Other Tahalika's Writing Corner (Update 4/19 - Glow of the City update and a few Shane fanfics)

Discussion in 'Fan Works' started by Keridan, Apr 16, 2016.

  1. Keridan

    Keridan Subatomic Cosmonaut

    Hello there! Been a while since I did an update on my works, it's not that I haven't been working on them. Quite the contrary, actually, I've gotten quite a lot of works made since I last "updated" on here.

    So much so that instead of flooding the forum with a load of oneshots and other fanfictions, that I'd just make a master post of all my work. I won't be able to post some of my works here, as they're adult in nature, but I'll at least post an edited version with the naughtiness cut out. Just for sake of completion; for anyone curious to see the unedited version, I do have an AO3 and Tumblr that I post before here, both called Wisperic.

    Anyway, this'll be my little forum for the various stories I make. I'm a sucker for the Merman!Elliott headcanon, so I write a good bit involving it, and Elliott in general. I also write with my farmer, Jakobi. I may expand to other characters at some point, but for now I'd just like to focus on these two.

    Until then, I hope you guys enjoy my work! I'll try to keep this more up to date now, instead of slacking like I used to.

    I'll put little descriptions here, for anyone curious to know what the story in question entails.

    • Short Stories
    Once of the Sea: It has been over a year since Elliott came to Pelican Town. During this time of year, memories seem to haunt him, and regrets follow him like a little child. Did he react too fast to his decision to come on land? Or is he simply homesick, missing the dear waters he lived in for so long?

    A Shard of Life: Jakobi had always been a strange man. By looks alone, one can tell he isn't quite... human. Indeed, the living doll didn't used to be this sentient being he is now, and once was as inanimate as the ground he stands on. His journey to life is one of much trials... and one of many a sacrifice.

    Porcelain Perfection: The beach was always a favorite spot of Jakobi's to visit, for more than just the scenic view. Indeed, he found himself going almost daily, to visit the little cabin off to the corner. (Edited, adult section taken out.)

    Galaxies of the Flesh: Vanity is something Elliott is not new to. Ever since coming to the surface, he's done his best to keep up appearances. However, when he runs out of a certain concealer to hide his "faults," devastation hits the man as he tries to hide himself from the world.

    I'll Be Here: Jas always has been haunted with horrible nightmares, especially so after the death of her parents. But none affect her more than when she dreams the last person she holds close to her disappears. Only then does she feel truly alone.

    A Cold One: Shane doesn't like company. They tend to hurt, or close him out if he tries to open up. He's grown used to solitude, drinking away his time and the saloon. However, he can't help but feel a mix of annoyance and gratefulness that the local vampire turned farmer has taken an interest in him.

    Someone to Care: Shane's never been used to the idea of friends. He's had them in the past, but it feels so long ago, he can hardly remember what it's like. Yet when asked to describe the relationship he has with the resident vampire farmer, he simply can't seem to think of anything else...

    • Chapter Stories
    Of Land and Sea: The sea was all Elliott knew for so long. His life traveling between the various ocean with his school, picking up the debris left behind by uncaring humans. However, never being one to judge, Elliott is willing to look past issues to see the bigger picture. His first encounter with humanity gives him an experience he will never forget... and his family and friends will never forgive.

    The Glow of the City: It has been almost two years since Jakobi moved away from the city to start his new life on Alchemistry Farm. Growing homesick, he decides it would be best to visit his old home. However, he won't go about it alone. Deciding to venture out of Pelican Town for the first time since his arrival to land, Elliott is met with some unpleasant discoveries as he realizes just how different it is from the small community...
    Short Stories/One Shots

    Spring was always a time of peace for Elliott. He never really traveled far from his little beach cottage during this time, preferring to stick close to the sounds of the oceans over the bustle of people. Hours of simply sitting at the edge of the ocean, feeling the warm water wash over his toes, the sun gently beating down upon him. Perhaps he wasn’t quite used to human life yet, and needed the peace to gather his thoughts. Or perhaps he was rather homesick, whether he wanted to admit it or not.

    It had been over a year since he met the mysterious wizard that changed his life forever. The wizard that granted him his wish to walk among the humans, to pursue the dream long thought to be impossible for someone like him. He still remembered so vividly the day he departed from his old home of the sea to the new and exciting—though admittedly rather frightening—world of the land.

    His parents and friends had warned him that the dream he held was dangerous, that if he were to go with it, he probably never would be able to return. That the beloved sea he once called home would be an insurmountable abyss, never to be explored again. But Elliott was an excitable man, and when the opportunity came to him, he joyfully accepted the offer.

    It was funny, really. Before, he never cared much to see what the world above the water was like. He was happy, or at least fine, with simply staying in the water, swimming among the fish and others of his kind. It wasn’t until that one fateful day, when he was trapped in a net to meet what he thought was certain doom, that everything seemed to change.

    That day, he met the jaunty fisherman known to him now as his dear friend Willy. And instead of being gutted, strung up as a trophy, he was released back to his home. The generosity of the human certainly caught Elliott off guard; for so long he heard stories of humanity’s ruthlessness, of its disdain of all things different. Yet this human didn’t look at his with hatred or fear; if anything, he looked happy, surprised. And with a chuckle and a “Whoops, sorry ‘bout that, son!” Elliott was free once more to swim his aquatic home.

    Needless to say, this simple act was enough to intrigue Elliott to return to the spot every time the fisherman returned to the sea. Always out of sight from the others, but out enough to talk to his new human friend. It was with this he learned about the land, of it’s green majesty and lush fields. Of its variety of people, good and bad, and of creatures not unlike himself. And of it’s arts, both physical and mental. It was this mental art form that ignited a passion inside of him, one he long thought would be impossible for him to figure out.

    It started out with a simple book. Or as Elliott called it, weird square thing, as his only encounter with them before were waterlogged and long ruined of their true purpose, so it may as well have been a simple square. Willy was reading one as he waited for a bite, and was caught by surprise when Elliott surfaced from the deep blue. It was here that Willy showed Elliott the wonders of the written word, the marvels of the mind.

    Each day then, Willy would return with a book or two of various genres and types. He always got a scolding from Gunther when he returned the books with water damage, but he was willing to pay the fine for his new friend to enjoy his new found interest. And it wasn’t long before Elliott’s love of literature overpowered everything else, and fueled him to the decision that wrote his new path of life.

    His dream of forsaking his fins for a pair of legs. His desire to write and paint mental images for the world to enjoy.

    He knew he couldn’t do this if he stayed in the ocean; water was poor for ink, and to stay out of the water on land was dangerous, both for his health and his safety. But when he expressed his desire of new life to his friends, family… they were less that supportive. Calling it childish, a pipe dream, an impossibility… or worse yet, reckless and foolish. That he wouldn’t survive a day above land.

    But still, he dreamed. And still, when the chance came for him to leave it all behind, he did so without a second thought. At least, not at first. But as time passed, thoughts began to follow him like his new shadow. Of if he reacted too swiftly, if everyone was right that it was just a dream that would fade away to the back of his mind.

    Spring was the time these thoughts hit hard. The season when he made that decision. And it was with this time he stayed close to his home, both new and old. Hours spent on the beach, staring off into the blue, wistful to return. Especially when his dreams of writing turned out less than successful, and the money he was given to live with was dwindling faster and faster.

    The lapping of the waves was both peaceful and solemn, as it was the most he could experience with the ocean now. His pants stained with the sea water and sand as he sat, feeling the foam at his fingertips. Occasionally he would see a crab or some other sort of creature and give a light chat, but if anything the talk only made him more homesick.

    Elliott leaned back into the sand, not caring if his hair was messed with particles of sand and how tedious it would be to get it out. Simply basking in the feeling of the waves over his legs, the sight of the clouds racing overhead. He swore, sometimes he would close his eyes and feel the air become toxic, his legs mesh together once more into the fins he gave up to walk. As if he was going back to his nature. But every time he opened his eyes, he was still with his pair of legs, his lungs filled with the clean air of the world.

    He loved the world above the water. But he couldn’t help but feel the longing of going back home as the days passed. Especially when the weather was warm, the sea was beautiful, and his writing stagnated more and more in its lack of success.

    However, he never would come to regret his decision. No matter how much he missed his home, how often the chides of his old life bounced in his head, he loved his new life too much to regret it now. Sure, he missed his old life every now and then, and watching the ocean sometimes made him wish he could just jump in and dive as deep as he could, but the glory of the world above was unlike any he experienced under the sea. The vast amount of creatures, the ever shifting form of humanity, the bright days and the stormy weather. And of course, most of all, the wonders a piece of paper, a pen, and a curious mind could craft.

    These little things he experienced, these were enough to make him certain he chose the right path. That no matter how tough life could get, he would overcome to achieve his dreams.

    With a renewed happiness in his soul at his certainty, Elliott stood up from his spot and brushed himself down of sand. As he was about to turn around to head back to his little beach cottage, an unfamiliar “Hi” sounded to him. Turning his head to the side, his eyes locked with a new face, one he hadn’t seen around the small town before… but even with this fact, the face was warm and welcoming, as if they had known each other for years.

    With a smile, Elliott introduced himself. It was these little encounters, these unexpected occurrences, that made him glad he chose the life he did.

    “Ah, the new farmer we’ve all been expecting…and whose arrival has sparked many a conversation! I’m Elliott…I live in the little cabin by the beach. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

    Magic was always a tricky endeavor to delve into, especially to those not naturally gifted in the art. The ability to alter the very essence of the universe, manipulating forces beyond normal control, bringing forth objects or creatures from out of thin air; indeed, the power behind such prowess was unmistakable, but a danger to those unprepared. Never-the-less, humanity always held an intense interest in the mystic arts, especially to the younger audiences, with an active mind and imagination.

    Indeed, as magic began to grow more juvenile in reputation, being put on the same level as video games and street art, more and more young folk began to play around with the arts; especially to the more risky branches, such as transmutation and transmogrification. Necromancy was a branch gaining a startling amount of popularity, but thankfully the young folk who partook in the dark magic often couldn’t reanimate much beyond flies or rats.

    However, with any sort of artform, there exists people who wished to go beyond the known genres. People who experimented with various different magics, hoping to create a new branch of magic entirely, but often the magics didn’t produce desired effects, and in the worst cases would even result in the untimely demise of the experimenting individuals. These entrepreneurs were often left as a story of warning for future generations, never to go beyond the established rules if one knew what was best for them.

    Most listened, but some continued to experiment. Always in secret, as if it were discovered they were meshing together unstable actions, a scolding surely would be put in place. But ultimately, nothing could stop a mind in forward motion, which left so many to discover their ends far too soon as they failed to heed warnings.

    One such person was a young teenage boy; Jeffrey was his name, and his intrigue in these arts were known to all his family and friends. However, what wasn’t known was his desire to bring forth a new form of magic; one that incorporated a bit of everything inside of it. With these magics, he hoped to be able to craft sentient life from the world itself, to form a human without the need of procreation. An act he loved to call “soul-crafting.”

    The process was long, with so many absolute failures of no results at all, that many a time Jeffrey gave up on his desire. Only for them to be rekindled again as he read a new story of magical exploits, or having a dream where he finally garnered a success and became world famous as a result. Nothing seemed to keep the young man down long, and even with his repeated duds, he continued on with his research and practices.

    It took a few years before Jeffrey decided that, perhaps, it was impossible to create something from absolutely nothing. There had to be some sort of catalyst, no matter how small or minor, to shape into a bigger picture. It was soon decided that Jeffrey would find an object to test this theory on, and since he desired to make human life, he decided something replicating a human in some way would do.

    He decided, then, on a doll. A porcelain one of intricate detail and beauty, clearly cared for and holding much sentimental value. Indeed, this doll was a prized possession coming from his grandmother’s side of the family, having long been passed down to the girls of his family. But his sister had found apathy in the doll, discarding it to gather dust in the corner of a storage building. Since it wasn’t gathering much care with his sister possessing it, it didn’t take much persuasion for Jeffrey to convince his mother to pass the doll down to him, as he promised the doll would one day find its way back to a girl that would love it unconditionally. Little did his mother know that he meant that in a more literal sense, a more… serious sense.

    With the doll in his possession now, Jeffrey began the long and arduous effort to morph a doll into not just a human-like being, but one with a proper soul as well. After all, crafting life wasn’t too hard, although it was heavily frowned upon, as necromancy made it clear. However, creating sentience was another thing entirely.

    For a while, there wasn’t much progress with the doll, either. In fact, there were many a times that it was a miracle that the doll wasn’t broken in the mixture of arcane abilities, as small fires and booms were not an uncommon occurrence. Jeffrey was about to call it off, deeming his actions possibly too farfetched for him to achieve… until one day, he swore, he saw the eyes of the doll blink on their own.

    Absolutely shocked, Jeffrey had watched the doll intently just to make sure he hadn’t imagined it in his desperation. And indeed, the doll was blinking, even without having to be laying down like it normally had to be. A new spark of excitement shot through the boy then, as his work was shown not to have been for naught.

    And with this, Jeffrey worked even harder to garner more results. And gradually, over time, he indeed achieve just that. The doll would scoot about mindlessly if pushed, almost falling off quite a few times if not for Jeffrey catching it. The mouth would open, letting out bizarre noises that were quite frightening in their own right. Little actions that helped fuel Jeffrey’s desire to see more form in the doll.

    Truly excited for his progress, Jeffrey continued to work effortlessly on the doll, giving more attributes to the glass figure. Many a night, he would spend restless, working on combining different magics to see if they produced other results, and while many often resulted in fizzles of nothing, there were some combinations that added interesting results. Necromancy and Alchemy seemed to allow the doll to grow “human” like attachments to it, like a rear and—bizarrely enough—a rough shape of a penis, not completely formed but unmistakable in its appearance. Summoning and Transmogrification began to shape the doll’s glass into a more suitable mimic of flesh, in feeling at least as it still cracked.

    But ultimately, even as the doll progressed more with becoming a smaller version of a human, sentience and a true, undeniable human body still seemed so far away. The doll would move more and more, if coerced, but didn’t utter a word of coherence. The doll acted out actions, but not by its own correlation. And it wasn’t long before Jeffrey exhausted almost every known form of magic combinations… except for one. One that was considered far too dangerous to even consider, yet alone dabble with. One that not even necromancy could meet with in terms of risk and consequence. But, desperate to see his dream come to fruition, Jeffrey disregarded the nagging feeling on his mind, the one trying to push regret on him.

    He decided then he would experiment with this magic, to see if this would complete his goal that was already so close to finish. The magic of blood, of sacrificing and altering life itself.

    Soon, Jeffrey started bloodletting every chance he had, soaking the doll in the viscous fluid and combining it with various other magics. And indeed, it produced startling results. As more blood seeped into the doll, various attributes began to become more prevalent. The flesh was comparable to that of normal, human flesh in texture and consistency, the “hair” of the doll becoming more life-like and less coarse. The newly formed features on the doll became more refined, becoming unmistakable as to what they were supposed to be; fingernails, teeth, eyelashes and eyebrows.

    And, most remarkable of all, the doll was growing, gradually becoming taller and taller until it got to a point that Jeffrey had to hide the doll away in his closet to prevent his parents from finding out what he did with the doll. So much was accomplished, and it wasn’t long before the doll practically did look human; an effeminate man, still possessing some doll-like qualities, but ultimately was a wonderful mimic of humanity.

    Jeffrey was pleased with his results, deciding now to officially give the doll a name. He listed off quite a few in his head, but ultimately settled on one he liked the sound of… Jakobi. Soon, he called the doll Jakobi every day, seeing if that would allow the doll to identify itself with a name in place of a common word.

    But even as the results garnered so much success, Jeffrey ultimately couldn’t reach the final point of his experiments. The point where he would no longer hide his accomplishments, that he would reveal to his parents just had he had achieved. And that was sentience. Even as the doll looked more and more human, the doll was undeniably brain dead still. It would do actions, if it was lead on, but if left to its own accord, it would simply sit in place, maybe blink every now and then. It uttered no words, made no attempt to communicate, and showed no sign of recognizing its own name. It was like a robot, in a way; it was capable of much, but without a command, it may as well have been scrap.

    Jeffrey would not let himself be deterred though. Continuing on with the blood magic, Jeffrey forced more and more of his life into his work, cutting wrists, palms, and arms to let out as much blood as he could before he felt ill. Drawing runes into his floor, painting them onto the doll, doing whatever he could with the blood that he thought would create some kind of results. He wasn’t going to give up, not when he was so close to his ultimate dream.

    Ultimately though, Jeffrey grew weaker and weaker, soon finding it hard to even move from his room to use the bathroom or eat. Soon he expended far too much than what his body would allow, causing him to lay down on the floor as everything felt so cold. His heart pounded so weakly, unable to pump his body with enough blood to keep it moving, to keep it alive… and soon, the boy’s eyes closed, never to be opened again.

    And it was with this last breath of life that the final piece of Jeffrey’s dream came to be. With a few rapid blinks, the doll turned its head around, moving its arms to push itself up. It was unsteady, wobbling around a bit, but eventually it stood on its own two legs, tall and firm. Carefully, the doll walked over to the quiet form that laid on the floor, crouching down to lightly touch at the still figure.

    “Hello? Are you alright?” it asked, voice thick with concern as it lightly shook the too far gone boy. “It’s me, Jakobi. I’m here now, you don’t have to hurt yourself anymore. I’m sorry it took so long, but I swear, I’m grateful for what you did… Please wake up, you wanted to show me to your parents, didn’t you?”

    Jeffrey had finally achieved his dream, but not in the way he had imagined. Hoping to create a soul from nothing itself, instead his soul was the catalyst used to make a new one entirely. As Jeffrey perished, Jakobi began to live. The two were never meant to live together in the same world.

    Elliott had always been fairly vain with his appearance. Ever since he came to the land, he did his best to keep his looks up to par; hair brushed and volumized everyday, skin clear of acne, suit tidy and straight. A daily tradition that took many an hour to perfect, which was why he didn’t allow guests no earlier than ten. This upkeep, while no doubt stressful in many ways, was also therapeutic in its own right; watching as all the little flaws faded away, fixed up to a visage of perfection the man so adored.

    He was fine with his daily rituals, no matter how long they took. However, if there was one thing he wished he could change completely, without having to conceal it everyday, it was these splotches on his skin. “Freckles,” as he knew them to be called now. They were a sort of replacement for the gills that once adorned his body, and he so loathed how they looked. So dark compared to his complexion, so numerous in amount that parts of his skin looked an orangish-brown from a distance.

    As he compared them, they were like flat pimples, ones that couldn’t be broken or cleaned away. Always there, clinging to the flesh like a disease. He didn’t feel right with them, felt like they were stains all over his body, taint that no amount of scrubbing could get rid of. The majority of his time, indeed, was spent hiding away these blots. Covering them behind a fine layer of concealer, from head to toe. Even the ones that no doubt were covered with clothes, he made sure to doubly conceal, in the off chance he had to be seen naked.

    This was the one part of his beauty time he loathed. The one he wished he could just get rid of. The gunk on his skin felt so off, it took far too long to accomplish, but no doubt he hated the discoloring of his skin more than any texture issues gave him. It made him sad, really; his gills had been gorgeous as a merman, shining and proud, only for them to be replaced with dark debris as a human…

    As Elliott worked to apply said concealer over his face, a rare swear parted from his lips when the sound of air could be heard from the bottle he was using. A sign there wasn’t much left, certainly not enough for his whole body. And indeed, it turned out not even being enough for his face, as half of it was still covered in the specks. And even more unfortunate for him was the fact it was Wednesday, the single day of the week Pierre’s place was closed.

