I was thinking about Varice Kingsford and that part in the emperor's mage when they say that Numair had been seeing her before he was exiledbut they had gone their separate ways. But it sort of evolved into something else.

He looked at the young woman in the light blue dress as she stood near one wall talking to the young man on her left while another young man across the room eyed her form appreciatively. Numair let out a sigh, as Daine, oblivious to the frank stare across the room and to the fact that the young man she was talking to was more intent on pushing as many glasses of wine into her hand as possible; than on the actual conversation.

And Numair could see why. Here in the ballroom, Daine looked beautiful. She wasn't a curt beauty, but she had something. Something soft and beautiful. Her own something. The smoky curls, the intense grey blue eyes, the wide mouth and stubborn chin, and although she wasn't exactly busty, her curves were noticeable. It was unavoidable that she would attract attention, especially male attention. At seventeen Daine was blooming.

Suddenly he feels that tingle at the back of his neck and Numair knows it's her; knows in a moment that Daine caught him staring, and not for the first time. I smile impishly and she rolls her eyes in that familiar way teasing me about being too overprotective. She tilts her head slightly to the side and I know that she wants me to come over and join the conversation. A wicked twinkle in her eye tells him that she know that her partner is scared to death of him. I raise my eyebrow in response. Her mouth quirks to the side slightly; a small smirk almost invisible to the rest of the world. And now I know that she wants me to save her. I'm her protector, her savior, the one she looks to for comfort and protection; the father she xnever had as a child. And my heart sinks as I realize for the millionth time that she will never look at me with love and longing; the way I feel about her.

Involuntarily my hand slips to my other wrist and gently touches the small locket that hangs invisibly from my wrist containing a lock of her hair and a beautiful portrait. Daine. My love.

The boy doesn't run at the first sight of me as I had anticipated. But that soon changes as Daine recounts some of our recent exploits and recounts the tale of when I used a word of power and turned a man into a tree. I look to the poor boy with a raised brow; a silent threat of what could come if he messed with my Daine. My Daine.

Needless to say, he fled.

My eyes find hers again, and I'm lost again, lost for the millionth time since….

She's saying something.

I try to refocus my attention on what she's saying only to focus on her lips instead. Her soft rose petal lips. I want to touch mine to hers more than I've ever wanted anything in my life in that one moment. I try to retain my control to force myself to be that friend she needs. While I manage to keep my hands to myself and act normal, I can't stop focusing on those lips unable to even pay attention to what she's saying. I see her mouth frown and wondering what's wrong. Suddenly I feel a hand on my ass. It's only for a moment; enough only to alert me to her presence.

I turn my head and see Elieza of Hopesprings gossiping with a few other women only a few feet away. She sees me looking and lifts a brow flirtatiously; telling me that if I would like to share her bed again, I would be more than welcome. I can also see that she expects me accept her offer. She knows she's beautiful, one of the most beautiful in the room in fact, and what most would consider my "type:" blonde, curvy, and a gifted mage. But its not there, the tingling at the back of my neck. My heart isn't racing. I'm calm cool, collected. And from this vantage point I can see that Elieza wants attention. I smile blandly and return to Daine.

Her eyes are narrowed and she looks at Elieza with something akin to distaste.

"You could do better, you know," she says unexpectedly.

"hmm?" I ask non-committal, although slightly curious where the conversation is going.

"You could do better than Eleiza of Hopesprings. From what I've heard she's slept with half the court already and is going around for seconds," Daine says darkly. Is that jealousy in her voice? Gods I hope so.

"Daine, you know you can't always listen to gossip," I scold, knowing as well as she did how often they were rumored to be lovers. I wish. But seeing her blush slightly, I know she's taken the point. "Besides," I add "Eleiza's married to Lord Dylan over there." I point to a back corner of the room. There Dylan is talking to a close friend, his lips just skimming the ear of an apparently close friend. Daine looks stricken.

"Oh. A bad marriage then?" She knows better than I, that many men are forced to marry against their own preferences. Growing up in the remote town of Snowsdale, filled with small people and small notions of what was proper and what wasn't.

"It doesn't appear so, "I answer. My eyes skim her body once more, and I can't help but let out a small sigh.

"Oh, hey, I'd fair forgotten they've finally narrowed down the region where they think those hurrocks are hiding. They want us to leave in the morning. I made sure we were packed this afternoon."

"We?"

"Of course 'we.' You think that we'd go anywhere separately? We're a matched set Numair." She grins broadly, and I can't help but grin back, feeling my old shriveled heart coming to life. I wrap and arm around her shoulder and feel the delicate bones underneath. I feel her take a deep breath and she settles against me. Despite our differences in height, she's made for me, fitting perfectly next to my side. I try not to think of how else we'd fit together, as I hold my student close. I pretend for a moment that this embrace is something more than it actually is. She's not my student. I'm not her teacher. In my mind we're the same age. Two regular people without any worry or responsibility to the crown.

I blink. We're lovers holding each other close in bed in the dark room's flickering candlelight. My nose is buried in her hair as I feel her stiffen under me.

I blink. My hand is reaching over to rest on her swollen stomach holding the child within. Our child.

I blink. And I'm immediately transported back to the ball, daine still tucked into my side, still my student. Still old.

I look down and realize that she's still looking up at me grinning. I hug her a little closer as I take in those images I had seen just moments before. Fantasy's in vivid detail. Things I dared not even dream or think about. And they had been there, almost prophetic. But I was no Seer, only a heart sick black robe.

I realize then how much I love her. I had been in love once. But then, with Varice, it was different. We were similar, with common interests, had a good time together. But when I left Cathark…I knew it was over, just as she did. Knew that our relationship would never go past what it had been. So I hadn't asked her to come with me. But Daine….we were a team, a matched set.

This was my first Tamora Pierce fic, so let me know what you think. I would appreciate constructive criticism, but reviews of how much they like my story would be really fantastic. Hope to hear from you!

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