Title: Superior Cold
Series: Superior Cold/Mermaid Tales
Disclaimer: Wholly original work.
Characters/Pairings: Drey, Merfolk
Summary: "Merman Caught in South Pacific!" said the headline of the paper that Drey bought from the supermarket he worked at in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Merman Caught in South Pacific!
Flipping the page past the picture of the young woman in the bikini, Drey started reading about the space aliens that were inhabiting Alphabet City and pretending to be artists. The icy cold water of Lake Superior lapped at his bare toes, but after the first few minutes he had stopped noticing the chill and instead considered taking off his shirt as well. No matter how warm the day was, the water stayed cold enough to make anyone shiver upon first contact.
After reading another article about the ever-popular Bat Boy and skimming an advert for lucky charms that had nothing to do with cereal, Drey set the paper down and pinned it beneath a rock before he stretched and pulled off his shirt. Beneath the piece of sandstone he'd grabbed, he could still see the headline proclaiming 'Merman Caught in South Pacific!'
Normally he didn't buy ridiculous tabloid trash, but he had to admit he was a little curious about the cover story. At first the local legends about beautiful mermaids living in the cold waters of the lake made him laugh - but he was an out-of-towner, after all... what did he know? Living alone in a ramshackle cottage and working part time at the nearest grocery store in the only nearby town that could qualify as more than a few houses surviving the fate of years, Drey had spent plenty of time watching the lake as the days turned to months.
A familiar splash diverted Drey's attention from picking the paper back up. He smiled at questioning eyes before patting the sand beside him in effort to bridge the constant communication gap.
Another splash and cold skin and wet hair brushed against him, followed by slick scales. Drey tried not to shiver as icy hands reached to touch his chest and trail along the silver chain he always wore around his neck.
"How are you?" Drey asked, not expecting an answer. So far he hadn't managed to understand a single response, even after weeks of trying to piece together the repeated sounds. "I just got home from work."
And hands were on his feet, curiously poking between his toes. Drey had only nervously once reached to touch silvery blue scales. After all, a bit of his mind still protested that he had an authentic, living and beautiful Lake Superior merperson visiting him most every day. The first week he'd become fairly sure that it was male, yet he had a difficult time assigning the gender to the creature anyway. In constrast to his own short, blond hair, the merperson's hair was a long bluish-grey that seemed to be well-kept yet unstyled. His skin was pale enough to be nearly translucent and his eyes were a similar blue-grey.
"What do you do all day?" Drey asked as he nervously brushed back wet hair from the merman's face. When curious eyes met his, Drey attempted to pantomime his job - putting things on shelves. "I work in a store. I work with food."
His next motion was of bringing things to his mouth. This was the longest they'd spent together. Usually the merman would dart away far too quickly after making a verbal response that sounded a bit like a choking sob.
Eyes lit up and Drey smiled at the comprehension. And then the merman flipped his tail once and brought his hands together, making a motion like a fish swimming in water.
"Fish," Drey said and repeated the motion. "Either you catch fish or you swim."
The water lapped at his toes again and he leaned down to draw a the outline of a fish in the wet sand. It looked a bit like the logo that he kept seeing on the backs of cars in the supermarket parking lot - until he'd asked he hadn't known that it was a religious thing. His parents had never taken him to church - they'd never really taken him anywhere. And suddenly he'd ended up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, living a life apart but certainly living more than he ever had.
The merman repeated the drawing and smiled before making the swimming motion again. And then he reached for Drey's shirt curiously, fingering the material.
"That's too big for you," Drey said with a chuckle as the merman held it up. "And it'll get cold tonight, so I'll need it."
He reached to take the shirt back and before he realized what was happening, he was holding the shirt and watching as his visitor's tail disappeared beneath the surface of the water. There was only a splash - and then nothing.
"Okay," Drey said as he stood and brushed the sand from himself. "Next time you can have the shirt."
He'd almost forgotten about the trashy tabloid until the pages rustled in the breeze. Grabbing it, he started flipping through the pages as he walked back to his cottage. Maybe there'd be a little advice about how not to offend one of his kind.
Certainly, it couldn't hurt.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!