E: This is my first attempt at writing for Tamora Pierce – for "The Immortals" quartet, to be exact. I have been a fan of Daine and Numair long before "Realms of the Gods" ever came out, and I have always wanted to read more about their relationship. As it is, my near eight month paralysis in terms of writing for my other favorite genre has caused me to develop the story you have before you now. I have many other ideas for these two, as inspiration comes fast when dealing with one's favorite pairing in all of literature, and if all goes well with this particular "one shot" I will share them with you.

Enjoy.


JUST DESSERT - by Eiune
He was going insane.

Fingers drumming with a muted resonance upon the red-clothed table, Numair made a face most people would expect more from his dinner partner, Raoul of Goldnelake, than from him. The lanky knight, abandoning the usual wooden appearance he adopted during most royal functions, listened attentively to Numair's old teacher, Lindhall, as the two of them discussed the advantages of Carthaki war bows to the crossbows used by Tortallans. Neither of them noticed their friend's lack of appetite, nor did anyone else, for that matter. The rest of the great ballroom was filled with the laughter and murmurs of its occupants. Decked out in the royal colors of brilliant red and gold, the atmosphere was a friendly one as the nobles of the realm celebrated their monarchs' thirteenth year of reign. Under the hum of human voices, the metallic scraping of silverware gave evidence to the enthusiasm of which the annual feast was received. If the large gathering of people here were paying little attention to him, however, the mage was paying them even less.

Indeed, all of his focus was fixed intently on the movement of the spoon stained purple with half melted blueberries as it was passed into the embrace of one particular set of lips.

Daine closed her mouth around the bite of blueberry tart with obvious relish, her eyes fluttering slightly with pleasure at its rich taste. The elegant utensil reappearing in a smooth glide of now unblemished silver, she returned it to her plate to begin the process once more.

What in all reams divine and mortal had possessed the King to place her so far away? The impatient drumming of his fingers became more so as his body registered the young woman's actions in the rapid increase of his heartbeat. Oh, Numair realized the irrationality of his thoughts – Daine was only sitting diagonally from him across the table, not even two seats away – but the reasoning and logic his mind presented failed to reduce the seeming mile long gap between them. Had she been sitting right in front of him, she still would not have been close enough.

It didn't help Numair's already strained self-control that, in honor of the grand occasion, his former student looked especially delectable that night. Finally giving way after hours of coaxing and inveigling by Onua and Thayet, Daine had traded the casual gear she usually wore in her work for something more refined. A dress tunic, its hem reaching just below her mid thighs, was dyed a magnificent shade of blue, set off nicely by a long sleeved shirt of the palest cream and tied with a silver cord to show off the curves of her waist and bust. Breeches of midnight black clung to her legs in such a way that the men – including Numair – had been struck dumb at her first appearance earlier that evening. Her hair was pinned up at the back of her head, and the only ornaments – as far as he could tell, anyway – was the forever present badger claw she wore around her throat and the set of sapphire earrings he had given her three years before.

"What?" he snapped as someone tapped his shoulder. A tall page, taken aback by his uncharacteristic hostility, stared at him with blinking green eyes.

"Your… wine, Master Salmalín?" he offered cautiously.

Scowling, Numair took the offered goblet with more force than was strictly necessary and earned the disapproving glance of Lord Martin, who was sitting a few seats to Numair's left. Ignoring him, he gave the page a slight murmur of thanks and went back to the more pleasant (if not agonizing) task of watching Daine.

She had finished the tart and was now picking up the last of the stray berries with the prongs of her fork. With growing envy he watched her eat each and every one of them, finding the slight glimmer of juice hanging from her lower lip to be intensely moving. How does she do it? he wondered, awed. That Daine could be so seductive without even realizing it was as arousing as it was unsettling.

He took a sip of his wine in an effort to distract himself, finding it pleasant with a smooth follow. Pressing his tongue to the roof of his mouth, he held it there, savoring the rich flavor.

Although he preferred softer drinks, experience having taught him to be wary of alcohol, Numair had become a connoisseur of sorts when it came to fine wines. The best, such as this one, came from the vineyards of northeast Tortall, the closest of such vineyards to Galla that borrowed the neighboring country's tradition of blending the aged brew with berries and other essences of the wild.

A smirk rose to his lips without his knowledge at this thought. He had indulged frequently in the most exquisite of Gallan wines, born in the country and offered freely to him in the form of a woman's kiss. The memories of that particular woman presented themselves clearly to his mind's eye, and for a moment Numair just stared at her, his eyes misting over as his imagination took those memories further. What he wouldn't do to continue those past explorations more thoroughly…

As if sensing his gaze, Daine glanced at him.

