A/N: I haven't read TC or TQ yet (except the excerpt from TC on Tamora Pierce's web site) and am not really sure of the timeline – except that it's near or after the end of LK.

Disclaimer: I am not Tamora Pierce. Therefore, Daine, Numair, et al. are not mine. Don't sue, please.

Unprepared

Daine woke at dawn, warm and comfortable snuggled against Numair's broad back. She smiled sleepily. For once, everything was so happy, so perfect: Blayce the Gallan was dead, his killing devices disabled, and the Tortallans had the Scanrans on the run; the people, and People, she loved all seemed to be safe, for the moment; she and Numair were at home (more or less) for what King Jonathan had promised would be a proper rest of several weeks. For a little while they would be able to do the ordinary, everyday things that lovers do – taking walks, for example, and seeing their friends, and talking, and eating meals together – without constantly worrying that one of them was about to be shot, poisoned, stabbed, or blown up. Just like ordinary people!

As she was reflecting with satisfaction on this almost unprecedented state of affairs, she became aware of a sense of unease. It was all so wonderful – something was going to go wrong. It was just a matter of time.

That sense of unease grew into a roiling of her stomach that could mean only one thing. Bolting out of bed, Daine sprinted for the privy closet, where she vomited up what felt like everything she'd eaten in the past week. When the retching finally subsided, she tottered back out to the dressing-room she shared with Numair and made for the basin and ewer that stood ready on the dressing-table.

I guess I ate something I shouldn't have, she told herself bracingly as she rinsed her mouth and splashed her face.

She peeked out into the bedchamber: Numair was still fast asleep, snoring gently. Relieved, Daine crept back across the room and into bed. That's all it is, something funny I ate. Nothing to worry over.

But by the fifth wretched morning, the Green Lady's daughter could no longer pretend that she had eaten bad fish or was suffering from a stomach ailment. Her breasts ached; she woke up exhausted every morning and had to struggle to keep awake through dinner every night; she was ravenously hungry, but the smell of any food but porridge, bread, or potatoes renewed the morning's overpowering nausea.

On the sixth morning she looked at herself in the mirror and shuddered: I look just like Alanna on the voyage to Carthak.

But it couldn't be – could it? Absently she reached for the charm against pregnancy that she wore around her neck – and froze. There was the badger claw; there was her twisted iron-and-copper betrothal ring; but the pregnancy charm was gone. "Horse Lords!" Daine swore, loudly, and sat down hard. How in the name of Shakith did I lose that?

She knocked softly at Alanna's door, then, when there was no answering sound from within, more firmly.

A sleep-tousled George Cooper, most of him wrapped in a blanket, answered the door at her third knock. Daine felt her face grow hot and knew she was blushing furiously. "I – I – I was hoping to see Alanna," she stammered.

"Of course, lass," said George calmly. "I'll just fetch her. Come in and sit down." He held the door open for her and, when she had crept past, eyes averted, closed it behind her. Then he disappeared through another door on the far side of the sitting-room, and Daine, still pink with embarrassment, sank onto a sofa and stared at the fire.

"I hope this is important, Daine." The Lioness's morning voice cut sharply into her reverie. "It's rather early to be paying social calls."

Daine started and began to stammer again. She stopped when she realized that Alanna was looking at her appraisingly, head on one side, violet eyes narrowed. Swallowing hard and looking at the floor, she made herself say, "I've been sick every morning this week, and I can hardly eat anything. And – and I looked for my charm against pregnancy just now, and it's gone."

"Well, I should hope it's gone," said Alanna. "I gave it to you myself, and I'd hate to think it was defective."

Daine looked up at her and was half relieved, half dismayed, to see that the Lioness looked amused rather than angry. Her nose began to sting, and she felt tears brimming against her eyelids; furious with herself, she scrubbed at them with a fist. Then Alanna sat beside her and put an arm around her shoulders, and Daine lost what little control remained to her. "What am I going to do?" she wailed.

Alanna looked at George, lounging in the doorway of their bedchamber. He shrugged eloquently – better thee than me! – and she glared at him until he went away. "Why don't you let me have a look, Daine?" she said, handing the younger woman a handkerchief.

"Two months, give or take," the Lioness pronounced with satisfaction. "A nice strong heartbeat and perfectly healthy, as far as I can see. Nothing at all to worry about. You've been sick?"

Daine nodded.

"Well, I can make you some tea to drink for that. You'll feel better once you can eat normally again."

Daine sniffled. "What am I going to tell him?" she asked, miserably.

"Tell who?" said Alanna. She searched her friend's face, and her eyes widened. "Numair? You're worried about telling Numair? Youngling, don't be. He'll be over the moon."

