Title: The Importance of Lionfish
Word Count: 8833
Pairings/Characters: Arthur/Eames, vague mentions of everyone else
Warnings: Implied violence, language
Summary: Eames is a fisherman and Arthur is a merman. Arthur sees Eames one day and decides he would like Eames for himself. He then meets Eames and decides this was an excellent decision.
A/N: Cover art is part of an adorable set red_rahl on lj draw for me! You can find the rest here: redrahl(dot)com(slash)pictures/Misc/Mer_AE_KM2_web(dot)jpg just put in the actual characters where (dot) and (slash) are. The url blocker is more persistent than usual. Inspired by a prompt on the kink meme, though it ended up getting a bit out of hand. :)
Eames was about to drop his hooks over the side of his boat in the gray pre-dawn light when he saw a massive fish leap out of the corner of his eye. He whipped his head around in time to catch the tail of a marlin disappearing into the sea.
That was a properly massive marlin.
The fish jumped again, and again Eames only caught the tail fin, which was still monstrous. It was not actually a marlin tail, Eames noticed, as it was horizontal, though that was not the tail of any type of whale or porpoise Eames knew of.
Eames dropped his hooks in the bottom of the boat and grabbed his oars again. There was no way he was letting this fish go without at least figuring out what it was first. The fish continued to jump sporadically, but Eames never saw anything more then the splash it made with his back facing the ocean while he rowed.
Eames reached the depth the fish had been leaping at just as the sun was cresting the horizon. The fish seemed to be staying under now, of course. The sea does like to keep her secrets.
Eames dropped his hooks over the side. He might as well make himself useful while he waited for his fish to turn up again. Eames sat in his boat, oars in hands, rowing occasionally to keep his lines straight down in the water. After maybe half an hour of watching his lines, in which time the sun had risen completely, the fish jumped again. Of course it had to do so directly behind Eames, so no matter how fast he swiveled around, he could still only see it's infuriating tail fin.
An hour after the last jump, Eames had given up the fish as a lost cause and turned all of his attention towards his hooks; not that that was doing the poor things any good. The hooks staid woefully empty the whole time, not so much as a nibble disturbing the bobbers.
Eames became aware of a large shadow circling close around his boat in the water. He had his gaff in hand before you could say knife. If the fish came just a little closer he could hook it up into the boat... Come on, fish, just a ilittle/i closer... That's it...
Suddenly the fish shot up and broke the surface of the water. Eames almost dropped his gaff into the ocean in shock.
"You're a person! ... -fish... -thing!" Eames's eyes were saucer wide.
"Hm," the fish-person smirked, "most of the terrapeople call us merpeople, though I suppose person-fish-thing works as well."
"You're, you're a imerman/i?" Eames almost fell out of his boat trying to get a closer look at the merman.
"Careful now," the merman grinned mischievously, showing off a wicked set of sharply pointed teeth, and raised a viciously clawed hand to grab the lip of Eames's boat. "We wouldn't want for you to take a tumble, now, would we."
Eames eyed the long black claws that adorned all five of the merman's fingers distrustfully and took a firmer grip on his gaff.
"No need to get nasty, I assure you," the merman grabbed the boat with his other hand as well. "It's simply frighteningly difficult to stay upright in the water like this without thrashing wildly about."
"What are you doing here?" Eames asked after a beat of silence, relaxing his hand on the gaff a bit.
"Tsk, tsk. No manners. Let's start over, shall we? Hello, my name is Arthur, pleasure to meet you," the merman held out his dangerous hand. Eames hesitantly set his own hand in Arthur's, which was spiny and rough. There was a blue-black fin running along the back edge of Arthur's arm.
"Ah, I, I'm Eames."
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Oh well, that's better then most. Honestly, terrapeople have no concept of etiquette at all. The second you pop out of the sea, they're either trying to stab you with a gaff or tangle you in a net, or strangle you with the fucking fishing line! It's appalling, really."
"Maybe you could give people a little warning first? It's rather... alarming for a mythical creature to suddenly appear in front of you."
"Oh, believe me, I've tried that. Being a mythical creature kind of fucks it up, though. Everyone just wants to capture me and sell me to the circus."
"Oh. Why come up at all, then?"
Arthur shrugged. "I get lonely. Fish are no good for conversation, as I'm sure you've discovered."
"Ah, no, they really aren't."
"How old are you, Eames?"
"Hm, good, I'm twenty-nine. How long have you been fishing?"
"By myself since I was seventeen, when my father died. I went out with him for the first time when I was eleven. Why do you ask?"
Arthur shrugged again. "I'm just curious. Do you have family left alive?"
"I have a sister, but she got married and moved to a city somewhere on the mainland. Do you?"
"I couldn't tell you," Arthur grinned ruefully.
"Merpeople don't have any regard for familial relationships, or relationships in general. Once you can catch your own fish, your parents swim away."
"How old were you when that happened?"
"I was five, but I've always been good at killing things. Normally it happens around six or seven."
"Oh. Well, do you have, like, a school or anything?"
"You think I'd be talking to fishermen who only want to stuff me if I had anyone else to talk to?"
"I guess not. But you said parentis/i, so do others live together?"
"No, not in general. When you meet someone appropriate for spawning, then you'll swim with them until you can ditch your kid. If you really like them, you might swim with them for longer, have more spawn, whatever. But mostly you'll move on to another or be by yourself again."
"Have you had any children?"
"Nope. I don't plan to, either."
"Hm, the reasons are manifold."
