A/N: Okay, I know I still haven't finished 'Lingering Ghosts', but I needed a break, and this fic has been floating around in my head for a while. Just a little piece that was fun to play with, and is mostly smut—what's not to like. For those of you who don't like, here's a warning: THIS FIC CONTAINS SEXUAL CONTENT AND SITUATIONS. There. Everyone who doesn't like the idea of, or to read about, our favorite characters getting it on has now left, and the rest of us can go on to the good stuff!

If anyone needs to know the order of these stories, or the timeline of when they take place, check out my profile. There's a timeline right at the bottom, just above the index of my fics.

Disclaimer: Don't own, just borrowed so that I can write and entertain fantasies about Numair in the buff. grins .

Declaration

Himura Seraphina

She ran her hand along the surface of her trunk, noticing that her fingers trembled ever-so-slightly against the polished brass and wood. Beside the trunk there were several smaller chests and boxes, containing all her worldly goods. And they were here.

Her stomach was jumping she'd if she'd swallowed a frog—or a dozen. Fear, happiness, worry, joy, nerves, anticipation—all that and more tangled inside her. So she did what she always did when her nerves were upset or her thoughts jumbled, and put her hands to work.

He stood in the doorway watching her, a mass of conflicting emotions; fears, worries, joy, satisfaction. There was a wave of amazement, and just a touch of primal possessiveness, as he watched her tuck her belongings among his own, laying clothes in drawers and chests alongside his. He'd never thought of himself as possessive—had never thought of himself in a lot of ways—before her. But then, his life seemed to be divided thusly; Before and After her.

She left her traveling packs, bedroll, camping gear, and winter clothes in her own trunk, and then stood back, trying to think where she should leave it. Even with shaking hands it hadn't taken her long to set al her things aright, as she didn't have much. Compared to six years ago the amount of belongings was amazing, but she'd never been one to collect things. Most of her nonessentials had been gifts from her friends, including the stack of books she'd set aside to take into the comfortable study.

"There's space in the dressing room for the trunk," came the pleasing tenor she'd become accustomed but never immune to. "You know I never use it."

She turned to find him leaning on the doorframe, hands tuck into the wide sleeves of his mage's robe—black, as only seven people in the world were entitled to. She was about to smile at him when she saw his eyes—the velvet brown darkened nearly to black by desire, and something else. The nerves in her stomach smoothed out, to be replaced by heat moving up her neck. Something in theat expression he wore, his face tight and eyes hot, stirred her blood and blended with the mix of fears and anticipation she'd felt all afternoon.

"Alright then," she murmured, unable to tear her gaze from his, "that's fine." She made no move towards the trunk or dressing room, only barely aware of what they were supposedly discussing.

Blue-grey and deep brown eyes met and held, measuring, appraising. Each gaze held happiness and concern, worry and peace. Desire inexplicably built, crackling in the air like a building summer thunderstorm.

The storm broke suddenly within him, sending him upright from his casual pose. Two striding steps brought him to her, his hands locking firmly around her upper arms, not hard enough to bruise, but enough to surprise her.

Her eyes never left his.

He didn't know what he was doing or why, only that he needed her like food, water, air. She'd been in his heart for as long as he could remember, unable to recall what it was like not to love her. For months she'd been in his arms, his bed; now she was here, permanently—friend, partner, lover. He needed to revel in it. She was the breath, bone, blood of him, and he craved her like life.

His kiss held heat and warmth, flame and ember, love and a kind of fury. There was no room between their bodies for even a breeze to pass through, flesh separated only by thin cloth which was no barrier for the heat between them. She was awash with feeling, beyond thought, as he molded her to him, as if trying to absorb her; devour her.

Even the thin linen of her shirt was too much; he needed her. Tugging at laces and cloth, he urged her back towards the bed. The feel of her hands on him, returning his caresses, pulling at his own clothes, sent him beyond the last edge of reason.

Flames licked her skin, his passion and her own, ignited in a primal response to the storm within him. She urged him on, gasping as their mouths were wrenched apart hen she fell backwards onto the bed—their­ bed. He was lover, beloved, mate, and his scent, taste, and touch called to something within her. He came down on top of her, their now-bare torsos meeting, and she welcomed him, pulling him closer to her as his mouth moved down her neck and shoulders, tasting and nipping at her flesh.

Her taste drove him mad, driving him to seek more, hands roaming over sweat-dewed flesh. Her skin was supple, stretched over soft curves and firm muscle. Her strength beckoned, calling out his own—she was an equal, a mate, and he needed to match himself to her. Even as he took command, dominating, she did as well, matching his desires—and more, allowing him dominance, the ultimate act of strength and trust.

