Author's Note/: As promised, I came back. I was going to write the sequel to Spelunking, but it didn't come very easily... and this fic came out of nowhere. It was very much influenced by this certain pic I found on tumblr (the previous link I used didn't work, but now, I uploaded a new link on my profile).


"When a woman wants a man and lusts after him, the lover need not bother to conjure up opportunities, for she will find more in an hour than we men could think of in a century."

-Pierre De Brantôme


There's Lots of Splendor in Serkonos

by Lord Divestre Croft


"Let's go for a walk, Corvo," Jessamine, the Empress of Gristol proposed. "It is terribly stuffy in this house."

The Lord Protector frowned in confusion. "I thought you couldn't stand the heat on this island."

Jessamine shrugged lightly. "There are clouds. The sun shouldn't be so bad today."

"That's because there will be rain today, Your Majesty."

"If it rains, we can always duck into that grotto I told you about earlier. It's just down yonder… under the cliff."

In the end, Corvo had to relent.

Jessamine had always despised the summer heat on the island of Serkonos. Hot, humid days that made her stagger throughout the daytime and made her clothes stick to her fair skin. It always made her itch. And yet, it was always fashionable for the Imperial elite and the nobles to go to Karnaca during the summer.

No surprise, really, since the Serkonians never failed to celebrate their summer festivities, which were far more bacchanal than anything Gristol could ever imagine mustering. If that was the case in a Serkonian summer, she shuddered to think what occurred on the island during the Fugue Feast. Corvo always became tight-lipped whenever she had the nerve to ask.

At the time, the temperature was astounding, and she felt forced to take a walk along the grounds of her summer manor. Of course, Corvo was at her side. It was better than being cooped up inside, and at the very least, the rich, savory wines of the nearby vineyards saturated the air. She strolled under the shade of her parasol, enjoying any cool breeze that passed her by, which was very seldom. The parasol merely protected her from chance rays, not from the mugginess.

The sand roasted the soles of her feet, so they had taken to walking on the tide. The seawater was a blessing.

Jessamine envied her bodyguard, who for the most part, remained virtually unaffected by the smoldering heat. Since they were on vacation and not at a party, Corvo had forsaken his usual long coat in favor of a mere light shirt and pants; though, his sword was still strapped at his hip. She had also taken to lighter clothing, but it had done her no good.

There was no doubt that Corvo was a native. He was born of the Serkonian sun and was made for it. There she was, dripping with sweat, and there he was… with mere droplets studded on his brow. His hair was tied back sharply, revealing a few more watery beads down his strong neck. He was not smiling, for he rarely smiled at all, but Jessamine thought that he could've been enjoying himself.

Or perhaps, she thought, I've mistaken the reflection of the sea for a passionate glimmer in his eyes.

She stumbled against a particularly strong wave, and he caught her, holding her steady. She embraced his arm, feeling the muscles under his shirt, and he glanced the other way, in case someone was watching. Though, since the estate was on a cliff, and they were walking under its protection, far from view, it was merely a force of habit.

Yes, it was blistering hot, and she believed that she was in grave trouble. For… to put it bluntly, Jessamine Kaldwin was hot and bothered… over Corvo Attano.

"Should we not go inside?" Corvo offered. "I know you do very badly in this kind of weather, and you're probably thirsty."

"No," she replied stubbornly, and rested her head on his shoulder.

00000

It had been over five months since Jessamine had confessed her feelings for him. It was completely impulsive and utterly reckless. For the life of her, she still wasn't sure why she had done it in the first place! It had only been another trying yet insignificant day. He was only escorting her to her chambers after she had finished the last of her business. Everything was carried out in simply routine. And like many times, after such a hard day, merely having him at her side, she felt that all the love in her heart would simply overtake her. Only, at that time, it finally did.

Perhaps, it was because, at that night, unlike any of the other nights, he had decided to bless her with one of his rare smiles and a word of tender comfort. He had been so warm and inviting.

Hmmm, Jessamine had thought very often. That must have been what had happened.

Nevertheless, no matter what it was or why, she had ended up launching herself into his arms. And that foolish, hasty confession… she could still remember the initial fright on his face with a chortle. His stoic eyes went wide, and she could actually see bright red on his swarthy cheeks. He faltered and spluttered, turned his head away, trying to find the right words to respond with.

In retrospect, she found his reaction to be awkwardly adorable, but at that moment, she was disheartened and mortified. So, she had forced out a fake yet convincing laugh and tried to pretend that she was having him on. But before she could even finish her act and close the door of her room with dignity, Corvo had rushed right on in and proceeded to kiss her senseless.

Needless to say, he hadn't bought into her ruse for a second.

