The stairs of the old inn creaked as he ascended. For all the fact that Kul’Tirans were larger than average for humans, they hadn’t built these stairs to handle him. Sutrakarre chuckled softly to himself as he listened to the wooden steps complain. Reaching his room, he turned the key and nudged the door in slightly, peeking through. Past experience had told him to check first before swinging the door open; he could never be sure when Eli might be waiting there for him, naked as the day of her birth. Grinning at the thought, he peered inside.
She was there, but not as he expected. Other than having kicked her boots off, she remained fully clothed. She sat on the bed, cross-legged, methodically sharpening one of her daggers. Sutrakarre’s thoughts were confused. He was unsure if he should feel disappointed or relieved. On one hand, nights with Eli were one of the best things in his life. On the other, it had been a long day, and he wouldn’t mind a break. Pushing the door open, he bowed his head and stepped through. Eli looked up from her whetstone and grinned at him as she heard him enter.
“Hey, big guy,” she said. She sounded like her usual self, but oddly, not. Her tone was soft, less brash than usual.
“Hello,” he replied, eyeing her warily.
She got up and began helping him undo the straps of his armor. By itself, not unusual; Eli often wanted him out of his armor quickly, so she often helped. It felt different, though. She wasn’t in a hurry. She seemed concerned about actually helping him, not just getting him naked. When the heavy armor had been removed, he – softly and very carefully – said, “Thanks for help.”
More true to form, she smacked his buttocks and laughed, saying, “No problem, big man.” Looking at the pile of armor, she asked, “I thought you were doing Counselor work today? What’s with the gear?”
“Sutrakarre went to see Silannah.”
Eyes going wide, she mockingly said, “I know you said she hates the sessions, but you need to be armed?”
Chuckling softly, he replied, “Silannah is in Darkshore. Is dangerous now.”
“I know, you big idiot,” she said, punching his arm. He smiled at her, but his smile hid concern. Something in her manner was very much off. A hopeful spark in him wanted to make assumptions, but he had long since suppressed that hope. He knew she might never feel anything, much less feel as he did. But something was still strange.
Thus it was for the whole evening. They ate together, bringing food up from the tavern below to share in their room. Sutrakarre read, and Eli sharpened her weapons and patched her armor. They talked, but it was small talk, and to Sutrakarre’s trained ear, it felt forced. There was something she wanted to say, or to ask, or to do, and she didn’t know how. A million thoughts whirled in the draenei’s head, but he voiced none of them. Unravelling the mystery of Eli had taught him more patience than anything else in his long life, so he waited for her to figure it out. He knew she would not be pushed.
The night wore on that way. Long after the sun had set, he asked her if she was staying.
“Do you mind,” she asked. She never asked, she just stayed if she wanted.
“Eli is always welcome,” he said carefully. She smiled at him by way of a thank you, and stripped down for bed. She might be acting a little strange, but she was still Eli. No trace of modesty was in evidence as she pulled off her clothes and burrowed under the blankets. He stripped down himself, and crawled in with her. She nuzzled in next to him, climbing up to lay her head on his broad chest. Sutrakarre was still surprised by this. Eli was not – or at least had never before been – a cuddler, but recently this behavior had started. He wasn’t sure what had changed, but he welcomed it. He lay a hand on the small of her back, and craned his neck to kiss the top of her head. She sighed happily, which itself was another remarkable change. Only months before, that kiss would have angered her.
They lay that way for a while, each one listening to the other breathe. Without warning, Eli propped herself up on her elbows, looking at his face. He returned her gaze, and saw a look on her face he’d never before witnessed. The tenderness in her eyes was matched by what he could only call vulnerability. So alien were both of these that Sutrakarre at first could not believe he was seeing them on her. Without a word, she leaned in, and pressed her lips to his. He froze for a moment, utterly shocked. She had never kissed him. Kisses were real affection, not just having fun. But she was doing it now. It wasn’t aggressive. It wasn’t hungry.
It was just a kiss.
A blade slipped across the orc’s throat. She pulled her hand away, dropping the body before the blood even began to ripple out. Moving to another, and another, Eliân cleared the building in short order. The soft soles of her shoes whispered on the stone as she slipped from the corridor.
