In all honesty, Stiles is shocked when they see people in the distance.
The private beachfront cabin he and Scott rent from his uncle every summer is almost totally isolated, and while they don’t usually walk this far down the shore, it’s still a surprise to see a group of people sitting on some craggy rocks a few hundred feet down the beach.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Scott asks dubiously. “Just approaching random strangers like this?”
“Scotty, you gotta take some risks in life,” Stiles says, socking him lightly on the arm. “What do you think they are? A gang who’s taken up the beach as their new territory? If anything, there are probably more cabins further down that we never knew about. And hey, if worse comes to worst, you’re a werewolf. I don’t think we’ll have too much trouble fighting them off.”
“If I die, you’re gonna be the one explaining this genius plan to Allison.”
“I’m not scared of Allison,” Stiles says, waving his hand dismissively. At a look from Scott, he amends, “Okay, I’m only a little scared of Allison. Shut up. Do you want to wait till she and Lydia meet up with us tomorrow so she can bring her crossbow? I’ve heard people love being approached in isolated areas by strangers with weapons.”
“I’m just saying. Why can’t we stay on our side of-”
He’s cut off by one of the strangers, who they’re now close enough to see is a beautiful blonde girl in a bikini top made to look like two surprisingly realistic seashells. Upon catching sight of them, she yells, “Hey, cutie pies!”
Scott and Stiles stop where they are, a good fifteen feet from the group. The people are all sitting on rocks, submerged waist-deep in the water. The ocean is much darker here and teeming with seaweed; it’s not quite murky, but it’s certainly not the clear blue Stiles is used to by their cabin.
The blonde is the only girl of the group. Sitting in a semicircle with her are three guys, one who’s unnaturally pale for someone sitting on the beach, with a head of short, golden curls that reflect the light in a stunning way, and another who’s black and broad-shouldered, water dripping slowly down his muscular body. The last guy is probably more attractive than the three of them combined—not an easy feat—with a set of rock-hard abs and gorgeous eyes that seem to shift from green to brown to gold, depending on how the sunlight hits them. Apparently, they’ve stumbled on a group of supernaturally gorgeous beachgoers.
Stiles is now 99% sure they’re not going to be murdered by the potential trespassers, simply because the blood of innocents would probably mess up their aesthetic.
“Uh, hey there…” he says. “What’s up?”
“Just sunning,” the blonde says, tipping her head back towards the sky for a moment. “We don’t come to the shore often, but it’s a perfect day, don’t you think?”
“It is really nice out,” Scott pipes up amicably. “We come out here every summer.”
“Really?” the girl practically purrs. “We’re at the beach year-round.”
This is apparently very amusing to all her friends, who do a poor job of hiding their snickers.
“Funny, we’ve never seen you around here before. Do you have a cabin?”
“Nah,” the curly-haired guy puts in. “We live a little further out.”
Again, Stiles doesn’t understand what they all find so hilarious.
“I’m Isaac, by the way,” the guys goes on. “That’s Erica and Boyd.” He gestures at the blonde and the black guy, who, Stiles notices, are holding hands just under the surface. “And Derek.”
Ah, so that’s the Adonis’ name.
“Nice to meet you all,” Scott says. “I’m Scott, and this is Stiles.”
“Stiles? Ooh, that sounds familiar,” Erica says eagerly. “Isn’t there some singer named that? You’re not a pop star, are ya?”
Stiles honestly can’t tell if she’s joking. She looks perfectly serious, but she can’t actually think he’s Harry Styles. Stiles definitely isn’t into boybands, but even he knows what the guy looks like. It’s hard not to unless you’ve been living on some tiny island in the middle of nowhere. It’s a pretty basic pop culture reference.
“Uh, no, sorry. Different spelling.”
“That’s too bad,” Boyd says. “We met a Paul McCartney once. Never heard of him before that, but he swore up and down he was in some famous band. Either way, he was a hell of a surfer. You ever hear of him?”
Scott glances at Stiles out of the corner of his eye, and Stiles is glad he’s not the only one finding these people a little off.
“Maybe once or twice,” Stiles offers, and Erica grins broadly.
“Ooh, yay! Knew he was really famous. Derek, you owe me ten sand dollars.”
Derek reaches further underwater and pulls up a small shell, which he flicks at her like a Frisbee.
“I’ll make good on the rest later,” he says flatly.
Erica rolls her eyes.
“Riiight,” Scott says. “Well uh. We should probably get going. Maybe we’ll see you around some time?”
“Leaving so soon?” Erica asks, mock pouting. “We don’t get cute guys around here too often.”
