Warning: Sexual Content. NSFW, not appropriate for children.
“I’m not brooding.” I showed him a lazy smile and nodded to the girls rampaging around between the dragon bones. “I’m happy for you, Farkas. That you’ve come so far. They suit you. And they do you good.”
The pride of a father, the love he felt for his daughters beamed from his eyes. “Yes, they do. I’ve been such a fool.” He tensed with a hint of concern as he watched them crawl along the spiky spine. “But they’ve accepted me. They’ve accepted that they don’t have a dad like the other children, one who’s always there. And they know that I’ll always come back.” A light shadow crossed his face. “I’ve made up for it, I hope, at least a bit during last winter. Been here every time Jorrvaskr wasn’t bearable any more. Often.”
It was a bit strange to sit here with him and watch his daughters play in the ribcage of the first dragon we had ever killed together, the entrance to the barrow of Ustengrav lingering not far behind. I could see how happy he was, how he enjoyed his time here and wanted to make to most of it. And I could see how he was taken up with his fatherhood, a role so different from the man I knew. He could be stern and categorical with them, but time and again his own natural playfulness broke through, and he not only took part in their boisterous romps, but initiated them. As he ran ahead, one girl clinging to his back while he chased the other, all three of them gasping with laughter, he was much like an overgrown boy. Just to change into stern strictness when they started to gather a bouquet of nightshades and deathbells or dashed off after a butterfly or a tiny mudcrab.
But it suited him. I always knew that he’d do everything for those he cared for.
But this was a side of him I didn’t know yet, and I also knew that he had been so insistent that I joined them on this trip because he wanted to share it with me. The twins had been shy and cautious at first, clinging to Farkas’ hands and refusing to talk to me as we left Morthal, but they had come out of their shell soon. While Marisa never left his vicinity, Siona was the more temperamental and accessible of the two, and she thawed up to a degree that she even took my hand instead of Farkas’ when I showed her some plants and mushrooms and explained their alchemical properties. And when I shot a scurrying skeever from afar and Farkas made a fuss about how dangerous it was and that I had saved them all, I had won their hearts.I relished in the merriment, in Farkas’ open happiness and the exuberant mood of the girls. I was glad that he let me share in it. And still it was a bit strange, and I couldn’t help but feel like an intruder. This was his family. I could take part in it for a short time, but I didn’t belong to it.
It became more than obvious on our way back as we encountered the inevitable couple of frostbite spiders, the vermin populating the swamp in abundance. They had the size of large wolves, and these spiders out here didn’t lair like their cousins often found in caves and ruins, waiting patiently for their next victim. These were hunters, chasing their prey in groups with poison, claws and razor sharp fangs.
I knew Farkas hated them with a passion and that he had to overcome a deep-seated disgust every time he had to fight one, and I gave him a sign to fall back with the girls when we heard the telltale sound of too many legs and the clicks of chitinous jaws.
One of the girls shrieked terrified, and I knew they were clinging to their father. Even if he had wanted, he wasn’t able to fight now. My first arrow hit a hairy belly as one of the beasts reared up, but it wasn’t enough to bring it down. If I had to do this alone, I could just as well do it my way and give the girls a show.
The injured spider fell back, but the other one was fast, skittering towards me, fangs dripping with poison. But I had the longer reach.
Spiders burn fabulously, coarse hair and exoskeleton igniting like tinder, their insides getting literally cooked alive. When the first one lay on its back, all eight legs twitching erratically against its belly, the second one had reached me. Bluish liquid poured out of the arrow wound, but it was far from being defeated. My shield protected me from a spray of poison, but when it reared up again to drive the claws of its front legs into my chest, I had the longer reach again. Dragonbane pierced through the thin shell of its chest and severed the bundle of nerves beneath. It collapsed soundlessly.
When I turned around, I found Farkas squatted on the ground, both girls pressed to his side and into his arms. Marisa had hidden her face in his chest, but Siona peeked out from the shelter of his arm, watching me with fear and excitement in her eyes.
I gave them a calming smile, hunching down in front of them. “It’s okay. They’re dead.”
“That was… wow,” Siona breathed full of awe. “What was that fire thing?” She turned to her father. “Can you do that too? Why did you never show us?”
He smiled full of relief. “No. Only Qhouri can do that. Pretty impressive, hm?”
Even Marisa had released her clenching grip on his hand in the meantime, and her sister shrugged out of his embrace. She looked from him to me and back and propped a fist into her hip. “Why didn’t you help her? You should have fought too.” The accusation in her face was so blatant that I had to suppress a grin, especially as Farkas bit his lip sheepishly.
“He didn’t have to,” I said. “It was more important that he stayed here to protect you.”
“Yeah. Qhouri can take of herself. Two spiders are nothing for her.”
The little girl chewed on the inside of her cheek, a habit Farkas had as well. Her bright eyes were scrutinising me. “You protect our Da when you’re travelling? Against spiders?”
“Yeah. Especially against spiders. And …”
Farkas interrupted me. “We keep each other safe, you know? She protects me, and I protect her. We take care of each other.”
“You always tell us to take care of each other too.” Marisa’s voice came faintly from under Farkas’ shoulder. “Is that what you do? Is Qhouri your sister?”
