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Leviathan

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Deep under the sea, something glimmers, shining like silver under the light. Yuuri cups his hand over his eyes, squinting, but the glimpse only lasts a moment. Whatever fish was out there sinks beneath the waves, following the sun down below the surface.

Yuuri sighs and lowers his hand, absently rubbing his side where a bruise aches, one of many. He wishes the sun would stay a little longer, to leave another hour of warmth on his skin, but the sun carries on with setting regardless of his desires. Yuuri sits out on the rocks until the sky is dark and the clouds have gathered for a storm. The only light that remains comes from the lighthouse nearby, casting a clear line out across the water, beckoning.

Yuuri doesn't go home. Instead, he goes to the bar closest to the beach.

He keeps his eyes down as he enters. While his assailants tend to lurk in the bars on the other side of town, Yuuri doesn't expect them to leave him alone for long, and everyone knows he prefers this place over the loud, energetic crowds of downtown. The other regulars give Yuuri a nod, not minding him, and Yuuri reaches the bar unmolested.

The bartender, Minako, gives him a smile as she slides over his beer, her long brown hair falling against her cheek as she turns her head to answer another patron's question. Yuuri takes the beer and retreats to the corner of the bar, far from the single television, but close to a table of poker.

He sips the beverage slowly, watching the players try to cheat each other out of pocket change. Niiyama, an old fisherman who once taught Yuuri how to thread a lure, winks at him and lays down his cards. The others groan loudly in complaint, and Yuuri hides a smile behind his beer.

"Eat up, Yuuri. It's like you're wasting away," says Minako, setting down a plate of fries and fish at his elbow. Yuuri didn't order anything, but he has long suspected Minako to be soft on him. She was close to his mother, once upon a time.

"Thank you," he murmurs, picking up a piece of hot fish and popping it into his mouth. Minako rolls her eyes.

"Ketchup's by the wall. Eat all of it, or I'm adding it to your tab."

Yuuri gives her a smile and adds ketchup to his plate, dipping a fry into it obediently. She narrows her eyes at him threateningly, then leaves him alone to deal with two regulars at the other end of the bar, her face lightening with a smile as she reaches them. Yuuri returns his attention to the poker game, curious if anyone has beaten the last winner yet.

Instead, he finds a conspiracy.

"I've seen it," old Niiyama says, leaning in over his cards. The others roll their eyes, but he isn't finished. "I have! Big long tail like an eel, but it's the size of a whale. And it's taking villagers north of here. The last disappearance was only four days ago, and it was the village just over the hill."

"You mean those kids who ran away?"

"Nah, they got taken. Someone said they saw them being dragged into the sea."

"Just dumb kids playing around," gripes another one of the players. Yuuri recognizes him as one of the retired cops who used to visit his parents' inn. He now catches eels off the coast. "They'll end up in trouble one way or another. All kids do."

"Could be a shark," offers one of the others.

"You haven't seen it, then?" Niiyama demands. "Scales in the water, like a shoal of fish, but too big to be one. Silver. You ever seen a silver shark?"

"I saw something like that," his neighbor says reluctantly. Outside, thunder rolls in the distance. "It looked big. Eel, maybe."

"I've seen it twice now," Niiyama says. "Once two days ago, and once this morning. They saw it up north too, before those kids disappeared. I'm telling you, it's coming south, and more kids are going to disappear."

The old men grumble, casting their eyes around the bar. Everyone in the bar is similarly aged, except for Yuuri, who receives the brunt of their glares as if he has already disappeared in a troublesome way. Yuuri avoids their attention and eats his dinner a little faster.

"Catch the beast if you see it again," the retired cop finally says. "It's probably a shark from up north."

They go back to complaining about poker. Yuuri listens with half an ear, waiting for them to continue talking about the mystery, but he hears nothing more. He focuses on his dinner, thinking.

He saw the same thing earlier. Silver scales under the water. It had been big, just like Niiyama said, but not a shark or an eel. He wonders what it could be, then shrugs off the thought. He wonders if it is truly dangerous as the old men believe.

When he finishes his beer, he leaves his payment on the table and escapes before Minako can protest. As he ducks outside, a breeze passes him, ruffling his hair and jacket. Yuuri shivers and rubs his arms, hunching forward as he starts to make his way home. He avoids the road tonight, not wanting to tempt his bullies. His route winds along the beach, a rickety wooden path that no one else ever follows. He watches the storm grow closer, lightning flashing across the sea every so often. He should be home by the time it reaches land.

