A/N: I must admit… this was difficult. It's for the May JoGeNuDoNaRo contest, the prompt being carck!ships. When I heard the prompt, I had a lot of ideas. But my top two were Alanna/Numair and Beka/Ersken. I've always been a fan of Beka/Ersken, and Alanna/Numair just seemed so interesting, so I ended up doing both. Way back in March, I also did two, but now they've made it so I can't do two. So I had to chose one of them. I wrote Alanna/Numair first, and it was pretty difficult, and it made me sort of sad… then I did Beka/Ersken, and it was a lot easier and much happier. Finally, I chose to do Alanna/Numair, because it's a more interesting story, though morally questionable at points, and Lioness' Heart is already doing Beka/Ersken. But I'm still going to post the Beka/Ersken one, called "Better Left in the Past", it's just not going to be entered into the contest ;)

ANYWAY… enjoy!

Someone to Return to

Numair clenched a fist and tried to focus on something other than the thoughts that had just passed though his mind. He had caught himself thinking them on more than one occasion. He could not allow himself to think them again.

But why not? He asked himself, as she shoveled porridge into a bowl and went to sit under a tree. She's an amazing woman—what's wrong with having feelings for her? his thoughts continued.

Once again, he found himself struggling to find the reason why he couldn't love her, why his feelings were forbidden. It took longer than it had before, but eventually he remembered why. She's married. She has children. She's my friend. The three cardinal reasons. He could probably find more if he tried, but the truth was, he didn't want to.

"Hey! Aren't you hungry?" She leapt to her feet and strolled over.

"I don't have much of an appetite today," he replied, looking up at her. He shielded his eyes against the sun.

"You getting sick?" she inquired.

"I don't think so," he replied. "I'm just rather tired of the porridge."

"That, I can understand," she laughed. It was a pretty laugh.

"I see you've been sitting alone lately," he commented quietly.

Her smile vanished and she suddenly looked old and tired. "I miss George," she said after a while. She sat down next to him.

"It isn't difficult to miss a person like him," Numair said. However, he didn't miss the girl he was courting, Arelin. Actually, he didn't want to return to her. He wanted someone like Alanna had—someone to return to. The problem was that the one person he could love, and miss, and care for… well she already had someone else.

"Thinking about Arelin?" Alanna asked after he was silent for too long.

For a moment, Numair could not remember who that was. Then, "Yeah. I miss her quite a lot. I think I've finally found someone that I could spend my life with."

"You always say that," Alanna grinned.

"I do?" he said, thinking about what it would be like if George didn't exist—if he and Alanna… no. He couldn't think about that.

"Are you sure you're okay? You seem a little spaced out." Alanna said to him jokingly.

"I'm just a little tired," he responded. "I think I'm going to take a nap."

"That's fine. Just be sure to be ready to go in 4 hours," Alanna sighed, getting to her feet. "And remember that we've got that dinner to go to at Goldenlake tomorrow."

Numair rolled his eyes. "More formalities," he said with false glee, and crawled back into his tent.

The dinner wasn't entirely unenjoyable. The conversation wasn't as conservative as it would've been at another fief, and the food was better than porridge. Alanna claimed that the mead was excellent as well.

Later that night, when he returned to his chambers, a strange thing happened. He missed the girl he was courting. But he didn't miss her personality, or her intelligence, or her kindness—he missed their close touches, their kisses, the feeling of her skin on his. He missed it so much that his stomach ached with a dull pain that made him feel as though he'd never be whole again. Numair fell back onto his bed without extinguishing the lantern, letting the pain eat at him.

Someone knocked on the door. Although he didn't respond, the person entered.

"Numair…" he heard Alanna begin.

"Alanna?" he asked. He sat up. "What's wrong?"

"I miss George so much," she whispered with so much pain in her voice that it seemed as though she was crying. But not a tear dropped from her beautiful eyes.

His heart sunk. He was already depressed, but now he had to comfort the woman he loved because she missed the man she loved. That man was not him. "Come here," he said.

She sat next to him on the bed. He wrapped a long arm around her small form with a tiny sigh, swallowing the giddiness that came with touching her. "You'll be home soon, dearest. It is only a little longer."

"I know," she whispered. "But I'm just so lonely. I often wonder if I should just give up my shield—"

"No!" Numair cut her off. Alanna stiffened. He softened his tone, "You have worked so hard to get to this point. You cannot just give that up, not for some man."

"He's not just 'some man', Arram Draper, he is also my best friend. He's been there for me ever since I started this crazy quest for knighthood," she said tersely.

"I'm sorry. I just wouldn't be able to bare it if you gave up all of your hard work so callously. Imagine all the girls who would lose their hero, all the conservatives who would get their way. How could people trust Jonathan anymore if the famous lady knight stepped down?"

"I wasn't serious, Numair. I could never be so selfish," she sighed.

At that moment, he didn't know what came over him. Her violet eyes just looked so pretty, glistening in the candle-light, her lips so soft. Very slowly, he leaned in and touched her lips with his own, oh so softly.

"Numair, what are you doing…?" Alanna whispered, though her response wasn't very enthusiastic.

He ignored her question, letting all his pent-up love for her flow out and envelop them in a warm embrace. He continues to kiss her softly, his hands gliding over her small body, unable to call to mind why he shouldn't be doing this.

I shouldn't be doing this! Alanna yelled at herself, but her loneliness destroyed her guilt. She imagined that this was George whom she was succumbing to.

"I love you," Numair whispered over and over as he let his hands wander inside of her shirt and she unbuckled his belt. "I love you."

Numair lay under the covers, his eyes stinging and a hard lump in his throat. What had he done? He'd made Alanna cheat on George, that's what. And he was a fool if he thought she loved him as well. This was all folly! She was lonely, and he'd taken advantage of that.

How could he live with himself after this? More importantly, what would Alanna do? She'd been unfaithful to George, and Numair knew that George would get a confession out of her if she didn't just tell him as soon as she got back. Their marriage would be ruined, the conservatives would find out, and Alanna, and the legacy she stood for, would be destroyed. What had he done?

He felt Alanna's warm body beside him, breathing softly, deeply… Was there anything he could do for her—was there any magic he could perform to fix this? There had to be a way. He was the greatest mage in Tortall, after all!

He could make her forget. It was a magic that was strictly forbidden, and it was morally questionable, but there was nothing else he could do. But if he did this, who was to say that he wouldn't do it again? There was no magic he could do to make himself forget, but there was just no way he could live on if Alanna was forever scarred because of his folly.

He reached deep inside himself, searching for that pool of darkness that was his power. And then he did it—he made her forget his terrible mistake. So she still had someone to return to.

A/N: Wow… that was pretty depressing! At first, I wanted to end it where they started kissin' and whatnot, but I decided that it was better to fix it somehow. I mean, Numair's a good guy, and I just couldn't bear it if Alanna/George had to end. Let's just hope that Numair doesn't do this again! We need Daine, and we need her now! ;) Hope you liked it!