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Selkie by the Sea

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It was a beautiful if muggy day in Nassau. Frenchie was counting this as his first real day here and planned to spend it doing nothing at all. Sure, he’d been here for almost a week now, but that had been spent moving in and getting to know some of the other people he was sharing a house with. After all the introductions and furniture hauling and document updating, Frenchie decided he was going to go wander for a bit. Stede, the owner of the house, had told him about the quieter beaches away from the more touristy spots.

He liked the sound of that, of not having to deal with rich tourists on crowded beaches. Maybe he could think up a song or two while trawling the sand.
Frenchie hummed as he stepped out the door, practically skipping as his maps app directed him. All told, it wasn’t a far walk. Maybe only fifteen minutes. Which was nice, since he started feeling uncomfortably sweaty around ten minutes in. London summers could get hot, for sure, but the humid sea air here made Frenchie feel like he was swimming on dry land. This would take some getting used to.

He would have to remind himself when he got back to the house to adjust the care of his lute and make sure it hadn’t warped badly already with the change in climate.

“Whoa…” Frenchie let out an impressed whistle when he got to the beach. It was beautiful out here. The sea was impossibly blue and the only sound was the water lapping at the sand and the distant cry of a seagull or two. Happily, Frenchie settled himself right near the water’s edge, kicking off his shoes and socks so he could splash his feet in the water. It felt so nice. A bit tickly when the sand moved between his toes with the tide.

“Gonna get me a job so I won’t be a slob~” Frenchie sang, little snatches of nonsense coming to mind. “If I sing all night then that’s alright~ Get my lute tuned nice so I can eat more than just rice~” He went on like this for a bit, though as it got on toward noon, he began to think getting more than just his feet wet might be a good idea.

He got to his feet, a little unsteady from the eddies in the sand now. Frenchie brushed the sand off his pants before he started fiddling with the button at the front of them when he heard something like a forceful exhale, but sort of wet.

Frenchie jerked his head up to see what the noise was. And there, only a few feet out in the water was a seal. It had a brown and tawny spotted coat and a strangely long face, a bit hook-nosed in the snout. It wasn’t quite as fat as the seals Frenchie had seen at the zoo when he was little, but that was probably because this one didn’t get fed like clockwork or get ill-advised handouts from well-meaning kids. It opened its nostrils and exhaled again.

“Oh. Well, hello there. You’re a pretty thing, aren’t you? Come here often?” So, maybe the sun was getting to him a bit. He was chatting up a seal. The seal just. Kept staring at him. Then it made a sort of grunting, wailing sound like a strangled baby. Its eyes went narrow, and it almost looked like it was glaring at him? It had a strangely intelligent look about it that made Frenchie a little bit wary.

“You’re not some sort of shape-shifting witch, are you? I know most witches prefer like, cats or crows or something, but you can never be too careful.” Frenchie squatted down so that he was relatively eye level with the seal bobbing in the water. “They steal babies’ breath and put spells on people to make them do their evil bidding, you know. Witches, I mean.”

The seal made the strangled baby sound again, but louder, and then snarled. Frenchie didn’t even know most seals had teeth, but those ones looked pretty pointy. So either it was just an angry seal, or it didn’t like being called a witch. “Alright, alright, not a witch then!” he decided.

He laughed a bit and started back at the seal. It looked a bit like it was sizing him up. “You are pretty, though. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one like you. Most of the seals I’ve seen were just plain brown and sort of stubby looking. The ones in the zoos and all over the shipyards, yeah?”

The seal snorted at him and—did it just roll its eyes? Frenchie didn’t have long to ponder that, because the seal decided to choose that moment to be a total dick.
It shot forward in the water—holy shit did it move fast—and snagged the loose front of Frenchie’s shirt with its teeth to yank him into the water. Frenchie went flailing into the sea. Face first. Got a nice mouthful of salt water for his trouble.

He spluttered and coughed, pushing his wet hair out of his face. “What the fuck was that for!?” Frenchie yelled at it when he could breathe right again. The seal barked, almost like it was laughing. And then, with its flippers and belly resting on the sand, lifted its head and tail up. “Are you—are you fucking banana posing over this!? Seriously?”

It let out another barking laugh before it sort of scooted back into deeper water. As one last bit of ‘fuck you’ icing on the ‘fuck you’ cake, it slapped its tail flippers down on the water right as it was moving past Frenchie and sprayed him with water hard enough to sting.

Frenchie jerked back, falling into the water again when he tried to shield his eyes from the spray. “I take it back!” He yelled after the seal’s retreating form. “You’re not pretty at all! You’re an ugly, rotten, sea-pig son of a whore!”

He got back up and kicked at the water. “Fuck!”

Well, there was no use staying on the beach after that. He was completely soaked, and by the time he stumbled out of the water and grabbed his shoes, he had wet sand clinging to him up to his knees.

Forcing his shoes back on, Frenchie squelched and squeaked and cursed his way home, leaving a trail of sand and seawater in his wake.

