Yeah I can work this

Retired Hank lives out in the middle of the forest on the shore of a lake miles away from any human contact. There he lives in a small cabin, old and worn and built decades ago by someone who's now long gone from this world.
Hank spends most days in and out of a stupor, comfort found in the bottom of an amber glass, drifting in and out of consciousness as he tries to fight away the bad memories, and the good ones.

Not all days are bad. Sometimes he'll go and sit on the floating dock, let his legs
hang down into the cold mountain lake water, and just look out at the beauty of the forest, listen and feel the waves at his skin, smell the water and the trees and hear the call of birds, and think that maybe he'll be okay.

But even a handful of good days isn't enough to chase
away the bad, and Hank thinks more than once that it's only a matter of time before he accidentally drowns himself after drinking too much.

Such a night finally occurs.

Its a clear night, filled with stars, everything in a silvery shade from the full moon. And it should be
beautiful, but all Hank can think about is how empty everything feels, how his life is gone in the absence of a certain child's smile and laugh.

Hank staggers down to the dock, wanting to sit and cool off in the water.
He can't keep his head up, can barely walk the straight line
Of the floating dock to get to the end. It's a miracle he doesn't fall off immediately.

The old man sits himself heavily down, the shallow water easily splashing up to soak his ass through his shorts.

"Fuckin, water, cold," he slurs, blinking hard, as if fighting sleep.
"Should go to - oh shit-"

The neck of the bottle he was bolding is slippery, hard to hold on to, and it falls out of his drunk, clumsy fingers into the water.

And like an idiot, Hank leans over to try to catch it--

Only to plunge right in.
Hank tries to fight for the surface, which is rather difficult to do when one can't tell up from down normally, let alone drunker than a sailor and falling headfirst into frigid lake water.

Hank opens his mouth to scream or shout or something, but all that comes is water that
fills his mouth, his throat, down to his lungs-

And then there's two palms, cupping his chest, and pushing, pushing-

The surface comes suddenly, and Hank gasps for air as he's somehow roughly manhandled onto the dock, rolled onto his back.

The drunk man coughs up gulps of
Water, fighting to clear his throat. His brain takes several seconds to catch up with the situation. How did, what-?

He turns his head as the bottom of a cold beer bottle presses against his forehead, a reprimand, and Hank stares into a pair of stern and disapproving brown eyes.
"Don't litter," the voice reprimands coldly. Hank sees a faint flickering sheen, translucent, a glimmer of scales on smooth pale skin, of too-sharp teeth in a pouting mouth.

Then there's a splash and another flash of scales, silver in the moonlight, and then they're gone.
Hank laughs, humorless at the open air and stars. "Fuckin figures," he says, then passes out until morning.

(Lakeside part 1)
Hank wakes the next morning on the rocky shore of the lake, having somehow migrated from the end of the dock to solid ground. The sun beats bright and summer-warm on his face, and he knows as he blinks blearily at the sky that he's going to walk away with some sort of sunburn.
The bottle he dropped in the lake last night rests in his lap.

He can still recall the feel of the glass pressed to his temple, can see the dark eyes looking at him tersely. The voice- "/Don't litter/."

Hank laughs again, the sound a puff of disbelieving air. When he sits up,
his head pounds.

A shower, a hangover cure, then maybe a nap after nearly drowning last night is just what the doctor ordered.

He stands slowly to his feet, the movement meandering, and looks over his shoulder just in time to see another quick flash disappearing into the water.
Hank grumbles, then turns back to the back sliding door. "Fuckin.. I'll deal with you later."

He cleans himself up, even eats, gives himself time through the morning and early afternoon to sort himself and his thoughts out. The shower feels good, especially once he's scrubbed
off all the grime from the lake. He even washes his beard, grown full and thick and white past his chin after months of not grooming it properly. The consideration to trim or just shave it all off is tempting, but the impulse passes and he settles for cleaning and leaving it.
It's past mid-afternoon by the time Hank decides he's ready to face what's out there. He preps a tuna sandwich, takes it out with a bottle of water, and plops himself down at the end of the dock.

