A Fish Called Krycek

Bernice (ex Sarah Bellum)

Jung said that every man has a mermaid inside of him,
and every woman a merman

As soon as the call came through, Mulder had the entire team together; the helicopter, the car – everybody involved was mobilised within minutes. This was the call he’d been waiting for his entire adult and working life.

"Please, please, let it be alive", he whispered urgently under his breath.

The young couple hadn’t said if what they had found was a mermaid or a selkie, but they did know that the animal washed up on the beach had been badly injured, either by a shark attack or, more likely, the propellers of a pleasure craft. The aquarium where Mulder worked was getting an increasing number of calls to pick up injured dolphins and other large marine animals.    They were trying to put back together the shattered bodies of turtles, and anything else that got in the way of the fun of assholes with fast boats.

Two years ago he’d come so close; he'd found the remains of a merman on a beach, though torn to pieces, partially eaten by smaller fish, and barely recognisable. They’d found out a lot about this mysterious species from the skeleton and tissues of the specimen, one of only four found over the past 100 years, but nothing like the information they could gather from a living specimen. A mammalian creature that almost perfectly mimicked the characteristics of fish, rather like the cows that went back into the sea to become whales. The mer-creatures were certainly more fish-like in appearance than dolphins and whales, at least in some areas, yet more human-like than even apes - a wonderful puzzle for many areas of science.

Mulder’s sandals flapped loudly against the white sands as he ran down the last dune, too frantic to care when he tripped and rolled the last few feet.

The couple who had phoned in their find were hovering near the creature, using a tee shirt to keep it wet, but nevertheless standing well clear of it. These things were rumoured to have drowned many humans during history, although Mulder felt that the humans had probably deserved it for whatever they had been doing to these wonderful animals.

He knew all the precautions to take, to avoid spines, to avoid claws and teeth, but the blood splattering across wet sand, plus the creature’s distressed breathing, sent all thoughts of his own safety out of his head. His headlong rush down the beach ended only when he was beside the creature, pulling its head onto his lap, pushing its sharp spines down out of the way so he could pet, soothe, and whisper to it softly.

"Hey, you," he spoke as if to any injured animal, "Shhh, everything will be fine. Just stay still and we’ll take good care of you..." one of the creature’s hands came towards him, and he captured the hard, bony fingers between his own before he could be clawed. He could feel warm blood pulsing beneath cold flesh.  The pulse was regular, but thready. "You’re going to live, aren’t you! You hang in there. Strong specimen like you, we’ll fix you up and you’ll be just fine..." he stroked the creature’s face and... well, it wasn’t hair. Almost hair, in appearance – a cross between hair and membranous fin – but it was closer to the chitinous material of a bird’s feathers, than either fish or mammal fibres. It carded through his fingers, wrapping around his hand like seaweed. The same with the eyebrows and long dark lashes, which he also caressed with gentle fingers, keeping the animal as calm as he possibly could while the helicopter was brought to his position.

"Yeah, you’re gonna live. When they see you, alive and swimming, they’ll stop laughing at me. They all laughed at me, specialising in mer-marine life.  They kept saying you were all finally extinct, no more homo-aquarius, but when they see you, you beautiful creature, they’ll eat their words. The new coelacanth. Even the zoo, with their flock of griffins and mated pair of unicorns can’t top a real live merman! We can stop showing Attenborough’s films now!" He tried to keep his excited ramblings to a soothing rumble. "We can get rid of the old blurry films of your species, now people can see the real thing!"

The animal was rattling deep in its throat.  Mulder ceased his rant, worried that it was a death rattle. But the creature kept making the noise, on and off, and Mulder wiped a thin mucus line away from its mouth, avoiding the sharp teeth, "You’re not choking, are you?" There was no injury near the throat or chest, and he kept massaging and rubbing, keeping the creature as quiet as possible.

"Hang on there, fella, you hear that noise? That’s a helicopter. I know it sounds horrible, but it’s going to take you somewhere we can help you."

The other team members poured out of the ‘copter and ran down to Mulder, stopping a few feet away at his hand signal. "Approach quietly," he gave them advice he himself had ignored, and they slowly circled the injured animal, wrapping a wet tarpaulin around it, keeping it damp and stopping any unwanted movements.

"How did you get here so fast?" the Director asked, flicking her red-dyed hair out of her eyes. "By the time we got the ‘copter loaded and ready..."

"I ran."

"All the way from the centre?"

"Yup, no way was I waiting for this one. He’s still alive. He’s badly injured, but he’s got a good chance."

"He’s a beautiful specimen, Mulder."

"Sure is. Looks like all the myths about these creatures could be true.  Every one I’ve ever seen, either in the flesh or on camera, has been good looking. Do you think it’s genetic, or do they just kill the ugly ones?"

"Mulder!"

"Sorry, Scully, I’m just over excited," he said, his voice as atonal as ever. "Do you know, this is the first time one of these creatures has ever been taken alive? I wonder where his mate is..."

"His mate? What makes you sure he has a mate?"

"They are always in pairs. They have a matriarchal society, the females choosing between mated pairs of males to father their offspring. A mature male... he looks to be in his late 20s – they mature at about the same rate as humans – he should have a mate somewhere around here. Another male about his own age most likely. Perhaps he was injured or killed in the same accident..."

"Mulder, I don’t need a lecture. He’s loaded on the ‘copter, go with him back to the centre. I’ll walk back and meet you there."

-oo0oo-

The surgery took the best part of the day. Trying to repair delicate tissues made more difficult by not knowing whether to treat their find as either mammal or fish, trying to sew up hideous wounds on something they had never operated upon before. Further complicated by the accountant leaning in to suggest they do their best to stop scars. A scarred star attraction would not be as popular or profitable.

Mulder would have popped the guy, if he hadn’t been so big. Or right. The Aquarium had carried Mulder for years, funding his empty promises that he’d bring in a homo-aquarius for their displays. This was not only his chance to study a merman, it was his obligation to try to recoup some of the centre’s outlay.

Of course, the merman probably wouldn’t want scars either. From what he’d been able to gather through his studies, it seemed appearance was their main way of attracting mates. If they wanted to release this one into the wild again sometime, they wanted him as whole and complete as possible. Of course, a release wouldn’t be until the accountants decided they’d made plenty of money out of it.

They loaded the merman into a small tank of shallow water. About 10 foot long, one foot deep and one and a half foot wide, it held the merman easily but restricted its movements. Mulder released some of the straps they’d used to hold it during the surgery, but left its hands in leather mittens that he clipped to one side of the tank, holding the animal on its side. The animal was too weak to fight, but sharp claws like that could disembowel a fully grown man, or tear at itchy, newly inserted stitches.

Mulder looked down into its pain-misted eyes. "Hey there, big fella, you’re going to be all right, aren’t you?" he returned to the nonsense jabbering. He had no way of knowing if it could even understand the concept of words, but dolphins responded positively to the sound of a human voice, and it couldn’t do any harm.

"You’re trembling... I guess you’ve gotta be in a lot of pain right now. And frightened. I wish there was some way I could tell you we don’t want to hurt you." Mulder’s fingers kept a soothing rhythm across its shoulders and neck, tracing the fine pale features. "I can’t give you any drugs for the pain.  We don’t know what affect they would have on you. Being hurt like that, dragged off the beach by... well, I guess we probably look like monsters to you. Having major surgery, and getting stuffed into a box. But it’s going to be okay from now on. I’m going to look after you. You’ll be just fine."

Mulder stayed there for hours, just talking, making sure no one came close who didn’t need to be there. The merman slipped in and out of consciousness, rousing slightly when someone new came near, so Mulder kept any interruptions to a minimum, put a tarpaulin over the tank to keep it dark, and waited until it finally slipped into a deeper sleep.

"Why don’t you take a break, Mulder," one of the other centre vets squatted down beside him, "You’ve been here for hours."

"No, that’s okay, Frohike. I’ll stay here a while longer."

"Somehow I knew you’d say that. I brought an inflatable mattress and a blanket. You can sleep right here. I’ll wake you up if there’s any change."

"Do you think he’ll be okay?"

"Sure, I mean, I’m not the expert here. Crustaceans, that’s my field. But I’ve seen animals come in with worse wounds and pull through."

"But he’s also... well, not human, but if he responds to this type of surgery, like a human would..."

"Humans go through worse and survive all the time. Field amputations, major surgery without anaesthetics, it’s part of our history. He’ll survive, I’d bet a good porno mag on it."

"Fishes and Fannies?"

"Well, maybe not that one..."

"Didn’t think so." Mulder sighed.  His heart was still racing, even after all these hours. "It’s just that we have no idea. What little bits of information we’ve been able to gather on these things aren’t enough to guide me. I don’t know what level of intelligence we are dealing with here. Is it as smart as a dolphin? Does it just have a fish’s intelligence?"

"Maybe it’s like a human? I mean, all those old legends..."

"Are precisely that. The tall tales of drunken sailors are not going to be a lot of use when dealing with this guy."

"Well, now you have the chance to learn. Someone had to be first."

"I can't afford to make a mistake though. It could be years before we even get another body, never mind one that’s still alive."

"How many do you think are out there? There can’t be that many, not if they are so rare."

"I think they hide from us."

"Why?  We're not going to hurt them."

"Those drunken sailors we were talking about - you know they believed if they managed to catch one of these, they had to rape it then kill it to stave off bad luck. The same thing would happen if they caught dolphins or dugongs. The dolphins forgave us; maybe these things don’t. Maybe they teach their young to avoid us. Whalers used to kill everything they came across. If the mer-people learn, and if they pass that knowledge on to their young..."

"That’s supposing an awful lot, Mulder. Even whales and dolphins change their culture and language every year.  They don’t pass things down."

"Chimpanzees do."

"Do you think the merpeople have a culture anything like chimpanzees?"

"No... No, I don’t think so. They seem closer to dolphins than anything else from what I’ve been able to find out. But they are still one of our great unknowns."

They sat in companionable silence through the rest of the evening, Mulder every now and then lifting the tarp to check if their find was still breathing. It gave him chills to watch the swirls of water breathing pushed in and out of the almost human mouth. Lips exactly like a humans, but teeth more like a sharks. Even and white, but sharp, and replaceable if lost. Nose even and straight, just like an air breathing human. Only the eyes seemed odd. No human being had eyes that beautiful. Enormous eyes that gave a false impression of taking up half the creature’s face, dark green, maybe blue, framed in thick black... lashes? For lack of a better word, lashes would do.

If it had been human it would have been... an actor, a model, some rich man’s pampered pet.  Someone's heart break and trouble. Someone that would be adored and cosseted. Mulder smiled slightly to himself. Well, fish-guy, looks like you’re going to be adored and cosseted now!

He ran his fingers over the delicate membranes of the dorsal fin, from the point it blended with the almost-hair, down to the torn edges at the base of the creature’s spine. Beautiful turquoises, blues, greens, all shimmering together like the feathers of the peacock. Darker blues of the tail blended with the pale, almost silver tail fins. Shimmering perfection was marred by ugly wounds, swollen, red tissues peered through the deep blue scales, travelled onto pink skin. Despite the best of care, tiny bits of flesh were loose in the water, and Mulder wondered if they should keep the healing wounds dry. So many things he didn’t know, couldn’t even guess at.

"Okay, Frohike, I’m going to take a break. I’ll be right here though. Any noise, any movement, if his eyes open, anything, wake me up, okay?"

"Okay. Try to rest." Frohike knew Mulder was still too excited to really sleep. Mulder was as excited as Langly had been the time he’d found the baby Kraken. Of course, that would have to be released once it got past 20 feet in length, but right now it was small enough to be quite a crowd pleaser.

The sounds of the pumps keeping the tank water pure blended with the sound of surf and snores, and Mulder snoozed.

-oo0oo-

"Has it eaten anything yet?" Scully leaned over Mulder’s shoulder to peer at their patient.

"No, nothing yet."

"It’s only been a few days, give it time. This has got to be pretty upsetting."

"I know. But it needs to regain some energy. I’ve tried pasting up a variety of fish. I’ve brought in strips of kelp – we have film of them eating kelp. I’ve even tried Alaskan Salmon, but he’s shown no interest in anything."

"Perhaps he’ll be more interested once he’s unstrapped. Maybe he just doesn’t like to eat lying on his side."

"So... you don’t think that having been torn out of his own environment, shredded by a motor boat, having major surgery, and being stuffed into a tank that won’t let him move could be part of it?"

"Don’t get sarcastic with me, Mulder, I sign your pay cheques."

"Sorry, sir," he grinned and winked at her, flirting his way out of trouble.

She pursed her lips in mock-annoyance. "Keep working on it. Whatever you need, the centre’s resources are at your disposal." She turned away, dismissing Mulder. The animal was making her nervous, he could tell. So close to human, yet so... different. It was bound to have that kind of effect on a lot of people.

Mulder took another fingerfull of the fish pulp he’d made up and smeared it over the animal’s lips. There was not the slightest bit of interest. Swirls of water took away the food, cleaning the environment, and the animal didn’t even flicker an eyelid in acknowledgement.

"Come on, what else? You don’t like seaweed, you don’t like fish? What else are you going to eat down there? You don’t have plankton eater’s teeth. Those are predator’s teeth. Eyes in the front, that’s a predator’s trait. So what else are you eating? What will tempt you, hmm? How about a shrimp?" Mulder stood up, cracking his spine. "I’m going downstairs to see what else we have in store. I’ll be back in a few minutes." He was sure he could imprint on the animal if he kept talking to it, especially if he started to feed it. The eyes followed him now, slowly and with disinterest, but it was a start.

Mulder skipped the feed store area.  Nothing in there raised the slightest flicker of interest. Okay, fish-guy, you’re apparently half human, let’s try that angle. Mulder let himself into the restaurant that brought in more revenue for the aquarium, and started to raid their seafood tanks.

He grabbed a few shrimp, oysters, a lobster, a couple of crabs. Dropping the live produce into a large saucepan, and picking up a meat cleaver. He had to be out of there before the chef caught him – he had yet to be forgiven for making up fish paste in the chef’s expensive juicer.

Sitting beside the tank, he chatted to the merman again, "Twelve dollars a pound. You had better like this!" Mulder sliced up the lobster tail, making thin strips of the clear gelatinous insides. "Come on, just try a little bit..." he held the strip against the merman’s lips, making it wiggle like a small fish. The lips were parted, but again no interest was shown.

"Oh, come on. You’ve got to be hungry. Warm blooded mammal your size, you’d have to eat a huge amount to maintain body temperature in cold water. Just a little bit, go on. Just taste it. Come on, lobsters mate for life you know, we’ve left a widow lobster in that tank just so you can have the best."

Mulder felt something warm flick against his finger tips... was it a tongue? He pushed it in a little further, knowing he was risking a finger, but willing to hazard it as he felt the movement of tongue exploring the titbit. "Go on, that’s right. Just a little bite." The sharp pressure of teeth was fleeting, and Mulder withdrew his fingers as the jaws worked briefly, the tiny offering accepted and swallowed.

"Good boy," Mulder petted him, trying to keep his voice to a soothing level, "Here, you want a bit more? Mmmm, that’s right. Nummy nummy! Of course, nothing but the best for you! You want lobster tail? You get it!" He pushed another tiny morsel into the creature’s mouth, feeling the sharp teeth nibbling his own fingers, very gently, before the lobster flesh was sucked away.

Mulder eagerly sliced up more hapless crustacean, "So, you’ve made the decision to live then, hmm? I guess, if you’re going to stay with us, we’ll have to find a name for you, won’t we?" He pushed a little more food between its lips. The response was lacklustre, but it was there. There were no infections, the wounds were slowly healing, and now the animal was eating. Wonderful. Perfect. He kept talking to his patient. "The first man who ever proved you existed, who brought back proof positive of homo-aquarius, his name was Krycek. I know it’s not an attractive name, but it would be appropriate. What do you think? A fitting tribute? Better than Wang Wang or Bobo or Ethel. Be glad you’re not a panda! So, Krycek, want another little morsel? That’s a very good boy!"

It took nearly four hours, including a forty five minute fish-nap, but eventually Mulder helped Krycek polish off a lobster, four large restaurant special shrimp, and most of a swimmer crab. Mulder finished off the meal with a back and stomach rub to make sure the food settled, then used a soft rubber-noduled brush to remove a filmy build up from Krycek’s scales. He guessed that the sea and sand removed that naturally, and took a few samples for testing later. He completed the ritual by massaging Krycek’s arms and shoulders, making sure they were not cramping too badly in the restraints. Finally he pulled the covers back over the tank, feeling as satisfied as if he’d eaten the meal himself.

-oo0oo-

"How is it today?"

"Good.  We’re going to move him into the pump tank today."

"Pump tank? But we’ve spent nearly a million dollars preparing a display tank for it."

"He needs to exercise, and I need to know he’ll be able to swim properly before I drop him into a large tank. Look, Skinhead, you can wait until I know he’s going to be all right before you start exploiting him, okay?"

Skinner scowled at Mulder.    He hated the nick name Skinhead as much as he hated his budget not balancing. "When will it be ready?"

"No fish before its time." Mulder turned to the rest of the team.  "Come on, get him on the stretcher."

The pump tank, normally used to exercise injured sharks, kept up a steady stream of water, against which the tank’s occupants would have to swim. Its smooth sides presented no opportunity for injury, and the water pressure and temperature could be easily controlled for any type of animal.

Mulder very cautiously freed Krycek’s hands from the restraints, and the group of humans lifted the merman into the tank. Mulder kept hold of its hands as they took the stretcher away, and braced himself against the water as it started up. It was slow at first, until Krycek was used to it. The water pummelled him gently.  He held the merman’s fingers lightly in his own, feeling as proud as a parent when, cautiously at first, the merman started to swim a little – an odd side-to-side motion that didn’t fit with the horizontal shape of the tail fins.

"Hey, aren’t you worried about those claws?"

"Not really, Frohike. He’s still too weak to make much of an attack, and I can get out of this tank before he could do a lot of damage. And besides, he’s got to be intelligent enough to know I’m his meal ticket."

"I hope you’re right.  No way I’d get in there with those teeth. How long are you going to have to do this anyway?"

"Until he’s strong enough to go into a big tank. That swimming motion isn’t right, not for his body shape, so he’s probably still uncomfortable. There was a lot of deep muscle damage, and I don’t think he’s confident yet. Give him time."

"Don’t get too fond of it, Mulder. There are so many things that could go wrong, so many diseases, unknown parasites, the wrong water temperature, the wrong food... We don’t know enough about these things. Don’t set yourself up for a fall here."

"He’s a strong healthy male, he’s getting the best care we can provide. We have ichthyologists, marine veterinarians, and marine microbiologists on hand. We have a whole team of specialists - the best in the world to call on. I’m betting on his pulling through this. The only thing I’m really worried about is our ignorance of his behaviour. Is he going to pine for his own kind?  How long can we keep him here before he wants to leave, can we provide the right kind of care appropriate to his intelligence level?"

"How smart do you think it is?"

"No idea. Not yet. No language recognition, less than the dolphins show. He hasn’t attacked us, so maybe he knows we are helping him, but then a dumb fish probably wouldn’t attack either. It’s too soon to say."

"It’s stopped moving."

"Probably tired. Turn off the pumps. I’m going to get some stuff to put in the tank."

"I already filled it with salt and a broad spectrum anti-bacterial agent."

"I mean rocks, shells, colourful things."

"To gauge its reaction to them? You think you can guess its intelligence that way?"

"No. Just because anything’s going to be better than looking at the tank walls all the time. I might drop a couple of small live fish in there. Nothing that will worry at his wounds, nothing valuable. Just to see if he interacts with them, or if he tries to eat them. That will give him something to think about."

Mulder stared down into the tank, mentally measuring the small movements the merman made to maintain his position. He could feel a tiny, not quite suppressed, bubble of affection for his new pet burst at the back of his rib cage, even though it was ignoring him totally in favour of the tank floor. "Keep your eye on him, I’ll be back in a few minutes."

"Mulder?"

"Yeah?"

"When was the last time you were home?"

Mulder just grinned, he knew they were going to tease him even more from now on, they knew his obsessions.

"I really think you should go home, get some stuff. I won’t waste my breath telling you to sleep there, but if you are going to move in here with the fish you should at least be comfortable. You could dump your stuff in the office, Scully won’t mind."

Mulder pondered the offer, "Do you think I’m weird, wanting to sleep here?"

"Yup."

"Well, as long as I’m being consistent."

-oo0oo-

Like bower-birds, the merpeople had decorated their spawning area with shiny objects. The marine biologists who had been trying to find them had only found their spore on that occasion, but they had brought back the objects the merpeople left behind. Mulder had been on that expedition and had kept some of the objects. Now he collected bits of polished coral, colourful stones, and even sea-damaged man-made objects. Although there was no evidence of tool making, the objects had been formed into crude tear-drop shapes, and made up a rainbow of patterns. These would definitely be more interesting for the merman than plain blue tank walls.

Mulder yawned and rubbed his eyes.  Perhaps one night of sleeping in a real bed wouldn’t be so bad... it would prove Frohike wrong at least. He fed his gold fish; they had been starving while he was away. Mulder made a mental note to come by and feed them more often.  He could spare the 10 minute drive here and back a few times a week.

He started filling up an old gym bag with any and all paraphernalia he could find on the merpeople. Old text books; both scientific and those that were little more than faerie stories. Anything that could provide an insight into the new acquisition. He knew a lot about the internal physiology of these animals, although never before had he seen them alive, seen a working system. He even had an old skeleton hanging in the living room, the remains of a mermaid, or merman – he couldn’t tell which – killed by a shark. Almost identical to a human from the waist up, and so very similar from the waist down. Femur, tibia, fibia, all the major leg bones, right down to the metatarsals were still present, although more like cartilage than bone, and fitting close together, creating a support structure for the long, heavy tail. The cartilage would be soft and flexible and moved almost like the spines of a shark.

Mulder ran his hands over the cold bones as he often had before, imagining warm flesh and scales covering the elegant structure. He’d spent countless hours staring at those bones, transposing what he knew and what he’d seen on taped recordings over the dead structure, imaging the way the animal had moved when alive, pictured it vibrant with life and colour.

He grabbed his old video tapes and started to stuff those into the bag as well. Fuzzy old tapes taken by would-be bounty hunters and lucky fishermen. Fleeting shots of the animals on sand bars or beaches, the occasional underwater shot. His treasure was one narrated by David Attenborough. The wild life photographers had not been able to track the animals – they tolerated no human presence, unlike dolphins. But they had been able to leave hidden cameras near suspected migration paths. It had cost a fortune, but the film was a wonderful treasure for people like Mulder, who dedicated their life and education to solving these types of mysteries.

Mulder dropped his bag and slipped the tape into the VCR. David Attenborough’s whispering voice shared intimate secrets with him as he dropped onto the couch to visit with old friends, two pods of merpeople travelling and meeting over the course of a northern migration.

The researchers have nick-named this magnificent specimen Gentle Ben, due to his quiet nature with the younger members of the pod and non-aggressive behaviour. He has mated with two of the female leaders of the pod, but does not at this time have his own mate. Not for want of attempts from the unattached males in the group.

