Warning: Sexual situations, NSFW
I was itchy and irritated as we tried to lay as much distance as possible between us and Northwatch Keep, angry at the Thalmor for being such sick bastards and Thorald for getting himself caught, at Kharjo because the Khajiit girl had died under his watch and at the Companions because they were so bloody far away, at Farkas for occupying my thoughts and myself because I let him. And when after only a few miles he became nervous and tense as well, looking over his shoulder and sniffing the air with flaring nostrils, his behaviour only set my nerves even more on edge.
He gave me a dark look. “I don’t know. Bad feeling. Something’s off.”
I scowled at him. I didn’t believe that the Thalmor were already following us, and nothing was able to hide from the senses of a werewolf. He wouldn’t become paranoid now, would he?
The dragon that came swooping down on us just when we were about to make camp at a lively little creek did nothing to lighten my foul mood. He came out of nothing from behind the peak we had gone around nearly all day, a distance he conquered with only a few flaps of his wings. The fight was messy and chaotic, unprepared as we were, and when I got caught in a blast of ice, I screamed in anger. “Bloody lizard, why does everybody think he has to deep-freeze me nowadays?”
At first I didn’t notice that the volley of arrows from Farkas had ceased, but his pained scream made me spin around. He ripped something out of his neck and fell to his knees, and I noticed a blurred motion in the corner of my eyes, between the trees at the other side of the creek.
I ran over to Farkas who held his bleeding neck and fought for breath, kneeling far too exposed to whatever had attacked him. The dragon circled above us for the moment, but he would be back every second.
“What’s the matter?”
“Poison,” he slurred, “find some cover. Fast!”
I grabbed his shoulder. “You too.”
He pressed his arms to his stomach. “No. Move!”
“Not without you!” I tried to yank him up, and it was only this motion that caused the arrow to miss my heart. It hit a boulder instead, bouncing off with an audible clang. “Farkas!”
“No!” The wail became a roar, and I recognised it, the way his face contorted, his hands grew into claws and his skin darkened. He doubled over, giving me a shove. “Go!”
I stumbled to my feet, took him in for a moment, the spasms that went through his body, the dull cracks as the buckles of his armour tore apart. But the screeching shout that echoed through the valley came from above, and I hat to turn to the most imminent danger.
The dragon had found a new prey, hovered over the small glade where whoever had attacked us was hiding. Another arrow came flying, and I couldn’t linger any longer, jumped over the creek and darted into the darkness between the trees.
In the end, it was pure luck that we both survived. That, and the fact that the mysterious assailant was a Dunmer who took the frost-attack of the dragon and the bath in the icy creek pretty badly. Only a faint noise made me spin around when the woman jumped off a tree in my back, the only reason why the dagger that slashed at me didn’t pierce through my ribs. I yanked up my shield, but she was already out of range again, reaching for a tiny dagger that stuck in a strap across her chest. My shout hurled her backwards into the water before she could throw it exactly when the dragon landed on the other side. He got off a single blast and covered her in a thin layer of ice, then he had a furious werewolf at his throat. The sight made me sigh with relief.
But the woman in strange, skin-tight, black and red armour got up quickly despite the heavy landing, but she was drenched and panting heavily. When I approached her with an arrow pointing at her chest, she crouched in the swift-flowing torrent, ready to attack, shortsword and dagger ready to strike.
“Who are you?” She had been incredibly reckless right from the beginning when she tried to use the dragon to her advantage. But now she was beaten, and she knew it. Every option to retreat was blocked either by Farkas and the dragon or by me, and every attack would end her with an arrow to her heart.
For a moment, our eyes met. It was all I could see of her face, red eyes flaring through the slit in her cowl. “See you in the void, s’wit,” she spat. And then she slumped forward, impaled herself on her own blade. I stood frozen for a moment, the adrenaline still coursing through my veins. This fight had been over too quickly, but there was still another foe, the two beasts fighting each other.
Farkas had shred one of the wings of the dragon into rags, which was good. Less good was how he attacked the creature now. At the moment, he was more beast than man, and his instincts had taken over. He fought like a wolf would fight, trusting in the strength of fangs and claws he had locked his jaws into the long neck of his foe. The dragon screeched in pain, blood dripping down the scales of his chest, but the injury wasn’t lethal. He thrashed around and yanked up his head, lifting the werewolf in the air, and although Farkas didn’t let go, the wounds he caused with slashing claws only made the dragon more furious.
The fastest way to kill a dragon was to get to his brain, and at least the wolf kept the dragon distracted. I clenched my teeth against the pain from the dagger wound in my side and started running. When I had crawled along the madly thrashing neck and pierced Dragonbane through the scales covering his skull, the dragon reared up one last time, throwing Farkas finally off. And me too. I landed on my back in the water, right beside the corpse of the woman, the impact forcing the breath from my lungs. My ribs would never recover like this.
