This fic was inspired by Valkyrie's birthday card to me, a comment by Lutra, and the picture below (the inspiration for Meriel's lagoon). It's by Jonathan Cummings, one of my absolute favourite digital artists: the picture is a link to his website. The pic is © Jonathan Cummings, copied from the Webshots e-cards site. Jaid is my own character: Meriel is an adaptation of Merill (Yanagawa, Benten's real name), and while based on Benten of Cyber City Oedo 808, is essentially my own character. You don't need to know the anime to understand the story.
This is the mild version of the fic - the graphic version is posted in the password-protected Zone on the WaveWrights site.
He was woken gently from sleep on the lilting waters by a sweet low sound... No, not a sound, a song.
Meriel rubbed at half-open crimson eyes with an elegant pale hand, webbed fingers flexing slightly as he brushed silver-white mane back from his face. Gazing around in the light of the waning twin moons, his night-vision sharp, he could see no-one: the lagoon was empty.
Yet it was definitely a song, soft, low, sweet and melancholy. Not the breeze through the solitary tree on the low island - not that there was a breeze tonight in any case. And it was the wrong season for the migratory flamewings to be passing overhead. And the flute-fish swam the waters further towards the deeper ocean. It was a song...
Meriel growled quietly to himself - it was no good, he was thoroughly awake now, and curious - and a little annoyed. If another Ichthian had intruded into his territory... Twisting smoothly over onto his front, he slipped out of the warm shallows into deeper water, powerful tail propelling him forwards with hardly a ripple.
The lagoon was still and calm, the red moon's light tingeing the water with crimson, casting a pale ruddy hue over the short grass on the islets and edging the leaves on the tree with blood. Little grew here - the tides that covered the islands when the moons were full made sure of that - and trees were vanishingly rare, and a source of deep fascination to the inhabitants of the waterworld...
Meriel patrolled his territory, searching for the source of the song. It echoed against the rocks and through the gullies of the islets, making it difficult for him to trace it precisely, but as he rounded the moonward rocks of the largest isle he caught a glimpse of... something...
The song stopped abruptly. Startled eyes, vast and dark in the uncertain light, flickered to his sleek pale form - then the figure was gone, flipping itself off the smooth rock in a flurry of lacy fins, diving deep and racing away.
Meriel halted for just a moment, startled himself, then headed after the figure, angry that anyone had dared to invade his home... but also curious. What was the stranger doing here, so far out in the ocean, so far from the larger, warmer islands to sunward? He swam almost leisurely through the clear ocean, fluked tail driving him after the stranger...
.. who was struggling in his efforts to escape pursuit. Meriel noted the flicking side-to-side motion of the extravagant tail, almost absently realising that this wasn't a hunter, and hence probably not much of a threat - heh, the creature was so slow! - then circling around in front of it.
To its credit, it at least tried to make a getaway, the lean dark body doubling over as it dived deeper, but the extraordinary collection of fins and the long elaborate tail were proving more of a hindrance than a help... Wondering distantly how it ever managed to survive, Meriel followed it down, swimming circles around the panicked creature. Finally he backed it against a large boulder and was able to take his first good look at his catch.
He grimaced in disgust. Heh! This was no ocean-living Ichthian: it had the look of a shallow-dwelling weed-eater, a pteroid, he'd guess, of no use except for its decorative value. The lacy fins were almost as long as its entire body, splayed out to either side as it trembled under his scrutiny. Its mane was even longer than his own, and black with rich green highlights, its eyes huge and terrified in a dark golden, high-cheekboned face...
It was male.
Growling, Meriel lunged forwards instinctively, claws slashing across the creature's torso, tail slapping its lower body hard against the boulder. It cried out, head jerking backwards in pain, then Meriel felt something stabbing into his flank. He paused, one webbed hand wrapped around the creature's neck, and glanced down - to see three of the spines that supported the intruder's ventral fins buried a hand's-span deep in his own flesh. Grabbing them with his free hand, he yanked them out, only to wince in pain as the sharp edges cut open his palm.
Head jerking back up to glare into the huge, vivid green eyes, he tried to tighten his fingers around the slender neck - only to find his grip loosening as a slow paralysis spread through his body. From the corner of his eye, just before he lost consciousness, he saw the looming forms of the squalous predators gathering, attracted by the blood...
Cold dryness on his back, something hard beneath his front... Meriel forced open an eye. He was lying on one of the low islets, just out of reach of the squaloids threshing the water a scant taillength away. His body felt heavy and awkward, even more so than usual when out of water, and his skin tingled unpleasantly, but the numbness was slowly wearing off. As awareness returned he heard harsh breathing beside him, and, gritting his teeth, turned his head.
The intruder lay at his side, resting on his forearms, panting loudly, head drooping. It appeared that he had somehow dragged both himself and Meriel onto the islet and out of reach of the predators. But the effort had clearly exhausted him: he wasn't built for strength or speed.
