The thing about a foreign language is it teaches your mouth to move in different ways. Walter’s never really thought about it before, because he’s never attempted a foreign language—he grew up speaking English and Lakota both, so neither one’s exactly foreign to him. But now, teaching Ray to speak Sioux, he’s keenly aware of it. The kid is downright distracting.
Ray’s brow tenses, and he wets his lips. Walter watches the slow pass of Ray’s tongue over his plush mouth, and feels his own go dry.
“Um, hé . . . mak— um . . . mak’ú. Hé mak’ú we.”
“Wo, honey, not we, ’less you’re a girl.”
Ray huffs out a sigh. His jaw tenses. “Fuck. I’m never going to get this.”
“Be patient, Ray. You can’t expect it all to come overnight.”
Ray’s bottom lip plumps into a pout. Walter gives his shoulder a little rub. “Come on, now, kola. How ’bout, Today is Thursday? How do you say that in Lakota?”
Ray shrugs, mulishly.
“I don’t know.”
Walter sighs. He wants to be angry, but Ray is just too cute when he pouts. Walter laughs, instead.
Ray glares at him. “What?”
“Got a vocabulary word for you, honey. Say it after me: šíčeyala.”
After a beat, Ray repeats the word slowly, the foreign syllables heavy on his tongue. “What’s it mean?”
“Well, I don’t know an English word for it. It’s how you’re bein’, right now.”
Ray arches an eyebrow. “And how am I being?”
“Well, we use the word to talk about kids—you know, when a kid’s bein’ so naughty they really oughta have a whipping, but at the same time they’re being so cute you can’t bring yourself to do it?”
Ray colors, dark. His pretty mouth works for a moment, fumbling around the words that won’t come the same way it does around the unfamiliar Lakota. Walter chuckles, and draws Ray in close, kissing him until Ray goes limp against him, kissing him until Ray kisses him back.