Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh! GX.
Chapter One- The Merboy
The sea is like a living thing. It has moods like any other living being. When it is happy, it is calm and tranquil. When it is angry, it thrashes about. Of course, this is what the sea is like on the surface. Below the waves, however, it is a different story. It is almost always calm and peaceful in the sea. Almost always, as it has its share of underwater storms and undertows.
But the storms and undertows were the furthest thing from the minds of the sea’s residents. They were especially far from the mind of a young merman.
His name was Syrus. He was seated in the midst of a beautiful flower bed. The magenta and purple blossoms highlighted his hair which was the color of the spring sky. The waves’ currents fluttered the fins of his light yellow tail. His unusual silver eyes took in the lively flowers as he gently pushed some gravel around one flower with his delicate fingers.
“Hey, Syrus!” a voice called, causing the boy to look up from his work. A grin lit up his face when he saw who was coming.
“Hey, Jaden,” he called back as he got up and started heading for his best friend.
Jaden was a friendly and cheerful person. Someone you could get along with easily and just about everyone did. Jaden seemed to always have a ready grin on his face which made his brown eyes crinkle up. Locks of hair the same shade as his eyes occasionally drifted onto his face, which he would brush aside. A deep red tail, which was hardly still, constantly propelled him all over the sea, which made him the fastest swimmer in the sea.
“What’s new, Ja?” Syrus asked as he caught up to his friend.
“Well, Bastion wants us to hear his latest poetry.”
“That’s great. Bastion writes the best poetry.”
“That’s for sure.”
Jaden sighed impatiently. This had to be Bastion’s longest poem yet. Unfortunately, it was boring too. Bastion definitely turned out a clunker this time. Well, every poet has his off day.
Syrus clapped as Bastion’s poem ended. “That was good. Really good. Don’t you think so, Jaden?” Syrus elbowed his friend for his comment.
“Uh, yeah. Really good,” Jaden said with convincingly false cheerfulness.
“Glad you thought so,” Bastion said, his dark eyes bright from his friends’ praises. His polished green tail twitched as he put the paper away and brought out another one. “This is my best piece. I got inspired after watching a pod of dolphins.”
Jaden leaned forward slightly. He liked dolphins, so he was bound to like this poem. Just as Bastion brought the paper up to read it, a strong current came by and snatched the paper out of the boy’s grip.
“My poem!” Bastion cried as it floated away.
“I’ll get it!” Jaden exclaimed, his tail already in motion. He chased after the paper that was still caught in the current. Slowly , however, the paper slipped out of the current and floated to the surface. Jaden swam after it.
He broke the surface and spied Bastion’s poem. “Ah, there it is,” he said, picking it up. Laughter floated through the air and up to the merboy. Curious, he peered around the rock in front of him. There, on the beach, were three humans. A girl with blonde hair chased after a brown-haired boy who was laughing. Even from the distance he was at, he could faintly make out what they were saying.
“Give me that camera, Atticus!” the girl demanded.
“You gotta catch me first, sis,” Atticus called back.
The girl planted her hands on her hips. “Oh, that is so mature,” she retorted.
“You need to lighten up, Alexis,” Atticus commented.
Alexis turned to the third human who was lounging on a towel. “Zane, tell him to give me the camera.”
Jaden looked at the lounging boy and his mouth dropped. The boy, Zane, had to be the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Blue-green hair framed a chiseled face from which a pair of blue eyes shone out from. He was bare-chested, revealing a lean muscular torso. His legs were long and slim.
Zane raised an eyebrow as he appraised the scene. Finally, in a deep flat tone, he stated, “That camera belongs to your sister, Atticus. Give it back.”
Pouting slightly, Atticus handed it over. “Aw, Zane, did you have to say that?”
“If you had given it back earlier, I wouldn’t have to have said it.”
“Spoken like a true prince.”
‘A prince!’ Jaden thought as the humans gathered up their belongings and left. Jaden didn’t notice. His eyes were glazed over, yet in his mind he saw Zane’s face clearly.
Chapter Two- Love
Syrus surfaced beside Jaden and saw his friend with glazed eyes and a love struck expression. “Hey, Ja, what’s keeping you?”
“I’m in love, Sy,” Jaden sighed.
“Again!?” Syrus exclaimed, exasperated. Ever since Jaden was old enough to be married (15 was considered old enough for mermen), he seemed to fall in love with a new mermaid every week. With a resigned sigh, he said, “Okay. Who is she?”
“Uh…” Jaden paused. He wasn’t ready to say he was in love with a human, let alone a male. “I didn’t catch the name,” he lied before diving down. Despite Syrus showing up, Jaden still felt that intense love for Zane burning strong inside him.
Syrus followed Jaden as they headed back to Bastion. The brunette still had that loving expression on his face. Was he really in love this time or would it wear off after a week like usual?
When they got back to their friend, another merman was there, hands on his hips. His name was Chazz and a proverbial thorn in Jaden’s side. The two of them would be forever verbally barbing each other. The barbing would end when one of them couldn’t think up a comeback. At the moment, Chazz floated there, the fins of his deep almost black indigo tail twitched, a visual representation of the impatience reflected in his dark eyes.
Grabbing the poem from Jaden, Syrus swam up to Bastion. “Here’s your poem.”
“Thanks,” Bastion answered. “Chazz showed up a little while ago wanting to hear it.”
“Yeah, I’ve been waiting for you to come back from rescuing it,” Chazz snapped. He then caught sight of Jaden’s face and smirked. “Been inhaling a little jellyfish poison fumes again, Jaden?”
