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Title: In Sickness and in Health (2/3)
Rating: G
Pairing: Sebastian/Hawke
Summary: Winter illnesses sweep across Kirkwall, sparing hardly anyone, including a certain stubborn archer who insists that he’s “just fine.” Takes place several months after chapter 1.
Warnings: Extremely long and rambling Author’s Note, directly below. Questionable use of sedatives.
Note: I did some creative splicing and mutated a strand of the flu virus and combined it with scarlet fever to create some sort of Kirkwallian superbug that not even magic could completely cure. I also spent way too much time wandering around looking for Scottish lullabies/ballads before finally settling on Wild Mountain Thyme, which was one of my initial picks to begin with. You can listen to it here. I kinda like hearing the version of it with male vocals instead of the ones with the female soprano. All the versions I found are very pretty, but listening to the guys sing made the tune something I could see Sebastian humming easier.


“You look awful.”

Sebastian turned his head and muffled his cough in the crook of his elbow. “That’s not one of your finer compliments,” he teased, reaching for a jar of herbs. Wintertime was known for the spread of illnesses, especially among the poor who couldn’t afford to insulate their homes well enough to keep the chill and damp out. The Chantry’s infirmaries were filled to capacity and Sebastian had spent much of his free time among the sick to try to ease the burden of caring for so many from the resident Mothers and Sisters.

He might have felt the slightest twinge of jealousy that Elsa had been caring for patients in Anders’ Darktown clinic instead of with him, but the fact that people were being cared for, no matter their location, overrode such emotion. Or so he liked to tell himself. Sometimes he even believed it.

Elsa frowned and put her hands on her hips. “I’m serious, Sebastian. You don’t look well at all.”

“I’m fine, if only a little tired.”

“You look as if you’re dead on your feet.”

He mirrored her frown. “You don’t have to be as dramatic as that; I’m perfectly fine.” His body decided to betray him right then, sending him into a coughing fit that had him holding the edge of the worktable for balance. “I’ve a bit of a scratch in my throat, but it’s nothing serious.”

She rocked back on her heels and gave him one of her looks that she usually reserved whenever she was sizing up an opponent and debating whether she could take them on by herself. “You’ve been working all day, haven’t you?”

He shrugged. “It’s only mid-morning.”

She shook her head. “Sebastian, its well past four in the afternoon.”

“Huh. I guess I didn’t hear the noon bell in here.” It also explained why his back ached as much as it did. He often found himself forgetting the time when he cared for others.

She stood next to him and ran her hand over his cheek. He closed his eyes and pressed her palm closer to his skin, sighing at how cool her hand was. The infirmary windows were closed to ward off the blasts of cold wind and there was a fire blazing in the iron brazier situated in the middle of the room that made the place feel stuffy. “You’re long overdue for a little break. Why don’t we go back to my place and I’ll make you something to drink for your throat? Some honeyed tea would do wonders, I bet.”

“That does sound incredibly tempting, but…” He ran his finger under the collar of his tunic, thinking that it would be good to get out of the infirmary for a little while, if only to escape the heat temporarily.

She wrapped her arms around his left arm and looked up at him from underneath her lashes. “Please? We’ve both been so busy lately that we haven’t truly spent any time together. I’ve missed you.”

And that was where he caved. “I’ve missed you too,” he confessed, untangling his arm from hers so he could give her a proper hug. He brushed his lips over her forehead, grateful when he encountered cool skin. He’d been so worried that she would fall ill; having her healthy and in his arms was a blessing. “I’m certain that I can slip away for an hour or two. Let me get my coat.”

***

Sebastian peeled his gloves from his hands and shed his coat, giving both items to Bodhan, who greeted them at the door. “Make yourself comfortable,” Elsa told him. “I’ll be in the kitchen putting together something to eat.”

“Oh, you needn’t trouble yourself,” Bodhan said. “I could…”

She waved him off. “Oh, no, I insist.” She turned back to Sebastian and winked. “I’ll be right back.”

Elsa’s sitting room was one of Sebastian’s favorite places in the estate. She must have been planning to spend some time in the room because a fire crackled warmly in the fireplace and an opened book laid spine-up on the chaise lounge nearby. He ran his finger underneath his collar again and sat on the chaise, picking up her book. He marked her place and began to read a random page, noting that it was one of Varric’s serials. Between the warmth of the fire and finally being off his feet for the first time that day, he must have dozed off because the next thing he knew, Elsa was leaning over him, her fingers gently carding through his hair.

