He's a Mermaid in the Night
I must've got a big one cause it's bending my pole
I'm having to fight just to keep my hold
It could be a whale (oh) God only knows
Whatever it is it's not wearing any clothes
She's larger than life
Made from holy water
She's covered in green
She's got little scales upon her
She's larger than life
She'a a mermaid in the night
She's got a set of gills like no fish I've ever seen
Long blond hair and a tail in between
I'm in love with a creature from the sea
And she's bringing out the crustacean in me
In the early morning hours after the bomber calling herself the Switchman was taken into custody, Jim Ellison did the previously unthinkable.
He went AWOL.
Absent without leave. Without permission. Without so much as a see-you-later wave in the direction of his captains office.
At 2 am, his head aching from the insect-like buzz of the bullpens fluorescents, hed typed up his report on Veronica Sarris, stopping just long enough to add a comment in precise block letters across the top of the form.
WE GOT DAMN LUCKY SIMON.
At 7 am he was halfway to Long Beach Peninsula.
When he got there he did what hed been contemplating for 165 miles.
He threw his badge in the water off the north jetty of Cape Disappointment.
When he woke the next morning, the night in the tent at the Fort Canby campground being the first decent nights sleep hed had since that ill-fated stakeout, the badge was sitting on one of the rocks hed used to ring the fire.
He would have sworn--
No, make that he knew hed stood at the edge of the jetty wall and tossed the thing into the deep briny.
Theyd followed him out here. Out to the boonies where there was no job stress. No crazed lunatic with the governments finest demolitions training. Out here where he didnt feel like his head was about to explode from the pressure.
He looked at the badge, its gold shield glinting in the sunlight. A shard of reflected light hit his eye
When he came to, the sun was past the midpoint of the sky.
The first thing he thought was --
It had happened again.
He walked to the jetty and splashed the cause of his torment back into the ocean.
When he woke the morning after that, the badge was sitting on one of the rocks hed used to ring the fire.
The first thing he thought was --
The second thing he thought was that it was clearly time to go fishing.
He left the badge where it lay, took the reel and found a nearby sandy stretch of beach. He cast the line, leaned back against a boulder and watched the sea, undulating in blues and greens and glinting under a rare northwestern sun. A shard of light bounced off a wave --
When he came to, he was fighting to keep a hold on the rod, the damn thing bowed like it was about to loose an arrow.
Whatever the hell hed hooked, it was a big one.
He staggered to his feet and arched his spine against the pull, moving a tortuous foot length back at a time. It was like hed hooked a goddamn whale or a least a marlin. Neither of which should be anywhere near the Washington shore.
A glimpse of shoulder showed above a swelling wave.
Whatever it was, it wasnt wearing any clothes.
The catch he brought up on the shore was nearly six feet in length. A green-scaled tail glistened iridescently, crusting with sand as it flopped from side to side. Viewed from one angle what hed hooked was most definitely of the headed-for-the-frying-pan variety. Viewed from the other--
Well from the other side, the fish was male. Which he doubted was something you could easily tell in a fish, but he knew from the sideburns.
And while a fish might think he was really a pain in the fin, Jim didnt expect a fish to say it. Or to add in a lyric tenor -- Well dont just stand there and blink at me! Get this fucking hook out!
As he bent down, the fish man hell the thing continued, Have you got any idea what it feels like to have a barbed piece of metal in you?
Sorry. Jim tried to disentangle the curved hook from where it pierced through the tender flesh of a pale cheek. Sorry. He hissed again as blood as red as his own bathed his fingers. I I With a deft twist he had the torturous piece of metal safely in his hand. He frowned at it, guilt blossoming as he wiped blood from steel. I wasnt expecting to catch a mermaid.
Oh for Oannes sake I am not a mermaid. With an irritated flip the creature rolled belly-up, displaying a flat stomach with a human-looking bellybutton and a little lower, a smooth overlap of pearly scales. Would a mermaid have one of these?
Jim blinked in confusion as a fine-boned hand pointed to a slit in the petulantly undulating tail. A slit in which something moved. As nine or so inches of unmistakably shaped flesh protruded, Jim could only stammer. It its green.
Yeah, its also retractable and prehensile. The dolphins have a couple inches on us, but, still Jim watched speechless as the iridescent, tapered length curled itself into a graceful spiral before disappearing back in the opening. He realized hed stopped hearing whatever was being said.
The tail flipped in his direction, showering him with sand.
Hey! Jim muttered, brushing damp globs from his chest. What was that for?
You werent listening, man. Im a mer-man. And Im not talking about that mess of cobbled-together body parts they have at some alligator farm in Arkansas. Im talking about Triton you know, son of Poseidon, owner of that tri-part pointy thing he likes to jab you in the tail with?
Im hallucinating. Jim diagnosed, closing his eyes, a hand moving to grip at the pain blossoming in his forehead. Youre a fucking hallucination.
Now, thats very insulting, the fish mermaid mer-man retorted.
Well, so be it. Youre an insulted hallucination. But youre still a hallucination. I probably have a brain tumor.
Feeling suddenly weak, Jim staggered against a nearby boulder. It was all rushing in on him again -- the too bright light, too loud crashing of the waves on the shore, too pungent odor of seawater and fish. He felt his knees go. Felt someones strong hands grab his arms and hold him upright but everything was dimming - sight, sound, scent. Everything moving farther away until he was floating in the dark. Surrounded by the strength of the sea.
When he woke again it was in the coolness of the shade of his tent. The flaps were drawn but not zippered and Jim could see the curves of a shadow darken the opening. Something Jim hastily amended the thought *someone* sitting by a low fire.
The song itself was lyric-less and soothing. It swelled and ebbed and wove its way around his brain until he shook his head.
He must have nose-dived straight into another one of the spells, seizures, whatever the hell the things were. He had to have hallucinated bringing up well, fish didnt come as curly-headed brunets and demand to know why the hell youd caught them.
Hed make amends to whomever had found him and then, politely, tell them to get lost.
Look, whoever you are, I want to thank you, but--
Eyes bluer than the tides looked up at him from under a mop of brown curls. He looked he had to look and, thankfully, remarkably normal-looking tanned legs were crossed in a lotus position barely covered by well-worn cutoffs. A shell bracelet surrounded an ankle above bare feet. The oversized and faded Old Seadog Bar t-shirt ruffled in the cape breeze.
Uh, yeah. I think so, anyway. Jim blinked as a square hand stirred the contents of his cast-iron skillet. Where exactly did you -- I mean Ive been having these episodes. Where exactly did you find me?
Hey, man, it was way more like you found me than the other way around.
The stranger hooked a finger in his cheek pulling on the flesh to reveal an angry, deep-pink puncture.
