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One Summer's Eve

Chapter Text

The sea shines brightly under the orange of the rising summer sun. Even under the minimal light, the tips of its waves sparkle like diamonds, dissipating into the white sand of Japan's shores.

Tsukishima Kei, or Tsukki as he prefers, waits patiently lying atop his favourite rocky island, though "island" may be an exaggeration. It can fit nothing more than himself and a few birds at the peak where it juts out towards the sky a few feet above him, but it is shaded by the sun and low enough to the water it stays wet and cool. The best part? He can keep his tail dipped below the surface, letting himself relax completely as it sways lazily with the pulse of the sea. Even under the shade of the rock, his silver scales have an iridescent shine and, depending on the angle, show off a range of colours from opalescent pink to a blush of sea green. His hand smooths over their surface to test the moisture -- they are sticky like fish scales, meaning he needn't worry about drying out. Satisfied, he returns to gazing back at the shore longingly. He normally spends his time watching people go about their daily business on the beach of the resort as the early staff prepare it for tourists, but today his gaze stretches much farther as he dwells on the past.

Today is the fifth anniversary of his curse, of the day where his life changed completely, and the day when his father died. Though he was a mermaid now, cursed by the Queen of the Sea for his father's deeds as a fisherman, he was still reserved and pessimistic (though he preferred the term "realistic"); he was still his lonesome, quiet self with no friends to speak of and now, no family. If he absolutely had to name some, they might as well be the birds he shares this very rock with.

He looks up just in time to see a drop of white plummet down and land just inches from him, splatting against the cold rock and he swears he felt minuscule droplets hit his pale skin.

"Ugh." He scoffs in disgust. So much for friends.

With ease, he pushes himself away and dips into the water, disappearing below the surface and taking a huge inhale of seawater through the gills on his ribs. That first breath underwater is always so refreshing like he had been walking through thick smog before entering a clear valley of clean air. His first time underwater all those years ago took some getting used to, mostly because he was unable to comprehend he was able to breathe underwater and his brain seemed to spark multiple panic attacks at once as he hyperventilated.

You can breathe -- no you can't! You're underwater! -- No it's fine, she said I can breathe -- Humans don't breathe in the water! -- I'm not human anymore.

...

I'm not human anymore.

The thought circled in his mind as he swam towards the shore. Slowly, the rich blue of the water lightened and the sandy bottom came ever closer until he could brush his knuckles against it. He has swum a few hundred feet from where his favourite rock stands proudly, but it feels like nothing to him due to his long tail that effortlessly propels him through the water. When he is finally close enough to the shore, he awkwardly pulls himself along the shifting sand like a newborn seal until he is fully out of the ocean. Thanks to the thick bushel of trees that separate this side of the island from the rest of the resort, this side of the beach is covered in old broken shells, rocks, and dried out seaweed. It's dirty, but it's private.

Under the heat of the sun, his tail dries out uncomfortably until it slowly melts away into foam beneath him, revealing his pale legs that separate immediately while he stretches out his muscles. A few of his scales stick to his skin and he spends a few moments picking them off while performing various back and leg stretches before standing -- at first he was wobbly when he tried to stand, but after years of doing this day in and day out, it's of no issue to him now and he stands easily. Just down the beach is an abandoned shack where he stores a change of clothes in the only luggage bag he had along with hygienic toiletries. And, of course, his glasses wait for him patiently. hanging off a crooked, rusty hook in the wall. Being in his human form, his vision had descended to their near-sighted form and he sighs while adjusting his sleek, black-rimmed glasses on his face. As he brushes his teeth, he pulls out his smartphone from his luggage and turns it on, not surprised to see no notifications or alerts of any kind. Within minutes, he's refreshed and heads out into the trees towards the resort to start his day.

He's not sure why he bothers working at the resort. He hates dealing with people, especially snot-nosed tourists, and he has no people skills of any kind. If he were honest, he should have been fired ages ago, but the manager had been a close friend of his father since before Tsukki was born, so he guesses that's the only reason the old man hasn't bothered to punish him for his bad attitude -- he pities him.

"Good morning, Tsukishima-san!" His first co-worker, Misha Tsukiyomo, greets him in her usually bubbly tone. She is already dressed in her uniform, a sleek light gray dress with a matching blazer over top.

"Morning, Misha-san." He says back sounding utterly bored.

"Did you sleep well?"

"You know I never do."

He walks past her without a hesitation and into the men's change-room to his locker. Inside, a can of fabric spray and his suit awaits him -- it's the only suit he has and he's lucky it hasn't garnered any stains of any kind or he would actually have to put some effort into cleaning it. Instead, he holds it away from him and sprays it down lightly. Sniffing the underarm area, he's satisfied with the smell and changes into it quickly, doing the same knot in his royal blue tie he always does because it's easy and effortless.

The morning starts off the same -- a "quick" thirty-minute long pep talk that Misha enthusiastically cheers to while the others clap, Tsukki not included and he ignores the discontented stare from his father's friend, Takeshi Saito. Afterward, Takeshi ceremoniously opens the front doors and within twenty minutes, the first early guests arrive, bee-lining to the front desk where Tsukki and Misha wait to check them in.

"What a beautiful resort this is!" The woman says a little too loudly -- she has way too much energy for Tsukki this early in the morning.

"See, honey? I told you I picked a good one. Am I right, kid?"

Oh great, now Tsukki has to actually do his job.

"Mhm, yes. Quite nice. You will be staying for two nights, tonight and Saturday night, correct?"

"Yup, and then leaving on Sunday."

Tsukki taps away the confirmation into the computer as quickly as he can so they can move on.

"Where would you suggest we start first? My wife is inclined to the beach, of course, but I'd like to stay active while I'm here."

"Then the tennis court, the indoor pool, or the fitness gym should be a good start."

"Right, I'm aware of those, but where--"

"Credit card, please. We need one to hold for any damages that may be incurred."

The man hastily takes his card out of his wallet and Tsukki proceeds to copy the information.

"Here are your keycards, you will be staying in room 204. There is a 2,500 yen fee each if you lose them. The restaurant opens at 0630 daily for breakfast, at 1130 for lunch, and 1630 for dinner. Or you can try one of the other restaurants on the island. Enjoy your stay."

Tsukki pushes the keycards along the polished marble of the desk, along with a map of the island and the man's credit card, before placing his hands neatly back on the keyboard and giving the pair an unenthused look. The couple shoots surprised looks to each other as they take the keycards, uttering a polite "thank you" and leaving with their luggage. From the doorway, Tsukki doesn't even need to look to see Takeshi is glaring at him with a frown.

Soon comes lunch and with it, an onslaught of tourists who preferred sleeping in over arriving early. Together, he and Misha quickly check-in family after family; Misha being the polite and cheerful one ends up with small tips in her pocket, while Tsukki is lucky to get a smile. Not that he actually cares, he doesn't need money except for toiletries and the odd set of new clothes. And so, he continues on with his dreary day, checking various people as if they were a countdown to the end.

"TETSURO!!!"

"BOKUTO!! MY MAN!"

A loud cacophony of yelling tears Tsukki out of his daze and he looks to the source -- a pair of young men scream joyously like school girls while embracing each other in a hug and fake-sobbing. One is about as tall as Tsukki, 183cm, with short, jet-black hair that is styled upwards except for a small weft that hangs down in front of his eye. The other is a bit taller, with stark gray and black hair that stands straight up. His brows are bleached to match, perfectly stark against his bright yellow eyes. The both of them are muscular, probably involved in sports, and together they stir up the energy in the room as tired guests are renewed by their senseless loudness.

"I haven't seen you in so long!" The black-haired one says.

"I KNOW! My college entrance exams were kicking my ass!"

"Quiet down, you two!" Finally, the mother of one of them scolds them and Tsukki is relieved for her sensibility. "I swear, you kids act more like schoolchildren than freshmen!"

"Honest to God, I was about to say the same!" Another woman pipes in and Tsukki can only guess she's the mother of the other boy. The women hug and exchange "how are you"'s while the boys settle down and catch up. Just when Tsukki is about to look away, he sees the black-haired boy look over at him and a smile pulls at the corner of his lips -- is he smiling at Tsukki? Why would he be?"

He watches as the boy leans towards his friend and then together, they both look at Tsukki and a knowing smile passes between them. He suddenly feels like a fish caught in the line of a shark's gaze and his cheeks threaten to turn pink.

Don't you dare blush! Keep it together! Maybe your tie is crooked.

He gives himself a quick look over -- everything is in order, but to his horror, the black-haired boy walks over, keeping his hands in the pockets of his sports shorts and flashing a white smile as he leans on the counter.

"Hey. I'm Kuroo, what's your name?"

"My name badge clearly says it, or can't you read?"

"Oo, sassy. I like sass."

Tsukki holds in a tortured groan as he rolls his eyes.

"How long have you been working here? I've never seen you before."

"Poor soul, you are dumb and blind. I have been here for three years."

Kuroo laughs, bringing one hand to his mouth to hide his smile.

"You're right, I must be. My family stays here every year and I'm pretty sure I would have noticed someone as gorgeous as you before."

"Huhhh?" The hair on the back of neck stands up while his cheekbones turn pink. Kuroo seems to catch on as a flicker sparks in his eye.

"Oh you like it when I call you gorgeous, huh? I can keep going if you want." He leans in dangerously and Tsukki makes it clear he is leaning away.

"Oi, oi! Tetsurou, you're torturing him." The gray-haired boy comes to his rescue and Tsukki lets out a huff as he pushes his glasses back on his nose.

"Sorry about that, he doesn't know when to quit."

"It might do you some good to keep your dog on a tighter leash."

That same, dangerous fire sparks in the gray-haired boy's eyes and he stops to gaze at Tsukki, leaning against the counter exactly like Kuroo did.

"I can tell you right now, he's not the one who likes to be kept on a leash."

Kuroo snickers and Tsukki is, at this point, utterly frozen by the blatant flirting.

"I'm Bokuto, but you can call me Bo-chan if you want~"

"Oh my god." Tsukki says, clearly at the end of his rope with these two. He can feel his whole body heating up from the embarrassment of even being seen with them.

"Boys! Get over here and take care of the luggage!"

Like dogs, they snap away and heed the call of their mothers, but not before Kuroo blows a kiss towards Tsukki.

"Hello! Kuroo-san family checking in. There will only be two of us, my husband couldn't make it."

"Okay. Hotel or villa?"

"Villa, of course. Same villa as last year -- number 521, beachfront."

Sure enough, as Tsukki looked up her reservation, multiple stays in the past decade pop up. All with...

"A-and, you will be staying for...?"

"A month, as usual."

Good god. A whole month with this family. Surely he's been punished enough. Her check-in goes smoothly and right after her is her friend, supposedly the mother of Bokuto.

"Bokuto-san family checking in. Three of us, but my husband will be coming later tonight."

She checks in to the villa right beside Kuroo's and again...for an entire month. After the check-in, the two mothers round their boys up to carry the heaviest luggage to the golf cart that awaits them. The two women take one car, chatting away already about their lives, while Kuroo and Bokuto literally hop into the second, screaming "ANDELE! ANDELE!" at the poor driver.

This was going to be one hell of a month if he had to deal with those two.


1600 finally rolls around and Tsukki sighs with relief. In the back room, he changes out of his suit, giving it a quick spray and sniff check. One of these days he should actually get it cleaned, but maybe not until it shows signs of wear.

"Hey, Tsukki." The voice is low and melancholic, and one he knows well.

"Nakamura-san, hello."

"How many times have I told you, you can call me Hashi like everyone else does."

"Mhm." He responds without any inclination to do so. He doesn't like getting close to people.

"Anyway, I'm having a party tonight on my Dad's boat. You should come."

"No thank you, I don't like parties."

"Yeah, I know. You don't have to party, you could come just to hang out."

This time, Nakamura leans against the lockers next to Tsukki's, leaning just a little closer than before to get his point across. Ever since day one, Nakamura has expressed interest in Tsukki and ever since day one, Tsukki has rejected him. Nakamura was attractive, extremely if Tsukki were honest -- he was the same height as him, with light brown hair that framed his sharp jaw and dreamy hazel eyes. More than once he had managed to get Tsukki's heart racing, but that wasn't really a difficult task considering two loudmouths got him blushing just hours earlier.

But again, Tsukki didn't like getting close to people, not with his type of secret he was destined to take with him to his grave.

"I know. But I don't want to."

"...okay, no problem."

Thankfully, Nakamura wasn't the pushy type and gave in easily. He pushed himself away from the lockers and turned away.

"Nakamura-san--" Tsukki calls out to him and Nakamura looks back a little too desperately. "You really should give up on me. I'm not going to budge."

Nakamura smiles. "I know, but I can't help myself when it comes to you."

Tsukki scoffs as blood rushes to his cheeks again. Nakamura smirks, and the pair leaves in separate directions as he takes the front entrance and Tsukki sneaks out the back. If Tsukki's life were normal, he would probably take Nakamura up on his offer. He does actually enjoy socializing when it's with people he likes, and he truly does like Nakamura. He doesn't mind socially drinking, or loud parties with stumbling dancers if it means sharing intimate moments with people he cares for. If his life were normal, Tsukki could enjoy being a normal young adult living on Japan's resort island.

But he isn't normal, not by a long shot. His curse limits him from forming true, close friendships, but it also keeps him from enjoying his life as a human, for it comes with another, more morbid handicap; if he does not return to the sea before the sun touches the horizon, he will turn into seafoam. A detail the Sea Queen included to ensure Tsukki would return to her side each night and a true fairytale indeed, one he had come close to testing numerous times when his despair was more than he could handle.

He looks to the sun which is still high up in the crystal clear sky. He has hours left of his day, but there is no point in delaying the inevitable.

He reaches his shack in record time and undresses, taking care to put his things away in their aligned spot in his suitcase and shivering when the cool breeze hits his bare skin. His blurred vision keeps him from spotting a sharp clamshell and he curses as it cuts the bottom of his foot -- no matter, he won't have feet in a few seconds anyway.

He gingerly steps into the water, ignoring the waves as they push against his lithe body. Already, he can feel his toes sticking together as they form webs; when he is deep enough to float, the rest of his transformation takes place and his legs meld together to form his beautiful, shimmering tail that only true poets could describe and even then, they wouldn't do its beauty justice. The skin over his ribs splits open into gills and he takes in a fresh breath while his vision adjusts to perfect 20/20. With his transformation complete, he dives below the surface, not bothering to look to the shore one last time as he disappears into the depths of the sea, leaving behind the joyous life he only wishes he could have lived.

Chapter Text

Somehow, even after all these years, Tsukki still manages to lose track of time when he is in the ocean. Maybe it's the way his body hangs in the water, or the surreal feel of the sand when he buries his fingers under its fluid-like surface, or it could be the multitude of creatures he passes by and the further into the ocean he ventures, the greater the diversity with every square inch that surrounds him.

He isn't very far from shore (farther than any tourist would go, for sure), and yet the surface of the sea feels hundreds of feet away as he lies on the sandy bottom, staring up at the fading rays of the setting sun that try their hardest to break through. He is deep enough to be surrounded by a navy blue darkness, but not so deep that he questions what sort of creatures are tickling his tail and pecking at his scales.

When he lies still, within an hour crabs and small fish are on him, plucking at nearly-invisible flakes from his scales while his huge size provides them with security. He had only ever touched these sorts of creatures when they were dead or freshly pulled from the sea, but to feel them now in their truest form under the sea, he almost feels that same giddy glee a child does when playing with a puppy. Turns out, crabs enjoy having their bellies scratched, going into a lifeless-like state until it stops and moving on with their day. Basking sharks aren't nearly as terrifying as he first thought, but when he came face-to-face with one unexpectedly he almost died right there thinking he was about to be swallowed whole. Giant jellyfish are soft on top, but firm like a freshly steamed bean bun if it were full of water. And his absolute favourite animal, the giant squid, is just as elusive to him as it is to any human; even when you spend your days living in the sea, he has yet to actually see even a glimpse of one.

Also, fish are extremely hard to catch by hand, something he still has yet to perfect. They slip through his fingers like egg noodles soaked in soy sauce.

As he thinks back on all these rare moments only he had the chance to experience, he doesn't realize how much time has passed until a sudden cold sweeps over him. When he blinks back to reality, he is surrounded by darkness and it takes a few moments for his supernatural vision to adjust, his pupils blowing open so he can see even the tiniest details in the water. Slowly, the water lights up as small, bioluminescent creatures fill the darkness with their other-worldly glow and light up the world around him.

"Beautiful." He utters aloud to himself and breaking the silence of the waters. In the distance, he hears the high-pitched cry of whales as they call to each other. In the darkness of the water, he closes his eyes and listens to their calls, undisturbed by the scurry of life going on around him.

Just as he's about to fall asleep, a sudden shrill scream breaks into the depths of his mind.

"Agh! Ngh!"

Tsukki clenches his teeth as his whole body recoils from the pain of it. He reflexively covers his ears, though he knows it won't do any good to muffle the sound. The Sea Queen, Umdea, is summoning him; if he ignores her first call, the next will affect his nervous system and create the most unforgettable pain he has ever experienced -- another measure she took to make sure he returns to her every night.

As soon as the scream finishes, Tsukki hurries to heed her call. He has about an hour to reach her before her next paralyzing call.


Nearly thirty minutes of hard swimming later, Tsukki sees the drop off where the ocean falls into unknown depths. Without hesitation, he swims right over the edge of the drop, not bothered by the darkness below until he sees a vast opening in the cliff face where Umdea dwells.

"My Queen?" He calls out as he enters the mouth of the cavern.

"Come to me, Kei."

Her low, melancholic voice brings an overwhelming sense of doom to his heart. As his eyes adjust to the growing darkness, her shape emerges from the blackness of the water around her. She is enormous, nearly the size of a sperm whale with dark grey skin that fades into her shark tail at her waist. Her tail is sharply angled with a dorsal fin that sits atop her lower back and from there, sharp barbs jut out along her spine. The same barbs are also found on her outer forearms, starting at her wrist and up to her elbows, interrupted by ancient jewelry that hangs from her shoulders and entangles in her fine black hair.

"Come closer. You have no need to fear me." She beckons him with her long, poisonous talons. Tsukki swims closer to her, close enough she could rip into him with her sharp rows of pearly white teeth. When he's close enough, she wraps her palm around him and pulls him into her cold body, humming softly when his tail brushes her body.

"My sweet boy, after all these years and you are still so tense around me?"

Tsukki doesn't answer. He keeps his gaze averted from her and prays she doesn't push the subject.

"You and I are the last mermaids in the world. You understand that, don't you? You should be kinder to me. If it weren't for me, this ocean would be full of garbage and brought to ruin."

And if it weren't for you, I would still be human. He thinks bitterly. She pauses long enough for him to answer, and even longer for the air to turn awkward. When she realizes he has no intention of speaking to her, she huffs and releases him from her grasp.

"Have you seen that boat parading on the waters tonight?"

Tsukki shakes his head.

"It's horrendous; a crime on sea creatures alike. The humans aboard it have been littering all night, tossing cans into my precious waters and...[I]urinating[/I] as if it's a waste disposal!"

