"No?" Teige said vaguely. "I didn't expect so, no."
"Sorry," Vlad offered. Teige paused, and when he spoke again, it seemed half to himself.
"I suppose I'm just stubborn," he murmured, "but it's no substitute for being actually brave, or strong, or good, or good enough, or whatever."
"So wait, is this a guy thing?" Vlad asked lightly. "You know that's not a problem here in Aetheri, right? Like, the concepts of femininity and masculinity don't exist in this society?"
"Oh, I know," Teige replied, without elaborating. "...I know."
Stars were coming out in the clear purple sky overhead, obscured here and there by hazy little clouds. Vlad let Teige stand in silence for a while before asking, "Can I take you out for a drink or three?"
Teige started. "Eh? What prompted that?"
"I may not know where you're coming from exactly," Vlad explained with a slight grin, "but I did live on Earth for more than a century. I lived with mobsters, I lived with drag queens. You can imagine the cultural whiplash."
"God almighty, sure," Teige agreed, giving his muzzle a bemused scratch.
"I figure if you'd like someone to drink and yell about gender with, I can play ball. Besides, I feel a little bad for setting you up with Luu. I didn't think they'd be so hard on you."
"So this is a pity thing, then?" Teige asked somewhat awkwardly. "Because I--"
"Oh, god no!" Vlad interrupted, surprised.