Author's Note: Okay. First off, the next chapter of You Can't Take the Sky From Me is almost done. Barring a random disaster, it WILL be out by the end of the week. But I really needed to start getting this story out of my system. Who am I to ignore the muses? Cerulean will not be a super long fic. I'm not quite sure of the chapter count, but certainly it will be under fifteen chapters. It's a little bit fantasy, a little bit slice of life, and a lot romance. The main pairing is AmericaxEngland. There are minor pairings in the form of CanadaxUkraine, SwedenxFinland, DenmarkxNorway, and SpainxSouth Italy. There are some notes at the end of the chapter.
By Everything is Magic
Arthur Kirkland was spending his second consecutive summer in Cape Cod when it occurred, when the sea that provided his May to September getaway revealed to him something amazing, something brilliant, something that would change his life forever.
The beachfront condo that Arthur was staying at belonged to his father, an American mogul that he scarcely knew, but who had offered it to him upon discovering where his son was currently residing. Arthur suspected that his father had houses in most of the fifty states, and that he probably didn't visit this one often anyway. His English mother had raised him in London, and he'd only come over to the United States for schooling. The states still felt new to him from time to time, and he often longed for rainy and crowded, but to him, charming, London. But he was hardly going to turn down an acceptance letter and a scholarship from Harvard. So in his eighteenth year, he'd left home to attend the university. Arthur had just completed his sophomore year, with journalism on his mind as a career.
Unfortunately for Arthur, he wasn't living at the condo alone. His half-brother, Francis, was staying there as well, and for that Arthur was eternally ungrateful. He and Francis shared a father, and their mothers, despite living across the channel from each other and despite having once been in a relationship with the same man, shared a friendship. Thus, this unusual arrangement had led the two boys to spend a large amount of time together since their childhood. As much as Francis was the most perverse and aggravating person that Arthur had ever had the pleasure of knowing, he was his half-brother, and one of his only consistent friends. For that, he couldn't begrudge him too much.
Francis was in Provincetown this weekend though, no doubt exploring the scene with his two best friends, Gilbert and Antonio. Arthur sighed in pleasure at this. An entire weekend free of Francis; free of his loud friends and the men and women he'd whisk to the bedroom without even remotely attempting to keep it discreet. Free from his prodding, for Francis was always urging him to get out more, to try a relationship, to stop thinking about school all the time (it was summer!) and relax.
He bloody well knew how to relax perfectly fine! And he was doing that just now. He'd taken his father's yacht out after all, and he was enjoying a beautiful day on Nantucket Sound! He had a book to read (Lord Byron's Major Works), a thermos of tea, and a lunch of sandwiches that he'd prepared himself. He could think of few things more relaxing than the yacht gently bobbing on the Atlantic sound, as he enjoyed the salty sea air and the sound of the water lapping at the boat and the birds crying overhead.
Francis was barmy if he thought that a rowdy weekend in Provincetown was better than this. He smiled lightly. Upon piloting the boat for around half an hour, he'd decided to allow the yacht to drift. As long as the shore was in sight, he was all right. He glanced behind him to see the pale line of beach and land. Setting his thermos of tea and his book aside, Arthur walked to the back of the yacht and sat down. He pulled off his deck shoes and slid them under a bench, allowing his bare feet to dangle in the cool blue water.
He loved the weather here. Warm, but not too warm; pleasant and lightly breezy and just… perfect for his time off school. Every once in a while when he was out on the yacht, he'd spot the blowhole of a whale or the fin of a dolphin, or see a seal bobbing about (there were scads of seals in the area), and that was always a bit thrilling. Fish would even nibble at his toes from time to time, gently, because they were so small. It tickled and caused him to chuckle quietly whenever it occurred.
