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threads of silk

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The ceremony proceeded upon a tenuous truce; both sides braced for the schemes of the other. It wasn’t the wedding Jaina had dreamed of — hardly anything close to it —, but it was what it was.

There were no gowns or flowers; they would marry in their armour, polished to a shine and gleaming in the falling light of dusk. It was only practical — there were still many who despised the thought of the union. How would they defend their people from defectors in lace and silk?

Jaina stood before Sylvanas and tried to keep her emotions from running rampant on her face. The Warchief looked as dour as she felt, because even if they were doing it for the greater good, it didn’t mean either of them had to like it. Still, there was no point in aggravating already simmering tensions, so Jaina forced herself to muster a polite expression.

The Banshee Queen’s left ear twitched, and she looked away towards the crowd indifferently.

Sylvanas was clad in deep purple accented in golden elven motifs, and Jaina had to admit that she cut quite a striking figure among the masses. Her own dressing matched in the subtlest ways; Anduin had insisted that they match somehow, for tradition’s sake, and Genn had to very delicately pry her grip from her staff to keep her from committing treason.

They were supposed to be the united front of the New Era, after all.

So both their collars were high, elegant against broad pauldrons that flaunted lines of gold. Jaina’s came in shades of royal blue to match the deep teal of her robes, and she appreciated the broadness they lent her. She had chosen those colours for how well they blended together in Alliance blue and Kul Tiran green.

Behind them, the flags of their joint factions swayed in the restless breeze —Alliance and Horde; Forsaken and Kul Tiras.

Sylvanas took her hand, and Jaina inhaled sharply at the coolness of her touch. She reached up and clasped her hand over Sylvanas, as directed, and watched stubbornly as the Warchief’s lips pursed into a thin line.

Defiantly, Jaina mets her gaze and held it. For how much her eyes blazed in whorls of glowing ember, Sylvanas’ gaze was cool on her face, distant, almost. Unfeeling, she could say, but she knew better than that. Plus the fact that her ears had pinned back significantly since the ceremony began.

Their joined hands were bound with silk, a bright red that prickled at Jaina’s spine. She used to imagine holding hands with Arthas like that; the thread connecting them virginal white. She imagined big, warm, callused hands engulfing hers.

Sylvanas’ hands were cold, with fingers long and elegant, but no less marred from war. It was a comfort, almost. A familiarity.

It was only fitting, she thought, to be bound in blood.

“Do you join together with free will, and to pledge your lives to each other, ‘til death — er, do you part?”

Sylvanas glanced at the priest, an ear twitching irritably. “Yes,” she replied curtly, and her lips curled into a smirk when she looked back at Jaina. “In a manner of speaking.”

The priest turned to Jaina encouragingly. “And do you —”

“Yes,” Jaina cut in, setting her jaw and glaring back at Sylvanas. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”

Sylvanas narrowed her eyes and then rolled them. Jaina made a point to conjure a sharp bite of frost in her palm spitefully, even though she wasn’t entirely sure Sylvanas felt the cold. If she did, the Warchief gave no sign, only rolling her eyes again.

“By the power vested in me, I pronounce you wife and...wife.”

The crowd erupted in noise; mostly the Horde and Forsaken who roared and hooted for their Warchief’s union. Members of the Alliance clapped and cheered with far more restraint, eyes lingering warily still on Sylvanas.

They did not kiss.



The wedding feast was made only marginally bearable by the fact that it meant the night was swiftly coming to an end. Horde and Alliance and Forsaken feasted, but the Warchief ate no food and took no drink. She could see Jaina’s curious look from the corner of her eye and ignored it.

As ever, Sylvanas sat at the head of the table, and her new bride to her left. Blightcaller was hardly pleased to surrender his place to the Kul Tiran, and Sylvanas caught to sly little curl of her lip Proudmoore gave him.

Her own lip twitched in amusement — just barely, but enough.

The night continued with dancing and feasting and drinking, and the Warchief even managed to exchange some pleasant conversation with Jaina, albeit stiffly.

“That was a clever little trick, at the ceremony,” she remarked. “I almost felt that.”

Jaina pressed her lips together and looked away haughtily. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Sylvanas smirked slowly. “We weren’t even married yet and I was already getting the cold shoulder...or hand, as it were. That must be some sort of new record.” She wondered how easy it would be to incite the mage’s temper — clearly it didn’t take much.

“I just wanted to make sure your eyes didn’t roll all the way back and stay that way,” Jaina retorted, swirling her goblet of wine. “Can’t have the Warchief of the Horde going blind.”

Chuckling, the Banshee Queen leaned back in her seat, regarding the Lord Admiral. It was no secret that the Alliance still held their loathing for the Forsaken; just as it was clear to anyone with a pair of eyes that the Horde seemed eager to break bones more than break bread with Wrynn’s entourage. It was a tenuous peace they had, but certainly they had accomplished more in that single night than they had in centuries.

People were sitting. Eating. Drinking. Celebrating.

...and there was only a little bit of bloodshed.

“Are you enjoying yourself, Proudmoore?”

Jaina started at the question, eyeing Sylvanas suspiciously, wondering if that was a baited question. Was either of the answers the right one? She took a deep breath, exhaling quietly as she lifted her goblet of wine to her lips. “Well, Genn hasn’t tried to jump over the table and murder you, and Nathanos keeps looking at me like I personally pissed in his cup. I’d call that a win in my books,” she replied dryly, glancing at Sylvanas over the rim of her drink.

Sylvanas smirked. “The night is still young. The Old Dog might yet find his fighting spirit.”

Jaina raised an eyebrow at her. “I thought the point of this wedding was minimising bloodshed between our factions.”

“Unfortunately true,” Sylvanas sighed, and resumed her idle crowd-watching, leaning her chin against elegant fingers. “But one could dream.”

The feast came to a close, and with it came the moment that rankled Sylvanas’ temper dangerously. Alcohol loosened the tongues of the crowd a fair bit, and some of the Alliance men had begun murmuring among themselves about the wedding night.

Sylvanas arched an eyebrow dangerously at a particularly rowdy group of soldiers, glancing at the Wrynn cub with open disapproval and distaste. Even Proudmoore sat straighter, jaw clenched tight on her pretty face as she stared ahead at some distant space, likely to calm her own rising temper.

She was Warchief. No one in the Horde would dare touch her consort.

Consort.

That certainly would need some getting used to.

She was certain any advances she made towards her new wife would be met with deadly force, regardless. It wasn’t as if they were marrying for affection .

A look at the Lord Admiral told Sylvanas that the feeling was mutual.

Heaving a much put-upon sigh, Sylvanas leaned an elbow on her seat, pressing her fingers to her temple with a distinctly bored expression on her face. Her voice carried just enough for their own table of people to hear. “I thought we’d made it clear to your council that there was to be no bedding ceremony, Little Cub.” The words dripped from her lips with disdain, as if the very thought of it was beneath her, and truly, it was.

To her delight, Anduin blushed up to his ears, and tried his hardest to hide it behind a mug of ale. “There won’t be,” he assured them, peering at Jaina apologetically. “They’re just...hopeful that the union will be...peaceful.”

“And you think I would be at peace knowing the depravities that your men conjure at the thought of debasing Lord Admiral Proudmoore?” she drawled, baring her teeth in a vicious smile. “Strange that you call the traditions of my people barbaric, and yet…”

Greymane gave her a withering look from lower down the table, but Sylvanas merely turned her attention to her bride.

Leaning in carefully; an image of a concerned spouse to onlookers, she whispered low into Jaina’s ear. “The choice is yours, Proudmoore. If you wish to have those pretty mage’s robes shredded from your form, I would not stop you,” she said, clipped, but without malice. “But know that I will take no part nor blame for the humiliation.”

Jaina met her gaze coolly. “I was prepared for nothing short of humiliation. I almost expected you to demand it,” she admitted. “But for once, I think we’re actually in agreement about something.” It amused her almost, thinking that the Banshee Queen somehow cared about her wellbeing.

Maybe she was just being contrary for the sake of it. Either way, Jaina was loath to admit that she was grateful. She couldn’t stand the thought of anyone’s hands —Forsaken or Horde or Alliance — touching her.

“You are my wife now,” Sylvanas said simply, and noted the way Jaina’s cheeks flushed darker. “Any disrespect shown to you is disrespect to me. Humiliating you would certainly defeat the purpose of this union, as appealing as the thought may be.” A sly smirk spread across the Banshee Queen’s lips, before she turned to address the rest of the hall.

“The Lord Admiral and I will take our leave,” she announced, and the unwavering coldness of her voice silenced the rowdy guests in moments. “My bride has had her fill of festivities for the night, but please —” she flicked her hand out to gesture broadly towards the crowd, her drawl as dry as ever. “Continue as you like. It is a night to celebrate, after all.” She rose from her seat smoothly, reaching to pull out Jaina’s.

She reached out a hand, glancing at the mage expectantly.

Jaina looked down at the proffered hand and then back at her face, and then at Anduin and Genn. At the rest of the crowd; from Bloodhoof and Lor’themar to the surly face of Saurfang. Sylvanas watched her as she did, and she knew exactly what the mage saw.

All of them waiting — bracing, really — for the treaty to shatter to pieces before it had really even begun to fall into place.

It was the cycle of things, after all. An endless cycle they had meant to break.

Jaina’s eyes glazed slightly, and she seemed to steel herself. She rose to her feet in one powerful, fluid movement and slipped her hand into Sylvanas’.

“Lead the way, Warchief.”

Chapter Text

“A good night to the happy couple!”

The doors shut with a clatter behind them, and Jaina suppressed a flinch at the loud thud. Her ears were ringing still from the commotion of the dining hall, and the muffled silence of the room was a welcome reprieve. They were left standing just beyond the doors, both women pointedly avoiding the other’s gaze.

Blue eyes took in the room carefully; the large and cluttered writing desk pushed up against a broad window, the alcove hiding a looming wardrobe. Her own things were neatly stacked in a corner by the desk, chests full of her clothes and books. Jaina frowned and stared at the large four-poster bed draped in rich purple, eyebrow cocking curiously. As far as the rumours went, the Warchief had no concept of rest, let alone sleep.

Jaina understood it, though. Sometimes it was nice to have things around that reminded her that she was still human.

Though she doubted that Sylvanas actually enjoyed the reminder of being alive.

The weight of the day seemed to descend upon her all at once, and Jaina felt her shoulders slump wearily, her robes suddenly too thick, too tight. She tugged at her collar impatiently and looked towards the bed with some deep longing. Were the sheets as soft as they looked? She knew High Elves were used to living with a certain standard of luxury, but she’d learned that it was something the Windrunners were apparently known for.

Some of the things on the bed seemed significantly more luxurious than others.

“Don’t you think it’s a little much?” Jaina asked, moving towards the bed and fingering the embroidered sigil of the Forsaken adorning a plump pillow. There were four of them; two on each side, and from what she could see — proudly featured the Forsaken crest.

“They were gifts,” Sylvanas said simply. “It would’ve been rude to refuse.”

Jaina nodded sagely, mouth twisting into a smirk. “Of course.” She palmed the texture in her hand. Smooth and soft; the finest silk.

Smirking grimly, Sylvanas gestured towards it. “Turn it over.”

Warily, Jaina turned the pillow over, eyebrows lifting in surprise at the sight of the embroidered anchor in gold. She turned it over, again and again; one side deep purple, the other rich green. She traced her fingertips over it, a faint tremor travelling along her fingers and into her belly.

“A wedding gift,” the Warchief clarified. “I don’t suppose there’s symbolism in picking a side to lay on.”

Jaina blew out a breath, low and shuddering. “Who — who gave this to you?”

Sylvanas was silent for a moment, and when Jaina turned to her to repeat herself, the Banshee Queen shrugged. “That would be telling,” she said coyly, turning on her heels. “You may use the bath chambers if you’d like. It’s just beyond the wardrobes. Your toiletries should have been brought together with your things.” She moved towards the alcove in the far end of the room, fingers already reaching for snaps and buckles of her pauldron and armour.

She shed her clothes without much care for propriety, and Jaina looked away quickly when Sylvanas tugged her undershirt over her head as well.

“I didn’t take you for an exhibitionist,” she said tightly.

Sylvanas paused, glancing over her shoulder at Jaina with a wicked smirk. “I didn’t take you for a prude.”

“Just because I don’t run around the battlefield half-naked like you do doesn’t mean I’m a prude.”

“It certainly means something if you’re blushing up to your hairline.”

Jaina bit down on the inside of her cheek and glared hard at the blackened iron chandelier hanging overhead, though from the corner of her eye she could still see flashes of bare grey (purple?) skin. “Just put some damn clothes on,” she snapped.

A low chuckle came from the Warchief. “As you wish.”

Chewing on her lip, Jaina dared to glance over quickly.

Back muscles. Lean shoulders and arms made of unnaturally smooth purple — yes, definitely purple — skin, and muscles that flexed every time Sylvanas moved. Shoulder blades curved and arched and the divot in her spine that dipped perfectly along broad shoulders into a narrow waist. She bent down, reaching for her tights —

Jaina swallowed hard and turned away before Sylvanas could catch her, fingers tugging clumsily at her own robes. Heat flared from her chest up into her neck, burning outwards into her cheeks. She ducked her head down and moved past the taller woman, pointedly avoiding any sort of physical contact as she disappeared into the bath chambers. She slammed the door shut behind her, just because.

Sylvanas’ voice came muffled behind the door. “Try not to take the door off its hinges every time, will you?”

Jaina ignored her. By the time she was dressed down for bed, Sylvanas had already staked her claim on the side of the bed she wanted, tucked beneath the covers. She’d even made a point to put on some clothes; a tunic that had no business being cut as low as it did and pale blonde hair loose around her shoulders. Sylvanas always wore it loose, but Jaina hadn’t seen the Warchief with her hood down in a long while.

It was oddly...humanising. For the lack of a better word.

It also made her painfully aware of how bare her arms were in her sleeveless shirt, but Jaina ran hot in the nights, even in the absence of a fireplace. She wondered if it wasn’t just to spite her — were they trying to freeze her to death?

She was used to the cold, and the private chambers of the Warchief were just a different kind of frost to master.

“I see you’ve picked a side,” Jaina said, glancing at the purple silk beneath Sylvanas’ head. The former Ranger-General of Silvermoon was turned away from her, arms folded atop the covers, and Jaina pointedly ignored the way the candlelight and shadows emphasised the muscle tone of Sylvanas’ biceps. Lifting the covers, she gingerly scooted in beside Sylvanas.

A long eyebrow twitched. “Are you honestly surprised?” Sylvanas glanced over, watching her warily. “You know we don't have to keep up the facade in here, right?”

Sighing tiredly, Jaina turned her pillow over onto the Kul Tiran side and sank down onto it, grateful for the plushness against her skin. “I think we have to at least stay in the same room tonight.” She tugged the blankets up over her shoulders, turning resolutely away from Sylvanas. “And I’m not sleeping on the floor.”

The Warchief huffed, but Jaina ignored her, exhaustion steeping in her bones. A part of her unfurled disconcertedly; here she was, in bed with the enemy, as it were. Instinct from a lifetime of war made her shoulders tense, stiff and braced for the knife to her back as soon as she closed her eyes.

Jaina could do the same with a frost blade, really. Both of them could just kill each other in the night and no one would know until the morning.

Well, they could...if it weren’t for the treaty.

...And the binding magic of the wedding.

How else were they supposed to keep from killing each other?

Eyelids sliding shut heavily, Jaina felt Sylvanas turn back over onto her side as well. She let her breathing slow, her heart calm, but the unnatural stillness of the body beside her made it difficult to concentrate on ignoring the other woman.

“...do you even need sleep?”

She was met with an indignant silence, and Jaina felt comfortable enough to smile in the dark. “We’re married now,” she mumbled, cheek pressed against her pillow. “It’s not like you’re giving away a precious weakness I can use in a battle.”

She doubted that they’d believe her anyway.

The covers rustled softly, and she felt Sylvanas shift onto her back, the strange coolness of the Warchief’s skin lingering closer. She noticed it at the wedding — and even before then, really, that there was a particular scent that lingered about Sylvanas. Not a stench; not like rot and decay like many expected from the Undead, but the frigid cut of cold steel. Overlaid that was something arcane that tickled her nose every time they were in proximity of each other.

Despite herself, she took a deep, slow breath. Cold steel. Silk sheets.

...and flowers? Something honeyed and spiced.

Tulips?

“...I don’t, need to,” Sylvanas admitted at length. “But resting can give me a sense of clarity, and the past few days have been...eventful.”

Jaina chortled. “Tell me about it.” There was so much planning. She had expected as much — this was the wedding of the century, it seemed. Of a lifetime. She couldn’t remember the last time there had been a unified faction like theirs, and there had been many that still refused to acknowledge the treaty. They had talked, and talked, and talked; countless hours and days and weeks spent bickering among each other about clauses and candidates.

She hadn’t been the first choice. She just happened to be the best choice.

“I’m honestly surprised you agreed to it,” Jaina said. “I’m surprised I agreed to it. Being hostaged off for a peace treaty.” She shook her head; it was still so surreal.

“It intrigued me that the Alliance was willing to sacrifice their prized mage.” Sylvanas hummed, thoughtful, and the silence that fell between them was almost pleasant. The Warchief shifted beside her, and Jaina could feel the glow of her amber eyes boring into the back of her head. “Are you my hostage, Lady Proudmoore?”

“About as much as you are mine,” Jaina muttered darkly, and the tension tentatively settled once more between them. It was why they chose her, after all. Anduin had bravely — and very stupidly — offered himself, and Sylvanas had laughed for a good five minutes.

Jaina had been the only one with equally unparalleled power.

“I believe the politically correct term is wife ,” Sylvanas drawled, and Jaina felt her cheeks flare with heat. “But I appreciate that we have made no delusions about our marriage.” She shifted again, and Jaina refrained from leaning closer into the strange arcane coldness.

Sylvanas’ voice came soft and low, almost sad. “We do what we must for our people,” she muttered. “If nothing else, I am at least pleased that they chose someone with a matching drive.” She paused. “And you’re not too terrible to look at.”

Jaina puffed out a laugh, and a yawn came after it.

Sleep, Proudmoore.” The amusement was hard to ignore in Sylvanas’ voice.

Jaina huffed, but made no protest as she burrowed down further into the covers. “Goodnight then, Windrunner.”

She didn’t see the scowl on Sylvanas’ face, but she knew it was there, and that was the last thing Jaina thought about before she succumbed to the heavy pull of sleep.

 

--------

 

Sylvanas was gone when Jaina woke.

She had expected it for the most part; she hadn’t imagined the Warchief as someone who spent mornings rolling about in bed and enjoying her ridiculously luxurious sheets. Jaina lifted her head from the pillow blearily, glancing about the room for a sign of her spouse, and then realised that she had somehow rolled over onto Sylvanas’ side of the bed in the middle of the night.

She looked down at the pillow under her cheek. Forsaken purple.

Oh.

She pushed the covers back; the smell of cold steel and tulips lingering as she rolled over onto her feet and tugged on a dressing gown. The candle had died in the night, but the sunlight was spilling in through stained, frosted windows, and Jaina could see a neatly folded scrap of paper sitting on the edge of the desk.

There was a note waiting when she approached the writing desk, Sylvanas’ elegant script spelling her name in dramatic strokes. Jaina took it in hand, peeling open the violet Forsaken seal warily.

Proudmoore,

Find me when you wake. There is news from Boralus.

-SW

Chapter Text

Sylvanas reflected on her slumbering wife. She did not rest for most of the night; she had no true need to sleep, but laying beside Jaina and listening to the steady breaths of the woman had been restful, almost.

In repose, the Lord-Admiral Jaina Proudmoore looked like an entirely different person. Younger, naive perhaps. The very fine lines that gathered at the corners of her eyes and mouth were gone, given way to smoothness and soft skin. She looked at Jaina and saw someone she barely remembered; from a past beyond the fall of Silvermoon and the devastation that they had both been witness to.

She looked and saw some of the years at war lifted from her features.

And what pretty features they were.

For a human, at least. Sylvanas allowed herself to accept that Proudmoore was pretty even by elven standards. Large, doe-like eyes and full lips that she seemed to enjoy pouting when deep in thought —

Jaina shifted in her sleep, shuffling in closer to Sylvanas, her leg threatening to sprawl over the Warchief’s body and pin her in place as she reached out and clutched at Sylvanas’ pillows.

Evidently, bed-sharing was foreign to her new wife.

Wife.

The word stirred something within her; something deeply shrouded and buried beneath a lifetime of agony and torment. An ache built in her chest, and Sylvanas frowned at the sensation of physical hurt. She slipped seamlessly from the bed; Jaina was unfazed, and she watched as the mage simply clutched the pillows tighter to her chest.

Frown deepening, Sylvanas moved closer to the bed, tilting her head curiously at the woman. Her braid had rumpled with her constant shifting. Sylvanas knew that type of sleep intimately — restless sleep that often came hand-in-hand with violent dreams. The golden stripe of hair had unfurled among the white, spilling over Jaina’s face and shrouding half of the Forsaken crest under her cheek.

“Strange creature,” Sylvanas muttered, and paused when Jaina hummed in her sleep. A faint tremor of hesitation grew in the pit of her belly as Sylvanas reached out, fingers brushing ever so delicately along the golden tendrils.

She pushed the hair back behind an ear, fingers not quite grazing along Jaina’s cheek. Her eyes travelled lower, lingering on pale, living skin; the elegant length of Jaina’s neck before finally settling on the gleaming silver anchor that was half-burrowed between her breasts.

Boldly, she reached out a finger to trace the necklace chain. A tingle of magic sparked at her fingertip, and Sylvanas pulled away.

“Strange creature,” she repeated, with an odd note of sympathy and another sort of stirring in her being. “What did you get yourself into this time?”

 

 

-------

 

 

A knock came to their door just before sunrise. Sylvanas looked up from her perch at the writing desk and returned her quill to its inkwell. She glanced to the bed, ensuring Jaina’s huddled form was undisturbed before she moved to answer. Pulling a door open, she raised an eyebrow at the sight of the man before her.

“Champion,” she said, a note of warning in her voice at the way Nathanos’ glowing red eyes glanced behind her towards the bed. “Is there something urgent?”

Nathanos reluctantly tore his eyes from the bed, and Sylvanas narrowed her own glowing eyes at him. “With respect, Dark Lady,” he grunted. “I saw the guards dismissed from your door and I thought it wise to check if things were...calm.”

"Clearly, if you haven't heard any screaming from our chambers, then it would be safe to assume that the night carried on in peace, no?" Sylvanas raised an eyebrow, smirking at the man as she placed herself in direct line of his view into the room.

"Who knows with that mage?" Nathanos grumbled. "She has more power than she should be allowed."

“Are you questioning the capabilities of your queen, Blightcaller?” Her eyes began to glow brighter and she flashed him a deadly smile when Nathanos stepped back.

He shook his head immediately. “Never,” he replied, straightening up to look Sylvanas in the eye. “I only want for you to be safe, my Queen.” He gestured towards the room. “My duty is to protect you, and I cannot when I know that she is allowed to wield her magic freely. At least reconsider the wards —”

Enough.” Sylvanas regarded him over her nose for a moment, brow twitching again and ears pinned back against her head. She slid her hand along the wooden panel of the door and purposefully glanced back towards the bed. She let her eyes linger for a moment on Jaina’s curled form and white hair before she turned back to Nathanos.

Her voice was low and tight when she spoke again. “A lesson you must learn, Blightcaller — such implications about my consort could be seen as an act of treason.” She pulled back to look at him coolly. “Do not force my hand at making an example out of you.”

Nathanos looked down and away, jaw tight before he nodded obediently. “Of course. My deepest apologies, Warchief.”

“What did you need, Blightcaller?” she demanded.

Nathanos brandished a letter from within his sleeve. “It came in this morning, my Queen. From Kul Tiras.”

 

------

 

 

Jaina dressed quickly. Nathanos appeared from the shadows almost as soon as she left the chambers. She eyed him warily, hand curling around her staff in an idle threat. “The Warchief,” she demanded. “Where is she?”

He grunted. “The Dark Lady sent me to escort you —”

“Then let’s go,” Jaina snapped, and didn’t bother with acknowledging Nathanos when he rolled his eyes and strode quicker to match her pace. She found herself brought before a grand pair of doors.

Jaina burst into the meeting room, breathing heavily from the pace she’d taken to get there. She paused at the door, staring hard at where Sylvanas sat at the head of an empty meeting table, perusing a pile of letters and requests.

Sylvanas looked up, blinking as she took in the sight of the mage. “Ah, Lord-Admiral Proudmoore.” She glanced behind her at Nathanos. “Blightcaller.”

Jaina whirled on the man, face taut with annoyance. “Do you mind? This is a private matter,” she said, folding her arms and jerking her head at the door.

Nathanos held his ground, thrusting his chin out and folding his hands behind his back. “It is my duty to protect the Dark Lady, as her Champion.”

“Well as her wife, it’s my duty to tell you that I want you to get out,” Jaina retorted. They glared at each other for a moment, until Sylvanas cleared her throat.

Her mouth curled with amusement as she looked at Jaina. “Do as you’re told, Blightcaller.”

Lips thin, Nathanos gave Sylvanas a stiff bow before spinning on his heels and marching back out of the room.

“I rather think he’s quite taken with you,” Sylvanas drawled as Jaina turned back to her.

“What news?” Jaina demanded, striding to the table. “From Boralus. Is it my mother?”

The Warchief’s ear twitched slightly, and Jaina opened her mouth again to snap at the woman, but Sylvanas simply nodded. “It arrived this morning,” she said, leaning back in her seat and picking up a neatly folded letter from the pile; the Kul Tiras seal broken.

Jaina snatched it from her hand, unfolding it quickly. “You could’ve woken me,” she spat, eyes skimming the letter.

“I could have,” Sylvanas allowed, leaning back on an arm and watching Jaina with open amusement. The look was enough for Jaina to pause, turning her eyes onto the Warchief with a glare. “But you’d had a long day. I thought it best to leave you to your rest. That’s what wives do, don’t they? Care for each other.”

Jaina narrowed her eyes, anger building dangerously up her spine at the mocking lilt of her words.

To which Sylvanas merely rolled her eyes. “I would have woken you if it were important. Quiet that temper of yours.” She gestured to the letter and smirked, although Jaina knew it was more of a literal show of teeth. “Go on, then. How does your mother fare?”

She let her eyes linger a moment longer on the Banshee Queen’s fangs before returning to the letter in her hand. Her brows furrowed as she read, but the more she read, the higher they rose on her face.

“I don’t understand,” she muttered, sinking down into a seat. She reread the letter again, fingers brushing against her mother’s familiar script before she looked up at Sylvanas incredulously. “You’re sure this came from her?”

Sylvanas shrugged. “It’s in her hand, is it not?”

Jaina shook her head in disbelief. “But — I don’t understand why? She didn’t want to come to the wedding. Why would she come to Orgrimmar now?” It had stung, of course it had. Knowing that for however much Katherine Proudmoore loved her daughter, their family had lost too much to the Horde for Katherine to ever forgive them.

Even if it meant missing her only daughter’s wedding.

“I’d suspect that the wedding being held in Orgrimmar had something to do with that,” Sylvanas said, dipping her quill into an inkwell to continue her letters. “Guilt perhaps, or distrust. Write to her and see. Remind her that we leave back to Lordaeron in six months' time.” She finished a letter and reached for the seal wax. “Perhaps she would be more comfortable there.”

Jaina frowned, peering at Sylvanas. “She also invited us to the Keep after that. I'm assuming you've read the letter.” It was too long since she’d been home herself; she didn't count the last time she'd made the journey as a 'visit' so much as a political meeting. And they hadn't exactly reunited in the fondest of ways. Still, she wondered what her mother was trying to achieve by inviting the Warchief of the Horde — the person Katherine probably despised the most in her life — to their ancestral home.

Sylvanas took a moment to finish sealing her letter before looking back at Jaina. “Would it please you to visit your home?”

That took her by surprise. “Uh — it — I haven’t been home in a while,” Jaina admitted. “Not...to visit, anyway.”

“Then I will consider the invitation,” Sylvanas promised her, impassive face morphing into a smirk. “It would be rude to deny a request from my mother-in-law.”

Jaina flinched at that. God, they really were in-laws now, weren’t they?

There came a knock on the door, and Jaina looked up to see a Forsaken soldier bearing a tray of food. She stared incredulously as the soldier bowed to them both, placing the tray on the table and leaving as quickly as he could. “What’s this?” Jaina eyed the tray dubiously.

“Breakfast,” Sylvanas said simply. “You take your coffee black, don’t you?”

At the mention of caffeine, Jaina sat up straighter, peering down at the tray of food intently. It was simple fare; coffee alongside a spread of bread and cheese and fruit, but the sight of it all made her stomach growl longingly.

Sylvanas let out a quiet chuckle. “Eat, Proudmoore. Your mother will have my head if she discovers you unfed and uncared for.”

“I’m not a pet,” Jaina grumbled, conjuring a bowl of sugar to spoon a generous mound into her coffee. She did take her coffee black, but she liked it sweet enough to rot her teeth. She pointedly ignored the cocked brow Sylvanas gave her and took a hefty bite of buttered bread. As she chewed, she noticed the way Sylvanas was watching her; not intently, exactly, but with the same faint sort of curiosity that one might look at a foreign creature.

Oh.

She blushed, chiding herself for it as she swallowed her bite and looked down at the bread. “Do you...eat?” she asked carefully, plucking a grape from the bowl. “I’ve seen the other Forsaken eat, but I’ve never —”

Sylvanas let out a little hum, her pile of letters now in a neat stack at her elbow. “Undeath has decayed most of my senses. It’s an advantage in times of war certainly; to be unburdened by the stench of death, or the dire necessity of eating to survive. But much that I consume only retains a fraction of its taste.” She shrugged, as if it was just some minor inconvenience and not an entire destruction of her physical senses. “Why bother if I have no need?”

Jaina looked away thoughtfully and took a more conservative approach with her meal after that.

“Proudmoore.”

She looked up and saw the serious frown on Sylvanas’ face.

“Do not pity me,” the Warchief said curtly. “If there was one thing I would not tolerate from this marriage, it would be for my own consort to look at me as anything to pity.”

A rush of indignation burned in her chest. “I don’t pity you,” Jaina shot back hotly as she reached for her coffee. “Why would I pity you? It just means I get more coffee to myself.” She took a long sip in emphasis, savouring the sugar-thick slide of the coffee down her throat. “I don’t like sharing.”

“I’ve noticed.”

Jaina squinted at her, but did not deign to reply. Instead, she popped another grape into her mouth. “I was just trying to make conversation.”

Sylvanas’ hands paused their organising of her papers, and her eyes flickered over to Jaina with a wary, almost reproachful look. “Conversation,” she repeated slowly, and Jaina hated the way her voice caressed each syllable. The Warchief heaved a sigh, as if indulging her questions was one of the most tedious things she’d had to do all morning. “I suppose it’s better than hearing you snore.”

“I do not snore!”

“I very much would beg to differ, Lord-Admiral.”

 

Chapter Text

Time passed at a nebulous rate in Orgrimmar. There were still many reparations to be made; with the Horde, with the Alliance, with Lordaeron. For Jaina, being surrounded by orcs and trolls and tauren again made the memories of Garrosh and Thrall rise like bile in the back of her throat. Tensions among the factions remained at a peak between Alliance and Horde. Prejudices long-held across centuries of war were not easily shed over a simple marriage — but the treaty seemed enough to stay their hands.

For now.

Jaina wrote back to her mother and managed to persuade Katherine to wait until they had settled in Lordaeron instead of braving the journey across the waters to Orgrimmar. The threat of N’Zoth and Azshara’s forces was unpredictable at best, and Jaina had promised her that they would reunite on slightly more neutral grounds in Lordaeron.

She knew she could very well portal her mother in, but even Jaina had to admit that a visit from Katherine would only strain the tensions between her and the Horde.

They shared a room still, at first ‘for appearances’ sake’, but now it was only practical. Their things were scattered about the large bedchambers; Jaina's writing desk was pushed against the window that overlooked city streets and Sylvanas' was pressed up against the wall closest to the chamber doors. Despite the distance, there were still tomes and scrolls of Jaina's that were sprawled over Sylvanas' desk, and the occasional vambrace or leather jerkin of Sylvanas' draped over the back of Jaina's chair. Bits and pieces of their individual lives inhabiting the same space.

Jaina's bedside table was piled high with tomes and books, organised in its disorganisation. Sylvanas' was stacked neatly with reports and several rolls of parchment, and nearly phased into her shadow form one night when Jaina accidentally upended the stack.

Jaina had apologised, though it came with the promise of freezing off Sylvanas' hands before she could ever think about doing anything spiteful in return. "What are our rooms going to be like in Lordaeron?" she asked, as they were dressing down for bed one night. "I haven't seen any of the building plans for the new Keep."

“Our bed-sharing is only a temporary arrangement,” Sylvanas promised her. “You’ll have an entire wing to yourself once we return to Lordaeron. An entire tower, if you like.”

Something curdled and roiled in Jaina’s stomach at that, and she couldn’t quite understand why. She pursed her lips and continued dressing for bed, pulling her sleeveless nightshirt over her head and tucking her braid back into place. “My mother wrote back today,” she told Sylvanas. “She wants to stay in Lordaeron with us for a month.”

Sylvanas’ brows had twitched at that, turning towards the bed as she finished lacing her wrap tunic. “And when should we expect her? The Keep lies in ruins still; we can’t have your mother sleeping in a room with no roof and the Blight at her windows.”

“Well, whose fault was that?” she sniped, to which Sylvanas merely glared in response. They both knew she could neutralise the Blight by some degree, but it would take months, even years before Lordaeron would be entirely habitable again.

They were meant to leave for Lordaeron soon. Construction and restorations were already in the process, but Jaina knew they would need the best mages and apothecaries both the Alliance and the Horde had to offer to truly combat the Blight.

“Two weeks,” Sylvanas conceded coldly. “I will send word when we’re ready to receive her.”

Jaina frowned but did not argue.

 

-----------------

 

 

As the months passed, they began to fall into a routine. Most nights, they would retire together, though Sylvanas was rarely present in the morning. It was just as well; Jaina appreciated the time she had to herself, and given that she was consort to the Warchief, she often saw Sylvanas throughout the day for meetings anyway. Though things weren't entirely friendly between them, it was certainly...civil. Outside of the war-hungry tyrant that everyone in the Alliance assumed Sylvanas to be, she was surprisingly...thoughtful. At least, she was with Jaina. Granted, much of that could be due to the treaty itself; they both knew that there was no way such a peace treaty and marriage would survive if they went into it intentionally spiteful.

But still, sometimes it was...nice.

On the rare occasion, they even ate together. Well, Jaina ate, although Sylvanas would occasionally indulge in a nibble or two of honeyed bread or Forsaken foie gras.

Breakfast was the most common mealtime they shared. It was almost pleasant, Jaina thought. Sitting in the private chambers of the Warchief and basking in the warmth of the day. Sylvanas perused appeals and reports while Jaina worked through her meal, and would never start her day without at least one cup of coffee.

“Just a sip,” Jaina insisted one day, sliding the cup towards Sylvanas. “Surely you miss it.”

Sylvanas looked at her over the top of the letter she was reading. She eyed the cup dubiously, running her eyes along Jaina’s outstretched arm and up into the mage’s face, where Jaina felt the heat rush into her cheeks. “I’m fine, thank you.”

Jaina nudged the cup against Sylvanas’ gauntleted hand. That was another thing she’d noticed — outside of their chambers, Jaina had never seen the Warchief wear anything but her armour. “Afraid I’m going to poison you, Warchief?” She tilted her head, almost challenging as she took the cup back and sipped from it purposefully.

Glowing eyes narrowed slightly, and Sylvanas took the cup, rocking it this way and that to watch the slightly viscous fluid move. “You’ve practically congealed it with sugar,” she said flatly.

“I’ll only be generous once,” Jaina warned her. “If you slander my coffee, you’ll never touch a drop of it again.”

Rolling her eyes, Sylvanas eventually indulged her. Jaina watched as her nose wrinkled slightly at the smell alone, and then the Warchief dared to take a mouthful.

Her ears flattened back almost instantly and Sylvanas made a visible shudder, trembling all the way up to the tips of her ears. She pulled the cup away and glared at it with open hostility. “What is this swill?"

Flushed with embarrassment and indignation, Jaina all but snatched the cup back, nearly cradling it protectively. “It’s my coffee, thank you very much, and I like it.” She took a hefty gulp in emphasis.

Sylvanas pointed a clawed finger at it, tapping against the ceramic sharply. "That is sweetened bog water," she countered, scowling disgustedly. “How you manage to swallow that filth, I’ll never understand.”

“Your tongue is dead. You can’t actually taste it,” Jaina accused.

“Dead and yet I could still taste the putridity of it.” Sylvanas shook her head. “This won’t do.” She rose from her seat and left then, offering Jaina no further explanation.

Jaina huffed, glaring after the Warchief as she drank her swill. She hadn’t expected such a violent reaction to it — it was just coffee, for goodness’ sake! It was meant to be a little olive branch of sorts; sharing something of hers with Sylvanas, even if she knew that the Undead didn’t need the caffeine anymore.

Her temper rankled from embarrassment. Fine then, no more sharing.

 

 

-----------------

 

 

She sulked the rest of the day, keeping her distance from Sylvanas and speaking to the Warchief with short and clipped words only when necessary. She sat through Horde council meetings (Nathanos hated it) and Sylvanas sat through Alliance meetings (Greymane had turned purple the first time Sylvanas showed up). Through it all, they remained cordial, if cold.

Sylvanas arched a brow at a particularly biting tone she took at a meeting, but did not press her.

She did not see Sylvanas much after lunch.

Jaina got to their chambers first that night. It wasn’t exactly unusual for her to; being Warchief meant that Sylvanas was usually caught up in some duty or another, but they had made it a habit of settling down for the night together. She ignored the strange tingling in her fingertips at the empty space beside her as she walked into the room.

She settled into bed with a tome from the apothecary, but it held little interest for her that night. She was already curled up under the covers when the doors creaked open. The familiar shift of armoured feet on the stone floors paused briefly by the foot of the bed.

“Have I truly upset you so, over coffee?”

The condescension in her words made Jaina’s hackles rise even higher. She ignored Sylvanas, pulling the covers tighter around her shoulders and spitefully conjuring a wall of frost shards between them. Sylvanas let out a soft sigh.

“You’re being terribly childish,” Sylvanas said. “Almost as childish as your handwriting.”

The frost shards grew taller and sharper.

Heaving a much put-upon sigh, Sylvanas acquiesced. “As you wish. I will be in my study should you feel inclined to act your age once more.”

She leaned down on her side of the bed and blew out the candle. As the room fell into darkness, Jaina watched the Warchief disappear through the doorway once more.

Suddenly the bed was much too big, and the space in the room much too hollow.

 

 

-----------------

 

 

The next morning, Sylvanas was still nowhere to be found, but Jaina had expected as much. What she didn’t expect though, was the steaming cup of coffee sitting on her bedside table. The smells wafting from it could only be described as heavenly.

She approached it warily, reaching out her magic for anything suspect. No poison, no magic; nothing but the enticing roil of its smoky tendrils curling in the air. Attached to its handle was a note.

She left it for the moment, focused more on tasting the smells she was smelling. The first sip made Jaina’s eyes slide shut, the first swallow made her breath shudder and her belly warm.

It was the best coffee Jaina has had in a long while. Unsweetened in its true form, but still naturally sweet amidst the bitterness, beautifully fragrant, and basically euphoric.

She opened her eyes and peered down at the note, fingering the creased edges before finally unfolding it.

From the Jade Forest of Pandaria itself. Something actually worthy of the Warchief's consort.

No more swill and no more ice shards in bed.

-SW

Biting her lip, Jaina dropped the open note back onto the desk and sighed. “Damn it,” she muttered, rubbing at the furrow in her brow apprehensively. She cradled the mug between her hands and savoured the coffee for a moment longer, staring guiltily at the bed as she did. It was petty, of course it was; Jaina prided herself with having more self-control than just throwing a tantrum over some fucking coffee.

But it was Sylvanas.

Not very long ago, anything Sylvanas had to say to her would’ve been met with more than just a wall of frost shards between them.

She knew it was childish, but it wasn’t that Sylvanas had insulted just her taste in caffeinated drinks — she’d insulted the thought behind why Jaina had wanted to share in the first place.

But apparently, it wasn’t the taste that offended Sylvanas.

It was the fact that she was drinking it.

Draining her mug and immediately feeling bereft at the loss, Jaina steeled herself for a long and humbling morning. She knew that she owed Sylvanas an apology, but she was sure that the Warchief had been purposefully cruel about the whole debacle, too.

A child’s handwriting, Jaina thought irritably. Not everyone had time to write in high elf calligraphy.

She found Sylvanas in the meeting room as normal, fully-armoured and quill scratching briskly over a roll of parchment. Sylvanas’ hand stilled over the parchment at her entry, but the Warchief merely spared her a sideways glance. “Lady Proudmoore,” she greeted her, inclining her head.

Bracing herself, Jaina took a deep breath, nodding to Sylvanas as she moved towards her usual seat at the Banshee Queen’s left.

Sylvanas watched her for a moment longer, silent still, before she continued her writing.

Jaina endured the silence until she could no longer. “Thank you,” she blurted, and then ducked her head to hide the burn in her cheeks as she fussed with a pile of Sylvanas’ sealed letters. “For the coffee. It was — I’ve never tasted anything like it.”

“That’s because you’ve been deadening your senses with that burnt soil,” Sylvanas drawled, calmly signing off another letter with a flourish. She slid it over to Jaina wordlessly, placing the seal wax and stamp between them. “I understand now why you drowned it in sugar.”

“I just prefer my coffee sweet,” Jaina replied defensively, hands working automatically to fold, seal, and stamp the letters. It was routine; something they did to whittle away the time between meetings. She almost didn’t realise she was doing it until she looked down and saw Sylvanas’ elegant (dramatic) script.

“And my handwriting is just fine.”

Sylvanas shrugged. “I suppose your hand had to keep pace with your mind somehow — the arrowhead goes on top, Proudmoore, you’re holding it upside down.”

Jaina startled as Sylvanas reached over and corrected her grip on the seal, fingers sliding along her knuckles and down over her wrist. Her touch was cool and firm as she pried the seal from Jaina’s grip before replacing it right side up.

Jaina stared at her hand once Sylvanas let go, darting glances from the paper to the seal. “Oh.” Her skin tingled in the wake of the Warchief’s touch, but Jaina shook the feeling aside and stamped the next letter.

A little more lopsided than she’d like, but upright at least.

Sylvanas’ ear twitched and she huffed with begrudging approval. “I had to keep you from depleting the Horde’s sugar rations somehow.” She flipped over a fresh parchment, claws scraping against the texture in a sound that made a shudder of frisson run up Jaina’s spine. “Wrynn would have my head mounted on a spike if he thought I’d poisoned you with that filth on purpose.”

Jaina rolled her eyes, but the fluttering in her belly was anything but annoyance. She couldn’t quite bring herself to say the two words she knew she should — she was an adult, she knew when to apologise for mistakes.

...when her pride allowed it.

She cast a furtive glance at Sylvanas. The Warchief was focused on composing what seemed to be yet another formal letter. Tilting her head curiously, Jaina dared to speak. “What are these for?”

“Authorisations,” Sylvanas said simply. “That’s what this morning’s meeting is for.”

Jaina blinked. Oh, right. The Horde-Alliance meeting. One of the rare times both sides of the coalition were made to sit in the same room and talk to each other. The last time it happened, Greymane lost a chunk of neck fur and Saurfang walked away with a black eye.

She was quite certain she’d seen the same shade of fur dangling off Nathanos’ hip on a chain.

It would be the last meeting they held in Orgrimmar before they and the rest of the Alliance journeyed back to Stormwind and Lordaeron.

Eventually their respective factions filtered into the room; at some point, Jaina found a fresh cup of coffee at her elbow. She wrapped her hands around it eagerly, and made a point of giving Sylvanas a little nudge with her foot under the table.

Sylvanas’ ears perked, and then flattened down at an angle towards her. She eyed Jaina warily, but the mage simply offered her a thin smile. “Thank you, again.”

“Of course,” Sylvanas replied, slow and considering. Her eyes flashed at Jaina briefly, and she thought she saw a teasing light in those Undead eyes. “Though I hope we might have less of these...outbursts in the future. There’s only so much caffeine I can ply you with.”

Jaina kicked her just a little harder, but Sylvanas merely flashed her a fanged smile.

“Warchief Windrunner.” They looked up to see everyone in their place; Alliance to the left, Horde to the right. By ‘Alliance’, that meant Anduin and Genn. Sylvanas had history with Malfurion and Tyrande, and neither of them was inclined to make the journey anyway — and Sylvanas all but threatened to tear Anduin's tongue out of his mouth at the mention of Alleria.

Problems for another time.

It was Saurfang who spoke, scowling and grim as ever. “You summoned us to speak today.”

Sylvanas nodded, eyes scanning the table with a lazy sort of interest. “We begin, then.”

Chapter Text

By the end of the meeting, it was decided that Saurfang and Bloodhoof would remain in Orgrimmar to lead in Sylvanas’ stead. It was an expected outcome, and Jaina knew that the Horde was eager to see the Alliance — and more specifically her — gone as quickly as possible. Saurfang and Bloodhoof held much-respected positions among the Horde, and Jaina knew it went beyond placating the masses and maintaining the peace.

“Lady Jaina,” Anduin said, when the meeting adjourned, “if I may have a moment?”

Jaina paused, glancing at Sylvanas. She didn’t need permission exactly, but they have had choice words for each other about convening with their respective factions in secrecy. Although Jaina’s definition of 'secrecy' went beyond 'not informing Sylvanas of her whereabouts at every waking moment', Sylvanas had begged to differ.

“I don’t expect to be informed of every breath you take, Proudmoore, but I would have imagined that something as important as an impromptu conference with members of the Alliance would have urged you to consider the repercussions.”

It would have come to blows, honestly, if it weren’t for Jaina’s sheer will and the ever-constant loom of the binding enchantment.

So no, it wasn’t for permission. It was just to make sure Sylvanas actually heard her response.

“Of course, Anduin,” she said, offering him a warm smile.

Sylvanas looked from Anduin to her, flicking her wrist at them dismissively. “Converge elsewhere.” She glanced down the table at Lor’themar, inclining her head at the Regent Lord. “I will have words with you, Lor’themar.”

“Of course, my Queen,” Lor’themar answered readily. He rose from his seat and moved obediently to her side, placing himself at her elbow with a distant sort of curiosity. When Jaina rose from her seat, he spared her a glance with his one eye, inclining his head respectfully.

She nodded in return before giving Sylvanas a suspicious little squint. Sylvanas merely arched a brow in response, glancing at where Anduin was waiting at the end of the table.

“If you please, Lord Admiral,” Sylvanas said with a mild shooing motion. “Attend to your Little Lion. I will find you when we’re finished.”

Jaina gritted her teeth to fight back the wave of annoyance; Sylvanas played hot and cold whenever she liked, and sometimes Jaina forgot how keenly uncaring Sylvanas was with how people took her tone. Or maybe she was too aware of it.

Instead, she turned her sneer it into a smile and deliberately sweetened her voice into a nauseating coo. “Of course, dear.”

Sylvanas’ eyes widened imperceptibly and she wrinkled her nose in disbelief. She opened her mouth to speak, the tips of her fangs flashing, but whatever she had to say was interrupted by a stifled noise from behind her that sounded suspiciously like a snort.

“You are excused, Lady Proudmoore,” Sylvanas growled quietly, her eyes promising retribution.

Jaina gave her a beatific smile, turning on her heels and striding over to where Anduin seemed to be doing his level best at counting the whorls in the wood of the table. She could feel Sylvanas’ glare on her back, but it made Jaina walk with her head held even higher.

Approaching Anduin, she gave him a smug little smile. “Come on,” she murmured, jerking her head towards the door. “We’ll talk.”

 

 

------------

 

 

With Jaina and the Lion Cub gone and the room to themselves, Sylvanas turned her attention towards Lor’themar. “This marriage,” she began, with the distinct impression of someone who couldn’t have found anything less interesting to talk about. “What are your thoughts, Regent Lord?”

Lor’themar shrugged. “Are you asking my opinion as Warchief or as a wife?”

Sylvanas narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m asking for your opinion as an advisor.” She worked her jaw slowly, drumming her fingers against the table with an idle sort of listlessness. “How would you care for your spouse, were you in my position? She’s fed and watered, her needs are tended to accordingly. What more does a consort require?”

She tapped a clawed finger sharply on the wood, unable to resist the flare of frustration unfurling in her belly. Relations with the Lord Admiral had improved considerably over the months, temperamental though the woman may be, but the Warchief had more concerns about the whispers that were filtering through the ranks.

Collusion. An ambition of Horde and Forsaken to tear the Alliance apart from the inside out, and then for the Banshee Queen to obliterate the Horde in turn.

Baseless whispers, of course. Tempting as the thought was to do away with the Alliance once and for all, that would defeat the very purpose of the treaty to begin with. If she’d wanted to kill Jaina, she would’ve done it on the first night, and faced the wrath of the Alliance with Saurfang and Bloodhoof bellowing behind her about honour and betrayal.

Discontent was a seed easily sowed in the right soil. They were certainly standing on fertile enough grounds for it.

So no. She couldn’t kill Proudmoore. She just wasn’t sure if she knew how to keep Proudmoore.

Lor’themar arched an immaculate eyebrow and gave her a considering look. “Well, I’d dare say the Alliance may not be taking well to your likening her to a pet,” Lor’themar drawled, casting a glance towards the door, and Sylvanas let out a warning growl when she saw his lip begin to twitch.

“A pet would certainly be more obedient,” she muttered.

“If you were looking for obedient, my Queen, I’m afraid you picked the wrong person to be your significant other.”

“She’s a significant annoyance.” Sylvanas scowled, rising out of her seat to pace the table. Her stride was steady and calm, idle almost as she casually plucked a parchment of meeting minutes — something Jaina had insisted on including for posterity’s sake — from the table to read. “If I had known that the Lord Admiral would have such atrocious handwriting, I might’ve reconsidered.” She skimmed the minutes without really digesting the content; she knew it would all be there.

Jaina was nothing if not meticulous with her paperwork. All things considered, her writing wasn’t that terrible.

For a mage.

“There are obviously those who still doubt the stability of this union,” she began seriously, glancing at Lor’themar over the top of the parchment as she paced. “I’m asking your opinion on how I calm this...state of unrest.”

Sobering slightly, Lor’themar made a thoughtful hum, standing with his hands behind his back and regarding the Warchief as she continued her pacing. “Your marriage represents the hope for the New Era; perhaps acting like it might help,” he suggested.

Sylvanas glared at him. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“Surely you remember?” Lor’themar tapped a finger on his chin, clearing his throat before he began to recite a saying in Thalassian that Sylvanas hadn’t heard in centuries. “A happy wife makes for a happy life.”

“If you’re just going to spit meaningless proverbs at me, I might as well have asked Gallywix. She’s being taken care of, I’ve told you —”

“Your people need to see such happiness to believe it,” he cut in, and Sylvanas very seriously considered taking his other eye for the way he was looking at her. That little shit-eating grin of his wasn’t helping either. “Perhaps seeing the Warchief and her consort do more than tolerate each other might calm both factions. Lead by example, I suppose. A little more physical affection — a little touching that doesn’t end with one of you looking like you’d touched filth.”

He shrugged. “Kissing, even.”

Sylvanas went deadly still, turning towards him with a slow grind of her heels.

“On the cheek,” he added quickly, holding his hands up in surrender. “A simple kiss on the cheek.” He tapped his own face for emphasis, and Sylvanas barely contained the urge to tear off his goatee by sinking her taloned fingers into the table instead.

“That is your suggestion?” She looked at him flatly. “Kissing.”

“And touching,” he added.

Touching.” Her stomach made a strange little flutter, odd and soft and warm. Quite like the feeling of the Lord Admiral’s body pressed against her in bed.

“I’d suggest other forms of affection, but —”

She sank her claws noisily into the table, pulling curling ribbons of wood. “One more word out of you, Theron, and I will shear you bald myself.”

Lor’themar snapped his mouth shut, reaching one hand self-consciously to touch his hair. “You asked for my thoughts,” he murmured petulantly, brushing his hair behind his shoulders and out fo Sylvanas’ reach.

“And such astute thoughts they are — public displays of affection? With the woman who very nearly decimated the entirety of the Horde in one fell swoop?” Granted, she’d practically done the same thing to the Alliance, but that had been a military tactic, not vengeance.

“...well, yes. The point of this union between you was to be done with the bloodshed, was it not? To greet the dawn of a new era —” he lifted his hands into a flourishing sort of movement. She had almost forgotten the flare for dramatics the sin’dorei had. “To live and let live?”

Sylvanas smothered a growl and levelled Lor’themar with a deadly glare. “One more proverb out of you…”

Lor’themar chuckled softly, raising his hands placatingly once more. “If nothing else, then show them that you care for her. Whatever their opinion of you, I’m certain that none would dare lay harm on the Lord Admiral — who could certainly handle herself, regardless — if they knew she held the Warchief’s...favour.”

Sylvanas pursed her lips, glaring sidelong at Lor’themar. “My favour would surely paint an even brighter target on Lady Proudmoore’s back,” she bit out slowly, tapping her claws against the table again.

“The wrath of the Banshee Queen is a sight to behold,” Lor’themar uttered grimly. “I would pity the fools who would dare to incite it.”

 

 

-------------

 

 

The talk with Lor’themar left Sylvanas...troubled. Perhaps not troubled, but...thoughtful. As far as the Alliance was concerned, she knew they very much preferred if she and Jaina spent as little time as possible together, if at all. She wondered dryly if they thought she might possess the mage; as if Jaina Proudmoore wasn’t presently one of the most powerful and deadly mages alive.

Greymane couldn’t even stand seeing them sit next to each other at the table, and Anduin watched them with a hand gripping the hilt of Shalamayne whenever Sylvanas leaned down to address her wife.

Maybe Lor’themar had a point — if only to aggravate the Wrynn boy and his faithful dog further.

The Warchief found Jaina and Wrynn easily enough; there was very little the Lord Admiral could do without Sylvanas knowing. It was what her dark rangers were for. They certainly did a better job at covert operations than Wrynn’s merry band of SI:7 spies.

She approached the courtyard silently, blinking in surprise at the faint thrum of magic reaching out to her. Muffling wards. She paused then, ears flicking forward with interest as she tested the wards with a cautious step. It didn't move. Eyebrow arching, Sylvanas took another step into the perimeter of the ward's circle, breaking through its lines and placing herself there expectantly.

The ward held, and suddenly she could hear Wrynn and Jaina's voice clearly; as if she'd stepped through a bubble. She watched for a moment from the shadows as Jaina and Anduin sat perched on the edge of a water feature. They were turned towards each other, speaking low and hushed as Jaina held the King of Stormwind’s hands in her lap.

"Are you sure you're alright? It's been months, and you don't write as often as you said you would."

"I'm fine. It's just been busy here. There's a lot to do before we head off to Lordaeron, and it just slips my mind."

"...you know we worry for you, Jaina. I know that you're doing this for the good of our people, but we just want to make sure you're safe."

"I'm fine, Anduin. I can take care of myself."

A flicker of irritation rose in her chest, and Sylvanas emerged from the shadows with a sneer. “Enjoying your bonding time, my dear?"

Jaina gasped sharply, twisting at the waist in her direction. Her blue eyes widened, surprise and a brief gleam of fear that made Sylvanas’ brow pinch slightly. She narrowed her eyes slightly, glancing to where Anduin rose to his feet quickly, pulling his hands from Jaina’s grip.

“I hadn’t realised I would be interrupting such intimate conversations,” she uttered coldly.

Anduin cleared his throat quietly, shifting on his heels and placing a respectable distance between himself and Jaina. “Warchief.”

“Wrynn.” Sylvanas raised an eyebrow at him before turning her cool gaze to Jaina. “If you’re quite finished with your hand holding, I’m sure Greymane and the rest of your party are waiting.”

He nodded, almost relieved to be offered an excuse to get out of her sight. “Of course.” He gave Jaina one last look, searching and speaking at once. “I will prepare my men for departure. We will be ready,” he said, and Sylvanas nearly rolled her eyes at the stress he put in the sentence.

She tilted her head towards the courtyard archway. “Some privacy, if you please, Your Majesty.” She turned her glowing eyes to Jaina. “I’d like a moment alone with my wife.”

Reluctantly, the Wrynn cub departed. It was just her and the Lord Admiral now, standing by the idle rushing of the water fountain and among blooming red flowers and creeping vine.

“How did you find me?” Jaina asked incredulously.

Her eyes flashed brightly, only enough for Jaina to see, and though Sylvanas bared her teeth in a smile, she kept her tone surprisingly light. Lor’themar’s words were still fresh in her mind. “Was it meant to be difficult?”

Jaina shook her head, muttering under her breath for a moment, but Sylvanas could hear her well enough. “I thought I’d warded the damn yard…”

“Why, Lady Proudmoore,” Sylvanas said, feigning shock as she splayed a hand over her unbeating heart. “You would cast such spells against your own beloved wife?” She made a dramatic pout.

A delightful flush took up residence on Jaina’s face, all the way up from her elegant neck and into her cheeks. Sylvanas watched in amusement as the Lord Admiral scowled hard at her, flailing her hands slightly as she reached out and slapped Sylvanas’ hand away from her chest.

“I meant that I’d warded it for privacy,” she huffed. “It should’ve alerted me when people were close by.”

Sylvanas tilted her head down into Jaina’s space, dropping her voice into a secretive hush. “Are we playing at keeping secrets now, Proudmoore?” She watched Jaina suppress a shiver, the mage’s eyes hooding slightly as she raked them up Sylvanas’ neck and lingered briefly at her mouth.

Jaina’s eyes snapped up to hers, and the glaze of something dangerously close to desire faded. In its place was the fire she recognised most. “I’m sure your dark rangers can testify to what Anduin and I were discussing, Warchief,” she bit out, pulling away from Sylvanas.

“I’ll be sure to check,” Sylvanas replied, and then reached out on a whim. She caught Jaina’s hand before the shorter woman could pull away, taking care to avoid sinking her gauntlet into Jaina’s slender wrist.

Jaina took a sharp breath, and they stood frozen for an instant. Her grip was not unkind, nor was it delicate. She held onto Jaina with just enough strength to keep her in place, but enough slack for the mage to yank her hand out of Sylvanas’ grip should she wish to do so.

Surprisingly, Jaina did not.

“Indulge me, wife,” Sylvanas breathed, and felt Jaina’s pulse flutter against her fingertips. “I’m painfully curious.”

Jaina’s voice dropped to match hers almost thoughtlessly. “And what —” her breath hitched again when Sylvanas allowed her fingers to stroke down her wrist and into her palm. “—could possibly pain you to find out?”

Smiling slowly, Sylvanas took a deliberate step towards her, looming into Jaina’s space until she could smell the sea breeze and frost on the woman’s skin. “My dear wife,” she purred, delighting in the way Jaina’s eyes hooded once more.

“I have always wondered...how you would survive on the battlefield without your magic.”

Jaina blinked several times, staring at Sylvanas blankly. “What?”

“Your combat skills,” Sylvanas shrugged, releasing her gently. “Close combat, as it were.” She gave Jaina a knowing little look, smirking at the way the blush in her cheeks lingered in the Orgrimmar heat. “Your magic keeps you adept at long range attacks, but what happens when someone is close enough to touch you?” She reached out quickly, too fast for Jaina to stop her, and tugged teasingly on the end of her braid.

Jaina sputtered, whipping her head out of range indignantly. “I can fight just fine,” she countered hotly, curling her hands into fists at her side. “My powers —”

“—make you lazy,” Sylvanas finished, nodding as if she’d only just come to a decision. “You and I will train together from now on.”

“You know that’s impossible. The binding enchantment prevents us from causing any physical or magical harm on each other,” Jaina insisted.

Sylvanas smiled slowly. “Not if we consent.”

Chapter Text

In hindsight, Jaina thought, agreeing to it was a bad idea.

In foresight, she should’ve known better than to rise to the bait. If anything, this was probably one of the worst things to be baited into — and still, there they were. Jaina watched Sylvanas calmly escorted her into the private meeting chambers of the Warchief. She paused hesitantly at the sight of the meeting table, but Sylvanas merely jerked her head towards the double doors at the far end of the room.

“How’ve I never noticed another room?” Jaina wondered aloud, staring in surprise when the Warchief pushed open the doors and revealed a fully equipped training room. There were training dummies and targets and mats on almost every inch of its floor. At one end, she could see a shelf of neatly-organised weapons — bows and spears and swords alike.

She’d always thought it was just another meeting chamber; a study, really.

Sylvanas shrugged. “Perhaps you should pay more attention to your surroundings, then.”

As she turned to lock its doors, Jaina found herself thinking again that it was probably a terrible, no-good, awful idea.

Sylvanas, however, seemed to have no such reservations.

“So,” Jaina said, eyeing the Warchief warily from her side of the room. “How are we doing this?”

Arching a brow, Sylvanas smirked as she began to unfasten her bracers. At the wary look Jaina gave her, the Warchief sighed. “The idea would be to minimise the damage, no?” She moved towards a shelving unit and neatly placed her bracers aside before moving to her pauldrons. “Strip, Proudmoore. That staff will do you no good here. No powers and no weapons — just us.”

Jaina watched frozen as Sylvanas stripped down from the layers of armour and mail, pulling off pieces with buckles and straps that gave like soft butter. The leather handiwork was definitely elven, that much Jaina knew, and she could just faintly make out the outline of filigree tooled right into the edges of the leather straps.

Her eyes followed the path of Sylvanas’ arms, widening at the bulge and flex of her arms and shoulders and back as she moved to place her armour onto a stand. Dressed down in only a pair of black tights and a sleeveless undershirt — both looking very much like they’d been painted onto the Warchief —, Sylvanas turned back to her expectantly.

“Well?” She gestured impatiently towards Jaina, and Jaina couldn’t help the way her eyes followed the line that popped along Sylvanas’ bicep, the tunic doing nothing to hide the muscled plane of her stomach. “Proudmoore.”

Jaina looked up and saw Sylvanas peering at her in amusement. She flushed hard, clearing her throat quietly. “Right.” Her fingers caught in the leather strap keeping her spaulder in place. Sylvanas watched her with the casual intrigue of a cat, eyes flickering from her fingers to her body to her face. Jaina leaned her staff against the closest weapon stand and folded her robes, setting them aside before she began unbuckling the clasps of her bodice. The clasps were mostly aesthetic anyway, and she liked the looked more than she liked the impracticality of real bodice clasps.

“Allow me.”

Jaina smothered a gasp when the Warchief materialised before her. She fought back the urge to step back, to push Sylvanas away with a burst of magic and keep her personal space, but Jaina forced herself painfully still. Almost afraid to breathe. Long, elegant, pale fingers reached out, the curve of a black nail brushing against the edge of her neckline as Sylvanas reached for the hidden zipper.

She wondered though, how Sylvanas knew there was a zipper.

The zipper began to lower. She didn’t trust herself to breathe, so she didn’t, but Jaina watched with careful eyes as the Warchief delicately slid her bodice zipper down, parting the thick white and gold slowly.

She caught Sylvanas’ wrist in her grip when the zipper reached the hem, keenly aware of the intense heat in the Warchief’s eyes at the bare skin that was exposed beneath it. “I’ll take it from here, thank you,” she said stiffly, stepping back with a pointed look.

Sylvanas let her eyes rake languidly up her body, taking in the split of bare, pale skin and finally coming up to rest on Jaina’s face. “Of course,” she obliged, sliding her hand slowly from Jaina’s hold. Then she gave Jaina a look that was positively wicked. “I do hope you’re wearing something underneath that, Lord Admiral, or it would certainly be quite the scandal were someone to walk in.”

“You locked the doors,” Jaina retorted, though her cheeks flared heat again.

“Aren’t you lucky that your wife cares so for your virtue,” Sylvanas hummed, stepping back to watch Jaina shamelessly. It occurred to Jaina that she could very well have turned away, but the defiance in her was already bubbling to a head, so the mage thrust out her chin and began to disrobe with quick, jerking motions.

Before long, she stood before the Warchief in her white camisole and deep navy tights. She ignored the way Sylvanas gave her a slow once-over again, spinning on her heels and marching over to the wrestling mats. She stood and braced her feet apart, back straightening as she placed herself into an easy fighting stance. “Shall we dance, Warchief?”

Sylvanas stepped onto the mat, raising her own hands lazily. “I’d suppose we should clarify that neither of us is here against our will?”

Jaina pursed her lips. She seriously doubted it would make a difference, but she vaguely remembered slapping Sylvanas’ hand away once from her pile of notes. And she did slap Sylvanas’ hand away when she’d pouted in the damned courtyard. Nothing had happened then…?

Heaving a sigh, she let her chin dip to her chest briefly. “I consent,” she ground out, giving Sylvanas an exasperated look. “I consent on my own damn free will that I came here to kick your ass.”

“I consent at letting you try,” Sylvanas drawled. “And likewise, you consent at letting me kick your pretty little behind?”

Jaina glared. “That, too.”

The teasing fire behind Sylvanas’ eyes became cold and deadly. “Good.” She charged, and before she knew it, Jaina found herself landing hard on her back, stars blooming behind her eyelids.

Sylvanas appeared in her periphery, head tilted as she peered down at her. “Honestly, I’m surprised that actually worked.”

“That —,” Jaina wheezed, rolling over onto her stomach and staggering up. “—was uncalled for.”

“That was your first lesson,” the Warchief replied placidly, taking an idle circle around her. “Don’t let your guard down.”

Jaina scowled hard and resisted the urge to lunge for the woman. She was better trained than that, even as a mage. Instead she matched Sylvanas’ pace, and they circled each other slowly, keeping just out of range from the Warchief’s limbs. Jaina watched carefully, shoulders tensed and magic itching under her skin to flare, but she fought back the feeling just in time to brace against Sylvanas’ next attack.

She blocked the next two blows with her forearms, gritting her teeth at the brutal weight of them. She was definitely going to bruise. “Your bones are like steel.”

Sylvanas didn’t reply. She swept into Jaina’s space and kicked the woman’s legs from under her, sending Jaina crashing down onto her side with a muffled cry. Sylvanas sighed in frustration. “Pay attention,” she said sharply, reaching down to help Jaina back to her feet.

Jaina snarled and lashed out — fist glancing off the side of Sylvanas’ jaw when the Warchief dodged easily and catching briefly on her ear. She watched as said ear twitched violently, and Sylvanas’ eyes narrowed as she shoved Jaina back a good distance.

She brought her fists back up again. “Again. Elbows in closer to your body; protect your ribs. Defend but do not miss your opportunities to land a blow.”

“I know how to fight,” Jaina snapped.

“Prove it.” Sylvanas took the offence again, and this time Jaina was prepared for it. She blocked and dodged and leapt backwards, though Sylvanas moved with unnatural speed after her. She hissed and gritted her teeth with some blows landed, ribs and arms stinging from the sharp, almost chastising blows Sylvanas struck with.

If she didn’t know any better, she would’ve thought that Sylvanas had only suggested sparring just so she could beat the living shit out of her.

She wasn’t sure if she knew better at all.

The strangest part, though, was that Sylvanas genuinely seemed pleased whenever Jaina landed a good hit, or dodged a particularly vicious blow. It didn’t feel like the Warchief was pulling her punches all that much, but Jaina figured that she would rather not look a gift horse in the mouth if she hadn’t broken a bone yet.

“You focus too much on deflecting,” Sylvanas chided her, when she had Jaina down and pinning her into an armlock. She waited until Jaina tapped out, releasing her arm smoothly and rolling back to her feet with minimal effort. Flicking her chin slightly, she blew the hair out of her face and nudged Jaina with a foot. “Come on, Proudmoore, surely you can do better than that.”

Jaina bristled. “Y’know, I’m really starting to lose my patience.” She was sore and achy, and Sylvanas didn’t seem fazed in the slightest. Well, sort of — she could tell the elf was losing focus at some points, blazing eyes dropping to Jaina’s neckline or lower.

“Good.” Sylvanas smirked. The damned Warchief taunted and fought without breaking so much as a sweat, let alone lose her breath.

Jaina growled and lunged. She moved fast and sudden, aiming low. Sylvanas dodged with a shift of her hips away, and Jaina’s fist clipped her in the side but it was all the same when the woman gripped her wrist, pulling Jaina towards her.

Sylvanas snarled when Jaina struck with her free hand, cuffing her across the head. Amber eyes flashed fire, black and flames engulfing the burnt tear stains on her face.

Jaina hissed when Sylvanas’ bony knuckles jabbed at her ribs again, but ducked out of her reach at the last minute and snapped up Sylvanas’ outstretched hand in both of hers.

She swung it backwards with a sharp sidestep, doing her best to pull Sylvanas’ arm into a twist behind her back. Sylvanas hissed at her, and Jaina’s eyes dropped down briefly to watch the way her biceps bulged from the odd angle. Only for a moment. Just a glance —

Jaina cursed when the Warchief yanked out of her grip, barely ducking in time when Sylvanas threw her elbow backwards. She blocked with one hand out-turned and caught the elbow in her palm. Without thinking, she jerked her arm forward, thrusting Sylvanas’ fist back into her own face.

Sylvanas let out a grunt of surprise, and Jaina froze as the Banshee Queen stumbled back. “Oh, shit.”

Blinking, Sylvanas turned towards her slowly, glancing from her own fist and then to Jaina’s face. “Did you just...punch me with my own fist?”

Jaina swallowed. “Uh.” She stepped back, wiping the sweat off her brow with the back of a fist before putting them back up. Her camisole was nearly soaked through; how long had they been doing this? “Yes?”

Slowly, Sylvanas wiped at something on her mouth, and when her hand came away, Jaina caught sight of a dark green streak of something on her fist.

Ichor.

So the Warchief did bleed.

“Well done, wife,” Sylvanas said, a bewildering amount of pride in her voice. “You’re learning.” She stared at the smear of green for a moment longer before she wiped it away and turned back to Jaina. She met the woman’s gaze with a grin.

“Again,” Sylvanas goaded, beckoning her forward.

She dropped Jaina a couple more times, pinning the Kul Tiran’s arms to her side with powerful legs as she straddled Jaina. She loomed over the woman with a smug grin, pale hair spilling over their faces in a curtain. Her arms were braced on either side of Jaina’s head, and Jaina swallowed back a breath as she glanced from one arm to the other.

Sylvanas made a show of flexing her arms slowly, grinning at the hitch in Jaina’s breath. “Giving up so soon, wife?” she purred.

Jaina flexed her hands against the mat and gave Sylvanas a malicious little grin. “Maybe this is exactly how I want you,” she breathed, and it worked. The Warchief blinked, caught off-guard by the comment as Jaina pitched her hips upwards sharply and rolled them.

Hovering over Sylvanas, she pinned the Warchief’s hands over her head, squeezing her wrists tight as she grinned down at the elf. “Don’t let your guard down,” she parroted back, shifting on her thighs and pressing her weight more firmly into Sylvanas’ toned midriff. Seriously, was the Warchief just made of steel?

To her absolute surprise, Sylvanas smirked approvingly. “Very good,” she chuckled, relaxing her posture and laying back against the mat. Spread out like that on the floor, pale hair wild about her long, elegant face and tapered ears, Jaina had to admit that Sylvanas was quite the temptation. It would be easy for her to simply lean forward, crowd into the Warchief’s space and breathe in the scent of cold steel and flowers again.

She wondered what the Warchief tasted like.

“You’ve bested me, wife,” Sylvanas announced, looking up at her with the distinct air not of a humbled opponent, but a cat with the cream. “I yield.”

Squinting suspiciously, Jaina did not ease her grip. “You let me win,” she accused. “You pulled your punches.” It was one thing to pull her punches — she was very painfully aware that Sylvanas at her full strength would have left Jaina with very few bones intact —, but it was another to coddle her with it.

Sylvanas shrugged. “As I said — no powers and no weapons. Undead strength is a power.” She looked up at Jaina expectantly, mouth curling into a smirk again. Glancing down between them, Sylvanas arched a brow.

“You’re very very warm.”

Jaina felt the muscles in Sylvanas’ stomach flex and became acutely aware of the resonating heat of her own body, of her thighs and core pressed tight to the other woman. She leapt off the Warchief like she’d been struck, cheeks burning as Sylvanas slowly pulled herself upright, chuckling under her breath.

“Don’t be shy,” Sylvanas cooed, moving towards her to tuck an errant strand of hair behind her ear. “We’re married now, Lady Proudmoore. Lor’themar has informed me that wives are meant to be…” she sucked in a sharp breath and pressed in that much closer, all but breathing the words into her ear. “...physically affectionate.”

Her stomach made an odd fluttering sensation, and Jaina was sure part of her brain shut down. “W-was this your idea of physical affection?” she asked, schooling her features and regarding the Warchief mildly.

Sylvanas pulled back until they were nose-to-nose (or as close as they could get, with Sylvanas towering over her like a solid block of Undead steel), staring down intently into Jaina’s face for a tense moment. Her eyes dropped to Jaina’s mouth and held there for a moment. She leaned forward —

—and kissed the tip of Jaina’s nose.

“Yes,” Sylvanas hummed, eyes bright with amusement. “Now come. I’ll need to get my hands on your skin.”

Chapter Text

Jaina moaned, clutching the pillow beneath her tight and smothering the noises in her throat into its silken material. “Oh — hah! Right there —!”

“Hush,” Sylvanas murmured, and Jaina pressed her face deeper into the pillow to hide the flush in her cheeks. “People will hear.”

Her gripped tightened and she lifted her head just enough to grit words over her shoulder. “Honestly at this point, I really don’t give a damn — shit!”

Sylvanas pressed down harder into the knot, working her strong fingers into the taut muscle of Jaina’s left leg, moving from her calf up into her thigh. The room smelled faintly of liniment; camphor and mentholatum that left a pleasant warmth on Jaina’s skin in the wake of Sylvanas’ cool touch. The Warchief worked methodically on each leg, thumbs pressing into the stiff muscles of Jaina’s calves and kneading.

Jaina hissed and growled through particularly vicious knots, twitching her leg away whenever Sylvanas continued her kneading unyieldingly on those sore spots. Jaina had genuinely thought that Sylvanas had punched herself too hard when the Warchief had ushered her back to their chambers and demanded her facedown in her skivvies on the bed.

But then she’d produced a jar of liniment, and well — how could Jaina resist? The thought of a massage was far too tempting. Healing runes and magic were great and all, but nothing could quite compare to the feeling of a good hard rub-down.

Even if she was getting a rub-down from the Banshee Queen.

