Wicked Graces: Chapter Four

A/N: May contain language and situations not suitable for readers under the age of seventeen.

What began in the bath ended in the bedroom, a trail of water leading to a twisted mass of giggling sheets and quilts. The servants weren’t going to be happy about the mess they made, but he didn’t care. He never would have taken her for a giggler, despite her uncanny quick wit and sharp tongue, but behind a closed door with no one to intimidate she let herself go with him. And he loved the sound of her laughter, the way she squirmed when he tickled his facial hair along the quivering curve of her stomach, almost as much as he loved the breathy sighs she released as he teased his lips over her hip bone before pecking kisses lower and delighting in the unrestrained sound of her delight as he tasted her.

He made her entire body arch and writhe before finding his way inside her at long last, a homecoming that made him feel as though he already knew what to expect from the afterlife.

Every time he made love to her it felt like losing himself all over again for the first time. He’d known dozens of lovers in his youth, caused plenty of trouble that nearly destroyed his family’s good name, but none of those young ladies had ever been like Marian. None of them had ever made him feel the way she made him feel. Alive, enraptured, entangled, both lost and found. The warmth of her arms, the heat of her breath, the delicate and girlish whimpers she tried so desperately to hide before giving way to impassioned cries he was sure everyone in the castle would hear, and though he should have he didn’t give a single damn about it.

Divine perfection, every moment of her.

She breathed his name across his lips and wrapped her thighs tighter around his hips to draw him in deeper. With an admirable amount of grace she rolled him onto his back and guided herself to such heights he almost felt she didn’t need him there to help her reach them. Watching her face in the low light of the candles on the mantle and bedside table stirred things inside him he struggled to fight, the first sign he wouldn’t hold out long enough for her to truly reach the pleasure she sought. He thought about hunting wyverns in the hills, dueling with his older brothers in the courtyard as a boy, the tedious and often frustrating process of restringing his bow. Every involved and mundane task he could think of crossed his mind, but he’d gone so long without her it was impossible to keep up with her driven pace.

Breathless and elated, she came down slowly to rest atop his chest after he lost control. He was still inside her, warm and sated as she curled fingers into his hair and kissed his shoulder. Fingernail tracing through the sparse hair across his breast, she exhaled hot breath that made the sweat cool against his skin. He shivered, and she laughed softly before finally rolling into the bed and snuggling up beside him.

“If that’s my reward for patience, perhaps I should be denied more often.”

He felt inadequate, as though she deserved more, and though she sounded pleased he had doubts. He maneuvered his arm under her neck and squeezed her shoulder to bring her closer. Kissing the top of her head, he breathed in the scent of her; she still smelled like the bath—barest hint of salt and sweat mingling with juniper and lavender. “I would never deny you, love,” he whispered. “No matter what you asked, not matter if it cost me my very soul…”

“I’d never ask you for your soul,” she tittered. “Whatever would I do with such a thing?”

“Regardless, it’s yours to do with what you will.”

For a time she said nothing, growing so quiet, her breath so calm, Sebastian thought she’d fallen asleep. He closed his eyes, allowing the bliss he felt to fill him. It overpowered his doubts, washed away the feelings of inadequacy, and he felt whole and sated. He started to doze, floating away from the moment, from the darkness on a cloud so light he could barely feel it carrying him until she spoke and the peaceful calm fell out from underneath him and dropped him right back into bed with her.

“You know how much I love you, don’t you?” Fingers squeezing into her shoulder, he relaxed his tensed muscles again. “How much I’ve always loved you. Even when you were emotionally far away, when you barely even noticed I was there.”

“Such a time never existed. I always noticed you, always knew you were there. I was always with you, Hawke, every step of the way.”

There was a thread of dark foreboding in her tone, a distance that made her feel so far from him when she said, “I would have burned Kirkwall to the ground to keep you safe. Even long before the threat became so very real I might actually lose you.”

“You were never going to lose me, Hawke.”

“I could have. At any given time I could have lost any one of my friends to the madness of that place. Year after year it grew worse and worse until it became what it became. I used to lie in bed at night, terrified of what tomorrow would bring.”

“You have nothing to fear anymore, my love. You’re here with me now, safe. And all of that is behind us.”