Deaf and blind to all but him, she didn't realize that they were both bare until she felt skin slide over skin along every inch of her body. Somehow, he'd undressed them both—or perhaps she had; she could no longer remember. His hand, large and strong, slid over her, seeking every sensitive place, every shadow and curve of flesh that he'd learned pleased her. He exploited the knowledge, ruthlessly, leaving her breathless, gasping—begging. But she asked for more, and soon demanded it, her own hands moving over dampened flesh, glorying in taunt muscle and bone, seeking his strength and basking in the knowledge that she, and she alone, could match him or make him weak.

He found her hands, blindly, capturing her wrists and pinning them beside her head. He felt her arch beneath him, seeking freedom, fulfillment, but refused to release her. She was his, and he needed to prove it, to himself, to her. Logic and reason, thought and control, had been stripped away, leaving only possession. He explored her throat, shoulders, and breasts— vulnerable, open to him— leaving his own mark with lips, teeth, and tongue. He heard her breathless moans and raised his head to look at her—and was lost.

Eyes met again—blue-grey ones holding storms, deep brown seeming black with passion. There was no lust in either, only desire: to claim, to hold, to posses and be possessed in return. Gazes remained locked as his hands slipped from her wrists to her hands, fingers entwining firmly. He shifted, and she opened for him, accepting and demanding at the same time.

There were no words. Eyes held an unspoken conversation, deeper than speech, all thoughts and feelings open, hearts and minds exposed even as bodies moved in an ageless dance.

This is real

Don't ever leave

Stay with me

Mine

Yes

Mine—body, heart, soul

Yes, and you are mine

Body, heart, soul

Always

Always

Bodies, hands, hearts entwined, they sought and found the stars—while finding eternity in each other's eyes.

Ragged breathing and galloping heartbeats were the only sounds in the bedchamber. They lay in twisted sheets as the sweat dried from their cooling bodies, limbs tangled together as they were both reluctant to separate. As they caught their breath, it was minds that began to race instead.

Even as she savored his weight over her where he remained half-sprawled on her, she thought back over the last candlemark. She remembered little but sensations, heat, and a wild passion that had scattered her wits and left her nothing but instinct. And his eyes—the depthless pool of his gaze, which had held the same passion and mirrored the possession she had felt.

"Where," she mused aloud, "did that come from?" She didn't ask what it was, since she already recognized the truth in herself.

Possessing. Claiming. Mating.

"I don't know," he returned, his voice still husky, his breath washing over the sensitive skin of her neck, causing shivers to touch her skin. She wasn't all that surprised—any earthquake had aftershocks, and what'd they'd just shared certainly had had the force of one.

"I saw you in here and I just…" he trailed off, his hand shifting to her soft curls, tangling in them as he remembered and sought words. Only in this, in his feelings for her, did his ability to express himself, to analyze and explain, fail him.

It rarely bothered him.

"I've been here plenty of times—I sleep here half of the time, at least since May," she puzzled.

"Not like this, sweet," he murmured softly.

No, not like this. Each time before, they had been lovers. Deeply in love, yes, partners and friends and companions—but she had still had her own bed, her own room, despite how little she actually used them. This was different, and it shook something inside him, made it stir and wake.

It was woken something in her as well.

She was quiet for a minute, fingers drifting over his back as she thought. "You've a possessive streak. I forget sometimes—you hide it well—but it is there."

"Only with you."

It was the same for her—only he brought out her territorial senses. Despite her temper, despite her birth and the nature of her gifts, she was ruled by human thought and logic, with a strong dose of practicality mixed in. The primal emotions that had gripped her were something no one else in all the realms could bring to her.

"It was like—"

"Claiming," he finished.

"Mating," she murmured.

Many animals, they both knew, mated for life.

Eventually, her sense of humor returned, as well as her pleasure with the day's events. The—interval—they'd shared wasn't disturbing, just surprising. As she adjusted, the shock wore off and she giggled.

"Who could imagine that such a scholarly man could be so—so wild? No one'd believe it!"

"They won't disbelieve it either," he growled, shifting to glare at her, "because they'll never hear anything about it. Correct?"

"I wasn't going to shout it from the bell tower," she chuckled. "I was just thinking of the expressions on some folks faces."

"Thinking is all you'd better do. You've a perverse nature sweet—you enjoy tormenting me." Since it was true, she only laughed again.

