Luthien and Farkas quietly made their way through the empty streets of Whiterun, down the hillside to Breezehome, where he lingered at her back as she unlocked the door and pushed it open. It had been months since she had been there, and yet she still half-expected to walk in and find Lydia lingering at the top of the stairs even though Lydia had been gone for more than a year. Another soul she’d have to fight to spare from the World Eater’s snare… but Lydia had watched her back more times than she could count. Farkas had never told how she’d died, but Luthien was sure it had been with a blade in her hand.
The house felt damp, but she was tired and didn’t even stop to light a fire in the hearth. Sparking the lantern on the table inside the door, she headed straight for the stairs.
Farkas hovered at the bottom of them, watching her walk up until she reached the second floor, as if he didn’t know what to do with himself. For a moment, she’d just expected him to follow her. She’d slept in his arms every night since High Hrothgar. She couldn’t imagine spending her last night in the world without him.
“Do you mind if I sleep in the chair down here?”
“Of course not. You’re always welcome here, but…” She hesitated, not even sure where she was actually going with that but. “I… I don’t want to dream tonight. I don’t want to sleep alone. Would you mind…”
He lifted his foot onto the step, pausing there for a moment, and then he started up the creaking stairs. He followed her into the bedroom she’d once shared with his brother, had shared with Ulfric the last time they’d been in Whiterun just two months earlier. She wondered, as she began to shimmy out of her robes, if it felt strange for him, if that thought even crossed his mind as he unbuckled his breastplate and eased it free before lowering it to the chest beside the bed with his helmet. As he closed the door at his back, there was a flashing moment when she thought of her dream in Blackreach, the little girl in the room across the hall tucked in safe and sound, him following her to the bedroom, hands reaching for her, soft mouth coming down upon hers as he brought her into his arms.
Luthien pulled down the coverlet and slipped into bed, and moments later he climbed in beside her, shuffling beneath the sheets until he was comfortable. After blowing out the lantern on the night stand table, she lay down and scooted her body close to his. Tucking into the crook of his arm, he brought it down over her shoulder, pulling her in tighter.
She listened to the sound of his breath, could feel the heavy beating of his heart inside his chest. Outside the wind had stirred and large drops of rain began to plunk onto the roof, a soothing sound that had always made her feel comfortable and safe. Eyes closed, her mind danced around the rising darkness inside her, searching for a strand of light to cling to.
“What are you thinking about?”
“The end.” He was silent for a long time after he said those words.
“Do you think they’ll remember us… when we get there?”
She hadn’t ever thought about that, some part of her just assuming that the dead watched over them from some mystic portal in Shor’s Great Hall when they weren’t feasting and singing and fighting. Maybe her father was there, sitting beside Ysgramor and listening to the original five-hundred Companions tell tales of great battles and deeds, asking how they’d discovered the Skyeforge, which he had always spoken of with such great longing. It had never even crossed her mind that the people she’d known and loved wouldn’t remember her when she got to Sovngarde.
“I hope so.”
“So do I.”
The rain shifted from random patter to a more steady flow of drops, and coupled with the warmth and strength of his arms around her, carried her into a false state of security for a time. She dozed in and out of sleep, unforged memories of the life she’d never known skirting along the edges of half-formed dreams.
Standing beside him before the altar in the Temple of Mara, his hand holding tight to hers, eyes smiling across the space between them, never leaving hers even as Maramal spoke to him. With such conviction, he said the words, “I will,” as if there were no other answer. So many moments, so small and insignificant, but filled with so much meaning. In Ustengrav and High Hrothgar, with Delphine in Kynesgrove, at the Throat of the World in fierce battle with Alduin. Sitting in the chair in front of the hearth in Breezehome, watching the door, waiting for her to walk through it, and rising so quickly when she did, the force of his embrace nearly knocked her off her feet. Kneeling on the floor beside their marriage bed as the priestess of Kynareth delivered their child, his eyes wide with wonder and misted with unshed tears when she lowered that quiet bundle into his arms.
Waiting for him at the edge of the Skyeforge, watching him shape steel, her child on her hip and her heart so full she thought she might burst. The light in his eyes when he saw them there and headed toward them to walk home. Lingering outside their daughter’s bedroom listening to him tell of the great white dragon at the Throat of the World who taught men the Way of the Voice. Their bedroom door closed at his back, hands reaching for her to draw her near. Mouth hovering just above hers and then slowly coming down, lips tasting, strong hands working steadily through the ties of her bodice.
