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Ocean Air, Salty Hair

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The cure for anything is saltwater-- sweat, tears, or the sea.

-Isak Dinesen

 

It was a beach town, and late fall, and southern California so though the pier was mostly empty of tourists, there was still a surfer out in the water, a few people on the beach.

Kravitz paused on the boardwalk, lifting his hand to  shade his vision against the sun. It was late in the afternoon, but it was light enough that he could see the surfer silhouetted against the water, a lean figure with a bright head of hair and a light-colored surfboard. They were wearing a hat or something, impossibly wide-brimmed for being out on the water, in the wind, but it didn’t fly off, didn’t waver.

As he watched, the surfer reached the end of their wave and dropped down to sit on the board. They let the water carry them to shore, and two of the figures on the beach moved forward, one carrying and open towel, equally bright-haired, equally lithe.

Kravitz stood and watched, fascinated, as they packed up their things, and the figures resolved into two elves and a human. The elves had golden brown skin and thick, curly, long blond hair, damaged and made frizzy by saltwater, and they were both beautiful. One, the surfer, was walking barefoot and bare-chested, the other in a bikini and flip-flops and carrying the board. 

Neither of them notice him as they head up the beach and walk away from him down the sidewalk, but their companion does. He paused, looked back at Kravitz. He was undeniably plain next to the elves - brown hair, glasses, tan skin, and wearing a t-shirt and denim shorts. Still, he didn’t say anything, he just lingered and watched for a second, until the female elf turned and called over her shoulder, “Babe, you coming?”

He hesitated a second longer, called over his shoulder, “Yeah, right behind you!” Then turned and strode after them, hurrying to catch up.

The sun was truly starting to set, now, and Kravitz turned, continuing to head down the boardwalk and towards home.

 

-

 

It was almost two weeks later before he spotted the elves again. Not on the beach, or in a bar - though Kravitz scarcely drank anymore, and definitely not out in public like that - but in the grocery store, at the Ralph’s, in the produce aisle. 

They weren’t dressed for the beach this time, but one of them was pushing the cart, the other meandering the fruit and vegetables. The same wide-brimmed hat from before was in the front of the cart, and Kravitz wasn’t immediately sure which elf was which - one was wearing a t-shirt and long, flouncy beige skirt, and the other a crop top and leggings. Kravitz stared down at the carefully stacked piles of oranges in all varieties and watched the elves out of the corner of his eye.

The one in leggings was leaning against the cart, hair pulled up into a big bun that looked ready to fall apart, watching their twin - they had to be twins, but Kravitz hadn’t known fraternal twins to look so identical - swish their way through the area. gathering up peppers and onions, and even leaning across Kravitz to pluck out a few perfect oranges with perfect accuracy. “All I’m saying, Lup,” they said over their shoulder at their twin, “is that if you don’t make the tortilla yourself, it’s not fucking worth even making enchiladas.”

They paused, turning back to the oranges, and Kravitz met their eyes - and they were beautiful. A narrow face, large eyes, the long, sloping nose that was so characteristic of elves, and plush, full lips. Before Kravitz could really process their thick eyelashes and big, wide eyes, they were turning away with a little wink and Kravitz’s heart skipped a beat.

Kravitz turned to watch them go and their twin was watching him knowingly, smirking with those same, full lips.

And then they were both gone, disappearing around the corner without another look back.

 

-

 

Kravitz was an ICU nurse. He worked long, hard hours, often overnight, and his trek home took him, with only a block’s detour, along the beach.

It was a quiet morning about a month after his most recent encounter with the elf twins, when he saw, again, the surfing elf on the beach. He didn’t know if it was Lup - who had worn the leggings in the grocery store, or the other one, but they had their blond hair pulled back into a braid and wasn’t yet in the water, instead sitting on the beach, phone in hand.

Kravitz stopped on the sidewalk, lunchbag on its strap slung over his shoulder, and watched the elf, carefully.

He was tired, and hungry, but he found himself stepping down onto the sand and crossed over until he was at least closer. He stopped when the elf’s ears twitched, then asked, hesitantly, “Can I ask your name?”

The elf turned, and Kravitz knew without being sure why that it was the same one who had reached across him for the orange, the same one who had winked at him.

“Only if you bring your hot nurse self over here and sit on down,” the elf said, and their voice was both serious and alit with laughter - maybe not at the joke, but at Kravitz’s expense.

Still, Kravitz obliged, stretching his long legs out in front of him. He pulled his bag into his lap and sighed quietly, glancing out at the ocean instead of being dragged into the elf’s eyes. “So?” He asked, turning to look at the elf after a moment.

“I’m Taako,” the elf said, their own attention turned out towards the ocean. This close, they smelled like the sea, and Kravitz can tell that their braid was twisted strands of hair, the ends standing out from each other, and could only imagine what it would look like loose, untouched by pins or product. He wondered idly if the blond was natural or affected.

“Kravitz,” Kravitz said. “You surf?” he asked, though it was pretty self-evident. The board was long and perfect and white, flames of every color working up the face of it - but they weren’t the tacky flames Kravitz had always hated, but they were soft, lifelike, a shower of multicolor sparks against a white background.

“Yeah, I surf,” Taako said, and left it at that.

“And… he?” He asked, unsure. Taako was sitting in front of him now, bare-chested and golden, but they had been wearing a skirt and makeup and earrings and bangles in the grocery store.