Jim staggered back on suddenly numb legs.
Whoa! Whoa! A tight grip saved him from crashing on top of the tent. Steady there, big guy.
Youre the mermaid!
Oh boy, you really have trouble with that one, dont you? Is there anything maidish-looking about me?
Jim focused on the brown curls spun every now and then with strands of auburn.
Okay, ignoring the hair.
Mer-man, corrected Jim, failing to see the importance in a minor difference in vocabulary when the real problem was more of the fins and tail variety. Youre
A creature of the deep? Siren of the sea? A Ben-Varry? A Havrue? A Ningyo?
Youre a fish!
Blue eyes sparked. Im not a fish. Im every bit the mammal you are, otherwise it would have been a bit hard to drag your sorry, unconscious ass back here.
Then youre some hallucination out of a fairy tale!
Well, now that might be true, anthropologically speaking. But Ill have you know that fairy tale creatures basically only appear to other fairy tale creatures... There was a glint of steel now in the changeable, sea-colored eyes. Sentinel.
Jim rubbed his hand over his furrowed brow but didnt say anything. Frankly, he wasnt sure what to say.
You do realize what you are? persisted his companion.
What I am? I may be the one hallucinating, but Im not the one whos half tuna here.
No, but you are just as big a myth as I am. Frankly, youre a bigger one. People still believe in me but nobodys taken your kind seriously since Burton.
Jim watched, helplessly entranced, as the man bent down and pushed a finger into whatever he was cooking and tasted it, his tongue swirling around corkscrew-like to catch the dripping sauce, reminding Jim of --
Riiiight. Jims irritation rapidly returned. Okay, enough with the joke. Youve had your fun. So, just go away and leave me alone.
Fine, Id be more than happy to leave you alone. Tell me where your Guide is and Ill just his hands made little undulating motions, swim over and get them and they can deal with you.
Jim looked around the deserted campground. Its not the Kalahari, Chief. I dont think I need a guide for public camping.
Okay, look. Either youre a major ass, which knowing a few Sentinels over the years, I can easily see may be the problem. Or you dont have a clue what Im talking about. In which case theres an even bigger problem. Blue eyes studied him for a minute. Theres an even bigger problem, isnt there?
The spoon hed picked up again clattered noisily against the skillet. Oh great. You dont have a Guide, do you? You dont know you need one. Hell, you dont even know youre a Sentinel.
He turned to face the water, hands held out imploringly. Why me? Come on! Its been generations since I helped Odysseus. Holding a grudge this long is beneath you, Poseidon, you know that.
Not so much as a breeze blew back in answer. Jim knelt down beside the fire and poked the spoon at the mass bubbling in the skillet.
I think your stuff is burning.
Kelp. Its kelp. The tanned hands rescued the congealing mass of dark green goo from the flames, setting the pan aside carefully. So, whats the deal here? You dont know youre a Sentinel and you keep polluting the inlet with your badge
Jim felt an odd sense of relief. I did throw it away.
Yeah, twice. And, by the way, officer of the law, you should have heeded that nice sign they put up about not throwing your garbage in the water.
And you were the one who brought it back. Why?
Because it looked important. How was I supposed to know you really meant to chuck it? That considering look was back. Its your senses, isnt it?
The too loud, too bright, too much to handle stuff. You had no idea and now you think youre losing your mind or something, right?
Just who are you?
Me? Im Blair Olokun. A slight smile played about the full lips. My mom was hanging out on the southern coast of Africa when she gave birth.
This meant little to Jim. Although he turned the mermaid mermans name over in his mind and found it fit somehow.
Olokun means owner of the sea. Hes a regional god of the Yoruba. Nice guy, actually, and he doesnt own the whole sea, just the little piece from around
The supposed mermaid merguy, Jim automatically corrected, was forging ahead, his attempt at interruption be damned, mumbling about latitudes and prevailing currents and an invasion of something called sea monks.
Hey, Chief Blair Olokun.
If I agree youre not a hallucination will you le--
You mean you do agree Im not a hallucination?
Uh, not entirely, no.
The mer-- Blairs teeth left tender bite marks on his bottom lip. In that case, I think I better be going. Although I really think you ought to do something about finding a Guide. That zoning thing is really only going to get worse. He gestured toward the skillet. You can keep the kelp, its really good.
Jim glanced askance at the pan then back at the man striding away from him toward the jetty. When the compact body reached the edge it made a perfectly formed dive into the cool water and started swimming away. Not a tail or fin in sight.
Then, without a single glance back in Jims direction, the swimmer dived under the swelling waves and disappeared.
When Jim woke the third morning, he found himself still alone and no badge glistened on the rocks ringing the cooking fire. The previous day might have all been a hallucination were it not for the lump of cooked kelp cemented to his frying pan.
He boiled some water, cleaned the pan, swilled down a cup of instant coffee and a protein bar, and set out, fishing tackle in hand, for the beach.
By afternoon, he had a headache and a fair catch. Enough to improve his outlooks for dinner anyway. He bent down, meaning to gather up his gear, and the grains of sand caught his eye.
Some sparkled, fractured into angular edges that caught the light and reflected it back. Others looked worn and beaten. Still others were round, their surfaces smooth and marble-like.
Jim tried to pull back, but the multiplicity, the staggering diversity of it all pulled him in.
What woke him again was cooking. Metal scraping against metal. The crisp crinkling of foil being unwrapped. His hand went immediately for his gun the empty space where it should have hung a testament to his fears that whatever was happening to him left him dangerous if armed. The revolver was where hed locked it in the heavyweight tackle box.
Cautiously, Jim stuck his head out the flap in the tent.
Ten to the power-of-twenty.
The headache lurking around the edges of his brain took a sudden leap in magnitude when he recognized the voice.
Ten to the power-of-twenty. Id estimate thats the number of grains of sand around this peninsula. So, see, there was really no need to stand there and get sunburned all afternoon counting them.
Jim glanced down at his reddened forearms. Damn. I wasnt counting them.
I know. Counting them would have been productive. You, on the other hand, were zoned again.
I thought you left. Jim approached the fire warily. Another lump of kelp was congealing. Wheres my fish?
Hey, Im not eating my own phylum! Seesh!
Well Im not eating that.
guys pug nose crinkled. Suit yourself,
but if you want flesh youll have to be the one to cook it. Jim reached for the
abused pan. Uh uh. After I eat my kelp if you dont mind.
Mind? Why should I mind? Its not like its my frying pan or anything, is it Chief?
Jims sarcasm went unnoticed.
Its going to happen again, you know.
What? Something Jim found he was saying all too often lately.
