SOUND OF THE SEA
JC hung back behind a pillar, waiting for the group of students to hurry by. They laughed and chattered as they chased each other away from the day’s lessons. He took a deep breath and hurried on his way. He KNEW if he could just move fast, he’d get to see the ships go by on their way out to the celebration. He’d overheard some of the sailors and fisherman talking. They were hiring on to work on the royal ships for the Prince’s birthday party, a spectacular gala that was supposed to go into the wee hours of the morning. Not that JC really paid attention to morning versus night, but apparently it was going to be the party to end all parties.
JC looked to his left and right and made his move. He darted down pathways and around corners, finally heading for the sun. “And WHERE do you think you’re going?”
JC jerked his tail but AJ’s hold was strong. “Out,” he said casually. “Let me go, you idiot.”
“I repeat, where do you think you’re going?”
“I need some…”
AJ chuckled. “Fresh air? Yeah, like I buy THAT.”
“AJ, let GO of me.” JC whipped his lower half, but AJ refused to release him.
“You’re going up there again?” AJ lifted his head, dark eyes searching for whatever JC saw on the surface. “It’s just…”
“It’s just everything, AJ,” JC said patiently. “I like watching them. They work so hard, and build such wonderful things!”
“I think our life is pretty great down here, don’t you?” AJ motioned through the rippling aquamarine water.
“It is beautiful. And I love my home and my family,” JC promised. “I just like to see…see something different.”
“What’s going on?” Another voice chimed in from behind AJ. JC rolled his eyes.
“Howie, AJ won’t let me go.”
“Howie, JC here is planning on another little visit upstairs.”
“JC…” Howie sighed. “Is this really necessary? Do you get how dangerous this is?”
“I KNOW how dangerous it is, Howie,” JC snapped. He flipped his tail and AJ finally let him go. “Do you think I’d really go up there and endanger myself…endanger ALL of you? I’m very careful. No one’s EVER seen me. They’re having a party. Their Prince’s birthday. And I just want to see them getting ready.” He ran a hand through dark hair that flowed in the water. “And I like the music. They sing while they work.”
“Let him go, AJ,” Howie said. “We can’t stop him.”
AJ cross his arms over his slender chest, his dark tail snapping angrily. “This…”
“Is none of your business.” JC squeezed his arm and smiled happily at Howie. “I’ll be back later. I promise I’ll be careful.” With a glimmer of bright green, JC spun around and headed for the surface.
“King John is going to filet us if he finds out we let him go,” AJ told Howie.
“So he doesn’t find out. I’m hungry. Let’s find something to eat.” Howie slowly swam away, with AJ right behind him.
JC slowly surfaced, careful not to cause more than a slight ripple in the water. He swam to his favorite rock, which had the perfect indentations to hold onto yet was big enough to hide behind if necessary. Sure enough, the three large ships were full of activity as everyone worked to get things ready for the party. After a while, one of the men started singing, a lustful sailor’s song that made JC’s tail swing in time with the music.
JC sighed, resting his head on his arms as the gentle tide bobbed him up and down. What he’d told AJ was true. He did love the large family he was a part of. He knew how lucky he was to live in a safe and warm environment, protected by the strength of their good and honest king. But sometimes he just wanted MORE. He didn’t know why. He knew he was supposed to find a mate, some mermaid or merman that he’d spend the rest of his life with, but that just didn’t seem like enough.
Suddenly the singing stopped and JC popped his head up over the top of the rock, going much higher than he probably should have. He heard the excited buzz of the men on the ship, and realized something important was happening.
“Why can’t I just trust you to take care of it?”
“Because you’re the Prince, and it’s your party, and do you REALLY want me to take care of anything?” Strong hands tugged at the jacket, brushing at the lapels of his velvet and satin coat.
“For God’s sake, Justin, I’m just going down to the docks. I’m not receiving the King of England or something.”
Justin ignored the green glare as he stepped back. “You’re a prince. You need to look it no matter WHERE you go.”
The prince in question sighed, rolling his eyes. “Do I meet your approval?”
Justin beamed at him. “Lance, the only way you could look more royal is if you were wearing a crown.”
“Thank GOD I have you to keep me looking presentable,” Prince Lance said, rolling his eyes. “Can we go now? I was hoping to nap before the party.”
“You are SO high-maintenance,” Justin muttered, pulling on his own jacket. “Where’s Nick?”
“Here.” A tall blond poked his head into Lance’s chambers. “I have the carriage out front.”
“Plus, Lance, you know that it will give the men a thrill if you stop by and check everything out,” Justin pointed out as they made their way through the palace. Anyone they passed stopped whatever they were doing to drop a curtsy or give a bow. Lance made sure to smile and nod to everyone they came in contact with.