Farkas took a deep breath, looking at me. I shook my head with a smile. No, I wasn’t, and I was curious how he’d explain it to them.
He pulled one of them on each knee. “No, she’s not my sister. We didn’t grow up together like you two, and I only know her since last year. But she’s my friend and I love her, and I hope she’ll always be with me.”
Siona cocked her head, then she nodded. “Okay. Like Ma and Carsten. He’s with her all the time too.”
I had to bite back a laughter, and Farkas’ smile was slightly cheeky. “Yep. I suppose it’s a bit like Jonna and Carsten.”
The girl turned to me, sudden seriousness in her face. “Carsten has promised that he’d kill a dragon all on his own if one came to Morthal, and that he wouldn’t allow that it hurts us. I want you to do the same for Da. Because you can do that fire thing and he can’t.”
I chuckled. “Okay. I’ll do my best that no dragon will hurt your Dad. Promised.”
Farkas grinned broadly.
The excitement of the day, the long march, the dead dragon and the spider fight had finally completely exhausted the girls, and they were both sound asleep when we entered Morthal late in the evening, Marisa on Farkas’ hip, her head lying on his shoulder, Siona cuddled to my back. And I had to confess, I was tired as well – to play guard for two temperamental five-year-olds wasn’t as easy as I had thought.
He smiled when I handed him his sleepy daughter in front of the inn. “You think Idgrod has a night cup for us? I’ll be there in a few minutes. Don’t wanna wake you again.”
The Jarl still sat at the fire with some paperwork when I entered the hall, but she seemed to be relieved to put it away and laughed at my exhausted expression. “Looks like you had a hard day, hm?”
I grinned. “You tell me. Worse than two dragons at once.”
I slumped into the chair beside her and took gratefully the goblet she handed me. “Thank you. You spoil me, Idgrod.”
“Nobody else here who could,” she said with a gentle smile.
I looked at her, slightly embarrassed. “Is it okay… when Farkas sleeps here as well?” It was her hall and her quarters I occupied after all, and she had just given us a very odd look in the morning when we had left the room together.
But she just gave me a lighthearted grin. “Not my business, Qhouri, there’s room enough for the both of you. And if he’s the reason why you look… more at ease than I’ve ever seen you, all the better.”
The clapping of the door interrupted us, and Farkas pulled her into a warm embrace. “Idgrod, sorry for not coming earlier. You look fabulous!”
She smiled up to him. “Flatterer, I know I can’t compete with all the pretty girls around you. All those girls who do their best to keep you busy.” She took her mug with an amused grin. “And that’s why I better retreat now. And you should too, I know Carsten wants to see you tomorrow!”
We found a snack and a bottle of wine in our quarters, enough for two. Farkas took off his armour with a contented sigh, poured us some drinks and fell onto the bed, sitting with his back to the wall. I yawned when I dropped beside him.
“Tiring little brats, hm?” he grinned.
“Yeah,” I mumbled, chewing on a loaf of bread with cold roast, “far too much energy for their own good. Must come after their father.” A strange unrest lingered under my tiredness. I wasn’t really physically exhausted, after the past weeks today’s trip had been more a lazy stroll. But it was demanding to be on guard all the time, these kids had a habit to be everywhere where they shouldn’t be and to touch and gather everything that could become dangerous.
I stretched myself. “You know what I’d like to do now?”
“Find out where I am ticklish?” he chuckled.
“No. Yes, perhaps, later.” I took another sip of my wine. “No, I’d like a nice, long spar and then an even longer bath in the hot springs.”
“You’ll get your spar tomorrow, I suppose Carsten wants to see us both. And real bath would be awesome though.” He put his goblet away, stood up and pulled his tunic over his head. Beside the fireplace stood a bowl with warm water, and he rubbed the warpaint from his face before he started to clean his neck and chest.
I watched him, watched the muscles of his back play with his movements and how the firelight tinted his skin golden. He was familiar, all these scars, the relief of his muscles, the sharp line at his neck where pale skin changed into suntan, the freckles on shoulders and forearms. So familiar that sharing a room and a bed and watching him half-naked as he washed himself was something completely natural.
“Hey,” I said softly, “thanks for letting me join today. It was fun.”
He looked at me over his shoulder. “Thanks for coming, Qhouri. I know you’re… not so comfortable with the girls.”
I shrugged. “They’re your daughters. I don’t know them well enough.”
A shadow flitted over his face, and he turned his back to me. Somehow, I felt awkward. I didn’t know what he expected of me. It was one thing to supervise them for a day, but something entirely different to get to know them closer. They really had enough people to care for them.
I had the feeling I had to say something before the silence could become oppressive. “They’re awesome, Farkas. I like them, really. And you’re a fabulous dad.”
“I do my best.”
“You always do.” I paused for a moment. “So, Jonna and Carsten?”
He nodded. “It’s been going on for some time now. He’s serious… and he loves the girls. Perhaps… well, I wouldn’t be surprised if they got a sibling soon.”
“You’re not afraid that he’ll take your place?”
He shook his head. “We’ve talked about it. He’s a good man, and I know him well. And…” He hesitated, busying himself with the washcloth.
“I love them. I really do, and they make me proud and happy and I try to be the best father I can. But Carsten is always here, and I’m not. I’ll never be.”
“But you spend a lot of time here.”
