These are the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean's skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember, that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang.
- Herman Melville
The days of the tourists had passed now. Not one remained as a straggler, and the town nightlife had been extinguished in favor of not losing money due to a lack of uninterested buyers. The bars were still open, yes, but they contained fewer patrons, those who lived on the island. And those that lived seasonally on the island, like much of those involved in tourist revenue operations, had already left to other places to continue their business elsewhere until the next summer.
The native dwellers of the island called this the hibernation season. A time to bunker down with what you had and wait it out until next summer, both a decrease in money, and the coming tropical storms.
Two days ago the selkie pod had left the area, heading back out to the open ocean on their home current. Trisha had stopped by briefly to say goodbye to her son, and wish them both well. She had heard their plans, and knew that while Roy was planning to follow Edward out to sea, that it didn't mean her son would rejoin the pod.
In fact, she knew he would most likely not. Not until the passing of years brought his chosen human's death. So she had said goodbye, and wished them luck before her departure, knowing that she was leaving her son in good hands for the next coming century.
As for Roy and Edward, they were both still deeply invested in their plans. Plans that were coming along so well, that despite Roy now having to screen his phone calls to avoid friends and family members asking him what the hell he thought he was doing, that Roy was fairly certain they'd be able to set out before the end of September.
Edward was anxious to follow the current, but he knew he could wait that long. He would be more anxious being parted from Roy.
It was a help though, that they were able to go out every day into the Bay and farther for a swim. And Edward had discovered a new delight in pelting around through the water as Roy tried to hang on for something the man had deemed a 'rollercoaster ride'. He wasn't quite sure what a rollercoaster was, but he imagined it had something to do with making Roy turn fun shades of green.
Today, though, was not one of those days.
He and Roy were fishing.
Edward had led Roy out to one of his favorite spots to find fish earlier that morning, and for the better part of the day Roy had been trying to teach Edward how to use a rod and reel. After lunch had passed them by and neither of them had caught one fish, Edward promptly gave up and dove into the water despite the lunge Roy had made to restrain him.
Giving a quick spin onto his back, Edward clicked in laughter as he watched the shadow of Roy somehow manage to flail its way back into balance inside the rocking dinghy, and for a moment he considered capsizing the vessel, but chose against it considering that Roy would make him go retrieve their lost belongings from the ocean floor.
So instead he twirled in a backwards arc in order to swim down towards where the fish normally were. But he only got halfway, not even to the end of the fishing line when he noticed that they were gone. Which struck him as odd, being that they had been there that morning.
Tilting his head he trilled in confusion before looking around him. There weren't any dolphins in sight, orcas, sharks, or even barracudas for goodness sake. So why had the fish decided to up and leave?
Puzzled, and not sensing anything that would tell him why, Edward swam back up to the surface.
"I see you didn't get one cheating like that either." Roy said as soon as he saw Edward break the surface, and reaching out he braced the dinghy as he helped the blond in.
"I could have eaten it already." Edward retorted with a bit of a smile, though it faded as he settled himself back in the small boat. "The fish are gone. And not killed and eaten gone, I'd have picked up on the smell of blood. But just gone. There's nothing else down there either."
Roy however didn't seem too concerned. "Maybe it's me. I'm sure they've seen fishing tackle before and know what's up."
"Well they've seen a seal hell bent on sinking teeth into them before too, and they didn't run off the whole time I was hunting them out here." Edward replied as he wrung his hair out and sighed. "I guess we can try farther towards the national park area. The fish might not be so alert to human methods of hunting."
"You might have to hunt us both food for the rest of our lives." Roy laughed as he picked up the oars.
"Lazy human." Edward chided fondly as he relaxed over the side of the dinghy to watch the water pass by.
As it turned out, the entire day passed without a single fish, and Roy was forced to turn back to Edward's laughter about his abysmal hunting skills.
However he made up for his laughing at Roy that night, and it was no surprise to him that by the time he finally fell asleep that he wasn't tired because of the day spent fishing.
They didn't head back out into the water until around dusk the next day, having spent most of their day in various sections of the bed, or in the bathtub with each other as they waited for more news on when they'd have the money to purchase the sailboat that Edward had already chosen from a vendor on a nearby larger island.