The zoning. Its going to happen again. You need a Guide. Or, hell, at least an extant copy of The Sentinels of Paraguay if there still is one. Do you know how rare you guys are? Youre like the original endangered species of the Cenozoic. Theres more Ho-Oo than there are full-fledged Sentinels.
Jim took back his pan, scraping the green gook onto a plate. Here. Your his own nose wrinkled involuntarily seaweed. He fished out a spoon. And dont eat it with your fingers.
Geez, said Blair after pointedly dipping his digits into the kelp, are you always this cheerful?
Only when Im hallucinating.
"But youre not hallucinating. Blair winced as Jim sliced open the stomach cavity of one of his haul and cleaned it out. Then he deftly removed the gills and started scaling with a steady hand. That could be my cousin, you know.
Sorry, Charlie. Jim picked up the next fish and smiled while disemboweling it.
Why exactly is this so hard for you to believe? Not all cryptozoologists are out looking for Big Foot. There are reasonable biological reasons for the existence of all kinds of things.
Jim reached for the aluminum foil. Mermaids?
guy, finished Jim. I got it. I got it.
Okay, bargained Blair, look at it this way. Youre a practical kind of guy, right? He waited for Jims nod. And youve got a problem. A big problem if you ask me, particularly in your line of work cause bright, flashy things pretty much put you out and youre not doing too good with sounds either, from the looks of it. So, this problem needs a solution or Im going to be fishing your damn badge out of the water till the next ice age. Am I right?
Jim poked desultorily at the fire.
Im right and you know it, Blair declared, pinching another bite of kelp off with his thumb and index finger. So, given your obvious distrust of the whole Sentinel/Guide lore, why dont we try something more modern. More West Coast. Blair stuffed the morsel in his mouth. How do you feel about meditation?
How Jim felt about meditation was this it was a fucking waste of time. Big fucking waste of time.
Come on, big guy. This ones easy and its perfect for Sentinel-type problems.
At least so far he hadnt been required to cross his legs like a pretzel and murmur Ohm. Blair let him just sit there and relax.
This was taught to me by Gautama Buddha.
Some big shot meditater?
Blairs laugh was a light, clear chiming. You could say that. The primary focus is your breathing. However, the primary goal is maintaining a calm, non-judging awareness, allowing thoughts, feelings, and sensations to come and go without getting enmeshed in them.
Close your eyes, Jim, he said gently. Keep your back reasonably straight and let your attention rest on your breathing. Now, when physical sensations, sounds, even thoughts, break in, I want you just to acknowledge and accept them, allowing them just to pass by without you judging or getting involved in them. When your attention does stray I want you to just bring it back to your breathing.
Huh? Jim roused himself, blinking in the dimming light. Whoa, how long did we do that?
About an hour. Not too shabby, there, Jim. I knew youd be a natural. Blair had moved to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with him, warmth radiating off him in the rapidly cooling dusk. So now what you need to do is practice twice a day. Every day. Once in the morning and once at night. You should find it keeps you more balanced. Keeps things easier to control.
He slapped his hands lightly on his knees. And it looks like my work here is done. So, Ill oblige and leave you alone. He got up and brushed the sand off his bare legs. Dont forget, Jim, okay. Or youll be back to where you started.
Jim nodded silently and Blair patted his shoulder before turning walking toward the jetty. Jim watched him go, found the muted light to be little trouble to compensate for he could see Blair strip at the jettys edge, depositing the clothes in some kind of hiding place near a rock. He stood for a moment, a silhouette of dark against the gleaming water. Jim thought he could hear him call something in the direction of the tide. Are you happy now, Poseidon? And then he made a perfectly arched dive and was gone.
Simon glowered over the desk at his wayward employee who bore a neatly filled out CPD-stroke-190 form and apparently little remorse for his unscheduled vacation.
He swiped the request for replacement ID from Jims hand. Where the hells your badge anyway?
About 100 feet deep off Cape Disappointment.
Seven years of captaining got the better of him and Simon heard himself bark, You threw your badge into the ocean?
Better it than myself.
Simon rested his forehead in his hand. Christ. Are you telling me it was that bad? That you went out there to harm yourself?
If things didnt get better. Yeah. Maybe.
Jim if youre telling me you were, and maybe still are, suicidal, then we need to get you help. One large hand was already engulfing the handset of the phone.
Concerned, dark brown eyes studied Jim from across the desktop.
If I was, acknowledged Jim. Im not now.
So this stuff you complained about the physical symptoms theyre better?
Yeah. I think so. I think I just needed a little help with them. Jim looked thoughtful. I learned a few meditation tricks to get me through.
A few meditation tricks, repeated Simon skeptically.
Jim pulled absently at one earlobe. I met this guy. At the campground. Kind of a hippie type. Long hair. A couple earrings. Big set of tail fins. Big, green, curvy
And you talked to him?
Of course, Simon. You know how it is. Neighborly camping courtesy. Really interesting guy, actually, born on the coast of Africa. Somewhere around 1100 BCE
Uh huh. The captain took a deep breath. So what youre saying is that youre ready to come back.
Then welcome back, Detective. Simon looked down and frowned at his watch, capturing the phone and looking only up momentarily. And get back to work.
Blair surfaced at the Cascade Docks and tried to spit the taste of oil and diesel fuel out of his mouth.
Gah. Nastier than the wharf at Long Beach, that was for sure, and he hadnt thought anything could get nastier than that. Or Sprey Bay in Scotland where hed last been spotted by a reliable witness (i.e. one not either intoxicated or blessed with Sentinel abilities and a wickedly barbed hook). Of course that had been 1814 when two fishermen caught him in flagrante delicto with a Selkie on a Midsummers Eve.
This better be worth it.
Not that he could really ignore the calling of his nature. Damn vengeful sea god. He hadnt been born a Guide. But hed now been made one.
He could feel the pull of the Sentinel grow stronger with the passing miles. Guess that made Ellison his personal Siren song. Blair groaned at his own sub-par humor and hoisted himself up on a pier. His newly transformed toes were perfect but his legs were cold, which meant clothes soon. A wavering drunk dropped his brown-paper-wrapped bottle with a splintering crash and an infusive scent of cheap whiskey.
Blair jiggled his fingers in greeting in the startled mans direction. Hey. Got any idea where you can get some clothes around here?
Grubby hands rubbed at bleary eyes in a cartoonish gesture. The man checked again to make sure he was still seeing --
Yeah, naked guy on the docks, Blair called back. Like Im sure thats never happened before. So, dude, clothes?
Church Street Mission down down on 24th.
Thanks. Sorry about the Blair waved a hand at the remains of the mans nightcap. Take care.
A hesitant hand was raised in return.
Yeah, said Blair. See ya.
Hands on hips he surveilled the poorly kept asphalt shore before him. You better be worth this, James Ellison.