He is interrupted.

"Bit late for you to be out and about, Katsuki." Yuuri's stomach sinks as he turns, finding a single man emerging from the woods nearby in a drunken slope. Alone, curiously, but Yuuri will not underestimate him. His would-be assailant flexes his fingers, drawing Yuuri's attention to the brass knuckles his hand.

"Leave me alone, Fujiwara," Yuuri says tiredly. His side aches fiercely for a moment, a reminder of the last time he faced Fujiwara and the brass knuckles, just a day ago. The rich boy and his new toy, picking on the outcast for fun. "I just want to go home."

"Not like you have anyone waiting for you. Since your family's dead," laughs Fujiwara. He means to gouge Yuuri's heart, but Yuuri has heard the words a hundred times before, and the wound is old. The words can't hurt him coming from a stranger who has never known his mother's warm smile or his father's laugh, his sister's lazy grin. Especially not from this person.

"Yeah, because I killed them," Yuuri says flatly, which cuts through the laughter. Fujiwara stares at him in confusion. "That's what you were going to say, right? I've heard it all before. Your big brother told me the same thing a dozen times. Except that's not right, is it?"

Fujiwara's face twists. "Shut up, Katsuki --"

"Since your brother's the one who set the fire in the first place. That's why he's in jail, isn't it?" Yuuri says, enjoying the way Fujiwara blanches. He took the beating last night because Fujiwara had more men with him. But Fujiwara is alone tonight, and Yuuri has no patience for the brother of his family's murderer.

"You put him there!" Fujiwara howls, then squares his shoulders and rushes forward. Yuuri ducks to the side and takes off running.

He can hear Fujiwara chasing him. He drops off the path and runs down to the beach, to the rocks that jut up along the coast. He grew up on this beach, chasing his sister around the rocks and sand for years. He could run around these rocks blind.

Fujiwara did not grow up here. He moved here five years ago with his brother and family, a well-to-do family that didn't belong in their tiny fishing village. They wanted to control the village's hot springs, which were owned by Yuuri's parents.

Hence the fire at Yuutopia, murdering everyone Yuuri held dear. Not that anyone will admit as such, after the way Fujiwara's father hushed up the newspaper, angry over his son's guilty sentence. But Yuuri knows the truth and has held it in his heart for years.

The Fujiwara family still doesn't have the hot springs. Yuuri owns the property, and in case he dies too, he has willed the property to his cousins, who will care for it as the Fujiwara family never would.

He hears a shout behind him, too close for comfort, and a second later, Yuuri is wrenched backwards as Fujiwara catches his hood and yanks. They fall to the ground together, rolling and grappling. Yuuri grabs Fujiwara's wrist as he swings it back, trying to push the brass knuckles off. His grip slips, but he jerks to the side just as Fujiwara hits him, the weapon grazing his forehead.

"Just die already," Fujiwara bellows. Yuuri can smell alcohol on his breath.

"Get off me!" Yuuri tries to twist away. Fujiwara knees him in the side, the same spot where he punched Yuuri yesterday, and Yuuri yelps, his vision going white for a second.

And in that second, something... happens.

Fujiwara is dragged off of him. Yuuri turns onto his side, wheezing, but the beach is dark, and he cannot see his savior. He hears something splash, hears Fujiwara's high-pitched scream before the sound is cut off by a gargle. Lightning flashes, and Yuuri sees a figure in the water.

The figure is not Fujiwara. He sees broad shoulders, with long silvery hair clinging to wet skin, and blue eyes. Something silver glows, a long winding body like an eel, but too big to be a normal fish. The creature -- a person? a man? but he has a tail -- has one hand under the water, where Yuuri can see the sea foaming as someone flails and struggles not to drown.

Fujiwara. The flailing soon stops, but the creature does not pull him from the water. Instead he turns icy eyes on Yuuri, who scrambles back as much as his pain will allow. He cannot see the creature's face, only the outline of his figure, silhouetted by the storm beyond.

Lightning flashes over the beach again. The creature smiles at him in that moment, teeth gleaming like fangs in the light. Then he turns and dives into the sea, his long silver tail following behind like a stream of light. He takes Fujiwara with him.

