Chapter 36

A/N: Still here. I know. I'm sorry.

War is the best time to be together, and the worst time to say goodbye.

Seara thought on her father's words for quite some time as she sat on the edge of the bed, picking at the bottom of Revak's shirt. It was just as big on her as it always had been, but she was more comfortable in it each time she put it on. He was somewhere in the other room, going through the things he'd brought home from his most recent trip and trying to find places to put them. Despite the fact that they lived together, she was still aching to be closer to him, and the words of war rang true in her heart. They'd always been in the back of her mind, but only now did they truly make sense.

She remembered the day he'd said those words, his voice solemn and wanting. It was after her mother had been killed, while the wound was still fresh and the empty spot next to him in bed haunted him. Seara could see the memories swimming in his eyes as sat up late at night, remembering. As a child, she would always beg her parents to stop acting like the young couple they were. She remembered the way they would laugh together when they worked on the farm, never letting the idea of work stop them from having a good time. When she was still alive, her mother was always full of smiles and never afraid to show affection to her husband when she felt it—and even when she didn't. They never stayed angry with each other for long, because as she said, life was too short to spend her days wallowing in bitterness or holding grudges.

A memory flashed into Seara's mind, sending a smile to her lips. Ma and Da, dancing with each other outside the farmhouse, neither caring how foolish she thought they looked. They held onto each other, spinning their way through cabbage patches and rows of potatoes, wearing grins that were almost too big and dirt for shoes. When she insisted they stop, they just laughed and told her that one day she would understand why they danced. In the cold, surrounded by carts of cabbages, they lost themselves in each other's eyes again.

Silently standing up from her perch on the edge of the bed, Seara set off to find Revak. He wasn't far, just sitting at a small table in the armory examining a few trinkets and gemstones he'd chosen not to sell. There were a few journal pages on the table in front of him which he'd covered in several hastily scrawled notes during the days he was away and he was only half dressed, missing a shirt as though he'd started to come to bed but gotten sidetracked. He looked up as he heard her approaching and gave her a small smile that touched his eyes more than his lips, and she tilted her head at him.

"Busy?" she asked, walking lightly over to where he sat. She ran a hand across his upper back, loving how warm his skin felt.

"No," he told her with a sigh. "Just doing some sorting. Thinking. Digging up old memories." He ruffled up his dark red hair with a free hand, leaving some of the pieces sticking up in odd ways, and Seara wondered whether she'd ever loved an imperfection more.

"It's just one of those nights," she said, sitting on his lap. She draped her arms over his shoulders and kissed his jawbone, whispering. "What kinds of things are you thinking about?"

He hesitated for a few seconds, letting her breath carry the words over his skin. Putting an arm around her waist, he started to absentmindedly brush his fingers over her hip, and the way they felt through the fabric of his shirt brought the ache in Seara's chest to life.

"Too many things at once, brit," he replied in a low voice. He laughed softly, flashing a smile as he touched his nose to hers. "I tend to get caught up."

"There are much better things to get caught up in," Seara said softly, her lips brushing against his.

"Mmm? Like what?"

She met him with a kiss, holding his face in her hands and leaning forward as it deepened, feeling the chair tip slightly. She laughed breathlessly and stood up, pulling him with her and stumbling over his feet as she pressed his body into the wall, unashamed. A bit clumsy, but she figured she still had years to get used to it, and she looked forward to every moment.

War is the best time to be together.

The next morning as she lay in bed before the sun came up, she thought about everything she would see when daylight returned. Revak's boots, his armor, his clothes in the dresser, things he'd put in logical places that weren't so logical to her… and she smiled. It was nice having someone else's possessions mixed in with her own.

With Revak home and the battle won, she thought she might spend the morning in a blissfully warm and sleepy state after he awoke, continuing to admire the mess they'd made together rather than straighten it. Instead, she found herself laying flat on her back, staring up at the ceiling as he came to terms with his inner demons.

"What is it like to be right?" he asked no one in particular, sending his thoughts up into the air. She couldn't see anything, but imagined the words falling flat back down onto his face, making him realize how odd they were to begin with. But she was only tired. "How do you know if you made the right choices?"

