Ok, so this is my first fanfic. Thank you for all of my reviews, and to all those who made it a favourite; I really hope my future pieces get as good a response. And a quick thank you to Loten, who dragged this out of me without knowing it was even happening, and to my beta for this piece, A Quiet Chaos.
My apologies to those with this story on alert: there hasn't been anything new, just things I've found that need correcting. For instance, Numair's magic is too strong for him to douse lights with it -- he'll have to do it by hand here.
If I keep getting so many positive reviews, and if I get a few more requests for something more, maybe there will be another little something to come after. But you'll all have to be very nice and review.
Disclaimer: Daine, Numair, Kitten, Tortall itself: none of this is mine. It belongs to Tamora Pierce. I'm only borrowing.
Numair shut the book they had been working with. "That's enough for tonight, magelet. You're tired."
Daine stifled a yawn. She had been far more tired than this -- she had slept for days on end -- but Numair was right: she was tired. She had spent the past week helping get things back into order after the siege at Port Legann ended, as had the mage. Shifting the dragon Kitten off her lap, she stood and went to the window. She didn't want to sleep quite yet.
"Tell me a story, Numair. Tell me about... Arram Draper?"
The tall mage shook his head. "No, and not the next time you ask, either. There won't be any story tonight. Go on off to bed."
Daine sat on the sill, her back against the cool glass. Outside, clouds swirled around the tower the mage called home. They'd only arrived here this morning, but already it felt like her place, too.
"Can we go look at the stars?" Daine knew it was his favourite past-time, but she would have used anything at this point to delay her exit.
"Don't be daft, Daine. The sky is overcast." Daine was pushing his buttons in all the wrong ways: normally, she was his magelet, not Daine.
"I'm sorry," she said. "You must be more tired than I am, to be such a grouch."
He looked up from the desk, his dark eyes softening. "I suppose I owe you an apology as well, magelet. I am tired."
Daine rose from her seat, passing Numair and Kitten at the desk as she crossed the workroom. She paused in the doorway to the mage's bedroom. She didn't turn, but she could feel his eyes on her back. She could hear him mumbling; she couldn't make out the words. She changed her ears into bat ears, swiveling them backwards to catch what he was saying.
"Mithros, Mynoss, and Shakith," he was saying. "What's to be done with her? She needs Cloud's horse-sense."
His mumbling ceased, and he rose from his chair. Daine changed her ears back to normal as he approached her. Gently, his large hands enveloped her shoulders. Zek, Daine's pygmy marmoset, emerged from under Daine's curls and crawled up Numair's arm onto his shoulder.
"Your bed is elsewhere, magelet. You don't even like sleeping at the top of the tower: no animal friends can reach you here."
"I have Zek and Kitten, and I hardly lack for companionship," she whispered.
"Magelet," he protested.
She stuck her chin out, resolute. If he was calling her magelet, he wasn't even frustrated anymore, so why the fuss?
"Let me stay, Numair. Let me sleep here. You know you hate to get cold." She dropped her shoulders, freeing herself, and went to sit on Numair's bed. It was plenty big, with room for two easily. Daine knew he'd shared it with many women; she pushed those thoughts from her mind.
"You can't, magelet; I can't let you. I'm your teacher; imagine the gossip." He ended in a whisper, looking at her pleadingly.
"I've slept by your side more nights than I haven't since we've met," she reminded him. "Side by side at the fire, every night we travel. There was no gossip then. And," she added, before he could interrupt, "we would sleep together every night, if we were married."
Hope made Numair's dark eyes gleam. "Is this my yes, then, magelet? Finally?" When Daine shook her head, smiling, he said, "Then it's different. It's, it's," Numair struggled to phrase it as he looked into Daine's eyes. "It's different, if we aren't married."
Numair, lost for words? She had him troubled, all right. She couldn't understand his objection: he'd never been married to the women who had shared his bed in the past.
"I don't see how it's different," she whispered. "Don't you love me?" she challenged, mouthing the words.
Numair was beside her in an instant, his arms around her. Zek chittered and jumped from his shoulder to the top of his wardrobe. "Of course I love you, magelet." Daine blushed; she didn't know he had bat ears, too.
"Let me stay, Numair. Let me sleep here." She pulled her legs up and tucked them under the covers as she pleaded.
"Try to understand. You're barely sixteen; I've passed thirty. I'm twice your age! You're my student, and I can't take advantage of you…" He trailed off into silence, a blush covering his face.
"Do I have to be dying, Numair? Is it only when you think you've lost me that you want me most?" A hard edge was creeping into her voice; she could hear it, and saw the damage she was doing Numair. Daine ran her hand up his back and tucked her fingers into his black ponytail. "It's just sleep, Numair. Just sleep."
"Magelet…" But she felt his resolve wavering. Was she going to win?
"Please," she whispered. She pulled the covers down next to her, tugging on his arm. "It's just sleep."
