Quiet Moments Are Nicer to Have the Scarcer they Are in Your Life
You should worry less about hitting really hard and more about moving fast, Pax said to Darby, who he’d found practicing with a dagger. It wasn’t sized properly for him, being just a bit too big. Whoever had given it to him was an idiot.
But I have to hit hard if I’m going to stab stuff! Darby explained, knife in his mouth.
Pax shook his head. You’re not swinging a hammer or a sword. Using a knife is about being fast and getting under your enemy’s guard before they can hit you. If you can do it without them seeing you, all the better.
Darby scowled, which mostly just looked silly with a knife in his mouth. His ears twitching didn’t help the image. If I’m fighting someone, they can see me. I’ll be right in front of… Darby jumped back as a knife landed between his feet. What! Where, how did you do that?
Pax smiled. Sleight of hand. Did you see me move?
No! Darby’s tail was wagging as he looked at Pax. Show me! Don’t you need your hands to hold your knives?
Sleight of hand isn’t about your hands, Pax explained. This, he knew, was complicated for beginners.
But… Darby scowled again, looking at his hands. Why is it called that?
Nobody knows, it just is. I want you to practice being faster, instead of stronger, okay? Trust me, you’re already plenty strong and being fast will be way more helpful if you’re going to use a knife to fight.
Okay! Darby said, excited. But I’m still going to get stronger too! I’m going to be as strong as Red Wolf!
Pax nodded. If Pax was ever feeling particularly nice, he’d tell Sir Ox that Darby called him that. It was almost definitely meant to be flattering. I know. But you can also surprise him with how fast you are.
Darby nodded seriously, which was entirely ruined by his tail wagging—really, he was going to need to get that under control if he ever wanted anything to think he was dangerous instead of adorable—and took his knife out of his mouth, turning around to practice some more.
Pax shook his head, watching him practice. I don’t know why I never thought you’d be good with kids, Nate said.
He’s not that young, Pax said back, though there was nobody around who could hear him talk aloud. Darby was older than Pax had been when Pax had started learning knifeplay. And I’m not good with kids. I’m good with people who like knives.
That explains your friendship with Denver.
Why are you saying it like that? Pax asked. You like him too.
I’m good with people who like boats. Plus I like anyone you like, Nate explained. You seem to have pretty good taste so far.
Based on the fact that I like you, I assume, Pax muttered internally, ears burning. And not my objectively good taste as demonstrated repeatedly throughout my life, not that you were there for it, but I feel like I’ve told you enough about my pre-Nate life that that shouldn’t matter, honestly.
Actually, Nate said, amusement seeping into Pax’s mind, the day after you came aboard I heard you say you didn’t like potatoes. That was what convinced me. Potatoes are weird.
Pax snorted, then had to hold in a full-on laugh. They are, he agreed. They should decide if they want to be poisonous or not.
Is there a time when they’re not?
“Hard at work, I see,” Natalie’s voice said from behind him.
“I’m training the next generation,” Pax told her without missing a beat. He nodded at Darby. “Someone has to do it and it may as well be someone trustworthy.”
“That’s you, is it?” Natalie asked. “Trustworthy.”
“I’m considered trustworthy by nine out of ten horses,” Pax told her. “And it’s impossible to get a horse to trust you. I’d know, there’s a whole series of trials and tribulations, which are actually separate, despite what you might think.”
“As always, I appreciate you telling me what I think,” Natalie said, smiling. “I was actually wondering if I could borrow Nate from you for a while. I haven’t spoken to him in a while.”
Pax nodded, some colour in his face. “Sure, of course. He is your son and all, you hardly have to ask to talk to him.” He started to take the medallion off. Assuming you’re not secretly avoiding your mother.
No, it’s fine. I’ll see you later, Pax, Nate said, and as Pax took the medallion off, there was a sensation like a kiss on his cheek, a hand in his.
Blushing, Pax handed the medallion over to Natalie. “I do however expect him back in the same condition in which I gave him to you. No rust or funny business.”
“We’ll see,” Natalie said, patting Pax’s shoulder. “Thank you.”
“Of course,” Pax said with a nod. He smiled. “See you.”
Natalie headed off, holding Nate in her hand and leaving Pax oddly alone. He’d forgotten what it was like to have his head to himself. It was oddly quiet.
Well, Pax wasn’t going to stand here and fall into some silly melancholy just because his metallic boyfriend had gone off to spend time with his mom. He went up to Darby, got in his line of sight. You should try to be faster at the front of your attack, when you’re getting your knife in place, Pax told him.
Darby looked at Pax, then at his knife, then put it in his mouth so he could talk. How?
Don’t hold yourself so tense. Your elbow is locked and it’s making you slow.
Darby nodded, though Pax suspected he didn’t quite follow. I don’t get it, he said after a few more tries. Can you lift me?
Pax scowled at him. Help, he signed. Not lift.
Red Wolf says lift. Darby blushed as he said it. He knew it was wrong, he was just humouring Sir Ox.
Red Wolf is wrong and you know it. Don’t let him oppress your culture like that, Pax said. He won’t learn if you don’t show him. Though he would, because Pax would show him.
Oppress my culture? Darby asked. What’s that?
It’s when someone tells you the way you do something isn’t as good as they way they do something just because you’re from somewhere else,Pax explained, though it was really much more complex than that. The exact details of cultural oppression could wait until lesson two.
And that’s bad?
Of course it’s bad. Be yourself, even if it’s different from us. You know what’s right for you.
Except for how to use a knife, Darby said, grinning a little around said knife.
Except for that, Pax agreed. But I’ll help you with that, don’t worry. He took out a knife of his own. Come on, I’ll show you.
Pax had lived his whole life with no boyfriend in his brain. He could spend a few hours teaching a werewolf how to use a knife without Nate’s help.