Boyd splashes her and she laughs, planting a wet kiss on his cheek.
“Excluding you, babe,” she promises, scooching closer to him on their rock. When the water sloshes, Stiles catches a glimpse of her bathing suit bottom, which is brilliantly shiny, a swirling blue and green pattern that’s quickly covered again when the water settles. “You’re worth every cute guy I’ve ever met put together.”
She nestles her head in the space between his neck and shoulder, and Boyd pulls her closer with an arm around her waist.
Next to them, Isaac pretends to gag.
“Yeah, well, Scotty’s got a girlfriend anyway, so no worries.”
“Had to burst my bubble, huh?” Isaac asks.
Scott looks a little embarrassed at that, which Stiles finds hysterical.
“Well, Stiles is single,” Scott shoots back quickly, apparently willing to sacrifice his best friend to people he thought might be murderers less than five minutes ago, as long as the spotlight is off him.
“Mmm, not my type,” Isaac says plainly, and Stiles would maybe be offended if he didn’t leer and add, “But he’s exactly Derek’s.”
Derek glares at him and slides off his rock, directly into the water. He must come up behind one of the bigger ones a little farther off, because he doesn’t show up back on shore. At least, Stiles hopes that’s what happened. He can’t think of something much worse than someone rejecting him by drowning themselves.
“Well,” Scott says, clearing his throat awkwardly. “This has been nice. Like I said, we’re uh, gonna head off. See you around sometime?”
“Count on it,” Isaac says, winking. Scott blushes as Isaac turns to Stiles, adding, “I’m sure Derek would like to see you again sometime, too.”
“Oh yeah, he seemed really eager,” Stiles deadpans, raising an eyebrow. “But uh. Yeah. See ya.”
“Bye bye!” Erica calls, and Boyd and Isaac give matching nods.
With that, he and Scott retreat back down the beach, and by the time Stiles glances over his shoulder, the other three have disappeared from the rocks too.
“I can’t believe you have a Star Wars surfboard,” Lydia says, looking at Stiles judgmentally over her sunglasses. She’s laying on a towel, tanning, while Scott and Allison canoodle together in the orange hammock Melissa bought them. With everyone busy, it’s the perfect time to head out to the water. “Where do they even sell those?”
“Definitely didn’t buy it at Toys R Us,” Stiles says, rubbing in the last of his sunscreen. “No sirree.”
Lydia scoffs, taking a sip from the carved out pineapple she’d filled with coconut water. Not that it matters to Stiles. He knows she secretly loves the movies, and if she’s laughing at his board—which is awesome, mind you, with BOARDB8 printed on it and a picture of everyone’s favorite droid—it’s only because she liked the original trilogy better.
He walks down the shore a little, so as not to block the view for the others, and also to get a bit of private time. He considers going all the way down to where they met Derek yesterday, but decides against it. The darker, seaweed-riddled water would only make him anxious while surfing, and Derek’s probably not there anyway. They’d said they didn’t come down to the shore often, after all.
Stiles realizes pretty quickly that today’s not actually a particularly good day for surfing. The water is exceptionally calm, with the infrequent waves barely rising a few inches out of the water. He lays down on his board instead, content to just float and enjoy the ocean. He drapes himself belly-down and just chills there for a long time, casually floating along and enjoying the view. He also keeps an eye on the shore, making sure he doesn’t get too far out and paddling back a little when he does. But otherwise, he’s totally at peace.
That peace shatters pretty quickly when seawater splashes his face and a female voice says, “Hey, McCartney Junior!”
Stiles almost falls off his board, both from shock and from the fact that Erica is now clinging to the front of it. He can only see her from the chest up, but she must be kicking her legs underneath them, because the board is moving and she’s not dragging down her half. Stiles scoots backwards a little, staring at her with wide eyes.
“Where on earth did you come from?” he demands. Maybe these people are murderers. “How did I not even hear you approaching?”
“A girl never reveals her secrets,” Erica says, grinning. “So whatcha been up to?”
“Uh,” Stiles stammers, still trying to wrap his head around this. “Just surfing. Kinda. What’ve you guys been up to?”
“Boyd and Isaac and I have been chilling out in the water,” she says. “Derek too, but he’s mostly been staying inside. He’s been having way less fun since he started pining after a certain someone.” She waggles her eyebrows suggestively.
The way she says it makes it pretty clear that that someone is Stiles, but he’s almost positive she’s just messing with him. On what planet would Derek be attracted to someone like him? Especially when he’s barely said ten words to the guy.