    “Great…” he mumbled out, seeing if he could spread out the concealer in a thinner layer. It didn’t work, instead as he rubbed, he made the layer too thin, now revealing the hidden dots. A second rare swear, one that he hated to do, but in this case he simply lacked the proper words other than utter annoyance at his predicament. “Guess it’s a day to stay in…”

    As he ultimately gave up on trying to at least hide his face of the discolored specks, the sound of knocking startled the broad man hard. Far too hard then he would like to admit, his heart pounding in a way that almost seemed to hurt. Pausing to make sure he indeed heard right, more knocks came shortly afterward. Letting out clicks in place of swears this time, Elliott called out a “who is it?”

    “Elliott? It’s me, Jakobi,” a familiar voice called out from the other side of the door, voice muffled but still so very sweet. The sound alone was enough to stop Elliott’s pounding heart and replace it with a sweet flutter, causing a sweet smile to form on his face. “Still drunk on love…” he couldn’t help but think to himself, not in a bitter way, but one of admiration for his beloved. They had been dating for a few months now, and Elliott swore, he felt as giddy as the first day he confessed his feelings every time the two met up.

    Before Elliott could say a “come in, darling,” his thoughts dawned on him when he remembered his poorly concealed face, a mess of cream and makeup. Letting out more clicks and a few stutters, he felt himself uttering some of the hardest words he had to say. “Erm… I’m sorry dear, I’m not feeling too good today. Can you come back later tomorrow, perhaps?”

    The lie hit his stomach as if he had one too many Tom Kha soups. He loathed having to say that, but he simply couldn’t let his love see him like… this.

    “Oh no, honey, what’s wrong? You need any help?” Jakobi said now, concern clear in his voice now. It only served to sting Elliott further, making a deep frown appear on his face.

    “Ah, no no, I’m fine! I mean, I’m not, but I just… I just need to be alone for the day, alright? I don’t want to get you sick…” he tried to make an excuse, a little panic starting to well up in the large man.

    “Elliott, I can’t get sick. Remember?” Jakobi couldn’t help but point out now, “I’m perfectly fine to come in. What’s wrong, dear? Maybe I can see if Pierre can open his shop up long enough to get medicine, or maybe I can ask Gus if he can cook you up some soup…”

    Elliott couldn’t help but peek up at the mention of perhaps getting Pierre to open up just a little. But still, his pride prevented him from speaking up, and he most certainly knew it would sound too vain even for him to say “oh sure, see if you can get concealer, thanks!” After all, what kind of ailment would require concealer as a cure?

    “Uh, thank you love, but I really just think I need to rest today. Was up too late writing, I’m uh, exhausted. My legs are locked up! I’m really, truly sorry!” Elliott said now, staying perfectly still as if his movement would trigger the doll to be suspicious.

    “No no, don’t apologize! I understand, sitting at a desk for as long as you do’s bound to catch up with pain eventually. I’ll come by tomorrow, just please, make sure to relax today, okay?” Jakobi said now, worry so apparent in his tone.

    “Of course love, of course,” was all Elliott said now, a feeling of shame washing over him as he deceived his love.

    Before Jakobi left, a final “I love you, get well soon,” was said. Elliott was silent for the longest time, until he sighed out and said “I love you too. I’m sorry, dear,” when he was sure Jakobi had left.


    The next day, Elliott left particularly early to make it to Pierre’s before anyone else would. Even at the early hours, with barely anyone out of their house, he held his head down, making sure no one would see his face. He couldn’t stand the thought of someone seeing him so… bare. With his skin so exposed with the accursed blotches.

    As Elliott stepped into the general store, the ring of the bell sounding out, Elliott gave a simple wave at the “Welcome to Pierre’s!” greeting, head still pointed down as he used his feet as guidance to the section of the store he needed. The cosmetic and makeup aisle.

    However, as he reached the rough area of where the concealer would be, Elliott let out a few clicks of annoyance as he noticed all that were available were for tones not right for his skin. “Pierre, you have an neutral concealers?” the man called out, making sure his face was still hidden.

    “Sorry, Elliott, we ran out just the other day, and I don’t get my next shipment of makeup until a few days from now,” was all Pierre simply said, cleaning up his counter area.

    “Great… just great,” Elliott sighed out, running a hand over his face as he decided to disregard grocery shopping for the week. At least, until the concealers came in; he didn’t want to be out any longer in public with his skin not properly covered.

    As he went to leave the store, he paused as someone else came to the door before him. Before he could step out of the way or even cover his face, he noticed the familiar blue vest and neck ribbon of the person in front of him.

    “Oh, good morning Elliott!” the cheery voice that so normally filled his chest with a light joy sounded out to him. Normally, anyway, except this one time, when a pang of fear shot through the man. Too quickly he tried to conceal his face with his arm, instead causing Elliott to slap himself with a loud smack and an “ouch!”

    “Elliott! What on earth?” Jakobi said now, very confused at the reaction his boyfriend gave. Until it dawned on him why he was trying to cover his face. “Elliott, you have…?”

    “I have to go. Now,” was all Elliott said, so very abruptly, not wanting to push past the man but feeling so tempted, so… embarrassed.

    Jakobi didn’t utter a word at this, simply stepping out of Elliott’s way, before quietly saying out a “Sorry…” as the broader man quickly walked away. So ashamed at having to reveal his blemishes to his lover like this, Elliott made a dash to his beach home, not even caring now if others saw. He just needed to be out, out from the sun, from the staring eyes of the public… the judging eyes his love no doubt held.

    It wasn’t until he was safely back home, the door locked behind him, that he realized his actions, and another rare swear escaped his mind. Feeling so very ashamed, the broad man slunk over to his bed, falling into it as he buried his face into his pillow. “I just completely pushed away Jakobi…” was all that bounced around in his head now, so ashamed at his disgraceful actions towards his beloved.

    It was hours later, after he had fallen into a nap without realizing, that Elliott was startled awake by the sound of knocking. Jolting up from his position, he looked at the door, before saying a “who is it?”

    “Elliott? It’s me?” Jakobi’s voice sounded out, very cautious in tone. “Is… it okay to come in?”

    Elliott normal joy at hearing the voice was replaced with a solemn guilt, at how callous he acted around the doll. Deciding he shouldn’t hide his faults any longer, he simply let out a “Yeah, come on.”

    Slowly the door opened, and in stepped the pale, lithe figure of the living doll. His clothes were a little stained, no doubt from crop work, but otherwise his beauty was still pristine. As the man closed the door behind him, he brushed himself of some sand that blew on him and looked over at the bed. “Hey there…” was all he said, a little sheepishly now.

    “Hi…” was all Elliott said as well, before he let out a sighed and continued. “I am so sorry for this morning, Jakobi. I acted like a fool, letting my vanity dictate over reason or manners. I… I shouldn’t have let you seen this side of me, yet I did…”

    “Shh…” Jakobi hushed now, carefully walking over to the man to sit beside him on the bed. “You’re fine dear, don’t worry about apologizing…”

    Elliott simply looked down to the smaller man, watching as he joined him on the bed. “No, it really isn’t… I’m sorry, darling, I’ve been hiding this from you for so long, hiding it from everyone for as long as I could…”

    “Elliott, you’re… talking about your freckles, right? Cause you’re sorta making it sound like something way more serious,” Jakobi couldn’t help but comment on.

    “I… yes, my freckles,” Elliott said, a new embarrassment going through him at his own dramatic nature. “I’ve had them since I came to the land, and I’ve always hated them… They seem so out of place, so… not proper.”

    Jakobi was simply silent as he listened to his lover explain himself. As the explanation went on, Jakobi couldn’t help but feel a bit of shock as his normally proud boyfriend admitted to his his own self-image problem. How he wished he could rip his flesh off some days, and hope it would grow back clear of freckles. How sometimes he would scrub until he rubbed the skin raw, and still nothing but pain came of it. How he let his hatred of his own body take over him, to almost an extreme as he tried to close even his loved one out of his life to hide his shame.

    All Jakobi could do was put a hand over the bigger man’s own, his hand so tiny in comparison. As the larger man finally came down from his venting, Jakobi went over and gave the man a gentle kiss on the cheek.

    “Thank you for talking to me about this…” was all he said, before he stood up. “I… can’t say I really understand why you reacted like this. To your skin, I mean, the freckles do nothing, if not enhance your charm. But I won’t try and stop you from doing what you do, what makes you happy. I just want you to know… you don’t need to be ashamed of them around me,” Jakobi said as he turned himself around, looking down at the seated man.

    “You… like them?” Elliott said, almost shocked at the words the doll said to him. He was absolutely petrified that somehow, these little dots would be a deal-breaker for the ethereal beauty his lover was. That he would find him disgusting, unclean.

    “Of course, darling,” Jakobi said now, so full of certainty as he crouched down. “They go wonderfully with you, accenting your skin in a most handsome way. They remind me almost of little galaxies, as if the cosmos itself had granted you some of its eternal beauty…” as he said this, he pressed another kiss to the face of his lover, running his blue lips tenderly over the freckled skin.

    “No matter what you do with your skin, you’re still the same man I fell in love with. Freckles or no freckles.”

    These kind words kindled a warm feeling in Elliott’s chest, one that brought him so close to tears, but still he resisted. The sweet action his beloved did, feeling those cool lips trail over his own, heated flesh…

    It didn’t take much for the broad man to take the lithe form of the doll in his hold, as gentle yet as firm of a hug as he could manage. “Thank you, Jakobi… hearing you say that means the world to me. That maybe I’m not as hideous as I think I am…”

    “Of course, Elliott,” Jakobi hummed into the hug, burying his face into the crook of the man’s neck.

    It was from there on out that Elliott decided then that he no longer needed to hide his features anymore. That, while sometimes he still had the looming doubt of their appeal, his beloved was there for him every step of the way. That these spots… these galaxies upon his flesh, weren’t anything to be ashamed of.

    And with it, he took his first, unhidden step into the light, skin giving a natural glow instead of a sheen of shame he so long held.

    Dreams were supposed to be a pleasant break from reality. A way to escape the crushing fears one would have, to forget about one’s doubts and tribulations. To enjoy experiences normally not possible in one’s life. Yet sometimes, that wasn’t the case; sometimes, they played with the darkest part of a person’s mind, feeding the negative emotions as if it were a hungry beast. Fear, doubt, sadness, pain… anything was game for these nightmares.

    Indeed, that was what little Jas experienced just a few minutes ago, before being awoken horribly with a gasp of breath and quiet sobbing. Her nightmares always seemed to play with the same theme; loss, and how she experienced so much of it in her little life. Dreams involving seeing her parents for the final time, hearing them argue as they disappeared into the distance, or being told they’ll be back for her, even if it took an eternity to keep that promise.

    She grew to accept these dreams, even as time passed. They always left a crushing feeling in her chest, making her want to cry; but she resisted, knowing that they were gone. That crying wouldn’t bring them back, as she had found out. Not like how it would before, when her screams would cause them to flock to her room, coddling her with affection.

    But dreams she hadn’t gotten used to, dreams that always left her horrified that it was a harsh reality instead, was the recurring ones involving her godfather, Shane. Ones where he joined the same fate as his parents, fading away in thin air as he promised her he’ll be back. That she has to be a good girl while he’s gone, or else she won’t get any treats. She would always tearfully nod her head, promising so dearly she’ll behave, as her hold on the man turned to that of the air itself.

    Every time she had these dreams, she couldn’t go back to sleep until she could confirm that Shane was still with her. Sneaking out of her bedroom, despite her aunt Marnie’s insistence about leaving her room at night, she would make the short yet what felt like an eternity trek to the man’s room, and carefully open up the door. Usually, she was greeted with his presence curled up in the bed, snoring aware softly with sometimes his TV on for ambiance and lighting. Usually, the sight and sounds alone were enough to reassure her that everything was okay.

    This night, however, wasn’t one of those nights. Shane’s TV was off, and she couldn’t hear his typical snores. The room felt too dark, as if the void itself had swallowed it up and left nothingness instead. It was the one time her dreams felt like they had come true, and with it, she let out a gross sob as she tried to maneuver around in the dark room.

    “Shane? Shane, please come back…” she cried out, so softly due to her aunt still sleeping, but so desperately hoping someone would hear her. As she stumbled around the pitch-black room, Jas let out a startled shriek as she tumbled over some loose clothes on the ground, her feet getting entangled as she fell with an all too loud bang for the quiet house.

    It was with this bang that Jas could hear shuffling, and a couple of clicks later, a light was on in the room, revealing to her that Shane had been in the room the entire time. He looked startled, a bit groggy, and a tad bit grumpy, but the grumpiness melted away when he saw what was the source of the noise that woke him up. “Jas?” he mumbled out, running a hand down his face as he rubbed his eye.

    “Shane!” Jas cried out, quickly getting up as she went over to give the just awoken man a hug. As she clung to the worn jersey of her godfather, the usual smell of pizza and something else clung to the man, the other odor always being lost on her.

    With a little bit of a jolt, Shane stiffened for a moment, before he relaxed and hugged the girl back. “Hey there, sweetie… what’s wrong?” he said, so very softly, knowing that Jas only came to his room so late in the night when something bad had happened.

    “I-I had a nightmare, Shane, a really, really bad one…” Jas sobbed out, rubbing her face against his shirt like an impromptu tissue. “I got so scared, and then I couldn’t see you, and-and I thought it was real. I thought you were gone…”

    Shane was quiet as the girl stammered on, spilling out the dream she just experienced. About how the two had gone to a fair, ready to play some games, when suddenly the crowd swallowed her up. As she tried to push past, she failed to locate her godfather, making her grow increasingly more upset. It was until it finally boiled over, causing her to collapse on the ground as she started to cry, that Shane finally came back… only to tell her he had to go for a while, and needed Jas to be a good girl while he was gone. That he would come back with a present.

    Just like her mother and father said before they were gone forever.

    “Oh…” Shane hummed, sounding so very defeated as to what to do. He never was the best with kids—though he tried dearly to improve for the sake of Jas—but even still he had his moments of completely blanking out. “I’m so sorry the bad dreams got you again. But don’t worry, it’s just that… a bad dream.”

    “B-But your room was so dark, I couldn’t see you! I couldn’t hear you! I thought you really were gone this time, that it wasn’t a dream…” Jas sobbed out, rubbing her arm across her face as she looked up at the tired man.

    “I know, I know, I’m sorry, sweetie. I was super tired when I got out of work, I just passed out as soon as I got in my bed…” as he told a half-truth, Shane could feel as Jas curled up in his hold, face buried in his well-worn clothes. Indeed, he was having to fight a horrible headache as a hangover attempted to overtake him, but if there was one thing his chronic drinking did for him, it was his ability to resist. Especially when she needed him most.

    Jas simply gave more sobs, gradually quieting down but still sounding out her sadness. “I-I’m sorry for waking you, I couldn’t sleep until I knew you were okay… that you were still here…” she said, so very weakly in response.

    “Jas, you’re fine. Whenever the bad dreams come, you know I’ll always be here to help out. No matter how tired I may be, you come first above all else,” Shane said, his eyes giving such a soft look to the young girl. “If checking on me is what makes you feel better, then please, do it however much you like.”

    “You won’t get mad?” Jas said now, rubbing her eyes as she stared back at the man.

    “I won’t get mad,” he reassured, giving the young girl a gentle smile in conformation. “You ever seen me get mad at you before?”

    “N-No…” Jas said now, admitting as she couldn’t recall a single moment the man had so much as raised his voice at her. Not even at times when she truly deserved it.

    “And that won’t change. I swear Jas, I’ll be here for you no matter what. I promised you that, and I don’t go back on my promises…” the man said, trailing off as he did recall so many broken promises he had on his back. But he swore, he’d make sure that being there for Jas was always kept up. Eventually though, he gave himself an internal head shake as he helped adjust Jas to standing back up. “Now, how’s about we get you some milk and cookies to help calm you down?”

    “But Aunt Marnie says I shouldn’t have sweets past 9!” Jas said, shocked that her godfather would actively go against her aunt’s orders like that.

    “Well, that’s only if bad stuff didn’t happen. But you got upset, so I think some comfort food is in order,” Shane said now, sitting himself up as he let out a grunt, his head absolutely pounding. “If she gets mad, I’ll make sure to take the blame for it, okay?”

    “Okay, Shane… “ Jas said, trying to look serious, but couldn’t contain her joy at the thought of getting sweets so late in the night.

    Shane gave a soft smile as he watched the girl do her best to try and hide her excitement, standing up slowly as he held out a hand for her to grab. “Come on now, I think Aunt Marnie bought some more of those awesome sugar cookies recently, let’s see if we can grab a couple.”

    Jas eagerly took the man’s hand, and practically led him into the kitchen. “Sugar cookies, sugar cookies!” she sung out, quietly, but still so very happily.

    Shane couldn’t help but let out a light chuckle as he was led on to the kitchen. “Life sucks a lot of the time. Feels like a battle to breathe, let alone get up to make was crap money I do make…” he started with his thoughts, watching now as they arrived at their destination and Jas pulled out not only a chair for her to sit in, but one for her godfather to sit down into as well. “But as long as I can keep waking up to that sweet face in the morning, I think I’ll be able to push on.”

    It was a Friday evening much like any other. The saloon was bustling with activity, people celebrating the arrival of the weekend, intermingling with friends and loved ones with good food and drinks, or a game or two of pool. It was a time of fun and joy, the jukebox playing out tunes as laughter and chatter filled the room.

    Friday was usually Shane’s most loathed day as a result. He didn’t get the joy of taking breaks like so many others around, any days of relaxation and celebration. He didn’t come to the saloon for a good time, as a luxury for his hard work. He came because it was, quite literally, the only thing that seemed to kill his pain. Drinking down beer after beer, until his immunity finally gained a buzz. Attempting to down his ever-growing sorrows and self-loathing, that always just seemed to resurface as if it had a life-tube.

    Working a thankless job most of the day, seven days a week. Having to try and take care of the child of his long deceased friends, when he couldn’t even take care of himself. Trying to keep a facade of joy around her whenever he did have a chance to interact with her, which always seemed to find a way to make him feel even more like garbage… Indeed, as the days passed, he daydreamed more and more of the chance to reset his life, if he could go back and decide a different fate.

    He always did think being a chicken farmer had its charms. He found a little joy with helping his aunt tend to her flock, the clucking birds always seeming to bring his mood up when he arrived to feed them. Surrounding him in a sea of white fluff, pecking away and sometimes even cuddling close to the man. They didn’t care that he was some disgusting failure at life; they saw him as a friend that brought them food.

    As Shane began to down his other beer, he paused as he caught in the corner of his eye the town’s own mini-celebrity. The farmer known as Mathias, who despite only having moved in a few months ago, already held quite a reputation to him. To the surprising success of the farm, to his contribution to the archaeology museum, to his exploits in the mines, he seemed to have some fame in a little bit of everything.

    But perhaps what contributed most to his little town reputation was the fact he wasn’t even human. Indeed, the man was a vampire, and a bizarre one at that. Dark skin that helped him resist the rays that would condemn other vampires in seconds, blonde hair that almost was white in tone, pale blue eyes instead of piercing red ones, and the fact he didn’t hunt like most vampires did, preferring to get blood shipped to him from an outside source… When he first arrived, there was much talk of fear and worry among the community.

    But as time passed, his benevolent, if a little eccentric, nature poked through from the veil of fear that shrouded through so many people, penetrating enough that pretty much the whole town was trusting of him. There was still worry, of course, that no matter how kind he appeared, that he may end up reverting to primal instincts, but so far he showed no signs of doing so.

