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Bold as Love - 30_hugs prompt

Title: Bold As Love
Fandom: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
Theme: #5; collide
Characters and Relationship: Nathaniel Howe/Moira Cousland, romantic
Rating: very mild PG for violence, blood, and romantical shenanigans
Summary: Moira and Nathaniel confront assassins and resolve old feelings.
Note: Again, I’ve put 100% trust in the online English-to-Italian translator. If anyone sees any mistakes in translation, please let me know. And yes, I stole the “I’ll feed them to darkspawn” joke from Origins. Alistair wasn’t using it for this playthrough anyway.


Nathaniel knew the farmhouse the people plotting Moira’s assassination were using as a meeting place. He’d run all over the Feravel Plains as a boy, dodging through corn fields and jumping fences on his way to and from Amaranthine. The farmhouse had once belonged to a somewhat wealthy couple; the wife would often let him have thick slices of freshly baked bread slathered with sweet honey and butter. If they were involved in this potential coup, he would be highly disappointed.

“Your informant did his job quickly,” he said, taking the lead down the road.

“For fifty sovereigns, it had better be a quick job,” Moira replied, sounding just a little bit perturbed. Even though the man had been apologetic for taking on the name of the Dark Wolf, Nathaniel thought that it still irked Moira just a bit. “I’d hate to have already been ambushed before he sent word as to who my attackers had been.”

“Don’t you think that we should have taken more people along?” The landscape was starting to turn into more fenced in fields; they’d be at the house in minutes. “Perhaps at least Oghren or Justice?” They were their heavier hitting warrior types in the group; both were good in a fight and Nathaniel would have felt better about taking on an unspecified number of people with the extra help.

“Too many people,” Moira explained. “If things go badly, I don’t want to have anyone identified and made into a target.” She crouched down, hiding behind a tall patch of wheat. “Besides, I’m not intending on leaving here until the threat against me is neutralized. Justice wouldn’t like that.” It was one of the irritating things about having the spirit of justice around – Moira’s moral compass wasn’t always on the straight and narrow and any time she inched closer to the grey area of a situation, she could all but feel the disapproval radiate off the Fade spirit in waves.

“And when you say neutralize, you mean that you’re going to kill them all.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Is that a problem?”

“Actually, I was going to suggest the same thing. Leaving even one person alive means that they can strike against you later on.” He might not have been trained as extensively in the assassin talents as Moira, but common sense told him that they needed to finish this to the last person.

“I don’t like killing,” she confessed, staring straight ahead. She could hear voices several feet away. “But it is necessary.” Zevran had been quite vocal about getting enjoyment out of the actual act, and as gentle as Leliana was, Moira could see a faint wistfulness in the bard’s eye every time they spoke of her past, almost as if she wished that there was a way to continue her former lifestyle. For her own part, Moira learned everything that both of them had to offer, but she never felt the same deep satisfaction of the kill that she felt for any of the other rogue skills she had picked up from them.

For his part, Nathaniel didn’t say anything. He knew what she was trying to say, that she might be required to do something well, but it didn’t necessarily mean that she had to enjoy what she did. The way she had her body braced was as if she were worried that he’d disapprove of her, that this might change how he felt about her. Not knowing how else to verbalize his feelings, he crouched down beside her, their shoulders touching and a supportive hand on top of hers. He felt rather than heard the soft exhale of breath she must have been holding, her fingers lacing with his.

“I’m counting five,” he whispered.

Ma tutti non hai scorto,” someone behind them said. Moira and Nathaniel only had a brief second to roll out of the way before a rain of darts scattered the grass they had previously been hiding in. “Qui! In questo loco!” His shouts alerted the others, who came running with their weapons drawn.

“I was not expecting this,” Moira hissed, unsheathing one of the knives she kept hidden in her boot. “If it hasn’t already been done, I’m going to kill Master Ignacio.” She hurled the thin throwing blade in the air, hitting their attacker square in the eye. He went down without another sound. “Non èvvero! M'ha promesso.

