The ocean breeze swirls around Shiro, the scent of salt calming him and the water lapping at his calves grounds him, reminding him he's still here, and that everything is, in fact, okay. He takes one last steadying breath, then paddles out towards the waves. Most of them have been ankle breakers, far too small to get any real satisfaction out of them. Standing on his board he rides the next wave with unmatched grace. He's completely at peace, his worries no longer clouding his mind as the adrenaline courses through his veins.
Peace and serenity are quickly cut short as something collides with his board, knocking him into the deep, salty water. He tries not to panic, hoping to get his bearings and climb back up onto his board. A sudden excruciating pain rips through his right arm, forcing a blood curdling scream from his throat, he nearly loses his grip on the board with his left arm. The last thing he sees before blacking out is a pair of concerned, blue eyes staring back at him. They remind him of home, and simpler times. For a split second they give him a sense of hope and security before he succumbs to the darkness.
Shiro wakes feeling disoriented and confused. He blinks a few times, trying to adjust to the harsh fluorescent lights glaring down on him. His body feels numb, and his mind hazy, having no recollection of how he ended up here. Unfocused eyes cross, blinking at the white bandage on his nose, taking up the lower portion of his vision. He's obviously in a hospital, but how the hell did he end up here? Looking around the room he's a little relieved to see Keith sitting on his left.
"What happened to me?" His voice is rough, his throat dry.
"Do you remember anything at all?" Keith worries his bottom lip, reaching out to grab Shiro's hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.
Shiro shakes his head. "Not really. I remember something hitting my board, and then a lot of pain, but nothing else."
Keith hums, looking down at his free hand, "You were attacked by a shark."
Shiro's breath catches in his throat. Never in a million years would he have guessed a shark attack. "Is that why I hurt so much?"
Keith nods, offering him a weak smile. "Yeah buddy, I would imagine losing an arm to a shark would be pretty painful."
Shiro's eyebrows knit together. He looks down where his right arm should be, seeing a bulk of bandages taking up his bicep instead, and nothing after. That explains why he couldn't feel his fingers anymore… he was really hoping it was just broken. He closes his eyes and inhales sharply.
"What happened to my nose?"
"Apparently your board hit it hard enough to slice it open, you needed stitches."
"Oh…" Again, not what he was expecting.
"It'll be okay, you're lucky Sam was there. He saw it all go down and wants to build a prosthetic for you."
"I don't need his damn pity." Shiro takes his hand from Keith, balling his fist around the scratchy white blanket.
Keith sighs, "you can decide later, Shiro. At least let him show you what he has to offer."
Frowning, Shiro clenches and unclenches his remaining fist a few times. "Have you seen them?"
"No, but from what he's told me it seems pretty cool. I think it could be good for you, but it is your decision in the end."
Swallowing hard he stares up at the ceiling, he has a lot to think about. His mind clouding over with doubts and what ifs. What is he supposed to do about all of this? Can he go back to work, or even live a normal life after this?
"Takashi," Keith's gentle voice brings him out of his spiral of doubt and fear, "you aren't alone in this. I'll be here with you every step of the way, and I'm sure Matt and Pidge will too."
"Thank you, Keith. I'm glad I have someone like you to lean on."
"I'll always be here for you, Shiro."
Shiro grins, then stops to think for a second. "How long do I have to stay here?"
"About a week or so."
He groans, shifting on the uncomfortable bed. "At least call the nurse to give me some damn drugs."
Keith chuckles and presses the call button for Shiro, "sure thing, bud."
Keith has held up with his promise so far. He's stuck by Shiro throughout all of it, even going as far as driving him to his first physical therapy appointment. Shiro frowns as they near the rehabilitation hospital. He knows it'll help and he's glad he doesn't have to actually stay at the hospital, that would really suck, but he still doesn't want to do it. It reminds him of the attack, and how terrified he is now at the mere thought of going out into the water again. It reminds him of all the shitty things he's gone through in the last few weeks, and how drained he feels just getting up in the morning.
Hopefully, all of this will help him.
