Licking at Wounds
For the first time in sweeps, Eridan kicked his legs as fast and as powerfully as he possibly could. His muscles burned with acidic exertion as he shot through the salt water like a shark, mouth open as his system ripped out every bit of oxygen it could get. The current pulled and slowed him down, so he tore off his cape, scarf, and shirt (fuck everything about this situation for forcing him to ditch his favorite clothes, but he could find them later... and right now, speed was by far a priority). The gills carved in his his torso opened like gates, water streaming through and, without the drag, his legs propelled him even faster, his muscled body twisting and heaving in the murkiness.
He could hear the Whisper, feel it propagating through the water; it was squeezing his skull, it was going to melt his eyes, he was going to die and only two thoughts remained in his head, repeating over and over and over and over as he tried to keep a hold of his sanity:
hurry Fef hurry she's gonna kill us please hurry
where the fuck are you.
It was almost impossible to locate much of anything underneath the surface with the Whisper churning the whole fucking ocean, bit by bit, but Eridan swam with every drop of adrenaline that flooded his bloodstreams, eyes looking desperately for a sign, any little thing that would give him a direction; a glimpse of orange, a flash of red or blue, even a murky cloud of mustard yellow... anything, anything because right now he had nothing.
He bellowed Sollux's name over the horrific vibrations, head whipping around, vascular system pushing panic through his veins. Was this where Sol and Fef usually hung out? Was this anywhere near where he fell in? It was fucking impossible to tell, it was just water, water everywhere just blue blue blue, not even a fuckin' strand a kelp or piece a trash, at least land had coddamn fuckin' marks, for ship's sake. What if Eridan was wrong, what if he was miles off, what if he was swimming away from Sollux what if Sollux was dying what if he was already what if he was and then
and Eridan torqued his body mid-stroke and aimed straight for the spot where he thought he saw something, thought he saw a glint of red. There was a tiny dark patch in the water, fuzzy and amorphous until Eridan sped closer, then he saw grey smears, then legs, then arms and then four small, sharp, orange horns and he slammed into the figure, wrapping his arms around the torso. He tasted something metallic and realized that it was blood passing through his gills, streaming out in wispy strands from Sollux's nose. It was like an electric shock to his system, it tasted so fucking good, and he was able to withstand the psychoacoustic tremors coursing through the ocean by drinking, by breathing Sollux in, by devouring him as he hurtled towards his island spurred by the sudden, overwhelming hunger for more. When the arms that had curled around his neck fell slack, he roared furiously and kicked and kicked and kicked.
The soft hued glow of the moons grew brighter by the second, faint refracted rays ghosting through drifting seaweed, and then the horrid pressure started to wane. Eridan gasped down water, moaning softly as his mind cleared, and he focused his panic solely on the body in his arms. The dark depths got lighter, lighter still and then he saw coral reefs rise up as he pushed forward. Lighter, lighter, then at last he broke the surface and dragged the comatose boy up onto the sand roughly, reeling with dizziness as the painful aftershocks snapped away, not nearly as potent in the open air.
When they were safely away from the waves, Eridan kneeled over Sollux's stomach and placed the heels of his hands on the motionless sternum, starting to push violently. After what seemed like hours (but was really just a few seconds), Sollux sputtered once and Eridan turned him on his side as he convulsed, vomiting up water, salt, and the rest of the contents of his stomach along with. The thin troll gasped for air, coughing up more than he could breathe, and every dry heave, every gargling breath made Eridan's own inhalations seem like gifts. When Sollux retched up the last of the fluid from his throat, he slumped back and his chest wheezed desperately. His body shook weakly, but he was alive.
He was alive, she didn't kill him, he was breathing and Eridan doubled over and pressed his forehead to Sollux's chest, feeling it move. He let out a relieved, but bitter laugh and ran his fingers through Sollux's sopping hair, lacing them through and around the sharp horns. Curses rushed out of his lips like blessings. Every obscenity made him feel that much more lucky. The Whisper was barely even a breath for Feferi's lusus, and yet had nearly killed the troll beneath his hands. He had never felt more humbled. When he noticed Sollux's breathing even out, he moved aside and pressed palms against his eyes underneath his glasses. He slowed his thoughts and listened, memorized the sound of Sollux's rattling breaths, of his toneless throat. When cool scales nudged his shoulder, he let his head fall to the side against the creature.
"Go find Fef," he mumbled flatly and the white snout against his cheek let out a snort. "Yeah. Tell her I got 'im. He's breathin'."
His lusus pulled away and snorted again, rocking his head slightly at Eridan.
"I know. Just tell her ta focus on feedin' and such. Try an' find the goat too, see if he knows what the flyin' fuck that was all about. Fuckin' came outta nowhere."
A short whinny was given in reply before ivory scales streaked through the air and then disappeared underwater with a faint splash. Eridan thought of Feferi in the depths with the emissary and felt a reminiscent pang of fondness. She must be worried about Sollux. They had gotten so close lately, looking more and more pale with every passing day. They were a pretty good match.