"Oh." Eames spared a sorrowful glance for his bobbers. None of them would be dancing with the top of the food chain hanging off the side of the boat. When he looked back at Arthur, he had crossed his forearms on the boat and put his chin on them. They stared at each other for a while before Arthur sighed.
"I'm scaring the fish away. You want me to leave, I'm sure."
"You are," Eames cocked his head as he looked at Arthur.
"I'll leave you to it, then. I imagine you'll be seeing a lot more of me then you'd like in the future if you keep not trying to kill me." Arthur shoved off of Eames' boat and dived under the waves. Eames was temporarily mesmerized by the tall deep blue fin that ran from the nape of Arthur's neck all the way down his back to his tail fin.
"I just had a conversation with a merman," Eames said to himself five minutes later. "I am going insane. It was bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose, living by myself on the sea." Eames rowed a bit to straighten out his lines, which had gone crooked with the current while Eames talked to Arthur. "Well," Eames squinted up at a frigate bird soaring in the sky, "I don't really mind going insane if it means I get to talk to pretty mermen."
By the time Eames rowed out the next morning, he had nearly convinced himself that Arthur was either a hallucination or a dream. Hallucinations were only to be expected when one spent their time almost exclusively out by themselves on the ocean.
Eames dropped his hooks and settled back into the boat without seeing a flicker of marlin. There. Arthur was simply a figment of Eames' lonely imagination.
Five seconds later Arthur exploded out of the water right next to Eames, who dropped his oars and fell halfway out of his boat in shock.
"Good god, Arthur!" Eames shouted as he scrambled back into his boat. "Give a bloke a little warning next time, will you?"
"Sorry," Arthur did not look it. "Although I feel I should point out that dropping your oars into the sea and then falling in after them is not the wisest course of action when a large animal of questionable intent approaches you."
"I'll be sure to keep that in mind," Eames glared after his oars, which were floating ever further away.
"Here, I caught you a grouper," Arthur heaved the fish into Eames' lap, where he sat in the bottom of the boat.
"Oh." Eames blinked at the scaly animal in his lap. "Why?"
"I kept the fish away from you for a good hour and a half yesterday," Arthur shrugged, "figured it was the polite thing to do if I planned on doing it again."
"Oh. Uh, thanks."
"I suppose you'll be wanting your oars back?"
"Yes, that would be nice."
"Allow me," Arthur smirked and swam away.
Eames shoved the grouper off of his legs, and was sitting up on the bench again when Arthur returned with the oars.
"Thank you, Arthur," Eames snatched his oars back quickly.
"You remembered my name," Arthur grinned. Eames noticed that Arthur had, in addition to his rows of murderous teeth, a pair of rather devastating dimples. Eames had to force himself not to stare.
"Yes, well, I don't know many mermen. Easy to keep track and all," Eames floundered about for something intelligent to say, and largely failed.
"Hm." Arthur continued to smile distractingly, "most terramen find that to be a problem. All they remember is 'merman.' Or sometimes 'mermaid,'" Arthur frowned at that.
"Oh, I assure you, darling, they'd have to be blind to think that."
Arthur dimpled again, and Eames congratulated himself.
"What happened to your mother?" Arthur blurted after a few seconds.
"Pardon?" Eames was thrown by the sudden change of topic.
"You said your father died when you were seventeen, and your sister moved onto the mainland, but you never said any thing about your mother."
"Oh. Well, she died giving birth to my sister when I was five. I don't really have much to say about her."
"I can understand that."
"So, um, Arthur," Eames began after an awkward interval of silence. "What do you do all day?"
Arthur shrugged. "I swim, I catch and eat fish, I chase other merpeople out of my territory, sometimes I race dolphins or get in fights with sharks over kills."
"Where is your territory?"
"From that lighthouse up east of us out to a coral formation a few miles out to sea, over to a sunken ship down west of us and straight in to the coast from there."
"How far west is the sunken ship?"
"Er, there's a church on the shore around how far it is."
They lapsed into another silence. Arthur seemed to be content to stare at Eames, which made Eames fidget wildly.
"Um!" Eames said rather loudly into the quiet.
"Yes?" Arthur grinned widely, like Eames was the most amusing thing on earth.
"Are there many other merpeople around here?"
"There are a few. None are very interesting, and not very many of them ever feel like stealing other people's fish, which makes for boring days."
"Oh. Are there any cities down there?" Eames tried valiantly to keep the silence at bay.
"A couple." Arthur yawned, displaying all three rows of teeth. "They're not very nice places in my opinion. You only go there if you can't carve out of piece of ocean for yourself, or if you want to exploit the weak little fuckers who can't do so. I like to steer clear of 'em."
Arthur returned to staring as Eames ran out of things to say. Being a fisherman didn't lend itself to great conversational skills, and apparently, neither did being a merman. Eames checked all of his lines, though he knew nothing would be biting with Arthur here, then made sure all of the lines were well anchored in the boat, then carefully rewound the extra line he had in the boat. Arthur was still staring when he was done.
Eames scratched his nose, nervous under Arthur's unwavering gaze, he rubbed at a stain on his trousers, he ran a hand through his hair, he scratched his arm, he rubbed his hands together.
"Er, when are you leaving?" Eames finally asked, eyes darting towards everything but at Arthur.
"I dunno. I can leave now if you want me to." Arthur was smiling amusedly again.
"Oh, uh, well, you don't have to," Eames rubbed at the back of his neck.
"Don't mind me, Eames. What is it that you do all day, sitting out in this boat?"
"Um, I carve things sometimes, and I sing sometimes, and I knit sometimes, but most of the time, I just sit and think and stuff."
"Yeah? You wanna sing to me?" Arthur's eyes were playful.