"Me?" she sighed, rolling over and putting a hand on his chest, "I just know I've done what's right when I feel at ease. But sometimes… well, sometimes even doing what's right does nothing to ease a soul in unrest."

He said nothing, and she knew he certainly wasn't at ease. He placed a hand over hers, and even though he wasn't saying anything, she could almost hear his thoughts buzzing around wildly with nowhere to go.

"What are you feeling off about all of a sudden?" she asked.

"It's not really sudden," he told her. "I've been wondering about it for a while. It's just… this war."

"The war you just potentially helped the Stormcloaks win? You're wondering now?"

"Well, I…"

"You had another nightmare, didn't you?"

Revak put his hands over his face and rubbed his eyes, letting out a groan as he sat up. He'd been waking up several times a night since he returned from Sovngarde, only to pace around until he could fall asleep again. There were Imperial soldiers haunting his thoughts, awake and asleep, throwing words of damnation at him and sending them into his heart. The worst part of it all was that they stuck there and took root, digging their way deeper until he couldn't think about anything else.

"I'm always having them," he confessed, producing a small flame between his fingers and lighting the candle next to the bed. He shook his hand and the flame spell extinguished itself.

Seara pushed her bad thoughts away, sitting up and putting her arms around him. He looked down at her ring and a small smile formed on his lips, quickly fading.

"What if the things they say are right? What if I'm fighting for the wrong side, and not only that, I encouraged you and Til to fight for it as well? What if those Imperial soldiers in Sovngarde weren't just portrayals of my guilt, okaaz miin? What if they were really there? Because it was they who died doing what was right?"

"I've never supported this war," Seara told him. "I support the right for the people who fight in it to live, but I would never join the ranks myself. Ralof asked me if I would, and I told him no. There are some things that just aren't worth it. Ulfric may have been a great man with a noble cause once, or maybe he was always just corrupt and power-hungry with a talent for hiding it. Regardless, just like you told Hadvar before he died… the cause isn't what it used to be."

"I desperately want to believe that as Stormcloaks, our reasons are just. But since being home again…" He let himself fall backward, flopping down on the bed and staring at the ceiling again, watching the light from the flickering candle flame dance across the wooden beams above them. "I'll admit, I've been looking for reasons to be proud of what I'm doing for Ulfric… and I can't find any."

"Maybe you just need something to take your mind off of it," Seara suggested. "You're leaving for Riverwood tomorrow morning. Spend your last day home thinking about something else for a change, hmm?"

"I'd happily accept a more specific suggestion if you have one, askk." he said, smirking. He met her gaze and smiled, and her heart sped up the same way it had when they'd first met. She bent over him for a kiss, loving the way it felt to have him return it. Both of them were thankful for the distraction and for the time they had to enjoy it; time in general had been a rare thing in the recent past and was almost foreign. He ran his fingers through her hair again, and she was captivated by the feelings he gave her. The sun started to come up as they kissed, losing track of time.

"Don't leave," she pleaded. "Don't go anywhere. Stay."

"Okay," he promised in a low voice. Somehow, even though she knew he wasn't serious, his promise made her feel better. She'd missed him immensely. She still missed him, even though he was right there with her. His lips met hers with the preemptive feeling of loneliness, as if her mind was already preparing for him to be gone again. "I'll be here for as long as you let me stay."

There was a knock on the door from downstairs, and Revak closed his eyes at the sound, frustrated.

"Courier!" shouted a voice from the other side.

"It can wait," he said quietly. The knock came again.

"It's marked as urgent!"

"Apparently not," Seara told him. He groaned and got out of bed, heading downstairs. A minute or so later, he returned with a piece of parchment in hand and eyebrows drawn together in stress and worry.

"It's from Galmar," he said. "I've been requested at the palace courtyard within the hour. They've found reason to be suspicious of the elves living in the Gray-Quarter and they want to do… interrogations."

He looked down at the darkened floor, and Seara could see the candlelight flickering over the regret on his face.

