Fandom: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
Theme: #6, run away (and we’re halfway through!)
Characters and Relationship: Nathaniel Howe/Moira Cousland, romantic
Rating: PG for almost-makeouts
Summary: Moira gives so many gifts to everyone, yet doesn’t get anything in return. Nathaniel wants to fix that.
Note: Seductive!Nate makes my toes curl. That is all. *dreamy sigh*
Moira raised her knuckles to Nathaniel’s door to knock, but then stopped. Is this a good idea? she wondered, second guessing herself as she looked at the bow she had propped up against the wall. She had intended it to be a gift, but it was late; Nathaniel might already be asleep, especially after the day that they had. She shivered. The basement tunnels leading to the Deep Roads hadn’t been teeming with darkspawn, but she could sense more further on down past the doors they had sealed to protect the Keep. Oghren had made light of the situation, telling her that it felt like old times to be back underground, but she had hated it. After they came back, she had spent much of the evening outside, just enjoying the feel of the wind in her face and trying to erase the memory of walls that felt as if they would close in on them at any given time.
Velanna had done much the same, except she had gone past the walls of the Keep and out into the forests beyond. By the time Moira had come down from the battlements, the Dalish elf had still not returned. Yet where Oghren had been right at home and she and Velanna had been claustrophobic, Nathaniel had been oddly silent. In fact, he hadn’t shown any sign of distress save for his observation that the Keep seemed to be situated on top of crumbling foundations.
Biting her bottom lip, Moira took a breath and knocked. “Enter,” Nathaniel barked out from behind the door. Moira thought that he sounded irritated, so she left the bow out in the hallway. His gift could wait for another day, depending on his mood.
“Oh,” he said, looking up from the fireplace. “I thought you’d gone to bed already.” He was shirtless, and a quick glance told Moira he had just finished bathing, if the damp towel hanging on the rim of the tub was anything to go by.
“I couldn’t sleep.” She’d tried, but every time she shut her eyes, she caught a glimpse of the spirit that had been imprisoned under the Keep for who knew how long.
His mouth quirked upwards. “I should have known.” He gave a brief thought to tossing on a shirt, but then he noticed the subtle way Moira’s eyes were looking over him and he decided to indulge in a little self-torture. “So, that was the Deep Roads?”
She twisted her hands together. “A very small portion, yes.”
“It gets worse the further you go in, doesn’t it?” He was talking about the sickening pull at the center of his chest, and he knew that Moira understood what he was talking about when she nodded, her hand going to her sternum. “How did you manage going past the Deep Trenches?”
She looked up at him. “How did you know about that?”
“Oghren talks when you supply him with enough alcohol.” He shrugged. “Oghren talks even when you don’t, but he tends to say more when one is in his good graces.”
Her fingers unconsciously went to her hip. It wasn’t very noticeable – Wynne’s healing magic had taken care of that worry – but there was a slightly raised portion of skin where the Broodmother in the Deep Trenches had splashed her with acidic vomit. Her gorge rose as she remembered the stench of her flesh burning, how the pain had been so intense that the only thing keeping her upright had been the massive dose of adrenaline running through her system. “I’m surprised he would mention that; we fought his wife there.” Branka’s obsession with the Anvil had led her to destroy her entire house. Moira had never approved of that; had their places been reversed, Moira would have ventured out into the Deep Roads alone before subjecting her people to the horrors that awaited them. “I think today’s trip unnerved him a little more than he realized. Oghren’s usual way of coping with things that bother him is to either plow through them or ignore them completely.” It would account for the forced way he had acted, boasting that it was just like old times a little too much while killing darkspawn with even more violence than he usually employed.
“I think this visit unnerved him just as much as it did me.”
“You were bothered?” She hugged her arms. “You could have fooled me.”
He shrugged. “I tried to hide it. You didn’t need to worry about me when you had everything else on your mind.” He turned back to the fireplace, his hands braced against the mantle. His arm tensed when he felt her hand on his bicep.
“Alistair and I managed the Deep Trenches because we told the other how scared we were. Next time, let me know. We’ll get through it better together.”
