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free to stand beside the ocean in moonlight

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It was a cool night, the salt breeze ruffling Ren’s hair and the spray of the sea cold on his bare feet as he sat on the end of the stone jetty looking out at the moonlight sparkling on the choppy ocean waves. It was well past sunset, the sky gone entirely dark blue and star-studded in the light of the full moon, and Goro was late. He was late every month, so Ren was neither particularly surprised nor worried. He was always on time himself though, just in case, just to make sure that Goro knew he would always be there for him.

He saw him in the distance at first, a shimmer on the surface of the water, only distinguishable from the waves because he knew what he was looking for. But Ren had plenty of practice recognizing him in both of his forms by now, and his heartbeat fluttered at the first sight of Goro’s seal form. He was almost home.

He’d been in seal form the first time they’d met, too, when he’d saved his life during the storm that had wrecked his first ship. The rest of his crew had escaped but he’d insisted on being the last to leave, to help them all to safety and because he was fond of his ship and still thought there might be a way he could save her. There wasn’t, of course, and the Arsène had smashed to pieces against the reef, too far gone for there to be much worthy of salvaging in her wreckage, and the crash had happened too quickly for him to be able to jump free in time, for him to avoid being sucked down with the swirling debris and the crushing waves. There was water all around him, and he couldn’t even tell which direction was up anymore, and his lungs were screaming out as he tried desperately to hold his breath, even as his vision began to blur and he knew he couldn’t hold out for much longer. And then he felt himself moving, felt a warm presence against his back and strong arms around him and then he was gasping for breath on the surface of the waves, choking as he was slapped in the face by the surf, and the rain was in his eyes and he couldn’t quite make out the face of his rescuer. The next thing he remembered was laying on a beach, the sand rough on his back, the most beautiful man he’d ever seen leaning over him and tenderly brushing the hair out of his eyes. He’d blacked out again after that, but when he finally woke up the man was gone and his wounds had been carefully cleaned and bandaged.

The second time they’d met, the first time he’d seen his human form for longer than a few delirious seconds, he’d held a knife to Ren’s throat. The fact that this beautiful angry man was also a seal would’ve been more surprising to Ren if his ship’s cat hadn’t also turned out to be a man sometimes (though in Ren’s opinion Goro was more beautiful, and Morgana was generally less angry).

It wasn’t exactly an auspicious set of first meetings, and they’d clashed several more times (both of them still had the scars, including the cut across Ren’s cheekbone that he thought made him look rather dashing) before eventually joining forces against their common enemy and going from reluctant allies to true friends, then to friends who actually admitted they were friends, and now they were in love and stayed together in a little cottage overlooking the water whenever they weren’t at sea, in Ren’s new ship which he had to admit (with a little pang of disloyalty) was better than the one he’d lost in that storm. The Satanael was bigger, faster, with more powerful cannons, and well-worth the effort that had gone into stealing her. And whenever they were on land between raids during a full moon instead of at sea where he could transform and jump off the side of the ship at will, Ren waited for him on this beach, and as he stood, watching the hypnotic pattern of the moonlight shimmering on the waves, the whispering of the surf in his ears, he thought he understood how it felt to always be called back to the sea, even if it wasn’t literal for him the way it was for his selkie boyfriend.

As he swam even closer, Ren could make out his red eyes, the markings on his head that set him apart from ordinary seals, and then he submerged as a seal and resurfaced as a human, his hair slicked down and a sealskin, rippling and silver in the moonlight, around his bare shoulders.

He tossed his head, shaking his hair out of his eyes, and said, with a smile that bared the sharp points of his teeth, “Miss me?”

“Always,” Ren said, reaching for Goro’s hand to help him step up fully out of the water, pressing his knuckles to his mouth for a quick kiss. He let go off his hand to hand over the bundle of clothes he brought for him, so that they wouldn’t attract too many strange looks if anyone saw them on their way home, and said, “Have a good time?”

“Hmm, pretty good,” he said. “Found some salmon out past,” he made a vague gesture toward the horizon. Words, especially translating seal experience into terms Ren could understand, were more difficult for him right after a transformation.

“And you didn’t bring me back any?” teased Ren, and Goro splashed water at him.

“Ate everything I caught myself, sorry,” he said, not sounding even a little bit sorry. “None for you, and definitely none for Morgana. But I did also see a convoy of trade ships that should be in our range in a few days. Couldn’t tell what they were carrying but anything that heavily defended has to be worth our time.”

“Sounds good,” Ren said. “We can talk to Makoto about plotting a course tomorrow, and maybe leave the day after.”

“If we have to,” said Goro, with a little bit of a pout, and Ren had to suppress the impulse to tell him how adorable he looked. “I was hoping to have you to myself for a few more days.” He laid a cool, damp hand on Ren’s cheek, and Ren leaned into the contact, his eyelids briefly fluttering closed.

“I think I can arrange that,” he said, smirking. “You said we had a few days, right?”

“Probably,” he said, tipping Ren’s face up to pull him into a kiss (the rock was uneven, that was definitely it because there was no way Goro was taller than him and that was a hill that Ren would die on) with just a hint of teeth scraping against his lips and the taste of the sea on his tongue.

A sudden gust of wind sent a spray of cold water lapping around their ankles, and Ren shivered, shifting closer to Goro, who broke the kiss long enough to say, “Are you cold?”

“We can’t all be born from the ocean or whatever like you,” said Ren, and Goro laughed and shook out his sealskin to drape it around Ren’s shoulders, and the weight of it settled on him, familiar and heavy, as he took Goro’s hand. “Let’s go home.”