Author's Note: I got the idea for this after ChibiStarr wrote me an absolutely AMAZING PrussiaxFritz fanfic inspired by the story of "Beauty and the Beast." My original prompt was "a PrussiaxFritz story based on a fairy tale." After a while, I wanted to write something inspired by the story of "The Little Mermaid." Just as a warning though, this is going to be much more like the original fairy tale than the Disney version. It is going to be DARK. In fact, I'm not really sure what the rating should be. I've set it to T for now, but, if you guys think it should be M, please let me know.
This was also inspired by a chapter from my story Born This Hetalian Way, based on Lady Gaga songs from Born This Way. Prussia's track was "Yoü and I," and, in the music video, Gaga appears as a mermaid. You'll find one scene in this to be quite reminiscent of a scene from that music video (Lol, I might have written this whole thing just so I could write that one scene.). When I drew the cover picture for the music video (which can be found on my DeviantART), people said they loved Prussia as a merman. So why not turn him into one in a fic?
Obviously, this is an AU, so please treat it as such. Historical dates and time periods and accuracy mean nothing in this story, and the countries as we know them do not exist.
Other than that, enjoy.
Sea of Sacrifice
If a merperson falls in love with a human, that merperson must murder that human. Otherwise, both the merperson and the human will die horrible, slow, painful, gruesome deaths. These merpeople, who are supposed to be so advanced beyond humans and in total control of their emotions, who are supposed to live for thousands of years, have committed suicide countless times because of the human emotion known as "love."
But that's only because the merpeople aren't as advanced as they believe.
They are much more like humans than they care to admit.
And the humans remain oblivious to the existence of the merpeople.
At least that order remains in tact.
The water suddenly turned cold. A silver-scaled merman turned in shock, his blood red eyes wide and focusing intently on his friend's sad face. The friend swished his green tail back and forth to keep himself stable but also to distract himself from looking at the silver one's distraught face. He didn't see why he had had to be the one to break the news.
"...What are you talking about?" the silver one asked shakily, his pale skin prickling at the thought of Elizaveta dying. "Don't tell me..."
A nod. "It was that human."
"She should have killed it!"
"Of course she should have killed her, Gilbert," the green-tailed one sighed. "But she chose not to. She must have seen how much killing a human messed with Francis and decided not to."
"So she was willing to sacrifice herself? The human was going to die either way! Hell, humans die so easily! No matter what, that human was going to die."
"Don't try to reason with the love emotion, Gilbert."
Gilbert turned away from his friend and angrily swam down towards a pile of rocks sitting on a nearby ledge. Settling his torso on a long, smooth one, he wrapped his tail around a lower cluster and stared down into the gorge below. It seemed to go on forever, emitting a strange darkness. Gilbert mused that such darkness must have been what death was like.
He didn't turn when his friend followed him down. "Do I want to know what happened?"
"I don't think you do."
"Tell me anyway, Antonio."
A sigh. "The human had grown old, like a human so typically does. When Elizaveta heard that she was close to death, she pulled herself out of the sea and tried to drag herself inside the castle where she lived."
Gilbert stopped him. "Castle?"
"The human was apparently a queen named Maria Theresa."
"However, before Elizaveta could even make it inside, a group of human guards found her and beat her senseless. They feared her, for they had never seen a merperson before."
"Pfft, humans are so stupid."
Antonio shrugged. "Can you blame them? They're not supposed to know about us. They hanged her by her tail, upside-down, and beat her with planks, spikes, and spears until she died. She's still hanging there, too, broken and bloodied. The humans believe that, if they show us what they did to one of us, it will be prevent more of us from appearing. Apparently, we are bad luck to them. And, also, the queen was supposedly dead long before Elizaveta pulled herself out of the water."
Gilbert rested his cheek against the cold rock beneath him and closed his eyes. "So she died meaninglessly," he murmured. "How sad."
Antonio nodded. "Roderich is in tears. He loved her so much."
"She should have gone to Roderich. Then she would still be alive."
"And Roderich is cursed to live for several thousand more years with such sadness. There's no way he's going to ever fall in love with anyone else, especially a human, not after having loved Elizaveta."
Gilbert yawned sleepily. "I bet he wishes there was another way for us to commit suicide. Shame falling in love with a human and not killing that human is the only way."
Antonio narrowed his eyes. "You really feel no sympathy for any of them, do you?"
"They were stupid! Foolish!" He opened a red eye and glared at his friend. "Merpeople are not supposed to fall in love with humans, they know that! Yet Elizaveta went ahead and died for no reason. Now she's caused endless suffering to those around her! Why should I have any sympathy for her?"
Antonio angrily smacked his tail against Gilbert's back. "And what about our friend Francis? He fell in love with that human girl, what was her name...Jeanne? Anyway, he killed her with his own two hands. He burned her alive! Now he's alive but is it worth it? He has been miserable ever since, wracked with guilt!"
"Such is also part of the curse," the albino murmured, closing his eyes again and resting himself comfortable against the rocks. "Now leave me alone. All this talk of humans and their love is depressing me."
He was asleep before Antonio left.
