A/N: Sexual situations – not safe for work.
Selene arrived at Whiterun’s stables five days later. On foot. Still carrying the huge sack of gold. Exhausted. Incredibly cranky. The gods-damned horse had succumbed on the first day when bandits had attacked. Selene had slaughtered every last one of the bandits but not before they killed her horse. Had the gold been hers alone, she would have abandoned it, but no way in Oblivion was she going to let Mercer Frey lord something like that over her. Thus, she carried it, her mood growing fouler with every step. The only other encounter she’d had on the trip was a dragon, and he hadn’t lasted past the first howl. She had nocked her arrow, cursed at it, and shot it in the eye. One dead dragon, no waiting. She hadn’t even bothered to loot it or take a bone and scale. Another twenty-five pounds was definitely not what she needed at the moment.
Her birthday had passed while she was on the road—twenty-two years old. She didn’t really know why, but she had always considered her birthday to be a very important and personal day. Perhaps it was the only real thing she had from her childhood. By the time her parents were killed, she had learned her birthdate, and it was not something that could be taken away. Not by Grelod the Kind, not by the Imperials, and not the dragons. Her last few birthdays had been eventful; this one, however, was spent trudging across The Pale in the snow. True, it could have been worse—at least it wasn’t actively snowing—but this one would not go down as one of her better birthdays.
The sun had just reached its zenith and was starting to descend toward the horizon when Selene staggered into Breezehome and dropped her belongings on the floor. She barely noticed that Lydia wasn’t home as she trudged up the stairs to her room and fell into bed. Sometime later, she heard voices and roused to hear Lydia and Vilkas talking quietly downstairs. They seemed to be having some sort of disagreement, but Vilkas’s normal irritability wasn’t responsible. By the tone of their voices and their scents, Selene could tell something significant was going on. When she considered it, though, she was too tired to care. If they needed her, they’d wake her up. She closed her eyes and quickly went back to sleep. Even her inner beast was worn out, and she hardly dreamed, if at all.
When she awoke the next morning, she wondered if the key to a restful sleep was simply bone-deep exhaustion. If her inner beast was as tired as her outer persona, maybe they could both get some rest. As she sat up and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, she realized Vilkas was back. Either that or he’d never left. He was downstairs, alone apparently, because Lydia was still snoozing in her room, so Selene threw on a dress and went down to meet him.
“Morning,” he said quietly. “You want coffee?”
“Mm-hmm.” She curled up in the chair next to him and accepted the proffered cup. Now that she was more awake and alert, the scents were unmistakable. He and Lydia were involved. There was some anxiety in Vilkas’s scent, though; he was worried about Selene’s reaction.
“It’s okay, you know.”
“She said it would be. I wasn’t sure.”
Selene took his hand. “What you and I have has been full of passion from the first day. Even in our friendship, there’s been so much emotion. We know more about each other’s deepest fears and darkest secrets than we do about what makes us happy. But it never coalesced into something we could define. We were just together that one time, and it threw our worlds off balance. We can’t lie to ourselves and say there was nothing there, but we do need to admit it was little more than a false start.”
“We just didn’t know it at the time. You know, even when you were with Ulfric, somewhere deep down I always thought you’d come back to me. I was so focused on you, I didn’t see what was happening with Lydia until—”
“It was too late?” Vilkas smiled sheepishly in response. “We were friends first, Vilkas, and we’ll always stay that way. I just want you to be happy. Are you happy?”
Vilkas shrugged. “As happy as I get, I suppose.” Rolling her eyes, Selene took a sip of her coffee. “Are you happy?”
“As happy as I get, I suppose,” she responded with a coy grin.
* * *
While Lydia slept, Vilkas helped Selene get water for a hot bath, and she soaked until the water started to cool. By the time she got out of the tub, Lydia had gotten up and headed off to Jorrvaskr with Vilkas to train. Selene didn’t have much to sell, but she decided to go to the marketplace anyway just to browse and socialize. And she got a fabulous surprise.
Standing by the grindstone at Warmaiden’s chatting with Adrienne Avenicci while she worked was a handsome redhead with emerald-green eyes, a suave demeanor, and the sexiest fake accent this side of Aetherius. Selene smiled and approached. He hadn’t seen her yet, and she managed to sneak up behind him.
“I would have let you come along if you’d asked,” she drawled. “You didn’t have to follow me all the way to Solitude and back.”
Brynjolf turned, his face lighting up when he saw her, but he quickly hid his elation and crossed his arms over his chest nonchalantly. With a raised eyebrow, he said, “Oi, it’s hard to follow you when you keep hiding from me.”