“Yeah, he.” Taako stood, kicking around the sand at his feet a bit. “Look, Kravitz, I gotta go catch those waves, but we should go on a date sometime.” He looked down, waited for Kravitz to nod, then picked up his surfboard from the sand and headed for the water.

Kravitz sighed and stood, and as he was turning to walk away, he paused, crouching down to write his name and number in the sand.

Then, he went home, ate, and fell asleep as soon as he was in bed.

 

-

 

Taako watched as the man, Kravitz, headed off down the beach, barely having to pay attention to the waves this early in the morning.

He stayed out for hours as the sun went higher and higher in the sky, abandoning the water when it started to get busier.

As Taako slipped his shoes on and scooped up his hat and towel and phone, he noticed the number written in the sand.

He considered it for a moment, and then tapped it into his phone before dragging his foot through the sand, smearing the name and number. Kravitz. He was pretty hot.

But instead of texting Kravitz, he stuffed his phone in his pocket and headed for Lup and Barry’s.

Their place was nice. Barry had a good job, and Lup did too, so it was only Taako who fed himself by hustling people at cards or pool anymore. Still, when he let himself into their apartment, it was quiet and dark. Instead of waking them up - it was the weekend, after all, and they were a pair of lovebirds - he set down his things, turned on the light in the kitchen, and let the smell of cooking breakfast wake them up.

Barry was of course the first one to stumble out of the bedroom, rubbing his eyes and jamming his glasses onto his face. “Morning, Barold,” Taako said over his shoulder as he flipped the bacon and then turned to start cracking eggs into a bowl.

“Morning, Taako.” Once - one singular time - Barry had tried out Lup’s nickname for her brother, and they had all agreed that it would never happen ever again.

Taako poured out a mug of coffee for the man who was basically his brother-in-law, even if he was a weenie who still had yet to propose to Lup, and slid it across the counter. “Thanks,” Barry said, sipping the coffee while obviously trying to wake himself up enough to be alive.

They fell into a quiet, nothing to say and also listening for Lup to wake up.

Sure enough, by the time Taako was turning off the heat on the eggs and flipping the pancakes, there was a loud thump, a quiet yelp, and the sound of a door opening and closing before the water turned on.

Lup stumbled out of the bathroom a few minutes later, wearing panties and a sports bra and nothing else. Taako didn’t even blink at his sister’s state of undress, just offered out her ‘hot momma’ mug wordlessly. “Morning, Koko,” she mumbled into her mug, ears slumped, hair a bird’s nest of tangles. She’d slept on her braid and it was going to be hell to get out, but Taako was up for the challenge.

“Morning, Lulu. Eat some breakfast.” He dished them all up food, but less for himself - a couple pieces of bacon and eggs, he wasn’t that hungry even after being out on the water.

“Thanks,” they both told him then tucked into breakfast.

“So what are we doing today?” Barry asked, looking between the two of them.

“I think Julia wants to hang out. So we’ll probably go to their place, Magnus is starting to slow down for the winter.” Lup lifted her head from her plate to take a sip of coffee and look at her brother for the first time really this morning. “‘s wrong, Koko?”

Taako started, lifting his own head. His hair was wet and clumped up, he’d been out surfing already this morning she knew. “Nothing,” he said, and it was partially true. She waited.

“You remember, like, a month ago, we were at the grocery store and I was talking to you about tortillas?”

“Gods, Taako, yes, how dare I forget another inane conversation about tortillas .”

“No need to be so nasty,” he said, ears twitching. But his tone was warm. “Anyways, there was a human guy there. About yea tall,” he gestured somewhere a bit above his hair, “black, dreads, handsome as fuck?”

Lup straightened, trying to remember that night. “Let’s say yes, so we can move on with this conversation.” It hadn’t been a particularly memorable night, all things considered, she had no idea who else had been in the store and could not have picked out the man Taako was describing from a lineup.

“Well, he came up to me on the beach this morning and gave me his number.” He’s resolutely not looking at Barry. But Lup, instead of answering him, just stared back at him, her eyebrows raised just a fraction.

“Well, you better end up at his place, because I think if he knows you live out of a van he’ll run away and never stop.”

“Lulu,” Taako whined, throwing his hands down to his sides.

“Look, Taako…” Lup paused for dramatic effect and also slurped down more of her coffee. “I don’t need to know the deets to know you’ve been dry for a long fuckin time. Go on a date, get yourself boned, and delete his number in the morning.” She waved a hand through the air. “Or marry him, I guess, I don’t care. Whatever makes you happy. Just don’t bring him here, or if you do for the love of god change the sheets on our bed afterward.

Barry opened his mouth to protest, caught Lup’s look, then wisely closed his mouth with a small sigh. He stuck the last bite of his pancakes into his mouth then got up, “I’m going to go get ready,” he said, pressing a kiss to the side of Lup’s head before heading back to the bedroom.

When he was gone, Taako sighed. He stared down at his hands, then looked back up at Lup, but she was just watching him closely, mouth set in a line that was neither smiling nor firm. “Koko,” she said finally, getting up, “I love you, you know. And I just want you to be happy.” She reached out for his hands and he let her take them, and when she stepped in, he reached up and past her, pulling her into a hug. 

They stood together, Taako with his face buried against the side of Lup’s, and she continued, “You better go date that guy, but I fucking mean it about not bringing him here.”


Taako laughed, and it was short and strained, but he nodded, fingernails scratching lightly across her back as he held on.