The Incident

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The sun rose over the sea in a stunning display of colours, but there was no one to admire it. The beach was silent, not a soul in sight. It would be a few hours yet until the usual hustle and bustle started. Or perhaps, a little less than that.

A lone figure carrying a yellow surfboard appeared on the beach and stared out over the sea. The wind ruffled his hair and he smiled, setting off towards the water. Mornings like these he was one with the surf, there was no one to bother him, not a single distraction to interfere with the waves which swallowed him whole and spat him out again.

This was his favourite beach of all, it was remote and cleaner than anything he had ever seen. He only came around every other month or so when he was in town, and only in the mornings when there was no one to shoo him away. The problem was that the entire strip of beach he favoured was private property- no trespassers allowed. It was a crying shame, the waves were unlike anywhere else. He wasn't charmed with it because it was forbidden, that was not it at all. No, there was an indescribable atmosphere, something almost magical about it. He envied the owners, sometimes even hated them. Did they know what they had there? He hoped they did.

He climbed on to his board and relaxed, one foot dangling in the water, the other stretched out in front of him. He watched the ocean, letting it calm him, and checked his watch from time to time to make sure he got out of there in time. He knew he had until seven at the latest before the people in the house stirred.

Something in the water caught his eye and he peered in to the depths, but before he could make out whatever it was, his ankle was grabbed and he was dragged under. He struggled, swallowing mouthfuls of water in panic. As suddenly as it had appeared it had gone, leaving him to swim madly for the surface. He gasped for air, spluttering and coughing while holding his board for support.

Well, that was different. He swam to the shore, dragging his board behind him and let himself sprawl in the sand. It was almost time to leave, there was no room for investigation of the freak occurrence. He pulled himself up and walked to his truck, stiffening when he spotted someone leaning against it casually.

The man was stick-thin and dressed in a pair of purple shorts and flip flops. He was heavily tanned and his brown hair was a mess of braids and seashells. He wore more shells, around his neck and wrists, even his ankles. The man turned to him and grinned. Je felt it was quite similar to being faced with a shark.

"Hi," the man said. "You must not be from around here.

Jei shook his head. "Uh, no."

"You can read though. Stop me if I assume too much," the man said, grin widening.

"I can read. Look, I'm sorry, but there was no one, and I thought I wouldn't bother anyone, and I'm sorry, alright?" he mumbled.

"I'm Lind," Lind finally relented. The boy looked as if he had seen a ghost. "I co-inhabit that house over there with the owners of this beach. There's a reason it's private. Keep it in mind."

Jei nodded solemnly. "I will."

"If not, remember this- I'm the nice one of the lot."

Jei's mouth dropped open. "I, uh, ok." Then he remembered. "Is it to do with the thing that pulled me under just now?" He could tell by the widening of Lind's eyes that it was. "Ah, ok. This is the black lagoon then, will keep it in mind."

Lind made a strangled noise and looked out over the water. A figure emerged from it and ran straight at them, waving madly.

"Oh bollocks," Lind muttered. "Get back to where you belong, you mongrel!" he shouted, making shooing motions. The boy slowed down, having finally realised what the problem was and made a sharp turn towards the house.

"Your roommate?" Jei asked.

"Something like that," Lind muttered angrily. "Be minding your own business Dorothy, it is time to go back to Kansas," he added. He had barely finished speaking when a large blond appeared on one of the balconies. The man jumped down as if it were nothing and raced over to them. Lind turned his eyes skyward and groaned. "See, I tried to spare you this, surfer to surfer. But no, you had to have questions. Always with the bloody questions."

Jei swallowed a retort because the blond was almost on top of them, and resisted the urge to curl up and die. The man was dressed only in a pair of raggedy jeans with both the knees torn out and plenty more damage besides. He too wore seashells, but in a much lesser quantity than Lind. He towered over them both and Jei suddenly had a mental picture of Zeus, lightning and all.

"And who," he growled menacingly "is this?"

"Would you believe if I said he was a Jehovah's witness?" Lind asked.

"No," the blond growled again.

"A salesman then," Lind said resolutely. He patted Jei on his back. "We're all set in the wedding catalogue department, thanks ever so much, cheerio. Let's go Paris, breakfast awaits. I can smell it."

"You smell carnage, which is about to take place if someone doesn't inform me exactly who this is," Paris threatened.

"Troy, my darling, my most merciful of the merciful," Lind tried.

