Paul hoped that his stern voice and the frown in his voice would finally knock some sense into Richard; if his soothing voice and strokes across his back didn’t work, stern voice might. He immediately scrapped the idea though; his features quickly softened as the merman started to tremble again, quiet sobs escaping his parted lips.

“Yeah, okay,” Richard mumbled, picking at his arm. “Please help me.” He looked up, his eyes glassy and helpless.

If he had the energy, Paul would probably start arguing with him, but seeing him so helpless and scared and being pretty drained himself, he only sighed and bent down, gently cupping Richard’s jaw, “Of course.”

Kissing his brow, Paul picked up the rain coat and threw it around the merman’s shoulders. “Put this on, can’t let you catch a cold.” He smiled at him, helping him into it. Once Richard was covered, he unrolled the blanket and gently wrapped him in it, turning him into a sad but adorable burrito. He then returned for his backpack and put it on.

“I know it’s going to be a bit difficult but we gotta get out of here.” Paul came back to him, giving him his flashlight. “Hold onto that and wrap your arm around my shoulder.”

Richard wordlessly did so, gasping in surprise when Paul managed to pick him up from the ground, bridal-style.

“Don’t get used to it, you’re still fucking heavy,” Paul spat between his gritted teeth, focusing on not slipping as he grabbed the rope and moved towards the exit. He gave the cave last onceover and then disappeared into the tunnel.

With many breaks, they managed to get out. Richard made a couple of objections, seeing Paul sweat under him, yet anytime he tried to walk on his own he miserably failed. In the end, they made a compromise; he was heavily leaning on Paul while securing his grip on the stone walls.  When they finally made it outside, it was already an early morning and the world was colouring itself in its usual day colours.

As soon as he could, Paul let Richard down and rested him against one of the pickup’s tires. He breathlessly bent over, trying to catch his breath and letting the sweat trickle down his face onto the ground.

“I’ve never been this far out.” He looked back at the merman who was looking up and around, letting his fingers dig into the dirt and pick at the dry grass.

“Yeah, well-” Paul straightened up “-It’s just the beginning. Let’s go.” He opened the passenger door and made space for the merman. Once he was satisfied he threw his bag onto the ground and turned to Richard, extending his arm, “Come on.”

In comparison with the caves, getting Richard into the seat was a piece of cake. He quickly strapped him in and rounded the car, hopping behind the wheel, “Let’s go home.”

Paul chuckled as he started the engine; Richard jumped a bit but quickly relaxed, turning back to his window.

“You can sleep if you want, it’s gonna be a couple of hours back to the fishery.”

“No way, I’m not missing this.”

“Okay.” Rolling his eyes, Paul slowly led them out onto the main road and then down the island back to Till’s cottage. Once in a while he looked at Richard, chuckling at the merman’s adorableness. The entire time he was stuck to the window like a little kid, his brow was leaving smudged spots on it as he looked at everything the car was passing; hills, mountains, bushes, but also car stops, tunnels and the cattle scattered on the hills around. He almost forgot to blink when they were going through one of the many towns or just passing through a village – so many people, not paying attention to him, so many buildings and colours and smells and sounds!

“Please tell me you’ll take here some day.” Richard turned to Paul before he quickly turned back to the window to watch a couple of kids run across the street.

“We’ll see. There are many ifs in front of us still.” He had no idea what is going to happen next. Is this permanent? Is Richard going to change back by the next morning? What if he has to now fully integrate among humans – without any identification or a passport he is basically stranded on this island. What he won’t be able to walk properly?  What if he hurts himself? Can a broken leg grow back into a functioning tail? Paul had to shake his head to get rid of the thoughts; he needed to focus on the road, after all. The adrenaline was leaving him and he could feel his body begging for a bed, or for any flat surface to lay on, really.

An hour later, they finally managed to get to the fishery. Paul hastily parked next to the cottage, shutting the engine off.

“Wait here,” he said as he squeezed the merman’s thigh in comfort. He didn’t wait for an answer; Richard was still glued to the window, too busy staring at a couple of birds perched on the tree branches in front of him.

Shutting the door behind himself, Paul headed straight into the cottage – he wasn’t even inside and he could already smell that someone was cooking in the kitchen. A few more steps in and he saw Till, his back turned towards him, cooking himself a breakfast and humming together with the radio. He poured a mass of scrambled eggs onto his plate and grabbed some sausages, throwing them onto the heated pan.

“Where the fuck have you been?” Was Paul’s way of saying hello.

Till quickly turned around, his shock being replaced by a smile. “Well good morning to you too. Where have you been?”

“I asked first, I needed your help.” Paul crossed his arms and leaned against the table.

“Out. Couldn’t pass the start of the festival. Met a girl and, well, had a nice night. I’ve returned not even thirty minutes ago.”

“And you couldn’t have picked your phone up?”

“I was busy, Paul. What was so damn important that you needed my help?”

“Richard got lost.”

“Got lost? He just swum away, no? He’s gonna return, don’t worry.” Till rolled his eyes, returning to his sizzling sausages.

“Oh, he returned.”

“So? What’s the problem?”

“Why don’t you join me outside, huh? I’ll need your help.” Paul sourly smiled and turned towards the exit. "Now.”

He could hear Till’s protests from the kitchen but did not care what the other man had to say. Stepping outside again, he walked towards the passenger door and once he was sure Richard was not leaning against it he pulled, opening it.

“Come on, let’s get inside.” Paul let the merman detangle himself from the seatbelt and helped him onto the ground, letting his weight rest on his shoulders again. “Small steps.”

“It’s warm.” With each step Richard took he wiggled his toes, digging them into the sand and moving small pebbles around.

“And it’s gonna get hotte-“

“What the fuck.” Both simultaneously raising their heads, they had the chance of seeing Till standing in the door way, a sausage dangling from his mouth, his eyes unblinking.

“Hi, Till.” Richard’s grin quickly faltered as his foot twisted from under him, making him stumble.

“Will you help me?” Not waiting for an answer, Paul moved behind Richard and waited for Till to help him into his arms again – like hell he is going to pick him from the ground again, his back would die.

 Till swallowed his food and grabbed the merman, easily hoisting him up into Paul’s arms and letting his hands hover near by, should the merman fall.

“Holy fucking shit, Richard.” He started to laugh, looking at the merman’s new legs. “And you can’t even walk, huh?”

“No and I’m tired as hell.”

“Yeah, it was a wild night. Can you take the backpack to the living room please? And unfold the couch?” Paul tossed Richard around a bit in his arms to get a better grip around his back.

Till nodded and picked up the bag, squeezing around them and into the cottage. He turned around, crossed his arms and watched the men get over the threshold inside in mild amusement.

“Well, Paul, I didn’t know you would bring a bride here so soon. Congratulations, man!” He chuckled, laying a hand over his heart in mock.

“Huh? What?” Richard’s confused eyes jumped from Till to Paul and back.

“Eh, it’s a custom.” Till shrugged and disappeared further inside to ready the couch.

Richard’s questioning eyes landed back on Paul, waiting for an explanation.

“He’s just teasing.” Paul rolled his eyes and followed Till inside.

Till had already unfolded the couch and was in the process of throwing blankets and cushions at it, making it as comfortable as possible. He straightened one of the blankets across it and anchored it by its corners to make for a makeshift bedsheet, then he puffed the cushions and when he was satisfied enough, he turned towards the two waiting men. Well, Paul was waiting, Richard was busy with staring at everything around him; his eyes skimmed over the pots and pans hanging on small hooks in the kitchen, the furniture lining the walls, pictures, curtains, books, the TV, the older hifi tower and the numerous CDs and vinyls shoved into cupboards among the walls.

The couch’s springs squeaked when Paul unceremoniously dropped the merman onto it, chuckling at his surprised yelp, “Well, welcome home.”

“Uh, thank you.” The merman barely paid any attention to him as he was too busy examining the ceiling and the old fan hanging from it. He barely acknowledged Paul joining him on the couch.

“You guys want some breakfast?” Till asked, already filling two other plates with eggs, bacon and some buttered bread. “And tell me what the fuck has happened?”