Mulder unbuttoned his fly, let the zipper slide down as the merman called Ben ignored the displays of other unattached males. He liked to think he masturbated ‘while’ this video was on, not ‘because’ this video was on. Ben was the only red merperson ever videoed, and he was, as Attenborough said, magnificent. Translucent skin over a sturdy, muscular frame. Huge red dorsals, strong, shimmering scales on his tail. It was little surprise he was being courted by all of the younger males in the group.

Ben appears to show a preference for being alone most of the time, travelling outside of the pod, apparently acting as a lookout for danger. The only member of the pod whose company he actively seeks out is the one we have called Ray – because of his habit of hiding on the sea bottom to catch smaller prey – in the same manner as a sting ray. Ray is not as popular within the pod as Ben, due to his aggressiveness, and probably also due to his dull brown colouring, but as a pair of loners they enjoy each other’s company. We assume that Ray is an unattached male due to the death of a partner, as he is of the age to have been paired for many years.  He shows the scars of many battles - he could be what the researchers have called a shark-widower. Why Ben has remained single we can only guess. As he has not appeared as part of this pod at any other time, he may have been from a more isolated group...

Mulder took himself in hand, touching his finger tips gently over his own dry shaft, as the voice told him how Ben was collecting objects to decorate his bower. He watched in rapt fascination, even though he’d seen this tape many times, as Ben politely rebuffed the attentions of potential suitors.

As a male who had done his reproductive duty with the females, and who was obviously searching for a mate, he was driving the rest of the pod wild with desire. Mulder started to spread his own precum over the shaft, in lieu of astroglide, enjoying the buildup of sexual tension, imagining himself as one of the suitors, admiring the big red merman, although mentally exchanging red fins for beautiful aquamarine.

As Mulder’s fingers increased their pressure, Ben started to display, his fins unfolding in a splendour of scarlet, vermilion, and crimson.

You can see the magnificent display in progress, as Ben twists and turns, displaying his fins and fitness. You can see the display is being watched by a number of single males, but they will not approach. Much to our surprise, and apparently to that of the rest of the pod, Ben is directing his display at Ray, the one we considered to be rather plain. You can see Ray’s behaviour is rather tentative, nothing more than a slight swaying...

Mulder increased the speed of his touch, his fingers rubbing his own testicles.

Ray’s behaviour is rather like the female bird of paradise, swaying while mesmerised by a male’s performance. If he accepts Ben’s overtures, he will start his own display…

Mulder held back a gasp as the thin brown Ray spread out his own dorsals, displaying the most wondrous spread of chocolate browns, shimmering greens, and a fabulous threading of gold throughout. He’d seen that many times, but it always had the power to take his breath away.

As the mermen synchronised their display, closer and closer, twining their bodies and long sinuous tails around each other, Mulder increased the speed of his rubbing, feeling the bubbles of precum burn their way through his cock. He imagined himself under the water, feeling the ebb and swell as his fins created a small whirlpool around their entwined bodies, staring into the expressionless face of his mate, his flesh pressed against cool flesh, his aching cock taken into a warm receptacle, scales pressed against his own tail, his fins entwined with Krycek’s...

"Shit", Mulder wiped the cream up with a tissue as the mermen on the screen separated with a last contented wriggle. "What the hell are you doing, Mulder?" he chastised himself. He was thinking those kind of thoughts about... an animal. No matter that Krycek looked almost human, Mulder could not allow himself to start thinking like that. That way be madness! Too many late nights watching porn videos and reading books on merpeople, or watching videos on merpeople while reading porno mags.  It was all getting confused in his head. He grasped at straws to explain his behaviour.

But what did it matter really? Who would know? Since his little sister had been returned to him by a pair of strangely clawed hands when she’d fallen off that boat... she would have drowned if not for the creature that stared back at the boy Mulder through strange eyes and flipped a huge tail as it swam away... he’d been obsessed with the merpeople. No one need know he had these thoughts of bestiality, and it would ensure he looked after Krycek well. Probably for the best all round.

Mulder collected all the things he thought he’d need. He could move into the office that directly adjoined the new display tank. A window into the tank would let him watch Krycek while he wrote up his Nobel prize winning treatise, and he could sleep under the desk if need be.

-oo0oo-

"I’m not taking all the samples listed here, he’ll bleed to death."

"You’re exaggerating, Mulder," Scully sighed impatiently. "We have had requests for DNA samples from all the major institutions in America, and many from overseas as well."

"I’ll take spit samples then, there’s enough DNA in spit, and that will have to be enough. I’ve taken blood and tissue samples already.  He doesn’t need to be cut any more."

"Can’t you take bits from the fins?"

"How would you feel if I kept cutting bits off your fingers and toes? He has feeling in his fins, you know."

"And he told you this, did he?"

"I can tell, Scully. He does not like being cut up with scalpels: perfectly understandable. Anyway, I’ve got skin, scales, spit, blood, tissue, stool and urine, hair membrane, and a variety of mucus. He’s had enough."

"Semen."

"Oh, we don’t need that do we?"

"If we ever have the chance to get a mated pair, it would be nice to know its fertile."

"They mate male-to-male anyway, and how many hundreds of years have humans been searching for just one live specimen? I don’t think we need to do that."

"It allows us another way of testing its health, but why am I telling you this? You know how many diseases can be detected that way, unknown animal or not. Why are you so bothered? You’ve had to do this with dolphins?"

Mulder gave her a rueful look, "Yeah well, he looks like a guy... I don’t wanna do this to something that looks like a guy," he hedged unconvincingly.

"Nooo," she tapped a pen against her teeth thoughtfully, "that can’t be the problem..."

Mulder squished his face at her teasing, "Okay, clear the room, this requires some privacy..."

"It’s a fish, Mulder. A fish doesn’t care!"

"I care. I’m not fiddling a fish in public."

"You diddle dolphins!" Scully wasn’t going to be out done on that one. "You interfere with ichthyoids! You..."

"That’s enough, Scully," he laughed, holding his hands out in surrender. "But honestly, I’d rather do it in private. God forbid anyone should see this, I’ll never hear the end of it."

Scully sniggered, "Can I set up a vid cam?"

"No! If anyone’s going to film this, it’ll be me!"

He shooed her out the door, locked it behind her, and made sure all the security cameras were off.

"Okay, it’s just you and me big guy, should I dim the lights?" He rolled Krycek over onto his back, the tank water shallow enough that his face and belly were out of the water. Knowing the merman hated being on his back, he waited, one hand in the small of Krycek’s back until the merman relaxed in the new position, "Well, is the water warm enough? Can I offer you a drink? Are you going to claw me to death as soon as I start this?"

It was never a problem to get sperm samples from dolphins, in fact, as soon as a dolphin learned what was on the cards, they generally tried to initiate the sampling process as often as possible. Dolphins are such sluts.

"Okay, you’re an animal, you’re not hung up on things like this are you? You’re not going to bite me, are you, you’re a good boy, aren’t you?" Mulder kept up the chat, rubbing Krycek’s hip, not just diving in and surprising the merman. "Just let me put on a glove here, make sure my hands aren’t too cold. You don’t mind if I touch you here, do you?" Mulder rubbed his fingers gently over outer lips of the genital area. An almost identical structure to a speckled dolphin, he rubbed the soft fleshy outer lips of the genital pouch. Superficially like a male dolphin, or human girl-child, just before puberty... he could feel Krycek stop fighting the discomfort of being on his back, distracted by Mulder’s explorations. Again Krycek made that curious rattling noise, not from distress, but from curiosity.

Mulder’s fingers gently explored the soft skin, but didn’t force inside. He waited until Krycek was relaxed enough with the touching before he started to slip his fingers inside the pouch, very gently easing in and out, making sure there was no pulling or tearing. "Just like making love to a woman, hey, Krycek? Or do you guys do it that way? Are you just wham bam for a full ten seconds like the blue whale, or do you screw around for fun like dolphins?"

Krycek was staring at him with a look of even less comprehension than usual: mouth open, eyes huge, but he’d started to wiggle slightly under Mulder’s attentions.

Mulder’s fingers slid in deeper, until he could feel the shape of the almost human penis and the bulge of hidden testicles. The whole genital apparatus was so close to being human, but hidden away for safety, and to provide a more streamlined effect in the water.

Krycek was becoming slowly tumescent, and certainly more interested in whatever Mulder was doing. Strong muscles in his abdomen flexed as he tried to raise his head to see what was happening. Mulder started manipulate the penis as it extended beyond the pouch opening, talking again to keep Krycek relaxed. "I can’t exactly ask you what you’d like, like I would a human guy, can I? So, we’ll just assume that you’d like a hand job? Most guys like that... lemme see... If I hold you like this, and rub my thumb here, just at the base of the crown... you have no foreskin whatsoever... I guess that would be redundant for mermen... oh yeah, that’s nice isn’t it?"

Mulder’s fingers started a firmer rhythm on the smooth skin, his thumb tracing a line from the base to the tip, then circling over the head. He wished he’d had the foresight to put on another glove, to use the other hand to stimulate the hidden testicles, but the merman’s hips and tail were pushing him up, stronger now and healing well, thrusting into Mulder’s hand. Mulder rubbed Krycek’s chest and arms, pushing him down a little when the merman started to splash about too much in the water, his hand pulling a strong and steady reaction from the heated organ until a shot of white semen burst forth. He caught it in the sample cup, along with the few that followed, before expertly capping the cup and putting it aside.

"Good boy!" he held Krycek’s penis while the merman relaxed, and kept up rubbing the merman’s stomach, "Good boy." As the contractions faded, he turned the merman over onto his front again and rubbed his back until the animal was totally calm and quiet.

Mulder popped the semen sample into a storage unit, where it would be split into several smaller samples for various institutions and a few millilitres would be put aside for chryo-store. He would call in the other scientists and enjoy their knowing titters later.

He looked down into the tank, where the merman was looking sideways at him, calm but apparently slightly puzzled. It was the most expression he’d ever seen on the placid face.

"So, now you want a cigarette? A snack?" Mulder dangled a bit of lobster flesh in front of the merman’s face until it was taken, pausing while the merman sucked his fingers, licking for any lingering taste of food, one bony hand clasped around Mulder’s wrist.

-oo0oo-

The whole team had been working 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the past month, and now the main tank was ready, with a huge rocky display in the middle, full of interesting caverns and crevices for a large-brained animal to explore, lots of plants, smaller fishes and crustaceans. The tank was designed to be attractive both to occupant and viewer, and to be modified later when Krycek was ready to return to the ocean.

Mulder had his hopes set that, like the dolphins, the merman would be content to have the option to leave for the wide open wet spaces, but stay where the eating was good. A portal would allow Krycek to come and go – responding to the signal from the subcutaneous implant already under the skin at the back of Krycek’s neck – but would keep out any undesirables.

Of course, the budget makers and promoters of the aquarium didn’t like that provision, but it was the only way to keep the animal activists off their back. Mulder didn’t like it either, but he also knew he didn’t want to keep the creature prisoner – or so he told himself.

He tossed the bits of coloured rock and other things that Krycek had played with in the therapy tank into the larger display area, watching the crane slowly lower the smaller tank out over the water. It was lowered in slowly, letting the water temperatures match so that Krycek would suffer no trauma. The waters would eventually mingle, and Krycek would be allowed to leave the smaller tank at his own speed.

Mulder pulled on swim fins and a re-breather, the small mask fitting over his nose and mouth, fastening by suction to his face. The latest whiz-bang technology, it would convert the oxygen content in the water into something he could breath, yet weighed no more than a few ounces, less than a clear face mask and without all the pipes and tanks of the traditional scuba diving equipment.

As soon as the waters mingled he dropped himself from the examination platform set up by the side of the pool into the waters below the partially airborne therapy tank. The occasional thump came from inside, as Krycek’s nearly healed tail hit the side.

As the therapy tank sank below the level of the water, Krycek’s face appeared above, peering out into the new area. He was in no obvious hurry to get out and explore his new environment, but apparently curious enough to start looking around. Mulder decided to try to encourage the merman to come out into the larger display tank.

"Hey, Krycek," he made a few kissy noises. Well, it worked with dogs. "Hey, you, come on there, big guy." He could hear the excited noises of the crowd who had paid to see the merman’s first arrival in the display area. They’d each paid a small fortune to be the first members of the public to see a living example, but Mulder wished it could have been left for a few days, to lessen any potential trauma. These people didn’t realise this was an animal more special than their common-or-garden dolphins, selkies, and walruses. They’d been told to be quiet, but he could understand their excitement.

"Come on, come out and explore." Mulder kept up a variety of interesting tones and noises, swimming around to demonstrate how safe and comfortable the new tank was. "Come on, coooome on..."

Krycek suddenly twisted his tail, launching himself over the side and into the main tank, swimming up to Mulder. "Good boy!"

There was a loud and long chorus of oohs and aahs from the audience as all 9 foot of glorious merman slid into their view. Mulder couldn’t help beaming like a new parent at their admiration and amazement. He ducked underwater, still talking through the mask, "Come on, there’s a good boy, come explore!" He started down towards the tank bottom, making sure he didn’t come between Krycek and the audience, letting them have a good view of his beautiful merman.

"Look, a cave, and lots of shiny things." He handed Krycek a few bits and pieces from the rocks, letting them be inspected and returned. "We’ve put some live fish in here, you can eat them if you want. But if you don’t, I’ll bring you more lobster…" Mulder looked around, just in case Skinner was listening, "…and all sorts of expensive treats."

Krycek swam along beside him, and Mulder was thrilled at the closeness, the trust he was being shown. Everything he touched and showed to the merman was studiously inspected and sometimes tasted. Krycek checked out the overhang above the observation windows that mimicked a small beach. Mulder had asked for that special feature to be included, it would be more comfortable if Krycek wanted to be on dry land for whatever reason, and would allow him to haul himself out of the water easily.

Mulder could feel himself grinning under the mask.  He must look like a complete idiot to the audience, but he couldn’t get over the amazement of actually swimming with a real live merman. He could feel the warmth from its body when it swam close, and was amazed by its grace and control as it swam over and around Mulder.

Everywhere in the tank, apart from the small cave, would allow the public to see Krycek. The small cave was fitted with motion detectors and a camera that would let the staff and Mulder know when Krycek was in there. There were as many interesting things in the tank as Mulder could think to include, things to keep an animal with such a large brain capacity interested.

fishbmr1.jpg (47481 bytes)

Mulder was starting to build a theory that the mermen were not of the same limited capacity of intelligence as most animals, that they in fact had as much basic intelligence, or capacity for reason and abstract thought, as human beings. But that their total lack of education and apparent lack of language capacities kept them ignorant of everything except basic survival and instinctive knowledge.

He didn’t voice that opinion, however. He knew he was skirting the bounds of pure science, and that a tendency to anthropomorphise Krycek could be incredibly dangerous.

Someone was tapping on the glass, despite the large, obvious signs warning against it. Morons everywhere, thought Mulder, but it didn’t appear to bother Krycek. In fact, the animal had swum over to the windows, staring back at the people with as much interest as they displayed in him. The people had frozen in wonder as he’d approached him, and he slowly turned upside down, viewing them as if they had been provided for his amusement, not the other way around. The young woman started to tap again, tentatively trying to get his attention. She jumped back a mile as he tapped back, his claw copying out her exact rhythm.

How very interesting, thought Mulder. He also swam to the glass, and tapped out a distinctive beat: bum dabum bum. Krycek copied it exactly, before turning away, investigating the sandy floor of the enclosure.

Well, thought Mulder, it appears we may finally have a potential key to communication...

Mulder watched in fascination as Krycek used his strong hands and sharp fingers to remove a part of the display, dislodging a large flat rock that had been cemented to the side. Mulder didn’t mind the damage.  If Krycek wanted to pull things apart, that was fine with Mulder. But he was somewhat dismayed as Krycek then used the rock to pound a sea anemone into pulp.

Okay, you don’t like sea anemones, fair enough, they do sting. And it’s your new house... if you want to redecorate, you redecorate!

He left Krycek trying to bury the anemone remains in the sandy floor, and swam back up to the examination platform, hauling himself up to sit, feet in the water, and enjoy his pet’s new outing.

As soon as he was settled, he jumped at the feeling of a cold, hard hand encircle his ankle. The announcer’s voice chatted on in the background, spouting nonsense for the visitors, as Mulder stared down into huge green eyes. There was a firm tug on his leg and he wondered if he was going to be pulled back into the water, but the merman seemed content to hold his ankle and stare up expressionlessly.

Mulder picked up the microphone beside him, preparatory to the first inane question the audience would direct to him via the announcer. It was hard to focus on the questions with those inhuman eyes focused on him so intently. He took a deep breath and looked away.  It was time to make the punters happy.

"No, he’s not just some guy with a tail.  The merpeople are different from human beings in many ways. Their entire lung structure is different. Although Krycek has lungs that can breath air, indefinitely from what we have seen, he has an extra organ in his chest, almost the size of a lung, that converts water into oxygen before it reaches the lungs. A complex system of alveoli prevents sea water from ever actually entering the lungs. The salt is filtered and passed out through the scales and membranes."

"No, as far as we know, he cannot ‘sing like a siren’, at least, he hasn’t shown that ability since he was brought in. He hasn’t got vocal chords like humans, although he could make sounds, they wouldn’t be more than whispers."

"We don’t know exactly what he’ll eat yet. He likes crustaceans and kelp, but won’t eat fish.

"No, sir, he doesn’t eat ice-cream. Ice-cream and sweets are not part of the diet of sea going creatures."

"I don’t know why he’s hanging on my leg, madam, I think that feet and legs are very strange to him, we probably all look like we have two tails."

"Ah, yes, I am now aware that he has stolen my swim fin."

"No, he isn’t dangerous... or at least he hasn’t tried to harm any of the attendants at the aquarium. We are not letting the public too close though. We don’t know enough about these creatures yet."

"I’d say he’d be the comparable age of a human male... late 20s early 30s, from what we know they age at the same rate as humans."

Mulder fixed his plastic smile a little firmer at the jokes and idiot questions from the audience, telling himself they were just excited, and knowing what that was like.

He felt a solid bump against his leg and the soft ridges of fins and tail as Krycek swam past, gnawing on the stolen swim fin. Mulder watched trails of shimmering blue slide and dip through the water, ignoring the next question until it was asked again.

"Sorry? Oh... yes, one day we’d like to get another, but we do fully intend to return Krycek to the ocean."

"Yes, there are leg bones similar to a human’s in his tail, but they are not functional."

"Yes they do... mate male-to-male, but no, that’s not ‘weird’. It’s probably part of a natural evolutionary population control. Much like baboons or dolphins or ducks, it’s quite natural. It keeps the males at the prime of their sexual prowess and gives females a choice of potential fathers for their offspring."

"Yes, they do come in a range of colours."

"No, you cannot have one."

-oo0oo-

The air was warm, his skin slightly damp with easy sweat, the moonlight reflected on water black like oil. Mulder stripped down to his shorts and slid his body into the water. He could see nothing below the surface, and facing away from the observation windows, he could have been sliding into the wide oceans, the moonlight kissing the details away. The tank was as wide as they could make it and still keep it clean. He rolled onto his back and imagined the walls away.

The merman had slid into the small cave they’d provided as darkness fell, and Mulder had watched the videos until the water turned to ink and the picture to infra-red, fascinated as the long tail curled around the almost human torso and Krycek slept. He’d had one question answered then, as the cave roof prevented the merman floating to the surface. He had typed out his observation that the merman’s lungs operated like a fish’s swim bladder, and he had to work at sinking down and against floating naturally towards the surface.

Now he barely moved, not wanting to disturb Krycek’s sleep on his first night. But he found he couldn’t stay away, and just being in the same water let him connect, feel connected.

He felt the solid bump, lifting him a good foot out of the water before sinking down again, and couldn’t resist smiling. He flipped over, and grabbed the last of the tail as it slid past, holding his breath as he was dragged under water and towed along.

Krycek flipped him off, turned and surfaced directly in front of Mulder, face two or three inches away. Mulder smoothly trod water, feeling awkward as Krycek barely twitched to maintain his position. Mulder stared into eyes dark green like ancient oceans, expressionless, reflecting nothing but moonlight and Mulder’s own deathless curiosity.

Click, rattle. Krycek’s mouth moved, Mulder could see the vibrations in his throat, but couldn’t be sure if it was language, or just noise. Perhaps there were accompanying Sonics? He made a mental note to bring in sound measuring equipment sometime.

"Are you trying to talk to me?" he whispered.

Krycek’s head on one side, judging Mulder, finding him lacking, backing off a few inches.

"Hey... don’t go..."

...And then the merman started to sing. The sound of wind through trees... but no leaves or branches to interfere with the cold clear sound. One long continuous note, it chilled Mulder in the warm water until he felt his bones turn to ice, his flesh turn to eschar.

Held in thrall, Mulder stopped moving, but though frozen in place he couldn’t sink, even the water seemed to gel around him – holding him prisoner.

There was no release from the sound that pierced through to his very soul. He could feel it pulling his heart from his chest, no longer beating but growing until it felt like it would explode through his rib cage. His head throbbed, not with pain, but with the need to follow the sound, to become a part of it, while a small part of his mind realised he’d stopped breathing as the sound had started. He was getting light headed from lack of oxygen.

Then the singing stopped, not quickly, but fading away to a sad and gentle sigh.

Krycek turned away and slipped under the surface, disappearing with nary a ripple, and Mulder realised he’d been tested somehow. Tested and found wanting. He had no idea how or why, and he shivered, aching right down to his bone marrow as he swam what seemed miles to the edge to haul himself out of the pool.

-oo0oo-

There were questions the next day. The skeleton staff who worked at the aquarium at night, and people who lived nearby – or not even so nearby - had heard the noise. There’d been a crowd gathered within minutes, and the security guards had been unable to disperse them for hours.

Mulder told no one where the noise had come from, but the speculation had already started.

Siren.

They who lured sailors to their deaths, destroying many lives, using their song as bait.

He’d have to tell Scully; he’d have to write it up in his daily reports, but right now he didn’t want this becoming public knowledge. People were afraid of the unknown, the different, and he’d do or say nothing that would put Krycek in jeopardy or force his early release.

He sat by the edge of the pool, feet dangling into the water, and watched warily as the merman streaked up from the depths, grabbed the edge of the platform and plopped himself down beside Mulder, emulating the human’s position. Sitting up like that Mulder felt he should hand the guy a beer like a couple of pals out for a day’s fishing.

"What was all that about, Krycek?" he asked, not expecting an answer. He could feel the aching still, although now it had settled down to a sad yearning.  Every cell in his body still leaned towards the noise, despite the hours since he’d heard it. "I guess you’re going to keep on surprising us, aren’t you."

Mulder reached out and ran his hands over Krycek’s face, across the almost-hair that blended with dorsal fins. "Lie down, it’s time for physio." He manoeuvred the merman onto the platform properly, and then started to gently rub down the site of the wounds. The scarring was barely more than a disturbance of scales now, and Mulder manipulated muscle, bone, and cartilage until any stiffness was gone. While he worked, Krycek curled the great tail up and started to groom himself. Mulder watched in fascination as Krycek’s long fingers manipulated scales and fins, sorting out any itchy spots, parasites, getting his fins just how he wanted them.

"What’s he doing?" Scully’s voice interrupted Mulder’s fascination.

"Squeezing the barnacles on his butt," Mulder joked.

Krycek turned to look at Scully, still sitting on his folded tail.  The end of the tail slapped the ground hard.

