Tales of the Shadowswords: Vengeance Pt 4

Story by Jaden_Drackus on SoFurry

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#5 of Tales of the Shadowswords

The hunt for the Dark Brotherhood Speaker continues in the streets of Dune. But despite a confrontation, Shadow and associates seem no closer to figuring out at the Speaker's plans or motives. As frustration sets in, the past will return to haunt the young Master Assassin yet again- as his old wound is opened yet again by someone very close to him.

Shadow portrait by FrostyPuppy of FA

An hour later, they were popping out of the back hatch at Ra'shara's. Shadow confidently led the way, fully armed and carrying Grubak's equipment on his back. Raven-Eye trailed behind, somewhat sheepish about being fully armed in this place. And the seductive glances of the workers they passed were not helping him. Ra'shara met them in the hall. Surprisingly, she was wearing armor similar to their Shadowsword armor rather than her normal minimalist attire. Shadow had clearly sent word ahead.

"Is he sober?" Shadow asked with no preamble at all.

"Enough," Ra'shara replied. "This way."

"Stay here Raven-Eye," Shadow said to his student. "We will be back in just a moment."

Raven-Eye nodded, the Master had told him that Grubak was receiving the same treatment that they had received last night. Raven-Eye had decided that he was not ready to face a naked and possibly frisky Grubak, and Shadow had respected that without question. Now, Raven-Eye leaned against the wall and closed his eyes while he waited for Shadow to collect his Orc.

"There you are!" he heard Grubak call. "I have sooo much stuff we HAVE to try!"

"I bet," he heard the Master reply. "Have you been behaving yourself?"

Raven-Eye couldn't hear Grubak's reply, and from the amusement in Shadow's voice when he spoke next, it was probably just as well.

"That's what I thought," Shadow said. "Get dressed, we are leaving."

"Why? I've been a good boy! And I haven't had time with you!"

"Time enough for that later," the Master's voice dropped almost to the point where Raven-Eye couldn't hear it and it took on an almost seductive tone. Raven-Eye winced at the thought that he was overhearing a private moment. "Right now, we have work to do."

Within ten minutes, they were up on the roof. Shadow was showing Ra'shara a map, Grubak was gnawing on a piece of dried beef, and Raven-Eye was watching the street. The teen was anxious, ready to go, and somewhat nervous. Suddenly, he looked down and saw another piece of jerky being held out to him in a green skinned hand. Raven-Eye turned to face Grubak.

"Two things ya don't do on an empty stomach," the Orc said with a chuckle. "An' that's load up on Sugar, or go out on a hunt."

Raven-Eye took the offered jerky, began chewing on it, but turned his back on the Orc to resume his study of the street.

"He's not out there Raven," Grubak said, his tone serious. "Shadow knows where every person within a hun'red yards of this building is. If he was out there, we wouldn't be standing here now."

"You don't know him Grubak, he's very good."

"I know Shadow," Grubak said with finality. "And Shadow's the best. If he's got you jumping at shadows an' ghosts, he's already won. You understand, Raven?"

Raven-Eye had nothing to say to that, and went back to chewing on his jerky. Grubak gave him his space until Shadow called them over.

"We are moving out," he said. "Ra'shara will lead the way, Raven-Eye will go next and cover her. Grubak, I will bring up the rear."

Ra'shara led them expertly over the rooftops, choosing routes that where away from the main thoroughfares. Almost immediately, she began backtracking and changing directions suddenly so that by the time they dropped down into a back alley, Grubak had lost track of where they were and Raven-Eye had only the faint idea that they were close to the outer wall of the city. Quickly the Shadowswords pressed against the wall of the buildings, taking cover in the darkness while Ra'shara moved towards the non-descript building at the end of the alley. Raven-Eye took a quick note that the building the Khajiit assassin was making for had no windows at all- an odd choice for a dessert climate. The Argonian steeled his nerves as he drew his bow and notched an arrow to cover the alley.

