Moonlight and the light from the Dalaran streetlamps made their room in the Hero's Welcome as bright as day to night elven eyes. Barraccus lay next to Quae, watching her sleep. He wasn’t quite ready for sleep himself, not yet. Right now, he was content to simply look at her.
He loved her so much it sometimes took his breath away. She made him feel alive, like no one had before. He missed her when they were apart, and usually didn’t even realize how much until he came back and saw her again. But it was more than that, too. He knew that everyone he met didn’t necessarily see him when they looked at him; they saw a death knight. Even Alanon and Pitch, for all that they liked him and wanted to help. Riatha at times was worse. He had come to regard her as a sister, but she was a constant reminder of what they both were. But Quae was different; he knew that she didn’t care one whit about what he was, she saw him for himself. He thought that if he ever lost her, it would probably be his end.
At that less-than-pleasant thought, an image suddenly popped into his head, of his wife being torn apart by rotting ghouls. But it wasn’t Luraniel’s face that looked at him as she died. It was Quae’s.
He banished the image savagely, his face twisting into a silent snarl. He couldn’t quite hide his body’s violent twitch, but all Quae did was make a small sound in her sleep. He kept silent, placing a soothing hand on her shoulder while he regained his composure.
He had meant what he had said, about vengeance on Arthas. But it was more than that; he was deathly afraid that if the Lich King was not dealt with, then at some point he would come after Quae, and Barraccus couldn't stand that thought. He couldn’t even mention this to Quae; he knew she would likely get upset again over his protectiveness.
Looking at her now, he wondered at the strength of his own feelings. He and Luraniel had hardly known each other when they were wed. He had grown to love her, in his own way. She had been his wife, his friend and partner. But he felt a deeper connection with Quae. He wasn’t the romantic type, not really, but he was growing sure that in Quae, he had found his soulmate.
He remained absorbed in his own thoughts, until at last he was too tired to keep things straight. He moved in closer, slipping one arm around her, and gave himself over to sleep.
* * * * *
The view from Krasus’ Landing was breathtaking. Barraccus watched as Quae looked out on Crystalsong Forest far below, delight spreading over her face, and wished he could share her happiness. He had come to a decision about his thoughts from last night, and he wasn’t looking forward to the discussion he knew they had to have. Finally he reached out and touched her arm, drawing her attention. She looked over at him, and her grin faded at the serious expression on his face. “We need to have a talk,” he told her softly, and led her over to a quiet spot to the side. Once there he turned to her.
“I’d like to tell you some things, but please, don’t interrupt me until I’m done, okay? I don’t think you’re going to like all I have to say, but it needs to be said.” He paused and studied her, noting the sudden fear on her face, and gave her a comforting grin. “I love you, Quae. I don’t want to leave you,” he said softly, and she relaxed, returning his smile. Finding a spot under a young tree, he settled down on the grass, pulling her down next to him. Then he sat silent for a minute, gathering his thoughts.
“I know you think I’ve been too protective, and you’re right. But I didn’t go to Feralas to try to ‘save’ you, you just assumed I did. We need to come to an understanding about this. I don’t like arguing, and it seems we’ve been doing too much of it lately.” He looked up at her, holding her gaze for a minute.
“I wanted to die,” he said quietly, then held a hand up to forestall her response. “When my memories came back, all I could think of was that I had betrayed everything I held dear. I couldn't live with that, and tried to escape it all. Then you found me and convinced me to give my life another shot. Now, I want to keep living. I’d like to see how far all of this takes us. I know you fear for me, but believe me, I’m not going to go flinging myself at Arthas until one of us is dead. I won’t say that I’ll pass up any opportunities that come along, but as far as seeking him out, well, I’m not suicidal," he paused and gave her a teasing grin, "no matter what you might think."
He sobered then and studied her again, knowing she probably wouldn't like what he said next. "Quae, I do love you. You make me feel like I'm alive again, even when others all are afraid of me, of what I am. If anything ever happened to you, my life is over. I've lost one family, I couldn't go through that again, do you understand?" She started to frown in protest, but she stopped herself and finally nodded. "There's no guarantee that we will win against Arthas and the Scourge," he continued. "Every day we get is a gift right now. I don't want to spend half of our time together fighting." He paused and looked at her, giving her a chance to speak if she wanted.
She sighed and said, "I don't want to either. I'm sorry, Barraccus. I suppose I've been a bit too touchy lately." She looked down at her hands, then reached over and took one of his. "Let's try this, then: I promise not to snap at you again, if you can pretend you're not protecting me, deal?" He grinned at her. "I couldn't have said it better myself, m'lady." She grinned back and swatted at him.
* * * * * *
He walked with her to the portal that would take her to Darnassus and home. She hugged him, then pulled back and looked at him for a moment. "Come home with me," she said, and after a second he nodded.
They rode into the yard in good time, and Alanon came out to greet them. He smiled up at the death knight. "Barraccus, you have excellent timing. I have a surprise for you," he said, then nodded his head toward the side of the house. Curious, Barraccus swung down from Dune'adah's back and walked around the house, only to be pounced on and nearly bowled over by 800 pounds of saber cat.
"Oscor?" he said dazedly, as the big cat gently batted at him with one forepaw and butted his broad head against him. He got the saber calmed down after a few minutes, and gave him a brief once-over. Except for a large scar on his right hind leg, Oscor looked the same as he had before the accident. Barraccus patted his head, glad to see him again, while the huge cat treated him with a throaty purr.
Alanon and Quae came up as he finished brushing the dust off himself from Oscor's enthusiastic greeting. "He's healed up fine and is as good as new," the druid said. "I was about to post you a letter, but you've saved me the trouble and yourself a trip. He's been lazing about here for a couple days, and I imagine he's ready for the road now." "Thank you, Alanon," Barraccus replied. "He looks great. I'm sure Dune'adah wouldn't mind a break." He gave his mount a final pat, then turned to the others.
Together, the three walked back to the house.