Yuuri stares at the water, trying to make sense of what he just saw. He slowly rises to his feet, clutching his side, and his foot bumps against something hard. He looks down and sees the brass knuckles, fallen from Fujiwara's grip.

Fujiwara is gone. Likely dead, like those other missing youths, if that creature has taken him into the sea. If they look for Fujiwara, they might think he went after Yuuri. They might suspect Yuuri of his murder.

How can he explain a man with a fish tail?

Yuuri picks up the brass knuckles and throws them as hard as he can. The weapon makes a small splash as it hits the water and sinks below the surface. Yuuri stares at the ocean for a long moment, waiting to see another flash of silver, but the water remains dark. Then he turns and walks away, clutching his side, all the while feeling like eyes are watching him from the sea.

He reaches his apartment just as it begins to rain.

~*~

Yuuri doesn't expect to sleep after what he saw. Yet he wakes up the next morning with no memory of going to bed. Outside, the storm has softened, the rain streaming down his window in tiny rivulets. He gets a cup of coffee and returns to bed, staring out the window as he drinks, wondering if last night was a dream.

His side aches. Yuuri pulls up his shirt to see that the bruise is worse than yesterday. He reaches up to his temple and finds a small wound, scabbed over in the night. He leans toward the window and squints at his reflection. When he sees the mark, the same place where Fujiwara hit him in the dream, a small burst of static fills his mind for a moment.

It wasn't a dream. The creature was real.

Yuuri has lived in this little town all his life, yet he never heard of such a creature. Mermaids are a myth. The fishermen always liked to tell Yuuri tales when he was little, about creatures with sharp teeth and hands that could drag sailors under the water. Yuuri believed them as much as anybody else, which was not much.

He cannot deny his own memories. His own experience. He wonders why the creature let him live. He thinks of that smile, the sharp teeth, the overwhelming presence of something inhuman. The tail had been many feet long, and even in the water, the creature had been taller than him.

He wonders if he could find it again.

~*~

Three days after the ordeal, Yuuri wakes to someone banging on the front door. He stumbles through the apartment and pulls the door open to find two officers outside.

"Katsuki Yuuri?"

"Yeah," Yuuri mumbles, squinting at them. He left his glasses by his bed. The younger officer gives him a smile. He thinks he recognizes her from school.

"We have a few questions for you. Can we come inside?"

Yuuri lets them inside. He makes them tea in the front room, then disappears into his bedroom to get dressed and wash his face. He takes his time, because he does not want to talk to them.

The last three days have passed in a haze. Yuuri barely remembers going to bed every night, let alone getting up in the mornings. He knows he went to work, because he remembers clocking out, but he doesn't remember what his meals were like. Maybe he hasn't eaten, too far distracted by what he saw. Some part of him should be more disturbed by Fujiwara's death, but Yuuri has barely dwelt on what happened. Instead, he has been fixated on the creature.

His hands are shaking as he brushes his teeth, and he clenches them closed. Then he goes back to face his destiny.

The officers ask him about Fujiwara, of course. Yuuri tells them about going to the bar for dinner then coming home. He lies admirably, his face drawn with confusion, and says he never saw anyone on the walk home. He tells them he took the road home. His former classmate admits that the Fujiwara family has accused him over the disappearance, but the timing isn't right. They said that Fujiwara left his house later than Yuuri met him, and that someone saw Yuuri walking home.

Yuuri wonders who lied for him. The Fujiwara family is not well-liked, after Yuuri's family died.

When they bring up his assault from a few nights ago, Yuuri tells them the truth: he was jumped by Fujiwara and three other men when leaving work. They beat him up and left him in an alley. Yuuri lets them think that all of his wounds were from the first attack. The police already have that report, since someone found Yuuri and helped him, but as far as Yuuri knows, nothing was ever done about it. Perhaps Fujiwara's father greased someone's hands with money.

It won't help Fujiwara now, since he is probably dead.

The older policeman keeps looking around the room, at the pictures on the shelf and the shrine for Yuuri's family. He has a sad look in his eye, like he knew Yuuri's parents. Maybe he knew Yuuri's sister.

They don't arrest Yuuri. Instead they talk about what will happen to the inn, now that the property war has passed. Fujiwara's father spent a long two years trying to bribe officials into letting him cheat Yuuri out of his home, but no one gave in. They respected Yuuri's family too much. The inn has been in his family for generations, part of this town for just as long.

