Brian is going to be so fucking pissed is the first thing that pops into Bob's head as he sinks below the churning water. Then he realizes he will probably be dead, so he won't actually have to hear Brian yelling at him for falling overboard. In a storm.
It's not like it was Bob's fault. The ship was rolling nearly sideways on the waves and he couldn't have predicted the rope would snap like that. And now he's probably already dead and just doesn't know it yet. Fuck.
Then seemingly out of nowhere strong arms wrap around his chest and he's being pulled through the water. His lungs burn with the need to breathe, and he's about to just give in when he's being twisted and shifted and there's a tongue prying his lips open and a mouth sealing over his. Air is pushed down his throat and the ache in his lungs eases. He's still light-headed and has no idea what the hell's going on, but maybe he's not quite dead yet.
The lips press against his again, a warm contrast to the cold sea sapping his strength even as he tries to help his rescuer propel them both through the water. It's too dark to make out anything, but he tries to keep his eyes open anyway, wishing he could see who is kissing the air into him again.
Maybe he shouldn't think of it as kissing, just the transfer of oxygen in a perfectly acceptable life-saving technique. Although, he's pretty sure there shouldn't be quite this much tongue action, if the goal is merely keeping him alive until they reach the surface.
The mouth pulls away from his and the person holding him tightens his--her? but Bob hasn't felt any breasts on the body brushing against him--grip and drags Bob along into calmer water. Bob could swear he just felt fish fins slapping against his legs, but he doubts there's any fish around in this storm. Before he can ponder it, his head breaks the surface and fresh cold air pours over him from all sides. He gasps and sucks in as much as he can, filling his lungs and coughing violently.
The arms around him slacken, but don't let go, holding him up gently as a low, soothing voice says, "Shhhh, it's okay, just take deep, even breaths while I get you onto land. You're safe now."
Bob takes that advice and, after several minutes, finally peels his burning eyes open, blinking away salt water until he can see that he's lying on a sandy ledge inside a spacious cave. Faint light seeps in through a wide crack in the rock wall above him and he can finally get a look at his rescuer. It is a man, as he'd guessed. He's shirtless, his arms covered in aquatic themed tattoos (one looks suspiciously like the ship Bob fell off of), and as Bob's eyes drift down he notices the man's not wearing any pants either.
Well, they'd be hard to get on over his fin, Bob thinks and a hysterical laugh bubbles up from his chest. He swallows it down so hard he nearly chokes. A mermaid--man--merman! What the hell?
Bob has heard the stories. Maybe he's seen a suspiciously jewel-toned flash of scales break the waves behind the ship, too big to be any fish he knows of. But he never believed merpeople were real. They were a myth, a fanciful notion, not an unconventionally handsome man smiling at him with straight white human-looking teeth. No huge fangs to rip Bob apart with, no claws at the end of his arms, just hands--normal long-fingered hands. He doesn't look particularly wild, either. His dark-blondish hair is shorter than Bob's and appears to get combed regularly, which is more than Bob can say about a lot of his shipmates.
Bob tells himself not to look, but he can't help it and his gaze goes straight to the front of the merman's lower body, right below his belly button.
"We keep it tucked away when we're not using it. Want to see?" The merman speaks in a deadpan voice, but when Bob jerks his eyes back up to his face, the merman's blue eyes are sparkling with amusement.
"No! Ah, that's umm...okay?" Bob can feel his cheeks burning with embarrassment at being caught, and manages to say, "Thank you. I should have said. Thank you for saving me from drowning."
"No problem. I just happened to be following your ship when I saw you go over." The merman holds out his hand and says, "I'm Matt."
Bob shakes his hand--just like meeting any normal person! he even has a normal name!, he thinks and his mild inner hysteria starts to die down a bit. When Matt looks at him curiously, Bob says, "If I tell you my name in return, will that give you magical power over me?"
"No. I'll just know what to call you instead of 'the hot sailor with the shiny ring in his lip.' What kind of stories have you heard about my people?"
"Crazy ones, obviously." Starting to shiver from the cold and the adrenaline crash, Bob lets out a long breath, just because it feels good to be able to do that. "My name's Bob."
"Nice to meet you, Bob." Matt shimmies across the sand in this really distracting way and unfurls the fine blue fins of his tail, draping them across Bob's legs like a very thin blanket. He wraps one arm around Bob's shoulders and briskly rubs his hand up and down Bob's biceps. "Is that better?"
Bob is already starting to feel a little warmer. "Yeah, thanks."
"You'd warm up faster if you took off your wet clothes."
"Um." Bob tilts his head away from where Matt seems to be sniffing his hair and looks down at himself and then at Matt and then back to himself. "No."
"Suit yourself. I don't know what you've got to be shy about." Matt smiles and raises his eyebrows, and Bob feels himself blushing again. After a moment, Matt says, "I'll take you to the nearest port after the storm blows itself out."
"You can do that?"
"Sure. You might not have noticed, but I'm a pretty strong swimmer." Matt squeezes Bob to him and beams. "The storm will have blown your ship off course, so we might even make it there before they do."
"That's...cool." Bob is surprised to find he's a little disappointed that his time with Matt will be so short. Meeting a real live merman is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to him, and now that the fear and trauma of nearly dying are starting to fade, he can actually appreciate that. "So, can I ask you something?"
"What's with the singing and luring sailors to their death?"
"Nah, that's sirens. They're a different breed. I mean, I can sing, but I can also think of much better things to do with a hot young sailor than lure him to his death." Matt slides his fingers into Bob's wet hair and turns his head, pressing his lips to Bob's.
This time Bob can breathe on his own just fine.