The first awareness Numair had was of a familiar form lying tucked into his. His arms were encircling her back, her head nuzzled gently in the nape of his neck, between his shoulder and chin.

 As Numairs' other senses awoke they carried the message that it was indeed his student Daine tucked asleep in his arms.

Her unruly curls brushed his face; his cheeks, his chin and the drowsy mage breathed in the scent which had become well-known to him over the years, of flowers, soap and a less identifiable trace of her own self, an animal musk which reminded him of the wolf-pack, the Long Lake pack as they were still named thanks to his magelet.

 Lost in the wonder of holding her unrestricted, at last, in his arms he could think of nothing else for a time but the closeness and feel of her against him…

 A loud crash in the corridor woke him from this spellbinding state and his dark eyes snapped open to asses the situation.

 A mumbled apology could be heard, presumably from the person who had dropped whatever it was which had awoke him fully, and he recognised the reply to have come from one of the main kitchen chefs, rebuking the apprentice for their clumsiness.

He waited tensely to see if the commotion has roused the girl still enveloped in his arms. He felt her rhythmical breath caress his throat and knew she still slept.

 He frowned suddenly, how had they come to be like this, curled up together on a couch to sleep? He glanced around the room; it was empty except for a table with maps scattered across it and a few random chairs clustered about the table.

 The sunlight filtering in from a window told him that it was not yet midday.

He recalled a meeting he and Daine had been summoned to earlier that morning in this room, to discuss the situation surrounding the attacks of Wyverns.

 They were left alone afterwards to consider Kittens part in driving them away; as a dragon, wyverns must obey her but it would tax her greatly-she was just an infant really when all things were put into perspective.

Numair sighed. They must have drifted off; not surprising really considering the lack of sleep they had had to endure the past months.

The mage pulled away from Daine slightly to take this rare opportunity to study every line of her face without fear of her seeing him.

His eyes followed the trail of her long, thick eyelashes down the curve of her creamy, smooth skinned cheek and finally came to rest on her mouth.

Her lips parted slightly in sleep and he squeezed his eyes shut in silent agony.

Why must he continue to torture himself this way?

 Ever since his realization of the depth of his feelings for his student, his student for the great gods sake, he had had to watch his every glance, his every touch; he would allow himself to be friendly, caring but not intimate. He knew as her teacher and as an older, experienced man he was in a position of power with her and he despised abuse of power.

As much as he loved her and longed to hold her and make her known of that love, he would not do it knowing that her feelings back may be ones he had conjured in her in his need. He would not reduce their relationship to seduction and delusion.

How many times had he gone over and over this in his head? A list of reasons why he may not have what would make his life unutterably happy.

Or unutterably empty.

 She may be shocked, betrayed, disgusted with him, as he knew would echo the shame he felt in himself. Graveyard Hag she was sixteen, he had had his first kiss and many afterward before she was even born. He had first lain with a woman when she was four. These reasonable thoughts did well to satisfy his brain, his logic, but they worked nothing on his heart or his body. Facts did not change what he felt.

His hand strayed from her back to smooth her soft, silken curls from her face and throat. He did not fail to notice the weary lines he saw around her eyes and he sighed softly. This war was putting many people he cared for in danger.

He never strayed far from Daine, or she far from he, and so far was able to protect her.

He smiled ruefully, and she able to protect him.

 But nevertheless, his strength was waning and the enemy was coming faster and in more unexpected forms. He feared one day they would be pitted against an enemy he couldn't fight and…. he didn't want to think about the outcome.

If only there were a place she could go, where she at least could be safe from harms way.

His thick lashes lowered and he smiled crookedly at his own folly. Even if there were such a haven Daine would never agree to it.

She fought with her life for Tortall and was fond of putting herself in danger. Too fond. And scold her he might, he may as well be babbling nonsense for all the attention she paid him. All he could do was stay by her, keep a close watch over her and pray that no harm came to her.

He was jolted out of his morose thoughts by Daine. She was stirring.

Numair felt panicked, ridiculously so, as if he was about to be caught doing something he shouldn't.

He hastily shut his eyes and forced his breathing to normal as he felt her sigh and shift slightly.

Her weight against him moved as she sat up. He could almost feel her gaze rest on his face and he had to force himself not to react. She sighed again; he felt her fingers lightly brush the lines at the corners of his eyes he had recently acquired from lack of sleep.

His insides quivered at that touch but his face remained motionless. He felt her shiver from cold and his heart leapt into his throat as she lay back down into his embrace and snuggled into his chest. His body betrayed him as his strong arms wrapped around her once more and his head bent to bury his face in her curls. The sweetness of that embrace was enough to last him through the rest of this war, if need be, he was sure. He felt a happiness and contentment which could only be gotten when he was around the young woman he loved, and with that he was carried off into sleep.