More than any of the other merpeople, Gilbert loved to cause mischief. Priding himself of his ability to make his way into merpeople's minds and get under their scales, chaos was something he delighted in. Up until recently, Roderich and Elizaveta had been his favorite targets for his tricks, but Elizaveta's death had caused him to grow bored with taunting Roderich. The merman barely reacted anymore, too deep in his sadness to bother with such insignificant things as Gilbert's pranks. The albino had not taken well to the dark blue-tailed merman's apathy, and, as a result, he had been forced to seek out other victims.
But no one was nearly as fun as Roderich. And he had a feeling that no one else ever would be. No one else would shout at him in such a feminine way and blush a shade of pink that rivaled the coral of the far off oceans. No one would appear so flustered and wave his or her hands about in a way that resembled the surface world's trees thrashing about in a violent storm. Nope, no one would ever react to Gilbert's tricks the way Roderich did. The thought both depressed and irritated the albino merman. Didn't Roderich know it was his job to amuse him?
And, so, one afternoon, Gilbert swam to the surface, far away from the other merpeople. If a merperson would not keep Gilbert occupied, the pathetic humans would, he decided. They had no choice.
When Gilbert finally peeked over the water and took in the sight before him, he grinned. He had risen near a small yet elaborate castle. The sand of the nearby beach crept up towards the lush grass that surrounded the structure, creating a direct pathway from a back door to the water. Looking out over the water was a large balcony, connected to a bedroom, but Gilbert couldn't see much more than the bed from his low position in the water. He shrugged and swam towards the shore, keeping his head half in the water and his tail quiet so no one would spot him.
Despite his stealth, Gilbert found his efforts were unnecessary, as he couldn't see any humans. None walked the shores behind the castle, none rested on the balcony, and he couldn't see any in the distance. This confused the merman greatly. He wondered if the castle had been abandoned. Curious, he swam closer to the shore, not bothering to hide the splashing of his tail, and sat on the sand next to a pile of rocks, just in case he needed to hide himself again. Water splashed around him as the tide came in, keeping his tail wet, allowing him to stay in his spot. He watched the shore silently and soon found himself taken in by the beauty of the surface world. The grass was brighter and softer than the kelp of the water world, the sky was bluer and brighter without the blur of water, and the castle itself seemed to sparkle in the warm sunlight. Gilbert couldn't remember the last time he had felt this warm.
However, such petty things were of no interest to him. If there were no humans on this land, this land was no place for him. He yawned and turned to push himself back into the water.
Only to stare into a human boy's eyes.
Gilbert froze, his eyes growing wide and his blood running cold. His skin prickled ominously, and his tail twitched. His brain screamed at him to pull the human boy into the water and drown him quickly, before any other humans showed up. But something was stopping him. Something about the boy's twinkling, blue eyes stopped him from murdering him on the spot. They held a sort of innocence about them, and Gilbert decided to test the quality.
"You cannot tell anyone about me," he hissed, grabbing onto the boy's shirt collar and dragging him close to his face. "If you do, I'll kill you."
Suddenly, the boy's twinkling eyes dulled to a bland shade of dark gray, and his expression depressed. He looked down at Gilbert's hand on his collar and miserably murmured, "Then kill me."
"Do you plan on telling other humans about me?"
The boy shook his head. "I want to die."
The statement surprised Gilbert. He knew that humans often wished for death, but he had never heard of a mere human child wishing such. He narrowed his eyes, which had turned a fierce shade of crimson in the midst of his adrenaline rush at being discovered. Gently, he let go of the collar and let the boy stand in the shallow water.
The boy looked up at him with helpless, watery eyes. "Well?" he whimpered. "Are you going to kill me?"
Gilbert shook his head. "I want to know why such a young human wants to die."
For a few long moments, the boy was quiet, looking down at the sand swishing about below the gentle rocking of the tides. His eyes followed the line of Gilbert's tail from his torso to his fins, and he shrugged. "I don't want to be hurt anymore. I don't want to live with my father anymore." He looked back up at Gilbert. "I'd much rather die among something as beautiful as a merman."
At this, Gilbert felt a light, gentle warmth spread over his face, and he fought the blush that stubbornly insisted on appearing. Once he regained his composure, he sighed. "Look, kid, I came to the surface in hopes of pranking a few stupid humans. I have no interest in killing any, not today. Go back to the castle and forget what you've seen."
The look on the boy's face almost broke Gilbert's heart. Almost. The boy's eyes watered again, and his lip quivered with sadness. He looked up at the merman with an expression of disappointment, as if he had truly wanted and believed that Gilbert would kill him. "I'd much rather spend time with you," he said quietly, "if I may. I don't want you to leave. I saw you out here as I was running out of the castle from the door over there." He pointed over the rocks towards a wooden door that was obviously for servants' use. "I was running away from my father, and I saw you. I thought you were an angel sent to save me, but, if you're meant to kill humans, well, either one is fine really. Just...I want you to stay."
This was getting dangerous. Gilbert had already committed a sin by being spotted by a human and not killing it. If he spent much more time with the boy, he feared he would begin to develop feelings for him. No, wait, he wasn't afraid of that. There was no way he would ever develop feelings at all, much less for a human. Even if the boy's expression was adorably pathetic, he was still a mere mortal human. He was not worth himself dying. No human's life would ever be worth his death. He nodded to himself to confirm this and pushed the human onto dry land. "I'm not in the mood to play with you. You're disturbing me. You sound far too mature for your age, and the fact that you want to die is depressing me. Go away! If I see you again, I'll kill you without a second thought, but I won't grant you your wish of dying with a merperson. You'll die slowly, painfully, this much I can assure you!" He slapped his tail against the water and splashed the boy as he jumped back below the surface, leaving the poor boy wet and alone and still wishing for death.