"Was that irritation, like a cat’s tail twitching, or more like a dog wagging?"

"I really don’t know, Scully. I wish he’d show more in the way of facial expression."

"He’s not human..."

"I know, but cats have plenty of facial expression, as do dogs. But then, I guess fish and cetaceans don’t. It’s probably not a requirement of underwater communication."

Krycek’s tail hit the floor with another thump, then he turned to Mulder and started sorting through Mulder’s hair.

"Ah... looks like I’m being groomed now."

Scully couldn’t help laughing as Mulder was pulled this way and that, his hair combed back, then his nose, ears, and mouth were inspected and prodded with long fingers.

"Turn about’s fair play, I guess I was doing this to him earlier..." Mulder mumbled around a mouthful of fish fingers. "I fink he’th tryig to check my teef..."

"I dare say they look strange to him." Scully leaned her elbows on the platform, still standing on the main walkway. She had more sense than to get close to the merman. "We open in ten minutes, you wanna get him into the water?"

"He wants to sit in the sun for a moment.  Do you want me to just shove him in?"

"The people like to see him swimming. At $20 per adult we want to give them what they want."

"He’s worth a lot more than just the takings at the gate you know."

"I know," she smiled indulgently. "Later today cetacean language experts from Seaworld are going to come around. They want to see if he can be taught simple signs and signals."

"I think it would be more to the point if we learned his language, his methods of communication, rather than imposing our own structure on him."

"Like that sound last night?"

"You heard that, huh."

"I think everybody in a five mile radius heard that. What caused it?"

"I don’t really know. One moment he’s swimming, the next... it’s that... wailing. Do you think that’s what the sailors describe as the siren song?"

"It’s possible, Mulder. The sirens supposedly killed people. Will he?"

"He displayed no signs of violence, he was just... calling. Perhaps to me or perhaps he’s lonesome for his own kind. He wasn’t threatening. And all the sirens did, if I remember, was to lure sailors to their deaths, not actually kill anyone themselves."

"Big difference, Mulder."

"Enough of a difference. What time are they going to be here?" he changed the subject abruptly.

Scully checked her watch. "About an hour."

"Won’t that interfere with your floor show?"

"It should give the audience something new to look at. They’ve asked that he not be fed until they get here, in case they want to use food as reinforcement."

Mulder nodded his agreement and hauled himself up. As he dropped from the platform onto the walkway, Krycek flopped back into the water, watching Mulder’s progress through the observation windows. As Mulder went past, Krycek’s fins came fully erect, the first time Mulder had seen that happen. Mulder paused by the window, watching as Krycek passed him, turned and swam back, again showing all dorsals. It was mesmerising, enchanting. A fantastical display of unearthly beauty. Just for a few seconds he blended with the surrounding water, a ripple of distortion, slivers of shining mirror. The fins caught every other colour in the tank, refracting rainbows from the other fish, corals, and even the colours from the clothing of the people watching. Mulder oooed with all the rest, his face like a five year old boy lighting up the first time he saw Father Christmas.

The first of the day’s visitors pressed a sticky nose up against the glass, and Krycek was distracted into staring back at them, so Mulder went on to collect his notes and prepare for his new visitors. Shaking his head and grinning like an idiot. Silver fins reflected in his eyes and mind for the next few hours.

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-oo0oo-

The audience laughed at the frustrated attempts of the language experts to try to communicate. They had a bucket of all of Krycek’s favourite foods, but it seemed they couldn’t even communicate that they wanted to communicate. Mulder typed into his notebook, "It appears not just to be an uncommon language, but the whole concept of a sound or symbol based language that is missing. Despite full frontal lobe development comparable to a human being, there is no response to any of their strategies."

One of the other scientists was tapping a small wooden square. The silhouette of a lobster was being totally ignored. Krycek didn’t seem aware that the lobster hidden behind the board was still there. Perhaps no idea of abstract symbols? Perhaps out of sight, out of mind? They were getting more and more frustrated. Mulder could hear their voices.   "Even the stupidest dolphin could work that out!"

"He’s not stupid," Mulder whispered to himself, "He just doesn’t need to tap a board with pictures on it in the wild. He knows what he needs to know."

Suddenly Krycek launched himself up onto the platform, all spiny fins and claws and teeth, the scientists jumped back, squealing in surprise. They calmed quickly, used to dolphins and orcas doing similar things, especially when he made no move, other than hanging half in half out of the water. But the audience screamed in delight when Krycek slapped the bucket backwards, sending three days worth of expensive food sailing over his back and into the pool. Lobsters, crabs, shrimp, and scampi, all alive and swimming like mad, made a break for their freedom in the merman’s tank.

Krycek rattled again, before awkwardly heaving himself sideways and back into the pool. Mulder watched and grinned as Krycek chased his favoured selection around the tank, playing contentedly with an abundance of food, ignoring every attempt of the language experts to attract his attention. Swimming with a blue crab clenched in his jaws, Krycek happily bulldozed another through the pebbles on the bottom of the tank. He’d obviously waited for his chance, until the humans were not paying full attention, before getting exactly what he wanted.

"Nope, not stupid at all."

-oo0oo-

"He’s stopped reacting to the visitors." Scully stared through the glass as the merman, who was annoying one of the small crustaceans still loose in the tank in a desultory manner.

"I guess they just lost their amusement value."

"He seems... depressed. He only shows any animation when he sees you. Much as he appears to enjoy your company, it might be time to consider releasing him."

"He’s only been here a couple of months... Have you even made your money back on the cost of the enclosure?"

She sighed.  He’d hit a sore spot there. "No, not yet." She didn’t meet Mulder’s eyes. "He’s not showing any sign of ill health, is he?"

"No. Healthy as a horse. Eating well, gaining weight, no residual effects of the accident."

"Then we don’t have to release him yet. I’m just..."

"Making politically correct noises."

She smiled ruefully, then: "He’s noticed you."

Krycek released his prey/toy, gliding gracefully to the window. Ignoring every other person nearby, he focused on Mulder and started twisting and turning. Every fin was fully extended, and since regaining his health they had taken on a mirrored gleam. The membranes caught the light, and like the turquoise scales they reflected like diamonds.

Ooohs and aaahs from the audience were ignored by Krycek as the merman twisted and turned, displaying his grandeur and underwater prowess. Mulder watched, fascinated, at the shimmering dance, almost as much in thrall of the brilliant colours and flickering lights as he had been of the singing.

"Wow..."

"Yeah, wow," Mulder echoed Scully’s hushed amazement.

"That’s really... beautiful..."

"Yeah."

"What does it mean, is he after food? Why does he do that?"

"I think... I think he thinks I’m his mate. And... I think that the depression you see is... he’s disappointed I’m not responding."

"Why? Why does he think you’re his mate?"

"Hey, you’re the one you said I should take semen samples.  He obviously thinks I’m leading him on! I also bring him food, and am his main point of contact and companionship. It’s not surprising."

"Well, I’m surprised. Then again... I’ve known you long enough..."

"Me? Why do you blame me? I’m just doing my job."

"Of course."

"I am! He’s the one who’s got the wrong idea here."

"Does he?"

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing, Mulder. You’d better walk up and down past the windows every now and then though. He just floats there when you’re not here, but when he sees you he gives the customers a wonderful display."

"Ah yes, let’s not worry about behaviour problems, or depression, or any resulting health problems that could result from stress, let’s just hope we are giving the customers their money’s worth."

"Mulder..."

"Sorry."

"Perhaps we could start seeing how he interacts with other sea life. We have a few larger fish, a turtle, a few smaller octopi etc. that we were thinking of releasing into the tank with him..."

"To make it more visually interesting to the customers?"

"To make things more interesting for him, Mulder, don’t be so cynical".

"Okay, go ahead. I’m going to get some food for him.  He’s not too interested in hunting what’s in the tank now; he’s only interested in things that are given to him."

"Could it be because you’re the one who’s giving the stuff to him?"

Mulder didn’t bother to answer. The display in the tank stopped as soon as he was out of sight, and Krycek settled to the bottom of the tank. There were some disappointed noises from the audience as Krycek flipped sand and small pebbles over his own back, partially hiding himself with incomplete camouflage.

A group of teenagers started banging against the glass. Mulder watched from the walkway, but didn’t stop them. Krycek wasn’t usually bothered by that, and if he was he had his own way of dealing with it. One young man shouted through the glass, pissed off that ‘the fish’ wasn’t doing anything.  He’d paid his money and wanted to see some fin.

The banging and shouting went on, and Mulder moved to call security, but Krycek started very slowly sliding across the floor until he was below the viewing level of the windows. The young punk, instead of losing interest now Krycek was out of sight, started shouting and thumping the glass harder.

As the guard moved to quiet them, Krycek shot up from below the window, in full display of teeth, claws, dorsal fins fully extended until every spine was visible. As the merman shrieked the most appalling noise, his claws scrabbling against the glass, the guys shouting abuse shot backwards, squealing in surprise and fear.

The rest of the audience, annoyed by the teenagers’ performance already, shrieked with laughter, pointing and applauding in delight. As they realised that one of the young men, the one shouting loudest, had actually wet himself with fear at the mock attack, they laughed even harder.

Krycek shook himself, rattling spines and teeth, and released a small cloud of semen into the water – an expression of the utmost of contempt and superiority – before sliding away calmly to settle on his artificial rock formation and groom his scales, back to the audience.

The damp young man – followed by his entourage, some still shaken, others sniggering – stormed out of the viewing area, muttering under his breath.

Mulder couldn’t help smiling.  The merman sure knew how to take care of hecklers. He gave the thumbs up signal to the technician by the input gate, and watched as they started to release other animals into the tank. He didn’t think Krycek had been overly perturbed by the little brouhaha with the youngsters, and he pulled out the laptop to observe any reactions.

Krycek lazily slid over to investigate, watching, but not really interacting with any of the fish introduced into his environment. He followed the octopi as they scuttled into the rocks to hide, but neither creature seemed to bother the other. There was some interest, and the audience laughed in delight as the turtle was grabbed and played with. Two foot long and one and a half feet wide, the turtle was big enough to be used like a self propelling surf board.

Mulder himself suppressed a grin, typing away. Krycek wasn’t being cruel to the turtle, and if he had been it would have been removed immediately. The reptile was valuable, but it was defiantly being used as a toy. The turtle didn’t seemed too concerned, although it took a few half hearted snaps at Krycek’s hands as it was ridden across the tank.

The door opened again, and a small shark nosed into the new environment. Mulder tensed up until he identified the species, a three foot grey nurse, imported at some expense. It was not aggressive and shouldn’t be a danger, although the audience didn’t know this and they tensed up, murmuring excitedly.

Krycek was focused on it, his spines up and bristling, agitated, tail jerking side to side.

Mulder called out to the technician, "Langly, I think you’d better get that shark out of there. This isn’t a good idea."

"It’s not dangerous..."

"No, but Krycek is. I don’t think he likes his new house guest."

Krycek’s odd, agitated swimming continued.  He drew up a few feet under the shark, which seemed to pick up on the implied threat, moving to escape. The water erupted into threshing as the shark jerked violently, and Mulder realised that Krycek had shot a few of his spines out like a spear gun, impaling the shark through the body and head, though not killing it outright.

The audience shifted back, not frightened, but shocked and disgusted. Mothers tried to cover the eyes of children, who pulled away the hands to watch, fascinated, as the merman slowly stalked up behind the shark, before attacking and disembowelling it with sharp claws.

This started to upset the children, who screamed about the shark still being alive.

Mulder watched, fascinated, his heart in his mouth that the merman would be injured if the shark could catch him. The poor animal was churning up the water, which turned pink around it. Watching the merman stalk and slash the shark... it was like Jaws in reverse.

"Mommy, he’s eating it alive!". 

Even Mulder’s strong stomach churned as Krycek tore mouthfuls of flesh from his victim.

He jumped up onto the observation platform, tapping out the rhythm he’d been trying to get Krycek to recognise. The water swirled, then what was left of the shark flew out of the water, landing a few feet away from him, flopping about hopelessly on the platform.

Mulder stepped away from it, aware of the still fully functional jaws, as Krycek hauled himself up onto the platform beside him. Mulder had to admit it was fascinating to watch Krycek efficiently butcher the remains of the shark.

The merman filleted the shark’s carcass, then hauled himself over to Mulder, seriously offering him the fins and neatly cut steaks from its tail.

As Krycek rolled himself onto the platform properly, munching on some himself, Mulder mimed eating his gift.

"Mulder?"

"Yes, Scully?"

"Did you see that? He shot those spines into the shark."

"Yeah, well it wasn’t my idea to put a shark in there with him. Looks like he has the intelligence to recognise a potential danger and..."

"That wasn’t the problem. I can ignore the expense of replacing the shark and I’ll placate Skinner, but he shot those spines out. We didn’t know he could do that. If he tries to do that to a human..."

"He’s no more dangerous now than he was when I was in his tank this morning. He’s made no threatening moves against any other humans.  It’s like sharks are either automatic prey or he just sees them as a threat." Mulder was back in analytical mode.    The loss of the shark and the traumatised audience meant little to him as he started mentally cataloguing new facts.

"He’s covered in blood." She wasn’t going to be placated so easily.

"It’s shark blood, he’s not injured. That was a very effective performance. These merpeople are extremely efficient hunters, it would be interesting to see how he’d fair up against a larger shark, something more dangerous," Mulder said thoughtfully. "Not that I would allow that.  I’m not going to have any more sharks or dangerous large creatures in that tank. Just in case. In fact, I’d keep an eye on the turtle - Krycek might decide that’s a potential meal as well."

"What are you eating?"

"I’m not eating it. He gave me some... I’m just pretending."

"Yeah, I guess he’s not someone who’s gifts you’d refuse."

"Want some?" he offered her a particularly tender strip of bleeding meat.

"Err, no thanks. I think I’d better go and explain to the shark keeper exactly why he’s going to be one short today. Just what I needed."

"What are you worried about? Pendral will love it.  Any excuse to have you visit him," Mulder smirked.

"Yeah, well, at least he doesn’t give me bits of half dead shark as courting gifts."

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Mulder slipped into the water, fixing on the full face mask that not only let him breathe, but see underwater in the dark. He wondered if he’d hear the strange compelling song again tonight.

He sank slowly below the surface, watching his friend rise up from the small cave to meet him. The displaying started after only a few moments, the twisting and turning, the choreographed dancing no less effective in moonlight than it had been in sun. Pale slivers of light poured off the exquisite creature like liquid mercury, pooling on pale translucent flesh.

Mulder started to sway a little, as he’d seen the merman in the video do, knowing it was a mistake but curiosity as to the reaction he’d receive drove him on. He was positioned with careful water flutters by the merman over the pile of coloured stones, shredded shoes and other objects that Krycek had gathered over the past few weeks. A bower, Mulder identified. As he swayed, Krycek’s movements became more and more complex, twisting closer and closer, adding soft touches from hard fingers.

"Hey," Mulder mumbled through the mask, "I’m not your type, you know. I’m not even your species."

Krycek writhed closer and closer, the long tail twisting around Mulder’s legs.

"It’s not that I intended to lead you on..." sharp claws tugged at Mulder’s swimming trunks. "But I don’t really think we are fully compatible."

The fabric tore a little. "It’s a lifestyle choice, you understand. I choose to breath air and walk around on the ground, and you like to be underwater. If we tried to live together, well, I’d drown if I moved into your place, and if you tried to move into my house you’d end up scraping the skin off your belly. Not that we have to move in together..." he kicked his way up to the surface of the water, pushing his mask off his face, "...but I don’t think you’re after a one night stand here, are you..."

The fabric tore away and Mulder stopped his nonsense rambling. Cold fingers explored his penis, gently caressing him, and Mulder found himself supported and restrained by the long tail while soft warm lips investigated his face, but didn’t particular focus on his lips.

"So, do you guys kiss then..?" Mulder took Krycek’s face in his hands, pressing his lips to the merman’s, the reaction wasn’t quite right. With Krycek it was just mouth pressing, not lip-to-lip exploration of true kissing.

"Let me show you this human thing called kissing," Mulder couldn’t resist the cliché. He took his time, showing the merman every technique he knew, nibbling lips, caressing Krycek’s tongue with his own. He avoided the sharp teeth, but his explorations found a mouth in every other way like his own.

Krycek rattled again, softly, and again, until to Mulder it sounded almost like purring. He put his hand against Krycek’s throat, caressing the merman’s jaw and slightly pointed ears, feeling the thrum of the purr under his fingers.

He’s an animal... this isn’t right, Mulder’s doubts surfaced, or at least, he tried to drag them up, but it was a weak excuse as he felt the soft scrape of scales against his legs and the satin slide of Krycek’s skin against his stomach and groin. It wasn’t like he’d initiated this... was it?

Strong arms slipped around his back, holding him close, and he held in return, rubbing his erection against Krycek’s torso and genital opening, feeling his penis slip past the swelling lips, feeling Krycek’s penis kiss his own in passing. The growing heat of their bodies worked against the slight chill of the water. Mulder used his fingers to guide the merman’s penis between his legs, using his thighs to emulate the feel of being held inside another merman’s body, trying to make this as close as possible to what Krycek would remember.

Inside, Krycek was hot, the flesh slick and caressing. The muscles of the genital pouch caressed Mulder’s cock, and he pushed himself deeper. As Krycek became more erect, the heat of him was pushing up against Mulder’s balls. As his penis extended from his body, he was making more room within himself for Mulder to thrust into.

Mulder pulled his mask back into place as he was pulled below the water. Like a crocodile had him in a death grip he was dragged down, twisting and turning as the merman spun them both through the water. Never before had he made love under the water, not with man or woman or human being. He’d fantasised about it, about how romantic and dissociative it would be, but the reality was it frightened him. He wondered, if his mask was dislodged, would the merman let him go, or would he drown here in the siren’s arms?  Would the merman mourn? But it was harder to think of things like that as their bodies twisted and ground together.

Strong arms and tail held him in place as he thrust and gyrated against the merman’s body. He let his hands run over the merman’s chest, finding the small nipples, rubbing and pinching them. Krycek froze for a second, looking at him in surprise, before arching back, bring Mulder over in a perfect arc through the water.

With each new stimulation the merman twisted, grinding their pelvises together, and Mulder gasped at oxygen in short supply, the mask hard pressed to keep up.

Deeper and deeper they went, into each other, and under the water. Mulder felt the pebbled floor against his back as Krycek used the ground to compensate for Mulder’s lack of underwater power.  He felt the hot, soft, slick muscles contract around his body, felt Krycek’s last frantic thrashings, saw the merman’s face finally contort in passion and felt his own climax, felt the wonderful spasms as he poured his seed into the merman’s body, as Krycek pulsed his own in heated bursts between Mulder’s legs.

The water turned milky around their waists, but only briefly. Mulder was too content, too desperate for a decent breath to be disgusted as a few small fish took care of the light snack their passions had provided.

Mulder lay on the bottom of the pool, his arms moving lazily through the water to stop himself from floating up, while he regulated his breathing, listening to his heart pound. Krycek floated above him like a ghostly apparition, his face once again placid – perhaps a little softer, his mouth lax, eyes content as he stared down at Mulder.

"This wasn’t a good thing, Krycek," Mulder whispered, "We shouldn’t... I shouldn’t have done this."

He stopped fighting the water, letting it carry him slowly to the surface, aware of being shadowed all the way. He grasped the edge of the platform, but strong arms wrapped around his hips. He tensed, but instead of pulling him in, they lifted him easily. He knelt and looked back into the water, reaching down to caress the merman’s face. Krycek pulled himself out of the water, just slightly, looking up at Mulder with the utmost intensity and concentration.

"Good boy."

A sound soft as moth’s wings, with no power or voice behind it, with the same humanity as the voice of a flute made of bone. Such an incongruously beautiful sound to carry such an inane phrase.

Mulder gasped, leaning down to the merman, "What did you say?"

But Krycek simply clicked his tongue, shaking his head slightly.

"Come on, say it again. Good boy. Good boy, go on, say it."

Krycek cocked his head on one side, and Mulder had the distinct impression he was being laughed at, before he was presented with the vision of the long blue tail flicking with silver light trails back down into the depths of the water.

"Well, I’ll be damned."

Mulder knelt by the pool for a while, before deciding that maybe it would be best if tonight, for the first time in a long time, he slept in his own home. He could listen to the waves of his own private beach and pretend he was here, or that Krycek was there. But somehow, it just seemed for the best that for tonight he put a little distance between them. He grabbed his clothes and jogged home, more enervated than he could remember being in his life. So this was what it was like when fantasy became flesh...

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-oo0oo-

"Mulder? Something dreadful’s happened. Get down to the..."

Mulder didn’t wait for Scully to finish. She’d only phone him if it involved the merman, and if it was dreadful he didn’t need to hear any more.

He arrived heaving for breath, his leg muscles screaming at him.

"Where is he?"

"He’s in the cave, he’s moving, but he won’t come out."

"So he’s alive?"

"Yes."

Mulder’s shoulders slumped in relief, then he noticed the police officers milling around, the shocked white faces of the staff.

"What happened?"

"Those kids, the ones that were yelling at him today. You remember, he screeched at them, frightened them?"

"Yeah?"

"They came back. Looks like they wanted to teach him a lesson."

"Did they hurt him?" Mulder could feel the panic rising again.

"We only found this out quarter of an hour ago. He hasn’t come out of his cave yet."

"So why the police?"

"He killed one of them."

"He what?"

"The cleaner found the body floating on top of the pool, bloated and partially disembowelled. He had those spines through him, like Krycek put through the shark. The other boy is gashed, and the third boy is okay - he didn’t go into the water. We’ve got one kid dead, one in hospital, and the other one's hysterical. The police are asking if the merman should be destroyed."

"NO!!" Mulder couldn’t believe what he was hearing. "They broke in here, they tried to kill him..."

"We don’t know that."

"What else would they have been doing? They were trespassing, they got what they deserved."

"How can you say that? A young man is dead!"

Mulder grabbed a re-breather, "I’m going down there.  Who knows what they did to him."

"Mulder, you cannot go down there. He’s killed someone..."

"He could be hurt." Mulder refused to listen to the voice of reason when it was telling him things he didn’t want to hear. He dove into the water, down to the cave.

Krycek was curled up awkwardly, and barely made room for Mulder when the human crawled in with him. Mulder ran his hands over the merman, looking for wounds. He couldn’t see anything, which didn’t bode well. If Krycek was uninjured, how could he prove that the merman had been defending himself when he’d killed?

"Hey there, are you okay?" the merman wouldn’t even look at him, still hardly moving, totally rigid in that awkward half curled position. Mulder took hold of Krycek’s hips, easing him out of the cave. He could hear Krycek rattling again, the sound definitely one of distress. Krycek’s hand grabbed his wrist, but offered no resistance as Mulder got him out of the cave and started to float them both to the surface.

Krycek wasn’t even trying to swim, holding his body totally still, but letting Mulder move him. Floating under the platform, he had to use the automatic switch to lower it into the water, pushing Krycek onto it as the merman refused to help load himself.

Mulder hit the switch again, raising them both out of the water. He ignored nervous police officers, who stood around with their hands on their guns, equal parts fascinated and frightened. Someone was asking him questions, but he ignored them, trying to find out how the merman had been injured.

Scully knelt beside him, "Can you see anything, Mulder?"

