‘This is disgusting’ – the words rattled through Shirotani’s mind like a broken mantra, a hundred times a minute, a thousand times a second until all he could feel was horror, thick and suffocating in his throat, muffling all protests into whines and stutters as dark, dark eyes looked up at him. It was disgusting, it was all so disgusting he couldn’t even move from the weight of that knowledge. The warm (so warm) hands moving up his tail to brush against his cold flesh; the hot breath ghosting over his collarbone, his neck, his jaw, his lips; and always that rich, burning smell of mammal, of human in the air…From the dry touch on his skin (though waves still lapped over his scales gently, as if nothing was wrong) to the legs straddling his tail, it was all so repulsive he could barely think straight, heart pounding, breath coming out in hitched gasps.
It was disgusting, he knew that, so he couldn’t rationalise why it felt good.
Merpeople and humans coexisted perfectly well: everybody knew that. There was cooperation, even if it was tinged with wariness on both sides, and for the most part merpeople and humans got along just fine on a personal level, though meetings weren’t always the easiest. It wasn’t even uncommon for the two species to couple together, although no children could ever be born of such a union, and friendships were far from rare, especially in seaside towns or cities with decent rivers going through them.
Into this peaceful co-existence, Shirotani Tadaomi had been born, with a disgust for humankind so strong he couldn’t stand to so much as raise his head above water unless absolutely necessary. There was no reason for it, as far as he knew or cared to know, and eventually even the others of his species began to leave him alone, unnerved by both his deep-rooted disgust and the constant guise of reservation and politeness he wore. That suited him fine.
For decades he went on living like that, but such uneventful and arguably happy days had to end eventually, and before he knew it, he’d raised himself to a position where cooperation with humans was apparently essential. He personally didn’t see why: he could meet every expectation he needed to for his duties without them, but despite his protests, his mentor had just fixed him with a serious eye and a sad smile, leaving him only with, “We live a long time, Shirotani. You can’t escape progress forever.”
It had been a whirlwind, in the end (every bit of it odious to him), but after months of organisation and scheduling, his mentor had finally arranged for a human therapist to meet with him and try to get him over his hatred of humans (but he kept telling them: it wasn’t hatred or fear, it was just this perpetual disgust that clogged his gills until he felt faint).
(Kurose was the only one who’d seemed to understand that).
Perhaps, if he were honest about it, he’d admit it hadn’t been as horrific as he’d imagined. Kurose certainly knew what he was doing, and they got along well. Weekly meetings, goals set and stuck to, gentle exposure to human life for a month or two, and it had all been going quite well. He’d begun to feel hope. He’d begun to think he might be able to meet Kurose’s outstretched hand for once, rather than curling up his fingers and whipping his hand back underwater where it was cold, familiar, safe.
He’d been a fool.
There was nothing comfortable about this and with his every short breath into the cool night air he wanted to say so, but the words simply wouldn’t come out of his mouth, not with the way Kurose was looking at him. Everything felt so horribly close, so intimate he couldn’t pull away and escape again, and even if his tail had chosen to obey him he didn’t think he’d be able to. He’d promised to try, after all. But here, trapped up against a boulder with a human body this close to him, touching him, imbuing him with its scent, he was having trouble remembering why it was worth it.
Frankly, he was having trouble thinking at all.
Through all of it, all of the mental overload, all the touches of human skin on his, all of the unforgiving, merciless heat, Kurose’s eyes barely left his own, maybe flickering down once or twice but always returning to drown him. It was becoming more than Shirotani could bear, especially when Kurose leaned in, lips just brushing against his, sending a rapid shiver down his spine.
And then Kurose just stopped. It was almost insulting.
“Is this too much?” he whispered, and Shirotani could feel the syllables against his own mouth.
Was it too much? The idea was laughable: it had been too much weeks ago when Kurose had first started touching him, it had been too much when they’d sat together on the sand of this deserted beach, it had been too much when Kurose had taken his hand, ignoring or not caring about the thin webs of skin in between Shirotani’s fingers that must have felt so unfamiliar too him, and held it to his cheek. Since that moment, it had been wave upon wave of too much and too fast and too close, to the point where Shirotani wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to rid himself of the heat imprints that must be snaking up his body.
But he couldn’t say any of that: instead, a weak whimper escaped his lips, anything more completely beyond him.
Kurose almost smiled, a hand sliding lower down Shirotani’s back to where his scales started. “Is that a no?”