"No hablo English?" Jei added, but Paris continued to seethe.

"Dude, what is he, the terminator?" Jei mumbled to Lind.

"Worse- a lawyer," said Lind. "Dorothy was just leaving love, now let's go. It's too early for this shit." He tried to pull Paris along, to no avail. Lind attempting to move Paris any way he did not agree with was comical to say the least, so he gave up while he was still ahead. Jei tried to make himself small and took a tiny step back.

"Dude, I already apologized, won't happen again, I'm sorry. The monster beach's all yours."

At that Paris made the same strangled noise and cast a questioning glance at Lind. "The blue terror twin," was Lind's enigmatic response. Paris groaned.

"You will keep this to yourself. If I find my beach infested with marine biologists, I will personally strip you of your hide, puree it and feed it to you through a tube," Paris said calmly. Lind started cursing and ran off, leaving the evil large one to glare at him. The blonde's attention however was directed at the disturbance near the house. Three figures were arguing loudly, among them the boy who'd come out of the water earlier. The yelling only escalated when Lind got to them. The large blond sighed and addressed Jei.

"I better not see you here again. You are lucky Lind found you first."

Jei didn't need to be told twice. He muttered apologies as if his life depended on it, which it very well might have, and ditched his surfboard in the back of his truck. He didn't waste time getting the hell out of there.

At least he knew whose anklet he'd found last time he had been on that beach. It was pretty and his friends never let him forget that. Of course, he made it easy for them- he never took it off. The anklet was primarily seashells and black pearls he had thought to be imitation but which turned out to be painfully real. Ever since then he had been waiting for someone to recognize it and demand it back, just when he'd gotten attached to it.

By the time he'd reached his tiny flat the weirdness of the whole thing had grown to immense proportions in his head. Nothing at all made sense. It couldn't be sharks, those tended to involve more blood and guts. Octopi were unlikely as well, he was pretty sure those kept to greater depths. Not a single creature he could think of pulled one under with so little effort only to disappear. Not even a nibble! When he caught himself considering sea urchins he knew he had lost it completely. This is exactly why he found himself back at the beach a week later on the furthest end from the house in the middle of the night, wearing a wetsuit and armed with goggles and a torch.

"I must be out of my mind," he repeated for the millionth time. "I am out of my mind."

He checked to see if the lights were out in the house, also for the millionth time. They were, just as they had been last time he had looked. He donned the goggles and swam out as far as he thought he had been last time, took a deep breath and dove, lighting the torch when he judged it safe.

Except for the spooky darkness which was to be expected it looked damn ordinary. He continued his search for the 'thing' he had dubbed 'the monster from the black lagoon', but found nothing. Eventually he started wondering what he would do if he did find it. The best he could think of consisted mostly of the words 'flee', 'girl' and 'panic'.

Something moved. Something too large to be a fish. Jei started feeling his 'flee after screaming like a girl and then run in panicky circles until aid arrives' mentality set in but couldn't help the reflex to point the light straight at the 'thing'.

He let all his air out in shock, struggling to reach the surface. It was horrible. It was terrifying. It was a boy. Could it be dead? No, wait, dead things don't swim. Jei was about to start fleeing when something grabbed his foot and yanked hard.

"Hoshit, hoshit, hoshit, leggo!" he squealed, wriggling for all he was worth.

The thing surfaced, stared at him and giggled. Jei was paralysed. Monsters, as a rule, did not giggle. At best, they chuckled. Smirking was the usual modus operandi. This monster had blue hair and eyes, and the palest skin imaginable. It also looked about his age.

"Uh, hi?"

"Hello," the monster said with a wave. The monster, Jei noticed, had very long and oddly shiny fingernails.

"Isn't it a little late to be out swimming?" he asked and then wanted to hit himself. He wasn't really getting anywhere with that. The monster seemed to agree because he just raised an eyebrow and waited.

"I'm Jei?" he tried again.

"Keiji. Why do you have Lind's anklet?"

Jei looked down and quickly back up when he realised what he was doing. "I found it. On the beach."

Keiji cocked his head. "No one is supposed to come to the beach. Paris and Michael were very angry when you came last time. What is a marine biologist?" the boy asked.

Jei chuckled nervously. "They won't come. I keep my promises. Honest."

"Which is why you are here," Keiji said grinning.