My head became dizzy and my vision blurred like it always did as the energy of the soul gushed into my self and merged with mine. When I came back to myself, Farkas crouched beside me. I tried to prop myself on my elbows, but the slash wound in my side flared up with sudden pain, and I felt the sharp contrast of warm blood against the cold of the water I lay in.
I looked down and found out that the Dunmer’s puny little knife had cut straight through the thick, reinforced leather. “Shit,” I mumbled, rolling around and fighting myself to my knees. I was shivering violently, but the cold numbed the pain as long as I was careful of sudden movements. And it was my own fault. I should have known better than to expose myself like that to an opponent who was able to ambush a werewolf.
I turned my head when I felt strong hands on my upper arms to help me up. “You took an antidote?”
Farkas shook his head. I leant heavily against him as I stumbled out of the creek and to the place where we had dropped our packs. He let me carefully down to sit on a broken log. “The wolf can deal better with poison. He’s not immune, but… he can absorb it. Somehow.” He shrugged. Now I noticed that he shivered as well, but although only rags were left from his clothes, it was not from the cold. Heat radiated from his body, and my eyes grew wide as I started to open the buckles of my armour with stiff fingers.
“You gotta go hunting.”
“No.” He rummaged through his pack. “We need a fire and you need healing. Perhaps there are more.” His chin jerked to the corpse that still lay in the streaming water.
“There aren’t more. If there were, they’d have long since attacked,” I said wearily. His attitude grated on my nerves. I could see how on edge he was, his motions nervous and jittery, the tension in his muscles. “Just gimme a potion, I’ll deal with the rest.”
He pretended not to have heard me and started to gather a pile of dry driftwood. Fool.
“No,” he growled, “not before you’re fine.”
“Gods!” I flared up, “stop pampering me! I am fine!” My chattering teeth contradicted my declaration somehow, but the potion had done its work and I searched my pack for dry clothes, flint and tinderbox. I could do the rest of the healing when I was warm again.
“I’m not pampering you!” he roared, letting the wood drop into a messy pile. His eyes were like steel, but his hands clenched and unclenched erratically at his side, revealing how he fought for control. “You are attacked by the Dark Brotherhood and expect me to get back to business as usual?”
This revelation shut me up for a moment, but to see his lips curl into a feral, baretoothed grin made me angry.
“No,” I hissed, “this is not business as usual. But she is dead, the dragon is dead and you will get this out of your system now.”
“I’m fine!” I yelled at him. And then I took a step back and bit my lip hard, startled by myself. “Please. Just go,” I mumbled.
His stare was icy and uncomfortable, but then he grabbed a set of clothes and vanished between the trees. I let out a sigh of relief when I heard the familiar roar and not much later the terrified, suddenly breaking off screech of a boar.
When I was dry again and had the fire running, I dragged the corpse of the assassin to our camp. But she carried nothing with her but a drenched, unreadable piece of parchment, and I had a lot of time to clear my head as I tried to stitch up my armour. There had been too many incidences like this lately, when he gave me the feeling that he put my wellbeing above his own. I didn’t mind as long as it stopped at taking over the cooking for us both, but when it he started to bring himself into danger over a trifle like an involuntary bath, this went too far. We both knew best what an incomplete change could do to him.
But the worst was that I knew exactly why he acted this way. I knew him good enough to know that his feelings were deep and genuine, but he never pressed me, never made any demands. He was careful, just like I had asked him, with the result that I had no idea what to do. That I felt even more at a loss how to deal with him than at the beginning. Yelling at him was probably no solution.
He brought a shote when he came back and started wordlessly to dissect it. I was busy examining the strange leather armour the assassin had worn, but I couldn’t bear the tension between us.
“You sure that this was the Dark Brotherhood?”
He didn’t look up from his work, only gave me a fleeting sidewards glance. “Yeah,” he grunted.
He pointed at my lap. “Their armour.”
“They have distinctive armour?” How stupid was that? That the Companions declared their affiliation to the public by their appearance was understandable. But an order of assassins?
“Usually you don’t see them.”
“Well, we have seen her.”
His shoulders scrunched up. “And you killed her. Didn’t need me for that.”
I took a deep breath. Perhaps we’d come to the root of the matter now. “If she had attacked me first, I’d be probably dead. But I’m not helpless, you know?” I said tersely.
He lowered his head. “I know. You don’t need a protector.” His fingers played nervously with his bloody dagger. “I wish I knew what you need from me.”
I rolled my eyes. “If anything, I need you to stop asking what I need.”
“But… why is that wrong? Why do you push me away?”
“‘Cause you’re driving me nuts!” I flared up, tired of beating around the bush. “Stop being so bloody selfless! If you’d only once tell me what you want, but no, you always just give and never think of yourself. You make me feel that I owe you and I don’t even know what!”
“You owe me nothing! I won’t… I’m fine, Qhouri. And I won’t press you. I promised.”
“But you do, don’t you get it?” I shot up and started to pace the short distance between the tent and the fire. “You make me feel that I just take and take and never give anything back! You’re leaving me out in the rain, with all the responsibility where this will lead on me. As if you didn’t have any wishes. As if this wasn’t about us!”