The water is cold and a bit uncomfortable, and maybe he's temping fate by leaving
his feet hanging into the water, but, eh, fuckit. He stopped having self-preservation years ago. If he gets taken under he's not like to put up a fight.

Hank sits there, waiting. He curls his toes in the lightly lapping waves, and munches on his sandwich. He eats slowly,
savoring the food and the memories that surface with it.

He's just finished off half his bottle of water when a head finally pokes up out of the water, off to the side.

A dash of brown hair clinging to his skin, wide maple eyes.

Hank holds up the other half of his sandwich.
"Want some?" he calls, casual. "Just made it."

The face off in the distance frowns, and dives back into the water. It's quick, but Hank sees the flicker of color- earthy brown/green and small dashes of brighter color. Some kind of trout, maybe?

The merman resurfaces nearby.
For a handful of seconds, Connor just watches him. Hank licks his fingers clean from his half of the sandwich, the fishy taste of tuna with pickles and onions lingering. "It's good," he tempts, holding the other half aloft. "Made it myself, same recipe my wife used to tempt me."
The merman watches, eyes staring. Hank thinks the fish looks almost robotic for a bit, he's so lacking in expression-

But then Hank finishes off his water, and splays both hands wide. "I'm not a danger to you," he swears. "Just wanna talk, and thank you for last night."
That's finally enough to earn a dash of emotion, just shown in the slightest tick of the man's eyebrows drawing inward into a frown. But then the merman titters something, and dives back down.

Hank waits, watches the water, sees the currents shift from above even if he can't see
the creature with his naked eye through the murky lake.

But then there's a careful splashing of water from behind, ripples of movement. The merman was careful, wanting to approach Hank from behind in case the human had a plan of attack from the front.

"You can speak?" says the
creature, incredulous and distrusting.

"Sure," Hank says easily enough. "What, you never met a human before?" He leans back, turning carefully as he tries to look at the merman.

The creature accommodates him, probably wanting to get a look at Hank himself. He still has that
stern look over his brow, lips pursed. "I have," he says. "Not like this, though. Usually just.. Visitors on the rock shores around the lakes. Too loud. Sometimes litter."

Up close, he's beautiful, and seemingly human if not for the slight tells. Thin iridescent scales shimmer,
catching the light over his hard cheekbones and chin. Gills at the side of his neck, and what appears to be a dorsal fin poking up out of the water, starting at the high midline point of his back.

Hank holds out his aforementioned offering. "Sandwich?"
The merman stares at the food, thinking. His gills press flat to his neck, body switching to a human method of respiration. "Sandwich?" he echoes. "What exactly /is/ that?"

Hank explains its tuna,, from the ocean, which leads to the merman asking about the ocean, and
then to his dismay over learning about water so far, far away that goes on so you can't see land at the other side, which then segues into Hank showing pictures and video on his phone.

The merman takes the sandwich.

"I had heard the salmon talking about something like that."
He munches on the food hungrily, eyes dilating at the flavors he never even knew existed. "I just thought they were crazy, or confused."

"Salmon," Hank says, "Like.. Other merpeople? Or just fish salmon?"

The merman gives him a guarded look, considering, then shrugs. "People."
He bites again, talking rudely with his mouth full. "Migratory, like the fish they take after. Makes the journey to the sea and back. There's a few that come through here for the spawning season."

Hank hums, and watches the merman eat. Sharp teeth, webbed hands connected with
a fibrous, fin-like material. Normal human ears, coffee-brown hair that curls as it dries, and a pale face spotted with freckles. The tips of his hands end in pointed claws. A predator.

"Never heard of that," is all he says.

"Well that's kind of the idea, isn't it? Not supposed
to let humans know about us."

Hank blinks, nods faintly. That makes sense, except-- "So..why approach me?" He fixes his tired blue eyes on the merman. "Why save one human's life? Why come talk to me and expose your whole species?"

