Notes: This was originally written for the AO3-based Exchange at Fic Corner 2013.

Gods-Blessed Friends


Monday, October 1, 247
Eleven of the clock in the morning.
Being an account of the events of Sunday, September 30, 247.

Yesterday was the celebration at Goodwin and Master Tomlan's. Tunstall and my lady Sabine were in attendance along with myself. Tunstall assured me I was welcome to bring someone of my own (he then pantomimed the playing of a pipe in suggestion, which I ignored. I will not bed Rosto, though I fear he wouldn't believe me if I told him so. I've not told him nor Goodwin the whole of what passed between me and Dale yet, either.)

This was Dog's business, anyhow, and especially seeing as how we'd had one celebration already, I knew that Goodwin would want no great fuss made over her. Pounce had gone off again, but Achoo accompanied me.

I arrived shortly after sundown. I do love Goodwin's neat little home. I am happy with my lodgings for now, but... perhaps when my friends have left Mistress Trout's, I will make my home elsewhere. I don't know that I could go much past Flash District, though, without making myself homesick. But I'm getting ahead of myself now, for it will be awhile yet before I do any such thing.

Tunstall answered the door at my knock. They'd broke into the ale already, and he held a tankard in his hand.

"Cooper!" he roared in greeting, and clapped me hard enough on the shoulder to near knock me off my feet. He turned to shout, "Goodwin! It's Cooper!"

"Barbarian," Goodwin called. "I heard you the first time!"

I bit my lip to hide my smile.

Goodwin popped her head out of the kitchen to greet me. "Cooper, come in and sit. Tunstall, if you're swilled already—"

"Swilled?" He puffed himself up in indignation, and waved me in with the hand that held the tankard. "This way, Cooper."

"There's a water jug on the table," Goodwin shouted. "And a bowl for the hound."

Tunstall showed me in after that. It was pleasantly warm once inside, and I shrugged off my cape. To think, that only a month ago I thought I would drown of summer's heat.

Lady Sabine sat at the table, calmly sipping wine from a goblet. When Achoo whuffed at her in greeting, Sabine bent forward to scratch her gently between the ears. From a pocket of her tunic, she produced a strip of dried lamb. I could hardly say makan before Achoo had eaten it straight down.

I set a bowl of water for Achoo on the ground near my seat. The table was set for five, and Tunstall sat across from me. My lady sat beside him and the three of us spoke pleasantly until Goodwin joined us. She was dressed in cityfolk clothes again, and in her own home she looked relaxed in them.

She made to sit beside me, but Tunstall and Lady Sabine waved her towards the head of the table.

"This is your celebration, after all," Sabine said.

"Cooper's too," Goodwin said, "and she's the guest, so rightly it should be hers."

I frowned at her. They'd told me no such thing! I thought we were here only to celebrate Goodwin's promotion.

"Oh, don't be a looby," Tunstall said kindly. "Of course it's your celebration too."

To my relief, Goodwin sat.

"Tomlan says dinner will be ready soon," she said, sparing from me from forming a reply. She cast a look of fond exasperation behind her towards the kitchen. "And that I'm to stay out of his way and enjoy myself."

"As you well should," Sabine said.

Goodwin reached and plucked an apple from the bowl set on the table, nodding her thanks to Lady Sabine as she did so.

Then Master Tomlan stepped out of the kitchen bearing food and oh, what a feast it was. There were rolls, warm from the oven and spread with fresh butter, roast chicken and stewed vegetables from their garden, and some cheeses. He had even prepared a fine meal for Achoo, which she ate beside my chair. We spoke little as we ate. Afterwards, Tomlan fetched a tray of apple pastries. Another round of drinks was poured, and we toasted to Sergeant Goodwin.

"Ah, enough, all of you," Goodwin said, after a long drink. Tomlan laid his hand atop hers in that easy way of theirs, and she relaxed. "I should say—thank you, all."

Goodwin's eyes landed on Tunstall, and the look that passed between them pulled at my heart. They were a good pair, and it saddens me to think of them without each other.

