The Practical Differences Between You and Me

“Damn.” Sam put the knife down he was using to chop a red pepper and examined his finger. “Slipped.”

“Let me see.” Yann got up from his seat at the table, took Sam’s hand and examined the damage. The tip of his left index finger was sliced through. “I’ll get some glue.”

“I can get it, there’s no need—”

“Let me. You sit down.”

Sam’s silvery eyes crinkled at the edges. “I don’t bleed. I’m not going to faint.”

“Yes, I know, but…” Yann pushed his fingers through his hair. “Please, let me do this?”

Fully smiling now, Sam sat down. “Okay,” he said.

###

Hours later they sat on the sofa together, watching an old film in which someone jumped around wearing a lot of red leather. Sam sipped from a glass of glucose, salts and ethanol. Yann drank wine. After a while, brain humming with a gentle alcoholic buzz, he dropped his head to Sam’s shoulder.

Sam slid his arm around his waist and pulled him closer. After a few minutes, he dipped his head and kissed the top of Yann’s head.

Yann pulled away, staring at him.

“I’m sorry,” said Sam. “Weird?”

“Uh. No. It’s… sorry. I…”

“It’s okay. I understand. I’m not human, it’s—”

“No! No. I mean, I’ve thought about… and… that’s not… it’s more. Uh. Is it… a… a choice?”

“What?”

Yann’s words came out in a rush. “Is it something you’re doing because you think I want you to?”

“I’m fully self-actualised, Yann. You know that. I learn and make decisions.”

“Yes, yes, but. But. If I said ‘do this’ would you… would you do it anyway? Because I said so? Could I… force you?”

“You could force a human,” said Sam, reasonably. “You’re one-hundred and ninety-one centimetres tall, you have enough muscle mass to generate power and leverage and your balance is excellent.”

“I don’t mean like that!”

“You have above average intelligence and good emotional awareness. You could psychologically manipulate someone, if—”

“It’s not the same thing!”

“How is it not?”

Yann made an exasperated noise. “I mean, can you say no?”

“Of course.”

“Would you?”

Sam gazed at him. “I wouldn’t.”

Yann gazed back. “Why?

“I don’t want to.”

“If… you changed your mind and did want to, you’d say?”

Sam reached out and touched the edge of Yann’s jaw. “I promise.”

Yann leaned into his fingers and sighed. “All right, then.”

###

Days later, they lay in bed, limbs tangled.

“Your skin is so warm,” whispered Yann. “And it tastes of salt and… and skin.”

Sam smiled. “It’s designed to. So does yours.”

“It evolved to, I suppose.” Yann traced circles on Sam’s chest. “I love you.”

“You’re only saying that because your brain is full of endorphins and oxytocin,” said Sam, chuckling. “I love you, too.”

“You’re just saying that because of… programming and electrical signals,” retorted Yann.

“Mm. Do you think it makes any practical difference?”

Yann considered it. “You know,” he said, “I don’t think it does.”


Author’s notes
Something soft and fluffy, because we need that right now. Also informed consent is good. Do the consent thing. Check the consent thing. If everyone’s motivations are good, it should be easy. And if not, well.


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© Kat Day 2021

The Comforting Silence of Deep Water

Art by @KatNoggin

The music twists around me, notes impossibly fast. The bow moves as though it’s part of me, which, in a way, it is. The melody speaks of love and want, the never-still nature of a river and the heavy, comforting silence of deep water. It’s complicated and lovely like, I suppose, so many things in this world.

My eyes are downcast, lost in the feeling, and that’s why I don’t see her. It’s the dog that causes me to look up. It sits on its haunches and barks at me, shaggy, grey-brown head tilted to one side.

The bow stills in my hands. ‘Oh, shit.’

The dog’s owner, a young-looking woman with fair skin and a blue scarf, is staring at me, her eyes glassy. ‘You’re beautiful,’ she whispers, tonelessly.

I grit my teeth. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say. ‘It’s not real. It’ll wear off.’

‘You’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen,’ she murmurs, and takes a step forward. The dog whines. I realise that, even though I’ve stopped playing, she’s going to walk right into the water. With a groan, I let myself fall backwards off the rock where I was sitting, my hair fanning out as I sink under the green-blue surface.

I stay down. I can’t live underwater, but I can stay under a lot longer than most humans. The pond is deep—I can touch the bottom, but crouching as I am I’m out of sight. I’m still gripping the fiddle and bow. It’s not as if water will damage the damned thing.

My eyes are pretty good at dealing with different refractive indices—a thought that almost causes me to smile at the incongruous clash of magic and physics—and I watch the woman through the water’s surface. She stands motionless, hands slack by her side. Her dog circles her every now and then, then wanders off, sniffs about a bit, and returns, nosing at her hand.

Just when I’m starting to wonder if should’ve considered a contingency plan, she gives herself a shake and crouches down to scratch the dog behind its ears before turning around and striding away, the dog happy again at her heels. I wait until she’s well out of sight before I surface, wringing out my hair as I head for the water’s edge.

#

It’s late morning when I get home, but the early spring sunshine isn’t quite strong enough to have dried me off completely. Camron is sitting at the kitchen table, a mug of coffee by one hand, his phone in the other.

‘Oh, thank Gods,’ he says when he sees me. ‘Where have you been, Stefan?’ He stands up and puts his hands on my shoulders. ‘Your hair is damp.’

I wave the fiddle. ‘I went out to play,’ I say. ‘Caught a blasted dog walker. Had to hide underwater.’

‘You need to dry off. You’ll catch a chill.’

‘Water spirits don’t catch chills.’

‘You’re only half water spirit. And I distinctly remember having to feed you chicken soup and painkillers before Christmas.’

‘That was a virus. It had nothing to do with getting wet.’ There it is again, science and magic, clashing. I throw the fiddle down by the door. I’d destroy the stupid thing if I could, but it’s part of what I am, and who knows what would happen? I’m scared it might be like cutting out my stomach to make sure I never throw up.

Camron hands me a towel and I rub it over my head, looking at green-black strands against the white. ‘You could play here,’ he says, glancing through the kitchen window towards the stream in the garden.

‘I can’t.’

‘You could. It’s not as if we have a lot of passing traffic. No one would hear early morning. Or late at night. Anyway, there’s a lock on the gate.’

‘No,’ I say.

He pulls me close and wraps his arms around me. ‘Does it even matter if I hear at this point?’

I think of the woman’s glassy eyes and shiver. ‘It does, yes.’

He rests his forehead against mine. His eyes are hazel, flecked with gold. ‘I’m not going anywhere,’ he says quietly.

‘But I need to know that you could. If you had to.’

‘I’ll never have to.’

‘Nevertheless.’

He sighs, and presses his lips against mine, warm and soft, and I lean into him.

This won’t wear off, I know, because it’s real. Complicated and lovely.

Like so many things in this world.


Author’s notes
I wrote at the start of 2020, before all the *waves hands* really kicked off, as part of the Codex writer’s group’s annual Weekend Warrior contest. I kept meaning to do something with it, and I kept not doing something with it. And you know what, it’s another lockdown—we all need something nice. The artwork was drawn by the revoltingly talented Kat Noggin—give her a follow (thank you, m’dear!) If you have a moment, leave me an encouraging comment, and maybe I will, finally, do something with it. Stay safe.


Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com
If you like my work, you can support my writing by buying me a coffee at ko-fi.com.
© Kat Day 2021