Oscar has always loved the sea.
From childhood walks along the cliffs, his hair whipping around his face and sticking to cheeks made sticky with wind-caused tears, to evenings as an adult sat with his legs swinging over a drop that would have made his mother shout his full name in warning.
A part of him misses those early days.
Though his life has changed in many ways, his love of the sea has never abated, and now that he lives in his own little cottage just safely beyond the highest the tide has ever reached, he continues his worship. Every morning he walks down to the waters’ edge, letting it lap at the toes of his heavy waterproof boots as the wind whips his robe hard enough that he must pull it tight.
And every morning he sings.
Odes and fancies, whatever comes to mind to greet the rising sun and give thanks to the tides that glint and shimmer with the dawn’s blessing. He stands there until the chill is too much to bear and then turns to walk for home, never noticing the way the water chases at his heels.
Once a week, without fail, he takes himself to the temple of the god of the seas and the waters. He settles himself on his knees in front of the great stone statue and whispers his thanks more directly - or, perhaps, less directly, depending on one’s perspective - into the ears of Zolf himself.
Zolf. A funny name, he’s always thought, for a man that looks so unknowable from his depictions. A normal name. A strong name. A name that fits well in his mouth in the times he makes his oaths. Oscar sits there sometimes, devotions made, and stares at the face carved so lovingly from the stone and considers breaking every rule to run fingers over the smooth curve of his cheekbones.
He never does, but he imagines the feel of skin giving to his fingertips every step of the way back home.
The locals know not to bother him on his path home. He is never in his right mind, they whisper. Too far gone with adoration.
They don’t understand. Perhaps they never will.
Oscar awakens to news of terrible floods.
The sky the night before had been dark and stormy and he had written furiously until the wind rattled through the windows enough to gut his little candle. When he finally drags himself out of bed to shouts and screams and tears, he finds his neighbours crowded around what remains of their properties, belongings in soggy piles as they try to shore up their foundations.
Oscar walks around his house, finds the ground dry underfoot. His pitiful little garden of herbs are all still there, even as silt and sand runs down the path between his house and the next. The sea, in its anger, had swept up to and inside the houses of every single person but him.
In the entire street, his house is the only one untouched.
It hardly helps his reputation. No one knows that it was anything Oscar did - the seas are unpredictable, and he has a little bit of a natural breakwater at the front of his property. But everyone whispers about him anyway, the god’s favoured child, the one that earned Zolf’s mercy.
All he does is sing and pray, much as they do. What makes him worthy of Zolf’s protection?
That morning, after offering his aid to neighbours who were still too suspicious to take it, Oscar takes himself up the mud-slick path and onto the main cobbled road up to the temple, footsteps steady despite the turmoil of his thoughts. What will he find there? He almost fears a toppled statue, a flooded floor, cracks in the heavy flagstones.
No one will have gone to pray today.
He finds the temple clean, clear. No sign of water to be seen. He settles on his knees in front of Zolf’s statue, as strong and enticing as it has always appeared. He bows his head to pray, shins pressed to the solid foundation of the temple, the wind whistling through its open sides and tugging at the loose strands of his hair.
Thank you. He says, and even in the safety of his own head it sounds like a question. “Thank you.” He repeats, outloud. “For your mercy.”
There is a swell in the air around him, a thickening, as if the heaviness of the post-storm weather has been caught up in one hand and pulled, surrounding him in heat and moisture...
The next thing Oscar knows is that he is walking back to his home.
He stops, toe catching on a loose stone and sending him sprawling towards the low wall that splits the field beyond from the street. Oscar reaches up, feels tangles in his hair and the texture of sea spray, though he has not been near the beach so far this day. He realises there is the flavour of salt on his tongue, heavy like it feels when he takes a lover to his bed and swallows them down, but without any of the expected musk on his lips and chin.
The sun is lower in the sky now than it was when he left. He has been gone several hours.
What on earth is he not remembering?
There are no more floods for the season. The spring comes, with summer hot on its heels, and Oscar’s neighbours have at least stopped their suspicious glances as the months pass from their most recent losses.
Oscar continues his daily ritual. It is beautiful to watch the sun light upon the water as it rises above the horizon, and his songs are clearer, stronger, float on the breeze that always tugs at his hair and strokes down his back.