"God no!" Eames blushed. "I am a terrible singer!"
"I bet the fish like it, though," Arthur was back to his shark grin.
"Yeah, no, I bet they hate it. They probably give me a kilometer radius when I sing."
"Is that so? You've never caught anything while singing, then?"
"Well, no, I have, but they must've all been deaf, because I sound about like a wounded cat."
"I'm sure it's not as bad as all of that."
"I assure you, it is."
"Well, give me a few bars and let me hear you so I can make a judgment for myself."
"Yeah, that is not going to happen. Ever."
"Oh really?" Arthur showed all of his teeth. "We'll see about that. I suppose I should let you catch some fish now." Arthur shoved away from the boat.
"See you tomorrow?"
"Certainly," Arthur ducked back under again. Eames smiled and hummed under his breath all afternoon.
For a week, with astounding regularity, Arthur would spontaneously appear next to Eames just as he had put down his hooks and resigned himself to the fact that Arthur would not appear that day. Eventually, Arthur really didn't show, and Eames was disappointed. He tried telling himself that it was ridiculous to miss someone who you've known for a grand total of nine days when you don't see them for one day, but he didn't listen.
All morning long, he waited for Arthur to surge out of the ocean, but he never did. The fish were resolutely refusing to bite today, so by the time the sun was dragging down the western side of the sky with not so much as a nibble on any one of the lines, Eames was astoundingly bored. He leaned back against his boat and hummed a bit before breaking out into song.
And of course, iof course/i Arthur chose then to show himself.
"See? You're not half bad!" Arthur called from the waterline.
"Jesus Christ, fuck, Arthur!" Eames flailed, trying not to fall out of his boat again. "Why the fucking hell do you keep doing that?" Eames glared indignantly at Arthur's laughing face.
"It may or may not be for the delightful reaction I keep on getting," Arthur was showing his dimples again, and really, why don't you try being pissed at someone when they have fucking adorable dimples. It's bloody well impossible.
"You're not playing fair," Eames jabbed an accusing oar at Arthur.
"Whatever do you mean?" Judging from the way Arthur's eyes were sparkling, he knew exactly what Eames was referring to. Arthur just kept right on grinning, though.
"I do not know why I missed you," Eames declared to the ocean at large. "You're not a very nice person."
"You missed me?" Arthur looked genuinely surprised at that.
"What?" Eames blushed. "That wasn't... bugger," Eames frowned down at his oars.
"If it's any comfort, I've actually been sitting under your boat all day waiting for you to get bored enough to sing." Arthur managed to say this with a straight face.
"What the bloody fuck, Arthur!"
"I know, I know, it's terrible, you haven't been able to catch a fish all day, but I caught you a squid?" Arthur hefted the animal out of the water uncertainly.
"You- that's not even why- wait, a isquid/i?"
"Yeah... you don't like squid?" Arthur squinted up at him, looking distinctly off-kilter.
"I've never had it before."
"Never? But it's the tastiest thing in the ocean!"
"They live at the bottom of the ocean, Arthur. They cost a fortune."
"Well, here, you have your very own squid now," Arthur gave a cautious smile as he handed the squid to Eames.
"Thanks..." Eames grabbed the slimy creature and stared at it for a moment.
"Well, are you going to try it or not?" Arthur demanded.
"But it's raw." Eames pulled a face. He liked to avoid raw fish whenever possible, though sometimes he got stranded and had no other choice.
"Right. I forgot you silly terrapeople have to cook everything. Takes all the joy out of eating."
"What do you mean?" Eames smiled at Arthur's disgusted expression.
"You drain all the blood out, and then it's just bland, and the texture is iterrible/i once it's all scorched." Arthur wrinkled his nose. "I don't know how you can stand it."
"Yes, well, I don't particularly enjoy the blood or the raw texture, so I'll just stick to my charred flesh, thanks."
"Tsk. Such a strange species."
"You're one to talk."
"Pray, do explain."
"Just look at your make up! All the drag you must put out with your arms and shoulders."
"Oh yes, because the terrapeople are so much better!" Arthur laughed. "You've only got two legs when everything else on land has four!"
"Yes, well, I have hands."
"And so do I. And by the way, I'm made for maneuverability rather then speed."
"So you're flexible, then," Eames grinned to himself.
"Good god, you're hopeless," Arthur rolled his eyes.
"But darling, it's such a fascinating notion you've introduced!"
"Yes, ifascinating/i," Arthur pulled back and slapped his tail on the water, soaking Eames.
"Arthur!" Eames spluttered.
"Yes?" Arthur returned to the side of the boat and rested his chin on his forearms, the picture of innocence.
"I'm all wet!"
"Why, yes, sweetheart, you are," Arthur pushed himself up until he was speaking directly into Eames' ear. "I believe that was the point."
"Was it," Eames was thoroughly distracted by Arthur's proximity. Arthur grinned, and all of his teeth were iright there/i, and Eames should've been far less turned on by that.
Arthur plopped back down into the water, and Eames stared at him stupidly.
"I do believe it is rude to stare, Eames," Arthur smirked.
"Not staring," Eames said absently, still staring.
"Oh, my mistake, terribly sorry," Arthur's smile was predatory.
Eames suddenly realized that he was embarrassing himself.
"Um. I need to go."
"So soon?" Arthur glanced slyly at the sun. "You've got three hours of sun and another of twilight."
"Yes, well, I, promised Joan I'd... help her... clear her field today."
"That so? I'll let you at it then. See you tomorrow, dearest." Arthur ducked under the waves, only to resurface a minute later. "Oh, do be nice and try the squid, won't you? It didn't deserve the face you gave it earlier."
