CHAPTER THREE - SEE ME
Spencer’s hands were shaking as he pulled off his t-shirt. He felt everyone’s questions swirling around him. He felt Aemrys holding something back. He had made the truck’s headlights explode. Everyone had seen it. Miller might not know it was him, because Miller was an idiot. But the others weren’t idiots. The anxiety that had been building up for three months and Miller being Miller – which meant being an ass – had pushed him over the edge. And he had taken it out on the defenseless headlights.
I made the headlights explode. Oh, my God, what’s happening to me?
He put his head down and went to his Jeep where he had his scuba gear. He just had to focus on checking that and the rest would -- would be okay. It would be fine It would be just fine. The top to his Jeep was down so it was easy to reach in and grab the two pressurized tanks, his mask and regulator from the back seat. His hands were still shaking.
I made the headlights explode. I made …
He set the tanks down on the ground because his hands couldn’t keep a hold of the equipment and he couldn’t risk dropping it. He would not leave Aemrys in that tank alone.
Be calm, a thought, sweet and swift as river water had him turning and looking over at Aemrys. The Mer Lord was standing beside the tanker truck’s ladder. He was not approaching Spencer. He held back for some reason yet he was still with Spencer. In that moment of doubt and anxiety Aemrys was there. Whether he wanted to be or not. Almost as if he was compelled to be.
I still feel you, Aemrys.
The Mer Lord’s eyes widened. The he asked, What do you think you feel?
Spencer stared at the Mer Lord. He tried to see past that beautiful facade. To see him. Not just inside of him. But to see him. A tingling sensation ran up his spine and there was this sense that the top of his head opened. And then he could see. When he looked at Aemrys he saw a swirl of midnight blue ocean water, white cliffs, and twin moons hanging huge in a brilliant sky. The sky was awash with brilliant, alien stars. Spencer’s heart twisted. It was beautiful yet remote. He shared this image with the Mer Lord.
This is you, Spencer realized. I see you.
Aemrys went still. Not even his gills moved. His head then tilted to the side and there was this shivery feeling that he had done something perhaps more profound - more frightening - than blowing up the headlights. Aemrys’ next words confirmed that, Who are you, Spencer Long?
Spencer staggered back a step and blinked. He passed a hand over his forehead as if he felt a headache coming on. I don’t know. That’s what I thought you were going to tell me.
He withdrew from Aemrys. Or maybe Aemrys withdrew from him. He felt so strange. He looked down at his hands again. They weren’t shaking any longer, but he felt they weren’t his any longer. He turned back to his scuba gear.
I made the headlights explode. That’s okay. It’s okay. It’s all okay.
Suddenly, there was a wet nose, pushing against his right hand. He looked down and there was Ash, looking up at him with loving eyes.
“Oh, Ash, don’t worry. Come on, get in the car here. I think I have some dog treats for you.”
He patted the back seat, her usual spot, and she leaped inside and sat down, tucking her tail neatly around her paws. She looked at him then as if to say, “Aren’t I a good doggie?” He fished out a dog treat from a baggie in the counsel and gave it to her. Her tongue tickled his palm as she tenderly took the treat, crunched it down and then licked his palm clean. He petted her and kissed her head.
“You are the best dog,” he said.
He heard the crunch of gravel as Corey came up beside him at his banana yellow Jeep. He drew in a deep breath and yet it didn’t seem to fill his lungs. Talking to Ash was one thing. She loved him unconditionally. But if he turned and saw something in Corey’s eyes that wasn’t accepting he wasn’t sure what he would do.
I have to be normal. Be normal.
He turned to face the redhead. “What’s up, Corey?”
God, I almost sound normal.
And Corey seemed normal, too.
“You’ve got scuba tanks! I wondered how you were going to be in the truck with Aemrys considering you haven’t transitioned yet. Plus, I’m not sure if there’s enough oxygen in there for two,” Corey said, gazing up at the tanker truck.