“But I don’t live here. I have my own room at Moorside, but I’ll always be just a guest.”
“I’m pretty sure the girls don’t see you as a guest, Farkas.”
“No. But every time I visit, they have to tell me what happened in the meantime. And every time, it’s hard that I couldn’t be here.” He turned to me, draping the wet linen over the edge of the bowl. “But it was my choice. I’m glad for what I have. And… I’m glad that Jonna can live with it. Because she knows if I had to, I’d always choose Whiterun over Morthal, and I’m glad she doesn’t make me.”
He searched my eyes, a question burning in his gaze. There was so much to this man… facets I didn’t know yet, new challenges and demands. And new vulnerabilities he didn’t hesitate to reveal to me. Those he cared for would always be his biggest weakness.
And I realised that I had a word in this as well. I could stake my claim on him… could force him to choose. I wasn’t sure if he expected me to, it was ridiculous all in itself, and the mere thought made me cringe inwardly. Jonna had once tried the same, and it had ended in disaster. I had no claim on him, just as he didn’t have one on me. What we shared… it wasn’t about possession.
But it was about responsibility. His family here was a major part of his life, and I’d have to come to terms with it. And I was ready to acknowledge this responsibility, even if I wasn’t sure yet what it meant exactly. To know that he would choose me if he had to was enough. Because I would choose him too… any time, over everything.
I stood up and stepped in front of him, let my index trail down his sternum. “I won’t make you either, Farkas,” I said lowly.
The air was laden with tension. My eyes were caught by Sanguine’s scar, the lasting reminder that he’d always be in my back, no matter against whom and no matter how we stood to each other. He took my wrist, lifted my hand to his face and placed a kiss on the knuckles. The movement pulled me against him – not forcefully, the chance to retreat still there, but strong enough to let me know that he wouldn’t let go. His gaze was of burning intensity.
I needed him and I was thankful, but there was also something else, something that made me nervous and flustered and happy. I wanted to be close to him, because there was nothing left to be scared of. The way he looked at me let my senses tingle, with excitement, curiosity and a bit with fear of my own courage.
When I followed the pull, his free arm came around my waist and I leant against the wall of his chest, felt and heard his slow, steady heartbeat. When I looked up and searched his face, I found my gaze locked into his. He didn’t move, held perfectly still, and his eyes never left mine as my fingers trailed over his face, across his brows to the small scar at the temple, over his jawline, through the stubble on his cheeks and finally to the nape of his neck, but I felt a faint shiver under my palm.
He still held my hand, both trapped between our chests. “What do you want, Qhouri?” he whispered. His free hand splayed over my back and pressed me against him.
This kiss was still slow and lingering, no haste in it, savouring the moment and what we experienced with each other. But it was also full of a deep passion, it spoke of belonging and of a promise. I sagged against him and drowned in the feeling of his lips on mine, so gentle and demanding and hungry, and he tasted like only he could taste, of desire and home.
When we tore apart and his eyes searched mine, I saw tenderness and craving and a touch of fear. He held nothing back, not his desire, not his love, exposed himself to me, and he was beautiful.
“You’re beautiful,” I said with a small laughter. The corners of his lips quirked upwards, and then his hand curled around the back of my head, and he buried his face in my neck. I felt a chuckle rumble through his chest.
My questioning look was answered with a grin, happy, shy and confused. He held my hands, caressed my palms with calloused fingers as if he had to restrain them from moving further. “No. I’m scared.”
This man was an enigma. “Scared?”
“Yeah. That it goes poof, and you’re gone. That you’re… disappointed. That I’ll hurt you.”
The look in his eyes let the last remains of my nervousness dissolve. When I pulled my shirt over my head and nestled against him, his breath hitched when skin met skin. My hand stroked through the sparse hair on his chest, and I smiled when I nipped at his neck and heard him groan lowly.
“Let’s just get this over with, okay?” For a moment his face fell, just to light up with a mischievous, nearly predatory sparkle when he saw my cheeky grin.
“Oh no, Missy.” I squealed when I found myself slung over his shoulder and again when he dropped me unpretentiously onto the mattress. Before I could react, he knelt above me, his head dipping down. His mouth pressed to mine, raw and tight and aching. “Told you I’m selfish,” he whispered, staring down on me. “I want everything. I want to see you helpless and hear you beg and have you fall apart in my arms.”
I closed my eyes, felt his body pressing against mine and the heat he radiated, only a small part of his weight held by his forearms on both sides of my head. Smouldering… and shelter, and I wanted him to come even closer, his skin on mine until nothing would fit between us any more. His head bent down and his forehead rested on mine, long black hair hanging like a curtain around our faces. For a moment, only our harsh breathing was audible between us.
“Let me make love to you, Qhouri. Let me learn you.” His voice was husky and rough.
And I knew he’d be there to catch me.
“Make me beg.”
The whispered words made his eyes widen. I lifted my head and claimed his lips, a soft growl coming deep from his throat as my fingers traced the hollow of his spine. But there was nothing feral in him now, only the man, loving and caring and passionate, and his gaze was fixed on my face as his fingertips drew burning trails over my skin, a finger slipping into the laces of my pants. His touch was tender and rough, teasing and soothing at the same time. And it felt so good. So right.