Numair quickly looked away, flush rising to his cheeks in a wave of heat at being caught with those thoughts. Although he had restrained himself as best he could since his lover's admission to her last year, sex, and the desire for sex, was a subject that forever lurked in a man's mind; especially in one with as much… experience… as him. From the womb males were programmed to respond to the gentle dichotomy of their mothers, that response later growing to the instinctive urge to meld with that same darkness – becoming the craving for a woman's body. Daine was still so young… If she knew the magnitude of his desire for her she'd probably swim as fast as she could across the Emerald Ocean and take all of the water with her!

Watching him a moment more, a small, sly smile began to curve Daine's lips, immediately and effectively regaining his attention. As his gaze snapped to her she turned her head to offer that smile to someone else. He growled inwardly, flustered. The page that had offered him the wine had swung by with a bowl of some creamy substance for her. By the dazed look in his eyes, Numair was most displeased to realize the boy was the very definition of smitten.

Soon to be the definition of scarce, I hope. A surge of possessiveness washed through him before he got himself under control.

"Honeyed custard glazed with strawberry sauce," the boy was saying as he placed the flat-bottomed bowl before her. "As you requested, my Lady."

Daine's smile changed so subtly he almost missed the message it conveyed. She made a point of tilting her head to the side, exposing an enticing length of neck for both males present. He felt his breath catch in his throat.

"Thank you, Neal," she said, her voice the essence of warmth. "How are your studies going?"

"Better than I believed they would," the boy replied with a grin. "In that respect they're not that different from what I was required to study at the university."

"And has the opinion of your favorite training master improved at all?"

The boy – Nealan of Queenscove – flushed very faintly and ducked his head, shifting his hold on the serving tray in embarrassment. "...I'm affraid not, my Lady. It is hard to change opinions so firmly rooted as the Stump's." He perked up a bit as Daine laughed merrily.

She… She was flirting with him! Numair stiffened, his eyes sharpening to glare at this new threat. He knew this boy from his classes, and much besides – he wondered why it had taen so long for him to recognize him. The son of Duke Baird, Neal was a well spoken young man, intelligent an aesthetically handsome. Around Daine's age... By the time he finally left ("I'll see you later in the stables, Daine.") Numair was contemplating what spell to use on him the next time he had him secured in his classroom.

"You really should eat, you know."

Startled by the soft address, Numair looked back into amused blue grey eyes. She nodded pointedly at the plate of cold food set out before him, the meat and dressing untouched. "I'm not all that hungry," he replied automatically. It was only a partial lie - he certainly was not hungry for food.

She held his eyes for a moment more before shrugging and starting on her custard. He watched, entranced, forgetting at that moment to be discreet as he followed her movements with his eyes. Spooning a little of the thickened liquid, Daine slowly raised it to her parted lips, seeming to hesitate for a moment before tasting the tip of it with her tongue. At her pleased expression the rest soon followed in a practiced gesture of innocent enjoyment. She closed her eyes as she sampled more of the golden dessert, a breathy sigh escaping her. The scheming temptress…

Biting back a gasp, Numair gripped the edge of the table tightly as he felt a foot brush against his leg provocatively. He stared at her, but she remained conveniently unaware of him, seemingly absorbed in the devouring of her dessert. He took a deep breath, trying to calm his rapid heartbeat. He could not lose composure here. Resolutely he clamped own on himself, thinking solely of things academic. The existence of some immortals which, by their very design, go against the understood laws of nature, gives support to the theory that some can trace their origins back to human dreams…

Delicately she took a strawberry from its decorative position on the bowl's broad lip. Holding it by the leaves, she placed the entire thing in her mouth and held it there.

The high concentration of different hues in opals as compared to the singular and often flawed colors of other gems such as emeralds or rubies…

Slight movement behind her lips. What was she doing to that strawberry?

Venom in reptiles, once thought to be evidence of magical influence, is actually a form of modified saliva, used by the animal to…

With deliberate slowness she pulled the now empty leaves from her mouth, swallowing the red flesh she had teased from its hold with her tongue.

At this his resolution wavered. His eyes darkened in fierce longing, his sensitive lips parting in result of the slackening of his jaw. Gently, careful not to disturb the other people around them, he stretched to brush his own foot along the length of her calf, taking small satisfaction in finally being able to touch her. Her cheeks flushed somewhat, and she met his gaze with mirrored ardor, tightening the building ache of desire already heavy in his chest.

"You're playing with fire, Magelet," he murmured huskily, his voice low for only Daine to hear. Her eyes flickered mischievously at the warning.

"Am I?" she whispered back with mock innocence. "…I hadn't realized."

