The Author Note

"And Disclaimer"

There are a couple of things that I feel must be made clear about this story. I love Daine/Numair. So this is a D/N fic. Do not be misled. There are things that I think need to be worked out with them before they are really a couple. This is my view. If you like to think that they are going to live happily ever after and have lots of hot sex, this is not the story for you. Okay, there may be some hot sex, but it does have a plot. SO. Before you flame and go 'OMGZ like u saidz this wuz a d/n fic!', acknowledge that it will get there. Flame away, but if you flame that, I will have to mock you. But, the main point of this story is to explore Daine growing up, and learning from experience that Numair is the one she wants. This may be hard to believe, but, that's how it's gonna be.

Next on the agenda. This story contains mature content. If you have an issue with that, leave now. It uses scary words like 'nipple' 'naked' and the big one: 'rubbed'. Okay, don't mind me, I'm being cynical. (While this story is rated 'M', for those of you most squeamish, I'd like to say I'm great at writing fluff, and terrible at smut. So it will be brief, vague, but delicious, hopefully.) Oh, and this story is a romance. What's a romance? If you have a story, you take the romantic parts out, and you can't read it anymore? It's a romance. If you take the romantic parts out, and there's still a plot (though maybe not as good), it's fiction. Got it? Good.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Just Kaidin. Because he's pretty.

Plot Summary: Daine and Numair venture back to Dunlath and stay and do things. // If you've read this far, you must be at least a little interested, so I won't give away any secrets.

Rating: M for mature. This would be an R on the movie scale, dearies.

Reviews: I will not beg. I'll tell you how the chapters are coming, what's going on, and thank you for them. Reviews are the cookies writers live on, so if you dig it, review. If not, stop reading. If you do, and you're just stalking, no marshmallows for you. Beyond that, it's all up to you.

Beta: This story is unbeta'd. If you'd like to volunteer, email me. This means that if you write competently, hey, you get to see the chapters days before other people! So email me. Oh… and we seem to be in need of a title. So give some suggestions.

Now. Sorry for the rambles. Onto the story!

Chapter One

"It Begins"

Numair rolled over sleepily, his eyes shot with streaks of red as he watched Daine slither into bed. They'd finally taken to sharing his quarters, what with everyone knowing and all. But he still found it amazing that after days of working on no sleep, he could still find such sweet simplicity in watching her crawl in with him. He squirmed a bit, feeling her cold hands on his back.

"You smell like a horse." His words were muttered softly against her neck, his lips kissing her a little as she snuggled into him. The badger claw around her neck scratched at his chest as she shrugged a little, the sound of the waves from the nearby ocean soothing her.

"S'what happens when you work out in the field with horses for a few days." Daine knew Numair was just complaining to be complaining – after months of dancing about each other, she was assured of his love for her. Blue-grey eyes watched him for a moment, pushing his hair back from his face. "Didn't sleep while I was gone?"

Numair ignored her accusation. She was always mothering him about his lack of sleep, and so whilst she was out… it was hard for him not to take advantage of it and stay up on his projects for hours on end. "I was saving the sleeping for after you got back."

Daine let her arms wrap around his chest, hugging him tight to her as she buried her face in the crook of his neck. His smell was always delicious – always had been. She'd know it anywhere. "I had something much more exciting than sleeping planned… but if you insist." She pushed away from him and rolled over, her back to his stomach as she wiggled a bit more, playful and teasing.

She was worn out from the trip. She'd taken some of the children out on an animal tracking getaway. It'd been a learning experience for all those around. She'd never been in charge of two-legger children, and she had to admit, they were a handful. Though she wouldn't dare tell a mother wolf that her pups were any less.

At her dismissal of him, Numair snorted. "I do not consider playing hard to get lady-like, in the least." He let his hands drape around her, tugging at her night shirt gently as he wrapped his legs around hers, curling up to her and enfolding her with his body.

Daine gave a small gasp as his hand cupped a breast, before she stuck her chin out stubbornly, her own hands folding over his. "If I was lady-like, you wouldn't still be trying to get me to marry you." She lost a bit of her playful resolve when a fingertip brushed a nipple, biting her lower lip and moving her hips a bit.

"True." Numair paused to kiss her ear, biting it softly. "Speaking of which… feel like getting married?" His words, which were spoken lowly, were accentuated by his hand creeping slowly down, teasing as he caused a small hip thrust, his hand finally stopping to rest mid-thigh. He curled his other around her, kissing at her neck more insistently.

His actions caused a growl. Daine bared her teeth in the dark, moving against his hand, but unable to convince him to move it. "You won't be satisfied until you've wed and bed me, will you?"

Numair chuckled a bit at that, his hand creeping a little closer towards the area she so badly wanted to have paid attention to. "Of course not. I love you. They're just my ways of showing that love."

