A/N: Why do I always end up writing mostly from Numair's point of view? I should do a little more Daine. If anyone has any prompts (for anything), feel free to tell me! As always, I hope you enjoy and please review, it always encourages me to write more!
Characters: Daine, Numair, others
Time: Anytime before Realm of the Gods
Disclaimer: Everything you recognize belongs to Tamora Pierce. Not me.
The party was loud, raucous, and was balancing on the fine line between brilliantly entertaining and miserable. Numair grinned, watching the finest nobles become more and more loose and pink-cheeked as the night wore on. The castle's large supply of heavy mead and fancy wines meant that all – even the King and Queen themselves – were far too intoxicated to worry about the civility of the gathering. Numair, however, was abstaining. He knew (secondhand) how he acted when he drank. It was safer to avoid such situations altogether.
However, he realized very quickly that he was in a vast minority. It was rather amusing to watch. Knights proposed endless vows of love to married women, who giggled and glanced at their husbands, who would also be declaring undying devotion to some young lady or another, completely unaware of their wives' very similar actions. Alanna and George were spinning so wildly on the dance floor that there was a rather large circle around the pair until Jon elbowed in to whisk Alanna into a stumbling dance of his own. Thayet took George, while nearby Onua, Sarge, Raoul, and Gary each clasped large mugs of mead and were laughing loudly at someone's joke.
But Numair's eyes locked on one person – Tortall's famed wildmage, swaying lazily from side to side with a glass in her hand and a young soldier eager at her side. Daine laughed, her head thrown back and her smile wide. Though Numair couldn't hear it, he knew that laugh and smile very well. Both were light and beautiful, brightening any room she entered. He couldn't suppress a twinge of jealousy as he watched the young courtier laugh along with her.
"Not havin' a drink, black mage?" said a sly voice in his ear. It belonged to George, who was grinning with his arm around Thayet's waist.
"Not tonight," replied Numair. "I've had more than my fair share in the past. By the way, George, you have the wrong woman in your arms, if you weren't aware."
George blinked, squinted at Thayet, then looked back at Numair. "So I have," he slurred with another sly grin. "Goddess bless, Numair, I don' know what would've happened if'n I hadn' been told by some kind soul likes you."
"Glad to help."
Thayet, who still had a small glimmer of reason in her dark eyes, winked at Numair before guiding George back to his wife. Laughing a little, Numair scanned the room again until his eyes invariably rested upon his student. She was closer to him now, and alone; her eyes also gazed across the hall and stopped when they met Numair's. Her face lit up and she started to run over to him, stumbling in her fancy shoes, long dress, and uninhibited state of mind. Numair grabbed her elbows, swinging her around while she steadied herself with a hand on his shoulder.
"Good evening, Daine," said Numair, grinning down at her. She grinned back shamelessly.
"Evening," she laughed. Her cheeks were bright red, her eyes glittered like the champagne in her hand, and her hair was rapidly escaping from its neat pins. "Numair, you should dance. Night's almost over, an' all. Dance with me again!" She tugged on his sleeve.
"I already gave you the first dance. The other ladies will get jealous," teased Numair, holding her firmly in place so she didn't fall right over. Her dress swung low and left her shoulders bare; her skin was warm under his palms. Numair couldn't suppress a smile. "You're quite intoxicated, Daine. You really should rest; your body is not used to the drink like everyone else's is."
"No," she pouted, frowning. "No, no, no. That's ruining all's the fun of it."
"You know, I think most people are beginning to depart already, in any case."
She followed his finger as he pointed around the hall. "Well, fine," she said churlishly. "I'll go. But I don' want to. On'y cause you said so." She leaned into his chest, closing her eyes happily as if she intended to sleep right then and there.
"Daine," Numair laughed. "Daine, you can't rest here. You have to go back to your rooms. There's such a thing called a bed there. It contains those wonderfully comfortable inventions – pillows. And blankets."
"My rooms?" The two of them were out in the corridor now, where is was much darker, quieter, and emptier. "My rooms're boring. Let's goin' to your rooms."