After a while (perhaps only a minute), he withdrew, giving her a light peck on her forehead, before bowing her head with a typical "Good night, Your Majesty." And then, he had stiffly turned around and marched out of the room, at a pace faster than usual, and Jessamine was left quite alone with a pair of swollen lips.

So, that was the abrupt and frustrating beginning of their relationship.

00000

Jessamine wondered about Corvo sometimes. It was nearly impossible to understand what he was thinking. Though, for what it was worth, she now had a theory that stoic men were secretly kissers of an exceptional degree.

She was happy enough, given the gravity of the situation. Even though they were at each other's side, day after day after day, their moments alone were few and far between and usually at night. Corvo was affectionate, more so than she had hoped possible, but he was incorrigibly strict if she tried to flirt when someone's head was turned. He was accommodating and understanding and even doting in private; however, he either turned a blind eye or was totally dense towards her… secret cravings.

Jessamine had tried many times, in several different ways to inform him. She had attempted subtle methods, such as gradually brushing up closer to his body and obtaining intoxicating perfumes from his native homeland (it was claimed that the scents had mild, male aphrodisiac properties). He enjoyed her new tastes in fragrance and sniffed at her hair like a cat attracted to catnip, but he did nothing more.

Plainly dissatisfied, she additionally began displaying more blatant overtures, like leaving suggestive notes, pulling him into hidden corners for a session of feverish canoodling, whether day or night… or performing an occasional swat or a brazen caress against his well-formed tush. She was always tickled at his embarrassed, red-faced antics. Even if he scolded her for such ribald exploits (especially if people had been about), she could see the clear excitement in the darkening of his eyes and the muffled groan from his throat.

Nevertheless, despite evidence of great progress, Corvo was a tough nut to crack. Even among the daring and racy merrymaking of his fellow Serkonians, he did his utmost to be guarded and fixed. Though, two nights before, she believed she had almost had him…

On that night, they had gone to yet another party. Apparently, at the time, the nobles took to casting off their evening jackets, dancing barefoot on the lawn of their hosts' estates, wearing bright, gaudy masks, and drinking the night away with the choicest and strongest of spirits. The atmosphere was too rowdy, too sensual, and too heady for anyone to notice that the Empress was making a display of herself with her Lord Protector. Even Corvo hadn't resisted the allure of casting his inhibitions to the wind… well, as far as his duty would allow.

Wanting to be alone with him and possibly drunk, Jessamine had led him to the sprawling garden of the host. There was a small bottle of wine in her hand. She reeled him into a soul-searing kiss against the safety of a large tree, and he had yielded with no complaints… and not even a hint of disagreement.

He had become more bold than usual, greedily kissing her with his tongue, smothering her neck with his lips, and wantonly biting her shoulder. Jessamine was forced to wear something high-necked the next day. She had been unbearably stimulated, and by hearing his quiet pants, she had been sure that he felt the same. So, she made the mistake of trying to unfasten his shirt.

Corvo had slowly clutched her tiny wrist with his large hand, licking the corner of his mouth with a quiet grunt. His eyebrow was raised, and she knew that look all too well. A gentle chiding.

"Let's not get carried away now," he had said softly. "What if people missed us?"'

"You always stop at petting!" Jessamine had groused childishly. "And no one would even remember us!"

He had sighed, not unpleasantly though; his breath had been filled with endearment. "Your Majesty… you are positively, insatiably, lecherously hopeless!"

"Jessamine!" she had retorted curtly.

00000

Yes, Jessamine was hot, bothered… and irritated over her own bodyguard.

His head was turned towards the horizon, and he murmured something in nostalgia. She sulkily wrapped her arm around his waist and closed her striking blue eyes. She moaned resignedly, and she felt him shift.

"Corvo," she said dreamily, "do you love me?"

"Yes…to the brink of lunacy," he replied bluntly. "Which is often where you've kept me lately."

"Yes, but do you… like me?"

Corvo stopped dead, and Jessamine felt the tug. He bit his lip and looked down at his feet.

"Corvo…?"

"Yes, I like you… too much for your own good, really. I…"

He swallowed nervously and wrapped his arm around her shoulder, the one he had impulsively marked. A large gust of wind blew, and the clouds thickened.

"I don't…" Corvo hesitated, "… if we were to go any further… and if we continued… the probable outcome… and I can't ever hope to marry you."

"I wouldn't be the first Empress to produce an heir out of wedlock," Jessamine replied. "They often did that in times past to avoid manipulative male consorts. But that's not what bothers you, is it?"

Corvo sighed tiredly. "There are already rumors about us. I don't like it… when people think badly of you. And I'm not keen on ruining your reputation because of my own urges…"

Jessamine gave him an incredulous stare. "If that worried you… then, you should've ignored my confession. We can't go back to where we were before."