“I almost hate to wake you,” she said, sitting down next to him. “You look like you need a nap.”

He noted the dark smudges underneath her eyes. “I’m not the only one who looks like they need a break. How many hours have you put in at the clinic?”

She shook her head. “Not very many. Anders chased me out this morning after I delivered some soup I made for his patients.” Maneuvering a huge stockpot full to the brim of scalding hot soup down her cellar stairs would have been a challenge if not for the fact that Anders had used a few stabilization spells to keep everything from sloshing around. “He said he’s getting a few serious cases and he didn’t want me catching anything.” She reached over and handed a plate full of roast beef and potatoes to him. When he finally smelled the food, he realized just how hungry he had been.

“You aren’t eating?”

“I had a something earlier.” She sat with him and they talked companionably while Sebastian ate. She took his plate when he was finished and then rose from the chaise to pour two cups of tea. There was something domestic about sitting in front of the fire while the wind howled outside, talking about everything and nothing in particular.

“I really ought to get back to the infirmary,” he said, his eyelids growing heavy. He turned his head away and coughed again. He thought that he heard a rattling in his chest after the coughing fit subsided, but dismissed it. “They’ll need me soon.”

“I don’t think you’re going to be able to go for a while,” she cautioned, setting her cup aside. It took all his strength, but he managed to turn his head and look at her. She was perched on the edge of the chaise and watching him like her namesake, her entire body tensed as if she were waiting for something.

“What did you do?” he asked, his cup falling from slack fingers. She seemed to have been anticipating it, her hand catching the china cup before it fell to the floor. “The tea…” He would have said something else, but the room blurred and his eyes slid closed.

“I’m so sorry, Love,” Elsa whispered, standing up and grabbing his ankles. She hoisted his legs up onto the chaise lounge and arranged him so that he’d be comfortable. “I hate doing this, but it was the only way.” She placed a throw pillow behind him and put the back of her hand against his forehead. Sebastian was burning up, just like she had suspected back in the infirmary. The coughing was another alarming symptom; if left alone, he ran the chance of hacking up blood, just like the others in Anders’ clinic.

“Did it work, Messere?” Bodhan asked from the doorway. She’d explained her plan to him in the kitchen while penning a quick letter to the Grand Cleric to explain Sebastian’s absence from the Chantry. She’d have Bodhan deliver it for her later, but first she needed to figure out how she was going to get an unconscious Sebastian upstairs. Elsa had slipped two packets of a mild sedative into Sebastian’s tea, which meant that she probably had a few hours before he woke up. They were safe; she often took the same dosage when she was plagued with nightmares and she never felt any ill effects.

“Like a charm,” she replied. She worried at her bottom lip before making a decision. “If you could, please deliver the letter to Elthina for me,” she said. Sebastian was going to be cross with her when he woke, but that was the chance she was going to have to take. “I’m heading into Darktown for a while. I’ll be back before he wakes.”

***

“Refresh my memory, Hawke,” Anders huffed, swaying on the staircase. “Why am I doing this again?”

“Because you’re a big, strong Grey Warden who’s capable of carrying a grown man up a flight of stairs?”

“Capable of carrying an unconscious man up a flight of stairs, you mean. And how did Mister High and Mighty end up like this?” To Anders’ credit, he hadn’t asked any questions in his clinic, he’d merely followed her back up her cellar and into her house.

“I drugged his tea so he wouldn’t leave and infect others recovering in the infirmary.” She glared at him when he began to laugh, Sebastian slipping further down in the mage’s grasp. “Oh, don’t laugh! I feel bad enough as it is!” She hiked up Sebastian’s legs higher so he wouldn’t hit the next step.

Anders snickered some more, but he tightened his arms around Sebastian’s chest and helped carry him past the staircase and into Elsa’s bedroom. “Are you sure that this is a good idea?” he asked, winging her door open with his hip.

“I’d put him in one of the guest rooms, but this is the only one that doesn’t have a draft.”

“And just where are you going to sleep while he’s here?” With a grunt, Anders deposited Sebastian on the bed. She was grateful that he had decided to go into Medical Mode once Sebastian was situated, busying himself with checking Sebastian’s pulse and temperature.

“One of the closer guest rooms, where else?” She got to work unlacing Sebastian’s boots, placing them neatly at the foot of her bed. She leveled a glance at Anders, who was looking back at her. “Oh, please. He’s going to be as weak as a kitten in three or four hours; he’s not going to have the strength to lift his head, let alone wander down the hall and ravish me.”