Nathaniel vaguely comprehended the fact that Moira knew Antivan and that one of the Master Crows had promised her something, mostly because he was busy firing arrows at the rapidly approaching crowd, aiming for the archer that was intending on shooting Moira down. His aim was true; he followed his shot, watching as the other archer’s head knocked backwards, an arrow in his forehead and several more jutting out from his chest. He watched as Moira ran forward with a yell, both swords extended. Lord Guy never stood a chance as they collided. A high pitched howl pierced the air and the man fell to his knees, clutching the stub where his right arm used to be. Nathaniel provided covering fire as she ran to her next assailant. Lady Morag thought that she would be clever and attack Moira while her back was turned, but Nathaniel put several arrows in her body. Quiver empty, he drew his daggers and waded into the fray.

“At least these people are talented,” Moira huffed, blocking a sword attack from Lady Liza. She backed up until her back was flush against Nathaniel’s.

Nathaniel bit back a cry when the dark haired assassin’s blade sliced across his arm. “Less talking,” he told her, pressing forward to try to get an advantage over his opponent. “More ass kicking.” He saw that there was a leghold trap partially hidden in the path. Using the majority of his strength, he thrust his blade forward, forcing his attacker to back up until the man’s foot was caught. His attacker taken off guard by the pain, Nathaniel stabbed his knife in between the man’s ribs, blood splattering everywhere. Breathing hard, he turned around in a circle, looking for any other hidden attackers.

“Who else is there?” Moira demanded, kicking aside Lord Guy’s sword. She straddled him, both of her hands grabbing fistfuls of his bloody tunic. “Who else?”

“No one!” Lord Guy screamed, his voice pitching higher when Moira jabbed her thumb into his exposed shoulder.

“Why don’t I believe you?”

“She said you’d be easy to kill,” he wailed, his eyes rolling to the back of his head. “She said it would be for the best!” Moira let go of him and Lord Guy flopped about like a landed fish, bright red arterial blood staining the ground around him.

“Who is she?” Moira leaned close. “Tell me and I’ll bandage you.”

Lord Guy spit in her face. Moira turned her face aside, but not before blood and spittle streaked down her cheek. Getting up, she walked over to identify more of the bodies. By the time she had returned, Lord Guy was dead. “This was not all of them,” she said, using her sleeve to wipe her face.

“What makes you think so?” Nathaniel asked, picking up arrows. He fitted one against his bow and was warily looking for more traps or other attackers.

“There are three Crow assassins lying dead here. Admittedly, they weren’t very good – the Crows in Denerim had put up a better fight than these – but their services do not come cheap. And,” she brushed her hands off on her knees. “Master Ignacio swore to me that the last time I was a target for the Crows would be the last time I’d ever be a target for them. It was part of the deal that we had and either he’s backed out of his end of the bargain or someone has offered these three a considerable amount of money to ignore his orders.”

Now that he was sure they were alone, he let his guard down a bit. “How much money are we talking about here?”

“More than what these minor nobles have in their vaults combined, that’s for sure.” She was angry. “Lord Guy said that she told them I’d be easy to kill. Who in Amaranthine would have enough clout to persuade these people to move against me and have deep enough pockets to afford Crow assassins?”

Nathaniel pressed his left hand against his forearm to stem the bleeding. “I think we both know who that might be,” he said, ripping his sleeve to make a makeshift bandage. It would do until they got back. “What are we going to do with the bodies?”

Moira crossed her arms. “Leave them where they are. I want her to see what happens when one tries to take me on.”

The trip back to the Keep was silent. Nathaniel spent the walk thinking of reasons Bann Esmerelle would have to kill Moira. And if Bann Esmerelle was involved, Nathaniel knew that Ser Timothy wouldn’t be far behind. He had seen how they had acted together the night Moira met with the nobility; it was obvious that they thought on the same wavelengths. He was also thinking about what Moira said about being a target for the Crows. While they had talked about what happened during the Blight, she hadn’t said anything about assassins besides the fact that she had befriended one along the way. He wondered who had ordered her death. He also wondered just what this bargain she had struck with a master assassin entailed and if her involvement with them explained why many of her fighting techniques mirrored those from the Crows.

