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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 31

Prompt: welcome
Note: I think this is the longest part in this, and it mostly came about as a way to figure out the Trevelyan Sibling headcanon. I have a feeling that Rene is Ravena's favorite brother.


“I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m ready for a bath.”

“And real food,” Dorian commented. “Something other than stale biscuits left at the bottom of my satchel. They’re starting to taste like old, sweaty socks.”

Varric nodded in agreement. “Don’t forget getting a good drink. I could use one or two of those.”

“I’m up for all three, in no particular order,” Blackwall finished, rotating his arm. Druffalos were normally docile creatures, but the animals became rather violent when accidentally caught in the crossfire of chain lightning strikes. Blackwall was certain that he had wrenched something in his shoulder while deflecting a charging druffalo with his shield. “As well as a good, long nap.”

“I think that can be arranged for us, especially since we just spent the past few weeks sealing up rifts non-stop.” Ravena gave him a sideways glance and Blackwall translated the shy half-smile as her way of inviting him up to her quarters to partake in all four options with her, and then some. His assumption was confirmed when she helped him take the saddle off his horse.

“The bath is large enough for two,” she said, her breath stirring his hair as she leaned in to whisper in his ear.

“Is it now?” He reached out and settled his palm on the curve of her hip and pulled her closer.

She nodded. “Mmm hmm,” she hummed, walking her fingers up his chest. “And the bed is definitely comfortable enough for napping.”

There was no mistaking the look in her eye. Maker, how he had missed spending time alone with her. The campsites along Crestwood were in secluded areas, and while they did share a tent the entire time they were out in the field, making love to Ravena had been out of the question. The camps were crowded with Inquisition forces making sweeps for the threat of lingering undead and the tents were made of ridiculously thin canvas that did nothing to muffle sound, even with the addition of oilcloth to ward out the rain. The one time that they did manage to carve out a sliver of private time had been the night they had spent in the reclaimed fortress. While the faint exhibitionist feel and the novelty of venue had enhanced their storage room encounter, it had been rushed. The next morning they had both laughed over the odd shaped bruises from banging into shelving units, but Blackwall would have liked to have had time for something more besides a quick tryst against a wall.

“As I said,” Blackwall told her, dipping his head down to nip at her lip. “I could really use a nap.”

“Oh, for the love…” Dorian rolled his eyes as he came around to the tack room, woolen blankets in his arms. “You two are the epitome of the annoyingly cute couple. Even worse, you’re the annoyingly cute older couple. Go get a room, you’re making me nauseous.”

“Jealous heart.” Ravena stuck her tongue out at the mage, earning her a laugh. “And technically we are in a room.”

He ignored the last part with an eloquent roll of his eyes. “Me, jealous of you having a big, burly man to call your own? Actually, yes, I am quite envious.” Brushing off his sleeves, he gave them a quick farewell wave. “And on that note, I’m going to get cleaned up. Pity me for only having my books and some questionable alcohol as a sole form of comfort.”

“I’ve probably got a stack of letters waiting for me,” Varric sighed, watching as the mage walked away. “How the Merchant’s Guild found me here is beyond me.”

“Maybe you need to stop writing them letters asking them to take you off their newsletter list.”

“Probably, or else my publisher snitched on me.” Varric shaded his eyes with his hand and looked at someone walking purposefully towards them. “Say, is that someone new?”

Ravena squinted and looked in the direction that he was pointing. “Must be. That’s…” She stopped herself with a happy cry. Exhaustion forgotten, she ran full-speed towards the man. The man gave a similar shout and held his arms open. Ravena flung herself at him, the force spinning them around. She laughed as the strength of the man’s embrace lifted her off her feet.

“Take it she knows the guy.”

Blackwall shrugged and continued to put their gear away. “Guess so.” He tried hard not to let jealousy get the better of him when he noticed that Ravena had just pressed several kisses to the mystery man’s cheek, her arms still wrapped around him.

“He broodily replied,” Varric chimed in. “His eyes flashed in barely concealed…”

“You’re doing the narrating thing again.”

“He grumped.”

Blackwall rolled his eyes and began to walk towards Ravena. “Stop with the narrating thing.”

“Heh, good luck with that. You up for a game of Wicked Grace later on tonight?”

“I’ll take a rain check. Thanks for the invite, though.” As they drew closer, Blackwall could hear Ravena talking a mile a minute, which was completely out of character for his usually quiet, mild-mannered lady.

“René and Robert are fine?” she was asking, finally moving away from the man. “And Mother, Father? The children?”

The man laughed. “Yes, they’re all fine and they send their love. Honestly, Ravena, you ought to read your letters more thoroughly.”

She frowned in confusion. “What letters?”

“The ones I sent before leaving. They should have arrived weeks ago.”