This time they merely swam out, Edward helping Roy past the worst of the breakers until they could swim and splash around unhindered by potential surprise waves. And it was during a lull in one of their frequent water fights that Edward floated over to Roy who was resting on his back as the water gently rocked them up and down.
"I'm going to miss being able to swim with you, you know, the times the current takes us somewhere too cold for you." He said, treading water slowly to stay afloat.
A low chuckle escaped him as Roy turned his head enough to see Edward. "Can I at least count on you coming aboard some nights to keep me warm?"
Edward flushed through his smile. "All nights."
They floated in silence a bit longer before Roy broke it. "I never expected my life to turn out this way." He spoke quietly, his eyes fixed up on the stars above them.
Edward too had at one point flipped over to float on his back, and he hummed thoughtfully before asking. "Didn't think you'd fall in love with what you humans call a mythological being?"
"And follow him out to the ocean?" Roy added with a faint smile. "No. But that's not quite what I meant. I didn't expect that one day I'd ever find someone like you." And he softly continued, "I spent all this time searching for a flicker of life in people, a fire to them. But any I found was just… temporary. And then when I find you, you're neither a person nor someone I thought I'd ever be allowed to love. And you're as fiery as the damn sun."
Edward laughed at the last, "I guess when you've been alive over two centuries you get a bit of spirit to you."
"I'd say." Roy muttered, still well aware of some of the things Edward had said to them back before they truly became friends.
"I was born on a night like this, you know." Edward mused as he stared up at the dark sky dotted with stars and the wispy beginnings of clouds. "Except it was a lot colder… up near Greenland."
"You can remember stuff like that?"
"Of course I can." Edward closed his eyes with a slow exhale of breath. "I remember everything that's ever happened to me since the night I first saw the ocean and the stars. Every single thing."
And for a time, there was silence again.
"Being with you has been my happiest memory."
Roy didn't say anything, only reached out to take Edward's floating hand in his. Feeling that anything else would be inadequate, and he knew he'd chosen right when those fingers weaved between his to tighten with a possessive, yet tender grip.
Eventually they both righted themselves in the water, ready to head back to the cottage. And Edward lost no time in swimming around to Roy, offering him a ride back into the beach.
Roy took the offer of the assistance with a smile, wrapping his arms around the slick grey neck. And he hung on just tight enough as Edward moved them in towards the beach, the gentle bobbing up and down of Edward's swimming now a soothing and familiar sensation to him. Almost enough to lull him to sleep at this time of night, but he knew Edward would tease him mercilessly for it.
They were nearly halfway back into the Bay when suddenly Roy was tossed from Edward as a violent wave smacked into them. And the irony that this was now twice that Edward, of all creatures, had gotten caught off guard by an incoming wave was dimmed slightly in the light of the fact that he had crashed under the churning water.
He wasn't even really sure which way was up or down, the sand from the bottom was so whirled up into the water from the wave. And he quickly made that waves as he was flipped again roughly through the water by the current.
Yet even as he fought to figure out which way was up, he remained calm, knowing that Edward had to be out there somewhere close. Even as he was tossed around by another wave. He could hold his breath up to four minutes, he knew that Edward would find him before then if he was unable to see through this murk himself, much less get out of the hold the current had on him as it dragged him about.
Edward meanwhile had just broken back to the surface, spluttering and coughing for breath as he frantically looked around. Sharp barks calling for Roy fell on just the crashing of more waves, and he fought to stay above the water as he was shunted around.
Yet as still Roy did not surface, Edward began to panic, and without a second thought he quickly dove back under despite the risks. He didn't care if he could get caught in the worst of whatever nasty current was now tossing the ocean and him about, if Roy was down here the human was in danger. Roy wasn't the one who could sleep a whole night underwater!
It was difficult to see in the murk of the tossing water, but Edward could at least make out vague shapes. And as he struggled against the current, he looked frantically for Roy, wide-eyed and trembling in his panic.
Yet every which way he looked, he couldn't spot the man at all, and he began to tremble harder as he fought his way back up to the surface. Breaking the water he gave several short barks again, before letting the next wave toss him back under as it slammed into him.
Roy wasn't there.
But he had to be here! He was running out of time!