Another frustrated sound echoed from Daine as she tried to pull away from him. This teasing, week after week, was getting to her. Though she had left Snowsdale, it was so ingrained on her morals, she didn't want to have sex before marriage. Numair had been taunting her with it, showing her exactly what was promised to be all hers if she'd accept his ring and take the vows. She kept telling herself it wasn't working, that he wasn't going to seduce her into marriage simply for his bedroom skills. Though she did love the man, horse-lords, did she love him, she wasn't ready to become a quaint little house wife, just yet.

She had to admit, though. When he touched her like that, it was hard to resist.

And though she knew Numair would never expect that of her… Perhaps she expected it of herself? All she knew for sure was that there was a burning feeling in the pit of her stomach and between her legs that urged her to say yes to anything and everything.

Oh, the poor traditionalist.

Numair's hand yet again neatly bypassed her lower regions as he swept up her stomach, sliding under her shirt, and finding her breast yet again. He gave a soft tug to her nipple, his long fingers expertly playing on every feeling. By then, Daine was grinding her teeth. She could feel him pressing up against her, could feel the urges in her own self to give in.

Thinking of her meditation, she exhaled slowly, snuggling into Numair, and trying to distract his playful hands. Unable to dissuade him too much, she sighed and leaned into him, deciding that giving in to whatever it was she could get was better than not giving in to anything.

Numair took her sigh as a sign that he had won this round, and let his hands play over her soft skin, watching her half-closed eyes as she moved to lie on her back. He pushed himself as close as he could to her, his fingertips tracing across her stomach and chest, caressing her neck and cheek, before he finally let his teasing stop, exhaling slowly.

He would ask her again in a few days. But he knew, that even if she didn't wear his ring… she still slept in his bed, and resided in his heart.

Daine stumbled from the bed, pulling her breeches on loosely over her hips, tucking half her night shirt in before she blearily opened the door. She'd slept well, better than she had in days, but she still felt drained from all her time spent with children. The man outside her door bowed, fidgeting nervously as he pushed a few parcels at her. He muttered something about just received, before he stumbled off, his straight blonde hair bouncing as he did.

Daine stared at the packages in her hand, stifling a yawn with her hand as she stretched, shutting the door and locking it. She didn't feel like being disturbed. Numair stretched a little, rolling over up onto his shoulder, his lanky form covered by a few blankets as he blinked at the sunlight shining through the one open window. It wasn't dawn, but it wasn't that late in the day. Deciding he didn't really need to wake up quite yet, he flopped onto his back, muttering a question to Daine as his arm covered his eyes, "Anything important?"

Juggling the packages, Daine sat on the bed, pushing her curls back from her face as she glanced over them. "Interesting, I s'pose, but not important."

She set one down, and proceeded to open the first one. "It's from Maura." Numair peeked out from under his arm, scratching his chest lazily as he watched her. Inside the box was a wrapped package labeled 'Master Numair Salmalin'. Daine tossed the package at him, hearing it land with a gentle thump on his chest. Beneath it was a larger package, rectangular in shape.

"She wants us to visit, y'know," Daine commented absently as she opened the package. The regular updates from Maura had been good to hear. The ogres had ended up getting the land they'd been promised, and life was flourishing. No longer did they mine relentlessly for black opals. While they were still exporting some, King Jonathon was aware this time.

Finally getting the rather bad tape job opened, Daine unfolded the wrapping. She gasped as a small smile crossed her lips. She let her fingers trace the outline in the painting as she clutched the frame. Somehow, Maura had gotten someone willing to paint the pack. They were all in it, even grumpy Frostfur, sitting regally next to Brokefang. Fleetfoot and Russet, Short Snout, Frolic, Battle – the pups were very big, and hardly discernable from the general group. She let her finger trace over them once more, finding that even Flicker was perched on Runt's head. Finding the letter, she pulled it out, and reclined on the bed to read it.

Soon, tears were dripping down her face. Her lips trembled as she finished it, the sad news stuck in her mind. Animals didn't live long – that was something she thought she'd come to terms with as a child. She wiped her arm across her eyes as she cried silently, Numair having put his half-opened package down to wrap his arms around her, his lazy demeanor no longer apparent. He pulled the letter gently from her fingers, reading it with his brow furrowed.

"Oh magelet…" He kissed her forehead softly.

"Poor Flicker… and Longwind and Sharp Nose…" She wiped her eyes, trying to calm the feelings running through her. "And Berry… she was just a pup." Numair brushed his fingers at her hair as he sighed, kissing her again. "It's okay, Daine." He kissed her lips, wishing desperately that he could take away her pain, even if only for a little while. It was never fair to see an animal go.

