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another sunny day (i feel like getting in the water)

Chapter Text

Jack Dalton had been in some sticky situations in his time with the CIA, but this one felt like the flypaper his mama used to hang outside the ranch house during long Texas summers, and he wasn’t sure he would be able to talk his way out of it.

He stood on the edge of a scenic overlook—which in Jack’s mind was just fancy-talk for “cliff”—near beautiful Clear Lake in northern California. It was a vast body of freshwater that was pretty stunning, even if Jack had only gotten a quick glimpse of it as he was shoved out of a beat-up Cadillac with a gun digging into his kidney. Now he had his hands over his head and his back to the twenty-foot drop into serene waters, the gunshot wounds to his shoulder and thigh both bleeding sluggishly. He was stripped of his gun and jacket and wore what used to be a white t-shirt and black jeans, along with heavy boots that would not be good for swimming.

Fat Tony and his men piled out of the Cadillac and Jack thought maybe now was the time to try and reason with the internationally renowned mob boss with the politically incorrect name before he got turned into fish food. “Tony, listen,” he began, and yelped when Fat Tony tipped the barrel of his gun down to point at his balls. “Or don’t! How about you talk and I listen instead?”

“Man, you never shut up, do you?” Fat Tony groaned, rolling his eyes, the gun still pointed at Jack’s crotch. “Not gonna miss your constant yapping, that’s for sure.”

“Oh, so you are gonna miss me—” Jack started.

He went silent when the expression on Fat Tony’s face grew even more irritated, his skin flushing an ugly shade of red. “I’ll ask you for the last time, Johnny—or whatever the fuck your name is, you rat—who are you working for?”

Jack barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. He was clearly about to die anyway, no matter what he said—Fat Tony needed to work on his motivational techniques. Not that Jack would have ever told him the truth, but it would’ve been nice to have somebody try to bribe him for once instead of threatening him with a gun. Briefly, he wondered who the fuck blew his cover, because he was certain it wasn’t anything he’d done.

“He ain’t gonna tell us nothing,” Skinny Pete said from near Fat Tony’s elbow.

Jack thought not for the first time how ironic it was that mobsters always had names that were the opposite of how they looked. Fat Tony was about as big around as a fence post, and Skinny Pete was… well, not skinny. He wondered how you could work that into a stand-up comedy routine—and then he didn’t wonder that, because Fat Tony took a step closer to Jack.

“I’m out a hundred grand because of this dick,” Fat Tony lamented, gesturing at Jack with the gun. “I’ve gotta do—”

He cut off as Jack reached for him, intending to grab the gun out of his hand and yank Fat Tony in to use him as a shield. Since he’d been shot twice in the past three hours, however, it didn’t work out like that. He didn’t grab Fat Tony correctly, and he slipped out of Jack’s bloody grip, elbowing him in the stomach. The gun in Fat Tony’s hand went off—thankfully not in Jack’s direction, it fired into the grass—but because of the struggle and the dizziness from the blood loss Jack slipped and lost his balance, stumbling toward the edge of the overlook.

Everything that happened next was like a slow-motion scene from a bad movie: just as Jack thought he had his footing back, Fat Tony turned and kicked him in the shin, hard. Jack felt himself falling but could do nothing to stop it, arms pinwheeling helplessly as the earth disappeared from under him and he fell into the water below.

It was a steep drop and the impact with the water stunned him enough that it was almost like being unconscious… except he was very much aware he was drowning. Jack tried to move his arms and legs but his limbs were too heavy and he sunk like a stone. The surface was too far and Jack’s lungs burned and he knew he was going to die. He’d always thought it would be from a bullet or an explosion, he didn’t think he would drown… but it didn’t matter now, so… Jack stopped fighting.

But suddenly there were arms wrapped around him, and then it felt like he was moving. Like swimming, but much faster… and then everything went dark.

 

~***~

 

The next time Jack opened his eyes it was bright, too bright as he gulped in air, choking a little, and… he wasn’t dead? There was someone leaning over him, and Jack squinted a little and saw the most beautiful man he’d ever laid eyes on. But then he glanced to the side to see where he was… and he must’ve gone insane because that man, the most beautiful man Jack had ever seen?

He had a fucking tail.

Jack’s brain—you know, the part that wasn’t hung up on the fact that the dude had a tail—quickly catalogued his surroundings. The walls around him were high and made out of wood, and he was lying on some kind of floating floor… a houseboat, he realized, but a large portion of the bottom had been cut away so the lake water could flow in and out. There was a staircase off in one corner, and from the look of the ceiling it probably led to a loft, but the main floor was a mess of tools and miscellaneous junk, along with a cook-stove and a refrigerator.

The man hovering over him was lying partially on the floor with Jack, but the end of his tail hung in the water. Large blue eyes watched Jack’s face, full of concern and framed by long lashes. He had tan skin dotted with the occasional freckle or mole, sharp cheekbones, and a tangle of wet blond hair. Patches of blue-green scales were visible on his neck and over his ribs, and when he breathed in three little slits on either side of his throat opened and closed.

He was the most beautiful man Jack had ever seen, and he had a tail and gills.

“I’d ask if you were okay, but that seems redundant since you’ve been shot,” the man said, a wry little smile appearing on his face. He reached for something out of Jack’s field of vision and produced a well-stocked first aid kit. “Do you want to freak out before or after I help you?”

Jack blinked at him a few times, not entirely sure he wasn’t dreaming. Mermaids didn’t exist, right? Or mermen, but that didn’t change the fact that he was face-to-face with Ariel. He must’ve said that out loud, because the man laughed out loud, and God, his laugh was so pretty.

“But I don’t even have red hair,” the man teased.

Jack kept staring. “Jesus, you’re so beautiful.”

Shock flitted over that gorgeous face, a pink flush spreading over his nose and cheeks. He ducked his head a little, rummaging around in the first aid kit with long, slender fingers. Another splotch of scales decorated the back of his left hand, making it reflect the sun filtering in through the skylights each time he moved it.

“Um… you’ve lost a lot of blood,” he said, delicately stepping around Jack’s compliment, less like he was bothered by it and more like he didn’t believe it. He made a triumphant sound and came up with a pair of scissors. “I need to cut your clothes off. They’re sort of ruined anyway, and I can find you something else to wear.” A pause. “I’m Angus—Angus MacGyver. Most people just call me Mac.” When Jack didn’t say anything right away, he raised an eyebrow. “This is the part where you tell me your name.”

“Jack.” His real name slipped out before he could think about using one of his aliases. “Jack Dalton.” Mac gave him a small smile, and since Jack didn’t protest he started cutting off his t-shirt. Now that the shock and adrenaline have worn off a little, Jack became more aware of the throbbing pains in his shoulder and thigh. “So… you’re a… you have a tail.”

Mac tossed the remnants of Jack’s shirt aside and got to work on the denim of his pants. “I do,” he confirmed, and the fin on the end of said tail splashes a little in the water. He extracted Jack’s wallet from the back of his pants and laid it out to dry. “It’s kind of a long story. The short version is that I’m a science experiment gone wrong.” He left Jack’s underwear intact and checked out his shoulder. “Looks like this one’s a through-and-through.” He took out a bottle of antiseptic wash. “This is gonna sting, I’m sorry.”

Before Jack could tell him it was fine Mac had started cleaning the wound and Jack hissed loudly. He still felt dizzy and if he looked around too much everything started spinning. “This can’t be real,” he muttered, blinking to try and stay awake. “You’re… you’re a mer… man? Can’t be.”

Something cool touched his forehead and it took Jack a second to realize it was Mac’s hand. The touch was grounding, and the dizziness faded slightly.

“I’m real, all right,” Mac said, injecting some kind of anesthetic into the meat of Jack’s shoulder. Then he sewed up the entry wound with steady hands, and tapped Jack on the cheek to get his attention. “Roll on your side for me? Careful, don’t jostle your leg.” Jack did as asked, and Mac repeated the entire process on the exit wound, then covered both the front and the back of Jack’s shoulder in sterile dressings. He had Jack roll on his back again and scooted down a little, scales shimmering. “Okay, your leg’s a little worse than your shoulder—the bullet’s still in it. Do you want me to give you something to knock you out?”

Jack was tempted to say yes, but he didn’t want to lose consciousness again—he hated being vulnerable like that. For some reason, though, he felt like he could trust Mac… but he didn’t want to get knocked out and wake up only to discover it was a dream. Besides, he figured he’d probably pass out from the pain anyway, so he shook his head and watched as Mac gathered the tools to extract the bullet.

Mac heated up a pair of forceps with a lighter until they were sterile, then rinsed the wound with antiseptic. “This is gonna suck,” he warned.

Jack breathed out harshly and nodded, and Mac wasted no time, digging the forceps into the wound. Jack clenched his teeth around a scream, fingers clawing into the wood beneath him. The dizziness was back in full force, and as Mac found the bullet and pulled it out, Jack felt himself fading away.

The last thing he heard before the blackness embraced him was Mac’s voice, soft and clear like the water below: “Go to sleep, Jack. You’re safe here.”

Chapter Text

After Jack passed out, Mac finished stitching up the wound on his thigh before he took a moment to just… look.

When Mac had seen the commotion on the shore followed by an injured man falling down into the water, he couldn’t not help him. Even though it put Mac at risk—revealing himself to strangers was never a good idea—there was no way he would’ve left Jack to drown. And while they’d only exchanged a few words, Mac found himself intrigued, wondering what he did for a living and what happened to him. He was also stupidly attractive and therefore it was hard to look away from him.

Eventually, Mac forced himself to clean everything up, tossing away the trash and medical waste and washing the blood off his hands in the lake. He swam over to the other side of the houseboat (dragging yourself across wood was never fun, no matter how smooth it was) and grabbed a blanket along with bottled water and some crackers. He covered Jack with the blanket, then cracked the water and left it and the food nearby. He glanced nervously at the garage door at the end of the houseboat and hoped nobody saw him swim out to rescue Jack… but if they did, they’d probably think his tail was a trick of the light on the water or that they’d smoked too much weed.

There was nothing left to do but wait.

Mac had sort of lied about being able to get Jack clothes since they were upstairs, so once Jack woke up he’d have to retrieve them himself. Unless… no, taking the serum for something like that was too risky, especially around a stranger. So Mac settled in to wait for Jack to wake up, cuddling into the fishing net he had rigged up in one corner of the water as a hammock and opening his book on water-borne illnesses to the page he was reading before all of this started.

 

~***~

 

It took about two hours before Mac heard Jack stir, groaning loudly and shifting around. Mac set his book aside, his heart hammering nervously in his chest, because now that Jack would be more alert there was a chance he’d freak the fuck out. Mac only hoped that Jack wouldn’t try to attack him—or worse, capture him. That had happened a couple of times when Bozer was still living with him; now that he’d moved in with Leanna in town, if Mac had a problem he couldn’t handle himself it took Bozer at least twenty minutes to get to the houseboat by car. He didn’t want to be scared of Jack, but… he was certainly at a disadvantage physically, and he didn’t know why Jack was up on that cliff with those guys or why they shot him.

When Jack’s eyes fluttered open, they glanced around before focusing on Mac. “It wasn’t a dream.”

Mac pushed his now-dry hair out of his face. “No, it wasn’t,” he said slowly, watching for any kind of negative reaction to that news. “How are you feeling?”

“I’ve been better,” Jack said, groaning as he sat up. “But I’ve also been worse, so I guess I’m okay. And I’m… I’m sorry, man, this is just a lot. But you saved my life, so… thank you.”

Cautiously, Mac swam over to Jack, smiling a little when he didn’t try to move away. He rested his arms on the edge of the floor and hung there, tail swishing idly in the water. He could feel Jack’s eyes cataloguing everything he saw… and found he didn’t mind. Jack didn’t seem afraid or too interested in him, just… curious.

“You’re welcome,” Mac said, and let his smile get bigger but was careful to keep his second row of teeth hidden in his gums. “Care to tell me why you got dumped into my lake?”

Jack winced before he grinned, clearly trying to mask his pain. “Your lake, huh? Got any ownership papers?” When Mac gave him a pointed look to show he was undeterred, Jack arched an eyebrow before he sighed. “Well, let’s just say I had a small disagreement with the dudes who did the shooting and then the dumping.”

“I sort of guessed that.” Mac chuckled a little. “Most of the time people don’t get riddled with bullets and then shoved off cliffs because of a friendly prank.” He nodded toward the food and water. “You should eat that, your body needs to start repairing itself.” He noticed Jack rubbing the blanket between his fingers. “If you want clothes, I’m sure some of my things will fit you. They’re up in the loft, but you should wait a while before you try to stand.” He gripped the edge of the platform and lifted himself up to sit on the floor, his tail still half submerged in the lake. “Once you eat something I can give you some antibiotics and painkillers.”

“I’m… yeah, okay. Thanks.” Jack was still kind of staring, but Mac couldn’t blame him. He grabbed the crackers and shoved a few in his mouth before taking a sip of water, and Mac forced himself to look away instead of staring at his throat bobbing as he swallows. “It’s Mac, right? Sorry for staring, man, I just… I kinda feel like I got dumped into a fairytale or somethin’. I’m a little confused.”

Mac’s eyebrows shot up toward his hairline. “If this is your idea of a fairytale I’d be confused too,” he said, looking down at his tail in the water, not wanting to make Jack feel any more uncomfortable than he probably was. “Look, the wound to your leg is pretty nasty, so you’re probably gonna have to stay here for a while.” He sighed and shut his eyes for a moment. “You seem like you were in the military… do you know anything about a program, the one where they’re growing new limbs for wounded soldiers?” When Jack nodded, he continued, “That’s my father’s project. It was supposed to be mine, too… but during the course of the testing, this happened.” He snorted. “I guess that’s what I get for suggesting we try regenerating cells from fish.”

Jack blinked, clearly trying to piece it all together. “Wait, so…” he started slowly, frowning. “Your old man experimented on you? His own son?” Disbelief shined in his eyes, and Mac couldn’t help but wince—yeah, that’s his father. “So you were… human once?”

Mac could tell Jack was going to use the word “normal” but changed his mind, and the effort was appreciated.

“Technically I’m still human,” he said, although there were plenty of days when it didn’t feel like it. “Just a little… augmented, genetically speaking. Once my father realized there was no way to change me back, he…” He glanced away from Jack again, feeling the hurt from two years ago come roaring back, tears welling in his eyes without his consent. “He dumped me in the Pacific, which is, you know, salt water. I almost died. My best friend Bozer and I used to live outside of LA… if he hadn’t decided to go surfing that morning, I wouldn’t be here.” He blinked hard and took in a shuddering breath, his gills flaring. “Anyway, um, eventually I bought this place. I had patents on some inventions I sold to the government prior the mess with my father, so money wasn’t an issue.” He shrugged. “Bozer just moved in with his girlfriend. I can’t blame him for wanting a normal life.”

Jack’s expression twisted into sympathy and there was no pity in his eyes. “That sucks, man. Big time. And your father sounds like a class-A douchebag.” Mac couldn’t help but snort a little—that was an understatement. But then Jack added something that caught him off guard: “I’d definitely have a word or two with him if I ever met him.”

“Last I heard he was holed up in a government research facility somewhere,” Mac said, scratching absently at the scales on his neck. He peeled a loose one off and flicked it aside. “I don’t know, I try not to think about him if I can help it.” He glanced up at the skylights and guessed it was late afternoon. “If you want, we can order dinner… or I can go catch some. You like fish?”

Once again Jack stared at him for a moment, no doubt processing what he just heard. “Yeah, sure I do. So are you… how do you deal with that? Food, I mean. Do you… just hunt around the lake? I can’t imagine you ordering stuff and then paying the delivery dude at the door.”

“When Bozer was around it was easier,” Mac admitted, stretching out his neck and shoulders, curling his tail like a runner might prep their legs. “Now I pay ahead and they leave it outside the front door.” The part of the houseboat that faced land had a reinforced steel door with a bar across it, and a window that looked normal from the outside but was boarded up on the inside, the curtains trapped in the middle. “Crawling to the door and back is… not fun, but sometimes you just need a pizza.”

He offered Jack a smile—a real one, with all his teeth—before lowered himself into the lake.

“Be right back,” he promised, and disappeared into the water.

 

~***~

 

Jack watched Mac vanish under the surface and took a deep breath. It felt surreal, but he couldn’t deny that what had happened: he’d been saved from drowning by a man with gills and a tail. A man who used to be just like Jack before his own father turned him into a… Jack didn’t want to think freak, that would be insulting. To be honest, Jack was kind of surprised by how angry he felt when Mac told him about his father—why was he suddenly so protective of this mesmerizing man with a tail? Who, yes, was still the most beautiful man Jack had ever seen.

Jack sat up a bit more, leaning carefully against one of the loft’s support posts. He felt… well, like he got shot twice and fell into some water, but like he’d said earlier he’d had worse. Even though he could easily reach for the cell phone that was sitting near the cook stove and call for exfil… he didn’t. For one thing, he didn’t know who betrayed his real identity to Fat Tony, which meant he couldn’t trust anyone from the CIA… and for another, he didn’t want to leave just yet.

Before he could think too hard about why (hint: it was Mac), his host returned, clutching a giant catfish in both hands.

“That was fast,” Jack commented, impressed.

