suspicious_popsicle: (Default)
Story: The Mermaid's Lagoon
Series: Tales of Vesperia
Pairings: Fluri
Warnings: none

A/N: Written for Fluri Month 2016. The prompt was 'jealousy.'

Disclaimer: The characters in this story are from Tales of Vesperia and do not belong to me.

As Flynn stepped into the Nor Harbor seafood restaurant, he was halted in his tracks by the kitschy décor. Yuri had told him about it, of course, but that hadn't prepared him for the rope nets hung with shells and starfish, glass bottles and life preservers; the carved and glossily painted wooden fish and anchors that hung on the walls; the actual, scuffed buoy that loomed to one side of the hostess stand while a tank of live lobsters flanked the other. A garishly-colored seascape complete with fish, whales, dolphins, sharks, and mermaids had been painted across two walls of the building. Dividers between sections of tables displayed compasses, model sailing ships, and wooden statues of pirates, sailors, and mermaids. The front register sat upon a huge aquarium tank, longer than Flynn was tall, shining with a dozen different types of fish and decorated at the bottom with a model sunken ship complete with overflowing chests of gold and a skeleton crew. He shook off his surprise. Yuri hadn't been kidding when he'd said that the place was worse than Flynn could imagine. It was practically a tourist trap, out of place in the small, landlocked town, but apparently a welcome diversion from more traditional restaurants.

In keeping with the theme, the waitstaff were dressed in striped sailor shirts, or white dress shirts with billowing sleeves that Flynn assumed were supposed to make them look like pirates. He searched the people moving purposefully among the tables, but the figure he looked for was nowhere in sight.

“My, look who's here.”

Judith stood behind the hostess stand, still managing to look elegant despite the fact that she was dressed much like the swashbuckling half of the waitstaff in her low-collared white shirt, with a bright red sash tied at her waist over close-fitting charcoal pants and tall black boots. Gold hoops hung from her ears, and an eye-patch embossed with a dragon covered one eye. She was a friend of Yuri's, but Flynn was a little surprised that she'd recognized him. He'd only met her once, on his last visit four months ago.

"Looking for Yuri?" she asked.

“Yes. I just got into town.”

And couldn't wait to see him. Flynn smiled sheepishly, knowing that his excitement and impatience must be painfully obvious. He couldn't help it, though. It was getting harder and harder to stay apart from Yuri for so long.

“I can take you to him, but you should know that he's in time out right now.” She flashed him a smile as she picked up a menu and set off into the sea of tables. Flynn hurried after her.

“Time out?”

“He got into an argument with a customer yesterday, so the manager pulled him off waitstaff and gave him a job where he won't go running his mouth.”

Her smile was stretched thin, growing broad enough to crinkle up her eyes. She was trying not to laugh, and as they neared a partitioned dining area in the farthest corner of the restaurant, Flynn realized why she was so amused. Yuri had told him all about Nor Harbor when he'd first gotten a job waiting tables, but one aspect of the restaurant had stood out as particularly noteworthy.

Judith showed Flynn to a small table set for two near the doorway leading into the back dining room. There was a circular window framed like a porthole in the wall right beside his table, but Flynn didn't need it to see inside. From where he sat, he had a clear view through the doorway at The Mermaid's Lagoon. It was a water feature; a small waterfall flowing into a shallow pool surrounded by fake rocks and silk morning glories. The wall behind it was painted with a vibrant sunset over the ocean and a distant jetty on which stood a lighthouse. He took in all these details, but his attention was focused mainly on one of two people seated on the feature. Smiling as he talked to a small group of children that had gathered, was the very person Flynn had been looking for, and he had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing.

Yuri was dressed up as a merman.

For a minute, Flynn simply sat and stared, smiling helplessly as he watched Yuri laughing and making faces at the kids. He was shirtless, and his legs were bound tightly together within a purple satin mermaid tail that glittered with sequin scales. The other mermaid, in a green tail and pink bikini top, was Estelle, another of Yuri's friends. A book was open across her lap, though Flynn couldn't hear what story she was reading to the kids.

By the time a waitress had come and taken Flynn's order, Yuri still hadn't noticed him. On a hunch, Flynn pulled out his phone and took a photo of Yuri, then sent it to him. Sure enough, a moment later Yuri leaned back, trying to discreetly check his phone where he'd left it sitting behind him. He sat straight again almost immediately, gaze snapping directly to the table where Flynn was grinning as he waved a cheerful hello.