Water quality here sucks, man.
Jim banged the door as he jumped, his heart slamming up into his throat then back down again to his chest where it hung, stuttering.
In the flesh well, in some kind of flesh, anyway. You know, I really like toes, I do. But the whole look Jim watched goggle-eyed as the smaller man spun around once before him, its just not the same.
Blair? asked Jim again, blinking in a manner scarily reminiscent of the drunk at the dock.
Maybe if he began again. Hi, Jim.
What are you doing here?
Thought Id drop in.
Were ten miles from the shore.
Yeah, I know that, Jim. You know, you really should think about getting a beach house. Every mile you move inland the airborne particle count
Jim watched strong hands wave in a kind of bizarre parody of the local weatherman showing a storm path.
Not that that really matters, hastened Blair when he realized his audience was nowhere near following him. Look, I came to see you, man. You know. Fairy-tale-creature to fairy-tale-creature.
Jim just blinked at him again stolidly.
Okay, confession time. Im Im a Blair sank back cross-legged on the couch. See, Poseidon--
Guy with the fork, Jim identified, still sounding kind of dazed.
Guy with the pointy fork. See, I helped this dude named Odysseus.
Odysseus, parroted Jim numbly.
Yeah, Odysseus. Poseidon had this kid, Polyphemous. Ugly kid, actually. Cyclops. But thats not important. Anyway you know how the Greeks are
Jim shook his head slowly.
Or maybe not; but, you know, the idiots thought that the rules of hospitality meant it was perfectly fine for Odysseus guys to eat all the sheep and cheese.
Sheep and cheese.
Blair narrowed his eyes. You okay, Jim? He patted the couch. Come sit down. You look a little ragged.
He rubbed a hand over Jims shoulder when he sat. Anyway, where was I? Oh so Polyphemous comes home and there isnt anything to eat, so he scarfs a few of Odysseus crew as a snack. Odysseus gets pissed and blinds him, then Poseidon has a royal fit and curses Odysseus so he cant get home.
Blairs curly head swung back in Jims direction. Huh?
While thats all fascinating, what does it have to do with you being here?
Oh, Blair knotted his hands and then unknotted them, studying them intently. Well, see, Poseidons been a bit pissed for a while cause I kind of helped Odysseus after Hyperion smashed his ship. Helping Odysseus was a big no-no. Big.
He looked back up to see nearly glazed blue eyes staring somewhere to the left of his ear. Jim. Jim, you arent zoning, are you?
Jim shuddered back into reality. So you irritated this Poseidon person.
God, Jim. Poseidon is a god.
You irritated this god.
Yeah, basically. Who knew hed hold a grudge this long? He must have been waiting for just the right time to
Chief, Jim groaned. Try to concentrate here. Why. Are. You. Here?
Blairs lips rounded in an O. Oh. Well, Poseidon thought it would be amusing to turn me into a Guide. Remember, I told you about Guides?
The thing the meditations taking the place of?
Uh, well, the Guide is not so much a thing, Jim.
More like a partner
a lifelong partner.
He was met with a disheartening blank stare and Blair took to knotting and unknotting his fingers again.
Your lifelong partner, actually. Theres all this
pair stuff that goes along with a Sentinel/Guide relationship. Im sorry, Jim,
I had to come. If were not in proximity, itll start to
start to feel it. I didnt have anything else to do, its not like
Poseidons probably gonna change me back anytime soon.
As so often with the mer, uh, guy, Jim was having difficulty
understanding just what any of it meant. He fixed on the easiest question. The one having
nothing to do with the words lifelong partner. Why not?
Why not? Because hes POSEIDON. You gotta remember that
when he wanted to have sex with his sister, Demeter, she changed herself into a mare to
try and avoid him, but Poseidon just changed into a stallion and her first baby came out a
Blair looked up meaningfully but Jim was just
Im stuck like this, reiterated Blair, then he
clarified, I mean in this body. Well, I mean I kind of am because youre human
and if youre in human form that means Im gonna spending most of my time in
human form. What I really mean is WERE stuck like this youre a Sentinel
and Im your Guide. But Im
Im not totally unhappy about this, Jim.
Really. Ive got a few years to spare. Being a Guide could
Jim brushed a hand through his short hair. He sat still a long
time and just looked at his
Guide. Several important things came to mind at the
moment but basically the one he just couldnt figure out was --
Where the hell did you get those clothes?
Jim, I swear, Im making you that appointment with the department shrink.
Jim just shrugged under Simons bluster.
That man is not a mermaid. The captain lifted the
blind and stared out at the dejected form hunched in Jims chair. Hes a
odd, maybe, but he is NOT A MERMAID. He let the slat fall.
Incidentally, why does he look like hes wearing Megans pink dingo
Because he didnt have any money and it was cold and thats what the jokers down at the mission gave him to wear. Im going to take him out and get him some flannel shirts or something.
Bring him in here.
Jim hadnt expected Simon to invite Blair into his inner sanctum. Sir?
Bring him in here. Come on. Ive never met one of the sea-folk.
The captain straightened to his full impressive height. Do it, Detective.
Blair looked up and then up some more as Jim introduced him. Oh, you gotta have Uranus back there somewhere in the family tree.
Simon raised an eyebrow. I beg your pardon?
I think he just means youre tall, Jim smacked a palm lightly against the smaller mans arm, dont you, Chief?
Oh, yeah. He stuck out a tan hand to be engulfed in Simons larger one. Very nice to meet you, Captain Banks. Any boss of Jims is well, a friend of mine.
So tell me, Blair -- Simon ignored the look his detective shot him and continued smoothly, where is it exactly youre from? The captain gestured toward the two chairs in front of his desk. Jim tells me you were born in Africa.
Jim sighed. This wasnt going to be the short meet-and-greet he was hoping to escape with.
Not exactly in Africa, no. He frowned as Simon gave Jim an accusing glance. Actually I was born off the coast near Bénin. See my mother had to give birth in the water so I wasnt actually on the continent when I popped out.
Jim gave back a triumphant grin that Simon scowled at. Joans cousin did the same thing, Jim. The hospital had a pool. Waterbirth has become a popular option.
I dont think they had waterbirth pools when Blair was born.
The captain looked over the younger man carefully. You were born what 70?
69, conceded Blair.
Jim leaned forward, cutting off the smirk that was trying to form on his captains face, Ask him what century, Captain. Go head.
Fine, Simon acquiesced irritably. What century?
Simon moved to open his mouth but Jim just held up a finger. Just wait. Jim smiled back at the eager face that greeted him when he turned to Blair. Are we talking AD, here, Chief?
No, eleventh, one hand raised, making a little hop over the other, before the Common Era.