His right hand went up and covered hers. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he said, turning so that he was facing her. Moira stared; the firelight cast shadows over his body, making her aware of the dips and valleys different muscles on his torso made.
“I have something for you,” she said quickly, forcing herself not to ogle. “I left it outside.” She was suddenly thankful that she had, because the way that he was looking at her had made her want to do something foolish, like jump into his arms and kiss him senseless. Retrieving the item gave her an opportunity to gather the wits he had an uncanny talent for scattering.
“Is that what I think it is?” he asked once she came back into the room with the bow in her hands. “It is, look! There’s the Howe crest burned into the wood!”
“I found it in a sack in the basements,” she explained.
“I don’t know why it would have been there, the last time I saw it was when it had been in the storage room.” He hefted it in his hands, testing the weight and balance. “This is my grandfather’s bow.”
“The one that was a Warden?” Moira remembered him talking about a grandfather that had joined their order, but had never returned to the family.
“That’s the one. Actually, this wasn’t his bow; it was made for another family member during the Exalted Marches.” The string would need replacing, but the nock tips were in excellent condition. His fingers ran over the wood, trying to find any cracks or warped areas, but everything was perfectly intact. “This was made to last; I’m certain that with a little care, it can still be used today.”
“It’s yours now, if you want it,” she said, smiling at the way he focused on his inspection. “There was also a leather quiver that was in the same bag, but I left that in my room.”
Very carefully, Nathaniel set the bow on top of his bed. “You’ve given me so many gifts recently,” he said. “First the lock picking tools, then the bronze sextant.”
“I thought you might need those,” she said, twisting a lock of hair in her fingers. “They both serve practical uses.”
“And what practical use do I have for the painted skyball or the vase?” She’d gifted him with the vase bearing his family’s mark just the other day, saying that she’d found it for sale in the market and had thought of him.
She blushed. She’d carried around the skyball since finding it in the Brecilian forest during the Blight, memories of the evenings over the years that they would sneak out of either Highever or Vigil’s Keep to stargaze. Watching the night sky was a flimsy excuse to curl up in the other’s arms, but it had gotten them past the guards or others that had come across their path without any trouble. “I thought you might appreciate it,” she mumbled, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth.
“Moira.” He tipped her chin up with his fingers, making her look up at him. “My point is that you’ve gifted me – all of us, actually – with so many things, but you’ve never asked for anything in return.”
“That’s not why I do it,” she told him, vaguely aware that she was slowly backing up towards the closed door. “I do it because it makes me happy to see everyone enjoy their gifts.”
“And yet I think you deserve more than a simple this is nice or I’ve always wanted one of these from me.” He reached out and bracketed his hands against the door on either side of her head. “For once I’d like to give you something.”
“It isn’t necessary,” she whispered, her breath hitching when he leaned in, his chest brushing against her breasts. Rational thought flew out of her head and she arched her back ever so slightly, teasing a groan out of Nathaniel, even as the move made her bite her lip to smother a gasp.
“You have no idea how maddeningly attractive that is,” he murmured, his thumb stroking her bottom lip.
Her eyes shut on their own accord. “Maddeningly?”
“Incredibly. It constantly drives me to distraction.” He leaned in even further, his mouth at her ear. “It makes me wish to be the one biting your lip instead.” He punctuated his declaration with a nip to her earlobe, which made Moira’s knees turn to water.
Holding onto his sides to keep her balance, she tipped her head. “You have quite the way of saying thank you,” she gasped, her nails gently raking across his ribs as he trailed his mouth down from her ear to the column of her throat. His back was hot under her hands and she couldn’t get enough of the feel of bare skin at her fingertips.
He smirked against her collarbone. “You should see how I say thank you very much.”
She let out a nervous bubble of laughter that turned into a moan at the feel of his teeth closing around the skin where her neck met her shoulder. She wound her arms around his neck, her mouth opening on a silent gasp when his hands dragged over her shirt to settle at her waist, his thumbs slowly running circles across the undersides of her breasts. “Nate,” she sighed, shifting so her leg could wrap around his. He murmured something unintelligible against her skin, but his hands moved from her waist to round against her backside, grabbing her firmly to press her close to him as his mouth found hers.
