(A/N: Okay. This is important. So, listen carefully.
Lucien/Ocheeva follows. If this squicks you, do not, for the love of god, read it anyway and then get upset at me. Seriously. If you're up for an adventure, read on, but don't say I didn't warn you. Nothing graphic, never fear. I'm not that bad.
Anyway. This was made after I made a joke about the pairing and somebody was like "DUDE LINK THE FANFIC" and got excited when I said I'd try write it for them. This might not be what they had in mind, but it was fun to write, and it sure as heck stretched my horizons. And I think I love Ocheeva a little more as a result.
Oblivion belongs to Bethesda, you know the drill. Cecily was made up on the spot, but you can have her if you want.
And I'm sorry for mauling Lucien's character beyond all recognition. Sorry.
Enjoy, if you're into this kind of stuff.
I'm gonna go hide now.)
Being a reptile and living underground was difficult. Her twin Teinaava was lucky in that he could go up to the surface to get some sun, but Ocheeva remained housebound by her duties as Mistress of the Sanctuary. The lamps collected in her office let out weak heat. It was enough to keep her from being too sluggish, but during the day her body cried out for sunlight, in a way she could never entirely ignore. Ocheeva's office resembled a fort against the cold, with cloth stuffed under the door to prevent draughts and lamps dotted throughout the room. At night, they inevitably burnt out. If only her office had a fireplace.
The nights he was there made up for it.
She would press up against his welcome heat with gratitude. He hated snuggling, but didn't mind her resting her head on his chest, didn't mind her body close alongside his. His skin was so soft, and he slept so peacefully…
They never talked about it. She'd had no idea that Lucien had even liked Argonians that way, but he seemed to crave her. She could see it, when he came to discuss the Sanctuary or pass down contracts, the way he glanced at her when he thought she wasn't attentive.
When they argued, it wasn't there.
In the day, they were Mistress of the Sanctuary and Speaker Lachance. More and more often, Lucien dropped by, the lines on his face deeper than before, quick to snap even at Cecily, the prodigy of the Sanctuary.
"The patience of the Black Hand grows thinner with each passing day," he'd snarl at Ocheeva. "Have you found the blasted traitor yet?"
And each time, she said the same thing. "Lucien, I have investigated everyone in this Sanctuary, even Vicente, who, by the way, has been loyal for two hundred years. There is no traitor among us. The Wrath of Sithis has visited none of us, except for Gogron, who stole Telaendril's underwear and has spent the last week boasting about it. And I'm sure he's not the traitor."
They would fight bitterly, until Lucien would leave in a swirl of his midnight robes. Even Telaendril flinched away from him now, and Antoinetta, who adored the Speaker who'd saved her life, hid in the dormitory until he had gone.
At night, things were different. At night, he was her Lucien. At night, they never spoke. Communicated only in touches that left her skin searing in want. After, with the steady sound of breathing beside her, she always drifted into peaceful sleep.
He always left at dawn. Each time, his movement stirred her. Each time, she pretended to sleep, curled up beside the warm patch in the bed. She never watched him go. Kept her eyes closed as he dressed, and when he left she fell back to sleep. He never said goodbye, though he surely knew she was awake.
She didn't believe in goodbyes. Only ever said, "I will see you again," or a blessing of the Night Mother.
Once, after a morning of discussion, he looked at her curiously. "Why do you never say 'goodbye'?"
"Goodbye implies I'll never see you again," she'd said. "And I don't have so little confidence in you as to suggest you would let yourself die."
He smirked at her. And after that, he never said goodbye either.
By silent agreement, they never revealed the continuing affair, or let another Dark Sibling find out. They never even talked about it, communicating through bodylanguage and touch. No snuggling, no letting anybody else find out, no strings.
No strings. Ocheeva had had a crush on her Speaker for years, and she feared their actions were nursing it, but she shoved it aside.
One night, things were different.
He was urgent, this time and pulled her roughly against him as if he hadn't seen her in weeks. Made her breath catch in her throat, the claws of her hand curl around his soft shoulders. And when they were done he scooped her into the hollow next to him, enveloping her in his heat. She lay there, stiff, for long moments. What? He never does that…
He didn't fall asleep either, instead kneading at one of her tense shoulders. He usually slipped into dreams in minutes.
Is something wrong? She wanted to ask. He moved to stroking her face, softly, gently.