"Most of them then," he conceded. "I had to know what the hell grabbed me. It was driving me mental thinking about it," he admitted.

Keiji nodded. "I see. You found it," he said and pointed at himself. "I thought you were Lind," he explained. "Because of the anklet."

Jei's thoughts spun and he blurted them out before he lost his nerve. "What are you?"

The boy shrugged. "I am Keiji, of the Dak'ra Clan. I live here, Michael and Paris let it be so." He frowned. "There are too many of you land walkers for it to be easy," he accused.

"Uh, sorry?" he said. The answer had left him with more questions than before.

"Stop reproducing," Keiji answered tartly.

"No worries there from my end," Jei said lightly. "They have yet to find a way for men to have babies, so you're safe from me."

"Will you come back?" the boy asked suddenly.

"Uh, no? The big dude threatened my skin in very painful ways. I think he could do it too," he said, casting a nervous glance at the house.

Keiji laughed. "Paris hasn't killed anything in a very long time. Say you'll come. You're interesting." He didn't wait for an answer, instead he disappeared under water making Jei feel lost, confused and a few other things he'd rather not think about. When he resurfaced he held out his hand to Jei, who took whatever it was out of reflex.

It was another anklet, this one made of coral and the occasional pearl. Jei held it carefully, marvelling at the beauty of the thing. He was so caught up in it he almost missed Keiji's parting comment.

"I will know it is you if you wear it. Do come again," he had said before once more disappearing in the waves.

He didn't remember getting out of the water, or even driving home, be he had woken up in his own bed. It was impossible to just pretend it was a dream, he had woken up with that damned anklet still in his hand. Every time he tried to forget or deny the strange meeting the thing would almost be staring him in the face. If it'd had eyes, he was sure he would have been the one to blink first.

It was almost time for work. Jei had found employment at the local board shop when he'd settled in town to stay. The owner was a friend of a cousin of a distant relative. However, it had worked out in the peculiar way family connections tended to do, and for once he was grateful for the extensive ties his clan insisted on maintaining.

Jei was Korean by birth but had been adopted by a Japanese couple unable to have children of their own. Theirs had been a true Romeo and Juliet story, as a consequence he had grown up in a loving household and spoiled more than any other child he knew. The only reason it had never gone to his head was his immense gratitude towards the people who had chosen him of all people to save from that hellhole of an orphanage. There were other perks as well. Because they had been kept from each other by their respective families, his parents accepted his son's choices without reservations. While his father still tended to backslide to asking about girlfriends, his mother never failed to send him the most recent works of his favourite male pop stars.

His boss was a girl named Tanya, who spent most of her time either shaping and airbrushing boards or in the water. It was a miracle the shop had not closed down yet. He figured he had come in the nick of time, not that she acknowledged that in the slightest. His duties basically amounted to keeping things orderly and dealing with the commercial aspect of things while Tanya practiced her art. It was absolutely perfect, he could keep his own hours for the most part and got a discount you wouldn't believe. Also, he lived a stone's throw away from work. The most amusing part had to be Tanya's insistence he hone his skills, so Jei dutifully spent a few hours a day surfing alongside her and generally enjoying every second of his existence.

A few weeks had gone by since The Incident when The Incident Part II took place. Jei had just finished a delightful lunch at the nearby sandwich shop and was returning back to work in a great mood. Truly, a better mood had not been seen in days. He groped for the keys to the shop and promptly dropped them. Reflected in the glass was a face he had hoped never to see again.

"Not from around here, are we?" Lind said, with what Jei hoped was an amused inflection.

He turned slowly and tried his best impression of a friendly smile. "Moved here recently as a matter of fact."

"I see, I see. And already best friends with Tanya. Well done indeed."

Jei shrugged. "Third cousin of Uncle's second wife's brother's daughter."

Lind raised his hands in surrender. "You lost me after 'cousin'. But relax, I'm just here to pick something up. Look under 'Marks' and if not try 'Lohan'," he said.

Jei raised an eyebrow. "Do I want to know?"

Lind grinned. "Ask and ye shall receive some serious smiting."

"Noted. I have a Mr. and Mrs. Paris Hilton, if that's the theme here?"

"That would be it," Lind groaned. "Bloody hell Tan, not fucking funny," he grumbled.

Jei, however, snickered all the way to the storage room. That is, until he saw what he had come for. It was a slightly paler Jei who reappeared with the board and he happily handed it over. Just get it away, please.