“What do you think? He didn’t listen to me and swam to the caves. That’s what had happened.” Paul sat up from his half-laying position on the couch and gratefully accepted the plate.

“So you guys went there? And what? Why did he end up like that, huh? What did you do, Richard?”

“Me? I haven’t done anything, I wanted to know more. Then I found him inside too.” If Paul weren’t so tired and irritated, he would’ve found Richard’s stuffed cheeks quite adorable.

“I went there because I was afraid that you’d get hurt. Which you did.” Paul sighed. “Anyway, there was a pond within a cavern that lead to some underwater tunnels. We met there and not only was Richard acting all weird and stuff, he didn’t want to leave. Well, he couldn’t, the currents were apparently too strong for him and there was no other way for him out.”

“Yeah, then there was this weird crack in the ceiling and the moonlight and the storm came and the water suddenly felt all bubbly and too damn hot. The next thing I remember was laying outside, looking like this.” Richard pointed to his legs and wiggled his toes to his own amusement.

“So those books were truthful, huh. What the fuck are you going to do, huh?” Till asked, taking Paul’s empty plate.

“I don’t know. Well, more precisely, there are million things I want to do and try out but I need to rest, I’m fucking tired.” Richard yawned and raised his free hand to rub his eyes.

“Finally something I can agree on with you,” said Paul, taking off his trunks and nestling into the pillows, “C’mon, nap time.”

Richard apologetically looked up at Till, who only smiled down and took his plate. “Sounds like you both deserve it. Just sleep and if you’ll need anything, I’ll be outside.” He put the plates in the sink, took a water bottle with him and before leaving via the porch door he grabbed his phone and waved it towards Paul. “I’ll be available.”

“You can take off the raincoat already, you don’t need it here.” Paul looked up, resting on his side, his head supported by his elbow.

“Uh sure.” He shred it onto the ground and wiggled down, laying face to face with Paul. “This is kinda new.”

“Get used to it.” Paul smiled and leaned in, gently kissing Richard’s brow and then planting another soft kiss on his lips. “Now sleep, we can talk later.”

“Thank you,” Richard whispered and closed his eyes.

Before Paul completely fell asleep he felt a hand sneaking to his own, intertwining their fingers together. If his own eyes were not shutting on their own he would kiss every inch of Richard’s skin; the nights spent on the abandoned beaches had nothing on this. Being together cocooned under one blanket inside the cottage felt so much different, so much more real. So much more intimate.

He brought their intertwined palms to his lips and kissed Richard’s knuckles, letting the merman’s deep regular breathing lull him to sleep.

Chapter Text

A cacophony of sounds brought Paul back from his sleep. He twitched and opened his eyes to see what was going on; the merman was not next to him anymore and not even anywhere on the couch, but appeared to move over to one of the windows, leaning against the windowsill and peaking outside. At least he had been - just as Paul managed to focus his sleepy eyes, the rest of the CDs that were resting on the sill fell out of Richard’s hands and onto the floor.

“Well, good… afternoon to you too,” Paul yawned, checking the clock on the wall, “What are you doing over there?”

“I wanted to go outside, only I can’t. So this is all I can do, barely.” He smiled, staggering a couple of steps and then unceremoniously falling onto the couch.

“It’s difficult to walk. Legs are weird.” Richard stretched them above him and then gently laid them on top of Paul’s. His gaze then slowly travelled to the smaller man’s, waiting for his answer.

The man in question wordlessly stared down, idly playing with the hem of a blanket and only after a couple of thoughtful moments he laughed, the sound having tiny bits of nervousness in its tone. Now that they were both rested and away from danger, Paul found it twice as surreal than before and the more Richard paraded his new body in front of him, the more he started to realize that this all was happening and he is not laying somewhere passed out dreaming everything up after all.

“So,” he sighed, “Are you happy now?” He tried to make his smile more sincere and less sour, considering the merman was still excited over his new appendages. The smile widened a bit when he squeezed one of the thighs, seeing it twitch; he quickly realized the merman is going to be quite ticklish. And sensitive.

“I don’t know if happy is the right word but I’m certainly not letting this opportunity go. Just seeing what I had the chance to see made me excited. None of my people from the school have ever been this far from the sea.”

“We’re not really that far.” Paul nodded towards the windows; the merman had to see it for himself a moment ago, the cottage was at most a hundred meters away from the pier and the beach.

“Still the furthest I’ve ever been.” The merman moved closer, clumsily straddling Paul, “Are you angry with me?” He nudged him with his nose, leaving a peck on one of Paul’s laugh lines.

“Of course I am. Or I was, at least. I feel like no matter what I tell you, you ignore me and I can’t live like that, Richard. Not again.”

“I’ve told you I listen to you, I just-“ Richard sighed and slowly balanced himself on his calves,”-I haven’t fell such a strong desire and pull to go somewhere in a long time. Especially, after all the research you’ve done.”

“Don’t throw it on me.”

“Oh I will, it’s partially your fault too.” Richard crossed his arms and smirked down at Paul’s puffy cheeks and avoiding gaze. “Not that I’m complaining, I should actually thank you.”

“I’m still angry at you.” Paul mimicked Richard’s crossed arms and tried to look as much irritated as possible, which in his current state and with his current view was a bit difficult. Richard was towering above him, his physique highlighted by the sun shining through the windows and looking absolutely delicious.

“Then be angry at me, c’mon be the angriest you can be.” Richard lowered down and nudged Paul’s nose with his again, biting his bottom lip to unsuccessfully stop his smirk.

“Oh for fuck’s sake, I don’t want to throw up now.” Even before their lips touched, Till let the porch door slam behind him, trying to avert his eyes from the couple on the couch and hide his grin at the same time.

“Oh hey Till.” Paul quickly scrambled up and away from Richard’s embrace to the other side of the couch, pretending nothing had happened. Richard sniggered at that and lazily turned onto his side, letting his body stretch over the entire surface.

“I take it all is good now? You’re not going to kill each other?” Till laughed, sitting down onto one of the arm rests of the couch.

“More like I’m just trying to stop Richard from killing himself accidentally.” Paul glanced over at the merman, seeing that the smirk wouldn’t leave his face. “I think I’ve got a lot of new things to teach him now.”

“Hmm,” Till hummed, slowly looking over the merman’s body, “well, you can start with modesty. I personally don’t care about him flaunting his new ware around but other people might.” Till’s smile intensified once he saw how quickly could Paul’s ears turn red. The smaller man immediately looked over; the merman was still resting on his side, letting his new dick happily dangle in the open for both men to see.

“Uh, yeah. You’ve heard Till. We’ll have to get you some clothes.” Paul looked up at the bigger man, “can you lend him some stuff? I think mine would be a bit too tight.”

“Of course, I’ll bring them over.” Till ruffled Paul’s bird nest, laughing at his protests as he exited the room.

“He’s right, you know. We’ll have to dress you up. And then probably go and get you some new clothes.”

“Do I have to wear them here though? I already felt weird in the rain coat and this,” he grabbed his flaccid penis and balls, slightly tugging at them, “is even weirder. I’m not used to having it outside, unprotected.”

“That’s why you need clothes.”

“That’s dumb.”

“You’re dumb.” Paul laughed, slapping Richard’s hand away from his genitals. The last thing he needed now was for Richard to get himself accidentally hard.

“Yeah, okay, they’re a bit loose but they will have to do.” Paul stepped back, trying to hold his laughter. Richard looked like he walked straight out of a 90s hip hop music video. Not that Till was that taller than him, but the man was build like a tank, much more so than the merman. Richard kept tugging at the hems and rubbing his legs against each other; they’ve stuffed him into a large black t-shirt and a pair of trunks that ended just above his knees. Although the biggest protest coming from him was because of the briefs. They had to assure him multiple times that it’s not going to suffocate him down there and neither it’s gonna squeeze the life out of him.

Richard was leaning against the armrest, his hands gripping it while he had his legs stretched in front of him, his soles trying to find their balance. He was eager to stand on his own and that’s why he refused the other men’s help; he wanted to do it on his own and be caught only if he falls. It felt unusual for him to be able to move so little with his lower body; he was used to the flexibility of his tail that allowed him to twist and turn at the oddest angles and now he just had these two sticks with couple of joints in-between. Moving his toes, he fixed both his feet on the ground and slowly pushed himself off the armrest, trying to find his balance.

