Like a fish out of water.
John had been resting in the cove for a few days tending to his injury. The pirates that sailed through the western channels were ferocious and particularly suspicious so when they had found a merman wrestling his way out of one of their nets they had been hostile. John had gotten away lightly really. A deep wound to his left shoulder that would heal in time. Yes it would scar, but better that than dead. He clambered up onto seaworn black rocks, letting his blue tail splash in the water as the sun beat down over him, warming the skin of his chest pleasantly and flashing in patterns and shimmers off of his scales and reflections bouncing from the water surface. The water was reasonably still here, so different from the open ocean but it was also lonely, those who came here mostly did so by accident and as soon as they saw him they feared him though he was a lot less of a danger than the other merpeople who lived in colonies. It had been years ago now that he had decided to separate and live alone. He didn't have a natural hate for the human race or the underlying rage that seemed to afflict the majority of his species. He understood humans to be much like themselves. Good and bad, given morals and perhaps led to follow them in the wrong way but surely that was the same as any species. John looked up into the horizon as shadows loomed over the passing sun, the tell tale silhouette of ship flags black in the daylight. Slowly and without making a sound or a ripple he dipped back into the water, eyes resting just above the surface keeping a steady watch as the bow of the ship parted the waves before it, small aftershocks of water causing John to bob in his hiding place as he swayed his tail slowly against the current to keep still.
Silently he dipped under the water, letting it engulf him completely. John had never been shy or cautious and despite his injury he was curious. He batted his tail through the water, feeling little resistance as he moved forward with relative ease except the occasional twinge of pain radiating from his wounded shoulder. Soon enough the wooden keel of the ship came into view and he moved slowly up to the surface, careful not to disturb the water as he broke through and gazed up at the ship. The sails were blowing in the wind. Black and torn in some places allowing for streaks of sunlight to struggle through and bounce delicately from the water. Going against his better judgment he swam closer watching with narrowed eyes as men worked along the deck, climbing the poles that precariously shook as the wind blew. It fascinated him. To live and walk on land and not be trapped by the confines of the sea. The ocean was wide and beautiful, but the earth was life. It meant freedom to come and go. Acceptance. He envied them for having the choice between the two when he would be here in this solitude forever. More than anything he wanted to be able to approach them. After being alone for so long eventually you forgot the sound of a soft voice or amiable conversation but there would be none of that found here. Of that at least he was sure. He sighed and began to sway his tail softly, eyes facing up and fixed on the buzzing movement about him. Roaming over the strong hull and starboard side of the ship until he caught a glimpse of a single man, dark wild curls whipping in the wind and the face of a ghost. Pale, ethereal. He was captivating.
There was something about the way the elements themselves seemed to bend for him as he stood proudly looking off into the middle distance. He didn't sway in the wind or stumble with the slow rock of the ship, he stood stone still hands clasped firmly at his hips as the ripped black tail of his coat billowed around him. John just couldn't tear his eyes away. All sense concerning his surroundings and situation lost in the moment he had looked upon that solitary man who could only be the ships captain. Danger and authority just seemed to radiate from him like heat rays from the blinding sun overpowering everything around it but at the same time everything it reached just became more beautiful and so it was with this human. The teals and sapphires of the ocean and sky resonated with new life. Colour as he had never seen before. The world painted as a new picture and it was the man stood sentient above him that held the tools in his stance, his eyes just the mere complexion of his skin. John was no mythical creature, no gift of nature or illogical being not compared to that - wonder. It was the last free thought he had, the last one he chose to think before his mind was rent apart by incomprehensible pain. A hot slash of white fire cracking like a whip of nails over his neck and arms. His first reaction was to struggle but with each miniscule movement the pain increased tenfold until his vision blurred and his body swayed, the motion of his tail halting until he was sinking into cool comfortable darkness.