"If you could sign for it, than we're all set." He sounded strange, even to himself. Lind gave him one of those meaningful looks which had been going around, but said nothing.

"Thank Tanya for me when you se her, ta ta." said Lind as he left.

Jei stared mutely until Lind was well out of sight, then quickly flipped over the sign proclaiming the shop open and fell back in his chair. Mermaids. It sounded absolutely ridiculous, but there it was, pointing its metaphorical finger and laughing. Blue hair, weird shiny nails, smooth pale skin. Water, for crying out loud. Mermaids. It made a disgusting lot of sense when he thought about it and it had taken a damn surfboard to point it out to him.

There was unfortunately only one way to know for sure.

They way he saw it, he was in trouble either way. His skin could be pureed, which he reckoned wouldn't last long as he was bound to faint after two seconds of the peeling process, or he could have seriously pissed off some mermaids. The second scared him quite a bit more than the first as it would mean never again being able to set foot in a body of water without pissing himself.

He had contemplated wearing a shirt which proclaimed he came in peace but decided it ultimately useless. Who knew if mermaids could even read? It was not worth the trouble of finding one such shirt so the anklet would simply have to do. He had taken the pearl one off, meaning to return it to Lind, if worst came to worst, as a peace offering. The other he had not taken off since the morning after he had received it.

It was a very determined Jei who waded through the water of the so called black lagoon that night. He made sure to splash plenty, this time actually trying to get someone's attention. A bright light suddenly blinded him but a familiar giggle put him at ease.

"You forgot this last time you came. I have been waiting to return it to you."

"That's, ah, very kind of you. Think you could maybe turn it off?" Jei asked, keeping a hand firmly planted over his eyes.

"Of course, it's easy," Keiji said and did just that. "Would you like to take a walk on the beach?" he asked.

"Uh, sure?"

"I've been told it is traditional," Keiji added.

Jei shook most of the water off in a doglike fashion and smiled. "I guess it is, in a way. If you were thinking of a date-type scenario," he said and stiffened as soon as the words had left his mouth. "Were you?"

Keiji shrugged, making a vague gesture with his hands which means 'oh, well, you know' everywhere. Jei watched him closely for signs of mermaid but he was getting distracted by a very obvious fact about Keiji's wardrobe; there was none. There were plenty of things on him, strings and strings of things, but no actual clothes of the covering variety. He could however buy several houses with what he wore in ornaments.

"Do you think I'm pretty?" Keiji asked him, and before he registered the question he answered.

"Very pretty."

Keiji beamed at him. "So Michael was telling the truth, that's nice. I think you are much prettier. You're such a special colour!" he enthused. He deftly plaited his hair and pinned it up with a decorative stick-like thing he produced out of nowhere.

Jei examined himself. "Just tanned skin. And the usual, uh, Asianness."

Keiji smiled and led him away from the house, which was a good thing for all involved, and to a rocky patch of the beach. They sat down and just watched each other for a bit, before Keiji lightly tapped his nose.

"Excuse me?"

"I was led to believe there would be more kissing involved," Keiji said pensively. "It seems these things are more complicated than I had previously imagined."

Jei thought about it for a while, actively ignoring the absurdity for the situation. "It is generally believed to be bad manners to kiss people you're not very well acquainted with," he concluded.

"But I know your name and you know my name and clan!" Keiji protested.

"How do I put this…we, ah, we are different species. There's a bit more information to be shared." He stopped speaking when it became obvious the boy was hardly paying attention. Instead, he was moving closer, seemingly intent on something. Jei tried not to flinch when Keiji ran his long-nailed fingers through his hair, but he did gasp when he sniffed it.

"You smell good," he said right before he licked his neck. "Taste good too." he added.

"Thank you?"

It was getting progressively more difficult to think properly and it became outright impossible when he looked in to those sea-blue eyes. On some level he had known it would happen but he was still surprised when he felt cold lips touch his skin. They weren't too cold for very long and Jei found that despite his odd mannerisms Keiji could kiss very well.

"It will be your turn next," Keiji proclaimed.

"What?"

"You will come pick me up tomorrow. I am not very familiar with your world, but I have been instructed in this dating thing," Keiji spoke slowly as if explaining to a child.