Lucien Lachance is never gentle. If she hadn't known his scent almost better than her own, she'd have sworn somebody had kidnapped and replaced him. Lucien Lachance does not act like this. He's demanding, not loving. The thought made her feel ill. What's going on?
She fell into an uneasy doze. Her thoughts swam, and she flirted with the edge of sleep, her thoughts distorting, disjointing and reforming with a jerk. Lucien had been acting strangely, lately. He'd seemed oddly irritated even when not arguing. His pale fists turned white, his face into a scowl. Perhaps that wasn't anger…
But now, as she jerked awake again, she realized it had been fear. What was Lucien Lachance afraid of?
He murmured incoherently to her, another first for Lucien, stroking her cheek until another doze claimed her. She fell into uneasy dreams in which traitors lurked in every shadow, her stomach churning.
She did not sleep well.
When she did sleep, she sank into blissful, deep oblivion. But in the night she woke to her Speaker stroking her face again, or nuzzling the back of her neck, leaving her chill with anxiety. He did not act like this. Not her Lucien. If she'd dared fall asleep, he'd do it again. And it seemed his movements grew more urgent until he realised she was awake, before he would calm, at last.
She lost count of the times he woke her. Half the night seemed to pass before his breathing grew deep, and she slipped away again – until his nightmares woke her. She was truly struck with fear then – Lucien Lachance did not have nightmares. His body tightened up and loosened, and he squirmed. A white fist bumped her chin, and the Speaker sucked in a gasp, before letting it out in a whimper.
If Lucien was having nightmares…
She had to bring him out of those herself. Turned over, nuzzled his neck, touched his face with her cold fingers until he'd jolt awake. She waited for his irritation, waited for him to be angry at his disturbance, but it never came, and instead he went quiet. Nightmares came three more times, and after the last he drew her close, and fell into a deep sleep. She lay there for a long time, wondering what was so bad as to destroy Lucien's sleep…
At last, consciousness slipped away, and did not return until dawn.
She hated dawn. Lucien would be up at first light, and Ocheeva never knew how he could tell what time it was. As usual, she curled up and pretended to sleep as he gently disentangled himself. She listened to the ruffle of his clothes as she did each time. He pulled the blanket over her exposed shoulder, as if it would make a difference to a creature of no body heat. She only kept it because it was comforting. She heard his footsteps, listened to the doors creak open.
"Goodbye, Ocheeva," he murmured.
Her eyes snapped open, but the doors had already closed behind him. What? What was going on? She forced herself to uncurl in the chill, pulled her clothes on, walked around and lit the lamps. Held a lantern close, letting its flimsy warmth ease into her body. Perhaps she'd imagined it…?
Then she saw it.
On her desk sat an envelope. She picked it up, and saw it was addressed to the prodigy, Cecily. The seal of the Black Hand adorned the back.
"Cecily?" murmured Ocheeva. She had an assignment from the Black Hand itself? Ocheeva let out a low whistle, sitting down. She wasn't surprised. Cecily executed all of her assignments perfectly, and more than earned her bonuses. Ocheeva smiled, flipping the envelope over in her fingers, easing as heat from the lamp seeped into her. One of her own Sisters, and the newest, no less…
She frowned. Lucien wouldn't say that unless he had good reason to – perhaps him and Cecily were to leave for a while?
A metallic knock echoed in the chamber. Ocheeva rubbed the scales of her arms. "Come in."
Cecily herself strode in, red hair cascading down her straight back, her chin tilted upwards. When Cecily had entered the Brotherhood, she'd been a shy little thing with bloodthirst rivaling Antoinetta's. Under the guidance of the Family, she'd bloomed like a poisonous flower. "Vicente said you wanted me?"
Bloody vampire. Ocheeva realised she wasn't surprised – if anyone else could have heard the crescendo of heartbeats in Ocheeva's room, it would have been the neighbouring vampire. Her scales brightened in embarrassment. Their rooms heard nothing of the outside world, but the trapdoor between their rooms leaked enough sound for Vicente's keen ears to let him hear…
Far too much information than the vampire would like to be privy to. Perhaps this was Vicente's way of alerting her.
"Sorry," said Ocheeva, under her breath. "Next time we'll be quieter."
If there even is a next time.
She heard a guffaw from downstairs.