He hadn't spotted a thing today, outside a school of fish beneath the surface, and the inevitable seabirds overhead. It was a slight disappointment, but the weather was so beautiful and the lack of Francis so enjoyable, that he didn't mind. Nonetheless, he half considered getting up and going to the downstairs cabin in attempt to locate the binoculars that he knew were kept somewhere on the yacht. Instead, he settled on returning to his book. But as he was about to push himself up to retrieve it, he heard a rather loud splash. Swiftly looking forward, he spotted the telltale fluke of a dolphin, although from where he was, it looked an unusual color. Not quite the normal gray, but instead, a bright blue. Arthur didn't pretend to know everything about sea life (in truth, it was hardly his field of expertise), so perhaps, he assumed, it was just a species he hadn't encountered before. He observed the water, hoping for the dolphin to surface again.
After several moments, it did, leaping into the air and turning a flip, the sheen of it catching in the bright sunlit. That's what he had expected, at least, having seen dolphins leap out of the water on several occasions. The reality was quite different though. The animal with its bright dolphin fluke did indeed soar out of the water, but it hardly looked like a dolphin at all outside of that. Peach skin, long arms, a shock of blonde hair, and… a tail. He nearly fell face forward into the water as he leaned forward, rubbing his eyes in disbelief. A mermaid? No, no, he rectified. A merman.
But that was asinine. Even Arthur, who had grown up in a rather superstitious household where salt was always thrown over the shoulder, and where his mother gave him haircuts when the moon was waxing, could not believe that this was anything more than a mistake. He was seeing things. Being around Francis had affected his brain, or something of the sort. The dolphin (for surely it was that), had long landed back in the water and had not surfaced again. Good. He'd just forget he'd ever seen anything (not that he had).
But just seconds later, a head popped up out of the water, and less than two meters away, quite obviously attached, was a tail. And he was… well, smiling. He gulped, taking a deep breath and yelling out, his curiosity gaining the best of him, "Hallo?" The creature perked up, looking straight at him. "Yes, you there, merman or whatever you are." Well, at least if he had gone off his rocker and was seeing things, there was no one there to make fun of him for it.
But there was no getting around it. Arthur was quite definitively seeing exactly what he had first assumed. The man, nay, half-man, splashed forward, leaping above the water with incongruous ease, his bloody tail flashing cerulean blue in the mid-afternoon sunlight. It melded with his upper body seamlessly, the smooth blue gradually fading, until all that was left was a very human looking torso.
The boy paused once he'd reached the edge of the yacht, eyes wide as saucers, and an expression of intense confusion and amazement on his face, as if Arthur were the strange one here. Arthur's breath quaked as he surveyed the man before him, who had proceeded to rest his arms on the edge of the boat, chin atop his hands.
"Y-you can see me?" He finally uttered. His blue eyes were still large, and they were bright, to the point of verging on unnatural. He shook his mussed golden hair (vibrant like his eyes) and waited.
Arthur gulped thickly. "O-of course I can bloody see you. You're right in front of me." Perhaps that had been a tad rude. Snapping at what appeared to a merman may not have been wise. "I mean, I apologize. I can see you, yes."
"Wow, that's awesome!"
Awesome. Had a merman seriously popped out of the Atlantic Ocean beside his yacht and declared something awesome?
"So what's your name? I'm Alfred!" The merman was beaming now, and his smile was brilliant to the point of ridiculousness.
"A-Arthur." It was all he could manage to say.
Alfred laughed. "Nice to meet you Arthur." He reached up and slapped a hand on his arm, and Arthur noticed a small sprinkling of smooth looking blue flesh on Alfred's wrist, leading up to a miniature fin that ran about half the length of his forearm.
The Englishman's throat felt dry. A merman had just slapped him on the arm, in a friendly gesture of greeting; a very handsome merman, but a merman nonetheless. He closed his eyes for a moment, calming his nerves. "Alfred, it's… a pleasure to meet you as well. That being said, do you mind telling me what the hell is going on?" Clearly he'd had too much to drink the night before; except Arthur knew that he hadn't downed any alcohol at all.
The merman scratched the back of his head with his other arm, and Arthur caught a flash of iridescent fin on that one as well. "Oops."
