Frank had got to know much more about Gerard whilst they had been talking and he had come to really like the man. Frank didn’t know if all humans were as interesting as Gerard was, but if they were then he really didn’t want to leave the human world quickly at all. Gerard was just so incredibly sweet, he seemed to be so interested in Frank and yet would get talking about himself and talk for quite a long time. Not in an arrogant way, but as if he hadn’t had chance to talk to anyone in a really long time. Frank felt as if he hadn’t been able to talk to anyone like this in a really long time too…
Frank sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed as he smiled to himself, rubbing his hands over his thighs and gazing down at his legs as he swung them slowly. As tired as he was he didn’t want to go to sleep just yet. He didn’t want the morning to come because he knew then he would have to leave. He had to get back to the ocean and find Jamia, but it made him sad to know that Gerard wouldn’t be with him.
Frank wondered if this was why it had never been acceptable for merpeople to make themselves known to the humans. Frank had always been told it was because the humans would hurt them if they knew about them, that they were dangerous and that for the sake of the species survival they had to remain a secret to the land dwellers. But Gerard didn’t seem dangerous at all, in fact he was much nicer than most merpeople Frank knew and he was starting to think socialising with humans was dangerous only because it made you want to stay out of the ocean.
Frank knew that merpeople couldn’t be out of the water indefinitely. It was known that eventually if you stayed on loud too long then your human legs would stick and you would be unable to get your tail back. Frank didn’t know what the time frame for that was, but in the back of his mind he knew it was important to get back into the sea if only to make sure he didn’t lose his tail if nothing else.
Frank looked down at his legs and sighed, biting his lip as he ran his hands down to lay over his knees. He was still not quite used to the sight of the legs, he knew it would take him a while to stop feeling the need to stare at them. Though he was able to walk on them alright he knew that also could do with some work, and he knew he would probably love the ability to walk for a long time whilst it remained a novelty. But then he also knew he would never get used to his legs because in the morning he would be returning to the sea.
Frank sighed and lifted his legs onto the bed, moving to lie down and pull the covers over himself. As he lay back and laid his hands behind his head he thought about Gerard and smiled to himself again. He was so intrigued by Gerard’s body and he wished he could get to look at it properly but even he knew it wasn’t acceptable to stare. He had taken some time when he had been in the bathroom before coming to bed to stare at his reflection in the mirror and gaze at his human body, but it just didn’t seem to inspire the same interest in him as looking at Gerard’s body did.
Though Frank did find his own human body interesting enough and he was eager to learn all about it, there was just something about Gerard’s he preferred. Though he knew there wasn’t much difference between them, he just liked to look at Gerard more. He was so much more beautiful, every curve of his body was enticing. Frank felt like he wanted to kiss every inch of him, to trail his lips down those fascinating legs and look at the older man from all angles.
Frank rolled onto his side and hugged one of the cushions to his chest, squeezing it and kneading it with his hands, intrigued by its shape and texture as he melted against the mattress. He slept on a rock in his cave that was coated in seaweed and had always found it comfortable, but it had nothing on this bed. He felt so warm and content, he never wanted to move. Did all humans live like this? Such luxury seemed unimaginable, and yet here Frank was, in seventh heaven and swooning over a man he had just met.
Frank sighed as he closed his eyes and shuffled further under the duvet, resting his cheek against the plump pillow and allowing images of Gerard to move around his mind. He didn’t want to leave in the morning, he couldn’t deny it. He was worried about Jamia, it was impossible for him not to be, but he was highly conscious that he wasn’t as worried as he probably should be. He shouldn’t be lying in this heavenly bed, swishing his feet and basking in the warmth around him. He should be in the sea already, sending the alarm and getting Jamia help. He knew he should be feeling guilty… but he just didn’t.
Frank couldn’t stop his thoughts from keeping him awake for a long time, thinking about Gerard and Jamia, and the land and the sea and agonising over what he should do. If only he could go to the sea quickly and then just come back to the shore. But Frank knew that once you had your human legs and then went back into water, you would be unable to come onto land again for another year.
“Any sign of him?” Bob asked anxiously as David returned to him and Jake, shaking his head sadly.