Suddenly, Tsukki remembers Nakamura mentioning a party tonight on his father's yacht. Umdea must have seen the very same boat and Tsukki's gut twists in anticipation of her request for tonight.

"I need you to stop that boat. It's due East, not far from the shore. I don't care what you do, just make sure that boat stops destroying my ocean. Do you understand?"

"Yes, my Queen. I'll do what I can."

"Good. Because if you don't--"

"You will make my curse permanent, I know."

"DON'T BACKTALK ME!"

With the wave of her hand, she creates a current strong enough to throw Tsukki against the hard rock wall of the cave. He grunts from the pain of one particular spot jutting into his ribs upon impact. Before he can recover, Umdea's palm covers Tsukki's entire torso, pinning him against the wall with his head between her talons.

"You grow too comfortable with me!" She utters with a snarl.

"W-weren't you just...complaining about me...agh...being too tense...around you?" He replies with some difficulty. He pushes against her palm in hopes of relieving some of the weight off his chest.  "Maybe...this is why."

Umdea's eyes crinkle as she focuses on him and for a moment Tsukki is sure this is his end. But then, she relaxes and her curled lips loosen into a sly smile before she breaks out into subtle laughter.

"Yes. You're right. I am being too harsh, aren't I?"

She releases him, but not without dragging her nails against the rock and creating a spine-tingling screech that makes Tsukki's skin crawl.

"It seems my centuries of solitude have...taken a toll on me. Go on, Kei. I will be watching you tonight to make sure the deed is done."

As soon as Tsukki catches his breath, he breaks out into a frantic swim and exits the cave, leaving Umdea behind in the darkness as she always has been. He knows better than to threaten her -- she is a creature with great power, a power he has yet to witness. Even so, he does not fear to test her though her threats to him are very real, but the very day his father died so did his feelings of self-preservation. Even now, swimming away to do as the Queen asks, he faintly wishes -- no -- fantasizes about a shark coming up behind him and tearing him apart. He wishes for someone, or something, to do the very thing he is too cowardly to do himself.

End his misery.


As Tsukki heads East and draws closer to the boat, it becomes difficult to swim underwater due to the ringing of the loud music pulsating from the vessel. He propels himself to the surface for air and above, it's even louder; the bright lights make it the only beacon in the middle of the waters and sure enough, he can see people throwing their bottles overboard while someone vomits on the other side.

He makes a disgusted noise and swims underwater for a while longer until it's no longer tolerable to his sensitive ears. His heart goes out to the creatures below who are unable to seek relief like he can.

The yacht is big enough to hold twenty people at least and is just tall enough for Tsukki to remain hidden as he cruises just above the surface of the water. Lucky for him, no one seems to be scouting the waters. He does laps around the boat for any signs of weakness, but it seems new so there are no signs of rust or anything of the sort, and he can't just climb aboard to disable the thing. He dives underwater and sees the propellers spinning slowly to keep the boat at a steady pace and an idea sparks in his mind. He hurries to the docks on the shore nearby, making sure to keep out of sight from anyone who might be taking a late-night dip and steals fish netting from one of the fishermen's boat in the area. With the net in hand, he rushes back to the boat -- now comes the hard part.

Though the propellers spun lazily, they were still a danger that could easily overtake Tsukki if he made the wrong move. He may be willing to die, but being shredded by a propeller wouldn't be...well, let's just say it's not on his Top Five list of ways to die. He looks over his netting twice to make sure he isn't caught up in it, then throws the ragged thing towards the propeller. It drifts ever closer and for a split second he's worried he didn't throw it hard enough, but then--

KR KR KRRRR

The netting entangles in the propeller and causes it to halt so sharply its weight shifts to the front before shifting back towards him. He swims far enough away before coming up to witness the results.

"What the fuck!"

"What happened?"

"Why did the boat stop!?"

The teens that are sober enough to think scramble to figure out what's wrong while the others continue drinking as if nothing happened. Satisfied that he accomplished his task without seriously hurting anyone, Tsukki turns to swim away.

"KUROO!"

He whips his head around -- there's no way.

"There he is! KUROO! WAKE UP!"

He sees Bokuto, the gray-haired kid from this morning, leaning over the edge of boat and pointing at someone in the water. Following his finger, Tsukki sees Kuroo's lifeless body floating face-up.

"Somebody get him!" Bokuto screams.

"You fucking get him!" Another yells.

"I...I can't! Please! Someone help him!"

Tsukki rolls his eyes. He'll be fine. Don't get involved. He's face-up at least and floating, someone will get him.

"I think I can fix the engine!"

His gaze shifts to the front where Nakamura is attempting to restart the engine. He tries once....twice...on the third, the engine revs and the propellers being to spin, tearing the old netting apart.

"NO! STOP!"

In that split second, Tsukki sees it all -- the propellers start, Kuroo isn't waking up, and the boat inches closer and closer to his body.

Somehow, Tsukki's body acts before he can even think and his powerful tail whips him towards Kuroo; he has barely enough time to react and grabs Kuroo by his ankles, draping them over his shoulders and diving under the boat just before the propeller tears into him.

Shit! That was close!

He swims onward, staying deep enough so he isn't seen and swimming as fast as he can with the added weight. He knows Kuroo isn't going to last long underwater, but if he pulls up now there's a chance he will be seen. As he swims, he can feel Kuroo's body jerking against him as his lungs try to intake air.

Come on, just a little farther!

A few more feet...a few more...finally! Tsukki pulls up to the surface, bringing Kuroo's head up first before looking behind him -- the boat is far off now and he exhales in deep relief. He's not far from shore and pulls Kuroo over to a secluded spot and if he thought beaching himself before was hard enough, pulling dead weight with him was even harder. By the time Kuroo is far enough out of the water, Tsukki is breathless and exhausted. He's never exerted so much energy in his life!

"It's too bad you aren't going to remember this otherwise I'd say you owe me one." Tsukki says breathlessly. While peering down at Kuroo, he notices something rather troubling.

He isn't breathing.

Tsukki dips his ear down over Kuroo's mouth. No breaths. A quick check of his pulse relieves most of his stress when he feels a gentle thump, thump, thump against the pads of his two fingers, but Kuroo still hasn't taken a breath. Without hesitation, Tsukki closes his mouth over his, plugs his nostrils, and exhales two deep breaths.

He pauses....still nothing.

"Come on! Breathe!"

He continues the rescue breathing, each set growing more desperate when Kuroo doesn't react. In his frustration, Tsukki pounds down on Kuroo's chest and Kuroo jolts with a harsh cough. Tsukki jumps back in shock, but then a huge wave of relief washes over him. There was no way he could continue on if this loudmouth actually died because of him.

"Holy -- ack!" Kuroo coughs some more as he tries to sit up, sputtering water all over himself.

In his post-shocked state, Tsukki realizes too late he is still in mermaid form. While Kuroo is bent over in half and coughing, Tsukki hurries through the sand, cursing the weight of his heavy tail while his trembling arms struggle to carry him. He hits the water and crawls faster, hoping he hasn't been seen.

"Tsukishima?" Kuroo coughs out. "Is that you?"

Tsukki stops. How much of his tail is showing? Is he fully submerged? Did he see?

"What -- where are we? What happened?"

Slowly, Tsukki turns to look over his shoulder. His tail is just barely submerged under the water, but it's dark enough it can't be seen. If he plays it cool, he might get out of this unscathed.

"Uh, y-you don't remember?"

"I remember being on Nakamura's boat." Kuroo combs his wet hair back with his fingers and Tsukki's heart thumps to see his face exposed under the moonlight. "I was drinking with Bokuto, then...the boat stopped or something? I remember falling...oh fuck, did I hit the water?"

His striking eyes meet Tsukki's and Tsukki freezes. Was he supposed to answer? Tsukki shrugs his shoulders and gulps. Now, Kuroo is on alert and looks around himself. Far off in the distance, the boat has turned and headed for the docks.

"What the fuck? How are we so far away? And...Tsukki, why are you here? What the hell are you doing?"

From Kuroo's point of view, Tsukki knows this is a rather odd situation. Here he is, waking up on the shore with the boat he was just on hundreds of yards away, and sitting awkwardly in the water in front of him is the hotel clerk who wasn't even on said boat.

"Uh...I was...swimming?"

"Is that a question? What the fuck is going on?"

From his sitting position in the sand, Kuroo quickly stands and steps into the water towards Tsukki. Tsukki pushes himself farther into the water while watching his tail to make sure it doesn't poke out.

"Don't come closer! J-Just stay there."

"Why? What's wrong? This is fucked up, get out of the water." Kuroo steps closer and reaches down for him.

"NO! Back off!"

"Why?! There's no fucking way you pulled me THAT far! Get out of the water!"

The stupid, flirty Kuroo he had met this morning was gone, replaced by someone who was determined to find answers. Tsukki was panicking -- he can't find out, if he does he's going to tell everyone and Tsukki can never return to the shore, but this island in his home! Without it, he would be stuck at sea for the rest of his days as Umdea's slave. Kuroo grabs hold of Tsukki's arm and he screams.

"I CAN'T!"

They pause.

"What do you mean--"

"I CAN'T GET OUT! I--"

It's too late. He can't hide it now. Kuroo was too determined while Tsukki was too tired to hide it any longer.

"I'M...I'm..." His voice trails off to a sob. Five years. For five years he had everything under control. "...I'm cursed."

"What?" Kuroo loosens his grip, but doesn't let him go entirely.

"I'm cursed. Look."

For the first time in a very long time, Tsukki feels fear. He hesitantly pulls his tail forward, letting it surface from the water to lie under the pale moonlight. Kuroo's eyes go wide and he drops Tsukki's wrist.

"Holy fuck." He whispers. Tsukki is too scared to look at him.

"Y...you're...there's no way."

Tsukki's shoulders shudder as he cries and he looks away shamefully. "It's true."

"You're..."  Tsukki coils in on himself as he waits to hear the words tumble from Kuroo's mouth.

"...You're one of those dudes who likes to dress up as a mermaid!"

Tsukki's heart stopped. He craned his neck ever-so-slowly to look up at Kuroo who had the beginnings of an amused smile. In hindsight, Tsukki should have made both their lives easier and played along, but he was so frustrated, so tired, he just couldn't keep up appearances any longer and he exploded.

"NO, IDIOT! I'm an actual mermaid!"

That was the loudest Tsukki had ever yelled in his life and Kuroo jumped back. Tsukki was grinding his teeth while Kuroo rubbed the back of his head awkwardly.

"Oh. Shit, umm...I don't know what to do with that."

An honest answer, Tsukki thought. Exhausted, he relaxed his whole body and turned away from Kuroo.

"Do whatever you want."

Kuroo stands silently and Tsukki listens to the waves crashing into the pier.  Kuroo is probably thinking a million things at once, but right now Tsukki can only focus on the sound of the sea around him and the feel of the water as it passes over his body over and over again.  If it weren't for the situation at hand, he could probably fall asleep right here in the shallows of the water.

"Um...Can I...touch you?"

Tsukki nods, but keeps himself turned away. What does it matter now anyway? He won't ever see anyone after tonight. He can hear Kuroo gulp from where he is, hears the sand shift as he kneels down. Kuroo's knees are shaking when he kneels in the wet sand and brings his long fingers shyly to Tsukki's silver iridescent tail. The moment they make contact, Tsukki's whole body shakes and an onslaught on tears well in his eyes. He has to cover his mouth to muffle the sudden sobs. He doesn't know why he's crying; maybe because this is the most terrifying moment of his life, or maybe because this is the first physical contact he's had since being cursed.

"Does it hurt?" Kuroo asks softly. Tsukki can only bear to shake his head.

With a featherlight touch, Kuroo's fingers spread over his scales until his palm is flat against them. Neither of them are breathing as his hand roves down to where his tail thins out into his paper-thin fins. He spends a moment rubbing the fin between his fingers and Tsukki trembles with a ticklish chill. From there, his fingers ghost up to avoid pulling back any scales -- a rather thoughtful move -- up to his waist where his skin begins and he gingerly touches the very tips of his gils over his ribs. Tsukki flinches from the sensitive spot being touched and Kuroo pulls back.

"This is real. This is fucking real."

Tsukki is still scared, but this time he chances a glance at Kuroo. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but Kuroo's reaction has him feeling uneasy. His jaw in clenched so tight he can see the strain of his muscles by his ear; his hair remains pulled back, revealing the sharpness of his features that are illuminated by the droplets of water on his face. When Kuroo's gaze meets Tsukki's, he can't stop the tears that stream down his face.

"I'm a monster." Tsukki says. This moment is so fragile, yet he's sharing it with someone who he only met this morning. Kuroo's eyes go wide.

"No. Tsukishima," Kuroo leans in closer, placing his hand overtop Tsukki's that is pressing into the damp sand,

"you are beautiful."

Chapter Text

"B...beautiful?!"

Tsukki sat back completely stunned by Kuroo; he wasn't smiling or laughing, not even the slightest signs of an amused grin pulled at his lips. He was being completely serious as he spoke.

"I mean it. You are one-of-a-kind. I told you the first day I met you that you're gorgeous."

"That was just idle flirting!" Tsukki pulls his hand out from Kuroo's and specks of sand fly everywhere.

"Maybe, but I meant every word!" Kuroo leans in closer, chasing after Tsukki who is curving away from him.

"Kuroo-san, I'm half fish! Nothing about having a fish body makes me beautiful."

"But your tail doesn't make you beautiful, you do!"

"Shut up, this is stupid." Tsukki uttered bitterly. Kuroo was lying, he just knew it.

"Please, listen to me. Don't run away--"

"Just go! Go tell whoever it is you're going to tell!"

"I won't tell anyone, I promise."

He's lying, he's lying, he's lying! Don't give in! Just swim away and never come back! Your life is over!

Kuroo reaches for Tsukki again, but he isn't having any of it; he's a monster, a crude creation that has no right to exist. He should have disappeared into the waters years ago when he was first cursed. As soon as Kuroo's fingertips touch his cold skin, Tsukki lunges for the deeper water.

"TSUKISHIMA! WAIT!"

Time stops, the tumbling waves around him come to a standstill. Something is grabbing him, or rather something is wrapped around him. He looks down to see muscular arms squeezing his torso; when he looks over his shoulder, Kuroo's cheek is pressed into his back.

"Please don't go."

Tsukki could push him off right now, he could turn around, break his nose, and swim off into the depths. His mind is screaming at him to do so, telling him he is better off alone than being sold to some marine park; however, his gut feeling keeps him from making any move.

"I know you're scared, but I promise I'm not someone to be afraid of."

Something in Kuroo's words tell Tsukki he's being honest and he shakes from the very fear of the unknown. Like Umdea said, her years of solitude had changed her for the worse, so perhaps the very same has happened to Tsukki. Whatever it is Kuroo is planning, Tsukki decides to give him a chance.

"Okay. I...I will stay."

Kuroo looks up at Tsukki who is still crying, smiles, and releases Tsukki from his bear hug, but keeps their hands together as he slowly walks back towards the beach. Tsukki trembles with uncertainty and follows him until he is resting on the damp shore, keeping his tail in the water. Kuroo happily joins him by his side, ignoring the water as it brushes up his legs with each steady pulse. As Tsukki lies on the beach with one arm curled under his head facing Kuroo, Kuroo does the same and lies on his side so he can gaze at Tsukki. Relaxed, contented, Tsukki finally lets go of everything he has held onto all these years and cries harder than ever before. It's embarrassing, really, to be crying in front of a stranger, but Tsukki feels safe as Kuroo gently strokes up and down his bare arm. He doesn't hush him or tell him to calm down, he simply lies there as a quiet presence until Tsukki's sobs die down and his shoulders stop trembling.

"Guess you needed that, huh?"

Tsukki sniffs rather grossly and nods. His head is all fuzzy and his eyes burn from his constant rubbing.

"I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm crying so much."

Kuroo shrugs. "Who knows. Emotions are weird. Don't worry though, you're still hot."

Tsukki looks at him in doubt and scoffs, pushing sand towards him as Kuroo giggles. Tsukki calms down a bit more and Kuroo continues the gentle stroking of his arm, letting silence pass between them like the calm, ocean air. But it isn't long before Kuroo breaks the silence.

"So...is it okay if I ask about the whole mermaid thing?"

An uncomfortable subject. Tsukki spreads his fingers underneath the sand and sighs.

"I don't really want to talk about it. One day I'll tell you, but right now...it's too much."

Kuroo nods. "Okay, that's fine."

"Really? Just like that?"

"Mhm. I know what it's like to have a secret you're too scared to tell."

"Oh yeah? And what kind of secret is Kuroo-san hiding, hmm?"

"Maybe one day I'll tell you." Kuroo smiles slyly and Tsukki rolls his eyes. In the quiet, Tsukki breaks out into a wide yawn and his vision goes blurry from sleep.

"You wanna sleep?"

"Right here? On the beach? That's kind of weird, isn't it?"

Kuroo shrugs.

"Well...what if someone comes?"

"No one's gonna come here. It's like, three in the morning. All the partiers were on the boat and are probably headed home now. AND, we're far from the resorts. We'll be fine."

Kuroo rolls onto his back and extends his arm out towards Tsukki. Was he expecting them to cuddle? Tsukki's brows furrow and he doesn't make a move.

"Tsukishima, you're cold."

"Am not." Of course, right as he says this a cold wind picks up and Tsukki shivers. He blatantly ignores the knowing smile Kuroo flashes.

"Well, I'm pretty cold. I did just come out of the ocean, y'know! Come warm me up, Tsukishima~"

"Ugh," Tsukki scoffs and rolls over in the sand, turning his back to Kuroo who makes a disappointed whine.

When they settle down, sleep slowly takes over Tsukki's weary body. His consciousness flutters in and out, and though he is very much aware there is someone behind him who can see him in all his otherworldly form, he finds comfort in the very thought of no longer being a secret.

"Tsukishima...thanks for trusting me with this. I won't let you down."

Tsukki's eyes flutter open. Is this what is was? He trusted Kuroo? The thought sent him reeling; he wasn't accustomed to trusting people.

"...Tsukki."

"Huh?"

"Just call me Tsukki."

"That's so cute. I like it."

"Not cute."

"Super cute."

Tsukki scoffs again -- this was starting to become a habit -- and finally lets himself relax enough to drift asleep.


The sound of shrieking gulls and an uncomfortable sticky-hot feeling rouses Tsukki from his rest. Looking over his shoulder, Kuroo is sound asleep like a true beach bum accustomed to the coarseness of sand in all sorts of places it doesn't belong. Even though he is snoring obnoxiously, he looks rather beautiful lying against the sand. Tsukki inches closer, careful not to wake the sleeping beast, and gently trails his lithe fingertips down the bridge of his nose and over his dry lips. His throat is smooth with no signs of stubble and the image of Kuroo with a thick beard has Tsukki amused enough to smile. His fingers continue over his collarbone, over his arms, and linger in the palm of his hand.

"Having fun?"

Tsukki looks up to see Kuroo wide awake; his heated gaze has Tsukki feeling even hotter than when he woke up.

"I was just exploring. You got your fair share last night."

"I know one place you could explore if you're curious." Kuroo rolls over onto his side as he smirks, then looks down to see Tsukki's tail is still in form. "So, when do you change back?"

