This is for Custard, my ever patient beta reader who reads everything I write and who suggested some of the themes.
When Sarralyn asks just how her papa can be in two places at the same time, Numair can't help but chuckle when Daine replies, "He has a simu- sima- sime - Ask your father."
The first time she slips her soft hand into his and leads them purposefully towards their bedroom, Numair realises he is terrified. There are so many ways he can hurt her irreparably, so many ways to turn her love to hate. Then her lips find his, and he forgets to be afraid.
Their separation during the war is a constant, gnawing ache in the pit of his stomach that increases every time he wakes to find himself alone.
Just shy of his thirty-fifth birthday, Numair looks in the mirror and finds a single silver hair hiding amongst his dark mane. Daine tiptoes on a stool, kisses the proof of his march towards middle age, and assures him that a grey hair doesn't make him any less irresistible.
"Veralidaine Sarrasri, the Wildmage, formerly of Galla. Daughter of Weiryn, god of the hunt, and the Green Lady. Guardian of the dragonet Skysong and assistant horsemistress." As the squirming, blushing young women clinging to his arm is announced at court for the first time, Numair feels he might burst with pride.
When his children pelt him with a barrage of snowballs, Numair strides, grumbling, back towards his tower. Daine catches his arm and reminds him that the colder he gets, the harder she will have to work to warm him up. He decides snowball fights aren't all bad.
Numair Salmalin, destroyer of immortals and powerful mages, rapidly blinks back tears as he helplessly watches his student and love thrash in the grip of unicorn fever.
Bored almost to tears at a meeting, Alanna allows her eyes to wander over her friends. She notices that Daine's cheeks are stained crimson as a glimmer of black fire disappears beneath her hair to caress her neck. When she looks sharply at Numair, the mage is a picture of innocence.
Numair doesn't think he can ever love another human being as fiercely or deeply as he loves Daine. The first time he holds his baby daughter, a bundle of soft, pink skin and downy hair, he realises this judgment was vastly wrong.
Onua quirks an eyebrow as she enters the stables to find a very rumpled, red in the face Daine standing alone. She toys with and quickly rejects the idea of telling Numair that he can use as many invisibility spells as he wants, but she can still hear him panting.
Watching Daine talk with Kaddar, Numair tells himself that he is most certainly not jealous. His student is growing into a lovely young woman and the prince clearly appreciates this a little too much. Concern for his friend motivates him to warn the young man, not jealousy.
Varice's overpowering perfume almost chokes him. Another scent, both comforting and warming, lingers in his memory. Trees, hay and subtle shampoo mixed into one. If only he could place where he knows it from.
The dress she wears for the banquet is wondrous. The colour of stormy skies, it makes her eyes sparkle. The soft, creamy flesh beneath is perfect, and it is this, not the dress, that he will drown himself in later.
Although she says nothing, he knows that when she glances in the mirror she worries about her modest curves. He pulls her into his arms, determined to show her the magnificent woman he sees every time he looks at her.
The gentle, boyish man is transformed when a Scanran raider spills his lover's blood; he emanates a deadly power that causes even his friends to flinch from him.
Tyra had never been his home, and the illusion that he could ever feel comfortable in Carthak had been shattered long ago. Although he loved Tortall, he wasn't quite at home there either. People still flinched from him, terrified of his power. Daine changes this: she offers acceptance, love and a home in her arms.
The look of sheer joy on her face when he gave her the sapphire ear drops was the best present he had received in a long time.
He tells himself that there's nothing wrong with the clerk. There's nothing wrong with Daine having a swain. In fact, it's wonderful that a respectable young man has decided to court her. He tells himself all sorts of things, but that doesn't stop the wrenching pain in his chest when Perin leans in to kiss her, and she lets him.
During the first few weeks of their relationship they both wear a mask. When they dance at balls, when they pass each other in the hallway, they keep their expressions neutral. When Daine is almost killed by a spidren, Numair's mask cracks in front of all their friends and he kisses every inch of exposed skin.
"If the war has died down by then, I'd love to meet your family next year," Daine said, not looking up from the book she was reading. "Of course, we can't go in the Spring. The baby is due then." Numair asked absently which baby she meant. When she told him it was their baby, he stood still only long enough to kiss her before leaning from the window and announcing to the whole camp that he was going to be a papa.
Knowing that he hated the cold, whenever Daine couldn't be with Numair on the Progress she silently asked some of her furred friends to keep him warm during the night.
For Numair, their first kiss was like waking from a long sleep. This slumber had lasted since Midwinter, and had been filled with impossible dreams of a future with Daine as his lover and nightmares of losing her friendship should she discover his true feelings. Her lips woke him to a reality far more wonderful than he had ever imagined.
