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Wish In A Bottle

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Tokiya hated the ocean. It was large, it was terrifying, and he had been dragged to a beach side house by his mother who thought that it was a pretty place to live, and he was constantly sent outside because their beach house was small and she often wanted alone time that she couldn’t have if Tokiya were in the house.

Tokiya gave the ocean a very large berth, until he had overheard his classmates speaking about a ritual.

Well- ritual wasn’t quite the word for it. More like a charm.

If you wrote a wish on a piece of paper and slipped it into a bottle and threw the bottle into the sea, your wish may one day come true.

It was silly, Tokiya thought, even at the age of eight. But that didn’t stop him from going home to find an empty jam bottle in the trash can to wash out and keep in his room until he could decide on his wish. In very careful writing he writes his wish.

I wish for a friend.

That sounded sad, and it makes Tokiya frown, but Tokiya promises himself that it isn’t likely to be found. It’s probably going to sink deep into the ocean where no one will ever find it.

Tokiya seals it into the bottle and he heads out to the ocean- for the first time without being sent.

Tokiya stares hard at the ocean narrowing his eyes. He glances around him, to make sure that no one sees anything, and then he grips the jar tight and throws it.

It’s a weak throw, but when it his the water, he hears something that doesn’t sound like a splash.

“Oi!” A voice roars. It’s boyish, too high to be an adults, and a boy lifts himself from further in the ocean, with grey, messy hair stuck to his face, an angry expression, one hand rubbing his head and the other holding Tokiya’s glass jar.

Tokiya stumbles forward, forgetting that he’s wearing pants and shoes but desperate to apologize to this boy. “I’m sorry! I had no idea anyone was out here-”

Tokiya stills, a few feet from the boy, because now that he was closer he was noticing what wasn’t right.

The boy had fins where his ears should be, and there were red scales scattered over his body in patches, shining in the sun. When the waves move, Tokiya can catch just a bit more of the boy from his hips down, and it’s all scales. Tokiya can’t see the rest of what’s beneath the waves. Realizing that the boy wasn’t human makes Tokiya stumble back, falling into the waves and drenching himself further.

The boy scowls. He can’t be much older than Tokiya- but that’s just an assumption from Tokiya. Obviously this boy wasn’t human. There was no telling how old he actually was.

“And why are you throwing things in the ocean?” The boy narrows his eyes, raising the jar. Tokiya flinches back, even though the boy had made no moves to throw it back at him.

“I’m not littering! I swear!” Tokiya peeks from under his arm, but now his face is beginning to turn bright red. “It’s… you throw a bottle into the ocean with a wish inside of it. To make it come true.”

“That’s dumb.” The boy grumbles.

“I can take it back.” Tokiya offers. He isn’t sure what else he can do. The boy huffs.

“What? No. You hit me with it. It’s mine now.”

Tokiya is incredibly confused. What on Earth could this boy want with his wish? Or maybe it was for the jar? But that wasn’t all that spectacular either. “Okay?”

The boy scowls, but he goes back under the water, disappearing, the bottle still in his hand. He doesn’t resurface.

Tokiya gets a lecture when he comes home, soaking wet.

And the lectures start becoming more and more frequent because sometimes when Tokiya gets sent to the beach, the boy is there.

It’s only after their third visit that Tokiya finally learns that the boy’s name is Ranmaru.

Tokiya begins sitting on a rock near enough to the water that Ranmaru can stay in the water and Tokiya can stay dry. It’s nearing their fifth visit when Tokiya begins to nervously twist his hands together.

“Ranmaru?” Tokiya’s voice is soft. “You have a tail, right?”

Ranmaru gives him a blank look.

Tokiya goes red. “What does it look like?”

Ranmaru’s eyebrow raises, but then he flips over, to begin to pull himself backwards out of the water.

“Ranmaru!”

“Either you’re comin’ down here or I’m going up there.”

“I don’t know how to swim.” Tokiya admits.

“Then I’m going up there.”

Ranmaru pulls himself onto the sand. The water is still hitting the end of his tail, but he’s mostly on land and Tokiya’s eyes land immediately on Ranmaru’s tail. It’s long and slender, covered in red, shiny scales. The fins along it are ribbon like and the fins that make up the bottom of his tail are large, the tips ending about shoulder length apart.

“Woah.” Tokiya’s eyes are wide. Ranmaru’s tail moves, lifting at the end just slightly, slapping back down on the sand. It’s very clear that Ranmaru is proud of it.”Is it hard, being on land?”

“I can’t move around right. But I can breathe water and air.” Ranmaru has an almost smug expression on his face, clearly feeding off of Tokiya’s interest.

Ranmaru finds himself spending some time in the shallow water, the water going no further than mid-tail, and Tokiya sometimes joins him at the cost of a lecture from his mother.

And then Ranmaru disappears. Tokiya spends nearly a year, coming back to the beach to search for him.

Tokiya had developed a crush on the boy. He wasn’t sure if it were right, if it could work, but he had fallen, and for being a kid, he had fallen hard.

Years pass, and Ranmaru doesn’t show up. When Tokiya starts high school, he begins to believe that he had made Ranmaru up.

Tokiya still isn’t a very popular person in school. He’s quiet, and sometimes can come across as cold or rude and kids tend to avoid him.

But he comes across a glass soda bottle that he had bought with some of the money he had saved up, purely for the bottle, and he finds himself with a piece of paper and a pen, sitting on his bed.

I wish for my friend back.

It may have also been a dumb wish, but considering his first one was as well, Tokiya would just handle it. He rolls the paper up, recaps the bottle, and he makes his way to the beach.

Tokiya holds onto the bottle with a tight grip and he closes his eyes. He forces down any hope that he may not have made Ranmaru up- he tells himself that he’s doing this for himself, not to find Ranmaru.

Tokiya’s actual wish proves him wrong.

Tokiya throws the bottle before he can think about it.

The bottle lands in the ocean with a splash. Tokiya waits for nearly two hours. He watches the bottle be swallowed by the waves and he loses sight of it.

His clothes are dry, if a bit sandy, when he returns.

When he turns nineteen his mother dies.

It’s hard on Tokiya. There were things about his mother that he hated. He hated that she was overbearing, and he hated that they weren’t very close emotionally, despite their close proximity. He hated that they stayed in that ocean house for her, because every time Tokiya looks at the ocean he feels pain spread through his chest.

But she was his mother and he had never known anything else. They may not have been close, but she really was all that he had. His coworkers were coworkers and he left high school alone. He had never once dated, he had never had a friend in his home- and now that his mother was gone, he was by himself.

Tokiya spends a day in his bed, curled into a ball, not sleeping or eating- just staring at the wall.

The next morning, he pulls himself up and he heads to his wardrobe and digs in the drawer for the clean, empty bottle he had kept for himself, just in case he needed it.

Today, he supposed he did.

Tokiya takes a piece of paper. His wish is desperate. It’s simple. It’s hopeless, even as he writes it.

I wish I wasn’t alone.