"There’s definitely something wrong.  He’s hurt, but I can’t see where." The merman’s breathing was rapid.  He was breathing through his nose, his jaw gritted, and it sounded like he was bubbling. Mulder started to listen to his chest to see if there was a lung injury.

"Mulder?"

"What is it?" he responded, distracted.

"Mulder, he’s bleeding from the pouch."

Mulder looked down. There was a small trickle of sticky red blood diluting through the water droplets surrounding the merman’s genital pouch. He reached down, very gently separating the lips.

"Oh god," Mulder whispered. "He’s been stabbed."

"How can you tell?"

"The knife’s still in there."

He heard Scully’s in-drawn breath, and cursed himself more than those who’d done it. He knew enough about human nature to have at least guess they would try something. The merman had made them look like fools, they’d tried to... what, castrate Krycek? No wonder the merman had tried to kill them. Used to Mulder, it hadn’t attacked them as would have been its natural instinct, it had trusted them, probably expecting food or play. Let them get close enough to stab him, even inserting the knife into his body, before realising it was under attack, and attacking back – with deadly force.

"Get the trolley here and get the hot tank ready."

Mulder and two of the aquarium assistants carefully loaded Krycek onto the trolley, and into the heated tank. Mulder was grateful Krycek didn’t view any of them as a threat, wasn’t panicked enough by his pain to attack the staff or himself. Krycek was gasping slightly, his breathing still strained, and his claws dug into Mulder’s arms as he was moved. Not enough to draw blood, but Mulder couldn’t help thinking of the disembowelled corpse that had been floating in the pool this morning. He noted one of the claws was missing, possibly pulled out on clothing or bone. He’d deal with that after he removed the knife.

"Strap him down," Mulder ordered after Krycek was lowered into the small tank. He was strapped onto his back, hands over his head, body partially underwater, but his belly up where Mulder could work. He injected a pain killer directly into Krycek’s groin, one they’d found should be compatible. It hadn’t been used on him before, but Mulder wasn’t going to let the merman suffer for lack of tests. Not just now. Within minutes the merman started to relax, his breathing evening out.

"Well, that worked," Mulder said.

"Like heroin, he’s going ga ga. What was that?" Langly asked.

"Morphine based. He’s mammal enough, human enough, that it should work for him." Mulder leaned over Krycek to whisper, "Good boy," watching Krycek’s eyes half close, his expression quite fuzzy as the drug took over.

Very carefully, he pulled the lips of the genital pouch apart, "Hold this open, Langly."

Langly looked a little put-off, but did it anyway. "Shit, what, did that just break off in there?"

The knife blade was wedged into the soft tissues at the side of the pouch. "Looks like the handle must have snapped off in the struggle. It might still be in the tank. It looks like they tried to carve him up inside here; there’s quite a lot of soft tissue damage. The penis is still intact, although there’s some very deep gashes there."

"What about his testes?    Will he be able to reproduce?"

"Don’t know. I’m going to have to get this out, try to stop the bleeding."

"Will we need a micro surgeon?"

"I don’t think so. I’ve done some complex work on other sea mammals.  I should be able to handle this." Mulder didn’t want to think he was being selfish, not allowing anyone else to touch his prize project, his piscatorial lover. But they couldn’t wait for a specialist to arrive.  He had to do something now.

There were a two deep stab wounds, both of which had dragged as Krycek had tried to pull away. Mulder had his work cut out for him as he toiled, removing the knife blade, reconnecting severed veins (thankful no arteries had been nicked), sewing up the soft, delicate tissues. All the time thinking of how he’d taken his pleasure here just a few hours before, how sensitive this flesh had been, how warm and welcoming.

He whispered to the merman, his voice soft and calming, even as the merman looked at him with drugged out, misty eyes. "Didn’t do you any good, did it, coming in contact with humans. Getting mangled by that boat, getting stabbed, this weird thing you have going with me."

"What was that?" his assistant questioned, positioning the tubes to suck out the blood as it pooled.

"Nothing, just talking to him. Maybe we should have knocked him out altogether."

"No way yet of knowing which anaesthetics would work on him. You know how many sample clones we made to test this morphine mix."

"Yeah, I just wonder how freaked-out watching this operation is going to make him."

"He looks happy enough right now. He’s so stoned, he’s flying. Anyway, what can he see at that angle. He feels good, there’s no pain right now, and he can see your face, that’s gotta make him happy."

Mulder paused in his work, searching Langly’s face, wondering what the guy had figured out, but he could read everything and nothing in the cheeky grin given back to him.

"Will he be okay?"

Mulder let the question distract him from his worries, "Yeah, I think so. It really wasn’t that bad. His penis is undamaged and from I can tell everything really important is okay. But it’s gonna hurt like hell for a while."

"Well, I tell you, it wouldn’t matter what they were trying. Someone did that to me, I’d spear them too."

"I just hope..."

"What?"

"I’m worried the police might think he looks human therefore he is culpable like a human. Or, at the other extreme, that they’ll want him destroyed like a rabid dog."

"Hey, when that woman was mauled by a polar bear, and that guy was mauled by the panda, they said it was their fault for going into the cages, not the animals’ fault for attacking them."

"Let’s hope so."

"Yeah, I think you’re being paranoid. They won’t hurt him."

"Your mouth to god’s ear, Langly."

"I thought you didn’t believe in god?"

"Whatever works."

-oo0oo-

"Well, Scully. What’s happening?"

"The police are not going to press charges, although I’ve assured them we will be increasing security again. We have enough insurance to pay those kids’ medical bills."

"It’s us who should be pressing charges against them. They damaged a valuable animal. I’ll release him back into the main tank in a few days, but he’ll be very uncomfortable for a long time."

"How’s he reacting?"

"So far I’ve had him on a very high dose of pain killers.  He’s very happy right now. Long term I don’t know.  This has to be very traumatic."

"There’s a few other things we need to discuss."

"Such as?"

"The animal liberation organisers are making a lot of noise. They know we are planning on releasing him, but they want to know when."

"When I consider it appropriate."

"I know that, but he’s the only merperson in captivity. They say, and I agree, that he should be with his own kind. And not only that, but after this attack, they are saying he’s too dangerous to be available to the general public."

"Well, as long as they don’t go in there and stab him, they should be fine."

"What if someone gets onto one of the barriers, or any other way, and annoys him? Who’s to say he won’t stab or claw or bite the wrong person some time?"

"Et tu, Scully?" Mulder grinned. He knew she was simply trying out all the arguments that would be used against them.

"It’s not just the normal arguments, Mulder."

"What else?"

"To prove that they provoked the attack, I pulled the security video, and showed the relevant part to the police."

"What security video?" Mulder was puzzled, as far as he knew the only camera in the pool was in the cave.

"About a week ago we had a new set of cameras put in, so we could monitor any night time activity."

"I thought that was just in the public areas, in case of break-ins?"

"No, it was in the tanks as well."

Mulder could feel the blood training from his face.

"You’re very lucky it was only me that ran that tape, Mulder. What did you think you were doing?"

He had no answer. For once in his life, Mulder was speechless.

"I know you’ve always been obsessed with these creatures," Scully continued, her voice strained with the effort of keeping control, "but to have sex with one?"

The one thing Mulder could think to say: ‘he started it’, stuck in his throat.

"It’s bonded to you, hasn’t he? That’s what all those displays were about. It’s a sexual thing. How many times have you done this?"

"That was the first."

"And it will be the last, Mulder. Once it’s well enough to be released back into the main tank and we’re sure there’ll be no health repercussions I think you should take some time off."

"You’re firing me?" he squeaked.

"If I do there will be questions asked. I want you to take a few weeks vacation. We’ll still pay you during that time. And I want you to see a psychiatrist. Then you can leave in your own time. You can retire, saying you have reached the pinnacle of your career or whatever bullshit you need to dish out. I’ll even give you a good reference. If this got out, if anyone found out what you’ve done, we’d be closed down faster than Skinner going after a dime. I want to hush this up, a complete whitewash, sweep it under the carpet," her hands chopped the air as she tried to hide her absolute horror with the stream of words.

"And also, Mulder," she continued, "at no time are you to be alone with the animal. There will be security cameras all day and night. I’m going to have a security guard posted in the medical centre. I’ll tell people it’s to stop any more break-ins or attacks, but I want you to know it’s to make sure you don’t... interfere with the animal again. Do you understand?"

Mulder just nodded, not looking her in the eye. He knew he was looking at the effective end of his career. Once Krycek was released, he wouldn’t be invited to head another project like this.

-oo0oo-

Mulder could raise no pity for the boys injured and killed by the merman. He watched Krycek in the main tank. He’d been put back after only a few days, his injuries not so severe that he needed a long term of recuperation like last time. But the behaviour was obviously wrong. Instead of playing with the audience as previously, Krycek kept mostly to the back wall of the enclosure, still swimming awkwardly, tail curled up. In fact, he seemed to be trying to use his arms to swim, or haul himself along by the rocks. Obviously not a natural form of movement.

The only animation Krycek showed was if he saw someone coming to him with food or a needle. It hadn’t taken long for the merman to realise that the needles meant relief from pain. Mulder worried he was becoming dependent on the drugs. He tapped out the recognised rhythm on the platform, watching Krycek painfully pull himself up to get the next injection.

Mulder fed him first, cutting open various crustaceans so Krycek wouldn’t do anything strenuous. He could hear the audience making pitying noises.  Some of them had seen the merman in his full glory and knew what a contrast this dull-finned creature was now. They all could tell he was in pain.  Mulder and the announcer both played it up for all it was worth. People would pay to come and see the poor injured merman far more readily than the violent killer fish-man.

So far careful PR had made sure the public were on the merman’s side. Certainly, the type of attack perpetrated on Krycek had every man’s sympathy, and his obvious pain and distress had every woman’s ‘awwwww’ factor on full. If possible, gate takings were even higher.

He gave Krycek a shove, and the merman obediently rolled over to get the injection. Mulder made sure the inspection – checking on the stitches, signs of infection, disinfecting the site of the injection etc – was as impersonal as he could make it, just in case someone was watching. As yet, Krycek hadn’t tried to instigate any kind of affection or contact, which in itself worried Mulder, but at least it kept any more questions from Scully to a minimum.

"What are we going to do?" he asked quietly, "What have I done? I’ve ruined my career, I’ve... well, I don’t know what impact this is going to have on you. I’m guessing you’re already a widower, what’s it going to do to you to lose another mate?"

"Good boy," Krycek whispered again, dopey with drugs, floating on his back, looking at Mulder with what he could only interpret as trust. Big green eyes totally accepting everything Mulder was saying with complete incomprehension.

"Yeah, you’re a good boy. Or are you saying I am? Do you know what that means?"

Krycek just floated. "Good boy."

"It can talk?"

Mulder span on his heels, nearly falling into the tank. "I didn’t hear you coming, Scully."

She didn’t bother to say she didn’t trust him, not with an entire audience of people. "How long has it been talking?"

"That’s all he says. Just ‘good boy’. He did it the first time the night of the attack."

"The night you... did that to it?"

"I didn’t ‘do’ anything to him. If you saw the video you’ll see I didn’t instigate anything."

"Oh, yeah, and you really put up a struggle. But that’s irrelevant. Does it understand what it’s saying?"

"I don’t think so... I’m not sure. It’s just that’s what I say to him. I guess he just hears that phrase a lot, especially at feeding times."

"Well, we know he can make words, that’s pretty good."

Mulder felt a small glimmer of hope.  If her curiosity was engaged, maybe she’d forgive... or perhaps, delay any decisions regarding his future. But he could see her point of view, do you forgive the orang-utan keeper who falls for her furry face?

"Can you make him say it again?" she asked.

"I don’t know, maybe," he leaned in, come on, Krycek, co-operate with me. "Hey, Krycek, good boy?"

Huge ingenue eyes gazed up at him.

"Hey you," Mulder held out the leg of a lobster like it was a stick of candy, moving it faster than Krycek cared to chase it, "good boy."

"Good boy," and Krycek took the goodie to munch on, before sinking down to float idly past the observation windows.

"My guess," Mulder mused, "is that his voice box is different to ours. He’s got the idea of using his mouth to make words, but he doesn’t have the right vocal chords to actually create sound. Which doesn’t explain that... singing thing he does."

"That did not sound like any human noise I’ve ever heard, Mulder."

"No. Maybe it’s like cat’s purring, we’ll never know exactly how he does it. But that whispering, we both knew what he said. Even if he was just emulating something he’d heard rather than attempting conversation, it’s an interesting start."

The two humans sat in silence for a little while, Mulder not willing to disturb whatever thoughts Scully was having, in case they were positive towards him.

"Why did you have to screw this up, Mulder?"

So much for that theory.

"It wasn’t deliberate," he replied sadly.

She shook her head, not understanding his depth of obsession.

-oo0oo-

Like a criminal, Mulder checked the positioning and view points of every one of the new security cameras, until he knew exactly what they covered, and what they didn’t. He had every blind spot memorised, even though he swore to himself he wouldn’t use that information. But he knew himself well enough to know when he was lying.

They’d started weaning Krycek off the pain killers, wanting to catch that before he developed a dependency. So now Mulder found himself swimming nearly all day with the merman, just round and round the tank, with Krycek plastered to his side, still confused and unhappy, obviously seeking comfort from Mulder.

Entertaining fantasies of just going out to sea with the merman, living with him or his pod, Mulder held slender fingers in his hand, making sure Krycek got some exercises rather than just curling up on the floor again. He would coat his fingers with an anaesthetic cream and coat the inside of the genital pouch with that every couple of hours. Again, Krycek had healed without complications, but he wasn’t too enthusiastic about moving under his own steam. Mulder used the cream to dull any lingering discomfort, but he got the distinct impression the merman was sulking, rather than in pain.

A couple of times Krycek would try to put his arms around Mulder, and Mulder found it harder and harder to keep squirming away. He felt like he was brushing off a lover... which he was. Just because Krycek wasn’t human didn’t mean he didn’t have feelings... did it? Mulder couldn’t be certain. It sure felt like he was acting like a complete jerk.

He made a big obvious set of gestures like he was leaving to go home for the night. Making sure the camera saw the most final looking of goodbyes, but he hoped that Krycek would, as usual, pay no attention. Contrary fish.

He hauled himself out of the water onto the platform, and it wasn’t long before he heard the scrabbling as Krycek awkwardly pulled his body out of the water. Too large and clumsy on land, he simply dragged himself across the platform by his hands, the long tail trailing along behind him. At least he wasn’t favouring the injury site any more, not even while it was in direct contact with the surface of the platform, so Mulder guessed he wasn’t in any physical pain now.

Looking at his watch, he knew the security guard on at this time of night would be away for an hour, having his late late lunch, then, if he stayed to the same pattern of behaviour he’d displayed since starting, he’d put his feet up for a nap for the rest of the night time shift. Scully had arranged a good set of security, but the aquarium would spring for only one guard at a time – one guard who had not been told to specifically keep an eye on Mulder (anything to avoid a scandal) who trusted the scientist with the merman in his care. The place was quiet.  There was no trouble, no problems for the guard to worry about. Everyone was friendly, and the video cameras had the place covered.

Except for the platform.

Krycek was leaning his elbows on the platform to raise his upper body, and Mulder was struck by how like any other young man he was. Well, any other very beautiful young man. Some guy looking to catch some moon shine on the beach, as long as you were not looking too closely.

Mulder knelt by Krycek’s side, picked up the rubber brush, and started stroking Krycek’s back, grinning to himself as the merman spread out to his full length, arms stretched out in front of himself, fingers grasping air as he enjoyed the massage.

"See, I haven’t forgotten you, we just have to be discreet, pretty thing," Mulder explained his stand-offish attitude. Fascinated hands explored Mulder’s legs and feet, learning toes and leg hair, while Mulder put down the brush to caress scales and fins. He ran his hand over the swell of buttocks, wondering how Krycek would look as a human: quite delightful he decided. There was no indication of the position of knee or calf, but Mulder believed he would have pretty good legs, long and solid. He cautiously moved aside the fins across Krycek’s rump, letting one finger find the tiny anal opening. He couldn’t help grinning to himself as it refused entry to his finger tip, tight as a fish’s asshole, indeed! I wonder if that would be possible...?

He kept up the rubbing and petting, enjoying Krycek’s indulgent reactions, the long heavy tail whapping occasionally on the platform, almost like some monster dog wagging.

Krycek rolled onto his side, his fins spreading out lazily behind him, looking up at Mulder with a definite smile in his eyes. His hands caressed Mulder’s torso, tugging at Mulder’s shorts.

"Wait, let me get them off, don’t tear these too, I’ve got to start watching pennies from now on." Mulder knew what he was doing was crazy, but right now, there wasn’t much he could do to get himself into even more trouble. Why not make Krycek happy during their last few times together? He stripped off, then started rubbing down Krycek’s belly, up to his chest, caressing pectoral muscle and nipples, outlining shoulder blades and collar bones.

"I wish I could tell you how beautiful you are to me... but maybe I can show you instead?" Mulder moved down, pressing his lips to the neat little navel, following the human-like skin down to the genital pouch. He started kissing the edges, outlining the smooth lips, pressing his tongue in to where the flesh was warmer, where the muscles moved as Krycek wriggled slightly. He looked up, "Do you mermen do this? Can you do this with those teeth? Hope you like it."

The ocean caressed Mulder’s tongue, the flavour of clean sea salt. His hands caressed the soft skin of hips that faded into blue-green scales as his tongue and lips explored the sensitive opening.

As Krycek’s excitement mounted, his penis started to come out of hiding, meeting Mulder’s tongue to be caressed and stroked. Mulder started to nibble around the so-human-shaped penis, circling around the head, probing his tongue into the delicate slit. He could feel the sharp claws tracing jittery patterns on his back as Krycek was so careful not to scratch or claw while experiencing a new sensation. Mulder let his mouth hold the growing organ, imagining it melting on his tongue like sugar candy. Keeping his mouth soft and warm, he started to twist his jaw, screwing his lips up and down the shaft, as Krycek’s hips started to rock in time with Mulder’s movements.

Mulder pushed gentle fingers in under the penis, finding the testicles embedded in the fleshy walls of the pouch, avoiding any lingering tenderness from the healed over cuts, to manipulate the so sensitive bumps.

It was hard to keep the strength of Krycek’s thrusts from gagging Mulder’s efforts – it took a lot of force on Mulder’s part and learning each other’s beat before Mulder could get a good rhythm going.

That long tail wrapped around his body while he wrapped his arms around soft-scaled hips. So similar, yet so different to a human male, so much more beautiful than anyone else he’d seen or touched.

Mulder could taste the ocean in Krycek, the salt of the sea; fluid, dangerous, the taste of something free and wild and liquid. Something he should not hold in his arms, something no human should try to tame.

The wild twisting came to a thrashing crescendo.  Mulder clung tightly as the merman found his release, unrestrained by concepts of polite sex play. Not caring, as with Mulder’s few other partners, to warn of impending climax. Not caring if Mulder couldn’t take the strength and ferocity of animal passion. Clinging to the wild beast Mulder felt volcanic hot pulses fill his mouth, sliding down his throat, dribbling down his face and neck, and didn’t let go even as the merman relaxed onto the platform, panting, limp and sated.

Fuzzy, totally replete, huge green eyes stared up at him when he finally sat up, ignoring his own arousal momentarily, to gently tuck Krycek’s penis back into its hideaway.

"Was that nice?" Mulder kissed him softly on the lips, raining gentle kisses like light warm sunshine across high perfect cheekbones

It wasn’t a purr, but the soft rumble was pretty close, as the merman stretched his skeleton out, fins and tail extending to full length, catching the light both natural and artificial, quivering like mercury. Shimmering like diamonds across the scales, reflecting like emeralds in ocean deep eyes.

"Ah yes, you liked that all right." Mulder caressed his own aching erection, knowing he had plenty of time before the guard came back to do whatever he wanted, and knowing the merman would let him do as he wished. "You’ll let me do whatever I want, won’t you? You’re a good boy. Hmmm... Good boy?"

No reply, just another almost smile.

"Will you let me touch you here?" Mulder’s fingers slipped round, fondling near the break of the major dorsal fin, where the base of the spine would be in a human. The fins shifted, but there was no aggressive showing of spines, and as Mulder bent his head to tongue around the tiny anal opening the merman didn’t even roll over. Krycek lay comfortably on his side, enjoying his afterglow, content to let Mulder touch him wherever he wanted, to explore as his will directed.

"Are you even big enough here? Can you do this like a human?" Mulder’s fingers explored, finding an almost human-like pucker hidden amongst the scales. "Is this something you do with your people? Or don’t you feel the need?"

As there was no protest, Mulder slipped a finger into the tight channel – enjoying, as always, the change from the cold outer surface to the fiery hot insides. Krycek raised his head, looking over his shoulder, but he didn’t pull away or protest the touch, and Mulder was emboldened to add another finger, twisting, scissoring his fingers until the tight muscle started to give.

Very carefully he added a third finger. The great heavy tail lifted slightly, Krycek twisting to look at him again, and Mulder backed off a little, letting him adjust slowly.

"Hang on, I’ve got some KY here." Mulder scrabbled through the pocket of his abandoned shorts. With the lubricant on his fingers he tried again, Krycek letting him slip in and manipulate three fingers, stretching the soft tissues.

Squatting behind the prone merman, sitting up while Krycek continued to lie placidly in front of him, Mulder eased forward, positioning himself until he could slide in one inch, then two. He slung one leg over Krycek’s hips, aware of his precarious balance, and very aware that if Krycek got annoyed at this at anytime Mulder could find himself impaled on poisonous spikes in a very delicate area…

"Oh, you sweet thing, you’re going to let me do this, aren’t you?" Mulder said, awkwardly easing forward until he was fully sheathed, his flesh, aching and needy, caressed by slick, oozing muscles, his balls and thighs teased by slippery sharp scales.

-oo0oo-

I shouldn’t be doing this, Mulder thought as his excitement built to unbearable proportions. Who knows what kind of diseases, harmless to humans but potentially deadly to merpeople, I could be giving him... He took one of the fine boned hands in his, holding it, feeling the fingers clasp his own as he started gently to thrust into accepting flesh. Huge green eyes sparkled back at him, still, content, more curious than perturbed, ignoring the discomfort.

Rocking slightly with the increasing force of Mulder’s thrusts, Krycek remained all but sublimely indifferent to the frenetic activity going on behind him. Any moment now, Mulder expected him to crawl away, and he could feel his excitement build, the first spasms starting deep in his balls as they slapped against the yielding surface of the tail. Mulder’s free hand clutched spastically at Krycek’s chest, scraping tiny nipples, as he released hot cum into the merman’s body.  His last flurry of thrusts rocked Krycek, forcing Mulder to grab his hips, holding him, stopping him crawling off, pouring in the last scolding drops of his seed. The final contractions shook him, shook them both, and Mulder finally relaxed, collapsed half on top of his pretty pet.

A quick check of his watch showed he had at least 10 minutes before the guard was due back. Holding his softening cock, trying to avoid any more cuts and scrapes, Mulder pulled himself free of the merman. Krycek rattled, apparently less pleased with being buggered than being blown, and Mulder bent his head to kiss the tiny anus better. A ring of pink showed amongst the shimmering scales now, and Mulder used his tongue to poke the swollen flesh back into the merman’s body, tasting his own flavour as it seeped out of the too tight channel.