The merman barely even glances at him, like
Hank doesn't even register as a threat. "You needed help, so I helped. It's not that difficult. And I know you keep to yourself, I've never seen other humans at your residence, so it's not likely you're in contact with them, probably banished or you seclude yourself on purpose."
Hank doesn't exactly enjoy the way the merman so easily picks apart Hank's life, pointing out the fact he lives alone in his sad, lonely, broken-down house like his crumbling mentality is a mere sidenote. The man's lips turn down at the clinical assessment, but doesn't get a
chance to defend himself as the merman tags on, "You also smell different. At least, different compared to other humans."

Hank's words choke in his throat. "Oh?" is all he manages to say. "How so?"

The merman shrugs, but answers sincerely. "Just.. Different. Not as sharp."
Hank grunts, looks down to his feet swinging under the dock, water up to his ankles. "Yeah, well, I guess there's that."

He waits for the merman to finish his meal. He'd be happy to let the conversation fizzle, but the creature is curious to a fault. "You have one of those pets,
right? A dog?"

Hank hums. "Yeah, I call him Sumo."

"Sumo..yes, I've met him," the merman informs casually. "On the shore, he came up and said hello." A significant pause, and Hank looks up in time for the merman to decide quite simply. "I like dogs."

Hank barks out a laugh.
"Sumo is an easy one to like," he agrees, unable to keep the grin going up his face. "I'll bring him down again sometime, old mutt is napping right now." He glances up, "That is, if you want to come back here sometime."

The merman looks at him point-blankly, and Hank gets caught
up in those dark and earnest eyes, gaze trailing over a loop of hair that falls over his left brow. There's a slight smirk to Connor's face. "Yes," he says. "I would like that."

Hank gives a light smile, "Alright, tomorrow good then, same time? I'll bring lunch, if you want me
to make some more."

The merman grins, and shows his snarl teeth, then hurries to hide them, as if just realizing that it could be easily taken as a threat. "Yes, please, that would be acceptable. I found it delicious."

"You got it." Hank stands to his feet, legs cramping from
sitting down so long. The merman starts to draw away, looking withdrawn in some way. Hank clears his throat. "And hey, uh. My name. It's Hank."

"Hank.." the merman tries the name out, and does a careful little smile, lips closed. "It's nice to meet you. My name is Connor."
The smile Hank mirrors is genuine. "Connor. Well. Good to meet you too."

And he has to be imagining it, or it must be the sun, because Hank could swear the merman face turns a light shade of pink. There's no way he caused the merman to blush.

"Tomorrow, then" the creature says.
And with a flick of his tail, the merman disappears into the dark depths, immediately lost to sight from where Hank stands on the shore.

Hank can't help but laugh to himself as he walks up the old steps back to his house.

Who've thought.

(Lakeside Merm Hankcon AU pt 2)
Hank meets Connor on the dock the next day, then the day after that, and the one after that. And every time, he brings a sandwich for him, and one for Connor.

They talk about the human world, what's all out there to see, and sometimes Connor will talk about what it's like living
in the lake, though he's much more reserved about it.

"I've just always lived here," he says when Hank asks why Connor never bothered to leave. "Never had a reason to try. I used to swim upstream a little when I was a guppy, but.. Harder to do that now that I'm grown.
Too shallow, no way to hide. I'm stuck here."

Hank stares at him, holds back his words, and hums without saying anything.

Sumo is as excited to reunite with Connor as he would with a human person, barking and playful and splashing water everywhere. Connor laughs from where he
couches carefully in the shadows. So close to the shore, Hank can see his tail pattern better.

He's a pale, murky green on top, fading to a creamier tone on his underbelly. The whole tail is littered with dark spots, which all congregate the most at his tail fin. Translucent,
swampy green, nearly covered in dark spots.

He has a dorsal fin along his human back and lower tail, then ones along his underbelly and mirrored on his fishy sides. All that same dark, green-yellow shade with spots. His fins are unmarked for the most part, some scars from old
fights along his tail and skin, but mostly unharmed.

"Trout?" Hank guesses, studying the design and pattern and shade.

Connor looks confused for a moment while he ruffles Sumo's fur, brows pinched adorably as he pieces together what Hank means. But then he grins at the guess,
and pridefully lifts his tail out of the clear water. "Cutthroat trout," he specifies. "Good guess !"

