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The Merman and the Soldier

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“I’m telling you, mate, they’re out there,” Mike declared as he leaned over the side of the boat.

“Alright, alright.” John had heard the stories of the creatures--and seen some photos even, just glimpses of fins peeking out of the water. He wasn’t sure if he believed in them. The thought was quite fascinating, he had to admit, but it still just seemed unlikely.

“Have you actually seen any of them?” John asked.

Mike sat back up, his face scrunching up slightly in thought. “Not really, no. But Billy has.”

“You’re really going to take word from the town drunk?” John queried, raising a brow.

“Oi! He’s drunk, not mad.”

John just laughed as he set the sail, running the last few checks before settling down. The sun was shining brightly and warmed his face but the air around them was cool from the water. John sat back and let his fingers skim the surface, the feeling almost comforting as Mike rambled on about other things like work and his family, John congratulating him on his new baby. They stayed out in the lake for hours, until the sun started to settle against the horizon and the cool air was making both of their teeth chatter. Mike looked a little disappointed on not having a real sight, but John personally loved the get away. He’d look for any excuse to go sailing, even if it were for something as ridiculous as looking for mermaids and monsters.

 

Sherlock floated upside down, twisting a piece of seaweed between his fingers as he tried very hard to ignore the little eel that swirled around him. One downside of being a merman, though, was that communication was very difficult to block out when they were spoken to the mind.

I bet you can’t do it, the eel taunted. Sherlock sighed and watched the bubbles go up through the water.

You know I despise the humans, Sherlock retorted. So…dull.

Like you’re any different. Ordinary Sherlock.

Sherlock hissed and glared at the eel. I don’t have any interest playing any of your games. Why do you think I‘ll start now? He wondered why the other creature was so interested in him. Most of the other fish never really gave another thought to the merpeople, but this one seemed persistent.

Sherlock felt as if it could laugh, it would. Because you’re bored. I’m bored. We make a perfect match, Sherlock.

I still don’t understand why you want me to do this. How can persuading a human into the waters keep me entertained?

It’ll certainly entertain me.

He scowled as he ripped the weed. He wanted to scream from the moronic task but there were certainly no other options to avoid the eel. He tried everything, from showing no interest to ignoring it to threatening it, even resorting to just swimming away but the eel would be right at his tail, taunting him more to do this insane and pointless task.

Of course he heard the stories, of his people luring the humans under the water, and some of the other’s fascination with them. How they were similar but also so different. He’s even seen a group of maids take down an entire ship for fun, calling out to the men on deck and drowning them deep under the water. Sherlock always thought that the humans were such mindless beings. Predictable. His curious side did wonder about them, wanting to take one apart and figure out why they had those limbs, why they couldn’t be under water for too long. What happened to them that made them so different?

If you want one of our kind to pull one under, consider someone else.

I have, the eel answered. But you’re the only one who refuses. Why is that? the eel wondered. Sherlock didn't respond. I’ll make you a deal. Be successful and I shall leave you alone.

Sherlock looked up from the weed that has been reduced to a stem, and squinted his eyes. He usually would say no, but the reward was too pleasing to pass down. Maybe he could find a few answers of his own.

Fine.

 

It was one of those nights.

Every muscle was sore and all John wanted to do was relax. He had been ecstatic for being accepted into the Navy, but the strenuous training he put himself through was exhausting. He didn’t have to leave for another six weeks, but he wanted to be prepared.

With a bottle of whiskey in hand John untied his boat from the dock and made the arrangements to set sail into the lake. Not that this boat had a sail. Twenty minutes later he laid back and looked up at the stars that were starting to pop up, the city lighting up along the shore as the night started to settle in. The boat rocked very slightly against the ripples of the lake and John popped open the top of the bottle and took a sip. He let his eyes close and just listened, his thoughts and excitement about the next few months slipping away.

Suddenly, there was a slight splashing sound to his right. John’s eyes popped open and his body went rigid as his ears strained to listen.

It happened again.

And again.

With a huff, John sat up and looked into the water. Although it was dark, he sworn he could see a pale shape just below the surface.

And then a face slowly peeked out.

John clamped a hand over his mouth to muffle his scream as he scrambled to the other side of the boat and the whiskey spilled and rolled along the floor. He sat there, frozen.

Did he…did he see what he thought he saw?

No. He had quite a bit to drink. All that talk must’ve gotten to you, Watson, he told himself. John blinked as he tried to regain focus. He took a deep breath and rubbed at his face.

John turned in his seat and the scream made it’s way out this time as the man in the water stared at him. Before John could get away again, one very pale hand gripped his wrist, and John gasped from the cold, and suddenly he couldn’t move even if he wanted to.

“Wait,” the creature said, his voice low and mesmerizing.

John had to admit, this man was…downright beautiful. The pale skin, the piercing blue-grey eyes, and the dark wet curls that plastered against a planed and angular face.