His wishes have yet to come true, but perhaps the third time will be the charm. Tokiya can’t even manage a dry smile at the thought, as he heads to the beach.

As Tokiya stares at the waves, he thinks about how he never had learned how to swim. It was dangerous, to send a child to the water with no knowledge of how to keep himself afloat, but his mother was an independent woman and Tokiya had grown to be an independent child. He wouldn’t fool himself into believing that she wanted him dead, but she must have trusted that he wasn’t stupid, as most children were.

Tokiya rolls the bottle in his hand, closes his eyes, and he throws it.

Tokiya isn’t sure what he’s waiting for, because he doesn’t watch the bottle. He stands, still and quiet for a long moment, and then his knees give out.

On the sand, he cries. He bends, covering his face with his hands and his sobs turn into wails that wrack his body. He’s close enough to the water that he feels the water brush against the top of his head where his forehead presses against the sand, but he still doesn’t lift his head.

Tokiya finally has to, when the water goes further and covers his face, and he lifts his head, coughing the water out of his mouth, though his coughing gets worse when the water and his sobs and the sand on his tongue all blend together, but through his tears he almost thinks he sees something moving in the shallow water, too big to be coincidental.

It’s hard to see through the blue, but he thinks it may have been a streak of red.

Tokiya rubs at his burning face angrily, but it’s too hard to get himself together so he doesn’t.

He only pulls himself out of his stupor when there’s a person in front of him.

Tokiya had never seen this man, but there was enough of the boy he once knew in him that Tokiya knows him immediately. His hair was just a bit longer, and just a bit shaggier. His face was sharper and he had grown, both body and tail. The ribbons where his knees should be were longer, more elegant, and his tail span was now wider than his shoulders.

His eyes were the same.

Pink and grey. Tokiya had asked him about it, once upon a time, and Ranmaru had told him that if the unnatural eyes surprised him, he might want to look lower.

In other words- they were natural.

So many feelings flood through Tokiya.

There’s hurt and anger- Ranmaru is here, but why did he leave? Why had he left Tokiya, if he were real?

There’s shock. Tokiya had convinced himself he wasn’t real.

There’s relief, to see him back. To see him at all. And that’s what makes Tokiya lunge forward to wrap his arms around Ranmaru’s neck. Ranmaru holds himself up on one arm, raising the other to lay against Tokiya’s back, but it’s hesitant.

“You’re real.” Tokiya’s voice is hoarse. It cracks. He hasn’t caught his breath, either, but he’s just holding onto Ranmaru. “You were gone so long.” Tokiya buries his face in the crook of Ranmaru’s neck. “What did I do?”

Ranmaru’s entire body tenses. Stills.

“You didn’t do anythin’.” Ranmaru’s voice is deep, and his statement is so gruff. “It wasn’t you.”

“Then why?”

“We’ll talk about it.” Ranmaru promises, his voice grim. “But not now.”

“Why?”

Tokiya feels as if he’s reverted- but he also believes he’s earned it. To say that this period of his life is hard would be an understatement.

“Yer upset.” Ranmaru says simply. “‘S why I came out.”

“I’ve been upset before. You haven’t come back.”

“You’ve never been this upset.”

“...My mom died.” Tokiya whispers. It’s almost surprising that Ranmaru can hear him over the waves. “She’s gone and I’m by myself.”

As another round of sobs wracks Tokiya’s body, he slumps, and Ranmaru has to catch him. Tokiya can see the way Ranmaru’s tail writhes, trying to move, so that he isn’t supporting them both on one arm. When he bends his tail beneath him, resting on what would be his hip, he can use his free hand to help hold Tokiya up.

Tokiya wonders if this is right- to react like this to a man he hasn’t seen in years. But there’s no part of him that wants to pull away, and Ranmaru isn’t pushing him away, either.

Tokiya cries until he’s cried himself out. This was the first time Tokiya had cried over his mother’s death, though he thinks that some of these tears are for Ranmaru, now.

Tokiya was angry. He was angry that Ranmaru had abandoned him with no goodbye. But he wasn’t angry enough to consider sending him away. He wasn’t angry enough to want Ranmaru to leave. He was angry and he wanted Ranmaru to stay.

“You didn’t leave.” Tokiya accuses weakly. He feels like the energy has been drained from his body. “You’ve been here and you’ve ignored me.”

“It wasn’t right.” Ranmaru gruffs, and then he gives a heavy sigh. “Still don’t know if it is. We’re not the same, Tokiya.”

“Obviously.” Tokiya’s eyes narrow in a glare, but Ranmaru can’t see it- Tokiya hasn’t pulled away.

“You can’t even swim.” Ranmaru says. There’s some insistence, but it’s mostly explanation. “You don’t even like the ocean. ...I didn’t think you’d be all that torn up, after a while. Can barely believe you remember me.”

Tokiya gives a weak thump against Ranmaru’s shoulder with a closed fist. “You’re my friend. And my friend just up and disappeared and never bothered to tell me anything about it.”

Ranmaru falls quiet, and Tokiya does, too. There’s something Ranmaru’s not telling him, but Tokiya knows that there’s something he’s not telling Ranmaru, either.

They’re still until the sun begins to set. Until Tokiya begins shivering when the water laps against his already soaked pants.

There would be no more scoldings for it.

“Is this the last time I’m going to see you?” Tokiya says softly.

“...If you throw a bottle, I’ll show up.”

Ranmaru stays true to his word.

Tokiya’s first bottle comes slowly, because he isn’t sure what to write inside of it.

Finally, he settles on I wish that my friend will keep his word.

It’s only a moment after Tokiya sends the bottle into the ocean that Ranmaru surfaces, and that starts to become the norm.

Tokiya switches his wishes around, and at some point they stop becoming wishes and start becoming stories.

Tokiya goes through a lot of bottles, calling Ranmaru.

“I’m sick of drinking soda.” Tokiya sighs, laying on the sand of the beach. Ranmaru is on his stomach in ankle deep water. “But I haven’t found a place that sells empty bottles.”

“...I could get you some.” Ranmaru offers. Tokiya’s attention turns to Ranmaru immediately as he narrows his eyes.

“And where have you found a surplus of bottles?”

“Ocean’s a big place, y’know.”

Ranmaru meets Tokiya’s glare with a calm expression. Tokiya doesn’t believe him, but in the end, knowing that he could get more bottles without buying more was nice. And the less bottles in the ocean, the better, he was sure. Especially if Ranmaru were somehow telling the truth and they really were that easy to find.

The next day, Tokiya’s given three empty bottles, just left out on the beach for him, half buried in sand to keep them still. Tokiya sighs and shakes his head, but he’s wearing a smile as he returns inside.

It’s a month later when Tokiya sits down in front of his table, takes a deep breath, and begins to write.

I am well aware that we aren’t the same, but I’ve cared for you for years, and it was painful, being separated from you. You fulfilled the very first wish I had ever made, and I would have no trouble braving the oceans if it means that I get to stay with you for longer. Thank you for staying. I love you. I love you as the person that you are, and I love you as a cherished friend, and I love you as more. You’ve told me that you’re not sure if it’s right, but I can’t say I agree. I think that my feelings are absolutely right. And no matter what your feelings are towards me, I’m sure they’re right too.

