.. | the little merboy | chapter 4
When he awoke, it was due to the weight on his chest that was making it quite hard to breathe. Isodore blinked a few times in the sunlight that spilled into the room and his vision focused on the very nude merboy who straddled his ribs and was staring down into his face, waiting for him to wake up. Calida smiled brightly at him, using both hands to push back the heavy locks of his hair that had escaped over his shoulders.
Isodore gasped a big breath as Calida scooted back to straddle his hips, relieving the pressure over his lungs. He rubbed his eyes. "What time is it?"
"Time? It's daytime." Calida put his hands on either side of Isodore's head and leaned over his face.
"Daytime. How late in the daytime then?"
"Oh, not very." He waved his hand dismissively. "But that's good, right? That means we have the whole day!" He slid over Isodore's body and over the edge of the bed to attempt to stand. He stumbled only a bit, but made his way to the window and managed to get the panes open.
"And look how glorious it is!" he cried out, flinging his arms wide. With the sun lighting up his red tresses, he laughed out into the open air and beautiful morning, raising his arms in a stretch where he could feel the warm air on his skin. When he turned around, Isodore realized he'd never really been able to see the true coloring the merboy possessed underwater. But here in this light, he was-
"So beautiful..." Calida whispered, watching some birds fly into the crevasses above the pillars of the west wing outside walls. "So bright and warm." He leaned further out. "Can we go outside? Right now?"
Isodore was sitting up and rubbing the kink in his neck. "'Lida, you're going to fall if you lean any further. Yes, we can go. Let me get dressed."
The merboy abandoned the window and turned around. "Dressed? Why?"
The human rolled his eyes and threw back the covers without answering. Instead, he padded over to the chiffonier and began searching for some suitable walking clothes. Or perhaps they should ride. Wait, no. Bad idea. But if they could get out soon enough, they could escape Elise should she want to accompany them.
Calida was hovering over his shoulder. "What is this thing you have with clothing? How are you supposed to enjoy the day?"
"Like any proper human, 'Lida. Get used to wearing clothes if you want to stay here."
"As long as I don't have to wear them all the time." He shot his human a winning smile.
Isodore gave a smirk and decided on his wardrobe. The next step would be getting Calida back into clothing and keeping him there. After a small struggle with breeches, shirt ties and boots, he quickly herded Calida out of the main doors and onto the front lawn. Promptly, the merboy tumbled to the rich grass and spread his limbs out, clutching the greenery with his fingers. "What is it?"
He picked a few blades and sniffed them. "Can you eat it?"
Isodore pulled him up and brushed him off. "Some animals do, but humans don't. What green stuff we eat is grown for the purpose. This is decoration. Now let's go."
It wasn't so bad really, after he'd convinced Calida not to touch the things on the vendor's stands. He was so curious about everything that more often than not, he would end up either breaking it or absently walking off with it. A trinket, a piece of jewelry, some food or otherwise would be sniffed, turned over and around, and then forgotten for something else. He couldn't count how many times he had to say 'no' to something Calida wanted. Necklaces, rings, hairpins, painted stones and little statues; even the little kittens a small young girl had in a box.
Zigzagging from one stand to another, Isodore allowed himself to be tugged, pushed and pulled about, like having an over-zealous child on the leash of his arm. But Calida's good mood had penetrated into him and he found himself smiling at the merboy's curiosity, so he didn't mind so much that people were staring at them both.
It was strange though. By the time they reached the outskirts of the market, he didn't seem to care anymore about how tight Calida's grip on his hand was, or even the fact that they were two boys holding hands. He wasn't even thinking about that. He was thinking only how very brilliant the color of Calida's hair was by the time the sun moved west and cast a light barely tinged in orange, which also warmed the peachy tone of his skin. Or that if he moved a certain way, threw a particular glance over his shoulder as he studied something, Isodore found himself caught like a deer in the hunter's trap.
By the time the sun set, he was carrying the merboy on his back. Calida, not used to using so much energy, had dozed off on his shoulder as they rested aside a tavern before heading home. So, steeling his pride, Isodore had hefted the merboy's slight frame onto his back and carried him.
He set Calida down in a chair in the house's roomy study and ordered some servant to go turn down his bed. Then, shutting the doors, he started a fire in the grate and knelt down next to the chair. "'Lida? Are you hungry?"
