An ache is creeping over your eyes before you finally click your phone off and set it down on the nightstand. You know you’re going to regret this in the morning – wait, what time is it? You roll over to grab your phone again and squint at the lockscreen.
Shit, five hours before your alarm. And all for another stupid dating app.
You’re not sure what drew you to OkCryptid. Michael in the neighboring apartment had first recommended the app after meeting his werewolf boyfriend, Vaughn or Vinn or something similar, you could never quite remember. They were a sweet couple and Michael seemed genuinely concerned for you, though you’d repeatedly assured him you were actually coping just fine, thanks. Yeah, it’d been awhile since the breakup, and perhaps your most recent dates had been somewhat disappointing – in fact it’d been Michael who drove you home, furious and rain-drenched, from the last one – but that didn’t mean you needed a matchmaker.
And yet... something about it piqued your interest.
You’d created your profile only an hour ago and already been matched with a ruby-scaled naga and an orc woman who looked strong enough to carry you under one arm. Snuggled inside a cocoon of blankets you’d scrolled through their pictures, debating whether or not to start a conversation. In the end you decided to wait. Patient, you have to be patient.
Outside your bedroom a clock ticks on softly in the darkness. This apartment has felt so... still, recently, somehow emptier.
Your breathing settles into the slow rhythm of sleep by the time your nightstand lights up suddenly with a tiny ping.
Spitting a piece of hair from the corner of your mouth, you silence the blaring alarm and unlock your phone with fumbling fingers. There’s a notification from OkCryptid. Another match overnight, and a message as well this time. Whoever it is must be a night owl.
Damen+Giles has sent you a message! 5h
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. – G
Oh dear lord. Let’s try this again. Hi, I’m Damen. How’s it going? – D
Well... definitely not the worst pick-up line you’ve gotten. The profile picture is blurry and looks as though it was taken while walking, but you can make out a grinning reptilian face and upstretched arm. Except – wait, no, that’s not-
You tap over to the profile. Smiling up from your phone is not one, but two dragonlike heads that wind around each other on necks of deep green. The left glances at the camera sheepishly as though he’s been caught off guard by the picture (does it count as a selfie or a candid?) while the right gleefully bares fangs through a wild mane that falls across his face. You swipe through the other photos; in one they stand before a full mirror dressed quite smartly in suit and ties, another looks to have been taken in a classroom and shows them fiercely wielding a sword of connected whiteboard markers, foot planted atop a plastic desk chair. Guess Damen and Giles are a duality in more ways than one.
You realize you’ve just been perusing their profile, half out of bed, for some time now. You’d gone into OkCryptid expecting the unexpected, but two dates in one... this is something you’re going to have to think over today. Suppose you might as well reply, though.
Hi Damen, and hello Shakespeare. I’m doing well, you?
You pocket the phone to get ready for work, but it’s a matter of minutes before it vibrates.
Damen+Giles has sent you a message! 1m
We’re good! Just getting things prepared for work today. Nice to meet you, Y/N. – D
Wrote that line just for you ;) I’m Giles btw – G
You guys teach right? How do you like it?
Saw the marker picture, huh? Yep, english and speech at the highschool. As you can see it has its share of fun moments. – D
We were originally doing an exercise on conflict in plot, but things escalated – G
So wyd for work, Y/N? – G
The three of you spend the morning chatting as you move about your apartment. In a way it’s your usual mantra of introduction – where you work, your favorite novels, what you do for hobby. At first it’s confusing to keep a line of conversation with both of them, but as the morning wears on you start to fall into a more comfortable rhythm. Damen is quick to answer and liberal with pleasantries, almost to the point of formality, but seems genuinely eager to learn about you. Giles responds more sporadically and uses emojis and abbreviations to a degree you weren’t expecting from an English teacher. By the time you can no longer put off leaving for work you rarely even need the signature initials to tell which one is talking.
Alright, I need to actually go now. Send me a message later sometime?
Sure thing, have a good day! – D
Course : ) ttyl – G
You catch yourself drifting between daydreams more than usual during your shift today, often wondering what the pair might be doing now as you sit staring blankly at your work computer. Teaching, probably, long necks swiveling to pass a lecture back and forth or grade two papers simultaneously. Maybe even thinking about you too. What if they’re talking about you together? What if one of them likes you but the other doesn’t? What if-
No, no, you can’t do this so soon, and there’s still others you matched with on OkCryptid anyway. Sure, these two are charming in their own manners and well educated and admittedly quite handsome, but you have to remember to take things slow for now. Patience. This needs patience.