Red-rimmed blue eyes bored into hers. "What makes you say so?" Daine demanded. "We've never talked about – we aren't ready to—" She stopped. "I can't do what my ma did, Alanna. I can't raise a child without a father."

Alanna smiled kindly at her. "You won't have to," she said. "Give Numair a chance, Daine. He might surprise you."

After some time spent wandering aimlessly about the palace and the stables, Daine stood outside their door in an agony of indecision, staring at the two brass plaques: Numair Salmalín above, Veralidaine Sarrasri an inch below it. What am I going to tell him? How am I going to tell him? What will he say? What if he's terribly angry with me? How could I be so stupid? What if Kitten is jealous?

Unconsciously she had raised a hand to her mouth and begun to chew her nails – a habit Numair had broken more than a decade ago. She had just become aware of this when the door was wrenched open from inside. Hastily she thrust her hands behind her back and took a step back toward the opposite wall.

Numair nearly filled the seven-foot-high doorway, and he looked in a temper. He looked up and down the hallway and seemed about to stride out in quest of something when at last he spotted Daine. Then he seemed about to bellow at her, but something in her face made him stop, draw a deep breath, and speak calmly. "You disappeared, and you were gone for hours. I was … concerned."

Daine looked down at her boots. "I had to see Alanna."

"I'm glad you did," he said, surprising her. "You haven't been well. What did she say?"

"Numair, can we – can we not talk about this in the corridor?"

He bowed theatrically, gesturing her through the door with a flourish, but his eyes were worried.

Once inside, Daine lost her nerve. She sank into her favourite chair and put her head in her hands.

"Gods! Magelet, what is it? What's wrong?" Numair's voice was close to her ear; she raised her head to see him kneeling on the floor at her feet. She managed a watery smile. "Whatever it is, sweet, you'll be all right. Alanna's here, and Duke Baird, and – we've the best healers in the world here, and—"

She stopped him with a gentle hand on his cheek. At least it isn't anything like that. "Numair, I'm – we're—" She took a deep breath and forced herself to keep her eyes on his. "I'm pregnant."

At first his face was blank with shock, and she winced a little. I was afraid of this. Then, to her surprise, he began to smile; the smile widened into a grin; and he leapt to his feet and swept her into a crushing hug, then whirled her around the room.

"You mean you're – you're pleased?" He was hugging her so tightly that her voice came out as a breathless squeak.

"Pleased? Magelet, I'm ecstatic! A baby – our child – I'm – I'm wild with joy." He set her down and cupped her face in his large hands, holding her gaze with worried brown eyes. "Daine, did you think I wouldn't be? Did you – did you think I'd be angry with you?"

"Well – you didn't – we didn't plan for this, or …" her voice trailed off. Nervous as she still was about the situation, it seemed silly, now, that she had been so afraid of his reaction.

"Some of the best things in life are unexpected, magelet," said Numair firmly.

And he kissed her until her knees went weak, then scooped her up again and carried her to the sofa.

"Numair," she said.

"Yes, magelet?"

"You're not to treat me like – like a priceless scroll that might fall to pieces if you handle it roughly. No, don't look at me like that. I've known you eleven years, remember. I'm not some delicate noble lady – I'm still me, and I'll thank you not to forget it."

"Yes, magelet." Numair made another courtly bow, not quite managing to hide his laughter.

"Only …" Daine thought wistfully of the breakfast she had missed. "first, could you ask someone to bring me some hot porridge?"

She could hear him laughing all the way down the corridor.

They spent the rest of the day together in their rooms, "getting used to the idea," as Daine put it. Numair's enthusiasm about becoming a father was contagious; by lunch-time Daine found herself becoming accustomed to the idea of a child – their child – and by mid-afternoon she was positively delighted – though the thought of dinner in the Riders' mess still made her feel queasy. I wish Alanna would hurry up with that tea she promised.

As the sun was inching down toward the western horizon, she thought of something. "What about that charm?" she demanded. "I thought you spelled it to stay put."

Numair regarded her with a sheepish expression and pulled his long nose. "Well," he said. "I spelled it to stay with you when you shape-shift. I don't know that I spelled it against, you know, ordinary wear and tear. Getting caught in trees, or wriggling through bolt-holes, or …"

"Dolt," Daine said affectionately, and kissed him.

"One more thing," said Daine as they sat before the fire after a late – and unspiced – dinner. She looked solemnly at her tall mage and took his hand in hers. "I said I would marry you someday. I don't want our child to grow up the way I did – even, even in anyone's mind. Numair, will you – will you marry me? Someday soon?"

He returned her gaze as solemnly, and took her other hand. "Yes, magelet," he said.