Gilbert never at any point considered the possibility of the young boy's eyes haunting him, but they did. That night, as he attempted to fall asleep upon his favorite rock pile, the one next to the deep gorge, the image of the young boy's eyes kept appearing in his mind. Large, innocent, as blue as the sea Gilbert inhabited, they refused to leave him alone. He angrily smacked his tail against the rocks and lifted himself up as he looked towards the surface.
"I must be crazy," he whispered angrily as he began to swim towards it.
When he reached the surface, he kept the lower half of his head in the water again, just so that his eyes could scan the human world. He was in the middle of nothing, as he couldn't see any sign of land. There weren't even any boats sailing nearby.
"I swam further out today than I thought," he muttered to himself, diving back under the water. He watched the waters around him, and they were calm, so he swam off towards where he had risen to see the land with the castle and the young boy.
What he couldn't understand was why.
By the time he reached the castle, the sun was beginning to peek out over the horizon. Gilbert lifted his head up out of the water saw the castle. Good, at least he was in the right place. Quietly, he swam towards the shore but stopped short suddenly. The little boy was walking along the sands, collecting seashells and picking up the occasional sticks, tossing them over his shoulder if he found them not suitable for whatever reason. When he spotted one he liked, he set the seashells down and began to draw something in the sand.
For a long while, Gilbert just watched him, mesmerized. For a young child, he was incredibly focused on the task at hand, adding details and designs to his drawing. Even from his spot out in the water, Gilbert could see that his hand's movements were studied and sure of themselves. This boy knew exactly what he was doing.
And then, without a warning, the boy threw the stick aside and ran into the water, diving below for a moment before surfacing and taking a deep breath. He whipped his head back and forth frantically, as if searching for something. With a look of disappointment on his face, he dove back underneath the water but did not resurface right away.
Gilbert began to panic. Without a rational thought in his merman mind, he dove under the water and forced himself to swim as fast as he could, until he spotted the boy. However, when he did, his mind went into overdrive, as the boy was falling further and further down into the water's depths. Gilbert grabbed him and pulled him up to the surface, nearly throwing him on the sand. The shock of the impact caused the boy's eyes to open, and he took a huge breath, coughing up water. For some reason, the sight of the boy breathing allowed Gilbert to relax. Humans were so pathetic, even more pathetic than he had originally thought. Merpeople could breathe both below and above the water. What was taking the humans so long to develop such an ability?
When the boy finally calmed down, he steadied himself in a sitting position and stared at Gilbert, his eyes focused only on the albino merman in surprise. "You saved me," he whispered. "Why? I thought you said you'd kill me if you saw me again."
Gilbert frowned and wrinkled his nose. He had hoped that the kid would have forgotten, and he hated when others pointed out his mistakes and contradicting statements.
Thinking fast, he came up with a response. "You said that you wanted to die among the merpeople, and I was not about to grant you your wish."
The boy smiled. "You're right. I was hoping to find you. I was hoping you'd be the last thing I would see before death."
"Crafty little thing," Gilbert replied, smirking. "Then you would have won. Heh, I didn't give you enough credit. I thought only I could have come up with something as cunning as that." He pondered the situation for a moment, and his smirk disappeared. "I still can't believe that you want to die though."
The boy shook his head. "I don't want to die anymore."
"I want to live so I can continue to see you."
The breath caught in Gilbert's throat, and he stared at the young boy as if in a trance. His words had been so innocent, so sincere, and Gilbert couldn't help but wonder if he had truly just saved a human's life twice. For the first time, Gilbert saw the boy smile a true, genuine smile. His blue eyes, still as blue as the seas below, began to sparkle with the early morning sunlight, and Gilbert found he simply could not look away. He bit his lip and finally let out a shaky breath. He jested with himself, realizing that, even though he could breathe water and air, a young human boy had finally caused him to lose his so-called "advanced" ability.
Despite all that though, Gilbert found himself smiling as well. "I am hardly allowed to have a relationship, any kind of relationship really, with a human, but I've never been one to follow the rules." His smile quickly became a smirk as he formulated a plan. He would see the boy, yes, but he would only make the boy believe that he had feelings for him. When the right time came, Gilbert would indeed kill him. He'd kill him with his own two hands, just like a merperson discovered by a human was supposed to do. He didn't think of what would become of the boy's family. Based on his words, he did not seem to have much of one anyway, if his father's cruelty had made him want to die. No, what thrilled him more was the prospect of cheating death and guilt. He would never end up like Elizaveta or Francis, and to boast about his ability to have a relationship with a human and not meet a tragic end would be the most satisfying boast ever. He nodded subtly at his plan. It was all too perfect. Make the boy think he had feelings for him, kill him, and make a bit of mischief along the way. Nothing better.
"What's your name, boy?"
