Read part 1 and part 2 first
TW; character death, drowning
Gavin had always been restless. Untethered, that was the whole reason he had made the decision to work at sea. There had never really been a way to ease the feeling, so he figured giving into it couldn’t hurt. He took to sea as soon as he was old enough. He left Detroit and didn’t look back. As it was there was nothing there for him to miss.
On the water his restlessness calmed some, especially when they would be out weeks between docking. There was something about being on the water. He couldn’t explain it well in words. The closest he had come was to say it felt a bit like coming home. It had earned him a few odd looks, but there had been one person who seemed to understand, and that was Hank.
They had met when Gavin was nineteen. Hank had been talking about how there was nothing quite like being on the water. That it was the one place he could feel truly relaxed, and Gavin had known then that they would get along. That and they worked similar jobs so they found themselves on the same crew more often than not. Hank quickly became the person Gavin sought out when even the confines of the boat felt like too much.
That marked the first time he actively remembered hearing the song that drifted over the water. It sounded familiar, so it surely couldn’t have been the first time it played around him. It wouldn’t be last either. Whenever he was alone, he heard it. A beautiful sound that beckoned him to come closer to the water. That whatever he was looking for, it would be found beneath the waves.
Resisting it had been easy at first, but every time he was out on the water it became a little more difficult. He would come off his shifts when entire chunks of time that he had no memory of. Which was just as concerning as it had to have been dangerous. The song was comforting though, so he found he didn’t worry about it over much.
Not until Hank pulled him back from the edge, quite literally, for the first time. It hadn’t taken much then for him to snap out of it. The rough handling had been enough then. He was disoriented and tried to explain himself but the words wouldn’t come. Hank went with him to have him checked for a concussion. It came back negative, they both knew it would and he was left under watch for a couple days. For those three days he didn’t hear the song.
Each time they worked together Hank took it upon himself to keep an eye on him. If it were anyone else Gavin probably would have found it annoying, but Hank could hear the song too it just didn’t do to him what it did to Gavin. It was why Gavin trusted him to pull him out of it if the song got to him. He was also the only other person Gavin had told about the song. As far as anyone else knew he was just a space case.
The breaking point came on a long shipment to the middle of nowhere Alaska. He and Hank worked opposite shift rotation for a lot of the time and the song pulled stronger than it ever had. He had made friends with a man named Allen who was nice enough and plenty attractive. They’d even fooled around while Hank had been out of the bunk.
It happened in the short period of time he and Hank shared a shift. He was working beside Hank and then things began to slowly fade out of focus. He could hear the song, and it promised him all the things he was looking for were just under the water. If he got the answers then he wouldn’t have to wander anymore and he would finally be able to rest. All he had to do was go for a swim.
When he came back to himself they were in the bunker and Hank looked afraid. What had he done? He hadn’t gotten in the water because he was still dry, and alive. Both Hank and Allen had voiced concerns of something dangerous being in the water. For the life of him though he couldn’t remember most of the day, not just his shift. He was left with the feeling of whatever was after him had nearly gotten him that time.
“Where are.... When?” His mind was still mostly filled with fog and remnants of something so getting the words out was difficult, “Why are we here?”
He didn’t like how Hank’s expression softened, he always did that when Gavin had done something dangerous. “This will be easier if you tell me the last thing you remember.” He said eventually.
His frustration mounted as he tried to remember what he had done that day. All of it was so hazy. If felt like it had happened months ago. “We were in the hallway talking about what we would do when we made port.” He said, “And then the next thing I remember is being in here.”
Hank nodded, “No music?”
“There was something.” He said, and it felt like he was sharing someone else’s secret, “Like an old theater opera song, but without words. I heard it a few weeks ago too. I figured someone was playing music.” He lied, “Why?”
“You tried to throw yourself overboard.” The worry in his voice buried itself in Gavin’s chest like a knife, “You woulda fucking made it too if I hadn’t been there.”
He looked down at his hands and it sunk in slowly that he almost died today. He could swim, so that part of it wasn’t the issue. The threat was the unforgiving cold of the water and whatever creature it was that was so desperate to pull him under. If Hank hadn’t been there it would have been over. His name would have been added to the growing list of those lost at sea under tragic unexplained circumstances.
“Thank you.” He eventually managed, “For saving me.”
“You would have done the same for me.” He said as he stood, “Just do me a favor and wear earplugs when you’re out on the deck. These trips wouldn’t be the same without you.”
He smiled despite his exhaustion, “I’ll work on that. For now though, I think I am going to try and sleep.
“Sounds good.” He said as he opened the door, “You’ll probably be under watch for a few days too.”
That was routine at this point and Gavin just nodded as Hank left. When he finally got to sleep who knows how long later he dreamt of dark water and distant music. Each day the song came closer. It was louder but no more clear. Slowly, Gavin began to fear these unknown waters. What had once been a comfort gradually turned into a nightmare.
He told Hank about Allen since it seemed like things between them might become serious. He was there when Hank told Allen about the song. He wasn’t as surprised as Gavin thought he would be. Apparently he could hear it too, and was a lot like Hank in that aspect.