Daine wiped her eyes once more, sniffled a bit, and sat up. She clutched the painting to her chest. "We should go back to visit." She lifted the painting a bit to view it once more, biting her lower lip as she turned to look at Numair, who's brow was raised in question.

"Well… I have no prior appointments, as long as the King has nothing new to speak of." He pushed hair from his face as he watched her, feeling that her impulsiveness was at least a little merited. She had grown a lot with the animals, and he knew that she missed Maura. She'd written to her fairly consistently.

Leaning in, Daine kissed Numair gently, getting up to get properly dressed, pulling on clothing as Numair returned to opening his package. When he finally had, she heard him swear a bit under his breath. Daine turned to see what he was fussing about, and felt her own mouth open a little. After a momentary shock, she gathered her wits. "Well. In that case, I s'pose we really have to go, even if only to thank her."

Numair read the accompanying piece of paper out loud, "To Master Numair Salamin, who gave us the best pie apple tree in the valley." He couldn't repress the small smile that graced his sensitive lips as he held the flawless black opal up to the light, the glittering and gleaming sparkles dancing about the room.

That was one way to put it, he supposed.

Numair sagged onto Spot's back, a small sigh coming from his lips as he turned back to catch one last glance at Pirate's Swoop. It had been peaceful with Daine living there with him; life had been good. It worried him that they were leaving that peace willing. Knowing Daine… Well. He ran a hand through his hair and turned to glance at Daine who was sitting contently on Cloud, looking as if there was no place that she could be more comfortable. The horses trotted along, the only noise the waves of the fading ocean, and Zek chattering on.

It's cold out. Why are we going to this cold place? His nose pressed up against Daine's neck as she giggled a bit.

"You're the one who insisted on coming," she replied absently, looking at the trees. It was late spring, but Zek, from much warmer climates, was convinced that it was freezing out, and there was nothing anyone could do to convince him otherwise. Finally done complaining, the marmoset crawled back into the pouch Daine had made for him. He curled up in it, his large eyes peering out to watch the passing scenery.

Numair stretched and eyed Daine for a moment. Deciding that Daine knew the way well enough, he shrugged, and took a nap, slouching down onto Spots. Mangle plodded on behind them, the horse having decided that seeing the wolf pack wouldn't be so bad. As long as they weren't mean.

Daine took a deep breath and smiled. She was going back to her friends – and she couldn't wait.

When they were in range of the pack, Daine was fair itching with excitement. She woke before Numair, cooking breakfast. She felt strange, to lack the companions she always traveled with. Tkaa had promised to come in a week or so; he was busy helping the King with something or another. The basilisk had become a valuable source of information for the King and his scholars. While he was eager to see old friends, it was almost as hard to pull him away from intellectual discourse as it was to pull Numair away.

Thinking of Numair, she turned to their tent. He was just stumbling out, muttering about coffee and grabbing the cup she'd set out for him. She'd broken down what little had to be done, waiting for Numair to finish sleeping before pestering him to do the rest.

Having finished her own coffee, she watched Numair. Feeling he was being watched, he finally glanced up, his brow raised while his dark eyes focused on her. "Yes?"

Daine smiled sheepishly and stood, stretching. "D'ya mind if I go ahead to meet the wolves? They're almost in my range…" Her voice was wistful, the cool mountain air reminding her of her body's willingness to take the wolf shape. It would be so easy…

Numair smiled and shook his head. "Whatever you like, darling." He returned to his coffee, savoring it before setting it down to break the tent down. With his back to her, already working on it, he commented to her, "I'll bring you some clothing." Of course he'd expected her to run off, and was actually surprised it took her so long to wait. He'd thought she would've snuck out of bed the night before if he hadn't been sleeping with her.

It took her only a second to slip into her second skin – or perhaps that's just what it felt like. The scents rushed on her hard and fast. She took them on, a howl rising from her throat as she tilted her head back. Numair paused in his work, admiring her for the wild woman she was, as wolf-Daine ran off, her paws smacking the ground and raising little puffs of dust.

Daine called out again as she ran – I'm back! The world seemed crisper in wolf vision, seemed more detailed. She filed all the memories away as wolves did, her feet taking her to the nearest wolf scent marker. The pack was going strong.

She ran on, following the pack's well-taken trails. The pups were big now, she could tell. And they were doing well; Frostfur had had more pups. The pack was large, she realized, as she howled again. Daine soon heard the return calls, Brokefang the loudest as he came rushing towards her. They were camped not far from the bat cave. Wolf nature overcame her for a second as she stopped to pay her respects, her tail wagging. Brokefang didn't care for the formality though, as he bowled her over, licking and nipping and dancing about her. Soon the others joined, Russet and Fleetfoot, Short Snout, Battle, the pups. They howled a greeting, circling around her with their tails wagging in excitement. You came back! They all exclaimed excitedly. A few wolves stood off to the side, Frostfur and her young pups. They eyed the newcomer with apprehension, even though she felt like pack.