“I’ve been gone for weeks. They’re probably buried underneath piles of reports that I’ll have to slog through.” She reached for his hands and squeezed them. “But I am happy to see a familiar face.” She turned when she heard her remaining two companions come up behind them.

“Blackwall, Varric, I’d like you to meet someone very special to me.”

Blackwall’s heart plummeted somewhere in the vicinity of his stomach. “Always good to meet a friend of the Inquisitor,” he said carefully, eyeing the other man.

Oblivious, Ravena went on. “This is Warden Blackwall and Varric Tethras, two of my dearest friends. This is my brother, Raoul Trevelyan.”

“Pleasure to meet you.” Raoul said, untangling a hand from Ravena’s in order to shake.

Brother. Well, that felt awkward. Now that she mentioned it, the two of them looked amazingly similar in appearance; their height, dark hair, and whiskey colored eyes were exactly the same, as were a majority of their facial features. The only things different were where Ravena’s features were more softly curved and feminine; Raoul’s were all sharp angles and blunted edges. They even had the same manner of standing with most of their weight on one leg and a hip propped out, which was slightly unnerving. “Wait, you’re the twin brother she mentioned.”

Raoul nodded. “One and the same.”

“I was wondering,” Varric noted. “The similarities are creepily uncanny.”

Ravena laughed. “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen the rest of my family together in one room. We strongly take after the Trevelyan side.”

“Our poor mother was so hoping that at least one of her broodlings would have inherited her blonde hair and blue eyes, but it looks as if Father’s traits won out, even with the grandchildren.”

There was a brief pause and Varric filled it by yawning. “Well, it was nice meeting you, but I’m going to go find myself a bathtub and then sleep for the next year or so. Stop by the main hall or the tavern when you can. I’d love to find out some embarrassing backstory about our illustrious leader straight from a close source.”

“If you do, I will seriously hurt the both of you,” she mock-threatened. “But go, Varric. You earned a rest. I’ll see you later.”

Blackwall shifted his weight slowly from foot to foot. “I’ll take my leave as well.” He tipped his head towards Raoul. “Welcome to Skyhold.”

“Nice fellow,” Raoul commented once they were alone. “I can see how you’re head over heels for him.”

“I wish he would have stayed. I…” She turned to stare at her brother. “How did you know?”

“Please. I’m your twin. You can’t hide things like this from me. Besides, you had this syrupy, besotted look on your face. It was adorable.” He nudged her with his shoulder. “If it makes you feel any better, I do think your Warden thought I was some sort of competition.”

She sputtered. “What? Blackwall doesn’t have anything to be jealous about.”

“You obviously didn’t see the way he sized me up to see if he could take me in a fight. Bit older than your usual tastes, no?”

The teasing hit a sore spot Ravena hadn’t been aware she had. “Since when do you know what my tastes in men are?”

Raoul held up his hands in surrender. “You’re right, I don’t.” It came out more clipped than he meant it to and he winced in apology.

Ravena toed the dirt in front of her boot. “What are you doing here, Raoul?” That too came out more tired and strained than intended and she suddenly wished that whatever space that had formed between them could be closed.

“Your letter home was somewhat vague. Mother and Father were worried.” He eyed the small pile of dirt Ravena was pushing with her boot and nudged the opposite side with his toe. “You’d think that they’d worry less after your second letter. The I’m not dead; we’ve regrouped in a place called Skyhold, longer letter to arrive shortly sounded quite reassuring to me, even if that longer letter never did arrive. Father has had more correspondence with your ambassador than with his own daughter.”

She frowned and folded her arms in front of her chest. “I didn’t know what to write. I never know what to write them, especially Mother.” She was much better at face to face conversations than correspondence when it came to the closest members of her family anyway. “You know how much she hates it when her children put themselves in the least bit of danger. Telling her the details on how I escaped Haven would have caused her fits greater than what she had when she found out about the Conclave.” She didn’t even want to contemplate how her mother would react if Ravena ever told her about what went on at Adamant. She was certain that rumors and tales about those events in the desert had already circulated in Ostwick, but Ravena doubted any of them were even remotely close to what had actually happened.

“Yes, well, luckily for you, my letters are a bit more fluent than yours. To save you from having your home overrun by well-meaning parents, elder siblings and various nieces and nephews, I decided to volunteer my services to your cause.”

Her eyes widened. “Really?”

He laughed, trying to recapture some of the familiarity that had shown in the first moments of seeing the other. “What? I’m good with a blade and can take orders, although you do recall that my skill with a pen is even deadlier. I was hoping that you could use me as a diplomat.”

“As much as I love seeing you again, I need to mention to you that we already have an ambassador.”

“Ah, yes. The lovely Josephine Montilyet. We’ve met. She’s quite capable, and incredibly brilliant. Her reputation reaches even as far as Ostwick, you know.”

“We’re all very grateful to have her.”

