Underwater, Tanner is beautiful.
On the decks of Armada, he knows he's a muddle, the walking dregs of a fishmonger's barrow. But in the sea all his parts have purpose; he moves cleverly, freed from air tanks by his elegant gills. His tentacles give him the one thing every working man needs, more hands. The sea's the world he Remade himself for, gave himself to, for fear of having no world at all.
Shekel doesn't belong in the sea. He's clumsy there, nearly helpless, but Tanner keeps on bringing him. Where else can they meet anymore but swimming, floating along the boundary between the elements? Shekel's got a woman now, got a life that Tanner can only hang round the edges of, useless and out of place.
"You'll turn fish," the old-timers joke to Shekel when he comes to the water yet again. Tanner can barely smile at it, because he sees his own hopes there, although for another kind of transformation. It's not gills he wants for Shekel but new eyes. Tanner's not old, not so ugly even out of the water, but Shekel's as blind to it as some men are to red and green. Woman-blind, Tanner thinks when he's angry, too dazzled by the hole between Angevine's legs to know there's still a world beyond it.
Tanner daydreams about reminders, and more, about pleasures he could give that the boy's never imagined, that Tanner himself has only just thought up. In the sea he could wrap himself around Shekel, arms and legs and yes, those too, the tentacles that are just as surely a part of him now as his other limbs. He could be everywhere, he could be sinuous and overwhelming. He could be the opposite of Angevine, forever affixed to her metal box.
If only Shekel would ask. Would even hint at invitation. Tanner's seen too much rape to try it any other way. No matter how good Shekel's gasp of surprise sounds in Tanner's mind when he's wanking, and how easy it is then to fondle him into another kind of gasping. It wouldn't work for real, any more than Shekel could grow webs between his fingers and learn proper swimming.
Tanner dreamt, once, that Shekel had himself Remade like Tanner, but more. There were fins along his sides and his feet fused together into a tail. Scales covered his pretty skin. "There are two of us now," Shekel said in the dream. Tanner woke up with tears on his face, for joy and a grief he still can't give a name to.
They tasted, as all tears do, like the sea.