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One Step Closer

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Ace lets out a contented sigh as he takes a step out of his car, pausing for a moment to take in the view. A cerulean sea lay before him, seagulls crying in the distance as well as the light sting of salt in the air. 


This is what he lived for; the reason why he had moved from his dad's place in the city to a "charming" beach house right up on the coast. 


He turns to look at his new home, which in all honesty is a huge fixer upper. A huge grin spreads across his freckled face, undeterred by the state of it. His adoptive father had bought the house and the land for him, even offering to have someone come out and fix the old shack for him. But Ace insisted he could do it himself. 


He taps on the top of his car with an excited laugh, giddy at the thought of finally living alone. And on the shoreline no less! It's not that he didn't love his old man or his brothers, it just felt like the right time for him to do his own thing! 


Besides, he was only two hours away. Close enough he could visit, but far away enough that Whitebeard didn't feel like hauling his ass down to see him.


Ace reaches inside his car for his bag, deciding he could unpack later. What he really wanted now was to head down to the shore to get a closer look. But first, he needed to change. 


Heading up into the house, he proudly unlocks the front door and steps inside. Ace feels grateful that the inside was in much better shape than the outside was. 


He lets the door swing shut behind him before beginning to change. Tugging his shirt over his head, he tosses it into his bag; he’s had enough of wearing one for the rest of his life. Ace then removes his shorts and boxers in favor of his best pair of swim trunks. To finish things off, he removes his prized cowboy hat and places it on the counter for safe keeping. Feeling more than ready to get on his way, he turns on his heel to slip back outside.


He goes back to the car, starting the process of unstrapping his surfboard from the roof. Not long ago, he had gotten it as a going away gift from his brothers. It was decorated with orange flames while the rest of it was red; a little cliché, but he adored it. Carefully, he pulls the board down and holds it in one arm before heading down to the beach. 


He can't stop a stupidly huge grin from forming on his face, practically tripping over himself as he ran down the sandy path. Once he reaches the water, he pauses to kick his flip flops behind him. He takes a few steps forward, stopping to relish the feeling of wet sand below his feet.


Ace stands there for a long while before feeling ready to head into the water. Turning, he grabs his board before running out into the surf. As the cool water hits his heated skin, Ace sighs contentedly and ducks under for a few moments to soak himself. Resurfacing, he climbs up onto his surfboard, laying out on his belly and paddling into deeper water. 


There aren’t any particularly good waves for him to ride today, but that was alright. He had already made up his mind that he would just relax and ride the small ones. 


Despite how beautiful the day is, there aren’t many people out on the beach. Other than a few boats much further out, it isn’t surprising as these are private beaches. He stretches his arms out in front of him, the sun warming his tanned skin. He closes his eyes, panicking for a moment when he realizes he’s feeling tired. Worried he would have an narcoleptic episode, he considers relocating himself to the shallows.


Before he has a chance to do that, a very loud splash nearby captures his attention. 


When he turns his head towards the noise, he barely catches a glimpse of what appears to be the fin of a large fish. Ace sits there for a long moment, the gears in his head turning. There was no way a fish that big is a safe one to be around. A smart man would go back to shore and away from whatever that was. 


But Ace is not a smart man.


He slowly paddles towards where the fish vanished, near a massive pile of rocks that resemble tidal pools. As he goes around the rocks, he hears another splash and doesn't think much of it. When he doesn’t see anything beneath the water, Ace is a bit disappointed. 


Turns out, he had been looking in the wrong direction. 


About ten feet away, something had laid out on the rocks. When Ace finally sees it, it appears  to be a person. Or at least, partially. 


He can’t pull his eyes away from whoever this is. They are without a doubt one of the most gorgeous people he’s ever seen in his life. 


But what’s odd about them is that they appear to have a tail. A real, genuine fish tail. On their back is a large fin. It starts at the base of their shoulders, sliding down their spine and all the way down the tail. The dark blue color is an amazing contrast to their pale skin. From there, the way their skin seems to slowly fade into scales - well, that’s absolutely stunning to him. 