Hank grunts, the tail pattern far too familiar. He shifts their conversation to something else.

The days go by easy. Hank buys a surplus of canned tuna from the town grocery
store (a good 10 minute drive from where he lives), and spends lazy afternoons with Connor until it's time for the merman to return to the depths.

"Got a missus to go home to?" Hank boldly asks one early evening after he's already downed a couple of bears, loosening his tongue.
Connor takes a second to put the question together. "No," he says, and sounds just the barest bit offended by the query. "Just.. Need to get home."

Hank grunts "Got a family?"

Connor remains quiet. Hank waves a hand at him dismissively when the fish doesn't answer. "Nevermind."
Hank returns to his home that night without incident, but he still catches glimpses of Connor once or twice out the window, checking up on him as he breaches the water surface, looks around, then dives back into the waves. It only serves to make Hank feel like a piece of shit.
CW hints at suicidal ideation

They still haven't talked about that night, the first one they met, and Hank knows that's on him. He hasn't even thanked the guy for it, maybe because of some inner voices telling him dark things, telling him what he knows are lies. But even with
his inner voice that knows his impulses and the stupid things he thinks of that are shit, he can't bring himself to not believe them, and he doesn't know how. And he feels guilty about it.

And that guilt makes him draw away.

He avoids Connor the next few days without notice.
He can see the merman from the window of his house, how he dips up to the surface around their usual meet-up time. He comes up more and more frequently as time goes on and the few days pass by, almost urgent in his checking, and Hank wants to curl up in a never-ending pit.
Hank finally braves himself a handful of days later, after the added guilt is finally enough to push him to the water's edge.

His toes have barely even touched the surface of the water before a head pops out above the calm waves of the lake. But even still, Connor doesn't
approach. He hangs back about 10 feet away, brows lowered into a firm line, lips pressed together. He waits for Hank to speak.

"Im sorry," Hank says, avoiding the merman's eyes. "I didn't mean to.. I treated you like shit, and I'm sorry. I shouldn't have.. Shouldn't have done

Connor still hangs back, slow to trust. Hank thinks for a handful of damning moments that Connor is going to curse him with the silent treatment, or even worse, chew him out then leave Hank for good.

Instead, the merman speaks quiet, but firm.

"What happened?"
And fuckitall, that's the straw that broke the camels back, isn't it? How is Hank supposed to answer something like that? Because what did happen? He was depressed and screwed up, sure, but he's always been like that, and it only got worse after-

Hank swallows something round
and heavy in his throat. "I-" he starts, and knows he doesn't have a single idea on how to say any of this. He shakes his head. "I don't even fucking know."

Connor remains quiet, and the only sign of him moving is the slight rippling sound of water, gliding through the bobbing
waves until he's within arm's reach.

"I watched for you," the merman says, soft. "I saw the lights during the night, so I knew you were okay, but you didn't come out at all. I thought.." And Hank looks up in time to see the merman bite his lower lip. "I thought I did or.. Said
something wrong that made you want to stop talking to me."

Shit. Hank's heart clenches painfully, and he reaches out instinctively to the glistening merman. "Oh Con, Connie no, dammit. No. Fuck. Nothing you did caused me to do that. Shit. I'm just.. Messed up." Hank's rough and
calloused palm finds its' way to Connor's cheek, where he holds the merman's face, and brushes a thumb idly along his cheekbone. "It's me, okay? It's all me. Nothing you did, got it?"

Connor keeps his eyes on the water below, and nods, though it isn't very convincing.
Hank knows he needs to fix this, but he doesn't know how, doesn't know what to do. "I-"

"What was his name?"

Hank looks up, the movement startled, as he finds Connor's steady and true gaze. The merman doesn't flinch away, but he sees the note of vulnerability in asking the
question at all.

Hank draws his hand away. Connor doesn't move. "What?" he echoes numbly.

"Your grief," Connor says, and takes Hank's hand by the wrist, placing it back to his scaled cheek. "I can feel it. I can smell it, like a heavy storm cloud all over you." He inhales,
then blinks. "So what happened, Hank?"

And fuck, that's the nail right on the head, huh?