“Good, put your whole body into it, slowly.” Till nodded, slightly raising his arms to catch the other man.

“Don’t you want to start with a cane or a crutch? It’ll be easier.”

“I’m fine, Paul. Now let me focus.” His legs kept shaking as his arms flew from his sides to balance him out as the merman slowly left the arm rest, standing on his own and focusing very hard on moving his feet forward.

“That’s it. Baby steps,” Paul whispered, amazed by the merman’s diligence.

Richard pushed his right foot forward, letting it slip a few centimetres across the floor and then straightened again, still not falling over. He brought his other leg under him too and raised his head in joy; he just managed to make his first step without any guidance. His celebration did not stay long enough though, he tried to make a proper step by raising his right foot again and the moment it left the floor he swayed and toppled over, thankfully falling into Till’s prepared arms.

“Whoa, careful. You’ve to really take it easy.” Till chuckled, helping him back on his feet.

Paul nudged the bigger man out of the way and wiggled himself under Richard’s right arm, letting him snake it around his middle, “let me help, okay?”

“Yeah, fine.”

Paul wound his own arm around Richard’s waist and squeezed it in reassurance and turned around, giving the merman space to practice his walking. With his help, everything went much easier and quicker and soon enough, Richard was able to walk across the room quite evenly with Paul’s assistance. Small shuffles slowly turned into tiny steps. Knees started to bend properly and right after, Richard’s soles left the ground in a proper way, only occasionally twisting from under him, making him lean into Paul. Till eventually excused himself and returned outside to finish his work in the garden, leaving the two men in the cottage alone. The sheer focus that Richard emitted brought a smile to Paul’s lips - as much as he was angry in the beginning, he started to slowly realize how important this was for the merman and how great it actually was to be with him finally somewhere else than on abandoned beaches and empty piers. He smiled even more as he heard Richard’s quiet cursing every time his ankles twisted the wrong way or when he leaned too much on one side, losing his balance.

It took them most of the afternoon as Richard refused to take any breaks and continued to shuffle from one end of the cottage to the other, walking with Paul in circles and quite progressing with his steps. He just made his way towards one end of the living room, when his hold on Paul’s arm tensed.

“Uh, Paul?”

“Yeah, do you need something?”

“I think I need to use the bathroom.”

“Ah. Do you need any-“

“Jesus, I don’t need any help – just show me how things work there. Please.”

“Uh, sure.” Thank god that Till was still outside, if he saw this exchange and their burning faces hey wouldn’t ever let it go. Paul helped him to the small bathroom and swiftly explained the basics, shutting the door behind himself, happy that the merman doesn’t need any help.

Returning back to the kitchen/living room area, Paul took out some beers and looked out of the window; the sun was slowly on its way to start setting behind the horizon, relieving the land of its heat. Looking down, Paul had the chance to see Till standing on the pier, holding a football in his hands and looking outward. After a moment he threw the ball onto the sea, the ball momentarily disappearing in the golden waves of the water and then bouncing a few metres even further away from the pier. It looked strange until the ball was propelled out of the water in the hands of the other merman – and when he was in mid air, he threw the ball back at Till and then got swallowed by the water once again. Paul would continue to watch them till the sound of running water, some rummaging and then the slow opening of a door made him turn back towards the bathroom.

Richard was leaning against the doorframe, smiling and slowly moving one of his legs forward. Paul wordlessly returned and grabbed his middle, helping him back to the living room.

“Okay, I think I found the first thing I don’t like on myself now.” Paul had to laugh at Richard’s sheepish confession, he knew this will gonna take some time for the merman to get used to.

“Eh, it could be worse,” he answered, grabbing the bottles of beer from the kitchen counter, “let’s go outside, Doom’s here.”

“He is? Yeah, let’s go.”

They made their way onto the porch and after some persuasion, Richard put on Paul’s old flip flops and let himself be lead down the path to the beach. Surprisingly, even though the terrain was much more uneven, Richard had less difficulty with walking on the soft sand and gravel running down the hill.  He slowly straightened himself up and by the time they were on the sea level, approaching the pier, Richard was walking only with his hands firmly holding Paul’s bicep as a support. His feet twisted once or twice but the overall progress he made in those couple of hours was immense. As the wood started to creak under them, Till grabbed the ball and turned around, smiling at the duo.

“Well look at you, Should I expect a morning jog tomorrow morning with you?” Till laughed, tossing the ball in the air and subsequently catching it. “You wanna join us?”

The men stopped at the end of the pier next to Till and watched him as he arched his back and threw the ball with all his might as far as possible. It landed on the water and in a matter of seconds, the other merman was jumping out, ready to throw it back.

“Wait what the fu-“ was heard before he splashed down under water, bringing the ball with him.

He quickly swam closer, dragging the ball with him and narrowing his eyes with every meter he was closer to the group.

“Richard? Holy shit what’s happened?” His eyes were huge as he threw the ball onto the pier, stroked his curls out of his face and hoisted himself up, in front of his friend.

“Yeah, surprise, surprise. I went to the caves.”

“You did? And this is what has happened?” Doom sat closer and immediately grabbed Richard by his legs, squeezing both of his shins, running his fingers up as far as the trunks would let him and then back down, individually tracing each toe.

“Yeah, it was a bit of a process, but hey, I survived. And I finally know what the elders have been keeping from us.”

“They got quite angry when you hadn’t returned. Probably expected that you would hide with us, for your own good. Should I tell them about this?” He grabbed Richard’s skin and tugged at it, making him squirm.

“Hey, be careful, I’m glad I’m even standing.” He wiggled his leg away, leaning into Paul, “and I don’t want them to know. Screw them.”

“I think they keep you away for a reason, without my help he would die in there as the others did too. Unless you have outside help, you’re not getting out.” Paul nudged Richard’s side, smiling at Richard’s averting eyes. He moved closer to the edge and let Richard sit down next to the merman and dip his feet in the water.

“Fuck, this is weird,” Richard said as he started to swing his legs back and forth, “It’s so alien yet so right.”

“What are you going to do?” Doom shuffled next to him, dipping his tail into the water; even though he was larger even when Richard had a tail, now he looked absolutely massive next to him. Richard was no small man now and yet, next to the merman, he looked like a little boy.

“I’d like to explore as much as I can. Who knows how long it will last. Or if it’s permanent then I have to start learning a lot of stuff.”

“And you’re okay with it all?”

A Pause.

“Yeah,” Richard looked up at Paul, brightly smiling at him, “Yeah I am.”

The merman gave Richard a cryptic look; his eyes kept jumping from one leg to the other, to Richard’s face, back to the legs and onto the sea. There were definitely new thoughts and opinions about his friend’s new state but by the stoic look and his sealed lips, it didn’t look like he is going to share them anytime.

“Well,” Doom sighed and patted his back, letting his hand slide down to his thigh to squeeze the muscle, “As long, as you’re happy and safe.”

Chapter Text

Paul knew the way to the nearest village by heart now. The road may have been uneven and full of potholes yet it still was a treat to drive on for the man. He liked how it snaked around the coast and wiggled among the broken rocks and occasionally bisected a path made by the wild goats living all around them. Richard, unsurprisingly, had been glued to the window the entire time. He needed to see and catch every single detail that they had passed during their trip, be it the goats, the rocks or other cars going from the opposite direction.

After they had stayed at the pier the entire evening, both men crashed on the sofa as Paul’s single bed upstairs was too small for both of them and said man was too scared to leave the merman alone in the living room. What if Richard decided to go back to the beach? Paul wouldn’t be surprised if he forgot that he can’t swim or breathe underwater now. Or what if he decided to explore the cottage’s surrounding? Outside of the little paths made by Till the ground was quite hostile towards the merman’s new legs.