And then, suddenly, Edward spotted him. It was the briefest movement of four limbs that he would know anywhere, and Edward tore through the water straight for him. He didn't care that breaking through a current this violently strong and even more now that he was going deeper, had already torn one of the muscles on his left flipper. He kept going.
Roy was beginning to have the sinking feeling that he'd been being dragged down deeper this whole time, when suddenly he was half-slammed into by a grey blur. The water roared in his ears, and he fought to keep holding his breath as he was forced upwards against the bruising current and soon thereafter the crashing of the white-capped waves as he broke the surface.
Edward immediately moved under Roy, who collapsed down around his neck coughing and gasping for breath. His own worried trills joined the mix of noise as he fought to keep them both above the surface, not minding that Roy's hold around his neck was almost choking.
He was trembling far too much from relief to care.
"Thanks." Roy managed in between coughs, and braced himself as another wave that had to have at least been over five foot crashed down around them, tossing them forward as Edward fought to keep them from tumbling through it and becoming separated again.
Edward managed to right them before the next wave, and began to swim as best he could with his injured flipper in towards the beach, letting the forward current help. Yet the closer they got, the worse the waves became as they hit the breakers closer up to the surface. And the water crashed in around and against them with bruising force.
Yet Edward fought to keep them above it.
Roy kept a tight grip on Edward, knowing that he'd be no help here. All he could do was hang on, and stay out of the way of Edward's flippers and tail. The selkie was fighting hard to keep them both above the water as much as possible, and he knew that Edward was no lightweight.
They had perhaps only six more yards to go, when they were both jerked back under.
By what, Roy never saw.
Edward let out a high-pitched shriek as he felt Roy release him, twisting back around away from the surface to find his way back to his human. He couldn't leave Roy alone! A human had no chance in whatever freak squall had just hit the Bay. He was a selkie and even he was struggling! There was no way he could abandon Roy, no way he would anyway.
He found his way back to Roy, despite the strain and struggle set upon him to do so. The man appeared to be caught in some sort of downdraft in the water, one that was pulling him fast back across what distance Edward had managed to get them.
By all rights this didn't make sense at all! Where the hell had these waves come from, and how was it that the current was just as strong, if not stronger, underneath the surface?
Yet Edward didn't have time to think. He had to get Roy out of the water before he could think.
He was nearly there, when suddenly the current seemed to suction against them both.
Roy was flung backwards, and yet before he could even register what had truly happened, suddenly Edward had slammed into him vertically, having been propelled forward by the dragging current.
The moment Edward felt Roy wrap his arms around him again, was the same moment he saw the jutting rocks racing towards them. The same moment he prayed Roy not to let go of him as he whipped them both around vertically.
The resounding crash shattered the topmost rocks from the jutting pile.
Roy was nearly tossed away in the impact, yet he clung to Edward, panic rising in his throat as he registered what had occurred.
…what Edward had done.
A pained whimper escaped Edward as he shuddered through the agony lancing through him. Yet he bit down on Roy's shoulder to keep his human there with him as he braced them against the rocks. His entire body shivering as pain began to send him into shock.
But Roy was safe.
It must have been before Roy could no longer hold his breath that suddenly the water began to calm back to normal. And despite how his vision kept failing, Edward pushed them away from the rocks to get them back to the surface. Feeling as if he'd never swum slower in his life.
They both surfaced with gasps for breath, and Edward's were laced with coughs that began to trickle blood into his mouth and drip into the water.
"Edward!" Roy gasped, spluttering for air at the same time he twisted out of the selkie's hold.
Edward trilled at him affectionately, brokenly. Relief filling him along with pain.
"Edward!" Roy cried out as the selkie began to slip back underneath the surface, and frantically he grabbed for his lover, hauling him back up despite the fact it nearly shoved him under the water to do so. "You're practically immortal, remember? You remember that!"
Edward lifted his head weakly, blinking weary golden eyes at his Roy.
"We're going to sail around the world for the rest of my life, damn it!" Roy continued as he began hauling them back to the shore as quickly as he could. "I'm not doing it without you, so come on!"
And threat by threat, confession by confession, Roy managed to get them both back to the beach. Trying not to let the panic that gripped him show on his face as the blood only continued to trickle faster out of Edward's slackened jaws.