“Tell me when I do something…,” a trace of worry flitted over his face, “… I don’t wanna hurt you.” He swallowed. “Or scare you.”
The heat and pure devotion in his eyes constricted my throat. “You won’t, Farkas.” My arms closed around his neck, fingers threading through his hair. “You couldn’t scare me even if you tried. And I’m no maiden.”
A small grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. “No, technically you’re not,” he said, placing gentle kisses along my jaw. “But you’ve never been loved before. For me, it feels as if you were.”
Farkas took his time. He was thorough and curious. And a damned tease.
He made me melt. First my skin and my nerves, mapping my body as if he had all the time in the world. He urged me to turn around and started with my back, at the nape of my neck, explored birth marks and scars and every crease and curve, hard fingertips and soft lips drawing patterns between them in complicated lines until I stopped trying to predict where they’d go next, until my muscles and mind relaxed and I became pliant and soft. He was fascinated by the dimples that appeared at the small of my back when he made certain muscles twitch. The spot at the back of my knee that tickled and made me squeal when he kissed it made him giggle, and at the same time the tender touch shot directly into my stomach. When he arrived at my ankles, he edged in a firm massage of my soles that let me groan with contentment.
He pushed me gently to my back and I lay before him, bare and open while he knelt beside me. His index trailed a line down from the hollow of my throat between my breasts and down to my navel, a touch so light that I breathed into his fingertips, and still it sent goosebumps over my skin. He stopped at a faded silvery line at my waist and stroked it carefully, the oldest scar of them all, from the sword that had impaled my sister.
“Beautiful,” he whispered, coming down when I stretched my arms out for him.
I thought I knew myself, thought I knew my body, but as he explored me, I discovered myself anew. He found the spots of which I knew that they’d make me jerk and writhe and quiver in anticipation. And he found those no one had found before, that I didn’t even know about myself. The brush of his lips over a point directly under my hipbone jolted like lightning through my spine, made me arch off the mattress and cry out in surprise. I felt him smile against my flesh as he nibbled gently, holding my trembling body in a firm grip. “This is mine now,” he declared with a murmur and looked up to me, eyes sparkling with mirth and lust, and it made me laugh.
No one had ever made me laugh during sex. He was my guide and my guard, and I let him take the lead and myself fall into his desire and his will.
And every time I tensed under his touch because it was too familiar and I thought I knew what would come next, when I waited for the feeling of detachment and the withdrawal into the safety of myself, he pulled me back until I was aware of nothing but him again. It happened as he drew lines and circles on the insides of my thighs, light like butterflies, hard fingertips and soft lips and coarse stubble. “So soft,” he mumbled, but muscles twitched and hardened under his touch. I knew where this led, it had taken long enough. I couldn’t help it.
He came up and startled me with a hard, urgent, nearly violent kiss. “Don’t,” he whispered against my lips. “Stop thinking.” It’s just me, his eyes said. His hand was spread flat over my stomach, huge and warm. It inched lower, palmed the damp skin between my thighs. Protective. Just him.
He made me stop thinking, tearing down and smoothing out every edge, everything that stood in the way. And he made me stop remembering, I stopped to compare him with the men I had known. There was nothing to compare, he was different, he touched me differently, he changed me.
When I thought it couldn’t become any more intense, when every caress sent sparks into the pit of my belly and to the backside of my eyes, when he had brought every single nerve ending to life, I reached out for him because I needed something to touch myself, to hold on to and his skin on mine. I buried my hand in his hair. He looked up to me.
“Want you,” I gasped.
He pressed his lips to my thigh and my navel, sucked in the air sharply, crawled along my body and caged me with his own. I could taste myself on his lips. “Need you,” he growled lowly, his voice vibrating over my skin, under my skin and through my bones, and he pushed into me, careful but relentless, eyes dark and clenched teeth revealing his own fight for control. I felt the burn and the stretch and his movement, and nothing fit between us any more. I bucked against him, biting my lip. A strong arm pushed under my back as I arched into his chest, and he lifted me up until I straddled his lap, melded together and face to face. “Love you,” he whispered.
I pressed myself against him, eyes closed and panting against his neck, lost in the sparks that surged through my nerves as he filled me completely. But his fingers under my chin were insistent, and his head bowed down, his hair tickling my neck and his stubble my face when lips and teeth grazed over my cheek, and I drank from his mouth, drowned in his taste and the velvety softness of his kiss.
He groaned lowly when I sucked at his lip, lowered himself and drew me with him until he lay on his back, giving me control.
But it wasn’t about control, and it wasn’t about dominance. It was about giving and sharing, and it was as if we were made for each other, no insecurity, no doubt, only the heat he sent through my veins and the burning passion in his gaze. Hands and lips roamed over my body, teasing and stroking, finding the most sensitive spots with his caresses, but he held my wrists in a gentle grip when I wanted to do the same with him. “No,” he mumbled, “don’t rush me. Just enjoy.”
Only when I couldn’t hold myself upright any more and collapsed on his chest with a breathless gasp, tensing and trembling under his touch he stilled, his embrace locking me firmly against his chest, and all I felt was his skin touching mine, the bursts of heat spreading from the point where we were joined into toes and fingertips, the coarse hair on his chest scratching my nipples and his hot ragged breath in my neck, everything that was left was his musky, heady scent and his nearness and this longing that blazed in my belly, a need I had never known before.