    Shane was a person who still felt a hesitancy over the vampire, holding suspect to possible deception Mathias may have held behind his smiles and waves. He wasn’t nearly as condemning as he was before, but still, he couldn’t help but hold that sort of skepticism to him, to expect the worse to happen. Especially with how shit his life seemed to be, it only seemed fitting the town’s friendly vampire would be a blood-thirsty killer in disguise.

    Despite the harsh retorts the human spat at him, the “go aways” and snappy “don’t you have work to do’s,” Mathias always seemed to hold a bizarre interest in the man. One that Shane wasn’t used to in anyone normal, let alone a supernatural creature. Indeed, as Shane eyed the tall figure walking in, he watched as he strutted over to his table and sat himself down. “How many you’ve drunk so far?” the vampire said, his own form of “hello” to the man.

    “None of your business,” was all Shane replied with, finishing off his beer as he put down the empty glass. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

    “Nothing sounds better to me than pestering you,” Mathias said, flashing a fanged grin at the grumpy man. Shane just scoffed, but didn’t care to get in an argument with the man; not with so many people around, anyway. Before he could call over for Emily to get him another glass, the vampire already beckoned to the lady, who came without a moment’s hesitation. “Two beers, Em. Thanks,” was all he said, smiling at the blue-haired girl.

    “Coming up, Mathias!” was all she said, picking up the empty glass from in front of Shane. With a sigh, Shane simply tilted his chair back as he eyed the vampire over.

    “You’re an insistent prick, aren’t ya? No matter what I say, you always seem to come back,” Shane simply said, both annoyed but fairly impressed someone bothered to interact with him as much as the farmer did.

    “How can I resist your charm?” Mathias said now, a little eyebrow wiggle as the teased the man.

    “How can you not,” Shane simply said flatly, setting his chair back down on all fours. As he did so, Emily returned with two frothing glasses of the cold liquid, placing one in front of each man as she said an “Enjoy!” before going off again. Not even saying anything else, Shane simply took the beer and downed a healthy portion of the liquid, foam making a little mustache on his stubbled face.

    “You’re welcome,” Mathias said, a light chuckle to his voice as he drunk his own beer. Shane just grunted, his own way of saying thanks. As the vampire took his first, more reasonable, swallow, he gave a refreshed “ah” as he looked back at the man. “So, how’s Jas?”

    Shane paused for a moment, not expecting the man to inquire about his goddaughter like that. No one really did outside of Marnie, sans for Penny, and that was only because she was her teacher, he figured. “Erm… she’s fine,” was all he said at first, before he sighed and took another swig. “Doing good at school, like usual. Smart kid, if only I knew half of the stuff she knows, maybe I wouldn’t be in such a fucked up mess.”

    Mathias was simply quiet at that. He never did feel good to remark on the man’s negativity; didn’t think it would feel appropriate. Instead, he took another swallow as he hummed.

    “… How’s the farm?” Shane questioned back, feeling the silence cling to the air in a most uncomfortable manner.

    “Doing good. Trees are growing nicely, crops are thriving, flowers blooming… Not much to complain about, really,” Mathias said, taking another swallow. “Thinking about getting a coop built. Finally give your aunt some of my business, get some chickens. Do need to spread out my farm a bit more than just plants…”

    “Mmm,” was all Shane replied with, face frowning a little to its normal, unimpressed look. “Sounds good. Bit of life would do you some good, chickens make for good company.” As the man took another swallow, he couldn’t help but let out a chuckle as he shook his head. “Still can’t get over how a fucking vampire’s running a farm. Just imagining one of your kind, being out in the sun all day… don’t seem right.”

    “Well, good thing they invented parasols and sunscreens, eh?” Mathias said with a chuckle of his own. “But yeah, does seem quite comical, huh? Big city bloodsucker going to a quaint country town to work on something that requires being in the sun all day? I’m sure others would think I’m suicidal with that.”

    “Sure as hell thought that at first…” Shane couldn’t help but comment on, putting his glass down for a little as his hand started to feel a bit cold from the holding. “Makes no sense, honestly. Why’d you risk yourself like that, and not do something more… “safe” for your kind. Especially what with the adventurer’s guild being around; don’tcha ever worry about getting staked?”

    “Eh, I like to think ol’ Marlon and I have a pretty good relationship,” Mathias said, simply enough. “And the reason I don’t just go with the “safe” route is because that just isn’t fun to me. I’ve done the safe bit for so many years now, I’ve lost count. Just sticking with the shadows, staying out of sight and only drinking what blood packs I could get a hold of… Even a creature of the night yearns to see the light, every now and then.”

    “Poetic. Would’ve expected that crap from Elliott,” Shane retorted, giving a smirk as the pretentiousness of the phrase.

    “Wouldn’t be a proper vampire without some depressing undertones, would I?” Mathias said, teasing at the reputation his kind had. “It does have some worries to it. Every now and then I can feel my sunscreen failing, causing a blemish to appear on my arm or face. Every now and then my parasol fails to catch the rays, causing some discomfort. But it’s a pain I think is worth it, after having not felt it for so long. A refreshing pain, in a way. A way to tell me I’m not as immortal as I think I am.”

    “What, that actually sounds good to you?” Shane said, quite surprised to hear that come from a vampire. “I thought the whole eternity shtick was what you guys thrived for.”

    “Well, it did, for a while. But after a few hundred years, it starts getting to you. Seeing friends and family pass on because they don’t have the affliction you have, watching as the world changes so very quickly, while you stay in a stagnant form… I don’t exactly yearn for death, but sometimes I do miss the charms of the humanity that I lost so long ago…”

    As Mathias said this, he took his drink and finished it off, downing what was left in a matter of seconds. “But I try not to dwell on that. I can’t go back in time to stop myself from being infected, and my blood’s long turned too tainted for a cure. Instead, I’ll embrace what little bit of humanity I can still experience. And right now, that’s with being in the sun. Feeling its warmth even as it stings me, experiencing its light even as it blinds me… Man, I really do sound like Elliott right now, don’t I?”

    “Don’t worry, you’re not nearly as gag-inducing as he is,” Shane said, giving a faint smile to the vampire. “Well, whatever makes you happy. Wish I could do that, fight past the pain. But well, I got the weak part of humanity in me.”

    “You say that, yet I don’t think you realize how strong you really are…” Mathias said, raising up from his seat now. “It was a good chat, Shane. I’ll see you around. Tell Jas I said hi, will ya?”

    “Yeah yeah, if I don’t black out and forget,” Shane half-joked, tapping his finger on the empty glass in front of him. “Don’t get too lovesick with the sun now.”

    “Oh, I won’t. It’s more of a love-hate relationship, anyway,” Mathias teased, sticking his tongue out slightly. As the vampire left his money for the beers and then some on the table, Shane couldn’t help but feel a sadness bubble in his chest as he was once more left to dwell in his thoughts.

    As he ordered another beer from the passing by waitress, he couldn’t help but ponder what it was like out on that farm. How the vampire worked even as the sun beamed down, doing what he enjoyed. He envied it, really, how despite the real fear of possibly being burnt to a crisp, Mathias continued on.

    He wished he had that sort of bravery to him. That despite his own limitations, he hadn’t quit his dream like he did so. But ultimately, he was human, and humanity held a fragile form despite its hardy nature.

    No matter how big one dreamt, the limits of the body prevented so much. And Shane had to learn that the hard way.

    Shane decided then that, instead of waiting for the next beer, he had enough for one night, leaving what he owed on the table. He had been going here for long, he could figure the price of beer and taxes combined in his head, even when he was buzzed. “Least I have that going for me,” he thought as he shoved his hands in his pockets, slinking off into the darkness.

    A typical Monday, spent at the bar, as was per usual for Shane. Drinking away to stop the throbbing his leg gave out after having stood all day, carrying god too many heavy boxes and cleaning up one too many accidents in the aisles. He hated working at Joja Mart so much, he wanted nothing more than to see that accursed place burst into flames, get raided, just… something, anything to make it go away.

    Or if not that, at least have a way to escape. To leave that horrid life he led, to take him and Jas somewhere where they could relax, and have an actual father-daughter bond like he so wanted to give her. Not just rarely play with her, comfort her when her dreams haunted her, have to say “Sorry, honey, I gotta work,” when she asked for a tea party or piggy-back ride. She already was dealt so much, he hated that he couldn’t help contribute to a better life for her.

    As he took a bite of the pizza he ordered, he looked up when he heard a chair scoot at his table. There, he was greeted with the presence of the farmer, Mathias. A common occurrence, he seemed to notice; not a daily one, but at least once a week, the vampire seemed to stop by, and almost specifically pestered the tired man. Shane wasn’t sure if he should’ve found it annoying or flattering.

    “Howdy,” was all the vampire said, an all-too-friendly smile plastered on his face. Shane simply grumbled at this, chewing his slice. “Gonna eat that all by yourself?”

    “Normally do,” Shane said, flatly. “You can have a piece for fifty gold though. Feelin’ generous tonight.”

    “Oh man, what a bargain! How could I resist!” the vampire joked, but even with his teasing tone, he pulled out his wallet and fished out five, small gold coins, worth ten gold each. “I think I’ll take you up on the offer,” he said now, winking as he pushed the coins over to the man, then grabbed a slice for himself.

    Shane was in a stunned silence at the action, at how the farmer just casually gave away money to chomp on his pizza, something he didn’t even need to do to survive. But he simply shrugged, pocketing the money as he went about his slice. “Erm, nice doing business, then.”

    “Of course. Way cheaper than just buying a full one that I never eat all of anyway,” Mathias chuckled, taking a bite of the pizza as the cheese pulled apart into strings.

    Shane just blinked at the casual approach the man had. No matter how often the vampire did that, just walk in and start being buddy with the him, he would never get used to it. It just… felt off. Something he wasn’t used to happening at all, let alone have it happen with an undead creature, of all things.

    “So, I take it there’s nothing better to do, as usual?” Shane said now, taking a sip of his beer. It was tradition now, even at this point, to say something along those lines when they met. Didn’t feel right if he wasn’t at least a little bit snippy with the vampire.

    “Nope. Animals all asleep, crops all watered, didn’t feel like going in the mines today. Got my full attention tonight, aren’t you a lucky one?” Mathias teased further, taking another bite before scrunching up his face. “Urgh, forgot you like mushrooms on your pizza…” he said as he forced swallowed his bite, then went to pick off the mushrooms left on his slice.

    “Hey, fuck you, mushrooms are great,” Shane said, both a little bitterly and a bit playfully. “Besides, don’t you own a fucking mushroom cave?”

    “Well yeah, cause they’re good for profit. I don’t eat this shit,” the vampire said now, letting out a “blech” at the thought. “Least, not when I’m more aware of my surroundings.”

    “Whatever man,” Shane shrugged, taking another bite himself. “So, I take it you’re holding the fort over there still?”

    “Oh, no, I came here cause a freak tornado came and took all my shit to Oz,” Mathias couldn’t help but get smart himself, before he snorted. “Yes, everything’s fine. Animal care’s quite a bit different from crop care, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.”

    “Well, good. Cause animals aren’t like plants, they need constant attention and care. You can’t just trim off the sick parts like you do with plants,” Shane said, simply enough. If there was one thing he learned since he moved in with his aunt, it was proper animal care; he wouldn’t hear the end of it if anything happened to Marnie’s animals.

    “Oh drat, guess I gotta glue the wing back on then…” Mathias started to joke, before he gained a stern look from Shane. “Okay, chill, I’m kidding. I’m not that dense,” he said, a nervous chuckle to his voice. “My chickens are all fine, no need for pruning or anything like that.”

    “Better be, else I’ll take the chickens back myself,” Shane said, frankly enough.

    Mathias simply blinked, shaking his head a little as he let out another little chuckle. “Well, least I know you care,” he gave one last tease, before he grew more serious. Not deathly so, but enough where he wasn’t as jovial as before. “So, heard there was an incident at Joja today. You okay?”

    Shane seemed to blank at this, not quite processing correctly that someone was actually asking about his well being. “Um… yeah…?” he drew out, before blinking a few times “Yeah, I’m fine. Wasn’t me that was involved, it was the new girl, Lola. Some boxes fell on her, nearly broke her arm. But Harvey said she’ll be fine, as long as she relaxes her arm for a while…” as he said this, he took another big chug of beer, before he turned to a bitter tone. “So that means her arm’s fucked. Ain’t no such thing as peace when you work with Joja.”

    “I see…” Mathias said, a look of concern but at the same time a bit of relief painted on his face. “Well, I’m sorry to hear about the girl, but glad to know if wasn’t you. Half was expecting not to see ya here, as a result.”

    “… Why?” Shane asked, bluntly enough, confused at the concern the vampire had.

    “… Cause I thought you were in the hospital?”

    “No, not that. Why do you care if it was me or not?” Shane said now, not wanting to bullshit around.

    “Well, I like to think we’re pretty good friends at this point. And I’m one of those weird folk that gets concerned at the idea of his friends getting hurt,” Mathias said, looking quite sincerely at Shane. “So yeah, I was worried ‘bout ya. That really so hard to believe?”

    “Yup,” once more was Shane blunt, though deep inside he couldn’t help but feel a thankfulness that someone outside of his family seemed to give a shit about him…

    Mathias sighed at this, shaking his head as he ran a hand through his hair. “Well, it’s true, whether you believe it or not,” as he said this, he finished off his slice and left the crust on the plate the pizza came on. “And I’d like to think you care about me too, in your own little way. But maybe I’m just being sentimental. Who knows.”

    “Mmm,” was all Shane hummed out, a look of thought now on his face. Did he actually care about the vampire? If one had asked him before, he would’ve easily said no, that he’s just some walking corpse that should’ve been buried ages ago. That he couldn’t care less for the overtly-friendly man.

    But now… the idea of not calling him a friend, it didn’t seem to sit right with Shane. Calling him a friend felt just as off, but saying he was just a guy he knew didn’t feel like it properly described the relationship they held. But what, then…?

    “Shane?” Mathias said now, confused at the quiet turn the man took. “Did I just blow your mind with that statement, or you having actual feelings for once.”

    “Oh, fuck off,” Shane said, with a slight laugh to his voice at that taunt. “I… guess we could call each other friends. I’m not used to that term, but the way you acknowledge me when no one else does… that’s not something strangers, or even acquaintances, simply do.”

    Mathias smiled at this, lacing his fingers together as he leaned forward on the table. “I’d ask if you’re drunk, but I have a feeling that’s just your first beer of the night.”

    “Second, actually, but you’re right, not enough to get me drunk,” Shane said, before he called over for Emily. When she arrived, he requested two beers this time. When he looked over to see the pleased look on Mathias’ face, he quickly stammered out an “I’m using your money to pay for your drink, you know. Don’t get any funny ideas.”

    “Me? Have funny ideas? Never,” the vampire said, winking once more at the man as he flashed a fanged grin at Shane. “Friend.”

    “Oh joy, I’m never gonna live this down now, am I?” Shane said, leaning back in his chair as he let out a genuine smile for once. The word was gradually growing on him, even if it still felt a little off to him.

    “Nope. As long as my immortal ass is still on this earth, you’re gonna have to deal with being called friend from now on,” Mathias cheerfully said, eyes twinkling with a devious playfulness.

    As the beers arrived on the table, Mathias raised his glass and extended it towards Shane. “How’s about a toast, bud? To our weird little friendship?”

    Shane simply stared at the vampire for a bit, before giving an actual shake of the head this time and a chuckle as he raised his own glass. “Sure, whatever man.”

    As the glasses clinked together, Mathias grinned once more as he immediately took a large swallow of his beer.

    Meanwhile, Shane began to take a sip, before he paused to look up at the vampire once more. As he watched the vampire heartily down the cold beverage, he couldn’t help but let out a sweet, genuine smile as he finally took a sip of his new beer. “Yeah… friend. I think I can get used to that,” he thought.

    Of Land and Sea

    The sea was beautiful today. No sightings of any predators, no pollution, it was simply heavenly. Basking in the little beams of light that came from above, the clear blue shining so wonderfully amidst the glow, Elliott was at peace. Simply floating in place, head tentacles swaying lightly with the waves, watching as big and little fish swam about. Occasionally he was greeted by a passing sardine or halibut, but for the most part, it was quiet and easy.

    Elliott so loved days like these, where he could hang about, watching the local fish ecology blossom and thrive. Not a care in the world, lazily swishing his fin tail to keep afloat. After all, diving for human debris was only exciting the first go about, not practically every day like his job entailed. He never could understand how a species as callous as humans could exist, to taint the waters of other living creatures solely because they didn’t live in the waters themselves. But he shrugged it off; as long as he didn’t have to meet one, he wouldn’t worry about it.

    Besides, it was among that grime and filth that Elliott grew a new appreciation for the natural beauty of his home. The deep, vast sea he was so proud to live in, how the light shined down from above like sweet, heavenly rain. How the shadows hid such fascinating cultures, unique creatures that one would find nowhere else. It was time like this that Elliott thanked the higher powers for being born as a merfolk, to live in the great blue known only as the sea; as his home.

    Elliott was jolted from his thoughts when he felt a slight bump on his back. After a startle, he turned around to see a rather panicked anchovy behind him, shivering and bolting all about the place. “Woah there, friend. What’s the matter?” Elliott click in the tongue of the merfolk, the language that all creatures of the sea understood.

    The anchovy simply stuttered, unable to mouth out any coherent words before it dashed off into deeper waters. Looking confused, Elliott looked around, only to notice that all the other fish seemed to disappear as well; hiding within their reef homes, terrified. Before Elliott could even manage a mental “What?,” his quandary was answered as the sight of a shark caught the corner of his eyes.

    Normally, sharks were rather docile creatures. Most fish couldn’t tell, as sharks we so known for this predatory and ruthless nature to them. But to the merfolk, the ones who could communicate with all creatures of the sea, their true nature was known; that they simply were merciless hunters when they hungered, but otherwise they could be as friendly as any clownfish. In fact, they were often lonely, due to their infamous status, and how fish would cower and hide whenever there was so much as talk of sharks being seen.

    However, Elliott could feel something… off, with this shark. It wasn’t hunger that he recognized with the aura the shark exhumed, but anger, rage. Rage was far more terrifying than any hunger a shark felt, as when a shark was angry, they didn’t care of slick, clean kills. They cared about torturous, drawn out agonies; it was only a natural response, but one that every merfolk knew to fear. With this now known to him, Elliott’s eyes grew wide and he quickly tried to maneuver to darker waters.

    It was too late though, as Elliott had stayed still long enough for the shark to acknowledge his presence. Soon the shark was bolting after him, mouth agape with its rows of sharp teeth at the ready. Elliott could feel it, the aura catching up to him, and terror struck him as if he was a child. Normally, merfolks would carry weapons with them, a simple trident for quick and painless kills for any who dared to threaten their lives. But Elliott was too much of a pacifist, too pained at the thought of lost life to even think about carrying such things on his normally. But this time he swore, this time he berated himself for thinking the sea’s chaotic nature would take a break and let a day of peace come.

    He could practically anticipate it, the feeling of those razor fangs tearing into his gilled flesh. An inevitability, as the presence of the shark became so much more intense. But still he beat his fins against the water, desperate to keep any sort of distance away from the murderous nature of an enraged shark. A creature that could be so gentle, yet so very dangerous all the same.

    So deep in his panic, he didn’t even realize the shark’s presence suddenly taking a stop and the distance that grew between them until Elliott had practically exhausted himself from the fast-paced swim. When his mind’s priorities was shifted from “swim for your life” to “stop and take a breather,” Elliott finally acknowledged that the shark was now a good, steady distance from him, and not approaching any close anymore. Which confused and frightened him something awful; why would a creature as powerful as a shark just suddenly stop?

