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Breathing, Nathaniel/Moira

Title: Breathing
Rating: PG for Warden Ouchies
Characters: Varel, Oghren, Anders, Nathaniel/Moira
Summary: Moira once stood watch over him, now it’s his turn.
Note: Trying to get back into the hang of writing these two. This takes place between chapters 8 and 9 of A Rush to the Start.


“The Commander returns!” Varel looked up from his papers. He had a few missives that needed Moira’s immediate attention, so he had brought them with into the throne room for inspection as soon as she had come back from her patrol. He noticed the Private’s expression. Something was not right. “Where is she?”

“She’s in the infirmary,” the woman replied. “She and Ser Oghren came under attack. They don’t look well…”

Varel noticed the way that Nathaniel’s head snapped up, his expression troubled. He was already striding towards the front gate before Varel could even move his own feet.

Varel was greeted at the infirmary door by the harsh sounds of cursing. Some of it he easily recognized as Oghren’s, but he had to do a double take when he heard Moira’s hissing profanities lace the air. “And this is what you get for not taking someone that can take out archers at a distance,” he heard Anders say.

Her answer was clipped, her voice tight sounding. “If you’re going to stand there and lecture me, could you at least look after Oghren while you do it?” Varel finally worked his way through the infirmary doors, winding his way around a few curious bystanders. What he saw made his breath catch in his throat. Oghren was a mess; his face painted in bright red and his armor streaked with black darkspawn blood. Gore matted his beard in places and the remains of his arm guard hung from his elbow like a broken wing.

Moira was no better. It looked as if someone had splashed her with a bucket full of black paint. Besides the various cuts and scrapes on her arms where her lightweight armor didn’t protect her, she was steadily dripping blood from a deep gash on her cheek. For some reason, she was laying on her side on top of a worktable, the cloak she wore bunched oddly around her legs.

“He’s fine,” Anders said, giving the dwarf a brief glance. “We’ll just give him enough alcohol so he doesn’t feel a thing. I’d much rather deal with your injuries first.” Anders’ back was to Varel, blocking his view, but whatever the mage did made Moira’s eyes squeeze shut and her breath to wheeze out in a pained gasp.

“Don’t wiggle it, blast you!” she snarled, her teeth bared.

Varel pushed his way into the room, finding himself next to Nathaniel. The archer was silent as he looked down at Moira’s injury, but his face was pale. Varel looked over Anders’ shoulder and let out a curse. “Maker’s mercy,” he breathed. There was an arrow protruding from Moira’s thigh several inches above the knee the likes that he had never seen before. The shaft had been broken, more than likely to keep it from bouncing around too painfully while she and Oghren made their way back to the Keep, but what was remaining was almost the thickness of three or four normal sized arrows put together.

Moira looked up at him and even though he could see that her face was tense from pain, she still managed to smirk. “It’s nothing, Varel,” she said. “This is just a scratch compared to some of the stuff I’ve gone through.”

“At least no soddin’ ogre stepped on you again.” Oghren supplied, grunting when one of the infirmary helpers applied an herbal poultice to his head. “Turned your leg into jelly, if I remember right.”

She grunted. “That was a complete…” she sucked in a breath when Anders tried to see how to best take the arrow out. “Bitch to heal from. Merda, Anders, really?

From his cot, Oghren let out a rusty chuckle. “Oooh, good one, Sparkle Fingers. Haven’t heard her cuss like that since that one time with the spiders.”

Moira rolled her eyes and rested her forehead on one of her arms. “Can you at least heal my face? The throbbing is starting to get annoying.” Using her free hand, she pressed her fingers against the gash on her cheek to keep a flap of skin closed.

“No can do. I can’t risk any magic healing your leg as well. I don’t think you’d be too fond of having an arrow permanently stuck there.” He left her side and grabbed a few ingredients. “Here, make a paste, slap it on, and stop complaining so I can get to work.”

“Your bedside manners are somewhat lacking,” Nathaniel commented dryly, speaking for the first time. Moira’s eyes darted up in his direction and Varel noticed that her face went even paler than it had been, making him believe that she hadn’t been aware of Nathaniel’s presence before then.

“I tailor them to each patient,” Anders replied curtly. “I’ve found that the Commander needs to keep her hands busy to block out whatever I’m doing. These pants are a total loss, aren’t they?” he asked Moira, who nodded. Varel noticed that Anders fished out a dagger from Moira’s boot without asking and used it to slice through the side seam of her pants, baring her leg from knee to hip.

“A little high for what you’re working with?” she asked, arching her eyebrow.

Anders grinned. “I’ll be a bit busy,” he said, waggling his eyebrows back at her. “But I’ll be sure to ogle more while I bandage you up.”

She snorted before pressing her finished poultice to her cheek. “Just get it over with already.”

Anders inspected the arrow to see where to get a good grip. “This went all the way through to the other side. I take it that you broke off the arrow point as well?”

“It’s in my pocket. It was poisoned; already took an antidote.”

He stroked his chin. “Cleansing aura after the main healing then, just to be sure,” he muttered to himself. “I’m going to count to three, okay?”