The person seemed to be resting out on the rocks, unaware of Ace's presence. Using this to his advantage, Ace is as silent as he possibly can be while he swims closer. Surely, the person has detected him by now, but he can’t stop himself from trying to sneak closer. Eventually, he’s side by side with them. Only then does he notice they appear to be sleeping.


Now that Ace is closer, he can see dark vertical stripes that went all the way down to the tail. Along with beautiful reflective scales that faded from a deep blue to silver. 


Without thinking, Ace reaches out and slides a hand over their hip, loving how smooth the scales are. For a moment there's no reaction, but he can feel their muscles twitching beneath his palm. 


All is silent until the person opens their eyes. Twisting around to look at Ace, they shout, "What the fuck are you doing?!" 


Ace opens his mouth to respond, but he can hardly squeak out a word before-




The person had struck him over the head with a strong swipe of their tail. Ace hits the water,  out like a light.



The last thing Sanji saw himself doing today was saving some stupid human from drowning. Especially one that had been crazy enough to float right up to him and feel up his tail. 


The human had been knocked unconscious the moment Sanji had struck him with his tail. He hadn't meant to do that, only wanting to scare him away. But when he slid right off the board and into the water, Sanji knew he couldn't just leave him there. 


So, now he finds himself in the odd situation of propping an unconscious human up against his side and gripping his strange floating board in the other hand. 


With a couple flicks of his tail, he rounds the rock formation and swims towards the shore that he’s certain this human had come from. 


The human is warm against Sanji's skin; it only serves as a reminder of how utterly touch starved he is.


The man's head rests on his shoulder, which causes his cheeks to turn a soft shade of pink. With this new proximity, Sanji can see the human has sun-kissed skin, matching the numerous freckles that scatter over his cheeks. Dark, shoulder length hair is slicked back by the water. Sanji thinks it suits him well; he might even say that he is quite handsome. 


As soon as the thought comes, Sanji loses his grip and almost lets the human slide back into the water. 


There is no way he could ever find a human attractive! They are vile creatures! Especially this one, who violated his personal space without a care! 


Once at the shore, Sanji moves to toss the board up onto the sand. He was tempted to try to give the human a toss but he stopped himself, not sure he had the strength to lift him anyway. He pulls both of them up out of the surf, now laying on his stomach and partially out of the water. The human beside him is laying on his back. 


Once again, he can’t help but stare.


If he’s being honest, the human looks very dead. Handsome, but dead. 


Sanji chews on his bottom lip, propping himself up on his elbows. His eyes slide down the rest of his body, unable to look away. This human would've made a very handsome merman. Sanji finds his gaze lingering on his pecs, staring for a long moment before he has to stop himself. 


What is wrong with him?! He hates humans and this one is no different. 


Sanji huffs softly, looking down at him one last time. He needs to see if he is alive or not; a dead human meant trouble. Reaching over to pull his upper half onto the human, he rests his head down on his chest to check for a heartbeat.


A wave of relief floods through Sanji when he hears it beating as normal. He doesn’t immediately pull away, resting his head there for a few moments. The gentle rise and fall of his chest - accompanied by how warm he is beneath him - makes him almost fall asleep right there. 


'This is nice' goes through his mind, causing him to mentally slap himself. 


He recoils from the human as if he were made of fire, disgusted with himself. Here he was feeling up the man's chest when he had knocked him out for doing something similar.


Sanji begins to push himself back into the water, wanting to get away from this human before he wakes up. Or well, he would've but he had gotten too far out of the water, the dry sand making it difficult for him to move. While he struggles, he fails to notice the human waking up beside him.


"Do you need some help?" 


Sanji's gaze finally snaps back to Ace. His heart almost leaps out of his chest at the horror of being caught in such a compromising position. 


"Leave me alone, human! I have this handled." Sanji says, their eyes meeting for a split second. His arms go a little weak under his gaze. The human’s eyes are a deep brown, and the way the light catches in them causes them to glow a soft amber. Sanji nearly loses his composure, his pointed ears trembling as he struggles.


