Studies in Orc-Human Relations
by misscam/Camilla Sandman
Disclaimer: Not my characters, just my words.
Author's Note: The timeline would put this just before patch 3.3 in gametime. Vague references to a role Jaina will take in it, nothing beyond what Blizzard has already revealed.
It's always cold in Northrend, metaphorically and literally so. Literal for all constant winter, metaphorical for the lack of life in more than one way. Jaina is still not used to the continent, despite multiple visits and she finds herself wishing she had brought more furs. Especially this time.
She might not be leaving Northrend again and she doesn't want the last thing she feels here to be cold.
Thrall's tent is warm enough, not that she would expect anything less of a shaman with such mastery of the elements as him. She is grateful he has dismissed his guards this time and that Garrosh is not here. What she has to say is for Thrall alone.
"I thought he would have learned by now," Thrall continues, long into his complaints about Garrosh. She has only half listened, truth be told, but she thinks Thrall needs someone to voice it aloud to more than someone who listens. "His actions in Dalaran deeply disappointed me."
"I was not pleased with King Wrynn's disposition either," she admits, an understatement they both know is exactly that. But her Theramore is small and Stormwind has regained strength. Certain things must remain understatements for the sake of peace.
Thrall knows it and smiles faintly, a smile she returns before it falters and she feels so very tired and cold again.
"What is it, Jaina?" he asks and there is a tone to his voice she has not heard before. It takes her a moment to realise it's a hint of fear.
For her, she knows instinctively. Maybe he even knows what she is about to say.
"I am going to the citadel," she says, her voice clear and cold even to her. "I must know if there is anything left in him of Arthas."
"Highlord Fordring thinks there is not," Thrall says after a moment. "I do not believe him to be untrue."
"I don't either," she assures him. "But Tirion did not know Arthas as I did. I have to... I have to be sure, Thrall."
She can see him consider her words, keeping his blue eyes on her all the while.
"Yes," he says, almost as if it is to himself. "If it had been Tari, I would have wanted to be sure too."
"And if it had been me?" she asks before thinking, as Antonidas all too often chided her for in her youth.
The winds of Northrend suddenly seem the least cold thing in the tent, as a chill sets in her bones. It could have been, she knows. It could have been her. If she had gone along with Arthas at Stratholme, if she had gone with him to Northrend, if she had touched Frostmourne too...
The Lich King and a Queen, she imagines absurdly. Arthas and Jaina carved in ice like Arthas once carved the names in a tree such a lifetime and youth ago.
"If it had been you," Thrall repeats and she looks at him. "I would not accept it."
The words seem to thaw something in her and Thrall's eyes are strangely warm as they stay on her.
"You are an honourable woman, Jaina Proudmoore. There is no evil in your heart, only the grief for what is lost."
"You are a very dear friend, Thrall," she tells him in return, smiling faintly. "I will remember your words."
She can see he intends to see more, but she rushes ahead before he can, determined to get through all she intends to say.
"Thrall, If I do not return, you must not let what we have built fall."
"You will return," he says, and it almost sounds like a command.
"You must keep the peace," she insists. "Even if the Lich King is defeated, there are other forces in this world that would rather see us at war. You must..."
"We," he says, and now there is anger in his voice., growing. "Jaina, you have not come to say goodbye to me."
She had planned it so, she thinks, but she hadn't expected this much fury in him. She can't help but put a calming hand on his arm, feeling his muscles flex as she does.
"I did not wish to leave something unsaid between us," she says quietly, and before he can protest she goes on. "Not a goodbye. Just words long overdue."
He is so very still when she leans forward and kisses him, carefully avoiding his tusks. She isn't sure what orcs consider romantic, but she is sure Thrall grew up among humans enough to know the meaning of a kiss.
When she pulls back, he follows, leaning his forehead against hers.
"Arthas was my first love," she whispers. "He will not be my last."
There, it is said. The one thing she wanted Thrall to know above all and she only recently came to realise herself.
"You will be my last," Thrall says, and she has to chuckle a little. "What?"
"I just imagined Varian's face if he heard us," she says and Thrall laughs heartily at that. She has to laugh with him, the sound too irresistable and the will to much too strong.
"I do believe we have found one thing Garrosh and Varian would have in common," Thrall says as his laughter fades, causing hers to erupt a little again. He watches her, blue eyes bright and his hand come carefully to rest at her hip.
"Thrall, would your guards find it odd if I kept you occupied a little longer?" she asks, glancing at the many furs he has stacked in his tent to keep the cold out.
"They already find it odd I welcome you in," he replies. "They will say nothing, Jaina. I am the Warchief. It is my privilege to be odd."
She nods at that, her fingers braiding themselves into one of his braids.
"I have never bedded an orc," she admits.
"Nor I a human," he admits. "There are some among my people who say it is an agreeable experience, and I do not believe they would lie to their Warchief."
"You have asked your people about sexual experiences with humans?" she asks and Thrall looks slightly embarassed.
"I did not wish to be unprepared, if you ever..." he trails off, then seems to find words that sound less awkward. "I always liked to study."
All she ever wanted to do was to study, she remembers. An innocence ago. Before a human became the enemy of all living and an orc became the dearest of all living to her.
She kisses Thrall again, much less carefully this time, brushing one of his tusks with her thumb while her fingers rest against his cheek. It is uncomfortable to tip-toe to reach, but a moment later his arms go around her and lift her as easily as if she was made of air.
She feels furs under her as he settles her down, carefully not putting his weight on her as he settles down next to her.
"Are you sure about this, Jaina?" he asks, and for a moment she imagines Arthas, saying the same words and leaning over her too. She was sure then, so very sure she would be a great sorceress and Arthas would be a great paladin and they would love each other forever and ever and beyond the nether.
She will not be arrogant again. She has seen where it can lead, where it led. She will not be sure of anything.
"No," she tells Thrall, kissing his nose when he looks confused. "But I want it. I want you."
Tomorrow, she may go to her death for the mere hope of redemption for her first love. Tonight, she keeps her eyes open to the touch of an orc, the unlikely (about-to-be) lover she'd like to come back to.
It's always cold in Northrend.
Tonight she forgets that.