Moira closed her eyes and held onto the edge of the table until her knuckles turned white. “Have you done this before?”

“Nope, so this should be interesting. And one, two – ” Instead of continuing, Anders yanked hard on the arrow, bringing it out in one go.

“You said three!” she shrieked, her face gone grey. Varel thought that she was on the verge of vomiting from the pain, but she held it back.

“And you would have tensed if I had, which would have done far more damage,” Anders explained, his hands covering the entry and exit wounds, bright blue light emanating from his skin. “You’ve got some major muscle damage going on as it is. You’re going to be sore tomorrow, but you’ll be able to put your weight on this leg without any trouble.”

“Are you going to be able to heal it?”

He snorted. “Come on, this is me we’re talking about. Of course I can.” He moved his fingers from the wound and Varel saw that even though her skin was an angry red color underneath all the blood, it was whole. “That’s a nasty sprain I’m sensing on your other ankle; how far did you walk back with this?”

“Five miles, maybe a few more.” Moira sat up on the table and pushed her hair out of her face. “Don’t give me that look; what was I supposed to do, lie there while I send Oghren back here with a cracked skull?”

“I’ve had worse, Warden,” Oghren huffed. He attempted to sit up, but sank back down with a grunt. “Why’s the room spinnin’?”

Moira gestured over to Oghren’s cot. “Anders, if you would?”

Without looking up from Moira’s leg, Anders stretched his hand out and flexed his fingers. Oghren groaned once, then lay still. “That should keep him out for a while,” Anders said, peeling off Moira’s left boot. He drew in a sharp breath at the sight of her swollen ankle. “We’re going to hop you over to another cot and you’re going to get some rest if you want to completely heal.”

Moira shook her head. “Just get me to where I can hobble on some crutches. I have papers that need to be looked through and letters to answer. I feel a lot better now, thanks.”

Even though her color had gone from a sickly grey to a pale white, Varel was still concerned. “Commander, I don’t think that is wise. Shouldn’t you rest?”

“I’ll be resting; I’ll have this foot propped up while I work.” She wrinkled her nose and looked at her armor. “But first, I’ll get this gear off and have a nice soak.”

Anders shrugged. “Of course, Commander,” he said. “But before you get off that table, I need to do one more spell on you.” He looked up at Varel. “If you would be so kind as to catch her when she falls backwards, Seneschal.”

Moira blinked. “What? Oh no you…” she didn’t have time to finish her sentence; Anders wove his hands in front of her face and her eyes closed. Varel darted behind her in time to catch her shoulders before she slipped back, her body seemingly boneless.

“She should be out even longer than Oghren,” Anders said, pulling off her other boot and setting it aside. “She’s going to be angry with me, but casting a sleep glyph on her is the only way to get her to actually sit still in one place long enough to do any good.”

Varel eased her back on the table, amazed when she barely stirred as he slid his arm out from under her. “I’ve noticed that about her,” he commented, reaching over to unbuckle her right bracer, his fingers catching on the jagged slice the leather had guarded her from. He looked up at Nathaniel, who had remained silent after his initial comment. The younger man’s face was drawn, his expression stormy as he looked down at the bloody arrow in his hands.

“She doesn’t go out on patrol without someone that can attack at a distance,” he quietly said, throwing the arrow aside and clenching his hands into fists.

“I highly doubt she’ll agree to that,” Anders said, smirking. His grin faltered when he saw the angry look on Nathaniel’s face.

“I don’t care; you make her take you when she goes out, is that clear?”

“Is that an order?”

Nathaniel arched his eyebrow. “In this case, yes.”

Varel stood back and watched how the two interacted. Moira and Nathaniel had been understandably awkward around the other since the Commander had found him in the Keep’s dungeons and there were times when the tension between them had been close to breaking. Now, he watched as Nathaniel carefully slid one arm underneath her shoulders and another behind her knees. “There’s a private alcove over there,” he murmured.

Nathaniel nodded. “I remember.” He tensed when Moira moved in his arms, her head turning so her face was buried against Nathaniel’s shoulder. She sighed in her sleep, her left arm hooking around his neck. Nathaniel hiked her up in his arms and Varel couldn’t help but notice the way that he pressed the side of his face against her hair for the briefest moment. Varel picked up her discarded pieces of armor and her boots before following.

“If she asks who did this,” Nathaniel said, deftly unbuckling armor and setting it neatly aside, “tell her it was you. She trusts you.” The unspoken not me lingered between the two men.

“I will.” He watched as Nathaniel sat on the edge of the bed in the infirmary’s private quarters, his fingers running in soothing circles across her wrist.

“The last time I sat over her was when we were children,” Nathaniel started, staring down at her. “She fell from a tree and broke her leg.” The tiniest ghost of a smile appeared around the corner of his mouth. “She didn’t want to rest then either; her governess had to slip sedatives into her tea or else they wouldn’t have been able to set her bones properly.”

“She seems to be stubborn when it comes to her own injuries.”

