Hey ya'll! Just a reminder that the sequel, "The Mermaid and Her Boy" is up and about to be finished! To help wet your appetite enough to go hunt it down, I've included this revised sneak peek.

"Marco."

"Polo."

"Marco!"

"Polo—Oy!"

Kazuya closed his eyes to the glow of his laptop and took a deep breath through his nostrils. He tried to focus on the smell of earl grey tea, the hum of the CPU, the rock of the boat against the waves.

"Come here Marco Marco, your pretty face better not be under the water."

"Yasu, polo."

"I said two Marcos—three!"

"Polo."

"Oh, come on, don't be like—AH HA!"

A wild splash, a loud grown man's yip, and then boisterous laughter.

From across the table came a loud, annoyed snort.

"You'd think they were children," said Ayako, and even with his eyes closed Kazuya could see her flipping back her red hair for the fifth time since she had sat down across from him. Why didn't the idiot just tie it up if it kept getting in her way? "I swear that Yasu swings in a different direction. Any chance I could look through your room for some nail polish? If I keep working with the ropes like this I'm going to have potato chips instead of nails."

Kazuya took a deep inhale. Lin needed this crew. They couldn't risk finding another. It was a miracle they had found one at all. Remember that.

After refocusing on his happy things, he opened up his eyes and went back to where he had been in his article.

-the baby girl was born alive, but died an hour afterwards. Doctors recorded the time of death and the reasoning being 'severe sireneomelia.' Though I searched diligently for the mother to request permission for the release of the infant's body for my collection, she was nowhere to be found, and the doctors could tell me little as to what had happened to the body. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but think how curious it was that in all recorded cases of sireneomelia, the patients are female.

Another clue, but not a helpful one. He already knew humans could sire mermaid with one of the merfolk, but that wouldn't help him find Mai. Even so, he summarized the story in his notebook along with a reference. Passing down the article, he moved on to find the next. Maybe he had to think outside of mermaids and the Bermuda Triangle. Perhaps the coral reefs of the Bahamas? The Triangle did bottom out there. Hadn't there been natives on the Bahamas when Columbus had come through? Yes, there had, that should help.

"Marco." Yasu pitched his voice up high and girly.

"Polo."

"Marco, come to me, my angel of music!"

"…Polo."

A swish of hair across a denim vest. "What is he trying to do? I can't believe Takigawa can stand that little runt. Did you hear my question about the nail polish?"

Kazuya raised his eyebrows at her from over the laptop. "No." Back to his search. What was that tribe's name again? He should know this. He could remember a myth from them concerning the blue holes, but merfolk couldn't hide in those. Nothing could, as after a dozen feet or so the water became devoid of oxygen and life. Still salt water could do that.

Ayako let out a loud, weary sigh. "That sucks. Isn't there something fun to do on here?"

"Marco Marco Marco Marco!"

"Polo."

"Aw, you said my name last time. Come on, Takigawa."

"Polo."

"Oh Marco, wherefore art thou Marco!"

Ayako's boots squeaked as she shifted her legs. "Hey, Kazuya, isn't there—"

He snapped his laptop closed. Prickles of heat ran up and down his neck and arms. It took all his self control not to slam the kitchen door behind him as he left, but the lot questioned him enough because of his age without him acting it.

From the waters, Takigawa caught sight of him stomping up the steps to the Captain's quarters.

"Time to board yet, Cap?"

But Kazuya ignored him and made sure to lock the door behind him. Lin would take care of it once he was done switching beacon codes for the ship in order to disguise its identity.

Though he had intended to work up here instead (why he hadn't started up here in the beginning was because the cabin was a heat trap, A/C or no), but once he sat at the fold out metal desk from the wall and started it up, he found himself staring at the screen. Like it had several times throughout the night, his mind seized up and his fingers went cold. He tried taking several deep breaths, hoping it would work as it had before in bringing him back, but a rock like constriction filled his lungs.

He didn't even know why he was so upset. Sure idiots got on his nerves, but he'd made it through college just fine. Those three he could have ignored easily. But for some reason, the laughing, the ridiculousness of it all, the unprofessionalism—

He pushed off from the desk and dug the balls of his hands to his eyes. They were shaking. He had never trembled so much in his life as he had the past week. What had Mai done to him?

Mai…

Laughter from outside leaked through the door and he had to restrain the urge to open the door and scream at them. That alone frightened him, as the last time he had wanted to do that was when he was five. What was wrong with him?

But forget that, what was he doing? Risking the lives of strangers to save a girl who was probably just fine? With her own kind, even? Going through this expense—going to this extreme—he shouldn't be doing this, but he had to. He tried to remind himself of the challenge, excuse it as research and groundbreaking, but the flat freeze of his innards powered his need to yell until the world righted itself.

Because those idiots shouldn't be laughing. They shouldn't be complaining about—about nail polish or rules of some moronic children's game, they should have their noses in books, picking up facts, scrambling just as desperately as he to find her, his Mai, his needle in the haystack. It was so much more vastly important, and their lighthearted nature sounded as out of place on his boat as it would at a funeral.

Yes. Yes, that's why it annoyed him. But that was ridiculous. They didn't know Mai, nor had he expressed any of his feelings for her, and never would. No one should look into his heart and see just how much of a love-sodden pathetic fool he was. No one should touch this shameful weakness of his. They'd tell him to forget her anyways, anyone would. Mermaids belonged in the sea, and she hadn't even given him a sign that she felt anything more than friendship for him, if that.

And when the first storm came, when the first crew member fell overboard, what would be his excuse then?

A memory of a glittering Mai in the waves, hair in curls about her cheeks, rose and was shoved away. Yet that brief second of contact was enough to weaken his knees and push him back into the flimsy metal folding chair.

Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

Something clicked.

"Move and I shoot."