"That doesn't mean that…" Corvo started to complain. "Honestly, did you really want the first time to be up against a tree? In someone else's garden?"

"Well…" she rolled her eyes in allowance, "I suppose you're right about that…"

Suddenly, she felt a raindrop against her skin. Corvo saw it running down her cheek. They both looked up at the sky, and it started to sprinkle. It quickly built up into a complete rain shower and continued to grow, and the two were forced to run for cover.

"I told you it would rain," Corvo reminded her.

"Hush!" she snapped.

Jessamine led the way, pointing out the grotto. The opening was small and narrow. She rushed in first, her small frame allowing at, and he crept in afterwards, his larger frame encumbering it. The grotto opened up as they ventured further in; it was tall enough for Corvo to stand up in.

Jessamine dropped her parasol onto the sand and sat down, humming softly.

"When I was a girl," she said, wiping back her damp hair, "I used to come here all the time during the summer. It's much more tolerable than the house."

Corvo sat next to her. The rain shower made it even cooler, which was a pleasant relief.

"I used to have a place like this as well," he replied. "Before the kingdom shipped me off to Dunwall."

"Can we go see it? Before we return?"

Corvo shook his head. "It's not in Karnaca. And… I can't go back there again."

Jessamine sensed a tone of sadness in his voice and scooted closer to him, brushing her shoulder against his arm in solace.

"I don't understand you," Corvo admitted.

Jessamine jumped, with bit of fear and some anxiousness. "What!?"

"Why on earth me… your own Lord Protector?" he asked. "You are by far one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in Gristol, and you're the Empress. You could have any nobleman you wanted in all of the Isles. And as for me… I'm the product of an irresponsible prince and… by the Void… a courtesan! Furthermore, Serkonians are considered the lowest of foreigners in this Empire! And to top it all off, I've killed people. Your Majesty…"

"Jessamine," she corrected sternly.

Corvo exhaled in submission and continued. "Jessamine… I cannot… for the life of me… understand your taste in men."

She simpered a little, shaking her head in amusement, and inched very close.

"I don't believe in tastes," she whispered in his ear. "I just believe in you. Why is that so hard to comprehend?"

She gingerly licked his earlobe, and he winced, squinting one of his eyes. She chuckled, wrapped her arm around his neck, and cupped his cheek with her hand.

"You can be so terribly adorable sometimes," Jessamine declared breathlessly.

Corvo looked her straight in the eye, and a small, charming smile spread on his lips. Something rose in her, and her heartbeat quickened. Whatever look was on her face, an apprehensive mien appeared on his face, and he feebly started to squirm away.

But Jessamine wasn't a woman to be stopped. She pulled him down, hungrily meshing his lips with hers. He kissed back, not very reluctantly, and she slowly grabbed a handful of shirt. She yanked him downward, and he grunted in bewildered shock. The world spun, Corvo fell on his back, and Jessamine quickly straddled him.

"What on…"

Jessamine smirked mischievously and began to unbutton his shirt. Corvo gave her a dark, suspicious look, accusing her of deliberately cornering him.

"Ah, don't glare at me as if I planned this all along," she pouted mockingly. "It didn't even cross my mind until I set foot in the cave… and I wasn't sure how it would work out either…"

He tried to sit up, but she pushed him back down and resumed undoing his buttons. He grabbed one of her hands, stopping her.

"If you don't let go," she smiled perversely, "I'll rip it!"

"But…but…" he stammered.

"Come now. We are all alone, and no one is going to walk in on us in all this rain."

"Bu…"

Jessamine tugged hard on the cloth of his shirt, showing him that she would make good on her threat. Corvo let go, petrified, but rested his fingers on the back of her hands, letting them slip away as they went lower. He took a deep breath, and she watched his half-bare chest with great anticipation.

"Now, someone else's garden is one thing," she murmured, "but you wouldn't possibly object to a tiny grotto on Her Majesty's property, would you?"

His breathing became shaky as she unfastened the last button and opened his shirt, completely exposing him. She licked her lips with a low groan and ran her fingers against his chest. She looked down at him with clouded eyes, and he let out an uneasy yet almost inaudible whimper. He could've still run away. He didn't want to run. He wasn't going to run.

"No one… will miss us?" he asked. She could hear the hinted beginnings of surrender in his voice.

"We have until the rain stops," she said. "And I'm sure we'll have a good excuse."

Corvo swallowed, calming down yet becoming even tenser than before. Jessamine giggled and lowered herself onto him, gently kissing his collarbone.

"Corvo?"

"Y-yes?"

"I love you."