Shadow dropped into the street further down from where his partners had, at the same time the subtle click of the lock opening as Ra'shara stood up from picking it. She pushed the door open and pressed herself against the wall of the house in the same motion. Nothing happened and it was dark inside. After a long moment, Shadow entered the house, followed by Ra'shara, Grubak, with Raven-Eye bringing up the rear. There was very little for the non-Khajiit to see, as the interior was completely dark, but Shadow seemed to know where he was going. Raven-Eye had no doubt that this wasn't the Master's first trip into this building.

After several minutes, and several rooms and corridors later, and Raven-Eye could see a light seeping under a door. The Master Assassin opened the door to reveal... what Raven-Eye immediately recognized as a shrine to Sithis. The Argonian sucked in his breath as he entered the room. They all fanned out to examine the room, and Ra'shara went back into the hall to continue to search the rest of the building.

"Master, are you sure this is the place?" Raven-Eye asked as he continued to search the room.

"As sure as this one can be," Shadow said. "What is wrong?"

"Something is missing," Raven-Eye mused. "Something- important.

Grubak happened to be looking at Shadow when Raven-Eye was speaking (the teen had his back to the Khajiit), and saw a proud smile spread across Shadow's face.

"Indeed," Shadow said, his tone almost but not quite a question. Raven-Eye was clearly on to something that the assassin had already picked up on. But Shadow seemed to want to see if the Argonian could puzzle it out for himself.

"There's no one here," Ra'shara said as she reentered the room. "They knew we were coming."

"Agreed," Shadow replied as he moved to where the torch was burning. "Hurry Raven, we have to get moving."

The thought that this could be a trap had occurred to Grubak, and now it returned full force. Shadow clearly thought it was, and was already acting on that thought. When Shadow reached the torch, Grubak saw that his nose was twitching. A quick look at Ra'shara and the Orc saw that her nose was twitching as well.

"Master!" Raven-Eye called out in sudden alarm.

"I know, I smell it too," Shadow said as he took the torch from the wall- and dropped it to the ground.

Instantly, to Grubak's horror, the floor burst into flames.

"Time to go," Shadow said calmly as he turned and began heading to the door at a run.

Shadow shouldered through the door only to be met by a massive wall of scaled muscle. The assassin rebounded and drew his swords, jumping backwards just out of range as a massive pair of jaws snapped shut close enough for him to feel them pass his face.

"Deadrath!" the Master Assassin shouted in warning.

The shout was hardly necessary: all of them were more familiar with the massive bipedal crocodilian deadra then most mortals had any right to be- and all had the same reaction to finding one here: rage. Shadow hated the things with a passion- they were tough to kill and had nothing vital within easy reach: even if one got within range of one undetected, there was no easy way to get through the thick scales and spines on its back to its vitals. And this one was well aware of them. If Shadow had been alone, this would have been a tough fight in the enclosed spaces of the burning building- but the Master Assassin was not alone. Raven-Eye realized what his Master had run into while Shadow was still recovering from running into the deadrath, in the blink of an eye, the Argonian had his bow off his back and an arrow notched- that, followed instantly by a second, was burying itself into the deadra's chest while Shadow's shout still echoed through the burning corridor. An ebony throwing star split the difference between the Argonian's two shots- that an addition by Ra'shara. The deadra bellowed in pain, but that was eclipsed by an Orc battle roar as Grubak entered the fray, charging into the gap between Raven-Eye and Ra'shara. If Shadow hated deadraths, it was a hatred that was only eclipsed by the Orc's hate for the beasts- and much of that was fueled by his partner's fear of the damn things. His axe leaving a gash in the wooden floor, Grubak threw his shoulder into the massive deadra's throat, lifting the creature off its feet and driving it back away from the Master Assassin in a display of strength that Raven-Eye would never forget. Grubak's rush carried the deadra through the next door and out of the Argonian's sight, but there was no time to try and aid their partner, as a high pitched hooting heralded the arrival of a pack of clannfers.

