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  • DovaBunny
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    Dawwww just because Helena and Regina asked so sweetly, I sat my ass down and finished the chapter! With work starting up again, shit’s been cray. But you guys are awesome and I’m still overwhelmed with the idea that anyone even reads my shit – so here you go you beautiful bastards! And I threw a little something rugged and handsome in there because Drea expressed her intense disdain for a chapter without the cocky Dick (not meant in the dirty way, get your mind out of the gutter! Or actually, if you see Diana’s mind down there, could you fetch it for me? Thanks!) 😉 Seriously, you guys are awesome.

    Imma try my best to post at least once a week though! I’ve been writing two other fun things on the side, more on that very soon!

    Just two quick notes. 1) if you haven’t picked up on it, the timeline now is 5 years after Bish and Diana first met. They were both 22 at the start, so round 27 now. They spend two years together, and then have been split for three. 2) on my Cassy-pants, he’s a little different than the game’s, just like my Bish is a little different (or at least he is in my head when I write). My Cas is a bit more naive and innocent, having been raised quite sheltered in the chantry in Cyrodiil, training to be a knight from a young age. But he’s still a brilliant, fearless warrior, and has that honest heart of gold that makes the ladies swoon!

    Okay I shut up now. Happy reading lovelies!

    _________________

    CHAPTER 29

    _________________

    “Lady Ana… come- closer…” Casavir coughs and flinches, his eyelids are heavy, “I think- I think I’m dying…” another heavy cough from half-lidded eyes, a body shivering.

    And here she thought Viamo was the biggest drama queen in all of Tamriel.

    Diana huffed in irritation with a dramatic eye-roll. Looking up to the heavens, she groans, “what have I done to piss you guys off?”

    She paused, looking up, almost allowing herself for a moment to expect to be struck by lightning or something.

    Hmf. If only the divines would be so merciful. Useless douchbags, always wanting you to ‘fetch my sword!’, ‘retrieve my beacon!’, ‘kill this dude!’, ‘sleep with the hot stable boy!’ Okay, slight chance that last one was not a god’s voice, but she was pretty sure it was Dibella’s intervention! Praise be Dibella the gifts she bestows!

    “No you’re not ‘dying’ you hungover Skeever-shit. Now get up!” she kicks his boot, causing him to let out a painful groan as he pulls in on himself inside, deeper into his bedroll. She ignores the man on his supposed deathbed. “I want to be on the other side of Helgen before tonight.”

    “Oh Divines… grant me a quick, merciful death,” he mutters as he pops his head out and hisses at the intruding sunlight where it peeks over the mountain tops. “Where… where are we?”

    “Between Riverwood and Whiterun. I need to stop in Riverwood to pick up some armour and weapons. You’re going to go to the general trader and get us some supplies, then to the Inn to get us stew and bread. I’ll wait for you on the other side of town at the abandoned mine,” she says flatly as she adjusts the cheap fur armour she took off a bandit. She knew all their regular spots, the bandit scum, and actually went to a camp in the night while Casavir was sleeping off the wine to get her some armour and weapons, preferring to look like a bandit than an escape prisoner.

    “Why can’t I come with you?” Casavir scrambles awkwardly to his feet. The idea of being outside Solitude is scary enough, now she wants to dump him the first town they stop at?! He immediately felt stupid for how desperate his voice sounded, but his throbbing head drowned out any thought of regaining his manly, dignified independence.

    “Because I can’t be seen,” she replies, but still sees the confused dumbstruck look on his face. She sighs and points to herself, “supposed to be dead, Hero of Whiterun, escaped the Thalmor, slept with an angry redhead with a mammoth tusk obsession and never wrote her again, ring any bells?” she says like she’s speaking to a child.

    A hungover and slightly panicking child.

    “Oh… oh okay, I guess…” he stammers and forces himself to calm down. This is logical, right? He needs to pop into town because she can’t, and then they’ll meet up after. This is what adventuring is about, compromise and trust, right? …right?

    Almost like she can read his mind, she slaps him on the shoulder and gives him a reassuring look, “calm down Cassypants, I’m not getting rid of you… yet…”

    That had no reason to be as reassuring as was, but Cas let out a steady, long breath he’d been holding.

    “And here, drink this,” she hands him what looks like a stamina potion mixed with something, “it’ll undo yesterday. Well, undo the effects of the wine on your body, the emotional scarring I now have after watching you drunkenly recite your holy chants while naked is something that’ll take years of therapy and point at a therapist’s doll’s crotch. That being said…” she looks up at him, bent over lacing up her boots with a wicked grin pulling into her left cheek and eyebrows bouncing, “I must say, you seem quite skilled at working with ‘greatswords’,” she shamelessly throws a glance at his crotch.

    His brow furrowed as he swallowed down the mixture and turned to look at his steel greatsword where it rested against his backpack. Turning back to her, he sees her eye his crotch, and her eyebrows bounce suggestively as she gets up and laughs at his face. His face which had now gone crimson right to the tips of his ears.

    Oh Divines, just a few hours with this woman and his virtues had all but been pooped out by a skeever and spat on by a troll. He’d committed treason, ran from the Thalmor, ran away from his responsibilities, gotten drunk, and exposed himself to Diana, and, well, apparently an array of wildlife. And now she was looking at him with a gaze that made him feel ‘very’ uncomfortable and exposed.

    “C-could y-you not!” he spins to the side, lifting his knee to his stomach and covering his body like he were a naked maiden who had just been walked in on while bathing.

    “Heh, I’ll stop when it stops being fun. And watching your face go red like that – is a lot of fun!” she throws him another cheeky wink and sheathes her sword to her hip. She paused for a moment to consider the strange Paladin who had managed to worm himself back into her life, drunkenly and insistently, watching as he strapped his massive steel greatsword to his back with absent-minded familiarity. Maybe she underestimated the big soft oaf.

    “Say, Sir Clanks-a-lot?” he looked up at her, “What’s her name?” she briefly gestured to him with an incline of her head.

    “…?” he looked puzzled at her.

    “Your sword dumbass,” she huffed at his confusion, “it’s the same one you’ve had for years, innit? And I’ve never known a man who had a weapon for that long and didn’t name it. So, what’s her name?”

    Casavir stared down at his feet for a moment, a little embarrassed. He’s never told anyone that he did, in fact, have a name for his greatsword. “Justice,” he says sheepishly.

    “Justice?”

    “Yeh. Like, ‘justice will be served on the unrighteous and evil’. So, you know. Justice.”

    Her grin widened and then her eyes narrowed wickedly. Casavir had NO idea what to make of that expression.

    “What?” he asks cautiously, craning his head away from her a little.

    “Oh nothing… Just making a mental note” she tossed her bag on her back, “Just don’t walk around with that big thing unsheathed again, okay?” she gave him a naughty-looking wink that told him she meant something else than what it sounded like. He really did wish she’d stop doing that.

    With a wink, she turned to pack up camp, merrily humming a tune he’d only heard sailors sing before, but no one ever wanted to tell him what the song was about. Something about picking flowers along the coast where pretty girls lived and sewing sails with ladies undergarments. That didn’t sound like reliable material to use for sails. Maybe it was another one of those things that meant something different from what it sounded like to him.

    He really did wish people would stop doing that.

    ___

     

    Bishop stalks into the painfully familiar town, head low, heavy scarf worn like a cowl.

    The mill, the blacksmith, the lazy guards dragging their sleepy feet through the dusty road… the years haven’t touched it.

    A pang that is all too familiar to him strikes his chest with a deep ache. The years have done nothing to change the town, nor dim that twist of his heart when he comes across a place that reminds him of her. And a lot of things made him think of her. The smell of Falkreath in spring, a tall tree with easy-climbing branches, hunting trips in the morning dew, lazy nights by the camp fire. Riverwood.

    He slowly makes his way down the road, taking in the sights and sounds and smells, keeping to the shadows, not that anyone notices the stranger in worn steel and black leather armour pass through.

    The Inn. Just one mug of ale while he waits for the trader to open and Alvor to get his things ready for the day. He’ll be out of town again before the hour is up. Maybe he’ll eat something too. Been a while since he’d had a proper meal with spices and flavour, and not just stale bread with bland, cooked meat.

    In the past he’d never have dare to come close, but since Delphine relocated to the Blades sanctuary, or so his sources tells him, and Orgnar is about as chatty as a Falmer is a bird-watcher, he decided to venture in. He needed new supplies and Falkreath didn’t have what he needed.

    Just a quick in and out. He does this trip every six months. Why did he still feel so nervous every time though?

    The Inn has also been left untouched by time. Orgnar is absent-mindedly polishing mugs behind the counter, in the corner some new wench is sweeping. That musky smell of hard-work-sweat, ale, and rabbit stew hanging thick in the air.

    Bishop keeps his head down as he walks over and takes a seat at the far end of the counter. Orgnar gives him a lazy glance, but then does a double take. Bishop looks up at him from his low head and folded arms, eyes hard meeting the innkeeper’s almost accusatory glare. Orgnar falters after a moment, turning to fill the polished mug in his hands with ale. Apparently deciding its not his place to say anything, or he just doesn’t give a flying falmer fart.

    Probably the latter.

    “There’s still stew left over from last night,” the innkeeper says without looking at Bishop.