“You know that we can’t prove she’s involved,” he said once they walked through the front gates.

Moira’s shoulders slumped forward. “I know.” She curled her fingers against his as they went inside, but jerked her hand away. “Why didn’t you tell me you were still bleeding?” she asked, her eyes wide.

“It’s nothing. Just a scratch.”

“Who cut you? If it was a Crow, it could have been poisoned.”

He sniffed. “I checked. It wasn’t. If it had been, I would have said something earlier.”

Moira drew him towards the Keep’s infirmary. The Keep had been woefully undersupplied when it had first been ambushed, and Moira was determined not to let that happen again. It still wasn’t much, just a large room with several cots and a few bandaging supplies, but they were working on it. Moira and Anders had spent several nights restocking the poultice supplies; even Velanna had helped with those. “Sit there and don’t move.”

Nathaniel’s lips quirked up as he did as he was told, watching from the chair she had pulled out for him as she bustled about, tugging off her bloody fingerless gloves and washing her hands in the infirmary’s basin before gathering an armload of supplies from the cabinets. “Yes, ma’am,” he replied, looking down at his forearm. The fabric he’d wound around the gash had already soaked through.

She knelt in front of him, her fingers gingerly unwrapping his bandage. Carefully cleaning the blood away with a fresh cloth and cool water, she sighed in relief. “It doesn’t look too bad,” she told him. “It is bad enough though; you’re going to need stitches. Anders or Velanna can heal this easily. Let me go get them.” She braced her hand on his leg, using his knee to help her get up.

He held onto her hand. “No, stitches are fine.” She gave him a confused look and he shrugged. “What’s one more scar?”

She frowned, but went to the cabinets again to retrieve what she needed. She also brought a small portable table with her for Nathaniel to brace his arm against. “Spoken like someone who has a few scars to spare.”

Her eyes were downcast, and Nathaniel wanted nothing more than to erase that look from her face. “I have several in some interesting places. If you’d like, I’d be more than happy to show them to you.” His quip had the desired effect; Moira shook her head and a ghost of a smile appeared on her lips.

“I might take you up on that offer, Ser,” she murmured absently, threading the long, curved needle. “I’ll warn you; this is going to hurt.”

He reached out and hooked his uninjured arm around her waist. Pulling her towards him, he tugged her into his lap. “Distract me?” The lightweight leather armor she had decided to wear dug into his thigh, but he didn’t care.

She blushed, but didn’t make a move to stand up. “Not too much,” she said. “Unless you want crooked stitches.”

“I have every confidence in your needlework.”

Moira dabbed his arm again and picked up the needle. “I hope you can still say the same when I’m finished.” Using her left hand, she held the cut together as she made her first stitch, holding her breath when Nathaniel softly hissed in pain. He closed his eyes, trying to distance himself from the odd tugging sensation as the needle and thread went through his skin. He had to admit, she was quick about her work; before he knew it Moira had slathered on a thick layer of healing paste and was efficiently wrapping a clean bandage over it all.

“Try not to get it wet for at least a day or two,” she said, her voice oddly thick as she wiped her hands on a cloth. He wished that she was facing him so he could see her expression, and his left arm tightened around her when she tried to stand.

“Thank you,” he said, attempting to look over her shoulder. “I hardly felt a thing.”

“I’m so sorry, Nate,” she whispered, bowing her head. “I hate that you got hurt because of me. This was my fault.”

He wrapped both arms around her and hugged her close. She didn’t resist, her arms went around his shoulders and she pressed her face against the side of his neck. “I don’t see how this was your fault,” he said into her hair. “I was the one that was too slow to avoid the attack.”

Her reply was muffled, but he still understood her. “I should have gone without you. Then you wouldn’t have even gotten hurt.”