“I’m going to keep the hatch open, because my tanks will only last two hours and if there’s not enough oxygen in the water for the entire trip, Aemrys can still breathe the air,” Spencer said. He paused and asked, “Are we sure that’s pure water in there without any residues from chemicals or stuff?”
Corey nodded. “It’s a truck used to fill up pools. The chemicals are added once the water is put in the pool so no problems there.”
“Dare I ask where Miller got this vehicle?”
“I didn’t. Really, it’s better not to know,” Corey admitted.
“Let’s just hope the police don’t pull us over and find that not only are we driving a stolen vehicle, but Mers exist, too!” Spencer drew in a large breath.
“Well, we’re going the back roads and with the headlights … uhm, out of commission, we’ll be stealthy!”
Spencer’s shoulders tensed. Miller wasn’t the only one that had messed things up for them. The headlights. He’d destroyed them. He could destroy things with his mind. He held on to the roll bar of the Jeep for a moment as that thought rocked through him once more.
“So … you okay?” Corey asked tentatively. Spencer knew what he was asking.
“I don’t know.” Spencer drew himself up and went to check both of his oxygen tanks and his regulator. Mask was good. He grabbed an underwater flashlight and clicked that on and off. Everything looked good to go. Performing the normal checks was helping him calm down.
“Has that ever happened before? The headlight exploding bit?” Corey asked gently.
“Is this a Next Society interrogation, Corey, or are you asking as my friend?” Spencer threw him a look that had the red headed young man looking even more concerned and Spencer felt guilty. “You mean have any other innocent glass objects been destroyed in my presence when I got angry? Have I used the Dark Side of the Force in other situations?”
“Dr. Cleave said that some beakers broke when she first spoke to you,” Corey said. “There was no cause for them to break that she could see. Unless … well, unless you were the cause.”
Spencer remembered how the beakers on the lab table beside him and Dr. Cleave had rather spectacularly exploded. Over a dozen of them had turned to a fine powder. The tension that had been spiraling in Spencer tighter and tighter during his meeting with her had been gone after the glass broke. He had told himself that it had simply distracted him from what she was saying and the consequences of it. Now he knew better. The release had come because he had destroyed the beakers and now the headlights.
“It’s never happened before then. I … I don’t think so anyways,” Spencer added uncertainly. Maybe other things had broken around him when he got angry but he just hadn’t noticed. It was rare that he did get angry. Surfing and being in the water pretty much kept him Zen. It was only with these new revelations that everything had changed for him. He tensed against as he asked, “Are you going to tell Dr. Cleave?”
“Do you think we shouldn’t?” Corey asked.
“Maybe … I guess … I don’t know!” Spencer lowered his voice. “This may have nothing to do with whether I can transition into a Mer so …”
“Spence, normal humans can’t make things explode with their minds,” Corey said gently. “I think it’s relevant.”
Spencer’s shoulders curled inwards. Corey was suddenly patting his shoulder. He looked up into dark brown eyes filled with compassion.
“When Gabriel figured out that he could call a monster out of the sea he needed people to talk to, people who - even if they couldn’t altogether understand - understood him,” Corey said.
“When you compare what he can do to what I just … seems minor,” Spencer said with a huff of laughter.
“You haven’t transitioned yet, Spence. Who knows what you’ll be able to do if you decide to become a full Mer.”
Spencer looked over Corey’s shoulder at Aemrys.
Mers can do that? he’d asked the Mer Lord.
Some Mers. Had been the answer, which wasn’t an answer.
What kind of Mers?
“It’s going to be okay, Spence.” Corey patted his shoulder.
“Can Gabriel do stuff like this?” Spencer asked as he tugged off his cargo pants and stood only in a pair of dark purple boxer briefs. “Make things explode?”
Corey shook his head. “I don’t think so. I mean calling, uhm, the big guy was enough for him in terms of the gifts department.”