 Once they made the couch a bit more comfortable for both men to sleep in and Paul lead Richard trough all the necessary evening rituals in the bathroom, the merman made himself comfortable in the middle of the couch. Paul only needed to give the merman a long hard stare to move him one one side; he then immediately grabbed the blanket and covered the both of them, spooning his lover. Unfortunately, it took him some persuasion to keep the merman under the blanket; he kept kicking it off and throwing it over at Paul who had to repeatedly tuck him back in, explaining that if he won’t cover himself he ends up with a cold or at least a sore throat. That night, Paul had discovered, that Richard was quite the hugger during his sleep. He woke up several times with the merman entangled either around one of his limbs or just straight up laying on him, his hug almost suffocating him. Thankfully, a well-placed pillow for the merman to hug had solved the problem and let the other man sleep.

Paul had to work that morning so he let Richard stay on the porch and gave him a load of papers for practising his handwriting to keep him busy while he had to work in the nearby sheds. Not that he was afraid of letting Richard bore himself to death but letting him read and write was quite an effective way keeping him from any danger or unwanted accidents. And as soon as Till let him go, he grabbed the merman, his wallet and the car keys and dragged him into the pickup, heading towards the village.

“First, we’re gonna get you some proper clothes.” Paul raised his voice over the radio, driving off the main road. “Then I can show you around and take you wherever you want, we’ve got the time.”

He didn’t need an answer; Richard’s blissful smile was giving away quite clearly the merman’s excitement over the oncoming day. Paul was quite excited too, he finally wanted to show the merman all the places and things he couldn’t bring to him and had already made a mental list of things he must experience, be it today or some other day here on the island. He parked the car near the closest store that didn’t sell just tourist clothes and turned off the engine, unfastening his seatbelt and looking at the merman.

“You ready?”

“I- Yeah, let’s go.” Richard swallowed, his eyes frantically skipping from one person to another walking outside.

“You sure?”

“Of course.” Richard smiled, yet his wide eyes skipping across the people outside told Paul that it was just a mask to cover his nervousness. “I’m just not used to other people, you know that my entire life I’ve been taught to avoid them.”

Paul nodded in acknowledgment and exited the car, rounding it and opening the passenger door so that the merman could easily step out.

“Just grab my hand and hold on.” Paul intertwined their fingers letting Richard to find his footing and straighten up. He was sure that if the merman tried, he would’ve been able to walk on his own already but Paul knew that he will need his hand more for mental support rather than the physical one. So he held on, ignoring any possible stares. He wouldn’t care about the stares but the truth was, that till that day, if he ever had been with the merman, they were either alone or surrounded by their friends. This was new to him too, to be seen by strangers with his hand linked to another man. Thankfully, after looking around he discovered that no one cared, it was just his paranoid mind making things up.

As soon as they’ve entered the store, Paul dragged the amazed merman into one of the aisles, immediately picking some plain shirts for him and showing them to him. “Will you wear these?”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes.”

“Then I will,” the merman said, wiggling his eyebrows at the other man.

“Do you know what exactly would you like to wear? They have a lot of things here.”

“I don’t know? I liked how the guys were dressed in the last movie we watched, so maybe something like what they wore?”

Paul let out a burst of laugher, immediately feeling sorry for Richard’s confused, almost hurt expression. “You’re not dressing up as a cowboy. Especially if you don’t want any unwanted attention.”

“Ah, okay.” Richard blushed, looking at the ground. “Then maybe something similar to your style? That’s a safe bet, no?”

“It is.” Paul squeezed Richard’s hand and gave him an encouraging smile. “Maybe I’ll buy you a Stetson some day.”

Paul then proceeded to find the best size for the merman and started grabbing shirts, tank tops and hoodies, slowly piling them into the merman’s other hand. Then they moved towards another aisle and stopped before the laid out sweatpants. He grabbed a pair, then some jean shorts and cargo pants, letting the merman decide what colour he wanted. Richard himself was a bit overwhelmed by all the colours and their variations, so he just decided mainly on black clothes with a few exceptions. Then came the underwear and socks section and (of course) the first objections as well. Richard looked like he was quite wary of those pieces of clothing, forcing Paul to take the bare minimum. Lastly, before they went to the checkout, they picked up a pair of converse shoes and some sandals, quickly trying them on to figure the right size.

Paul was about to dump all the clothes in front of the cashier when Richard grabbed his bicep and forcefully tugged him to his side, twisting him around.

“What’s going on?”

“Paul, look over there.” He nodded towards a rack with some button-up shirts on sale. “I like those, can you get me some?”

Paul followed the merman’s gaze and had to internally cringe. Those shirts were hideous. Plastered with ornaments all over, colours mixed and clashing, creating hypnotizing patterns. “God, why? They’re horrible.”

He could barely finish his sentence before Richard detached himself from his arm and confidently walked (shuffled) to the rack, taking one of the hangers out and looking at the shirt. Paul could see why they were on sale, no normal person would want to buy that. Except for Richard, of course. He walked over and looked at the merman; he was turning the shirt around, tracing his fingers across the patterns, his smile reminding him of an excited kid.

“Pretty please, Paul. At least this one.” Oh yeah, now he sounded like his kids when they wanted a new toy.

“Well, since you managed to walk over here completely on your own I should make an exception,” he sighed as Richard’s smile brightened even more, “But only this one okay?”

“Thank you.” The merman leaned in and gave him a quick peck on his cheek. “Now we can go.”

Richard thoroughly watched the exchange between the cashier and Paul, the way the girl stuffed all their newly purchased clothes into bags and handed them over, politely smiling at him. He returned the smile, overjoyed to have an interaction with a complete stranger. He unconsciously kept staring at her till Paul took half of the bags and linked their hands back together, leading them outside.

“I don’t know about you, but I’d like to stop for a late lunch somewhere.” Paul said as he threw some of the bags into the pickup.

“I’d love that. Lead the way.”

“Yeah okay, but first change into some of the new clothes, you look like a hobo.”

Richard’s brows raised in surprise. “I don’t know how a hobo looks like, but it’s probably bad.” He then shrugged and grabbed the hem of his shirt to take it off. He threw it into the car, his hands automatically going for the pants.

“Stop!” Paul laughed, ushering him into the car. “Do it inside, otherwise people will stare.”

“What’s wrong with that? I don’t mind being naked.”

“I know, but some people might. Here, take these shorts and a tank top and put them on. I’m gonna take out the sandals and then we can go.” Paul pushed the merman back into his seat and closed the door. He rounded the car, picked up the rest of the bags and after finding the sandals he threw the bags into the trunk and locked it.

Richard just managed to wiggle into his shorts and opened the door, turning in his seat and waiting for Paul.

“Here you go.” Paul helped him to put on the shoes and let him step out of the car again. He locked it, pocketed the keys and turned around, grabbing Richard’s hand. “Let’s go.”

Walking through the village, Paul lead the merman through every street, every passage, letting him ogle buildings and touch flowers, occasionally stopping at a shop or two, giving Richard the space and time to look at all kinds of trinkets and knickknacks. They stopped at one of the souvenir shops and Richard immediately walked over to the stall with necklaces and bracelets.

“Oh look.” He rummaged through it, picking some of the necklaces up. “They look like mine.”

“Yeah, but yours is prettier, these are cheap and meant for the tourists.” Paul smiled watching the merman idly play with his own necklace. The way he kept running his fingertips across the seashells made Paul question the merman’s sincerity about his excitement over being on land. He hoped that Richard’s initial nervousness won’t take over now, he wouldn’t know what to do with a merman having a panic attack in the middle of some street. Thankfully, the merman’s gentle smile showed him that his lover was thinking more about the accessories in question rather than about his “old” life.

And boy, was he glad that he was wearing sunglasses; Richard looked sinfully good in the clothes that finally fit him, the tank top was just tight enough to accentuate his muscles and bring out his strong shoulders and while his legs were completely smooth, they were still very nice to look at too; his shins were defined and his butt nicely rounded the fabric of the shorts.

“C’mon, I don’t want to starve.” Not being bale to resist, he gently smacked the merman across his ass, grinning at the alarmed ‘hey!’ he got as an answer.

