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It was late. Korin had been out all day, and into the night, but he was so exuberantly happy it was hard not to skip on his way home to Marta’s.

Today he’d figured it out. Today, he’d figured a lot of things out.

The whole day had been spent with Sheluna and Samir. Samir, it turned out, was Sheluna’s apprentice, and every bit as bright as one would expect her apprentice to be. They’d been so deeply immersed in talk about theory and in actual experimentation that they hadn’t broken up for lunch, for the afternoon, for dinner. Sheluna had even blown off a scheduled meeting with the Archwizard of the Balance in order to keep working. Because she, too, was excited as Korin came closer and closer to internalizing and truly understanding everything she’d been talking about.

Other things Korin now understood—why Wing wizards kept all those animals around. Staff wizards might know the human and firstborn bodies like no others, but Korin now had to wonder why they stopped there. Comparisons, variations—that was the key.

For example, this problem Korin had been working on—how to stay cool in the heat using magic. Sheluna’s challenge that she’d refused to just give him the answer to. Korin had spent day after day in meditation, in deep thought, tracing the lines and pathways of his body to try to figure out what might make things better.

And then today, he’d seen the answer. Not by looking at himself. But when Samir had brought his own current project for Sheluna to critique—a project that involves three little desert mammals Korin had never seen before. And Korin, out of curiosity, had looked at them with the same close study as he’d give to a patient brought before him.

These were creatures adapted to the heat, and Korin was able to see how they worked. Blood—that was the key. All three were different looking on the outside, but each of them had a part or all of their body with thin skin and a thick web of capillaries to move a lot of blood—blood that would cool quickly and efficiently before returning into the body.

All this worry Korin had been going through about ethics and unnatural changes, but this—this was so subtle, so easy—what had he been afraid of?

Sheluna had been excited when Korin had figured it out. And from there, the discussion had moved from how does this work to how can we make it work even better and thus the entire day had flown by before any of the three of them had noticed.

And now as he walked home, Korin was comfortable for the first time since he’d come to Triome. The heat was comfortable. Maybe even a touch chilly with the sun gone and the evening breeze off the ocean.

And all the while Korin wondered—what else could he do?

The house was dark and quiet, but Korin had a key. He tiptoed in and crept his way up the stairs. Just as quietly, he eased open his own door. Only after he’d slipped inside and closed it just as softly did he realize that the people in other rooms weren’t the only sleepers he was trying not to disturb.

Ádan was asleep in his bed, all curled up around Korin’s pillow.

It was a sign of just how exhausted Ádan must be that he was still asleep. Korin had found Ádan to be an extremely light sleeper, sensitive to every twitch or uneven breath Korin made when they were sleeping together. Now, he hadn’t even stirred.

What was Ádan doing that had him so completely wiped out? It only seemed to be getting worse.

Korin should ask. He was being a bad friend by not asking. And his reasons for not asking made him an even worse friend. Korin knew that. He needed to tell Ádan that he was working with Sheluna.

But then what would he do if Ádan asked him to stop? Today had been amazing. Every day with her was amazing. This was the magic Korin had always wanted, even if he’d never realized it until now. Could he let Ádan take that away from him?

He must have made some noise because Ádan’s eyes flew open. A sleepy smile spread across his face. “Hey, Sunshine.”

And there it was—the look in Ádan’s eyes. Warmth and affection and relaxed, easy happiness. Korin couldn’t bring himself to do anything that would replace that look with pain, with betrayal. At least, not tonight. Korin never wanted to make that look go away.

So instead he sat down on the bed, ran a hand lightly down Ádan’s arm, and said, “I’ve been learning some new tricks. Want to see?”

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Barbara J Webb

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