“If I’d known you were there, you could have carried my stuff.”
“Why do you think I didn’t let you know?”
“I take it you two know each other?” asked Adrianne, who was just finishing up sharpening his blade.
“Never seen her before in my life.” The look on Adrianne’s face hinted that she actually believed him for the brief moment before he reached out and wrapped his arms around Selene. “What are you doing here?”
“Resting,” she said flatly as she hugged him.
He pulled away and regarded her critically. “You look exhausted.”
“Oh, thanks a lot!”
“No, I’m serious. What happened?”
Selene looked over at Adrianne, who stood holding Brynjolf’s sword. Bryn turned to the blacksmith and accepted the weapon with a grateful nod, then gave her a handful of coins before moving away with Selene.
“Everything in Solitude went fine,” she assured him as she led him toward Breezehome. She opened the door and let him in the house. Once inside, she kicked off her shoes and nudged the bag of gold, which was still sitting on the floor near the door, with her foot. “That was the problem. I had a horse, but some bandits killed it, and I had to carry that thing on foot almost all the way.”
“So you weren’t kidding about needing someone to carry your stuff. I take it the sack’s not full of potatoes.”
“Gold. Lots of it.”
Brynjolf raised his eyebrows. “Impressive.”
“Perhaps, but I’m still not sure it was worth it. My back is on fire.”
Brynjolf turned her around and massaged her shoulders, but she flinched when he pressed on a particularly sore spot. “Hmm,” he groaned. “Lie down.”
“Aye. On the floor, facedown.”
“You are such a sweet talker,” she teased, but she did as he instructed.
He placed his hands on her back between her shoulder blades. “Take a deep breath and then let it out.” When she did, he pushed down hard. With a great cra-a-a-ack, Selene’s spine slipped back into place and the muscle tension immediately began to release.
“Oh, sweet Kynareth, that’s wonderful,” she mumbled. “I’m just going to lie here for a while.” But she didn’t; she rose up on her hands and pushed herself to her feet.
“So tell me about the bag of gold,” Brynjolf said as he sat down by the fireplace. “Did you extort it from Gullum-Ei?”
Selene went to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of mead, which she opened, took a sip from, and handed to Brynjolf. “That’s exactly what I did. You were right to think he might be holding out on us. I put the fear of the Divines in him, though. I doubt we’ll have any more trouble from him, for a while, at least.”
“Did he tell you anything helpful?”
“Aye, he was working for someone named Karliah.”
Brynjolf choked and sputtered, nearly dropping the bottle. “Karliah! That can’t be!”
“It’s what he said.”
“Gods, Mercer’s going to have a heart attack. Karliah killed his predecessor, Gallus.”
“So I heard. I tried to get back to Riften as quickly as I could, but I couldn’t just leave that gold somewhere.”
“You’re in luck, then, because I still have my horse. He can carry it back to Riften for you.”
“Which reminds me: why are you here?”
He took a sip of mead and handed the bottle to Selene. “Maven sent me. She had a case of documents she wanted delivered to Mallus Maccius, and she said she didn’t trust anybody else not to look at them.”
“High praise from Maven Black-Briar.”
“I know, damn her. I really wanted to get a look at them after that.”
Brynjolf shook his head. “I’m not afraid of much, but Maven scares me.”
The conversation strained after that, both of them trying unsuccessfully to avoid an awkward silence. Their unease was uncharacteristic, but Selene knew what the problem was. She could smell Brynjolf’s desire for her, as well as his hesitation; she just couldn’t figure out why he hesitated. It didn’t matter, though, because she wasn’t going to wait any longer. She got up from her chair and took hold of his hand. “Come on,” she said softly.
“Where are we going?”
Brynjolf smiled. “Lead the way.”
She led him up the stairs to her room, where she closed the door and pulled him onto the bed. Lying next to her, he took her in his arms and placed his lips on hers. As the kiss deepened, Selene curled her fingers through his hair and held tight, as if she were afraid he would pull away. His hands traveled over her curves, coming to rest on her bottom, which he squeezed tenderly. He withdrew his mouth from hers and trailed soft kisses and nibbles down her throat until he reached the laces of her dress. Before he could start untying them, however, she sat up and began working on the buckles of his armor. It occurred to Selene that Thieves Guild armor was not conducive to any sort of quick dressing or undressing.
“I never realized Guild armor had seven hundred buckles,” she mused.
“Are you in a hurry?”
“Just to get you naked.”
Brynjolf chuckled. “Then by all means, let me help.”