Yuri did not look pleased to see him, but he pulled on a tight smile and, somewhat forcefully, beckoned him over. As Flynn was getting up, a teenage girl who had only recently been seated along with her family, came hurrying out of the dining room, phone pressed to her ear.

“—swear! They've got the hot waiter dressed up like a mermaid!”

She rushed past without seeing him, leaving Flynn trying not to laugh over this new tidbit. So Yuri was 'the hot waiter,' was he? Flynn wondered if he knew. Maybe that trait was what helped him survive off of tips despite his attitude. Biting the inside of his cheek, he left his table and went to go greet him.

“You're early.” Yuri's tone turned the observation into an accusation. He kept his voice pitched low and talked through a smile kept up for the kids. Flynn shrugged, unwilling to let Yuri's displeasure spoil his happiness.

“My last class today was canceled, so I went ahead and made the drive up.”

He looked Yuri up and down, relieved to be able to see him again and glad he was looking well. More than well. Merman was not a half-bad look for him, showing off as it did the toned muscles of his stomach, chest, and arms. Flynn quashed the urge to reach out and touch him, conscious that this wasn't the time or the place, and that he shouldn't be calling Yuri's attention away from the audience of awed children. He wanted so badly to lean out over the small pool for a kiss. It had been so long since they had seen each other, and every time they did, they got just a bit closer before time ran out and pulled them apart. This long distance relationship of theirs was trying for both of them.

“When is your shift over?” He knew it must be soon. He wanted to spirit Yuri away from the busy restaurant so they could walk back to his apartment together, maybe hit the gym on the way back. He'd missed hearing Yuri's voice in person.

“I've got another hour. Just go wait for me at the apartment.”

“Oh, I couldn't do that. I've already ordered.” Grinning, he slipped away before Yuri could retort and waved at Estelle. She smiled back, lifting a hand briefly, but didn't so much as pause in her storytelling. Flynn returned to his table to watch Yuri, who seemed determined to ignore him completely.

It wasn't difficult for Yuri to find other things to occupy his attention. The swarm of children ebbed and flowed as food and families came and went. More than one child dashed away from the Lagoon only to return seconds later with a handful of fries or popcorn shrimp to snack on as they gaped. Yuri pantomimed along with Estelle's story for them, gesturing and pulling faces that left some of the younger children shrieking with laughter. Although the story was over in no time, the Lagoon offered another attraction. One by one, children were allowed up the narrow walkway in order to take a seat between Yuri and Estelle so that their parents could take a photo.

Flynn was just wondering how Yuri would react if he tried that when the teenager from earlier peeked out of the dining area and waved in his direction. A moment later, two more girls hurried up from the front of the restaurant to join her. They clustered together in the doorway, blocking Flynn's view and heedless of the comings and goings of the restaurant's other patrons and staff. Even though he could no longer see Yuri, it was still impossible to focus on his food while they talked.

“Oh my God.”

“See! I told you!”

“God, I hope this is permanent. I will come eat in the kiddie corner every day—”

“What? I thought he was hot as a pirate.”

“Yeah, but look. Who knew he was ripped under that shirt?”

Flynn squirmed uncomfortably in his seat as they continued. Their talk was making him acutely aware of his own attraction to Yuri. In a public place like this or in the locker room of the local gym where he'd first gotten more than a glimpse of skin, that attraction was something he did his best not to dwell on. Hearing these girls giggle and gush over the same traits that were such a turn on for Flynn made it impossible to keep his thoughts from straying to his desires, to memories of the first, awkward kisses they'd shared; to nights spent chastely in a shared bed, heart pounding as Yuri settled in his arms; to slow make out sessions on the couch as that new facet of their relationship clicked into place; to Yuri rearing up over him on the bed during Flynn's last visit, lips parted and wet with their mingled saliva, body swaying in a sinuous arc as he yanked off his shirt to expose toned abs, heaving chest, gasping for breath as he dove back into the kiss, hips grinding against Flynn's....

Where his mind went, his body tried to follow. Flynn shifted and snatched up his glass to take a long drink of ice water. His face and neck were burning in a combination of arousal and embarrassment over the content of his thoughts. He and Yuri hadn't gone all the way yet, and the anticipation was driving him a little crazy.

