Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. All hail Tamora Pierce, who does

Flying

She stood on the edge of a cliff, looking out. The ocean breeze caressed her bare shoulders and ruffled her hair. She could smell lavender, heather and salt water. The sky was an endless blue. Below her seemed to stretch into infinity. To most people the height would be dizzying. But this height was what she was after. She inhaled deeply to taste the scents on the air and jumped.

She allowed herself to drop 20 feet before changing. Her bones became lighter; hair and skin became feathered; feet became talons; nose became a curved beak. Shifting layers of wind lifted her and she glided from one to another effortlessly. The wildmage was now a light brown hawk and the day was hers.

She could see for miles. Beneath her was an entire world of life. The tops of trees swayed in the breeze. A brook traveled lazily through the length of the scenery. She knew it connected with a river, which carried its water to the ocean. But she was now inland a few miles. Wild flowers and patches of clover dotted the valley in hues that would delight a painter. She could see small animals dart about their daily tasks. They sung hellos to her in voices that only she could hear.

She never heard the larger hawk approach until he was there beside her. His sleek black feathers rustled in the breeze. His features were not suited for smiling, but she could swear he did so at the sight of her. In this form, Numair could mind speak with her, but it was strange. He was not, after all, a real hawk. He was the man she loved – the man who loved her.

It had been a long six weeks since the war ended. Below there were still many areas that needed repair and many settlements that had been shaken apart by the ravages of war. But at this altitude it was hard to tell. The two could float along on column after column of air and revel in the separation from their daily tasks. He brushed her outstretched wing with the very tips of his own. It seemed a beautiful symbolism and her heart leaped at the thought of him.

Feathers become you, Magelet, he mind-spoke to her, teasingly.

As they do you, Master Salmalin, she responded.

Why so formal, darling?

It seemed fair respectful, seeing as how I'm about to loop you and all. With that she dived and scooped underneath him, only to rise above and drop back to flying beside him. It was a joyous experience. She loved to fly.

You have a unique idea of courting, Magelet. I must say this is not a date I would have come up with. This was, in fact, a date. The two had told a few close friends of their new-found relationship, but they were keeping it quiet. Daine had not yet decided if she was ready for marriage and Numair was trying not to push. He felt that a few dates might make her feel more comfortable and at any rate, they enjoyed time alone. They had been so busy with clean up efforts that when the King had decided they should have a recharge day, they took the opportunity gladly. So Numair asked Daine what she wanted to do and this was it. She wanted to fly just for the sheer joy of flying.

I never thought I'd hear you brag about not thinking up something, she teased.

You should be careful how provocative you are, Magelet. I might have to chase you or something.

Taking that as a suggesting, she scurried ahead, laughing. He followed in hot pursuit. They circled trees and ducked under fences. They came back and looped the rampart of the castle. It was the most unique game of tag any human could ever have watched.

There were humans watching. Jonathan of Conte and his wife Thayet sat at a table on the balcony of their east wing, enjoying the show. "Either the birds have gone crazy or my black mage and wildmage are having an enjoyable time wasting magic," the king said with a smile.

"I think it is rather sweet," Thayet answered, sipping her tea.

Jon gave his wife a sharp look, "Sweet. That's a word with all kinds of connotations."

Thayet laughed, eyes sparkling, "You don't think they belong together?"

Jon set his tea cup down and looked at the two Hawks as they swung round the tower. "I never took time to think about it really. There's an age difference. I even once ordered Numair to take care of her like she was a daughter. Is there something I don't know?"

"I've not heard a confirmation. I don't know if they have realized it yet. But can you really imagine separating them?"

Jon let out a hearty laugh, "When you put it that way –"

"If it isn't love, it should be."

"Maybe it should," he said, smiling. He patted her on the hand. And maybe I should take a page out of Numair's book and chase you around a little.

The queen giggled. She didn't need a second invitation for a little harmless diversion. She raced off toward their bedroom with Jon closely behind her. She didn't quite make it to the door before he snatched her into his arms and kissed her deeply.

Meanwhile the hawks, who had been momentarily alarmed to see their king and queen running, turned and looked at each other. If you're getting tired we can set down somewhere, Daine told Numair with her mind.

I can fly as long as you can, Magelet.

I'm impressed by your stamina. While she congratulated herself on the big words, Numair sputtered. What? she asked finally.

Um – Magelet, there could be a double entendre there. He swooped in to alight on the upper window of his tower.

She arrived just behind him. A double on – what?

A double entendre – a double meaning. It could be a flirtatious sexual reference. You caught me off-guard.

Without a word between them she swooped back off the window sill and Numair turned back into himself and dressed quickly. He draped a dressing gown over the window sill and turned his back. He heard her flutter in and soon heard the patter of her feet on stone. "Well then, should I be impressed?"

He turned crimson and turned to look at her and saw she was too. However, she seemed to have given up the consequence of blushing for the chance to tease him.

He grabbed her and kissed her passionately. When he released her gasping, he said, "Someday you can find out the answer to that. But for now I will remain a man of mystery."

Their mouths met again and their hands caressed and roamed until finally he pulled back and said, "It's time to stop before I lose my head."

"But you do like kissing me?" she asked self-consciously.

"Oh yes, Magelet, a little too much."

"As much as flying?"

"Much, much more than flying."