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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 42

Prompt: Comfort

“I figured I’d find you here.”

Ravena looked up in time to see her brother’s head peek over the top of the ladder. She scrubbed at her eyes with the heel of her hand, but she knew she couldn’t hide the redness from him. “Maybe I wanted to be alone,” she said instead, hating how her voice made her sound like a petulant girl.

“And maybe you do, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to let you wallow all by yourself.” Raoul hauled himself up and over the ladder. “That judgment session was difficult to watch; I imagine it was even harder to personally go through.” He gave a soft grunt as he wiggled into a more comfortable position beside her. Ravena had chosen to retreat from everyone by curling up into one of the many reading nooks she had made within Skyhold. This one wasn’t one of the better built ones, especially since the tower roof was still partially under construction.

But this nook was hers and hers alone: there weren’t any memories that might haunt her, unlike some of the other places she had brought someone – him – to. It helped that the bursts of howling wind that ran through her sanctuary suited her mood perfectly.

“I’m fine.”

“You’re lying.”

She winced. After what she had gone through in the past couple of days, being called a liar didn’t sit well with her. “What good would it do if I told you I was miserable?” she demanded, glaring at him. “What would it matter if I said that I felt so damned stupid, if I said that it hurt?” Any other time, she would have been ashamed by the hot tears that fell unbidden down her face, but now, she was too tired to care. Dimly, she felt Raoul gather her in his arms and slowly rock her back and forth.

“I could beat him up for you,” he offered, resting his chin on top of her head.

“I should let you,” she said, her voice muffled in the crook of his neck.

“Well, I would have pummeled the bastard who broke my sister’s heart,” he said, giving her a squeeze. “But Cassandra beat me to it. I do believe he’ll be sporting a black eye and a few other bruises for quite some time. I did put in a couple of good verbal jabs as I dragged her off of him though.”

Ravena snorted, imagining Cassandra standing up for her. She made a mental note to press Varric for more chapters of his romance serial as a show of gratitude. “Serves him right.”

“You could try saying his name.”

“It doesn’t do any good. Rainier. Captain Thom Rainier. I know what his name is. Maker’s teeth, he asked me to call him by his given name before any of this came to light.” She barked out a bitter, humorless laugh. “He said it was a Warden thing to take another name and like a fool, I believed him, but it was just another one of his many lies.”

“I hate seeing you this way, ‘Vena.”

“I hate feeling this way.” She moved away and wiped at her face. “You haven’t called me ‘Vena in years.”

“Not since we were children,” he agreed. “Not since before you went to the Chantry.”

“It always made me sad when you stopped.” She looked down. “It made me sad when you stopped doing a lot of other things, too. I missed you, you know.” She bit her lip; that hadn’t meant to come out, and she hated the hurt that flashed in her brother’s eyes.

“I know. I’ve missed you too. I didn’t know how to talk to you, after. Sometimes I still don’t.” He pulled one of his knees up and rested his arm across it. “I always felt like anything I said would be as if I were rubbing it in that the only reason you were in the Chantry was because I had gotten married first. You’ve always been good at hiding how you feel from everyone, but I could tell how much you resented me for putting you there.”

She shot up. “What? No.” Sitting on her knees, she looked at him. “I blamed an outdated family tradition for me being sent; I never blamed you for me being in the Chantry, Raoul. The only thing I’ve ever wished for you was happiness: I loved Eliza like a sister, and I could tell that the two of you adored the other.”

“I could have tried to stop it. I could have asked our parents to bring you home, but I didn’t. I knew how miserable you were, and all I could think of was how grateful I was that it wasn’t me in there instead of you.” He looked at her and Ravena’s heart ached at his expression. “It was a boy, you know. Mother and Father believe that neither of us knew, but the midwife told us. Eliza was so happy, but then she slipped away from me. She never found out that our son...” he turned his head, his mouth a thin line of grief. “I sat there with one arm around my wife as she drew her last breath and the other around our son, who had never gotten a chance to draw his first, and…”

Ravena embraced her brother, her arms tight around him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I thought it was the Maker’s way of punishing me for finding happiness at the expense of another. After, I threw myself into my work to take my mind off of everything I had lost. In time, it got easier to make brief appearances so that Mother and Father wouldn’t worry, to make excuses of too much work because I knew René would understand, to laugh when Robert wanted to go drinking even though it hurt to even think about smiling.” He squeezed her almost to the point of pain. “To ignore my sister’s letters, to pretend that she didn’t exist, to push her away when all she wanted to do was offer comfort. Oh, ‘Vena, I’m so sorry for causing you so much pain.”

“I’m sorry too. There were so many times over the years where I wanted to clear the air between us, but I was so afraid of driving you away from me for good. I should have been braver.” She leaned up until their foreheads were touching. “Can you ever forgive me, Raoul?”

“I should be asking that of you.”

“There’s nothing to forgive. I love you.”

“I love you too. It makes me sick of all the years that I wasted, barely speaking to you.”

She kissed his cheek. “Promise me that there’ll be no more secrets between us, okay?”

“I promise. No more secrets.”

“Good.” Now that they had finally spoken, it felt as if a weight she had been carrying for years had finally lifted and she felt the gap that had been slowly trying to close ever since Raoul’s arrival at Skyhold finally seal. Its closing might have left a scar, but she chose to use that as a reminder to never allow things to fester between them again. “Now stop consoling your weepy sister and head back downstairs. I know for a fact that there’s a lovely Antivan lady who better deserves your attention.”

He looked shocked. “I…”

“Oh please. I’m your twin, Raoul. You can’t hide things like this from me. Besides, Josephine already spilled the beans once I gave her the slightest opening. In case you’re wondering, she’s head over heels for you.”

“Our relationship doesn’t bother you? She is nearly eleven years my junior.”