A prickling thought in the back of her mind niggled at Jaina; Sylvanas damn well knew she was perfectly capable of healing any and every wound they might’ve inflicted on each other. Touching each other any more than they already had was unnecessary, and yet — Jaina’s nose still tingled from the feathery kiss Sylvanas had planted. It had taken all of her training to resist the urge to pull back and punch Sylvanas, or perhaps reflexively conjure a blast to send the Warchief sprawling.

She’d been tempted, though.

Very, very tempted.

Especially after that smirk Sylvanas gave her.

Sylvanas’ thumbs pressed viciously into the backs of her knees, and Jaina caterwauled before she could help herself.

So sensitive,” Sylvanas crooned mockingly, thumbs passing over the sensitive nerves soothingly. “Your hips and leg muscles are too tight; I’m releasing their trigger points.”

“A little warning would’ve been nice,” Jaina snapped, tugging her legs away, but Sylvanas’ grip held fast, squeezing on her ankles almost in warning and apology. She bristled and let the bed frost slightly around her until Sylvanas heaved another sigh and gentled her touch. She settled back into position again, but her muscles were would too tight now, shoulders tense and back muscles pulled taut.

Sylvanas’ hands lifted from her legs. “I’m going to touch your back,” she warned Jaina. “You’ll pull a muscle if you keep lying with your shoulders like that.” She slid cool, liniment-slick hands along the small of Jaina’s back carefully, pausing to press into the dimples just above the curve of her ass.

Jaina’s breath hitched at the pressure, grip tightening on the pillows as she slowly willed her body to relax. “Just don’t get any ideas back there,” she mumbled, burrowing her face back into the silk.

“Yes, dear.”

All things considered, Sylvanas was...meticulous. The Warchief found knots and aches in places Jaina wasn’t even sure she had muscles in and worked at them until Jaina was pliant and warm under her touch. Her hands were strong and steady, a given from a lifetime of mastering the bow, but Jaina hadn’t expected the level of delicacy Sylavanas treated her with.

Every press and knead of her hands was soothed with almost tender passes after, stroking up over Jaina’s strong back and into her tight shoulders. She worked at blooming bruises with vigour and care, smoothing down the strong lines of Jaina’s back with an approving hum.

“Deceptively powerful under those robes of yours,” she murmured, giving Jaina’s biceps an appreciative squeeze.

Jaina grunted. “Everyone thinks it’s easy lugging around a giant staff on your back and walking around in three layers of clothes.” She bit back a moan when Sylvanas hit a knot in her shoulders.

“Tch, poor thing,” Sylvanas drawled, throwing her leg easily over Jaina’s hips and setting herself down comfortably on the mage’s thighs. “How dare they underestimate the strength of you, Lady Proudmoore.”

Jaina let out a wry chuckle, the bitterness underlying. “They learn easily enough.”

Sylvanas’ hand slid slowly along the back of her neck, kneading into circles that made Jaina’s eyes roll slightly. “I’m sure.” She did something with her fingers that made Jaina moan aloud, and Sylvanas grinned.

She carried on for a moment longer, focusing intently on the tight muscles in Jaina's neck until the mage's head lolled to the side like an overzealous cat. Her hands pulled away eventually, and Jaina almost whined at the loss. “I think you’ve been pampered enough.” Sylvanas lifted off her thighs gracefully, rising to her feet just as Jaina turned back over to look at her. “You should bathe before you start to stink, wife.”

“I don’t stink,” Jaina muttered, but begrudgingly rose to her feet. She rolled her head this way and that, sighing pleasedly at the sensation of well-worked and well-soothed muscles. “I could get used to that.”

“We’ll see,” Sylvanas drawled, wiping the liniment from her hands on a cloth. “If you can drop me the next time we spar, I’ll even give you a head massage.”

Jaina tried not to think about Sylvanas’ fingers curling into her hair and failed. She said nothing in return, but made a point to brush her fingertips ever so lightly over the bunched muscles in Sylvanas’ back as she passed by. “Thank you,” she said sweetly. “I’ll be sure to return the favour.” She smirked at the way Sylvanas went rigid and strode towards the bath chambers.

She kept her bath water just short of icy and scrubbed away the slickness of liniment from her skin, if only to ignore the wetness between her thighs.

When Jaina came out of the bath, there was dinner on the desk. She wrung the ends of her hair with her towel, peering curiously at where Sylvanas was standing by the tray of food...and eating? “What’s this?” she asked, moving closer.

Sylvanas turned to her, fork balanced between her fingers as she chewed contemplatively on something Jaina couldn’t quite see. “Dinner,” she said simply, and turned to Jaina with a forkful of whatever it was under the cover. She waggled the fork slightly, arching a brow.

Jaina eyed the thing. “It’s not laced with nightshade or something equally painful?” It was some sort of meat, certainly, encased in mashed potatoes and smelling pleasantly of herbs and spices.

“Try and find out,” Sylvanas dared her, holding the fork closer to her mouth.

Warily, Jaina opened her mouth and wondered when she’d become so easily swayed by the Warchief. Despite this, her stomach growled, reminding her rather pointedly that she was human and needed more food than she usually allowed herself to consume. Ignoring Sylvanas’ amused smirk, she allowed herself to be fed, eyebrows lifting at the familiar taste.

“Fish pie?” She swallowed the bite, licking the corner of her mouth to savour the taste. She missed the way Sylvanas’ eyes lingered on her lips as she reached for the fork.

Sylvanas inclined her head, stepping away as Jaina all but shoved her aside. “I was told it’s a favourite of yours.”

Jaina dug into another bite, relishing the familiar flavours and herbs; the buttery richness of Tiragarde perch. “Where did you get this?” The last she checked, Tiragarde perchs were exactly that — from Tiragarde Sound. She couldn’t imagine anyone from the Horde rowing a boat along the coast and fishing; not without being blown to bits in the process. As far as she knew, there were no trade routes or agreements written between Horde and Kul Tiras yet. Maybe the Alliance…?

“I have my ways,” Sylvanas shrugged, smirking at her again. “It’s not bad, I suppose. A little bland.”

“Says the person with the dead tongue,” Jaina mumbled, helping herself to another heaping mouthful. She must’ve burned more calories sparring than she’d thought.

The smirk Sylvanas gave her was impish. “I assure you where my tongue lacks in taste buds, it certainly makes up for in skill, dear.”

Jaina flushed, cheeks full of fish pie, and pointedly shoved another bite into her mouth. Before she knew it, the pie was devoured, and Jaina only barely managed to stop herself from licking the plate clean.

She sighed softly, a slow and contented smile on her face when she turned to Sylvanas. “I thought I’d been pampered enough,” she said coyly, licking at where a bit of mash had gotten on her finger.

Sylvanas arched a brow, regarding her impassively before replacing the cover on the empty plate and setting the tray aside on the desk. “Consider it a reward, I suppose,” she said idly, turning towards the bed. “You drew first blood, after all.”

“So I should keep spilling your blood?” Jaina replied, laying her towel over the back of the chair and moving to perch herself by her side of the bed. “Sounds like you’re just playing with fire now, Warchief. Anyone would think that you were looking for an out from this...marriage.” She braided her hair quickly and without thought, slipping into bed beside Sylvanas.

The Warchief puffed out a dry laugh. “I can assure you, Proudmoore; I’ve lived through worse. Being married to a pretty little mage isn’t high up on my list of terrible things.” She leaned back into the pillows, bracing an arm behind her head as she skimmed through a handful of scrolls of what looked like reports.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’m getting used to your backhanded compliments, so thanks.” Jaina settled down with her own reports to read; she didn’t think she’d make it a habit to bring work to bed, but it was almost...nice being married to someone who didn’t begrudge her for her workaholism — if anything, Sylvanas encouraged it.

They fell into a comfortable silence, save for the occasional scribble-scratch of the quill to parchment and the long-suffering sighs from the Warchief. It wasn’t long before Jaina’s eyelids grew heavy; worn as she was from her full belly and physically taxing day.

Sylvanas’ eyebrows lifted in surprise when Jaina set aside her reports. “Tired already, wife?” Her voice dropped an octave, teasing. “Have I worn you out?”

Jaina huffed, snuggling down into the pillows and turning to watch Sylvanas in the low candlelight. “After a massage and a dinner like that? Who wouldn’t be?” She stifled a yawn and tucked a pillow under her cheek, staring at the way the candlelight illuminated the long taper of the Warchief’s ears, the silhouette of her jawline and aristocratic nose.

A strand of pale hair fell along an ear, and Jaina watched as it twitched idly, like a cat’s from a breeze. On impulse, she reached out, stroking down the length of one.

Sylvanas’ eyes darted to her sharply, ears pinning flat as she tilted her head away in surprise. “What was that for?” she asked, eyeing Jaina warily.

Jaina pulled her hand back, curling her fingers against the pillows. “Ver — uh, someone once told me elf ears were sensitive. I just wondered if yours still were.”

“Well, they are,” Sylvanas sniffed, ear flicking again.

Jaina gave her a coy little smile. “Okay, I’ll remember that.”

Sylvanas sniffed disdainfully again. She rearranged her reports and buried her nose back into them, glancing at Jaina sidelong. “Sleep, wife.”

Humming, Jaina pushed herself up on an arm briefly, just enough for her to reach Sylvanas’ cheek. She pressed a soft kiss along the cool skin, levelling Sylvanas with a sleepy, low look. “Goodnight.”

Sylvanas remained in place as Jaina turned over, nestling into the covers. She couldn’t see it, but she could feel the Warchief’s heavy stare on her back.

“...sleep well.”

Chapter Text

Sylvanas rose well before Jaina did, even earlier than her usual time of dawn. The sky was still shrouded in darkness outside their windows, purple and navy with the barest whisper of flaring orange in the far distance, creeping slowly into sight. She watched the play of light for a moment, pensive. It wasn’t often that she stayed long enough to watch the sunrise — most nights, she waited until Jaina was deep enough asleep, until she was certain there were no fitful murmurs and jerking legs. Those nights were far and few in between, and for that Sylvanas was grateful.

With one hand, she toyed with the soft strands of Jaina’s hair; twirling the ends of it and letting silky tresses slip away between her fingers. The Lord Admiral never stirred when Sylvanas touched her — she slept like the dead, it seemed. The thought made Sylvanas smile bitterly.

Jaina shifted against her, sprawled over Sylvanas’ side of the bed as she always was. It amused the Warchief to some level; she hadn’t taken the Lord Admiral for a cuddler.

Nevertheless, it was...pleasant, to feel the warmth of a living body beside her. It had been so long since Sylvanas had last felt the thrum of another’s heart beneath her hand, felt the breath of a slumbering lover against her neck. No, not a lover —

A wife.

A roiling jolt of emotion curdled within the depths of her chest, and Sylvanas furrowed her brow disconcertedly as she glanced down at her own body. It was an ache that was kept long-buried, hidden but never forgotten within the cavernous abyss of her soul. Even through Menethil’s vile powers and the hollow existence she had lived — she still remembered it all too clear.

Crisp autumn leaves.

A flowering field of tulips.

The glacial agony of Frostmourne wrenching her soul from her body.

A sharp pinch of phantom ache bloomed along her scar. Sylvanas bit back a hiss, inhaling sharply as she ignored the urge to touch it. It happened every so often; in times when she was deepest in thought, lost in the winding corridors of a past life.

She brushed a hand down her chest briskly, as if flicking aside a fleck of dust, and did not touch the ache again. The sun had begun its slow creep over the horizon, and Sylvanas knew that today would be a long, arduous day for the both of them.

Carefully, she unfurled herself from Jaina’s embrace, taking care to jostle the woman as little as possible. The mage would need her rest; they would depart for Lordaeron later in the day. The corner of her lip quirked slightly at the sight of Jaina snoring quietly into her pillows, reaching out to trail the back of her fingers against Jaina’s cheek.

Jaina hummed in her sleep, lips smacking together wordlessly as she nuzzled her face deeper into the divot Sylvanas had left in the pillows. Her fair brow furrowed slightly, and Sylvanas hushed her back to sleep with a low noise. Jaina calmed, face smoothing over peacefully, hands clutching tight to Sylvanas’ pillows.

Strange creature.

Sylvanas moved towards the wardrobe, unfolding neat stacks of clothing and dressing herself fastidiously. She buckled her pauldrons and tightened her greaves, glancing into the mirror as she swept her archer’s cloak over her shoulders and made to pull her hood over her ears.

The discolouration of her lip and cheek caught her eye, and Sylvanas paused. The bruising had marred her skin in patches of bilious green and purple; a parody of their royal colours. She brushed her thumb over the worst of it and pursed her lips. It would need tending to before she addressed anyone. The last thing they needed before the voyage was new whispers.

Sylvanas frowned. A quick sweep of the room told her that there was nothing within sight to regenerate from, and she was loath to wake Jaina for something so simple. A faint chirp caught her ear, and Sylvanas glanced towards the open narrow window tucked behind the wardrobe. She whistled lowly, mimicking the tune of the bird’s call as she moved silently towards the window, ear flicking back and forth as she placed herself just beyond the kiss of sunlight spilling into the room.

Glowing red eyes darted towards a flash of colour and Sylvanas did not move. She whistled again, soft and low and lilting; an eerie echo of a banshee’s call. The bird flitted into view, its bright eyes searching as it chirped back curiously.

Slowly, Sylvanas raised a hand, palm upturned. She kept the tune easily as someone with no real need for air, the sound coming from a hollow space in her chest and throat as the bird hovered warily along the window frame. It hopped forward, head tilting this way and that as it regarded Sylvanas, tweeting and chirping as if in question.

She crooked her fingers slowly, whistle fading into a crackling, tremoring sound. The bird hopped into her palm; a pretty little thing, all brown and black with golden tips.

With a snap, her fingers curled around its fragile neck. Black tendrils rose from her hand as Sylvanas clamped down around it, black veins spreading over her cheeks and the blood-red of her eyes blazing like brimstone as the bird flailed and screeched in a panic.

It squawked and whined, the frantic wriggling of its body rapidly waning as the colour drained from the tips of its feathers inwards — gold to brown to black to ash. Its gleaming eyes faded to a dull emptiness, its little beak moving silently for a moment as it fell apart in fragmented, crumbling pieces.

Sylvanas took a slow, deep breath, eyes sliding shut as she felt the frenetic beats of its little heart slow to a stop in her hand. She could feel the strange necromantic coldness spreading across her face; the disconnected sensation of ichor and dead blood vessels knitting back into place, the crawl of something made not entirely of her own body replacing it.

She dropped the lifeless bird onto the windowsill, the phantom sensation of its beating heart fluttering against her cheek.

“Strange creature,” she murmured. Then she turned on her heel and left.

 

 

---------

 

 

Nathanos met her at the door, keeping pace with Sylvanas’ long strides easily. The rest of the Keep was alive around them; bustling orcs and trolls and Forsaken lifting crates and trunks under the watchful eye of the goblins.

“Is everything in order?” she asked, reaching out and plucking a sheaf of paper from the hands of a dark ranger that appeared from the shadows. She skimmed it quickly, steps faltering only for a fraction of a moment before she nodded her approval, face expressionless as she handed it back.

“Burn it,” she ordered.

The dark ranger melted back into shadows wordlessly, and Nathanos cleared his throat. “Our ships are ready to set sail when you command it, Dark Lady,” he told her, glancing briefly into her face and then staring straight ahead once more. “We should make land before nightfall.”

Sylvanas hummed, waving aside a crowd of orcs to inspect something they were carefully manoeuvring into a large crate. She peered into it, pausing briefly. “And the rest of the cargo?”

“Already on its way,” Nathanos assured her. Sylvanas inclined her head approvingly.

She waved him off. “Good. Return to your post at Lady Proudmoore’s door, Blightcaller. Be sure she is fed and ready by the time we set sail.”

Her champion frowned, straightening to his full height and folding his hands behind his back at attention. “With respect, Dark Lady, surely there is something of more import today that I can attend to than these tiresome needs of the mage?” he asked, voice dripping with disdain.

Irritation flashing in her eyes, Sylvanas turned to him with lips curled into a dangerously sweet smile. “A word, Blightcaller,” she oozed, motioning towards the closest door. It was an empty room, she knew, but she wanted fewer witnesses for what she would potentially need to do to put Nathanos in his place.

It was his right to speak his mind, but Nathanos knew better than to question direct orders within range of the public.

Nathanos moved to follow, a troubled look on his face as Sylvanas let the door clatter shut behind them. “Dark Lady, I —”

“Have I not been paying enough attention to you, Blightcaller?” she asked mildly, folding her arms and leaning against the door. “Have you been slighted by the fact that you no longer keep your place at your master’s heel?”

“Warchief —”

Sylvanas pushed off the door, pacing the length of the room idly. “Do you understand, why it is that I keep you so painfully close to the Lord Admiral?” She looked at him expectantly, ear flicking when he shook his head in a slow jerk.

“Do you really think it’s because I think Lady Proudmoore requires protection? Do you think that I do it just to punish the both of you for how much you hate each other?”

Nathanos tilted his head ambiguously and Sylvanas barked out a laugh.

“That was an added bonus at first,” she admitted. “But nevertheless — surely you’ve come to understand why I keep my champion by my wife in times when I cannot be by her side?” She gave him an irritable if incredulous look.

“What else but to guard her,” Nathanos replied, though the corner of his lip ticked into an upward curve. “And to guard her secrets. To guard your secrets, Dark Lady. I never trusted her for a moment, and I was right to do so.”

Sylvanas allowed herself a slow smile. There it was. There was the little sneak. “As amusing as this little guessing game was, Blightcaller, I did not appreciate that open show of defiance in front of the Horde.” Her smile faded quickly, and Sylvanas advanced on him.

Nathanos’ eyes widened at her approach, but he stood his ground as she sank gauntleted fingers into his shoulder. It would have been a friendly gesture if it weren’t for the way her talons were sunk two inches into his skin, ichor oozing slowly around them.

She leaned in close, the heat of her glare nearly singeing the hairs of his beard. “My trust in Lady Proudmoore, as of this moment, greatly outweighs the trust I have in you,” she hissed. “Did you think I would not know? That you were the one spreading the whispers among the rangers? The one that spoke openly of the private affairs of his Warchief within range of the Wrynn cub’s little ears?”

She pressed in so close she could see the fissures and cracks of his skin, the abyss of nothingness in his eyes that still belied realisation and fear.

“Did you think that I would not know that you were the one who stole my sister’s letters to Lady Proudmoore?”

Nathanos’ eyes widened. For a moment, he seemed torn between confessing and floundering for an explanation, but settled for guilty silence when the words would not come. He stared blankly into Sylvanas’ face, acceptance and defiance at once in his features.

“It was for you, Sylvanas,” he uttered. “I had to be sure they weren’t planning —”

“Planning what?!” Sylvanas snarled, throttling him in her grip. “Planning to kill me? To go behind my back and run me through with a blade once more? To spread whispers of the way the Banshee Queen besmirched the Lord Admiral’s virtue?”

It was a vicious dig and a dangerous bait to rise to, but Sylvanas was growing tired of the constant looks of doubt she saw in Nathanos’ face. The foundations of a loyalty forged over a lifetime, shaken by—what? Jealousy? Distrust? Blatant insubordination?

She would have none of it.

"Do you understand the position you've put me in?" Sylvanas hissed. "The very foundation of this damned marriage was built on trust, and 'lo here I find you burying caches of dynamite at its base."

Nathanos frowned but made no reaction to the painful grip Sylvanas still had on him, save for the tight furrow of his brow. “I did what I must,” he said. “Vereesa —”

“Do not speak her name to me,” Sylvanas spat. 

Pursing his lips, Nathanos continued. “I have them still. The letters.”

Sylvanas reached out her free hand impatiently. “Give them to me.” Nathanos complied readily, and Sylvanas snatched the stack of letters away from him. She yanked out her talons brusquely, the carpet between them spattered with ichor. Staring down at the familiar flowing script of her sister’s hand, Sylvanas resisted the urge to clench her fist around them, instead slipping them into a leather pouch tucked against the small of her back.

“You will speak to no one about this,” she said, voice low and tight with rage. “If you do...by the time I am done with you, you will wish for death’s sweet embrace.”

Nathanos swallowed, pressing a hand to staunch the sluggish ooze of ichor from his shoulder. “Of course, Warchief.” He straightened, back stiff and chin strong as he stared ahead, awaiting her command. “I will attend to Lady Proudmoore if I must. I’m merely suggesting that I may be of better use to you than playing nanny to the Lord Admiral. Alina and Lyana are more than capable of keeping watch over your consort.”

“Alina and Lyana are responsible for sending my missives ahead to Lordaeron and Kul Tiras,” Sylvanas countered, levelling Nathanos with a look that told him that she was rapidly growing impatient with his excuses.

Nathanos grunted. “As you say, Warchief. I serve at your whim.” He bowed low, lingering a fraction of a second longer than usual before Sylvanas dismissed him sharply.

The door slid shut behind him, and before Sylvanas could turn away, she heard it swing back open. Her temper rankled. “Blightcaller —”

“There you are!” Jaina huffed, bustling into the room. She was dressed in her robes, staff slung across her back, but Sylvanas knew from the lay of her hair and the missing bite of bittersweet on her breath that Jaina had woken in a hurry. “I’ve been looking all over the place for you. Lor’themar said we were leaving in two hours, why didn’t you wake me?”

Sylvanas blinked. “You needed rest,” she said simply, straightening to her full height and folding her arms behind her back casually. The letters felt like boulders along her spine, but Sylvanas looked down at Jaina and wondered bitterly if Jaina looked at her and saw another.

Instead, she twisted her lips into a smirk. “I put you through your paces last night, didn’t I? I thought it was a mercy to let you sleep a little longer.”

“You’re awful,” Jaina sighed. There was no venom there, no weight to the words, but Sylvanas twitched as if struck. Her brows furrowed. “What?”

Sylvanas jerked her head, reaching up to stroke across her healed cheek. “Phantom pains, I think.” She made a show of tilting her head down towards Jaina. “Kiss it better?”

Jaina rolled her eyes, but smiled. “Awful,” she repeated and turned on her heels. “Come on, we need to finish packing. There was a bird on the windowsill this morning, did you see?” She shook her head, mouth curving sadly. “It was dead. Must’ve flown into the window. Poor thing.”

Sylvanas schooled her features, staring back impassively, the edge of her hand brushing against the pouch once more. “Yes,” she said, without inflection. “Poor thing.”

 

 

---------

 

 

They made landfall before sunset with Jaina’s help. “Finally found some use for you,” Sylvanas had said, predictably snide with her humour, but the Warchief felt little joy in the way Jaina had rolled her eyes indulgently, a smile growing on her face.

“We should take inventory,” Jaina insisted as they disembarked the ship, craning her neck to watch everything being unloaded. “Are you sure we brought everything?”

Sylvanas settled the weight of her hand against the small of Jaina’s back, guiding her towards the looming figure of Lordaeron Keep. From the corner of her eye, she caught Nathanos’ gaze and held it. She did not need to speak to impart meaning.

Nathanos looked away with a sharp nod, and Sylvanas returned her gaze back to her wife before Jaina could notice.

“We double-checked before we left, Proudmoore. Everything is where it should be,” she assured, taking note of the way Jaina swayed slightly in her step. “You should slow down. You calmed the seas and tamed the waves the entirety of the way. Even mages have limits to their stamina.”

Jaina huffed, climbing the stone steps with a touch more effort than usual. “Tell me that the baths are functional, at least?” She looked at Sylvanas, nearly pleading.

Nodding readily, Sylvanas urged Jaina up the last flight of stairs, bracing the weight of Jaina from behind in case the woman swayed back on her heels. “I made sure of it. You’ll have your soak, wife.”

Much of the Keep still needed renovations, thought parts of the southern end of it had escaped damage from the war. They passed teams of builders as they went, the cacophony of noise from hammers and nails and saws and people shouting in several dialects grating at Sylvanas’ ears. Even Jaina flinched beside her, and Sylvanas urged them to hasten their steps. The south tower was mercifully quieter, ancient stone walls muffling the sounds from outside, and Sylvanas tried not to think about the last time they’d both been in Lordaeron together.

At the top of the stairs, Jaina beamed at her, flushed from the walk and something like excitement. Leaning up on her toes, Jaina pressed a kiss to Sylvanas’ cheek, her lips glancing off Sylvanas’ in a whisper.

Sylvanas’ lashes fluttered but did not allow herself to relish the feeling, maintaining a cool detached mask.

“Knew I married you for a reason,” Jaina joked, grinning. She turned towards the doors of the bedchambers, pushing them open and striding in with the relief of the travel-weary.

Sylvanas lingered by the doorway.

When Jaina realised, she turned back, tilting her head in confusion. “Is everything alright?” she asked, moving back towards Sylvanas. She darted a look about the room. “Is this —”

“The south tower is yours,” Sylvanas told her, gesturing towards the large and sprawling space of the bedchambers and its many other adjoining rooms. “As I promised. You won’t have to share your bed any longer.”

Jaina’s face slackened in shock, mouth opening as if to protest before it fell into a mixture of realisation and disappointment. “O-oh.” She looked towards the large four-poster bed in the middle of the room It was covered in new sheets, freshly laundered and draped in Kul Tiran green. No purple in sight.

Sylvanas frowned as she regarded her wife. Was she...pouting?

“It’s for the best,” she insisted, but Jaina’s eyes were only getting wider as she stared at something just left of Sylvanas. “You’ll have space to work, and it’ll be more peaceful here. The north tower still has a ways to go with its construction — I didn’t want it to disturb your rest.”

“Oh,” Jaina said again.

Sylvanas flexed her hands at her side and resisted the urge to throw them up in frustration. “I thought this was what you wanted.”

“I thought I did too!” Jaina snapped, looking about as surprised as Sylvanas was. “I mean — I do still want it. I just thought —” She threw her hands up, and for a moment Sylvanas found herself tempted to give into the urge.

“Just thought what?” Sylvanas demanded, impatience and bewilderment colouring her tone.

Jaina glared at her with a combination of incredulity and helplessness, as if she herself was clueless as to why she thought the way she did, but — “I just thought that you’d meant that you would be here! Next door!” Jaina flailed a hand in the general direction of the other side of the Keep. “Not in the furthest tower away!”

Irritation bubbled in Sylvanas’ chest again, but the Warchief bit back the retort sitting at the end of her tongue when Jaina began to sway again. Brows pulling tight, she stepped across the threshold, hand outstretched. “Jaina —”

“I’m fine!” Jaina snapped, reaching to pinch the ridge of her nose. She took a moment to collect herself, blowing out a breath before she blinked up at Sylvanas, an entirely different look of surprise on her face.

“You called me Jaina,” she marveled, blue eyes slowly filling with brightness. “You actually said my name.” Her skin was a touch paler, the circles around her eyes giving her a hollow, weary look.

Ah.

Pressing her lips together, Sylvanas reached out and touched her elbow slowly. “I’m glad you recognise your own name, now will you please sit down?” She guided Jaina towards the bed, seating the woman on the edge of it before deftly unclipping Jaina’s pauldron strap.

Jaina looked down at Sylvanas’ hands. “I can undress myself.” She looked back up with a smug grin. “You said my name.”

Sylvanas rolled her eyes. “You’ve mentioned. And you can hardly stand on your own two feet,” she replied dryly, carefully slipping taloned fingers between the dip of Jaina’s breasts to loosen the first few rows of her corset. The movement allowed Jaina to heave a deeper breath, and Sylvanas did not resist when her eyes dropped to the rising swell of pale breasts pushing against the material.

Jaina began to unravel her corset, tugging at the cords with an intense focus. “You don’t need to stay,” she murmured, darting a glance at Sylvanas from behind the fall of her bangs. “If you want to go —”

Sylvanas swallowed back a sigh. “I think,” she began, reaching out to sweep an imaginary fleck of dust from the rich green silk duvet before perching herself beside Jaina. “Given your current state, it would be unwise to leave you to your own devices.” She picked at an errant thread of silk, weaving it around her fingers.

She plucked a few more and found a cord from her pouch. She braided them into a simple band, that when stretched over a finger, spread out into a beautiful pattern.

“Is that your way of saying you’ll stay the night?” Jaina intoned, a wavering lilt in her voice that belied the teasing drawl she took.

Sylvanas was quiet for a moment. She toyed with the little band, thumbing the texture of it. The letters were still sitting in her pouch, burning a hole into her back and her ambiguous conscience. Wordlessly, she reached for Jaina’s hand, slipping the threads of silk over her finger. She watched as it spread out over Jaina’s pale skin; her ring finger that had seemed so plain before.

“I suppose it comes with the territory,” she said wryly. “In sickness and in health and all that.”

Jaina stared at the band, turning her hand this way and that, a slow flush of colour returning to her cheeks. “That’s -” She glanced up at Sylvanas, a soft look in her eyes. “Thank you.”

“Rangers were trained to weave rope from vines of the forest,” Sylvanas said, by way of explanation. “It became quite the status symbol among the ranks to be capable weaving more intricate patterns.” She gave Jaina a small, teasing smile. “I understand it isn’t gold, but -” she trailed off with a shrug.

“You know I prefer silver. But we probably should think about rings,” Jaina murmured thoughtfully, thumbing the band. “My mother will probably have a fit when she finds out we never exchanged rings.”

Sylvanas hummed. “A thought for another time, perhaps. For now, let’s get you into the bath.” She held out her hand to Jaina, waggling her fingers slightly.

Jaina arched a brow and eyed her hand, but the smile was already spreading across her face. “Will you give me a massage in the bath?”

“Tsk. Don’t press your luck, Proudmoore.”

 

 

---------

 

 

Sylvanas left Jaina to her bath once she was sure there would be no accidents of any sort. Once the mage was settled into a tub brimming with hot water and bubbles, Sylvanas summoned an attendant to bring her dinner and a steeping cup of peacebloom tea.

While Jaina soaked luxuriously, Sylvanas started a fire in the hearth. Tugging her armour free until she was dressed only in dry travel leathers, she placed her pouch on the writing table. For a long moment, she stroked her thumb over the clasp, before she pulled out the letters from her pouch and stared at them in the flickering firelight, selecting the one she deemed oldest of the lot.

With a strange tremor in her fingers, Sylvanas broke the seal.

Sylvanas read three letters. With each one, the shadows across her face grew darker, until she could feel the bristling mist of her banshee form bubbling dangerously to the surface. Black tendrils faded rapidly back into her skin when Jaina emerged from her bath, rosy-cheeked and glowing. Sylvanas barely managed to school her features in time, softening the tight furrow in her brow into an amused head tilt and fond, if strained, smile.

“Nice to see you haven’t drowned,” she remarked, flicking through the letters as casually as possible as she paced the length of space between the hearth and the writing desk with leisurely strides. “I was starting to worry.”

Jaina rolled her eyes, smiling again as she toweled off her hair. “Just peachy, thanks." She glanced at the crackling fire curiously. “Didn’t think you’d want the fireplace lit.”

Sylvanas shrugged. “You were unwell. Lordaeron is less humid than Orgrimmar. I didn’t want you to catch a cold.” She turned away from Jaina with a sharp flick of parchment.

White hair spilled damp and sleek over her shoulders, and Jaina squeezed and rubbed the ends as she moved around the bed. “What’re those? Reports?”

Sylvanas’ eyes flickered to her. “Of sorts.” She stacked the last two unopened ones and laid them face down on the desk before addressing Jaina again. “How do you feel?” she asked, scrutinising the mage.

“I’m fine,” Jaina replied mildly, reaching for her hairbrush. “The bath did wonders. Dinner helped, too, and the peacebloom tea.” She began to brush out her hair, picking through little tangles. “The first night in a new place is always strange, isn’t it?” she said, voice faraway. “You have to get used to new noises again. New beds and new rooms.”

“Hmm. Lucky that we’re so familiar.” Sylvanas moved towards the bed and pulled back the covers on her usual side of the bed. It was strange not to see the colours of the Forsaken among the green.

Then Jaina reached over and turned the one on Sylvanas’ side to the purple.

Sylvanas arched a brow, slipping into bed with an amused smirk. “These pillows turned out to be terribly convenient, didn’t they?”

“They’re comfy and the colours complement each other.”

“I hadn’t realised you’d packed them with your things,” Sylvanas said, watching as Jaina cuddled down into the covers beside her.

Jaina wrinkled her nose once she was settled, shifting the pillow under her head. “The mattress is too hard.”

“We’ll invest in more pillows.”

We?” Jaina echoed, tucking a hand under her head and grinning at Sylvanas. “I thought you were relegating yourself to the north tower.” She shuffled in closer, shivering despite the growing warmth of the room.

The heat was starting to prickle uncomfortably at Sylvanas’ skin, but still she laid her head on the pillow. “Sleep. We’ll talk when your lids aren’t half-shut already.”

Jaina made a wordless hum, and her eyes seemed eager to slip shut. It wasn’t long before the Lord Admiral began to snore softly.

Sylvanas counted Jaina's heartbeats, the warm flush of her bath-warmed skin against the sheets. She waited until she could be sure Jaina would not wake, before slipping from the bed. Sylvanas moved seamlessly against the firelight, snatching up the letters again. She broke the last two seals and read her sister’s words closely, glowing eyes almost matching the spitting embers of the fireplace.

Her eyes darted from the fireplace to the bed and lingered on the slow rise and fall of Jaina’s chest.

She fanned out the letters in her hand — all five, opened and read, its seal wax melting slightly from the heat. Curling them tightly into her fist, Sylvanas turned back towards the fireplace. For a brief moment she hesitated, then flung them into the flames.

She watched them burn, never blinking, never breathing; she watched as their edges curled black, until she felt the blaze of the fire caress her cheek, like the flutter of bird wings, like the memory of spring. The glow of her eyes answered the flames, continuing to burn bright even as she watched the fire die down to a mere bank of coals. She did not know how long she stood over the fireplace, only that it was long enough for clouds to have swept in from the north and veiled the moon through the windows, until her eyes seared through the gloom.

When the letters were nothing more than ash, Sylvanas allowed herself to drift back towards the bed. Jaina was still fast asleep, clutching at her pillow again, and Sylvanas tilted her head fondly. She watched Jaina breathe for a moment and noted the contented fall of her lips and brow, even in sleep. Sylvanas pulled back the covers and slipped back in beside her.

The dip of her weight on the mattress stirred Jaina briefly, who murmured something unintelligible as she shuffled in closer. A warm hand slithered around the narrow space of Sylvanas’ waist, clutching tight. With a sigh, Jaina fell back into a peaceful slumber once more. Sylvanas tensed at the touch, but did not push her away.

Slowly, she reached up and placed a possessive hand over Jaina’s arm, and held her through the night.

Chapter Text

The room was still blanketed in warmth when Jaina woke. She’d grown accustomed to waking to the morning chill of Orgrimmar; pleasant and welcome in place of the ever-constant humidity, but when Jaina roused from her sleep, she saw the fireplace still lit. The flames were dying down, spitting weakly among crumbling piles of firewood. Palming the sleep from her eyes, Jaina yawned and stretched, glancing at Sylvanas’ side of the bed.

Empty.

Jaina did what she could to bury the disappointment in her chest and sighed. Slipping out of bed, she pulled on her dressing gown, tying a lazy knot as she ambled over to the writing desk. The sight of the steaming mug at its edge was a welcome sight, both for Jaina’s need for caffeine and its familiarity. In strange lands, it was a comfort knowing that some habits between them endured.

...though Jaina wished that other habits had stayed behind in Orgrimmar.

Cradling the mug in her hands, she chose not to dwell on it too much. There were things that needed doing; arrivals and quarters and construction that needed seeing to. She finished her coffee and dressed for the day, taking care with the cord ring Sylvanas had given her.

Its weight was strange on her finger, unfamiliar but not unwelcome.

There was a dark ranger waiting at the door when she pulled it open. Jaina stared in surprise, eyeing the slender elf warily. “Yes?”

“The Dark Lady has assigned me to guard you through your day,” the dark ranger rasped, glowing eyes regarding her impassively.

Jaina frowned. Odd. Sylvanas usually had Blightcaller nipping at her heels throughout the day. “And where is the Ranger Lord?”

“With my Queen,” the ranger replied, and the thought niggled at Jaina. “She has commanded me to escort you to breakfast, then to wherever else you require.”

That didn’t sit quite right with Jaina. She’d known since Orgrimmar of the dark rangers’ presence; known whenever they were creeping about in the shadows keeping watch of her. At first, it had incensed Jaina — to think that she couldn’t even walk about the gardens or speak to Anduin without little shadows at her heels. It was an insult; an embodiment of the blatant distrust Sylvanas had for her.

What did it mean now that they were her personal guard? Jaina sighed. “A welcome change from Blightcaller, I suppose,” she muttered. The dark ranger did not reply nor react, only stared with glowing red eyes.

Annoyance crept slowly into her face, and Jaina thumbed the ring almost thoughtlessly. She gave the dark ranger a careful appraisal, taking note of the way the ranger did not quite match Sylvanas in stature. “What is your name?” she asked.

“Alina, my Lady.”

Swallowing back a sigh, Jaina began her descent on the stairs. “Come along, then. We have plenty to do today.”

Again, the thought of Sylvanas reassigning a dark ranger to her in place of Nathanos still prickled something in the back of her mind, an unsettling weight building in her stomach, but Jaina would have to ask her about it later.

 

 

----------

 

 

Jaina’s first order of business was the Blight.

Since the Blight itself had been manufactured at the hands of Sylvanas’ apothecaries, the Warchief had readily offered the use of the Royal Apothecary Society. They had made some headway with taming the Blight to some degree, but Jaina’s skin still crawled whenever she had to address Faranell without the Warchief present. The stench of the Undead and chemicals he carried with him made her sinuses sting.

The lab was temporarily built within the western tower of the Keep, isolated and heavily-guarded by both Alliance and Horde sentries. Jaina had had words with Sylvanas about it when they’d agreed to make the first attempt at neutralising the Blight. Sylvanas had simply told her to ward it.

So she did. As much as Jaina hated the idea of having the lab nestled within the heart of Lordaeron, it was only practical. Sylvanas had assured her that the lab was meant to be a co-working space between Alliance and Horde.

They’d argued about it for a good long while, both parties refusing to budge on the matter. It wasn’t until they’d finalised the names of the new Lordaeron recovery team that Jaina had been slightly reassured. Modera and Khadgar’s presence would be a welcome change to the foray.

Lor’themar had even offered up Grand Magister Rommath, who seemed to take the coalition of mages as a personal slight. Sylvanas had told her that it was simply a character trait of the blood elves.

Arriving at the door of the lab, Jaina took a breath to steel herself. The sentrymen on either side of it were motionless, sparing her only the briefest of acknowledgements, but Jaina didn’t mind them. Though she saw the way their eyes darted to Alina, who had placed herself just shy of Jaina’s elbow.

“Just so we’re clear, Alina,” she murmured as they crossed the threshold. “If I were to order you to put an arrow between Faranell’s eyes, no questions asked, would you?”

Alina did not hesitate. “I have been instructed to keep you safe by any means necessary, Lord Admiral.”

The thought should have comforted her somehow, but Jaina felt a chill run down her spine.

“Good to know,” she mumbled.

The lab opened into a large, high-ceilinged room with a round table at its centre. The largest chamber had been repurposed as neutral space for both Alliance and Horde mages to discuss progresses and failures, with high-backed carved chairs framing the table. Each seat featured their respective banner colours — if only to stop any squabbling about designated seating, as Sylvanas had put it.

The surface of the table was scattered in journals and rolls of parchment, and leaning over them were Modera, Khadgar, and Rommath. They looked up in unison at her entrance, and Jaina noted the pointed absence of Faranell. She pursed her lips.

Modera was first to greet her. “Jaina! It’s been too long.” The archmage moved around the table and swept Jaina into a crushing hug, one that she returned with just as much vigour.

“It’s good to see you too, Modera,” Jaina said, pulling back to look at the woman. She saw Khadgar and Rommath moving towards them from behind Modera and inclined her head to them. “Khadgar. Rommath. Thank you all for being here.”

Khadgar stood with his hands behind his back, nodding his head in return. “But of course, Lady Jaina. This is a momentous thread in the tapestry of Azeroth’s history. We would be nowhere else,” he said.

“I’m just here to make sure they do it right,” Rommath muttered.

Jaina rolled her eyes indulgently, then swept her eyes around the room once more. “And Faranell?” she asked, expectant.

Khadgar and Modera shared a look. From behind them, Rommath rolled his eyes and heaved a much put-upon sigh. “Refusing to leave his hovel until the Warchief makes an appearance, as usual,” he told Jaina, folding his arms. “If I’m going to be forced to work with these miscreants, I expect there to be some form of discipline in the matter.”

Swallowing down the rising build of irritation in her stomach, Jaina sighed. “The Warchief won’t be making an appearance today. You’ll just have to settle for me.” She glanced behind her to Alina. “Find him,” she said, and the dark ranger disappeared within that instant. She waited wordlessly, giving the rest an unfeeling smile as she heard a door at the far end of the room burst open, followed by a yelp.

The Master Apothecary’s reedy voice carried out into the main chamber. “Unhand me, you brute! Don’t you know who I am?”

With a scuffle of noise, Alina reappeared, hauling Faranell forward by the collar of his robes. She dropped him unceremoniously into his seat.

“You dare!” Faranell squawked indignantly, adjusting his robes with trembling hands. It was then he caught sight of Jaina, and the Master Apothecary narrowed red eyes at her. “Of course this is your doing.”

“Nice of you to finally join us, Faranell,” Khadgar said dryly.

Faranell made a derisive noise but darted a glance at Alina, looming by his shoulder still. “Let’s just get this over with,” he grumbled, folding his arms and sinking down into his seat.

Jaina rolled her eyes and took a slow, calming breath. “Thank you, Alina,” she said first, and the dark ranger inclined her head wordlessly. Then Jaina looked towards the others, gesturing to the table. “Shall we?”

The main sections of Lordaeron Keep were holding steady with the new catalyst, but needed frequent redistributing to keep its effects. The slow production and finetuning were eating into their resources.

Faranell’s face soured when Jaina mentioned as such. “Perfection requires patience, Lord Admiral,” he said, scorn and condescension dripping from his oily voice. “I cannot restore your precious land without time.”

“You seemed to be perfectly capable of creating the Blight quickly enough,” Jaina said, as flippantly as she dared. The casualness of her words seemed to rankle the Master Apothecary’s nerves, and she gave him a cold smile. “Surely by this point, I’d imagine you would have journals full of studies about what made the Blight work and what didn’t?” A rush of anger twitched at her fingers at the memory, but Jaina bit it back with effort.

“The ways of the apothecary is an art form,” Faranell sneered, his thin upper lip curling over yellowed teeth. “It requires a delicate hand and a keen eye. I would not expect a frost mage —”

“Archmage,” Jaina corrected him primly. At her side, her staff began to glow. “I don’t imagine I’d have to give you an illustration of the difference.”

Faranell pulled his lips back over his teeth in a tight pucker. “That would be unnecessary,” he gritted out.

“I thought as much.”

Khadgar cleared his throat discreetly. “In the meantime,” he began, giving Jaina a look from across the table. “We might benefit in looking at alternative methods of healing the land.”

“Perhaps an outreach to the Drust,” Modera suggested carefully, nearly contrite when Jaina suppressed a flinch. “The old magic is tied to the land and sea; it would be worth a try.”

Jaina’s lips pressed into a thin line. “It would,” she admitted, tapping the end of a clawed finger on her armrest. Her gauntlet prevented her from fiddling with her cord ring like she wanted, but Jaina thought it was for the better. “I’ll have to speak to the Warchief about planning for those talks. We may need to push our visit to Kul Tiras earlier than expected,” she murmured, brows furrowing.

It could put a damper on plans for her mother’s visit.

“Can’t you use that tidesages thing you Kul Tirans have?” Rommath asked, bracing his chin against his hand and regarding them all disinterestedly. “Or will you just sit by and twiddle your thumbs again?”

“Rommath,” Khadgar warned, but Jaina held up an authoritative hand.

She regarded the blood elf coolly. Her voice dropped into a low, hard note. “We will do everything in our power to restore Lordaeron and the lands surrounding it. Make no mistake of that, Grand Magister.” She set her jaw and met his gaze unwaveringly, daring Rommath to speak again; to speak of the Kirin Tor and Kul Tiras and everything else that has happened since.

The Grand Magister remained — wisely — silent.

She looked around the table, pausing to meet the eye of each and every one of its occupants. “How soon can we expect the next batch of the catalyst?”

 

 

----------

 

 

Jaina’s second order of business was lunch. By the time it was midday, Jaina had been nursing a burgeoning ache in the back of her skull for most of the morning. Discussions with the recovery team had gone on for much longer than she’d have liked, and Jaina felt her jaw tighten even further when she realised that she would still need to portal in Anduin’s party. She blew out a breath as she and Alina walked down a corridor, slowly unclenching her jaw to ease some of the pressure building in her temples. It was like a vice unwinding from around her head.

She could do with a cup of coffee.

“Alina, where is the Warchief?” Jaina asked, pinching her temples between her thumb and middle finger.

“Attending to duties, my Lady,” Alina replied, as if expecting the question. “She has sent for lunch to be served in your private quarters. She mentioned you would be...weary from the meeting. She said you would prefer to dine in peace.” It was only then that Jaina realised that they were already walking in the direction of her chambers.

Jaina frowned, wincing slightly when the motion sent a hard throb of pain into her skull. They hadn’t missed lunch together since their little tiff about coffee. “Did she happen to mention if her schedule was clear enough to join me for lunch?”

Alina shrugged.

Helpful. Jaina gave her a sidelong glare but Alina was unfazed. When they arrived at her chambers, Alina lingered just before the doors; something Jaina was grateful for in the personal space of her own bed chambers. There was a tray on her writing desk, silver cover reflecting in the sunlight through the window. Beside it was a cup of coffee, still steaming gently, and a folded note.

Striding over to her desk, Jaina plucked the letter for its rest with two fingers. She flipped the note open.

Proudmoore,

I’ve received word from scouts of disturbances along the Shining Strand. I will be gone to investigate. Do not fret; I have sent word ahead to Wrynn to proceed with you in my absence. I trust that you will make the proper decisions accordingly.

I apologise that our routines have been interrupted so.

-SW

Jaina stared at the note for a long moment, brows furrowed hard on her face. The Shining Strand was murloc territory; surely Sylvanas would’ve thought it wise to inform her of their departure before they’d left. She was a frost mage, after all.

Sylvanas was expecting to be gone most of the day, then. The lack of her usual bite and wit in her words made something heavy settle in Jaina's belly. It was a strangely...formal letter. As if she were speaking in code of some sort. Pursing her lips, Jaina folded the note once more and slipped it into her robe pocket. She looked down at the covered dish and founded herself to be bereft of hunger.

She left her meal untouched, but she drank the coffee. Alina did not seem surprised when she emerged from her rooms, but then again, the dark rangers hardly ever cycled out of their blank-faced expressions when guarding her.

Onto her third order of business, then.

They found their way down into the Throne Room. The prickling remnants of the Blight’s energy seemed to linger in the space, crackling and roiling underneath Jaina’s skin, but she pushed down the thought of the last time she’d seen Sylvanas in the room and opened a portal.

Through it came Anduin and Genn. Genn bristled at the sight of the Throne Room, lips curling back as his nostrils flared and he snorted, shaking his head.

“Jaina,” Anduin said, voice warm. “It’s good to see you.”

Jaina nodded in return, smiling a smile she didn’t quite feel. “I’m glad to see you well.” The ache building behind her eyes was returning with a vengeance.

Genn glanced around the room. “Where is that triangle-eared traitor?”

The harshness of his tone made Jaina bristle. She gave Genn a reproachful glare, a bite in her words. “My wife is investigating a threat at the Shining Strand. Anduin knows this.” She glanced at Anduin sharply, who nodded his head almost sheepishly. “Please refrain from letting your past experiences colour this meeting, Genn. I’ve had enough of that for today.”

Genn looked away, as contrite as he would let himself be. Jaina sighed. “Let’s just get this over with, shall we? I have news from the recovery team.” She gestured wearily towards one of the many alcoves of the Throne Room.

The crumbling throne sat in the middle of the dais in the centre of the room, glaringly empty.

 

----------

 

The setting sun spilt in stains of shades of purple; its horizon not as bright as Orgrimmar, lacking its orange hue against the dry earth. In Lordaeron, the skies were swallowed in purples and blues, swathes of clouds shifting in tufts. Jaina’s day ended much later than she would have wanted, but by the end of it, she was glad to be alone in her room.

She was famished. Skipping lunch had done her no mercies, and when Jaina found yet another tray of food on her desk, she devoured it with relish.

There was no note this time, and Jaina felt a strange, tremoring ache in her chest. She brushed aside the feeling and settled for a quick bath. The room was painfully still when she finished, the noise from the surrounding city and the chirp of woodland creatures just barely creeping in through the windows, but the air in the room itself was stifling.

Jaina lit the fireplace, if only to fill the space with sound. While it spat and crackled to life, she pulled open the door and summoned Alina. The dark ranger emerged readily from the shadows. “Is there any news from Sy— the Warchief?” she asked, barely masking the anxiety in her voice. “Were they ambushed? Attacked?”

“The Dark Lady will return soon enough,” Alina said.

“When?” Jaina asked. “If they haven’t come back and no one’s heard any news —”

Alina offered her a shrug, and Jaina let out a frustrated sigh. “Fine. Keep your secrets.” She shut the door in Alina’s face, and didn’t feel quite too terrible about it. She undressed for bed with a weary shuck of her robes, leaving them in a pile at the foot of her bed as she tucked up into bed in her undershirt and tights.

Huddling down into the cool sheets, Jaina felt no pull of sleep, no matter how hard she screwed her eyes shut, no matter how hard she thought about sleeping. When she spread out her fingers on the bed, the smooth texture of the sheets made the tips of them tingle; the stark absence of the scent of steel and tulips on other side made them ache.

Within the fireplace, a merry fire roared, but Jaina felt a chill take hold of her bones.

 

Chapter Text

The rustle and scrape of metal against stone woke Jaina in the dark hours of the early morning. She couldn’t remember falling asleep, only remembered the moments of restless tossing and turning. It took her a moment to adjust to the gloom of the chambers, blinking tiredly and squinting. The heat of the fireplace had become too much for Jaina at some point of the night, and she barely remembered waking briefly to put it out with a blast of frosted wind.

When her eyes finally slid to the shadowed figure moving within the alcove of the vanity and wardrobe, Jaina’s breath hitched.

Glowing red eyes snapped to her, and Jaina exhaled in a shudder. “You scared me,” she said, voice low and rough with sleep.

Sylvanas emerged from the darkness, her armour half-shed. Her pauldrons were gone, as were her greaves and cuisses. Her chainmail chausses and leather cuirass remained, as well as her cloak, the hood pulled low and shrouding her face but for the glow of her eyes and the arch of her nose and lips.

She moved to stand at the foot of the bed, glancing down at the pile of robes on the floor. She regarded Jaina with an unreadable expression as she unfastened her vambrace. “My apologies,” she uttered, quieter than Jaina expected. “I hadn’t intended to wake you. You usually sleep through the noise of my armour.”

“Yeah, well,” Jaina sighed. “Couldn’t sleep.”

Sylvanas pursed her lips. “All the more reason we should sleep apart,” she said. “It won’t do for the Lord Admiral to suffer sleepless nights because of me.”

“I think you’ve got that part backwards,” Jaina muttered, and when she looked up at Sylvanas, she saw the Warchief staring at her with a nonplussed expression.

“Yes, well,” Sylvanas sniffed, tilting her head down to focus studiously on her vambrace. “It’s still a bad habit to have.”

Jaina watched her unbuckle the straps of her bevor, taking in the specks of what looked like dried blood and viscera on the usually immaculate surface of the Warchief’s armour. Jaina frowned, looking back into Sylvanas’ face worriedly. “How was the Shining Strand?”

Shrugging, Sylvanas reached for her other vambrace, pulling them off and holding them up to inspect the blood spatter. “Amenable, with some persuasion,” she said, and the drawl of her words made Jaina smile.

“I’m just glad you’re safe,” Jaina mumbled. Under the covers, she traced the patterning of the silk and cord with her thumb again.

A flickering look crossed Sylvanas’ face. Carefully, she set aside her vambraces and perched herself at the edge of the bed. She reached out a hand as if to lay it over the outline of Jaina’s leg — and then snatched it back, as if catching herself. Instead, she rested it on the bed, so close Jaina could feel the coolness radiating, skin prickling at the distance and proximity. She seemed, for the first time, to struggle with her words. “I — this —”

Jaina gave her an encouraging look, but Sylvanas eventually huffed, sliding her hand away and placing it onto her own lap. Jaina did her best to hide the disappointment in her face. She watched as the Warchief seemed to collect herself, features schooling once more into an impassive mask.

“You do not need to concern yourself with my wellbeing, Proudmoore,” Sylvanas said stiffly. The line of her throat dipped in a swallow.

Jaina peered at her, and though her brows were pulled, her voice was teasing, almost tentative. “I thought that was what wives do? Care for each other?”

The corner of Sylvanas’ mouth twitched, but the fondness in her eyes was fleeting as she looked away. She cleared her throat quietly, rising from the bed as she did so, unhooking the clasp of her cloak. The hood and cloak fell back off her shoulders, and Jaina watched from the bed as Sylvanas moved to gather all of their clothes. She disappeared back into the alcove with them, likely to place them into the laundry basket by the bath chambers.

When she reappeared, Sylvanas had already replaced her armour, unscathed and gleaming. Jaina frowned, glancing out the window at the navy sky. “It’s not even dawn,” she pointed out to Sylvanas, who continued to fasten her cuisses and poleyns wordlessly. “You should rest.”

“I have duties,” Sylvanas said bluntly, sweeping a new cloak over her shoulders and fastening the clasp at her neck. “I wasted a day beating back murlocs in ankle-deep waters; there are reports and letters overdue.” She slipped her hood over her head, ears poking out elegantly through the holes.

The sight of Sylvanas’ ear twitching as it popped through the open seam of the hood made a flutter of warmth fill Jaina’s belly. It made her stomach roil in the strangest of ways; like giddiness and nausea at once. Her heart pulsed in her throat and she felt it thrum when she swallowed.

She curled her hands into the sheets, but when Sylvanas moved towards the door, she called out, “Wait!”

Sylvanas paused, hand gripping the door handle as she turned her head towards Jaina slowly. “Yes, Proudmoore?”

Biting down on the inside of her cheek, Jaina reached out and gestured to Sylvanas. “Come here.” She crooked her fingers, flushing at the way Sylvanas’ eyes widened a fraction at the motion.

“Proudmoore —”

“I haven’t seen you all day and I was worried,” Jaina countered, patting the bed beside her firmly. “And what happened to Jaina?” She raised an eyebrow expectantly, giving Sylvanas an impatient look.

“You tend to prefer my titles the same,” Sylvanas pointed out, scowling when Jaina gave her a glare. “Don’t look at me like that.”

Jaina glared harder. “Then come here.”

Heaving a much put-upon sigh, Sylvanas moved towards the bed, sabatons scraping against the stone floors as she made a point of dragging each step. She folded down onto the bed with an elegant sigh, gauntlets brushing against the shape of Jaina’s thigh through the covers.

She gave Jaina a flat, expectant look. “Well?”

Jaina looked at her through hooded lids. She reached out tentatively, twining strands of silvery blonde hair that hung over Sylvanas’ neck and shoulders and watching as they slipped away between her fingers. Daringly, she moved her hand up higher, fingertips hesitant as they touched the edge of Sylvanas’ jaw. She trailed them up slowly along the Banshee Queen’s cheek, until she was almost cupping it.

Sylvanas twitched but held painfully still, glowing eyes dropping down to watch her hands, an inscrutable expression on her face. “Is this why you commanded me to your side?” Her eyes flashed to Jaina’s, and Jaina found her breath hitching. “To touch me?”

“Can’t I be near my wife?” Jaina asked, voice a hushed whisper. She cradled Sylvanas’ chin delicately between her thumb and forefinger, tilting the Warchief’s face towards her slightly. Sylvanas’ eyes burned into her, and suddenly it felt like the room was on the axis of that exact moment.

Despite herself, Jaina licked her lips. “Don’t I get a good morning kiss?” she murmured.

It was Sylvanas’ breath that hitched then. The Warchief’s eyes dipped down briefly to Jaina’s lips before she met Jaina’s gaze again, grim. “I —”

With caution thrown to the wind, Jaina pressed a kiss to Sylvanas’ mouth. Their lips brushed, and she could feel the sharp gasp of breath that came after it. Sylvanas sat frozen in that instant, body stiff and upright against the sheets. Her lips were cold, and the shock of it against the heat of Jaina’s own mouth made Jaina painfully aware of the warmth growing in her belly.

A thrill ran through her when she felt Sylvanas lean into the kiss.

Sylvanas’ hand came up in a rush, fingers twining into the ruffled braid of Jaina’s hair. Her gauntlet scraped gently against Jaina’s scalp as she yanked her closer, a hungry sound in her throat as she opened her mouth and deepened the kiss.

A ragged moan tore from Jaina’s throat as she threw her arms around Sylvanas’ shoulders. The Banshee Queen’s armour bit and pinched into her skin, but the fact only thrilled Jaina more. She gasped into Sylvanas’ mouth, tongue slipping against the dangerous edge of Sylvanas’ fangs; she pressed it just so against the needle point of it and tasted blood.

A vicious sound rumbled in Sylvanas’ chest.

With a burst of inhuman strength, Jaina found herself hauled into Sylvanas’ lap. She straddled her eagerly, hands stroking over every inch of bare skin she could find; caressing the arch of Sylvanas’ ears, scraping her nails over the tips of them.

Sylvanas pulled her lips away to bare her teeth in a hiss, a shudder going through her from her ears down to her spine. “Belore, Jaina.”

Jaina opened her eyes, swooning and heady as she stared into the blazing glow of Sylvanas’ intense gaze. She opened her mouth to speak, but Sylvanas swept back in for another brutal kiss.

Armour creaked as Sylvanas tried desperately to pull her closer, and Jaina melted into her embrace with a matching need to touch. She could feel the wetness building between her legs, the frantic pulsing of her body to be touched, caressed — devoured. She whined as Sylvanas scraped one clawed hand down her back, reaching to give Jaina’s ass a hard squeeze.

Jaina ground her hips down into Sylvanas’ hand, angling down to rub against the hard seam of her own tights and the Warchief’s muscular thighs.

Sylvanas froze, and Jaina felt her nostrils flare in a breath before she was dumped unceremoniously back onto the bed.

Just like that, the thrill was replaced with a cold dread.

Jaina reeled, gasping back the taste of the kiss in her throat as she stared up at Sylvanas in confusion.

Sylvanas stood abruptly, throat working as if she struggled to remember how to swallow, to speak. She licked kiss-swollen lips and opened her mouth again as if to speak, but caught herself. She lowered her eyes before averting them away completely. For an instant, she looked almost guilty. Then her face smoothed back into an expressionless mask, detached and cool.

“I must go.”

Jaina felt her stomach roil, a flush of shame burning in her cheeks. She’d pushed it too far, she’d gone too damn far — “Wait —”

The doors slammed shut, trembling on their hinges.

Jaina stared after Sylvanas, bile rising in her throat and her heart twisting with humiliation. She curled her hands into the covers, nails cutting through the silk into her own palms. It took everything in her to resist the urge to push back the covers and hunt down Sylvanas. She’d already pushed her luck; they needed space to think.

She moved her legs and bit back a gasp. A deep flush started from her scalp down into her chest, cheeks flaming as she pulled back the covers just enough to stare down at her lap. She could feel the material of her tights sticking to the inside of her thighs, the slickness that had built just from that one touch alone.

Jaina bit her lip, hard. She could feel her core pulsing in time with the beat of her heart, the coiling need and nerve endings that sung every time she moved her legs. Frustration and need were building into a head inside her; months on end without release, with the close proximity of another body pressed to her at night. The forbiddenness of it — touching herself after she’d kissed the Warchief — kissed Sylvanas Windrunner

She spread out over the bed and slipped her hand down, fingers gliding beneath the waist of her tights. A whine caught in her throat as her fingers touched slick, swollen flesh. She dipped three fingers in quickly, desperate in frustration and shame as she hissed at the stretch. She turned over onto her stomach, trapping her hand between her hips and the bed as she ground frantically into the friction. A rush of emotions made her eyes well up in tears, and she reached out blindly for a pillow to muffle the wet, raw noises bleeding from her throat.

She grabbed purple silk, burrowing her face into it without realising. The sharp tang of cold steel and tulips made her shudder, cunt gushing over her fingers as she ground her aching clit into her sopping palm and warbled a noise.

She thrust her hips into her fingers, biting back a groan as she took them down to the third knuckle. Her skin was ablaze, sweat bleeding from her pores as she rode her own fingers and chased thought of another’s lips and fingers on her skin. Panting, she ground harder into the bed, chasing the phantom touch of cold skin and burning eyes.

A hiss caught in her throat, the first syllable of a name she shouldn’t say, couldn’t say aloud as the first round of tremors shook her with a violent jerk. She sobbed, gasping and moaning as weeks, months of frustration unleashed in a flood of sensation.

When the shudders left her body, Jaina swallowed a breath, gulping back the addictive scent of steel and flowers, pulling her hand away from her thighs. Fingers slick and aching, she stared at them in the rising spill of sunlight, bringing them to her mouth thoughtlessly. She tasted herself in a daze, wondering in stilted thoughts about the taste of steel and flowers on her lips.

She wiped her fingers on purple silk, staring at the smear of them before she turned the pillow onto its Kul Tiras side.

 

 

------------

 

 

They did not see much of each other for the rest of the day.

Short of one council meeting where Sylvanas and Jaina had emphatically avoided looking at each other, there were no times in the day that the Banshee Queen and the Lord Admiral shared the same space. If the others noticed, they didn’t say, although Jaina caught Lor’themar glancing between the two of them and frowning.

What grated her nerves the most was the insufferable look on Blightcaller’s face as he trailed after Sylvanas like a dog at his master’s heel.

Jaina caught glimpses of Sylvanas, though. Moments of purple armour and wisps of tulips, the carry of her lilting voice through corridors that were empty as soon as Jaina rounded the corner. The warring sensations of disappointment and relief inside her were beginning to manifest into a physical bubble of nausea in her stomach.

She tamped it down and carried on.

Jaina filled her day with trade talks, meetings, reports, and everything else that demanded her attention. She kept her distance from paths leading to the north tower and anywhere she imagined Sylvanas would be. Alina remained a lingering shadow that served only as a reminder of the person she was trying to ignore.

She holed herself up in her chambers, stationing Alina at her door with the explicit instruction of making sure everyone left her the hell alone. She worked tirelessly at her desk, hunching over a pile of letters and reports, scribbling notes about the catalyst and marking ledgers of expenditure and resources. It was almost mindless work; work she’d done for nearly decades now, and it was a familiar routine to slip into.

The sun sank low over the horizon before Jaina stopped, and that was only because her inkwell was dry. She sat back in her seat with a sigh, pinching the bridge of her nose.

There was a quiet knock on the door. She glanced at it wearily. “Not now, Alina.”

The door clicked open, ancient wood creaking. Jaina frowned, turning her head towards the intruder. “Alina —”

“Wrong elf, I’m afraid.”

Jaina nearly leapt out of her seat, spinning around to face the woman standing in the doorway. She stared incredulously, hands gripping the end of the writing desk. “Warchief,” she said stiffly. “I hadn’t expected your company.”

Sylvanas regarded her wordlessly for a moment, eyes darting from the writing desk back up to Jaina’s face. Her nose twitched then, and her eyes widened imperceptibly as she gave the bed a sidelong glance.

“Pardon my interruption,” Sylvanas said slowly, taking a deliberate step away from the bed and towards the wardrobes. “I came to collect some things. I won’t be long.”

Jaina watched as Sylvanas gathered a satchel and assorted pieces of her clothing that must have gotten mixed up with Jaina’s during the move. An awkward silence filled the space between them, and Jaina slid one hand along the writing desk as she moved towards the alcove. She leaned against the wall and folded her arms.

“Are we always going to do this?” she asked tiredly. “Avoid each other when we don’t want to talk about things?”

Sylvanas looked at her, carefully folding a tunic. “I’ve been busy.”

Jaina rolled her eyes. “We’re always busy. Even back in Orgrimmar; you still found time then,” she pointed out. The petulance in her own voice made Jaina flush and she gritted her teeth.

“It would be unwise for me to stay,” Sylvanas said tightly, focusing on her folding. “You’ll have an easier time sleeping without my presence.”

“I sleep better knowing that my wife is there with me,” Jaina snapped, and then sighed, rubbing at her temple wearily. “It — look, if you’re worried about what happened —”

Sylvanas rounded on Jaina abruptly, crowding the woman against the wall with the bulk of her armoured frame. “I worry,” she growled, and the strain of her words nearly made Jaina shudder. “That sleep will be the last thing we do if we share a bed.”

Jaina inhaled sharply, staring up at Sylvanas with dawning realisation. “O-oh.”

“Yes.”

“But —”

Sylvanas gave her a warning look. “You do not want this,” she said, so low Jaina almost had to lean in to hear her. “No matter how much you tell yourself that you do.”

A rush of indignation flared in Jaina’s chest and she thrust out her chin in challenge. “You have no idea what I want,” she ground out, tilting her head up to glare at Sylvanas.

“I assure you that I do,” Sylvanas uttered coldly. “It’s clear enough to me.”

“Then stop being a coward and tell me to my face if you don’t want this, too,” Jaina hissed. They were so close now that she could feel the cold of the Warchief’s skin, could kiss her again if she rose on her toes.

Sylvanas glowered back, unwilling to be cowed. “Careful, Proudmoore,” she said, voice hard and a lilt in her words. “This is a line that you cannot turn back from if you cross.”

“I know what I want,” Jaina said. “Do you?”

Slowly, deliberately, Sylvanas reached up and brushed a strand of hair out of Jaina’s eyes, and the curved edge of a gauntleted finger scraping lightly against her cheekbone. Then she leaned in close, cold lips brushing the shell of Jaina’s ear.

“I want,” she whispered. “To ruin you.”

Jaina’s eyes slid shut and she shivered. When she opened her eyes, Sylvanas was gone.

Chapter Text

The door of the Warchief’s private study burst open, the wood bouncing off the stone wall as she stormed into the room. The door swung back on its creaking hinges from the sheer force of it, slamming shut with a reverberating thud. Sylvanas paced rapidly in the confined space, bristling with restless energy. It was almost as if she was alive again; skin prickling with sensation, nerve endings sparked into life by warring combinations of desire and denial, of anger and frustration and selfish want.

Black tendrils were misting through her skin, bleeding from her like the pulse of a heart that was too long-dead to beat. Sylvanas curled her trembling hands into fists; she could feel the heat of her own eyes burning under her skin, the powers of her banshee form straining to come forth.

She gritted her teeth and swallowed back the wail crawling up her throat, flexing her hands and rolling her shoulders. The weight of her armour was stifling, the creak and groan of them from her movements made her keenly aware of their burdensome presence. She turned away with a snarl, restless energy thrumming from her and bleeding outwards in a growing black fog.

The slickness between her legs was like a brand of hot steel against her skin. The pressure of her cuirass biting into her chausses made her deeply regret the thought of ever deciding to wear chainmail under leather.

A festering thought crept into her mind, spreading over the memory of the taste of Jaina’s kiss, the touch of her skin, the smell of her desire; consuming it all into a bleak abyss. What more could come of this than suffering?

Their natures were far too disparate, their marriage nothing more than a laughable caricature of an attempt at peace. She was the Banshee Queen. Warchief. Ruler of the Forsaken — Undead. How could she have shown such weakness? The Lord Admiral should never have been allowed to keep so close to her, and yet —

Sylvanas let out a frustrated snarl, and the candles around her flickered at the plume of black energy that burst from her. Several snuffed out, shrouding the room in shadows as she began to pace again. It was nothing more than a consequence of proximity; too much time spent together sharing a bed and breaking fast in the mornings. She should have insisted on separate quarters from the day they’d married, should have kept the Lord Admiral within arm’s length instead of indulging her own selfish need for the company.

How pathetic it was, that the Warchief of the Horde would indulge such trivial things. Eight months had barely passed since they were wed. They were not yet married a year.

It would not stand.

She marched back to her writing desk, the heavy high-backed chair scraping noisily against the floor as she yanked it back with one hand. She sprawled down into it, hunching over the desk and snatching up a quill and parchment. She dipped her quill into the inkwell, flicking off the excess impatiently as she prepared to write.

For a fraction of an instant, Sylvanas hesitated. The tip of her quill hovering maddeningly above the parchment.

It was gone in an instant, the first stroke of her hand blotting dark and thick. She wrote in sharp, quick movements, signing the bottom with a rough flourish. She folded the letter and reached for her wax and seal, and then pulled out a slender dagger from one of the many straps on her thigh.

Melting the deep purple wax, she watched it pool onto the centre of the letter before reaching up with the tip of the dagger and pricking her finger. She watched blankly as the deep green of Ichor dripped onto the purple, swirling together as the dark magic flared to life with a sizzle and a spark.

She sealed it with the sigil of the Forsaken, magic shimmering still on the cooling wax as she summoned Kalira.

Her eyes blazed like crackling ember. She slid the letter into Kalira’s hand, voice low and hard. “For the hands of Vereesa Windrunner alone, am I understood?”

Kalira met her gaze unwaveringly, nodding as she disappeared back into the shadows. Sylvanas stood and watched the empty darkness for a moment before turning on her heels and slamming the door shut behind her.

 

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For the rest of the day, Sylvanas tended to her duties with ruthless efficiency. She swept through meetings and reports with hardly a thought of anything else, pointedly ignoring Blightcaller at her elbow when she tended to the training of newly-risen rangers. It had been his duties before, but Sylvanas had learned from her mistakes.

“Until you prove yourself, Blightcaller, you will be my burden of responsibility,” she’d snarled, and Nathanos had looked away, cowed. “It won’t do for the Warchief to suffer a Champion she cannot trust implicitly, and already I have half the mind to rid myself of you.”

“I understand, Dark Lady,” Nathanos had murmured, and Sylvanas thought she saw the twitch of his lip. “I will do my best to earn your trust once more. Anything and everything you ask of me.” He gave her a look, like a dog eager to please, and she’d nearly throttled him.

Presently, Nathanos remained silent at her side, eyeing the rangers on the training field keenly. The thick silence between them was brief, unfortunately. For whatever reason, the fool saw it fit to speak. “Faranell has mentioned some...tension between the Lord Admiral and his practices.”

Shoulders still and face unmoving, Sylvanas spared him a sidelong glare, lips thinning as she turned her eyes back onto the row of rangers, bows pulled taut and arrows flying towards a target some few yards away. “I am aware,” she said, in a tone that warned Nathanos from speaking further.

“I only wonder why Lady Proudmoore isn’t participating in the recovery herself —”

“If I hear another word out of you, Blightcaller, I will tear out your tongue,” Sylvanas gritted, hands curling into fists as she tucked them stiffly behind her back. “I am in no mood today to listen to your conspiracy theories.”

Nathanos was mercifully silent then, though Sylvanas was keenly aware of his sulking for the rest of their training. By midmorning, the rangers had reduced the dummy targets into piles of sand and straw, and Sylvanas dismissed them from the mustering grounds with firm words of praise.

She turned to Nathanos, eyes cold. “You will escort the ranger party westward to the High Command,” she said. “I’ve heard word of the darkhounds in the Nightmare Vale terrorising their latest outpost.”

Nathanos’ eyes seemed to brighten then —

“Lyana and Kalira will go with you, of course,” she added, giving him a cruel smile. “Under my express command of ensuring that you mind your wagging tongue.”

His face darkened, petulant again, but he nodded stiffly. “As you command, Dark Lady.”

Someone cleared their throat behind them. “Warchief.”

Sylvanas’ ear twitched, and slowly, she turned to glance back at the person. Her fists tightened behind her back, gauntlets digging into flesh, but she hardly felt it. She regarded Jaina calmly, noting the stiff line of her shoulders and the hard set of her jaw.

“Lady Proudmoore.” She inclined her head.

Jaina glanced from Nathanos back to Sylvanas, staff clutched in her hand and Alina lingering behind her. “I would like a word with you.” She gave Nathanos a disdainful look. “In private.”

Nathanos puffed out his chest, folding his arms behind his back to mirror Sylvanas, but the Warchief gave him a warning look.

Jaina’s patience, it seemed, had run out as well. “Alina, if he won’t leave on his own accord, please escort Blightcaller away,” she said, irritation and impatience colouring her words.

Alina began to move, eyes on Nathanos as he stared at her in surprise and indignation.

“My Queen —”

“The commands of my consort and mine are one and the same,” Sylvanas snapped, lips pulling back to reveal the dangerous edge of a fang. “Be gone, Blightcaller, and do as you are told.”

Alina gave him no time to respond; grasping him firmly by the arm and turning him away. Blightcaller let out an indignant sputter, yanking his arm from her grip and straightening his coat as he marched off with as much dignity as he could muster. Alina trailed after him, seemingly deaf to the words he was hissing to her under his breath.

Alone together, Sylvanas and Jaina regarded each other with the wariness of a child who had learned the consequences of playing with fire.

“Did you require something of me, Lady Proudmoore?” Sylvanas asked, looking off into the distance indifferently. She caught the way Jaina winced at the title, but made no further effort of pressing the matter.

“Let’s talk somewhere private,” Jaina murmured, meeting Sylvanas’ eyes with something imploring and familiar.

Sylvanas thrust her chin higher into the air, regarding Jaina over her nose. “As you like.” She brushed past her, the barest edge of her cloak touching Jaina’s robes as she went. She didn’t bother looking back, only called over her shoulder, “my study, then. There will be no prying eyes there.”

They walked down the corridors back to Sylvanas’ private study. This time, Sylvanas did not touch Jaina, mark her pace behind the Lord Admiral while climbing the stairs. She walked on in long, easy strides that were just a touch too long for Jaina to meet without effort, and kept her eyes pointedly ahead.

Sylvanas pulled open the door and held it. She inclined her head to Jaina, who walked into the room without looking at her. Alone once more, with the privacy of the walls around them, Sylvanas finally spoke again. “What did you need, wife?” She moved towards the desk and leaned a hip against it, folding her arms as she looked at Jaina.

The title made Jaina twitch, but the Lord Admiral schooled her features into an impressively flat mask. “I’d just like to remind you that my mother will be coming to Lordaeron soon,” she said, voice smooth. It was her diplomatic tone of voice; the one she used often when speaking at council meetings.

Sylvanas frowned. “Your mother will come to Lordaeron when I allow her to do so,” she countered. “I don’t quite remember writing that letter.”

Jaina’s jaw tightened as she took a moment to shut her eyes and breathe. “The catalyst is stable. Khadgar and Modera have informed me that the newest batch will last us a couple of months, at least.”

“And?” Sylvanas prompted, making a show of inspecting her talons.

And,” Jaina gritted. “I remember you saying that you would allow her to come at the end of the first month in Lordaeron.”