Mac flashed him another one of those grins with too many teeth. “I’ve had lots of practice.”

He punched the fish in the head to kill it before he swam to the right hand side of the houseboat, setting the fish on the floor before pulling down the tray that held the cook stove. It was screwed into the wall and held up by a folding arm, which was… really smart, because it allowed Mac to cook without getting out of the water. He pulled a knife off the tray and gutted and cleaned the fish… and before Jack could wonder what he would do with the guts, Mac popped some in his mouth to eat.

“Did—did you just—” Jack sputtered, and Mac glanced at him and ducked his head when he realized what shocked him so much. “Hey, no, I’m sorry man. I’m just… still getting used all of this. I’m… it might take me a minute, so ignore me when I’m being a tool.”

“You’re not a tool,” Mac said, and when he looked at Jack again that pretty blush was back on his face. “You’re actually much nicer than most people are when they find out about me. Usually they reach for the holy water or a fishing rod, then convince themselves they drank too much on their boat trip.” He seasoned the fish with salt and pepper—nice and simple, Jack liked that—before he threw it in a hot pan with some butter. He tossed the bone into a container, and when Jack made a questioning sound he explained: “I chew on them to clean my, uh, other teeth.”

“Okay, cool.” Jack was a little shocked at how quickly he was accepting all of this, but Mac mentioning people being less than accepting when they find out about him made him wonder something. “Hey, so… if people don’t usually react well to you… why did you save me? Weren’t you afraid I’d try and kill you or somethin’? Or that I’ll go out and babble about you to everyone?”

Mac’s response was the last thing Jack expected: “I used to be a soldier. I was an EOD technician and I got my leg blown off in Afghanistan on my first tour as a specialist—that was how the project with my father started.” He threw some potatoes into a microwave Jack hadn’t noticed and pulled shit out of the refrigerator for a salad. “I’m not good at doing nothing when someone needs help. It was a risk, but if you were… uncooperative, I would’ve just drugged you again after I sewed you up and dumped you on the opposite end of the lake.” He shrugged. “You probably would’ve thought you imagined the whole thing.”

Mac didn’t strike Jack as the soldier type, even when Jack tried to imagine him with legs and a uniform. He looked… so young, with that mess of blond hair, and it wasn’t fair that he had to experience the hell that was Afghanistan. “I’m… I used to be in the army, you guessed that right,” Jack said, his mind going backward for a moment. “Delta Force, actually.” He stared ahead blankly before shaking himself and glancing at Mac. “How can you be sure I’m still not going to tell the world about you once I get out of here?”

“I can’t be sure of that,” Mac replied, smiling a little. “But I don’t think you would. Besides, if you think about it, who would believe you? My father likes to pretend I never existed, and he’d deny everything if he was confronted.” The food was done sooner than Jack expected, and Mac dished it out on to a couple of chipped plates, then handed Jack a can of soda to go with it. “I’d offer you a beer, but with the meds you need to take you shouldn’t drink alcohol.” He dug into his food with a fork and knife (of course he did, Jack didn’t know what he was expecting) and said, “So if you used to be Delta, who do you work for now?” He looked Jack up and down in assessment. “… CIA?”

Jack choked on the fish and his first panicked thought was that maybe he wasn’t too good at his job after all, because he shouldn’t react like that when someone guesses his profession correctly. From the way Mac was watching him with a smug smirk on his face the cat was out of the bag. “I’m… oh, fine. Yeah, I’m CIA. Not sure for how much longer, though, since I’m pretty sure someone there wants me dead.” He took another bite of the food. “This is delicious, by the way.”

Mac smiled—and oh no, he had dimples, how did Jack not notice that sooner? “Glad you like it,” he said, licking errant salad dressing off his thumb. “And that’s all the more reason for you to lay low. Maybe if whoever wants you dead thinks you are, they’ll do something to expose themselves.” He cracked open his own soda and took a drink, and Jack looked away so he didn’t watch his throat move, or the way those gills open and closed when he breathed.

“Yeah, good plan,” Jack agreed. He wondered where he’d go—Mac mentioned him staying here, but Jack was sure he probably wasn’t thrilled about having a stranger hang out at his house. “Give me a moment to figure out if I can stand and I won’t bother you any longer than I have to.”

Mac’s eyes went wide and it was his turn to choke. “No, you don’t have to—I mean, you probably have a wife or a girlfriend or something, but you don’t have to leave if it’s not safe.” The end of that sentence held a note of pleading that puzzled Jack until he figured out why: Mac just said his father tried to murder him and his best friend just moved in with his girlfriend. He had to be lonely… but apparently he was also good at shutting his feelings away, because he blinked a couple of times and his expression shifted to something neutral, lifeless in a way that was almost alarming. “Never mind. I’m sure you’d rather be in a nice hotel than stuck here with me.”

Jack hated the empty look in Mac’s eyes and knew he needed to fix this. “Actually… I’d love to hang around, if you don’t mind?” At that Mac glanced up, something hopeful on his face. “I’ve never been one for fancy hotels, plus they’re not really safe, you know. And I… I like it here.” That’s the truth—Mac’s house felt homey in a way that made Jack’s chest warm. “Oh, and… no wife or girlfriend here. Or a boyfriend, as a matter of fact.”

“Well, uh, you’re welcome to stay for as long as you’d like,” Mac said, tripping over the words, no doubt surprised by Jack’s admission. As an afterthought, he added, “No girlfriend or boyfriend for me either. Like that wasn’t obvious.”

And Jack was so fascinated by him that he almost asked how the hell he could be single, but then Mac’s tail splashed in the water and reality reared its head.

Once they were done with the food Mac washed the dishes in the sink, then levered himself up to sit on the edge of the platform, next to Jack. “Now that you’ve eaten, we should probably see if you canst and up. Use the post for balance and I’ll catch you if you fall, okay?”

Jack was suddenly aware that he was only in his underwear, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Tossing the blanket aside, he grabbed the post and stood up slowly… and was tempted to fall just so Mac could catch him. He dismissed that notion quickly, realizing he was acting like a kid trying to get the attention of his crush, and once he was on his feet it turned out he was stable anyway. His leg hurt, but that was to be expected, and he wasn’t dizzy or sick anymore.

“I’m… good, I think?” he said, holding on to the post just in case.

Mac grinned up at him. “That’s awesome!” he exclaimed, and his tail slapped the water where it hung off the platform. “Okay, if you can make it upstairs you can grab some of my clothes… and you could sleep up there too. There’s a bed and a bathroom.” He leaned back and opened a drawer in the giant dresser from which he’d retrieved the first aid kit earlier, and produced a couple bottles of pills. “This one’s antibiotics, and the other is Vicodin.”

He pressed them into Jack’s hands, and that was when Jack realized Mac presumed he’d stay upstairs once he go there. Like he was so used to… what, sleeping in that fishing net by himself? It wasn’t late enough for sleep, and Jack wasn’t about to stay upstairs while Mac was all by himself on the first floor.

Jack eyed the stairs. “You know, I’m not that tired, hoss,” he started, and Mac looked up at him curiously. “How about I climb up there and get dressed in somethin’… and then we hang out down here? Unless… you have some other plans?”

“Oh yeah, I’m super busy,” Mac replied dryly, gesturing around at the houseboat, empty except for them. He smiled again, nodding toward a television mounted on the wall opposite his little hammock. “I have great Wi-Fi and every streaming service available—I’m pretty sure we could find a movie to watch.”

“Sounds good.” Jack definitely did not pause to watch Mac turn on some lights to see how it reflected off his scales. “I’ll be right back.”

He headed up the stairs, taking them slowly and holding the railing so he didn’t come back down the fast way. The loft turned out to be a cozy little space with a bed and some built-in furniture, along with an on suite bathroom. He felt weird opening random drawers to look for clothes, but he knew he had Mac’s blessing so he did it anyway and found a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. He tried not to move his shoulder and thigh too much while he got dressed, and after a quick visit to the bathroom he went back downstairs. The TV was on but Mac was nowhere to be seen, so Jack assumed he swam… somewhere, and jumped a little when Mac’s head suddenly popped out from under the water.

“Christ, dude!” Jack gasped, clutching at his chest. “You wanna give me a heart attack right after saving me from drowning?”

“Sorry,” Mac said sheepishly. “Just wanted to make sure my traps were set for the night.” When Jack raised an eyebrow, he elaborated, “I have some… precautions in place underwater, so boast or swimmers can’t get too close without me knowing about it. Sometimes the fish get caught in them though, so I have to let them out.” He pushed his hair out of his face before he clambered into his net and reached for the remote.

Jack thought about it for a moment before he came around to Mac’s side of the platform and sat down, leaning against the cooking station. He rolled up the legs of the sweatpants to his knees and let his feet dangle in the water next to Mac. “You ever seen Die Hard? We should watch Die Hard.”

Mac glanced at him. “Once, a while ago. But we can watch it, no problem—is it a favorite of yours?”

Everyone who knew Jack knew that asking him that question would end in a long explanation of why Die Hard was the greatest movie ever made, but Mac was naïve. Jack started his big speech, and from how Mac’s eyes widened he seemed to realize his mistake… but he also didn’t seem to mind Jack’s babbling. And Jack was glad he had something to talk about, because it distracted him from staring at Mac—not because of his tail or gills, but… his arms were nice, and so was his chest, and Jack was only human, okay?

When Jack was done pointing out several choice facts about why John McClane was the best action movie protagonist ever, Mac shook his head and chuckled. “Do you have a PowerPoint presentation to go with that? Because that was impressive and also terrifying.”

He pressed play on the movie and while normally Jack would be completely enraptured by it… he found himself watching Mac instead, smiling every time he did and looking away when he laughed—he was so pretty that it made Jack’s head (and his heart) hurt. At that point he’d gotten over the things that made Mac different, and they seemed less strange and more like they were just part of him. When the movie ended Jack felt his eyes dropping a little but forced himself to stay awake. He couldn’t get enough of Mac—there was something about him that drew Jack in, and it wasn’t the whole merman thing.

Mac’s voice brought him out of his thoughts: “I think it’s time for you to call it a night.” When Jack looked at him, Mac was watching him with a small smile and those unbelievably blue eyes. He handed Jack another bottle of water and watched him take an antibiotic and a painkiller.

Once Jack did that, he asked a little hesitantly, “So you just… sleep down here?”

“Yep,” Mac said, and this time when he smiled it was sad. “If it were up to me I’d be in a bed, but they don’t work so well underwater.” He shifted around to make himself comfortable, curling up in the net, arms folded over his chest like he was hugging himself. He looked… small, like that. “Goodnight, Jack.”

Not for the first time that day Jack wished he could meet Mac’s father and punch his teeth down his throat for what he did. “Goodnight, Mac,” he said quietly, chest clenching painfully as he wondered if Mac got cold, hanging in his net like that.

Jack had his feet in the water before, and while it felt cool and refreshing then he imagined that having your whole body submerged in it overnight would be less than pleasant. A crazy part of him almost offered to climb into the net with Mac, to cuddle close to him and share his body heat—but they just met a few hours ago, and no matter the type of connection Jack felt that seemed like too much.

He climbed the stairs up to the loft and got into bed. It was a comfortable mattress and there were stacks of pillows and blankets, but it all felt too big for one person. Why were there so many things upstairs, anyway? If Mac’s friend Bozer moved out why did he leave so much stuff behind? It wasn’t like Mac could get up there on his own… Jack wondered if maybe he should offer to get Mac a blanket or something, but quickly dismissed that thought as too weird. Mac had lived like this for a while, so he had everything figured out, right? Right.

Eventually Jack relaxed into the bed and stopped fighting his drowsiness. After a moment, he closed his eyes and let himself drift away.

 

~***~

 

Jack woke suddenly from a sound sleep, groggy at the edges from the Vicodin. He glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand, which told him it was four in the morning. His leg and shoulder were still fuzzy thanks to the medication so he knew it wasn’t pain that woke him… and then he heard it. A whimper from downstairs, followed by ragged gasping that was almost like choking and had Jack throwing back to the blankets and practically falling down the stairs in his haste to see what was going on.

Mac was still in his net but he was curled up even tighter than before, and it was clear he was having some kind of nightmare. The fingers on one of his hands scratched over his neck where his gills were, and every once in a while he twitched like somebody was kicking him. His tail splashed water around, and Jack’s heart broke when Mac whimpered again—he couldn’t stand by and watch him suffer, he had to do something.

“Hey, Mac,” Jack called out, getting as close to the net as he could. No response.

He could almost touch Mac from where he stood, but with Mac thrashing around he didn’t want to risk it. Swallowing hard, Jack tried to figure out a way to get closer, and only one came to mind: climb in the damn net. He figured out how it was hooked up to the overhead beams—a pulley system so it could be raised and lowered in the water—and decided it would most likely hold their combined weight.

Jack grabbed the netting with his good hand and hoisted himself up and in, water skimming over his legs without reaching the wound to his thigh. Mac’s scales were surprisingly smooth against Jack’s skin, and as soon as Jack got in the net, Mac wrapped himself around him like a fucking octopus. He was still whimpering but not twitching as violently, trembling against Jack’s body instead.

“No, please, stop it,” he said, caught in the throes of the dream.

Hesitantly, Jack wrapped his arms around Mac—God, he was so cold—and pulled him close, until Mac’s face was buried in Jack’s shoulder and his arms were wrapped around Jack’s middle. He felt tears burning his eyes and blinked rapidly to dispel them, because how touch-starved would Mac have to be to just… cling to a near-total stranger in his sleep? He brought up a hand and carded it gently through Mac’s hair, which was as soft as it looked, and slowly, gradually, Mac stopped shaking and muttering to himself.

If he’d had legs, Jack thought they’d be tangled with his own, but instead he had his tail pressed along the length of Jack’s body. It felt almost like a snake, cool and soft to the touch but alive, strong muscles underneath the scales. Once Mac was calm Jack debated getting out of the net, but what if Mac had another bad dream? Not only that, but Jack wasn’t sure if he could climb back out without disturbing him given the shape his leg was in. So he stayed right where he was… and fell back asleep.

Chapter Text

The first thing Mac noticed when he woke up was that he was unusually warm.

It was nice, and also impossible, but he wasn’t aware enough to question it, and he snuggled deeper into the sensation… but then something under him moved and he froze, instantly growing alert. Slowly he opened his eyes and realized his arms were wrapped around someone, and that there were arms wrapped around him. He glanced up, and it was Jack’s shoulder he was using as a pillow. Jack was still asleep, and Mac’s thoughts and his heart raced double-time. He had no idea how or why Jack ended up in his net, let alone wound up cuddling him. Before he could contemplate it further, Jack stirred underneath him and Mac was helpless to do anything but stare at him with wide eyes.

Jack realized the predicament they were in much the same way Mac did—he tightened his arms around Mac fractionally before he froze, eyes snapping open. “Oh shit,” he breathed out when he saw Mac was awake, but he didn’t let go. “I, uh… you were having a nightmare. I heard you from upstairs, so I came down and… I tried you wake up from the platform but that didn’t work, so I… climbed in here.”

Mac stared more, because… what? Why would Jack care if he had a nightmare? He had them every night and always woke up cold and lonely. Jack’s arms felt amazing around him, strong and secure, and he was so warm that Mac never wanted to move, so he didn’t. He figured he’d enjoy it while it lasted, because soon Jack would be gone not just from Mac’s net but from his life, because that was what always happened—everybody left him eventually. His breathing stuttered and he felt his eyes burn.

Jack’s eyes went wide and he brought a hand around to touch Mac’s cheek. “Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked softly, then seemed to consider something. “If this is… if I’m making you uncomfortable, I can—”

“No, it’s not that,” Mac said quickly, his voice catching on the words and his gills opening when he took in a shuddering breath. He didn’t want to cry, he wouldn’t cry and show this amazing man he’d just met how pathetic he was. But evidently his brain and body had different ideas, because a sob wrenched its way past his lips and tears streaked hot down his face a moment later. He fully expected Jack to push him away into the water, but… it didn’t happen.

Instead, Jack wrapped his arms around him impossibly tight and that only made Mac cry harder. He moved his hands from Jack’s back to clutch at his t-shirt, burying his face in his chest, unable to control the sobs wracking his body. He couldn’t help it, everything came out of him—all the loneliness, the misery. It had been so long since anyone but Bozer showed him kindness, and… and Jack climbed into the net just because Mac had a nightmare.

Jack ran a comforting hand up and down Mac’s back, fingers rough with gun callouses but their touch was surprisingly gentle. He shushed Mac when he tried to get it together to apologize, saying, “It’s all right, you don’t need to say anything. I’ve… I’ve spent a lot of time alone—it’s kinda in my job description—but I can’t imagine how tough it has to be, being out here all by yourself.”

Mac squeezed his eyes shut, desperately trying to stop crying, but it didn’t work. The truth was it’d been awful living like that, completely alone. It was better when Bozer was there, but ever since he’d moved out the isolation had become almost unbearable. He couldn’t go out, he couldn’t interact with other people because he was a freak of nature—even before his transformation he was weird and clingy and no one ever stuck around.

“I’m sorry,” Mac whispered anyway, because he felt like he needed to. “I’m pathetic.”

