Note: And we're done! It took almost a year to get here, but I enjoyed the ride. I think this is one of my favorite stories I've done in a very long while. Thanks for reading!
Everyone in Skyhold believed that Blackwall lived and slept in the stables since that was where he could be found if he wasn’t with the Inquisitor or in the training yard. He tended to let everyone believe that, mostly because he liked the privacy he found his garden sanctuary. Since the defeat of Corypheus, he had used the room less and less, preferring to spend his nights tangled up with Ravena in her bed. They did, however, retreat to the privacy of his old quarters when the world around them grew too chaotic, which it still had a habit of doing. There were leftover rifts that needed closing, Venatori spies still doing the work of their dead master, and a long host of other things that either Cullen, Josephine or Leliana kept ticking off their lists. Just that afternoon, he had heard Ravena giving the quartermaster directions for packing a crew up in preparation for fighting a dragon somewhere in the desert.
Maker, but he hated the desert.
But this evening, it was just the two of them, she lounging across his bed wearing nothing but one of his shirts – a habit that he found as alluring as it was endearing – and he sitting on a stool and contemplating the case he had set out on the table in front of him.
“What are you doing?” she asked, setting aside her book to look over at him.
“Debating.” He flipped open the lid and examined the contents. The straight razor had been sharpened earlier that day, the pearl handle winking at him in the candlelight.
She slid out of bed and padded her way over to him. “Debating over what?”
“If I should shear off this mess now or later.” He pulled out the stiff bristled brush and cup of dried shaving soap out of the case. “Though truth be told, I’m just trying to gather my courage and get it over with.”
“You’re shaving your beard?” His lip had to quirk upwards at the dismayed tone she had.
“Yes, my lady.”
“You’re shaving your beard?” she asked again, her eyes darting to the ewer of hot water nearby.
Blackwall chuckled. “As much as it displeases you, yes, I am shaving my beard.” He stared at the small oval mirror he had set up on the table and rubbed at his jaw. “I grew this to hide who I was. I’m not hiding any longer, Ravena.” He looked back at her and noticed that she was eyeing him thoughtfully.
“You’re right.” Reaching out, she cupped his face in her palm. “Just don’t expect me to instantly recognize you from afar for a while.”
Serious moment dispelled, he leaned into her touch. “I’ll give you a while to adjust.” Taking a breath, he reached for the small pair of scissors.
“Wait.” Ravena tugged at his shirt and he got the hint to pull it over his head. “You need something to catch the clippings,” she explained, draping it across his lap.
He grinned at her. “You just want to see me shirtless.”
She winked at him. “That too.” Shifting from foot to foot, she bit her lip. “Would you mind terribly if I did it?”
“You want to?”
She blushed and slightly ducked her head. “I…yes.” She bit her lip again and fiddled with the ends of her sleeves. “I mean, I know that you want to do this for yourself, but…”
He interrupted her rambling. It wasn’t like Ravena to be this fidgety. “It would be an honor.”
Smiling at her warmly, he held up the scissors. “There’s no one that I would trust more to do this.”
Taking them from him, she allowed him to steer her until she stood in between his legs, his hands warm on her hips. “Cassandra is going to have a conniption when she sees you,” she quipped, her fingers combing through his beard.
He quirked an eyebrow. “Why would she?” He and the Seeker had only just started getting back to somewhat friendly speaking terms. He was grateful; he had missed their talks and sparring matches.
Ravena began to snip at the portion near his chin. “The two of us do talk about other things besides battle tactics and weapon preferences. It so happens that she shares my appreciation for hirsute men, though she prefers the stubblier, less beardy types. I don’t hold it against her.”
“About that. Are you really fine with this?”
She stopped trimming and held his face in her hands. “I love you, Thom. That isn’t going to change once you’re clean-shaven. You have your reasons and I respect them.” She leaned back and gave him a teasing smile. “You don’t have some horrendous scar or birthmark under all that, do you?”
“Would it change the way you feel about me?”
“Not one bit. I’m just looking for something that might have an interesting story attached to it.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint, but no, I do not have any scars or birthmarks, horrendous or otherwise, though I don’t think I’ve ever told you how my nose was broken.” He relaxed in her care as she continued to trim his beard down to nearly nothing. She slipped away and went to the ewer and basin he had set up, taking the shirt full of clippings with her. He watched as she set a towel into the basin before pouring some of the still steaming water over it.