The years seemed to pass by in an instant. Before Gilbert knew it, Frederick had grown into a young, strong, handsome man. His face was more mature, and, despite his short stature, his body had become graceful and elegant. However, despite the obvious changes that came with a human boy growing into a man, Frederick's eyes still sparkled and radiated such a bright blue that Gilbert could have sworn they had been born of the sea. Perhaps that was why he felt so comfortable around this human. Being around him was like being at home.
One afternoon, Frederick walked down to the shore and found Gilbert sitting on a low pile of rocks set behind the large stones where he had first seen him, gently slapping his tail against the water. Every so often, he would splash his tail more forcefully, causing little droplets of water to run down his silver scales. Frederick watched with undivided attention as they seemed to glow, reflecting light like a thousand little moons. He suddenly longed to see his friend at night.
"Are you sure you should be out of the water like this?" he asked gently so as not to surprise the merman. "Anyone could just walk by and see you."
Gilbert turned and smirked, slapping his tail especially hard against the water and causing a sort of wave to splash up onto his tail. The water even made it up to his pale, milky chest and ran down his pectorals, to his abs, down to his tail. Frederick swallowed hard as he watched the water drip back into the seas below. He had always believed his friend was beautiful, but, lately, he had been convinced beyond any sort of doubt. With the maturation of his body had come a maturation of his desires. He had never told Gilbert that it was his bedroom connected to the balcony that overlooked the water, and he had recently found himself staring out at the seas and fantasizing about his merman friend.
Fantasizing in less than innocent ways.
He certainly had wondered if his feelings were moral, but he had not paid much attention to such thoughts. Not when he was distracted by the overwhelming feelings of passion that had taken over his mind.
But he was not alone at the moment, he reminded himself. He swallowed hard and focused back on Gilbert's haughty smirk.
"I'll just kill 'em," the merman said as if it were the most natural response in the world.
Frederick shook his head. "I'd rather if you didn't."
Gilbert shrugged. "No, I wouldn't kill 'em, not if you wanted me to. I'm fine. Humans are so stupid; no one would ever think to look behind these rocks. Remember, you're the only one here who knows I exist." He pushed himself off the rock and into the water. "What kind of human would be able to swim here? And then what kind of human would just sit up here instead of rushing to shore?"
"I suppose you're right."
"Of course I'm right."
Frederick let out an amused sigh, and he watched Gilbert settle himself on the underwater sands near the shore. Curious, he crouched down next to him. "I'd like to bring you up on land here. May I?"
Gilbert shook his head. "I need to stay wet. Well, my tail does." He pointed to it, as it was completely underwater. "Needs salt water, too. Trust me, it's not pretty when a merperson's tail dries out, and I'd rather not go into the details." What he didn't tell Frederick was that, even though a merperson's tail could dry out and cause great pain, it would never kill a merperson. No, only falling in love with a human could kill a merperson. He swished his tail underneath the water and sighed. "I'd like to go on land though."
"What if I wrapped you in a wet towel?" Frederick asked a little too eagerly.
Gilbert was quiet, considering the proposal. He had never tried it before, obviously, but, if the towel truly was fully wet, it would probably keep his tail wet for a little while at least. And he certainly was interested in seeing as much of the surface world as possible without being spotted by other humans. His lips curled into a small smile, and he nodded. "We could try that, yes."
An excited grin broke out on Frederick's face. He placed his hands on Gilbert's shoulders and nodded back. "I have another idea, too. Wait here for me, okay? It'll take a while, but I think it will be for the best." He pat Gilbert's shoulders and ran off to a nearby shed, returning quickly with a bucket. He ran to the water and filled the bucket, winking at Gilbert before he ran off in another direction.
Gilbert waited patiently, which even surprised him. The mischief-loving merman had never been one for patience, but something about Frederick's enthusiasm and smiling face made him want to obey any command the human gave him. He didn't even think about how pathetic he believed humans were, and the fact that his entire outlook on his relationship with Frederick never really crossed his mind. He just sat in the water, occasionally hiding himself if he ever saw another human.
Eventually, Frederick returned with a towel. A bright smile lit up his flushed face, he was sweating, and he seemed out of breath. Gilbert cocked an eyebrow at him. "Are you okay?" he asked. Seeing his human friend in such a state made him even more curious as to just what he had planned for him.
Frederick nodded. "I'm fine, don't worry." He knelt down and completely submerged the towel in the salt water, making sure it was sopping wet when he took it out. Satisfied with his work, he moved over to Gilbert. "Here, place your arms around my neck. I'll pull you out of the water and wrap the towel around you." His voice was so excited that Gilbert almost laughed. He sounded more childish as a young adult than he ever had as an actual child.
Gilbert did as he was told, and Frederick lifted him out of the water, quickly folding the soaked towel over his tail. After taking a moment to stabilize himself, he started walking around the castle, just letting Gilbert look and occasionally ask questions.
Sadly, because other humans had started to emerge, Gilbert found himself disappointed in that he could not see everything Frederick's world had to offer. It was a strange feeling, one he never thought he would experience. Only a few short years ago, he had felt nothing for the human race, completely indifferent to whether it lived or died out. He had, as a merman, felt himself superior to humans, but, all of a sudden, he was completely captivated by their world.
Only he wasn't. Only Frederick had captivated him. But he wouldn't know and admit that until much, much later.