Shadow was already wheeling to face off against the new comers, another bipedal lizard-like deadra with parrot beaks and massive crests- clannfers where second only to daedrath's in Shadow's hatred. Raven-Eye registered that there were four of the creatures, but was instinctively shooting even as he had the thought. Shadow took two of the deadra, and Ra'shara took the last one with her twin daggers. Raven-Eye shot the one that charged through the throat, and then again in the chest. The third went in through one of its eyes, and that finally sent the creature sprawling to the floor, although its momentum kept it sliding and the Argonian had to jump over it. Then he wheeled around to see who needed aid- it was almost not worth the effort, as the two Khajiits were having no trouble at all: Ra'shara was finishing hers off while Shadow swung his last opponent around, putting its back to Raven-Eye and slashing at its legs. Raven-Eye fired, and his arrow sunk deep into the creature's back, which dropped it instantly. Shadow nodded at his student, making it clear to Raven-Eye that his Master had deliberately maneuvered the deadra for Raven-Eye.

A sharp crack drew their eyes upward, and a flaming beam came crashing down, reminding them that they did not have time for this. Then another roar sounded over the crackling flames- this time from Grubak, followed by the wet crunch that all of them knew was sound of axe splitting bone and flesh.

"Grubak, we have to move!" Shadow shouted, pointing down the hallway the clannfers had come. Ra'shara led the way, followed by Raven-Eye with an arrow notched; the Shadowscale looked over his shoulder as he ran to see Grubak covered in blood, but seemingly uninjured fall in behind him. The Argonian saw no sign of his Master, but knew that Shadow could take care of himself, and just might be blocked by the Orc's massive frame.

The building was burning faster now, and the walls were now sheets of flame. Breathing was becoming difficult, but Ra'shara never hesitated and quickly was throwing a shoulder to an outside door. But the door resisted her attempt- and Raven-Eye saw that a cord, black and shimmering with enchantment, had been run across the knob to the door frame. The Argonian didn't even think twice about it, he let go of his arrow and gathered his will to summon the Shadowedge, praying that he was strong enough. The dagger materialized, and Raven-Eye slashed the cord which parted instantly under the deadric dagger. The door swung instantly open, and the Shadowedge vanished just as quickly.

"Grubak! Catch him!" was the last thing Raven-Eye heard before the darkness claimed him again, as it always did after he summoned the dagger. He came to what was obviously only a few moments later, as they were still in the street just outside the burning building. Grubak was indeed holding him and smiling, an expression that managed to be comforting despite the deadra blood covering the Orc's face. Behind him, Ra'shara stared at him with something approaching awe and Shadow was offering a proud smile of his own.

"That was the Shadowedge," Ra'shara whispered. "How is he able to summon the Shadowedge?"

Shadow chuckled. "Well done," the Master said, proud indeed of his student. But that was all he heard before he passed out again.

Ra'shara turned to say something to her brother, only to find him gone. Puzzled, she turned back to Grubak, who chuckled as he collected Raven-Eye.

"He still does that?" she asked sardonically.

"Not as much anymore- after I stopped being annoyed by it," Grubak said. "Come along my Raven, it's time ta head back to the nest."


Up on the roof, about a block away from the burning building, Gladius Nuncio watched his lair go up in flames, the hot drafts flapping his robe and hood. He supposed he should be angry, but this was all part of the game. Turns of fortune were all part of that game, and that made it worth playing. He let the Master Assassin wait for a few moments before acknowledging his presence.

"You haven't won this yet, Shadowsword," the Speaker said without turning around.

"I knew that a soon as I saw you weren't home," the Khajiit said. "But that doesn't mean that the message was not worth delivering."

"It does lack a certain subtlety that I thought your order valued," Nuncio mused.

"I am not the one who started summoning deadra," Shadow quipped. "I guess we should glare menacingly at each other and decide what happens now."

"You think you know my game, Shadowsword," the Speaker said as he finally turned to face the Master Assassin, who turned out to be right behind him. "But you have no idea."

"I think I might," the Khajiit whispered, his snout just an inch from the Speaker's face. "But I am only going to tell you this once- leave town, tonight. Whatever you are planning, I will stop you. So just call it off, no one has to know."

The Shadowsword closed his eyes briefly and when they reopened, there was a cold rage in them. "And take the Shadowscale with you. If I see him again, I will kill him."