He hated living so far away. It had almost been bearable back when Yuri was simply his best friend. They talked every day. He got to hear Yuri's voice joking with him, confiding in him, encouraging him when he was feeling down. Sure, some days it was overwhelmingly frustrating that he couldn't just swing by his best friend's house to hang out or grab a bite to eat or hit the gym. Some days, he just wanted Yuri to be there. Ever since they had started dating, however, started sharing those intoxicating kisses and addicting touches during their all-too-brief visits, the desire to be with Yuri had ballooned. Flynn wanted to be able to watch his face while he talked, to hear his voice unaltered by speakers. He wanted to be able to reach out and touch Yuri, to shove him when they joked with each other, to pat his shoulder, to kiss the back of his hand just to laugh as he snatched it away like an offended cat. The more Flynn wanted Yuri, wanted to be with him, the more time seemed to slip away from them while they were together, only to draw itself out into an eternity when they were apart.

And now Flynn had to sit and listen to these girls as they ogled Yuri, oblivious to their luck at being able to see him whenever the whim took them...and he was nothing more than eye candy to them. Just an attractive piece of the city they happened to live in.

Jealousy coiled like an eel in Flynn's stomach, and he pushed his plate away. As he watched, the two newcomers began ushering their friend toward the Lagoon.

“Come on, get in line! It's your chance to get a selfie with him!”

No-o!” She drew out the word, giggling and putting up a token show of resistance.

“This is a golden opportunity. Do not waste it!”

“Get the selfie!”

“Get his number!”

More giggling.

The girl took her place at the end of the line, joined by the friend who had been so excited to see Yuri shirtless. Flynn couldn't help but watch as their turns came up, and both hurried up to squeeze in on either side of Yuri, laughing and flirting and touching his arms. The second girl even reached out to rest her fingertips on his thigh. Whatever it was she said then made Yuri laugh.

That was what really got to Flynn—Yuri wasn't bothered by any of it. Yuri was a polite way of describing him. You knew where you stood with Yuri. Usually, Flynn liked that about him. Now, seeing him enjoying the girls' attention, Flynn wished that he wasn't so easy to read. He kept looking for some sign of annoyance—because if Yuri was annoyed, it would definitely show. Even a hint that Yuri was only playing along out of some petty revenge for Flynn having seen him in an embarrassing situation would have been a relief. Yuri never so much as glanced Flynn's way, though. His attention was focused completely on those around him, and his smiles all seemed genuine. He didn't even try to pull his arm free from the first girl's hold after he had posed with her for a selfie.

Seated as he was, Flynn almost couldn't help but watch. The girls lingered much longer than any of the children had, only moving when a little girl finally came up to have her picture taken. Flynn sulked over the remains of his dinner, daring himself to follow the girls' example and go get a picture with Yuri, but knowing that he would never actually do it. The Mermaid's Lagoon was intended to entertain children. Flynn had no business going up there just because his boyfriend was a big, stupid flirt.

Flynn stabbed at a hush puppy, accidentally knocking a few others off his plate as it shot out from beneath his fork. He speared through the crunchy crust of the next one and nibbled at it.

Yuri never flirted with him like that.

The thought kept him company through the remainder of Yuri's shift. It sat in Flynn's brain, tossing away excuses such as the fact that Yuri was at work and possibly that was his customer service mode, or that it had never really bothered Flynn before that all his teasing had an edge of challenge to it, as if he'd be just as interested in a fight as a kiss.

Caught up in his thoughts, he lost track of time. Just as he was preparing to pay his check and head back to the apartment and wait, Yuri stood up and collected his phone. His shift had ended. Flynn sighed, relieved and irritated all at once. There would be no getting out of walking back with him now, no time to be alone to try to forget the girls and the way Yuri had smiled for them.

As if summoned by his thoughts, the first girl dashed up to catch Yuri as he was leaving. She held up her phone, asking for one last selfie, and Yuri obliged. Because she stood in front of the pool rather than having come up the path, he was forced to lean over, bracing himself against the false rocks as she held up her phone. At the last second, the girl turned, stretching up on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. Her phone flashed. Flynn's jaw dropped. It was all over in a second, and then she was laughing and pulling away. Yuri's brows were creased, his expression seeming to indicate confusion rather than anything else. He shook his head, then glanced at Flynn and shrugged. Lifting a finger—just a minute, wait for me— he shuffled awkwardly through the small door that let the “mermaids” in and out of the Lagoon.