"Soon. The sun is rising now. My tail has to dry out before it melts away."

"Gross. What's it feel like?"

"It's weird. When I have my tail, I can't feel my legs since they aren't there. But when it dries out, suddenly my legs are there and they feel like they're wrapped up tight. It's really uncomfortable."

"What happens when you change into a mermaid?"

"I guess the opposite? One minute my legs are there, and then they're not. I'm kind of used to it though."

Tsukki sits up and bends his tail to hug it to his chest; he can already feel his toes begin to form and he wiggles them furiously to stretch them. Within minutes of the sun rising, Tsukki is rubbing at his waist where his tail begins at the itchy tingling that has begun. He grunts in frustration, not noticing how much his tail is flopping about as he moves in agitation. Then, without warning, his scales fall off intermittently into the sand before his entire tail melts away completely.

"Whoa! That's so cool!" Kuroo exclaims. Although Tsukki feels a hundred times better now that he has legs again, he's more than aware of how "exposed" he is and turns his back to Kuroo while using one hand to cover his groin.

"Hah! Are you naked?!"

"Kuroo-san, I need a favour."

"This is the greatest morning of my life."

"I'm serious! I need you to go get my clothes for me."

"Hmm...I'll do it for a kiss~"

"Kuroo-san, please."

Tsukki looks over his shoulder, casting his best puppy-eyes he has come to perfect over the years since childhood. Its effect is deadly.

"Aw shit. Okay, okay. Where am I going?"

Tsukki gives him the easiest directions possible and waits patiently for his return. To his surprise, Kuroo returns within ten minutes with everything in tow and even turns around respectfully while Tsukki gets dressed.

"How long have you lived in that shack?"

"Since I got cursed."

"You don't live with your parents?"

"No. My...my parents are both dead."

"Oh...you, uh," Kuroo clears his throat awkwardly, "you never got an apartment?"

"I guess I could, but it seems like a waste to pay for something I'm only spending a few hours in."

Kuroo hums in contemplation and Tsukki finishes cleaning himself up.

"Thanks for this, Kuroo-san. I better get going to work."

"Oh fuck, yeah, I better go see Bokuto. He's probably already holding a funeral for me. Tsukki," Kuroo bombards Tsukki with a tight hug, squeezing the air out of him before pulling away, "I have to see you again. When are you finished work?"

"Uh-um, four usually."

"Awesome. I'll see you at four 'kay?"

For a moment, Kuroo's eyes dash to Tsukki's lips, lingering just a little longer than needed before he says his goodbye and runs the other direction. Tsukki lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding and puts his hand over his racing heart.

What was Kuroo-san thinking just now?


Work was unpleasant, as usual. Tsukki wore his same suit and tie, much to Misha's dismay who always wore a different neck scarf with her uniform. However, there was something different today, or rather someone was different.

"Excuse me, sir." An older woman approached Tsukki at the counter. "When I booked my room last month I specified wanting down pillows and duvet, but what I slept on last night certainly was NOT down!"

"Ah." Tsukki started. Misha prepared for an unsettling discussion, her fingers tensing at her keyboard. "My apologies, it was an oversight on our part. I will have your bedding switched out this morning with the cleaning. Please, allow us to provide you with a free meal tonight."

Swiftly, Tsukki presented a free meal card to the woman who immediately smiled and happily took the card. Quick thank-you's were exchanged, followed by a bow on Tsukki's part, and the woman left with a bounce in her step. Misha was flabbergasted.

"Tsukki!" She uttered in shock. Tsukki looked at her with a raised brow.

"That was excellent! I've never seen you provide such service before!"

"What are you talking about? She was unhappy and I solved the problem."

"Yes, but in the past you're so cold towards guests. Normally, you would have told that woman it's not a big deal and you definitely would not have given her a free meal card."

Tsukki thought on her words; was he really that mean to guests?

"Something good must have happened to you. Ohh, did you meet someone at Nakamura's party last night?" Her voice was laced with curiosity while her chocolate brown eyes sparkled.

"I wasn't at his party. Nothing happened. I didn't meet anybody."

Tsukki spoke just a little too quickly. Not noticeable to the average person, but to Misha who was a secret gossip queen and could pick up on the smallest deviances, he might as well have confessed it all.

"You'll have to introduce me soon." She added with a giggle.

Tsukki rolled his eyes and attended to the line up of guests that was now forming. As he spoke, he saw Takeshi out of the corner of his eye, only he wasn't casting the usual face of disapproval his way -- this time, he was smiling like a proud Father does when his son catches his first fish. It was a look he had never seen before. Was his behaviour truly that odd? All these years, had he been the company disappointment? The worker who should have been fired, but never was? If so...was it really Kuroo who sparked this sudden change?

"Tsukki, you're beautiful."

His spine tingles as he remembers Kuroo's touch. It was such simple physical contact, but Tsukki found it addicting. When he was fifteen, he had just started dating his childhood friend, Yamaguchi Tadashi. He was a quiet boy with dark brown, shaggy hair and freckles that dotted his cheekbones and nose. They complemented each other like strawberry shortcake and tea, with Yamaguchi always supporting him at his side. They had kissed and touched each other in places they only dreamed of before, but their relationship never advanced further. After Tsukki's curse, he saw less and less of Yamaguchi, stopped going to school altogether, and eventually...Yamaguchi moved off the island for good. Tsukki was too depressed to even say goodbye.

Now, to receive that attention he didn't even know he was craving, he realized only now it had affected him much more deeply than he could have anticipated. He wanted Kuroo's hands on him again, wanted to feel him explore every inch, to hear him whisper his name in that stupid flirty tone he uses, to feel his lips on --

Dear god. I have a crush on Kuroo-san.

"Sir?"

"Ah, u-um, sorry, ma'am." Tsukki clears his throat and gets back to the task at hand, but in the back of his mind he is still thinking of Kuroo's hands in his own and a smile threatens at the corners of his lips.

When 1600 finally rolls around, Tsukki lights up at the sound of sneakers squeaking along the glossy floor of the lobby and perks up to see Kuroo headed his way. His hair is styled as usual, with a gentle weft hanging down in front, and he's wearing a pair of board shorts decorated with geometric lines and silhouettes of palm trees. His shirt is a simple tank-top, sporting a graphic of shutter shades.

"Hey, Tsukki~" he calls out, dragging out the sound at the end of his name.

"Kuroo-san." Tsukki replies. "You're on time."

"You've known me for a day. When have I ever been late?"

"You seem like the type to play loosely with time."

"Oh, I'll show you how to play loose."

Tsukki's brows furrow as he looks at Kuroo. "What does that even mean?"

Kuroo just shrugs.

Tsukki directs him to wait by the desk while he changes, ignoring the disappointed "aww" when Kuroo realizes he won't be seeing Tsukki in a suit much longer. When Tsukki returns, he's completely refreshed and ready for the day in khaki shorts and red t-shirt.

"You look good in a suit." Kuroo compliments.

"Uh, thank you." Tsukki tries not to sound flustered, but it's hard when he's so unaccustomed to this kind of attention. Before leaving, Misha calls out to him.

"Hey! Tsukki!"

When Tsukki looks over, he sees her winking and flashing him a thumbs up. <He's cute> she mouths at him and Tsukki freezes. Thankfully, Kuroo is already past the doors and basking in the sunlight. He shakes his head furiously and heads outside to meet him.

"I've got big plans for us today!" He says, turning to fully face Tsukki while wearing a set of blinding, golden aviator glasses.

"Oh? Such as?"

"Well, lemme ask you somethin'. Have you ever had the mochi ice cream banana split that this place is famous for?"

"Uh, can't say I have. I'm not one for ice cream. I prefer cake."

"Good, 'cause it's shit. Only tourists like it. I happen to know the perfect place for cake, though. Let's go!"

Kuroo trots off energetically and Tsukki follows much less enthusiastically, but he manages to keep up thanks to his long legs. Their walk is pleasant, with Kuroo talking about the party on the boat last night before falling off into the water. Apparently, Bokuto was a crying mess when Kuroo saw him this morning and yelled at him for not calling sooner. Kuroo had only ever seen Bokuto cry once before (like, bawling cry), and it was when his family dog passed away of old age a couple years ago. His mother, on the other hand, wasn't the least bit worried and compared Kuroo to a highly-resistant cockroach. He wasn't sure whether to feel reassured his mother had such confidence in him, or to feel hurt that he was compared to a cockroach. Tsukki did his best to comfort him, telling him that if he were a cockroach he would be the prettiest one of the bunch. He meant it sarcastically, but apparently it was enough to boost Kuroo's mood.

After a decent walk across town and a turn down a winding street, they came to a small café on the upper level of a market. In the early morning, the market was bustling with locals, but by this time of day it was closed, leaving the street near empty. As they approached the café, Tsukki noted the "Closed" sign hanging on the door, but Kuroo knocked away and they were greeted by an older man.

"Tetsurou, my boy! Good to see you."

"Koboyashi-san! Do you have any cakes left for my friend and I?"

Kuroo stepped inside and Koboyashi got back to cleaning the tables from the lunch rush to prepare for the quieter evening crowd. The café was quite large, with two seating areas separated by a wide doorway. The immediate area had multiple tables of different sizes while the other side had lounging areas with old couches, low coffee tables, armchairs, and even a recliner in the corner. All the tables were made from driftwood the owner scavenged from the beach and refurbished himself years ago, and even the chairs were made from driftwood with frilly cushions on the seats his wife had sewn together. The walls were painted a deep, calming blue, and the lighting was mostly provided by the sun shining through the wall of windows on the far side with some softer lighter towards the counter.

"I have a few. I'm baking up a new batch for tonight. Go pick something from the counter."

Kuroo hurried over, ushering Tsukki to follow and pressed his face to the glass like a kid in a candy store.

"Oooo, that double-fudge matcha one is calling my name! Tsukki, what kind of cake do you like?"

"Um..." What did he like? It had been so long since he indulged in sweets he could hardly remember. Oh, right.

"Strawberry shortcake."

He looked inside with Kuroo, keeping his face away from the glass as they searched for one. To his luck, there was one piece left, sitting delicately on a gold platter with a scrumptious strawberry crowning the whipped cream; Tsukki salivated at the site of it. The store owner got to preparing drinks -- an iced coffee for Kuroo and a jasmine tea for Tsukki. With the café to themselves, the pair took the old, worn in lounge chairs in the back corner by the window, sinking into their seats happily. Tsukki relaxed under the sun; though it was warm, the café was air conditioned and kept him cool so he could properly enjoy his tea.

As he took his first bite of his dessert, the soft sponge cake melted in his mouth, mixing with the juicy sweetness of the strawberry and the creamy texture of the whipped cream, creating an inexplicable sensation in his mouth. He closed his eyes and hummed, chewing slowly to savour every bite of his cake before washing it down with his jasmine tea. When he opened his eyes, Kuroo was staring at him, jaw-dropped and eyes wide.

"What's wrong?" He asked.

"You...make eating cake look god damn illegal."

"Huh?? What are you talking about?"

"Oh don't bullshit me. You were all," Kuroo scoops up a bite of his double-fudge cake and pops it into his mouth to mimic Tsukki. "Mmmm...ahhh...ohhhh!"

He hums loudly and starts rubbing his hands over his body and up his face, careful not to ruin his perfectly sculpted hair. Tsukki laughs, covering his mouth to hide the food in his mouth and Kuroo keeps on going. When he sips his iced coffee, his fingers drag down his throat as he chugs before his mouth pops open with an overly satisfied 'aahhh!'. Tsukki laughs even harder, to the point where he can barely keep his food in his mouth and it encourages Kuroo to keep going with a second bite. As they calm down, Tsukki wipes the moisture from the corner of his eye and sighs; it felt so refreshing to laugh, like he just woke up from a much-needed nap and was filled with renewed energy. He never knew how much he missed it.

The rest of their café date continues on like so, with mimicry and jokes and stories of high school, at least up until Tsukki dropped out. He feels no shame over it, but he confesses his wish to continue if he could.

"Why not? You could just work at the hotel part-time and take a continuing education course instead."

"I don't know...it seems so unrealistic. There would be no point." Tsukki looks out the window uncomfortably.

"How is it unrealistic? People do it all the time. Your work might even finance it! Lots of places offer financing for continuing education. Some even offer scholarships."

"Because I..." Tsukki sighs in contempt. "Kuroo, there's a reason I haven't done anything with my life. I can't ever leave this island."

"Yeah I know, you've got your...thing." Kuroo looks over to Koboyashi to make sure he isn't listening. The owner has disappeared into the kitchen, baking up fresh desserts for the evening.

"It's not just that. I'm like this during the day, but I HAVE to return to the sea before the sun sets."

"Why? What happens if you don't?" He asks with the last mouthful of chocolate, placing the delicate plate back on the table

"I turn to sea foam...and I never turn back."

"What?! That's bullshit! Why?"

"The sea queen, Umdea. She's the one who cursed me. In exchange for letting me roam free during the day, I have to return to her at night to do her bidding."

"Whoa, whoa, wait. Sea queen? You mean there's...there's a legit Queen of the Sea out there? Like some Poseiden shit?"

Tsukki nods. Speaking about it now, his life really does sound like some sort of fairytale; if only it felt that way to him, with some kind of happy ending waiting for him. Instead, his life story is more like an urban tale meant to scare children at night, with only tragedy as his destiny.

"What does she look like? What does she do? Can she -- can she do like, really crazy storms? Can she make thunder? What about lightning? Can she create tsunamis!?"

Tsukki nods at each one, which only excites Kuroo even more. Though the topic is serious, Tsukki can't help but smile at how enthralled Kuroo is. He acts like a kid creating his own superhero, listing all these powers one by one and adding sound effects to his grand gestures.

"She looks like a shark. Well, she looks like me but with a shark tail. Her skin is all gray and she has long, frail hair that I swear is almost longer than her body. And she's huge."

"Like fat 'huge'?"

"No, idiot. Like, the size of a whale. She terrifies me when I see her."

"And she's the one who cursed you?"

Again, a silent nod from Tsukki.

"What would happen if you killed her?"

At that, Tsukki stifles an insulting laugh. "Kill her? I can't even look at her wrong without getting punished in some way. The first time I ever tried running away from her, I swam for days until I almost reached the mainland. But she caught me and you know what she did?"

Kuroo shook his head, still entranced by Tsukki's story.

"She turned me into a sea urchin. You know how dumb those things are? All I could think about was food. No thought of when I'd die, no thoughts of my life before or what my life meant. Just food. All the time. When she turned me back, I almost went insane with all my sudden intelligence. From then on, if I didn't return to the ocean by sunset I would die."

Tsukki didn't realize he was leaning far towards Kuroo, his voice rising steadily to just above what was an acceptable level; when he finished, he practically collapsed back into his seat, fuming with memories of his short time as a sea urchin.

"I'm sorry."

"What are you sorry for? It's not your fault."

"No, but...I shouldn't have assumed your life was easy. I didn't realize just how bad it was. I'm really sorry, Tsukki."

Glancing at Kuroo, his eyes were watery with worry, his eyebrows turned downward as he frowned. It broke Tsukki's heart.

"Don't be sorry. You didn't know because I didn't tell you. Let's just forget about it, okay? What's next for our day?"

Kuroo finishes his drink while Tsukki scoops up the last of his cake and the pair head out on a lighter note. Their walk continues up the road from the cafe until the smooth pavement begins crumbling into gravel, crunching under their feet as they leave the town behind and head into the lush forest that weaves through most of the island. Tsukki couldn't remember the last time he did any actual exercise with his human legs, so they started to ache before they even begun the steep ascent up the hillside. His endurance was fine, but the screaming pain in his legs from the effort left him grunting with each step. Kuroo didn't seem to notice, which meant Tsukki had to try even harder to keep his cool since Kuroo didn't even look like he was struggling in the slightest.

"We're almost there! Just a small walk once we reach the top."

"Great! No problem!" Tsukki responded only a bit breathlessly. At that, Kuroo turned to see Tsukki's face was bright red with sweat trickling down his temples.

"You could've told me you were having trouble." He steps down to Tsukki's side and offers his hand. Tsukki stubbornly pushes it away.

"I'm not -- haah -- struggling! It's just my legs. I don't use them much."

"Aww, Tsukki's got weak legs? Don't worry. I'm big and strong, I can carry my princess to the top!"

Kuroo is smiling wickedly and before Tsukki can even reject the very idea, Kuroo is sweeping his legs out from under him into his arms.

"Kuroo-san!"

"I know, I know. I'm super hot when I show off my strength. Try not to nut too hard over me, 'kay?"

"WH--!"

Kuroo's laughing, Tsukki is kicking his legs to try and drop down, and together they make their way up the rest of the hill. It ends up being only a few more steps because by the time Tsukki has resorted to slamming his fist on Kuroo's shoulder, Kuroo is helping him down onto his feet with a smug grin on his face.

"Ugh, you can't just pick people up like....that..."

All the stress in Tsukki's face and body evaporate when he sees the sight before him. They are standing atop a hill that cascades down below into town, surrounded by trees and foliage that overwhelms Tsukki's senses in a way the ocean simply can't. Beyond the town, the ocean spreads out as far as the eye can see, changing from a bright, crystal blue to a deep azure that hides secrets not even Tsukki has discovered in all his five years of ocean life. Sunlight bounces off the caps of the waves, leaving the sea dazzling with different prismatic colours.

"Pretty awesome, huh? I love this view of the island."

Tsukki nods. He has no use for words, barely has the capacity to even think of something worthwhile to say except--

"Thank you."

He looks over to Kuroo only to see Kuroo is already looking at him; Tsukki ignores the reflex to look away and a faint smile pulls at Kuroo's lips. His black hair is still perfectly styled and with the aviator glasses resting atop his head, his yellow eyes stare at Tsukki with a longing, loving gaze that Tsukki has only ever seen once before. Something soft grazes at Tsukki's fingertips; when he looks, he sees Kuroo is stroking the inside of his palm, wordlessly asking for something Tsukki isn't sure he can give.

"Kuroo-san..." he starts.

"Yeah?" Kuroo's fingers gently intertwine with Tsukki's and Tsukki tries his best not to cry as he speaks.

"I...I can't."

"Why? Because you're a part-time mermaid?"

Tsukki shakes his head in frustration. "You know it's more than that. You're starting college soon, this place is just a vacation spot for you! It's -- it's my entire life. I can never give you what you need."

"Tsukki, shh. You're thinking way too much. Take a breath."

Again, Tsukki is crying. He wipes away his tears angrily and sniffles. Kuroo comes forward and pulls Tsukki into a hug, pressing Tsukki's wet face into his shoulder while his hand rubs his back.

"I don't really think much about the future. I just go with the flow and do what makes me happy and Tsukki, being with you makes me happy."

"You've known me for a day...."

"Yeah, and it's been the best day ever! Maybe we don't get married or grow old together. Maybe we do? Who fucking knows. All I know is I like making you happy and I don't care if you have to do shady shit for some weird-ass queen of the sea. I want to know more about you, like the kind of smells you like, what your favourite food is, if you can cook better than me -- though almost nobody can so keep that in mind."