In order to escape the eyes of other humans, Frederick carried his merman friend down a short path to an abandoned farmhouse. It was on the outskirts of a nearby, sparsely populated village, so the chances of anyone stopping by were quite slim. Gilbert's eyes scanned the rundown structure, watching as scraps of wood fell over and sunlight streamed through the holes in the walls. In an odd way, it was charming, but he would never say that aloud.
He looked up at Frederick and was about to say something when he saw Frederick's beaming smile. "I planned to bring you here at the end of the tour anyway," he explained. "Look, I put this together for you." He walked over to a metal tub full of water, and Gilbert gasped, understanding what he meant. After all, the bucket his human friend had kept filling with sea water was next to it.
"Oh man," he whispered, "that is awesome..."
"Here, let's get you in." Frederick removed the towel from Gilbert's tail and set the merman down in the water. Gilbert splashed around a bit once he was settled and nearly squealed with joy. The noise he did make made Frederick laugh. "You're happy, I take it?"
"This is one of the most awesome things anyone has ever done for me," Gilbert explained, smiling like a child on Christmas Morning. His head quickly darted around the room, taking in all the little sights. The hay barrels scattered about, the dry dirt on the ground, the bugs flying in circles, all of it was so incredible. This world was small, but it was a world he had never seen before, and that was enough to make it amazing. He looked back at Frederick, who had a sweet, warm smile on his face. "Thank you."
The soft, loving way Frederick had replied made Gilbert immediately relax. He leaned back in the tub and stared up at the ceiling. Yes, it looked like it was about to cave in, but neither one of them cared. Gilbert actually sort of wanted it to cave in. He had seen hundreds of shipwrecks fall apart on the ocean floor, but he had never seen something fall apart on land before. He wondered how similar and how different structures falling apart looked in the two worlds.
Frederick, however, was only staring at Gilbert's long, pale, elegant neck.
Gilbert's eyes quickly shifted to meet Frederick's gaze, and the young man gasped in surprise. He turned away urgently and bit his lip, hoping the merman hadn't noticed. How strange it would be, a human in love with a merman, a mythical creature the human world didn't even know existed. Yes, that was what he tried to tell himself. It would be wrong. And, on top of all that, he was a prince, the heir to the throne. He had to marry and take his place as a king, but he had never told Gilbert that. One day he would. Maybe. Just...not now.
"You were staring at me."
Frederick felt like he was going to be sick.
But he didn't have much time to think. Gilbert suddenly grabbed his shirt collar and pulled him into the tub with him. Water overflowed and splashed out the sides, but there was still enough left to keep Gilbert submerged. Frederick held onto him for dear life, a dark pink blush coloring his face. He stared at the merman, holding his gaze as if their eyes were magnets drawn to one another. Gilbert's eyes were deep red, the color of blood around the edges and rich garnet closer to the center. No human could ever have eyes as passionate and full of drive as Gilbert's. They were just another part of his magical, mythical self from which Frederick just could not pull himself away. He audibly gulped and moved his face closer to the merman's, marveling at the feel of hot breath against his lips. So Gilbert really could breathe on land. It fascinated him.
Meanwhile, Gilbert had completely forgotten everything about sins, laws, and his original plans to fool and kill Frederick. All that mattered in that moment was the beautiful human on top of him and gorgeous setting around them. He lifted his head slightly and whispered against Frederick's lips, "I never said I didn't like it."
Frederick didn't need to hear anything else. He crashed his lips down upon Gilbert's and ran his fingers through his silky, silver hair. Gilbert kissed back with just as much force, bringing his arms up around Frederick's neck and pulling his long, chestnut hair out of its ponytail. As Frederick brought his hands down to caress Gilbert's neck and collarbones, Gilbert responded by threading his own fingers through Frederick's hair. He then brought his hands down to rip the human's shirt open, lightly pressing against his chest and abs, absolutely fascinated by the human body. He only possessed the top half of such. He wondered...what was the bottom half like?
But, before he could ponder that too deeply, Frederick pulled away and brought one of his hands to his kiss-swollen lips. Wide-eyed, he stared at Gilbert, who stared back at him with equally wide eyes. Both panted heavily, waiting for something to happen. What? Neither one knew...
"How...?" Frederick breathed. He didn't have to say anything else for Gilbert to understand what he meant.
The merman shrugged. "Does it matter? Just...move." He trailed his fingers back down Frederick's chest and abs, up to his pants. He gently tugged on the edge of the fabric and licked his lips.
No more words were said. None had to be, not until Frederick wrapped Gilbert back up in the wet towel and brought him back to the shore.
The merman was about to swim off when the human grabbed his arm and forced him to look at him. Their eyes met and Frederick licked his lips.
"Please," he whispered, "please come see me again. Please..."
Gilbert went completely silent, yanked his arm away, and dove back beneath the waves.
Gilbert didn't return to the surface for several years.
The memory of his passionate afternoon with Frederick haunted him, refusing to leave his mind to the point that he found himself trying with all his might to pull his tail apart so he could have some sort of relief. The human body was unlike anything he had ever seen or experienced before. The young, living human body anyway. He had seen naked humans before, but that had usually been because they had drowned and fallen to the ocean floor. Those human bodies were disgusting, and they always reminded Gilbert of just how superior he was, that he could stay underwater for the entirety of his millennia-long life without a care in the world.