The comment brought Jaden back to reality. “Huh? I haven’t been near any jellyfish today.”
“Lucky for the jellyfish.”
Jaden scowled. “One of these days Chazz…”
“That is so like you Jaden. You make threats, but you never follow through. You are just like a jellyfish. Spineless.”
Jaden’s scowl deepened. Chazz had no right to call him spineless. Jaden would gladly play with sharks while Chazz wouldn’t dream of going near a jellyfish. With a growl, Jaden punched Chazz on the cheek. Chazz reeled slightly from the force of it. Before he could react, Jaden grabbed the boy’s fins and pulled, causing Chazz to land on the sand.
Jaden continued to pull and Chazz cried, “Ow! Stop it, that hurts! Ow!”
Syrus couldn’t help laughing. Chazz’s cries were high-pitched and girlie. Syrus was in no hurry to stop Jaden seeing as how Chazz has thrown a few barbs his way.
Bastion, however, had no such qualms. Swimming up behind Jaden, he wrapped his arms around the brunette’s chest, pinning the arms. Jaden released his hold and Chazz massaged his sore fins. Jaden struggled to break free.
“Jaden, that’s enough!” Bastion ordered. Jaden stopped struggling and settled for glaring at Chazz, chest heaving.
“Sooo…who wants to hear my poem?”
Syrus stared at the still form of his best friend. Jaden was laying face-down on a rock. His arms were propped up and his head rested in his hands. The only movements were his fins, the currents making them flutter.
“Oh man,” he moaned softly. “He’s got it bad. Looks like this love is the real thing.” Syrus swam up to Jaden and waved a hand in front of his face. “Hey, Jaden.”
Jaden blinked before looking over. “Hey, Sy.”
“So, what does she look like?”
“You know. The one you’re in love with. You must be seriously in love if you’re actually sitting still.”
Jaden sighed. “Oh, Sy. I picture that beautiful teal hair and the most vibrant blue eyes I’ve ever seen.”
Syrus hung on his every word, his mind painting the image of a beautiful mermaid. His tail began to swish excitedly. “And what about the tail? What color is it? Does it complement yours? Or mine? Maybe even Bastion’s? Come on, tell me!”
“Uh…” Jaden hesitated. In his excitement in describing Zane’s looks, he forgot to say he was in love with a male human.
“Jaden? It…is a mermaid, right?”
“Well…” Jaden began, but Syrus cut him off. It was finally clicking for him. Jaden had gotten that dreamy look while on the surface. Did that mean…?
“A human, Ja? You’re in love with a human?”
“Wow. That’s cool.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah.” The two mermen sighed dreamily and silence reigned for a few moments.
Syrus then began shooting off questions at a rapid-fire pace. “Tell me more about her. Is she tall? Short? Did she have any friends with her? Was she swimming? Is she really beautiful? It’s so cool that you’re in love with a female human!”
Jaden’s head was spinning from Syrus’s questions. He kept hearing she and her in the questions and it was driving him crazy. Plus, he couldn’t take anymore of Syrus making a false assumption.
“It’s a guy and his name is Zane!” he exploded, bringing a halt to his friend’s questions.
Chapter Three- Transition
WHAT!?” cried Syrus, causing Jaden to flinch.
Syrus could hardly believe it. The image of a woman shattered before him. Slowly, another image appeared. Only, it was of a handsome man. If this man, Zane, was even half as handsome as he imagined, he could see why Jaden would be interested.
“I’m sorry, Ja. I didn’t mean to yell. I’m happy for you.”
“No harm done.” Jaden paused before adding, “I would like to be with him though.”
“But, to do that, wouldn’t you have to be…human?”
“Yeah, I would. We can do that. It’s one of our kind’s abilities. Aside from singing and architecture.”
“But, we never had a reason to do it before.”
“Well, I do and his name’s Zane.”
“Oh, Jaden! I don’t want you to go,” Syrus wailed. “What would I do without you? I mean, you could end up marrying Zane and I’ll never see you again!”
“We’ll still see each other, Sy. I’ll bet Zane lives near the beach. I could come down every day and visit you.”
“You could, couldn’t you? Well, when you put it that way…”
Jaden hugged the smaller boy. “Thanks, Sy.”
“Are you going to go now?”
“Nah. Tomorrow before dawn. I want to spend the rest of the day with you.”
“Great. Let’s start by racing seahorses.”
“Cool. Then, we can explore sunken ships.”
“And play Tag with dolphins.”
“First, the stables. Let’s go.” Jaden and Syrus swam off, unaware that Chazz had heard every word they said.
Chazz frowned as he thought about what he heard. Jaden was in love with a male human. While loving a human isn’t bad, falling for the same gender was just gross. To Chazz, that made Jaden a freak and he intended to tell Jaden just that.
Jaden slipped out of his home a good twenty minutes before dawn. He started to head for the surface closest to the shore. He had been so excited at the prospect of being human, he hardly slept. When he did sleep, his dreams were of his life on land with Zane.
As he neared the surface, he spied another merman. A closer swim revealed it to be Chazz. Jaden was about to say hello, but the cold look in Chazz’s eyes made him stop.
“Morning, Chazz. Why are you up so early?”
“I’m up early because of you.” Chazz’s voice was cold enough to freeze the water around them.
“Because of me?”
“I heard you and Syrus yesterday. Falling for a male human? That’s sick Jaden. You’re a sick freak.”
