Continuing Tales


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 28 of 69

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By the time they climbed the stairs and the door clicked shut an odd shyness had crept over both of them. It was as if they were both seeing each other for the first time. The heat that had roared between them beside the fire had dimmed enough to let them catch their breath, and Daine found that she was too nervous even to reach up and kiss the man she adored.

She laughed softly and caught his hand, recognising his own shyness in his rueful answering smile.

“I don’t know where to start,” she whispered, and blushed. He squeezed her hand and gently led her to sit beside him on the bed.

“We don’t have to do anything,” he replied, stroking her palm. “If it makes you remember… if…” he looked away for a moment and then took a deep breath and met her eyes. “Daine, I saw what Orsille did to you. I know about the others and I… I would rather we never made love at all than have you remember being hurt.”

She inhaled sharply, stunned by what he was saying. It explained his own hesitation, and his caring reason made her feel very odd.

“That… that isn’t why I…” she started, and then gulped and shook her head. Tucking her arm through his, she nestled her head against his shoulder and tried to think of a way to explain the way he made her feel.

“I know you love me,” she managed finally, saying the easiest thing first, “So I… I don’t think it would hurt with you.”

“No,” he smiled slowly and his fingers crept from her palm slowly up her arm, tracing the veins from her wrist to her elbow with such maddening delicacy that Daine felt goosebumps tingle on her skin. “No, sweetheart. It won’t hurt. It’s not supposed to hurt. Quite the opposite, really…” he bent and kissed the inside of her elbow, pushing back the thick cotton of her winter shirt to trace a trail of freckles with his lips. Daine shivered and he stopped, looking up at her mischievously. “Am I being convincing? Because you do have a whole other arm…”

She giggled and kissed his forehead, raising him up to meet her eyes properly. Her next reason for stopping him was harder to say so the words came out in a toneless rush. “I have a lot of scars, Numair. They’ll make you angry and I don’t want you to feel like that. Not tonight.”

He paused. “Are you scared I’ll get angry enough to turn into the hawk?” He asked bluntly.

She gasped and shook her head, so honestly appalled that it was obvious that the thought had never even occurred to her. The man kissed away the line that appeared on her forehead and cupped her face between his hands, looking almost wondering.

“No, you’re really not afraid of me, are you?”

Daine shook her head even more emphatically. “Never.”

“So you just don’t want me to see these scars?”

“They’re ugly, and the reason they happened is horrible. They make me ugly. You’ll hate seeing them.” She muttered. She flushed when he shook his head.

“I told you, I’ll never think of you as spoiled by what they did to you.” Daine shut her eyes at his words, and Numair gently kissed each eyelid. “How can I make you believe that, little one?”

She didn’t answer, and after a moment the man smiled and lay back on the bed, linking his hands under his head casually. “Well, I know better than to argue with Daine when she has her mind set on something. She’s so good at the silent treatment I’ll never hear the start of it, never mind the end!”

The girl smothered a giggle in her hand and lay down beside him, feeling far more at ease with this familiar teasing than she had before. She felt instinctively that Numair did, too, because the hesitant note fell away from his voice and it relaxed into the easy lilt that she knew so well.

“Once upon a time…” he started, and this time Daine did laugh out loud.

“Are you telling me bedtime stories now?” She raised an eyebrow at him when he tried to look affronted at being interrupted. “I might fall asleep. Then what would you do?”

“I’d have a very adorable - if frustratingly insecure - pillow.” He winked at her and then looked back at the ceiling, sighing for effect. “Once upon atime, Miss Veralidaine Sarrasri… there was a man.”

“There always is.” She muttered, and was rewarded with a pained expression.

“Not like this man, I assure you. Our hero was tall, and handsome, and devastatingly clever, now I think of it… oh, and he could turn into a bird but he wasn’t very good at turning back. Mainly because he didn’t actually know he was a bird until after he changed back, so it stands to reason that when he was a bird, he didn’t know he could be human.”

“I think I know some of this story,” Daine said, but she curled a little closer to Numair and squeezed his hand sympathetically. “But I didn’t know that you… he… completely forgot. I thought there must be something that crossed over.”

“Mm.” He said, and then looked at her more seriously. “There wasn’t. Not a single thing, for years and years. And then...”