Ignoring Cecily's perplexed look, Ocheeva held up the envelope. "Lucien Lachance dropped this off for you. Open it, and follow the instructions to the letter. It's quite an honour to receive a special assignment from the Black Hand – " the vampire burst into muffled laughter again, and in spite of herself, Ocheeva's mind wandered into the gutter. " – and you deserve it utterly, dear Sister."
Cecily took the envelope, silent in awe. She broke the seal, and pulled out the folded parchment inside. Ocheeva watched her, smiling.
The smile faded when a confused and worried look came upon Cecily's face.
"Is everything alright, Sister?" said Ocheeva.
She remembered Lucien's fear. The goodbye. And now Cecily's special assignment…
A sense of forboding sank into Ocheeva's heart, enough to shed the rest of her exhaustion, and her mind flailed. What's going on?
"Yes," Cecily looked up, but the wavering smile didn't reach her eyes. "I have to take care of something in Bravil, that is all. I have to go immediately."
"Don't let me keep you," Ocheeva said, and the girl strode from the room, the paper hanging between her fingers. The envelope fluttered to the ground.
The Argonian stooped to retrieve it. She turned it over in her hands, as if it held an invisible secret.
But the envelope told her nothing, and Ocheeva's fear remained uneased.
Cecily returned within the hour, paler than the Dark Guardian.
"They didn't want me after all," she spluttered. "Caught me on the road."
Ocheeva attributed the girl's mood to disappointment, but it didn't fade. If anything, Cecily's depression grew worse as the day went on. The imperial patrolled the Sanctuary, driving M'Raaj-Dar and Teinaava mad, wringing her hands. When Ocheeva found her pacing the main room, she took her into a silent hug. Cecily choked and buried her face in Ocheeva's shoulder.
"Is everything alright?" Ocheeva murmured.
The fear in her heart clawed at her. Pay attention, it told her. Do something! There's something horribly wrong!
Cecily nodded. Then suddenly spurted, "I really wanted that contract…"
"I understand," Ocheeva stroked the imperial's hair.
Cecily nodded, holding in her tears, and Ocheeva remembered the girl had never been rejected for an important contract before. It would make sense her reaction would be extreme. "Don't worry," Ocheeva smiled, stepping away but keeping hold of Cecily's shoulders. "They'll choose you for something else, I promise you. You've got so much potential – you've been amazing in your time here. The Night Mother is fortunate to have you with us."
Cecily forced a smile, then burst into tears and excused herself. Ocheeva watched her vanish into the dormitory, puzzled.
The fear didn't move. It screamed, inside her, for her to do something, but Ocheeva felt helpless.
What was there to do? What was wrong?
Cecily seemed to recover by dinner and chatted happily with her Brothers and Sisters. Ocheeva relaxed with a smile, stealing glances along the table. Cecily's jagged and fluttery movements betrayed what emotion remained, but time would, undoubtedly, ease her.
The fear lurked and despaired, folding in on itself. Ocheeva could almost hear it moan in submission.
Too late, it cried. Too late…
Usually a handful of places at the table sat empty, but tonight was Middas night, meaning that even Telaendril was present. Lucien very rarely attended dinner anyway, so his absence was no surprise. She ignored Vicente's smug looks and tried not to flush at the comments he dropped. "Oh, Teinaava, Ocheeva looks tired because she didn't sleep very well last night, if you get my meaning…" Luckily, Teinaava looked hopelessly confused along with the rest – except for Telaendril, who, smirking at Ocheeva, seemed to understand exactly what they meant.
Ocheeva blinked innocently, hoping her brightened scales wouldn't give her away.
Cecily broke out the remaining wine in one of the small barrels, much to M'Raaj-Dar's delight. Glasses were passed around and filled.
The fear whimpered. Ocheeva sipped at her glass – and stopped, sniffing it. Deep beneath the usual smell of red wine, something different…
The shattering of glass pulled her out of her thoughts, and Ocheeva saw a giggling, tipsy Cecily pluck at the shards on the ground. She frowned. Cecily never held her alcohol well…
"You'll cut your fingers!" snickered Telaendril, groping for the dustpan and brush on the shelf, and the glass was scooped up. Teinaava wobbled – he looked like he'd had far more wine than anyone else. Gogron opened a new barrel after retrieving a fresh glass for his Sister – already, the last one had been drained. Antoinetta clung to the table she sat on as if it rolled beneath her.