“I couldn’t see him Bob.” He said apologetically, it clear that Bob and Jake hadn’t had any luck either. “If he’s not around here then he’s either still on land or he’s gone too far for us to get him back.” David didn’t want to be the one to point out the obvious but he knew it was a difficult truth that they all had to face.
“Hmm…” Bob nodded, looking around and biting his lip as he tried to think of what to do. Jake and David watched him expectantly, waiting for him to make a decision of what they did next.
Bob knew that they should just go back to the town and tell Marigold they had been unable to find Frank and let her deal with it. Bob couldn’t be sure but he got the feeling that if he did Marigold would simply call the merpeople together and tell them Frank had been lost. They would be forced to grieve as if he had died, never to see him again, never to feel peace about what happened to him. Jamia would end up blaming herself and Bob knew she would become depressed; he himself would struggle to get over losing Frank. And then of course the merpeople who had never been to the surface before would probably never want to through fear that they wouldn’t return.
Bob sighed and bowed his head, his head aching as he tried to think of another option. Any plan they may have overlooked in order to return with Frank.
“Bob…” Jake said nervously, sensing that the blonde was starting to grow stressed. “Bob we’ll just have to go back.”
“No!” Bob looked up and took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. “No…” He said gently. “We can’t go, not yet. We’ll just have to look on land.”
“What? No Bob, we can’t!” David gasped, swimming closer to him and shaking his head vigorously. “We can’t go up on the shore it’s too dangerous. We haven’t prepared, we don’t have any clothes, we can’t very well go walking through the humans territory naked, they’ll definitely notice.” He scoffed, frowning as Bob just stared back at him with a stubborn expression. “If Frank’s still on land then he’s lost, we can’t help him. We have to go back.”
“I’m not going to abandon him.” Bob insisted, clenching his fists and looking up towards the surface. He could see the water was lighter up there where the moon was shining on it. “We’ll be safer if we go now whilst it’s night.” He added, determined not to give up on Frank. He was his best friend and he wasn’t going to just assume he was gone for good because they hadn’t been able to find him yet.
“It’s not safe enough.” David insisted, frowning at Bob. “If you want to go up there then you can go up there alone, I’m not going to the surface. You heard what Marigold said.”
“I don’t care what Marigold said, Frank is our friend. We can’t just abandon him – try to imagine if it was you who was lost. Would you want us to give up so easily then?” He asked simply, Jake starting to look uncomfortable but though David softened he didn’t change his mind.
“I’m sorry… But I won’t do it.” He said simply, turning to swim away back towards the town before Bob could try to convince him anymore. He knew better than to go up to the human world without preparation and he also knew that they could go up there and search for years and still never find Frank. For all they knew he wasn’t even up there, and if that was the case they’d be risking themselves and the whole of their species for nothing. He wasn’t going to put everyone on the line like that.
Bob watched David swim away with a frown, feeling his stomach sink. He didn’t call after him or try to make him stay, he knew he couldn’t force him to go to the surface if he didn’t want to, he only hoped Jake wouldn’t desert him too. He turned to him then, looking at him with pleading eyes.
“I’m sorry Bob.” The younger merman looked unhappy about letting Bob down, but his words held conviction. He wrung his hands nervously as he flicked his tail, already turning to leave. “But I can’t go with you either. I can’t risk it.” He said apologetically, waiting for Bob to give a short, tense nod before he too turned and swam after David.
Once Bob was left alone he felt even more torn what to do. He didn’t think he should go to the surface alone, especially since he had no clothes to wear when he got there. He would only be able to roam the beach but if Frank wasn’t there he would be unable to go no further. If he went back to the town and tried to prepare he knew he wouldn’t be allowed to return to the harbour once it was discovered what he was planning to do.
“Damn it.” Bob cursed, looking up towards where he could see vague moonlight and wishing he could just think of a solution. He couldn’t abandon Frank… He couldn’t.
“So, how’s your head feeling?”
“Better.” Frank smiled, tucking into the pancakes Gerard had lay before him and eagerly shovelling fork after fork of the delicious food into his mouth. When Gerard had asked him what he wanted for breakfast his answer had been instantaneous. Pancakes was quickly becoming Frank’s favourite thing ever.