“And yet I can tell that while she most definitely can handle the burden of such an important title and that she enjoys her work, she is a bit stressed. I was hoping to help ease the burden, if only to make certain that something didn’t unintentionally fall through the cracks.”

Ravena arched her eyebrow. “Raoul, have you actually mentioned that to her?” She and Josephine had hit it off almost instantly, and Ravena regarded her as the younger sister that she never had. It would never do if Josephine thought she was being replaced.

“Well, not in those exact words, but yes, I did. She seemed amiable to the idea. She even gave me a few minor projects to work on to see if I could put my money where my mouth is.”

“And?”

“She told me to mention my plans to you, which I took as having her support.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Just how long have you been here?”

“Close to a week. Your friend Cassandra is charming, by the way. And your spymaster is quite the conversationalist.”

“Am I really at home, or did I fall asleep on the road? I know Leliana is friendly and talkative, but Cassandra? Charming? Wait, have you met Vivienne yet?”

“Tall, elegant Orlesian lady who at first glance has a slight disdain for everyone?”

“The very one.” She and the enchanter had never gotten past a polite, professional working relationship, mainly because Ravena took offense to the way she talked down to Sera and Blackwall. Yet Vivienne was a great help in Skyhold, offering to make sure that all their mages were battle-ready and to help train the younger ones from the abandoned circles. In return, Ravena preferred to take either Dorian or Solas out with her when she ventured into the field, and the arrangement suited them both well.

“Delightful woman. We spoke at length on politics once she thawed a bit. We’ve met for tea every afternoon at four.”

Ravena looked at him with a critical eye. “All right, who are you and what have you done with my brother? I grew up with you; I don’t recall you being this likeable by nature.”

Raoul laughed. “I was born with natural charm and the ability to easily make friends. You never got to see it because I was honor bound to treat you as my insufferable baby sister.”

“I’m five minutes younger than you, that shouldn’t count.”

“Five minutes is still five minutes. Trust me, it most definitely counts.” He noticed the way she was weaving on her feet. “When was the last time you slept?”

She shrugged. “I can’t remember.” She had managed a few brief cat naps here and there, but she never slept well out in the field, even when they camped amongst Inquisition forces. While the heat that Blackwall’s body put out – she swore the man was like a furnace – and the comforting weight of his arms around her could quickly put her under, any little noise seemed to wake her. It was a habit carried over from her days of exploring; when she had gone on her solitary expeditions, she had never fully trusted sleeping in ruins or caves and Henri usually slept like a rock on the digs they went on together, no matter how dangerous the area might have been, so someone had to keep watch. It didn’t help matters any that when she did manage to catch some sleep, she often had nightmares of the people from Old Crestwood or any number of demons that they had just fought, so whatever break she got had never been restful.

All in all, she was most definitely looking forward to sleeping in her own bed for a change. She glanced in the direction Blackwall had walked off in. Hopefully she wouldn’t be sleeping alone.

“Then it’s about time you did something about that.” He nudged her with his shoulder. “And take a bath. You smell like a horse.”

“All in due time. I still need to report to my advisors while everything is still fresh in my mind. After that, I’m planning on sleeping for a solid eight hours, so I won’t be seeing you until later.” She nudged him back. “Welcome to Skyhold, Brother. Try not to cause trouble while I’m unconscious.”

He gave her a grin. “Trouble? Me?”

Ravena laughed and walked away. “Don’t give me that innocent look. I know how you are.”

She might have been joking, but in reality, she didn’t know him, or at least not any more. Spending so many years away from family members tended to make one lose familiarity with them. She hoped that having him as an agent for the Inquisition would help regain some of the closeness they once had.

***

She did have enough decency to use the barracks’ bathing room to rinse the worst of the stink and dust off her general person before making reports to her advisors. By the filthy towels in the bin and used cakes of soap, she could tell that her other three companions had done the same. She piled her still wet hair up in a bun and pulled on a spare uniform someone had left for her – bless whoever had, Ravena had been dreading climbing back into her dirty clothes – and made her way to the War Room.

Luckily, her advisors were quick and to the point. She had been sending birds on a regular basis while she was out, so all she had to do was give them a short summary of events.

“Have you seen our newest guest?” Leliana prompted. Cullen had already left the room, but the two women lingered, hoping to get some information from Ravena.

“Raoul? Yes, I met him close to the stables.” She eyed Josephine. “He mentioned that he wishes to help the Inquisition.”

Josephine gave a small smile and looked down at her paperwork. “Yes, he has a broad knowledge of law from varying countries.”

“As far as I know, he’s been a lawyer for over twenty-two years. I recall him mentioning having to help nobles deal with international incidents from time to time.”

“As far as you know?” Leliana asked, tilting her head.

Ravena bit her lip. “The two of us…” her brow furrowed. “We’ve drifted apart over the years. What information I have of him is secondhand from the rest of my family.”