Tsukki smiles against his skin and slowly, his arms come up from his sides to wrap around Kuroo and pull him closer. Looking at today, it's the first time in a long time he's ever felt alive; or rather, it's the first time he enjoyed being alive. He inhales deeply, taking in the scent of the sea air mixed with Kuroo's cologne and an unwavering sense of tranquility steadies his beating heart.

"Tsukki," Kuroo pulls away slightly so he can face him properly, "Do I make you happy?"

Tsukki doesn't hesitate and nods gently. "So far, yes."

"Good. Next question: can I kiss you?"

His heart stops. A kiss? Really? His eyes go to Kuroo's lips and he is only just noticing how dry his own lips are. He goes numb when he responds,

"Yes."

Kuroo's eyes, normally so full of life and wide like a cat's, become hazy when his lids flutter close and he inches closer and closer, his tongue poking out to wet his lips just before they touch. Tsukki still isn't breathing. Even though he hasn't kissed someone in years, his head moves like it's second nature, tilting slightly to the side while Kuroo does the same and parts his lips right before contact. Their kiss is gentle, but never has he felt so much heat from one touch. Kuroo's hand pushes on the small of his back so Tsukki is pressed against him and in return, Tsukki's hands push on his upper back. Their eyes are closed as they kiss and their lips move hesitantly. Slowly. And when Kuroo pulls away Tsukki finds himself wanting to pull him back for even more.

"That was fuckin' rad."

Tsukki huffs a laugh and buries his reddened face into the crook of Kuroo's neck. He's never felt so happy in his entire life.

"Wanna come back to my place?"

An exciting tingle rolls up from Tsukki's fingertips to his spine from the question.

"What would we do there?"

"Anything you want. Or nothing at all. We can just hang out and listen to music. Or watch a movie. I don't really care, but I want to cuddle you. Is that ok?"

Biting his lip, Tsukki nods. "I'd like that."

"'Kay. Let's go."

Kuroo pulls away, but keeps his hand tight around Tsukki's who can't stop smiling from the flurry of butterflies in his stomach.


What was initially exciting was now making Tsukki nauseous. Kuroo's and Bokuto's mothers were in the living room, having a glass of wine and talking about God-knows-what, but as soon as Kuroo introduced Tsukki they were all over him.

"How long have you been here?"

"What do you do for work?"

"Any plans for college?"

And the dreaded "What do your parents do?"

At that, Kuroo pulled Tsukki away.

"Alright, enough! You're badgering him! We're gonna head upstairs for a while."

"Fine, fine. I'm making dinner soon!"

"Sure thing!"

They hurried up the steps before the mothers could waste anymore of their time and disappeared into Kuroo's room. Since it was just a summer home, there wasn't much for decoration, but it did sport a small television, a low table for snacks, and a twin bed that Kuroo immediately fell onto.

"Maaan I love air conditioning!" He rolled over onto his back and spread his limbs, letting the cold air of his room reach untouched territory.

Tsukki stood awkwardly in the middle of the room, shoving his hands in his pockets since he had no idea what else to do with them. Kuroo looked up from the bed and inched over until his back was against the wall.

"C'mon, I did say we were gonna cuddle."

Every hair on Tsukki's body stood on end. He walked over to the bed and laid down next to Kuroo, who immediately snuck his arm under his neck. As they settled, Kuroo rested on the pillow and Tsukki curled into his chest, reaching his arm over until his hand was resting on his bicep. Kuroo relaxed effortlessly, releasing a long sigh and stroking his fingertips up and down Tsukki's back through his shirt. Tsukki was doing his best to relax -- he slowed his breathing, focused on the feel of Kuroo's skin under his fingertips....

And used all of his willpower to not think of every possible way this could turn into something sexual.

The air was thick with sexual energy, and how could it not be? They had just shared a kiss not too long ago, and now they were here in the privacy of Kuroo's room, sharing a bed, with their bodies nearly pressed together. Not to mention, Kuroo himself was the very definition of sexual energy, with his strong cologne that left Tsukki picturing him shirtless in the morning and spraying it on. Or the way his leg muscles were so defined even as he relaxed against the navy-blue of his blanket, or his striking jawline, or his soft lips that Tsukki wanted so badly to feel again. He was starting to sweat again, only this time for a very different reason.

"So, what do you wanna do?" Kuroo asked, peeking down at Tsukki in his arms.

"Uh, I -- I don't know."

"Hmm...wanna listen to some music?"

"Sure. Okay."

Kuroo reaches over Tsukki to grab headphones from his desk, hovering over him for just a moment but it's enough to leave Tsukki light-headed when his natural, sweaty scent overwhelms him. He offers an earbud to Tsukki when he's relaxed again and Tsukki pops it into his ear while Kuroo seeks out a song.

"Oh, this one's perfect. You heard it before?"

Choosing not to be distracted, Tsukki closes his eyes to listen. The beat is steady and the sound of the oceans plays in the background of a heavy bass.

"Take you like a drug.
I taste you on my tongue."

"No, but it sounds good."

"It's one of my favourites."

They go back to before, with Tsukki resting on Kuroo's arm who is now lounging next to him.

"You ask me what I'm thinking about.
I'll tell you that I'm thinking about.
Whatever you're thinking about."

With the distraction gone, Tsukki is back to thinking on the moment at hand, about where his hand sits on Kuroo's arm and if it feels good to him just as good as Kuroo's hand feels on his back. He moves his legs so it lays over Kuroo's and Kuroo's eyes open; Tsukki feels frozen, like a deer in headlights only he is very much aware of the danger that is coming. Unknowingly, he licks his bottom lip and looks at Kuroo's mouth -- can he feel the energy in the room, too?

"Tell me something that I forget.
But you might have to tell me again.
It's crazy what you do for fame."

Surely he must, because now his other hand is coming to cup Tsukki's face while he moves in, his eyes going half-lidded again while his mouth parts. This time, Tsukki is fully prepared and captures Kuroo's mouth in his, humming softly as the tip of Kuroo's tongue licks at Tsukki's.

"Go ahead and cry little girl.
Nobody does it like you do.
I know how much it matters to you.
I know that you got daddy issues."

Tsukki grips Kuroo's arm and opens his mouth wider, accepting more of Kuroo's tongue that dives deeper inside. Kuroo groans and Tsukki's heart jumps at the sound, deciding it's one of his favourite sounds ever; as Kuroo pushes, Tsukki submits willingly until he is laying on his back and Kuroo is on his side with his hand going down to Tsukki's crotch and groping at the hardness under his shorts.

"Hngh -- Kuroo-san." He whimpers.

"Fuck, you're so fucking hot, Tsukki." Kuroo whispers into his ear and Tsukki just about cums right there.

"And if you were my little girl
I'd do whatever I could do
I'd run away and hide with you."

"Can I touch some more?"

Tsukki nods, gasping when Kuroo's hand dives under his pants and grips his cock after pushing his shirt up to his chest. His hand feels so fucking good on him he can hardly fathom it and when Kuroo pumps him for the first time, he has to cover his mouth to stifle a long moan.

"When was the last time anyone touched you?" Kuroo asks with a teasing tone. Tsukki just shakes his head.

"Y-you don't want to know. Oh f -- oh god!"

Kuroo smirks and rests his cheek on Tsukki's shoulder so he can watch properly. His hand makes quick work of Tsukki's pants to pull them down just enough so Tsukki is exposed to the cool air of the room and now Kuroo can see every flushed bit of his leaking dick in his hand.

"I love that you got daddy issues
And I do too."

"You're so wet. You gonna cum soon?"

"Uh-huh." Tsukki whimpers rather bashfully. Not only has it been years since someone last touched him, but he can't even remember when he masturbated last. It might actually be years since that happened, too.

And now, with Kuroo's hand expertly pumping his cock faster and faster, using his flowing pre-cum to wet his movements, Tsukki can already feel the tight bundle of nerves in the pit of his stomach getting ready to unwind.

"Kuroo-san...Kuroo-san..."

"That's it, say my name, baby. I wanna see you make a mess all over yourself."

"Ngh -- stop! Y-your voice!"

"Haah? Is my voice driving you crazy?" Kuroo purposely drops his voice lower and speaks right into Tsukki's ear. Right then, Tsukki grips his wrist and lets his body come undone.

"Oh fuh -- ah -- mm!"

Tsukki covers his mouth again. Kuroo lifts his face to watch Tsukki come undone, smiling when Tsukki's eyes roll back and his eyelids flutter close. His cum is spouting all over his bare stomach while his body twitches from the intense stimulation.

"Fuck that was hot. I could watch that all day."

"Hah..haah."

Tsukki is beat; who knew an orgasm could be so tiring? He looks down to see the mess he made and blushes from the sight of Kuroo's hand still wrapped around his cock.

"Kuroo-san...you too."

"Huh? Me?"

Tsukki never was the selfish type. If he came, Kuroo was gonna cum, too, no matter how god-awful Tsukki was at giving handjobs or blowjobs. His hands reach for Kuroo's shorts and Kuroo forces his hips back into the wall.

"Wait--"

"No, it's not fair."

Tsukki grips his waistband and Kuroo forcefully grabs his wrist to stop him.

"Tsukki...before we do anything else, I gotta tell you something. After that, you can do whatever you want."

Annoyed, Tsukki nods and Kuroo sits up fully. Reaching back, he pulls his tanktop off by the collar and throws it aside; on his torso, he is wearing a nude-coloured vest that seems to strap at the side.

"You..."

"Yeah...I'm--"

"Why are you wearing a vest?"

....

They're silent for a long time as Kuroo stares at Tsukki in disbelief.

"You're joking." He says.

"I'm not the one wearing a vest right now."

"You fucking -- oh my god, no. Tsukki, I'm trans."

Tsukki's eyebrows furrow. Trans? Trans what? Trans-- Oh -- OHHH.

"Ohhhh."

"Yeah, 'ohhhh'. Fucking vest -- did you seriously think that?!"

"Trans wasn't my first thought, okay?"

"Okay but you know what that means, right?"

"I'm not stupid of course I know."

"Says the vest guy."

"Says the 'dress-up like a mermaid' guy!"

"Oh, shut it!" Kuroo throws his shirt into Tsukki's face and laughs. Tsukki's laughing, too, which helps relieve some of the sexual tension that had been building in the room.

"So...you're cool with it?" Kuroo asks. This time when he speaks, Tsukki notices some shyness in his voice, like he's unsure what to do or say.

"Yes, it's okay. It doesn't -- SHIT!"

Looking out the window, Tsukki's heart drops -- the sun has almost set. He jumps out of Kuroo's bed and does up his pants as he bolts out of the room, ignoring the disgusting cum that has his shirt sticking to his torso.

"Tsukki?! Tsukki!!"

He hears Kuroo calling for him but he doesn't have time to care. He's far from the shore, too far -- if he doesn't run with everything he has, he won't be coming back. Tourists shout at him as he dashes by, cars honk when he runs past an alleyway, narrowly avoiding getting hit by jumping over the hood. He can see the sun touching the ocean, painting the sky with hues of orange and pink as it begins its descent into the horizon, but he still has so much farther can go.

I'm not gonna make it. This is it.

He should be panicking, he should be pushing himself even harder, but instead...part of him wants to slow down. He wants to stop, wants to sit on a nearby bench and watch the sun seal his fate, watch it disappear behind the water in his last moments. Such a sweet release...he wouldn't have to worry anymore, he wouldn't have to be Umdea's slave, wouldn't have to care about his future or think of the lack of it. If he just stopped, he could be free from all this torment.

"Tsukki! Keep going! You're almost there!"

From behind, Kuroo's voice calls to him like a fan does to their favourite baseball player. Kuroo is there for him, chasing after him when he doesn't need to so he can see Tsukki through to the end; how could Tsukki stop now? He has finally met someone that makes him want to live, even if it's only for today. Tomorrow, Kuroo could change his mind completely and Tsukki would be okay with it because then he could end his life with no regrets. But for today, he must try. So even though his legs are screaming and his lungs are aching, he pushes onward. Cement turns to wood, then to sand; the air is cool with the dusk wind, and the ocean is just a few meters from him now. Behind he can hear Kuroo's heavy footsteps as he follows him; the sun is nearly gone now and Tsukki smiles bitterly, realizing the irony of finally accepting his new life only to have it end.

It was a good last day, anyway.

He runs into the water, fully clothed, and dives in so he is fully submerged.

.....

Kuroo stops at the water's edge and watches frantically for any signs of life. How stupid he was to keep Tsukki so long! He saw how low the sun was when they were on the hilltop, he knew they didn't have much time, but he didn't think the sun would set so quickly!

The water is quiet, there's no splashing except for the small waves that spill onto the sandy beach. He scans the water over and over, his heart ripping more with each minute that passes. Then, under the frail light of what's left from the sun's rays, he sees it -- white sea foam. It washes up at his feet and all life drains from him as Kuroo crumbles down onto all fours.

He's failed the love of his life.

Chapter Text

Kuroo is resentful when he feels hot tears stream down his face; ever since junior high, he had resolved not to be a crier because it made him look weak; but now there's no stopping the endless river and he watches through fuzzy vision as they drip from his chin to the sand.

"Tsukki!" He yells out to the sea.

"Tsukki! Please! Come back!"

As if begging him not to be dead was a realistic demand, but then Tsukki was a mermaid cursed by a living queen of the sea, so perhaps it wasn't so fantastical after all? After minutes of crying, of digging his hands into the sand as if trying to grab hold of something real, of waiting for Tsukki to miraculously splash his way back into Kuroo's life, the harsh realization of Tsukki's curse finally sets to stone when he sees his clothing floating atop the surface of the water.

He isn't coming back.

Kuroo falls back onto the sand, bringing his gritty knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them to hide his face while he sobs loudly. He was careless. Selfish. He wanted to make Tsukki happy but in part, he was just a horny teenager who wanted some alone time with someone he loved. He could have let Tsukki go after their kiss and seen him the next day, but he was greedy, high on the adrenaline of his newfound love and wanted to soak in that feeling for a little longer. And Tsukki paid the price for it.

When his sobs settled, merely out of exhaustion, Kuroo dared to look at the remnants of his love once more -- the fading white sea foam that sat on the water's edge, sinking into the beach with each passing moment. He isn't sure when it happened, but the sky has turned dark and the cold wind from the sea licks at his skin. Any other night he'd shiver and complain, but tonight he is numb to everything outside of his own feelings. The inescapable guilt leaves him sitting on the secluded beach, gazing out into the vast, nothingness of the sea.

"Tetsurou?" A familiar voice calls. He knows who it is without having to look and his heart thumps with life. "What's up? You've been gone for hours."

Bokuto, his best friend, plops down by his side and leans into him, his warmth bringing Kuroo back to reality. He tries to hide the fact he's been crying, but his shaky exhale betrays him and Bokuto's eyebrows raise in concern.

"Whoa, are you okay? What's wrong?" His hand reaches for his shoulder in a show of support and Kuroo turns away from him. "Aw c'mon, don't be like that. You can talk to me about anything."

"I...I can't."

"Yeah you can! I don't like seeing you cry. C'mon, man, talk to me." Bokuto nudges him with his shoulder, but Kuroo remains silent. "Hmph. Okay then."

Bokuto resigns to sitting quietly by Kuroo, but it isn't long before he is already asking questions.

"Hey, whose clothes are those? In the water." Bokuto points to the T-shirt and khakis as if Kuroo hadn't noticed.

"Don't know." Kuroo shrugs and keeps his face turned away.

"As if. Was someone skinny dipping here and you found them?"

"Bokuto..."

"Seriously, why are there just some clothes in the water?"

Bokuto gets up, his curiosity overtaking him, and quickly steps out of his shoes to step into the water; when he reaches for the T-shirt, Kuroo panics.

"Don't!" Kuroo scrambles over, shoes and all, and rips the T-shirt from Bokuto's hands, then hurriedly grabs the soaking-wet khakis and brings them to his chest. "Don't touch them!"

"Yo what the fuck, man? Calm down."

"Shut up! Just shut the fuck up!"

He's crying again and storms out of the water to his spot on the beach. His chest stings with guilt for blowing up on Bokuto but he's far too lost in his emotions to handle it right now.

"Tetsurou!" Bokuto calls to him and hurries behind, splashing through the knee-deep water frantically. "Tetsurou, hold up. What's going on?"

He sits back down next to Kuroo, but with a bit more space between them. "You gotta tell me what's up with you. You have never yelled at me like that."

"I know! I'm s-sorry!" He chokes out, overcome by a deep, overwhelming sadness that seems to pull him down like a heavy anchor.

"This is so fucked up, Bo! I--I can't deal with this!"

He ignores the fact he's crying. He ignores the sopping wet clothes that are bleeding into his shorts. All he can think of is Tsukki, the blond boy he fell in love with when he first saw him in the lobby, the boy whose quiet personality resonated loudly inside Kuroo's heart and mind. The boy who now, was nothing more than a frothy white foam that had been washed away by the sea.

"Deal with what? Tetsurou, just tell me! Whatever you're going through it's clearly too much for you to handle alone. You can trust me, you know you can. Please..."

Finally, he looked to Bokuto. Bokuto was a happy, simple guy who enjoyed sports, boys in tank-tops, and cold beers that he snuck from his dad's fridge. He was an easy guy to please, but an even easier guy to talk to because he always put others' best interests first. Looking at him for the first time tonight -- as in, really taking a moment to study him -- Kuroo saw just how worried his friend was. For a regularly happy guy, he wore the saddest, most concerned expression. There was no way Kuroo could lie to him any longer.

"Bo I...I'm going to tell you something. It's r-really fucking wild and I don't know if you'll believe me, but it's the honest truth, 'kay?"

Bokuto nodded. "Gotcha."

"I'm serious. This is some next-level shit you're about to hear. So...try to stay with me."

Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Kuroo did his best to gather all the events from the past couple days and all the information he had learned into a simple, easy-to-understand info packet for Bokuto and then...he told him everything. From the night he disappeared underwater, to finding out Tsukki's secret and explaining the presence of a sea queen who had cursed Tsukki for his dad's life as a fisherman.

"Whoa! What's she look like?! Can she cause thunderstorms? Typhoons?! What about -- OH what about tsunamis!?

After explaining that yes, she was a badass bitch who was some real-life Poseidon, he continued explaining the details of Tsukki's curse, glazing over the erotic details of his date to explain how it was Kuroo's own fault for Tsukki meeting his demise. With everything off his chest, Kuroo sunk into his spot on the beach, relieved that he could finally talk with someone.

"So...Tsukki is...he's..."

"He's dead. All because of me."

Kuroo brought his palm to his forehead, partially running his fingers through his hair and resting his elbow on his knee. Bokuto was silent, no doubt overwhelmed by all the sudden revelations.

"You're right...this is fucked up. But it's not your fault."

"How is it not? If I hadn't taken up so much of his time, maybe he'd still be alive."

"Maybe, but...well, I didn't know the guy, but if he was really dealing with all this shit for so long, do you really think..." Bokuto paused, gulping loudly. "Do you really think he wouldn't have noticed the time of day?"

Kuroo blinked -- did he mean...

"What are you talking about?"

"I mean, he knew for a long time that if he wasn't back by sundown he would die. That's not really something you just [I]happen[/I] to forget, right? So...maybe...he knew?"