    “Please. Thanks.” Bishop mumbles, reaching out to take the mug Orgnar puts down in front of him.

    Thankfully, that is the extent of their verbal interaction. Orgnar seems to know a little more than he lets on. Guess years of working under the tyrant Delphine will do that to a man – keeping his mouth shut doesn’t mean his eyes and ears don’t work.

    Bishop was quietly eating, allowing himself to enjoy the flavourful stew. His mind drifting when he heard the inn door open and unstable foot stumble in before the door slams shut again.

    Thinking it must be some drunk that was kicked out in the early hours of the morning that’s here for his round two, Bishop just huffs and doesn’t even care to turn around, till he hears a vaguely familiar voice.

    “Is a… is this the inn?” a low, strong, but uncertain voice enquires. The warm tones of his voice carrying through the room with ease.

    Orgnar gave the customer a pointed look, then glanced around the room with a grunt, seemingly saying saying ‘the fuck you think this is, the temple of Dibella? Yes you twat it’s a inn!’.

    “Ah. Of course” he cleared his voice, “Good.” the man sounds strangely relieved and oddly proud of himself for some reason, and takes more purposeful steps to sit down at the other end of the counter. “Could I a… shit what was it again… oh yeah! Stew and bread please! Two please. To go. Please.” Bishop could practically hear the overly polite smile in the man’s voice.

    “I’ll get that for you handsome,” the wench saunters over from where she’d been sweeping, her voice dripping flirtatiously. Orgnar seems to again give a total of zero shits that the task is passed on, returning to polishing mugs off to the side while she moves behind the counter and pulls out two wooden bowls, “I take it the second is for… missus handsome knight?”

    Keeping his shoulders up and his head low, Bishop tilts just enough to catch a glimpse at the man at the other end of the counter out the corner of his eye from behind his cowl.

    His jaw goes slack, eyes narrowing.

    Casavir.

    “Errr… no! I mean… yes? It’s a- it’s for my companion.” Bishop watches as Casavir swallows very uncomfortably at the blond wench leaning over while she fills the two bowls, showing off her breasts, taking her time, lavishing in the flustering virgin knight. “And-a… speaking of. She’ll have my head if I take too long. So a-…”

    The wench pouts dramatically, but then gives the Paladin a wink and a smile as she goes about the order. Sensing the eyes watching him, Casavir slowly starts turning his head towards the dark man at the other end of the counter that looks like he steals candy from children for fun.

    Strange-man-Bishop ducks his head down just before he could get a look at him. Casavir frowns a little. A small part of him wonders if the poor man wasn’t hugged enough by his mother when he was younger. He shakes off the thought quickly though as the parcel is placed in front of him.

    “There you go sweetness. Sure you don’t want anything else?” her voice goes low, and she leans over exposing the top of her breasts till they look like they’re about to spill out at any second. Casavir’s eyes go wide, “anything… else? I’ll even let you order ‘off the menu’?” she winks at him.

    Cas slaps the money down on the counter, probably too much, or too little, he has no idea, as he grabs the parcel and dashes out the inn and away from the desire demon as fast as he can.

    Bishop stares at the door where the flustered knight just dashed out.

    Casavir.

    The last time he saw the Paladin was outside Solitude, with Diana, seething in jealous rage.

    He didn’t think he’d ever leave that city after she denied his request to accompany her…but now, did he say his companion is a ‘she’?

    It can’t be…

    No, no it can’t be! Diana wasn’t in Skyrim anymore, she disappeared off the grid like a ghost. After that ‘disappearing act’ she pulled in Whiterun – and he knows it was an act, he knew the arsenal of shouts and tricks she had, no way she’d fall to her death – no one has seen her. He was so sure she’d finally taken that trip to Morrowind. Not that he knew for sure, he never left Falkreath’s forests. He promised her that night he’d stay away and he has. No matter how fucking hard it has been, he stayed away. Least he could do for her after everything was fulfil his promise.

    But now, after three years… Wasn’t three years without her punishment enough? Did she ever think of him the way he did about her? Did looking up at the stars also remind her of the night he first held her hand? Did she miss hunting with him? Miss killing dragons and doing bounties with him? Did she miss…him?

    No. He should entertain these thoughts. Childish, foolish! He was a grown-ass man. Besides, what are the chances even really that it was her?

    Bishop shakes his head as if to shake out the thoughts, and pulls out his coin purse to pays his share. His eyes flicker to the discarded pile of coins Casavir slammed on the counter and realises it’s waay to little. Without hesitation he adds to it to amount to his debt for the food, avoiding the wench and Orgnar’s confused glances. He straps his bow back on and slips out the door.

    He stalks down the road, eyeing the Paladin ahead, and stops in front of Alvor’s forge, now open for the day’s business.

    He looks at the blacksmith working at his forge, then back down to the tall steel-clad knight walking nervously out of town, and back at the blacksmith again.

    He growls under his breath and turns off towards the Paladin.

    He has to know, he just has to!

    Divines, just to see her face one more time…

    ______

    “What the oblivion took you so long, Cassy-pants?” she flung her arms dramatically in the air, “…And why do you look like you’ve just seen a spriggan mating ritual?”

    A breathless, slightly paler Casavir rushed the last few steps up to the abandoned mine outside Riverwood. Diana, sitting lazily stretched out like a cat soaking up the sun, lowers her arms to raise an eyebrow at him. Annoyance giving way to curiosity.

    “Apologies my lady,” he panted, resting against the rock entrance to the mine to hold him steady, “I was…held up…twice”

    Diana narrowed her eyes at him for a moment, then her expression went blank with realisation, “this ‘hold up’, did one of them have breasts, blue eyes, and long swooping black hair?”

    Casavir seemed distraught at Diana’s accurate description.

    “Figured Camilla is still a flooze…” Diana chuckled softly to herself, a little warmth washed over her that things haven’t changed all that much. Probably should’ve given him a heads-up before sending him to the shop she and her brother run. “Don’t fret clanky-pants, I’ll protect you from the thirsty wenches!” she winked at him, standing in her fresh, new armour, brown leather with forest green finishes and a dark red cowl draped around her neck. She also spoiled herself with new gear –  a large black bow strapped to her back, ebony swords at her sides, one enchanted with fire, the other electricity.

    As she dusted herself off, ready to head towards home, a familiar sensation struck her.

    The hairs in the back of her neck standing up.

    Other than Cas’ not-so-effective hiding spot in Solitude at the forge, she hasn’t had this sensation in a long, long time – always staying out of sight – seeing without being seen.

    A threatening fight-or-flight panic rushed through her veins as she ducked her head down, eyes hungrily scanning her surroundings hand to her hilt.

    If it weren’t for Cas, she’d make a quick get-away, but she can’t leave him here, not now. Not without knowing what or who was watching them.

    “Lady Ana…?”

    She lifted a hand to silence him, her other staying on the hilt of her sword as she moved into a battle ready stance between Cas the open, pushing him back against the wall to the mine.

    After a few tense moments, a heavy silence, senses heightened, but her eagle eyes not seeing a single thing stir. The sensation faded away.

    “…strange,” she muttered to herself.

    “Is there something out there?” Cas asked cautiously and quietly.

    “If there is, its gaze isn’t on us anymore…”

    “Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel better.”

    “Agreed.”

     

    The days on the road to Riften are not as unpleasant as she expected.

    They travelled slower than she’d like, Casavir asking way too many questions and requesting frequent detours into caves and bandit camps.

    The phrase ‘Ooo a Cave! I wonder what’s inside?’ has used. And not ironically.

    She was honestly surprised but secretly happy to see a whole new side of him. He could be as jolly as a nord in a tub of ale, picking flowers and humming like a bard, but also get this darker, confident giddiness as he wipes his sword clean of the bandit blood. A part of her was a little worried. A bigger part of her was excited to see little flickers of Cas’ ‘dark side’.

    Aaaand now she’s looking at his butt. His ‘other’ dark side.

    Diana you perv.

    She felt bad for leaving him in that city for so long. Keeping all that raw power and energy cooped up for so long – there was a little flicker of madness in his eye when he went swinging and wielding his greatsword at bandits and bears.

    Aaaaand now she’s picturing him wielding his ‘other’ greatsword.

    Seriously Diana, get it together and stop giggling!

    He had a lot of questions and seemed to soak up the world around them with the bright-eyed wonderment of a child. It made her secretly a happy to see it, the way he got this little skip in his step. She gave in, took a few detours, showing him her favourite spots and beautiful sights. It was like he was seeing colour and possibility where she’d been seeing nothing but shadows and threats. He saw life and promise, she saw death and danger.

    Guess she’d been on her own so long, always keeping a suspicious eye, never trusting, never letting her guard down.

    It was at that point that she realised she had her hand on her hilt the entire time, even when they were alone walking out of an empty cave.

    The nights are mostly spent listening to him tell stories of his days as the Guard Captain’s lieutenant in Solitude, and all the crazy stuff he saw. She mostly kept quiet, listening to him ramble on, answering questions here and there about places over Skyrim he wants to see – keeping the conversation on him and dodging personal questions.

    He didn’t quite know what to make of her silence, as far as he remembered years ago – she was the babbling one and he was the silent, stoic one. Watching as she stared absent-mindedly into the fire on their third night on the road, he couldn’t help but feel drawn to a strange emptiness he saw in her eyes.