“Which is still three weeks from now,” Sylvanas reminded her. “I will compose a formal invitation to Lady Katherine Proudmoore when we are well and truly prepared to receive her.” The finality of her tone made Jaina bristle, and Sylvanas almost wished they could take another turn on the sparring mat.

Jaina’s shoulders seemed to sag beneath her robes, and she reached up to rub at her temple. “You’re being a brat,” she said bluntly.

Sylvanas rolled her eyes. “What else did you need?”

Sighing, Jaina dropped her hand and seemed to steel herself. “I wanted you to know that —” she paused, as if considering her words, and then clearing her throat. “Last night —”

Sylvanas’ grip tightened on her own arms, but she continued to stare disinterestedly at Jaina.

“—was very forward of me.”

Her eyebrows rose at that.

Jaina looked away, a slow flush of colour building in her cheeks, darkening the constellation of freckles speckled over her skin. “I apologise if I overstepped,” she said through gritted teeth, turning her eyes back to Sylvanas. “I don’t want it to affect our behaviour when my mother comes. Or at any time. We are a united front, and we need to act like it.”

Sylvanas stared at her for a long moment, blinking slowly as she straightened off the desk and unfolded her arms. It stung, somehow; it bloomed like the ache in her chest, flowering like the spread of a wound on her skin. Was it regret she saw in Jaina’s face? Shame?

“Why,” she said, with breathless amusement she hardly felt. “Is this the great Jaina Proudmoore, apologising for her behaviour?”

Jaina narrowed her eyes, scowling. “One of us has to be the adult in the relationship,” she said coldly.

Ear twitching, Sylvanas inclined her head with a leer. “You were certainly very adult last night, yes.” She grinned when Jaina flushed darker and threw her hands up.

“Sylvanas,” Jaina snapped, and the grin fell from Sylvanas’ face. “I’m being serious.”

Sobering, Sylvanas gave her a stiff nod. “Your concerns are valid, Lady Proudmoore,” she said with deliberation. “I... apologise the same for such untoward behaviour to your virtue.” She straightened to her full height, crossing her arms once more behind her back. Eyes glazed with indifference and staring just left of Jaina’s face, she nodded again.

“I agree that the best solution for our... marital issues would be a momentary distance.”

Jaina blinked. “Y-es.” She seemed to flounder for a moment, to protest, but thought better of it.

“I will have the rest of my things moved from your quarters into the north tower,” Sylvanas continued levelly. She gave Jaina a look over her nose again. “And I will be sure to keep a respectable distance, lest I offend your mother’s delicate constitution.”

Jaina inhaled sharply at that, and let it out in a weary sigh. “Thank you for your cooperation, Warchief,” she said stiffly, giving Sylvanas a short bow; it was more of a slap to the face than an actual sign of respect. “That was all I needed to speak with you for.”

“You are dismissed then, wife,” Sylvanas sniffed, waving her away.

With a sharp glare, Jaina made for the door. As she reached for the handle, she paused, and Sylvanas arched a brow expectantly when Jaina turned back to her.

“Let’s just keep things civil, shall we?” Jaina sighed, pulling the door open. “We haven’t even been married a year — let’s not rush to the divorce just yet.”

“Our ‘divorce’ would mean war, Proudmoore,” Sylvanas drawled, stroking a hand along the edge of the table. “We both know we play better at that than marital bliss.”

Jaina gave her a bitter smile. “Love and war are the same things, dear.” She slid out the door and pulled it shut behind her.

Sylvanas stared at the door. Her grip tightened on the table’s edge, the aged wood creaking in protest before it splintered and split beneath her hand. Blinking, Sylvanas pulled her hand away, glaring down at it with a disconcerted frown pulling at her lips.

She swept from the room with a snarl.

 

------------

 

The weeks passed and things were...settling. Sylvanas moved her things to the north tower and Jaina woke to an empty bed and green pillows. They were fast becoming experts in avoiding each other unless absolutely necessary. Sylvanas kept most of her contact to notes and letters, and Jaina seemed fine with that.

For the most part.

“Aren’t we a little too old to be passing notes back and forth?” Jaina asked her snidely one morning. It was rare that the Warchief was ever around in the mornings anymore, but Jaina had managed to catch Sylvanas in a little alcove right after breakfast.

Sylvanas sneered. “Unlike you, Lady Proudmoore, I can tell the difference between love letters and official communications.”

“'Official communications',” Jaina mocked, rolling her eyes. “You left a note on my desk that said ‘eat’ yesterday.”

“Yes, well, I can’t help it if my consort can’t even remember to feed herself,” Sylvanas sniffed.

Shaking her head incredulously, Jaina let out an exasperated sigh. “I thought we were going to be adults about this.”

“We are.”

“You won’t even look me in the eye when we talk,” Jaina accused her.

Sylvanas gave her an incredulous look, pointedly meeting her gaze with a dramatically intense stare. Jaina startled as she did, blinking, and Sylvanas waited until she looked away first. “There. Is that better?”

Jaina palmed her face. “Gods, Vereesa was right about you —”

Sylvanas went stiff. The letter had been sent, then; and Vereesa seemed to have taken her words at their face value. Still, it rankled something inside her. “What did you say?” she snarled, taking a step forward to loom over Jaina.

Jaina lifted her head, narrowing her eyes at Sylvanas as she leaned away slightly. “I said Vereesa was right about you!” she snapped. “Insufferable and pigheaded —”

“I wasn’t aware you were keeping such close contact with my dearest sister,” Sylvanas said, spitting the title like venom.

“We write. Am I not allowed to write to friends now?” Jaina demanded, thrusting her chin out defiantly.

“And such a wonderful friend to have,” Sylvanas replied, nearly hissing. She could feel a blot of something dark and ugly festering in her chest again; something she’d thought she’d dealt with in the weeks before. “Do you ‘pass notes’ back and forth the same? About me? About the Horde?”

Jaina’s cheeks went a bit pale. “Of course not!” she said, almost breathless with indignation. “We just talk —”

“About what?” Sylvanas pressed, her looming form nearly crowding Jaina back into the farthest wall of the alcove.

Jaina thrust out her chin, despite the way she seemed to sink into the wall. If only to avoid any part of them touching. “About whatever I damn well please!”

Sylvanas could practically hear Jaina’s heart pounding in her chest, could feel the pulse of blood rushing through her ears as she bracketed Jaina into the space with a hand braced against the wall. She tilted her head down, words almost whispering against Jaina’s lips.

“About us ?” She pressed further into Jaina’s space, lips brushing against the shell of her ear now. A shudder ran through Jaina, and Sylvanas would have smirked had she not been overcome with fury. “Is that what you like, Lady Proudmoore?”

Jaina’s hands shot out suddenly, yanking Sylvanas in close by the front of her armour. Suddenly they were face-to-face, Jaina’s eyes almost glowing as she yanked Sylvanas down and kissed her viciously.

She was shoved back in the next instant, stumbling to steady herself with a hand against the wall. Sylvanas reached up and touched her lip, coming away with ichor where Jaina’s teeth had cut against her mouth.

The streak of green was still smeared over Jaina’s lips, stark against the flush of them as she straightened to her full height, advancing on Sylvanas with a hiss.

“What I’d like is for us to be civil.” Jaina made a show of licking the ichor from her lips, dragging her eyes over Sylvanas in a slow once-over. “But since I cannot have that, then I’ll settle for you to stop being an asshole.”

Spinning on her heels, Jaina gave her one last look. “And if you touch me again, you’d better make sure you follow through, or don’t bother touching me at all.”

 

Chapter Text

In the weeks that passed, Jaina became increasingly aware and annoyed at all the ways Sylvanas avoided her. It was childish, really; the lengths the Warchief was going to in order to avoid any and all physical contact with her. She hadn’t gone to Sylvanas that day for distance, but Jaina could admit that it had seemed the best option at the time. Distance to find their footing again — to forget the intimacy they’d built on a tenuous peace treaty.

Jaina tried not to think too hard on it. The idea alone of her becoming reliant on Sylvanas’ presence in order to sleep through the night was frightening and confusing. Realising that there was something like affection between her and the Banshee Queen made her stomach twist at the implications.

She focused, instead, on preparing for her mother’s visit.

Vereesa’s letter had been a surprise that both pleased and wracked Jaina with guilt.

The wedding and their journey to Lordaeron had happened so quickly. Things were moving at a pace Jaina almost couldn’t keep up with; her own mind filled to reeling with thoughts and feelings and duties to compartmentalise. Writing to anyone — let alone the youngest Windrunner sister — hadn’t been at the forefront of her mind.

Writing to Vereesa was a welcome respite from the diplomatic bustling of her day. It felt good to be able to catch up with Vereesa, to reassure her that things were alright, and that Jaina hadn’t killed Sylvanas in her sleep yet. She kept her stories about Lordaeron and Orgrimmar brief but friendly, and only included the barest touches of anecdotes about Sylvanas whenever Vereesa prodded her about being consort to the Banshee Queen.

She kept the parts about the kissing and subsequent incidents to herself, of course.

It was still something Jaina was trying to wrap her own head around. She’d tried to be civil about it, to take the higher ground and be an adult about handling emotions that must’ve come from the sheer necessity. Though she couldn’t quite bring herself to believe that she would’ve done the same if it were anyone else in Sylvanas’ place. What if it had been Tyrande? Kael’thas? Vereesa, even?

She didn’t dwell on it for long.

Sylvanas’ reaction that morning in the alcove was a sobering reminder of who she was married to, of what was at stake if things were to unravel.

It was foolish, really. Letting her emotions cloud her judgement.

But Jaina was tired of playing by everyone else’s rules. If she’d signed away the rest of her life for the good of the realm, she had every right to decide how she was going to spend the rest of the marriage.

Even if that marriage was to the Warchief of the Horde.

Sylvanas had been livid after the kiss. It was brash and unexpected; a challenge spat in the face of the Warchief by her consort. It was lucky that she had warded the alcove to prevent eavesdropping and prying eyes, because Jaina couldn’t imagine what the aftermath would have been if someone had caught them.

She could still remember the bitter tang of ichor in the back of her throat.

Still, Sylvanas was mercurial at best. After the kiss, she’d stormed off; to kill things, according to Alina. Sylvanas had gathered a hunting party and returned home hours later, delivering piles and piles of fresh kill to their food stores.

It seemed extreme to Jaina, but the deafening welcome back Sylvanas had received from the Horde had reminded her that orcs and trolls and Forsaken required food in abundance, even when not at war.

Sylvanas didn’t speak to her for the next few days. In fact, she saw very little of Sylvanas at all. There were no more notes and no more cups of coffee brought to her in the morning. Jaina had expected as much. She had expected an outburst or an outright snub in public, but Jaina could respect that Sylvanas liked keeping her personal affairs private.

One morning, Jaina woke to a bustle of noise on the other side of her chamber door. She blinked awake, turning to peer at the window. It was barely dawn. Frowning, she lit the room with a dazed wave of her hand, magelight illuminating the space in a cool blue glow. She wrapped a robe around herself, making for the door.

“Alina…?”

She blinked, staring at the flurry of orcs and Forsaken carrying an assortment of things up the stairs and into the rooms across the hall of Jaina’s room. Dressers and tables and candelabras; she stepped back into her room as a pair of orcs shuffled past, carrying what seemed to be parts of a large curtained bed. From across the way, she can make out the outline of a familiar Banshee Queen standing in the open doorway of the room, stiff-shouldered and dressed in gleaming armour as her lilting voice called out sharp commands over the cacophony of noise.

Blightcaller was moving around the room, barking orders here and there, berating whoever it was that he deemed worthy of beratement.

Frowning, Jaina made her way across the hall, clearing her throat pointedly. Sylvanas’ ears flicked back towards her and she turned her face to glance at Jaina. Her eyes raked over Jaina’s form, taking in the sight of her dressing gown and lingering on the way it spilled off one shoulder to reveal her nightshirt underneath.

Jaina tugged the robe back over her shoulder, and Sylvanas’ eyes flicked back sharply to her face.

“What’s going on?” Jaina demanded.

Shrugging, Sylvanas turned back to oversee the room, staring impassively at a pair of Forsaken painstakingly assembling a large standing candelabra at the far end of the room. “We’re making preparations,” she said, glancing back at Jaina once. “Go back to sleep, Lady Proudmoore. It’s unbecoming for a lady of your station to be seen in such a state.”

Rolling her eyes, Jaina stayed exactly where she was. “You knew exactly what you were doing when you ordered them to come barging into the tower at this tides-damned hour,” she murmured, low enough that the soldiers and servants around them couldn’t hear, but sharp enough for Sylvanas to look at her. Jaina met her gaze with a stubborn thrust of her chin, narrowing her eyes in a challenge.

A tense moment passed, neither moving before Sylvanas let out a long-suffering sigh. “As you like,” she said, turning on her heels and making for Jaina’s room. “We’ll talk in your private chambers — Blightcaller,” she called over her shoulder.

Nathanos was at her side in an instant. “Yes, Warchief?”

“Attend to the rest of the rooms,” Sylvanas ordered him, flicking a hand vaguely about the chambers. “Not a stitch out of place, yes?” She gave him a smile, but it was more of a threat than anything.

Nathanos nodded stiffly. “Of course, Warchief. It will be perfect,” he assured her, sparing Jaina a disdainful glance.

“Good.” Sylvanas strode towards Jaina’s room, where there was another Forsaken servant waiting with a tray. She plucked the cup of coffee from it and dismissed the servant with a wave of her hand.

Jaina blinked, widening her strides to keep up. “Wha —” She opened her mouth to speak again, but Sylvanas all but dropped the cup into her hands, and Jaina fumbled with the hot mug for a moment.

“What are you doing?” she asked, watching as Sylvanas pulled out the chair from her writing desk and folded down into it, propping her legs up rudely over the sprawl of scrolls and journals Jaina had been working on from the night before.

Sylvanas shrugged, her armour creaking slightly as she crossed her legs at the ankles on the table. “You asked that we remain civil, did you not? To return to our little habits before your mother came?” she drawled, gesturing vaguely towards the bed.

“I don’t think civility counts as storming into the tower at the break of dawn and throwing coffee at me.”

Sylvanas arched an eyebrow, glancing at her. “I didn’t storm, you interrupted our work. And I handed you a cup of coffee; I didn’t fling it in your face. I could have.” She shrugged, shuffling a handful of scrolls into her hands and leafing through them idly.

Jaina glared at her irritably, moving to the desk and placing the cup down onto it. Then she leaned a hip against the edge and folded her arms, staring down at Sylvanas. “You have five seconds to explain or I’m freezing your stupid ears off —”

Temper, temper,” Sylvanas tsked, flashing her a cold smile before skimming through the scrolls again. “I’ve decided to extend a formal invitation to your mother. She replied last evening with her acceptance.”

A pit in her stomach formed, roiling and heavy. Jaina stared. “What?”

Sylvanas continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “Given the fact that most of the castle is still undergoing heavy renovations, I thought it was only proper to house Lady Katherine in the south tower. It’s closest to her daughter and warded against any potential attack — perfect, wouldn’t you say, for my mother-in-law?” She smiled at Jaina, though it was anything but friendly.

“Wait — you’re letting Mother stay here?”

“Would you have preferred that I house her in the north tower with me?” Sylvanas asked, cocking her head to the side.

Irritation bubble inside Jaina, combined with the rude awakening and Sylvanas’ blatant disregard for her stationery. “Why didn’t you tell me as soon as she replied?” she demanded, reaching out to shove at Sylvanas’ feet, but the Banshee Queen moved them before Jaina could touch her.

“I was busy,” Sylvanas said simply, pushing out of the chair and sweeping past Jaina towards the bed. “You understand, of course, that your mother isn’t making some frivolous social visit?”

Jaina clenched her hands into fists and resisted the urge to punch her wife. “I am aware,” she gritted out. Her mother was coming to visit, yes, but while Jaina was in Lordaeron, they needed to decide if the title of Lord Admiral would remain Jaina’s or be returned to Katherine.

...there was, of course, Tandred, but that little fact was still a little too fresh for them to address.

Sylvanas gave her a wry smirk. “Your mother has seen it fit to remind me of the political implications behind marrying the once-sole heir of the Kul Tiras Admiralty — chief among them being that she expected living conditions ‘befitting’ the mother-in-law of the Warchief.”

The drawl of Sylvanas’ words almost made Jaina smile. Almost. “You should have told me you were inviting her to begin with,” she said stiffly.

“I seem to remember you being quite vocal about having her visit.”

“And I remember you saying that you weren’t going to invite her until we were good and ready,” Jaina shot back.

Sylvanas shrugged. “We’re ready.” She perched herself at the foot of the bed, glancing at a pillow that was turned onto its Forsaken purple side. A flicker of emotion appeared briefly on her face, long eyebrows furrowing for an instant. When she turned back to Jaina, though, her features were smooth and emotionless. “One more thing.”

Sylvanas held out a hand, glancing down at Jaina expectantly. “Your hand, Lady Proudmoore.”

Jaina stared. “Excuse me?”

Sighing impatiently, Sylvanas flexed her fingers. “Your hand.” Her lip curled into a sneer. “I’m following through.”

Warily, Jaina reached out, pressing her hand into Sylvanas’. The Warchief snatched up her hand, but her touch was gentle as she produced a silver band from a leather pouch. She paused when she realised that Jaina was still wearing the corded ring.

Flushing slightly, Jaina curled her hand and made to pull away. “Oh — let me —”

“Allow me.” Sylvanas reached out and carefully pulled the ring from Jaina’s finger. “We won’t be needing this drab little thing for longer.”

“I like it —,” Jaina began to protest, but Sylvanas merely dropped it into her leather pouch. Then, with an unnecessary flare of dignity, she slipped the ring over Jaina’s finger.

The metal was cold from her touch and brimming with magic that flared out and reached the nerve endings of Jaina’s hand, and she curled her fingers at the sensation.

“As promised,” Sylvanas said quietly, stepping back and tucking her hands behind her back officiously. “Your mother will have one less thing to disapprove of.”

Jaina stared down at her hand. The ring was beautifully made, carved with the intricate patterning and filigree that was instantly recognisable as elven runes of — protection? She could feel its magic thrumming; arcane and ancient. The embossed High Thalassian and elven motifs were dotted in sparkling sapphires, just enough of them to glitter no matter the lighting. She stroked her thumb over its ridges thoughtfully.

“I don’t — have one for you,” she admitted. “Yet.” It had been a passing mention; hardly even something Jaina thought they were being serious about, but apparently, they were.

Sylvanas shrugged, waving a hand dismissively. “A small matter. This exercise is about assuaging your mother’s concerns, was it not?” She gave Jaina a polite nod, already turning on her heels.

“Wait —”

Sylvanas did not. “Good day, Lady Proudmoore.”

 

----------

 

Jaina didn’t see Sylvanas for the rest of the morning. There had been a mishap with something or the other on the east end of the castle; a collapsed tunnel underneath the tower had slowed their progress with constructions, and as far as Jaina knew, Sylvanas had been there to oversee the damages.

She would have gone along the same, had Lor’themar not found her after breakfast.

The Regent Lord bowed at the waist to her. “I was hoping you might be available for a quick...chat, my Lady.” His one eye darted to the left behind her, as if double-checking that no one was rounding the corner.

Jaina raised an eyebrow dubiously, but nodded nevertheless. “Of course.” She gestured towards an empty corridor. “Shall we?”

Lor’themar inclined his head, and they walked. He kept a respectable distance from Jaina, hands clasped behind his back and matching her pace easily as they strolled down the hallway. “I understand that the Dark Lady has been rather occupied with the preparations for your mother’s arrival,” he remarked, staring ahead impassively.

“Hmm.”

“It must be terribly...distancing.”

Jaina’s eyes narrowed at the suggestion in his voice, but continued on without looking at Lor’themar. “We function better when we’re apart,” she said flatly. “We’re less likely to kill each other.”

Lor’themar made a thoughtful sound, and Jaina caught his sidelong glance towards her. “Forgive me for being so forward, Lady Proudmoore. But...have things been...strained between you and the Warchief?”

Jaina paused in her step, turning to him with a slow grind of her heels. “How,” she ground out, eyes flashing dangerously. “Is that any of your business?”

Leaning his head back slightly to regard her, Lor’themar met her glare with a mild look. “With respect, Lord Admiral,” he said placatingly. “This is a union upon which the fate of the realm rests, and it is still its early days. It would be a shame if everything were to disintegrate now.” He made a show of smoothing down the sleeves of his robes. “I'm afraid keeping the peace is very much my business."

The indignation in her stance faded somewhat, and Jaina let out a weary sigh. She turned away and continued down the corridor, gesturing towards an archway that led into one of the many courtyards around the Keep. “Come on,” she said. She led Lor’themar and the combination of his guards and Alina towards the courtyard, warding it as she once did for Anduin.

Perching himself immaculately atop a stone bench, Lor’themar folded his hands into his sleeves and regarded Jaina seriously. “Now — truthfully: has the Warchief been treating you fairly?”

“I wasn’t aware that you cared so much,” Jaina retorted, wrinkling her brows in confusion.

Lor’themar shrugged. “Your mage friends have been quite persistent with hounding me for information about your wellbeing,” he told her. “Rommath is threatening to jump into the Sunwell if he must deliver their missives every time.”

Jaina frowned. “Why haven’t they just come straight to me?” It was odd. She hadn’t expected Modera and Khadgar to be so shy about asking about her; lest there were underlying reasons why they felt like they couldn’t reach her. She eyed Lor’themar warily.

“I’d suppose they wouldn’t mean to pry,” Lor’themar offered thoughtfully.

“And you have no qualms with prying?” Jaina drawled.

Lor’themar gave her a wry smile. “Lady Proudmoore, when have you ever known elves to have qualms about gossip?”

Jaina scoffed. “Of course.” She thumbed the silver ring; it was rapidly becoming a thoughtless habit. It was dangerous. “You understand that neither the Warchief nor I will tolerate ‘gossip’ about our relations?” she asked, giving Lor’themar a hard look.

He met it easily. “It’s why I came directly to you, Lady Proudmoore.” He held her gaze for a moment before making a gesture with his hand — almost in reassurance. “Perhaps I should start first, and then you can offer your side of the story.”

Intrigued by his candor, Jaina raised an eyebrow. “Go on,” she prompted slowly.

“I understand that the Warchief has relegated her belongings to the north tower.” He gave Jaina a discerning look.

“She has.”

“Then it’s only safe to assume your nighttime relations have been…” he rolled his hand in a vague, insinuating manner. “...interrupted.”

Jaina shot him a withering glare. “There are no nighttime relations, Lord Regent,” she said, a grumble in her voice.

Lor’themar gave her a long look. “...I’m beginning to think that therein lies the problem.”

“I really don’t see how that part of the marriage is any part of your business,” Jaina snapped, exasperation colouring her words. Restless energy itched under her skin, but Jaina tamped down the urge to pace the courtyard; it wouldn’t do for her show such weakness in front of him.

Lor’themar made a thoughtful noise, his glowing green eye dropping down to her hand. His eyebrows lifted in surprise, and he tilted his head to look at her. “She gave you the ring.”

Jaina’s breath hitched. There was no way he could see it; her gauntlets made sure of that. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said curtly.

“Lady Proudmoore, please.” He gave her a flat look and a haughty sniff. “I’m a blood elf; the magic of the ancients is quite literally a part of me.”

Right.

Sighing, Jaina reached up to pinch at her temples to quell the building pressure behind her eyes. Gritting her teeth, she looked up at Lor’themar irritably. “Is there a point to this, Lord Regent?”

“The good of the realm, my Lady,” he replied mildly, rising to his feet and smoothing out his robes with a prim flick of his hand. “As I said — we are all quite invested in the success of your marriage. Whether Horde or Alliance; I’m sure King Anduin has his own concerns with it.” He tapped a finger against his chin. “Though I’d suppose the Alliance members are concerned for the opposite...”

Jaina narrowed her eyes at him. “Anduin knows how to keep his nose out of my business,” she retorted. It wasn’t entirely true; their conversation in Orgrimmar had gone along the same lines, though Anduin had been a little more stilted and red-faced about her ‘relationship’ with Sylvanas.

Lor’themar gave her an elven smile; patient and condescending. “When you live as long as we do, Lady Proudmoore, you’ll find that the line between your public and private affairs begins to blur.”

“A very astute observation, Lord Regent,” she drawled. “It’s not as if we’ve both lived through enough wars to know that there are no lines in the sand anymore.” She gave him a bitter smile. “Not for us, anyway. Not for the consort of the Warchief.”

He inclined his head to her again. “I would be remiss to ignore your own experiences with the world. I’m just reminding you that sometimes there are things we must do for the good of our people.” He gave her a pointed look, raising an eyebrow at her.

Jaina rolled her eyes. “Is that ‘thing’ Sylvanas?”

“If that is what you take from this conversation, I am in no place to correct you,” he said placidly. Lor’themar brushing his hair behind a shoulder and gave her a flourishing bow. “I thank you, Lord Admiral, for indulging me. I will leave you in peace to...mull over some thoughts.”

Fixing him with a hard look, Jaina gave Lor’themar a cold smile. “I thank you for being so candid with your concerns, Lord Regent. I will say this — if I decide to fuck Sylvanas, it won’t be for the good of the realm, or anyone else’s but ours.” Her smile widened into a grin at the slight wince Lor’themar made at the bluntness of her words, and she continued in a sickeningly sweet tone, “But that ultimately depends on if your Dark Lady can pull her head out of her own ass.”

Lor’themar grimaced. “Ah.”

“Yes.”

“In that case — the best of luck to you, Lady Proudmoore.” He gave her one last bow and swept from the courtyard as quickly as his dignity would allow.

Jaina watched him go, a warring combination of amusement and irritation roiling in her chest. She was dying for another cup of coffee, and she could feel the burgeoning ache building in her temples. Sagging down onto a stone bench, she took a moment to collect herself, fiddling again with her ring.

“My Lady.” Alina emerged from around the bend then, a note in hand.

Jaina rolled her eyes. “Tides, are we back to this again?” she sighed, reaching out a weary hand. There was an instant of hesitation in Alina’s step, barely even noticeable had Jaina not been looking at her.

Wordlessly, Alina slipped the note into her hand. Then she took a step backwards.

Jaina arched a brow, already unfolding the note. “What is it this time? ‘Sleep’? ‘Fuck you and your robes’? W—” she stared at the note, blinking hard as she clutched at it with both hands. “What?”

She stared at Alina, who swallowed and glanced away.

“Where is she?” Jaina hissed.

Alina shifted on her feet. “The Dark Lady is away hunting,” she offered, not daring to look Jaina in the eye.

Growling, Jaina crumpled the note and set it ablaze in her hands. Jaw clenched, she wiped the ash from her palm before making a sharp gesture before her. A portal winked into existence accompanied by the smell of scorched ozone, and she strode through.

She stepped out onto damp earth and the smell of the forest around her. The lingering weight of corrupted land filled the space of the eerily still trees, and Jaina barely blinked when an arrow flew past her, close enough for its fletching to brush against her cheek.

The thundering of hooves shook the ground, and Jaina turned to the source. A looming Undead mount burst forth from the bushes, rearing back and snorting purple smoke as its rider lowered her bow. “Proudmoore? What on earth are you doing here?”

Rage blazing in her eyes, Jaina marched towards Sylvanas with deadly intent. Her hands burst into flames of arcane magic, blue eyes glowing as she reached out a hand and clenched it into a fist. The mount let out a panicked roar as it crumbled to dust and bones, dropping Sylvanas onto the ground.

Sylvanas landed hard on her back, a vague crunching sound echoing as her armour dig into her skin. She merely rolled onto her feet with a grunt, levelling her bow away as she stared at Jaina warily. “Don’t tell me you came all this way for a tussle, Proudmoore. You’ve already ruined my hunt.”

Tomorrow ?” Jaina hissed, crowding into Sylvanas’ space until the Warchief backpedalled into a tree. Her hands were still glowing, her eyes still bleeding whorls of blue as she glowered at Sylvanas incredulously. “My mother is coming tomorrow, and you tell me with a note?!”

“How else was I meant to tell you —”

“To my face?” Jaina snarled, reaching out to shove Sylvanas hard. The flare of magic in her hands made Sylvanas slam viciously into the tree, the Banshee Queen hissing at the arcane flames that burst over her armour. The tree behind her splintered slightly, creaking in protest as Sylvanas slumped against it, panting.

Glowing red eyes stared up at her in surprise, usually impassive features pulled in confusion and pain as Jaina took a startled step back. Her anchor necklace began to thrum the same time as her ring began to burn, and then an agonising surge of electric fire cut through her. Jaina dropped to her knees with a gasp, the pain reverberating through her limbs as the magic in her hands died away with a weak flicker.

“Jaina!”

Her ears were still ringing when she felt Sylvanas kneel down beside her, gauntleted hands grasping her shoulders. She almost struggled out of the Warchief’s grip, anger building in her chest again, but anchor blazed against her skin; under it, like a fire scorching into her bones. “Fuck,” she gasped, collapsing back into Sylvanas’ arms instead.

“You fool.” Sylvanas’ voice was harsh and low in her ear, but her touch gentle as she braced Jaina against her. “I warned you about that damned binding enchantment.”

Jaina staggered to her feet, swaying still as she reached up to clutch at her necklace, stroking over the still-humming metal. “I’m still mad at you,” she spat, though she did not protest when Sylvanas summoned another Undead mount; this one stomping and snorting as it eyed Jaina warily.

“I would’ve let you hit me if you’d waited until I was done hunting,” Sylvanas said tersely. “Instead you come storming out into the middle of the forest and almost get yourself killed for it.”

“I wouldn’t have had to come here if you’d have just told me this morning,” Jaina mumbled, spiteful. The smell of burnt ozone lingered, an underlying scent of arcane and ichor. She blinked away the stars in her eyes and turned her head to look at Sylvanas, gasping.

Ichor ran down Sylvanas’ chin like bloodied green fingers, smearing over her neck, her shoulders and chest. The lines of them flared out like burns from a lightning rune, spreading up and outwards from beneath the burnt and smoking metal and leather of her armour. The smell of singed hair and burnt skin was a nauseating combination, overlaid by the thick bitterness of ichor, and Jaina felt her eyes water at the burn in her sinuses.

Sylvanas’ jaw clenched and she looked away, pulling her hood low to shroud her face. “We need to get you back to the Keep. Can you open another portal?”

Jaina flexed her hands but found the ache of them stifling. “I don’t know,” she admitted. Another pulse of pain spread out over Jaina’s chest, and she reached out to rub at it.

Sylvanas twitched, jerking as if she’d been struck. With a sigh, she lifted Jaina onto the mount, swinging onto the horse behind her. She banded an arm around Jaina, pulling them flush together as she reached for the reins with her other hand.

Jaina saw pieces of wood embedded into her skin, ichor oozing, and swallowed down a roil of bile as she looked away. If Sylvanas had been alive, Jaina had no doubt that she would’ve killed the Banshee Queen.

“I —” she bit her lip hard, tasting the copper of her own blood on her tongue. It was better than smelling Sylvanas’ skin, scorched and bleeding; the burns that ate into her flesh from Jaina’s touch.

Wordlessly, Sylvanas tightened her hold on Jaina’s waist and spurred the mount into a gallop.

 

Chapter Text

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They rode at a brutal pace, Jaina barely registering the harsh sounds of hoofbeats and snorting breaths over the tinny ringing in her ears. Sylvanas held her with a steady grip, one lean and strong arm keeping her wrapped tightly in a cloak that smelled like ichor and cold steel and earth. The movement of the horse roiled her stomach, and Jaina barely had the strength to turn her head and vomit over the side.

A gauntleted hand spread over her shoulder, grip steadying. Sylvanas swore something in Thalassian, low and harsh. “Look at what you’ve done to yourself,” she said, and Jaina spitefully wiped her mouth against the hard edge of Sylvanas’ taloned fist. “We’re almost home.”

Jaina let her head fall back against Sylvanas’ shoulder and focused on the sound of thunderous hoofbeats.

They skidded to a stop eventually, just beyond the borders of the Keep. The mount danced on its legs, snorting and whinnying as Sylvanas yanked at the reins and led it off to the side. Jaina squinted out at the land in confusion.

“We can’t just go riding into the Keep looking like this,” Sylvanas told her stiffly, and Jaina felt the words more than she heard them.

Sluggishly, Jaina pushed herself upright, her aching hands already weaving shapes into the air. “I can hide us —”

“Don’t waste your strength,” Sylvanas growled, spurring the mount faster around the perimeter of the Keep.

Stubbornly, Jaina wove the final glyph, and a bright gleaming swath of blue light shrouded them in an invisibility ward. Sagging back against Sylvanas, she smiled, smug and weary. “There.”

Sylvanas huffed, but pulled the mouth around to ride for the side entrance of the Keep. They slipped back into the city without much fanfare, riding for the closest tower they saw — which was, conveniently, the south tower. Sylvanas rode them as close to the tower as she dared, swinging off the mount in a motion so quick and elegant that Jaina toppled at the sudden absence of her back support.

The Warchief caught her easily, grunting as she swept Jaina into a bridal carry. “Heavier than you look,” she grumbled, and Jaina wriggled in her hold in protest.

“I’m fine!” Jaina hissed, but Sylvanas tightened her grip and marched into the tower, hood pulled low over her face still. “Sylvanas, I can walk. I’m not a cripple.”

Pausing on a step, Sylvanas lowered her abruptly. “As you like.”

Straightening, Jaina took a step —

And promptly fell forward.

Sylvanas caught her before she could fall, knees jarring against the stone steps as she swallowed back another dizzying bout of nausea. Trembling and pale, Jaina clung to Sylvanas’ arms, frowning disconcertedly at the overwhelming weakness that seemed to encompass her body. “I don’t understand,” she mumbled, her tongue thick in her mouth. “I — was this —”

“Save your breath,” Sylvanas said, an edge to her low voice. “We need to get you upstairs before you swoon again.” Without another word, she swept Jaina back into a bridal carry, climbing the stairs two steps at a time. It hardly seemed like any effort on Sylvanas’ part; by the time they reached the top of the stairs, the Warchief unfazed, no more winded than she had been before.

“Alina!” she snapped, and the dark ranger emerged from the darkness immediately.

Alina’s eyes went to Jaina and she stilled. “Dark Lady. Lady Proudmoore.” She bowed low, but Sylvanas was already marching past her.

“Summon the mages,” Sylvanas barked, finally lowering Jaina back onto her feet when they reached the doorway to her chambers. “Modera and Khadgar. Make haste, and for pity’s sake be subtle about it.”

Alina disappeared with a whirl of cloth, and Jaina leaned her weight against Sylvanas as she shuffled over to the bed. She collapsed down onto it gratefully, straightening out her body across the sheets and grimacing at the aches that still slithered along her limbs and festered in her chest. It thrummed and bloomed with each pulse of her heart, like a thorn digging deeper and deeper into her skin, and Jaina reached out to rub at the ache listlessly.

Sylvanas snatched up her hand, pulling it away from her chest. “Don’t,” she warned, and Jaina frowned at her.

“It hurts,” Jaina mumbled.

“I am aware.”

Jaina pulled her hand from Sylvanas’ grip, staring at the Warchief as she pushed herself upright onto an elbow. She ignored Sylvanas’ sharp orders to lay back down, reaching out to trace her hands over the places where ichor had painted her armour and skin in smears of sickly green. Guilt and shame sat like boulders in her stomach, the pain in her chest almost welcome then; this was the outcome of her temper.

She reached out, fingers trembling.

Sylvanas jerked away, peering down at Jaina over her nose. “I think you’ve done enough damage for one day.” Her eyes blazed at Jaina from underneath her hood, unreadable but for how her eyes lowered and darted away, jaw set.

Humiliation burning in her chest, Jaina pulled her hand back and looked down, curling her trembling fingers into a fist. “I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she murmured. “I just —”

“Enough talking,” Sylvanas said stiffly, though remained hovering tense beside the bed as she watched the door. “Save your strength until those thrice-damned fools come.”

Sighing quietly, Jaina conceded, leaning back against the pillows with a soft hiss. She couldn’t see any open wounds or bruises on herself, though she felt as if she’d been punched in the chest by an Ettin. Sylvanas, on the other hand — the bare skin of her chest, the swell of her breasts were now marred with lightning burns and open wounds that wept green. The metal of her cuirass seemed to be burnt onto her skin, blackened flesh and scorch marks lining the edges.

Still, the Warchief seemed unfazed by her wounds, pacing impatiently by the foot of the bed.

A portal blinked into existence. Modera and Khadgar came bursting through, Alina behind them. They paused at the sight of Sylvanas, magic thrumming around them as they gripped their staffs tight, glancing at each other worriedly.

“Finally!” Sylvanas snapped, stepping aside. “Here I thought we’d never get around to it.” She flicked a hand imperiously at the bed, glowering at them. “Attend to the Lord Admiral.”

Modera swept to her side in an instant. “What happened?” she asked. Her hands were already glowing as she perched by Jaina’s side, pressing them gently over Jaina’s trembling form.

“Lady Proudmoore hasn’t quite learned to control her temper,” Sylvanas said snidely.

“You must’ve done something to goad her into it, then,” Modera retorted, glowering at the Warchief.

Jaina pushed herself upright, swinging her legs off the bed even as Modera fussed at her. “It was my fault,” she admitted, gripping the edge of the bed. “I — forgot about the binding wards.”

Khadgar glanced from Sylvanas to Jaina, hands folded behind his back. “Perhaps we should focus on getting the both you of healed up before anything else,” he suggested carefully.

Sylvanas waved them off brusquely. “Your priority is my consort. My wounds are superficial at best.”

Khadgar gave her a flat look. “With all due respect, Warchief; ‘superficial’ wounds do not bleed so thickly.”

“I welcome you to try and touch me,” Sylvanas hissed.

“Enough,” Jaina said, glaring at them both. She looked to Sylvanas pleadingly. “Please just let them heal you.”

Sylvanas set her jaw, snarling the words through clenched teeth. “I will tend to my own wounds, Proudmoore. They can fret and fawn over you as much as they like.” She gave Khadgar one last warning look, and the Archmage heaved a sigh.

“As you say, Warchief.”

Jaina pressed her lips together, hissing as Modera began to heal her. An encompassing, resonant thrum of magic filled her, like the cool wash of lapping waves against her skin, and Jaina sighed with relief. Her ears perked when she heard Sylvanas grunt, glancing over to the Warchief worriedly when she saw the stiff way Sylvanas held herself. The electric lines were smoking slightly, fizzing along its edges.

The burning died away to a dull ache, lingering still, and Jaina frowned.

Modera did the same. “Something’s wrong.” She ignited a stronger flow of magic in her hands, an overpowering blue glow consuming the space between them as she reached for Jaina again —

Sylvanas let out a harsh growl, staggering on her feet. Her wounds flared, skin blistering as more ichor bubbled forth, the metal edges of her cuirass beginning to blaze red from an invisible heat. Her eyes flashed, black whorls of mist gathering under her glowing eyes as she reached out to claw at her own neck.

Khadgar moved forward in a surge. “Warchief!”

Alina pressed herself between him and Sylvanas, bow drawn. “Step back,” she rasped, arrow nocked.

“Warchief, you must let us heal you,” Khadgar said urgently, brows pulled low on his face. “The wounds must be enchanted —”

“Of course they are, you fool!” Sylvanas spat, peeling away her cuirass from skin. It split and cracked, the putrid stench of burnt skin and blazing metal filling the room.

Khadgar’s hands began to glow, and he gave Sylvanas a steely look as he extended one towards her. “This is for your own good, Lady Windrunner. I apologise.”

Realisation struck like a blade through the chest for Jaina. She bolted upright, moving forward in a rush and grasping at Khadgar’s shoulders. “Khadgar, don’t!” she cried, yanking his hands back. “Don’t, you’ll hurt her!” She placed herself between them; Alina looming still over her shoulder, bowstring pulled taut and aimed directly behind her ear at the leader of the Kirin Tor.

“She’s hurting herself!” Khadgar insisted, though the magic in his hands waned.

“It’s the Light!” Jaina snapped, head swimming still. Her chest heaved with each breath, the dull ache returning with a slow vengeance as she glanced from Modera to Khadgar; both mages standing braced and tense. “She can’t heal with it.”

They all froze, eyes wide and staring at each other until a low, ethereal laugh echoed from behind Jaina.

“Clever wife.” Sylvanas almost sounded amused, though the bitterness dripped from her words like the ichor running down her chest. “I knew I married you for a reason.”

Khadgar gaped at them, mouth moving wordlessly as his throat worked into a thick swallow. He looked away with something like shame, nodding his head once at Sylvanas. “My apologies, Warchief. I hadn’t realised —”

“Clearly,” Sylvanas drawled, and Jaina gave her a sharp look over a shoulder.

Sighing wearily, Jaina rubbed at the ridge of her brow, glancing once more behind her shoulder until Alina reluctantly lowered her bow and stepped away. “Please,” she said to the room, giving Modera and Khadgar a grateful if pleading look. “Thank you for coming so quickly, but I’m fine. Really.”

Modera frowned, grasping her staff in hand as she moved to Khadgar’s side. “The enchantment drained you of almost all your mana,” she countered. “You barely had any left. It was a miracle the damage wasn’t worse.”

“It was my own fault,” Jaina insisted. “I should’ve known better than to strike out against the Warchief.”

“You could’ve gotten yourself killed,” Sylvanas added stiffly.

Modera glanced behind Jaina to the Warchief suspiciously. “Am I supposed to believe that the mess that she’s in was entirely your doing?”

“Yes,” Jaina said firmly. “She would never hurt me.”

“Hmph.” Modera folded her arms disbelievingly.

Jaina pursed her lips, pointedly ignoring the hard stare of Sylvanas’ eyes at her back. “Thank you for restoring my health to me,” she said, inclining her head. “But please — there are things that I have to discuss with my w—” an ache bloomed in her chest again, and Jaina gritted her teeth against it.

Modera began to move forward again, but Jaina swept a hand between them sharply. “I’m fine,” she snapped, curling her hand into a fist at her side. “Please.”

Frowning deeply, Khadgar shared a look with Modera before conceding with a heavy sigh. “You will call us as soon as you need us, yes?” He gave Jaina a hard look, only calming once Jaina gave him a slow nod. Glancing towards Sylvanas, he bowed stiffly.

Modera did not follow suit.

“My thanks for attending to my consort,” Sylvanas said curtly, and Jaina turned to look at her. She was staring straight ahead, unseeing as Khadgar pulled open a portal.

Modera sniffed at her. “I have my eye on you, Warchief,” she warned before disappearing.

Sylvanas scoffed, and as soon as they were gone, Jaina rounded on her. She reached out on instinct to touch Sylvanas, hesitating at the last instant and pulling her hands back. Clenching them at her sides, she gave Sylvanas a thorough onceover, taking note of the burnt flesh, the sooty armour, and the rapidly growing drench of ichor on her clothes.

“How do I help?” she asked quietly.

Sylvanas gave her a flat look. “You cannot.”

“I’d like to try,” Jaina pressed.

“You nearly throttled yourself, Proudmoore. I’d suggest you take some time to brood about your behaviour and get your act together before your mother arrives.” Sylvanas sneered at her, gesturing towards the bed. “Rest. Sleep. Gather yourself.”

Alina cleared her throat quietly from the corner of the room, darting an impassive look from Sylvanas to Jaina. “With respect, Dark Lady; it would be unwise to leave the chambers so wounded,” she said, in a voice so low and quiet Jaina almost misheard her.

Sylvanas’ eyes flared with irritation. She opened her mouth to hiss something at Alina, but Jaina stepped between them again, levelling Sylvanas with a hard, stubborn glare.

“She’s right and you know it,” she said, thrusting out her chin and bracing herself in place when Sylvanas snarled. Softening her glare, Jaina searched Sylvanas’ face, reaching out tentatively and touching her fingertips against the space between Sylvanas’ leather gloves and taloned fingers.

Sylvanas jerked at the touch as if electrified, but Jaina considered it a win when she didn’t pull away. “Sylvanas, please,” she murmured. “This happened because of me. Let me fix it.”

With her eyes glaring stubbornly at the writing desk, Sylvanas scowled. “You cannot,” she repeated, once more through gritted teeth. When her eyes slid to Jaina, the fire in them had died somewhat, a pale comparison to the glowing embers Jaina was used to, and her eyes flickered down to the seeping wounds worriedly.

Taking a breath, Jaina glanced at Alina and then back to Sylvanas. “What do you need to heal?” she asked instead.

“Nothing you can provide me,” Sylvanas replied bitterly, pulling away.

“A living creature,” Alina whispered from the corner of the room. She dropped to a knee as soon as Sylvanas whirled on her, eyes staring hard at the floor. “Forgive me, Dark Lady. I did not mean to speak out of turn —”

“You are rapidly testing my patience, Alina,” Sylvanas warned her, prowling towards the dark ranger. “Am I to expect you to spill all my secrets to my wife the same?”

Alina remained on her knee, her face set and downturned. “My duties are to protect the Lady Proudmoore, Dark Lady,” she said carefully. “By any means necessary. Emotional hurt is still hurt.” She dared to glance up at Sylvanas, flinching when Sylvanas advanced.

Jaina lunged, placing herself between them again and pressing Sylvanas backwards. “Stop it,” she hissed, glaring up into Sylvanas’ face. “Stop it, I’m not letting you hurt her. Or yourself.”

Snarling, Sylvanas cast one last glare between them before turning away. “Leave us,” she barked, and Alina bowed low before slipping through the door. With the dark ranger gone, Sylvanas heaved a long-suffering sigh, glancing at Jaina over her shoulder. “You inspire the worst sort of loyalty, Proudmoore.”

Jaina ignored the dig, approaching carefully as Sylvanas began to unclasp her armour. “Let me help,” she insisted, reaching to unbuckle the straps of Sylvanas’s vambraces and gauntlets. She held her breath and waited, braced for Sylvanas to snatch her arm away, but the Warchief merely stiffened, holding in place with a scowl on her lips.

Slowly, Jaina undressed her piece by piece. Vambraces and gauntlets first, mindful of the splinters embedded into her arms. Then the buckles of her faulds, her cuisses; Jaina moved fastidiously and without looking up, focusing on the thick green smears and cloying scent of earth and arcane and ichor clinging to Sylvanas’ armour.

She knelt down, and above her she heard Sylvanas take in a sharp breath.

“Jaina,” Sylvanas warned, but Jaina continued unfastening buckles and straps. Cuisses, poleyns, greaves, sabaton — each piece dismantled and discarded for the tights and leathers underneath.

Sylvanas shifted on bare feet, and Jaina noted the slenderness of them, long and elegant with black toenails to match her fingernails. It matched the rest of her.

Rising to her feet, Jaina turned her eyes onto Sylvanas’ cuirass and pauldrons, frowning at the way the edges of them were melded to her skin. She looked up at Sylvanas, who had turned her face away and clenched her jaw so tight it almost creaked.

Conjuring a small plume of frost in her hand, Jaina lifted it to Sylvanas’ chest apologetically. “It’ll help with the burns,” she explained, hovering until Sylvanas jerked her head with a grunt.

“Get on with it,” she growled.

Sighing, Jaina traced her hand carefully over the arches of the cuirass, soothing the skin and cooling the burning metal until it was bearable to touch. A flicker of something soft bloomed in her chest; like the first kiss of snowfall, and Jaina blinked.

She looked up at Sylvanas in confusion, but the Warchief refused to meet her gaze. Jaina pursed her lips and caught the edge of her cuirass with the edge of her fingers. “This might sting,” she warned.

It merely earned her an eyeroll.

Bracing herself, Jaina began to peel back the armour. It came away from Sylvanas’ skin with a sickeningly wet crackle, revealing raw flesh underneath that was distinctly paler than purple, rimmed with slow-running lines of green ichor where blood ran in a living body. Jaina hissed at the sight, tempted almost to squeeze her eyes shut, but she merely gave Sylvanas another apologetic look as she continued peeling.

Sylvanas barely responded, save for the slight twitch in her brow and the tic in her jaw.

Thankfully, most of the damage was contained to her chest and neck, and once Jaina had pulled the tips of the cuirass away, much of the rest came apart without coaxing.

The cuirass fell away, and Jaina dropped her eyes to Sylvanas’ bare skin, scanning for more wounds. She tried not to let her eyes linger on full breasts and nipples a duskier shade than pale purple. Her eyes fell on the Warchief’s midriff then, widening at the sight.

“Oh —”

Scar tissue fused together over the space between the diamond of her ribcage, the divot of her diaphragm where soft tissue never quite filled back in. The rest of her was muscled and lean, a lifetime of war and hardships etched into the lines of her body. Sylvanas had many scars, all of which seemed like they had always been part of her. But this —

Jaina could almost feel the violence of it prickling under her own skin.

She reached out without thinking and gasped when Sylvanas snatched her wrist in an iron grip.

The Banshee Queen's eyes blazed into her face with an intensity Jaina had never seen before.

“You never know when to keep your hands to yourself, do you?” Sylvanas hissed.

Jaina swallowed, pulling her hand back when Sylvanas released her. “I'm — I just wanted to —”

Sylvanas turned away abruptly, anger rolling off her frame as she snatched up her cloak from where Jaina had discarded it after collapsing into bed. She used it to wipe away the streaks of ichor running down her body, swiping brusquely at arms that were still covered in scrapes and splinters.

“I’m sorry,” Jaina blurted, and Sylvanas’ spine went rigid. Her heart pounded in her chest, beating up into her throat as she swallowed back another breath, but now that she’s said it, it came pouring out in a rush. “I’m sorry I lost my temper. I’m sorry I got us into this mess —”

“Proudmoore.”

“— you still should’ve fucking told me, but —”

Proudmoore.”

“— and I’m still fucking mad about it —”

Sylvanas reached out and grabbed her firmly by the shoulders, bare fingers squeezing hard as she glared. “Jaina.”

Jaina blinked, glancing down at the hands on her shoulders. She followed them up to Sylvanas’ chest, lingering briefly at the space just south of her collarbone, and prided herself for being able to focus on anything that wasn’t her half-naked wife. She looked into Sylvanas’ face, blinking again at the shrouded look she saw glaring back at her. “Sorry,” she mumbled again.

Sylvana gave her a sidelong look, as if considering her options with how to handle her consort stumbling over herself to apologise for such unseemly behaviour. Eventually she rolled her eyes heavenward and heaved a long sigh. “We were both to blame for this,” she uttered quietly, releasing Jaina slowly. “You were rash and quick to temper, and I was cruel. Such things make for a volatile combination.”

She shrugged a shoulder, and some of her scabs broke open again. Glaring at it impatiently, Sylvanas sighed again, looking suddenly as tired as Jaina felt.

“I will accept your apology, provided you accept mine,” she said, inclining her head.

It took Jaina a moment to register what Sylvanas was saying to her, blinking at the Warchief until the words fell into place. Because she couldn’t help herself, Jaina said, “I didn’t hear you apologise.”

Sylvanas narrowed her eyes at Jaina, lip curling into a scowl. “Such cheek, even in the face of humility.” She moved towards the bed then, sinking down onto it with a slow exhale, rubbing at her brow mildly.

Jaina felt something like a pang of sympathy go through her. Did the Undead get headaches anymore? There was still some sort of blood-like substance flowing through Sylvanas, and she knew that the Warchief felt some level of pain, despite her vehement denials.

At length, Sylvanas finally spoke, each word pulling from her mouth as if it were the most painful thing she’d had to do in her lifetime. “I apologise as well, wife. It was unfair of me to extend that invitation without your knowledge — though it was well within my rights as your wife and Warchief —”

“That part doesn’t count as an apology,” Jaina told her placidly.

Sylvanas gave her a withering glare, ears flattening in irritation. “And it was…” her mouth twisted, nose wrinkling as if she’d sucked on a lemon. “...unkind of me to treat you as if you were a leper gnome in these recent weeks.”

Jaina inclined her head. “I accept your apology, Sylvanas. Thank you for swallowing your pride long enough to do so,” she said, a complacent smile belying the diplomatic tone of her voice.

Scowling hard, Sylvanas grunted as she dabbed at the bleeding wounds. Her cloak as a mess, and likely unsalvageable by that point. They might as well burn the thing afterwards.

Sobering, Jaina approached the bed carefully, placing herself down beside Sylvanas and making a point to prevent any of their limbs from touching. “We really should get those looked at,” she murmured.

“I dare say you’ve had your fill of looking,” Sylvanas drawled.

Huffing, Jaina dared to scoot closer. “Alina mentioned a living creature,” she began, watching as Sylvanas dabbed idly at a fresh blot of ichor. “I’ve been reading up on the traits of banshees. I remember reading some parts about...regeneration?”

Sylvanas’ eyes darkened when she glanced at Jaina. “It coincides with our capabilities of sucking the life force out of a living being, yes,” she said stiffly, rubbing the cloak between her fingers and staring at it. “They tend to die thereafter, so don’t get any smart ideas.”

Jaina frowned, thinking hard on the pages and pages of text she’d perused those weeks ago. “Would it work with something like...blood?”

Eyes widening briefly, Sylvanas gave Jaina an offended scoff. “I am not a Darkfallen.”

“But it would work?” Jaina pressed. “Say if I were to willingly provide you with my blood. You could heal from it?”

Sylvanas sighed sharply. “That would entail an amount of blood you cannot afford to lose,” she snapped.

“I can handle it,” Jaina insisted. She lingered by Sylvanas’ side,  reaching out to touch the split skin and sinew delicately. The muscles in Sylvanas’ shoulders twitched when she touched it and Jaina winced sympathetically. “Sorry —”

“Don’t be,” Sylvanas cut in, low and brusque. “It — doesn’t hurt.”

Jaina eyed her dubiously and let her fingers still over the growing bloom of bruises along the divot of Sylvanas’ collarbone. “Let me help.”

“You couldn’t stand on your own a moment ago,” Sylvanas retorted.

“And now I can,” Jaina replied. “I can do a lot more than just stand.”

The look Sylvanas gave her was serious and dark, her voice matching the grimness of her face. “This foolishness will get you killed, Jaina. What happens when I'm lost beyond the point of savagery?” The way her blazing eyes ran from Jaina’s face down to her feet and back again almost made Jaina shiver.

Swallowing, Jaina began to unbutton the high collar of her robes. “Isn’t that the point of the binding enchantment?”

Jaina felt a spark of something roil in her chest again, something darker and ancient. Her ring began to thrum on her finger, and when she looked down to it, she startled. The Thalassian runes were glowing a dim purple, whorls of energy reaching up with wisping tendrils.

Sylvanas was looking down at it the same, her face an inscrutable mask. When her eyes snapped back up to Jaina’s face, the flames in them had flared.

“Just enough to tide me,” she ground out, eyes dropping hungrily to Jaina’s exposed neck.

Sylvanas’ lips parted, fangs flashing, and Jaina suppressed a shudder. A small flicker of fear ran through her as Sylvanas loomed closer, a bare hand reaching up to part her collar open further, fingers sliding along the nape of her neck and clasping it firmly.

Flexing her grip, Sylvanas tugged her head gently to the side, pressed so close now that Jaina could once more feel the thrumming chill of her body; the heat in her eyes. “Are you certain of this?” she asked, so low it filled the space between her chest and Jaina’s.

Eyes sliding shut, Jaina exhaled slowly, arching her neck and exposing the pale skin. The glow of Sylvanas’ eyes became a roaring fire then as she reached up and grasped the Warchief’s arm to steady herself. “Yes,” she breathed.

A low noise bubbled from Sylvanas’ throat, rough and distinctively feline as she opened her mouth, fangs extended —

Jaina braced for the vicious rend of flesh, the sharp sting of teeth cutting into skin. Instead, she felt a wet mouth, soft and seeking against the rapid pulse of her neck. Jaina shivered, fingers digging into Sylvanas’ arm when she felt the drag of a tongue, the razor-edge of fangs whispering over skin. Sylvanas mouthed her skin languidly, the cool weight of her hand steadying as it wove into Jaina’s hair, tugging her head back even further as she latched her mouth onto the divot between Jaina’s jaw and neck.

Jaina shivered hard, nails cutting into skin. “T—That’s not —” her breath hitched again when Sylvanas sucked at her skin viciously. Her knees almost buckled. “That’s not biting.”

Sylvanas growled a wordless noise, and Jaina felt the prick of teeth settling into place. Her free arm slid around Jaina’s waist then, pulling them flush together with an iron grip. With a low hiss, Sylvanas bit down.

The pain cut through Jaina like fire, her body writhing on instinct as she fought against the unmoving strength of Sylvanas’ grip on her. It was an electric line of sensation; pain and pleasure both, a dizzying rush of heat that ran a line from her throat down into her belly, pooling even lower. She brought her hand up against Sylvanas’ chest, beating at it weakly for a moment, but her eyes fluttered and her body sagged, surrendering to the plundering mouth. She could smell the rust of her own blood, sharp and warm as it ran into Sylvanas’ mouth. She could feel each pull of Sylvanas’ lips, each swallow of her throat and lap of her tongue, and the world felt like it was whiting out into nothing but the sensation of Sylvanas’ mouth.

Beneath her grip, she could feel skin slowly knitting back together. The grind of meat and bone fusing once more, the smell of burnt flesh and arcane magic dwindling away with each gaping wound that welded shut.

The grip on her waist was becoming too much; Jaina felt her lungs seizing for air, and she began to shove at Sylvanas’ chest.

The hand on her neck tightened, nails scraping her scalp in warning as Sylvanas pressed her mouth harder into Jaina’s neck and flexed her fangs against her skin. A slow build of black mist was beginning to bleed from Sylvanas’ pores, curling up their bodies in flickering tendrils that thickened as Jaina gasped and sighed.

“Sylvanas,” Jaina groaned.

A broken moan rumbled from Sylvanas, and Jaina felt herself growing faint.

“Sylvanas, stop.”

Sylvanas’ hand slid down clumsily from her hair, grazing along the elegant line of her neck and cupping the shape of her jaw. She almost cradled Jaina’s face in her hand, and Jaina almost let her, eyelids fluttering as Sylvanas dragged her tongue over the spill of blood.

Jaina reached out, grasping the wrist that held pressed against her cheek and pulling it away. “Sylvanas, you have to stop —” She choked on a gasp when Sylvanas moved in a rush, the bulk of her body pinning Jaina down onto the bed as she ran the edge of her fangs along Jaina’s collarbone, preparing to bite down again.

The pressure of Sylvanas’ body against hers was maddening, suffocating and encompassing in a way that was tempting Jaina dangerously closer to the edge of surrender. Despite the arch of her body, the keen in her throat at the touch, Jaina shoved at Sylvanas’ chest again. Blindly, Jaina reached up, cupping Sylvanas’ face between trembling hands, stroking her fingers through silver-blonde strands.

“Sylvanas,” she whispered, and she felt the Banshee Queen shudder against her. “Sylvanas, enough. Enough.”

Sylvanas pulled back with a heave, fangs bared and eyes unseeing in their unholy fire. Blood ran in thick rivulets down her chin, a gory smear of red that stood stark against her purple skin, and Jaina reached up unthinkingly to swipe at it with her thumb. Sylvanas’ eyes tracked the line of her hand, the haze of blind lust clearing as Jaina reached out and cupped her cheek again.

“Jaina,” she rasped, all of her trembling. The fight seemed to leave her in a breath, and Sylvanas swayed forward, burying her face into the still-bleeding crook of Jaina’s neck.

Jaina hummed, unwilling to find the strength to speak. She held Sylvanas against her, shivering every so often when Sylvanas swept her tongue gently over the slow crawl of blood that pulsed still. Her fingers carded through Sylvanas’ hair, thoughtless and soothing, her fingertips tracing over the hard line of the Warchief’s back in an idle whorl of patterns.

With trembling arms, Sylvanas braced herself upright on her elbows, eyes intense as she stared down at Jaina. Her mouth moved as if to speak, but no sound came. Wordlessly, she leaned down, or perhaps Jaina leaned up, but then they were kissing again.

The intimacy of it cut through Jaina more than the pain possibly could. The hesitant touch and stroke of Sylvanas’ tongue, the gentleness in the press of her lips. It tasted like blood, like heat and steel and ice, and when Sylvanas pulled away, the air misting between their panting breaths, Jaina wrapped her arms around Sylvanas’ shoulders and held her close.

She couldn’t recall how long they remained there, but by the time Sylvanas pushed herself upright, the wounds on her chest had mostly healed over, leaving behind faint, puckered scars and tender-looking skin.

With one hand, Jaina reached for her own neck and found the holes already scabbed over, blood dried and caking. Her body sang with a cacophony of aches and pains, undercut by an urgent pulsing between her hips that she staunchly ignored. When she shifted her hips with a faint grimace, Sylvanas tensed and moved away.

Sylvanas sat back on her haunches, staring hard at Jaina’s neck with a roiling combination of guilt and anger. She looked away. “Thank you,” she said tightly, teeth grinding between clenched jaws. “I — I should not have allowed you to do that.”

“It wasn’t your decision to make,” Jaina told her, pushing herself upright sluggishly. She felt like she could sleep for an eternity, eyes drooping slightly from the blood loss. The pulsing in her body died down into a faint wave of sensation, her finger tingling at the spark of energy bleeding from the ring. It swept over her like a blanket of warmth, and Jaina sighed as she rose to her feet.

The world tilted around her.

When Jaina opened her eyes next, she was laid back in bed, Sylvanas hovering worriedly over her. She blinked the spots away, frowning as her eyes refused to obey and focus on the Warchief’s face. “Sylvanas…?”

“You fainted,” Sylvanas said, chiding and gentler than Jaina expected. She leaned over Jaina still, reaching to touch the back of a cool hand over the clammy skin of Jaina’s cheek. Her lips pursed, flecks of blood lingering still. “You shouldn’t have stood so quickly.”

“Oh.” Jaina blinked, tasting the cotton dryness of her mouth. There was a fresh wash of copper in her throat; she must have bitten her tongue.

A troubled look flickered across Sylvanas’ face as she moved to help Jaina upright against the pillows. Then she plucked something from the bedside table — a tray of food and tea. Sylvanas placed it carefully beside Jaina on the bed, stirring something into the tea. “You should gather your strength,” she said, transferring the warm mug into Jaina’s, cupping them around the mug with her own hands.

“Drink,” she said, urging the mug to Jaina’s lips.

Jaina drank, eyebrows lifting at the sweetness that touched her lips. It was honeyed peacebloom. She licked the taste from her lips and Sylvanas pulled her hands away, busying herself with the tray of food. “Thank you,” Jaina offered, and Sylvanas’ only response was a faint pause in her movements.

“Rest. I must attend to the last meetings for the day before your mother arrives.” Sylvanas rose from the bed, brushing her hand gently against the shape of Jaina’s thigh over the covers. She gave Jaina a firm look and a squeeze.

Jaina met her gaze over the rim of her mug, relishing the warmth of tea pooling in her chest. “We should talk after that, though,” she said quietly. “At least to clear the air before Mother comes.”

Sylvanas gave her a considering look. “As you like,” she said, and swept from the room.

Chapter Text

Sylvanas returned to her own chambers.

It had been easy enough to heal after the blooding; Alina had seen it fit to hunt for the Banshee Queen. A bound deer was waiting for her when Sylvanas returned to the north tower, living and frantic as it stared at her with the whites of its eyes gleaming. She drained it of everything it could offer, leaving behind a grey, crumbling husk of life that Alina cleared away without being told. When the last of her shadow form had calmed, Sylvanas replaced her ruined armour with another.

Surprisingly, Alina returned to her door. Sylvanas spared her a glance. “Why are you still here, Alina?” she asked, annoyance dripping from her voice.

“Lady Proudmoore sleeps, Dark Lady,” Alina informed her quietly. “I will return to my post at once, only —” she hesitated, shifting on her feet.

Narrowing her eyes, Sylvanas turned to her slowly. “Only what, Alina? Spit it out.”

“It’s — Lady Proudmoore, my Queen. She spoke in her sleep when I returned to her chambers.” She lowered her gaze deferentially. “She spoke in Thalassian.”

Sylvanas stiffened, jaw tight as she said through clenched teeth, “The Lord Admiral is adept in many languages.”

“Not High Thalassian,” Alina mumbled.

Sylvanas’ ears flicked and straightened to attention. “Return there at once,” she commanded lowly. “Ensure that no one enters but me.”

Alina bowed. “Yes, Dark Lady.”

Sylvanas watched as Alina disappeared, jaw working still. Her body thrummed with the remnants of the day’s adventures, the taste of Jaina’s blood that lingered in the back of her throat. It should have been nothing more than a muted suggestion of rust, but it sat on her tongue like molten steel. The skin along her chest crawled like the frantic beating of a heart; the pulse of life that persisted no matter how much Sylvanas hated it.

Ears flattening back with irritation, she reached out and rubbed at the ache, frowning deeply.

Her ears swivelled forward and pricked then, and Sylvanas straightened just as the knock came to the door. “Enter.”

Nathanos slipped through the doorway, bowing at the hip. “The council is waiting, Warchief.”

Sylvanas pursed her lips. “Then let’s not keep them waiting much longer.”

 

------------

 

Night had fallen when Sylvanas returned to the south tower. The council meeting had run longer than she would have liked, but at the very least, Sylvanas knew that things were running smoothly. Well — as smoothly as she could have hoped for. There were still trade agreements and further diplomatic treaties to discuss, but Sylvanas had dismissed them all for a later date. She wanted everyone there, and Saurfang and Bloodhoof were in Orgrimmar still.

They would all need to converge eventually, and that included Stormrage and Whisperwind whether she liked it or not.

It also meant that she would need to see her sisters again soon.

Gritting her teeth, Sylvanas pushed the thoughts aside for the night, bones creaking with weariness as she made her way into the tower. Alina inclined her head as Sylvanas passed and resumed her diligent watch of the stairway.

The room was surprisingly warm. Most of its candles had been snuffed, but Sylvanas heard and saw the crackling fire in the hearth; likely Alina’s doing. She stood in the doorway for a moment and observed the room, eyes finally falling on the curled form of Jaina on the bed. She was still in her day clothes, her abandoned robe neatly draped over the back of the desk chair. The covers were wrapped around her shoulders in a twist, as if Jaina had tugged them around her without much thought for the way they came unravelled from the bed.

Sylvanas could hear the faint sounds of her breath, the soft noises that Jaina had insisted once weren’t snores. A prickle of unease crept along Sylvanas’ spine and she frowned.

Jaina shouldn’t be sleeping as heavily as she was. The blooding had been hours ago; for a mage as powerful as her, she should have been awake and healed long before Sylvanas appeared.

Carefully, Sylvanas placed herself at Jaina’s side, leaning her weight onto a hand as she hovered over the Lord Admiral’s curled form. She reached out and brushed the strands of hair back from Jaina’s face —

Jaina’s eyes snapped open at the touch and Sylvanas jerked slightly in surprise. She pulled back her hand quickly, pressing her lips together tight as Jaina pushed herself up onto a hand.

“There you are,” Sylvanas said quietly. “You were asleep for some time.”

“I knew it was you,” Jaina said, voice low and hoarse with sleep. She rubbed at her eyes tiredly, blinking them in the firelight before looking at Sylvanas again. In the warm glow, she looked pale and drawn, as if the hours of rest had only drained her further. “How did I know it was you?”

Sylvanas shrugged, sliding back on the bed to give Jaina space to untangle herself from the sheets. “The binding enchantment, I’d guess. I’ve heard some stories of old that spoke of its powers going beyond a magical barrier of harm.” She watched as Jaina wriggled slightly against the blankets and patiently reached out to help her unravel the sheets from her waist.

“Some spoke of it being...a tether of sorts,” she continued.

Jaina paused, finally freed, and looked back up to Sylvanas with owlish eyes. Her hand went up to touch the anchor pendant around her neck, fingers stroking over the fluke and bill of it. Sylvanas noted the spots of dried blood lingering on the collar of her blouse. The puncture wounds were long gone, nothing more than faint white scars that were barely visible on Jaina’s pale skin. “So — the wards they put in our necklaces — they let us feel each other now?”

Tilting her head thoughtfully, Sylvanas said, “In parts. I vaguely recall the mention of proximity and emotional intensity playing quite a role in it.” She gave the narrow space between them a pointed glance, smirking in amusement when Jaina scooted backwards slowly.

A soft flush of colour finally crept into Jaina’s cheeks as she stared fastidiously at the folds of blankets in her lap. “S-so the other night — when we kissed. Did you — did you feel things?” She grimaced her own choice of words, and Sylvanas let out a chuff of amusement.

“Perhaps.” She gave Jaina an enigmatic smile, earning her a scowl. The conversation ended there for a moment, and they seemed content to sit on Jaina’s bed nothing more than the sound of the spitting fireplace and muted ocean waves flitting through the window.

Eventually, Jaina spoke again, eyes knowing. “The enchantment’s been hurting you, hasn’t it?”

Stiffening slightly, Sylvanas made a dismissive sound in her throat. “I am accustomed to pain.”

Jaina rolled her eyes. “More so than usual,” she pressed. “The Light — it hurts you. If you can feel everything that’s happening to me, what’s going to happen if we’re hurt again? If I have to heal myself?”

Sylvanas curled her lip into a haughty scowl. “I’m not so weak that a little Light can burn me. This was an exception to the point,” she said snidely.

Jaina pursed her lips, glancing down at her hands as she thumbed the texture of the Thalassian on her ring. “Because of this.”

With a flicker, Sylvanas allowed her eyes to drop to Jaina’s hand the same, but only for an instant. “Perhaps.”

Jaina’s voice rose to something short of a snap. “I’m not stupid. I know the ring did something to us when I hurt you in the forest.” Her eyes dropped down to Sylvanas’ chest and then back up into her face. When she spoke next, her voice was low and guilty. “I know it did something that made sure I wasn’t the one hurting.”

Sylvanas sniffed derisively, stubbornly refusing to answer.

“Sylvanas,” Jaina chided her. “What is the ring?”

For a long moment, Sylvanas was silent. She rose from the bed, ignoring Jaina’s repeat of her name as she paced the length of the room idly, footfalls silent against the stone. She moved towards the writing desk pressed against the wall closest to the windows that faced the shoreline. She stopped a few paces from the open window, the smell of salt and earth and ocean spray wafting up with each lazy sweep of the waves against the rocks.

“It was my mother’s,” Sylvanas said then. “An old family heirloom. She gave it to me when I became a Ranger. It’s ancient elven magic, or so I’ve been told. It protects the wearer from harm.” She glanced at Jaina, a hollow smile twisting her lips. “Pity I didn’t have it on me when Silvermoon fell.”

And just like that, whatever rapport that had settled between them fizzled into a tense silence. Sylvanas turned away from the window, pacing still before the fireplace as Jaina brooded and fiddled with her ring. Eventually, Sylvanas sighed.

“I think we’ve done enough lamenting about the past for one night, yes?” She pressed on without waiting for Jaina’s reply. “We must speak of future occurrences — namely, your mother’s arrival.”

Jaina blinked, sobering at that. “Of course.”

Levelling Jaina with a serious look, Sylvanas said, equally seriously, “We must learn to respect each other’s space from now on. It won’t do for us to be at each other’s…” her eyes dropped down to Jaina’s neckline. “Throats all the time. For good or ill.” Her eyes flicked back up to Jaina’s face.

Though she narrowed her eyes at Sylvanas, Jaina eventually sighed. “You’re right,” she relented, rising out of bed and unbuttoning her blouse. “We’ve been acting like children the whole time.” She continued undressing as she walked towards the wardrobes, and Sylvanas watched her with a pointed sense of disinterest.

“One of us has,” Sylvanas muttered.

Jaina continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “But they’ll expect us to do more than just tolerate each other, at this point.” She shrugged off her blouse and replacing it with a nightshirt that buttoned all the way down. She slid her tights off in one long glide, and Sylvanas resumed her distant musings of the scenery outside the window.

“I’m quite sure your mother would beg to differ,” Sylvanas said.

Humming thoughtfully, Jaina moved to Sylvanas’ side, buttoning the rest of her nightshirt. She came to stand at Sylvanas’ side, who took a moment to pointedly ignore her wife before allowing her glowing eyes to glance sidelong at Jaina.

“I’m sorry,” Jaina murmured, and Sylvanas started at the softness of her voice. “Really. Not just for today, but —” the words seemed to catch in her throat, and Jaina looked away with a huff. Vaguely, she made a gesture between them. “—everything else, too.”

Arching a brow slowly, Sylvanas turned on her heels to face Jaina fully. With Jaina barefoot and Sylvanas dressed in her armour, the height difference was glaring. The Lord Admiral was by no means a small woman in stature, but the broadness of her pauldrons and the pull of her hood made Sylvanas’ shadow loom against the spill of the moon and firelight.

“I apologise the same,” Sylvanas said, inclining her head slightly. “I daresay we can agree on conducting ourselves as...appropriately as our stations demand us to?”

Jaina let out a huff of amusement. “That’s one way to put it, but yes,” she drawled. “Appropriate to our station.”

Smirking, Sylvanas lowered herself into a dramatic bow. “As you wish, Lady Proudmoore.”

Though she rolled her eyes, Jaina had a smile on her lips when she moved towards the bed. “You should probably start using my name when my mother’s here,” she said, straightening the covers back into place before pulling them back and sliding under them. “Less confusing that way.”

“I could just call your mother by her name. We are but closer in age,” Sylvanas drawled, smirking at the shuddering of embarrassment and disgust that went through Jaina.

“Don’t even start with that.” Jaina pulled the covers comfortably over her legs, folding her hands down into her lap as she regarded Sylvanas. She gnawed on the edge of her lip, glancing from the bed to Sylvanas again and again until Sylvanas grew impatient at the silence.

“Spit it out, wife,” Sylvanas said, without malice. “Whatever it is that’s hounding you now.”

Blowing out a breath, Jaina reached up to unravel the braid in her hair. Thick white spooled around her shoulders, cut through with threads of gold, and she carded her fingers through the waves and tangles idly. “I just think you should sleep here. Tonight.” She refused to look at Sylvanas, staring off at an empty corner at the far end of the room as she began to re-plait her hair.

Sylvanas stiffened at that, eyeing Jaina warily. “...you truly think it wise to be in my presence after all of that?”

Shrugging a shoulder, Jaina continued weaving her hair into a neat braid. “I sleep better when you’re around. And after all that’s happened — I feel like I shouldn’t let you out of my sight for a while.” She glanced at Sylvanas then, a speaking look in her blue eyes.

“The burdens of matrimony, is it?”

A smirk twitched at the corner of Jaina’s mouth. “Something like that.” She finished braiding her hair, tucking the thick rope of hair behind her shoulder as she settled back against the pillows more comfortably. “It’s my responsibility to make sure you don’t just go around sucking people’s blood at night. And I just worry.”

Arching a brow again, Sylvanas moved towards the bed in an elegant stride, hands folded behind her as she regarded Jaina in amusement. “Is that jealousy I hear in your voice, wife?” she teased, cocking her head. “I thought we’d established that you needn’t worry your pretty little head over me.”

Jaina gestured to her neck wryly, and Sylvanas took note of the small bruise forming along the column of her neck. “Think it’s a little too late for that.”