“Yeah, I could see how that would be the case. So maybe I’m a freak among Mers, too.” Spencer heard the bitter tint to his tone and he swallowed sharply. He hadn’t thought that way about himself since his mother died. Before she drowned he was the quiet kid with the crazy mother. Afterwards, he was the quiet kid who’s crazy mother who killed herself. But then he’d decided not to accept that her actions had to color his life forever. He’d chosen another path. He tried and actually succeeded at being seen as happy go lucky. He fit in. He forced himself to fit in. But now he felt like there was a spotlight on him showing just how singular and strange he was. He shook himself. “I’m sorry, Corey. This isn’t like me. I just –”
“You just met Aemrys. That’s a big deal and Miller is enough of a lunk-head to make anyone develop telekinetic powers. I would have loved to have exploded something on him.” Corey frowned at the tanker truck’s driver.
“Like his head?”
Corey laughed. “Come now, Lord Vader, let’s not go that far.”
“Why is he even on this project? The way he talked about Aemrys -- in front of him, but as if he wasn’t there -- could have brought about a freaking interspecies incident!” Spencer quickly lowered his voice when he saw Grace’s head snap towards him. She was standing with Aemrys at the ladder. He purposefully did not look at the Mer. He found that he couldn’t right at that moment after their last intense encounter. He lowered his voice, “Aemrys is taking it fine, but this.” He pointed to the truck. “Should not have happened.”
“I agree. I have no idea why Miller’s on this project, but I’m going to suggest his removal,” Corey said as he regarded Miller with narrowed eyes.
“You mean even a Next Society member doesn’t know everything going on?” Spencer teased him.
The Next Society was a group of elite students and professors at Miskatonic who were wreathed in secrecy. One of their members was on every project and they always seemed to know more than anyone else. Unlike most Miskatonic students whose every waking moment was spent obsessing about the Next Society and how to get on it, Spencer had no desire to. If it was something that was going to take him away from the water then he had no time for it. The way Corey was always on the go told him that the Next Society was a pretty heavy burden.
“Not this time. I have a guess, but I don’t want to say anything in case I’m wrong.” Corey shrugged. “But we should head out. If you’re ready that is.”
“I’m ready. Will you drive the Jeep for me and take Ash with you?” Spencer held out the keys for Corey and the redhead took them eagerly. “I can put the top up for you if you want.”
But Corey was shaking his head. “Maybe Grace will want to drive with Ash and me with the top down!”
“How could she resist you?” Spencer laughed. After talking to Corey for just this short time the tension had left him. Or maybe the combination of blowing out the headlights and talking to Corey had done it.
He watched as Corey excitedly went over to Grace and pointed at the Jeep. Her nod told them both she was agreeable to a moonlight drive and Corey’s “tee hee” of delight could be heard by everyone in a three-block radius.
Spencer stowed his clothes and shoes in the back of the Jeep. He slid his mask over his head so that it hung around his neck. He slipped the flashlight’s wrist guard over his right hand and then he hefted the tanks over his shoulders.
He rubbed Ash’s head and said, “Be a good girl for Corey, okay? I’ll see you when we get to Miskatonic.”
She gave a happy bark. Spencer smiled then turned towards Aemrys. The Mer Lord was looking at him, but unlike before when Spencer had felt his thoughts like physical objects being handed between them, he could read nothing at all from Aemrys now. He wasn’t sure if that meant something. Did the connection go dead because he still not a full Mer and his ability to communicate with Aemrys was spotty? Or had the Mer Lord intentionally shut it down?
Can I blame him? I lost control and destroyed something and then … then I saw him. The core of him. And told him about it! I’ve probably broken every rule of Mer etiquette there is! Why would he want to connect to me?
But Spencer felt a craving for that connection like a hunger deep in his belly. He told himself it was for answers, but it felt deeper than that. He hungered to feel that connection again.
Aemrys though might not hunger back. How will I get my answers if he won’t respond? He’s my only hope of knowing the truth of my heritage. What all of this means. And if mother and father are still alive
That wasn’t completely true that Aemrys was the only one. Gabriel might be able to find things out for him and Corey was in contact with the Caller. If Aemrys wasn’t forthcoming then maybe he would go that route. But the Mer Lord had seemed so welcoming before.