I wish to spend more time with you. In any way that you’ll have me.

Tokiya stashes the bottle after he slips his confession in. He wasn’t ready to send that one just quite yet.

The next time that Tokiya had gone to the beach, it was because there were a couple of drunk teenagers on the bit of land directly behind his house. He just wanted to get some sleep, but they were being rowdy and annoying and he wanted them off of his property. He sighs, giving himself a quiet pep-talk to get them off of his land.

“Excuse me.” Tokiya clears his throat. It’s clear that all four of them, the three men and one woman, are hammered. “You’re on my property. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Chill out man.” The girl says. “It’s a free beach.”

“Anywhere else is.” Tokiya says sternly. “But this area of the beach falls on the property lines of my house. Please find somewhere else.”

One of the bigger men walks up to Tokiya, and Tokiya straightens up. Not that it matters, because the man is still bigger than he is. “She told you to chill, bro.”

“And I-”

Tokiya is cut off when he’s shoved- and he’s pushed towards the water. He loses his footing on the sand and lands ass down in the damp sand. The man that shoved him and one of the others share a look, and then they get a grin. “Swimming’s relaxing, right?” One man taunts. Tokiya tries to scramble to his feet, but he’s having trouble getting purchase until he’s grabbed by both arms.

“I can’t-”

Tokiya doesn’t get to finish before they swing him, to throw him deeper into the water. The girl is almost howling with laughter, and the other two men join in.

It would be an attack no matter what, but it wouldn’t be nearly as big of a deal if Tokiya could swim. But before he could stand to make his way back, a wave crashes over his head and he’s pulled back further by the undertow and flailing his arms isn’t lifting him. He nearly gets his head to break the water, but when he tries to breathe in he finds that he’s not high enough and inhales mostly water. His chest burns, and his eyes burn, and he’s already getting tired, trying desperately to get above water. His clothes are weighing him down and the water is so cold that his muscles are beginning to ache first.

When Tokiya sees something heading towards him, it’s blurry, and he’s scared that he’s imagining things. But arms wrap around his waist and bring him above land. As soon as Tokiya is above water, he begins coughing so hard that he can’t hold onto his savior, but he isn’t let go. Tokiya gets confirmation that it is Ranmaru when another wave comes up and Ranmaru turns, holding Tokiya against him. Ranmaru isn’t forced down by the wave, but he does take the brunt of it against his back, trying to keep Tokiya from getting hit with it.

When Tokiya finally manages to start taking in air again, though he’s still breathing heavily and shaking, finally managing to wrap his arms around Ranmaru’s neck, Tokiya glances behind them, but he can’t see the shore. How far out had he gotten?

Tokiya is almost surprised when he feels Ranmaru’s tail wrap around him. He doesn’t seem to have much trouble staying upright, even without full use of his tail, but it keeps Tokiya anchored to him. Ranmaru’s hand holds Tokiya’s head to his shoulder. It isn’t until Tokiya’s breathing becomes normal again that Ranmaru finally unwraps his tail from Tokiya.

“I’m gonna bring you back.” Ranmaru mumbles. “Hold on.”

Tokiya does. He hides his face in Ranmaru’s neck. Tokiya had seen first hand how fast that Ranmaru could be, but he was moving slower now so that Tokiya’s head stays above water.

The teenagers are gone- likely having run off when they didn’t see Tokiya resurface. Ranmaru settles himself down in water no more than ankle deep, but he doesn’t let go of Tokiya and Tokiya holds onto him, too.

“How the fuck did you get that far out?” Ranmaru’s eyebrows furrow.

“I was thrown.” Tokiya’s voice is shot and his throat is sore. “It was a group of kids that were obviously drunk. I asked them off my property and they threw me in the water.”

Ranmaru sighs, but it’s angry. “I’ll keep them off.” He promises. “One way ‘r another. I’ll keep an eye out.”

“I think they think I’m dead. I don’t think they’ll come back.”

“For their sake, they’d better not.” Ranmaru scowls. Tokiya grows silent until Ranmaru finally sighs. “You think you can make it to your house?”

Tokiya nods. Ranmaru can’t help him stand, but he does what he can. “...Goodnight, Ran.”

“Night, Toki.”

Ranmaru watches Tokiya enter his house, and when Tokiya checks the window again later, Ranmaru is still keeping watch.

It’s only the next day that Tokiya throws another bottle into the ocean.

This one is his confession.

It takes Ranmaru longer to surface than it usually does, but when he does, he’s serious, and he’s holding a bottle. Tokiya is sitting by the edge of the waves, but Ranmaru moves out of his water, dropping the bottle on the sand as he does, but he pulls himself closer in one fluid motion and cups Tokiya’s cheek with the other and he kisses him.

Ranmaru’s kiss is rough, and it tastes like salt, and Tokiya is much less dry than he was just a moment before- but he kisses back. Ranmaru’s voice is almost a bit breathless when he pulls back.

“Did you mean it?”

Tokiya gives a half-nervous, half-teasing smile. “Did you read it?”

Ranmaru clicks his tongue, but his free hand slides to the back of his hair. “...I usually read yer wishes.” He admits in a grumble.

“I know. You’ve been giving me back the same bottles I’ve already thrown in.” Ranmaru hasn’t moved far from him, and Tokiya has no problems wrapping his arms around Ranmaru. The position that they’ve found themselves in is just a bit awkward, because Tokiya’s legs are spread, his knees resting on either side of Ranmaru’s waist, just above Ranmaru’s tail. Ranmaru is leaning against Tokiya and Tokiya is just holding him there. “...I take it you like me back?” There’s an almost shy tone that Tokiya can’t quite hide from his tone.

Ranmaru snorts. “Yeah, Toki. I like you.”

“Good.” Tokiya gets quiet for a long moment, and his voice is soft when he speaks again. “I’m glad you came back.”

“...I’m sorry I left.”

It’s only a few weeks later when Tokiya uses a bit of his small amount of pocket money to buy a bathing suit. He couldn’t swim, and he doubted he’d learn anytime soon, but it wouldn’t hurt him, to sit down in the area of water Ranmaru usually did, and at least this way his clothes wouldn’t soak through.

Ranmaru raises an eyebrow when Tokiya comes out in his bathing suit.

Normally, Tokiya would wear a shirt with it, but the point of the shorts were for less of his clothes to smell like salt water.

And fish.

Now that Tokiya and Ranmaru were more accustomed to getting close to each other, Tokiya normally smelled like him- like ocean, and salt and fish. It wasn’t Tokiya’s favorite smell, but he’d deal with it, for Ranmaru.

Tokiya does have to take a second to appreciate that Ranmaru isn’t human, because Ranmaru does look over Tokiya but his eyes don’t stick on Tokiya’s chest.

