A/N: This fic takes place about two years after the end of RotG. In my world, the Protector of the Small quartet didn't happen—it's not a bad series, but nowhere in the league of the other Tortall books, so I pretend they don't exist. As well, Trickster's Choice/Queen didn't happen, simply because I started this fic before I read them. In the story, Daine is 18, and Numair is, I'm guessing, about 32; they have been living together openly for about a year.

Just FYI, this is only my second posted fic—my first, Stumbling Steps, is a one-shot. Reviews and feedback would be great.

Disclaimer: I don't own Numair, Daine, Jon, Thayet, Ouna, Bari, Raoul, Cloud, Hakkon, or any of the characters which Tamora Pierce created, nor the world they inhabit. I have taken liberties with said characters and world, and invented a few of my own original characters—if they or the story sucks, it is my own doing, not Tamora's. Please don't sue—I'm a college student taking a year off to work on my writing (not-fanfic works), so I don't even have pocket lint—that was breakfast.

Lingering Ghosts

Himura Seraphina

Chapter 1) Sleep

He watched her sleep, stretched out on their bed, fully dressed excepting her boots. He was tired as well, but for now was content to watch her, his guard down now that they were safely in their home. Soon enough he would join her in sleep.

He was tall, with a lanky yet power frame that topped a full six-foot, five-inches, with swarthy skin and long, glossy black hair held in a horsetail at his neck. A number of silver strands had woven their way through his hair for all that he was only a few years past thirty—remnants of a war since past. Thoughtful, intelligent dark eyes stood out amid strong features, which were softened by a tender smile as he watched his love sleep.

Numair Salmalin, black robe mage, the most powerful sorcerer in the Eastern lands and among the greatest in the world, sat, dusty from travel, gazing at his teenage lover and longtime friend and student, Daine. She was relaxed in repose, utterly boneless with true exhaustion, her lovely blue-grey eyes hidden behind long lashes as her chestnut curls spilled over her beautiful—and slightly stubborn—features. She was small, barely five-foot, four-inches, and seemingly delicate, particularly with her bright eyes hidden and stubborn chin relaxed. Her slight build hid a powerful spirit and a strong heart and was, despite appearances, muscled and capable. She could aim and fire with unerring accuracy the bows that many strong men couldn't even string, and ride like one of the K'mir Horse Lords. And she, young woman of eighteen that she was, with a gift of Wild Magic unlike any the world had seen, was one of the greatest heroes of Tortall.

In the two years since the end of the Immortals War, Tortall and the Eastern lands had seen many changes as immortals settled once more in the mortal realm—and Daine, with her powerful gift and animal bond, stood constantly at the forefront of those changes. They had spent much time helping both immortals and humans cope with each others presence, often mediating between mortals and the more peaceful of the immortal races, and hunting those which meant harm. Daine had refined her abilities with her Wild Magic as well as her diplomacy skills—such as they were—even as her body and face had matured and become those, not of a pretty teenager, but a lovely young woman.

And he loved her more every day. It had taken time to reconcile himself with loving someone not only fourteen years younger than himself, but a girl who was still only an adolescent. While his heart was wholly committed, the mind still had qualms—as she had had. But, over the long months after the death of the former Emperor Mage Ozorne, they had accustomed themselves to each other not as friends, but as lovers—even as they were circumspect about revealing their feelings to others. They had reached a milestone a year past when, still wary of marriage, they had flaunted all convention and moved in together. The raised brows and whispers about the Palace had slowly faded as others became used to the situation—aided, at least in part, by the casual resting of hands upon sword hilts by the couples' friends when the topic of their relationship arose—and he and Daine had slowly adapted to their new circumstances.

Now, while he still had lingering concerns, Numair no longer lived in fear that Daine would one day feel trapped with an old man—and she had lost her own fears that he would someday see her as a child, not a woman. Marriage, the word and idea, had slowly become less daunting and now, two years after first confessing their feelings, they were formally betrothed.

Numair smiled, slowly removing his boots and robe. While they had decided to wait before actually marrying—likely a year or two—they would wed. Daine wanted to be his wife. He was more than content with that.

Stretched out beside his love, he wrapped his arm around her waist, careful of the dragonet beside her, and drew her close as he followed her into sleep.

So? Reviews appreciated, as well as questions and comments. Thanks for giving it a try!