Mike Stamford, one of Captain Holmes' -the younger- resident ship medics, was well known for being overly superstitious and cautious of the supernatural, or anything he deemed was supernatural in nature. He often claimed that it was more than just bad luck to have women aboard a ship at sea (though he'd never done anything to protest against it) and that clumps of seaweed and other ocean debris were Mermaid Clutches and not to be touched. Most everyone who knew Stamford, including the ship's captain, tended to ignore the supernatural rumblings.
It was one of the reasons Captain Sherlock Holmes kept the squat little medic around.
When they'd first met he'd been tempted to scorn the man outright, seeing as how a man of science shouldn't have anything to do with such disgraceful topics like the supernatural. But the more the man had hovered about him at the academy, the more Sherlock began to tolerate him, and even though he did often ramble off into almost insane-like bouts of speech, Sherlock knew he was going to be a good doctor.
Of course, that had all been before him and his ship, The Science of Deduction, and its crew, had gone rogue and run off from the careful watch of the British Naval Eye. They'd been not only ridiculously overbearing in their say on his research, but they were also about to kick a majority of his current inner crew out of school and work, if not outright hanging the lot of them for endorsing and helping his experiments. That and he might have been wanted for murder. Maybe. Needless to say, the lot of them were more than wanted for unethical experimentation on subjects of the crown, drug use, illegal trading, as well as multiple counts of murder, mayhem, and general discord. Oh, and theft. Lots and lots of theft.
So it was without doubt that the Captain of the rogue, pirate vessel, was tolerant of more than just his own eccentricities. Indeed, he was more than tolerant, and though he often said little as it was, he said even fewer words on the subject of the little medical man and his odd supernatural stories.
Until the man had had a panic attack one day.
On that day in particular, they'd just gotten done with a rather successful run on a few of the King's ships coming out of an unscheduled stop in a port that was far from trustworthy. Sherlock's own ship had been parked in a nearby cove for a few days, waiting out the stay of the two larger but more clumsy ships, and after they'd made the run they returned to the cove, blocked carefully by the Criterion Sand Bar. He'd then allowed the rest of the crew (which was made up of a hodgepodge of men, women, and even a few younger orphans) a brief rest while he and his First Mate, Gregory Lestrade, figured out what to do with the captured goods.
Mike Stamford and his assistant Molly Hooper had wandered out of bellow decks to wash the linens and what instruments they had used during the raid, all of his tools and supplies being counted and inventoried for future use. They did this routinely at the Captain's insistent of course, and as always, the two are chattering away happily on the deck just below the one Sherlock and Lestrade are on, their laughter ringing up happily. So used to it, was Captain Holmes, that he never even heard the laughter stop and Molly worryingly ask Stamford what was wrong.
It wasn't until Mike had started sputtering, which quickly proceeded to yelling, and waving his arms at the sand bar just on the other side of the ship that anyone besides Molly was alerted to the problem. And even when they were, no one could get a rational word out of the man for hours. Though when they finally did get him calmed down enough to talk rationally, nothing he said made any sense. Sherlock had dismissed the insistent demands that he'd seen a mermaid on the sand bar as nothing more than an excess of adrenaline and the heat, and perhaps a bit too much rum.
Until he was forced to reconsider his deduction when other, less superstitious and more rational members of his crew reported on seeing a person swimming around out in the ocean off the side of the boat. It was usually different people each time, and at a varying time at each observation, though a majority of them appear to be centered around sunset or early evening. Even though he'd never seen the creature himself, he had no doubt that his crew was seeing something, but that it was more than likely some sort of sea creature with a longer tail, like a dolphin, sea cow, or perhaps even a very small whale.
That was before his youngest crew member, a small orphan boy named Tiny Tim by the rest of the crew (one who rarely spoke to Sherlock, and almost never to everyone else), seized his hand quickly and tugged him over to the side of the boat. At first Captain Holmes didn't know what he was supposed to be looking for, seeing as how Tiny Tim hadn't said a word to him yet, but when the boy's tiny hand raised to point in the direction of the water and the still near-by sand bar. Because there, sitting in the surf where the water was parted by the sand itself, was definitely a person. And not just any person, oh no, a man...
A man with a very long, very bright, golden tail.
"He's been sitting there for a while now, Captain Holmes." Tiny Tim finally said, his hand clasped tight in the Captain's own. "He just watches."
"This is not the first time you've seen him, is it Tim?" Sherlock said calmly, eyes still locked on the serpentine like man in the surf. Apparently he hadn't realized he was being watched just yet. "How often do you see him?"
"He sits there a lot, and just watches. Usually he comes at sunset or night, but not today." Tiny Tim's little voice replied evenly, his voice low, lower than normal. "When he notices we're watching, he'll swim away. It is why you never see him when someone else does. The yelling scares him off."
Sherlock nodded his head in understanding before slowly drawing his telescope from his over-sized coat's front pocket. He always wore this coat, regardless of the temperature it seemed, because not only was it stylish, it was also useful for hiding things and protecting his body. And because it just made his tall frame look good. It was long cut and deeply colored, the midnight blue faded in well worn places, the silver buttons sparkling in others, and it was his coat. It had been a gift from someone very special too him, someone he hadn't seen in a very long time. Which is perhaps why he always wore it...that and it just made him look sharp.
But right now it was important to get his equipment out to study the creature before it noticed, which was easier said than done on the somewhat loud, large ship.