Wishing that he had chosen to stay at the apartment to surprise Yuri once he got home, Flynn paid for his meal and went to wait outside. He stepped to the side of the entrance to keep out of the way, and shifted anxiously from foot to foot. What would he say to Yuri? Should he say anything? He thought of slender hands curling around Yuri's bicep, purple-painted nails standing out starkly against his pale skin. If it had been young men hanging all over Estelle like that, Flynn was certain the staff would have stepped in. He wished that someone had thought to do that for Yuri. He wished that he'd had the nerve to go up and say something—not even something to the girls, necessarily, but just something to Yuri that would leave no doubt about their relationship. Then again, it might not even have made a difference.

It wasn't long before Yuri came out. Gone was the sparkling, confining merman's tail. He was dressed in worn jeans and a t-shirt printed with a stylized image of an elephant. He grimaced as he hurried to Flynn's side, barely pausing for him to fall into step as he started toward home.

“Go ahead and laugh,” he said. “And next time, mind not showing up till I'm off work?”

“You made a good merman. You were very popular.”

Yuri shrugged. “Kids are easier to please than their parents.”

“It wasn't only the kids that liked you, though. Those girls seemed pretty impressed.” He didn't know why he was even bringing it up, but he hadn't been able to hold back the words.

“They were laughing at me,” he said, lips twisting in a self-depreciating smile.

“No, Yuri. They were flirting with you.” Flynn couldn't believe that he hadn't seen it.

“I was wearing a fish tail.”

“You were shirtless.”

He considered that for a moment, then turned to Flynn, grinning. “Guess I shouldn't have given her my number, then.”

Flynn stopped in his tracks and stared, dumbfounded that Yuri could be so impossibly dense. “You didn't.”

Something in his expression or tone startled the grin off of Yuri's face. Yuri dropped eye contact and hurried to continue on back toward his apartment.

“Was only kidding,” he muttered. “I'm supposed to be able to joke about stuff like that with you.”

Flynn trailed after him. “I didn't realize you weren't serious.”

“Of course I wasn't. Why would I give my number to some girl getting a kick out of seeing me dressed up like a mermaid?”

“Merman.” He smiled crookedly when Yuri glared, and offered, in a spirit of accord: “You did look pretty ridiculous.” Wisely, he kept to himself the thought that 'pretty' was nearly as accurate as 'ridiculous.'

Yuri still wasn't buying it, though. He marched on for several silent steps, then said, so quietly that Flynn nearly missed it: “You weren't this uptight when we were just friends.”

The sullenness of his tone, the thought that maybe Yuri regretted the change in their relationship came as a shock. Flynn didn't respond as well as he might have, had he taken a moment to think before blurting out a denial. “I'm not uptight!”

“You're acting like it was a big deal. It wasn't. It was just some girls messing around when I got stuck with punishment duty. Back before we— It would have just been a joke, before. I could have told you about it and you'd have laughed. You never would have let me live it down. Why are we going out if we can't still be friends like we were?”

“We are!” Flynn insisted. “You didn't stop being my best friend—!”

Yuri rounded on him, quick enough that Flynn nearly couldn't stop in time. They were nose-to-nose as Yuri jabbed him in the chest. “Then why don't you trust me?”

“I....” He did trust Yuri, though. It was just....

Flynn bit his lip and lowered his eyes. He trusted Yuri, but seeing those girls today had been too sharp a reminder of the distance between them. His reaction hadn't been rational. Maybe it was Yuri's turn to have something to tease him about.

“I...might have gotten just a little bit jealous,” he admitted.

“You what?”

He hadn't expected Yuri's response to be so deadpan, and Flynn peeked up to see him staring, anger and confusion and even hurt in the crease between his eyebrows and the parting of his lips.

“It just...listening to them talk about you, and knowing that you're a part of their lives that they can see and touch any day—a small part, yes, but a part nonetheless—I just....” He had to look away again. He could feel his cheeks heating up and he rubbed the back of his neck. “I wanted to take their place.”

“You wanted a selfie with me in a mermaid costume.” Yuri's voice was still flat as he tried to confirm what he was hearing.

“Merman,” Flynn mumbled reflexively.


The question left Flynn just as dumbfounded as Yuri apparently was. “Don't make me spell it out.”

“You like that sort of thing?”

