A/N: Contains explicit sexual content and nudity in the artwork. NSFW and inappropriate for children.
Kaawen and Betath were silent as they made their way through Vulkhel Guard to his house. She was sure all sorts of ideas and questions were playing through his mind, just as they were through hers. Her words, “Do you want to get out of here?” had a pretty clear meaning, at least for her. But only last night, she had said she wasn’t ready to take their relationship to the next step. Indeed, their first kiss had been just yesterday as well. Betath must be all manner of confused. Then again, so was she.
When they arrived at his house, he got himself a glass of wine and a cup of Samardan’s breakfast brew for her. “I need to get you some rotmeth, or at least some mead,” he said as he handed her the cup and sat next to her on the divan.
“We’ll only be here a couple of days anyway.”
“But if we’re on Auridon, we’ll likely be coming back and forth a lot. I’ll ask Targil to stock the pantry for us.”
“He’s Anyuviel Manor’s housemer. He’s been seeing to our needs since I was a child, even after I got my own house.”
“I don’t want to be any trouble, Betath.”
With a chuckle, he replied, “I don’t see you being anything but trouble, shorty elf.”
She displayed her middle finger proudly for his viewing pleasure.
“Heh, rude gestures of such an archaic nature! Does anybody even use that these days?”
“But you knew what it meant. Sounds like you’re not up with the times any more than I am.”
“Nonsense. I’ve just made a point of studying the vulgarities of ancient cultures. You never know when something like that could come in handy.”
She took a sip of her brew, and things got quiet. They just sat there together, drinking and waiting for the other to say something. After a few minutes of wondering what he was thinking, she set her cup down and scooted closer to him.
He put his cup down as well and caressed her cheek, then leaned in and kissed her. She opened her mouth to his and threaded her fingers through his hair, and he moaned softly, curling his hand around the nape of her neck. She climbed onto his lap, and he pulled her closer, deepening the kiss. Never had anything felt so right as it did at this moment, sitting on his lap, cradled in his embrace, her lips and tongue mingling with his. With that one thought, she realized that this was more than just a flirtation and they were partners in more than just their profession. It didn’t matter whether they took things slow or not. This was real.
“Make love to me Betath,” she whispered.
“Are you certain?”
With that, he scooped her into his arms and stood up, lifting her as though she were weightless, and carried her to his bedroom.
The room, though expensively furnished, was as utilitarian as the rest of the house. It was where he slept and little more. A bed, nightstand, dresser, and wardrobe filled out the room, but the only thing that was really personal to Betath was the knapsack he had brought home with him, his armor, which had been discarded on the floor, and a small pile of weapons lying next to a trunk at the end of the bed. Kaawen figured she was getting better at taking in her surroundings in an instant, because she wasn’t all that concerned with perusing his décor at the moment. When he knelt on the unmade bed and lowered her onto the sheets, she didn’t give it another thought.
Betath lay alongside her and pulled her to him, his mouth covering hers. Kaawen tugged on the laces of his tunic, loosened them, and drew it up over his chest. When he pulled it the rest of the way off, she rose up and trailed kisses over his chest, eliciting a soft gasp. He began untying the laces of her bodice, sending it the way of his tunic, then sliding the chemise down over her shoulders.
Wriggling out of the chemise, she pushed him onto his back and undid the laces of his breeches. There was a brief moment of trepidation at his size, but she suppressed it, resolving that she was up to the challenge. She threw his trousers to the floor, then wrapped her fingers around his length and traced her lips up the underside of his hardness, relishing the salty flavor as she fluttered her tongue over the head before easing her mouth down over him. Betath whimpered and grasped the back of her head with a shaking hand, coaxing himself deeper as she caressed him with her lips and tongue.
“Come here,” he said after a while, drawing her up next to him, then cupping her breast tenderly and bending his head to it.