    Looking behind him now to see if there was something else that attracted the shark’s attention, Elliott didn’t realize the net in front of him until he was already tangled up in it. A new panic now arose in the merman, as he desperately tried to thrash about to get out. Nets were by far the biggest fear of any merfolk, as nets meant only one thing; humans. Either a human left it out in a careless manner as they were prone to, or they were out hunting for a trophy. Not food, but a corpse to dry out and call a “prize.”

    And from the way the net tugged upward into the unforgiving sky, it made Elliott assume the worst was happening. That he had become the newest catch for the power-hungry humans.

    He tried so desperately to break free from the net, to get away as best as he could, but the early chase had left him so exhausted that he could barely cause a struggle. His fins were just too tied up from the netting to allow proper movement, his arms tugging at the wiring so frantically yet making no leeway into removing them.

    It wasn’t long before the light grew brighter and brighter, the vessel which no doubt housed a human coming into view. With one last gasp for water, Elliott’s gills were assaulted by the harsh stings of the air above as he was completely pulled from the water. Still trying to move about, his eyes so pained at the unaccustomed light, body lightly twitching as it lacked the water it so desperately needed to live.

    Squinting his eyes now, his vision still so very cloudy, he could make out a signal silhouette in front of him. No doubt his hunter. With one last thrash in a vain hope that perhaps that was all that was needed to break free, Elliott’s eyes closed as he accepted his fate, waiting either to dry to death or to feel something plunge deep into his chest.

    Instead, all he heard was a “Whoops, sorry ‘bout that, son!” as the net was lowered back into the water.

    It was only for a moment, that elevation to the air. But in that moment, Elliott was certain his fate was sealed. That his time was to come far too soon to the hands of humanity, to have his body be desecrated instead of becoming one with the water like the others before him. He was almost ready to accept it, to stare death in the face without fear or sadness.

    But as soon as he had prepared himself, his body was jolted with new life as the net lowered back to the sea. Once he was properly submerged, the human who caught him came over and cut away the bits of net Elliott was still tangled to. It took a few minutes, a few grunts and bits of reassurance, but Elliott was free. Blinking in sheer shock, he looked to his once tangled arm and moved it about, splashing a little in the water as if shocked that his arm was still even there.

    “There ya go son, sorry ‘bout that,” the man said, a tip of his hat as he chucked the remains of the net in his boat. “Net fishin’ is such a gamble. Get a huge amount of fish, or catch somethin’ ya don’t want. Why I typically prefer the good ol’ rod above all else.”

    Elliott was simply silent, body mostly submerged in the water with only his face poking out of the water now, head tentacles floating around him. Looking at the man, eyes so confused… but so very grateful at the same time. This was his first encounter with a human, and with it, he expected the worst. The tale of humanity’s cruel nature was well known amongst the merfolk, how they hunted for sport and cared only for their own self-preservation. Yet this human cut him free, brought him back to his watery home.

    With another blink, Elliott gave a click of his tongue in thanks, not knowing the human lacked the ability to understand, and dove back into the water. As he completely submerged himself once more, he froze the moment his eyes fell upon the shark, remembering now just moments ago he was fleeing from the angered beast. But his startled reaction turned to peace when he sensed the now calm aura the shark had as it slowly approached, eyes full of amazement at how the merman returned.

    “You’re… alive?” was all it bubbled out, as if it didn’t believe what was in front of it.

    “Yes, I’m fine. You feeling better now?” Elliott clicked out, making sure to keep his distance just in case the shark’s rage was to resurface.

    “Yes, I… I’m sorry for that, sea protector. I was angered by a petty thing, and I realized nearly too late. When I saw you get caught… oh, by the sea, I’ve never been more scared,” the shark bubbled, regret clear in their aura.

    “Indeed… humans are a creature few of us have encountered with our lives in tact. At least, not without some horrid story to accompany it. This human… seemed far different from any of those stories,” Elliott clicked, looking back at the shadow of the boat before he turned back to the shark.

    “I wouldn’t know, I never encountered a human before. Thankfully, the majority seem to fear us much like smaller fish do. I don’t understand why, but I won’t question our good fortune.”

    “Of course. Your nature is both a blessing and a curse in that way, unlike any others of the sea. While it is sad so many fear without knowing your kind… it does have benefits, no doubt,” Elliott agreed, body easing as the shark made itself apparent to be harmless now. “Now, please tell me friend, what ailed you? Perhaps I may be of assistance.”

    “Really, it is so juvenile of an annoyance…” the shark bubbled, shyly looking away. “I dropped a shiny thing I found deep into the abyss, far too deep for me to swim to. I was so happy to found it, only to lose it so quickly… it sent me over the edge. I’m deeply sorry, sea protector.”

    Elliott frowned at this, understanding the plight. Despite the ocean being his home for so long, so much of it was off limits even to his kind. The abyss was one such place, dark and cold, with creatures never to be away from the darkness. To lose an object of value was always tumultuous, as it was almost always for certain gone for good. Unless a deep diver were to brave the murky waters, but to find one was becoming increasingly rarer as the years passed.

    “I’m truly sorry to hear, friend. I wish I could help, but I am simply a scavenger, not a deep diver. However, if you’ll come with me, I’m sure I can find help for you somewhere in my school,” Elliott offered, giving as much pity as he could give without feeling overbearing.

    “No no, it’s fine, sea protector. I have troubled you enough today, and my lost item was most likely some lost human debris. There’s… bound to be more,” the shark drew out, turning itself around to swim away. “Thank you for your offer though, your kindness will not be forgotten.”

    “Of course, my friend,” Elliott clicked, understanding a shark was not one to change their mind, no matter the insistence. “If you change your mind however, my school will be in the area for a few weeks more. I’m bound to come back here some time during our stay, so please, do try to seek me out.”

    “I’ll consider it. But until then, farewell,” was all the shark bubbled out now as it swam away from the merman, tail swishing so very quickly.

    Elliott simply clicked out a goodbye as he watched the shark swim away, turning around himself to follow suit. As he began to swish his tail, his eyes once more caught sight of the boat, unmoved from its location. With the original threat now no longer present, a nagging curiosity tugged at his mind, eying the shape so very cautiously. He knew in the back of his head, he should just swim away, get away from the dark shadow as fast as his fins would allow. But instead, he swam once more to the silhouette, an inquisitiveness latching to him like a leech.

    As he drew closer, he could see a bit of purple temptation on a very obvious hook. Purple temptation was what his school called the mysterious substance that seemed to entice fish to the obvious trap, as they lacked any sort of understanding what the substance was supposed to be. Certainly, it was nothing that came from below the water, which was what tempted fish in the first place. The exotic nature, so foreign and fleeting…

    With another look up towards the boat, Elliott steeled himself as he swam up more until he surfaced again, face popping from the waves to catch sight of the rugged seaman, now chewing on a wooden object that produced a strange, white bubble unlike any Elliott had seen before. At the merman’s return, the human’s eyes moved to acknowledge the movement, and what Elliott could only assume was a smile appear on the man’s fuzzed features.

    “Well, ahoy there again, son! Still pokin’ around, eh?” the human said, taking the wooden object from his mouth. “Curious ‘bout ol’ Willy, are ya? You wouldn’t be the first,” the seaman chuckled, identifying himself with one quick sentence.

    “I’m not?” Elliott tried to click out, but the silence that followed even after repeated clicks clued the merman in that the human probably hadn’t any idea what he was trying to say.

    “I’ve caught more of your kind before. Always made sure to release them. Most usually took that as a chance to get outta dodge, but there were always a few that stuck around. Such as yourself, for one,” Willy said finally, after Elliott was done with his clicking. “At least, I hope that’s what you were asking, lad. Even after all those years, I haven’t an inkling of what those clicks mean. You merfolk certainly have a fun way of communicating, no?”

    Elliott let out a light click, meant for signifying a yes, but his face contorted in confusion as he remembered how the human just said he didn’t understand the clicks. “Oh dear, this may be harder than I thought…”

    Willy let out a little chuckle at the baffled expression the merman held. “If it helps any, a wordless way we humans give confirmation is often with headshakes. Up and down for yes, side to side for no. You understand me, son?”

    Elliott perked up a little at this, doing the up and down motion with his head.

    The fuzziness on the human’s face shifted once more, and a look of happiness was clear in his eyes. “Good, lad! Now, I know that’s not a surefire way we can talk, as yes and no can only go so far, but it’s a start, aye?”

    Elliott did the shaking motion again, up and down. He was thankful he understood… at least most of what the human said. Some words had him confused, sounding like bizarre chants instead of actual words, but years of gathering human debris clued him in to the simpler words humanity used.

    Willy put the wooden object back into his mouth then, another bubble appearing from the object as it floated up to the higher blue. “Heh, friendly fellow, huh? You don’t really hesitate with responses like others I’ve met. Don’t mind one bit, could use some good company,” the human said, reeling in his line to check his bait. “Fishin’ out in this great blue is relaxin’, but sure can get lonely. ‘Specially since us humans are rather social creatures. Can’t help but get the yearnin’ to talk.”

    The merman simply nodded again, understanding at least the “I’m lonely” bit. He could understand how being above the surface could be isolating, so detracted away from the rest of life the ocean held. Especially since few humans ever went this far, or at least stayed in one place for long if they were this far.

    As the bait was confirmed to still be on the hook, Willy casted his pole out once more, a satisfying plop sounding in the water. “Gotta say, you’re one of the tamer lookin’ merfolk I’ve ever saw. I once caught one that looked so much like an angler, pullin’ it out of the water sure gave me a fright. Why, if it weren’t for your tentacles, I’d say you’d even pass for a human!”

    Elliott couldn’t help but feel mildly insulted with this, what he assumed was a human “compliment.” Looking human wasn’t exactly his intent, as the merfolk prided themselves for looking like their fish brethren. His mix of octopus and lyretail was often a combination that turned many heads.

    Willy noted the shift in the merman’s facial expression, unsure if it was good or bad. “Sorry, did I say something wrong there, son?”

    Elliott nodded his head again, though he wasn’t sure how he could explain to the human why it was bad. He slowly blinked, more confusion in his face, before he finally just gave up.

    “Aw, sorry ‘bout that there. I forget sometimes that you merfolk aren’t usually so comfy around humans,” Willy said. “If it’s being compared to a human that did it, I didn’t mean to offend. You’re a proper merfolk, through and through. A fine species!”

    Elliott bubbled out a thanks with this, glad the human at least caught on. Perhaps the years of fishing clued the human in on more cues than he thought.

    Suddenly a change of emotions flowed through Elliott, one of panic and confusion. Not his own, but he sensed it from a nearby fish. The line the purple temptation was attached to suddenly started to pull, and a look of concentration and excitement appeared on the human’s face.

    “Oh, caught one! Hold on a second, son, gotta focus now,” was all Willy said as he began to reel in the line.

    Elliott wasn’t sure if he should go down to help his fellow fish or if he should let the human be with his catch. After all, he heard how humans caught fish for sport, not for necessity. But this human, he felt, was different. Even if he was the first human he personally ever met, he could feel a friendliness with this man, one that he felt he could trust. But perhaps it was just his optimistic nature talking, not wanting to openly condemn men much like his people before him…

    Before he could even react to his own thoughts, the human had already pulled the fish out of water… a small, possibly recently hatched, sardine. Elliott felt regret now, noting how young the fish was, how it barely even lived and now it was to meet its fate.

    “Daw, little thing, barely put up a fight. Fine specimen, but he could use some growin’,” Willy said, bringing the fish to him to unhook it. Once the fish was freed and checked over, the human stood up and leaned over, putting his hand in the water to release the small creature. The fish took this opportunity in an instant, fleeing deep into the blue before anything else could happen.

    Elliott looked shocked, but soon a smile graced his face at the actions of the human. It was completely unlike the stories he had heard, so kind of an action… the fisherman shook his hand as dry as he could before he rubbed it on his body, on the bizarre flesh that humans seemed to have that mismatched and bulged.

    “There we go, back to the sea for the little one,” Willy said, a light chuckle escaping his lips and he sat back down in his chair. He looked back over at the merman then, noting the happy look he harbored. “Glad I let that lil fella go? I personally don’t take any fish that’s smaller than average out from their home. Usually means they’re babies, and that just seems cruel,” he stated, matter-of-factly. “I sell fish for eatin’, and a little guy like that wouldn’t feed even a baby. You got to know what’s good to eat and what still has life left to it to live.”

    Elliott nodded in agreement at that, an action he seemed to be doing a lot now that he knew about it. It was good to see others attest to that way of thinking, that life should be evaluated and not just scoured up when hungry. It was one of the biggest reasons he was a carrion scavenger, a merman who ate already dead fish he found. Because that usually meant their life had met a natural end, that they had returned to be one with the water after having lived the life meant for them.

    Willy began to attach more of the purple temptation to the hook, before he stopped at a rumbling feeling in his stomach. “Oh whoops, done forgot I need to eat too,” Willy said, chuckling as he set his pole off to the side. “I’d forget my own head to the joys of fishin’ if it wasn’t attached to my shoulders.”

    Elliott didn’t quite understand that comparison, as he never met any creature with a head that wasn’t attached like that. But his thoughts shifted as he watched the human and caught a whiff of something… rather wonderful smelling. The source of the smell soon was made apparent as the human pulled out a white, square thing filled with an even whiter substance from a clear object that he could recognize are being to occasional litter he found at the surface or bottom. He always wondered what the bizarre object was, but now he could see it seemed to be some sort of carrying device. With the square object removed, the litter piece was scrunched up and put gingerly to the side of the human, and a bite was taken. It was something edible, apparently, despite the bizarre and rather amorphous shape it held. Nothing like a fish or algae.

    With a happy smile, Willy swallowed his bite before looking back at the merman. “Oh, whoops. How ‘bout I share and not just hog this all for myself, aye?” He said, taking the square thing and easily pulling it apart. With this, Willy stood up once more, leaning down and holding the piece of square out towards the merman.

    Elliott was caught off guard with the generosity, looking blankly at the object before raising himself a little more from the water to grab it. He wasn’t too terribly hungry, but he assumed it would’ve been rude to deny the offering. The object felt weird to his touch, so spongy and dry on the outside, yet when he touched the brighter goo within, it was mushy and wet. Bringing the object to his nose, he gave it a sniff, and detected an aroma of fish in it, masked by something he never smelt before, something he couldn’t describe. The fish’s identity was confusing, but he think it smelt most like a tuna.

    At the very least, he couldn’t smell anything immediately dangerous, but who knew what substances humanity had that he never experienced yet could kill him in an instant. He hoped this wasn’t some sort of underlying trick, looking back at the human who took yet another bite. With one last sniff, Elliott opened his mouth, revealing the razor teeth within and took a bite himself.

    Instantly his tongue tasted something wondrous, something that never graced his tongue before. It was savory, tasty, and combined so wonderfully with what was definitely the unmistakable taste of tuna. His slow chews soon became frenzied, amazed at the taste with eyes glowing in amazement, and sloppily taking another bite into the soft object.

    Willy noted how the merman devoured the bit of food he was given, smiling all the while as he took another bite himself. “Tasty, huh? I do so love a good tuna sandwich, glad to see the sentiment is the same!”

    It wasn’t long before the entire bit of sandwich was devoured, little pieces floating all around Elliott from what fell from his bites. Quickly he picked up what was left and plopped it in his mouth, the salt water seeming only to add to the taste. With a lick of his lips, he let out a click of thanks, smiling as he sunk back into the water to his face once more.

    The fisherman wasn’t like the merman with his food, taking slow bites to savor the taste. It was a full few minutes later that the human finished, brushing his hand free of crumbs as he went to get his pole again. “Alright, back to the good ol’ bait and tackle now,” was all he said, making sure the hook was attached and loaded before tossing out the line again.

    As time passed, Elliott began to learn various things from the fisherman. He learned that the fisherman came from the land not too far from the spot they were in, a place called Pelican Town. What a town was, he wasn’t certain, but he figured it wasn’t too unlike his schools. He learned the human had been fishing for many years, growing to love the sea more than the land and spending more time amidst the waves of blue than the fields of green the land held.

    He learned of the horrors known as storms, how the high blue—or sky, as the human called it—would turn grey and foreboding, releasing anger down upon the land. How the sea became tumultuous in these times at the surface, waves reach heights that could devour even the biggest of human vessels. He learned how the human once was, as the term was called, shipwrecked, on an island off the coast for almost a month, surviving only with his fishing skills and water that came from the high blue; rain, as the human said.

    Before he knew it, the high blue’s tone shifted to an orange not unlike Elliott’s own gills, signifying the time was coming close to dark. “Oh, gettin’ late, isn’t it?” Willy commented on, noting the beauty of the giant yellow orb sinking below the ocean. “Well, I best call it a night then. Wanna get up early if I’m to catch some octopus. Thanks for your company, lad, it was lovely to chat with someone… even if they couldn’t really talk back.”

    Elliott nodded once more, eyes a little sad at the departure. The stories the human told were so interesting, he wished he could pull the big yellow orb back up so he would tell more. But alas, the orb was always out of reach, no matter how far he swam.

    With a final farewell, Willy stood up and disappeared into the vessel, leaving Elliott to his own wandering mind.

    By the time Elliott finally returned to his school, darkness had fallen over the caravans, the bioluminescent glow of the plankton they kept being his only source of light to travel by. The night watch had stopped him briefly, demanding to know his identity, but once he swam forth to the light of their posts, they recognized immediately who he was and let him pass. After all, Elliott was known in his school for his completely bizarre appearance, unlike any others they had seen among all their years of travel. Even his siblings didn’t look an inkling like him.

    It took some maneuvering to locate his family’s position, but soon he was reunited, being greeted by one of his sisters; a craftsmaid with the untamed beauty of an emperor angel fish. “Hail, scavenger,” she clicked, swimming out of her brother’s way to join him at his side.

    “Hail, craftsmaid,” Elliott clicked back, careful not to bump into anything. “Deeply sorry it took me so long to return. The sea was unkind with its bounty today, I could only locate a pittance of shell. This area, while beautiful, does not seem fortuitous to us scavengers.”

    “Indeed, the other scavengers reported much of the same. The shells of the most remarkable beauty were homes to other creatures, and what was free of life was often broken or too small to be useful in crafts. It seems us craftsmaids will have to perform other duties during our stay here,” Elliott’s sister clicked, keeping close to her brother. “Unfortunately, there have been reports of much human debris in this area, so it seems we will be busy with that kind of work this it appears…”

    Elliott frowned at this, he never really liked hearing about the pollution they ran into. The sea was his beloved home, to hear it be tainted with objects from above was never anything his school wanted to hear. But it was inevitable, as wherever humans resided, the debris was sure to follow. “The area I explored seemed clear, thankfully. I am happy to report that the fish are thriving most wonderfully.”

    “Well, that’s good at least. But sadly, not many can say the same. The debris seems especially bad in one area, close to where the freshwater and sea meet. Many items called “Joja.” It’s simply deplorable, the amount of trash that was found,” the craftsmaid clicked, a mixture of sadness and anger in her tone.

    “Joja… wherever we go, that word seems to follow. I do not know what this Joja is, but I’ve come to hate it above all else,” Elliott clicked out, brow furrowing in frustration.

    “Indeed, and our brethren of the freshwaters report much of the same. No matter where, Joja seems to not be far. It is most disgusting…” Elliott’s sister paused for a moment, before grabbing her brother’s arm to stop his movement forward. “Oh right, before I forget, our deep diver was looking for you. He would not tell me what for, but he said it was important he see you as soon as he could.”

    Elliott fell silent at this, understanding she meant their father. He began to nod, the new action he learned today, before he stopped himself and instead clicked with an “I understand. I shall go seek him now.”