They’ve ended up in a small restaurant at the village’s square; Paul wanted to take him to one of the bars on the beach but Richard persisted on staying within the village, right in the shadow of the local church. They sat next to each other against the restaurant’s wall so that Richard could have a good view of everything that was happening in the tiny square as he still could not properly read the menu. He adoringly watched a family walk by, the kids excited from the day’s play at the beach and the parents tired, but happy nonetheless; then he turned towards the other customers of the restaurant, quickly scanning their faces and absolutely enjoying his presence among them.

“Is there any particular thing you’d like to try out?” Paul woke him up from his trance and moved the menu between them.

“Uh, probably no seafood.” Richard smiled at Paul’s snigger. “What about pizzas? I loved the one you brought to me in the past.”

“Yeah they have them, we can order those.” Paul squeezed his hand and started reading the list of pizzas the restaurant provided.

Five minutes later they were brought a jug of water and made their order, together with a small carafe of white wine. Paul decided to ask for one pepperoni and one chicken and spinach pizza, knowing that the merman would be able to devour both of them in a matter of a few minutes. He still found it cute how Richard went a little bit stiff when the waitress came to their table, though he felt how much Richard wanted to talk to her as he kept repeatedly licking his lips, ready to say at least something. When the waitress left, he looked back at him, pouring them a glass of the ice-cold water.

“Did you wanted to order it yourself?”

“I think I’d mess it up. Maybe next time, yeah?” Richard smiled, bringing the water to his lips. “This is incredible, is it like this in every city? You just sit down and they’ll bring you whatever you want?”

“As long as it’s on the menu, yeah.”

“Man, I’m gonna get spoiled pretty fast.”

“As if you already weren’t, compared to the rest of your people.”

“Hey!” Richard nudged him. “It’s your fault too, y’know.”

Paul only smiled back at him, closing his eyes and letting the merman to briefly kiss him. While they were too busy with staring into each other’s eyes, the waitress brought their wine and set the glasses in front of them, pouring the liquid out of the carafe. Richard’s eyes shifted over to her, studying her face, her hair, her uniform, and the gentle smile she sported. Once she discovered his staring she met his eyes and quickly moved her gaze away, slightly blushing.

“Thank you, darling.” Richard told her in English, his hand moving towards the glass.

She only nodded in acknowledgement, bowed her head and disappeared inside the building. Paul took his own glass into his hand and twirled the liquid around, looking inside it and trying to appear nonchalant. Inside, he was hiding the incredibly strong feeling of being proud; he had doubts about the merman, Richard could’ve ended up mute but hearing the charismatic charm of his in his tone, Paul knew that soon enough he will have enough trouble with the merman talking too much.

“Darling, huh? So you’re gonna flirt with everyone you meet?” He looked to the side, narrowing his eyes and trying to cover his smirk as he brought his glass towards the other man, clinking it slightly.

“I just felt like it, it was not rude, was it?” Richard looked genuinely alarmed.

“Nah, it wasn’t. She might just think you’re trying to flirt with her, since you’ve been ogling her from the start.” Paul laughed and then covered Richard’s hand with his own on the bench between them. “Don’t worry, it was actually a really nice gesture.”

They both drank their wines and chatted, Paul showing him and explaining everything that the merman pointed his finger at, be it the street ice-cream vendor, the well in the middle of the square or the strings attached from one lamppost to another, with colourful triangles hanging down from them. And not even fifteen minutes later, their food arrived, the waitress quickly putting their plates down and then immediately walking away.

“Poor girl, now she’s all embarrassed and can’t look us in the eyes. You’ve got no idea how strong that charm of yours is-“ Paul turned back to his lover, only to find him with his mouth absolutely stuffed, the chicken falling from the bit that was hanging from his mouth. Not for long though, as the merman hissed and had to chew the too hot food before putting the rest of the pizza triangle down.

“Is hot!” He managed to say as he still tried to cool the bite in his mouth.

“What else did you expect?” Paul laughed, gingerly picking his pizza up and blowing on it. “It’s fresh out of the oven.”

“Yeah, but I’m hungry.” Richard finally swallowed his piece and took one from Paul’s plate. “And it’s fucking delicious.”

Once finished they paid for their food and left the waitress a nice tip, Richard dragged Paul over to the church, looking at the church’s bulletin board in front of it. At first, the merman was attracted by the statues above the huge wooden door but what caught his interest next was the possibility of going inside and even up into the tower to look around across the village. Paul agreed to pay the small fee and both of them walked inside, loving how cold the air within the chapel was. The smaller man’s attention was caught by the candles right by the entrance but the merman walked forward, completely on his own. He slowly made his way down the isle, letting his fingertips slip across the wooden pews and their arm rests. He had his head twisted to the ceiling, marvelling how intricate the pillars were and slowly turning around, devouring every single painting, statue and cross that the little church had. Once Paul raised his head he gently smiled, watching Richard strut around completely on his own. He didn’t like how cheesy it felt, but the serenity and the fact that it was only him and Richard in the church made him love the merman even more.

He slowly made his way across the room towards Richard who turned around and patiently waited for him, with a persistent shy smile on his face. Once he was close enough, Paul looked back to make sure they were alone and then snaked his arms around Richard’s waist and pulled him closer, till there was barely any space left between them and he could feel his breath on his face.

“Do you like it here?” Paul whispered, mesmerized by Richard’s eyelashes.

“It’s so weird in here. I’ve heard of churches, but I’ve never thought it’d look like this in here.”

“Mmm,” Paul hummed and got closer, unable to resist a couple of stolen kisses, “You should see the inside of some cathedrals, they’re hundred times bigger than this.”

“That’s insane.” The merman looked up, trying to imagine the ceiling higher and the walls taller than in there. He was about to return some of the kisses back when they heard a door creaking and they both instinctively separated, standing a metre apart. A bunch of tourist shuffled out of a side door that lead into the tower; they gently closed the door behind themselves and nodded towards the two men, silently greeting them. Both Paul and Richard nodded back, trying to hold their laughter at their abrupt separation.

“Do you want to go up? See the village and the sea at the same time?”

“That sounds tempting. Lead the way.”

Walking up the stairs was still quite a challenge for the merman, especially when the stairs were old, made of stone and seemed to twist forever up. Paul walked behind him and had his hands ready if the merman lost his his balance and would fall down. Fortunately, he managed to get all the way up without any accident and once Paul caught up, Richard opened the door and stepped outside onto the balcony that twisted around the tower and gave them a view in every possible direction.

Paul watched how Richard walked over to the side which overlooked a part of the village and then the sea that was once again bathed in shades of gold from the setting sun. The merman gripped the metal railing between the heavy sandstones and looked around, inhaling the salty air coming from the shore. His excitement was short-lived though, as he looked down from the tower his heart skipped the beat, his hands started to tremble and his entire body immediately got dowsed in cold sweat.

“Oh fuck.”

“What’s going on?” Paul got closer to him and wrapped one of his arms around Richard’s waist.

“We’re so high up,” Richard whispered.

“Oh.” Paul slowly moved backwards with the merman until his back hit the wall of the tower and let Richard slide against it on the ground. “Just breathe. Don’t worry, nothing’s gonna happen to you.” He kneeled in front of him and grabbed Richard’s face, lifting it up.

“That’s so fucking scary.” Paul saw that Richard got pale pretty fast and only then he realized that this was the highest point Richard have ever been to, even though the tower was not that high and barely went over the rooftops of the other buildings.

“Hey, hey, look at me. We can go back down alright, if it’s too much, we can find something else for you.”

“No, it’s okay.” Richard closed his eyes for a moment, calming his breath. “The view is amazing, just, just hold me please. And stay away from the edge.”

“Sure, c’mon then.” Paul offered him his hand and when Richard’s breathing calmed down, he grabbed it and hoisted himself up, straight into Paul’s chest. They slowly moved around the tower, stopping every metre or so and looking over at the view in front of them. Richard got the chance to see the entire village, the road that lead back home, the hills and mountains of the inland and then the sea shore, with a long beach crawling next to it, merging the village’s streets into the soft sand. They could see many people still sitting in the sand with hundreds of lanterns surrounding them; some were small and just hung among the decorative triangles on the ropes, some held children on their sticks and some were bigger, ready to be released into the air.

“Do you want to go there? We still have time.” Paul hugged the merman from behind and rested his head on his shoulder.

