She’s lightning quick in the water, translucent body almost impossible to spot save for her ocean hued insides. She reminds you of a blue-bellied fish you once saw in an aquarium, but so much majesty could never be contained in glass.
When she sees you approach the end of the dock, she greets you with happy chattering and flashes of bright colours in her skin, still not quite able to form your native words. Her expressions and simple sounds convey her well enough, as do her grasping hands and clumsy mimicry of kisses.
She offers shells and lost trinkets, and most often fresh shellfish. Especially oysters. She sings her people’s language when you get a pearl and delights in the strand you have from past visits.
But her favorite thing to do with you is cuddle in the shallows, long body curled protectively around you while she explores the exotic differences of your form. Always mindful of her claws, careful with her maw of needle teeth, and most importantly your sea maiden will never let you drown.
It’s taken several times to get her to stop keening when you have to leave, almost dangerously chilled from the water, but it’s a precious heartache that makes your return even sweeter.
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The market is Thor’s favorite part of town. It stands timeless, unchanging, even as the relentless march of industry sweeps up the little village he spent is summers in as a boy. At the dockyard, large fishing boats bellow and belch black smoke, slumbering like beasts, content after devouring the small, wooden dinghies they had replaced. Even the rumble of automobiles had reached this slice of Thor’s boyhood, but the town’s roads were yet too narrow for the autos to reach the market.
And so the market sits, lovely, unchanging.
Merchants call out their wares, Fresh fish! Salmon! Shellfish! and Cheese, milk, churned butter!. There is a yeasty smell to the market, a tantalizing whiff of baking bread and life. So many people push around Thor, women jostling to find the best deals, children laughing and chasing their dogs’ tails while the men chase tails of a different kind.
There is a charm, to be sure.
But while Thor might have lazed away the long days of summer here as a youth, he has a far different purpose now. And the crush of people serves him well—no one can easily track one man in a crowd. The noise keeps words from falling into unwelcome ears.
Thor winds his way to a certain stall, wary of making a beeline. Instead, he buys some spices from one vendor and fruit from another. A lovely pair of gloves. Pays a coin to have his shoes shined. Only well long after he first came to the market does Thor stop at Loki’s stall.
Fishhooks and short, sharp knives are scattered across the display. A tangle of net is in his hands, and those long fingers carefully pick away knots and weave the fabric into place. If he had been born in the city, like Thor, Loki might have made a wonderful pianist.
“Laufeyson,” Thor says, tipping his head. He lifts a fishhook and examines the needled point.
Loki grunts, setting aside his web of net. “You haven’t seen Hilde, have you?”
“Hilde?” Thor glances out at the crowd, recalling a cheerful and plump girl. “No. Why? Is she missing?”
“Unfortunately,” Loki replies, gloomy, “no.”
“Ah. Is her belly swollen with a little black haired bastard, then?”
Loki sniffs. The town has a fair few of the scamps around, and there’s more, no doubt, birthed to fine ladies who chanced a visit and lost their wits to a handsome smile and well-spun story.
Thor cannot honestly say he has not fallen victim, either.