When they made port Gavin booked a room with Allen in a hotel that as as far as possibly from the water. Hank chose to stay right on the beach. He found a house for rent, and Gavin knew then this would be where they parted ways. Whatever had drawn Hank to the water also drew him here. The song was loudest here, and Gavin didn’t think it was a coincidence, but he never said as much to Hank. He wasn’t one for old sailors’ stories. Not in the way Gavin was.
From then on it was just him and Allen against whatever wanted Gavin so desperately. It was almost enough. There were still times when the song rang out so loud that it threatened to shake him to pieces. Times when it begged him to just give in, and times when he almost listened.
More times than he wanted to count, or admit to Allen, his hand meeting the cold water was what pulled him out of it. Those were the nights he held Allen the closest, because he would remember the day Hank saved him and how much he wanted to live. Then there came the time Allen had to pull him back over the edge, and nothing after that was the same.
The song had changed since whatever had been singing before seemed to have been after Hank. The song now was one of curiosity it seemed. When Gavin leaned for the water it wasn’t because something was missing, it was because he wanted to see. Know what it was like. Though he didn’t know what this ‘it’ was, but he knew it didn’t belong to him. It still nearly claimed him.
Like when it had happened before, everything up to and including the moment of his near demise was lost to him. He came back to reality and a flurry of feather light kisses to his face. He would have found it ridiculous if it hadn’t been so grounding in the moment. He only knew one person that would do that.
“Allen?” He said aloud.
“Oh thank fuck.” Allen breathed, “This is exactly what Hank said... I was so afraid Gavin. You were so close.”
“I’m fine.” He said more confidently than he felt, “Allen, sweetheart, I’m fine. I promise.”
Allen didn’t believe him. It was in his eyes, but he let it go. He always did when Gavin asked him to. Allen was the one to suggest that he visit Hank again. It wasn’t the suggestion it sounded like, and they fought about it a lot.
“You need to get off the water Gavin.” Allen said his exasperation with the topic gradually becoming irritation, “Whatever this is is trying it’s hardest to kill you!”
“And you think a week on the beach of all places is going to help me?” He snapped, “Right on the fucking water?”
Allen sighed, “No. I think spending a week with someone who can protect you better than I can is what you need.”
“I don’t need protecting.” He shouted.
“You almost died.” Allen matched his volume, and then continued in an almost near whisper, “I almost lost you.”
His resolve crumpled. This was wearing on Allen too, and Gavin didn’t want to lose the closest thing to a home he’d ever had. “Fine.” He surrendered, “One week.”
When he arrived he wasn’t ready to see how much about Hank had changed. He looked worn and exhausted, and at some point he had lost his arm. Gavin did his best not to stare. When he finally managed to tear his eyes away from Hank he noticed the man standing beside him. There was something off about him, but Gavin couldn’t place what. HIs eyes were a faint blue that they were nearly silver, and something about them was familiar. Not in a way he knew, but like seeing something in real life that he saw in a dream.
“Hello.” The new stranger said eventually, “You must be Gavin. I am Nines.”
Gavin looked toward Hank, but he didn’t seem to notice anything amiss. “It’s nice to meet you.” He responded before the silence could lapse from uncomfortable to rude.
“You as well.” Nines replied and that oppressive silence fell over them again.
“So you just go around collecting strays now?” He asked on the way back to the house when the silence finally got to be too much, “I woulda thought being on land for once would have broken you of that.”
Hank only laughed, “Nines isn’t a stray, he’s my partner.”
He grinned, “Look at you! I never would have thought you one to settle down like this.”
Hank looked at Nines for a moment and Gavin was struck by how much love was in his eyes, “I never would have thought it either, but here we are.”
“I’ve been thinking about going your way.” He said as they arrived at the old beach house, “Retiring, I mean. After my head injury I just can’t keep up anymore and it’s getting dangerous. I haven’t heard that song since you left, but something about being at sea these days makes me afraid.”
Hank gave him a sympathetic look, “Then it sounds like it’s time to retire. This town has an opening for a ship-right. It has for a few years, if you’re interested.”
“Is that how... “ He began and Hank nodded before he could finish.
“I reacted too slowly.” He said with a casual shrug, “They saved what they could, but you can’t fix a ship with one arm. It’s what lead me to Nines though, so I can’t complain.”
He laughed, “If this is what I got for losing an arm, I wouldn’t complain either.”
They spent the next few days showing him around the small town. From the tourist traps to the best haunts that only a local would know. It was a good time and for the first time in a long while, he felt truly relaxed, there was no music, no call and didn’t dream when he slept. He didn’t realize at the time that it would be the last time he saw Hank.
When he got back to work he felt a lot better, like he could keep doing this for a while longer. He got about another year in before the song came back. That same curious thing that was quick to pull him toward the water. He had an easier time resisting for a while.
He and Allen were on the beach. It was one of the rare occasions they had matching time off so they decided to on a date. It was funny that with all the time they spent on the water that they would want to spend their days off on the beach. They were laying on a blanket watchin the tide come in. It wouldn’t reach them but it was still a sight to behold.
Then the song started up. It sounded close, like Gavin could finally get close enough to see what was singing it. Allen had stood to go look for something, so Gavin took advantage of his moment and made for the water. Allen screaming his name, and a pair of beautiful black eyes were the last things he remembered before a vast nothing over took him.