Josephine, sensing Ravena’s discomfort, cleared her throat. “Then your family is as modest about your brother’s accomplishments as he is. I’ve heard his name spoken in Orlais with high praise. He is brilliant at what he does.”

“He said the same thing about you.”

It must have been some trick of the light, but Ravena swore that the normally unflappable Josephine had blushed. “Does that mean that you’ll let him stay?” she asked, her tone hopeful.

“It depends. Are you all right working with him?”

“More than all right. With two diplomats working for you, we can accomplish much more than I could alone.”

Leliana leaned against the table. “And besides, Raoul is easy to look at, isn’t he, Josie?”

Josephine’s blush grew darker, causing her friend to laugh. “I…well, that is to say…”

Ravena smirked. “It’s okay if you think that my brother’s pretty,” she reassured her. “He is, you know. When we were younger, most of the ladies in Ostwick fell over themselves for him. Thank the Maker Raoul never realized his appeal, or else he would have been as impossible to live with as my two other brothers were in their bachelor days.”

“What? How is that possible?” Josephine coughed. “I mean, he is rather attractive.”

Ravena waved her off. “He never had much patience for women, especially the empty-headed, giggly sort when there were more important matters to deal with, like memorizing legal terms and cases. The two of us are alike in our attention to scholarly pursuits. And when Father arranged an internship for him and he spied the lawyer’s daughter, who was the exact opposite of giggly and empty-headed, he lost interest in all other women.”

“So he’s married.” This from Leliana, who wasn’t even hiding the fact that she was fishing for information.

“Widower. His wife Eliza died in childbirth fifteen years ago.”

Josephine put her hand to her throat. “That’s horrible.”

Ravena nodded. “It was. I’ve never seen two people more in love than them. After, Raoul poured himself into his work. It might still be a sore subject; I wouldn’t bring it up to him.” Maker knew that she hadn’t; Ravena had quickly realized that any attempts at bringing up either his wife or their child to help her brother heal from the loss of both had been met with resistance, her brother distancing himself even more from her. As painful as it was to see her brother suffer alone, she had stopped before the gulf between them grew so wide that it could never be bridged.

“Of course.”

“You have our word.” Leliana leaned in. “Though it will be nice to have another man to stand around and look pretty during our meetings.”

Ravena laughed. “I’m certain Cullen will appreciate sharing the load of teasing. Just be careful, Raoul always had a tendency to tease right back when you least expected it.” She covered her mouth to hide a yawn. “Now, if there’s nothing else, I think my bed is calling my name.”

Josephine shook her head. “No, I have nothing further. I did take the liberty of ordering you a bath and having some food sent to your quarters.”

Ravena sighed, just thinking how wonderful soaking in hot water would feel. “Josephine, you are a treasure.” With that, Ravena saw herself out and made her way to her quarters.

She was on one of the landings when she felt a presence beside her. “Hello, Cole,” she said, smiling in his direction.

He picked at a loose thread on his sleeve. “Hello.” For once, Cole was without his trademark hat. “He’s prickly, like a weed that knows it doesn’t belong in a garden but doesn’t want to be plucked out.”

She frowned in confusion. “Who is?”

He mirrored her expression. “There’s ragged edges, like a piece of cloth torn long ago. It’s all a jumble of confused thoughts that are too loud for me to make out. I want to help, but I can’t tell who it is.” Cole leaned against the wall and wrapped his thin arms around his middle. He looked so troubled that Ravena impulsively reached out to give him a hug.

“It’s all right, Cole. If you’d like, I could help you try to figure things out.”

“I think most of the noise is coming from you,” he said, his words muffled by her shoulder. He pulled back so he could look her in the eye. “There’s a wall between the two of you. The more you push on the wall, the further the wall moves away. You didn’t want to, but you eventually stopped pushing. It hurts.”

She looked down at the ground. “Yes, I did.” She looked back at him. “And yes, it does.”

“You’re like a doll whose arm was torn off at the seams; the pain isn’t fresh, more like a dull ache that you’ve gotten used to having. Losing a part of yourself made you seek other pieces to replace it, but you still miss him.”

“You’re right,” she finally said. “I do.”

Cole gently traced her cheek with a cool hand, his eyes understanding and sympathetic. “Your brother is here because he wants to be here, there’s no other reason. Titles don’t matter to him, ‘Vena.”

She took an involuntary step backwards at the shortened use of her name. The look on her face must have troubled Cole because he grimaced. “Little children laughing, heads close together as they play. No one besides Papa has called me that in so long.” He furrowed his brow. “I said that wrong and I hurt you. I didn’t mean to: I can fix it, say it again.”

“No, Cole. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Leaning in, she gave him a brief kiss on the forehead. “In fact, you said it just right.”

