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Who Needs Mara?

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Home sweet home, finally. After yet another soul saved for Sithis (an itinerant lumberjack in Morthal), another bedlam job for Delvin (Solitude this time) and a dragon taken care of in the Giant's Gap, Inariel was shattered. She'd finally ridden Shadowmere into Whiterun stable yard at around 10pm, Cicero sitting behind and clinging to her, and was now slipping quietly into Breezehome. It had been a toss-up as to whether to head north to the Sanctuary or south here, and while she knew Cicero would have preferred the former option, she'd seen the lights of Whiterun twinkling in the distance and ridden for what she considered her home city now.

“Made it. Thank Sithis,” she murmured. No sign of Lydia – her housecarl must be in bed. Probably for the best – Lydia and Cicero had a somewhat uneasy relationship at best. Lydia freely admitted the little jester creeped her out and that she was always a bit afraid he was going to strangle her in her sleep. Cicero for his part, while being perfectly polite on the surface, always seemed to have a thinly-veiled air of malice whenever she was in the room, as if she'd personally offended him in some way. It was chafing on Inariel no end, but Breezehome was her favourite home in her favourite city and she wasn't avoiding it just because Cicero hated her housecarl.

“Cicero would have rather we'd gone back to the Sanctuary,” Cicero muttered. “Mother needs tending, he is sure of it.”

“Mother is fine, we were there three days ago,” Inariel sighed. “Come on, help me unload, all this stuff needs storing.” As always, Inariel's travels invariably resulted in her accumulating all sorts of things, from jewellery and gemstones, to potions and poisons, to the heap of dragon scales and bones they'd taken off that frost dragon. She'd had to give half of it to Cicero, who had carried it uncomplaining all this way. Time to give the poor man a break.

She led him into her little alchemy lab, where there was a storage chest and bookshelf that could hold all this rubbish. Cicero stood by, happily passing her things and humming to himself as she stashed everything away. Finally she was done.

“That is so much better,” she sighed, exhausted. She sank into the chair she'd moved near her table and alchemy lab, put her dragonscale helmet to one side, peeled off her Nightingale gloves and rested her head on the table, about ready to go to sleep. She briefly contemplated asking Cicero if he'd consider carrying her upstairs as well, but decided not to push her luck. Being the great and powerful Listener would only go so far. He wasn't her personal slave after all.

“Tired, Listener?” He'd crept up without her even hearing him, standing at her shoulder, one hand trailing across her shoulders. “Would my Listener like a back rub?”

Yes. Yes, Inariel would love a back rub, thank you very much. She unfastened the clasp on her cloak, letting it hang over the back of the chair, took her Amulet of Mara off (much good the wretched thing was doing her) and let Cicero get to work.


Cicero couldn't help but smile as he watched her, his eager fingers sliding over that grey-blue armour of hers as he worked the aches and pains out of her shoulders. His beautiful Listener, hair the colour of spun gold and skin that was a translucent shade of golden yellow and the most beautiful green eyes he'd ever seen. When they'd first met all those months ago, him cursing the broken wheel that had stranded him in the middle of nowhere, and her jogging past in a gleaming set of Elven armour, clearly on her way somewhere important, no one had been more surprised than him when she'd glanced at him, stopped, smiled that heart-meltingly lovely smile of hers at him and asked if he was alright. He'd seen his fair share of Altmer before... but none that took the time out to be kind to poor Cicero and help him, no. She'd helped him get his wheel fixed and gone on her way and he'd never thought he'd see her again – until she'd walked into Falkreath Sanctuary in tight-fitting Shrouded Armour and Cicero had been a doomed man from that moment forth. Now she was his Listener, and he knew he'd do anything for her. Anything at all. Right now she was aching and tired, and if this was the only way poor unworthy Cicero could ever touch and satisfy his Elven lovely, he would happily do it for her and never stop. She was moaning happily at every knot his fingers teased out and Cicero could listen to her all night. Sithis, she was lovely.

Inariel finally sat up, and he reluctantly let her go, sitting by her side on the floor in case she needed him for anything else.

“Thank you,” she said, smiling that heavenly smile at him, and Cicero could feel his cheeks blushing and his trousers tightening.

“It's nothing, Listener,” he murmured, shifting position so she wouldn't realise just quite how hard he was.

“Bless you,” she said in that sweet, sweet voice of hers. “Always so polite. Wish there were more men like you out there.”

