The werewolf known as Biffy had a great many admirable qualities and useful talents, but as a general rule, the Woolsey pack had appreciation for precious few of them. In a household filled with men, and none of them with anything approaching either the fashion sense or good grooming of his previous master Lord Akeldama, Biffy's skillful hand with curling tongs went woefully underutilized, as did for the most part his keen eye for interior design. Still, despite the way he stood out like the dandiest of peacocks among roosters, he was perhaps more suitable for this unfortunate lot in life than any of the rest of Akeldama's drones would have been. Because though all of the boys had been meticulously trained in various mental and physical pursuits as part of the vampire’s unexpected and fashionable spy network, Biffy had outshone them all.
Of course, Lord Maccon as Alpha was too preoccupied with Biffy’s failings as a werewolf to think much on his virtues as a human. Professor Lyall, however, was not quite so shortsighted. He had discovered something about Biffy that was impressive even by pack standards: he was a right good hand with a sword.
Lyall had heard Lady Maccon once remark to her husband that he really should give Biffy some credit for what keen physical condition he was in; why, she had wondered upon first meeting him if perhaps he was an acrobat. And it was true that even in his perfectly tailored and dapper clothing, Biffy moved with the grace of a man of exceptional musculature. Not that Lyall had been thinking overmuch on Biffy’s… musculature. Of course not, at least not in what might be considered an aesthetically appreciative way. Even if he had, despite all of Biffy’s best efforts to avoid such humiliation whenever possible, seen the pup in all manner of undress. It was simply the truth, beyond whatever pleasing aesthetics it might bestow upon him, that Biffy was of impressive constitution. And Lyall had discovered after some prodding that it was due to how much Biffy enjoyed fencing, more than, he revealed, some of his fellow drones might have considered entirely healthy.
Perhaps fencing was not the most masculine of sports, but it was a gentleman’s art, and a martial one at that. The truth was, despite how very quickly Biffy would go under in a physical bout with nearly any of the other wolves in the pack, he could likely best any of them with a blade. Lyall’s suggestion, upon discovering this, was to suggest to Lord Maccon that he cultivate his relationship with Biffy by practicing fencing with him. This had gotten a resounding negative response from the Alpha, who considered the time that he would need to draw a sword to be precious time taken from what he could be using to pummel someone with his fists – or more likely, rip out their throat while in wolf form, the control needed for which being what Biffy should be concentrating on mastering.
As was not an unusual occurrence, Lyall managed to both respect and not respect his Alpha’s wishes in this regard. He did not further press Maccon to participate. He did, however, offer himself to the pup as a fencing partner.
“I do rather feel as if my balance has been off of late,” Biffy said morosely after Lyall had landed a rare blow.
“If I had to hazard an explanation,” Lyall offered, “it is that you no longer feel comfortable in your own body.”
Biffy’s gaze dropped, as it was want to do when this subject was broached. “Ah, yes, well. I suppose that I cannot deny such a truth, but so long as I am fencing as myself - “
“As opposed to as the wolf?” Lyall dropped his rapier and sighed. “Biffy, you really must stop thinking of yourself as separate. You’ll never gain the kind of control you need if you fight so hard against it.”
“With all due respect, Professor,” Biffy began politely (but then, he was rarely anything but), “there is no need for both you and Lord Maccon to continue chastising me in the same manner over and again. I am well aware of my shortcomings in this regard.”
Feeling rather chastised himself, Lyall looked down. “My apologies. I do not mean to make you feel inadequate. I understand that you are doing the best that you can, but it is only my concern for your well-being. I would like for things to be better for you.”
“As would I.” There was an uncharacteristic clipped tinge to the words. Biffy stepped back. “Shall we have another go?”
Lyall nodded and returned to a starting stance as well. “En garde.”
The bout was rather more intense this time, with Biffy showing more aggression in his attacks. Lyall admired the forcefulness, but it also made him careless. Lyall landed first contact once more.
When they moved back and Biffy lowered his rapier, his face was slightly flushed. Presumably both from the exertion and embarrassment. “I used to be quite good at this, you know.”
“You still are,” Lyall assured him with haste. “Your only error there was getting a bit caught up in your offense. But I dare say it was an even better offense than I’ve seen you present in the past.”
“Really?” Biffy sounded hopeful.
“I hesitate to bring the subject up again…” Lyall looked somewhat apologetic. “But if you were not actively suppressing any instincts towards… increased aggression that you might be feeling, I suspect they might serve you well in this context.” He hadn’t thought on it before, but cultivating such instincts might be helpful as well, in encouraging Biffy to embrace his second nature. Lyall himself was markedly more reserved than most werewolves, but then, as Beta to a notoriously quick-tempered Alpha, he nearly had to be.
“Why don’t we try once more,” Lyall suggested before Biffy could respond, “and this time, make a conscious effort not to hold yourself back.”
Biffy looked terribly uncertain, but then a flash of something crossed his face, something that pleased Lyall very much: trust. He nodded, and fell back into his starting position. “En garde.”
The bout began much like the last one, with Biffy showing slightly more aggression in his offense, but as it continued, this change became even more noticeable. Lyall purposely employed a more aggressive strategy as well, and soon they were moving at quite a clip across the room, slashing and thrusting at each other until Lyall’s breathing was heavy and he could feel beads of sweat pooling at the nape of his neck.
Lyall had always known Biffy to be the better fencer, and that had not changed, but if he could have seen the match now he might not have taken him for the same man. Some of the calculated defense was gone, replaced by instinctive force. Lyall had to back up as Biffy advanced, until the younger man had him cornered. Back against the wall, Lyall was compelled to drop his sword, and Biffy thrust toward the wall beside Lyall’s neck. He did so with more force than he clearly intended, and the end of the sword stuck into the wall, bringing him in sudden close contact with his opponent, bracing his free hand on the other side of Lyall’s shoulders.
Lyall felt a sudden rush of heat to his neck, and he thought it had little to do with losing the match. He met Biffy’s eyes and realized that he’d never looked him so closely in the face before. His eyes were quite remarkable.
He heard Biffy’s breath catch.
“My… apologies, Professor,” the young man said, a hint of breathlessness in it. “I believe that was an illegal corps-a-corps.”
Lyall thought that somehow it felt like more physical contact than it actually was. Biffy was barely touching him. But they were still very close, and neither one of them was moving.
“That was better,” he said, feeling his chest rise and fall, perhaps even more markedly since he was pressed back against the wall. “That was very, very good, Biffy.”
Only then did Biffy finally step back, leaving the sword firmly stuck in the wall. “Thank you,” he said, and dropped his eyes, though this time it seemed to be because he was pleased.
Lyall swallowed hard and then pushed off of the wall. “You continue to surprise me.”
“Is that good?” Biffy asked, lifting his head and offering a rare, genuine smile, one of the few that Lyall had seen from him since his transformation.
“Yes, Biffy,” Lyall said, a smile touching his own lips. “It’s very good indeed.” He thought, perhaps, that the young dandy had a bit of alpha in him after all.
And for some reason, this pleased him a great deal.