Hank's breath catches, and his hand curls against Connor's cheek. Fuckin.. Emotion-reading mermaid. Hank doesn't remember fucking learning about that ability. No fair.

"Cole," he says, in
a flickering moment of honesty. "His name was Cole."

Connor blinks slowly, almost sad, but makes no further movements towards Hank, just levels his eyes, and says one thing.

"Tell me about him."

And Hank does.

--Lakeside Hankcon merm AU pt 3--
Early afternoon bleeds into early evening. Hank cries more than once, telling Connor about Cole, about his job as Lieutenant and how he lost it after he couldn't bounce back after the accident, about the break-up and the drinking and the depression. And talking it all out like
this hurts, but Hank trusts Connor for whatever reason. Maybe it's easier to talk to the merman about all this because he had no other basis for comparison when it comes to humanity, or maybe it's because Hank knows Connor can't call and talk to other people in his life about all
the shit Hank's going through, and sometimes talking to a newly familiar face with no expectations for you is easier than to someone you know who already has an idea about what you're supposed to be like.

By the end, Hank has cried more than once, and his long confession and
internal processing ends with Connor resting with a head on his lap, arms bent as a cushion while the merman listens, and takes it all in.

When he finishes, Hank somehow finds himself drawing his hand through Connor's now-dry hair, finding it soft and curly to the touch.
"That's a lot," Connor finally murmurs, not lifting his head from Hank's easy hold on him. "I can't imagine going through all that, losing your only child."

Hank sniffs, wipes at his eyes, stinging after crying so much. "He was my everything," he says. "And even years later, it

Connor hums. "Well it always will, won't it? It's not like losing a new friend or a favored object. A child.." Connor sighs. "It's okay to give yourself time. But.." One clawed fingertip idly scratches Hank's thigh, not breaking the skin. "You need to find ways to heal.
But that doesn't mean it's supposed to stop hurting."
Hank curls his hand lightly through Connor's hair. "Yeah.. I know. It's not nothing I haven't heard before."

Connor lifts his head, and takes Hank's hand in his own. "You're my dear friend, Hank, and I want you to be okay. In every meaning of the word."

Hank sniffs, wipes at
his eyes again. "Yeah."

CW talk about suicidal ideation, alcoholism💚

And that's when Connor finally addresses the elephant in the room.

"That night, the first one we met." He levels Hank with his stare, eyes steady, wary. "That stuff you drink.."

Hank looks away, shame-faced
💚"It helps," he mutters. "Helps.. Make things fuzzy, easy to forget."

"That doesn't sound like helping."

Hank grunts. Connor sinks a little back into the water, but keeps his hands on Hank's knees.

"I don't like that stuff," Connor says, quiet. "It smells sour, makes the
cloud over you darker. Heavier."

Hank grunts again, and scratches at the water-worn wood of the dock, stripped of paint and varnish years ago. "Yeah," he grumbles, then takes a breath, and finally decides with tears in his eyes. "Maybe.. Maybe it's time to stop."
Something's gotta give, eventually. And after so many years.. Hank is tired. He doesn't think he'll ever fully recover from the grief of losing his child, but.. Perhaps it would still be okay to let him go. To acknowledge that Cole's light was truly bright for the short time he
was on this earth, and now he's gone, and Hank missed him, but it's okay to let go, to continue living, and cherishing what memories he does have.

It won't be easy, it truly won't. And it'll take time. But.. Hank is ready.
Hank glances up to see tears mirrored in Connor's own eyes. The merman wipes them away with a thumb, and bows his head to kiss Hank's knee, "I'll help you however I can," he says, and from the tone, Hank knows it's more than just a simple promise.

And just like that, Hank starts
crying all over again. He bows forward, clinging to Connor, and lets the emotion shift and work through his body in heavy, grieving sobs.

Connor holds on to him, finned hands splayed wife at Hank's back, making soothing trilling noises from the back of his throat. Singing.
It works to soothe Hank, and he relaxes, sniffling as he eventually leans back. Face red, throat choked up, eyes stinging and nose snotty, he's a mess.

"Thanks, Connor," he murmurs, voice thick.