He scoffed. “Please. I know that you’re good, but I seriously doubt that you could have taken them all on by yourself. Besides,” he tilted her face up with his fingers. “I would have followed you anyway.”

“But…”

“What did I tell you about not having to do things by yourself? Moira, you’re stuck with me, whether you wish it or not. I’m not going to let you wander into danger by yourself when I’m perfectly capable of helping you. Even if you don’t want to involve anyone else, I will always be there at your back.”

Moira found it hard to breathe as she sat there staring at his earnest expression. “That sounds too much like an oath of loyalty,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.

“If that’s what you wish it to be.” He traced her face with his fingers. “I, Nathaniel Howe, solemnly swear fealty to you, Moira Cousland. My life is your life; my sword is your sword. I promise to serve and protect you and your lands as long as there is breath left in me.” He gave her a crooked smile. “I know it’s not as poetic or properly thought out as it could have been, but you’ll have to forgive me. I’m thinking on my feet here.”

She leaned forward, her forehead touching his. “No, it was perfect,” she told him. Impulsively, she cupped the sides of his face with her hands and lightly pressed her lips to his. He broke the kiss first, looking at her with a silent question in his eyes. Giving her plenty of time to change her mind and back away, he brushed his mouth against hers once, then twice, his hand cradling the back of her neck in his palm. There was no heat, no seduction to their kiss; just a sense of wonder that he was able to hold her like this again after so long. He tilted his head, smiling against Moira’s mouth when she threaded her fingers in his hair, her thumbs rubbing at his jaw.

“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that,” he murmured, feathering kisses along the corners of her lips.

“Probably as long as I have,” she sighed, twisting in his lap to further press herself against him. “I’ve missed you so much, Nathaniel.”

His hands stroked her sides, his teeth nipping at her bottom lip when she shivered. “Can I take it that you want to pick up where we left off?” His voice was hopeful, but he felt his stomach drop when she shook her head.

“I don’t think we can. We were both different people then.” She smoothed the worry line that had appeared between his eyebrows. “But I’d like to start something new.”

He let out the breath he hadn’t been aware he’d been holding. “You do realize that everyone is going to talk, right? Especially Anders. And he’s probably going to have a smug little grin on his face the entire time as well.”

“First one to crack a joke gets fed to darkspawn,” she said, swallowing his laugh as she kissed him again. “Though Oghren will more than likely have something lewd to suggest.”

His eyebrow winged upward as he gave her a rakish smirk. “Should I follow up on his suggestions?”

“If it involves the phrase hiding the helmet, then no.” She pressed a finger against his lips when she saw him trying to figure that one out. “Don’t ask. You don’t want to know.” She and Alistair had been curious enough to ask the same question of Oghren during their travels and the dwarf had been happy to provide them with a graphic explanation that had more than likely traumatized Alistair permanently.

“So…” He let his hands rest at her waist. “What do we do now?”

Moira stood up and started putting everything away. “I don’t know. I guess we let the others know that a large chunk of people have now been taken out of the conspiracy, but that we have good reason to believe that there are others hidden about.” She washed the bowl and placed it back in the cabinet. “And then we pay Ser Temmerly a visit. I don’t have high hopes in persuading him to talk, but he could provide us with some information.”

“And the Crows? Just because we killed the three there doesn’t mean that Esmerelle can’t send more.”

Moira frowned. She could pen a letter to Master Ignacio demanding he explain why three of his people had come after her, but she was unaware of the political climate in Antiva. Her letter just may bring even more Crows to her doorstep. “Let them come. We can take them.” She tensed when she felt Nathaniel’s arms go around her, but quickly melted into his embrace, his chin resting on her shoulder.

“Did you know that’s the first time I’ve heard you use the words ‘we’ or ‘us’ when talking about solving a problem?”

She placed her hands over his. “I have it on good authority that I don’t necessarily have to do things by myself all the time.”

“That sounds wise.” He kissed the side of her neck. “You must have a brilliant advisor.”

