Omi curled up a bit in the pool at the sound of things being pushed around. It took him some time to realize that he wasn’t in the water, and a longer time to realize where on land he was. When he did remember however his eyes flew open and he sat up, pouring water everywhere. His eyes grew wide when he heard the human’s voice stuttering some words under his breath. He couldn’t make out what Ry was saying, but he could tell from his body language and tone that he was irritated.
“S-sorry,” Omi got out of his lips, watching as Ryan moved about the living room. The human stopped in his tracks, sighing before he folded his hands over his chest.
“It’s alright. I’ll just mop it up,” Ry said, giving Omi a small smile that called the merman down a bit. He still felt bad, so when he moved about the pool to get in a more comfortable position he did it with as much caution as possible. Ryan noticed and smiled at Omi before heading to get the mop. When he was done he helped Omi out of the pool and let him sit on a towel on one of the living room sofas.
“I have work today, do you want to go back to the water?” Ryan asked. He was warming up some fish for Omi and getting coffee for himself. He had work in a few minutes, and even though he wanted to miss it and stay around Omi for a few more hours he couldn’t. Omi didn’t really understand the first part of the sentence, but he didn’t want to go back to his cove just yet, so he shook his head.
“Are you sure? You’ll be here all day,” Ryan said, and Omi nodded. Ryan sighed, sticking his coffee mug into the microwave after taking out Omi’s plate of fish. Omi blinked when Ryan handed him a plate of warmed up fish. The merman smiled, doing a small clap before he started to dig in with his fingers.
“I’ll be gone for…” Ryan trailed. Does he know what hours are? He wondered, biting his bottom lip. “For most of the day,” Ryan said, completing his sentence.
Omi didn’t look like he understood much, but Ryan felt he was happy since the merman was smiling at him and swinging his legs back and forth. It had been less than half a day since Ryan picked him up from the shore, but he had already gotten a hang of his legs.
“Fish!” Omi said when he realized he was almost done with the full salmon on his plate. “More fish!” he said, making Ryan laugh when he went to grab his mug from the microwave.
“Calm down, I’ll get you more,” Ryan said dropping his cup of coffee on the counter before going through the fridge. If he was going to keep Omi he had t restock on a lot of things. Salt, fish, clothes… “Hey, apart from fish what else do you like to eat?” Ryan asked, turning a bit so that he could look at Omi. Omi shuffled on the sofa, staring at Ryan with a blank look as he tried to process the question.
“Shell?” he muttered, unsure if that was the right word.
“Shellfish?” Ryan asked, and Omi frowned, shaking his head.
“No,” he said firmly before putting his hands together to form a small cup. “Shell.”
“Oh, oysters!” Ryan said, nodding in understanding before Omi looked away. The merman smiled, not sure if Ryan understood him but he hoped he did.
“Okay, I’ll get them when I go to work. Are you sure you can you stay here by yourself?” Ryan asked again, turning to look at Omi again. Ryan smiled, letting out at a sigh before he went to his room to pick up his bag. He changed the pool water before heading out, leaving Omi in the apartment all by himself. He giggled the keys as he walked downstairs, hoping that nothing happened to the merman while he was gone.
“You’re late,” Sarah said as Ryan walked into the room while rolling his eyes. “What happened, you’re never late,” the dark-skinned own said, turning to him in a way that made her bob of curls bounce.
“Nothing really, Ryan said as he changed into his lab coat. Sarah was already in hers, and she was working on some DNA samples. She worked with the small whales and dolphins. At the research facility had two pink freshwater dolphins that she was studying now. For the most part, Ryan studied common fish and microorganisms in the water. His pollution study was funded by a grant, it wasn’t the kind of thing he usually worked on.
“How’s your research coming along?” Sarah Asked, walking to the other side of the room with two test tubes in her hand. Ryan sighed, shaking his head and Sarah gave him a sad smile.
“Don’t feel discouraged. It’s a try, try, and try again thing,” she said, placing the test tubes on their holders before turning to face him. She licked her bottom lip, frowning a bit.
“Hey, yesterday I saw you with someone. Who was that?” she asked, and Ryan’s eyes widened. He had forgotten Sarah stayed overnight to conduct her research, and that she stayed on the top floor. She probably saw then waddle past from the balcony upstairs.
“Just someone that was too lazy to take the other side, that’s all,” he lied, shrugging. Sarah cocked her head to the side, looking at him with a disbelieving look but she didn’t pry further. She turned to her work, leaving Ryan to his. The day went by, and when it was time to clock out and call it a day Ryan thought about asking Sarah something. She worked with dolphins, and for the most part, Omi had made dolphin lie sounds. Ryan knew it was a far fetch, but maybe there were similar behavior patterns between the two.