“Farkas…” I gasped into his ear, clenching his shoulders, and he stroked along my back with long, soothing motions.
His lips fused with mine, nipping playfully. “Your wish is my command,” he murmured into my mouth, rolling his hips, and I felt him smile.
I knew nothing any more but him and the shivers that washed in rapturous, unbearable waves through my body, could hear my own pants and his heart thunder against my ear. But I was helpless, could only wait that I’d shatter with his next touch.
“Farkas… please!” I moaned into his mouth. His kiss and his smile deepened, his embrace tightening even more and holding me tantalising close, stirring and teasing, keeping me on the edge with hands and teeth and lips until nothing was left of me but a teetering, trembling, craving bundle of need. A helpless whimper came from my lips when he finally released me and grabbed my hips, thrust deep and pulled out again achingly slow, my head spinning with dizziness. Hungry eyes pierced into mine, held my gaze and drew me into his own lust, and his caress coursed through me like lightning.
“Let go, love,” he whispered roughly, “I’m here.” Another thrust, he filled me and the coil of bliss deep inside shattered in an explosion of white light, I dissolved into shaking muscles and prickling skin, the delirious rhythm of his movements throbbing through my nerves and drumming in my ears. The tightness liquefied, his arms all that held me together. His hand curled around my neck and his lips claimed mine, swallowing my cry, and he caught me in his embrace.
His face was all I saw when I came back to reality, lying heaving and trembling in his arms, and it was beautiful. A tension in his features I had never seen before, the cords in his neck tight, concentrated and still with this adoration, with a desire in his eyes that pierced into my soul. Finally my hands were allowed to roam freely and to feel him, smooth skin and scars and coarse hair, trailing the toned muscles of his abdomen, the curve of his ribs and the contours of his chest, nails scratching the skin lightly. He tensed and shivered under my touch, but his hands and lips still burned fiercely over my skin and rekindled the flame. It only blazed higher when I moved on top of him in my own languid rhythm, set soft bites along his collarbone, licked and sucked at the tender skin in the crook of his neck. His gaze became unfocused and harried, a deep moan erupted from his throat and his movements lost their pace, became erratic and urgent. Strong hands gripped my hips and pressed me down on him.
“Qhouri,” he moaned under his breath, and then he arched and bucked deep, slung his arms around me and let go completely, teeth bared in sweet agony. He held me close, pressed to his body, and to feel the tension in him build up even further, every single muscle hardening to stone, his hot, panted breath on my throat and the frantic jerking of his hips against mine made me writhe in his grip and pulled me with him. His release came in shuddering waves that shook his body violently, his forehead pressed to my temple. Only the smallest of sounds fell from his lips, perhaps only a breath, perhaps my name or a secret prayer, and then the wave reached me, broke and pushed me over, and the flood of pleasure washed through me once more, gentler this time but still mind-blowing. We lost ourselves in the moment and in each other.
Under my own exhaustion and breathlessness I could feel him relax slowly as we lay tangled together, sweat slick between us, felt the trembling in him subside and his heavy breathing ease along with my own. A drop of sweat rolled down his temple, and when I managed to move a finger to catch it with the tip, a sheepish grin appeared on his face. “Wow,” he muttered, pulling me close, his head falling back with a spent sigh.
He had thrown a blanket over us, my head resting under his chin, his arms around me, the sound of his slowing heartbeat and the gentle movements of his chest lulling me into a delightfully dazed state of complete relaxation. Never before did I feel so safe, all thoughts silenced by satiated, blissful exhaustion.
Only when his chin gently nudged my forehead, urging me to look up at him, I moved reluctantly. He lifted his head from the pillow and kissed my lips softly, nearly chaste. His eyes searched mine with a hint of concern.
“How do you feel?”
I didn’t answer at once, only gave him a lazy smile. So caring. I loved him for the way he asked. Loved him even more that he asked at all.
“Light,” I whispered. “And weary. And happy.”
When I lowered my gaze and cuddled with a content sigh against his chest, my view fell on a spot on his shoulder, distinctive, circular marks surrounded by a purple bruise. My eyes grew wide, and his chuckle rumbled below me when I touched it tentatively.
“You marked me,” he growled amused. “You marked me. Whelp.” And then he rolled to the side and released me from his embrace. I let out a protesting whine when his warmth vanished, but he only placed a kiss on my shoulder and swang his legs out of the bed. “You’re all sticky. Can’t have that.” It made me giggle. I’d have to see the apothecary first in the morning. Just good that Morthal had one and I didn’t have to ask Falion for the potion I needed.
Our bodies found their position all on their own, my back against his chest, his thigh over my hip and my head on his shoulder, knowing already how they fit best into each other. He held me close and I tangled my fingers with his, and we both knew beyond doubt that we’d never be finished exploring each other.
But Farkas was already up when I awoke, sitting armoured and ready to leave on a chair beside the bed, elbows on his knees, staring at me. And he was quiet, far too quiet. Awkwardly quiet. My sleepy smile was met by a frown that showed an unease I didn’t understand, my hand reaching for his face only by a twitch of his brow. He shouldn’t look like that. Not after this night.