Yuuri retreats back to his room after seeing the officers out and sits by the window, thinking hard. The police will never find anything from that night; the rain will have washed away their fight, and the body is long gone. Devoured, perhaps, by whatever creature saved Yuuri.

After work that night, he goes to the bar as normal. Everyone is talking about Fujiwara's disappearance. Some of them eye Yuuri as if he had something to do with it, but he has too many allies here. They know him and accept him, and none would doubt him if Yuuri said he didn't do it.

The old fishermen gossip over a card game, where Niiyama holds court, telling anyone with ears that the beast took Fujiwara, like all the other disappearances further north. Someone else says they saw something in the water the night before, which makes Yuuri sit up with interest. A figure standing in the water, but it was too far out to be shallow enough for a grown man.

Yuuri swallows his last gulp of beer, pays Minako, and slips out the door.

He traces the path to the beach slowly, his hand shoved deep in his pockets. The moon is bright tonight, letting Yuuri walk the unlit path easily. He scans the waves carefully, but he never sees any silver. Something drives him to keep walking, though, instead of giving up and going home.

Yuuri makes his way closer to the waves. The lighthouse stands tall above a small cove, where Yuuri often played when he was younger. He carefully climbs down the rocks to the sand, full of tiny shells and stones, and stares at the dark water.

Nothing. He sighs and closes his eyes, wondering why he bothered. It was probably a dream.

He hears a splash, and every muscle in his body goes tense. Yuuri slowly opens his eyes, and a thrill runs through him at the sight in front of him.

The creature is there. His long tail is curled in the water like a great silver snake, many times longer than his body is tall. He is larger than Yuuri, shoulders broad with strength, his chest like that of a man's. He has gills in his neck. His ears are inhuman as well, like fins of a fish, toned silver and green and blue. His fingers are claws.

The creature smiles at him with sharp teeth. Yuuri should be running, but he is far too interested. He wonders if the creature will kill him too, and despite every bit of logic telling him to run, he steps forward to the edge of the water.

The creature moves forward as well, a slithering sort of glide that puts him right at Yuuri's feet. Yuuri looks up into a face that should be terrifying, but he can only find beauty. The creature's eyes are a vivid blue, too blue to be real, and Yuuri cannot stop himself from staring, awed. Something in the creature's expression softens, and an ache echoes in Yuuri's chest at the sight.

He senses movement and looks down. The creature is holding out his hand, where a tiny pink stone sits, gleaming like a pearl. It reflects off of the scales in the creature's skin, and Yuuri realizes that it is glowing on its own. He looks up in confusion.

With a small smile, the creature reaches out to Yuuri and takes his hand. His grip is cold and wet. He deposits the tiny stone in Yuuri's palm, then raises his own empty hand to his mouth, as if he is eating something. Yuuri stares another moment, then slowly raises his palm up, pressing the stone to his lips.

He hesitates and holds the creature's stare. Those eyes see into him, scorching him, and Yuuri represses a shudder. Then he swallows the stone.

It hits his stomach like an anchor. Yuuri's vision seems to grow brighter for a moment, washing away with white, until all he can see is blue, blue eyes. The moment passes, and Yuuri stumbles, reaching up to grip his head, which suddenly hurts, as if he has been stabbed. Just as quickly, the pain ebbs away, leaving only a phantom of the pain.

"Hello," says the creature. The language is unlike any Yuuri has ever heard, yet he understands it perfectly. Yuuri's head jerks up.

"What?"

"Ah, good, it worked," says the creature, slithering around Yuuri and reaching up to touch his shoulders, long fingers brushing his neck. Yuuri turns to stare at him, his eyes wide. His words crash through Yuuri like a wave, stronger than a current dragging him under. The strange words coil beneath his ribs, threatening to break out and ruin him.

"What did you do to me?" Yuuri whispers.

"A little bit of power. Just to make you understand. Do not worry, lovely one, for you will not change. It will only let you hear me and speak my tongue. If you swallow two, then you will change more. Three, and you will change forever."

Yuuri wonders what he means, but the creature twists away from him, dipping back into the water with a sigh. Yuuri drops to his knees in the sand, not noticing how his clothes and shoes grow damp, staring at the creature in awe and fear. He thinks of asking, but he wants to know something else, something far more important.