Hopefully, it'll give him some of his energy back. He really needs a win after everything that's happened to him.
Shiro blinks a few times, he was so lost in thought he hadn't even noticed the car had stopped. He nods, not feeling up to actually speaking.
"This will help, Shiro."
Instead of saying anything he unbuckles himself and climbs out of the car, ready to get it over with so he can go home and eat. Keith offered to take him out, but the last time they tried that he got a lot of looks he wasn't too keen on seeing again.
Keith groans, getting out of the car to follow him, "You don't have to be such a grouch, you know."
"If anyone is a grouch here, it's definitely you," he spits back, opening the door to the hospital.
"If you drop the attitude I'll get you your favorite take out for dinner."
"Fine." Shiro sighs in defeat.
"Thank you." Keith grins and drags him along to check in.
About an hour passes and Shiro begrudgingly admits that the physical therapy did help him feel better. Some of the exercises hurt, but ultimately he feels a lot better than he did walking in.
Keith notices Shiro's small smile as soon as he walks back into the waiting room. "Is the attitude gone?" He grins, knocking his their shoulders together.
Shiro rolls his eyes, unable to resist his growing smile. "Yeah, the attitude is gone. Thanks for bringing me, and for being here for me. It really means a lot, Keith."
"Don't mention it, dude. I told you I'd be here for you."
Shiro grins and follows Keith out to the car. The ride back home is spent it in a comfortable silence that neither of them mind. Shiro uses the time to think about how much his life has changed and how it has continued to change in just a few short weeks. Even though today was only his first session, he knows the therapy won't last forever. It'll be over soon and he'll be able to try out a shiny new prosthetic, if he decides to.
He's not quite sure what his future holds at this point. Getting back to work will be difficult, but maybe the distraction will help him. Surfing is out of the question, he's nowhere near ready to get back on a board. Maybe after he's completely healed he'll try to get back out there, but he doesn't see it happening anytime soon.
Maybe it's time for a new hobby.
"You okay?" Keith glances over at Shiro as they pull up to their shared apartment.
"Mm, yeah. Just thinking about how things are going to change. Thinking about picking up a new hobby... Maybe painting?"
"No more surfing?" Keith raises an eyebrow as he cuts off the engine.
Shiro shakes his head as he slides out of the car. "No, not yet at least. I don't know when I'll be ready to get back out there." Chewing his lip he waits until Keith gets out and locks his car. "Maybe I won't ever get back out there."
Nodding, Keith leads the way into their building, unlocking the door and holding it open for Shiro. "It's completely valid to not want to. I would love to go out with you though, if you're ever feeling up to it."
"Thanks, Keith." Grinning Shiro walks through the door, feeling a little bit better about his decisions.
Shiro lies awake, staring up at the ceiling, decorated with tiny glowing stars. He can't quite remember the exact reason why he put those up. There's a lot of things he wishes he could remember. A pair of blue eyes keep flashing through his memory, but he's unable to place them. He doesn't know who they belong to, or where he saw them, but he remembers feeling safe when he did.
Sighing, he looks over at his alarm clock. 5:26 AM. In a few hours Keith will come barging in to wake him up so he can get fitted for his prosthetic. The physical therapy sessions came and went, he stuck to his plan of picking up painting, in which he discovered learning to hold the brush with his left hand proved to be rather difficult. He manages, but hopes the prosthetic will come in handy with writing and painting.
Thoughts of getting back out on the water often cross his mind. He misses the smell of the sea and the breeze on his face. However, he can't bring himself to even tag along to the beach with just the intention of sunbathing. It hurts too much to think about. One of his favorite things in his life was ripped away, like it was nothing.
Shiro sighs and flips into his stomach, trying to forget everything. Hoping things will come easier as time passes. Hopefully one day he'll get back on a board.
A sense of dread and panic washes over Shiro as his feet hit the sand. It's been nearly a year since he was cleared to get back on a board, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He's not even sure he'll be able to get in the water today, but he is proud of himself for at least making it this far. He looks back to his car, Keith is sitting in the passenger seat. When he found out Shiro wanted to come to the beach he insisted on tagging along. Shiro made him promise he wouldn't bother him though.