His eyes grew wide. “You mean that?”
I stared at him. “What?”
“That this is about us? You’re not afraid?”
“Of course I’m not afraid! We’ve left that long behind, and that’s pretty scary, you know that?”
The tiny quirk of his lips made me realise too late what utter bullshit I was talking, and I couldn’t hold up my anger any longer. Dropping to my knees in front of him, I took his hands in mine. “I can’t be without you. You know that, you oaf. But it is scary, and I can’t do this alone. I can’t drag you along when I don’t even know where. You have to tell me where you wanna go. We said we’d work it out together, didn’t we?”
“But I don’t…” He stopped, looking at me with haunted eyes.
“Tell me, Farkas.”
“I don’t wanna make you run again.”
“Try me. Please.”
His arms wrapped around my waist as he searched my face, but he didn’t pull me closer, hesitating to speak until I tugged a strand of hair out of his face. “I want you, Qhouri. Everything.” His voice was rough, and he lowered his forehead on my shoulder to avoid my gaze. “I want us to be together. I want to be allowed to think further than tomorrow, that we share our dreams even if they can’t become real yet. And our nightmares. I want to touch you and know how you feel and smell and taste, I want to tend to your wounds and scars, fight with you and save the world with you and wake up with you every single morning for the rest of our days. I want you to be mine and that you take me back in return.”
When he lifted his head and looked into my face, his eyes were dark with distress. And when I opened my mouth, he shook his head and continued in an eerily calm tone. “And I want you to take the blood. I want to share this with you, and it would make you stronger. Safer. And… this life won’t be enough. We don’t know if Kodlak will ever find the cure. But we can die any day, Alduin is waiting for you, and perhaps we don’t have much time. If something happens… I want to know that I’ll see you again.”
I rocked back on my haunches, and he let me out of his embrace without resistance, his hands clenching in his lap. It took me a moment to process what he had said. “You really want everything,” I said finally, astonished how weak my own voice sounded.
“Yeah. Still call me selfless?” He didn’t move. “And nothing you don’t wanna give. But you have to decide how much that will be. And you can always run.”
I looked at him for a long time, the silence stretching into infinity. His openness was overwhelming, the way he made himself vulnerable, but at the same time it was neither frightening nor unexpected. I knew that everything he demanded, he was just as willing to give himself. He was so much more than just my best friend, honest and open, strong and handsome, the one I trusted most on this world. He would never hurt me, and it was time that for once, this was about him. It was time that I stopped to take and started to give something back.
“No,” I said finally. “Running is not an option any more.”
When I straddled his lap, he watched me with obvious bewilderment, opening his mouth to ask the inevitable questions. I didn’t want to answer questions now. When I claimed his lips, my hands buried in the hair in his neck, the muscles of his back became hard like steel.
I pressed myself against him, let my lips wander along his jaw. “Relax,” I whispered into his ear. “Let’s just try this out, okay?” There was salt on his skin, a trace of ash and something that was uniquely Farkas, and I breathed him in deeply, focused on the familiarity and safety of his scent. His hands were on my hip, his breath hitching when I nipped on his lower lip.
“Qhouri,” he groaned in the back of his throat, his grip tightening.
“Relax.” His skin was hot under my fingers when my hands slipped under his tunic, stroking along his spine, and finally he opened his mouth to me with a soft moan. He tasted wild and sweet, of meat and honey and home. His tongue met mine and traced the inside of my lip, and his hand started to stroke my back and pulled me closer.
When I drew back, he had his eyes closed, breathing heavily. When he opened them again, his gaze was smouldering, full of disbelief.
“I’m not sure…” he started saying, his voice hoarse, but the sentence was cut off when I drew tunic and breastband over my head, grabbed the hem of his shirt and did the same with him. He lifted his arms without resistance.
I had the heat of the fire in my back and the heat radiating from his body at my front, but the breeze was cold, and I felt strangely exposed. Standing up, I held out my hand for him. “Not here,” I said softly. “Come.” He took my hand without a word and followed me to the tent, let me pull him with me and urge him to his back when I lay down on my bedroll. Only the flickering flames outside threw a dim, orange light through the open flap. He could still see better than I, but this wasn’t about seeing anyway.
I didn’t need light to open the laces of his pants, push them down and shimmy out of mine. I didn’t need light either to send hands and lips on the journey that I knew would make him fall apart. A small sigh escaped him when I kissed Sanguine’s scar, the petals of the rose clearly distinguishable, and another when my lips closed over his nipple. His chest was only sparsely brushed with dark hair, something that had strangely surprised me when I had seen him barechested for the first time. But I liked it better than the thick pelt I had somehow expected.
He jerked under my touch as I nipped at the skin of his collarbone and let my fingers run over the contours of his muscles and the defined line of his hipbones. So familiar… in more than one regard, but I shut that thought out, concentrated on his reactions and the sounds he made. When my hand wrapped around his length and started to stroke, he bucked violently into my grip. His heart pounded hard under my ear when I laid my head on his chest, but a firm tug on my shoulders urged me to look up to him. His eyes were bright and smouldering in the dim light.