Shirotani was about to make another pathetic attempt at answering when he felt his hands shivering. It wasn’t with repulsion, with stress, with nervousness: for the first time in his life, he could feel the incomprehensible urge to reach up and touch human skin, the outline of bones, the ridges of muscle, the soft warmth of human flesh. It wasn’t impossible anymore, and though Kurose’s smell weighed heavy in his nose, though the air was filled with heat and humanity, he thought he might be strong enough to deal with it if he could just answer this urge and touch.
So, with only the faintest, tiniest of movements, he nodded and leaned his jaw up just a fraction. Kurose didn’t need telling twice.
It was so strange and everything told Shirotani he should be finding it unbearably sickening, but there was no time to think that: his mind was in a rush of whirring thoughts, just like before, but now they were bordering on hesitant gratification.
It felt good. It felt good to have Kurose’s lips on his, to have their chests pressed together (and though the heat still burned, it wasn’t so much unpleasant as thrilling), to have hands sliding over his hips, and when one reached up to brush against the base of his ear on its way to his neck, he couldn’t stop a breathy moan from escaping his mouth.
Kurose caught on quickly. His fingers hovered over the small scales at the base of Shirotani’s ear, as if deliberating what to do before tracing a finger down the sensitive webbing. Shirotani hissed, squeezing his eyes closed as pleasure rushed through his body. The ghost of a smile passed over Kurose’s mouth and he gave Shirotani’s bottom lip a final suck before moving to his ear.
Shirotani decided to retract all his accusations of previous actions being ‘too much’, because the feeling of having someone drag their mouth over the pointed ridge of his ear in open, wet kisses was truly more than he could handle. His breath came out in moans, in whines, in hitched gasps and shuddering exhales as he clutched at the sand below his hands, his whole body shaking. But even through the haze of pleasure engulfing his mind, even through the jolts of need that had him bucking up against Kurose’s hips, he still had the presence of mind to feel the familiar coil of unease in the pit of his gut.
“Is – ah! – isn’t it disgusting?” he whispered, voice only seconds from breaking. Mercifully, Kurose moved away from his ear at that, leaving him some space to think.
“Why?” Eloquent as ever, Kurose expressed it all through his eyes with an unfalteringly dark gaze, his pupils dilated.
Shirotani didn’t have an answer to that one, not one he could put into words. There was only the worry, the discomfort, and the wholly unwelcome feeling that it was all wrong. But there was no way he could say it, no way he could collect himself enough to express what he felt, and no desire to either. He bit his lip, worrying the skin with pointed canines, and looked away.
They stayed in that limbo of uncertainty for a heartbeat, two, and then Kurose moved in to kiss him again, licking over his lips as if asking him to open them. He didn’t refuse. He was too desperate to return to before – before the clench of unease in his stomach – and even the unfamiliar feeling of Kurose’s tongue in his mouth (‘disgusting’, his mind told him, and he didn’t listen) couldn’t deter him from that.
And then, so softly that he wouldn’t have realised it if a shock of pleasure hadn’t run down his spine at the touch, Kurose’s fingers were at his ears again, but gently this time, brushing over the joining of scales and skin, over the paper-thin webbing and it felt caring. He was so caught up in the feeling that he almost missed Kurose’s barely-there whisper.
“It’s not disgusting.”
Shirotani didn’t breathe for a second. He didn’t know what to think, what to feel at those words, but luckily Kurose saved him from further over-thinking by moving down to his neck, kissing along his jaw. He was about to say something, desperate to address it, but Kurose skirted down his chest in hot, open-mouthed kisses to his hipline, a hand reaching over to where his tail was curled up on the sand.
It was electric, the sensations that jolted up his tail as Kurose ran his hand over his far, far too sensitive tail fin. Shirotani felt he was losing his mind, but at the same time couldn’t care because in the whirlwind his mind had turned into, there was no place for disgust of any sort and it was so freeing to just be left in the hands of shame and pleasure. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t stop the embarrassingly needy spasms of his tail with every touch of a finger along the ribbed, vulnerable skin of his fin, the only thing saving him from death by mortification being the way Kurose rutted his hips back just as needily, still kissing along his scale-line.
Just a few caresses more, just a few fiery kisses more, and Shirotani was pushed over the edge, screaming brokenly as all the pleasure came to a climax. Even though blood was rushing through his ears, pounding relentlessly as pleasure washed over him, he heard Kurose groan above him, and when he came back to his senses they were side by side on the sand, both breathing heavily.
It was difficult to think about, difficult to even remember now that he wasn’t stuck in a mist of lust, but…the grips of disgust over him weren’t as strong as they could have been, he thought. Perhaps it was fatigue, but he didn’t feel the need to move away even though Kurose’s hips were touching his.
And when Kurose’s hand reached for his, he met it with only the smallest of hesitations.