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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 7

Prompt: Gentle

“I fucking hate that man.”

“First off,” Varric said, sympathetically pulling out bandages from their pack. “Language. I didn’t know highborn ladies had such a vocabulary. And two, that man you hate so much is dead. Hero took his head clean off with that last sword swing.”

“Good.” Blackwall spat, wincing as he helped Ravena out of her leather jacket. “I only wish he were alive so I could kill the bastard again.”

Ravena hissed in pain as she pulled her arm out of the sleeve. “Get in line,” she said. She made a motion to put her hand over the long slash against her ribs, but stopped when she realized that her gloves were filthy and soaked in the former leader of the Blades of Hessarian’s blood. Even with her ruined cotton undershirt as a barrier, she was worried about inadvertently contaminating the wound. “Tell me straight, how bad is it?”

Blackwall’s stony expression and silence didn’t do anything to reassure her.

The Iron Bull whistled through his teeth. "Thatright there is going to leave an amazing scar,” he told her, pride evident in his voice. “But we should probably stitch it up before you bleed out.”

Varric nudged Blackwall out of the way. “Eh, I’ve seen worse. Have I ever told you about the time Hawke took on a dragon and managed to get stabbed in the leg with one of its teeth? Heh, Choir Boy had to carry her on his back all the way back to Kirkwall for that one.”

“You know,” Ravena said, wincing as Varric poured water from his canteen over the gash to clean it. “Every time you mention him, I find myself liking him even more.”

Varric rolled his eyes and took out a dagger from his boot to begin cutting Ravena’s shirt in order to get to her injuries better. “At first, there wasn’t much to like. He was an uptight do-gooder who pined over Hawke for years. He got tolerable once Hawke wiggled herself into that shiny white armor of his and talked him into retaking his family’s title. This is ruined, by the way.”

“Yes, I figured. The shirt, not Sebastian. Never met him, but I met some of his family when I did research in Starkhaven in my younger years. Attractive bunch of men, those Vaels were. All piercing blue eyes and deep, rolling brogue…” She drifted off with a satisfied hum, her eyelids closing as she wove on her feet.

“And when she starts swooning over princes is when we know Dusty’s lost too much blood. Hero, hold her down. Tiny, do your worst.”

Bull uncorked a bottle of brandy from his pack and shook his head. “Gonna sting like nothing else,” he cautioned before unceremoniously dumping a generous portion onto her side. The three of them were prepared for Ravena to thrash around in pain, but the curses that flew from her mouth caught them off guard. Their reactions were different: Bull’s eyebrows rose in respect for her impressive vocabulary, Varric laughed, and Blackwall held onto her arms so she wouldn’t flail about, surprised that something so filthy could still sound somewhat ladylike in her voice.

“Language,” Varric said again, his mouth turned upwards in amusement. “And I have really got to introduce you to Riviani.”

“I’d rather be introduced to Hawke,” she gritted out, leaning heavily against Blackwall’s chest. “Sebastian is a package deal with her and I’d finally be able to ogle.” She drew in a pained breath when Varric began to spread a thick red paste across her ribs.

Blackwall’s brows furrowed. “Does this really need an audience?” he growled, noticing that Bull wasn’t really doing much to help except offer an attempt to distract Ravena by sharing a few other choice curses to add to her list. That, and staring at her chest, which made Blackwall bristle.

“Nope,” Bull drawled, smirking at him. “Gonna go see what information our new agents have on tap. I was just waiting to see how long it took you to snap at me.” With that, he walked off in the direction a group of Blades were congregated at, his battle axe casually propped over one shoulder.

Varric held out the glass jar. “Don’t need to tell me a thing,” he said breezily. “I know when the dashing Leading Man turns into the Third Wheel.”

Blackwall tightened his hold on Ravena’s elbow when she started swaying. “We need to find someplace for you to sit,” he said.