The mage sighed, and pulled the blankets down further. He slid his lanky body in beside Daine's. She smiled, and squirmed closer to her teacher. Another sigh, another "Magelet," and he wrapped his arms around her, but not before pinching the candle out with his fingers.
"What if it's not just sleep, magelet?" His whisper in the dark was a soft tickle against her cheek.
She changed her eyes into cat's eyes to see him better. "Are you afraid of dreams? I will be here, if you wake up and are scared." She was half teasing him, but was honestly concerned. She'd had some troubling dreams herself, especially in the God's Realm.
"Not dreams, no. What if there was truth to the gossip this would cause? You're here, magelet, in my bed, in my arms. We aren't married; Daine, hardly anyone even knows that I love you! I know you trust me," he paused, drew in a slow, deep breath. "What if I betray that trust?"
Daine shook her head, her curls coming free of her tie. "There's nothing you could ask me for that I wouldn't give you, Numair." Her cheeks were turning pinker by the second. She knew, one day, if he continued to love her as he did now, that they would reach this point. Kissing him was wonderful, and she wasn't afraid of what would come next. He'd had so many lovers, but he was forgiving. He was always willing to teach her something new.
"I'm not asking, Daine." His eyes were as hard as the black opal around his neck. "I won't ask that."
Daine's eyes were steady, calm. "I love you."
"Oh, magelet, what am I to do?" He pulled her tighter against him. "I love you, too; you know I do. Some days it drives me crazy. What do I do? What's the right thing? I think I know, but then the next day something changes. I don't know."
Daine, her head tucked under his chin, had the feeling that he wasn't talking to her anymore, when suddenly he sat up, pulling her with him. Before she knew it, she was standing with him beside the bed.
"I can't, I can't, magelet. I can't ask." His eyes were pleading when he looked at her face again.
"Then don't, not tonight. There's no need to ask." Daine stretched up onto her toes, but she still could only reach high enough to kiss Numair's neck. When he didn't protest, she kissed him again, and again, and -
His arms tightened around her, and he bent his face down to meet her lips. He kissed her softly, holding back. Daine pressed against him, parting her lips against his. Numair moaned, returning her kiss with more passion than he'd given her in the past. His kisses had always come after she had been in danger -- there were perks to being relatively healthy, she decided.
When Daine began to struggle with her breeches, the mage straightened and pinned her arms to her sides. "No," he said, gently but firmly. "I'm not asking."
Daine was giddy from the kissing and couldn't contain a giggle. "I know," she said, "just sleep. But I'm not going to sleep in my breeches."
Numair sighed. "I'd hope I could placate you with enough kisses that I could coax you to go to your own bed." As he spoke, he went to his cupboard and pulled out one of his shirts. He tossed it behind him, and it floated towards her, supported by his black magic. "I'm keeping my back turned," he said.
Daine had finished pulling her breeches off, and her reply was muffled by her shirt. As she pulled Numair's shirt on -- it reached to her knees -- she sighed, but decided not to repeat her retort. He knew how she felt about such foolishness; he'd seen her naked before. "Done," she said in a huff.
"Good." Numair turned around, stepping out of his breeches and pulling off his shirt. Daine choked on her next breath; she began to breathe faster. This wasn't typical behavior for the mage.
He pulled on his nightshirt and chuckled at her pink cheeks. Then a furrow creased his brow, and he closed the gap between them in one step. He wrapped her again in his arms, burrowing his face in her curls.
"I'm sorry, magelet. You're not ready. I forget how young you are, how little experience you've had." He chuckled quietly. "You make me feel like a dock-side whore."
"No," Daine said, "you're not. Don't you say that. I'll never hold you accountable for what you did with your life before me. Of course you've had more experience; you'd already lived half your life before I was even born."
Numair sighed. "That's not the thing to be reminding me of. The fact that I was canoodling when you were four is not a point I'd be pushing, if I were you." Daine sighed, but, truly, she was amused. He'd used that line before.
Numair scooped Daine up by the knees, laying her carefully in the centre of his bed. He pulled the blankets up over her, then got in beside her.
"Kitten, Zek," the mage called into the dark. A chorus of whistles and chirps told him they he had been heard. "It's bedtime. Will you two go down to Daine's room? Please?"
They went, Kitten swinging the doors shut behind her. The locks clicked in the darkness. Numair wrapped his arms around his young love once more; Daine laid her head on his shoulder, so her lips brushed his neck.
Numair sighed, pulling back to cradle his magelet's head between his palms. "Just sleep."
He laid Daine's head on his chest, and she gave a contented sigh. Numair was right: it was time for sleep.
Long after Daine's eyes were closed, Numair lay awake, running his fingers through the girl's bountiful curls. Finally, his eyes slid closed, and a thought that made his blood run warmer flashed into his head.
One day, my magelet, I will ask.
He couldn't help chuckling to himself.
After you marry me, he added.