He turned and watched silently as Sollux reached up with a quivering hand to wipe blood away from a coated lip. Little droplets of water obscured Eridan's vision, so he took off his glasses to clean them on his pants. When he put them back on, he saw Sollux looking up at him, those dichromatic eyes unfocused and half-open.
Shit, Eridan thought and combed his hair back out of his face, holding eye contact. No words came up between them, no thank you or you're welcome, no you saved me or you scared me. But that was okay. Eridan could feel them and he knew that Sollux felt them too. Or, some of them anyway.
He wasn't so sure if Sollux felt a staggering wave of warm and obsessive pity too.
Shit, Eridan thought again and moved to slide a hand underneath Sollux's neck in order to pull him upright. An arm draped across his shoulders, weak and lifeless; he grabbed the wrist and wrapped his arm around a thin waist and stood up slowly. He didn't say anything as Sollux slumped against him. Didn't say anything when he had to walk slow while Sollux's motor control (not to mention the rest of his think pan) rearranged itself. Didn't say anything when Sollux pretended to cough again when, in reality, the psionic was trying not to cry.
He didn't say anything when he felt like doing the same thing.
Death was familiar. It was normal, expected sometimes; just another facet of Alternian culture. It happened all the time. They both knew neighbors that were killed, used for food or other purposes, and they had both been taught from the moment their wiggler pans were capable of retaining information that they had to fight to survive and nobody would be there to protect them. That was all well and good, but...
Feeling death breathe down their necks, feeling their organs and bones start to implode, feeling it coming when they weren't ready to face it yet...
That was quite far from familiar.
So neither of them said anything as they stumbled into Eridan's broken ship. Eridan helped Sollux step into his ablution trap and silently (but with wide eyes) acquiesced when he was pulled in after. They peeled off each others clothes, washed the sand and blood from skin, and clung to each other when they both sunk to the floor and cried, and gasped, and screamed.
Eridan licked the tears off of Sollux's cheeks, licked the last seeping, sallow drops that dripped from his nose, and it was kind of gross except it wasn't really because it tasted sharp and good. Not only tasted good, it felt good to clean him up, felt good to lower himself and fix the damage. Sollux pushed him away and hauled Eridan's knee up to return the favor. Eridan stared in confusion until he saw the shallow purple cuts that Sollux's tongue slide against. He didn't remember getting them, but he didn't particularly care about the circumstances because Sollux was comforting him in return, and it was exhilarating.
He opened his mouth but before he could say anything, a hand covered his lips and Sollux shook his head once.
"Don't. You ruin everything by talking, jutht keep your flap shut for onthe in your life."
Eridan pulled the hand away roughly and moved forward, crushing his nose against Sollux's cheek awkwardly.
"I thought you were dead," Eridan snarled and Sollux sucked in a breath. He was silent for a moment as the steaming water rained on them and then he nuzzled Eridan back.
Eridan whined and then kissed Sollux desperately, mindlessly, and Sollux hummed and kissed back desperately, mindlessly. The kiss was sloppy and needy, the kiss was stupid and erratic, the kiss was the most pathetic kiss in the history of kisses and it was the best fucking thing Eridan could ever hope to have from the most intoxicatingly wretched troll Eridan could ever hope to know.
"I'm tired," Sollux whispered when he pulled away and he slumped back against the cool wall of the trap. He squeezed his eyes shut in pain and rubbed at his forehead.
"You're tired?" Eridan huffed in retort and mussed the salt out of his hair under the stream. "I was a fuckin' knight in shinin' ass armor back there, and you're tired?"
Sollux lightly struck Eridan's arm with the back of a hand and smirked softly, "Don't flatter yourthelf."
"I'll flatter myself as much as I like. That was the fastest I ever did swim, thank you very much," Eridan replied and held his head up high.
"The fathtetht, eh? I wonder why that ith."
Eridan opened his mouth to counter but paused at the self-satisfied look on Sollux's face, processed the jab, and then his face fell into a pout. A smile pulled at Sollux's mouth for a moment, but then contorted again as another, more anxious thought surfaced.
"She'll be alright."
Sollux stared at his hands with a scrunched up, guilty expression. The water from the trap started to run lukewarm.
"We'll spoil 'er rotten. Get her new rings, buncha fish cages, or whatever else."
That got a weak smile out of Sollux and Eridan stood up, turning off the trap. He snorted as Sollux held out his hands in a help me up gesture (which Eridan did, happily, though he would never admit it), and they both dragged themselves over to Eridan's recuperacoon and fell in with a viscous splash. Eridan groaned as the sopor eased his aching limbs.
"We'll thank 'er and such... tomorrow..." he mumbled with a yawn, but spluttered slightly as Sollux curled up against him, burying his face in the curve of Eridan's neck. For once in his life, Eridan shut up.
"You too..." Sollux said stiffly and placed a hand on Eridan's chest. "Thankth."
Eridan wanted to say lots of things, wanted to ask so many questions, his thoughts wildly processing and considering all the things that this could mean, but... fuck it. Too much had happened in what seemed like no time at all, and dragging up emotional shit right now seemed... exhausting. Tomorrow, maybe.
But not tonight.