Ravena tilted her chin towards the hut they were closest to. “Apparently that used to belong to their leader. I’m certain he’s not going to mind it if we move in for a while.” What little healing paste Varric had managed to put onto her injury had worked enough to stop the bleeding and dulled the pain to a somewhat bearable level, she was still woozy.

“I can carry you if you wish, my lady,” Blackwall offered, already bending at the waist in order to scoop her up in his arms.

“And let new allies think I’m weak? Thank you for the offer, but no thanks.” She did offer her elbow to him. “Your leg is bleeding. Why don’t we lean on the other and both of us find somewhere to sit?”

Blackwall took her arm and the both of them slowly made their way to the largest of the buildings. Indeed, there was a rickety looking stool and a narrow bed. “My leg isn’t injured, you know,” he told her, helping to ease her down onto the mattress.

“I know; the blood was from our favorite headless person over there. There were curious eyes and ears paying attention, though.” She frowned and unscrewed the glass jar Varric had handed her. “I absolutely despise this.” Leaning back, she tugged at the frayed portion of her shirt until it ripped up the seam and then drew it off her good side.

Blackwall unsuccessfully tried not to notice that she was sitting there bare save for but her breast band from the waist up. His gaze automatically went to the eye-catching swell of her cleavage, but instead of lingering, his ardor was cooled by the sight of the delicate white lace spattered with blood.

“Getting hurt or hiding how much you’re hurt from others?” he asked, busying himself by sitting next to her and digging into his pack for a roll of bandages.

“Both. Getting hurt is one thing, but having to hide it because I’m not a hundred percent sure of new allies’ loyalty and I don’t want to give them a weakness to exploit? That’s something completely different.” She tugged off a glove and let it fall to the floor. “Do you have any idea how much this hurts?” She scooped a large glob of the healing paste and slathered it across her skin, sighing in relief as it began to work.

“I have an inkling,” Blackwall replied, taking off his own gloves. He carefully brushed her fingers aside and gently took over to get to the uppermost portion of her injury that she couldn’t reach, his fingers moving over her side as if she were made of glass and he was afraid of breaking her. Even though he should have been concentrating on tending to her, Blackwall couldn’t help but relish the feel of soft skin against his roughened fingertips. Ravena had the smallest cluster of birthmarks dotting her torso, the trio of marks running along her ribcage like a constellation. “The Iron Bull was right; this is going to scar.” Task done, he took the bandages and began to wrap her up.

She hummed her agreement. “Perhaps now I can be the intellectual mercenary you called me when we first met.” Now that the pain had nearly completely vanished, her eyes sparkled in humor.

“Did I say that?” he teased. “I don’t think you have a mercenary bone in your body.”

She rolled her eyes. “Obviously you’ve never seen me haggle over the price of an artifact before.” Suddenly aware of the fact that she was partially undressed, she made a grab for her coat. “Thank you for your help, Blackwall. I appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome.” He watched as she laced and buckled herself back up, all that milk-pale skin concealed once more by hardened leather. “Do you think you’re well enough to continue?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m well enough to head back up to our base camp, if that’s what you’re asking. I don’t think we have anything much to worry about concerning our troops and the Blades of Hessarian butting heads any longer, and we have finished everything in the area that Leliana wanted us to look into. I’d rather rest up for the evening there before continuing explorations here on the coast. I’m certain that once we get back to Haven that there’ll be a long list of other things that we’ll need to see to, but I’d like to see if we couldn’t find any other rifts that are in need of closing before we leave.”

Blackwall took in her hunched shoulders and for the first time saw the dark circles blooming underneath her eyes and the way that her cheeks were beginning to hollow. She was as striking as ever, but he didn’t know if it was her recent injury or if it had always been there and he – and everyone else – had failed to notice just how tired she was. “You need a break,” he said.

She gave him a weak smile. “And the sky needs to stop raining demons,” she replied. She made a move to get up, but Blackwall reached out and carefully cupped her shoulders in his palms.