Anders rolled his eyes at her tone. Waving his hand over Sebastian’s body, he cast a small ice spell before pulling Sebastian’s shirt over his head. “This will help bring his temperature down. Has he been coughing up anything?”

“Not that I know of. He does have the beginnings of that awful rattle though.”

“Stage One, not that bad. I’m glad that you caught it before he could get any worse.” He dispelled the bright white spell wisp and brushed off his hands. “Keep him cool until the fever breaks and then keep him warm. Make sure he gets plenty of fluids; give him that potion I taught you to make the other day every six hours. Sleep is the best thing for him right now; the more he gets the better. I’ll come to check up on how you’re doing when I’m able.”

“Thank you, Anders,” she said, going downstairs with him to the cellar door. “I really appreciate all your help.”

He gave her a graceful shrug. “What are friends for? Just be sure to tell our favorite Chantry mouse that he owes me big time when he wakes up. He’s heavy, that one. I might have pulled something.”

***

She had expected Sebastian to sleep for a few hours, but he never fully woke up that first day. His eyes opened, but the fever had him in its grip, making him stare up at her with glassy eyes and silently accept the water she had carefully given him in small sips. He drifted in and out of wakefulness, leaning into Elsa’s touch when she applied cool cloths to his head and the back of his neck. As the sun went down and lamps lit outside, Sebastian began to thrash in his sleep, his fists clenched at his sides as he half-yelled what Elsa recognized as his older brothers’ names. Not knowing what to do, Elsa sat on the edge of the bed, her hands pinning his flailing arms.

“Shh, it’s just a nightmare,” she whispered, slowly rocking back and forth, her fingers smoothing over his hair as he whimpered in his sleep for his mother. Reaching over to the bedside table, she wrung out another damp cloth and ran it over his sweaty neck and chest. Anders had been right to take his shirt off beforehand; it would have been soaked otherwise. She made a move to slide off the bed and get more cold water, but Sebastian wrapped his fingers around her wrist, his grip surprisingly strong.

“Don’t leave,” he pleaded, his voice hoarse. Elsa ran the cloth over his cheek, noting that his eyes were unfocused and it wasn’t very likely that he even knew who she was. “They all left; stay wi’ me.”

Her heart ached for him and she began to croon a tune she had often heard him hum to himself any time they made camp outside the city and he wasn’t aware that anyone was listening. “Always,” she promised, settling down amongst the pillows. Sebastian rolled to his side and rested his head against her shoulder, his arm draping around her waist. “I’m not going anywhere.” She began to hum again and Sebastian fell into a fitful sleep. It wasn’t long before Elsa followed him.

***

She woke to the sickening feel of wet sheets against her skin. Blinking, she guessed that it was a little bit before dawn and Sebastian’s fever had finally broken. He was shivering almost violently at her side, his teeth clattering together, but at least he wasn’t blazing hot any more. Sliding out of bed, Elsa’s head turned towards her door when she heard someone tap on the doorframe.

“I thought that he’d be in this stage,” Anders whispered. He looked worn out, but he leaned over Sebastian and checked him over, nodding his head in approval. “We need to get him clean and warm. Do you have a tub we could use?”

“Down the hall and to the right. I’ll start filling it now.”

“Just fill it halfway and don’t bother with heating the water; there are upsides to being a mage, after all.” He followed Elsa down to the bathing chamber and let out a low whistle. “Why haven’t I seen this before?” he asked, looking the room over.

“I keep on telling everyone that I have running water, but does anyone take me up on my offer to use it? No…” She knelt and turned the tap on, listening as the pipes in the walls groaned. It wasn’t cold enough yet that she’d have to worry about the pipes freezing, but it was getting there. While she might have indoor plumbing like many of the mansions in Hightown, the boiler attached to the hot water spigot was incredibly small in comparison to many of the newer homes around her.

“Well, consider me sold. I’ll be gathering my threadbare towel and wooden duckie as soon as I get back to my clinic.” Anders turned off the taps, rolled up his sleeve, and stuck his hand in the tub. The hair at the back of Elsa’s neck lifted at the familiar burst of magic that caused steam to waft off the surface of the water. She busied herself with gathering extra towels and laying out a set of Sebastian’s clean clothes she had the forethought to ask Bodhan to bring back from his trip to the Chantry. The Grand Cleric was understanding, sending word back with Bodhan that she wished to visit Sebastian as soon as he was well enough for visitors.