He let out a nervous laugh. "I kind of got excited, okay? It's just… well I've never met anyone who can see through our uh…" he searched for a word, "disguise, I guess?" There was an oddness to the manner in which he spoke, a slight over enunciation of the consonants, the pace in which he was speaking quickened and slowed at incorrect points in words, and his pitch fluctuated unevenly between syllables.
"Disguise?" Arthur noticed that Alfred's hand was still resting on his arm. He chanced a glance down at it, completely normal except for the slightly translucent fin. Despite being in the water, his skin was a comfortable temperature.
"Yes! We can't just let humans see us… at least not any longer, so to most people we appear as dolphins."
He shrugged. "Don't know? It's safe. Humans treat us well. We don't have to worry about getting caught or whatever in most places. You all like dolphins."
Arthur tapped his chin. People did have a bit of affinity toward dolphins, so he supposed that made sense. Wait a damn second. Nothing makes sense! "You're a… merman?"
Alfred merely nodded, still smiling. Arthur smacked his forehead. "I won't believe it. I can't! This is preposterous. This is-"
He was interrupted by a splash and the slight creak of the yacht as more weight was added to it.
Alfred was sitting right next to him, having pushed himself up onto the edge of the boat. The end of his tail swished back and forth, treading ocean water in a gentle manner. Unbidden, Arthur's eyes skimmed up and down the man's body, his muscular torso, his sodding tail, smooth and almost rubbery looking, like the skin of a dolphin. He turned his face toward Arthur, and those blue eyes sparkled. "Uh, hi?"
"….So wait a minute. You mean to tell me that if a boat were to come by right now, they'd see me sitting on the back of a yacht conversing with a dolphin?"
Alfred scrunched up his face, as if in thought. "Hmm, good question. I don't know."
"Anyway, you're pretty much the first human being I've ever talked to! Isn't that awesome?" His grin was larger than ever now.
"I-I am?" Arthur felt a pang of guilt stab at him, because he'd been rather pissy with the… merman. He breathed deeply. "You- honestly, I don't mean to be rude, but can you just explain yourself?"
"Hmm." Alfred tapped his chin. "I'm a merman. I'm nineteen summers old. I have a twin brother named Matthew and we've lived in this area of the Atlantic for a few years. I like playing ah- what do you call them? Sports! I love playing sports and- "
"That's very well, thank you," Arthur interrupted. "I meant the fact that you're a merman."
Alfred splashed some water on his fin, presumably to keep it from getting dry. "Yeah!"
"And this isn't a bit… strange to you?"
"Uh. No," Alfred responded, bewildered.
Arthur bit his lip. What kind of question had that been? Of course it wasn't bloody strange to him. "I'm sorry. I'm just… finding this all very hard to believe."
The merman glanced at him, pensive. He leaned his arms back on the yacht and tilted his head up toward the sky. At that moment, Arthur thought he was beautiful. He'd be stupid to deny it. There was something otherworldly about the creature, in his brightness and his smile and- perhaps it was intentional? Arthur had read many legends about the beauty of mermaids, the traps that unsuspecting sailors were led into because of those supernatural women.
Arthur didn't precisely feel threatened by Alfred, but musing on the merpeople legends he'd grown up with, the uncanny attractiveness did seem to make more sense.
"Yeah, I guess you would. Tino says that it used to be that everyone knew of us, but that was… lifetimes and lifetimes before I was born."
Arthur shifted slightly, his hand accidentally coming in contact with the smooth wet skin of Alfred's bottom half as he did so. "S-sorry." He pulled away, blushing hotly.
The merman waved his hand, uncaring. "That reminds me…"
Before Arthur could even reply, Alfred had stretched toward him, running a finger down his burning cheek and then up into his windswept hair and- just kind of sifting around, hands investigating Arthur's face and hair, as if touching and exploring something new, which he assumed was exactly what he was doing. At one point he even ran his fingers across Arthur's thick eyebrows. Talk about not understanding personal space! He was flush against Arthur, his tail pressing next to his bare legs and his torso mere inches away. Alfred's expression could only be described as intent yet curious. He was biting his lip, appearing concentrated, yet his eyes were wide and brimming with inquisitiveness.
