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Sparring Practice

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“They’re very close friends, aren’t they?”

Really, Aeneas had just felt like saying something. He could’ve remarked on anything-- the weather, the waves, the dozens of other Trojans onboard the ship who were also carrying out their lives as best they could-- but as soon as he’d said it, he got the feeling that it was probably the one thing he shouldn’t have mentioned.

Achates lifted his eyebrows slowly. On the other side of the ship, Nisus parried away Euryalus’ sword with ease.

“What?” Aeneas snapped. “We’re looking at the same men, right?” He turned away from his friend and looked again toward the sparring figures. Now Achates was chuckling under his breath. “What?”

“No, no, you’re right,” Achates said quickly. He had barely composed himself. “Very good friends.”

Nisus used the butt of his sword to shove Euryalus’ shoulder back just as Euryalus had been about to dodge his blow. But Euryalus advanced again, undeterred.

“Do they often spar together?” Aeneas asked. Truth be told, he wouldn’t have noticed. Lots of things had been going on lately, and he didn’t have the time to find out each man’s preferred sparring partner. Euryalus managed to hit Nisus lightly in the side. Nisus smiled, and they paused to reposition themselves.

Achates snorted. “Sure, pretty often.”

Well, he didn’t need to be so damn snarky about a simple question, but Aeneas let the moment pass. Achates was back watching the pair. Aeneas wondered briefly how Nisus had forgotten to cover his flank with his shield the last time around. It seemed like a rookie mistake. Well, no, scratch that. Aeneas had seen even the most veteran soldiers make basic mistakes in the war. And usually it was their last mistake. Nisus had just slipped up this one time, that was all.

Nisus and Euryalus began again. This time, Nisus pushed Euryalus back, his shield held aloft in front of him. Achates was murmuring something to himself, but Aeneas decided to ignore him for the moment. The scuffling sound of feet and the clanging of swords, and Euryalus teaching Nisus his lesson about shielding, utterly absorbed him.

Then the normally-agile Euryalus must have tripped or something, because he fell backward onto the deck. Nisus took the opportunity to pin him down. Was the snorting Achates was making in disapproval of Nisus’ pinning technique? Aeneas thought it looked fine. Nisus had his opponent by both wrists, although Euryalus wasn’t really working to escape from it. He probably knew he’d been beat.

Then Nisus removed their helmets, first Euryalus’, then his own. They both paused. In Aeneas’ opinion, Euryalus could’ve gotten out from under Nisus by now, but instead he was taking his sweet time. Achates glanced over at Aeneas. Aeneas looked back, confused. Didn’t they know there was no time to waste in the heat of battle?

When he turned back to the pair, Euryalus was finally attempting to break Nisus’ grip, even if it looked a lot softer than most wrestling Aeneas had seen. Obviously Nisus was pulling his punches around the younger warrior, and Aeneas respected him for that. He sighed and moved to leave.

The pair confused him, was all. Perhaps this was an old battle ritual he didn’t understand, where the only way to honor the winner was to kiss him. To be fair, there were many things Aeneas didn’t yet understand. Like why Achates was laughing at him.