"Mithros…" Restraint failing, Numair allowed his Gift to wander where his hands could not, the black fire passing undetected under the flimsy silk of her tunic to caress the skin of her waist and torso. The magic relayed every dip and curve back to him as substantial as touch, and deepened to tell him things no amount of mortal sensory input should be able to detect. He could feel her heart racing beneath her breasts as if he held her crushed against him; the tightening of her fists against the dark fabric of her breeches as he increased the link between them registered instinctively as if he was there in her mind, making the motion with her.

The world around them continued to turn, unaware of the silent exchange between master and student. A short distance away the King's champion, Alanna, sat glaring at her ruler, while Jonathan himself was immersed in a hushed conversation with one of his commanding officers. The animals, too – usually so aware of their adored woman's feelings – continued their nightly business as usual, the palace mice taking advantage of the scraps of food left abandoned on the floor. No one seemed to notice the dazed, wondering look the flushed Daine gave her lover, nor the half smirk Numair displayed in return. The young woman closed her eyes, her breath shuddering.

Abruptly she stood. Startled, Numair blinked, his magic falling back to him in a rush as his concentration faltered. Hurt registered faintly in his eyes for a split second before he recognized the look she was giving him.

His heart pounded.

"Running away, are you?"

Raoul had seen Daine rise. Nearly as tall as Numair, the man had long fingers curved underneath his chin, his brows raised in teasing inquiry. She smiled at him.

"Considering your reputation for shirking parties, Master Knight, I don't really think you have the right to say anything." Her eyes flicked back to Numair's as Raoul chuckled at her retort appreciatively. Lifting her chin a bit, she added, "I'd rather take a stroll in the courtyard, as it is. It's supposed to be a beautiful night out." Pushing in her chair, she went to bid Jonathan and Thayet goodnight before taking her leave. Numair watched her disappear beyond the carved doors, his longing for her now a painful weight against his lungs. He waited a minute or two, pushing food around with his fork, then made his own excuse and left the room to hurry down the dark hallway.


He caught up with her in urgent strides, catching her before she had made it even halfway down the corridor.

Grabbing her roughly from behind, he spun her around and shoved her against the wall with a feral growl. In an instant his mouth was on hers, silencing the startled gasp she had sought to admit. His kiss was punishing. Powerful and demanding, he kept her wrists locked to the stone on either side of her head as he pressed his body against hers, seeking an answer to the ache that burned to his very soul. Overwhelmed, Daine could only submit to his passion as he drank from her in the most thorough fashion imaginable.

When he at last broke away they were both gasping for air. He pulled back just enough to look down at her. It was hard to make out the finer details in the gloom of the unlit hallway, frustratingly so, but he could feel the warmth radiating from her flushed face and knew how affected she was by his actions. His eyes, already heavily lidded with passion, smoldered.

"Did you really think… you'd get away with that… little stunt of yours?" he demanded breathlessly. A small laugh, half amusement, half wonder, escaped her lips, teasing the skin of his neck.

"I've no notion… of what you're talking about, Master Numair."

"You little fiend –" He kissed her swiftly, again and again, breaking away for brief moments before returning. "Flirting with other men… ," he growled between affections. "Mocking me… teasing me…" He trailed his lips down the soft curve of her jawline, his mouth closing around her chin erotically. "Driving me insane…"

"Oh. That." She sighed as he nibbled on the skin just below her earlobe, tilting her head to make it easier for him. "I was just having dessert, Numair."

With a snarl he swooped down to hook his arms underneath her thighs. Lifting her up so she was level with his face, he found her lips again in a searing kiss. She returned it with equal fervor, her hands sliding around his broad shoulders to plunge into his hair. A slight groan escaped his throat as she twined her legs around him, and he deepened the kiss almost violently. He caressed her with bold, sweeping motions, hands going to the hem of her tunic when she pulled away from him sharply. He glared at her in frustration, the last remnant of self control but a whisper of thread, practically nonexistent at this point and maintained only by his respect for her choices. At his hurt look she took a deep, shaky breath and explained.

"Th-there's… a spare room… around the corner…"

A dark, predatory smirk slowly rose to curve his mouth, causing her to tremble slightly in his hold. Gathering her up in the dark folds of his robe, he took them both down the hall to the small library she had spoken of. With abandon he kicked the door closed behind them. 'Just having dessert', she had said. Well. He, too, was in the mood for some dessert. And who was he to deny one who had advertised herself so freely on his behalf?

He knew there was a reason he had skipped dinner.


AUTHOR'S CORNER

I would like to thank everyone who reviewed for this the first time it was posted and corrected my few but ridiculous mistakes, such as spelling "Raoul" incorrectly, and the even more embarassing "Dessert" problem. Truly, I did not even stop to think it was spelled with two S's!

As promised, in return for your support, you can expect to see either "Lament of the Melodramatic" or "Lover's Token" fairly soon, depending on which one I am happier with.

Eiune signing out.