    “Good. You do know how he hates to wait. I shall part ways here then, I will see you for feasting in a few moments. Travel safe, scavenger,” Elliott’s sister clicked, releasing her brother’s arm from her grip.

    “Travel safe, craftsmaid,” he clicked back, turning himself around to swim the general direction of where the deep diver was most often located.

    As was per usual, the deep diver was in the area Elliott expected; away from the rest of the family, preparing a plan to dive into the abyss soon for any too deep debris. As Elliott swam towards his father, the merman in question looked up, and his expression went from blank seriousness to a quiet rage. “Hail, scavenger,” he clicked, slow and deliberately, accentuating a contained anger.

    Elliott stopped in place as his father greeted him. He swore to himself, seeing his father in yet another of his moods. He always presented himself in such a manner, no silliness or joy. Just a cold, serious demeanor hiding a boiling rage. “Hail, deep diver,” Elliott clicked out in response, “The craftsmaid informed me you wished to see me. What do you wish of me?”

    The deep diver soon closed the gap between the two merfolk, and looked squarely into Elliott’s eye. “A shark came. Said it almost vicerated you. But instead, it saw you caught by a human, its instrument of torture trapping you. You then claimed to the shark that the human freed you; pray tell, why lie in such a grievous manner?”

    Elliott blinked slowly, not sure how to handle the accusation as it indeed had been the truth. He wasn’t expecting the shark to have sought out his school this soon, especially not without locating him first, and he certainly wasn’t expecting to be accused of lying with something like that.

    “Deep diver, I know it does not sound plausible, but please believe me when I say it was true-”

    “That, however, is not why I called for you. What I called you for is what I heard next; as the shark left, it turned around to see you once more interacting with said human. As it put it, it seemed you were tempting fate,” the deep diver’s look turned gravely serious at the next series of clicks. “Scavenger, you were lucky it was I who ran into this shark, and no one else. Had it bubbled its words to anyone else, no doubt the school leader would’ve found out. And had the school leader found out… You know what would’ve happened.”

    “I… yes, deep diver, I do,” Elliott clicked, weakly and so very softly. “I would not be here to be scolded.”

    “Indeed. So, knowing this, why would you risk your place in the school to interact with this human?” the deep diver clicked, arms crossing over one another.

    “I… do not know, deep diver. I have no excuse,” Elliott said, hanging his head in shame at his caught actions. He actually did know why he stayed, what determined his interaction with the creature of land. But he knew if he were to tell the truth, the scolding would take a most grievous turn.

    The deep diver clicked out in disapproval at the answer, turning around and swimming back to his original location. “You have too much of the outcast in you… it frightens me, scavenger. I do not want you to meet the same fate as she did.”

    Elliott simply fell quiet at this, knowing immediately who he met; his dear mother. While he and his surviving siblings were still within eggs, she had been banished from the school, on grounds of being tainted and too dangerous. He couldn’t remember much of her, not even her appearance, but he did remember one thing… how she called him her dear Elliott, her precious son she would love forever.

    Somehow, even as the years passed by, he remembered those words, the bizarre titles to describe him. Ones he never did find the meaning to… and ones he dared not utter around his school.

    “You are important to the school, scavenger. No one can deny it, but your behavior is most frowned upon. How you refuse to heed our words over humanity, how you keep some of their debris as if it were worth something… were you anyone else, you would not be floating here still. Not for as long as you have,” the deep diver clicked, not even caring to face his son now.

    “Yes, deep diver, I understand-” Elliott started, but once more was interrupted.

    “No, I do not think you do. If you did, you would’ve forsaken this way of acting far before any of this would have happened. You wouldn’t challenge our stories, you wouldn’t keep this taint among us… yet you do,” the deep diver’s clicks became full of rage now, but still he didn’t face forward. “Know that I do this not to spite you, scavenger, but because I worry for you. You are young, barely matured. Being banished from the school, you would not survive long.”

    “I… yes, deep diver, I’m sorry,” Elliott clicked out, eyes now darting to the side in shame. “I won’t do it again.”

    “I need more than just words, scavenger. I need to see actions, I need to see change. Words mean nothing if everything remains the same.”

    “I understand. I will change, deep diver. I will not shame our school’s tradition…” Elliott clicked, trying his best to mask his sadness.

    After a few moments of silence, the deep diver turned around to stare his son in the eyes. “I hope so, scavenger. Because if I hear this happen again, I will have no choice but to report it. Please… do not make that come to fruition.”

    “I won’t, deep diver. I swear,” Elliott clicked out, more confidence in his voice despite his lack of it thereof.

    “Good. Now, please, let me get back to my planning. That is all I wished to speak of,” the deep diver clicked, once more turning away from his child.

    “Of course. Travel safe, deep diver,” Elliott clicked, about to take his leave.

    “Travel safe, scavenger,” the deep diver clicked back, before pausing and clicking once more to his son. “Some things are kept forbidden for good reason… remember that.”

    Elliott simply nodded, before swearing at himself and instead clicking out an understanding as he left. Thank the sea his father was turned away so as to not see that…

    When Elliott awoke the next day, he could tell the day would be one full of trouble. No light beamed down to greet him, no beautiful blue could be seen from above, and the waves grew to sizes most concerning; so big that even underneath them one was pushed by the forces. It was days like this that Elliott wished he could stay in the school, relax as the world above toiled in a chaotic mess. But unfortunately, days of rest were few and far between in his school, and today he was to be sent with a small group for debris collecting.

    The swim to the designated area was challenging, to say the least. The water’s temperature was far hotter than it normally was, causing Elliott to feel overwhelmed quite often and in need of a pause to go to higher waters to cool off. The waters swirled in the most confusing manner, disorienting Elliott far more than he liked. But eventually, his small group of fellow scavengers made it to the location; a good few miles away from the school, where the land could be seen from the distance if one were to breach.

    As they arrived, the group noted a mysterious black shape above the waters, swaying with the waves. Assuming it to be a human vessel, one scavenger clicked out a swear, letting out a rude gesture before beginning their duties. The other simply kept their distance, swimming down to the bottom to locate any taint. Elliott, meanwhile, paused to look at it, wondering if that was the same human vessel he had seen just yesterday. The area was about right, and the size and shape seem familiar to him…

    “Scavenger, get to work, please!” the angry scavenger clicked, looking towards Elliott with an annoyance. “I’ve dealt with humans before, we don’t need to worry as long as we stay our distance. So any concerns you have can be put to rest until we’re done.”

    “Oh um… right. My apologies, scavenger,” Elliott clicked back, not caring to admit his pause of thought was more out of wonderment than worry. Soon he met up with his fellow scavengers, combing the floor for any human taint they could find. A secondary goal was also to locate shells for mermaid pendants, but for the most part, the group was assigned the duties of cleaning up human waste. Objects of beauty were hard to find among debris, after all.

    And indeed, this location was full of it. Blue cylinders that blended with the water, smudged writings on bizarre, soft wood, circles that seemed to have trapped a poor soul and left a corpse in its hold. The sight was absolutely disgusting, but it was to be expected this close to land. As Elliott picked up one of the blue cylinders, he noted the cold touch the object had and the writing that stuck out even with the water. “Joja Cola.”

    “More of this “Joja,” it seems…” Elliott clicked, sighing as he took the cylinder and placed it in his holder. “Everywhere we go, we find these things. Mixed with the water, sometimes producing a most foul liquid as well.”

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if “Joja” is some cult humans worshiped,” the more distant scavenger clicked out in response. “I’ve heard tales that humans often leave behind signs of their false rulers, hoping to lure others to their strange faiths.”

    “Bah, humans. Their stupidity knows no end,” the bitter scavenger clicked, flinching as he lifted one blue cylinder that leaked out a pungent foam. “How they could think taint like this would make us consider joining their foolish ranks.”

    Elliott was simply silent, preferring not to join in to the derogatory nature of the conversation. He had always been raised to be wary of humans, to loathe how they contaminated what they didn’t care to keep. But yet, he could never find himself fearful of them, he could never force himself to feel a hatred like the others of his school did. Something about humanity interested him, something he felt his school was not keen on… and something he wished to discover one day.

    And he had the feeling this “Joja” may have been a clue to discovering that hidden detail.

    As he went to pick up a new cylinder, the waters began to grow chaotic once more, causing Elliott to lose his location as he was swept away from his small group. Clicking out a swear, he tried to steady himself, but to no avail. The waters simply continued to pull him away, his fins being assaulted by the force of water to prevent proper movement.

    The other scavengers were not immune to this disruption either. The angry one was swept away, towards the other direction, while the quiet one tried their best to stay low to the ground for some form of gripping. As the group was separated, Elliott couldn’t help but feel a panic well up in him at his utterly powerless position.

    And the panic only grew when he swore, he could hear the muffled sounds of warning clicks, before it abruptly went quiet. Elliott’s eyes bulged when in the moving water, he could make out a long, slender shape, and sense an aura of confusion and anger. The merman now began to stop resisting the waters, letting it carry him off as his worry was justify, the unmistakable taste of blood filling the water near him.

    “Oh, by the sea, not now!” Elliott thought to himself, now trying to locate the source of the blood so as to begin moving the other way. It seemed to have been coming from below, not too far from where the quiet scavenger had positioned themself…

    Before he could react, something hard bumped into Elliott, causing him to go off to the side. Trying to reorient himself, he squinted his eyes so as to try and see better and a pang of fear shot through him as if he had been bitten. His eyes caught sight of the assailant, a barracuda with blood fresh on its fangs and meshed with its body. One of the most feared predators of the sea, and for very good reason.

    Barracudas weren’t like sharks. They natural nature was that of hunger, cruelty, and bloodlust. They often hunted for boredom’s sake, and their anger could not be sated until there was at least a couple of fish dead. Their ruthless nature was the only thing a merman truly feared, as even the most well trained fighter often couldn’t leave without blood being lost. And unfortunately, Elliott’s pacifism condemned him to a fate most severe.

    In a split second, the long body of the barracuda shot out towards the merman, teeth bared as it darted towards the smell of fresh meat. Elliott only just barely managed to dodge, feeling the fangs scrape against his gilled flesh just before they could close in. Elliott let out warning clicks himself, both to signal to his fellow scavengers of the danger and to try and intimidate the large fish. The fish, however, didn’t even let Elliott finish the warning before it darted again, aiming low so as to grab the merman’s tail.

    Again, Elliott managed to dodge almost out of sheer luck. The waves seemed to toss him about in his favor for the time, moving him away from the barracuda. The barracuda, meanwhile, was gradually getting more disorientated, swaying in a most confused manner as the waters made it lose sense of direction. In the moment of confusion, Elliott once more let out more warning clicks, threatening the barracuda with violence back if he had to.

    As the waters became more and more hectic, a distant splash could be heard, the sound waves coming forth from close to the surface. Despite better judgement, Elliott’s head wandered to where he heard the noise, to see that the black shape from earlier was now partially submerged, and a form seemed to be gripping to it in desperation. And in the corner of his eye, he could see another slender shape begin to swim towards the thrashing form that was desperate to keep afloat.

    Elliott couldn’t see who or what this endangered creature was, but given the speedy travel of no doubtedly another barracuda, it had to be something living. Furrowing his brow, Elliott forgot his own assailant as he did his best to power through the tossing waters. He wasted no time, using his arms and even tentacles to help propel him forward that much faster. Soon he could see more of the mysterious creature; red flesh that seemed to bulge, and a wooden object floating not too far away.

    The sea seemed to favor him, despite the horrid nature it held today. It propelled him forward with enough force to make it to the creature before the barracuda, but the waves were so much more dangerous as he drew closer to the surface. Tossing and turning, it tore the creature away from what it held on to, dragging it out towards open water… towards the maw of the hungry barracuda.

    Deciding he had to react fast, Elliott bared his own fangs and darted straight towards the fish, arms outstretched as he grabbed. In an instant, his teeth sunk into the flesh of the creature, and an aura of pain could be felt as the creature suddenly panicked. The taste of blood filled his mouth, so much saltier than the water ever could be, as soon a new pain went through him as the barracuda likewise bit back, getting the edge of his tail.

    Not letting the pain deter him, Elliott’s head tentacles began to wrap around the area it could reach, making his teeth sink in deeper. The mixed pains of his own and the aura he sensed would’ve been enough to knock the wind out of anyone’s sails, but still Elliott kept strong, moving his head to tear a chunk of flesh from the barracuda. With this removed, he could feel the pressure release from his tail, and the barracuda began to back off as a stream of blood followed behind it. To save face, the barracuda finally fled, missing a fin and a good chunk off its body.

    Doing his best to spit out the taste of blood in his mouth, Elliott fished out the chunk from his mouth and tossed it too the side, the meat far too lean for his taste to consider eating it. Plus, the pain and the pressing matter of someone he thought was the human he befriended just yesterday being in danger was far more worth his concern than swallowing his bite. Turning himself around as best as he could with a damaged fin, Elliott took notice that the form was now fairly limp, just barely thrashing to keep itself afloat.

    A new wave of determination flowed through him as he endured the pain, pushing himself forward so as to breach the water finally. The waves above were of a chaos Elliott thought couldn’t possibly get worse, throwing him about and making him have to dive underwater again to get his bearings. But as he saw the figure grow more and more still, with a grunt, Elliott pushed himself out once more and swam to the barely conscious figure.

    The rain was heavy and harsh, pounding down on Elliott with a force. The sky was nearly black in color, no trace of the high blue could be seen. And the figure was undoubtedly the same human Elliott met; Willy, as he called himself. His hat was gone, probably having washed far away in the chaos, but the bizarre fuzz plastered on his face that was barely kept above identified the human to the merman.

    Swimming towards his friend, Elliott flinched as a pang of pain coursed through his tail, but he told himself he would worry about that when both were in safer positions. They were both still in danger, if not from barracudas, then certainly from the sea. As the merman finally was in touching distance of the human, Elliott reached his arm around the human’s waist and helped him keep his head afloat, gasps and coughs sounding out from the weak form.

    Elliott let out a click of concern, seeing if the human was responsive, but all that came from the body was grunts and wheezes. Willy was barely there, only slightly aware that there was someone near him, someone keeping him afloat. A look of concern etched onto Elliott’s features, unsure as to what to do… until it occurred to him that humans needed to be on land. He knew then what he had to do.

    With a clench of his teeth, Elliott began to force his body forward, to the distant land he could see in between the flashes of light and resounding booms.

    Searing pain coursed through Elliott’s tail as he continued his long swim to land, the waves helping only so much. He could still feel the pulsing where the bite was, the warmth of the blood oozing out. A weakness was trying to force its way through his body, drain him of any strength he had left. Breathless, tired, willing to just give up and let the waters carry him off to where it desired.

    The adrenaline from earlier now left a fatigue that touched even his soul, left his eyes clouded over and his mind only barely aware. But even in his hazy state, he still held the awareness of a weight to his side, in just as disoriented of a state as he was. The human that he had saved from a doom no doubt his fellows scavengers had met; at least, that’s all Elliott could assume. He lost track, the chaos too sudden, and the blood too thick to tell. One may have survived, but there was no doubt in his mind one had perished. As was the dangers of life in the sea.

    And Elliott, he feared, felt like he would be joining his fellow scavenger. His body felt more and more like lead, the weight of the human becoming almost too much for him to bare. As his body calmed from the intense moment, the more he came to realize his state. His tail had been bit, not just a light graze, but deep to the bone. The bleeding was heavy, the cold waters not helping to slow it down at all. He could feel the once pounding pulse feel like a sputter in comparison, the excitement and determination just moments before take leave to a dark acceptance.

    Finally, Elliott couldn’t take it any longer, having to pause as his eyes lidded. He could feel it, his grip slipping away from the human, his body growing so heavy he was sure to sink. As the world around him felt so cold, a darkness began to swallow him up, blinding him in a matter of seconds.

    “May the waters cleanse my body, return me as one to itself…” Elliott prayed to the sea, ready to accept his fate as he could feel his grip completely release from the weight to his side.

    Yet as he waited to feel his body sink down into the deep, to drift until he was no longer corporeal, he swore, he could feel as if the waters were rising him once more. His body was so stiff, but he could feel movement on his gills. The waves no longer felt against him, pushing him forward as something held onto him. As something guided him, lead him away even as the darkness loomed over his thoughts…

    “Don’t worry son, I’ve got you,” was all he heard before silence overtook his mind.


    Elliott wasn’t expecting much else to happen now. He had assumed the worst, that he had succumbed to his injuries and now his consciousness laid within a corpse, waiting to be one with the water. He expected darkness from now on, a quiet so deafening not even a click could make a sound. He expected an emptiness, a lack of any feeling, other than the awareness that he had perished, no more was he to wander the sea.

    Instead, light began to fill his vision once more, practically blinding him as it shined so intensely. Instead he could feel a dull ache pulse through his body, especially down in his tail region. Instead, he felt shock, amazement pour through him. He was alive, somehow he was alive, and never had he been more thankful for the pain he felt in his life.

    But as his eyes groggily blinked open, a striking thought hit him as if it were the barracudas again. The realization that he had blacked out with the human in tow, that he more than likely was lost to the sea as the merman lost his own senses. With this, a deep sorrow coursed through him now, replacing the euphoric feelings with those of mourning. Not only for his people, who passed in their line of duty, but for the human who seemed like a rare occurrence to the world.

    As Elliott’s eyes finally opened up, at least part ways to allow him some sight, the light that so brightly shone revealed itself as an orb coming from a mysterious black object, unlike anything Elliott had ever seen before. He could tell that someone, or something, was holding the object, hovering over him in a manner that would’ve concerned him, had he been in a more clearer state. But instead he simply hissed, turning his head away from the painful light.

    “Son, you there?” Elliott could hear something seem to talk to him, or around him at least. He stayed quiet, waiting to see if the noise would sound out again. “Hey, lad, come on now, I saw ya move… Can you hear me?”

    Elliott let out a click, just a simple click with no meaning, but it was the only response he really felt willing to give. His body still felt so lethargic, even as it was made clear to him someone was trying to communicate with him, all he could do was let out noises in hopes that whoever it was that was speaking to him would understand.

    “Okay, clicking, that’s good I think… means you’re aware,” the voice said now, the light disappearing as the more natural brightness of the world surrounded him. Or well, as bright as the world could be, given the chaos it still was in. It wasn’t as bad as before, Elliott could tell as his eyes adjusted more to the sights his eyes could see. The high blue, the sky, was now a light gray, instead of like the darkness he just experienced. Water came down lightly from the sky, blanketing the air as it beat down upon both land and sea. To his left, the deep blue of the sea stretched out beyond his sight, and to his right, a bizarre color graced his vision.

    Grunting through the pain, he was aware that his lower half could feel the waves lap around him, his body submerged just enough so that he could still breathe. However, his upper body laid upon a most unpleasant texture, itchy and hard, a sensation he felt he wasn’t supposed to be feeling. But as he tried to move to get away from the bizarre substance, his body seized up as pain completely overtook him, causing him to let out a screech at the sudden intensity.

    “Woah there son, woah! Don’t need to be movin’ yet in your state, you’ll mess up the wrappin’s,” the voice spoke to him again, a pressure touching down upon the merman’s arm. “You’re safe now.”

    Elliott flinched at the touch, but didn’t move away. He simply let out a pained noise, staying completely still as his body slowly went back to the dull pain instead of searing agony. He felt so vulnerable, so defenseless to whatever it was that was speaking to him, to be at its mercy so completely. Yet, despite all this, he didn’t feel in danger. The voice, he was aware, wasn’t the clicks he was so used to. It was a different form of communication, but one he could understand, even if it was bits and pieces.

