A/N: So I finally got around to finishing it. Hope you all like it
Disclaimer: I am not, nor shall I ever be Tamora Pierce. But I love her work.
Daine awoke to cheering and she wasn't entirely sure what all the noise was about. Her hair was dry, and she was wrapped in a cloak, but she didn't think much time had passed. Numair's worried face swam into focus, followed shortly by Alanna's smile. "You're fine, youngling. And I think you just took a few years off my life," Alanna said.
Daine's gaze returned to Numair, and she couldn't seem to pull away. For the briefest time, she'd thought she'd never see him again – it was a painful possibility. She sat up shakily and Numair threw his arms around her. "If you even think about going in the water again during this trip, I swear by the Gods that I will pull you out and lock you in a cabin," he muttered in little more than a whisper. Then he let her go.
"Be careful what you threaten, Numair. You may have to eat those words," Alanna observed. Alanna was paste-colored, and Daine was uncertain if that was due to worry, or sea-sickness.
"Is this your cloak?" Daine asked. Then she cringed at the thought she couldn't manage a better first sentence than that.
"As often as you end up in it, it might as well be yours," Numair retorted.
"Why is the crew shouting?" Daine asked.
"Our enemy has been destroyed and we were untouched. Whatever you told that beast, you convinced it to spare us, but it nearly killed you. If it comes within my range, I'm inclined to blow it to pieces," Numair said.
"No!" Daine grabbed Numair's arm. "He didn't mean to hurt me. He's just very lonely. He has no mate – no family. He only has power. Imagine if that was you."
There was an uncomfortable silence as Alanna stared between them. "No, Numair, that isn't you," Alanna stated, as if Numair had said what all were thinking. "Maybe you've never chosen to marry, but you do have family. We're unconventional, but you have us. We worry about you, look out for you, wonder if you're away too long. We forgive your shortcomings and celebrate your triumphs – that's what families do."
"I have no shortcomings," he joked with a large grin. "I don't know what you're talking about." But there was gratitude in his countenance. "And I do have family. They just don't live anywhere near me." He paused, while Daine watched him with pity. As if he couldn't stand the silence, he added, "I'm lucky to have surrogate family that is close."
"Beast doesn't have that. He doesn't even have a proper name other than "beast". He thought I might be able to change to kraken shape and then he wouldn't be alone. He's not used to restraining his anger," Daine explained.
Numair and Alanna stared at her for a moment, mouths open.
"In other words, you got a marriage proposal from a kraken," Numair said. He chuckled
"Well, I have to say that's a twist I didn't expect," Alanna remarked, trying to suppress a laugh, but failing miserably.
"Not exactly," Daine grumbled, feeling slighted.
"Don't feign insult," Numair teased. "That's a compliment if ever I've heard one. He mostly crushes everything he comes in contact with – you, he wants to keep." He scrubbed her hair.
Daine tried to give him sour look, but it was funny. She stood, wrapped the cloak tightly around her, and stared at the water over the port side. "Numair, have you ever heard of another kraken in the Emerald Ocean?"
Numair thought for a moment, pinching the bridge of his long nose. "If there is a second, it is in the north, well above Scanra. But the way this one travels, it's hard to know if those stories are just the same one or not. I also cannot say if it is a male or a female."
Alanna was grinning broadly. "And if it is a she, maybe she doesn't want a mate. She might have a career to consider."
Daine rolled her eyes, while Numair tried not to laugh.
"I'm too tired to send the message now, but I owe him that much," Daine said determinedly.
Numair's expression turned stern. "Daine, he nearly killed you. Why do you owe him anything?"
"But, Numair, he didn't kill me. And he asked me to be a friend. Friends forgive."
"What if a friend does something you can't forgive?" Numair asked.
"Speaking from experience?" Alanna interjected.
"Shouldn't I? There are things that a person can do that simply aren't forgivable. Even I've done things that aren't forgivable."
Daine stared at him. "No," she said defiantly. "You wouldn't. You made some mistakes, that's all. You are the kind of person to always do the best you could. If it wasn't for you, I'd have shot the stormwings in Dunlath, just because they were there. It was you that showed me immortals could be friends."
"She's right, Numair. If you've done things in the past that haunt you, it's only because you have conscience to be haunted," Alanna added. "I suppose we all do that. I've not been the best mother. I have regrets. You cannot rewrite the past. But you can keep trying to do the right thing in the future."
"And look at me," Daine added. "My past isn't clean. I'd say I was fair scary. But you still seem to want me around."
Numair put an arm around each of them. "I'm a very fortunate person. I'm not entirely sure I deserve friends like you. And, Daine, if you want to send a message to 'Beast' I'll help. Please, don't go in the water though. I'm too young to have a heart attack." Daine and Alanna laughed.
Daine saw Numair look where the boat was still headed. She could see in his face that he was dreading their destination. Behind her, the crew had resumed their normal duties, though there was joy in their sea shanties.
Daine walked toward her cabin to dress properly and rest some. Alanna planned to put herself back to sleep now that the excitement was over, so she had gone too. Numair had accompanied them, though Daine wasn't sure why.
"I'll give you your cloak in a minute," Daine promised when they reached the cabin she shared with Alanna.
"It can wait," Numair responded. "I won't be surprised if you end up in it again before this trip is over. You have a tendency to shape change in the oddest places." He was smiling.
"I think he wants you to promise you'll let him know before you send that message to 'Beast'," Alanna said.
"You can both be there, if you like," Daine replied.
"Better safe than sorry," Alanna agreed.
"That would be most prudent," Numair remarked.
"Well, assuming Beast doesn't want to squeeze anyone who might be deemed competition," Alanna observed. She raised her eyebrows at Numair.
"Last I looked, I only have two legs," he replied with a smirk. "He probably wouldn't consider anyone without tentacles much competition at all."
Daine opened the cabin door without saying anything. She was treated to a tirade of squeaks and clicks from Kit, as she and Alanna entered the cabin. She turned to bid goodnight to Numair, but decided that Alanna's warning was too warranted to ignore. "Perhaps it would be best, Numair, if you watched from a safe distance." She yawned. "I really need some sleep."
She shut the door, unaware that he stood frozen, trying to decide what she'd meant by that.