"You didn’t like that so much, then?" Mulder lay down beside Krycek, patting his shoulders and arms, making sure he wasn’t too ruffled. "Well, we don’t need to do that too often then. I can do the things you like – face to face fucking, I’ll suck you off, stuff like that. You liked those things, didn’t you, hmm? Good boy?"

He grabbed the brush again, using that and his hands to make sure they were still friends. "You will let me do it now and then though, won’t you? That probably wasn’t too good, being your first time, but next time won’t be so bad. And I’ll do all sorts of things you like."

Mulder stopped his fussing for a moment to pull his clothes on, straighten his hair, and make sure there was nothing out of place. The last thing he needed right now was to get caught doing this again. Scully had been surprisingly understanding last time, but Mulder knew he could be facing jail time if she wanted to report him.

"Of course, this is a moot point if I have to leave here. We won’t see each other again then, except if I come visit you, like the tourists do, but I won’t be allowed to touch you then. And they’ll be installing your gate pretty soon as well. Then you’ll have the freedom to come and go as you wish, and maybe you won’t want to stay here. What do you think will happen, pretty baby? Will you stay here, where the living is easy, the food is free, and there’s nothing to eat you? Or will you want to go back out to the oceans?" Mulder started his fretful grooming again, enjoying the way Krycek had completely relaxed once more, having apparently forgotten any trespass or discomfort. "Are you missing your people? Did you have friends out there?"

Footfalls heralded the guard’s return, and Mulder nodded and returned the man’s smile, making ‘nothing untoward happened at all while you were gone’ expressions. He dropped his voice to a whisper.

"Will you miss me when I’m gone? Will you even remember? What is your attention span anyway? Do you remember like dolphins? Or do you forget after 30 seconds like a goldfish? What are we going to do? I can’t take you home and keep you as a pet. My bathtub isn’t big enough. I have a catchment area near the sea, it’s part of the beach. It’s why I bought that house. But what, I’m gonna smuggle you out of here?"

Krycek was ignoring him totally now, scrabbling around the platform hunting for something to eat, not at all interested in Mulder’s pathetic babblings. Mulder handed him a shrimp. For a while they just sat there, Mulder feeding his pet project, Krycek far more interested in eating than in any moral dilemmas the human may have been facing.

After a while Mulder placed both feet against the merman, his back against the wall and pushed the merman into the water, earning himself a slooshing of water as Krycek retaliated with a tail slapped down hard. But instead of following the invitation to play, Mulder just leaned down, "I have to go home for a while, I’ll see you in the morning." Drooping slightly, instead of enjoying the expected elation from having fucked the fish-guy, Mulder left the aquarium. He had a CV to write out, and there were not that many job opportunities for people in his speciality who interfered with their charges.

-oo0oo-

There was a full house on the day the gate was installed.  People didn’t know if this was going to be the last time they would get a chance to see the famous merman. The gate would let him come and go, or maybe... just go. It was illegal now, ever since it had been discovered many cetaceans had an intelligence rivalling that of humans, to keep certain animals in captivity. Although they still didn’t know if Krycek was intelligent, there was no way the animal liberationists would allow the aquarium to keep the merman locked up for any length of time. The aquarium had made enough money from him now to pay all its expenses a hundred times over anyway, despite Skinner’s complaints about his lavish diet.

Disturbed by the activity in his tank, Krycek had heaved himself onto the platform again, and he was beautiful in the sun. Mulder could feel the pain of loss starting already, before they even knew if Krycek would make the decision to leave.

If you love something, set it free. But what if it doesn’t come back? Do I take a boat, go and try to find him? They already think I’m insane, I guess that mad quest wouldn’t make much difference.

One of the workers, taking a break as the gate was installed, windered across the walkway, dropping onto the platform. Mulder went to move closer, just in case... The worker pulled a sandwich out of her pocket, and everyone held their breath as she offered peanut butter to the merman.

Slightly startled, Krycek reared up, and for the first time gave everyone a clear idea of the full size of the animal. Balanced on the last couple of feet of his tail, he now stood a full 7 feet in the air, weaving slightly over the large woman. Making no threatening moves, Mulder stepped onto the platform, nightmarish thoughts of another bloated corpse lending a slight urgency to his interference. But she held her ground, and the merman lowered himself slightly. Although not interested in her lunch, he did allow her to pat him, and as he realised she posed no threat slowly eased to the platform again, balanced on his hands and hips.

The cameras flashed and clicked, and the news services sighed in disappointment. Mulder breathed his own sigh – of relief. See, he’s not dangerous at all. He smiled at the brave – or was she stupid? – construction worker, quite thankful for her inadvertent demonstration, and just sat nearby. Waiting until she went back to work, until she left his pet alone. Mulder kissed off his own jealousy.  No doubt Krycek would go out to sea again soon, and would find himself a mate, a lovely merman from amongst his own people. Sire some babies from one of the dominant females – Mulder knew they’d be as beautiful as their father – and forget all about the stupid human who fed him and made all the dumb noises and demands.

"Mulder," Scully’s clear voice caught his attention, "may I speak with you for a moment?"

He sighed and turned away from his favourite sight.  "What’s up, Scully?"

"I’ve been thinking, Mulder..."

"What else is new?"

"Shut up. I’ve reconsidered. It looks like you took my advice, and you haven’t done anything else since that time you were caught doing... you were caught. And it doesn’t appear to have traumatised Krycek – in fact, I think if you were to leave permanently that would probably traumatise him. I still think you should take a vacation, maybe just for a week or so, but if you can continue to stay out of trouble, we’ll just consider that incident a warning. Do you agree?"

Nodding frantically, Mulder suppressed his guilt. What she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, and any chance to stay with Krycek. And if they were discreet...? "Sure! Not a problem. Thank you," he said, his thanks heartfelt, "Thank you so much for this."

She nodded, obviously wondering if she’d made a mistake, but sat down with him, watching Krycek watching the installation.

"Do you think he’ll stay?"

"Is that why you gave me my job back? You don’t think he’ll stay, so you don’t think I can make any more trouble?"

She sighed, pushing strands of red hair out of her eyes, "I give him a fifty/fifty chance of staying," she side-stepped the important part of his question. "Despite our best intentions, he’s been hurt here, we haven’t kept him completely safe. Then again, you’re here, and that’s a pretty good enticement for him, I should imagine."

Mulder couldn’t help but enjoy the small warm jolt that gave him, the small surge of hope.

"Then again, even if he wants to come back here, who’s to say he’ll be able to find his way back once he leaves? What is their sense of direction like?"

"No idea."

"No idea. We didn’t learn that much really, did we?"

"Not much more we could learn without dissecting him or observing him in his natural habitat. And who knows, he may decide to stay. Also – don’t get mad – we are legally obligated to install the gate, but there’s nothing about teaching him how to use it."

"That’s mean, Mulder. What if he does want to go free?"

Don’t fuck it up, Mulder, he warned himself, you’re already on shaky ground here, very shaky ground.

"You’re right. We’ll demonstrate it to him as soon as it’s working. Then it’s his decision. He’s tagged, so we could follow him, keep track of him. That’s something."

"What will you do if he does leave?"

"Continue my studies. Maybe the Centre will fund an expedition – we could track his movements and migrations. Maybe we’ll find a group of them, wouldn’t that be something?"

"It sure would, Mulder. It sure would."

-oo0oo-

"Have you thought about where you’re going on your holiday?"

"I thought I’d postpone it for a while, I just want to see this..."

"Mulder, this isn’t voluntary, and you need to take a rest."

"I’m fine."

"You are not fine! I do not want any more repeats of... that. This isn’t open to discussion, as far as I’m concerned you are still very close to dismissal for what you did. If it wasn’t for our friendship..."

"Next week."

"What?" Scully was thrown by the apparent non-sequitur.

"Next week. I’ll go away next week. It’s Friday now, I’ll make this my last day for two weeks. Happy?"

"Happy. And surprised, why the sudden capitulation?"

"He’s going nowhere. I spent a good six hours yesterday, and another six the day before trying to get him to understand how the gate works. He won’t even push against it. He only has to give it a shove and he’s out, like an oversized cat door, but he just floats there and stares at me."

"Don’t be disappointed. So he doesn’t have a normal mammal’s intelligence.  Maybe that’s for the best."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, if they were as intelligent as humans, I should imagine they’d go crazy with boredom, just floating around, eating all day."

"I don’t know about that, Scully, people pay good money for that. It’s called Club Med."

"No television, Mulder. No videos."

"Argh!" Mulder mimed horror. "I see your point. But I think he is smart, just not in the way we measure intelligence. Have you heard that line: ‘what’s smarter, cats or dogs? Cats, because you’d never get six cats to pull a sled’. He’s intelligent, I believe, but not at all educated. Even humans, if not instructed in some language before the age of seven, never learn. Or at least, they can never learn generalised terms. I’m sure he’s intelligent to some degree.  We just need to find some way to communicate."

"You believe the sun shines out his ass, Mulder, be honest."

"True, but nothing we’ve seen leads me to believe he’s not intelligent. I just think he can’t be bothered showing it – I think he’s laughing at us most of the time."

"You could be right. He’s being fed top quality expensive food, he’s safe, he’s cared for, he’s getting massaged. What’s so stupid about that."

"Exactly."

They sat in companionable silence for a little while, watching Krycek re-arrange the pebbles and baubles on the bottom of his tank, moving them away from the glass towards his underwater nest, creating a rainbow bower.

"So, what will do you do with your holidays, Mulder?"

"I dunno, maybe I’ll go to Disneyland, or Mythology Park, or Seaworld, or maybe I’ll just come here every day. Look at all the pretty fishes."

"Mulder..." her voice was low and menacing, despite her obvious understanding of his humour.

"Just kidding, Scully. Just kidding."

-oo0oo-

Files, endless reels of video tapes, sketches, and mountains of notes all had to be organised and neatly put away into Mulder’s briefcase. Then Mulder had to get frustrated and start stuffing all the shit into shopping bags. Basically, he dawdled and procrastinated, and wasted time until he had to leave. The window of his office was a porthole into the tank, and everything he did was observed and closely noted, and of course Mulder had to stop work and rap on the glass whenever sharp claws tapped for his attention.

"You gonna miss me?" he asked the glass, knowing Krycek probably couldn’t hear him through the panel. "Of course you will, but there are people to take care of you. Everyone’s well versed in feeding and care, I’ve made sure of that. And I won’t be far, I’m only down the beach a few miles so any problems they can call me. I’ll have my cell phone so they can contact me and I’ll be here in minutes. But you don’t understand any of that, do you." He sighed deeply. "I’d like to be with you one more time before I have to leave, but chances are Scully’s going to know that and have extra security in place."

Holding Krycek’s gaze, Mulder leaned forward and pressed his lips to the glass, his face only inches away from Krycek. The merman didn’t return the gesture, but moved even closer, hands against the pane. A moment’s deviltry caught Mulder and he made a blow fish against the glass, his face distorted, making a raspberry noise.

Krycek flipped his tail, shooting back in the water, obviously completely taken aback, and Mulder couldn’t help laughing at his incomprehension. Krycek was back seconds later, twitching in agitation, and Mulder couldn’t help repeating his jape, getting another laugh as Krycek started to jerk about in the water, obviously fascinated but having no idea why Mulder was doing this.

Taking pity on the poor animal, Mulder stopped, waved a sad good bye and turned to leave, "I’ll see you soon, Krycek. You be a good boy, okay?"

As he left, Krycek spun away towards the main windows, waiting for Mulder to re-appear, but Mulder slipped out the back door instead, his feet leaden, depressed and at a loss already as he started his vacation.

-oo0oo-

"How is he?"

"It’s fine, Mulder, and you don’t have to phone in every day to check up on it."

"Yeah yeah, I know, but yesterday you said he seemed lacklustre."

"To be perfectly honest, Mulder, I think it misses you."

He couldn’t help grinning to himself, not that he wanted Krycek to be unhappy, but it was nice to know he was being missed.

"Do you miss me, Scully?"

"No, I don’t, you pervert," affection in her voice. "It’s quiet, and not displaying at all.    It’s more interested in building rock patterns around the outside of the little cave area, and it’s totally ignoring the guests. It is eating, though not enthusiastically, but it’s not losing weight. It’s fine, just... quiet."

"Well, any problems..."

"Yes, Mulder, I’ll call you. Now go enjoy your holiday!"

"Yes, ma’am!"

The water beckoned, and Mulder grabbed beer, dirty magazine, and towel, and headed down to the water. Long ago the previous owners of this place had dug a channel from beach to their house, imported pure white sand at some incredibly exorbitant price and made their own small private beach by the house – where anyone could swim sans trunks and not be noticed. They’d had to sell the house at an enormous loss a few years later when the stock market crashed, and Mulder had snapped this place up in a second. Right on the water, private beach, what more could he want?

Of course, the house itself was too large, generally neglected, and always filthy, but there was even a tiny dock where Mulder moored his other pride and joy, the George Hale. He adored that boat, and spent every possible waking minute on her. Well, he had, up until Krycek had arrived. Maybe he should go out on her a bit more since he had the time now. But before, he had always taken her out looking for the merpeople.  Now he would be moving away from the only one he really cared about.

Yeah, maybe later he’d go out, tool the boat around the bay.  Maybe he could go past the aquarium, some of the dolphins that hung out there knew the boat and would come up, play in the wake or cage fish scraps. But if Scully saw the boat... then again, it was a free world.

With a sigh he threw himself into the water, doing laps up and down the beach until he was pleasantly tired. He grabbed his beer from the jetty, balanced it on his stomach and floated on his back, taking a sip now and then.

The warm caress of the water, and the first prickle of sunburn were easily turned by a fertile imagination into the tingle of scales against skin, and in his mind Mulder brought his lover to him. His own hands with phantom claws stroked over his flesh, the brush of seaweed was the touch of delicate fins, and sunlight on painfully blue water was so like the glint in his lover’s chameleon eyes.

Mulder pleasured himself easily, feeling the sun burn his lips, leaving blue and blinding white patterns on the back of his retinas, and smiled as he released his seed to mingle with the seawater.

It was only a couple of weeks, and he could go back. From now on he’d be more careful, and if Krycek had no desire to go back to the ocean then maybe they could have a long time together. A bigger tank, definitely he would have to get Krycek a bigger tank. With a fountain, perhaps, and hidden areas, new rock formations, lots of interesting things to keep the merman happy and amused. Mulder floated back again, making plans and cooking up schemes as the salt water buoyed him up.

-oo0oo-

"It’s calling again," Skinner pointed out uselessly.

Scully wrapped her arms around herself, hugging tight against the shivers that terrible voice sent down her spine. A beautiful noise, but terrifying. It reminded her of swamps and water-swollen graveyards, bloated, decomposing corpses floating to the surface of desecrated graves. She had visions of empty mausoleums, or deserted city streets with no life but the wretched bodies of the mouldering destitute. Desolate and foetid.

"Can’t you do something to make it stop that noise?" Skinner paced, worried. The noise brought people here, called them like zombies to living flesh, but they stood around, not spending money on anything, and it freaked everybody out.

"No, it started that two days ago, just sitting there on the platform and wails. We haven’t been able to get it down. It won’t stop, won’t eat. It’s ignoring everyone, just making that noise all the time."

"Why? Why is it doing that?"

She resisted the temptation to stick her fingers in her ears, "I think... it misses Mulder."

"Well, bring Mulder back then."

"He’s only got five days left of his holiday..."

"We’ll have to shut this place down if our star attraction keeps that up. What if it pines away? The customers are asking questions.  They don’t come here to watch this kind of thing. They want to see the pretty merman swimming around, not watch this animal making that dreadful racket."

"Walter! Have you got no soul? It’s in distress."

"Yeah, I know. Sorry, but that noise is starting to get to me."

Scully slipped her arm around Walter’s waist, her tiny fingers lost against the sheer size of the man. They hid their affair more carefully than Mulder hid his with the merman, but it was no less passionate. "If it doesn’t stop soon I’ll call him back. But his obsession with the merman is... unhealthy. It want them both to have a break from each other."

"Okay, but don’t leave it too long. This can’t be good for business."

-oo0oo-

The scent in the water, the taste of my other, his life in the salt. Not gone, not like my first, just... not here. Elsewhere, away. Follow that taste and go to him. Not to find him always asleep like my first, unmoving, not whole, but to find him playing, to find him moving and loving.

"Good boy." Krycek filtered water over his palate, tasting Mulder’s seed in the water again. One milligram in a million, it was all he needed to take him to his new mate. He pushed against the gate. A stupid idea he had at first thought, why would he want to leave here? But now it was the way to get to Mulder. "Good boy," again he whispered the noise that made little sense to him, apart from being Mulder’s approval. He’d tried to make sense of their language, but it was so... unchanging.

How could the two-tails communicate when their language was as solid and unyielding as the land. Without the fluidity of the water, the sounds could surely have no real meaning. Words that had only surface meaning, he could mimic those, and mimic the understanding. Words that had no more real direction than the language of coral, but he thought he could almost understand Mulder.

But Mulder had left him, after all the courtship, the making of their bond, he had left. Hadn’t found Krycek satisfactory? Krycek knew sadness, he knew leaving, the first had left, his other self. Krycek remembered pushing at the body that wouldn’t move any more, calling for a voice that no longer sang. Days until the little food ones had eaten away so much flesh of the first that even Krycek hadn’t recognised his mate, and the others had taken him from the body. He hadn’t understood then why he was alone, and he didn’t understand now. He could only think it was because he couldn’t sing back to Mulder the same way Mulder sang to him. He had listened to the voice, he almost knew the harmony, he could almost grasp the melody.

He would find his new mate and learn his song.

While everyone watched, he slipped out the gate, into the waiting ocean.

 good_boy.jpg (264057 bytes)

His muscles were starting to ache comfortably, letting him know he was alive, and Mulder stopped before he got a stitch. Treading water he realised he’d come far too far out to sea, well past the sonic barriers that kept the sharks at bay, and he struck out for home beach again. Every now and then something would brush past his body, the soft careful explorations of fishy mouths as they investigated him. There was nothing that would actually harm him, the tiny toothless nibbles only made him laugh, the brush of seaweed, the faint tickle of an exploratory tentacle made him wistful, but he kicked out for shore. It was summer, the sea was warm, it was a good time of year for sharks. The rational part of his mind told him more people were killed by bees or kicked to death by donkeys than injured by sharks, but the part of him that had been enthralled by Jaws One, Two, and 3D gave a little strength to his strokes.

A smooth strong body bumped against him, lifting him clear of the water for a second, and when he was once against submerged Mulder found he was swimming faster than he ever had before in his life. That was not some small fish investigating the strange new animal in its territory, that was something large. Something huge. Something with the strength to lift up a full grown man. What did it feel like when a shark takes your leg off? Didn’t that woman say she only felt a ‘pop’ when her bones had parted? Don’t thresh, don’t splash, don’t... what else was he supposed to do if attacked? Gouge its eyes? Hit it on the snout? All rational thought fled as once again something from the deep bumped against him, and he threshed and splashed for all he was worth. Only the fact he was too shit scared to make any noise stopped him from screaming.

He nearly passed out with relief when he recognised the strong fingers that closed around his wrist.

"Oh, you shit-head!" he exclaimed into bright curious eyes. "I nearly had heart failure!" But he couldn’t help smiling, and leaned forward to plant a hard happy kiss on his friend.

"What are you doing out here? Did you decide to leave there after all? Or did you just come looking for me?

There was definite emotion in Krycek’s face, Mulder was sure of it. Relief? He was happy to see Mulder, or maybe happy that Mulder was happy to see him. "Did you think I left you? You poor little sweet thing," Mulder shamelessly baby-talked to his pet.  Who would ever know? "I wouldn’t leave you. I had to go, they knew what we were doing. I know that it doesn’t bother you, but humans... we deny that part of ourselves. Well, some of us do. It’s natural; I know that, you know that, dolphins know that. But... the only way I could stay with you long term was to leave you for a little while. I wish I could make you understand."

Since the words had no effect, Mulder put his thoughts to actions, leaning forward to kiss the merman again. Krycek did not kiss back, but allowed Mulder’s tongue to explore the inside of his mouth. Krycek held himself still in the water as Mulder ran his tongue over the rough palate, the strong sharp teeth, slick warm inner cheeks. He enjoyed Krycek’s receptivity and the knowledge he could do almost anything he liked to the animal, without being judged a pervert, or told ‘no’. He could do whatever he wanted to the merman, and, as long as it wasn’t painful, and as long as Krycek was fed afterwards, he could get away with it. No ‘don’t touch me there’ from this lover, no moral judgements.  And Krycek was never going to complain he 'felt fat'.

"Hey, cutie pie, would you let me video tape you sometime? Us? Videotape us?" There was no protest, and Mulder wrapped his arms and legs around the merman, turning him in the water until Mulder was staring out over the waves. With no sight of land he could believe they were out in the middle of the ocean, with no other humans anywhere. He placed his trust in the arms of the merman, to keep him afloat, to keep him safe from things with fangs and fins – other things with fangs and fins. Other fanged and finned things apart from his own merman.

"Hey, hold on a sec." Mulder took a deep breath and slid down the body of the merman. As the water closed in over his head he had never felt so vulnerable – if Krycek became too excited and held on to Mulder, he could drown. If anything else decided to take a bite out of either of them, although he noticed peripherally none of the little fish that had been there before were around any more, he could bleed to death miles from the shore.

While his breath lasted he used his mouth to stimulate the lips of the genital pouch, licking in and around the sensitive flesh. Krycek started wiggling with excitement, and Mulder blew the last of his breath out in a string of bubbles against the swelling tissues. As soon as the tip of Krycek’s penis appeared, Mulder re-surfaced.

"Come on, follow me back to shore," he whispered, wrapping his legs around Krycek, hooking his fingers into the pouch to maintain the stimulation. "Come on, come with me." Mulder awkwardly used one arm to pull them both in the direction of his home, and as soon as Krycek caught on they were travelling fast, Krycek’s great tail effortless propelling them through the water.

In minutes Krycek had them back at the private beach, and Mulder encouraged him to lay on the sand with him. The merman was keen, his penis almost fully extended, and he grabbed at Mulder’s hips, trying to position him on his back. Mulder put him off for a few minutes, twisting away. "Give me a minute here, Krycek," he begged, grabbing his suntan oil. The smell of coconut competed with the smell of arousal, as, without preamble he placed the nozzle at the entrance to his own body and shot a stream of the makeshift lubricant into his rectum.

He rolled onto his belly, grinding his penis into the soft white sand. Later he’d regret that, but right now he was too excited. Krycek was grabbing at him, trying to turn him over to get access to sex the way he knew how to do it, but Mulder twisted and turned, manipulating the merman until Mulder was underneath, pushing his buttocks up into Krycek’s groin. Krycek humped futilely at Mulder’s back, making small coughing noises of distress, still trying to turn Mulder over.

"Come one, Krycek, catch the clue bus here, I did this to you, you can work out what I want." The scrape of scales against the backs of Mulder’s thighs excited him, as did the panted breaths of his lover, "Come on, I’m not teasing you, do it to me," Mulder pleaded. He slipped one hand down and behind, catching the slick penis where it slid blindly between his butt-cheeks, and tried to guide it into his body. He cursed himself for not taking the time to open himself up, as Krycek’s cock bumped uselessly against the too-tight bud of Mulder’s anus.