But Frederick's young, living body...that had been something else entirely. He was a small man, his height well below the average for a man of his age and national background, but Gilbert didn't care. He was everything right about humans. Elegant, graceful, healthy, young, strong, did Gilbert dare to say it? Yes. Beautiful. He was sure he would never find another specimen quite like his friend.
Gilbert had been so caught up in his thoughts over the years that the other merpeople had taken notice. They stopped preparing themselves for pranks and jokes, and they let their guards down whenever the albino merman was around. There was no point in caution anymore, not with Gilbert losing himself in such deep thoughts and attempting to sleep off the less than innocent ones.
One day, when Gilbert was sitting on his favorite rock pile next to the gorge, he heard swishing coming from behind him. It was Francis. Gilbert turned to meet his gaze only to see that his friend's eyes were red and puffy. His hair, which was usually styled and decorated so elaborately with pearls and sea flowers, was a plain mess, and he didn't seem too bothered by it. Obviously, something was horribly wrong for him not to care about his physical appearance.
Gilbert's eyes widened and his jaw went slack. "Arthur?" he repeated. "Wait, the blond guy with the thick eyebrows?"
"He supposedly had fallen in love with a woman named Elizabeth," Francis explained quietly. "He never told any of us. He thought he'd have a chance with her because she never married, but something like that doesn't matter. When he heard that she had died, he pulled himself on land and was trampled by the people running to mourn their queen. Then...the guards..." Francis slapped his hands over his mouth as if he were about to be sick. "The guards found him," he continued, "and they threw his remains back into the ocean! I just saw Arthur float down to the ocean floor...in pieces!"
Suddenly, Gilbert thought he was going to be sick as well. The image was quite graphic in his mind, and he feared how the reality looked. He tried to shake the image away, but it stubbornly stayed, and he looked up at Francis with pained eyes.
"Why tell me?" he gasped.
Francis immediately swam close to his friend and took him by the shoulders. "I can't let that happen to you," he nearly sobbed. "No, Arthur and I, while we may have been rivals...we were close! It was a friendly rivalry, the same as us. I can't imagine losing you in such a way!" He pulled Gilbert into his arms and hugged him lovingly. "Please, Gilbert, kill that human you've been seeing. I won't lose anymore friends. We can live with the guilt of our past lovers together, just don't die!"
The albino forcefully pushed Francis away, a horrified look on his face. He stared at the blond in bewilderment and asked, "How do you know I've been seeing a human?"
"I know a merperson in love when I see one."
"Yes, you are, Gilbert! I'm telling you that you are! You must kill the human so that you may live. I promise, I'll match you up with the prettiest mermaid or the most handsome merman you've ever seen, other than yourself. I promise, I swear, I'll do it, just kill the human!"
Gilbert smacked one of Francis's arms. "You don't tell me what to do," he hissed. "I was going to kill him anyway, so there! What I choose to do is none of your business!" And, with that, he swam off as fast as he could, making his way towards the surface, near the castle where he had been seeing Frederick.
Francis watched him until he was out of sight. He then dropped his head and let himself fall onto the rock pile, rubbing his pink cheeks against the cool, smooth stone. Closing his eyes, he let out a strangled sob and let his arms flop to the smaller rocks before.
"It'll be okay," he shakily whispered, hiccuping every so often. "It'll be okay...at least I'll have Antonio..."
After the quarrel with Francis, Gilbert spent nearly all his time above the surface, near the castle, but Frederick never appeared. A million thoughts ran through the merman's mind. Was he dead? Had he moved? Did he hate him? Yes, he hadn't returned to the surface for years since their little...moment, but that had only been because he had been so flustered and conflicted! He had sworn that he would kill Frederick, just like he was supposed to, but he had never counted on...falling in love with the man!
There was no more point in trying to deny it, too. Gilbert was in love with Frederick.
The days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months. Gilbert remained at the surface, watching for any sign of his lover. He kept in mind that Frederick likely had aged, but he wasn't sure of just how much. How much time had passed? Because merpeople aged so slowly over thousands of years, Gilbert had never been one to keep track of time. What did the years do to humans, who were considered extremely lucky to live for barely a century?
One day, his questions were answered. Whatever gods were out there must have been smiling upon him, because Frederick appeared at the shore early one morning. He made his way down to where the sand met the sea and stood there, staring out at the calm water, eyes focused yet lost and distant.
Gilbert watched him from behind the rock cluster, taking in all the little details he could see in the low light of the sunrise. More years had passed than he had thought. Frederick's hair was no longer a deep chestnut but a light blond, getting close to gray. His skin had once been so smooth and soft, and Gilbert could see wrinkles forming on his face and hands, the only bits of skin exposed to the elements. He was still rather short, and his movements had lost some of their elegance and grace. He stumbled a little bit when he walked, but he was still able to keep himself upright and stable. In short, he had grown into a more mature man, and he had reached his middle age.
But one thing hadn't changed. Two things, actually. Frederick's eyes, however solemn they were, were still the brightest of blue and still sparkled in the sunlight. Gilbert hoped that would never change.