“Qhouri,” he whispered, “please…” Another tug, and when I found the pulse in the crook of his neck and sucked lightly, his arms closed around me and he rolled us around until he covered me, trapping me with his heat and his weight. “I need you,” he breathed, his fingers stroking carefully over my cheek, an adorable, nearly shy half-smile on his face.
“But you have me.” I answered his smile and pulled him down, and he plunged into me with a kiss that was hard and messy and desperate, his hands all over my body. When he broke away, gasping for breath, he searched my face. His eyes pleaded with me, hungry and tender and so incredibly wanting, needing, begging for closeness.
It happened what always happened, and suddenly it was there, the feeling I was so used to, that I was watching myself, me and Farkas acting together, observing what he did, his mouth trailing down, nipping and kissing until it closed over my breast, his hands exploring my body, caressing every curve and finally slipping between my thighs. And I observed what it did to me.
He was so vulnerable in this moment, so eager and full of need, and my heart clenched nearly painfully with the tenderness I felt for him. And I felt relief when my body reacted with the familiar tug in my lower abdomen to his careful, soft caresses.
He was skilled and tender, but I felt the tension in him that threatened to boil over, how he barely contained himself. When I tugged at his shoulders now, he came up, hovering above me, braced on his forearms. I wrapped my legs around his waist, spread wide to make it as easy for him as possible.
He stared down into my face, his chest heaving, eyes dark with lust. I bucked against him, felt his erection between my thighs and made him groan, but he didn’t move.
“Is this what you want?” he whispered roughly.
I gave him a smile, tried to pull his head down into a kiss. But he resisted, the muscles in his neck suddenly as hard as the lines of his jaw.
“Answer me, Qhouri.”
But he didn’t move, captured me in his unrelenting stare, and I tensed beneath him. I tried to relax, tried to suppress my reaction, but it was futile, and something woke in his eyes, beneath the lust and self-control that made him tremble. There was doubt… doubt and disappointment that grew gradually into sadness and anger, reaching deeper than his desire.
“Farkas?” My voice cracked.
He was off me and out of the tent in a split second, threw on pants, tunic and boots without bothering with his small clothes. No more lust, no more tenderness. Only helpless fury and disappointment. “You lie.” His receding footsteps echoed like thunder in my ears.
He left me behind, naked, shivering and shocked. Only a moment before he had been more than ready to give in to his desire, so intense that it had been overwhelming, that it had pulled me with him. He had told me what he wanted. He had shown it to me.
And I had been ready too. I had liked his touch, so familiar already, I had liked to know that he wouldn’t hurt me.
And now he had left me behind and accused me of lying. Sudden fear clenched my chest, because for the first time I didn’t understand him. I thought I knew him. I thought I knew what he wanted. I thought I could give it to him.
But obviously, I couldn’t.
I pulled my bedroll over me and curled myself into a ball, suddenly freezing again. But everything that had happened just ran in circles through my mind, leaving emptiness and incomprehension behind. I wanted him to come back, wanted his warmth and the tenderness in his eyes, wanted him to explain himself to me. He had always been honest. Honest and open, sometimes too open.
But he didn’t, and finally I got up and dressed, took my cloak and his and left to search for him, found him not far sitting behind a boulder at the edge of the small creek, an unmoving shadow, his knees drawn to his chest, his forehead leaning in the crook of his arm. But he lifted his head when I approached him, watched me from deep, dark wells of fury, remaining quiet even as I stood beside him. I didn’t dare to touch him, only draped his cloak over his knees.
“Why?” Did that strangled noise really come from me?
A laughter broke from him, hard and harsh and mirthless. “You don’t get it.” He shook his head. I wasn’t sure if it was an accusation or just a statement.
“What? What don’t I get?” I asked irritated. Gods, I didn’t know him so skittish.
“What do you think this is, Qhouri?”
What did he think this was, a stupid quiz? “A fucked up fuck,” I snapped, “and I have no idea why, because you ran off in the middle of it. And don’t try to tell me you didn’t enjoy it!”
“Yeah, that’s true. You’re good. Well trained.” His words made me recoil, my reaction coaxing a smirk full of smugness on his face, the amusement not reaching his eyes.
Anger shot through me. “I’m sorry I’m not a blushing maiden! You told me you want to sleep with me, but it seems all my training doesn’t help with that one bit!”
“I wish you were.”
“Sorry, but you know you’re a bit late for that.”
“No. I wish you were less calloused. Less blunted.” His gaze was cold.
I stared at him with wide eyes. I had tried to open up to him. I had opened up to him, he knew everything about me, and he also knew how painful this process was. And now he used this knowledge against me?
I clenched my teeth, standing up. “I don’t know what you expect. Perhaps you shouldn’t have made me believe that you’re actually serious about this. Pretty pathetic, that speech of yours.”