“Divines, Betath!” she gasped as his warm breath on her skin ignited a fire in her belly. She pressed her body against his as he suckled her breast, gliding his tongue in a spiral to the tip and then flicking it back and forth. Her sex ached with need, and she spread her legs and guided his hand between them.
Betath laughed softly as he reached down to massage the throbbing nodule, stroking the folds with his thumb and sliding a finger inside her. “Is that what you want?”
“Yes. Gods, yes.”
Slipping another finger into her slick warmth, he worked them in and out, moving deeper with each stroke, circling the most sensitive spot until his fingers were fully inside her. “You’re so tight,” he whispered as blissful moans escaped Kaawen’s lips and she writhed beneath his touch.
Her heart beat faster and her head swam as he stroked the swelling mound within her, and she closed her eyes and gripped the sheet beneath her tightly, bucking against him as overwhelming ripples swept through her. As the last of the waves died, he withdrew his fingers and covered her body with his, covering her neck with kisses and pressing between her legs, grazing her but stopping just short of entering her.
“You’re teasing,” she accused him.
“You don’t like to be teased?”
“I just want you.”
“I’m afraid I’m going to break you.”
With that, he slipped inside her, burying himself in her depths as she wrapped her legs around him and grasped his buttocks, pulling him deeper. It was a tight fit, almost painful, and she had the fleeting notion that maybe he would break her; but she was so wet that after a few rocking strokes, the sensation was pure pleasure. His eyes locked with hers as he moved in and out of her, and it was her first instinct to look away. Betath’s stare exposed a nerve, raw and unprotected, and it was intimate—too intimate. But before she could pull her gaze away, she saw it in his eyes as well—the realness, the rightness—and suddenly there was no such thing as “too” intimate.
He flipped over so that she was sitting atop him. Kaawen arched her back, resting her hands on his thighs for balance as he lifted her on and off of himself, slowly at first and increasing in speed and force as his hips rose to meet each downward stroke. She rocked her hips back and forth in rhythm with his thrusts, and together they rode the swell as it progressed inexorably toward the shore. Betath dug his fingers into the flesh of her hips and cried out as the wave broke explosively. A scream ripped from Kaawen’s throat, and her eyes rolled back as her head tossed wildly. A rushing, roaring sound filled her ears before the rest of her senses abandoned her and the world was reduced to simple, blinding rapture.
After a moment—or an eternity, Kaawen wasn’t sure which—reality eased back into existence. She opened her eyes and looked down at Betath, who was watching her through half-closed eyelids, his breathing heavy and his hands trembling. She moved off and lay next to him, resting her head on his chest and intertwining their legs as he wrapped his arms around her, stroking her long hair.
“See?” she cooed. “I didn’t break.”
Betath chuckled. “Note to self: Shorty Elf is sturdy. I love you so, Kaawen.”
Kaawen raised her head and met his eyes. “And I love you.”
She laid her head back on his chest and closed her eyes. Before long, lulled by Betath’s gentle caresses, she began to drift off. She placed a soft kiss on his chest, and the last thought that went through her mind before sleep overtook her was that she had never been quite so happy.
* * *
Kaawen and Betath spent the night and the next morning in bed, making love, dozing in each other’s arms, and talking, getting to know each other in ways they hadn’t done before. And teasing. They couldn’t have a conversation without some jocularity. They finally got out of bed when Targil arrived. He came in without knocking, as he always did, and Betath wrapped a sheet around himself to go greet him.
“Good afternoon, my lord,” the housemer said.
“My apologies if I interrupted something, but I have a message from your mother. She cordially invites you and your . . . companion . . . to dinner this evening.”
Betath rolled his eyes. “And what word did she use?”
“I’m sorry, Betath. You know how your mother is. What may I tell her?”
“Of course we’ll be there.”
“Seven o’clock sharp, then. Is there anything I can do for you while I’m here?”
“Could you do some grocery shopping for us? We’ll be coming and going in the next weeks. All the standard pantry items, but extra meats and other Bosmer delicacies if you can find them. She drinks mead and rotmeth, so be sure we have plenty on hand.”