He pushed his sleeve up to the shoulder and raised his arm so she could see it, revealing a large knotted scar on the inside of his upper arm that she’d never noticed before.

“You know our hero’s other scars, little healer,” He said in his storytelling voice, “But this… this scar belongs to the Hawk.”

“Belonged.” She corrected, and he sighed and shook his head.

“No, sweetling, this is the one that I’m happy to let the Hawk keep forever.

It rampaged through a farming town. The farmers chased it out with torches and pitchforks. The torches were witched with magefire- that’s… have you never heard of it, Daine? It’s illegal but it gets used rather a lot anyway. It’s a kind of sticky fire that keeps burning until another mage puts it out. The Hawk got caught by some of it. It let it burn for nearly an hour before it realised that I would know how to stop it.

It’s the only time the Hawk has ever treated me as anything other than a… a shell. It was also the first time I actually knew what the Hawk had done. It gave me its memories, you see, so I would know what kind of magefire it was. That was the last raid the Hawk made. After that I decided to end it. To take your words for It, dearest: this is an ugly scar.”

He watched the subtle changes in her expression as she traced the shape of it with curious fingertips, and when she looked at him with wide, sympathetic eyes he carried on.

“I used to hate it. But now I look at it and I think: this is the scar that made me fight the hawk, so this is the scar that brought me to you. It has a better meaning. Just like how the scar on my stomach is where I tried to kill myself, but it’s also how we became friends. I don’t need to remember the ugly meanings every time I get undressed. The nicer memories are worth so much more. It doesn’t make the scars any less visible or make them ache less on cold mornings, but it does mean that I’m not letting them dictate how I see myself underneath them all.”

Daine blinked at him, and then she lowered her head and kissed the scar on his arm. He shivered and she smiled against his skin, drawing the cotton shirt down and then off his arm so she could nuzzle against the bare skin of his shoulder. He cleared his throat and his words were a little hoarse.

“Don’t expect me to hate anything about you, little one, even scars. It’s not going to happen. I simply don’t have it in me to love you any less than completely, utterly and absolutely.”

“You’re quite sentimental really, aren’t you?” Daine whispered. She looked up and her mouth curved upwards in a teasing smile. He laughed and tweaked her nose.

“Honestly, you have no idea. Expect poetry and flowers, magelet.”

“But I don’t want flowers…” she said. Coming to a sudden decision she leaned over to kiss him. His hand crept up to the nape of her neck, and she felt her skin tingle deliciously wherever he was touching it. It was hard even to drag herself away for long enough to finish her sentence but she knew she had to. He wouldn’t do anything without her consent, and she adored him for it.

She drew back a little, feeling his heart racing under her searching fingertips and her own blood humming in her veins as he sat up with her.

“I don’t want flowers,” she said breathlessly, and wrapped one arm around his shoulders to draw him closer. The way the firelight lit his face made his eyes look so dark she thought she might drown in them, and it was hard to stop her own heart from pounding. “I only ever wanted you.”

“I’m glad. I don’t know where I’d actually find flowers in the middle of winter.”

Daine silenced Numair’s oddly nervous joke by kissing his throat, hearing him catch his breath in surprise.

“Ssh.” She murmured, feeling an odd headiness at being in control. “It’s alright. Stop thinking so much.”

“If you insist,” he whispered with a definite undercurrent of heat in his laughing voice.

Numair raised her chin and ran his thumb gently from her ear down her neck, smiling oddly when a deep flush spread over the girl’s skin and she shivered. “Now, Daine, where were we? Ah yes…” he kissed her chin, brushing his lips teasingly up over her own until she sighed. “… I was beingconvincing.”

“Very,,,” she trailed off, unable to find any more words. They weren’t needed.

For a long time afterwards they said nothing at all.

Daine felt the gentle caress of Numair’s fingers and the warmth of his lips with a wondering fascination. She had never really believed that the kinds of feelings the maids in the prison had gossiped about were actually possible. At least, she’d figured that even if they did exist, they weren’t possible for herself. They were like butterflies in winter, a strange delicate dream that died too quickly in the frozen wastes of her life.

