"Not that I'm complaining," I said (Degan rolled his eyes to indicate what he thought about that disclaimer, his mouth being otherwise occupied), "but given your age, shouldn't you be amazingly good at this by now? Angels know that you've got centuries to practice."
Just to further drive home how much of a mistake I was making here, Degan stopped what he'd been doing, which did have the added advantage (or disadvantage, depending on how you looked at it) of enabling him to use his mouth again. For the purpose of producing speech, that was.
"First of all, the fact that I'm doing this here and now, with you, doesn't automatically mean that I've been doing this sort of thing often, with a lot of other people." His expression shifted for a moment. "Well, maybe once or twice with a lot of other people, but ... being more or less immortal tends to change the way you look at the rest of the world."
"So you're saying I'm special?" I couldn't help myself: I grinned.
"In many ways," Degan said, his tone implying he didn't necessarily mean that as a compliment.
Fair enough. Several of my enemies had told me the same thing, more or less, so I was willing to concede there might be something to it. Which didn't mean I planned on doing anything about it, but as the philosophers claimed: self-knowledge was the key to all wisdom. "Second?"
"Second, your starting assumption is hopelessly flawed, thus invalidating the rest of your argument."
"I wasn't having that good a time before you - " Degan arched an eyebrow; I, being a highly observant individual, took the hint, " - before we started having this conversation."
"You were having as good a time as I was having when our positions were reversed," Degan said, shrugging. "If you want something better, you'll have to step up your technique. It's only fair."
Fair was not the word that first came to mind. "Are you saying I'm bad at this?"
"Some of us prefer to endure, rather than annoy their friends by complaining. And no, I wouldn't say that you're bad at it, exactly. Just a little inexperienced, a bit more focused on what you're getting out of it than on what you're giving. In that aspect, at least, you're perfectly normal. Nearly everyone thinks like that, up to and including the Order."
Being told by my best friend that I was a selfish bastard definitely dampened the mood a bit. I tried to remember where I'd put my pants.
"You could have brought this up before."
Degan smiled a little. "Unlike some, I don't like to complain. Besides, we're still friends and I do enjoy your company. Why complicate things?"
"Because you enjoy taking me down a few notches when I'm starting to get overconfident?" Not that I didn't appreciate him doing so, once I was able to consider things rationally.
"As far as I'm aware, you haven't been bragging about being the Angels's gift to mankind."
Bragging wasn't really my style under any circumstance - a lot of the time, it was far better to be underestimated. Of course, when you were a Gray Prince, there was a fine line between people underestimating you and people completely failing to respect your position.
The former offered a strategic advantage; the latter just meant more people would try to kill you and (worse) people they knew to be your friends or to work for you.
"I think that some parts of my life are private."
Degan snorted. "If you think our new relationship is going to stay off the streets for more than another week, you're an idiot. You used to be an Ear, Drothe; you know how these things have a habit of getting out. Discretion only gets you so far."
We seemed to have strayed a bit from the original subject. Possibly, that wasn't a bad thing. "I know."
"And if you're so inclined, I'd be grateful for a few pointers. You know, one friend to another." My dignity would be able to take the damage, as long as it was Degan.
Degan licked his lips. The gesture felt entirely deliberate, which didn't mean that it didn't affect me. "Right now?"
"Tomorrow," I said in what I hoped to be a firm voice.
"Tomorrow, then," Degan agreed. "For now, how would you feel about a hands-on demonstration?"
He knew me well enough not to bother waiting for my answer.