“I’d love to, I want to see the lanterns.”

“Okay.”

It didn’t take them long to get down and out of the church; as much as the view was nice, Richard was glad that he did not have to suffer up there anymore. While Paul was gingerly closing the main door, Richard once again wandered away, this time heading across the square to the ice-cream vendor, leaving the smaller man behind. Paul huffed a laugh when he saw the merman leaning over the refrigerator, eyeing all the flavours they had on display; he deserved a treat after the vertigo he had so Paul jogged after him, picking up a slight chatter between Richard and the vendor.

Arriving to the stand he greeted the man and quickly discovered that Richard was talking to him in the local language and that he was not able to understand him. At all. Whatever they were talking about, they were laughing about it, joking between each other and Paul hated that he couldn’t understand them. He also hated how unbelievably hot Richard sounded; he knew his German and knew he could speak in English too, but hearing him now speak in another foreign language just sent a shiver down his body with every uttered word. He rolled his Rs, he pronounced vowels Paul had no idea that existed and spoke so fluently and colourfully he almost managed to hypnotise the smaller man.

“Hey, baby. Will you get me some please?” Richard switched back to German, snaking his arm around Paul’s shoulders.

“Yeah, yeah, sure. Which one do you want?” Paul quickly looked down and fished out his wallet, trying to hide his blush.

“Apparently the stracciatella one is great. And if you let him add the chocolate one on top I’ll love you even more.”

“Okay.” Paul laughed and nudged him towards the ice-creams to pick the flavours. “And grab something for me too, will you?”

He paid for the two giant heaps of ice-cream and let Richard thank the man and say their goodbyes as they slowly started to walk towards the sea.

“I’ve never realized that you can speak their language too, y’know,” Paul said as he licked around the cone.

“Well, that was the first one I’ve been taught; it’d be useless to live here and not to understand a word, huh.” Richard smiled around his treat, brushing his free hand against Paul’s “Thank you, by the way.” He leaned down and kissed the corner of his mouth.

Paul swatted him away; as much as he liked the attention, he did not need to have half of his face covered in chocolate ice-cream. They slowly went down the streets, meeting other couples and families that were either returning home from the beach or going down there just as them. By the time they arrived to the path lining the beach and dividing it from the bars and restaurants, the sun had already disappeared behind the horizon, only leaving the western sky coloured in the shades of purple and pink. They sat on the stone wall next to the path and ate the rest of their treats, looking over the water and watching people stroll by.

“Wait, doesn’t Ollie live here?” Richard asked as he finished his cone.

“Yeah, he does. He has a shop not far from here, though he is back in Germany right now. Family business apparently.”

“Aw, and here I was thinking we could surprise him.”

“Yeah, maybe next time.” Paul smiled, looking behind the merman at the various souvenir shops that were still opened. “Stay here.” He patted Richard’s shoulder and jogged off to the nearest one, disappearing inside.

He returned five minutes later, holding a plastic bag and twirling a lighter between his fingers.

“Since we’re here, we could join the others, no?” He opened the bag and took out what at first looked like a giant paper bag only to stretch it out into a sky lantern. “They should start releasing them any minute now, since the sun has finally set.”

And truly, there were kids running with small lanterns on sticks, the ones hanging across the streets were lit on and dozens of other people slowly started to prepare their own sky lanterns.

“Why do people do this? I know I’ve seen them every year everywhere around the island but I didn’t know why they were there.”

“To be honest I don’t know the true reason either, Till probably does though. I just like the effect. And you will like it too.” He stretched the wires under it and put the candle in the middle. “Now we just gotta wait for the church bell.”

Paul idly played with the lighter while Richard kept turning the lantern in his hands trying to discover how it works and when he started to peek inside Paul laughed and pushed his face away from the construction.

“The air above the flame gets thinner than the one outside the balloon and then the lantern starts rising. You’ll see soon enough.”

“Oh, okay.” Richard lowered the lantern and looked around. “Let’s go to the beach, I want to feel the sand again.”

They found some free space near the stone wall yet still far enough for Richard to take his sandals off and stroll towards the wet sand. Soon, Paul joined him and rested his head against his shoulder, watching the other people around them.

“It’s still unbelievable for me to be here, so free and unrestrained,” Richard whispered.

“And it’s only the first day, baby,” Paul answered, leaning towards Richard’s face. The merman didn’t need any more signals, he turned his head and met Paul halfway, savouring the slow and sensual kiss. They continued to overlap their lips, enjoying each other’s presence, the soothing background sounds of the sea and the crowds chatting around them. Slowly, Paul could feel Richard’s tongue brushing against his lips asking for an entrance. He had to laugh and back away, nudging the impatient merman with his nose.

“Not here, we can’t.” He smiled even more at Richard’s pout. Then his head raised in alarm; the bells started to ring and with that, every person around them began lighting their lanterns. The men stepped away from each other and Paul began to instruct Richard what to do. First, he crouched down and set their own firelighter on fire, then he helped Richard holding the paper till the lantern started to slowly rise on its own. Paul released it and let the merman to deal with it; Richard was mesmerized by the orange light and balloon that wanted to escape from his hands, he kept turning it around and with a last look at Paul he let it go, the lantern slowly rising up into the sky.

Looking around, the man saw these lanterns everywhere around them, gently rising up and moving above the sea and into the darkness around them, creating new star constellations just for the people under them. Richard was busy with counting every single lantern while Paul just stared at him, completely in love with the merman drenched in the orange light next to him.

“I love you.”

The simple three words brought the merman’s attention back to him as Paul kept staring at him, his eyes wide and heart purely open only for the merman.

“Oh Paul.” Richard let his fingers gently wrap around Paul’s neck, his thumbs stroking against his jaw. “You have no idea how much I love you.” He dove down and kissed him, resuming in their previous kissing, only now being surrounded by countless flying lanterns.

The overwhelming feeling completely distracted Paul from the outside world and all he managed to do was to push the merman closer, snake his arms around his waist and get drunk on his kisses. He grunted and moaned into the kisses, clawing at Richard’s sides as the merman repeatedly licked inside his mouth, coaxing his own tongue out and back in.

Only when Paul felt the cold air tickling him under his shirt he moved back, licked his reddened lips and dazedly looked at his partner. “I think we should get back home, huh?”

“Please,” Richard whined, hiding his face in Paul’s neck, “As fast as we can.”

“Oh.” Paul swallowed. He definitely felt why the merman agreed so eagerly - his own dick twitched in interest too. “Yeah. Yeah let’s go.”

Grabbing Richard by his hand he tugged him across the beach, straight towards their parked car.

Chapter Text

It’s said that the trip back home always passes quicker than the way to the destination. In this case, Paul was sure it took them twice as long; the merman wanted to jump at him the entire way to the pickup and then proceeded to complain the entire way back to the fishery and on top of that, Paul’s own excitement didn’t help him either. He tried to pay attention to the road and get his mind off the other man but Richard’s fidgeting always brought him back, his mind slowly becoming irritated by Richard’s nonstop movement.

Once they finally parked in front of the cottage, Richard all but jumped out, dragging the bags with his new clothes inside and disappearing in a blink of an eye.

“Horny motherfucker.” Paul laughed to himself as he killed the engine and exited the car, locking it in the process.

He found Richard in the living room in a complete darkness; the bags were thrown onto the floor and the merman was in the process of dragging his tank top over his head. Once he won the battle with the piece of clothing he threw it on the ground, his fingers immediately grabbing the button of his jean shorts.

“Fuck,” the merman hissed, “I knew why I hate the goddamn underwear, it’s starting to fucking hurt.”

“Oh hush you prima donna.” Paul came closer, shooing away Richard’s fingers. “Let me help you.”

Paul’s deft fingers made a quick work of the button and the zipper; he pushed the fly down and hooked his hands in the hem of Richard’s underwear and slid it down, allowing the merman to kick it away. Richard had meanwhile relocated his head to the crook of Paul’s shoulder and started licking the sweaty skin on his collar bones.