Cicero wasn't sure what to say to that, so he said nothing. She fell silent, closing her eyes, clearly close to sleep. Cicero wondered if he should perhaps clear away the things she'd left on the table, but decided against it. That grey-blue set of armour was far and away her favourite, the dragonscale helmet was her pride and joy and she was attached beyond all reason to that amulet. Why, Cicero had no idea.

“Listener,” he began. “Can Cicero ask a question?”

“Of course you can, sweetie,” said Inariel sleepily.

“Why do you like that Amulet of Mara so much? The Listener of the Dark Brotherhood cannot possibly be a worshipper of the goddess of mercy and compassion, surely? Cicero very rarely sees you demonstrate either, well not to most people anyway although you have been more than merciful to poor unworthy Cicero. It cannot be for the Restoration enchantment either, as you do not favour Restoration spells other than sometimes the healing ones. You have many prettier bits of jewellery, so why that one?”

Inariel sat up, those emerald eyes blinking back at him. “You don't know??”

“Know what?” Cicero asked, confused. He was clearly missing something, but had no idea what.

“Know what it means to wear one in Skyrim – Sithis, you've not got a clue, have you?”

Cicero shook his head. How would he know? He'd lived in Cyrodiil all his life, been in Skyrim less than a year and most of his social interactions had been with Dark Brotherhood members. Rituals of Mara rarely came up in conversation.

“It's a sign the wearer's looking for a husband, or wife. Nords don't really do elaborate courtship, it's basically a matter of wear amulet around people you like and hope someone nice responds. When they do, you snatch them up and off to the temple you go. At least in theory, anyway. No one's exactly beating down my door.” Inariel scowled at the amulet, thoroughly miserable.

Cicero could barely believe what he was hearing and didn't know whether to go and slit a few Nord throats for thinking his Listener was beneath them or run around squealing in delight at the Listener being single. In the end, he settled for sheer incredulity.

“The Listener isn't married???”

“No,” Inariel sighed. “I must have done favours for half the country but no one's interested. Honestly, I'm thinking of going to Riften and asking for my money back.”

“But... Cicero thought... is Lydia not your wife??”

Inariel burst out laughing. “No! She's my housecarl and my friend, but we're not married! She's involved with one of the Companions – he's built like a Dwarven Centurion and hairier than a snow bear, but she loves him to pieces.”

Cicero could have wept with relief. No need to poison Lydia's mead after all! The sweet Listener was single, single, gloriously single!

“No one is interested in the sweet Listener? No one at all?” Best to make absolutely sure there was no one else he'd have to murder to ensure the Listener didn't get involved in any unfortunate entanglements...

“No one,” Inariel sighed. “Sucks to be me, eh?”

“But... what's wrong with Skyrim??” Cicero cried, unable to restrain himself. “Can they not see? Do they not have eyes? Surely the Listener's striking good looks haven't completely passed them by?”

“You try being an Altmer in Skyrim,” Inariel said miserably. “Everyone looks at me and sees Thalmor or Aldmeri Dominion despite the fact I left Summerset Isle a century ago and hate the Thalmor. And the ones that don't... they all can't stand the fact that I'm taller than most of them. Nord men are such shallow bastards, Cicero.”

“Nord men are clearly unworthy,” said Cicero, patting her thigh – it was the only bit of her he could reach easily from where he was sitting.

“Not just the Nords either,” said Inariel. “Every man I've ever met is shorter than me, apart from other Altmer and most of them are insufferable. In fact, you're probably the only man I've met who hasn't seemed terribly bothered by the height difference. All the others have got such a chip on their shoulder about it, but you don't seem to care or even notice.”

“Cicero has been shorter than most other people all his life,” said Cicero, shrugging. “He is used to it. He especially doesn't mind the Listener being taller. It's only fitting.”

Inariel laughed. “Bless you, Cicero. You're such a sweetheart.” She reached down and patted his cheek affectionately. “Really, why aren't there more men like you around? You're really quite lovely when you're not murdering people.”

Cicero knew he was blushing this time, but he couldn't help it, the dear Listener was too kind and sweet to poor helpless Cicero. No one had been either to Cicero for so long, so long! Now here was the loveliest woman in Skyrim being both. What was a fool to do?

“Cicero thinks the Listener is lovely all the time, especially when she's murdering people,” said Cicero. “Cicero thinks the Listener is perfect.”

