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Someone Like You, chapter 9

Title: Someone Like You, chapter 9
Rating: PG for questionable underage drinking, if Ferelden even has an age limit.
Summary: In the Free Marches, Nathaniel receives some unsettling news.
Note: Written for the LJ community ten_by_ten’s “ink” prompt. One more prompt left!


Nathaniel looked up from the book he had been reading. “What is it?”

One of the guardsmen in his regiment was leaning against the doorframe, an irritated look on his face. “There’s a musician in the tavern who wants to talk to you. Keeps saying he’s your brother.”

“Thomas?” Nathaniel put his book away and stood up. “What is he doing here?”

“Hell if I know, but he’s blind drunk and going on about wanting to see the King of Ferelden. You’d better see to him before he gets himself in any trouble.”

Nathaniel didn’t even bother with his jacket. It was winter in the Free Marches, even though winter there usually felt like a warm fall day back home. It had taken him a while to get accustomed to the warmer climate, much to the amusement of his new collogues, but after the second year away, he had walked around like a native. He might do a lot of traveling for scouting missions, but his home base was just a week’s worth of sailing from Amaranthine’s harbor. Had his training allowed it, he would have gone back, but the most leave time allowed for anyone was merely two days. There was no way that he would have made it to home and back in time. None of his family had ever come to visit him either, preferring to converse in letter format instead. Delilah and Father were the ones who wrote to him the most; Thomas had at first, but then his letters had grown shorter and less frequent.

He frowned. And now this. Perhaps the guardsman had been misinformed. Nathaniel lengthened his stride and made his way towards the tavern.

“We’ve got a troubled one tonight,” the barmaid said. They’d fallen into a sort of friendship after he’d diffused a fight that would have turned ugly his first year. She told him later on when they had known the other better that she felt comfortable around him because he bore a resemblance to a brother who had recently passed on. When his schedule allowed it, he would come in to the tavern for a pint of ale and a bit of conversation with her while she wound her way through tables, a serving tray held high over her head. It was nice to have found someone in a strange place who hadn’t wanted anything more than a good conversation and a friendly shoulder to lean on. “At least he’s a happy drunk, although we might need to throw him out if he gets too rowdy. Shame; he’s a pretty one.”

“Don’t worry about it, Rose. I’ll handle it.” Now that he was closer, he could hear a deep voice belt out a song about losing his money to a cheating woman. The words were slurred, but he could clearly make out an accent that reminded Nathaniel sharply of home.

She winked at him. “You always do. He’s sitting in the far corner; if you need anything, just give me a wave.”

Nathaniel wound his way through a crowd of people. The man in question was sitting by himself with his feet propped up on the table, an empty flagon of wine beside him. “Brother!” he said merrily, strumming the lute he held in his hands. “About time you showed up! I’ve been looking all over for you!”

“Thomas?” Warily, he took a seat beside the stranger. He was young, but he had a neatly trimmed beard and his dark auburn hair was cut in such a way that fell rakishly over one blue eye. “Is it really you?”

“Of course it’s me, Nate!” He wagged his finger at him. “You haven’t forgotten your dear little brother, now have you?”

“Forgive me, it’s just been a while since I’ve seen you last. You’ve done some growing up since then.”

He took his feet off the table. “Four years! Damn, but you haven’t changed a bit.” Thomas squinted and poked his right index finger against Nathaniel’s chin. “Though what’s this bit of fluff you’ve decided to grow? What did you do, shave your sideburns off and glue them to your chin?” He laughed uproariously at his own joke before reaching for his empty cup. “Barmaid! We need more wine over here! Bring another cup as well so that my long lost brother can join me!”

Nathaniel turned in his chair and eyed Rose, who was standing behind the bar. He held up three fingers, which was their signal to bring out water instead. “Here you go, sirs,” she said, plunking down the new flagon and taking the old. She shot Nathaniel a look, which he returned.

“Pretty lady,” Thomas commented when she left. “She wants to get inside your pants.”

“No she doesn’t.”

Thomas leered. “Well, do you mind if she gets inside mine? Did you notice her hips? Those were made for a man to hold onto! And a redhead too; she must be a firebrand between the sheets!”