“I don’t see that this is any concern of yours.” Jaden started to swim past Chazz when the black-haired boy swung a fist that connected hard with Jaden’s cheek. The punch dazed him long enough for Chazz to grab Jaden’s fins and drag him to the sandy bottom. Chazz proceeded to assault Jaden with punches, sand, and gravel.
“I’m gonna beat you so bad, you’ll think twice about loving a human,” Chazz spat as his attacks landed on Jaden’s arms and tail. Fueled by desperation, Jaden gripped some sand and flung it in Chazz’s face. Chazz grabbed his face and yelled in pain. Jaden slipped out from under Chazz and headed for the surface as fast as he could.
Jaden panted and moaned as he pulled himself onto the soft, dry sand. Chazz had really done a number on him. Cuts and bruises of various sizes and colors were on his arms and tail. He was willing to bet there was a nasty bruise on his cheek as well.
‘I can’t believe Chazz would attack me just for loving a guy. I can barely lift my arms.’ Flipping himself sideways, Jaden slowly raised an arm. Pain shot through the limb. Biting his lip to keep from screaming, he waved his arm over his tail. He wasn’t sure about how the change would occur, but he knew how to invoke the change.
He felt magic pour from his palm as well as his pain tolerance reaching its limit. His head started to throb and a wave of dizziness swept over him. His last thought before he fell unconscious was hoping he had legs when he woke up.
Zane strolled to the beach, a large towel slung over one shoulder. He wanted to enjoy a leisurely swim before reporting to his dad. King Shepherd had requested Zane’s presence before breakfast. Zane wasn’t sure what the request was about, but it sounded important.
A prone figure lying near the shore caught his eye and he gasped. Someone was hurt! Running over, he saw it was a boy no older than fifteen. Various cuts and bruises marred his arms and legs.
‘Looks like he was beaten and robbed,’ Zane thought as he threw his towel over the boy’s body. Propping up the boy’s upper body, Zane gently patted the uninjured cheek. “Wake up. Please wake up.”
A groan came from the boy and beautiful brown eyes opened and looked up at him. Zane sighed with relief. “Oh, thank goodness you’re awake.”
Jaden could hardly believe his luck. He was in Zane’s arms! The mere realization made his heart beat faster and his skin tingle. He pulled himself from his thoughts in time to hear Zane’s next words.
“Can you walk?”
‘Walk?’ Jaden thought. He looked at his lower body. Beyond some kind of cloth was a pair of human feet! Experimentally, he tried to move a foot and it responded easily to his efforts.
“Doesn’t look like anything’s broken,” Zane remarked. “Let’s get you to the castle.”
Zane wrapped the towel securely around the boy before pulling him upward. The boy gasped and then stumbled. Zane reacted by catching him before he fell.
The brunette took in a shaky breath before saying in a musical tenor, “I don’t seem to be very stable.”
“With all those injuries, I’m not surprised.” Zane leaned over and swept up the boy bridal-style before heading home.
“By the way, my name’s Zane. Prince Zane.”
“My name’s Jaden. Nice to meet you, your Highness.”
“Please, it’s just Zane to my friends.”
“Am I your friend?”
“You certainly are.”
Chapter Four- The Princess
Zane handed Jaden to Atticus, explaining that his father wanted to see him. He watched Jaden stumble on his feet for a moment before going to the Throne Room. He walked down the long red carpet and stopped at a large throne. “You wished to see me, Father?”
“Zane, we’re going to have some company for the summer.”
“Princess Blair will be here and I want you to play host to her while she’s here.”
“As you wish, Father.” Personally, Zane hated the idea. The last princess he accompanied had been awful and turned him off to princesses. Princess Rose had been obsessed with frogs whom she was convinced were actually princes and talked his ear off about them during her entire stay. Plus, he wanted to spend time with his new friend.
“Well,” Shepherd said. “With that taken care of, let’s eat.”
As the two headed to the dining hall, Zane said, “I made a new friend this morning. May he stay here until I find out where he lives?”
“Of course, son. I allow Atticus and Alexis to live here even though their home’s in the kingdom.”
Meanwhile, Jaden was getting cleaned up by Atticus. The merboy loved the bath and enjoyed Atticus’s company. The human was friendly, warm, and rather chatty. But, in a good way.
“You’re lucky Zane found you. There are other people who wouldn’t have been as nice. They could have killed you by simply rolling you into the ocean.”
Jaden didn’t answer. He wouldn’t have drowned. He would have woken up and changed back.
Atticus rinsed the last bit of shampoo from Jaden’s hair. “You’ll like it here, Jaden. My sis and I sure do.”
“What do you do here?” Jaden shakily stood up and got out with Atticus’s help.
“There’s the gardens and the stables. Plus, the occasional ball or trip to a neighboring kingdom,” Atticus answered, handing Jaden some clothes, who began pulling them on. Atticus grinned when Jaden finished dressing. “My old clothes fit you perfectly. Your legs are nice and long.”
Truthfully, Jaden wasn’t sure. The cuts and bruises were still there and some were still somewhat painful.
“Okay, now that you’re clean and dressed, let’s get some breakfast.” Atticus headed out of the door with Jaden in tow.
Zane stared at Jaden as he entered the dining hall. The fine, rich clothes he wore accented his lithe form and made his legs look as if they went on forever. His hair circled head like a halo and framed his face. His brown eyes sparkled and his smile was friendly, yet shy.
“Dad,” he said. “This is my new friend, Jaden. Jaden, may I present my father, King Shepherd.”
Jaden bowed a bit clumsily to Shepherd. He had seen Atticus bow to Zane when he had been asked to take care of Jaden. “Greetings, Your Majesty.”
