(don’t) take this the wrong way (7) (END)
final chapter of dtttww :) i had a lot of fun with this verse so i may take requests set in it in the future, and this might receive some more copy editing later, but for now this is the epilogue!
warnings: mild injury, mild hypnosis, for once no miscommunication :)
[Several months later…]
Sunlight trickled down through the water in wavy bands, illuminating the shallows and growing fainter and fainter as the distance from the surface increased.
Virgil didn’t spend much time in the shallows, too wary of being without escape, being made vulnerable to human vessels or poachers. Despite his dark and gloomy aesthetic, he couldn’t go too far into the depths either, simply because his fragile fish bones weren't built for it. His eyes weren’t built for it either, and down there where anything could be lurking, he would need more than speed to avoid danger.
So, on an average, sunny day like this, he could be found miles offshore, in waters that were easily too deep for unsuited humans to reach, but still well-illuminated by the light above.
There were a few old wrecks scattered about the ocean floor here, and though they’d probably been stripped by a pod in the past, he figured he’d go through them and check for anything that was left behind. Things that weren’t useful to a pod could certainly be things that were useful to him, after all.
He’d been poking through the undercarriage of one of the larger ships for an hour or two, relaxed as he ever got. He could take his time. The only creatures around to judge him were the shoals of fish and layers of barnacles built up amidst the metal, wood, and rust.
Actually… Virgil paused in his inspection of an old cutlery set to glance around.
What had happened to the fish?
Through a hole in the ship’s hull, he watched as a broad shadow passed over the ground and ships alike, large enough to belong to a whale.
There hadn’t been a single shred of whalesong above.
Virgil edged further back from the hole, eyeing the outside warily as the shadow receded, leaving behind only wavering sunlight on sand as though it had never been there at all.
There was nothing here that was worth sticking around.
He carefully made his way back to one of the other exits, in the opposite direction of where he’d seen the shadow head, the strokes of his fin cutting through the water with barely a whisper. The porthole was easily wide enough for him, and the ocean stretched out blue and vast before him, a promise of safety if he just moved fast enough.
A moment’s pause, to make sure he didn’t hear or see anything out of place, and then he was out, flitting from rock outcropping to bone reef and scanning the seas above. Not for the first time, he wished his scales were a little less distinctive in the day.
Behind him, an ominous creak.
He froze, and watched with mounting apprehension as a shadow spilled over him, looming closer and darker than before. The silhouette of an arm stretched out, heading towards him…
“Virgil, you must help,” a huge voice pleaded, “I’ve been had.”
He twisted around just in time to see a huge arm flop down onto the floor next to him, kicking up a cloud of sand and panicked burrower fish in the process.
It was wrapped in heavy wire netting from fingertips to forearm, and behind it, a giant mer was pouting at him with the best seal pup eyes he could manage, which, considering who his best friend was, were fairly potent.
Roman was huge, and he was a shark, with teeth and claws designed to shred and tear, and hands that could enclose him entirely-- but his elbows were braced against the ground with delicate balance so he wouldn’t crush anything, and he’d never grabbed for Virgil past that first disastrous encounter, and even now, his brow was furrowing with worry.
“Pufferfish status?” he asked, voice lowered from the dramatic plea of before.
Virgil’s mouth pulled up at the corners without his permission.
Roman was huge, yes, but he was also theatrical and eager and witty, full of sharp return quips for every barb Virgil had to offer.
He could hurt him, but he wouldn’t. Virgil believed that much.
“Prickly for a second, but I’m smooth now,” he answered, shrugging away the last of the tension. “Try not to sneak up on me without a warning click?”
“You have my word,” Roman replied, and if someone had told him months ago that he’d dare to ask anything of a giant mer, he’d have laughed in their faces. Now, Virgil knew that just like all the other requests, Roman would do his best to heed it.
“But really, my fingers are starting to feel numb. Help?” he entreated with a tilt of his head, shifting his net-wrapped hand a little closer.
Virgil rolled his eyes, but his smile didn’t go away, though it tilted more towards amused now. He darted forward, twisting in a spiral around Roman’s hand to try and see the extent of the damage.
“How’d you even manage this? At least I had the excuse of being caught up in a storm,” he snarked, picking at a loose section with his claws. Roman’s fingers twitched a little, and he shot him an apologetic glance.
“I was… perhaps… trying to get a glimpse of those sailors that Logan mentioned patrolled the coast?” Roman offered, more than a little sheepish.
Virgil’s gaze turned sharp in a heartbeat. “Did they spot you?”
Logan had warned both Patton and Roman several times that not many humans would take as kindly to their long-term existence near human settlements as Logan himself had.
“No!” Roman assured, “I was very stealthy, truly, I was just… so focused on being stealthy that I missed the other vessel and the nets it had dragging along behind it. It could have happened to anyone!”
“I seriously doubt that,” Virgil replied dryly. He’d snapped a few of the looser wires with his teeth, but already his jaw was beginning to ache with the strain. “Well, you get to explain this to Specs, ‘cause we’re going to need his expertise in detangling for this one.”
Roman groaned in answer, dropping his head to plonk against the ground.
Logan carefully set one foot in front of the other, all of his focus on the thin strip of rock below him.
If he switched his gaze to even a few inches to either side, he’d be faced with the sight of a vertigo-inducing drop to the waves below, one that would have all but the most experienced tightrope walkers dizzy with panic.
