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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 45

Prompt: Familiar

Suledin Keep was not a very winter-friendly building. It must have been beautiful in the spring or summer months, but the unnatural chilly temperatures caused the wind to whip around corners and hallways, creating multiple wind tunnels that were freezing cold and all but inescapable. Ravena shivered as she stood close to their flagpole at the top of a tower, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. She’d left Dorian and Varric close to the newly created marketplace. Varric had last been seen haggling a vendor to drop the price of parchment down while Dorian had grabbed as many spare furs as he could and had sealed himself up in one of the tents. From experience, she knew that he had enchanted the interior to be almost swelteringly hot, which was why she had spent only part of one night sleeping in the same tent before escaping to the not nearly as warm confines of Varric’s tent. Varric hadn’t even teased her about not being able to resist the lure of his chest hair; he had been too cold to snark and highly grateful for the two or three enchanted pelts she had managed to drag out with her.

The night sky was clear, which meant that it was even that much colder. Looking up at the stars, she tried vainly to rub some warmth into her arms. After Haven and her long solitary trek through the snow, she disliked colder climates, but she was still too wound up from their most recent fight to think of turning in for the night. She jumped when a heavy coat lined in bear fur carefully fell across her shoulders.

“I thought you might need this,” Blackwall said, his hands hesitantly lingering on her shoulders, as if he wasn’t quite sure if the gesture would be welcome.

She brought her gloved hands up and covered his to keep him where he was. “Thank you.”

“That was a rough fight.” The demon Imshael had nearly bested them several times. Had they not been carrying extra health potions on them, many in their party would have been hurt, or worse.

She thought about the bandages wrapped around her thigh. Dorian had tended to her injury, and what healing magic he knew had dulled the pain of demon claw marks to a low, bearable throb. “Yes, it was.”

“Nice night out,” he started, removing his hands and taking a few steps until he stood beside her. “Cold, but you can see the stars so clearly.”

“Yes. It’s peaceful.” Well, as peaceful as a keep full of red lyrium, giant corpses, and whatnot could be. Inquisition forces had already made a huge dent in destroying much of the lyrium, but she was worried about everyone being in contact with so much for any period of time. They’d developed rotating schedules so no one person would be in close proximity for long, and it had seemed to work in all the other places they had cleared the stuff from.

Blackwall opened his mouth to make another idle comment on the weather, but Ravena stopped him. “I don’t know what I should call you,” she blurted.

He paused for a moment. “I’d like to continue as we have,” he finally answered. “I’m…I’m not ready to let go of Blackwall just yet. It’s become less of a name and more of a title, something to aspire to, to remind me not to slip back to how I was. I never really cared for the Thom Rainier I left behind a few years ago. But Just Thom,” Blackwall turned to her and gave her a slight smile. “I liked him.”

She returned his smile. “I liked him too,” she replied. “And maybe one day you won’t need Blackwall as much as you think you do. I think Thom Rainier has probably learned enough from both him and Just Thom to become a better person.”

“Maker, I hope so. He was a right selfish bastard at times.” He held his breath when Ravena threaded her arm around his elbow and leaned her head against his shoulder.

“Even so, I think I could learn to love him as much as I love Just Thom,” she said quietly. “Perhaps even more.” Ravena looked at him, and then her eyes darted quickly away. “So, are there any wives you might happen to have hiding in the hayloft? Any little Rainiers running around that I should know about?” The two questions were asked in a rush. In the past, her doing so usually meant that the words she blurted out had spent a great deal of time rolling around in her head collecting doubts and worries before she had gathered enough courage to speak her mind.

He shook his head. “No. I was always careful in my youth to avoid entanglements and then later on, family life never seemed to appeal to me.” Until now, he added silently.

“I had to ask, even if it isn’t any of my business,” she told him, her arm tightening around his. “I just…I had to know.”

“I know. I might not have been the best of men in my past, but I do have some decency when it comes to faithfulness. There hadn’t been any women before you in a long time and there weren’t any women other than you while we were together. You needn’t worry on that front.” He shifted to face her, his hand automatically reaching out to tuck a few stray hairs that the wind had loosened from her bun. “You’ve ruined me for all others.”

Ravena closed her eyes and leaned her cheek against his palm. “I need to tell you something, to fully clear the air between us.”

“What is it?” He took a step closer to her. “You know that you can tell me anything.”

She swallowed hard. “I feel like such a hypocrite about lying.” She bit her lip and looked at him. “I’ve lied to you before, Thom. After Adamant, when you asked me what the nightmare demon had told me, what it made me see. I didn’t tell you the truth.”

He could see that she was having difficulty finding words, so he gently prompted her. “What did you see, Ravena?”

“It didn’t show me failure, like I told you. It showed everyone I held dear leaving, and I was powerless to make them stay with me. The demon told me that you would turn your back on me, that it was only a matter of time before you moved on to someone better and forgot me.”

His eyes widened. “And then in Val Royeaux I told you…” I would have eventually grown tired of you and left. “I made your worst fear come to life.”

“It’s why I believed everything you said that day so readily,” she confessed. “I was willing to fight for you, for us. I wanted to make you see the goodness I see in you and the man I believe you to be, but when you said that…my faith in our relationship was the only thing that kept me from succumbing to those fears in the Fade. To have that faith trampled on as if it were nothing killed me.”

His face twisted up in anguish. “Maker. How can you even stand the sight of me?”

“It was hard.” She gave him a wry smirk. “It was why I was gone from Skyhold for two months straight.”

“That was torture for me. I wanted to talk to you and explain so many times,” Blackwall tipped his head down to catch her gaze. “I lost count of how many times I had saddled up a horse to follow your trail, but I never got out of the main gates. I thought that I would push you even further away from me if I tried.”

“But we can work past that, can’t we?”

He nodded. “Yes, of course we can.”

Ravena breathed a sigh of relief. “Good.” She bit at her lip. “May I ask…could you…can you…”

“Anything.” He cradled her cheek in his palm as if she were made from delicate glass. “You can ask anything of me and I will gladly give it.”

Her lips trembled slightly. “Would you hold me, Thom?”

He made a small noise before holding out his arms. She walked into them, burying her face against the side of his throat. “Oh my lady,” he breathed, his voice hitching. “I have missed you so much.” He wrapped his arms around her and held on tightly as she shook.

“I’ve missed you too,” she replied, sliding her hands up his back, her fingers clutching at the fabric of his coat. She breathed deeply, inhaling the slightly astringent scent of the soap he used as well as the familiar scents of leather and man that she always associated with him. She trembled as she felt him press his face against her hair, the lightest brush of his lips against the side of her neck causing her skin to break out in gooseflesh that had nothing to do with the weather.

They stayed like that for the longest time, late-night frost clinging to the fur of their coats. They didn’t care a thing for the cold, not when they had each other again.

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