Shepherd smiled. “The pleasure’s mine. Why don’t you have a seat next to my son? Now, Zane,” Shepherd turned to Zane as Jaden sat down. “Princess Blair will be arriving tomorrow afternoon, so I expect you to be next to me to greet her.”
Jaden fidgeted slightly. He didn’t like that look in the king’s eyes. The look of a matchmaker. Was he planning to make Zane marry this princess? If so, then it seems he came to dry land in order to receive a broken heart.
Zane sighed as he led Jaden to a spare chamber that was beside his own. “I’m sorry I won’t be very available to show you around, Jaden. Given the choice, I would rather spend my time with you.”
“As opposed to a princess?” Jaden inquired with surprise. He assumed that entertaining a visiting princess would be exciting to the prince. Was that not the case here?
“The last princess I hosted turned me off to them. I would rather marry a commoner. I have no interest in marriage at this point in time, though.”
Jaden felt his hear soar. He still had a chance! He was a commoner. He could marry Zane. If only Zane knew how he felt and loved him in return. Well, being friends was a good place to start and spending time together was bound to deepen their friendship into love.
Zane opened the chamber door to reveal a tastefully decorated room. A simple canopy bed sat across from the door, the head against the wall. A small bedside table sat on its left while a wardrobe stood against the wall on the right. On the left side of the room was a balcony that faced the ocean.
“I’ll leave you to get some rest.” Zane turned to leave.
“Actually, I’m not tired at all.”
Jaden crossed over to the bed and sat on the soft mattress. His feet jiggled as if they were fins. Zane saw this movement and concluded that Jaden’s legs were feeling much better. That was a good sign. Joining the boy, he said, “What would you like to do?”
“We could talk for awhile.”
“Well, Atticus mentioned gardens and a stable. I’d like to see them.”
“Hmm. You know, a walk in the gardens sounds real good right now.” Zane rose from the bed elegantly while Jaden leaped up energetically and followed the prince outside.
The two boys spent the whole day together. Jaden was careful not to let it slip that he was a merman. He tried to not let his true feelings show, but every so often, a blush or a loving tone would slip out and Jaden would try to cover it up. Zane enjoyed Jaden’s enthusiastic attitude and company. Oddly enough, he felt as if he was falling for this boy and he hasn’t even known him for a whole day yet! Zane didn’t want the day to end, but end it did. He soon found himself beside his father, awaiting Blair’s arrival.
As her ship’s gangplank was lowered, Zane thought about the princess. ‘I know her father and mine are good friends and that they introduced us to each other. The last time I saw her, she was unbearable to have around. But that was about six years ago. She’s sixteen now. She should be a mature, pretty girl by now.’
“Zane!” a girl’s voice exclaimed as a teenager with waist-length blue-black hair and brown eyes threw herself at him and glomped onto him around the neck. The skirt of her pastel green dress swirled slightly.
‘Then again,’ the prince thought. ‘Some things never change.’
Jaden peered around the corner of the palace as a pretty girl latched onto Zane. He couldn’t help but feel jealously towards this Blair. She was hugging his Zane and he wanted to go over there and pull that girl off him.
He shook his head. ‘I can’t do that. She’s royalty. Besides, I don’t know if Zane even loves me.’
“Gazing at Zane, kiddo?” someone behind him said.
Whirling around, Jaden saw Atticus smiling at him. Relieved to see someone he knew, he answered, “I was looking at the princess.” Jaden winced slightly. That sounded weak and lame to him, but it was the best he could come up with.
“I doubt that. You were standing there before Blair showed up. Come on Jaden. You like Zane, don’t you?”
Jaden did of course. He also knew that Atticus can be odd at times and this was starting to look like one of those times. Was it possible that Atticus was cool about people being gay? Unsure, Jaden answered, “Sure. He’s a good friend.”
“No, Jaden. I’m talking as in you love him. I saw how you acted and looked at him”
Jaden turned red. Staring at the ground, he shuffled a foot and stammered, “Well, I-I d-do love him. But, I don’t know how to tell him. What if he doesn’t feel the same way?”
“I can ask him about how he feels toward you and tell you what he says.”
“You would do that?”
“Of course I would. I don’t mind if you’re gay. You’re my friend too.”
Chapter Five- The Secret
Atticus met up with Zane the next morning. The prince seemed a bit sullen so he decided to cheer him up.
“Hey, Zane! What’s up?” Atticus flashed a happy grin.
“I have to take Blair on a carriage tour of the kingdom after breakfast.”
‘A carriage ride. Here’s a chance to include Jaden,’ Atticus thought. “Hey, why not bring Jaden along? He’d probably love to see the kingdom.” Atticus saw Zane’s eyes flicker with interest at the idea.
“Yeah. He probably would.”
“Great. Then, I’ll go tell him.” Atticus jogged up to Jaden’s room and knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” came a sleepy voice.
Opening the door, Atticus said, “Rise and shine sleepyhead. Zane’s giving Blair a kingdom tour after breakfast and he wants you to come along.”
“He does? Great! I’ll be right there.” Jaden grinned as he leaped out of bed to get ready. Once Atticus had left and closed the door, Jaden smiled and hugged himself. Zane wanted him to come along. Probably to cheer him up about having to escort Blair. He rifled through the clothes Atticus gave him before settling on an outfit that seemed appropriate for a tour. He gave his head a shake, making his tousled hair fall into place. Grinning at his reflection in the wardrobe mirror, he left the room and dashed down the stairs for breakfast.
