A/N: Every now and then, I like to return to my fanfiction-writing roots. Here's a random Daine/Numair fluff drabble thingy.

Words: 845
Characters: Daine, Numair
Time: Probably post-Wolfspeaker
Genre: Friendship

Disclaimer: Everything you recognize belongs to Tamora Pierce, not me.

There was something, Daine decided, that was immensely satisfying about falling. Zooming through the air in human form, feeling the wind lick your face in soft whips, hair streaming out behind, tangled and free… Daine had a penchant for finding the perfect time and place for such thrills. She'd climb a tree, a small building, or a big boulder, and then she'd jump, using arm-wings only at the very last second of her descent. She'd practiced the timing to perfection on smaller jumps or cliff-dives over deep water. Now she was ready for the most perfect jump of all.

So it was that Daine snuck out of the palace one morning after breakfast, right under Numair's nose, and made her way to the edge of the forest. Walking along the edge, Daine picked the tree she'd had her eye on for ages – the tallest pine – and began to climb. With ease and grace, she practically danced to the top boughs, swaying in the breeze. Only then, by peeking though the needles down to the grass far below, did she notice she had an audience of sorts.

"Daine? What in the Black God's name are you doing up there? Mothering a few orphan squirrels?"

He asked it in all seriousness, for that would be something Daine was wont to do.

"Not today," she shouted back. "Just trust me, Numair. I know what I'm doing."

"I know you do, but I can't deny that the sight of my student many tens of feet above the ground – wingless, no less – is more than a little bit unsettling."

Daine grinned even though she knew he couldn't see it from so far away. She couldn't see him either, but she could imagine exactly what his face would look like anyway – dark eyes wide with concern, the corners of his lip twitching between a frown and a smile, eyebrows dipping a bit in the middle.

"Ready?" she called down to him.

"For what?"

"Watch me!"

"I always watch – Daine?"

For she had just leapt from her perch, pushing off the springy branch and propelling herself far into the air, just beyond the reach of the longest limbs. Her launch was flawless; she was just far enough away from the trunk to avoid any whipping needles; instead, cool air awakened her skin, fresh and sharp. She spread her arms wide as if a bird in flight, yet the thrill came from falling without those wings, in only her own skin –

Numair and the ground were shooting toward her – she knew it would be time soon to partially shift –

"Daine, Daine!"

Daine could only laugh with delight. Just in time, broad feathers and hard hawk muscle took the place of her arms; a few beats of her unique wings and she was slowed enough to be safe. In fact, she was even early; there were quite a few feet to the ground yet.

Her arms returned. Right beneath her, Numair – who had relaxed for a second upon seeing her wings – bore a panicked expression and spread his arms wide.

"Catch me!" she screamed with glee.

She thought he might have opened his mouth to respond – but there was no time. Headfirst, she careened directly into his chest, knocking him sprawling into the ground with a grunt of surprise. They even rolled over in the dirt because of Daine's momentum. Dust in her hair, laughing fit to burst, Daine rested across his chest as they finally came to a halt. Numair was breathing heavily, eyes wide with shock.

"Daine – what – why - ?" he spluttered.

"Because it's fun!"

"Oh, of course. Scaring me witless and breaking my back, I forgot, that is exactly how one might define 'fun.'"

Since she was so close, Daine kissed him on the cheek. "Don't be silly. And thanks for catching me!"

"You are calling me silly? The arrogance of youth… and you're welcome, I suppose."

With great effort, he sat up and pushed her off so that they were both sitting cross-legged on the ground. He began to brush some of the dirt out of her hair, and as he was covered in it too, Daine did the same. They eventually stopped, their hands lingering on each other's faces.

Daine smiled. So did Numair. And then they both laughed, unable to stop, clinging to each other for support. Their shoulders shook, and Daine leaned into him and felt his chest rumble. He held her tight until they could both breathe again.

"I just can't believe you sometimes, magelet. You force me to be young again while at the same time giving me more grey hairs than I can count."

"Do you know what would be even better?"


"Come with me next time!"

"Mithros, Mynoss, and Shakith, Daine… I won't survive for very much longer if I continue keeping your company, will I?"