Calida slowly opened his eyes and rubbed them. "Mmm, no. Those sweet things were enough for me." He lazily rubbed his belly. He watched as Isodore stood up and moved to watch the fire. His human looked tired. "You should have woken me," he added softly. "I can walk on my own you know. Sort of. I'm getting better at it. Better than you are at swimmimg anyway."
His human turned around with a small smile and raised his hand to rub the back of his neck. Calida cocked his head to the side. His human didn't look tired- it was something else. Isodore's sandy hair was lit up by the light coming from the grate, but his face turned into shadows when he moved. Calida raised his hand and reached for him.
The human blinked at him with strange eyes but then as if under some spell, he raised his own hand and touched the seeking fingers, then allowed himself to be pulled to kneel before the chair at Calida's drawn up knees again. The merboy hesitated, but then stroked his human's hair back from his face, smiling complacently down at him. The gesture seemed... right.
"What's the matter?" he asked softly.
His human averted his eyes then and cleared his throat. "Nothing," he said.
Calida watched him. It was most peculiar behavior for his human not to at least meet his gaze. He touched Isodore again, this time flattening his palm gently against his human's jaw to feel the firm curve of the bone and the sensitive, tender flesh of his throat underneath. There was always something about him that made Calida just want to touch. Ever since he'd come here, that urge had grown much stronger than it had ever been while in his underwater home. Isodore had been a toy then, a companion, a pet even. But now, strange new inclinations took control of his mind more often than not. He was curious about this world, yes, but the allure of his human had grown stronger than his curiosity. Little did he know that it was the same feeling that his human had felt while in their underwater home. Why was he suddenly feeling this way? Why had he had such a strange dream last night where he'd woken up exactly where he had been dreaming he'd be- in Isodore's arms? And why, of all things, were certain parts of his body doing things that he never imagined they could do? It was like they had a mind of their own!
It was happening again, even as he was there petting his human's hair. Isodore looked so handsome and virile, though his face was slightly flushed. And when he did look up, appearing lost for words, it was like a line of fire shot from Calida's chest to his groin. He was most convinced now that that was not a fin. Sitting here, curled up in the chair, he was thankful that his human wouldn't be able to see his discomfort. Though he'd never been edgy around his human on any subject before, this particular situation made him feel warm and tingly, and also feel for the first time what it was like to be embarrassed.
Calida leaned down a bit, drawn again by the desire to touch. Isodore smelled faintly of the salty air of the day, and his human didn't move when Calida leaned closer to the scent. But when the merboy's cheek touched his, he suddenly, as if snapping out of some spell, got to his feet and backed away.
"I-" he faltered. He took a deep breath and turned around to the fire. "I think it's time for bed, 'Lida."
The merboy, somewhat confused and even a bit hurt, just nodded.
Isodore paced his room that night after curtly confining the merboy to sleep in his own room, in his own bed. He couldn't deal with another night with that creature curled against him. Not after today, not after what happened in the study. He looked up from his determined gaze at the floor he was walking, stopping his pacing to take a deep cleansing breath.
What in hell had just happened to him? A weak moment, that's what it must have been. He resumed his pacing. It was as if the merboy had cast a spell over his senses, heightening them only to Calida's presence, his beauty and endearing innocence. Drawing him in like bewitchery. And when Calida had reached for him by the fire, he had gone to him, knelt down beside him like a willing victim.
The feel of the other's touch remained on his cheek and jaw, and he worriedly rubbed the spot. He'd been almost unwillingly snapped out of it when the merboy had leaned down to him. Had Calida done that on purpose? Cast some enchantment over him just as compelling as the time Isodore had heard him singing? No, he wouldn't have used such a trick, even if he had been capable of it. Of that, Isodore was sure. But still... He shuddered at the thought, and began to think that perhaps it would just be better that Calida should go back to his ocean home.
He stopped pacing again at the thought.
That's not fair, he told himself. To send him away just because you've got some odd fascination with him.
Maybe it was just a sign that he was adjusting to Calida being in his world, instead of the other way around... Perhaps all Isodore needed was to get back into the routine of everyday life. Get used to being with humans again.
