I didn’t want the night to end like this, I thought uselessly as we stumbled through the doors.
Another mission over, another impossible victory wrenched from jaws of defeat. If it could even be called a victory.
It shouldn’t surprise me that we’d find a formidable opponent in the renegade Assassin turned Templar. After all, the man had years to hone his bitterness into a keen edge, made only more dangerous by the anguish and wrath over the loss of a beloved mentor at the hands of his own son. If I were to be painfully truthful, I can’t even bring myself to fault the man. I glanced over to Connor at that thought. It seemed he fared no better than I.
I sighed to myself as I slumped against the wall to remove my boots, too tired to support my own weight.
It had been a protracted ordeal, each side playing a twisted game of cat and mouse. The bait set, the trap sprung. And in the end, the Morrigan was destroyed, her captain and crew dashed like seafoam over the unforgiving crags of the Atlantic. Another sacrifice to our eternal struggle.
But at what cost?
We’d lost allies, drained resources, and buried two of our own. Stephane, who had been there since the beginning, and Clipper, whose dreams were severed far too young.
No. It doesn’t feel like victory.
Connor had busied himself with starting a fire in the hearth. It didn’t escape my notice that we hadn’t spoken since we began our trek back to the Homestead. I left him to his thoughts and wordlessly made off to draw a bath for us.
When at last I sank into the welcoming waters I found him still by the hearth, staring into the now roaring fire, brows furrowed and a distant look. He made the fire larger than normal. As if to chase away the chill in our minds.
Death is no stranger to our doorsteps. We deal it, we court it. It is the path we chose. We all know that. But the sting of loss never dulls no matter how long we’ve lived this life. No one understood the gravity of such finality more than Connor, who honored the death of a foe almost as much as he mourned the loss of a friend. And now, as a leader of the Brotherhood, he no doubt blamed himself for sending them to their fate. It’s a sentiment I could share.
“Love,” I called softly, breaking the lengthy silence.
For a moment he didn’t move. I thought perhaps he didn’t hear me, but then he turned and regarded me with still distant eyes.
I beckoned him closer to the tub, helped him peel off his bloodstained robes, and coaxed him into the still warm waters. He murmured an attempt at gratitude and settled back into pensiveness by the edge of the basin.
Briefly, I entertained the idea of letting him be, leaving him to work through his grief. But no. I refused to let him head down that road to despair. Not tonight. Not when my own sorrow was sharp, my own jagged edges needing.
I reached for him then, brushing gently across his temple, a soft kiss to his brow. I tilted his face toward mine, grazing my lips to his.
His wide, distant gaze abruptly focused as his eyes locked with mine. His warm, golden eyes a blaze of brilliant amber in the firelight. The look he bore seized me with its fierce intensity, echoing through the pain and longing in my own turbulent heart. Something in me wrenched loose and I swallowed my breath.
In a heartbeat, he lunged for me as I descended upon him, colliding with a splash. Hot mouths seeking one another in a sudden and desperate need to cast off the smothering weight of reality.
He enveloped my breasts as I straddled him in the still churning water, his warm, wet tongue soon followed the trails of his strong hands. I tangled my own trembling fingers through the strands of his dark mane, seeking out the sensitive spot behind his ear.
I tried to speak, but the words fluttered away on quivering wings as his calloused fingers brushed the tips of my nipples. Just as well. At times like these, words were inadequate. Our bodies had a language of their own.
He bent his head lower, but I pulled him back with a firm tug of his hair, relishing the sound of his startled gasp turning to breathy groan as I worked fevered tongue across his jaw, down to the soft skin of his neck, finding the steady pulse there and with just a bit of teeth, bit. Not enough to harm, but enough to leave a mark come morning. Alive. You are alive and you are with me.
I ground my hips and gripped his taut shoulders as his hands smoothed down my back and over the curve of my behind, sturdy digits searching the heat at its center. My own pursuing hand reached down between us to grasp his hardened length pressed against my core.