“Demons will continue to do what they will without tiring, but you can’t continue this way. We’re stopping here for the night, and then continuing along the coast in the morning.” His voice was still gentle, but it held a thread of steel in it that brokered no arguments.

Ravena looked up at him. “Well, it would cut travel time down from going all the way back to base camp,” she agreed.

“Then it’s settled.” Blackwall pulled out a vial of potion from a pouch on his belt. “Drink your potion, go to sleep, and let someone else worry about everything for one day.”

A giggle bubbled forth before Ravena could smother it with her palm. “You sound like René,” she said, tipping back the potion and gingerly scooting backwards on the bed until she was lying down. “My oldest brother, that is. He would often scold me when we were children for doing too much at one time and tiring myself out.”

Blackwall shifted, reaching out to smooth some hair out of her eyes. “Looks like you haven’t outgrown the habit,” he told her. He took her hand in his and brought it to his lips so he could kiss the back of her knuckles. Unable to help himself, he carefully turned her hand, his mouth moving over the quickly beating pulse at her wrist. His lips quirked up into a smirk when he heard her sharp intake of breath, the sound having nothing to do with the pain at her side. Rising from the bed, he moved to the door. “I’ll let everyone know what the plan is. Get some rest.”

Ravena stared at the door long after he had left. “Easy for you to say,” she muttered, her hand pressed to her suddenly heated cheek. She closed her eyes, still feeling the ghostly impression of his lips against her skin. It wasn’t long before the events of the day caught up with her and she fell asleep.

A few hours later, Blackwall carefully tiptoed back into the hut. The lone lamp at the bedside was still lit, illuminating Ravena’s sleeping face. She was still on her back, one arm curled protectively around her middle and the other stretched out, almost as if beckoning him to go to her. She looked a little better than she had when he had left her; he guessed that the combination of medicine and sleep was going a long way to ease her weariness. Carefully setting his gear down, he eased himself into a sitting position on the floor near the bed, his back leaning against the side of the mattress. While Bull and Varric had both agreed with him that they didn’t have anything to fear from their newly gained allies, it didn’t stop Blackwall from keeping his sword close at hand. Leaning his head back, he gave Ravena one last glance before closing his eyes.

He woke to a dark room, the lamp’s candle long since gone out. His ears pricked to see if he could hear just what had woken him, but all he could catch were snatches of conversation outside and the quiet, even breathing coming from the bed behind him. He winced as he stretched a crick out of his neck and shifted. Even with the slight padding of his bedroll, sitting in one spot for so long in full armor played hell on his bones. Getting up, he soundlessly made his way outside.

“What’s the matter, Warden?” The Iron Bull asked. Blackwall flinched, not having noticed the larger man from his vantage point in the shadows. “She kick you out?”

“Ravena’s sleeping,” he answered. “Thought I’d stretch my legs a bit, maybe relieve someone from watch duty.”

“What’s the deal with you two anyway?” The Qunari asked. “Either you’re moving around her all protective-like or she’s staring at you when you aren’t watching. The two of you are adults, why not just act on all the tension?”

Blackwall opened his mouth to answer, but then closed it. “It isn’t that simple,” he finally settled on. “She’s the Herald. I’m just…”

“A person she trusts above pretty much everyone else here? Come on, I might only have one eye, but I can see just fine.” Bull pulled out a flask from his pockets and took a swig. “But I gotta ask, if you’re not going to move in on her, mind if I do? She might not be a redhead, but damn, she’s got a rack that’ll make a grown man weep.”

Blackwall’s eyes narrowed. “Watch your mouth.”

Bull grinned. “I’m just shitting you. Plain to see that even if I did go in with the big guns, she’d still let me down easy. She’s got eyes just for you, Big Guy.” He took another drink. “Question is, what are you going to do about it?” He didn’t wait for an answer, he just pushed himself away from the hut’s wall and ambled towards the empty stable where it looked like he and Varric had set up their own little campsite.

Blackwall stared at him. “Nothing,” he sighed, running his hand through his hair. “Absolutely nothing.”

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