Eames prided himself in only starting slightly. "'Course. Wouldn't miss it for the world."
Arthur grinned and dived back under in a long curve of shimmering scales.
Eames beached his boat and wondered what the hell he was going to do for the rest of the day. He ended up wandering into town and buying more yarn with money he didn't really have. He came home and knitted himself a new hat, since the old one was falling apart. He stopped when it was dark and time for dinner.
Eames stared at the squid for a while, trying to remember if he had ever heard anyone talk about eating squid. Eventually he decided to fry it, because the squid just looked nasty, and nothing is bad when it is fried. Eames commended himself on making a fantastic choice when he took the first bite. The squid itself was just chewy, but being fried made it fine. Perhaps the blood would've made it better after all.
It was only when Eames was stoking the fire and putting away his partially finished hat that he realized it was the same color of blue as Arthur's fins.
Eames was reluctant to go out again the next morning, fearing what Arthur would say about yesterday. There was also the fact that Eames found himself getting a bit too attached to a merman who could duck under the ocean at any time and never resurface. Eames did not like to get attached to anyone. In his experience, they would either leave at the first better opportunity to present itself, or die right when he needed them.
The best course of action was to maintain friendly relations with everyone and intimate relations with no one. Then you could never be hurt.
Arthur had obviously embedded himself deep enough into Eames' subconscious that he influenced Eames' yarn color choices, which Eames was not wholly comfortable with. Not to mention that Eames had missed him when he didn't turn up on time. For one day. Eames could go weeks without seeing anyone else he knew and not miss them in the slightest. Well, that was not strictly true. He missed his sister something awful, and then there was Yusuf, but Eames had known them for years, and he could forget about them for days at a time. That Eames missed Arthur after one day was entirely unsettling.
Unfortunately, Arthur was unavoidable. It wasn't like Eames could just not go fishing for a few days. He was barely scraping by as it was, and if he missed even one day of fish he would be in a hole.
And so out Eames went before the crack of dawn, as he had every day since he was old enough to row a boat.
The ocean calmed him down, as it usually did. The pelicans were out skimming the waves as the air turned gray, and the seagulls were raising a racket as they fought over shrimp. An eagle dived and came up with something big. A tern caught something else, and a jaeger swooped by and stole it away.
A finch landed on Eames' stern once he had dropped his hooks and settled down.
"What's a pretty bird like you doing way out here, hm?" Eames smiled and leaned towards the finch, which flicked it's wings but remained on the boat. "You belong in a garden somewhere inland, with a nice old lady to scatter you seeds and put you out a dish of water. You shouldn't be out here in the waves and the salt, where the wind can tear you apart if she has a mind to, and the sea can get up and swallow the land in a storm. It's not safe for something like you, beautiful just for the sake of it. Out here the eagles will take you if the water doesn't." The finch trilled a few notes, and Eames stopped to listen, starting up again once the bird trailed off. "See what I mean? Go find somewhere that matches you. You need flowers and tall trees and rolling green hills with a gentle breeze. Somewhere like what Mal always talked about, where the hurricanes can't snatch you and drown you in the sea."
The finch jumped up and flew away towards the line of the land on the horizon. "There you go, pretty thing," Eames sat back again.
"I wonder the same thing about you, you know."
Eames started and turned to see Arthur hanging onto the bow end of the boat. "Arthur. What do you mean by that?"
"You seem just like that bird to me," Arthur smiled slightly, "you don't belong out here in the ocean."
"Why do you say that," Eames frowned.
"Don't take it as an offense against you, but you don't belong here. Everything you said to that bird, I think about you. You should be somewhere far on shore, with someone just as pretty as you to take care of you. Terrapeople are too fragile for the ocean. You can only last as long as your stores of fresh water. Storms come and sink your boats, and you can't swim to somewhere safe. Hurricanes come by, and you're drowned in your houses, swept out to sea from your fields. You're not made for the sea, and yet here you are."
"Most of us don't have another option. I either fish or I starve. Mal was lucky enough to ensnare the heart of an inland man, and a few other girls have done the same, but a man can't do that. If you're born a fisherman's son, you're a fisherman, and most can't do a thing about it."
"Mal. That's your sister?"
"You could go live with her."
"And what would I do once I was there? I'd only be a burden. I don't even know where she lives, anyways."
"It is... unusual for terrapeople to loose track of their family, is it not?"
"It is. We, well, we had a falling out over Dom. To her, he was her own fairy tale prince come to rescue her from a life as a fisherman's wife. I didn't think much of him. I still don't. He's not a trustworthy sort of man. I didn't give my consent to the marriage, and as the head of house, my consent was a necessary thing. They eloped one day while I was out on the water and I haven't heard from them since."
"Oh. I'm sorry. That must've been difficult for you as a gregarious animal. I suppose you're well and truly stuck on the sea, then."
"I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. I'd miss the sea if I left her, though. She's rather addicting."
"I understand that. I'm the same way about the shoreline."
"Yeah. It's just... exciting, I suppose. The breakers and the way they beat on the sand. The birds, there are so many birds. It's just albatross when you're out deep, but here there is everything. And the terrapeople," Arthur grinned, "I find them interesting."
"Oh? And why is that?" Eames smirked.
Arthur laughed, but said nothing.
"Arthur," Eames frowned again, "what is that?"
"What is what?"
"That, there on your side." Eames pointed to an angry red bite mark on Arthur.
"Oh, that's nothing. A tribe of hammerheads were encroaching on my territory is all. They're gone for now, nothing to worry about."
"Let me see it," Eames slid over to Arthur and pulled him halfway into the boat.
