Jared had, not a room in a boarding house, but more spacious and private accommodations. On one side of High Street, an entire block was nothing but conjoined three-storey buildings; they held single-storey suites that extended from the street, each with a street door, through to the alley that ran down the back of the block.

Jared's ground-floor apartment was a fairly high-traffic area, but Corin was there so often that several people had made rude comments—out of Jared's hearing—that he might as well live there. Depending on the speaker, it included an insinuation about Corin in Jared's bed, or a suggestion that Corin would be fine sleeping across the door like a dog.

It was true that Corin did have his own key, for a number of practical reasons.

It should be late enough for Jared to be up. They'd been at the pub late last night, but Corin had been to his first lecture of the day already.

He thumped on the door, and waited.

After a moment, Jared answered it. Given that he was wearing yesterday's trousers and a shirt from the day before, neither of them on straight, Corin figured he'd grabbed whatever was closest.

“Good morning,” Jared said, with a yawn. “Why didn't you just come in?” He stepped back and gestured, and with another yawn headed for his favourite chair.

“Because I know Edwena doesn't work today and that she left with you last night.” Corin came all the way in and closed the door behind him.


“I don't mind,” Edwena giggled, from the doorway to the bedroom. She was wearing even less, only wrapped in a linen sheet, her unbound hair tousled. She would never have allowed any other visitor to see her that way, but Corin was the exception. “Good morning, Corin.” She invited herself onto Jared's lap, and he obligingly wrapped an arm around her.

“It's afternoon, actually,” Corin said, leaning against Jared's desk. “I've already been to one lecture.”

“It's a good thing I didn't have any today,” Jared reflected. “So, how did you horrify them this time?”

“He was talking about class as though it were an absolute. I pointed out to him that there's less intrinsic difference between highborn and commoners than there is between a racehorse and a plough horse or a child's pony.”

“Oh, I'm sure that went over well.” Jared nuzzled Edwena's shoulder. “So which are you, darling? A pretty palfrey for young ladies?”

Edwena laughed. “A stubborn mule, according to my mother.”

“Aren't mothers supposed to say that? Corin, there's a brown bag in the drawer to your left, think you could grab it, since I can't currently stand up?”

Corin glanced down and slid the drawer open. The bag was the sort jewellery often came in; beside it was a book. He tossed the bag to Jared, who caught it neatly and presented it to Edwena.

“I saw it and thought of you.”

Edwena eagerly untied the drawstring and opened the little bag up into a full flat circle on her palm. In the centre, bright against the brown, was a slender gold chain with a pendant on it; when she held it up, smiling, Corin could see that it was a flower, with chips of colour set into the five petals and two leaves. Knowing Jared, it was real gold, though probably not of high purity, and the colour might be glass or might be inexpensive stones. Jared didn't give gilded trash.

“That's beautiful!”

“Then it suits you.” He took it from her and carefully fastened it around her throat for her, straightening the pendant and letting a finger trail a line down between her breasts. She twisted in place to kiss him enthusiastically.

Corin had introduced Edwena to Jared for reasons, after all. He was fond of her, and liked the idea of her getting the sorts of gifts Jared could and did give. Her exuberant approach to most things appealed to Jared, and he'd kept her around for some time, longer than usual for him.

I wish that was me, though.

He shunted that thought aside, unwilling to consider it any more closely. Instead, he picked up the book that was in the drawer.

“Why do you have a copy of Ogden's encyclopedia of symptoms and conditions? That's an expensive book, even used, and it's pretty specialized. And this is either new, or hardly used at all.”

“Oh, really?” Jared said, wrapping both arms around Edwena. “You mean I bought a copy of a book that all physicians are expected to have as a reference? My mistake, since that'll be no use to me. You being a physician in progress and all, I suppose you'd better take it.”

That made Edwena giggle again.

“Jared, this is...”

“Say thank you nicely, Corin,” Edwena said severely. “What's wrong with getting presents?”

“Probably best not to say thank you the way Edwena does,” Jared said in amusement.

“Thank you,” Corin said softly. Would he ever get used to Jared's open-handed liberality? Refusing to accept the things Jared bought for him, often things Corin needed and would have to stretch to pay for himself, was problematic on many levels. This, though, was probably the single most expensive since the gold-chased silver watch that kept superbly accurate time, as ideal for measuring heart-rate and breathing as for knowing when he needed to be somewhere.

Jared bought things for other people, too. Corin thought that to Jared, it was a sort of casual trade: those who gave Jared what he needed or wanted benefited in turn from Jared's generosity, in proportion to what he gained from them. It was like an extended version of the arrangements made with the local girls, really, and that idea made him more uncomfortable than it really should.

Especially since most people got sporadic situational gifts and Jared's current lover always received frequent presents while she was around, but it was Corin he consistently favoured with his largesse. The majority of the necessary and desirable—and often expensive—equipment gradually collecting in the sturdy leather bag in Corin's room had come from Jared.

“You're welcome, of course. I'm starving. You're already dressed. Would you run down the street and pick up something for breakfast, lunch, whatever? For all three of us? Money's in the usual place.”

“Sure.” Corin set the book down on the desk. Another drawer had, among other things, a round-bottomed dish that generally held a liberal handful of small and medium coins. He scooped out enough to cover a good lunch for three. “I'll be right back.”

“You can do the serving,” Edwena said impishly. “It's my day off.”

“Don't make me get up this time,” Jared said. “Just come in. We'll be here.”

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