“It will never be truly behind us.”

Her whisper sounded coarse and strange, as though she was on the verge of tears. He’d only seen her cry once, the night they found her mother in Lowtown, mutilated and broken as she took final breath in her daughter’s arms. Not a single tear did she shed at any other time, during any trial they’d faced, and yet she sounded as though she might let go. She needed to; more than anything she needed to free herself from all the burdens she allowed to weigh down her soul.

Did she know she could be vulnerable with him? That he would never think any less of her if she set herself free for a little while in his arms? She was only human, but she expected so much more from herself.

“They say the threat is passed, but I know it hasn’t. Not truly. This business with the mages and the Templars, it’s only just begun, and it’s going to get far worse before it ends. I’m terrified to send Varric back there without me, and I worry endlessly about Merrill, about Aveline and Donnic, and Fenris all alone in that crumbling house, but what frightens me most is the thought of leaving you here without me to watch your back.”

He fought the urge to assure her he could take care of himself. He may have spent years in the chantry, but Andraste forgive him, his skill with a bow had done its share of killing over the course. But Hawke liked feeling needed, and truth be told he didn’t think he could let her go from his side again now that she was finally home with him at last.

“I invited Fenris to join us here for as long as he likes, though I doubt he’ll take me up on the offer. Still, I hold out hope the Maker will guide him to this place and he can know peace for at least a little while.”

“I hope so too.”

“And Varric is welcome to stay in Starkhaven as long as he likes.”

“Varric won’t stay past the coronation ceremony. Kirkwall is his home.”

“True, but the two of you haven’t gone a full day without getting into mischief together for years. Besides, you can be very persuasive. I’m sure with a few carefully placed words you could convince him.”

“I don’t think so. They say dwarves don’t dream, but even now I imagine he’s in bed longing for his old apartment in The Hanged Man, wishing he could smell the stench of stale ale and sweat and old vomit through the ashes.” She shuddered, jerking suddenly out of his arms and throwing her legs over the side of the bed so quickly he didn’t know what to think. “Ugh, I shouldn’t have thought about it so vividly, but the smell of that place needs only a mention to manifest itself in my senses. Mother…” she stifled her gag-reflex, “…always used to say my imagination was far too vibrant for a non-magic child.”

She made a strangled sort of sound in her throat, then pushed up off the bed and darted toward the chamber pot in the corner of the room. Sebastian hurried to get up, nearly tripping himself in the tangled sheets before stumbling right-ways and following her footsteps. He arrived behind her just in time to duck down lift the hair she struggled to keep out of her face as she vomited. The sound mingled with the rancid smell unsettled his own stomach, but he held himself together well enough to stroke his free hand across her bare back in an act of comfort.

“Are you all right?”

She groaned, a hand lifting to her clammy forehead, then swiped the same hand across her mouth before dropping it to her side. “Far too much excitement for one day, I think.”

“Perhaps next time you should let me do more of the heavy lifting in bed.”

He thought she started to laugh, but she lurched forward again and wretched until it sounded as though there was nothing left in her stomach to give. A cold sweat broke out over her skin, making her feel clammy when he touched her.

“Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up and into your nightgown so we can tuck you into bed.”

Her knees buckled under her weight when she tried to stand upright. He swept her off her feet and into his arms, carrying her back to the bed and situating her among the pillows. He wetted a cloth in the basin of fresh water on the vanity, then dug a dressing gown from the wardrobe for her to sleep in. Dabbing her face and wiping her hands clean, he slipped the nightgown over her head, then tucked her in, drawing the blankets around her.

“I’ll go down to the kitchens and fetch you some warm ginger tea to settle your stomach.”  Swiping the hair off her forehead he knelt in to kiss her brow.

She lifted a weak hand to his cheek before he could pull away, her cool fingertips drawing through the stubble there. “You’re far too good sometimes,” she whispered, “far better than a girl like me from Lothering deserves.”

“It is me who doesn’t deserve you.” He winked at her as he drew back, ducked her chin and relished in the tired smile she offered. “Rest now. I’ll be back with your tea.”

About erica

Erica North is the fanfiction pseudonym for fantasy/romance author Jennifer Melzer.
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