“I can take the bandage off after breakfast if you want.” Gerard offered, paying more attention to his coffee than his own pancakes. “It was only necessary whilst you were bleeding but I’m sure you won’t be anymore.”
Frank smiled at Gerard and nodded, his mouth so full of pancake that his cheeks were puffed out. He was glad to hear that the bandage could come off soon, though he had forgotten he was even wearing it. When he had woke up that morning, with the sun streaming through his curtains and lighting up his bed the first thing on his mind had been Gerard and how eager he was to talk to him again. He was still aware that he was going to have to leave that morning, but he was trying not to think about it, as if that would somehow make it easier.
“You like pancakes, don’t you.” Gerard smirked, watching Frank over his coffee cup at the way the younger man was wolfing down his food. “You shouldn’t eat so fast, you’ll get indigestion.”
Frank raised his eyebrows at Gerard, not entirely sure what he was talking about but he obediently slowed down his eating until he was chewing in practically slow motion. He noticed Gerard still hadn’t touched his own breakfast and he gulped down the banana and pancake in his mouth to ask him why.
“Aren’t you hungry?”
“Mm, not really.” Gerard shrugged, moving one pancake from his stack before leaning across the table to place the other three onto Frank’s plate. “I don’t get hungry until the afternoon really, but I try to eat breakfast in the mornings. Meant to be healthy and all that.” Gerard rolled his eyes, showing he didn’t much think breakfast made that much difference. “I mostly just need my coffee and I’m fine.”
Frank nodded slowly, blushing at the extra pancakes on his plate. He felt bad for eating Gerard’s food but he thanked him softly anyway. If Gerard wasn’t hungry Frank certainly was and he wasn’t going to say no to more pancakes.
“I think I could just eat pancakes all day.” Frank commented, smiling in surprise when Gerard laughed and nodded, smirking at him.
“I can see that.” He said playfully, making Frank smirk as he continued to plough through his stack. Gerard watched him in amusement, loving to see him enjoying his food and looking so cheerful. Since getting to know a little more about Frank Gerard was finding he really liked him. He was so sweet and genuine, he had a naïve honesty about him that other people just didn’t have. Gerard loved that.
“Have you thought anymore about whether you’ll be leaving today?” He asked quietly after a moment, his stomach twisting at the words. He hadn’t really wanted to ask Frank about it, since he was hoping he had forgotten and so would stay longer. But he couldn’t bring himself to go through the day wondering if Frank was about to go any second, and if Frank was staying then he really ought to go out and buy some more food.
Frank stopped eating for a second at Gerard’s question, his heart sinking. He really didn’t want to leave but he hadn’t allowed himself to consider staying. As much as he would love to he simply couldn’t.
“I have to find my friend.” He sighed, looking sadly down at his plate. “I’ve already left it too long.”
Gerard sighed and nodded. He had been expecting the answer but it still disappointed him. He supposed he shouldn’t begrudge Frank for leaving, he was worried about his friend and for all Gerard knew his friend really was in danger. But then he was worried about Frank himself. The guy obviously wasn’t normal, he knew hardly anything about the world in general and Gerard knew he didn’t have a place to go to.
“Well…” Gerard bit his lip, hesitating a moment before he continued speaking. “I could always come with you to find your friend… Help you ask around, file a missing persons report, stuff like that. And then you could just… stay here.” Gerard blushed at the offer, hoping Frank didn’t think he was some kind of creep asking him to live with him for a time. But Gerard just really wanted to be sure he would be okay, and besides, he liked the company.
Frank looked at Gerard, surprised by the offer but though he knew he should immediately refuse it something in him made him hesitant. He had enjoyed the last twenty four hours so much, and he wanted to continue learning how to paint and about Gerard and all about the human world in general. If only he could know that Jamia was okay, then he could stay a little.
