It was early dawn when Rowan was roused by his nightmares.
Unable to shake off the uncomfortable feeling, he got dressed and decided to go for a run. His heart unwilling and heavy, he went to the ocean. Before he knew it, he was running on the gravelly path to the solitary shore of the water. The ocean came into view. The sky was starting to bleed into red at the horizon. The water was a calm dark blue.
Rowan stilled and sat down on the sand, away from where the waves were licking the shore. He extended his legs and simply watched. A few moments later, the sun peeked from the horizon. The village arose with the sun. At the first sign of light, life stirred.
He swept his gaze around until he saw a lone soul, illuminated by the sunrise. The person had perched on a black rock a good distance away from the shore.
As morning came, light spilled. It was a young man, half-naked and wet as if he had taken a dip. His bare, moist skin glistened under the sunlight. His hands were braced behind him, his torso turned towards the sun. Something about him made Rowan catch his breath. He found himself drawn to him.
He got up and started walking as close as the dry sand would allow, never once taking his eyes off him, wanting to see more than his faraway figure. Rowan drank in the sight of him. The arch of his lean back. The long strands of his damp hair, clinging to the base of his neck. He stopped, facing the man's back, not taking a step into the water. He simply gazed at the object of his wonder.
The man turned his head around suddenly as if sensing another presence. Wide-eyed, he gasped and dove right into the water.
"Wait!" Rowan shouted. "I didn't mean to startle you!"
Several moments passed before the man surfaced from the water beside the rock, only his eyes peeking out. Rowan stifled a smile.
"I didn't mean to startle you," Rowan said again, looking at the man's expression, the dislike of being sneaked upon evident.
"Nobody comes to this side of the beach, so I was surprised and I..." Rowan trailed off. The man continued to look at him with caution and alarm. "I'll go."
And yet, he was rooted to the spot, charmed by this person who seemed to be hiding behind the rock.
The corner of Rowan's lips tilted up slightly. "The water must be cold. Aren't you freezing?"
He didn't answer, but at least he didn't look terrified enough to disappear into the water again. He shook his head.
So he can understand me, Rowan thought, backing away from the water. "Mind if I stay here?"
The man didn't respond. Rowan settled down on the sand. The sun was almost fully out.
Then, a voice. Smooth and soft, hesitant and accented. "Your... shore?" The way the man said the words was uncomfortable, alien, as if he was not used to it. "This is your shore?"
"My shore? Uh, no, it's not."
The man in the water frowned. "I am not allowed. Sorry."
Rowan shook his head. "No, well, it's not like the ocean belongs to someone."
"Water... is home."
"It is home always," the man said indignantly.
Amused, Rowan asked, "Is it so? And what's your name?"
Rowan cleared his throat. "My name is Rowan, and I belong to the village nearby."
More silence followed, until the man spoke. "Saros."
"Yes. My name."
"Saros..." Rowan let the name weave around his tongue, finding that he liked the taste of it. His eyes found Saros' eyes and gazed at him intensely. Hair dripping wet at his neck. Skin that looked smooth, many shades lighter than Rowan's own dark olive skin.
He got up abruptly, brushing the sand off. "I'll... go now." Without another word, he started walking back the way he came.
Saros from the rock called out to him in an uneasy voice. "Wait!"
He stopped in his tracks.
"Rowan..." Saros said softly. Rowan might have missed the word because of the overpowering sound of the waves around them. He turned around and waited.
"Don't tell anyone," Saros said. "Please."
Rowan stared at Saros, and then turned to the water. "I won't. And… you should dry yourself before you catch a cold." He continued to walk towards his home.
Staring at the back of the retreating stranger, a little chuckle escaped Saros' lips, his eyes bright.