The stranger froze momentarily, then his head slowly turned to regard Meriel.
"... w... why?" The low, sweet voice quavered. Meriel frowned.
"Why did you help me?"
"I..." The stranger swallowed nervously, unconsciously moving slightly away from Meriel. "I... don't... I..."
Meriel gritted his teeth and forced himself to try to remain calm.
"Why are you here?"
The pteroid flinched.
"I..." He seemed incapable of responding. Meriel was sure he would have slipped back into the water and swum away had the predators not still been circling. The delphinid sighed silently and shifted over to lie on his side, cheek resting on one palm, keeping his movements slow and deliberate. After all, the creature had saved his life - even if he had first endangered it.
"Who are you?"
"I... I'm... I was... a pet..."
Meriel frowned. He'd heard of pets - pretty, ornamental Ichthians kept by some of the larger selachids for decoration in their lairs. They were usually slaves, much smaller and weaker than their masters, and unable to defend themselves.
Meriel blinked, bemused at the thought of anyone keeping something so pretty just to dance. Although, with those extravagant fins and long lacy tail...
"You have a name?"
"And what are you doing here?"
The pteroid's lower lip quivered as he bowed his head.
"My master... died... the others wanted me. I was afraid..."
"They hunted me. I killed one of them." He twisted to gaze at Meriel, big eyes filled with tears. "I didn't mean to! He... he tried to... And my spines..."
Meriel nodded with grim amusement.
"He tried to force you, you poisoned him, the squaloids scented the blood..."
Jaid was shivering, his voice a frightened whisper.
"It was horrible... they tore him to pieces, then went after the others..."
Meriel could imagine it - he'd seen a squaloid attack. Once maddened by the taste of flesh, they fed frenziedly, leaving very little for the scavengers. How Jaid had escaped them Meriel couldn't imagine. But he had no love for selachids, wasn't sorry to hear about their fate.
"Did they hurt you?"
"Forget it, then."
Jaid scrubbed a thin, graceful hand over his eyes.
"I can't... Maru was kind to me... I liked him..."
"And the rest of the pod would have killed you. Painfully."
There was a fraught silence, then Jaid twisted to sit up, balanced elegantly on one hip, fins folded behind him and tail draped sinuously across the close-cropped grass. He was, Meriel realised, exquisitely beautiful.
"I must sing his death."
The delphinid frowned.
"You sing too?"
Jaid nodded, hair flowing like an ebbing tide with the motion.
"I must sing my thanks for his favour, and my sorrow at his death. Then..." he swallowed. "Then... I don't know what I shall do. I don't know..." the sweet low voice caught for a second "... anything."
Maybe not, but he'd somehow managed to make it to this remote lagoon, many days distant from the nearest inhabitable area, without being injured or eaten. Which was a feat even Meriel would have considered long and hard before attempting. Then again, when desperation drives...
He regarded the pteroid appraisingly as the song started, wordless and eerie in the night. The moons had set, but the sky blazed with stars almost as brightly as if they still spread their light over the waters: Jaid's eyes were closed, his head flung back, arms slightly raised and hands outspread.
He really was very beautiful. Very decorative.
Meriel closed his eyes. How long had it been since he'd had any intimacy, with anyone? Not since before his pod had driven him out as a freak, the silvery-whiteness of his skin and mane believed a sign of evil fortune, and his blood-coloured eyes a sign of death.
He was lonely.
Jaid had nowhere to go - and it didn't seem likely he could care for himself. Not out here, anyway.
Perhaps he'd stay for a while.
Jaid sang through the night. Beside him, Meriel drifted in and out of uneasy sleep, waking every now and then to find the pteroid watching him, watching over him, face solemn but peaceful in the starlight. It was uncomfortable, sleeping on land. They'd both need to get back into the water at first light - but the squaloids would be gone in search of easier prey by then, and it was unlikely they'd return. They weren't fond of the shallow waters around the islets.
As the sun gilded the far horizon Jaid's song gradually whispered away. He lowered his arms, his shoulders slumping, and gave a long, quiet sigh. Turning to Meriel, now fully awake and watching, he smiled tremulously.
"Are you well?"
The delphinid frowned, then his brow cleared. He flexed his body, then checked his hand and flank: the cuts had closed and were almost healed, thanks to his fast recuperative abilities. He nodded.
The pteroid ran long webbed fingers down his chest, over smooth dark golden skin, and over his belly where skin gradually became scale, blending almost imperceptibly. The claw gouges were still raw, but had stopped bleeding.
"I will be fine in a day or two." He eased himself down onto the short turf, wincing as muscle complained about being in one unnatural position for too long, then stretched, tail coiling and flexing. He glanced at Meriel through heavy strands of his mane. "I will be able to leave today, though. I would not wish to impose upon you."
The delphinid ran a finger over a thin shoulder, growling quietly as Jaid flinched.
"I'm not going to hurt you. I was going to ask if you wanted to stay a while."
