Chilly silver fog crept silently over the towering eucalyptus and cypress trees at the edge of the meadow. The moist air was crisp and scented with salt, laying sparkling due out on the grass. Sunlight, not to be left out, struggled through the high clouds and shed a dim glow over the world. Twist tried to balance his weight evenly on his feet and held his walking stick out before him hopefully. Standing five paces in front of him, Jonas swung a wooden stage sword easily. Twist only saw the slightest flash of decision in the other man’s eyes.
The wooden sword sliced down at Twist’s head. He thrust his cane up to block it, out of pure instinct. He never saw Jonas’s foot sweep quickly at his legs. Twist fell to the grass faster than he would have thought physically possible, his vision spinning somewhat even after he’d come to an abrupt stop, inelegantly collapsed on the damp grass. Jonas, standing just beside him, looked down at him with a disapproving sigh.
“What were you looking at?” Jonas asked, offering a hand to help him up.
Twist took the offered help and got back to his feet. The physical contact steadied his bruised senses as the familiar, cool, white fog in Jonas’s touch washed over his Sight. Twist’s mind cleared again the moment Jonas let go of his hand, leaving him calm and ready once again.
“I was looking at the sword that was about to crack my skull open.”
“No, no, no,” Jonas said, shaking his head. “I told you. Don’t worry about the sword.”
“Then stop swinging it at my head.”
Jonas gave him a level look, his normally sea green eyes shifting to blue in Twist’s Sight. “This,” he said, holding up the sword, “is made of wood. It doesn’t have thoughts of its own. It has no emotions or intent. This is not your problem. I am your problem.”
“Agreed,” Twist said with a tight grin.
“Smart ass. Look, it doesn’t matter what kind of fight you get into, the weapon should never be your focus. It’s the person wielding it that you should be watching.”
“Maybe I should just get a gun or something,” Twist said, looking down at his silver-hilted walking stick. The magnetically charged electric light inside the ring of sapphire glass at the top of the cane had come in handy many times already, as had the electric shock hidden in the tip. “I don’t think I’m cut out for swordplay.”
Jonas’s hand moved with no warning at all, snatching the cane out of Twist’s grip and flinging it away into the grass. Before Twist could level a sharp glare at Jonas, the other man had grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him around so quickly that Twist fell to his knees in the grass. Jonas’s arm was around Twist’s throat before he could speak, his other hand bracing his neck in a solid hold. Twist’s fingers instantly scrambled over Jonas’s arm as fright stole away his breath. The white fog that always followed Jonas’s touch was slow in coming this time.
“Now what?” Jonas asked, his voice calm beside Twist’s ear.
“Let me go!” Twist grumbled, unable to free himself no matter how he pulled at the arm across his throat. His surprise finally lost control of his attention, and melted into a cool calm as his Sight poured Jonas’s quick but steady heartbeat down his spine.
“That won’t work at all if someone is really trying to kill you,” Jonas said.
“I’m not talking to someone who wants to kill me. Now, get off!”
“Bite me!” Twist yelled, his anger pushing away the fog in his mind.
“I didn’t know you were into that kind of thing,” Jonas said, a smile on his voice.
Twist jabbed backwards with his elbows, hoping to hit anything unprotected, and tried to turn out of the vise-like grip. “Let go!” he grunted, somehow unable to do any harm whatsoever to the man holding him.
“Stop,” Jonas said with a sigh. “Come on, you’re good at figuring things out. Now get yourself out of this on your own.”
Twist stopped struggling and let his arms fall uselessly to his sides. Despite his annoyance, he tried to reassess his situation. Jonas was standing behind him, while Twist knelt on the ground. Even though Twist couldn’t see him, he knew that Jonas had to be leaning forward and was therefore off balance. He’d been talking about balance all morning. Twist had run out of ideas to loosen his grip, but maybe he could use gravity.
Twist reached up again to hold tightly to Jonas’s arm, and then pulled down as quickly as he could, curling up against himself. Jonas let out a startled sound and then tumbled forward, falling in a heap beside Twist as his grip slipped away. Twist sprang to his feet and dove for his walking stick, turning just in time to catch Jonas lying on his back in the grass. Twist hit the switch at the hilt of his cane and a tiny blue arc of lightning licked at the tip as he pointed it at Jonas’s throat.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Jonas said, grinning up at Twist.
Twist stared at him darkly for a moment before he touched the sparking tip of his cane to Jonas’s chest. Jonas yelped in the instant of pain as Twist turned away and shut it off. He put himself into a dignified posture and looked into the fog shrouded trees, smiling lightly to himself.
“That bloody hurt!”
“Bastard,” Jonas spat softly.
Twist turned to look back at him, still wearing his satisfied smile. “You did deserve it.”
“That’s not the point,” Jonas muttered, rubbing at his chest with the palm of his hand. He was standing again, but hadn’t reached for his wooden sword yet.
“So, now what, oh grand master of all that is violent?”
“Now, we try it one more time and see if you’ve managed to learn anything,” Jonas said, walking away to retrieve his sword. “And if you have,” he said, swinging the sword over his hand in a careless arc, “then I get cake.”
“Why would you get cake?”
“Because I’m working very hard to teach someone who’s not very bright.”
“I managed to throw you on your back!” Twist snapped, turning to face him fully.
“I never said you were hopeless,” Jonas responded with a grin. “Just not very bright.”
Twist’s instincts snapped to attention, watching Jonas’s still casual movement closely. He forced his considerable annoyance into his resolve and tried not to let it cloud his mind. He was tired of being caught, tripped, and thrown. Jonas looked back at his eyes, his own shifting to a soft purple color. Twist held his gaze, not caring if the other man could read his emotions or not. This time, he told himself, he’d land a bloody punch.
Jonas’s sword flew forward, pointed straight for Twist’s chest. He knocked it aside with his cane and stepped back, desperately trying to watch for any unexpected maneuvers. The sword came back at him again, sweeping from the side, and Twist blocked it with his cane. Jonas had come closer somehow. Twist realized that he was off balance himself, the instant before Jonas’s free hand came flying at his chest.
Twist turned quickly, letting the intended blow slide by instead, and reached out to grab Jonas’s wrist, pulling it farther along. Jonas stumbled for an instant and then jerked his hand free, stepping away. There was a smile on his face now and he stepped in a slow circle around Twist. Twist took his small victory and pulled himself back into balance.
“Very good,” Jonas toned, grinning like a fox at an unattended chicken coop. “I foresee cake in my future after all.”
“How lovely for you,” Twist muttered, not taking his eyes off of him.
Jonas’s eyes flashed to one side sharply, taking on a frightened gleam. “Badger!”
Startled, Twist half turned to look after Jonas’s gaze before the meaning of the word caught up with him. He swung his eyes back just in time to see the sword flying for his head once again. Sheer determination at not being beaten again helped him to duck just in time as the sword glanced off the top of his head with little effect.
His anger at himself, for almost falling for such a stupid ploy, got him back to his full height in an instant, with his elbow up at an angle. To Twist’s complete shock, the blow connected. Jonas reeled back, dropping his sword, as his hands flew to his face. Twist stood still, staring. Jonas’s fingers came away red and his eyes widened.
“Holy shit!” Jonas breathed, looking back to Twist with a bloody nose and an utterly shocked expression. “You hit me!”
“I’m sorry,” Twist said instantly.
Jonas laughed brightly and wiped at his face with his sleeve. “That’s fantastic!” he declared proudly. “I’m getting so much cake.”
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