Jack’s fingers crept up the back of his neck and into his hair, and he used that touch to tip Mac’s head back a little so they were looking at each other. “You’re not pathetic,” he said, more conviction in his voice than Mac would’ve expected. “You’re smart, and funny as hell, and you saved my life when you didn’t have to—when it would’ve been safer for you to let me die. Pathetic people don’t do shit like that.”

He didn’t move away from Mac at all, not even to put distance between his legs and Mac’s tail, and Mac couldn’t help but notice how pretty Jack’s eyes were up close, warm and brown like a rich cup of coffee. Suddenly Mac had to fight the urge to just… tilt his head and lean forward to kiss Jack, but he couldn’t do that, he barely knew him! And it didn’t matter anyway, because there was no way Jack would want to kiss something like Mac.

The tears stopped falling, but Mac couldn’t make himself move away from Jack, so instead he just unclenched his hands and rested them flatly on Jack’s chest. “You’re… different,” he whispered. “Different from the others.” All at once he wanted to tell Jack everything, including what his nightmare had been about—and he never talked about those to anyone, not even Bozer knew all the horrors he’d endured.

Jack chuckled a little. “I’m gonna take that as a compliment.” He didn’t take his hand out of Mac’s hair, and his other arm was still wrapped around Mac’s waist. And as if he could sense Mac’s hesitation, his voice dropped back to a low, soothing rumble when he offered, “You can talk to me, if you want. I know I’m probably not what you expected, and we’re still more or less strangers, but I’ll listen.”

Exhaling shakily, Mac snuck his arms around Jack’s middle, pressing himself as close as he could. “Remember… remember when I told you that once my father realized there was no turning me back, he dumped me into the ocean?” When Jack hummed affirmatively, he continued, “Well, that wasn’t… entirely true. Once I ended up like this, he… was fascinated.” He swallowed hard, trying to ignore the ache in his chest. “He and his partner, Jonah Walsh, were wondering if it would be possible to… to turn me into a weapon. Imagine an army of merpeople—that would be something, wouldn’t it? So they would run tests on me. Painful tests. They’d put me in a tank full of salt water, just to see how long I could survive. Or put me under lamps on a board to see if the lack of water bothered me.”

He shuddered and felt Jack’s arms tighten around him. “I was in pain all the time, but if I fought back the easiest thing for them to do was step on my tail or kick me. Sometimes Walsh would bring out a… one of those electric cattle prods? And he’d stick it in the water and turn it on.” Mac sniffled and realized he felt safer talking to Jack than any time since his transformation. “Then… then sometimes they’d shove things in my gills to try and make me breathe through my nose. That’s what I was dreaming about last night.” Jack hadn’t said a word while Mac spoke, but he could feel the tension that had built up in Jack’s muscles in every place they touched. He tipped his head back a little and blinked, not sure how to read the expression on Jack’s face. “Jack? Are you okay?”

“No, I’m not okay,” Jack growled, and Mac startled at his tone. “They tortured you, Mac. Tortured.” His voice broke, making Mac’s heart do a weird thing in his chest—the fact that Jack was so angry over how Mac got treated… Mac didn’t know what to do with that. “And for what? Just to see if they could turn you into a weapon? That’s disgusting, and so fucking low, that they deserve to get shot for it.” Jack breathed in and out a few times, clearly trying to calm himself down. “Or better yet, they deserve to be treated just like they treated you. I wonder how they’d feel if I dumped them in water and put a cattle prod in it.”

Threats of retribution like that should’ve scared Mac, but instead… instead it made him feel like somebody gave a damn, and that felt good. He stared at Jack and swallowed hard. “You would actually do that, wouldn’t you?” When Jack’s expression turned apologetic—no doubt thinking he’d scared him—he hugged Jack closer and gave into temptation, burying his face in Jack’s neck. “Thank you,” he whispered, and he knew without looking that Jack was surprised that Mac wasn’t pulling away but pushing closer. “I’ve never told anyone about all of that. Not even Bozer.”

Jack’s hand started stroking Mac’s back again. “Why… why did you tell me then?” He didn’t sound like he minded, more like he was curious. “I was under the impression that you’re close with this Bozer guy—why tell me?” His hand found its way back into Mac’s hair, nails scratching lightly at his scalp.

His touch felt so nice that it took everything in Mac’s power not to arch into it like a cat. “Because you helped me when you didn’t have to,” he replied, echoing Jack’s words from earlier. Everything was slow and warm while he was wrapped up in Jack’s embrace, and for a moment Mac almost forgot he had a tail instead of legs. “Because you’re… genuinely interested in me and my life, even if I don’t understand why. Bozer’s done so much for me already, I… I didn’t want to burden him with this, too.”

“You’ve been through so much shit, and you still put other people first,” Jack said quietly, a note of amazement in his voice. “And of course I’m interested in your life, you’re—you’re one of the most intriguing people I’ve ever met. Not because of the tail, or the gills, or the scales.” Once again he used his grip on Mac’s hair to tilt his head back gently. “You’re so much more than that.”

Once more Mac was struck by the urge to lean in and kiss Jack, and he was now fairly sure that Jack wouldn’t recoil… and might even kiss back. But he was scared of what kissing might lead to, of what Jack might want and whether or not Mac could give it to him in a way that wouldn’t have him running in the opposite direction.

Needing a distraction from his tumultuous thoughts, Mac offered Jack a full-toothed smile. “That’s sweet, Jack. You’re sweet. And if you’re feeling up for it—and you let me stick some waterproof bandages to you—I could take you out for a swim?”

Jack smiled back, and his eyes were so soft. “I’d love that,” he said, removing his hand from Mac’s hair but keeping his arm around his waist. “I’m kinda hoping you won’t let me drown, though.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” Mac replied in a whisper, his eyes dropping to Jack’s mouth, a surge of longing burning down his throat like a lit match. “I saved you, remember? It’d be highly counterproductive to let you drown a second time.”

And then, before he could stop himself, he leaned in and pressed his lips against Jack’s in a chaste kiss. Jack sucked in a sharp breath and went completely still… and then he kissed him back. Not only that, he pulled Mac closer, strong arms wrapped tightly around his body. Their lips moved together slowly, and Mac’s heart pounded hard in his chest—he couldn’t believe that this was happening, that Jack wasn’t pushing him away. One of Jack’s hands slid lower, brushing against the scales covering Mac’s ribs, making him gasp, and Jack took advantage of Mac’s lips parting and tentatively slipped his tongue into Mac’s mouth.

Mac made a little sound and returned the favor, nipping at Jack’s lower lip and digging his fingers into the muscles of his back while their tongues slid together. It’d been a long time since Mac had kissed anyone—back at MIT, to be exact—but this was easily the best kiss he’d ever had, and not just because Jack had a very talented mouth. His tail splashed involuntarily in the lake (he was excited, what could he say) and it sprayed them both with droplets of water. Mac brought a hand around to cup Jack’s jaw as he pulled back, smiling when Jack chased his lips for another kiss before either of them opened their eyes.

“You kissed me back,” Mac said, his thumb brushing over Jack’s stubbled cheek. “I wasn’t sure you would.”

“Course I did,” Jack murmured, leaning into Mac’s touch. He brushed the hair from Mac’s eyes, and that simple gesture made his heart flutter. “I’m… there’s something about you, and I can’t get enough.”

“So you don’t… it’s not because of this?” Mac asked shyly, using the hand he had on Jack’s face to gesture toward his lower half. He felt himself blush when Jack took that fluttering hand in his own larger one and pressed a kiss to the back of it.

“I can’t say that has nothing to do with it, because that wouldn’t be true,” Jack told him, his thumb skimming over Mac’s knuckles. “But there’s so much more to you than how you look, Mac. Please believe me when I tell you that.”

And Mac found that he did. There was nothing but sincerity in Jack’s voice, and the way he looked at Mac… no one had ever looked at him like that before. Not as if he were an experiment or a freak—instead, there was something soft in his gaze and his smile, and Mac… didn’t want to let him go.

“I believe you,” he whispered, and leaned in to kiss him again.

 

~***~

 

About a half-hour later, Jack questioned every choice he’d made that led to this moment. After some more kissing in the net and the application of waterproof bandages, Mac took Jack out for a swim all right… across the entire lake, all the way to the north side in about ten minutes flat.

“Holy shit,” Jack wheezed from where he laid on his back in the sand, on a little beach in a secluded cove. “That was like gettin’ blasted out of a cannon—you’re so fast.”

Mac was on his stomach next to him, propped up on his forearms with his tail in the gentle lapping current from the lake, and he laughed loudly. That laugh was quickly becoming one of Jack’s favorite sounds, and he was so beautiful that it made Jack’s head hurt a little. Especially when he smiled like that, blue eyes shining happily.

“You sound impressed,” Mac said with a grin. “What did you expect?”

Jack rolled on his side and leaned his head on his hand. Thankfully he was on his good shoulder and could leave his other arm relaxed… although he couldn’t resist the temptation to put his hand on Mac’s back, which was all sun-warmed soft skin that tapered into a narrow waist before the scales started. They gleamed even brighter outside in the daylight, iridescent whenever Mac shifted.

“I don’t know,” Jack admitted. “I guess I thought it would be more dolphin or fish, and less torpedo.”

That made Mac laugh again, and since he didn’t seem to mind Jack’s hand on his back, he felt confident enough to lean in and kiss that smile. Mac kissed him back and Jack shifted closer to wrap his arms around Mac’s waist carefully, not wanting to jostle his hurt shoulder too much. Mac made a small sound in the back of his throat and turned on his side, sneaking his arm around Jack’s back. Without breaking the kiss he rolled on his back and pulled Jack on top of him, his legs on either side of Mac’s pretty tail.

Jack was suddenly once again aware that he was only in his underwear and that Mac was basically naked all the time. But the way Mac’s lips moved against his was distracting, slow and deliberate, like Mac wanted to learn every facet of Jack’s mouth. So Jack snaked his good arm underneath Mac’s back and held him close, using his other hand to card through Jack’s hair—he loved how he tasted, like sunshine and water and salt.

He might’ve been distracted by Mac’s mouth, but there was a small part of Jack that wondered… what was happening down there? The second he thought about it he cursed himself internally, because he just met Mac yesterday and just because they started kissing this morning didn’t mean Jack was entitled to think about having sex with him. The last thing he wanted was to scare Mac away or make him uncomfortable, but he was… curious. He tried not to think about it, focusing on kissing Mac breathless, shivering when Mac’s hands slowly explored his back. Those hands drifted lower… and lower… and stopped just above Jack’s ass, right at the waistband of his boxer-briefs. Jack groaned a little, he couldn’t help it, and broke the kiss to press his lips to Mac’s chin, then his jaw.

“Jack,” Mac said, nails scraping at his skin. “We should probably talk.”

And as much as Jack wanted to find out what would happen if he kissed Mac’s neck, his gills… Mac said stop, so Jack stopped, it was as simple as that. Pulling away, Jack didn’t slide off and Mac didn’t push him, so Jack got lost in the blue of his eyes and brushed his hair out of his face for him. “You’re probably right, let’s… let’s do that. Let’s talk.”

Mac offered him a tiny smile, one thumb stroking absently over the dip in Jack’s spine. “Um… I like you. A lot. Way more than I probably should since we just met. And while I’d love to… to maybe do more than kiss… you should know what you’re getting into.” He chewed on the inside of his cheek, gaze flicking away for a moment before returning. “As you’ve probably guessed, I don’t really have any… genitals, because I’m like this.” He wrinkled his nose. “Going to the bathroom is a decidedly unsexy experience. But, um, a while ago I had a minor breakthrough… I made a serum? One that can give me my legs back temporarily… and other things… but what my dad did to me changed me in more ways than the tail. Do you know what being intersex means?”

Jack blinked down at Mac, his mind spinning at the revelation of Mac being able to get his legs back, even if it was just temporary. “Uh,” he started in a very intelligent way, “I mean… kinda? That means there are… various things happening down there, right?”

Mac’s lips twitched upward in amusement. “You’re not wrong. Basically it means that I have… multiple sex characteristics. So in my case it’s… well, I sort of have…” He trailed off. “Well, I guess I have a vagina in place of exposed gonads—those are inside me now.” He pulled a face. “Wonder if I could’ve made that sound any more clinical if I tried. Short version is… I have both.”

Jack was quiet for a moment as he processed that. “Alright,” he said, noting the nervous expression on Mac’s face. “Mac, I just… please know that we don’t have to do anything, you know? I don’t want you to feel like this is somethin’ you need to do if you don’t want to.” Brushing his fingers against Mac’s jaw, Jack smiled softly and leaned down to press a kiss to Mac’s cheek before trailing his lips to his ear. “But for the record? If you wanna go for it, I’m in. This…” Jack slid one of his hands down Mac’s side until he reached the spot where the scales started. “This doesn’t bother me.”

Mac shivered and his hands came around to hold Jack’s face. “You’re… pretty amazing,” he said, and pulled Jack in for another kiss.

This one lingered, and then Mac’s tongue was back in Jack’s mouth. Jack’s hands slid lower and he got his first real feel for Mac’s scales beyond how they were touching his legs. He didn’t miss the way Mac shivered again—and that was it, Jack had to know what those gills felt like. He broke the kiss and mouthed at Mac’s jaw, sucking a bruise into his skin before pressing a soft kiss to Mac’s gills. Mac shuddered even more than before and when Jack nipped at the skin around them he let out a deep groan that Jack just loved. He also loved how his gills fluttered under his lips whenever Mac took in a trembling breath, pliant in Jack’s hold and eyes hazy with lust.

“Mhmm, remember how you said we didn’t have to do anything?” Mac asked, and Jack hummed against his neck, lips shifting to give the other set of gills the same attention as the first. “What if I want to? The serum takes a little while to work, but… but I’d like to be able to do something besides lay here like a dead fish, pun intended.”

“Okay,” Jack whispered, curious about the serum but not wanting it to seem like that was all he was interested in. “We gotta… we gotta get back though.”

“Back to the houseboat, right,” Mac said, like he had to think to put words together.

His hands grabbed the back of Jack’s neck and pulled him up for another kiss, but then he broke away and pushed Jack off—not forcefully, but enough so they could swim back. And they did, in another ten minutes of flying through the water that made Jack’s head spin. Originally he was going to ask Mac to go slower on the way back so he could get a look at the scenery, but there would be time for that later, when Jack wasn’t half-hard in his underwear and giddy with anticipation.

Mac had him hold his breath and they ducked around the traps and under the garage door, his hands holding Jack steady while he climbed back on the platform. Mac boosted himself up a second later in a sitting position and opened the refrigerator. Way in the back was a row of pre-loaded syringes, and he took one out and uncapped the needle.

“Last chance to change your mind,” he told Jack, flicking his wet hair out of his eyes and pinching the practically nonexistent fat on his belly to get ready for the injection. “Although I hope you’re not having second thoughts.”

“Of course not,” Jack said with a smile, leaning in to kiss Mac’s cheek. A thought popped into his head and he reached to grab Mac’s wrist just before the needle touched his skin. “Wait, wait—this won’t hurt you, right?”

Mac smiled back in the face of Jack’s concern and injected himself anyway, pressing down the plunger slowly. “It’s uncomfortable,” he admitted, tossing the syringe into a nearby sharps box. He laid down on the floor to wait so Jack did the same, lying on his side instead of his back. Once Jack was close enough Mac turned his head to kiss him, gills flaring, pupils gone wide with desire. “Maybe you could distract me?”

“I can do that,” Jack said, and kissed Mac again, wrapping his arm around him to pull him close.

Mac hummed against his lips, putting his arms around Jack’s neck and letting out a pleased sigh when Jack licked over his bottom lip, slipping his tongue into Mac’s mouth once he opened up for him. Jack had no idea how long the transformation would take or what to expect, but he found he didn’t mind—as long as he was close to Mac, he was good. Maybe he should’ve been worried about how quickly he got attached, but Jack couldn’t make himself care. And Mac kissed him like he never wanted to stop, like he was just as attached… was that out of the realm of possibility? There was a tiny, doubtful part of Jack that wondered if Mac liked him so much because he was the first person who didn’t react badly to the merman thing, but he decided he was overthinking it when Mac moaned against his mouth and pulled him even closer.

It had been maybe five minutes, maybe ten—Jack wasn’t watching a clock—when Mac changed. There was a ripping sound almost like cloth tearing, and then Mac almost bit through Jack’s lower lip and pulled back to swear. “Shit, fuck, ow—I forgot how much that sucked.”

And when Jack looked down… Mac had legs. Regular, human legs, save for the right one below the knee—that was all scales, which Jack guessed was the intended result of the original experiment, to give Mac his leg back. There were also scales where there would normally be pubic hair, and… yep, that was definitely a vagina below Mac’s cock, or something damn close to it. Jack’s heart was racing as he kissed Mac again, rolling on top of him. Slowly he ran his hand down Mac’s side, squeezing his hip, and then he gripped Mac’s thigh to hoist his leg up and hook it over his waist.

“You okay?” Jack muttered against his lips when Mac gasped, moving lower to kiss his neck. “No second thoughts?”

Mac shuddered under him, a full-body thing that made Jack’s dick twitch inside his wet (and uncomfortable) underwear. His hands skimmed up and down Jack’s back to his shoulders, fingers brushing the back of Jack’s neck like he wanted to memorize how his skin felt. “I’m good,” he said, thigh muscles shifting under Jack’s hand. They were just as strong as his tail was. “What… what about you? You’re not… this isn’t strange?”

