They walked their way back to Oskar’s camp, leading Lauriam behind them, moving as fast as they could. Their journey felt like mere seconds. Their journey felt like long hours. Oskar’s heart slammed in his chest every step of it. Alessia smelt of lilac and honey, of the bath she’d taken the night before; just beneath it, he could smell the coppery tang of blood, not just the horse’s but hers as well. He’d look to it soon.
It was she who spoke first, breaking the thick silence that had descended between them like a fog. “Oskar.” He turned to her. “I... It’s silly to say, but, I haven’t stopped thinking about you since yesterday.”
He nodded. “Nor I you. I don’t know what it is, but—“
“But you feel it, don’t you?” She passed Lauriam’s reigns to her other hand so she could take his in her own. The fingers of Oskar’s other hand curled into a tight fist, his breath stopping. “I’ve never felt—this isn’t normal, Oskar. Crushes, yes, those are one thing, but...”
Oskar wasn’t sure what a crush was, but he knew her meaning. Things were moving fast. Only a day ago they had—you couldn’t exactly say met, even if they’d given their names, but they had encountered one another. But what of it? If things moved fast, then they moved fast. He’d never felt it before, and so had no way to gauge how intensely he should feel it. His orcish upbringing hadn’t turned the idea of love at first sight into a thing found only in fairytales and storybooks. And anyway, his mother, who had spent time enough among humans to bear him, had always said they were slow to take the things they truly wanted.
“But gods, I snuck out for this. I nearly died for this! Eaten by wolves, so that I could meet you. Should it be this fast? Is it just...?” The question, unanswered, unasked, flapped in the wind.
“My people...” he began slowly, hoping his words did not fail him. “We do not ask these questions. So I find myself ill equipped to answer them for you. When one orc feels something like—like this, for another, they act on it.” He squeezed her hand tight, but never hurting her. “Why I feel this, I cannot say. But I feel it. As do you.”
She squeezed back, but turned away from his eyes. “Exactly! We’ve known each other only a day. Perhaps not even that. Can you love someone that quickly?” She tensed up as she realized the word she had used. “This... thing that I feel for you, I haven’t stopped feeling it since I met you. I’ve felt it before, but... never like this. Never this strong. And it scares me more than those wolves did.” She felt small, weightless, twisting with the breezes that flitted through the trees. Her words she said through a haze.
They walked in silence for a ways.
Until the camp was in sight.
“I love you, Alessia.”
“Don’t say that. Not yet. You can’t know it, and I can’t either.”
“There’s nothing to know. I feel it. Here.” He tapped a finger to the center of his chest. “Here—” the finger rose up to his forehead, and his mouth let a slight smile, “here only confuses things.”
Alessia could feel her heart breaking. She wanted to say yes. Every single part of her wanted that. Her body sang where he touched her, and his words, though simple, were more beautiful than any song or poem any of her previous lovers had written. But like a climber who, in the middle of her ascent, looks down, she found herself frozen. Her life had left her unprepared to be swept up by such simple, powerful emotion. It was more than infatuation, it was more than mere lust. She looked up. They were here, with his bedroll waiting in the hollow of a dead tree. Of course. What it was, was love. Love like a wind. Deny it, fight it, run from it, didn’t matter. Couldn’t escape it. Even if you lived in a house of stone and steel, surrounded by walls, that wind would still find you.
Tears came freely down her cheeks as she turned to him. “I love you too, Oskar, and it scares me.”
He took her in his arms, folding them about her. She pressed herself deep into his chest, the thick fabric of his shirt blooming with salty wet. Oskar held her head, fingers twining into her hair. Slowly her arms slid around him in return, and the howling of that wind died down. They were in the eye of the storm now. An inch either way—
Oskar heard small noises from his chest. He opened up, looked down at her. “Are you alright, Alessia?”
She looked up at him. She was laughing, tears still in her eyes, on her cheeks. “You smell terrible, Oskar. I think you need another bath.”
He grinned, showing off his tusks. She trembled, and hoped he felt it too. He did. “Saving maidens from ravenous wolves is sweaty business.”
She pressed into him, so slightly. Pushing him backward, toward the tree. Her jaw jutted outward in defiance. “And how many maidens are you saving, hm? Taking them back to your war-camp, to have your way with them?”