Cautiously, almost shamefully, he peeked out from behind the rocks and made light splashing noises to grab Frederick's attention. The man immediately turned towards the source of the noises, and his eyes widened, regaining some of their life and shine. Gilbert's heart ached at the sight of them. They were still bluer than the very sea he called home.
"Gilbert..." the man whispered, his voice full of both surprise and love, "oh my, Gilbert, I thought I'd never see you again..."
"I'm so sorry." The albino closed his eyes out of shame and looked away. "Please forgive me for avoiding you for so long. I couldn't..."
"No, it's my fault," Frederick insisted, kneeling down next to the water. He watched as Gilbert swam up to him and set himself beneath the low waves of the early tide. "I shouldn't have done what I did. I just...I was having so many thoughts about you. I couldn't resist you."
Gilbert shrugged, daring to open his eyes again. "It's my fault, too. I was the one who pulled you into that tub. I was the one who tempted you and urged you to go so far for my own pleasure. I know that I'm awesome and whatever, but..."
"No." Frederick reached out and placed a finger against Gilbert's lips, shushing him in the sweetest way possible. "No, you're beautiful and you deserve every little bit of pleasure that you experience. Thank you, you were my first, and I can't imagine giving myself to anyone else."
Gilbert wanted to tell Frederick that he felt the same and that that was the very problem, but he kept his mouth shut and just enjoyed the feeling of Frederick's finger on his lips. It had been so long...
Eventually, Frederick pulled his finger away, and Gilbert opened his mouth to speak. "What's happened to you over the years?"
The human bit his lip and dropped his head. "I am a king now."
Gilbert's eyes widened with shock. "What?" he gasped breathlessly. "What? You were...a prince? Set to take the throne next? All those years?"
A nod. "I never told you. I'm sorry." Frederick pointed to the balcony that stretched out above the water. "My bedroom is up there. My father, who made me so miserable for so many years, was the king of this land. He died years ago, and I took the throne. I wish you could have been there! I wished so hard to tell you and show you that he was gone and that it was my turn to rule! I wanted you to know!" He inhaled a shaky breath and tried to ignore his watering eyes. "But you never returned! Not since that day when we made love! I searched for you. I waited here as much as my duties would allow, but you never appeared, and I found myself giving up. I have tried to kill myself so many times..."
"No!" Gilbert snapped, staring up at him with angry, desperate eyes. "No, don't tell me that. You're not allowed to kill yourself, and you're not allowed to die. I'm the only one allowed to kill you, remember? And I'll only do it when I feel like it! Until then, you're not allowed to die!"
"That's the way it works, I've decided!"
It was only after the words left the albino's mouth that he realized what he had said and how loudly he had said it. He clasped his hands over his mouth and stared up at Frederick, who looked positively heartbroken. Both of them knew how foolish Gilbert's reasoning was, but neither of them was ready to say so. How they both wished for his ridiculous thoughts to be true...
Gilbert suddenly turned and pushed himself back into the water. "You're not allowed to die," he threw over his shoulder. "If I come back here and hear that you're dying, oh, you'll regret it! Pathetic human!"
And he dove back under the water.
Frederick finally let the tears in his eyes fall.
The longer he stayed beneath the waves, avoiding Frederick, the longer the man would live. That was Gilbert's belief, and he was not ready to change his mind. Even as several more years passed, so many years, decades even, he still refused to return to the surface. He was the only one allowed to kill Frederick, and the man would die by his hand and his hand only. He would kill the pathetic human whenever he felt like it and save himself, continuing to live for thousands of years without a care in the world. He would go back to pranking the other merpeople, scaring them to death, as it had been so long since he had done anything to toy with them. Perhaps Roderich would be over Elizaveta soon. Perhaps he would become Gilbert's favorite target again, for his over-the-top reactions to the simplest of jokes.
Perhaps everything would be the way it once was.
Gilbert couldn't torment himself anymore. He swam for the surface and took in a sweet breath of clean air, looking up at the castle. The moon cast an eerie glow on the water, and the stars shone brilliantly against a pitch black sky. The water was unusually calm. No, most humans did not venture out on the water in the middle of the night, but no life seemed to exist at all. Even the aquatic life that was only active at night seemed to have all but disappeared. For the first time, Gilbert felt as though he was truly alone.
He shrugged his shoulders and looked back down into the water. There was no way Frederick would be out at this time of night. The sun was nowhere near close to rising. Letting out a sigh of disappointment, Gilbert went to dive back beneath the waves when a horrible thought struck him.
What if Frederick never appeared on the shore again?
He jerked his head up towards the balcony, eyes wide with fear and skin twitching with anticipation. His tail suddenly felt much heavier on his lower half, and he swallowed the lump rising in his throat. The thought terrified him, and he stared at the balcony, hoping to see some sort of life emerge from it.
Without thinking, Gilbert practically propelled himself towards the shore and hoisted himself up out of the water. Never before had he been on land without any sort of watery aid. He grimaced at the feeling of the dry sand coating his tail, but he ignored it and began pulling himself towards the back door that led into the castle. Grunting from the effort, he reached up to the knob, turned it, and fell forward as the door opened to reveal a cellar-like room. Mustering up all his strength, Gilbert pulled himself into the room and dragged himself across the floor to the door on the opposite side, his tail never feeling heavier.