Shiro clenches his fists and takes a few steps further on to the beach, his feet heavy in the warm sand. He makes his way to the shore, watching as the waves lap at it. Deciding he isn't quite ready to get into the water yet he climbs up to a large rock sitting on the edge of the beach, the waves can't quite touch the top.
Seating himself on the rock Shiro pulls his legs to chest. Looking out at the vast blue sea he feels a sense of longing, he wants to go back out there, but he knows he isn't ready yet. For now he settles for sitting on the rock and watching the gentle waves crash into it.
His heart hammers in his chest. He tries his best to stay calm, steadying his breathing as much as he can. Counting his breaths he's able to calm down enough to enjoy the view.
Looking down at the steady waves he's surprised to see curious blue eyes staring back up at him. The same blue eyes that often cloud his thoughts, memories, and dreams. The person looking up at him doesn't seem to be human at all. His torso is human, and so is his face, but his body… he has the body of a shark. Even the human looking parts aren't so human, he has blue scales with white flecks running down his arms and near his temples.
He seems to sense the panic in Shiro's eyes and backs up slightly. "I'm not going to hurt you."
Shiro flounders, opening and closing his mouth, trying to find words, but nothing will come out.
"I'm glad to see you came back. I was worried." He swims a little closer, resting his hands on the rock while looking up at Shiro.
"Who… What are you?" He finally managed to spit out. He pushes himself back, away from the… the thing.
"My name is Lance. I'm a mershark, and I saved your life."
Shiro's eyebrows knit together. "You... saved my life?"
Lance nods, smiling up at the man. "From that shark. I got him away from you and put you back on your board so I could push you up to the shore. I couldn't take you up there myself or else everyone would've seen me."
Rubbing at his eyes Shiro tries to make sense of the whole situation. He must be dreaming. He's not actually here, right?
"I'm glad you're okay. I didn't mean to scare you. I just… I got really excited when I saw you."
With a dry throat the only thing Shiro can do is nod, he doesn't know what to say or do. He's not sure if he should trust this creature or not. Maybe he's trying to get him back in the water so the shark can finish what it started.
"Shiro? Are you okay over there?" Keith calls out.
Whipping his head around he spots Keith standing out on the beach, staring up at Shiro with his arms folded over his chest. He wasn't supposed to get out of the car. Shiro sighs and turns back to the hybrid but he's already gone. He shakes his head and climbs down from the rock, unsure if he imagined the whole interaction or not.
Keith jogs over to Shiro. "Seriously, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just ready to go home." Walking away from Keith he ignores his questions, more focused on getting to the car as quick as possible. Whatever that thing was he doesn't want to trust it, but he can't help to find himself curious. It could've been what attacked him for all he knows.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Keith looks over at Shiro as they climb into the car.
Taking a steadying breath Shiro nods. "I'm fine, really. It's just… hard to be out here, but I'm not going to give up. I will get back out there."
With a grin Keith claps his hand on Shiro's shoulder. "I'm really proud of you, y'know? I know it took a lot for you to even come here. You're doing great, Shiro."
Shiro nods again, a small smile on his lips as he starts up the engine. Hopefully he'll be able to get back out there soon. The salty air and calming breezes are definitely a thing he missed. Maybe next time he'll be brave enough to stick his feet in the water, he'd give almost anything to feel the gentle waves lapping at his legs without a single care, like he used to. He tries his best to push out the negatives and focus on how good the ocean has been to him over the years.
The beach looks beautiful in the early morning light but Shiro isn't too focused on that right now, he's currently walking across the sand like a man on a mission. Which, he pretty much is. He's determined to get back into the water today. After weeks of trying he finally feels like he's ready. To his surprise he hasn't seen the mershark again. He's mostly relieved that he hasn't, but a small part of him can't help but be disappointed. He was rather curious, and maybe the hybrid was harmless after all.