As before, once a week, he makes his way up to the temple.
Only now he doesn’t recall the time spent there the moment he steps over the threshold.
He comes back to himself at different points. At times he is mostly home before he realises he has walked all the way down the hill. Sometimes he has barely taken a step outside the temple walls. And then there are the times when he becomes aware that he has lost time while still on his knees, hands clasped tight at his heart, and life milling around him uninterrupted.
His neighbours never look at him like he is an oddity, even when he’s lost time. Wherever he goes, it is not somewhere that they can see.
He is unsure if that is better or worse than having an answer.
In bed at night, his body responds as it always does to his weary fantasies of times when he was less alone. When there were hands that were not his own on his prick, when there were mouths at his nipples and fingers in his arse. Oscar touches himself as he imagines a fantastical lover, with strong hands and bright eyes and a hungry quirk of lips beneath a well maintained moustache. He imagines the feel of a beard across his skin, the thickness of only a single finger inside him, curling and teasing his prostate…
He imagines Zolf’s strong features cracking into a smile and a hungry voice in his ear that whispers: come for me, acolyte, my precious devotee, so good for me, always.
Oscar shudders apart and spills over his fist, sensation racing up his spine and tingling over his scalp like the pull of fingers through his hair.
As he drifts off, he thinks he smells incense on the air, winding around him like it does when he prays.
By the morning that too has left his mind.
The summer passes in quiet evenings and lonely walks. He keeps to himself more frequently when he’s writing, finding it helpful to maintain the feel of a story, the mood of his words. Each night he settles at his writing desk and the words flow until the candle dies, telling stories of worlds and beings far more fantastical than Oscar Wilde himself.
And yet… time does not help his memories of the forgotten temple hours return. And he notes more peculiar symptoms than the lingering of salt on his tongue. Bruises on his hips. An ache in his thighs, like the muscles have been used in exploits far more energetic than his daily walks.
Oscar considers the darkness of the discolourations on his hips and wonders why they look so much like fingerprints.
It’s almost as if…
No. Surely not. No, that’s ridiculous.
The thought doesn’t leave his mind as he walks to the temple the next day. It’s too early, he only visited two days before. But there’s a storm threatening on the horizon and he is not foolish enough to not try and escape a flood for the second time.
When he settles on his knees, he feels the familiar sense of calm settle over him. He breathes in. Out.
Presses his palms together at his heart.
He opens his eyes to find a figure standing in front of him. For a moment his eyes refuse to properly perceive it, the figure appearing as if made of mist and seafoam, until it coalesces into what is undeniably a flesh and blood depiction of the god he’s until recently made his devotions to.
He looks around the room quickly to try and see if any of his fellow worshippers are noticing this, or if he truly is losing his grip on reality. It is as if they are made of seafoam this time, nebulous and incorporeal and not a head is turned in his direction.
Zolf reaches out a hand to cup his cheek and turn him back. “Should really let you keep your memories. This bit adds so much unnecessary time.”
“Keep… my memories?”
Oscar yelps as Zolf holds him tighter, tight enough that he feels as if his head might pop like an overripe fruit. With a rush, he suddenly remembers.
Zolf’s cock, thick and blunt, feeding slowly into his mouth as he groans in unrepentant gratitude.
Zolf’s hands on his hips, mouth between his cheeks, lapping over his hole with a too-slick tongue.
Zolf’s smile as he writhes and rides the cock in his arse, nails scratching at a chest that shows no marks.
“Zolf…” Oscar breathes, unprepared for the familiarity that floods over him at being able to say that name to a face, a body, a lover. “Why do you steal these moments from me?”
Zolf smirks. “I’ve not decided if you’re deserving.”
“Yet you fuck me.” Oscar breathes. “A great deal, if my missing memories are to be believed.”
“You take it so well.” Zolf says, and Oscar feels it vibrate in the space behind his breastbone, heavy and full. “Always so eager. If I let you keep your memories I’d never get anything else done, would I? I’d be here, all the time, servicing you.”
Oscar flushes, shifting on his knees “Does anyone… can they…?”
“No.” Zolf murmurs, and this time his words push and swell like waves over Oscar’s body. “But I suspect you’d like that, wouldn’t you? Showing everyone how good you can be, for me?”