“No,” Jack said, shaking his head. “I mean, it’s unusual, but it doesn’t bother me. Not at all.” To make his point he pressed his lips to Mac’s gills, which made him moan softly as he shivered again. “One question though—how long does that serum last? I wouldn’t want your tail to reappear while I’m… busy between your legs.”

Mac groaned like Jack punched him in the stomach. “Two hours, give or take a few minutes,” he replied, nails digging into Jack’s bicep. “I’ve—oh fuck—I’ve timed it before, we should be fine.”

Jack dragged his mouth lower still, licking over Mac’s collarbone before he attached his lips to one of his nipples and flattened his tongue against it. Mac cried out from that alone and did it again when Jack’s lips ghosted over the patch of scales on his ribs; he was so responsive to every nip and lick and Jack absolutely loved it. It took him about two seconds to realize the scales on Mac’s ribs were more sensitive than his skin and he took advantage, trailing his lips over them and making Mac scratch down Jack’s back.

Jack shifted down to suck a bruise into Mac’s hip and paused, because there were so many options, so many things he could do to Mac. He was hard and leaking against his lower belly, and Jack decided to explore that avenue first. He licked a hot stripe up the underside of Mac’s cock before he closed his lips over the head and sucked lightly. Mac let out a long, low sound as Jack bobbed his head over his length, loving how the texture of his scales felt against his tongue. Jack’s hand moved, and he almost wrapped it around the base of Mac’s cock… but instead he deviated a little and ran a curious finger over the folds of flesh below Mac’s dick.

Mac cried out loudly and Jack wondered if Mac had been with anyone since his transformation, but he pushed that thought away as quickly as it came. Swallowing around his cock, Jack moved his finger around, applying a little more pressure and groaning when his finger sank easily inside Mac. He was so wet already and Jack’s head spun from how warm he felt around his finger, muscles fluttering and clenching around the intrusion. He pulled off Mac’s cock with an obscene sound and grabbed for Mac’s thigh again, hiking it up over his good shoulder as he shimmied down a bit further. Mac read his intentions and threw his head back, a broken little noise escaping him when Jack removed his finger and replaced it with his tongue.

“Oh God, Jack,” Mac moaned loudly when Jack pushed his tongue in deeper, teasing and prodding. One of his hands went to the back of Jack’s neck and then to his hair, gripping it as much as he could while the other clawed at the platform they were lying on. “J-Jack, I’m—oh shit,” he whimpered as Jack kept exploring him with his tongue, lapping and sucking a little.

Jack couldn’t get enough of his taste, and he wondered exactly how many times he could make Mac come. He was going to get to find out since Mac arched a little into the pressure from his mouth before he came, spasming around Jack’s tongue. More slick leaked out of him and Jack just took it all, noting absently that Mac came in more ways than one, his cock gone soft… but when Jack licked into him again, Mac didn’t push him away.

“Oh, oh, Jack, please,” Mac begged, and from the way he tried to pull Jack in further with his leg, he wasn’t done.

Jack was rock fucking hard in his underwear but it didn’t matter, not when he could make this beautiful man fall apart underneath him again. So he went down on Mac even harder, working him with his tongue, and the sounds Mac made… they were the most gorgeous things Jack had ever heard. He panted and writhed under Jack, and Jack moved his hands to grip Mac’s hips while he licked into him like it was the only thing he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He felt all of Mac’s go taut like a bowstring and then he was coming again, keening and clawing at Jack’s head.

Chest heaving, Mac pulled at Jack’s good shoulder until he crawled back up so Mac could drag him down into a filthy kiss. He moaned when he tasted himself on his tongue, and Mac pulled back far enough to speak, his breath warm where it ghosted over Jack’s lips. “I want you inside me, Jack. Please, I—I need it.”

Jack’s breathing hitched and he groaned softly into Mac’s mouth. “Fuck, baby,” he moaned out, lifting his hips so Mac could slide his boxer-briefs down, breaking the kiss so he could kick them off. Once he was naked he kissed Mac again, raking his fingers through blond hair and tugging at his bottom lip with his teeth. “Darlin’, should I… should I take you up to bed? This can’t be good for your back.”

Mac blinked up at him and for a second Jack worried he overdid it with the endearments, but then Mac pulled him in for another kiss, less frantic and more… soft. “I’m fine right here,” he whispered, his fingers exploring the planes of Jack’s face as he smiled a little.

It was an incredibly tender moment for two people who just met yesterday, and it made Jack’s heart beat faster. He had to kiss Mac again as he shifted his hips a little, the head of his cock teasing against Mac’s entrance. He almost started pushing in when he remembered something else.

“Um, Mac?” he asked, smiling a little when Mac whined impatiently, his eyes black with lust. “Are condoms a thing we need? I mean, I’m clean, but I don’t wanna—”

Mac raised his eyebrows, somehow managing to be sassy despite his very obvious arousal. “Do you honestly think I’ve slept with anybody since this happened?” Well, that answered Jack’s earlier question. “I’m clean too, it’s fine.”

He used his grip on Jack’s face to tug him into another kiss, their lips catching as Jack’s pushed inside. Mac felt incredible around him, plush and velvety and almost scorching hot, and he was actively pulling Jack in, both legs wrapped around his waist and heels digging into the small of his back. Once he was fully inside Jack buried his face in Mac’s neck, going still simply because he was afraid if he didn’t get his shit together he would come on the spot. Mac moved his arms to wrap them around Jack’s neck and shivered underneath him, evidently content to wait.

After a moment Jack nuzzled at Mac’s gills and ground his hips a little. “Still okay?” he murmured, and one might say he was being overly cautious, but he just really didn’t want to screw this up.

Those gills flared as Mac took in a breath. “Yeah, I’m good.” He curled as close to Jack as he could manage, his lips brushing the side of Jack’s head. “You feel amazing.”

As if to emphasize that point his walls clenched around Jack’s cock, and a twitch against their stomachs told Jack Mac’s cock was back in the game.

Exhaling shakily, Jack lifted his head to press his lips to Mac’s. “You’re so beautiful,” he said lowly, and drew his hips back before gently thrusting back inside. After a few thrusts like that his hips snapped a bit harder and Mac let out a deep moan, throwing his head back in pleasure. His eyes were wide and his lips were parted, and he was so mesmerizing that Jack couldn’t tear his gaze away. “So gorgeous.”

Jack wasn’t the only one who couldn’t look away—Mac stared back at him with those huge blue eyes, and there was a glimmer of disbelief in them. Like he didn’t believe Jack’s words or he couldn’t believe this was happening, or maybe both. He kept his pace steady but made sure to thrust deeper, harder each time, bracing his weight on his good arm. That changed the angle and he struck something inside Mac that made him howl; it only took a dozen or so more thrusts and the barest touch of Jack’s other hand on Mac’s cock for him to come a third time, choking on a sob and clawing at Jack’s shoulders.

He went impossibly tight around Jack’s cock, and Jack’s vision whited out as he followed Mac over the edge, groaning his name as he buried himself in that wet heat and filled Mac to the brim with come. His hips kept twitching but finally stopped when Jack collapsed on top of Mac. He panted against his shoulder and closed his eyes as Mac’s legs dropped down from around his waist, but he kept his arms wrapped around Jack’s shoulders. After a moment he felt Mac’s hand slowly stroke up and down his back.

“Jack?” Mac sounded… unsure, almost scared, and it instantly made Jack’s chest tighten. “Are you okay?”

Jack picked his head up to look at Mac and didn’t like the expression on his face at all. It was small and vulnerable, just like how he looked all curled up in his net by himself. “I’m fine, darlin’,” he said, and there was that endearment again, but Mac didn’t seem to mind. Jack smiled a little, trying to be reassuring as he brought a hand up to touch Mac’s cheek, fingers gently stroking his hair back from his face. “Better than fine, actually. Are you okay?”

Mac leaned into Jack’s touch, closing his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, that vulnerable look was still on his face. “I’m good, it was… amazing,” he said quietly, blinking those gorgeous eyes at Jack before he looked away. It seemed like he wanted to say more so Jack waited patiently. “Are you… are you gonna leave now?”

Those words felt like someone dumped a bucket of ice water down Jack’s back. “What?” he asked dumbly, so shocked he couldn’t do more than stare. “Mac, no. I’m not going anywhere, not… not if you don’t want me to.” He realized that ironically they were both afraid of the same thing—Mac thought Jack would take off once they were done, and Jack thought Mac would kick him out. He leaned in and pressed a kiss to the corner of Mac’s mouth, and for a moment he didn’t give a damn about his job or finding out who wanted him dead. “I’d like to… stay for a while, if that’s okay with you?”

There was that disbelieving expression again. “Yeah, yes, o-of course,” Mac stuttered out. “It’s more than okay, Jack.”

He wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck and pulled him down into a tight hug. Shifting a little, Jack pulled out and then snuck his arms under Mac to hug him back. Before Jack could do something monumentally stupid—like blurt out that he loved someone he just met—a series of knocks on the front door of the houseboat startled both of them.

Mac’s eyes turned into saucers and he looked at Jack in panic. “That’s Bozer’s knock,” he whispered, and… oh boy, that probably wasn’t good, especially given their current positioning. “I… I want you to meet him, but maybe not like this?”

Reluctantly Mac put his hands on Jack’s shoulders and pushed him up a little, pecking him on the cheek before wriggling away to dive in the lake. He surfaced a second later, and if Jack hadn’t seen him with legs he’d think his tail was under the water.

Jack pushed himself to his feet and yanked on his underwear as the knocking came again, more insistent this time. He went and raised the bar across the door, opening it. On the other side was a young man with a goatee and a Jaws t-shirt that Jack takes to be Bozer, his arms laden with groceries.

Behind him stands Leanna Martin… who Jack already knows.

From the CIA.

Chapter Text

There was a short moment of silence in which they all stared at each other—well, Jack mostly stared at Leanna.

“Hey, guys,” Mac’s voice sounded from behind him, completely unaware of what was happening. “I’d like you to meet—”

“Leanna?” Jack cut Mac off, narrowing his eyes and belatedly registering the pleading look she threw his way. “What are you—no.” The last he’d heard she was on an assignment… which meant Mac was her assignment.

“Jack, please—” Leanna started, but he was already yanking her and Bozer inside and shutting the door, locking it up tight behind them.

“What the hell, man?” Bozer exclaimed, dropping the bags of food on the floor so he could wave his arms a little. “Mac, who is this dude and why is he naked in your house?”

“What have you told them?” Jack demanded, advancing on Leanna. He felt Mac’s gaze on his back but tried to ignore it. “Because I swear to God if they come looking for him, I’ll—”

“Nothing!” Leanna interjected sharply, crossing her arms over his chest but not backing down. “I told them nothing, okay? It was just another job at first, but then I met Bozer and… I love him, Jack.” She glanced away, biting her lower lip. “I told them their intel was bad, that Bozer and Mac had a falling out years ago before the experiment went wrong and Bozer had no idea where he was. As far as I know, they believed me.”

There were no better liars than CIA agents, but Jack knew Leanna and she seemed to be telling the truth. The initial fear and anger faded a little and Jack’s heart slowed down, and then he remembered that they had an audience… and that he just blew Leanna’s cover. Slowly, they both turned to face them, and while Bozer looked completely shocked, clearly not understanding what they were talking about at all, Mac’s face was guarded as he looked at Leanna.

After a moment he turned his gaze to Jack, and his expression shifted into something unsure and scared. “Jack?” he asked quietly.

Jack knew what that single word meant—did he think Leanna was being honest, or was Mac in danger? He glanced back at Leanna and saw her defiant posture had slipped into something resigned. “I think we’re good,” he said in answer to Mac’s question. He tipped his head toward the stairs. “Why don’t you and Bozer go talk, Leanna? I’ll put the food away.”

Leanna nodded curtly and took Bozer by the elbow, pulling him up the stairs and ignoring the questions he started to ask. A moment later Jack heard a door slam and water run and figured she brought him into the bathroom where they’d have more privacy. He did put the food away and then slid into the water beside Mac, slipping an arm around his waist and nuzzling his cheek.

“She’s a CIA agent,” he told Mac, even though he was sure he already knew. “I helped field train her when she first got recruited.”

Mac wrapped his arms around his neck and exhaled shakily against his cheek. “I… I can’t believe this,” he admitted quietly. “I thought I was done with people trying to get me, I thought… I put it behind me.” His voice cracked with sadness and right there Jack swore he’d do anything in his power to protect him—from the CIA, from his father, from anyone.

“Hey, listen to me,” Jack said, putting a hand on Mac’s jaw. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you. Nobody’s getting to you without going through me, and if the two gunshots were any indication I’m pretty hard to kill.” He made a surprised sound when Mac darted into kiss him, tongue licking into his mouth as he clung to him just like he did earlier.

The clinging made Jack worried that they’d end up underwater so he kept an arm around Mac’s waist and braced the other one against the edge of the platform to keep them above the surface. The kiss was slow but deep and passionate, and for a moment it felt like time had stopped. When they finally broke apart Mac blinked at him, eyes blue like the water around them, and Jack swallowed hard, because what he was feeling… it sure as hell felt like love, and it’d been one day.

“You just met me,” Mac whispered, like he was reading Jack’s mind. “And yet you… why would you…” He struggled with words, watching Jack with wide eyes.

Jack should’ve known the first time he saw those eyes that he’d never be able to walk away. “You’re like nobody else I’ve ever met,” he murmurs, dropping his hand to hold the side of Mac’s neck, over his gills. He doesn’t press down, just touches, and feels it when Mac takes in a breath. “And it’s got nothing to do with this, or your tail, or anything else. You’re absolutely stunning, clearly a genius, and you laugh at my dumb jokes. I… I can’t stand—well, float—here and tell you it’s love, not yet, but it damn sure feels like it.” His thumb stroked over Mac’s skin. “Besides, I don’t have much to go back to, since everybody thinks I’m dead now.” He smiled ruefully. “Not that I had many friends to begin with. Should call my momma at some point though, she can put her acting skills to good use when they show up at her house with a chaplin.”

Mac reached with one trembling hand to brush his fingers against Jack’s stubble. “You… how are you real?” he whispered, pressing himself even closer. “For the record, it feels like love to me too.” Leaning in, he kissed the corner of Jack’s mouth and lingered, his breath warm against Jack’s skin. “But I can’t ask you drop everything just for me. I’m not worth it.”

“You absolutely are,” Jack told him softly, and gave him a real kiss.

They were still kissing leisurely when Leanna and Bozer came back downstairs, and to Jack’s pleasant surprise Mac didn’t let him go, only broke away to rest his forehead against Jack’s temple.

“Guys, this is Jack,” he said dryly. “That’s what I was trying to get out earlier.”

The two of them kicked off their shoes and came over to sit on the edge of the platform with their feet in the water. They were holding hands, so Jack figured their relationship was no worse for wear.

“Hi, Jack,” Bozer said, eyeing him critically. “Leanna told me a lot about you.”

Jack tensed and instinctively tightened his arm around Mac’s waist. He had an idea of what Leanna could’ve said to Bozer; she knew about a lot of the shit he’d done, and most of it wasn’t pretty. “Oh yeah? I’m sure it was all very interesting—anything you’d like me to elaborate on?”

Mac cleared his throat loudly and he and Bozer proceeded to have a minute-long silent conversation that involved a lot of facial expressions and pantomime.

“If Mac thinks you’re trustworthy, then so do I.” Bozer reached out and he and Mac bumped fists. “Doesn’t mean I won’t be watching you like a hawk.”

“We might have a bigger problem,” Leanna said, drawing one leg up to rest her chin on her knee. “Have you talked to Riley lately, Jack?”

Jack’s momentary happiness caused by Mac defending him quickly vanished at the mention of Riley. “Not much, no,” he replied, instantly alarmed, and Mac made a soft sound when Jack squeezed him too tight. “I’ve been undercover for the last few months. What’s wrong?”

“She was worried about you, so she… might’ve hacked into the CIA to see where you were,” Leanna said, and Jack felt himself blanch. “Relax, she didn’t leave any traces behind, you know how good she is with a computer. But she did find out something interesting: she wasn’t the only one who had accessed your files from an outside system. She followed the trail that hacker left behind… and it led her to James MacGyver.”

Mac blinked rapidly. “Wait… what? Why would my father be looking at Jack’s files?”

“I’m not sure—Riley’s on her way up to our place now, she said she didn’t feel safe down in Los Angeles.” Leanna winced when she looked at Bozer. “I meant to tell you that, sorry. Story was gonna be that she was my cousin from Fresno… but she’s actually Jack’s daughter, more or less.”

“When was he looking into me?” Jack asked. “Before yesterday?” When Leanna nodded, Jack shook his head, trying to understand. “But… but I just met you yesterday.” He turned his gaze to Mac. “Why would he—”

“Wait, yesterday?!” Bozer exclaimed, looking at Mac incredulously. “You met him yesterday and today you’re making out with him?”

Mac’s face flushed in that way that Jack found completely adorable. “Uh… we did a lot more than make out, Bozer.”

Bozer looked like he might be having a stroke before he dropped his head into his hands and groaned.

Leanna patted him on the shoulder consolingly before pulling out her phone to text Riley. “Mac, is it okay if I have her come here?”