Come on Jim, I am not believing hes three thousand years old. If youre looking to retire on disability
Oh, I agree, sir. Jim leaned forward confidentially. To me he doesnt look at day over twenty-five hundred.
Jim. Blair pulled him around the corner, into one of the danker sections of the Cascade PD underground parking lot, his voice a whisper. You do realize you cant go around telling everyone Im a mermaid.
Mer-guy, supplied Jim innocently.
Mer-ANYTHING, Blair corrected, tightening his grip around the Sentinels arm. Any more than you can tell them youre a Sentinel. The world is not currently ready to re-face this stuff, man.
I only told Simon.
Yeah, and hes ordering a straitjacket in your size as we speak.
Blair, I had to tell Simon. If Im he hated to use the word but he didnt know what else to call it, stuck with you for the rest of my natural existence like you say, Simon is going to have to know. Besides you said you could actually help me hone my senses not just dampen them. If thats true it could be a real asset in the field. But he was going to wonder why I was dragging a civilian to crime scenes.
Now he just wonders if youre sane, observed Blair.
Well, yeah, but Ive been wondering that lately, too. Jim looked to make sure the place was as deserted as his ears told him. Look, we need him. He can get you an observers pass. Well make up some story like youre a graduate student from Rainier, or something. Besides, Jim shuddered a bit as he remembered how he could literally feel the invisible cord that somehow bound him to Blair stretch uncomfortably even over short distances, like his five-mile morning run, theres that space thing weve got to work out.
Taking it as some kind of request, Blair moved to stand even tighter against him. Thats a Sentinel/Guide thing, I told you. I cant do anything about it. Itll loosen up after a while but Im talking maybe ten miles, not across the state or anything. You have to realize Sentinels are throwbacks Jim. They werent likely to get ten miles away from their Guides, proto-humans didnt have cars.
Well I didnt ask to be one.
Well at least you were born that way and youre not here because of a vengeful, sea-god with an ugly kid and a pointy pitchfork! Blair lowered his voice. Sorry, man. Sorry. I just I gotta He gestured down at his feet. I gotta morph or Im gonna go nuts. I cant keep this shape this long and not get irritable. Besides, these clothes are a pain in the anal fin.
Big blue eyes begged and Jim could feel the link, bond, shackles, whatever the hell it was that now seemed to tie him to the man beside him. If he had time to think about it, he was pretty sure that hed just go straight to Bellevue and have himself locked up without Simons assistance. Mermaids, sea-gods, Sentinels and Guideshis life had turned into that heavy, ornate book of childrens literature Sally used to read to him and his little brother when they were in elementary school.
You want to go to the ocean, he guessed.
No, man. I need to go to the ocean. He tugged at his faded jeans. Besides these clothes itch like a mother.
Jim gestured back towards the car and then placed a hand on the faux fur-clad back. About those clothes, Chief.
Luckily, Border Island was about as deserted as it got on a mid-week afternoon. Jim found himself peeking as Blair stripped out of the offending garments and puddled them on the light sand, then headed unerringly for the tidewater.
Hey, Chief, wait a minute. How longs this going to take? Im starving.
Blair didnt turn, but a hand waved back in Jims direction. Itll be a while. Go get yourself something to eat.
Jim watched as he waded chest deep in the water, then with a quick plunge, disappeared into the blue-gray depths. He gathered the discarded jeans, shirt, shoes and the pink dingo coat, snuck a quick look at the sizes, and tossed them into the nearest waste receptacle. There was a small mall about two miles up the road. Assuming Blair didnt swim out too far, he might just be able to chance it.
Have you got something without meat?
The teenager behind the deli counter looked mildly offended and Jim amended the request. My friend doesnt eat meat.
Lacto, Lacto-Ovo, Vegan or Fruitarian? drawled the kid.
When Jim didnt answer he rolled his eyes in a you-are-so-uncool sort of way and asked, What kind of vegetarian is she?
He, Jim corrected. And I didnt know there were kinds.
He emerged ten minutes later with the vegan special, just to be safe, which he plunked down in the front seat next to the shopping bag. At least the shopping bag gave him a sense of normality.
After about half an hour Jim went to the edge of the dry sand, and feeling like he was indeed in one of the fairytales Sally read, called out to the waves. Yo! Blair!
His voice struck the dull sky and vanished without an echo. Even on the shore, the water, stretching vast and flat, seemed immense and threatening. He hadnt mentioned he had a phobia a sea phobia a fear of unbroken ocean. And he was stuck with a mermaid, apparently for the rest of his life.
He felt rather than heard Blair come up beside him. The younger man grinned and wrung out his damp hair. O man, O man! - If man you be, Or flounder, flounder, in the sea-
Brothers Grimm, he added as an explanation, bouncing happily in place on the sand.
Jim had seen him after hed stripped but this was the first time hed really looked at him or at least at certain parts of him. Which werent green. Or corkscrewed. Although he was nicely hung. Particularly if you considered the current temperature of this little stretch of the Pacific. If that was shrinkage
Maybe I can grant wishes, you ever thought of that?
Jim hastily placed his gaze elsewhere. What are you talking about?
The magic flounder, Jim. Surely youve heard that one he grants this guy a wish but the guys wife keeps wanting more and more and more Blair sprang up and down a little more with each syllable.
I got you some clothes. He coughed. I think you might want to put them on.
You sure you dont want the bed? Not that Jim really wanted to give it up, but hed heard the tossing and turning all through the previous night and thought he at least ought to ask. Overnight guests werent something he usually had at least not the kind that werent invited up into the loft.
Nah, man, Ill get used to it. Its just having legs, ya know? Its weird.
He made an expansive gesture toward the offending limbs and Jim caught a glimpse of something. Curious, he lifted one of Blairs hands in his own, gently examining the paper-thin skin that appeared as he splayed the fingers against his. Theyre webbed, he said in wonder.
Blair pivoted a socked foot on its heel. Toes, too.
Jim lightly stroked a finger down the almost iridescent membrane. Blair drew back with a funny, purring sound.
Erogenous zone, he stuttered.
Oh, Jim stuffed his hands behind his back, sorry.
No need to be sorry, man. We needed to talk about that anyway.
Sex. Blair said bluntly.
"Whoa. Jims hands suddenly found new use. He blockaded himself behind his outturned palms. Wait a minute.
Obligingly Blair sat down on the far end of the sofa.
I know you werent expecting this any of this, Jim. But that doesnt change who you are. Youre a Sentinel, a decidedly rare creature in this day and time, but a Sentinel none-the-less. And as a Sentinel youre meant to partner with your Guide.
Ive already partnered with you, Blair. I just wasnt planning on partnering further.