And then he moved his hands down to Arthur's legs, his fascination only growing. He bent Arthur's knee, moving the joint back and forth and looking amazed as he did so. Awkwardly, Arthur shifted so his leg was entirely on the deck, and Alfred immediately moved down to his feet, fingers running along and between each toe, and then bending them to test the joints.
Arthur winced, gritting his teeth to stop himself from laughing as Alfred's light touching moved to the bottom of his feet.
As if this day could get any stranger, he was now being felt up by a merman. He assumed Alfred wasn't doing anything of the sort. The inquisitive expression never left his face, and every few seconds, he would hear him mutter 'so cool' or 'awesome' or things of the sort under his breath. He'd never thought of his toes as 'amazing!' but to Alfred, they apparently were.
The entire time, Arthur could not even come close to willing down the scarlet flush that flooded his cheeks. He was well aware of his preference for the same sex, and had been for many years, so it was only natural that Alfred was eliciting this reaction from him. But for heaven's sake, he was a merman! I should pull away, I truly should…
But one look at Alfred's marveled face, and he sighed inwardly and relented. After all, no one had really ever found him 'amazing' before now.
He continued to allow Alfred to explore him. He had soft hands, not pruned, like his would have been had he spent so long underwater, and his fingernails were uneven and not very well kept.
Alfred never ventured anywhere indecent on Arthur, although at one point he did lift up his shirt, running his hands along the side of his torso and finding something about his side extremely bewildering, judging by his reaction.
After what must have been minutes, Alfred finally pulled away, a huge smile on his face and his eyes sparkling with excitement. "You are SO cool!"
He was waving his arms enthusiastically as he proclaimed this.
Arthur merely blinked, cheeks finally beginning to cool down. "Th-thank you?"
He nodded. "I mean I've seen tons of humans, but I've never gotten to really look at one like this. Up close, you know?"
The Englishman chuckled lightly. "All right, I suppose I would be interesting to you then. If you ask me though, you're a lot more intriguing than me."
Alfred shrugged. "Maybe to you," he paused. "I kind of thought your hair would feel different, but it doesn't, it's just like mine… and your skin too." He snatched Arthur's hand, and his grip was firm, strong. Then again, Arthur mused, if he lives a life underwater, he's got to be strong to swim all the time.
The merman pressed Arthur's hand to his cheek, and he flushed again, as he registered the feel of Alfred's soft flesh under his fingers. "See, feels the same. Cool, huh?"
Alfred dropped his hand and pointed to Arthur's side. "And when I pulled up your clothes! It's so weird to see someone that doesn't have gills, I mean…"
Arthur cocked an eyebrow. "Gills?"
"For breathing, you know? Gills is the right word… isn't it?"
He nodded. "Well yes, I'm quite aware of what gills are I just…" He waved his hand. "I'm sorry. I'm being rude."
Alfred just smiled, grabbing his hand again. "Let me show you!" He placed Arthur's hand along the side of his torso and let go. "I breathe air out of my mouth, just like you do but… when I'm underwater, I need these. They're closed right now so air doesn't get in them."
Arthur ran his hand across the gills, which he had not even remotely noticed before. When closed, they appeared as several long, light pink lines on his skin, but Arthur could feel the slight hollowness beneath them and the edges of each one, where they would have opened in the water.
He pulled away when he felt Alfred shake, and then begin to laugh. "Ahhh, that tickles!"
The corner of Arthur's mouth tugged up in a smile. "Well that's how I felt when you touched my feet."
"Why didn't you laugh then? I thought that's what people did to when they were ticklish."
Arthur chuckled, very quietly. "We do. I was trying not to be rude though. You were obviously quite fascinated by my uhh- toes."
"Can you blame me? No one has toes where I come from," he explained, his laughter finally ceasing.