Vicente caught Ocheeva's eye. This time, he looked concerned. Leaving her half-full glass abandoned on the table, she slipped from the bench to join him at the corner of the room.
"Something wrong?" said Ocheeva.
"Somebody's spiked the wine," said Vicente. He sniffed again.
"No," said Vicente. "I daresay it's a harmless prank. Pretty sure it's skooma. But I'm not participating, and I recommend you don't either. These children," he scowled over at the group of people swaying and chattering together. Gogron and Teinaava burst into a song about pirate wenches, and cackling, M'Raaj-Dar joined in. "need supervision, after all." He dropped his voice. "I didn't smell poison, everybody's safe. Just skooma. Don't think it's the traitor…"
"You've heard the rumours, then," murmured Ocheeva.
"How could I not?" Vicente continued to speak quietly. "Lucien brings up the traitor each time he comes. And yet, he's still suspicious."
"I've kept an eye on everyone," she said. "There's no traitor amongst us. I've checked logs, spied, asked around – on more than one occasion, everybody has been home when another Dark Sibling was found dead. And yet, Lucien seems to think that they may have gotten somebody else to do their dirty work."
"An assassin hiring an assassin," murmured Vicente. He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't believe it. Not here. I know everybody too well, I trust them all."
Ocheeva yawned, feeling reassured she wasn't the only one who'd settled at such conclusions. Vicente gave her a sideways smirk. "Tired?"
"Mrph. You know how it is."
"He had nightmares," Vicente stared into his goblet. "I heard."
"Do you deliberately listen?"
"It stood out," said Vicente. "He hasn't had nightmares since he was brought into the Sanctuary. Thought it was you, at first. He used to wake up crying when he was young. Acted like somebody was torturing him in his sleep." Vicente rubbed his nose. "We're on the brink of something big, Ocheeva."
The fear bubbled in her stomach.
"You can tell, just by looking around," the vampire went on. "The Family is tense, divided – everyone knows that the traitor could be among us. Sometimes Lucien's shouted at you so loudly it'd be a miracle if nobody heard the accusation – the traitor is among us."
"I don't care how stubborn Lucien gets," said Ocheeva. "The traitor is not among us. I'd bet my life on it. My life, Vicente. And yours, and Teinaava's as well. That's how confident I am."
"We need to get on the Black Hand's back," grunted Vicente. "This suspicion of us has gone too far. They need to find the real traitor, and – oh, good gods…"
Antoinettta had slumped over the table. Telaendril burst into laughter and M'Raaj-Dar began to sing another song, off tune, about unconscious zombies. It sounded like the khajiit had made it up on the spot.
"Can't hold her wine," said Gogron, when Ocheeva went to tend to her. Sure enough, Antoinetta breathed. Teinaava cackled and tittered with Cecily. Telaendril staggered.
"Nobody's had that much," breathed Vicente.
"So tired," said Telaendril, then slumped to the ground. Cecily swayed and fell with her. The fear inside Ocheeva flared and screamed.
"Their pulses are fine," Vicente sniffed at the wine – then he swore. "Tranquilisers."
"Anything else you missed?" hissed Ocheeva.
"Definitely not," said Vicente. Ocheeva blinked away tiredness. She could feel the drug pulling at her…
She hadn't had as much as everybody else. But even Gogron was sliding down the wall into a slumped pile beside Telaendril. M'Raaj-Dar's song stopped, and the khajiit groaned.
"What's going on?" said Ocheeva.
"I recognise the tranquiliser," said Vicente. "Not harmful at all, though powerful. It's made from the leaves of nirnroot, you know that one."
"Yes," murmured Ocheeva.
Vicente looked to her. "You get some rest, I've only had a sip. I'll keep an eye on everyone, no harm will come to them. You haven't had much – you'll wake up if someone disturbs you."
"Are you sure you can stand guard?"
Vicente dropped his voice as M'Raaj-Dar curled up on the bench. "Lock your door, just in case. Could be the traitor at work."
"No traitor's been in the Sanctuary," murmured Ocheeva.
"Right now, I'm not so sure," said Vicente. "Whoever did this meant for everyone to fall asleep, so it can't be a group of people doing it. I'll fight somebody off on my own, if it comes to that."