Tokiya hated being shirtless. He wasn’t in a bad shape- but he still didn’t like people looking at his body. But to Ranmaru, clothes weren’t normal. There was no sexualization in Tokiya’s chest because Ranmaru was used to it, and it really did help Tokiya’s nerves. Ranmaru watches him impatiently, the fins at the bottom of his tail flicking and raising from the water, waiting for him to get into the water.

He seems a bit confused, when Tokiya smiles at him, though Tokiya does move to sit down in the water.

“What?”

“Nothing.” Tokiya hums. “You’re cute.”

“Huh?”

They’ve moved to a large rock that’s in shallow water to lean against it, and Tokiya leans further into Ranmaru’s side. “When you wait for me. It’s cute.”

Ranmaru just clicks his tongue.

“Why’d it take you so long ‘t stop comin’ fully dressed?”

Tokiya shifts, hiding his face. It was mostly because Ranmaru’s eyes always stuck on Tokiya’s face when Tokiya started blushing and he was definitely blushing now. “It’s strange for me to be in… any state of undress in front of anyone. Especially in front of you. I know it isn’t really the same- it’s not strange for you, but it is for me.”

“Dunno why.”

“...Chests on women are much more sexualized, but men’s are, too, to an extent.”

Ranmaru seems to take a moment on the word sexualized, and then he shrugs. “You’re hot. But you’re hot with a shirt on, too.”

“Ran!” Tokiya’s flush is down to his neck, but he’s laughing. “You can’t just… say that!”

“Why not?” Ranmaru pulls him closer, to the point that Tokiya finds himself needing to flip over, to straddle Ranmaru’s lap. He doesn’t often touch Ranmaru’s tail, but the smooth scales against his legs doesn’t startle him. Ranmaru’s catches Tokiya by the chin before Tokiya can manage to hide his face in Ranmaru’s shoulder. “I’m not lying.”

“Ran.” If Tokiya could, he’d hide his face, because he can see Ranmaru taking in how red his face is and it isn’t helping. “You just… can’t.”

“Oh?” Ranmaru watches his face, and he grins. “So you’re shy, huh?” Ranmaru pulls Tokiya closer so that he can flip them. Ranmaru rests with his hips between Tokiya’s legs, hovering over him on the rock. Tokiya’s eyes widen, his hands finding Ranmaru’s arms when Ranmaru ducks his head to kiss Tokiya’s neck. He does it again when he feels Tokiya’s breath shake, and then he finds a spot that makes Tokiya shudder which makes Ranmaru focus on it.

Tokiya’s hands find Ranmaru’s hair, and he can almost feel Ranmaru’s smugness when Tokiya almost holds his head there. His flush is down to his shoulders, but his reserve is slowly leaving. Ranmaru seems happy to continue, to find more spots. When Ranmaru gets just a bit lower, he finds another spot- alerted this time because Tokiya can’t bite his lip in time to avoid the noise that sounds too much like a moan. Ranmaru raises his head, and he looks even more smug than Tokia thought he would. Ranmaru moves to hold himself up with one hand, to move his other to the outside of Tokiya’s thigh, just above his shorts. His hand moves down Tokiya’s thigh, under his shorts.

Ranmaru leans forward, nipping at Tokiya’s bottom lip, and Tokiya’s voice is breathless when Ranmaru pulls back enough for Tokiya to talk, his hands still laced in Ranmaru’s hair. “How are you so good at this?”

Ranmaru laughs, but then he drops back down to prepare to pick back up on Tokiya’s shoulder where he had left off, answering before he does. “We’re not that different, Toki. ‘Cept I think my kind’s a little less discreet with their affection. I see couples all over each other all the time. Dunno any special spots specifically but-” Ranmaru pauses long enough to nibble at the spot that had made Tokiya moan and this time he gets a sigh. “You’re helpin’ me figure ‘em out. Not so shy now, huh?”

Tokiya huffs. “Is that really what brought this on?”

“The way you were hidin’ made me think you might show up next time wearin’ a shirt again. Tryin’ to give you a reason not to. Now hush. I’m enjoyin’ this-” Ranmaru smirks. “And clearly you are, too.”

Tokiya does, as Ranmaru continues. He’s incredibly meticulous, but he finds a few more spots that get Tokiya to make some noise, paying special attention to those, and when Tokiya thinks he’s finally run out of skin, he returns to the spots that are more sensitive.

“Jesus, Ran, how-?”

“I’m good at remembering things.” Ranmaru says smuggly, but he finally turns them again, holding tightly onto Tokiya as he flips.

“You’re like an alligator.” Tokiya mumbles. He’s lying on top of Ranmaru at this point, but Ranmaru hasn’t let him go so Tokiya just relaxes on him.

“Huh?”

“Think that’s what they do.” Tokiya mumbles. “Or maybe crocodiles. They grab on and they do these barrel rolls to drown people. ...Maybe not that last part but-”

Ranmaru snorts. “I get what you’re sayin’ now.” Ranmaru assures, though he seems amused. “I’ve never seen an alligator ‘r crocodile. Think I know what they are, but they don’t really frequent the oceans.”

“They’re not really beach dwellers, no.” Tokiya gets quiet, but his hand moves to pet through the ends of Ranmaru’s hair. “...No one’s touched me before. ...Even before this, my friendly interactions with you were more than anyone really did. ...It’s nice. Thank you, Ran.”

“I’ve gotta ask. Was I right? That you were probably gonna change yer mind ‘n put on a shirt next time?”

Tokiya sighs. “...You were.”

“Did I change your mind?”

“You know the answer. I can hear it in your voice. ...You did, alright?”

Ranmaru makes a pleased noise. “Good. And just so you know-” Ranmaru’s hand trails up Tokiya’s back, starting from just above his shorts. “It’s pretty normal fer my kind ‘t go shirtless, yeah- but you’re thinkin’ pretty high of us. We do it because clothes ‘r too hard ‘t wear and too hard to get. Women usually find somethin’ ‘t cover up a ‘lil. What I’m tryin’ ‘t say is that seein’ you without a shirt is fuckin’ sexy.”

If Tokiya hadn’t spent so long blushing earlier, or if Ranmaru hadn’t just spent the better part of an hour doting on him, he may have reacted more. Instead, he just gives a soft huff and it gets a chuckle out of Ranmaru. Tokiya finally relents. “I guess I get it.” He sighs. “I didn’t think about it much when I was a kid, but I can’t lie. You being shirtless is always a nice sight.”

Tokiya stays until it starts to get cold, and then he begrudgingly leaves. But when he comes back two days later, he doesn’t wear a shirt.

It’s nearly a month later when Tokiya notices strands of braided seaweed around Ranmaru’s hips, almost like a slanted belt. Tokiya had tried to question Ranmaru about it but Ranmaru wouldn’t tell him why he was wearing it.

The next time they had visited together, Ranmaru had strung some shells to it.

It isn’t until Ranmaru has the seaweed nearly decked out with shells that Tokiya finally questions him again.

“A new fashion statement?”

Ranmaru rolls his eyes. “No.”

“Then why? And why is it growing? And why are they all blue and purple?”

“You ask a lotta questions.”