And I miss that already.
Spencer tried not to stare at Aemrys, tried not to read what he was thinking or not thinking. In general, he realized that to stare at the Mer Lord was to risk losing his focus. Aemrys was arrestingly beautiful. His long dark hair hung mid-way down his back like a tidal wave of silk. His dark blue eyes seemed to shimmer like jewels. He had a strong, masculine jaw and high cheekbones that softened his sharp features, prettying them slightly. Then there was his body. He had highly defined muscles that rippled underneath skin that looked amazingly soft.
Spencer very carefully did not look at Aemrys’ groin. The shift around his hips hid nothing. Spencer didn’t need to stare to know that the man was well-endowed. When Aemrys had come out of the surf it had been so hard not to look at every inch of him like a little kid who wanted to see what another boy’s body looked like to compare and see how they were the same and different. This was the first Mer he had met and the urge to know if he was the same was definitely there beyond the mere desire to look upon someone so incredibly lovely. But he knew now that Aemrys wasn’t just some ordinary Mer even if his title hadn’t indicated it enough before. The man radiated strength and command. He also exuded mystery.
He’s keeping things back from me. Something about what I did with those headlights disturbed him and the other thing, too. If only he knew that it disturbed me as well.
Spencer strode over purposefully once he had all his gear and stopped next to Aemrys and Grace. Corey had gone to over to talk to Miller. Spencer looked directly at the Mer Lord. “Are you ready to go, Aemrys?”
He expected the mental touch from the Mer Lord again – was actually looking forward to it, hoping for it -- but all Aemrys did was nod his head briefly. A wave of disappointment went through Spencer and he looked down quickly so that no one saw that expression on his face. Aemrys turned towards Grace and his hands were on her cheeks again. He was looking at her with such love and fondness that it felt like a knife twisted in Spencer’s gut. He had just met this man, but he was half-Mer, too! Now he felt rather like an outcast.
Cool it. He’s one Mer. Not all of them. Not my father. Not anyone to me at all if I don’t want him to be.It’s not as if I like all humankind either and it certainly doesn’t like me back.
But that statement seemed like something he used to tell himself when people wouldn’t be friends with him at school, because his mother was crazy. He swallowed.
“I’ll be fine,” Grace suddenly said out loud, including Spencer in their conversation even if Aemrys wasn’t. “Corey is all set to drive me in the Jeep with Ash. I’m rather looking forward to getting some petting in.”
“Ash will love you for life if you scratch just under her chin,” Spencer assured her with a smile.
“I can’t wait,” Grace laughed. She gave Aemrys one more kiss on the cheek. “I will see you again once we reach Miskatonic.”
Then she was off and he and Aemrys were alone together. Spencer met the Mer Lord’s appraising stare. Suddenly, he felt the slightest flicker of Aemrys’ mind and he mentally grabbed hold of it. The grab was sudden and needy. Aemrys’ eyes widened for a moment and then Spencer felt a stab of guilt from him, but it was quickly gone. Why guilt? Because he had dropped the connection? Because he sensed how hungry Spencer was for it?
You need not accompany me in the tank. I am certain that Corey, Grace and Ash would enjoy having you with them, Aemrys sent.
You shouldn’t be alone in there. Spencer gestured to the tank and he could already feel the cold press of darkness of the interior of it. You shouldn’t be in there at all.
I shall be fine. You need not worry about me. This was said with all due politeness. Aemrys meant it though. He would be fine. He wasn’t the type to get nervous even in what might seem like a watery tomb. That much Spencer could sense about him.
I want to be with you, Spencer sent. It was so emphatic and clear that he was surprised at it himself.
We will spend much time together at Miskatonic, the Mer Lord pointed out smoothly.
