Author's Note: Guh... I fail. So sorry everyone. Hopefully you're still with me!
Arthur sat down on the edge of the dock, a paper bag in one hand and a tray with two cups in the other. There was a large beach towel slung over one of his arms. "Evening, Alfred. You're here a bit early."
From his place in the water, Alfred smiled. "Well I just got here…" Swiftly, he heaved his body up onto the deck. "What did you bring today? It smells amazing."
Arthur tossed the towel to Alfred, and he dipped it in the water and then placed it next to him for future usage.
It was a pleasant evening, the cool sea breezes tempering the summer heat. The sun wouldn't be setting for another hour or two, and Alfred's stomach did a little flip as he glanced over at Arthur.
They'd been doing this for a while now, but he never stopped being excited to spend his evenings with the human man. His boyfriend! Well… he thought they were that. They were dating after all, and Arthur wore a memento from him all of the time. He caught a glimmer of the pearl in his peripheral vision and felt his cheeks warm.
"Amazing?" Arthur quirked an eyebrow. "Well it's… rather good, I must admit. But it's not exactly considered high class by human standards. I actually wanted to get something else, but I was in a hurry, and this had to suffice."
Alfred shrugged. "Smells awesome though."
Arthur handed one of the drinks to Alfred. He'd long since learned how to use a straw and had drank soda-pop many times, so he quickly took to sipping the sweet, fizzy beverage.
"This is what we call fast food, Alfred," Arthur explained, reaching in the bag and pulling out two wrapped round objects and two containers of thin yellow food items. "It's what humans eat when they're in a hurry or want something that doesn't cost much. There are loads of fast food restaurants."
He pointed to a word on the side of the bag. "And this, is McDonald's." He slid one of each object over to Alfred. "I got you a quarter pounder with cheese, that's a hamburger, and a large order of chips. Fries, they call them in America. You eat it all with your hands."
Eyes large with curiosity, Alfred removed the wrapper from the hamburger, running his fingers across the bun as he did so.
A huge grin spread across his lips, and he didn't hesitate before taking a large bite. Arthur rolled his eyes, used to Alfred's huge, voracious appetite.
He swallowed, and his face promptly lit up, bright and beaming and… ridiculously giddy.
"This is…" he paused, "the GREATEST thing I have ever tasted! Oh wow, oh wow." He took another bite, quickly finishing off the burger in a manner that Arthur knew would have given him a stomachache.
"You-" Arthur huffed, "honestly, a hamburger, the best thing you've ever tasted?" He unwrapped his own burger.
Alfred nodded fervently, his blond hair releasing droplets of water as he did so. "It's juicy and delicious and… everything in it tastes amazing and when it's all combined it's so…" his eyes were practically sparkling, "awesome."
Arthur reached over with a napkin and wiped a dollop of ketchup from next to Alfred's mouth. They both flushed as he did so. "Wait until you try the chips," Arthur said with a chuckle.
The sun was setting, golds and purples reflecting on the surface of the Atlantic sound. They'd long since finished their McDonald's, and Arthur had gone inside to throw the trash away several minutes ago.
Alfred was lying on the dock, his tail half curled behind him and his hands under his chin, elbows resting the wood and propping him up. Arthur was sitting next to him, legs crossed and one of his hands toying with his cellphone.
He'd just finished showing Alfred a video on said phone (something that Alfred loved), and his thoughts were drifting back to the conversation he'd had with his mother earlier.
Arthur bit his lip and shoved the phone in his pocket, pondering how to bring it up with the merman. He could just be blunt about it, explaining the situation outright. "Oh by the way, my mum called and she wants to meet you." He could be a little more indirect, subtly bringing up the idea of removing the magic that concealed him.
All right, the latter idea was silly. Alfred was not very good at understanding subtleties, after all.
"Alfred," Arthur cleared his throat. Alfred raised his eyes to meet Arthur's, pushing himself up into a sitting position.
"Yeah, what's up?"
Arthur rubbed at his arm idly. "Well… I ah… I talked to my mother today."
"Oh, did you use the…" he mimicked a phone by holding a hand next to his ear, "telephone?"
"Yes, of course I did." He nodded. "Now… the thing is that… she's coming to visit," he rushed the last part out. Realizing that he still had his hand on his arm, he slapped it down onto his knee.
Alfred's lips stretched into a smile. "That's cool! She's coming all the way from England? On a plane?"
Arthur cupped his palm over his mouth and chuckled. "Yes, on a plane. Anyway-"
"I wanna meet her!" Alfred was leaning toward Arthur now, his body pressed forward and an eager expression on his face.