"Who are you?"

"I am Viktor," say the creature with a smile that could tear Yuuri's heart out. "Who are you?"

"Yuuri," he whispers, his gaze drawn to Viktor's great tail. The scales shimmer beneath the moonlight, and Yuuri swallows, suddenly wanting to touch. He does not dare, not when Viktor is smiling at him like that.

"Yuuri," Viktor croons, rising out of the water again to cup Yuuri's face. Yuuri stares down at him, enthralled. Long fingers brush over his forehead, stroking the red mark left by Fujiwara's cruelty, and Yuuri flinches. Viktor's expression turns dark. "Rest easy, lovely one, for I have devoured the filth that hurt you."

So Fujiwara is dead after all.

"I don't think I'll rest easy knowing that," Yuuri says faintly. He can feel something solid and wet pressing against his back. Viktor's hand? Viktor's tail? He dares not look. "He... they're looking for him. They're looking for you."

"They will not find me. Humans never do, unless I find them first. Like with you."

"But why me?" Yuuri asks, his voice barely a whisper. Viktor is close enough to kiss, but the look in his eye speaks of something darker. As if he wants to devour Yuuri, too.

Yuuri would even let him.

They both turn when they hear voices further down the beach. In an instant, Viktor has drawn back, disappearing into the water with only a small splash. Yuuri is left alone, staring into the dark sea as if it holds a thousand secrets, a leaden anchor settled in his stomach.

Viktor does not return. Yuuri goes home alone, all the while wondering about the answer to his question.

~*~

He goes back the next night, walking along the beach while lightning flashes in the distance. Viktor is waiting for him.

"Yuuri," Viktor croons, reaching out a hand as he uncurls from the water. Yuuri kneels in front of him, shivering as Viktor's wet palm touches his cheek. This close, he can feel the heat of Viktor's body, and he aches to reach out and touch him, to feel his scales. He wonders if he is going mad, to want to touch a man-eating monster, and yet...

All Yuuri has thought about is Viktor. He did not go to work. Instead he stayed in his room and stared out the window at the sea, clutching a cup of coffee and wondering why he was spared. Why he was chosen. All through the day, storms broiled beyond the coast, threatening to come ashore and wash away his desolation.

"You didn't answer my question yesterday," Yuuri breathes. "Why me? I'm nobody."

"You are beautiful," Viktor says, his smile slow and knowing. The simple words strike Yuuri still, and he can only stare. "And you are alone, like me."

Yuuri reels back, but Viktor catches his wrist before he can fall. They stare at each other, Viktor's smile long gone, while Yuuri trembles with something like rage. His lips tighten as he struggles not to tell Viktor he is wrong.

Viktor takes pity on him. "I have seen you sitting out here. On that rock," Viktor says, pointing to where Yuuri spends many of his afternoons watching the ocean. "You were there months ago, and you were there days ago. You are alone."

Yuuri's heart is throbbing in his chest. Viktor has seen him before. Viktor, lurking deep in the waters, noticed Yuuri alone on the beach and paid attention to him. Yuuri wonders feverishly if he ever saw a glimmer of silver in the water, but he cannot think of even a glimpse.

"Just like me," Viktor says, low and painful to Yuuri's ears, like shards of glass in the sand. Yuuri wonders how long Viktor has been alone, if he had a family once like Yuuri, or other creatures like him. Someone who could swim with him in the deep, dark sea.

"Alone," Yuuri murmurs, then relaxes, no longer pushing himself away from Viktor. "What... are you, that you are alone? Surely there are others."

"None like me," Viktor says, and his tone is dark enough that Yuuri does not ask again. Instead he stares at Viktor's hand around his wrist, the grip gentle now that Yuuri is not trying to escape. Viktor's fingers end in sharp-looking claws, a dare to the strength of his skin. Yuuri has no doubt that he would lose a battle with such weapons. His gaze drifts to the gills in Viktor's neck.

Viktor notices him looking and smiles, letting go of Yuuri. "You may touch, if you like. I know I am different from you."

Yuuri swallows back his surprise. He did not realize his desire was so blatant. He glances up at Viktor, but Viktor only watches him, calm as the sea beyond them. Slowly, carefully, Yuuri reaches out and runs a finger down Viktor's neck.

