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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 47

Prompt: Coffee
Note: only three more prompts to go!


The first time that a still-steaming mug of coffee appeared at her desk, Ravena thought that Josephine had left it for her. It was a bold, dark roasted Antivan blend that the two women had mentioned in their last casual conversation they shared a mutual appreciation for. The drink had come at an opportune moment too: Ravena had been in the middle of writing a report after going on less than two hours of sleep and the words on the parchment had begun to swim in front of her eyes. She’d gone out on her balcony hoping that some fresh air would wake her up, and when she returned, there it was. Yet when she thanked Josephine later on that day, the other woman had no clue as to what she was talking about.

***

The second time coffee mysteriously appeared on her desk, she was puzzled. It arrived on a tray with a second cup filled to the brim with tea. The scent wafting off the delicate porcelain cup painted with motifs popular in the Free Marches instantly made her feel like she was a girl again, safely snuggled in her father’s lap in his office and watching with childish curiosity as he balanced ledgers or went through his mail. There was even a paper-thin slice of lemon floating on the surface, much like her father favored. Ignoring the coffee – another dark roast with a hint of a chocolate smell – she took a small sip of the tea and sighed happily. Someone had found the exact blend of tea that had been such a big part of her childhood. Setting the cup down, she blinked away a nostalgic tear and picked up the tray. Just as she figured, Josephine and Raoul were busy at work in their shared office, their heads down and quills scribbling madly away, even at the late hour.

“You both need a break,” was all she said, setting the coffee down beside Josephine and the tea next to her brother’s elbow. She had to smile as Josephine finished up her sentence before taking the cup and thanking her before starting up again. Raoul merely did as he had done since they were children: still working, he mumbled his thanks before blindly reaching for the cup and drinking. Only when he swallowed his first sip did his stylus drop from his fingers. He looked up at her, his eyes wide in recognition.

“How did you…”

She leaned over the table to kiss the top of his head, gently ruffling his hair in the process. “Take a break,” she told him, smiling as she left the office.

The next day, none of the cooks knew where the midnight treat had come from. One of the scullions vaguely remembered someone ordering it, but couldn’t quite recall who. Ravena thanked them for the information before heading straight to the third floor of the tavern.

“I’m glad you both liked the tea,” Cole told her, leaning into her hug. It wasn’t until much later that she realized he hadn’t mentioned anything about the additional beverage.

***

When she came into her chambers and found a third mystery cup of coffee waiting for her several days later, she really wasn’t in the mood for anything to drink. Instead, she took it out to Cullen’s tower and coaxed him away from troop formation reports for a long walk out on the battlements to get some air. He looked tired and more haggard than he had been in a while, which told Ravena that her friend was still having rough nights from withdrawal symptoms, despite Cullen’s claims to the contrary. The fine tremor in his hands as he held the mug confirmed her suspicions, which was why after walking with Cullen back to his office, she ever so casually swiped a handful of reports from his desk before he could notice what she was doing. She didn’t feel guilty about it in the least, especially after he had confessed to her that he had been staring at the same one for so long that he really couldn’t remember which one he had been looking at. She left his tower only after he had promised her he would try to rest.

She spent the remainder of the afternoon by the blacksmith’s forge with Cassandra. The other woman had quickly understood Ravena’s plan and between the two of them, they managed to do a day’s work in a matter of a few hours.

The next day, a better rested Cullen caught on, and after giving her one of his stern Commander faces that usually left green recruits shaking in their boots for rifling through his papers, thanked her for her help. The reward for her thoughtfulness was that he didn’t beat her quite as badly as he usually did during their chess match later that day.

***

“You are my most favorite person in all of Thedas,” Ravena said, setting the tray she brought with her down on a spindly little side table Dorian had found somewhere. She had a scheduled meeting that evening with him and Varric in Dorian’s little nook of the library to discuss Varric’s latest chapters of Swords and Shields before he sent it off to his publisher. She was doing it because somehow between lightheartedly teasing Cassandra about her literary choices, Ravena had actually gotten hooked on the very thin storyline and was determined to have Varric finish the series for both her and Cassandra’s sakes. Dorian was doing it purely to hear Varric read the naughty portions out loud, in character.

Obviously,” Dorian replied, tilting his head to accept the kiss she quickly bussed over his cheek. “But what did I do to earn such adoration this time?”

Varric looked up from his manuscript and glanced at her over the rim of his round-framed spectacles. He watched as she set out three cups and saucers made out of white stoneware and picked up a fancy looking carafe. “And here I thought I was your favorite.” He pointed to his chest. “You wound me, Dusty, right here.”

She stuck out her tongue at his arched eyebrow. “You and Dorian rotate on a weekly basis.” Perching on the arm of Dorian’s chair, she reached over and poured a deliciously fragrant cup of hot coffee and handed it to Varric before adding a liberal amount of cream and sugar to the cup meant for Dorian. “You, my dearest mage, are my favorite this week because you found my absolute preferred choice of coffee.” She poured herself a cup and added a touch of cream.