“Are you going to pull a blushing maiden act on me, or do I have to do this bit by myself?” Anders asked when they went back to Elsa’s room to collect Sebastian. Elsa bit the inside of her cheek. Practicality said that she help as much as possible – they were all adults and summer evenings spent skinny dipping with her friends in the river near Lothering meant that she’d seen her share of naked men. And yet…

“I can help,” she started, slightly grunting as she slipped her arm around Sebastian’s waist and braced part of his dead weight while Anders did the same on his other side. Between the two of them, they walked him to the bathing chamber. “But I think that he’d have…” she searched for a word, “issues with having me see him nude.”

Anders rolled his eyes and muttered something about prissy Chantry morals before shooing Elsa out. The last thing she heard before she closed the door was Anders going “You know Vael, if she were anyone else, I would have left you on your own. I hope you appreciate what a lucky bastard you are; Maker knows what she sees in you.”

While Anders was bathing Sebastian, she hurried to strip the sheets and replace them with clean ones. She also dug through her linen trunk and fished out several thick blankets, leaving them folded on the foot of the bed.

“He’s snug in bed,” Anders declared, finding Elsa later on in the kitchen. It was still too early to start the hearth fire, but she put together a quick breakfast of bread, cheese and a selection of fruits. “And I’ve given him another dose of potion. He just might make it.”

She hugged him. “You don’t know how grateful I am to have you as a friend,” she started. “I don’t know how I can ever repay you.”

He tightened his arms around her. “Breakfast would be a very good start,” he said flippantly. He held her at arm’s length and looked at her critically. “And how do you feel? I distinctly remember you saying that you were going to sleep in the guest bedroom instead of in bed with a highly contagious patient.”

She blushed. “He asked me to stay; I couldn’t very well leave him.” She tilted her head upwards while Anders prodded at the sides of her throat with his fingers and asked her to open her mouth so he could see her tongue. “I feel fine; the minute I begin to cough or run a temperature, I’ll run downstairs for you.”

“Everything looks fine,” he said, plucking an apple slice from the plate. “Just to be on the safe side, you’d better take a dose of that potion once a day until His Highness is better, just for a preventative measure.”

Elsa rocked up on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to Anders’ stubbly cheek. “Eat your breakfast,” she said. “I’m going to take a quick bath, but after I’m done, the tub is yours. Then I want you to head into the guest bedroom and get some sleep. You can’t care for anyone if you push yourself to the point of exhaustion.”

He grinned, tearing off a chunk of bread and biting into it. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, straightening his stance and giving her a mock salute. “But I don’t know how I’ll be able to bathe without my duckie to test the water for sharks.”

Her laughter floated down the hall. “Don’t worry; you can borrow mine.”

***

The sun was starting to turn the sky a pale pink when Elsa stuck her head into the guest bedroom. Anders was sprawled out underneath the covers and softly snoring away, his hair clean and spread out over the pillow. She tiptoed in and tucked the blankets over his shoulders. He didn’t move an inch, which told her just how fatigued he really was. Normally he was an incredibly light sleeper, his eyes snapping open at any little noise. She put another log in the ornate brazier in the corner before leaving and closing the door behind her.

Sebastian was curled on his side with his back to the door. She and Anders had piled several blankets over him in an attempt to keep him warm, but he still suffered from chills. Even from the doorway she could tell that he was shaking underneath all the covers. It didn’t take much prodding for her to crawl into bed on top of the blankets and spoon up behind him, hoping to add her body’s warmth to the pile. She kissed his shoulder and splayed her hand over his chest, noticing before she began to doze that he had stopped shivering considerably.

***

The first thing that Sebastian noticed when he woke was that his head ached. The second thing was that he was lying in an unfamiliar bed with silk sheets that held the intoxicating smell of cloves, oranges and the sweet floral scent of heather that made him believe for one moment that he was back in Starkhaven. His eyes felt gritty and upon opening them, he didn’t recognize the bedroom he was in.

“You’re awake.” The bed dipped beside him and he stared up at Elsa’s relieved face. She put the back of her hand against his forehead. “And you don’t have a fever.”

“Elsa?” He cleared his throat, feeling as if someone had stuffed cotton in his mouth as he slept. “What am I doing here?” He tried to sit up, but found that his arms were as weak as noodles.