After all clothing had been discarded on the floor, they took their time, exploring each other’s bodies, playing, teasing, letting their need grow. Brynjolf liked to talk, and once in a while he said, “Do you like that?” But Selene was too distracted by what he was doing to give more than a moan. The more she liked something, the more he would tease her; and by the time he finally slid into her, her ache for him was so colossal that she couldn’t contain the scream that burst forth from her lungs as she wrapped her arms and legs around him.
Tears welled in her eyes as she rose up to meet his thrusts; it had never been like this. The passion, the emotion, the odd notion that the connection went way beyond the physical, all were so powerful she could barely stand it. She screamed again and dug her nails into Brynjolf’s back, her climax reaching new heights as his body stiffened and he buried himself inside her, his cries matching hers. When the waves of ecstasy subsided, he bent down and kissed her softly, and she found herself tearing up again. Divines, she adored this man.
He withdrew after a long moment and lay down next to her. She rested her head on his chest, and he wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. They lay in silence for a while, savoring the moment, catching their breath. After a while, Brynjolf started to chuckle.
“What are you laughing at?” she asked.
“‘I tell you, I tell you, the Dragonborn comes.’”
Selene propped up on an elbow and swatted his chest, giggling. “That’s enough of that! You’ve been waiting for weeks to use that, haven’t you?”
“No, no, it just occurred to me. But I thought it fitting.”
“You’re so full of shite.”
“Surely, I’m not the first to use it.”
“In this context, you are. You know, until recently I thought that song had been written about me. I didn’t know it was traditional.”
“So you hate it.”
“With a passion.”
Suddenly growing serious, Brynjolf reached up and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. “I’ve wanted this for so long,” he said softly.
“Then why didn’t you say something?”
“Last time I was in Whiterun, I went to see Olava the Seer. I do believe there are those who can predict the future, but I just went to Olava on a lark. I had been drinking, and Belethor dared me.”
“Why am I not surprised that you’re friends with Belethor?”
He chuckled in response. “I like Belethor. He knows how things are. We can go to the Bannered Mare and drink ourselves silly, pat each other on the back and promise to be life-long friends—and mean it—and know full well that one of us might rob the other blind the next day. It’s a great relationship.”
“So what did OIava say when she told your fortune?”
“She told me what you’d expect from a fortune teller—you know, ‘a dark woman will come into your life,’ that kind of thing—so I didn’t expect it to be so accurate. But the detail was that a woman with dark hair and eyes the color of sapphires would kiss me on the cheek. Before that day in the plaza, no one had kissed me on the cheek since I was a child.”
Selene raised an eyebrow. “Really? What else?”
“She said to take things slowly, and that woman would be the greatest love of my life.”
Selene’s heart fluttered anew, and she closed her eyes to hold back the tears that kept threatening to fall. One escaped, though, and Brynjolf brushed it away with his thumb.
“Hey, what was that for?”
“Brynjolf, I’ve loved you since the minute you sat down at my table in the Bee and Barb,” she confessed, laying her head back on his chest. “When we picked each other’s pockets, and then when I woke up the next morning and all my gear was gone, I knew we were destined to make each other either very happy or very miserable for the rest of our lives.”
“Destiny. I’ve never believed in it before now.”
“I’ve always believed in it, even before I knew I was the Dragonborn. It’s luck that never had any place in my life.”
“You’re a thief. How can you not believe in luck?”
“I’ve just always thought it was the gods messing with us. I’m not saying every little thing that happens in a person’s life is fate. I do believe in chance and coincidence. And free will. I’m just saying the Divines have a plan.”
“You know all this scares the shite out of me, right? I’ve never said ‘I love you’ before.”
“You still haven’t.”
He chuckled and lifted her chin so that she was facing him. “I love you.”
“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard it. It scares me, too. I’ve never had much faith in people, and this leaves me feeling vulnerable.”
“I can’t promise I’ll never let you down, love, but I’ll do my best not to.”
“I’ll do the same.”
Anxiety crept into his scent, and he changed the subject, evidently feeling as vulnerable as she did. “Do you know that you have the most exquisite arse on the face of Nirn?”
Selene laughed. “Well, you have hinted at it from time to time.”
He moved suddenly, shifting so that he was nearly on top of her, and then turned her over onto her belly, at which point he leaned down and bit her, placing a perfect hickey on her bottom.
“Ow!” she whined, although it hadn’t hurt at all. “Did you have to do that?”
A pensive look came over Brynjolf’s face as though he were actually considering the question. “Aye,” he said finally, “aye, I did. Tell me you didn’t like it.”
She mimicked his expression. “Hmm. Aye, I did.”