Viktor's eyes flutter closed. Yuuri glances up at his face, then continues his exploration, touching the soft ridges. He is afraid of damaging them, of making Viktor unable to breathe, so he merely looks for a long moment, seeing deep purple skin beneath. More ridges curl through Viktor's skin, smooth and gleaming, until scales blossom and converge over the rest of his body. Yuuri touches Viktor's stomach, the scales that glisten over pale skin, then deepen with color as they lead downward, hints of blues and greens amidst the silver. His shoulders are framed by long hair, as pale as his scales, that must look beautiful in the water.

Viktor is gorgeous. How he could ever look at plain, simple Yuuri and see beauty is beyond him.

"Your touch is warm, lovely one," Viktor murmurs without opening his eyes.

Lovely one. Seductive words, meant to draw him into the sea and never look back. If Yuuri gives in, tomorrow's sun will rise over his bones.

Yet what else does he have? An empty house set to go to his distant cousins, whom he doesn't even like. A dead-end job. His life stopped the night of the fire, every day passing in a fog. He doesn't remember waking up every day. He doesn't pay enough attention, because he stopped caring years ago. He cannot imagine going back to that life, to gazing out the window in longing every morning, or looking over his shoulder every night for someone to hurt him.

Viktor has not hurt him, even with those sharp teeth and claws. Yuuri cannot stop touching, now that he has permission. He glances lower, flushing a little to see a slight bulge between the dip of Viktor's hips. Instead of giving in to his deeper desire and touching Viktor's lower body, he draws his hands up over Viktor's chest, reaching up toward his shoulders.

The scales feel soft beneath his fingers, yet not. Viktor watches him lazily, eyes half-lidded with the contented amusement of a predator who knows he could rip his prey apart at any moment but chooses to let it roam free. Yuuri glances up briefly, meeting devilish blue eyes, then cautiously strokes a finger along the strange fins jutting out from Viktor's waist.

Viktor lets out a low noise that sends a heady shiver through Yuuri. He feels his ears go hot, but he doesn't look up.

"You're amazing," Yuuri blurts out, then claps his hand over his mouth. A second later, Viktor takes his hand and pulls it away, gently drawing it back to his neck, setting Yuuri's palm against the ridges in his skin. This close, Yuuri can feel Viktor's gills fluttering.

"Touch me more," Viktor murmurs, leaning in close to Yuuri and placing that monstrous mouth by his ear. Yuuri obeys helplessly, sliding his hand into long wet hair. His thumb brushes against Viktor's strange fin-like ear.

Hands seize him and drag him upward. The kiss shocks him into grabbing onto Viktor's shoulders, finding fistfuls of long hair and pulling. They press together in a kiss that is human and yet not, Yuuri caught in his own desire, in Viktor's fierce need. Viktor pulls him close, demanding all of him, and Yuuri rises to meet him.

They break apart for air, panting into each other's lips.

"Come into the water with me," Viktor says softly, drawing Yuuri forward. Water swells around Yuuri's legs. He wonders if this is the last thing he will know.

"I'll drown," Yuuri whispers. Yet he cannot think of any reason why he should not, and so he pulls away to prepare himself. Carefully, he steps out of his shoes and takes off his glasses, setting them on a rock near the sea. Then he returns to Viktor's arms.

Viktor smiles slowly and opens his hand. In his palm gleams another stone, shining blue and tempting. Yuuri takes it and puts it in his mouth without thinking about the consequences.

It sinks in his stomach. His neck erupts with pain, followed by his eyes. Yuuri cries out and reaches up to his neck, startling to feel his skin bubbling, changing. He struggles when the air grows thin, looking up at Viktor in fear.

Viktor draws him into the water with gentle hands, his expression soft and worshipful. Yuuri will die at this creature's whims, but somehow, he knows that Viktor will honor him. The thought makes him relax. When Yuuri's head goes under, he gasps in water and breathes.

Viktor drags them deep into the sea, further down than Yuuri has ever dived before, far from the beach and rocky islands. Yuuri closes his eyes for a time as he floats underwater, breathing oxygen from the sea around him. The water flows in through his mouth and out of his neck, a cold feeling. Yuuri reaches up to his neck and feels ridges, soft and velvety, a sign that he is changing. The sensation is alien, foreign, strange -- yet Yuuri does not feel afraid. He touches the gills gingerly, then looks at his hands, pale and eerie in the water.

