Double-J walked off the strip, lifting the gray metal fencing mask from his bearded face, which was, unsurprisingly, not smiling, despite his easy victory. Butch handed him a water bottle, which he promptly waved away with his saber like a bothersome insect.

“Don’t like to drink at tournaments. Just makes me wiz.”

“Oh!” Butch withdrew the bottle apologetically. “Don’t you get thirsty? I mean, it gets pretty frenzetic out there.”

Double-J frowned. “Huh. Frenzetic. That’s one of your words, isn’t it?”

Butch stared back blankly at the burly teen.

“Sorry.”  It was one of the few times Butch remembered seeing an apologetic look on Double-J’s face. “You got a way with words, dude, that’s a little — unusual. Everybody knows what you mean, but the way you say it — “

“The words?”

The only saber fencer currently at Bark Bay High School shrugged. “Sometimes it’s words, other times it’s stuff like mixed metaphors — “

“What’s that mean?”

Double-J sensed something unusual about their conversation, a peculiarity he also saw in the portly teen’s concerned face. And then it came to him — Butch never interrupted people, and while he often looked confused, never did he seem as worried as he was now. He shook his head. “Like I said, we all know what you mean, so don’t let none of the rest bother you. Somebody’s bothered by how you say something, that’s their problem.” He grabbed Butch’s right shoulder. “You good with that?”

Butch’s expression resumed its comforting befuddlement. “I — guess.” Double-J then led him back to the team’s equipment bags, silently enjoying the thought of Annie’s continuing her efforts to correct Butch’s language. 

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