“Hmm.” Sylvanas turned away for a moment, watching the spit and crackle of the fireplace. Spending the night could prove...dangerous for both parties, but somehow the encounter in the forest and the subsequent fallout seemed to have — ironically — cooled what simmering tensions that were lingering between them.

Mostly.

“A compromise,” she said then. “I stay until you sleep. Then I go.”

Jaina huffed, and it looked close to a pout. “Fine,” she mumbled.

Sylvanas arched a brow. “Whatever happened to acting your age?” she drawled.

Her answer was a glare.

Working methodically, Sylvanas shed her armour, setting each piece atop the writing desk until she was dressed down in her tights and the thin sleeveless leathers she’d put on under her armour. With her armour neatly set aside, Sylvanas approached the bed, eyeing Jaina carefully.

“Hands to yourself, yes?” She lifted the covers and slipped beneath them, adjusting the pillows to her liking and flipping them onto the Forsaken side. She glanced at the sigil for a long moment, glancing to Jaina coyly.

Jaina flushed, pulling the covers up over her shoulders. “I had them washed!” she insisted.

“Hmm.” Sylvanas settled back against the pillows, upright and stiff as she watched Jaina turn over onto her side facing her. “I wouldn’t begrudge you of your needs, you know,” she told Jaina, bracing an arm behind her head as she leaned against the headboard. “I understand that being alive entails certain...needs that require handling.”

Reaching up, Jaina tugged a pillow over her head. “Goodnight, Sylvanas.”

Chuckling, Sylvanas tilted her head and watched as Jaina nestled deeper into the covers and pulled a pillow between them. “Rest well, wife.”

 

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Morning came and the castle was alive with noise. Factions of soldiers and servants bustled about, a cacophony of languages clashing in the morning breeze. Common, Gutterspeak, Orcish, Thalassian — it made Sylvanas’ ears twitch dangerously. She stood in the centre of the former throne room — currently working in place of the great hall — eyes sharp as she watched people raise banners into the ceiling and servants obsessively straighten table runners that came in reds and blues and greens and purples.

Beside her, Jaina watched the same, though the Lord Admiral was taking a far more active role in the clamour. “The Kul Tiran flag should be on the left side, and higher! They have to all be the same height! You can’t have those colours go together like that — look at it!”

From the corner of her mouth, Sylvanas said, “Calm yourself, Proudmoore. Your mother won’t care how the table runners look.” It was amusing, admittedly; watching the Lord Admiral grow increasingly more frantic about the fact that a Forsaken servant had laid the tables with the forks on the wrong side of the plate.

“Everything has to be in order,” Jaina hissed, rounding on the table and snatching the forks from the terrified Forsaken’s hands. “Forks on the left side, knives on the right.” She glared at the servant, thrusting the cutleries back into his hands when he nodded frantically.

Sighing, Sylvanas moved to grasp Jaina’s arm before she could frighten the help further. “Leave them to their work,” she chided, strong-arming Jaina away from the tables.

“Sylvanas, they’re putting the fish knife with the dinner fork!” Jaina protested, digging her heels into the ground and spinning in her grip. “Work from the outside in, you idiot!” Her voice rose a pitch, eyes widening in disbelief at something she saw over Sylvanas’ shoulder. “ That’s the butter knife !”

“Jaina,” Sylvanas said firmly, tugging just enough to get her attention. Glaring mildly, Sylvanas turned her back around and guided her out of the hall. Once they were far enough away from the masses, Sylvanas released her slowly, urging Jaina to continue walking down the corridor. “They know what they should be doing.”

Scowling, Jaina sped up her pace, nervous energy rolling off her tense shoulders as they rounded the corner towards the docks. “They certainly don’t look it.”

“That’s probably because they have the Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras snarling in their faces every time they stand wrong.”

Sighing, Jaina’s shoulders sagged slightly and she pinched her brow. “Sorry,” she mumbled, shooting Sylvanas a weak grin. “I didn’t realise I cared so much until this morning.”

Sylvanas hummed, peering at her wife thoughtfully. It was true that Jaina had been distantly invested in her mother’s arrival since their journey to Lordaeron. She had assumed it was simply a matter of propriety; Kul Tiran codes of conduct and the like, but Sylvanas watched the nervous flick of Jaina’s tongue across her lip and the darting glances she gave the port. She knew.

“It’ll be fine,” she said, in a tone far gentler than she expected of herself. Even Jaina paused in her step, blinking in surprise. Shrugging, Sylvanas continued, “Wanting to impress your mother is... human in that sense. Seeking her approval for the way we conduct ourselves in our marriage.” She stood a little straighter, folding her hands behind her back. “She’ll see with her own eyes that there would have been no better match for you.”

Jaina snorted, eyes widening as she covered her mouth with a hand. “Did you...just make a joke?”

With a haughty sniff, Sylvanas thrust her chin into the air, eyes staring ahead impassively. “I’m quite the catch, thank you very much.”

“Are you?” Jaina drawled, reaching over and boldly sliding her arm into Sylvanas’. They were rapidly approaching the gathered mass of Alliance and Horde members waiting at the port to welcome Katherine Proudmoore, and appearances had to be kept.

“Clearly,” Sylvanas said flatly, but when she glanced at Jaina, her eyes sparked. “I’m the Warchief of the Horde.”

“Pigheaded.”

“Renowned Banshee Queen of the Forsaken.”

“Vain.”

“An expert military tactician and archer.”

“Tyrannical.”

“Exactly,” Sylvanas said, glancing at Jaina drolly. “Who better for her only daughter than the commander of enemy factions?”

The absurdity of it made Jaina laugh, leaning into Sylvanas’ arm as Sylvanas continued walking onwards placidly, a small, smug little smile curling at her lip. “Awful,” Jaina said, smiling.

“Yes.” Sylvanas nodded her head seriously. “Terrible.”

Jaina’s giggles died down before they reached the rest of the crowd; she paused in an archway before they entered the port. What little mirth that had been on her face was gone now, and in its place it was the same weary, serious look Sylvanas saw every time Jaina was within range of anyone from the Horde.

Sylvanas’ eyes flickered over to the crowd. Ah. Saurfang and Bloodhoof. She gave the hand around her arm a squeeze, light but admonishing. “Behave, Lady Proudmoore.”

Jaina’s eyes snapped up to her, narrowing indignantly. “You behave,” she gritted back, digging her gauntleted fingers into Sylvanas’ arm. “I’m perfectly calm. I can handle myself just fine.”

“Clearly.”

“Shut up.”

Their low whispers and sharp hisses continued even as they walked, Jaina with her hand gripping tight to Sylvanas’ arm, and Sylvanas clasping her other hand over Jaina’s. The pressure that Jaina was putting on her arm wasn’t enough to break skin, not over all the armour, but irritated Sylvanas still. The crowd of people watched curiously as they descended, the Wrynn cub eyeing them and Greymane openly bristling at the way Sylvanas was leaning down to whisper at Jaina.

Lor’themar watched them impassively, eye flickering knowingly from Sylvanas to Jaina.

The boom of cannon-fire cut through the air then, a thunderous explosion of sound that made Jaina’s spine snap straighter, her grip tightening on Sylvanas’ arm again. The 21-gun salute set everyone in the crowd on edge, but Jaina was the stiffest among them.

Sylvanas gave her hand a squeeze, and together they looked out into the waters as the powerful shape of the Kul Tiran fleet began to emerge from the fog.

When Katherine Proudmoore emerged from the ship, posture immaculate and naval uniform gleaming, Sylvanas saw the resemblance immediately. She told Jaina as such, tilting her head down and commenting casually, “I must say, Proudmoore; your bloodline does age quite beautifully. It’s nice to know I’ll have something to look at for the rest of the time.”

Jaina’s cheeks flared, and she very discreetly stomped on Sylvanas’ foot. “That is my Mother,” she hissed, staring hard at the descending group of Kul Tiran guards.

“I have eyes. Though I wasn’t referring to your mother.”

Her cheeks darkened and her eyes narrowed despite the mortified gleam in them. “I’m going to kill you.”

“Not in front of company, dear.”

Whatever it was that Jaina had to say was interrupted by Lor’themar, who from Sylvanas’ elbow, cleared his throat rather pointedly.

Katherine Proudmoore stood before them, eyes hard as she regarded Sylvanas. “Warchief.” She spat the title as if it were an insult to have on her tongue, and Sylvanas inclined her head.

“Lady Proudmoore. Welcome to Lordaeron.”

“Thank you for extending the invitation,” Katherine replied stiffly.

Sylvanas gave her a smirk. “What sort of daughter-in-law would I be if I didn’t?”

Katherine sniffed derisively, thrusting her chin slightly into the air, and Sylvanas glanced in amusement to Jaina. Uncanny, she mouthed, and Jaina pointedly ignored her, sweeping forward to pull her mother into a tight hug. They embraced for a long moment, both women sighing something into the other’s ear, and Sylvanas’ ear twitched at the bloom of warmth that appeared in her chest.

When they pulled back, Katherine cradled Jaina’s face in her hands for a moment, thumbing over the curve of her cheekbone before pulling away and standing at attention again. Jaina returned to Sylvanas’ side, and Katherine’s eyes dropped to the way she slipped her hand back onto Sylvanas’ arm.

Sweeping a hand towards the Keep, Sylvanas smiled, all teeth. “After you, Lady Proudmoore.”

 

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Sylvanas and Jaina escorted Katherine up towards the south tower. The rest of the Horde-Alliance members were ushered away to the great hall, and Sylvanas had to keep Jaina at her side when she leaned away to follow.

“Leave the forks alone, dear,” Sylvanas said, patting Jaina’s hand before releasing her.

Huffing, Jaina gave her a glare, moving ahead to walk with her mother. “How was the journey here?”

Katherine cast a suspicious look between them before answering, the lines on her brow softening as she looked at Jaina. “Well enough, my dear. The seas were calm today.” She took Jaina’s hands in hers, brows lifting in surprise as she caught sight of the ring. “How lovely,” she said, as if she had been expecting otherwise. “That’s a very beautiful ring.”

“Thank you,” Jaina mumbled, ducking her head and brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. She darted a glance at Sylvanas.

“It was my mother’s,” Sylvanas said, striding ahead towards the stairs. “Come. You must be weary.”

Chapter Text

They escorted her mother into the tower together, her and Sylvanas. Alina and Katherine’s own pair of Kul Tiran guardsmen trailed behind them up the stairs, until they reached the large round hallway that divided the main rooms. Through the entire walk up, Jaina was pointedly aware of the press of Sylvanas’ hand on the small of her back, the solid presence of the Warchief keeping easy pace with her. She’d darted a furtive look in her mother’s direction and caught Katherine watching them from the corner of her eye.

Sylvanas spoke then, simply because she could, and in a tone that was far too innocently conversational.  “I must say, Lady Proudmoore, you cut quite the figure in your naval uniform.”

Jaina stiffened slightly from beside her, giving Sylvanas a suspicious glare.

Her mother took a sharp breath, eyeing Sylvanas with similar suspicion. “Thank you, Warchief,” she said stiffly.

If she noticed the wary tone, Sylvanas didn’t let on. She continued merrily, “And such a lovely shade of rouge.”

Jaina’s eyes widened, and she forced a smile at her mother before casually sliding her hand around Sylvanas’ arm and digging her gauntlet in again. “We should show her to her rooms, shouldn’t we, dear?” she asked, her tone sickly sweet.

Sylvanas’ ear twitched as she gave Jaina an indulgent nod. “Of course.” If she felt anything from the vicious grip Jaina had on her, the Warchief made no response to it. “Here we are,” she announced, stopping in front of the doorway to the guest chamber. She gestured towards it grandly, bowing at the hip slightly.

“After you, Lady Proudmoore,” she said, and Jaina rolled her eyes again.

Katherine sniffed, striding past them with her back straight and chin thrust into the air. Her guards lingered by the doorway, darting uncertain glances at Alina as she stood staring impassively at them.

“Be nice,” Jaina chided her, to which Alina merely shrugged.

Sylvanas swept forward then, arms clasped behind her back. “Your tasks, as discussed, Alina,” she said, and the dark ranger bowed before disappearing.

Blinking in confusion, Jaina turned back to her. “What tasks?” she asked, but Sylvanas did not answer.

In the guest chambers, Katherine was standing in the middle of the room, eyes scrutinising the space. Jaina felt a gnawing sensation of nervousness grow in her belly; a combination of anxiety and giddiness at the way Katherine paused to touch the deep rich green of the bedcovers. All things considered, the room was as perfect as it could be — a beautiful four-poster bed draped in Kul Tiran colours, a writing desk, tall standing candelabras, and an armoire in the far end of the room. In front of the hearth, there were three plush throne chairs surrounding a quaint round table.

Not very dissimilar from Jaina’s own room, though her colours included a touch of rich navy blue, and her own canopy bed was bracketed by two broad bedside tables. The only colours of Kul Tiras that Jaina kept were her pillows.

“Do you like it?” she asked her mother, hating the anxious lilt in her words.

Katherine turned to Jaina, her deep and thoughtful frown giving way to a soft if stilted smile. “It’s all very lovely, dear. The colours are just so.”

It stirred something in her chest to hear her mother say it, but Jaina couldn’t name the feeling quite yet. Relief? Bitterness? A distant sort of pleasure that one got from successful diplomatic relations?

“I’m glad it meets your approval,” Sylvanas said, approaching from the doorway. She stood beside Jaina once more, glancing down as she laid her hand on the small of Jaina’s back again. “Shall we?” She inclined her head toward the chairs.

They sat with Katherine perched stiffly in her seat, posture never faltering. Sylvanas draped herself in a lazy sprawl in her own throne chair, apparently incapable or unwilling to sit like a normal person. It was a casual assertion of dominance; the spread legs, the low slouch that did nothing to hide her stature. Sylvanas wanted her mother to know that she was entirely comfortable with Katherine’s presence.

Jaina gave Sylvanas a sidelong glare, sitting up just as stiffly as her mother.

A knock on the door and Alina appeared again, armed with a tray of something. She deposited the tray and left with a wordless bow. There were three cups and two glass pots, one of which Jaina recognised to be filled with her coffee. The other was filled with a strong, earthy-red tea, its soaked tea leaves floating languidly in the bottom of the pot.

Jaina’s brows lifted in surprise. “From Kul Tiras?”

“I made an inquiry with the Lady Proudmoore’s entourage,” Sylvanas said, and reached to serve them. “Tea or coffee, Lady Proudmoore?”

“The tea,” Katherine replied. “Please.”

Sylvanas poured out a cup, the tea swirling dark and rich. When she turned to Jaina, she had that look in her eyes again, and Jaina narrowed her eyes in warning.

“And you, wife?” Sylvanas asked innocently, before her voice dropped low and her eyes gleamed. “Coffee, tea, or me?”

Katherine inhaled sharply and tried to hide her coughs behind her fist. “Mother!” Jaina hurriedly offered a handkerchief, reaching out and rubbing hesitantly on her mother’s back as Katherine coughed and cleared her throat behind the white silk.

“I’m alright,” Katherine said, a strain in her words from the exertion as she eyed Sylvanas. “I should have expected such crude behaviour from the Warchief.”

Feigning hurt, Sylvanas pressed a hand to her chest. “Crude behaviour ? Why, Lady Proudmoore, one would think that a mother would be pleased knowing her daughter had such a dedicated spouse.” She continued pouring Jaina’s coffee, then paused and picked up the other pot to pour out the tea as well.

“I don’t think ‘happy’ is the right word to describe having a tyrant for a daughter-in-law,” Jaina muttered, glaring at Sylvanas still even as she took the proffered cup of coffee. She levelled a reproachful look at Sylvanas.

Sylvanas tsked. “Don’t be rude, dear. I thought we were done with the name-calling.”

Katherine rolled her eyes as she took another delicate sip from her tea. “If your marriage wasn’t so painfully artificial, perhaps I might be of a different opinion,” she said primly, giving them a pointed look. “To put it frankly; Warchief, Jaina — I’m not stupid.”

Because she could see Sylvanas preparing to open her mouth and reply, Jaina turned to her and laid a hand on Sylvanas’ wrist. She smiled, dangerous and sweet. “Warchief,” she cooed, and watched the flash and burn of Sylvanas’ eyes. “Why don’t you let Mother and I catch up a little bit? Just the two of us?” She stroked her thumb along the ridges of Sylvanas’ gauntlet and tilted her head.

Sylvanas leaned back in her seat then, tapping her talons against the armrest consideringly. Her eyes lingered on Jaina’s hold on her for a moment, before she looked back up and gave Jaina a slow, indulgent nod.

“As you wish,” Sylvanas said, heaving a dramatic sigh. “I shall convene with the rest of the members and summon you when we’re ready for our council meeting.”

Jaina let out a breath, relieved, and she gave Sylvanas’ hand a grateful squeeze. “Thank you.” She reached up and tilted Sylvanas’ face down to press a kiss to her cheek, if only to see the stunned look on the Warchief’s face. She tugged at a coil of pale blonde hair gently and gave Sylvanas a look. “Behave.”

Sylvanas narrowed her eyes slightly and pushed herself upright. “My apologies for cutting short such riveting conversation, Lady Proudmoore, but I obey as my lady wife commands me.” With a flourish, she gave them both a low bow and swept from the roof.

Once they were certain she was out of earshot, Katherine let out a huff. “Is she always so insufferable?”

“I think that’s her brand at this point,” Jaina drawled, shaking her head fondly. With Sylvanas gone, the room became filled with an awkward silence, thick and stilted between them. Jaina cradled her cup in her hands and took a long sip, tapping her fingertips against the ceramic as she and her mother regarded each other uncertainly.

Katherine seemed hesitant as she spoke. “Are you...well, Jaina? Truly?”

Jaina blinked. “I am. The past few weeks have just been…” she made a weak shrug. “...trying.” Her neck tingled softly at the memory, and Jaina suppressed the urge to touch it.

“You’ve lost some weight since I last saw you.” The lines on Katherine’s face deepened slightly as she frowned. “Have you not been eating well? Sleeping well? Is the food alright? Have they not been feeding you accordingly?”

Amusement in her voice, Jaina said, “They feed me plenty; I’m eating just fine. It’s just been so busy around here lately and sometimes I forget.” She shrugged. “Sylvanas is usually good at reminding me to eat.”

“Hmm.” Her mother replaced her cup on the tray and gave her a probing look. “Your marriage with the Warchief seems to be...amicable, at least.” Katherine’s nose wrinkled slightly as she said so, as if it was a physical struggle to admit such a thing.

“We’re doing our best,” Jaina assured her, sipping her coffee again to mask the bitterness sitting on her tongue. “The entire marriage is for the good of Azeroth.” She shrugged, thumbing her ring. “She’s not as bad as she seems.”

Katherine eyed her dubiously. “Jaina,” she said, voice low and serious. “Has the Warchief been...treating you well?”

Jaina blinked warily. “She hasn’t caused any harm to me,” she replied, her tone clipped and distant.

“That’s not a ‘yes’, dear.”

Sighing, Jaina conceded, “She’s pigheaded and brash at times, but she’s not mean-spirited in that sense. We volunteered to enter this marriage together, and we’ve taken precautions where necessary.”

Katherine narrowed her eyes at that, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees, clasping her hands together in front of her. “If you were in any danger at all, you would tell me, yes?”

“Of course.”

“And you would tell me if this —” Katherine gestured vaguely to the tray between them. “—little coddling with teas and coffees was a guise of domestic bliss?”

“She doesn’t coddle,” Jaina said, bristling slightly. “Sylvanas is...strange. She behaves in certain ways and does certain things that confuse me most of the time the same. We’ve both done terrible things, but we’re trying to move on from that. Shouldn’t you be happy that we’re treating each other well?”

“Of course I’m happy,” Katherine said, leaning back in her seat. She sighed, reaching to pinch the ridge of her brow, and Jaina found herself resisting the temptation of mirroring her. “I worry that you may be reacting to the pressures of your station rather than the good of your person.”

Jaina smiled wryly. “As opposed to the other times I put myself above ‘the pressures of my station’?” she drawled.

Katherine gave her a mild look. “I cannot stop you if you choose to martyr yourself, Jaina. I can only remind you that it is unnecessary.”

“I can decide for myself what is necessary.” The bitterness bubbled forward despite her best efforts. “If you’d have been at the wedding, you would know better,” Jaina muttered.

Katherine flinched at that, and Jaina felt the tension build thicker between them. Tentatively, she said, “I understand you’re upset still. I know it was an important moment for you — for your Alliance. I know now that I should’ve been there for you —”

“I didn’t bring it up to guilt you,” Jaina insisted, but Katherine shook her head.

“It’s true, and you should be allowed to tell me that it upset you. It was just —” She pursed her lips, looking away towards the hearth and then to Jaina. “Our family has lost much to the hands of the Alliance and the Horde, Jaina. I couldn’t bear the thought of watching my only daughter be pawned off to the Warchief of the Horde for the sake of peace.”

Jaina let out a breath, feeling quite like she’d been slugged in the gut. “At least you’re being honest about it,” she muttered, curling her hands into fists on the armrest. “We all do what we must for our people. If everything goes as well as we hope, the peace of the country will greatly outweigh the slights I feel about my own mother refusing to attend my wedding.”

A flurry of emotions crossed Katherine’s face as she stared at Jaina; things that Jaina could quite place — or perhaps, didn’t want to — as she reached for her cup again. “I only want what’s best for you,” she whispered, staring pensively into the cup.

“With all due respect, Mother — I think I can decide for myself.”

Katherine did not reply. She took a moment to drink her tea and consider the room again, and then, without looking at Jaina, said lightly, “You don’t actually touch each other so much, do you?”

Jaina shrugged, draining the last of her coffee to move onto the tea. “She’s my wife,” she said flippantly. “I’m allowed to touch her.”

Her mother looked scandalised. “You don’t —” she fumbled for her words and took a moment to collect herself. “You’re not...intimate with the Warchief, are you?” She leaned forward and stared at Jaina incredulously when Jaina flushed and looked away.

“Can she even —?”

“I really don’t think that’s the kind of conversation we should be having about the Warchief,” Jaina said quickly.

Katherine leaned in closer, voice dropping low to a worried whisper. “Has she been forcing herself onto you?”

Mother —!

“I’m allowed to ask that, I’m your mother!” Katherine insisted. She froze then, eyes widening as they dropped to somewhere south of Jaina’s face and lingering there with growing horror and realisation. “Tides, is that a —”

Jaina reached out to touch the bruise on her neck before pulling her hand away quickly. “It’s not what you think —”

“So then it isn’t a love bite the Warchief gave you?”

Jaina winced. “I-it’s just a bruise. We didn’t do anything  — anything I didn’t allow!”

“Oh, Jaina,” Katherine sighed, and the weary tone of it made Jaina bristle. “Sweetheart, I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Jaina let out an annoyed huff, muttering a low series of curses under her breath as she levelled her mother with a flat look. Her chest burned with indignation at the very suggestion — that somehow she wasn’t perfectly capable of eviscerating Sylvanas where she stood if she so much as looked at Jaina wrong.

“She’d be dead before she could touch me,” Jaina said coldly. “I’m perfectly capable of handling myself, Mother. I could level half of Azeroth if I wanted.”

They stared at each other for a beat, tension roiling between them. Eventually Katherine looked away, pulling her shoulders back and once more her stance was upright and stiff. “I apologise,” she murmured, eyes glazed with a cool distance. “That was much too forward of me.”

Sighing, Jaina reached out between the table, palm upturned. Hesitantly, Katherine slipped her hand into Jaina’s, and together they clung onto each other as tightly as they dared from across the way. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

She gave her mother a wan smile she didn’t feel. “It’s enough that you care.”

Katherine cradled Jaina’s hand between both of hers, squeezing it with a sad smile. “I care more than anything, sweetheart. I’m...learning still. How to show it.”

“That’s enough for me.”

 

-----------

 

Sylvanas appeared a little while later to collect them personally. If she noticed the influx of tension between Jaina and her mother, she didn’t show it. Instead, she merely stepped to Jaina’s side again. Offering out an arm, she gave them both a rakish grin. “One on each arm, perhaps?”

Jaina slapped her sharply on the shoulder and tugged her away before her mother could get any more irritable. “Whatever happened to behaving?” she chided Sylvanas.

“What? Should I expect a spanking for my disobedience?” Sylvanas drawled, eyes gleaming when Jaina flushed all the way up to her hairline.

“Ridiculous,” Jaina hissed, and refused to look at either Sylvanas or her mother during the walk down to the council room.

Sylvanas’ laugh was soft and low, caught in the reverberating chambers of her throat, but Jaina heard it clear as the waves of the sea. When they entered the council room, Jaina was struck by the sheer number of people in the room. It was the fullest she’d ever seen the table.

Anduin rose from the round table, Genn glowering at Sylvanas warily from beside him. “Lady Proudmoore, welcome to New Lordaeron. It is an honour to have you with us, and I hope your stay will be as pleasant as possible.”

“Thank you, King Anduin.”

The seating arrangements of the council members were still rather blatantly divided into Alliance-Horde halves; Anduin sat in what was considered the direct opposite of Sylvanas’ position, despite the fact that it was a round table. To his right were Genn, Khadgar and Modera, with two seats remaining before the Warchief’s.

On Anduin’s left were Gallywix, Bloodhoof, and Saurfang. The remaining seat between Sylvanas’s chair and Saurfang’s was quickly occupied by Lor’themar, who slipped into the room with a brief murmur of apology. Nathanos, having been relegated further down the table, squeezed himself in between Gallywix and Bloodhoof, looking absolutely miserable.

She caught his eye and gave him a sharp smile.

Sylvanas pulled out the seat for her, and wisely refrained from doing the same for her mother. Jaina caught the looks of the people around the table and met them all evenly, daring them to say a word about it. No one did, although she saw Modera give her a discerning little squint. With everyone in place, Sylvanas gestured around the table. “Shall we proceed?”

Clearing his throat, Anduin began. “I welcome all of you to New Lordaeron. When last we converged on this land, we came together for war and bloodshed. We fought to claim lands and battle enemies in a vicious and endless cycle of hate —”

“I think we've had quite enough of that,” Katherine said, cutting Anduin off. “Thank you, Your Majesty. If we could cut to the chase?”

From the corner of her eye, Jaina saw the slow, wide smile spread over Sylvanas’ face. She held perfectly still when the Warchief leaned over suddenly, her breath in Jaina’s ear.

“I really, really like your mother.”

“I’m glad,” Jaina gritted from the corner of her mouth. “Now please —”

Anduin cleared his throat awkwardly, inclining his head to Katherine as he sat back down into his chair. Compared to the easy authority on her mother’s face, Anduin looked very much like the Boy King he was. “Rightly so, Lady Proudmoore. My apologies. If there are no further concerns, we can proceed to address the issue of Lady Jaina’s titles.”

Katherine blinked. “What of her titles?”

“Well, as consort to the Warchief, the complexity of her duties to Lordaeron, Orgrimmar, and Kul Tiras would be far too much to ask of one person.”

Shrugging, Sylvanas said, “Why not? There’s no reason she can’t be Lord Admiral and consort. I am Banshee Queen and Warchief.”

“For the exact reasons that King Anduin had just explained,” Genn growled.

Nathanos bristled, “Mind your tone when you speak to the Warchief, Greymane.”

“Make me.”

“Gentlemen, please,” Anduin cut in, glaring sharply at Genn. “We’re trying to be civil.”

Sylvanas arched a brow. “So now you suggest that Lady Proudmoore strip her daughter of her title once more? Give it to the brother that had been wandering for years lost at sea instead?”

Jaina glanced at Sylvanas sharply. “Tandred can learn in time,” she said, looking across the table to her mother. “I’m sure my mother can resume her position as Lord Admiral until she thinks Tandred is ready to take her place.” It sat in her belly like a too-heavy meal, building like bile into the back of her throat.

Sylvanas peered at her. “Are you certain? It would be easy enough to delegate. Some months in each place as necessary.”

“It would be tedious,” Lor’themar added quietly. “High Overlord Saurfang and High Chieftain Bloodhoof are already your delegates in Orgrimmar.”

“A temporary measure,” Sylvanas reminded him. “I remain Warchief.”

Bloodhoof grunted from Sylvanas’ side, and Jaina barely had to turn her head to peer at him. It wasn’t easy to miss him; his and Saurfang’s hulking forms made the table seem that much smaller. “It is an honour to serve you and the Horde, Warchief. I will attend to matters in Orgrimmar for as long as necessary, should you require it of me.”

“And I,” Saurfang rumbled.

“Then perhaps Jaina could have delegates as well,” Khadgar offered from across the table.

Sylvanas tapped a taloned finger against the table. “It would certainly be a worthwhile thought.” She looked at Jaina expectantly.

“It depends,” Jaina said evenly. “If my mother wishes to resume her position, I won’t fight it.”

Katherine gave them all a considering look. “Lord Admiral Proudmoore and Warchief Windrunner are scheduled to return to Boralus with me at the end of my visit, correct?”

“Yes, Lady Proudmoore.”

“Then I’m sure this discussion can wait for another few weeks. We will have talks of this in Kul Tiras.”

That was that. They moved onto other matters, pressing conversations about trade routes and the progress of Lordaeron’s rebuilding. At some point, Genn spoke up with a harsh growl. “Reparations must still be made for the devastation the Horde has imparted on the land.”

“I could say the same for the Alliance,” Sylvanas drawled, eyes gleaming dangerously. “We cannot all be held responsible for the actions of the pigheaded men that came before us. But I digress — wasn’t the point of this entire meeting to establish some sort of resource chain among the kingdoms?”

“Technically, it was to welcome my mother,” Jaina intoned quietly, and Sylvanas shot her a look, mouth twitching. Then she thrust her chin out, jaw set. “But nevertheless — since we have everyone here, we might as well start some of the talks.”

Sylvanas nodded. “And quickly. I’m sure Lady Proudmoore has had enough of political drivel for her first day in Lordaeron,” she said, glancing at Anduin with a smirk.

The council ran a little longer than Jaina would have liked, but at least they were getting things into motion. Honestly, by the end of the meeting, Jaina could hardly focus on anything else but the welcome feast. She called Alina to her side, who came immediately.

“Check for me, please?” she whispered. “Forks and knives and plates where they should be? Especially the head table.”

Alina nodded readily. “At once, my Lady.”

Jaina thanked her and turned back to find Sylvanas and her mother, pausing as she caught sight of Sylvanas sidling up beside Katherine, arms folded behind her back. “Very well done in there, Kat. May I call you Kat?”

Her breath hitched. Tides, the Warchief was testing both their patience.

Katherine paused in her step, jaw twitching as she ground out, “No.”

“Shame.” Sylvanas raised her hands in a surrendering gesture when Katherine turned her head. “Didn’t hurt to check, did it?”

Jaina rushed over before her mother would sic her guards on Sylvanas — or worse; murder the Banshee Queen herself. “Excuse us a moment, Mother,” she said, smiling tightly as she snatched Sylvanas away by the arm.

“Terrible,” she repeated darkly. “Absolutely fucking terrible.”

“I was trying to make conversation with your mother! Aren’t I meant to ingratiate myself to my mother-in-law?” Sylvanas insisted innocently.

Jaina took a calming breath and counted backwards from ten. “I swear, I’m going to weigh your feet down with ice blocks and sink you into the ocean. If my mother doesn’t do it first.”

“There are easier ways to get me down under—”

Stop.”

 

---------------

 

The great hall was rife with noise. The chaos of people converging together into a confined space was an overwhelming rush of chatter and wood grinding against stone and cutlery clattering. Jaina fought back a flinch as they entered the hall, and from beside her Sylvanas glanced over keenly. Her ears swivelled forward and then back, and she slid a steadying hand to the small of Jaina’s back again.

“An unfortunate side effect of the enchantment,” she murmured quietly. “Elf ears are...sensitive, as you know.”

Jaina reached up to press a finger just along the front of her ear. “Is it always like this for you?” she asked, wincing at the sharp screech of someone’s chair scraping against the floor.

Sylvanas hummed. “I suppose you’ll find out soon enough.” She pulled out Jaina’s seat when they reached the head table, making a point to lift the chair just enough to prevent its legs from dragging, which Jaina found herself immensely grateful for.

Once seated, Jaina immediately dropped her attention to the table setting, eyes roving across the table sharply. Slowly, her shoulders relaxed, and she made a small smile of relief. Dinner forks and butter knives were exactly where they should be. Good.

Then she glanced over at Sylvanas’ setting — purely for aesthetic at this point, but no less important — and froze.

Everything was wrong.

Forks and knives together. Her soup spoon in her water glass. Her napkin folded in the shape of a —

In a low, strained voice, Jaina snarled, “Are you trying to put me in an early grave? Is that what was on today’s agenda?” She snatched up the napkin and quickly unravelled it, draping it across Sylvanas’ lap before anyone else could see.

“Your death would mean our eternal bliss, dear,” Sylvanas said blithely, though her smirk was positively wicked and unrepentant. “I fail to see why hastening the process would be such a bad thing.”

“Bold of you to assume I’d die without taking you with me.”

“A woman after my own heart.”

Jaina gritted her teeth and glowered at the table setting. It would be rude to reach onto the table and fix everything, and Sylvanas knew that. She knew exactly what she was doing, the arrogant piece of shit. Fine. Fine — if Sylvanas wanted a game, she damn well was getting a game.

Crossing her legs tightly, Jaina scooted herself to the edge of her seat, rocking forward into the seam of her pants. She kept impressively indifferent to the bloom of sensation between her legs, scanning the crowd with an idle sweep of her eyes as she rocked forward harder. Sliding one hand down her own thigh, she scraped the curved edges of her talons along the inside of her thigh, digging in slightly.

There was a loud creak beside her when Sylvanas’ grip tightened over the armrest.

Blinking innocently, she peered at Sylvanas with a little worried furrow in her brow. “Are you alright, Warchief?”

“Perfect,” Sylvanas replied tightly, though her eyes were blazing something predatory when they flashed to Jaina.

Jaina gave her a beatific smile and sat up straighter, a flush rising in her chest as her groin pressed just so against the ridge seam of her tights.

Sylvanas’ jaw tightened. “I didn’t take you for an exhibitionist, Proudmoore,” she said, so low it was almost a whisper.

“I didn’t think you were so sensitive to such things.”

A low hiss came from Sylvanas, a warning, and Jaina relented — if only to spare herself from more torture. She sat back in her seat smugly, but kept her legs tightly crossed. “You’re not very good at forking, are you?”

From somewhere to the right of Sylvanas, she heard someone choke. Lor’themar.

That one-eyed, eavesdropping little busybody.

She gestured towards the cutleries in front of Sylvanas. “Seems like you don’t know what to do with a fork even when it’s right in front of you.”

Lor’themar was actively beating at his own chest now, wheezing through wrongly-swallowed wine. Sylvanas glanced at him sharply, and Lor’themar raised his hands in a helpless shrug.

“The Lord Admiral —” he cleared his throat discreetly, wheezing slightly still. “—has a point, Dark Lady.”

There was a long-suffering sigh from Jaina’s left, and she looked over in horror as her mother leaned over to peer down the way at them all. “Children, please,” Katherine said sternly. “I would have expected better than name-calling at the dinner table.”

Mortified, Jaina sank back into her seat. “Of course, Mother. I apologise.”

“She started it,” Sylvanas muttered, collecting herself.

Sighing, Katherine palmed her face before reaching for more wine.

 

------------

 

Dinner was, all things considered, a success. Short of their little spat, the rest of the factions ate and drank and ended the night more peaceably than Jaina could have hoped for. Even her mother seemed to have a pleasant time making conversation with Lor’themar throughout the night — though Jaina remained wary of them forming a close friendship.

Katherine Proudmoore was, despite her stalwart disposition, a terrible gossip.

They ended the night back in the south tower. Jaina escorted her mother to her door, and was surprised when Katherine pulled her into a tight, lingering hug.

“I had a wonderful time, dear,” Katherine said softly, pressing a warm kiss to Jaina’s temple. “Everything was perfect.” She brushed back Jaina’s bangs and smiled. “You handled everything just so.”

A wavering sensation grew in Jaina’s chest, and she gave her mother a weak but grateful smile. “Thank you for saying that, Mother.”

“Although,” Katherine continued, pulling away to turn towards her door. “You and the Warchief could stand to contain your flirtations to within the bedroom. Or your private chambers, for that matter.”

Jaina choked. “F-flirt — we don’t flirt!” Tides, how much had her mother heard at the dinner?

“Whatever it is you children call it these days,” Katherine hummed, an amused smile on her lips as she stood in the doorway. “Is it safe to assume that your rooms are...warded for noise disturbances?”

Jaina spun on her heels towards her own rooms. “Goodnight, Mother!” she called over her shoulder.

Laughingly, Katherine replied, “Goodnight, dear. Sleep well.”

Sylvanas didn’t come to her that night, and Jaina figured it was just as well. The burden of the day caught up to her quickly, and Jaina fell into a dreamless sleep before she could help herself.

 

-------------

 

Darkness again. An empty space of nothingness. Not a sound, not a sight. Jaina couldn’t breathe.

A flowering field of tulips, the colours wilting away into small flames, grey smoke billowing in the breeze.

The whispers came again.

You cannot run from your nature, child.

A resounding coldness in her chest, hollow and aching. The strange grasp of an iron fist to her consciousness.

This is what you are. You were made to serve me at my side. You were made to kneel.

A deafening burst of noise; screams and pleas amidst crumbling towers and homes. A blazing tree swallowing the landscape. A thousand hands in the darkness, pulling her in every direction. Pulling her down into the rising sea of blackness.

Do you really think you can cast aside your guilt so easily?

Jaina writhed, gasping for air that did not exist. “No.” The shadows crept forward, its grip winding around her arms and pulling her deeper and deeper.

You are mine, Jaina.

“No!”

“Jaina.”

“No!” The scream tore from her as her body shuddered into consciousness. Her heart was caught in her throat, choking her with each frantic beat of it. Sweat was building cold and slick on her skin, and in the daze of sleep, she struggled against the cold grip holding her in place. “No, let go! Let —”

“Jaina.”

She opened her eyes, blinking back the darkness as they focused on the looming presence of cold steel and flowers. She registered the familiar glow of red eyes, and she sagged into herself with exhaustion. “I’m sorry, I — I didn’t mean —”

Wordlessly, Sylvanas gathered her into her arms, pulling the covers over them. Tears began to prick at her eyes as she pushed at Sylvanas’ chest weakly, but Sylvanas held her in a steadfast embrace. She felt cool fingers stroking through her hair, the solid presence of the Warchief pressed against her body; a grounding force in the darkness.

Trembling, Jaina allowed herself to melt into the embrace.

There were no more dreams that night.

 

Chapter Text

Jaina felt the warmth of the summer sun on her cheek. The smell of honey blossoms in full bloom from the gardens. The weight of a bundle in her arms that she rocked as she sang an old Thalassian lullaby her mother used to sing.

She blinked, brows furrowing. Thalassian?

The weight of the babe fades away into nothingness, the embroidered blanket falling away in the dancing breeze. A field of flowers, just beyond the gates of the city.

The rustle and flash of golden hair, the tear-stained cheeks of a child flushed with fear. “Starlight!”

Rangers all around them. The thunderous footfalls of an encroaching army. Her bow pulled taut in her hands, the sun to her back and the clouds looming overhead. Arrows soaring through the sky, blotting out the light. The smell of death and flowers cloying in her nose as she felled more of those wretched creatures —

A woman, an elf, with hair black as night, her crystal eyes brimming with tears and she collapsed among the flowers. The wailing of a child in her arms.

“Sylvanas!”

Jaina frowned. “Arwen?”

She ran, reaching down for Arwen’s hand, her face frozen, the silvery blue of her eyes bleeding away into a dull grey before slowly filling with blazing red. “What...?”

Tanned skin bled away into a haunting purple, cracks of black mist spreading down her face like tears. Half of her beautiful face was eaten away by rot, the eerie grin of a corpse flashing a ghastly white. Her soft eyes gave way to whorls of unholy rage as she snatched Jaina’s wrist in her taloned hands.

“There’s nowhere to run now.”

It echoed, reverberating in Jaina’s chest as the haunting wail of a banshee’s cry came from the bundled babe in her arms. The world crumbled into itself; the field fell away to ruin, the razed lands of Theramore, Teldrassil, Silvermoon, Stratholme —

The cold plunge of steel cutting into her body, the blaze of agony that whited out everything else.

“Dalah’surfal.”

The voice was an awful rend of noise from a ragged throat, but when Jaina opened her mouth to scream, no sound would come.

She opened her eyes, blinking away the blur of tears as she stared up into the grim face of her wife. Jaina let out a shuddering breath, swallowing back something like a sob as she reached up with a trembling hand. It found purchase on the bare skin of Sylvanas’ collarbone, fingers clutching tight, and Sylvanas’ reached up to cover it with hers.

“Breathe.” Sylvanas’ voice cut through something inside her, low and tense, but gentle somehow. Her other hand came up to cradle Jaina’s face, the cool pad of a thumb brushing against the flowing tears running off the side of her face.

Jaina choked down a breath, lungs seizing as she managed to whimper out, “S-Sylv—”

“Don’t try to speak. Just breathe.”

Gently, she was coaxed upright, cool and strong hands wrapping around her shoulders and resting gently over the nape of her neck. Jaina leaned over on her hands, breaths coming ragged still as she took a moment to blink away the fading images of burning fields of flowers and a hauntingly familiar face. “What — I saw —”

Sylvanas’ hand smoothed over the back of her neck gently, the touch eliciting a shudder. “I know.”

Jaina swallowed the bile in her throat; the phantom smell of honey blossoms. She looked at Sylvanas, noting the absence of her armour. When did Sylvanas come to her, again? She met Sylvanas’ gaze in confusion. “Why?”

Sylvanas did not answer immediately. She sat and stroked her hand over Jaina’s neck and back for a moment, her touch disconcertingly gentle; her movements like those of muscle memory. She rubbed at Jaina’s neck and swept her sleep-mussed hair back from her face, wiping away the cold sweat that beaded on Jaina’s skin. Her shoulders and arms were bare, dressed down into simple leathers that did nothing to hide the tense line of her shoulders and back. She pursed her lips and glanced at Jaina, eyes falling to the side of her neck, where Sylvanas slid her hand down to touch the darkened bruise and faded scars.

“The blooding,” she said. “Among other things. The enchantment. The ring.” Slowly, she slid her hand away from Jaina’s skin, and Jaina felt almost bereft at the loss. “It will fade in time.”

Jaina could feel the ring pulsing on her finger, its prickle of magic lingering under her skin. It made her restless. “Will it?” she asked. She wasn’t sure if it was hope or doubt in her voice.

Sylvanas slipped from the bed. “...I will see that it does.” She moved towards the writing desk and poured Jaina a glass of water from the tall jug was always there, filled fresh each day. Returning to the bed, she pressed the glass into Jaina’s hands, who cradled it for a moment, staring into the faint ripples at the rim.

“Drink,” Sylvanas urged. “You will feel better.”

Mechanically, Jaina drank. The water was cool on her parched throat, but the weight of it settled in her belly like a boulder. “Can you see what I see?” Jaina whispered, darting a plaintive look at Sylvanas. “Do you — dream the things I dream when it happens?”

Sylvanas’ voice was quiet and pensive. “I do not usually dream most nights. Though, at the beginning of our marriage, I found myself catching glimpses of memories if I lingered too long in repose near you.”

“Is that why you never stay the night?”

“In part. Mostly, it was because I had other duties in Orgrimmar. We were preparing to leave for Lordaeron, then.”

“And now?”

Sylvanas paused, glancing at Jaina sidelong. She shifted to fold back down onto the bed, pulling one bent leg towards her and grasping her own ankle. She leaned her chin onto her knee and peered at Jaina.

Jaina couldn’t bring herself to meet her eye, so she focused on the glass in her hand, drinking down half before placing it on the bedside table. When she turned back, Sylvanas sighed.

“I have some theories about why the enchantment is affecting you so intensely,” she admitted.

Jaina looked at her expectantly.

Gesturing to her, Sylvanas said, “Your powers. Your connection to the arcane. It amplifies the supposed tethering. Though I’d suppose that knowing what we do now, you could find alternatives to dampening it.” She glanced down at Jaina’s hand, and Jaina thumbed her ring self-consciously at the scrutiny. “Another thought — one I put equal validity behind alongside your powers — is proximity.”

Jaina frowned, curling her left hand into a fist almost protectively. She didn’t want to ask what Sylvanas meant — she didn’t have to, honestly — so instead, she asked, “When did you come to my room?”

Sylvanas blinked. “Last night,” she said shortly, pressing on. “My strongest assumption with —”

Why did you come to my room?” Jaina cut in. “You were the one insisting we sleep apart.”

Sylvanas scowled at her, ears flicking irritably. “Because I could feel you,” she snapped. “Whimpering like a helpless whelp and nearly strangling yourself in the sheets. It was a miracle I woke you before your mother heard you screaming.”

The bluntness of her words bristled at Jaina’s nerves, but she said nothing, glowering wordlessly at the Warchief as she let out an annoyed huff. Sylvanas continued, voice tight and sharp, “My theory is correct, then. These side effects aren’t from the enchantment at all.” She glanced at Jaina’s neck again.

“So...everything with the dreams, and the noise—”

“Proximity. Temporary side effects from having been blooded.” Sylvanas sounded completely detached from it all; as if she were merely delivering a battle report and not like they were sharing dreams and sensations. Then she gave Jaina a chiding look, and said, “I told you it was a bad idea.”

A burgeoning ache was beginning to build in her temples, and Jaina rubbed at it listlessly. “You didn’t exactly warn me that I would be dreaming about —” she winced at the memory, and couldn’t bring herself to say the words aloud.

Sylvanas inclined her head, looking as contrite as she allowed herself to. “I didn’t know it would affect you so strongly,” she admitted, sliding her leg off the bed and rising to her feet. She moved towards the writing desk, where Jaina saw her armour neatly stacked.

As Sylvanas began to dress again, Jaina asked, “How long will it last? Am I going to be dreaming about this for months down the line?”

“It should fade within the week.” Sylvanas turned her back to Jaina, and seemed unwilling to look in her direction again. “As long as you and I keep our distance, the dreams should cease.”

Jaina blinked dubiously. “That’s it? We spend time apart and it just...stops?”

“That is the hope.”

Shaking her head, Jaina slipped out of bed the same, reaching out to grasp Sylvanas’ arm. The Warchief jerked as if electrified, and glanced at Jaina sidelong. Jaina met it stubbornly. “You can’t seriously expect me not to have questions after seeing all of that.” She searched Sylvanas’ face, reaching out for any sort of indication of emotion.

The stubborn set of her jaw and the growing blaze of embers in her eyes was enough.

“Who was she?” Jaina whispered. “Arwen.”

Sylvanas gave her a dangerous look. “No one of your concern.” She pulled away from Jaina’s grip and continued fastening her vambraces and pauldrons.

“Dalah’surfal.”

Sylvanas’ eyes widened, and then narrowed into a vicious glare. Black tendrils darkened on her face as her eyes began to glow, and she whipped away from Jaina sharply.

“What does that mean?” Jaina pressed. “I heard her— me say it —”

“Leave it be, Proudmoore,” Sylvanas growled, fastening her gauntlets with violent jerks and yanks. “Do not ask questions for answers you have no right to.”

“I have every right,” Jaina countered, stepping into Sylvanas’ space again. Her hands were trembling at her side, curled into tight fists that were beginning to glow dimly.

Sylvanas’ eyes flared bright, growling low in her throat as she loomed over Jaina. Her face darkened, black veins blooming over her skin, and the memories came back to Jaina with such violence that she flinched. It was a minute twitch, but Sylvanas caught it instantly, and her eyes widened in surprise.

She recoiled, eyes dimming into a low blaze as the tendrils retreated back into her skin. “Forgive me,” Sylvanas murmured, looking away as she stepped back and clasped her hands behind her back. “I should not have —”

“It’s fine,” Jaina said quickly, hating the waver in her voice. She swallowed back the hitch in her breath as she willed the rabbit-rush of her heart to calm. “It’s nothing. I —”

“Jaina.”

She startled at the touch of cold metal against her hand, goosebumps rising over her arm as the ridges of Sylvanas’ taloned glove scraped lightly over her skin. She tensed, muscles coiling tight to pull back, but Jaina fought back the barb of fear that dug into her spine. The thrum of magic faded from her hands as she unclenched them, a faint pulse of purple lashing out from the ring to reach towards Sylvanas.

Something flickered in Sylvanas’ gaze at the twitch, but she kept hold of Jaina, gentling her touch. Softly, she said, “This is for your own good.”

There was something like an apology in her words, like a mother reassuring a child. It would have rankled Jaina’s nerves if it had come from her own mother, and a part of her still bristled the same, but the guilty, haunted look in Sylvanas’ eyes killed the indignation building in her chest.

“I’m fine,” Jaina insisted, though she sounded just as weak and small to her own ears. “I can handle it. I just want to know —”

“I cannot continue allowing you to suffer for my mistakes,” Sylvanas insisted, squeezing Jaina’s hand in hers gently. “You will understand, in time.” She hesitated a moment, a rush of emotions flickering over her face.

Before Jaina could reply, she leaned down and pressed a soft, lingering kiss on parted lips. A sharp blade of muscle memory dug into her chest; the smell of honey blossoms and tulips and cold steel.

When Sylvanas pulled back, her hood was pulled low, her eyes shrouded in darkness. “Forgive me,” she said. “But it must be done.”

And then she was gone.

 

-----------

 

“Are you alright, dear? You seem...distracted.”

Jaina blinked, staring down at her plate of eggs and toast. She looked up and found her mother peering at her worriedly. She offered Katherine a thin smile. “Just tired, I guess.” She prodded her eggs and felt no hunger.

Katherine peered at her over the rim of her teacup, dabbing her mouth delicately with her napkin before speaking again. “I thought I heard the Warchief stomping about this morning,” she commented lightly.

Jaina blinked again. “Sylvanas doesn’t stomp,” she said reflexively, and then caught the knowing little look her mother was giving her. She looked away with a huff, sipping her own mug of coffee.

“It’s not my business if you and the Warchief share a bed, you know.”

“I appreciate you saying that, Mother, thank you,” Jaina said slowly. “But you don’t need to worry about that.”

Katherine gave her a considering look, folding her hands down into her lap with the easy grace Jaina never quite got the hang of. “Please don’t let your habits change on my behalf,” she began, but Jaina was already waving her aside.

“No, it — it’s not that,” Jaina sighed, leaning back into her seat wearily. “I’ve just been...having strange dreams lately.”

With worry in her seafoam green eyes, Katherine tilted her head. “What sort of dreams, dear?” Her eyes met Jaina’s, a familiar sort of guilt settling in place in the fine lines of her regal face. “Are they...dreams from before?”

From before. Before when? Before Thros? Before Theramore? Before the marriage? Jaina almost laughed.

“It’s nothing, Mother. Really.” She prodded at her eggs again and then pushed the plate aside, nausea roiling in her stomach. Forcing a smile, she rose from her seat. “Come on. I’ll show you the rest of the Keep. The gardens have just come into bloom.”

Katherine rose from her seat, reaching to take Jaina’s outstretched hand. “I don’t suppose I should expect your doting wife to make an appearance around every corner?” she remarked, gentle and ribbing.

Jaina smiled at her mother wanly. “I have it on good authority that Sylvanas will keep well out of our way.”

“Grand,” Katherine said primly, eyes staring ahead haughtily. “Otherwise I would’ve had to tie her to the masthead and flogged her.”

Despite herself, Jaina laughed. “Don’t let her hear you say that,” she warned, a giggle in her voice. “She’ll hold you to it.” The thought was tempting and the imagery even more so — the Banshee Queen would make such a pretty masthead on the Grand Mercy.

Her mother’s voice dropped into something dark and near-sensuous. “I’m starting to wish she would.”

“Mother, please. Don’t stoop to her level.”

Katherine made a dismissive noise. “We are both seasoned veterans of our own designated military, dear. When you linger among the ranks long enough, you come to appreciate the humour,” she said drolly.

Jaina palmed her face, sighing as she walked arm-in-arm down the corridor with her mother. “I can’t believe my mother thinks my wife’s sense of humour is acceptable.”

Patting her daughter’s hand gently, Katherine continued blithely, “Just be happy knowing that we could get along, dear.”

They made a fleeting visit to the gardens; Katherine remarking at the bright red of the roses blooming and Jaina responding where necessary, until the cloying smell of them became too much for Jaina. It roiled something in her stomach again, and Jaina turned away from the bushes with an offhanded suggestion that they tour the markets.

“It won’t be much,” Jaina told her mother. “But Gallywix has brought a number of vendors from the guilds already.”

Katherine sniffed at that, but did not protest. “I don’t suppose they’d dare to swindle the consort of the Warchief of her money as well?”

Jaina gave her a smirk, eyes glowing dimly. “I welcome them to try.”

The market streets were livelier than they had been in the past few weeks, filled with members of every faction present. There were stalls lined with assortments of trinkets, tools, and treats. An orc hammered away at a blacksmith forge, a goblin bellowed the values of his wares, and a crowd of humans were gathered around a little stall in the far end of the street, the mouth-watering smell of sizzling meat and vegetables cutting through molten steel.

Her mother’s guards and Alina lingered behind them, eyes watching the crowd of people bustling about. Jaina turned to her mother with a smile, gesturing to a little cart of brightly-coloured sugared apples. “Bet you haven’t had one of those in years,” she said, guiding Katherine over. She paid for two, handing one to her mother and then glancing back at her guards.

They politely declined, and Alina merely eyed her flatly.

Jaina smirked. “I won’t tell if you want one.”

Alina narrowed her eyes slightly but did not reply. Jaina opened her mouth to speak again, only to be jostled forward roughly by a hard shoulder from behind. Her candied apple dropped to the ground.

In an instant, Alina was between them. “Step back, orc.”

Staring hard at her ruined treat, Jaina turned on her heel to look up at the hulking form of the orc in front of them. She gestured for her mother to step aside, bracketed by her own guards. Calmly, she placed a hand on Alina’s shoulder. “It’s fine. I’m sure it was an accident.”

The orc sneered down at her, an ugly twist of his mouth where two powerful tusks took up most of the space. “You are bold to walk among us without shame, Betrayer.”

“I didn’t realise I had anything to be ashamed about,” Jaina replied coolly. “I am consort —”

The orc loomed closer, a growl bubbling in his throat. He took the apple underfoot and crushed it with relish, smiling unpleasantly down at Jaina even as Alina aimed a nocked arrow at his chest. “You are nothing,” he spat. “Nothing more than a nuisance underfoot.”

Jaina sighed. “Enough,” she said harshly. “I’m in no mood for playground bullying. Either move or I’ll make you.”

The orc snarled, lips curling back as he spat at Jaina.

An arm snapped out, blocking Jaina from the assault. The wad of spit landed on a polished purple gauntlet, and everyone went still.

Sylvanas pulled her arm back slowly, face dangerously blank as she lowered her eyes to her gauntlet. Her eyes flashed back to the orc, dull red bleeding away into blazing embers. She flicked away the spit in a casual gesture. Her voice was a deadly calm; the ominous roll of thunder before a storm. “I hope you weren’t terribly attached to your head, orc.”

Despite the sheer bulk of him, the orc took a step backwards as black tendrils of mist began to bleed from Sylvanas.

“You dishonour the Horde with that foul tongue,” Sylvanas said, a disconcerting echo in the hiss of her words. “Allow me to relieve you of it.”

Jaina reached out, coiling her hand around Sylvanas’ arm. “Sylvanas, don’t,” she warned. There was a crowd lingering now in a wide berth around them, Horde and Alliance alike; a murmur rising from the crowd. As much as Jaina wanted to see justice served, there was something to be said about rendering such sentences so publically.

Whatever it was that Sylvanas was planning to do to the orc was likely leaps and bounds above what Jaina had intended.

Sylvanas pulled her arm out of Jaina’s grip easily, advancing on him still. “Look away if you must, Proudmoore, lest I offend your frail disposition.”

Jaina advanced again, but found herself held in place by her mother. She glanced at Katherine sharply, who met her gaze impassively.

“Mother,” she said incredulously. “You can’t be serious.”

Katherine inclined her head, gesturing to where Sylvanas was already descending upon the orc in a vicious cloud of black. “It’s not my place to defy the commands of the Warchief with her own people. Such disrespect wouldn’t be tolerated even in Kul Tiras,” she said, a steely look in her eyes as she watched.

“There’s more to justice than corporal punishment!” Jaina snapped. Jaina shook her head, scoffing as she pushed past her mother and the crowd. She ignored her mother’s call, the whispers of the crowd closing in. The muffled, garbled pleas for mercy amidst the wet sound of splitting flesh and crushing bone.

She went as far as she could, rounding the corner and Blinking back to her chambers before Alina could catch up. She caught herself on the edge of her desk, swallowing back bile from a sudden bout of vertigo from the sudden shift in altitude.

Hauling herself upright, Jaina staggered to the bath chambers.

She soaked in the tub for as long as she could, huddled down into waters near-scalding. The water was tepid by the time she heard the knock on the bath chamber’s door, and she lifted her head off the towel she’d padded the rim of the tub with to glance at it wearily.

“Jaina.”

Sighing, she dropped her head back down onto the towel. “I don’t want to talk to you right now.”

The door creaked open nevertheless, and Jaina was greeted with the sight of Sylvanas, dressed still in bloodstained armour. She gave Sylvanas a withering glare. “Did I not make myself clear, Warchief?” she snapped.

“You worried your mother,” Sylvanas said quietly. “You worried Alina. She was nearly distraught, thinking she’d failed her duties.”

Jaina scoffed, flicking at the surface of the water.

Arching a brow, Sylvanas said mildly, “I didn’t imagine you to have such a delicate stomach for these kinds of things.”

Scowling, Jaina let herself sink deeper into the water. “I really don’t want to talk to you right now.”

Pursing her lips, Sylvanas gave her a stern look. “He disrespected you. In public, no less. Such things cannot stand in the eyes of the Horde.” She shook her head incredulously.

“I could’ve handled it myself!”

Inclining her head placatingly, Sylvanas concurred, “Of that, I had no doubt. But you are my consort. I passed the sentence, I swung the sword.”

Water sloshed over the edge of the tub as Jaina whirled on her, sitting upright enough the water dropped down to below her breasts. Sylvanas’ eyes flickered downwards briefly before meeting her gaze again, impassive as ever. “You didn’t need to kill him for it!” she hissed, hands gripping tight at the edge of the tub. “People are going to disapprove of everything we do, one way or another. You can’t tell me we’re just going to keep killing everyone who opposes us.”

“I didn’t kill him,” Sylvanas said curtly.

Jaina glared at her warily.

“...I took his tongue.”

Throwing her hands up, Jaina scoffed. “Incredible.”

Brows furrowing, Sylvanas tilted her head, looking like a disgruntled cat. “Why does this trouble you so? You and I have seen far worse done to our people.”

“That doesn’t make it any less terrible,” Jaina gritted. “I won’t let you carry on tearing out tongues or fingernails or eyeballs every time someone looks at me funny.” The cold was starting to chill on her skin, goosebumps riddling her arms and making her painfully aware of the twinge in her nipples.

Sylvanas seemed to notice the same. She looked away sharply, jaw set into a taut line as she folded her hands behind her back as she bit out slowly, “I cannot be soft on the people who would see this marriage fall to shambles, Jaina.”

“I’m not asking for soft, I’m asking for trust,” Jaina retorted, and they froze, glaring at each other in the dim light of the bath.

“I trust you,” Sylvanas uttered slowly, eyes never leaving Jaina’s face.

Brow wrinkling slightly in confusion at the intensity of her gaze, Jaina pursed her lips. “Then maybe act like it. Stop treating me like a child; like something delicate and soft. I don’t want to tear out spines for every slight, but I’m not frail.”

Surprisingly, Sylvanas was the first to avert her eyes, a glaze of something in her eyes that Jaina couldn’t quite make out in the low lighting. “As you like,” she murmured, straightening up stiffly. “I will amend my ways of...addressing the slights directed towards you.”

“Thank you.”

“You are welcome.”

“...”

“...”

“...Sylvanas.”

“Yes?”

“Get out.”

Lip twitching, Sylvanas gave her a shallow bow. “Spoilsport.”

Chapter Text

Sylvanas waited for Jaina to finish her bath in the main chambers, pacing the room as she idly thumbed through a random tome from Jaina’s bedside table. She looked up from the book when Jaina emerged, wrapped in a plush cotton robe and towelling her hair.

Jaina froze at the sight of her before her eyes narrowed into a glare. “What are you still doing here?”

Snapping the book shut, Sylvanas shrugged as she wandered over to the small bookshelf in the corner of the room, tucking the tome away. “I wanted to be sure you didn’t drown yourself. You’d been in there for a while.”

Sweeping a hand over herself grandly, Jaina drawled, “Still alive, thanks.” Then she gestured to the door. “Now leave.”

“I had another thought,” Sylvanas said as she moved obligingly towards the door. She kept a wide berth from Jaina, respectful if excessive, but that didn’t stop her from catching the waft of the scented bath oils that lingered on Jaina’s skin.

She moved away before Jaina could step closer. “Regarding the effects of the blooding, that is. Aside from distancing ourselves, I would like to suggest an additional step.”

“I forget sometimes; how much you love the sound of your own voice,” Jaina drawled.

“Jaina.”

Jaina sighed wearily. “What?”

Sylvanas gave her a careful once-over, blinking when she felt a phantom tingle on her finger. She looked down and caught Jaina’s left thumb tracing over the ridges of her ring and pursed her lips. “Sleep without the ring on tonight,” she instructed, pulling the door open. “See if it helps. Goodnight.”

When she left the bedchambers, she found Alina lingering in the corridor. Arching a brow, Sylvanas glanced at her expectantly. “Yes, Alina?”

Bowing her head, Alina murmured, “I understand if you wish to reassign me, Dark Lady —”

“—I will not.”

Alina blinked but kept her gaze deferentially lowered. “My apologies still, my Queen. I should not have allowed that orc to get so close.”

Sylvanas tilted her head consideringly. “Perhaps,” she allowed, looking at Alina over her nose. “So why did you stay your hand?”

Hesitating, Alina darted a look into Sylvanas’ face. “Lady Jaina has warned me before to avoid...preemptive strikes in her name,” she rasped. “It would be seen as weakness, she said. For the Consort of the Warchief to be guarded so heavily.” She offered Sylvanas something like a helpless shrug, lowering her eyes again.

Sylvanas pressed her lips into a thin line and rolled her eyes. Of course Jaina would say something like that. One guard is too many guards. She wasn’t sure if Jaina understood the difference between necessary security and superfluous displays of authority.

“You obeyed my orders as well as you were capable, and for that, I will not fault you,” she said eventually, her tone clipped. “If anything, I’m relieved that you stayed your hand when you did.”

Alina blinked. “My Queen?”

“The Lord Admiral was unfortunately correct,” she muttered begrudgingly. “Had you loosed your arrow onto that orc, a riot would’ve broken out in the streets. The matter had to be handled with a personal touch.” She smiled coldly then, and made a show of flexing her fingers beneath the bloodstained gauntlet.

Alina bowed again, but Sylvanas could see the small uptick of her mouth. “A masterful lesson he won’t soon forget, Dark Lady.”

“Hmm. Has the Ranger Lord returned with the scouting party yet?”

“They arrived at the gates this evening.”

“Good. Inform Blightcaller that I expect to have reports of their findings on my desk by morning.”

“Of course, my Queen.”

Sylvanas dismissed Alina with a wave of her hand, continuing down the hall once the dark ranger faded back into the shadows. As she approached the guest chambers, she noticed the doors slightly ajar, a column of light spilling out into the corridor. Ears pricking forward, Sylvanas continued walking, footfalls silent and careful. She paused before the crack of the doorway, peering down at it.

A muffled voice came from the room. “I know you’re there, Warchief.”

“Making my nightly rounds, my Lady,” Sylvanas called back drolly.

“If you’re quite done prowling the corridors, Lady Windrunner, I should like a moment.”

Ears flattening slightly, Sylvanas moved into the light, blotting out its sheen with her form as she glanced into the room. Pushing a door open further, she saw Katherine sitting in one of the throne chairs by the fireplace, skimming a scroll of reports, a pair of thin half-framed glasses perched elegantly on her nose. Dressed down from her admiralty regalia, Katherine Proudmoore cut no less of an imposing figure in her white high-collared chemise and breeches. Her hair remained in an impeccable braided bun, the silver of it gleaming in the firelight.

Arching a brow at her state of dress, Sylvanas paused just inside the room, arms folded stiffly behind her. “Far be it for me to complain, but do you think it wise to be holding an audience with your daughter-in-law in...such a state?”

Looking up at her over the rim of her glasses, Katherine made a slow glance down at herself before regarding Sylvanas flatly. “I daresay my current attire is more conservative than the entirety of your armour, Warchief.” She made a pointed glance at the bare skin of Sylvanas’ neck and chest.

Amusement sparked in Sylvanas’ eyes more than rage. She smirked, inclining her head. “Fair point.”

Katherine resumed her reading. “That was quite the spectacle to witness on my first day in Lordaeron.”

Sobering, Sylvanas straightened her posture, a low drawl in her voice. “Please accept my sincerest apologies, Lady Proudmoore, for having to suffer through such a slight. I can assure you that the perpetrator was...appropriately reprimanded.” She strode towards the closest throne chair and draped an arm over the back of it.

“Hmm.” Katherine glanced up, eyeing the bloodstains on Sylvanas’ vambrace. “Is this a regular affair in Lordaeron?” The sound of rustling parchment filled the air between them as she shuffled her papers into a neat stack, placing them onto the table in front of her. She removed her glasses and held them between her fingers as she folded her arms over her crossed legs, regarding Sylvanas.

Sylvanas took a moment to appreciate the resemblance between Jaina and her mother before replying flippantly, “Certainly not. They had to put on a show for our esteemed guest, didn’t they?”

Katherine threw her head back in a quick, sharp bark of laughter; a combination of amusement and disdain in the tone of it. “Ever ready with your barbed tongue, I see.”

Smiling viciously, fangs gleaming in the firelight, Sylvanas said, “I like keeping all my weapons battle-ready.”

“Clearly.”

Sylvanas shifted her weight onto her right leg, leaning her hip against the back of the chair. “You had words for me, Lady Proudmoore,” she prompted, tapping her talons against the wood of the chair.

“Do sit, Lady Windrunner.” Katherine gestured toward the chair, continuing in a drawl, “May I call you Lady Windrunner?”

A slow smirk spread across Sylvanas’ lips. “Well met, Lady Proudmoore.” She slowly rounded the chair, planting herself down into it deliberately. Instead of sprawling herself as she did before, she sat upright and stiff, hands grasping the armrests. “I’m listening,” she said, crossing her legs.

“You spoke with my daughter?”

“Once she was done brooding in the bath, yes.”

“And how is she taking this...little debacle?”

Sylvanas shrugged. “My lady wife has a softer heart than I. We’ve yet to align ourselves with the way our new subjects should be ruled.”

“Hmm.” Katherine tapped an arm of her glasses against her chin, peering at Sylvanas. “I don’t suppose that has anything to do with the...history...between your factions.”

Sylvanas drummed her fingers idly on her armrest. “The Lord Admiral forgets at times that we are both capable of monstrous things,” she said blandly. “Such is the burden of an idealist, I suppose. Jaina’s morals fall within a white or black, and only grey when it suits her.”

“Such is the nature of war, Lady Windrunner. You and I both know this, as does Jaina.”

“The difference between us is that I do not pretend that my morals are any more superior than hers.”

“She does not pretend. She wants what’s best for everyone, even if it’s at her own expense.”

Especially at her own expense,” Sylvanas countered, unable to keep the sting of bitterness from her voice. “Your daughter broaches every problem as if it were a personal statement to her lack of will if she failed to correct it.”

“The mark of a dedicated ruler is one that bears the burdens of her people with dignity and diligence,” Katherine said, somewhat testily. “Jaina sees the good in people; she pushes us to be something more.”

“She pushes herself to the point of breaking to satisfy some flawed need for approval. I think I’m starting to understand where this curious little trait manifested itself,” Sylvanas replied, with an equal amount of bite.

Katherine regarded her coldly. “Jaina has always been hard on herself. Considering the turbulent path her life has wound, I can’t say I expected any less.”

Sylvanas made a snide noise. “We agreed to lay our pasts to rest when we came into this marriage. Though I for one, see the benefit in learning from our mistakes rather than burying it.”

“I didn’t realise ‘learning from your mistakes’ entailed public displays of physical dismemberment. That was excessive, even for me,” Katherine drawled.

Cocking her head to the side, Sylvanas gave her an amused smirk. “Needs must, Lady Proudmoore. You and I both know this.” She gestured towards Katherine, eyes gleaming coldly. “I don’t recall being the one ready to execute my own daughter.”

Katherine’s face smoothed over with anger. “You know nothing about what happened,” she growled.

“I know enough,” Sylvanas said, meeting her rage with a cold smile. “Most importantly, I know that you and I share a common interest.”

“And what could that possibly be?”

“Jaina’s happiness.”

The elegant line of Katherine’s jaw tightened, the edge of her lip twitching as if ready to curl back into a snarl, but the former Lord Admiral merely sat back in her seat, glowering silently.

When she spoke again, her voice was low and tight. “Well met, Lady Windrunner.” She inclined her head as if in acknowledgement — not quite defeat, no. Katherine Proudmoore had too much pride for that. Instead, she picked up the rest of her letters, placing her glasses back onto her nose. Waving her hand towards Sylvanas, she said, “Thank you for meeting me. I’ve stolen enough of your time, my dear. Don’t let me keep you.”

Keenly aware of the dismissal, Sylvanas arched a brow, but rose from her seat nevertheless. If it were any other person, she might have ensured a lasting penalty for such boldness, but Katherine seemed entirely unafraid of the consequences from disrespecting the Warchief.

It was refreshing...and infuriating.

“I’m starting to see where Jaina gets her sparkling personality from,” Sylvanas drawled.

Katherine hummed. “You didn’t think it was her father, did you?” She glanced up at Sylvanas one last time, sternly. “Goodnight, Lady Windrunner.”

“A pleasure, Lady Proudmoore.” Sylvanas bowed low at the hip. “Until the next time.”

 

-----------

 

Sylvanas took her reports at the breakfast table the next morning. The great hall was where the rest of the Horde-Alliance members ate, but Sylvanas kept her distance where possible. No one questioned the fact that Jaina and her mother broke fast in private with Sylvanas.

After yesterday’s little show, Sylvanas doubted that anyone would question her or her consort. At least for a little while.

She nodded her head in greeting to Katherine when she arrived at the doorway. “Good morning, Lady Proudmoore. I hope your rest was a pleasant one.”

“It was,” Katherine said shortly.

They said nothing more, and Sylvanas felt no inclination to prod for more conversation as she skimmed the latest reports from the Nightmare Vale and the Silverpine Forest. Blightcaller resumed his position at her side once more, watching Katherine from over his nose, but Sylvanas paid him no mind.

It wasn’t long before Jaina swept into the room, pausing in surprise when Sylvanas looked up at her. The Lord Admiral seemed better rested, and though the circles under her eyes remained, Jaina looked less hollow. Inclining her head, Sylvanas gave her a polite smile. “Good morning, dear,” she said, and Jaina twitched.

“Good morning,” Jaina replied, albeit stiffly. She greeted her mother the same, though with significantly more warmth. She flexed her hands at her side and seated herself at the table to Sylvanas’ left, as she always did. “I didn’t expect you to be here,” she said, peering at Sylvanas warily as she picked an assortment of fruits and breakfast fare from the platters on the table.

“I’ll be out of your hair soon enough,” Sylvanas assured her dryly, organising her letters into a neat stack. “There were reports of disturbances in the west — minor troubles, of course. I’ll be riding out with Regent Lord Theron and a scouting party to investigate shortly.” She handed the stack to Nathanos without looking at him, who took the letters and immediately slid them into his coat.

Jaina frowned, glancing from Nathanos to Sylvanas. Even Katherine looked up from her plate curiously. “What sort of disturbances?”

“Nothing to worry your pretty little head about,” Sylvanas said, giving Jaina a discerning look. “How did you rest, wife?”

Blinking, Jaina replied hastily, “Just fine, I —”

“Did you do as I asked?” To be sure, Sylvanas glanced down at Jaina’s hands...

...who immediately curled them into fists and tucked them into her lap indignantly. “Yes!” Jaina snapped, glaring at her in annoyance.

Sylvanas pursed her lips, glancing down the table at Katherine, who was watching with the distinct indifference of someone actively eavesdropping. “And?” she pressed.

Jaina huffed, glancing at her mother the same before muttering, “It was fine. There were dreams, but — it was just parts.” She waves her hand in front of herself dismissively. “I couldn’t even remember anything when I woke up.”

“Good.” Sylvanas rose from her seat, nodding once to Nathanos, who left at once, barking commands down the corridor for servants to summon her scouting party.

“I’m coming with you,” Jaina insisted, rising from her seat as well. “I can help. If it’s the murlocs again —”

“I will have Lor’themar at my side —”

“Where I should be as well!” Jaina snapped, and the vehemence in her words made that strange flutter bloom in Sylvanas’ chest again. “If it’s serious enough that you’re bringing Lor’themar, then I have every right to be there with you.”

Sylvanas frowned at her sternly. “It would be rude to leave your mother for such a trivial matter.” She glanced at Katherine, who looked up at her as if only just realising she was being addressed. Sylvanas’ brow twitched, and she smirked. “Stay. Reconnect. I shan’t be long.”

A hand snatched out and wrapped around her wrist, tugging sharply. Sylvanas stilled, glancing down at Jaina’s grip on her before looking up into her wife’s glowering face.

“We talked about this just last night,” Jaina reminded her, squeezing sharply.

Prying Jaina’s grip from her hand as gently as she could, Sylvanas leaned down just enough for her words to stay between them. “We also spoke of other things that morning, did we not?” She glanced between them pointedly.

Lips pressed into a thin line and jaw set, Jaina stepped back, releasing Sylvanas with a huff. “Things like disturbances should take precedence over my personal comfort.”

“And if I were to require your assistance, you will be informed of such expeditiously.”

A throat was cleared from the other side of the room, and they both looked up to find Katherine watching them keenly.

“Is there a problem, Warchief?” Katherine asked.

“Not at all,” Sylvanas said, shooting Jaina a warning look. “I was just telling my wife that she should take some time today to have you mingle with the other Alliance members. I’m sure they’d be delighted to conversate with you, Lady Proudmoore.”

“Sylvanas,” Jaina hissed.

“Jaina.” Just to infuriate her wife further, Sylvanas stroked a knuckle over Jaina’s cheek, smirking as she went. She did not see the fury in Jaina’s eyes, but she could feel it on her back as she left the room.