“You look like you have some practice,” he noted, sighing when she wrapped the warm towel around the lower portion of his face.
“I do. My cousin’s hands often tremble, mostly because he refuses to leave any of his projects long enough to get adequate food and rest. Henri didn’t trust himself to not slit his own throat while he shaved, so he asked me to do it instead whenever we worked together. He didn’t ask often since we were both out in the field and neither of us didn’t really care what he looked like, but once we returned to study and write about our findings, he’d suddenly become very interested in his appearance.” She smirked as she went behind him, her fingers massaging his scalp as she waited for the warm towel to soften the hair she had left behind. “I’d bet it was because of the multitude of single ladies in Tantervale. Henri often takes advantage of the fact that just because we’re employed by the Chantry it doesn’t mean that we’re bound by any oath to be chaste. He has quite the reputation as a ladies’ man. He’s also frugal and refused to pay good coin to visit a barber for something I could quickly do for free.” Moving away, she dipped the shaving brush into water to wet the bristles before working the dried shaving soap into a rich, spicy smelling foam.
She took the towel off and let it rest on the table with a wet thunk. Moving until she was again between his legs, she began to lather his face, taking care not to miss anything. Reaching over him, she took hold of the razor and opened it with a practiced flick of her wrist. “Do you want any particular style? Sideburns?” she asked, tilting his face to the side.
“Whatever you decide is best,” he told her, closing his eyes at the feel of her fingers against his cheek.
“All right, but just remember that when you complain about how I left you looking a certain way.” Holding the skin of his cheek taut with one hand, she slowly scraped the blade of the razor down in short, sure strokes. They were silent while she worked, the only sound in the room coming from the scrape of metal against skin. “My mother taught me how to shave a man,” she said quietly, moving behind him to get a better angle at his throat and underneath his chin.
“Did she?” He tilted his head back until he was nestled against the softness of her breasts.
“She did. It was before…” she sighed. “She said that this was one of the most intimate things a woman could do for her husband. Aside from helping my cousin, I’ve never had any desire to offer to do this for another man.”
He was still until she finished his throat. “I’m humbled.” He reached for her free hand and kissed her knuckles.
“You’re foamy,” she said, trying to lighten the mood. Rewetting the towel with fresh water, she cleaned his face of any remaining lather.
“Well, how do I look?”
Ravena stood back and really looked at him. Before, she had kept herself from getting distracted by his emerging facial features by concentrating on not nicking him, but now, she froze, the bottle of soothing balm he had thought to bring up with him still in her hands. “You look…” It wasn’t fair. Surely she couldn’t be this affected by him. Shouldn’t she have noticed his sharp cheekbones before? Unable to form a proper response with words alone, she bent and kissed him, her fingers learning the smooth terrain of the sides of his face, his chin, the strong angle of his jaw.
“I take it that you approve,” he rumbled, his hands on her hips. Somewhere along the way, Ravena had clambered onto his lap, her legs straddling his. He let out an involuntary groan when she settled firmly in his lap, his fingers slipping underneath her shirt and gripping her hips.
“I didn’t want to,” she confessed. “I mean, I agree with the whole reason you wanted it gone, but Maker, I loved the beard.” She pressed her lips to his jaw and gave him an experimental nip. “Though I do like being able to do this as well.”
Blackwall reached out and took hold of the mirror. He stared at his reflection, noting that Ravena had left him fairly long sideburns in a style that he had often worn in his youth. “There’s a face I haven’t seen in ages.” He had a thought that he would see the old demons and guilt that had haunted him, but what really caught his eye and lifted his spirits was the tender way Ravena looked at him, not his reflection.
“It’s a good face.” She sat up in his lap and regarded his profile, noticing that he did indeed look like he had shaved a decade off his visage. Without the beard to distract the eye, the broken bend of his nose was more prominent. He had a small dimple at his left cheek, the mark lending his smile a certain rakish air. “I’m certain many a woman fell for your looks.”
He turned his attention back to her. “There’s only one woman I’m concerned about falling for my looks now.” He kissed her, and it was odd not to feel the familiar texture of his beard.
“Oh, I don’t think you have anything to worry about,” she teased, gasping when he stood up, her legs wrapping around his waist for balance as he effortlessly carried her towards their bed. “I fell for you a long time ago.”