Title: Say it Right

Pairing: Daine x Numair

Rating: PG

Setting: After Wolf Speaker, before Emperor Mage

Summary: Numair and Daine exchange gifts at Midwinter.

Numair brushed back his hair, peering out over the gathered crowd as he stood off to the side. It was a good gathering for Midwinter, he thought to himself. He was clad in all the finery Alanna could work him into – a casual, but classy, shirt and pants – embroidered with an emerald green pattern. It wasn't something he was accustomed to wearing, but the ladies of the court sure seemed to appreciate it. Though he wasn't really wearing it for them. In all honesty, there were few that he cared to impress in that certain way.

He fiddled with the small box in his pocket, watching as others exchanged Midwinter gifts – some open and extravagant – some more subtle. He couldn't help but smile as he watched George hoist Alanna over his shoulder and carry her off. No matter how irritated she tried to look, she was still giggling all the same.

Something deep within him wished for that. He knew that he would never posses the sort of audacity that George did, but he couldn't help but long for something real. His women, well, they were flings. He absently fingered the amber drop hanging from his ear as he searched the crowd for one face in particular. He finally found it, his eyes narrowing as a brown haired young man swung Daine around. Her head was tilted back, a broad smile on her lips as she spun. She was lovely tonight, he admitted. And he wasn't the only one that noticed. The rose coloured dress gave promise to the figure she would attain in a few years, and only accentuated what she held now.

While he did feel there was more than he admitted between them, he also felt the protective nature of an older brother. He would find out more about that fellow later, he thought to himself, still fiddling with the earring.

He could pick her laugh out of the general chatter, the ringing tone and the raw quality. She didn't laugh like court ladies. She laughed like she meant it. Like she was laughing for you… and only you. He dropped his hand to his side, his other still in his pocket as she approached him, her nose and cheeks flushed from the drinks and the laughter.

It made Numair deeply happy that Daine could be so joyful. There were few things in the present that they were allowed to enjoy. It seemed he only saw her when they were in life and death peril, or at their studies. It felt almost… inappropriate? To take such joy in the simple things. He couldn't help the smile that graced his lips as she grabbed his free hand, dragging him to the dance floor.

It was his luck that a slower song started. While he kept the proper distance, he couldn't help but notice the court looks. Daine would have none of it. Her eyes and attention were all for him. He liked her like this – carefree and happy. It bit at him that she'd been robbed of much of her innocence.

Sadly, it had never occurred to Numair just how young she was, how much she had missed out. In some ways, at least. She was 15, and beautiful. And so young. He twirled her, a gentle smile on his lips. As the dance came to an end, she laughed breathlessly, hugging him in her excitement, her stormy eyes glittering. She soon was pulled off by the King, who danced next with her. Thayet found him next, clad in a beautiful cream outfit. It was all gossamer and fluff, making her seem like she could've stepped right out of a fairytale. He smiled politely at her, and bowed, taking her hand as he twirled her around.

Not naïve to his attentions, she glanced at Daine, and her own smile blossomed. "It's good for her, isn't it?"

Numair snapped back to attention, a grin showing his teeth. "Yes. Rare, but good."

The rest of their dance was in comfortable silence, Numair bowing at the end, and Thayet giving him a polite curtsy.

The rest of the evening was a blur – drinks, glitter, women on his arms – but it was a happy blur. He wasn't quite sober, but not that far past it, by the time he walked slowly, and very carefully, back to his quarters. He was surprised to see Daine leaning against his door, the pale pink of her dress highlighted by the faint glow of the lamps. He paused, wondering if there was something he was forgetting. He hadn't thought she'd expect lessons… it was rather late, and it was an eve of celebration.

He paused near her, seeing her turn to face him. She gave him a hesitant almost shy smile. She was holding her hands behind her back, fidgeting a little. Finally, she pulled them from behind her, and pressed the box towards him. "Happy Midwinter, Numair." Her smile made something deep in him click a little. He took the box from her, tracing the edges of it with his fingertips. She watched him impatiently, waiting for him to open it.

Deciding that he really needed to sit down, he opened his door, pausing to let her in before shutting it. All thoughts of propriety were gone. Who cared? He knew his intentions were innocent… enough.

He flopped into a comfy chair by the window, watching as she sat opposite him. He opened the box slowly, savoring the excitement. When he finally got the gift out, he found it to be a neatly folded piece of parchment. He opened it gently. It was a map, a detailed, lovely, beautiful map. His fingertips followed the ocean line, his dark eyes turning to glance up at Daine, who seemed fair proud of herself. "It's beautiful, Magelet." Like you, he thought, but did not say.

"It's spelled. So you can spill all the coffee on it you want." She paused, awkwardly, as if wondering what to do next.

Numair fumbled in his pocket for a second, finding his own gift. Silently, he passed the box to her.

Daine's look of surprise and pleasure was enough to cause his own flush under his tan skin. Carefully she opened the box, biting her bottom lip as she looked over them. "They're perfect, Numair." She gave him a broad smile, impulsively leaning forward to wrap her arms around him, kissing his cheek before she pulled back to look over the earrings more. They were about an inch long, a sapphire blue drop of glass. Silently, she put them on, turning her head to hear them sway.

She held the box in both her hands in her lap, before standing and flashing him one last smile as she touched his shoulder gently. "Sleep well." As Daine left his quarters, Numair's hand rose to his cheek, touching the place she'd kissed him. He stared at the door for a moment before exhaling slowly.

Quietly, he folded the map back up, placed it in the box, and fell into bed.

There were many wicked thoughts a man could have – it's true. But Numair was much too tired to have any thoughts at all, wicked or not. So he slept peacefully, a small smile lining his face as he drifted off.

Tomorrow was another day.

A/N: I thought there needed to be more Daine/Numair fluff out there, that was well written. ;) Enjoy. (Oh, and there's more to come... I've got a story in the works.)