“Yes.” Oscar breathes, reaching up to hold the arm that’s by his face, feeling the contact tingle and throb through each of his fingertips as he cradles Zolf’s strong forearm. “I want… I need to be good. For you.”
Oscar smiles, feels it make a trembling path across his mouth as a laugh bubbles in his throat. A god has chosen him. What did he do to…?
“Zolf.” Oscar murmurs, leaning into the thumb caressing his cheek. “Why me? Why did you damn all those people but save me? Why do you fuck me?”
“You’re beautiful.” Zolf says, so simply that Oscar sucks in a soft gasp. “You’re lovely, and your devotion stirs me in a way that no other has for centuries. I’m a selfish being, Oscar Wilde. It is nice to be appreciated.”
“I do. I do appreciate you.” Oscar says. “I worship you.”
Zolf slots his thumb up against the bow of Oscar’s lip, and then down. Oscar opens his mouth, sighing when Zolf grins wickedly, pressing in. His skin tastes like sea spray and zings like the air after a storm.
“And you worship so well.”
Oscar sighs, pulling back and sitting on his heels, frowning at the way Zolf remains standing so impassively in front of him. “Please let me remember.”
“Presumptive.” Zolf laughs, and it washes over him like a powerful wave, pushing him into Zolf’s body as the man moves around to stand behind him.
Strong hands move to cup his jaw and tilt his head back. “Who said I’d fuck you this time?”
“Please Zolf. My body, my mind, longs for it.”
Zolf quirks an eyebrow, peering at his upside down face. “I’m not sure you can handle it, little mortal. It might fry your lovely brain, and then who would sing me songs?”
He doesn’t know what to say to that. What to say to a god made flesh, standing with him and holding him, intimately familiar with him in a way that Oscar has no way to comprehend. His body melts into being held by Zolf, like it senses this is where he is meant to be and he hums a soft and tuneless little note that lingers on the air—.
Oscar stumbles on an uneven cobblestone and stops, looking around in disbelief.
He was just…
His skin itches with the feel of stimulation and want, he can still sense the impression of Zolf’s fingers against his jaw, the salty flavour of Zolf across his tongue, the feel of being taken thoroughly and left to ache with it. Did he really leave all of the memories apart from what Oscar truly wanted?
He shoots the thought angrily up at the sky and watches a mocking trail of lightning crackle across the clouds.
Oscar grumbles, making his way back home and stripping off his clothes despite the early hour. He reaches down between his legs to touch his soft cock and then further, to where he’s still a little open and sore with the stretch of whatever godly offering Zolf has given him this day, his skin slick with the lingering remains of Zolf’s come.
Bastard, he repeats again, fingering himself and fitting a hand around his cock and bringing himself to a slow and unsatisfying release over his belly.
“How could you?”
Zolf smiles at the tone, reaching out to take his chin in a strong hand. “Because it’s funny.”
He pouts, and not even the fact that that earns him a brief kiss is enough to cut through his mood. He’s been denying himself worship for almost two weeks now, a punishment to either himself or Zolf - he’s not entirely sure which.
“I asked so nicely.” He continues, feeling a little playful with his annoyance now, watching the way Zolf deals with him with such fondness. “What more can I do?”
“That’s a big question for a little mortal.”
He watches Zolf walk around him, sitting patiently despite the twitchy energy that’s racing through him, the desire to grab and hold and kiss and—.
“Oh you are desperate, aren’t you?” Zolf murmurs in his ear, despite standing several feet away. “I think you’d do just about anything for me if I asked.”
“I think I have a little more self respect than you suppose, Zolf.” Oscar says, gathering some of the strength that he’s used so frequently in his life to this point, even if he is solitary and avoids as much conflict as he can now.
“Do you?” Zolf asks.
He feels an arm around his shoulders, Zolf slotting up beside him and waving a hand at the air in front of them. It shifts and forms into something that looks like those moving pictures he’s seen in London, only so much more realistic. He wants to reach out and touch the vapour as it forms, watches it become a figure that looks strikingly familiar.
He watches himself, sees the way he looks over his shoulder and reaches back to hold his cheeks apart, moving his hips in a little inviting wiggle. His lip is caught between his teeth in that way he’s been told is quite innocently alluring.
“Does that look like a person with self respect?”