Well… that was easier than he'd expected.
Arthur flushed and scratched his cheek. "Actually that is… exactly what I wanted to bring up with you. I told my mum about… us." His face reddened further.
The merman blinked twice, before his cheeks heated as well. "A-about… us?"
Shifting a bit, because his phone was poking his leg, Arthur shook his head and gulped. "Yes, even about you being a merman. It's… odd, she actually believed me. Although that's because… Well no matter, anyway, she does want to meet you, and I was wondering if there was any way-"
Alfred was practically bouncing where he sat as he nodded. "Yes! I'll talk to Nikolas. He knows the most about magic out of our entire pod, so he'd be the best person to teach me how to remove the masking spell." He paused and scratched the back of his head. "I mean if I'm going to be your… boyfriend and everything, I'll have to learn it some time, right?"
Arthur felt a smile cross his lips. "Y-yes, I suppose that's true."
Silence fell between the pair for several moments, and then Arthur felt Alfred's hand atop of his. He squeezed it, running his fingers across Arthur's knuckles.
Arthur felt his stomach flutter and sighed. Sitting on this dock with Alfred, watching the sun set and the tide going out and just… the quiet and the intimacy of it, there was no denying that it was bloody romantic.
"Alfred… how much do you know about the sight?" he queried, for it had been nagging him since his conversation with his mother. All right, so as a child he'd had the sight. Fine, he could believe that. But it had apparently just vanished, almost fifteen years ago. Right, dandy. He was curious as to why, but it wasn't that important. What was really driving him crazy was… why had it suddenly come back for just Alfred and the other merpeople (well, Matthew, the only other one he'd met).
Alfred shrugged. "What is there to know? It's just… something that allows some humans to see through magic. It's really, really rare, although it used to be a lot more common."
Arthur blew out a puff of air and uncrossed his legs, allowing them to dip into the water. "Pretty much what my mum knew. Well, obviously I have the sight."
"Well yeah, of course."
"And that's why my mum believed me about you. When I was a young child, according to her I saw all manners of magical beings. But… then at some point, it stopped happening." He leveled his eyes with Alfred's. "Until now."
Alfred turned his body and followed Arthur's lead, allowing his fluke to dangle in the water. "Maybe it's because I'm awesome?" he said with a cheeky grin.
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Idiot."
Alfred laughed, bright and loud. "Okay, fine. But… it's a possibility!" Arthur merely cocked his eyebrow and frowned. "Or… not. Look, I don't know. I know that… the magic of merpeople is really old though, and it's been kind of abandoned and stuff? Like it still exists, and there are still some merpeople who know a lot of it, but nothing new has been done." He shook his head. "There's a difference between performing magic and creating it. No one knows how to create it any longer." He raked a hand through his hair. "Uh, does that make sense?"
Arthur bit his lip and closed his eyes for a moment. "Are you saying that… perhaps the magic is… out of date?"
Shrugging, Alfred responded, "Well I don't know. I mean the disguise still works on everyone else."
"Perhaps it's just a bit rusty. It's lost some of its power over time. So because I once did have the sight, a bit of that is still in me, and… I can see you," Arthur mused, tapping his chin as he did so.
Alfred turned his face away, and Arthur could make out a faint blush on his cheeks. He furrowed his brows. "Alfred, what's wrong?"
Letting out a short laugh, he turned back and smiled a lopsided smile. "Nothing Arthur! I'm feeling great."
"If you say so…"
"I do!" He shifted an inch or few closer to Arthur, until his fin was pressing against Arthur's legs.
This had long since stopped feeling unusual to Arthur.
Actually, to Alfred's credit, he had… adapted well in more than one aspect also. He was a very quick learner, picking up on things from Arthur's world as if he were a sponge. And although Arthur had noticed his speech improving from very early on, by now he almost sounded like a normal human. The awkward pauses, strange ways in which he pitched his words, and odd intonations, had nearly vanished.
He'd assumed that the way he sounded so odd when he spoke English had partly to do with the formation of his vocal cords. Alfred wasn't human after all, and his form of language was… dissimilar from anything human. Plus, there were… other obvious anatomical differences.
Arthur wondered if it was at all a struggle for him to speak his language, to try to form words and speech in a way so fundamentally unlike his. He felt… a bit awful if that was the case, even though Alfred did it remarkably well. Perhaps, one day, he'd ask Alfred to teach him more of his language.
It would be a lie to say that he never thought about the… drastic difference between Alfred and himself. He did. It was a bit difficult to miss, and often when he was on his own, he cursed the fact that he couldn't give Francis a piece of his mind by showing him once and for all that he did have a boyfriend thank you very much. But his thoughts didn't really go beyond that and just… fretting over the fact that… when summer was over they would be… yes.