He shifted, moving his weight from her. For all her strength, he was twice her size and she would certainly be feeling his weight by now. As he lifted himself from her, he glanced down—and froze.

She felt his sudden tension and opened her eyes to find him half over her, supported on his hands. His face was pale, his swarthy skin blanched and drawn tight as his eyes darkened with shock.

"What's wrong? Are you alright? Are you sick?" She wanted, instinctively, to reach for a weapon, but their tangled legs held her trapped. "Love?"

"Mithros, Mynoss, and Shakith," he whispered. "Gods, sweet, I'm sorry."

"What?" Now she was confused as well as worried. "Damnit, you're scaring me—you know I hate that! What's wrong?"

"I hurt you."

The harshly whispered words had the impact of a lightning strike in the room, leaving stillness and silence in their wake. She blinked once, slowly. "What?"

Long fingers reached out to hover above her collarbone, then skim down to her breast. He didn't touch her skin, and his fingers trembled.

She looked down at her own skin, following the trail of his hand, seeing the red marks that were left there. Light abrasions and the small red bruises from love bites stood out against her pale skin, as well as one or two darker marks from more—enthusiastic—love bites. Above her collarbone, the faint impression of teeth marks remained, and light bruises the size of finger marks were forming at her hips and wrists, perfectly matching his grip.

She laughed wryly. "Huh, I didn't feel a thing."

"I'm so sorry, sweet."

The pained tone had her gaze snapping back to his face. He looked drawn and guilty as his eyes lingered on the marks of his passion.

Honestly, she loved this man, but sometimes his sense of honor—not a bad thing, by any means—made her wish she could shake him.

"You didn't hurt me at all. It's just—"

"Look at yourself!"

Self-directed anger burned through him, firing his eyes. His inner gaze blinded him to the matching flames in hers.

She shoved him hard, twisting as she did so. He ended up on his back, with her straddling his hips, glaring down at him.

"Now you listen to me, you daft, stubborn man. You didn't hurt me, and you haven't—now or ever—done anything to me that I didn't want—and didn't return, in equal measure. Take a look at yourself," she added hotly, poking a finger at the love bites on his own collarbone, and then the crescent-shaped marks on his arms and shoulders left by her nails. "You've bloody furrows on you're back as well; I think we'd best call it even."

He opened his mouth to argue, to explain that it was different, that it was her flesh that he'd marked in some mad need to prove she was his, but closed it again when she scowled at him. They glared at each other for a moment before he sighed, rolling to his side and gathering her close to nuzzle at her neck—gently kissing the marks there.

"Stubborn woman," he muttered, knowing it was that, in part, that made her his equal and match. She had shared whatever passions had driven him, accepted the need to mark her—and had done her own marking. How could you treat a woman like crystal when it was her strength that you loved?

"I have to be, to put up with you—anyone else'd kill you," she grumbled in return, wrapping her arms around his neck.

They lay close for a while, simply holding each other and yet deriving a different but equal pleasure to what came form lovemaking. Eventually he stirred. "I forgot something."

She let him go, watching as he stood, swarthy skin gleaming in the pale candlelight. The last light of the dusk had long ago faded. She nearly giggled at his bemused expression when he searched for his clothes—tangled, scattered, and tossed about the room. He finally found his robe half under the bed and drew something from one of the deep pockets. She pushed tangled locks from her face as he sat beside her.

"What do you think?"

She accepted the long brass rectangle, hearing and understanding the deeper meaning of the question as she examined it. Finally, she looked up at him.

"A little more subtle than crying it from the bell tower."

"But with the same purpose."

"Quite a declaration."

"We don't have to do it, sweet."

Her fingers traced over the brass, unknowingly following the same path that his had hours earlier, when he'd first received it. After a moment she smiled—not an amused grin, but a slow, peaceful expression of acceptance and joy. She handed the brass length back to him.

"Have to? No. Want to? Yes. Let's put it up."

"Ah," he began, looking slightly sheepish. "I…"

"Go ahead," she laughed. He smiled, and they both understood why he wanted to do it himself. Once again, claiming.

He drew on his robe as he left the bedchamber. With his Gift it was the work of moments to set the brass plate in the door beneath the one already present. He took another moment to look, to absorb the sight and it's implication, before returning to her, warm and waiting in bed. Their bed.

In the low light of the corridor, brass gleamed dully against wood, and two elegantly scripted named stood out in relief, there for anyone to see.

Numair Salmalin

Veralidaine Sarrasri