The Speaker chuckled to himself and closed his own eyes for a moment. When he reopened them, the Shadowsword was gone. He wasn't greatly surprised. He was also not greatly surprised when he reached down to find his purse, heavy with the payment for the mercenaries he had hired, was gone. Once again, he should have been angry, but this was part of the game as well. And the Master Assassin was proving to be a worthy opponent. So, he was not a fan of Night-Stalker was he? Well, he would have to see if he could arrange another meeting...

One morning, a week later, Grubak awoke to a heavy weight on his chest. He didn't panic, as he had woken up to that weight on his chest on several mornings- and it always followed an excellent night. Sure enough, there was a nude Khajiit sleeping on his chest. It had been a long time since Shadow had enjoyed their time together so completely that he fell asleep right away, and a feeling of pride swept through Grubak.

Two thoughts then occurred to him: first was the memory of just how good last night was, and the second- how in the world was he going to extract himself from this situation (as the need for a visit to the very nice washroom had been what awakened him) without waking his love? Likely, it was impossible: Shadow was (as an assassin should be) a very light sleeper and the change in the Orc's breathing had probably already woken him. Still, Grubak was determined to give it his best effort, and gently began sliding the Khajiit to the bed. As expected, Shadow's eyes opened, but Grubak gently reached up and closed them again and delivered a kiss to the forehead. With Shadow safely on the bed, Grubak headed out to answer nature's call. He had just finished doing so when he looked up to see Ra'shara standing in the doorway to the washroom. The Orc remained seated on the toilet, but did not cover himself- after last week, there wasn't any need to- she had seen all the Orc had to offer. Grubak had not seen her much since they had burned down the Speaker's lair, and the few times he had seen her, she had not been happy- nor was she now.

"How is my brother able to sleep with you snoring like that?" she asked. "I would have thought he would have heard me come in two hours ago."

"You would be surprised what you can sleep through," Shadow's voice came from behind her, and Grubak saw Shadow stretching in the room behind Ra'shara- he had also chosen to remain nude, although Grubak sensed that there was to some degree of trying to annoy Ra'shara in that choice. "Especially when someone decides that they would rather wait around for people to wake up rather than wake them up to speak to them."

Shadow went over to the table in the center of the room and found the teapot that had been dropped off and poured himself a cup of tea and took a seat at the table and crossed his arms and glared at Ra'shara. It was clear to Grubak that the Master Assassin had sensed her mood and was having none of it. That didn't stop her from placing her hands on her hips and returning the glare.

"Have you found the Speaker yet?" she asked, the tone in her voice making it clear that she already knew the answer and wasn't happy about it.

"No," Shadow replied, sipping the cold tea. "He has left town."

"How do you know he has left town?"

"Because," Shadow said his tone that of a teacher explaining a point one time too many to a student that refused to listen. "He has no money to pay for mercenaries."

"And that is going to stop him how?"

"It is not," Shadow replied. "It never was."

"Then why are you here instead of out there looking for him? Instead of doing your job, you are here indulging in Sugar and sex with your Orc!" Ra'shara yelled.

"There is no point," Shadow said. "He is _not_here. And even if he was, I already know what he is going to do, so there is still no point."

Before Grubak even understood what was happening, Ra'shara took the two strides to the table and slapped Shadow across the face. The Orc leaped up, but stopped in the washroom door when he saw that Shadow was not reacting. The assassin looked up at her.

"So that's how it is," he said coldly. "You think I'm putting your toy at risk? You think I want him dead?"

"You sure as hell did your best last time!" she shouted. "How could you? He is the most pro-Empire Khajiit alive, and you still tied to kill him!"

