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Water's Edge

Chapter Text

There is a boy in the cage.

It is an unusual sight, made even more unusual by the way James immediately puts away his gun. He’s been in this business long enough to know not to let his guard down, especially when in enemy territory, and yet he finds himself saying, “Hold on. I’ll get you out of there.”

The boy is naked, although thankfully there doesn’t appear to be any signs of assault. His dark brown hair is a little long, and falls over eyes that seem to shift between blue and green and gold. They don’t seem human, those eyes, but James is supposed to be a realist and so he focuses on getting the cage open even as those unearthly eyes watch him.

Nothing is said as he works the locks, but that quickly changes once he lets the boy – man, really – out. Not that he gets a word of thanks or even a query as to who he is; instead, the young man has barely scrambled out of the cage before he is immediately demanding, “Where is my skin?”

“Your…” James isn’t able to finish that train of thought because it quickly occurs to him that this young man might have been in that cage for a reason, and that reason might be because he is mad. “… what?”

“My skin,” the young man repeats impatiently, looking like he wants to roll his eyes. “He took it. Where did it go?”

“He… you mean Silva?” He decides that for the sake of his sanity, he will address the words that don’t seem completely psychotic.

“I don’t know his name. Tall. Broad. White-gold hair. Utterly mad.”

That sounds like Silva to him, although he’s not quite sure this young man is one to talk about madness, given the questions being asked.

“I don’t know where he went,” he says slowly, as if talking to a wild animal. Not that there is anything… feral about the young man, but there is definitely something off about him. And James would know something about being “off”; he sees it staring back at him every time he looks in the mirror. But that is what makes him such an effective agent for his country though, as he quickly sets aside his doubts to continue, “I am looking for him, if you have any idea where he is.”

“If I knew where he is, I wouldn’t be asking you where my skin is, now would I?” is the irate response. “You lot never listen. For a species so determined to assert your superiority over this world, you can certainly be quite dense.”

“… species?” he asks despite himself. Now he really is convinced that the man is insane, even if it’s a different kind of madness than what he is used to.

“Humans,” the young man elaborates unhelpfully. He stretches out pale, lithe limbs without any apparent concern at his complete lack of clothing, complaining, “How do you manage this two legs business? It’s like walking on sticks. It’s a wonder your lot didn’t get eaten before you learned how to run and kill. And you are very good at killing, aren’t you?”

He nearly flinches at how closely that little barb hits, even though the comment doesn’t actually seem to be directed at him specifically, considering the young man’s continued ramble (rant). James wonders if he should just put the poor thing out of his misery, or if he should just point him to the nearest mental health facility. But he doesn’t have time for such sympathies; he has a job to do, a mission to complete, and a psychopath to follow and end permanently.

Unfortunately, as of now, this man is the best lead he has (although not much of one), and he asks, “What did Silva want with you? When did he leave? Why didn’t he take you with him or kill you? What was he planning on-”

The man interrupts mid-sentence, blinking owlishly at James. “Rude.”

He doesn’t think he’s ever met someone who has rendered him speechless so many times in so short a period. This is not a compliment. “Pardon?”

Rude. You’re all so rude. Taking my skin, putting me in a cage, interrupting me.” The emphasis he puts on that last one makes James thinks that some priorities need to be put in order, and for once, it’s not his. “No wonder the elders always said to stay away from the human world. You really are just a hoard of barbarians, aren’t you?”

James frowns, not sure if he should be trying to make any sense of the young man’s babbling but compelled to do so nevertheless. Perhaps the young man is part of some indigenous tribe that has not had contact with the modern world, but his English is impeccable and his fearlessness makes it seem unlikely. He knows it doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t be indulging the man when there is no time for these games, not when Silva is on the loose.

Except there is, in the back of his mind, that inescapable feeling that there is something not quite right about this person. Not dangerous, but… not exactly human. It makes no sense but James is not in the habit of ignoring his instincts, and that is why he finally asks, “What are you, exactly?”

The young man tilts his head slightly. Thankfully he’s stopped his ranting, and he looks almost… curious. “You don’t already know?”

“I wouldn’t be asking if I did.”

“Hmm.” There’s an underlying skepticism, but again it doesn’t seem to be directed at him specifically. The young man bites his lip, obviously trying to decide what to do, before he shakes his head in apparent resignation. “You seem to be sincere, at least compared to him. In that case... well, your kind has given us many names over the centuries. But the most recent one, I presume as that is the one he used, is selkie.”