Holding tight, trying to encourage Krycek to thrust, Mulder pushed the merman’s penis against the opening, aiming the hot slippery head for the pucker just as Krycek jerked forward, pushing the head into Mulder’s waiting flesh.

Krycek froze at first, holding himself still at the unexpected give – awaiting Mulder’s reaction; negative or positive.

Mulder groaned, both in pain and anticipation, pushing back again, opening his legs and offering himself to the wild thing. He was being split apart, torn open as Krycek slid in further. He looked over his shoulder, anchoring himself with the sight of glimmering green and blue scales as Krycek’s tail moved on the sand between his legs. There was no finesse, no consideration as Krycek started to thrust. Mulder bit his lip until he tasted blood, trying not to tense up, or attempt escape from the relentless pounding. Krycek’s claws dug into the sand and his hips thumped against Mulder’s buttocks, breathing in short gasps as he experienced this new way of fucking.

Mingling with the coconut oil, Krycek’s natural lubrication started to ease his passing, the head of his penis started to rub solidly against Mulder’s prostate, filling him up again and over again with none of the caution of a human lover. There was no care for Mulder’s pleasure, no treating Mulder as if he could break, just the raw pounding of an animal in rut.

And Mulder revelled in it. He could hear his own voice squeaking with excitement as he was pushed along the sand a couple of inches. He pleaded for more, grinding his hips back to meet every thrust. Mulder balanced his head on his forearm, digging the elbow into the sand to stop himself being pushed forward any further, and slipped one hand down to jerk off his own penis. The sand rash would hurt like hell later, but right now his excitement brought the pain into his fantasy, made it essential to his pleasure. He saw his own cum frothing on the sand before he even realised he was climaxing, and could hear his own cries, unable to stop the whimpers and groans as his body spasmed around the merman.

Mulder used the last of his strength to keep his butt high as Krycek slammed his body into Mulder, his prick sliding into tight flesh made wet and juicy by plentiful precum and Mulder’s own orgasm. Mulder purposefully let his body relax, riding out Krycek’s thrusts. He squeezed his muscles up and down the eager shaft, twisted his ass, wringing the last sensations from his own orgasm as he did what he could to make it good for Krycek.

He could feel the first hot jets of cum as Krycek ground him down onto the beach, the hot muscular body heavier than any human male had ever been as Mulder was crushed, his tender ass being scraped by the soft sharp scales, his anus burning from the pounding, inside and out. Krycek’s teeth pierced his shoulder, and Mulder watched droplets of blood plop onto the beach – fat purple drops sending up small sprays of ivory sand as they impacted. Dripping down to mingle with his own white spray of semen, the two colours mingling as Mulder felt the trickle of the merman’s come down his thigh and Krycek’s thrusts slowed, then stopped.

Mulder collapsed, lying flat with the heavy body forcing him down deep into the moist sand.

Krycek stirred, but didn’t withdraw, cool fingers wrapped around Mulder’s biceps, and a soft warm tongue apologised to Mulder’s shoulder in warm soothing laps. He nuzzled the side of Mulder’s face, tiny voiceless noises and inquiring clicks badgering for Mulder’s attention until Mulder turned, licking him back across his cheek, letting Krycek know he was all right. Better than all right. Fabulous. Fish fucked fabulous.

Twisting his head almost 180 degrees he started to nibble Krycek’s ear lobe, working his tongue around the small elegant pinnae, dipping the tip into the aural channel. Krycek shook his head violently, reacting as if tickled, and Mulder repeated it, blowing very gently across the tiny opening. Again Krycek shook his head, huffing and snorting, but didn’t move away, and Mulder got the distinct impression this was as close to laughter as the merman could get.

"How was that? You understand why I wanted to do that to you now? Pretty good, huh? Not that there’s anything wrong with the way you do it, don’t get me wrong, but I thought you’d like to try something new."

Mulder realised that Krycek was not softening, in fact, the merman had started to move again, shifting his hands down to Mulder’s hips, his thumbs pressing into the dimples either side of Mulder’s spine.

"Again?" Mulder was surprised, but not disappointed, "I see, you really did like that, huh?" Knowing himself well enough to realise he wouldn’t get another erection so soon, Mulder just settled himself on the sand, enjoying the warm sunny day, and the warm scaly body as Krycek started to find his rhythm again. This time slower, Krycek almost circling his hips as he took his time exploring the inside of the human’s body and these new possibilities. Mulder’s ass felt like it was flooded.  With each pump from Krycek more fluids seeped out, tickling down over his balls and between his thighs to join the rest of the moisture on the sands.

As Krycek’s excitement mounted and his speed picked up, Mulder could hear him making odd little noises: a combination of his haunting wails, but shortened and combined with the whispers and clicks that the merman had used for communication before.

"If you’re trying to whisper sweet nothings in my ear back there, don’t worry about it, you don’t have vocal cords in the right place. And you’re getting some anyway, so don’t strain anything important."

"Good boy," in Krycek’s patented hissing whisper.

"Yeah, very very good boy."

-oo0oo-

"Oh, god, that was incredible," Mulder groaned, still reeling from the most thorough fucking of his life. Krycek had stayed on him, pounding his body into the beach, until the merman had climaxed four times. The last time Mulder had found his own tired body almost coming along with him – he still sported a half-hearted erection.

Now Krycek rolled off, pulling free and collapsing beside him, and Mulder felt like a bottle whose cork had been popped as a small amount of coconut oil and a flood of merman semen flowed out of his body. "So this is what Johny Cash meant when he sang of his ‘Burning Ring of Fire’?"

On shaking arms and legs he crawled down to the water until he was waist high. He could feel the salt water flooding into his own body, something he’d never felt before. But then he’d never been opened up like this before. The cold water filled him up, a weird and alien sensation.

Krycek stirred and slowly started to drag himself down towards Mulder. Awkwardly, and slightly on his side, as if unwilling to let his obviously over-sensitised genitals touch the sand.

"Hey, guy, you don’t wanna get into this water just yet," Mulder warned as nature took its course. "Just give it a few minutes for the waves to do their job."

Whether he understood or not, Krycek made no effort to enter the water, but rolled around on the sand. Like a large, well fed cat in front of a fire, Krycek rubbed his back on the warm white sands, belly to the sun, contented, satisfied. A thin stream of semen dribbled across his hips and fell to the beach.

Mulder laughed at the lazy fish and hauled himself out to stand above Krycek, shaking cold water drops onto over heated skin.

Too exhausted to make much of a protest, Krycek curled up his tail, slapping Mulder very gently with soft fins that slipped over Mulder’s calves, sticking slightly before Krycek flopped down flat again.

Mulder straddled his body, squatting down and putting his hands on Krycek’s chest. He found he loved the difference in textures between the satin perfect skin and the feather silk of the blue-green scales, and he indulged that, rubbing his inner thighs over both, bending to lick at the demarcation line, delving his tongue into Krycek’s navel.

Krycek lay back – totally relaxed or too exhausted to move, Mulder couldn’t tell which – with his hands curved softly by his head, gazing up at Mulder with a completely vacuous expression, mouth open, eyes half closed.

"You look well and truly fucked, my pretty friend," Mulder smiled, settling himself comfortably across Krycek’s body. He took his own penis between his fingers. Still half hopeful for a second climax it throbbed slightly as he trailed the head over Krycek’s body, oozing forward, anointing the merman’s tiny pink nipples with precum. He thought they looked like little pink petals touched with drew. He inched up a little further, "Look." Mulder held his penis where Krycek could see the red patches of sand rub. "Do you have any idea how uncomfortable that is?"

A small pointed tongue peeked out and lapped delicately at the side of Mulder’s penis. Holding it like an offering, Mulder rubbed it over Krycek’s lips, enjoying the gentle soothing strokes of the merman’s tongue. Over, round, investigating the slit, smoothing over the spongy head.

"I’d put it in your mouth if I could believe you wouldn’t bite me, shark tooth," he said, moving his penis over Krycek’s face. He trailed across the perfect high cheekbones, back down the berry lips, his cock twitching at every little flickering tongue stroke. His ass was sore and tired from the best fuck of his life, but his cock was eagerly exploring the smooth skin below. No stubble, smoother than any human, and as the salt water was licked away, the discomfort of the sand burn started to fade.

He held his cock harder against the side of Krycek’s face, rubbing himself over the cool skin, the head of his cock slipping over the smooth hair-like membranes, down again and under Krycek’s jaw. Krycek turned his head, trapping Mulder’s cock against his own shoulder and Mulder started to thrust into the soft, smooth channel, lubricated with his own juices and merman saliva.

He caressed the merman’s face, murmuring soft encouragements to his friend as he thrust his penis in the slick tunnel provided, touching Krycek’s tongue with his fingers whenever it flickered out.

He sighed and groaned, one finger in Krycek’s mouth as he came, splattering his seed down the merman’s neck, into the fins that lay across the sand, his white semen dull jewels against the silver-tipped green ribbons.

Crawling backwards down Krycek’s body he left a sticky trail. "You’re drying out, pretty baby." Krycek’s fins were dulling in the sun. Mulder licked up his own mess, lapping contentedly at Krycek’s face, ears, and traced wet patterns along the trailing fins, watching his own saliva catch the sunlight before drying.

"Time to get wet, come on." He grabbed Krycek’s hands and started to drag him back into the water.    Krycek lay on his back, completely disinterested in helping. "Oh, you big lump, lend a fin, will you." He managed to get the merman into water a few inches deep, and watched as the water moistened the over-dried scales.

"Well, not that I’m planning on loving and leaving you, but I think I’d better phone the Centre. They are going to be panicking by now.  I don’t want them using the tracker to find you here. I’ll be back down soon."

The phone was already ringing when Mulder trudged wet footprints inside. The phone was under an old armchair, adrift in a miniature sand dune. He made a mental note not to vacuum some time as he hauled the phone out by its cord. He couldn’t remember why the phone was sticky.   It had been months since he’d phoned a sex chat line.

"Hi, Mulder, it’s me."

"What can I do you for, Scully?" he said, unoriginally.

"He’s gone, Mulder. He called for a couple of days, then he disappeared. He’s left the Centre."

"He called? Why didn’t you tell me that sooner?"

"I wasn’t phoning you just for that. Aren’t you worried about his leaving?"

"That’s why we installed the gate, Scully, remember?"

She was quiet for a moment.

"You’re awfully calm about this, Mulder."

Caught.

"We expected him to leave, I’ve been ready for this for a long time. I suspected he might leave if I was no longer at the Centre. You and I both discussed the possibility," that wasn’t a lie.

"Do you think he’ll come back?"

"Probably," if I do...

"Um, Scully..."

"Yes, Mulder?"

"I... if he’s not going to be in the Centre, I might take a few more days. In fact," Mulder felt his story picking up energy, "I might pack up the boat, go out for a while. Hey, I could track him, if you like..?"

"Perhaps that’s not a good idea, Mulder. It might be best for him to go back to his own pod now. He might come back sometime, but it’s best to let him go."

"Sure, you’re probably right. But I think I’ll go out anyway. I need time, time to get my head on straight."

"Okay, Mulder. Your job will be waiting for you when you get back. There’s enough data here to keep you happy for years. You... you have a good time, okay?"

"Okay, and... thanks. I’ll stay in contact." That wasn’t going to hold her long. Her suspicions would be ticking over by the time he hung up. But she wasn’t the fish police. She had no control over him outside of the Centre and she couldn’t control a wild animal.

Mulder started getting stuff together. The boat was already equipped like a miniature survival station.  He’d spent months out on her previously, either searching for signs of homo-aquarius, or just searching for himself. Now he needed to load up fresh supplies and the tracking equipment he’d always kept here anyway.

He had made a good start on emptying the fridge when he heard the noise. Loud crashes, the door sounded like it was being torn off its hinges, thumps, glass smashing, furniture being tossed aside and splintering like drift wood, the drag of something very heavy.

He grabbed a meat clever, edged his way towards the sound. If it was someone after the merman, he wouldn’t hesitate to defend himself or Krycek.

"Hyaa!!!" he launched himself into the room, taking up a classic karate stance, to be confronted by the sight that would have greeted those dumb-ass teenagers before they were speared.

Krycek rattled all the fully extended spines, deadly, dangerous, lips pulled back to reveal savage sharp teeth, hands up and claws poised to strike.

"Hey, hey there," Mulder placed the cleaver carefully on the floor, "It’s just me, didn’t mean to startle you. Although you sure gave me one hell of a shock." Mulder kept his voice soothing, level, even.  Eventually the merman calmed, lowering himself down to the sandy carpet.

"Jeez, Krycek, look what you’ve done to my house!" The door swung on its hinges, claw marks visible, although it would have taken the strength of the tail to burst it in like that. Even the television had been smashed in, as Krycek had simply tossed furniture out of his way as he’d come in through the mess. Mulder pulled a hard backed chair out of the television. "And I was planning our honeymoon, too!"

He sighed deeply, hands on hips. He couldn’t be angry at the merman though, the way it glared at him reproachfully, Mulder knew exactly what it was feeling. Abandoned. Twice.

"Okay, okay, we can deal with this." Mulder pulled over his executive office chair. The leather was cracked and peeling, but it had been good quality once, large and sturdy. "Come here, you." He slipped his arms around the merman, hauling him by his armpits until he was settled on the chair, his tail awkwardly thrust out in front. "Now, wherever I go, you can come with me." As Mulder worked around the house, picking up his tracking equipment and cameras, and as he moved from room to room, he wheeled the merman along with him. Krycek was most perturbed by the movement, grabbing onto Mulder for dear life each time he was moved, his eyes wide. But he allowed it, and he seemed, in a way, content, as he was allowed to watch Mulder the entire time.

"Get your fingers out of that," Mulder snapped as Krycek reached for his pet goldfish. "They are coming with us anyway, don’t you dare eat them." Krycek looked up at him, a perfect ‘butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth’ expression on his face. "Hmmm... just watch it, fish breath," Mulder chastised him, humour in his voice, tapping Krycek on the tip of his up-turned nose. "Not snacks, you understand? Not! Snacks!"

Mulder made several trips down to the boat, heaving boxes and equipment, quite content to have his work load increased by having to haul the now wheeled-merman along with him. From the veranda, down the dock, to the boat. As the trips went on, Krycek became less fearful of this mode of transport, although he certainly never let go of Mulder’s forearm. Tiny claw imprints showed white on Mulder’s tanned skin.

"Well, that’s about it, my friend." Mulder looked back at the house, wondering if he should leave it like that, with the back door torn off its hinges. But if someone wanted to burgle the place, no door would stand in their way, and there was little of value there, nothing that Mulder valued anyway.

Merman, desk chair, and himself, were the last things he loaded on. He tied the chair to the side of the boat – who knew when you might need an office chair out on the high seas. He radioed in his projected route, wondering if he’d stick to anything like it. But if he didn’t give the authorities notification of his plans (false or otherwise), they’d be looking for him by the end of the day.

"Do you want to sail with me, or do you want to go for a swim?"

The merman flopped on the deck, cautiously investigating the new area, and was calm until Mulder started up the engine. The sudden change to threat mode, with all fins bristling like a hedgehog and claws destroying the highly polished deck, had Mulder violently chastising himself.

"I’m sorry, sweetheart!" he apologised profusely, stroking his friend’s back, "I forgot. Jeez, I didn’t even think." Of course Krycek would freak at the boat engine.  It was a boat that had sliced him up in the first place, and Mulder could only guess at the number of other boat engine accidents Krycek had probably witnessed during his watery lifetime.

"Er... we could have a problem here, friend. This boat has sails, but they are only meant for emergencies, not long voyages. I mean, we won’t make very fast progress anywhere if we..."

Pause.

Bristle.

Sigh.

"Okay. Sails it is."

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-oo0oo-

Two days. Well, at least I’m working on my tan, Mulder thought brightly. (Almost as brightly as the horrendous Hawaiian shirt he had slipped on to avoid more sunburn.) But he was worried about Krycek. In two days the animal had refused to go into the ocean. He would carve up the deck when Mulder turned the engines on, and otherwise just drag himself about, investigating the boat. Mulder would throw a bucket or two of the sea water over him now and then, to keep him from completely drying out – not sure if this was really needed, but not taking a chance. He’d also been somewhat chagrined to find out if he went swimming, the merman would reach in and haul him out again, usually by the hair.

There were no sharks.    Mulder checked the radar religiously. No whales, not even large tuna. He could not work out why Krycek seemed so spooked by the ocean. Or perhaps, Mulder felt a small guilty pang, he had the idea if he left the boat Mulder would abandon him again. Either way, it wasn’t helping Mulder at all.

He looked at all the expensive equipment he’d loaded. The idea of tracking Krycek back to his pod, getting some records of the group, had seemed a wonderful one at the time. But if Krycek was only content to float about on the high seas in a boat, there was no way they would be able to find anything at all. There was the temptation to simply pick the fish up and throw him into the sea. Perhaps, in high dudgeon, Krycek would take off and go for a swim in some useful direction. But Mulder couldn’t find it in himself to be that thoughtless... yet.

He sat on the back board of his boat, feet dangling into the water. He could lose himself here, lose himself in the deep blue. The ocean seemed bottomless; certainly no human could plumb the depths, not even with specialist equipment. He wondered if the merman would be able to go down to the blackness, where sunlight had not touched for more millions of years than the human mind could comprehend. He let his thoughts drift, down to where it was so dark the fish made their own light, neon bacteria sparkling in the depths like Christmas lights. No lobsters down that deep...

He found his mind skittering sideways.  No lobsters, no crustaceans, at least not the type they’d seen Krycek eating. The merman’s ears had shown some adaptation to the pressures of the ocean, but not all that much – nothing extraordinary...

Mulder slapped his forehead, infuriated with his own blindness. He’d allow his own fantasies of deep water and freedom to obfuscate the facts. The merman was a tropical water animal, warm shallow water.

"You’re afraid of the deep water, aren’t you? Is that it? Or you know you’re simply not adapted to these depths? Shit. I’m sorry." He stomped back on to the deck, followed by curious green eyes, and started to tack back towards the shore. Wasted time. But then, he had taken an indefinite leave of absence, and humans had been waiting a very very long time for more information on the merpeople.  They could wait a bit longer. He chastised himself over his own greed for more information. Stupid mistakes. It would take the best part of the rest of the day to get back to the reefs. Still, at least he’d learned not to use the boat engine – an expensive lesson when he would have to get the boat fixed – but he now knew that if he was to find any other merpeople, no mechanical noises. Of course, they might run from a sail boat as well, but he could always try again later. And again. And again.

He tied the sails down.    With the gentle breeze behind them they wouldn’t make terribly good speed, but he wouldn’t have to keep an eye on them all the time.  The boat could sail itself for a while, leaving Mulder plenty of time to play.

His face pinched with concentration, Krycek was busy stalking a small hermit crab across the deck. How it had got there in the first place was a mystery to Mulder, but it had kept the merman occupied on and off for the past two days while Mulder tracked the oceans.

"I’m going to put your little friend in the fishtank for a while, okay?" Mulder rescued the crab, dropping it in with his pet fish.  He lay down on the deck beside Krycek, "Don’t worry, Krycek, I’ll keep you occupied."

He took the paintbrush he kept for touching up the boat’s paintwork and gently ran it over Krycek’s face and lips, making the merman blink in ticklish surprise.

Mulder let the merman hold the brush, inspect it, lick it, gnaw on it a little, before taking it back to continue trailing it across Krycek’s body. Using his legs to flip Krycek’s tail back on deck each time it curled around him, Mulder continued tickling Krycek with the brush. Teasing gooseflesh out of his nipples until they were hard enough to cut glass, then soothing them with warm liquid tongue. He teased down the alabaster skin, watching muscles twitch and contract.

Krycek snorted and huffed as he was teased, grabbing Mulder’s upper arms – his hands clenched and tightened and his lips contracted, revealing sharp white teeth. Mulder wondered if he was going to be bitten anytime soon as he circled the brush around Krycek’s tiny navel and down to where scales met skin at the junction of groin and where thighs would be. As the bristles of the brush touched the outer edges of the genital pouch, Krycek arched his back, eyes half closed, his tongue pink and darting across his lips.

"That’s nice, isn’t it?" Mulder whispered to him, "Do you play, like this? Dolphins do Do mermen? ‘The more intelligent the animal, the greater the need for play’" Mulder quoted. "And I think you’re intelligent. Ignorant, in human terms, but definitely intelligent. And I definitely think you’re enjoying this!"

The very tip of Krycek’s penis was showing now, moist and pink, a drop of the viscous natural lubricant appearing at the top. Mulder started to circle the brush around and around the tip, running it up and down the glistening shaft as it oozed forth from its hiding place.

He watched, fascinated, as the soft skin of the lips flushed deep pink, swelling slightly as Krycek’s excitement increased. Mulder kept trailing the brush delicately over the soft membranes, dipping down the base of the shaft and just inside the inner lips. "So, am I more fun than a hermit crab?" Mulder laughed, and started edging away. Krycek followed him, clicking deep in his throat, confused that Mulder would apparently stop that delicious touching.

"Come on, sweetie, come into the water with me." Mulder kept edging towards the tail board of the boat, grabbing his re-breather on the way, "The water’s shallow here, and there’s no other boats around. Come on, I’ll blow bubbles on you again…" he coaxed.

Water closed over him, isolating Mulder in a world of his own, sliding over his body like a warm welcoming tongue. He struck down towards the bottom, enjoying the drag of the salt water against his heated flesh as his strokes took him deeper. He closed his eyes, gliding down effortlessly into his own private universe.

The woosh of increased pressure buffeting his side alerted him to the presence of the merman. He knew there would be few other fish in the area; nothing very dangerous seemed to stay around for long when Krycek was in the water. Like the shadow of sharks, his presence cleaned up the neighbourhood. The few fish that skated through the water, beautiful as they were in their coats of many colours, paled to insignificance beside the brilliant silver and aquamarine glistening as the merman, dappled by sunlight through the water, sailed past Mulder. He caught the sunlight on his scales and reflected it back again, catching the light on polished lustre.

The merman ignored Mulder for a while, circling around him, spinning a little. Mulder had the distinct impression he was under a disco ball as the lights speckled over his skin and the white sand. As Krycek swam over him, Mulder reached up and let his fingers run down the merman’s still protruding shaft. The pink flesh twitched, twisting against his fingers for a moment almost as flexible as the finger-like dolphin’s penis. It twitched away from his hands and the merman sailed past, pretending not to be interested.

He stroked the merman’s belly as he went under Mulder, effortlessly sliding upside down just inches above the sandy floor, small swirls of white twisted in his path, stirred by dorsals.

Oh yes, your disinterested act is really working, Mulder grinned to himself, not fooled for a moment. Hmm…I wonder…

Mulder started to twist and dance in the water, copying from memory as much as he could of Krycek’s mating display. He longed for fins of his own as he spun, almost dizzy with the awkward jerking of his own graceless turns. He grasped the edge of his shirt, using the multi-coloured fabric like it was his own set of colourful dorsals. Maladroit he might be, compared to the merman, but his clumsy attempts were certainly working. After a few passes, Krycek now floated upright in the water, apparently riveted by Mulder’s display. The lack of fins, of shimmering scales, apparently were no great hardship. The thought obviously counted.