"If you swallow two, then you will change more."

He glances down at his legs, which have remained as they are. His clothes drag him down, heavy like a burden. Despite the cold, Yuuri decides to pull them off, sending every piece of fabric floating away. He notices a flash of silver at the corner of his eye and turns.

Viktor floats behind him, his figure grand and beautiful in the water. His scales glow in lines along his body, giving him an ephemeral look, as if he could disappear into the dark ocean at any moment and only be seen by his own luminescence. Viktor smiles at him and swims closer, his great tail curling around Yuuri's body protectively.

His voice is different under the sea, somehow clearer than ever before. "How do you like it?" Viktor asks, stroking a thumb along the bruise on Yuuri's brow.

"It's cold," Yuuri says honestly, but that is the only fault he can find with this new world. He looks up to watch the surface of the sea, curious that he can see so well in the darkness. More of Viktor's power, likely. He wonders how long the effects will last, if he could come here every night and swim with Viktor until the sun comes up. If Viktor will even let him go. If Yuuri even wants Viktor to let him go.

He wonders if he could see Viktor in the sunlight sometime, or if Viktor is only a creature of the night, a companion of darkness. Perhaps Viktor was born of shadow and light, belonging to them more deeply than he ever belonged to the sea. As if to echo his thoughts, lightning flashes above the ocean surface, as if to say you can never have all of him.

Yuuri wants Viktor to belong to him alone.

Yes, I can. I will.

He looks down to find Viktor right in front of him, reaching up with long claws to cup Yuuri's face, never once hurting him. Yuuri closes his eyes, tilting his head to welcome Viktor's kiss. He parts his legs so that Viktor can press closer, hooking his knees carefully around scale-covered hips. Breathing water is easier, now, and yet also more difficult, because Viktor has stolen his mouth for other, sweeter activities.

Held in Viktor's embrace, heat rising between them, the cold slowly fades away. Perhaps Yuuri is dying, and Viktor is stealing his life force with a kiss, their easiest connection. Yet Yuuri feels something deeper bonding them, curling around them like the current. He feels more alive than ever before, ever since the fire and the loss of his world.

Slowly, Viktor draws away enough to see Yuuri's face, their lips brushing together temptingly. Yuuri watches his pale eyelashes, the soft fins on his ears fluttering in the water. Viktor's hair drifts around them like a curtain, shielding them from the world, new and old as it is.

Viktor opens his mouth, revealing a glowing white stone. He lets it float in the water between them, his gaze keen as he watches Yuuri's expression.

"Three, and you will change forever."

"Will you change for me?" Viktor asks, his voice almost carried away by the sea. His eyes are nearly blinding in the darkness, wide with fear and exhilaration. Yuuri can only smile.

"I already have."

He leans forward to kiss Viktor, the stone swallowed within their love.

It sinks into him, anchoring him to the sea. Pain races down his spine to the tips of his toes, and Yuuri jerks back, gasping in water and opening his eyes wide. Viktor lets him go and pulls away, and Yuuri clutches for him, desperate to hold onto him. Viktor takes his hand and clasps their palms together, and Yuuri holds on tightly, as the pain crashes through him and destroys his every nerve.

He can no longer feel his legs. Yuuri starts to panic, but then the current takes his breath away, his cries of fear. He sees Viktor watching him with a blank expression, and somehow that scares him more than the way his spine begins to break apart. The crack resounds in the darkness around them.

The last thing Yuuri sees is lightning hitting the surface of the sea.

~*~

He wakes slowly to warmth. A hand rubs down his back, over and over, in gentle circles that make his chest tighten with happiness. He knows those hands.

"Viktor," Yuuri murmurs, opening his eyes. He looks up to find Viktor curled around him. Above them is a massive cavern with glittering crystals and rocks, glowing plants and tiny fish swimming through the water. The sand is littered with strange treasures, bones and pearls, shiny shells. Yuuri lifts a hand toward the crystals, wondering what makes them glow, when he notices his hand.

His fingers have turned into claws. His pale skin is littered with tiny scales, so deep a blue that they look black. The scales run along his entire body, and Yuuri looks down curiously, seeing fins curling out of his hips and arms.

His hips lead to a tail, twice as long his legs, yet nowhere near the length of Viktor's tail. His legs are gone.