Thinking about the merman made Ryan worried. He just hoped the creature hadn’t hurt itself, or worse, broke out and got lost.
“Hey, Sarah,” Ryan called when the two were about to leave their lab for the day. Sara had changed back to her regular clothes. She turned to him as they walked down the hall, adjusting the red coat she had on. The facility was a small research one, and there were just shy of twenty teams working behind closed doors. Some of ‘teams’ being one-man shows like Ryan or Sarah.
Ryan opened his mouth but closed it again before humming. “Can I borrow any of your books on dolphin behavior?” There was the internet, but then again, most research papers online were behind pay sites. Why struggle through paper paysites when there was a dolphin expert right in front of him?
Sarah frowned, before raising a brow at him. “What for? You’re working on microbes now. What do you need to know about dolphins for?” she asked, looking away from him. “Do you think dolphins are eating the fish? If you think there are dolphins around here, forget about it, most of them migrated because of the pollution. It’s not a population control problem,” she said, and Ryan stopped in his tracks.
“What? Did I just destroy your hunch?” Sarah asked, stopping in her tracks too. She turned to face Ryan, trying to figure out what the expression on his face meant. “Hey, I know you’re sad about the patent thing, and I’m sure you’ll figure out something soon.”
Sarah hadn’t known Ryan for very long, but with the knowledge from the short time they had worked in the facility together she knew he was a hard worker — and maybe sometimes he did overwork himself.
“I have a Dolphin,” Ryan blurted, and Sarah frowned before her eyes widened in shock.
“A dolphin?” Sarah repeated, hoping that she had heard right.
“Yes, it’s in my apartment right now. You don’t have to worry too much, you know I can take care of it,” Ryan saying, already knee deep in his lie. It was an outrageous lie, but it wasn’t like he could tell her he had a merman or something. At least there was a consensus that dolphins existed. “
“How did you get a dolphin, and how did you move it into your tiny apartment—?” Sarah sighed, shaking her head. She closed her eyes and counted backward so that she could regain her cool. A dolphin. Ryan had a dolphin.
“Why didn’t you just bring him to the facility? I’m in charge of the Dolphins after all.” She was whispering now since a handful of other colleges had also clocked out for the day and were passing her by. Sarah smiled weakly at the people that greeted them before turning back to Ryan and pulling him by the hand to their lab again. They needed privacy to have this discussion.
“I didn’t bring him here because he’s not tamed,” Ryan said before turning back to his friend. “Also, you know what they do to them after a while, right?”
Ryan watched Sarah’s face concoct into a pained expression. He looked away in guilt. Using something that was beyond Sarah’s control to move forward with his lie was a shitty move, but it had to be done.
“Where did you find it?” Sarah asked after a while of silence, not asking Ryan any more questions. Ryan watched the woman walk to her locker before going through it.
“Washed on the shore. It’s a bottlenose dolphin,” Ryan answered, adding the bottlenose part because that’s what Omi noises reminded him of. He approached his friend and looking over her shoulder as she continued to go through her things. She took out a mini medic box, and a file and some books. “It’s not sick though. It just can’t swim now — damaged fin,” Ryan continued to say. He just hoped he could remember half of the lie later.
“You’re going to release it, right?” Sarah asked, turning to face him with the thing in her hands. Her grip on them was tight, and Ryan could see the plea in her eyes. Ryan knew getting attached to new sets of dolphins and eventually letting them go to be killed or sold off to low funded zoos or water parks broke her heart, but he hadn’t imagined how much.
“Yes,” Ryan said, and Sarah smiled, sighing in relief before pushing strands of her curly hair back.
“Can I come and see it?” she asked. She suddenly looked excited, and the guilt from before was eating at Ryan again. Ryan looked away, wondering what he should say now.
“Maybe later, it’s still anxious,” he said, looking back at Sarah before staring down at the things Sarah was holding. “Thanks,” he said, reaching out to take them.
“Oh,” she said, smiling a little. “Invite me whenever it’s okay for me to come then.”
She handed the things to Ryan. “There are some antibiotics there as well,” she said, and Ryan nodded, hugging the items to himself. The two let the facility together, and Sarah waved him off before getting into her own car and leaving.
Ryan had driven out of the parking lot and into the main road a few minutes later. He looked over at the items on the passenger seat when he was caught up in traffic. It wasn’t so late in the evening, and Ryan was sure he could make it back before eight. He smiled a little, hoping that Omi was okay.
He was going to try and help Omi, but first, he had to make sure the merman was alright — then he could himself back into his research, and hopefully, Omi would be able to assist him. He did live in the water after all. Maybe he could answer some questions Ryan had been puzzled about for a while.