“Gerard… Look I… Thank you but –”
“I know we hardly know each other.” Gerard quickly cut him off, speaking fast and even rambling a little in his haste. “But I mean, if I was a murderer or whatever I’d have done it by now right?” He chuckled, before blushing deeply at that and wincing at his own stupidity. “Uh, and murderer’s wouldn’t be stupid enough to say that.” He added, laughing nervously but Frank only continued to smile softly at him.
“I just… I’m really worried that if you go out there you’ll end up hurt or on the streets or whatever. I mean Frank, you’re such a nice guy but from what I’ve learnt about you I really don’t think you’re going to get far all by yourself. Please just let me help you, you’re not in my way or anything here and I’d actually really enjoy your company and I won’t annoy you or anything and I won’t expect any money just please. I won’t relax if I know you’re out there all alone.”
Gerard finally stopped rambling and shut his mouth, blushing as he gazed at Frank across the table. He got the distinct impression he’d just made a fool out of himself by practically begging a near stranger to live with him but he wouldn’t take his words back. He wanted Frank to stay, he had meant every word he said.
Frank stared at Gerard in quiet amazement, not sure how to respond to all he’d said. He had only served in making his decision to leave even more painful, and Frank couldn’t help now but wonder what would happen if he did stay. He didn’t know how long he had left before he would completely lose the ability to get his tail back, and of course Jamia needed him. Even with Gerard helping him look for her, even if they did find her, Frank would still only have limited time to stay here.
Gerard watched Frank with baited breath as he waited to hear whether he would stay or not. He really hoped he would; he understood he needed to find his friend but Gerard really did have no problem in helping him find her.
“Gerard I…” Frank trailed off, hesitating. He didn’t know what he wanted to say… He wanted to stay with Gerard, he really did, but there were so many reasons why he shouldn’t and not any to why he should other than he wanted to. “Gerard, look I… You’ve already been so kind to me I couldn’t –”
“No, don’t say you can’t.” Gerard quickly interrupted him, his eyes open and almost vulnerable looking. Gazing at him was making Frank’s heart race. “I’ve told you, I want you to stay. If you say no just be honest, don’t give me any story about not wanting to be in the way or take any more of my hospitality or anything like that.”
Frank sighed and just stared at Gerard for a moment, not knowing what to say to that. He looked down at his plate of half eaten pancakes and then back at Gerard’s handsome face, his heart missing a beat as he gave in and nodded.
“Alright, I’ll stay. If… If you’re sure it’s no trouble.” Immediately Frank felt sick for agreeing, his fear and nerves rushing into him in one fell swoop. What was he doing? He couldn’t stay in the human world. But he knew he wasn’t going to change his mind. This might be the only chance he had to do anything like this, he didn’t want to go back into the sea and end up living his life just doing the same things he had always done. In the past twenty four hours he had already had the best time of his life and he hadn’t even done anything. He couldn’t miss this opportunity.
Gerard’s face immediately lit up at Frank’s answer, his happiness so clear that it helped Frank relax a little.
“Of course it’s no trouble Frank! I’d love for you to stay a while.” Gerard beamed, wanting to spring up and grab the younger man to hug him tightly but he restrained himself, not wanting to frighten him away.
“Thanks.” Frank smiled softly, blushing a little and feeling a little thrill inside knowing that he was going to be staying here a little longer. He was going to be able to eat all the delicious food and sleep in that amazing bed and get to know so much more about this world he found himself in. “I… I don’t know how long I’ll be here for, but really not much more than a few days.” He added, though it was clear in his voice he didn’t feel much conviction in that so Gerard easily nodded his agreement. As long as they didn’t put a fixed number on it then Frank could still end up staying for any amount of time.
“Well, like I said, it’s really no trouble so stay as long as you like.” Gerard smiled warmly, finally digging into his pancake and feeling much chirpier now he knew that Frank would be staying. “We can get straight out looking for your friend today too if you like. We can go to the police –”
“No!” Frank quickly cut across him, blushing when Gerard looked at him in surprise and Frank took a quick gulp of his coffee to give him time to think up a reason for his refusal. They had always been taught in their lessons that if you found yourself on land things like the police and doctors had to be avoided at all costs. Though they could help in emergencies consulting with them could risk the species and Frank didn’t want to end up making his situation any worse than it already was. “I just um… I don’t think they’ll be able to help.” He blushed, Gerard staring at him for a moment.
