It wasn’t easy finding love as a human in a world of sentient tentacle monsters, but Geoff was determined to try. He signed up to dating agencies and turned up to awkward meet and greets, the wheels of courtship greased along by glasses of sour H’ra’k and the gentle strains of the latest popular lament.
He was willing to play up to the cultural obsession, at times, dressing in stereotypical fisherman’s garb and acting out unlikely seductions in a shallow pool of salt water. There was a club on the main thoroughfare that traded almost exclusively on the attraction, and he spent many nights there gasping and helpless, uncertain where one tentacle ended and the next began.
Clueless as to which tentacle belonged to which hooded gaze, and eventually his visits trailed away because orgies were all well and good, but they didn’t warm his lonely bed at night, or give him a date for interminable faculty socials.
“It’s one thing to take a human to your bed,” Bocki sympathised at one such get together, their delicate tentacles touching his wrist in an attractive swirl of colour, “but it’s quite another to take one home to the parents!”
“Most of us are not as progressive as we’d like to believe, not deep down,” Shal agreed, more than a little H’ra’kd, and Geoff assumed it was that fondness for the green stuff which resulted in a messenger delivering him a strange sounding missive a few days later.
He went along with it, all the same. Didn’t have anything to lose, not other than his dignity, and if he had to drink a few shots of H’ra’k of his own when the day of reckoning arrived, the wise thing was simply not to mention it.
It did the job it was meant to do, eased the worst of his nerves, and he smiled at the cameras when Thrig slithered onto the stage, the glittering shimmer of their tentacles even more impressive in the flesh than they were on his viewing screen.
Geoff plastered a smile on his face, in the hope it was appealing rather then inane, and by the time Thrig was at his side his jaw was aching.
“So, Contestant Number Three, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?”
He did his best to sound charming. Tried his utmost to look a likely prospect. Failed miserably, he was sure, because anybody who could think when Thrig - the very same Thrig who filled the gossip columns in the glossies that littered the tables of the staff lounge - was this close to them had to have a heart of stone.
His rivals seemed to be weighed down, at the very least, both clearly more interested in the trendy young single on the other side of the screen. Geoff knew it would never work between them, not in the long term, based on nothing more than their introductory preamble. It was no surprise when they went for Contestant Number One, with their long slim tentacles and - so he suspected - artificially plumped suckers.
“Between you and I,” Thrig said to him afterwards, larger than life and all but sparkling in the low lighting of the green room, “you dodged a harpoon there. I’m surprised their tentacles haven’t dried out, not with the slime they were trailing.”
Geoff smiled in spite of himself, flattered that Thrig would care enough to bother with his deflated spirits.
“There, that’s better,” Thrig responded, a smile of their own curling across their features, and they made small talk over a glass of high class H’ra’k before Thrig was swept away by an harassed looking assistant.
It wasn’t until the night was over and he was getting ready for bed that Geoff found the slip of paper in his jacket pocket, a number written in ink that seemed to change colour depending on how the light hit it.
Bocki entwined their tentacles in delight when he confided in them, demanding to know all the details, while Shal was, for once, the voice of reason, reminding him that the whole point of the exercise had been to find something more than a night or two. A mutual exchange of pleasure, and fading circular bruises on his pale skin.
The difference was that this was Thrig, that his breath came shallow at just the thought of it, and three nights later he finally worked up the courage to call the number, pulse racing at the sound of Thrig’s husky voice on the other end of the line.
They talked for an hour, the time trickling away unnoticed, and the following night they only repeated the anomaly, talking of anything and everything until it felt as though they had known each other years not days. When they eventually made it out on a dinner date, his head spun with how good it felt, how right it seemed, and Thrig caught the glass he clumsily knocked over, even as another of their tentacles caressed his cheek fondly.
In bed, those tentacles did things to him he had no words for, worked him until he would have been incapable of forming them, and in the morning he woke to find himself tangled tight, his own fingers wound loosely around the tip of one perfectly formed tentacle.
At work his students giggled and whispered, and though he flushed to the tips of his ears he refused to be drawn on the subject. Waited it out until the topic began to lose its fascination, until even the paparazzi began to lose interest, and that was when he held a video conference with his own mother, his heart full to bursting at the way Thrig bowed in formal introduction.
“I’ve never seen you so happy,” his mother said by way of blessing, and when he was invited to a dinner with Thrig’s family, he told them all honestly that it wasn’t easy finding love as a human in a world of sentient tentacle monsters.
But, now he had found it, he wasn’t going to ever let it go again.