Well. That certainly made sense but…
The naive merman was in addition to being attractive, turning out to be quite cute as well. He had a feeling that this was the kind of person he'd see at a bar Francis had taken him to and wish terribly to ask to share a drink or some such, but never work up the courage to do so. Of course if Francis caught him staring at said person, he'd inevitably force Arthur to approach him, and the Englishman would bore him within minutes by talking about the weather, or accidentally say something rude and insulting (he had a knack for making biting comments, truly), and he'd leave.
He'd managed quite a substantial amount of conversation with Alfred without resorting to the weather, and he'd even stopped himself from being as caustic as he usually was. But he couldn't precisely take a merman out for a drink. Bollocks.
"I suppose not."
Alfred leaned back on his hands. "Ah wow. This is the greatest thing ever! I can't wait to tell the rest of my pod…" He paused, making eye contact with Arthur. "You have to tell me some stuff about yourself though! All I know is that you're Arthur."
Arthur hummed under his breath. "Well I… I'm Arthur Kirkland. I'm twenty years old, and I'm from London…"
"Across the Atlantic Ocean, of course. Do you not know?"
Alfred shrugged. "I know there's a lot of land over there..."
"I guess that makes sense…" He tapped his chin. "Well the language you're speaking is English."
He was resting both hands on top of his fin now. "Yeah! Because we're off the coast of America! We learn the language of the landmass we're closest to. Keeps us safe, keeps us knowing what's going on, you know?"
Arthur noticed again, the odd manner in which he intoned his words. "Do you speak another language?"
"We have our own language, but we can't really speak it that well above water," he explained.
Eyes widening, for linguistics was a major he'd considered at one point, he spoke, "Oh, really? I suppose that would be because it's made for speaking in water, yes. Would it be possible to say something in it?"
Alfred shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. Arthur noticed that one particular piece of it stuck up at an odd angle, despite it being damp. Odd. "Hmm. Yeah, sure. It won't sound quite like it would underwater, but I can say something simple. How about my name?"
"I thought your name was Alfred…" He shot him a quizzical glance.
"It is!" He paused. "Well… kind of. I mean, Alfred is the closest thing I could find to my name in my own language..."
"Hmm, well let's hear it then!"
Alfred cleared his throat, and then elicited a series of short clicks punctuated by three sounds of various pitches, made deep in his larynx. He kept his mouth closed the entire time.
Arthur frowned slightly. "Is that it?"
"Uh, yeah?" He glanced away, nervous.
The Englishmen chuckled. "Sounds like a dolphin or a seal or some such. I suppose it's logical, living underwater, that you'd have a language like that." He picked at the fabric of his shorts, and his chinks pinked lightly. "Could you say my name then?"
Alfred scratched his cheek, looking a tad sheepish. "Not exactly sure how to do that, but what does it mean? I could do it like that…"
"There are a couple of meanings, actually. It's a matter of debate." He halted himself from babbling about the semantics of his name, as intriguing as he may have found it. "It could be 'bear' or… 'stone,' if you'd like."
"All right then. Awesome!" He cleared his throat again. "Bear," he produced five clicks, in a distinct rhythm with a different amount of time paused between each one. "Stone." Six rapid clicks and a brief high pitched noise at the end.
Arthur gaped. "Really, honestly interesting. Thank you." It was true. His inner linguist was leaping for joy. "But as I was saying, English originated in England, all right? London is a city in England, which is part of Great Britain."
Alfred beamed in recognition. "I know England, yeah. Berwald told me that merpeople were thought to be bad luck over there, so sorry if I scared you at all."
Arthur blinked, and then laughed lightly. "Not at all. 'Bad luck' hasn't exactly crossed my mind." Then again, he recalled how he'd gone out of his way to be friendly and avoid insulting the young merman for fear of… something. That had vanished by now, but perhaps the old wives' tales had kept him on cautious edge at first after all. It didn't help that he was so uncannily attractive, the git.
There was an edge of a smirk on Alfred's face now, something cheeky. "Well I am really awesome, so I guess I'd be a good luck merman or something, huh?"
