i need the fish boy angst
you fuckin asked for it so here you go
don’t worry, it won’t end like this. expect part 2 tomorrow.
Dan smiled as Arin stuck his tongue out at an exasperated Ross. “Stop it, Ross. You know he’s not gonna let you touch his tail.”
“But you get to! And Suzy did once!” Ross whined, throwing up a rude finger at Arin, who fumbled as he returned the gesture. Dan was certain Arin didn’t know what it meant, but imitated Ross out of habit.
“Yeah, well, we’re trained in that sort of thing. If he doesn’t want you to touch it, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Ross rolled his eyes as Arin smirked and drifted on the top of the water, flicking his tail a bit too hard and splashing Ross. He sputtered.
“Why you–! Dammit, now I’m soaked.”
“Go change,” Dan said, trying to hide his laughter and failing. Arin grinned at him, a sharp tooth sticking out.
Just as Ross left the lab, Suzy and Adam came hurrying in. Adam immediately rushed over to his desk and started sorting papers, and Suzy walked over to Dan and Arin. Arin noticed her tenseness and frowned, his ear fins pulling back.
Dan’s brows creased. “What’s wrong?”
“He’s coming,” Suzy blurted, eyes darting between Dan and Arin. “Mr. Fischbach. The director. He’ll be here any minute for a status report. Brian just warned me.”
“He’s supposed to schedule appointments,” Dan spat, already angry. “He treats Arin like–like a thing.”
“Doesn’t matter. Dan, we need to–”
“I know.” His tone was clipped. Arin, who didn’t really understand what was happening but knew it was upsetting Dan, leaned over the side of the tank, pressing his lips together. His scared eyes met Dan’s and he sighed.
“Don’t worry, Arin. It’s a routine inspection. They can’t hurt you.” Despite Dan’s reassuring words, Arin picked up on his tense shoulders and tired eyes. He shrank back, suddenly afraid for the first time since he’d come to the lab.
Suzy noticed, as Dan’s demeanor was not exactly comforting, and smiled up at the merman. “It’s going to be fine, Arin. We’re prepared. It’s not fun, but it’s just something we have to do.”
Arin blinked, looking like he wanted to say something, but then they heard the door open. He swam off faster than either of them could react.
“Dr. Avidan? Dr. Berhow?” The cold, analytic voice of Director Fischbach echoed around the room. He stepped inside, wearing his usual dark suit and tie. His hair was combed to perfection except for one curl poking out over his forehead. Glasses were perched at the end of his nose. Despite his short stature, he was an intimidating man and his dark eyes assessed the empty tank silently.
“Welcome, Director,” Suzy managed, walking over to greet him while Dan tried to calm down and act normal. “Are you here to see our latest reports? We’ve had significant success with the subject lately.”
Suzy’s tone strained with the word subject, but if the director noticed, he gave no indication. “No, Dr. Berhow. I’m here to see the subject for myself.”
Dan unfroze. “Unfortunately, he’s not appearing at the moment, sir. Perhaps you’d like–”
“Then call him,” the director interrupted, looking directly at Dan. “Surely you’ve tamed it by now? Can’t you call it?”
Dan didn’t even realize his fists were clenched until Suzy gave him a warning look. “I-I can try.” Dan hated this. He knew Arin would come if he called. He always did.
Dan turned stiffly and climbed up to the platform, all while the director’s eyes followed him. Reaching the top, he perched there for a split second too long before calling quietly, “Arin. Arin, could you come here, please?”
There was a tense moment when Dan thought Arin wouldn’t come and was filled with relief, until he saw the familiar pink glint and Arin’s brown eyes suddenly popped up from underwater, looking at Dan questioningly. “Yes, Dan?”
Mr. Fischbach’s steps echoed in the room as he walked over to the tank, looking up at Arin. “I see. So it is true. It’s real.”
Arin’s fins moved nervously as he looked down at the director, then at Dan. “Dan?”
Dan swallowed thickly. “Arin, this is Director Fischbach. He’s in charge of this facility. Please be respectful.”
Arin looked confused, turning to look back down at the director, who was assessing Arin like he was an article up for auction. “A director? What’s that?”
“Spin around, merman,” the director said suddenly. When Arin just blinked at him, he snapped his fingers, impatient. “Doesn’t it obey? I said, turn around.”
Arin’s eyes hardened, but reluctantly, he turned fully so Mr. Fischbach could look him over. “Hm. Definitely odd. You’re performing all areas of study on the subject, Dr. Avidan?”
Arin blinked, looking over at Dan. “The…subject?”
Dan’s hands knotted into his coat. “Yes, sir.”
“Including electroshock responses?”
Another squeeze. “Yes, sir.”
“Hold on,” Arin said, and Dan’s heart almost stopped. “Who are you exactly, and why are you acting like Dan’s been slacking off? He works hard. Leave him alone.”
There was a beat of silence. Then:
“You are nothing more than a mindless fish we’re studying. It would benefit you to watch your tongue and obey like the animal you are.”
Arin stared down at the director. Several emotions passed over his face, including shock, anger, hurt, and confusion. Finally, he looked over at Dan, his voice cracking. “I’m…a mindless animal?”
Dan wanted to scream. He wanted to hold Arin tightly and reassure him that he was smarter than anyone and nothing was further than the truth. He wanted to tell him how lovely and creative and intelligent he was. But saying anything would betray the unprofessional way they’d been treating him, and he’d be moved to another lab. Dan couldn’t stand the thought of losing him.
So he lied.
“You’re an observation.”
Suzy flinched, and the director nodded approval. “I can see the experiments are going well, doctor.”
Arin had frozen. He stared back at Dan, his eyes impossibly large and emotionless. His ear fins jerked once, and his mouth opened, his voice cracking.
“Could an observation save your life?”
The words drilled into Dan, but nothing could hurt him more than the tears starting to form on the sides of Arin’s eyes. Nothing made him cry. Arin didn’t cry. Yet…
A single tear broke from the side of his face, and Dan’s resolve almost broke. He reminded himself that this was for Arin’s protection. He had to keep Arin here. Who knew what the other labs would do to him.
Arin turned away and swam off, leaving just a bit of saltwater spraying a few drops onto Dan’s face. He reached up to wipe them away robotically.
“Excellent work so far, both of you,” the director spoke from where he was looking over Suzy’s notes, snapping Dan out of his trance. “Keep it up, I want more detailed reports on the subject’s pain threshold soon.”
With that, the director swept out of the lab, and Suzy collapsed into her desk chair, her head in her hands. Adam turned to look at Dan, who was staring down into the water from his perch on the platform, unmoving.
“Dan?” Adam asked quietly. “Are you okay?”
Dan blinked, turning to look at Adam. With a jolt, the intern realized tears were sliding down Dan’s face.
Dan laughed brokenly. “I’m fine. He gets to stay here. We pulled it off.”
The misery in Dan’s voice said otherwise. Adam looked at Suzy, who was wiping back tears of her own. “Dan’s right. Arin can stay, so that’s what matters.” Her tone hardened. “We’ll explain it to Arin. He can’t–he doesn’t…”
A tense silence stretched in the lab. Excusing himself, Adam went to find Ross, and Suzy turned back to her computer, ignoring the tearstains on her face.
Dan stayed sitting on the platform for the rest of the day, staring at the water where he’d seen Arin’s desolate face disappear until it grew dark.
He never said a word.