She turned, her arms going over his shoulders. “One of the best.” She felt almost…giddy at the thought that she was standing there in the middle of an infirmary ward with her arms around Nathaniel. She knew it was irresponsible of her to think so, but suddenly all of the other problems that had been running through her head didn’t seem as troubling as they had when she’d woken up that morning.

The smile he gave her reminded Moira of a much younger Nathaniel. “What’s so funny?” she asked.

“You,” he said. “It seems that I’ve finally cracked that ever persistent Cousland stubbornness.” He yelped when she pinched his side. “It isn’t sporting to attack an injured man, you know.”

She rolled her eyes, smoothing her hand over his offended side. “I thought you said that it was just a scratch,” she joked. “And we Couslands have never been stubborn; we call it…”

“Hard headed?” He pressed a kiss to her forehead to soften the jest.

She tightened her arms around him. “I was going to say that we’re firm in our convictions. And don’t try to change us either.”

He dipped his head, kissing her again just because he could. He felt as if he were eighteen all over again, except this time they didn’t have to hide their newfound relationship from parents or overprotective older brothers. “I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
annikainen
Jun. 28th, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
*world's biggest AWWWWW* Why do you have to write so touchingly? I'm wiping away tears again X( They're so incredibly sweet together. <3
iceprincessd
Jun. 29th, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
I just couldn't keep up with the UST any longer! At first, I wasn't going to get them together until the very last prompt, but I couldn't help myself. :)

I blame Nathaniel. He got kinda persuasive throughout this whole story.
annikainen
Jun. 29th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
Oh thank goodness you didn't! I hate it when people stop writing at the point feelings are confessed, like the story would end there X)

I don't blame you for giving in. I know I couldn't resist him. <3
iceprincessd
Jun. 29th, 2010 11:59 pm (UTC)
Nope, couldn't resist him one bit. ♥ I'm so glad I didn't go on with my original plan, because if I had, then the epilogue I'm working on right now wouldn't make any sense at all.

I decided to skip around a bit since I'm ahead of my own posting schedule. Skipping around is in no way connected to the fact that the rating is about to jump up to an M and I'm avoiding writing it. Nope, not one bit. *whistles*
annikainen
Jun. 30th, 2010 04:57 am (UTC)
Oooo sounds good! Steamy bits! Finally! X)
iceprincessd
Jul. 1st, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)
Why is it that Steamy Bits are so darn difficult to write but so much fun to read? Argh.
annikainen
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:20 pm (UTC)
And OH! I forgot! The italian/antivan :D What were you going to say in those places? I could streamline them a bit, if you wish. :)
iceprincessd
Jun. 29th, 2010 11:48 pm (UTC)
Yay! Thank you! I thought that the first translation was a bit of a mouthful, and I got two different versions from two different sites. Basically, I had wanted it to go like this:

NATE: I'm counting five.
CROW: You missed one.

and then

CROW: Here! Over here!

and

MOIRA: He promised.
annikainen
Jun. 30th, 2010 04:58 am (UTC)
It still is a bit XD Do you want it more colloquial or old-fashionedly formal like it's now?
annikainen
Jun. 30th, 2010 02:16 pm (UTC)
Anyway:

Crow: Ma tutti non hai scorto. ("But you didn't see everyone"; mancare means something is missing, I'm not entirely certain there's a single word for not noticing something)

Crow: Qui! In questo loco!

Moira: Non èvvero! M'ha promesso! (<-this is quite informal, so if she learned antivan from /spoke it with Zevran, she'd probably say it like this. First sentence means "I don't believe it!", literally "it's not true!" ;) )
iceprincessd
Jul. 1st, 2010 12:09 am (UTC)
Thank you! That's exactly what I wanted; my headcanon says that Oriana was the one who taught Moira Antivan, but only the more ladylike version. In my head, I see Zevran expanding her vocabulary more creatively. ;)

I'll be doing some quick editing now. :)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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