But now… she felt her eyes sliding shut in shivers of pleasure, but even in the darkness the world was still full of colours. It was full of the rich heady hues of desire, full of a stirring darkness that burned wherever he kissed her and made her gasp for air like she was drowning. She reached out and crushed her lips to her lovers’. Her arms wrapped around him so tightly that she could feel his chest moving with every ragged breath he took, and when she leaned back he made an odd sound and lifted her slightly, laying her down on the bed and pressing closer.

Daine’s eyelashes fluttered and then her eyes flew open as Numair unlaced her shirt. Despite herself she instinctively caught at his hands and then clutched at the fabric, a surge of panic eclipsing the wanton need that thundered in her blood. He immediately stopped. His breathing was ragged but he held himself still, looking down patiently for her to make the next move.

“I… I’m sorry,” she gasped, humiliated, and lowered her eyes. She tried to shove away the fear she had felt but the cold shock of it made her shudder. “I… it’s not you, it…”

“It’s alright, sweetheart. I understand.” Numair caught his breath and ran loving fingers along her cheek. She shook her head irritably, her already tangled curls catching on the sheet.

“It’s not alright! I shouldn’t feel like this, not with you! It’s just plain… plain stupid. You’re nothing like them! I trust you, so why am I still afraid? I want this more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life but if that door was open I half think I’d be running for the hills.”

He chuckled, which surprised her out of her irritation, and when she looked up he kissed the end of her nose. “Please don’t do that, magelet. I’d follow you, you know that, so it wouldn’t work. And it’s snowing, for another thing. Not to mention all the soldiers still looking for us. We’d end up back under that old fur hiding from patrols in the freezing cold.”

“That might be better! I wasn’t scared on the mountain.” She persisted with an odd flicker of perverse mischievousness. She thought about that for a moment and then said, more seriously, “I think perhaps… I… I knew I could stop any time I wanted so it didn’t feel like… like being with the officials.”

“You said you trusted me.” Numair murmured, still stroking her hair. “If you want to stop now then we will. Is that what you want, little one?”

“I don’t want to stop.” Her reply was stubborn but her hands shook when she touched his cheek, “And I do trust you. I love you. I’m just afraid.”

“It’s alright to be afraid.” He traced the line of her hair down across her shoulder blade and then to the sheet she lay on. When she didn’t answer but looked away again he bit his lip. Against her honest, almost heartbreakingly innocent confession he felt almost as shy and clueless as a green youth. He hesitated, and then pressed his long fingers to one of her temples.

“Look at me, love,” the words were soft but compelling, and despite her own inner turmoil the girl’s grey eyes fixed on his. She parted her lips to ask something and he shook his head, stopping her words with a light kiss.

Open your mind to me. He said through their magic, and her eyes widened.

Are you sure? Last time I did that Alanna said…

I’m sure. He smiled reassuringly. Trust me.

She bit her lip and he had to resist the sudden desire to kiss the worried line away from between her eyes. When she nodded he pressed his forehead against her own, sharing the mingled fear and desire that writhed in her mind for a moment until he caught the translucent smoke of her shade. He drew it back into his own centre and let her see his own mind.

Numair let her see everything without any shame, not wanting to hide a single thing from her. Daine’s consciousness was a bright jewel glittering among the darker channels of his thoughts, and in his mortal arms the woman he held drew a deep breath at what she saw. This wasn’t like the wild flood of memories Daine had unconsciously poured into his mind the night before. The man’s more practiced hands held her shade safely and shaped the world around her into a calm ocean of glittering thoughts.

He let thoughts drift to the surface so she could see them more clearly – not just his love for her, or his desire to make her happy, but his own nervousness and insecurities. He found nightmares and things he desperately wanted to stay pure and vibrant in their lives. He shared the memories that he cherished of their time together and his hopes for the future. He summoned emotions and dreams which went so far beyond words that he didn’t even know how to name them, and let her see all of them without a shred of secrecy.

It was an act of absolute trust. He had made himself so vulnerable that his mind felt raw, and he let her feel that vulnerability, too. She caught his real hand and tightened her fingers around his.

Don’t… she pleaded, and Numair felt love and concern surge forward in her mind as she tried to protect him from his own choice. He shook his head and smiled, cupping the side of her face.

I want to, love.