Arthur rolled his eyes. "If my boat wrecks on the way home, I'm blaming you."
"H-hey, that's not fair! I'm a hero. Heroes can't cause bad luck!" He explained, fervently.
Cocking a brow, Arthur gave him a look. "A hero?"
Alfred nodded. "Yes! I'm going to become a great hero."
The Englishman snorted. "How do you propose to do that? Do you cut fish free of nets or something?"
"I've done that before, yeah; happens pretty often that animals need help in other ways as well. I could uhh… save people from shipwrecks too, but I've never been around when there was a shipwreck. I'd totally do it though. I try to help out when I can, if you know what I mean? I've got to solve the ocean's problems."
"That's a lofty goal," Arthur pointed out.
"Yeah well, I'm awesome."
He'd settled into a comfortable rapport with the merman. Before, Alfred had just shown extreme curiosity, but now he was revealing other aspects of himself, which rather intrigued Arthur, even if one of the aspects turned out to be an obnoxious ego. "You're a bit of an idiot, you know that?"
Arthur felt more comfortable being himself now, or at least, testing the waters.
Alfred laughed, not put off at all. "Shut up. Heroes aren't idiots," he paused. "Oh and you talk funny."
"I mean that you talk strangely. The other people that bring boats out here don't sound like that at all."
His eyes widened in realization. "Oh. Git, I'm from England! I have an English accent. I'm not American like they are."
"Oh. Right! Yeah Berwald and Tino have accents; they're sort of like my adoptive parents. And my brother's girlfriend, Katyusha, has a really weird one…"
"Yes, there then. I've got an accent as well."
Alfred's brow furrowed then. "Hey, what's a git? Never heard that before…"
Arthur smirked. "You're a git."
"Then it means merman or… hero or… what?"
"It means idiot. It's slang from Great Britain," he explained, sighing.
"Thanks for telling- hey, wait!" Alfred frowned and grumbled, reaching down into the water to splash his fin once more. He threw some onto his arms as well, wetting the fins on them.
"I suppose you've got to keep that wet then?" Arthur inquired. He nodded. "Your hair is almost dry." It was, the hot summer sun having rendered it so rapidly. It was even brighter now, an intense burnished golden and it looked- very soft. Arthur had the urge to run a hand through it, much like Alfred had done to him earlier, but he stopped himself.
"That's all right. I just need to make sure my bottom half stays wet, for the most part." He paused. "Hey, you never did tell me much else about you. I found out your age and that you're from England, that's it!"
Arthur's mouth formed an 'o.' He tapped his chin. "Hmm. Well, I'm attending university, that is, school for adults, here." Arthur had no idea what Alfred did or didn't know, so he attempted to clarify. The merman nodded in understanding. He continued. "I'm staying at my father's beachfront home this summer with my half-brother. Avoid him at all costs by the way, although I imagine he wouldn't be able to see you, if I am indeed the exception."
"Hahah, that bad?"
"He'd probably try to take you to his bed. The fact that you're a merman would just make him want to do it more," Arthur explained, grimacing in disgust. Alfred blinked in confusion, and then his eyes widened in realization.
"You mean like… have sex with me?" His face flooded with scarlet, and he gulped.
"Yes?" He hesitated, but reached over to gently pat him on the shoulder.
"But I-I've never," he began, stuttering in embarrassment, "I mean you don't do that with someone unless you're really serious! Like when you've decided to be their life mate!"
"It's not that I agree or disagree but," Arthur began, his own face having bloomed red, "but is that how all of your people think?"
Alfred looked nonplussed, his blush having not faded at all. "Yes, of course. It's a ritual to seal a relationship."
It made sense; Arthur contemplated, that the merpeople may be a little old fashioned. They lived separately from humanity after all, and Arthur found it hard to believe that there were enormous underwater cities and huge advanced societies under Nantucket Sound. That was quite obviously not the case. A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. It was… well… endearing.
