Claude remembered falling into the waves during a battle, the last thing he saw was his father’s panicked expression as he hit the choppy water. The sea was angry, swallowed him whole into its cold depths. As he blacked out, water filling his lungs, he felt cold arms wrap around him, pulling him to the surface.
Every pirate knows that the merfolk are to be left alone. Take one on your ship and you’re asking for disaster. Claude was taught this lesson constantly by his father as he sailed with him. His first encounter with one was when he almost drowned at twelve years old. All he remembers is blond hair, icy blue eyes and a cold touch. A phantom of a memory he doesn't dwell on, least of all he risks becoming obsessed and meeting an early end.
Over the years, he’s honed his skills as a pirate, eventually taking over the Golden Deer from his father and building his own crew to terrorise the Adrestian Empire.
They often glimpse merfolk watching on distant rocks while sailing past. A sign of good luck. “If merfolk feels your ship isn’t a threat, it means the sea has blessed you to sail over its waters” his father used to tell him. And he believes it completely. The merfolk are the messengers of the sea, to be left alone.
Sometimes, late at night, he swears he can see one of them staring at him from the waters surface in his cabin window, but they never stick around long enough for him to get a closer look. A part of him always chuckles at the thought it’s the mer who saved his life all those years back.
They intercept a poaching ship from the Empire, boarding them late at night, catching them off guard. The poachers were asking for it, trying to sell humans and merfolk alike, carrying them on their ship. It’s bad luck after all, and the crew of the Golden Deer are willing to deal it out, enjoying their shocked screams as they board them.
The thrill of the fight always exhilarates him, men screaming before a shot to the head from his pistol ends them, Leonie taking the lead with her sword while Raphael barrels through with his fists. Hilda plays weak before cutting into a man’s jugular with her axe. The melody of battle always livens up their days.
It takes mere moments before all the poachers are dead. They’re always weak men, hungry for money and willing to use cruel methods to get it. Even pirates have standards higher than these men. Claude walks below deck, to check on the condition of the poacher’s ‘passengers’. A few young children, some women, and merfolk in barrels, all weak in their cramped prisons, despicable.
“Leonie, Raph, carry up the barrels and see if we can lower a ship to release the mer’s back into the water!” He shouts above deck, grinning when he hears their reply and the sound of them scuttling above.
“Claude, you need to see this!” Hilda calls him over to the captain’s quarters, concern bleeding into her voice, which is a rare feat. He should be prepared for the worst then.
Cautiously he walks inside, not expecting what awaits him.
Inside a far to small tank is what he believes to be the most stunning merman he’s ever seen. Beautiful blond hair, pale skin, a shimmering tail of blues, whites and blacks that radiates power and majesty. A gorgeous pale blue eye stares at him, angry and defensive, the fins on his head alert. He can’t blame him, trapped and confined, to view people saving him as the enemy. He shakes his head, turning his attention to his injuries. A harpoon is stuck in his tail, already infected judging from the deep red flesh poorly healed around it, and the sluggish movement, it must still be incredibly painful. His right eye is missing, scars all over the right side of his face and littering his body. He put up a fight, probably tried to defend the others when they caught them.
There’s a small spark of something in the back of his mind, but Claude elects to ignore it.
“He won’t make it if we release him.” Hilda crosses her arms, frowning with concern and annoyance in her voice. “What should we do?”
“Marianne should be skilled enough to heal him.”
“We can’t sail with him on our ship.”
“I know. I know.” Claude sighs, running his fingers through his hair in frustration. Merfolk are complicated. Taking him on their ship is bad luck but so is abandoning him to die from his injuries.
“Hey, can you hear me?” He shouts, putting his hand on the glass. All he gets is a sharp glare in return. “We need to take you to our ship. Can you just, tell the bad luck to give us a break until we’re docked or something?” He can feel the other’s gawking at him, merman included but he seems to be considering his request before giving an unsure nod. “Good. Now trust me, we’ll get you fixed up as quick as can be and back in the sea, mark my words.” He tops it off with his typical smile and wink.
The merman ignores him, getting a few giggles from his crew. Trust a merman to not appreciate his charm.
“Lorenz, we’ll have to house ourselves away for a while, can’t risk our normal activities with him on board. Is the usual spot still safe?” He turns to the man who joined them moments ago.
