I stare at the grinning archer for a long moment, trying to decide which of the burning questions to ask first, and finally settle on one as Nathaniel's grin starts to shift into a smirk. "So...if she said yes, why do you have the ring box?"
He chuckles as he tucks it back in its former hiding place. "I jokingly commented that no one was going to believe I'd finally 'taken the leap', as it were, and Violet handed me the box and said 'Here. Some proof'. I'll take it back to her, of course. The next time I visit."
"So you two... talked through everything important?" I ask, remembering the reservations he'd had about pursuing a relationship with Vi Henley. Or just a relationship, in general.
He nods. "Everything we could that was relevant. And the fact that there were some things we couldn't."
"And you're both okay with all that...?" I press gently as we resume walking.
"Mm-hm. Rahna, I wouldn't even have asked if I had the slightest doubts she meant it," Nathaniel promises.
"Just lookin' out for you." I grin and lightly slug his arm. "So... you're engaged. How did Delilah react?"
Nate laughs. "Exactly the way you would expect her to. Hugs, kisses, shrieks of joy... she actually woke Eli and had to leave the room for a few minutes to rock him back to sleep. But she was very excited."
My grin widens. "Can't blame her. Congratulations."
"Thank you," he nods, then hesitates. "Rahna, would you mind sitting on this news for a while? I would really like to get cleaned up, maybe sleep in my own bed for a couple of hours, before I share it with everyone."
"Of course," I nod. "I won't breathe a word. It's your news; I would wouldn't dream of stealing your thunder."
"I appreciate it. So, you know where to find me if a crisis should arise that simply demands my attention, otherwise-"
"Do not disturb," I finish for him. "Get some rest, Nate."
"Yes, ser." He mock-salutes with a tired smile and heads down the hallway to his room.
I watch him go, knowing I'll have no trouble keeping his secret. I want to see the look on Sigrun's face when she hears I won this pot.
In the meantime, I peek in my room again and grin at the sight of Jowan, still dead to the world and mumbling in his sleep. I stand there for a minute, watching him, and mentally debate whether I should try to wake him up or not. The morning is getting on, but we didn't actually go to sleep until pretty late last night.
Can't hurt to try, the optimistic part of my brain encourages. Just poke him a bit, and see if he moves. If not, no harm done.
So I saunter across the room until I'm standing next to the bed. "Jowan..." I flick his hair out of the way so I can run a finger in zigzags down his spine.
The muscles shiver under my light touch, but otherwise I don't get a response. So I gently tickle the bottom of the foot poking out from underneath the blankets, which earns me some mumbled comment or plea as he yanks it back under the covers.
Okay. He's still really tired. I make an executive decision to let him sleep, and decide to go walk circles around the walltop to burn off some of my excess energy.
It's on my third or fourth loop of the wall--I haven't really been keeping track--that I spot the returning Wardens. I head down to ground level so I can greet them. From what I can see at this distance, they're all tired, but there's no indication anything went horribly wrong, which pulls a sigh of relief from me. This is really not the sort of day I want soured with bad news.
"You're back!" Sigrun greets me cheerily, wrapping me in a hug that could crack ribs. "Find your friend?"
I grin and work an arm free so I can hug her back. "Yes, I did. And we... aired our grievances, talked things over. There are some wounds I don't think will ever fully heal, but things are better."
"Good." She nods emphatically as she lets go and steps back. "Wait..." Blue eyes narrow suspiciously. "That's not your shirt... That's a man's shirt..."
I try to shrug her off, suddenly very aware of the shoulder seams rubbing against my upper arms. "You know I use some of Alistair's old shirts to sleep in. I was just too lazy to find one of my own this morning." Technically, both of those sentences are true. Technically.
Unfortunately for me, Sigrun is not buying technically. "Yeah, but you cut off the sleeves from all of those. So you weren't constantly rolling them up." She gives me a knowing, triumphant grin. "And I seem to recall Jowan wearing it when we left..."
I frown in confusion. "How short a patrol was this? He was-" I snap my mouth shut. ...Wearing it yesterday. That little minx. If Zev were here, he'd be applauding her.
The Legionnaire's grin widens as the other walk through the gate. "So that is Jowan's shirt?"
I sigh, knowing when I'm beat. "Yes..."
"Does this mean what I think it means?"
"Depends," I dodge. "What do you think it means?"
"C'mon, boss." Sigrun shoots me a look. "That a cetain mage gave you a welcome home you're not likely to forget anytime soon. That you two finally knocked boots. Y'know, all the things I've been teasing you about for months, that you've always denied. 'Til now."
"I... Yes, it means what you think it means."
"Ha, I knew it!" she crows, and wheels to face Declan. "Pay up, Pretty Boy."
I shake my head as I watch the warrior pass over a small handful of silvers to the grinning dwarf. "You two are unbelievable. Is nothing sacred?"