“And you don’t give many answers.”

Ranmaru chuckles and then ruffles Tokiya’s hair. “Next time you come visit I’ll tell you what’s goin’ on.”

Tokiya is impatient- because now his thoughts are stuck on the shells and why Ranmaru is collecting them.

When he meets back up with Ranmaru, Ranmaru is twirling something between his fingers. Tokiya’s eyes drop to his belt, but there are less shells on it now. When he walks closer to Ran, he doesn’t sit yet, assuming that they’ll be going to the rock, but Ranmaru doesn’t move.

“Sit down ‘ere fer a minute.”

Tokiya’s eyebrows raise, but he does. Ranmaru is already sitting as well, but now that Tokiya is close enough, he sees that it’s some of the shells, wound in seaweed.

“Still still.” Ranmaru orders, shifting to be just a bit closer to Tokiya. When Tokiya tries to turn his head to look at him, Ranmaru simply straightens his head to force Tokiya to look forward. Tokiya is incredibly confused when Ranmaru begins to braid the strand of seaweed and shells into his hair.

Tokiya doesn’t ask him until he’s gone, but before he can interrogate Ranmaru when he pulls back, he falls into a surprised silence because Ranmaru’s face is actually a bit red.

“Ran? What is this?” Tokiya’s eyebrows furrow, his hand raising to brush his fingers over the end of the strand.

“It’s somethin’ couples do.” Ranmaru mumbles. “‘T show the other one they’re serious.”

Tokiya’s face softens, and then he grins- a very bright, closed eye smile. He pulls Ranmaru closer by the arm, into a kiss that Ranmaru takes control of quickly, pulling Tokiya closer by the waist.

“It’s sweet.” Tokiya says fondly when they’ve pulled away, his legs now over Ranmaru’s tail. “Thank you, Ran.”

“Would’a told you sooner.” Ranmaru says gruffly. “But I wanted it ‘t be a surprise, ‘n finding the right shells was hard.”

“There are right shells?”

“Part ‘a the tradition is ‘t find matching shells. So if I found one I liked I had ‘t search for one like it. …’N this isn’t part of it, but I wanted to find shells that’d look good on you.”

“Purple and blue, huh?” Tokiya smiles. “I do like purple.”

“It looks good on you.”

“You’re a good shell finder.” Tokiya’s voice is playful, but he can’t wipe the happy smile on his face. “A true talent.”

Ranmaru snorts, but seeing Tokiya’s smile gets a smile on Ranmaru’s face, too.

That day, they just stay outside of Tokiya’s home, not moving to their rock, and it’s mostly because they had found a comfortable position and neither of them wanted to use it.

Tokiya kept the braided seaweed for as long as he could, but it was only midway through the next day when it stopped holding. Tokiya unbraided it and set it on his desk, to think of a solution.

When he goes back to Ranmaru, he’s wearing a a thin, green braided rope that he’s strung the shells through. Ranmaru eyes it and Tokiya gives an apologetic, sheepish smile. “I’m afraid the seaweed didn’t fare well after it dried. I know this isn’t exactly your tradition but-”

“It suits you.” Ranmaru assures. “‘N that’s gotta be more practical. It’s the shells that really matter, babe. The seaweed wasn’t hard ‘t find.”

Tokiya sighs, but he smiles. He didn’t think that Ranmaru would be angry- but he doesn’t understand many of Ranmaru’s traditions and he’d hate to accidentally disrespect him. Not that Tokiya had yet to, at least. He was glad about that.

They went back to the rock that day, and Tokiya winds up under Ranmaru after a makeout session that had started as nothing more than a short kiss.

“I should-” Tokiya loses his train of thought for a few seconds as Ranmaru attacks a sensitive spot on Tokiya’s side with his lips, sending a shudder through Tokiya. “Should return the favor.”

“I’m not as sensitive.” Ranmaru mumbles. “Or reactive. ‘S not as fun.”

“Now you’re just messing with me.” Tokiya can’t help his groan when Ranmaru nibbles on his skin.

This time around, Ranmaru focuses on a specific spot, and he pulls away to a small, light forming spot, and Tokiya just barely catches Ranmaru’s interested expression before Ranmaru is on another spot.

Now that he knows he can make marks on Tokiya, he does. By the time Tokiya is cuddled up to Ranmaru’s chest, his own is dotted with pale pink marks, and a few that are a bit more red when Tokiya had broken and finally admitted to Ranmaru that he could go a bit harder.

For the next few months, it stays like this. Tokiya’s necklace almost never leaves his neck- he’s even gotten compliments on it, and when he’s asked where he found the shells he always tells people that you can find anything if you try hard enough.

Mermaids weren’t common knowledge, and for Ranmaru’s sake he was going to keep it that way.

But then he gets an eviction notice. Tokiya had thought that he was paying enough, but clearly that wasn’t the case.

He had missed his visit with Ranmaru that day. That day was spent in and out of panic attacks.

Tokiya wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Tokiya didn’t have enough money to get anywhere near here, or anywhere.

And Ranmaru.

If Tokiya couldn’t even move to somewhere close- what would he do about Ranmaru?

Tokiya finds one of the two bottles Ranmaru had last given him, and he writes a final note. He had never imagined writing a goodbye letter.

Ran.

I love you with all of my heart. I’m sorry for giving you such a hard time for leaving me when I’m doing the same. I hope you can find something to keep you happy, but I have no choice but to leave. I really do love you.

Perhaps in another life.

It was short, it wasn’t sweet, but Tokiya’s tears were falling onto the paper and blurring his vision.

Tokiya puts the message in the bottle, and he ties his necklace tightly around the mouth of it, to make sure it doesn’t fall off. Tokiya almost wants to keep it, but if he were leaving Ranmaru, what right did he have?

Tokiya isn’t planning to stay after he threw the bottle. It was beginning to grow darker, so Ranmaru shouldn’t be expecting him. Tokiya should be able to get to his house before Ranmaru reads his note.

Tokiya winces when the bottle hits the water, but he immediately turns to go back in his house.

Less than twenty minutes later, there’s a pounding on his door. His heart leaps into his chest, and he tries to ignore it, but it doesn’t stop. He finally peeks out of the peephole, but his heart stops when he can’t see anything and the pounding continues.

He slowly opens the door, and he stays in a quiet shock when Ranmaru drags himself inside of Tokiya’s home. Ranmaru drags himself almost completely inside, only the long fins at the end of his tail remaining outside of the door.

Tokiya has no choice but to hear him out. He can’t lift him, and he won’t hurt him.

Tokiya doesn’t even know how Ranmaru made it this far. One glance out the door shows the line Ranmaru made, dragging himself through the sand, and then his eyes fall to Ranamru, the bottle held tightly in one hand, the necklace in the other.

Ranmaru is glaring at him. He leans to his side enough to throw the necklace at Tokiya’s chest, and Tokiya barely manages to catch it.

“That’s not returnable.” Is the first thing Ranmaru says.

“Ranmaru! How on Earth-”

“Shut up.” Ranmaru’s tail slaps the ground angrily. “I’m not lettin’ you break up with me through a bottle.”

