NB: PELLINOR FIC PPLE!! THAT MEANS IT ISN'T MINE!!

Also, I rated this to be safe: there is no sex, but there is smut. If you don't like M & C smut….(listens and hears only the howling wind)…Okay, go ahead and read!! :)

THE CLAWS OF SLEEP

Dreams are the claws of sleep; they snatch you in, they hold you tight and they never, never let go…

Cadvan could feel that there was someone hovering over his bed before he even opened his eyes. He could taste their sweet breath as it tickled against his chin, and could hear the steady thump of their heart, so close to his. He opened his eyes abruptly and saw the blurred outline of a shadowy and very familiar figure before a pair of lips crashed down hotly onto his.

He froze for a moment, uncertain how to respond, whether to kiss back (and most of his mind was screaming at him to do), or to break away sharply, or to let himself be kissed and then pull away, slowly, carefully, and say those lines, those lines that had been constantly running through his head, those lines that had cropped up in every scenario he had ever imagined: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but it can never be.

The lips pressed down on his more forcefully, making it harder to think – his desire was rising rapidly now, and if this kept going, he was going to lose his head completely –

By the Light, this has to stop…

He felt a pair of small, warm hands run down his chest, and instinctively broke away, taking his seducer by the shoulders and pulling them away from him.

"Maerad, stop!"

He saw her shadowy form pause, but she said nothing. He couldn't see her face in the darkness of the curtained room, and was uncertain how she had responded to him. Cursing inwardly, he reached inside his powers and brought a magelight into existence. It lit up the room instantly, throwing shadows into brightness and bringing the whole crazy world tumbling back into reality.

Cadvan, trapped in the bed, stared up at the Maerad crouching on top of him. He had expected to see emotion in her eyes: sadness, guilt, anger, confusion – they were all possible. What he hadn't expected to see was no emotion at all.

Nothing. No emotion. Just a blank expression and dull, glassy eyes hooded by heavy eyelids. She was looking at him, he thought numbly, but she wasn't seeing him. She simply hung over him and stared.

"Maerad?" he said uncertainly. "Are you all right?"

She did not respond to his voice. He noticed suddenly that she was in her nightgown, and a realisation struck him – she was sleepwalking.

Or sleepseducing. Perhaps that was a better term, Cadvan thought ironically.

He looked her steadily in those unresponsive eyes.

"Can you hear me, Maerad?"

She did not even blink, although she did speak.

"I want you."

She leant closer and he could smell the scent of her hair – of herbs and wood-smoke and fresh air. It was more intoxicating than anything Cadvan had experienced yet, and he found himself leaning up towards her.

"I want you," she mumbled again, then kissed him, more gently this time, even tenderly. It was a cruel trick, Cadvan thought grimly, because when she was kissing him forcefully, he could remember that this was not Maerad, that she was asleep and did not know what she was doing. But when she kissed him like this…with tenderness, shyly, tentatively – well, it was much easier to imagine that she was kissing him because she truly wanted to. Because she truly desired him. Because she truly loved –

He shut off his final thought and sank back into the bed, pulling her gently down with him, his arms encircling her waist and keeping her safe whilst he once again examined all possibilities in his mind; it was very hard to do so when Maerad was lying on top of him and kissing him so lovingly, but he concentrated grimly. He could wake her up, but everyone knew that you should not wake up sleepwalkers – the shock could very well kill them. And he imagined that she would be pretty shocked to find herself lying in top of her teacher in his bed.

He could let her continue – which was the idea that most appealed to him just at this moment – but he knew that his guilt would take him over once he had done so. His conscience was too strong to allow him to do this; it was the typical struggle of gentleman against beast, of being tempted and resisting that temptation. He could not let himself take advantage of her – she wasn't in her right mind, she did not know what she was doing – of course she didn't, she would never do this is real life…

No. What he had to do was find a way to stop her without waking or hurting her. Perhaps if he –

But his thoughts froze there, because Maerad's kiss had just increased in intensity, and her hands were once again on his chest, moving slowly down, and he could think of nothing except how good it felt, and how he wanted more.

"Maerad…" he mumbled into her mouth, but it was clear that she was no longer paying any attention to what he said – her tongue slid naturally into his mouth, her body pressed against his, her legs glided alongside his too enticingly. The gentleman inside Cadvan clung on grimly, but the beast was taking the upper hand. He found himself reacting unconsciously to her, his hands on her waist, moving up and down her ribcage warmly, his body pressing against hers with equal urgency, his lips on fire. He felt her hands slide down to his thighs and let them, drawing her closer to him, his mouth straining against hers, knowing it was too late, far too late, that he had lost the battle, that he would have her now and would forever more be haunted by what he had done, guilt-stricken, shamed, utterly unworthy to be her teacher, to be her friend, to have her trust…

Everything he had done to build up his closeness with her would break, would be shattered, and he could do nothing about it.

And then she sighed. It was a little sigh, a whisper of a sigh, a little murmur of happiness, but it struck within Cadvan forcibly - because it was one of the noises she made when she was deeply asleep and dreaming some wonderful dream. He heard it sometimes when they were in the wilderness, and she was asleep whilst he was on guard. It was an innocent sound, the sound of the child Maerad as opposed to the woman, and it stopped him dead in his tracks.