Look, I know you didnt pick me, but a Sentinel never really gets to pick anyway. The belief is that youre part of a soul pair, okay? Shortly after one of you comes along, the other one follows. So, obviously, in your case that isnt how it happened, but whatever Poseidons done, it makes it seem like its happened. The fact you werent originally destined to be partnered with me doesnt mean you werent destined to mate with your Guide.
Youre saying I have no choice in this?
Blair sighed. No, Jim, not really. Im sorry.
Just how the hell did this happen? Jim looked at Blair, but his unwanted Guide had already decided the question was rhetorical. One day Im fine. Im normal and the next Ive got heightened senses and and a mermaid. He stood up and stalked to the stairs. Im going to bed.
Blair halfheartedly raised a hand in his direction.
The next morning there were no signs the couch had been slept on but Jim felt no annoying pull from Blair being out of range so he concluded the guy had to be around somewhere. Figuring he was in the bathroom, Jim gave a quick rap to the door. No answer.
In a minute he learned this was not because Blair was not in the bathroom.
The tub wasnt much, just your average, non-whirlpool white enamel bathtub with a showerhead and vinyl curtain. And a six-foot man-fish sleeping in tepid water.
Curly hair straggled in tendrils and Blairs silvery-green veined split tailfins curled up and over the faucet like a piece of shiny cloth. Blairs most impressive feature was retracted, leaving only his flat, smooth belly, scales subtly morphing into skin. One webbed hand dipped in the water, while the other did a poor job of propping up the drooping head. Jim bent down and examined the side of Blairs neck, nakedly exposed in sleep. There, below and slightly behind his ears he found curved gills, their edges delicately fringed a deep pink.
Unable to resist, Jim barely skimmed the fragile flaps and was immediately drenched as Blair came up like a porpoise and then back down like a hundred and seventy pounds of dead carp.
Shit! exclaimed Blair, pretty much for both of them. Jim, what the fuck do you think youre doing?
Why the fuck are you sleeping in my tub? Jim retorted, grabbing every towel he could see.
Because I cant sleep like that.
Like a human, growled Jim.
All right. Yes! Like a narrow-minded, two-footed, Neanderthal-brained human. Are you happy now? You think youre the one discomforted here? Im the one that got stuck with knees!
He stared in shock as Jim sank to the floor, shaking.
It was difficult to roll over in the confines of the tub, but Blair managed to stretch his hand toward the shuddering Sentinel.
Jim? Are you all right?
Jim continued to quiver and Blair was half-a-minute from transforming back when he realized his partner was laughing.
God, Chief. Jim wiped tears from his eyes. You should see yourself. Youre scrunched down in my bathtub like a killer whale in Tupperware.
Tupperware, Jim? Tupperware? Theres a mythical creature gracing your domicile and you have the nerve to say I look like a killer whale in Tupperware? Is this some kind of fetish I should know about, Jim? That you even know what Tupperware is?
Another bout of laughter doubled Jim over but then he managed to right himself. Is this how you like to sleep, Chief, really?
You mean in a fucking bathtub?
No, no. I mean you sleep better in water
Well of course I sleep better in water Im a mermaid, remember?
Im unlikely to forget that, Jim coughed out between giggles.
Jim, man, I think youre losing it here.
Could be, agreed Jim trying to struggle to his feet only to fall on his butt again as another wave of laughter overtook him. In two weeks Ive dealt with suddenly heightened senses, a psychotic serial bomber and a mermaid who says not only that Im stuck with him for the rest of my life, I have to sleep with him, too. I cant imagine that any of this would have mental consequences.
Hey Jim hadnt noticed Blair had morphed, but there was a quite finless body kneeling beside him. Come on, Jim. Get up. I think we need to get some coffee into you.
Blair had noticed Jim had the most beautiful light blue eyes; he just hadnt noticed them quite this close up.
You really do think Ive lost it, said Jim softly.
Nah, man. I just think its all just a little too much, a little too fast.
Strong arms encouraged him up.
And this is? asked Blair, waving the piece of laminated plastic.
That is your observers pass. As far as anyone knows you are Blair Sandburg, PhD student from Rainer University. Youre doing your dissertation on the thin blue line.
The thin blue line, Jim? Could you get any more corny?
Well, it worked, didnt it? We get to work together, what more could you ask?
Blair looked at him from up under fringed lashes.
Come on, Jim. Its been three weeks. The Sentinel steadfastly continued chopping onions and bell peppers for what Blair knew he considered disturbingly meatless spaghetti sauce. I said it before Sentinels can be real asses.
Hey, I got you that monster Jacuzzi.
Now if I just had someone to share it with.
Theres a lot of fish in the sea, babe.
Blair made a sign inaccessible to most of his finned brethren. Ah, stick it up your anal vent.
Jim surfaced from a dream of swimming through an underwater forest of billowing kelp and lay curled in the dark trying to determine what had woken him. Eventually identifying the almost soundless murmuring coming from below, Jim rolled off the bed and leaned over the lofts rail, peering into the darkened living space, eyes adjusting automatically to the dim light.
He could feel Blairs nearness; or rather he couldnt feel that his Guide was farther away than this enforced partnering allowed.
The strangeness of the first few weeks had melted into a possibly even stranger normality. As if heightened senses and a roommate with fins who you couldnt get more than a few miles from without physical symptoms made up everyones typical day.
Jim concentrated, his ears easily attracted to the murmuring voice, as all his senses were to anything having to do with Blair. What he heard surprised him. Blair was standing on the balcony, perched over the balcony railing, almost mirroring Jims own posture. He was staring out toward the sea and Jims sensitive nose caught the scent of salt, stronger than it usually was on Blairs skin and there was a slight hitching in the normally steady breaths that had become, along with the beat of his Guides heart, the background rhythm to his days.
What do you want from me? I cant take it back just cause youre pissed off. For a moment Jim thought he was talking to him but then Blair threw his arms open wide and declared to the night, Its too much. I know you were pissed over Odysseus but this is more than I deserved. Blair drew the widespread limbs back to his side and hunched over the rail. I cant take this I cant.
Not knowing exactly what his Guide might do next, Jim was down the stairs in seconds. He stood at the open door, panting slightly, and whispered at the mournful figure, Blair.
Usually bright blue eyes were red and rheumy. Salty tracks trailed down smooth cheeks. Hey, Jim.
Whats going on, buddy?
The smile he got in return was tremulous. Im having a moment here.
I can see that. Jim joined him, leaning against the rail.
I didnt mean to wake you.
Thats okay, said the Sentinel nonchalantly. Want to talk about it?
Talk about what, man? Youre just as stuck as I am. You didnt ask for this.
No, but I was this way when I met you. Youre the one that got cursed.