Sigrun snorts, raising an eyebrow at me as she pockets her winnings. "Says the woman who start the pool on when Nathaniel is gonna propose to the Henley girl."
Started and won, thank you very much, I correct mentally, but I promised Nate, so I don't say the words aloud. "You got me there," I shrug, turning to Declan. "So, how'd the patrol go?"
"Didn't really see anything worth worryin' abou'," the warrior replies with a shrug. "Arrik spotted a couple tunnels, but they looked pretty well out a' use, an' none a' us could sense any darkspawn, so I don't think they'll be a problem."
"I still think we should keep an eye on them," the aforementioned elf mutters, tugging a little at his dirty blond hair. "We may not have sensed darkspawn, but they still gave me a bad feeling..."
"Oh, aye, we will," Declan agrees. "I've learned to trust rogue instincts. I just meant I don't see th' darkspawn bein' a problem again. At least no' for a while."
"And the rest of you agree?" I look at the other three.
"Yep," Sigrun nods. "We get anything outta those holes, it'll be deepstalkers or bandits who're stupid enough to think they'd make a great base for sneak attacks. Y'know, something like that."
Arrik's also nodding in agreement. "We're not likely to get darkspawn out of the, Commander. Just common, everyday sorts of threats." He smirks a little. "Bandits, wildlife, the usual."
I turn to the last--and, as usual, silent--member of the team. "What about you, Sable? Do you think Declan is right?"
The mage nods, brushing hair out of her face.
"Alright, then. Team leader, I'll need a report on my desk by tomorrow-" I shoot Declan a grin, knowing how much he loves paperwork- "but it can be just basics. For record-keeping posterity. And you can get some rest first."
"Generous a' you," he deadpans, watching Sigrun and Arrik race for the main keep.
"I'm a giver," I retort playfully, lightly punching his arm. When he holds back until Sable's gone inside, too, that's when I look at him quizzically. "Something wrong?"
"Aye," he nods, letting out a slow, heavy sigh. "Sable. Her nightmares are gettin' worse again. An' no' th' Warden ones."
"Oh, bugger," I huff out a sigh of my own. "Just while you were on your patrol, or before that?"
"B'fore. Tarin's been tryin' tae help her, but there's only so much he can do."
"Alright..." I click my tongue as I play with a loose lock of hair, trying to work out the best way to handle this. "Last time wasn't much over a week, right?"
"You want tae just wait them out?" Declan stares at me like I'm crazy. "With how badly they affect her?"
"No, just tryin' to figure where we are in the progression," I assure him, glad to see him getting protective of the new Wardens just like he is with everyone else.
"Gettin' pretty close tae th' screamin' banshee stage, actually, if last time is any guide."
"Maker. Tell 'Rin to keep trying. Maybe he'll have better luck this time."
Declan nods, but we share a look that says And maybe pigs will sprout wings as he heads inside.
Satisfied that all my Wardens are back where they belong, I return to my room This time, when I walk through the door, Jowan's awake, but still sitting in bed, blankets pooling in his lap as he drinks his tea. Which, somehow, has steam rising from the top.
"There is no sodding way that is still warm," I comment as I cross to the bed and lean against one of the posts.
Jowan grins at me and wiggles the fingers on one hand. "Fire spells are wonderfully useful if you know what you're doing. And isn't that my shirt?"
"Yep," I confirm. "It was easier to find than mine this morning, so I borrowed it. And I haven't given it back yet 'cause it's really comfy."
"There's a reason it's one of my favorites, Rahna," he points out, grinning.
"Obviously." I tuck my thumbs under the belt I cinched over the shirt. "You ever planning to get out of bed?"
"I was actually. Soon as I found my clothes," the mage teases, with a pointed look at my outfit.
"So we found your shirt..." I play along, circling the bed and bending to scoop up the next thing off the floor. "...and here's your pants. Time to get up."
Jowan laughs, setting aside his tea as he acquiesces. "Rahna, I really will need my shirt."
I give him a once-over as he stands there in just his trousers and bare feet, hair still loosed from its ponytail, and all I can think is, No, y'don't. But I know how self-conscious he can be about his scars, so all I say is "You sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure, you little minx," he grins as he pulls his hair back. "I don't get it back from you now, I may never see it again."
"Drat, you're on to me," I mock-pout as I undo my belt and strip off the shirt to hand back to him, claiming a kiss in payment.
"Mmm... Rahna?" Jowan whispers roughly as I drop back flat-footed.
"Now you need a shirt, or we're gonna wind up right back in that bed..."
I laugh and tug him down for one last quick kiss before crossing to my armoire and pulling out a dark red shirt to wriggle into hastily. Good as that idea may sound to me, it's a no-go thanks to the whole Commander thing. So instead I head back downstairs with Jowan right behind me. Facing the rest of my day with him for moral support will have to do.
But I'm okay with that.