“I thought you said that was the Nevarran blend,” Varric said, sipping his. “This is clearly Orlesian. And hazelnutty. Not my usual type, but this isn’t half bad.”

Dorian made a face. “This isn’t the one where they get cats to eat the beans and then sift through their liter after they shit them out, is it?”

“Maker, no. That type was always far too expensive for my budget as a researcher and I never saw the appeal of drinking it when a good medium roast is just as satisfying to me.” She glanced over her cup. “And don’t mention that little tidbit of trivia to Sera; she’ll never let me drink anything in her presence again without bringing it up.”

Dorian hummed in agreement before reaching over to the tray and snagging a cookie. “Well darling, as much as I’d like to take the credit for making your evening, I wasn’t the one to order drinks tonight. If I had, then I would have ordered something of the alcoholic variety.” He gave the cookie a thoughtful chew. “Yet speaking of Sera, this isn’t one of hers, is it? The last one she made me taste test was drier than this and had raisins in it. Or else I think they were raisins.”

“No, we’re still tweaking her Inquisition Cookie recipe. Once we have it down to something everyone likes, we’ll unveil the final product. I did the baking on this batch.”

“Keep the extra nutmeg,” Varric said. “But take out the currants. Try dried cherries or candied ginger instead. And don’t look at me, I didn’t order drinks either.”

Ravena’s brow furrowed. “Well if you didn’t and you didn’t, then just who has been sending me drinks? I’ve asked pretty much everyone in Skyhold and no one can give me a proper answer.”

“Well, as long as it isn’t poisoned, I’d say that you have an admirer.” Dorian stopped mid-sip and looked at his cup critically. “You did have this checked for poison, didn’t you?”

“Oh yes, because I initially think that my dearest friends are trying to kill me.”

“It’s clean; I checked.” All three of them jumped when Leliana walked in.

“So do you know who sent this?”

The Spymaster nodded. “I do, but I promised them I wouldn’t say anything until you figured it out for yourself. I think it’s a sweet gesture.” She helped herself to one of the cookies. “I like the addition of cloves. And did you put in extra butter? Very nice.”

Ravena eyed her. “So you know who’s been doing this the whole time and you’re not going to let me know?”

She smiled mysteriously. “Exactly. Just know that there’s nothing malicious in their intent and that they want to do something nice. Like I said, I think it’s sweet.” With that, Leliana picked up two more cookies and walked away as silently as she had arrived.

“So, continue drinking or shall I pour it out the window?”

Ravena topped off her cup and nibbled on a cookie. “Continue drinking. We have smut to edit.”

***

After trying unsuccessfully to wheedle information out of Leliana, Ravena decided to start her own investigation. She had planned to start with the Iron Bull to get his input and make use of his spy training, but he had shot her down even before she could fully get the request out. Apparently, he’d already figured out who her anonymous benefactor was and confronted them on his own.

“Nope, Boss,” he had told her. “I promised them I’d stay out. You’re on your own with this one.”

Ravena couldn’t help but notice that he had a large mug of milky coffee sitting beside him at the time and that nearly all the Chargers assembled there had similar cups instead of their usual tankards of ale. When she questioned Krem, he was equally tight-lipped. Ravena might have felt a smidge bad about it, but she walked away without pointing out Krem’s milk moustache in retaliation.

Varric, on the other hand, reclaimed his spot as her favorite person. Not one to let a good mystery slip past him, he kept his ears to the ground and alerted her the next time something coffee-related happened. It just so happened that Ravena was in the Great Hall when he waved her over to report that one of his contacts had overheard someone entering the kitchens and asking the cook how to froth up cream. Not wasting any time, Ravena rushed up the stairs to her quarters and looked around for a proper place to hide. She managed to climb up to the balcony above her bed and hide herself in the shadows just in time to hear the door to her rooms open.

The heavy, familiar sound of a boot tread made her smile. Shaking her head, she couldn’t believe that she hadn’t guessed the identity sooner. Still hidden, she watched as Blackwall looked over his shoulder before setting a large-mouthed mug on her desk. It was the same type of mug she had seen Bull drinking out of, and into that Blackwall poured coffee. From her vantage point, she couldn’t quite tell what type he was pouring, but it smelled heavenly. He then spent a good while whisking cream in a small bowl he had brought with him until it had thickened enough to spoon on the mug’s surface. He was in the process of dragging the spoon through the surface when she finally spoke up.

“So you’re the one leaving me drinks,” she said, her voice loud in the silence of the room.

Blackwall jumped, silverware clattering on her desk. “Andraste’s ass,” he said, quickly turning around to face her. “Give a man a heart attack, why don’t you?”

She climbed down from her perch. “Serves you right, sneaking around like that.” She walked over to the desk and ran her fingers appreciatively over the small bud vase he had filled to the brim with wildflowers that grew all over Skyhold.

He sighed and leaned his hip against the edge of the desk. “I wasn’t sneaking,” he told her. “I was…” He awkwardly rubbed at the back of his neck. “You said you’d forgive nearly anyone if they handed you a good cup of coffee.”