A few more days passed, filled with adventures and misadventures of showing Calida the world outside of his ocean home. Isodore showed him the sights of ocean towns, then the culture of more inland villages who relied on the land and animals for a living. He introduced him to horses, cattle, dogs, cats, birds, and anything else that the merboy would eventually question him about. Carts, wagons, carriages, kites, books, dances, plays, statues, pet fish, cups and saucers, trees, bushes, insects, music... Anything and everything caught his eye and fascination. And the merboy eventually even adopted the ability to dress himself, grudgingly accepting the clothes he had to wear as a part of this new life.
But through all of this, Isodore could not forget the subliminal pull of Calida's eyes that night by the fire. He kept his distance as politely as he could from the merboy without it catching Calida's conscious attention. And they slept in separate chambers as well from then on. He wouldn't risk it again because he doubted, if given the chance again, that he would be able to pull himself away.
After several weeks, life had returned to somewhat normal. The family had accepted their strange house guest as a permanent resident, the cooks grew used to making a separate meat-less meal during dinnertime, and even Elise had made somewhat of a grudging peace with the merboy.
Isodore was lying in bed reading one of his uncle's manuscripts when there was a slight knock at his door. He froze in dread that the merboy had gathered enough courage to pay a night visit. But then there was a decidedly female voice calling his name from the other side of the door.
He opened it to find Elise standing there, clutching her robe at her throat, looking prettily disheveled as if she'd just gotten out of bed.
"It's late, Elise," Isodore said softly, glancing behind her at the merboy's closed bedroom door across the hall.
"I know," she said, bowing her head slightly. "But I saw you and that boy riding the beaches today, and it's been keeping me awake tonight for some reason." She gave a soft, nervous little laugh. "And I was just thinking about how you and I used to go riding down there."
Isodore's eyes softened. She looked so small there in a thin long robe with her long hair down around her shoulders. It was nearly as long as Calida's.
"We used to spend all day together, but now-" she added softly.
He rubbed the back of his neck and smiled. "I've been busy, you know," he said, the slight flush to her face causing him to speak in a gentle voice. "Calida's so curious, you see-"
"I know. But I've missed you." She looked away.
Isodore watched her for a moment, weighing options in his mind. His eyes flickered to the merboy's door again across the hall. Calida had retired long ago, he was bound to be fast asleep by now. Without further thinking, Isodore swung the door wider in invitation.
Elise looked up at him hesitantly, as if still not sure of her decision to even be here. But then she entered, and he closed the door firmly behind her.
Calida woke up early the next morning for some reason. He wrinkled his nose and yawned and stretched in a morning routine he'd fallen into, and then sat up, scratching his chest lazily. Outside his open window, those creatures- birds, were singing, and the morning breeze was ruffling the light drapery.
He jumped up. This morning was as good as any morning to go visit his human. He'd sensed Isodore drawing away for some reason lately. Could it be he was getting bored here? Maybe they should go back to the ocean, where there was always something to do. Calida loved it here, but he wanted his human to be happy, too.
With a mind full of good intentions and a body ready to curl up at Isodore's side again if he was still asleep, he tugged on some breeches (Isodore was going to be so proud of him), grabbed his set of precious keys, and padded out of his room across the hall.
Trying the handle to his human's room, he found it to be locked, which is what he had expected. For some reason, Isodore thought something unwelcome was going to come into his bedroom, and he locked it every night. Humans were strange creatures. So it was the merboy's luck that a maidservant, after cleaning their rooms, had accidentally left her key set sitting on the table in his room. He'd seen her use them often enough to understand how they were supposed to work.
It took him a few tries to painstakingly find the right key and unlock the door with as little noise as possible. He didn't want to wake his human if he was still asleep. Slowly, he turned the handle and pushed the door around on its silent hinges.
The scene he was met with was one he had never even dreamed of, therefore, he was completely and utterly unprepared for it. Isodore was sitting up on bed, the sheets covering his otherwise naked body from the waist down. And there, at the same window where Calida had sat on his first night here, was that woman, wrapped up only in a sheet, which in her surprise and with a shrill scream, she let fall to her waist before she could catch it.
"Oh I see, I have to wear clothes around you, but she doesn't?" Calida spat out at Isodore.