“You left me with noth-”

“I wasn’t right to.” Ranmaru cuts him off. “‘N we weren’t dating Tokiya.”

“You can find someone else.” Tokiya says weakly. He’s surprised that he managed to get through the sentence, but Ranmaru is quick to talk when he was done.

“We have life partners. ...If you wanna leave me because you want to leave me, I wouldn’t stop you Tokiya. I’m not tryin’ ‘t keep you in this relationship if it’s not where you wanna be. But you’re all I’m ever gonna have, so if you don’t really wanna leave me, I’m not just gonna let you. Not unless you can look me in the eye and tell me that you don’t wanna be with me.” Ranmaru sets down the bottle to push himself as high as he can go.

“Can we talk about this in the ocean?” Tokiya’s eyes are focused on the ground in front of him.

“If you’re gonna tell me you don’t want this, tell me it here.”

“That’s not- ...that isn’t what I’m going to say.” Tokiya closes his eyes. “I know you can breathe air but-”

“I’ll be fine for a conversation. Talk to me.”

Tokiya sighs, sinking to his knees. Ranmaru at least settles on his elbows. “I’m being evicted. I’m not going to be able to live here anymore, and I don’t have enough money to live anywhere near here. I’m not going to be able to see you.”

“...D’ya have another place in line?”

“...No. I don’t.”

“I dunno that much about money. Do you have enough to go somewhere else?”

Tokiya’s silence is an answer. Ranmaru scowls.

“C’mere.” Tokiya hesitantly gets closer. “Couple ‘a things. First.” Ranmaru reaches up to flick Tokiya’s forehead. “Can’t speak for you, but I’d rather have a distanced relationship than lose you.” His voice is gruff, but Tokiya’s eyes widen at the sentiment. Ranmaru takes the necklace from Tokiya’s hand, and with the hand not supporting himself, he slips the necklace over Tokiya’s head. “Get on your bathing suit and follow me back.”

Ranmaru waits in the living, though Tokiya does convince him inside enough to close the door and then forces a bottle of water in his hands before he goes to get changed. Tokiya comes back out, but he has to still when Ranmaru speaks.

“I love you, too, by the way.” He grunts. The bottle is completely gone, which does worry Tokiya, but Ranmaru just sets it on the table near him and begins to turn himself around.

It isn’t until he’s stretching to reach the door handle that Tokiya breaks out of his reverie to go open it. “Isn’t there something I can do, Ran?”

“You can’t lift me. It’s fine. I got here, didn’t I?”

“It couldn’t have been easy.”

Tokiya thoroughly believes that. Even when Ranmaru starts pulling himself, making it look surprisingly effortless. But Tokiya can see the way his muscles strain, and the way his tail parts the sand as it drags.

Tokiya lets out a sigh that he didn’t know he was holding when Ranmaru reaches the water again.

“Come on. We’re swimmin’ somewhere. I’m gonna flip on my stomach when we’re ‘bout waist deep, ‘n I want you ‘t climb on my back.”

“What?”

“It’s gonna be easier than tryin’ to swim and keep you over the water.”

“...Alright.” Tokiya’s eyebrows furrow. He follows Ranmaru about waist deep, and Ranmaru flips, hovering just over the ocean floor. Tonight was a calm night. When Tokiya straddles Ranmaru’s waist, Ranmaru’s hands hold tightly onto the outside of Tokiya’s thighs. Tokiya doesn’t think this would be comfortable, but he leans forward to hold onto Ranmaru’s shoulders and Ranmaru doesn’t seem to be having trouble moving. Tokiya can feel his body move as his tail does, but he keeps it slow. Tokiya knows for a fact that Ranmaru can throw faster but he must be trying to not knock Tokiya off.

It takes some time, but they eventually make their way to a cove. The cove is warm. It wasn’t chilly outside, but it’s like a summer evening inside of the alcove, and the water feels warmer, too. Ranmaru brings Tokiya in until Ranmaru’s stomach and Tokiya’s knees land on sand. There’s damp sand surrounding where the water laps at it, and a bit further in the cave there’s dry sand. It’s like the edge of the beach, only warmer and smaller.

Cozy.

Tokiya does get off of Ranmaru, to explore the small area. The cave must be about eight feet tall because Tokiya can stand straight and still have a bit of room. Ranmaru watches him, half out of the water and half in it, lying on his stomach.

“It’s nice.” Tokiya says softly. “But I’m not sure why you brought me here.”

Ranmaru lifts his head from where he had laid it on his arms. “This is my only solution.” Ranmaru says grimly. “Fer you ‘t live ‘ere.”

“Ran, I-” Tokiya’s eyebrows pull in.

Ranmaru frowns. “It’s not good. I know. I can get y’food, ‘n clean water, ‘n bring you back if you need somethin’ else- ...it wouldn’t be easy. And I don’t know another way for you to stay.” Ranmaru swallows hard, and Tokiya sees his fingers dig into the ground. “We could hide some ‘a yer stuff. Maybe even in ‘ere where it’s dry. Clothes ‘n books ‘n whatever money you ‘ave. ...It’s not good. I know it isn’t. I want to help you, I just-” Ranmaru looks up, and his face is helpless. His tail slaps against the water. “How do I do it?”

“I guess I don’t get much social interaction anyways.” Tokiya’s voice is weak and his smile misses the mark.

Ranmaru’s eyebrows furrow, his frown still in place. “I’d stay.” Ranmaru’s tail flicks upwards, this time splashing a bit of water on the part of himself on the dry sand. “I can sleep ‘ere. There’s enough water.”

“Wha- really?” Tokiya blinks, taken aback.

Ranmaru grunts.

Tokiya gets quiet for a few seconds. “How would we get any of my stuff here?”

“It’d take a few trips, but if you bring a bag, we could get a couple ‘a thing here.”

“...And the food?”

“...Mostly fish. It’s all I can really catch.”

“I’d have to cook it.” Tokiya mumbles. “...I think they have smaller things used for camping- but I don’t know how I’d bring it. Fire wouldn’t be safe.”

“I can carry a decent amount, Toki. ‘N somethin’ small ‘n contained would be fine.”

Tokiya looks around the cave again, but then his eyes narrow on a dry corner, mostly obscured in shadow, and then he begins to head over.

“Toki-” Tokiya hears the water move, but it’s too late, because Tokiya has seen the edge of a very old, curled up piece of paper and he’s grabbed it, unrolling it carefully.

I wish for a friend.

Tokiya becomes speechless.

“You… you kept them?”

“...I just had a feelin’.” Ranmaru mutters. “That you were gonna be important ‘t me.”

Tokiya is quiet for a long moment. He can’t help the tears that are forming in his eyes or falling down his cheeks, and he can’t help the way his voice cracks when he talks. “I’ll stay here. I’ll stay with you.”

They figure it out.