Targil wrinkled his nose, and Betath understood completely. “Yes, sir. I’ll take my leave, then.”
He left, and Betath went back into the bedroom where Kaawen waited. “Dinner with my parents. Lovely.”
“You don’t get along very well, do you?”
“It’s not that. We just don’t have much in common, and Mother tends to take it personally. I’m sure she’ll have a lot to say about the fact that I use destruction magic.”
Kaawen caressed his cheek. “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you.”
“While you are a force to be reckoned with, I fear my mother would utterly devastate you.”
“Haven’t met my match yet. But don’t worry. I’ll be on my best behavior.”
He chuckled and bent to kiss her, relishing the taste of her lips. When he withdrew, he said, “I guess we’d better get up and dress. We’re supposed to speak to Razum-Dar today.”
They took their time getting dressed, occasionally distracted by one of them playfully trying to undress the other again and usually ending up in a fit of laughter or several minutes of making out; but when they were finally ready, they went to see Raz to take care of any administrative concerns for Kaawen to join the Eyes of the Queen. There wasn’t much, and they were soon on their way again. Kaawen wanted another dress to wear to his parents’ house, so they went back to the tailor to see what he had available for sale.
The tailor showed her a pink gown with maroon accents and fine silver threadwork. “We just got this and some other excellent pieces in from a well-known tailor from Morrowind. A very talented Khajiit named Reynard who smuggles his work into Dominion territory when he can.”
She tried on the dress, which flowed in delicate waves around her body when she moved. She looked stunning. Then again, he would probably think she was stunning wearing a burlap sack.
It was half past six when they stepped into Anyuviel Manor, and Betath steeled himself against the onslaught. Kaawen had said it probably wouldn’t be as bad as he expected, and he tried to hold onto that as his mother greeted him in the front hall. Arelia Anyuviel was a beautiful woman, with long, flowing hair and golden eyes, but she had a cold look about her, hard and haughty, and she could destroy him with a glance. Tonight, though, she was smiling.
“Good evening, my son,” she said warmly as she hugged him.
“And Kaawen, is that right? You look lovely, my dear.”
“Thank you milady.”
She held out her hand in greeting, and Kaawen grasped her forearm. “Please, call me Arelia. Betath, your father is waiting in the study, pouring drinks. Come with me.” She started down the hallway, head held high, and he and Kaawen followed. It seemed she was on her best behavior, at least to start with. Always gracious when she had guests. Maybe she wouldn’t be so bad.
“Welcome!” said his father when they walked into the room, which was lined with bookcases and furnished with an enchanting table. It was Gareth’s haven, and he spent most of his free time here. The older elf had short, silver hair and a well-trimmed goatee, accenting a pleasant face with a ready smile. While Arelia could be cold, Gareth was warm and welcoming, and he was very popular around Vulkhel Guard. Although he loved both of his parents, he didn’t like his mother very much. He did like his father.
The elder Altmer made straight for Kaawen and embraced her. “Lovely to have you here, my dear. I’m Gareth.”
Kaawen returned the hug, if a bit awkwardly. “Nice to meet you, Gareth.”
“Betath, good to see you, son. Can I offer you drinks? Kaawen, we acquired some rotmeth for you.”
Gareth went to the bar and poured wine for himself, Arelia, and Betath; and he wrestled with a large, natty-looking skin, from which he poured Kaawen’s drink.
“What is that, Father?”
“It is a mammoth’s stomach,” he replied with a grimace.
“It is not,” Kaawen snapped. “It’s authentic. Rotmeth—the really good stuff, at least—ferments in a mammoth’s stomach for years before it’s ready to serve. Gareth, thank you, but you really didn’t have to go to such lengths.”
“Nonsense, my dear. Only the best for our guests. Somehow I don’t think I served it correctly, though.”
“It’s usually tapped and placed in barrels or casks made of bone, but what you did is fine.”