Big, bright green eyes widened.
Meriel inclined his head, one eyebrow quirked.
"Full sentences are difficult for you, aren't they?"
Jaid's skin flushed an even darker shade of gold.
He stared at Meriel - then suddenly laughed, a light, joyous sound.
"I am... confounded by your kindness. Might I ask your name?"
Jaid tentatively reached a hand to Meriel's face, touching the smooth cheek gently.
"Then thank you, Meriel. I would be most grateful to accept your kind offer."
"Kind? Nothing of the sort. And I don't want you to keep me awake with your singing."
The pteroid smiled.
Meriel quickly found that Jaid was a delightful companion. Quiet, thoughtful and considerate, he swiftly fell into the delphinid's routine - such as it was - patrolling the waters around the lagoon, sleeping close together in the shallows, eating, conversing... One hot, still afternoon Meriel asked the pteroid to dance for him, and Jaid had happily agreed.
Suspended between surface and seabed, a bed of turquoise kelp as a backdrop, Jaid had turned and twisted, arcing and swaying gracefully, sensuously, fins fanning our at his sides and back, glinting and glittering in the filtered light. Somewhere in the far distance one of the great cetaceans was singing: nearer at hand the wash of water over the rocky beaches of the islets counterpointed the sounds of nearby fish, and Jaid wove it all into one erotic, exotic pavane. At the end all Meriel could do was stare, entranced, as Jaid veiled himself in his mane and arched backwards, fluidly graceful...
The pteroid flipped slowly backwards in a complete circle, righting himself then swimming to join his companion, vivid green eyes gazing into the delphinid's face. He eased closer, holding Meriel's attention... The delphinid gasped, then groaned, closing his eyes, as a slender hand reached forwards...
When Meriel finally came back to himself he found the pteroid floating beside him, gently stroking him. Jaid leaned forwards and kissed his cheek, a light brushing of lips that made his entire body tingle, then wrapped thin arms around his shoulders, pulling him up to float taildown then finned closer, reaching to hold him tightly...
Later, tending to his companion, Meriel was to curse himself for not having the strength to resist. At the time the sensations were overwhelming, irresistible, and he lost control, was much rougher than he'd meant to be... As Jaid slumped against him, hurt and faint, the delphinid panicked, diving upwards for the shallows...
Jaid woke to find himself cuddled closely against Meriel's side, head resting on a pale shoulder, his body aching... Then he remembered what he'd done. He nipped at his companion's ear: Meriel woke instantly, twisting to gaze closely at the pteroid.
"Are you well?"
Jaid smiled back tiredly.
"I may have been a little forward."
Meriel's eyes closed for a moment in relief, then he scowled.
"Of all the stupid things to do..."
Jaid cowered, hands raised pleadingly.
"I'm sorry! I... you're so... I couldn't resist..."
Meriel paused, closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then glowered at the smaller male.
"Nice to know - but I could have hurt you!"
Jaid wriggled, flinching as pain surged through him. Meriel growled.
"Hurt you worse, I mean. You're bruised, but nothing more. At least, I don't think so. You didn't bleed."
Jaid's eyes closed.
"Oh, well, that's good. At least we won't have to worry about predators."
Meriel slapped his shoulder lightly.
"Don't be flippant."
Jaid rubbed gingerly at his body, then forced a smile.
"I'll just have to get used to it."
"Next time we'll go much more slowl... what?"
"I'll have to get used to it."
"You want to do this again?"
Bright green eyes gazed ingenuously at him.
"But of course."
"I danced for you. I want to dance only for you. Sing only for you. Will you let me?"
"You want... to be my pet?"
Jaid's expression became troubled.
"You don't want me here?"
"That isn't what I said."
Jaid flipped over onto his front, head bowed, voice a murmur.
"I'm sorry. I misunderstood. I thought..."
He froze as sharp claws carded gently through his mane.
"That isn't what I said."
Jaid glanced over his shoulder into sombre crimson eyes.
"I do want you here. No idea why, you're slow, weak, a hopeless hunter, a weed-chewing, noisy, frivolous, useless... But I don't like the thought of you not being here." Which was absolutely true, he realised. Jaid had filled an emptiness he hadn't even suspected a short while ago.
The pteroid rolled carefully onto his side and reached for Meriel's hand, interlacing his fingers with the delphinid's, big eyes limpid and adoring.
"I'm sorry to be such a burden to you. I can't change most of that - but if it makes you happy, I'll try eating fish..."
"You'd be ill. I'd rather you weren't."
Jaid rolled onto his back and stretched, displaying his fins in the warm shallow water.
"Oh, I wouldn't want that." He offered Meriel a slow smile, delighted when the delphinid rolled onto his back and dragged the pteroid atop his lean powerful body, holding him tenderly, and for a while they lay happily in the warm afternoon shallows, oblivious to anything around them, wrapped around each other.
It was a good place to be.
© 2005 March 4th Joules Taylor