“I love you,” she said.
“Hmm?” The sound of her voice stirred him from his own restless sleep.
She hadn’t even realized she’d been talking as she dreamed. Swallowing hard against the rising tickle in the back of her throat, she said it again without fear. “I love you.”
Luthien brought her hand up to caress his cheek, then lifted her head, lips seeking out his in the dark. When she found them he seemed almost startled, his body stiffening for a moment as she drew back and moved slowly atop him. Straddling his waist, she sat up, stretching out of her nightshirt before she lowered back over him, bare chest pressed to his, stiff, heavy arms finally softening and coming around her as she sought out his mouth again. He lifted his head to meet her halfway. Just as she imagined, he had the softest lips, and when he opened them against hers, Luthien sunk into the moment and let it claim her completely.
Kissing him had so much meaning, stirring immeasurable warmth and emotion in her soul as his hands slid up her spine and gripped the back of her neck to draw her in deeper. She felt his arousal rise against her, but they were in no hurry. They wanted to savor each other, enjoy every moment of their only night together. He trailed curious kisses across her collar bone, sweeping up the curve of her neck, claiming her lips again as he rose up to meet her.
There was no guilt in her soul, no hesitation, only a longstanding emptiness on the verge of fulfillment as they endeavored into long, slow kisses that promised to carry them over the edge together. Despite the fact that it had been years in the making, that in just a few hours’ time they likely went to face their death, there was no urgency. Tempered caresses, soft hands exploring, moving over one another’s bodies, peeling away the thin layers of fabric that separated them from each other until all that remained was breath and skin.
Farkas rolled with her until they both lay on their side, facing each other in the dark. Luthien lifted her leg over his hip, chest rising into his, body aching with need as he drew up his thigh to rest against her backside and moved slowly through her until he filled her. A soft cry escaped her, tears of overwhelming joy stinging in her eyes as she closed them and buried her face against his shoulder.
That position was so relaxed, allowing him to simply rise into her and rest there, his cheek nudging in to lift her face, mouth murmuring across hers, fingers tangling into her hair before he drew his hips back and came into her again.
“I love you,” she whispered as his kiss sought hers and devoured those words with insatiable hunger.
He shifted her onto her back, coming down slow as she arched and rose up to meet him, circling her legs around his hips to drive him in deeper. Every movement of their bodies together was an expression, unspoken truth. She’d never felt anything like the things she was feeling then. Fulfillment, completion, warmth, bliss… She could go to meet death knowing she had done what she was meant to with her life, even if it had only been once.
Making love with Vilkas had always been desperate and unhinged, guided by an almost animal instinct to explore and learn and discover new things together. They’d been each other’s first, but even after years of making love together, each time was always like the first time. With Ulfric, sex had been a game, a power play of domination and control, two forces colliding in the dark like warriors on a battlefield.
But rising up to meet Farkas was like coming home after a lifetime away. Welcoming, comfortable… right. It was as though the gods had molded their bodies together when making them and then pulled them apart, sending them into life with only a faint memory of their making to guide them back to each other again. There was no one else in the world like them; they just fit.
Why? Why had she spent so much time trying to deny it? Looking everywhere, at everyone but him. He could have been hers all along, completely and utterly hers, and that life would have been perfect.
“I want you to be mine,” she gasped, the emotion aching in her throat again.
“My girl,” he murmured, their bodies tangling, shifting again until they were both sitting, her in his lap, and as she lowered herself, he rose up to meet her, hands cupping her face. He kissed her and whispered, “My sweet, beautiful girl, I’ve always been yours.” He nuzzled his nose into hers, speaking softly against her lips, “I always will be. In this life and the next.”
There was no time in that place they endeavored together, and if there was it had no meaning. The only thing that mattered was that they were finally where they should have been from the start, and they were there together. When at long last they lay spent and tired and sore, but content, Luthien laid her head down on his chest and closed her eyes. Farkas’s hand drifted up to tangle into her hair, his thumb gently stroking the nape of her neck.
They fell asleep that way, deep, untroubled slumber wrapping around them both and they did not wake again until morning’s light. Luthien lengthened and stretched into him, curling closer for just a few more minutes in his arms. He stirred when she moved, rolling onto his side to face her, a soft smile drawing at the corners of his mouth. He brought his hand up, fingers brushing the hair from her cheek as he leaned in to kiss her.
There were no words; they’d already said everything they needed to say.