“No! It wasn't the tail, it was....” It was the sight of Yuri after so long, the sight of him looking so different out of his usual clothes, the display of skin, the reminder that Flynn might not be the only one who wanted him. “Forget it. It was stupid.” Nothing but foolish pangs of jealousy. There wasn't anything he could do about living so far away. Not until he graduated college, at least.

Yuri snorted, clearly unsatisfied with the answer. He didn't push it, though. They walked a full block in uncomfortable silence. This hadn't been the way Flynn had wanted to start his visit.

“I miss you.” Flynn blurted out the words, then amended more quietly: “When I'm not here. Sometimes it's like I'm not a big enough part of your life.”

“So, just move here.”

“It's not that simple. I can't transfer just yet, and I've still got graduate school after that. There is a university here in Dahngrest I was considering, but I haven't made up my mind yet.” Truthfully, the one back home in Zaphias would be a better choice, and the one in Aurnion, even further away, was the best of all.

“You could invite me to live with you.”

“I—” Flynn stopped in his tracks. Two steps later, Yuri halted and looked back at him, expectant. “You would do that? Move to Zaphias to come live with me?”

He shrugged. “I'd have a whole new city to explore. Seems like it'd be interesting.” He grinned suddenly, sincere in his offer to move, even excited by the idea.

Flynn practically leapt forward, hands finding Yuri's to twine their fingers together as he leaned forward and kissed him.

“I've spent the past four months waiting to be able to do that again,” Flynn murmured as he stepped away afterward. He was grinning hugely, so light with excitement that he almost felt like he could fly. Yuri could move to Zaphias. They could live together—be there for each other in person! Flynn could show him around the city. The idea was a spark that took flame in his mind as he started considering all the places he ought to take Yuri. He was getting ahead of himself, he knew. It had only been a suggestion, one that Yuri might well have made on the spur of the moment, but still...!

Yuri laughed. “You look like Christmas came early.”

“Can you blame me?” He realized that he was still holding Yuri's hands, and looked down, not wanting to let go. There weren't many other people walking along, but a few did take a glance back or give them odd looks. He squeezed Yuri's fingers and reluctantly let his hands slip free. A few more blocks, and they would be back at Yuri's apartment and have no need to worry about other people. He had waited four months. He could wait just a little bit longer.

Perhaps Yuri hadn't noticed the stares, or perhaps he simply didn't care. He wrapped an arm around Flynn's shoulders as they started walking again.

“Glad you're on board with that idea. I'd been thinking about it for a while.”

“You never said anything.”

Yuri shrugged. “Neither did you.”

“Fair enough.” He ducked his head, slightly bothered by the missed opportunity, but too happy now to dwell on it.

Filled up with all that had happened in the short time since his arrival in Dahngrest—the tantalizing glimpse of Yuri, the sudden rush of jealousy, the brief fear that Yuri regretted the change in their relationship, the exciting prospect of moving in together—Flynn slipped an arm around Yuri's waist. He wasn't sure what sort of reaction he'd expected, but Yuri only kept on walking, one arm companionably around Flynn's shoulders as he began explaining why he'd been made to work in the Lagoon. His voice was warm and a little rough, annoyance softened by his smile. His arm was a welcome weight across Flynn's shoulders. The waistline of his jeans was rough against Flynn's palm, and above that, the heat of his skin bled through his t-shirt. Flynn wondered if Yuri would let him strip that shirt off once they got back, let him kiss his neck and chest and stomach. He wondered if Yuri would still have to dress up as a merman if his skin was dappled with love bites.

He made the suggestion as they reached the apartment, leaning against Yuri so that his lips tickled Yuri's ear as he spoke. Flynn felt the thrill that ran through Yuri as a shiver, saw the spark in his dark eyes before he turned away to unlock the door and let them in. The next thing Flynn knew, he was up against the door in the shadowy apartment, pinned there by Yuri, who licked his lips and smiled wide.

“A kiss to keep me from changing back into a mermaid?”

“Something like that.” He ducked his head to trail light, sucking kisses down Yuri's throat, a hint of more to come. Yuri smelled of sweat and the fried, fishy scent of the restaurant. His hands gripped Flynn's shoulders as he hummed appreciatively.

“Can't hurt to try,” Yuri said. There was laughter in his voice, and he raised his arms obligingly as Flynn's hands slipped beneath his t-shirt and pulled it off.

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