Swaying slightly, Krycek followed every moment with rapt attention, giving Mulder a look that he could only interpret as wanting to eat the human alive. Mulder increased his turns, using his arms to spin himself when he lacked the tail to create the movement. Swaying in counterpoint to Mulder’s dance, Krycek seemed almost hypnotised, his eyes half closed, an expression of bliss capturing his features.

Mulder was exhausting himself and starting to feel like a clown, when strong arms wrapped around his middle. Relieved not to have to keep up the dance, he squeezed the merman’s shoulders to his chest. He rubbed his chin, the only part of his face not covered by the re-breather, over Krycek’s face, and massaged his back briskly. The merman was fully erect now, his penis hard and hot in the warm water, probing between Mulder’s thighs.

They twisted around together, their bodies twining in the ocean. Mulder could see their reflections on the underside of the surface of the water, breaking up into bubbles until he could see a thousand mermen churning with a thousand humans, wrapped around and in each other. As he slipped into the merman’s body, clutching the hard cool flesh to his own, he could see the watery world shattering into a million bubbles, the images of their joining surrounding him, reflected a million times in blue eternity.

Krycek’s firm hand kept their bodies joined, even after they had found their release together, holding Mulder inside himself with flexible sucking muscles, as they floated gently down to rest on the ocean floor. The merman was making quick jerking motions with his head, short upward nodding motions as if trying to communicate some idea to Mulder. But he seemed unperturbed at Mulder’s inability to recognise the signal, simply content to drift idly with the gentle tide.

The boat stayed within their vision.  Mulder made sure that they didn’t get too far. The re-breather could operate indefinitely, but he still did not relish the idea of being stranded out here, even this close to shore. He had no idea if he could communicate the need to find the boat again to the merman, who would probably drift further and further out to sea unconcerned, so he kept a watchful eye on the boat’s shadow on the sand. At least he didn’t have to worry it would be stolen. Kraken had been found here once, to the detriment of a cruise liner. Since then the entire area had been declared a national park, and only idiots, or those in love with mermen, dared stray here.

The merman only released Mulder’s body when something else caught his attention. Mulder expected him to go hunting, foraging for something small and scuttly, but instead Krycek slipped away, tensing up, his fins quivering, obviously sensing something in the water, or the vibrations of the currents. Krycek reached back for Mulder’s hand, and when Mulder took it, he was dragged through the water at speeds he’d never felt before, not even when he’d fallen from water skis and been dragged for 50 metres, too stubborn to let go. Krycek left a motor boat for dead, effortlessly powering through the water with strokes of his tail. The force of the water displacement buffeted Mulder, despite being somewhat protected in the merman’s wake, forcing him to hold his mask in place. He was paranoid the sudden violent currents would rip it from his face. He gave up trying to swim, and just went along for a drag, cursing quietly to himself as the boat was left far behind.

There were a few minor course changes, but wherever they were going, the merman had a fairly unswerving heading, and he hauled Mulder with no change in speed towards their destination.

Eventually they came up against a drift net. Mulder swore violently under his breath. So many beautiful creatures were caught in it. Dead, dying. He pulled the knife from his ankle sheath and released a few weakly moving animals. An ugly-head fish was released with a few strokes, only its fins entangled, and it shot away into the water. Mulder was struck by how appropriate its name was, then scolded himself for his own bias.

"These are illegal, you know," he said, apologetically to the merman who watched his actions with obvious distress. Mulder, again, was ashamed of his own race. If there was a dolphin trapped here, they would all pay. The cetaceans had a powerful union now.  They would extract their pound of flesh from the humans responsible. But there were no dolphins, nothing grouped around a distressed pod mate, not that he could see. The net had obviously been cut loose from a boat, possibly years ago. The seaweed and kelp had grown through the deadly mesh now, disguising it, and Mulder wept inside at the many creatures who had threshed out their last entrapped in human-greed. He dropped rocks along the top wire as he went, hoping that weighing it down would prevent too many more casualties. He made a mental note to get someone out here to remove it as soon as he had radio contact again.

Krycek was urging him along the length of the net, trying to get the human to move faster, but Mulder kept stopping to free anything he thought he could save, avoiding getting his fingers bitten whenever possible.

As a huge grey shape surged through the water towards him, Mulder screamed and twisted away. Short sharp fins stabbed towards him, and he narrowly avoided claws that aimed to tear him apart.

Barely maintaining bladder control, Mulder stared into the eyes of another merman. He got the fleeting impression it was virtually twice the size of his own, powerfully muscled, its scales and fins the same colour as a grey nurse shark, intentions as savage as a white pointer. Mulder was simultaneously terrified of dying, amazed to find another one, and overjoyed that the net was between them. One huge taloned hand came through the net for him, and Mulder scooted back in the water, narrowly avoiding being sliced.

Krycek was beside him in seconds, coming between Mulder and the new creature, his body jerking sharply as he tried to communicate with the newcomer, but was ignored. The new merman revealed rows of teeth and murderous intention, not caring at all if Mulder was friend or foe. Human equalled enemy. Krycek grabbed Mulder again, dragging him by his hand down the net a ways. The large angry animal followed them, churning the water with his agitated threshings, and Mulder soon realised why.

Another merman was trapped in the nets.

Much smaller than both Krycek and the big grey, this one was totally entangled, and apparent escape attempts had caused it to become more hopelessly trapped in the nylon mesh. Mulder took the knife and started to cut the animal free. This one was copiously endowed with fins, far more than Krycek, and much much more than the big grey. Shades of brown and gold, speckled with white like a lion fish, and oddly twisted and curled. Mulder had never seen such markings, and was fascinated. The animal’s face was hidden by the fins which trailed listlessly through the water, and Mulder got the impression it had struggled for a long time. Totally exhausted, it offered no protest as Mulder started to cut it free. His efforts were somewhat hampered as he had to avoid the large angry merman’s attempts to claw him through the net. It seemed certain that Mulder was trying to injure the small brown, and was becoming increasingly distressed, and, if possible, even more angry. It took a long time. Chew and claw marks on the net made it apparent the mermen had been working on it themselves, but it was also obvious the mesh had defeated them. As it had defeated dolphins, sharks and everything else that lived in the sea.

Finally the small merman was freed from the mesh, its fragile skin marked and burned from the nylon threads. It moved tiredly away from the net, and Mulder realised it had left behind a merman sized hole that the enormous savage now clawed his way through. It stared at both Mulder, and Krycek, square jawed and steely eyed, and Mulder could see where the legend of the Triton came from. All it needed was a trident to complete the image. It twitched slightly, all it needed to propel itself towards its companion, then engulfed the smaller creature, squashing him against an enormous chest.

Mulder’s mental ‘phew’ relaxed his whole body, he wasn’t out of danger yet, not necessarily, but it didn’t look like he was going to be man-kebabs anytime soon.

Torn between wanting to watch these two and trying to find his boat, Mulder decided he was less than wholly welcome and pointed towards the direction from where they had come.

Krycek stared longingly after the slowly departing couple, and Mulder guiltily realised he was still trying to keep the merman for himself. Away from humans, away from other mer-folk. But his merman returned to him, holding out gentle hands, and turned to power them back towards the boat.

It didn’t take long, and Mulder’s first job was to call in the net. He didn’t give his real ID, leaving a false name with the guard. He wanted no one to connect him with this place. He didn’t even want the guard out here, but that net could not be left in place. Krycek was leaning over the back of the boat, quiet and pouting slightly. Mulder couldn’t stand the look any longer and tacked the boat back towards the shallows where they’d found the net. The boat took three times as long to get to the net as they had earlier, and it was dark by the time they were beyond it. Mulder dropped the anchor only a short swim from the beach.  He could see everything glowing, almost as if the pure white sand was bathed in ultra violet light. Sea lions were playing on the shoreline, but Mulder didn’t pay them much attention.

His merman turned, looking at him sadly, then slid down into the water. Mulder couldn’t stand to watch him go, and went into the cabin. He sat and made meticulous notes, long into the night, definitely not wondering if he’d see Krycek again.

-oo0oo-

Alone still the next morning, Mulder made himself a breakfast from the last of the fresh fruit. He considered fishing, but didn’t dare put a hook into the sea. Just staring at the perfectly blue water depressed him, and he considered going back to bed for the day, but that would solve nothing and he needed a bath. He fixed his re-breather and dove in, the water a little cooler today, refreshing him, almost cheering him somewhat.

He struck out towards the shore, alternately floating on his back, then diving down into the shallow water. A few scattered rock formations yielded some interesting lifeforms, and he used the small camera he’d picked up that morning to catalogue the intriguing things he found. He hoped to find an example of Homunculus Pisciculous, but the water was obviously too calm and de-oxygenated for the Sea Squitling, although he found spore traces of the common pseudo-fish in many places.

A solid whoosh of water that sent him tumbling heralded the return of his friend, and he laughed, holding his arms out to receive a load of playful merman.

"Hello, my friend. I missed you," he whispered, and laughed again as he was pushed backwards through the sand as Krycek eagerly rubbed himself all over his pet human.

He felt his mood improve dramatically, and made a great show of thanks as he was offered bits of kelp berries, whelks, barnacles, and other little presents.

Krycek stopped his play and started making those odd upwards nods again, but this time not at Mulder. Turning, Mulder was surprised to see the small brown merman he’d rescued the day before. It regarded him through brilliant blue eyes, backed up by the wall-of-fish that was its mate. Apparently coming to a decision, it started to swim towards Mulder, brought up sharply by the large hand that grabbed a fistful of the speckled brown ‘hair’.

And very slowly, as if circling prey, other mer-folk started to gather around him. Krycek stayed by his side, twitching nervously, as they found themselves at the centre of a slow moving ring. Mulder was both terrified and elated. Females: some with young, one heavily pregnant; old, young, pairs and apparent singles all moved around him. He counted at least thirty in the pod. They were all exquisite, a rainbow of colours, a myriad of gorgeous faces. Anyone of them could have gutted him like a guppy. Even the youngest, who appeared the equivalent of a human two year old, was armed and dangerous, all of them with spines erect – the threat very obvious.

Krycek continued his odd little movements, and these were echoed occasionally by one or other of his fellows. Mulder was fairly certain that there was some kind of sonar communication going on, although he couldn’t feel anything. Right now, surviving this little meet was slightly higher on the agenda anyway.

Am I being tested? Is there something I should do right about now? Is Krycek standing up for me? After what’s been done to them by humans, I honestly wouldn’t blame them if they tried to kill me. Not that I’d like the idea…

The small brown fellow made another move towards Mulder and again was held back. This time he twitched free with obvious irritation. He swam up to them cautiously, and paused in silent communication with Krycek. Mulder had to guess the big guy, who swam very close now, not letting his little mate out of easy reach, had to be nearly two foot longer again than Krycek.

How did he get so muscular? Do mermen work out? It was a ridiculous thought, but he couldn’t help it as his legs were delicately touched by the inquisitive fish he’d rescued the day before. I guess I look kind of deformed to you… Mulder thought, slowly starting to relax.

The pod were still circling, but some had broken off, going about their business amongst the shallows. But even those who didn’t look directly at him were having a hard time hiding their curiosity. They pretended to be cool and indifferent, but they’d keep looking back. He waited for the other shoe to drop, certain acceptance couldn’t be this easy.

One of the females cruised gracefully in front of him, pausing for a moment, her face caught in a rictus of a smile. It struck Mulder as odd, as he’d never seen Krycek, nor any of the others, truly smile before. It was also obviously fake, more of a grimace. She was petite, no more than six foot long, her fins gingery, her skin fine and pale; and even though there was no real comparison he couldn’t help but mentally dub her ‘Dana’. Before him she started to dance. Twisting, displaying pretty fins, her movements so like Krycek’s.

Mulder looked quickly over at Krycek to gauge his reaction to this, but the merman was looking down and away, not offering any clues.

Mulder looked back at her.    She was beautiful, no doubt. Her breasts, full and round, never having experienced gravity, her figure strong and fine, never having experienced couch-potato-ism. And he could see the odd scars on her abdomen and chest. Fine lines, some very slightly celoid, none of them detracting from her beauty, although a missing finger marred her fine hands. They looked like… knife wounds…

Mulder’s stomach rebelled, and he swallowed frantically to stop from losing it altogether as he realised how and why she had been scarred. She had been caught: fishermen, military vessels, could be anyone. And apparently she’d been tortured until she gave her captors what they wanted. And Mulder realised why she had been sent – why this damaged temptress was enticing him, trying to get him to show his true colours as what these animals would only perceive as truly evil.

He dropped his eyes, backed a few feet away. He could only guess what she had been through before she escaped. He hoped she had killed a few of them before finding her ocean home again.

At his retreat she stopped her movements, her face falling again into passive purity. Another female moved towards them, and Mulder wondered if he was to be tested again. This one, deep navy and dark chocolate brown, would have been over 40, her ‘hair’ long, her movements regal and flawless. She looked on the human from complete superiority. Her eyes, wide spaced, huge, reminded him of Krycek and he wondered if they were related in some way. She regarded him for a few long moments, assessing him. She passed whatever judgement she had to make, then moved on, gracefully leading most of the other females and young away from the area. Mulder realised she was probably the pod matriarch, and, if he hadn’t been accepted, they had at least decided not to eat him.

"Wow," he said, quietly to himself, clasping the cool fingers that interlaced with his own. "So, you brought me home to meet the family then? Did I pass master?" Mulder’s heart was beating a violent rhythm and he wondered if he was the first human to witness such a meeting, almost certainly he was the first to survive one!

Right then he realised he would not be the first to talk about it. These animals were protected here, by an island uninhabitable due to volcanic activity, and a sea unfishable due to kracken and dolphin breeding grounds. There was no way he’d reveal this location to anyone.

The other merpeople were fading away, not quite game enough to come up and explore – more cautious than dolphins who would have been all over him by now, begging to have their stomachs and tongues rubbed.

That massive grey wasn’t leaving though.  He continued to keep a watchful eye on everything in the area. I guess you’re alpha male here, Mulder thought. First choice for making babies, and keeping everyone else in line. Mentally Mulder dubbed him Big Jim, it suited him well, and his little friend… Blair. It had to be a fluffy name for someone that perky. As Jim glided level with Krycek, Mulder’s friend turned on his side slightly, showing his belly, an obvious gesture of submissiveness to the larger animal. Instead of reacting with another show of dominance, Jim put one arm around Krycek’s middle, giving him a quick hug, never taking his eyes off Mulder, before continuing to move around them.

"It looks like your friends must have missed you – I guess you had some homecoming last night."

His voice puzzled the other two, and Blair swam fearlessly right up into his face. Mulder reached out to push all the trailing fins and hair-membrane out of the creature’s face. It wasn’t really a beautiful face, not like his own Krycek, but the features were full and generous, with obvious shining curiosity. A large hand pulled his away before letting him go, and Jim gave him a grim look.

"It’s okay," Mulder kept his voice soothing, "I’m not trying to hurt him, I just wanted to look at him." Blair obviously wasn’t bothered by the touch, so Mulder started again, he couldn’t resist tracing his hand over the face pressed up so close to his own.

He realised his mistake when the large blue tail thumped into his side, sending him tumbling into the sea bottom, knocking the breath from his lungs and almost dislodging his re-breather. He gasped to fill his lungs with air, as Krycek bore down on him, his hands on Mulder’s chest, pushing him into the sand. Mulder made an attempt to get up, and was pushed back down again. He wasn’t being hurt, but Krycek’s jealous displeasure was very obvious.

First Mulder held his hands out and open to show his acceptance of Krycek’s anger, then started to rub the merman’s tail. He kept himself lower than Krycek in the water, ducking his head, "Oh, you big butch thing, you," he teased a little, "There there, let me rub it better." As startled as he had been just for a moment, he couldn’t help but be pleased by the show of possession. Mulder travelled his hands over the merman’s hips, across the genital slit, over his belly, rubbed his chest briskly, and even traced down his arms, linking their fingers.

"I wasn’t flirting with your friend, I just wanted to look at him. I guess this isn’t so amazing to you, but it is to me."

Krycek just floated there, holding his hands contentedly and swaying slightly, as if dancing to unknown music. Whatever temper had been displayed had been forgotten in seconds and now the song of the sea was taking the merman’s attention away.

"Hey, hey, pay attention to me," Mulder jabbed him in the belly, "If you won’t let me talk to your friends, then you have to keep me company, or keep me out of trouble."

The jab, if nothing else, caught Krycek’s attention, and he slid down the water, rubbing his body against Mulder’s. Once again the focus of fishy attention, Mulder wrapped his arms around his lover, rubbing his back and carding his fingers through the fins.

As their hips pressed together, "Will you make it with me in front of the clan?" Mulder asked, chills of illicit excitement spinning down his spine at the idea of claiming his mate, or perhaps being claimed, in front of all the other merpeople. Of course, without the same cultural mores as humans, the other merpeople wouldn’t even think twice about playing with each other ‘in public’, but Mulder found the idea arousing in the extreme.

The small speckled Blair was still darting around their immediate area, absolutely open with his curiosity about the human. Apparently staring wasn’t considered rude as with other primate cultures. Mulder didn’t mind at all as Blair shot past them again, although he kept an eye on Jim – as the huge grey kept an eye on Mulder. Saving Blair’s life might entitle Mulder to live a little longer, but obviously it didn’t entitle the human to trust. And everywhere that Blair darted, Jim would cruise along behind him. As Krycek hugged Mulder harder, gyrating their bodies against each other, Mulder was almost as turned on by the inherent threat of the audience as by his lover’s interest.

Mulder let his mate set the pace, humming contentedly under his breath as his erection was teased by gentle fingers. The merman was learning new techniques all the time, and he knew how to give a decent hand-job without using his claws now. Blowjobs were still a no-no. Although the merman was good with his winkle-picking tongue, those teeth still irked Mulder. Blair was swimming so close, Mulder couldn’t help thinking the merman was taking notes. I’m corrupting the culture of these people, after thoroughly corrupting one individual… Mulder worried momentarily. Krycek was learning from him, emulating human behaviour occasionally. But what harm can new sexual techniques cause?

Krycek was slowly drawing them through the water closer to the beach. Shifting sands under his feet let Mulder know they were close. He popped his head up above the water, and saw that what he had dismissed as sea lions the night before were actually even more of the merpeople. His heart soared; he could feel it thumping against his ribs. In all of his life, and all of his hunting, he had thought he’d die happy if he ever saw even just one of these creatures alive.    Now he held one in his arms and was surrounded by others. Further up the beach, there were even more of them, fins up, drying in the balmy sun like displaying peacocks. Or half in, half out of the water, chewing on kelp. Young ones played with each other in the shallows, twisting and turning around their bodies like brightly coloured otters. One extremely old gentleman, grizzled and gnarled, yet still gorgeous in his decaying dignity, was snoring loudly in the shade of a cyclone-twisted palm tree.

Mulder laughed out loud with joy. The sound startled him – being so rare. And it certainly startled the merpeople. Some eased away, others cocked their heads and leaned forward. He suddenly decided to sweep Krycek up into his arms. He was heavier than a human male, so Mulder was hard pressed not to topple over in the water, but he swung him up, and stared down into slightly startled, but obviously amused ocean-deep eyes.

"I love you, you know, fish face. "  There was no comprehension nor understanding of Mulder’s chirpy outburst, but Mulder thought he knew it was reciprocated. The scientist inside of him told him that these animals didn’t even understand the concept, and that instinct, hormones, and survival patterns kept the merman with him. But then again, what was love if not instinct, hormones, and survival patterns? And the romantic inside of him, buried so deep he hadn’t known it was there, was telling him about the arms that wrapped around his shoulders, and the eyes that never wavered from his face, and the body that didn’t struggle as it was carried from the water, trusting Mulder’s strength and care as it was moved in such an unfamiliar way, laid down gently on the warm white sands and covered by Mulder’s loving flesh.

Little squeaks and sighs wafted down the beach as Mulder mounted an assault on every erogenous zone he had learned of his lover’s body. He knew he was probably showing off a little for the rapt audience, but he couldn’t resist. Look what I can do to him, this is why he chose a human for a mate…. Krycek trusted him so much, he now lay on his back, a position Mulder knew the merman didn’t care for, letting Mulder access anything and everything. A succulent fish platter laid out for Mulder to feast upon, a seafood buffet for Mulder to taste every morsel, to tantalise himself with texture, flavour, scent, and reaction.

He teased mercilessly, like he’d never done before, finding every sensitive spot and dealing it out a measure of sensation. He used his short-cropped hair to tickle over face and chest, watched those tiny nipples pounce up towards his lips as he dragged over them. He ran his nails gently up the insides of the merman’s arms, watching the pale skin burst into goosebumps. He used the fuzz on his upper chest as a new stimulation, oozing his own body over his lover’s abdomen, pelvis and down the fine length of tail. The flukes curved up, the strong body under his going rigid with pleasure and joy, and Mulder adored the coughing chirrups that reach his ears as, with exquisite care, he nibbled his teeth and tongue through the scales, disturbing their neat and orderly pattern, licking beneath the tiny multifaceted jewels to the tender membrane underneath.

Even the gentle swell where tail met fluke wasn’t exempt from Mulder’s attentions.  He rubbed firmly over the lightly armoured flesh, pressing between firm fingers until the tail was slowly arching back and forth, the flukes fully spread out like stretching cat’s toes, the merman’s torso twisting in agonised delight at this unexpected hot spot of sensation.

By the time Mulder was ready to start working his way back up Krycek’s body, the merman’s genital pouch was already starting to flush with blood, the rubbery outer lips starting to part. Looking up at Mulder, the merman’s face was open, excited, his eyes sparkling bright, his cheeks flushed pink with arousal. There was no shame or embarrassment there, only a childlike delight coupled with an animal desire.

Taloned hands slid down the merman’s own body, no attempt at tantalisation in the slow glide, despite Mulder’s virgin-at-a-strip-joint reaction to the unaware tease. The merman was enjoying his own hyper-sensitised flesh in the steady stroke of his own fingers. Passing over heaving chest, down the clenched abdomen, the fingers trailed over the genital pouch, as yet untouched by Mulder’s fingers or tongue. They carefully slid half an inch inside to part the lips, the merman holding himself open. He wasn’t shy, didn’t have a clue about self-consciousness: the merman new what he wanted, and was asking in the only way he knew how. He was panting slightly, Mulder watched the sunshine glint on the perfect white teeth as the unrestrained excitement poured off his lover in heated waves.

Resting his hands on slippery hips to keep them free of the sand, Mulder bent his head, answering the merman’s request eagerly. He blew a thin stream of cool air into the pouch, widening his mouth to let the air then warm the emerging penis. Krycek arched up, trying to press close, offering himself, and Mulder pushed him down again. He used his nose to nudge and ease the glistening erection up and out, encouraging it to lie on the merman’s belly while he used the tip of his tongue to explore at its base.

Ignoring that urgent flesh’s pressing thrum he started to bury his face deeper into his friend. He wasn’t sure if the inside walls of the pouch were direct erogenous zones, but he was a scientist, so empirical data was definitely required.

And now.