He gritted his teeth so hard that I heard them grind. “You have no idea how serious I am. You don’t listen. Instead you treat me like one of them. Like all the men you’ve known before.”
I recoiled, his words hitting me like a dagger in the chest. “That’s what you think?” I whispered incredulously, “you really believe you’re just one of them?” I retreated from him, my steps becoming gradually faster, only barely containing myself not to turn and run away.
But he shot up and came after me, his hands clenching around my upper arms. “Don’t you run away now!”
Now I yelled. “And why not? You ran first! You don’t want to be with me! You believe…” My voice trailed off in a choked sob, my frantic efforts to free myself from his grip futile.
He groaned. “Gods, you’ve no idea.” His eyes were like steel as he pulled me flush against him, his hands pressing into the small of my back and his groin into the crest of my hips. His erection was a prominent ridge in his pants. “You feel that?” he rasped, “you feel what you do to me?”
I became rigid in his grasp and stopped to thrash against him, his unrelenting stare piercing into my soul. Hard eyes, hard flesh, the seconds frozen, our eyes locked. I never felt so fragile, suddenly as vulnerable as he had been, no matter how I tried to protect myself. He had crawled under my skin, and for a moment, I wasn’t sure if he’d not use everything he knew about me to cut me open from the inside.
And then he released me, tore his hands away as if he had burnt himself, his fingers flexing around my head instead and tilting my face up to his. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I want you, Qhouri. I love you. Gods, I’m so sorry.” His forehead leant against mine, his breath in heavy puffs hot on my face.
I stared helplessly into his face, but I didn’t pull back. “I don’t know what’s wrong, Farkas.”
He made a step backwards, let out a deep breath as if to calm himself and closed his eyes, his palm wiping over his face. “No, you don’t. You really don’t know.”
“Then tell me. Please.” I hated how weak my voice sounded.
He inhaled deeply. “Give me a moment, okay? Don’t run off, I’ll be there in a minute.” His sheepish expression was weird and inappropriate.
I pulled the furs out of the tent and settled at the fire with my back against a log, huddled myself as deep as possible into my cloak. It didn’t provide any shelter from the chaos of thoughts whirling through my head. I had absolutely no idea what was going on in him.
Suddenly he stood before me, huge and intimidating, his hair dripping wet and tied back in his neck. I was so lost in my own thoughts that I didn’t hear him come. But he chewed nervously on his lip, and then he vanished into the tent. I heard him rummage through our packs and a low curse.
What was going on with this man? But before I could ask him what he was doing, he scrambled out and stood up, a bottle of elven wine in his hand. “We’ll need it,” he muttered with a feeble grin, dropping down beside me. Of course he could have taken the opposite side of the fire, but he didn’t.
His head was tilted into his neck, he stared wordlessly into the sky. I waited for him to say something, his passivity only enhancing my nervousness. Finally I couldn’t bear the heavy silence any more.
“Farkas, please. Talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.” Anxiousness quivered in my voice.
“Nothing. And everything.” He chewed on his lip. “Why did you do that tonight? Why did you seduce me?”
I became defensive. “As if you didn’t know!” I swallowed heavily. “I thought you wanted it. That we sleep together. And… I trust you. I know you won’t hurt me.”
He gritted his teeth. “Do you even hear yourself? Don’t you see how wrong this is?” He sighed and tilted his head, searching my face, the openness and sadness in his expression capturing me. “Gods, you’re so messed up… and you don’t even know it.”
“Then tell me, for Kyne’s sake! What in Oblivion is the problem?” Slowly I became desperate, and I sounded more snappish than I wanted.
He turned to the side, took my ankle and placed my heel on his thigh, gripping around the instep and his thumbs applying pressure on the sole, only firm enough not to tickle. He did it casually, as if he just needed something to keep his hands busy.
His eyes were soft, but his voice was imploring. “The problem is that you only expect not to be hurt. Gods… this should be a given. But… there has to be more between us, Qhouri. I want you to expect more, and I want to give you more. And this… I want it with you, not from you.”
He studied my face, waiting for a sign of comprehension. It came… dripped in slowly, forming a lump in my throat.
“That this is something we share, yes, not something from you for me. It wasn’t like that tonight.”
He took in my expression, and I knew he could read me like an open book. All these fears of inadequacy when it came to him, the horrible feeling that I’d never be what he saw in me. And he was determined to get it out into the open, not to let anything stand between us. Not even my incapability to feel what he felt.
“It was a chore for you, and I don’t want you to sleep with me just to do me a favour.”
I felt the blood rush to my head and yanked my foot from his grip, clenching my arms around my shins. He didn’t have the right to press me like that. I felt as if I had to explode with frustration, anger and helplessness.