At first Gerard found his insistence in not speaking to the police a little suspicious, but he couldn’t believe Frank was in any trouble with them. Maybe he was just a great actor and Gerard was being naïve, but the younger man was just too sweet to have broken the law. But then he reasoned, Frank didn’t exactly know anything that could help the police. He had no information he could give them and he probably wouldn’t understand half of their questions so Gerard supposed it was probably easier for everyone if filing a missing persons report was left for now.
“Alright.” He conceded, nodding his head and making Frank sigh with relief. “At least we know she hasn’t been seriously hurt at all.” He said as gently as he could, Frank looking at him curiously.
“How can you know that?”
“Well it would have been on the news.” Gerard told him, as if it were obvious. “You said you were separated when you were swimming right? Well if your friend had been hurt or, God forbid, killed, then she would have been found by now and it would have been put on the local news so someone who knows her could be located.” Gerard turned to nod at a newspaper resting on the counter beside the kettle, Frank looking at it curiously. “I went out and bought that this morning to check, but there’s been no news of anyone being found at all, so she must be fine. She either wasn’t hurt at all and is looking for you, or she was rescued by someone like you were by me.”
“Oh…” Frank had to admit he did feel a little better knowing that. At least he didn’t have to fear she had been seriously hurt. Unless she had been and she simply hadn’t been found yet, but Gerard sounded like he knew what he was talking about. The only problem was if she was just as worried about Frank as he was over her. He didn’t want her to be worried about him, he needed to find her so he could let her know he was okay. “Well… We could just take a look around town I guess?” Frank suggested, not sure if that was a good idea or not. He didn’t really know how to begin searching for Jamia.
“Sure, it wouldn’t hurt to scout around. Especially by the harbour.” Gerard nodded, happy to try anything just as long as he it meant Frank was prepared to stay with him. “We could ask around as well, see if anyone’s seen her.” He added, Frank nodding thoughtfully.
“Alright.” He agreed, sure that Gerard knew more than he did about this kind of thing, though Frank knew he ought to go back into the sea. He knew that if he just went in but didn’t submerge the entirety of his body he would get his tail and still be able to have his legs return when he went back on land. However, just swimming across the surface of the water wasn’t going to help him find Jamia or alert the other merpeople to the situation at hand.
Worrying over what to do was making Frank feel a little sick but he pushed himself to finish his breakfast, not wanting to seem rude after Gerard had even given him extra. He had to believe that everything would work out in the end, besides, everyone in the town would know that he and Jamia hadn’t returned by now so they must be doing something to find them, perhaps there were search parties already looking for Jamia, and Frank shouldn’t let himself feel so pressured.
Comforted by this thought, convinced it must be the case, Frank managed to dispel some of his fear and return to his chirpy self as he finished his pancakes and coffee, Gerard then coming over to remove his bandage for him.
“We’ll go straight out once we’ve dressed if you want.” Gerard suggested, tenderly unravelling the bandage around Frank’s head. “Or you can shower first.”
Frank knew the shower to be one of the things in the bathroom. He had asked about it the night before when talking to Gerard and learning about the different things in his apartment. Gerard had assumed the questioning had been on how to turn the shower on, and not that Frank didn’t know what it was, and so had taken Frank into the bathroom to show him which things to switch and turn in order to turn on the water and change the temperature. From this Frank had been able to work out it was used to cleanse humans.
“I uh… Would you mind if I showered later?” Frank asked softly, not immensely wanting to end up going into the shower right then when he knew the water would cause his tail to come back. Gerard only chuckled and nodded, smirking at Frank as he unravelled the last of the bandage and turned to throw it into the bin.
“Course not. Treat this place as if it were your own, shower whenever you want.” He chuckled, turning back to examine the cut to Frank’s head and check that it was fine. “You might want extra time to wash your hair anyway since this cut is gonna be tender for a while. But it doesn’t need stitches; you’re lucky.” Gerard smiled warmly at Frank, the younger man instinctively smiling back up at him.