Inariel's smile faded as she stared down at him, her cheeks turning a faint shade of rose pink. Cicero realised to his horror that he'd said far more than he'd ever meant to and now she knew, she knew and now it was all over, it would be horrible and awkward and embarrassing and he'd have to go back to the Sanctuary and stay there and never travel with his sweet Listener again, and she'd get into trouble without him and die, and everything would fall apart and and and...

Cicero scrambled to his feet and bolted for the door. He didn't know where he was going and he didn't care, he just had to get out of here before the Listener recovered from the shock and disembowelled him for his impertinence.

“Cicero! Cicero, wait! Cicero! WULD!”

The next thing Cicero knew, he was crushed against the door of the alchemy room, with the Listener pressed against him, her gorgeous breasts right up against the back of his head. Half a dozen of Cicero's many many fantasies about the Listener had started with a similar scenario, but Cicero didn't think this would go anything like as well as those had.

“Cicero,” she whispered. “Why didn't you say something earlier?”

She'd backed off a little, letting him breathe again. Cicero relaxed, the gentleness in her voice reassuring him that he wasn't going to be immediately stabbed and left to bleed.

“Cicero is sorry,” he whispered, still shaking. “Cicero was never able to, his duties to Mother left him very little time for love even if dearest sister Inariel had looked on him as anything more than her simple fool of a brother. And after... oh Listener, how could Cicero bother the Chosen of Sithis with his foolish desires? She has the Night Mother in her head, why would she even look twice at poor, humble Cicero?”

“Sweetheart.” The exquisite tenderness in her voice made his heart ache and now she was stroking his back, touching her wretched fool of a Keeper. He did not deserve such kindness, no.

“Cicero, honey, look at me. Turn around and look at me.”

Slowly, ever so slowly, Cicero turned around, never having felt quite so terrified in all his thirty-eight years. Trying not to whimper, he lifted his eyes to finally meet hers.

She was smiling at him, that beautiful smile that always made his loins twitch and his heart ache, and it was like staring into the face of the sun – it could burn his eyes out, certainly left him ruined for anyone else, and he didn't care, couldn't look away.

“Listener?” he whispered.

“You should have told me,” Inariel said softly. “I had no idea. Sithis, I thought you preferred men!”

“What??” Cicero couldn't deny there had been the odd... encounter in the past but his preference had always been women, always. For some reason they were always nicer to poor Cicero. “No, no, Listener, Cicero is not... he isn't... he likes women! He likes you! He... he loves you.”

Well, he might as well go the whole way and embarrass himself completely now that he'd started this whole mess, hadn't he?

To his utter astonishment, she was biting her lip and looked like she was about to cry.

“Listener, I'm sorry, please don't cry,” he whispered, guilt racking his insides. He hadn't meant for that to happen, oh Sithis, this was horrible, he'd rather she'd stabbed him.

“It's all right,” she said, still smiling. “Everything's all right. You dear, sweet, darling little madman.”

Wait, what? She wasn't angry? She was... pleased? This was not happening. Cicero was dreaming, that was it, or imagining it and she was just softening him up and any minute now she'd snarl in anger at him and start punishing him for daring to think he was worthy of a Listener's affections.

Then her lips were on his, her arms sliding round him and pulling him to her, fingers in his hair, pulling his hat off and flinging it to the side, and Cicero didn't even care, he was too busy wrapping his arms around her and gently pushing her head lower so he could reach properly. She was moaning softly into his mouth, and she sounded heavenly, better even than he'd imagined and suddenly all he wanted was to get that armour off her right now and drag her into the nearest bed and cover her with kisses, trying to find out what else made her make those noises.

She'd broken off the kiss and tilted her head back, pressing his face to that slender throat of hers and he planted kisses to that lovely golden skin, holding her close as she moaned his name, sounding almost pleading. The mere sound sent little thrills of pleasure straight to his groin as he realised that what he most wanted now, more than anything else, was to feel her writhing under him, moaning at his touch and screaming his name as she fell apart in his arms. Now, right now, and to Oblivion with finding a bed. Spinning her round, he pushed her up against the side of her bookcase, sliding a hand between her legs, palm up against her mound, through the armour, while his other hand pinned her shoulder to the wooden shelf. She still had one hand entwined in his hair while the other was groping his backside.

“Oh Cicero, yes, please, oh yes,” she was moaning, arching her back and widening her legs so he had better access to her most intimate areas.