Oscar hangs his head, frowning down at his lap. “It looks like a person who takes pleasure in fucking and I’m not sure that’s exclusive from respect like you imply.”
Zolf hums, and he feels it all over his body like a vibrating caress. “A good point.”
Oscar shivers as Zolf reaches down, pulls his light summer shirt from his trousers and draws it over his head. “I’m not going to remember this time either, am I?”
“You know what...” Zolf murmurs, regarding him with a curious expression. “I’m feeling generous, and it really isn’t as fun to watch you get off without me.”
Oscar’s heart leaps.
“Really?” He asks, and it’s painfully, stupidly breathless. He feels like a child, not a man with plentiful experience in pleasures of the flesh. He lets his smile grow. “How do you want me?”
“Get on your back, little acolyte. You’ll take your devotions lying down today.”
His head swims with every sensation that comes from letting Zolf undress him. He’s half hard even before Zolf’s got his trousers off, flung so far that he sees them land over one of the stone benches mere inches from one of his fellow devotees.
“Do you do this with anyone else?” He asks, letting Zolf move both of his feet to rest on the floor, thighs falling apart.
He doesn’t know if he wants the answer.
“No.” Zolf says, very simply. Oscar watches as his clothing melts away and he settles on his knees. His lower legs fade into the mist, as if he’s still part of it, even while corporeal enough for Oscar to touch.
Zolf’s forehead creases as he slides warm slick palms up Oscar’s inner thighs. He reaches to wrap Oscar’s cock in his fist and folds the other around his balls, teasing and tweaking until Oscar’s head falls back against the stone floor.
“I’m not like the rest of my brethren.” Zolf says. “Mortals have never interested me in that way.”
But he does, assumedly.
It makes Oscar feel warm all over to think that, for once, he truly is special to someone.
The hand around his balls rolls them once more and then tracks down, between his legs, knuckle pressing into his perineum and circling until he feels it against his prostate, a tantalising tease of sensation.
“You take this so well.” Zolf mutters, sliding a finger down and around his hole. “Always have.”
Oscar whines, feeling his body open to Zolf’s fingers. He feels as if he has little say in the matter, his body giving over to Zolf’s touch, path eased by some sort of stinging lubrication. Seawater, perhaps? It matters little.
He loses himself in the sensation of being prepped. His body is familiar with it, even if his mind has no comprehension of this impossible pleasure. It’s as if he’s not himself, not really, spread open and moaning, coasting on the curl and press of two of Zolf’s fingers.
“Sing for me, acolyte. Fill the temple with your song.”
He doesn’t hold back, moaning and crying out with each burst of sensation, sobbing Zolf’s name as he’s stretched and readied. By the time Zolf’s thick hips press his thighs further apart his throat is starting to ache.
Sound is chased from his body as Zolf pushes in, the sheer stretch of it making him breathless. Gods. Gods. He is freshly irritated that Zolf has stolen this from him so very often and equally relieved that his days haven’t been plagued by the knowledge that this is how it feels to be fucked by a god.
Perhaps Zolf was right to hold back for so long.
“See?” Zolf snarls, drawing back and then punching forward hard enough that Oscar has to throw one hand over his head to brace against the base of the dais for fear of being knocked clear across the room by the press of Zolf’s hips. “I can see it in your face. How much this is for you.”
“It is.” Oscar moans. “It is.”
Zolf snickers, slides a hand up his chest and settles it at the base of his throat, so much heavier than any touch should be.
“It’s a risk for me to let you remember this. To remember how good it is.” He murmurs. “You’ll be here tomorrow, and the day after and the day after. Until you’re bored of me.”
“Never!” Oscar gasps, feeling his throat starting to get squeezed by Zolf’s grip. “Never. I swear it.”
“I’ll have to find ways to keep you interested.” Zolf muses, looking so deep in his eyes that Oscar feels as though his thoughts must be visible. “Find new uses for you, pretty devotee.”
Oscar feels his cock heavy against his belly, full and hot and aching without a touch to it. Gods, that’s all he’d need. The way Zolf is talking to him, the feel of that incredible cock in him, the press of Zolf’s hand around his throat… It would take so little. So little to make him lose himself.
“Perhaps I should capture you.” Zolf mutters. “Keep you mine forever.”
Oscar whines softly, thrashing a little, only as much as he can with Zolf’s bulk pinning him down.