    The voice sounded out in a vaguely familiar tone, something he could recognize as something he heard before, but couldn’t pinpoint where exactly. Whatever it was from, he could feel a friendliness flow out of those sounds, a concern that no click was able to relay the same way. As Elliott tried to twist his head again, just enough to see what it was that was speaking to him, his eyes locked with a fuzzed object attached to what looked like a face.

    It was here that it occurred to him who exactly it was now. The name the creature told itself was eluding him, but it was no doubt the human he met just yesterday… and the one he thought had been swept out to the sea.

    “Hey there son, I’d say it’s good to see you again, but I feel that would be insultin’ considerin’ your state,” the human said, his face twisting into that bizarre attempt at a smile. “Got a pretty nasty wound there. I’m no doctor, but I did my best to tend to it, and I got some waterproof gauze wrapped around it to protect it. I’m sure it’ll heal, with time, but for now, you need to rest to let it close up.”

    Elliott understood the general gist of what the human tried to tell him; bite was bad, he tried to help, and now Elliott couldn’t move for a while. Elliott simply clicked out, trying to give confirmation he understood, before he remembered that the human couldn’t understand clicks…

    “I’ve gotcha hidden away here, a bit of a ways from town. No one usually goes this far on the beach, not much point. You should be safe from the townsfolk, at least,” the human continued. “Not that I think the townsfolk here would do anythin’, but I thought you’d prefer some peace while you healed.”

    Elliott blanked for a bit, comprehending at least a little of what the human was saying. Some terms were lost on him, like “beach” and “townsfolk,” but he believed he got the idea. Still, he was stumped as to how he could “speak” to the human, given he didn’t understand clicks… until he recalled the head nods he was taught. As that springed back to mind, Elliott nodded his head up and down, showing the human he understood.

    At this action, the fuzzed features of the human’s face contorted once more, happy to see his new friend still remember at least some form of communicating with him. “I’m gonna have to ask ya to stay put for a while. I want to watch to see how that wound does, dress it every day to make sure it doesn’t get infected. I’ll get you food, and I’ll make sure you have company, but I’m ‘fraid I can’t be ‘round all the time. Can I trust you’ll stay here?”

    Elliott once more understood some terms, but much was lost. But he understood at the very least the human wished for him to remain, at least until his tail no longer had a hole in it. Thinking it was a reasonable enough request—and considering the thought alone of moving it was enough to make it throb in agony—the merman nodded, up and down.

    “Good! Hopefully it won’t take too long, but ya never know with punctures how bad they can get,” Elliott watched as the human stood up from his position, towering over the merman’s position. “I’ll be back in a moment, I need to go grab some lunch now that I know you’re okay. I’m starvin’ to death, and no doubt you’ll be in need of a pick-me-up after that! Until then, relax son.”

    As the human started to take his leave, he suddenly paused, turning back around to look at the merman. “Oh, and before I forget… thank you, lad. You really saved my hide back there. I feel bad you got hurt cause of me, but I’m thankful you did what you did.”

    Elliott was silent now, understanding he was thanked for his attempt at a rescue, even if it did turn out to be more of him being rescued instead. Simply nodding again as a response, the human once more turned away to head off towards a distant structure.

    It was then that a single word came to Elliott’s thoughts. “Willy.”

    The waters were darker than they usually were. So cold, so foreboding, so very unwelcoming. In fact, it didn’t even feel like proper water; the taste, it was off, it was… disgusting. The color was all wrong, being a foul brown instead of the clear blue. And a burning coursed over Elliott’s skin, a sickening amount of bubbles all around, clinging to him as if they were leeches.

    No life seemed to be around for miles, from what Elliott could see; but his eyes stung in pain to make him not even want to open them long. Instead, he kept them clinched, rubbing at them in a vain attempt to ease the scratching feel. His fin felt on fire, the liquid oozing into his wound and making it pulse horribly. Every bit of his body felt wrong, felt like it needed out, but blinded by the sheer toxicity this water held, Elliott was surely trapped.

    As Elliott thrashed about, body twisting in a most uncomfortable way, Elliott could feel something hard and cold touch his aching flesh. Opening his eyes just enough to see, he could see a blue cylinder floating nearby, crushed from its normal shape. He could see holes in its body, oozing out a black substance that mixed and turned into the sludge that surrounded him. Desperate to make the pain and taste go away, Elliott reached for the blue cylinder, but as he touched it, his hand felt a searing pain course through it.

    He tried to release his hold on the object, but it did no good; it stuck to him and refused to budge, continuing to leak the gross goo over his hand. It hurt so badly, as if his skin was being stripped away, replaced with the black liquid itself…

    “Look at what you’ve done, scavenger,” a click sounded out, deep in the murky depths, beyond his touch. “Did we not warn you want these creatures would do? Did we not tell you they threatened our existence, that they only cared as long as they thrived? And yet, you still failed to heed our warnings. Yet you abandon your brothers to a bloody grave, instead to save taint!”

    Elliott wanted to click out as well, but as soon as he opened his mouth, he could feel the liquid course into him, the taste so foul that he gagged out. As if that wasn’t enough, the liquid seemed to dissolve his tongue, melting it away as if it were foam. His was silenced, unable to communicate in any way to the condemning tone that echoed around him.

    “You saved one of those things, and look what it did to repay you! It contaminated our home, killed our kind without so much as a hint of mercy! Our school is gone, our culture stolen! We are to be forgotten now, in the mess of filth it so enjoy!” the clicks continued on, anger so very clear.

    “Please, I’m sorry, I just thought…” Elliott was pleading internally now, knowing that he couldn’t physically retort back.

    “That is the problem, scavenger. You never think, you just do. You react, never taking into consideration the dire consequences your actions lead into. You are like them, scavenger. You only care for yourself, and not for the good of others. Your own self-preservation matters more than the stability of your school, of your environment!” the clicks responded to Elliott’s thoughts, as if it knew what he was thinking before even he knew.

    “P-Please, no! I, I do care for others, I just…”

    “Oh really? They why do we swim in this filth, our waters once clean and pure now filled with taint and agony! Where are these ones you “care” about, why do they not stay before you! Why does life no longer live among these waters, and instead only rot and corpses remain! You do not, care, scavenger, you never did!” the clicks were so forceful, it almost felt like Elliott had been punched.

    As Elliott tried to think of something, anything to defend himself, his eyes were forced open to a most horrifying sight. All around him were the cadavers of his people, half rotted away, with gore following behind them. All around were fish, trying to swim with half of their bodies gone, their fins dissolving before his very eyes. Debris floated about now, replacing the fish as they faded away from sight, gone forever to the dark, tainted waters.

    Completely speechless now, Elliott tried his best to close his eyes, but instead they remained open; forced to see what he had done to his world. In desperation, he went to try and cover his eyes, but soon found his body paralyzed, frozen in place. Letting out a pained wail, Elliott could only float in place as a dark figure made itself apparent in the sludge.

    “You will not hide from your mistakes anymore, scavenger. You will not ignore the plight you have caused to us, to our beloved home. You will face it, you will realize. And you will join with this taint, never to know peace like your brethren,” was clicked out now, a cold decisiveness to each sound.

    As Elliott stared in horror at the figure, his mouth was suddenly opened, forcing into his body the disgusting taste. His eyes began to bulge, a pressure so painful cracking his skull as he bloated in a most horrifying manner. It was as if the entire taint was forcing its way in, stretching his skin and organs until they ruptured. His thoughts were so panicked, but soon even his mind was filled with the filth, flooding his entire being both physically and spiritually.

    “You always had too much of her in you, scavenger. I was hoping her example would’ve taught you better, but instead you will now join her,” was the last thing Elliott heard before feeling his body tear apart from the taint.


    Elliott was jolted forward as the nightmare came to its bloody end. Doing so caused a pain to go through him, making him hiss out as he seized his body. As the pain gradually subsided, Elliott became vaguely aware of a bizarre feeling not only over his torso, but underneath his head as well. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was a feeling he was not used to. Soft, delicate, and fluffy.

    Moving his body to get himself in an upright position, Elliott could feel the foreign object fall from his form, making a light splash into the water. His eyes weren’t very well adjusted to the dark, but he could make out a vague, white shape floating in front of him. The material was something he had seen before, in terms of debris he collected, but he had a feeling that from its size and detail, it wasn’t mere trash. Little patterns adorned the surface, showing shapes Elliott never seen before. Twirls and swirls, making a most beautiful appearance.

    Turning his body around just enough to see behind him, he could see another, more fat square was on the ground, as well. It was white, and not nearly as detailed as the thinner square, but it wasn’t something he could really recognize as being the same thing. Moving a hand over to touch the square, his fingers were graced with a soft texture, so tender and pleasant that Elliott couldn’t help but let out a gurgle of approval.

    Likewise, he did the same with the square that floated in the water, and was greeted with a different, but equally pleasurable sensation. Another gurgle sounded in the merman as he picked it from the water, rubbing it against his skin. He wasn’t sure where these objects came from, but he couldn’t help but welcome them, especially after his terrifying experience just moments ago.

    These objects, he felt, must’ve been human-made, but to call them debris he felt would be insulting. Their texture was just so amazing to the touch, so blissful to his gilled skin, that he envied how his people had nothing of the sort in his school. Smiling as he wrapped himself around the now soggy, but still so very pleasant substance, Elliott went and laid himself back down, resting his head on the cozy square underneath.

    Indeed, his head tentacles reacted much like his arms before, rubbing on the square while his eyes idled upon the now dark sky. Feeling the water lap around him, Elliott felt a peace as he saw the twinkling of the bright lights above, those he couldn’t even find a name to, but found invaluable for the guidance and beauty. So many adorned the black above, all of various sizes and brightness, but none that hurt to the eyes of the merman.

    The horrors of his dream just moments ago were lost to him, as the beauty of the world above caught his attention far more than the nagging regret he felt in the back of his head. But still, he couldn’t shake the mental image of him bulging and exploding like he did in his dream, the bizarre brown liquid filling him to bursting.

    But he wouldn’t dwell on it now, he decided. Instead, he would relax, and enjoy this most pleasant feeling that draped over his body.

    The next day was a far calmer endeavor. The rain still pattered down lightly upon the ground, the sky was a soft grey that concealed the light, the sea was at ease, free of its earlier turmoil. The waves lapped at the surface so very gently, going up to Elliott’s waist as it covered his lower half. The warmth of the water was most satisfying, so refreshing to wake up to considering the briskness he felt earlier.

    As Elliott continued to curl himself up in the now stained covering, basking in its softness still, a figure began to approach from his side. Growing stiff for a split second, his initial fear was replaced with a warm friendliness as he recognized the return of his new human friend. Willy, he believed was what the creature called itself.

    “Ahoy there son, have a good rest?” Willy said, chewing on a new wooden object in his mouth that produced white bubbles. It was ever so slightly different from the kind Elliott had seen the man with when they first met, but he figured he must be the same kind of object still; a bizarre bubble blower that could form them even without water.

    Elliott clicked out at first, before pausing and nodding his head in confirmation. He hugged the covering to himself, running a finger down the soft texture, still so very pleased to have woken up from his initial horrifying dream to such a pleasant sensation.

    Willy gave a smile at this, sitting himself besides the merman as he blew out a particularly large bubble. “Like my sheet, eh? Checked on ya last night, you looked pretty cold, so thought I’d give ya some comfort. Glad to see that didn’t float off in the night,” the human said, stretching his legs out to soak in the water as well.

    Elliott acknowledged the word the human used to describe the object. “Sheet.” So it was called a sheet, that was good to know. Elliott let out a soft gurgle of approval, twisting himself more in the sheet as he smiled at his human friend.

    “Heh, good to see you approve, lad. Did ya like the pillow too?” Willy asked now, gesturing to the square object that Elliott had rested his head on. Elliott nodded enthusiastically, clicking out sweetly in approval for the smaller square. Willy simply chuckled at this, a look of happiness to his face to see he was able to help his new friend get comfortable.

    “Good to hear. Weather should be letting out tomorrow, get some nice sunshine again. Until then, we got some more rain. Then again, you merfolk probably like rain, don’tcha?” Willy said, chewing on the wooden object.

    Elliott nodded, agreeing with the statement, having learned that word from the human a few days ago. He was glad to know there was some way to describe the water from the high blue, an occurrence he so did enjoy.

    “Rain is good, I won’t deny it. Lovely to sit in a nice house, all dry and cozy, hearin’ it beat down. But for a fisherman, it could also spell doom… like it nearly did to me,” the human said, blowing out another bubble. “The seas are rough durin’ those times. The waters don’t seem to agree with one another.”

    Elliott was quiet for a bit as the human talked on, watching more and more bubbles come from the object in its mouth. They took such a wide variety of shapes, so much unlike normal bubbles he saw before. Not only that, but they produced a rather foul odor, now that he was close enough to the man for the bubbles to waft by. Elliott let out a cough at a particularly bad smelling on, covering his nose to protect himself of the bizarre bubble.

    Willy looked over at the gagging noise, before he let out a little swear. “Oops, I’m sorry son, I should’ve realized you probably would be sensitive to the smoke,” Willy said now, shaking the wooden object before putting it in his weird skin flab. “Bad habit to pick up, but well, too late for me to really change that now.”

    Elliott let out a click, his face still contorted a little as the smell lingered, but eventually the “smoke” dissipated completely. At least he knew now that those weren’t really bubbles, but he didn’t think he liked smoke that much, if it all smelt like that.

    “Well anyway, came up early to check on your wound, and get ya some breakfast. Figured you’d like a nice, hot meal to start your day,” Willy said now, his eyes closing as he talked.

    Elliott nodded, understanding most of it. He wasn’t quite sure what the human meant by “hot meal” or “breakfast,” but he figured he’d find out once the wound was redressed. As Elliott shifted a little to allow the fisherman better access to the bandaged area, a wave of pain hit him, shooting through his tail and causing the wound to pulse. Letting out a hiss, Elliott paused, then felt a pressure on his tail once more.

    “Don’t strain yourself, son, I can look at it where it’s at,” Willy said, going more into the water as he slowly raised the tail up. As he did so, the human grabbed an edge of the bandage and gingerly began to unwrap the dressings.

    It was with this Elliott was finally able to get a good look at the damage he was given. As the bandages were completely removed, Elliott couldn’t help but let out a distressed gurgle as he saw the horribly red gash, encompassing almost half of his tail. It looked like a good chunk of flesh was missing, and the waters began to run red as the blood started to intermingle with it.

    “Ooch, looks worse in the light…” Willy admitted, scrunching his face at the ghastly sight. “I hope this heals lad, I’d hate to see it get worse, but I don’t think ol’ Harvey would know what to do in a situation like this… He never had a merfolk patient before, to my knowledge,” Willy said, carefully laying the old bandaging to the side as he grabbed out new ones from his bizarre bulging flesh sacks. Elliott had no idea what those were that humans had, but couldn’t help but admit they seemed awfully convenient, being able to store a multitude of objects.

    “I’m gonna see if I can get any sort of waterproof ointment to put on this, see if that helps any. Until then, some fresh bandages ought to do it good,” Willy said now as he began the process of carefully placing the new bandages over the wound. It was a bit of a battle, as sometimes Willy pressed a bit too hard and caused the merman to flinch and pull back, but eventually the new dressings were in place.

    “Alright, that should hold for now. Just gotta keep an eye on it, with the state it’s in, it really is no telling what’ll happen with it,” Willy stated now, getting out of the deeper water to sit back next to the merman. “Just try not to move it, lad. May cause it more strain, and we don’t need it to tear more.”

    Elliott nodded, watching the human move back into place.

    “Well, now that that’s done, how’s about some breakfast, lad?” Willy said now, a beaming smile on his face and he now fished something out from his top flesh flab. Out he pulled out a bizarre clear object, housing some sort of circular, crumbly item within. Elliott let out a confused gurgle, tilting his head as the human opened up the clear object.

    “I guess you never seen this kinda thing before?” Willy said, taking one of the crumbly object in his hand. “This here’s called a crab cake. Wonderful little treat, my pappy always did make the best ones. Made of, well, crab, mostly, if you couldn’t tell from the name,” as he said this now, he extended a hand out to allow for Elliott to grab it. “Here, made it fresh this morning. Nice and warm still.”

    Elliott eyed the crumbly object, this “crab cake,” before he took it, letting out a click. With this, he brought the object to his nose and give it a smell. Instantly he recognized the smell of crab within the crust, but it was mixed with other stuff he never smelt before; stuff he couldn’t quite tell if he liked or not. But figuring it would’ve been rude to deny the food, and the fact his stomach was indeed quite empty, Elliott pinched off a little piece and put it on his mouth.

    Instantly, stars seemed to burst forth into his eyes as a flavor combination hit him. He could taste crab, but also something else, something extremely pleasant that accented the crab meat most perfectly. Not hesitating further with more bites, Elliott quickly took a large bite out of the crumbling object, getting as much of it as he could in his mouth.

    Willy let out a light chuckle at the merman’s reaction to the crab cake, glad to see his friend enjoying his cooking. “Well now, I guess I know what else you’ll eat now. Tuna Sandwiches and Crab Cakes, good tastes lad!”

    Elliott simply chewed the crab cake, focusing on the flavors that exploded in his mouth. As he finished off the bit of food, Elliott noticed as the human began to raise up from his sitting position.

    “Well, I gotta be heading back. I’ll be back later, but I need to do some early mornin’ fishin’ to grab some tricky fellas. Hope you don’t get too terribly bored, but please just relax,” Willy said, tipping his hat to the merman. “I’ll try to think of some things to bring to maybe entertain ya, but until then, just try to survive a bit longer, aye?”

    Elliott clicked at this, nodding as he rubbed crumbs off his face. He sure did wish he had more of those crab cakes right now…

    “Alright, glad to hear lad! Until then, keep the sheet and pillow, I’m sure you’ll need ‘em still,” Willy said now, gesturing to the objects in question. “I’ll see ya in a few lad, get lots of rest now!”

    Elliott simply nodded again, watching as the human turned around to disappear once more towards the structures so very far away from here.

    The Glow of the City

    It was going to be a long drive, going from Stardew Valley to the big city again. It was a trek Jakobi hadn’t done since he first moved to Pelican Town, one that he didn’t care to think about partaking in… but eventually, he found he had stayed away for too long, and grew to miss the high buildings and bustling activities of city life. He would never want to trade his farm life to live back in the city, but a visit certainly wouldn’t hurt.

    Plus, it had been a while since he last visited his “mother,” the sister of his creator. He always got letters from her, little packages of love she would send to let Jakobi know he was still missed. He appreciated the gesture, though sometimes he couldn’t help but admit it felt like the letters were half-guilting, hoping that he would come back. He would never remark on it, it seemed too callous of an action, but it was just something he noticed in some of the writings.

    And it had been a long time since Jakobi last paid respects to his dear creator, the one that granted him life in the first place, at the cost of his own. Indeed, he remembered the moment so very clearly, when he could feel his body surge with life, the excitement as he rose for the first time without help, when he could speak his thoughts instead of leaving them bottled up. And the crushing sadness when it dawned on him that his creator, who he had watched even before his existence was completed, would never be able to witness how his work was a success.

    Even before Jakobi was capable of the most basic of actions, the moment he was touched by magic, he became aware of the world. Aware of the actions his creator did to ensure he had a chance to live. How he would swear when nothing would happen, often give up hope, only for the next day he would work a thousand times harder, a new wave of determination flowing through him. He was aware of when he talked to him, how he called him “Jakobi,” how he confessed to the inanimate doll his dreams and desires for this to be a success.