Connor smiles faintly back. "Anytime, Hank."
The old man wipes at his eyes. "I'll try to be less of a mess around you, don't want to be a buzzkill-"

"You don't worry about any of that," Connor says with a shake of his head. One of his hands still on Hank's knee twitches. "I want to see every bit of you, all of it.
The happy parts, the grieving parts, the ugly parts. You're my human, Hank. And I want to know and accept all of who you are."

Something almost lost and nearly forgotten tugs at Hank from behind his stomach. He smiles ruefully. "You sure about that, kid? I've been around the
block for a while. Ain't no guppy, anymore."

Connor smiles at Hank's use of his own colloquialism, and sinks a little bit more into the water. "It's not exactly like I am, either," Connor says. "I am fully grown, you know." The merman lounges a bit back into the water, almost
otter-like. His slick yellow-green tail flips up out of the water, and Hank admires the colors and lovely spotted pattern, a light smile on his face.

Connor watches Hank with a slight tilt of his head. "Are we.. Is everything okay, now? Between us?"

Hank smiles a bit more
easily, and holds out his foot. "Yeah, fish-boy, we're good."

Connor mutters something about being referred to as a 'boy' after //clearly// just stating he's full-grown, but he slaps his tail fin at Hank's splayed toes with a smile, anyway, and swims lazily back to the dock
where he peers around Hank.

"So..any sandwiches today?"


The rest of the next couple of weeks pass by easy and lazy, as any good early summers do, and Hank gets better.. Or at the very least he starts the process. He throws out all his alcohol and makes the drive to the
nearest city where he can get treatment. He doesn't sign up for rehab, but he talks to a handful of medical professionals and clears out his system. It's exhausting, and it's hell, but he returns to his house in the middle of the woods feeling like he's come miles. And he has.
But what really helps keep him going is the happy shark-like smile that greets him as he ambles down the old stairs, nearly overgrown into the hillside.

Connor trills his name as soon as he catches sight of him, swimming back and forth along their little shared shoreline
anxiously until Hank is finally within arms' distance.

He doesn't even walk to the edge of the dock, instead splashing down into the pebbled waters. The glacial runoff is freezing, but it doesn't touch him, because as soon as he's knee-deep in the water, Connor launches himself
Out and right into Hank's arms.

The old man laughs as he's totally submerged, but he sits up so he can give his dear friend the biggest and best hug he's ever given.

"I missed you," Connor says, arms held tight around the old man's neck. "You were gone for so long."
The merman nuzzles in close, taking generous sniffs at Hank's neck, as if reintroducing himself to the human's scent. He grins, satisfied, and snuggles in as Hank holds him close.

"Welcome home."

Connor is less slimy than Hank would expect to his human skin, though that's just
the top half. Hank curls his hand in the hair at Connor's nape, and smiles himself. "Good to be home," he says. And for the first time in a long while, he feels far more alive than he's ever been. "Think you could eat some sandwiches? I'll tell you everything."

Connor trills.
More weeks pass into summer, hot and blazing sun coaxing Hank outside more and more than he ever does, even when living in the middle of the woods. He starts to take his old canoe out onto the lake, though he doesn't go far from shore, and stays within his secret little cove
with just him and his merman.

"I like the canoe," Connor says, halfway on the edge of the boat, chewing down another sandwich. "Not like those other boats people bring on the lakes. The big and noisy ones.."

Hank grunts, licks his fingers to catch all that's left from his
sandwich, doesn't see how Connor watches him. "Nah.. Don't got the money for one of those. I got this second hand. Got nowhere to go and noone to show off to, anyway even if I had one of those big ones. And yeah, this is nice. Lets me see and talk to you easier."

"Hm." Connor
hums, head half-laying on his arms where he watches Hank. "So when are you going to come swimming with me?"

Hank lowers the brim of his hat, leans back further into where he's propped up some pillows to make a little resting area. He props one leg up onto the edge of the boat,
and grunts. "My swimming days are long over, squirt." He tugs at his long beard, in need of maybe a shorter trim with all this heat. "My old bones yet too cold in this lake water. Not made like you."