"You mean...you think he was aware of how close it was but still spent time with me?"

Bokuto shrugged hesitantly and Kuroo was in disbelief. He couldn't wrap his head around the idea of Tsukki purposely spending his last minutes with Kuroo knowing he might die, but the more he thought on it, the more it haunted him.

"No. There's no way."

"You loved him, right? Maybe he loved you, too, enough to want to spend as much time as possible with you, even if it meant dying."

"Bo...that's...oh my fucking God."

Kuroo cradled his face in his hands. He could tell Tsukki struggled with sadness, probably even a deep depression and Kuroo didn't blame him, but had he really fallen for Kuroo that much that he resolved to spend his last day with him? He felt honoured, saddened, in love, torn apart -- he was stuck in a constant state of bouncing between overwhelming happiness and downtrodden hurt that his poor mind couldn't fathom how to handle it. What started as hollow, broken sobs quickly turned to high-pitched screams of frustration and anger until he was full blown yelling at the top of his lungs.

"FUCK! FUCK! FU----UCK!"

His fingers clawed at his skull, pulling on his thick hair as he screamed. Bokuto, lost and terrified, pulled Kuroo into his chest and held him close as he cried the night away over the loss of his beloved.


Hours passed by until the shining rays of the sun crept up over the horizon, drowning all signs of the night with its warm array of colours. Bokuto and Kuroo were still glued to their spots on the beach; Kuroo hadn't slept at all, how could he? He couldn't bear the thought of missing the tiniest glimpse of Tsukki if he was alive. Bokuto did his best to stay up with him, but it wasn't long before he had snuggled himself into a dip in the sand next to Kuroo and slept like a rock. Kuroo didn't mind, it allowed him the peace he needed to work through his thoughts and emotions, to cry or laugh (or sometimes both at the same time) as his jumbled mind worked through the past 48 hours.

IT'S THE, EYE OF THE TIGER, IT'S THE THRILL OF THE FIGHT

"Nnn..." Bokuto grumbled as his hand fetched his sleek metallic phone from his pocket and brought it to his ear.

"Hullo? Oh, mom."

He sat up abruptly, greeting Kuroo with a look that said he was in deep trouble. If Bokuto was in shit with his mom, it probably meant Kuroo was, too.

"No I know-- yeah, I'm sorry it's just-- uh-huh. Yeah, okay, I'm coming."

He hung up with a sigh.

"Where's your phone?"

Kuroo shrugged. "Probably at home."

"Your mom's been calling and now both our moms are pissed. We should head back..."

Kuroo stared unblinkingly at the near-still ocean. He knows he can't just sit here for the rest of his life, even if a tiny, minuscule piece of his heart told him Tsukki was still alive. He was starving, he reeked of sweat, and his binder had been itching him for the last couple hours now. He needed to go home and recuperate from his mourning, but when he tried to will himself to move, he didn't budge.

"C'mon, bro, let's go. I'll make you breakfast after we get our asses handed to us."

Bokuto stood, stretching with a loud yawn before offering his hand to Kuroo who reluctantly took it and rose with him. He held the clothes tight in his hand, realizing how hard it would be to explain to his mom.

"Bo...what should I do with his clothes?"

Bokuto looked to the dried up cloth in his hands, struggling to come up with an idea.

"Uh...maybe you could...make a shrine of some kind?"

A shrine, as in something to remember Tsukki, something to honour his death. The thought tortured Kuroo and he clutched the clothes even tighter. Then, an idea came to him.

"I know where to put them."

He walked along the beach away from town. Bokuto followed as they entered the thicket, brushing aside tree bramble and other foliage of the like until coming to a clearing where Tsukki's shack stood. Inside, his suitcase remained untouched; Kuroo folded the clothing as best as he could and softly placed them on top of his suitcase -- all that was missing was his pair of black-rimmed glasses.

When he turned his back on the little shrine he had made, each step he took felt like a dagger ripping into his heart, tearing apart sinew and flesh until he physically ached from the feeling. Bokuto saw his pain reached out to hold his hand.

"Tomorrow, we can buy some incense and come back, okay?"

Kuroo nodded. "Yeah, that'd be good. Thanks, Bo."

Together, hand-in-hand, they headed back to the villa and sure enough, upon entering Kuroo's villa, their mothers were waiting for them.

"Where have you boys been?!" Kuroo's mom started.

"We were up all night worrying!" Said Bokuto's mother. Even so, they were fully dressed with their hair tied up in a towel, clearly fresh from a shower.

"Tetsurou, you should always have your phone on you! The way you bolted out of here yesterday made me think something awful happened!"

Something awful DID happen. Kuroo kept quiet, keeping his head bowed and trying not to show face.

"And Koutarou, you HAD your phone on. Why weren't you answering my messages?"

"Sorry, mom. We've been dealing with some stuff and--" Bokuto tried to explain.

"No excuses!" She cut him off. His mom was normally reasonable to talk to, but when she was with Kuroo's mother they only riled each other up.

"Tetsurou, you know how I worry. This island has a small-town mentality, if anyone were to find out about your....situation," Kuroo's breath hitched, "I'd hate to think of what people would say--"

"OH RIGHT! Because people talking is the worse fucking thing that could happen to you!"

"Tetsurou!" She scolded, but Kuroo wasn't having any of it.

"You act like you give two shits about me, but really you just don't want anybody knowing! You want to keep me a secret so fucking badly! I hate to break it to you, mom, but you need to get your head out of your ass and realize there's worse shit going on than some stupid fucking island gossiping about your son!"

Kuroo stomped out of the house and Bokuto followed suit.

"Tetsurou! Tetsurou, get back here!"

"FUCK OFF!" He yelled back, not caring that there were people in the villa looking at him through their windows. He headed straight for Bokuto's villa right next to his -- he didn't know why their mothers insisted on renting two villas next to each other each year, but it meant he and Bokuto had a quiet place to hang out when their parents were together.

He opened the door violently and kicked his shoes off; behind him, Bokuto gently shut the door and tidied up their shoes.

"Lock the door, Bo! I don't need them coming in here after me!"

"Roger!" Bokuto quickly locked the door and hurried after Kuroo to the living room. Kuroo fell face-first on the sectional couch, clutching a pillow to his face while trying to steady his breathing. Silently, Bokuto sat next to him and ran his fingers through Kuroo's hair.

He didn't bother questioning Kuroo on how he spoke to his mom, he knew he'd regret it in a few minutes when he cooled off. He and his mom were similar that way -- quick to leap before looking. He continued running his fingers through his hair, down his neck, gently rubbing his thumb and index finger on either side his spine to relieve the tension from his sore muscles. Evidently, after a few minutes had passed, Kuroo's shoulders were trembling and he could hear his muffled sniffles.

"Awww, Tetsurou. It's ok, man, she knows you didn't mean it."

Kuroo lifted his snot-covered face and sat up on his knees. He was clearly exhausted by the look of his reddened, swollen eyes that didn't even have the energy to face Bokuto.

"I'm so fucked. I've never yelled at her like that."

"Yeah...that was pretty intense. Scared the shit outta me."

"Uggh, I'm the worst son!"

"Nah. I bet she's feeling guilty, too. You both just need to cool off and then talk about it later."

"Bo, stop being so damn reasonable. Tell me what a shitty person I am and that I deserve to go to hell for everything I've done."

"Nope." Bokuto shook his head and Kuroo groaned.

"Then...Then..."

"You want a hug?"

Kuroo looked perplexed at Bokuto who held his arms open towards him. It took a moment for Kuroo to decide, but he realized after everything that has happened, a hug would be fucking amazing. He relinquished himself to Bokuto, swinging his leg over to straddle his lap and wrap his arms around his neck to hold him close. Bokuto closed his arms around him, squeezing him tight just the way he liked and breathing in his scent. Like stepping into a hot spring, Kuroo instantly relaxed in his grip. The last of his tears dried on his cheeks and his eyes fluttered closed; Bokuto was sweaty, but it made his naturally musky scent that much stronger and Kuroo breathed it in deep, intoxicated by his familiar scent. When Bokuto pulled away, his bright yellow eyes were half-lidded as he peered into Kuroo's.

"I love you, Tetsurou. I'll always be by your side, okay? No matter what."

His hand came to cup his cheek and Kuroo tilted into it.

"I love you, too. Thanks for putting up with me."

"Hardly." He smirked and closed in for a kiss, one that Kuroo had been desperate for. Their lips touched and melted into a desperate, heated kiss, all open-mouthed with their tongues clashing as loud, wet sounds echoed in the living room.

"I'm sorry I haven't given you more attention," Kuroo said while his hands dove into Bokuto's silver and black hair.

"Hmmm I have missed you, but you've had a crazy couple of days."

"I know but...but I need you. I need you so badly." Kuroo's grip tightened in his hair, pulling ever-so-gently and Bokuto purred.

"I'm here. I'll give you whatever you want..."

"Bo...."

"Oops! Sorry, boys!"

They broke out of their small bubble and looked to the stairs where's Bokuto's father was descending, a folded newspaper held up to cover his face.

"DAD!"

Kuroo practically jumped out of Bokuto's lap as if he could somehow save this situation while Bokuto sat dumbstruck.

"Haha! Guess I should have been louder while getting ready! I'm leaving now, don't worry about me!"

As he turned at the end of the stairway, he flipped the newspaper over to the other side of his face to keep his view blocked and quickly headed to the front door, whistling as he stepped into his shoes and left.

"Uggh!!" Bokuto covered his face with both his hands and threw his head back. "How does he ALWAYS catch us?!"

Kuroo's brain conveniently brought back the memory of their first time in high school when Bokuto was face deep in Kuroo's crotch and his dad just 'happened' to come by with refreshments. He was just as annoyingly chill about it back then, too.

"Because I swear your dad is a spy for your mom. She doesn't want to do the spying so she gets your dad to do it."

"But she knows! She's known for years!!"

"Parents are weird, okay?!"

Again, Kuroo fell back onto the couch, lounging into the plush pillow with an exasperated sigh. Within seconds, his stomach grumbled lightly and he groaned as he held it.

"Okay, I'm gonna make breakfast," Bokuto announced, getting up from his seat and brushing his hand through his hair.

"D'you need help?" Kuroo asked lazily. Now that he was relaxed, completely drained from all emotion, sleep was quickly taking over.

"Nope, you lay there and get some sleep."

"I'm not gonna sleep..." he promised, his eyes drooping closed.

"Uh-huh, if you say so."

Bokuto was quiet as he worked in the kitchen, reheating some rice from the day before while frying up fresh pork and omelet. Bokuto was never much of a cook, but since dating Kuroo in early high school he had a newfound respect for the art. When breakfast was ready, he gently woke his sleeping boyfriend and encouraged him to eat, though with just a few bites Kuroo ended up inhaling the whole thing within a few minutes. After, Kuroo lumbered to the upstairs bathroom for a much needed hot shower, releasing an ugly moan when he undid his binder and tossed the sweaty thing aside.

"Ohhhh my god, that is by far the best feeling in the world."

Bokuto snorted and together, they held each other close under the running water, Bokuto taking the chance to wash Kuroo's back and listening to his satisfied hums of approval. With their basic needs met, they surrendered to their double bed in the second bedroom, kicking the blankets aside and enjoying the breeze from the open window as it rolled over their skin. Bokuto was facing Kuroo, admiring his soft features as he slowly drifted back to sleep.

"Koutarou...do you really think Tsukki killed himself?"

"I don't know."

"Why did he do it?"

"I don't know, T. I'm sorry."

Kuroo frowned; he knew Bokuto wouldn't have the answers, but he was still disappointed. He turned over, turning his back to Bokuto who snuggled with his arm resting on Kuroo's waist.

I love you, Tsukki. I hope we meet again someday.

Chapter Text

By the time Kuroo and Bokuto rouse from their nap, it was nearly dinner time. Bokuto's phone was on vibrate and was full of messages from his mother.

>>Please tell Tetsurou to call his mom.

>>She's been crying all day.

>>Koutarou she's a mess, please tell Tetsurou to come talk to her.

Bokuto grunted and nuzzles into the back of Kuroo's neck. "You better go see your mom."

"Ngh...do I have to?"

Bokuto nodded and Kuroo groaned, stretching out his aching legs before rising from the bed. It didn't take them long to get the energy to get moving, so within twenty minutes they were refreshed, dressed, and had the place tidied up before leaving. As soon as Kuroo stepped into the villa next door, his mother wailed and threw herself at him, hugging him close and apologizing over and over again.

"I never meant to say something like that! I am so sorry, Tetsurou!"

"It's okay, mom, I know you didn't mean it."

"No, sweetie, I want you to know I don't care what people say about you. You're my son, no matter what anyone says. I just don't want you to become a target, you understand?"

"Mom...I'm sorry, too. I didn't want to yell at you like that. I'm just...going through a lot."

He and his mother hugged it out with a tight embrace; afterward, she wiped her tears away and together they headed into the kitchen to prepare supper. He and Bokuto got to preparing the vegetables while their mothers worked on every other aspect of their meal. Bokuto's dad set the table before resigning to the living room.

"Oh! What about your friend -- Tsukishima-kun, right? You should invite him for dinner!" His mother politely offered.

Kuroo could feel Bokuto physically tense next to him; his heart dropped at the mention of Tsukki's name.

"He's gone, mom. Had to leave the island for a family emergency."

"Oh my. I hope his family is okay. Send him my good wishes, would you?"

"Sure thing."

On that remorse note, dinner dragged by. Bokuto and the family chatted away while Kuroo silently ate his meal, somehow finding the energy to finish it all even with his minimal appetite. Throughout the meal, Bokuto's hand never left Kuroo's leg and he would sometimes squeeze it excitedly, something he only did when he had something he really needed to discuss, usually an absurd idea. Kuroo looked to him a few times for some sort of clue, but Bokuto would just smile wide and wink -- whatever he had on his mind, it was something big, so when dinner finally finished, Bokuto was quick to clear the table and do the dishes.

"What's up with you?" Kuroo asked while drying the plates.

"I got a crazy idea and you're gonna love it! Hurry up!"

He was washing so hastily, Kuroo had to make him re-wash a few of the dishes that still had food scraps stuck to them, making Bokuto even more anxious until he was bobbing up and down on his heels. With their chore done, Bokuto practically yanked on Kuroo until they were outside and away from listening ears.

"Kuroo! We're going to find Umdea!" Bokuto said excitedly.

"What? How?"

"We use dad's boat, grab some scuba gear, and go find her!"

Kuroo was awestruck by Bokuto's endearing enthusiasm even though his plan was so full of holes it was basically swiss cheese.

"Bo, we don't know how to scuba dive."

"We'll Google it, it's not that hard."

"It is that hard, and your dad isn't just going to lend us his boat."

"We'll snatch the keys. As long as we take it out when he's gone golfing he won't even notice."

"Fine, but we don't even know where Umdea is."

"Well duh, we have to search for her. That's the whole point of this mission!"

"So then what happens when we find her?"

"We ask her to bring Tsukki back! If she's able to, uh, make him go away then she can probably bring him back. She's a superpowered sea queen!"

Kuroo sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. There was no way this plan would work and his gut twisted with uncertainty. But if Bokuto thought there was a chance, who was Kuroo to turn it down? A glimmer of hope flickered in Kuroo's heart, enough for him to go with Bokuto's plan.

"Okay, we'll do it. First thing tomorrow."

"Fuck yeah! We're gonna get Tsukki back!" Bokuto jumped up with glee as he whooped and hollered. His excitement was encouraging, but Kuroo couldn't ignore the hopelessness that tugged at his heartstrings.

Sure enough, when the next day rolled around, their family announced they were spending the day on the boat, much to their luck since they wouldn't have to try and sneak the boat out onto the water. They prepped for a day out on the water, Kuroo switching into his waterproof binder Bokuto had bought for him a year prior for his birthday, going shirtless only when they were completely out in the middle of the water in their own little world. The moms were drinking mimosas and Bokuto's dad set himself up for a day of fishing while the boys scouted out the waters, searching for any kind of deep crevice that could hide a creature the size of a whale. After an hour of snorkeling and diving as deep as possible into the water, the boys returned to the boat with nothing. Kuroo could feel his heart tearing again; he knew it wasn't going to be easy to find Umdea because if it were, she would be on display at the local aquarium.

But Bokuto was still optimistic and hopped back into the water after rehydrating. Kuroo was surprised by his enthusiasm given his fear of deep water.

"Tetsurou! Come on!" Bokuto called when he popped up to the surface. "We can't give up now!"

"What are you boys doing?" His dad asked from the other side of the boat.

"We're, uhh..." Bokuto started and Kuroo rolled his eyes.

"We're looking for a new species of fish. Bokuto wants to get rich and name it after himself."

"Hah! Well, let me know if you find it so I can withdraw your college fund!"

Kuroo snorted. Bokuto was still waiting for him, smiling eagerly and mouthing <come on!> while waving him in. Kuroo's stomach was heavier than lead, a more-than-familiar feeling when his pessimism took over; he sighed and unenthusiastically stepped up onto the edge and jumped into the water next to Bokuto. They swam a few hundred feet away, thankful the waters were calm today and started up in their new search area. After another hour or so of an unsuccessful search, Kuroo and Bokuto headed back to the boat for a much-needed lunch break. Kuroo felt even more somber than when they started and languidly ate his sandwich. Bokuto noticed, of course, but since they were eating with their parents he didn't want to bring his mood to attention; instead, he gently bumped his knee with his own, nodding at him with a questioning look to silently ask if he was okay. Kuroo looked at him, but didn't respond; rather, his lack of a response was all Bokuto needed to know.

"Honey, are you okay? You seem upset." Kuroo's mom pointed out to the rest of the group.

"I'm fine. Just hungry."

"I've seen you hungry and you don't eat with a sad face like that. Do you want to go back?"

"No, I'm fine."

"Baby it's okay if you want to go back, we'd all be okay with it."

Bokuto's parents nodded in agreement and a twinge of annoyance sparked in Kuroo -- why couldn't parents just let shit go?

"Mom, seriously, I'm fine. Stop bugging me."

"Okay okay. But if you want to go back just tell us and we'll head back."

"Uggh!"

Kuroo dropped his sandwich onto the table and left for the deck. Bokuto stayed behind, knowing better than to bug Kuroo when he was riled up and ate his lunch in silence. All three adults looked to Bokuto for an answer and, suddenly under the scrutiny of the parents, Bokuto just shrugged, gaining a sudden interest in the pattern of the ceiling.


By late afternoon, the boat was headed back to shore. Kuroo was sitting near the bow of the boat, letting the wind blow back his hair while the sea splashed droplets of saltwater onto his skin. Bokuto sat next to him, doing his best to give Kuroo the silence he desired, but Bokuto was never one to tolerate long moments of silence and eventually, he broke.

"Bro, what's up? You totally botched our plan today."

Kuroo sighed. "It was never going to work. We're just a couple of kids, Bo. We can't even reach down to where she is. Do you know how deep the ocean gets around here?"

"We can still try."

"Until when? For all we know only mermaids can see her. If I was a giant sea queen I would do everything to keep myself hidden from humans."

"So...you just want to stop?"

