By the time Seoc was thrust back into his cell, Simon was already asleep, sprawled out on his cot and snoring. A few strands of his longish, wavy blond hair lay across his face and fluttered with each breath he took. Seoc looked at him awhile, blinking back tears, then bent and kissed him gently on the cheek.
“I love you, Simon,” he whispered, no longer able to stop his eyes from watering. “I love you so much. I wish I were brave enough to tell you when you’re awake.”
He went and sat down on his own bed and rubbed his face. A dusting of dried blood fell away from his skin and drifted down to the floor. Some parts were still tacky, and smeared red on the side of his hands.
Seoc looked up. The voice had sounded so distant, he thought that he might have imagined it.
Much closer now. He scanned the room, and jumped a bit upon noticing a lanky figure slumped in the corner. Heart pounding, he got up and approached it cautiously.
“Seymour?” he asked. “Is that you?”
“Shog?” His speech was slurred. “Whud ’abbend wid your faysh?”
Seoc took the empty bottle of brandy that Seymour had been holding and set it aside. “Never mind my face, Seymour. How much have you had to drink?”
“All d’ brenny. Shome wine? Shomedin elsh, maybe? Don’ rerember.”
“That’s too much.”
“Yesh. I know.”
Working his hand around Seymour’s back, Seoc pushed him so that his weight shifted forward and he leaned over the floor. “Listen to me, Sey,” he said softly, kneeling beside him and taking his head in his hands. “I’m going to need you to throw up. Can you do that for me?”
Seymour’s face contorted in misery. “I don’ wanna.”
“Well, I don’t want you dying before you get me out of this hellhole, Seymour. You promised, didn’t you?”
“Then please do as I say. Put your fingers down your throat if you have to.”
“I probly won’ hafdo,” Seymour admitted. “I feel relly nausheraded…naushadadeded…shick.”
“As you very well should. Come on, Sey. The sooner, the better.”
Listlessly, the merman leaned forward, belched a few times, then was violently sick on the floor. Within a few seconds of leaving his body, the puddle of vomit evaporated into black smoke.
“There you go,” said Seoc, rubbing his back. “Feeling better?”
“Yeah.” He lay clumsily down on his side, resting his head in Seoc’s lap. “I wanna shleep now.”
Seoc looked up and saw Simon standing over them, wide-eyed and clutching his pillow as if he intended to use it as a weapon.
“What’s going on? Who is that? Why’s there blood on your face?”
“Relax, Simon. This is Seymour. He had too much to drink and he needed my help. He saved me, now it’s my turn to save him.”
“What about your face?”
“Never mind my face. Sey had nothing to do with it.”
Simon sighed and lowered his pillow out of fighting stance. “So this is your knight in shining armor, what? Some knight he turned out to be!”
“Shh,” Seoc hissed. “Be useful and fetch the sheet from my bed, would you? It’s bluidy cold.”
Seymour smiled vaguely up at him. “Shog…your agshend’sh relly preddy. Your voish ish lyg…lyg shunligh’…”
“Thanks, Sey.” Seoc ran his hands through the merman’s smooth black hair, which was as soft and as thick as the pelt of an otter. His fingers came away smelling of mint and the ocean.
Simon returned with the sheet and draped it over the two of them. Then he crouched down and twisted his body so that his face was parallel to Seymour’s.
“What in the hell are you doing?” asked Seoc.
“You know,” he said. “I’m straight, but if this is what he looks like at his worst, well…I think I know what you see in him.”
“Great.” Seoc closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “Just what I wanted to hear.”