Lor’themar and Nathanos were waiting in the mustering grounds, their mounts pawing the soft earth impatiently. Behind them there were a handful of rangers; a small enough amount to keep from rousing concerns among the crowds. Her own mount snorted and stamped in place, the Forsaken warhorse puffing plumes of purple mist.

She swung up into its saddle and grasped the reins, pulling it around to face the party. Ignoring Lor’themar’s probing stare, she spurred her horse into motion.

 

-----------

 

They rode along the banks of the Arevass, pushing along the borders of the Silverpine, pushing northwest towards North Tide’s Run. Lor’themar pulled his steed alongside Sylvanas’ as their horses slowed to a trot in ankle-deep waters. He glanced about them warily, ears swivelling. “Are you certain of these sightings, Warchief?”

“I have no reason to doubt the reports of my rangers, Regent Lord,” she said, glancing back at where Nathanos kept half a pace behind them. She turned her gaze forward once more, glowing eyes scanning the sprawling lands before them.

From the corner of her eye, she saw Lor’themar glancing furtively behind them as well.

“I’m merely expressing a concern that no doubt the rest of the council members will share, my Queen,” he remarked. “If the reports are true, and if they’re already so far inland —”

“That is precisely why we are here, Lor’themar,” Sylvanas replied wryly. “Such claims require a thorough investigation lest we create unnecessary panic.”

“Surely the High Command would have sounded an alarm if it were a pressing matter —”

“If you’re afraid of this little expedition cutting into your time spent gossiping with Lady Proudmoore, you’re welcome to turn back.”

Lor’themar glanced at her sidelong, unamused. “You know I speak the truth, Dark Lady.”

Setting her jaw, Sylvanas grumbled, “A fact I am trying to ignore. My primary concern is the fact that their change in movements and hunting grounds this far west means that there is either a tribe we have not accounted for, or they’re moving a lot faster than they should.”

Something moved in the distance, and Sylvanas slowed her horse to a stop. Her ears pricked forward keenly, eyes sharp as she glared out into the running waters, the bend of the river just ahead —

A ranger appeared, grim-faced.

“Well?” Sylvanas demanded.

Before the ranger could speak, the river erupted in an outward burst, a spear soaring through the air towards them as Sylvanas’ horse reared back on its hind legs. Sylvanas hissed, eyes blazing as it lodged into the tree just left of her, splintering wood and shredding leaves. She glanced at the weapon, eyes glowing brighter with rage.

It was a trident.

“Naga!” she bellowed, swinging her bow into her hands and nocking an arrow. The creature rose from the waters just as the rangers lunged into movement, guttural snarls erupting from its gaping maw of razor-sharp teeth and scales gleaming.

“Mur’gul!” Lor’themar shouted then, and Sylvanas watched as more creatures came from the depths, shrieking and hissing.

She fired a series of Withering Fire, pulling her horse around as she nocked a Blight-tipped arrow. It glanced off the naga’s thick scales, fins flaring wide as it hissed at her. The naga came forth with a vicious growl, damp claws digging into her greaves before she was yanked unceremoniously off her horse. Sylvanas landed with a horrible crunch, grunting as she felt her armour pierce into her side, but she rolled onto her back just as the naga plunged its scimitar into the ground where she’d been not a moment ago. She kicked it squarely in the chest, throwing all of her weight into her leg. It barely staggered, its powerful tail lashing to coil around her body.

“Warchief!” Nathanos cried, bursting forth with a blade in hand. He slammed into the beast, punching it in the jaw and driving his sword between its gnashing teeth. Sylvanas flipped herself upright, yanking the scimitar out of the ground and drove it through the naga’s chest, twisting as she went to break through its hardy scales.

Snarling, it lashed out, slashing her across the face.

Sylvanas’ head snapped to the side, inch-deep tears splitting over her cheek as she turned back to it slowly. Her eyes blazed a fire so hot the air nearly sizzled as she bore her teeth and hissed in its face. It crumbled, black wisps bleeding from her skin as she shoved the body aside.

“Well done, Blightcaller,” she said, and the man’s eyes practically gleamed with renewed fervour.

There weren’t many of the mur’gul, not from what she could see amidst the chaos, but they were pressed in too close for their long-range attacks to be wholly effective. Sylvanas gritted her teeth and slammed the bladed edge of Deathwhisper into the head of the next approaching mur’gul, slicing off a portion of its spines before she sank a dagger into its skull.

Twisting it free, she caught Lor’themar’s eye over the din. “Does this assuage your doubts, Regent Lord?”

“Perhaps save the gloating for after the fight, my Queen,” Lor’themar grunted, driving his sword into the chest of a mur’gul.

It ended almost as quickly as it began. By the end of it all, there were bodies strewn across the ground, the smell of death lingering like too-heady perfume. Sylvanas wiped off the blade of her dagger on her cloak, sliding it back into her thigh holsters as she took in the aftermath of the ambush.

“Blightcaller, our status,” she demanded.

“All our rangers are accounted for, Dark Lady,” Nathanos said, gesturing to the handful of rangers. Some were bleeding; one clinging to her dangling arm that seemed to be hanging on by a thread of sinew.

Sylvanas frowned, jerking her head towards the rangers. “Attend to them. Ensure their wounds are tended to and their limbs mended.”

Nathanos hesitated, staring at Sylvanas. “With respect, Dark Lady, your wounds seem to be most urgent.” He glanced pointedly down at her armour.

Blinking, Sylvanas reached out to touch her face, coming away with ichor. Huffing, she rubbed the smear off her fingers and gestured towards the rangers again. “Our rangers require attention. Do not make me repeat myself, Blightcaller,” she warned.

Pursing his lips, Nathanos went, and in his place Lor’themar approached, frowning the same.

“As much as it galls me that they managed to ambush our party, it was likely just a scout. There was only one naga among the mur’gul.” Sylvanas crouched down at the body of the naga, yanking the scimitar from its body and examining it closely.

Lor’themar cleared his throat, peering at her sharply.

Sylvanas scowled at him. “What?”

“Your face, my Queen.”

“What about my face, Regent Lord?”

Lor’themar gave her a look. “It’s not a face you bring home to your wife, my Queen.” He gestured to her midriff. “I dare say it’s not a body you bring home to your wife, either.”

Looking down at herself, Sylvanas saw the crumpled mess of her armour, crushed inwards and shattered. Its folded edges had pierced through her skin, and — palpating the wound slightly — her ribs.

If she were still breathing, she likely would have suffered a collapsed lung. A punctured one, really.

Stubbornly, Sylvanas said, “I’m fine.”

“I humbly beg to differ, my Queen.”

Sighing, Sylvanas summoned her mount. “What was it you said before? About the wrath of the Banshee Queen?”

Lor’themar mounted his own horse. “I believe I said I would ‘pity the fools who would dare to incite it’, my Queen.”

“Have you ever witnessed the wrath of the Lord Admiral?” Sylvanas drawled.

“...No, my Queen.”

“You will when we return.”

Chapter Text

Sylvanas knew it was coming before it happened.

She knew in the way the hairs on the back of her neck bristled, the prickle of something looming overhead. The strange fluttering in her chest returned tenfold, but now it was a manacle around her throat, a vice squeezing down on the unbeating heart in her chest. She glanced at Lor’themar and Nathanos.

“We may yet have company,” she said, raising her hand to still theirs as they reached for their weapons. Mouth twisting wryly, she looked at Lor’themar. “I daresay you’re in for an early preview of the Lord Admiral’s rage.”

They were halfway back to the city when time began to slow to a crawl around them. The influx of power washed over them like a visceral wave before pulling back, the smell of ozone and burnt earth rekindling a memory that clung too close to her skin still. The air split open with the crack and snarl of thunder, and from the burst of light, a figure emerged.

Around her, Sylvanas saw the sands of time dripping by the grain; Nathanos mid-reach for his bow, the slow rear of Lor’themar’s horse as if caught in rapidly cooling tar. The rangers were frozen altogether, and Sylvanas felt the earth shake as the figure approached.

An ethereal glow of blue surrounded them; blue eyes and blue fists approached, blue staff slung across its back.

The Lord Admiral had come.

The looming weight in her chest became an encompassing sensation of electricity, the air thinned and sparked as Sylvanas slid off her horse. The figure quickened its pace, blue eyes glowing so bright she nearly couldn’t meet them.

Sylvanas braced herself, prepared for the first strike. “Jaina —”

All at once, she was crowded back against her horse, body tense as glowing hands reached out towards her —

—and gently cupped her cheeks.

Sylvanas staggered back, hands reaching up on instinct to wrap around Jaina’s wrists. Preparing to tear her hands away before the killing blow. She blinked rapidly, staring down in confusion as the vicious glow in Jaina’s eyes faded and she was greeted by the pained and frightened gleam of her wife’s eyes.

“You fool,” Jaina hissed, thumb stroking over the split skin of her cheek. Her eyes trailed down Sylvanas’ face like a physical caress, lingering on her mouth before she leaned in and kissed Sylvanas hard. It was altogether desperate and delicate; relief and anger amidst the lingering scent of arcane — of steel shavings and burnt ozone and something otherworldly.

Sylvanas’ brows lifted high and she floundered when Jaina pulled away abruptly, cupping her cheeks still. “What—”

The look on Jaina’s face was reproachful. “I told you to let me come along!”

“I — I didn’t mean to frighten you,” Sylvanas said, staring at Jaina in confusion. “How did you know?”

“How do you think?” Jaina snapped, releasing her face and turning to assess the party of rangers, still suspended in time. “I felt you.” She moved away, hands already weaving a new portal into place.

In a blink, the rangers were gone, and the sands of time began to flow. Slowly, at first, then rapidly gaining pace. Lor’themar’s horse dropped back down onto all fours, and Nathanos’ hand moved faster and faster, wrapping around his bow and brandishing an arrow and nocking it —

Sylvanas lunged forward, placing herself in the line of fire just as Jaina turned back around, just as Nathanos loosed his arrow. She jerked slightly on impact, grunting as it burrowed into her shoulder. She heard Jaina gasp behind her, and grasping the shaft of the arrow, Sylvanas snapped it in half. A great wave of anger burned through her, but Sylvanas merely regarded Nathanos flatly as he stared at her in shock.

She felt a hand grip her arm, and suddenly Jaina was in front of her, hands pressing anxiously against the remainder of the shaft protruding from her shoulder. Jaina’s eyes began to glow again, narrowing with anger as she whirled on Nathanos, an ice lance forming in her hand.

“Don’t,” Sylvanas said sharply, stepping between them again. She gave Jaina a speaking look, reaching up to yank out the broadhead tip. Ichor spilt forth sluggishly, like uncorking a half-empty bottle, but she ignored it, dropping the arrowhead to the ground.

Jaina let out an exasperated little sigh, reaching up again to touch her wounded cheek. “The Tides take you, Sylvanas, I can’t leave you alone for a damn second!”

“I’m fine,” she said quietly, glancing back to the men gaping at them still. “Regent Lord.” She glanced at Lor’themar, who blinked, tearing his eyes away from Jaina as if only then noticing Sylvanas.

“My Queen?”

“Return back with Blightcaller and communicate with the High Command about rallying a scouting party to travel further west into Tide’s Run. I want to be sure that the naga we encountered was the first and last of its kind along the coast.”

Jaina inhaled sharply, staring at Sylvanas in disbelief. “Nagas? At Tide’s Run?”

“Just the one,” Lor’themar offered, almost placating, shrugging when Sylvanas glanced at him sharply.

What?”

Sylvanas said nothing in reply as Lor’themar nodded. Levelling a hard look at both men, she said lowly, “Not a word of this to the council yet, am I understood? We must confirm our findings before we sound any sort of alarm.”

Brows furrowing, Lor’themar made no protest, nodding again slowly.

Wordlessly, Jaina opened another portal, watching as Nathanos and Lor’themar rode into the vague shape of the mustering grounds once more. When they were gone, Sylvanas turned to Jaina again. “We need to—”

Whatever else she wanted to say was swallowed by the sharp sound of thunder again, a blinding flash of light encompassing the path as Jaina tore open another portal. Sylvanas barely had time to register it before she was yanked through by a surprisingly strong grip. She staggered, blinking at the sudden shift of altitude as she straightened up, glancing about the room.

She frowned in surprise at the sight of the Kul Tiran pillows. “Why did you bring us here?”

Jaina gave her a look, crowding into her space and already busying herself with unravelling Sylvanas’ armour. “Because you’re hurt,” she said tightly, tugging at the pauldron straps and letting it drop carelessly to the ground. Some feathers fell free, fluttering onto stone floor, and Sylvanas pursed her lips.

“I’m fine,” she said again, but Jaina ignored her. Instead, she found herself being manhandled towards the bed, where she was shoved until the backs of her knees hit the edge of it. She went down with an ungraceful thud, bouncing slightly as Jaina yanked at her cloak with far more strength than necessary. Arching a brow, Sylvanas reached out to still her hands.

“You’re upset.”

“Of course I’m upset!” Jaina snapped, shaking off Sylvanas’ hold on her and continuing to unfasten every strap and buckle she could find. “Tides, look at the state of you. What if it hadn’t been just the one damned naga? What if it had been Azshara herself?!”

Sylvanas inclined her head thoughtfully, ears drooping at a slight angle. “I doubt Azshara would have wasted her time with something as petty as a scouting party —”

Jaina jostled her roughly by the bevor, yanking her close to snarl in her face. “I am not in the mood for your bullshit.”

Lifting her hands peaceably, Sylvanas met her glare with something as close to a sheepish grin as she could muster. “Have some sympathy, Lord Admiral,” she murmured. “Hasn’t your wife suffered enough?”

Scowling, Jaina released her with a shove, muttering heatedly under her breath as she continued undressing Sylvanas. “I knew — I just fucking knew you were going to go and fuck things up—”

“I’m the injured party in this,” Sylvanas protested, but another murderous glare from her wife kept her pressing further.

Sylvanas allowed herself to suffer through the abuse until she was down to her tights and mangled leathers. Jaina had at least gentled her touch when peeling back her cuirass and plackart, though Sylvanas felt only the faintest shadow of the true agony of such a wound.

When Jaina hissed under her breath at the sight, Sylvanas peered down at her own body curiously.

The armour had crushed inwards and cracked open as if split at the seams, its ragged edges caught on Sylvanas’ skin and tearing it apart as it went. It split open a cavern in her side, tearing flesh away just enough for the stark white of bone to flash every time Sylvanas moved.

It hurt — Sylvanas was certainly aware that it hurt —, but the pain was nothing compared to the searing heat on the night Modera had tried to heal Jaina.

“I thought it might be a punctured lung,” she said. She tried taking a breath and heard a faint rattling noise from inside her ribcage.

“It certainly felt like it,” Jaina mumbled, peeling off the rest of her armour.

Sylvanas frowned. It was then she noted the stiff way Jaina carried herself, the tight and controlled breaths she took that belied the anger in her movements. Eyes narrowing, she glanced down at Jaina’s hands, lips pressing thin when she caught sight of the ring.

Glowing eyes snapped up to Jaina’s face coldly. “You lied.”

Jaina paused, glancing down at her hand before thrusting her chin out defiantly. “I didn’t lie,” she said witheringly.

“No?” Sylvanas gestured to her hand brusquely. “Then why else would you have felt me at the Arevass?”

“I slept with it on my necklace chain,” Jaina bit out. “I put it back on when I woke. Am I not allowed to wear it anymore now?”

“Jaina—”

“You said it was proximity. You said if we stayed away from each other, it would stop. The only thing you said about the ring was that it would help with the dreams, and it did.” She glared at Sylvanas.

Sylvanas scowled. “It was a theory, and I doubt it would take effect in just a few hours. We can’t expect instantaneous results and then just presume it to be disproved when you get impatient.”

Throwing up her hands in exasperation, Jaina snapped, “How am I supposed to be okay with distance if every time I let you out of my sight, something happens?”

Sylvanas held her gaze for a tense moment before looking away with a sigh. “How do you expect me to focus in a battle if my wife is present and her risk of injury is double my own?” she asked.

“The same way I would?” Jaina countered incredulously. “By making sure I don’t get the shit beaten out of me by nagas and coming home unscathed?”

Rubbing at her temple, Sylvanas sighed. “It was one naga.”

“If you knew it was the nagas, why didn’t you tell us? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“The point is that I didn't know. Not for sure. I had to check. The influx of reports about murloc activity aroused my concerns.”

“So you were just going to dive headlong into what could’ve been naga territory and — what? Just stroll through?”

“Something like that.”

Sighing harshly, Jaina placed her hands on her hips and glared, sounding very much like the disgruntled and disappointed wife she was. “You could’ve gotten yourself killed, Sylvanas.”

Sylvanas twisted her mouth into a bitter smile. “Hard to kill something that’s already dead, dear.”

“Don’t tempt me.” Jaina frowned then, reaching up to cup Sylvanas’ bleeding cheek with a surprisingly gentle touch, her eyes clouded with worry and disapproval. With her other hand, she began to unbutton her collar as she continued to berate Sylvanas. “Honestly, of all the stupid things you could’ve done —”

Leaning back away from Jaina, Sylvanas asked her warily, “What are you doing?”

Jaina unbuckled her spaulder with a sharp snap, dropping it aside carelessly. “Healing you, what else?” she snapped, exposing the elegant column of her neck again; the scars that remained still.

Grasping Jaina by the elbows, Sylvanas held her in place, staring incredulously. “You can’t be serious.”

“How else am I supposed to do it?” Jaina demanded.

“This is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.” Sylvanas glanced pointedly at her neck, flexing her grip and sliding them up Jaina’s arms. “You cannot afford to lose any more blood, Jaina. And I will not let you suffer any longer than you have to.”

Sighing, Jaina held in place, hands flexing at her sides when Sylvanas released her. “At least something to tide you over,” she said. “Until I can get a healer, or a necromancer, or whoever —”

“A hunter,” Sylvanas muttered, eyeing her warily still. “Alina or any one of my rangers can hunt for me.”

Jaina stilled, her breath hitching. “To —” she made to gesture towards her neck, but Sylvanas was already shaking her head.

“Whatever creature they bring me won’t leave this room alive,” Sylvanas told her darkly. “And certainly not in the state it came in.”

Jaina blew out a breath. “Shit.” She looked away, gnawing on the edge of her bottom lip as she seemed to come to a decision. She began to undo the lacings of her sleeve, closing in on Sylvanas as she did so.

Leaning away again, Sylvanas warned, “Jaina…”

“Shut up. Let me do this.” She pressed Sylvanas back onto the bed and kneeled over her thighs. The heavy drape of her embroidered skirts brushed against Sylvanas’ legs as Jaina perched on her lap, rolling the sleeve of her left arm up past her elbow.

Sylvanas reached up to grasp her bare wrist when Jaina rested it on her shoulder, the frenetic thrum of Jaina’s pulse beating under her fingertips as she stared up into her wife’s face. “You will dream again,” Sylvanas warned, her voice a low thrum.

Jaina reached up and brushed her gloved right hand over her cheek again, fingers skimming tenderly over the deepest gashes. Her eyes were almost half-lidded, but her jaw was set, stubborn as ever. “I can handle it,” she promised, trailing her fingers along Sylvanas’ jaw to guide her lips to bare skin.

A low noise rose in Sylvanas’ throat again, something less like the hungry snarl of a rabid creature and more like the affectionate purr of a sabre cat. She pressed a kiss into Jaina’s palm, nuzzling her skin and breathing in the familiar scent of sea breeze and the sharp tang of arcane. Sliding her hands up along the bare skin of Jaina’s forearm, she cradled the delicate limb as she pressed a line of open-mouthed kisses along her wrist, until she felt the heavy pulse of life beneath skin.

It was like rushing waves in her ears, the growing pound of Jaina’s heart as she traced her tongue over the delicate vein. Jaina’s free hand was starting to stroke over her unmarred shoulder, sliding up along the corded line of her neck and clasping over the nape of it. Her ears flicked and swivelled, flattening down as Jaina’s hand dared to travel upwards.

She reached out, stroking down the length of one, kneading gently at the base.

A visceral shudder ran through her, and Sylvanas’ purrs became a low, hungry growl. Her grip tightened, pulling Jaina in further as she opened her mouth, fangs extended. Her eyes blazed like enflamed coals, embers of endless depths as she sank her teeth into tender flesh.

A sharp cry rose from Jaina’s throat, but was swallowed down immediately afterwards. The first spill of warm, rich blood sliding down her throat ignited the same carnal need within Sylvanas as it did before, the familiar taste of her wife burning through her with each little whimper and sigh Jaina made.

She drank and drank, pulling back once when she began to feel the skin on her cheek knit together, but Jaina’s hand tightened on the back of her head and urged her mouth back into place.

“Your side isn’t healed,” Jaina insisted, though in its breathlessness, her tone was less insistent and more desperate.

A faint part of Sylvanas was keenly aware of it, a fragment of amusement and wickedness curling in her core as she lapped her tongue over the pale skin of Jaina’s wrist. A new scent rose into the air, cutting through the mixture of sharp copper and bitter ichor, and Sylvanas’ nostrils flared at the heady sweetness of it.

Grasping Jaina’s hand in a tight grip, she wove her free arm around her waist, pulling Jaina down harder into her lap. She kept her mouth secured onto the running flow of blood from her wrist, but her free hand was focused on sliding down over the thick fabric of white and blue skirts. She reached down and guided Jaina’s hips until she had one leg pressed between her legs.

She grinned against Jaina’s wrist when the mage rocked her hips and gasped, body tensing over her. She urged Jaina’s hips into a slow, steady pace, slipping her hand over the taut curve of her ass and squeezing appreciatively.

Jaina hissed, trembling over her as she gave Sylvanas a heavy-lidded glare from above her. A deep flush had spread over her cheeks, her freckles darkened and beautiful, and she looked almost as drunk as Sylvanas felt.

“Sylvanas,” she said, a warning and a moan in her voice.

Sylvanas growled, pulling her mouth away from Jaina’s wrist and using it instead to tug her head down for a kiss. It was no gentle touch, no delicate meeting of lips; it was dark and hungry, a clash of teeth and tongue as she slipped one hand down between Jaina’s trembling thighs. She pressed her fingers upwards against the rigid seam of her tights, rumbling with approval at the way Jaina buckled at the pressure, the press of her hips down in an effort to chase the sensation. She wound her free hand into Jaina’s hair, tugging just hard enough on the thick braid for Jaina’s head to snap back, for her back to arch into a dramatic bow against her.

The material beneath her fingers was damp now, the heady scent of Jaina’s slickness clouding her senses more than her blood ever could. She rubbed with single-minded intent; pressing the rough pad of her thumb up over Jaina’s clit, crooking her fingers just so in a torturous imitation of the real act.

A strangled whine bubbled up from Jaina’s throat, and she tore her lips away from Sylvanas’ as the strength in her thighs left her. She shuddered and groaned against Sylvanas’ shoulder, gasping open-mouthed as the hand trapped between them continued working tirelessly.

Sylvanas let out reverberating hiss, dark and possessive as she pulled Jaina’s head aside, sinking her fangs into the unmarked side.

Jaina jerked against her violently, and the hand between them grew impossibly wetter. “Ah —S-Sylvanas —e-enough—” She shuddered again, gulping back desperate mouthfuls of air as Sylvanas worked against her neck.

The visceral growl in her chest died down to a crooning purr, and Sylvanas worked calmly at her skin, lapping against the bleeding wounds as she slipped her hand carefully from between them. She kissed and nipped and sucked until there was only the faintest trace of blood smeared against Jaina’s skin, and even then she licked it away. Her eyes gleamed with a wicked glee at the bruise already forming, dark and possessive.

Heaving a ragged breath, Jaina pushed herself upright on trembling arms, sitting back on her thighs still. She shifted her hips and winced, blushing darker when Sylvanas brought her wet fingers up to lick clean. “That — wasn’t part of the plan,” she said, smoothing back her hair with trembling fingers.

Sylvanas watched her like a cat with more than just the cream. “You enjoy this, don’t you.”

Jaina’s eyes went wide and she scrambled off Sylvanas’ lap, tugging her skirts back into place. “That’s not—! I don’t—!”

“We’re married, dear. There’s no reason to be shy.” Rising to her feet, Sylvanas reached up to touch her cheek, fingers sliding over sealed wounds that left the slightest shadow of ridges in their wake. She slid her hand down to her side and was pleasantly surprised to find it equally mended.

“I was trying to help you heal! That’s all!” Jaina flailed a hand at her. “You stuck your hand down there!”

Arching a brow, Sylvanas cocked her head to the side with a slow smirk. “I clearly recall that it was certainly not ‘all’ the last time.”

“Th— Gods, you’re insufferable.”

Prowling towards her with the slow, predatory steps of a feline, Sylvanas dropped her voice into a low purr. “I’m starting to think you like me that way.”

Chapter Text

Jaina pressed herself back against a wall. Sylvanas followed.

“Do I frighten you, Lord Admiral?”

“No.”

“Liar.”

Jaina glared at her defiantly, the blaze in her eyes more of a challenge than a rebuff. “You don’t scare me,” she breathed. “You infuriate me.”

“For not telling you about the nagas?” Sylvanas cocked her head to the side, feigning ignorance.

Blue eyes gleamed in the light. “Among other things.”

Sylvanas smirked. “You seem to always have me at a disadvantage, wife,” she purred, tilting her head down and glancing between their bodies — hers mostly bare, and Jaina fully-clothed. “We’ll have to rectify that.”

Though she was a shade paler, Jaina’s cheeks were flushed and her eyes were hooded. “I’d call it levelling the playing field,” she said, somewhat breathless as she thrust her chin out at a belligerent angle.

“Oh?” Sylvanas tilted her head to the other side, daring to slide her hand over the heavy material of Jaina’s skirts. She rested the weight of her palm along the swell of Jaina’s hip, fingers stroking over the embroidery of gold-trimmed blue. Her eyes gleamed keenly at the way Jaina’s lashes fluttered at the touch, the darkening blush of colour rising along the elegant column of her throat.

A vicious sort of pleasure bloomed in Sylvanas’ chest when she saw the bites marring Jaina’s skin, a rolling boil of heat building between her hips.

Boldly, she slid her hand higher, fingers seeking the space between the elegant ivory corset and brocade skirts. She skimmed the barest tease of skin that peeked out from beneath the corset’s hem.

Jaina’s hand reached out, a tremor of hesitation in her fingers when she laid them on the mangled leathers clinging to Sylvanas’ skin. Her fingertips brushed against the gaping holes shredded into the material; brushed against the solid plane of Sylvanas’ stomach. “I can’t let you have all the fun every time.”

“Of course.” Sylvanas gave her a smirk, pressing in that much closer and flexing her stomach until the muscles of them were defined grooves against Jaina’s fingers. She let her eyes drop down and linger on the flushed neckline in front of her, the ample cleavage further emphasised by the tight cinch of Jain’s corset.

“I must say, your recently discovered...fondness for fangs and blood has certainly altered my opinions about the blooding.”

Jaina’s fingers curled, digging sharply into the taut muscle; pulling Sylvanas closer by the frayed ruins of her leathers. “Awful,” she said, the word caught within the depths of her chest. She tilted her head up, so that their breaths were one and the same.

“Am I?” Sylvanas whispered. They were so close now that a dip of her chin would put their lips together.

Jaina’s voice dropped just as low. “Absolutely.”

“Hmm.” Sylvanas reached out a hand, trailing the backs of her fingers over Jaina’s cheek, sliding them down to cradle her chin between two fingers. Her eyes trailed from Jaina’s lips to her eyes, heavy-lidded and soft. “And what does that make you?”

Lashes fluttering, Jaina gave her a smile that was all teeth. “A fool, probably.”

It was like a knife twisting into her chest, the phantom agony of ignited steel striking into flesh. The coy look on Sylvanas’ face fell away, and Jaina’s brow wrinkled in confusion as Sylvanas pulled back.

“Jaina.” The seriousness of her tone made Jaina stiffen against her, and the hand against her stomach slid away. “I am not ungrateful for all that you’ve done. It —” Sylvanas looked away, gritting her teeth before levelling Jaina with a grave look. “It is certainly more than I deserve at this point. But I must know this, above all else.”

Frowning, Jaina met her gaze unwaveringly.

“Are you sure?” Sylvanas asked, eyes boring into Jaina’s. “Are you certain that this is what you want? If not, I will not touch you again. Not under the guise of healing or appearances or propriety —”

Sylvanas jerked as Jaina fisted the front of her leathers in one hand, yanking the Banshee Queen down so hard and fast that she had to brace both hands against the wall around Jaina’s head to prevent herself from colliding headfirst into her wife.

Jaina bared her teeth, eyes flaring a brilliant ice blue to match the enraged red of Sylvanas’ glare. “I’ve been sure for months,” she hissed, and Sylvanas felt the heat in her belly roar into a blaze. “If you don’t fucking touch me already, I’m going to —”

Sylvanas kissed her. It was slow and deep, far softer and sweeter than any other time their lips had met. She heard Jaina take a sharp breath, felt the rush of air against her lips as Jaina melted back against the wall, her hand tightening in a vice on Sylvanas’ leathers. Emboldened, Sylvanas pressed her back into the wall, plundering her mouth as she dropped her hands to Jaina’s hips. She allowed herself to surrender completely into the warm, pliant feel of her, the soft edges and hard lines that made up the solid build of Jaina’s body pressed flush against her.

A ragged sound pulled from Jaina’s throat, something like relief and desperation as she traced her tongue over her wife’s, catching over the ridges of her teeth. She could feel Jaina’s hand tightening over her leathers, fingernails pinching into her skin as she yanked Sylvanas closer. Sylvanas obliged her with a growl, pressing a thigh between her legs as she reached up and shoved Jaina’s cloak off her shoulders, sliding her hands along bare skin before sweeping her up into an embrace.

The sudden movement made Jaina squeak, arms coming up to wrap around Sylvanas’ broad shoulders instinctively as she was hauled away from the wall. Her legs came to wrap clumsily around Sylvanas’ waist as she adjusted the angle of her head to deepen the kiss, gasping at the scrape of deadly fangs against her lips.

They collapsed down onto the bed, Sylvanas pinning her easily with a powerful thigh trapped between her legs still as she caught Jaina’s lower lip between her teeth and bit down sharply. Jaina tensed beneath her for an instant, hips grinding up against her thigh before melting down with a whimper. She lapped the fresh copper taste from kiss-swollen lips and pulled away briefly, their panting breaths caught in a visible mist of heat and ice.

Fisting the front of Jaina’s corset in her hands, Sylvanas gave her a burning look. “How much do you like these clothes?”

“Not enough.”

The sound of ripping cloth filled the room, and Sylvanas pulled back to admire the sight before her. The Lord Admiral was spread out, skin flushed and chest heaving, neck marred in dark welts and bruises. Her corset torn down the middle, cotton and leather and buckles giving way to more pale flesh and glorious breasts peaked with nipples the shade of dusky pink.

Were it possible, Sylvanas’ mouth would have watered.

“Anar’alah,” she whispered, and Jaina visibly shivered. “Look at you.”

Pushing herself up onto her elbows, Jaina reached out to haul Sylvanas back to her. “Don’t just look.”

Sylvanas spread herself out over Jaina readily, sliding her hands eagerly along the soft skin of her bare waist. She cupped Jaina’s breasts in her hands, stealing away the hiss that came from her wife’s mouth at the chilly touch and trapping each bud of her nipples between long fingers. She felt them stiffen against her hands, kneading and stroking gently with the softest whispers of fingernails scraping along the sensitive skin around them.

Jaina writhed and bucked against her, her hips grinding down against Sylvanas’ thigh in a stuttering roll. She hissed at the lack of friction; the thick fabric of her skirts bunched around her hips and barring the space between Sylvanas’ thigh and where she wanted it the most. Her hands clutched desperately to Sylvanas’ shoulders, tugging and yanking at the remnants of her leathers.

“Patience,” Sylvanas soothed her, sliding her hands in a heavy-handed caress down to Jaina’s bare waist. She worshipped a path from Jaina’s jaw to her neck down over her chest, open-mouthed kisses that came with scrapes of teeth and suckling bruises. She traced patterns around the tight bud of Jaina’s nipples, feeling them strain against her fingers again as Jaina arched into the touch and keened.

Jaina’s hands slid up to her ears again. Sylvanas shuddered when she began to stroke them again, but then felt the wet tip of a tongue and the drag of teeth —

She pulled her head away from Jaina’s skin with a snarl, teeth snapping together in an audible click above Jaina’s collarbone. She went rigid, nails digging viciously into skin as her own body was flooded with sensation. A pleasure so sharp it stung, cut through in the murky fog; it was so tangible and real that she forgot for an instant that her heart did not beat and her lungs did not breathe.

With her teeth set to Sylvanas’ ear and her tongue tracing the long, elegant swoop of it, Jaina hissed, “I’ve been patient for long enough.”

“Then behave,” Sylvanas rumbled. “Let me savour this.”

Sylvanas shoved her hand between the layers of skirts and dropped her mouth back down to Jaina’s neck. There was no decorum to it — she yanked at the waist of Jaina’s tights and slid her hand beneath them, cupping the slick, plentiful heat she found there. She teased her fingers over velvet folds, tracing the tips of them over the growing swell fo Jaina’s clit until she felt her buck, a low warning hissed into her ear again.

Sealing her lips over Jaina’s, she pressed two fingers in.

Jaina’s head kicked back against the bed. “Fuck!” The muscles in her stomach and thighs went stiff, trembling with relief before her legs fell open more, urging them deeper. With an undulating shift of her hips, she moaned into Sylvanas’ ear, “A-another.”

Sylvanas’ breath hitched in her chest. Her eyes glowed so bright the air seared. Lifting her head and surging upwards, Sylvanas hovered over Jaina, gaze hooded and intense as she met Jaina’s glazed eyes. “Another?” She crooked her fingers, thrusting them so slow she could feel every groove and twitching clench of the slick walls around them.

She watched the flutter of Jaina’s lashes, the near-roll of her eyes as her jaw slackened and the flush in her cheeks only darkened further. The flush spread down over her neck and chest, highlighting the constellation of freckles there that Sylvanas hadn’t noticed before.

“Sylvanas,” Jaina hissed, forcing her eyes open long enough to glare. “Either you fuck me or fuck o—”

The words died in her throat when Sylvanas pulled her wet fingers out, pressing in three at once in the next thrust. She melted back onto the bed with a low noise, and Sylvanas let out a possessive growl at the feeling of hot, tight heat fluttering around her fingers. She thrust her fingers slowly, working Jaina open with careful twists and grinds of her wrist, as she kissed the high arches of Jaina’s cheekbones. She whispered utter filth into Jaina’s ear, but in Thalassian it sounded like the lilting croons of sweet nothings that made Jaina shiver harder.

It wasn’t long before her thighs began to jerk, tightening around Sylvanas’ hand when she pressed her fingers in up to the knuckle, grinding her wrist against Jaina’s clit.

“Yes,” Jaina gasped, gulping back a breath. A high, frantic keen grew in her throat; her grip scrabbling on Sylvanas’ shoulders and arms and everywhere she could touch. “Yes, yes, yes —”

A well-timed press of her thumb to Jaina’s clit and fangs to her neck was all it took. A shout spilt from her lips, her hand flailed out to fist in the sheets as she trembled violently into her release, her thighs clamping shut against Sylvanas’ hand and trapping it in place as she shuddered and sobbed and whined.

Sylvanas silenced her with another kiss, swallowing back the noises as she curled her fingers a little cruelly, drawing out the endless waves of pleasure until Jaina was panting urgently beneath her.

Jaina’s hands shoved at her chest, her voice strained and reedy. “E-nough, that —” Her eyes rolled back into her head when Sylvanas flared out her fingers wide and crooked them again. “Sylvanas,” she groaned.

She marked a path of kisses along Jaina’s brow, over her cheekbones and down along her jaw. The salty-sweet taste of sweat on her skin only served to heighten the natural scent of sea breeze that lingered. Sylvanas tilted her head down and kissed Jaina again, just as soft, just as sweet as their tongues stroked against each other in a languid sweep.

A pulsing had taken over her body; the thrumming of nerve endings and parts of her that she had long since thought dead. She was keenly aware of the growing need between her thighs, the build of pressure in the cradle of her hips and the encompassing desire to alleviate it.

Jaina seemed to know; she reached out one trembling hand and slid it carefully up Sylvanas’ thigh. The muscles there went taut, braced against the foreign touch, and Sylvanas gave her a warning look.

The sound of footsteps approaching made Sylvanas tense. Her ears flicked backwards sharply, angling towards the door.

A wrecked whimper left Jaina’s throat as she pulled away abruptly. She slid her fingers gently from Jaina, who winced at the loss and the lewd, wet sound that came with them. Sylvanas rocked back onto her thighs, muscles tensed and face hard as she watched the door, resting her hand on Jaina’s thigh to still her.

The wetness of her fingers smeared across the brocade, and Sylvanas made a point of smearing them further.

“Wait,” she said, voice low and hard.

Jaina pushed herself up onto her elbows, turning her head towards the door the same. Then her eyes widened and she whipped her head back to look at Sylvanas. “Did you lock the door —?”

“I wasn’t the one who teleported us here,” Sylvanas reminded her, pushing off the bed. The footsteps were too close for her to lock the doors in time, but she couldn’t imagine anyone barging into the private rooms of the Lord Admiral without express permission. Still, she moved towards the door, pressing herself to the wall beside it and listening.

The heavy footfalls stopped abruptly some distance from the doors. She tilted her head, leaning in close to make out the muffled sound of voices.

“The Lord Admiral will not be disturbed.”

“Step aside, ranger. That is an order.”

“I obey the Dark Lady and her Consort above all else.”

“I am your superior officer, Alina, and you would do well to remember that. Our Queen requires more attention than those of a frost-tipped mage to heal —”

“My Queen is...being attended to.”

Her eyes twitched, ears swivelling upright as she gave Jaina a sidelong look of warning. She really should have known Alina would have been there. She jerked her head towards the wardrobes and the bath chambers. “Go. Make yourself presentable. I will buy you some time.”

“Sylvanas —”

She did not wait. Pulling the door open just enough to slip through, Sylvanas ensured that the bed was well out of sight as she left the room. Shutting the doors behind her, she greeted the sight of Nathanos looming over Alina threateningly with a haughty, incandescent fury. She caught Alina’s eye for a moment, then the dark ranger bowed reverently.

Nathanos stepped away from Alina at the sight of her, reeling back and pitching his steps in her direction instead, only to falter at the look on her face. His eyes dropped to the mangled shape of her leathers before lifting again. “Warchief —”

“Are you here to grovel, Blightcaller?” she asked calmly, pulling the Darkness around herself. “I daresay it would be wise to beg for mercy after the slight you’ve committed against my consort.”

Nathanos swallowed, lowering his gaze stiffly. “My apologies, Dark Lady, but Lady Proudmoore came upon us unexpectedly. I only did what instinct commanded.” It was, for all intents and purposes, true. Jaina had teleported into their path with little to no warning, were it not for Sylvanas’ connection to her.

The slowing of time between them might have only been a fraction of a moment, but in that moment it seemed like an eternity.

“Unfortunately true,” Sylvanas sighed, and then gave him an imperious look over her nose. “I am not the only one owed an apology.”

Nathanos stared at her somewhat indignantly. “With respect, my Queen; it was not my intention to harm her. It remains my duty to protect you, Dark Lady.” He gave her a meaningful look; one Sylvanas met with cold indifference. “If anything, I would say the Lord Admiral should extend her thanks and apologies to you. For your expert reflexes and gallantry, and for arriving in such a state unannounced.”

The doors swung open behind Sylvanas, and Jaina emerged from the room in breeches and a high-collared Kul Tiran blouse she’d buttoned all the way up and layered over with a waistcoat. It was certainly a more casual look, and Sylvanas gave Jaina a sidelong glance when she came to stand beside her. “Impeccable timing, wife.”

Jaina darted a glance at her before regarding Nathanos witheringly. “Why is that?”

“Blightcaller was just saying how he thinks you should thank me for my valour after protecting you from his arrow.” Sylvanas gave her a leering smile, one that Jaina steadfastly ignored as she continued to stare down Nathanos.

A cold smile spread across Jaina’s lips; still kiss-swollen and flushed. “Is that so?”

“It is.”

Her eyes flashed, and she gave Nathanos a smile that was all teeth. “I don’t imagine that your valour would’ve been necessary had he not been wielding a bow at me.”

Nathanos glowered back, squaring his shoulders and clasping his hands behind his back. “I am the Champion to the Warchief. My duties are to protect her, above all else,” he said tightly.

“Acts of violence and injury could be considered treason,” Sylvanas added helpfully. “I leave the sentencing in your hands, dear wife. You pass the sentence, you swing the sword.”

Jaina took a slow, deep breath and exhaled before she gave him a forced, unfeeling smile. “For your loyalty and dedication to the Warchief, I am grateful,” she said, and her smile took on a cold twist at the startled look on Nathanos’ face. “You’ve proven yourself as such. And I am merciful.”

A soft wave of power began to unfurl from Jaina then, and Sylvanas’s brows arched high when she saw the blue glow of her eyes; an electric line of magic flowing from her shoulders down to her hands.

“If I wasn’t, though; I would gut you like a pig and mount your body on the walls of New Lordaeron as a warning to defectors.”

“Such violence,” Sylvanas cried, pressing a hand to her chest dramatically and tilting her head at Jaina with a smirk. “I thought we were saving the sweet nothings for the bedroom, dear.”

Jaina stiffened at that, baring her teeth in a smile as she glanced at Sylvanas. “I think I recall you mentioning something about ‘needs must’ and ‘such things cannot stand in the eyes of the Horde.’”

“You’re learning,” Sylvanas said fondly.

Pursing his lips, Nathanos gave her a stiff bow. “I...thank you, Lord Admiral. For your mercy.” He forced the words out with great effort between gritted teeth. He gave Jaina a scrutinising look, narrowing his eyes at the hidden length of her neck.

When he glanced in Sylvanas’ direction, she gave him a fanged smile. And then she sobered and glanced at Jaina. “I do, in fact, need to have words with you, Blightcaller.”

“Of course, Dark Lady,” he said eagerly, shooting something like a triumphant look at Jaina. “I have reports on the conditions of our rangers and from Master Apothecary Faranell.”

Sylvanas inclined her head. “Very good.” She turned her attention towards the tower stairs just as Katherine Proudmoore appeared around the bend. “Ah, it seems that impeccable timing runs in the family,” she said, turning back to Jaina with a smirk.

“Wha —”

Katherine strode over to them quickly, flanked by her guards. She paused a short distance from Jaina, glancing to Sylvanas with a stiff nod. “Warchief. I did not realise you had returned.” She gave Jaina a reproachful look, which made Sylvanas raise an eyebrow.

“A return expedited by your daughter,” Sylvanas replied.

Seafoam green eyes glanced to Jaina again. “My daughter who made no mention of her own departure to me.”

Eyes brightening with intrigue, Sylvanas made a show of clicking her tongue admonishingly at Jaina. “Dear wife, you worried your mother,” she chided, shaking her head.

“It was urgent,” Jaina shot back, though she gave her mother an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, Mother. It was just — imperative that I left when I did.”

“You should have still told me,” Katherine huffed, glancing between the two of them suspiciously. Her eyes widened slightly as she caught sight of Sylvanas’ mangled clothing.

“A minor altercation with some ornery murlocs along the river,” Sylvanas told her, waving aside her pressing glare. “Your daughter was very...thorough with ensuring I was mended.”

Jaina narrowed her eyes at Sylvanas. Before she could say anything, Sylvanas gave both her and Katherine a low bow.

“Please, excuse me.” She straightened and gestured towards Nathanos. “I have reports to write and debriefings to attend. Continue as you like; I should expect that I won’t be finished until after dinner.” She gave Jaina a lingering look, eyes dropping down briefly to her high collar before returning to her face.

Boldly, Sylvanas took one of Jaina’s hands, bare now of her gloves and gauntlet. Bending at the hip, she pressed a kiss to the back of her knuckles, keenly aware of the way Katherine was watching them. “You should rest, dear,” she said, stroking her thumb over Jaina’s knuckles. “You were quite...drained.”

Nathanos gave a discreet cough, eyeing them suspiciously. Jaina snatched her hand back and gave Sylvanas one last glare before slipping her arm into her mother’s.

“We will have words tonight,” Jaina assured her, voice low.

“Oh, I look forward to it.”

Chapter Text

 

Jaina watched wordlessly as Sylvanas left the tower with Nathanos. She could feel her mother’s probing gaze burning into the side of her face; the close scrutiny of her casual attire and high collar. It would yield nothing. The concealment charm Jaina had cast made sure of it. She could still feel the slight pulse and pinch of bruised and broken skin, but she knew the sight of them were hidden from view.

Still, that did nothing to dissuade her mother’s prying looks.

Her eyes slid over to Alina, who held it unwaveringly with the distinct impression of somehow who knew too much about her and was trying to be as respectable and impassive as possible.

Fuck.

Alina must’ve heard everything.

“Alright, dear?” Katherine asked, giving her hand a pat. “You look...peaked.”

Jaina felt a small flare of heat rise into her cheeks. “Just tired,” she said, reaching to adjust the collar of her blouse. “As Sylvanas said — the healing was...challenging.” She winced slightly when her fingers brushed against the tender wounds of her bite, but caught herself in the next moment with a shrug.

“Nothing I couldn’t handle, of course, but still.”

“Hmm.” Katherine gave her outfit a careful once-over. “I don’t think I’ve seen you in anything less than your battledress in a while.”

That took Jaina by surprise. She tried to think back on the last time she’d worn anything but her robes and armour and found the memory to be one from her time in Orgrimmar. She’d tried to dress comfortably for the arid heat of Durotar at first, but at some point, the tension and animosity between Horde and Alliance called for a state of preparation... just in case.

“Habit, I suppose,” she mumbled, although the thought hadn’t occurred to her at all.

“One shared by your wife, I’ve noticed,” her mother remarked, too innocently. She had the same look on her face as she always did when Jaina was younger; when she caught Jaina and her brothers red-handed in a lie. Indulgent and chiding — far gentler with her reproach than Daelin ever would have been. It was something like a fond memory, more bitter than sweet, but Jaina thought of the ways Katherine would hide their secrets from their father unless absolutely necessary.

Daelin Proudmoore was not an unkind man, but her brothers had certainly borne the brunt of his discipline.

It was always the same with Mother when Alleria and Vereesa —

Blinking hard, Jaina reached for her necklace without thought. It was hidden beneath her blouse, tucked against her breast, but she felt it through the cloth with fingers that tingled at the tips. The touch of her left hand against the anchor made it thrum quietly with power; the metal of her ring beginning to warm and cool all at once. She dropped her hand quickly when her mother met her gaze again.

Katherine peered at her curiously but did not push further. “It’s a good look,” she said, gesturing to the Kul Tiran sigil on Jaina’s sleeve. “I’m sure your wife appreciates a change in scenery every once and awhile.”

It was a half-hearted bait, as if her mother knew it wouldn’t take much to get her into a flurry about her relationship with Sylvanas.

Nevertheless, she glanced at her mother sidelong with a tight smile. “Let’s talk in your rooms,” she suggested, guiding Katherine away from her own chambers and towards the guest ones. They said nothing more until they slipped into the rooms; Jaina giving Alina a speaking glance before she shut the door in the dark rangers face. Her mother walked the length of the carpet in front of the fireplace, hands clasped behind her back as she regarded Jaina.

“Well?”

Feigning ignorance, Jaina blinked at her mother. “Well, what?”

Jaina.”

Sighing, she conceded, throwing herself down onto a chair in an undignified sprawl. She slid down low on her seat, resting her arms limply over the rests and crossing her extended legs at the ankles. Katherine gave her a mild look at the show but said nothing as she seated herself primly in the seat across Jaina.

“I daresay you’re spending too much time with that wife of yours, dear.”

Jaina made a face at her mother as she straightened up just enough to press against the back the seat. “A side effect of being married, I suppose.”

“Hmm. She’s quite an influence on you.” The indulgent smile fell away from Katherine’s face then, and she levelled Jaina with a serious look. “What happened, Jaina?”

Exhaling through her nose, Jaina tapped her fingers on the armrest. A flicker of hesitation filled her; the rest of the council were as of yet uninformed. It wouldn’t do trouble her mother with reports of things that they had no confirmation of yet, but then again — the nagas had struck Kul Tiras not long ago. Sylvanas had only mentioned keeping this quiet from the council as a whole until they had confirmation of nagas present in the west, but nothing about keeping it from her mother.

...granted, Katherine was part of the council, but still.

“This is between us,” Jaina warned her mother. “I need your word that everything I tell you today stays in this room.”

“Of course,” Katherine replied readily, a look of concern sweeping over her features.

“There might be some change of plans with our return to Kul Tiras. There have been reports coming in about some things that Sylvanas and I are concerned about.”

Katherine frowned, the furrows in her brow deepening, her expression severe. “What reports?”

Jaina pursed her lips. “Nagas.”

Her mother’s brows rose high on her forehead at that.

“Along the western border of the Forsaken High Command. It was where Sylvanas’ scouting party was ambushed.”

Katherine hissed a curse under her breath. “Impossible. They’ve never journeyed so far West before. The attacks have all be concentrated in the South in Kul Tiras. The furthest north I’ve ever seen them go is into Baradin Bay.”

“They’re getting bolder at this point. Testing the waters. I need to check with Genn, but I don’t recall any reports of nagas or murloc activities along their shores.”

“Has the council been informed?”

“No,” Jaina admitted, glancing off at the unlit hearth. “Sylvanas wants to be absolutely sure before we alert the others. She’s sending out another scouting party to push further west to make sure there aren’t any more nagas along the coast.”

“What are their numbers?”

“...one.”

Katherine blinked. “One?” she echoed incredulously.

“That’s what Sylvanas told me,” Jaina said, a little defensively. “I wasn’t there. I couldn’t tell you for sure. She said it was mur’gul and a single naga that led the ambush.”

Her mother seemed dubious, and it made Jaina wonder again if she’d made the right decision. “It would still be a concern if it came this far north,” she sighed. “They must be trying to flank inwards towards Lordaeron. How far along the Run were they attacked?”

Blowing out a frustrated breath, Jaina confessed, “I don’t know. I wasn’t with them when it happened, but — I remember Sylvanas mentioning the Arevass.”

“So far inland?” Katherine exclaimed.

Jaina shrugged helplessly. “As far as I know.”

Jaw clenched tight, her mother drummed her own fingers listlessly against the armrest before letting her hand slap down onto the plush covering of it. “Then they must check Chillwind. Those waters run from the Bay; it would be a straight path into your territories.” She was already making to rise from her seat, and Jaina rushed to follow suit.

“I’ll tell her,” Jaina said quickly. “I’ll let Sylvanas know.” She ignored the way her mother frowned, reaching out to grasp her hands instead. Levelling a speaking look at Katherine, she murmured, “Just between us, remember? I needed your opinion before I approached the council.”

Frowning, Katherine eyed her for a moment before relenting with a heavy sigh. Squeezing Jaina’s hands firmly, she warned, “Do not wait too long to tell her.” There was a strange look in her eyes, knowing and sharp, and Jaina frowned.

Before she could ask, her mother reached up to cradle Jaina’s face in her hands instead. The look in her eyes was soft now; the worry of a mother. “I’m glad you’re alright, dear.” She palmed Jaina’s cheek gently, her eyes sweeping over her face once more uncertainly. “You are alright, aren’t you?”

Hesitantly, Jaina reached up to wrap her own fingers around her mother’s touch. A rush of melancholy blotted the space of her chest and throat, a memory of the last time her mother had caressed her cheek the same. “I’m alright, Mother. I’m fine.”

Her lashes fluttered when Katherine pressed a soft kiss to her brow, and for a moment, Jaina allowed herself to revel in the tenderness.

It was a fleeting moment. Katherine pulled back slowly, tilting her head back to regard Jaina warmly. “I must speak with Archmage Khadgar and Modera before dinner. Would you like to accompany me?”

Blinking, Jaina straightened up with a soft smile. “I think I’d very much like that, yes.”

 

------

 

As expected, Sylvanas did not make an appearance at dinner. A note had been passed along through Alina of her ‘pressing duties’, and Jaina had simply pocketed the note and thumbed her ring again. She could feel the push of emotions not entirely her own festering in her back of her mind, an ache like an open wound. She tried to probe at it with her own thoughts, reaching out a tendril of emotion towards it, only to be literally frozen out.

Of course.

Their talks with Khadgar and Modera extended into dinner, and they spent a few hours chattering over a hot meal in the private dining room of the Warchief. They spoke of old memories and new goals for the future; some grim and the others hopeful, and by the end of dinner, Jaina began to feel the ground settling under her feet a little more. It felt like before, only if for a moment.

She hugged them both tight and bade them goodnight, and walked back to the tower arm-in-arm with her mother. She caught sight of Lor’themar emerging from the north tower as they stepped out into the cool night, blinking in surprise. “Good evening, Regent Lord Theron.”

Lor’themar paused, blinking his one eye at them before bowing low at the hip. “Good evening, Lord Admiral Proudmoore. Lady Proudmoore. Have you come from dinner?” he asked, glancing at Katherine.

Jaina nodded, peering up at the tower. “It’s a beautiful night. I thought we’d walk the courtyards some.”

Bowing again, Lor’themar said, “Then do not let me keep you. Enjoy your walk, my Ladies.”

“Is the Warchief still locked away in her tower?” Jaina asked.

Lor’themar hesitated, glancing at her with an impressively inscrutable expression. “She is.” He inclined his head before glancing back to the tower the same. “But she is still in talks with the Ranger Lord. I’d imagine they’ll be occupied for some time.”

Katherine sniffed from beside her, curling her lip as she looked up as well, capriciously. “He certainly does spend quite an awful lot of time at her heels, doesn’t he?” she remarked.

“He is the Champion of the Warchief,” Lor’themar reminded her mildly. Then he blinked, as if only then realising something, and he straightened to his full height. “Would you like to join me for a nightcap, my Ladies? I’ve just acquired a bottle of Kul Tiran port. I’ve been told it’s an excellent year.”

Arching a brow, Jaina opened her mouth to speak, but Katherine was already breezing out of her grasp and sliding into her arm into Lor’themar’s. Jaina laughed incredulously. “Mother!”

Katherine shrugged unapologetically. “Allow your poor old mother these small vices, dear,” she drawled, patting Lor’themar’s arm and giving him a look. It looked suspiciously like a smile.

Sighing, Jaina palmed her face. “Just don’t finish the bottle tonight, will you?” she sighed, levelling a pointed look at Lor’themar.

“Your mother is in good hands, Lord Admiral,” he assured her.

“The Regent Lord isn’t.”

“Mother!” Jaina cried, but Katherine merely chuckled.

“Goodnight, dear,” Katherine said, already leading Lor’themar away. “Rest well and pleasant dreams.”

 

-------------

 

 

Returning to her chambers that night, Jaina felt a restlessness stir under her skin once more.

She tried calming her nerves with a warm bath, scrubbing down and washing her hair until she felt some of the tension melt from her body. It wasn’t much, but it was something. She could still feel the buzzing agitation under her skin, nerves like the jittery twitch of an unbroken colt. Drying herself, she paced the chambers idly, taking note of the bed and realising that the sheets were still rumpled and smeared with blood and mud and whatever else — likely her own and naga and mur’gul blood and...other things. She stared at the tousled green and strode quickly to her dressers. Abandoning her towels, Jaina slipped the robe over her bare skin, ignoring the way her nipples pebbled at the soft whisper of fabric against sensitised skin and cinching the belt tight.

Pulling the doors to her chamber open just a crack, she caught sight of Alina, and in a low whispering hiss, she summoned the dark ranger to her.

“My Lady,” Alina said, emerging from the darkness with a bow.

Jaina gave her a discerning look before darting a glance down the hall both ways. In a low voice, she commanded, “Guard my door until the morning if you can. Ensure that no one disturbs me until I decide to come out.”

Alina paused, and with a flicker of knowing, bowed her head once more. “As you command, my Lady.”

Blowing out a breath, Jaina nodded her head. “Thank you, Alina.” Then she paused, leaning against the door with a wince. “You heard everything, didn’t you.”

Staring back at her blankly, Alina spoke with the most inflexion Jaina had ever heard from her. “I do not know what you mean, my Lady.” The innocence of it was wry, of course, but Jaina found herself twitching into a smile nevertheless.

She shut the door quietly and latched it just to be sure.

And then, with a quiet murmur and a wave of her hands, she opened a portal and stepped through...

...and found herself immediately pinned against a wall.

Jaina grunted in surprise at the impact, pain riding along her back and spine where they jostled against the stone wall, but she opened her eyes and found herself staring into Sylvanas’ glowering face. The blade of a dagger was pressed dangerously to her neck, and Jaina felt her breath hitch.

Sylvanas’ eyes widened and the dagger dropped away immediately. The arm pinning her by the chest stayed. “What’re you doing here?” she asked, eyes narrowing again in reproach.

“Coming to see my wife,” Jaina replied, still breathless from the jostling. She waited until Sylvanas released her, sagging slightly against the wall as she reached up to rub at the place where Sylvanas had held her. “I didn’t mean to startle you,” she offered. “I just thought you would’ve...felt me.”

A long ear twitched slightly, and Sylvanas turned away from her towards her writing desk. “I didn’t,” she said curtly.

Jaina frowned, but did not push. Instead, she turned her eyes towards the rest of the rooms. The north tower was everything as Jaina expected and nothing at all like it. Where the south tower had been filled meticulously with every luxury she needed, the Warchief’s rooms in the north tower were spartan at best. A curtained four-poster bed in her Forsaken colours, an overbearing writing desk piled with letters and ledgers and reports. An armour stand and a trunk of clothes in the far corner of the room.

A fireplace. Though cleaned and dusted, looked like it hadn’t been used in years.

It seemed to Jaina that save for the dark rangers posted at her door, Sylvanas had very little kept in the tower.

“So why are you here, wife?” Sylvanas asked then, startling Jaina from her reverie. She moved back towards the desk, neatly stacking aside her letters and keeping away her seal. Jaina watched for a moment, taking in the shadowed lines of Sylvanas’ shoulders and back moving as she tidied up. She was dressed down in simple leathers; high-collared and cut to fit the mould of the Banshee Queen’s figure.

“You know why,” Jaina mumbled, eyeing the little bunching of muscles in her shoulders.

She turned back to Jaina, who pulled her gaze away with a blink. Sylvanas smirked at her, leaning her hip back against the desk and bracing her arms against the surface as her own blazing eyes slid down Jaina’s body and back up again.

Her eyes darkened with hunger, and her voice dropped into a low rumble. “Are you here to ‘have words’ with me?”

“Among other things.” Jaina’s feet moved before she could help herself, slipping into the space between her wife’s legs, who moved them apart wider as she pressed in. One of Sylvanas’ hands dropped down to her hip, cool fingers toying with the silken material of her robe, and Jaina shivered.

Sylvanas peered down at her curiously, a slow, arrogant smirk spreading across her face as she traced idle patterns over Jaina’s hip, dipping her hand down lower. “Am I to expect punishment for missing dinner with you?”

“Not exactly.” She slid her own hand up against Sylvanas’ stomach, trailing her fingertips over the hard muscles and unnaturally soft skin. She plucked at the threads of the leathers, inhaling sharply as Sylvanas tilted her head down to press a kiss along her neck. “I really…” her eyes rolled back slightly as the kisses became wet, open-mouthed nibbling. “...Really...hate...when you block me out like that.”

Sylvanas hummed against her skin, and Jaina felt herself being pulled flush against the Warchief as a cool, damp mouth latched against her shoulder, edged with the sharp threat of teeth. Her hand traced circles into the silk, bunching the material up over one thigh and sliding the tips of her fingers onto skin.

“My apologies, wife,” she whispered, and Jaina dropped her head down against a shoulder when Sylvanas’ fingers slid along her inner thigh. “I will do my level best to...atone.”

A small whimper rose in Jaina’s throat as she felt long fingers gliding along the heated seam of her thighs, parting her legs just enough to allow Sylvanas easier access. She scraped her own teeth against Sylvanas’ shoulder, fisting her leathers in hand as she worshipped the place where her wife’s shoulder and neck met. She rocked her hips against unyielding fingers, seeking the slick friction against her clit as Sylvanas hummed and purred and crooned something in Thalassian into her ear.

The barest tip of her fingers would press inwards just so, spreading her open just enough before slipping back out and circling around her clit, and Jaina let her teeth bite down.

Sylvanas’ body went rigid, and the fingers sliding against her curled wickedly as they pressed inside her to the hilt. Jaina gasped sharply, hips dropping down at the sudden stretch, grinding down onto the fingers as her walls fluttered and clenched and struggled to accommodate them. Sylvanas trapped her legs between strong thighs, and Jaina squeaked at the shift in pressure and angle.

Another cool hand slid between the gaps of her robes, honing in on the straining nipples against the silk. Sylvanas cooed into her with delight, rolling a nipple between her fingers as Jaina writhed and rocked against her hand desperately.

“Insatiable,” Sylvanas purred, nibbling along the shell of her ear. “Whatever am I going to do with you, my dear?”

Jaina bit back a whine, slipping her own hand down between her legs and circling her own clit. “Another finger would be a good start,” she gasped, shuddering at the lewd noise Sylvanas’ fingers made on a thrust.

A low laugh filled the space between them, and Jaina groaned in relief when Sylvanas obliged her. Her voice caught in her throat at the stretch, baring her teeth against Sylvanas’ shoulder as she rubbed faster. She hissed when the sharp bite of fingernails dug into her nipple before being quickly soothed away with the pad of a finger.

“We used to call girls like you ‘size queens’,” Sylvanas whispered wickedly, dipping her head down to mouth the swell of Jaina’s breasts. “Pretty girls with a taste for pain and big things between their legs.”

A sharp tingle of pleasure bloomed in her hips, and Jaina flushed. “Less talking,” she hissed, her pace turning frantic. She reached up one hand and yanked Sylvanas down for a vicious kiss just as the first throes consumed her. It was a quick and urgent burst of pleasure, everything was wet and slick, and Jaina felt it prickle from the tips of her toes up into her scalp. Her legs buckled slightly at the intensity of it, the accidental press of her own fingers against the oversensitive swell of her clit.

Sylvanas caught her easily with the arm around her waist, thrusting her fingers slow and deep still as she angled their mouths for a deeper kiss. Her tongue slid out and brushed against Jaina’s, savouring the taste of her cries and whimpers until her thighs snapped together again the second time.

When the stars finally faded from her vision and her legs could finally support her weight, Jaina straightened off Sylvanas, gasping back a breath as she steadied herself on her wife’s shoulder. She found her footing with a stumble, shivering at the slick pull of Sylvanas’ fingers from between her legs.

Bringing her hand in front of herself, Sylvanas peered down at the glistening wetness on her fingers. “You finish very quickly,” she remarked, almost amused. “And wetly.”

Jaina choked on a breath when Sylvanas brought her fingers to her mouth and licked them clean. “I’ve been blocked up.”

“Hmm.” Sylvanas’ tongue darted out between her fingers, lapping slowly at the slickness between each digit. “We’ll have to amend that.”

Boldly, Jaina pressed back into her space, snatching up her wrist. With her eyes never leaving Sylvanas’ face, she took the Warchief’s fingers in her own mouth. Her lashes flickered at the taste of herself, but Jaina stared down into Sylvanas’ face as she cleaned off her fingers the rest of the way, pulling them back with a wet pop.

Sylvanas looked like a sabre cat eyeing a doe.

“My turn first.”

Snatching the dagger of the desk, Jaina wasted no time by splitting the leathers down from neck-to-hem. It gave way like butter; like flesh slipping away from bone, and Sylvanas gave her an amused smirk as she stepped back to stare openly.

“Haven’t you seen enough of me yet?” Sylvanas drawled.

Stepping into her space, Jaina reached out and cupped a full breast, eyes flashing when Sylvanas’ breath hitched. The darkened nipple against her thumb was stiff and cool, and Jaina trailed her thumbnail over it delicately.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of looking at you,” she said seriously.

Sylvanas scoffed, but made no protest as Jaina crowded back into her space.

Jaina tenderly cupped her cheek and skimmed her lips in a whisper over Sylvanas’ face, over each divot of the lingering scars, over the regal arch of her cheekbones. She brushed her thumbs over the ridge of the Banshee Queen’s brows, boldly sliding her hand back down onto Sylvanas’ jaw and trailing upwards. Leaning in, she chased for a slow, deep kiss, sighing against Sylvanas’ lips when one arm came to band around her waist. She trailed her tongue over the pointed edge of a fang, tugging at Sylvanas’ lower lip with her teeth before mapping a path along her jaw and neck.

She kissed her way down Sylvanas’ body, worshipping the hard lines and raised scars of a body honed for fighting. She licked and kissed and nipped, relishing the dark bloom of green welling up beneath her skin in the wake of Jaina’s mouth. She did the same on both breasts, mouthing over the hardened peaks of her nipples and swirling her tongue around them until she heard the warning hiss from above.

Smirking against Sylvanas’ skin, Jaina lapped her tongue over the grooves of solid muscle in her stomach as she began to drop to her knees. She slid her hands down the material of her tights and fingered the edge of her waistband.

Sylvanas leaned back against the desk with a groan, hands curling into fists around the edge so tight that the wood creaked. She submitted easily to the kisses and touches, but when Jaina trailed her hand down one thigh, the lines of her body went rigid, muscles tensed and braced.

Jaina hesitated, pulling back just enough to look Sylvanas in the eye. “Is this okay?”

For a long moment, Sylvanas said nothing, staring down at her over her nose. Jaina felt a rush of worry fill her chest, and she made to pull back, but then Sylvanas’ hand snatched out. Pressing her hand back against her thigh.

“...yes.”

Jaina blinked, sliding her hand hesitantly along Sylvanas’ thigh. “Are you sure?”

Yes,” Sylvanas gritted out, eyes blazing at her amidst the flickering candles of the room. “Prove your mettle, wife.”

That got Jaina moving. She tugged Sylvanas’ tights down long, muscular legs, eyes darkening hungrily at the fine spread of blonde between strong thighs. She looked up from between her legs, tossing the tights over her shoulder before sliding her hand along rapidly-warming thighs. She could smell Sylvanas’ arousal, which surprised and delighted her; something sharp like steel, like arcane, but something soft and spiced that made her mouth water for a taste.

Sylvanas tilted her head to match the look on Jaina’s face, an ear angling downwards in a lazy flick. “Well?” She spread her legs wider and flexed her hips, but Jaina pressed a biting kiss along her knee.

“Behave,” she purred, smirking when Sylvanas scowled. “Let me savour this.”

She waited for no answer, leaning forward to press hot, open-mouthed kisses along Sylvanas’ inner thighs. She alternated legs, sucking a path of bruises against the seam of her thighs until the muscles jerked beneath her teeth. The smell of her heat was intoxicating, pressed so close and yet so far, and Jaina darted her tongue out to lick a wet stripe along the seam of one thigh, and then the other.

Fingers curled into her hair in warning, the roots screeching slightly when Sylvanas tugged just enough to hurt.

“Jaina,” she growled.

Grinning against her skin, Jaina obliged her. She pressed her fingers over purple flushed dark, spreading open her outer folds as she pressed a soft, lingering kiss to Sylvanas’ clit. She laved her tongue over it slowly, increasing the pressure of her lips when the muscles under her hands twitched hard. The taste flooded her senses and Jaina gave a soft hum, dragging her tongue down over her entrance and tracing a path back up to her clit.

Sylvanas snarled out her name, and Jaina felt her nails cutting into her scalp. She traced her fingertips over the soft, plush heat, dipping in one finger slowly. Sylvanas let out a hitched noise, and her walls fluttered around her finger as Jaina curled it upwards.

“Another.”

Jaina pulled her mouth away, and Sylvanas growled at the loss. “Another?” she asked, voice sweet as she curled her finger slowly. She tapped the grooves just along her entrance, and Sylvanas’ legs jerked.

Red eyes glowered down at her, a soft flush of colour in her cheeks as Sylvanas forced out her words through gritted teeth. “Less talking.”

Puffing out a soft chuckle, Jaina pressed a kiss to the top of her pubic bone before returning her mouth back to Sylvanas’ core, sucking her clit back into her mouth as she pressed two fingers into the willing heat.

A low purr rumbled down from Sylvanas’ chest, and Jaina felt it reverberating against her ears when her thighs clamped down against her head. She worked relentlessly against the pliant flesh, swiping her tongue from Sylvanas’ clit down to her entrance, swirling in the generous spill of wetness and swallowing.

The wood of the desk creaked again, and Jaina perked at the sound of splintering wood. She tried to pull away, but Sylvanas tugged again sharply, her hand encompassing the back of Jaina’s head.

“Finish what you started, Proudmoore.”

Jaina hummed, doubling her efforts and thrusting her fingers faster. She shivered with pleasure as Sylvanas scraped her nails over her scalp, stroking her hair back and stroking her fingers over Jaina’s ears.

“Good girl,” she purred, rolling her hips into Jaina’s mouth.

She gasped, smothering her moan against Sylvanas’ skin as a rush of heat pooled between her hips again. She flushed, focusing intently on the task at hand, ignoring the way Sylvanas stroked her hair and crooned at her.

It wasn’t long before Sylvanas dug her heel into Jaina’s back, words caught between gritted teeth as the muscles in her stomach and thighs went taut. She bit out a ragged word in Thalassian, walls clenching down tight over Jaina’s fingers as she shivered and shook through the waves of release. The muscles in her stomach clenched tight, rolling in time with her hips as Jaina slipped her fingers out, pressing her tongue in their place as she nuzzled into Sylvanas’ folds.

She licked Sylvanas clean until the Warchief was twitching her hips away, the fingers in her hair softer now, sliding down over her cheek and under her chin. She pulled her mouth away, wiping it against Sylvanas’ thigh before looking up. Their eyes met and held, Sylvanas staring down at her with something she couldn’t quite read, and Jaina allowed herself to be guided upright, rising on slightly aching knees.

Sylvanas’ eyes lingered on her mouth, reaching out a thumb to swipe across the wetness there. “Messy,” she hummed, and pulled Jaina in for a kiss.

She went easily, melting into the touch, moaning into the kiss as Sylvanas’ tongue darted out to explore her mouth. She could taste them both combined, heady and sharp, and she pressed Sylvanas back further into the desk to chase it. The desk groaned under their weight, wood creaking, and Jaina yelped when she was suddenly swept into an embrace. She pulled back from the kiss with a gasp, lips swollen and spit-slick as she wrapped her arms around Sylvanas’ shoulders.

Stroking one long ear, Jaina tilted her head and nipped at Sylvanas’ lip. “Have I satisfied you, Warchief?” she breathed, licking her lips and looking at her wife through hooded lids.

“I will have my fill of you soon enough.” Sylvanas darted a look towards the bed. “But not tonight.”

Jaina pulled back, pouting at her indignantly. “You can’t tell me you’re already spent —” She yelped when Sylvanas gave her ass a reproachful pinch.

“You shouldn’t be gallivanting around at night by yourself.”

“I’m not gallivanting, I’m visiting my wife.” Jaina darted a glance at the bed as well, turning back to her with a pout. “And my bed is a mess. I can’t sleep in mess.”

Sylvanas tsked. “You made that mess,” she reminded her.

“I don’t recall being the one covered in naga and mur’gul blood.”

Huffing, Sylvanas narrowed her eyes mildly at her, shifting her grip on Jaina’s ass and pulling her up higher on her hips. “So now you’ve come to lay claim on my bed, is that it?” she drawled, taking a slow walk towards the bed.

“It’s only fair,” Jaina replied, cinching her legs tight around Sylvanas as she strode towards the bed and laid them down. Jaina watched as the Warchief prowled over her, reaching up to slide her hands over the cooling skin of her breasts again.

Sylvanas unravelled her robes easily, parting the material and letting it pool at her sides. Jaina looked up at her through heavy-lidded eyes, shivering at the cold air and the heat of Sylvanas’ gaze. She could feel the flush of heat building from her belly up into her chest, pooling between her hips as strong hands traced over her chest, teasing the shape of her anchor necklace before sliding down over her navel.

Sylvanas rested her hand against the dip of Jaina’s ribcage, sliding her hand lower and palming the swell of her hip bones. She flexed her fingers possessively against the warming skin there, tracing an idle pattern with her thumb before pushing back upright. “As you like, wife,” she sighed, shrugging off the remnants of her leathers and rearranging the sheets to her liking.

Jaina rolled over onto her stomach, watching where Sylvanas was settling the pillows against the headboard. She said nothing as she crawled up along the bed, tugging the covers back and slipping underneath them. She hesitated for a moment, glancing at the space between them before slotting herself into Sylvanas’ side.

“This is much better than sleeping alone,” she said, nestling her head onto Sylvanas’ bare chest and splaying a hand over her waist.

Sylvanas’ arm came around her shoulders, her fingers stroking through her hair again. “Then sleep, wife. I’ll keep watch until the morning.”

Jaina pressed a kiss along her shoulder and settled into the embrace.

 

-------

 

Burning. Everything was burning.

Flames swallowing the landscape; the men and women and children that screamed and begged and burned in their homes. She could smell it all — honey blossoms and tulips. Scorched wheat and burning flesh. Golden hair whipping in the winds, so bright it gleamed white —

The snarl of her father’s voice as she begged him to reconsider. The sound of her mother’s hissing words of disownment.

The screams envelop her in a whirlpool of sound and chaos — cries for help, pleas for mercy.

The high, sweet voice of a woman, tulips in her hair —

The cold laughter of a young man, warhammer in hand —

The cries of a babe, fragile hand clutching to her mother’s dress

“Sylvanas,” Arwen crooned, her touches like feathers.

“Dalah’surfal,” Jaina gasped, grasping for her hands. “Please, stay with me —”

A blinding agony of steel rending flesh, plunged into her back, splitting skin and bone and spilling precious red. An agony so sharp she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t scream. Power like she’d never felt before, flaring outwards and then reeling back in, a searing cold that burnt into flesh as she was pulled, ripped away —

The wail of her wife’s name faded into the deafening shriek of a banshee.

She woke with the scream dying on her tongue, the taste of tears and bile in her throat. Wordlessly, as ever; Sylvanas wiped her tears and cupped her cheek and held her when her trembling arms gave way. Eventually, she pushed herself upright, palming away the tears in weary, angry swipes of her fingertips.

Swallowing back a trembling sob, she swung her legs off the side of the bed, knuckles white as she clung to the edge of the bed. “Your wife.” She didn’t bother looking up at Sylvanas. “That’s who she was. Arwen.”

“...yes.”

“And —” A violent churn of bile rose in her stomach, and Jaina felt her mouth water from it.

“Our daughter.”

She dared to look up, glancing over her shoulder.

Pain from a thousand lifetimes of mourning dimmed the blaze of her eyes, and Sylvanas looked away into the blackened hearth. “...Nilarith.”

“I’m —”

“Don’t.” The cold tone was back again. Sylvanas adjusted the covers and sat up stiffly, turning away the same. “You will return to your rooms. Your absence will have already been noted.”