"It's fine, sharpteeth, really," Arthur smirked as Eames draped Arthur across his chest. "Give it two weeks and it'll be gone."
"What did you call me?" Eames ran his fingers over the toothmarks, which were still bleeding slowly.
"Sharpteeth? Oh, I guess the terrapeople wouldn't... It's a term of endearment. Like sweetheart, but more... violent, I guess. It's supposed to also indicate that I think you are skilled." Arthur laid his head on Eames' shoulder as Eames took his time with the wound. "Eames, seriously, this is a scratch. Not even worth mentioning."
"You were bit by a shark, Arthur! I think that is worth mentioning."
"It happens all the time. It is really not a big deal."
"Alright, fine. It seems like it's ok."
"Glad to have your stamp of approval." Eames began to slide Arthur back into the water. "Woa," Arthur suddenly curled further around Eames, "careful there. Caught a fin on the boat."
"Oh. Sorry about that," Eames leaned over and freed Arthur's fin. "You ok?"
Arthur splashed back into the waves and flared all of his fins. "It's so dry out there. I don't know how you stand it."
"I'm made for it," Eames smirked.
"Oh, go on." Arthur squinted up at the sun. "I suppose I've inconvenienced you enough for one day. And hey, sorry I didn't bring you a fish today. I was fighting the hammerheads, and I didn't have time for hunting. I'll bring you two tomorrow, how's that?"
"I don't expect you to bring me anything, darling, really."
"I'll bring two anyways," Arthur broke into a grin for some reason. "Good hunting, sharpteeth." He disappeared without a splash.
When Eames woke up the next morning, it was pissing down rain. Not the kind of rain that pelts down for maybe an hour and then clears off, but the steady, pouring type that stays all day long.
"Bloody fantastic," Eames muttered to himself while he crawled out of bed and walked into everything in his shack before he managed to stumble out of the door, pulling on a jacket. He was completely soaked through by the time he shoved his boat out into the water.
Eames had hardly rowed past the first sandbar when Arthur surfaced next to him, dimples out in full force.
"Good morning, beautiful!" He grinned.
"You're certainly chipper today," Eames grunted without breaking stroke.
"Of course I am! It's raining fit to stay for days, the fish are all out, and the hammerheads are gone! It's a great day."
"Maybe for fish," Eames said sourly.
"Is something wrong, Eames?" Arthur's forehead creased.
"Nothing more then usual."
"What do you mean?"
"Just let it go, Arthur, it's nothing you could understand," Eames snapped, still avoiding eye contact.
"Ok..." Arthur frowned up at Eames for a while. Eames resolutely ignored him, keeping his gaze fixed on the slowly receding horizon, slowly realizing he was being an asshole. "I brought you fish," Arthur said hesitantly, more of a question then a statement.
"That's nice of you," Eames tried for a smile. He probably ended up looking mildly frightening, but fortunately, Arthur was hard to scare. Except that Arthur ducked underwater just then, so maybe he wasn't that fearless after all.
Eames stared in alarm at the place Arthur had disappeared for ten agonizing seconds, wondering how the hell he was ever going to find Arthur again, when Arthur shot out of the waves and arched over the boat, dropping two fish in the bottom of it on his way over.
"Bloody hell, Arthur," Eames snapped when Arthur came up again. "Warn a bloke before you do that next time, will you?"
"Oh... I didn't think that... sorry, I- sorry," Arthur looked very worried as he said this.
"It's nothing, I'm just- it's just-" Eames aborted his sentence with a shake of his rain soaked hair.
Arthur opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again immediately. After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, he said despondently, "Do you want me to go, Eames?"
"No," Eames bit out far more viciously then the situation warranted.
"Just stay," Eames sighed, "please."
"Alright, I won't go anywhere."
Eames rowed in silence for a while, Arthur trailing along beside him. He rowed for far longer then he should have, until the land was long out of sight and his whole body was aching with it. He finally shipped his oars with a sigh and looked down at Arthur.
"You gonna be alright?" Arthur offered a tentative smile.
"Yeah," Eames rubbed the back of his neck, "I'll be fine. Sorry about," Eames gestured uselessly with his hands, "being this way."
"It's fine, sweetheart," Arthur perched his elbows on the edge of the boat.
"I just get useless, sometimes, especially when it's raining, and I just, I just-"
"Hey," Arthur cut him off, leaning forwards and placing a hand on Eames' shoulder. "You don't have to explain. It's ok, I get it."
"Thanks," Eames managed a genuine smile.
"That's better," Arthur grinned back. "Now do you want to actually hunt today, or do you want to sit up here and do nothing while I hunt for you?"
"Would you actually do that?"
"It's not like I've got anything better to do," Arthur shrugged. "Besides, the fish are everywhere today. It's like catching seaweed. You seem like you could use a break."
"A break," Eames smirked, "I haven't had one of those since Yusuf left." Eames' smile faded. Dang it, he probably shouldn't've thought about Yusuf if he didn't want to go down again.
"None of that, now," Arthur frowned at him, "I think you've had enough of those kinds of thoughts for one day. I won't have you drowning yourself while I'm gone, you hear?"
"Yeah, ok," Eames said absently.
"You are going to sit up here and relax and think about something that makes you happy, and I am going to catch you more fish. You got that?"
"Yes, darling, I've got that," Eames smiled rather weakly.
"Good," Arthur dimpled, "I'll be back soon." Arthur shoved off of the boat and disappeared.
Eames hung over the side of his boat and watched the rain dappled water where Arthur had gone under until he got bored. He then pulled his bag out from where it was buried under Arthur's fish and dug out his knitting needles and some yarn. The yarn was sort of sandy colored; not to far off from the color of Eames' hair, actually.