I can't do this.

He moved away from the distracting press of her body, and guided her hands back up to his shoulders, to a safe place. He could feel himself shaking with desire, and saw that she was too, and that there was lust inside those blank eyes as well as the vague dreaminess, but forced himself to stop seeing these things, to stop thinking of them.

"Maerad," he said gently. "You must sleep now. Time to sleep."

He spoke as one would to a child, hoping that it would get through to her on an unconscious level, and it did. Maerad blinked sleepily, still unfocused, then mumbled,

"'m tired."

"Then sleep," he urged, still soft-voiced. "I'm here, I'll take care of you. Sleep."

Gradually, she relaxed her body and drooped into his waiting arms. He settled her gently down next to him, and smoothed back her hair, murmuring silly, soft nonsense just as if he were soothing a child, and eventually her eyelids fluttered closed and she sighed, drifting away on the next black wave of sleep, her body limp and thankfully harmless.

Cadvan waited for a moment to make sure she was asleep properly, then groaned with both relief and annoyance that she was, and flung himself on the other side of the bed, staring up at the dimly lit ceiling blankly.

He had almost done it. He had almost allowed himself to –

What a fool, he scolded himself. What a foolish man you are. Taking advantage of a young woman who isn't in her right mind, how low can you sink? You don't deserve her trust. You are no better than a dirty old man, Cadvan of Lirigon, a dirty old man who has gone without desire for far too long. Desperate – yes – you are desperate. That's why you did it. Desperation, a burning need for affection. You would have done the same with anyone, whoever they were. Because you are lonely and stupid, and very, very pathetic.

It has nothing to do with Maerad. It doesn't. It had nothing to do with the fact that you care for her more than anyone else in this world, nothing to do with the fact that you would die for her, without a moment's hesitation, without a single thought for yourself, nothing to do with the face that you completely and utterly love –

NO!

He flinched away physically from the thought, and found himself staring along the pillows to where Maerad lay, her face innocent in sleep, her breath fluttering a few strands of hair that had fallen over her shut eyes. Automatically, he reached forward and swept the strands out of her face.

I am such a fool, he thought, but wearily now. I do love her. I love her so much – and yet I almost betrayed her trust.

He withdrew his hand and looked back up at the ceiling.

Well, it won't happen again.

He moved his hand to the magelight, about to extinguish it – and then Maerad spoke.

One word, she said, just one word, escaping her as she lay twisted in the claws of sleep. Just a name, nothing more, and yet Cadvan felt as though someone had punched him in the face, as though all the oxygen in the room had fled through the windows, as though all that was precious to him, all that he cared about, all that he had ever believed in had just been proved wrong, had been a lie, and had always been a lie, and that he had been fantastically deceived for the entire time. Just one word, and he felt as though Fate had spat in his face.

"Arkan!"

Arkan.

The Winterking.

Of course.

She had not been thinking of Cadvan. She had not been dreaming of Cadvan. That entire episode, that entire struggle, and it had nothing to do with him. Just Arkan. Always Arkan.

And he had thought…that she…loved…felt…

You are a fool.

Well, it was lucky, then, that he had done nothing after all. He turned out the magelight, and the world fell into deep darkness, and he lay and stared into its opaque blackness for a very long time.


Maerad awoke the next morning to find herself lying alone in Cadvan's bed, with no idea how she had got there. She felt more exhausted, somehow, then she had when she had gone to bed the previous night, her body felt drained, as if she had been fighting something for hours on end.

Groaning, she twisted onto her back and swept her hair out of her eyes – and abruptly her dream flooded back to her.

She had dreamed that she had gone to visit Cadvan in his room, and that they had – she had –

By the Light! she thought in shock. I dreamed of kissing him!

The thought shot a bolt through her like electricity, but it was not a bad feeling.

But then…there had been more to the dream. Something had happened – she couldn't remember exactly what – but Cadvan's lips had turned into Arkan's and she had found herself kissing him.

But it had not been the same. His lips had been too cold, too dangerous, too distant, too lustful. There had been no intimacy in his kiss, not like Cadvan's…and Cadvan's had felt more real somehow, as if she had done it before and knew exactly what it felt like.

So she had tried to pull away, and he had grasped her and laughed, and said that she was his, that she could not be free and never would be, and that Cadvan loved her but knew she desired the Winterking more, and had left her…and she had denied it all, saying that he was lying, that she loved Cadvan, she did, she did…and she had shouted Arkan's name. In fury, not in lust.

And then had woken here, in Cadvan's bed and totally alone. He had left her alone, even though she was here, in his bed, and not with Arkan…not with anyone else…she had been with him.

And he had left her, just like in the dream.

It was just a dream, she thought furiously, pummelling the pillows to put them back into shape, then falling into them. Just a silly dream. No harm ever came out of having a dream.

No harm at all.

END


Please R & R, and if enough people do and tell me they liked it (or give me criticism – whatever, I don't mind), I may write a PROPER M fic!! Wouldn't that be fun? ;)