Arthur felt a mounting surge of frustration, glowering up and the human girl from his place in the water. The choppy swell lapped at her bare feet, his ghost-white hands helping him balance near the rock so that she could hear him over the waves. The sky was ominous and grey above them, but neither seemed to care. "You're an idiot." The merman stated, rolling his tongue over the foreign words, and furrowing his eyebrows "I thought I told you not to find me?"
"You were looking for me, Arthur." He flicked his tail in irritation, casting his imperious emerald gaze from her face. Rain and salt-water cascaded down his shoulders, fluid as it crawled down the sinews of his back and the curves of his sculpted face. Although he'd been above the water for some time, the merman's hair was still plastered to his head. "I wasn't." He muttered, all the while realising that he had, and that there was no use in denying it. _______ leaned forward slightly, inching along her precarious perch and drawing her thick coat tighter around her. "You said something was wrong."
"I didn't." Arthur was debating with himself, groaning internally as he realised that he couldn't drag the girl under. He'd become far too friendly with her recently, and it made him curse himself for being soft. A mermish curse escaped his lips, the human girl cocking her head to the side in curiosity. "What was that?"
"My language. I don't like this mortal tongue you speak."
"You've grasped it rather well."
"Even if I have, I still despise it. It's too confusing."
"It really isn't." Arthur rolled his eyes and muttered something else in his own language, shifting himself into the water so that he was comfortable. He glanced upwards, gaze calculating. "Fine. There is something wrong."
"What is it?"
"There's a storm coming."
_______ paused, watching a flush cross the merman's face- It seemed strange for him to do such a thing, and she'd never contemplated that his body could betray what he felt too. At times Arthur was almost inhuman, but now and again he'd get wound up and seem as flawed as anyone else. Tossing her damp, wind-swept hair out of her face, the young woman looked up at the sky. "I know that." She said to her companion, who followed her gaze for a moment.
"It's not as simple as that." Somewhere over-head a sea-gull screamed.
"Why? Is it dangerous?"
"Potentially." Arthur gulped, looking down through the murky water at his writhing tail. "You might want to get to higher ground. You live by the cove, correct?"
"Yes..." _______ was unsure what to make of the warning, watching the horizon and the creature beside her "Is it really going to be that bad?"
"Yes. You can't see it, or feel it, but I can. I know what's going to happen."
"Why are you telling me this, though? I thought you were dangerous?" His acidic eyes met hers, regarding her stonily. "As did I." He murmured, long eye-lashes fanning against his porcelain skin as he closed his eyes and sighed. The sound that expelled from his parted lips sounded mournful, as if he were secretly lamenting about something. "But I want you to be safe." Arthur's heart began to race, but despite this a weight seemed to be removed from his shoulders "I don't want you or any of the other humans drowned." Because I'd do it eventually "You mortals have done me and my people a great kindness...it is only fair to repay you." I'm a liar.
"Well...thank you, I suppose." ______ said, drawing her feet from the water and reaching out for the chunky woollen socks beside her. "Shall I go and warn everyone?"
"-Not yet." It escaped Arthur's mouth before he could think. He reached out a pale, almost translucent hand and rested it on the human girl's.
"I am serious about this." He said, feeling grave "I am even risking my own life to save yours."
"These waters are treacherous during storms and the rocks are sharp, it'll be hard negotiating myself around them and getting back."
"Then why don't you stay here?"
"I couldn't. I'm breaking enough rules as it is, child."
"Don't speak to me like that." ______ hated how juvenile she sounded, even slightly amazed at the protectiveness in her voice. "I don't want you getting hurt either." Arthur tugged himself away, not sure how to articulate what he wanted to say. Instinct told him to just dispose of the girl, but his heart dictated something entirely different. Neither of them wanted the other wounded, and there seemed to be no way around it. "I'd rather it be me than you." He said quietly, voice wavering slightly.Because you won't have to die if it were me to perish. Though it seems you want it either way. ______ thought it sounded like a stream burbling over rocks when he sighed and drifted through the foamy waves stalking up the beach. He was muttering something else to himself, and eventually he stopped. Determined, he hauled himself on to her rock, heavy tail dripping with sea-water. It shimmered in the watery light, the scales dark and razor-sharp in appearance. The end trailed in the sea, the rest of him propped up. The girl could see his scars better now- She'd noticed them the first time they'd met, on her brother's boat on that summer's day, but now each one was mapped out for her greedy and reluctant eyes. One stretched down Arthur's slim waist, disfiguring a few of the scales near the point where his skin melted into his tail; there were a few others, some pale but most of them new. A bruise bloomed over his back, in the hollow nook between his shoulder blades. It pained her to see such a magnificent creature so tired and worn, but then again the ages of mer-folk and pirates had ended long ago.