It isn’t easy, but Tokiya finds a small portable camping stove and he goes for one medium-sized water bottle before Ranmaru sends him back to get one a bit larger. He brings a few books, and a few outfits- and he scouts out the public beach, because there’s a bathroom and a shower. He only brings one backpack with the clothes and books and the money he has- and he does end up bringing a towel, a blanket and a pillow- and only as an after thought after he and Ranmaru discuss sleeping.

For some time, it works.

Ranmaru brings him fish, and Tokiya eats them with a thanks, but it’s very clear that he doesn’t enjoy them.

“C’mere, Toki, will ya?” Ranmaru asks one day. “I wanna bring you somewhere.”

Tokiya’s eyebrows furrow, but he climbs on Ranmaru’s back. He’d grown accustomed at this point. They don’t head towards the land near Tokiya’s house- rather, they head towards a direction Tokiya had never gone in.

“‘S a pretty small island, but don’t wander too far from the edge. But I saw some berries, not too far in. If you grab me one I can check ‘n see if they’re poisonous.”

“Ranmaru!”

Ranmaru snorts. “This ain’t some suicide mission, Toki. Lots ‘a fish ‘r poisonous, ‘n my body doesn’t develop it the same. Might get a little stomach ache if it’s bad, but that’s not as bad as what you’d get.”

Tokiya sighs. “If you die, I’ll be extremely angry.”

That one does get a laugh from Ranmaru as he squeezes Tokiya’s thighs and then releases him. “Yeah, yeah. Go bring me a berry.”

Tokiya gets off of Ranmaru, and he does. Ranmaru tries one, making a bit of a face when he does. Tokiya’s expression is immediately worried, but Ranmaru waves him off. “Relax. ‘S just the reaction I have ‘t different foods.” Ranmaru nose scrunches up. “Just tastes gross. Like you ‘n fish. But they’re fine.”

“They’re fine?” Tokiya confirms, watching Ranmaru’s face closely. He can’t deny that he’d like to eat some- he’d like to eat anything that isn’t fish.

“They’re all good, Toki. You can eat ‘em.”

Tokiya almost does backtrack immediately, but then he slows, just a bit. “Why were you searching for berries?”

“Because you make faces while ya eat the fish. Dunno if those’ll actually tide ya over, but at least it’s somethin’ else, yeah?”

Tokiya sighs, but his expression softens, and he smiles. “Thanks, Ran.”

And that’s how it is for some time. Tokiya lives off of fish and berries in the small cave. He’s spoken about almost anything he can think of with Ranmaru and finds their conversations often delving into already discussed areas, and he’s read every book twice to himself and once out loud to Ranmaru.

After a while, the only part that’s still nice is sleeping, which Tokiya does a lot of. Because the cave is so warm, Tokiya sleeps on top of the blanket, and he lays it on the damp sand so that the water won’t reach him but Ranmaru can still keep his tail in it, and Ranmaru lays his head on Tokiya’s stomach and that’s how they sleep. The closest Tokiya thinks they’ll ever get, sleeping wise.

But then there’s a day where Ranmaru is too quiet. Tokiya had slept most of the day and had rejected dinner for the third day in a row.

“...I think we’re down ‘t two options, Toki.” Ranmaru says quietly. Tokiya’s back is to him, as he sleeps on his side, but Ranmaru is facing away, too, to look at the water. “You’re dyin’ here.”

“What do you mean?” Tokiya asks softly. His voice was always soft.

“You’re not gettin’ enough here. You can’t live off of fish ‘n fruit. We aren’t the same. ...I’ve either gotta bring you back, or-”

“Or?” Tokiya finally forces himself to sit.

Ranmaru sighs, hanging his head. “Turn you.”

“Turn… me? Like a vampire?”

Ranmaru finally turns around, but his face is serious. “There’s only way ‘t become like me if you’re not born that way, ‘n that’s ‘t be killed by my kind.”

“Ran, you weren’t-”

“I’m natural.” The reassurance is still grim. “But it’s one ‘r the other. I’m guaranteeing that you die a real slow death, ‘n you’re already fuckin’ miserable.”

“...I don’t want to leave you.” Tokiya says quietly.

“...I’m gonna have ‘t kill you, Toki.” Ranmaru’s voice is pained. “I’m gonna have to drown you.”

“I know.” Tokiya says, though he can’t help the way his voice shakes.

“If that’s really your choice.” Ranmaru’s voice has softened, and it almost makes Tokiya wince. “You’re gonna want ‘t take your shorts off. You don’t want your tail to form around them.”

Tokiya nods, but at first he makes no moves. His voice is weak, and almost a little sheepish. He gives a dry laugh. “Can I ask you for something? Before we do this?”

“Anythin’.”

“After… After I take my shorts off, but before we do this… will you kiss me?”

What he directly said wasn’t actually what he meant, but he could tell in Ranmaru’s eyes that Ranmaru understood. “I’ll take my time.” He promises.

Tokiya is slow in undressing from his shorts, but Ranmaru is on him when he does, pushing Tokiya into the blanket.

Ranmaru starts at his neck. He already knows Tokiya’s most sensitive spots like the back of his hand, but he takes the route he had taken the first time- kissing all of Tokiya’s skin, but paying special attention to areas he knows Tokiya is weak to.

The real exploration happens when Ranmaru hits Tokiya’s waist. This is the first time Ranmaru does actually lean back to really examine Tokiya, and Tokiya’s thankful that Ranmaru had waited because there was less nervousness when Ranmaru had already spent so much time on him.

That didn’t mean that there wasn’t any.

Being completely naked in front of Ranmaru was absolutely terrifying.

“I’ve never seen a human naked.” Ranmaru admits. “Think it’d be weird, normally.” Ranmaru presses a kiss to the closest area of skin he’s near- the side of Tokiya’s knee. “Doesn’t feel like it now.” Ranmaru gets a teasing smile on his face. For the moment, both men are able to forget the looming decision about to happen. “I think you’re real fuckin’ hot. Pants on ‘r off.”

That gets Tokiya, and it makes him laugh, throwing his head back, and when Tokiya really gets laughing, so does Ranmaru, their laughs echoing in the cave. “Classic.” Tokiya jokes.

“Can never go wrong with ‘im.”

“How are you so well versed in human lingo?” Tokiya mumbles. Maybe now wasn’t the time to be curious about it- but he was.

“Listen ‘t people sometimes, ‘n people watch. ‘N there are people like me that are obsessed with actin’ ‘n watchin’ humans. I pick things up.”

Normally Ranmaru won’t talk to him during this- claiming that there are better things for Ranmaru’s mouth to be doing. But today Ranmaru is patient.

“Ran-” Tokiya’s voice becomes nervous. Uncertain. Ranmaru’s hand slides down the outside of Tokiya’s thigh, and Ranmaru interrupts him.

“If it’s about after this, we’ll talk about it after, alright? Even if you change your mind. I wanna focus on you right now, alright? No bad thoughts. Not yet.”

Ranmaru accentuates his statement with a kiss to Tokiya’s pelvis that gets Tokiya’s heart beating for a very different reason. “Okay.” Tokiya’s voice is breathless.