As he entered the dining hall, he found Zane and Blair already there. Plopping down next the Zane, he chirped, “Good morning.”
Zane looked at him and Jaden saw joy in his eyes. Joy that they were going to spend time together in spite of Blair. “Good morning, Jaden.”
Breakfast was uneventful and the three of them went out the front door where the carriage was waiting. Blair clambered onto the seat and primly sat in the middle. She patted the spot on her left.
“Come sit right here, Zane.”
“Blair,” he said. “could you slide over, please? Jaden will be joining us on this tour.”
“Oh,” Blair giggled. “Of course. Silly me.” Blair slid over and Zane sat next to her and Jaden sat beside him. Zane grabbed the reins, flicked them, and the horses trotted off toward the kingdom below.
Blair was smiling on the outside, but inside she was fuming. She had been planning to have just Zane and her on this ride. Now, she had to share her prince with some boy. He had to be a new friend because she didn’t recall seeing him years ago. She didn’t mind that Zane had a new friend, but this Jaden seemed to be gazing at Zane lovingly. Gross! She was the only one allowed to look at him like that!
‘I need to get him out of the picture. If I can get some dirt on him, I can use it to keep him away from Zane. Besides, Zane’s mine and he would never love another boy. That’s just disgusting.’
Jaden felt like he was in heaven. This was almost like one of the dreams he had the other night. He gazed at Zane’s handsome profile and felt his heart beat faster. He wanted to say something, but was afraid that what would come out was a confession of love. He wasn’t ready to say that. So, he opted for sitting and basking in Zane’s company.
Zane felt the ride was too quiet and decided to make some conversation. “Blair, why is your father, King Crowler, not here?”
“Daddy has a lot of matters to take care of right now. He’ll be here in time for our wedding, though.”
“Excuse me? Our what?”
“Our wedding. Didn’t your dad tell you?”
“No. Maybe you could fill in the blanks?”
“Our dads want to unite our kingdoms so they decided that you and I will get married by the end of the summer.”
Jaden, who had been leaning back, bolted up when he heard Blair say, “Our wedding” for the second time. He leaned forward a little to look at her. The princess was smiling evilly at him in a way that reminded the merboy of a shark on the prowl. He faced forward, fearing his heart would break. Until Zane spoke, that is.
“I’ll have to talk to my father about it. I don’t intend to get married any time soon.”
Blair shrugged. “If you want.” Silently she added, ‘Everything’s been settled. We are getting married.’
Zane glanced at his companions as they strolled through town. Blair looked about at the townspeople as if they were already her subjects. Zane didn’t like her presumption of their nuptials. Zane had no intention of marrying her no matter what his dad said.
Jaden, on the other hand, was looking around in wide-eyed wonder. He was acting like he was seeing everything for the first time. He heard a soft, “Wow!” come from the boy and Zane smiled. He like Jaden’s supposed naiveté and felt himself being drawn even more to the brunette. Was he possibly falling in love with him?
Jaden sighed dreamily as he stood on the shore. The rising tide tickled his bare toes and he listened to the distant cry of seagulls. He had learned so much from the humans’ conversations today and he wanted to tell Syrus all about his day. He was about to discard his clothes and plunge into the water when he heard footsteps. He looked over and saw Atticus draw alongside him. The two of them stood there in silence for a few minutes.
Then Atticus said, “Beautiful, isn’t it? The way the ocean looks so soft with an orange sky at sunset.”
“Yeah. I love the sea,” Jaden added.
“I kind of guessed that. You know, I’ve only known you for three days and I feel like I’ve known you my whole life.”
“Kind of strange, huh?” Jaden muttered. Atticus didn’t know him at all. He was just someone who came out of nowhere. He was suddenly seized with the urge to tell someone his secret and figured that Atticus would be a good one to tell. He already knew of his interest in Zane and he was working on getting the two of them together. However, Jaden needed to gauge Atticus’s feelings about the sea.
“Atticus, have you heard any stories about the sea?”
Atticus chuckled. “This is going to sound crazy but a sailor told me he saw a mermaid once.” He chuckled again. “Crazy, huh?”
“No, not really. I saw a mermaid.”
“Really!? Tell me the story!” Atticus pulled him and Jaden onto the sand and looked at him eagerly. This was exactly the reaction he was hoping for.
“I saw a merman, too,” Jaden added.
Atticus’s eyebrows knitted together in puzzlement. “No one’s ever said anything about a merman before. I guess there’d have to be. Where else would little mermaids come from?” Atticus laughed and Jaden sweatdropped.
“So, where did you see your merman?”
“Not far from here. Actually a few feet down the shore.”
“Do you think you can show me a merman?”
“Right now.” Standing up, Jaden pulled off his pants.
This motion confused Atticus. ‘Does he expect us to go swimming? And speaking of swimming, I need to tell Jaden to wear boxers.’
Jaden walked into the water until it went halfway to his calves. He sat down and took a deep breath. ‘No turning back now,’ he thought as he waved his hand over his legs. He watched in awe as his legs merged together and became his deep red tail, the fins flicking back and forth. He looked over his shoulder to see Atticus staring with his mouth hanging open.
“Whoa!” he exclaimed. “YOU’RE a merman! This is so cool, Jaden!”
“You won’t tell, will you?” Jaden pleaded as he split his tail into legs again.
“My lips are sealed. Do you plan to tell Zane?”
“When I know that he’ll love me, regardless of what I am.” Jaden pulled his pants back on.
“Sounds like a plan to me. And I’ll do everything I can to get you two together.”