And we made a good pair, me and Goodwin. We'll make a good pair, me and Tunstall. But we were best when we were three, me and Goodwin and Tunstall. And as much as I know that Goodwin's been a good and loyal street Dog for years enough that a promotion is well-deserved, I cannot help but think she is wasted behind a desk.

We will see her at every Watch, at least.

I will even miss Sergeant Ahuda

Don't be so curst mopey, Beka.

Then Goodwin looked much as I imagine I do, when I'm preparing myself to speak in Sir Tullus's court and I must do something necessary but unpleasant.

"Oh, Mattes," she said. "I'll get all stupid if I say everything I ought to, but I couldn't have asked for a better partner all these years, nor a better friend."

Tunstall's face was carefully controlled. "Clary," he said gruffly, and they both drank.

"Don't fret overmuch, Clary," Tomlan said, giving her fingers a squeeze. "Beka here will take good care of Mattes, won't you?"

"The best, sir," I said, and smiled. "And he of me."

"I would expect nothing less," Lady Sabine said solemnly.

She touched Tunstall's hand, too, and I can admit here if nowhere else that it's enough to make a mot jealous, witnessing so much love. What passes between Sabine and Tunstall, I would never have found with Dale, nor with Rosto. To say nothing of what passes between Goodwin and Tomlan, who have been together all these many years and Goodwin still softens at the mention of him.

"And I," Tomlan said, leaning over to kiss Goodwin on the cheek, "will be glad to worry over my wife sommat less."

"As if you'll do any such thing," she said. Absently, she scratched behind her ear, the one Zolaika maimed with one of her daggers.

She said she didn't mind. If anything, I think she's a bit proud of it, but I began to understand more then. I am bone-weary some days, and I'm still young. I thought of Goodwin's ear and Tunstall's legs and all the smaller scrapes and broken bones that a Dog might earn in ten, fifteen, twenty years of this work. That was a Dog's lot, going and going until the day when all that going has worn you down.

Then I thought of all the Pearl Skinners of the world, and I hoped very much that I have years yet before that day comes for me.

As if she knew my mind, Goodwin continued, "Though that was a fine last hobble, weren't it, Cooper?"

She smiled when I nodded, and before we ended they toasted to me as well. I blushed as red as the wine.

Goodwin walked us out. Lady Sabine and Tunstall had arrived in a cart driven by one of her horses and my lady went to fetch it.

Goodwin cleared her throat, fiddling a bit with the hem of her sleeves. "I'll see you at training tomorrow."

In answer, Tunstall took Goodwin's hands in his. He kissed them both and then her forehead, and he wrapped her in a hug that near swallowed her. I looked at my feet and fiddled with Achoo's leash, thinking both that this moment ought to have been private and also that they would tease me forever if I cried.

When Tunstall released her, Goodwin's eyes were bright. She blinked a few times rapidly before she spoke. "Senior Guardsman Tunstall," she said, and paused again to release a deep breath. "Guardswoman Cooper. I'll see you tomorrow at training, and see that you're on time."

Tunstall saluted. "Aye, Sergeant."

"Yes, Sergeant," I echoed, as firmly as I could manage. I fear I still sounded wobbly.

Lady Sabine had returned. Goodwin turned and bowed in her direction. "My lady."

"A pleasant night to you, Sergeant Goodwin." Lady Sabine inclined her head with a smile. "Mattes?"

"I'm ready," he said.

I followed them down the path. When they offered me a ride back to the Lower City, I could hardly speak around the lump in my throat. Achoo spoke for me, and jumped into the back of the cart so that I had no choice but to follow.

As we drove away, I thought—twenty years from now, when I am Goodwin's age, I hope I will have made Sergeant by then. And I thought of her and Tunstall and Sabine, of Kora and Aniki and Ersken and Tansy and Rosto, and of my brothers and sisters, and I thought—when I am made Sergeant, I hope I will celebrate around a table with gods-blessed friends such as these.