I tugged with a flick of my wrist, wrestling a broken moan from his exquisite lips. And I replied in kind as he dug a long finger into my pliant folds.
We were frantic then, too frayed from this latest trial to bother with gentle caresses, too tightly wound to stay apart any longer. He lifted me by my waist, positioned over his long arousal, eyes seeking mine, for permission, it said. I drove down in response, wrapping the feel of him within the very fabric of my being.
A tight fit, but oh so perfect.
He set a furious pace, and I matched with my own answering thrusts, locked in a rhythmic dance until the world is filled with naught but the sounds of our ragged breath, our unbridled moans, the roar of the flames, and the sloshing of rapidly disappearing bathwater. It suddenly felt too claustrophobic, the bounds of my skin too confining. I ached and arched and willed myself to be closer. But never close enough.
He must have felt it too, because in the next blink he hoisted me up with him, still connected, stepping out of the tub with one purposeful stride. To the bed, I realized, but even a master assassin was no match for a slippery floor, and in the next moment I felt my world turn upside down, unceremoniously dumped onto the furs by the fire.
I allowed myself to slow the thunder of my heart. The fervor of the moment temporarily broken, I swept a gentle hand over his beautifully angled face, a soft chuckle escaping my lips despite my efforts. He looked briefly apologetic, but I didn’t allow it to linger, because the sight of his darkened pupils and our still intertwined bodies shattered again some hidden foundation inside me.
I hooked my heels behind his waist, pulling back him down, and he resumed his rhythmic movements. Slower now, with more care in each deliberate stroke, as if he’d accidentally break us, break me. A silly notion, two hardened warriors are not so easily broken. But the truth of it nonetheless gripped me, because we both recognized the risks we took everyday.
What are we but two lonely souls made brittle by the frailty of our existence, seeking salvation in the fleeting ecstasy of our love making?
Yes. We were making love now. Because I do.
I poured my heart out to him in the tracings of my touch down his broad chest, over ridges and valleys of scars, and he poured out his in the yearning of his gaze, protective and relentless and just a tad forsaken.
He has lost so much - mother, father, mentor, brother, and home. He wrapped his loneliness around him like armor, and I did much the same. But when the walls came tumbling down now, we found ourselves gravitating toward one another, willing our bodies to say what words couldn’t in the ways we tried to shove closer, hold tighter, building bridges with intimacy as we crash together again and again, to be less a Creed, and more human.
We clung to each other, again picking up the pace, desperate and lost and needing reassurance that our efforts have not been in vain, that a life given to the preservation of humanity had not robbed us of our own.
I found my release building in a tight tendril of warmth with each surge of his hips driving into that tender spot deep in my core. And his restraint unraveled too, as I urged him along with the clamp of my thighs and scrape of my nails down his back.
When at last my world burst with a brilliant blaze of white hot sparks and a fractured cry, he followed close behind with lurching hips, pulsating the essence of him deep into my still spasming insides.
He slumped against me then, rolling off to the side only to catch me solidly back into his arms, both of us carried still by the aftershocks past the tidal waves of our release. I won’t lose you, the slight crinkle between his brows seemed to say.
We each carried burdens of our own losses, haunted by ghosts of our own mistakes, but he pinned me to the present as surely as I anchored him to the future.
“Stay,” he asked. Even though he knew it was futile.
“Always,” I promised. Even though I knew it was a lie.
There are no forevers or ever afters. Not with the kind of life we lead. Sooner or later, my own path would lead me away, in one form or another. And although I never want to leave his side, neither of us ever held any choice in the distances we were driven to travel.
And yet, in the pale light of dawn, in the firm embrace of his arms, in the enduring shine of his eyes, I dared to will myself to believe that perhaps...
Perhaps not all roads need to be shrouded in darkness.
That although we were molded from different Earth, cut from different time, we’d somehow found each other and made it thus far. And perhaps the universe would be so kind as to welcome us back into its fold in the end, together.
Dust to dust.