    “Lady Ana, I never really asked you…” he began softly, “But, what happened between you and Bishop?” at his words he could see her whole body tense up, her eyes going sharp, but she stayed silent, “you used to be inseparable. I mean, ‘the Dragonborn and the Ranger’, the Bards of Skyrim couldn’t keep up with the tales of the two carefree heroes taking Skyrim in their stride! Beirand mentioned that you changed since-“

    “Don’t.” she cut him off. The word harsh, low, dangerous. “Don’t, say that name to me.”

    Her eyes were still trained on the fire, but he could see her fists clenching, her shoulders tight and her pupils thin. She looked like a trapped animal, ready to leap and fight and run at any given moment. A dark, powerful anger washed over her, and for a moment, he felt a little scared of her.

    “I-I’m sorry my Lady,” he stammered, feeling terrible for causing her such distress, “I didn’t know, please forgive me.” He wanted to hug her, but somehow knew that wouldn’t be welcome.

    At that some of the tension left her. She sighed heavily and wiped her brow, suddenly looking very tired, “It’s fine. You didn’t know. But now you do.” At that, she stood to go to her bedroll, leaving him for first watch.

    His eyes followed her movements, even after she settled in, nothing but the sounds of the forest and crackle of the fire between them for what felt like hours but was probably just a few minutes.

    “Lady Ana,” his voice came softly, gently, “whatever happened, know that I’m here for you. If you need to talk, or just need a hug, or even if you need me to go strangle a certain someone, you know I will.”

    She didn’t respond. Lying on her back, hands behind her head she just listened and thought.

    How could he show her such kindness despite not even really knowing her? Kindness like that isn’t freely given, it’s either due to an ulterior motive, because they felt they owed you something, or because someone’s delusional. But as she turned to look at him, she saw no deceit or debt in those big, blue eyes, this was just who he was. He really did care, and it was so unfamiliar it made her uncomfortable, but also tugged at a deep part of her broken soul that desperately clung to it. She didn’t deserve it. If he only knew who, or what, she really was – he’d hate her.

    But then again, she wasn’t even sure he would. He wasn’t the type to hate. He was too kind and blindly trusting. She felt a surge of protectiveness for him wash over her. She’d protect him from the world, she wouldn’t let that hope in his eyes die…like it had for her.

    “You’re not alone anymore, Diana. Sleep well, my lady.”

     

    “Welcome to Casa de Diana! Also known as Fort Awesome. If you hear anyone call it ‘Honeyside’, slap ‘em for me.” Diana declared proudly as they walked into the house.

    It was a rather large home of dark wood built on the border of the town, an entrance near the docks on the outskirts of Riften allowed them to enter without being seen. Something which Casavir suspects Diana preferred.

    What did she say she did for a living again? He couldn’t sworn he asked her, but couldn’t recall a response.

    Exhausted from the long days of travel and all the excitement, he dropped his shoulders with a relieved sigh, overjoyed to be indoors again, safe, where neither would have to stay up to keep guard and he won’t have to be on alert the whole time.

    “Mama you’re home!”

    Wait, what?

    “Hey there munchkin!” Diana tossed her bag onto the big bed in the, presumably, master bedroom they walked into, smiling broadly as a young boy appeared around the corner.

    The boy stopped dead in his tracks in the doorgrame at seeing the Paladin. Narrowed eyes, an expression of disgust and distrust, “the fuck is this guy?”

    “Language young man!”

    “Sorry mother…”

    “And what did I say about calling me that?”

    The boy sighed and rolled his eyes, “sorry Diana…”

    “That’s better,” she smiled and walked over to ruffle the boy’s hair affectionately as the boy quickly wrapped his arms around her waist and squeezed.

    Casavir stood frozen. Mother? Diana had a kid? Is this why she was gone for so long? Who is the father? …Bishop?

    Casavir was going to strangle the damned Ranger with his own bow string for leaving Diana with a kid!

    Casavir cleared his throat. The boy’s scowl returned to the man shifting uncomfortably by the door.

    “Oh, where is my manners,” Diana began, taking a step back to move between the two, her voice lighter than Cas has heard it since Castle Dour, but still not as light as it was, “I haven’t introduced you! Allow me to rectify this grave oversight. Munchkin, meet Casavir, Knight-Paladin to the Divines, wanted criminal, wielder of Justice, turd on the bottom of the Dragonborn’s boot, and nudist-extraordinaire!” she gestured grandly up and down the tall man, eyes on the boy, then shifted her gaze to Casavir, one hand on the boy’s head, “And this little leach of my time and resources is Munchkin! Adorable distraction, powerful warrior in-the-making, and the best cook this side of the Throat of the World! And speaking of…” she put a kiss on his head, spun him around by his shoulders and gave him a playful slap on the back towards the door leading to the rest of the house, “how ‘bout you show off that new recipe Vekel gave you! I’m starving.”

    “Wait! He’s a Knight? Coooool!” the boy protested as Diana coaxed and pushed him out the room till he scurried off, presumably to the kitchen.

    “You- you have a child?” Casavir asked nervously.

    Diana just winked with a sly grin pulling into her left cheek. “C’mon Cassy-pants, I’ll show you where you where you will be laying down that pretty head of yours.”

     

    Diana’s home had a fully equipped workshop in the basement, complete with a forge, workbench, grindstone, alchemy stand and enchanting table, as well as a large training area with dummies and targets. There was a small room adjacent to the area with a bed, presumably for a servant or housecarl, but it didn’t seem like Diana had one as she gave him the room and told him he’s welcome to help himself to anything.

    After washing up and putting on clean clothes, happy to not be steel-clad for a while, he made his way up the stairs, following the amazing smell of rabbit stew. He felt strong and rejuvenated, his muscles tense with the travelling and fighting, but he’s never had more energy! He felt amazing!

    “Hello Sir Munchkin,” Cas offered kindly when he reached the kitchen where the boy was standing on a chair, stirring the stew, trying to be friendly.

    “I have a name, you know…” the boy huffed rolling his eyes.

    “Yes, and its Munchkin!” Diana strolled into the room, “Holy mudcrabs, something smells incredible!”

    The boy grinned proudly as Diana went about setting the table and winked at him affectionately as the he brought the pot to the table.

    “Lady Ana, I must say, I never knew you had a son-” his words cut short by the two strange looks that were shot his way over their food and the words got lost in his throat.

    Diana and Munchkin exchanged looks then slowly looked back at him, the boy with a disgusted snarl, Diana with a look that said ‘you’re fucking with me, right?’.

    “Cassypants, you don’t really think the bugger to be my offspring do you?”

    Before Cas could defend himself, the young boy sighed heavily shaking his head with an expression that seemed way to adult for such a young boy.

    “Let me just do this right,” he gave that eye-roll of his again, gesturing to himself formally, “My name is Aventus Aretino, but you can call me Munchkin, everyone does.” He shoots her a dirty look that said ‘thanks for that’, and she winked. Looking back to Cas he continued, “Diana adopted me after finding me in a…well…’compromising’ situation.”

    “Compromising?” Diana quipped with raised eyebrows, a smirk appearing after she swallowed a mouthful of stew, “Is that what the kids are call it these days?” she chuckled and turned to Cas, “this little dipshit was doing the black fucking sacrament!”

    “Language Diana… I’m 9, you know.”

    “Sorry Munch.”

    Cas froze, but suddenly felt like he wanted to jump out the window and run from the evil child. Was he really sitting next to a child who had performed the black sacrament?! A child! He resisted the urge to dunk the kid in holy water or run to the nearest temple.

    “Oh don’t look so scared white knight!” she slapped him on his shoulder, clearly entertained in his discomfort. “That’s not even the funny part! Oh, oh! Munchkin! Tell him the funny part!” she nearly bounced in her chair, eager for the strangely mature and adult-ly sighing kid who rolled his eyes at her again.

    “I did the sacrament, and you came in there in all black leather looking sneaky and evil as the void! What was I supposed to think?”

    She turned back to Cas to explain, huge grin on her face, “I was in Windhelm and heard the rumours of the ‘dark and evil child’ doing ‘strange and eeeeeevil rituals!”

    “So she broke into my house…”

    “So you broke into his house!?” Casavir asked confused.

    “I thought maybe I could see a daedra, or maybe meet a cool possessed kid or something,” she explained way too matter-of-factly with a casual shrug for Casavir to be comfortable, “instead I found this little thorn in my side,” she winked at the boy again and smiled warmly at him, a gesture the boy returned sweetly.

    Despite her words, it was clear as day to Casavir that she cared deeply for the boy. It was a strange thing, seeing the carefree and reckless Diana care for a child like this. Of course, this wasn’t just any child – Diana does nothing the conventional way.

    “So, Munch, how’s your classes going with uncle Delv?”

    “Boring,” the boy’s expression turned sour and he pushed a piece of meat around in his stew, “I want to learn something practical! I’m so tired of reading and writing and reading and blegh!”

    “Don’t gimme that attitude,” she said with an oddly motherly tone, though there was still a little humour in her voice, “do you want me to give you back to Astrid?”

    “You can’t keep using that threat, Diana,” the kid deadpanned. She smirked and winked.

    “Who is Astrid?” Cas asked awkwardly, it felt like they kept forgetting he was at the table with them.

    “Leader of the Dark Brotherhood,” the boy said casually taking another bite.