Blair sniffed. I wouldnt call it cursed.
Jim studied the far off waves thoughtfully. I would. I mean considering the way we met I cant believe youd have chosen to get stuck with me for fifty years or so.
You do have a mean hook, big guy.
You know, mused Jim, continuing to stare off into the darkness, this is probably the closest relationship Ive ever had. I mean I can feel you. When youre there. When youre too far away. Its like my senses all seek you, that youre my baseline.
Blair was studying his profile; he could see Blairs gaze clearly in his peripheral vision.
I you improve me. If you leave
Im not leaving, Jim. I cant.
Then what can I do to make it better?
A warm hand clasped over his fisted one. Nothing, Jim. Youve done more than I should expect. The fingers squeezed and then were drawn back, leaving Jim colder. The gods are capricious.
Tentatively, Jim stretched out his fingers returning the softly webbed ones into his own. He mirrored the fingers with his own and splayed them, gingerly stroking the flexible folds of tissue, smiling a little at the deep breath the other man took.
Erogenous zones, Blair reminded him, shutting his eyes. Erogenous zones.
What? gasped Blair, finally drawing back until he was trapped in the corner of the railing and could go no further.
Jim took the hand back, turning it palm up in his own. I Ive got this problem with control, Chief.
Blair frowned but he didnt withdraw from the touch. Like I hadnt noticed youre a regular control freak? Can you say color-code Tupperware?
I like to think things are my idea. That Im in charge.
We are so not in charge, man. None of us.
Im starting to get that, acknowledged Jim, still stroking his fingers over Blairs palm, nearly entranced in the sensation. Its been all I can do to control this.
This? whispered Blair.
This wanting to touch. The fingers ghosted up Blairs arm causing a slight shivering. Then the feather-light contact barely brushed the fringed slits of the curved gills, bringing a moan of pleasure from Blairs throat. Jims fingers moved on, caressing his jaw, lingering over his lips.
To taste. Jims lips were pressed softly to his. I cant control it.
Blairs grip tightened over the hard muscles of Jims back. I dont want you to.
My Guide, Jim whispered, drawing in the clean scent of wind and waves that was Blair, content and at peace.
It was, it turned out, like making love to the sea. Blairs skin, even where it was tanned as his own, sparkled with a strange opalescent glow. His scent was clean and slightly salty, as was the taste of him. The delicate, paper-thin fans of flesh between his fingers were Jims particular delicacy, to be gently lapped by a sensitive tongue while Blair voiced a low and rhythmic purr from the soft, curved gills secreted below his earlobes.
In pure human form, Blair was compact and wiry. Muscles were there to be lightly skimmed by Jims questing touch, the feel of human flesh familiar to his senses. The mesmerizing scent dimmed. The form of his hands strong, his fingers intertwinable and far less interesting.
In his true form, Blair was just as muscular, but as sleek and graceful in the brackish shallows as he was clumsy on sand and Jim became used to the lapping water being a third dancer in their movements with its own caress. Became used to the swish of the firm tail brushing his legs. Relished being buoyed by Blairs sinuous movement, water rushing over his back as Blair dipped and arched. Reveled in the sensation of being held in place by webbed hands, feeling the press of five fingers and the kiss of the gossamer linking them warm on the sides of his waist.
Let go, Blair would whisper, so low only he could hear. Let go, Jim. I wont let you zone. I wont let you fall.
Flesh would brush his, softer and more velvet than the pearly scales and Jim would moan, awash in the sensation of the fluidity, of undulation, of the moons call to the boundless tide. Blairs hands never wavered. He was held strongly, supported. Blairs head would dip and moist warmth burst around one nipple. Jim would follow that sensation down, gasping at the glance of teeth, almost past the edge of thought. His muscles turned to liquid. He couldnt imagine a greater bliss, until an even more intense and perfect heat wrapped itself around his cock, rhythmically tightening in sharp, short bursts.
Blairs tail shimming, wave like, to brush between his thighs, teasing the cleft, increasing his sensitivity. When he was almost undone, the heat was swept away and then returned as he was gently entered by silken muscle. And then he was undone. As Blair brushed his prostate, tides of pleasure sparked through him and rhythmic pulses tightened the muscles taking Blair into him as he let go, adding his own swimming life to the sea.
Dimly he would hear the whispered words. Ive got you. Ive got you. I love you.
And then hed sink into a deep blue vent, beneath the waves of consciousness.
Being extremely long-lived, Blair, like all of his kind, had had many lovers. Yet as he lay miles from the water, in the elevation of Jims loft, the human wrapped around him, there was, he knew, no comparison. His punishment was not being tied to the Sentinel. His punishment would come later when the humans lifetime spiraled away in what would only be a few years to Blair.
He was so wrapped up in these dark thoughts that the interior of the loft had been kind of glowing for several minutes before he realized anything was odd.
And then all he could muster was a kind of disbelief that this was so not happening. The whole light-and-swirl thing from the Fall of Atlantis, a la Caesars Palace, was not happening under the skylight in Jims loft.
Visitations from gods in any form were unexpected but as Blair unconsciously drew Jim closer, he noted the human was lax and limp, unaware of this invasion to his domain.
Come on Poseidon, if youve zoned Jim out, theres no use doing the light show just for me.
That last comment was probably not the way to converse with a higher deity when your last conversation had left you a permanent denizen of the, at least damp, but still all too solid city of Cascade.
Not relinquishing his hold, Blair at least managed to find an appropriate greeting for the god of the vast ocean.
Yes, great Earth Shaker. What may this humble servant do for you?
Okay, so the tone lacked a little. To make up for it Blair bent forward over Jim and touched his forehead to the sheets; he landed in the wet spot, still damp from their last bout of lovemaking. Great.
I came to observe your punishment, Blair Olokun.
Even Blair had to admit the reverb was a nice touch. The baritone echo rocked back from all four walls. okun okun okun.
Well, said Blair, mumbling into the damp patch, here I am.
Coiled in connubial bliss with a mortal!
The walls resounded ortal ortal ortal.
The neighbors were gonna be pissed.
Blair spared a quick glance up in the gods direction. Poseidon looked his usualbuffed and well permed and pissed off while well armed with pointy things. Almost the kind of guy that would give the Sentinel in his arms a run in the testosterone department. Not that Blair had any desire
But, from the movement under the cloth barely draped around his hips, apparently Poseidon did.
Maybe the god was just yearning for the good old days when penises were everywhere in the Ancient world. Blair had just been a young five-hundred-and-fifty during the mutilation of the Herms but he remembered the days when Priapus used the scare the crows (and practically everyone else) away from vineyards with his prodigious specimen.
Maybe it was the past for which the god was obviously yearning.