“Sure,” Mac said, and he slipped down a bit so he could rest his head on Jack’s good shoulder. “Maybe she can shed some more light on this.”

“I had one idea,” Leanna said carefully, watching Jack’s face. “But you won’t like it.”

Jack rearranged his arm so he could wrap it around Mac’s shoulders, his heart fluttering because of how at ease Mac is around him. He also absently wondered when Mac’s tail would return, but he pushed that thought away when he saw Leanna’s expression. “What is it? I’m pretty sure I won’t like any of the reasons why he would look into me, so just say it.”

“What if… what if he was trying to find someone to kill Mac?” Leanna suggested, and Jack felt himself go cold all over, his grip on Mac tightening involuntarily once again.

“But why?” is what Mac asked, calm as anything… and he wasn’t trying to get away from Jack, he stayed right where he was. “It’s been two years and he thinks I’m dead—or at least we thought he did? Why now?”

“Maybe…” Bozer trailed off, his eyes going wide as he stared at Mac. “You don’t think he might’ve… made another you, do you?”

“Even if he did, why would he care if I’m alive?” Mac asked, clearly thinking out loud. “It’s not like I’m a threat to him, right? I’m basically stuck in this lake.”

“Maybe he figured if you weren’t dead you’d be looking for a cure?” Bozer reasoned. “That could be a threat to him, right? Reverse all his hard work?”

Jack’s head spun and he tried to get a grip on his emotions, but it wasn’t easy. The fact that his reputation was enough for Mac’s father to look into him as a candidate to kill Mac made him sick—and then he froze, because if James hadn’t reached out, did that mean he didn’t make up his mind, or did he hire someone else who was on their way to hurt Mac? At that moment there was a loud crashing noise from somewhere outside, probably on the road since it sounded like two cars colliding.

“What the hell?” Leanna exclaimed, hopping to her feet. She must’ve been thinking along the same lines as Jack, because she reached into her purse and pulled out a snub-nosed .22 pistol and handed it to Jack. “Stay with him,” she said, and Jack had no intention of doing anything else. “You too,” she added, leveling a stern glance at Bozer before drawing a handgun from the back of her waistband.

She went to the door, lifting the bar and throwing it open in one smooth movement and walking outside. There was a tense wait of about five minutes before she came back with Riley, who had blood running down her face from a cut on her forehead. Clearly she was part of the accident, and she was helping Leanna drag a tall man wearing a black overcoat inside. He was unconscious and they’d secured his hands behind his back with a belt.

“I think James picked a different hitman,” Riley said, dropping the guy on the floor. She hoisted her backpack higher on her shoulder and waved. “Hey, Jack.”

Jack was torn between getting out of the water to hug Riley and staying in with Mac, who looked shaken up as he watched their new guest with wide eyes.

Mac noticed Jack’s struggle and gave him a weak smile and kissed his cheek. “Go, I’m fine.”

Jack searched his eyes before giving him a real kiss and hoisting himself up. He walked over to Riley and gave her a light hug since he was wet. “Hey, baby girl, you alright?”

Riley smiled at him. “I’m good.”

He was about to lead her to the edge and introduce her to Mac when suddenly Mac let out a pained gasp, one that he tried to muffle and failed miserably.

Riley crouched down by the water, putting her hands on Mac’s shoulders. “Are you okay?” she asked worriedly, going from tough to compassionate in a second.

Mac grabbed one of her wrists as a reflex, squeezing as his legs fused back together—and a moment later, his tail splashed the surface of the water. “I am now,” he said, a little out of breath. He smiled at her when she didn’t pull away after seeing the tail. “It’s nice to meet you, Riley. I’m Mac.”

“You’re so cool,” she blurted out, and then looked mortified, but Mac only laughed.

Jack thought his heart might explode in his chest because his two favorite people in the world (yes, Mac rose quickly to that status) were getting along and they only just met. Bozer whined quietly when he realized that Mac had taken the serum and why, but everyone ignored him. Glancing down at himself, Jack realized he was still in his underwear, so he grabbed the sweatpants he was wearing before and pulled them on.

Then he leaned down to give Mac a short, sweet kiss (causing Riley to squeal in excitement) before turning his attention to the unconscious creep, the gun Leanna gave him tucked into the back of his waistband. “Jesus, he even looks creepy—who the hell is this?”

Leanna took the man’s picture on her phone and then ran it through facial rec. “He has a whole bunch of aliases, but the one he uses most often is Murdoc.”

Jack found some rope and he and Leanna tied the guy to a chair, which seemed more secure than Riley’s belt.

Riley who had stripped down to her underwear and jumped in the lake with Mac. “Wow,” she said, dark eyes amazed as she took him in. “Can I…?”

“Sure,” Mac said, and stayed still while she felt his gills and the patches of scales.

“So cool,” she said again, and they grinned at each other. “I like him, Jack.”

“Well I like him too,” Jack said teasingly, making Mac let out a surprised laugh. “And I saw him first, so back off.”

Riley laughed too, and Jack couldn’t help but smile—if it wasn’t for the creep in the chair, he would be the happiest man alive. It looked like Murdoc was out cold, so it would take a while for him to wake up… unless they helped him a little. Jack spotted a small bucket near the door, and he filled it with water before glancing at Mac.

“Do you want him to see you when he wakes up? Maybe you should… go for a swim or something?” Jack had a feeling this wouldn’t work, but he needed to try since he didn’t want Mac anywhere near Murdoc.

Mac smiled at Jack, all dimples and sunshine. “You knew that wasn’t gonna work and tried it away—that’s cute.” His expression darkened as he looked over Murdoc’s slumped form. “I’m staying right here. If he knows enough to be here, it doesn’t matter if he sees me.”

Riley, meanwhile, dragged her rig—a behemoth of a laptop that had only gotten bigger since Jack last saw it—to the edge of the platform and logged on to Mac’s Wi-Fi. “Let’s see if I can find out anything else about what your old man’s been up to.”

Bozer sighed the sigh of the long suffering and stood up, heading for the door. “I’ll go move the cars into the woods in case somebody comes along.”

If nothing else, Bozer was a team player no matter the circumstances and Jack immediately liked that about him. “You may wanna widen your search and include a fella named Walsh,” Jack said, glancing at Mac to make sure he got the name right. “He’s his old man’s bestie and also involved in the project.”

Riley hummed in acknowledgment and started typing on her keyboard, super-fast as always. Jack wasn’t eager to wake up Murdoc so he sat back down on the platform, feet in the water and his sweatpants rolled up. He smiled when Mac swam up to him and settled between his legs, arms resting on Jack’s thighs. He looked so beautiful like that—well, he always looked beautiful, and Jack felt himself get angry again. How could anybody want to kill this amazing man?

“Hey,” Mac said gently, and put a hand on top of both of Jack’s where they’re clenched into fists in his lap. He stared up at him, his other hand absently feeling the dressing on Jack’s thigh through his sweatpants to make sure it was still there. “Getting pissed isn’t going to solve anything. Whatever my father and Walsh are doing, we’ll stop it. Somehow I think it’s bigger than wanting me dead.”

His tail splashed a little behind him and Jack smiled. He loved that tail, it was a part of Mac and fascinating… plus it was super pretty, just like Mac’s eyes. “I won’t let anything happen to you, I swear,” Jack said, repeating himself as he brushed the wet hair out of Mac’s face. “No matter what happens, I will keep you safe.”

Mac’s hand came up to grasp Jack’s wrist and he turned his head to press a kiss to his palm. “Don’t make me save you from drowning again,” he warned, and there was amusement in the words. He paused, glancing away for a moment. “Do you… no, never mind, it’s dumb.” When Jack made an encouraging sound and kept touching him lightly—his ear, jaw, the soft skin that gave way to scales over his gills—Mac looked back at him and asked, “Do you think there’s a way to make a cure and I just haven’t found it? Because I gave up too soon?”

“You’re the smartest person I’ve ever met, baby,” Jack started, fingers absently stroking at Mac’s neck. “If there’s a way to reverse this, I have no doubt you’ll find it eventually.” Moving his hand back to Mac’s hair, Jack smiled at him. “You didn’t give up, though, not really. You made a serum that works temporarily, right? That’s a first step, you can’t blame yourself for slowing down after that.”

Mac leaned into Jack’s touch like it was the easiest thing to do, but something dark flitted through his eyes and caught Jack off guard. Before he could ask Mac about it, though, there was a groan from behind him, and Jack twisted around to see Murdoc woke up all on his own.

“Ouch,” he said, drawing out the single syllable as he took in the room and how he was tied to the chair. He spotted Riley first and frowned. “Ah, I suppose I have you to thank for this abysmal headache—I saw your face right before our untimely meeting, Ms. Davis.” Her eyes snapped to him when he used her name, and he smiled a smile of bloody teeth, beady eyes flicking away. “And you must be Agent Dalton. Interesting… I thought you’d be taller.”

He didn’t let it show on his face, but Murdoc’s word made Jack pause. As far as they knew Mac’s father hired him a few days ago when Jack had no idea Mac even existed—so why would Murdoc not only know Jack’s name but Riley’s too? Unless James MacGyver could see the future, it made zero sense for Murdoc to know how they were.

Murdoc’s gaze kept moving. “Agent Martin, I presume? Oh, and… Bozer, right? What a pleasure. I’m assuming you already know about your girlfriend’s tiny secret?” He grinned and it was so gleefully creepy that it made the hair on the back of Jack’s neck stand up. Lastly his stare found Mac, and his grin morphed into a sick smirk. “Angus MacGyver. So… fascinating.”

Jack didn’t like the hungry expression on his face at all, but to Mac’s credit he didn’t flinch or move away. One of his hands shifted underwater and squeezed Jack’s calf, a nervous gesture of which only Jack was aware.

“How do you know who we are?” Bozer demanded, and it was clear he was just as weirded out as the rest of them.

Murdoc’s eyes didn’t move an inch, staring at Mac like he was taking in every detail. “It shouldn’t be hard to work out, Wilt… well, maybe it is for you. But what about you, Angus?”

Mac’s fingers dug into Jack’s flesh hard enough to bruise, but when he spoke his voice was perfectly calm and level: “My father was the one who tipped off those mob guys to Jack’s real identity, right?” When Jack glanced at him in surprise—he never told Mac they were mob guys—Mac made a face at him. “Like they’d be anything else? They looked like cartoon characters.” He turned his attention back to Murdoc and lost all his good humor. “My guess would be Riley’s mentioned somewhere in Jack’s files and I’m sure my dad checked up on Bozer while he was in the CIA’s system too. Then he told you all of it… but the question is why does he want Jack dead?” He paused and went completely still. “He needed bait. He needed to confirm I was where he thought I was… and he knew if I saw Jack get dumped in the water that I’d save him.”

Murdoc’s smirk widened and he looked very pleased, which means Mac got everything right.

“But how did he know you saved him?” Riley asked, looking at Mac. “How did he know Jack didn’t… didn’t just drown?”

“My guess is he had him—” Mac gestured at Murdoc “—watch the lake, and he must’ve seen me somehow.”

“That’s all fine and dandy,” Jack said. “But why me?”

Murdoc shrugged as best as he could with his bonds. “Why not you? You were convenient, I suppose. My employer knew where you were and who you were working with—why not use you, instead of trying to find a random scapegoat? I have to say, your daddy is quite the devious bastard, Angus.” Another glance in Mac’s direction, followed by a leer. “But then again, I suppose you already knew that since you wound up bearing the brunt of his failure. And now he doesn’t need you anymore… in fact, he wants you off the board altogether.”

“Why? Mac’s not a threat to him,” Leanna said, holding her gun down along her leg and eyeing Murdoc suspiciously.

“Oh, but that’s where you’re wrong,” Murdoc said, smirking again. “Senior is deathly afraid that junior and that big brain of his will whip up a cure eventually, which would put a crimp in his plan to sell his new prototype to the highest bidder.”

“New prototype?” Mac repeated, narrowing his eyes. He held on to Jack’s leg but moved closer to the platform edge. “He did this to someone else?” There was something hard to his voice and the look on his face was unreadable. “If it’s a new prototype it means he made changes. Improved something.” He seemed to be talking to himself, and for a moment his voice had a sneering quality to it that sounded unnatural coming from him.

Ever since Mac started talking Murdoc was watching him with a predatory expression that made Jack’s skin crawl. He looked like he wanted to eat Mac for breakfast and Jack unconsciously tightened his grip on the gun Leanna gave him.

He must’ve shifted a little because suddenly Murdoc’s stare snapped to him. “Something wrong, Jacky-boy?”

“Not at all,” Jack said, fighting to keep his tone casual. He felt himself grin at Murdoc with nothing but teeth. “Just wondering when I get to punch that smug look off your face, that’s all.”

“Jack,” Riley said quietly, her hands frozen on the keyboard. “He’s telling the truth. I got into James’s computer through a backdoor, and he has all kinds of files here.” She looked up at Jack with a stricken look on her face. “The person he used as a prototype… it’s Desi.”

“Ah, yes, the lovely Ms. Nguyen,” Murdoc commented loftily. “Or at least I presume she was lovely before James got his hands on her. Now she’s a scale-covered killing machine—oh, and did I mention? She can walk and swim.”

Jack went still the second he heard Riley mention Desi, and he almost missed what Murdoc said. It had been a while since he last saw her, but he had no idea…

“Jack?” Mac’s voice brought him out of his thoughts, and when he glanced down Mac was watching him worriedly. “Who is she?”

Murdoc snorted. “Honestly, Angus, haven’t you figured it out? She’s a spy—those are the only friends Dalton has.”

“She’s also my girlfriend,” Riley snapped, her façade finally cracking. She looked at Mac and softened her tone. “Jack introduced us, we’ve been together for a while now… she told me she had a new assignment, but I should’ve pushed to find out what it was.”

“She probably didn’t know it was a trick until she got there, and by then it was too late,” Jack said, rubbing his face and blinking hard. “She’s… Desi was one of the first female grads from the Ranger academy. I helped train her too, she’s—”

“An extremely deadly killer, just like your little boy toy, Angus,” Murdoc interjected, his eyes flicking up and down over what he could see of Mac’s body. Then he said something truly chilling: “I saw you two on the beach earlier, you know. How considerate of you, Jack, to let him bring you back here instead of just taking what you so clearly wanted then. I mean, not that there’s any holes to abuse when he’s like that, but I’m sure his mouth works just fine.”

Jack was frozen for about two seconds before he scrambled to his feet, fully intending to lunge at Murdoc and strangle him with his bare hands. Before he could move further there was a splash behind him and a pair of arms wrapped around his body, tackling him down on the platform. He belatedly realized Mac jumped out of the water as much as he could to stop him and was now lying half on top of him, his grip firm around Jack’s waist.

Murdoc just laughed loudly, looking like he was having the time of his life. “There isn’t much he could’ve done if you had pinned his wrists above his head and straddled that pretty face of his, hmm? With that shiny tail he probably wouldn’t have managed to push you away, so he would’ve been forced to take it as you fucked his mouth, and choked him with your—”

“Shut up,” Jack growled, struggling against Mac’s hold. “Shut up, or I swear to God I’ll—”

“Actually, I don’t think he would’ve fought you, Murdoc interjected, speaking louder over Jack’s string of curses. “He did let you fuck him later, didn’t he? It’s been so long since anyone was nice to him, so he was more than happy to offer himself to the first person that didn’t run away. Oh, wait a second!” Murdoc gave Jack a fake sympathetic smile. “You didn’t think he liked you, did you?” And Jack knew, he knew Mac wasn’t like that, but his previous insecurities show up without his control. “As a matter of fact, once I’m done with all of you…” Murdoc trailed off. “I’m going to make him scream, and fuck him until he bleeds.”

A loud crack echoed through the room, and it wasn’t a gunshot—it was Bozer hitting Murdoc across the face with an oar for a canoe that Jack didn’t notice was hanging from the rafters. Murdoc was unconscious in a spray of his own blood again, his chair tipped over on its side, and Bozer stared down at him for a moment before he tossed the oar aside.

“Do we really need to put up with this guy?” he asked, his expression twisted with rage. “He’s a disgusting piece of garbage.”

“Unfortunately, he’s a disgusting piece of garbage that’s probably supposed to call in to James at a certain time,” Leanna said grimly, and she put her gun away in favor of taking out the burner phone they’d found on Murdoc when they brought him in. “Riley, is there a way you can block the GPS signal from this thing when I turn it on so James can’t see where Murdoc is? I want to check his messages.”

“Sure, I can do that,” Riley said, and started tapping away at her computer again.

Mac and Jack were still in their weird position, half-in and half-out of the water… and when the red haze covering Jack’s vision finally cleared up he realized Mac was shaking against him.

Jack shifted and sat up, trying to frame Mac’s face with his hands. “Mac, baby—” he started, but before he could say anything else or get a good grip on him, Mac turned his head away and slid out of his arms and back into the water, disappearing under the surface. “Mac? Mac!”

When a moment passed and Mac didn’t return, it was clear that he swam away… away from them, and away from Jack. Jack’s first instinct was to jump in after him, but then what? He didn’t know where Mac went and he had no chance to catch up to him, Mac was too fast, but he had to do something… so he yanked his sweatpants off and jumped into the water, ignoring everyone shouting in protest.