The moment he could touch the bottom, Roy quickly grabbed the grey seal body up in his arms, splashing at a near run out of the surf until he hit dry sand untouched by the freak waves. It was there that he quickly lay Edward down as carefully as he could, panicking as he dropped to his knees beside the selkie.
"You've got to change back! Please! I have to call a doctor, not a veterinarian!" Roy pleaded, hoping Edward was actually lucid enough to understand.
Edward blinked up at Roy, his brain hearing the words to which he responded with a blood-muffled trill and a fit of coughing that sprayed him with a fine sheen of red.
Roy was never more glad to see Edward shapeshift than he was now. And any relief he might have felt was undercut by urgency. "Stay there, I'll be back as soon as I call." He rattled off, and had made it halfway back up to his feet when a surprisingly strong hand caught around his wrist.
Edward met the startled, panicked gaze that was turned on him as he smiled weakly. "Too late… for me. Stay with me." He whispered lovingly, pressing something into Roy's hand before he let his own flop back down to the sand as he took a shuddering breath that wracked his entire body.
Shock had driven away the pain, and now, now he could only gaze up at Roy with pure unwavering love.
Roy had looked down at the object in his hand, and the tears he'd been fighting back until now began to form as he saw what it was.
"No… no!" Roy looked to Edward sharply, his hand clenching around the sealskin. "It's not that bad, you'll be okay! You little idiot."
Edward felt himself soften at the words, "I love you."
It was those three words that broke Roy, at the same time they broke through to him. Making him realize what he didn't want to accept… and the tears began to escape his eyes as he settled down in the sand next to Edward. "I love you too." He whispered, leaning down to rest their foreheads together. "You shouldn't have done it. I can't… what am I without you?"
"You'll always have me." Edward whispered in return, raising a shaky hand to brush it against Roy's clutching his sealskin. "You're the only human… I love you, Roy."
Roy's frame shook as silent tears wracked his body, and when Edward murmured a request to be held, he couldn't help but comply. Carefully holding his angel to him as he whispered sweet words into the damp blond hair, lightly petting the soft skin as he tried to soothe Edward through the last.
Not knowing it was Edward trying to soothe him as he soaked up the feeling of Roy holding him and gently rocking him back and forth.
There was nothing to be done for it, they both knew it whether they wanted to accept it or not. Edward's body had been too broken by that impact in a body where bones easily snapped. The internal bleeding and the filling of blood into his lungs was incurable… and Edward didn't want to waste what little time he had left with Roy on pointless attempts at a rescue.
Edward knew when he felt the pull of blissful sleep that it was time… and he let out a shaking breath before tilting his head back to gaze up at Roy with only love and trust in his eyes. "I love you… don't cry… please, don't cry…" he whispered as he tried to brush the fast-falling tears away from his love's face. "I lo – "
Roy silenced him with a kiss, drawing away only to hear the last precious syllables fall from Edward's lips before the golden eyes slipped shut as the last breath left the broken body. And he drew Edward's unresponsive form to him tighter now that it wouldn't hurt the selkie, broken sobs shaking him as he rocked them both back and forth as his tears splashed into golden hair.
Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
– Kahlil Gibran
The tracks of tears had dried on Roy's face, though his eyes still shined in the moisture building there as he lay Edward's body atop the stack of dry tree branches and brush. In his hand he still clutched Edward's sealskin, unwilling to let it go for even a moment.
"This wasn't how it was supposed to happen." Roy whispered as he brushed the drying hair away from Edward's peaceful looking face. "But I… I…" he took a shuddering breath, "I guess if this is… I'm saving you centuries of pain. I just – !"
He broke off as a dry sob wracked his body, and he clenched a fist to his face as he fought back fresh tears. "Why?"
But no answer came, and after a moment Roy was forced to draw away from his pained confusion.
"I love you, so very much." He whispered, bending down to brush a kiss to the cold lips as a few tears finally worked themselves free. "My sandy little angel."
And then he forced himself to draw away. Knowing he needed to do this, as much as it tore inside him to do so. But he would rather this, than anything else.
Edward couldn't be buried, he had no identification, and Roy didn't want to do him the dishonor of burying a selkie in the ground. And yet, he couldn't bring himself to just toss his lover into the ocean. Like some cast off.