“Listener,” he growled, right in her ear. “My Listener!”

“Yes, yes, yours,” she gasped. “Cicero, please, say my name for once, please!”

“Inariel,” he whispered. “Pretty, pretty Inariel.” She cried out and clung on to him, and Cicero could take it no more. He dropped to his knees, hands shaking as he reached under her cuirass, trying to undo the lacings on her trousers but not able to manage it properly.

“Damn it all to Oblivion,” he muttered. Holding her against the bookshelf with a hand on her stomach, he wrapped his other arm around her thigh and kissed her hard, through the armour, where he guessed her clitoris was mostly likely to be and thank Sithis she never wore heavy armour or she would never feel a thing. As it is, she'd cried out in shock.

“Oh! Ci – Cicero, what are you doing?”

“Trying to go down on you, my sweetling.” He glanced up, surprised at the confusion he saw there.

“That's a thing?” she whispered. “People... do that? I mean, men do that to women and like it?”

“Well of course they do – wait. No one has ever orally pleasured the Listener before?”

Inariel shook her head. “No, I – haven't been with that many men, and none of them ever did... that, oh!” Cicero had leaned in again, harder this time, very deliberately running his tongue over her. He'd always liked the smell of leather, and this was very fine quality leather indeed. So no one had ever done this for her before. Cicero had to wonder what sort of inferior specimens she'd bedded before, and if any were still alive so Cicero could hunt them down, abduct them, make them watch while he made the Listener scream for him louder than they'd likely ever managed and then kill them.

With that cheerful thought in mind, Cicero kept up the pressure on her mound while his other hand slid around from behind and began rubbing just in front of her perineum, just where he'd expect her opening to be. She was almost sobbing, gasping and moaning as her fingers snaked into his hair and pushed him into her, thrusting up against him, desperate for him to touch her. Finally she cried out and shoved him away.

“Listener?” he gasped, breathless. “Did I – was that good?”

“Yes,” she gasped, staring at him hungrily. “Yes it was. Cicero, please, get my boots off. Now.”

Cicero obliged, taking first one foot in hand and then the other, gently pulling each boot away while she drew her foot out. He planted little kisses on her feet as each one came loose. Maybe later she'd let him bathe them for her. That would be nice. But right now she clearly had other pleasures in mind, as she unlaced her trousers and dropped them to the floor, underwear coming with them as she kicked them away.

“Cicero, could you... have sex with me? You know... here? Now?”

Extraordinary how she could tell him to kill someone and sound as imperious as any Altmer lady, and yet asking him to fuck her and she sounded like a young virgin terrified of getting it wrong. It was incredibly endearing. There was nothing wrong with her, could never be.

He stepped forward, claiming her lips again, shoving her up against the side of the bookcase, a little rough but he'd seen her fight, he knew she wasn't made of glass and the moan that escaped her lips seemed to indicate she didn't mind. His fingers were between her legs, those beautiful silken folds wet against his skin and she was writhing against him, thrusting into his hand, wanton and helpless with need, and this was for him, all for him, he could barely believe it.

“You want me?” he gasped. “You want Cicero inside you?” His thumb pressed against the base of her clit, fingers sliding into her cunt, feeling those walls clenching around him as she squirmed in his arms.

“Yes, yes, please, please fuck me, please, I need to come, please,” she gasped. Delightful how she felt she had to beg him for it. He'd never refuse her anything, didn't she know that yet?

“All right then. Legs around me, that's right.”

Inariel held on to his shoulders, clasping her arms around him and then leapt up, expertly wrapping her legs around his waist. Cicero had already unlaced his trousers by this point and seconds later his cock was free and sliding inside her, and Sithis this was amazing, so warm, so soft and wet and so damn tight. So long, it had been so long for him since he'd done this with anyone and to have it finally be the Listener of all people, his beautiful golden green-eyed goddess clinging on to him, crying out for him to take her, yes Sithis yes, he could die right now and be happy.

“So beautiful,” he whispered in her ear, her lovely pointed ear, “you're so beautiful, Cicero adores you, always has, could barely believe someone as amazing as you would even stop to give him the time of day, much less help poor Cicero, and now you have the Night Mother in your head and that makes you even more lovely, it means Mother likes you, Mother approves, means Cicero's allowed to love you, allowed to give himself to you, doesn't have to worry, he's yours, all yours, forever, my lovely, forever and always, yes oh yes, you feel so wonderful, yes please come for me, please, I want to feel you, hear you, oh Sithis yes, you make such exquisite noises, yes, yes my Inariel, yes...”