What we had shared was a gift, for me perhaps even more than for him. But it hadn’t changed us, hadn’t changed our relationship – that point had been much, much earlier. I felt his gaze on me when I stood up without a word and started to get into my armour, but I didn’t react. If he was embarrassed now, he’d have to come to terms with it on his own.
It took ages until he finally broke the silence.
“Are you okay, Qhouri?” His face revealed a barely veiled doubt that made me choke.
“Better than you, it seems.” Some kind of anger rose about his contradictory behaviour. If anything was wrong, he should just say it. Last night, I thought we had arrived somewhere we both wanted to go. No, we had been washed up on a shore we both didn’t expect to reach, driven by forces we had no control of.
But sometimes it was okay to lose control – for me, it was okay to lose control as long as it was with him. I trusted him with my body, my heart and my soul. But the confidence I had finally found seemed to have left him completely. I knew my expression showed that I wasn’t as calm as I pretended.
His features became softer, at least a tad. “Do you… regret it?”
I turned to him sharply and scowled. “Farkas, you’re a fool. An adorable fool, but nevertheless a fool. Did I make the impression that I regret anything, at any point during last night? Do I make that impression now? Don’t you think I’d tell you if something was wrong?”
He flinched at my outbreak. “I don’t know. I want to do everything right… and you’re hard to read, sometimes.”
I sat down on the edge of the bed, took his hands in mine. Puppy-eyes. Adorable.
“Still scared?” He bowed his head and averted his eyes. “No, I don’t regret that we slept together. You’re the best lover I ever had. Not that there was much competition so far, and… it’s not that important anyway.”
His frown made me laugh, nobody was so easy to read. But when I cupped his stubbled chin in my palm, he leant into the touch.
“I just want you to be as happy as I am.”
“You don’t look very happy at the moment.”
He swallowed heavily. “It’s just that…,” but I laid a finger on his lips. His insecurity was heartbreaking.
“You make me happy, Farkas, and not only since last night. And what you made me feel… no one but you could have done that. But even more important is that for the first time, someone has given me a choice when it comes to sex. Nothing has happened that I didn’t want, and it’s my decision alone to be with you. And for that I love you.”
His smile flared up like the sunrise after a storm, and his look was so sincere, so warm it sent a shiver through me.
“That you trust me like that… that you let me come so close… I was just afraid you feel pressed.” His smile was shy. “I never knew what that means… truly means, to make love to someone. Now I know, and… gods, I don’t wanna scare you because I want too much.”
“I told you… you couldn’t scare me even if you tried.”
His smile turned into a coy grin. “But now I’m spoiled. And I want more of that.”
I answered his grin, he was really adorable. “Do you, now?” I looked at his fingers that were tangled with mine, those hands that were so strong and tender and careful, those hands I felt so safe in and that were able to set me on fire, and pressed a kiss on his knuckles. “Don’t be afraid. You don’t have to protect me, not even from yourself. We know each other far too well for that… kind of game. I will tell you when something is wrong, we’ve made a deal, after all.”
His hand came up and trailed over my face, careful and pensive, as if he wanted to memorise the lines. “I hope you will. You’re too precious to play games.”
I chuckled. “But I like when you play with me.” I crawled on his lap, let my lips brush against his jaw and whispered into his ear, not able to suppress a smile at his reaction. “I want the other Farkas back. The one who kissed me in the middle of the market. Who invited himself into this bed. The only man who has earned the right to see me helpless. Please.”
A cheeky grin nearly split his face. “Are you… begging? Again?”
Bastard. My chuckle became a laughter. “Don’t get too used to it, dear.”
The tightening of his embrace surprised me, and he claimed my mouth in a crush, demanding, ferocious and hungry, his tongue enforcing entry and searching mine, teeth nibbling at my lip none too gently. This kiss wasn’t soft, and it wasn’t about me. It was an expression of his own feelings, of his passion and longing, and it drew me in completely. He overwhelmed me and made me answer his assault with the same eagerness, and a chortle broke out of him when he ended it, leaving me breathless and flushed. “I love you, woman,” he said with a happy grin, “and if I have to make you beg to make you stay with me, I will.”
I rested my head against his shoulder, his arms around me, and it became quiet between us. Everything was so new, but it didn’t frighten me. He didn’t frighten me – not his love, not his lust, not his demands. I wanted to be with him, never wanted to leave this closeness again, I wanted to take what he offered and give it back. We just fit.
When he felt me smile against the skin of his neck, he tilted his head until he could look into my face. I kissed him softly. “You’re not going to get rid of me so easily.”
His lips lingered on mine. “Never, I hope.” He cocked his head, giving me an odd look. “I know you’re starving. But wait here for me, will you? I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He lifted me up and placed me on the edge of the bed, leaving me wondering what he was up to.
When he came back, he carried a small satchel, pulled out an unremarkable, unlabelled potion bottle and handed it to me with a slightly sheepish smile. My curiosity dissolved as soon as I uncorked it… I knew this stench all too good. He had spared me to go to the apothecary myself.
My bewilderment was written clearly into my face. “Contraceptive? You bought this?”
He nodded, rubbing the nape of his neck bashfully. “Yeah. You… need it, don’t you? I wasn’t exactly careful…”
My speechlessness dissolved into laughter. That a man thought of the consequences… that was new. But Farkas did… of course he did, once bitten twice shy, but anyway… that he not only thought about it, but went through the awkwardness it must have meant for him to ask for this bottle, it flooded me with warmth.