"I..." Kuroo's skin prickled, his answer sitting on his tongue like an over-sized marble while guilt wrenched his gut -- he hated admitting defeat.

"I don't want to stop, but we aren't equipped to find her. We don't have the skills or stuff for it. Today made me feel like total shit knowing all our efforts were wasted. I don't know if I can spend every day feeling like that."

His head fell into his hands and Bokuto gave in, resting his head on Kuroo's shoulder.

"I know...I already knew my plan wouldn't work. I just hate seeing you so upset, man. I thought doing something like this would help, even if we weren't gonna get anywhere. I'm sorry..."

"It's okay, Bo. It's okay.  You tried."

The boat pulled up to the pier and the boys were quick to help with unpacking and docking the boat. As they worked, Bokuto nodded to Nakamura who was sitting on the next pier over, his legs dangling over the water as he stared out into the ocean. They knew Nakamura just from visiting the island every year since he always held parties throughout the summer -- he was a charming, all-around nice guy who got along with everyone, bordering on adulthood at eighteen years of age. To see him alone was like seeing the Loch Ness monster in the middle of the Sahara desert. Their parents were able to carry the supplies back to the villas, leaving Bokuto and Kuroo to do as they wished for the rest of the day and the first thing they did was approach Nakamura.

"Hey, hey, hey Nakamura-san!" Bokuto greeted loudly before hopping down next to him. Kuroo silently joined at his side, putting on his best smile.

"What's up, buddy? Why you sitting out here all by your lonesome?" He asked.

"Ah, nothin'."

"Don't look like nothing to us. C'monnn---, tell us what's wrong!"

"Agh, I'm," he ran his hand through his chestnut brown hair, "I'm thinking of someone."

"Awww, did Nakamura-san get his heart broken by some bangin' lady?" Bokuto asked.

Kuroo scoffed. "Nakamura doesn't get heartbroken 'cause he's too busy breaking all the hearts, amiright??" He nudged Nakamura in the side and Nakamura smiled half-heartedly.

"Nah, that ain't me." He said, hiding his pain with a cheeky smirk.

"Anyway, I'm just worried. Have either of you seen Tsukishima-san?"

Kuroo tensed at the name.

"Tsukki? Uh..."

"I know you guys knew him. I saw him leaving with you, Kuroo-san, a couple days ago. Have you seen him since?"

Kuroo shook his head and Bokuto did the same, only much more animated. Nakamura's brows furrowed.

"You don't think it's weird that someone just stops talking to you like that? I've known the guy for a long time, back when his parents were still around. Even if he had a bad attitude, he always showed up for work and now he just disappears without a word? My gut's telling me something's wrong."

"Well...um...okay, he didn't want me to tell anyone, but you're obviously worried," Kuroo started, "His mom called from the mainland.  Something happened to his brother and he had to leave. He said...he might not be back."

Nakamura looked to Kuroo, his expression minimal but screaming a thousand words -- he was hurt.

"He didn't tell me...I didn't even know he was still in contact with his mom and brother. Fuck."

Bokuto and Kuroo cast each other a glance behind Nakamura's back; if they kept their story consistent then Tsukki's disappearance would fade away in time like all the other island gossip, though Kuroo wasn't sure he was comfortable with the idea.

"I'm sorry, man. It happened so fast, I don't think he had time to really say goodbye to anyone." Kuroo said, doing his best to console Nakamura.

"Appreciate it. He was just...ah, nevermind. I hope things work out for him."

The three sat on the edge of the pier, watching the waves caress the sides of the docked boats while chatting about girls, boys, parties, and everything in between that dazzled their teenaged minds. Eventually, the sun began to set and Nakamura headed out to prepare another party, one that Bokuto and Kuroo turned down, for once. They chose to spend the evening with their parents, sitting at the dining room table and even enjoying a beer they all chose to keep hush-hush about, acting like they weren't aware of their party life shenanigans. Being with the adults kept Kuroo's mind off other things, other people, and Bokuto did his best to provide silent support while keeping up appearances for both of them.

The rest of the month passed in a daze. For the most part, they avoided the beach when they could; it was a painful reminder of what Kuroo lost. However, if they did end up on its sandy shores, sometimes Kuroo would wade into the water alone, as deep as he could go, and dive underwater for periods at a time. He was searching and even though he told Bokuto it was hopeless, Bokuto understood that feeling of needing to do something even if the situation seemed impossible. During this time, there was no mention of Tsukki after their talk with Nakamura. No one asked for him, no one spoke of him at parties, and even his work found a replacement within a week. Tsukki's presence on the island has been completely erased and on his low days, it drove Kuroo absolutely mad.  How could someone so special be forgotten so easily?

In the days leading up to their final day on the island, Kuroo became more agitated and somber. He was quiet, barely speaking a word except for what needed to be said, and hardly left the villa except at Bokuto's insistence. His mother was worried, of course, but when she tried to get close to him he either ignored her or lashed out -- she played it off as the usual teenage mood swing. It wasn't until the night before their flight Kuroo broke down in Bokuto's arms and cried for Tsukki.

"He's gone, Bo. I failed him." "If only I could go back and save him." "He's never coming back."

Bokuto had been waiting for this, approaching Kuroo each day like a ticking time bomb with a malfunctioning timer, but when it finally happened he was clueless as to how to care for him. He wanted to fix him and make his problems go away, to see him smile like he used to with his beaming confidence; but he was helpless, which left Bokuto feeling more than inadequate. With no words to console his lover, he pulled him into an embrace, listening to his sobs in the darkness of their room subside as Kuroo fell victim to exhaustion.

The next morning they were at the airport by 0930, bags loaded on the plane and their backpacks strung over their shoulders. Kuroo was full of conflicting emotions. He wanted to be far from the island, far from all this pain that clung to him like the humid air, but leaving felt more like abandoning and his heart thumped wildly at the thought of leaving Tsukki behind. When the plane sped down the runway and lifted into the air, Kuroo said a silent goodbye to his once-favourite island, for he had no intention of ever returning.


The airport was bustling as it usually did around this time. With August approaching, the island was going to become even hotter than the mainland since it was bearing the full brunt of the sun with no skyscrapers to provide shade, only the dense forest that lay in the middle of the island where the town settled.

Tsukki watched as Kuroo's plane prepared for take-off, letting out a heavy sigh when it ascended into the clear blue sky. Kuroo was gone, and with him, he took all of Tsukki's love, his dreams, and his hope. Now, he was only filled with guilt; guilt for tricking Kuroo into thinking he was dead and for inflicting such emotional suffering on someone he loved dearly.

But this was for the best. Kuroo was a handsome man with a multitude of opportunities at his feet, it would be wrong for Tsukki to hold him back from a fortunate life, forcing him to give up everything just to be with him on this god-forsaken island.

Tsukki rose from his spot on the dirt path at the top of the hill where Kuroo took him on their first and last date. The memories here were bittersweet, but Tsukki savoured them like a rare delicacy. Each step he took away from that moment of their first kiss, his heart broke further and further until he was numb to the pain. He made his way to the ocean, touching the plant life as he walked by for the last time until coming to his shack. Slowly, and with precise movements, Tsukki undressed, careful not to disturb the shrine Kuroo had put together for him while folding his clothes away and tucking his glasses inside. He walked slowly along the sand, doing his best to remember the feeling of each grain as it wove between his toes and stuck to the soles of his feet until he stepped onto the wet sand where it met the ocean; exhaling deeply, he cast one last glance to the island behind him, nodding his head in farewell, then stepped into the water.

This would be the last time he disappeared into the sea, having forsaken his Human life to embrace the sea forever as the world's only mermaid.

Chapter Text

Seven Years Later

"To all travelers, it is your duty to report any unattended baggage to ensure the security of the airport. To all travelers..."

Kuroo exited the tunnel and upon stepping into the bustling airport, full of tourists landing for the summer, his face twisted in disgust.

"Jesus Christ, Bo, it's even worse than I remember." He said to Bokuto over his shoulder, watching the flock of foreigners whizz past him in a hurry.

"Nah man, it's always been this bad. You were just too nice to notice back then." Bokuto replied, joining Kuroo at his side with his usual wide smile.

They tread the path they used to take every year, following the crowd like a herd of cattle towards baggage pick-up.

"You say that like I'm not nice anymore. I'm always nice!"

"No way, you've definitely become more cynical in your old age."

"You're the same age as me!"

Bokuto just laughed while speeding on ahead, forcing Kuroo to keep up. Bokuto could poke fun at Kuroo all he wanted, but he was just as impatient and cynical as Kuroo -- this was especially evident when it came time to wait for their baggage and Bokuto groaned loudly for their duffle bag to make its round to them. When it finally showed up, Bokuto was quick to snatch it off the metal tram and head for the exit with Kuroo following closely behind. They hailed a taxi and were finally on their way to their old villa they spent so many summers in their youth. Kuroo regretted the trip as soon as he boarded the plane, but his new job with a local nature magazine as a marine photographer forced him back here. His job was to photograph the local flora for an article on the withering coral reefs surrounding Japan.

They drove along the coast and Kuroo looked out longingly at the sea. He swore he would never return to the ocean, but that didn't keep him from pursuing his dream of becoming a marine photographer. His heart was drawn to the waters even before his fateful encounter with Tsukki.

"Hey, you okay?" He asked while holding Kuroo's hand in a reassuring hold. Their matching gold bands glinted under the sun that snuck through the tinted windows.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just, y'know." Kuroo shrugged.

Bokuto smiled weakly, raising Kuroo's hand to his lips to place a light kiss before letting their hands drop onto the space between them.

Even though it had been so long, the hurt in Kuroo's heart burned brightly, like an old campfire that was brought back to life just as the embers were dying. When they arrived at the hotel check-in, those embers were agitated even more when they approached the desk. The bubbly young woman from years ago was still working the desk and a part of Kuroo was expecting to see Tsukki standing next to her, but instead, there was another young woman in his place, about high-school age.

They left their bags with reception since they offered a new service to drop off luggage at the villas by the staff and instead of going straight to their villa, they headed into town for some much-needed groceries at the only marketplace on the island. The bustling store was over-crowded, the lines were long, and most of what they wanted had already been snatched up, meaning they would have to come back another day and the pair just groaned at the thought -- if there was one thing about adulthood they hated, it was grocery shopping.

"Man! Nothing bums me out more than a failed grocery trip!" Bokuto exclaimed.

"Ugh, tell me about it. I don't ever want to go back there!" Kuroo replied.

Suddenly, Bokuto gasped as an idea popped into his head.

"I know what we need! What's something we haven't had in literal years?"

"Uh..." Kuroo could think of a hundred things, but when his stomach grumbled the very same idea came to him and they looked at each other excitedly.

"Cake!!" They both yelled. They had cake on multiple occasions, but not this particular quality of dessert.

With groceries in hand, they headed to old man Koboyashi's cafe up the road, elated to see the cafe was still standing with its "open" sign displayed on the door. However, when they entered the quiet cafe, it wasn't the old man who was standing behind the counter; rather, there was a young man about the same age as Kuroo and Bokuto tending to the cakes.

"Hello!" He called out, hurrying around the counter to greet them.

Both Bokuto's and Kuroo's heart dropped into their stomach.

"Um, hey," Kuroo started, "where's the old man? Don't -- don't tell me he's..."

The young man was puzzled at first, but seeing their somber expressions his eyes went wide and he waved his hands frantically.

"No, no, no! My grandpa is fine!" The pair sighed in relief. "He stopped tending the cafe a couple years ago when he hurt his back. My name is Kochi. I took over for him."

"I'm Bokuto Koutarou!"

"And I'm Kuroo Tetsurou. We knew your grandpa for a long time, but it's been years since we've been here so we were hoping to see him today."

"Ah, well he's at physical therapy today, but if you'd like you can visit his home tomorrow. I have to see him to go over some new cake ideas actually, so we can meet up here and I'll show you the way."

They all agreed on the plan, then Kuroo and Bokuto took a seat at their usual spot in the corner by the window, with their grocery bags tucked behind them in the shade. They snacked on sandwiches and iced coffee, followed by their favourite desserts that the city bakeries simply couldn't compare to. Kuroo had his usual double-chocolate cake, and Bokuto went for a light tiramisu.

Though the cafe held a painful memory for Kuroo, it held just as many happy ones; this was he and Bokuto's favourite spot to hang out when they were thirteen, spending hours playing games and drinking iced coffee together. One time, they were actually allowed in the kitchen and helped Koboyashi prepare cakes -- Bokuto got to garnish them with fruit and chocolate while Kuroo was responsible for mixing everything. It was in this very seat so many years ago Kuroo realized his feelings for Bokuto and later that night, they shared their first kiss.

After their much-needed cake break, they finally headed back to the villa. They walked up the familiar pathway to their old villa and when the door swung open, they were both hit with a wave of nostalgia.

"Maaaan, it feels good to be back!" Bokuto kicked off his shoes and headed straight for the kitchen to put the food away.

"Fuck, this place hasn't changed one bit," Kuroo said, following Bokuto in his footsteps.

As they unpacked the food, they headed upstairs to find their luggage waiting for them as well as all the usual hotel gifts -- small, decadent chocolates that Bokuto loved but Kuroo hated, and their spa towels had been folded to resemble seashells on the bed. The welcome note was unread and discarded into the nearest trashcan, then Kuroo collapsed onto the single king-sized bed, completely spent. Bokuto jumped into bed with him, snuggling up next to him so he could rest his chin on his chest while he stared up at Kuroo.

"What'chu thinking about, babe?" He asked.

"Too many things. I don't wanna think right now."

"Hmm~ I know a way to take your mind off whatever it is that's got your mind buzzing."

Kuroo smirked and looked down to see Bokuto smiling devilishly, pinching his bottom lip between his teeth and his eyes already hazed over with lust.

"You're so horny all the time."

"Can't help it, you're seducing me with your rockin' body," Bokuto said while lifting up Kuroo's loose t-shirt so he could gently lick at his nipple. As a graduation present, Kuroo's mother paid for Kuroo to get his top-surgery done and ever since, his scars had faded to nothing and he was much more willing to have his chest played with.

"Haah -- then, why don't you show me how much you love your husband's rockin' body?"

"Mmm, gladly."

Bokuto hurriedly lifts Kuroo's shirt and Kuroo has to sit up to take it off, but before it's even off Bokuto is already on his chest to suck on his nipple while his hand slides down the front of his pants to fondle his clit.

"Fuh -- why the rush?" Kuroo asks in a teasing tone, though he's been with Bokuto long enough to know when he wants something it's the only thing he can focus on until he gets it.

With just some light stroking, Kuroo is already wet and Bokuto hums happily when his fingers dip down to soak themselves in his juices. He inches upward just enough so he can properly kiss Kuroo, capturing his tongue in a loud, wet kiss before inserting two fingers inside him.

"Haah!" Kuroo sighs and Bokuto smiles when the electric jolt of pleasure shoots straight up his hardening cock.

They keep kissing until Kuroo is moaning so loud he can barely keep his mouth closed, so Bokuto moves over to his ear and bites down on the lobe until Kuroo cries out; Bokuto would have been worried if they were still teenagers discovering each other's bodies, but now he knows exactly what Kuroo likes and dislikes.

"Which hole you want me in, baby?" He asks in a husky tone before licking up the shell of Kuroo's ear.

"Hnn -- I-I don't know. Jus' fucking pick one."

"You sure you know what you're asking?"

"For fuck's sake, Bo, just fuck me!"

Bokuto inhales a shaky breath -- he loves being given full freedom to do exactly what he wants. They scramble to get out of the rest of their clothing and while Bokuto digs through their luggage for a condom, Kuroo gets himself into position with a pillow under his hips and his head so he's nice and comfy.

Bokuto returns shortly, his cock prepped and pulls Kuroo over with the pillow so his ass is right on the edge of the bed. With his legs kept closed, Bokuto nibbles his lip while smoothing the head of his cock over Kuroo's slit until his flesh gives way, then experimentally pushes inside. When Kuroo's eyes furrow in the middle and his jaw drops, he knows he's in the right spot.

"F-fuck -- Bo --"

With the head in, Bokuto slides inside, grunting at the hot tightness of Kuroo's pussy as it squeezes down on him. Kuroo clenches the sheets and digs his head into the pillow with a loud cry from the burning pain of being stretched open by his husband's thick cock.

Bokuto's arms are wrapped tightly around Kuroo's knees, with his feet dangling over one of his shoulders; when he feels steady enough, he pulls back only to thrust right back in with even more force than the first one. His abdominal and hip muscles are clenching so he can put all his strength into it and when he as a stable rhythm down, he starts fucking Kuroo's wet hole raw.

"Ahh, Tetsurou! So good! Your hole is so fucking good!"

"Hah -- hah -- hah! Kou -- fuck!"

Kuroo's hands move from the sheets to his thick black hair, then to the pillow underneath his head, gripping the plush fabric tightly until the pain in his crotch starts to fade. He looks to Bokuto with hazy eyes, his lips moist from his tongue, and finds himself fascinated by the intensity in Bokuto's face. He's so predatory with his gleaming white canines that expose when his lip curls as his cock is rubbed just right, and Kuroo clenches his pelvic muscles to squeeze around him.

Bokuto inhales a sharp breath, letting his head loll back while reducing to a slow grind. He lets out a guttural moan between clenched teeth and the head of his cock tingles with anticipation. When the wave of pleasure subsides, he lifts his knee onto the bed and inches even closer to Kuroo; he adjusts his grip on his legs so he can pound into him even harder.

"AH! BO! FUCK!"

Kuroo's insides are heating up from the friction and his clit throbs from the intense penetration. He can feel Bokuto's cock hitting the very back of his pussy, a feeling that brings a sort of masochistic pleasure to Kuroo and when he feels the aching inside the next day, it only reminds him of these moments when he's ravaged by Bokuto. Looking to him now, he catches his eyebrows peak like mountains and he knows he's close.

Ah, just like him to get carried away.

"Gonna cum -- gonna cum, baby!"

" Ha ha! So soon? That's -- ngh -- even faster than last time!"

Finally, Bokuto's eyes rise to meet Kuroo's just when his hips stop, wide and shocked, and almost more golden than usual. There's a particular gleam to them at the sound of his words when suddenly Kuroo can feel Bokuto's cock pulse and grow inside him when his orgasm hits. Kuroo smiles with his lip between his teeth.

"A-ah! Mmm!! Oh fuh--!"

Bokuto clings to Kuroo's legs as his knees struggle to keep up his weight until he nearly collapses and has to place his hand on the edge of the bed to keep from falling. Kuroo raises himself up on his elbows, waiting for Bokuto to recover.

"That was -- ahh -- so perfect!" He says breathlessly, his cheeks even redder now -- Kuroo discovered his humiliation kink sometime during college when they were caught in the middle of sex out on campus ground.

"Good. Now finish me off." Kuroo demands.

Bokuto exhales everything he's been holding and bites down on Kuroo's leg lovingly before pulling his semi-hard cock out and gently setting his legs down over the edge to spread them wide. His hole is red and wet, undoubtedly sore from Bokuto's wreckless pounding, and there's only one way Bokuto can soothe it. With his hands on Kuroo's thighs, he dives forward and presses the flat of his tongue to his clit. He licks up against it until just the tip of his tongue is on it, then starts to flick Kuroo's clit at an ungodly fast rhythm.