“The noise is quieter now,” he reassured her. “But the weed still bothers me. It’s conflicted: does it stay or does it leave? Never had to deal with this before, will someone make her realize I’m no good for her?” Cole’s eyes pointedly looked towards the closed door leading to Ravena’s chambers.

Ravena’s eyes followed his. “Ah. I think I might have an idea who those thoughts belong to.”

“So you’ll help them?”

“I’ll try to, as best as I’m able.”

Cole smiled. “Good. I like that you like helping people. It makes me happy.” He leaned in and gave her a kiss on the forehead, much like she had given him earlier. Almost immediately, the headache that had bloomed between her eyes since talking about her brother eased. “You’re very tired, you need to rest.”

She nodded. “I will. I’ll just…” she stopped, because suddenly the spirit wasn’t standing in front of her any longer. “…never get used to you popping in and out like that,” she finished out loud. Shaking her head, she went up the last flight of stairs and opened her door, already anticipating the bath and food Josephine had promised to be waiting.

What she found was even better. Yes, there were slices of bread, cold meats and a selection of cheeses on a platter at her desk and thick plumes of steam were still rising off the tub situated by the fireplace, but what really made her heart beat contentedly was the dark shock of hair peeking over the back of the sofa she saw from her vantage point on the staircase. Smiling, she quietly made her way up to Blackwall and stared down at him as he slept. He had changed out of his travel-worn clothes and into a pale blue tunic and light brown trousers. Both items fit him well, the shirt stretching over his broad chest and wide shoulders in a way that made Ravena want to curl up on the sofa with him. He’d taken off his boots, his long legs stretched out in front of him and his bare feet resting on a nearby ottoman. Giving into the temptation, she toed off her own boots and folded her legs underneath her as she sat by his side.

He stirred at her movements. Still half asleep, he blindly reached out and draped his arm around her. “Hello.”

She snuggled up closer and pressed a kiss to his jaw. “I didn’t mean to wake you. You looked peaceful.”

He smiled. “I’m better, now that you’re here. They didn’t keep you very long.”

“No, I think a quick overview sufficed.” She curled an arm around her middle when her stomach grumbled.

Blackwall rested his chin against the crown of her head. “Hungry?”

“Famished. I see that the meal Josephine promised was delivered.” She rose and went over to the food. She sandwiched a large amount of meat and cheese between two slices of bread and was in the process of creating one for herself when she heard Blackwall get up from the sofa.

“I’ll leave you to it,” he said, his words sounding oddly formal.

Turning around, she tilted her head. “Just where do you think you’re going?”

He stood straight and rigid with his hands balled into fists at his sides, almost as if he were expecting a blow from somewhere. “I thought that you’d like to be alone, especially with your brother at Skyhold.”

She walked up to him and put her palm against his chest. As if to match his outward appearance, his heart was beating a rapid staccato against his ribs. “Have I given you any reason to doubt my feelings for you?”

He covered her hand with one of his own. “Never.”

“And you’ve never given me a reason to doubt your feelings for me. Nothing changes just because my brother is here.” She leaned in and kissed him. “I’d like for you to stay, but the choice is ultimately up to you.”

He held her close. “I don’t deserve you,” he said, tension leaking out from his stance.

“Nonsense. You’re a good man, one that I’m grateful to have in my life every day.” Stretching up, she kissed him, hoping that if he wouldn’t believe the words she spoke that he’d believe the way she held him. Taking his hand, she led him to the tub. “The bath is getting cold.” She busied herself by dragging a side table to the edge of the tub. Whoever had delivered the food had also thought to bring up a bottle of wine and two goblets. She smiled as she filled both cups: she and Blackwall hadn’t been nearly as secretive as they thought they were. It’s a wonder they haven’t started to bring his repaired gear or laundered clothes up here as well.

He watched as she stripped out of her borrowed uniform, unabashed in her nudity. “I thought you said you were hungry,” he said, pulling his shirt over his head.

“The food will keep.” She slid into the tub with a blissful moan, her eyes on Blackwall as he divested himself of his pants. “That’s it,” she said, sipping her wine. “You’re not allowed to wear your field gear here at home ever again. I’m filling up dressers full of outfits just like that one for you.”

He smiled, his heart tripping over how easily she had called this place home for them. “If that’s what my lady wishes.” He groaned as he stepped into the tub and settled behind her, the heat from the water already soaking into his bones.

She leaned back against his chest. “Your lady wishes that you’d refrain from wearing clothes at all times, but I fear you’d suffer from exposure in the winter months.”

“Not to mention cause a spectacle.” He slid the pins out of her hair and set them on the table next to their wineglasses. Shifting her hair over one shoulder, he bent his head and lavished kisses on the other. “No one needs to see my arse.”

“I happen to be rather fond of your arse,” she countered, reaching down and massaging his calf. The muffled groan against her skin told her that she had found a sore spot. “I thought you were favoring that leg.”