Yuuri stares, not really understanding for a moment, yet knowing that this is real. He thinks of kicking his knees, and the tail twists luridly, no longer confined by angular joints. The tail feels strange and unreal, yet graceful in a way Yuuri has seldom felt. He is reminded of when he used to skate, the only way he could express himself. He waves the tail again, watching the way his new scales glimmer under the colorful lights.

Viktor lifts his head and inhales, woken by the movement. His eyes are wide, monstrous and haunted. He must have been so afraid. "Yuuri."

Yuuri smiles softly, reaching up to cup Viktor's face with long claws. When he pulls Viktor down for a kiss, he can taste Viktor's relief.

"Not alone anymore," he whispers. For the first time in years, perhaps even in his life, he is happy.

~*~

Yuuri belongs to the sea now, to Viktor and the dark currents that carry them away from Japan.

Viktor hunts for him, and in time, he teaches Yuuri how to survive this strange new world. They dine on scallops torn from the shell and fish caught in Viktor's claws. Yuuri's teeth can bite through bones now. Viktor disappears sometimes to the surface, and when he comes back, he carries meat that Yuuri does not recognize, and yet he does. When Viktor first brings him such a gift, Yuuri stares at the meat for a long time, unable to eat any of it, and Viktor never pushes him. He fetches Yuuri mollusks and tiny eels instead.

Viktor tells him stories when their bellies are full, after he has laid Yuuri down on the sand in their den and taken him apart with hands and lips full of love. He tells Yuuri of other creatures like them, with hands like claws and faces like a human's, tails long and scaled. None of them are as strong as Viktor, their tails tiny compared to his, nor do they understand his power. Thus they avoid him in fear.

"Always alone," Yuuri murmurs, staring down at the bones of their dinner. He should go deposit them in the pit outside, but he doesn't want to move from Viktor's embrace. Viktor's tail has twisted around him protectively, the silver brilliant against Yuuri's dark scales. "Too great for anyone to understand."

"A legend, to some of them. No one to stay beside me. No one to mate," Viktor says simply. "So I thought to create my own."

Yuuri smiles at him, turning in his grip and swimming closer to kiss his lips. He tastes their dinner on Viktor's tongue and sighs out tiny bubbles. Against his will, he thinks of Viktor dragging others down into the sea, offering them glowing stones, and has to ignore the hot flash of jealousy in his belly.

"Did you try to change anyone else?" Yuuri asks anyway, unable to stop himself.

Viktor watches him lazily, a smile curling on his lips. He knows what emotion has colored Yuuri's vision. "None before you, lovely one. They were all prey. None saw me, only the monster in the water."

"You're my monster now," Yuuri tells him, and for that, Viktor drags him back into his arms, not letting him go until Yuuri has gasped his love into Viktor's mouth, his hands twisted helplessly in the sand.

Sometimes when Viktor is away hunting, Yuuri goes alone to the surface. He knows Viktor would admonish him for risking himself, but Yuuri misses the sun's warmth, the glow of the clouds and the colors of the sky. Viktor has shown him little islands and coves where humans have never walked, so that Yuuri can lay on the beach and watch the clouds drift.

He returns to Japan only once.

The sea is clear and deep, but above the waves, the sky is obscured with thick fog. Yuuri surfaces far from the beach where he grew up. All he can see is the lighthouse, cutting through the mists like a dulled knife. He wonders if anyone found his clothes and glasses, no longer necessary for him, since the ocean is no longer cold. He wonders if Minako misses him, or if his cousins have taken over the inn and begun repairs. He wonders if someone is looking after the shrine for his parents.

Despite his wondering, nothing on that island calls to him like Viktor does.

For a long time, he watches the rhythmic pulse of the lighthouse, a beacon that lights up the fog like a beating heart. On a clear night, it might beckon him home, but Yuuri cannot find home here. He cannot see the lights of his village, nor anything else that speaks of civilization, of the humanity he left behind. Only the darkened sea, the subdued sky. The world beyond those shadows holds no meaning for him. He does not miss this place.

Yuuri ducks his head underwater for a moment. Deep below him gleams something silver. Viktor waits for him, patient in his love, and Yuuri cannot help but smile. Their den, Viktor's arms, the darkness of the ocean -- these are home to him, now.

He looks back at his village and sees nothing. Finally Yuuri turns away and disappears beneath the waves, following the glimmer of silver deeper into the sea.