Lets get down to business.

Disclaimer: same as it always is. The characters belong to Alison...I own nothing, blah blah blah..we know the drill :D (They're amazing characters though, aren't they?)

And thanks Laramie for the challenge; I enjoyed it! READ AND REVIEW AS ALWAYS PEEPS. MAKES EVERYONE HAPPY :)

Rain. Grey skies. Soaking wet. Mud. Almost there.

Maerad repeated the words in her mind over and over, trying to take her thoughts away from the dreary landscape unfolding around her. Ever since she had awakened from her sleep, if you could even call it that, they had continued onward, determined to make it into the next village to spend a well earned night under cover.

"We're almost there," Cadvan yelled back as he stepped into an unseen puddle that had been hidden by the tall grass they now trudged through. Cursing under his breath, he wiped what raindrops he could from his face while he turned to watch Maerad stumble through the potholes, as well as the puddles. "…I promise," he said hopefully to her.

He took a deep breath, sniffing from the cold and wiped his face again. "We've made pretty good progress. Considering we're walking through marshland," he said trying to make light of the situation. Snickering, Maerad pulled her hair back and tied it from falling in her face.

She continued on in front of Cadvan, and began repeating her words again when she felt her ankle catch in a deep hole, and she fell over. Mud covered her face, as well as the rest of her clothing. The rain beat down on her relentlessly, even as she lay there clutching her ankle.

"Maerad! Are you alright?" Cadvan said kneeling down beside her.

"I..I think so," she stuttered. "I think I pulled something, though."

Cadvan helped her take off her boot, and examined her ankle. "It already looks a bit swollen," he said gently, beginning to glow faintly with magery.

Feeling a warm sensation run through her, she wrapped her cloak closer to her body, hoping to keep the warmth from leaving. As soon as she did, Cadvan removed his hand from her ankle, and replaced her boot. "That should help with the pain, at least until we get into more suitable conditions."

"More suitable conditions," she laughed. "Anything would be more suitable than this. Look at us! I'm covered in mud, and you're nearly in the same boat as I," she said trying to wipe the mud from her face.

Cadvan's face lit up, and rummaged through his pack to reveal a shirt. "Here," he said, folding it neatly and approaching her. She stood dumbstruck, unable to figure out what he was doing, when he began wiping her face off. She stood waiting patiently, as he wiped the grime from her face. She shivered with an unexplainable desire to let him help her, to enjoy his gentle touch, but her pride was screaming in her head, and she pushed his hand away. "Thank you, but I can finish," she managed. She felt ashamed that she had said it, but her pride still out spoke her emotions, even though she wished it wasn't so.

Cadvan shrugged, and they continued onward until they came upon a small village just after dark, the warm glow of the lit latterns lifting up their spirits as they found a small inn. Before knocking Cadvan turned to her and motioned for her not to say anything. Maerad just nodded.

Hearing a commotion inside, a large man opened the door. He eyed them suspiciously, no doubt because they looked horrid. "Inn's full," he said quickly, turning to leave. Knowing it to be a lie, Cadvan spoke. "Surely you have but one room to spare. We've been traveling a long way, and we need shelter. We'd be much obliged."

The man shifted his weight and turned his attention to Maerad. "Be ye married?"

"No," she said lightly. The man shot a disapproving look at Cadvan, who spoke quickly.

"Oh, married, yes we are married," he said smiling, putting an arm around Maerad's waist who just smiled lightly. The feeling of his arm around her created butterflies in her stomach, but she knew that he was only putting on a façade for the inn keeper.

The large man wasn't convinced. "Where be yer ring?" he asked Maerad gruffly, as he reached out and grabbed her hand. Upon seeing her missing fingers, he let go. "I beggon your pardon, ma'am. Might I ask what happened?"

Cadvan looked at Maerad worried as to what she would say; he knew her temper was short, but was glad when she replied calmly. "The dark affects us all these days, even the innocent," she said hiding her hand beneath her soaking wet cloak.

He nodded, and looked at Cadvan. "Suppose ye better come in out of the rain, ought you look more affright than ye do albeit I hardn't doubt ye could look worse," he said scornfully.

Gesturing for them to come in, they entered the warm house to see a handful of men drinking near the fire. They stopped their banter and looked up at the two wary strangers.

"I suppose me wife can find yer a room, although its bound to be small. I suppose since yer married, it wouldn't matter too much."

He left them standing in the foyer; sensing the men staring at them, he motioned for her to take a seat. Sitting beside her, he touched minds. I doubt he believes us much, but if it will get us out of that storm, by the light…

Maerad was so glad of his determination to get them out of the weather that she laughed out loud, causing the men to look up at them again. Blushing, she looked at them apologetically. Cadvan turned her face away from them. Never mind them.

Hearing someone banging down the staircase, Cadvan became increasingly aware of his hand still lingering on Maerad's cheek, and knowing the doubts the innkeeper had, he leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. Just go with it please, Maerad.

Shock was the first thing that registered in her mind, before her she calmed herself and tried to think rationally. He is kissing me. Cadvan. Is. Kissing. Me. So much for rational thought, she said sarcastically to herself.

Trying to hold back the huge wave of excitement that rushed through her, she reached up and ran a trembling hand through his hair, as he brought her closer to him, causing her to break the kiss for loss of air.

"We wont be havin none of that in me inn, lad. You can wait till ye get to yer room!"

Blushing he looked down before looking back at Maerad, winking.

"The mistress is fixing your room. There's food in the kitchen or' yonder there, Help yourselves." he barked, leaving them to join the others around the fire who were now quite drunk.

Grabbing Maerad's hand, he led her into the kitchen, where they found fresh bread and some cheese to satisfy them. "I hope she hurries, I can hardly wait to pile into a nice warm bed, and sleep peacefully!" he exclaimed as he found an apple and bit into it.

Maerad smiled, although she realized all too much that there would only be one bed for the two of them. She couldn't deny that the thought of sharing a bed with Cadvan was alluring, but frightening all at the same time. Regardless of the fact that he was her friend, he was still a man, and she knew all to well the desires and needs of men. It wouldn't help that she would be laying next to him, either.

Watching him eat, the butterflies in her stomach returned, and she found herself imagining him holding her; his warm body pressed against her own, the feel of his muscles moving beneath his skin. She dared to think that he was handsome, and that perhaps he returned the feeling. Shrugging the thought off, she stood up.

"They must have a bath around here; perhaps some extra clothes. We can't be running around like this, I feel disgusting!" she said, motioning to the puddle of water that was collecting on the floor where she stood.

Cadvan nodded, and he started out of the room, before Maerad grabbed his hand. He looked back at her, but said nothing. It was obvious he didn't feel the same way for her, she thought. She wanted to pull her hand from his, but it felt so right there; it belonged in his and with this thought she let it remain, hoping that he didn't mind as much as he seemed to.

To be continued...

I have the next chapter written up...however: I would like to have, lets say 3 reviews (thats small enough to do guys) before i post it. :D Oh, and for the MC fans out there, its a pretty intense second chapter..hehe

Lots of love and thanks,

Kiaga