Viola! Final chapter...AND..in a timely manner :) Thanks to AliMac once more for being my beta. Enjoy!
Daine sat on the rocks, letting her bare feet dip into the cool salty water. She had taken care of Cloud and left her at the stable, ignoring her pony's irritated comments, but she hadn't checked in anywhere else yet or even gotten a room. She had simply gone down to the beach and sat exactly where she was now, trying to wrap her mind around what had happened. She was hurt, angry, and confused and she didn't even know where to begin getting a handle on the situation. She knew he could get irrational but she had never seen him like this before, barring the time she had accidently killed herself anyway. That had been completely different though, this was—bad. She had no idea how to even begin fixing it, how could she make him see her side of things? He hadn't even been making sense; saying that he remembered and that she had said no. That certainly hadn't happened, she had been a more than willing participant, same as last night.
"I thought that was your dear pony terrorizing my hostlers," A voice came from behind her and she turned to see George climbing over the rocks to her. "I don't get a hello?" He teased, sitting down next to her. She looked down, picking at her nails.
"Sorry, I was going to come find you later," She mumbled as he stripped off his boots, slipping his feet into the water.
"Don't fret, I was just surprised. I thought you and Numair were heading to the tower first; I figured it would be a few days at least. Where is our mage anyway?" He looked around as though he half expected Numair to be hiding somewhere. She took a deep breath, knowing she wouldn't be able to avoid it.
"He's at the tower," She said softly and George looked at her with furrowed brows. She sighed and looked down, "He didn't want me to come with him," She was glad her voice hadn't cracked.
"And why in Mithros' name would that be lass?" He said slowly, tentative concern evident in his voice. She was silent for a moment and he continued, "The great romance isn't going quite as it should?" She shot him a look and he chuckled, "Normally me and my champion of a wife do like to keep in touch."
"Oh, right. That would make sense. What did she tell you?"
"Nothing much, just that things looked like they were finally starting between you at long last," He replied and she rolled her eyes.
"Was I the only one who didn't know?" She said, exasperated, and he laughed.
"Unfortunately I think so. Although I think Thayet may have pointed it out to his Majesty so if it hadn't been for that he may have been behind you," He shot her a look and smirked, "maybe."
"Perfect, you'd think that someone could have warned me," She grumbled and he chuckled.
"Well that would just take all the fun out of the surprise," He looked at her again before continuing, "Now as entertaining as all this banter is, something tells me that you've something fair serious on your mind?" She sighed. George would usually be far from her first choice when it came to talking of matters such as this but there wasn't anyone else. Besides, he did have more common sense than just about anyone she knew.
"Did Alanna say anything specific when she said that things were 'starting'?" Part of her really hoped that her friend had, that way she wouldn't have to explain everything. But he shook his head.
"No specifics, I had assumed that you two had just finally realized that there was something there," He shrugged and she blushed.
"That would have been a lot simpler," she sighed, "There was a big celebration at court that we had to go to and we both got pretty drunk and, well—" She motioned in the air with her hand vaguely, hoping he would get the point. He did, thankfully, and he looked at her with eyebrows raised. There was a moment of silence and Daine wondered if this was too personal of a conversation for them to handle.
"Well that's certainly a way to start that has a high chance of making things difficult," He said after a moment and she couldn't help but chuckle.
"Tell me about it. We talked after, kind of, but it was so awkward and it didn't last long. After that we just kind of acted like it hadn't happened which, you know, didn't work at all," She covered her face with her hands and groaned.
"Did he tell you how he felt?" He asked and she shook her head.
"No, the idea that it had been anything more than a drunken mistake didn't even occur to me until later. I had been so busy thinking about what had happened that it wasn't even until after I remembered what had happened that night that I even stopped to consider how I felt about him. That I—" She cut off, feeling her throat tighten. She felt a hand smooth her back.
"There's no shame in lovin' someone, lass. You say it took you a while to remember it? Does he?"
"He does now, he said he does anyway but what he was saying didn't match up with what I remember at all. That's what earlier today was about. He was saying that he had taken advantage of me, that I had said no that night. He said that I had said I didn't want to but that he coerced me or some such nonsense. I remember everything and he never took advantage of me," She looked at George pleadingly, wanting him to understand that Numair had never coerced her.
"Relax, I don't believe that he would even be capable of that. So it took him this long to say that to you? He waited until the two of you were almost home to just leave you on the road?" He seemed confused and she shook her head.
"Well no," she paused, deciding to edit it down, "we stopped at an inn and there was only one room but it was going to rain so we took it. Things were fine but, well, we ended up kissing," she blushed again, " and then he just, he stopped. He stopped and walked out of the room and stayed out the whole night. He wouldn't even talk to me today until he told me that I should come here instead. That's when he started saying that I couldn't trust him and that he remembered." She bit her lip, feeling her eyes sting again, "And that I was a mistake," she mumbled, looking down. She heard a sigh from George as he wrapped an arm around her.
