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By the Shore

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They’ve been lying on the beach for hours now, eyes burning with dryness from the sea salt pricking at their corners and the setting sun’s glare as it dips over the watery horizon. There is sand in their hair and buried in the wrinkles of their formalwear, suit jackets stained with years of experience and stiff with more years after of disuse, all too heavy for the sweaty warmth of the planet that it leaves the fabric tacky against the skin under their arms. The red hue of it clashes with their shorts and rugged, damp sandals, while matching the sunburn and giddiness on their smiling faces.

Stinking and on the brink of drunk, with their laughter echoing across the distant dunes and waves beyond, Davenport couldn’t care less about appearances. Not in this blissful moment of solitude and elation, not with his stomach full of food and leftover wine, mind made fuzzy by his honeymooning. Not with Merle.

Davenport raises his left arm above him, fingers splayed, the sun-speckled shadow of the back of his hand a dark silhouette against the technicolor orange and pinks of the sky at dusk. Seagulls dip and glide distantly, disappearing and reappearing as their images weave behind and through the pillars of his thick knuckles. Twisting his wrist slowly, he makes to study the sturdy band around his ring finger, admiring it as his thumb twirls it around in slow, soft circles.

“Do you like it?”

He doesn’t turn his head towards the dwarf beside him, at least not right away. Instead, he brings his hand closer to analyze it. Despite wearing it for almost weeks now, he keeps finding something new to revere at in its design whenever he looks to it - maybe the contentment of being an engaged man, now married, was blurring the the days into wonderful and love-filled hazes. He counts each detail almost methodically, almost afraid to forget each one; the gnarled, thin lines of seaweed that made up the band laced into meticulous, careful patterns; the egg-white of pinpoint small seashells woven into it; inset in its middle the dull pink of an uneven pearl, its smooth surface gleaming against the sunshine.

He has to tear his eyes away from it, his right hand too preoccupied as it squeezes Merle’s fingers ever tighter. Davenport shifts onto his side to look at him, the ring on his finger tangling in Merle’s wiry, braided beard as he turns his face towards him.

Davenport kisses deep, savouring the salt and alcohol on their breath, relishing his dry but soft lips. Their shoulders press together uncomfortably in a futile attempt to get closer, losing traction as the sand shifts beneath them. It’s laughter that breaks the kiss, rough chuckling from deep in both their throats, and although Davenport is reluctant to pull away and open his eyes back to the reality of the moment, he’s glad to meet Merle’s in response. He immediately loses himself in the shining hazel of them, the depth of black pupil blown wide with adoration.

Merle grins at him, chest trembling with unsteady, silent mirth, laughter lines pronounced with happiness and just a hint of impatience at not getting his answer. He raises an eyebrow, eyeing his craftsmanship adorning Davenport’s finger expectantly.

Davenport smiles, hears and subsequently ignores the laughter of the others down the shore; Taako and Lup fretting over leftover food, Barry and Lucretia dismantling the makeshift driftwood altar, Magnus somewhere off in the distance respecting their privacy and not about to jump out and scare them. Instead his mind settles on the cozy idea of the arms of his husband – the word still so foreign and exhilarating since the morning, husband, husband, husband – and the future decades in which he will get to enjoy them wholeheartedly.

He runs his hand over Merle’s cheek, eyes moving from his face to the ring back to his handsome face, and whispers, “I love it.”