Jei found he couldn't resist. This monster, this fairytale creature, this beautiful boy wanted to date him. It was perhaps not too bad an idea, if they were careful. Then there was his fascination with the blue-haired youth, that part was cheering him on. He figured common sense was a luxury he didn't really have to afford himself, so he agreed. He made sure Keiji knew what he would be facing and reminded him several times of the need for clothes. The merman assured him he had it all covered and wouldn't he like to kiss some more? There was really no arguing with that logic.

Only the next day did the full implications of what he had agreed to dawn on him. The last thing Keiji had said before they parted had been 'I'll be waiting at the house'. He hadn't thought much of it, at the time it had made sense. Now that he had to go there however, he suddenly remembered why it was not such a stellar plan.

That is how The Incident III came about.

He had finally decided they would go to a beachside restaurant for several reasons. One, it would be close enough to the water in case of any merman emergencies. Two, the table between them might help put a stop to the kissing and encourage some talking. Three, there were people there and he doubted the Big Blond would kill him with so many witnesses.

Three became moot when he realised he would have to go to The House to pick up his date. And so out protagonist found himself at the door with a flower in his hand and perhaps a minute left to live. He knocked softly and prayed. The door opened and he was faced with a striking man. He had long green hair, liberally decorated with shells and gems, and was dressed in white linen pants. Like Keiji, he had long shiny nails and startling eyes.

"Good evening, I'm Jei," he stammered.

"Sherrati," the merman said, inclining his head. "Keiji will be down shortly, why don't you come inside?"

Refusal crossed his mind but he steeled himself and bravely stepped inside.

"Take a seat, I will go fetch him. Let me take that for you," he said, liberating Jei of the flower he had brought.

"Thank you."

Jei sat down facing a gorgeous painting of the ocean and began to inspect his surroundings. It was a very spacious sitting room with quite a bit of wood and some pastel green touches. There were a few pictures and Jei recognised Lind and the Scary Blond in some of them.

Sherrati appeared on the stairs with Keiji following behind him. They sat down on the sofa beneath the painting and Jei could feel his jaw drop. Keiji was wearing a dress.

"Let me give you both some advice, as you seem very intent on this," Sherrati said seriously. "First of all, where were you planning on taking him?" he addressed Jei.

"Uh, well I'd thought we could go to 'Siren' for dinner, it's a beachside seafood restaurant, and then maybe check out the carnival later," Jei said, feeling very much like a kid facing his prom date's parents.

Sherrati nodded with a smile. "That sounds very nice. When you order," he told Keiji, "make very sure you tell them to season your food only with salt and or lemon. Only drink water."

The boy nodded solemnly.

"Under no circumstances is he to have alcohol. Please," he told Jei.

"Uh, ok. Can I ask why the dress?"

Sherrati lifted a brow. "Can you imagine him in jeans and a t-shirt?"

He could. Gods, he could, and with that long blue hair and those eyes, never mind the jewellery, he would look more than odd. The dress he was wearing was a very simple light blue summer dress with a silky ribbon tied around his waist. His hair was pinned up with some decorative sticks with the flower he'd brought him proudly displayed over his right ear.

"We had to settle on dressing him as a girl for a very simple reason." Sherrati picked up Keiji's hand, displaying the long nails, which were painted blue. "Or kind needs these to hunt, and as Keiji still lives in the sea we could not cut them. It would be a handicap."

"That, and I really hate shoes," Keiji said, displaying his feet which sported a pair of delicate slippers. "Do we know everything now, brother? Can we go?"

Sherrati hugged him. "Almost. The rest you can learn on your own. Go get your shawl, I wish to speak to your date."

"Do not threaten him, brother," Keiji warned. "Paris did enough of that already."

"I won't, I promise. Now go."

Jei watched him bound up the stairs. By the gods he was beautiful. He could not begin to guess what he had done to deserve him.

"Now, I am sure you will not forget anything I have told you."

"Of course not."

"Good. Keiji is special to us all and I do believe Paris was right to warn you off, however what has been done cannot be undone. My brother can be impulsive at times, but he is sincere in his affections so I will give you a chance. Please take this," he said and handed Jei a pile of bills.

Jei spluttered. "I can't! I have my own money!"

"Quiet. You will take it. I have no need for it. Make him happy."

He didn't get a chance to argue as Keiji chose that moment to appear and drag him out the door.

"I have never really spent time in your world, I am terribly excited," the merman told him.

"I hope it doesn't disappoint you very much, I am not overly fond of it," Kei muttered.