"Listen, I know he loves you. Any blind fool can see that—" She cut him off there.
"How? I mean, I know he wants me but what if that's all it is? If he loved me then why would he be having such a hard time with this? Why would he think that it's all so wrong?"
"Well, have you told him how you feel?" He said slowly and she opened and closed her mouth a few times before speaking.
"Well, not explicitly but I mean, I made it fair obvious afterwards," She mumbled and he raised an eyebrow.
"And how exactly did you do that?" She blushed violently this time, suddenly feeling very foolish.
"You know, the new clothes and face paint and the flirting and innuendos. All that feminine stuff," She mumbled, wishing she could sink into the ground. He stared at her for a moment and she huffed, "It was partly your wife's idea!" He stared at her for another moment before bursting into laughter. She stared at him, confused, as he calmed down.
"I'm sorry, you followed Alanna's advice when it came to this. Has she told you the stories from when she was your age?"
"I, well," She stuttered, "I mean, she's older and knows more about these things. Besides, Onua and the Queen helped too!"
"Again, I grow skeptical about Onua's feminine wiles though the Queen might know a bit more. Maybe." He smirked," Listen, I'm not even going to go into the absurdity of that advice and it's source but I do know one thing," He grasped her hands in his, "Numair fell in love with you, breeches and mud and animal fur included. In fact those are probably all part of the reasons why he loves you. If there's someone who does know about all those court games it may just be him, to date it's been his type. He knows that world and he's never loved someone from it. The fact is that he loves you for what and who you are; the last thing he would want is for you to change to try to impress him. You probably just confused him," He smirked and she sat there stunned. Thinking back she probably had confused him. She had in no way been acting like her normal self and thinking back she was a little ashamed and definitely embarrassed at the game she had been trying to play. She took a deep breath before looking back at George.
"You're sure he loves me?"
"I would bet my ear collection on it," She laughed and he smirked, "The best thing you could have done, and still can do, is just go talk to the poor man lass. You two have been dancing around each other for months. It's time to just sit down and talk. I'm not saying that things will be perfect right away, the two of you may still have some hardships to overcome, but it's a start," She nodded, she should have just done this from the start.
"Odds bobs, I should have just talked to you from the start," She exclaimed, grabbing her boots and yanking them on.
"Well of course, I always have the best advice," He winked, making her laugh," Now get going, I will be very disappointed if you are still here in five minutes!" She laughed and gave him a hug before sprinting up the beach.
Just short of two hours later she galloped up to the tower and vaulted off Cloud, thanking her pony for making such good time, and running into the tower. The ride had given her enough time to think over the night and she was fairly sure she had figured out what had happened and why Numair thought she had said no. She ran through the tour, searching for him, and finally found him in his bedroom. He started when she burst in and his expression quickly turned to anger.
"Daine, what are you doing here? I thought I told you—"
"You're a dolt!" She cut him off and he looked at her, shocked.
"Excuse me?" He said slowly, an eyebrow raised.
"I said you're a dolt. You don't even remember the whole night do you?" She was gasping from running up the stairs and she knew she was getting dirt all over his carpet but she didn't care.
"I remember enough to know what happened. Besides, you don't remember anything; how would you know?" He huffed, turning from her.
"I remember everything Numair. I lied when you asked me because I wasn't ready to talk about it but I remember everything, and you're wrong about what happened."
"Daine, if you're just saying this to—" She cut him off again, exasperated.
"Tell me what you remember, as much as you can," she said firmly and he sighed, staring at her, before giving in and sitting on the end of his bed.
"I remember leaving the party together and that it, well, took us quite a while to make it through the halls. I remember getting to your rooms. Then I remember taking off your dress and we were heading towards your bed and you told me to wait, that we couldn't do this and that you didn't want to. I remember you saying those things very clearly Daine, and the next thing I remember is, well, doing exactly those things," He wasn't looking at her so when she started to laugh he glared at her sharply, "I fail to see how this is funny."
"I'm sorry, it isn't. It's just, have you stopped to think about what's wrong with all of that? You've forgotten some very important aspects."
"Like what? I think I've gotten a pretty clear picture of what I did to you."
"Numair, who's room did we wake up in?" She said, smiling and he paused before speaking slowly.
"Yes, yours. And you said you remember taking off my dress? I left your room in breeches and a shirt," She moved to kneel in front of him and he tried to flinch away when she grasped his hands in her own but she held on, "Numair, you're missing an awfully big part in there and it's just your luck that you only remember pieces of the conversation. I'm really starting to think that your subconscious is out to get you. When I told you to wait it was because I was saying 'we can't do this without my charm' and that 'I didn't want to do this without being safe'. Apparently I'm fair practical even at the most heated of times," She smirked and he looked at her, brows knit together. He stuttered for a moment before finding his words.
