Disclaimer: Daine and Numair belong to Tamora Pierce; I'm just taking a break from finals. This can be read alone but it gives a background to events described in my longer story, Training Master Mindelan.

A few of their friends were surprised by his ready acceptance—embrace even—of pervasive fur and feathers, but Numair had understood from the beginning that living with Daine would mean opening his door to any creature that could fit through it (and possibly a few that could only stick their heads in). It never even occurred to him to ask her to turn away any of her companions (though he did occasionally research odor-reducing smells) just as it would never have occurred to her to ask him to remove the stacks of books lining his walls. And after years of living alone, he appreciated all the living reminders of Daine's presence. Of course, he did have a few adjustments to make, particularly concerning his sleeping arrangements.

He had always known that she shared her bedding with whatever creatures happened to wander in for warmth, but he hadn't realized that they would want to share with him as well. So he was a little surprised when he was woken be a tickling sensation and found a chipmunk settling herself under his chin. Daine stirred in his arms, but did not wake, as she stretched out her arm so that the rest of the chipmunk family could settle against it. He blinked sleepily and saw that a kitten had settled herself atop their entwined legs. He yawned, lifting his head so as not to startle the chipmunk, decided he was flattered that they treated him like an extension of Daine, and fell back asleep.

One morning, their third together, they each woke to find a pine martin sleeping on their chests. Daine giggled so loudly that her pine martin shot her a reproachful glare and migrated to Numair's chest. When he asked her what she found so amusing so early in the morning, she replied that she was "thinking of something a certain Carthaki emperor once said." He laughed too then and the pine martins leapt off of him and hid behind the pillows.

When she went to bed early, tired and cold after long days in the stables, Daine sometimes transformed into an ermine or a cat and curled up in a ball to warm herself. Numair would climb into bed, very quietly, so as not to wake her, before reaching over to run gentle fingers across her fur. Often, she transformed without waking and rolled into his arms so that Numair could tuck the blankets about them both and enjoy the soothing sound of her soft snoring as he drifted into sleep. Sometimes, she woke with a smile as she returned to her human body and these occasions were just as enjoyable in a different sort of way.

There were also, or course, a few less pleasant moments, like the time he rolled over onto a hedgehog—a memorable and uncomfortable experience for both parties involved, but one that Daine found endlessly entertaining once she'd ascertained that neither of them had been seriously injured. He noticed, however, that no more hedgehogs appeared in their bed after the incident. He wasn't sure whether this was due to their decision or Daine's instructions, but he was grateful for it.

The episode with the frog was just as memorable. He stretched out his foot only to encounter a slimy substance and an alarming noise. Both Numair and the frog recoiled so far that they lurched out of bed, landing on the floor with loud thump and a light plop respectively. Daine didn't find this incident quite as amusing since she'd been woken from much needed sleep, but she chuckled quietly as she helped him back into bed and sent the frog away.

They had a brief conversation the next morning regarding the maintenance of inter-species peace. He told he that he didn't mind finding mammals under the covers but would prefer to restrict his interactions with the scaled and the slimy to daytime hours (Kitten being an exception of course). Daine explained that she generally didn't choose to sleep with frogs (she wasn't sure how this particular frog had managed to crawl in) and told him that she would ask frogs, toads, lizards, and snakes not to join them in bed.

"Reptiles and amphibians just aren't cuddly," she told him. He thought this was a bit of an understatement but he was willing to overlook it since she crawled back into his arms and assured him that he was "particularly cuddly even for a mammal".

A few months later, he went to take an afternoon nap and had an unfortunate run-in with an irate male skunk. He resisted, with considerable effort, the urge the throw the animal out the window or turn him into a cactus. When Daine returned, she calmly agreed to add skunks to what became known as the "list of bed-banned species". Sea lions were added to the list shortly thereafter during an otherwise blissful night on the beach near Pirates' Swoop.

There were limits even to sort of mammal that could be comfortably cuddled, however. Numair scowled quite a bit at the hooves when Daine brought up an ailing baby goat, but he held his tongue since she placed it on her side of the bed. It was more difficult to refrain from making smug remarks when the beast recovered in the middle of the night and kicked Daine's shins rather sharply. The goat was banished to an armchair, Numair dug out a pot of bruise-balm, and Daine conceded that hooves and horns were not conducive to a restful night.

Banned species aside, he became so accustomed to their nighttime guests that he felt doubly bereft when they disappeared during Daine's rare absences. Of course, after a few months, two of the palace tabbies began to regard the bed as theirs and then he could not have slept alone even if he had wished to. When Daine was unavailable, Twist curled possessively round his neck and Whisper sprawled across his feet.

Even though he'd had years to adjust to the idea, he still was delightfully surprised when he woke one morning and found that, in addition to being curled around their children (who had crawled in during a thunderstorm) and Kitten, he and Daine were surrounded by three cats, two fox pups, an elderly terrier, five rabbits, six squirrels, a pine martin, a badger, a marmoset, a family of field mice, and a lynx. He glanced up at the screech owl perched on the bedpost and then smiled at Daine.

"Very full nest this morning," he whispered, reaching over to brush the hair out of her eyes.

"Indeed," she said, grinning. "And you haven't even looked at the crowd under the bed."

"It's a miracle we get the place to ourselves as often as we do," he muttered.

Daine laughed. "Not at all. It's just a matter of making a few polite requests and finding a reliable feline babysitter."

He might have been tempted to question idea of a "reliable feline babysitter" had the lynx, named Silverspot, not lifted her head off his knee and met his eyes with an intelligent gaze that seemed both severe and amused. Daine burst out laughing, but by then he knew better than to ask her what the cat was thinking. A mage ought to maintain his dignity after all.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a review. I promise to update Training Master Mindelan soon. I was actually planning to work on it tonight but I accidentally opened a blank document and this just sort of popped out.