When supper was prepared, Seoc returned inside to wake the merman.  Fern was glad that there were still plenty of people out wandering the streets; she did not want to be left entirely alone.  She watched passersby from her perch on the driftwood log, relishing the cooling temperatures and the deep, blue-violet hue of the sky.

"What time is it?"  She could hear de Winter's voice even from outside.  Seoc must have replied, but his voice was not as loud as the merman's, so Fern could not know exactly what he said.

De Winter swore.  "Why didn't you wake me earlier?"  A moment's pause.  "What? You made soup?  Do you not remember where we are?  This is the desert, Seoc, you idiot!  Why would you make soup in the desert, for Rezyn's sake?"

"If you are no' happy wi' what I prepare, you can make yer own friggin' meals!"  She could hear Seoc now.  "An' do not call me an IDIOT!"

"I'll call you what I like, you little--OW!"

The merman's statement had been cut short by a sharp whack that, given that it was followed by an exclamation of pain, Fern was nearly certain had been caused by Seoc's hand impacting against de Winter's face.  A few moments later, Seoc stormed out of the hut, determinedly wiping tears from his face with the back of his wrist, his gritted teeth bared in frustration.

"Did you just...slap him?"

"Yes," Seoc growled through his teeth.  "I did."  His next words were spoken in a barely audible hiss. "Sometimes I dinna know how I manage put up with him.  Oh, Rezyn," he sighed, giving up the valiant struggle against his watering eyes and sliding into a sitting position on the ground on Fern's left.  "I slapped him.  I just hit him.  I did no' mean to!"

"I think he deserved it," Fern assured him.

"I did," confirmed de Winter, who was standing in the doorway, bearing a distinct human hand print on his left cheek.  "Deserve it, I mean.  I'm sorry, little fish.  I forgot myself."

Seoc continued crying silently, his face hidden in his hands and his shoulders shaking.  The merman looked down at him uncomfortably, unsure how to approach the situation.

"Listen, Seoc," he attempted.  "I didn't mean to insult you."

"Yes, you did," Seoc pointed out.

"Well, I guess I did, but the point is, I don't stand by those remarks.  Soup is fine.  It…it smells delicious..."

"Indeed?" The small man got abruptly to his feet and strode over to where the soup in question was waiting in its pot beside the fire.  "Ye're welcome ta eat it off o' the ground then!"  With that, he kicked the container onto its side.  The soup flooded out into the sand, and the liquid was quickly absorbed into the thirsty earth, leaving the bits of meat and vegetables stranded above.


But Seoc MacInnes was already running, sprinting down the road towards the vast, dark desert.  With scarcely a moment's hesitation, Seymour de Winter took off after him, and the creeping night quickly swallowed both of them up.

The End

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