Then he leaned forward and kissed her slightly parted lips, and when dark, wanton desire writhed in his mind at her whimpered response he pushed it forward so that she could share this emotion too. She shivered under him, but when he went to draw away she shook her head and pulled him back. Wrapping her arms tightly around his shoulders, she arched up under him and crushed her body to his. It sparked a blistering flare of shared passion that burned between their minds as well as their bodies. 
Numair had to stop her, had to be absolutely sure of her before what she was doing made him lose control entirely. He took hold of both her hands with one of his and held her still, his chest heaving as he struggled to breathe evenly. He didn’t even trust himself to form words any more, but when he met her darkened gaze he knew he had to ask the question. He cupped her cheek and looked straight into her eyes.

I showed you me. Everything about me… and everything you mean to me. Are you still afraid?

No. Never.

Daine caught her breath at the surge of feeling her answer raised in his mind. It washed over both of them like languid heat, and she writhed against him in catlike pleasure. Rather than sating the fire between them her action intensified it, making both of them clutch at each other as heat grew between them. Dragging her hands free from his, Daine ran them under his shirt and pushed the fabric up, feeling him pull her own tunic off without feeling a hint of the fear that had stopped her before.

What Daine had always experienced as pain and humiliation was an act of such loving openness with Numair that she couldn’t bear to let him draw away afterwards. Their gentle movements had grown more urgent and they had to ward the room against the husky cries which they both tried to smother in each others’ kisses. Even after she stiffened and arched in the man’s embrace as a wave of crashing heat made her pulse rush in her ears she still clung to him. When his cries of pleasure followed hers she pressed her lips fiercely to the heartbeat that raced in his throat and held him close.

“Daine…” he gasped, and kissed her deeply, “Oh, sweetheart…”

“Li.. listen...” She pressed her ear to his chest and her voice took on a strange note. “We have the same heartbeat. The same gift, the same thoughts and now the… the same heartbeat.”

“Of course,” the man’s voice was soft, vulnerable in its naked emotion. “We belong to each other.”

“I like this kind of belonging,” She kissed his shoulder tenderly, loving the musky warm scent of his skin and the way even her slightest touch made his heart race. She grinned a little mischievously and nuzzled against the wiry hair on his chest, then caught her breath in a half-laugh when he inhaled sharply and stirred within her. “Does that mean you do, too, my love?”

He pulled her towards him, kissing her so fiercely she could barely breathe. “Don’t tease me for wanting you,” he whispered. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“I didn’t happen. I almost think I was waiting for you.” She ran her hands down his back, tracing the line of his spine with whispering fingertips until he shivered and muffled a groan against her shoulder. Kissing his temple with slow tenderness, her voice took on a wondering sincerity. “You belong to me, and I belong to you, and gladly. I promise that, for as long as I live. I don’t need a chain around my wrist to make me keep my word.”

“How about a ring?” He breathed it into her ear, catching the lobe gently between his teeth. She giggled in half-shock and shoved at him.

“Unless you want to marry your cousin, Leto, you might want to wait before saying daft things like that.”

“That wasn’t a ‘no’…” He caught her lips and lingered there, teasing her for long, delicious minutes. Then he drew away, looking a little rueful as he sat up and pushed his tangled hair back out of his eyes. “You are right though – as much as I hate to admit it. As long as everyone’s playing this stupid game we’ll have to keep pretending.”

“Only during the day.” She reminded him, and caught his hand to pull him back into her arms. He laughed and caught her up around the waist, lifting her easily.

“And only then when people are watching.” He added, setting her down in his lap and rubbing his nose against hers playfully. "When you’re all dressed up in one of Hazelle’s beautiful gowns, flirting with all those rich noble idiots and looking like a princess I won’t even let myself stare at you.”

“And afterwards?” She kissed the end of his nose in reply. He didn’t answer, but ran his hand down her body, following the path of his fingertips with his eyes. She squeaked and clung to him, and he laughed.

“Afterwards?” He echoed her word mockingly and moved his hand even lower. When she cried out and arched against him he wrapped his free arm around her waist and kissed the side of her neck. His voice grew full of heated promise. “Ah no my magelet, that would be telling.”


A Tamora Pierce Story
by Sivvus

Part 28 of 69

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