A.N. Yep, this is really the final chapter. After telling you in the beginning that this fic is going to be a short one, I am slightly embarrassed by how long it got. Hopefully, I did a decent job with the last chapter. In particular, I'm hoping the resolution of conflict between Vicente and Lucien does not read too abrupt or hurried. A big Thank you to all of you who took your chance and have given your support to this fic despite the rather unusual pairing. ^_^ I loved hearing from you guys.

Hello Poppy. :) I'm so glad that you stayed with this fic throughout. No, I can't believe it's been nearly six months since I first started writing this fic. That's a long time. lol. Thank you for all your support. :) And yes, you have my assurance that both Vicente and Antoinetta have moved on from their petty squabbles. :) Oh, and whenever you are comfortable about your ideas for your new fic, do send it to me through PM or email. I know you will probably have to log into your account to send a PM, but my email address should be accessible without you logging in. I do hope I will continue to hear from you. ^_^

Chapter Twenty-two

Making love is like seeing a vision. Apart from the fact that the naked body offers little protection, the workings of the senses are far removed from the task of self-preservation. It renders the participants extremely vulnerable. Yet, what a delightful vision it is. The body and mind co-operate together to create a moment where all duality vanishes into a blissful union.

Lucien's grips on Antoinetta's hips become harder, as he thrusts deeper and faster. The force and speed with which he pushes inside her is almost frightening. He delves into her fervent embrace again and again as though he wants every single cell of her body to remember him, and for a long time. Somewhere in her hazy consciousness, she realises he is hurting her, but she does not mind one single bit. The pain does nothing to compromise the sense of sheer delight. If anything, his unmitigated force only enhances the sense of gratification.

Lucien collapses on Antoinetta's exhausted form as he finally allows himself to bask in the long awaited release. With his eyes closed, he focuses solely on the pleasing sensation till it passes through him and his breathings become calmer. Only then, does he notice the movement of Antoinetta's chest rising and falling beneath his. Lucien opens his eyes to regard the contented figure for a moment before enveloping her firmly in his arms and rolling over to reverse their position.

"You are so … light. How do you ever endure my weight?"

Antoinetta does not answer him immediately. She inhales and releases the heated air a few times to regain her capacity to think and form words, relishing the secure feel of his arms.

"Your weight is intoxicating and addictive, Speaker. I do not wish to be deprived of it for long."

Lucien raises one eyebrow in mock disapproval.

"Even though my weight could crush you?"

"I'd rather die beneath it than live without it."

Antoinetta lets out a long sigh as she feels his embrace tighten.

"Antoinetta," Lucien calls out, his eyes glittering with delight. "I have always known we make a perfect match."

The Hand meeting turned out to be a simple undemanding affair. It consisted firstly of a series of proposals mostly made by Ungolim with subsequent consents given by his Speakers. After that, the practical enquiries followed to help each Speaker adapt to their new Sanctuaries. During the whole process, Banus spoke very little, the usual display of charming expressions noticeably absent throughout. The mer looked much too tired and seemed clearly relieved when Ungolim finally declared the affair to be over.

Lucien was therefore more surprised than annoyed when Banus asked for a few moments of his time. Not that he was by any means thrilled by the request. He only needed to see Vicente before heading for Bravil. Nevertheless, meeting with someone whose death he had ordered somehow seemed to be less taxing than being in the company of someone whose life he had saved. Unfortunately, the invitation was made in the presence of Ungolim and J'Ghasta. Refusing him was unthinkable; it would have attracted unwanted attention to his true feelings towards the Dunmer Speaker.

"If you merely wanted to express your gratitude, there is no need," Lucien begins, seeing Banus hesitant to start the conversation. The mer would not even try to meet his gaze, which is really rather pitiful. There aren't that many things to see in the small chamber at the back of the cave.

"I'm certain that you would have done the same for me."

"You know I would not have," replies Banus, his fingers nervously tapping the arm of his chair. This time, however, he meets Lucien's expressionless stare. With a weary sigh, he continues.

"I realise that you have little reason to feel Brotherly love towards me, Lachance. I still do not understand why you helped me the way you did. You of course have my gratitude. That is not, however, why I wanted to see you."

Lucien leans forward, placing his elbow on the table that separates them and leaning his chin against the back of his hand. Go on and be done with it. I'm listening for now.

"You all saw what had happened to me. It should not matter. It couldn't have been helped. But the fact that you saw me that way … powerless, beaten and humiliated … I find it hard. I fear … I have lost your respect. Somehow, it matters to me whether I indeed lost it."

Ah, that was what this was all about. Lucien finds the Dunmer's apprehension somewhat laughable. Still, he realises the Banus in front of him is not the same Banus that would have been, had Antoinetta's survival not changed the course of Fate. The old Banus certainly would not have worried about Lucien's opinion of him. There is no reason why Lucien should continue to feel weary of him.

"Did you beg, Brother? Did they make you?"

"I was seriously tempted."

"But you didn't."

"No, I didn't."

Regardless of the answer Banus gave, Lucien was willing to start anew his relationship with the Dunmer. The correct reply nevertheless helps.

"Lucien Lachance, Speaker of the Bravil Sanctuary. Happy to make your acquaintance."

Banus blinks several times in confusion. Then, slowly and firmly, he takes the extended hand.

"Banus Alor, Speaker of the Bruma Sanctuary. Likewise."

The steep rocky beach is deserted in the depth of the night, except for the two figures who stand side by side, though comfortably apart, on a giant bolder thrown up by the sea. Lucien still wears his robe but keeps his hood down, listening to the wind ruffling the deep water.