Chapter Text

Mac was a good swimmer long before he became a full-time one with a tail. His mom taught him how to swim before she died, and some of his best memories were of swimming with her in the city pool or at the beach. But he wasn’t thinking about any of that now—instead his mind was a jumbled mess of anxiety and fear and he felt like he was going to throw up, so he came to the surface in the middle of the lake.

It was noon, the sun high in the sky and dappled yellow against the water. Mac let his tail keep him afloat as he tried to get his breathing back under control. He swam a decent distance from the houseboat and was close to the state park and the golf course, both of which were places he avoided because there were always too many people around. He didn’t want to go back to the beach where he and Jack were earlier—that just made him think of Murdoc—so he took a sharp right and went to a nearby island. It was small, but there was a nice flat rock he could sun himself on, which was exactly what he did.

He pulled himself up, no tail or anything in the water, and flopped on his back to finally allow the tears he’d been holding in to well up in his eyes. He covered his mouth with his hand to muffle the sob that ripped out of his throat, but that was pointless; after a moment he rolled on his side away from the lake and wrapped his arms around himself, letting the tears fall.

He wasn’t even sure what he felt, overwhelmed by everything he’d just heard, but his father’s experiments, everything Murdoc said… God, he’s terrified. Terrified of Murdoc and his threats, but also of losing Jack. If he was honest, Jack leaving was what scared him the most, and he cursed himself for getting attached so quickly—he should’ve known it wouldn’t last. There was no way Jack would stay, not after everything got so complicated and what James apparently did to Riley’s girlfriend.

He didn’t know how long he laid there, but it was long enough that each shuddering breath he took in got harder, his gills flaring and not closing as they tried to get air. The sunshine went from being pleasant to burning, his scales tight and constricted. He knew he should get back in the water, but there was a part of him that wondered if that really mattered—none of this would’ve happened if he’d just had the nerve to use the revolver he kept in his desk.

Before he could go too far down that road, however, he felt a sharp tug on his tail and then he tumbled back into the water with a surprised yelp… and Jack’s arms wrapped around his middle, keeping his head from going under the surface.

“Jack?” Mac rasped out, oxygen getting absorbed by his body now that he was back in the lake. “What are you doing out here?”

“Stopping you from frying yourself, apparently,” Jack grumbled, adjusting his grip on Mac to make sure he couldn’t slip away again. “Didn’t you mention being out of the water could kill you? Are you out of your mind?”

When Mac took a closer look at Jack he saw how out of breath he was and noticed lines of pain on his face. Terror and guilt coursed through him when he realized Jack swam all the way from the houseboat—while that was nothing to Mac, it was quite the swim for a normal human, let alone one with two gunshot wounds.

“Are you?” Mac countered, his voice cracking. He looped his arms under Jack’s and held him so he didn’t have to keep treading water. Jack was squeezing him tightly enough to make it hard to breathe, but compared to being on the rock it was nothing. “You got shot twice yesterday! You could’ve died swimming this far out!” He swallowed hard and blinked, more tears rolling down his cheeks. “And that would’ve been my fault too. This is all my fault, Jack.”

“Your fault—” Jack sputtered. “What are you talking about, Mac?” He watched Mac with wide eyes, clearly not understanding that Mac was responsible for this whole mess, not understanding that his cover got blown and he almost got killed because of Mac. “And don’t change the subject. What were you thinking?”

Mac shrank away from Jack, not because he was afraid but because he was ashamed. “The same thing I thought when I made the serum and then found out it only worked for a couple hours,” he whispered, gaze dropping to the water rippling between their chests. “That I was a failure, a… a failed experiment. That… that maybe everyone would’ve been better off if I’d just died when my father threw me away.” He didn’t recognize his own voice anymore, it was hollow and shook so badly. “When I realized the serum was useless, I started throwing shit around, yanking drawers out of my desk... Bozer bought it at a secondhand store and it still had things in it from the previous owner. There was… I found a gun. And I almost… I wanted to…”

“No,” Jack gasped, and when Mac risked looking at him he saw that Jack’s eyes were full of shock and fear. “God, Mac…” He pulled him closer when Mac tried to move away, those dark eyes filling with tears. “The world is a better place with you in it, you hear me? I know I didn’t know you then, but I do now, and I can tell you without a doubt that I don’t want a life without you in it. This is not your fault, none of it.” He hissed when he accidentally jolted his hurt arm with the force of his speech.

Mac swallowed hard and forced himself to focus, shifting his grip on Jack so he could swim with him. “Come on, you need to rest.” He pulled him around behind the flat-topped rock to a formation of boulders in the shade, including some that were the right height to be a bench. He got Jack to sit first and then pulled himself up next, the water up to their shoulders. He licked his lips before touching Jack’s cheek lightly, because he wasn’t sure where they stood and didn’t want to overstep. “I’m sorry, Jack. I… he really got to me. Murdoc, I mean.”

To Mac’s relief, Jack leaned into his touch. “Mac, you don’t need to apologize,” he said quietly. “The things he said, they were awful.” His eyes flashed with anger, but Mac could tell it was directed at Murdoc and not at him. Despite that, Jack seemed… hesitant, and he wasn’t touching Mac anymore now that Mac wasn’t trying to run away. There was something wrong… he was gearing up to tell Mac it was over, wasn’t he? “He got inside my head too,” Jack continued, those brown eyes wide and tinged with sadness. “what he said about… about me being the first person who came along that you wanted to… that didn’t run away. I know it’s not true, I know that, but hearing it out loud still bothered me.”

Mac’s eyebrows furrowed and he tilted his head, thumb absently stroking Jack’s cheekbone. He was angry too, but not at Jack—at Murdoc, for picking out their insecurities so easily. “Did you really think I wanted to sleep with you because you were… what, convenient? Jack, that’s not even close to true.” And Jack just kind of slumped forward, burying his face in Mac’s neck and hugging him tightly. Mac put his arms around him in return and pressed a kiss to the side of his head. “He just wanted to screw with us, to make us doubt each other.”

They sat in silence until Jack tensed and pulled back a little to look at Mac. “What he said about… about me pinning you—you know I’d never do that, right? I’d never… I’d never force you—”

“Jack, I know,” Mac interjected softly, kissing his cheek and lingering. “Besides, he wasn’t entirely correct. If anyone tried something like that they’d get smacked with my tail.” He smiled when Jack chuckled weakly—that was exactly why he said it, to make Jack smile. When Jack buried his face in Mac’s neck again, Mac hugged him close and mentally cursed Murdoc to hell and back.

“You know,” Jack muttered against his skin. “I’m really glad you turned out to be here, because I’m not sure I can swim back to the houseboat by myself.”

“It’s okay, I think I’ve got this swimming thing down,” Mac said dryly, smiling again when that earned him a chuckle. He studied the freckles on the tops of Jack’s shoulders and debated how to phrase what he wanted to say next. “I think I need to work on the serum again when we get back. It’s been a while since I tried, and if… if I can help your friend Desi, I have to try. I won’t let my father ruin someone else’s life.” He leaned back to look Jack in the eye, brushing his fingers over Jack’s stubble, which at this point was a beard. “Here’s the part you won’t like: we need Murdoc to lie to my father and say I’m not here anymore. Otherwise the next person he sends here will probably be Desi and we’re not ready for that.”

“Baby, this guy strikes me as a straight-up psychopath—I’m not sure we’re gonna be able to make him do anything for us.” Jack arched an eyebrow and leaned into Mac’s touch again. “Besides, would it be such a bad thing if he sent Desi? I mean, she knows me and Riley, obviously…” Jack paused, eyes widening. “Wait, do you think… you think he might have messed with her head or somethin’? Turned her against us?”

“If he tortured her like he did me, then that’s a definite possibility,” Mac replied. “The way I felt, being subjected to all that pain every day… it may have overwhelmed her. I don’t want to risk her showing up at our doorstep and making you or Leanna hurt her to protect me, that’s not right.” He thought some more. “What if Riley could clone Murdoc’s voice? Then we use his phone to send my father a text, and if he calls and wants more information we can give it to him?”

“That… could actually work,” Jack said slowly. “That girl is a wizard when it comes to computers and all that tech stuff, I’m sure she’ll figure something out.” He turned his head enough to press a kiss to Mac’s fingers, and Mac felt his heart flutter stupidly. He knew they should head back to the houseboat but he wasn’t looking forward to seeing Murdoc again. Right here he felt safe, hidden away from everything with Jack, and he wished they could stay like that forever.

Some of what he felt must’ve shown on his face, because Jack pulled him into a tight hug, lips against his ear. “I’m not gonna let him touch you, I swear.”

Mac hugged him back and wondered if it was too soon to be in love with Jack. It felt like it, they’ve both said it before, but with every passing second Mac was more convinced that was what it was. He lingered in Jack’s embrace, but eventually pulled away to peck him on the cheek before pulling him into the water. “C’mon, we should get back.”

 

~***~

 

The swim back to the houseboat wasn’t as vigorous as the last time Mac swam while holding Jack—he didn’t want to hurt him—but they got back much faster than Jack would’ve swimming on his own. They broke the surface inside the houseboat to find the following scene: Murdoc dead on the floor in the remnants of his broken chair from a gunshot wound, Leanna crouched down next to Bozer who writhed on the floor with both hands between his legs, and Riley in the same place they left her but with sound waves on her computer screen indicating she was in the process of cloning Murdoc’s voice.

“Murdoc woke up and used his feet to break the chair, then he hit Bozer in the balls with the oar,” Riley explained without looking away from her rig. “Leanna shot him, but he was talking the whole time and I think I got enough to impersonate him if your father doesn’t buy the text we sent about how Murdoc made a mistake when he told James he saw you.”

Both Mac and Jack stare at her for a moment before Mac drags Jack to the platform and hoists him up to sit before he swam closer to Bozer. “Shit, Boze, you okay?” he asked, wincing a little. He wasn’t sorry Murdoc was dead, but seeing his best friend in pain wasn’t fun.

“Just peachy,” Bozer groaned, shooting him a glare. “Nothing better than getting hit in the balls by a homicidal maniac.”

“Wait, so you guys had the same plan we did?” Jack asked, looking at Leanna.

She shrugged her shoulders. “Evidently.” She grabbed a folded tarp from a set of shelves and she and Jack wrapped up Murdoc’s body.

Riley climbed out of the water and toweled off, putting her clothes back on and offering a hand to Bozer. “Here’s what we’re gonna do,” she said, buttoning her shirt. “We throw Murdoc’s body in his car and Leanna and Bozer drive it away from town so we can burn it. I’ll take my car so I can drive them back, and then we’ll stop and get pizza for everybody on the way back. Sound good?”

Mac noticed that left him and Jack conspicuously alone, but he didn’t bring it up. He gave Bozer a friendly tap on the leg and went over to the other side of the platform, yanking down another workstation to the level of the water. This one was his desk, the same one he told Jack about it—inside it was all of his research into the serum. If he was going to make changes, this was where he would start. And once he made an adjustment, he’d have to test it on himself.

“Yeah, sounds great,” Jack said from where he sat on the platform, legs in the water. Mac was staring at his research and absently registered Leanna, Bozer, and Riley leaving, dragging Murdoc’s body with them. “Hey, darlin’?” Mac looked at him and wasn’t able to stop a smile from spreading on his face. He never thought he’d like Jack calling him pet names, but they make his heart do a weird flip in his chest. “I’d come to you but I kinda can’t move too much, so… swim over here, would you?” Mac was unable to deny Jack anything, so he did exactly that, swimming up and smiling wider when Jack leaned down to give him a short kiss. “You don’t have to figure it out right now, you know? My faith in you is absolute, by the way—I just don’t want you to overwork yourself.”

“I won’t,” Mac said and reached up to pull Jack down for another kiss, this one lingering a little more. “Give me one second and I’m all yours.” He swam back over to the desk and did some quick calculations, falling back into the swing of things more easily than he thought he would. He made a detour to the fridge for a syringe of the serum, pouring it into a large-bore syringe and adding the powder he just ground up into it. He shook it before swimming back over to Jack and leaning against his legs. “Unfortunately the only way to find out if I’ve got any idea what I’m doing is to test it on myself.”

“I don’t like it,” Jack admitted quietly, just like Mac thought he would. “I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

Mac kissed his cheek, touched by the concern. “I won’t… probably,” he said before hoisting himself up on the platform. “But there’s no other way, Jack.” He pinched his skin and injected himself, hissing at the burn of it. He doubted he’d magically get it right on the first attempt, but if he could at least extend the time that he had legs and could breathe on land that would be a start. He got rid of the syringe and turned back to Jack, who was watching him like he always did, like Mac was the most fascinating thing he’d ever seen. “Maybe while we’re waiting I should take a look at your stitches?”

“I’m fine, Mac, really—” Jack started, but when Mac glared at him he shut up.

Slowly Mac took off the bandages and uncovered the wounds. “They look fine, I don’t think you pulled anything,” he said after looking Jack over and prodding at the sutures. Jack smirked smugly and Mac rolled his eyes. “Don’t look so happy with yourself, you could’ve really gotten hurt swimming like that.”

He made Jack take another antibiotic but he refused to take any pain meds while it was just the two of them in the boathouse. “If something comes along that needs killing, I need to be able to shoot straight,” he reasoned, and Mac couldn’t argue with that logic.

He put fresh waterproof dressings on both of Jack’s wounds, and it was around then that his tail split apart. Mac dug his fingernails into his palms and squeezed his eyes shut, a pained whimper escaping him—it hurt more this time, but he didn’t know if that was from the compounds he added or just not being ridiculously horny when it happened this time.

“Why don’t I help you upstairs so you can take a nap?” Mac suggested once he could breathe again, looking down at his toes wriggling in the water. He stood up, shaky for a moment before he remembered how to balance, and then he helped Jack to his feet. It was then Mac realized that they’d never stood eye-to-eye before, and they were about the same height. “Hi,” he whispered, immediately drawn in by Jack’s dark gaze.

“Hey there,” Jack murmured, and he wrapped his arms around Mac’s waist before he leaned into kiss him, his tongue pressing against Mac’s lips almost immediately. Mac was helpless to do anything else but wrap his arms around Jack’s neck and open up for him, exhaling through his nose when Jack deepened the kiss, slowly exploring the inside of his mouth. “What if…” Jack mumbled against his lips. “What if I don’t wanna take a nap?”

“Then maybe we should find a different use for the bed?” Mac suggested once he gathered enough brain cells to speak after having his mouth devoured like that. He was already naked and Jack might as well have been, so Mac slipped out of Jack’s grasp and locked the door but didn’t put the bar down, then returned to sling one of Jack’s arms around his shoulders and helped him upstairs to the loft.

As soon as they were up the stairs, Jack reeled him in for another kiss, lips gentle but insistent and apparently intent on taking Mac apart. His hands slid over Mac’s waist, squeezing at his hips and nudging him toward the bed. Mac went willingly and when he reached the edge of the mattress he fell backward, pulling Jack down on top of him. When his back hit the bed Mac let out a pleased sigh—it had been so long since he’d been in a normal bed and almost forgot out comfortable it was.

He didn’t get a chance to dwell on it for too long, quickly distracted by Jack’s lips and his tongue sliding into his mouth. Almost automatically Mac spread his legs so that Jack could settle between them, and Mac moaned softly when Jack moved one of his hands into his hair, not tugging but just raking his fingers through it. Jack leaned his weight on his good arm and kissed Mac like he couldn’t get enough—not that Mac was complaining. After a moment Jack broke the kiss and moved his lips to Mac’s neck, his hand moving down to stroke Mac’s side.

Jack,” Mac breathed out when his lips pressed against his gills, shivers of pleasure running down his spine.

Jack nipped gently on his skin while his hand kept slipping lower until it slid between Mac’s legs. That hand was calloused and rough but Jack’s tough was gentle, wrapping around Mac’s cock and stroking lightly. Mac sucked in a sharp breath and pushed his hips into the sensation—he didn’t feel as much there as he did in other places, but it felt good. His hands ran over Jack’s back and shoulders, loving how muscular he is, and Mac’s felt the strength behind those muscles and isn’t afraid of it. Jack’s teeth nipped lightly at the skin around his gills before sucking hard, hard enough to bruise.

“Oh God,” Mac gasped, his breathing hitching when Jack’s fingers let go of his cock and moved lower, two of them sliding through the slickness of his folds before they push inside him with almost no resistance.

Mac moaned loudly, throwing his head back. He clawed at Jack’s back with his nails, probably leaving marks, but he couldn’t control himself. Jack’s fingers felt amazing inside him and at first he moved them slowly, teasingly, but after a moment he started thrusting them in and out more rapidly and Mac couldn’t stop the high-pitched needy sounds falling from his lips.

“Jack, Jack, oh,” he cried out, trembling underneath him, but Jack didn’t slow his pace, sucking on his collarbone… and now it was clear to Mac that Jack wanted to make him fall apart as many times as he could. His orgasm was a hot, tight thing in his lower belly that broke over him in waves, making his squeeze his eyes shut as soft little sounds fell from his lips.

“God, baby, look at you,” Jack said, his voice low and gravelly, and Mac felt his face flush pink. “Prettiest damn thing I’ve ever seen.”