This was moving almost too fast for Grubak to keep up, but with the disparate pieces of information coming at him, he managed to put it together. Shadow had told him that the Dark Brotherhood Speaker planned to assassinate the Mane and the Emperor for his own ends, which meant that, wait, Ra'shara and the Mane? It would explain the turn in her attitude when Shadow decided that it was pointless to pursue the Speaker any longer. As for the Mane, he had not been so pro-Empire in his youth- so much so that a visit from the (then) brand new Master Assassin of the Shadowswords had been in order. The way Shadow told it (and the Mane had confirmed in his own retelling on the night they had met), the Master Assassin had seen that the young Mane was misguided and hoped that a gentle nudge would push him back onto the straight and narrow. But the Mane had not seen things the same way, and a fight had ensued. The Mane was huge for a Khajiit, even larger than Grubak, who was not small by the standards of the Orcs- and so Shadow had been at a huge disadvantage during the struggle. The Mane had broken Shadow's back before the assassin put the Shadowedge through his spine, and both had been forced to relearn to walk- when he held Shadow tightly, Grubak could still feel the gap in Shadow's back that had never truly healed. The incident had indeed turned the Mane back to the straight and narrow, and he had been a willing partner in the Empire ever since. But that wasn't the message Ra'shara had gotten, and since the Mane had related the story to Grubak as kind of a revelation, the Orc couldn't imagine him telling it any other way to her (especially since she was a former Shadowsword herself).

"If I had been trying," Shadow said, is voice dropping even lower. "I would have succeeded."

"I see how it is you bastard. You have so little respect for your own loves that you can't give a damn about anyone else's. We're not all so lucky that we can just throw them away when something better comes along!"

And she drew back to slap him again, but the strike never landed as Shadow grabbed her wrist and held it in a death grip. He was shaking with rage, and his eyes spoke of rage and pain and cold vengeance. In speaking out of rage of her own, and insinuating that he had let Ra'jarr die- even if she really didn't mean it, Ra'shara had prodded the one thing guaranteed to generate a negative reaction from Shadow- and she had hit it hard.

"You have no right to judge me," Shadow said, oblivious to her yelp of pain, his voice barely more than a whisper. Grubak could not stand by any longer.

"Shadow!" he shouted, drawing the Khajiit's eyes to him. He dropped his tone to a quiet, reasonable level. "You're hurting her."

Shadow looked at Ra'shara's wrist in his hand as if he was seeing it for the first time, and released his grip. Ra'shara began massaging her wrist, and glared at her brother, but said nothing. It was time for Grubak to take control of this situation before things got out of hand again.

"Why don't you go check on Raven-Eye and let me talk to her," he said quickly.

Shadow nodded mechanically, stood up and headed out the door. When it closed behind him, Grubak glared at Ra'shara.

"You have no idea what you just accused him of," he said angrily. And then he told her the story of how Ra'jarr had died in the painful detail that a sobbing Shadow had told Grubak, and no one else.


Raven-Eye was actually having a rather pleasant morning. He had requested hot water for a nice long soak this morning, a request that the inn had been happy to fulfill. By the time he had finished that wonderful bath, breakfast had been delivered and a happy and still damp Argonian sat down to his meal. He was happily munching on a piece of toast when he heard a thud in the hallway followed by a knocking on his door. Knowing that there could only be two people who would be knocking on his door, Raven-Eye grabbed his teacup and went to answer the door still munching on his toast. He opened his door to find Master Shadow leaning against the doorframe- he looked up when his student answered the door.

"Hello, Raven. How are you this morning?" Shadow asked, trying to sound cheerful, even though he clearly wasn't feeling that way.

"Good," Raven-Eye said carefully. Something was clearly wrong, he could tell by the Master's appearance. "I'm just finishing breakfast, but there is plenty of tea left if you would like some."

"If you don't mind," Shadow said.

"Uhm, Master? You seem to have forgotten your pants."

Shadow looked down, and seemed rather surprised to find that he was still naked. He swore to himself before looking back up at his student with a very embarrassed look on his face.

"Could I borrow a pair of yours? I can't go back to the room right now."

So there was something wrong. Was the Master having a fight with Grubak? Raven-Eye showed the Master in, seated him at the table and poured him some tea, and went to retrieve some pants for the Master. That done, he sat down and offered Shadow what was left of his breakfast and began talking about anything he could think of except for why the Master had shown up at his door without pants. Shadow clearly wasn't in the mood, but he tried his best to play along, but he kept playing with his locket. This continued for several awkward minutes before the door opened again to reveal a tearful Ra'shara. Shadow looked up at her, and in three strides she was in the room. Both Khajiits fell into each other's arms and burst out crying.

"I'm sorry Little Brother," she sobbed. "I didn't know..."

