Disclaimer: I only own it in my wildest dreams. Tamora Pierce is the lucky one, not me.

A/N: I always got the impression that Weiryn didn't entirely approve of Numair, even before Daine and Numair were lovers. I like to think there's a reason for that, as opposed to it just being Weiryn being his usual cheerful self. :)


"Mage."

Startled, the tall man's head jerked up, his mind unconsciously beginning to cast a defensive spell before he remembered that he was unlikely to be attacked on Daine's father's lands. "Lord Weiryn. You startled me; I didn't hear you come up."

"You weren't supposed to." The god's eyes were dark and reproachful beneath his antlers, his lips set in a small frown.

Numair shifted uncomfortably. He wasn't sure what to make of his student's divine father. Sarra was well enough; she at least understood what mortality was like, having died once already, and her generous personality made it difficult not to like her. The mountain god of the hunt, however, was aloof and abrupt, making the mortal feel as if he was being forever judged and scrutinized. "Can I help you with something, Lord Weiryn?"

"I thought we could talk."

It was phrased as if he had a choice, but Numair knew better. Not that he'd have dared to defy the god either way. "Of course." He set aside the scroll that Sarra, amused with his many questions on the Divine Realms, had lent to him earlier that day. "What did you want to talk about?"

Weiryn sat beside him on the stone slab the served as a doorstep for the cottage. "My daughter."

Numair wasn't sure whether to be surprised or not. "Oh."

Weiryn sat in silence for a while, staring into the distance, and finally Numair opened his mouth to prod the god into speaking. Weiryn spoke before he could make a sound, however. "You've known her long, have you?"

Numair blinked. "Yes. We met shortly after she came to Tortall." Confused, he added, "Didn't you already know that?"

"I knew that a mage was instructing her in the use of her wild magic. The badger said we could trust that you would do her no harm; I trusted the badger."

The mage nodded, deciding not to comment on the god's apparent lack of interest in the affairs of his child so long as she was not in danger. "I wouldn't," he agreed. "Harm her, I mean."

Weiryn looked at him. "Wouldn't you?"

Numair met his gaze. "Never."

The hunter's eyes narrowed. Finally, he nodded and returned to his study of the horizon. "You're close, the two of you?"

Numair hesitated, not particularly liking the turn this conversation was taking, then said, "Yes. She's my student and one of my best friends."

Weiryn sighed. "Let me put it this way, mage. What is your relationship with my daughter?"

Numair froze, eyes widening. His hands clenched, his fingers biting into his knees, but he didn't seem to notice. "She's my student," he repeated. Looking at his hands, he added, "Anything else would be inappropriate."

"But you do wish that there was something else, don't you?" Weiryn pressed. When Numair didn't answer, the god scowled. "Don't bother trying to hide it from me, mage. I'm a god. You can't get much passed me." His lip curled, though with what emotion, Numair didn't want to hazard a guess. "Furthermore, Sarra is now a goddess of love and fertility. You really can't hide it from her."

Numair drew in a shaky breath, held it, let it out. "Yes," he finally said. "Yes, I do wish it. But I won't let it happen." Meeting Weiryn's eyes again, he added, "Because then I would hurt her. It wouldn't be intentional, but she'd be hurt all the same. She's too young… I'm too old…" Floundering, he sighed, returning to studying his hands. He finished with, "Fourteen years is much too large an age difference."

And it was. Numair knew it as surely as he knew his own name. The days of court ladies being betrothed to men decades older than themselves had long since past. If his feelings were revealed – and worse, if she returned them – court gossip would follow them wherever they went. That wasn't his main concern, though; gods knew the gossips had enough to talk about already! More important was that Numair was certain that, inevitably, Daine would look at him and see an old man. He'd seen the men who flocked around her, much as she had made a point of glimpsing every court lady whose name was attached to his own. They were young, the oldest no more than a few years her senior, like that clerk Perin who seemed so infatuated with her.

The fact that Daine hadn't shown much interest in any of her swains shouldn't mean anything to him. The fact that it did was just another thing he couldn't afford to contemplate.

The black robe could almost feel Weiryn's divine gaze burning into him, but this time he couldn't lift his head. Instead, he stared off into space. A speck in the distance, silhouetted against the sun, was slowly getting bigger. He focused on it, curious in spite of himself.

Weiryn sighed. "I wonder, mage," he said, and Numair couldn't tell if he sounded angry, sad, or… something else? "I wonder."

The god rose. "My daughter will be returning from her swim with Broadfoot soon. And, if I'm not mistaken, we'll be receiving a visitor shortly before she gets back." Numair lifted his head in time to see one green-streaked brown hand gesture to the oncoming speck, which the man thought he could now recognize as a Stormwing. The god continued, "A friend if yours, I believe."

Before Numair could say anything further, Weiryn had turned away and was gone.