"Are you afraid of swimming?" Connor asks. "Do you not know how? I'd be more
than happy to-"

"I know how to swim," Hank grumbles, near close to dozing off. "But I don't get as much out of it as I used to. Not a young gup, anymore."

Hank can feel the petulance from Connor. "I think it'd be fun," he mutters, as if to himself. "And wouldn't it be
refreshing? On such a hot day like this?"

"Maybe another time, Con." Hank wiggles down a bit, lets one toe hang in so it touches the water. After a considering moment, he offers-"You're more than welcome to hop in here with me if you'd like."

Connor's answer comes out dry, "Oh
yeah, and shrivel up so you can make fish stew later? I'll pass."

Hank tsks, making an offended noise, "Now I wouldn't do that! It's too hot for stew. Maybe a nice fish fry, though.." He pokes the brim of his hat up to throw Connor a shit-eating grin.

The human only has enough
time to see Connor's offended gawk, and then doesn't react fast enough when he flips quickly into the water, scooping a fin-ful of lakewater and splashing it all over Hank's front.

The human sputters, sitting himself off- "Aw fuck, Connor! I was just kidding-!"
Which is all Hank gets to say before the bottom of the canoe makes a violent lurch, and the entirety of Hank and his now-empty cooler goes flying into the cold lake.

The chill of it shocks Hank's system and wakes him up instantly as he's immediately cradled by the cool and
old familiar feel of water surrounding him from all sides. Old instincts rise to the surface, compelling him, but he squashes them down and uses his two feet to go back to the surface.

He breaches on the underside of the canoe, green reflected light from the water casting light-
patterns against the underside of the canoe. There's just enough of it for Hank to see.

A moment later, Connor's head slips up to the surface, looking only somewhat guilty if still mischievous. Water drips down his curly dark hair, deep and endless brown, and his eyes are almost
black in this light. For a moment when he sees him, Hank realizes this is the first time they've ever been eye to eye like this, closer than a simple, awkward hug from the dock, or a strangely positioned embrace on a shallow, Rocky shoreline.

"I knew you were joking," Connor
admits, his voice quiet but amplified in the dark confines of the upturned canoe. "But.. I wanted to do this."

Which is when the merman moves right at Hank, as if afraid of losing his nerve, places both hands to the sides of his human's head.. and leans in to kiss him.
Hank feels his very breath is stolen away when he feels those soft, wet, and somewhat-scaly lips touch his.

Its a chaste kiss, hesitant and wanting, but it tugs at somewhere deep in Hank's gut, an explosion of color and light he hasn't felt for anyone in.. Ages.

And it's even
brighter, when it's all for Connor.

Before the merman can move away, Hank holds his own hand up to Connor's cheeks, pulling him in as close as he can, his arms touching the merman's chest. Connor makes a soft sound of relief from the back of his throat, and parts long enough for
Hank to get another breath before they're both back to each other, planets pulled into each other's gravity.

"I was so scared," Connor manages to confess. Below the water, Hank can feel how the water moves and shifts beneath the powerful treading of Connor's tail. "Afraid you
wouldn't feel the same, that you wouldn't want me as I am, that you would despise-"

"Never," Hank assures, putting all those fears to rest at once. "I could never.. Con you're fucking magnificent. How could I..? You're the most amazing thing in the whole world. How could I ever
reject someone as wonderful as you?"

The merman's next breath hitches on a happy sob, gills splaying out for a moment before he remembers to breathe correctly above water. He pulls Hank in for another kiss, and the human lets himself sink in to it while a bright and glowing
warmth starts to life in his chest.

And it's just them. Them, their secret, and kisses exchanged beneath the shelter of that upturned canoe.

Hank nearly starts to cry again, but all that comes to his lips are-

"Connor," he murmurs, reverent as a prayer. Tilts his head so he
can kiss the merman's cheeks, his nose, over to his ears at at his hairline. "Connor.. My Connor."

The merman hums, a thrilling sort of purr going from his throat. He returns to Hank's lips, eyes closed, content.

"Hank," he echoes, soft and loving. "My Hank.."

He's everything.
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