Disclaimer: Nobody mentioned within this little ficlet is mine. All Tamora Pierce's. And I'm not her.
Notes: Yes, I'm the queen of ficlets. My brain just doesn't lend itself to lengthy anything. I set the year of this to 461 to adjust for the random missing year in Squire and I'm next to positive I've got the timing right, according to some web sources for the canon. Feedback, please?
Fall, 461 H.E.
"Daine?" He all but burst into the tent behind her and she sighed. She was almost – almost – beginning to regret having sent that letter. But she couldn't not tell him. Their friends might very well see her marched up Executioner's Hill for not telling him.
She turned from her report and looked at him – a mess from riding, his clothes windblown, packs in hand.
"Did you all but kill that poor horse to get here?" She demanded, crossing the tent to tug at his collar and straighten his tunic.
He gave a strangled laugh and dropped his bags. "You're – you're worried about the horse?" he demanded, fastening the tent flap.
"Why wouldn't I be?" She asked, archly. Leave it to Numair to be dramatic.
He stared at her as if she'd run mad. "Daine..."
He sputtered and reached into his tunic, producing her letter. "You choose to tell me you're pregnant via a letter – and yet you're calm?"
She crossed her arms across her chest and scowled at him. "You're being ridiculous, Numair." As much as she loved him, the man would drive her mad with his flare for drama. He should turn his hand to being a Player, she thought, not for the first time.
"I'm being ridiculous?" He sputtered eyes wide. "Mithros, Mynoss, and Shakith."
"You are, dolt. How else was I tell you? We're lucky to see each other as we ride in and out," she grumbled. "There was no other way."
His face softened, briefly. "How long have you known?"
"Not long," she admitted. "I suspected as much – and the healer confirmed it."
She looked to him, a little frightened. He'd been a fine, doting adoptive "uncle" to the children of their friends Alanna and George, but did he want to be a father himself? Scholarly pursuits and fatherhood likely didn't go well together. "Numair?" She queried, softly, looking at the toes of her boots.
He lifted her chin, gently. "Now you'll marry me, won't you?"
She paused. The man had spent the last ten years, nearly, trying to convince her to marry him. He always chose the oddest of times to ask her, too. "I don't know," she said, finally.
"Daine..." His voice trailed off, warningly.
"What now?" She asked, eyebrows raised.
"I don't want your – our – child born out of wedlock."
Of course, her mind said. Leave it to him, the ever honourable Numair Salmalin, to be worried about that. In the middle of a war. "Goddess bless it, Numair, I don't care," she retorted. She could be as stubborn as he. "That's nobility's silliness, not mine."
"You would think, you, of all people..."
"Me of all people what?"
"You spent your childhood being called 'bastard'... one would think you would care."
"That's different. I didn't know my Da. Ma did, but she wasn't telling. Our child isn't my bastard by a random stranger. I know it's you. Or are you doubting that, now?"
His face reflected hurt; she might as well have slapped him. She cringed.
"I'm sorry, Numair," she said, quickly. "I..."
Then, the memories hit her. Being mocked by village children for the question in her parentage. Being ousted from their groups and being left to tend her family's herds, well away from the village. Being insulted by most adults, who said – among other things - that no respectable man would have her, as well as slipping in the odd insult to her mother. She cringed again and shook her head.
Her child, if she let it be born out of wedlock, would endure the same things. But Court gossips in Corus were far more cruel. She knew that. And children shouldn't be forced to endure it just because of her foolishness. "I don't know," she said, again, shaking her head. "We're in the midst of a war."
He kissed her forehead. "You and I aren't warriors, dear one. We hold no oath – you know that."
"But..." She scowled at him. "If we're to wed, I don't want any fuss. I've had enough of that." With two royal weddings she'd attended in recent memory, she had. And Buri's wedding, of course.
"No fuss, I promise," he replied, taking her hand in his. "Thayet reports that Kalasin and Kaddar are expecting a child – a son."
"That's fair wonderful, that is," she replied, taking a chair. "Does she think much of being a Grandma?"
"No one dares mention it," he said, a smile crossing his face and she rolled her eyes.
"And you, Da?" She asked, finally and he only blinked at her. And then the realization seemed to hit him.
"Marry me, Daine?" He asked, again, after a pause.
"Here? In the fort? With the soldiers as guests?" She shook her head at him. "No thank-you. Ma would have a fit if we married in enemy country."