Nathaniel frowned. “Rose is a friend of mine. I’ll not have you speaking of her in such a manner.”

“Lighten up, Brother. Andraste’s tits, I swear you weren’t this stuffy when you were home.”

“And you weren’t this drunk.”

Thomas swished his water into his cup. “I have a damned good reason for that. Would you like to know what it is?” He eyed the water and set it aside.

“Yes, I would.”

Ignoring his cup, Thomas pulled out a metal flask from an inside pocket of his jacket. Unscrewing the lid, he tilted his head back and swallowed. “Grandmother has finally done us all a favor and died, and Mother has left us.”

Nathaniel sat up straighter. “What? When?” Nathaniel had always disliked his grandmother. Granted, she hadn’t visited the Keep often, but when she had, he and his siblings had been marched out in front of her for what felt like a formal inspection. She had smelled overly sweet, almost like fruit that had been left out in the sun for too long and she had pinched Nathaniel’s cheek so hard one time that her fingers had left a bruise. He could probably count the amount of times she had said something nice to her three grandchildren on one hand; she was known more for her shrewish complaints rather than any sort of sweet disposition that other grandmothers might have had.

“Two weeks ago.” He eyed his brother. “Don’t tell me that you’re sorry she’s dead; she was a horrible excuse of a person.”

“I might not be sorry, but I’m not happy that she’s gone either. What is this about Mother leaving? When will she come back to the Keep?” It wasn’t unheard of for family members to stay at the deceased’s home for a while to get things in order and oversee the legal issues surrounding a death. It made sense that Mother would be the one to do such things; she had been an only child and her mother had been her last surviving relative.

“Don’t you understand? She’s not coming back. She left us.” Thomas sneered. “She never loved us.”

“But…” Nathaniel sat back in his seat and let that bit of information soak in.

“It seems that the only thing tying her to Amaranthine was the fact that her miserable old bat of a mother still drew breath. Grandmother’s will states that Mother is to inherit everything, seeing that there was no one else left alive to do so. As far as I’m concerned, she can go rot in that estate. I never want to see her again.”

“What did Father have to say about this? Certainly he couldn’t have allowed Mother to leave.”

Thomas laughed, though it sounded more bitter than mirthful. “He sent her on her way with his blessing. His blessing! Said that if he knew that it would be this easy to rid himself of her that he would have killed Grandmother years ago! He made her leave everything except the clothes on her back. He told her that if she didn’t consider herself his wife any longer then she wasn’t entitled to anything that belonged to him, including all the fine things that had come into her possession over the years that had been bought with his money.”

“I don’t believe this.”

“Believe it, Brother. Or, shall I say, Half-Brother.” He grinned, his eyes just a bit too wide, a little too wild. “I guess it should have been obvious from the start, I mean, who has this hair color in our family? Who has these eyes? Hell, I don’t even have the family nose, which you and Delilah both seemed to have inherited.”

Nathaniel shook his head. “I always thought that you resembled someone on Mother’s side of the family.”

“Apparently, I take after my own father.” Thomas pulled a crumpled piece of parchment out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Nathaniel. “If you don’t believe me, then perhaps Mother’s word will shed some light on the subject.”

Nathaniel scanned the letter, recognizing his mother’s elegant writing instantly. Phrases like he was a wandering minstrel and we didn’t mean for it to happen, but we fell in love flew off the page and hit him square in the gut. We were planning on running off together when Rendon found out. “Well, this explains some things that I’ve been wondering,” Nathaniel mused, stunned. He grabbed his cup and wished that he had gotten something stronger than water. “Whatever happened to him?” Now all the questions as to why Father had grown distant after Thomas’ birth were answered.

“Read further. Your father found out about them and killed my father in front of Mother.” He swallowed more of the liquid from his flask. “She says that it was slow and that Rendon enjoyed every moment of it.”

Nathaniel frowned and shook his head in denial. “No, that’s impossible. Father would never do such a thing, no matter how angry he would have been. He is a good man, a decent man.”

“I don’t believe it either. If your father…”

Our father.” Just because he hadn’t fathered Thomas didn’t make him any less of a parent, in Nathaniel’s eyes.