Tasting not so much of salt water, but of tears, the walls of the pouch pressed against his eager tongue, strong enough that, like a dolphin, the merpeople could use these pouches to pick up and carry around small objects. He remembered the way this flesh held and caressed his own when they made love in the water, and pressed his tongue and chin hard against the delicate walls, stroking up and down. Closing his eyes he burrowed down, the merman arched and sighed, pushing back up towards him. His tongue investigated the base of the pouch, slurping up the tear-water he found there, pressing, licking, tasting, prodding, caressing. He found the bump of concealed testicles and used every part of his mouth to press and massage them. Lips, tongue, even the flat pearl of his teeth were used to stimulate the hidden nubs, until he fancied he could feel them writhing in their protective flesh.

Slowly, driving the merman out of his little fishy mind, he started to make his way up the shaft. He could feel the slight breeze cooling the moisture on his face, contrasting with the incredible heat that pulsed against his chin. Every pulse was chased under the soft moist skin, Mulder used his tongue to trace them all, firmly, softly, washing every inch of Krycek’s erection. It strained against his lips, as tense and taut as the rest of the merman’s body.

Such a new sensation for the merman, the feel of soft hair against his over sensitised organ as Mulder slowly travelled up his body again, tickling deliberately, rubbing his chest over the exposed tissues. By the time their lips met again, they were both panting in desperate arousal. Mulder hovered, breathing in as Krycek breathed out, absorbing the breath and the life of his friend. Slowly the lashes rose, revealing the swirling green patterns of his lover’s eyes, holding Mulder enthralled, imprisoned by the turquoise eddies. Maybe you love me… maybe you just love what I do to you… maybe it’s simply animal bonding… but I love you… and I have enough love bottled up in me for us both…

Again he moved up a little, until Krycek’s penis slid down over his balls, between his buttocks, and he wiggled until it was positioned perfectly at the entrance to his body. One hand held it steady as he lowered himself slowly, feeling it push at, then enter his bud. He held still a moment, the smooth head pressed between inner and outer sphincter, waiting until Krycek’s instinctive thrusts upward started to join their bodies together. Gasping for breath, the merman pushed up again and again, slowly pushing until their bodies merged, one inch at a time. Natural lubrication let them move slowly into one, the shaft stretching Mulder, the fullness setting his own erection harder against his body, the pulses sending his own tear drops to splatter on the merman’s belly.

Arching his back allowed him to take the shaft even deeper and he slowly slide down, like riding a greased maypole, until his buttocks rested on smooth-rough scales. The sensation of skin on scale set his nerves alight, from thighs to the base of his spine, and he started to rock back and forth, his movements jerky at first, until he relaxed a little more, sliding back and forth, feeling the shaft fill and empty his body in steady strokes.

Powerful hands grasped his hips, not directing his movements or forcing him down harder as with a human lover, but holding onto him, completing their link.

Krycek’s agonised face was certainly the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, ecstasy in the bared white teeth and the frown that creased the top of his nose.

Lift, twist. Descend, squeeze. Mulder kept up a steady rhythm, twisting his hips so that the head of Krycek’s cock was screwed gently by the strong muscle guarding Mulder’s body, then squeezed all the way down the shaft, grinding his teeth with the effort. There was no pain, but he worked hard, using his internal muscles with all the skill he possessed, backed up by every porno-magazine fantasy he’d ever had, and a thin sheen of sweat patterned his skin as he worked. Lift, twist. Descend, squeeze. He twisted again, watching the merman arch, knowing if there had been voice, there would have been screams. He squeezed again, holding himself still to ripple his muscles from base to tip, then down again, and was rewarded by a look of absolute surprise, and a hot splash deep inside his body. He bent down to kiss the wide open mouth as he was again anointed. The merman’s gasps were sucked up by Mulder’s mouth, as Mulder’s body did the same to the merman’s seed, taking both deep inside – making them his own.

He came close to laughing at the almost cross-eyed, dazed expression that graced his lover’s face. Then he did laugh, just for the sheer joy of it, very slowly lifting up, letting their bodies become again two.

Krycek was fluid, pliable, allowing Mulder to move him as he wanted, rolling obediently onto his side so Mulder could slough the wet sand away from the long elegant tail. The other mer-folk had moved closer, obviously completely fascinated, riveted by the performance. And it’s not over yet, Mulder thought, as he started to kiss across his lover’s shoulders. He’d shown the merpeople why two legs could be useful, not just an odd deformity, now he was going to show them what else a human could do.

Krycek was still under Mulder’s hands. Mulder knew the merman expected what was coming, had become used to being taken in this manner. Krycek had yet to truly enjoy being fucked, but he was at least becoming accustomed to it, and no longer protested. He waited patiently, relaxed and content enough from his climax to let Mulder do as he pleased, knowing not to tense up when Mulder pressed against him.

Mulder moved slowly down the merman’s spine, accepting the lack of resistance as his due, but this time determined to show his friend that this really could be enjoyable for them both, not just an illicit pleasure for Mulder and something to be tolerated by Krycek.

The others were up on their hands and elbows, watching with undisguised fascination. Mulder could feel them surrounding him from all sides, and was amused when Krycek carried on a clicking conversation at three body lengths away with a large raven-haired female as Mulder buried his face against the sweet curve of the merman’s back. Mulder used his tongue, nose, and chin to massage the line of Krycek’s spine, nuzzling through the diaphanous fins, loving the way they clung to his face and hair. The demarcation line of scale and skin was thoroughly explored, until Krycek was wiggling slightly, digging his hip deeper into the sand.

You’re in for a treat, my friend, Mulder thought, almost giggling as he ran his tongue over the swell of the merman’s butt. Krycek twisted his head around, trying to peer over his shoulder, as Mulder’s breath blew across the tiny indentation of his anus. I’ve only ever kissed you a little here before… but it’s time to show you just how good this can feel…

Time to teach you how much you can enjoy being touched here, rather than just tolerate it.

Mulder settled himself down comfortably behind the Merman, holding him by tail and hip, and was rewarded with a surprised ‘prrrrrrrrrrrrrrpp’ from his friend as his tongue started to gently explore. It was a little difficult to hold Krycek still, as he would continuously try to twist around to watch what Mulder was doing, but Mulder started to work his tongue into the tight little entrance. The closure definitely seemed to Mulder to be tighter, less yielding, than a human’s, but Krycek reacted much the same as a human male to the stimulation. As Mulder’s tongue slid into his body an inch, then two, Krycek started to writhe gently, the tight sphincter compressing Mulder’s tongue a few times, instinctively trying to expel him before relaxing under the relentless circling pleasure, letting Mulder start a gentle thrusting.

Rimming the fish! Mulder felt a small bubble of laughter that he choked down ruthlessly at the thought of Scully seeing him now!

Clicks and rattles came in abundance as Mulder started to work his tongue in deeper, swirling in and around where the flesh was like warm wet silk, tasting not of the sour musk of humans but again of salt and sea water and pure Merman.

Opening his mouth as wide as possible, he let his tongue inveigle itself into his lover’s body, two inches, then three, like a hot wet little cock. He hooked the tip, using it to push into the walls, quick huffing noises of pleasure letting him know he was doing the right thing. He slid his tongue in and around, investigating every fold, every undulation of muscle, having to use more and more force to hold the Merman in place as Krycek’s excitement mounted and scaly hips started to push back against him, then jerk forward again.

Mulder slipped one hand around, finding Krycek erect again, his penis fully extended and very moist. He wondered if he could rim his friend to completion, but decided that would have to wait for a day when they were off the sand – perhaps on a boat, somewhere he could hold Krycek and move him around as Mulder desired.

He kept up his circling, licking, lapping, until the Merman was as open as Mulder could make him, the flash of pink amongst the turquoise blue an open invitation Mulder could not resist. He pushed one hand under and around Krycek’s waist, flicking the sand from his fingers and grasping the Merman’s penis, lying down full length behind him. His fingers dabbled in the soft pouch as he kissed Krycek’s shoulders and neck, the lubrication then rubbed onto to Mulder’s own cock as he positioned himself. Right hand grasping Krycek’s shaft, thumb swirling over the head, left hand delving back into the pouch, finger tips rubbing against the squishy walls and testicles, wrist pulling the merman back. Mulder was amazed at his own control after being aroused for so long – but he was determined this time the Merman would cum while Mulder was taking him from behind. He wanted Krycek to have no doubts this could be a pleasurable experience.

There was little resistance, only the occasional clenching of the seldom used channel, as Mulder slid forward, carefully and gently burying himself deeper into his friend’s flesh. The ring was soooo tight, it seemed to be forcing all the blood out of Mulder’s erection, back into his body, making the pulses of his arousal so much more intense, making him giddy, making him dizzy with the profound pleasure.

Krycek was moving forward in slow careful thrusts... his body eager to push into Mulder’s hand, but his mind warning him of the discomfort of moving too much while Mulder was buried in him thus. The sensual gyrations sent shivers all through Mulder’s body.  He kept whispering his devotion and ardour to his lover as he indulged his need in the waves of ecstasy the tight squeezing channel was conveying to his cock.

He started to rock forward, the passage opening enough to let him glide in, rotate his hips a little, and slide out again. He screwed his penis into the body in front of him, letting the small friction add to Krycek’s pleasure, as his left hand slid further into the pouch. It took his entire hand with little pressure, and squeezed down on his fingers as it would on another Merman’s cock.

Krycek’s eyes were closed, lips parted, panting breaths coming hard and fast. His muscles, fore and aft, contracted down on Mulder, milking delightful sensation out of the flesh that invaded his own. Mulder knew he’d been successful in his goal to bring pleasure this way when Krycek’s left hand slid back, holding Mulder’s hip, using it to drag the human harder against his body.

Mulder used every part of his body he could bring into play at the one time: mouth kissing and licking at Krycek’s ear, jaw, cheeks; hands pumping his flesh, fingers pushing into him deeper, manipulating his testes in rhythm with his fucking; even Mulder’s feet were stroking the end of the tail – all that he could reach anyway. He’d never had to concentrate so hard on pleasuring another, and the sweat poured off him, pooling between their bodies.

Looking down, seeing where they were joined, his flesh – starting to tan – disappearing into the pink, blue scale surrounded ring, was more than he could stand, and he almost screamed in relief as much as joyful ecstasy as he felt the first shots of cream over his fingers, signalling he could let go of his own pent up seed. He pumped his hips harder, pushing Krycek across the sand a little, pouring his cream deep into his lover’s body, shooting it as deep as, earlier, Krycek’s had gone into his own, watching through foggy vision as the sand splattered and sprayed up from the beach in small white clouds, propelled by the liquid force of Krycek’s pleasure.

"Good boy..." Krycek whispered, as his muscles and sinews relaxed, flopping him down on the beach.

They stayed joined together, locked by Krycek’s clamping muscles, Mulder’s sweat and sticky seed, and his refusal to let go of, or remove his hand from, Krycek’s genitals. Great gasps of breath did little to ease the quivering in Mulder’s muscles, and he did nothing other than bury his face in the fins/hair spraying from Krycek’s head and listen to his heart beat slow down. Every now and then he’d give his friend a loving squeeze, wiggling his fingers around inside moist flesh, feeling it echoed back on his soft shaft when Krycek would press down on him... almost enough stimulation to make him consider the possibility of another round, if they didn’t doze off to sleep first...

He was almost asleep, around and in beloved flesh, feeling Krycek’s hand on his hip, holding him close... pushing him away...

He woke with a start when he realised the hand pulling them apart wasn’t Krycek’s, and had to hold in a snort of disbelieving laughter as Blair stuck his nose down between their bodies. The small brown merman was determinedly investigating just how they were joined together, fascinated by what he’d witnessed and set on learning more. Krycek complained mildly as they were mauled about, but Mulder couldn’t resist reaching down and ruffling the copious, twisted, curling fins, understanding the inter-species curiosity completely.

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He heard the ponderous thump thump thump of a seriously heavy body coming towards them, ignored it at first, having heard many other heavy thumps as the merpeople had explored around them that afternoon, and finally clicked to what danger they were in just as the sun was blocked out. He screamed. Blair flew backwards, lifted and propelled by his mate. Krycek pulled away – immobilising Mulder for precious seconds as his over-sensitive penis was jerked violently from its loving haven – going into full display mode, fins up and erect.

Mulder tried to get away from the jealously enraged Jim, but felt the claws swiftly scratch over his shoulder and chest before a wall of blue went between him and the would-be killer. He rolled away a few feet, panting in fear now, watching in horror as Krycek came between them. The two mermen were in full battle mode, Krycek defending his human, Jim defending his own mate. Jim was up on his hands... his short fins spearing up and out, fully extended. His claws dug into the sand as he dragged his body towards Krycek, his teeth bared.

Krycek kept his body side on, giving ground slightly, but fully displaying every weapon he had. Mulder realised Krycek was prepared to sacrifice himself against an opponent he had no chance of defeating in order to give his mate a chance to escape. Panicking, Mulder rushed forward, grabbing Krycek, trying to avoid spearing himself, trying to pull his friend away.

"There are 5 billion humans, but only a few merpeople, and only one Krycek," he rationalised, as he used his own body to shield Krycek from the huge angry beast. It seemed then he was fighting with Krycek as much as Krycek was trying to fight with Jim, both of them wrestling with each other to be in front. When the death blow never fell, Mulder finally turned to look at Jim, and realised that the grey was simply watching him now, lowered to the sand, as fascinated by their stupid display as he had been jealous of them being touched by Blair.

Blair had moved up, his arms around his mate, apparently soothing and gentling his beast. Jim snorted, giving Mulder the impression he was being laughed at, then turned and lolloped down the beach. Blair simply hung on, getting a free ride down towards the water.

Jelly legs collapsed under Mulder, dumping him on his butt in the sand, and he just rested, listening to his breath whistling through his nose, high pitched with fear as he gasped for air.

"Shit, man," he hissed at Krycek, "Shit!" He rubbed sweat from his eyes, spreading sand over his face. He realised he had sand everywhere.  It itched, and it was pressed into the shallow cuts on his chest, packed with blood into a sticky mess. "I don’t know if he stopped because Blair told him to, or because you were willing to die for me, or because I was willing to die for you. Which was it?" he asked Krycek.

The merman was pressing against him, crawling over his legs, and he wrapped his arms around his distressed friend, comforting them both.

"And we were having such a fun afternoon as well, weren’t we," he went back to talking nonsense to his friend, letting his voice soothe. And in return, a soothing tongue lapped at his chest.

"I hope you have antibacterial components in your saliva, my friend, and you’re not giving me fin-rot or something similarly unpleasant..."

The tongue lapped over his small wounds, cleaning out sand until the blood flowed again, then lapping it up. Krycek seemed a little distressed by the blood, and cleaned it diligently, his tongue so soft it didn’t really cause any discomfort as he thoroughly took care of each scratch and nick.

Finally Mulder just squeezed him closer, pressing the dark head to his chest to stop him fretting, and rocked them both back and forth a little until the anxiety faded.

Mulder looked out towards his boat, "I’m going for a swim, you coming?" He dove into the water, biting his lip as the salt water touched his scratches, and powered out towards the boat.

He rubbed in a anaesthetic/antiseptic cream, finding it no more soothing than the warm solicitous tongue had been. He loaded up the dingy with bedding, fresh water distiller, some of his remaining food, his pet fish, tent, and all the scientific equipment he could safely stuff in.

On the row back to the beach, Krycek hung off the end of the boat, powering it with his tail in half-hearted helpfulness, but his eyes never wavered from the goldfish.

The first priority was to get in some fresh food. Krycek may be happy to live on nothing but lobster every day, but Mulder had a certain limit to how many he could eat. He spent some time pointing up towards the forest that bordered the beach, miming eating. Miming rubbing his belly and moaning hungrily. Miming chewing and swallowing. Anything he could think of to let Krycek know he wasn’t deserting him again, just going off to do some foraging. Krycek seemed to catch on and flopped down towards the sea, letting Mulder go off to explore.

No wildlife expert, but still competent enough from his explorations to know poisonous from edible, Mulder was pleased to find the forest offered quite a few things he easily recognised. Coconuts were in abundant supply; he wondered how many of the mer-folk got bonked by falling nuts as they dozed around the trees. It was a hazard to Fijians, it could be a hazard to these people as well. He shinnied up a tree, hacking a few loose, gathered up what other fruit he’d found and brought it down towards the beach again. A fresh produce supermarket 15 minutes walk from where you live, what more could you want? he thought, very content with his lot in life right now.

He got back in time to watch Krycek lolloping about with a couple of other males his own age, and lay down on the sand so he couldn’t be seen. He was enthralled to watch them play. A cross between young sea lions, awkwardly hauling their carcasses across the beach, and young football players, awkwardly hauling their carcasses across a playing field. Not ‘football’, but ‘mouthkelp’. The game eventually finished, the seaweed they’d been playing with totally torn apart, and the three walloped each other solidly with their tails in friendly masculine signs of affection.

Mulder came out of his hiding place, smiling as Krycek heaved himself up the beach towards him, stopping to grab something on the way.

Mulder dropped his fruit next to his gear, then put his hands out to receive a blue fin tuna of about a foot and a half in length. It was a little chewed, but mostly intact, and he kissed his friend thank you.

"So, I say I’m hungry, and you decide it’s your turn to feed me, then?" he smiled. Fair enough really, he fed Krycek in Mulder’s environment, now Krycek fed him in Krycek’s environment.

He filleted the fish, and fed Krycek a few slices. "So, tell me, how come you’ll eat fish here, but not when you’re in the tank?" he asked, but only got an inscrutable look in return.

He lit a small fire, making sure curious fingers got nowhere near the dancing flames, cooked his fish with bananas and mangoes and fresh coconut milk. Although the coconuts were easily dealt with by strong talons, letting Mulder know the merpeople had these as a regular part of their diet, Mulder found he had a bit of an attraction going with the soft fruits. Apparently these didn’t grow near enough to the sand limits to be known to the merpeople, and he spent some time showing them how to peel and eat the fruit. This made him a huge hit, and he enjoyed 15 minutes of fame when all fear was lost on the part of the mer-folk as they crowded in to get a bit of what was going. Fruit had been something they hadn’t thought to introduce to the merman when he’d been in the tank, but who would have thought to give him coconuts?

He was still trying to eat his own dinner and feed Krycek lumps of banana (which were generally squished around his palm and fingers before being consumed, making a dreadful mess) when it got too dark to play anymore.

It didn’t take long to set himself up a small camp, although the merman under foot, and the increasingly daring audience, made things somewhat difficult. He pitched a small tent, which was pulled down for inspection, then dragged around the beach by a young female, nearly became the next group toy, rescued, pitched again.

He simply picked up whichever body made a move towards pulling it down again, and moved them away a few feet. They soon caught on to leave it alone, except a few who kept coming back just to be picked up. A novel and new play routine. Mulder laughed, and learned. Unattached males he could handle until Krycek rattled. Attached males he could handle very carefully, watching their mates to check for jealous reactions. Females only if they grabbed him first. The females seemed to have little or no problem with jealousy or possessiveness, having grown up with the right to rule and boss around any male they saw. Mulder was no exception. If a female wanted something, he learned, just hand it over. He made sure to hide anything valuable or sharp or dangerous. He also made sure to put a glass guard around the fire – many curious hands had been pushed away from the glowing embers, and he was paranoid about scalded fingers.

Mulder grabbed up a notebook, settling down to make some notes. Krycek helped. They ended up in a tug of war, the merman dragged a few feet down the beach by his jaws. Mulder finally letting him have that one to chew on and growl over and grabbed another. He started making short notes to himself on things he had noticed earlier – as scraps of torn paper created a localised confetti typhoon beside him – things he could explore further... perhaps when he was writing his novel... or the screen play...

I’ve seen examples of horticulture – the kelp are being maintained quite carefully within the boundaries of the reef. The merpeople are keeping it clear of unwanted competition from other types of seaweed or predators, and are harvesting the product for the use of the whole group.

From what I can see, there is nothing in the way of tool making. Although they fashion objects using teeth and hands, they are not for food gathering or hunting purposes. They serve no purpose more complex than the decorations collected by bower birds.

Social interactions appear to be very complex indeed. The structure of their society operates on a number of levels, although I have not yet determined if ranking is determined according to birthright, as with some mammals like wolves or coyote, or through strength. They have a manner of deference to some individuals, and expect respect from others on the basis of gender, age, and mated status, but not necessarily, from what I can gather, on the prowess of the hunter, or physical strength.

I am looking forward to observing them in more detail, especially the interactions between males and females. How do the females select their mates, and what mating rituals are used? The very young ones are a constant source of inspiration, and I am quite fascinated to watch them being taught – raising young appears to be mostly communal, although I have yet to see any very young infants – and I am hoping to learn their rules and regulations through watching the teaching of the... children. What is the word for baby merpeople? Mulder’s perfect memory searched his data banks... kids? Kits?

Finally he put his note book away, too tired and full of everything he’d seen to be bothered with it anymore.

"You reckon they’ll make a movie out of all of this? Who’ll play me? Hugh Grant? Whoopie Goldburg? No, I have to be Jeff Goldblum - weird but sexy… ‘Mermen in the Mist’, it’s got a certain ring to it, don’t you think?"

He leaned back against his rolled up sleeping back, using it as a pillow. The warm air required no blankets or covers, and he stretched out, watching the diamonds in the sky. The shredded notebook had ceased to be interesting, and the whole area was tranquil and serene. Ah, Diane Fossey, eat your heart out, he smiled broadly. The warm body that snuggled against his side stretched out, fins extending in sleepy shivers. A small pointed nose pressed against his rib cage, and snuffles puffed across his chest.

He squeezed his lover a little closer, stretching out his toes until his knees popped. His smile got wider, until his face started to hurt at the unfamiliar sensation. Then he laughed out loud, the sound echoing down the beach, turning a few curious heads. His belly was full, his lover was by his side. He’d turned his back on his life’s work, leaving science and exploration and his quest for the truth behind, and he was happier than he could ever remember being in his life. Even when he finally closed his eyes the echo of his joy seemed to resonate, caught on balmy breezes and pushed back from the waves of the ocean, coming back to him again in his sleep.

FIN

 -oo0oo-

MORE FISH STUFF!

  The next couple of piscaphilia stories were unsolicited sequels written by a couple of very wonderful people! To say that these stories made my year would be understating it! I hope you enjoy these lovely little snippets from my friends.

Fish Fucked Fabulous by Maria

I'm Dreaming of a Mer Christmas by Jane Symons

The Further Adventures of a Fish Called Krycek

And check out the web page created by Maria

Poetry

Here's a tribute I wrote in honor of 'A Fish Called Krycek'.  I haven't tried to write a Shakespearean sonnet since high school English classes! I hope you like it!   Raonaid

Underwater Love,
A Sonnet

By Raonaid

And when on moonlit nights I see him rise,
Creature of myth, from out the deep blue sea,
I think myself deceived by lover's eyes,
That this beautiful creature calls for me.
And yet 'tis true. His eyes alight on mine -
Pure love and devotion shine from their depths -
And whisper I, "My soul, dear one, is thine."
Joy bursts my heart as this soul he accepts.
And then he holds me cradled in his arms,
As off we sail over the ocean deep.
Our sweet watery love causes no alarms,
Only tears, that True Love makes lovers weep.
    Merely human, I curse my body frail.
    O to be as my lover - with a tail !

At the risk of making you sick of poetry <g>, here's another ditty I scribbled out, a play on the Alice in Wonderland poem by Lewis Carroll:

How doth the studly merman
Improve his shining tail?
By holding fast his human
As through the waves they sail.

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