There’s Always Room In the Day for Friends and Family
Pax was daydreaming, but he was doing so with the discipline and attention to detail with which he approached all his tasks on the ship, meaning his dream was very closely aligned to reality; in both, he was with his best friend and his fiancé, looking over the finest ship in the world. He was on an epic quest that would be written about for millions of enthralled readers to experience secondhand, even if he had to be the one to document his dignified and daring deeds in addition to actually performing them, because really, bards were in short supply these days since they were still on strike after the whole incident with the lyre shortage. The one and only difference that was consuming Pax’s imagination was that he firmly believed that the Coral Witch should be significantly farther from Pelican Bay than it was. Really, if that could be the case, Pax would be able to say that everything in his life was going about perfectly, and it was just the irritatingly unchangeable distance between himself and Pelican Bay that was ruining that. There were a plethora of reasons why this would be preferable, not the least of which was that every league they covered brought him closer to Nate’s body, but if he were being honest, the real source of this desire was that it was still too fucking cold. They were headed south as fast the wind could carry them with no intention of stopping at any islands, centipede infested or otherwise, but the wind was honestly most of Pax’s problem. Standing at the helm because it was where tall and important people stood had clearly offended the wind, which should have been blowing everywhere but was clearly targeting Pax’s face because it couldn’t stand to see its hated rival being comfortable.
I’m not sure it actually hates you, Nate disagreed. The wind kind of just hates everyone, doesn’t it?
“Not everyone,” Pax said, checking his compass. “There’s this one athlete in the empire who’s really good at throwing things. Throwing Throm, they call him, which is apparently because he was born in the midst of a wrestling match that his mother threw to win money from a loan shark to pay for his schooling. The wind is always on his side and I think it’s because it’s afraid he’ll throw javelins at it, but also I think it likes him.”
“Sometimes you can like someone and also be afraid they’re going to throw javelins at you,” Denver said sagely. He was just kind of dicking around at the helm, but that was okay because even though Pax was driving the ship he was also mostly kind of dicking around, and also because as morale officer, kind of dicking around was Denver’s main job and really the fact that his dick wasn’t currently around where Pax could see it was a plus, so Pax wasn’t complaining.
“Exactly,” said Pax, glad that Denver had gotten the point even having not heard the part of the conversation that had happened in his thoughts. He really was very smart. “Which is also how I felt about Throwing Throm. I was justified because he did, in fact, throw many javelins at me.”
Denver giggled. “Some of us like having javelins thrown at us.”
“No, these were actual very long metal javelins,” Pax clarified. “Not phallic euphemisms. Though he was also nude while this happened, because that’s how you do athletics in the empire. And in many other places.” Pax might have been an athlete if he’d been allowed to wear pants. But it was always with the public nudity, which was why he’d only ever had short careers in sport.
“I’d be a good athlete,” Denver decided. “I’m in good shape.”
“And you do enjoy being naked, which I think are the two main criteria,” Pax said, watching Denver. He’d been kind of hanging out around Pax for a while now, obviously wanting to say something. Even now he was fidgeting a bit, clearly impatient even if he was only waiting because of a self-imposed deadline. Pax sighed. “Just tell me,” he said.
Denver shook his head. “Nope. Nothing to say.”
“We both know exactly what you’re doing to say,” Pax disagreed. “Stop edging and just let it happen, and we’ll all feel better with the tension relieved.”
“I wouldn’t do that, it’s like the specific thing you asked me not to talk to you about.”
“I know, but I also knew when I asked you not to talk about it that you would anyway. And certainly I’m not interested in the topic, but it’s not as though the topic of sex between attractive men is that horrifying for me. Besides, it also happened because I orchestrated it.”
“Less than you think,” Denver said, sighing. He turned to face Pax. “He’s got so many piercings in his dick, and he’s going to get more someday. They all taste different but none like I expected. Oh, but he’s such a bottom, Pax, like I swear, even more than me. I ended up riding him, which worked out okay. But based on how he was acting, I’m, like, almost all the way sure that he’d cum in his pants if I told him to call me daddy.” Denver sighed, a weight seeming to leave him. “God, sorry. I just felt so weird not telling you, like it was a secret even though you told him to fuck me.”
“I told him to talk to you.” Pax really hadn’t needed to know all of that, but he chose to be content with the relative lack of detail. At the same time, though, he kind of wanted to know what so many piercings meant. And what kind they were, since there were various kinds of genital piercings and many of them were appealing. “To me that implies clothing being worn.”
“Not with me it doesn’t,” Denver said cheerfully. “I do my best talking butt naked and with a cock so far up my ass I can taste it.”
Nate chuckled at that colourful image. I’ve mentioned that I like him, right?
“Frequently,” Pax muttered. “We’re talking and wearing clothes right now and you’re doing an admirable job. You just need more practice.”
“Nah, this is just because it’s cold. I can’t wait until we get south and we can finally sail naked like Cal intended.”
“I will not be doing that,” Pax said. “I respect Cal as an authority on many things, but not on nautical dress codes.”
“I bet I could talk you out of them for a day.”
Good luck, Nate warned. I tried for months.
Denver smirked, coming over to Pax and leaning right on the wheel, which made it a bit challenging to steer. “Sail naked for a day and I promise not to tell you about my sex life for a whole week.”
That was a little bit tempting, Pax admitted. But only to himself. “No,” he said. “First because you lose every bet you make, so there’s no point. But even if you did manage it, you’d just hold it all in for a week and tell me all at once at the end.”