“It’s nothing.”

She arched her eyebrow and craned her neck so she could kiss him. “Nothing? Just like your bruised shoulder?”

“You weren’t supposed to notice that.” He disliked the feeling of having a weakness, especially when he tried to keep up the image of being solid and sure, a wall that Ravena could count on and lean against.

“It wouldn’t be hurt if I hadn’t slipped in the mud and been in that druffalo’s line of vision.” The enraged animal had her in its sights, but Blackwall had taken the blow meant for her while she had scrambled to her feet and out of harm’s way.

“It wouldn’t have mattered, had Dorian not hit the beast with lightning in the first place.”

She hummed her agreement. “Then Dorian owes you a drink, even if the druffalo zapping had been accidental.”

He laughed. “Dorian owes us all a drink, by that count. I seem to recall a certain crossbow wielding dwarf being tossed to the side after a charge.”

“Don’t remind Varric. He’d like to keep the entire tossing incident quiet so he doesn’t lose his credibility as a dark and mysterious storyteller. Besides, Cassandra would never let him hear the end of it if word got out.”

“And what of our renowned Inquisitor? Is your credibility in danger if rumors of nearly being bested by an overgrown cow crop up?” He reached for the washcloth and after lathering a generous amount of soap on the fabric, gently swiped it across her back, the faint scent of mint filling the air.

She laughed at his teasing tone. “If you have the urge to talk about our trip, make certain you mention that the druffalo was actually a dragon and it flew away before we could kill it. It’ll soothe everyone’s ego.” She relaxed against his chest again and trailed her fingers across the surface of the water. “I’m not close with my family. Not like I should be.”

The sudden change in topic surprised him. “What makes you think that?”

“Well, I should probably rephrase that. I’m close with my father and my two oldest brothers. Robert, my second oldest brother, would come to Tantervale often. Out of them all, he had the freest schedule: he was still apprenticing under my father’s seneschal in order to one day take over those duties, but he would make time to visit at least once a month and stay for a week each time. He’d bring his wife with him most visits. They grew so fond of the city that they even bought a small house they still use for vacations.” She smiled at the memory. “I remember Robert would make a big deal out of covertly smuggling in these little chocolates I used to love when I was younger. Many of the other Mothers disapproved of such indulgences from other initiate’s families, so I had to hide them in a hollowed out book I kept in my room.”

Blackwall abandoned the washcloth in favor of slowly running his hands over her back, his thumbs soothing away knots of tension. “You rarely speak of your family. What are they like?”

“You know I have three brothers and that I’m the youngest of the bunch. Richard, my father, is a good man with a kind heart, but he can be almost too serious for his own good at times and he tends to have a sarcastic streak when someone begins to irritate him about something. He’s an avid outdoorsman: you’ll know if he likes you if he starts to ask your opinion about hunting. You’ll know that he approves of you if he invites you to hunt on his grounds with him.” She smiled and her back relaxed under his hands. “I love him dearly. He says that he loves his children equally, yet it never failed that I could sway him towards my side of any argument as a child, much to my brothers’ annoyance.”

Ravena paused, her fingers tapping on the side of the tub. “My eldest brother, René, is a carbon copy of my father, both in looks and in temperament. He’ll take over the bannorn after Father passes, so he never had much of a chance to visit the Chantry when I was there. He made up for it by writing as often as he could. He and his wife have a son, though I can tell by the way that he dotes on his nieces that René wishes he had a daughter of his own to spoil. There’s a five year age gap between the two of us, but he’s never treated me as anything other than his equal. Out of the three, he’s the one that I’ve always confided in the most. He’s also the best at giving advice, and he’s the most protective of my brothers.” René had a tiny scar on his chin due to a fight he got into where another nobleman’s son was teasing Ravena. The taunting had gone from playful to downright cruel because at the time, she had a slight lisp and tended to stutter, her tongue too slow to properly catch up to her brain’s quick thinking. The brat might have gotten in a lucky hit and his ring had cut her brother, but René wound up breaking his nose. The memory of René, bloody chin and all, kneeling in front of her as he dried her tears had been permanently seared into her brain. He’d told her that it didn’t matter how she talked, because she was his favorite person to talk with and anyone who dared to mock her would face his wrath. Years of speech lessons had banished both the lisp and the stutter for good, but the bratty boy’s face never recovered. To this day, many of his contemporaries called him Pug Face behind his back.

