Because we are immortal, and because you are so very mortal, we form attachments quickly. So it became with Bear. He was the assistant manager of Cloud Nine and my employee. How dare I? I had no business thinking about him after hours. I had no business watching him help customers, sign for inventory, or pour drinks from the bar. We had no business making eye contact, holding the stare, and lingering. He was human. I was an immortal. Worse than that, reminder: he was my employee.
My brother, Phantasos, was back after his recovery, following the Titan Epimetheus’s attack on his mind. We spoke about our father, Hypnos, going mad and what that might mean for us. Hopefully, it wasn’t a genetic condition. Then again, what did DNA and genes matter to those of us who were originally spirits formed in the underworld? Maybe one day I would offer a scientist the chance to study my body, and find out if I had anything biologically in common with humans besides functioning sex organs, emotions, and a humanoid form.
I hadn’t even dipped my toe into the human world and already I was lovesick, pining, and wanting what I couldn’t have. On second thought, why was I so dead-set on cutting off all the mortals who developed a bond with me in the dream world? I should have indulged myself more. No time like the present.
Everyone around me seemed to either be married, engaged, in a serious relationship, or beginning one. It made me nauseous – and sick with envy. Surely I could arrange a one night stand. I was easy on the eyes, especially after my upgrade. I was still a slave to Gothic influences, but I had needed to add a handful of years to my look, and so I did.
Tonight, it was yet another closing with Bear lingering, and me not eager to see him go. Could I be so selfish to seek comfort in a warm embrace? What if he rejected me? Many had and many would, just because you have a pretty face doesn’t mean you can find a lover easily.
“Hey, boss.” Bear walked up to me. He would tell me the bar was closed, the tables cleaned, everything was ready to shut down until tomorrow. My heart hurt.
“You can call me Morpheus, you know. Surely we’re peers by now, Mr. Co-manager.”
He laughed. “True. Okay, Morpheus. I was going to go dancing after this. Want to come?”
Well, that was different. There was only one answer I could give. “That sounds adequate.” So we went. The club we entered was full of college kids partying on the weekend. Sleek and sweaty bodies pressed against one other, writhing to the beats of techno and house music.
“Let’s do shots!” Bear shouted over the noise. We pushed gently through the crowd to the bar and ordered two shots each of top-shelf tequila. I slipped a few dried poppy petals into my mouth for an extra kick. It was my cure for social anxiety since human medications had no effect on me.
“Woo!” Bear whooped and shook his head with the sharp tang of the strong alcohol. I pretended that it had the same effect on me. We both smiled. He grabbed my hand and led me to the dance floor where I began an awkward attempt to model myself after the bodies around me. I was no expert on dancing, and it was obvious Bear was the superior in this activity. I leaned in to whisper in his ear, “Teach me.” He put my hands on either side of his waist and then raised his in the air and slowly moved his hips forward and then side to side in time to the music. It became a sensual groove we lost ourselves to. Our hands, arms, and hips changed positions, but found each other’s repeatedly as we continued to follow the beat, the groove, the hypnotic pulse of the DJ’s set.
I could smell his sweat, clean with a cologne I could not identify. I hoped I had used enough deodorant that day, but I wasn’t even sure I needed it. Did gods get body odor? Did we have actual pores or was it just another illusion?
Bear leaned in after a lull in the DJ’s set and said, “I’m parched. Let’s get another drink.” We wandered up, and this time I ordered a Guinness on draft. “Do you ever drink anything else?” he laughed.
“What? I like it,” I smiled.
“I can tell. I’ll have rum and cola, please.” An excited couple rose from the stools nearby, and we slid onto them quickly. “Have you ever been here before?”
“No, you know me. I don’t go out, unless you have dragged me out.”
“What? You don’t go out with your other friends? I’ve occasionally seen them around. I know you have some.”