“Thanks, Atticus.” The two boys headed back to the castle, unaware that someone else had witnessed the entire scene.
Chapter Six- Blackmail
Blair remained rooted on the spot, her eyes wide with shock. She had followed Jaden outside, hoping to find some kind of secret he was hiding. She saw Atticus approach and watched them talk for a few minutes, but she averted her gaze when Jaden removed his pants. Atticus’s exclamation caused her to look up. She saw Jaden in the shallow water, but he had a tail instead of legs!
‘Well, well. Jaden’s really a merman. Just the secret I need for blackmail. I just need to get him alone, so I can tell him I know.’ Smirking, Blair went inside and up to her room.
Jaden awoke on his fourth day as a human to knocking. Stretching his arms, he called, “Come in.”
The door opened and Atticus stepped in, closing the door. “Great news, Ja. Zane wants you to come horseback riding.”
“That is great news. But, Atticus…what’s a horse?”
Atticus sweatdropped. “Uh…you know those animals that pulled the carriage?”
“Those were horses.”
“Oh. How do you ride them?”
“With one leg on either side of its back. Watch Zane when he mounts and you’ll catch on.”
“Okay. Help me pick the right outfit.”
Blair tapped a foot lightly while Zane stood staring at the palace. Blair wondered what Zane was waiting for. “Zane, are we going to ride today or not?”
“We will as soon as Jaden gets here.”
Blair fumed. Jaden again! Zane was paying too much attention to him. ‘If he knew Jaden was a merman, he wouldn’t even give him the time of day. But, now’s not the time to tell him. I’ll tell him after the wedding.’
“Hi, sorry I’m late,” Jaden apologized as he came up.
“You’re not late. I’m glad you made it,” Zane answered. He led his guests into the stables and picked out a horse for each of them to ride. He lifted Blair onto her horse and she positioned herself sidesaddle. Zane mounted his horse after which Jaden copied him. Only his right foot wasn’t in the stirrup. Zane noticed this, leaned down, and slid the foot into the stirrup.
A tingle shot through the prince’s fingers when he touched Jaden’s foot and he quickly pulled back. A blush spread across his face as he faced forward. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jaden looking at him and blushing. At that moment, Zane could no longer deny it: He was in love with Jaden.
Jaden spread out his towel and took a deep breath as he looked eagerly at the sea. He had wanted to talk to Syrus last night, but he had gotten sidetracked by Atticus. That was all right, though. What happened at the stables was a major breakthrough and he now had a lot to tell. Plus, he missed Syrus.
Stripping off his clothes, he walked into the water until it went over his head. That’s when he started to sink. He didn’t panic. Instead, he changed his legs into his tail and swam for Syrus’s garden. He had a feeling his friend would be there and he was correct.
Grinning he called, “Hey, Sy!” The smaller boy looked over and smiled as he got up and swam over.
“Jaden! You finally came to visit. It is a visit, right?”
“Yup. It’s a visit.”
“How are things with Zane?”
“Wonderful!” Grabbing Syrus’s hands, Jaden spun the two of them in a circle. “He loves me! I just know it! I mean, we haven’t confessed yet, but we will soon.”
“After only four days? You sure work fast.”
“No kidding. Especially with a princess hanging all over Zane and talking about the two of them getting married.”
“You have competition?”
“Not anymore. Zane’s not interested in her. He’s just being polite.”
“So, how do you know he loves you?”
Jaden told Syrus about every hint and clue he received since day one. The stares, the preference of marrying a commoner than a princess, the emotions in Zane’s eyes, and the events of that morning’s ride. Jaden admitted to being rather chatty with Zane during the ride. He also told Syrus about confiding his secret to Atticus.
“I think you did the right thing in trusting this Atticus. He sounds like a good friend.”
“Just like you are, Sy.”
“Ja, I think you need to go back. You don’t want to leave Zane alone with Blair.”
“I kind of had to after horseback riding. Some kind of royal function.”
“Then don’t leave them alone any longer than necessary.”
Jaden laughed. “Okay. I’ll visit again when something else major occurs.” Jaden headed back to the shore and split his tail when he hit the shallow end. He dried off, put his clothes on, and then lay on the towel to lounge. His eyes were closed and he felt the sun’s warmth beating down on him. Suddenly, he felt cold. Opening his eyes, he saw Blair standing over him. Getting to his feet, he bowed to the princess. “Hello, Your Highness.”
“I’m warning you now. Stay away from my Zane.”
“Yes. I know you’re a merman. I saw you last night. So, either you keep your mouth shut around Zane or I’ll tell him what you are. You got that?”
Jaden felt himself go pale. Blair knew! She knew and was threatening to tell Zane! He wasn’t ready for Zane to know. Not until one or both of them had confessed. Hanging his head, he said, “Yes, Your Highness.”
“Good.” Blair swept back toward the palace, bathing Jaden in the warm sunlight.
But Jaden still felt cold. Falling to his knees, he said, “This is not good. Could it get any worse than this?”
Chapter Seven- Heartbreak
Blair smiled as she strolled through the hall. She had Jaden’s silence and that meant that Zane was almost hers. She kept that “almost” in mind. There had to be a better way to get rid of Jaden. She wanted to send him back to the ocean he came from for good. She would just have to keep her eyes and ears open for her opportunity.
Zane was concerned. Day Five of Jaden’s stay and the brunette was quiet and subdued. Not at all like he had been before. What had caused this sudden change in behavior? He decided to ask when the boy came down for breakfast.