    “Don’t talk with your mouth full!” Diana corrected him, but the boy just defiantly shook his head with a smile in his eyes as he chewed, “Or whatever. I’m not your mother!” she threw her arms up in a show.

    Casavir’s brain was stuck. What did the boy just say? “I apologize, did you just say-“

    “Astrid, yeah, real bitch that one!” Diana interrupted, not feeling like listening through Casavirgin’s stammering. “Wanted me to join because I ‘fulfilled their contract’ when I killed the hag that tortured the kids in the orphanage. Which was Munchies’ contract, by the way – the one he wanted taken care of. When I refused, she threatened to take him. Long story short – they won’t bother the boy anymore.”

    “Diana,” Casavir rarely called her by her name, but he felt the situation needed it. Smoking skeever shits, black sacraments, threatened kidnapping, assassins, “…you’re not part of the Dark Brotherhood are you?” his question serious and sober, and very cautious.

    She took another bite, smirking at him.

    Oh Divines have mercy!

    “She’s not, don’t worry. I wouldn’t let her,” the boy interrupted, Cas let out a shuddering breath in relief, “but she has an agreement with them, it was the bargain to have them leave me alone, where she’ll fulfil contracts regarding abusers. Slavers, abusive husbands, a shopkeeper who beats her staff, that kind of thing. The Brotherhood has no conscience, so they don’t care for motive, and honestly don’t give a shit if someone else takes some contracts.”

    A few days ago, Casavir would’ve wretched and ran at the idea of travelling with someone who was mixed up with the Dark Brotherhood, and defended the rumours of Diana’s involvement with them fiercely. But sitting here, he listened to the light banter between the young woman who carried her scars with such strength, and the boy who held a maturing and self-assurity that was well beyond his years. The way they teased and shared stories of what happened in the other’s absence, he could see no wrong there, no evil.

    Diana wasn’t the same carefree, young woman he once knew – she was older, stronger, wiser. There was pain she carried just out of sight, she didn’t hold her head as high, didn’t smile as bright, didn’t laugh as freely, but she lived according to her own rules and morals – and anyone who didn’t agree with her could go hang. She didn’t live to please anyone. But he was seeing glimpses of that big heart she used to have, and it made him happy.

    He smiled at a funny impression the boy was doing of someone called ‘Maul’, putting on a face like a cave-man and talking in short, simple words, as he tucked into his dinner.

     

    They were cleaning up after dinner, Munch putting away the clean dishes and wiping down the table, Casavir elbow deep in soapy water and Diana drying off. He was deep in thought, questioning so much of what he thought he knew.

    “Everything okay Cassypants?” Diana asked softly with a tilt of her head.

    “Hmm? Oh, yeah,” he blushed a little at being so lost in his thoughts, he chuckled then, “I must say, when I first saw the boy, my first thought was that he was yours! The boy’s brown hair and amber eyes, for a moment I thought he quite looked a bit like-” he stopped himself, almost saying the name he wasn’t allowed to in front of her.

    Diana seemed to pick up on the name on his lips, despite it never having left, and a dark shadow passed over her eyes as she shot him a hard look of warning. Munch stared from his spot across the kitchen sensing the situation, and no matter how hard Cas tried to think, he couldn’t come up with something to say to lift the tension.

    As if the Divines heard his desperate, silent plea, a knock on the door pulled them out of the heavy atmosphere.

    “I’ll get it!” Munch called, but before he could reach the door, there was a faint rustle in the lock, and the door swung open, revealing a beautiful, dark-haired Redguard woman in grey leather armour, discreetly tucking away what looked like lockpicks in her sleeves.

    “Well pinch my ears, smoke some spiky grass and call me a High Elf! You’re Alive!” the woman calls out cheerfully grinning, “I thought I heard men spill their drinks and panties dropping all over town!” she walked in with a swing in her hips, ruffling Munch’s hair with a wink similar to the one Diana gave the boy.

    “Tonilia!” Diana smiled at the woman and took a few steps to embrace her with familiarity and what Casavir could swear was hint of genuine happiness. “Gonna be straight with you, shit went south! Was close as balls to turned into sewer-skeever food!” Diana teased as she gently patted the woman’s cheek.

    “I heard what happened! You must know Delvin is using every contact he has to find out whose name to slap on the Dark Brotherhood contract!”

    “I know, I know… We’re scum, but at least not backstabbers! That’s the brotherhood’s job. Besides, I figured Delv’ll be beating himself up about it enough. Not need to extend his suffering.”

    “Oh you have no idea! The poor old man nearly had a heart attack when Bryn brought the message. I’ve never seen the red-head so uncomfortable! But speaking of tall, dark, and stealing hearts, this must be the saviour our fearless leader?” the Redguard turned to regard Casavir who was still standing in his spot, trying to make sense of what was going on.

    “That’s Casavir,” Munch answered, leaning against the wall with that odd mature grin of his, “he’s a knight. And a nudist.”

    “I’m not a-” Cas just growled in frustration, and stepped forward, “My name is Casavir, please to meet you my lady,” he briefly took the Redguard’s hand, “and you’ll have to excuse me, but I’m having a hard time following? How do you know Lady Ana?”

    “Lady Ana?” Tonilia turned to Diana with raised eyebrows and a smug grin, “Pfft that’s new! No need for fancy-pantsing around me dear. The name’s Tonilia, I’m a lookout and fen-”

    “She’s err, a businesswoman!” Diana interrupted a little too quickly for Casavir to not be suspicious, “we work together.”

    Tonilia’s lifted a single eyebrow as she turned back to Diana with a look that said ‘the fuck, really?’.

    “He doesn’t know what you do, does he?”

    Diana sighed and rubbed her forehead. “We-a, haven’t exactly gotten around to it yet. Didn’t expect him to stick around this long.”

    “Wow. And he’s a knight?! Jikes. This is awkward for you.” Tonilia said, shuffling her feet uncomfortably. “Anyway! I’d love to stay and chat, but I don’t want to. This is awkward. Just wanted to pop by and see your lovely face for myself! Pop by the…err…shop, if you get a chance! Our ‘colleagues’ would love to see you, boss.” Tonilia save Diana a kiss on the cheek and a naughty smack on her butt before slipping back out.

    Munch sneaked off too, sensing the need to give Cas and Diana some space. Cas looked at her expectantly

    “Cas, could we do this tomorrow? It’s been a long day…” she said, tiredly rubbing her forehead and he could see she meant it.

    “Of course my lady.” He bit back the way he wanted to demand an explanation, but the woman clearly has a lot to deal with – what with Munch, her business, still coping with Solitude, and now him. She deserves a break. “I’ll see you in the morning, sleep well.” With that, he excused himself and went downstairs.

    Diana sighed and leaned against the kitchen table. The house quiet. Upstairs, Munch was probably reading, below, Cas getting ready for bed. A house with a man and a kid. She let out a heavy chuckle. These weren’t things meant for her, yet life keeps finding ways to mess with her.

    The memory of seeing Riverwood, seeing the Inn, thoughts she didn’t allow herself to entertain, came to mind. Warm amber-honey eyes, dark brown hair with flecks of copper, and a cheeky grin that could melt the snow in Winterhold.

    She tried to shake her head, shake the thoughts, but they wouldn’t leave. The memories fragmented, but persistent and fresh.

    She clenched her jaw, and let out a frustrated growl. Suddenly the house felt too small, walls too close. She ran for the door in her bedroom, dashing out onto the small balcony in the darkness of the night before she felt her breath catching again.

    Leaning heavily against the rails, she just breathed until she could hear the crickets and soft sloshing of the water over her heavy panting.

    And then, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up again.

    Helena
    Participant
    Post count: 159

    I absolutely love it. Omg omg omg yayyyy. Please say they will atleast talk. I am sooooo happy. Thank you..
    So many emotions from Helena that it’s worrying lol.

    Drea
    Participant
    Post count: 16

    What Helena said!

    Where iz ze rest of ze ztory? *searches desperately*

    Don’t leave Bish hanging like this! The poor man! Rather a kick in the soft places than more absence of Diana….. well maybe not, but it’s arguable! Maybe a good smack in the face for both of them!

    Also: Angry cactus! >:C

    Helena
    Participant
    Post count: 159

    I love the way she (the author that is) tells Diana off every so often for being rude or something. I can honestly say this has to be one of the best fan fictions I have ever read. Dova you really do have a talent.
    Dova we love you so please write some more lolol

    Vivia Brightstar
    Participant
    Post count: 15

    *excitement Intensifies*

    Elasha
    Participant
    Post count: 73

    nyaaah I fell so far behind because of work T_T
    Must
    catch
    up
    @ @

    DovaBunny
    Participant
    Post count: 75

    Bit of an awkward filler-chapter, sorry about that! Had some stuff that had to be put in to get the reader and Cas up to date with the developments. Next chapter will be absolute delicious chaos though!

    Also, cookies to anyone who recognizes our friend at the end!

    Next chapter is already underway! Sorry if this one was a bit awkward. and [SPOILERS] a Bishicakes will be in the next! He swore he’d stay away…let’s say he had a little push. But I need to shut up now. You’ll see! Arghh we’re getting close to the end!

    Also, I don’t know why I called the Aventus ‘Munchkin’. Aventus just didn’t seem like a name Diana would like. Diana would like to call a very adult kid a very immature name.