“Sounds like a good time,” Stiles says slowly, unsure how else to respond. “You guys should come down to the cabin sometime. We’re having a campfire tonight, cooking fish.”
Erica pulls a face.
“Uh… no thanks. We’re not exactly fans of fish.”
“You can still come,” Stiles says, shrugging. “We’ve got some canned food at the house.”
“That’s okay,” Erica insists. “But fishing? That must mean you have a boat, right? You should join us before you go. There’s a little island way out,” she gestures across the ocean, further than Stiles can see, “that we like to chill at. It’s pretty much straight ahead from your cabin. Maybe swing by after your little fire?”
“Sure, I guess,” Stiles agrees. “I’ll have to check with the others, but. Yeah. Sounds good.”
“Great!” Erica chirps. “Everyone’ll be so excited! Make sure it’s just the four of you. Later!”
She releases her hold on him and promptly sinks into the sea.
Stiles peers over his board, startled, but he doesn’t see her anywhere. He turns around as best he can, but he doesn’t see her underwater, nor has she come up.
He waits thirty seconds, then a minute, but she still doesn’t surface.
Could she have drowned in that amount of time? Been snagged by a shark? Who just disappears underwater like some kind of aquatic Houdini?
“Erica!” he yells. “Erica!?”
Way off in the distance, a figure pops out of the water. Erica.
“Chill!” she calls, laughing. “See you tonight!”
How on earth did she get that far away so fast?
Stiles watches in awe as she swims off, cutting through the water with smooth, quick strokes till she’s out of sight.
“You want us to sail out to the middle of the ocean at night so we can meet up with some strangers?” Lydia asks, raising a judgmental eyebrow. “That sounds like a smart plan to you?”
“Nice strangers,” Stiles corrects
“Hot strangers,” Scott laughs. “He just wants to go because that Derek guy might be there.”
“Can you blame me? He was like a Greek god, dude.”
Scott raises his hands in innocence.
“I think it’d be fun,” Allison says. “And c’mon, Lyds. Scott’s a werewolf. I doubt they’ll get to do much even if they are trouble.”
“Why does everyone keep saying that?” Scott grumbles. “I hope it’s an island full of serial killers just to teach you all a lesson.”
“I’m taking all this as a yes, Stiles, we’d love to go! Let’s get the boat!, just so you know.”
“Whatever,” Lydia hums darkly. “But I’m bringing my pepper spray.”
It takes a long time to reach the island.
When they finally see it, it’s mostly because of the crazy colors in the distance. There’s greens and blues and purples shining and shimmering in the night. They all wonder aloud what’s causing it, whether it’s some kind of freaky flowers or a bunch or lanterns, but when they really start to get close, they realize the colors are coming from people. More specifically, from the tails of people.
Stiles grabs his phone and zooms in as close as he can on the island. It’s crawling with people, some standing on two legs, and some with the lower bodies of fish.
“What. The. Fuck.”
“Um, Lydia?” Scott says slowly. “Have you ever come across mermaids in your reading?”
“Only in lore,” she answers, leaning forward to get a better look. They’re only fifty feet from shore now, and some of the… the whatever they are have started to wave at them. “Are we sure these aren’t just a bunch of weirdos who like to dress up as sea creatures?”
As soon as she asks, Erica shoots out of the water, doing a complex flip in the air, her tail—her freakin’ tail—shimmering beautifully in the low light. She lands right in front of their boat and latches on, just like she’d done with Stiles’ board earlier.
“Hey guys!” she says cheerfully. “Glad you decided to come by! I think I may have forgotten to mention one small detail, by the way…”
She smirks, glancing back at the island that they’re slowly getting closer to.
“Small detail?” Stiles echoes, voice a little strangled.
“Oh, please,” she laughs. “Don’t act like it’s such a shock when you’ve got a werewolf and a banshee on board.”
Scott and Lydia exchange a look.
“You think we didn’t know?” The corner of Erica’s mouth twitches upward. “C’mon, we weren’t about to invite a bunch of random humans and expose ourselves.” She glances at Stiles and Allison, adding, “No offense.”
They reach the shore and slowly climb out of the boat, just in time for Boyd, Isaac, and a third guy they haven’t met yet to approach. Unlike Erica, they’re traveling on foot.
“How’d you know what we are?” Scott asks, frowning.
“We smelled you,” Isaac laughs. “Duh.”
“Dude, seriously?” Stiles groans. “They could smell that you’re a werewolf but you couldn’t smell that she’s a mermaid?”