He held my gaze, composed and imploring. And then he shifted and knelt before me, braced himself on the log I leant against and laid his lips on mine, just let them rest there, warm and firm and soothing. He gave me enough room to pull away, but I didn’t and he knew I wouldn’t, and when I opened my mouth to him, he didn’t take the offer, only moved from corner to corner, his tongue outlining my lips. It was just a kiss, gentle and tender, and so much more than that. Unobtrusive and incredibly intimate at the same time, this simple touch expressed so much better than any words what he wanted, bathed me in his warmth and his scent, was seduction and reassurance all at once. And it said so much, this kiss. It spoke of desire, lust and tenderness, of his need to be close, of the closeness between us, respect and understanding. And of giving and taking.
It spoke of sharing. A kind of sharing that was completely strange to me, it cloaked me in its warmth and naturalness, felt so right and hurt at the same time, deep inside where everything was chaos and pain and confusion and where I still didn’t dare to go myself, where I had to push him out and away. I couldn’t let him come so close. But somehow he had hooked himself up right in the middle of this chaos, solid like a rock in the surf, as something to break the waves and to hold on to. He was there, safe and reliable and loving, impossible to push away, and his kiss tasted of my tears.
I fought them down when he drew back, slung his arms around me and pulled me against his chest. I was thankful, so incredibly thankful that he looked through me. And so guilty and ashamed because I couldn’t give him what he wanted.
He held me like so many nights before until his mere, undemanding presence calmed me down. Only then I heard his whisper. “You’re too precious for that, Qhouri. What you’ve done tonight is what you’ve done all your life… give yourself to make others feel good. I don’t want you to do that with me.” His thumb stroked my cheek. “It’s your turn to take now.”
My head rested against his shoulder. “It wasn’t a chore, Farkas. Really. I want to be with you. It’s just…”
I became quiet. He had been so vulnerable in my arms, and still he had given into these feelings, had let himself fall, completely and without hesitation. So trusting. How to make him understand that for me, lust was just another means of control?
I knew he wouldn’t hurt me, and I relished this closeness between us. It had grown over such a long time, and it gave me a feeling of shelter and safety I had never known before. He knew me like no one else, and it was his gentleness, his empathy and this open affection he never hesitated to show that gave me this safety – and I had learned to feel it in his arms, in his kiss, in the touch of his hands.
And still I couldn’t stop to be on guard. The thought to become as vulnerable as he had been, to give myself into his hands and get lost in these feelings was frightening.
He held me lightly, my arms slung around his waist, his thumb stroking my neck. But when he finally spoke, I heard the determination in his voice not to leave anything out. “Tell me. Please.”
I took a deep breath to calm myself. “I don’t like it… when I have to take. He… my master showed me. He made me… lose control. Feel helpless.” I lifted my head, searched his face with clenched jaw. “It scares me. I don’t want to be helpless.” The humiliation of these moments, the cruel satisfaction in his eyes… the mixture of lust and pain that couldn’t be further from pleasure, my body played like an instrument until I finally lost control over my own reactions and begged for release, dependent on his mercy… it crushed over me like a flood wave and brought new tears that I forced down with grinding teeth.
His breath hitched when I shuddered in his arms, his embrace tightening abruptly just to release me again. His voice was only a low growl. “He forced you to… he not only took his pleasure from you, but he ruined it for you? Deliberately? He forced you to climax?”
I blushed. “It wasn’t about pleasure. Just another way to prove that he’s in charge and I’m not,” I whispered.
I felt the tremor in him. It took an eternity until I dared to move and to look into his face. His expression shook me to the core, untamed, helpless fury flaring from his eyes. A guttural groan erupted from his throat.
And strangely, this helplessness that he showed me so openly, it gave me back some of my calm. Because he had lost his, finally. He wasn’t sure how to deal with this. My master had never been helpless. He knew exactly how to deal with me, like a toy he could force to do whatever he wanted, simply by pushing the right buttons.
I brushed my knuckles over his cheek. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. And I was. Sorry that I burdened him with this mess of my own twisted feelings and reactions that I barely understood myself, sorry that I had disappointed him and that I wasn’t the woman he deserved.
His eyes darkened, a muscle in his jaw twitching. “You’re…” he said lowly, followed by a sharp intake of breath. “You’re sorry?” His roar made me flinch. His arms released me, he grabbed the bottle of wine and gulped it down in one go, his head tilted into his neck, his Adam’s apple bobbing furiously. When it was empty, he smashed it against a rock where it shattered into a thousand shards.
Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, he looked down on me from dark, deep, furious, tender eyes.
“Don’t be,” he said lowly, in a barely contained strained voice. “That’s sick. I have to be sorry.”
“For touching you. For trying to make you…” He bit his lip. “For waking this memory.”
“But I made you. I want to be with you. You’re not him, I know that.”
“But you are. We’re together.”
“It’s not enough.” I straightened myself. “I don’t want to be such a touchy bitch. It… these memories… something will always remain, but that’s my problem, not yours. I wanna sleep with you. I mean… it’s not a big deal, isn’t it? It’s not normal what we’re doing here.”
His features darkened into a scowl. “You’re lying again.”
“No, I don’t! I just want to get over with it!”
Anger flared in his eyes, the same anger I had seen when he fled from me. “So, you wanna turn something you know only as abuse into something you can get over with. Something trivial and irrelevant. And you not only wanna use me for that, but think I’ll play along. I’m a man after all, and a man has needs, eh?”