When he finally reached the second door, it opened before he could even touched the knob. At first, his face lit up with anticipation and hope that maybe Frederick was on his way to see him, but he found himself face-to-face with a woman wearing a long, black dress and a white apron. Her eyes widened in horror at the sight of the mythical creature reaching for her, and she ran screaming down a hallway, begging for help. Gilbert watched her, frozen in place for a few seconds, and then pulled himself with all his might down the hallway. No doubt, other humans would soon come and find him, and he didn't know what they would do with him when they eventually did find him. He shuddered at the thought of never seeing Frederick again and desperately, frantically dragged himself along the floor until he reached a set of stairs.
As soon as he sat himself on the first step, Gilbert smelled something rather foul. The scent was more unbearable than anything he had ever smelled before. Even the sulfur of active volcanoes smelled better than this! He looked down and himself and nearly cried out of repulsion. It must have taken him longer than he had thought it would to reach his current point, because his tail had dried out, and it was beginning to rot. He was smelling his own decaying flesh.
His first instinct was to pull himself back towards the water and hope he could save himself, but he couldn't imagine living without ever seeing Frederick again. He sucked in his tears and pulled himself to the second step when he heard several loud, heavy footsteps enter the room. When he turned, he saw nearly a dozen human men, their eyes locked on him and his rotting tail.
"Please," he gasped, gazing at them with longing, devastated eyes, "please don't kill me. Please, I need to see him. I need to see Frederick..."
The looks he received in response made his heart break, but they were not unexpected. The humans were utterly baffled. What was this thing, and why did it want to see their king? Gilbert finally let his tears fall, and he dropped his head, ignoring the fact that his tail was decaying so quickly that bones were beginning to peek out from underneath the scales.
"I need him," he sobbed, "just one last time..."
Gilbert was fully prepared for rejection. He was ready for the humans to grab him and beat him, chop him up and throw him back in the water. This must have been what had happened to Elizaveta and Arthur. He wondered how far the two of them had gotten before dying. Had they even been able to beg these humans for help? Had they been able to cry out for their loves? He closed his eyes and dropped his body against the stairs, unashamed of his devastated sobs and weakened state. Even if the humans didn't kill him, he didn't have long until his tail completely rotted away.
But then, without a word, one of the men picked Gilbert up and carried him up the stairs. Gilbert slumped against the man's arms and let his head fall back so it was dangling over his elbow. The world was starting to darken, and he wondered if he would make it to Frederick's bedroom in time. His lover had to be alive, if this man truly was taking him to his bedroom.
Gilbert awoke by the sound of doors bursting open, and the human called out for the king. Gilbert opened his eyes the best he could but was unable to hear anything. He barely even registered when the human started moving again, and, before he knew it, he was settled against another human in an armchair.
This human, however, he knew.
"Frederick..." he barely whispered, mustering up all his strength to lift his head and look the man in the eyes. What he saw made even more tears fall. Frederick was an old man, a very old man. His face was covered with wrinkles, and his hair was deathly white and thin. He felt frail, even underneath all the layers of clothing and blankets bundled around him. Gilbert still cried even after the man brought his bony fingers up to his face and wiped the tears away from his cheek.
"Gilbert, my love," he whispered back, voice soft and weak, "I'm...sorry. I'm dying and...you're not the one...killing me."
The scales of Gilbert's tail had completely fallen off him, and the flesh underneath was practically melting away. Even now, the lower part of his human half was beginning to rot, but he didn't care. The merman smiled, happier than he had ever been ever in his life. Pulling the greatest prank in the world on Roderich could never give him this kind of high. He had made it. He was with his one true love, and the two were dying, together.
"I'm dying, too," he whispered back, moving his lips to the old man's. "Let's go...together. We can be together...in the next life."
And that caused a smile to light up on Frederick's face.
But, more than that, the old man opened his eyes one last time.
Even in his dying moments, Frederick's eyes were still the most brilliant blue Gilbert had ever seen. They were bluer than the sea, bluer than the sky, the bluest blue ever.
Gilbert locked gazes with him, even as the passionate flames behind his crimson eyes began to die. But he still smiled. He smiled and brushed his still-soft lips against Frederick's. He whispered the words he never had gotten the chance to say, the words he never thought he would ever say to a human.
"I love you."
Frederick released his last breath into Gilbert's mouth.
"I love you, too."
With the last of their strength, they kissed for the first time in decades.
And died together a second later.
Francis looked up towards the surface as the sun began to rise, smiling. He rubbed his eyes and nodded.
"You told me you were going to kill the human," he laughed quietly. "Liar."
He set himself against Gilbert's favorite rock pile and rested himself against it, still looking up at the surface. His smile widened as an image of his beloved Jeanne passed through his mind. It was then that he realized that he had been the one to make the mistake, and he wished more than anything that he had died for her.
"It was the best lie you ever told. This was your ultimate prank."
Later that day, Francis rose to the surface and swam to the shore near the castle. He took in the building's beauty and looked up at the balcony. The windows were closed, but he understood what was there.
He then swam to a nearby hill and saw a square stone situated on top of it. With tears in his eyes, he dove back beneath the waves and vowed never to surface again.
He wanted to let his friend and his lover be together, to have some peace and privacy.
Even if they could only be buried together in the next world.