    Jakobi had been so eager to meet his creator properly, one day. To see his happiness when he realized his work was a success, as Jakobi held no doubt that he would be able to accomplish it, even when days looked grim in progress. But when it seemed like the day had finally come, it was met with the unfortunate realization that it was too late. His creator was too far gone, too weak to go on… and perished before he could ever meet his “son.”

    It had been a solemn day, for everyone involved. Even Jakobi, whose joy at finally being a sentient, functioning being was at a peak, mourned in place of celebration. The funeral was a few days later, after Jakobi explained to his creator’s family just what had been happening the past few years… about how he was the doll that was once a family heirloom, now given life due to their son’s creative endeavors. How he held no harsh feelings over the daughter, who left him abandoned for so long. And how he wished to honor his “father’s” success the best he could… to live the life he was blessed with.

    Thankfully, the family had accepted him with little issues. There were some days where there was certainly stress; a moment most poignant in Jakobi’s memories was the day his “grandmother” had gotten drunk, her depression hitting her especially hard on the eve of her son’s death. How she accused Jakobi of taking him away from her, and wished she had broken him when she had the chance to. It hurt, but Jakobi understood, it was a drunken rage. He understood she still mourned, even as the days passed, as if his death had been just a few hours ago.

    But for the most part, they accepted Jakobi into their life with little objection; the parents seeing to him like a grandson, and the sister taking “motherly” responsibilities. And with it, Jakobi was eternally grateful, to know that his life would be one of acceptance, that his creator’s success would not be met as if he were a Frankenstein’s monster.

    Jakobi was so lost in his thoughts, he had been silent for the longest time. It wasn’t until a light tap to his shoulder broke him free from his contemplation that he finally let out a “huh?” As he hummed out, he turned his head away from the window to look at the man next to him, seeking his attention. His dearly beloved, who willingly volunteered to join Jakobi on his journey so he wouldn’t get too lonely.

    “Darling, is everything okay? You were awfully quiet for the longest time, your eyes so distant…” the orange-haired man asked, concern clear in his voice as a hand went to cup over the doll’s own.

    Jakobi was silent for a moment, before he finally nodded a confirmation. “Yeah, I’m fine, Elliott. Just… was thinking about some stuff. Thank you for your concern, though.”

    “Of course, love,” Elliott said, giving a light squeeze to the hand he held. “Nervous?”

    “A little, yeah. Haven’t seen my mom since I moved, and it’s been so long since I last visited dad’s grave… I hope it’s still in one piece.”

    “I’m sure it is, graves are sacred places, meant to honor those no longer with us… I wouldn’t think they would let any one grave go to disrepair, no matter how long ago the person in question had passed,” Elliott gave a bit of reassurance, running his thumb over the back of Jakobi’s hand.

    “You’d think…” was all Jakobi sighed out now, recalling the various broken graves he had seen in his short life. None in Pelican Town, thankfully, but the city seemed far less caring of its dead…

    Before his thoughts could carry him away again, Jakobi could feel a warmth press to his head; a gentle kiss from his love, causing a smile to form on the doll’s blue lips. “Thanks, dear,” Jakobi hummed out, looking up at the sweet face that graced his presence.

    “Of course,” Elliott smiled back, eyes so filled with love for the doll.

    As the ride continued on, much of it was spent in silence. Jakobi had hardly slept a wink last night, having been too anxious about missing the bus to properly sleep, and was now on the verge of napping with his head to Elliott’s shoulder. Elliott, meanwhile, was reading a book he had picked up before the two left; a romance novel, about a young lady who had fallen in love with a zombie. It was a novel idea to Elliott, almost comedic in a way, so he couldn’t help but pick it up for the ride.

    It was a few hours later, when Jakobi had properly fallen into a sleep and Elliott was getting to an admittedly good part, that they reached the bus’ destination. Here they would have to call a cab to take them to Jakobi’s mother’s apartment, as the bus only did designated stops.

    As Elliott closed his book, making sure to page was properly marked, he gave a light nudge to the sleeping form beside him. “Jakobi, dear, we need to get off,” he whispered, standing up as he went to go get their suitcases.

    Jakobi let out a mumble, having not really understood they had stopped, but as the warmth beside him began to disappear, the doll woke himself up with a yawn. Soon, the two were off the bus, to the hustle and bustle of the city.

    When the last of the passengers got off, the bus took off to its next destination, leaving a puff of exhaust behind. Elliott couldn’t help but let out a gagging cough it this, covering his mouth with one hand while waving it away with the other. Indeed, the air to him tasted… stale. Not clean, like it was in the Valley.

    Jakobi took notice of this, taking his bigger lover by the arm to help lead him to a more clean area. Or well, as clean as city air would allow, as exhaust inevitably clung to the air. Elliott let out a shudder after his coughing fit died down, letting out a series of clicks in place of swears. “I knew city air was going to be different, but it’s downright foul here. You lived in this place for most of your life?”

    “Well, you gotta take into account I only “breathe” to talk. I don’t need oxygen like you humans… well, “humans,” do,” Jakobi teased his love, giving a slight nudge as the taller man chuckled and rolled his eyes. “So I don’t really notice much difference in the quality. I know there is a difference, but it’s something I can’t experience myself.”

    “And boy, aren’t you lucky right now,” Elliott spoke out in between more coughs. It was going to take him a while to get used to the odor the city produced, his nose absolutely stinging at the sensations it felt.

    Jakobi simply shrugged as his laced his arm around his lover. “C’mon, let’s see if we can find an open payphone. I don’t want you walking with two suitcases in tow like that the whole way.”

    “You doubt my capability?” Elliott said with a chuckle, walking along with the doll as they went to locate a phone.

    “Well, no, but I do think it’s cruel if you have to walk over a mile with those in hand,” Jakobi said, gesturing to the sagging cases. Both were at least ten pounds, and while Jakobi was more than capable of carrying at least one, Elliott insisted thoroughly that the doll not stress himself with the arduous task.

    “Hah! I’ve swam miles on end with a wounded tail once, I think I can handle a little weight!” Elliott couldn’t help but brag, though quietly, as while he was open to Jakobi about his past, he preferred that the less people knew about it, the better.

    Jakobi rolled his own eyes this time, the two finally locating a proper payphone with a phone book present to boot. Skimming through to find the taxi services, Jakobi phoned it in, and was given a rough estimate of five minutes for the car to arrive.

    Elliott soon found he was having another coughing fit, still not used to the disgusting sensation the air of the city gave. He was so used to having been in the Valley his entire time as a “human,” that he just couldn’t comprehend how people could live with such poor air quality. He’d since learned that air was like water to humans, so it didn’t make much sense that they would taint it like they did.

    “Elliott, need me to get you a mask?” Jakobi asked, quite concerned at the coughing the larger man gave out.

    Elliott simply cleared his throat, shaking his head as the two found a spot to sit by while they waited. “I’ll never get used to this if I try to hide from it. I’ll be fine, dear, I’m sure once we get inside I’ll do much better.”

    “I hope… I really don’t want you getting sick,” Jakobi said, leaning his head back on the broad shoulder beside him.

    “Pfft, I’ll be fine dear, I’m far stronger than I look!” Elliott teased now, raising an arm to give a bragging flex of muscle. “And dare I need to say how rugged I am, again?”

    Jakobi let out a little laugh, leaning forward to place a kiss on the cheek of the man. “Trust me, I’m well aware of that fact…”

    A few minutes passed, some more coughing fits later, and the taxi arrived to pick up the two men. With the suitcases packed in the trunk, the two situated in the back, Jakobi gave the address to his mother’s apartment.

    The ride, for the most part, was smooth sailing… until towards the end, when Elliott’s nausea medication began to fail as his carsickness hit him like a brick in the stomach. A few belches and excuse me’s, a head leaning against the window, and a concerned Jakobi later, Elliott managed to survive as the taxi reached the final destination. Elliott couldn’t get out of the car any faster, practically tumbling out of the small space as he let out a combination of belches and coughs again.

    Soon though, the two had their stuff pulled out of the trunk, Jakobi paid for the services, and the two were heading up to the floor Jakobi’s mother resided on. “Maybe you need to take two of those pills before we head back…” Jakobi said, worried at the thought of Elliott getting sick on their ride back to Stardew Valley, a much longer destination than the short taxi ride…

    “Yeah, probably would be for the best…” Elliott admitted, grunting as he went up the flight of stairs with the cases in tow.

    A minute or two later, the two finally reached the door to the apartment in question; C7. With a few quick knocks on the door, the two waited.

    “Now, just to warn you before she answers, my mom’s a little eccentric. She’ll probably get you in a bear hug when she finds out who you are, so try not to crush her, okay?” Jakobi said, half teasing and half serious as he told his lover his mother’s nature.

    Elliott simply let out a chuckle, shaking his head once more. “I promise you, I’ll treat her as if she were a delicate rose.”

    Before Jakobi could let out a joke on the state of Elliott’s care on roses, the door opened and a happy squee sounded out on the other side. Soon, the doll was encompassed in a deep hug, the shorter figure in front of his easily overtaking him. “Jakobi! It’s so good to see you again!” the young woman said, bliss clear in her voice as she half picked up the doll to twirl him a little.

    “Woah-ho, hey there mom, good to see you too!” Jakobi said, a bit of embarrassment going through him at the actions, but he was so glad to see her in a good mood as well. She always had been an excitable woman, and he was happy to see the years didn’t take that away from her.

    With a hum and one last squeeze, the woman set Jakobi down as she finally acknowledged the other man with him. “Oh? And who’s this?”

    “Ah, mom, I’d like you to meet Elliott! My boyfriend,” Jakobi said now, pride in his voice as he introduced his love.

    Elliott let out a little bow, at least as best as he could give with his arms still full. “A pleasure to finally meet you, Ms. Nichols!”

    Another little squee sounded from the woman, quickly going over to the tall man to also embrace him. “So you’re this Elliott Jakobi’s talked about! It’s so good to see you in person!”

    Elliott let out a little startled cough at the surprising hold the small woman had, but smiled at the action. “Indeed, I’m that Elliott!”

    With another squeeze, the woman let go of the man to look up with him. “And damn, if Jakobi can’t choose ‘em… “

    “Mom!” Jakobi said out loud now, undeniable embarrassment hitting him as his mother basically hit on his boyfriend. Elliott’s eyes widened as a blush came across his face, not sure how to take the “compliment.”

    Jakobi’s mother simply laughed, taking one of the suitcases out of Elliott’s hold. “Well, come on in, you two! I’ve got plenty to drink, if you need anything! And hey, maybe you two can help me figure out what to cook tonight, unless you two want take out!”

    Jakobi simply smiled, stepping in the building as the two got situated into his mother’s home.

    It had been close to dinner time by the time Jakobi and Elliott made it to their destination. Hungry, tired, and ready to rest for a big day tomorrow of visiting Jakobi’s creator’s grave, the three decided it would be best to order out. Delivery, Chinese food to be precise. It was something Elliott never experienced before, since the only place to eat out in Pelican Town was Gus’, and Chinese food wasn’t part of his normal menu. Indeed, Gus could cook it, if it was requested, but the thing was Elliott hadn’t the slightest bit of knowledge on Chinese food to order in the first place…

    “Oh, you’re going to love it, honey! Chinese take out was always my favorite dinner treat!” Jakobi enthused, handing Elliott a pamphlet fill of different food names and pictures. It was incredible just how much the little papers held on them… and how expensive everything was. Elliott wasn’t too concerned with price, Jakobi had more than enough money on his person to last them a few months, but still, the number was staggering. 1500 gold for one soup?

    It wasn’t long though when the small group ordered what they desired; Elliott ordered an Egg Drop Soup, Jakobi a thing of Sesame Chicken, and Jakobi’s mother some Lo Mein. Once it was called in, their total and rough time of arrival stated, the three settled down in the living room.

    Soon the three were talking about the various things that entailed each of their lives. Jakobi talked about the success of the farm, how when he returned he should have an extended barn ready for some goats to move into. He also enthused about his trip to the Calico Desert, and his exploration of the Skull Caverns; a dangerous, but none-the-less thrilling escapade. Elliott talked into great detail over the book Jakobi helped inspire, “Camellia Station,” and the small cult following it seemed to garner. Indeed, the letters he received from his publisher often talked about the desires for signed copies and public readings, which please Elliott greatly; but sadly, he had to decline due to his inclination to stay in Pelican Town.

    Meanwhile, Jakobi’s mother simply talked about the state JojaMart was taking, more depressing stuff in comparison to the two men’s stories. Budget cuts, more friends quitting, harsher hours, and the disturbing news of the various marts disrupting communities they opened up in sounded all too typical to both Jakobi and Elliott, not surprised in the least that the megacorp had gotten worse with time. However, with bad came good, as Jakobi’s mother expressed joy at having found a boyfriend of her own; a man named Tommy, who worked at the local bakery.

    Almost as if on cue, the door opened up after the mentioning of the man, catching Jakobi and Elliott off guard for a moment as they looked towards the entrance. A fairly short man with bright, blond hair came in, carrying an apron and a loaf of bread, neatly packed up. “Anna, I’m back,” was all he said, locking the door behind him as he turned around and paused, seeing the two men also in the room. “Erm… who are they?”

    “Tommy!” Anna exclaimed out, joy clear in her voice as she went to hug the man. As she did, she couldn’t help but notice the guarded, stiff stance her boyfriend took; much unlike what he normally was. “Let me introduce you, this here’s my broth-… Um, you know how I mentioned my brother had dabbled in magic?” she had started, before cutting herself off.

    “Uh-huh…” Tommy simply hummed out, eying Jakobi suspiciously. He was unlike any person Tommy ever seen before, the eyes looking so lifeless and artificial, the skin looking so pale even a vampire would be jealous. He felt… uneasy around the almost cartoonish look the doll held.

    “Well uh, this here is Jakobi. My brother’s creation,” Anna said, as best as she could describe him. Soon, she was gesturing to the larger man beside him, the one that looked far more normal in comparison. “And this here is his boyfriend, Elliott! They’re visiting for a couple of days, all the way from Stardew Valley!”

    Jakobi rose at the introduction, walking over to the man and extending a hand. “A pleasure to meet you! Mom was just talking about you!”

    “Mom?!” Tommy exclaimed out a bit too loudly, as if disgusted at how the doll called her that. Jakobi’s face fell at this, his hand lowering as a concerned look twisted on his features.

    “Um, yes… mom,” Anna said now, a bit of a worried expression on her face. “I uh… I guess raised him, after my brother passed. Since he was originally the doll my mom passed down to me, I thought it would be for the best if I helped him adjust to his life…”

    “Is something the matter?” Elliott inquired now, noticing the unwavering look the man held over his beloved and not liking it one bit. It wasn’t like the normal looks Jakobi garnered, of intrigue, shock, curiosity. This look seemed… almost loatheful. Disgusted, even.

    “What the fuck, how could this thing be your child! It doesn’t even look like it should be real!” Tommy seemed to be gradually growing more upset as the words seemed to settle on him, half not wanting to accept Jakobi was even in front of him.

    “Tommy! Don’t speak of Jakobi like that!” Anna said, completely shocked at her boyfriend’s outburst.

    “How the fuck can I not?? You’ve told me for days your “brother” was coming to visit, and he I find out it’s actually some… freak of nature? That thinks you’re it’s mom?!” Tommy was squeezing the bread in his hold now, crushing it in a fit of rage. “I didn’t have a shit day at work just to come home to a fucking cursed doll in my house!”

    “Excuse me, that’s quite-” Elliott was starting on now, getting quite enraged at the callous nature the man in front of them let on. So much unlike the marveling Anna had done just moments ago.

    “Your house?” Anna seemed to get mad in response as well. “I’m the one who pays the damn rent! I’m the one who pays all the fucking bills! You have a job and all you contribute to is feeding your own damn mouth!”

    “Shut the fuck up, that’s not the point!” Tommy was close to shrieking now, throwing the bread off to the side. “The point is, I didn’t approve to having some fucking experiment in my house! And I certainly didn’t agree to some fucker who I never even heard of until now being here either!”

    “Sir, you’re being most foul here-” Elliott started again, now trying to defend not only his boyfriend, but his boyfriend’s mother as well.

    Jakobi was simply in a stunned silence, mouth agape as he was on the verge of trembling. A horrid feeling washed over him, encompassing his very being in the negativity he so wished to avoid. “Please, I… I didn’t mean to offend…” Jakobi now said, his voice so very weak and shaky.

    “Well too fucking bad, cause you done did it!” Tommy now yelled out, stabbing daggers from his eyes at the doll. “Seven fucking hours of dealing with shitty customers, seven FUCKING hours of hearing nothing but shit from my boss, and I hoped to come home, grab a beer, and watch some damn TV! But noooooo, a fucking abomination had to come and visit!”

    Elliott was so close to just completely unleashing hell on the man, grinding his teeth as his primal urge to bite down started to claw at him. He was not a violent man, so to entice this kind of response in the otherwise gentle giant was an accomplishment no one should brag about.

    “Tommy, stop it! What the fuck’s gotten into you!” Anna shrieked out now, on the verge of tears herself. “You can’t just talk to my brother like-”

    “He’s not your damn brother! You’ve been lying to me this whole damn time, and I can’t believe I fell for it!” Tommy yelled in response, glaring at the woman instead.

    “B-Brother…? Mom, what is he…?” Jakobi started, before letting out a startled shriek as the enraged man began to stomp towards him.

    “Don’t you FUCKING call her that, you-” Tommy swore at the doll, ready to dish it out with the doll, until Elliott finally had enough and stepped in front of Jakobi.

    “If you so much as place one finger on Jakobi, I swear, I will harbor no resistance in taking you down,” Elliott said now, a cold, harsh tone sounding out from deep in his chest. So unlike his usual benevolent, wouldn’t-hurt-a-spider nature.

    Tommy looked like he wanted to challenge the bigger man, until he had a good, long look at Elliott, and realized perhaps it was a poor choice to enrage someone who look like they could crush him. Mumbling out a slur, Tommy backed away now.

    “This is fucking unbelievable. I knew your family were into some weird shit, but I didn’t think it’d be this fucked up,” Tommy muttered out now, looking towards Anna once more. “A fucking doll, really? Your brother fucking killed himself for this?”

    “Please, Tommy, that’s really enough…” Anna begged, tears running down her face, hearing not only her brother’s work be treated so negatively, but also her brother himself be regarded in such a harsh manner…

    “Yeah. Yeah, it is. I’m fucking through Anna, this just fucking crossed the line. Either this freak of nature is out, or you can pack your shit and go. Up to you.”

    “Tommy, no, you can’t just kick us-” Anna tried to defend, the two continuing on with their argument.

    Meanwhile, Jakobi was absolutely shaking behind Elliott, his teeth clattering as his eyes shined out as if they were watery. Finally deciding he had enough, the doll pushed past his protective lover as he bolted out of the apartment.

    “Jakobi!” Elliott called out, feeling his love push past him and dart out of the chaos. Deciding he ultimately couldn’t settle this dispute between the feuding lovers, he left Anna and Tommy to their own bickering and pleading as he went after Jakobi.

    It was a bit of running later when Jakobi finally collapsed onto the ground, curling up in a fetal position as weak sobs sounded out from his hollow body. Even with his distance away from the arguing, he could still hear it, muffled in the distance. The shrieking, crying, begging… Oh, how he wished he could make it stop, that he could’ve somehow calmed the man down. Make him realize that, despite initial looks, he really wasn’t some horror movie villain…

    “I caused this… They were so happy together, then I came and now they’re being torn apart…” Jakobi couldn’t help but think, remember just how much his mother admired Tommy just moments before. How he thought no doubt that the man must’ve done much of the same, treating his mother like the goddess she was. And now, he could hear crashing, something breaking as the argument escalated…

    “Jakobi…” he could hear a voice call out to him, so very careful in tone. With a shaking sob, the doll looked up, to be greeted with the presence of his loved one beside him, seated on the ground as well. “I’m so sorry, darling… I wish I could’ve protected you better, shield you from those venomous words…”

    Jakobi simply let out more sobbing noises, unable to really voice any sort of “thank you” or “it’s alright.” Instead, he quickly clung to the man, holding onto him as tight as he could as he trembled, voice a mess of sadness that whatever he was trying to say was lost.