“Fine. If our father had truly been so cruel, he could have done away with me once I was born. If he had truly killed a man in cold blood, then what would have stopped him from doing the same to me any number of times as a child?” He gazed at his flask and set it on the table. “I knew from an early age that I was not loved by him, that you were his favorite. I was fine with that because you never lost a chance to let me know that I was loved by you at the very least. Delilah didn’t get much attention either, and now I think it was because Father had lost all trust in women.”

“Especially women that he had once loved.” Father’s words from the day that Nathaniel had announced he would ask for Moira’s hand came back to him. Love has a way of betraying you when you least expect it, of taking everything that you ever thought was good and turning it against you. “He must have expected the same from Delilah, which is why he decided to avoid her first before she turned on him. Oh, Father.” Nathaniel looked at Thomas. “Do you resent me?” he wondered, thinking over Thomas’ admission that he had known that Nathaniel was their father’s favored son.

“Resent you? Of course not! It seems as if old Daddy has some plans - some big ones - in store for you.” Thomas laughed and teetered in his seat. “And he’s been thoughtful enough not to leave me out of them! You remember Anora, don’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Well, I hope you liked her, because you’re going to get to know her pretty well once you return.” He stood up and gave Nathaniel a shaky bow. “Your Majesty.”

“What are you talking about? Anora is married to Cailan.”

“Not for long.” Thomas’ voice had developed a sing-song tone. “Poor dear. She was always too rigid and ‘let’s abide by the rules’ for me. It’s a damned shame that she’ll have to be widowed for so long before you can swoop on in.”

Nathaniel reached out and grabbed Thomas’ wrist, dragging his brother back into his seat. “You speak of treason, little brother,” he hissed. “You’re drunk; you don’t know what you’re saying.”

“All I know is what I’ve overheard. I’m to be Arl and you’re to marry the Queen.”

“You need some air.” There were far too many people in the tavern that might have overheard their conversation. “And for the record, I’m to marry Moira.”

Thomas snagged his flask and downed the remainder of the contents. “Hah! Like that’ll ever happen. Dutiful Nate; you’ll do whatever Father tells you without question because that’s what you’ve been brought up to do.” He stumbled out of the tavern with Nathaniel’s help and laughed. “He has you well trained, just like he would a hound.” Whatever merriment his inebriation had brought about was gone and Nathaniel was struck dumb at how vicious and bitter his little brother’s – that sweet, gentle I want to be just like you when I grow up boy Nathaniel had left behind – voice had become. “I guess that makes me a hound as well, and a bastard one at that. I should be grateful that my master has finally thought to bring me inside out of the cold.”

Nathaniel knew the green cast Thomas’ skin had taken wasn’t any good and he managed to steer him into an alley before he vomited all over the common travel lanes. He grimaced; he might have been quick enough to avoid a public spectacle, but he hadn’t been quick enough to save his boots from getting splashed. “We need to talk about this some more,” he said quietly, holding his brother upright while he retched. “We’ll speak tomorrow morning once you’re sober.”

“My ship leaves back for Amaranthine in the morning,” Thomas managed to gasp, his face red and tears in his eyes. “Moira is a pretty girl, isn’t she?”

“Yes, she is.”

“And you love her, don’t you?”

“I do.”

Thomas was leaning heavily against Nathaniel’s side. “I’m so sorry, Nathaniel,” he slurred, his voice growing sleepy. “I’m so sorry that it all has to come about this way.”

Nathaniel was going to ask him what he meant when he realized that Thomas had passed out. Sighing, he knocked on the Tavern’s back door.

“I was wondering how long it would take him to do that,” Rose said quietly. “I already made sure that his things were put in the first room on the right.” She looked down at Nathaniel’s boots and wrinkled her nose. “You’d better leave those here before you head on up. I’ll see to them.”

Nathaniel thanked her and once he had left his boots in the entryway, he hauled Thomas up a short flight of stairs to the rooms Rose’s husband kept open for rent whenever the inn across the way was full. Grunting, he dropped his brother onto the bed and knelt to slip his shoes off. He stood back up and as he bent to wrestle his brother’s soiled shirt over his head, the necklace Nathaniel always wore slipped out of his tunic. He paused, watching as the gold band swung on the chain. Frowning, he shook his head. Father would never do something as radical as arranging for Nathaniel to marry another, not when he knew that Nathaniel’s heart was already spoken for and certainly not when the woman in question was already married to the King. Thomas must have been mistaken, or else he must have imagined it.