His lips moved back up to Mac’s neck, tongue licking a stripe over his gills as they open and close rapidly. And then Jack’s fingers moved inside him again, almost lazily, a third one joining the first two. He mouthed at Mac’s jaw, his gills, his collarbone, leaving a trail of bruises on his skin. He took his time, clearly not in any rush, and it was driving Mac insane. He wrapped his arms around Jack’s shoulders, hanging on and pushing his hips up, trying to increase the pressure inside him. Without warning, Jack drew his fingers out only to push them back in even deeper, and Mac let out a strangled shout that morphed into a half-moan, half-sob when Jack started moving his fingers faster at a steady pace.

Mac rode a knife’s edge of overstimulation and came again before he knew it, clenching tightly around Jack’s fingers as slick fluid gushed out around the digits. “Oh, oh, Jack,” he whined, grabbing Jack’s face and pulling him in for a sloppy kiss. He was drunk on arousal and it didn’t seem to abate in the slightest, tingles of pleasure shooting through his body, and he wondered if the mixture he added to the serum might’ve jacked up his libido. Jack moved to pull his fingers out but Mac’s hand shot down to stop him, grasping at his wrist. “No, don’t. I want… make me come again, please, Jack.”

Jack stared down at him with eyes that were almost black with lust and full of want, but also wonder. “Fuck,” he breathed out, amazement lacing his voice. He dove in and crashed their lips together, knocking any remaining air out of Mac’s lungs. He also pushed his fingers back in matching their thrusts with how his tongue attacked Mac’s mouth.

Mac could only sob and moan, completely at Jack’s mercy, his hands sliding down to grip Jack’s biceps as the rest of his body went boneless. He was unable to do much more than let out a long, low groan, nails scratching Jack’s skin as those gorgeous fingers teased a third orgasm from his body. This one was less intense but went on for longer, leaving Mac shaking uncontrollably and chanting Jack’s name like a prayer. This time when Jack withdrew his fingers Mac let him and wrapped his arms tightly around Jack, hugging him close. He could feel how hard Jack was against his hip and pressed a kiss to his temple, still trying to get his breath back. Jack didn’t complain, just mouthed lazily at Mac’s jaw—and his whole body jolted when Mac slid hand between them and wrapped it around his cock, stroking slowly.

“You wanna come like this?” Mac asked in a whisper, feeling unusually bold. “Or do you want to be inside me?”

Jack let out a deep groan, hips twitching into Mac’s hand, and he lifted his head to once again stare down at him with a combination of arousal and wonder. “I’m… I don’t wanna… shit, baby.” Jack moaned when Mac gave him a few faster strokes, effectively shutting his brain off for a moment. “Won’t it… wouldn’t it be too much? Don’t wanna… don’t wanna hurt you—fuck.”

“Not if you go slowly?” Mac closed the gap between them by licking his way into Jack’s mouth for a filthy kiss. “I like how it feels when you fill me up.”

Something broke on Jack’s face and he made a wounded sound, reaching down to replace Mac’s hand with his own. He pushed inside at what felt like a glacial pace on Mac’s end, and by the time their hips were flush together Mac was gasping for air again. His eyelashes fluttered, fingers twisting in the sheets on either side of his hips.

“Please, Jack,” Mac stuttered out, not able to stand him not moving and not caring about his voice breaking. “Please.”

Jack leaned down to give him a short, hard kiss, groaning against his lips, and then he buried his face in Mac’s neck. He slid his good arm under Mac’s back to hug him close and used his other hand to grip Mac’s thigh and hook it over his hip. Then he started moving, thrusting in and out of Mac, and even though he moved slowly each thrust was so deep it made Mac gasp. He couldn’t do much more than stare at the ceiling, involuntary tears welling in his eyes and rolling down his temples from how good it felt. There was something so primal and satisfying about how Jack’s cock ground into him, it drove him crazy.

He brought one arm up to wrap around Jack and squeeze, his next exhale coming out as a sob. He felt himself getting close again, heat pooling low in his belly and threatening to overflow. And Jack could tell, must’ve been able to feel it around his cock, because his next thrust—while just as slow and deep as the rest—was so hard it drove Mac up the bed a little. That was all it took for Mac to scream as he came for a fourth and final time, his body gripping Jack’s cock like a vise as he went limp in Jack’s hold.

Jack growled against his neck and his next few thrusts were just as hard, and then he was coming with a long groan, his arm tightening around Mac almost painfully. His hips twitched erratically as he filled Mac up with his come, going completely still for a second before he collapsed on top of Mac, panting heavily. Neither of them moves except to breathe harshly, and once they didn’t sound like they were suffocating anymore there was a peaceful stillness that surrounded them, the houseboat creaking occasionally on the lake’s gentle current.

Mac felt sated and happy and warm with Jack’s weight on top of him, and he hugged him impossibly closer, lips brushing his cheek. “I love you,” he whispered, unable to help himself. “I know you said it was probably too soon, but I… I do love you, Jack.”

Jack exhaled shakily against his neck, and there was a small part of Mac that was terrified Jack was going to push him away. But instead he lifted his head, looking down at Mac with such a soft gaze that it made Mac’s heart stutter. “I love you too. I don’t care if it’s too soon, Mac—I love you.”

Mac had to kiss him after that, relief and elation coursing through his body. All the bad shit that happened that day was nothing compared to this—and all of a sudden, Mac had a breakthrough. “Oh my God,” he said, stopping the kiss to stare up at Jack with wide eyes. “I know what he did. I’ve been so focused on trying to find a cure because I thought something was wrong with me… I never even considered making something that would allow me to shift between a tail and legs. Remember what Murdoc said about Desi? She can walk and swim?” He ran a hand through his hair, eyes ticking back and forth as his brain worked at a mile a minute. “And the only reason I thought of it—the only reason I even momentarily stopped thinking of myself as a freak—is because of you, Jack.”

A smile spread on Jack’s face. “You’re not a freak,” he said, leaning in to kiss Mac’s cheek. “And see? I told you you’d figure it out.” He watched him with a warm gaze. “But it’s late, baby, how about… you start working on this tomorrow?” He was clearly aware that Mac was getting lost in his own head. “The gang will be back soon with the pizza they promised, and I should probably get you downstairs before your lovely tail comes back, hmm? I won’t be able to carry you around until my wounds heal.”

Mac’s a little shocked by Jack’s proclamation that he’d carry him around if he wasn’t injured, but by now he should’ve known better than to be surprised by Jack’s chivalry. “Okay,” he agreed, smiling too. Ideas were spooling out in the back of his brain, but they could wait until later… maybe until after everyone else went to bed.

 

~***~

 

They headed back downstairs, Jack grabbing his boxer-briefs so he wouldn’t be totally naked when Riley came back. They both got in the water, which was a very efficient way to clean up after sex, and when Jack leaned back against the against the platform Mac swam right up to him and hugged him, giving him a kiss on the lips. That was around the same time Bozer unlocked the door and walked in with Riley and Leanna. They had pizza boxes and beer, along with bags of clothes and a new cell phone for Jack.

“We come bearing gifts,” Riley declared, then raised her eyebrows when she saw they position they were in. “Are we interrupting something?”

“Not anymore,” Jack said with a grin, waggling his eyebrows and laughing when Riley groaned, accompanied by Bozer.

Mac just chuckled and buried his face in Jack’s neck, pressing a kiss to his skin before pulling away to look at the others. “Everything went okay with the car?” And the dead body, but that went unsaid.

“We didn’t have any problems,” Leanna replied, setting the pizza boxes on the floor, Bozer doing the same with the beer. The three of them sat down in a semi-circle around the food, facing Mac and Jack in the water. “We even made another stop and bought Jack some stuff so he could stop walking around naked.”

“He probably likes that,” Bozer muttered, side-eyeing Jack as he handed him a beer, and that made them all laugh a little.

“Did you hear anything else from my father?” Mac asked.

Riley shook her head. “Nope, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.” She took a slice of pizza and chomped off the end. “Is it too much to hope that maybe he just believed the lie?”

Jack glanced at Mac before looking at Riley. “Probably. I mean, Murdoc did tell him he saw Mac, and to suddenly say he was mistaken… I don’t know your old man, Mac, but I ain’t sure he’s gonna buy that.”

“What do you think his next move will be, then?” Leann asked, taking a pull off her beer. “Come up here with Desi and try to smoke you out?”

“Could be… but that doesn’t seem convoluted enough for my father, as strange as that sounds.” Mac chewed thoughtfully on his pizza. “Riley, did you ever find anything on Walsh when you were looking through my father’s computer?”

“No, which is weird because Jack said they were partners,” Riley said slowly. “Maybe he’s dead?”

Mac couldn’t help but snort at that idea. “You don’t know Walsh. He’s huge and mean, it would take an awful lot to bring him down. Maybe they had some kind of falling out or something, I don’t know.”

“If they did that could mean we’re dealing with two problems instead of one,” Jack pointed out, wrapping an arm around Mac.

Mac had to hide a smile. Talking about Walsh and James brought back many bad memories and Jack could tell, so Mac appreciated the comforting touch… until Jack’s hand slid lower to grope his ass underwater. Somehow Mac managed to control the expression on his face, only giving him a pointed look, his smile widening a little.

“If I’m remembering right, your old man was the brains of the operation and Walsh was the brawn,” Bozer said, looking at Mac in a way that suggested he knew exactly what Jack’s hand was doing and he didn’t approve. “Could be that with Desi around, James figured he didn’t need Walsh anymore.”

“I’m so worried about her,” Riley said, but managed a little smile when Mac patted her leg. “You can help her, right?”

“I think so, maybe,” Mac answered, and he felt bad that he couldn’t tell her something more reassuring, but he also didn’t want to lie. “Let’s just hope he hasn’t hurt her so badly that she doesn’t remember you guys. Too many electrical shocks to the brain can do awful things.” Riley’s eyes widened as if she hadn’t considered that possibility—and again, Mac felt bad, but it was only fair that she knew what to expect. “But from what Jack told me, she’s tough. I’m sure she’s putting up a fight.”

Riley brought her hand down to hold the one Mac had on her leg, and for the first time… actually, for the first time ever, Mac felt like he belonged somewhere. He shifted the conversation, asking Leanna and Bozer questions about their new house, and Bozer regaled them all with a tale about how he suspected their neighbor is secretly a professional mime. Eventually they gobbled down all the food and drank all the beer, and Riley produced an air mattress and sleeping bags that they bought when they got Jack’s clothes.

“What? We all know what you two have done in that bed upstairs and we want zero part of it,” she deadpanned.

Jack blushed at that, which Mac found completely adorable. As the air mattress was inflating Mac started getting ready for bed himself—by now his legs had fused back together, but the serum lasted for about three hours instead of two, so that was progress. He chewed on some fish bones to clean his second set of teeth, then brushed the human ones and clambered into his net. Jack had gotten out of the water to get dressed, and Mac assumed he’d headed upstairs to get ready for bed too.

As he hung in his net he sighed quietly, not wanting anyone to hear him. He stared at the water and his tail, not looking forward to sleeping alone. He was afraid of another nightmare, and it was ridiculous how quickly he’d gotten used to Jack’s warmth. He was so lost in his thoughts that he jolted in surprise when his net moved suddenly… and then Jack crawled into it from the platform, whining when Mac’s tail splashed water at him involuntarily.

He wore sweatpants and a t-shirt, and he… he crawled into the net to be with Mac. “What?” He frowned when he glanced at Mac’s face and saw a very shocked expression.

Mac felt his mouth hanging open in a way that definitely wasn’t sexy and closed it. “I… you’re here,” he said dumbly, and by now Jack was right next to him so he felt the vibration when he chuckled. “What are you doing? I thought you’d sleep upstairs.”

“Now why would I do a silly thing like that when I can have you all to myself, right here?” Jack asked, his tone teasing but gentle as he wrapped his arms around Mac, frowning again when he felt the chill coming from his skin. “God, darlin’, I’m gone for five minutes and you’re already freezing.”

“But… but this can’t be comfortable for you, a bed is much better,” Mac tried to argue, but at the same time he also snuggled into Jack’s embrace. “And you’re going to get cold, it gets chilly down here at night.” As soon as he said that Mac shivered a little. “And your injuries, you shouldn’t—”

Jack silenced him with a kiss, one of those big hands coming up to cup Mac’s jaw. “Mac, baby, it’s okay,” he whispered against his lips, and Mac slid his arms around Jack in return. “I want to be down here with you, not up in that bed by mself. And the last thing I’m gonna do is watch you suffer, not when I can do something to help.”

He chose that moment to slip his tongue into Mac’s mouth, and Mac exhaled harshly through his nose and kissed back. He got lost in the kiss, feeling happier and lighter than ever. They were curled up together, Jack’s legs pressed to Mac’s tail, his arms around him, and Mac loved him so much it was ridiculous. The kiss was slow and passionate but without urgency—it wasn’t supposed to lead anywhere, it was just a simple gesture of comfort and affection.

“Seriously, guys?” Bozer whined after a moment, but neither Mac nor Jack pulled away.

“Oh leave them alone, Bozer, I think it’s cute,” Leanna scolded, and absently Mac heard them getting into bed, someone turning off the lights. “Besides, it’s not like we were any better when we first got together, and Mac put up with us.”

They went quiet after a moment, and when Mac opened his eyes Jack’s face was draped in shadows. “I love you,” Mac said, just between them, pressing his lips to the corner of Jack’s mouth. He nuzzled his cheek and pressed himself as close as possible, hands sliding up Jack’s back under his t-shirt.

“I love you too, darlin’,” Jack said, kissing Mac’s cheek. “So much.”

He shifted a little until he had Mac wrapped tightly in his arms with Mac’s head pillowed on his shoulder. Mac felt Jack’s lips brush his hair a moment later and couldn’t help but smile. He closed his eyes and inhaled Jack’s smell, gunpowder and… leather, even though he hadn’t worn it in the days Mac had known him. He also smelled like water, but that was probably Mac’s fault. He felt safe and secure in Jack’s hold, and fell asleep like that even though he didn’t mean to.

He woke up a few hours later, unsure of what disturbed him at first. Jack was snoring softly near his ear, his grip on Mac just as firm as it was when he was awake. Mac glanced around in the dark, and the slightest of ripples in the lake caught his attention. He squinted a little, but his eyes widened when he realized what he saw.

The top of a black-haired head and a pair of angular eyes, watching him from just above the surface of the water.

Chapter Text

They stared at each other—Mac and the person he assumed was Desi—and Mac swallowed hard, not knowing what to do. He tightened his arms around Jack, trying to wake him up discreetly, but Jack just cuddled closer to him in sleep, completely unaware of what was happening. Before Mac could do anything else, Desi lunged in his direction with unbelievable speed, grabbing his tail and yanking. Mac only managed to loosen his grip on Jack so he didn’t end up in the water as well before he was dragged under the surface.

Mac wrestled underwater with Desi, getting in a couple punches to her ribs before she clamped an arm around his neck from behind, blocking his gills and making him choke as she dragged him further out into the lake… to a boat idling in the middle of the water. Several armed men dressed in black tactical gear sat on the craft along with James MacGyver. Desi broke the surface with Mac in her grasp, her other hand tangled in his hair to keep him from bending his head forward to bite her arm.

“Good job, Ms. Nguyen,” James said as Mac blinked the water from his eyes. His father smiled and it made Mac’s skin crawl. “Hello, son. Long time no see.”

Mac tried not to let the fear he felt show in his eyes. He stopped struggling since it was clear Desi had the advantage and he wouldn’t be able to break free. “What do you want?” he snarled, not bothering with pleasantries or small talk—whatever his father was there for, it wasn’t good. “I doubt it’s a father-son reunion.”

James chuckled and nodded toward two of the guys with him. They put their guns down and came to the side of the boat, and Desi growled as she tossed Mac up into their grasp. He thrashed a little and a third goon hit him in the gut with the butt of his rifle. “You’re right, Angus—I’m not interested in small talk.” James smirked down at him. “You probably think I’m here to kill you, right?”

“Well a hired assassin showing up at my door kinda points in that direction,” Mac wheezed out, ignoring the sharp pain in his abdomen. “But you coming here to the finish the job yourself? No, that doesn’t sound like you.” He stared at his father with a hard gaze and hoped Jack found a way to get to him, and soon. He had no idea how long he’d be able to stall James, and whatever he had planned for Mac would involve a lot of pain. “You may want me dead, but you want something else first, so why don’t you stop playing games and tell me what it is so I can tell you to fuck off.”

James rolled his eyes. “Did that idiot Murdoc tell you he was an assassin? I’m presuming Dalton or somebody else killed him?” Mac didn’t respond, but his expression must’ve given something away because James snorted derisively. “He was supposed to observe and report only—anything else he did, he did on his own.” He came closer and crouched down in front of Mac, who was being held by his arms by the two goons, and he stepped deliberately on Mac’s tail so he couldn’t try to strike him with it. “I just needed to know where you were so I could have Ms. Nguyen come and collect you. I need you alive, but I don’t need you to make more prototypes. I need you for breeding.”

Mac blinked a few times, and even though he didn’t like it he had to admit his father caught him off guard. His tail hurt, the pain bringing back the memories of James and Walsh torturing him all the time, but he pushed it back. “What?” he asked incredulously. “This is insane. Besides, you don’t really expect me to cooperate with you, do you?”

