It started by accident. Half of Ringo's body is covered with suction cups. It was only a matter of time until Ringo got stuck to Paul, really.
They'd been good friends for years. They swam away together, built a home together. Practically, no two mer were closer.
Paul had belonged to a different tribe than Ringo. His body was built different; could withstand the cold more, liked the sun less. The blue of his tail blended nicely with the water around him, and he could traverse the depths with ease.
Ringo was able to blend in with his surroundings. He had a slight fear of the surface, but that didn't stop him from loving the warmth of the sun seeping down through the water. He liked to spread himself out, half-buried beneath the soft sand of the shallow waters, and fall asleep watching the various shapes of warped birds and clouds sail by in the world above.
As close as they were, Paul and Ringo didn't touch very much, at first. Ringo was scared of hurting his new friend with the tiny, hidden spines buried beneath his skin. One hug too tight could prove painful and dangerous.
His fear of hurting other fish had caused Ringo to shelter himself, and stray from growing too close to anyone.
Paul had changed that.
The blue mer's body was pale and looked delicate, but his skin was thick, resilient, and protected from most prickly, pointy objects that scattered the sea floor.
In the hollow coral cave the two men shared, there was only enough room for one bed. Ringo tried insisting his siren friend take it, in favor of himself sleeping burrowed in the sand.
Paul was having none of it, and had pulled Ringo down onto the large, soft sponge.
"If we're going to stay together, we might as well both get comfortable," Paul had said. He grinned up at Ringo, arms looped around his neck.
Ringo had turned a lovely shade of pink, and even his tail arms changed color, curling up into themselves. He was not used to such affection, and trembled with both nerves and excitement.
What had he done to deserve such a sweet friend? He'd always been too shy to initiate anything like this, and while he feared the uncharted waters, he couldn't stop the pulse of warmth from blooming in his hearts.
The friends then tried to get comfortable, only to find that... they were stuck together.
Embarrassed, Ringo had turned every color under the sun, trying to pull away, before making things even more awkward. Paul had only laughed, not in pain, but in amusement.
Ringo paused. "This.. doesn't hurt you?" His eyes were wide, body frozen with hope that he tried to not allow.
Giggling up at his octo counterpart, Paul slid a hand up the top of one of Ringo's lower arms.
"Not at all! Should it?"
And with the straightforward answer, Ringo had allowed a part of his insecurities dissolve, and the two had grown even closer.
Not long after, they often found themselves connected at the hip. Paul would come home from exploring the reefs nearby to find the octopus snoozing outside their cave, amongst the many small sea plants growing there.
Paul liked to run his fingers through Ringo's long hair, and, after discovering the contact was welcome, he began to do it as he pleased.
After leaving his own tribe, Paul tried to grow his own hair out to match his friend. Ringo had a fin up, though, and his was much longer, and much smoother, what with how often he absorbed the sun in the shallows.
Settling down in the moss, Paul pressed his hip next to Ringo's head, and the octopus unconsciously curled toward the warmth, nose nuzzling against Paul's tail.
Heart beating with affection, Paul tenderly swept a few locks of hair back behind one of Ringo's ears. He continued petting, and as he did so, Ringo's lower arms began to sweep closer, slowly curling around Paul's own tail.
Smiling sweetly down at his friend, Paul tried to stem off the sweet feelings growing in his chest, leaving his cheeks tinted pink.
They laid there together for some time, before Ringo began to stir.
The warmth in Paul's face returned with a vengeance when little cups that had suctioned against him tried to tug away. They'd detached from his smooth tail scales easily, but the few on Ringos hands that were on his skin still tugged, trying to detach while their owner slowly woke up.
Ringo's sleepy eyes blinked open, and Paul jumped a bit when their gazes locked. Without realizing Paul's predicament, Ringo simply smiled, then yawned, carefree in his relaxed state.
He tried to reach a hand up to rub at his eyes, and with a high pop, his cups tugged, then let go of his friend's skin. Small, rounded shaped appeared pink on Paul's chest and stomach. He shivered, jaw clenched, trying to not make his pleased, internal confusion too obvious.
After a moment, Ringo woke fully, and after a good stretch, he again opened his eyes to peer up at his friend.
"Ah, welcome back, Paul," he chimed sweetly. Paul grinned nervously, nodding, "I'm home."
Ringo then peered down at where Paul was trying to cover his abdomen. "Are you alright?" He wondered, trying to see what Paul was hiding.
"A-ah, yeah - of course!" Paul stammered out, trying to find something other to look at than the curious eyes of his friend.
Pursing his lips, Ringo slipped his fingers between Paul's and lifted his hands up to reveal pink splotches littering his skin.
Ringo gasped, immediately concerned. "Did I do this..? Oh, are you alright? I-I'm sorry, Paul, I didn't mean t-"
Paul hushed the rambling and pulled a hand back to cover his shy smile.
"It, uh. It didn't hurt."
Though Ringo had discovered over time that Paul was quite resilient, he was still worried that Paul was covering up for Ringo to try and help calm his nerves.
Leaning closer, Ringo squinted. "Are you sure? Your chest and face is all pink...are you really not hurt?"
Paul leaned back, and an inner part of Ringo twitched in sadness at the action. Paul continued to look away, and seemed at a loss for what to say. Ringo looked stricken.
"It did hurt, didn't it? Oh, why did you have to come so close?" Ringo pulled back fully, curling in on himself. The tips of his lower arms began to turn grey.
Paul started, not wanting Ringo to return to before, keeping distance in fear of hurting others.
"Th-ah.. No, Ringo! I-i just..." He tumbled over his words in his rush to reassure his friend, but was scared to reveal the real reason he was so flustered.
"No, no. I get it," Ringo mumbled, shoulders raised high to surround his head. "I'm sorry. I.. I'll try not to get close like that, again."
A part of Paul broke at seeing his friend try to close himself off, after how far they'd grown, in such short time.
"No, Ringo, wait!" Paul exclaimed.
He rubbed at his head to get his thoughts together. "It didn't hurt, honestly! I just.."
Ringo's head fins dropped, and he looked sadly up at Paul through his lashes, waiting. Paul's cheeks bloomed a lovely, bright peach color, and he touched them, as if trying to hide.
"I'm embarrassed because.." Paul raised his eyes, "It felt good."