"Ooo fuck, fuck, fuck! Keep going!"

Kuroo is gripping his pillow even more and now Bokuto has switched gears entirely now that his focus is on the sensitive bud against his tongue. With each moan, more of Kuroo's bitter cum seeps out and Bokuto stops for only a moment to lick it up before continuing the pressure on his clit. Kuroo is squeezing the sides of Bokuto's head with his muscular thighs and Bokuto is in heaven when he can feel his muscles clenching against his temple. He keeps up the fast flicking of his tongue, keeping in time with Kuroo's desperate bucking until finally Kuroo cries out and comes undone. Bokuto releases his clit and goes straight for his hole to lick up the taste of him as he cums.

"Mmmm, you taste the best, too."

"Hah, how would you know anyway? It's not like you have a vast library of different people you've fucked."

Kuroo wipes the sweat from his forehead while Bokuto hops back onto the bed next to him.

"I don't need one, I just know you're the best." He leans over Kuroo and kisses him gently, then falls onto the bed to pull him in close.

Kuroo voices his disgust as their sweat-drenched bodies are held together by Bokuto's strong arms and tries his hardest to push his lover away.

"It's way too hot for cuddling. Why isn't the A/C on?!"

"Dunno, guess we forgot."

Bokuto releases Kuroo from his embrace and rolls out onto the bed as soon as Kuroo is off it, spreading his long limbs out so he can air out all the sweaty bits on his body. The bedroom doors to the balcony are wide open, allowing a small breeze in that drifts from the ocean; it's relaxing, but not nearly enough to cool them off. Soon, Bokuto has fallen asleep shamelessly naked on the bed and Kuroo chooses this time to wash off with a quick shower. Afterward, he starts to unpack and prepare dinner, choosing a cold meal of soba and refreshing beer. If they were still teens, they would normally head out to some random person's party and drink the night way; instead, they stay up drinking and watching game shows before retiring to bed, just as adults do.


The next day Kuroo is up earlier than intended, 0600 actually, but he can hardly bring himself to fall back asleep. He lifts his head from his comforting pillow to look at Bokuto, who is completely knocked out with a large pool of drool under his cheek. Kuroo snorts and rubs Bokuto's head of matted silver and black hair, then rolls out of bed with breakfast in mind.

As he exits the main bedroom, he hears a gentle creak from down the hall. The second bedroom door has opened just enough to let the morning light stream out; Kuroo hesitates when he looks to the bedroom door. It was once his own, one he had shared many times with Bokuto even before they were open about their relationship. He lightly pads over to the bedroom, his hand is still as stone when he reaches for the knob, then pushes the door open gently.

It's the same as ever, with the neatly made bed sitting under the window across from the door, the mirrored closets in the corner and a wooden desk tucked into the other. The room is eerily quiet; it's missing the usual rambunctious activity that only a teenage boy could fill it with. Now, it sits idly by waiting for someone to occupy it. In the midst of the quiet, years of memories flood Kuroo's mind and his ears; he can hear Bokuto calling to him from below the window, showing off a case of beer he had snatched from his dad. There's the sound of boats on the distant waters and children playing around the villa; but, there's a new voice mixed in there, too.

"Kuroo-san."

Kuroo inhales a sharp breath. He doesn't want to explore any further. He turns away, closing the door behind him and quietly heads downstairs to make himself a small breakfast.

With not much else to do and most of the town still sleeping away, he decides to go for an early-morning jog; but, when he steps outside he is greeted with another dreaded reminder. He can see down the small road into town from his doorstep and the image of Tsukki running down the sidewalk leaves his heart aching.

"Tsukki! Keep going!"

Kuroo shakes the memory from his mind and chooses a different path to run, off into the forest but not towards his favourite hilltop. He winds through the forest and comes out on either side where the locals live. It's less touristy, less flashy and more worn in with old, rustic buildings and shops that show their age a bit too well. He passes by the only school on the island, meaning it has kids from kindergarten to senior year -- after that, most kids leave for college or take over some business on the island.

Usually, Kuroo has his headphones on with music blaring so he can drown out the sound of the city, but here the island is so peaceful he doesn't need music to relax. As a result, he doesn't miss when he hears a voice call out to him.

"Kuroo-san?!"

Kuroo stops, panting heavily as he looks to the source of the voice. Behind him, a young man is riding a white bicycle with some type of package in the front basket. As the man pedals towards him with a beaming smile, Kuroo recognizes him immediately.

"Nakamura?? No fucking way!"

Nakamura hops off his bike, kicking the stand down so he can properly embrace Kuroo in a warm hug.

"Ugh, bad idea! You're all wet!"

Kuroo laughs. "Sorry, man. You caught me in the middle of a run."

"Damn, Kuroo. Haven't seen you in years! You're looking great."

Nakamura takes a moment to eye Kuroo up and down, and Kuroo stands proud. He had taken to working out in his spare time and now that he has been on testosterone injections for nearly five years, he was happier than ever with his appearance.

"Thanks. You look good, too."

Nakamura hadn't changed much, though island life had definitely taken a toll. His skin was darker like that of a native Hawaiin and his hair was now back to its natural black colour and cut short, meaning he had stopped dying it at some point. He was nearly as tall as Kuroo, but his shape was softer due to the lack of exercise, though he was hardly considered overweight. His eyes were still a dazzling hazel, sparkling like sunlight and Kuroo felt a flutter in his stomach upon meeting his old friend's gaze.

"What have you been up to?" Nakamura asked.

"Nothing interesting. Finished high school, then college. Oh, me and Bokuto are married now."

Kuroo flashed his gold band and Nakamura's eyes went wide.

"Well fuck, that's pretty interesting to me! Congrats! What was the wedding like?"

"We didn't really have one. Our marriage isn't actually recognized yet, but we're pretty much like common-law and we had a celebration at my mom's place. It was close enough to a wedding, just without the fancy reception."

"Ah, right, right."

"And you? Any lucky island girl sweep you off your feet yet?"

"Nah, nothing like that. I quit working at the hotel after...well..."

A tense silence comes between them at the indirect mention of Tsukishima. Nakamura's smile has faded and he shifts his weight on his feet, clearly uncomfortable.

"Anyway, I'm helping with conservation efforts on the island. What brought you back here? After a couple years, I thought for sure you wouldn't come back."

"I wasn't going to, but I got a job as a marine photographer for a bigshot magazine in Tokyo and of course, the first place they send me to is here. They want me to photograph the marine life."

"That's awesome! Maybe we'll run into each other again then."

"For sure, let's get together one of these days and catch up properly, okay?"

Nakamura nods, his smile returning but without even half as much energy, then rides off into the distance. Kuroo can see the townspeople beginning to stir when shops open and wives are beginning their daily chores out their windows. He decides to head back to Bokuto so he can wake him up with a proper breakfast.


By 0900, the pair is awake, washed, and Bokuto walks with a jump in his step. They make their way down to the water so they can rent a boat and scuba gear, waving to familiar faces they meet along the way and stopping more than once to catch up with others. When they finally get their gear and step onto their rental boat, Kuroo feels a heaviness in the pit of his stomach. Bokuto is clueless, whistling to himself while he starts up the boat and Kuroo sits quietly nearby to stare out at the water.

It's even bluer than Kuroo remembers; today, the sea is calm and the sun shines brightly down onto it, creating sparkling bits of silver that catch in the light. It almost reminds him of--

"I'm a monster".

Kuroo pauses. He can still remember the feeling of Tsukki's scales under his palms, how soft and delicate they were against his skin, and how angelic he looked under the moonlight on the beach.

"No, Tsukishima. You're beautiful."

"Tetsurou!"

"Huh?" Kuroo wakes from his daydream and realizes the boat has stopped.

"We're here! Get your gear on."

"Right."

Kuroo starts stripping off his clothes and getting into the tight scuba gear while Bokuto checks over his oxygen tank. Satisfied, he helps fit it onto Kuroo's back and with his camera in hand, Kuroo is ready to head back into the water. He sits on the edge, looks over his equipment one more time, then takes a few steady breaths before leaning back to fall in.

When he breaches the water he is overwhelmed by the cold. Near the shore where the sunlight can heat the sand, the water is warm and comforting; but out here in the open, the harsh coldness of the sea takes hold of one's senses, even with a thick rubber suit to protect. It takes him a moment to find his bearings, but within a few minutes he's righted himself in the water and begins his descent down into the ocean.

He is greeted by a vibrant coral reef, compiled of hues of reds and purples and yellows that inspire his creativity. He immediately begins snapping a few photos from afar, treating them like a landscape one would paint. As he moves in closer, he can see a menagerie of wildlife hiding within the reed that peeks out every now and then -- easy to miss to the untrained eye. Further below near the sand, he catches a glimpse of an eel that weaves in and out of the coral searching for food, and even notices the outline of a rockfish hiding under the sand.

He's already snapped nearly a hundred photos, but he has so many more wonders to capture. As Kuroo explores further, he makes his way around the corner of the reef and discovers something wonderful -- a shallow cave, completely lined with coral. He can see the back of the cave easily enough and his adventurous side tells him to go in further.

Think of the shot from inside! With the light shining in and the halo of the cave entrance!

His spine bristles with an image of the perfect shot and he hurries on inside. Fish scurry for safety away from him, abandoning their homes and when he's inside, he hurriedly adjusts the settings on his camera. When he spins around, he is overwhelmed by the beauty of it and his excitement has him scrambling to line his lens up.

Then, just as his finger pushes the trigger, something breaks into the halo of the cave entrance. Its dark frame is illuminated by the sunlight, but Kuroo recognizes the shape immediately and his heart stops.

 

 

Chapter Text

Kuroo stops. Shakes his head. Looks up again; the shadowy figure is still there, staring down at him as he stares up.

"Kuroo-san?" It asks quietly. The voice is deeper and slower underwater, but he recognizes it all the same.

He can't speak with his respirator on and there is a moment of silence that he wishes he could fill with questions and sobs and any other sort of noise that could communicate his desperation to Tsukki. Tsukki swims inside the cave and the light from above shines down on all his glory, shimmering off his scales like a mirror. When he is just a few inches within reach Kuroo can feel something wet beneath his eyes; he quickly checks the seal on his goggles, but it isn't seawater slipping inside -- he's crying.

Tsukki looks hesitant. His eyes are wide and darting around the cave for danger. Since when did he pick up that habit? When he knows it's safe he relaxes and gets even closer to Kuroo, who is still stunned and frozen in place.

"Kuroo-san, it's me. Tsukishi--"

As soon as he nears his name, he snaps. With one hand he pulls off his mask. The other pulls Tsukki in close by his shoulder with a strong grip as if worried he will disappear. When he's close enough to embrace, Kuroo pushes his lips onto Tsukki's. It's not his perfect idea of a reunion kiss, but if he doesn't act now he might lose him again. He expects Tsukki to push him away and swim off, or slap him and curse him, but instead, Tsukki's lips relax into his and his hands gently come up between them to cup his cheeks. There's a thin film of webbing that grazes his cheeks when Tsukki touches him, contrasted by the sharpness of his talons, but the touch is welcoming all the same. Though the water is so cold around him, Kuroo can barely feel it; the warmth that's emanating from his chest and from Tsukki's thin frame keeps him warm enough he could die down here.

Actually, he just might.

His lungs begin to ache and his nose tightens as he fights off the reflex to breathe. Tsukki opens his eyes at the sound of a muffled grunt and realizes what's happening. He breaks their kiss, pulls on Kuroo by his wrist and swims up and out of the cave until they break the surface of the water.

"HHHUNNN!!" Kuroo gasps and inhales a large breath of air.

"You idiot! You almost died!" Tsukki scolds.

Kuroo smiles between small coughs. "Yeah, but it was so worth it."

Tsukki snorts and averts his eyes to hide his embarrassment; he forgot how flirtatious Kuroo can be. Suddenly, the boat they are next to rocks as footsteps rush closer until Bokuto nearly throws himself over the edge of the boat as he leans over.

"Tetsurou! Are you -- oh."

Tsukki, the obviously non-human being, is directly in sight of someone else, someone who is not Kuroo, and his heart races with his fight-or-flight response.

"Tsukki?!?" He calls out in shock.

Tsukki is almost speechless. Bokuto, Kuroo's best friend, is not only seeing him but also knows who he is, even though Tsukki looks very different from when he met Bokuto last. How? How could he know his secret?

"It's Tsukishima-san." He corrects with a hint of annoyance. Bokuto shuts his lips and his eyes grow wide from the hostility.

Tsukki is boiling from the inside. He looks to Kuroo with raised brows. He wasn't normally the type of person to blow up on others, but boy was he ready to just let loose right now. Maybe it's because he hasn't been around people lately and only Umdea, who was always losing her temper on him. Maybe it's because he told Kuroo to keep his secret and Kuroo had promised he wouldn't tell a soul.

Or maybe it's because this was meant to be something special between just himself and Kuroo, but now there was a third person who was completely unrelated to the situation that just had to step in and take it all away.

"I'm sorry, Tsukki," Kuroo starts, "I tried so hard to keep your secret. Even after you left, I did everything to keep my promise, to the point it was unbearable."

Just hearing those words has Tsukki tearing up, partly from anger, but mostly from heartbreak.

Kuroo whispers as he struggles to speak, "I had no idea what happened to you." He's crying now and Tsukki desperately wants to hold him.

"You were just...gone. You told me you turn to seafoam if you don't make it back to the water and I-I ran behind you, followed you all the way to shore. I saw you dive in, but you never..."

His voice chokes. "You n-never came b-back. Fuck!"

He angrily wipes the tears from his cheeks. "What happened? I thought you were dead?"

When Kuroo looks at him with tear-stained cheeks and watery eyes, Tsukki lowers his gaze. He can feel his guilt clawing at him, pulling him down towards the Earth as if to drag him to Hell where he belongs.

"I...I know. I -- " his chest tightens when he tries to speak. "I wanted you to think I was gone."

"What?!"

He flinches from the raised voice and the image of Umdea flashes for just a moment in the front of his mind but quickly disappears. He lowers himself into the water until just the upper-half of his face is above the surface.

"Why would you want me to think you were dead?"

"Kuroo-san..." Tsukki had thought of this conversation a million times over in his mind, rehearsing his response over-and-over until he was sick of it. But now, his mind was buzzing so loudly from the drama of it all he couldn't even form a proper sentence.

"I thought...we were so young and...I felt it would be better if..."

Now that he is saying it out loud it sounds so irrational and so selfish. He can feel his cheeks turning red from his shame.

"Guys, I hate to break this up, but we should get going." Bokuto chimes in looking at the distant black clouds forming on the horizon.

"Where the fuck did those come from? I thought today was supposed to be clear skies?"

Tsukki knows exactly where -- Umdea. She's probably realized Tsukki is talking to someone else; talking to a human.

"They're moving pretty fast. We gotta head back."

For a moment, Tsukki's fear takes hold and he considers heading back to her.

"Tsukki," Kuroo says while gently grabbing hold of his hand and pulling his attention away from her. "Come back to the villa with us. Please. We have so much to talk about. Please come back."

It doesn't take much to change Tsukki's mind, especially when Kuroo is looking at him with those warm brown eyes he has been dreaming of all these years.

He nods and Kuroo's relieved smile makes any pain he will receive later worth it. He suggests meeting the pair at his old shack, but Kuroo is defiant on leaving Tsukki's side. After retrieving Kuroo's goggles from the bottom of the cave, Tsukki pulls Kuroo along to the shore where Bokuto will meet them.

Kuroo does his best to keep up with Tsukki, but Tsukki ends up doing most of the work when he has to pull Kuroo along with him when his patience runs out. When they're able to touch sand, Tsukki finds himself flustered as he tries to find his footing on the loose surface and ends up looking like a baby seal when he's tripping all over himself.

"What's wrong, Tsukki?" Kuroo asks while he removes his flippers and gear.

"It's...it's been years since I've touched the shore. I don't remember how I used to do it."

Tsukki manages to bring himself as far up the beach as he can, but his heavy tail restricts him from venturing any further without getting exhausted. Kuroo hurries to his side and, while holding on to his shoulders, hoists him further up until his tail is fully exposed before falling back onto the sand with an obnoxious grunt.

"Jesus you've gotten heavy! How long has it been??"

"I'm not that heavy! And--I don't know. Since...you left?"

Kuroo falls silent. He hasn't left the ocean since I left? Looking at Tsukki now, he does seem like something straight from the ocean deep and not the young human boy he fell in love with. His tail is still as mesmerizing as ever, mirroring an assortment of colours in its shimmering scales under the sunlight. Now, he has scales climbing up from his hand to his elbows and framing his face, even dotting his cheekbones like freckles. His skin is paler somehow; his hair is still short and blond but frayed from its exposure to saltwater.

"Stop staring at me. I'm not an exhibit at a museum."

Kuroo focuses on Tsukki's face and smiles when he sees that familiar faux-annoyed look he likes to display. He knows deep down Tsukki is just embarrassed.

"Oh~, does my princess not appreciate my flattery?"

"F-flattery?? Princess??"

His pale face turns bright red and Kuroo can't stop the smile from hurting his cheeks. He crawls over to Tsukki on all fours.

"Of course you're still my princess. I've returned from my long journey to sweep you off your feet again."

When he's just inches away from Tsukki's face he can smell the salt that sticks to his skin. His eyes dart down to Tsukki's lips an the urge to kiss him swells up inside. But Tsukki, unable to handle the intensity Kuroo so easily gives off, looks away as his face deepens in colour.

"Aw Tsukki!! I've missed you!"

He pounces on Tsukki, wrapping his arms around the man's neck and hugging him tightly, ignoring his protests until he's forcefully trying to push Kuroo off of him. Kuroo submits and releases Tsukki, laughing when he sees his scowl has soured even more.

"Tsukki you're so easy to tease."

"Well, maybe you shouldn't be teasing me." He says with a hint of dismay.

"If I didn't tease you how would you know I love you?"

The air curdles with awkward tension. Kuroo's finally dropped the bomb and neither of them were ready for it.

"Kuroo-san..."

Bashfully, Tsukki averts his eyes to the sand and sees Kuroo's hand. There's something strange about it. He can't quite put his finger on it. His hand sifts through the sand towards his and when his fingers touch Kuroo's, it clicks.

"Y-you're hand..." he whispers.

"What about it?"

"The...ring."

Kuroo's eyes drop to his hand and his smile disappears.

"Tsukki, don't -- don't freak out, okay?"

The sound of a motor catches Kuroo's attention, but Tsukki is still fixated on his shining, golden ring that adorns his finger. Has he ever worn jewelry before? A sudden tense, sickening feeling overwhelms his gut.

"Tetsuro!! Tsukishima!!"

Tsukki turns to see Bokuto emerging from the water in nothing but a pair of red swim shorts with the boat out in the distance behind him. Somehow his hair has managed to stay perfectly styled, even when he shakes water droplets from it. Under the bright yellow of the sun, something glints on his finger -- a golden ring. It's so similar to Kuroo's you could even say it's a perfect match.

"Bo!"