    Happy reading lovelies!

    __________________

    CHAPTER 30

    __________________

     

    It was her, Diana.

    And she was still as beautiful as the day he met her.

    Bishop cursed every divine and creature in oblivion as he paced up and down in the small hut he called his home, deep in Falkreath’s forest.

    Seeing her again was both the best and the worst decision. He shouldn’t have followed Casavir, shouldn’t have given in to the temptation, and now he couldn’t get her out of his head – those big dark eyes that always saw more than others’ did, her wild black hair long now and in a messy knot, and the way her long, lean body moved like a slaughterfish through the water – fierce, determined, and smooth.

    He also didn’t miss the slight limp she had now, even though she tried to hide it. He didn’t miss how her smile wasn’t as bright as it used to be, how quiet and withdrawn she seemed – even from a distance.

    Bishop throws his fist into his bookcase. Some topple down and to the floor, but he couldn’t care less. “Shit…” he whispers to himself, finding it a little harder to breath.

    He shouldn’t have followed that damn Paladin! And now his heart was aching and his mind clouded with memories and images of happier times. All just a bitter reminder of what he’ll never have again.

    How badly he fucked up.

    He promised he’d stay away! It was the one thing she asked, begged, of him. It took everything he had to swallow down the raging jealousy he felt over Knight’s position at her side, to turn and walk away once he realised Diana had picked up on his presence.

    His body and heart were at war as he dragged himself away and back into the shadows, bargaining with his legs and mind to just keep putting one foot in front of the other till he reached his hut.

    He had to stay away. And Arkay’s ass it was hard, but he had to.

    He owed her that much.

    _______

    Diana narrowed her eyes in the darkness, trying to pick up on any stir or movement.

    She was unarmed, but to see her as vulnerable would be a grave mistake. She’d mastered enough destruction and restoration magic over the past three years to be about as dangerous with her bare hands as she was with a bow or her dual-wielding swords.

    A rustle of leaves, and Diana’s body coiled in anticipation for attack. If someone thought they could come to her home and threaten her – not to mention possibly hurt Munch or Cas – she’d skin them before they could say ‘hey, this isn’t where I parked my carriage!’.

    “Diana…?” a man’s rough voice came from the shadows.

    A figure stepped into the moonlight. Tall, clad in black leather, eyes trained on her.

    “Bryn…” she sighed at his name. A relieved but wicked grin over his features, he approached the steps to the balcony. The moonlight caught in his dark auburn locks that fell graciously over onto his shoulders as he pulled his cowl off.

    “Thank Nocturnal, Lass, you’re safe!” his steps picked up till he was with her, gathering her up in his arms in a tight, protective embrace. “When I heard the news, I set out for Solitude immediately! But when I finally managed to sneak into Castle Dour, you were gone. I assumed the worst, assumed the Thalmor took you.” His voice was heavy with distraught emotion as he pulled back to look at her face, tucking some hair that had fallen over her eyes behind her ear, “Then when Tonilia told me… I can’t tell you how relieved I am that you’re home safe Lass.”

    “Alright now, don’t get all mushy on me! You know I don’t do mushy,” Diana teased with a poke in his chest, earning her a soft chuckle at his own expense. “I know this place will go to shit without me. You won’t get rid of me that easily!”

    Seeing Brynjolf calmed her more than it probably should. The man was always unrestrained with his emotions amongst friends, not trying to hide anger or sadness or joy he felt, allowing himself to be unashamedly vulnerable to those he trusted. A value she marvelled at. He spoke his mind easily, and his honesty, sometimes sweet and other times brutal, was part of the reason she was here today.

    Brynjolf titled his head thoughtfully and brushed a thumb along her jaw, other hand still on her waist from their embrace. “You seem tired and troubled, lass, is everything alright?” he asked in that warm baritone accent of his.

    She politely squirmed out of his embrace. She wasn’t comfortable with touch, he knew, but Bryn was a tactile person and easily hugged and tugged and touched those he cared for.

    “I’m…” she wanted to lie, give her usual peachy deflection and make some joke about running from the Thalmor twice, but he’d see right through it. Thieves could read deception like words on your forehead, and Bryn was a pretty good thief. “I’ll be okay. Rough couple of days. Sleeping in my own bed and Munchies’ homemade cuisine and I’ll be brand-spanking new in no time!” she offered a grin she hoped he’d buy.

    Of course he didn’t buy it, but he knew her well enough to know when not to pry. “Very well lass,” he leaned and dropped a kiss on her forehead, “Rest and recover. You know where to find me when you’re ready. I’ll need all the details on what happened for Delv and myself to figure out what went wrong, and then there’s some business matters to attend to.”

    “You’re all business aren’t you?” she winked playfully.

    He grinned and batted his hand at her words, turning to leave, “Sorry lass, can’t talk – important things to do.” He gave her a last warm smile and winked back at her before disappearing into the shadows again.

    She stood there, staring into the darkness. The sounds of the crickets, the soft wash of the water, and the faint but comforting smell of the docks filling her senses again. She shouldn’t let those memories drown her like that. She needs to stay busy; distracted.

    With this new determination, she turned back inside, but instead of heading to bed, she went downstairs to training area. She picked up the heaviest Warhammer she had, and beat the shit out of some poor, unsuspecting training dummy that will no longer be able to wear white to its wedding, not stopping till the linen was in torn, the leather enforcing in shreds, and the hay spilled across the floor.

    Panting, sweating like a pig, she grinned and dropped the offending Orcish Warhammer. Off to bed she went, feeling strong, feeling in control, distracted.

     

    ‘PROPERTY OF DIANA’

    “Is this really necessary my lady?” Casavir asked with a huff of defeat as Diana fixed the scribbled piece of paper pinned to his chest, Munch smirking in that strangely adult-manner at his handwriting, leaning against the doorframe. The one on his back said ‘IF LOST RETURN TO DIANA’. He managed to talk her out of one on his butt that said ‘HANDS OFF VEX!’ “And who is this ‘Vex’, my lady?”

    “If you knew, you’d want a sign over ‘Justice’ too… and don’t worry, you only have to stick them one once we’re inside the cistern,” she teased and it took him a moment to realise what she meant by one over ‘Justice’. She chuckled at his crimson blushing and took a step back to join Munch in admiring the view of Cas in civilian clothes – soft leather slacks, black boots, and a large black shirt.

    He felt strange, naked, without his armour in the strange city. Wholly and completely ripped from his comfort zone. He peered down at the way he could see his toes wiggle through his boots, then looked up sheepishly to Diana standing across the kitchen next to Munchkin, a look silently asking for confirmation – she was his anchor in all this, his guide to his blind stumbling. She gave him a warm assuring smile, and he felt a comfortable tug in his chest, returning the smile, throwing a wink at the giggling Munch at her side.

    He’d almost completely forgot his angst from just two hours prior when she told him where they’d be going this morning.

    _____

    “There’s no easy way to say this Cassy-pant-a-loonies, so I’m just going to say it,” she said casually, putting her mug down to lean back against the kitchen counter, facing him squarely with a relaxed directness. “I’m the head of the thieves’ guild here in Riften.” She shrugged in apology that seemed to rather say ‘meh, what can you do?’.

    Cas stood silently staring at her. Every neuron in his brain miss-firing at that moment, but shooting wildly nonetheless.

    “The… thieves…” he mouthed the words as if the syllables were completely foreign, big eyes trained on nothing on the floor.

    “-guild. Yap!” she finished for him. “Can you have this little breakdown some other time? Got shit to do, people to see, jewelled goblets to deliver, stuff to sign and look all important doing it.” She turned to rinse out her mug, “Heh, sometimes Brynjolf will walk up to me in the Flagon and hand me some random papers saying ‘Boss, I need you to look this over before I process it’, but then it’s just a blank page with a stick-figure with boobs on it! Hah! That ass, watching me try to keep a straight face while I draw dicks on every page for him putting on my best ‘I’m doing important business’ face. Hilarious!”

    Cas wasn’t quite on that page yet.

    Thieves guild?

    Arkay preserve us.

    “So, Lady Tonilia?”

    “Jap, our fence.”

    “Uncle Delv?”

    “Handles jobs for the guild, along with Vex.”

    He swallowed hard. How did a Knight of the Nine, a Paladin, a fighter for justice and light, end up the companion of the thieves guild leader, who also the famed Hero of Whiterun, who also happens to have faked her own death, and is also the Dragonborn?

    Diana, sensing his mental contradictions let out a heavy sigh. She’d been up quite longer last night than she’d admit, trying to decide how to break the news to him. Would he leave? Would he feel betrayed? Would he be mad? Would he turn her in? All those reactions would be justified. So she decided to do the right thing, and just tell him and hope for the best. She’d grown rather fond of him, if he turns on her – she’d actually be sad to kill him. And he’s so pretty too! It’d be a shame. Best avoid that if possible.

    “Listen Cas,” her voice was soft and sincere, it startled Casavir out of his daze to look up at her, her head low, arms crossed, shoulders hung, “if you feel you can’t do this, I understand. We… we never really talked about it again after Solitude, but, if you’re up for it… I find having you as a companion not as insufferable as I thought it’d be. I ow you, quite a great deal. So I’m giving you the choice- you can either follow me, be my companion, or you can leave. I can even take you anywhere in Skyrim you want if you want. So… yeah. It’s the least I can do.”