“Jaden, is everything all right?” he asked as his friend sat down.
“Yes, Your Highness,” came the subdued reply. He didn’t even look at Zane!
Zane frowned. Lately, Jaden began calling him “Your Highness” or Prince Zane. He knew he didn’t imagine that blush on Jaden’s face yesterday.
“Zane, honey, are we going boat riding today?” Blair asked sweetly.
Blair, Zane had noticed, started using endearing names at the same time Jaden became subdued. It drove him nuts, but he kept a straight face. “Of course we are. Would you like to come, Jaden?”
“No, thank you.”
“Atticus, I’m concerned about Jaden,” Zane said to his friend that afternoon. He had tried to include Jaden in his activities all morning and early afternoon. Every time, however, the boy politely declined.
“It’s how he’s been acting today. He doesn’t look at me, he turns down every opportunity to spend time with me, and he addresses me formally. I thought we were friends.” Zane couldn’t keep the hurt tone out of his voice when he said that last line.
“Hmm. That is strange.”
“Furthermore…I think I love him.”
“That’s great!” Atticus exclaimed and Zane gave him a puzzled look. “I mean, why don’t you tell him?”
“Because I don’t know if he feels the same way.” Zane sighed. “I’m going to go out to the garden to clear my head.”
“Okay.” Atticus headed for Jaden’s room while Zane slowly headed outside, unaware that Blair had overheard and was hurrying to get to the garden before Zane. She just got an idea of how to truly get rid of her rival.
Atticus burst into Jaden’s room and cried, “Ja, wait until you hear what I found out!”
Jaden had been leaning forward on the railing of his balcony and looked over at Atticus with a sad expression. “What?”
“Zane told me he loves you! Isn’t that great?”
Jaden perked up. “It is!” Then his face fell. “But, I can’t tell him.”
“Blair knows I’m a merman. She has threatened to tell Zane if I speak with him.”
“Jaden, you told me you would tell Zane when you know he really loves you. Now’s the time. I know that he’s in the garden right now. Alone.”
“Alone?” Jaden pushed off the railing. “I’m going to tell him right now!”
Atticus grinned as Jaden dashed by. “Good luck kiddo,” he called.
Jaden ran down the stairs and out the door leading to the garden. He dashed down another flight and froze at the bottom. What he saw made him gasp in shock.
Blair was there and she was kissing Zane! He was behind Zane, but he saw the triumphant look in the princess’s eyes. Zane pulled back, glanced over his shoulder and looked at him.
Zane reached the garden and let the cool breeze wash over his face and hair. He breathed in the fragrant smell of the flowers and felt a lot better. He dismissed Jaden’s odd behavior and thought about how he felt about him.
It had been a relief to confess to someone that he loved Jaden. There was something special about the boy and being around him left a warm, happy feeling inside him. He came to the decision that he was going to find Jaden and tell him how felt. He still wasn’t sure Jaden felt the same way, but Zane didn’t have much to lose.
“Zane!” Blair’s voice rang out. The princess came dashing around some rosebushes and flung her arms around his neck. Zane was about to disengage her from him when she pulled him down and locked lips with him.
A gasp came from behind him. Glancing back, Zane saw Jaden standing there, mouth open in shock. For a moment, all was still. Then, Jaden turned and ran up the stairs.
Pushing Blair away, Zane turned to follow, but Blair grabbed his arm. “Where are you going?”
“Because I love him.”
“But, I love you. We’re going to be married.”
“No. We’re not. You’re going home tomorrow.” Pulling away from Blair, Zane ran into the palace and followed Jaden. He caught up with him at the bottom of the front door stairs.
“Jaden, I can explain,” he started to say, placing a hand on his arm.
Jaden whirled around, his eyes filled with tears of pain. “There’s nothing to explain. I saw the whole thing. I hope you and Blair are happy together!” He turned back around, ran across the sand, and around a rock. His destination was the beach.
Jaden choked back tears as he ran around the rock that led to the shore. Zane had lied to Atticus! He didn’t love him, he loved Blair! It was more than he could bear. He was going home.
Throwing off his clothes, he plunged into the cool water, traded his legs for a tail, and dived down, his tail slapping air before disappearing into the water.
Zane reeled slightly from Jaden’s sharp tone before resuming his chase. He had to make Jaden understand. As he rounded the bend, he saw Jaden’s discarded pants, followed by the shirt.
‘Oh, no! Don’t tell me he’s going to drown himself!’ he thought in horror.
He heard a splash and dashed to the shore in time to see Jaden diving down. He was about to call Jaden’s name when he froze. Rising out of the water was a deep red fishtail. A tail that was connected to Jaden’s waist.
Zane gaped as the tail vanished. He could hardly believe it. Jaden was actually a merman! Jaden had come from the sea because of love and Zane was certain he was the recipient of this love. Only now, Jaden had left and Zane had a hole in his heart.
“Jaden! Jaden!” he cried, the name echoing in the air because there was no one to answer him.
Chapter Eight- Reconciliation
Zane stared at the spot where he had seen the tail appear. It was hard to believe. His friend, his love, was a merman. He had left because Blair had kissed him. Blair! She set him up! She knew Jaden loved him and schemed to get rid of him.
“Zane,” Blair called as she came running up to him. “did you say you love Jaden?”
“You can’t love him. Do you know what he is?” Her tone indicated to Zane that Blair already knew Jaden’s true nature.
So Zane had no trouble saying, “Yes. A merman.”
“See? You can’t love a merman. You should marry a pretty princess. Like me.” She struck a model’s pose with a hand behind her head.