Gods, that sounded so wrong. “No…” I groaned.
He looked sternly at me. “It is a big deal, Qhouri. Perhaps you can make yourself believe that it isn’t, but it is for me. I will not abuse you.”
“But it has never been before! You think I don’t know how you’ve fucked around?”
“Yes, I’ve fucked around, with women who did the same and knew exactly what they got themselves into. We had some fun and got some stress relief, and next day we parted with no hard feelings.” His gaze was hard, locked on my face. “Don’t try to tell me that you’re less stressed now than you were before.”
I stared at him with wide open eyes. “I just want to give you something back. This,” I gestured helplessly from him to me, “is far too much about me and not enough about you. And… I trust you. You won’t…”
“Not again! No, I won’t hurt you. We’re through that already.” The lines of his face were hard. “I really don’t know any more what to tell you. What to say to make you understand that I don’t want a fucktoy. How often do I have to tell you I want until you get that this is really not only about you?” He drove with an agitated gesture through his hair. “Godsdammit, who cares what’s normal? You’re my woman, and I want you to be happy. You know best what makes you happy, but don’t try to lie to me. Tonight, you weren’t.”
Something tingled down my spine, a shiver I wasn’t sure of if it was hot or cold, and I didn’t know what caused it – the burning intensity in his gaze or his words.
“I am your woman?”
“Yes. Look at yourself, Qhouri! See how far we’ve come already since that night when you helped me sleep. And I know that you will leave this mess in your head behind, because you’re strong and stubborn and awesome. But you will do it on your own terms and for yourself, not for me, is that clear?”
I wrangled my hands in my lap. “I just don’t want to screw this up. You’re…”
“Selfish, I know.” He gave me an unexpected, light-hearted smile. “I want you to be only with me and that you forget about everything else.”
He was the least selfish person in this world. By far. And he managed to coax a feeble grin on my face. “No, not selfish. I’d still run without you.” I swallowed. “I want you to be happy too.”
“You’re stupid.” His expression was soft. “Qhouri… I didn’t think I could ever tell you what I feel for you. Only a few weeks ago, I tried to get used to the thought that you’re dead. And when you came back to Whiterun… and you spent that first day with me and just slept off in my arms, I couldn’t believe that was really happening. That you were really there and felt safe enough to let me watch over you. I still can’t believe all this is happening, but it is and you still sleep in my arms. Would you please believe me that I’m happy?”
I took a deep breath. “Okay,” I said lowly. “But… I always think I’m doing it all wrong. I always think I hurt you and disappoint you, and then I really screw up like tonight, and I’m scared and confused, and the scariest thing is that you’re not. But at least I’m scared for different reasons than a few weeks ago. And I want to make this work.”
His chin rested on top of my head. “I think we’re doing fine. I’m scared too, you know? Scared to scare you away. But we have so much already that works. And when we’re together… I want it to be without shadows. Just you and me.”
The lump in my throat made it hard to breathe. He had done so much to scatter these shadows and make them fade, perhaps more than he knew himself. “How is it that you know so much about how to deal with this mess?”
“I don’t. It’s just… all this mess is pretty precious.”
“That you have gotten us into.”
His grin flared up, boyish and joyous. “No regrets. Deal with it.”
Of course I would, but he was the one who made it possible. He lent me his strength and confidence, and I struggled for me, for him and for us, because that was what it was about. It felt right to think of us. And I felt safe with him, now more than ever. Especially after what he had done this evening. I managed to give him a small, insecure grin.
“I couldn’t believe you could do that. Just stop and go away… after we had gone so far.”
A cheeky sparkle flashed through his eyes. “Don’t think it was easy. But twenty years of practice had to pay off one day.”
“You have twenty years of practice in running away from naked women?”
“No.” He chuckled. “In keeping my instincts under control. And I won’t start to fail now, not when it’s about you. I know you, Qhouri. I know when something is wrong.”
“Better than myself, it seems.”
A small, amused grin curled his lips. “Believe me, having you spread out beneath me was pretty tempting. But cold water helps. And I’ve two perfectly healthy hands, you know? If I need to relax, I can take care of that myself.”
I felt blood and heat rush into my cheeks. Again. “You… what?”
He laughed out loud and smacked another kiss on my lips. “Gods, I love when you do that. Blush like a maiden.” He laughed even harder when I stuck my tongue out at him.
I cuddled myself against his chest for a moment, felt like a child, loved and sheltered. But then he released me and gave me soft, fast kiss. “I’ll take the first watch, okay?”
“But I can do that.”
He gave me a crooked grin. “Don’t think I could sleep now. And I gotta repair my armour.”
His expression made me laugh. “Okay.”
I missed him when I lay in my bedroll. But I heard him shift on his log, the soft scratching of a whetstone on his sword and a quiet hum, and it lulled me into sleep. There was still his scent in my furs and the memory of his hands on my skin.
