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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 22

Prompt: shadow

Ravena had been subdued ever since their meeting with Hawke and Stroud. Blackwall hadn’t pressed, thinking to give her space, and she hadn’t expressed any desire to tell him her thoughts. Nights were difficult: when she wasn’t staring moodily at the fire on her self-imposed prolonged watches, she was fitfully sleeping, caught between some nightmare or another only to wake with a silent gasping breath, her eyes wild and pulse hammering at her throat.

He hated seeing her that way. She always silently reached for him when she woke, her entire body trembling and he held her as tightly as he could, wishing with all his might that he could take whatever fear that plagued her away.

It was only when they reached Skyhold again to replenish their supplies before heading out to the desert that she finally opened up.

“How long have you been a Warden, Blackwall?” she asked, emptying her pockets at her desk in her chambers.

He looked at her quizzically. “For several years,” he finally answered, settling down at the sofa and pulling off his boots. “Is there something troubling you, my lady?”

“How long have you been able to hear Corypheus’ false Calling?” She turned to face him, her hands tightly wringing her gloves.

“Not long,” he said. “As I told you earlier, after seeing Corypheus with my own eyes, I recognized it for what it was: a lie. I pay it little heed.”

She sat down next to him. “Yet it doesn’t bother you? Every other Warden has sought their death because they feel it is their time and yet you still remain. How is this?”

He thought over his reply for a while. “In war, victory. In peace, vigilance. In death, sacrifice. For so long, I used to believe in these as if they were part of the Chant itself. Becoming a Warden has made me a better man, far better than I was before, and had I not met you, I more than likely would have found my way down to the Deep Roads.” He reached out and cupped her cheek in his palm. “Being part of the Inquisition, being with you, has changed my mindset and made me an even better man. I have something worth fighting for, and I’ll be damned if I let that bastard decide how and when I die.”

She closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. When she opened her eyes again, Blackwall saw they shone with unshed tears. “Yet you’ll still die. The Calling – the real one – will still happen. How long do we have before you’re taken from me?”

Blackwall gathered her in his arms and rested the shelf of his chin on the top of her head. “This is what’s been bothering you this whole time, isn’t it?” He didn’t wait for her answer. “I’m not worth losing sleep over.”

She sat up and glared at him. “Don’t say that. I love you. You mean everything to me. To think that one day you’ll be gone,” she looked down, her lip trembling and voice thick. “I don’t want to lose you.”

He cupped her cheek with his hand. “None of us know how long we have left, Ravena. With everything that we face on a near-daily basis, any day could be our last, Calling or no.”

She leaned into his touch. “You’re going to tell me not to borrow trouble, to live life day to day, aren’t you?”

“Well, perhaps not in those words, but yes.” He bent down to kiss her forehead. “I worry too, you know. What if I’m not fast enough, not strong enough? What if someone cuts you down and I was right there and still unable to prevent it? I don’t want to lose you either.”

Ravena shook her head. “You can’t. No matter what, you’ll always have me.” She took a deep breath and settled against him, her arms wrapping around his middle. “I guess we’re both just a pair of old worrywarts.”

He let out a light snort of laughter and held onto her tightly, grateful that their conversation had taken a lighter turn. “Old being the appropriate term. Compared to the others in our circle, I’m positively ancient.”

She poked at his ribs with a finger. “Hey, watch it. I’m only a few years younger than you. What does that make me?”

Blackwall shifted. He tipped her backwards until she fell against the sofa’s cushion and covered her body with his own. “Devastatingly witty. Beautiful beyond measure, my lady.” He punctuated each description with a kiss. “A woman with an insatiable desire for…” Leaning on his elbow, he leered at her and waggled his eyebrows comically. “Knowledge.”

Ravena rewarded him with a laugh, feeling better than she had ever since her first conversation with Stroud. “Knowledge, is it?” She slid her palms down his chest and tugged on his shirt to untuck the material from the waistband of his pants. “And would you like to share what you’re offering with the rest of the class?”

He grinned, grateful that the shadow that had been over her since leaving Crestwood had lifted. His free hand began to wiggle out the pins that held her hair in place, each of them making a plinking noise as they fell haphazardly to the ground. “I’m always willing to collaborate, especially when I have such an agreeable partner.” His lips painted a path from her jaw down to her neck, stopping only when the material of her blouse got in the way. He muffled a groan against her skin as her hands found their way underneath his shirt, her palms warm against his back and nails raising gooseflesh in their wake.

“As much as I like your method of study,” she gasped out, arching her back as he abandoned his task of unlacing her tunic in favor of cupping her breasts in both hands and lavishing attention on what skin he had managed to bare. She gave a meaningful glance towards the waiting bed. “Perhaps we should move somewhere else less likely to collapse under us. This thing is so old; it could give at any moment.” As if in agreement, one of the sofa’s legs not so quietly creaked.

His teeth were a flash of white against the dark field of his beard. “What, you don’t think we’re capable of managing where we are?” He sat up and in a flurry of movement had her perched astride his lap, his mouth laving at her collarbone. “I seem to recall a cot far ricketier than this at one of our campsites that survived our attentions.”

Her laugh turned into a breathless moan. Whatever argument she had fled her mind as Blackwall’s hands undid the ties to her pants, his fingers slipping inside the waistband, palm warm against her belly.

Later, they sprawled out, half on the sofa and half on the floor. “Should I say I told you so now, or later?” she asked, running her fingers through his hair as he attempted to catch his breath against her shoulder.

“I never liked that thing,” Blackwall replied, kissing her heated skin. He turned his head and glared at the leg of the sofa that had cracked underneath them. “It was too Orlesian.”

Humming her agreement, she let out a quiet grunt as they slid the rest of the way to the floor. “I’m just wondering how we’re going to explain the fact that I need to go out furniture shopping to Josephine.”

He shrugged. “You could tell her that you draped one of your sets of armor on it and that was what made it give way,” he offered, gallantly rolling so he’d take the brunt of the cold stone.

“Somehow I don’t think she’d believe anything I came up with.” Stretching up, she pressed a smacking kiss to his lips before untangling her legs with his and standing up. She offered her hands to help Blackwall to his feet, then tugged him purposely towards her bed. “And I think you’re going to be going with me to look for a replacement as punishment for breaking this one. Just for fun, there will be multiple visits to several stores before I ultimately make up my mind to pick the first couch that caught my eye in the very first shop.”

Blackwall laughed as he fell backwards onto the mattress and watched with hooded eyes as Ravena crawled over him. “My lady is a harsh mistress indeed.”

“Mmhm. And I haven’t even mentioned the mandatory stop at an eatery for tea and frilly cakes yet.”

Hours later, Blackwall held Ravena in his arms and stared up into the darkness at the canopied ceiling. Ravena was asleep and had been for quite some time, her body comfortably warm against his, her arm a welcome weight as it draped across his chest and her breath puffing out against his shoulder in a deep, steady rhythm. Her sleep wasn’t plagued by nightmares for once, and for that, Blackwall was grateful.

Sleep had proven elusive for him, though. Gathering her closer in his arms, he pressed a kiss against the crown of her head, sighing as she shifted in her sleep, her leg moving to twine around his hip. He had to smile at the motion: Ravena had once proclaimed she wasn’t a person prone to snuggling, but it never failed that he always woke tangled in her arms when they shared a sleeping space. He covered her hand with his own, thinking that he’d never have it any other way.

Even as comfortably sated as he was, his mind constantly wandered back to their earlier conversation, guilt knotting at his stomach at the worry that he had put Ravena through. Lacing his fingers with hers, he vowed to never cause her the same level of grief.

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