Something about the fins on the side of his head fanning out brought John back out of his trance and he instantly pulled away from the creature’s hold.

“What are you!” he demanded breathlessly. He figured he must be mad, but if this was a hallucination, it felt too real. He could still feel it’s touch lingering on his wrist.

“What do you think?” it said, it’s tone almost sounding bored.

If John was going mad, he might as well play along. “Mermaid?”

The creature rolled it’s eyes. “Maid, meaning that I was female, which I’m most certainly am not.”

“Right, so mer…man?”

It nodded with tight lips as if it were resisting another eye roll. John could almost see the word ‘obvious’ etched into it’s features.

“Do you have a name?”

The creature stared at him for a moment before answering. “Sherlock.”

“Sherlock?” John repeated, raising a brow. Human or not, he’d never heard a name quite like that before. “I’m John,” he said stupidly.

He was introducing himself to a merman at midnight in the middle of the lake. Yes, he was definitely going insane. John sighed and sat down. He had to get out of here. He grabbed the oars at the bottom of the boat and stuck them in the water. His muscles were still sore but luckily it didn’t take too much to row it out of the lake. The man’s face kept popping up and grew more and more frustrated the farther he went.

He had to stop drinking.

Eventually the merman gave up and John made it to shore, glancing back at the lake as he made his way home.

 

Damn, Sherlock cursed. Something about that human put him on edge. Although he noticed how different he was compared to others. No other human had ever resisted one of their kind before.

Try singing, the eel suggested mockingly.

Sherlock ignored the eel and tried to decide if he should feel agitated or intrigued.

 

It was three more nights until the human--John--came back to the lake. Sherlock could see him setting up the boat from a distance, noting the lack of whiskey on his hands. He smiled, his lips still under the water. It should be easier this time, without the influence of the alcohol. John would believe him and this whole business could be done quicker and the eel--who was watching nearby--could finally leave him alone.

Sherlock waited until the boat reached the middle of the lake, almost the same exact spot he was a few nights prior. Sherlock swam up along the side, spotting John’s hand gripping the rail.

Showtime! the eel said in a singsong voice.

He let his hand slide up the wooden boat and his fingertips brushed along John’s knuckles. He was surprised how they were just as warm as the man’s wrist before John jerked away, his gasp audible even under water.

Sherlock pushed himself up and hung off the side, everything from his hips up exposed.

“John.”

“You’re real,” he whispered, his eyes wide and his jaw hanging open.

Sherlock smirked and dipped back under water and went under the boat and came out the other side. John was leaning forward, trying to find him. Sherlock reached out and touched the man’s neck, shamelessly loving the warmth that spiraled into his palm.. John sucked in a deep breath at the cold fingers and turned, his terrified expression softening into amazement as Sherlock bore his gaze into John’s eyes. He leaned into Sherlock’s hand.

“Come with me,” Sherlock murmured, moving his hand to John’s cheek and pulling him gently.

John’s lips parted and he shivered. The heat from his skin intensified, and Sherlock found himself wanting more. He brought up his other hand to John’s neck.

“Sherlock,” he whispered. A rough hand covered his own and Sherlock bit back a sigh.

He sank downwards into the water, John following him and Sherlock kept his grip. He was so close, just a few more inches and the deal would be over.

He got to shoulder level until John started to squirm to catch his balance. Something about the action shook John, and Sherlock could see the realization hit his eyes.

“Oh, God!” John cried, growing tense. He abruptly ripped out of Sherlock’s hands and nearly jumped to the other side of the boat. Before Sherlock could react, the oars were in the water and John was escaping rather quickly.

Sherlock hissed in frustration and dove back under.

 

His hands were shaking by the time he tied the boat to the dock. He ran up the shore and kept running until he reached his house, slamming and locking the door behind him. He wanted to collapse into his bed, but his legs gave out from under him and he slid down the wooden door and tried very hard to calm his panting.

John wasn’t even thinking about going back to the lake, but ever since that night he’d been beating himself over the damn creature from the water. For some reason, it was on his mind constantly, and he couldn’t shake the bloody thing off. He honestly wasn’t expecting to see it again tonight, but he just wanted some peace. He figured that if he proved to himself that it was just the alcohol, he could finally dismiss it and get on with his life.

But that was the opposite of what happened.

Now what did he do? Maybe someone drugged him? He pushed the ridiculous thought away. Something in his food? No, that wasn’t very probable either, he’s been eating the same thing every day.

So…the creatures were real.

John knew it was insane but what other choice was there? He rubbed the spot were Sherlock had rested his hands before. It was still cold.

 

The next night John walked onto the dock. The moon was full, the light so strong it reflected off the water blindingly. John clutched the coat as the chill set in, and he stepped into the boat.

He rowed out slowly, much more calm than the night before. He settled in and waited. John wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted from this meeting, some answers perhaps.

There was a splash to his left, and John smiled.