“What’s the matter with you? Why are you so fidgety?”
We had made a good distance into the Reach that day, and it had been a nearly enjoyable walk, now that the pressure of a captured friend was gone and we had no goal but to reach Skyhaven Temple sometime soon. Of course we still had to be careful and on guard, but we didn’t have to rush along like mad any more and could even afford to make camp long before sundown when we found a suitable place, sheltered by a rocky ledge and bathed in the light of the evening sun. And now the piglet we hadn’t eaten the night before roasted on a stick above the fire, and Farkas was strangely squirmy and nervous.
He rubbed his neck bashfully. “I wanna know something.”
“I wanna know… I mean… I didn’t even know that was possible. For women. To be forced… to climax. And yesterday… I could feel that you were distant. That you had to bring yourself to let it happen. But you were also… ready for me.” He blushed furiously and bit his lip, avoiding my eyes.
I didn’t know if I wanted to be annoyed because he couldn’t let it go, or if I should love him for his curiosity. In the end, I huffed a wry laughter. “It’s like tickling, Farkas. You can’t help laughing, no matter how much you hate it. And my body works just fine, you know?”
He poked a stick into the glowing coals and watched intently how the sparks flew up and away. “Did you hate it?”
It was quiet for a moment while I waited for him to lift his gaze. When he finally looked into my face, searching for an answer, I found anxiousness and doubt in his features.
He froze when I leaned against him and kissed him softly, a deep breath his sole reaction. “No,” I said calmly, tipping at my temple. “It’s not you. The problem sits here. Other things keep emerging.” I swallowed. “I didn’t want to hurt you.”
His hand reached out, tugged a braid behind my ear. He always did this when he needed a reason to touch, and his smile was weak and open and warm. “It’s worst when you hurt yourself. Just… don’t do that.”
It sounded so easy, but I knew it wasn’t enough. This wasn’t only about me, not any more. It was about us, and we both had to listen to each other. He had perfected this art, and I had to learn it from him. “You tell me anyway when I’m stupid.”
His voice sounded apologetic. “Most men think when a woman reacts like you… that she enjoys it.”
“I know. And then they call us a slut.”
“Have they? Called you a slut?”
“Of course.” I paused for a moment. “But most men also don’t see… beyond. They don’t see what you see.”
Another pause, his hand trailed down my arm and his fingers tangled with mine.
“It’s good you’re with me now.” He leant relaxed against the rock in his back. “I think… for you, having sex is like eating crème treats for me.”
I froze. “What?”
He explained, unfazed by my incredulous look. “I always loved crème treats, especially Tilma’s. But once, I got one that was spoiled, in some rotten inn in the Pale, and then I was sick for three days. And no healer far and wide. Horrible, I thought I have to die. Since then, I can’t bring myself to eat them any more. I mean, I know they’re totally fine and smell delicious and I’m doing terribly wrong by Tilma, but only the thought to eat one makes me wanna throw up. I always remember how this one tasted.”
“You really compare…” I became quiet, and a laughter broke from my throat. In a way, his comparison was spot on. And it was so incredibly Farkas. “At least you know how good they can be. For me, the very first was already spoiled.”
A tiny grin quirked his lips. “Yep. And I could easily change over to sweetrolls. But you had to force them down over and over again.”
“Mmm.” Somehow I was totally relaxed. “Farkas?”
“What would have to happen to make you eat a crème treat again?”
He tilted his head and watched me curiously, taking his time with the answer. “It would have to come from someone I trust. Someone I’m sure of that he doesn’t mess it up,” he said finally, searching my face. “And it would have to be special. Made only for me.”
“If I made you one… would you eat it?”
He grinned. “No. You would ruin it. You can’t even boil an egg without burning it.”
“That’s not true,” I said indignantly.
“I don’t love you for your cooking, woman.”
“Then it’s good that yours is so much better.”
“Better than starving.”
“You know… the treat I had from you… it wasn’t delicious. But it wasn’t rotten either.”
He gave me a crooked grin. “But you only got a first taste. They can be really good. And everybody knows that the last bite is the best, not the first.”
“You mean, when all the filling squeezes out?”
He nodded, the corners of his mouth twitching.
“No. I don’t like when everything gets sticky.”
We looked at each other and burst out laughing. “I think this is the single most weirdest conversation I ever had,” I giggled.
He bent down, brought his lips to my ear. “That’s why people usually don’t talk about sex.”
“Sex? Who’s talking about sex?”
His face became soft. “I’m glad we can. I don’t know if it helps… but I want to understand you.”
“Because I’m your woman.”
A bit of concern flicked over his face. “You know how I mean that, don’t you? I don’t…”
I laid my finger over his lips, nodding. Never had I felt less like a possession than with him. It meant that he had made a decision about me, about us, and that this decision stood firm like the Throat of the World, and it meant that he took me with all this mess and knew exactly what he got himself into, because no one knew me better than he.
It wasn’t frightening at all.
Because it also meant that he was my man. Now I only had to bring myself to believe it as well.