Raven-Eye looked away, feeling very much like he was intruding on a private moment, but not wanting to draw attention to himself by moving. Grubak appeared briefly in the doorway, disappeared, and then returned with a breakfast tray.

"I miss him," Shadow was sobbing. "I miss him so much..."

Grubak set the tray on the table and pulled the two Khajiit to their feet. The moment of sadness had passed, and after some tear wiping both seemed back to normal- almost. Raven-Eye's room had only three chairs, and Shadow seemed quite content to take a seat on Grubak's lap with his arms around the Orc's neck. In fact, it seemed to Raven-Eye that the Master Assassin _needed_that contact with his partner to keep himself functional. They ate and talked about what they were going to do about the Speaker. Raven-Eye sensed that Shadow's plan of waiting for the Speaker to make his move had not gone over well with Ra'shara- and that had been fight had originally been about. Somewhere along the way, Ra'jarr had been brought up, which had led to Shadow showing up nude at Raven-Eye's door.

As soon as the meal was finished, Ra'shara left, promising to meet them outside in an hour. Shadow followed her out to return to his room to dress. Grubak stayed to collect the dishes, giving Raven-Eye the chance to finally ask the question that had been on his mind for weeks.

"Grubak, everywhere we go people keep bringing up Ra'jarr. And every time Ra'jarr comes up, the Master goes to pieces. Why?"

Grubak glared at him. "What are you saying?"

It was clearly a challenge, and if the Argonian played this wrong, he would have a fight on his hands. He shrugged.

"He clearly is still in love with him, why doesn't that bother you?"

Grubak sighed; this was going to be the morning of tough explanations. He sensed that Raven-Eye really just wanted to understand, but had no idea how to go about asking. He was on a track that would lead to big trouble. Shadow should be the one to tell him, but Raven-Eye clearly understood that to ask him to do so would cause a lot of trouble. Grubak could feel himself getting angry, his normal reaction to when anyone challenged Shadow's masculinity, but forced himself to choke it back- this was a friend, and one he hoped would become very close...

Shadow might not approve of the course of action, but it would be better if Raven-Eye knew. He wouldn't tell him everything, but he would tell him enough. If he was going to be part of their family, he would have to know.

"Raven, you have never been in love have you?" he asked as he took a seat again.

"No," Raven-Eye said carefully. "I thought I was, once."

"Shadow says I'm too young to understand the difference between love and physical attraction," Grubak continued with a grunt. "But I know enough that I would do anything for him, and that he would do anything for me."

Grubak took off his shirt, exposing his tattoos. "Do you know what these mean?"

"They are the symbols of your clan," Raven-Eye answered, feeling somewhat proud of himself for knowing. "They mark you as an adult Orc, show your specific family history, and your own merits."

The Orc nodded. "And if I return to my home, they will take them from me, in the most painful way possible."

"What? Why?"

"For the same reason that you got beaten within an inch of your life and left for dead by your own father," Grubak said, his eyes turning sad. "Mine couldn't bring himself to do it- but he took everything else from me: my home, my family, my name. I shouldn't even be using my clan name- I didn't until I met Shadow. I was set off and told to never come back, under pain of death. I lost myself, bounced around finding mercenary work until I inevitably saw some male bathin' or sumthin' and had a reaction. I felt bad about it; I wasn't normal and I left the group every time it happened. Finally wound up in the Legion, and the same thing happened again. I had nowhere else to go, but the commander had heard that this special branch 'o the Rangers was lookin' for recruits for extra dangerous work an' sent me over. I tell you I didn't handle my impulses real well, an' I guess he thought I was lookin' for a way out- so he obliged.

"But then I met Shadow. Met him the first time he came back to the Shadowswords after Ra'jarr's death. When he looked at me with those heartbroken eyes, I hurt inside me like I never had before. 'Cuz he was hurtin', I was hurtin' and I knew from that first moment that I would do anything to make that pain go away. I called him handsome right away, and I got my first smile outta him- a small one, gone as fast as it came- but it was there. I knew that I wanted to see that smile again," Grubak stopped and drew a deep breath. Raven-Eye said nothing.