He was possibly talking about Urania or Selene. I didn’t really hang out with any other humans and rarely communed with any deities. He might have seen Phantasos when he was briefly at Cloud Nine. The djinn? I hoped not. I still wasn’t sure whether Komenu was friend or foe, or just a neutral supernatural creature flitting through my never-ending life.
“Yeah, we hang once in a while, but I’m basically a boring homebody who spends most of my time at my place of business. You should know, since you spend a great deal of time there, too.”
“I do. But, I am Mr. Co-manager now, so duty calls. Are you complaining?”
“No. I like having you there. I mean, you know, so it’s not lonely,” I smiled.
“Let’s go dance some more.”
Back at Cloud Nine, we drained bottles of water after the alcoholic drinks at the dance club. I turned on a television screen and put on a sports event. I wasn’t a big sports fan, but it seemed like the pertinent thing to do. Many bars and grills had the games on while customers were in attendance.
“You like sports?” Bear asked.
“Not really. I just turned it on for background noise, I guess. How about you?”
“I hate sports.”
I laughed, relieved. “Okay, new rule. No sports are allowed at Cloud Nine.”
“Thank God. I fully, one thousand percent, concur. We should get a streaming service here. Cable sucks.”
“I agree. Let’s do that.” I put music on instead. Goth synthesizers and guitars lit up the speakers, and a quirky male voice crooned about a lost love. We both sat and listened to the music for a minute.
“I guess I should go,” Bear said.
“Yeah, we’ve put in a long day. How’s Seabiscuit?”
“She’s great. I’ll bring her in tonight.”
“Sounds good.” We stood up at the same time and bumped into each other. Our faces were close and we froze. Hesitantly, Bear leaned a tiny fraction of an inch closer. I didn’t move. He came another tiny bit towards me and looked at my lips. I looked back at his mouth, perfect lips that were not too full and not too plump. Was this going to happen? I was curious. Ichor thrummed through my veins, pounding, I could hear the throbbing beat in my ears. I was scared and excited.
He tipped all the way forward and gently pressed his lips to mine. Neither of us moved a muscle for a beat, and then we deepened the kiss. Bear raised a hand to caress my jaw, and I put both of my hands on either side of his hips. His tongue softly pushed inside my mouth, and I teasingly sucked on it, then pressed mine against his. We tasted each other – a mix of our drinks, mint, and clean dewy male. Nothing sloppy; it was a perfect kiss. He bit my lower lip with a tender playfulness and pulled reluctantly away. My eyes were halfway shut, and I sighed.
He smiled. “So, that happened.”
“So it did. Are you okay?”
“I’m more than okay. How about you?”
“I’m good. I…”
“Before you say anything, it was a kiss. I liked it, but nothing has to change. Let’s take it slow and just see what happens?”
“Sounds like a good idea,” I smiled. We were smiling a lot tonight, it seemed. He gave me a hug and we lingered, breathing each other in, before letting go.
“See you tomorrow? Or today, actually.”
“Yep, see you later. Wait.” I plucked a rose from a small vase on a nearby tabletop and presented it to him. “For you. Thanks for a fun night.” My cheeks burned as I realized this was probably a cheesy beginner move. My romance skills needed an upgrade, pronto.
My head down, I walked Bear to the door and closed and locked it behind him. I grinned like an idiot and wiped the backside of my hand across my mouth to hide my smirk. I was alone, I didn’t need to keep my reaction hidden. Still, I drew the night to me like a dragon guards its hoard. I would ruminate on every moment and relive it with joy.
I think I just had my first real kiss from a mortal, well, outside of the dream world, and a kiss I wanted and enjoyed! Perhaps romance in this realm was not lost to me after all.
I liked him, and he liked me. It made me nervous. It made me feel alive. I could become addicted to kisses. I ran my fingers over my lips, once again imagining the feel of his tongue, his teeth, and his taste. Remembering his smell and the way he felt pressed against me when we embraced. I would do this again with him. We would do more. What would his bare skin feel like against my hand? What would it feel like to run my tongue across his naked flesh? I would find out – soon.