“Of course. This may be one of your odder schemes, but it’s a chance to apply needed repairs to the ship. We will need to bless the ship again after he’s gone.” He adds, glancing to the merman.
“Trust me, trust me, it’s worse to leave him to die.” Claude assures everyone. It’ll work out, he can feel it in his gut, superstitions be damned for once. He mentions that to Lorenz later as they travel back, and the man near considers throwing him off the boat.
A week later, Claude stares at the large tank in his quarters on the Golden Deer, parked in a large cave on their favourite island to lay low. They have plenty of connections in the various towns here. The merman stares back at him, wounds covered in bandages that need regular redressing.
Marianne is making progress in his treatment; the only issue is how aggressive he still is with everyone. He bites, thrashes, claws at them whenever they try to treat him. Marianne is the only one he won’t attack but she needs one of them to help and it just adds to her workload to have to heal them too. He needs to fix this.
“You know we’re trying to help you. I was under the impression you understood that.” He speaks, knowing the mer can understand and speak back. They were thanked by the other ones when they saved them. He’s under the impress that those same mers are hanging around, based on the fish that keeps showing up on the desk every morning. Whoever this guy is, he’s important to them.
All he gets is an angry hiss in response.
Claude rolls his eyes and walks over to the tank, standing close to the glass. “You’re being childish.” Marianne said earlier that the merman is quite kind to her, something about Claude puts him on edge. He doesn’t find that comforting, he’s been nothing but polite and welcoming to him.
He keeps glaring at him as he sulks in the bottom corner. Claude almost finds him cute like this, almost.
Claude glances around before slipping out of his shirt. The merman’s stare intensifies as he pulls over the little steps, they use to get access to the tank. Kicking off his boots, he slips out of his pants before climbing in. Hilda will nag him later over being stupid, but this merman needs to realize he means him no harm and if that means putting him at his mercy, that's what he'll do.
The water's cold is all he can process before he feels hands grab his ankles and pull him under. Due to the sudden movement he takes an involuntary breath, gulping in a mouthful of salty water and getting hit with the realization that this was a horrible idea. He starts panicking, flailing as the merman pushed him to the bottom of the tank.
Opening his eyes, he’s staring into an icy blue eye, blond hair haloing the merman's face and he’s struck by déjà vu. It’s him, the one who saved him as a child. He momentarily forgets the water in his lungs, opening his mouth again, the remaining air emptying from his lungs.
Shakily he reaches past the merman, mouthing please in hopes he’ll save him again. Maybe he’s forgotten, maybe he hates humans so much he’d rather watch Claude drown.
There’s a rush of movement as arms wrap around his waist, pulling him up, dropping him out of the tank onto the wooden floor.
“You’re a fool.” The merman finally speaks.
“S-Says the one w-who’s saved me t-twice.” He slowly coughs back, gasping for air between every word. Glancing up, he notices the lack of surprise on his face. “D-Did you know?”
He looks away. You did. Claude thinks as he curls in on himself, continuing to cough up the remaining water in his lungs. It feels like his throat is burning.
The only sound is Claude’s deep gasps for air as he works on restoring his breathing, steady, in and out. This goes on for several minutes, with him repositioning himself on his back. Once his air intake steadies to a normal pace, he sits up and looks back at the tank.
“Why are you so angry with us when you know we mean you no harm? There was no reason for you to save me if you truly hated us, but you did. Or are you just embarrassed you're stuck depending on us? On me?” Claude tries to look him in the eye. “You're the one who watches me late at night in the past, aren't you?” He asks with a teasing tone in his voice.
A soft blush builds on the merman's face as he turns his back to him.
Cute. Claude thinks before continuing. “Your secrets safe with me, I won't tell anyone you already knew who I am. But just, trust me in return, okay?”
“We should start again." He gets back on his feet and walks over to the side of the tank. "I’m Claude. I’ve been wanting to thank you for saving me all those years ago.” He offers his hand, revelling in how confused the merman is as he turns to look at the offered hand.
He can't help but smile when he looked his palm before moving a little closer. Eventually the merman speaks again. “Dimitri, my name is Dimitri.”
After their talk Dimitri relaxes around everyone to a point, and it improves his recovery. Marianne was right when she said relaxing would help in his healing.