“Actually, we are all,” Erica says as she pulls herself onto the shore, her tail making a graceful transition into two legs and a third shell to match her top half. “The island’s enchanted. We can walk here, but coming to your little cookout wasn’t exactly an option.”
“That’s even more of them for you to smell, then,” Stiles insists.
“I didn’t know what mermaids smell like!” Scott defends. “They just smelled like fish.”
“You don’t smell so great yourself, dogboy,” the stranger mutters, making Scott wince.
“This is Jackson,” Boyd says, nudging the new guy. “And yes, he is always that cynical.”
“Well as fun as this is,” Lydia says, pulling out her phone. Stiles can’t blame her for not being totally down with this new level of supernatural fuckery. “I’d love to get some notes on this place for our beastiary. Anyone here I can talk to about that?”
“Jackson would be happy to help,” Erica says, pushing him forward. “He’s been living in Beacon Gills his whole life.”
Jackson rolls his eyes, but Stiles is pretty sure it’s for everyone else’s benefit. Most guys wouldn’t feel too put-upon about having to spend some alone time with Lydia.
“So this is the girlfriend, huh?” Isaac asks, glancing at Scott, then Allison. “She’s cute, too. How about I show you guys the underwater caves? Hope you can hold your breath well.”
He winks, and Scott and Allison exchange matching flustered looks.
“What about Stiles?” Scott asks, before Isaac can drag him and Allison to his cave of debauchery. “I don’t want to ditch you, bro.”
“You won’t be,” Erica says, linking her arm through Stiles’. “Derek’s such a hermit sometimes,” hermit crab, Stiles’ brain suggests, and he has to keep himself from laughing, “but he can totally keep Stiles company. It’ll be great!”
“I guess,” Scott says, glancing at him for confirmation. “We’ll meet up soon, alright?”
“Totally, dude. You guys have fun,” Stiles says, because he’s not about to pass up an opportunity to see Derek again. And then, because he’s an asshole, adds, “But not too much fun. Be safe, kids.”
Scott and Allison flush, and Isaac grins sharply, throwing an arm around each of their waists and whisking them off down the beach.
“C’mon,” Erica says when they’re gone. “Boyd and I will show you to Derek’s place.”
The three of them trek through the sand, further into the heart of the island. They stop to say hello to a few people along the way, including two girls who are apparently Derek’s sisters and get very excited to learn Stiles is that guy, whatever that’s supposed to mean.
By the time they reach Derek’s house, which appears to quite literally be a gigantic sand castle, Stiles is getting a little nervous. Lydia’s earlier concerns seem more reasonable now that he’s out here alone in the relative darkness with a bunch of mermaids he barely knows.
And really, how ridiculous is that sentence?
Although, he must admit that the little castles surrounding the actual one are kind of disarming. It’s hard to imagine anyone terribly malicious building a mini replica of Derek’s house, or a duck sand sculpture.
“Derek,” Erica singsongs loudly. Rather than knocking on the rather flimsy-looking driftwood door, she grabs a coconut filled with seashells and shakes it violently. “We’ve got a surprise for you!”
“I hate surprises,” Derek answers, voice slightly muffled through the door. “Aren’t you supposed to be out exploring the caves with Isaac?”
“He has some special guests tonight,” Boyd says. “And so do you.”
Derek doesn’t answer right away, and Stiles can almost imagine him sighing.
“Come in,” he yields finally. “You know it’s open.”
Erica flings the door open, nudges Stiles inside, and slams it behind him.
“Surprise!” she hollers, and then Stiles can hear her and Boyd’s footsteps quickly retreating.
Derek is sitting in what appears to be a hot tub made of sand, if the steam rising from it is any indication. Stiles decides not to question how, exactly, it works.
“Uh, hey, Derek,” he says awkwardly, shifting on his feet. “How’s it hanging?”
“I can’t get out,” Derek says, which isn’t exactly what Stiles expected as an answer, but okay. He doesn’t sound pleased. “I’ve been spending too much time out of the ocean lately. I need to stay in the water, otherwise my scales will start to dry out.”
Stiles is reminded forcefully of Erica telling him Derek had been spending his time inside since he began to pine over ‘a certain someone’.
“Why not go chill in the ocean, then?” Stiles asks.
“I was planning on some alone time tonight.”
“Oh…” Stiles says. “Um. Sorry. I could go, if you-”
“It’s fine,” Derek interrupts, waving him off. “I just-”
“Don’t like surprises?”
Derek smiles a little. Stiles just barely resists the urge to fist pump in victory.
“That. Our kind is known for being playful,” and flirtatious, Stiles would bet, if the other mermaids are any indication, “but Erica is just ridiculous sometimes.”