"Sorry to make you uncomfortable then," Arthur apologized. "I won't bring up Francis again. He's hardly a pleasant topic of conversation anyway. But ah, I'm going to school to major in journalism. Which I suppose…." He paused. "The best way to describe it would be that I report the news. If something happens, I write it out and then everyone can find out."
Alfred nodded. "That makes sense." His cheeks had finally returned to their normal color. They were silent for a few moments, and Alfred began swishing his tail back and forth in the water, as if fidgeting. He was picking at his fingernails as well. "Hey uh- " He finally spoke.
"Yes?" Arthur looked directly at him.
"I'm a pretty awesome merman, right?" Alfred shot Arthur an enormous grin, his white teeth visible.
The Englishman rolled his eyes. "Honestly. You're the only one I've ever met, so how am I supposed to know?"
When Alfred spoke again, it was as if he hadn't even heard Arthur's sarcastic retort. He laughed. "That means you definitely want to spend more time with me!"
"That's not what I said!" Arthur snapped. "Idiot, did you not hear me at all? I said- "
"Yeah, yeah. I heard you. But you do want to meet up again, right?" Alfred cut in, and he was giving Arthur this look. It was half confident smile, half pleading eyes and all- rather cute. Damn.
His glanced away, avoiding Alfred's gaze. He could feel his face growing warm. "I—I guess I don't see the harm in it."
Alfred nearly leapt, his fin splashing out of the ocean and wetting the bottom of Arthur's shorts in the process. He pumped his fists and beamed, bright as all outlandish adjectives Arthur may have been considering. "Wow! Seriously. So cool! This is the greatest thing ever! I've always wanted to- "
"Calm down," Arthur interrupted, but without much bite. Instead, there was a tinge of amusement in his tone. "I promise you, I'm not that interesting. But if I am to you… I—ahem, I suppose there's no problem with indulging that. I'll gladly meet up with you again." Alfred's smile grew, if possible, and Arthur swore that the merman was about to hug him but had stopped himself.
"Awesome!" He crowed enthusiastically.
Arthur sighed inwardly. Well, it would make the days livelier, at least.
-This story takes place in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. To be more specific, it takes place in mid-cape, where the beaches face Nantucket Sound. I'm not sure if I'll ever name the village it takes place in, but it is Osterville.
-France visits Provincetown, which is on the other side of Cape Cod. It has a reputation as a gay village, and it's also a great place to go whale watching.
-England attends Harvard University. I debated this, because I felt it not a very creative choice. However, I was insistent that the story take place in Massachusetts, and Harvard's arts and humanities program is considered to be even more prestigious than Cambridge or Oxford in the UK. It seemed like the best choice for an overachiever like England.
-Lastly, a little bit about how I tried to set up the merpople. At heart, as much as I love fantasy, I am a massive marine biology nerd. I kind of wanted to set up a species that does, despite the magical aspects, make some amount of sense. Since the setting is just standard real life, I thought that would keep it down to earth. The merpeople in the story are completely consistent with marine mammal life except for one large exception- gills. There was no real way I felt I could get around this, so think of it as an anomaly. The platypus lays eggs, but is still a mammal; that kind of thing. As for him having gills AND being able to breathe above water, there are several types of fish with this ability. Outside of that, the set up of their fins is identical to a dolphin (two pectorals where the arms are, a fluke, and although it hasn't been described yet, a small dorsal on his lower tail). His skin is not very cold, despite living in cool water, because marine mammals have a far higher body temperature than human beings. His 'fishy parts' are not scaly, but smooth and rubbery. The manner in which they speak is also similar, although of course, the merpeople's language is more complex, certainly as complex as a human language. The reason that America sounds so unusual when he speaks is because his voice box isn't quite made for speaking like human beings do. He's mimicking their sounds, and he understands their language, but it's difficult for him to do it exactly right.
As for them appearing as dolphins, the affinity with humans was the deciding factor. In many forms of mythology, merpeople have a natural curiosity toward humans. Dolphins are similar. Seals (the other animal I considered), not so much. Dolphins also have an extremely worldwide range, so they can be pretty much anywhere.