Everything should be going well, but no, things have gotten a lot more complicated for Claude. Does sharing his sleeping quarters with Dimitri bother him? No, but he does notice his staring when he wakes in the morning. And he finds himself staring when he’s resting at the bottom of his tank in turn.
They talk more and more each day and it’s making him feel things, complicated things that Hilda’s already teasing him over. He can’t help that he’s always been fascinated by merfolk due to Dimitri rescuing him when he was younger. Can’t help that he’s now face-to-face with the merman who saved his life back then. Heaven forbid he’s come to realize Dimitri’s extremely attractive. May someone just smite him, so he can stop thinking about this.
“Claude?” Dimitri’s voice pulls him from his thoughts, forcing him to bite back a groan that threatens to escape his throat.
“Is something wrong?” He can hear water splashing around as he leans out of the tank.
“Everything’s cool, just avoid falling out of your tank, again.” Claude chuckles, walking over to stop Dimitri before he leans over too much. He already fell out yesterday, worried that Claude was having a nightmare. No, it wasn’t a nightmare but by the goddess, Claude isn’t ready to tell him what he was dreaming about.
Dimitri hums, reaching out to hold Claude’s face. He’s become so friendly in the last few weeks and it’s been bad for Claude’s heart. He’s like a puppy, overly affectionate and very prone to touching.
Claude finds himself reading too much into it. Dimitri likes touching, but he goes above and beyond when it involves him specifically.
“Marianne said,” Focus Claude. Can’t get lost in how Dimitri’s stroking his cheeks with his fingers, his claws send shivers down his spine, “said that you should be well enough to go back in the sea in a few more days.” His voice stutters a little at the end.
“Don’t want to.” Dimitri pouts and Claude bites back a laugh that threatens to break through.
“Hey, you know we can’t keep you here forever. It’s not safe, for either of us. We’re pirates, we’ve already stayed here longer than we should. And it’s not good for you to stay in this tank for too long.” He tries to reassure him, reaching up and gently touching his arm. “This is what we agreed on.”
“You want me gone?”
“I…” He doesn’t, by the goddess he doesn’t want him gone at all.
Dimitri’s gentle stroking of his face changes, gripping his jaw, claws stinging on his skin, threatening to draw blood. “I don’t. But I can’t keep my men here. I’m their captain. It doesn’t matter what I want.”
Dimitri’s good eye stares deep into his own, searching for the truth behind his words. “You don’t want me gone. You, desire me to stay.”
He needs to be honest. “Yes. I’d like you to stay forever, but it’s not my choice and I don’t want to confine you.” He tries to look away, but Dimitri’s hold on him is strong, persistent. He can feel his claws dig a little deeper, drawing blood now. His shirt will stain for sure now.
“Then stay with me.”
He laughs. “You know I can’t do that either. So, I’m just, settling for what I can get. And that’s you safe, where you can be free, healthy. We can always meet again out at sea.”
Dimitri isn’t satisfied with his answer, a small growl coming from deep in his throat. He releases Claude’s face, grabbing the back of his neck and pulling him close. The feeling of their lips pressing together sends his mind racing.
His teeth are sharp, cutting into his lips as he kisses him with a hungry vigor, as if doing so will solve this issue. He pulls back, looking at his handy work as Claude licks at his bleeding, swollen lips.
Dimitri is taking harsh breaths as Claude leans back in, kissing him with his own hunger and need, driving his tongue in his mouth and enjoying the whimper Dimitri lets out as he runs his fingers through his hair. They only stop when Dimitri leans forward too much, almost falling out in an attempt to keep a hold on Claude.
“Can’t have that.” Claude chuckles, easing him back into the tank. He continues to pout as Claude walks away. It’s late, they should be sleeping. But the stare Dimitri is giving him, it’s too much, his body is already craving more, and Dimitri seems to be of the same mindset. It’s not like either of them can sleep like this anyways.
Pushing the little ladder to the edge of the tank, he strips off his clothes and hoists himself in, hissing as his half-hard erections hits the cold water. Arms wrap around him immediately as Dimitri mouths at his throat, lightly biting at his skin, driving a low moan from him.
“Dimitri.” He groans, holding the walls of the tank as his body burns from where Dimitri keeps touching him. "Feels so good." The praise excites the merman, whose touch grows bolder from the encouragement.