    Casavir look at her, really looked. There was no playfulness or teasing in her tone or body, quite on the contrary, she was open and vulnerable… he wasn’t familiar with this side of her. She seemed to brace for his response, for his disapproval of her.

    But still, he looked at her, and he couldn’t see any evil there. Same way he couldn’t when he looked at Munchkin, and the relationship the kid had with Diana.

    “If it’s okay with you my lady, I’d be happy to stay the sword at your side,” he said with a smile in his voice. She looked up to see his kind face void of any pretence or disgust. Not for the first time, she titled her head and marvelled in the fact that the Knight was so much more than she thought.

    “Good!” she snapped back to her usual aloof self, “but before we go, you need to look the part! You’d stick out like a pimple on a horker’s ass in your steel armour – and I kinda need to keep a low profile.”

    “I got an idea!” Munch chirped, a twinkle in his big hazel eyes, turning to run back up the stairs where he’d just come down from, catching the last part of their conversation.

    ____

    So here he was, armed only with a hidden dagger in his boot, on his way to meet ‘the family’. Munch seemed to carry a childlike excitement at showing off his new friend to them, which made Casavir happy despite his nervousness, to see the boy showing signs that he was, in fact, a kid after all.

    Diana wore tight leather pants that came up to her waist, showing off the curve of her hips and the dip to her waist, black boots coming up to her knees with gun-metal buckles. An over-sized white shirt that dropped off her left shoulder, tied up in her middle with a broad black leather belt that matched her boots and went round her waist twice. Her long messy black hair mostly covered by the dark-red cowl she got as part of her new set of armour in Riverwood.

    She looked sensual, beautiful even, but that dangerous glint in her eye and confident sway in her step as her toned body moved effortlessly through the people put out an aura of untouchability.

    Her hand never left Munch’s shoulder, protectively, as they walked, Cas two steps behind, trying to take in the city coming to life around him, while also keeping an eye on them. His eye caught some stalls in the town’s square, and he hoped Diana would take him to later on. He did so love markets and meeting new people!

    She led them to a graveyard, into a tomb where a hidden button revealed a secret passage.

    Cas swallowed hard, wiping his sweaty hands on his pants before following.

    The holy Knight, following the undead Dragonborn hero, through a grave, into the thieves’ guild.

    With a daedra-summoning child.

    Mara have mercy.

     

    Diana steps into the cistern; there’s a sharp whistle and a sudden ‘look busy’ scurry amongst the inhabitants. Which is very suspicious and uncommon, judging by Diana’s reaction.

    She raises an eyebrow as she walks in, holding herself tall, chin up, cautiously eyeing everyone. She sees snickers muffled as everyone in the room suddenly has some manner of book or papers with them, some even with pairs of glasses she had no idea were even in circulation. Hell she didn’t even know there were this many books in Riften!

    Stopping in the centre of the walkway, Cas nearly bumps into her as she nervously looks around the dark, musky hall.

    “Okay, give it up assholes, what’s the deal?” she huffs, hands on her hips like a scolding parent but with real confusion. There’s another bout of muffled giggles and hushes, but nothing much changes.

    Casavir watches as a tall man with heavy black leather armour steps up from a desk, folder in his hand, monocle pinched to his eye as his dark red hair is swept back. When he speaks, his smooth baritone accent has Cas feeling strange.

    “Boss-lady Lass, I have this month’s reports for you to look over. The figures are looking good and the investments are panning out.” He says as he hands her a folder with papers sticking out the side. Somewhere in the room there’s a giggle, but the distinct sound of someone being expectantly elbowed in the ribs silences it again.

    Diana raises an eyebrow as she takes the suspicious folder from Brynjolf who is keeping a very straight face, although she is pretty sure she knows him well enough now to see the smug smirk just underlying it. Flipping it open, she looks down to see a page with a stick figure with boobs and angry eyes, but also a fancy hat and whip in hand, along with an arrow pointed at the figure with ‘boss lady’ at the other end. Next to it is another rough stick figure, a sad expression, sitting at a desk with what looks like piles of paper or books.

    With suspicious narrowed eyes she glares around the room at her colleagues pretending really hard and really terribly to be invested in whatever book or paper they have, some leaning dramatically against the wall, others across the table humming thoughtfully.

    “Urgh!” she throws her hands up, “He knows guys! He knows we’re thieving scum!” she gestures wildly to Casavir behind her who suddenly looks offended at his own existence.

    At that, the room erupts into a loud buzz of laughter, giggles and murmurs, smiles and winks cast her way as books, papers, and glasses are discarded.

    “Ah, but we’re the best thieving scum around! Thanks to our fearless leader here,” Bryn says with that smirk that was underlying as he drops the monocle, winks at her and offers a hand to the Paladin, “Brynjolf, at your service.” Casavir takes the hand and gingerly shakes. Still feeling uncomfortable by the way the man grins and seems to purr as he talks. “Not every day our lass here brings a boy home to the family! You must be quite something!” Brynjolf trails his eyes up and down the tall, broad night’s imposing figure with a feral smile. Even out of his armour, in a room full of sly, shadow-dwelling thieves, he still stands out with his tall figure, broad shoulders, pale skin, blue eyes, and the way he seems to demand respect in his kindness.

    Bryn’s eyes stop on the sign on his chest, a tilt of his head and a pout that doesn’t mask his smirk fully, “pity” he adds  at the words stating him as Diana’s property.

    Casavir blushes from the tips of his ears down to his chest as his whole body stiffens and he suddenly feels VERY exposed without his armour!

    “Yes, yes. He’s very beautiful. We know. And as much as I’d love to stand here and watch you make him squirm and further tarnish the Knight’s good name and virtue, I have shit to do!” Diana urges to Bryn as she drags Cas along by the hand, “You know, being boss lady and all!” she winks to Bryn and mimics the gesture of cracking a whip like the stick figure, “Back to work you slacking scumbags! I don’t pay you to sit around and eat cheese wheels!” she barks out to the others in the room, earning her a few laughs and one ‘eat this!’ followed by a crude gesture and more laughs and a few mutters of ‘good to have you back’ and ‘welcome home chief’.

    Diana chuckled warmly as she pulled him across the room into a corridor. Munch still in tow, expression unimpressed as if this is all a waste of his precious time.

    “These people, err…” Cas begins nervously, not sure what he wants to say.

    “The guild? Nah they’re cool!” she smiles proudly.

    Cas laughs softly shaking his head, “I can see why you fit in here.”

    “Why?” she turns to give him a quizzical eyebrow raise, still walking.

    “Well, that Brynjolf guy… and the other guy…” he vaguely mimics the crude gesture the man made.

    “Hah! Because none of us have any sense of propriety and flirt with anything that moves? I can see why you’d think that. But they all have their own charms, I assure you. We just… don’t see the use in pretending to be anything we’re not, you know? We’re trashy, shady douchebags, and we’re okay with that!”

    Casavir smiled back at her, and the expression stayed on his face as he let himself be dragged along, her hand around his, warm and secure, Munch casually followed behind them. The corridor was narrow and had odd open spaces and turns, until they reached a door that opened up into what looked like a large space that has been re-possessed into a tavern of sorts.

    An older, bald gentleman in black armour similar to Brynjolf’s lifted his head lazily to their entrance, but after doing a double-take on Diana rose slowly to his feet, his brow furrowed, his lips in a thin line.

    Diana stood in place, an eyebrow raised to the man’s slow, determined approach – his eyes raking over her as if looking for something that’s not there. He stopped in front of her, grabbed her shoulders, gave her an intense look, then crushed her to his chest in a tight, fatherly-hug.

    “It’s so good to see you my girl! You had us worried sick,” he says as he lets go, holding her at arm’s length to look at her face as if trying to commit it to memory.

    “Hey Uncle Del,” Munch mumbled as he passed to take a seat at the bar, where the barman chuckled and pulled out a glass, filling it with milk.

    Seriously, what even are these people? Cas hasn’t been this confused since walking in on Corpulus wearing Lisette’s dress in the Winking Skeever’s storeroom.

    Cas shudders a little at the memory.

    “And you must be our knight in shining armour!” the older man’s voice was low, husky, with an accent similar to Brynjolf’s smooth manner of speech. He gave Cas a friendly slap on the shoulder, giving him an expression Cas assumes (hopes) is friendly.

    “Hey! I was hardly a damsel in distress!” Diana threw her hands up, glaring at the man.

    “Yeah yeah, our fearless leader – not afraid of anything! Especially not giant frostbite spiders…” the man behind the bar smirked at her.

    “Are you suggesting the mighty Dragonborn is afraid of something? You know I slay Dragons? Like, for a living?”

    “I’m definitely suggesting you’re afraid. Of a lot of things actually. Frostbite spiders, stairs, mouldy cheese, Keerava…”

    “I am shocked and appalled!” she says with mock offence, a hand to her chest.

    The older man, Munch, and the barman all gave her a deadpanned expression. “It’s really not that shocking.”

    “…I am appalled!” she corrected in a similar tone.

    That broke into light chuckles and shaking of heads. Cas was introduced, and learned the barman was ‘Vekel’ and the older man was Delvin, but goes by ‘uncle Delv’ or ‘grandpa’, being the eldest in the ‘family’.