“Have you whenever I wanted.” Zolf smirks, fitting his other hand over Oscar’s cock and holding it down to his stomach. “Fuck you full of my child, even.”
Oscar’s eyes widen. His heart thuds heavily in his chest, the solid press of Zolf’s hand to his cock hurting more than helping but the thought of it, the thought of being round with Zolf’s seed… He screams as he comes, Zolf’s touch tightening around his throat so hard as to stifle the noise, steal his breath…
He loses consciousness to the sight of Zolf’s smirking face and the feel of come filling him like the cresting of a great wave and—.
He awakens on the floor of the temple. It’s dark. The incense has burned down and the candles have been snuffed.
He is alone.
His stomach aches, like he’s eaten too big a meal. But he hasn’t. He’s not eaten all day.
He smiles, getting to his feet and feeling his entire body throb with barely suppressed sensation. He stumbles the path home and into his house, feeling like he’s floating.
He dreams of his stomach, rounded. Zolf’s eyes, fond.
He dreams of a place other than this and cannot argue that it is disappointing to wake to the same four walls.
It’s barely sun-up when Oscar hurries up the hill to Zolf’s temple, forcing himself to eat an apple as he does so, the hunk of bread and cheese still sitting oddly heavy in his gut.
He settles to his knees and finishes eating the apple, eyes closed and body thrumming with anticipation. When he opens his eyes, Zolf is standing there, arms crossed, eyes fixed on the apple core.
“You know, most people don’t eat their offerings on the way to temple.”
“Is it possible?” Oscar blurts.
Zolf pauses before replying, tipping his head to one side. Whatever he expected Oscar to open with today it wasn’t that.
“Is what possible?”
“Could you…” Oscar trails off, fighting the words that want to bubble out from his throat, cover his tongue with their truth. “Impregnate me?”
Zolf laughs, on and on, like the tide coming in at the end of the day. Oscar must look confused because he reaches forward and cups Oscar’s cheek like he has so many times before.
“Don’t pout, little one.” He says, softer than he has been. “It is and it isn’t. Not yet, and also yes, eventually.”
Zolf grins and it looks like danger. Enthralling, hungry danger that Oscar wants to dive into and never leave. He feels himself leaning forward, only for Zolf to melt through the mist and meet him halfway, lips hot against his.
He thinks he might be drowning.
Zolf grunts and grumbles into their kiss like he’s angry about it, amused about it, lost in whatever this whole thing has become. Oscar can only open for the force of him as he has in all other ways, tongue stroking deep and tasting salt and samphire and potential—.
Zolf rears back, breathing heavier than Oscar has ever seen him. He looks half wrecked and Oscar forces down a swell of pride.
“Nothing comes without practice.” He says softly, dragging a heavy thumb over Oscar’s lower lip. “What do you say, little acolyte? Would you like to explore?”
Zolf is gentler with him than he ever has been before. He takes time opening up Oscar’s body, murmurs little affections that make Oscar whine and shift. Tells him how beautiful his child would be, how lovely his body would look preparing for the auspicious moment.
“You’d like it, wouldn’t you?” Zolf murmurs, toying his cockhead at Oscar’s slick hole. “Being full, being round, being mine.”
“I am yours.” Oscar sighs, arching his back when Zolf pushes forward.
Zolf pauses once inside, the thick length of his cock spearing Oscar open. When Oscar looks again through narrowed eyes, there’s something in Zolf’s gaze that looks as stormy as the weather he has shown himself capable of controlling. He opens his mouth to ask… but thinks better of it.
Zolf moves them like a wave, onto his back with Oscar astride him. As Oscar reseats himself, Zolf grins. “You are. Not completely, not yet.”
“Not yet.” Oscar sighs, rolling his hips.
“Show me.” Zolf says, holding his hips, then sliding one around to cup his flat belly (too flat, he needs to eat more). “Show me how you’d ride me and accept my seed. Show me how you’d ride me through each month of your pregnancy, until you’re too large to do anything but take.”
“Zolf.” Oscar whines, imagining it, imagining the skin of his belly stretched and sore, soothed only by Zolf’s hands over it. “Zolf, please, fill me up, fill me up.”
“All in good time, my darling devotee.” Zolf grunts, holding him tighter. “Oh, you’re perfect. So good for me, so good.”