Spencer tried to read Aemrys’ feelings like he had before when they had spoken, but Aemrys was only allowing single thoughts though and hiding everything else. He was blocking Spencer from doing what he had before and really seeing him.
We won’t be alone. Dr. Cleave and all the other people will be there, Spencer explained. Don’t you want to get to know me without everyone watching every move we make?
Of course. Aemrys’ eyes stayed on him even as those words had absolutely no inflection.
You don’t. Spencer took a step back. He was surprised at the amount of hurt he felt. What did I do to offend you? It was the headlights, wasn’t it? Or -- or the other thing? I didn’t mean to -- to --
You did nothing wrong. Alarm flared over their bond and Aemrys reached for him, grasping his shoulder to stop him from retreating. Do not go. Please. I did not mean to …
And then there was this complex exchange of emotions through pictures. Spencer saw a barely remembered photograph of himself and his mother, laughing and joyous at the shell beach when he was about seven or eight. She was holding him around the waist and he had handfuls of wet sand in each grubby first.
Then there was another image also at that same shell beach. Not a photo, but a snapshot of a memory. It showed him curled in a ball on the sand, alone, one arm outstretched towards the water, tears dried on his cheeks. That was after his mother’s death. It was the first sleepwalking incident.
Then there was an image of him piloting one of the submersibles during last semester’s exploration of a long lost Spanish galleon. He was bright and shining again for the most part. Proud and happy. Dr. Marstand’s arm was slung over his shoulders. The only difference between the image of himself as a child with his mother and with Dr. Marstand was the slight darkness in his gaze. He had never noticed it before. He realized then that Aemrys was trying to tell him something with these images.
I did not mean to make you feel alone and apart again. Aemrys’ physical hold on him increased.
Then why don’t you want me with you? Spencer winced at how forlorn that sounded.
I do want you with me, Aemrys responded and there was nothing hidden there. That was the truth. I just wished to think.
Aemrys’ lips twitched into a half smile. You are very curious.
And direct. Spencer smiled back a little tremulously. You’re worried about the headlight thing and the other thing, about what it means, but you won’t say. I’m worried about it, too. I mean if it was a normal Mer thing then I could just be like: oh, cool, something new! But it’s not. I can tell it’s not.
You are, in a way, far more than anything I hoped to find, Aemrys said carefully after long moments regarding him.
His own gaze flickered over Aemrys’ beautiful face. He remembered the twin moons and alien sky. He shook his head. I don’t understand. That sounds good, but you are still concerned.
Not concerned. That is too grave a description. Surprised, that is all, Aemrys answered after a time. The Mers retreated from humanity long ago. All I expected to find, even after the discovery of Gabriel, were people with a thin connection to us. Certainly not --
Ones that can shatter headlights? Spencer tried to keep the tone of his mental voice light.
There was a burst of mental chuckles from Aemrys. Exactly. His expression became shrouded for a minute as he studied Spencer carefully. You are so much more than I thought you even could be. Now I am wondering if what I am seeing is just the beginning of the wonders you have to show me.
I can only show you wonders if you let me be with you, Spencer pointed out.
Yes, you are right. Aemrys suddenly bowed. A graceful movement. Courtly. Just like a lord should. I would honor your presence in the tank with me.
A wave of relief went through Spencer. All right. I accept.
“Are we hitting the road anytime soon?” Miller groused. “We’re already off schedule.”
Spencer’s head snapped around. He kept his anger in check. There were no more headlights other than his Jeep’s to smash and he wasn’t doing that.
Tell him we are nearly ready. We shall talk more in the tank. Aemrys had already started climbing the ladder with strength and grace.
Spencer gave Miller one more narrow-eyed stare, which seemed to have no effect on the other man. He was amazed at how well Aemrys was handling this rudeness. He turned back to the tank when he heard a splash as Aemrys jumped inside.
The water is pure and well oxygenated. It will be fine for our travels. Come in, it is actually rather warm! Aemrys sent. Come join me, Spencer, and we shall talk.