Jaina stared at her incredulously; the both of them at opposites ends of the bed. The space cavernous between them. “You can’t keep kicking me out of the room every time you don’t want to talk about your feelings.” She felt her temper flare amidst the chaos of emotions roiling within her, her voice rising higher than she likely should have allowed it. “We can share a room. We should share a room. We are the united front of the New Era.”

Whipping her head around, Sylvanas bore her teeth in a snarl. “The Void take the damned New Era! Our people will understand that we need space from time-to-time. Many are still wary of where our loyalties lie. I’m sure their preferences are if we continued to keep separate rooms.”

“...and when have you ever cared about the preferences and opinions of the masses?” Jaina scoffed.

Sylvanas’ eyes were reproachful and guilty. “...I care that my wife has comfort in times of turmoil. Even if that turmoil is me. Especially then.”

“Then comfort me,” Jaina snapped, and hated the way her voice trembled as she turned on the bed to face Sylvanas fully. She could feel the burn of tears in her eyes as she spoke, the memories too fresh and too sharp. “Hold me. That’s all I want right now.”

Blazing eyes widened in surprise, and Sylvanas stared at her for a long, tenuous moment before pursing her lips. Her ears went flat against her skull before she heaved a weary sigh. “...As you wish.” She pressed back against the pillows, opening her arms.

Jaina fell into them without protest or hesitation. She buried the heat of her tears in cool skin and nestled her face into Sylvanas’ breasts, breathing in the familiar smell of cold steel and tulips. It should have been a comfort, but her heart wrenched at the scent.

Her fingers dug into Sylvanas’ side.

Sylvanas twitched slightly, as if struck, but squeezed her shoulders gently, bringing up her hand to press the barest whisper of kisses to her fingertips. “I’m here,” she soothed. “I won’t let go.”

 

Chapter Text

She dreamt of Arthas. His gilded crown of hair gleaming in the sunlight, his war-roughened hand in hers. Running through a glen in Lordaeron, the texture of her mage’s robes against her legs—

The raw power brimming under her skin, the muffled and yellowing memory of lessons in Dalaran, of endless shelves of old tomes and musty scrolls.

Stratholme was burning, again, but now it was her own robes that were swallowed in flames. Now it was her skin burning, her own flesh melting from the bone. She opened her mouth but no sound would come, and when she reached down to brush away the flames, her hands came away with red-tinted fingers, the cloth of her skirts soaked in blood. The smell of salt and the sea as she looked out onto Theramore Isle. Overhead, the mana bomb loomed, and she watched as it unlatched from the balloon in slow motion, plunging down to the surface —

Strong hands shoving her, and she was falling, falling, falling —too fast and not fast enough — the sea engulfing her in blackness — the gaping maw of the Void’s abyss —

The power slicing through her, an encompassing agony of power thrumming, pulsing, bubbling so tight under her skin — Tides, she was going to burst —

“Jaina!”

Pale blonde hair. So fair and bright it gleamed silver. Elven ears and eyes like the moon —

Vereesa?

She tried to speak the name, to call out, but instead she felt the waters fill her lungs, a plume of salt and steel and blood. She clawed at her throat, gasping for breaths that tore from her lungs in frantic bubbles. She could see her there — at the surface, Vereesa, Vereesa, Vereesa —

Little Moon.

She was standing in the middle of a room, swallowed in darkness save for the eerie glow of the Focusing Iris beside her. An unholy rage consumed her, magic bleeding from her pores. Blue and purple thrumming from her fingertips like rainfall. She watched them all crumble — orc and troll and tauren — Horde

She heard their screams and cries for mercy —

—and relished it.

Women and children; orclings barely grown into their tusks, bawling and clutching to their mothers’ skirts.

Elf children wailing. Nilarith sobbing in her mother’s arms. Arwen pleading for mercy.

She lifted her hand and swallowed them in the seas.

Something came upon the breeze. The faint rush of the ocean waves along the bleeding shore.

It came in a murky croon from beneath the waves, lilting in a siren song. “Sylvanas.”

Murderer.

It came in a broken moan from beneath the ashes, crackling and reedy. “Sylvanas.”

Betrayer.

It came from a living throat, desperate and soft. “Sylvanas.”

Sylvanas’ eyes slid open. There were no screams in her throat and no tears in her eyes. Instead, she found herself staring up at the ceiling, and the shadowed form of Jaina hovering worriedly over her. Her wife’s face was twisted in a tight grimace, her eyes sleep-glazed but bright with worry.

Blinking, she glanced down at her hand, outstretched before her and sunk like a claw into a pale arm. Gripping so tight she could already see the blood vessels breaking.

She surged upright, nearly shoving Jaina backwards from how quickly she recoiled her grip. She pushed herself against the headboard. “Forgive me,” she said, frowning at the rasp in her voice. How long had she been resting? “I —”

Jaina reached out and laid a hand over Sylvanas’ forearm, the touch prickling her skin. The bruise forming on her arm was already dark and mottled, and the sight of it made something curdle in Sylvanas’ chest.

She swung her feet off the bed, fingers digging into the edge of it. Her skin crawled like a thousand pins scuttling beneath the surface; the sheets rustling against her palms made her itch to shred them. This was exactly what she was anticipating. This was exactly what she’d braced for, and yet —

A warm hand spread out along the tense muscle of her shoulders, gripping gently. Sylvanas’ nails dug holes into the sheets then, but she held stiff and still as Jaina’s warmth came to engulf her back. Bare flesh burned like glowing steel against her back; the brush of hardening nipples pressed into her shoulder blades and the steady beat of a living heart made her feel the dangerous urge of surrendering to the pull of her wraith form.

Jaina’s arm slid along her collarbone, draping down over the unnaturally still space of her breastbone. A hand splayed, warm and edged with callused fingertips between her breasts.

“Jaina…”

She felt warm lips press to her neck. The hand slid lower to cup her breast.

Jaina.”

“I know,” Jaina said quietly. “I know.”

Brusquely, she shrugged off Jaina’s touch, slipping away from beneath the warmth of her. She moved towards the trunk in the far end of the room, snatching up a loose tunic to pull over her head. She did not turn back towards the bed, but she could feel the burn of those blue eyes boring into the back of her head.

She heard Jaina sigh from the bed. “Just come back to bed, Sylvanas.”

“I will not.”

Sylvanas.”

Gritting her teeth, Sylvanas spun around slowly on her heels. Jaina was still upright, bracing her weight against one hand on the bed as she glared. The low gloom of dwindling candlelight illuminated the drape of her robes over the contours of her body, unravelled and mussed with sleep. Her hair fell in pale wisps around her neck and shoulders; the braid must have come undone at some point of the night.

The darkening bruises and teeth marks that littered her chest and neck and breasts matched the one forming on her arm. They stood out against the faded remnants of battle scars on her body; of the streaks of lightning burns that spread along her arms and legs and chest. Just like the scars she’d gotten in the forest.

Jaina lifted her head defiantly, and Sylvanas’ eyes dropped down to the bite marks on her neck and shoulders. The Lord Admiral looked like she’d been mauled by some rabid creature; full of nothing but fangs and claws.

She looked, in that instant, as ethereal as the beams of moonlight spilling across the window.

Jaina reached out a hand, palm upturned and fingers outstretched. “Come back to bed, please.”

Curling her hands into fists at her side, Sylvanas forced herself to look away. “We cannot keep allowing ourselves to do this.”

“I wasn’t asking,” Jaina replied seriously. Then her eyes softened, and she spoke in such a low and gentle whisper it made Sylvanas’ ear twitch. “You do the same for me. Let me help you through it.”

“I hurt you,” Sylvanas forced out, her gaze flicking down towards Jaina’s arm quickly before looking away once more.

Jaina blinked and looked down at her own arm. She twisted her arm at the wrist, inspecting the bruise for a moment before shrugging. “If it happened, it means I let it.” She reached up a hand to touch the anchor pressed against her breastbone.

“That is no excuse.”

With no small amount of frustration, Jaina swept out of bed in a rush, robes fluttering around her as she marched towards Sylvanas.

Despite herself, Sylvanas took one step backwards. “Jaina —”

Wordlessly, Jaina wrapped a hand around her wrist, tugging her forward into a hard kiss. Sylvanas reached out to brace her hand against Jaina’s shoulder, to pull away, but Jaina was already guiding her back towards the bed.

Pulling away just enough to speak, Sylvanas began to protest. “This is serious. You can’t kiss away dreams of the past like skinned knees.” Her hand dropped down to Jaina’s hips in some hope of keeping her wife in place, but Jaina’s grip was iron-cast and her gaze steely.

“It’s better than running away from them,” she said, and seemed at peace with ignoring the way Sylvanas bristled slightly. Seating herself at the edge of the bed, she stared up at Sylvanas expectantly, gripping her hand still.

Sylvanas glanced down at their hands and didn’t remember when she’d twined her fingers between Jaina’s. The ring pulsed idly against her skin, and Sylvanas swiped the pad of her thumb over the embossed words thoughtfully.

Jaina followed her gaze. The corner of her lip twitched and she looked back up at Sylvanas with a tilt of her head. Tightening her grip on Sylvanas’ hand, she leaned back onto the bed, pulling Sylvanas down with her until the Banshee Queen was knelt on one leg above her.

The embers of her eyes began to glow as Sylvanas stared down at Jaina intently. She looked into her wife’s face and searched for something in the shape of her brow, curve and ridge of her nose, the plush of her lips.

She tilted her head in confusion; an ear followed suit. Where was the fear? The resentment? The pity?

Their fingers were still woven together, and Sylvanas brought their joined hands up by Jaina’s head as she loomed over her wife. White hair spread out in a halo around her, cut through with gold, and Sylvanas reached out her free hand to wind the silken threads of them between her fingers. Jaina’s eyes hooded, a slow build of colour darkening across her cheekbones as she turned her head towards Sylvanas’ hand.

Sylvanas cupped her cheek, inhaling sharply when warm lips pressed against the skin of her palm. “Jaina…” She made to pull away, but Jaina’s hand came up to clasp around her neck. “Jaina, this is serious —”

“Shut up,” Jaina breathed. “Kiss me.”

Sighing, Sylvanas surrendered to her wife.

 

----------

 

Sylvanas woke at first light. She did not allow herself anymore rest that night, not after they had worked each other into exhaustion. After Jaina had stopped trembling and Sylvanas had kissed her way back up her body; after she had wrung out the last of the tremors from her wife’s body and whispered the darkest promises in her ear. She thought of only her wife’s pleasure, thought of only the desires of living flesh.

Every touch Jaina offered was redirected, every stroke of her hands creeping along the seams of Sylvanas’ thighs was pinned back against the bed with a low growl.

Jaina had given her a look the second time she pressed wandering hands back, but said nothing when Sylvanas dove down for another kiss.

By the time the first spill of sunrise crept into the room, Jaina was sprawled out on her stomach over the bed, snoring softly into the clutched pillow between her hands. Sylvanas rose from bed and dressed quietly, watching Jaina from the end of it.

Stretched out like a languid cat, Jaina looked very much unlike the woman she’d first married. Uptight, at first, Sylvanas thought of her. Bigoted and opinionated and blindly devoted to the Alliance. She used to sleep with her hair pulled tight in her braid, as if even at rest Jaina Proudmoore clung to what control she could.

Now, though, her hair spilt out in a glorious mane of tangles and curls, shrouding most of her face from view as she nuzzled into the pillows. She wore her nudity without shame, and Sylvanas smirked at the memory of Jaina’s red-faced panic at the exposure of any bare skin.

So needlessly conservative.

Jaina sighed in her sleep, shifting against the covers wound tight around her legs, reaching out towards the empty space beside her.

Sylvanas froze, glancing towards the door. Her feet planted firmly, ready to spin on her heels and leave. Everything in her was braced to run; the Banshee Queen was no coward, despite the way Jaina used the word to gall her. They were falling into habits that were dangerously detrimental to their physical and mental health — and Jaina seemed content to allow their...desires to consume them.

She would need to take matters into her own hands if they were going to survive the first year of their marriage.

“Mmn —” Jaina lifted her head suddenly, one blue eye peering blearily through her mane of hair. “Sylvanas?” she rasped, stretching her arms out in a low yawn. She stretched with a shudder, her spine lengthening in such a way that made Sylvanas unable to tear her gaze from the swell of her ass.

She turned over onto her side, pushing her hair back with one hand as she blinked up at Sylvanas. “Is it morning?” She glanced over her shoulder towards the window at the spill of purple and orange bleeding further into the room.

“It is,” Sylvanas replied stiffly.

Jaina turned back to her, hand outstretched. “Come back to bed.”

Sylvanas stared down at her hand for a moment, trailing over the map of bruises over her skin. “I have reports to write about the naga encounter.”

“It can wait for a couple more hours.”

“I’m sure the Boy-King and his Dog would beg to differ.”

“They’re not here.” Jaina gave her a look. “I am, and I’m your wife. My word is law.”

That made Sylvanas scoff quietly. “Is it?”

“In the bedroom, yes.”

Puffing out a breath through her nose, Sylvanas rolled her eyes mildly. “Bold words coming from you after last night, Proudmoore.”

Jaina smirked at her, and this time when she crooked her fingers, it was entirely wickedly. “Make me eat my words, then.”

“Insatiable,” Sylvanas sighed, but she was already moving towards the bed. “Whatever will I do with you, wife?”

“I have some ideas.”

 

---------

 

She left Jaina at long last when Alina had come knocking. The mention of her mother was enough to send Jaina into a panic, leaving behind a remnant of arcane and burnt ozone in her wake.

Sylvanas bathed and dressed without fanfare. She regarded her selection of tunics and leathers and picked a doublet that was high-collared enough to hide the mottled welts and bruises on her neck. Reaching out to stroke a finger along one, Sylvanas bit back a smirk and shrugged it on. The shoulder pads that settled over her frame were carved in delicate filigree; a far muted accenting than her armours of old. She swept the cape over her shoulders and adjusted the fall of it with an impatient flick of her hand.

It wasn’t a habit she enjoyed entertaining, but her armours still needed mending, and she had only so many cuirasses and pauldrons to switch with.

Fastening the last of its buckles, Sylvanas smoothed her hair back with a slow breath. Her eyes flickered to the bed briefly, rumpled in all its debauched glory.

She paused in the doorway for an instant, committing the room to memory, and left.

Katherine was already at the breakfast table when Sylvanas swept into the room. “My apologies for keeping you waiting, Lady Proudmoore. I heard Jaina had given you quite the scare this morning,” she began, sliding into her seat with a languid grace. She ignored the spread of food before her as she always did, picking up the stack of letters that Nathanos seemed to materialise out of thin air from to place beside her plate.

“A small matter,” Katherine replied, somewhat stiffly as she sipped her tea. “Though I did mention to her that I had no qualms with your...nighttime habits.”

Sylvanas paused midway through shuffling the letters to regard Katherine over the tops of them. An ear flicked slightly, falling back into an impassive position as she continued shuffling. “My lady wife is sometimes plagued with dreams she cannot escape,” she said blandly, glancing back at Katherine when she saw the woman mask a wince. “She sought comfort in my presence.”

Lips pursed, Katherine nodded. “Of course. My apologies.”

“None required,” Sylvanas drawled.

The silence that fell upon them was stilted but comfortable, the white noise of shuffling papers and clattering cutleries making up for the lack of conversation. Katherine remarked once on her attire, “I thought for a moment you’d just been fused to your armour.”

“Very nearly,” Sylvanas replied flippantly, pausing to scribble something onto a letter and handing it to Nathanos. “My wife and I take more care with our words now.”

Jaina bustled into the room eventually, slightly breathless as she approached. “Good morning!” she said, breezing past Sylvanas to press a kiss to her mother’s cheek. “I’m sorry, I just lost track of the time.”

“Hmm.” Katherine gave her a probing look, but Jaina was already moving back towards Sylvanas.

Sylvanas did not look up when Jaina entered, though she was keenly aware of the high-collared blouse cinched tight around her neck; the long sleeves and covered cleavage. She looked away quickly and frowned instead at her letter, tapping her nails restlessly against the armrest of her seat. “You’re sure these are the correct numbers, Blightcaller?”

“Yes, my Queen. I had them triple-checked.”

“Hmm.”

She barely spared Jaina a glance until she felt the press of a warm hand on her padded shoulder. She blinked in surprise when her vision was suddenly filled with Jaina’s face.

“Good morning, dear,” she said warmly, pressing a kiss to the corner of Sylvanas’ mouth. She pulled back with a smile, turning away as she settled into her seat to gather her plate.

The letters rumpled in Sylvanas’ hand as she glowered at Jaina, too painfully aware of the strange rush of sensation in her cheeks. Nathanos gave a condescending sniff from her elbow, but Sylvanas ignored him for the sake of staring down Katherine’s wide-eyed gaze from across the table.

Clearing her throat quietly, Sylvanas gave her a slight nod before resuming with her letters. Beckoning Nathanos close, she scribbled a note onto parchment and slipped it into his hands.

“For the goblins at their workshop. With the utmost discretion, yes?”

Chapter Text

Sylvanas lingered at the breakfast table for longer than she likely should have. She took her letters and read her reports amidst the background chatter of Jaina and her mother; ranging from the latest gossip of Kul Tiras to the serious talks of Tandred and the decision Jaina still needed to make with regards to the most qualified delegates to send.

She offered input in sparse intervals; distracted little asides or a witty one-liner as was expected of her.

Every so often, she caught the fleeting glances Jaina would cast her way; the little uptick of her mouth and the slant of affection in her eyes. The shadow of concern whenever she would pointedly ignore them.

To avoid further probing glances, Sylvanas asked placidly, “What are your plans for the day, wife?”

Jaina peered at her for a moment, swallowing her bite and sipping her coffee. “We’ll be having that council meeting with the rest of the leaders about what happened at the High Command, won’t we?” she asked.

“Perhaps later in the day,” Sylvanas said. “I must attend to Horde matters first. I’ll be sure to finish them as expeditiously as possible so we can proceed with the necessary measures.” She glanced between Katherine and Jaina knowingly. “I trust your mother has been informed?”

The look she received from both women was answer enough. Sylvanas smirked. “But of course.”

“She was the best person to ask before we brought it to the council.”

“Of that, I have no doubt.” Sylvanas inclined her head and looked back to her reports, making a notation in the corner of one about the tally in their food stores. Without looking up, she asked, “And what were your thoughts on the matter, Lady Proudmoore?”

Katherine made a thoughtful noise, sitting up straighter in her seat. “There were parts I was unsure of with regards to the incident,” she said, meeting Sylvanas’ gaze. “You are certain that there was only one?”

“As certain as I can be, as the one who saw it dead,” Sylvanas drawled.

“Hmm. I did mention to Jaina that it would be wise to send a party southeast towards Chillwind.” Katherine tapped her fingers against her chin, eyes glazed with thought. “Those waters run from the Bay itself. If those beasts are trying to make their way inland, they would certainly come from there.”

Sylvanas pursed her lips, tapping her taloned finger against the breakfast table. “That is certainly a thought.” Heaving a breath, she reached for a fresh piece of parchment and dipped her quill into its inkwell. “I’ll have to send the Ranger Lord ahead with Kalira and a small party of rangers to check.”

“I would imagine it best to wait until the council has heard of this,” Katherine suggested, but Sylvanas waved a hand dismissively.

“There are contingency plans already set in place, in any which case,” Sylvanas told her. “It would be best to have proof before bringing this to your precious council. Greymane will just think I let them into Lordaeron.”

“And the Arevass again? Tide’s Run?” Jaina pressed. “If you’re going back there, then I’m going with you.”

Sylvanas did not react; she signed off her letter and proceeded to fold it, dribbling the wax in an elegant movement and sealing it. “You would be better suited in Lordaeron,” she told Jaina primly.

As expected, Jaina glared. “I stayed the first time, and look what happened.”

“The ambush would have happened regardless of your presence or otherwise, Lord Admiral,” Sylvanas said, a bite in her words. “It would have just meant that you were in the line of danger as well.”

“Didn’t you think that a frost mage would’ve been any help handling threats from nagas and murlocs?”

Sylvanas’ brows pulled together irritably. “Mind your tone, wife,” she warned, levelling Jaina with a low look before glancing at Katherine. “As much as it upsets you to miss the gore of battle, it is still my decision to make.”

“And given that it’s a stupid decision, I’ve elected to ignore it,” Jaina snapped.

Gritting her teeth, Sylvanas hissed, “Must I really spell out ‘your safety is my absolute priority’ to you?”

Jaina stared at her incredulously; Sylvanas could see from the gleam in her eyes that she wasn’t quite ready to let go of her temper quite yet. “I’m perfectly capable of handling myself—”

“I think what your wife is trying to say, dear,” Katherine cut in mildly, shooting Jaina a look that conveyed both amusement and exasperation. “Is that she doesn’t want you there because she’s worried about your safety.”

Jaina’s mouth clicked shut audibly, and she blinked. Sylvanas watched her wordlessly for a moment, tilting her head in amusement when the slow flush of colour rose in her cheeks, the freckles there darkening. “Oh.”

“Yes.”

“That doesn’t mean I still can’t help,” Jaina insisted. “I want to help.”

A throat was cleared quietly from the doorway, and they turned to find Lor’themar standing with his hands tucked officiously behind his back. He bowed low.

Sylvanas blinked. “Ah. Lor’themar. I hadn’t thought the time had passed so quickly.”

“I’m sure,” he replied, darting a glance at the other women at the table. “Perfectly understandable, my Queen. You’ll excuse me for having interrupted your breakfast.”

Mouth curving wryly, Sylvanas drawled, “Not at all. You’re just in time for the show.”

Jaina was still frowning at her, and it took the Lord Admiral a moment to redirect her attention and temper. She perked up at the sight of the Regent Lord, tilting her head. “How are you, Regent Lord Theron? You didn’t try to drink each other under the table, did you?”

Katherine let out a short bark of laughter, shaking her head. “Your Regent Lord is a lightweight if I’ve ever seen one, dear. He could hardly stand to take more than a finger or two.”

“Really?” Jaina exclaimed, glancing back to Lor’themar consideringly. “But he seems so —”

“Experienced? I thought the same.”

“I was merely being polite, my Lady,” Lor’themar cut in drolly, darting a glance at Sylvanas, who arched a brow. “It would be unsportsmanlike to flaunt my prowess.”

Glancing between the three, Sylvanas drawled, “As rapt as I am with this conversation, the Regent Lord and I have business to tend to.”

Lor’themar inclined his head. “As discussed, Warchief. I am ready at your whim.”

Sylvanas rose from her seat and bowed to Jaina and Katherine. “I take my leave, wife. Lady Proudmoore. I won’t be much for the dining hall or the drawing room today, I’m afraid.”

Eyeing her suspiciously, Jaina asked, “What sort of business?”

“The sort that requires a torturous amount of sitting and listening, unfortunately.” Sylvanas flashed a smirk at her. “Nothing as exciting as the last, dear.”

Still, Jaina frowned at her, picking up her fork to lift a piece of sliced fruit to her lips. Chewing slowly, she regarded them both. “I hope that sitting and listening isn’t happening on top of a horse along the Arevass,” she said, pointing her fork at Sylvanas.

“Perish the thought.”

“Then where exactly will you be sitting and listening from, Warchief?”

Sylvanas sniffed disdainfully. “The council room, of course. I will send for you once we are ready for the Horde-Alliance meeting.”

The frown returned to Jaina’s face as she glanced at Lor’themar warily. “Regent Lord, you’d tell me if my wife was planning to ride out west again, wouldn’t you?” she asked, glancing pointedly at Sylvanas’ midriff.

“It...is not my place to interfere with the marital disputes of my Queen,” Lor’themar said carefully, glancing at Sylvanas.

Sylvanas glared at Jaina reproachfully, voice sharp. “Nor is it your place to openly question my authority so, wife.”

“Then is it your place to tell me why I wasn’t informed of these meetings?” Jaina countered, glancing between the two elves. “Unless you were intentionally keeping it from me — which in any case would be worth questioning; even if I wasn’t your wife.” She dropped her chin and gave Sylvanas a low glare.

Scowling, Sylvanas said, “I had thought to spare you the tedium of such a day. There’s nothing to be discussed that I wouldn’t have shared with you eventually.”

“It still doesn’t dismiss the fact that you didn’t tell me about the meeting,” Jaina said irritably. “And I’m allowed to be concerned if you’re running around getting yourself into trouble and getting hurt.”

“Be concerned in silence then,” Sylvanas said, a warning in her voice. Though she knew the tone would likely earn her an earful later — from Jaina and Katherine both —, she held Jaina’s gaze for a long, tense moment before Lor’themar cleared his throat again, discreetly.

Jaina was first to look away, albeit petulantly.

“If I might make a small suggestion,” Lor’themar piped up, glancing between them and then at Katherine. “Given that the Lord Admiral and Lady Proudmoore are rather integral figures to the latter part of our discussions of the day — perhaps they might offer their insight on the matter.”

Sylvanas narrowed her eyes. “No.”

“What matter?” Jaina demanded.

Sylvanas gave Lor’themar a withering glare before heaving a much put-upon sigh. “I will be in talks with High Overlord Saurfang and High Chieftain Bloodhoof regarding their continuing delegation in Orgrimmar.”

“And?”

With another vicious glare, Sylvanas forced out from between clenched teeth, “And discussing our wedding anniversary.”

It had been a lingering thought in the back of her mind; Sylvanas knew the length of time they’d been married, down to the day, but speaking of it out loud was an entirely different thing altogether. The topic of their marriage rarely came up in a council meeting. In fact, there was a concerted effort by everyone else at the table to never mention it. Sylvanas understood the underlying tensions in the room whenever she entered with Jaina on her arm, or whenever she dipped her head to murmur an aside to her wife.

She understood the way they tensed whenever Jaina willingly lingered by her side during mealtimes. Understood the disapproving and wary glances Greymane gave them when they’d taken excursions outside of Lordaeron to inspect the land before they settled permanently in place. Tensions seemed to only build higher the longer they stayed married; the more they drifted to each other.

None of them expected the marriage to last.

Least of all Sylvanas herself.

And yet — here they stood, nine months and nineteen days into the marriage.

Jaina blinked. “Oh.”

“Yes. Oh.”

Jaina’s brows furrowed as she eyed Sylvanas reproachfully. “And...why wouldn’t I be involved in the discussions of my own wedding anniversary?”

“Because it’s still three months away and I would be loath to suffer through an even longer and more arduous meeting with the rest of the leaders,” Sylvanas told her stiffly, setting her jaw at the thought of suffering through talks of their marriage with the likes of Stormrage and Whisperwind.

A sharp dig burrowed in her chest at the thought of speaking with her sisters again at all.

Jaina blinked, tilting her head thoughtfully as she peered up at Sylvanas, and the Banshee Queen frowned at the discerning look on her face. “It’s something we should celebrate, no?” she asked, tentative.

“You’ve survived a year of marriage together and with minimal bloodshed,” Katherine remarked. “I daresay that would be a cause to celebrate.”

“Quite right,” Lor’themar said brightly.

“Lor’themar.”

“Yes, my Queen?”

“If you cherish your tongue, you would be wise to hold it.”

Huffing quietly, Lor’themar obeyed, although Katherine gave Sylvanas a mild look.

“I don’t quite recall,” Katherine said, and the lilt in her words made Sylvanas’ eyes narrow. “Entirely my doing, of course; being away from the wedding. But did you two take the time to honeymoon at all?”

Jaina’s breath hitched, and Sylvanas caught the furtive look her wife made in her direction. “There were more important things to think about, Mother,” Jaina said.

Katherine inclined her head. “True; but now that you’ve come this far, you might as well allow yourself some time to get away and...enjoy one another.”

From beside her, Lor’themar made a slight noise in his throat, and Sylvanas gave him a sliding glance. “A frog in my throat, my Queen,” he said, voice strained as he forced his quivering lips into a flat line.

Curling her lip, Sylvanas turned her attention to her mother-in-law, who seemed to be more than pleased with herself and the way Jaina was muttering heatedly at her under her breath. Straightening her shoulders and tucking her hands behind her back, Sylvanas said, “Something so frivolous as a honeymoon would be best set aside until we’ve handled this little...incident with the nagas.”

“As you say, Warchief,” Katherine allowed, but still her eyes were sharp and knowing. “Let us hope that this nonsense with those beasts is handled expeditiously. Kul Tiras is quite pleasant this time of year.”

“I will bear that in mind,” Sylvanas said, with finality in her tone. At that, she gave them one last bow, pausing briefly to take Jaina’s hand. With a chaste kiss pressed to the back of her gauntlet, Sylvanas gave her wife a look and swept from the room.

Lor’themar was quick to follow, matching her pace with long-legged strides until they were at an even clip. “The Lady Proudmoore did have a point, Warchief,” he said lightly. “A celebration for your anniversary and time away for your belated honeymoon would serve to strengthen the bonds between Horde and Alliance.”

“What’s interesting is that I don’t quite remember asking for your opinion, Regent Lord.”

“It is my duty to serve the Warchief and Dark Lady as her most stalwart advisor,” he replied, hands folded neatly into his sleeves.

Sylvanas’ lip curled as she opened her mouth to spit a retort, but the sound of rapid footfalls behind them made her pause. She glanced over her shoulder sharply, lips pursing at the sight of Jaina coming down the corridor towards them. Sighing, she turned towards her wife. “Lord Admiral —”

“A word, Warchief.” Jaina swept past her without acknowledging she’d even spoken, and the next thing Sylvanas felt was an iron grip coming to wrap around her arm.

“Wh—” She grunted as she was dragged away with an impressive amount of strength, catching herself quickly and tugging her arm from Jaina’s hold with a scowl.

Lor’themar called from behind them uncertainly, “M-y Queen?”

“Carry on, Regent Lord,” Jaina replied for her. “I will deliver the Dark Lady to your council meeting in a moment.”

Sylvanas allowed herself to be strong-armed through the closest door along the hallway, staggering slightly as Jaina shoved her into the room and pulled the door shut behind them with a firm click. The room was sparsely dressed; likely a spare study from before the War. It had little more than shelves and a writing desk and chair in it, and the stale air told Sylvanas that the room had been dormant for quite some time.

Straightening up and brushing off her arms, Sylvanas gave her wife a withering glare. “Do not think us so familiar outside of the bedroom, Proudmoore. We are still bound—”

“Shut up.” Jaina crowded into her space, and Sylvanas stumbled back against the desk, bracing her hands on the edge of it to keep from toppling backwards onto it. She opened her mouth to speak, but instead found warm, plush lips enveloping them.

Sylvanas gasped, and the sound was swallowed by Jaina’s lips as she deepened the kiss. Her hands dropped down to grasp at Jaina’s hips instinctively, and when she felt the wet stroke of a tongue in her mouth, Sylvanas leveraged her grip to hold her wife in place as she pulled away from the kiss.

Jaina rocked back on her heels in surprise, hands sliding from Sylvanas’ face and down to her shoulders as she stared up at her in confusion.

The Warchief levelled her with a stern glare. “You cannot keep kissing your problems away, Jaina.”

“It’s the only time you’ll listen to me,” Jaina shot back. “And I wouldn’t need to keep cornering you like this if you’d just learn to listen.”

“I wasn’t aware that listening entailed such intimate touches.”

Jaina scowled at her. She slid her hands off Sylvanas’ shoulders, and Sylvanas felt her pull away from her grasp. For an instant, she resisted, holding Jaina in place almost between her legs as they glared at each other. Eventually, Sylvanas released her, and Jaina slipped away to pace the room. With her hips braced against the desk still, Sylvanas folded her arms and watched, lips pressed thin and brows furrowing deep.

“Was that all you needed of me — a kiss?” she demanded. “You pulled me away from a Horde meeting—”

“I pulled you away because I know you’re going to go west again,” Jaina cut in, levelling her with a hard look that dared her to deny it. When Sylvanas did not, she continued, “I’m not an idiot, Sylvanas. I know that it’ll be dangerous, but I’m just as capable as you are.”

Gritting her teeth, Sylvanas snarled, “If you know so much, then surely you know by now that it is not a matter of capability that stays my hand.”

The harsh pinch in Jaina’s brow softened then, and she approached Sylvanas again.

A cautious hand reached out and touched the edge of Sylvanas’ palm, and despite herself, Sylvanas allowed her hand to be taken. She watched as Jaina lifted her gloved hand and pressed a kiss against the leather of it. The heat of her lips bled through the leather like a brand.

“Don’t you think I worry too?” Jaina asked quietly, and blue eyes searched her face for something Sylvanas wasn’t sure she was capable of. “When you’re out there and I’m here, feeling the things you’re dealing with?” She reached out slowly, fingers hesitating over her skin, until Sylvanas lowered her gaze and tilted her face into Jaina’s touch.

Sylvanas’ ear twitched as gloved fingers traced the faint ridges of the scars on her face. She felt Jaina tug her hand up higher, and she looked up to see the Lord Admiral guide her own hand over one unmarred cheek.

“Don’t you think I felt it when this happened?” Jaina whispered. She slid her hand down and pressed it gently over Sylvanas’ armoured chest, cupping the curved shape of it. “When all of it happened?”

A rush of something dark and burning roiled in her gut, and Sylvanas looked away. “I will take more care,” she murmured, stilted and distant as she pulled her hand away from Jaina’s cheek. She pulled away entirely, brushing Jaina’s hand off her body and moving around her towards the door.

Jaina sighed. “Sylvanas.”

She paused at the door, gripping the handle. Turning her head, she glanced at Jaina expectantly. Her brows furrowed when Jaina pulled a small drawstring bag from her side pouch. She eyed Jaina as she drew closer, prying open the bag and depositing something into her hand.

Jaina held out a hand, glancing up at Sylvanas expectantly. “Your hand, Warchief.”

Sylvanas’ brows lifted. “I beg your pardon?”

Flexing her fingers, Jaina said again, “Your hand, please.” Her mouth curved wryly as she brandished something in her other closed fist. “I’m following through.”

Something warm and fluttering bloomed in her chest; like the wild flutter of bird wings, like the frantic beat of a heart. Slowly, Sylvanas extended her hand. She recoiled when she realised — “My gauntlet.”

“Let me,” Jaina said patiently, and reached out to unbuckle her taloned gauntlet first, and then the leather glove underneath. Sylvanas’ skin nearly tingled at the touch, and her fingers did twitch when Jaina pressed a kiss to the tips of them.

Swallowing, Sylvanas spoke in a low, rasp. “Jaina…”

Wordlessly, Jaina slipped the ring over her finger. It was a simple band of finely-tooled white gold; inscribed with twining lines of obsidian and amethyst that made up the elegant branches of filigree embedded into the metal. Sylvanas stroked her thumb over it thoughtfully and was surprised at the sleekness of its texture, of the absence of ridges.

What surprised her the most, though, was the beautiful sapphire stone set into the ring.

“My mother gave it to me the other day,” Jaina murmured, by way of explanation. She seemed to have a taken a sudden vested interest in Sylvanas’ sabatons. “It was the promise ring my father gave her when they were set to marry. I know it’s not the same as your mother’s ring, but —” she gave a helpless shrug. “I had the blacksmith tool it into something that would suit you better.”

Sylvanas reached out and lifted Jaina’s gaze to hers with the edge of her knuckle. “It is beautiful,” she said, with conviction and a deep thrum of something that continued to bloom from the depths of her chest. Her eyes wandered from the flush in her wife’s cheeks down to her lips, reaching out her thumb to stroke over the delicate flesh of them.

“Thank you,” she whispered, and an entirely different flame burned in her stomach when Jaina’s lashes fluttered and the breath that left her trembled.

Leaning down, Sylvanas caught her parted lips in a slow, sensuous kiss. She savoured each stroke of their mouths, each sigh from Jaina’s throat when their tongues met. Slithering a hand around Jaina’s waist, she pulled her wife flush against her, swallowing the faintest moan that came after as she reached up to grasp the back of Jaina’s neck —

A quiet knock came at the door and Sylvanas pulled her lips away with a hiss.

Lor’themar came muffled through the door. “Your pardon, my Queen, but ah...the council grows restless.”

“Then lay them to rest,” Sylvanas snarled back.

Jaina chuckled quietly against her, dipping her head down against Sylvanas’ shoulder before reaching up to press a path of warm, open-mouthed kisses along her exposed neck. “Go,” she murmured, planting a kiss against the jut of a collarbone. “Just don’t go anywhere else without me.”

“One day, your feminine wiles will come back around to bite you,” Sylvanas sighed, glancing down at her hand once more and thumbing the ring. The weight of it was entirely foreign now; it had been years — centuries, eons — since she’d last worn a ring on her finger.

Jaina glanced down the same, reaching out to trace the twirling patterns of the ring. “You could wear it around your neck,” she suggested. “If you don’t like it on your finger —”

Sylvanas curled her hand around it protectively and dropped a faint kiss into Jaina’s hair. “We shall see.” She donned her glove and gauntlet fastidiously, turning to regard Jaina as she did. Tilting her head with thought, she asked, “If you’ll be joining our party west, I’ll need to be sure you can hold your own against the nagas.”

“Oh, Tides, this again.” Jaina rolled her eyes.

Flexing her fingers in her glove, Sylvanas hummed. “Yes, this again.” She slid a hand along the small of Jaina’s back and guided her towards the door. “You were correct — I have intentions to ride west to check on our scouting party. And no, it won’t be tonight, so you can stop looking at me like that.” Pausing before the door, she turned to Jaina once more and regarded her seriously.

“You will be at my side,” she said, and watched as Jaina’s eyes sparked in surprise. “In any which case, I’ll have to leave Lor’themar behind to keep your mother company.”

Jaina let out a breathless laugh. “I’m sure she’ll be delighted.”

Smirking, Sylvanas inclined her head. “Perhaps.” Pulling open the door then, she said, “That is a matter for tomorrow. Tonight is for the sparring mat.”

“S-parring mat? You want to train?”

She grinned then, lascivious and wicked. “Among other things.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 23

----------

 

The day’s meetings carried on as long and tedious as Sylvanas had expected them to. Talks with Saurfang and Bloodhoof had been the most painless discussion of the day, barring the one interruption by Kalira with a message from the western High Command. She read it with Kalira at her elbow, glancing up at the dark ranger as she kept the letter aside.

“You are absolutely certain?”

Kalira nodded. “I saw it with my own eyes, Dark Lady.”

Sylvanas pressed her lips together and dismissed her with a nod. She looked to Saurfang and Bloodhoof then, who shared a speaking look between one another. “Has the council gathered for the Horde-Alliance talks?” she asked.

“Yes, Warchief.”

“Then summon them. We must speak of some pressing matters.”

The Horde-Alliance meeting was... tense, as Sylvanas expected it to be. The mention of nagas so far inland to Lordaeron brought on an outburst of disagreements among the council with regards to the contingency plans set in place by either factions. The rising tempers had only been cooled somewhat when Sylvanas announced the reports of there being no other sighting out west.

Suspicion very rapidly took its place instead.

Greymane eyed her dubiously. “None at all ? You mean to tell me that there was just the one naga?”

Narrowing her eyes, Sylvanas curled her lips into a sneer. “Perhaps numbers might elude that dog brain of yours, Greymane, but none is an equivalent to the number zero, yes.”

“Its etymology does stem from ‘not one’,” Lor’themar murmured from Sylvanas’ right, and she heard Gallywix cackle from further down the table.

“No one asked you, blood elf,” Greymane snarled.

Katherine clicked her tongue in disapproval. “Warchief, Lord Greymane, please. This is a council meeting. I expected some decorum from the likes of you.”

Anduin held up a hand peaceably. “Please. The nagas are a serious matter.”

“Clearly not, if the Warchief says that there are none but the one she supposedly slew.”

Lor’themar sniffed derisively. “You call into question the encounter of an entire party of rangers and that of myself, Lord Greymane?”

“I simply find it convenient that the Warchief had thought to investigate such reports without mention to the Alliance.” He looked towards Jaina with similar wariness and a combined frown of concern and disappointment.

Sylvanas bristled, sitting up straighter in her seat as she met Greymane’s gaze with a withering glare of her own. “Mind your tone, Lord Greymane, and those wandering eyes of yours. Your doubts lie with me, not the Lord Admiral. Casting such glances at the wrong person could prove to be...fatal.”

She felt a gauntleted hand slide along her knee, squeezing gently. Glancing sidelong at her wife, she saw the hard set of Jaina’s jaw and the stubborn gleam in her eyes. “I knew,” she said flatly.

Sylvanas’ brow twitched, and a flicker of surprise must have shown in her eyes, because Jaina gave her knee another squeeze. She turned her attention back to the rest of the council, as impassive as ever.

Anduin’s brows lifted high on his forehead. “You did? But why didn’t you tell any of us?”

“The Warchief did what any of us might have done in her position. She made sure the reports and eye witness accounts were true before she brought such a serious claim to the rest of the council. Would you have even believed her if she’d come to any of you?” Jaina asked, staring hard at each of their faces.

“We would’ve believed you,” Greymane said.

Saurfang scoffed from further down the table. “Your open distrust is a testament to the nature of the Alliance if there ever was one. You treat the Horde as something beneath you still, even with the treaty in place.”

“Almost as if they were looking for a reason to break a happy marriage apart,” Sylvanas drawled, grinning cruelly at the way Anduin winced.

“We understand what hangs in the balance if the pact is compromised,” Anduin replied sharply, glancing at Jaina from across the table. “You must admit, Warchief, that these were not ideal circumstances to learn about the issue.”

Jaina regarded him coolly. “I’m a member of the Alliance, am I not? As consort, I was well informed, and still I chose to respect my wife’s wishes to stay on the matter until I — we — could provide absolute proof of a concern.”

The conviction in her words made Sylvanas’ chest twist, and the Warchief’s brows furrowed slightly at the strange thrum that reverberated through it. It was but a fleeting sensation, and by the time Jaina looked back at her, Sylvanas had schooled her features effortlessly once more.

Rather petulantly, Anduin said, “You still should have told us, Jaina.”

Jaina sighed, reaching up to pinch at the bridge of her nose. “Well, I’m telling you now,” she said, irritable. “With the council’s awareness of the issue; what are we going to do about it?”

The conversation continued with the tension simmering still. Without further reports of any other sightings, the most they could plan to do was prepare a rotation of scouting parties to patrol along the bodies of water surrounding Lordaeron.

“That has already been arranged,” Sylvanas told them disinterestedly. “Blightcaller has already escorted a party eastward to inspect the conditions of Chillwind, and High Command has been reinforced with additional manpower and artillery.”

“And Lordamere Lake?”

She gave them condescending smile. “Whatever is the use of Fenris Keep if not this?” Flicking her hand dismissively, she said, “Assign your champions accordingly to whichever party you desire, if my scouts are so suspect.”

Katherine cleared her throat quietly. “Time in Kul Tiras might yet provide you with insight to the nagas behaviours the same,” she said, glancing at Jaina and Sylvanas.

A murmur rose among the Alliance members, and after a moment of begrudging consent, the matter was settled. Tensions then mounted further at the mention of their upcoming anniversary.

“It should be a celebration held by both factions,” Anduin said. “Once here in Lordaeron, and perhaps in Orgrimmar, if it pleases you, Warchief.”

“The budget of the kingdom would beg to differ, King Wrynn,” Sylvanas drawled, leaning an elbow on her armrest and resting her chin in her palm.

Saurfang grunted from her right. “The Horde has traditions for wedding anniversaries of the Warchief. It should be celebrated in Orgrimmar first, before Lordaeron.”

Sighing heavily, Sylvanas glanced out the window at the rapidly fading spread of sunlight over the horizon. They had been bickering about expenditure and trade agreements and further rehabilitation of Lordaeron for hours. Pressing her fingertips against a temple, Sylvanas regarded the table of council members irritably. She twitched when she felt the ghost of fingertips sliding along her other hand, brushing against her wrist before giving it a gentle squeeze.

“The anniversary is but three months away. We will have time to discuss it at length at another time,” Jaina said from beside her. “It’s getting late.”

“We can discuss this further at dinner,” Anduin suggested.

“Continue onto your meal as you please,” Sylvanas said stiffly, rising from her seat. “I will not be joining you.”

Anduin looked up just as Jaina placed a hand on her arm, and Sylvanas caught the way his eyes lingered on the touch. “As you say, Warchief,” he said, finally peeling his eyes away from the sight and meeting her gaze with a slight nod. He glanced at Jaina then, expectant.

Sylvanas’ eyes narrowed slightly, but before she could speak, she felt Jaina’s hand squeeze slightly at her arm; soft but admonishing. She watched as Jaina rose from her seat in a seamless movement, her hand never straying from Sylvanas’ arm.

“I won’t be joining you as well,” Jaina said, regarding the table coolly. She held herself with the regal tilt of her nose to the air, her posture immaculate and certainly befitting of the Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras. It was the way she always carried herself, but somehow Sylvanas looked at her in that instant and felt a bloom of something festering in her chest. “The Warchief and I have more matters to discuss.”

Greymane twisted his mouth into a deep and ugly frown. “What could be so urgent that you’d need to miss dinner for? Surely you remember that your wife is human, Banshee. She needs to eat,” he said sharply.

Sylvanas smirked and met Jaina’s gaze in a wicked glance. The hand on her arm tightened more, and from the deadly sidelong glare she received, Sylvanas thought it wise to hold her tongue.

Regarding him flatly, Jaina said, “I can decide for myself what I need.”

“Food would seem wise before committing to anything... strenuous,” Sylvanas remarked, giving Jaina a sliding glance. “We can’t have you fainting while I’m putting you through your paces, wife.”

Greymane narrowed his eyes suspiciously, leaning forward on his hands that were pressed flat to the table. He opened his mouth into a snarl, but Anduin reached out and caught his wrist and looked at them with an impressively unaffected composure.

“Is there anything worth discussing with us the same?” he asked patiently. “If it’s anything ‘strenuous’, then perhaps we should be privy to it, too.”

Arching a brow, Sylvanas drawled, “I don’t recall extending an open invitation, Boy-King.” With a curt nod, she escorted Jaina from the room.

 

-------

 

Sylvanas said nothing as Jaina swept into the room ahead of her, shutting the door behind them and locking it. As she strode across the training room, she tugged at the buttons and lacings of her doublet with sharp, angry movements.

“Greymane is starting to tempt what little patience I have left for his presence,” she said darkly. Shrugging off her doublet and setting it aside on a bare armour stand, Sylvanas reached out and helped Jaina out of her spaulder and cloak, sliding her hands gently along her wife’s bare shoulders as the cloth slid away.

Sighing, Jaina glanced at her over a shoulder. “You need to stop picking fights with them.”

Sylvanas scowled, stepping away to fold the cloak and lay it neatly on the nearest flat surface. “I do not pick fights; I end them. Am I meant to smile in the face of their hatred for my people?”

“You certainly aren’t meant to be calling Genn a dog to his face anymore,” Jaina said. She turned around to face Sylvanas, dressed down into her breeches and camisole.

With no small measure of gratuitous appraisal, Sylvanas allowed her eyes to rove Jaina’s body, lingering on the bruises and marks her mouth and hands had made the night before. Jaina had been clever about it — healing only the marks that were most visible on her neck, save for the puncture wounds from the first blooding.

Tilting her head, Sylvanas reached out and clasped her hand over the marks, feeling the faint raised grooves of them. Voice hushed and low, she asked, “Why do you not heal these, wife?”

Jaina leaned into the touch, lifting her hand and pressing it against Sylvanas’. “They’re a reminder,” she murmured, and Sylvanas allowed her hand to be guided away from the scars; towards Jaina’s lips instead.

Her fingers twitched slightly when Jaina’s warm breath pressed against her palm in a whispering kiss. “What do they remind you of?”

“Mistakes,” Jaina sighed, and kissed her palm again when Sylvanas stiffened. Their eyes met and held as she did so, and Jaina gave her hand a squeeze. “Consequences of my temper.”

The corner of her mouth twitched.

Jaina brought her fingertips to her mouth and kissed them. “You.”

Sylvanas tensed, and with mild curiosity in her eyes, slid her hand away. “Come. We should train. I grow restless after such an arduous day.” As she spun away towards the sparring mat, she peeled away her undershirt until she was standing before Jaina in her tights and chest bindings.

She caught the way Jaina’s eyes dropped down below her breasts and stayed there. Sylvanas tensed — of course. Her wife was caught once more in the sight of the wound Frostmourne had left on her body. But then she saw the now-familiar way Jaina’s eyes hooded and the freckles darkening in her cheeks.

“Insatiable,” Sylvanas said, amusement in her voice. “Haven’t you had your fill of staring at me last night, wife?”

Jaina’s eyes snapped back up to her face, freckles darkening even further as she cleared her throat. “Can’t blame a girl for having eyes,” she said, and lifted her fists, tucking her elbows in and widening her stance.

“I’d suppose not.” Raising her own fists, Sylvanas gestured towards her. “At your leisure, dear.”

Unlike their first match, Jaina took the initiative of landing the first blow. She swept forward quickly, aiming low, and Sylvanas dodged easily with a side-wound jab into Jaina’s side. “Mind your form,” she said. “You project before you strike — have care how you shift your weight on your feet.”

Jaina pressed her lips together, but obeyed on the next move. They exchanged blows for a moment, and Sylvanas was pleasantly surprised at the way Jaina seemed to react predictively to her movements. Perhaps it was that her wife was a quick study; perhaps it was the connection she could feel bristling under her skin. Either way, she praised Jaina with every blow she landed, delighting in the way her wife seemed to flush deeper and deeper with each recognition of her skill.

They took a moment to circle each other, and in the reprieve, Jaina began to speak. “You don’t seem pleased with thinking about celebrating the anniversary.”

Sylvanas rolled her shoulders, regarding her wife carefully. “I just think it frivolous.”

Jaina paused her circling to arch a brow and blink. “...frivolous that we’ve stayed married this long?”

“...frivolous that we are spending unnecessary resources for something so...indulgent.”

“I see," Jaina replied, cool and stiff.

Sylvanas clenched her jaw at the tone and the impassive expression on Jaina’s face. Clearly her words weren’t as carefully chosen as she’d hoped. “...if you’d like, we could allow for a smaller celebration in Kul Tiras while we’re there. I only hesitate because of the tensions between our factions.”

“I thought the point of this marriage was to not have factions anymore.”

“Kindly remind the Wrynn boy and his dog of the same,” Sylvanas muttered, throwing a half-hearted punch that Jaina deflected with a slap of her hand. “A celebration so large would require a doubling down on security. Alina won’t be enough.”

Jaina gave her a discerning look, bright and keen and as if she could see entirely into the Warchief’s mind. It was likely that she could. “No one is going to assassinate me. They'd be dead before they could get close enough.”

She scowled. “You don’t know that.” With a sharp lunge, she swept Jaina’s feet from under her and dropped down to straddle her wife in place. “I hardly think now is the right time for such a conversation.”

Squirming under her grip, Jaina looked up at her with an exasperated frown that belied the growing blaze in her eyes. “Is that what you’re worried about? Someone poisoning my wine? Slipping in with the crowd and slitting my throat? Climbing the highest tower of the Keep and shooting me through a window?”

Sylvanas glared down at her coldly, tightening her grip on Jaina’s wrists. “...enough.”

“I would be at your side for most of the night,” Jaina persisted, glaring back stubbornly. “At this rate, I doubt you’d even stand to be anywhere else. Who could possibly touch me?”

Gritting her teeth, Sylvanas gave her wife’s wrists one last squeeze before releasing her. She rose to her feet and regarded Jaina’s prone form over her nose. “Too many people than I care to think about.”

Staggering upright, Jaina gave her a suspicious little squint. “You don’t care about assassins.”

“Of course I do —”

“You care about your sisters touching me,” Jaina said, with something like a bite to her words. “Am I not allowed to have my friends at my own wedding anniversary?”

“And what friends are these that you have such intimate moments with? That you think your wife would be jealous of such touches you share.”

“You can say that you’re jealous.” The mocking tone in Jaina’s voice made Sylvanas’ temper prickle dangerously.

“I am not. I’m suspicious that my wife has such intimate friendships with opposing factions.”

The smugness in her smirk made Sylvanas bristle even further. “That sounds like jealousy.”

Sylvanas bared her teeth in a sneer. “Is one elf not enough for you, Lord Admiral? Must you collect them all before you are appeased?”

The humour in Jaina’s face drained away rather quickly at that, and the colour faded from her cheeks somewhat. “Tyrande, Alleria, and Vereesa are cherished friends. Even without being direct members of the Alliance, I’m allowed to miss them,” she said stiffly.

“I think I’m starting to see a pattern about your tastes, wife.” It was a cruel dig; vicious and goading, and it did the job entirely too well.

Sylvanas grunted as she was tackled around the middle, staggering slightly as she braced against the weight of her wife careening her into the ground. “This wasn’t what I had in mind when I said ‘close combat’,” Sylvanas drawled, after Jaina had slid her hands along her stomach and down the vee of muscles that built into her hips in a feigned attempt of adjusting her grip.

“I thought the point of grappling was to pin your opponent,” Jaina said, breathless and warm in her ear. “To make them submit.”

Sylvanas' eyes flashed unholy blazing brimstone, and the smile that spread slowly across her face could only be described as predatory. With a seamless move, she slid her thigh between Jaina's leg and pressed up.

Jaina gasped sharply, eyes squeezing shut on reflex at the sudden glide of friction. Her body jerked and she slouched down against it, and before she could compose herself, Sylvanas rolled them.

“Fuck!” Jaina went down on the mat with a hard thud, hissing through her teeth. Sylvanas paid her no mind, pinning her wife's hips with her own. She kept the pressure of her thigh between Jaina's legs, brutal and unmoving. She met Jaina's wild anger with a smirk. “You little —!”

Sylvanas tsked, tilting her head as she grasped Jaina's wrists and pinned them over her head. “Is this how you'd like to be made to submit, wife?”

Breathless, Jaina glared up at her. “I haven't yielded, have I? Maybe I have you exactly where I want you.” Beneath her thigh, Sylvanas could feel the hard drag of her hips upwards. Her breath shuddered with each grind of her hips, colour building in her cheeks and darkening the freckles there.

“Such bravado even in the face of defeat,” Sylvanas purred, bearing down on her thigh. The high and wanton noise that tore from Jaina's throat made her smirk, and she recognised the urgency in the way Jaina's hips twitched upwards.

She pressed down once, her hands on Jaina's wrists gripping tight —

And then she pulled her thigh away.

“You wretch!” Jaina snarled, a keen in her voice as she writhed viciously in Sylvanas' hold. “Let me finish.”

“No.”

Yes!”

Sylvanas allowed her voice to drop into a harsh growl. “No.

Jaina tensed for an instant, eyes searching Sylvanas' for a moment before the glow of her blue eyes returned, and she bared her teeth.

Sylvanas freed one of her hands and wrapped it around Jaina's neck gently. Jaina's hand lashed upwards and gripping her wrist then, but she ignored the dig of her wife's nails into her skin and squeezed down. Just hard enough for the pressure of it to sting, not enough to stifle her breath, but just enough for the feeling of her fingers around Jaina's neck to smart slightly.

She heard a sharp breath. Jaina's eyes went wide for an instant, and then glazed over with heady need. Her cheeks were alight, the heat of them nearly bleeding through her skin.

“I daresay I have you submitted, wife,” Sylvanas rumbled, hushed and low as she kneaded the skin of Jaina's neck under her fingers. The weight of them settling as a promise and a threat. “Now behave.”

Jaina's breath shuddered deep in her chest, and she stared up at Sylvanas with bright and unwavering eyes. With a defiant thrust of her chin, she moved her hips in the barest twitch upwards again. As soon as she did, Sylvanas tightened her grip on her neck, and her eyes glazed over again.

Her voice was a low, strained whisper. “Please.”

Sylvanas dipped her head until she could feel the damp heat of Jaina's breaths against her lips. She traced the barest whisper of her mouth over her wife's parted, panting one, stealing away each breath as it came. “How prettily you beg, wife,” she rasped, marking a path along Jaina's jawline. “I quite like you like this.”

“Enough talking,” Jaina panted, squirming so hard Sylvanas could feel the tension nearly vibrating off her skin. “Finish it.”

She made a show of considering the thought, kneading her fingers against Jaina’s neck for a moment before releasing her entirely. “No.” She rose to her feet and pulled her wife up with her, bracing a hand against the small of her back when Jaina stumbled slightly.

Jaina stared at her incredulously, shock rapidly giving way to indignation and impatience. “Fine,” she snapped. “I’ll just have to deal with it myself —”

“You will not,” Sylvanas countered calmly, despite the burning heat of her eyes.

Jaina’s eyes were nearly glowing with defiance. “I will do whatever I damn well please.”

Sylvanas crowded into her space then, leaning in so close that their breathes mingled once more. In a low, wicked whisper, she asked, “Will you?” Boldly, she slid one hand over Jaina’s hips, tracing the waistline of her breeches and dipping them beneath the material. When Jaina did nothing to protest — when she, in fact, widened her stance and allowed her lashes to flutter —, Sylvanas allowed her fingers to venture lower, dipping along hot, slick flesh.

A low, shuddering groan pulled from Jaina’s throat, and she reached up to clutch at Sylvanas’ broad shoulders as the Warchief rolled her fingertips, gathering the building wetness between her legs and teasing it over her clit. “It’s m-my — body.” She shifted her weight to bear down against Sylvanas’ hand. “My choice.”

“Hmm. Of course.” Sylvanas pulled her hand away abruptly, ignoring the sting of nails sinking viciously into her shoulders as she did so. She met Jaina’s wild and furious gaze with a hungry one of her own, bringing her wet fingers up to her lips. With deliberate movements, she licked her fingers in long, languorous sweeps of her tongue, never once breaking eye contact with Jaina.

A slow, sensuous smile spread across her lips at the needy flush in Jaina’s cheeks; the bite of her nails still clawing at her shoulders. “Perhaps, if you behave for the rest of the night, I might reward such obedience.”

Obedience —

Sylvanas pulled away from her hold and left.

Chapter Text

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CHAPTER 24

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Jaina stared after Sylvanas. A part of her reeled still from the suddenness of the encounter; at the frantic and pulsing thrum of need still buzzing between her hips, under her skin. The phantom memory fo Sylvanas’ touch still burned into her flesh, burrowing deep and branding her down to the bone.

She stared and she fumed.

That rotten, wicked, smug asshole!

Gritting her teeth, Jaina spun on her heels and gathered her clothes, shoving on each piece without much care for their rumpled state. All the while muttering curses under her breath at her thrice-damned luck of being married to the most insufferable, arrogant, ridiculous person in all of Lordaeron.

As she tugged her skirts back on, a sharp pulse of need between her hips reminded Jaina of the predicament she was in. Huffing, she pulled her skirts into place and cinched them tightly about herself.

One would think that she’d be accustomed by now to the hot and cold game Sylvanas played. It shouldn’t have been unexpected, truly. Even with all they’d been through in the short span of time since they’d made landfall in Lordaeron, there were still many parts to Sylvanas that Jaina couldn’t quite reach nor understand. Deciphering her moods was a recent skill Jaina had gained, and clearly there was much she had to learn still.

Although, in hindsight, Jaina figured that jealousy was easy enough to decipher.

Obedience.

The very thought rankled her nerves. Obedience. As if she were something to contain.

As if she were something to control.

Her magic bubbled to the surface dangerously, a familiar prickle of sensation itching under her skin that had nothing to do with the ache in her hips. Jaina finished dressing quickly. The ring thrummed on her finger mildly; she stroked her thumb over it without thought and took a moment to breathe. With a steadying breath, she felt her magic calm.

She wouldn’t allow herself to be antagonised so easily.

 

-----------

 

Missing dinner and her tussle with Sylvanas set Jaina on edge. The tight roil in her belly made her eyes sharper, her steps quicker, and her patience worn thin. Returning to the dining hall by then would mean having to answer the probing looks and questions from Anduin and Genn, and Jaina felt no inclination to endure such things. She returned to the south tower with a decisive snap of her cloak behind her, Alina flanking her wordlessly.

She glanced at Alina as she climbed the tower steps. “The Warchief. Where is she?”

“Her tower, as far as I am aware, Lord Admiral.”

She set her jaw as they approached her chambers, pulling open the door. “Good. Have you rested recently, Alina?”

Alina startled at the question, blinking slightly. “I have, my Lady,” she replied warily. “I am fully capable of performing my duties —”

“I’m perfectly aware of that,” Jaina said patiently. “You have my complete faith in guarding me. I only ask because I wouldn’t want you to compromise your health for me.” It was one thing to have Alina guarding her in the day, but to have her watching her door at all hours of the night — on more than one occasion — made Jaina all too aware of Alina’s state of undeath.

Like a curious cat, Alina cocked her head to the side. “Why...would you be concerned for my health, my Lady?”

Jaina blinked. “Because I care?”

“I...see.” Staring owlishly, Alina bowed again. “My Dark Lady has commanded me to put your orders above all else. Whatever you require of me, Lord Admiral Proudmoore; I am ready to serve you.”

Smiling slightly, she said, “Let’s start with calling me Lady Jaina.”

Alina inclined her head uncertainly. “If that is your wish.” She looked at Jaina then, and Jaina saw something in her eyes that was entirely new; something like devotion and awe.

“Doesn’t the Warchief ever ask after her rangers?” she asked, frowning slightly.

“Always,” Alina replied quickly. “The Dark Lady has been nothing but attentive to our wellbeing. It’s only that…” She trailed off, as if catching herself, and straightened to attention.

“Only what?” Jaina eyed her warily. She knew the stories some of the Horde told each other; she knew the reputation she had among them. How much of it had spread even to the dark rangers?

Alina shifted slightly, shaking her head. “It is only that we undead have different... needs, my Lady.”

Jaina caught the furtive glance Alina gave her and resisted the urge to blush. “I see.” She nodded at Alina. “Regardless, I trust that you’ll inform me if you require time to rest?”

“Of course, my Lady.”

She inclined her head. “Will you be alright to watch my door for tonight, then?”

There was a flicker of emotion on Alina’s face, knowing bright in the flash of her eyes as she gave Jaina a slight bow. “But of course, my Lady. I will ensure that no one disturbs you for the night...or the Warchief.”

A soft rush of heat rose into her neck and cheeks, but Jaina gave her a regal nod. “Thank you, Alina.” As she slid the door shut, she could’ve sworn she saw the barest flicker of a smile on Alina’s face. Blowing out a breath, Jaina turned and regarded the vast space of her chambers; the large four poster bed, freshly turned down and Kul Tiran pillows fluffed.

Tempting, but painfully empty.

Shedding her clothes and running a quick bath, Jaina washed off the burdens of her day and the lingering effects of her sparring match with Sylvanas. The coil of need lingered, faint and bearable in the meantime. She dressed into one of her finer lingerie; something lacier and far more intricate than she had reason to wear, but it was enough to serve its purpose. As she dressed, Jaina reached out a wisp of magic for the thread of connection between them. Whether it was the ring or the blooding or the amplified effects of proximity, Jaina felt Sylvanas’ presence like a visceral waft of the rolling fog over the sea.

The ring on her finger hummed to life, a warring sensation of ice and fire; calling to its twin on Sylvanas’ hand. The ring she’d given her wife didn’t carry as much power as her own, but there was only so much she could do to replicate something as ancient and mighty as elven magic.

It would be enough, though, to keep Sylvanas in one piece.

With a Blink, Jaina found herself in Sylvanas’ chambers. Her wife was perched at her writing desk, perusing what could only be the myriad of appeals and reports their days were filled with. The pointed way Sylvanas was entirely ignoring her arrival galled her somewhat, but Jaina pushed back the prickling restlessness in her fingers. Instead, smiling sweetly, she said, “Hello, dear.”

Sylvanas looked up, curious but unsurprised. “Hello, wife.” She gave Jaina a slow, appraising look, lingering on something just south of her face. “My, aren’t you pretty.”

“Thank you,” Jaina said, moving slowly towards the desk. “I had you in mind when I chose it.”

Glowing eyes flashed at her as a slow curving smirk pulled across Sylvanas’ lips. “I expected you sooner,” she drawled, scribbling something onto a piece of parchment. “I could feel your temper blazing since I left you.” She paused her writing and allowed her eyes to flicker over to Jaina smugly. “Among other things.”

“What do you feel now?” Jaina slid a hand along the edge of the desk, running her fingers idly over the tops of the neatly stacked array of documents as she rounded the Warchief. Sylvanas’ eyes never left her, alternating between eyeing her from head-to-toe and scribbling. She met her wife’s unwaveringly, eyeing Sylvanas with unbridled lust as she gnawed on the edge of her lip.

“Like you’re doing unspeakable things to me with your eyes.”

“Hmm. There’s a thought.” She traced her fingers along the closest forearm to her, keenly aware of the way Sylvanas’ ear flicked at an angle towards her and red eyes glanced at her sidelong. She smiled sweetly still, walking her fingers up over Sylvanas’ arm and along her shoulder, sliding it along the broad length of it.

Sylvanas’ eyes narrowed slightly. “What...are you doing?”

Jaina placed her other hand along her other shoulder, giving them a little squeeze. “Aren’t I allowed to be near my wife?” She bent low and pressed a warm kiss to the back of Sylvanas’ neck, grinning against cool skin when she felt Sylvanas tense and growl softly.

“I’m busy,” Sylvanas said, with a low grit to her words. There was the sound of shuffling paper and more scribbling from her quill, only now it was pointed and grating. “Perhaps if you behave, I might attend to you after.”

“You said that before. I’m starting to think these are empty promises.”

Sylvanas sniffed. “Perhaps if my lady wife could learn patience.”

She pouted, and then scraped her teeth along the side of Sylvanas’ neck. The scrape turned into a grin when she heard a faint snap. She looked up and saw her wife clutching a broken quill in her fist, and sank her teeth further against the unmoving pulse point. Her own neck twinged in a phantom ache, and it only made Jaina bite down harder.

The sound that rumbled from Sylvanas’ throat was hardly human. “Jaina.”

Pulling away, Jaina soothed over the indents of her teeth with a thumb. “Whatever happened to that remarkable self-control of yours?” Spanning her hand out into a wide grip, she clasped the back of Sylvanas’ neck and bent low to whisper directly into her ear.

“Don’t you know how to behave?”

A low hiss of breath escaped Sylvanas, paired with the encompassing shudder that trembled from the base of her ears up to the tips of them. The quill in her hand all but crumbled, and Sylvanas cast a mild glare at her. She reached for another quill wordlessly, producing a dagger from a sheath somewhere Jaina couldn’t see, and sharpened the tip in quick, jerking movements.

Jaina reached out and slid her hand along Sylvanas’ arm, grasping her wrist gently and stilling her movements. Leaned over her wife so, Jaina’s breasts were pressed ever so innocently against Sylvanas’ shoulder and arm, and when the Warchief glanced at her sidelong, Jaina couldn’t help the smug little smirk that formed on her face when Sylvanas’ eyes immediately dropped down to her cleavage.

She watched Sylvanas’ eyes track up her chest to her neck, lingering briefly where the bites lived beneath the spill of pale hair. She tilted her head further and waited until at last their eyes met. Slowly, she rounded the Warchief, seating herself on the very edge of the table to face Sylvanas.

Leaning in as close as she could; the tips of their noses brushing, Jaina slipped the dagger out of her grip and set it aside. Their eyes keep hold of each other, blazing red on gleaming blue, and Jaina whispered, “Keep your hands to yourself.”

Sylvanas blinked. “Wh —”

Bracing a leg against the chair, Jaina pushed it back a few inches, keeping her foot pressed between the armrest and the seat for leverage. Leaning further back against the table, she kept her hooded gaze on Sylvanas as she spread her legs.

A breath hitched, and it wasn’t hers.

“Didn’t that garment come with laces to wear under it?” Sylvanas rasped, eyes unmoving from between her legs.

Sliding a hand slowly up her own thigh, Jaina parted the slitted skirt even further to give her an unhindered view. “Does it look like it did?”

Sylvanas reached out a hand and then snatched it back in the next instant, glowering at Jaina as she gripped the armrests of her chair instead. The wood and velvet creaked under her hold as she sat stiffly in place, ears flattened and flicking with irritation.

“Good.”

“This isn’t obedience,” Sylvanas said, a touch of petulance in her voice.

“Not mine, at least.” Smugly, Jaina began to slide her hand down between her thighs. A soft sigh of relief escaped her throat when her fingers found slick heat, and she allowed her head to tilt back slightly. “Can you feel this?” she whispered, tracing a pattern around her clit with a hitched noise in her throat.

With a vaguely disinterested sniff, Sylvanas said, “Not in the slightest.”

Jaina glanced pointedly down to where her nails were tearing into the velvet armrests.

Sylvanas shrugged, crossing her legs casually and cinching them tight. A sharp bloom of pleasure rose between Jaina’s hips, and she squeezed her eyes shut at the sensation, gritting her teeth.

When she opened her eyes, Sylvanas was smirking again. “Carry on, dear,” she drawled, tapping her nails against the armrest. “You have my complete attention.”

Narrowing her eyes slightly, Jaina braced her free hand on the table and leaned further back, spreading her legs open wider as she slipped two fingers inside herself. The sharp blade of pleasure made her thighs tremble, and Jaina felt her eyes roll slightly with relief at being touched at last. She sighed and hummed and moaned with each touch, flexing her hips and grinding them against the press of her fingers against the sensitive grooves along her walls.

Wood creaked again, and Jaina cracked an eye open to see Sylvanas leaning forward in her seat. “Stay,” she warned, despite the breathless bent of her tone.

“Are you certain?” Sylvanas asked, boldly reaching out a hand to rest just alongside her hip. “You were so desperate for my touch before.”

Jaina pulled her fingers out and ran them over her clit, tilting her head back again with a moan. “I think I’m doing just fine for myself, thank you.”

A low growl rumbled from her wife’s throat, and Jaina smirked up to the ceiling. Sylvanas said nothing more, barring the occasional growl or purr that formed deep in her chest. The hand pressed along the table by Jaina’s hip twitched and flexed, and the barest whisper of fingers brushing the lace made her shiver.

Pulling her lower lip between her teeth, Jaina drew her fingers back down and pressed three in at once, her braced arm buckling slightly as she rocked her hips. The pressure was building in her belly, coiling tighter and tighter, pooling between her thighs and down her fingers. “Tides —

Jaina.”

She opened her eyes with a gasp, curling her fingers in as deep as possible, grinding her palm against her clit. She looked down and met Sylvanas’ gaze; felt the heat of the embers in her eyes burning into her skin. A shudder travelled down her spine, and Jaina choked down a noise. Her lashes fluttered and her eyes began to droop, but she fought to keep them open, the blue of her eyes flashing as she stared down at Sylvanas.

The first throes shook her down to her toes, and Jaina could no longer fight the roll of her eyes backwards. Her hips bucked and jerked against the table, and Sylvanas’ hand came up to rest firmly on her hip, her grip like iron. Jaina didn’t protest, only whined at the touch.

Sylvanas surged out of her seat in a rush, a reverberating hiss rising in her throat as she swept up and swallowed Jaina’s lips in a burning kiss.

An inkwell tipped onto the table, deep purple spilling across the wood. It rolled onto the floor with a clatter just as Sylvanas’ hand slipped between her legs.

 

----------

 

When the room stopped spinning and her ears stopped ringing, Jaina unwound her trembling legs from Sylvanas’ waist and lowered them gingerly onto the floor. She winced slightly at the jostle of her hips, and Sylvanas’ grip on her thigh eased, smearing wetness along her skin as it went.

A flash of something dark caught her eye, and Jaina peered down at herself curiously.

She was covered in ink.

Smears and blots of it; gratuitous prints of Sylvanas’ broad hands and long fingers branded against her hips and thighs. Handprints smeared around her breasts in long streaks. The crumpled and shredded remnants of her lingerie pooled around her hips were soaked in it.

Sylvanas peered down at her the same, ears pricking upright with interest. “Well.” She inspected her ink-stained hands and then looked at her chest where her doublet was half-opened and stained the same. “I daresay we didn’t quite...ink that through.”

“Oh my god,” Jaina sighed.

Sylvanas grinned. “Surely you can see the humour in this. One could say you might be...ink-lined to.”

Despite herself, Jaina snorted. “That one was awful,” she said, sliding off the table carefully. “They both were.”

“I can’t help that my wife lacks a sense of humour.”

“I wish I could help yours.”

Sylvanas clicked her tongue mildly. “Spoilsport.”

Bracing her ink-stained hands against Sylvanas’ shoulders, Jaina leaned up for a slow, deep kiss; if only to prevent her wife from making another ink-related joke. When they pulled back, she licked her lips and gave Sylvanas a look. “Does your chamber’s bath work?” she asked.

The coy look she received in reply was answer enough.

While Jaina filled the appropriately overbearingly large tub, Sylvanas undressed from her stained clothes. As she leaned over the edge of the bath, water running cool against her fingers, she felt the presence of her wife appear behind her. Large, war-roughened hands spanned around her hips and pulled them backwards to press against Sylvanas’.

“You’re a child,” she laughed.

“No creature would resist the temptation of such a fine behind presented to them so,” Sylvanas told her seriously, flexing her grip and rocking her own hips forward slightly. “I believe you Kul Tirans call this ‘a great ass’.”

She shook her head indulgently. “Awful.” She cut off the water and straightened up to turn in Sylvanas’ hold. Peering up at her wife, Jaina wrapped her arms around her neck and kissed her sweetly before taking her hand and climbing into the tub together.

The hot water was a great balm to her skin, and Jaina hissed with appreciation as she sank down into the water, scooting forward as Sylvanas carefully eased herself in behind her. “Is the water alright?” she asked. “Not too warm?”

“Pleasantly reminiscent to a living body,” Sylvanas said, reaching for a cloth and soaping it. Jaina leaned back into her touch eagerly, sighing at the touch of her hand braced against the side of her neck as Sylvanas scrubbed carefully at her skin. She arched her neck and tilted it aside helpfully, humming and sighing amidst the misting heat as Sylvanas cleaned the ink from her body.

The ink washed off easily enough, leaving behind only the faintest brands of lavender. Once she was cleaned, Jaina plucked the cloth from Sylvanas’ hand, pressing a kiss against the cool texture of her ring. Turning over to straddle her waist, Jaina grinned down at Sylvanas. “My turn.”

Sylvanas heaved a much put-upon sigh, but draped her arms over the rim of the tub and tilted her head back accordingly. Jaina crowded in eagerly, cleaning over old scars and prominent wounds delicately. She rubbed and scrubbed and dabbed, tilting Sylvanas’ head this way and that to get at the streaks of purple running along her neck.

“I would’ve thought that you Kul Tirans would be a little more shy about sharing baths,” Sylvanas remarked.

“It’s not as if I’d been married before,” Jaina replied, dabbing carefully around the large scar in the middle of Sylvanas’ chest. “I had cousins and such, but we hardly ever saw each other.” She glanced up discerningly. “I guess high elves are a little more liberal with their nudity.”

“We’re made of the same parts, dear.”

