“Captain? Captain, can you hear me? Captain!”
It took a while for the distant voice to punch through the fog of his thoughts and melody of his organ. He opened his eyes and rested his hands on the keys. In front of him stood Lem, a concerned frown on his face. He smiled slightly at his navigator, and got up from the instrument. As he stretched and walked down to the Nautilus’ controls, Lem’s voice faded to the background, telling him about the last few days and how they needed him to navigate the final stretch home to Matoka. He had been lost in his music for too long again. From Lem’s words, it would seem to have been multiple days. He really needed to stop doing that, if not for his own health, for the crew’s peace of mind. He glanced at Lem and laid a hand on his shoulder. He had never needed many words with Lem, and saw him calm instantly at the touch.
The young man smiled, and he could almost feel the vein in Lem’s neck pulse as his cheeks flushed in a soft blush. A spike of hunger went through him. He really had been playing too long. He pulled back his hand and sat down at the navigation controls, calmly steering the ship through the narrow underwater passages between them and a safe haven. Passages he was certain Lem could have navigated himself should the situation have demanded it. They must really have been worried about his unresponsiveness, if this was the excuse they had come up with.
He took a deep breath, trying to shake off the last tendrils off the drowsy trance he had been in for the last few days. It had been a long trip, and he had not had many opportunities to take care of his dietary needs. It would be good to be home.
His mind wandered as he carefully manoeuvred the Nautilus. That had been getting worse lately, and he knew it worried his crew. There were times he fell silent for days or weeks on end. Sometimes lost in the past, sometimes simply in his music. Thankfully he had Lem, who had always been able to understand even his unspoken commands. He had been with them almost four years now, and made himself utterly irreplaceable. Not only was Lem nearly as good at navigating the Nautilus as Nemo himself, when he was lost in his music a specific chord on his organ could be enough to call the young man to his side, somehow enough to let him know his captain needed his help. He had grown increasingly dependent on this in recent months, as he found himself withdrawing more and more, lost in bittersweet memories.
He had once been told the memories of his human life would fade, but as his ‘birthday’ approached they only haunted him more. Doomed to live forever with the memories of a life he wished he could forget. If there was a god, he must have a cruel sense of humour.
Lem stood close to him, and he could still sense his very real human warmth, hear the faint beating of his heart. He felt another stab of hunger, and tried to focus on his controls, when he felt Lem’s warm hand on his own cold arm. He had to suppress a shiver.
“Captain, you’re unwell…” said Lem, taking a step closer. “Let me help you.”
He glanced down to Lem’s hand only to see it laying, palm up and with an exposed wrist, next to his own.
The shocked expression on Nemo’s face, as he looked up from Lem’s offered wrist to his face with confusion and surprise in his large, expressive eyes, could only be described as comical. Lem looked him straight in the eye and smiled, not shying away from his Captain. He wasn’t stupid, and he certainly wasn’t blind. Having been with his Captain for as long as he had, how could he not have noticed? But then again, it seemed the rest of the crew had not.
Nemo just stared at him, unmoving. Apparently, slightly more radical action was necessary if he wanted to help. He did hope he didn’t break Nemo just now. He pulled over a stool and sat down.
“Captain, I’m not blind. And I know you’re hungry.” He said, keeping his voice soft and soothing.
Nemo just kept staring, various emotions flitting across his face, until it finally broke into a slight, surprised smile.
“You are something special, Lem. I hope you know that” said Nemo, as he softly let his fingers run over Lem’s wrist.
The cold touch sent a shock through his system, but he didn’t move, keeping his gaze firmly locked with his Captain. He could get absolutely lost in those eyes. Had gotten lost in them in the past. To be perfectly honest, it was a miracle he didn’t swoon as most of the girls did, on Matoka. He supposed it must be because he got used to being around the man, but whenever their eyes met he still felt as though he was pinned in place, held captive by that hypnotic gaze. But now wasn’t the time, he was trying to get a point across. So he smiled slightly and shrugged:
“Not nearly as special as you sir.”
Nemo snorted and shook his head. his’s hand had not left Lem’s wrist, and he was slowly getting used to the cool touch of Nemo’s skin. He didn’t think he’d actually felt Nemo’s bare hands on his skin before, and he was starting to understand why. If his hands were always this cold, that would have been a dead (pardon the pun) giveaway.
Nemo’s thumb had come to rest over the pulse point on his wrist, and he could feel his own heartbeat under the touch. Nemo’s eyes darted across his face, hunger evident in his features, and he started to withdraw his hand. Lem grabbed his wrist, keeping him in place.
“Captain. It’s alright. I just want to help you.”
A look of distress crossed Nemo’s face, and Lem could feel him tense under his touch. He shook his head slowly.
“Lem,”, he said, his tone betraying nothing of the emotions Lem knew so well how to read in his eyes, “please release me. I do not wish to hurt you.”
It took everything in Lem’s power not to roll his eyes. Instead he smiled and shook his head at his silly Captain.
“There’s absolutely no chance of you hurting me Captain, I trust you with my life. I have trusted you with my life for years, and you’ve never let me down.” He said, softly squeezing Nemo’s hand.
Slowly, as though approaching a skittish animal, he scooted closer. Nemo nearly jumped as their knees touched, and Lem could see the muscle in his jaw tense. He leaned forward, closing the gap between them further, gently taking Nemo’s other hand. Their eyes locked again, and he smiled, trying to reassure his Captain. He wasn’t sure how long they sat there, starting at each other, but at some point Nemo suddenly relaxed. As Lem let go of his hand Nemo reached out, a soft smile on his face. Gently, he moved them, kneeling, as it were, between Lem’s knees. Nemo’s soft whisper of ‘thank you’ warmed him, such a contrast with the icy touch of his hands. Almost instinctively, Lem’s eyes fell closed.
A soft gasp escaped him as he felt cold lips softly press against the skin of his neck. Nemo’s arms wrapped around him, and he couldn’t help but lean into the touch. They remained like that for some time. He could feel the nervous energy emanating from his Captain, even as he relaxed into the embrace. The soft press of lips pulled back and he felt a sting in his neck, almost like an electric shock, followed by an intense sense of peace. He felt his arms move of their own accord, coming to rest around Nemo’s shoulders, as he melted further into the embrace. The moment seemed to last an eternity, as his mind drifted peacefully. All he felt was Nemo, holding him close, keeping him safe. Somehow no longer cold, but almost too warm now. It felt like floating. It ended almost too soon, leaving him a little dizzy and disoriented, still in Nemo’s arms. A soft kiss was pressed against his neck and a cold nose nuzzled his skin, before he was pulled closer into a gentle hug. Feeling rather boneless, he let Nemo rearrange them, so that he was leaning against his Captain, on the floor in front of the bridge controls. A voice in the back of his mind told him they should probably move, but he was simply too tired to listen to it. From above came Nemo’s calm, gentle voice, commanding him to sleep, to rest. He wanted to respond, tell his Captain he was fine, but before he so much as opened his mouth, his body had responded to the command and with his head against Nemo’s shoulder, he slipped into a deep, peaceful sleep.