The ride to 'Siren' was an experience in itself. Keiji exclaimed over this and that, firing a multitude of questions at Jei who did his best to answer them. He only succeeded in prompting more questions and begged the merman to let him answer some other time. When they arrived Jei did the gentlemanly thing and opened the door for his date, offering an arm which Keiji took once it was explained why it was there.

Being the middle of the week, it was not overly crowded, but 'Siren' was a popular place so at least half the tables were taken any given day. Jei had already decided they would sit outside and they made their way to the balcony facing the ocean.

"Why is everyone looking?" Keiji asked suddenly.

Jei hadn't noticed, but everyone was indeed watching them as they passed through. "You are very exotic. I doubt they have ever seen anyone that pretty. Or with such hair," he added.

Keiji looked a bit panicked. "Do I look human enough?"

"Don't worry, you're fine. Just very remarkable," Jei assured him.

The evening proceeded without incident. The waiter did raise a brow at Keiji's dietary preferences, but that was it. They spent most of the time telling each other about their lives, Keiji regaled him with tales of life beneath the waves and Jei in turn told him about his family.

"They sound very kind."

"They are. Mother and father are the kindest people ever to live. I miss them a lot, but we talk very so often on the phone and online."

"Do you think they would like me?" Keiji asked.

"I do. I am sure of it," Jei said, and he was. Talking to Keiji made him realise the young man was just as beautiful on the inside as he was on the outside. He was someone Jei could really come to love. "Did you like the food?"

Keiji nodded. "It was very different, but nice. Only Lind ever made cooked food for me before, but that wasn't really very good. I like your eyes."

Momentarily thrown by the statement, Jei just blinked.

"I do. They're very expressive. I bet Michael would love to paint you."

"Michael?"

"He lives in the house. He is Paris' younger brother. Their family has taken care of our people for generations," Keiji elaborated.

"I don't think he would like me very much. I trespassed on his property."

Keiji shrugged. "It doesn't matter anymore. You can't undo it. I doubt they'll stay angry forever."

Jei certainly hoped not, that would make seeing Keiji fairly difficult. When they paid their bill it was later than Jei'd thought so they decided to head back and see the carnival some other time.

"I liked talking with you, but there was a distinct lack of kissing," Keiji admonished when they'd reached the front door.

"Let me remedy that."

He took the boy in his arms and oh, he was warm and his hair smelled so very nice, so very nice indeed. Gently he brushed some strands of blue out of his face and pressed his lips to Keiji's. It was as good as he'd remembered. It was in fact so good he never even noticed the other car pull up, or the two men approaching the house.

He did, however, noticed the fist that made contact with his face, and the yelling, there was plenty of that too, before everything went quiet.

"That goddamn…!"

"Calm down!"

"I will not!"

"Shut up!"

"Oh Jei, are you alright!"

"You impulsive…"

"Someone help him!"

"Everyone quiet!" Sherrati stood in the doorway and his expression was murderous. He bent down and picked Jei up as if he weighed nothing. "Keiji, go and get some ice. Wrap it in the cloth Michael uses to dry dishes."

The boy stormed by them without a second glance and Sherrati calmly carried Jei inside. He placed him on the sofa and stood over him, glaring at Paris until Keiji returned with the ice.

"Lift his head and sit down, then place his head on your lap. Gently press the ice to his brow," Sherrati instructed. "I will go make some tea. You can deal with this meshekte idiot, but no shouting," he said and left the room.

Lind pushed the still furious Paris in a chair. "You want to explain now, please? Before Grog here decides to take another swing at the kid."

Keiji glared. "Don't touch him or I will gut you like I gut fish."

Lind winced, he knew that threat. Coming from a merman, it was a very real one. Then, he noticed something odd.

"Why are you wearing a dress," he asked incredulously.

"Because we tried pants and they looked odd and I hate shoes but these slipper things are alright," Keiji explained patiently. "Sherrati said id didn't matter anyway, clothes are clothes."

Even Paris looked a bit disturbed after that. He had calmed down some, but the intruder was still there. It would be best if he allowed Lind to do the talking. He would only make matters worse.

"Ok, I see, but why clothes?" Lind finally asked.

"He is very nice you know. Not once did he laugh at me, even though I know some of my questions must have been odd for him. He even came back when I asked, even after you were horrible to him," he accused Paris.

