Henry opened his mouth. Then closed it again. Then he opened it once more, took deep breath and said, “Well…”
“Sorry for what?” Seymour squinted at him, shielding his eyes with the flat of his hand. “I stole the brandy from you. I drank it. I pissed myself, puked and passed out on your floor. Really, I should be the one apologizing.”
“No. I shouldn’t have left you on your own.” Hesitantly, Henry sat down on the edge of Seymour’s bed and touched his face with his fingertips. “I could tell you were upset about something. I don’t know what, but I knew there was something wrong. It was stupid of me to leave you like that, in an unfamiliar place, with people you’d never met. I’m sorry.”
He closed his eyes. “What time is it?”
“Late afternoon. Supper should be served in an hour or two.”
“I’m not very hungry.”
“I requested fish—made special for you.”
“That’s sweet of you.”
The human ran his hand down Seymour’s bare arm, tracing his sleeve of vine-like tattoos. “I could have it brought up for you if you’d like.”
“No,” Seymour said, sitting up. He stretched, popping the vertebrae in his lower back. “I’m not bedbound. I’ll eat at the table. Can’t promise you I’ll be very sociable, but I’ll do my best.”
“As you wish.”
Yawning, Seymour swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. The air was brisk upon his naked body, but he didn’t mind. When his head had stopped spinning over the sudden change in elevation, he plodded across the flagstone floor and over to the window. He leaned upon the frame to look out, and Henry’s breathing quickened audibly. Smirking at his warped reflection in the rhomboid crystals of glass, the merman adjusted his position for maximum sex appeal and pushed the window open a bit so he could see outside.
By daylight, the grounds of Edmund Manor looked nothing like they had late the previous night, when he and Henry had arrived by (flying-) horse-drawn carriage. In the darkness, they had seemed a brooding wasteland, flanked by skeletal trees, patrolled by spectral tendrils of mist, and presided over by a grand and looming castle. But in the golden rays of the sun, the landscape was grassy and green, the forest was resplendent in its autumnal glory, the fog had retreated to the small lake by the bend in the road, and the castle—or what he could see of it—seemed quaint and old-fashioned. He breathed in the cold, fresh air. It did his headache good.
He glanced over his shoulder. Henry, caught staring, blushed and looked away rapidly. Still smirking, Seymour turned away from the window and sauntered back over to him. Upon reaching him, he extended his right index finger and tapped the young lord on the nose.
“How are you so beautiful?” asked Henry.
Seymour threw himself backwards onto the bed. “I don’t know. Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of making up for all the other things that are wrong with me.”