The man lets out a hearty laugh, and goodness that made Sanji feel like he could melt. 


"Don't laugh at me!" The merman shouts.


"I'm sorry, you're just too cute." He says, a bright smile spreading across his face. Sanji watches as he gets to his feet, pausing to look him up and down. "Here, let me help you."


"Your 'helping' looks suspiciously a lot like staring."


The human laughs again, padding down into the water to see what he could do. Sanji glances over his shoulder to keep an eye on him. 


He should not have looked. His clothing rides low on his hips, gripping tight against his skin to reveal his toned ass; it was too much. Sanji buries his face into his hands for a moment, cheeks burning red. 


It’s been too long since he’s seen another mer. Was he really so isolated and touch starved that he would resort to eyeing up a human?


When said human returns, Sanji clears his throat and shoots a glare up at him.


"I'm going to dig around your tail and get the water up around you, okay?" The man says, unaware that Sanji is glaring daggers at him.


"Get to it then, human." 


"It's Ace." He muses as he kneels down beside Sanji, using his hands to dig the sand out from under him. The merman's tail shivers when his hands touch his tail; he doesn’t know if Ace noticed that. If he had, he didn't comment on it.


A comfortable silence falls between the pair as Ace continues. Eventually, the sand loosens up enough beneath him that he is able to start pushing himself backwards. He breathes out a sigh of relief once he fully-submerged himself.


Sanji doesn’t escape right away, his head just above the water line. "I suppose I should be thanking you….Ace." 


Ace's face lights up at that, crouching down in the water to gaze at Sanji. "It's no problem. I owed you after you saved me! Uh, what's your name?"


The merman hesitates for a moment before saying in a quiet voice, "It's Sanji." 


"It's nice to meet you! Sorry about earlier. I guess I really surprised you?" Ace says with a laugh, running a hand through his hair to smooth it down. 


Sanji sits and watches him for a moment, having a prime view to look at Ace's body. 


He really needs to get laid; they’ve only just met and he can’t keep his eyes off of him.


"I should get going," Sanji says, averting his gaze from Ace in favor of looking down at the water. 


That’s a big lie; he has nowhere to be. He just wants to get away from Ace for now. He’s feeling too nervous to stick around any longer, sea butterflies fluttering inside his stomach. It’s a bit too much for him to process.


Ace's smile falls but not completely. With a hopeful expression on his face, he asks, "I'll see you around, then?" 


"Maybe. But next time, don't grab my tail." Sanji says, their eyes meeting for a moment. He stares for a long moment before ducking under the water. With a few strong movements of his tail, he is out of the human's view. He swims into the deeper water, curling up on himself with a groan. 


While he misses being around his species - especially the lovely mermaids - it isn’t worth having to deal with his father.


Sanji allows himself to sink down to the sandy floor, certain that Ace won’t try to follow him. And so, he is left alone to sort through his feelings, unsure of how he wants to proceed.


Ace stays in his crouched position in the sand, his gaze locked on the spot in the water Sanji had vanished into. 


There haven’t been too many times in his life when he can truly say he was left speechless. But this is one of those times.


He flops onto his back, digging his fingers into his hair as he begins to laugh. This is one of the most absurd days he has ever had!


Sanji had been understandably standoffish to Ace. But something about him caused his heart to race uncontrollably. Maybe it’s his fierce blue eyes that resemble sea glass? Or the way his hair has a light wave to it? 


Just thinking about Sanji causes butterflies to flutter about in his stomach.


Ace sits up and props his elbows up on his knees, a smile spreading across his lips. He needs to see him again, undeniably curious about his new friend. For a moment, he considers following Sanji. He has so many questions for him, confident that he won’t be hard to find.


But Ace decides against that idea, sure that his plan might only frighten him. Fortunately, he’s a patient man, and waiting until morning to seek out Sanji feels like a better plan to him. 


Ace's gaze returns to the sea, the sun still high overhead. "We'll meet again, I'm sure of it."


Tomorrow can’t come fast enough.