Having to wait outside the infirmary while his wife screamed in agony was almost unbearable. It was only the strong hands of Jon and George that kept him in place, reassuring him that everything would be fine. After a small eternity, a healer announced that both his wife and newborn son were healthy, and he almost sank to the floor in relief.
On a lazy summer afternoon, he feeds her treacle tart in their bed. When she asks if he will have any, he leans in and tastes the sweetness of the dessert on her lips.
He finds her sobbing over Cloud's prone form, and realises that for the first time in their life together he has no idea how to comfort her. He pulls her into a tight hug and resolves to do what he can.
When he sees the dog at his feet, waiting to be fed the meal he couldn't stomach, he wonders how Daine has come to know so much about him, and how she has become his closest friend without him noticing.
She tries to teach him how to shoot a bow. He tries to teach her sleight of hand. They both know they will never learn, but the thought of ending the informal lessons never crosses their minds.
He grumbles when she uses Aly's nickname for him, but when she reminds him that the alternative is "Stork-man" he shuts up. Quickly.
Although he barely acknowledges what he considers to be a selfish thought, a part of Numair is glad that he will probably die first. Life without Daine is a thought he can no longer comprehend.
At their wedding he vows to love her through dung and animals invading their bed. She vows to love him through workings that absorb him for days and backfiring spells. Cloud vows to give them both a good bite should she find them frolicking in her stable again.
A drop of the crimson fluid escapes the glass and lands on her fingertip. Hoping that no one is watching, he captures it with a flick of his tongue.
When she looks at him like that, he wishes that they both had a simulacrum so they could escape royal banquets.
Kitten shrieks her fury as her ma chases her from the bedroom and firmly closes the door.
The first time they dance she is thirteen, blushing, and trembling in front of the noble crowd. He assures her that should anyone offend her he will turn them into a rock, and is unreasonably happy when this draws a laugh from her.
During a visit to Pirate's Swoop, Numair wakes up alone in the night. He finds Daine standing in the sea, breeches rolled up to her knees, listening to the whale song. Unable to hear what she does, he wraps his arms around her shoulders and listens to the music of her breathing, her heart thumping steadily beneath his palm.
Despite all his knowledge, Numair could never find the words to describe the sensation of flying with his wife and daughter at his side.
Long after the sun has set over Temptation Lake, Numair watches Daine sleep. Her soft lips are parted slightly and he can glimpse the curves of her breasts through the loose shirt she wears. Turning away, he grumbles to himself that the dratted lake is aptly named.
She tore down an imperial palace and overthrew an emperor for him?
When Daine tells Brokefang that he is her pack, Numair is indescribably proud that she has chosen him as her new family.
It doesn't take her long to discover that taking his earlobe gently between her teeth makes his knees weak. Once she does, she exploits the knowledge mercilessly.
The copper fire penetrates the haze that surrounds his drug addled mind. A voice calls his name, a strange mixture of old and new, and he knows it belongs to the fire. Instinctively knowing that he can trust the voice, he follows it back to safety, back to himself.
The door slams, and Numair looks up from his book to greet Daine. The smile freezes on his lips. Long whiskers protrude from a beak, and amongst her mane of hair are several brightly coloured feathers. A lion's tail hangs from her breeches. "Don't ask," she grumbles before disappearing into their bedroom.
Numair likes to be in control. It's only when he stares into Daine's eyes that he allows himself to get lost, trusting in her to look after both of them.
During the first year of their relationship Numair worries a lot. One day he is confronted with his fear: a young, handsome knight trying to win Daine's heart. When Daine apologises and tells that knight that she prefers older men, Numair stops worrying.
The morning after Daine and Numair first spend the night in the same bed, he wakes up to the sensation of soft hair falling over his chest. He strokes it softly and mutters a sleepy, "I love you." When Daine begins to laugh, he opens his eyes to find a rather large, rather shaggy dog resting on his chest.
Numair has many firsts with Daine. The first time he falls truly, irrevocably in love. The first time he weeps because he has been separated from his lover for too long. The first time someone confronts the hidden power and danger of his Gift and instead of shying away, embraces him.
"Sickening," Alanna announces, watching Numair and Daine slip into a dark corner, giggling. George reminds her that she's not adverse to public displays of affection herself, and drags them off to their own dark corner.
Her laughter is deep and rich as she throws back her head in delight. Numair is faced with an almost uncontrollable urge to nibble the delicate skin of her exposed throat. He leaves the banquet quickly, going in search of some very cold water.
She tolerates his disappearance into books for hours because he tolerates bird droppings on the sheets. But every now and then she craves his attention, and is forced to go to great lengths to get it. Even Numair can't prefer a book to a woman wearing only a badger claw.
The children are fascinated with the gold chain grandpa Numair wears around his wrist. Whenever they ask about it, or he allows them to hold it for a minute, he looks at their grandma with an expression they deem 'soppy' and squeezes her hand.