“No, you weren’t. Thank you.” I knocked it down in one go and shook myself, gulping down a goblet of water afterwards to rinse away the bitter aftertaste of the sickly sweet concoction. He watched me curiously, and the satchel clanked when he moved. He blushed and put it beside him.
I grinned. “You brought more?”
He wrangled his hands in his lap, swallowing. “Yeah. But… I don’t want to press you, Qhouri.”
I leant against him, my head on his shoulder. “I reckon I will need them. Though they’re horrible.”
His smile flared up and he bowed his head, laid his mouth on mine. “I’ll make up for it,” he murmured, his arms coming around me and his tongue flicking against my lower lip. For a moment I sank into his embrace, our kiss getting deeper. Until my stomach growled audibly.
Farkas chuckled and released me. “Sounds as if you need another kind of breakfast.”
I pecked him on the tip of his nose. “Yes. I’ll need my strength, after all. And you have a date with Carsten.”
The Morthal guards were of a sturdier kind than the Whiterun city watch who left the protection of the walls only to patrol the main roads. These guys were used to roam the wilderness and take care of dangers before they could get close to the small, exposed village, and they went against bandits, vampires and dragons with the same ferocity they held the vicinity of Morthal clear of wolves, spiders and chaurus. And they were open to new ideas; I remembered the impression we had made during the fight against the Kjenstag bandits, and Carsten and Farkas had formed a close friendship since then. He had introduced some of the Companions’ training methods to them, especially the close cooperation with a shield-sibling, and they had clearly profited from them.
It was to be our last day in Morthal, and it was filled with work; Carsten wanted to make the best of the presence of two Companions at once, and he had gathered all his men for this training session. It was interesting to look at our way to fight from an outside perspective, and especially the spars two against two were an interesting experience.
But most of all I relished in the physical labour, lost myself in the sounds of clanking of metal against metal, heavy breathing and the occasional shout or cheer from the crowd. Long after Farkas had gone to spend the last hours with his daughters I still worked with the men and women gathered in the courtyard of the small garrison, muscles aching and drenched in sweat, but with a mind relieved of all burdens, relaxed, light and content.
Jonna drew me aside while Farkas was busy saying goodbye to his daughters, showing me a small, slightly crabby smile.
“Why haven’t you visited us this time?”
I looked from her to Farkas who had a girl in each arm, their heads stuck together, lost for words. Because I didn’t want to, period. And I didn’t have to explain myself.
“Because only Farkas was here to see the twins. And I had the impression they were happy about his visit, not ours.”
But Jonna had always been one for open words. “It doesn’t work like this, Qhourian. You know why I wanted you to go with them to the dragonbones? Because I want them to get to know you. He’s yours, but we need him here. And he will want to share it with you, we both know that.”
I frowned at her. “Yes, maybe he wants, but that’s not his decision. And you should be glad that I don’t meddle with your family life.”
I felt more than uncomfortable in this conversation. Farkas wasn’t mine. I didn’t have a claim on him. And, more importantly, this was his family. A part of his life I didn’t have a part in. A part I didn’t want to have a part in, at least not more than from a safe distance. It was not that I didn’t like the girls. Of course they were cute and bright and pretty, and they obviously adored their father. But for me, they were only kids.
I didn’t want to get involved.
I was glad Farkas approached, pack on his back, ready to leave. Jonna retreated, but not without a last remark.
“Don’t hurt him, Qhourian. I don’t care if you’re Dragonborn or Companion, if you hurt him I will kill you.”
“What did she want?” Farkas asked, looking worried at my miffed expression.
“She gave us her blessing… kind of, and threatened to kill me… kind of. And she thinks that… ah, forget it.”
“She threatened to kill you?” He turned around on his heels back to Morthal, growling from the back of his throat. “What’s going on here?”
I held him back. “She wasn’t serious, Farkas. Not entirely, at least. Please… just let’s go.”
His look was concerned, but fortunately he didn’t dig deeper for now.
I was glad we finally left Morthal behind. Idgrod was a good friend, and I knew I’d always be welcome in Highmoon Hall, but it could never be more than just a short stop on my travels. All I wanted now was to got home, urgently enough that I suggested myself to take the shortcut through Labyrinthian.
And when we finally arrived it was raining again, just like on the day when we had departed.
At least this was a different kind of rain – springlike, mild and soothing, awaking nature instead of freezing it. It still soaked us through and through, but it didn’t matter any more – the prospect of dry clothes, a warm fire and a hot meal made easily up for the small nuisance.
It was deep in the night when we finally climbed the last steps to the hall, sighing in unison with relief. On entering the silent, empty main room we looked at each other and smiled, dropped first our packs and our drenched cloaks and then ourselves in some chairs at the fire. My spine popped audibly when I stretched myself into the warmth, Farkas’ fingers cradling my neck only adding to the sense of comfort, as did the bottle of ale we shared in companionable silence.
Only when I stretched myself and yawned heartily, he turned to me. “Will you… stay with me? I mean, here?” He pointed to the stairs leading down to the living quarters.
His question caught me off guard, but it sounded as if he had brooded over it for days. I hadn’t spent a single thought about what would happen now that we were back, though. I hadn’t thought that anything would happen at all.