His gaze didn’t move, though, unerringly focused on the ground beneath him, and on his own body. There was no need to look at anything but the ledge, a soft presence confirmed in the back of his mind, because he wasn’t going to fall.
Another part of him was skeptical, seeing as he wasn’t known for a lack of clumsiness by most. There was just so much to get distracted by, and it was so easy to look away and miss a curb or accidentally trip over his own feet--
But not now. Now, he was focused on just this one task, a gentle voice dragging his attention back whenever it began to stray. He was hyper aware of where each of his limbs were and where he needed to put them to continue forward, step by careful step.
Only a little farther…
The harsh call snapped him right out of the trance, and he was abruptly made very aware of both the distance he could fall and the effects that sudden instinctual terror had on his sense of balance.
“Newton’s fucking Cradle,” he swore, and then wobbled again, precariously close to falling over.
There was the sound of water crashing against rock, and in the next moment, two giant hands had curled up on either side of him like the shells of an oyster. They provided him some much needed stability to lean his weight against, and he struggled to steady his breathing as relief swept through him.
“It’s okay, Virgil, I won’t let him fall! No cliffs, ands, or buts about it,” Patton’s voice was muffled, but not enough to miss the pun.
Logan sighed loudly, but he also shifted to let his full weight rest against the curl of Patton’s left palm, tapping twice to let him know it was alright for him to move.
His stomach still swooped slightly as Patton slowly shifted his hands away from the thin rock ledge, but there were some things that one had to adapt to when living with two very affectionate, grabby sea giants, and being toted around was one of those things.
Before long, he was level with the flattest segment of rock that made up their meeting place, which could be called an island if one was feeling gracious, but was really more of a collection of rocky spires and bridges that stuck out of the ocean.
Logan was barely able to sit up before Virgil pulled himself up at the edge of Patton’s palm, expression thunderous but his hands gentle as he carefully checked him over for scrapes or injuries.
“Nearly gave me a heart attack,” he grumbled, a phrase that he used much more frequently around Logan for some reason. Logan had already been reassured that it was an exaggeration and Virgil had no heart problems he knew of, so instead of worrying, he bore his friend’s fussing with good grace. “Did we or did we not agree that you need a spotter if you want to play around with bullshit sirensong magic?”
The mer paused. “No offense, Pat.”
“None taken!” Patton replied from where he had sunk further into the water to put himself closer to eye-level.
“I figured you would be along shortly,” Logan defended, and then perked up at the reminder of his most recent experiment. “Besides, one of the things tested in this trial was if the siren song could overshadow significant fear or even terror, and I wouldn’t have been nearly as afraid if you’d been there with me.”
“Aw,” Roman cooed, curling his tail up and leaning against one of the larger rock outcroppings, his posture slightly off.
Virgil dragged a hand over his face with a sigh, and then flapped a ‘go on’ gesture at Logan, distracting him. “So, what’d you figure out this time?”
Logan needed no further encouragement.
“Even the lightest application of a siren’s song can overwhelm other emotions,” he started, recalling the utter honed focus he had experienced. “While in the past I’ve felt distant or removed from my body while under its effects, this time I had Patton focus on requesting a very specific task, and due to the intense concentration it took, I was very present in the moment while fulfilling that task.”
“You didn’t snap out of it until I called for you,” Virgil interjected, more curious than wary. “Was it harder than normal to use the grounding tactics?”
One of the first things Logan had investigated was what it took for him to resist and even break free from Patton’s song, a task that Virgil had demanded in order to let him run any experiments with the siren’s magic. Back then, Virgil hadn’t expected Patton to agree, and he’d outright sulked for weeks to cover up the nerves he felt whenever the siren thralled Logan.
“It was,” Logan said, his excitement growing as he considered the new information. “Without significant outside stimulus, all of my attention was focused on the task, and so I couldn’t pull away mentally to do my normal grounding techniques!”
“I’ve never heard someone so excited about being hypnotized better,” Roman commented wryly.
“He should get a hypnoprize,” Patton added, and Virgil grinned, because he was a traitor who enabled Patton’s wordplay habits.
“Is there an award for smart people doing dumb things?” Virgil mused teasingly. “Logan could be voted ‘most likely to throw himself into danger in the pursuit of knowledge.’”
“That’s why he has us, Finding Emo,” Roman countered, gesturing extravagantly with one hand. “We would never abandon him to the cruel clutches of his own nerdiness.”
Logan couldn’t help but feel a thrill of pride at the casual way that Virgil ducked beneath one of Roman’s sweeping gestures, no trace of the blatant fear or suspicion that had been present as recently as a month ago.
They’d really come a long way from the misunderstandings of that first encounter, all of them.
A glint of light at the edge of the shark mer’s submerged forearm caught Logan’s eye, and he frowned. “Roman, what’s happened to your arm?”
Roman’s prideful grin dropped into sheepishness immediately. “Well, about that…”
“Princey here was abandoned to the cruel clutches of his own reckless dumbassery,” Virgil informed him, ignoring Roman’s trill of offense to drift back and shove at the hand in question until Roman finally lifted it, displaying the impressive collection of netting that he’d managed to get tangled in.
“Oh, you poor thing,” Patton clucked sympathetically, and Roman soaked in the attention like a very dramatic sponge. Virgil rolled his eyes even as he sawed at a few of the looser wires, and Logan sighed in fond exasperation as he reached for his pocket knife.
Perhaps some things would never change.
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