True to their word, Damen and Giles keep in touch, and the brief bursts of chatter are quickly becoming the highlights of your day. Sometimes one will be online without the other. These are the times you gain the most insight; Damen in particular seems to open up when alone, even venting to you the occasional frustration over this or that. You find it refreshing somehow to see the lapse in his careful politeness. Giles’ solo talks, on the other hand, are more errant trains of thought in the wee hours of night. You were half on the mark with your night owl prediction; apparently Giles often stays up late online while Damen sleeps.
It’s almost a week before they ask you out.
You’re lounging in bed after a long day, propping up weary feet on the frame when a buzz sounds from your phone nearby.
Damen+Giles has sent you a message! 1m
Hey, u home from work? – G
Yeah, just a bit ago. What’s up?
Well, actually, we were wondering – D
Would you happen to be free sometime this weekend? – D
Don’t have anything planned, why, what’re you thinking?
How’d u like to go for dinner? We know a pretty decent spot by the river downtown – G
It’s nothing glamorous, but usually pretty quiet – D
And the rum cake is killer – G
You down? – G
You’ve been wondering when they would finally want to meet up, and yet somehow you’re still taken aback for a moment before answering.
Sure, sounds great! I can meet you there Friday night. What’s the name?
It’s called the Roc. Want directions? – D
Your hands are jittery on the steering wheel when you pull up to the rugged two-story brick building. Above the door is a metal bird’s head straining forward like a figurehead at the prow of a ship, THE ROC scrawled beneath its neck in stern iron letters. If the exterior is unwelcoming the inside quickly makes up for it. With a push through the heavy door you find yourself awash in warmth and the light of mismatched lamps that glow from various shelves and crannies. A bar stretches along one side of the room, and the walls are filled with a miscellany of decor - old photos, paintings, a stuffed goat head, and several carved grotesques. At a table far from the other patrons sits what can only be your beaming, monstrous date.
Oh, fuck. They’re even more attractive in person.
Two sets of luminous eyes look up as you approach the table and take in the sight of you, slit pupils dilating like a cat's. Even in this dim lighting their necks, hands, and long tail that snakes beneath your chair glimmer with scales like polished malachite, and the muscles of their limbs ripple powerfully beneath them as he turns to face you. The head on the right looks as though he’s attempted to comb down the spikes of his mane with minimal success. You wriggle out of your coat and take a seat, trying to follow the way their heads swivel and twist as the two regard you happily. A moment of bated silence passes before you remember your manners and offer a hand.
“Hi, so sorry I’m a bit late, it’s pretty icy out there. This is... an interesting place. I'm digging the gargoyles, honestly.”
One hand tipped with four wicked-looking black talons reaches out to grasp yours and a give a small squeeze, surprisingly gentle for its size. You suppose a proper handshake might have impaled your wrist.
“Don’t worry, we’re just glad you got here safe.” The right head speaks in a quiet, husky tone that makes you shiver despite yourself. From intimidation or excitement, it’s difficult to say. "Yeah, this is a favorite haunt of ours. I thought it might be a little odd for a first meet but, well, Giles insisted..." He glances around the bar as he speaks and tugs a claw absently at their neckline. It's a little comforting to see you might not be the most nervous one here after all. "Oh, right, and just off the bat- I’m Damen, and this is Giles on the left. You have no idea how many mix-ups it’s caused on first meetings.”
Giles grins, showing off a maw full of fangs.
“So if it helps to remember who’s who, know that I’m the handsome one.” His voice is a rich baritone, slightly lower than Damen’s.
"You know I'm not going to pick favorites, Shakespeare." You can't help but return the smile. "But I do like your taste in bars. Is this a favorite on OkCryptid?"
With a growl-like chuckle, Giles hands you a menu from the holder. "Nah, mostly among theatre people. You should drop in sometime for the slam poetry they do in spring. Watch me in action."
"If you're interested of course." Damen says. "Patience, Giles." After a short pause, he adds more quietly, "But- it is really nice to finally meet you in person."
“Yeah,” you say. “You too.”