“Only one. But she’s the most beautiful one I’ve ever lain eyes on.”
She snorted a laugh. “Can I meet her?” Then her hands reached up, took him by the head, and pulled him into a rough kiss.
Alessia’s face reddened as his stubble scoured it, but she didn’t care. He did smell of sweat, but she didn’t mind, sweat and leather and fresh dry timber, she drank it through her nose, moaning ragged exhalations into his lips. He dipped into her neck. She yielded, throwing her head to the side, feeling the tracks of those proud ivory tusks (vampire, she thought dimly, and smiled for a moment).
Hands dipped, pulling at clothes. First came his rough-spun shirt, her fingers brushing over a mountain range of scars as it came up. Both of them growled as they were forced to break their hungry kiss, locked again, twining about the other. He proved less dexterous, fumbling with the buttons that held closed her shirt—one went free, dropping with a soft sound to the dirt below, “Sorry”, he whispered into her mouth, and she only squeezed in response.
One of them spun the other, never were sure who, and she went against the tree, back dug into by all the little nobs and knots of wood, feeling his pressing in on her, hands playing across the gentle rise of her breasts, his rough hands making her eyes roll back in her head. This one was different than the others, yes, oh yes. Oskar’s fingers worked down her body, tickling the sensitive flesh of her belly and cupping beneath her bottom. Her pants came off at some point, pulled down around her knees, and he cupped her as gently as she’d ever been held, one hand under her bottom and the other around her back, turning, laying her down on the bedroll. Two days ago she would’ve complained about a bed like this. Two days ago was a lifetime.
He stood, breathing great heaves, looking down at her with a mixture of longing and terror. She used the opportunity to kick off her riding boots and pull her pants down all the way. Even through the heavy material of his pants, she could see the bulge there, the burning need in his body, every muscle tense. Her mind went back to the stream, back to watching him, to the excitement she’d felt when he saw her for the first time.
Slowly, almost clumsily, he took off his pants. His cock, mottled green, swollen almost painfully, spoke for him of his need for her. Their bodies were as bare before one another as their hearts. He sank down to her, taking hold of her body as she took hold of his. Faintly, she heard him speak:
“Alessia... I’ve never—I don’t—“
A hand took his cheek, pulling him to her. “Shh”, she said softly. “Shh. Oskar, my love, my sweet boy.” He felt her legs moving, wrapping around his body, coiling around him like a serpent, and he felt as small as a songbird in a hurricane. “My Oskar.” Her other hand took him. A small, soft sound slid between his tusks. “Here—“ she rubbed her thumb lovingly on his temple, feeling the shaggy hair bristle beneath her finger, “Here only confuses things.” She guided him. “All you need to listen to—is—this—“
Her hips bucked, pulled him in with her legs. His face buried into her neck, into her breast, too gone even to kiss her flesh, only breathing into her. Her back arched, sinking deeper, and his body took rhythm. Her fingers knotted in his hair, pulling back on him, guiding him with her body, using her hips to move his whenever his lack of experience shone. Whenever he moved, he was careful not to crush her with his weight. Her body squirmed with that exquisite fullness, and as he took over, as his own instincts told him what to do, she felt it building up within her, that old familiar heat.
Now he was beginning to understand. Every thrust he took he drove in on her with all his might, driving the air out of her in a series of short, hungry gasps. From beside her, in her ear, she heard him growling, a low noise that built from somewhere in his throat.
His body was changing. The gentleness that she had felt was beginning to ebb. His thrusts had more weight behind them, driving her deeper into the bedroll. Her fingers dug into his flesh, dragging over and between the scars that covered his back, the only sound over her moans and his lusty rumbling the wet thud of flesh on flesh. Inside her, he found secrets no other lover had, driving back even to her wall. All hesitation, all fear, had flown from him, and from her as well. Now her body quivered, feeling the anticipation of what would be shortly coming.
Again and again, he drove into her, all their concerns stripped away as they had stripped themselves naked, both of them filled with the simplest, undeniable need either of them had ever felt. She held him tight, whispered his name into his ear. He growled her name into hers.