“Cicero,” she sobbed, thrusting into him, clinging on to him, nails digging into his jester shirt as those strong thighs squeezed his waist. “Cicero, please yes, oh please, harder, harder, more!”

Cicero obliged, thrusting harder into her, watching and whispering still, gloved hand cupping her face as he told her how beautiful she was, how much he loved watching her, loved knowing he was doing this to her and after this, he was going to take her to bed and hold her all night, and in the morning he was going to strip her naked and kiss every single part of her, find out what else made her moan like this.

He felt her clench around him, felt her clutch him tighter, saw her head fall back as she screamed his name and came, thrusting up against him and writhing, her back arching and those beautiful breasts thrust out at Cicero, hidden beneath her armour but he was sure they were divine – the rest of her certainly was, dishevelled and flushed and wanton and out of control and clenching him.

Cicero couldn't take it any more. He gave her a few quick, hard thrusts and then he was coming himself, spilling seed into her as he cried out, head buried on her shoulder as he kept on thrusting, shuddering through his climax until finally he was done, gently thrusting as his erection died before carefully withdrawing, hushing her softly and cooing her name as both of them slid down the wood of the bookshelf, falling into a grey-gold and red heap on the floor. There were books everywhere, clothes everywhere, most of them hers, but that was all right, Cicero would clean up later. The Listener was his. Everything was beautiful.


Inariel opened her eyes to find Cicero gently wiping her down with a linen cloth he'd scavenged from somewhere. He'd already cleaned himself up and tucked himself back into his trousers, and the hat had been retrieved as well.

“Cicero?” she gasped, her head still fuzzy. “Are you...?” Are you there? was what she wanted to ask, but of course he was there, he was her devoted Keeper, always had been, why would he run off? But it had happened before, lovers who were flirty and devoted and attentive until they got what they wanted and then were all brusque and cold and waiting for her to get out.

Cicero finished what he was doing, kissed the inside of her thigh, tossed the linen to one side and pressed himself full-length against her, grinning manically, his face inches from her own.

“Listener!” he squealed. “Pretty Listener is back! You had your eyes closed and looked so sleepy, and Cicero is sleepy too but you had his seed all over you and Cicero couldn't have that, no.”

“That's really very sweet of you,” she said sleepily, and she was tired, very tired and thirsty too. “You – you liked it? What we just did?”

“Of course! Why would Cicero not like it?” He was frowning at her, confused. “Listener, Cicero did mean it – what he said earlier. He's always thought you were beautiful and lovely. And then you became Listener and you didn't kill him, and you always have the time to talk to him and listen to him and take him on adventures and let him kill things. And now you love him too and everything is beautiful!” He hesitated, his confidence fading. “You do love him too, don't you? You weren't just... lonely?”

She was lonely, it had been true... but she'd also had no luck anywhere else and she'd always had a soft spot for Cicero. She'd just not thought he'd been interested that way.

“Well, I don't know,” she said thoughtfully, and Cicero's face fell. Poor boy, he looked utterly distraught. “This is all so sudden. I'm not sure yet. I guess we'll just have to keep having sex until I've decided.”

Cicero froze, then a brilliant grin split his face and he burst out laughing.

“HA! Oh that's good! That's very good! Listener was jesting! Pretty Inariel was pulling gullible Cicero's leg! Playing a trick on her Fool of Hearts! Oh very good, very good!”

Inariel couldn't help but giggle and soon they were cuddling each other, giggling away like a pair of children. Inariel kissed the top of his head and squeezed him tight. Dear, sweet, lovable, murderous Cicero. Dear sweet, very good in the sack Cicero, it turned out.

“Cicero,” she whispered in his ear, “we should probably clean this place up. Could you give me a hand putting the books away?”

“Yes, yes, Cicero lives to serve as always, my Listener,” Cicero murmured.

“And Cicero?”

“Yes, Listener?”

“That Amulet of Mara.”

“Listener?” He'd gone very still as she mentioned that.

“You can put that in the chest with the other junk. I don't think I'll be needing it any more.”

Cicero's face lit up and then he was kissing her fiercely. Inariel held on to him, kissing him back and glad, very glad, she had him. Who needed Mara anyway? Turned out the Night Mother was a far better matchmaker.