Nathaniel took the time to clean his brother’s face with a dampened towel. Now that the truth was out, the differences between them were obvious. Your father must have been a handsome man, Nathaniel thought, staring down at Thomas’ square jaw and high cheekbones. And it is no wonder Father grew to hate Mother, and how Mother had seemed to detest Father in return. Would he have reacted in the same manner, should he ever find Moira with another? No. For one, Moira would never run to another; it’s not in her nature to be that way. And two, I will never give her a reason to ever look for love with someone else. His frown deepened. Had Father given Mother a reason for her infidelity? Nathaniel knew that his father wasn’t the warmest man when it came to showing affection, but that was no reason for Mother to do what she did. And Nathaniel could clearly remember that there had been a time when the two of them had been happy.

“What happened between the two of you?” he wondered out loud, carefully running his fingers through his brother’s hair. Thomas didn’t stir and Nathaniel was struck by how he looked just then. There were dark smudges underneath his eyes and even in repose, Nathaniel could see lines formed from frowning too often. Thomas was still far too young to wear his cares on his face as he now did.

“Your boots are behind the bar,” Rose said when Nathaniel came back downstairs. By the time that he had finished getting Thomas situated, the tavern had cleared out considerably.

“Thanks again,” he told her, pulling out several silver pieces to pay for Thomas’ room.

She waved him off. “Your money’s no good here, you know that, Howe.”

“At least let me pay you for cleaning my shoes.”

She rolled her eyes. “Like I haven’t done the same a thousand times before for other people. It’s part of the territory when you work in a place like I do.”

“You are a saint. I mean that; you’re far too kind for your own good.”

“As are you. I take it that Pretty Boy really was your brother?”


Rose quit mopping the bar with her dishrag for a while. “Is everything all right? You don’t look so good.”

“No, I just have a lot on my mind.” Like, for instance, the fact that he was more upset about his father being betrayed than his mother’s abrupt departure.

“You think far too much, Howe.”

“Someone has to or else nothing would get done around here.” He yawned as a way to get out of the conversation. “It’s late. I’ll be by early tomorrow morning to see him off. Thomas said that his ship leaves for Ferelden in the morning.”

“There is one leaving around eight, that’s probably the one that he was talking about.”

“Then I’ll be sure to get him out of your hair before then.”

The walk back to his quarters was quiet, but Nathaniel had way too many questions running through his head to enjoy the silence like he usually did. He made his way inside and sat at his writing desk in the dark for a moment before lighting a candle. Nathaniel had meant to write his father, to inform him of Thomas’ whereabouts and to ask for his side of Mother’s sudden disappearance, but it was Moira’s name that he wrote. He went on for several pages without telling her of what he had just learned, asking about the goings on in Highever instead. He brought out the latest letter that she had written him for reference, smiling fondly at the clear, neat handwriting that often left small dots of ink on the page when she wrote too quickly; her mind going faster than her hand would allow. He sighed and leaned back in his chair, almost feeling the way that her arms would have wrapped around his shoulders from behind and how she would have pressed a kiss to his cheek.

I have a request for you, he wrote. If possible, could you find a way to visit Delilah and Thomas at the Keep? I’ve been away for so long that I feel as if I hardly know the people they’re becoming. I still imagine Delilah as a fifteen-year-old girl instead of a young lady of nineteen and it almost seems impossible that Thomas would be sixteen now.

I miss them. I would also ask if you could spend some time in Thomas’ company. I’ve recently heard from him and it seems as if he could use some cheering up.
He sighed as he wrote that last bit. Moira always had a way with Thomas ever since he had been a boy. Perhaps he would open up to her about whatever he may have misheard their father saying.

I miss you. I know I don’t write it often enough, but there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about you. He wrote a little bit more before ending the letter, folding it up into a waxy envelope that would survive sea travel. Writing done, he stretched out on his narrow bed and stared up at the ceiling.