Stede was waiting for him when he got back, all ready to ask him about his trip down to the beach, no doubt. The sunny smile dropped off the man’s face when he took in Frenchie’s miserable drowned rat appearance. He hurried off and came back with a towel.

“Oh, Frenchie, what happened?” Stede asked after Frenchie had wrapped himself up.

“Fuckin’ seals, mate,” was all he said as he trudged up stairs for a shower and a change of clothes. “Oh dear…” Stede murmured quietly from where he lingered in the front hallway.

***

Two days later and Frenchie had mostly gotten over the Seal Incident. Wee John, his new roommate, told him that seals were little shits in general at the best of times, so he shouldn’t feel too bad that one had been a little shit to him, specifically.

Besides, Roach was taking him to go for a sort of casual interview today, and Frenchie was too excited at the opportunity to be grumpy.

Stede had brought the place up to him the other night when he had mentioned job hunting. Apparently, his fiancé owned a popular restaurant that liked to hire live musicians fairly regularly, and Roach happened to work there as a cook. Well, who was Frenchie to pass up a chance to perform? And for pay!

So, that afternoon, Frenchie slung his lute, freshly tuned and polished, over his shoulder and followed Roach out the door.

The restaurant was in a more touristy part of town, and it was a decent sized building. On the front sign there was a picture of a pirate ship one side and a seal with a fish in its mouth on the other. Smooshed between the two pictures was… A lot of words. Like. A lot. Frenchie wasn’t exactly the strongest reader, and that many words, all cramped together, were just so jumbled he couldn’t quite make them all out.

“Uhhh…” He said, glancing to Roach.

“Blackbeard’s Bar and Grill and Other Delicacies and Delights and Fishing Equipment.” Roach told him with a sharp grin. “But all the locals just call it Blackbeard’s.”
“That’s… a lot. Fishing equipment? In a restaurant?” Frenchie asked as he opened the door. A little bell tinkled overhead.

“Yeah,” Roach said as he followed Frenchie inside, “there’s a giftshop ‘round the side, too. It’s always a hit with the tourists, though, so, eh.”

While Roach clocked in, Frenchie took a chance to look around. It looked like the inside of a pirate ship. Or at least, what he thought the inside of a pirate ship might look like. All the walls, the floor, and the ceiling were made with wooden boards. The Ol’ Rodger flag hung proudly on the back wall. Everywhere else there were old swords and one-shot pistols mounted around. The tables and chairs, and even the bar counter all looked like they were made of rough-cut wood. On the table closest to him, Frenchie could see that the top was coated in thick resin with seals and mermaids and all kinds of fish painted on it.

Right. Nassau. Former pirate cove where the famous Blackbeard liked to dock. Perfect tourist crawl.

Roach pulled him out of his thoughts when he tapped him on the shoulder. “The owner and the manager are in the back. It’s the door under the flag, says ‘crew mates only’ on the sign. See it?”

Frenchie nodded and went on his way.

He paused at the door, wondering if he should knock first. He dithered a little longer before knocking twice. No answer.

So, he shrugged and pushed the door open. It creaked on its hinges, revealing a long hallway with a couple different doors. Alright. Well, the owner and manager had to be behind one of those doors, right? The door he’d opened kept swinging and knocked against something soft that fell to the ground. Oh, must have been a coat hanger. And he’d knocked a coat down.

It was a nice-looking coat. He should probably put that back on the rack so it wouldn’t get dirty.

Frenchie picked it up and paused. It was long and heavy as fuck, but so soft. On closer inspection, it looked like fur. Who wore fur coats in the Caribbean? It was brown and tawny spotted. It looked almost… familiar.

He was so busy staring at the coat that he didn’t notice the two men coming out of the door at the far end until he heard a raspy voice yell, “What the fuck are you doing!?”

Frenchie startled so badly he nearly dropped the coat, whipping around to see a very short, very angry man charging down the hall at him with murderous intent.
When the short, angry man was only a few strides away, Frenchie finally found his voice. “Sorry! I’m sorry!” He held the coat out to the man. “This is yours, right? I just—I didn’t mean to! It fell off the coat rack when I came in and, well—here!”

The man stopped short. His face went from angry to scared, to finally settling on blank. “What…?”

The man behind the angry man, taller and broader with a rather luxurious beard, was watching the exchange with wide eyes. He looked almost as shellshocked.
Gingerly, Frenchie held the coat out to the man. Slowly, like he was expecting it to be snatched away or something, the short man took the coat and cradled it to his chest. He stared up at Frenchie, eyes blank. And then there seemed to be some spark of recognition. Which was odd, because Frenchie had never seen this guy before. The short guy snapped back into anger, baring his teeth in a wicked snarl before he turned on his heel and fled back down the hall.

“Well,” the taller man said to nobody in particular, “wasn’t expecting that.” Then he turned a piercing gaze on Frenchie. “Who are you again?”

Frenchie gulped.