Daine found Numair on the deck, draped in a large wool blanket and reading scrolls by lamplight.
It had been dark for enough hours that he'd thought everyone but the lookout had gone to bed—and indeed, it looked like Daine had gone to bed, dressed in naught but a robe and a shift with Zek on her shoulder and her toes bare on the worn wood of the deck. Her mass of curls was mussed and wild from sleep.
"Good evening, magelet," he greeted her, surprised.
She didn't reply but to blink and yawn, then glance at the marmoset, who chittered something to her and then leaped from her shoulder and trotted back the way the two had come. She herself wandered closer, claiming the coils of rope by his side for her seat and tipping her chin to look at the stars.
I know I don’t hold a candle to Alanna, or the queen, she'd said in dismissal of her looks, but that was a disservice to the way she wore moonlight and lamplight. She always looked a little otherworldly like this, delicate and sublime, and it always left him with the urge to tug a curl or tweak her nose—to call her back to him and make her real again.
It was an urge he ignored this time, leaving her to her repose as he turned back to his scrolls and searched for his place. The new emperor had graciously allowed him to borrow some of the less practical magical research; Carthak needed all the help it could get, but for some reason, only Numair had use for knowing about the exact workings behind the laws that governed the movement of the heavens.
He'd only just found where he'd left off and read the next few lines when he registered her shivering.
It was a cold night. He wondered why she'd come out here in the first place. It wasn't unusual for her to seek him out simply sit near him, but those times were rarely after bedtime.
"Is everything alright?"
"Mmh," said Daine, a little noise barely audible over the waves, despite her proximity, then gazed out to the inky horizon, scrubbing her arms.
He turned his head to look at her fully then, and, after a long moment, she looked back, oddly vulnerable.
Smiling wryly, he offered her half the blanket.
She scooted over the two feet that separated them, but instead of settling beside him like he intended her to, she pressed her back against his side and slotted her shoulder under his arm, sleep-warm and night-cold, then pulled the blanket from his hand so she could fully swathe herself (and, by extension, his left half) into a cocoon.
"Magelet?" She smelled pleasantly of sleep; the glow of her copper fire palpable against his magic sense; her form slight and soft and small in spite of all her wiry muscle. He could feel her shivering, or maybe trembling. He rested his hand on her waist—with his arm draped down her front entirely, that was the most appropriate place he could leave it without dislodging her.
She hesitated for a long moment, then turned her face into his arm and whispered, "I dreamt... I dreamt you didn't come back. The cats told me you were here, so... here I am too, I s'pose."
His heart twisted hard. It wasn't like her to admit to her fears, but he thought about how she'd clung to him, sobbing in relief, once she learned that his 'death' was a ruse...
He pulled her closer and squeezed her to his side, kissing the top of her head. "Here we are," he murmured into her hair.
A shudder wracked her frame from the cold that seeped through the blanket, then she curled a little tighter and rested her weight more fully against him, some of the tension releasing from her body.
Numair regarded the blanket. It had been working well enough for him, dressed as he was in tunic and breeches, but maybe...
He reached into it with his magic, and found the remains of a warming spell already woven throughout—Alanna's work, he noted with amusement. He refreshed the pathways she'd left and fortified the bits of the spell that had degraded, then threaded power into the array. The blanket let off a soothing heat, only a few degrees gentler than a hearthfire.
Daine melted like butter.
He regarded his armful of now-limp student with fond bemusement. Her breathing was already starting to even out.
He should probably send her back to her bunk, lest anyone was left with the wrong impression (...yet again) (must you share a bed with her animals as well as—), but it seemed cruel to wake her and the heat of the blanket was really quite nice, so he resolved to do that as soon as he was done with this particular scroll.
He'd thoroughly underestimated the lulling properties of being this warm and truly comfortable. He made progress on the scroll still, but he was halfway to dozing himself when Kitten came to investigate. She claimed his lap for her bed, obligingly spreading her tiny wings for him to balance the scroll on top of while she slept.
Zek came next, curling up on the shoulder Daine was using as a pillow, followed by a couple of the ship's cats slipped into the tent of warmth that resided between him and Daine, tucking themselves into the nooks and crannies and purring in satisfaction.
He felt the scroll slipping from his fingers as sleep claimed him, and let it go to the shift of Daine's quiet breathing and the ambient energy of creatures at rest.
"Numair. Daaaaine... Hey! Up and at 'em, you two."
The voice, a practiced low contralto, was accompanied by several sharp snaps of violet magic, and that was what brought Numair into the waking world.
He blinked rapidly, and the grey of grey and brown swam slowly into focus—grey being the expanse of overcast sky above him, and brown being the deck and the small crowd of amused onlookers in front of him.
Familiar with falling asleep in study chairs though he was, the stiffness of his body surprised even him. It was painful to straighten, yawning, but he did—and then he found himself blowing a lock of hair out of his mouth, the weight of another person tucked into his side.
Seeing the faces of those surrounding them, he felt himself blush.
Gary fixed them both with a droll (almost-but-not-fully suspicious) gaze, then bent down and yanked the blanket away.
Kitten, woken abruptly, grumbled in disgust. The collection of cats—there were now several, by the feel of it—also awoke, uttering their morning grievances and questions as they collected themselves and slunk off. Zek also voiced a complaint at the disruption, then nested a bit further into Daine's hair and relaxed again.
Daine herself let out a heartfelt whine, wrapping both arms around his half-numb bicep and turning into it as her last source of warmth.
The expressions on the faces in the crowd made Numair feel rather better about the whole thing. Whatever they'd heard about Daine sleeping in the company of the local critters, they hadn't quite expected the reality of it.
"Unfortunately, magelet, it seems the world has need of us," he croaked, then started attempting to extract his arm. Daine only tightened her grip.
"Not of you—you two are free to go back to your beds—but the crew needs the rigging."
Daine jumped at the sound of Gary's voice like she hadn't at Numair's or Alanna's, scrambling upright with a squeak.
Numair caught Zek, who had lost his grip, in both hands, and then caught Daine, whose leg seemed to be out of commission, by a fistful of her robe and shift at the small of her back. Kitten whistled a sleepy inquiry, and then tottered out of his lap to check on Daine.
He let go of her once he was sure she was steady, then sent the blanket over to wrap around her thin shoulders while he got to his feet himself. Together, they moved away from the supplies, and, seeing that the show was over, the crowd dispersed back to their jobs.
He squeezed her shoulder once they were more or less out of sight. "If ever you need me, whatever the reason, my door is open." She knew it already, but maybe in times like these, it bore repeating.
She yawned, still faintly pink from embarrassment, and nodded, then spun around and gave him a hug before heading towards the women's cabins.
On his own, Numair soon found himself in front of his own bed—which he'd been avoiding as thoroughly as he could for the past week and a half. Ever since the news that he and Daine would have to sail to Carthak, his dreams had been deeply unpleasant, but Daine's kidnapping by Ozorne had lent them a new shade of horror that he had no desire to indulge.
Now, tired and stiff and aching, yet full-up and soothed in some indefinable way, he fell into it gratefully.
For the first time in many weeks, his rest was entirely peaceful, holding nothing but the memory of purring cats and a slight, warm figure tucked into his side.