He didn’t get much sleep that night.

In the morning, he went straight to the tavern to greet his brother. Thomas was awake, but hardly in the mood to move about. “Drink this,” Nathaniel said, handing him a vial of black liquid that was a surefire cure for hangovers. Thomas had gagged and looked as if he were about to be ill, but he held the potion down.

“About last night,” Thomas started, his face pale. “I…”

Nathaniel waved him off. “Don’t worry about it.”

“You were the first person I thought of going to. I…” he swallowed. “I don’t want you to think poorly of me.”

Nathaniel held onto his shoulders. “Thomas, I would never think poorly of you. You’re my brother; nothing can ever change that.”

He sucked in a ragged sounding breath. “I’m so glad you feel that way.” They made their way down to the docks where Thomas’ ship was already boarding. “About what you said, are you truly going to marry Moira?”

He nodded. “It’s still largely a secret, but yes, I am. I haven’t properly asked for her hand yet, but she’s agreed to our match.”

Thomas’ eyes were thoughtful and it seemed as if he were going to say something. “I wish you two much happiness then,” he said instead. “I’ve always cared for her. You might think it foolish of me, but I’ve had a bit of a crush on Moira for years. It makes me glad to know that she’s to marry a man like you.”

“That means a lot to me, Thomas.” He handed his brother his satchel. “I meant what I said; you’re still my brother. It doesn’t matter if we have different fathers. I will always feel the same way I do about you and I hope that you know that I’ll always be there when you need me.”

Thomas embraced him. “I couldn’t ask for a better brother,” he said. “And know that I would never do anything to sabotage your happiness. I would rather be disowned and dead before that. I mean that, I really do.”

Nathaniel gave his shoulder a pat. “I know you do. Maker, it’s so strange to see you almost as tall as myself. The last time I saw you, you barely came up to my chest. It made for putting you in a headlock easy.” The mood was in serious need of levity. He smirked. “I bet I still could, though I’ll refrain in light of your headache.”

Thomas laughed and there, there was the little brother he had left in Amaranthine. “No doubt you could. Shall I give everyone your love?”

“If you wouldn’t mind. And could you also see that this gets to Moira?” He pulled the letter out of his doublet and handed it to Thomas.

“Secret love letters?” The teasing tone was back in his voice.

“Something like that.”

He waggled his eyebrows. “Shall I also give her your love when I see her?”

Nathaniel arched an eyebrow and shoved him good-naturedly. “Keep that to yourself.”

Thomas laughed before growing serious. “I might ask to see if I could spend a while in Highever. There are things that I need time to think over that are best done away from Amaranthine.”

“Do what you feel you need to do, but at least tell Father and Delilah where you’re going. And make certain to write more when you return home!”

Thomas waved him off as he got aboard the ship. “Nag, nag.” His tone might have been complaining, but he had a soft smile on his face. “Perhaps I shall come visit you again!”

“I hope you do!” Nathaniel crossed his arms over his chest and watched as Thomas’ ship took off from the harbor. Thomas stayed on the deck long enough to wave one last time at him before heading off out of sight.

Be well, little brother, Nathaniel thought as a chill went down his spine. He felt strange, standing there in the weak morning light, almost as if this was the last time that he would ever see Thomas again. He shook his head, chalking the feeling up to a lack of sleep, before turning around and heading back into town.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 26th, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
Aww daddy problems. I can't believe how much I adore Nathanial now because of you and these chapters. XD
Sep. 26th, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC)
:D Thanks. He's an easy guy to love, innit he?
Sep. 26th, 2010 11:17 am (UTC)
Wow. I mean WOW. This has to be one of your best chapters so far! And I mean by far!

When Thomas first came in, I promptly fell into giggles, then eww'd for a bit at his bravado, and then when he revealed those plans... It was like a punch to the chest. And it's exactly how it should be! It makes so much sense! Seriously, woman, you should be in the writing team! Can't help it, this is as much canon for me as anything can be.

You just give your characters life. With a few strokes from a couple of off-hand remarks, you suddenly build a Thomas that's a full person of his own. Now that's skill! Can't wait for the last chapter!