"I was surprised that you had accepted Ungolim's offer," the Imperial first breaks the silence between them. He is not overly uncomfortable with it, but they do not have much time together. Certain things must be resolved before they move on with their respective life, even though their relationship may never be the same as before.

"When you have only decades to live, being alone can be a novelty. When you have infinite time before you, that is a rather tedious prospect," Vicente muses almost idly. As he continues, however, his tone darkens. "That explains why I did not wish to leave behind the Sanctuary life. Things have changed since then, as we both know. A family that is only a memory is more of a curse than a comfort."

Lucien merely shifts his gaze from the sea to his former teacher and subordinate, his body slowly following the move. What has to pass must pass. The earth merely coughs, and we are torn apart by its force.

Vicente holds out his arms, an invitation to an embrace, which Lucien accepts. Vicente does not intend to make the ceremony painless. He prefers Lucien taking the full blunt of his anger, his grievance.

Damn vampire. Lucien curses silently, biting back a sharp cry. Though he was prepared for Vicente's assault, he didn't think it would be as unpleasant as the stab of a knife. It takes much of his will power not to lash out at the vampire whose fangs are lovingly embedded into his shoulder blade. You will have your moment. Enjoy while it lasts.

Blood flows from one flesh into another, the sweet taste of which washes away the acidic fury that one feels for the other. Lucien readies himself for what he has in store for his former subordinate, fighting the sense of vertigo that comes with the loss of blood. Finally, Vicente's tight grip on Lucien's arms slackens, signalling the end of the feast.

Proximity can be dangerous, if one fails to read the intention of another. Lucien makes most of it as he sends Vicente flying with a shock spell that hits straight on the chest. The vampire barely registers the sudden turn of the event when Lucien's form gracefully lands next to him.

"That was for your failure to inform me of Bellamont's visits to the Chedynhal Sanctuary," says the Imperial, placing his boot on the bleeding torso of the stunned vampire. "You should count yourself lucky. I would have left you half dead, had you still remained my surbordinate. It is no longer relevant who was at fault, but you wanted to settle personal grievances. I obliged. I paid my debt, and you paid yours."

Stepping aisde, Lucien offers a hand. The gesture can of course be easily taken advantage of. It is a gamble, but there really isn't that much to lose. Neither of them wills the other dead. Both of them want to move forward.

The look of disbelief turns into that of defensive rage, then into a bemused smile.

"I have been always proud of you, Lucien Lachance. Even when I thought of you in the most negative light," says Vicente, taking the hand. "I feel justified in that sentiment."

For the first time since their reunion, both men allow themselves to relax in each other's company. There is an unspoken understanding between them, just like old times.

"You will drop by the Bravil Sanctuary, then?"

"I believe I will."

The small chamber looks exactly the same as how Antoinetta left it. The ceiling is still low, adding to the sense of the crowdedness that stems from its measly size. All that is going for the space is its fireplace and the pleasant familiarity that is linked to fond memories.

"I'm afraid that this place will have to do till I can get you a better one," Lucien informs his companion, who has been following him around with a nervous look on her face.

Antoinetta tries hard to smile, but fails miserably. Casting her gaze downwards, she mutters her meek consent. Lucien is her direct superior. She will have to stay where he tells her. Still, she cannot help but feel disappointed. After all that they went through together, is it really that much to ask of him to keep her close to him at least when she is not out on contract?

"Forgive me if I read you wrong. I thought you rather liked this place," Lucien tells his dejected-looking Silencer, smiling inwardly at what might be going through her head.

Even now you fear my rejection. You have my love, trust and gratitude, all of which you earned yourself. Yet, you still believe I could turn you away without a second thought.

"Besides, this will be only a temporary accommodation. I thought I made that clear to you. I will be much occupied with my duties for a while and do not have time to search for a better shelter. It is not going to be always that way."

Antoinetta swallows hard and composes herself. She does not wish to risk being seen as childish. She is Lucien's Silencer, after all. He will expect her to behave as such. Nevertheless, her disconsolate mind has trouble finding appropriate words.

"It is not that, Speaker. Of course I find this place comfortable. It's just …"

"What then?" Lucien presses, placing his cool palm on her cheek that is hot with awkwardness.

Antoinetta relaxes a little at the gesture, but is still afraid to look up at her Speaker. Afraid that her eyes will betray a longing that she has no control over.

"You think this place too small for two of us?"

Her gaze may remain downward, but Lucien can see a smile creeping over her lips. When she finally returns his stare, her eyes sparkle with the same delight that adorns her face. It is your fault that I toy with you, Antoinetta. Such a delightful range of expressions you have.

"I thought it too big for one."

Lucien gathers Antoinetta's petite form in his arms, where she belongs and is happy. He realises he has many pressing matters to deal with. He must make a visit to the Bravil Sanctuary shortly. He has already received a list of clients anxiously awaiting a visit from the Dark Brotherhood. Making them wait much longer will not help the reputation of the guild. Then, there is a little matter of finding the Redguard who was initially contacted by Arquen and sealed his fate by committing the second murder. Even with Antoinetta, he needs to discuss her work and the new training regime. Yet,

Lucien only holds her tighter, savouring the feel of Antoinetta's body pressing against his. Even with her armour, he can sense the heat rushing though her veins. Without staring into her eyes, he can sense them glowing with desire.

He knows then that he will not be tending his duties anytime soon. Not before she falls asleep in his arms, fulfilled and contented. He will not deny himself the little pleasure that is Antoinetta Marie.