Eames slouched in the bottom of his boat and started knitting a sock. He always needed more socks, because he was always ruining his socks by wearing them fishing. Socks felt so nice, though, and they kept your feet warm, and they were cheap because Eames could make them himself, and they were colorful- Speaking of which, this was a very dull sandy-colored sock. It needed stripes. The Arthur-colored yarn would go nicely, Eames thought as he pulled it out and added it in. There. That was much better.
Arthur reemerged just as Eames was beginning the second sandy stripe.
"What are you making?" He asked as he threw the fish into the boat.
"A sock," Eames looked up to find Arthur staring at him incredulously. "What?"
"Are you really making an Eames and Arthur striped sock?"
"Am I- oh." Eames stared at the stripes, which were indeed Eames colored and Arthur colored. "I- it would appear as if I am." This had suddenly become rather awkward. Eames fidgeted with his needles and attempted to ignore the shark-ish smile that Arthur had suddenly turned on him.
"When did you get that color?" Eames could hear the poorly suppressed laughter in Arthur's voice.
"The day before yesterday," Eames mumbled, ducking his head in an attempt to hide the fact that he was blushing.
Arthur burst out laughing. "You are utterly adorable," he grinned.
Eames scrunched up his nose and glared at Arthur out of the corner of his eye, which only made Arthur grin wider.
"How about if I go catch you a squid. That'll make you feel better, yeah? Squid makes everything better."
"Don't get me a squid. You'd have to swim all the way down to the bottom of the ocean."
"It's really not that far from here."
"Yes, but I'd still have to row all the way back before I could eat it."
"I suppose that's true. It's so impractical the way you-" Arthur suddenly cut off and glared accusingly at Eames.
"Um, what is it?"
"You didn't like the squid, did you. You got out of telling me yesterday by being so distractingly maudlin over that bird."
"I did not!"
"But you didn't like the squid."
"Well, it was kind of... bland."
"How could you say something like that! It is all on account of you cooking it, I am sure."
"Then I will catch you another one and you can eat it raw!"
"I'd really rather not."
"I don't fancy getting any parasitic worms."
"You won't get parasitic worms," Arthur waved his hand.
"But I might, and I would really rather not."
Arthur snorted and set his chin down on his folded arms. "Fine. I can't believe you don't like squid. Who doesn't like squid? Terrapeople. They're ridiculous."
"Well I think you're ridiculous," Eames turned back to his knitting.
"Of course you do," Arthur sounded very ifond/i as he said this, and Eames had to sneak a glance at him out of the corner of his eye. He was also ilooking/i very fond, so Eames had to hastily return to his work before he said or did anything that couldn't be recovered from.
Eames cleared his throat after Arthur had stared at him for a while. "Aren't you supposed to be fishing?"
"Demanding, aren't we," Arthur smirked. "Alright, sweetheart, I will go catch you more fish. You had better still be here when I get back," Arthur shoved away from the boat.
"Oh, don't worry," Eames called after him, "I won't be running away from free fish any time soon."
Arthur laughed as he ducked under.
"Eames!" Arthur called some time later, "can I jump over your boat, or will you yell at me again?"
"Oh, um, you can go ahead and jump over," Eames flushed, embarrassed.
Arthur arced over the boat, shining dully in the clouded sunlight, and Eames couldn't help but stare at the perfect lines of him, all his fins flared for balance in the air.
He splashed into the gray water, and Eames quickly looked at the new fish Arthur had dropped in his boat to avoid being caught staring.
"Arthur," he frowned as the man in question attached himself to the boat again, "you don't have to always bring me such big fish. I mostly just bring in trout at this time of year."
"Don't be ridiculous, lionfins, I can't bring you small fish," Arthur rolled his eyes.
"Lionfins? Really? I don't even have fins."
"Just take a complement, Eames, I'm sure you've seen a lionfish before."
"Yes, but it doesn't make sense! I have no fins! You called me 'beautiful' just this morning, what's wrong with that?"
"Eames, sweetheart, do you know anything about lionfish? They have poisonous fins."
"So now I'm just poisonous?"
"No, Eames," Arthur rolled his eyes again, "more like dangerous, and beautiful, simultaneously."
"Hmm. I don't think I quite get it."
"Terrapeople," Arthur rolled his eyes iyet again/i.
"Arthur, your eyes are going to fall out of your head if you keep that up."
Eames grinned as Arthur forcibly restrained himself from rolling his eyes once more.
"Well, how's the Eames-Arthur sock coming along," Arthur smirked.
"It's coming," Eames ducked his head and grinned sheepishly as he held up the sock, which now had five stripes.
Arthur hummed happily and rested his chin on his arms. "You knit fast." He frowned suddenly and reconsidered. "Or maybe you don't, I've never seen anyone knit before. It's a decidedly terraperson activity."
"I dunno," Eames shrugged, "seems like I'm a pretty average speed. Do merpeople wear any clothes at all?"
"Nope," Arthur yawned, "no need."
"Really. That's interesting," Eames chewed on his thumbnail.
"Eames, stop wishing I was a topless woman."
"I'm not, I swear!" Eames held up his hands.
"Sure, that's what they all say."
"No, I'm actually gay, so that would be counterproductive."
"I thought you were," Arthur grinned, showing off his teeth.
"Then why the hell did you say that?"
"Specificity," Arthur smirked.
"Have I told you I hate you lately?"
"No, not in the past few days," Arthur smiled lazily up at Eames.
"Well, I hate you."