But when he was with Alfred, just conversing with him on the dock or out on the yacht, it was rarely more than at the back of his mind. It was just normal by now.
Merpeople were normal. Bloody hell.
As such, he hadn't really thought much about… the differences between the two. If Alfred's vocal cords were different, what else was different? He had sodding gills, after all.
He swallowed, thick and heavy, and felt heat rise up his neck and settle on his cheeks, tingeing them red.
Arthur let out a sigh as his forearm brushed against the fin on Alfred's arm. Perhaps they were too different after all.
But then again…
Alfred could not care less about that.
He felt a small smile quirk at the corner of his lips. "Fine then. Alfred, it's your turn to tell a story tonight, isn't it?"
The merman nodded enthusiastically. "Yep, and it's an awesome one."
"Then do begin…"
"Near the beginning of recorded time, there were many, many gods and goddesses," Alfred said, leaning over slightly onto Arthur's shoulder as he did so.
"Your lot has recorded time then?"
Alfred bit his lip in thought. "Well… not like you? I mean I've seen your 'clocks' and everything, and we don't have anything that specific. We measure by seasons and tides and the sun and moon though."
Arthur nodded. "I suppose that makes sense."
He grinned, continuing, "They had all sorts of powers. Some were in charge of the sky or the land or the ocean… and some were stars and the moon or even ruled over animals and stuff."
Arthur's body relaxed under Alfred's contact as he listened to him tell his tale. They'd shared so many, but Arthur… never really grew tired of it.
"But there were only humans back then. Humans and animals and all the gods and goddesses."
"No merpeople," Alfred verified. "Anyway, there was this fisherman. He was hardworking and pretty awesome. He had his own boat, and he took it out every day and brought home enough fish to feed most of his village. He was really selfless and heroic, because he always shared his catch with the villagers before he ate any of it himself."
Arthur chuckled. "Blimey, could no one else in the village work?"
"Well I did say most," Alfred countered, a small pout crossing his lips. "I guess the other fishermen caught for the rest. So this fisherman though, he spent so much time at sea that one of the wind goddesses, who spent a lot of time over the ocean, noticed him one day. She thought he was pretty heroic and also… handsome, so she appeared to him one day in his boat and introduced herself. He was frightened at first, but she calmed him down and the two continued to meet up every day on his boat, despite the fact that she was a goddess and he was a human…"
He leveled his blue eyes with Arthur's green ones.
"And over time they fell deeply in love."
Both of them turned away for a moment, blushing pink.
Alfred cleared his throat. "He wanted to take her back to the village and marry her, and she agreed. They weren't quite sure how to make it work at the time, but they knew they could do it," he said. "But… it turned out that she had a very, very jealous past lover. He was a sky god, and he had never stopped trying to hold possession over her. He was extremely angry, and he swore that he would hunt both her and the fisherman down, and take her back and kill him."
Arthur made a small sound of acknowledgement. Alfred's myths, while very much their own, still often sounded like stories that humans would tell. He supposed that the core elements of mythology that were present in so many human cultures also carried over to that of the merpeople.
"She insisted that she be allowed to leave him. She thought that if she went to the sky god willingly, he would probably allow the fisherman to live as a bargain. But… the fisherman refused. He told her that he'd rather die than lose her," he explained, his expression serious. "They were on his boat one day when the sky god struck. He created a massive storm with wind and rain and thunder and lightning, swirling the ocean and causing enormous waves and… well you know, a big, big storm. The goddess knew that there was no way the fisherman would be able to survive it. She couldn't carry him to safety with the wind, because the sky god would just stop her since he was more powerful."
He nodded. Alfred never told his stories with that much eloquence, but he always got quite emotional when he was relaying them, growing angry or upset or ecstatic when the mood called for it. It… did make for an engaging experience, despite his usage of 'awesome' and 'stuff' and other such casual language as he did so.
"Knowing that the fisherman would die for sure, she made a decision." Alfred shifted and rolled on his back, and then without asking, he lay down and rested his head on Arthur's lap, as he had done the previous evening.
Arthur flushed but allowed it.
"She used her magic and transformed him. She turned his legs into fins and gave him gills to breathe, so he could live underwater. The sky god ruled the sky, so he was not able to go underwater. The fisherman would be safe there… forever." Alfred smiled now, straight up at Arthur. "But in another act of defiance, she transformed herself as well. The sky god was now also unable to touch her, and she could live her life with the guy she loved." He moved one of his arms up over his chest, and twitched it, as if asking Arthur to hold it.
