“Older brother, there is good hunting tonight, I would like to share it with you.” Dance said, and then repeated it in English for Keisha. “He would benefit from the exercise, if that’s acceptable,” he added in her direction.
“Feel up to it baby?” Keisha asked. “You got to be missing hunting. He was doin’ it before he ever started turning, used to catch coneys for Peach,” she told Doctor Alexander and Dance.
Seung flexed his back muscles, and found no pain there.
“That wound is adequately healed,” Doctor Alexander observed. “You may resume your normal activities– even immersion in doubtful swamp water.”
“Yes, I go,” Seung said, and lumbered to his feet. He craved cool water on his itching skin, suddenly, imagined it running past the new scutes with a hallucinatory clarity.
“Seung, right here,” Dance called him back from the gangplank. He was untying the drawstring of his modified sweats, letting them puddle at his bare feet. “Probably not rabbits, but lots of fish,” he says, amused.
“One moment,” the doctor said. “Would you mind if I take a quick look for comparison?”
Seung nodded, divested himself and stood at his brother’s side.
“Damn,” Keisha said grinning. “Y’all got the look for sure… ” Seung ducked his head and caught a glimpse of Dance, wearing the same goofy grin that he knew he had on his own face.
“Your cloaca has nearly grown in, the two of you look very much alike now,” the doctor said. “No collar ruff or sensor ribbons, but everything else. Your tail…”
“Still grows,” Seung said. “Tail is learning every day.” He told it to make itself visible for the doctor, and twitched the nearly nine feet of it forward. Dance shifted his fourteen feet over the deck for comparison. Then Seung matched the color of his tail to the lighter flecks and dappling of Dance’s tail, frowning a little in effort. He couldn’t maintain it, and gave up with a huff of a sigh.
“Let’s go now,” Dance said after they’d stood through Doctor Alexander’s silent assessment for a few moments. He twisted and went over the houseboat railing. There was a small splash when his body hit, and a long, barely heard, whisper-hiss as the tail followed him.
Seung was after him almost instantly. The water was the same temperature as his body, opaque with algae and mud. It tasted like rotting limestone and duck poop and catfish and frogs and dead bugs. Blinded by the murk, he felt brush reaching for him, scratching at him. Branches and drift clogged up the bottom dangerously. But he heard Dance’s movements; the echoes of it in the water pressed here and there like fingers on his irritable skin.
Dance rolled and looped and laughed to himself, like a seal, doubling back toward him, as if he were going to reach out and guide Seung with a touch.
Seung gave a shout, and pushed his tail in a hard arc at the water. He was going too fast; a giant stump on the bottom loomed up at him so fast it made him yelp out into the water. Then Dance grabbed onto his shoulders and gave a body-twitch that redirected both of them expertly through its branches.
He gave another powerful twitch, and they dove deeper. They glided under the trunk of a fallen tree, and then upward again, and they surfaced. Dance wasn’t winded, but Seung was gasping hard, as much from surprise as being unfit. Dance pushed him to the support of a log, and rested there with him, tail moving gently along Seung’s back. “Okay?”
Seung nodded, feeling his neck muscles stretching with the movement, everything moving and shifting and settling differently with the water’s support. “Feels good,” he said in Korean. Then he smiled; “Younger Brother.”
Dance’s face fell into open, round lines of surprise. It made him look like a child. “You never call me that!”
“So I’m a grumpy old fucker,” Seung said in English, smoothly.
“You’re pretty fast, old guy,” Dance said in Korean, laughing. His wet tail thumped Seung gently, glittering. “I have to take you into open water once you’ve got your swimming legs back, you’ll love it.”
“You start laughing so loud, you scare off all the fish.”
“My secret plan. Make fish run away, make you work harder! No technique, just chase hard!” Dance’s hand made a looping, ribbony gesture above the log, dripping.
Seung grunted. “Maybe I teach you how to catch things better, huh? I learned to fish with two hands first.” He held up both hands, knotted into fists.
Dance grinned. “Maybe so. You want to swim back and get people to stop worrying?”
“How do you know they worry?” Seung said, not turning his head.
“I would,” Dance said.
Seung reached out and smacked him lightly on the loose folds of the collar ruff. “Such a girl,” he said.
Dance simpered, and batted his eyes, and fluffed the edges of the ruff in a silly actressy gesture. He switched to English. “But, you lovely big badass brute, I know what you can eat around here, and what will make you sick as the trash-eatin’ dog, to quote my lovely wife Emma.” He points. “Those are carp. You can eat them, but they taste terrible from this pond, no matter how you cook them.”
“It is a pisshole, this pond. We should catch the ducks instead.”
“Only if you want to be facing angry people. These ducks are pets, what are you thinking? You might as well eat their puppies.”
“You mean that Emma and Drin will get mad at you and spank you,” Seung said in Korean.
Dance made a face. “Well, sometimes too many little things pile up and they get mad. Then they want to spank me anyway, ” he said, wryly. “And not because I asked for it! Not like you!” And he thumped Seung gently with the tail.
Seung lifted both eyebrows at him. “You think I have to ask?” he said solemnly.
Dance laughed. Dance’s tail lashed in the water, making loops and glittering. It made Dance look about eight years old. And yet he still sounded, in Korean, like some solemn stiff old schoolteacher, blinking at him owlishly.
“Yeah, I get lucky,” Seung told him, and watched him crack up all over again. He clapped Dance on the shoulder with a meaty sound of his fist. Dance was smaller and thinner than he ought to be. Too academic, too skinny, if he was going to be fighting bugs and sparring properly with Seung, that’s for sure. Give him some decent boxing practice, that’d help. Besides, the man really needed to build up more shoulder muscles if he was going to make their houseboat rock on its moorings so outrageously all the time.