Hopefully it wouldn't be scared off by the flash of light glinting off the end of the metal cylinder when he finally found it, the larger end pointed quickly in its direction. But the Merman never even blinked their way, his back turned slightly to the ship, hands dug into the sand lightly as it laid there, tail moving with the tide gently. He was lying on his side, head down, eyes closed against the midday sun, sunbathing on the sand bar like there wasn't a huge enemy presence only fifty or so yards away. Though maybe it was familiar enough with The Science of Deduction and her crew that he didn't consider either of them a true threat. That would certainly explain its calm, sleep like state, and its general disregard for the humans around it.
Tiny Time was still at his side, eyes held fast on the figure off in the distance, tiny body shaking slightly, though Sherlock knew it was from excitement and intrigue and not fear. And it was the same for his own self, something of this magnitude being discovered by him of all people, a huge importance that no one would believe, even if he could get close enough to society again to tell someone.
And, like most Merfolk that had been depicted throughout pirate and sailor lore, this Merman was beautiful.
Not only was his tail shiny and golden in color, but so was his shaggy hair, which was plastered against his tanned skin. His upper torso, resembling a human's only in the briefest of senses, was slightly buff and glistening with water, three large slits in his abdomen flaring ever so slightly when the water struck them. Sherlock realized that these three slits, along with the other two smaller ones on the creature's neck towards the back of its ears, were gills, and that it was taking in water when the tide hit his side gently. A few delicate necklaces made of small shells, stones, and what looked like pearls, adorned his neck and trailed in long loops down his stomach to where his tail began and his torso ended. The flesh in between the change smooth and beautifully scaled in incandescent gold scales.
The Merman was gorgeous, or what Captain Holmes could see of him was, a form chosen to help lure their prey from ships or the shore and into the water where they would be drowned. There were so many stories and so much lore about Mermaids out there, how they were dangerous, beautiful sirens who would lure you into the water only to kill and then consume you, or worse. How they were pretty from afar, but when you got too close their mouths were filled with sharp, vicious teeth and armed with deadly claws and razor sharp fins. That they would kill you without a second thought and drag your body down with them into the briny depths of the ocean, a cold and cloying fate.
But there was hardly ever any stories about the males of the species, and even what few there were, were often vague and not consistent because for a long time no one thought there even was a male sex to the species. And for Sherlock, who had considered all of the stories about Mermaids to be false anyways, it was hardly worth taking in and storing the info about a lesser, more ridiculous side of an even more ridiculous set of monsters from stories. So he'd never even considered keeping any useful information about this topic, and yet here he was, faced with irrefutable proof of the existence of a mythical creature right before his eyes.
The proof was glorious.
Quickly snapping shut his telescope, Captain Holmes grinned down at Tiny Tim, who met his eyes with a small smile of his own at his Captain's obvious glee. The younger boy, despite the horrors of what he'd seen not even a year earlier, was still full of life and more than willing to look for beauty in the world. It was why Sherlock had taken such a shining to him, to any of his crew really, and he wanted to teach the boy. Foster children would be as close as he probably ever get to having offspring of his own, he knew, and though the thought slightly repulsed him at times, there were other times, such as now, that he embraced it. Because when he and his elder brother Mycroft finally died, so too would the Holmes line. They were the last ones left and it would end all too soon. Sherlock hadn't planned on living past his mid to late thirties.
Once again, Tiny Tim's little hand started to insistently pull on his coat sleeve, drawing his attention away from the dark hole it had plummeted into only moments before. The small boy had begun pointing again towards the sand bar, where the Merman had caught site of them watching him. He'd pulled himself up into a somewhat leaning position, prepared to flee by dragging himself back into the sea, but even in this new, defensive position, he was beautiful. All the grace of a cornered animal and the beauty of a mythical man who couldn't possibly exist.
"I thought Mermen were supposed to be wild and ugly." Tim said quietly, voice no more than a whisper as he watched the creature in the surf. "They're not supposed to be like Mermaids...pretty, I mean. And they don't like people, so they keep away to themselves. That's why you never see them."
"Then there is something strange going on here, don't you think Tim? This one is not a normal one." Sherlock didn't sound concerned, but he was certainly getting there. "Go, call to Lestrade, and let him know we are to pull anchor at once. We are leaving this place."
Tiny Tim nodded furiously before shooting off in the direction of the inner cabins.
Sherlock's revulsion rippled through him.
Mermaids were notorious for taking men from their ships or from the shore to drown them and then consume them, so Mermen couldn't be all that different. To see one that was trying to stay out of general notice was both disturbing and slightly terrifying. What if it was hunting, taking in the stock of its meal choices before it started to lure out its prey? Could it be possible that the men and women on his ship were in danger? He wasn't going to take that chance, not on his life, and so they would just pull anchor sooner than he intended. Merfolk were swimmers, true, but not even one lone Merman could keep up with a ship under full sail. Or at least not for prolonged periods of time.
So he was hoping to outrun the thing, hoping that for all its animalistic mind it would not pursue them too far because of exhaustion or the distance itself, and go and pursue a meal elsewhere. If it did not cease its hunt, he would be forced to perhaps kill it...and wouldn't that make for an excellent dissection?
"Captain, Tiny Tim said that you wanted us to call everyone back on deck and weigh anchor. Is that true?" Ah, Lestrade had come on deck finally, no more lying about in his hammock. "Why the sudden change in orders?"
"We're being hunted, Lestrade, and I want my crew safe." Sherlock answered swiftly as he moved to survey the decks below the one they were on, his crew fumbling about in their rest. "I know it is sudden, but trust me when I say it is for their own good. We will go somewhere else."
"Aye, Captain." Lestrade turned to the rest of the crew. "All hands on deck! Alright you lot, change in plans! Weigh anchor and prepare to set sail."
The resounding cheer made Captain Holmes smirk.