Unsure what to say, _______ instead reached out a tentative hand and ran her fingers along the faded scar just below his torso. "How did this happen?" She murmured, feeling the usually pliant body tense and hearing Arthur's breath hitch "Was it the rocks?" He nodded, watching her intently. She gave a wan smile "That's the exact reason why I don't want you out there alone. You're perfectly fine here, and I can come and find you when the water recedes."
"What if it doesn't?" Arthur looked down at his hands, an expression of regret making his face look drawn and haunted "What if-"He paused, shaking his head "No, it doesn't matter."
"It does!" _______ ignored the way her hand still rested on what would have been his hip-bones "Tell me what's going to happen and we can stop it."
"It cannot be stopped." The merman used his own fingers to pry away ______'s, his voice low and somewhat reassuring "Because it is my own fault."
"Those with more power than me seek to harm you mortals." He explained, feeling something strange prick at the corners of his eyes. He didn't know what it was making him feel so strange "Because I met you and broke every rule there ever has been. The penalty would have been death...but my negotiations went wrong and they have chosen to punish you instead. All this is to demonstrate how foolish I have been."
"But how have you been foolish?" A pained expression flickered across the young woman's face "You've not done anything wrong!"
Before _______ knew it something was pinning her to the rock, a heavy, scaled body pressing her against it and lips crashing against her own. She was unsure how to respond at first, deciding to kiss back as she felt slightly webbed fingers twist through her hair. Arthur drew back after a while, strange things dripping from his luminous eyes. "Because I love you." He murmured, one of his hands drifting to touch the water leaking down his face. "What have you done to me?" The merman sat up, trying to distance himself as the realisation swept over him. "What's happening to me, _______?" One of the human's hands found his own again.
"You're crying." She said gently, tears pouring down her own face and mingling with the rain "You're sad."
"What is that?" Arthur looked vulnerable and confused, trying to slide himself back into the water. _______ caught his wrist and stopped him. "It's an emotion. Like happiness and anger and love."
"They are human things."
"Not if you're feeling them."
"This is sorcery."
"It's not." He felt lips on his again and tugged himself away. "Arthur, stop it."
"I shouldn't have done that. I should have contained myself." He cast his pleading gaze upwards to the sky "I'm making this worse." He finally dove back down, fiercely wiping away the tears and gulping back sea-water. His skin felt warm where her fingers had been. "I'm sorry,______, but I have to go."
"I won't let you." Before Arthur turned he looked up at her, squeezing his eyes shut and choking as he held back more tears. He gulped and opened his green orbs. "You have to. I will return home, and you will get as far away from here as possible."
"If I don't?"
"You'll be drowned. You're lucky you haven't already."
"I should have done it when I had the chance." _______'s arms raked down Arthur's sleek skin, her eyes meeting his eventually "Y-You would have killed me?" She gasped, trembling now. Arthur shook his head and buried it in his hands. "Yes, well, n-no, but-" He could have screamed "It is in our nature to do so...have you not read stories of my kind luring yours away?"
"Of course, but I thought you were kind."
"And I am. I am too kind... so much so to the extent where I'd defy what you call biology in order to stop myself from doing so."
"...Because you were falling for me?"
"If that is how you'd like to interpret it." The two of them flinched as forked lightening suddenly split the sky. Arthur shielded his eyes, glancing behind him at the churning waves. "But no matter how I feel, no matter how you feel, you must run." He clasped her hand one last time. "I shall run too, and let us both hope that I do not perish." He slipped beneath the water after that, _______ leaning forwards and peering after him. Arthur heard her call his name as he began to make his way beyond the sheltered out-crop of rock, his heart aching beyond comprehension.
What have I done?