Dorian & Silas
“Did you bring any more?” “More? You’ve had four already!” “But this drink is so delicious—I can’t help myself. And I’m still thirsty.” “You’re always thirsty.” “It’s the salt. Nothing really washes the flavor out.” “You really want more beer?” “Yes!” “And it doesn’t affect you?” “In what way should it?” “Well, it makes you feel tingly all over. Dizzy and relaxed. Numb in some places and hot in others—” “But that’s how I always feel around you.” As a boy, Grandfather used to tell me that the sea was a dangerous place. Not just because of the storms or the wild water, but because there were beings who lived beneath the waves that wouldn’t hesitate to drag a sailor down to the briny depths. Mermaids and sirens lived for the pure fun of drowning foolish men, always eager to add another skeleton to their weedy grottos. And then I met Dorian, and I decided Grandfather was a superstitious old codger. Because while the sea had its dangers, it wasn’t as dire as all that—not all merpeople were vicious murderers. Some could make a man blush as red as a fire engine. But a part of me did wonder if Dorian’s innocence wasn’t sometimes an act, or at least a willful exaggeration; nobody could be that disarmingly naïve. “So is that the purpose of beer?” He asked, all earnest in his curiosity. “Humans drink it to feel tingles and warmth?” “Sometimes. Sometimes we need a little boost in confidence, too. That’s why so many people drink at parties, or on dates.” “So beer is like starfish and pearls,” Dorian mused, forehead furrowing in that disgustingly cute way I loved so much. “When we try to put on a good show, we dress up our hair and beards.” “Yeah, I suppose it’s like that.” “I don’t need starfish or pearls with you, though,” he said with a toothy smile. “I know you like me without them.” “Mmm-hmm. I like you just as you are, Dorian.” “And I like you even without your delicious beer, Silas. Don’t think I come ashore just because you’ve brought beer.” “Oh, don’t worry: the thought never even crossed my mind.” “Good.” He crossed his arms behind his head and leaned back against the rocky outcropping. Dorian had the nicest arms I’ve ever seen, corded in muscle and sinew; when he sat like that, every ridge and taut line was clearly outlined in the sunlight. But of course he had strong arms—how else could he navigate his underwater world without sturdy hands and arms? And while his chest was broad, sparsely covered by curls the same vibrant orange as his beard and shoulder-length hair, it wasn’t overly impressive in its musculature. And his stomach, far from flat and rock hard, pooched out with a soft roll of fat that ended only where the scales of his thick tail began, a silvery aquamarine in hue. The flab was oddly endearing. Never in a thousand years would I have anticipated that I could find a stomach roll not only cute but downright attractive—but something about it just made Dorian more… Real. He wasn’t a picture perfect Adonis, nor a mythical creature from fairy stories or fevered dreams. He was just Dorian: a sweet man who happened to have a tail rather than legs, who could drink beer in a way that would make an Irish shepherd envious, who brought me pearls as if they were nothing more than pretty shells found on the beach, who snorted when he laughed and had hair the color of a sunset on a smooth sea and kissed like there was nothing else in the world but me and him and our lips coming together as irresistible as the tide. A lot of sailors say they love the sea, but in my case it’s pretty damn literal. “When you drink beer, does it make you feel like you’re on the beach?” Dorian asked, eyes still closed, voice drowsy. “Lying on the yellow sand with the sun tickling your scales?” “Yes. That’s close to it.” “If I were human, I’d drink beer all day, every day. If it feels that nice.” “Ah, well, it also makes you stupid if you drink too much of it. Dizzy until you fall over. And later you get headaches, and sometimes you even get sick if you’re not careful.” “Oh. That’s too bad. Beer would be perfect if not for that.” “Yes.” “Too bad you can’t have the warm tingles without the headaches.” “There’s always other ways to get the tingles…” I edged closer, sliding over the sand. Slipped my arm over his waist and leaned forward. His lips curved into a smile and he cracked one eye open as I bent to kiss him. “…Do I make you feel drunk, Silas?” “Punch-drunk,” I said. He was right: you never could get rid of the salt. It was always on his lips, his tongue—but then I’d always preferred savory over sweet. “You’re like the sun on shallow water,” Dorian said, sliding his fingers through the hair at the nape of my neck, toying with the strands that curled when I went too long between haircuts. “Moonlight over coral. The zing of an anemone…” “You say the sweetest things.” “You are the sweetest thing. I’m so glad I tugged on your fishing line.”