Beyond the Sea
Beyond the Sea is a story written and illustrated by Iron Eater. It ran in Issue 49 at http://s2b2.livejournal.com/278614.html, and is mirrored at http://www.shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/beyond-the-sea/.
Ocean stewardship doesn't have to be stressful, especially not when a friend visits from out of town.
The motor drew closer, getting gradually louder until someone killed it with a rattling fart of machinery, replacing the buzzing with the rhythmic splash of oars in water. That had to be Aaron, then: he always rowed the last few dozen yards to keep from damaging the reefs or julienning any wildlife. Obed sometimes wondered if Aaron was extra-careful on general principle or if it was because he knew Obed and Dakkar regularly swam in the shallows around the island. Either way, it was thoughtful of him.
Obed hauled himself out of the water and waited on the pier. He waved to Aaron when the latter glanced his way, and beamed when Aaron waved back between swipes of the oars. The boat itself was loaded down with enough supplies to replenish what they'd gone through and then some. That was a good sign, then, since Aaron only brought the bare minimum with him if it was a simple data-collection visit; this time he had what looked like multiple changes of clothes in addition to the usual food and equipment, which almost definitely meant he'd be staying for a few days. What had started out a nice day was only promising to get nicer.
Beyond the Sea is a standalone story, though from day one people requested a revisit with more tentacles, so that may change in the future.
This story has no related links.
First off, I had a lot of fun writing this one, even with a sometimes-ouchy dominant hand, and the illustrations are part of an ongoing process in learning how to digitally paint. Thanks eternally to my beta reader who helped me decide what the pictures should be (and for giving me great feedback with less than 24 hours' notice)! The basic concept was "how on earth can I make Octodad into a sexy concept?" in an attempt to find an interesting take on the issue theme and went from there. The copy on my hard drive is still named "Octodad revised.odt"; I didn't give it its finished title until just before sharing the proofreading link.
This story originally had a completely different opener and was going to focus on the hinted-upon story of Obed searching for Dakkar on the mainland, the exact location never given but implied to be in an English-speaking part of the southern hemisphere that touched the Pacific Ocean. They're still somewhere in the South Pacific and still some time in the near future, but fast forwarding the action to a more character-driven piece once several key details had already been established helped catapult this story from "languishing for weeks" to "written and beta read in about three days," which isn't bad at all. Changing the scope of things also meant I could take it easy and write something pleasant and cute.
The species name Dagoniformes selkii is derived from Dagon, dread god-figure of the Deep Ones, and the shapeshifting selkies, the reasons for both which should be obvious upon reading. Obed is named for Obed Marsh from The Shadow over Innsmouth, Eke is named for Echidna, mate of Typhon (but she's not the Echidna, if that makes any sense), Aaron just needed a mundane-looking name that was different from everyone else's, and Dakkar at one point needed to be found by his very worried dad. Aaron also basically works at the research station from The Abyss with the serial numbers filed off, though that particular reference I didn't do much with at all.
While it isn't touched on in the story because Obed has enough trouble relating to humans on a basic level and would find the concept of race utterly baffling, Aaron's nationality is a mixture of Hawaiian (thus his tattoos), Japanese, Samoan, Australian, generic-white-American, Thai, and possibly a few others his parents have forgotten, and he's delighted to have such a varied cultural heritage. He's lighter-skinned than Obed's preferred people-costume and probably comes off as vaguely Filipino to people who don't know him. It was fun presenting the human character as the one more comfortable and open with their kinky ideas; I figure he tweaked to Obed being different before any sort of Big Reveal, and learning that the cute guy trying to liberate the baby sea monster you've been studying is A) into you and B) also a sea monster and C) still down to bone if that isn't weird or anything would have pushed buttons Aaron never knew he had.
This story was written very carefully to keep from weirding anyone out with the base concept of "man bangs sometimes-tentacled friend," as this wasn't made for a Yes, And issue, but based on various feedback this may have been unnecessarily timid.
Eke is intentionally described using vague strokes, but she's definitely a lot more monstrous and a lot larger than Obed is. They don't explicitly have sexual dimorphism among their species, instead having one fertile adult claim territory and grow to a sufficient size to defend said and fend off rivals; said adult keeps a court of more person-sized breeding stock (which, as mentioned here, don't often feel limited to getting busy with just one partner) and is generally responsible for their continued well-being. Children leave to join other courts once they reach adulthood but sometimes return to visit their parents if feeling particularly sentimental. While I'm not immediately sure what causes some Dagoniformes selkii to get as big as boats while others stay smaller, it probably has something to do with chemical receptors and the presence or absence of a "royal" sea monster in an area with sufficient resources to support a court.
After fertilizing the egg that would become Dakkar, Obed carried him in a sort of seahorse pouch to keep him safe, and he will no doubt have a lot more befuddled questions to ask Aaron about how human babies work if he ever gets around to reading further in an anatomy book. He's a loving, devoted dad and making sure this was a visible part of his character was one of two main points I wanted to hit, the other being that him sleeping with Aaron was something Eke knew about and approved of. I didn't want to tragedy away Dakkar's mother just for the sake of his dad getting laid!
The Opener That Wasn't Used
(there's obvious changes in details (to say nothing of tone) between this and the finished version, such as why Obed has glasses, but it's included on the grounds of "I liked it and wanted to share" -- Iron Eater)
Obed leaned heavily on the bathroom counter and stared at his reflection. He somehow didn't look as exhausted as he felt: his eyes were sunken, but his glasses obscured just how hollow they'd gotten, and his dreads were pulled back in the world's sloppiest tail, but in this city that was the style of the hour. His suit was nice enough that even his hopelessly rumpled shirt couldn't detract too much from it. Anyone passing him on the street would just see another man trying to keep out of the rain. That was probably for the best.
He splashed water on his face and wrinkled his nose at how strange it smelled. The water back home wasn't as clear as the stuff from the tap for obvious reasons, but he already missed how much richer it tasted compared to this flat, overly-filtered swill. The soap in the dispensers was a weird, overly sweet blend that clung to his skin even after he'd scrubbed it away. Everything was too hot or too cold or, on a few strange occasions, both at once. People lived like this, somehow.
Obed sighed. There just wasn't enough time for him to waste it worrying about the state of public restrooms, not when Dakkar -- his precious Dakkar, tiny Dakkar, Dakkar who was not even two -- was still lost, somewhere, in this mess of glass and asphalt. He touched his pockets and ran his fingers along the wad of bills nestled there; pawning a few trinkets from home had given him enough for a month's lodgings, or at least he hoped it did, so finding a hotel that allowed extended stays was at the top of his to-do list. So was buying a proper wallet. So was figuring out how to get from whatever lodgings he found to the Ruby Bay Marine Science Center, though he could probably find a visitor's center somewhere that would have a slick-paper brochure telling him that much.
It's all going to be okay, he thought at the weary man in the mirror. Dakkar is safe, just lost, and when a few years have passed we'll look back at this whole thing as nothing more than a strange adventure. He straightened his tie, which he'd tied badly, not being a tie-wearing sort most of the time. Dakkar's safe, and I'm safe, too. No one suspects a thing.
Pushing himself back off of the bank of sinks, Obed fussed with his suit coat and stepped out into the world again, his sleeves pulled down just enough to hide the riot of chromatophores dancing across his hands.