Dimitri coaxes him to wrap his arms around his shoulders, holding him close as they start kissing again, needy and eager to lose themselves in it. He wraps his legs around his waist, shivering at the feeling of his tail's scales on his erection. Dimitri holds his hips in place, making it hard for him to rut against him, chasing the wonderful friction as he moans into his mouth, begging words lost in his throat.
“C-Claude.” Dimitri's voice rasps out, strained and full of want as he moves one of his hands between them, teasing his own aching cock fully out of the slit at the junction of his tail connecting to his torso, leaking and just as hard as Claude’s own. A loud, needy whine escapes Claude at the sight of it.
A normal person would rethink things right now but as Dimitri starts stroking their cocks together, all Claude can think of is how good Dimitri's making him feel, of the building heat bubbling in the pit of his gut.
The sound of the water splashing against the walls of the tank as Dimitri's tail works to keep them both in place as he strokes them together fills his cabin, soon joined by his voice moaning out Dimitri’s name, fueled by lust and desire. He can feel teeth nipping at his jaw as his mouth hangs open, mind starting to fog as the heat keeps building and building. All they've done is touching and he’s already teetering on the edge of pure bliss.
It takes only one, two, three more pumps of Dimitri’s hand before he's coming undone, arching into Dimitri's chest as Dimitri continues stroking them, shuddering as he cums seconds later, biting into his shoulder hard enough to break skin, drawing blood.
There’s a sound in the distant but Claude is still stuck in the afterglow of his orgasm as he relaxes into Dimitri’s arms as he moves them to the wall, licking and kissing at the wound on his shoulder. They enjoy the calm moment, holding each other until the whole ship shudders, a loud crashing sound echoing inside the cave.
Claude grabs the wall, overcome with the need to get out and check what’s going on. “What the hell was that?” Dimitri protectively pushes him against the wall, shielding him, which while sweet isn’t going to help him. “Help me out, I need to figure out what’s going on.” He says as the door opens.
“Claude!” Hilda calls out, pausing as she takes in his stark-naked presence in Dimitri’s tank, both looking flush and erotic in their positioning. “Goddess above, now’s not the time for being horny Claude! The Empire’s here! They’re shooting the outside of the cave with their cannons!” She shouts before closing the door, leaving Claude to grab his discarded clothes after jumping out of the tank.
“Shit!” He curses, dressing as fast as humanly possible.
“Claude?” Dimitri’s panicking, splashing around in his tank.
“It’ll be okay, I promise you won’t get hurt.” He soothes him, knowing they need to act fast. “I need to get Raph, I’ll be right back.” He tells him as he begins to make his way to the door, only to hear a loud thump behind him as something hits the floor. His heart drops with a realization before he even turns around.
Rushing to the merman’s side on the wooded planks, he cries out, “Dimitri!”
“D-Don’t leave me!”
“I wasn’t, don’t worry. Come on, I can’t carry you for long so hopefully we’ll just run into Raph on the way.” He uses all his might to lift Dimitri into his arms, hoping he won’t notice how he’s trembling himself. His heart is racing as adrenaline files his body, lifting Dimitri with more strength than he could possibly muster under normal circumstances.
They stumble to the deck, the shaking of the ship and the rubble beginning to crumble from the roof hindering every step. He runs into Lorenz first, who doesn’t even ask why he’s carrying Dimitri. “Everyone handling themselves?” He asks.
“Everyone’s a little startled but we know the plan, take the bare essentials and exit through the back of the cave.”
“Good. We’re trapped here so there’s no point trying to leave, they’ll murder us even more if we do. How many ships are out there?”
“Three at the least.”
Claude chuckles, anxiety building in his gut. “We’ve really made a name for ourselves, even with being in hiding for so long. Get going, I need to find Raph.”
“He’s at the rowboats, be careful.” Claude nods, making his way to where Raphael and Ignatz are getting their maps packed up on the tiny boat. Dimitri clings to his shoulder, growling whenever the sound of cannon fire rings out from outside, the fins on his head lowered like a scared dog.
“Raph!” He draws the large man’s attention. “I need you to get him in the water.”
“Can do.” He takes Dimitri with a smile as the merman tries to dig his claws into Claude’s arms.
