Corvo did it all for Emily. Of course he had, what kind of father would he be if he didn’t make her the center of his universe? Of his world?
It just so happened that the center of his world happened to be center of the Empire as well. It didn’t turn out great, a lot of times it event turned out bad.
He was startled, time and again, when those other than Emily paid him any mind. Him, not the Lord Regent or Emily’s whispered father, just regular Corvo. He was the shadow behind the throne, and rarely had anyone bothered looking past it.
Not many knew the man. Piero and Sokolov had gotten close, but those two wouldn’t know a man from a whale unless it held a scientific discovery for them. Lydia, Outsider rest her soul, had been kind to him. But she didn’t talk to him as a person. Callista had seen him- and Emily had asked him why there wasn’t anything there.
Truthfully, he had only just stopped mourning Jessamine long enough to realize there were other people on the planet. His days at Coldbridge had been marred with pain, each spent thinking her murder would go un-avenged, that those who committed it would go unpunished.
Yet when it was his turn to drive the knife in, he balked. What example did he want to give Emily as her only parent? So Daud went free, and their enemies lived. After all, they’d all found out how difficult he was to best. For most of his work, he moved like a ghost through Dunwall at night. Never seen.
Maybe that strange dichotomy was what drew the Outsider too him. Heresy be damned, it was like he couldn’t turn around in a street without a bone charm or rune shrieking for his attention. He’d long since left Jessamine’s heart at home. He didn’t need her to find them anymore.
He’d placed her heart within her tomb. It was all he could think to do with it before Emily found it in it's previous hiding place. She’d been delighted to discover Jessamine’s secret room behind the fireplace, and loved to disappear into it away from her tutors.
These days, he mostly used his powers to play games with his daughter. It had always been the worst kept secret in the empire that Emily was his. She had that Serkonan undertone to her skin that shone in the sun and as she grew out her hair it had the same messy tendencies as his own. Nothing changed once Emily stopped bothering to hide it. It warmed something long cold in him to hear her address him as father in public.
Callista, bless her, tried to help do Emily’s hair up in the style of her mother, but neither of them could get it to behave under pins and threats of violence. Until Corvo sat them down and did Emily’s hair in a simple updo he remembered his own mother wearing. It involved a great deal more twisting and a great deal less pins.
Of course, Emily loved it.
Once Sokolov and Piero knew that the plague came from Pandyssia, they were able to work together for a cure.
That more than anything allowed people to accept Corvo and Emily’s return. After all, who else would the Empire go to?
But Emily never forgot the year that followed her mother’s death- and Corvo couldn’t blame her. She begged more than ever for him to show her tricks of violence and all but demanded swordsmanship lessons.
He obliged, teaching her every trick in the book that he knew. She didn’t have his magic, but she heard her own whispers of the void. That scared him. One day, the whispers would become solid words, and Emily would have to be ready to hold her own. Maybe without him.
So he told her stories of the Outsider, the way he popped up in the strangest places to make the most mundane comments. Those stories she loved, how the Outsider had walked with him as he worked to rescue her.
“So he wanted to help me too,” she asked.
“I don’t know if he wanted to help you- but he found us interesting.”
“He must get very bored in the void, I hope he doesn’t get lonely with just you and me as his friends.”
“We’re not his only friends.” Corvo said, unwilling to explain Daud even if he could. Maybe Emily would understand why he stayed his hand. Maybe she wouldn’t.
"Then we're his best friends!" Emily declared, she was past the point of childish things, and there was a knowing glint in her eyes that Corvo didn't like.
She was so very much like her mother.
In his dreams that night, the Outsider laughed at her proclamation and graced Corvo with a fond smile. The Outsider's thoughts echoed his own.
Well, he couldn't let Emily down. Catching the floating man's sleeve, Corvo pulled him down and into a hug. The god didn't seem half as imposing pulled against his chest.
For a moment Corvo felt a surge of protective instinct- then suppressed a chuckle at his thoughts. The Outsider hardly needed his protection.
"I don't think of you as a friend," The Outsider's voice reverberated around him.
Corvo waited, rather than press for an answer on why.
The Outsider leaned back and pushed a strand of Corvo's thick hair behind his ear. "I've forgotten more about humans than most people will ever know; and yet, though I know friend falls far short of describing you. I struggle to put a word to what you are to me. A chosen that chose me in return, someone that hears me even if I do not call. You have changed me, Corvo Attano, I thought I knew shadows and then you used them without thought for your own advancement. I have always watched those who face injustice, but experience has taught me power blinds those to the suffering around them. Then you saved plague victims. You guided people through swarms of rats. You sought me out even when I was not in your path just to hear my words- even when they were of no use to you."
"I don't-" Corvo's face was hot. He didn't think about any of it like that. What he'd done... was what he thought anyone would have done. Any father, any protector. "You understood, you were the only one who understood what I had to do."
"And I understand." The outsider placed a hand on Corvo's cheek and he felt seen.
The Outsider tasted like salt flaked with ice, a sharp contrast to the honeyed warmth he cherished with Jessamine.
When he pulled back, instead of speaking, he rubbed his thumb across the Outsider's cheek and leaned down until their foreheads were touching. They were protectors, those that watched from shadows for so long they began to forget the sun.
But embracing the void didn't mean that he loved the sun any less.
The next morning, Emily covered a smile behind her hand.
"Why father, you're practically glowing." She said, reaching over to wrap a napkin around his marked hand.
The blush on his cheeks had nothing to do with the bright purple light pulsing from his mark and everything to do with the whisper of laughter that floated to his ears.
"She's a sharp one, my dear."
"Well, I thought about what you said and figured I should do something for myself for once," Corvo said, tugging on a loose curl that framed her face.
She nodded seriously, "Glad to see your conversation with my friend went well." She giggled and shoved a grape tart into his mouth. "Or should I call him your special friend."
He chewed and swallowed, then lamented "Don't you have an Empire to run?"
"It won't fall apart if I tease you for a few more moments, Father."
Hers was not the only laughter surrounding him in the room, warming him from the inside out and leaving a faint taste of sea salt on his tongue.