"Are you sure?" She nodded and he let out a breath.
"I had one that Alanna had given me in my drawer and I had to get it out. Some time while I was doing that you had some crisis of conscience and said that you should go. You left and that's how we ended up in your rooms. I followed you. I came to you and I can assure you that I made it very clear that I wanted you and trust me when I say that I was very sure."
"I don't remember any of that," He said softly and she squeezed his hands, "But why? I thought that you thought it was a mistake."
"I said that because I thought it's what you thought. We got ourselves into quite the vicious circle. I did it because I wanted you, and I still do. More than that because, I didn't know it at the time, but I love you," She squeezed his hands again and he looked at her sharply.
"You love me?" He sounded dumbstruck and she laughed at his expression.
"Very much. Dolt-ness and all."
"That's not a word," He muttered and she raised her eyebrows.
"Numair, I'm putting myself out here on the assumption that you feel something too and I'd really like for you to let me know," She was starting to get uncomfortable but he brought his hands up to her face and made her look into his eyes.
"I love you magelet, I think I always have," She smiled up at him and he returned the expression though it faltered, "I'm so much older than you Daine," He started but she cut him off, getting up and sitting on his lap with her arms around his neck.
"I'll have none of that. I can tell you right now that I don't care in the least. I want you, I'm sure of that, and you want me. I don't see the problem."
"What will people think Daine?" He looked up at her and she knew that this had pained him for a long time.
"If it's our friends you're worried about then you need not. They know, all of them, and it seems that they've been getting impatient with how long it's taken us," He raised his eyebrows at her and she nodded.
"All of them?"
"Every single one, I was officially the last to know," She nodded again before continuing, "And as for everyone else I really don't care."
"I think I can live with that," He smiled, "There are some very serious talks we will have to have though."
"I know, but those can wait right? Can't we just be us for right now? I'm fair exhausted," She sighed and he chuckled.
"As am I, being just us sounds nice for a bit. Talks can wait until tomorrow."
"Good," she snuggled into him, content just to listen to his heart beating when he spoke.
"You know we really should have had this talk a long time ago," He muttered and she sighed.
"We really should have. It would have saved so much effort. That and I could have skipped all that makeup and all those horrible lines I tried."
"I'm sorry, what?" He looked down at her and she winced.
"Well, Alanna and Onua told me that I should try to seduce you. That's what all the clothes and the makeup and everything were for."
"Mithros, Minos and Shakith I thought I was imagining that."
"So you noticed?" She sat up, looking at him and he laughed.
"Noticed? Daine you drove me crazy. I thought I was just imagining that you were coming onto me," he shook his head, "I definitely noticed although I will say that I prefer it when you're just yourself. You don't need to go out of your way like that for me. Especially not to turn me on, you have that covered without even trying," He muttered and she grinned widely.
"Well that's good to know," she said wickedly and began to squirm in his lap before he stilled her with a look.
"Although, do I need to even comment on you taking that kind of advice from Alanna and Onua?" She rolled her eyes.
"No, I've already been very much informed what a bad idea that was. By the way you should thank George when you see him."
"I'll make sure to do that," He said, mildly puzzled. She smiled down at him and he quirked an eyebrow, "What?"
"Well, after all you put me through don't you think you owe me a kiss?" She whispered, moving closer to him and he smirked.
"Me? With all that teasing I would say you owe me one," He teased and she giggled as he brought his lips up to meet hers. They had never kissed like this before. Not this soft and gentle, no rushing, that was so full of emotion that Daine couldn't even describe. It began to deepen and she realized she was still dressed for riding. As the kisses began to become more passionate she kicked off her boots and unclasped her cloak, letting it fall to the ground. Numair pulled away, looking at her.
"I don't want to rush this. I know we've already slept together but I still want us to take our time," He said seriously and she nodded, moving to her knees and wrapping her arms around his neck.
"Sounds fair; besides, taking out time could be fun. Doesn't mean you have to stop kissing me though, you'll just have to do it very slowly," she whispered, bringing her lips to his once more. They ended up spread out on his bed, wrapped in one another, content to simply get lost in one-another's kisses. They only stopped when Daine happened to glance at his open travel pack.
"Are those my underwear?"
Now the good news is that you got a nice ending..the bad is that this marks what will probably be a sizable absence from the fandom for me as I fully intend to devote my writing time to a fic I have shamefully ignored in another fandom for over a year :( I'll still post a few one-shots (including a prequel to this) but that's probably all you'll get for a while...no full-length fics. That being said that doesn't mean that I don't have any IDEAS for fics..I have several actually and will probably be working on them during my absence but not posting until my other one is done so that I can focus on it. Hope you enjoyed The Morning After! Review please!