“I meant what I said, Raoul: all I’ve ever wanted was for you to be happy. You haven’t truly been happy in years; seeing the two of you together is like seeing the old you finally come out and I’m grateful for it. The two of you are good for the other. Besides, Blackw-” Ravena stopped herself, her heart doing a painful twist in her chest. “Thom is three years and several months my senior. I’d be calling the kettle black if I said that I had objections over something as silly as an age gap.”

“You still love him, don’t you?” His eyes were sympathetic.

She looked down, her lip caught between her teeth. “Andraste save me, but yes, I do. I think I’ll always love him, no matter how much I dislike him at the moment.” Or how little he loves me, she thought painfully.

“Do you ever think you could forgive him?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. I…” she sighed. “I’m trying.”

Raoul kissed her forehead. “Then that’s all anyone can do. And if it comes up that you can’t or don’t want to forgive him, then that’s okay too. I’m here for you either way. Do me a favor though?”

“What?”

“Brood someplace less drafty. It wouldn’t do if the Inquisitor caught a cold.” He winked at her before starting down the ladder. “And that didn’t come from just me. Dorian, Varric and Cullen worry too, you know.”

Ravena waited until she heard the large door leading out of the tower creak shut before she stretched out on her makeshift cushion of blankets, her head cradled in her arms. “You can come out, Cole,” she murmured. Somehow, she knew that the spirit was there with her.

“He’s not as ragged now,” Cole commented, staring down at the door Raoul had gone out of. “Josephine sews up the torn pieces of his heart, places patches on parts he thought he lost forever.”

“I know. I’m happy for them.” It was the truth. Even through her own sadness, she was thankful that her brother could reclaim some of the happiness he’d once lost.

“It’s good that you can fix things between your brother. The doll’s arm might have gotten put back where it belongs, but now her heart is all jagged edges and crushed pieces.” After a beat, Cole tilted his head. “You’ve given him a painful blow, you know. He sits, bleeding, at your door.”

She knew who he was talking about. “What I gave him is his freedom. He’s free to leave if being here hurts him so much.”

“Going away would hurt him even more. It would have killed him if you had banished him.”

“I don’t see how that could. He made it plain that he never loved me.”

Cole’s eyes went vacant under the wide brim of his hat. “Words like bitter poison, coating the tongue. Shards of glass slicing the throat as they come out. Heart shattering as she stares down, cold, so cold. One more regret piling atop the rest…”

“Stop.” She squeezed her eyes shut and curled herself into a ball of misery. “Please, Cole, just stop for now.”

“I said it wrong, didn’t I?”

“I don’t think there’s a right way to say things here. Thank you for trying.”

She felt him brush his fingers through her hair. Her father had often done the same when she was a child suffering from nightmares and the move never failed to soothe her. “I could make you forget him so it would stop hurting, but I don’t think you would forgive me.”

“I know it sounds strange, but there are some pains that people need to work through on their own.”

“And there are some pains that people need to work through together.” With one final pass of his fingers through her hair, he was gone.

Ravena lay there until the sky over her half-finished shelter grew dark. She spent her time thinking things through, replaying conversations and going through memories to try and see just when she might have been able to see through his lies and save herself the heartache she was currently going through. After lingering far too long on the memory of Blackwall’s eyes and the way his lips curved into a happy smile when he told her he loved her, she admitted to herself that she was indeed brooding and decided that she had enough of it. Making her way down the ladder and stealthily past everyone, she crept like a thief in her own home until she made it to the stairwell leading to her quarters. Emotionally exhausted, she wasn’t paying attention when she climbed the stairs until the scraping noise of someone hurriedly getting up off the floor startled her.

So Cole wasn’t exaggerating when he said he was at my door, she thought, trying to steel herself for a confrontation she wasn’t prepared for.

“Ravena…”

She held up a hand. “Don’t. Just…don’t.” Maker, but she was tired. Tilting her head up, she looked at him so he could see her red-rimmed eyes and tear-streaked face and felt a tiny bit of satisfaction by the way his own face crumpled in anguish. Just like Raoul had said, one of Blackwall’s eyes was swollen shut. “I can’t talk to you right now.”

“I understand.” He reached out as if to touch her like he had so many other times, but stopped at the last minute, his hand hovering in mid-air before he retracted it. “Will…will there ever be a chance to?”

Ravena stared at him and tried to see the man who had confessed so coldly that he had never loved her. She saw instead a man who probably felt as heartsick as she did. Cole’s words came back to haunt her; had Blackwall lied to her one last time? He thought he was going to his death; had he truly wanted to spare her from grief, or was this a pretense, just another one of his lies she was supposed to blindly believe in order for him to get back into her good graces? “I don’t know.” she said honestly. Quietly, she slipped past him and carefully shut her bedroom door before pressing her palms and forehead against the wood.

She could have sworn she heard an answering thud as if Blackwall did the same on the opposite side. “I hope so,” she finally heard him say, his voice hoarse before she listened to the sound of his boots walk away.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
reconnoiterer
Sep. 26th, 2015 06:17 pm (UTC)
I love this chapter! I like how the twins have this "too much alike" thing going where they both cope in the same way - by throwing themselves into their work at the expense of other things. Your main protags are always such interesting, rounded-out characters; it was nice to see her be able to use one tragedy to help heal the scars of another.
iceprincessd
Sep. 27th, 2015 02:33 am (UTC)
Thanks! I wanted this to be a springboard to help resolve her issue with her brother in hopes that if she can bring herself to clear the air with him, she can do the same for Blackwall.

I think I want to do a separate story/drabble series for the stuff that happens behind the scenes, much like all of the Josephine and Raoul romance stuff. I don't know when I'd get around to it, but I do want to put it on the list of stuff to write. :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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