She stared at him for a second before bringing her hand to cup the side of his face. “You remembered that?”

“I remember a lot of things,” he replied, his fingers going around her wrist as he turned his face against her palm. “Especially things pertaining to you, even though it looks as if I bungled this up.”

She took a step closer to him, her fingers carding through the hair at his temple. “You didn’t mess anything up. I like it.”

“You…do?”

Ravena nodded. “It’s a little odd, but sweet nonetheless.”

He chuckled. “I guess it fits; you did call me oddly charming, once.” Pressing his luck, he gently tugged her closer and rested his free hand against the curve of her hip. It was the most physical contact he had with her since returning to Skyhold: he’d taken her request to go slowly with their rekindled relationship seriously, even if it did mean that he spent many a night frustrated and alone in his own quarters with only thoughts of her running through his mind.

“You’re lucky that I like odd.” She twined her arms around his shoulders and gave him a lopsided smile.

He settled his hands on her waist, his thumbs making idle circles against the fabric of her blouse. “I’m aware of how lucky I am every time I think of how you gave me a second chance, considering how undeserving I am of it.”

Ravena frowned and touched a finger against his lips. “Stop,” she said gently. “Clean slate, remember?”

He took a breath and nodded. “Clean slate.” His fingers tightened on her waist. “May I kiss you, Ravena?”

She smiled and pressed herself closer to him. “I thought you’d never ask.” Her eyes closed as he bent his head. She appreciated the chivalrous way he had been treating her, but Maker, how she had missed this man. She half expected him to roughly kiss her, to release all the pent up emotion that both of them were feeling, but he surprised her by being almost excruciatingly gentle, his mouth moving over hers as if she were something precious. It wasn’t until he broke the kiss that she realized she was trembling.

“There’s something wrong with this,” she murmured, going up on her toes to press her lips to his again. He slanted his head and returned her kiss with a bit more firmness than before, his hands threading into her hair.

“What is it?”

“I only see one cup here.” She stepped away only far enough to pick up the cup. She looked at the half-drawn image in the foam. “That’s okay, I’ll share. What was this supposed to be?”

She had to smile at the blush that peeked through his beard. “It was supposed to be a heart, but some sneaky rogue startled me before I could finish.”

“I wonder who that could be?” She took a sip; it was a lighter brew than what she usually drank, sweetened by the cream and something almost vanilla in flavor. “However did you manage to get so many different varieties of coffee beans anyway?”

“I, ah, may owe several favors to Josephine.”

“So she did know about this. Hah! And here she had me convinced that she didn’t.”

“She said it was romantic.”

“Well, she has been one of your staunchest supporters. And she happens to be right: it was a very romantic gesture.” She set the cup down and wrapped her arms around his waist, sighing happily as he held her close. “Other men would have just given me flowers or poetry. I’ve never been courted with caffeine before.”

“I’m glad that you see it that way. Courtship, I mean. I wanted…I want…” his exasperated breath stirred her hair. “I’m shit at this.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I think you’re doing very well.”

“I love you, Ravena. I want to do right by you. I need to do this right.”

“And I love you.” Looking up at him, she took a step backwards. “I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way for this to go. Instead of worrying if our relationship conforms to everyone else’s definition of proper, why don’t we do things our way?” She took one of his hands in hers and led him to the sofa.

“You don’t worry about…”

“About what? What other people would say?” She rested her head against his shoulder and sighed when he put his arm around her. “I worry about a lot of things: do we have enough food and supplies to support our people? Have I collected enough elfroot and prophet’s laurel to supplement the healers’ stores? Why does Cullen still have a hole in his roof? Those are the things I worry over. Us? Not so much.”

He huffed out an unbelieving breath. “Really? You don’t worry about us at all?”

She traced a seam on his shirt with a fingernail. “I used to. When I thought you were a Warden, I spent a great deal of time thinking about how much longer I would be able to be with you before your Calling took you away from me. Then when I found out the truth, I spent that entire time we were apart trying to sift through who you really were and who you had pretended to be. I worried about little things: if you had been swayed by money before, how much would it take to buy your loyalty now? Were you right in Val Royeaux, had I fallen in love with a lie? Would my feelings for you change now that everything was out in the open?”

He tipped her face up. “Those aren’t little things,” he said, his voice hoarse.

“I love you, and I know that you love me. My faith in your feelings might have been shaken for a time, but it was never completely destroyed. We’ll either defeat Corypheus or the world may end in the next five minutes, but we’ll still have this. No one can take that away.”

Blackwall let out a shaky breath. “I won’t allow anyone to take this from us.”

She smiled up at him. “Good. Neither will I.” Rising up to her knees, she swung a leg over his thigh to straddle his lap. Framing his face in her hands, she moved until her lips were brushing his. “May I kiss you, Thom?” she asked, repeating his earlier question.

His hands found their way to her waist, her skin warm even through layers of clothing. “I thought you’d never ask.”

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