*is too dumbfounded to go on*
Sep. 26th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Thomas' character has been simmering on the back burner in my brain and I'm glad that he came across for you the way that I had hoped he would.

I'm in that "I want/I don't want" to write this last chapter because of what's going to happen, but at the same time, I want to get all the little tidbits that have already started forming down and knitted together. Then it's off to editing A Rush to the Start and adding in/changing out more things that I hadn't thought to include before writing this one.
Sep. 26th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC)
Oh no! Not poor Thomas! Now I hate to think of him dead on the battlefield because of some false sense of honour or duty or somesuch. Not with his rakish good looks!

I'm glad you went for a brother-to-brother chapter - the Howe brother dynamic is something sadly lacking in fics.
Sep. 26th, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)
Not with his rakish good looks!

*giggle* The first thing that came to mind when I read that was "I can't go out and fight! I'm too pretty for darkspawn!" Oh Thomas, why did you have to turn out so handsome, huh? (at least in my head, seeing that we never got a chance to see him in-game)

I'm thinking that he's going to have a minor role towards the end part of this next story I've got lined up, and he keeps on prodding me with ideas on just why he's going to end up on the battlefield.

I've always liked the Howe sibling dymanic; in this one I've had Nate as the eldest, but I've been playing around with the idea of switching birth order and wondering what it would have been like if he had been the youngest instead. He never said a word about inheriting the Arling once he returned in-game, he only said that he'd be taking control over his father's garrison. Maybe that would be the highest that a second-born son could ever hope for and still live as an adult in his family home? And it would explain why he held his dad in such high hero-worship regard too.

Oh these Howes. They get under your skin and make you think, don't they?
Sep. 26th, 2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
I thought that Nathaniel would be the eldest son (I suppose Delilah could be the first born) - when Rendon mentions Thomas to young lady Cousland your response can be something like "Thomas is a few years younger than I am". Before I had gone back to replay that origin story I totally had Nathaniel pegged as the second son though - for all the reasons you have here. After that I always just thought it meant that he would return to run the garrison until his father died - Rendon doesn't seem the type to give up power when he doesn't have to. And he seems pretty oblivious to his father's plans - if Rendon had intended to have Nathaniel take over Amaranthine while he was in Denerim. (Though I have a feeling he liked all of those titles to himself)

Not that I'm saying you shouldn't fanfic it out to your hearts content - I'd still be thrilled to read it! I really love your style and the way you convey the emotions of the characters in your works. There is just something about those Howes that makes a person want to dive right in and write it out.
Sep. 26th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
Ah. Well, it's as good a reason as any, and I've been waiting for the reason ever since you said you knew exactly why his parents had stopped being so friendly. I never particularly cared for Thomas, one way or another, before, but now...I suppose I always took to the idea of Nathaniel being the favored son and Thomas harboring bitterness as the reason Thomas would have sided with Rendon, but Thomas doing as he is told out of gratefulness for not being killed at birth or thrown out on his ass the moment their mother departed is a whole different can of worms.

And I daresay at this point Thomas knows of something strange afoot regarding the Couslands. The way he asks Nate about whether or not he really intends to marry Moira when he's drunk...it stinks of hiding something.

This chapter breaks my heart, but that should not be a surprise, because much of this fic has in different ways - and just because I know what's coming doesn't make it any easier to bear.

Fantastically lovely work, and I look forward, with trepidation, to the final chapter.
Sep. 26th, 2010 07:37 pm (UTC)
Thomas has always just kinda been there in this story without adding anything to the plot, and I wanted to include him a little bit more. He's already worked his way into another idea for the one that's going to come after this in November (I probably won't get around to posting anything until December/January because I'm just going to push on and write without editing to meet my WriMo wordcount goal) that's already made me all "Damn it Thomas, why did you have to be so endearing?"

I think right here, he might have some suspicions that Rendon has something cooking for the Couslands, or else he overheard the bit where he's supposed to be the one to marry Moira for political advantage whenever Nate becomes king.

I look forward, with trepidation, to the final chapter.

I played the origin bit over again just to refresh my memory and it hurt. And then I got an idea for last minute father-daughter bonding before everything goes down and I just...I don't wanna kill them off! *wails*
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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