A/N: Daine has a nightmare. Numair comforts her and wonders why anyone would ever dare to hurt her. Set somewhere after Emperor Mage, but a good deal before The Realms of the Gods. This story is a part of the Song Collection, and was based on/inspired by the song Daughters by John Mayer. Please read, listen, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: Tamora Pierce owns everything, I own nothing, and I am making no money off of this story.
At around three in the morning, Numair gave up on sleep all together, sat up, and stared into the fire. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw images of the burning village and laughing Stormwings, which didn't exactly make for sweet dreams. He shook his head, trying to clear it, and glanced at Daine. Numair suspected that the only reason she was asleep was because of the large amount of magic she had used trying to get all the animals to safety. For most of the situation, Numair had been largely helpless – he was good at starting fires, not putting them out.
Thinking back over their day made Numair frown. Daine had seemed upset even after they had saved as many living beings, people and animals alike, as they could. Only about half of the village had burned, and those with still-standing houses had been very willing to take in those who were now without homes. They had seen destruction before, and both had been shaken by it, but Daine was more upset today than she had been before. He suspected that she was still in shock over finding out the identity of her father a week earlier. Of all the people her father could have been, he was pretty sure that she'd never expected him to be a minor god. Neither had he, for that matter.
A noise from across the fire made him startled him out of his thoughts. Daine rolled over on the hard ground, muttering unintelligibly. Numair's frown intensified. She didn't usually talk in her sleep like this. He eased himself out of his bedroll and was staring to move towards her when she suddenly spoke.
"No," she said. "No!" She thrashed in her bedroll. Numair raced around the fire and dropped to his knees beside her, desperate to help her but unsure of how. He could feel Cloud right behind him, and for once he was glad of the pony's close proximity. "Please!" Daine cried. "Help her! Ma, no!"
Numair felt like ice had been dropped into his stomach. He was so stupid. Of course Daine would be upset by watching a village burn – her own mother had died when bandits burned their house. Not to mention her grandfather, and all of her beloved animals… Numair felt sick. What had he been thinking, allowing her to witness another burning?
He reached out and shook her shoulder. "Magelet, wake up," he whispered. "It's not real, it's just a dream, wake up!"
"Ma!" Daine's eyes flew open. She was breathing heavily and looked confused and disoriented. "What – what's happening?" she asked hoarsely. "Nu- Numair?"
"You had a nightmare, Daine," Numair said carefully, knowing how much she would hate this. "You were crying out for your mother, and I had to wake you up." Something warm bumped into his shoulder, and he corrected himself. "Cloud and I had to wake you up."
Daine looked down at her lap. Squinting in the firelight, he could see the shiny trail of tears that trailed down her cheeks.
Numair didn't stop to think. He wrapped his arms tightly around her shoulders and pulled her head to his chest. Daine resisted at first, but a combination of fear and tiredness forced her to give in. She made no sound, but her shoulders shook and the front of Numair's shirt was soaked in no time.
While holding her and rubbing her back, Numair attempted to control his temper, which was increasing by the minute. If it wouldn't have hurt her more, he already would have tracked the idiots who killed her mother down and made them wish they had never been born. And then he most likely would have taken on her entire village. No one had the right to make Daine feel this way. She didn't deserve any of the pain or heartbreak she had been dealt in her life. However, despite everything she had known, Daine was one of the strongest people he knew. Perhaps the very strongest. Numair thought that one of the many reasons he had fallen in love with her was because of that. He wished he could have been as strong as she was. He didn't deserve someone like her.
At some point during Daine's crying, Numair thought of her parents, which made him even angrier. If Weiryn had loved Daine and Sarra, why had he allowed such a horrible tragedy to befall their lives? Even though it wasn't rational, Numair thought angrily, the god could have at least done something to stop Sara from being killed! But even if he couldn't have interfered, the god could have at least sent his only child some sort of sign, to tell her who she was and that she wasn't alone. Numair couldn't understand why anyone would leave their beautiful daughter to suffer like this, no matter what the circumstances. And even while alive, Daine's mother hadn't been much help – the woman at least could have given Daine some reassurance that she was a good person, at least could have given her some confidence in herself. It shouldn't have mattered to Sara that her daughter didn't have the gift; the wild magic Daine possessed was powerful, unique, and beautiful, just like the girl – no, Numair corrected himself, the woman – who bore it.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Numair knew that he shouldn't be this judgmental. He was tired and not thinking straight – not that he could ever think straight when Daine's well-being was involved. But he hated the fact that a person like Daine had had to undergo so much hardship. And if he ever met her parents, or even any of the people from her village, Numair wasn't sure he would be able to hold his tongue – or his temper.
In the time he'd spent thinking, Daine had quieted and her breathing had eased. Numair didn't dare move, in case she woke up again. He concentrated on breathing in and out, unconsciously matching his breathing to hers as he slowly relaxed. Finally, somewhere between guiltily enjoying the feeling of her in his arms and trying to stop wishing that he could lie like this with her every night for the rest of their lives, he drifted off into a deep sleep.
The next morning when Numair woke, the sun was already high in the sky. He couldn't remember the last time he'd slept in this late. Daine was sitting on the other side of the embers, across from him, fiddling with the cord around her neck and staring at her lap. Numair sat up, blinking, and she raised her head.
"Good, you're awake," Daine said briskly, and handed him a bowl as he came around the fire to sit beside her. Her face was pale, eyes still a bit red. From the cautious way she was acting, she obviously remembered last night.
Numair accepted the bowl and ate in silence for a few minutes, but when it became clear that Daine wasn't going to say anything, he knew he had to at least acknowledge the previous night. Like last night, however, he had no idea how to start. "Daine…"
"I'm sorry, Numair," she said, cutting him off. "I don't know why I was so upset yesterday."
His heart went out to her for trying, but he knew her well enough to hear the pain in her voice. Numair knew she was expecting to be scolded, and he was determined to prove her wrong. "Daine, listen to me. I won't ever speak of last night again if you don't want me to, but hear this first: It's ok to cry sometimes. It's not a bad thing and it's not a sign of weakness. Remember how upset I was about going back to Carthak?" A little quirk of her lips showed that yes, indeed, how could she ever forget? "Last night was nothing compared to that. And you know I'll always be here for you, no matter what."
Daine nodded, blinking, then stood up abruptly. "Thanks, Numair," she said, very quietly, and then pain slipped across her face. "It's just not fair," she said, her voice low and fierce.
"I know," Numair said hopelessly, and tried to reach out to her. "Magelet-"
Daine backed away, swiping furiously at her eyes. "Why didn't they-" her voice cracked and she swallowed. "I'm sorry, Numair," she whispered, and buried her face in patient Cloud's neck.
Even though he tried not to be, Numair felt a little hurt. He understood that she didn't want to feel this way, but he knew better than almost anyone how overwhelming emotions could be. He wanted to comfort her, wanted to hold her as tightly as he could, just like last night. But Numair would never force her to do anything against her will, even if that would eventually mean that he could never be anything other than her friend. All Numair could do was swear that unlike so many others in her life, he would always be there for her, and he knew that that was what mattered in the end.
A/N: Reviews are greatly loved. Thanks!