"Shadow was lucky to find Ra'jarr- Ra'jarr got him to be okay with the fact that he liked boys, made it so Shadow didn't hafta go through what you an' I went through. And don't think for a damn second that Shadow doesn't know how lucky he is, and that makes it harder. See, what Shadow an' Ra'jarr had- it was special, the kinda love that bards sing 'bout. And if it wasn't for that Dark Elf bitch, I'd be in yer shoes learning the trade from a happy pair 'o Khajiits now."

"What 'Dark Elf bitch?'"

"You remember the old Countess 'o Chedenhayll?"

"The one who died in the orgy about year ago?" Grubak was shaking his head before Raven-Eye finished.

"She was stealing funds from the town, some other things too. But she attracted the eye 'o the Empire, and they sent Shadow and Ra'jarr to deal with her. But she had a buddy on the Elder Council, and heard they were coming. Now, from what I heard, Ra'jarr was good- but you've seen Shadow, next to him, everyone comes off second best. Well, Ra'jarr got caught. The Countess already didn't like him 'cuz he was Khajiit, and when she found out he wasn't into females... She tortured him, badly- Shadow got there just in time for Ra'jarr to die in his arms."

Grubak paused and drew a deep breath, fighting back the memory of Shadow sobbing this (and more) into his chest. He squeezed his hands into fists.

"I don't know how he managed it, but Shadow got himself into a rage. Found the Countess and told her why she was dying. Told her that she had taken everything from him, and he was going to do the same for her: her, life, her title, her name. When he was through with her, she would only be remembered as a joke. He did it too."

Grubak paused, looking at the shock in the young Argonian's face. "If you've got any sentiment left for that worthless father 'o yours, you better get over it quick. Shadow wants him Raven, wants him badly. And when he talks about him, Shadow's got that same look in his eyes that he got when talkin' bout that bitch that killed Ra'jarr."

Raven-Eye said nothing, seemed to be taking it all in. Grubak said nothing, collected his shirt and left the room. In the corridor, he sighed to himself and let his shoulders slump- even if they found the Speaker today and killed him, tonight was going to be a rough night. He was not looking forward to it.


"I hate it when I feel like this," Shadow said with a sob.

They were lying in bed, spooning with Shadow's back to Grubak's front, but sex was the last thing on their minds. The Orc had his arm across the Khajiit, slowly rubbing his furry chest. Shadow had his hands tucked under his head and was still gently sobbing to himself. Shadow hated crying, had not done much crying as a child, but in the past year he'd made up for lost time.

"It's not fair," he continued.

Grubak said nothing to that. This was far from the first time they had participated in this ritual, and Grubak had learned that Shadow meant it was unfair to him. Shadow never railed against the injustice of the world that had taken his first love from him (something that would have been completely justifiable in Grubak's mind), he just hated the fact that it was ruining his interactions with his new love. It didn't matter to Grubak, not after he'd learned about what Shadow had been through. Grubak actually felt useful to Shadow in these moments compared to those times in combat where the Master Assassin was very much his superior. He felt needed, and he hated to see Shadow in pain- but he knew that he couldn't fill the void that Ra'jarr's death had left in Shadow's heart. All he could do was to be there for his love.

"It's alright my kitty," Grubak said, squeezing Shadow against himself. "It's right that you miss him, he would want you to miss him."

"No he wouldn't," Shadow said. "That's not what he said..."

"That is what he said," Grubak interrupted. "He wanted you to find another male so you wouldn't do something foolish. You remember what you almost did?"

"Yes," Shadow whispered, curling tighter against the Orc. He hadn't exactly been at his best after Ra'jarr's death. He didn't like to think about the things he might have done if he hadn't met Grubak. But the fact that he still was like this with Grubak bothered him as much as remembering Ra'jarr's death did.

"You know this doesn't bother me," Grubak said with another squeeze. "It's right that you miss him. If you didn't, how could I be sure that you really love me?"

"I do love you," Shadow said urgently, finally reaching up to take hold of Grubak's wrist.

"I know you do," Grubak said, kissing the back of Shadow's head. "And you also love Ra'jarr. You know I accept that. I wouldn't have it any other way."

They lay there in silence, just holding each other, for a long time after that.