“Blair. I told you. There is no wedding. You’re going home.”
“Oh,” Blair huffed before storming back to the palace. Zane, meanwhile, gathered up Jaden’s clothes, held them close to his broken heart, and stared at the ocean.
‘Jaden, please come back.’
It was déjà vu for Syrus. Once again, Jaden laid on his stomach on a flat rock. However, his expression was one of heartbreak and his tail was completely still. Not even the fins were moving.
Jaden had come back last night, looking forlorn. He didn’t speak or do much of anything. He didn’t even rise to a barb Chazz threw at him. A barb that even Syrus could have had a comeback for. Something was definitely wrong.
Swimming up to Jaden, Syrus said, “Ja, do you want to talk about it?”
Jaden finally broke down and cried. “Oh, Sy,” he sobbed as he sat up. “I thought he loved me, but it was a lie. He loved that princess, Blair. I made such a fool of myself.”
“But, all the signs and hints you told me.”
“It was a sham.”
Syrus frowned. Something didn’t sound right. Two days ago, Jaden had said Zane was crazy about him. Now it sounded like the human was cold and heartless. ‘I need to get to the bottom of this. I’ll talk to Zane and get the real story.’
Syrus surfaced around mid-day, a set of clothes from a sunken ship in hand. He saw a human sitting on the shore. His head was bowed, his knees drawn up to his chest, and a second set of clothes draped across his knees. Syrus’s mouth dropped.
‘If that’s Zane, it’s no wonder Jaden fell for him!’
Pulling himself onto the land, he waved a hand and his yellow tail became a pair of legs. Putting on the clothes, Syrus used his hands to get himself to stand up. His legs wobbled and he stumbled about like a newborn colt. They eventually stabilized and Syrus was able to approach the older man.
“Are you Prince Zane?” he asked, even though he knew he was. He was just as Jaden described.
Zane looked up at the voice and saw a short boy with light sky blue hair. His silver eyes were wide and innocent. He blinked for a moment before saying, “Yes, I am. Who are you?”
“I’m Syrus. I’m Jaden’s best friend.”
The reaction to Syrus’s introduction was immediate. Zane leaped to his feet, the clothes fluttering to the ground. Grabbing Syrus’s shoulders, he said in a desperate voice, “It was a setup! Blair set it up to make it look like I love her. But, I don’t. Jaden’s the one I love. Could you tell him that?”
Wincing slightly from Zane’s grip, Syrus answered, “Of course I will. I hate seeing Ja so sad.”
Realizing his tight grip, Zane released and smiled gratefully. “Thank you. I didn’t realize how much I loved him until I saw him leave.”
“You saw!? You know!?”
“Yes. That’s why I asked you to tell him and besides he won’t listen to me.”
“He’ll listen to me. Be here at dawn tomorrow and he’ll come back.” Throwing off his clothes, Syrus dived into the water, regained his tail, and headed to where he last saw Jaden, noticing that Zane had reassumed his heartbroken pose.
The boy was still on his rock, still looking dejected. Syrus swam up happily. “Ja! I’ve got great news!”
“Yeah?” Jaden’s tone sounded bored. What news could Syrus have compared to Zane?
“Zane does love you!”
The news failed to perk him up. “No, he doesn’t.”
“He does. Blair set you both up to make it seem like he loved her. Zane told me so.”
“He’s lying to you, Sy.”
Syrus huffed. “He’s still sitting on the beach waiting for you and I’ll prove it.” Grabbing Jaden’s hand, he swam to the surface with his friend in tow. Zane was still there, just as Syrus said. “See, Ja? He’s just as sad as you are. That’s because he loves you.”
Jaden stared at his prince. He did indeed look unhappy. Jaden’s own heartbroken expression was reflected in Zane’s. “Oh, Sy. You’re right. I’m going back to him right now.”
“You can’t. I told him you’d come back at dawn. It’ll be more romantic that way.”
“Yeah. Romantic. Okay, I’ll wait for dawn.”
Zane slipped out the palace doors a few minutes before dawn. He told his father last night that he had sent Blair home and disliked the notion of an arranged marriage. Zane went on to say that he had already found someone, that it was male, and he was waiting for him to return. Shepherd was shocked that his son was gay, but he was a kind, understanding ruler and accepted Zane’s decision.
Zane watched as the sky began to change colors. Indigo black turned into bands of pink, orange, yellow, and finally sky blue. Just as the sun’s first rays peeked over the horizon, Zane heard a splash.
Tearing his eyes from the sky, he looked at the sea and saw someone slowly walking up out of the water. Brown hair peeked out from under the waves followed by warm brown eyes. A lean, well-toned body appeared accompanied by long, graceful limbs.
“Jaden!” Zane ran toward the boy and embraced him fiercely. Jaden hugged him back just as hard.
“Syrus told me what Blair did.’
“I sent her home yesterday morning. I also told my father that I love you and he accepted that I intend to marry you.”
“Great! By the way, I’m sorry I snapped at you before.”
“Apology accepted.” Zane handed Jaden’s clothes to him. Once he was dressed, the engaged couple went inside to plan the wedding. It didn’t take them long to decided to hold it on the beach. At the spot where Zane had first found his soul mate.
The wedding was a beautiful blend of land and sea. While Shepherd performed the ceremony, Alexis and Atticus were nearby watching the couple just as Syrus was.
“I now pronounce these men married,” Shepherd declared. Alexis and Atticus applauded as Zane and Jaden sealed their vows with their first tender kiss.