    He follows as she walks up to a small woman with sharp blue eyes with dark makeup and long blond hair. She scowls at them but Diana just grins.

    “You’re late.” Is all the woman says, her tone disinterested.

    “Yeah, well, last time we spoke you told me to go to hell, and I got lost, had to ask for directions, but here I am!” she winked at the blond woman who just scoffed.

    “Yeah, well, whatever.” She woman turned her head and mumbled, “don’t do that again.” She bit her lip and said those last words so softly he almost missed it.

    “Awww! I missed you too baby!” Diana responds, wrapping her arms around the smaller woman for a quick squeeze as she loudly protested.

     

    Cas sat at a small table at the end of a make-shift deck over the water in the middle of the tavern. Diana had ‘smeered him off, like a turd’ on Tonilia while she attended to some business with Delvin, Brynjolf, and the small angry woman known as Vex, who had already tried to pinch his behind twice, and bought him a drink that smells suspiciously a lot like the skooma addicts down by the Solitude docks.

    He pushed it aside, eating his bread and cheese with an ale Vekel got him after hearing he’s only had coffee so far today, with a sultry wink and some comment about ‘growing boys need to eat’.

    Really, what even… these people…

    Tonilia finished her dealings with some shady figure at the bar, and made her way over to him, dropping down and throwing her long legs clad in tight grey leather onto the open chair between them.

    “So,” she began, taking a sip from the wine in her mug, “how did a knight end up the companion of our little thieving Dragonborn?” she asked, eyebrow raised in question, but her expression was friendly. At least she didn’t look at him like she wanted to do unholy things to his preferably unclothed body, which was a nice change in here.

    “I ah…” he hadn’t actually told anyone outside Diana this, so he felt a little foolish for it, “Once the news of the re-emergence of a Dragonborn reached the chantry where I was based in Cyrodiil, my mentor suggested it would be quite the noble cause – to be the Dragonborn’s companion, sword, and shield. As the top of my class, and the best fighter amongst them, I was nominated to take up the challenge – which I did, happily.”

    “Hmm, but you didn’t expect to find someone like…?” she gestured towards where Diana sat across the tavern.

    “Not quite,” he chuckled softly. “I expected a man, actually. When I met her, I was convinced there had been some mistake.”

    “Hah! She didn’t try to sleep with you, did she?”

    Cas blushed, “she made some strange comments, called me a sailor, I’m not sure what they meant but I guess she did. Till Bishop dragged her away.”

    At that Tonilia nearly chocked on her wine, her eyes wide, suddenly darting around as if trying to see if someone else could overhear them. She lowers her voice as she leans over to him, “wait, you knew him? The Bishop guy?”

    “I guess? He was a target that slipped through our fingers a few times back in Cyrodiil when he was still with a group of trouble-makers. Other than that, I only knew him as Diana’s partner.”

    Tonilia bit her lip and turned away, thinking for a moment. Finally she sighed, “if I ever find that asshole I’ll castrate him and break his neck.” She said in a tone that was way too casual for such violent words. She turned to Cas who looked puzzled, “she didn’t tell you what happened, did she?” He shook his head, “well, guess it’s not my place. I only got it out of her after making her very drunk, and I mean, VERY drunk one night on Keerava’s insistence that the girl had a weight she needed off her chest. Keerava apparently knew Bishop, and had a suspicion it had something to do with him.” The Redguard took another sip, putting her mug down, watching the liquid inside twirl as she played with the cup, “she was so drunk and distraught, and never mentioned it again. I actually think she can’t even remember telling me. I have the feeling she’s blocked out those memories. Which I can understand.”

    Cas burned with curiosity to ask, but more than that, to know what had happened that has the usually loud and flirty Redguard so quiet and mindful at recalling it, what had hurt Diana so? He had figured it just a disagreement, he knew how hard-headed she could be, but it seems there’s quite a lot more to it than that.

    “How did she end up joining the guild?” he asks, knowing that Tonilia was more likely to entertain questions of Diana’s past that she’d be herself.

    At that, Tonilia seemed to relax back into herself, “same way most of us joined. Look around you,” she gestured around the room to the other patrons and members in their leathers, some playing with lockpicks, some drinking, “we’re all misfits; most of us are outcasts. This place isn’t a first choice, it’s a last reserve. It used to be no better than a skooma den, everyone for themselves, so much competition and greed… then it all changed with her.”

    The woman pulled out a flask and topped up her mug before continuing. “She came to Riften after that stunt in Whiterun, hiding in the shadows. We suspect she wanted to re-stock and head for the border to Morrowind, but she barely had any coin. Keerava took her in, gave her a warm meal and a bed, and called Brynjolf in. She’s the scariest, hissiest argonian you’ll ever meet, but she has a soft spot for lost souls. Bryn convinced her to stay a little while, slowly dragging her out of her shell the way only he can,” she chuckled, “and eventually she agreed to help out on some jobs. Not long after, she and Bryn discovered Mercer, the guild leader, had been stealing from the guild and was so deep in Mavern’s pocket it was ridiculous! Anyway, long story short – he’s dead now, most of the coin has been recovered, Mercer was identified as the murderer of the previous leader and the poor girl he pinned it on was exonerated, and Diana took the guild from rags to riches. literally. Turned the place around quite a bit.”

    Cas thought on that while he took another bite of his food. “How so?”

    “Well, for starters, Mercer-sympathisers were let go, and new rules were written for the guild. They included that all jobs need to come from Bryn, Vex, or Delvin, along with strict regulations about who the targets are. No children, no temples, no orphanages, no poor or struggling persons. Trying to show there can be honour among thieves, I guess. In fact, when Honorhall orphanage here in Riften was put on the market after the owner was ‘mysteriously’ murdered,” she winked at Cas, “Diana convinced the guild to buy it. Arguing for recruitment purposes, but we all knew it’s cause she’s a softy and didn’t want the place to be bought by some ass who will sell the kids to bandits or slavers.” Tonilia looked back to Cas, a soft smile on her face, “honestly, she’s too good for this place. I don’t know why she stuck around, but I’m thankful for it. She took a bunch of lost souls and made us a family, made this home for those who needed it. I know you may not think highly of her profession Sir Knight, but she’s a good person. Better than most.”

    At that Cas got a soft, fuzzy feeling in his chest as he looked back over to where Diana sat with her colleagues. She seemed…lighter? More comfortable maybe, here amongst her ‘family’. Hearing the way Tonilia described the way Diana took this place on, turning it on it’s head – if there’s one person who could make a thieves guild look honourable, he guessed it will be Diana.

    Tonilia must’ve seen the dreamy way he glanced over to Diana, because suddenly she nearly chocked on her wine as she sputtered out a rough laugh at seeing the Paladin’s face.

    “Hah! But don’t for a moment think she’s a saint!” Tonilia corrected the impression she’s made of Diana to Cas, “she’s still as sly and wickedly encased in shadows as any of us! Probably more so even, that delicious minx… She has her flaws, believe me!” Tonilia chuckled knowingly, “If you don’t believe me, we’ll have you over the next time we have a cards night and you can watch her rob you of your coin and clothes and make you walk out of here stark naked without a hint of pity in those big eyes.”

     

    “Soooo…. Let me get this straight-” Diana shook her head at the ground. Cas shuffled his feet awkwardly, but folded his arms and titled his head in unimpressed confusion. “You’re a jester… who is tasked with taking care of…this corpse,”

    “Yes, yes – Mother,” the strange creature corrected in a pinched but croaky high voice, with an excited jingled of the bells on the tips of his hat as he bounced in place.

    “…’mother’,” Diana accepted, saying it slowly as she threw a cautionary glance to the Paladin at her side, “and you want us to…?”

    “All poor, poor Cicero needs the dashing hero and her knight to ask the farmer for help with Cicero’s wagon! Silly wagon went and decided it could do without one wheel, and now Mother is getting angry at Cicero! Oh please, oh pretty-pretty please, help poor, poor Cicero?” His voice was melodic in a strangely sickly but excitable way that made Diana want to call people in with a big net to catch him and lock him up in a room with lots of pillows for his own good.

    Not even to mention…the corpse…’mother’.

    Diana shuddered.

    She turns her back for a few years and Skyrim goes batshit…

    Before she could respond however, Casavir moved passed her and kneeled by the broken wheel of the carriage.

    “It’s not a bad break, I could probably fix it. Give me half an hour?” he said in that firm, Paladin-y voice of his, without looking at her.

    “O-okay?”

    He unstrapped Justice from his back, putting it aside with his backpack, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work.

    “Oh jippy jippy!” the strange little man danced, all bells and jingles, “Mother will be so please to be back on the road soon! And Astrid will not be kept waiting!”

    “Hold the courier – ” Diana spun around to face the jester, “Astrid? You’re on your way to see Astrid?”

    “Oh yes! On our way to the sanctuary. Oh Mother will be so pleased! Getting some fresh air, meeting new people, seeing the forest, having tea with the duchess of Sithis! Ooeee! Quite the excitement! Maybe Cicero will even be able to stab something fleshy! Cicero hasn’t been stabby for far too long!” the jester giggled creepily as if he were speaking to himself.

    Diana snickered. She tried not to laugh, honestly. But it was hella hard.

    “Oh Astrid is going to LOVE this!” she finally chuckled into her sleeve.

