Being the son of King Theomedes of the Sea, not to mention the heir to the throne, did not really leave room for extracurricular activities. Especially not trips to the surface.
“Damen,” Nikandros, his most trusted friend, hissed at him as they continued to swim. “I mean, Your Highness! You know we’re not supposed to –“
“Damen is fine, Nikandros,” he replied smoothly, swishing his golden tail to propel himself upwards. “And relax. I have done this before.”
“I am to bring you back to the palace immediately,” Nikandros insisted as he followed after him. “If your father knew about this…”
“He doesn’t need to find out,” Damen replied as he slowed his movements, gripping his friend’s strong arm in sudden excitement, shushing him. “There are some things he and my brother will never understand. But you – Nikandros, I have found someone.”
Nikandros, startled by the sudden change of subject, narrowed his dark eyes suspiciously. “Found someone?” He echoed.
“Not just someone. Perhaps the one. It’s…” Damen faltered. “It’s complicated.”
Nikandros began to feel prickles of concern. “Not someone on the surface?” He eventually dared to ask.
Damen didn’t answer for a moment. They were tantalisingly close to the aforementioned surface; the thin veil between their world and the humans’, about to be broken. Eventually, he turned his head away from his friend’s, his broad shoulders tense. “I know it sounds mad.”
“It is mad, Damen,” Nikandros said, an edge to his voice. “How do you expect that to ever work? How are you supposed to woo a person who walks on the land?”
“I have seen him five times now,” Damen’s words were soft. “Trust me when I say he is exquisite.”
Nikandros bit the inside of his cheek. “And blond too, no doubt.”
“I know you’re mocking me,” Damen replied, “but I won’t rise to it. When you see him you’ll understand. When you hear him, you’ll -”
“You have spoken to this man?” Nikandros asked incredulously. “You have revealed yourself to a human boy?”
“He is not a boy,” Damen responded coolly. “Perhaps twenty.”
“That’s what you decide to get pedantic over? Damen, you’re a Prince. You can’t threaten our kingdom, our existence, because of mere infatuation with yet another pretty blond.”
Damen gritted his teeth. “He is a Prince too.”
“A Prince on land is not the same.”
“It’s…Feel free to go back if you wish. As long as I have your word you won’t speak of this to my father and Kastor.”
“Against my better judgement, you have my word,” Nikandros said, his green tail swishing in agitation. “You will have to tell them yourself, eventually. When it all inevitably goes wrong.”
“Thank you for your enthusiasm, my friend,” Damen replied with a small smile tugging at his lips. “It won’t go wrong. I know, logically, that nothing can happen between the two of us.”
“Then why do you pursue him?”
Damen paused before replying. “I find it hard to stay away.”
Once Nikandros had left him, Damen allowed himself to enjoy a few moments of tranquillity, and then continued to swim. His head broke the surface and he breathed shallowly in the cool, fresh air, his dark hair sticking to his forehead. He pushed it back, water droplets trickling down his face as his eyes scanned the area.
And there he was, as he had been for the past week, sitting on the nearby boulder, a book in his hands. The bottom of Laurent’s laced trousers were damp – for some reason he insisted on wearing clothing that covered him head to toe, even though he had to wade through the water to get to the rock.
Damen admired him for a moment; the way the sun hit his golden hair, illuminating his skin, pale and delicate as porcelain. The way his brow furrowed the tiniest bit as he read. Damen approached the boulder, close to the point where he could rest his forearms on it, gazing up at Laurent. “Hello, sweetheart,” he said, smirking the tiniest bit.
Laurent’s blue-eyed gaze moved from his book to find Damen, and he smiled back. Each day it became easier for Laurent to open up, and it made Damen happier each time. He closed his book soundlessly, letting it rest on his lap, and reached his hand towards Damen.
He clasped it, pressing a kiss to the fine skin. “My friend disagrees with this,” he admits, quietly.
“I can understand why,” Laurent replied smoothly. “It’s not the easiest of arrangements.”
Damen frowned, but then Laurent stroked his dark hair back, making him relax. “I want you to know, if there’s any way that I could become one of you, I would take it.”
“There are a lot of downsides to being human,” Laurent said, a hint of something in his voice which Damen couldn’t interpret.
“But the biggest upside is that I could be with you. We could be together.”
“We are both Princes. We have separate areas to rule,” Laurent turned his head, staring towards his castle, high up on the cliffs. “My Uncle won’t be around forever. I have a lot of responsibilities.”
“As do I,” Damen said. “But I will always have time for you.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”
“I don’t intend to.”
Laurent sighed, rubbing his forehead with his free hand. “My brother would’ve been next in line. If he were here, perhaps things would be different.”
“You never mentioned that you had a brother,” Damen said quietly.
“Exactly, I had a brother,” Laurent emphasised, closing his eyes for a moment. “He…drowned. Years ago. I swore I’d never return to the sea because of it, but then I found you. And even though I know I should, I can’t stay away from you. Or…this.”
“Perhaps when we are Kings, things will be easier,” Damen suggested hopefully. “We will rule, after all. Our word is law.”
“And what do you suggest? I go down in the ocean with you until I run out of breath?”
“Don’t say that,” Damen retorted, flinching at the idea of it. “There are ways. There are always ways. We will find one.” He pushed himself up, so he was at the appropriate height to press a soft kiss against Laurent’s lips. “Tell me the joys of land again.”
“Of camp fires, and sleepless nights in tents under the stars?” Laurent teased, his voice lilting.
“And of you, and your brother. Your – what is it called again? The animal. The one you love.”
“My horse,” Laurent supplied. “Yes. She’s beautiful. I ride in the forests, surrounded by trees. My brother used to ride with me, too. We raced.”
Damen looked at him dreamily as Laurent began to tell the story. He stayed by his side until the sun began to set, the shadows of dusk obscuring Laurent slightly, though his golden hair was always noticeable. “It’s time for me to go,” Damen eventually had to say. “Until tomorrow?”
Laurent picked up his book, pressing a kiss against Damen’s forehead. “Yes,” he confirmed. “Tomorrow. But you will tell a story, of what your life is like.”
“Boring, compared to yours. There are so many things to do here.”
“Only you would consider being a merman boring,” Laurent scoffed, and then his eyes sparkled. “Show me your tail again before I go.”
Damen laughed, pushing himself away from the boulder in order to flick his golden tail up. Laurent stared, transfixed.
“You’re beautiful,” Damen replied as he returned to his original position.
Laurent rolled his eyes. “Go. Your father will be wondering where you are.”
“And your uncle will be worried about you, too.”
Laurent tensed, before replying. “No. No, he won’t. The only thing he ever worries about is himself and his next fuck.”
Damen frowned heavily, and opened his mouth to reply, but Laurent drew closer to press a finger against his lips. “No. I don’t want to talk of my uncle. Please, let’s not mention him again.”
“Ok,” Damen murmured, and then kissed Laurent’s finger. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Laurent.”
“Yes,” Laurent whispered back, before Damen ducked back under the water, already missing him.
The next day, he would bring Laurent a souvenir, so even when apart, a piece of his home would always be there with Laurent. For now, they had this.
They would always have this.