Ocheeva had never, ever, before seen the vampire this worried, and the sight chilled her. Inside her, the fear cried.
Too late, too late, it's too late…
The name cut through the haze of unconsciousness. Ocheeva groaned and stirred.
Teinaava! Ocheeva snapped awake, her head full of cotton and her ears buzzing. She'd heard Teinaava's voice, she knew it –
But she heard nothing, now. She lay there, tense…
Perhaps she was having nightmares now, and had just imagined it. The room was soundproof, after all. But she couldn't tell how long she'd been asleep. She'd stumbled into her room like a zombie and curled over her bed without even putting the lamps out. They still flickered, now, giving her feeble warmth.
Nirnroot and skooma, the revelation suddenly hit Ocheeva like a hammer in the side of the head. They don't go together. They create a poison which sends the drinker into a coma, if enough is ingested, especially when alcohol is involved, except for Argonians who have a natural resistance –
The door opened. Ocheeva hadn't locked it, let alone closed it properly.
She invoked the power of the Shadow just as Cecily stepped inside. The blade flashed red as the stained metal caught the flickering light. The girl looked around with red-rimmed eyes.
What the hell is going on?
The door stood open behind her – Ocheeva slipped past, batting at the sleep which threatened to consume her again, to the dormitory. Felt fur on her leg, looked down – even the rat was dead. Ocheeva picked up her pace, turned the corner –
Her legs weakened. She slumped, still invisible, against the wall.
Vicente. Gogron, Antoinetta, Telaendril. M'Raaj-Dar… Teinaava. She bent beside him, sending ominous ripples in the pool of blood she stepped in.
No, not Teinaava…
Blood still seeped from the slit in his neck. Glassy eyes stared sightlessly. He'd not been dead long –
And he'd called to her. Called to his baby sister.
Vicente? How had Vicente, who had centuries on him, been overwhelmed just by Cecily?
All dead. Gods. Oh, Sithis…
Lucien would pay for this, for not noticing it was his beloved prodigy. And yet – it was all her fault, all her fault. The Black Hand had known Cecily was the traitor, that was why they'd summoned her, but somehow she'd escaped. That's why she'd been crying. She'd been found out, and panicked. And Ocheeva hadn't noticed.
That was why everyone was dead.
But the assassins were dying before she came! Maybe she'd only recently snuck into the Brotherhood, who knew? Ocheeva stood up – she had to get out. Her steps were silent as she ran to the main room, towards the well. She had to find Lucien –
She turned around. Cecily stood behind her. Ocheeva's spell wore off, and she saw a trail of bloody footprints end at her own feet. She hissed, and bent to pull a knife from her boot. "What is the meaning of this?" she snarled. She wouldn't have suspected Cecily, she never had, Cecily had been so devoted… "And you have the gall to cry over it. What the fuck is wrong with you?"
"I'm not a traitor," Cecily's voice shook. "The Black Hand ordered a Purification. That's what the orders were."
"A Purification?!" Ocheeva had never yelled so loudly. "A Purification? You're shitting me! Lucien would never allow – "
Gods. Oh, gods. Gods.
"Sithis." Ocheeva's legs felt as if they would collapse under her. "He did."
The nightmares, the clenched hands, the way he'd woken her so many times in the night to get more of her presence – how could he do this? "Why didn't he defend us?" her voice rose, hysterically. "I told him time and time again that nobody – " her loud voice began to waver and shake. She let out a sob. Sithis save them. Please. They were not traitors.
A cold breeze from behind her alerted her that she and Cecily were not alone. Without turning, she knew who it was. Cecily's eyes glanced past her – then fixed on her again quickly.
I know he's there, little imperial.
But before a knife could sink into her back, Ocheeva flew at Cecily, the dagger gripped tightly in her hands. "I'm not going down without a fight! You'll pay for what you did to Teinaava, to Vicente!"
Cecily dodged, and Ocheeva followed her mercilessly, snarling. Her vision went red, and she let out another furious shriek, until strong arms seized her. She struggled and bucked, but her captor would not let her go.
"Do it now," growled the voice in her ear. "And for the love of Sithis, do it quickly."
Cecily didn't hesitate. And all at once, Ocheeva felt her fear and anger die, replaced by pure despair, only aware of Lucien's warmth at her back. The knife cut through the air towards her –
And then everything went dark.