Nen's grip slipped away from the blade's handle, and he fell beside Ayunli. Neither of the collapsed mermen moved.

Calder's eyes glanced quickly at Kuval to see his expression change from horror to panic. When Kuval reached for Nen, Calder was tempted to pull Kuval away despite knowing the danger was over. But despite his drive to protect Kuval, he couldn't keep Kuval from tending the friend who'd saved them.

The masked men looked between themselves, uncertain of what to do now that their leader had fallen. If their shock had allowed them to consider escaping sooner, Calder wouldn't have been able to stop them all before they ran. But now palace guards lead by Galen were approaching the dock, apparently summoned by someone who'd seen the commotion from afar.

Calder signaled Galen to point his attention to the masked men who were too late beginning to scatter.

He rested his hand on Kuval's shoulder. "Are they alive?"

"Nen is unconscious." Two of Kuval's fingers pressed below Ayunli's jaw. "But I can barely feel Ayunli's pulse."

.


.

Kuval had found a grassy cliff overlooking the water. The full moon looked down at him while he watched its reflection ripple softly in the water. Calder was with him, but he stayed back giving Kuval the sense of being alone.

It had been several days since the incident on the docks but Kuval still shivered at the memory.

Guards had appeared and taken Ayunli away shortly after he'd fallen. The masked men had been nothing more than farmers hoping to change their fortunes by joining the other side. They would serve lesser punishments than Ayunli who received death at the hand of his brother. Despite immediate treatment, the healer had been unable to save Ayunli from his sentence.

Fortunately Nen hadn't lost his life to his wound. But despite keeping his health, Nen had lost some of the light in his eyes, and Kuval was not ignorant to the reason. Kuval could hardly imagine having to suffer through the betrayal of a brother let along becoming the hand behind his death. Nen had taken the dagger Kuval had dropped and used it on Ayunli.

The brothers attacked each other with the same blade. And Nen had done it for Kuval.

Kuval clutched his knees closer to his chest as he remembered what Nen had told him that morning. Nen had loved Kuval and admitted that he probably still did. His love forced Nen to choose between his brother and Kuval. No wonder their people feared love when it could lead to such horrifying decisions. But Nen assured Kuval that he didn't regret what he'd done nor did he regret how he felt.

Nen left in the morning on a ship heading to the mainland though he hadn't known where he would go from there.

Calder must have heard Kuval sigh because he sat beside him letting their legs rest together.

"Are you thinking about going home?" Some unease leaked into Calder's voice.

It was late enough into the night that if Kuval slipped into the water now he would grow back his fins.

Kuval shook his head. "No, there is too much to be done before I go home."

Calder's shoulders relaxed.

At some point Emera had noticed what was between Calder and Kuval, and after the shock of the events had worn off, she had asked Kuval to be the ambassador. Kuval had immediately accepted though it had taken a while to convince his parents. Kuval had sat on a deck for hours while his parents poked their heads from the water to speak with him.

The key reason they had finally approved was because Kuval would help create trade agreements between the two societies. It had been Calder's idea to offer land fruit in exchange for delonchie, which would help with the human's fish shortage.

Though they'd finally agreed to the idea, Kuval's parents had seemed nearly ready to pull him back into the water when it became clear his new position as ambassador would mean he wouldn't be reattempting the pairing ceremony right away. Though living on land was not the true reason, Kuval knew he would have to wait a while till his parents were ready to hear he'd paired himself with a human.

Kuval leaned against Calder and enjoyed the warmth rolling off the man's skin.

"But I should probably visit on the next full moon." Kuval said.

Calder made a disapproving sound that made Kuval laugh.

"You don't have to look so pathetic." Kuval teased. "I need to visit my family at some point or they'll think I've been kidnapped. And I'll only be gone one moon cycle."

"I'd rather be accused of kidnapping you than let you go for that long." Calder said with a frown splitting his face.

Kuval smiled up at him and wrapped his arms around Calder's waist. Calder responded by wrapping his arms around Kuval to hold him tightly. He brushed his lips against Kuval's ear as he whispered how much he loved him. Kuval kissed him in return knowing he would never regret falling in love.

.

THE END


A/N: Thank you for reading my story. Please leave a review!

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