Disclaimer: This alas is not mine. Though the plot line was mostly my creation, most of the characters and places belong to Tamora Pierce.

Chapter 24 - Epilogue

Numair slept for most of two days and Daine stayed close. She attended to chores and helped Alanna pack. But spare moments were spent in the infirmary. She stopped by at mid-day two days after she had returned from the cavern and found Numair sitting on his pallet completely dressed, making lights appear from Kit's crystal. The little dragon chirped delightedly.

Daine cursed silently. She had hoped to be there when he woke up to make up for leaving him that morning in the forest. He smiled shyly at her, confirming what she already feared – he remembered she had run like a frightened child.

"You look much better," she started, ignoring the small part of her that still wanted to yell at him for risking his life that way.

"You should tell Duke Baird that. I apparently cannot leave until he pronounces me healed." He had spoken softly and hesitantly, the way he did when they first met. She wondered if she would be best to start up a conversation on hair ties.

"Numair, I'm sorry I…"

"Don't, please. Magelet, it's okay." He smiled, although she thought it looked forced.

"Alanna had to go. She said you should contact her by fire when you woke up so she can yell at you properly." That made him chuckle.

"It's good to know there are some things a man can always count on – snow in the Winter, rain in the Spring, the Lioness' temper…"

Daine giggled lightly. "You make her sound like a force of nature."

"Magelet, she is a force of nature, just like you."

"Me?" she asked incredulously.

"Yes, you," he replied, "but I never said it was a bad thing." They sat in silence for a minute and he seemed to think it was best to change the subject. "Does Jon want us in Legann?"

"Eventually," Daine answered. "But there are stops along the way – a couple of 'mysteries' he wants you to look into and some scouting he'd like me to do in bird form. He also asked me for more maps."

Numair sighed heavily. "War waits for no one"

There were many questions she wanted to ask him. Would he eventually kill himself trying to help her? Would this tension remain between them? Would he ever let her apologize for running away? Could he someday see her as more than a friend? She asked none of them. Silence lengthened.

"When do you think you will be ready to leave?" she questioned finally.

"That's up to Duke Baird. You aren't planning to leave without me are you?"

"No, we go together."

"I'm glad. I should be there to be over-protective," he said lightly. She burst into laughter.

"Yeah, well, you're the one who needs looking after. You get in so much trouble without me there to look after you."

He chuckled. "You neglected to mention that it's usually while I'm trying to get you back safely."

She waved her hand as if to say details, details.

Duke Baird walked over at that moment drawing the attention of both. He smiled at Daine and said. "Back again? When I send him away I'm going to miss your visits." Numair turned to look at her again with an unreadable expression.

"Kit refused to leave him. I hope I haven't made a pest of myself," she replied. She looked at Numair to see if he would know she was lying.

"Never," Duke Baird answered. He was probing Numair with his magic. "And you seem completely recovered," he told Numair. "Try not to come back for awhile."

"Yes, Sir," Numair responded promptly. He patted Kit's head again, fondly.

"Can we walk you back to your rooms," Daine asked, indicating herself and Kit. "I can fill you in on what Jon has in store for us."

"Yes, of course," he returned. He stopped to thank the Duke and shook his hand. And then they left the infirmary. They walked in silence until they spied Onua and Sarge kissing in the garden. The two had apparently forgotten they could be seen through the palace windows. Daine and Numair grinned at one another. After that Daine briefly filled him in on the mission.

When they reached Numair's door, he stopped and stared down at her. "Daine, I am sorry I frightened you in the cavern," he said. She realized with horror that he was apologizing when he wouldn't let her. She started to shake her head at him. "I – It was bound to happen. I scare everybody sooner or later. But I'm glad you came back. You are important to me."

It stopped her cold. You are important to me – what did that mean? But before she could ask he opened his door. "I'll see you in a couple hours," he said patting Kit on the head once more. "I'll get packed and we'll go contact Jon together. Tkaa should be there too." He walked in his room, waved and closed the door.

She stood there for nearly five minutes before she decided to go pack her things. Kit was important to him and that's probably the same feeling he had toward her. At least they would be together for the next few weeks and maybe longer. She would probably see more of him than she had since midwinter. They would be fighting and it would be hard, but at least she could see him – and that was something.



The End

Don't miss the next story in the series – "Taken" It will parallel RotG but from Numair's POV. I'll start it soon.