She picked up the long-handled brush nearby and took her time scrubbing her legs and feet. For good measure, she copied the same motions with his, using the act of bathing as a way to busy her hands while she spoke. “My second brother Robert can be just as serious as René when the occasion calls for it, especially when there’s anything pertaining to his duties, but he’s the most lighthearted in the family. If you need someone to find a bit of fun with and drink until the early hours of the morning, he’s your man. Where René might sit and listen and offer a shoulder to cry on, Robert has this way about him that makes it nearly impossible for anyone to feel low when he’s around. You can’t help but laugh at some of his horrible jokes, which he’ll purposely make just to make you feel better because he can’t stand the sight of tears. He’s a born flirt too: he had most of the ladies in Ostwick giggling and blushing after him in his bachelor days. That is until he met Maria. She was the only woman unaffected by his charms, so naturally he fell in love with her. They have three children – two girls and a boy – and I’m happy to report that I’m their favorite aunt.”

Blackwall grinned. “You seem proud of that fact.”

“While I love my brother’s wives like they’re my sisters, yes, I’m thrilled to be the favorite. I’m also the ‘fun’ relative who has tons of interesting stories to tell my nephews and nieces about my travels.”

“What of your mother?”

Ravena sighed, plucking the washcloth from the side of the tub to run down her arms. “Sometimes I feel as if I’m a disappointment to her. I can tell that she doesn’t approve of my decision to follow after my cousin’s footsteps as a field researcher, especially when she hears about random tussles with bandits and beasts. I try to water the reports down as best as I can to keep my family from worrying, but Henri doesn’t have that sort of filter when he goes to visit. He doesn’t mean to say anything that might worry them, it just all sorts of spills out over the course of his stay. As I’ve said before, she would have preferred me to stay in some cloister and become a sister before hopefully working up the Chantry ranks. Having a Revered Mother Trevelyan in the family would have brought a lot of political clout, you know. Had I not been placed into the Chantry, Mother often talked about marrying me off to some rich noble and giving her tons of grandchildren.” She turned around and began to soap up his chest, her eyes focused somewhere around Blackwall’s chin. “She always dressed me up in satin and lace as a child; I think my choices of pants over dresses and adventuring over more ladylike pastimes confuses her.”

“Your brother seems nice,” he offered, noting that she hadn’t spoken of him yet. “Will he be staying with us?”

She nodded, her fingers easing the soreness at his shoulder. “Raoul’s an excellent addition to the Inquisition. He’s already impressed Josephine to the point where she’d more than likely be upset with me if I asked him to go.”

“But do you want him here?”

Ravena tilted her chin down. “I don’t know. Part of me wants him to be here because I’ve missed him. The other part of me wants him to leave because…” she splayed her hands out against his chest in a gesture that said she wasn’t sure how to express herself. “Because I’ve missed him. As twins, we were nearly inseparable as children and seemed to always know what the other was thinking or feeling at any given time, but our relationship became strained after I went to the Chantry and distance separated us. It became even worse when his wife Eliza died. I write to him often, but he only rarely answers and when he does, it feels as if he only writes back because he has to, not because he wants to. His work schedule and mine always seem to be on opposing timetables; the only chances I’ve really had to visit with him have been on First Day celebrations, but even then we don’t get much chance to talk alone because he’s always put to work on some preparation for festivities or another.” Being together as a family on festival days was so important to her entire family; there had never really been a good time to take Raoul aside to confront him about the distance that had grown between them, seeing that Ravena hadn’t wanted to spoil the festive mood for everyone with an outburst. Cole had been right: the hurt of being ignored by her brother had become a constant ache she had adapted to until it just felt normal to feel that way.

Blackwall put his arms around her. “And you’re wondering why he’s shown up now.”

“For the most part, I was thrilled when I saw Raoul here, but there’s this nagging little voice that keeps creeping up that wonders if he’s just here because I’m the Herald of Andraste and he’s honor-bound as a Trevelyan to show up instead of coming to support his sister because he wanted to see me for me. Cole pinpointed it right away: I don’t want to be the Herald to my family, or,” she framed his face with her hands. “Or to those that I love.”

Blackwall stood up from the bath and reached for one of the towels that had been left for them. Slinging it around his hips, he held out his hand. “I don’t see you as the Herald,” he told her. “Well, I do see you as the Herald when we’re out closing rifts or when you’re doing Inquisition-related things, but that’s just one side of you. I see you as more than your title.”

She took his hand and grabbed a second towel. “What do you see me as, then?” she asked, wrapping the towel around herself. She took a breath and grinned at him, trying to dispel the heaviness that had fallen over them. “Just so you know, I am blatantly fishing for compliments.”

He smiled and helped her step out of the tub. “I see a clever, intelligent woman who is insatiably curious about the world around her. She is equally at home in a hushed library or a rowdy tavern, though personally I enjoy the tavern, especially when she gets into her cups and starts singing bawdy tunes.”

Ravena laughed. “That was once, and I wasn’t that drunk.”