No… this was his only option. The only way he could think of to set Edward free.
It didn't take him long to start the flame, and he tossed the match into the wooden pyre Edward's body rested upon in endless sleep. And he had to fight back the stupid hopes that Edward might still be alive, and he was killing him, to realize that Edward wasn't coming back.
And fresh tears fell freely from his eyes as he watched the roaring flames consume the pyre and Edward, his hand clutching at the sealskin as he stood there numbly. Edward had asked him not to cry… but right now, it was an impossible request to keep.
So he cried, anguish sending him to his knees as he cried out uncaringly as he cradled the sealskin to his chest.
The only distinguishable words to be heard being "I love you."
…Two days later…
Roy Mustang stood with dark eyes fixed upon the tame sea, so flat, like azure glass. So serene looking, beckoning… but that was the lie, wasn't it. The promises of serenity the sea laid before man were far too like the water of its creation, slipping through your fingers until all you had as a memory of what you'd once held was the dampness on your palms and the sting of salt in the unseen cuts it left behind.
The purr and cutting of a truck engine outside caused him little pause as he watched the ocean laid bare and distant before his eyes. The knock at the side door even less pause of mind as he absently called that it was open.
"So let's get this – damn, Mustang! How far back did this place set you?"
The black-haired man in question didn't shift from where he was slumped elegantly against the frame of the patio deck doors that were thrown open to welcome in the warm sea breeze. "Not enough." He muttered, not really caring if he was heard.
It had sounded like a rhetorical question anyway, and sure enough his best friend, Maes Hughes, didn't miss a beat in his ovations.
Maes was currently having a face-off with a wooden statue of a seal that was nearly as tall as he was. "It needed a better interior decorator."
Roy bristled at the words, tearing his gaze away from the décor in question and blindly staring back at the ocean with hard eyes.
"Why are you selling it, anyway?" Maes asked, unaware of the hard set of Roy's shoulders.
Roy's eyes slipped closed against the painful wrench inside that threatened him with the tears he'd promised he'd never shed. "Doesn't matter." The words even tasted flat in his mouth, and sudden inspiration drove him over to the table along the wall where the decanter of port sat waiting for him.
Maes frowned as he watched Roy toss back not one, not two, but three shots of the alcohol in succession without so much as a blink. "So…" his mind stumbled in circles as he searched for a way to ask what was clearly wrong and not to get his head chewed off.
A likely occurrence if Roy Mustang was suddenly downing port like it was water.
"Oh for fuck's sake just get the boxes so we can start packing and I can get the hell out of here!" Roy snapped at him, the hand nursing his fifth glass of port shaking somewhat.
He watched as Maes gave him a calculating look before turning to go back out to the truck to get the boxes in question. His head tipped down with a sigh – Maes wasn't offended, they both knew each other better than that. But he cursed himself for giving the man a reason to pry later on.
One thing was for sure… he was going to need another glass of port.
As he idly poured it he found his eyes drawn to the wooden seal, arching up out of hewn waves with graceful curves and large playful eyes. His own eyes slipped closed once more as he felt his heart seize painfully in his chest.
"At least… you're free…"
When at last Maes came back with the boxes, having taken his time in order to puzzle over what could possibly be eating at Roy, he found the man standing at the patio deck once more. This time, spinning a length of grey leather he'd not noticed before around his wrist. But he ignored the oddity that his friend was wearing a strange accessory in order to ask, "so what are we packing first?"
Roy slowly turned, and not even really seeing his friend, he walked over to pick up the seashell seal off of its shelf. "Just this. My books," and he nodded towards the mahogany seal wood carving, "and that."
Maes opened his mouth, about to question the man further about how that couldn't be all his friend wanted. Yet he decided to pack everything anyway, knowing that the ferry ride back to the mainland would be a good time to get all his questions answered.
And as Maes began to busy himself with packing, Roy stole a small box and several sheets of bubble wrap to cradle the seashell seal in, sealing the box carefully. And standing up with it in hand, he looked up at the seal wood carving, feeling a lost smile come onto his face as he nodded. "I promised I'd keep it safe for you." And he looked down to the sealskin around his wrist, his eyes wet with unshed tears. "My sandy little angel."
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief… and unspeakable love.
- Washington Irving