His body was burning. There was no other explanation and he dare not open his eyes to see the licking of the flames over freshly charred scales or skin and tail and bone blackening and turning to ash. John struggled to draw breath and even as he swallowed it down into his lungs no reprieve was handed to him. Someone near was screaming, howling cries of pain and pleas for mercy which fell heavily on deaf ears. Someone, someone was him and with the next flash of brutal fire his eyes snapped open. The world above him was little more than a fuzzy picture and the hard dry surface on which his back rested was like nothing he had ever felt before. If the pain in his head and the terrifying numbness of his tail fin weren't so immediate he may have been able to piece it together more quickly but as it was the realisation that he had been dragged and bound, taken from the water his body so desperately needed to survive seeped over him as a gradual awakening. Fear exploding like a death star as he struggled against his bonds and tried to communicate to the dark figures crowding over him. Each broken word that fell from his dry, sore lips was met with mockery and laughter. The noise quickly fading to the background again as he slowly began to lose consciousness for a second time only half aware in his dream like state of a low baritone voice floating to him from afar, but not speaking to him although he thought if he could have smiled the words would have made him do so. 'Why must I be surrounded by incompetent idiots. Water, he needs water. Really do I have to everything myself." And then, once more, it was black.
The second time John came around it was to the familiar sounds of splashing water and the taste of salt at his lips. He licked over them slowly noting as he did so that his whole body was throbbing with an aching sensation that reached from the tip of his tail to the very centre of his brain. Though unpleasant and disconcerting it was nothing compared to the burn. Water. Glorious, beautiful, required water was soothing over his abused chest and tail and for a moment he allowed himself the delusion that he would open his eyes and the ocean would be spread out as a blank canvas before him. The smell assaulting his nostrils told him different. Damp rotting wood and something distinctly human mixed ungraciously with the scent of salt water and he could have guessed his location before he opened his eyes to confirm it. Wreckages were not uncommon and to a merperson they could prove to be a valuable resource or hiding place. Humans after all weren't the only danger. In the dark eerie water where monsters lurked and crept, eyes open, sharp and ready to take whatever passed them by. He had hidden in and explored through enough broken down sunken ships to know he was being held in the ballast tank. The tank was deep enough for him to be able to move his tail beneath the water but it was only half full and it reached to about 6 times his length. He had been so concerned with his environment that he had failed to notice the gentle ripples passing him by, growing wider as they left their source. He turned slowly to the rough wooden stairs that led down to his prison where the dark haired man that had so engrossed him, to the point of danger sat with his bare feet skipping over the cool water as if he did this everyday.
For a long while they surveyed each other in silence. It was the closest John had ever been to a human and they fascinated him as a race but this man held more interest for him than an entire legion of his peers. Despite everything John felt no fear and moved forward, gripping the unsteady wooden banister and raising his chest out of water his tail moving back and forth beneath him. He eyed the quiet man with a fierce curiosity his eyes traveling slowly down his clothed body to decipher their similarities and differences. The man meanwhile turned his head to monitor John in his new position and as their eyes finally met he began to speak in a voice John recognised from the blackness and despair as the shining light.
"You are...Curious." The mysterious human flattened his feet on the damp step and crouched forward, twisting his body to bring his face close to John's. "English. Do you speak it?" He questioned his grey sharp eyes never once leaving John's and each word pronounced perfectly, every syllable distinguishable. John nodded but kept his mouth closed it wasn't that he didn't want to speak it was more that he just wanted to listen. The man's voice was a calming force, a gentle caress after the raw abrasion of pain.
"Do you have a name?" He asked, his voice showing no flicker of frustration with the lack of responsiveness.
John swallowed hard and nodded once more but this time opened his mouth to speak. The utterance was hoarse and quiet. "John'.
"John..." There was something about the way the human repeated his name that made John's eyes widen. He nodded in affirmation and the man gave him a small interested smile. "It's nice to meet you John. I am Captain Sherlock Holmes and you are currently a...guest on my vessel." The man named Sherlock offered out his hand to John who stared at it dumbly and after a moment lent in a sniffed it. The Captain laughed. "You're meant to shake it." He provided.
John raised a querying eye brow. "Why?" He muttered. Sherlock Holmes grinned down at him. "You know. I have absolutely no idea." And with those final words the oddity named Sherlock Holmes jumped to his feet and all but leapt up the wooden steps and out of sight leaving John if possible, more confused than before.