They went to the dining room, an expansive chamber with a long table big enough to seat twenty. It was set for four, though, at one end. Gareth took the head of the table, and Betath and Kaawen sat together on one side. They made small talk while waiting for Targil to serve dinner, which he did at precisely seven o’clock. They had chosen the menu with Kaawen in mind, and it was all meat—flank steak, poached guar eggs, and a delicious mince pie for dessert. Kaawen expressed her gratitude but assured them that it hadn’t been necessary to serve all meat, that she would occasionally eat vegetables and grains as long as they hadn’t been grown in Valenwood, but Gareth waved her off.
“It is our pleasure, dear. The Altmer and Bosmer are our allies now, and we all must endeavor to learn more of each other’s customs and cultures.”
Betath’s mother eyed them curiously all through dinner, and he finally ventured to ask her why. “What is it, Mother?” he asked.
“Why, whatever do you mean?”
“I know that look.”
“I just couldn’t help noticing that you seem so happy, Betath. Is there anything you wish to tell us?”
“Don’t play coy with me, my son. There is more between the two of you than your careers.”
With a chuckle, he said, “Mother, you’re incredibly subtle. Yes, we’re together, as I’m sure Targil told you after he visited my house earlier today.”
Arelia frowned. “Well, I can’t say I approve, but I’m glad you’re happy.”
Next to him, Kaawen stiffened and took a sip of her drink.
“Why don’t you approve, Mother?” he asked, although he knew exactly why she didn’t approve.
“We must be learn about each other’s cultures, yes, but the races should not mix. You should know that.”
“I know many Altmer feel that way, but I don’t agree. We’re all mer.”
“At least he didn’t mix with a Khajiit!” Gareth quipped. “Can you imagine a handful of fuzzy grandchildren running around the manor?”
“It’s not that I don’t like you, dear,” she said to Kaawen. “You seem like a lovely girl. It’s just that our races are so . . . dissimilar. Betath grew up in a cultured atmosphere. He is a child of the city, and he was sheltered. I’m sure he cannot understand the wildness of the wood elves.”
“I understand it better than you, Mother.”
“I grew up in a city too,” Kaawen remarked.
“Elden Root is hardly a city. It’s made out of a big tree, for Auri-El’s sake.”
“Have you ever seen it?”
“Well . . . no.”
“Then perhaps you should before making assumptions. That ‘big tree’ is the size of Vulkhel Guard, and it bears all the same amenities as your lovely city. There’s also a nice, rustic inn that I think you’d enjoy, but you should mind the splinters.”
“I’ll have to take your word for it, I suppose, because I wouldn’t stoop to living in such conditions. Tell me, Kaawen, do your people ever wear shoes? I must admit, I’m surprised to see you wearing such a lovely linen dress. I thought wood elves only wore animal skins.”
Betath glared at her. “That’s enough, Mother. I’ll not sit here and listen to you say Kaawen isn’t good enough for me.”
“I never said that.”
“Of course you did. But it’s I who am not good enough for her. She’s so much better than I—”
“No, I’m not, love.”
“Arelia,” said his father, “give it a rest. He’s obviously taken with the girl. Not to mention that she is our guest, and your treatment of her is less than gracious.”
His mother sighed heavily. “You’re correct, dear. Kaawen, please excuse my rudeness. In my concern for my son, I forgot my manners. Well, I suppose we just have different views—on many things, apparently, as was evidenced by your behavior in the temple yesterday.”
There it was. And his father’s comment about her behavior wasn’t even going to slow her down. “Was this about Kaawen at all, Mother? Or was it just a preamble to the discussion I know is coming next?”
She picked up her wine and drained the glass, then said, “I just don’t understand this disrespect, Betath! What has gotten into you? Why are you doing this to me?”
“I can understand your attitude; you were never shy about speaking your mind. And your relationship with Kaawen is obviously experimental.”
“Experimental?” Kaawen bit back.
“Arelia!” Gareth snapped.