“I’ll see you outside.” Claude reassure him as he eases his hands off, holding them to his lips to place a chaste kiss on his knuckles, hoping it helps. “I promise.” Dimitri gives him a stern look, biting into his lower lip before he lets go, letting Raphael take him into the rowboat. Claude watches them start to lower for a moment before he moves back to orchestrate the rest of their retreat from their beloved Golden Deer.
There’s a small ting of regret that she’s stuck sinking in a cave, but sometimes things can’t be some grand battle at sea.
It takes another five minutes to get everyone else and all the important stuff off the ship. Claude is making one final check, grabbing his mother’s locket from his cabin before heading to the last rowboat.
Suddenly there's a crashing sound and a pain in his skull. Falling to the ground he holds his head, covering the wound on his temple and staring at the gasping hole in the deck. Shit! He needs to get out now. Muttering a curse under his breath he wills himself to stand, legs shaking as he tries to continue to the boat. Another rock slams into it, mere inches seconds before he can reach it to climb in, destroying his exit path.
“Fuck!” He cries out, grabbing his head as everything starts spinning and he leans heavily on the railing. There's a distant sound of someone calling him, but it's too hard to focus, his eyes can’t focus properly, can't make a damn thing out other then the ship and the water and the sound of cannons and falling rocks. The water's his only chance.
Hearing his name again he gives whoever it is a weak wave, pain hindering his movement as he starts leaning against the edge to jump, only for the sound of creaking and crashing and breaking to overwhelm him as the beam vanishes, along with the deck he's standing on. No time to react, or strength, he falls, crashing into the water.
The water’s cold, suffocating, the salt water stinging at his open wounds. He’s in too much pain to move. Instead he sinks into the depths, hoping and praying for familiar arms to save him.
Warmth wraps around his torso as he focuses on staying conscious, he can feel the water move around him as Dimitri brags him through the water, dodging debris while going as fast as he can. Everything’s a blur as he feels his lung start to scream for air. Just as he feels his body start to seize up, his head emerges above the surface where he starts gasping for air desperately.
Everything hurts. Slowly his eyes focus on Dimitri, busy glancing around for a safe place to hide among the rocks. There’s still the sound of cannon fire, the cave collapsing. By the goddess he hopes he was the last one to get out.
“T-Thanks.” He whispers, groaning when Dimitri tighten his hold on him.
“Fool! You almost died!”
“C-Captain’s job to m-make sure everyone else is safe f-first.” Claude wheezes, trying to offer him a weak smile.
Dimitri growls before leaning him against a rock, burying his head in his shoulder as they both recover their strength.
Slowly Claude regains his senses, taking deep breaths as Dimitri looks him over, peppering him in kisses once he’s convinced Claude’s past the worst of it. Claude melts into his touches, the pain fading away. When he finally notices the faint glow around Dimitri’s hands, he lets out a faint laugh.
“You could have healed yourself all this time, couldn’t you?”
Dimitri shakes his head. “Not quite. I’m not that strong at healing myself but humans are far easier.”
“Mmmm, thanks.” Claude feels much better, even if he’s not good at it, it’s just what he needed. “We should move, they’ll start checking for survivors. There’s a meeting point where we’ll be able to find the others.”
“We could go, I’ll take care of you. We’ll find a way.” Dimitri interrupts him.
“Tempting, but I’d rather find a way which involves the others.” Claude grins, climbing back into Dimitri’s offered arms, letting him carry him away.
Looks like he’ll have to pay his Grandfather a visit in the future, but for now, he’s grateful only the ship was lost when they find everyone else unharmed.
The Empire claims it’s taken out the Golden Deer and her crew, but not even three months later a new ship raising her flag is seen attacking their fleets. As always, they play their games before vanishing into the chaos they cause.
The reports speak of Imperial forces getting attacked from the water now, those falling in being pulled under, drowning in the depths.
Rumors start spreading of merfolk following the Golden Deer, and if there’s truth, no one can confirm. People gossip that the Golden Deer pirates have received the highest blessings of the sea.
Claude grins whenever he hears these rumors in the pubs of islands they stop at. With a grin he returns to their new ship, to his cabin where a tank waits for him, empty until Dimitri calls from the water to be hoisted inside, spending their time together while everyone else celebrates in the pub getting drunk and cheering their last victory.