Cortes sees Cheng talking to Celia in the tavern, and thinks it's about time he gives Cheng 'the talk'. Problem is, he has absolutely no idea how to go about it...
Cortes sat in the tavern, watching as the residents of Puerto Angel went about their social lives. There hadn't been much work for the day so he had nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon. So he simply sat in the tavern. Observing.
It was perhaps a good idea to do a bit of observing. It was one way of seeing what was going on in Puerto Angel. How the people on the block were feeling, and interacting, was a good indicator of how well things were being run. But right now, what Cortes was observing would probably factor little in the running or Puerto Angel. Nevertheless, it was bothering him.
"Wayan, look across the tavern and tell me if you see what I see..." said Cortes, as Wayan joined him at the table.
"Hm?" said Wayan, who hadn't really been expecting to be called upon to think as soon as he sat down.
"Cheng..." Cortes clarified, continuing to look in the direction he'd been staring.
Wayan followed his gaze, and spotted Cheng across the other side of the tavern. "Yeah... he's talking to Celia."
Cheng seemed fairly engrossed in conversation with the girl they'd picked up a few weeks ago. She had perhaps been lucky that her ship had been caught in a storm and damaged. Otherwise, the pirates would never have picked her up and she'd be in the Guardian school.
But now, despite all that, she seemed to be fitting in quite well. She seemed pretty happy talking to Cheng, making him giggle, and then grabbing his hand across the table.
Wayan felt Cortes shift uncomfortably next to him.
"What... she grabbed his hand?" Wayan asked, unsure if that was what Cortes had intended him to see.
"She's done if four times in the past five minutes..." Cortes said. He was still staring across the tavern, rather than looking at Wayan. It seemed he didn't want to take his eyes off of Cheng, as if something would happen if he did.
"Ah..." said Wayan, trying to think of a way to tactfully put: 'you're overreacting'. "I'm sure she doesn't mean anything by it."
"Yeah... only Cheng doesn't seem to mind."
Celia grabbed Cheng's hand again, and set him off giggling. Cortes nearly stood up out of his chair this time.
"Hey... you can't just go and walk over there. They can't do anything..."
Cortes grumbled and sat back down. "Am I overreacting?" he asked.
Wayan didn't answer for a second, but then realised he'd just given Cortes the answer anyway. "... maybe?" he added quickly.
Cortes sighed. "I just want to get this right..."
"Mmm..." said Wayan, knowing Cortes would get he understood. "Maybe you just need to talk to him?"
"Maybe. Wayan... do you know when you're supposed to give a kid... the talk?"
"About...?" asked Wayan.
"You know. 'When two people love each other very much'..."
"Oh. That talk."
"... I have no idea..."
Cortes sighed again, and looked back across the tavern. "Neither do I..."
He'd been thinking about it for the rest of the afternoon and he'd decided that he probably should talk to Cheng.
"Cheng... there's something I need to talk to you about. I know you're growing up... although... you're still not really grown up. But you're almost a teenager. And sometimes teenagers... damn it!" Cortes growled, cutting himself off.
He was in his cabin, alone, talking to the globe that showed a map of the earth before it had shattered. The globe, however, seemed destined to follow the fate of the world it represented, as Cortes had already once knocked it over as one of his previous attempts at composing his speech had failed.
This time, he instead paced up and down the cabin a few times until he calmed down. This wasn't working. Ideally, it was something a father was supposed to tell his son. But the Sphere had killed Cheng's parents. Neither of them had the option of helping their son grow up. The Sphere had taken that away from them. And from Cheng.
Cortes spun on his heel as he ran out of room to pace, and walked back across the cabin. It was left to him. And he just didn't seem to be very good at being a parent. He came up against the metal wall, and didn't turn around this time; instead he stood and leaned against the door.
Maybe this wasn't the time. Maybe Cheng wasn't ready for it. Or maybe he just wasn't ready to talk to Cheng. Either way, he'd probably just end up making a mess of it. Or confusing or scaring Cheng.
Maybe he just wasn't cut out for bringing up a kid.
Cortes sighed. He had to talk to Cheng about this /sometime/. He just wasn't sure how.
It was at that moment that there was a knock at the cabin door. "Cortes..." Cheng's voice followed.
Cortes took a step back from the door. "Yeah?"
Cheng poked his head around. "I... um... need to get my computer."
"... thanks..." Cheng walked past him, going over to the table where his laptop sat. He picked it up and then had to put it back down to retrieve a cable.
Cortes leaned back against the wall and just watched him. He couldn't tell him now. He just didn't feel he could do it without messing up.