“Well uh, regardless. It’s nice to see you again,” Stiles says.
“You too,” he says. “But there’s not really much to do in here except this.”
He readjusts his elbows on the edge of the tub.
“Oh,” Stiles says. “You don’t mean…?”
“If you want. There’s a lot of room. But I won’t be offended if you want to go diving with Isaac or something.”
“No, it’s- fine. I’m fine. Here. With you. Is fine.”
Smooth, Stilinski. Real smooth.
“Cool,” Derek says. “You can tell me how you found us then.”
Stiles feels a little silly as he pulls off his shirt and drops it in the sand, but he’s grateful he’s still wearing his board shorts.
“You can’t get onto this island unless one of its inhabitants invites you,” Derek elaborates. “It’s enchanted.”
Stiles has never heard someone call something enchanted in such a serious tone.
“Our druid cast protection spells so sailors just sail right past. They can’t see us, let alone actually enter the island. So who invited you?”
Derek rolls his eyes, but doesn’t seem terribly surprised.
“I should’ve known she wasn’t kidding about that,” he mutters to himself.
Stiles walks up to the edge of the tub, only to pause when he sees Derek’s tail.
“Red?” He silently prays it isn’t rude in merpeople culture to ask about their tail colors. “Everyone else seems to have blue or green or something.”
“Red is for an alpha,” Derek explains. “Betas have blue, green, or yellow. Omegas have purple or pink.”
“Dude, what?” Stiles asks, awkwardly stepping over the edge and settling down in the tub. He’s glad it’s large enough that he’s not actually touching Derek. “What are you, werewolves?”
“Wolves aren’t the only pack creatures, you know. Even fish travel in schools. If we borrow a little terminology from other supernaturals, it doesn’t hurt.”
“Fair enough, I guess,” Stiles concedes. “Well it’s really pretty. Handsome? Or, uh… Y’know. Whatever you say about a mermaid’s really nice tail.”
“Merman,” Derek corrects. “I don’t know; I don’t have my tail complimented that often. But thank you.”
“I’d think a guy like you would be getting complimented left and right,” Stiles says before he can lose his nerve. It’s a little bolder than he might normally be, but hell. He’s in a hot tub with a merman, and life is short. “And not just on your tail.”
“I could say the same,” Derek returns easily.
And, yep, there’s that flirty merpeople gene.
“Oh, uh… Thanks.”
Well. This isn’t awkward. Nope. Not at all, goddamnit.
Apparently it’s not too bad for Derek. He seems to be exuding confidence now, but Stiles supposes he would too if he were that attractive.
“There’s really nice lighting in here,” he says, lamely but effectively changing the subject. “Are those… jellyfish?”
For the first time, he notices huge tanks of water and what appear to be bioluminescent jellyfish. They light up the room with a soft, pinkish glow.
“A present from Erica,” Derek says. “They’re nice.”
“They really are.” Stiles leans forward to see them better. Unfortunately, his hand comes down on Derek’s tail; he immediately snatches it back, scrambling away from Derek. “I- uh- I’m sorry, I just- That was, um. I’ll go, if-”
“It’s fine,” Derek laughs. God, he looks good when he laughs. “It’s just my tail, Stiles. Not exactly risqué.”
Frankly, Stiles has no idea what the typical mermaid etiquette is, but that’s good to hear.
“Right. Okay. Just- sorry.”
“No big deal,” Derek placates. “Especially for someone like you.”
“Someone like… me?”
“I can’t exactly compliment your tail,” Derek says. “But you have really nice eyes.”
“Oh. Uh, thank you…” After a moment, Stiles adds, “Listen man, I am so, so shitty at flirting, but we’re in a hot tub, and I feel like we’re kinda being flirty, and this whole situation is so ridiculous that I might as well just-”
Derek does a surprisingly graceful twist type thing till his face is right in front of Stiles’.
Stiles laughs nervously.
“I was gonna say ask what we’re doing, but I mean, that also wor-”
And then Derek is kissing him, and his lips are salty like the ocean, and Stiles’ love for the beach grows exponentially.
“That okay?” Derek murmurs gently as he pulls away.
“More than okay.”
“Then I guess it’s not exactly a tragedy that I can’t leave this tub anytime soon.”
Derek offers a soft smile before leaning back in.
Oh, and as beautiful as Derek’s tail is?
Stiles has to say, he’s also a pretty big fan of when Derek can finally shift back into his fully human form, and his legs and… everything else come back.
Best. Beach trip. Ever.