Pretty sad lot, being a Greek god these days. Hardly anyone worshipped you and practically no one used a representation of your phallus as a mile-marker any more.
Siren. Poseidon leered menacingly. Thou remindest me of Pelops.
Oh yeah, all that spearing of Pelops hoop with the trident that Poseidon commissioned painted on all those vases like everyone didnt get what that was about? Cup-bearer indeed.
Oh, but Lord, protested Blair, I am not worthy.
Blair nuzzled into the damp spot again. Damnit, next time he was going to insist on changing the sheets.
Siren. I have chosen to honor thou.
The echo thing was back. Blair winced as ouuuu .ouuuu ouuuuu rebounded off the windows.
Yeah well, to be perfectly honest my Lord, Blair glanced up briefly as the shadow of the trident fell over him. Why did it have to be that the truth was always painful? Im kind of committed to my Sentinel here, if you remember. And you should remember because you made me his Guide.
I had been waiting long to administer the proper punishment. The business end of the trident snagged the sheet from around Jims waist and Poseidon peered at what he found underneath. He is an average specimen.
Well, hes my average specimen, said Blair, yanking the covering back over his unconscious Sentinel. And if youd just un-zone him and go back to accosting Pelops or something, I could just stay here and be properly punished.
This, of course, is how he got into trouble every time. Blair Olokun who couldnt keep his mouth shut even when faced with divine wrath. And boy, could these guys get wrathful.
A bit of lightening crackled around the loft then went and fried the refrigerator motor. Oh Jim was going to be happy with him about that. Provided that by the time Jim woke up Blair wasnt a sizzling spot on the floor.
Yes, my Lord.
Thou turnest down thy GOD?
Jim was a warm weight in his arms. Blair bent down and kissed his Sentinels hair gently. Then he took a deep breath. Actually, my god yes.
Blair closed his eyes and waited for the strike.
When he hesitantly opened one eye he could see Poseidon was truly furious. As in furia, to rage. As in terrible winged goddesses with serpentine hair who pursue and punish doers of unavenged crimes. As in give him a second and Blair would be nothing more than a second wet spot on Jims bed.
Impertinent water sprite! Thou doest not deserve the name of Siren.
Oh yeah, it might have taken a while, but Poseidon was really getting worked up now. And when Poseidon got worked up he was known to split mountains and throw them into the sea. At the moment he seemed content, however, to throw up a raging light-fest complete with thunder and wind solely within the confines of 852 Prospect.
Admittedly it had been a while since Poseidon worked up a good fit and it could be his power was waning just a bit here in the 21st century. Blair had a theory that one day all the creatures of old would disappear entirely in the face of a digitized world.
I curse thee!
Blair ducked, but the blow from the trident hurled him back against the loft rail. He rubbed at his back. That it?
Poseidon looked a bit wilted.
I give thee a choice of punishment, willful sprite. The trident poked at the still slumbering Sentinel. This creature or the sea.
Blair rose on rubbery legs. Youre gonna have explain that better.
You may stay in human form and die at a humans age and keep Poseidon distastefully pushed Jims lax body to his back with one of the tines him. Or you may retain your true nature as a child of the waters.
Youre saying I couldnt morph. Blair looked down at Jim. That Ill grow old and die along with Jim.
No sea-child has ever chosen that path. The god gave Jim another contemptuous look. Never to swim in the sea again as one of its own. Never to feel the call of porpoise and whale in the depths. Never to dance on the islands of the Sargasso Sea.
It was true that the sea was his home in a way the land would never be the environment he knew best and for which he was fit, sleek and graceful and able to dance among the currents. But the home of his heart was now the man lying deeply unaware, half-covered by sheets theyd so recently christened.
Well, considered Blair, head tilting slightly, the whole Sargasso Sea thing is wildly overrated.
Poseidon, who was in the process of raising the staff to call down power, stopped stunned. You chose this human?
Sentinel, corrected Blair. I chose this Sentinel.
A Sentinel still has but a humans life.
Blair sat down beside Jim, laying a hand on the bare, warm skin of his shoulder. I was never immortal. Eventually I would see what is on the other side.
Not for many, many years.
Those years are wearing, Blair confessed. So many Ive known have come and gone. If this one I chose to accompany, it is because I do not think I could go on without him.
The bearded god once again raised his trident. Then I curse thee, Blair Olokun and banish thee from the sea.
As an afterthought, as if a god could not leave without the proper fanfare, another bolt of lightening speared through the loft and took out the television in a showering burst of sparks.
Hey, you okay? Blair whispered, mouthing his words against the Sentinels neck.
Hmmm? Jim blinked sleepy blue eyes. Having the weirdest dream, Chief.
Big guy with curls and a pitchfork?
Jim bolted up. What happened?
Uh, well, Poseidon didnt like that I seemed to be enjoying my punishment a little too much. Man, he fried the fridge and the TV.
Are you okay?
Being probed by the considerable senses of a full Sentinel was like your own personal lie-detector-test-of-the-soul.
Relatively, Blair admitted.
Somethings wrong, Jim pressed.
Just a little curse.
Not surprisingly, hands suddenly joined in the examination, ghosting over his limbs and torso feeling for signs of bruising. Jim found the hot patch where his back had impacted the railing and lingered over it, barely touching.
Jims voice was edgy. Where was I during all this?
Jims ducked his head to rest it on Blairs shoulder. God, Chief.
That about covers it. Blair muttered, petting the Sentinel. Hey. Hey. Im fine now. Dont let it worry you. He just de-finned me.
But Jim pulled back and took the tanned hands in his own separating the fingers to make sure the webbing was still there, translucent and tempting. Youve still got these. He brushed back Blairs hair to reveal the fragile gills. And these.
Thats cause Im still me, Jim. I just cant be half-tuna any more. It was better than the alternative, trust me.
There was an alternative? queried Jim softly.
Yeah, leaving you. Blair drew the Sentinel back toward him. Id rather die.
There was a stunned look in Jims blue eyes. You will, wont you?
I was always going to die, Jim. He placed another kiss on Jims forehead. Id just prefer to do it after Id really lived. I think I can say that, now.
Chief, murmured Jim, grief-stricken on his behalf, for the loss of time and tide. What are you going to do?
The slightly ozone smell of overloaded circuits wafted up from the pile of plastic and glass that had been Jims 42-inch plasma screen television.
Well, Im thinking TV Warehouse or maybe Circuit City.
And then he was captured in Jims arms, held by a warmth greater than the waters from which El Nino springs. Rocked by the ebb and flow of the steadily beating heart. Called by the siren song of Jims whisper.
Yes, Blair Olokun might have mourned the sea.
But Blair Sandburg was home.