“She is.” They were silent, both of them watching as she slept. Varel was unsure as to how long he should stand there; it seemed as if he were intruding on an intimate moment between the two of them. He dipped his head and took a step backwards.

“Varel?”

“Yes?” He had to stop himself from adding my lord at the end of his inquiry. Old habits did tend to die hard.

“Has she spoken about me?”

He thought his choices over. In all honestly, the one time that they had brought up Nathaniel had been the night that she had freed him from the dungeons. “Your name has been brought up once, but she doesn’t normally confide her…feelings to me.” That was the truth; Moira might go to him for his opinion on how to run the arling, but she seldom chose him to act as a sounding board for personal issues. By the many different drafts of letters he’d happened to find her asleep on her desk over, King Alistair was her designated confidante.

It was odd that none of those letters actually made it to the post; he’d also walked in on her feeding those same pieces of paper to her fireplace.

“I’m surprised that she doesn’t despise me,” Nathaniel mused.

“Would you, if your situations had been reversed?” He didn’t wait for Nathaniel’s response; he gave a short bow out of habit and backed out of the alcove, leaving the two of them alone.

“The Commander is made of stern stuff,” he commented to Anders, who was cleaning up the workstation she had been on.

“That she is. I’m proud of her; she didn’t lose her lunch once.” He grimaced. “Trust me; in my profession, I’ve been vomited upon more times than I would like. I still can’t see how she made it back here hopping on a sprained ankle with an arrow the size of a lightweight pike sticking out of her other leg, all while trying to keep someone suffering from severe blood loss and intracranial swelling conscious and on their own two feet.”

“I thought you said that his injuries weren’t that severe.”

“I dealt with the more urgent injuries before you arrived. All Oghren needs now is rest.” He curled his lip. “And a bath. Preferably several.”

“Will you inform me when the Commander wakes?” He looked back at the alcove. He couldn’t see much from this angle, just the tips of her toes from where they appeared in the doorway.

“You’ll be one of the first people to know.”

Varel turned towards the door. With one last look at the alcove, he shook his head. “Stern stuff indeed.”

***

Nathaniel stared down at Moira’s face. She was still too pale for his liking, but at least she had regained some healthy color. “You just scared several years off my life,” he whispered. Without thinking, he reached out and brushed a lock of hair out of her face. He froze when she sighed in her sleep, her face turning towards his hand. He lingered there, the tips of his fingers brushing against her cheek. Anders’ magic had worked well; where there had been a horrific slash across her cheekbone – and his stomach had rolled at the way that the skin had flapped open, nearly exposing white bone underneath – there was only a faint red line that would eventually fade. He briefly closed his eyes, thinking back on all the times long ago that he had been able to touch her, how soft her skin had been under his hands and how she would beam up at him with her eyes shining with affection.

“Why don’t you hate me?” he asked, his voice hoarse. “I’ve given you every reason to and yet…” His eyes went to her throat where a glimmer of gold caught his eye. He used his finger to lift the chain she wore about her neck, exposing an oval shaped pendant that bore a raised Chantry symbol on its surface. Moira had threaded three rings next to the pendant, one of which he was intimately familiar with. He carefully ran his fingers over the band that he had worn for years in a similar fashion, knowing that had things been different that it would have been on Moira’s hand by now.

Would you despise her, if your situations had been reversed? Nathaniel shuddered and reached out to hold her hand. Her fingers were small in comparison to his, the calluses and tiny nicks looking out of place on her otherwise delicate skin. She killed your father with this hand, he thought, trying to bring up some of the old rage and resentment that had so often accompanied that thought. Yet try as he might, he couldn’t.

“I could never hate you,” he told her, bringing her hand up to his lips. He thought back to her words only a few days ago. Isn’t there some way that we can live together peacefully? It hurts to know that everything we once had is gone. “I don’t know if I can do that,” he said honestly. He stood up from the bed and stared down at her. She looked different as she slept. The tight way that she held her mouth and the pinched look around her eyes was gone and she appeared to be years younger without the constant worry and tension that she so often carried. He hesitated for a moment before bending and brushing a kiss against her cheek, his lips grazing the corner of her mouth.

“I don’t know if I can do that,” he repeated, backing away from her and towards the entryway. “But for you, I will try.”

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
liltxangel83
Apr. 27th, 2011 01:21 am (UTC)
Oh I so love them, even when they're in their awkward "I don't know whether to hate you or love you" phase lol
iceprincessd
Apr. 27th, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
Thanks! I forgot just how much I love these two. :)
reconnoiterer
Apr. 27th, 2011 02:27 am (UTC)
(Raises hand) I, for one, would like to request more Varel fics from you! You've got him down pat.
iceprincessd
Apr. 27th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
There needs to be more Varel fics, period. *nods*
phoenixblaze
Apr. 27th, 2011 03:53 am (UTC)
Ohh yay! I'm so happy to see more Moira/Nathanial. Everytime I read them I grin and want to get distracted and work on the fic where our Couslands are sisters. XD Except, I'm writing my big History paper so not tonight.

I will always welcome more of these two. XD
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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