Jenny: Good Lad

The girl said nothing for a few minutes, but stood regarding the three young man standing by their horses in the court before the Long Barn. She had that pale look on her face again, the boy noticed; it was clear that they were talking about her, the only new thing worth talking about - if she was worth talking about - and he could see it genuinely confounded her, which made him think.

She recovered a moment later, gave herself an unconscious shake, and started down the steps for the level, heading, to his surprise, for the three young men. He kept his eyes on her hands as he jogged down after her, but he doubted both from the look of embarrassment on her face and from the business of the yard that she would try anything dire.

Women stab you in the back, anyway, he thought. Only a man could look in your face while he killed you.

So he was pleasantly surprised, if a little wary, when she stopped shyly by the young men who were half a decade her juniors, shy as though she were a little girl, and asked if she could fetch them anything. The look on the surgeon's face could not be missed. He looked at her, eyebrows flyaway, and glanced across at his friend Druce, all surprise. But he found himself in time to push off from the mare, slinging the reins up over her head, to say, "I think we're well enough off, thank you." Then Master Jason looked past Aithne at him, frowned a moment, but said nothing. He gave a little general nod, flicked his hand at Master Druce, and broke off from the group, making his way toward the villa.

In passing, he laid a hand on the boy's shoulder companionably, and murmured, "Take care of those arms, lad."

"I will, sir," he assured the surgeon. And as Master Jason walked away, the lingering pressure of the young man's hand on his shoulder warmed him through and through.

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