There was something about the way Gerard was standing over Frank then that Frank enjoyed. He could smell the human, a strange, warm scent that he had never had the pleasure to inhale before. He was also emitting heat, something merpeople didn’t do and Frank just wanted to wrap himself in Gerard’s arms and feel that heat all around him.
“Thanks Gerard.” Frank sighed, getting to his feet when Gerard stood back for him to do so. He gingerly lay his fingers over where he had cut his head, feeling how bad it was but though it hurt to touch it was fine when he left it alone. “I’ll um… I’ll go get dressed then?” He offered, Gerard nodding as he smiled at him.
“Yep. I’ll meet you back in here once you’re ready.” He suggested, watching Frank walk away with a soft smile before he got busy tidying away the breakfast things and washing up. He supposed they really ought to go out and buy Frank some new clothes whilst he was here, he was a lot shorter than Gerard and couldn’t keep borrowing his clothes; but Gerard didn’t think Frank had any money and he certainly didn’t have enough to go buying another person a wardrobe. He would just have to see how his next few pieces of art sold. He was sure he had managed to break through his block now.
It didn’t take long before Frank was joining Gerard again, fully dressed now and raring to go. Gerard could tell he was anxious to get searching so he finished the washing up in a rush and then the two men left the apartment, off to the harbour to being their hunt.
Jamia glanced over her shoulder, checking that no one was around before she turned and swam as quickly as she could away from the town. She had spent hours being fussed over by all sorts of people, her cuts and bruises getting tended to before she was given orders to rest. But how could she when she had no idea where Frank was or if he was safe?
Jamia had been worried and restless, waiting for the mermen to return to hear if they had found Frank or not. When she saw that only Jake and David had come back her worries instantly increased, and when she had heard them explain about not finding Frank and Bob wanting to go to the surface she had known instantly she had to join him.
A meeting was now being held to discuss whether it was necessary to send someone after Bob or whether to just leave him to get on with it. They were worried for the town as a whole, scared Bob going on land would somehow cause them to be found, but then others argued that Bob had been to the surface before and knew how to keep them all safe. Whilst the debate was going on Jamia had left, eager to get to Bob and out of the water before anyone could try to stop them.
Once she was clear of the town Jamia picked up the pace, swimming as fast as he could in the direction she hoped the harbour was in. Her body was still aching from being buffeted around by the storm but she pushed the pain out of mind; Frank was more important.
For a time Jamia wasn’t sure she was heading in the right direction, but as soon as she saw anchor chains and fishing nets she knew she had come to the right place. A chill wormed its way down her spine and she shuddered, looking around anxiously for Bob. She hoped he hadn’t gone up to the surface already, and she began calling his name as she swam slowly through the maze of ropes and chains.
Bob heard her calling him almost immediately and he swam in the direction of her voice. At first he was sure he must be imagining it, but sure enough there was Jamia swimming right at him.
“Jamia? What are you doing here?” He frowned, sure that she was supposed to be resting. He took hold of her hands on instinct when she sailed towards him, her hair drifting behind her from the speed she had been swimming out but once she slowed down it fanned out around her.
“I heard you were going to the surface to look for Frank and I want to come with you.” Jamia was feeling breathless but she wasted no time in telling Bob what she was doing there. “I can’t rest knowing he’s not home, I have to help you.” She said strongly, frowning at Bob and making it clear how stubborn she was going to be if he tried to convince her not to go; but Bob had never been the type to tell a woman she couldn’t help.
“Do the others know you’ve come here?” He asked calmly, knowing that if she disappeared again it would only cause more panic. Jamia blushed but shook her head, glancing away for a moment before holding Bob’s gaze again.
“They’re holding a meeting right now about whether to send someone to stop you. We can’t waste any time. I came here as quickly as I could.” She told him bluntly, Bob frowning to hear that. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, but now Jamia wanted to come with him he was even more determined to go looking for Frank. He knew they were probably going to cause a lot of worry but in the end he sighed and nodded.
“Alright, we better get going then.”
Jamia grinned at Bob and flung her arms around his neck, hugging him tight and thanking him before they swam towards the harbour wall to find a safe place to go up to the land and start searching for Frank.