Kissing Nathaniel was like taking a deep breath of air after living in stifling conditions for eight years. She matched his intensity, threading her fingers through his hair and slanting her head to deepen their kiss. Her mouth muffled his moan but it didn’t stop the sound from vibrating through her body and making her shiver. She shook even further when his tongue reacquainted itself with the edges of her teeth, then as he made good on his promise when he nipped at her bottom lip. She felt herself go slack in his arms and was grateful when one of his hands went to the back of her head, otherwise she might have hurt herself when she used the door she was leaning against as leverage to press herself even that much closer to him. He all but growled out her name, thrusting his thigh between her legs and kissing her hard enough to bruise.
Deep in the back of her mind through the languorous haze of desire came a memory from the Deep Trenches. She and Alistair had been so shaken with the presence of darkspawn that they had clung to the other once they had reached Orzammar safely, if only to assure the other that they had survived the ordeal. While her and Alistair had only platonically embraced as friends, she and Nathaniel…
Moira blinked, coming back to her right mind. She turned her head away, Nathaniel’s lips scoring her cheek instead of their intended target. “I have to go,” she said, her voice throaty. She slid her hands around him until she was able to softly push against his chest, giving her enough space to think without the tempting scent of soap and leather and something distinctly male that clung to him fogging her senses.
He sighed, but moved aside a step. “Running away?” he asked, his voice a low rumble that did absolutely terrible things to Moira’s body.
Swallowing hard, she shook her head. “Tactical retreat,” she replied thickly, her hand groping for the door handle behind her.
“Is it a permanent strategy?” He hoped not. Raking his fingers through his still damp hair, he fought to stay where he was, seeing that distance was what Moira wanted at the moment. He’d regained so much ground in these past weeks that he’d hate to lose it all over one misstep. Yet kissing her…he swallowed. Kissing her again after so long made him feel as if some important piece of him that had long since been missing had finally been put back into place.
She opened the door. “Only a temporary one.”
She worried her lip, now noticing how his eyes zeroed in on her mouth. “Ask me again in a few days,” she told him. Using the speed she usually employed on the battlefield, she swooped in and pressed her lips against his for a quick, chaste kiss. She was gone before he could react, her footsteps echoing down the hall.
He peered down the hallway, the taste of her still lingering on his lips and wondering what had caused her to leave so abruptly. He had been standing at the fire before she had knocked on his door, wishing for some sort of human contact to erase the pull of darkspawn that had made his skin crawl. When she had arrived, all he had wanted to do was bury his face in her hair and hold her close, if only to keep the nightmares that were certain to arrive that night at bay.
Exhaling, he leaned his head against the doorframe. “Well, that explains it,” he said, his mouth tugging into a sardonic smile. At least one of them had seen what that sudden flash of need had been. He sighed. There had been a growing tension between them since…he frowned. He didn’t exactly know, perhaps the attraction he felt towards her had carried over from eight years ago, or maybe seeing her in this new light and slowly gaining respect for her abilities had triggered something. Whatever it was or whenever it had happened, he couldn’t deny the fact that there was something there.
He was about to curse his ill timing for ruining any future chances he might have with Moira when her words finally sank in. “Ask her again in a few days,” he mused, turning back towards his bedroom. His eyes fell on the bow lying across his bed. He hadn’t been lying when he said he wished to give Moira something in return for all the gifts she had given him. Picking up the bow, he carefully placed it on the weapons stand he had set up near his bed. It felt good to have something of his family that he could be proud of, and it felt even better knowing she had been the one to give it to him. Several days would give him ample time to go into town and find the dagger set he had seen Moira eye appreciatively before turning aside and using her money to purchase an armor upgrade for Oghren. He admitted that knives might not be the most popular of courtship gifts to give a woman, but they were practical and he was certain she would appreciate the gesture.
Besides, there would be plenty of time for gifts of the romantic variety later on.