Looking down, Paul had to bite his bottom lip at the view. Even though there was no artificial light, the moonlight from the outside beautifully contoured the merman’s body, accentuating his chest and arms, his belly and thighs and shedding just enough light at his oh, so gorgeous cock. Paul’s fingers slid down Richard’s arms, leaving a trail of goosebumps behind them as he anchored them on the other man’s hips, drawing small circles with his thumbs across Richard’s hipbones.

“You’re so fucking gorgeous.”

Richard certainly liked the compliment as his chest puffed out even more; the merman leaned against the armrest of the couch and exposed his body to Paul, his smile full of mischief. “All yours, baby.”

Paul giggled and threw his own shirt away, closing the gap between them; he twisted one arm around Richard’s middle while he let the other anchor in his hair, tugging him down for a not-so-gentle and not-so-innocent kiss. Open mouthed, with their tongues meeting more than their lips did, the kisses forced both men to start clawing at the other one’s skin for as much contact as possible. Paul’s grip on Richard tightened and with one smooth twirl, he twisted the man around himself and back onto the sofa, pushing him down onto the soft mattress.

Richard fell down and caught himself on his elbows, impatiently licking his lips as he stared at the man above him. The man in question smirked down and undid his button and fly as well, expertly kicking the rest of his clothes away and then kneeled on the mattress, deciding what to do next. He looked down at Richard’s cock first; it was back to its full hardness, laying on the merman’s belly and twitching with every touch under Paul’s hand.

Paul lowered himself onto his hands, till he was face to face with the merman and when their eyes met, he let his right hand run down and grabbed his cock, absolutely falling in love with Richard’s surprised moan. He twisted his hand around his cockhead, his loose fist playing with the merman’s new foreskin. He then focused on Richard’s face and continued to watch his’s expressions; with every tug and turn of his hand the merman closed his eyes and opened his mouth, letting soft mewls escape straight into Paul’s ear.

“Fuck, Paul, this is- ah shit,” the man kept repeating his words like a mantra, not daring to interrupt the eye-contact between them, yet repeatedly failing to do so.

Letting Richard’s dick go, Paul tumbled next to him, leaning on his elbow over the merman.

“You gotta tell me what you want to do, because I’m about to lose my mind.” Paul deeply sighed, trying to get his breathing under control. He let his free hand run wild, creating undefinable patterns across the merman’s chest as he waited for his answer.

“Do whatever you want, just know I’m not going to last long,” Richard whispered and tried to hide his blushing face behind his arm.

Paul weighed the options; he didn’t buy any lube and he didn’t feel like sneaking naked into Till’s room in an attempt to find one so any more complex play was out of the picture. He looked over the merman’s body, thinking and slowly coming up with a plan.

“Well,” he muttered, kissing him softly on the lips and moving away his arm to look into Richard’s eyes, “I think I should repay you the favour of our first time, no?” He smirked and dove down again, savouring yet another slow kiss.

“What do you me-“ The merman did not finish his sentence and only kept staring at the other man who decided to slowly trail a row of kisses down his neck, to his collarbones and across his chest, kissing each of his nipples and then continuing down. Paul’s kisses became sloppier as he was lower and lower, until his face stopped centimetres from Richard’s cock, the only touch being the hot puffs of air coming from Paul’s mouth.

Now, going down on Richard in his human form was somehow a more familiar territory. Not that he ever blew a guy before but having experience with his own dick he at least knew about the basics. Richard’s mermaidish dick was still quite the mystery to him, even though he had multiple chances to get up close and personal with it but all the slick, salt and flexibility still weirded him out. Though now, he was much more confident in his actions; he let his lips kiss the underside of Richard’s dick and trailed a row of wet kisses up, till he licked at the frenulum, his lips wrapping around Richard’s cockhead in one smooth motion.

As he hollowed his cheeks and sucked it in, Paul felt how Richard’s back arched under him and how his hands immediately grasped his hair, tugging him into the merman’s belly, forcing him to stay wrapped around his cock. Paul made himself a bit more comfortable between Richard’s legs and let his right arm encircle the dick, slowly pumping it with each bow of his head. Hearing the merman moan and sigh above him, Paul let his gaze travel up, anchoring his sight at Richard’s neck, the tendons in it dancing with the rhythm of his sucking; he watched him till Richard managed to raise his head and look down back at him, his eyes hazy and and half-lidded.

Paul hummed in content, his eyes crinkling at Richard’s whispered curses and his eyes rolling-back. He stuck his tongue out and gently lapped over Richard’s balls before he let his lips rest on the sensitive skin completely, sucking the skin in and out to stimulate the overworked nerves within. He dug his entire face into Richard’s crotch, devouring each and every sigh escaping the merman. After one stronger tug and Richard’s kick of his right leg, Paul rose up and chuckled, wiping saliva from his mouth.

“Still angry that it’s just hanging out, huh?” He cupped the merman’s balls once more and lightly squeezed them between his fingers.

“Oh fucking hell!” Richard hid his face between his arm and the pillow he was laying on, his cheeks totally red. “Don’t stop now, please!”

Grinning at the merman’s breathlessness, Paul once more lowered himself down and let his tongue travel from Richard’s balls to the tip, collecting some of Richard’s precum and then raised himself on all fours and let his nose tickle its way up to Richard’s chin. He kissed the panting merman, enjoying the desperate sighs Richard let out between the kisses. And while they were busy with licking into each other’s mouths, Paul aligned their bodies and started to gently rock against the other man.

“Oh fuck, Paul,” Richard moaned, digging his fingers into the smaller man’s shoulders and twisting his legs around Paul’s, ready to meet each of Paul’s moves with his own pelvis.

They didn’t have any proper rhythm, Richard was too far gone and too inexperienced with his new body and Paul got absolutely lost in every sound the other man made. He could only hear him, his own uneven breathing and the creaking of the springs under them, the sounds completely drowning them in their hurried, almost animalistic, fucking. In between their thrashing, Paul managed to spit into his palm and grab their cocks in between, quickly pushing both of them to their climaxes. A few pumps later and the merman came, wailing straight into Paul’s ear. Paul continued to jerk him off, spreading the merman’s cum all over them until he bucked his hips and came with a grunt too, letting his sperm cover both of their bellies.

They didn’t move until their breathing had calmed down and Richard’s thighs stopped twitching. Paul managed to lazily roll off the merman, letting his arm wipe some of the sweat on his brow. He looked at his partner who was in the process of letting his fingertips run through the stains on his belly, his eyes closed, and his teeth biting the bottom lip.

“Stop that,” Paul swatted Richard’s hand away, quietly laughing at Richard’s protesting hum, “Let me get some tissues or you’re gonna get the blankets dirty.”

With great difficulty, Paul managed to crawl over the merman and got up, shuffling to the kitchen to pick up some paper napkins and bringing them over to the couch. He threw them at the merman’s head and let himself fall onto the mattress; he picked the napkins and began to slowly clean both of them up.

“Why can’t you do this in the morning,” Richard huffed, watching the other man throw the used napkins on the ground.

“Because this is better. There’s no sea to wash ourselves in right now.” Paul flicked his fingers across Richard’s nose, snickering at the sleepy protests.

“There, done.” Paul threw the last napkin away and laid down, letting his left arm drape over the merman.

Richard turned and made himself comfortable on his belly, settling his head in his arms. “That was nice.”

“Only nice, huh.” Paul got closer to the crook of his elbow and nosed his way towards the merman’s face, seeking out a goodnight kiss.

“It was wonderful, and I can’t wait for more.” The merman raised his head and let himself be kissed for a while and then buried himself back into his arms.

“That’s better.” Paul kissed his shoulder and cuddled closer, letting his eyes rest on the merman till he fell asleep.

Both of them were woken up by loud noises coming from the kitchen; the sun was already up but the air felt cold, too cold actually for the stuffy room. While the merman grumbled and buried himself under the pillows, Paul sat up and looked around, rubbing rheum out of his eyes. His entire body jerked again when he heard the cluttering of the pans, forcing him to twist his body around and look into the kitchen, seeing Till there, opening windows and being uncharacteristically loud.

“Uh, Good morning?” Paul rasped and stretched his legs onto the floor.

“Yeah, good morning.” Till spared him a brief look, adding a sour smirk to indicate his mood.