Zolf snarls, holding him tight and coming long and hard, enough for Oscar to look down and watch as his belly slowly but surely distends. It feels unending, it feels right. He doesn’t even need to touch his cock as Zolf grinds against his prostate, the thought of what this act alone could mean chasing him up to an orgasm that leaves him a trembling, begging mess, come streaked across the new swell of his belly.
“Can I have your child as a mortal?” Oscar murmurs after, sticky, aching, sated.
“You can.” Zolf says.
He does not say ‘but’, does not put voice to the condition in his head. It hangs on the air regardless, and follows Oscar all the way home.
Losing himself in the thrill of Zolf’s touch makes it easier to ignore the fact that he is barely eating, wakes up feeling just as tired as he did when he went to sleep. He doesn’t feel right anymore, though it is impossible to put his finger on why.
All of that uncertainty fades each time he goes to the temple.
Perhaps that is why he doesn’t question it for so long.
He curls up to sleep early one night, the moon high in the sky. He stares at it through his little window, until his eyes are heavy and his body is limp. Oscar drifts into sleep like a stone beneath the waves.
When he opens his eyes in the dream, he cannot see a thing. His logical mind tells him he is underwater, though it doesn’t make enough sense for his brain to run with it as his reality.
“Come closer, little one.” Zolf murmurs, though Oscar cannot make out his form, here in this inky darkness. Perhaps he doesn’t have one. In the sea, he is everything and nothing all at once.
Oscar realises he’s cold, floating and weightless, embraced by the weight of the water around him. For a horrible moment he panics about breathing… then gives over to it. He’s safe with Zolf.
The water around him moves and shifts, like he’s being circled by a shark. He can see nothing there, but it feels warm, familiar, in the cool otherness of the sea.
“I cannot move.”
Zolf’s face peers at him from the water, incorporeal but so close that Oscar wants to reach out for it but cannot make his arms bridge the gap.
“That’s probably for the best.”
Oscar doesn’t have time to consider what that means, before Zolf has swum behind him, and hot, burning hot hands are on his shoulder blades. He yells, water rushing into his mouth but going no further as he flails and tries to look behind him at whatever hurt Zolf is causing. Around him he sees dark, dark red furling through the water and whimpers at the thought that it is his blood, drawn by his lover’s hand.
The water swirls, sending his own blood into his mouth, coppery and thick, before Zolf appears right in front of him once more.
“How are you?”
“Zolf.” Oscar sobs, feeling the ache twist and pull at his skin, as if something is growing from his body and he cannot do a thing to stop it. “What did you do to me?”
“Oh nothing so bad as all that, little one. Stop your tears.” Zolf says. “Nothing good can come without pain.”
Both of Zolf’s hands come up to hold his face, squeezing hard enough that he’s reminded of the first time Zolf allowed him to keep his memories. He doesn’t think Zolf will end his life, but he is decidedly less certain than he was even a moment earlier.
“Hold still now.”
His vision goes white, his head filling with pain and rapture both. He feels like he is seeing through the layers of reality and shrinking beneath their weight all at once, his mind both expanded and fried like one would an egg.
He screams, that much he knows, his throat burning, his body rigid in Zolf’s hold.
“That’s it. That’s it, little acolyte.” Zolf’s words feel like a caress, a balm to his bruised soul. “Soon you will understand.”
Oscar jolts awake and pushes the covers back with shaking hands, covered in sweat so slick it feels like the blood from his dream.
He gets out of bed and lights a candle, watching the flame for several minutes until his breathing steadies.
When he looks back at the bed, a beautiful peacock feather quill lays where he had, only moments before.
It is warm to his touch as he picks it up. He spots its pointed end and frowns at the urge that moves inside him, the words on his tongue that weren’t there before, the prose in his mind and the itch in his fingers.
He writes stories until sun-up, until his brain is clear and his limbs ache. He recognises none of them, but they all compel him far more than anything he has written before.
With a sigh, Oscar gets to his feet and pulls off his nightshirt and pulls on his thicker robe. The autumn is in full flow now, and when he reaches the edge of the sea it is roiling and stormy, grey green and terrible, beautiful, alluring.
He sings, feels the light of the sun on his face and does not open his eyes to see he is the only spot on the entire beach to be bathed in glorious golden light.