"Calida!" his human cried angrily, jumping up from the bed in all his naked glory to throw further cover around the woman.
The merboy set his jaw angrily. There was something about this room, about the tangled bedsheets, the two naked people. And what was that scent he was picking up? It was salty, but not ocean salty, more of a musk, and even in his anger, it made his senses reel in the same way they had when he'd been so close to his human that one night.
Isodore was hurriedly wrapping the woman up and telling her to go back to her rooms. She complied easily enough, pausing to throw a venomous look at the merboy before she was gone. Behind her, Isodore closed the door, locked it and then threw the bolt. He leaned against it, breathing heavily. Calida stood expectantly waiting for him to say something, to explain what exactly was going on.
"What are you doing here?" his human demanded. "How did you get in?"
Calida held up his set of keys, looking mighty proud of himself. "I wanted to surprise you," he said. "What happened in here? What did you do last night?" he asked. His heightened sense of smell caught the fading scent again, which was probably too faint for his human to pick up. It made him tingle.
"What humans do, 'Lida," Isodore answered angrily. He moved to pull on some clothes, since Calida had been eyeing him as if he'd never seen him so naked before. He was angry, so angry... The merboy not only could sense it, he could feel it. Somewhere inside his head he realized he may have made a little mistake in coming here. But why would his human be mad at him? Why had that woman had screamed like she did?
The merboy knew he had to redeem himself. The feeling of his human's anger directed at him was not a pleasant one.
"I also came to ask you if you wanted to go home," he said softly. "You seem bored here."
That one caught his human by surprise so that he forgot his anger for a moment and turned a questioning look at Calida as he pulled on a shirt.
"You don't seem happy, is what I mean," Calida continued. "Something's bothering you, but you won't tell me what it is."
Isodore's handsome face had lost the hard look of anger, but still, he didn't speak.
The merboy looked back at him. "You talk to me, but you don't seem to want to anymore," he added.
"You seemed happier back home in the water," the merboy said quickly. "We can go back there if you want, see Dyce maybe, tease some sharks, cause some trouble-"
"Because I miss being with you when you're happy. I miss being with you-"
The merboy felt emotions surge within him that he had not expected and they got the better of him. Strange feelings had suddenly surged up within him and the words wouldn't stop at Isodore's plea.
"What happened that night by the fireplace?" he demanded, his light voice suddenly rough with surprising emotion. "I want to touch you like I did that night. I want to know about you, about this feeling I get when I'm around you. I want to know everything, but you won't explain it to me!" He stood slightly huffing, hot and flushed to the core. Isodore was staring at him, taken quite aback by his outburst. Did he really not know what had been going on inside the merboy's head all this time?
"Why?" Calida whispered. "What does it mean, this feeling in here..?" His hands cluched at his chest. "What can I do..?"
Calida watched his human turn his face away, feeling helpless and hating it. He then realized how he'd been wrong about his human's behavior. Isodore wasn't bored or distracted. It was he himself that was making his human unhappy. Why else would Isodore just look away like that?
Had this happened before, Calida would have stood his ground and demanded what he had done wrong. But these feelings had made him weak when it came to Isodore, and he did the only thing that came to him. He submitted to the human he had become. He fled.
Isodore was calling his name behind him but he kept running. Down the stairs and out of the main doors, passing the uncle and his wife without explanation. He fled as fast as he could on his strong legs, down the pathway of the house grounds, down to the sloped hills that led to the ocean. To his home, away from the place and the person that had put this unwelcome ache in his heart. Staggering onto the beach, cursing the strange wetness in his eyes, he stripped off his clothing and dove headfirst into the waves.
His human had chased after the merboy and caught up just in time to see Calida dive into the water and disappear. Isodore fell to his knees on the beach, breathing heavily and stared out across the vast, impenetrable sea. God, what had he done?
Deep within the depths Dyce was busy charming a young carrier that he didn't notice the slight throbbing call in the back of his mind at first. He smiled and flirted easily, enjoying his favorite pastime until the throbbing became a pounding that brought around his attention. It disoriented him for a moment before he realized what it was.
His goal forgotten, he spun around and propelled himself off into the open water towards the cry. Hold on, I'm coming...
part 3 | part 5 | back to main