Arthur feigned a scowl, but gave in, squeezing Alfred's hand.
"The sky god was so angry that he kept stirring up storms to draw them out. But it never worked. They were safe underwater. And… they had a family together, and from them were born the merpeople. Magic's been in our veins since the beginning because of the wind goddess."
"So that's your creation myth then?" Arthur queried, still holding Alfred's hand.
"Well… every culture has a story about how the world was created, or how humans were created or whatnot, and this is yours, I suppose."
Alfred blinked. "Yeah then, I guess so."
Arthur frowned, deciding to bring something up that was intriguing him. "It's a little bit odd. Humans have stories about how humans were created. But we don't come from something else in those. It's not as if, I mean, there are tales of humans coming from merpeople. It's just… odd that humans were first before merpeople, that merpeople came from humans, in your story."
The merman shifted, just a bit, and let out a "hmmm."
"Well… I guess it could be because, for us, we've always known that we're a little bit unusual, you know? I mean yeah, to me it's normal. But we used to interact with humans a lot, so they were part of our culture from the beginning. Even for us, it's easy to see that there's not much of anything else much like us. People are all people, from head to… feet. It's all the same. But merpeople are… sort of like a human and a dolphin." He shrugged. "Even when humans interacted with us, we were always strange and magical to them."
"And even though humans are a bit odd to you, it's not as much so as it is the other way around?" Arthur said.
Alfred nodded. "Yeah, but we've always been 'half-human, half-fish' to humans, so maybe that's why the story is what is."
Arthur tapped his chin. "Makes sense."
"But it was an awesome story?"
"Yes, it was nice. Very… romantic, I think." He stroked his fingers over Alfred's knuckles. "And sweet as well."
A bit like you, he wanted to add.
Alfred grinned. "Y-yeah, thanks. I… had been saving that one."
"Saving it?" Arthur quirked an eyebrow.
The merman gulped, and Arthur noticed that heat was rising to his face. "Until I was ready, I guess? I just… it's a story about… two different… y'know, sort of like us?"
Arthur's mouth formed into an 'o,' and his cheeks flared up in a blush. The similarity had certainly crossed his mind, but he never imagined that Alfred had told the story for that reason on purpose.
"Ready for what?" Arthur asked, and his throat felt dry.
Alfred closed his eyes for a moment and made a quiet clicking noise under his breath.
And then he leaned up from his place in Arthur's lap, looping an arm around his shoulders and pulling himself up.
Arthur barely had time to register how close they were before Alfred pressed their lips together in a kiss. His green eyes went wide for a moment, and he swore his mind was about to bloody short circuit. But he pulled his thoughts together and decided that he should best actually respond, because the last thing he wanted was for Alfred to think he didn't like this.
That would be a ridiculous lie. He slid his eyes closed and returned the kiss, and it was warm and tender and Alfred tasted like a bizarre combination of saltwater and hamburger, but that was quite all right with him, because he didn't care what Alfred tasted like. He just cared that it wasAlfred.
Arthur's first and only kiss had been done on a dare during a party in high school, and the only reason that had happened was because someone had spiked his sodding drink, which made him… a bit less inhibited.
He really had no idea whether this would be considered a good kiss or not, but hell if he cared, because it felt good to him. Good and sweet and… right.
Alfred was so right.
He made a small sound in the back of his throat and pulled apart for breath. Alfred's cheeks were scarlet, but he was smiling, wide and beaming.
"Good?" Alfred asked, a bit breathless.
"Very good," Arthur replied, knowing that his cheeks were as flushed as Alfred's.
Alfred's grin grew. "Awesome. I was just a bit worried because…" his voice went quieter, and a sheepish expression crossed his face, "it was my first time."
Arthur smiled, warm and genuine, and patted Alfred on the cheek. "For all intents and purposes, it was mine as well."
He nodded. "Oh well… Anyway, I meant to say earlier. You're… going to scoff at this and probably call me an idiot but," he paused, blowing out a puff of air, "maybe you can just see me because… we were supposed to meet."
Arthur's eyes went wide, but instead of scowling, a peal of laughter made its way out. "Y-you're right… that's completely idiotic. Things like that don't just happen."
He pressed a brief kiss, feather light, to Alfred's lips. "But… it's so very you."
Alfred pouted. Using his looped arm, he slapped Arthur lightly on the back. "Hey, what's that supposed to mean? It should mean that it's heroic or-"
Arthur placed a finger on Alfred's lips to shush him. "That it's right daft, but that it's also terribly sweet."