"Your rooms are where you sleep." Numair kept a tense hand on her waist, guiding her so that she didn't trip and fall.
She laughed and turned her face up towards him. "You're pretty," she giggled.
Numair couldn't help another bemused smile at her. "And you are drunk, magelet," he said. She only giggled again.
Near her room beneath the Riders' house now, Daine broke free from Numair's arms and stumbled around in a circle, throwing off her shoes and pulling her hair all the way out of its pins. She danced barefoot in the cool grass, tilting her face toward the starry sky. Moonlight reflected in a creamy glow from her pale skin, bright smile, and happy eyes. Numair found himself breathless, mesmerized, as he watched.
All of a sudden, Daine turned and grabbed Numair's hands, pulling him close and standing unsteadily on her tiptoes. "Kiss me," she whispered excitedly, her breath warm. "Come with me. S'not like you have anythin' to do else t'night." Her eyes sparkled like the stars above them, making her look far older than her years. For a second, Numair found himself leaning in. He couldn't resist her; her proximity, the feel of her in his arms, her beauty in the moonlight; it was all too much.
"No," he said softly, more to himself than to her. He jerked his head away from hers, catching sight of a flash of hurt in her eyes. "Daine, you must get some sleep. You will feel awful in the morning, so rest while you can."
"I don' care."
"Of course you don't," said Numair, taking a long, deep breath to steady himself. He careful unwound her arms from around his shoulders and helped her into her room. "Sleep, Daine."
She gave a great sigh, biting her lip in a pout as she tumbled over to her bed. Numair turned around to light a lamp so that she could see more easily through the inky blackness. But when he looked back, the flickering flame showed him that Daine was already curled up and sound asleep on top of the blankets on her makeshift cot. Numair paused, considering, then pulled a blanket up around her shoulders and blew out the lamp. Now with only a narrow strip of pale moonlight lighting her face, Daine looked even more beautiful than before, dark lashes resting on soft, colored cheeks.
Without a sound, Numair left, closing the door silently behind him, his heart beating far faster than usual. Outside, he knelt in the cool grass and picked up Daine's discarded shoes and pins, though he couldn't locate all of them. He ran his hands once more across the ground, then stood, setting her things neatly outside her door. He took a moment to lean against the wall and breathe, remaining frozen there while he closed his eyes and counted to ten. Only then did he trust himself to be calm enough to make his way back to his own rooms. The moon shone through his windows into the silent, dark corridor as he approached, reminding him of the open grounds. He put his hand into his pocket. Pulling out one of Daine's hairpins, he flipped it over once in his fingers and watched it catch the moonlight before slipping it back and attempting to sleep some himself.
Hot light shot through a narrow window, making the whole room very warm and stuffy. Daine woke slowly and blearily, her mind a hazy, groggy blur. Rolling over, Daine felt a shock of pain rocket through her head. She winced. By the way the sunlight shone on her floor, she could that it was already around midday. Groaning, Daine forced herself out of bed and staggered to the door. Her empty stomach churned, and she retched in the grass, but nothing came up.
Rubbing her throbbing forehead, Daine straightened and stared mindlessly into the distance. She couldn't remember hardly anything from the night before. She remembered a large party, too many drinks, and too many people. She remembered dancing with Numair then Raoul and Sarge, talking with Onua, and a few other faces she couldn't quite place. She remembered seeing Numair for a while afterwards too, but couldn't come up with any more than that. Looking down at the grass, she noticed that someone had left her shoes and hairpins in a neat little stack by her door.
Something else nagged at her tired brain; she felt vaguely that even if there was plenty more that she couldn't remember, there was one thing that she should remember. Something about moonlight and warmth; that was all she knew. Daine shut her eyes tight and concentrated, but it was no use. Her memory was shot, just like her tired eyes and aching body.
I must look terrible, she thought vaguely, glancing down at last night's dress and feeling her messy hair and dry skin. She tried to stretch, but it made her head hurt. Closing her eyes again, Daine leaned against the wall, hoping fervently that Numair or George or someone knew a very good remedy for hangovers. Daine sighed. She wished she knew if the night had been worth it.