Ranmaru is slower with Tokiya’s legs than he had been with Tokiya’s chest. Tokiya had quite a few markings now, mostly on his sides, though Ranmaru makes a few more on the inside of Tokiya’s thigh, these ones far more gentle, noticing how much more sensitive this area was.

Tokiya can only guess why Ranmaru’s being this attentive. This patient. A few reasons come to mind but he pushes them down.

No bad thoughts.

When Ranmaru makes his way back up to Tokiya’s hips, his voice is a mumble. “Tell me what to do.”

Where Ranmaru’s fingers move, sliding up his thigh and just between the center of his legs- to the place he wasn’t unaffected in, (how could he be unaffected, with the way Ranmaru was handling him?) Tokiya understands what he’s asking.

“Are you sure?” Tokiya’s voice is almost a whisper, and it’s shaking but not in a bad way.

Ranmaru presses another kiss to Tokiya’s pelvis, closer. “If you’ll let me.”

Tokiya tells him. He shows him. Tokiya shows Ranmaru exactly how to get Tokiya undone, shaking and moaning and whining with no reserve, unraveling until he can’t even speak enough to tell Ranmaru how to continue but Ranmaru’s figured it out now and he doesn’t need instruction.

Tokiya cries as he finally, fully comes undone. Ranmaru’s hand is washed in the sea before he pulls himself up, worried, but Tokiya laughs.

“It’s good. You’re good. Not bad tears.” Tokiya assures breathlessly. “Lay with me? Please?”

Ranmaru does, tail and fins and body and arms all wrapped around Tokiya, and Tokiya goes so easily.

It’s dark, before either of them even speak.

“Is this what you want, Ran? Is this the decision you’re hoping I’ll choose?”

“...I want you.” Ranmaru says finally. “I want you for the rest of my life. I want you to be my life partner ‘n I don’t want ‘t lose you. But I don’t want you ‘t die. I don’t want ‘t hurt you, ‘r kill you. I want you with me but I don’t want you dead. Both are true at the same time.”

“But my options are worse now than they were before.” Tokiya sighs. “I feel I may be facing death either way. But to die to be with you- faced with dying, alone in the streets… that isn’t even a choice.” Tokiya sighs, to press his forehead to Ranmaru’s chest. “I’m ready.”

“You’ll be coming back.” Ranmaru’s voice breaks. “It’s not permanent.” Tokiya doesn’t know if it’s for Tokiya, or if it’s for himself.

“I know.” Tokiya says softly. “I know.”

Tokiya sits up, and Ranmaru brings himself up with Tokiya, still holding onto him. Ranmaru turns Tokiya’s head, to gently press a kiss to his lips and then to press his forehead against Tokiya’s.

Tokiya is no longer the reason they’re waiting.

“It’s going to hurt.” Ranmaru says quietly. A warning, but Tokiya can hear something like pain in his voice. “I wish I could change that.”

“Drowning isn’t the slowest way to go.” Tokiya mumbles.

Now isn’t the time to tell Ranmaru that it’s one of the ways he hoped he never would.

Ranmaru slowly moves closer to the sea, Tokiya still wrapped firmly in his arms. “You may be ending my life-” Tokiya frees his hand, to run his thumb across Ranmaru’s cheekbone. “But really, you’re saving it. If I’m to come back, are you really killing me?”

“I’m hurtin’ you. ‘N that’s not easy ‘t convince myself is alright.”

Tokiya gives him a soft smile, trying to hide his own fear. “Life partners, right? After this, it really will be true.”

Ranmaru sighs. “Life partners.”

With that, they’re in the sea.

Ranmaru’s voice is grim. “Let out all the air you can now. No point in makin’ this any longer than it needs ‘t be.”

Tokiya blows out what he can. Ranmaru’s hands are around Tokiya’s waist. When Tokiya is out of air, Ranmaru goes under.

Tokiya had already felt uncomfortably breathless, but now it was beginning to hurt already. Ranmaru’s tail wraps around Tokiya’s legs, keeping them together. Tokiya opens his eyes. What did it matter if his eyes burned when his chest already did?

Ranmaru is a different sight underwater, this close to Tokiya.

Tokiya’s eyes close, when Ranmaru presses his lips to Tokiya’s. Ranmaru parts his lips with his tongue, but then Tokiya feels Ranmaru breathe in. Whatever little air Tokiya had remaining is gone.

Tokiya tries not to struggle, but when his body truly registers that he’s about to die, he can’t help it. Ranmaru’s arms and tail are a vice, not letting him escape. Ranmaru’s head moves forward, onto Tokiya’s shoulder, only pinning him further to Ranmaru’s body.

Slowly, cold starts to take over. It’s scary, compared to the heat in his chest.

Tokiya isn’t sure how long it takes, before he finally loses consciousness, but it’s bliss when he does.

He wakes up, gasping for air- before he realizes that isn’t what he’s breathing in. Ranmaru has set him at the bottom of the ocean, but he is filtering something to let him breathe despite it. Ranmaru’s tail is curled under him, and he’s watching Tokiya.

When Tokiya reaches for him, Ranmaru is too hesitant. It makes Tokiya frown, but Ranmaru does come. Tokiya wraps his arms tightly around Ranmaru.

Tokiya can’t tell fully what he looks like- but the first thing he really notices are the scales. They’re a bluish-purple color, iridescent from the sun hitting the waves far above them. He wraps his arms around Ranmaru when he’s close enough.

Are you okay?

Tokiya jerks back, not letting go of Ranmaru, but confused. Ranmaru smiles dryly, and then nods upwards. Tokiya is confused, so Ranmaru just reaches down and scoops Tokiya up bridal style. Tokiya finally gets a look at his legs, or lack thereof. They’re different. Tokiya has the long fins at the end of his nearly translucent tail, the same bluish-purple his scales seem to be. But he only has smaller fins along the length of it, rather than the ribbons that Ranmaru does- and even the fins at the end of his tail seem smaller than Ranmaru’s. Ranmaru carries him easily to the surface.

Tokiya is afraid to breathe- but he can. It feels different, than breathing underwater, but he’s not out of breath in the slightest. Ranmaru sits at the furthest end of the cove, keeping Tokiya mostly in the water.

“What was that?” Tokiya expects his voice to be hoarse, but it isn’t.

“We can’t talk under water, Toki.” Ranmaru sighs. “Sorta like a mix ‘a echolocation ‘n… I dunno. Supernatural shit? If you try ‘t talk yer only gonna get bubbles.”

“Then how did-?”

“It’s hard ‘t explain. You can practice when we’re back under.” Ranmaru’s arms tighten on Tokiya. “But just look at me ‘n think about what you wanna say ‘t me. You’ll know if I hear it.”

Tokiya sighs, closing his eyes.

It takes him a moment, but he smiles. “You know, Ran. I think you ruined my wishes. Pretty sure the ocean was supposed to wash them away.”

Ranmaru scoffs, but it’s playful and it makes the building pressure of worry in Tokiya’s chest lighten. “Ruined ‘em? Pretty sure I granted ‘em, Toki.”