The bravest of them came forward sniffing, the small female cocking her head to one side as she looked questioningly at the adults around her. They were too busy greeting Daine to answer her look, so the pup wagged her tail too, deciding that if the pack was this happy to see this new wolf, then she would be happy too. She howled a little puppy howl, that came out more as a whine.

Daine finally took notice of the small pup. Daine, this is Crunch, Russet introduced them. Crunch was fluffy with pup fur, though her coat was already showing patches of her adult hair. She was a deep brown all over, with black tips at her ears and nose and tail, though Daine could only see in black in white. Daine nudged her nose against the little wolf, before sitting and nodding a greeting to Frostfur. It wasn't the most respectful, but Daine couldn't forget some of the things this particular wolf had said.

The greetings aside, Brokefang howled, announcing a hunt in celebration. The puppies whined as they were left behind, Frostfur sulking as she ushered them back into the safety of the cave.

By the time Numair arrived, Cloud looking sullen as she told Daine about how he had not let her stop for that tasty grass, the wolves had already gorged and returned to the den. Numair was unpacking their supplies, as he chattered absently at the wolves who knew him. The pups were unsure, and Frostfur didn't help much. Eventually, seeing that perhaps 'cheese' was a good thing, they came forward, soon begging with all their cuteness to be fed more. Russet and Fleetfoot gave wolf grins to one another before curling up to lay with Daine, who had fallen asleep soon after returning to her human shape. It was good to have the wolf-girl back with the pack, they had decided. It made them feel like a pack once again.

Numair continued to cook as the wolves pestered at him, deciding that it was not worth paying too much attention to them, because they would eat everything they'd brought with them, if he wasn't careful.

When Daine woke, she rubbed her hand through Russet's thick coat, watching the strands change between red and white. Russet's thoughts came to her slowly. Where is the little and big lizard? They were fun. Daine stretched as she glanced over the campsite. Zek had slept the entire time apparently in his pouch, the tip of his tail sticking out the top.

Kitten went with her family. She'll visit, I'm sure. A dull ache settled in Daine's stomach at the mention of Kitten. She missed the little dragonet, and she missed the Darkings, too. So many friends had moved on and grown up… She sighed as she rose from her makeshift bed of leaves and brush. Finally she plopped down next to Numair, a lazy smile on her face as she leaned against him. It had been good to be on the road with him. Familiar.

But it was even better to be with the pack. She hadn't realized how much she missed them until she was here with them. She looked up to Numair, who lifted the soup off the fire as he smiled back at her absently. He was concentrating on pouring the soup into bowls while distracting the puppies from tipping them over. He eventually managed, and handed a bowl to Daine, taking one for himself, and leaving a bit of broth for the pups to fight over.

Silly and his littermates soon returned with wood for their fire. Daine laughed and hugged each of them, quietly running a thorough check over them as she did. She found a few bones that had healed strangely in Leaper's paw, and asked her to fix them. After she finished that, she found Runt had a molar that was bothering him. She took her time with that, and found nothing further with the pups. After her tending, she went back to eating, watching as Runt and Silly lectured the younger pups on how to behave around horses. Cloud and the other two were out grazing contently.

Numair had finished his soup, and was soon reclining on his palms, his long gangly legs stretched out before him as he watched the wolves play. Daine set her bowl aside, waiting before clean up. She didn't mind, but the moment was just too sweet to ignore. Her hand found Numair's, her fingers wrapping around his and squeezing gently.

Habit got the better of her eventually, and she stood to clean the area. By the time she was done cleaning, Numair had almost finished his letter to the king. He brushed some hair back from his face, in the process smearing ink across his chin. Daine laughed at him, giggling a little as he tried frantically to figure out why she was laughing at him. When he finally did, he merely stuck his tongue out at her, wiping his chin off with the sleeve of his robe.

Chores finished for the evening, they settled into bed, the wolves stirring in the back of the cave. Numair sighed as he wrapped his arm around Daine, holding her close as he drifted off to sleep. Something about this trip was off, he knew. Something… was bound to go wrong. He sighed again, as if convicted of a terrible deed, and buried his face in Daine's hair.

What could go wrong?

A/N: Onward and forward to Dunlath we go! Yay! So, I've got chapter two written up, and some of chapter three. I'll probably try to write another chapter before I upload again. (Yes, I'm one of those crazy people who enjoys having buffer chapters laying around.) So. Review if you feel the love, suggest title names, and email me if you're interested in betaing. ;) Take care, and enjoy.