"Wouldn't have it any other way. Now, do you need more fish then that? I must confess that I have no idea what constitutes a standard catch for terrapeople."
"Um," Eames looked over at the pile, "a few more would probably be nice."
"God, terrapeople must be voracious. I'll be back in a bit." Arthur plopped down under the waves before Eames could reply.
Eames settled down took up his knitting again, only to find he had dropped four stitches three rows back. "Goddammit, how did I do that," he muttered to himself as he unraveled.
Eames finished the sock just before Arthur surfaced again.
"You eat shark, Eames, right?"
"Sure. What kind did you get?"
"Hammerhead. It seems they're not quite as gone as I thought they were." Arthur grimaced. "You wanna grab it? I don't think I have enough leverage to get it into your boat."
"Yeah," Eames carefully leaned over and hauled the hammerhead out of Arthur's arms. "That'll top me off for the day," Eames arranged the hammerhead in the bottom of the boat. "Thanks, Arthur."
"Not a problem, sharpteeth," Arthur smiled. "I do hope that the hammerheads are just passing through this time. They're quite a hassle."
"I'm sure they are. Do you know how many there are?"
"Not really. This guy was just hanging around eating my fish, so I snuck up and killed him, but I could smell that more had been there."
"Hm. That's unfortunate."
Eames began on the other sock when no more conversation was forthcoming. Arthur rested his elbows on the boat and watched Eames work.
They stayed silent for a long while after that, Eames knitting and Arthur watching. It wasn't an awkward silence, as Eames found so many silences with Arthur to be, and for that Eames was incredibly happy. It was actually very comfortable.
Arthur sighed as he adjusted his position against the boat, and Eames flicked his eyes towards him, drawn by the movement. Arthur was wearing his fond expression again with just enough of a smile to reveal one of his dimples, his eyes on Eames' fingers as they worked the needles. Eames' fingers tripped just then, as Eames wasn't paying them very much attention, and Arthur's eyes flicked up to meet Eames'.
Eames blushed and turned back to his sock hastily. iOh god,/i Eames thought, iArthur knows that I'm gay, now, what if he thinks I like him and gets offended? This is terrible, why did I ever say that? Fuck fuck, he must-/i
"Eames, you can't honestly think I mind," Arthur yawned, breaking up Eames' panic attack before it could properly begin. "I mean, seriously, how much of every conversation do I spend staring at you?"
"Uh, a lot?" Eames ventured once it became apparent Arthur was waiting for an answer.
"Exactly. I feel quite the opposite, lionfins, I assure you."
Eames glanced to the side to see Arthur smirking at him once again before turning back to his half finished sock and fiddling with his needles, a blush creeping across his face.
"Um, do you, I mean, by that do you mean that you don't mind, or that you, ah, well," Eames scratched the back of his head and tried to think of a way to word the question without actually questioning Arthur's heterosexuality, "um, that you... you know," he slumped, giving up.
"Eames, look at me."
Eames complied. Arthur had one eyebrow raised, and he looked extremely unimpressed.
"That is the stupidest question I have heard in a long time. There is ino way/i that you don't know the answer by now."
That actually hurt a lot more then Eames thought it would. Apparently he had developed a massive crush at some point during the last two weeks. "A-Alright," Eames hunched over his knitting again.
"That's... it?" Arthur sounded unsure.
"What where you expecting?" Eames bit out, more vicious then he meant to be. Or maybe not. He hadn't decided yet.
"I- I guess I'm not sure..."
Eames almost thought Arthur's voice wavered at the end, but that would be ridiculous. Arthur's voice would never waiver. He ignored Arthur, who kept shifting against the boat, to the best of his ability, concentrating on making ever stitch in this stupid sock absolutely perfect.
Eames finished the sock without another word breaking the tense silence. There were probably three hours of daylight left, but Eames had no reason to stay out any longer. It would probably take a good hour to row back in, anyways, thanks to his angry burst of energy this morning.
"I'm heading back in," Eames put away his knitting.
Eames chanced a glance at Arthur. Arthur looked confused and... hurt, somehow. Eames grit his teeth. What right did Arthur have to look sad? He wasn't the one who's first crush in years told him he was stupid to even consider that he would go out with him.
Eames put out his oars abruptly and almost hit Arthur in the gut with one of them. He pretended he didn't notice and swung his boat around towards the invisible shoreline. Arthur trailed behind him all the way to the shore. Eames ignored him and Arthur didn't say anything until Eames jumped out of his boat to drag it onto the beach.
"I'll see you tomorrow?"
Eames kept his eyes fixed on his boat and didn't answer. Arthur sighed and shoved himself out towards the open water.
Eames hauled his catch up to the market. Almost no one else had come in yet, so he sold pretty fast. The shark even netted him a little spending money. He bought groceries, bread, milk, an apple and a potato, and walked back up to his shack. Normally, he would've taken his extra money and spent it on frivolous yarn, but there was nothing he felt less like doing tonight. He would probably end up buying the color of Arthur's eyes or something equally depressing.
Instead, he cooked up a fish together with the apple and the potato, ate, and stared into his fireplace for the rest of the evening.
Eames would've liked very much to stay at home all day and mope, but again there was the issue of no money. He would probably buy more fishing line with the extra money from the shark; one of his lines was beginning to fray. Or perhaps a few more hooks, since he was starting to run a bit low. Or maybe new shoes since the soles were trying to fall off of his present pair.
Regardless, that money was needed for something other then a pointless day off, so out Eames went.
Arthur was waiting just beyond the first sandbar again.
"Lionfins?" He sounded despondent.
