It was a strange thing Allan found himself feeling.

He’d got an early start on adolescence, a tall and handsome youth who had, in time, come to manhood similarly early. On some level, he supposed he’d become used to being tall and handsome; talented enough in magic that he hadn’t needed to devote every moment of his teenaged years to study, he’d been able to seek other pursuits – and while he didn’t take that to nearly the lengths that some of his fellows could, he fancied himself well-experienced in the arts of romance, from courtship to the bedchamber. Not a great master, heavens, no – he didn’t devote nearly that much of his life to it. But a comfortable sort of experience that any lover he courted might benefit from.

“Tall” had been out of the question as soon as he’d found this circle of companions; three of the four beyond Allan himself were significantly larger than humans, and the fourth, if a bit smaller, had wings and could fly. With such disparate company, “handsome” hadn’t been a concept worth thinking about. As for “experienced”… Tabar had dispelled that notion, of course. In one snowy evening, the snow-cat had given Allan a reminder that all of the wizard’s romantic experience was with other humans, and only women among them; he’d no more than glanced at anyone apart from that, until that night Tabar had introduced him all at once to the notions of loving another race, another man, and more than one person.

Tabar, who’d joined their band at fifteen winters without any intimate experience to speak of, had proven to have an erotic imagination beyond any two of them together – and in his own quiet way, the gentler aspects of romance, too. He had a wanderer’s soul, that one, always after new sights, new experiences. Looking over lush jungle past the city walls, Allan wondered, not for the first time, if all four of them were enough to keep the cat truly content, never mind just him. It made being the primary target of Tabar’s affections a little daunting.

Such as now, when the leopard suddenly appeared beside him, taking up his arm and sliding something along it. “For you,” he murmured, snout pressed against the human’s palm.

Allan smiled down Tabar, and turned his hand over to ruffle between the cat’s ears. “You’re going to spoil me utterly rotten, Tabar,” he sighed, and glanced down at the latest prize. It was rather unlike the soapstone dragon, the patterned cloak, or even the silver pendant with a snow stalker figurine – and given that Tabar’s people viewed the stalkers as paragons of male fertility, that had made Allan blush. This was a bronze torc, inscribed with patterns like a serpent’s scales, with small emeralds for eyes, and it fit his upper arm perfectly.

Not that Tabar had ever expressed dissatisfaction with Allan’s own gestures, but… food, wine, and the odd bit of jewellery could start to feel a bit unimaginative.

The cat settled in beside him, uttering a soft, concerned, “Hmm?”

Allan sighed. “It just feels like you deserve someone who’s… well, a little more adventurous. Romantically speaking.”

“Hush.” The leopard’s arm curled around his shoulders, tail winding around to drape over his legs. “Your steady affection is the bedrock of my life, especially this far from home – in a place I’d never have seen without you.”

With that, Allan tried to be content.