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Korin opened his eyes and couldn’t hold back his smile at the sight of Ádan straddling the windowsill, watching Korin. Korin felt himself blush, as he always did when Ádan looked at him in that particularly appreciative way.

These last couple weeks had been strange and…well, not awkward, exactly, but Korin hardly ever felt awkward when he was actually with Ádan, but there was a definite nervousness he felt the rest of the time.

Every morning at the palace, he’d been afraid of running into Ádan, afraid of what he’d say if Ádan asked what he was doing there. Ádan had been clear about his dislike and mistrust of Sheluna—and Korin could certainly understand why he’d feel that way.

Korin wasn’t going to lie to Ádan. If Ádan asked, Korin would tell him.

But Ádan hadn’t asked. Ádan hadn’t been around the palace. Ádan hadn’t been around much at all. When he did come by—evenings, like this, where he’d show up late and be gone again by morning—he’d been tired and quieter than usual, content to listen to Korin talk through whatever metaphysical puzzles or interesting healings were on his mind that night.

Korin would have asked what he was up to, except that line of questions might lead to Ádan asking the same of him, so Korin kept quiet and assumed that if it became important, Ádan would say something.

At this moment, Ádan was saying nothing. He continued to sit in the window, staring at Korin with an intensity that Korin didn’t know how to interpret. “Ádan? Are you okay?”

“Never better than when I’m with you.” Ádan swung his other leg inside. “What were you thinking about so intently?”

“Magic.” It was an evasive answer, but also a true one.

And it made Ádan smile. “When are you not thinking about magic?”

“When I’m thinking about you.” The words felt incredibly daring, and Korin looked down, second-guessing them as soon as they came out of his mouth.

When he glanced back up, Ádan’s smile had fallen away. Looking directly into Korin’s eyes, he said, “I want you to know that you are the best thing in my life right now. And I will never not be thrilled that you’re thinking about me.”

Korin wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Ádan being serious made his stomach twist—both from the words themselves and the fact that it wasn’t what he expected.

If Ádan noticed his discomfort, he didn’t say. Instead, he flopped down on the bed with easy familiarity and pulled Korin into his lap. “So talk to me about magic.” The usual lightness had returned to his tone. “Tell me what idea’s got you all deep and thinky today.”

“I’m trying to figure out…” Korin had to stop and backtrack several times in his mind, to organize the problem in a way he could explain it from scratch. “I’m trying to figure out, what are the limits of healing? What are we doing, exactly? Why are some things okay and other things not?”

“Like what? Give me examples?”

That was one of the things Korin liked so much about Ádan, that he jumped into these conversations feet first, like it was the most natural thing in the world to be talking about. He never asked why Korin would be thinking about such things, or told him it was silly, or pointless…or wrong.

“Okay, so for example, if you break your leg, I heal you by putting the leg back to the way it was before it was broken.”

Ádan nodded.

“But on the other hand, say you get old.”

“As people do,” Ádan said in a dry tone.

“Exactly. Why don’t we heal age? What would that be other than just setting the body back…farther.”

Ádan’s fingers traced light trails back and forth across Korin’s thighs as he considered. “You said yourself that it was harder to heal after the body had time to adjust. Healing old age would require reaching really far back, yes?”

“Yes. And it would be hard. But not impossible.”

“Okay.” Ádan fell thoughtfully silent.

Korin took the next step. “Then, if making someone younger is okay, why not other things? Why not taller, or stronger? Why not more?”

“I guess my first question would be, who are you arguing against? Who’s telling you you can’t do those things?”

That was a good question. Teriad was the first answer that came to mind, but Korin knew exactly what Ádan would say to that—that Teriad was dead. His next instinct was to say that it was just wrong and everyone knew it. But…right and wrong had to come from somewhere, right? It certainly wasn’t something defined by council law. Korin couldn’t do these things on someone without their permission, but nowhere was there a strict listing of what magic wizards were or weren’t allowed to do.

“I’ll have to think about that.”

“They’re good questions,” Ádan said. “I’ll be interested to hear what answers you come up with.”

“Yeah, so will I.”

Ádan tucked Korin against him, stroking Korin’s hair as he closed his eyes. “I don’t know about you, Sunshine, but I’m beat. Do you mind if we just lie down for a bit?”

“Not at all.” It was on the tip of Korin’s tongue to ask what Ádan was doing that had him so exhausted. But…that was the can of worms that Korin was going to keep sealed as long as possible. So instead, he stretched out next to Ádan and they laid quietly together until Korin’s own eyes started to flutter shut.

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Barbara J Webb

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