Color bloomed in her eyes. It rose from within her, spreading out like wildfire touched to dry grass, across her entire body, and she pulled him into her depths, held him there, as deep as she could, as she came. Breath failed in her throat, all else fell away, and the only thing there was in the world was this moment, the two of them. She squeezed down on him, felt his cock working inside her, felt through him as he came too. Fire shot up her belly, the warmth of their work spreading into every inch of flesh.
They slowed, then stopped, their motion, cooling down. He thrust a few more times, weakly, all his force spent, and she let her head back, blinking several times, hard, staring up at the hollow tree. They breathed into each other’s ear, and she felt his tusk pressing up against her cheek.
“Are you sure you’ve never done that before?” she said, running her fingers through his shaggy mane.
He held himself up on his elbows, freeing her to breathe, and stared down at her in the bedroll. Sweat caked her; specks of dirt clung therein, and strands of hair were stuck to her face, the rest of it splayed out chaotically behind her. “I’m... I’m only a half-orc, Alessia. They’re not exactly queuing up for me.”
“Then they’re fools. And I’m fortunate for it.”
He looked down at her, and saw the marks of where he had lain his weight on her. He frowned. “I didn’t... crush you, did I?”
She laughed. Again, he was halting, unsure of himself. All the confidence that his body had come into naturally had fled. But as she saw his face darken at her laughter, she stopped. She took his head in her hands, pulled him down into her again. She kissed him. Still he was hilted inside her, and she felt him stir. “No, love. You were far from crushing me. I’m not some fragile flower, you know, even if I did get a bit in over my head.”
“I just didn’t want to hurt you.”
“Never in life, Oskar.” She smiled up at him, at first sweetly, but then with a hungry, mischievous look that Oskar caught the meaning of despite his inexperience. “Though if you’re so concerned about it...” It was a trick she had been shown by one of the combat maestros her parents had brought in to teach her self-defense—somewhat repurposed for maintaining penetration, but it did its work. Oskar was taken over by his own weight, into the dirt, and she slid up atop him. “I told you, I’m no flower.”
He was growing again. Already? Gods, he was. “So I see”, he rumbled, from deep within his throat. “But I hope you don’t think you can tame a beast so easily.” He took his hands about her waist, looking up into her eyes, and brought his knees up for purchase.
She smiled down at him and wriggled her hips. “Tame you? Why on earth would I want to do that?”
They made love again. After that, they stopped to eat something and bathe, which they did together, cleaning each other in the cold, clear waters of the stream where they had first met. There they made love a third time, this time against the very tree behind which she had first spied on him and begun this whole torrid affair.
Now they sat together in his camp, around a fire, as the stars bloomed into life overhead and the sun began to sink low over the mountains. Lauriam nibbled on grass nearby, contented, and the two of them sat with their backs to the old, dead tree in which he camped.
“Too dark for you to go back now”, he said, staring up at the sky. “Those wolves are still around, I’m sure. They’d be on you.”
“I’m sure you can protect us, Oskar”, she said, nuzzled in between his barrel chest and arm, both grizzled with scars beneath his shirt. She felt the steel in them, steel that was as soft as silk whenever it touched her. She would stay the night, yes, and part of her wanted to stay for the rest of her days, but she knew she’d have to go back to her family, and he to his people.
“I’ll see you to the forest’s edge in the morning, and then I’ll return to my clan. Got to get this thing to them before they starve, at that.” He gestured to the elk carcass. “Don’t think they’ll approve of a half-breed taking up with a human.”
Jokingly, she asked him, “Are you that ashamed of me, then, darling?”
“You’d have the more to be ashamed of, I’d say. You who have titles and stature. Anyway, I’m not taking the chance of them catching you. Meet me back here in, say, another month? Thirty days. Soon there’ll be more hunting trips, come winter.”
“You be careful too.” She drew tighter about him. “The folk fear orcs in the forests. If any catch wind of you, they’ll be out in force for your hide.”
He threw back his head and laughed, a clear, high sound that bounced merrily off the trees. “Catch me? Alessia, I grew up in the wild. I move like a wolf, hunt like an eagle, and fight like a bear. Nobody’s catching me.”
That comforted her, and they went to sleep soon after. And though when they woke, she’d never tell her lover for fear of upsetting him, she dreamed of just that happening—of Oskar in chains.