“Would it KILL you to address me as Your Royal Highness?” Lance snarled under his breath as they headed for the front door.
“Lance, I’ve known you since I was six and you were eight,” Justin said quietly. “Don’t plan on me starting something like that NOW.”
“And back then we called you Your Royal Geekiness,” Nick said, snickering under his breath.
“I could have you both drawn and quartered,” Lance warned them.
“And then who would put up with your sorry diva ass?” Justin asked, stepping aside so Lance could go out first.
Lance stopped and whirled around. “I am NOT a diva.”
“Of course not,” Nick said quickly. Lance nodded and kept walking. “Diva,” he whispered, causing Justin to break into giggles.
Lance smiled as he walked ahead of them. Technically they were members of his staff, employees, but in all honesty, they were his two best friends. Nick’s father was the head of the Royal Navy, and Justin’s parents had worked for the royal family in some capacity as long as Lance could remember. Nick was one year younger than Lance, with Justin another year younger, and they were as thick as thieves. Nick was in charge of Lance’s social schedule, and was surprisingly good at keeping Lance on time wherever he had to be. Justin was in charge of Lance’s wardrobe and general appearance, and took the job very seriously.
They settled into the carriage and clattered down the stone road. The ride down to the docks wasn’t a long one, but it was bumpy. “Ready for your party?” Justin asked, smirking. “I know for a fact that there is an entire case of that whisky you like.”
“I AM looking forward to it, but at the same time, I’m not. I keep getting the gentle pressure from Father to find a mate.” Lance looked from Nick to Justin. “I don’t guess either of YOU would be interested.”
Nick shuddered. “Sorry, Lance, but your dad scares the piss outta me. I could NOT handle being related to him.”
“And I think you’re completely ugly and revolting, and never want to THINK about having sex with you,” Justin added.
“Fuck off,” Lance said in a very unroyal manner. “I’m just glad my sister took care of creating the royal heir…so I can choose who I wish.”
“Maybe you’ll meet someone at the party,” Nick suggested.
Lance snorted. “I know every royal person invited and NO one interests me.”
“Not even Prince Kevin?” Nick asked with a smirk.
“Are you kidding me?” Lance almost screeched. “That man…God. He has SUCH a stick up his ass.”
“He’s gorgeous,” Justin said absently. “And they say he’s very smart.”
Nick and Lance looked at each other. “Really, Justin?” Lance asked slyly.
Justin snapped to attention. “That’s what they say.”
“That’s what YOU say,” Nick said, and Justin punched him in the arm.
“Okay, boys, behave. We’ve arrived.” Lance got himself together and took a few deep breaths before exiting the carriage. “Hello, men! How are the preparations coming along?”
“It’s the Prince!”
“Your Royal Highness!”
“Straighten up men, get it together!”
JC slapped his tail on the surface of the water, irritated that he couldn’t see what was happening. He decided to make a brave, yet ridiculous move, and get closer. He danced between the waves, getting behind a larger piece of rock in dangerously shallow water. He finally could see everything going on aboard the largest of the ships. His eyes widened at the beautiful man walking on board. He could tell from the deferential bows and the way the men tugged their hats off that THIS must be the Prince whose birthday was being celebrated.
“Your Royal Highness, we’ll make sure everything is one hundred percent ready for your party,” JC heard one man say.
“I’m sure it will be fine, my good sir. I appreciate everyone’s hard work, and I promise you will be well paid,” the low voice said, and JC felt a ripple go from his neck to the tip of his tail. The man’s voice was deep and sensual, with its own low melody. His hair was light and spiked, and the colors of his clothing brought out the pale white of his skin. JC figured clothing would be scratchy and uncomfortable, but whatever fabric the Prince was wearing caught the light and shimmered so temptingly that JC wanted to touch it. JC watched, open mouthed, as the Prince strode across the ship, shaking hands and smiling at the men. JC had always wondered about this shaking hands ritual…merpeople kissed when they met.
“Do you want to check the other ships, Lan-…Your Royal Highness?” One of the men with the Prince asked. He was tall, with wild curls that bobbed in the sea air. JC reached up and touched his own wavy locks. Merpeople didn’t have curls. The other man was tall as well, with sun-kissed blond hair and tan skin. JC looked down at his own arms and sighed enviously. If he spent any length of time in the sun, he’d crumble into a dry pile of scales. He had often envied the way humans spent hours in the sun.
“No, Justin, I think this will be fine.” The Prince turned and headed back towards the dock.
“God bless you on your birthday, Prince Lance!” One of the men called out, and everyone cheered. JC saw the ghost of a blush on the pale cheeks, though the prince smiled and thanked them.
“Prince Lance,” JC whispered, reaching up to touch his own cheek. He watched until the Prince and his friends were safely on their way, then he sadly ducked under the water and swam home.