“But destruction magic! After everything we taught you, how could you be so . . . so . . . rebellious? It goes against everything this family has stood for, for generations.”
“Wasn’t your father a battlemage, Mother? Look, I have a job to do, and I do it.”
“Is it something we did? Perhaps we weren’t strict enough in your teachings. Or perhaps we were too strict. But I have to say it is still no reason to spite us so.”
“I’m not using destruction magic to spite you, Mother.”
“Of course you are. Why else would you go down such a path? We love you, dear, and we want to support you in any way we can, but you must stop this unruly behavior at once. You must return to restoration magic immediately and stop running about Tamriel, behaving like some back alley thug.”
“He still uses restoration magic,” Kaawen interjected.
Gareth turned his head toward her curiously. “Indeed? How so?”
“The first thing he ever did when we met was heal me from a snake bite.”
“The second,” said Betath. “The first was use destruction magic to kill the snake that would surely have ended her.”
“I understand that you’re trying to help, dear,” said Arelia, “but this is between me and my son.”
“As I mentioned before, Mother, it is part of my job.”
“Well, I’m sure the queen has some use for a healer. I’ll speak with her myself.”
Betath glared at her coldly. “Do that, mother. I’m sure she will tell you that had I not been behaving like a ‘back-alley thug’ yesterday in the temple, then the queen probably wouldn’t have any use for a healer, or anything else for that matter, because she would have been assassinated.
“There were others there to take care of that. The battlereeve and your little nightblade assassin were on hand, were they not?”
“And what about you, Father? You’ve been polite, but how do you really feel?”
“Well, I confess I share your mother’s views, but I know you well enough to understand that we can’t force you to comply with our wishes. We will just have to accept it and forgive you for your betrayal.”
“Betrayal,” Betath echoed. “Did it ever occur to the two of you that my choice of destruction magic had nothing to do with you?”
“It has everything to do with us,” Arelia protested.
“No, Mother, it really doesn’t. I think we’re done here.” He turned to Kaawen. “My love, please accept my sincerest apologies for the behavior of my parents. Shall we go?”
“Betath—” Gareth began.
“Don’t bother, Father.” Betath stood up and pulled out Kaawen’s chair, taking her hand and helping her up, then led her to the front door and out into the city.
* * *
Kaawen had thought the night before that she had never been happier, but she thought leaving Anyuviel Manor might just top that feeling. She had never felt so small in her life. His parents had tried to be gracious up to a point, but they had simply come off as condescending, selfish, and racist. But as hard as it had been on her, she knew it was worse for Betath.
“I’m sorry,” she said as she struggled to keep up with him.
“It’s fine,” he grumbled.
“Do you think you can slow down a bit? Your legs are twice as long as mine.”
He stopped and peered down at her. “Let’s go to the Salted Wings for a drink.”
Betath led her through town, walking a bit slower so that she could keep up, and went to the tavern, which was right next to the beach. The full moons were just rising over the ocean, and it would have been a lovely vista if not for the tension in the air. When they walked into the tavern, their senses were graced with the delicious smell of roasting venison, and it made her mouth water even though she had just eaten. He stepped up to the bar and greeted the barkeep, who seemed to know him well, and ordered mead for them both.
He turned to her. “Is mead okay? I didn’t even think to ask; I’m sorry.”
“Mead is fine.”
When they got their drinks, they made for a table in the corner, where Betath sat and glowered silently.
“What can I do?” Kaawen asked him.
“Nothing. I’m sorry I’m a bit gloomy. They just make me so angry! I love them, don’t get me wrong, but they’ve never understood me. Father tries, at least, although he wasn’t trying very hard tonight. This is just one more thing in a long line of things I’ve done that they see as betrayals. Well, this and you—two more things. Kaawen, I’m so sorry about the way they treated you.”
She shrugged. “I can’t say it didn’t sting, but I’m used to getting talked down to by high elves. But you were right about one thing: had I engaged in a pissing match with your mother, she would have destroyed me. She’s a terrifying woman.”