"You deserve better than me," Shadow said in barely more than a whisper.

"There's no one better than you my love," Grubak reassured him. "Now, let's get some covers on you before you get cold."

With that Grubak extracted his hand, reached behind himself, grabbed the covers and pulled them over them. As soon as they settled, he returned his hand to Shadow's chest.

"Don't leave me," Shadow pleaded. "I don't want to be alone..."

"I'm not going anywhere. I'm where I want to be."

It took a long time, but Shadow finally went to sleep. Grubak lay awake for a long time after that thinking. He was lucky to have found someone like Shadow, so unselfish a lover that he was torn up by his own emotions, but it did have this one down side. Grubak did love the sex, but it was the times like these, where Shadow needed him and no one else that Grubak found himself loving the Khajiit the most. And in his own moments of doubt, Shadow never hesitated to do the same for him. The Orc thought of Raven-Eye then, the teen clearly confused by Shadow, unable to understand why Shadow could act that way. Grubak pitied him a little, he didn't understand what love was, didn't understand what the loss of that love could do to someone.

But that brought to mind his own relationship with the Argonian. When they had first met, he had desired Raven-Eye in the way he had desired many males in his young life- and to some extent, he still did. But there was nothing more to it than that; it was just desire- nothing like the relationship he had with the Khajiit in his arms. And now, Grubak was developing another layer in his relationship with Raven-Eye. He was coming to view Raven-Eye as a younger brother, and that was all there was to it- and that was much more important the Orc than any desire he might feel for the teen. Shadow did not seem to have any problem with Grubak's wandering eye though, something that Grubak suddenly didn't understand.

"Shadow," he said suddenly and somewhat urgently. "Why aren't you mad at me for thinking about Raven-Eye?"

"Why should I be?" Shadow asked. As always, the Khajiit transitioned instantly from sleep to awake.

"Well, if I want to sleep with him too, doesn't that mean that what we have isn't that special?"

"Is what we have not special to you?" Shadow asked, taking hold of the Orc's arm.

"But if it's not enough..."

"Oh, you silly Orc," Shadow said as he rolled over and threw his own arms around Grubak. They were nose to nose now, and Grubak could look deeply into Shadow's green eyes as they reflected in the candle light. They were touching now, but neither seemed aroused by it.

"You are young enough that you still confuse physical attraction with love," Shadow said as he reached up to stoke Grubak's green cheek. "There is a difference."

There was a moment of silence, long enough to make Grubak begin to feel uncomfortable. Shadow laughed.

"You're not getting hard love," the Khajiit chuckled. "Every time I would start to wonder if what we had wasn't special, that it was all just physical, Ra'jarr would hold me- just like I'm holding you, and see how long I could go without getting aroused. If I did, he'd get out of bed and leave me alone for a little while."

"I don't understand," Grubak said, a hint of worry creeping into his voice.

"Don't look down," Shadow commented coyly. "Of course you don't understand- neither did I at first. I would get so mad at him. 'Wasn't the point to show him that I was always ready?' I would say to him. And he always said the same thing with that smile of his: 'That makes it only physical,' he would say. 'If we can hold each other so closely, and express our love for each other without being physical- then we know that we love each other beyond that physical lust.'"

"But how do you not have that reaction?" Grubak asked, getting even more desperate- he could almost feel himself beginning to harden against the Khajiit. And he was now just as worried that Shadow would leave him alone as Shadow had been about him leaving a short time ago.

"By not thinking about it," Shadow said after a kiss. "You've done this plenty of times when I just needed to be held."

"Yes, but that's different! You weren't in the..."

Shadow kissed him again, this time on the lips, cutting off any further argument.

"I love you Grubak," he whispered after finally breaking the kiss. "I love you no matter what. If you need to try some Argonian tail, if he's willing, that's fine by me. You waited for me, and I will always wait for you. But right now, I just want to hold you."

And with that, he buried his face in Grubak's chest, his whisker tickling as he rubbed up against the Orc's skin. Then he put his head on Grubak's shoulder and began to purr.

"I love you too," Grubak said finally. "You were worth waiting for..."

They lay there, looking into each other's eyes until they finally fell asleep.

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