“I don’t need you to cooperate,” James replied, and Mac felt himself blanch. “All I need is to inject you with the same serum we gave Ms. Nguyen, and we’ll have two ideal candidates to start producing weapons for any government.” His tone turned cruel. “Did you honestly think I twisted your chromosomes around for no reason? You can father children and bear them too, Angus—you know, providing anyone would ever want to get that close to you.” He turned to Desi and whistled; she climbed into the boat, her tail transforming into legs. She was naked, deep red scales covering her breasts and genitals, only unlike Mac she appeared to be entirely female. “Desi, be a dear and keep an eye on him?”

She nodded and the two goons let Mac drop to the deck, going over to confer with James about something at the other end of the boat.

Desi put her foot on Mac’s tail just like James had, but when she ebnt down her black eyes glittered like pieces of onyx. “Did I hurt you?” she whispered. “Because if I did, you’re still gonna have to help me if we’re going to escape.”

Mac’s head spun from everything James just told him and hysterically he noted that James apparently didn’t know everything—judging by his remark about Mac’s sex life, he had no idea the turn Mac’s relationship with Jack had taken. He stared at Desi with wide eyes before a small smile appeared on his face. “Glad to see you’re as tough as Jack and Riley said you were,” he whispered back. “And I’m fine, don’t worry about it. You have a plan?”

She grinned at him, showing two sets of teeth like his. “Yeah, dive off this tin can and swim like hell,” she replied, glancing back over her shoulder. James appeared to be talking angrily into a radio with someone—Walsh, maybe? “Could use a distraction, though.”

As if on cue, the bright flare of headlights washed over them from the direction of the golf course, and Desi saw something Mac couldn’t from the floor of the boat, her eyes going huge. She grabbed Mac under the arms and tossed him over the side, following him under the water a second later—right as Riley’s car came careening off the land and crashed into the aft end of the boat, crumpling the engine and the fiberglass frame. Leanna was behind the wheel because of course she was, and Jack was in the passenger’s seat. They rolled down their windows and clambered out through them, standing on the car as it sunk, taking turns shooting down James’s shocked hired thugs.

James himself seemed to have disappeared… until Mac felt an arm clamp around him and a blade press into this throat from behind. “Put the guns down or I kill him!” he yelled at Leanna and Jack, his voice a boom in Mac’s ear.

Jack and Leanna both lowered their guns immediately, and Mac swallowed hard, trying to control the fear spreading through his body. One wrong move on his part and he’d be dead—he had no doubt James would actually kill him if he needed to, even though it would delay his breeding plans.

Suddenly there was a splash behind them, and James tensed against Mac.

“How about you put the knife down…” Desi sweet voice sounded behind James. “Or I kill you.”

The knife slid out of James’s hand a moment later, and Mac pushed himself as far away as he could. When he turned around, Desi had another knife pressed against James’s throat, probably from one of the dead goons. There was an expression on James’s face that Mac hadn’t seen in so long he almost didn’t recognize it: fear. And it turned out it was the last emotion he expressed, because after a brief pause Desi slit James’s throat anyway, as cleanly as she’d gut a fish.

“See you in hell, asshole,” she practically spat, and Mac wanted to feel shocked or horrified, but instead he was only relieved as his father’s body drifted away into the mess of corpses by the wrecked boat.

Another splash caught Mac’s attention and Jack was practically on top of him, gun forgotten in favor of running his hands over every part of Mac he could reach, dark eyes glistening with worry. “Darlin’, are you okay? Did he hurt you?”

Mac was determined not to cry, not with the others around, but he wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck and hugged him tightly, using his tail to keep them afloat. “I’m fine,” he whispered against Jack’s shoulder. “He roughed me up a bit, nothing serious.”

Jack’s arms wrapped around him too and they floated like that for a moment, until Desi’s voice sounded next to them. “Well that’s new, Jack,” she said teasingly, and Mac felt Jack’s head snap in her direction.

“Desi, I’m so glad you’re okay,” Jack said, and while it was sincere it didn’t sound a damn thing like how he talked to mac. He kept one arm around Mac and used the other one to give her a brief hug.

“As happy as I am that everybody’s okay, we should really get back to the houseboat,” Leanna interjected, jumping into the water. She grabbed on to Desi and raised an eyebrow. “You don’t mind a passenger, do you?”

“Not at all,” Desi said, legs fusing into a shiny red tail underwater. “Somebody’s bound to have called this in to the cops by now—let’s bounce.”

 

~***~

 

Mac and Desi swam back to the houseboat, diving around Mac’s traps and coming up next to the platform. The second Desi and Leanna showed up Riley jumped into the water, throwing her arms around her girlfriend and giving her a kiss. Mac couldn’t help but smile, clinging to Jack even more as Bozer helped Leanna out of the water and hugged her tightly. It was nice seeing everyone happy, but Mac couldn’t get what James had said out of his head.

“Hey,” Jack murmured next to his ear, and Mac turned his head to look at him. Jack put his hand on the side of Mac’s neck and pulled him in for a kiss, soft and sweet. “You really scared me back there. When I woke up and Desi dragged you away, I thought… I was afraid I lost you.” He pressed their foreheads together, his thumb rubbing back and forth over Mac’s jaw. His other arm was still wrapped around Mac, hand gripping at his waist where his skin turned into scales. “Crashing the car into the lake to get you was my idea, but Leanna insisted on driving because she was afraid I’d crash before we got there, I was so worked up.” He pulled back enough to study Mac's expression. “Baby, what’s wrong? What did he say to you?”

Mac looked at Jack, at those eyes filled with love and concern, and he… he couldn’t tell him, right? Not yet anyway, but if there was a chance he could be… Mac couldn’t wrap his mind around it, and he was sure it would send Jack running away no matter how much he loved him. This was just too… too weird, too freaky. “N-Nothing, nothing,” he said, not sounding convincing at all. “Just his usual bullshit.”

Jack looked like he was going to call Mac out, but before he could Desi tugged on Mac’s shoulder. “Hey, your old man told me what a giant nerd you are,” she said, smiling a little to show the words were friendly. “How about you draw some blood from me? I bet you could make a serum that would give you the ability to shift.”

“That’s a great idea,” Mac said quickly, willing to take any distraction he could get—this was the perfect thing to fixate on. “Riley, I don’t suppose you were listening to my father’s last radio call?”

“I was,” Riley said, “and you’ll never guess who he was talking to. I thought it was gonna be Walsh, but it was actually Fat Tony.” She looked at Jack. “I’m presuming he’s the one who dumped you here in the first place?”

“He is,” Jack said darkly, and Mac used the distraction to slip out of his arms and tug Desi toward his desk. “He also gave me two bullets as a parting gift. What the hell did James want from him? I figured once he got rid of me, Fat Tony’s job was done.”

Mac was in the middle of putting a tourniquet on Desi and as he slid the needle into her vein a possibility occurred to him. “Shit, do you think he told Fat Tony you weren’t actually dead?”

“That would be a problem,” Leanna said, putting her hands on her hips. “Fat Tony has an army of mobster goons behind him.”

“Well, I guess Mac needs to make that new serum quick,” Desi said, not even blinking as he took her blood. “Because if he can shift and so can I, all we’d need to do is herd them near the water and we can rip them apart.”

“Technically Mac doesn’t need to be able to shift for you to fight them, right?’ Bozer said, making everyone look at him. “I mean, he’s already shifted, he doesn’t need legs to be a danger in the water.” He had a point, but the problem was Mac wasn’t looking forward to more bloodshed in his lake. Plus he’s not sure if he’d know what to do—he’d never attacked anyone in his current form. He’d do it without a doubt if Jack was in danger, but it would still be a challenge.

“True, but it’s safer for him if he has the option,” Desi said, watching as Mac started spinning down her blood.

They all heard sirens now, and the red-blue flash of police lights was happening on land and out the water. There wasn’t a way for the cops to connect any of this to them—Riley already reported her car as stolen—but it still made Mac nervous. “You guys can, um, try and catch some sleep if you want,” he offered, finding the dropper and beakers he needed. “I’m gonna stay up and work on this for a while.”

He heard Desi and Riley get out of the water, probably to change into something dry along with Leanna. It seemed like Desi could be out of the water for longer periods of time, or maybe indefinitely without problems. They headed upstairs and Bozer went with them, no doubt wanting to get ready for bed and spend some time with his girlfriend.

Once again for some reason Mac assumed Jack got out as well-that’s why he startled when there was a quiet splash from behind him and Jack swam up, still wearing his clothes. “Mind if I join you?”

Mac swallowed hard, willing his hands not to shake as he started extracting plasma from Desi’s blood sample. “Of course not,” he said, and that was the truth—if it were up to him, Jack would be right next to him all the time. Thankfully his hands stayed steady and he didn’t fuck up the extraction. He ran his fingers through his damp hair to get it out of his face and added, “Actually, would you mind getting me a syringe from the fridge?”

He was amazed his voice was level because the urge to cry had been burning at the back of his throat for a while. He felt Jack’s gaze on him but didn’t turn around, knowing he would lose control if he saw the worry in Jack’s eyes. After a second Jack headed to the fridge just like he asked, but instead of handing Mac the syringe he put it on one of Mac’s trays and wrapped his arms around Mac from behind, pulling him close.

“Hey,” he murmured in Mac’s ear, his voice a low, warm rumble, and Mac almost broke down. “You can tell me anything—you know that, right? I love you.”

Mac inhaled sharply and squeezed his eyes shut. “I love you too,” he whispered, because this might be the last time he got to say it. He couldn’t keep dodging Jack’s questions, not when Jack could clearly tell something was wrong—he’d just keep after Mac until he gave him an answer. “My father wanted me alive. Turns out what he wanted to do was use Desi and me for… for some kind of breeding program, so he could sell our… any offspring to the government. Wasn’t specific about which country, but it doesn’t matter.” He almost bit through his tongue getting ready to say the next part. “He told me I was… special, because I can not only father children… but I can have them myself.”

“What?” Jack asked incredulously, and Mac could tell he didn’t get it, not yet. “So what, he said you could get—” He suddenly stopped talking, his whole body tensing against Mac’s back.

He squeezed his eyes shut when he felt the tears burning, choking back a sob. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know,” he whispered, tears rolling down his cheeks. “I swear I didn’t know. If I’d known, I never would’ve… Jack, I didn’t know—”

The sound of a phone ringing startled both of them, and Mac pulled out of Jack’s grasp and turned away, putting a hand over his mouth to keep the sobs in. It was Leanna’s phone going nuts, and she came downstairs to answer it.

“Hello? Yes, this is—oh, okay, sure,” she said, holding out the phone across the water to Jack. “Hey, Jack? It’s for you. Some woman named Matilda Webber?”

“Fuck,” Jack cursed under his breath, and Mac couldn’t see him but he heard him swim over to take the call. Thankfully Leanna went back upstairs, and Mac focused on holding himself together while Jack was on the phone. “Matty, hey, long time no see. Or hear.” Jack’s voice was full of false cheer. “I… what?” He was surprised now, but Mac couldn’t make himself look and see why. “That’s… I appreciate it, thanks, Matty.” He was quiet for a longer moment, but Mac couldn’t hear what Matty said. “Look, I’m not gonna lie, it’s a tempting offer, but… I’ll have to get back to you on that, alright?” From the way Jack held the phone away from his ear it didn’t sound like that was okay with Matty, but he waited her out and then said, “Look, I’ve got some… personal stuff I need to deal with first. Give me a couple days and I’ll let you know.”

He hung up and Mac tensed, his fingers gripping the edge of his workstation so tightly he was afraid he might splinter the wood. He sensed Jack coming back toward him and he dreaded what would happen next. “I really didn’t know,” he repeated in a whisper, shoulders hunching forward as his vision blurred with tears. “I know it doesn’t matter now, but I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Jack was quiet for a moment, and Mac figured this was it—it was over because he fucked it up. Suddenly there were arms around him and Jack turned him around… and he didn’t look angry. He pulled Mac close until Mac’s face was pressed into Jack’s neck, his arms tightening around him as Mac shook uncontrollably, sobbing as quietly as he could. “Shh, darlin’,” Jack whispered against his hair. “Why are you apologizing? None of this is your fault.”

Mac whimpered as his fingers bunched in the back of Jack’s wet t-shirt. It took several gasping breaths before he had enough air to speak. “I should’ve known… I should’ve known there was a reason I’m the way I am when I shift, my father never did anything by accident.” He pressed as close as he could get while also keeping them afloat, and because he was sure Jack would leave after this, he added morosely, “I should’ve known I wouldn’t get to keep you.”

Jack tensed against him again, and for a few seconds it didn’t seem like he was breathing. After a moment he tried to pull back, touching Mac’s cheek to get his attention, but Mac just clung harder—if this was the last time he was going to be held by Jack, he wanted it to last as long as possible. “Mac, baby, what are you talking about?”

Mac pulled back the tiniest bit, just enough to look at Jack’s face… and he looked distraught. “You… you’re going to leave, right?” Mac asked, blinking as more tears ran down his face. “I mean, there’s no way you’d… what if I’m…” He trailed off, unable to utter the word “pregnant”, afraid he might vomit. He dug his fingers into Jack’s back, holding him too hard. “Why would you stay?”

“Why would I—Mac, I love you,” Jack said, cupping Mac’s cheek. “More than I’ve ever loved anyone, there’s no way I’m leaving you. And if you… if you are…” Jack took a deep breath. “All the more reason for me to stay, right? We’ll figure it out, baby, I promise.” There was no hesitation in Jack’s eyes, no doubt, but Mac couldn’t wrap his mind around it. “Whether I knocked you up or not, I’m not leaving.”

Mac stared at Jack for another moment before he grabbed his face and pulled him in for a hard kiss, one that he hoped said all the things his brain couldn’t at that moment. “I love you so much,” he said when they broke apart, fingers ghosting over Jack’s cheeks almost reverently. If it wasn’t for the heavy weight of Jack’s body pressed against his and the cold water of the lake, Mac would be sure he was dreaming. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“And you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Jack murmured, pulling Mac into a much gentler kiss.

When he broke it off Jack looked at him with soft, dark eyes, and Mac couldn’t believe he got so lucky. Exhaling, Mac felt himself calm a little, and then he remembered Jack’s phone call. “Who were you talking to on the phone?”

One of Jack’s hands rubbed up and down Mac’s back. “Matty Webber. We used to work together sometimes at the CIA before she left to head up an offshoot—you know, one of those shady organization that ain’t supposed to exist but does anyway? She… she had her people take out Fat Tony and his goons for me.” The disbelief in Jack’s voice suggests he wasn’t expecting Matty to do anything for him, let alone something that huge. “She offered me a job… and you too, if you can get the serum situation figured out. Apparently her organization was wise to what your old man was doing but they couldn’t locate him before he came to get you.”

Mac blinked at Jack a few times, too shocked to say anything at first. “Me? But I’m… why would she…” He struggled with words for a moment, biting down on his bottom lip. “I’m nothing special, why would she offer me a job? You should take it, obviously… sounds like something right up your alley.”

“Mac, you’re a genius,” Jack said, stressing the last word, his hand coming up to tuck Mac’s now-dry hair behind his ear. “Not only that, but you were a friggin’ EOD tech, and I know for a fact that all this shit in here, the modular kitchen and workspace? You built it all, didn’t you?” When Mac nodded tentatively, Jack smiled and pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “If you could make it so you could shift easily between your tail and your legs like Desi, we could work together, darlin’. Hell, Matty’ll probably hire Leanna and Riley too—maybe even Bozer.”

“You… you’d want that?” Mac asked, staring at Jack with wide eyes. “Working together?” The idea of working with Jack—being with him all the time—sounded amazing and made him even more motivated to figure out the serum. Unless of course he was… pregnant..

Jack nuzzled his cheek, kissing his jaw. “Of course I would. And for the record—since I can tell your big brain is still thinking about it—I love kids. I have, like, twenty nieces and nephews, but I never thought I’d find someone who… who would want to share their life with me, let alone have a family.” His hands moved comfortingly over Mac’s skin, and Mac was left breathless by the amount of affection and longing in Jack’s voice. “So if… if you’re pregnant, then that’s okay. If you’re not, that’s okay too. Just know that I’m… definitely not opposed to the idea.”

“I can’t believe you’re not freaked out by this,” Mac said softly, his hands going up to frame Jack’s face. “But how about we worry about that once we… know? No idea how to find out, but…” He trailed off with a shrug. He privately hoped he wasn’t pregnant—it was too soon, and he still hadn’t fully wrapped his mind around the idea. “And I should probably get back to the serum.”

“How about instead of working yourself to the bone, you come to bed with me?” Jack suggested, sliding his hands up Mac’s arms, fingers holding his wrists so he could kiss each of Mac’s palms. And if it were anyone else Mac would protest, but because it was Jack he allowed himself to be towed over to the net, and he climbed in first before helping Jack inside. Strong arms wrapped around him, Jack’s lips dropping another kiss against his hair. “I love you, baby. And no matter what happens next, I’m gonna be right there with you, okay?”

“Okay,” Mac whispered, a small smile on his face. “I love you too, Jack. So much.”

He snuggled deeper into Jack’s embrace, leaning up to kiss his jaw. And he realized that with Jack by his side he could get through anything, and for the first time in his life he felt like everything was going to be okay, no matter what.

 

THE END