“You mean, share your quarters? With all my stuff?”
I didn’t even have to consider. “No. I need some space of my own, even if it’s just a bunk in the dorm. There will be moments when I want you to leave me alone, and your room is too small for two anyway.”
A wry smile curled his lips. “Not too small for the two of us.”
I chuckled. “It will when you keep the bar and get a larger bed.”
“I heard that, sister.” The amused voice came from the entrance to the training yard.
Aela’s slender body had slipped silently through the back door, but when she leant against the doorframe and eyed us curiously, her face under the ruffled mane was creased into a wide smile. Clad just in an old tunic and loose breeches she had obviously been out hunting. Her expression showed none of the usual smugness, and her eyes were warm when they met my embarrassed look.
“So, you two, hm? Finally, ‘t was about time. Wise decision, by the way. Always keep your privacy.”
Farkas laughed at her. “You’re not helping, Aela.”
I frowned. “What do you mean, about time?”
Her eyes sparkled with mirth. “Qhouri, you didn’t have to deal with a lovesick shield-brother for months. What do you think why I’ve beaten the crap out of him when he chased you away?” She grabbed a bottle and went to the stairs, ruffling his hair in obvious affection and showing a knowing smirk when she noticed his embarrassment. Right before she vanished, she turned to us once more.
“Glad you made it back safe.” Her lips curled up. “You gotta see Eorlund tomorrow. Thorald has arrived safely in Windhelm.”
Farkas yawned when we finally lay down. “Travelling with you is awesome, Qhouri.” He turned to me and let his thumb trail over my cheek. “But when I’ve dreamed of you, I’ve always dreamed of having you here, exactly where you’re now.”
I snuggled against him and gave him a lazy grin. “Tell me about your dreams.”
His eyes darkened, and he lowered his head, claimed my mouth. “No,” he said roughly, “I’ll show you. Here…,” he pulled a blanket over us, “and there,” he pointed at the large bear fur lying in the middle of the floor, “and there.” His eyes wandered to the massive piece of furniture that dominated the room.
“On the bar?”
“You’ve asked.” His grin was cheeky, but he shivered when my nails scraped over his sides.
His eyes became soft, and he shifted us around until he lay on his back with me on top of him, his arms holding me in place. Not that it was needed, the plane of his chest was broad enough to let me stretch to my liking. But I had already found out that he liked this position, the closeness and skin contact. And it was much better than the other way around. Perhaps his bed wasn’t too small at all.
“I will.” He lifted his head and kissed me softly. “And I wanna start with the best of them all. That you fall asleep and wake up in my arms. Every single night, right here.”
I closed my eyes, curled into his embrace and breathed in his scent. It was nice to pretend for a moment that we had all the time in the world. “I gotta leave again soon,” I mumbled sleepily. “Wanna visit this Paarthurnax.”
“No,” I giggled. “But I wanna see Arngeir’s face when I ask to meet him.”
Farkas grinned. “Let’s just hope his outcry doesn’t turn us into slobber at High Hrothgar’s walls.”
I propped my chin on the back of my hand. “You don’t have to accompany me there. I know how you hate the place. It’s much creepier than Skyhaven.”
He cushioned his neck on his forearm and looked at me, quiet for long minutes. Finally, he shook his head. “You really don’t listen.”
“I know you said you would. But you don’t have to.”
“As if I’d miss the chance to meet a dragon who speaks with us. Or at least with you.”
I sighed with relief. “I’ll never be able to make up for this, Farkas. For your company and your help.”
His grin was mirthful and full of affection. “You know… for such a smart girl you’re remarkably stupid sometimes.”
I stared at him. “I am what?!”
He was serious now, but in a good way. In a non-threatening way. “Once and for all, Qhouri… you gotta shout me down the Throat of the World to get rid of me. Get used to it. And as that Alduin guy and you are only available as a double pack, he’s stuck with me too. If you weren’t Dragonborn, we’d be clearing bear dens and chasing criminals together, but you are, and so we’re gonna save the world instead. There’s nothing you have to make up for, and you’re in no way obliged to me just because it’s your job we’re doing.”
He chuckled, palmed my face in his large hands and pressed his lips on mine. “It’s not a favour when I go to High Hrothgar with you. It’s pure selfishness. You’re the best that has ever happened to me, and I’m not gonna throw it away just because I don’t like silent, boring cloisters.”
A flood of ease washed through me. Once I had thought that his easy-going lightheartedness came from a certain ignorance, that he didn’t really understand what he got himself into. But he wasn’t ignorant. He simply knew what he wanted, what was important to him, and he’d give his life without a second thought for what he had decided was worth it.
He knew what we were in, how high the stakes were, perhaps better than anyone else. But somehow, he had a way to make it look easy, or at least bearable. Dangerous, yes, exciting and sometimes insane, but never dreadful. Never hopeless. Nothing would make him turn away from this path he had chosen to go. He would have made an awesome Dragonborn, laughing into Alduin’s face.
My fingers trailed over his face. “Have I told you recently how much I love you?”
His features became soft and vulnerable, but his eyes still sparkled. “No, you haven’t. You’ve never said it like that before, so… just because.”
There was much I could learn from him.
“Well, I do.”
“Say it again.”
“I love you.”