“Does that mean you did this often with your sisters?” Jaina asked lightly, picking up a hand to clean under her nails. “Vereesa would tell stories of how close you were...before.”

Sylvanas stiffened, casting a reproachful look at her, but did not remove her hand from Jaina’s grip. “I hardly think this is an appropriate time to be talking about siblings.”

Jaina tilted her head curiously. “Didn’t you ever share baths as children?”

“There were many things we shared as children.”

The frigid tone was warning enough, and the last thing she wanted was for Sylvanas to distance herself again. Sighing, Jaina kissed her cleaned fingertips and picked up the other hand. “I can’t begin to imagine what’s happened between all of you —”

“Then don’t,” Sylvanas said tightly.

Pursing her lips, Jaina continued, “I just mean that they’re your sisters. And they’re my friends the same.” She noted the way Sylvanas bristled at that, but not press it. “If the marriage is going to last, we’re going to have to learn how to be civil with everyone.”

Sylvanas thrust her chin superciliously into the air. “I have nothing to say to my sisters.”

“Will you at least be civil if they come to our anniversary?”

“Is that what this is about?” Sylvanas said snidely. “Why bother asking my permission if you’re going to invite them regardless?”

Jaina frowned at her mildly. “Is it wrong that I don’t want to choose between my friends or my wife?”

With a sneer, Sylvanas said, “You seem to have made your choice already.”

Choice. Jaina was getting tired of having to pick sides all her life. Sighing, she finished cleaning Sylvanas’ fingernails and pinned her wife against the wall of the tub and kissing her slow and deep. She felt a hand curl into her hair, holding her in place as Sylvanas deepened the kiss, and Jaina moaned softly against her mouth as the hard edge of a fang clipped against her lip.

The hand slid down against her back, and Jaina jolted slightly at the touch of something icy cold to her skin.

Sylvanas pulled away, glancing down behind her as Jaina did the same. “It was this.” She held up her hand; the ring thrumming faintly in the heat.

Jaina blinked, reaching out to touch the smooth texture of it. It was cold to the touch and bubbling with energy. She frowned, glancing at Sylvanas. “Are you uncomfortable at all in the water?”

Her wife shrugged. “Not particularly. I’m quite settled, in fact.”

She reached out and delicately thumbed the ring curiously, reaching out a faint spark of power. It hummed and pulsed dully, and she wrinkled her brow. “I didn’t expect this to be a capability when I infused it with the rune.”

“What, dear?”

“It’s keeping you...comfortable? Safe?” Jaina felt a soft plume of warmth spread in her chest at the thought; that her magic had managed to see to even the smallest matter of comfort for Sylvanas.

Curling her hand slowly into a fist, Sylvanas peered at her ring thoughtfully, tilting her hand this way and that. “How thoughtful of you.”

“Hmm.” Jaina thumbed her own ring, relishing the familiar raised texture of it. A thought crossed her mind, and she looked up at Sylvanas then. “Do you still remember our vows?”

Eyeing her warily, Sylvanas inclined her head. “Of course.”

“We never did exchange rings at the ceremony.” Jaina slid her ring off her finger and held it up. “We might as well do it properly.”

“... properly? In the bath?”

“You know what I mean,” Jaina sighed, reaching out to gently remove Sylvanas’ ring the same. Pressing her own into her wife’s palm, she clutched to Sylvanas’ tightly, clasping their free hands together. Regarding the Warchief seriously, she said, “I’m reiterating my choice.”

Blinking, Sylvanas’ face smoothed over seriously, eyes boring into her face as she held their joined hands above the water. Clearing her throat quietly, she began, “With this ring —”

“I thee wed,” Jaina supplied.

“Body and soul —”

Jaina slid the ring onto Sylvanas’ finger slowly, a flutter rising in her belly. “I bind you to me.”

“And I to you.” Sylvanas did the same, bending to kiss her knuckles softly. “Your heart to mine —”

“—and mine to yours.” A soft rush of energy began to pulse from their rings, enveloping the room in a heady fog of arcane.

They ended the vow as one. “Until our dying breath.”

Sylvanas tilted her head down, smirking still, though the look in her eyes was something Jaina hadn't quite seen before. Warmth. Tenderness. "We never did kiss at the ceremony, either."

Jaina allowed her eyes to drop down to her wife's lips, drifting in closer to drape her arms around Sylvanas' neck as she felt an arm band around her waist. She felt her hips and thighs press flushed against solid muscle and tilted her head down to peer into Sylvanas' face through the low hood of her eyes. "It's only fair that it's sealed with a kiss, isn't it?" she whispered, reaching up to stroke a hand along one long ear.

"It's tradition," Sylvanas murmured, a low growl edging into her words as she reached up and brushed back Jaina's hair. "I now pronounce us Warchief and wife."

"Lord Admiral and wife."

"Both, yes."

They kissed, slow and sweet, until the waters were cool and the ink ran dry on the table.

 

Chapter Text

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CHAPTER 25

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She smelled gunpowder and salt. Carried upwards by the restless breeze as the sails overhead shuddered and thrashed viciously against the tidal winds. Felt the sway of the ship beneath her feet, the creak of aged wood and the bone-deep shudder of each cannon blast. The smell of Blighted earth and blood and burnt flesh so sharp they made her eyes water.

The cloying scent of copper grew stronger, and her brows furrowed with confusion at the slick sound of wetness dripping onto her boots.

She looked down and saw her hands painted red; her fingers curled tight around a beating heart.

A blast of cannon fire shook the very foundations of the ship, and suddenly before her — her wife. Wide-eyed with terror and gasping out words that couldn’t leave her throat.

Brought low and clutching at the gaping hole where there had once been a heart.

She stared down at her hand in horror, willing her fingers to unwind from the pulsing organ, to recoil and reach for her wife —

— Instead, a wicked voice whispered in her ear; lilting and sweet. A voice caught on the winds of Silvermoon and between a flowering field of tulips. A voice lost in the sound of cannon fire and a man’s pompous laughter.

The voice whispered again, sharp and hissing, and she watched as her fingers curled around the heart in an ever-tightening vice.

Her wife made a broken, choking sound, and she watched as the life drained from blue eyes —

Sylvanas opened her eyes and blinked up at the ceiling.

A wild rush of something fluttered in her chest; the phantom sensation of a beating heart that travelled down along her fingertips in a tremor of agony. A lifetime of instinct and forgotten muscle memory jerked in her arm, twitching against something warm and soft that carried the scent of scented oils and sea breeze.

A hand spread between her breasts; warm and living and blazing like a brand on her skin. Lips soft like petals brushed along her jaw, whispering her name again. “It’s alright. I’m here.”

Sylvanas blinked again and saw the wild mane of silver hair cut through with gold filling her periphery.

Jaina pushed upright and peered down at her, blue eyes dull with sleep and bright with worry. “You were trembling in your sleep,” she murmured gently, reaching out to brush a strand of hair away.

Sylvanas twitched at the touch; muscle memory and instinct caught between the tightly wound muscles of her body. She reached out without thought and caught Jaina’s wrist in her hand, squeezing slightly.

Not enough to hurt, no — never for that, but enough to hear the hitch in her wife’s voice. “Sylvanas —”

“I’m alright,” she said, guiding Jaina’s hand away. “I forgot myself. I hadn’t realised —”

Jaina sighed quietly, and Sylvanas looked at her once she could smell something beyond blood and gunpowder. The Lord Admiral was resplendent as ever; gilded and gleaming in the sunlight spilling into the room through the large window overhead. Her pale skin dotted in constellations of freckles and a map of welts and bruises from the night before.

A vicious ache blazed in her chest like the cut of burning steel, and Sylvanas looked away.

“This dream was different,” Jaina said, and the quiet tone of her words made Sylvanas’ brows furrow. “I could feel you, but I couldn’t...see.”

Almost without thought, Sylvanas said, “Good. The less you see, the better.”

Tentatively, Jaina reached out again, and Sylvanas held painfully still at the stroke of her wife’s fingers over Frostmourne’s mark. “You looked...asleep. For a little while. Do you sleep? Usually?”

Sylvanas paused. It had been too long, or dangerously close to it; she couldn’t rightly remember when she’d allowed herself the luxury of ‘sleeping’ so. Not since Orgrimmar. Resting beside Jaina had begun to eat into her subconscious, and she had no desire of lingering in such a vulnerable state. It surely had to be her wife’s doing. All of these — whatever they were. Dreams? Memories? Premonitions?

Whatever they were, Sylvanas knew one thing for sure.

They were a weakness.

Pursing her lips, Sylvanas eyed Jaina warily but allowed her wife to press in closer, tilting her head and swallowing back a purr when warm lips pressed against the plane of her chest and collarbone. Sighing, she said, “...I don’t think it counts as ‘sleep’. It’s something more along the lines of a deep meditative state.”

Jaina’s lips slid along her neck, pressing the faintest kisses along the unmoving pulse point of her skin and latching along the underside of her jaw. Sylvanas growled softly at the pressure, the reverberating murmur of her wife’s words. “I honestly didn’t think you could still sleep.”

“It allows my body to recover and my power stores to replenish itself.” Sylvanas gritted her teeth and forced herself to refrain from sliding her own hands along Jaina’s skin; almost too warm to stand touching. Her ear flicked at the coy touch of teeth against her neck, the tight pressure of tongue and lips sucking a bruise into her skin.

Delicate fingers reached down and traced the line of her thigh. “And when was the last time you did that?”

“Jaina,” she warned. A flutter of gilded hair brushed over her cheek, and once more she caught the scent of salt and sea breeze. A twist of hurt roiled in her chest, and Sylvanas winced.

It was a bare jerk of movement, a slight pinch in her features, but the Lord Admiral pulled back with a slight hiss of breath. Her hand slipped away from Sylvanas’ thigh and reached up to her own chest, brows pulling disconcertedly.

In a rush, Sylvanas sat up, pressing her own cool hand over Jaina’s chest. The touch of her wife’s skin was like the kiss of sunlight in the height of summer, spread warm over skin dotted in freckles that her mouth had traced the night before. She spanned the length of her hand over the anchor pendant between Jaina’s breasts and felt the heat of it bleed into her palm.

They sat in silence for a moment; their hands pressed as one against the steady beating of Jaina’s heart. Gently, Sylvanas stroked her fingers over the edges of the pendant, sliding her touch over living skin until the pinch in Jaina’s brow lessened.

“Was that —”

“I do not know,” she murmured quietly, sliding her touch from Jaina’s skin with great reluctance. “But I would prefer not to linger too long to find out.”

Jaina frowned at her in confusion. “You really still think this is just proximity?”

The Lord Admiral’s body pulsed with arcane in ways that Sylvanas wasn’t even sure she herself understood. Even at rest, it bled from her wife in waves; powerful and endlessly replenishing. Theramore had something to do with it, certainly. It was the allure that all of the elves felt whenever Jaina was within range, and Sylvanas loathed the way that even she — even Undead — was a victim to temptation.

All she understood of it was that they needed to keep their distance.

Sylvanas shrugged elegantly, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed. “Hard to say at this point. Too much has happened in such a short span of time. I daresay we might’ve exacerbated the situation with how...intimate we’ve become.” The ghost of the ache remained in her chest, festering like a wound, but she made no move to touch it.

Jaina, though, continued to trace the skin of her own chest still, a troubled look on her pretty face. Her blue eyes snapped up to Sylvanas then, narrowing slightly with suspicion. “You said you didn’t need to sleep.”

“I cannot sleep,” she corrected, an ear flicking mildly at her wife’s tone. “I meditate.”

Jaina rolled her eyes. “Sylvanas,” she chided, and the Warchief felt a prickle of irritation bloom. “You haven’t been resting at all. Today’s the first time I’ve seen you genuinely restful, and we’ve been married for months.”

She scowled. “I’m Undead,” she said flatly. “I don’t need to be restful.”

“It can’t be good for you,” Jaina insisted.

“I rest enough. You sleep too deeply to notice. And you snore.”

“I do not snore.”

Sylvanas shrugged again, bending to gather her abandoned tunic and breeches. She straightened them fastidiously, frowning at the dried patches of ink and broken laces. She sighed and moved to place them into the basket at the corner of the room. “I’ve been careful with my power stores,” she said, giving Jaina another pointed smirk as she moved — bare as the day she was born — towards her wardrobe. “You’ve been very generous at helping with that.”

Jaina narrowed her eyes and glared, but Sylvanas paid her no mind as she began to dress.

As she laced her tunic, she heard Jaina say very quietly, “...I’ve never seen you take as much damage as you have in these past few months.”

Sylvanas paused, turning slowly to peer at her wife incredulously. “What damage —”

My damage,” Jaina snapped, and Sylvanas saw her cheeks colour in the morning light. “The naga damage.” She gestured rather aggressively. “You still have scars from that day in the forest.”

With deliberate movements, Sylvanas calmly continued dressing; tucking her tunic into a pair of high-waisted breeches that she cinched tightly. That much was true, but the reminder galled her nevertheless. There were parts of her body she did not care to ponder about — there were parts of her made more of scar tissue than flesh at this point.

She reached back into her wardrobe and produced another large, airy tunic before moving towards the bed. “The Undead don’t heal as the living do, dear,” she said, offering the tunic to Jaina. “Clearly, I carry the scars of my experiences. I should only be grateful that the pain of them faded with time.”

“I thought you said your senses were decayed,” Jaina accused her, taking the tunic and sliding it haphazardly over her head.

It was almost without thought when Sylvanas reached out to tug Jaina’s hair free from the tunic’s collar. “Most, not all,” she corrected, and then shrugged. “I supposed they’re...muted, in that sense. But even an Undead elf’s ears are still significantly more sensitive than a human’s.”

Frowning still, Jaina rose up onto her knees on the bed, reaching up to straighten the lacing of Sylvanas’ tunic. “And your tongue?”

Her lips split into a lascivious grin. “...why don’t you tell me?

“Tch.” Jaina slapped her mildly on the shoulder. “Sylvanas. You had my coffee. I was just wondering if that was just your peak performance as a drama queen or if you actually tasted it.”

“My dear,” she oozed, to her wife’s great annoyance. “I can assure you that I would have greatly preferred having never tasted that vile swill.” She leaned her head down until her nose brushed Jaina’s, grinning unrepentantly as the Lord Admiral huffed and turned her face away petulantly. Straightening once more, her face returned to its impassive mask. “But as such...I don’t taste much. Sweet and salty things come through the clearest...when in abundance.”

“Is that your way of saying that even the great Warchief of the Horde needs food and rest and sleep?”

She inclined her head. “Technically.”

“None of which you’ve been allowing yourself to have.”

Sylvanas gave Jaina a sidelong glance. “The Undead have different needs to the living, Jaina. You need three square meals a day, and it’s a fact you tend to forget if I didn’t remind you.”

“I’m a mage; I can conjure mana cakes anytime I need to,” Jaina insisted.

“But do you? ” she asked, tilting her head in challenge. At the glare she received in turn, Sylvanas smiled triumphantly. Then she reached out to brush a tendril of hair behind Jaina’s ear and leaned forward to kiss her chastely on the lips.

Huffing against her lips, Jaina muttered, “Awful.”

Sylvanas hummed her agreement, pulling away from the kiss and offering her hand. “Truly. Now come along, wife. There is much that needs our attention.”

 

--------

 

With the Lord Admiral in tow, it took little time for them to make headway into Tide’s Run. Astride their mounts, Jaina pulled open a portal large enough to fit themselves and their small party of rangers through. Sylvanas did not miss the way Alina darted a knowing look in their direction when they arrived on the mustering grounds.

“I still think we should’ve brought more scouts and rangers,” Jaina insisted.

“Our numbers are plenty as is,” she replied mildly. “I already agreed to double the initial numbers, did I not?”

“You wanted to bring three with us.”

Five in total is a hearty number. Any ranger would tell you that five to a fist is good and plenty to make a successful campaign.”

“In the same way they’ll tell me that arrogance has always been an unbecoming folly of elves?”

Sylvanas clicked her tongue then, giving Jaina a sharp glance. “How rude.”

“What’s rude is if we’re ambushed again and overwhelmed because you couldn’t reconcile with your ego about needing more reinforcements.”

“Have you so little faith in your own powers, Lord Admiral?” she drawled, glancing backwards at the silent part of dark rangers around them. “Perhaps you should have stayed in Lordaeron.”

Jaina gave her a withering glare and urged her mount away from Sylvanas’. “If my wife could keep herself out of trouble, I’d be less worried,” she sniffed, thrusting her chin out stubbornly and keeping her gaze pointedly forward.

“Isn’t it a blessing that I have you with me, then?” she crooned, urging her mount forward to match her wife’s pace. They fell into a companionable silence for a brief moment; sharp ears flicking this way and that as they journeyed up along the Arevass. Beyond a certain point, Sylvanas caught the eye of Kalira on her left and jerked her head. The dark ranger nodded and pulled her steed around sharply.

Jaina watched curiously as a portion of their entourage split away from them, riding quickly in the opposite direction. They were down to seven now; five rangers and themselves. “Where are they going?”

“South of the Sepulcher,” Sylvanas said, reining her mount in until its shoulders brushed Jaina’s. “Tide’s Run is split in two, after all. I’m sure Greymane would appreciate the sentiment of us ensuring that his Wall remains standing.”

“Hmm. What about Chillwind?”

She inclined her head, pausing once to gesture towards Alina and Lyana, who rode ahead at the wordless command. “The reach of the waters from the Bay is vast. Blightcaller and his party are still inspecting all possibilities of the naga establishing their forces and camps further inland,” she said, ears swivelling forward sharply at the sound of rustling leaves and snapping branches.

Jaina paused the same, pulling one hand away from her mount’s reins as it came alive with a glow of power. She did not wait — Sylvanas barely had time to call out her wife’s name before Jaina had flung a blaze of frost into the trees, its leaves and branches crystalising almost instantly.

A strangled yelp came from the bushes, and from within them, the source spilt out in a mass of fur and ice. Sylvanas urged her mount forward, shouldering past Jaina’s as she nocked an arrow, aiming squarely for the writhing beast’s unfrozen head and shoulders. She did not hesitate the same.

“A Moonrage worgen?” Jaina gasped, looking away as the creature’s corpse continued to twitch in its death. “So far north?”

Sylvanas frowned. “Likely a straggler from Arugal’s time.” She peered down at the beast, wrinkling her nose at its dull, matted fur and scrawny appearance. “It looks starved.”

“Let’s not linger for long to find out what could’ve frightened a worgen from its territory,” Jaina said grimly, nudging her mount forward.

They rode for a time longer, but found nothing more in the way of naga activity. Alina and Lyana returned from their scout ahead, and Sylvanas caught the frustrated sigh Jaina made when their reports came back with nothing but sights of abandoned encampments and decrepit ships.

“You are certain these encampments were abandoned?” Sylvanas pressed.

Alina nodded. “Long since. Their tents were nearly dust, my Queen. They had not been touched for a time.”

“But you saw no bodies?” Jaina asked; beneath her, the glowing blue mount stamped its feet and snorted.

Hesitating, Alina glanced at Sylvanas with a speaking look before answering. “...there was very little left of their bones, my Lady.”

“Oh,” Jaina said faintly.

“Yes.”

Sylvanas scowled, reining her horse around in a sharp jerk. “We return, then. Their absence speaks more than their presence at this point. I do not like the cut of it.”

 

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Lor’themar was waiting for them on the mustering grounds when they returned. Sylvanas caught sight of the Regent Lord’s face and felt the clawing grip of unease tighten in her belly. Dismounting her steed, she met him in long-legged strides. “What news?” she demanded.

Glancing behind her, Lor’themar cleared his throat. When he spoke, the words came in High Thalassian. “It would be wise to return to the war room unarmed, my Queen.

Glowing eyes narrowed suspiciously, but before she could curl her lips back and snarl out a command for further explanation, Jaina appeared at her side. Swallowing back the hiss of irritation, Sylvanas bit out in High Thalassian instead, “Escort my wife away from here, then. If you expect bloodshed.

Jaina peered between them in confusion, and Sylvanas steadfastly ignored the way her wife’s gaze lingered most on her. “What are you talking about?”

The Lord Admiral’s presence would be strongly encouraged.

Sylvanas snarled out a curse at him and took hold of Jaina’s arm, guiding her away quickly. She bore her teeth over her shoulder when Lor’themar kept pace at her other elbow and urged the Lord Admiral ahead faster.

“What’s going on?” Jaina demanded, wriggling her arm free. “Where are we going?”

“The war room,” she bit out, glaring ahead. “Where we are apparently expected.”

Jaina looked at Lor’themar in bewilderment. “Regent Lord, is there news of something urgent?”

The blood elf seemed torn between answering and keeping his silence. When Sylvanas glanced at him sharply, he cleared his throat and replied, “I wouldn’t say urgent, but...pressing enough.” He winced slightly when the Warchief’s lips curled into a scowl.

“What were you saying to each other before?” Jaina demanded then, hitching her skirts in one hand and lengthening her strides to match the rapid one Sylvanas was keeping. “I heard you speak of me.”

Lor’themar’s ears perked with interest; as did Sylvanas’. “You understand High Thalassian, my Lady?”

“Some parts,” Jaina admitted. “Fragments — I know that you called me the mother of ice. Or frost. Or chill. Something.” She shook her head, muttering to herself quietly. “I don’t know how I know, but I do.”

Sylvanas pursed her lips and met Lor’themar’s gave over Jaina’s head. “Let us be done with this quickly, then,” she said. “I’ve wasted enough of my day on folly.”

As they approached the war room, Sylvanas became keenly aware of the faint pulsing emanating from the ring on her finger — and the fact that it seemed to thrum in time with the hollow emptiness of her chest. Her heart had not beaten in years. She was certain it did not remember how. Tightening her hand into a fist briefly, she paused at the doors and turned to look at her wife.

Fingers unfurled and slid along Jaina’s back instead, lingering there. She met her wife’s gaze and saw the defiant gleam of blues eyes and the imperious thrust of that strong Kul Tiran jaw. With a slight cock of her brow, Sylvanas drawled, “Are you ready for battle, dear?”

Jaina’s chest heaved in a slow, deep breath. “Let’s hope for their sake that they haven’t done anything stupid while we were gone.”

“One can only hope.”

With a wave of Jaina’s hand, the doors swung open before them.

Jaina gasped.

Sylvanas stiffened, drawing her hand away from Jaina’s back and braced them behind her own instead. Casting a sharp, slow glance behind her, she promised Lor’themar a slow and painful death with nothing but a squint. Then she straightened into a cold, officious stance as she turned her dark gaze from one figure to the other.

The word crept like poison from her lips. “Sisters,” she said. “What a pleasant surprise.”

 

---------

 

The tension that filled the war room was stifling enough to prickle even Sylvanas’ skin. She held her place in the doorway as Jaina took a hesitant step forward, and wavered. Blue eyes glanced her way and she met them unmovingly, nodding her head once.

Jaina stepped forward again, and Sylvanas fought back the rising flare of annoyance at the way Vereesa moved to meet her halfway with a hug. “It’s good to see you, Vereesa.”

“And you,” Vereesa said, nearly breathless for the way she clung to Jaina. Sylvanas’ eyes twitched slightly at the way her fingers dug into Jaina’s cloak and waist; at the way she nearly burrowed into the Lord Admiral’s hair.

Lor’themar made a sound from beside her, and Sylvanas strode into the room idly. She was vaguely aware of him pulling the door shut behind her as kept her gaze impassively on her eldest sister, appraising Alleria with a lazy glance. “You look well, sister.”

“...and you the same.”

“I must admit that your presence is...unexpected.”

“We are guests under the invitation of King Wrynn,” Alleria said coolly, and Sylvanas had the faint thought of castrating the insufferable whelp.

With a vicious smile and nothing short of hostile gentility, she said, “How quaint. Terribly convenient, is it not, that the Wrynn cub forgets who presides over Lordaeron when it pleases him?”

When Vereesa finally managed to unwind herself away from Jaina, she looked towards Sylvanas. “We heard news of the naga sighting,” she said, by way of explanation. “We’re here to speak as part of the council about the new threats that lie on our borders.”

“There is no threat,” Sylvanas replied snidely, eyeing the way Jaina hugged Alleria the same, though it was a chaste thing compared to the embrace she shared with Vereesa. “All you see is the Alliance spoiling for a fight.”

Alleria bristled. “Then they must see something worth fighting for.”

“Please.” Jaina moved to her side then. “We are not here to fight,” she said, laying a gentle hand on Sylvanas’ arm as their eyes met in a hard look.

Sylvanas looked down at her wife with an irritable frown, ears flattening briefly to her skull. “You don’t think this was a planned ambush by the Wrynn boy? No doubt at the behest of that dog —”

“What does it say if you’re so easily goaded then?” Jaina whispered, brows lifting in a challenge. She lifted her hand to cup Sylvanas’ cheek, and the Warchief’s ears pricked forward in surprise at the blatant show of affection.

In front of her sisters, no less.

Behave,” Jaina murmured then, and Sylvanas was faintly aware of the choked noise coming from Vereesa. “The sooner we finish this Tides-damned meeting, the better.”

Though her eyes remained blazing on Jaina’s face, Sylvanas was keenly aware of the horrified looks on her sisters’ faces. “As my lady wife commands me,” she said stiffly, pulling away to regard Alleria and Vereesa once more. Smirking slowly, she made a grand gesture towards the seats surrounding the council table.

“Well then — let’s not waste any more time on needless pleasantries.” She gave Vereesa a smile that was all teeth. “Unless you’d like to embrace me the same, Little Moon.” The smile widened into a grin at the way Vereesa winced, and Jaina gave her arm a tight squeeze in reproach.

Jaina looked down, pinching the bridge of her nose as she sighed. “Remind me to kill Anduin for this.”

“You’ll have to get in line, dear.”

 

-------

 

Sylvanas flung the war room doors open, the heavy oak of them bouncing off the stone walls as she marched out, a deadly blaze of black and purple bristling from her form as she went. A great, unholy rage was burning under her skin, aching and roiling to be unleashed the same as the Scream building deep within the chambers of her hollow chest, but she swallowed it down with a hiss. The tips of her fingers and the edges of her armour began to mist, fading into a ghostly translucence.

Jaina rushed out after her, the steel of her heeled boots loud against the flagstones as she broke into a light jog. “Sylvanas, slow down. Let me explain — Sylvanas!”

“I am in no mood for company, wife,” she growled, and the echo of it reverberated from within her chest outwards into the high ceilings of the Keep. She turned sharply and made her way down a corridor, her cloak billowing behind her as she swept past sentries and guards. She walked almost without thought — she went where her feet were willing to take her, and it was only midway through the path that Sylvanas realised she was heading directly towards the south tower.

She did not pause. Climbing the steps in pairs at once, Sylvanas felt the darkening cloud of anger building around her shoulders even more.

From somewhere below her, Jaina gasped out, “Tides, would you slow down?”

She whirled on a hiss, and the heat of her own eyes bled over her skin like blazing coal. “Leave me be!” she snapped, as black tendrils began to writhe and loom over her threateningly. “Attend to my sisters, if you so desperately wish to be near an elf. One Windrunner is the same as the other —”

Jaina stumbled onto the landing, panting and dishevelled as she took a moment to catch her breath. Braced against the balustrade, she swept her hair back from her face with a hand, sucking in a deep breath. “You’re insufferable, y’know that?” she huffed, straightening up to glare at Sylvanas. “Insufferable and vain and pig-headed —”

“Yes, all of the things that you loathe and covet the same,” Sylvanas sneered, flexing her hands at her sides. “A pity that you married the wrong sister —”

“Will you always be like this?” Jaina snapped incredulously. “Whatever happened between myself and Vereesa happened before our marriage! It was over and done with long before this damned treaty ever came into play.”

“Am I truly meant to believe that you have no further feelings for my sister after you all but flung yourself into her embrace?” she hissed, prowling forward in a surge that pushed Jaina back against the wall.

Swallowing back a breath, Jaina thrust out her chin defiantly, her voice as cold as the blue of her eyes. “Who and what I did before this marriage is none of your damned business.”

“It is entirely my business if she still buries her face into your hair like that whenever you hug.” Her eyes dropped down over Jaina’s body in a lecherous crawl, lips pulling into a sneer once more. “I’m sure the Little Moon would love nothing more than to bury it elsewhere —”

“What do you hate the most?” Jaina hissed. “The fact that she already has, or that I’d let her?"

Sylvanas snarled, and it sounded like the crack of thunder. And then — not thunder, no. The crumble of stone and snapping wood. An eruption of noise swallowed them at once, the tower engulfed in glowing, unnatural flames of arcane and magic. Jaina gave a shout, staggering against the balustrade as the tower floor began to cave, and Sylvanas lunged for her as the roof came tumbling down over them.

The last thing she saw was the blue of Jaina’s eyes as they were engulfed in darkness.

Chapter Text

She woke to flames.

Screaming. So much screaming. The sound of women and children and men of the city scattered among the deep crumble of stone —

She had lived through this once before.

Sylvanas uncurled herself from around her wife; ash and dust on her tongue and the sharp copper of blood lingering in her nose. Against her, Jaina was still, a stark shape of colour amidst the debris. They had fallen quickly and without warning; Sylvanas only vaguely remembered unleashing her Banshee form to envelop Jaina before a bright arc of light burst from her wife’s hands, shielding them from the worst of it.

Jaina had tried to Blink them away, but somehow Sylvanas’ half-tangible form prevented them from shimmering away in the light. She shifted back quickly, but they were falling too fast, tumbling violently against fragments of debris and stone. With her arms caught around Jaina’s waist, there was nothing Sylvanas could do to break their fall.

So she fell first.

The impact alone was enough to send Sylvanas reeling, and even lungs that did not breathe felt the air forced from them in a rush. Her armour was pinching uncomfortably against skin, and she could smell the bitterness of ichor mingling with the sharpness of copper —

She looked up and saw the ruins of the south tower around them.

“Jaina,” she rasped, pushing upright. The warm body against her chest made no response, and Sylvanas looked down to see blood. Her eyes widened, and a vice of fear took hold of her spine as she gathered Jaina into her arms and shook her wife gently by the shoulders. “Jaina?”

Blood wept down her face, spilling from a wound along her hairline that soaked ivory hair in a garish flash of red. It was superficial, surely. It would take more than a blow to the head to bring low the Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras. The sight of Jaina’s pale face and the smell of her blood made a tremor go through Sylvanas that she could not name.

“Proudmoore,” she hissed, reaching up to cup a cheek. “Open your eyes —”

The Lord Admiral came awake with a frown and a low groan of pain. “Fuck.” She blinked open blue eyes clouded with pain, squinting up into the dust before lighting on Sylvanas’ face. “W-what —”

“Don’t try to move,” Sylvanas murmured, swiping at the flow of blood on Jaina’s forehead with her thumb. “You must’ve hit your head as we fell.”

Jaina groaned again, reaching a trembling hand to her hairline.

A murky suggestion of pain flickered along the Sylvanas’ forehead, and the Warchief jerked in surprise. She looked down and saw the same wide-eyed look on Jaina’s face, and frowned harder at the pallid shade of her wife’s skin. “What did you—”

Her chest wrenched with an ache vicious enough to pull a gasp from between Sylvanas’ lips. She dug a gauntleted hand into her armour, clawing at skin that seemed to come alive with sensation all at once. Suddenly she was aware of every ache; every agony of every wound ever inflicted on her person.

It was as if every part of her had come alive.

The ring on her finger pulsed, a power so sharp it stung. Sylvanas gritted her teeth to swallow back the strangled noise that was bubbling dangerously into her throat, focusing instead on the way Jaina was trembling violently in her arms. Clutching her wife close, she struggled to pull upright from her knees, bracing a foot against the rubble —

—and promptly crumbled.

“Stop!” Jaina cried, gasping sharply. Trembling, bloodstained hands reached up to flail at her armoured chest. “S-stop — your leg —” The colour in her face was fading rapidly; her skin glazed in a sheen of sweat.

Sylvanas looked down. Her left thigh was covered in ichor, the cuisses crumpled inward and kept so by a large segment of wooden pillaring. A blade of hurt travelled up through her, cutting deep into bone, and she gritted her teeth once more. Reaching down, she took hold of it.

Pale and green with nausea, Jaina slurred both in warning and a plea, “Don’t.”

Perhaps it was spite, or perhaps it was stubborn refusal to accept the newfound agony in her body, Sylvanas yanked the piece of wood out with a grunt. Ichor spilt out in a gush of bilious green, and she felt her leg bristle with pain so bright her vision spotted.

Jaina’s eyes rolled back, and her body went limp once more.

Sylvanas felt her heart plummet into her gut. “Jaina!” She reached down and cupped her wife’s cheek, recoiling then when she saw the smear of green her fingers drew across pale skin.

“Warchief!” The thundering of footsteps approached; she looked up and saw Lor’themar through the chaos, saw the outline of Wrynn and Greymane and her sisters —

She bundled Jaina into her arms, staggering up on trembling legs. “A healer!” she snarled, and for the rest of her days, Sylvanas would never admit to the desperate bent of her words. “Summon a healer now!”

 

-------

 

The south tower had fallen. Reduced to ashes in a matter of moments. Caused, it seemed, by the collapse of the foundations and beams of the tower itself.

Caused, as Sylvanas learned, by the cache of catalyst stored beneath the stone. An accident, they called it. An unfortunate miscalculation of formulas and a cruel twist of fate.

“How?”

From within the privacy of her study, Lor’themar pressed his lips together and peered at her apprehensively. “I do not know, my Queen. Rommath and Faranell are working to find the cause as we speak.”

Sylvanas sneered. “I daresay that I speak for both the Alliance and myself when I say that an attempt on the Lord Admiral’s life will not be taken lightly.”

The Regent Lord arched one manicured brow. “How can you be so sure it was an attempt on her life?”

“Was it not the south tower that crumbled?”

A prickle of rage manifested itself in black mist around her, bleeding from her pores and the edges of her armour as she paced the room. “I was guaranteed the stability of the catalyst. If I find any one member of the council responsible for such an act of treason when they were meant to ensure the safety of the entire city —”

She whirled on them then, eyes bleeding unholy fire and black peeling at her skin. “There will be blood .”

Lor’themar’s throat bobbed. “Rightly so, Warchief,” he said, inclining his head. “But at this moment, I would think it unwise to throw accusations forth without further proof.” He glanced down at something at south of her waist and darted a look back up.

Saurfang scoffed from the other end of the room, the bulk of him blotting out the light filtering in through the windows. “I can promise you that the Alliance will already have their own beliefs about who was responsible for this.”

“The Alliance has always been quick to point fingers,” she growled, reaching up to tear her mangled cloak off her shoulders. “Do we understand the likelihood of another of these...accidents?”

“No, my Queen.”

“Evacuating a city is no small matter, Regent Lord. Have we done a sweep of it? Taken inventory of the damage? Body counts?”

Lor’themar cleared his throat delicately. “All appropriate steps have been set into motion, yes. But these are things best suited for... after you and the Lord Admiral are tended to.”

She had not seen Jaina in hours. It had taken both Wrynn and Greymane to pry her grip from her wife, and even then, Sylvanas had surrendered her with great reluctance. Everything in her strained to follow, but there was no place for weakness then.

No doubt, her sisters were tending to Jaina at that moment. The very thought rankled her nerves more than she would likely ever admit.

“My Queen,” Lor’themar urged, low and gentle. “Your wounds need tending.”

She shrugged, ripping her pauldrons off and tearing away her cuirass brusquely. Ichor spilt anew; a sharp blaze of pain tingling over her chest like the crawl of spider legs over skin. Wrinkling her nose, she turned away. “I am unharmed. Jaina —”

“— will be seen to by the capable hands of the Archmage Khadgar and Modera,” he said. When she turned to him, lips curled into a snarl, she saw a grave, speaking look in his green eye.

Saurfang stepped away from the window then, bracing one large hand on her shoulder carefully. “Your armour is crushed, Warchief. Your wounds are bleeding all over the place.”

Sylvanas looked down at herself. Ichor was pouring freely from her side and legs and arms; scrapes and weeping wounds and a flash of bone. The mangled mess of her thigh was still weeping ichor weak. There were burns and split skin that she hadn’t realised; peeking out like alabaster against the faint purple of her skin. The pain of her injuries was hardly something she could even register at that moment — all she could think of was Jaina.

Jaina whose blood had been so bright against her pale skin; the smell of it sharp through the cinders and ashes. Jaina whose eyes had blazed at her with such intense spite, with confusion and hurt and resentment.

Jaina, whose blue eyes had gleamed with fear as the tower crumbled beneath their feet.

She pursed her lips, glancing once more in the direction her wife had been taken. The chaos around them continued, and the flash of dancing flames caught her eyes. What was left of the tower was still burning.

It was nothing short of a miracle that they weren’t crushed beneath the rubble.

No, it was no miracle at all.

If it hadn’t been for Jaina’s quick thinking, Sylvanas was certain they would have died beneath the stone.

She glanced back at Lor’themar. “And the Lady Proudmoore?”

Lor’themar blinked, features softening slightly. “Safe, my Queen. Unscathed.”

“Good,” she murmured, straightening up and staring ahead at the window and the fading light of the day. “I want you to find Faranell and bring him to me at once. I will have words with the Master Apothecary.”

Saurfang squeezed down on her shoulder, and Sylvanas’ brow twitched at the pressure. “Your wounds, Warchief.”

Sighing, she brushed Saurfang’s hand from her shoulder. “Summon a priest then. And send my rangers out to hunt. Bring me something big. Something strong.” A deep rush of darkness unfurled around her, swathing the banshee in mist as her glowing eyes blazed at them. Her voice carried in a low growl that trembled into the high ceilings. “I have a great hunger.”

 

------

 

Healing as an Undead, especially as one of her calibre, was no easy feat. For however invulnerable her unliving body seemed to the eyes of the masses, Sylvanas was no mere creature born from the Scourge. She was a banshee, and the first Forsaken. From her, the rest had come, and with the Val’kyr sworn into her service, the powers that flowed through Sylvanas were unknown and unpredictable to even herself.

What was predictable, though, was the sheer fury the Banshee Queen was capable of.

It took the skills of an Undead priest and a well-hunted bear to pull Sylvanas back to her full strength. Bones fused and skin knitted; power stores filled. The spirit of the poor creature writhed and unfurled within her, feral and sharp as she pulled the darkness back within herself. Its wild heart and feral rage filled her almost beyond the point of control — she opened her eyes once, and in the mirror’s face, she saw the bright gleam of eyes like blood rubies staring back at her.

Were it not for the persistent thrum of her ring, Sylvanas would have likely surrendered to its savage whims.

She knew every instant of Jaina’s healing. Felt it in each fragment of her body; where the archmages had laid their Light-damned hands over wounds and felt them knit back together as her own flesh stung and smarted with phantom pangs. She knew when each flare of hurt in her body crested beyond a point of tolerance, and with linger of its touch on her skin, Sylvanas felt the feral rage in her grow.

A large part of her rebelled against the thought — what would have been more disconcerting to someone long undead but to feel? She couldn’t understand it, not in entirety, but she was no fool to be cowed by unknown magic. Whether it was the rings or the binding of their marriage or the blooding — she would investigate when Jaina wasn’t kept shut away from her.

She was no fool to be kept from her wife.

Despite Lor’themar’s low warnings, the Warchief threw open the door to her study and marched down the hall. It was no great feat to find the healer’s rooms; not when there was the unpleasantly familiar form of her sister standing guard at the door.

Alleria’s cool gaze swept down the hallway towards her, and Sylvanas bristled as she saw her elder sister stiffen and reach without hesitation for an arrow to nock. “I’m almost tempted to see you try and shoot me,” she growled, closing in on the door. “Step aside.”

Though she kept her bow lowered, Alleria didn’t budge. “If you force my hand, I will,” she said, without inflexion. “The Lord Admiral is resting.”

“You understand that you’re pointing an armed bow at her wife, if not the Warchief of the Horde,” Sylvanas retorted. She glowered viciously, eyes blazing as the blackness began to eat into her face. “Move.”

Mouth curling into a scowl, Alleria stepped forward, nearly nose-to-nose now with her. It took everything in Sylvanas not to reach out and sink her magic into her sister’s body and crumple her to dust, but even she could feel the eerie loom of the Void. “She doesn’t want to see you.”

“If she’s awake, I’ll ask her myself.”

“She doesn’t want to see you.”

She pulled her lips back into a snarl, ears flattening entirely to her skull as her eyes blazed a flame so hot she could damn near feel it. “Move.”

“I’m not going to let you just waltz in there to finish the job,” Alleria spat.

Throwing her head back in a mocking laugh, Sylvanas sneered. “And what ‘job’ is it that you think I’m here to complete?”

The bowstring creaked in Alleria’s hold, drawn tight in her grip. “You damn well know what.”

“How very Alliance of you, sister,” she said, and the tapestry along the walls rippled at the power of it. “Throwing accusations in every direction but their own. You seem to forget that I too was caught in the crossfire.”

Whatever it was that Alleria was ready to spit fell away to the sound of the doors creaking open. Sylvanas reeled back, fists curled at her side as a svelte figure appeared; her pale silver hair brushing against the muted blue and white of her armour. Clenching her fists tighter, she curled her lips into a vicious smile.

“Ah. Of course,” she said witheringly. “I should’ve known you’d take my place at my wife’s side.”

Vereesa hesitated at the sight of her, barely finding the spine to meet her gaze before moving to Alleria’s side. In a low tone — and with great reluctance, it seemed — she said, “Jaina’s asking for her.”

A faint ripple of sensation bloomed in Sylvanas’ chest. She did not wait for further explanation or acknowledgement, shouldering Vereesa aside brusquely as she slipped in between the doors and slammed them shut behind her.

Her eyes fell upon the bed, and Sylvanas froze.

They stared at each other. Face-to-face then, and for the first time in a long time, Sylvanas found herself floundering. She wasn’t entirely sure what she had expected to see; Jaina lying motionless in bed, her alabaster hair spread out against the sheets? As pale and wan as the sterile bandages covering her body? Asleep and listless, fighting for each breath of life?

Awake, as she was now, propped up against overstuffed pillows. Covered in healing cuts and bruises that stood out against her skin even through the scatter of freckles. Glaring at Sylvanas like a queen upon a gilded throne — but still, there was a gleam of uncertainty there, of wariness.

It clawed at her throat — are you alright? I was worried. I’m sorry. I would have killed a thousand men to be at your side, or at the very least Alleria and Vereesa, but I didn’t, because I knew you would have disapproved.

But because she was who she was, Sylvanas straightened her spine and thrust out her chin. Blandly, she said, “I’m surprised my sister isn’t just sprawled over you like a bearskin throw.”

The wariness in Jaina’s eyes gave way to weariness, and she sagged back against the pillows with a sigh. The sheer disappointment in her face was nothing short of a blow to the chest for Sylvanas.

Her fingers twitched faintly, and she took a hesitant step forward. “Forgive me,” she blurted, startling them both. “Forgive me, I —” Curling her hands tightly into fists at her side, Sylvanas forced herself to swallow back the instinct to sneer. Instead, she stared hard at her booted feet, working her jaw for a moment before she turned her eyes back onto Jaina.

I’m sorry,” she said. “I am. Those words were unkind.” She swallowed back the now-familiar taste of bile in her throat, clearing away the well in her chest. “I’ve been — unkind.”

Peering at her wearily still, Jaina said, “Yes, you have.” And then she sighed, her fingers worrying idly at the edges of the blankets. “But we both have been.”

Sylvanas shifted on her feet, glancing from the end of the bed to Jaina. “May I —?” She gestured towards the space between them.

“Depends,” Jaina drawled tiredly, shifting against the pillows. “Are you going to piss a circle around me?”

The corner of her lip twitched. “If that is what you desire,” she muttered. The puff of breath that came from Jaina wasn’t entirely scorn, and it was enough to put a bloom of warmth in Sylvanas’ chest. She waited expectantly, glancing again from the bed to her wife.

Sighing, Jaina nodded.

Sylvanas did not hesitate further. Perching herself carefully along the side of the bed, she gave her wife a serious look. “Are you well?” she asked, darting a glance at the stark white gauze pressed along Jaina’s hairline. The memory of bright red smeared across skin was too fresh in her mind.

“As well as I can be, I suppose.” Jaina gave her a discerning look. “And you?”

She shrugged. “Nothing a little necromancy couldn’t fix.” It was an extensive and painful experience, but Jaina didn’t need to know that. There was still much that Sylvanas couldn’t understand about the encounter among the rubble; about the persistent thrum of life brimming under her skin.

If she didn’t know any better, she would’ve thought that her heart was beating again.

“You were gone a long while,” Jaina noted. “I woke up and it was just my mother and…Vereesa.”

She sniffed. “Yes, well. It’s not quite as easy to keep at your side with Alleria’s arrows aimed for my throat.”

Blue eyes widened in alarm. “She what ?”

“Didn’t you know? Your self-appointed sentry posted at your door,” she drawled. “Overqualified and overeager, if you ask me.”

Jaina shook her head incredulously. “I told Vereesa as soon as I was awake to find you,” she said, and Sylvanas wondered if it wasn’t a mercy to remind her wife of the fact that her sister was not an entirely trustworthy sort.

“Can you blame her for wanting you to herself?” she needled, the lilt in her voice coy and bitter. “I wouldn’t have left your side at all, if I had my way. But alas —” Sylvanas made a grand, sweeping gesture over her body. “—this vessel was in desperate need of repair.”

Still, the Lord Admiral’s features softened slightly with concern. “I was worried, you know,” she said, low and rasping. “When they were healing me. I was worried that you’d feel it, too.”

“I’m in excellent health. They couldn’t touch me if they tried,” Sylvanas assured her, leaning forward to take hold of the water glass perched on the bedside table. Slowly, she pressed it between Jaina’s scraped hands, frowning down at the scabs and faint yellow bruises. “Your healers are surprisingly inept,” she remarked.

Jaina glanced down at her own hands as she brought the glass to her lips. She shrugged a shoulder as she drank.

Long pale brows furrowed harder with disapproval, but Jaina seemed content with pointedly ignoring her concern. “Those wounds should have been healed by now, Jaina. There shouldn’t be a speck on you.”

“This isn’t just damage from a weapon,” Jaina said tightly, placing the glass aside. “You know it yourself; magical wounds heal slower. Arcane doesn’t always respond well to the Light, and not when it’s been tampered by so much from the catalyst.”

She gave Jaina a stern look. “And this has nothing to do because of our tie to one another?”

Jaina tightened her jaw and looked away stubbornly.

Sighing, Sylvanas sat back. Her eyes dropped down to Jaina’s hands again, and this time lingered on the barrenness of her wife’s left ring finger. Blinking away her surprise and the slow prickle of sensation in her chest, she glanced off at the far wall. Impassively, she asked, “Have you misplaced your ring?”

Jaina blinked, lifting her left hand to look at it. A look of confusion fell across her face for a moment before brightening in realisation. She reached beneath the collar of her tunic and brought the silver chain around her neck into view.

There, dangling beside her father’s anchor, was her wedding ring. By way of explanation, she said, “I had it on before, but I think my mother put it around my neck when they were treating me.”

Exhaling slowly, Sylvanas inclined her head, thumbing her own ring as if in assurance. “The Lady Proudmoore is ever a figure of foresight. I’m relieved, truly, that she was unharmed.” She glanced about the room for a sign of Katherine. “Where is your mother?”

Jaina’s lips twitched into a tired smirk. “Making Anduin cry, probably. He wanted Khadgar to open a portal and send her back to Boralus. I’ve never heard my mother swear so much in years.”

Sylvanas let out a quiet chuckle. “An outstanding woman.”

“Where do you think I get it from?”

A fond smile found its way onto her lips, and Sylvanas gathered herself in the next instant. “Dear wife,” she said quietly, eyes lingering on Jaina’s. “You are a remarkable woman in your own right.”

Flushing softly, Jaina looked away towards the far wall and its assorted tapestries. “You have to say that. You’re my wife,” she mumbled.

“Has that ever stopped me from telling you how painful it is to the eyes when I read your scrawl?”

Tch.” A knee rose beneath the covers and nudged her in the side. “You’re awful.”

Sylvanas grinned, an entirely smug and bitter thing. “Aren’t I always, dear?”

Jaina sobered then, and Sylvanas felt the smile fall away from her own lips. They sat in the stilted silence for a moment; sat and watched her wife fiddle restlessly with the edges of the covers. “Forgive me,” she said, stiff and halting. “I will strive to do better with my words.” She shifted guiltily on the bed. “And my actions.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Jaina insisted. “Not entirely, at least. I shouldn’t have said those things to goad you.”

The reminder of their last conversation made Sylvanas stiffen, and she sat up straighter as she shrugged. “What you said was true. Whoever you took to bed before the marriage is entirely your business alone,” she replied coolly, glancing back towards the doors with open distaste.

“That doesn’t make it any better,” the Lord Admiral mumbled, peering at her discerningly. “Sylvanas, you know I really wouldn’t ever — do that, right? I wouldn’t choose Vereesa over you. Not after all of this.”

“It would be in your right,” she said flatly. “If a paramour is what you desire —”

“Sylvanas —”

“Understandable, of course, given that she remains the last Windrunner to be untainted —”

“That’s not —”

“Nevermind the fact that Vereesa is the only one you actually liked to begin with —”

“Sylvanas!” Jaina snapped.

Startling slightly, Sylvanas looked at her, ears pricking forward. “You can’t deny the truth,” she said, not unkindly. “Your connection with Vereesa is certainly more ideal.”

“And yet she wasn’t the one I married,” Jaina said, exasperation colouring her words and cheeks.

Pursing her lips, Sylvanas reminded her mildly, “You and I married for entirely different reasons than affection, Jaina.”

“But it didn’t have to be anything more than loveless, did it?”

She went quiet. “Yes,” she murmured. “I’ve been wondering about that.”

Pulling the corner of her lip between her teeth, Jaina worried at the skin there for a moment before sighing. She reached up to palm her face wearily, pinching tight at the bridge of her nose. Laughing weakly, she said, “Tides, we’re really bad at this, aren’t we?”

“There could be room for improvement,” she admitted, as sheepish as she allowed herself to be.

Slowly, hesitantly, Sylvanas reached out across the sheets, the barest tips of her fingers whispering against Jaina’s hand. Her eyes kept steady on her wife’s face, watching for the slightest twitch or frown or sneer, but there were none to be found.

Instead, she saw Jaina’s eyes flicker down to their hands and then back to her face, the arch of one regal brow twitching slightly.

A challenge and a question.

Tentatively, Sylvanas laid her hand over Jaina’s. Stroked her thumb over the soft skin of bony knuckles and along a delicate wrist. Emboldened, she pulled her wife’s hand into her lap, and then up to her lips. Brushing the cool touch of them over strong fingers, whose callused pads she knew all too intimately.

“I’m pleased to see you well,” she whispered, and the boldness within her grew ever stronger when Jaina’s lashes fluttered and the breath in her lungs hitched. “Truly.”

Jaina’s other hand rose up to clutch at her necklace, fingers sliding along the anchor pendant and hooking along the texture of the ring. “Will you put it back on for me?” she whispered.

Sylvanas pressed a kiss along the inside of her wife’s wrist. “Anything you wish of me.” She leaned forward, gently removing the ring from the necklace and grasping Jaina’s fingers in one hand. With meaningful precision, she slipped the ring back into place, stroking her thumb over the ridges of it.

At length, she said thoughtfully, “I must admit; I expected more of it.”

“Oh?”

“It certainly hasn’t done much with keeping you out of harm’s way.” Sylvanas gave it an accusing little squint, tracing the long-familiar patterns of the filigree.

“You don’t know that,” Jaina countered gently, sliding her thumb over Sylvanas’ knuckles. “For all you know, we might both be dead if it weren’t for our rings.”

Her shoulders rose stiffly, and Sylvanas frowned in annoyance at the thought. “Your quick thinking was what kept us from being buried under rubble,” she said, reaching up to brush her fingertips across her chest at the memory of the ache that had bloomed there.

Jaina followed the motion suspiciously, reaching out to spread a hand over hers. The warmth of living skin made Sylvanas shiver. Blue eyes stared at their joined hands for a moment, tracking up along broad shoulders and up her neck before settling on her face. “You felt it too, didn’t you?”

“Felt what?”

Everything.”

A flutter rippled beneath her fingertips, and Sylvanas looked down at the same time Jaina did. Frowning disconcertedly, she brushed their joined hands away from her skin, leaning forward to grasp her wife’s chin between two fingers gently.

“Are you truly well?” she asked then, tilting Jaina’s head this way and that. “No dizziness? No nausea?” She stroked the pad of her thumb gently over the plush swell of full lips, brushing along the sharp cut of her wife’s stubborn jaw.

Jaina’s mouth twitched with amusement as she grasped Sylvanas’ wrist, tugging gently. “Come closer and find out.”

Arching a brow, Sylvanas went willingly, pressing Jaina back against the pillows as she braced herself on her hands. Peering down at her wife, she savoured the spill of pale hair and golden threads over the pillows, the familiar hooded look of hungry blue eyes. Gently, she reached up and coiled a tendril of hair around a finger, feeling them slide away like silk.

Jaina reached up and cupped her cheek, and Sylvanas felt herself leaning eagerly into the touch.

“You’re unwell,” she murmured, turning her face to trace her lips along Jaina’s palm. “You should rest.”

“Then stay with me,” Jaina mumbled, sliding her hand down along a broad shoulder and spreading her touch over the back of Sylvanas’ neck. “I sleep better with you near.”

Sylvanas reached down and clasped Jaina’s neck the same, stroking her thumb over the pristine skin. The blooding scars were gone then, and she felt a faint twinge build low in her belly at the loss.

Jaina seemed to know. “Bite if you want,” she breathed, presenting her neck with a sinuous arch. “I’ll never let them touch it again.”

Blood red eyes flashed bright with hunger, and her mouth nearly watered. “You know why we cannot,” she rasped, burrowing her face into Jaina’s neck nevertheless, breathing in the rich scent of her wife’s skin. She did not bite, only laid her fangs against the rapid thunder of the Lord Admiral’s pulse, worrying the skin there into a dark and possessive bruise.

With a hitched breath, Jaina writhed against the sheets, reaching up to tug and yank at Sylvanas’ tunic. “That’s not biting,” she whined.

“No biting,” Sylvanas murmured, nuzzling against her jawline soothingly. “Not yet.”

Jaina bared her teeth in annoyance. “Sylvanas —”

Grinning, she pressed her hand along Jaina’s side, squeezing just so. She chuckled as Jaina jerked, squealing loudly in protest.

Behind them, the doors burst open with a clatter, and Sylvanas whirled on it with a growl. She moved to rise off the bed, but Jaina surged upright behind her, sliding an arm across her chest to anchor her into place.

Her breath was warm against Sylvanas’ neck; the smell of sea breeze and frost around them. “Stay. Let them see. I don’t care.”

Vereesa and Alleria paused at the doorway, eyes wide as they glanced to one another and then back at the bed. Tentatively, Vereesa took a step forward. “J-Jaina?”

“Vereesa.” The frigid tone made Sylvanas’ ears prick forward in surprise.

The Little Moon blinked, a flicker of hurt crossing her face as she took a step back. Sylvanas didn’t miss that look. “You shouted. Are you alright?”

“She squealed,” Sylvanas drawled. “I would’ve thought you of all people would know the difference between the two.”

The hand Jaina had across her chest tightened, and Sylvanas went willingly as she was tugged backwards by her wife, leaning into the warmth that spread across her back. “I’m just fine. Would’ve been better without you interrupting.”

The hand flexed slightly over her skin, and Sylvanas watched as Vereesa’s eyes dropped down to follow the movement. The way her sister’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped open were almost comical enough for her to laugh.

Vereesa gasped and whirled to Alleria as she spoke in rapid-fire Thalassian. “Do you see —”

Of course I see! ” Alleria snapped in return, glaring hard at Jaina’s hand with open disapproval. “I have eyes.

Is it truly —” Vereesa took a hesitant step forward, looking from Sylvanas to Jaina and then back again. “How did you get Mother’s ring? ” she demanded.

Sylvanas arched a brow slowly, regarding her sister with deadly calm. “Did you forget that I was the first among us to marry? You know full well whose finger it sat on for centuries.” She cast a sidelong glance at Jaina and caught the comprehension on her averted gaze, as well as the discomfort in Vereesa’s.

A sharp ache developed in her chest at the memory, and her brows pinched together. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jaina flinch the same.

Alleria spoke again, her Common lilting and sharp. “I don’t know what you’re playing at, Sylvanas, but I do not approve of it.”

She sneered. “I have never needed your approval.”

“It’s not up to you to approve,” Jaina said sharply, and all three of the Windrunners reeled about to look at her. “What Sylvanas and I do in our personal life is our business alone.”

“Jaina, she almost killed you!” Vereesa protested.

Vicious blue eyes narrowed, a faint glow swallowing the whites of them. “Get out,” Jaina growled. “Before I have you arrested for treason.”

“Jaina —”

“Out!” she snarled.

Stiffening in place, Vereesa took a moment to breathe, and straightening her spine, she nodded curtly at them. “As you wish,” she replied, gaze lowering as she blinked back tears. She jerked her head at Alleria and spun on her heels, making back for the door.

Sylvanas watched coldly as her sister departed, mouth twitching into a sneer as Alleria glanced back at them dubiously. She swept her gaze from one sister to the other, lingering on Vereesa with a faint, smug little squint.

With one last helpless look back, Vereesa pulled the doors shut with a petulant thud.

“Tides,” Jaina sighed, stroking her hand idly over Sylvanas’ tunic collar. “I never thought about it before now, but your sisters are annoying.”

Chuckling dryly, Sylvanas turned, filling her arms with Jaina as she leaned down to kiss her wife sweetly on the lips. “Windrunners are the jealous sort, dear. As you’re well aware.”

“Hmmn. Possessive as well?”

“Entirely.”

“Petulant?”

Mercurial.”

Jaina blinked up at her innocently, though her hands were rapidly winding an entirely un-innocent path. “Libidinous?”

She rolled her hips forward, driving Jaina into the bed. “Entirely insatiable.”

Perfect.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 27

---------

 

The last thing Jaina remembered was falling. 

The crumble of stone beneath their feet and the sound of her name on Sylvanas’ lips. The tumble of their bodies among the rubble; the flare of arcane and the smell of sulphur and forged steel as Sylvanas grabbed hold of her waist and spun them.

She remembered the desperate burst of magic they’d both cast out at once; one in a thick plume of purpling mist and the other in a swell of rich blue.

The flare of her ring, burning like blazing steel against her finger before it all went black.

The touch of Sylvanas’ hand to her cheek; the raw and open worry she’d glimpsed in those blood-red eyes. She remembered the abundance of agony that came when she woke, the cacophony of sensation and the burn of stone and wood and arcane that cut deep into bone.

It had been too much — her nerve endings singing all at once from a wound she could not see.

And then she had caught sight of Sylvanas’ leg. It had been a fleeting thought; a realisation clouded by the resonating ache of her body. Before she could give voice to it, Sylvanas had yanked the wooden pillaring out, and it had all gone black.

When she woke among white sheets and to the sight of her mother, Alleria, and Vereesa hovering at her bedside; she woke with a wild flurry of panic and confusion. A quiet part of her ached at the absence of her wife, though the same part thrummed and stung with phantom pains she knew only as Sylvanas’ suffering.

She’d tried to ask for her wife. But with the chaos and wild rush of Khadgar and Modera and every other healer they could spare scrambling to tend to their most wounded, there had been little time in between to indulge her questions.

She remembered the desperation and relief in her mother’s embrace when she woke. The quiet tremor in Katherine’s voice when she spoke. 

“Bless the waves, you’re awake at last! They said you’d fallen with the tower. When I heard, I —” She watched as her mother swallowed back a breath. “I’m just glad you’re alright, dear.” Katherine leaned forward then, and Jaina felt the press of her lip warm against the cool, sweaty surface of her forehead.

Jaina clasped her mother’s hand between hers and clung to it as she once did as a child. From a throat aching and hoarse, she asked, “Where is Sylvanas?”

Katherine had pursed her lips, and in the furrow of her mother’s brow, Jaina saw the hesitation to answer. A great weight sank deep within her chest; her grip tightened on her mother’s hand. “Mother —”

Vereesa rose from the bed then. “Let me,” she offered, placing a gentle hand on Katherine’s shoulder.

“King Wrynn will want to have a word with you, Lady Proudmoore. Now that she’s awake,” Alleria said.

“The King will have to wait,” her mother snapped, and Alleria’s ears lowered at the tone. “My daughter was nearly buried under rubble and we don’t know how or why. I have no interest in what he has to say unless it’s to discuss a swift execution for the ones responsible.”

“Your safety is our concern as well, Lady Proudmoore,” Alleria began, tentatively. “It might be safer for you back in Boralus —”

Katherine squared her shoulders and set her jaw, and when she looked at Alleria, Jaina felt the sting of her gaze the same. With a voice of deadly calm, she asked, “Am I correct in assuming that the Boy King is suggesting that I be portalled back to Kul Tiras...without my daughter?”

The stiffness in Alleria’s shoulders faltered somewhat. “I understand that parting from Jaina would be the last thing you want at this moment,” she said, with the weight of a mother in her words. “But until we know who was responsible for the explosion, we simply cannot risk your safety.” She glanced at Jaina then, brows lifting slightly as she looked back at Katherine.

A pang of sympathy went through Jaina as she gave the eldest Windrunner a helpless shrug. She knew better than to fight her mother on something like this.

“Well,” Katherine said, inhaling sharply as she rose seamlessly from the bed. From the look on her face, Jaina knew it was going to be chaos for Anduin. “It seems I must tell the Boy King to his face where I think he should rightly shove that sword of his.”

“Mother!” Jaina gasped. “He means well.”

The Lady Proudmoore gave a haughty sniff, bending low to press a kiss to Jaina’s forehead and a squeeze to her hand. “I shall leave him in one piece, then. For your sake.”

“I suppose I’d best escort you,” Alleria muttered.

And then it was just Vereesa.

The youngest Windrunner perched at her bedside, smiling with a relief that Jaina couldn’t quite share. “I’m so glad to see you’re alright.”

“I’m glad to see you the same,” Jaina replied, with a smile that pulled harder than the abused muscles of her body. The constant thrum and ache that festered under her skin did nothing to soothe her, and she shifted restlessly against the pillows. She could tell from the look on Vereesa’s face that there were questions growing in abundance behind pursed lips, and she sighed wearily.

“Just say it,” she said. “You might as well get it out before they come back.”

Vereesa’s ears flicked and flattened slightly, looking, as far as Jaina was concerned, appropriately chastened. She cleared her throat quietly. “I didn’t expect you and my sister to be so...close.”

“We’re married,” she drawled. “That was kind of the point.”

She was keenly aware of the hard swallow Vereesa took; as if biting back a roil of bile. “It’s just a little...disorienting...to see you so friendly...with Sylvanas of all people.”

The way Vereesa said her wife’s name made Jaina’s nerve rankle slightly, but she couldn’t find the strength to fight. “I didn’t think it was anyone’s business but ours.” 

“Why didn’t you ever mention it in your letters?” Vereesa pressed, with a deep note of hurt in her words. “You know you could’ve trusted me with anything.” She reached down to lay a hand over Jaina’s, squeezing gently, but there was a weight there to her touch that seemed far too familiar.

“It’s not like we’re girls again gossiping about which boys we liked,” Jaina said, somewhat testily. She slid her hand away with a sigh. “The Horde and Alliance can barely manage to be civil as it is, even with our marriage in place. The last thing I want to do is betray Sylvanas’ trust.” She shook her head. “Some things aren’t meant to be shared.”

“Even with your closest friend?” Vereesa whispered.

“Especially with my sister-in-law,” Jaina replied firmly.

A long, stifling silence fell between them, and Vereesa pulled her hands back into her lap, folding them against her thighs. At length, and with a fair bit of petulance and hurt, she remarked, “I suppose that explains why you never wrote back to my letters.”

Jaina frowned. “What letters?”

Vereesa went quiet, eyes narrowing suspiciously. She opened her mouth to speak, but then her ears flicked upright sharply and angled back towards the doors. There was a flurry of muffled voices then, low and sharp with an anger that seemed to be barely restrained. Jaina recognised the lilt of the voices; knew the drawling words and the scathing tone all too well. 

She sat up abruptly, ignoring the bloom of stars behind her eyelids as she did. A tremulous flurry of relief and worry went through her as she looked at Vereesa.

“Jaina —”

“Let her in,” she said. “I want to see her.”

 

-----

 

Presently, Jaina was as content as she could be, given the circumstances. Her wife was draped over her, mindful in the way their bodies moulded together, but encompassing nonetheless. She deepened the kiss, reaching up to slide her hand over Sylvanas' chest and down along the neckline of the tunic, dipping her fingers beneath the material to trace over the raised texture of scars there; some long-healed and some tender and fresh.

A deep plume of sensation blossomed in her chest then, and she flinched.

Sylvanas stiffened above her and pulled back, pupils blown wide before narrowing rapidly. “Jaina —”

“It's fine,” she said quickly, reaching up to tug Sylvanas back down to her. “I'm alright, it was just — phantom pains.”

Still, she caught the serious frown that furrowed into her wife’s brows, felt the heavy weight of Sylvanas’ hands pinning her hips in place. She squirmed slightly, but the hold was unyielding. 

She clawed at Sylvanas’ back insistently. “Really.”

“No.”

Yes.” She dug her nails into her wife’s tunic and tried to pull Sylvanas closer, but the Warchief was an unmovable stone.

Sylvanas sat back on the bed, peering down at her flatly. “You’re healing.”

“I’m healed,” Jaina protested, pulling upright in a huff. “It was just a tower —”

Precisely,” Sylvanas said, voice sharp and a speaking look on her face. “There is no ‘just’ about it. A tower fell on you, Jaina, and from what I can see — your priests have done a miserable job of mending you back together.” Glowing red eyes glanced down at her hands before returning to her face.

“Will it appease you if you took a closer look?” she quipped.

It merely earned her a chiding look. “These are things not to be taken lightly, Jaina,” Sylvanas said, not unkindly. “I would rather know why your wounds aren’t healing as they should.” Long brows furrowed and thin lips pressed tightly together. “I’d rather know if they were my doing.”

Jaina stared down at her hands, thumbing the raised etchings of her ring. It had gone unspoken about for long enough. Things had changed between them in more ways than she could have ever imagined; things had developed that she hadn’t thought possible. It wasn’t just feelings that were coming into play now, but the blooding and the rings — the binding at the ceremony —

The phantom pains and rippling veil of emotions not entirely hers.

“I know. Things are changing,” she murmured, casting a furtive look at Sylvanas. “We can talk about it later.”

“After you’ve recovered,” Sylvanas agreed, with a pointed glance. “Fully.”

Jaina sighed when she realised the Banshee Queen would not relent. Stubborn as ever. “I am perfectly aware of what fell on me,” she said mildly. “I’d just prefer the comfort of my wife over my mother’s hovering. Or Anduin’s. Or Vereesa’s.”

The Warchief made a disparaging noise in her throat. “Yes, the Little Moon does like to hover. Gives her a sense of purpose.”

Tempted as she was to prod at the bitterness in Sylvanas’ words, Jaina knew better than to start more things about the Windrunner sisters. Instead, she asked, "How is everyone? Were there casualties?" Her fair brows pulled tightly together as she peered up anxiously into her wife's face. "Do we know why the tower fell?"

"Don't fret," Sylvanas said, with that tone of hers that somehow managed to chide and reassure on the same breath. “The collapse was contained to the south tower and its surrounding area. The rest of the council are investigating the security of the city and the casualties.”

Jaina swallowed. “Were there many?”

Sylvanas gave her a grim look, and Jaina felt her stomach roil as she looked away. Guilt festered deep in her chest; as if somehow she could have prevented all of it from happening. As if somehow she should have known, or at the very least been able to stop the senseless loss of lives —

“Jaina.”

The low murmur of her name startled her, and she glanced at Sylvanas. There was a soft, knowing sort of look on her wife’s face, the kind that Jaina never would have imagined seeing. She sighed heavily, shoulders sagging as she thumbed her ring pensively. 

“It shouldn’t have happened,” she said. “Those people shouldn’t have died.”

Long callused fingers trailed beneath her chin and tilted her face upwards. Sylvanas peered down at her seriously as blazing eyes searched her face. “You cannot hold yourself responsible for every life lost. You know this.”

Tears stung at the corner of her eyes, and Jaina swallowed back the bitter taste of them in her throat. Hot shame quickly followed as she turned her face away, but Sylvanas held firm to her chin. Her brows furrowed at the well of emotions in her chest. They did not feel entirely her own, and when she looked up into Sylvanas’ face, she saw the same furrow in her wife’s brow.

She reached up to grasp Sylvanas’ wrist, squeezing gently. “This isn’t your burden to bear, either,” she whispered, turning her lips inwards to press a kiss against the cool, war-roughened surface of her wife’s palm. Then she smiled, a wry and sad thing. “We can’t both be martyrs.”

A puff of breath escaped Sylvanas’ lips, soft and fond, closer to a laugh than a scoff. It made Jaina smile. “I don’t see why you get to hold onto martyrdom,” she sniffed. “I daresay I’ve had a few hundred years of bearing the title longer than you.”

“All the more reason it should be lifted from your shoulders,” she hummed, sliding her hands up to stroke along Sylvanas’ broad ones. “Those big, strong shoulders.”

One long ear rippled, a flickering movement that Jaina had learned to recognise as an expression of...amusement? Fondness? Amusement? Certainly something positive.

Dear wife,” Sylvanas drawled, dark lips parting into a crooked grin. “Is this flattery I hear or have you hit your head harder than we thought?”

“I think it’s both at this point.”

Sylvanas hummed. “I’m starting to see that.”

Jaina danced her fingers boldly along the nape of her wife’s neck, teasing over the fine hairs there. She felt Sylvanas shift against her touch, as if barely resisting the urge to lean into it. It fascinated and frightened her in equal parts; the way Sylvanas seemed to be entirely dedicated to her touches.

The way the Warchief was desperate for touch as she was averse to it. 

Sylvanas pressed in closer hesitantly, sliding the hand grasping Jaina’s chin up slowly up along a cheek. She flexed her grip there and purred softly, the low noise reverberating deep in her chest. Then she leaned forward, and Jaina leaned up, and they were kissing again.

It was a chaste thing; nothing like the hard and desperate that Jaina would have liked after narrowly escaping death. Still, the scent of cold steel and tulips was encompassing, and she revelled in it.

She would have deepened it further, but Sylvanas’ eyes snapped open and one ear swivelled backwards towards the door. A whimper of protest bubbled in Jaina’s throat, but she swallowed it down as the doors creaked open again.

The sound of several feet against the stones made Jaina peer out from around Sylvanas’ broad frame, frowning at the way Alleria and Vereesa were staring.

“Are you ever not entangled in one another?” Alleria asked, exasperation and wariness colouring her tone.

Sylvanas’ ears flattened entirely to her head as she pulled back with an irritable scowl. “I fail to see how that is any of your business,” she rumbled, glancing at her sisters with open distaste. “Is this going to be a thing while you’re here? Barging into my private chambers at any moment you wish?”

“This is a medical ward.”

“This is a private room.”

Jaina pinched the bridge of her nose. “Sylvanas, Alleria, please —”

“In a medical ward.”

“Are there other patients lying in beds that you see?” Sylvanas gestured grandly around them to the rest of the room. “Even healers knock before they visit patients. Though I suppose propriety is all but lost to you.”

Alleria stepped forward then. “You dare speak to me of propriety after that stunt your people pulled —”

Jaina’s eyes widened at that, and though she felt a great ire stirring in her belly, she reached out to quell the growing rage she could feel building in her wife’s body. “Don’t,” she implored. “Don’t start this —”

My people?” Sylvanas said curtly, turning to her sisters and rising to her feet in a movement so smooth Jaina wasn’t entirely sure her feet had touched the ground. “My people are the ones lying crushed beneath the stones the same as yours. It is easy enough for the Alliance to forget that casualties always come from both sides,” she spat.

Jaina sat up from the bed, rising to her feet quickly as she swallowed back a heady rush of nausea in her throat. “Stop this.”

Alleria glanced at her but bristled nevertheless, a faint hue of purple form on her skin as her eyes took on a glow. “Who but the Horde would plan an attack on the tower of the Lord Admiral —”

“Sisters, please,” Vereesa cried. “You're upsetting Jaina.”

“Is she not but the consort of the Warchief the same?” Sylvanas retorted, as a curtain of black mist began to fall from her shoulders. “The Horde and its people are many things, but their loyalties are at the very least clear.” Her eyes slid with reproach to Vereesa. “It’s also clear enough that there are those in the Alliance that would sooner see our marriage in pieces than in peace.”

“It’s not as if you’ve ever given us reason to trust you,” Alleria hissed.

Enough!” Jaina thundered, and the room shook from the force with which her words came, accompanied by a flare of magic. Swaying slightly on her feet, she levelled them all with a withering glare, bright and vicious as the growing anger in her chest. “We won’t find answers getting at each other’s throats. It’s high time we act like adults and get our shit together.”

Alleria’s eyes widened, ears pricked forward in surprise as Vereesa let out a scandalised gasp. Sylvanas was silent, but watched on with the distinct expression of someone unbearably smug.

Jaina glared at her sidelong. “That includes you.”

“I am aware,” Sylvanas replied serenely, drifting towards her and placing one broad hand possessively along the small of her back. “Still, I can appreciate my wife’s incandescent temperament.”

“Enough posturing,” Jaina chided sharply, and though her eyes narrowed with annoyance, there was a stir of warmth in her chest. She wasn’t entirely sure the emotion was her own. “People are dead.” The room fell to a grim silence, and Jaina felt her shoulders sag with exhaustion and guilt. “We owe it to them to find out who did this.”

Slowly, if somewhat sheepishly, the Windrunner sisters inclined their heads. It was the most amenable she had seen them all since the meeting in the war room.

Wearily, she gestured towards the doors, addressing Alleria. “You can summon Alina back now. The ranger you dismissed.”

Alleria’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “Ranger?” She glanced at Vereesa uncertainly. “There wasn’t anyone at your door when we brought you back to the Keep.”

A tightness built in her stomach, festering with the lingering sense of dread. “What are you talking about? Alina goes everywhere with me. She would’ve been right at the door,” she insisted.

Sylvanas stiffened, face grim as her ears flattened slowly against her skull. “I was going to tell you, but I didn’t want you upset,” she murmured, a faint apologetic lilt to her words as she turned to Jaina. “You’re still recovering —”

Something cold and coiled sank deeper into her gut, festering like rot and frostbite together. “Where is she?” Jaina demanded. “What’s happened? Is she alright?” She made for the doors, moving to shoulder past them, but Sylvanas caught her by the arm gently.

“Don’t strain yourself,” Sylvanas said quietly, releasing her carefully when Jaina tugged her arm free. “I’ll take you to her.”

“I can portal us there —”

Sylvanas gave her a stern look. “No portalling. That counts as straining yourself.”