Oscar realises something has changed when he passes on his condolences to his neighbour Isabelle for the loss of her mother only to find the woman wandering out of the house with a broad smile on her face. Isabelle looks at him like he is something to be feared, which in truth he may yet be.
(The next morning the village awakes to the mourning screams of Isabelle and her daughter. Oscar stays inside until the funeral, which he attends only from a distance.)
“Do you know what you’ve done to me?” Oscar asks one day, curled into the chest of Zolf as they languish in the middle of the temple, life going on around them, as it always does.
“If I tell you no, will you think poorly of me?” Zolf asks. It is the first time he has ever sounded slightly vulnerable.
But this is the first time Zolf’s allowed him to remember the afterglow for more than two minutes, so he has decided he is not going to question it.
“No.” He admits, turning his face into Zolf’s chest and feeling the scratch of hair on his cheek.
“Ascension is messy. It is rarely done, for there are few gaps to be filled in responsibilities that other gods do not already claim. My kin have been… unhappy with my choice.”
Ascension. He had suspected, in reality, even if the thought of it is so far outside his comprehension as to make little sense.
“Can you see what I see?”
“No. That is all your own.”
Oscar sighs. There are a hundred stories in his mind. He knows what has been, what is, and what will be for all of those around him. He is starting to know the stories of the travelling salesmen, the farmers from neighbouring villages. Before long, he expects it will go further.
People have started to look at him like they want to tell him tales, opening their mouths and thinking better of it. One day he expects they will stop reconsidering.
For someone who has so often struggled to get the stories in his head down onto paper, this is a particular kind of gift and a particular kind of cruelty.
“I don’t like it.” He admits, voice so quiet it might as well be part of the mist that Zolf shrouds them in.
Zolf’s arm comes tighter around his waist, but he says nothing. What, after all, is there to say?
Oscar sleeps through the destruction, the death, the cries for help and the stuttering of stories, pages ripped clean from the novels of lives he had no interest in reading.
When he walks out of his house, Zolf is waiting for him with a smile.
“I wondered how long you might sleep.”
Something feels wrong, but he cannot tell at first what it is. There is still plenty of noise in his mind, but he is better at dealing with it now than he was. It takes a moment for him to realise the lack of immediate presence, the dearth of noise around him. He walks a few steps forward, takes a deep breath and turns his back on Zolf.
There are no houses around his.
The village has been swept away, beach stretching up to new cliffs that start at the edge of Zolf’s temple. His house is the only one remaining.
“You killed them.” He says, voice unnaturally calm.
“They were always going to die.”
“Not like this. This wasn’t their story.”
Zolf's lips twist as Oscar turns back around to entreat an answer. He looks both amused and proud. “I’ve been entirely too successful with you, Oscar.”
He jolts. His name. His true name. It has such a weight to it now, not just in Zolf’s voice but in its entirety.
It echoes through the world and he imagines people kneeling.
“Will you come with me now?”
“I don’t have much choice.”
“I really don’t think that the locals will be satisfied with any explanation for how your house is the only one standing, do you?” Zolf says. “Come with me now, and I will destroy yours too.”
“My things…” Oscar says, a token protestation.
“You can have whatever you need and more now, Oscar.” He says. “You will want for nothing. We will live for eternity and you will bear our children and we will live, which is more than can be said if you stay here.”
Zolf walks forward, bringing the sea with him. Oscar watches as it laps at the edges of his already run-down garden wall. Oscar can’t help but coast towards Zolf on feet that no longer feel the earth. He shudders when Zolf touches his ribs, then slides hands around to his back. The pain that arcs through him isn’t surprising this time but it does make him stumble forward, resting his hands on Zolf’s shoulders.
Oscar glances back. His wings shimmer with colour, feathers coloured in blues and golds and greens, like the peacock feather he found in his bed but so much more his own…
Zolf smiles at him when he turns back. “Yes, you are.”
He flutters his wings and they create songs on the air of war and famine, hope and luck. The songs are picked up by the sea breeze and carried across the land around them and beyond. He wants to cry from the beauty of it.
“Come.” Zolf says, taking his hand. “Come with me now, consort.”
Oscar smiles, fading with Zolf into the swell of the waves.
Oscar has always loved the sea.