    Elliott simply stayed quiet as he hugged his lover back, tenderly running a hand down his back. As the embrace continued, Elliott buried his face Jakobi’s hair, holding him so delicately as he continued the sweet actions.

    “Hey, you two okay?” a different voice called out now, coming from the parking lot after a car pulled up. Jakobi hadn’t reacted at all at the question, but Elliott did, looking up to see a woman approach them, carrying a few boxes of something.

    “Afraid not,” was all Elliott replied with, flinching as he heard more yelling from the floor above, looking up at the direction of the yelling. Letting out a sigh, Elliott gingerly placed a hand into Jakobi’s hair, gently petting him as the doll continued to let out his sobs.

    “Oh dear, those two at it again?” the woman couldn’t help but comment on, eyes following the yelling. “I don’t come here often, but whenever I do, they always seem to be arguing about something… Really isn’t healthy, I’m scared for the gal.”

    “This… isn’t uncommon?” Elliott said, surprise in his voice, even though deep down, he wasn’t shocked.

    “Oh hell no, like I said, every time I’ve come here, I hear their yelling. It’s only a couple times a month, but still, that too many times I’ve heard it consecutively. Always about bills, or how the guy doesn’t listen, or something like that,” the woman now looked back down at the two men on the ground. “I take it your friend there doesn’t like the yelling?”

    “It’s… a bit more than just that,” Elliott said, but didn’t wish to indulge more than he had to.

    “M-Mom…” was all Jakobi uttered out now, trembling still as another crash sounded out.

    “Mom…? Oh,” the woman’s face instantly turned from confusion to a solemn understanding. “I’m so sorry, I guess you didn’t know about them?”

    “N-No… it’s been years since I visited, I… I thought this would be good. To s-see her again…” Jakobi simply sobbed out now, voice a quivering mess.

    “Oh honey, I’m so sorry,” the woman said out now, a empathetic tone to her voice. “It’s always awful, coming back home to find out some things have changed, and for the worse at that…”

    “Indeed…” was all Elliott said now, taking a deep breath as he still tried to calm his lover down.

    The woman seemed to shuffle around a bit now, taking a look at a piece of paper she had… and how it coincided with the number on the apartment the order came from. “I take it you’re the ones I’m supposed to be delivering to, as well… I’m sorry to catch you at such a bad time,” she said, shoving the paper into her pocket. “What did you two order? I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I think I’ll let you two have yours on the house. Special circumstances and all that.”

    “Oh, you’re our delivery?” Elliott said, surprised at the other coincidence this came out to be. “Uh, we’re more than capable of paying, you don’t have to do that…”

    “No no, I insist. You two look like you’ve had a rough time, and no doubt the lady up there has it rough a lot of times. It’s the least I can do, letting you have a free meal,” the woman said, a gentle smile on her face. “I’ll cover it with my tips, it’s really no big deal.”

    Jakobi finally seemed to move his head out of Elliott’s chest, sniffing out as he shook his head. “Thank you, that’s very kind, but it wouldn’t feel right to make you have to cut into your own work for someone else’s food…” as Jakobi finally rose up, he went into his pocket to fish out his wallet, and out he pulled five, platinum-laced gold coins, worth up to 2000 gold each. “Here, this’ll cover the food, and give you a tip too… Thank you for listening to us.”

    The woman looked absolutely shocked at the generous tip she was given, before she smiled and accepted the money. “You’re a good soul. I still want to make this up to you, but I’ll accept your generosity. You guys had enough I take it, you don’t need to be arguing with some random girl over getting free food,” as he pocketed the coins, she held out the food in question. “Here you go, I hope you enjoy… and I hope your night gets better here on out.”

    “Thank you…” was all Jakobi said, accepting the warm containers as the lady gave a final farewell. Turning around, Jakobi deciphered what food was what, and separated his and Elliott’s in one hand, while holding his mother’s in the other.

    “Come on, let’s leave this at the door and get a cab. We… we can get our stuff later,” was all Jakobi said now, handing Elliott their food as Jakobi headed up the stairs once more to leave his mother her own order.

    Elliott simply frowned, but followed suit, just in case something were to happen. This was the first time the man ever seen his love so devastated, so drained of his initial positivity… it hurt so badly, far worse than any wound he ever was dealt with.

    Edited Works

    Pelican Town was such a quaint little place, completely unassuming from first glances. A small but tight-knit community was what many expected, full of a variety of people. What was best known about the small town was the booming economy the local farm produced, with its vast exports of crops, animal products and artisan goods. Indeed, this quiet place was gradually garnering much attention as the reputation of the Alchemistry Farm grew.

    But perhaps what fueled the growth of the attention the farm gained was its quirky owner, a benevolent soul with a unique story to his name. It wasn’t unknown to many the bizarre circumstances the farmer came to be; looks alone was enough to clue in that the farmer was more than just a simple fellow. Skin as white as clouds, eyes that seemed to shine like glass, a way of dress not seen in many people; indeed, the appearance alluded much to him being something else, something not quite human.

    And indeed, the assumption would be correct. The farmer, known as Jakobi to all who knew him, was no simple human, but an attempt at humanity. A transmogrification of a simple porcelain doll, a soul crafted out of nothing, given life via the mysteries of magic. While the attempt was very much a success, in terms of what it brought forth, there was tells that Jakobi wasn’t a natural human. If not by looks alone, there were little quirks the man possessed that clued into his nature. His skin would crack as if it were glass still if he got injured, he often felt brisk to the touch, he lacked a pulse or any sort of vital signs; various little things that a human wouldn’t normally have.

    But despite his bizarre existence, the living doll was much beloved in the small community. People would speak fondly of him, even those that hardly had an interaction with him since he moved. His circumstances of being didn’t perturb his bright nature, a cheery spirit with a love of life. And his determination to work hard to succeed at the life his dear grandfather gave him inspired many a person in the town.

    Jakobi had been living in the town for over a year now, his farm becoming a blooming success due to his hard work. Indeed, in his first year, he made over 200k gold, allowing him to expand the farm in ways he wasn’t originally expecting. Coops and barns, a large variety of crops, sprinkler systems put in place so he could focus more on the animals, a small orchard of fruit trees down to the south; it was a proper farm in such a small amount of time, and Jakobi was eager to improve it even further.

    Despite this, Jakobi admittedly didn’t spent much time in his farm. After his initial care for his animals, the check up on the crops and trees, Jakobi would often go about the town or forest, exploring or foraging for any natural goods. Often he would pause and greet a person, having a nice chat with them as they entailed their day to him. Sometimes he would travel to the mines to gather more iron and gold for crafting, or slaying some monsters to meet the tasks of the adventurer’s guild. Every day he would check the bulletin to see if anyone required assistance. Indeed, much of his time was spent outside of his booming farm system, but Jakobi didn’t care; he wasn’t there just to farm, after all.

    Jakobi found that he favored the beach most of all when he went to explore the town. The bright, pure sand accented with the beautiful colors of shells created such a lovely scenery. Watching the waves lap at the surface was a peaceful endeavor, and often Jakobi would find himself with his boots off, sitting at the edge with his toes wading in the cool water. But most of all, Jakobi favored the small cabin at the corner of the beach; not very impressive in appearance, but what it held inside garnered a deep love in the doll.

    As he approached the wooden door to the cabin, the wind picked up, lightly blowing at the wind chimes that hung just a few inches away. A couple of shell ornaments swayed slightly in the breeze, knocking against the wood ever so slightly. The wood let out small creaks, ones that would concern most people, but the craftsmanship of the cabin still stood tall even among the noise. It was little things like this that made Jakobi love the cabin, the little quirks and mild decorations that didn’t leave much room to impress, but told a thousand words.

    Eventually, Jakobi knocked on the door, three quick beats as he stood in place. The shuffling of papers and a chair could be heard within, before footsteps sounded out even from the outside. It wasn’t long before the door opened, and there greeted the man that lived within the cabin; tall and broad in appearance, much more so than the doll’s lithe form, but with a certain elegance that not even Jakobi could match.

    “Ah, Jakobi! Come in, come in!” the man greeted, stepping out of the way of the farmer as he held the door open for him. With a thank you, Jakobi accepted the gesture and stepped inside the quaint hut. Inside, it wasn’t much to be said, and in fact it was fairly rustic inside. The cabin lacked electricity, so the only light came from the windows and a couple of lit candles. Little decorations adorned the dark housing; a rose here, a bonsai tree there, and many a crumpled paper littered the floors. Indeed, the house was quite messy, but it was a mess that Jakobi enjoyed; one of creative endeavors and simple living.

    As the door closed behind the doll, the man smiled as he took one of Jakobi’s gloved hands, pressing a light kiss to the back of his wrist. “It’s always so lovely to have you visit, darling. Please forgive the mess, I had some creative stumps last night. Many a messed up word and lost motivations,” the man said now, a gentle smile painted on his face as he rubbed a finger over Jakobi’s wrist.

    Jakobi let out a light giggle at the action; Elliott always had been a romantic one, pampering Jakobi in attention even at his frequent visits, but soon the doll lightly patted the face of the taller man. “It’s quite alright, Elliott. It wouldn’t feel right if there wasn’t some papers strewn about,” Jakobi said now, going on his toes to give the taller man a light peck on the lips.

    Elliott smiled at this action, gingerly moving his hand to guide the doll towards a chair to sit on. “Come, relax dear. No doubt you’re tired from your walk, let me fetch you a little treat,” the man said, helping Jakobi into a seated position as he released his hand.

    “Oh, I’m fine, Elliott, thank you,” Jakobi said, a light chuckle to his voice as he sat down. He had gotten used to the long trek to the beach as the days passed by, to the point he now arrived with a bounce to his step still. It was funny, he lacked much in terms of human features, but getting tired was one such “pleasure” he was not unknown to.

    “No no, I insist my dear. Rest your weary feet, take off your boots if you so desire! I stocked up on some snack foods on my last trip to Pierre’s, so I have plenty to share! How about some crabs chips, or perhaps something light like chocolate cranberries?” Elliott continued to offer, going to his shelf of dry and canned foods. He may have lacked a proper kitchen and fridge, but that didn’t stop the man from having a good meal every night, or prevent him from having a small snack here and there.

    “Ah, well, since you insist, if you have any more of those strawberry wafers, I do have a bit of a craving for some…” Jakobi admitted, the natural blush his face held seeming to grow brighter at his admittance.

    “Ah! A wonderful choice, darling! I’ll fetch you some right away!” the orange-haired man said, opening up a cabinet to begin his search. Soon he held a container of the pink sticks in his hand, and joined up with the doll once more.

    “Thank you, sweetie~” Jakobi said in a sing-song voice, graciously accepting the container as he unscrewed the lid. “So, what were you working on last night? Looks like you had a lot of failed attempts.”

    Elliott sighed as he sat himself down next to the doll, running a hand through his long hair. “Indeed… I was trying to brainstorm some new ideas for a new novel. I had a few come to me, but sadly I just can’t seem to get them into words that I don’t immediately loathe afterwards…” Elliott said, turning himself around to pick up the paper he was working on before the farmer’s arrival. His eyes scanned over the page, before he let out a grumble and once more crumpled up the page. “That one’s no good either…”

    Jakobi took one of the pink wafer sticks and began to nibble on the end of it, light crunching as he made sure not to have crumbs litter the floor. As he watched his lover dispose of the new paper, Jakobi let out a small frown. “Aw, I’m sorry, Elliott. I wish I knew how to help, but sadly writing isn’t my strong suit. Least, not like it is for you, anyway.”

    Elliott let out a little click as he shook his head, looking back at the doll as a soft smile painted his features. “You help in far more ways than you can imagine, Jakobi, don’t you worry about that. In fact, I’m sure your visit will help me gather my thoughts to find the words I so desire! Already I can feel a pulse of inspiration hit me, and you’ve only been here but a few minutes,” the man said, most sincerely. He was always poignant with his words, so very certain and poetic.

    Jakobi let out a smile at that, taking another bite of the wafer as he hummed. “Well, I’m glad I can at least give moral support. Can I ask, what is it that you’re trying to write now? I’m quite excited to hear the possibility of a new novel coming out!”

    Elliott let out a chuckle at this, taking another paper as he scanned it much like he did the other one. “Right now, as I said, it’s just in the brainstorming phase, so I don’t have any concrete ideas yet. However, I am debating about dabbling into science fiction with a hint of horror in it; always a fun combo, those genres,” as he said this, he placed the paper back down on his desk as he raised another one up. “There’s also the thought of attempting another romance novel, what with the mild success my last one garnered. But sadly, my thoughts allude me with that one. I can catch bits and pieces of ideas, but always they seem to be fleeting.”

    The doll simply listened on as the man listed off various ideas he had, ranging from the idea of a small auto-biography to the possibility of a fantasy trilogy. Indeed, the writer was often full of ideas, but to get the words on paper was a monumental task, as often a good idea mentally found itself to be cringe-worthy in written form. Eventually though, the man stopped rattling off his thoughts, looking at the doll with a slight blush to his cheeks.

    “Goodness! I do apologize, dear. Here I am, rattling off my own failures, and I haven’t even thought of asking you how you have been!” Elliott said now, rubbing the back of his head in a flustered manner. “Let me remedy that. How goes the farm life, are your animals in good health and your crops growing heartily?”

    Jakobi smiled as he bit into a new wafer now, a surge of warmth hitting his chest as his love asked him about his work. “It’s going well, dear! I should have a new batch of blackberry wine ready tomorrow, I’m sure to bring you some for taste testing. I was worried Bitsy was getting a little ill, but thankfully she bounced out of it quickly. And our newest arrival, Clifford, is adjusting well to the chickens; which I’m deeply thankful for, as you never really know with, well… ‘lizards.’”

    Elliott let out a chuckle at this, nodding in agreement with the statement. “I’m glad to hear all is well, my love. You work so hard on that farm, I’m so proud to see it grow to the renown that it has achieved,” as Elliott said this, he once more picked up the doll’s hand, giving a gentle kiss. “It’s so very inspiring, hearing how much you’ve accomplished in such a short stay. I can’t wait to see where you go from here.”

    Jakobi let out a giggle at the action, his blue lips curving into a most gentle smile as he raised his hand to caress his boyfriend’s face. “Thank you, love. It’s exhausting work, but I’m proud of what I’ve done.”

    “No doubt,” was all Elliott said at this, raising himself from his seated position. As he rose, he continued to hold onto the doll’s hand, feeling the brisk fingers peak from the gloves to his own, warm skin. “Come, darling, let me have a chance to marvel at your beauty before you have to go.”

    Jakobi couldn’t help but let out a giddy giggle at this, feeling a light blossoming in his chest. As he rose up from his own seat, the wafers set off to the side, he could feel a warm hand press to his cheek. Instinctively, Jakobi rubbed into the feeling, smiling up at his much taller lover.

    “Beautiful…” was all Elliott muttered, his hand gently running down the cheek. “As always, you leave me speechless, my dear. Your skin, so pure and fair, yet cheeks so rosy and bright… Your eyes, glistening with joy that lights a fire in my heart…” as Elliott carried on, his face gradually grew closer and closer to the doll’s own, eyes lidded with love and a hidden passion. “Your lips, so beautifully blue that even the ocean could not compare to such depth…”

    As he said this, Elliott’s own lips trailed over the natural blue lips of the doll’s, the mix of navy and turquoise a beautiful combination. If Jakobi was capable of breathing normally, surely his breath would’ve been caught in such a tender action. A hand began to circle around the thin waste of the doll, pulling Jakobi into the broad form of his lover.

    “Hair so tender, it tickles my fingers whenever I touch…” Elliott was whispering now, his face still so very close to Jakobi’s. His hand now went from the doll’s cheek to playing with one of the purple ends, lightly twisting it around his finger. “The colors, so very deep yet vibrant, accentuating your pale beauty so very wonderfully…”

    “Elliott…” Jakobi breathed out now, feeling the gap between their lips grow ever so much smaller, the warmth of the man beginning to encompass his cool body.

    “Your form, so lithe and fine…” Elliott went on, the other hand trailed down the doll’s back, playing with the fine fabric of the vest he wore, his breath washing over Jakobi’s face in pleasant waves. It always smelt so wonderful, like the ocean mist mixed with mint. “So very delicate, but so very powerful all the same… Oh, how it fits in my hold so perfectly…”

    Finally, the teasing of the lips met its proper conclusion, the pair pressing against one another in a tender yet firm hold. As Elliott’s lips ghosted over Jakobi’s own, he hand traveled lower until it was at the small of the doll’s back, pressing him forward into his body.

    The kiss was deep and pleasurable, filling the doll with a warmth he normally lacked. Completely encompassed, so very full with the feeling. Jakobi pressed his body forward into Elliott’s own, curving wonderfully into his strong form, feeling the muscles that were concealed under the fine clothing his love always wore. As the kiss parted just enough for a breath to be caught, Elliott let out a purr in his voice as he continued his compliments.

    “Your taste, always so delicious…” he whispered to the doll, pressing more and more into the body of his love. As Jakobi felt him grow closer and closer, he could feel the beating of the man’s heart against his own, still chest.

    Soon, Jakobi could feel the lips of the man ghost over his skin, starting at his cheek before it went lower and lower until it stopped at the crevice of his throat. A kiss was pressed down there, gentle and sweet, before it turned deeper and a sucking feeling was met at those lips. Letting out a light moan, Jakobi threw his head back slightly, allowing his lover more access to his throat.

    “E-Elliott…” Jakobi stuttered out, feeling an excitement well up in him. As he uttered his name, he gasped slightly as the hand on his lower back began to rub circles around the doll.

    Soon, the man parted his lips away from the cool flesh of the doll, noting the small glob of saliva that glistened upon the white, porcelain skin. “Your voice, so very delicate, as if carried by the wind itself… so gentle, so unopposing, but carrying such authority and determination…”

    As Elliott raised his head once more to look deeply into the eyes of his love, he smiled tenderly as he noticed the murky look in Jakobi’s own, glassy eyes. Clouded in pleasure, lidded so gently as he kept his body pressed to him. “Words alone fail to describe your majesty, my love. Every bit of you, to the tone of your voice to the curve of your body, is completely and utterly perfect.”

    Jakobi’s face was so very bright, as if he was blushing beyond the natural colors his face held. Even with his lack of blood, he swore he could feel a warmth pool in his cheeks, a pulsing in his head as thoughts raced. Running a hand down Elliott’s tie, fingers brisk over the fabric, he tugged at the buttons of the suit.

    “Do you wish to see more, darling?” Jakobi whispered out, his other hand playing with his neck ribbon as he did his best to untie it. “I’m more than willing to show you, you know…”

    “Mmm…” Elliott hummed, his eyes travelling lower the watch the small fingers play with the fabric. “You know me too well, my dear.”
      Last edited: Apr 19, 2016
      rhomboid and Satashi26 like this.
    • Keridan

      Keridan Subatomic Cosmonaut

      Fell behind again, but got it up to date now! I'll have another story posted today too, if all goes well.

      Decided to dabble in some Shane fanfics, as I've recently fallen pretty hard for the sad guy. Feedback appreciated!
        Satashi26 likes this.

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