"He should not have been here in the first place!" Paris objected. "Keiji, you know how hard we try to keep you all safe. He could have ruined all that. I worry for the clan."

Keiji ignored him, instead turning to Lind. "We went to his place called 'Siren'. He thought it very funny to take me there, and I agreed. There were amusing pictures of people with fish tails, but the food was good. He told me about his family, he has almost as many cousins as I do," he said, smiling down on the unconscious Jei.

"You went…on a date?" Lind guessed.

"Yes. I asked Sherrati and he explained it all to me. The kissing especially was very good."

Paris groaned in his chair and covered his face with his hands. "Why do I get to deal with experimenting teenagers Why couldn't cousin Tam get the inter-species relationships? Yes, there is Michael, but he is of mixed blood and why me?"

Lind patted him on the shoulder lightly. "There, there. It will work itself out."

Sherrati returned with steaming mugs of tea and set them on the side table.

"We should put him in Michael's room, he will not be back for another day. Keiji, stay with him." He ran a hand through the boy's hair. "I will deal with these two. Now go."

That was how Jei came to wake up in the arms of a merman with the headache from hell. Luckily, the merman in question fed him pain medication immediately upon waking and in minutes, he could even remember his own name.

"I am so sorry," Keiji whispered.

"Not your fault, yeah? Don't worry about it. Where are we?"

"Michael's room. He went to visit his mother and Sherrati said to put you here."

There was a light knock and Lind stuck his head inside. "Hey. Feeling better?"

Jei groaned. "Better when I'm a mile away from him."

"Too bad hot stuff, breakfast is ready and you need to let him apologise before he kills me with his guilt."

Jei had nearly started to protest before he actually understood those words. "Wait, guilt?"

Lind grinned. "Welcome to the family, Jei," he said and winked.

When he wasn't shouting or punching people, Jei decided, Paris was a fairly decent guy. His reasons had been quite sound so Jei couldn't even blame him all that much. He'd do everything to protect Keiji and his people too, as long as no one expected him to use his noodle arms in battle. That is not to say things weren't tense that morning, they were, but between Lind's teasing and Keiji's hand on his thigh, he managed not to embarrass himself too badly.

"Well, I say it's time to hit the water. The weather's gorgeous and it's my day off. What say yee, my brethren, do we have a spare pair of trunks to outfit Dorothy with?" Lind said, nudging Paris.

"Lindsay, we live on the beach. We probably have more swimming paraphernalia than actual clothing."

Jei looked at the two of them and then it clicked. "Lindsay and Paris? Oh, that's harsh dude. Now I finally get what Tan thinks is damn funny. Really, really harsh."

Lind nodded sagely. "We are a match made in ridicule heaven."

"I can relate, in a way," Jei said. "I narrowly escaped being called Ken."

Lind winced. "Well done on that one, my good man, well done."

"No one ever gave me a choice," Paris grumbled. "My birth name is Troy Christian Alexis Greene, out of all of those, I end up with Paris. It followed me home, to University, even to work."

Lind patted his arm. "There, there. Be happy they didn't dub you Zeus, my Greek god with the lightning tongue."

The two mermen watched the humans interact with amused little smiles and devoured the rest of breakfast while the others chatted. Sherrati smiled at his little brother and turned to Paris.

"I will remain here and read. If Michael appears early I will be able to explain before we get a repeat of yesterday."

"Good thinking, and thank you," Paris said."

"For everything," Lind added. "This entire ordeal might have become a disaster if not for you, Sher. You're a gem."

"I'll remind you of that next time you complain I am keeping Michale from his cooking duties," Sherrati said.

It didn't take long for Jei to see that he was as awkward in Keiji's world as Keiji was in his. He could swim fairly well and he loved the ocean, but Keiji lived it. That aside, there was just no competing with someone with webbed toes and the ability to breathe under water. He and Lind shared in the enthusiasm Keiji projected while Paris chose to indulge in a more sedate pace.

Now he possibly could match the merman for skill. Jei noticed he stayed under for insane lengths of time when he chose to dive. While he was still apprehensive about the whole thing, Jei managed to have a grand time. He especially liked watching Lind and Paris interact. It was just so obvious they were in love that it was a pleasure to see. Lind teased Paris mercilessly and Paris indulged him. Every time their eyes met they would share this little smile and it would seem like they were sharing a secret.

Slick arms encircled his waist and Jei smiled. He could really get used to this.