Even the way he says his name gives it all away. Tsukki's heart falls into the pit of his stomach, churning up bile and raw fish he had eaten earlier that day. He looks to Kuroo again whose face is so full of worry it drives Tsukki mad with his hypocrisy.

"You're married? To each other?!"

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

Tsukki is still grappling with the realization the love of his life is married to someone else, someone he was less than fond of due to his obnoxious, almost puppy-like nature.  He feels angry, betrayed, confused, hurt and his heart falls to pieces.  He fights to go back to the water, but Kuroo convinces him to head back to the villa so the three of them can talk.  Bokuto is quiet this whole time, not wanting to cause more drama than he already has.  

Realizing he is naked, he barks at Bokuto to turn away.  Kuroo helps him to the shack he abandoned all those years ago.  He ventures inside to find everything is covered in dust and sand, but still in place.  His glasses are perched perfectly on top of his suitcase and, like discovering an ancient treasure, he delicately grasps them and brings them to his face.

"Wow, I forgot how shitty my eyesight is.  It's so perfect when I'm in the water."

He goes through his old suitcase and picks out some clothes.  Even though he is older, he's skinnier than he used to be so he fits his old clothes.  They finally return to the villa using backroads to keep Tsukki out of sight.

At the villa, the three of them are sitting at the dining table in silence.  Bokuto brings them some tea -- and iced coffee for Kuroo that he has perfected in making -- while Tsukki stews in the silence.  

Kuroo explains he has been in a relationship with Bokuto since high school and, yes, that means he was with Bokuto while he and Tsukki were dating.  Tsukki is quiet but the anger and hurt is evident on his pale face.  Kuroo goes on to explain he and Bokuto are polyamorous and explains what that means to Tsukki.  Tsukki is bitter, but as Kuroo tries describing his relationship with Bokuto his anger diffuses into confusion.  He wants to feel upset because all he has ever known is traditional monogamy, but the way Bokuto looks so worried at Kuroo and reaches for him, he realizes Kuroo wouldn't have married him unless he really loved him.  

The glint of their rings isn't so blaring to Tsukki now.  Rather, he tries putting himself in Kuroo's shoes.  Kuroo was already so in love with such a close friend and imagines being lucky enough to find another person to fall so deeply in love with -- he can't imagine having to choose between them; instead, Kuroo let his love for them both blossom.  

As Kuroo tells Tsukki how madly in love he is with him, he observes Bokuto and sees how happy Bokuto is.  He's actually happy that Kuroo has found someone else to love.  An entirely alien idea to Tsukki, but he has a new-found respect for Bokuto in showing so much support for his husband.  

He's still bitter about the whole thing, maybe because he's naive to this polyamorous idea and it leaves him feeling immature and stupid.  Or maybe that's what he's actually feeling bitter about?

Tsukki is calm when he tells them both his own feelings.  He sort-of understands what Kuroo is feeling, but the whole idea will take some getting used to.  He apologizes to Bokuto for his hostility and Bokuto brushes it off with a big smile.  The three of them decide to put some dinner together and it's at this point Tsukki realizes he has no fucking idea how to cook anything, so Bokuto and Kuroo get to teaching him the basics all while teasing him, of course.  

After supper, Bokuto decides to give the two some space and heads out to get some drinks with friends.  Finally, Tsukki and Kuroo are alone.  Tsukki feels guilty about Bokuto leaving, but Kuroo reassures him it was Bokuto's decision and confesses he wanted some alone time with Tsukki.  He tells him, "It's been so long since I've made you blush, I wanted you all to myself tonight so I can see it again."  Tsukki immediately turns to putty in Kuroo's experienced hands and they have sex for the first time.

The sex scene consisted of lots of desperate touching and Kuroo making Tsukki cum multiple times because Tsukki hasn't done anything sexual since Kuroo left.  This is also the first time Tsukki sees Kuroo naked; Kuroo is a bit shy, but Tsukki tells him how gorgeous he is and makes sure to worship his body properly.  They end with Kuroo topping Tsukki using a strap-on and they both find out how much of a slutty bottom Tsukki really is.  Before long, the sun begins to set and Tsukki has to return to the water.  Kuroo is extremely anxious but hides it well.  It isn't until Tsukki returns to the ocean that he breaks down on the shore in tears because he is so terrified of losing Tsukki again.

[At some point, I wanted Bokuto and Tsukki to have a really intimate moment where Tsukki thanks Bokuto for looking after Kuroo all this time when Tsukki essentially abandoned him.  Bokuto is so happy to earn Tsukki's forgiveness and he thanks him in return for the happiness Tsukki brought him.  "He thought you died, but I know deep down he never gave up on you.  Thank you for coming back to him."  Tsukki cries because he's a sensitive baby and gets all embarrassed and Bokuto gently teases him about it.  This is the point where Tsukki starts to develop feelings for Bokuto.  This would happen in the next chapter I think.]

Chapter 9

When Kuroo finally calms down, he meets up with Bokuto for drinks and reconnecting with friends from the island.  They drink the night away.  In the background on the television, there is a news report on a Chinese tourist who went missing the month before; the police have ended the search for his body.  

They head back to the villa late at night, both are very wasted and stumbling into the house, both arguing which one is drunker and both denying they are the drunkest.  Bokuto is known to be a very affectionate drunk and starts kissing Kuroo's neck and down his shoulder.  

"How'was Tsukki?  Wazzit everything you'wanted?"  He slurs while groping Kuroo's body.  

"It'was fucking amazin."  

Bokuto confesses he wishes he could have watched.  He can just picture Kuroo seducing Tsukki and making him scream his name.  It isn't long before they have drunken, clumsy sex and pass out immediately after.

By morning, Kuroo wakes up to see Tsukki in bed with him.  Tsukki had arrived as soon as the sun rose and thought it would be a nice surprise for Kuroo.  Kuroo is so happy and they share a moment of gushing and kissing.  Bokuto soon arrives with breakfast for them both and Kuroo comments on how lucky he is to be spoiled by his two boys.  

Tsukki is in awe of how loving Bokuto is and shyly admits he wants to get to know Bokuto better.  "You're important to Kuroo-san and I think it's only right if we get, er...closer?"

He's struggling to express what he's thinking, and Bokuto takes the chance to flirt.

"Oh ho ho?  And just how close do you want to get, Tsukishima?"

Bokuto presses closer, his weight dipping the mattress and bringing Tsukki closer to him.  Tsukki blushes and is taken aback by Bokuto's forwardness; meanwhile, Kuroo is amusedly watching the scene unfold while chewing on his toast.

"B-Bokuto-san!"

Tsukki is surprised by how flustered he is, or rather, by how EASY it is for him to get flustered.  Just yesterday he was raging at Bokuto and now he is blushing and trying to ignore how fast his heart is racing.  

"Tsukki, I know you're still adjusting to this whole polyamory thing, but I gotta say...I am getting so turned on just thinking how fucking hot it would be to watch Bokuto wreck you."

"Wh-WHAT!"  

Bokuto and Kuroo snicker at Tsukki.  He removes himself from the situation entirely exclaiming he needs to use the bathroom.  While the two laugh at his expense, Tsukki secludes himself to his thoughts.  He thinks back on what just happened -- Bokuto hit on him...and he liked it.  He covers his mouth in shock.  He remembers when he first met the pair when he was working at the hotel and how both of them flirted with him so shamelessly, but even then Tsukki enjoyed it.  Did he like Bokuto?  Or did he just enjoy being flirted with?  Bokuto was handsome, no doubt.  His gleaming golden eyes, his stark silver hair, his toned shoulders, and kissable collarbones...

Oh shit.

He splashes water on his face and gains his composure before leaving the bathroom.

"So?  What's the verdict?  You two gonna smash or what?"  Kuroo asks.

"ABSOLUTELY NOT,"  Tsukki yells and the two are laughing again.  He has no idea what the hell he meant by "smash" but considering the topic, it must've had something to do with sex.

After breakfast, the three of them decide to go for a walk since Tsukki's legs are so much smaller compared to his upper body from spending so much time as a mermaid.  Speaking of, that's a topic that has yet to be raised and surely Bokuto has questions.  They steer clear of public areas since Tsukki is still "away with family" and hike deeper into the secluded parts of the forest.  After a couple hours, they settle down for lunch that Bokuto and Kuroo packed.  It's here Bokuto starts asking about Tsukki's whole "mermaid deal".  Tsukki is hesitant talking about it, but feels it's only fair for Bokuto to know, so he tells his story from the beginning.  Turns out, Bokuto is a pretty good listener.  Afterward, they all catch up on the past seven years.  Kuroo describes the rest of high school and college and his career as a marine photographer.  Bokuto goes into how he proposed to Kuroo, their wedding, and his career. [I JUST REALIZED I HADN'T PICKED A CAREER FOR BOKUTO. FFFFUUUUU---]

Tsukki talks about life with Umdea.  She's more controlling than ever and gets uncomfortable talking about her.  He moves on to answer their questions about sea life: yes he eats fish.  It was gross at first but now he is used to it.  Yes, usually the small bones, too.  His scales started appearing a few years ago when he was about twenty and only kept growing from there bit-by-bit.  His hair was long for a while but it kept getting in his face so he cuts it.  He has some tools he has swiped from fishermen, like a clam opener, scissors, etc. 

Kuroo and Bokuto start singing "Part of Your World" from the little mermaid and Tsukki all but beats on them.  

By late afternoon, it's time to return.  [I think this would have been a good place for the Bokuto and Tsukki moment!]

This time when Tsukki returns to the ocean, Bokuto is there with Kuroo and is in total amazement of Tsukki's transformation.  Tsukki is insecure and scared exposing his secret to someone all over again, but Bokuto goes on about how beautiful Tsukki is and just like his first time with Kuroo, he's gentle when touching Tsukki's tail and fins.  It's here Tsukki realizes he truly does have feelings for Bokuto.  

Chapter 10 (maybe 11 too depending on the length)

From here on out, the week is spent bonding.  Tsukki grows closer to Bokuto, enjoying the little moments they have together while reigniting his old feelings for Kuroo.  There are LOTS OF SEXY MOMENTS.  Sex in the kitchen with Kuroo; walking in on Bokuto and Kuroo fucking in the bedroom and Tsukki wanting to watch.  Eventually, Bokuto and Tsukki share a tender kiss and near the end of the week, they have a threesome with Bokuto and Kuroo tenderly making love to Tsukki.  Tsukki really sucks at giving oral sex to Kuroo, so Bokuto shows him how and together they have Kuroo begging for them both.  

Before they can really get into it, Umdea calls for Tsukki.  He groans with the pain her calling causes in his head; Kuroo and Bokuto look on in worry and when Tsukki says it's Umdea, they get angry.

"Just don't go!  Stay here with us, we'll protect you!"

Tsukki is annoyed by their obvious ignorance and leaves.  He can't ignore her call any longer.  He rushes out the villa and runs into Nakamura who was stopping by for a visit. 

"Tsukishima?!  You're here?!  When did you get back?!"

Tsukki tries to explain but Umdea calls again, this time it's even worse and he grips his head from the pain and nearly crumbles.  He runs past Nakamura with Kuroo and Bokuto following behind.  They tell the confused Nakamura to go home, but instead, Nakamura follows them, hanging back a bit so they don't notice.  He sees Tsukki rush into the ocean and swims off.  Kuroo and Bokuto look on and when Tsukki doesn't emerge from the water, Nakamura asks what's going on.  They decide to tell him.

Chapter 11/12

By the next day, Tsukki hasn't returned.  All three are very worried and wait for him at the beach.  It isn't until late in the day, only an hour before sunset that Tsukki emerges from the water.  Even so, he doesn't fully emerge so he remains in his mermaid form.

He sees Nakamura and finds out the boys had told him because he followed them.  He isn't hurt, he doesn't feel betrayed.  He tells Nakamura he is so sorry for lying to him, that he never wanted to but he couldn't bring himself to live life on land without Kuroo.  Nakamura forgives him easily and confesses he had loved Tsukki all this time.

"Like I said back then, I'm not going to give up on you."

Tsukki breaks down into tears.  He is surrounded by people who love him, but he is so undeserving.  Kuroo and Bokuto try to comfort him and tell him they aren't going back to the mainland.  They've decided to stay on the island so they can be with Tsukki and Tsukki only cries more.  He tells them all he doesn't deserve them and that he's only going to ruin their lives.  

He finally reveals that when Kuroo and Bokuto went home he was going to finally kill himself.  After they left all those years ago, he confined himself to the ocean and being Umdea's servant.  It wasn't long before she wasn't satisfied with just sabotaging fishermen and boats.  Eventually, she made Tsukki begin murdering humans.  Humans that dumped waste into the ocean, fishermen who overfished or left fishing waste in the seas like ruined nets, etc.  

He breaks down in shame at all the people he has killed, confessing he even killed innocent tourists who just didn't know better or even teenagers who were just being stupid.  

"Do you remember Fukishima-san?" he asks through his tears.  He had died shortly after the boys left the island.

"He had just turned 18!  He got drunk one night and pissed in the water and...and just for that she made me...I fucking killed him!  I p-pulled him down from the pier one day and held him while he d-drowned."

Everyone is in shock.  Tsukki hates himself, he's disgusted with the murderer he has become.  He expects them all to hate him, which would be perfect because then he could die without guilt.

But that doesn't happen.  Bokuto kneels beside him in the water and hugs him.  Kuroo is angry and starts shouting in frustration.  Meanwhile, Nakamura is silently crying, realizing what Tsukki had been going through this whole time.

They all decide to band together for Tsukki.  They tell him he won't have to murder anymore because they were going to kill Umdea.  

Chapter 12/13 - ENDING

So this is the part I've been mulling over since the beginning.

Tsukki was going to lead them to her lair where he would distract her while they dove down with harpoons.  He doesn't know if she will die, but they were all willing to try for Tsukki's freedom.  However, when Tsukki gets there Umdea traps him and waits for the boys to arrive.

Bokuto is afraid of deep water so Kuroo dives down while he and Nakamura wait in the boat.  When Kuroo arrives, he finds Tsukki is trapped and confronts Umdea.  He is immediately intimidated by her sheer size and ferocious looks.  Her talons and long hair, her enormous tail that could easily slam him into the cliffside and kill him.  But he holds fast, harpoon in hand.  

Umdea tells him she has felt the effects of his love on Tsukki.  He is her servant on her own making, so she and him share a "strong bond" and understands the love he feels for Tsukki.  She offers Tsukki's freedom in exchange for Kuroo's, tells him she will let him live his life peacefully if Kuroo will take his place.

Above the water, Bokuto is anxious.  It's taking too long and he is worried they might be in trouble.  

"We have to do something!" he says and looks at Nakamura with a pleading look.

"Man, don't look at me," he says "I can't swim in deep water."

Bokuto panics.  If something is going to be done it's up to him!  He faces his fears and gears up before diving into the dark, deep water.  

As he ventures further down, his panic worsens.  He has no idea what he's looking for and the water is so dark even with his headlamp on.  What if something grabs him?!  Mermaids exist, so sea monsters can too, right?  His heart is racing, throbbing in his ears and he's going through his oxygen tank too fast as he hyperventilates, but he pushes on.  He has to think of Tsukki and Kuroo.

When he reaches the cavern, deep down the cliffside, he stumbles on something extraordinary.

A mixture of colours he has never seen before are swirling around Kuroo.  HIs legs are gone, replaced by a dark black tail that shimmers red under the light of the magical water around him.  Further on, he sees Tsukki now has legs and is in the clutches of the old sea witch and it all clicks together.

In his anger, he steadies his arm at the witch's heart and fires the harpoon.  She screams at such a high frequency all the boys have to cover their ears from the sheer pain of it.  The witch shrivels up and crumbles, her pieces falling to the bottom of the cave floor.  Upon her death, her magic comes undone.  Tsukki's legs remain and Kuroo transforms back into a human.

Both are completely naked and struggling to breathe, so Bokuto helps bring them back to the surface where Nakamura is waiting for them.  

[Here is the part that I was unsure about.  Kuroo is a trans*male.  I thought it'd be neat if when the spell was undone he actually transformed with a cis*male body because Umdea thought he was cis*male, so transformed him with a cis*male mermaid body.

But I don't think that would have been a good idea.  When I FIRST thought up this idea, the underlying thought about Kuroo being trans and Tsukki being a mermaid was Tsukki admiring Kuroo for his confidence with his body.  Tsukki hates himself because of his curse and has developed suicidal tendencies because of it.  Kuroo, on the other hand, has learned to love his body even though he was born in a body he does not identify with.  This was my inspiration for the story, so I think to get rid of that wouldn't be right.

Besides, if all of Umdea's magic is undone by her death, Kuroo would go back to his original form.]

So, upon returning to the boat all naked, there is a moment where Kuroo is almost disappointed.

"For that brief moment as a mermaid, I felt different.  My body was different.  I think Umdea turned me into a male mermaid.  You know, with a male body.  For a moment I felt like...how I've been trying to feel this whole time."

For the first time, Kuroo expresses his disappointment in himself.  Bokuto and Nakamura are speechless -- for Bokuto especially, he hasn't really seen this side of Kuroo before.

But Tsukki speaks up.

"Kuroo-san, when I was first cursed, I was so disgusted with myself.  I was convinced I was a monster and I hated myself every day.  But when you first saw me, you told me I was beautiful.  I have never seen myself as beautiful before.  And when I found out about you, I was...I was so jealous."

Kuroo is confused.

"From the beginning, you have had to learn to love the body you're in because it's the only one you have.  I've spent my whole life hating myself while you've learned to love who you are and find confidence in being yourself.  Kuroo-san...I think that, in itself, is beautiful, and it's part of why I love you so much."

Kuroo smiles and for once, he's the one blushing.  Bokuto pulls Tsukki in for a hug and the three of them huddle together while Nakamura drives the boat back to shore.

Nakamura hurries to fetch them some clothes from the villa while Tsukki grabs some old clothes from his shack.  

"Holy shit.  We really killed a fucking sea witch!"  Bokuto yells and the reality of it all comes crashing down on them.

Bokuto is asking why Kuroo was a mermaid and Kuroo explains the deal, which makes Bokuto yell at him more for taking the deal.  They start arguing back and forth and for a moment Tsukki is amused, but then something hits him.

He's looking out to the horizon, slowly stepping through the sand and ignoring the belligerent arguing of his boyfriends.  When they see Tsukki is so zoned out, they finally stop and ask what's wrong.

"The sun," he whispers, "the sunset already and I'm...I'm human."

Kuroo and Bokuto look out to the horizon to see that the sun has, in fact, set and yet Tsukki remains standing.  Tsukki cries tears of joy; he's finally free.

Epilogue

Kuroo and Bokuto choose to remain on the island.  Kuroo still works as a marine photographer and ventures out to sea regularly.  Tsukki has decided to help heal the island -- during his time with Umdea, he saw the effects overfishing and pollution were having on the surrounding coral reef and wildlife, so with Bokuto and Kuroo's help he dedicates his time to cleaning the waters with the locals and educating on how to properly care for their island while working with fishermen to keep the waters healthy.

Nakamura and Tsukki develop a relationship outside of his with Kuroo and Bokuto and everyone lives happily ever after. 

THE END!