Shaking his thoughts he stares out at the clear blue water in front of him, only about one foot away from actually touching his feet. Sucking in a deep breath he inches closer, but just as he's about to stick his foot in the water someone calls out his name. He looks around with an arched eyebrow, not only did he come alone today, but there aren't many people out, especially as early in the day as it is, and he certainly doesn't know any of them personally.
"Over here!" The somewhat familiar voice calls out again, this time he can clearly hear it coming from the right.
Shiro whips his head around, surveying the beach only to find an elderly couple walking towards the parking lot. Just as he's about to give up he spots an arm waving in the water nearly hidden behind a patch of rocks. Confused, he makes his way over to the figure, be can't make out any of their features from the distance. As he moves closer he soon realizes it's the mershark he saw weeks ago. He honestly thought the whole interaction was a fever dream.
"I'm so glad you're here!" Lance grins, swimming forward to lean against a rock. "I've been looking for you but I haven't been able to find you. The beach is always so crowded."
Shiro nods dumbly still unable to believe his eyes. What does he even want from him?
Laughing the mershark offers Shiro an enthusiastic nod. "Of course I'm real." He says it like it's so simple. So normal. Like having a conversation with a half fish half human hybrid is an everyday occurrence.
"Why... Why do you care about seeing me so much?"
"I just like to know that you're okay. You looked so happy in the water before, but now I rarely see you anymore. You've always been my favorite person watch." Lance admits while looking off with a bashful smile lining his lips.
"Okay, that's kind of weird," Shiro says without thinking he claps his hand over his mouth but it's too late.
Lance's face is bright red. "I never thought about it being weird. All of us like to watch the humans."
"There's more than one of you?"
Lance laughs, deep and vibrant, a full belly laugh. "Of course. Where would i have come from if I was the only one?"
Shiro's eyebrows knit together. "Out of all the people here, why am I your favorite?"
Shrugging, Lance rests his head on his arms. "There's just something about you. I don't know how to explain it, but I've always felt drawn to you. Being able to talk to you was like a dream come true, even though the circumstances were poor." Sighing he chews on his bottom lip. "I-I was so worried when that shark attacked you. I didn't stop worrying until I finally got to see you again. I couldn't help myself and I swam right up to you, without thinking about any of the consequences."
"Did you get in trouble?"
"No, but people could've seen me. Typically it's rather dangerous for us to show ourselves to humans, but I trust you, Shiro."
His eyebrow arches. "Wait, how do you know my name?" He doesn't remember ever telling him. In fact, this is the most they've ever talked.
"I heard someone call it out the first day you came back. I assumed it was your name and since you came running over here when I called it out… well, I think it's safe to say that I assumed correctly."
"You really are observant, aren't you?"
The mershark hums, offering Shiro a small grin. "Are you going to surf today?"
Shiro shakes his head with vigor. "No. I haven't even gotten back in the water since that day."
Lance's face falls. "Really? But you always look so happy when you're surfing."
"It's hard, Lance, I lost my arm for Christ's sake. It isn't easy to just overcome all of that shit and get back in the water. I can't even put my feet in without seizing up.
Groaning, Lance pushes off the rocks, "I swear if I ever see that stupid shark again." He folds his arms over his chest. Shiro finds his little scowl adorable.
Shiro chuckles. "You don't have to worry about me. The anxiety is starting to ease with time. It's easier to come here, and look..." He bites his lip and steps forward into the cool water. "I can at least put my feet in now."
"I'm proud of you." The mershark grins, moving as far forward as he can, he reaches his hand out, looking up at Shiro with hopeful eyes.
Shiro grins and meets Lance halfway, he swears he can feel a spark of electricity course between their linked hands.
Lance jerks his hand away and hides himself behind one of the rocks.
Shiro looks over his shoulder, he's slightly disappointed to find Keith standing near the parking lot waving at him. He groans and turns back to the water.
Lance offers Shiro a small smile. “I have to go but we'll find each other again Shiro, I promise.”
Shiro nods and steps out of the water, watching as Lance swims away. He can't help but feel drawn to him, maybe they are meant to meet again. He sighs and jogs over to Keith, hoping he won't have to wait so long to see Lance next.