    The strange man seemed to glare at her, apparently picking up on the sarcasm in her muffled mutterings. Honestly, she didn’t give a shit. Then again…she’d met crazy Cicero, but hoped they’d get away before she met crazy, stabby Cicero!

    But still, shit was funny! They were helping a crazy jester fix his wagon to get his ‘mother’ who happens to be a corpse to the Dark Brotherhood to go to see the bitchiest, coldest, meanest woman Diana has ever had the (dis)pleasure of meeting.

    She was fresh out of fucks to give. Life is Skyrim was weird, man.

    She looked over to where her companion was working diligently. Strong hands wrapping the break in the wheel with a strong linen wraps, strengthened by metal plates he bent to fit to the curve of the wheel. Honestly, he never stopped surprising her.

    On her insistence, he’d given up the Knightly steel armour, opting rather for less imposing ebony armour, customised with black leather to not be too heavy, allowing for quick get-aways and sneaking.

    Not to mention it made him look perfectly gorgeous. Like some prince of Skyrim’s underworld!

    Yummy.

    [What? Can’t the narrator also enjoy a handsome hunk? Urgh. Fine. Back to Diana.]

    Diana tilted her head to the side, biting her lip she allowed her eyes to hungrily rake over the Paladin’s broad shoulders, his messy black hair he’d no longer been able to keep so perfect while on the road, and … hnnggg…. That butt!

    Diana’s always had a thing for butts.

    [Yeah, sure. It’s fine when SHE does it!]

    Diana should get her shit together!

    Yes, it’s been a while. She still flirted wildly, leading many a tavern wench or cute stable boy on, but always backing out when push came to shove. And she hated herself for it.

    Her life was a mess, she had a kid now…well, kind of. She chuckles softly at that thought. Munch wouldn’t appreciate being called a kid! Even less as being held as the excuse as to why Diana has been sleeping alone for years now.

    But hey, no harm in looking!

    So Diana allowed herself to stare shamelessly while Cas worked. The jester distracted by a butterfly nearby, singing to the fluttering creature about capturing it, putting it in a jar and feeding it to Mother… wait what?

    Compared to this nutjob, Diana didn’t seem that crazy after all! When did Skyrim go balls up and she became the sober one? Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Hell, how long has she been out of touch? Getting back into travelling, more jobs, and the occasional adventuring to appease Cas was going to be interesting.

     

    “So this is Markarth, huh?” Cas asked rhetorically as the strode through the massive doors into the city of stone. “Bigger than imagined…”

    “That’s wha-”

    “-what she said.” Casavir completed with a smirk and a wink.

    She beamed at him, “well now, look who is growing up! Wondered when I was going to start rubbing off on you.” She gave him a sultry wink and playful shove at his shoulder, “might have to have a sit down, talk about the birds and the bees with you soon! You know, what happens when a mamma Orc and a daddy Orc love each other very much… Bloodshed. It’s bloodshed. Orcs are not into romance. TRUST me.” She grimaced at an old memory of a drunk Orc whispering sultry suggestions into her ear one night, and the things Gorr, an old Orc friend, had told her about the Orcish relations.

    “Hah! I made my peace with the trade-off between my virtuous innocence and your companionship back in Riften, Lady Ana. And I assure you such a talk is not necessary. Munch already cornered me with such information.” Now it was Cas’ turn to grimace and wince at the memory of how nonchalant the kid had told him about how mature intimacy worked and how calmly he entertained Cas’ questions, asking him to explain some assumedly dirty comments and jokes he’s often heard.

    Cas was right. They were dirty. And now, he had the sudden urge to bathe.

    She tugged him towards the Inn, keeping her head down. It was too early in the day for her to do the jobs they were here for. They’ll have to lay low till evening.

    As they sat down at a table in the corner, she pulled out a small little whistle on a string and tossed it to him. “Here. We’re in Markarth, home to the temple of Dibella. Trust me, you looking the way you do, you’ll need this!”

    “Is this a … rape whistle?”

    “Mmhmm…” she confirmed, taking a swig of her ale. “You blow that, I’ll come save you.” She winked at him. “No but seriously, this is the first city we’re in together. You can’t exactly call out my name if we get split up. If shit goes down, you blow that. Heh.”

    “Diana. No.”

    “Before…”

    “No!”

    “…someone else blows that!” she eyed his crotch. Smiling proudly at herself.

    Cas sighed and shook his head, but the tug at the corners of his lips did little to hide how fond he was of his ridiculous companion.

    They’ve been travelling together for two months now. Having been in the Rift, Whiterun hold, Falkreath, and now they have their first line of jobs in a major city – Markarth. They were near polar opposites – he was a morning person, she was a night owl. He was shy and reserved, she was loud and proud. He was two-handed, heavy armoured warrior, she was stealth and deadly arrows. He still prayed every morning, disapproved of her flirting and dirty mouth, and she didn’t give a flying falmer fart what he thought.

    The way they differed strangely worked really well! They complimented one another both on the battlefield and off, and the good-thug, bad-thug routine they had figured out when interrogating or negotiating was effective and hilarious! All he had to do was grunt, look angry, and punch his fist into his palm when she looked at him, while she cooed and calmed, working her magic. He quite thought they made a mean team.

    The more time they spend together, the more she seemed to relax and open up around him. It was hard at first. He assumed she had been so used to being on her own that it took time getting used to sharing her space. She’d prefer to take watch at night, eating in silence and sitting away from him. But slowly and surely, he started to pick at her defences, and she started talking to him more about things other than business or how bandit clans are organised or all the reasons why Ysolda’s boobs were the best in Skyrim, warning him however ‘not to stick his dick in crazy’, whatever he was supposed to do with that information.

    He’d even come to befriend some of the guild members, Tonilia, Vekel, and Rune in particular, but he honestly considered her his best friend.

    But there was still one thing that nagged at him – how she kept her heart shielded away.

    They could discuss just about anything, except Bishop. He still had no idea what had happened, or why she refused to engage in any topic about him, love, or relationships. He noted the way she turned down more than one attractive man or woman who asked for a moment of her time in private, saw the way she would stare unashamedly at a stranger’s butt or curves, but her eyes fell away disinterested as soon as the stranger made eye-contact and smiled. There was a wall around her heart, one he knew he couldn’t’ tear down, one that held her back from being the Diana he remembered, although, admittedly, this Diana was a bit more mature and agreeable. He missed the old one. There was that something about her that was distant, unlike before; that kept people away, that didn’t trust, that didn’t get too close.

    He watched with a sad smile as Diana hopped out of her chair towards the bar to get them another round, walking with that slight limp showing in the way her tall, toned body compensated in the way her hip swayed more to the left than the right.

     

    “Say, you look like a lass that can handle her drink?” the warm, husky voice under the dark cowl came as she stood waiting at the bar. She just lifted an eyebrow at the strange man. “I got some time to kill, and judging by how long you and the ebony-knight over there had been here, I’m guessing you do to.”

    “Yeah? And?” her voice cold, low as to not be recognized.

    The strange man grinned and pulled out a bottle of dark liquid. She could smell the sweet musk of brandy just from the bottle. “I got this here from a noble in town. Apparently it’s pretty powerful stuff. Now I’d hate to drink it alone, a good drink is better shared. So what do you say? You and your friend care to indulge in some good company and free booze?”

    Diana eyed him suspiciously. Even though the man was, admittedly quite attractive in that mysterious, mischievous way she like, she didn’t pick up any deception.

    “Fuck it, why not!” she waved him over to where Cas sat waiting. The man strangely already had three glasses with him and followed. “Free booze, meet Cas. Free booze.” She introduced before sitting down. The man smiled at the Paladin and opened the bottle to pour them each half a mug. The drink was strong and earned a rough cough from the Paladin who only recently gave up on his vows to not indulge in drinking. She herself felt her chest burn and throat hoarse, but it was a good burn.

    She stranger chuckled at their reactions, his no more than a hissing inhaled at the first sip. He smiled and topped up their mugs again. “Drink friends. What doesn’t kill you…you know… gives you unhealthy coping strategies and a dark sense of humour.” His eyes lifted up to briefly meet Diana’s, and she could swore she saw an unwordly dark glimmer in them, a sparkle, like this was all part of the strange man’s unhealthy coping and dark sense of humour.

    “Sssay…” she slurred. How was she already slurring? “whaats yurr name enny-way hotnesss?”

    “D’ana!” Cas interrupted, also slurring, “I don’ feel so goo…”

    That was the last thing she remembered.

    DovaBunny
    Participant
    Post count: 75

    Thank you for sticking with me guys! I promise Bish and Diana will get back together – I’m a sucker for happy endings. And who Cas will end up with is also a suprise I’m burning to share! Stay tuned. xx

    Vivia Brightstar
    Participant
    Post count: 15

    I wanna hug Bishop so badley XD

    MegDiana
    Participant
    Post count: 11

    My poor bishop, your seriously breaking my heart 🙁

    Helena
    Participant
    Post count: 159

    Dova. I absolutely love and enjoy your story. This I will admit has to be the best fanfiction I have ever read. You make me laugh so much. Ohhh the eye candy Cas in leather pants needs a pic for us all lol..

    Milah Black-Thorn
    Participant
    Post count: 3

    I am in love with this story!!!!! I’m dying for another chapter right now!!! XD

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