"Um... Cortes... are you actually doing anything? Cortes?"
"Hmm?" Cortes replied. Damn, he'd gone and distracted himself. "No, I wasn't doing anything..." Yeah, like he usually hung around his cabin doing nothing...
"Because... I didn't just come to get my laptop... I, um..." Cheng trailed off and looked back at his computer, giving the cable a final tug that pulled it out from the stack of books it'd been stuck under.
"What, Cheng?" Cortes prodded.
"I..." he trailed off again, but then took a breath and looked back up at Cortes. "I wanted to ask you about... girls."
Cortes blinked. That was the last thing he had expected Cheng to ask. It was also the last thing he wanted him to ask. But Cheng was just looking at him so innocently. Suddenly all the things that had been worrying him earlier in the tavern didn't seem like what Cheng was really thinking about.
"Um..." started Cheng, disconcerted by Cortes not saying anything. "If you're too busy..."
"No... Cheng..." Cortes came away from the door and sat down on the side of his bed.
Cheng put his laptop back on the table then came and sat next to him, waiting for him to continue.
"I know it's my responsibility to tell you this stuff..." Cortes started, then sighed and looked away.
"What? You don't want to?"
"No..." Cortes snapped, making Cheng jump. "Look... I'm just not sure how I'm supposed to do this." There, he'd said it.
Cheng looked at him. "What... tell me about girls?"
"That's probably only part of it..."
"I just want your help figuring out if Celia likes me or not..." said Cheng, a little confused by Cortes getting so seemingly annoyed. Only it wasn't quite annoyed. "Are you okay?"
Cortes just stared straight ahead. "I saw you talking to her in the tavern today. I just thought I needed to talk to you about... sex."
"I'm only twelve!" Cheng practically squeaked.
"Yeah, well I obviously don't know what I'm doing," Cortes growled, getting up. He walked across the room and stared out the opposite window, despite the fact it was too dark to see anything. "She probably does like you," he added.
"Oh." Cheng looked at his boots, and then back up at Cortes. Who was still staring out the window. "Are you sure you're okay?" he tried again.
"I never said whether I was okay or not," Cortes growled.
Cheng seemed to think for a moment, before getting up and walking over beside Cortes.
Cortes continued to stare out the window. He was really hoping that Cheng would just give up and go away.
"What are you looking at?" Cheng finally asked.
It hadn't quite been the question Cortes was expecting. It took him a second to answer. "...nothing."
"Then," Cheng continued, a little quieter, "what are you avoiding looking at?"
Cortes blinked, breaking his stare. Dammit, he was so absorbed in thinking how bad he was at this that he hadn't realised he was sending Cheng a totally wrong signal. "Cheng, this isn't about you..."
"Then what? Puerto Angel?"
Cortes sighed. He was taking him too literally. "No. Okay, so maybe it is about you."
"What'd I do?"
"Nothing!" Cortes snapped.
Cheng took a step backwards.
Cortes had to bite back his response, and instead just shut his eyes and leaned against the window.
"Look Cheng, I'm sorry. I'm just really bad at this whole 'parenting' thing." He kept his eyes closed; it was keeping him just a bit calmer, and hence less likely to say something else that might upset Cheng.
Then he felt Cheng's hand on his arm. "I don't think so. Where would I be if you hadn't taken me in? I'd just be stuck in some orphanage somewhere..."
"Aye, but they're used to bringing up kids. At least they'd know how and when to tell you this stuff."
"Yeah..." Cheng admitted. "But they wouldn't love me like you do."
Cortes finally opened his eyes and looked down at Cheng.
"Of course I do."
Cheng grinned. "I thought so." Then he put his arms around Cortes and hugged him.
Cortes went stiff for a moment. But then, how many times did Cheng want a hug, and who would see him? Cortes finally sighed and put his arms around Cheng's shoulders.
"Thanks, Cortes," said Cheng. "Um... when I need to know about... the stuff you were thinking of telling me, I'll tell you, okay?"
"That'd help a lot."
"And thanks for helping me with Celia," Cheng added, before going over and retrieving his laptop again.
Cortes had to think for a moment before he realised what Cheng meant. "No problem..."
"Night!" Cheng grinned, before practically bouncing out the door.
"Night, Cheng," Cortes said, although the boy was already out the door, and probably wouldn't hear him. Then he was alone in his cabin again. But that hadn't gone as bad as he thought it would - even if he hadn't told Cheng what he had intended originally. It wasn't the right time anyway.
Cortes couldn't help smiling slightly. At least Cheng was happy. And that was all that really mattered.