Eames glared down at him and kept his mouth shut.
"I guess- I guess this is a no, then?" Arthur looked miserable as he said this, breaking off eye-contact and staring at the paddle of Eames' oar as it sliced through the water.
"What are you talking about," Eames snapped.
"Me, Eames, you don't want me."
"What the fuck? Explain yourself."
"Come on, Eames, no one is that oblivious. Just give me an answer, please, yes or no?"
"What do you- Yes, of course I want you!"
"You... do?" Arthur's eyes were wide and incredulous. "But, yesterday, you- what was that?"
"You- you told me I was stupid for thinking you could want me, Arthur, I was a little disappointed!"
"When did I say-" Arthur's jaw dropped as he remembered. "Oh my god, Eames, how could you even think that? Damn it, Eames, I bring you fish everyday! I brought you a squid, which is my favorite thing and is fucking hard to catch! For Christ's sake, Eames, I call you ilionfins/i! How could you think I didn't want you?"
"I- wait, what didn't you tell me about lionfins?"
"It's what ilifemates/i call each other, Eames." Arthur rubbed his hands over his face. "I cannot believe this..."
"So... lifemates would be equivalent to marriage?" Eames was finding this whole conversation massively confusing.
"No, not at all. Terrapeople get married for any number of stupid reasons. Merpeople only become lifemates when they genuinely want to be together for the rest of their lives."
"Well, a lot of people get married for the same-"
"No, Eames," Arthur cut in, "I don't think you quite grasp the importance here. Similar to how you ididn't realize I was courting you when I brought you fish everyday/i." Arthur sighed and buried his face in his hands again, muttering "how is this my life. A terraman. I have no taste. Anyways," Arthur picked up his head, "lifemates. You remember how I told you a bit about merpeople society the first day or two I knew you?"
"How we abandon our children as soon as possible, how we set up territories and drive everyone out the instant they encroach upon our space?"
"We do that because we genuinely don't like being around each other. Relationships are fucking hard when everyone is vicious and massively competitive with an overgrown killer instinct. It's easier to stick to your own patch of ocean and keep everyone else out. Lifemates are people who like each other enough that they would rather stay together and fight then be apart and have peace. There are not very many people who want that, and even fewer who can actually pull it off."
"So, you want us to be lifemates?" Eames asked tentatively.
"Yes, I want that very much."
"Um, we've known each other for two weeks."
"Yes, we have," Arthur looked confused.
"And that doesn't seem like an incredibly short time to you?"
"Not in terms of a relationship it doesn't," Arthur smirked ruefully. "If I can manage to be around someone for more then three hours without a screaming fight, I'm doing good."
"Yeah, now you know how special you are," Arthur smiled. "It probably has something to do with the fact that you are neither vicious nor competitive, and I still haven't seen a fin of your killer instinct.
"But seriously, Eames, this isn't a marriage. There's nothing legally binding you to me. You stay for as long as you want to stay, not a second more. If you ever genuinely want to leave, the last thing I want to do is make you stay. You can swim away whenever you want to. The only reason you would ever stay would be that you love me."
"Ok, that... sounds good to me," Eames offered a shy smile.
"Fantastic," Arthur gave a dimpled grin.
Eames shipped his oars a few strokes later as he hit the proper depth, and Arthur attached himself to the side of the boat.
"Eames," Arthur's eyes were sparkling as he showed himself up to be even with Eames, "I'm going to kiss you now."
"Please do," Eames breathed as Arthur leaned forwards and set his lips against Eames'. Eames pushed back against him, and Arthur threw an arm around Eames' neck for support as he almost fell back into the water.
Eames slid his hands down Arthur's sides until he reached Arthur's hips, where his skin melted into scales. His thumbs stroked over the spot for a moment before gripping and hauling Arthur up onto Eames' lap.
Arthur grabbed Eames' shoulders and flopped for a moment before finding a comfortable position and plunging his long tongue into Eames' mouth.
Eames made a contented sort of noise and reached up to cup Arthur's jaw. He brushed a pinkie over Arthur's gills in the process, causing Arthur to gasp and curve further inwards.
Eames smirked and then cut his tongue on Arthur's teeth.
"Ow," Eames pulled away and stuck his tongue out, trying to see how deep the cut was.
Arthur snorted. "Let me see it, sweetheart," Arthur ran his thumb lightly over Eames' tongue. "You'll be fine, mouth wounds heal quickly."
"It still hurts," Eames kept squinting down at his tongue, trying to see beyond the very tip.
"Well, how about all tongues stay in your mouth from now on to prevent this from happening?" Arthur was dimpling again.
"What? That sounds like a terrible idea," Eames smiled, reaching up to run his fingers over Arthur's gills. Arthur shivered and dropped his head to Eames' shoulder, then mouthed over his jaw, his teeth leaving thin red lines on Eames' skin.
"Oops," he licked over the scratches apologetically. "Sorry, I forgot your skin is so thin."
"No worries," Eames wrapped his arms around Arthur and pulled him tightly to his chest.
"Hey, now, careful with the fin, there, sharpteeth," Arthur plastered himself against Eames, trying to ease the pressure on his dorsal fin.
"Sorry, love, I'm not used to hugging people with fins," Eames loosened his hold.
"No worries," Arthur mimicked, smirking, "I'm sure we'll figure this out someday."
Eames wrapped his hand loosely around Arthur's neck, right over his gills. Arthur's eyes fluttered shut. He slumped onto Eames when Eames rubbed lightly.
"Lionfins," Arthur groaned, "never stop."
Eames grinned and pressed a kiss to Arthur's temple. "Yes, darling, I think we just might."