“Did something happen?”

“Not really, I just forgot how thin the walls are here and how much of a horny bastard Richard is.” Till was turned with is back to them, slicing pieces of fruit into a bowl.

“Oh, shit.” Paul could feel his ears getting red. “Sorry.”

“Eh. Usually I wouldn’t mind it, but I’ve got a long day ahead and I wanted to have my sleep uninterrupted. Now come and help me.”

Paul smiled and got up, quickly putting on his discarded boxer shorts and collecting the tissues from the ground. He sneaked around Till and threw them into the trash, giving Till a sheepish smile. Before Till could anyhow comment on it he straightened up and took a knife into his hand, grabbing a loaf of bread.

“So, what do you want me to do today?”

“Nothing actually. That’s why I wanted to have a good night’s sleep. I’ll let you and the merman be and I’ll do all the needed work with Doom. You guys just enjoy yourselves.” Till smiled at him and turned to the table, setting the bowl with the fruits on it. “But God, go and have a shower, I don’t need the entire cottage to be smelling of sex and sweat.” He moved towards the door leading onto the porch and opened it, inhaling the fresh sea air.

“That goes for you too, fishboy,” Till laughed and grabbed an apple from the counter, chucking it at the body tangled in the blankets.

The body let out a groan and curled into itself, ignoring the bigger man. Paul put the sliced bread onto the table and moved back towards the couch. “C’mon sleepy head, we gotta shower.” Paul grabbed the hem of the blanket and tugged, stealing it from the merman in one smooth move.

“Do I have to?” The merman turned on his back, stretching across the entire mattress.

“Yes. Come on.”  Paul offered his hand and waited for the merman to grab it so he could hoist him up. Richard eventually did so and together they moved to the bathroom, barely fitting inside.

Any thoughts of a morning sex in the shower were quickly dissolved; there was just enough space for one man within the cubicle, so Paul pushed Richard inside, instructing him what to wash with which bottle of shower gel. The merman started with the shampoo, carefully avoiding his eyes as he massaged the gel into his hair while Paul picked his toothbrush and lead him trough his morning routine, occasionally helping the merman out. When the merman was done, they’ve switched places, Paul gave Richard a new toothbrush while he quickly slid into the shower, being much faster than the other man.

A couple of minutes later they got out and found Till already sitting at the table, a coffee in one hand and his phone in the other. Paul sat the merman on the couch and put some of his clothes in his lap, instructing to put it on while he jogged upstairs to fetch some of his fresher clothes. When he returned, Richard was already sitting at the table, thankfully clothed, and in the process of spreading a heap of jam over his bread. For once, his hair wasn’t sticking out in all possible angles but was slicked back with droplets of water still running down his neck into his t-shirt, wetting the collar. Paul couldn’t resist and run his hand through the smooth locks, ruffling it and chuckling at the irritated noise coming from below.

“What do you want to do today?” Paul asked as he sat down and grabbed a piece of the bread and took the half empty jar from Richard’s hand.

“I’d like to go swimming, I miss the water,” Richard answered, looking at the droplets left on his arm.

“As hilarious as it sounds, you know you can’t swim, right?” Till laughed, drinking the rest of his coffee.

“Doesn’t mean I can’t go to the beach.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll take you there but I thought about travelling and stuff.” Paul took a bite of his bread, momentarily transforming into a hungry hamster.

“Oh, do you think we could go back to Germany? To Berlin?” Richard perched up, looking at the smaller man.

“No, not there.” Paul laughed. “I thought here, we could travel around the island.”

“But I wanna visit Berlin!”

“You can’t, Richard. You don’t have a passport nor any other ID and without it it’s impossible.”

“That sucks.” Richard puffed his cheeks, idly playing with the rest of his food.

“Can’t be helped. We still can travel around the island, there are a lot of places to visit.” Paul squeezed his hand, trying to trying to improve Richard’s mood.

“No more tall towers though, okay?” Richard smiled, squeezing his hand back.

“You guys can return the diary, since we already know what really happens in the caves.” Till stretched and got up from the table, putting his cup and plate into the sink. “It was a pretty place.”

“Yeah, we could do that, if the granny won’t kill us.” Paul laughed, surprised it is even possible to return the item.

“Should be okay.” Till patted his back and left for the porch door. “Anyway, have a nice day, I’m off to work.”

The men eventually moved outside too, straight onto the small beach next to the pier. Paul stood in the water up to his knees, watching as Richard took off all his clothes and threw them behind himself and then started to slowly move towards him. Paul had his swimming trunks on, and even though he sometimes swam naked too, he didn’t feel like it that morning and let the merman do what ever he wants. He slowly guided him into the deeper parts, until the water started to splash against their chests.

“This is so wrong,” Richard whispered as he held onto Paul’s biceps.

“Start treading the water, you’ve seen me do that hundreds of time. Just stomp the water, I’ll hold you.”

As it is with every beginner, Richard had problems with barely staying above the water. One time he slipped under and his instincts kicked in, forcing him to inhale underwater. Usually, there wouldn’t be any problem with it but now, he got water into his lungs and started violently coughing, his eyes watering with tears. He even tried to lock his legs and move them as he would move his tail. That technique didn’t last long; compared to his flexible tail, he could barely move his legs in the motion he felt was natural the most. At least for him. It didn’t stop him though, once he got his breath back, he continued trying kicking his legs, until he was more or less confidently treading the water next to Paul.

“Great, you’re a natural!” Paul beamed.

“Well, yeah. I know how water behaves.”

“Asshole.” Paul grinned and splashed some water in the merman’s face, laughing as Richard quickly repaid it with double the force. “Let’s try something more difficult, yeah?”

“Sure.” Richard smirked, shaking his head and messing up his hair.

“Okay, you’re gonna lay on my arms and try to dog paddle, it’s the easiest thing to do. Then we’ll try the good ol’ breaststroke.”

Richard then proceeded to listen to every word Paul said, letting him explain the different techniques and what to do with his body. At first they started with simply floating on the surface, which the merman did almost immediately as he quickly found his balance and stretched himself, peacefully floating next to Paul. Then he was forced to do the same on his belly, with the help of Paul who supported him from below as he started to kick his legs and paddle the water.

“This is so fucking useless. I feel so weak.” Richard hissed, his head once again almost disappearing under water.

“Don’t talk now,” Paul said, stroking Richard’s back, “of course it’s not the same as it was with your tail, but you need to know the basics.”

“I know, it just makes me anxious.”

“Hey, let’s stay here for a bit longer and then we can continue some other day, hmm?”

“Fine.”

“Good boy.” Paul kissed his nose and waited for the merman to get back into the correct position so they could continue.

Even with legs, Richard managed to start ‘swimming’ relatively fast. Paul still had to help him here and there but when Richard managed to paddle around him without accidentally swallowing or breathing in the salty water, he counted that as a huge success. He also decided that breaststrokes might not be the best decision and rather let the merman feel what felt the best for him, seeing as he preferred to kick his legs behind him rather than to the sides, creating a style between a crawl and the unsuccessful breaststroke.

They stayed in the water till noon, splashing around in the shallows until they both got tired and got back to the cottage to have a light lunch. Richard demanded that he needed to help Paul with the preparation so Paul had to teach him how to cut meat and vegetables properly without slicing his fingers off. Richard’s results were wonky and uneven; each piece of the chicken was of different size and thickness, each piece of vegetable was turned into a mosaic of its previous self and if Paul didn’t stop the merman, the salad would drown in the olive oil that was supposed to be added just in a few drizzles. Once the salad was finally finished, they took it outside onto the porch, enjoying the light breeze from the sea.

“So, can we travel somewhere today?”

“Uh, sure?” Paul swallowed a mouthful and looked at the merman. “Do you want to go somewhere in particular?”

“Hmm,” the merman hummed, “The inland. Anywhere away from the ocean.”

“Okay.” Paul smiled, thinking about all the places he knew about. “Yeah, okay. We can pack right away and leave, I’m just gonna call Till to let him know.”

“Awesome.” Stretching his legs in front of himself, Richard wiggled his toes. “I can’t fucking wait.”