"Here." She climbed out of bed and grabbed his uniform, holding it out to him. If there was anything she could do to help him feel better, she would do it. She smiled at him and his eyes lit up as they met hers, appreciative. "It's alright. I'll go with you. We can at least make our way together."

And so they did. The stone streets were treacherously icy, as it was still early enough in the morning that no one had gone outside to sprinkle salt on the paths. Seara nearly slipped several times and found herself laughing over it, enjoying her husband's company for the little time they had left together.

They continued on this way until they reached the graveyard, which had become a much more solemn place than it had been when Revak had given his battle speech. The weapons of dozens of the men and women who had stood in the very same spot, cheering for the words he'd spoken, were lined against the stone walls and adorned with shields, helmets, and whatever other things the fallen soldiers had kept close to their hearts when they'd fallen. Several of these small monuments had offerings lying at their bases of gold, flowers and letters. Revak was quiet as he looked around at them, remembering. His eyes were heavy with the loss of friends, his shoulders slumped. Seara squeezed his hand and he squeezed back.

"I can see them," he said solemnly. "Every one of them. Some of them were too young to even be out on their own. So many lives unfulfilled." He shook his head, willing his bad thoughts away, and another mourner approached them. A young woman dressed in black and wrapped in a long cloak with the hood drawn, her dark hair falling in sheets around her face. She looked like a traveler, someone who'd come a long way to visit the makeshift graves around them, but Seara had no doubt she could protect herself. There was a shining black bow on her back, exquisite, accompanied by a quiver full of arrows. As she passed them, she slipped on a patch of ice and nearly fell, using Revak's arm to catch herself. He helped her stand up straight again, but said nothing, eyeing her feet suspiciously.

"Hmph," she muttered. She turned her face away and walked past them, stopping in front of a sword and helmet several yards away. She shuffled her feet as she looked down at it, covering her boots in snow. Sniffling, she wiped her nose.

"What connection do you have to Solfdar?" Revak asked, just loud enough for her to hear.

"He was a cousin," she said without missing a beat. "I haven't even gotten a chance to rest, and I've just finished the journey to pay my respects. If you don't mind, I'd like a few minutes in peace to do so."

Revak tilted his head at her, narrowing his eyes. For a reason unbeknownst to Seara, he was livid.

"She's with the Guild," he accused in a low, malicious voice. "Did you make your way from Riften?"

Without answering, she turned to leave, her cloak fluttering behind her.

"Aren't you supposed to make yourself presentable before paying your respects?" he spat.

"Revak," Seara whispered. He took several strides forward, walking after the woman and yelling at her back.

"How dare you show yourself here and put on one of your acts, lying about the loss of a good man to steal the coin of their family and friends in mourning!" He pushed her, but she stood strong against his accusations and braced herself. "I can see your boots, sneak-thief. You should be ashamed that you can stand here and pretend any of these men and women meant a thing to you while you wear that armor and stench of the Ratway!"

She whirled around to meet his gaze, defiant. Her face, darkened by her hood, appeared to be deeply scarred.

"Oh, the stories I've heard about you." Her voice was drawn out, as cold as the ice at their feet. "You once stood where I stand, Dragonborn. Once upon a time, you wore the same armor I wear, and you wore it proudly. The only difference between us is that you abandoned your family for a life of fame and recognition. Am I really the one who should be ashamed?" She held out his coin purse with a smirk, offering it to him. Seara hadn't even seen her take it. "If the gold means that much to you, you can have it back. We don't even need your pocket change anymore, traitor. The Thieves' Guild has grown, no thanks to you."

He knocked the coins out of her hand and they scattered on the stone beneath them, clinking against each other and ringing in the quiet morning air.

"Keep your dirty work's wages," he sneered. "Tell your family I said 'hello.'"

She turned to leave, a satisfied smirk making its home on her lips. Revak watched her go, doing nothing to stop her, and when Seara looked up at him, there was a deep sadness in his eyes.

"Let's go," she said, grabbing his hand. She started to walk, but he didn't move. "She's gone. Let her be."

Revak gave a short, agitated laugh, looking up at the sky as the fresh snow continued to fall.

"The gods won't let me forget anything I've done."