Jaina bore her teeth in frustration, thrusting her chin out defiantly. “I’m not an invalid —”

“No,” Sylvanas conceded. “But your body is healing. It needs to rest, and the sooner you do, the sooner you can carry on portalling throughout Lordaeron as you like.” Blood-red eyes searched her face as one hand came up to brush her wild hair back behind an ear.

“You know we’re standing right here,” Alleria said.

Pulling back, Sylvanas rolled her eyes. “A fact I was quite happy to ignore.”

Tugging at Sylvanas’ arm impatiently, Jaina made for the door. “I’m tired of your bickering. Take me to her.”

 

------

 

Jaina didn’t know what to expect when Sylvanas brought her to the medical wing. Soldiers and civilians of both factions were spread out in cots, treated by healers and priests that bustled about from bed to bed. In the far corner of the room, she saw a huddle of dark rangers; an Undead priest with his hands aglow hovering by a bedside. Her breath hitched tight in her chest and her nails bit down on Sylvanas’ arm, but the Banshee Queen merely glanced at her.

“It’s alright,” she soothed, laying her hand over Jaina’s vice-like grip. “She lives.” The corner of Sylvanas’ lip twitched. “In a manner of speaking.”

A sharp look cast her way silenced the Warchief.

They moved wordlessly to the bed, the crowd of rangers breaking their huddle as soon as they realised who had come. Sylvanas waved aside their deferential bows and low murmurs of her titles. She dismissed them all with a quiet word, and the one known as Lyana stepped aside, glancing at Jaina before leaving with the rest. 

Jaina swallowed back a breath, and when she finally found the strength to look at the bed, found herself frozen in place at the sight.

Upright in a bare medical cot was Alina. Caked in dust and covered in healing bruises and scrapes still, but the relief that flooded Jaina at the sight of her was immense. That is, until Alina turned her gaze up to them.

“Tides,” Jaina gasped, clasping a hand over her mouth as she stared at the dark ranger. “What happened to her?”

Alina blinked at her slowly. The left side of her face was marred in a long, jagged scar from her hairline down over her eye and stopping rather abruptly along her cheekbone. It looked, to Jaina, as if something had sunk its talons into Alina’s face.

Instead of a matching pair of glowing red eyes, Jaina found herself staring back at a mismatched set of red and blue.

Shamefully, Alina averted her gaze, bowing as well as she could at the hip to them. “Dark Lady,” she rasped, glancing at them furtively. “Lady Jaina. Forgive me. I failed my duty.”

“You did what you could to protect the Lord Admiral. You performed admirably,” Sylvanas replied firmly, though her face was as warm as Jaina had ever seen it.

“Are you alright?” she cried instead, reaching forward to clutch at Alina’s hands. “What — How did this happen?”

Sylvanas came up beside her then, a steadying hand resting gently on her shoulder. “The priests couldn’t salvage her eye,” she said grimly. “They had to find a replacement.”

A shudder crawled up Jaina’s spine. “Replacement?”

Sylvanas gave her a pointed look.

Jaina shivered with realisation and horror. She swallowed back the growing taste of bile in her throat and offered Alina a wan smile. “Adds a bit of character, doesn’t it?”

The ghost of a smile crossed Alina’s face in the faintest uptick of her lips. “I’m glad to see you well, Lady Jaina,” she rasped, glancing up quickly at Sylvanas. “And you as well, Dark Lady.”

“I too am glad to see you well, Alina,” Sylvanas replied seriously. “You have served with great courage and loyalty to myself and my consort. Such strength of character deserves recognition among our peers. But for now, rest.” She reached and laid a hand on Alina’s shoulder, squeezing slightly.

Jaina peered between them for a moment, and then, on a great whim, pulled Alina to her tight. She felt the ranger stiffen, muscles locked tight as she pulled back slowly, smiling at the complete bewilderment and shock on Alina’s face. “I’m glad you’re alright.”

“I.”

She gave Alina’s hand a gentle pat as she rose to her feet, keenly aware of the amused and pleasantly surprised look on Sylvanas’ face. “Rest for now. I’ll visit again later.”

Alina blinked. “I.”

Jaina smiled at her one last time before allowing herself to be guided back down the way by Sylvanas. As they walked away from Alina’s bed, the soft smile on her face faded rapidly into a dark look of unbridled rage.

“Gather the council,” she said coldly. “I want to know who did this, and I want to know now.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 28

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Jaina moved with the fury of storms at her heels; with just as much purpose. With just as much promise for destruction. Those in her path cleared the way like skittering mice fleeing at the sight of a larder cat; a Forsaken soldier pressed himself flat against the wall and an orc warrior pressed her hand across her chest in deference.

Sylvanas walked on beside her wordlessly, but Jaina could feel the sidelong glances the Warchief was giving her.

They could hear shouting as they rounded on the war room; Jaina recognised it to be her own mother’s sharp tone and the grumbling imperious one of Genn’s. She swore quietly and shared a look with Sylvanas. A flare of irritation bubbled into her chest, festering and deep, fuelling the rage that simmered very dangerously close to the edge. She curled her hands tightly into fists, so tight her knuckles creaked.

“I never thought I’d say this,” she gritted out, staring hard at the wooden doors with such intensity the sentry men shuffled aside nervously. “But sometimes I wish Anduin would muzzle him.”

Sylvanas made an amused sound in her throat. “What a sum I’d pay to witness that.”

Jaina didn’t reply, only thrust out a hand with an impatient flick. The heavy oak doors burst open with a loud groan, creaking on their hinges as they recoiled against the walls. The chaos of voices from within cut off in an abrupt hush; figures frozen in place around the round table, each braced for a weapon as they turned and stared.

She stepped forward with deceptive calm, though her eyes cut like shards of ice as she swept her gaze over the room. Her mother stood, posture stiff and fists curled at her sides, glowering still at Genn who stood adjacent to her and Anduin. Vaguely, Jaina registered the others; Saurfang, Bloodhoof, Gallywix, and Lor’themar on one end. Alleria and Vereesa, the former standing rigidly at her sister’s side, feet shoulder-width apart and looking braced for a fight. Tyrande, for whatever reason —

“Elune be praised!” Tyrande cried at the sight of her. “You’re alright!”

Jaina smiled tightly at her. “Alive and well, yes. I’m glad to see you, Tyrande — but I can’t understand why you’re here.”

“King Wrynn called for us,” the night elf said. “We came as soon as we heard of the collapse. He thought we might be capable of offering our aid in moments of dire need, should they require aid controlling the Blight.”

Sylvanas rolled her eyes from beside Jaina. “There are no concerns with the Blight,” she retorted. “I don’t imagine druid magic can do anything more than the powers Proudmoore wields.”

Before Tyrande could reply, Jaina swept her hand impatiently through the air. “I’ve had enough of the endless bickering. I can assure you that the catalyst was created to be as stable as possible.”

“How can you be so sure?” Alleria asked from across the room.

Jaina met her eyes irritably. “Because I personally saw to it.” 

“I am curious, though,” Sylvanas remarked as she pulled out a seat for Jaina. “That was quite a squabble you were having, Lady Proudmoore. What did the Old Dog do to incite such a temper?”

“The High King and Lord Greymane believe it to be their right to command that I return to Kul Tiras,” Katherine drawled, staring hard at the men. “All the while accusing the Horde of treason.”

Sylvanas arched a brow. “That in no way surprises me.”

Anduin rose from his seat, clearing his throat quietly. “We’ve dispatched teams to investigate. SI:7 are looking into any potential rebellions or organisations —”

“That won’t be necessary,” Sylvanas cut in, and Jaina turned to her in surprise. There was something about the banshee’s expression; the hard set of her jaw and the steely look in her eyes. Anger, no doubt; the cold fury she was known for...and...guilt? “I’ve assigned my own rangers to investigate on the matter. We’ve identified a member of the dissenting party.”

Jaina blinked. “You have?” Then she frowned. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Sylvanas did not reply, but instead stared out impassively at the rest of the room. “It has come to my attention that Master Apothecary Faranell was complicit in the collapse. My rangers have him held in the dungeons for further questioning.”

The room erupted into chaos at once. Genn leapt out of his seat, blustering for all his worth. “We should have known it would’ve been that rat Faranell! We should have never trusted any one of your people with the catalyst!”

Bloodhoof rose from his seat with a low warning in his throat. “Mind your words, Greymane. This is not a mere dissent within our faction.”

Alleria and Tyrande clamoured over themselves in a cacophony of questions, each more aggressive than the last. “How could you have kept this from us, Sylvanas?”

“Execute him!”

“He must stand trial!” Lor’themar thundered.

Tyrande shook her head incredulously. “An attempt on the Lord Admiral’s life is punishable by death!”

“How are we supposed to trust that the Horde is doing anything about it?” Genn snarled. “Hand the miserable wretch over!”

Saurfang slammed his fist against the table. “How are we meant to trust the Alliance with it? You would sooner see us all dead than seek the true culprit!”

Jaina rose from her seat in a surge of power, her voice carrying on a plume of it that shook the room up into the ceiling. “ENOUGH!” The chaos died down into stunned silence; stunned, but no less tense. She glanced sidelong at her wife, expecting perhaps a pithy one-liner or a smirk, but Sylvanas merely sat stiffly in place, staring hard at nothing at all.

She frowned and suppressed the strange, roiling sensation in her gut. Instead, she met all of their gazes coldly. “This doesn’t achieve anything. The more time we spend tearing at each others’ throats, the more the rebel parties win.” Her voice hardened into a low thunder. “Now what do we know?”

Sylvanas spoke then, cool and unfeeling. “I apprehended Faranell for questioning once Proudmoore was secured with your healers. The former Master Apothecary readily admitted his role in the collapse.” Glowing red eyes darted to Jaina briefly. “It was obvious that there was no love between them.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Jaina asked again. “Why —”

“Because you were being smothered by my sisters,” came the terse reply. “And then you were concerned about Alina. There was no time for me to speak with you alone.”

A prickle of hurt, but more so anger rose in Jaina’s chest, but she quelled it with a visible swallow. “Is there anything else you’d like to share with us, then, Warchief?”

A long ear twitched at the title, but Sylvanas remained entirely unfazed. “My rangers were successful in...persuading Faranell to divulge the intentions and members of the party responsible for the collapse.”

“And?” Anduin pressed. “What have you learned?”

“It’s awful convenient that your champion isn’t attached to your side, Warchief,” Genn said, eyeing Sylvanas suspiciously.

Sylvanas scowled. “My champion is away attending to matters I commanded him to. Unlike some, my focus remains on the looming threat of Azshara and her forces.”

“And while your focus was set against the Naga Queen, your wife was buried under rubble,” Alleria snapped. “Perhaps you should have laid down contingencies in Lordaeron itself instead of placing your blind trust on the monster that developed the Blight to begin with.”

A burst of indignation engulfed Jaina with such an intensity she swayed. Blinking rapidly, she pressed her lips together and watched as Sylvanas’ eyes widened briefly and then narrowed with vicious intent. 

“Of course there were contingencies,” Sylvanas ground out. “I am no greenling Ranger on her first patrol. We would be standing amongst the ruins of Lordaeron once more had we not secured these contingencies.”

Alleria thrust out her chin defiantly. “And where were these ‘contingencies’ when you needed them?”

Jaina cut in brusquely. “Those contingencies were my doing.” She levelled a hard look at the eldest Windrunner sister, narrowing her eyes slightly in challenge as Alleria met her gaze with surprise. “When we developed the catalyst, we ensured that it would be resistant to the effects of rippling, should it ever be tampered with.”

“Speak plainly, wife,” Sylvanas drawled. “I don’t think she understands the scientific jargon.”

“It means,” Jaina said, with a warning glare at Sylvanas. “That the catalysts were reinforced against collapsing into a domino effect, should one cache be compromised.”

“But Faranell would have been able to counter it,” Anduin said. “We must summon Modera and Khadgar immediately to prepare countermeasures if they plan another attack.”

Vereesa stepped towards the table. “We must ascertain if Lordaeron remains safe for its people before that happens again,” she insisted.

Sylvanas rose from her seat slowly and braced her hands on the round table. It creaked beneath the weight of her, and somehow to Jaina it seemed like a threat. “I can assure you, Little Moon, that Lordaeron remains habitable for our people. The damage has been contained. We have an estimate of casualties and a plan of action for securing the city.”

“Were you planning on sharing with us these ‘contingencies’, or were we meant to guess?” Genn retorted.

Jaina looked across the table at Anduin and held his gaze for a long moment. The High-King stood stiffly, his face pinched tightly as he met her eyes with a speaking look. The frown on his face told her his state-of-mind clearly enough.

Clearing his throat, Anduin asked, “How can we be so sure there won’t be another attack on Jaina?”

Katherine sighed loudly from beside her. “King Wrynn, I was quite clear in my decision the last we spoke of this...ten minutes ago.”

“She was already planning on going home to visit,” Anduin replied, and he met Jaina’s eyes with a look that was almost imploring. “If what the Warchief says is true, then we cannot guarantee your safety without knowing who else is part of the collusion.”

“Of course we know who!” Genn snorted, gesturing rudely towards half of the table. “It’s their lot—”

Saurfang’s chair scraped loudly against the stone floor as he rose from his seat abruptly. “I’m beginning to think you want someone to curb that tongue of yours.”

Genn thrust out his chest and squared his shoulders. “Try me —”

Enough. ” The word snapped like a whip through the air, frigid and vicious as mist bled from Sylvanas’ form slowly. Jaina could feel the undulating power pulsing around her form; the shift in temperature of the room, and shivered.

Sylvanas’ blood-red eyes bore into Anduin’s. “If your Alliance cannot curtail its prejudices, I fail to see what you could possibly contribute to the conversation. Faranell has made it clear that the insurgency comes from both sides.” With an impatient flick of her hand, her seat moved noisily away. “I won’t waste my breath explaining to you the delicacy of the solutions until you understand the weight of the matter.”

Jaina reached out and grasped her wrist, squeezing gently as she stared up into Sylvanas’ face. There were a number of things she could feel festering in her chest, in her throat. Questions were building in her mind to ask — why didn’t Sylvanas tell her any of it? How did they know it was Faranell who personally saw to the destruction of her tower? How did they not know he was tampering with the catalysts? 

Did no one else care that Sylvanas had been caught in the collapse as well?

Sylvanas arched a brow at her expectantly, glancing down at her clinging grip.

Jaina pursed her lips. “I haven’t gotten an answer.”

The Warchief’s brow rose higher. “To a question I don’t recall you asking, no doubt.”

“Who hurt Alina?” she demanded. “Her wounds — her eye — that wasn’t a casualty of the tower.”

Lor’themar leaned in curiously. “What injuries?”

Jaina glanced at him. Quietly, she said, “Her eye. Alina lost an eye.” The room broke into a murmur then; talks of multiple agents and whispering questions of intentions — and the relevance of the dark ranger’s injury.

“We saw to it,” Sylvanas said curtly. “She can adapt to her new one in the meantime, but I won’t press her for information until she’s properly healed and rested.”

“What do you mean ‘her new one’?” Vereesa questioned, with growing horror and realisation. “Belore, you didn’t—!”

Alleria slammed her fist onto the table, an eerie glow enveloping her form. “How dare you!”

Sylvanas glowered at them, her ears pressed flat to her skull and a low hiss growing in her throat. “How I govern my people is no concern of yours. My rangers would give their lives for my consort, and Alina almost did. A dead body has no use for two eyes.”

“Is there nothing sacred to you monsters?” Genn snarled. “To desecrate the body of a soldier for — parts!”

“What’s done is done,” Sylvanas growled. “Alina’s physical state is no concern of yours. Lest you wish to pry the damn thing out of her skull yourself.” She swept her gaze challengingly across the table. “She was the only one who could have information about the attack, more than the precious little that we know. If you have nothing to offer in the way of finding her attacker, and the Lord Admiral’s, then there is nothing more you can do for us.”

“First it’s an eye, and then it’s a limb!” Genn blustered. “Then a heart, and then who knows!”

With her patience finally worn down to the bone, Jaina rose from her seat in a surge. The chair rocked backwards and landed on its back with a noisy clatter, and the echo of wood on stone was enough to startle them all into silence.

“None of you even want to acknowledge the fact that Sylvanas fell in the tower with me,” she snarled, gesturing sharply at her wife. “She was hurt, too! If you can’t spare a fragment of concern for her, then frankly, I see no point in sharing her discoveries with the Alliance.” The anger brewing within her sparked like embers catching on hay, but Jaina rocked back on her heels, breathing heavily to quell the growing rage. She swept her hand through the air brusquely. “Enough. I’m tired of it. We will speak to the Horde and my mother on this, but no one else.”

She did not wait for a reply, did not hear the clamouring of voices behind her as she spun on her heels and marched out of the room. There was a ringing in her ears that consumed everything else; a tunnel vision of only getting her hands on Faranell and strangling the information from him. Footsteps came rapidly at her heels, and Jaina barely spared Sylvanas a glance when the Warchief appeared at her side.

“Quite the show in there,” she murmured.

Jaina scowled. “There wasn’t a point to that at all. I don’t know why we waste our time trying to justify anything to them when they’re like this.” She sighed, rubbing hard at the pulsing ache in her forehead and pinching tightly at her temples.

A throat cleared behind them and they turned as one. Lor’themar appeared around the corner, the fabric of his robes rustling with the speed of his gait. They paused only long enough for him to fall into step at Sylvanas’ elbow. “I wish that had gone better but I’m pleased to see you well, Lady Proudmoore,” he said, glancing at her.

“Thank you, Regent Lord,” Jaina said tightly, never breaking pace. “I’d very much like to understand why I nearly wasn’t, and why my personal guard is sitting in the infirmary missing an eye. Though that seems to be the least of the Alliance’s concerns.”

“When has the wellbeing of the Forsaken ever been a concern of the Alliance?” Sylvanas replied mildly, but a particularly cutting look from Jaina silenced her again.

“Did you come to speak with us of something?” she prompted impatiently.

The Regent Lord stared ahead and kept pace without effort. “Privately, my Queen,” he murmured in an urgent undertone. “And with haste.”

Sylvanas’ ears flattened against her skull and she frowned deeply. With her hand pressed to Jaina’s back and a sidelong glance, she said, “Go along ahead of me. We’ll be quick.”

Jaina stood her ground stubbornly. “I’d rather stay and listen,” she said. “I was there when the tower fell, too, remember?”

“Now is not the time for a show of your bullheadedness, wife.”

Her eyes flashed with anger, but before she could spit out a retort, Lor’themar cleared his throat pointedly.

“Your pardon, my Lady, but this matter goes beyond the fall of the south tower,” he said, peering at Sylvanas meaningfully. “Rather, it has much to do with some...discoveries the high priest made in regards to the Warchief’s —”

“You mentioned privacy, Regent Lord,” Sylvanas warned.

Jaina frowned, peering at her wife worriedly as she reached out and laid a hand on Sylvanas’ elbow. “Is something wrong —”

Lor’themar looked at her thoughtfully. “Have you been experiencing shared symptoms as of late, Lord Admiral?”

Theron,” Sylvanas hissed.

“Your pardon, my Queen, but it affects her the same,” he said mildly. “She has every right to know.”

Jaina blinked. “Shared symptoms?” She reached up without thought; pressed a hand to her chest and felt the familiar steady thrum of her heartbeat.

Lor’themar followed the move with a grim frown. “That is enough of an answer to me.” He peered at Sylvanas then, expectant and almost chiding as the Warchief glared at him with the vicious promise of a slow and painful death in her eyes.

“No doubt, my Queen, you’ve explained the consequence of your...shared blood with the Lord Admiral.”

“Undoubtedly,” Sylvanas gritted out. “That is no concern of yours.”

“Verily, it is,” he replied smoothly, pausing in his step. “But I understand the delicacy of the matter.” He turned his green eye towards Jaina then, peering at her for a breath. “I might suggest you speak with her about its true effects before the Alliance catches wind of it.”

Jaina frowned hard, glancing between the elves impatiently. “Someone just spit it out,” she sighed.

Lor’themar’s mouth curved into a thin, wry smile. “It would be wise to hear this from the Warchief herself.” He frowned thoughtfully then. “I imagine you will be staying in the North Tower then, Lord Admiral Proudmoore?”

Jaina blinked. “I hadn’t really given it much thought, but I suppose it’s the only option,” she sighed, frowning wistfully. “I don’t even know what I have left of anything.”

“We will salvage what we can once we secure the area,” Sylvanas assured her quietly, a comforting hand lingering on her back still.

“Do you really think it wise to remain in the towers after the collapse, Warchief?”

Sylvanas scowled. “Where else would we go? The Keep is too obvious a choice, and we’ve only just finished its renovations. It also holds the largest cache of the catalyst.” She shook her head firmly, though her lips were pressed into a troubled frown glancing at Jaina, she said, “Perhaps Kul Tiras might not be such a bad idea.”

“I’m not abandoning our people,” Jaina countered firmly, thrusting her chin out at them. “And I’m not abandoning you.”

“You would simply be expediting your visit,” Lor’themar replied. “No doubt, you would worry for your mother the same, and the Lady Proudmoore shares your particular...stance on the matter.”

Jaina gave him a narrow-eyed glare, to which Lor’themar merely shrugged.

“Just a thought.” He bowed low at them. “But I would advise against postponing the trip. In the meantime, I shall do my best to keep your sisters at bay, my Queen.”

“My thanks, Regent Lord...and my annoyance,” Sylvanas muttered, watching irritably as he swept back down the hallway. “That man never knows how to keep his mouth shut.”

“He does have good points,” Jaina admitted, albeit begrudgingly. Her clothes, her things, her books— none of that had crossed her mind. A flickering sort of realisation struck her then, and her eyes went wide.  “Oh Tides, my mother’s things!” she gasped, turning to Sylvanas.

Sylvanas pursed her lips. “We’ll salvage what we can,” she repeated, sighing wearily. “Does the Lady Proudmoore keep anything on her ship?”

“I...don't know. Most likely yes. Mother wouldn’t bring everything to land.”

“Let us hope that much is true. In the meantime, we’ll see about arranging for a room in the Keep for her, or if she’d be more comfortable on her ship.” Sylvanas sighed again, and looked at Jaina discerningly. “Are you sure you won’t leave for Boralus with her?”

Jaina set her jaw stubbornly. “Not unless you’re going with me.”

The Warchief huffed. “I cannot leave Lordaeron in the face of an attack, Jaina. The Horde does not take lightly to acts of cowardice.”

“I’m Horde now, too,” she replied firmly. “They already have their opinions of me; what more if I were to turn-tail and flee at the first sign of dissent?”

“The safety of my consort would be their priority the same,” Sylvanas grit out, levelling her with a hard look. “With Faranell’s confession, I cannot know who to trust among the Horde and Forsaken. Or the Alliance, for that matter.” She shook her head. “We must establish who was involved in this damned assassination, but I won’t do it with your safety at risk.”

Jaina sighed. It was true. There would be no telling who they could trust at that moment; who among their people — their council, even — that were plotting to tear down the peace treaty from the inside out. The entirety of their marriage had been fraught with tension, both underlying and overt, but she hadn’t expected this. 

Although in hindsight, she supposed that it should’ve been expected one way or another.

Still, she said, “I can’t be seen as weak, either, Sylvanas. People already think that I defer to you on all things. I can’t be consort to the Warchief if I’m being carted off to Kul Tiras and hidden away.”

Sylvanas’ shoulders heaved with a long sigh. “We can continue the conversation in the privacy of my chambers,” she murmured, glancing sharply along the corridors. “I don’t need more prying eyes and ears to catch wind of our plans.”

Jaina nodded. “I’ll speak with my mother after this.”

“You could write her a note,” Sylvanas suggested. “Have her meet us in my tower. You’ll have peace and privacy there to speak freely.”

She hummed thoughtfully, and as they walked, a faint prickling memory prodded in the back of her mind. Festering like a wound unwilling to heal. She frowned pensively. “Vereesa mentioned letters,” she said.

Sylvanas paused mid-step, back stiff and facing away from Jaina. With her shoulders squared and hands tucked officiously behind her back, tension bled from every inch of her. Flatly, she asked, “Did she?”

“She asked me why I never replied to them, but I remember writing back each time.” There had been a time earlier into their marriage when no letters had come at all. Not from Vereesa, at least. Not anything that was pressing enough to be worth remembering. It was but a fleeting thought in the back of Jaina’s mind then; so much of their time had been spent preparing for Lordaeron.

It was only after her first...encounter with Sylvanas that reminded Jaina of the other Windrunner.

“Best you ask her, then,” Sylvanas said coldly, and continued ahead briskly. “It’s clear I do not know my sister’s mind.”

Jaina sighed and hastened to keep pace. “It was just a thought,” she said, slipping her arm through Sylvanas’. “I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding.”

“Of course,” Sylvanas murmured, staring ahead indifferently. “A simple misunderstanding.”

Chapter Text

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CHAPTER 29

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Jaina sank back against the pillows tiredly. 

All of her ached still. It was easy enough to ignore when she had been filled with an intermingling combination of wild adrenaline and rage, but now that she wasn’t charging across hallways and into bustling rooms, the exhaustion crept into her bones and festered.

Her head pounded. Her neck twinged. Everything was generally uncomfortable no matter which way she sat or laid.

She supposed crumbling towers did that to a person. 

The rooms of the north tower were colder than her own but she hardly felt a chill. In fact, she was warm. Clammy, almost to the point of overheating, even in a tunic and skirt that were comparatively lightweight to her usual battledress. The burgundy sheets beneath her felt foreign, silk and satin too soft and sleek. The deep shade of the pillows only made her chest twist with longing for the familiar. There was precious little they could do about it now, and no matter how much she knew it was foolish to think of it — Jaina did miss her pillows.

There was no point dwelling at this point. Instead, she buried a sigh and watched her wife. 

Her wife, who was presently moving about the room like a trapped predator pacing a rapidly shrinking cage, the broad line of powerful shoulders shifting even beneath a loose tunic. A tunic that was tucked neatly into a pair of breeches that reminded Jaina of everywhere else that her wife held power.

There was a faint, enduring heat in her belly every time she was near Sylvanas these days. More so than that: a stirring of affection.

It was beyond justifying anymore. It was something she had begun to embrace, in fact. The strange and inexplicable way they had come together. The attraction between them that had likely been borne of proximity at the beginning; fueled by a boiling resentment and spite in the same way schoolyard squabbles between little boys and girls eventually became shy touches and lingering stares.

She supposed it was the novelty of it. At first. The forbiddenness a factor in its appeal. It did not become her to forget that she’d been the one to initiate their intimacy. She’d been the one to meticulously carve out a person-shaped hole in the castle of ice that surrounded Sylvanas.

The same way Sylvanas had burned a scorching flame into her skin and only left her craving the heat all the more.

Looking at her wife then, Jaina understood why their relationship frightened the Alliance. She knew most, if not all of them, thought it unnatural — and thinking the word alone filled her with such a wave of anger her head spun.

It wasn’t as if they knew how intimate the relationship had become. It wasn’t as if there had been a grand announcement about it. Things fell into place, far naturally than Jaina had ever anticipated it to.

It wasn’t as if she had the best track record of lovers in the past. The thought almost made her smile, bitterly, then filled her with a heady sort of grief and guilt. 

It became something out of her control, wanting to spend time with Sylvanas, to touch Sylvanas. To kiss and hold and —

Jaina shook herself hard. Why she was thinking of it at all? There would be a time and a place — and this was neither of those. The building pulse in her temples and between her eyes wasn’t doing her any favours all the same.

In the far edges of her mind, she could feel the phantom thread of emotions not entirely her own stirring. A rising build of fury and frenzy, studded in pinpricks of uncertainty in turns.

Before her, Sylvanas’ eyes slid sidelong, ears slanted back; knowing and suspect.

“Sylvanas,” she said. The name sat like strange, bitter fruit on her tongue. Unfamiliar and stilted. “Sylvanas, please. You’re giving me a headache like that.”

The Warchief grunted but made no effort to reply as she moved towards the adjoining armoire. Her tunic fell into a crumpled pile on the floor beneath the archway, followed quickly by the heavy thump of her breeches.

She emerged with her armour almost fully in place.

Jaina frowned. “Do you really think armour is necessary?”

“Is it not?” Sylvanas replied brusquely, stuffing notes and bundles of parchment into a satchel. “Look around you, wife. Can you recognise enemies from allies?”

Ire, once more. Indignation and exasperation. Jaina blinked and hesitantly reached outwards with her own weary thoughts, languid and hazy from exhaustion. She envisioned the warmth of the sun, the calm sway of steady waters on a summer day. The quiet stillness that came when a ship sailed out onto the endless horizon of the sea, a blot of colour amidst a wide blue canvas.

Sylvanas paused her pacing. There was a bright spark of surprise in her eyes, bewilderment, and then a deeply troubled furrow in her brow. “Stop that,” she ordered.

“I can’t help it any more than you can,” Jaina replied calmly. “This path between us is a two-way street. Where it begins and ends, you haven’t explained.” She gave Sylvanas a hard look. “And I’m not about to forget so easily.”

With a heavy sigh, Sylvanas acquiesced. “I suspect it to be a result of our time together. The binding of our wedding. The blood you shared with me. All of it put together into a potent combination of...things.” She gestured with an impatient hand. “I’ve spoken of it before. I told you why.”

“A vague reference to a possibility is not an answer,” Jaina replied mildly, eyes hardening with her dwindling patience. “You said before that distance would stop it.”

“It was a theory,” Sylvanas countered irritably, mouth curling. “And I was likely correct. Have you dreamt since?”

Begrudgingly, Jaina admitted she did not. “You have, though. And we’ve been sleeping in the same bed for a time. But that isn’t the point. The point is that you know things — even Lor’themar knows things — that you’re both unwilling to share.”

Sylvanas pursed her lips. There was a flicker behind her luminous eyes; a transient flicker of something Jaina could quite catch. It was gone in an instant, hidden away behind a carefully crafted barricade once more. “You’ve already seen too much,” she murmured. “More than you should have ever been encumbered with.”

Jaina frowned. “Isn’t that more reason to tell me why?” she asked gently, then pressed a hand to the cool sheets. “Come,” she said quietly. “Sit. It’s been a long day.”

She could see the indecision; the flex and grip of power hands tipped in black nails. There was a scar there, on the back of one hand; against the prominent ridge of a knuckle. The right index finger, healed mostly, though the flesh there remained a deep groove — a crater forming where meat had been scraped away and replaced with tender-looking scabs.

Guilt — wholly her own — filled her. The temptation to take Sylvanas’ hand in hers, brush her lips against the healed, mottled grooves of broken skin and kiss away the hurt was something she had to fight to quell. She knew who broke their fall. She knew whose body kept the lasting scars of each wound the tower had caused.

The wounds she had caused.

“Jaina.” The quiet murmur of her name startled her, and Jaina looked up to see Sylvanas peering down at her knowingly.

“My body is dead, wife. There is no point in carrying guilt over something that has been dead for longer than I care to remember,” Sylvanas said, unclenching her fists and folding them carefully behind her back.

Jaina glared at her indignantly. “You’re not dead,” she replied, rather sharply. “And I can decide what is worthy of my guilt for myself.”

Sylvanas tilted her head obligingly and moved with care towards the bed. Perching herself carefully at Jaina’s side, she reached out and laid a tentative hand on the thigh closest to her. “I only mean that you shouldn’t take responsibility for all of my wounds, wife.” She flexed her grip gently. “These are wounds I carry with pride — if only because I know I suffered them so you wouldn’t.”

Huffing still, Jaina laid a hand over Sylvanas’ and squeezed even tighter. “I’d like to make it so that neither of us will have to keep enduring more wounds like these.” Her thumb brushed gently against the coarse surface of a scab, over the bony ridge of a knuckle before the hand she was holding turned over to twine their fingers.

Pulling their joined hands to her lips, Sylvanas pressed a quick kiss to Jaina’s knuckles, eyes lingering keenly on her wife’s face. “I’ve come to some conclusions,” she said quietly. “About why these things affect you so, and how we might resolve them.”

“Tell me,” Jaina urged, leaning in closer until their joined hands were resting on the bed between them. 

Sighing, Sylvanas said, “It appears...that our continuous intimacy has started to take a permanent effect on your physical being.” She paused, then admitted, “To my physical being.”

Jaina frowned deeply. “You’ve mentioned that things were changing; you never mentioned how. If you’re feeling what I’m feeling now…” Her wide blue eyes dropped to Sylvanas’ chest as her hand spread out over the tunic. “Sylvanas — are you —”

“I’m fine,” Sylvanas said. The look she gave Jaina was glacial and impassive; the haughty mask of a ruling Queen. “I can manage the changes of my body. My feelings are a secondary concern to your safety.”

“I’m becoming suspicious about these changes that you won’t define.” The look Jaina gave her was sharp and reproachful. “You know the latter isn’t true and I’m tired of hearing you repeat it.”

The Warchief shrugged. “It’s true. Emotions do not outweigh physical injury.”

“Whose?” Jaina countered, glaring still. “If you won’t even admit to me that the pains you get in your chest are because you and I are —” She paused, breath hitching at the thought. Was it even possible? The thrum of sensation in her chest; the ache of something like living and dying at once. She knew the pinch of it all too familiarly now, the kind of hurt that came when diving too deep on too little air, kicking and writhing for the surface before the last mouthful escaped her lungs — 

“Sylvanas,” she said quietly, peering at her wife. “Is your heart...starting to beat again?”

Sylvanas pursed her lips and rose abruptly from the bed.

Jaina stared at her wife’s back and felt a heavy chill overcome her. It wasn’t fright, certainly not disgust — merely realisation. Realisation of something far beyond their comprehension.

The muscles in those broad shoulders stiffened, and Sylvanas spared her a burning gaze. “I do not know,” came the curt reply. “My priests suspect as much. They believe our connection has...rekindled the workings of my body. Slowly.” Those elegant elven features wrinkled slightly. “Painfully.”

“H-how — why —?”

“I do not know,” Sylvanas repeated, wearily.

A thousand thoughts raced to the forefront of her mind. A thousand possibilities of when their union became something beyond political necessity and physical need. It was impossible for her to pinpoint a specific point in time when the phantom sensations began, except —

“Was it the blood?” she asked.

Sylvanas stiffened and looked away. “Perhaps. I did warn you from it at first.”

Jaina frowned. “I was the reason you needed blood to begin with,” she muttered. “My temper. But —” She glanced down at her ring and curled her fist around it protectively. “How? It was just blood —”

“You bleed arcane out of every pore, wife,” Sylvanas drawled, and the snideness of her tone made Jaina bristle. It was a tone far too reminiscent of their marriage in its early days. “Surely you know why my sisters and Whisperwind can’t help but rub themselves on you like overgrown cats whenever you’re around. That and your charms.”

A blade of hurt and indignation cut deeply into her, but Jaina knew by now, the defences Sylvanas employed when left vulnerable and raw.

“So you’re saying I did this to you.”

“I’m saying that your connection to magic has a significant role,” Sylvanas amended. “That, and the fact that my sisters would no doubt break limbs to have my place at your side.”

Jaina rolled her eyes. “Enough,” she snapped. “I’m tired of the jealousy and the posturing. It’s unnecessary and immature, honestly. I know who I’m married to, and I have no plans in changing that.”

Sylvanas huffed but said nothing more on the matter. Folding her arms tightly across her chest, the Banshee Queen said then, “Regardless, the blooding is presently our most likely suspect. Blood shared is blood bound for us.”

Jaina’s brow wrinkled at the phrasing, eyeing Sylvanas uncertainly as the Warchief began to pace the room once more. “Do you think the binding enchantment did this?” she murmured.

“Unlikely,” Sylvanas replied. “It was meant to prevent us from causing harm to one another. Whatever hurt we inflicted on each other would be reflected back. It wasn’t meant to jumpstart a heart or connect our physical experiences otherwise.”

The memory of the fall came all too fresh to mind and Jaina winced at the distant suggestion of pain throbbing from her thigh. It hadn’t even been her own flesh that was mangled. “Does it still hurt?” she whispered.

“Does what hurt?”

“Your leg, when we fell.” She gestured wanly towards Sylvanas’ lower half. “You pulled out the wood. That would’ve killed you if you had been alive. If not the blood loss, then the sepsis.”

A wry smile twisted Sylvanas’ lips. “I’ve lived through worse, and I was alive then.”

Jaina exhaled through her nose mildly. “Are you going to answer me or not?” she asked.

Peering at her thoughtfully, Sylvanas replied with meticulous care. “I always feel pain. It is muted, perhaps, but persistent nonetheless.” The smile twisted into a bitter, jagged curl that faded slowly as blood-red eyes slid down towards a hand.

“This curious thing,” Sylvanas began, raising the hand adorned with her wedding ring. “This had quite a lot to do with my healing, I must say.”

Jaina’s eyes brightened curiously as she ignored the throb of pain in her back and sat up straighter. “Did it?” she asked eagerly. 

Sylvanas inclined her head, thumbing it thoughtfully. “It wasn’t a miracle cure by any means, but I distinctly remember it...soothing the hurt a little more. My wounds healed faster.” 

A soft smile spread slowly over Jaina’s lips with relief. She thumbed her own ring without thought. “Good, then. Keep it close.”

“I’m flattered to see you so pleased at my wearing your favour,” the banshee said, turning away once more. “It will be a fond reminder of you when we are apart.”

Jaina frowned. “What are you talking about?”

Rifling through her desk drawers distractedly, Sylvanas said, “Distance. Perhaps. Your return to Kul Tiras. Mine to Orgrimmar.” The shrug she made was almost defeated. “I don’t know for certain, but it’s something we must try.”

“How does that help?” she exclaimed. “We tried that before and nothing changed. I know you said we needed more time apart, but I don’t want us separated after something like this.” She shook her head stubbornly. “Our people need to see us as a united front, and I don’t think either of us wants to leave Lordaeron in this state.”

Sylvanas’ face tightened, and Jaina knew it was a blow well-dealt. “I care more about your safety than the opinions of the masses. More than my own wellbeing,” she said stiffly. “What the Horde and Alliance think — what my sisters think — has little bearing on my decisions.”

Jaina sighed. “Sylvanas…”

“I will not be swayed by your pouting.”

“I’m not pouting,” she said irritably. “I just don’t like the way you treat me like I’m some sort of china doll. As something fragile and delicate.”

Sylvanas chortled, an entirely undignified sound as she rolled her eyes. “I would be an even bigger fool than Wrynn to ever think of you as something so meek.”

“And yet you’re almost worse than he is about it.”

“I’m not the one accusing him of bringing a tower down over your head,” Sylvanas said coldly.

Jaina scowled. “I don’t care about what they think,” she snapped, rising off the bed and crossing the space between them until she was toe-to-toe with her wife. With a defiant thrust of her chin and a speaking look in her eyes, she said, “All I care about now is you.”

Sylvanas sobered and looked away, jaw working so tightly Jaina was so sure she could hear the grind of it. “You shouldn’t.”

“Well, I do,” she replied impatiently. So close together now, it was easy for Jaina to give in to the temptation of touching Sylvanas, so she did. Clasping their hands together tight, she gave her wife’s fingers a squeeze, brushing the pad of her thumb gently over the coarse scabs.

Sylvanas’ eyes widened at the touch; imperceptible to most people, but Jaina was not most people. She gave their joined hands another tentative squeeze. “I do care,” she repeated slowly, with feeling. Her smile and words were both hesitant and faint in their teasing. “Isn’t that what wives do for each other? I wouldn’t have been in that tower if I didn’t.”

The mention of the tower made Sylvanas’ eyes sharpen for an instant, and then Jaina felt a sour ache build in her stomach when the brightened glazed away into a steel indifference.

She clung onto Sylvanas’ hand tightly. “Sylvanas —”

“What is happening to me now does not matter,” Sylvanas said, pulling her hand away with an almost chiding look. “We cannot be caught unawares by Azshara’s forces while we’re bickering among one another. Knowing now that it was Faranell who masterminded the attack, there will be no end to the finger-pointing from the Alliance.”

Jaina sighed. “There will always be suspicion between Horde and Alliance. At least for now. We’ve only been married for less than a year. These things need time.”

The Banshee Queen did not seem convinced, and even less so, appeased. “For how much longer? One year? Five? Ten? How many more years am I supposed to carry the distrust of the Alliance before Azshara’s forces sweep our lands and Azeroth falls to the corruption of the Old Gods?” She swept her hand brusquely through the air between them. “I have been away from Orgrimmar too long. And you from Kul Tiras. We must secure our kingdom or this marriage would be for nought.”

Before Jaina could speak, there was a knock on the door, persistent and sharp. She rocked back on her heels and turned to the sound in surprise.

Sylvanas turned to look the same, frowning hard. “Enter.”

Blightcaller bustled in hurriedly, glowing eyes scanning the room with something close to panic. His eyes caught the form of the Warchief and he hardly spared Jaina a glance as he marched up to Sylvanas. “My Queen — I heard the news and came as quickly as I could. Are you well?”

Sylvanas raised a hand with an impatient sort of reassurance, resting her weight back on a heel as she folded her arms. “I’m still standing, Blightcaller. Don’t fuss. It’s unbecoming.”

“Faranell will pay for his treachery, my Queen,” he growled. “When I get my hands on that mongrel, he will beg for the mercy of death...and then I’ll yank out every last rotting tooth out of his mouth.”

The slow smirk that spread across her wife’s face made something stir in Jaina’s belly again. Tight and coiling and cold. Sometimes, it was easy to forget the wickedness that hid behind blood-red eyes.

“I have absolute faith in your skill, Nathanos,” Sylvanas said, and the tightness in Jaina’s belly became something hot and jealous. The lilt of her words and the hard gleam of her eyes were entirely dissonant — one crooning and the other hard-set and guarded. “You may yet redeem yourself.”

The leather of his boots creaked slightly as he shifted his weight in them. “I heard about Alina,” he murmured.

Jaina blinked in surprise. It almost sounded as if he cared.

Sylvanas’ blazing gaze softened somewhat, her tone almost kind as she spoke. “She’s alive, Blightcaller. Sporting a few new scars, perhaps, but my faith in the dark rangers has never faltered. She did her duties well.”

For however much Jaina disliked the Ranger Lord, she could admit that his care for the rangers was something commendable. If it was genuine. What was the nature of his relationship with the Warchief, she couldn’t quite put her finger on, but the thought was set aside as quickly as it came.

“Of course, my Queen. She trained under only the finest in her time. It is a privilege for us both to serve under you.” He straightened even further, chest puffed with pride before he finally cast a sliding look towards the Lord Admiral. “I am...relieved to see your consort unharmed as well.”

Jaina smiled at him tightly and ignored the amused smirk on Sylvanas’ face. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you, Blightcaller,” she remarked curiously.

The edge of his mouth twitched, as if he was desperately fighting back the urge to sneer, which Jaina’s sharp eyes almost dared him to do. Instead, Nathanos cleared his throat and nodded curtly. “I’ve been away executing the Dark Lady’s orders, my Lady.”

“And pray, what were those orders?” Jaina asked, folding her arms and levelling Sylvanas with a hard look.

Nathanos pressed his lips together in a disapproving frown. “With respect, my Queen,” he said, turning to Sylvanas. “I don’t believe it is my place to reveal your plans to your consort.”

“That’s because it isn’t,” Sylvanas drawled, watching them intently. “But this time, you have my express permission.”

Though he grumbled, Nathanos obliged. “I was entrusted with leading our scouting party along Chillwind to ensure its security. There have been no signs of naga infiltration, but local wildlife seemed...restless.”

“Restless?” Sylvanas arched a brow slowly, and Jaina caught her eyes in a speaking look.

“I do not think we were the first scouting party that passed through,” he replied grimly.

Sylvanas frowned, glancing briefly at Jaina. “Station a patrol where necessary. Have there been sightings anywhere further in-land?”

Nathanos shook his head. “I also have reports from the goblin engineers in regards to our warships.”

Jaina's brow wrinkled. “Warships?”

“In a moment,” Sylvanas said briskly, gesturing towards the Ranger Lord. “I trust my commands were obeyed with the missive I sent ahead?”

“Our naval artillery has been reinforced and stationed as commanded,” he continued, peering sidelong at Jaina with a smug glint in his eye. “The Naga Queen will be hard-pressed to find a body of water to infiltrate us from.”

Sylvanas nodded approvingly. “Very good, Blightcaller. You may go. I expect a detailed report on my desk post-haste.” She dismissed him with a wave, watching closely as he bowed once and departed. It was only then that she turned her eyes back to Jaina, who was already building into quite a fume.

Seeing the surprise on her wife’s face on served to ignite her temper further. “Need I remind you,” Jaina said coolly, moving away purposefully. “That you are as much my consort as I am yours.” She moved towards the small trunk tucked away in the corner of the room; the most they could salvage of her things from the tower. The wards on the tower had made a valiant attempt at confining the damage, but it was clear enough that Faranell had corrupted them along the way.

At the very least, they had managed to salvage a piece or two of her admiralty garb. She brushed her hand over the ornate brocade doublet neatly folded atop her clothing before setting it aside. Her hands rummaged through the trunk until they came upon well-worn linen.

“I am aware,” Sylvanas said slowly, watching her as a cat would a curiosity. “Though between the two of us...I am the one with ‘Queen’ in her title.”

Jaina scowled. She shed her tunic without care, pointedly ignoring the way Sylvanas began to gravitate towards her. As she untucked her camisole from her skirt, she became all too aware of the unnatural chill and aura of the Warchief lingering behind her. The cool brush of calloused fingertips slid along her bare shoulder before pausing expectantly.

“If I may?” Sylvanas murmured, and Jaina glanced at her impassively.

Tightening her grip on the nightgown, she shook her head. “I prefer to dress myself,” she said stiffly. Then she continued to undress, uncaring at the way she could feel Sylvanas’ eyes boring into her back still. Stepping into her nightgown, she pulled the straps up over her shoulders primly and moved out of reach once more.

Outside, the sun was fading into a languid spill of colour across the horizon. Jaina could feel the weariness bleeding into her bones the same way the twilight shades were beginning to swallow the vibrant shades of flames. Curtly, she said, “I would appreciate being kept in the loop of decisions that involve the kingdom as a whole.”

Jaina tugged at the burgundy covers and slipped under them. They were cold and too stiff; unaccustomed to use.

“This decision did not involve the kingdom,” Sylvanas replied mildly, rounding the bed to perch herself carefully at the end of it. “It involved Forsaken naval defence forces along the waterways.”

“And somehow that didn’t involve the Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras? The strongest naval power of Azeroth and expert sailors.” She settled back against the pillows restlessly, thumping one with more strength than intended. The exhaustion of the day weighed in her bones like anchors bound to her limbs; her eyelids drooping into a hooded gleam. 

She sighed. “I’m too tired to argue more today. What’s done is done and there’s no point fighting you over it. Just tell me more about it tomorrow.” She pressed her face into the pillow and at once became encompassed in the scent of tulips and cold steel.

The weight of Sylvanas shifted on the bed, and Jaina felt a hesitant hand reach up to rest on the swell of her hip over the covers. Gently, the Banshee Queen asked, “Would you like me to bring you something to eat? You haven’t had anything for supper.”

“I’m not hungry,” Jaina mumbled, tucking her nose against the pillow and breathing in the scent that lived among the sheets.

“...As you wish.” Sylvanas’ hand flexed gently, and Jaina felt the bed dip behind her as a pair of cool, soft lips brushed against her cheek in a whisper of a kiss. The hand slipped further along the cradle of her hips, spanning wide across the covers. “Would you like me to stay?”

Jaina pressed back against the weight of Sylvanas’ figure and reached down to twine their fingers. “Yes.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 30

 

---------

 

Sleep came to Jaina as quickly as Sylvanas expected it to. The day was a trying one — a damned tower had fallen on their heads, and her wife was the one bearing the brunt of its damage. It wasn’t hard to see the exhaustion in those crystal blue eyes; amidst the stubbornness and fury.

Despite her endless wealth of power, Jaina was, as she often forgot — human.

Sylvanas held her wife for as long as she dared; until the Lord Admiral’s breaths steadied and deepened, and the grip on her arm went slack. Until the exhaustion bled into sore limbs. She cradled Jaina close for a moment, stroking her fingers through silken strands of hair that wove together like threads of silver and gold. Watching the flicker and flutter of lashes caught in the cycle of rest and reverie. The deep, stirring ache in her chest was a frightening thing — the intimacy that had built between them.

An intimacy that was proving to be more of a detriment to their relationship than a benefit. Things were changing far too much; far too quickly.

And yet, there was a part of her that wished selfishly to keep them as they were. She had suffered greater pains, but the thought of sharing Jaina with anyone else — of losing Jaina — made her stomach roil with an unpleasant, hollow ache.

Tempted as she was to shed her armour and curl tightly around her wife, it was a temptation she could see no benefit in indulging. There was no telling what plans were already set in motion — both by the dissenting party and the Alliance. She would need to speak with the others; but glancing at the open balcony door, she became aware then of the late hour.

She sighed and clenched her fists, flexing the ache from them. It would have to wait for the morning. Still, there was a restlessness festering under her skin. An aftermath — a residue of the pulsing energy that came from the living, breathing fountain of arcane that was her wife.

Surely it was this and only this. Surely it was merely proximity.

Sylvana gritted her teeth, clenched her fists, and turned away towards the doors. She needed to clear her head.

She pulled open the doors — and paused. Her red eyes flashed for an instant, then softened. With her voice chiding and low, she said, “You should be resting still.”

Alina stood stiffly before her, staring back impassively with those mismatched eyes. There was a steely look in them, a look she remembered from the bygone days of training and promotions and proving her mettle as a Windrunner. When any falter was a weakness; and weakness a failure. “I am capable of serving...if you would have me.”

The scars from the fall remained still. The long, jagged one that marred the left side of her face only served to highlight the blue of her new eye. Because they were Undead — because they could no longer heal, much less grow — the shorn edge of Alina’s hairline remained, scorched and singed.

Sylvanas reached out gently to brush a finger over the scabbed split in her lip. “Tell me first, why you won’t let the necromancer heal these.”

Alina shrugged. “They are a reminder,” she rasped quietly, with her jaw set in a way that told Sylvanas everything there was to know about her state of mind. “I will not fail again.”

“You did not fail,” Sylvanas replied mildly. “You did your duty as best you could. How could you have foreseen the collapse?”

“I should have been closer,” Alina whispered, lowering her gaze shamefully. “I faltered at your heels.”

“That was no fault of yours,” she insisted. “The Lord Admiral and I were...inflamed at that moment. We weren’t expecting you to be on guard.” She frowned. “Though we must speak in the morning. I have concerns with who was responsible for your eye.”

Alina blinked, brows furrowing slightly. “I...can’t quite recall,” she said, with some distress. “I didn’t see who it was...they were too fast.” Her eyes flickered with guilt once more. 

Pursing her lips, the Banshee Queen regarded her ranger thoughtfully. Alina’s duties as Jaina’s personal guard had been one assigned out of necessity, at first. A replacement for Blightcaller to keep the Ranger Lord from prying further into her wife’s letters. There was no doubt that the ranger was the most commendable one amidst their ranks, but she hadn’t expected such loyalty to her consort.

It was only meant to be a temporary assignment.

Sylvanas glanced back at the bed, brows pulled low with thought and reluctance. “Guard her for me,” she murmured. “I know above all else that you will keep her safe.”

Alina straightened to attention, bowing low at the hip. “Of course, Dark Lady. With my life.” Then she peered at Sylvanas, a flickering look of uncertainty in her mismatched eyes. “You would trust me still?”

“I trust you most,” she replied candidly, squeezing Alina’s shoulder again as she passed. “Until we know more about the collapse, I cannot know who among the Alliance and Horde would drive the dagger the deepest.” She stopped one last time and took in Jaina’s sleeping form, tried to quell the strange longing in her belly.

She turned away with a sharp snap of her cloak. “Protect the Lord Admiral — and be sure that no one disturbs her rest. She needs it.”

“Where will you go, my Queen? My lady will ask if she wakes.”

Sylvanas smothered a growl deep in her chest. “Decompressing.”

 

------

 

She went away to the sparring room; locked the doors and shed her armour until she was down to her breeches and tunic. She lit into the training dummies without care, with the blind and encompassing fury that bled from her pores and blazed in her bones. They splintered and bent; stuffing and straw scattered across the floor as she drove her fist through the chest of one. She sank her nails into dented wood and used its mangled carcass to beat another into pieces.

All of them fell, and yet Sylvanas could see nothing but the crumbling towers, flames around them — Jaina’s blood warm and thick and so, so red on her hands —

She threw her weight into the next punch, a Wail erupting from her throat before she could contain it. The dummy flew back into the stone wall, shattering into splinters and firewood as thick, cloying plumes of purple and black smouldered from its remains.

She stood and stared at the massacre around her. Her chest heaved with breaths she did not need, her hands trembled with an exertion she hardly felt. She stood and stared.

Then she felt a flutter in her chest.

Hissing out a low curse between clenched teeth, Sylvanas reached up and pressed a hand to the strange thrum. She dug her nails into her skin and the bite of them was something she relished.

There was a hesitating knock on the door. Her ears flicked back at the sound, swivelling before she made an effort to turn.

The door opened a crack; Kalira peered in warily.

Sylvanas arched a brow. “Yes?”

Kalira bowed almost sheepishly. “Apologies, Dark Lady, but your sisters have come to speak with you.”

Both brows lifted high in surprise before pulling low with suspicion and annoyance. “They’re still here?”

“Shall I send them away, my Queen?”

“Did they happen to mention the urgency of their need?”

Kalira shrugged.

Sylvanas sighed. It was no mystery why they were in Lordaeron still. If it wasn’t the Alliance’s blatant distrust of the Horde, it was their own personal suspicions of her — more specifically what she was doing to Jaina. She waved them in begrudgingly.

“Let’s just get this over with.”

Kalira disappeared, and then came Alleria, stiff and wary as ever. Vereesa emerged from her sister’s shadow, peering into the room with open curiosity and horror. Seeing the guarded, military look of disdain on Alleria’s face was something Sylvanas had long-since grown accustomed to, but it was her little sister’s gasp that rankled her the most.

“Was there a reason you wanted to see me, or were you just looking for something to nag and gawk at?”

The edge of Alleria’s lip curled. “It seemed a little suspicious that your dark ranger was standing guard at the doors of your study at such an hour. We would’ve thought that you would still be tangled together with Jaina.” The condescension dripped from every word; Sylvanas curled her hand into a fist to keep from putting it through her sister’s jaw. “Grown tired of the charade, have you?”

Sylvanas bristled coldly. “State your purpose or leave.”

“Is your temper cooled enough to talk with us like an adult or are you going to tear us to pieces like your training party here?”

“The notion is tempting,” she growled, glowering at Alleria.

Vereesa sighed. “We didn’t come here to fight, we came here to talk.” She placed a chiding hand on Alleria’s arm. “We were worried.”

Sylvanas snorted. “You made that clear enough at the meeting. Likewise, my lady wife has made her opinions quite clear about the fact.” She moved away towards her armour stand. “Why are you still here?”

“We will leave in the morning with King Anduin’s party,” Alleria replied impatiently. “We came to talk.”

“I have very little interest in speaking with either of you.” She paused, staring down at the pauldron in hand before slowly replacing it on the armour stand. Glancing at them over a shoulder, she met Alleria’s gaze with a bright spark of challenge; the same feral gleam that unsettled all who laid eyes on the Banshee Queen.

She bared her teeth in nothing close to a smile. “I would, however, be interested in seeing how your training has fared through the years.”

“Please,” Vereesa begged. “We didn’t come here to fight.”

Sylvanas sneered. “You should have thought of that before you flaunted the fact that you had past relations with Proudmoore in my face,” she spat. “ In front of the council, no less. I don’t care what you came here for, because you’re not going to get it.”

“You can’t blame me for being so protective of Jaina.”

She rolled her eyes. “The Lord Admiral is a grown woman. She doesn’t need your protection.”

Vereesa’s lip curled slightly, eyes sharp and reproachful. “She doesn’t need yours, either.”

Something curdled in Sylvanas’ belly and festered in her chest like bile. Gritting her teeth, she bit out, “Given that I am her wife, I can assure you that I have significantly more say than you ever would, Little Moon.”

Alleria bristled from beside Vereesa, insinuating herself pointedly between them. “We came here to have a civilised conversation.” She flexed an arm, muscles tightening as she curled a hand into a fist tight enough for her knuckles to crack. “But if violence is the only way you know how to communicate now, I would be happy to translate.”

“Alleria —” Vereesa stepped forward but Sylvanas merely laughed.

“Finally speaking your true feelings, Lady Sun,” Sylvanas mocked, turning on her heels with a vicious grin. “Perhaps a round or two to settle unspoken resentments between sisters.”

Alleria made no reply, only reached for the buckles of her pauldrons.

Sylvanas did not hesitate — she moved before Alleria could brace for the attack, jabbing hard into exposed ribs until she could grasp an arm. She could feel the unsettling roil of the void bleeding from her sister’s form; unnatural and unwelcome — its eerie presence filling the space with more than just a lifetime of tension. Her skin prickled at the proximity, heart twisting uncomfortably, and she bared her teeth at the sensation.

With a low snarl, she threw her weight forward and brought Alleria down onto the mat.

Shit! ” Alleria hissed, but Sylvanas’ foot pressed into her neck brutally to stifle the noise.

“My point,” she growled, grinding her heel cruelly. 

Alleria bared her teeth and hissed, ears flattening to her skull as she grabbed Sylvanas’ ankle in both hands and twisted. She pivoted her weight to the side, bracing to throw the Banshee Queen from her perch, only to be met with unwavering steel.

Sylvanas tilted her head down at Alleria, smirking with cold amusement. “Much has changed, Lady Sun.”

“Not much at all,” Alleria snarled back, seething as her tattoo began to glow a dark shade of obsidian. “You’re still the same with your tricks and lies.”

Rage burned into her chest and seared into her eyes, the heat of it so intense she felt the air sizzle. Her lips twitched, then curled back into a hiss. “Tricks and lies no doubt whispered into your ear by our own dearest sister.” She cast a withering look sidelong at Vereesa; the youngest Windrunner watching from the sidelines with open anguish. “What use are my words when you already have sentenced me to guilt?”

She didn’t wait for a reply, yanking her foot from the downed elf’s grip and stepping back.

Alleria rolled up to her feet, bracing into a stance. “Enough talk,” she barked, then threw herself at Sylvanas.

Sylvanas met her with equal wrath, fist-to-fist and blow-for-blow. There were no reservations between them; she could feel the brute strength Alleria threw into each punch, each kick. Each aimed for joints and body mass that they both knew would bruise and ache and break the worst. A faint stir of something curled tight in her belly — the thrill of a good fight, a good hunt that was poisoned by the sheer blinding fury that filled her.

“Spit it out then,” she said, ducking a blow. “What did you need that you couldn’t have put in a letter?”

Alleria grunted, dropping low to sweep at her legs — that Sylvanas jumped fluidly to avoid. “We wanted to talk —”

“About Jaina,” Vereesa said.

Sylvanas bit back a scowl. “Of course you did.”

Alleria reached for an arm lock, but Sylvanas saw the move before she could make it. “What you’re doing with Jaina — stop it.”

“Make me.”

“You’ve corrupted her mind somehow. She’s not in her right mind —”

“Have you so little faith in the Lord Admiral? I’m starting to understand her frustrations with the way the Alliance coddles her.”

We coddle her?” Alleria blustered, jabbing a finger at her belligerently. “You treat her like a fainting damsel!”

“We’re on the same side, Sylvanas,” Vereesa interrupted. “We all want to find out who destroyed the tower. It’s not just you.”

“It’s quite clear to me who it was.” She threw herself back in a flip, narrowly avoiding Alleria’s roundhouse kick. “You think Faranell tore down the tower at my command.”

“We think Faranell’s access to the catalyst a concern,” Alleria grunted, lunging backwards as Sylvanas went at her with a vicious sweep of her talons. “You can’t tell us that it isn’t to you.”

The scowl made an appearance. “If it weren’t, I wouldn’t have him shackled in the dungeons.”

“And yet you won’t let us see him,” Vereesa accused. The more she heard her sister speak, the more her ire grew. “The Alliance has just as much right to interrogate him as you do.”

“The Alliance has no jurisdiction in Lordaeron while I preside over it,” Sylvanas growled, casting a glare at Vereesa. “If you want to speak with him, you speak with him while I am present.”

 “Why?” Alleria demanded, catching her on the forearm with a balled fist. “What are you so afraid of him revealing to us?”

Vereesa peered at her knowingly, accusingly. “...you never gave her the letters, did you?”

Sylvanas’ eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed with annoyance. “...you should be grateful that they never landed on her desk. What you wrote in those letters could have been grounds for divorce. For infidelity —”

“Those letters were never meant for anyone else’s eyes but Jaina’s.”

Alleria looked between them in confusion. “What letters?”

Sylvanas ignored her, moving towards Vereesa in a dangerous loom. “Clearly you did not think of the consequences had they actually fallen into the hands of any other being.” Staring down at her sister, she curled her lip in distaste. “Or perhaps that was your intention to begin with.”

“What intentions?” Alleria pressed, exasperation colouring her words. “For Belore’s sake, someone spit it out!”

Vereesa ducked her head, but Sylvanas knew her too well to fall for such a disingenuous show of repentance. “I know now that what I did was wrong. I wrote to Jaina about it in the end, didn’t I?”

“After I warned you from continuing down that path of destruction,” she spat, then reeled back to glare at Vereesa over her nose imperiously. “Though I admit I should have known. You always did have a taste for human mages. You always wanted what I had.”

Something shifted in Vereesa’s pale gaze, a spark of defiance and self-satisfaction. “If anything, Lady Moon I had her first.”

Sylvanas bared her teeth, ears flattening as she rounded on the void elf. “No more talk. Either fight or fuck off.”

The sounds of connecting fists filled the room amidst their low growls and grunts, overlaid with the occasional plea from Vereesa as they battered each other into the mat. She could see the bruises forming on Alleria’s skin already; blooming dark across flesh that was steadily building an eerie mist beneath its layers.

A susurration filled the air in a hiss; the quick rustle of branches in turbulent winds. The sound of a thousand voices speaking at once. It crawled over her skin like the spread of venom within veins, poison bleeding into flesh, and for a moment she faltered. 

A punch connected, meeting her cheek, and Sylvanas’ head snapped to the side with a sickening crack. She could feel the ichor pouring from the wound — Undead skin was a brittle thing, and she loathed the fact. The world tipped suddenly, and then she was on her back.

Alleria bared her teeth in a grin, fangs smeared in blood the same. “My point.”

“One for one,” Sylvanas growled, swiping impatiently at the hissing ichor that ran down her face. She rose to her feet in a seamless move, bracing her weight into the balls of her feet as she resumed her slow circle around her sister.

She moved with speed known only to the Undead; moved with the same vicious cold precision as she always did — both in life and Undeath. Merciless. Only slightly less than murderous. She struck beneath an arm, aiming sharp and deep with a knuckle into a pressure point. Alleria’s arm dropped with a warbled cry, face twisting in surprise and pain, and she seized the opening.

Sylvanas drove her fist brutally into her sister’s ribs, relishing the muffled, damp sound of breaking bones.

Alleria crumbled to her knees, a shout throttled in her throat as it died into a stuttering wheeze. Through a curtain of gold, a withering glare came from eyes swallowed in crystal blue. Her skin fell away into murky midnight as she threw out a hand with a roar.

Sylvanas staggered back with a curse, snarling in pain as the first bolt drove deep into her shoulder. The void-driven force burned into her skin, rending flesh and burrowing beneath it like a parasite. She hissed and clawed at the wound, its edges burning black and smoking. The pain of it surprised her the most; an agony that could have rivalled the thrumming presence of Frostmourne’s mark.

With a low snarl, she threw out her own hand, a misting force of black and purple unfurling like the coils of a snake. They lashed into Alleria’s arms, moulding into the shape of chains, intangible and yet unbreakable. She curled her hand into a fist and watched with her eyes ablaze as the chains began to smoke, began to burn into flesh.

Vereesa surged forward with a wail of horror. “Stop this! You’ll kill each other!”

Sylvanas growled, shoving Vereesa back with a lash of tendrils. “Stay out of this. Either fight your own battles or face the consequences of the people you cast into the ring.”

“Don’t touch her!” Alleria roared, baring her teeth as she threw out another blade of void power.

It connected with a bristling burst of mist, splitting the skin of Sylvanas’ side as more ichor splattered onto the mat and the wall behind her. She staggered back with a grunt, dropping down onto a knee as she reached out a hand to brace the bleeding wound. Green spilt sluggishly between her fingers, pooling beneath her on the mat. 

She stared down at it, swirling green and mist, then threw her head back with a cold laugh. 

“I’ve been wondering when we’d get to the real bloodshed,” she growled, rising with a surge of power. Her tendrils unfurled around her, the air soured into the scent of sulphur and arcane as her eyes took on a scorching flame.

Vereesa threw out an arm between them even as Alleria surrendered into her void form. “Whatever happened to ‘settling unspoken resentments’?”

“That was two rounds,” Sylvanas replied, eyes only for her eldest sister. “I never said anything about the third.”

Alleria grasped Vereesa’s arm and tugged her aside brusquely. “Let’s finish this.”

Sylvanas met her gaze coldly. “Gladly.”

They lurched forward as one, vicious snarls in their throats as the room filled with a dizzying cacophony of void and necromantic power. Her ring came to life on her finger, bristling with a faint thrum of energy, and it only served to set the rage in her belly into a blaze.

Before either of them could connect, the air prickled with the static scent of ozone, for more encompassing than anything the void could produce. More electric than the powers she held in her own reserves. The air pulled inwards and then burst forth as the doors were thrown open, just as a wall of ice formed between them. 

Sylvanas cursed as she collided with it, slamming her cheek into the smooth surface before she reeled back. From behind the wall, she could see Alleria shaking her head like a disgruntled dog, turning towards the door indignantly.

There stood Jaina, rumpled from sleep and crackling with power; her wild mane of hair spilling over her shoulders as those glacial eyes burned at them. 

In that glowing gaze, Sylvanas saw the immovable power that was her wife, the incandescent fury that made a strange ripple crawl up her spine.

What is the meaning of this? ” Jaina thundered, and Sylvanas almost winced at the echo of it on the walls.

Vereesa rushed to Jaina’s side, but a vicious look had the youngest Windrunner faltering in her step. “We only wanted to talk —”

“Your wife is only capable of speaking in blows, apparently,” Alleria said, pulling the void back within herself. She wipes at a streak of blood on her face and spat more onto the ground.

Jaina stared at Alleria incredulously. “And you volunteered?”

Vereesa edged towards her carefully, and Sylvanas felt the irritation bubble forth from her chest. “How did you know…?”

Sylvanas rose to her feet, dropping the hand braced at her wound when Jaina’s eyes found hers. The ring on her finger tingled still, and she smoothed her thumb over it without thought. She straightened up, face smooth with anger as their eyes held and lingered for a moment; an unspoken question that she left unanswered as she turned away abruptly.

“I think I should know when my wife is being battered into the ground,” Jaina replied tersely.

“I wasn’t being battered,” Sylvanas snapped. “I was winning.”

“That wound in your side begs to differ, Lady Moon,” Alleria said.

Sylvanas arched a brow as Alleria limped to Vereesa’s side, leaning heavily on their youngest sister as she cradled her broken ribs still. “And those ribs of yours beg for a healer, dear sister.”

Vereesa opened her mouth to speak, but Jaina silenced her with a vicious hand through the air. 

“Is this really all that’s left of the Windrunners?” Jaina asked, disdain dripping from every word. “Sisters who would rather brawl their brains out than speak to each other?”

“We tried the speaking part,” Alleria barked, glowering in Sylvanas’ direction. “She didn’t make it a choice.”

Sylvanas puffed out a wry laugh. “Yes, it’s always my failings, isn’t it? My flaws. If you cared as much as you claim you do about Faranell, about the damned tower, you could have waited for the morning.” She slid her eyes resentfully towards Vereesa, sweetening her tone to the point of viciousness. “You could have written it in a letter.” She grinned at the flinch it elicited.

Jaina sighed impatiently, gesturing towards the wall of ice that crumbled at the slightest flick of her wrist. “Get Alleria to the healing wards. I don’t care to hear any more excuses about why you’re beating each other bloody. We will speak of this in the morning like adults.” She shot Sylvanas a hard, speaking look. “All of us.”

Sylvanas made a low bow. “As my lady wife wishes.”

Jaina scowled at her, but Sylvanas knew that her wife’s ire would be quick to cool when they were alone. Vereesa and Alleria shared a look and carried themselves as quickly as they could with what was left of their dignity, but not before throwing a withering look in her direction.

“Alina, go with them,” Jaina called out. “See that they make it to the healing wards in one piece.”

“We don’t need an escort,” Alleria protested, but Alina merely trailed after them, deaf to the mumbling curses and complaints that followed.

Jaina rushed to her side as soon as they were gone, cupping her cheek worriedly. “The Tides take you, Sylvanas, I can’t leave you alone for a moment!”

“I’m fine,” she replied, brushing Jaina’s touch away not unkindly. “It’s nothing I can’t mend.”

“You’re not fine!” Jaina snapped, reaching out to touch the wound in her side. Her muscles twitched, but Sylvanas held herself painfully still as the Lord Admiral fussed at it in a low murmur. “Damn it, Sylvanas — what on earth were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t the one that came barging into my training room,” she huffed.

Jaina sighed and rolled her eyes, reaching down to twine their hands together. “Come on.” She tugged impatiently. “Let’s get you back to the room so I can take a proper look at this mess. And you can tell me why it started.” She waved a hand distractedly and opened a portal.

Sylvanas arched a brow. “I’m perfectly capable of walking.” Jaina made no reply, only stepped into the portal and tugged her through. As soon as they were within reach of the bed, she found herself rapidly cornered onto it.

Jaina shoved at her chest until she was sitting. “Sit.”

“Jaina —”

“Stay.” 

“I’m not a dog,” Sylvanas said, scowling. 

“A dog would be less troublesome. It can be trained. Now don’t move.” The Lord Admiral’s tone brooked no argument as she sat down and began to carefully peel away the tattered remains of Sylvanas’ tunic. She hissed under her breath and swore at the sight, and the Warchief wondered vaguely if it was any worse than it felt.

A thought flickered into her mind then and her ears pricked forward with concern. “Did you feel it?” she asked Jaina, with no small amount of worry and regret. “Is that why you woke?”

Jaina’s steely face gave nothing away as she conjured a small bowl of water and used a clean strip of Sylvanas’ tunic to dab at the worst of the ichor. She worked silently for a moment, brows pulling tight on her face before she said, “It was the rings.”

Sylvanas glanced down at her ring and then at Jaina dubiously.

“...and maybe I felt it,” Jaina amended, setting aside the ichor-soaked rag. Sighing, she said, “You really have to stop doing this to yourself, Sylvanas.”

“I’m not doing anything to myself,” she countered, meeting Jaina’s flat look stubbornly. “I was training.” The delicacy in her wife’s touch was a welcome change from the brutality of the sparring session, and Sylvanas allowed herself to savour it for a selfish moment.

“Where did Alleria and Vereesa come into the picture then?” Jaina waved a hand; the bowl and rag disappeared. “And why were you training so late in the night?”

Sylvanas shrugged. “I needed time to think.”

“Of what?”

“Many things.”

Jaina glared mildly but made no reply, only reached up to touch the welt on her face. Sylvanas reached up and took hold of the hand on her cheek gently.

“I’m fine,” she murmured, pulling it away to press a kiss into Jaina’s palm. “You should be resting.”

Jaina shook her head. “I’ll rest when you’re healed and resting with me.” She reached out and braced herself on Sylvanas’ shoulder, carefully throwing her leg over the Warchief’s lap.

Sylvanas reached up on instinct and grasped Jaina’s hips, staring incredulously as her wife nestled comfortably into her lap. “Jaina —”

“It’s fine.” Jaina conjured a slender shard of ice; a needlepoint finer than any blade. She reached out a thumb and pricked it on the crystalline edge. A pearl of blood welled at the tip of it, bright ruby against her pale skin.

Sylvanas’ eyes flashed to her face. “No.”

Huffing, Jaina held out her finger. “Let me do this for you.” She gave Sylvanas a firm stare, cupping the Warchief’s jaw with her free hand. “You said so yourself — I’m a walking fountain of arcane. It’ll help.”

Sylvanas opened her mouth to protest again, only for Jaina to lean down and kiss her protest away.

When she pulled back, Jaina’s eyes were glowing faintly, hooded and warm. “Stay still,” she murmured. The heavy copper scent of her blood was inescapable as she began to trace her thumb over Sylvanas’ upper lip first, moving carefully along the curve and pout of it before sliding downwards over the lower one.

Sylvanas had no need for breathing, but she breathed nonetheless. The sharp scent of Jaina’s blood made her eyes flash and her belly stir, and for however much she knew that they were only playing with fire — she allowed herself lick her lips.

The taste made her lids flutter, then her tongue moved without thought. Tracing over the wound before Jaina moved again. This time, she felt it press against the edge of her fang, hard enough for more blood to spill forth. She closed her lips around her wife’s thumb, swallowing back the heady rush of copper and faint thrums of arcane. She reached up and grasped Jaina’s wrist, sucking harder as she watched her wife’s cheeks flame into a ruddy shade; as those glowing eyes glazed with a drunken sort of haze.

Low and breathless, Jaina asked, “Is that enough?” She tilted her head until her mane of hair fell over a shoulder, baring the pale, elegant line of her neck. Pristine and untouched. “Do you need more?”

Sylvanas released her thumb slowly, kissing away the last of the blood with dark and hungry eyes. “You know there was a reason why we stopped this.”

“If this is why we’re connected...I don’t want to stop,” Jaina confessed, reaching up to tug the neckline of her nightgown aside further before clasping the back of Sylvanas’ neck with her hand. She stroked a thumb over the skin there, and the touch was enough for the Warchief to shudder.

Something visceral roiled in her belly as Sylvanas stared up at her wife. “Are you so worried for my sisters that you would suffer this for them?”

“I worry for you.”

She said nothing further, only growled deep in her chest as she opened her mouth and sank her teeth into Jaina’s neck. The low cries and ragged moans her wife made fed her as much as the taste of blood on her tongue; she savoured it all equally. She caressed a hand through lush silver-white hair and held them anchored together, drinking until the wounds went away and all that was left was the building pulse between her hips.

She pulled away with a snarl, heaving lungfuls of air she did not need, braced with her forehead against Jaina’s shoulder as the woman above her trembled and twitched. She pressed her lips to the bloodied welts of her wife’s neck.

Then she slid her hand beneath Jaina’s nightgown.

There would be more nights to brood.

When she was sated and Jaina thoroughly satisfied, she settled them back in bed, pulling the covers tightly over her wife. Jaina hummed and purred sleepily, nuzzling into her chest to doze, and Sylvanas held on as tightly as she dared.

She closed her eyes and dreamt of warm summer days and the smell of sea breeze in the air.