“You got sick,” she explained. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

He frowned. There were vague flashes of half-remembered moments; Elsa sitting in the chair by the bed reading aloud to him, the fragrant aroma of beef broth, the cool feel of her hands on him, the comforting sound of her voice as she hummed one of the lullabies his mother had often sang to him as a child. “You cared for me,” he said slowly, grunting weakly as Elsa helped prop him up against the headboard. “How long was I asleep?”

“You look like you’re on the mend, but for a while there you were very ill. You slept off and on for four solid days, which was probably what your body needed in order to heal itself.” She offered him a cup of water, helping him hold it as he took a few sips.

“That must have been some potent sleeping draught you slipped in my tea,” he commented, watching as her cheeks and tips of her ears flared red.

“I’m so, so sorry about that,” she said earnestly. “I didn’t want to do it, but would you have stayed here and let me care for you otherwise? One of the reasons you’re recovering so quickly is that you’re away from other sick people. You’d still be in a cot in the infirmary right now otherwise.”

“I don’t appreciate being tricked, Hawke,” he began, watching as her face fell. “Yet I’m thankful you didn’t decide to simply cosh me o’er the head instead.” He laced his fingers with hers and brought her hand to his lips.

“Am I forgiven?”

He kissed her knuckles. “You know I can never hold anything against you, Elsa. Next time, try to persuade me to take to my bed using other means.” Her breath caught at the intense way he stared at her, and she leaned down so she could rest her forehead against his. He let go of her hand and threaded his fingers in her hair, gently tipping her face up. Her eyes fluttered closed at the feel of his breath against her lips, but then his stomach decided to loudly growl and shatter the intimate moment.

Giggling, she put her head on his shoulder. “Do you think you can handle something a bit more substantial than clear broth and water?”

“I think so,” he said, grinning.

She dropped a quick kiss on his cheek. “Then I’ll be right back.” She winked at him. “Don’t go anywhere.”

He smirked; he wasn’t certain he could even lay back down without completely tiring himself out, let alone attempt to get out of bed. He called out to her, making her turn back around. “Thank you,” he said, “for everything. I don’t know what I did to deserve a treasure such as yourself.”

Elsa’s entire expression softened and she looked at him with such love in her eyes that he wished he could go over to her and kiss her the way that he’d always wanted to. “Just get better soon,” she said, a flirty tone coloring her words. “Then you can express your gratitude any way you want.”

His eyes darkened and he swallowed hard. “My heart, if that’s the case, then you’re about to witness the fastest recovery known to man.”

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
phoenixblaze
Jul. 21st, 2011 04:52 am (UTC)
Awww that was so adorable. I enjoyed it fully. I think Anders actually stole the show for me with his rubber duckie bit. I love seeing bits of Awakenings!Anders come through because for moments in DA2, he did and no one ever gives him credit for that. :-)
iceprincessd
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:28 am (UTC)
I'm hoping that by writing more Awakening!Anders that I'll get the hang of Kirkwall!Anders. There are moments when you get to see him as a total sarcastic goofball, and I miss that, especially since having him and Sigrun in my party meant that there were tons of opportunities to cut up.

It's just that having him be such a friend to Hawke while she's in a romance with Sebastian makes the ending that much harder to think about. :(
(Deleted comment)
iceprincessd
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:29 am (UTC)
Thanks!
reconnoiterer
Jul. 21st, 2011 07:25 am (UTC)
Finally, a truly appropriate usage for this icon haha

I think I am dying a little at the image of Anders wrestling Sebastian up a flight of stairs.

I really like how you work Sebastian's accent into his dialogue. It's just enough to keep it in his voice without going overboard.
iceprincessd
Jul. 23rd, 2011 03:35 am (UTC)
Anders would be thinking "Do I let him slide down just enough that he hits his butt on every step or not?" but then decide to play nice at the last minute because Hawke was giving him That Look. :)

Oh good! I was worried about putting too much of his accent in here. I still want to have it apparent (because Dat Accent!) but I didn't want to slow down his dialogue by overcrowding it.

I'm spending way too much time researching Scottish Gaelic. It's fun, but I'm finding more Irish Gaelic stuff, especially when it comes to terms of endearments and I'm tempted to buy some of this heather scented soap I found because it looks really pretty.
reconnoiterer
Jul. 23rd, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC)
I find the most dangerous part about researching Irish or Scottish things like languages is it just makes me want to take a vacation there and never, ever return!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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