Denver shrugged. “True. That was just my opening volley, though.”
“It’s not going to happen.”
It might if he and I cooperate, Nate said.
“You two have to stop cooperating.”
“Nah, we have an agreement,” Denver said. “Nate thinks you’d be happier if you had a slightly bigger comfort zone, and I’m a horny piece of ass. Together we’re going to get that knife in your pants out where everyone can see it, trust me.”
That would never happen, and Pax just blushed and cleared his throat. Of course he trusted Nate and Denver not to try and make him do anything that was too extreme or uncomfortable, and of course they both knew that.
Before he could say anything else, a voice called behind him. “Good luck with that. He’s been pretty well trained to keep his knives hidden.”
That was Sylvester, and Pax looked over his shoulder, embarrassed now. “Hi,” he called. And then he stopped, because Sylvester wasn’t alone.
Beside him was Pax’s brother Matthias.
Pax turned away from the helm and hurried over to the steps, pulling Matthias into a hug without a second thought. “Hi,” he said quietly.
“Hi,” said Matthias, hugging back. He’d gained weight and his hair had gotten a little redder since the last time Pax had seen him, but he was still the same Matthias, still the brother Pax hadn’t seen since the time they’d pulled that heist together in Laykon’s Oar. “I’m glad to see you.”
“You too,” Pax said, eyes squeezed shut to avoid crying. “I missed you.”
“You too. Alec, or Sylvester I guess, happened to pass through the town where I live,” Matthias said. “And he told me he knew where you were.”
Pax sent mental thanks to Cyrus for the portals. And soon he’d go to Merket and give Cyrus in-person thanks for the portals, though he didn’t think there was one open there yet. “Cyrus told me you were in a town in the mountains.”
Matthias nodded, loosening his grip on Pax a little. “Uh. You seem happier to see me than I expected.”
What did… Pax blushed. Nate!
Sorry! Nate did sound genuinely sorry. I did it while Denver was perving at you and didn’t have time to undo it.
Pax rolled his eyes. “Sorry about that, it’s my fiancé’s fault. I promise I’m only the normal kind of happy to see you.”
Matthias grinned, looking over at Denver. “He’s your fiancé? Nice choice.”
“No,” Pax said, pulling out the medallion. “He’s my friend. This is my fiancé. Long story. “
Hi, said Nate, when Matthias put his hand on him. I’m Nate.
“Oh,” Matthias said. He blinked. And then pulled back to sneeze. “Nice to meet you, Nate. I’m Pax’s older brother. You said you met Cyrus recently?” When Pax nodded, Matthias smiled. “He’s not intimidating enough. I’ll be the one to give Nate the speech about how if he makes you cry I’ll cut his arms off and feed them to griffons.” He paused, looking down at the medallion. “Or equivalent. I’ll put some thought into it. “
“He’s also met Roberta,” Pax told him.
“Oh.” Matthias blinked. “Well, nevermind then. In that case I formally apologize, I swear we’re actually a very nice family. Is she the reason why he doesn’t have arms?”
“No, that’s because of an evil ocean wizard who lives in some tacky jewelry,” Pax explained. “But it’s okay, we’re going to kill him and we hired an evil necromancer who’s not really that evil to help us fight him. Also a dragon and a fire goddess. And Denver. And me, and a pelican. In ascending order of danger. What have you been up to?”
“I…” Matthias visibly paused at that, then shrugged. “I just kind of started living in Techen’s Stand? Dominic sent me there to intercept messages and stuff, but I kind of like it there and I think I might stay. They’re building some stuff and none of them really knows how architecture works, and they’re really nice people and I don’t want their project falling on their heads, you know? So I’m going to stick around there for a while and make sure they find the help they need.” He shrugged again.
Matthias had always been good at managing people. Pax had been managed by him a few times, and he still didn’t know how he’d managed to get all that poultry to all those goblins in such a short period of time. “Well I have full confidence in the sanctity of their architecture with you holding the hammer. Or not the hammer, but the coins that will pay the person who owns the hammer. Do you want a tour of the ship? I’m technically on duty, but…”
“I can drive for a while,” Denver said. He already had his hand on the wheel. “Go hang out with your brother.”
Pax smiled. “Thank you. You are absolutely, completely and in no way allowed to have sex with my brother.”
“Seems unfair,” Matthias said, with a fake pout. “How come you get to decide that?”
“Because I’m his boss and also I’m the one who’ll have to hear all the details later and I don’t need that in my life, I already had to hug Cyrus at an orgy this year,” Pax said. “Come on, I’ll introduce you to Natalie and Cedric and Louis and then everyone else in an order that will seem random but actually won’t be. Sylvester, are you going to stay?”
“Yeah, I’ll hang out with you guys for a while. Roderick popped back to Pelican Bay to water some plants and Greg’s busy with Darby, so I’m free,” he said, with a shrug.
“Great. I’ll give you a tour. It won’t take very long because ships are just slightly larger boats, boats are just rafts with an ego, and rafts objectively aren’t that big, but the tour has a dragon in it, so you’ll enjoy it anyway. Come on.”
There had been a time when Pax had thought that he’d never get to spend days with his siblings ever again, thanks to his decision to stay here on the ship. But now he got to spend a day with his brother on the ship and Denver didn’t even try to fuck Matthias, so really, Pax thought everything was working out pretty well.