Betath sighed and caressed her cheek. “Yes, she is. But you did beautifully.”
A robed Altmer with long red hair and an elaborately shaped goatee stepped up to the table and slapped Betath on the shoulder. “Good to see you my friend!”
“Larion, good to see you,” Betath replied.
“How long have you been back in town?”
“Only a couple of days. Larion, this is Kaawen.”
“Well, hello, there, cute little wood elf.”
“Nice to meet you.”
Larion took a sip of his drink and called over to the bartender. “Another round for me and my friends! So, Betath, how goes working for the queen?”
“Not as exciting as you might think,” he lied. “There’s a lot of standing guard; it can get very boring.”
“Well, what do you do, Kaawen?”
“I work with Betath, actually.”
“So you’re not together, then.”
“Yes,” Betath replied pointedly, “we are together.”
With that, Larion made a face. “Well, I suppose whatever makes you happy. I never saw the attraction, myself.”
“Larion, you’re treading on shaky ground.”
But Betath’s friend was drunk and didn’t seem to care how Betath reacted to his comments. “I mean no offense, Kaawen, but you’re just so . . . small. And Bosmer are crazy. On the other hand, you are very pretty, and I’ve heard that Bosmer women can suck a crystal ball through a rubber hose. Maybe it might be worth a try.”
“Somehow I don’t think any Bosmer women would be interested in you,” Kaawen said coolly. “Whatever our abilities in the bedroom—and oh, do we have them—we do have standards.”
“Ha! And she has an attitude! Well, I assure you I could meet those standards, little one. It wouldn’t take much to make you scream.”
Before Kaawen could retort, Betath clapped him on the shoulder. “What do you say you and I have a private chat?”
“What? I’m talking to your lady here.”
“She’ll wait. Step outside with me.”
Larion shrugged. “Okay, sure.”
“Back in a moment, love.”
Betath and Larion left the tavern, and Kaawen sat quietly and sipped her mead, seething to the core. He was probably reading his friend the riot act, and Larion would be better behaved when they returned, but Kaawen secretly hoped the Altmer would keep it up. It had been a while since she’d been in a good bar fight, and she bet she could lay a gash all the way to his skull with her tankard.
After only a couple of minutes, Betath came back into the Salted Wings and sat down next to her. He kissed her on the forehead and said, “You all right?”
With a shrug, she said, “Sure, I’m fine. Where’s your friend?”
“We had words,” Betath replied simply. After a moment of Kaawen just looking at him expectantly, he continued. “Of course, most of his words fell under the category of, ‘Ow!’, ‘Stop!’, and ‘By all the Divines and everything holy, please no more,’ but I think we understood each other even if the conversation wasn’t exactly . . . orthodox. He sends his regrets, and his apologies, but he suddenly remembered he had a prior engagement at the temple.”
“He was just going to drop by and see a healer. Besides, he couldn’t have apologized very well with a broken jaw. If he hadn’t been such an ass, I might have taken a page from Mother’s book and healed him myself . . . no, that wouldn’t have been as satisfying as watching him hobble away, trying not to move his face.”
“Betath, I can take care of myself. I don’t need you to defend me from a drunken Altmer.”
“I know that, but I’ve had enough of people disrespecting you tonight. They have no idea how radiant you are, how good, how . . . perfect. No one else will say anything to you without suffering my wrath.”
“When I started to fall for you, it never even occurred to me that people wouldn’t take kindly to a mixed relationship.”
“Pay them no mind, Kaawen. This is right, and to Oblivion with anyone who believes it’s wrong. But if it’s too much and you want to bow out, I understand.”
She took his hand. “It’s not too much. Prejudice, I can handle. I couldn’t handle losing you.”
“Then you won’t.” He leaned in and kissed her.
She hated to admit it, even to herself, but Kaawen found herself looking around the tavern for any sideways glances upon seeing the Altmer and the Bosmer kissing.