Done with her day, she made her way back to Boralus. As she emptied her pockets of the baubles acquired from her looting, she traced a finger along a new shirt at one of the stalls. Dropping a couple of coins on the table, she picked it up and tucked it into her bags. As she handed the reins of her horse to the stable boy, it struck her. This feeling. She wanted to see him. Tugging her saddlebags off, she blinked. She wanted to see him. Not simply wanted him, which was her usual. But to be in the warmth of his presence. She shook her head to clear it and made her way to the inn. Foolish. What nonsense.
She pulled the key from her pocket and opened the door. Dropping her bags beside the door, she made her way to the bed. The woman stripped down out of her armor, she pulled on the new shirt and a pair of simple pants. Taking a whet stone, she started sharpening a dagger, slow, steady strokes. It would be so much better, if he were here, she thought to herself idly. Wait…what?
When Sutrakarre finally arrived, she couldn’t help but grin. Something within her felt odd though. Normally she would have thrown herself at him, pulling his armor free in an attempt to rid all obstructions. But as she started, she felt, again? what the fel?… She moved slowly, relishing in the act of removing it, rather than focusing on the goal.
His ‘thank you’ struck her within in a way she did not really understand. It was his usual, quiet way and yet, different. She gave him a smack and ran her hand down the front of his linen shirt. It struck her that she was… what? Upset? that he’d go to Darkshore to speak with Silannah, armed and armored, without telling her. Why should I be upset? It’s his job. Stupid. But all the same, there was this nagging at the back of her mind. She swallowed it down, tried to be herself.
Big Man’s acting weird tonight. Like he’s nervous. She kept her thoughts to herself, as she climbed into the bed. As he settled in next to her, the bed complained a little under his weight. His towering form beside her, she felt compelled to curl into him. Something about my face on his chest is just…what? Comfortable?
His lips pressed against her forehead and a growing warmth moved through her. She listened to the steady rhythm of his heart beat for a while. When he kissed me there it felt…nice? Maybe if I… She thought about it quietly for a time before sitting up. She studied his face, his eyes watching her carefully. If I just…oh fel with it. She brought her lips to his. His chest rose suddenly as a breath of surprise caught him. But she let her eyes drift closed, and simply kissed him.
The kiss lasted forever. Sutrakarre feared to even move, lest he break the spell. Eliân barely knew what she was doing. Her head whirled with confusion, but at the same time, she could not deny the sweet of warmth in her chest when her lips pressed against his.
Is this what everyone else feels, she thought, awestruck, what has he done to me? She pulled back so she could see his face. He looked at her, that tenderness she always saw in his eyes mingled with something like apprehension. She smiled a small smile, biting her lips slightly. I guess I can’t blame him, she thought.
Sutrakarre watched her carefully, his whole body tense. He didn’t want to believe she would harm him, but he also knew the risks. His experience told him that she stood on the edge a breakthrough, but that could be dangerous. Sometimes it was a doorway; others, a precipice. Eliân was one of the most volatile souls he had ever encountered. He waited in silence, to see which way she would go.
Slowly, she crawled up, moving one leg over to straddle him. She was not aggressive, nor did she leap into place. On any other day, she would have driven downward, impaling herself on him. Instead, she moved up, and kissed him again, even more gently than before, taking his head in her hands.
“Sutrakarre?” she whispered it.
Just as quietly, he replied, “Yes, Eli?”
“Take m…I mean…” she laughter at herself, softly but with an edge of hysteria, “I don’t even know the right words.” Sutrakarre just stared at her, slightly mystified. Sighing, she said, “Do it…do it the way you want to.”
Confused, he said, “Sutrakarre likes…”
She interrupted him gently, “No, Sutra, the way you really want to.”
With wide eyes, he answered, “Eli wishes to…make love?”
She cried out, “Yes,” before lapsing back into laughter, “that’s what normal people say, right?”
“Aye,” he said carefully.
Her laughter fading, she looked at him with shining eyes and whispered, “Make love to me.”
So he did.