“Says you.” He picked up one of her previously made sandwiches and handed it to her. “I see someone skilled with blades that I would trust my life to in a fight. I see a woman who finds something to smile about even when the world seems to shit upon everything good, who takes on the hard decisions so no one else has to be burdened with them.” He took a bite of his sandwich. “I see a most stunningly beautiful woman who for some incomprehensible reason, has chosen to allow a rough, shaggy-looking man she found wandering the woods into her life.”

She brushed crumbs off her hands. “I saw a ruggedly handsome outdoorsman in the woods, teaching a handful of men how to protect themselves and their families,” Ravena corrected. “Actually, I heard you long before I saw you. I was incredibly pleased to discover that your appearance matched the attractive sound of your voice.”

Meal finished, he reached out and smoothed his hands over her waist, his palms catching on the nubby texture of the towel. “So you like my voice, do you?”

Nodding, she slid her hands across his shoulders and upwards until her fingers tangled in his still-damp hair. “Very much.”

He bent his head until he could rest his forehead against hers. “Maker, I don’t know how I became so fortunate to find you,” he breathed.

“I ask myself that about you,” she replied. “Your being here with me has made all of this bearable.”

“My lady.” It was too easy to angle his head for a kiss. The loose knot Ravena had made with her towel came undone with a light tug, as did the tie at his hip. Both pieces of material fell in a puddle around their feet.

“Take me to bed,” she murmured against his mouth, arms going around his shoulders as he easily slung her up in his arms and carried her towards the waiting mattress.

***

They lay in a sleepy tangle of sheets and limbs. Blackwall ran his fingers down her arm, marveling at how soft her skin was. “Do you think they would approve of me?” he suddenly wondered, his voice quiet and low.

Ravena’s fingers stopped making random patterns across his chest and stomach. “Hm? Who?”

“Your family.” He held her closer, his hand splayed across her back. “Your parents, especially.”

Her fingers resumed their lazy path along his body. “Does it matter?”

He caught her hand in his. “I never really paid it any thought because they were so far over there in Ostwick, but now that you have someone here, yes, it does matter.” He brought her hand up and kissed her fingers. “You matter, Ravena, more so than any other woman I’ve ever known.”

She lifted her head away from his shoulder so she could look him in the eye. “You matter to me too,” she said solemnly. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone else.”

“I want,” he started, reaching out to run a long wave of her hair through his fingers, “I want very much to be the kind of man they would want for their daughter. The kind of man your brothers would gladly want for their sister.”

“You’re a good man with a kind heart. I think that my family would be quite impressed with you.” Snuggling closer, she wound her leg around his. “And you make me happy, which is all that my parents have ever truly wanted for their children.”

“I’ve never really cared about anyone else’s opinion before,” he confessed. “I’m just afraid that…”

She silenced him with a kiss. “I’m not easily driven away just because people don’t approve of my choices,” she told him. “If I were, then I’d probably be sitting in some Chantry right now instead of traipsing around Thedas.”

He sighed. “Let me guess: Cole?”

She nodded. “He means well, and he has a way of bluntly getting to the heart of a matter that most people don’t.” Resting her head against his shoulder again, she continued. “I love you, and I hope that you’d want to be with me no matter what others think.”

He ran his thumb against the back of her hand. “There’s no place else I’d rather be,” he told her.

She beamed up at him. “I’m glad.” She tilted her face away to hide a yawn against his collarbone. “We should get some rest. Something tells me that even if we’ve only returned, there’s still more work to be done.”

Blackwall dropped a kiss to the crown of her head. He quietly lay there and listened as her breathing slowed down and her body grew heavier against his arm, her tell-tale sign that she had fallen asleep. He worried about her, she often woke multiple times during the night when they were on the road and never seemed to look fully rested during the day. Thankfully, she made up for it by sleeping like the dead once they were back at Skyhold, not even stirring at the slightest sound and barely moving from the position she had fallen asleep in. He knew from experience that in the morning he’d be able to slip out of her bed, dress and leave without so much as disturbing her.

Not that he wanted to leave her, but he had two major plans for the next day. The first revolved around meeting with Ravena’s advisors to see if they could give Ravena at least another day of rest before inundating her with various requests. She tried to hide it from everyone, but he could tell she was exhausted.

The second involved properly introducing himself to Raoul. While Ravena might have said that opinions didn’t matter much to her, he still wanted to make a good impression. Settling more comfortably against the pillows, Blackwall drew Ravena closer and shut his eyes. It wasn’t long before he joined her in slumber.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
reconnoiterer
Sep. 4th, 2015 02:04 pm (UTC)
I think I remember the Raoul/Josephine subplot from some previous prompts? From way back? I think they could be quite the power-couple... and so smartly dressed! And I mean... c'mon, who doesn't like a rich, powerful, handsome man humbled by angst...

I really like the spin on their relationship - the closeness of twins that's been broken up by a tragedy, but also just by the quieter separation of being apart and going on different paths.

Also, I think you really nailed Cole's voice here :)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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