Skyhold didn’t have an airport of it’s own, the scenic town was too nestled in the mountains for that. Instead the nearest flight would bring Rahlen to Redcliffe, where Fenlin now waited at Arrivals. Sitting on a bench, jiggling her legs in place to keep her nerves at bay, Fenlin stared at her phone and wondered what she was doing.
He wasn’t going to show up, clearly. Rahlen would have something more important come up and he’d have to stay in Denerim with his family. Sure, he’d sent her a text saying he was about to board, complete with picture of the pink sunrise over the plane, but SOMETHING would come up. Because… of course it would?
Fenlin frowned. She knew that she was being ridiculous, but it just didn’t make sense that he’d want to come visit on such short notice. Well, aside from the fact that he had friends in Skyhold like Athim and probably wanted to check out the male skaters in the first competition of the season. Ahhh that made more sense.
Looking up from her phone, Fen scanned the travellers who had started to trickle out into the baggage claim area where she was sitting. The doubts flooded back with a vengeance: she should have worn more make up? Less? Dressed nicer or stayed in the comfortable leggings she’d been wearing earlier? This was just a friend thing, they were just friends. Had she over dressed by putting on makeup at all? No, she’d started wearing it a bit more often since the gala last year.
There he was. He spotted her about the same time she saw him, and he smiled, lifting a hand up as he walked towards her. Standing, Fenlin swallowed the sudden thud in her chest and smiled back, greeting him halfway.
“Maker I had the best flight,” Rahlen said, pulling her into a big hug. Fen sniffed, nose pressed into Rahlen’s wool coat. Was… that dog-smell? Why did he smell like dog? “The other guy in my row brought his mabari and her pups so I got to watch puppies sleep all flight.”
Fen looked up at him, eyes wide.
Rahlen blinked, looking down at her.
“…what? My mom’s always had one, they’re big softies.”
“I didn’t say anything,” she said, biting the corner of her lip and trying not to smile. “You just, got all little-kid-cute and I wasn’t sure this was the same Rahlen I knew from Denerim.”
Rahlen’s ears turned a bit pink, and he cleared his throat, giving the hug a last squeeze before letting go of Fen. She joined him as he headed to the luggage carousel, the smile getting wider on her face.
“What?” he muttered, “Pfft, dogs are cute. It makes me wish I had time to have one.”
“Well, aren’t Mabaris, like, two hundred pound animals that were bred to be wardogs?” She asked, tucking her phone away into her purse. “How are those big softies? My mom’s terrified of them.”
He lifted his eyebrows and glanced at her, then tilted his head.
“What, really? I guess, your mom’s Orlesian, right? She’s probably used to smaller dogs, and the fluffy lapdogs?” Rahlen asked, hands tucked into his pockets. “They just need to be handled well, a happy mabari is a mabari who knows what to expect and what’s expected of them. Fyr was the best, though. Let me ride her all the time when I was little, Dad thought it was the funniest thing ever. I had to hide the pictures from him or he shows literally everyone who visits their place.”
Fen was staring at him now. She made a mental note to seek out-
“I see that look,” Rahlen said, mock-narrowing his eyes at her.
“No look,” she said, trying to look innocent. “I wasn’t looking like anything. Or, uh, at… anything.”
“Uh huh,” he said.
Fen cleared her throat.
“You want coffee? I’ll go get coffee while you wait for your bag,” Fen said. She had a sudden and intense need to see those pictures. Sooner or later, she would.
“You forget about those pictures,” he called after her, and Fen pretended not to hear him.
The drive back into the mountains was shorter than the drive out to Redcliffe, or at least it seemed that way with Rahlen filling her in on the skating world in Denerim and Ferelden. Not that she was that out of the loop between his daily texts and talking with Shai, but it was nice to chat.
“How’s your training coming along? You look great,” he said. “I mean, you usually do, but muscle tone wise from that selfie that I absolutely never received since someone deleted it from my phone.”
Fenlin snorted, trying to cover for the flush of pink along her ears and cheeks. Glancing at him from the corner of her eye she shook her head.
“Such a mistake,” she said. “I don’t even know why I did that. You probably get ten selfies a day from instagraph models. You did delete it thought…?” she asked, glancing at him.
“Of course, you asked me to,” Rahlen said. “And, I mean, I do, but most of those girls send those out all the time to lots of the guys. There’s not much to compare with them and you trusting me enough to send a sexy selfie,” he said with a grin. “Especially after inviting me to come visit.” He sniffed, pretending to be sad. “Here I thought you were ashamed of our time together.”
She couldn’t help laughing, even through the small twinge of nerves in her belly. He was just being nice, she was sure. She’d seen the girls that threw themselves at the guy skaters. They were gorgeous and always made up just right, and had thousands of followers. Fenlin had awkwardness and an old instgraph account that only ever had pictures of the wilderness on it.
It had started to snow, light flakes drifting back and forth over the road as Fenlin pulled off on the exit to Skyhold. The road was winding, but it was beautiful. She hadn’t realised she’d let out a small sigh until Rahlen nodded.
“Right?” He said. “I can see why you like it here. Course, Mister forest Spirit was sad when I said you weren’t coming back. At least not for a while.”
“Oh, he missed me, huh?” Fen said. “I should bring you out to meet the auroras then,” she said with a sly smile. “Course, they only show up if you howl at the stars, and I don’t know if Mister Big City Skater Boy knows how to howl.”
“You can show me how to howl,” Rahlen said, leaning over by her ear. “I know I can make you howl at the stars. You sure you wanna let the spirits see that?”
Fenlin felt the rush of heat up her face and down her neck and… oh.
“I… maybe not,” she said, clearing her throat.
“There’s a lookout ahead,” he said, and she felt his teeth graze her ear. “Why don’t you pull over and we can stretch our legs? I mean, if you’d like to.”
Fenlin chewed on her lip, then turned on her signal, pulling onto the gravel road that led to the lookout. The laughter against her neck was almost enough to drive her to distraction. Almost.
“There’s someone else here,” she said, more than a touch grumpily.
The other car had it’s four-ways on, and a man got out as they pulled into a parking spot, waving at them.
“Think he’s got a flat?” she asked.
“I dunno,” Rahlen said, faint trace of a growl in his throat. Good Creators how was she going to survive the rest of the weekend? Swallowing, Fen put the car into park and rolled the window down as the man approached.
“Hey, it’s the guy from the plane,” Rahlen said, voice losing much of it’s edge.
“I was worried no one would stop by,” the man said, leaning over to look in the window. “Thank the maker- oh! Mister Theirin, Maker put you on my road today. The breaks have gone dead, Andraste’s hand helped me glide until we got here and safely off the road. But the pups are cold, and the next tow is another hour or more away.”
Fen chewed her lip, glancing at the back of her car. It was small. They could fit one person, or a giant dog and some puppies. Not both.
“I’ll get out, Rahlen you can take Mister … uh… this guy up to Skyhold, it’s not far. Just stay on the road and you get into the town centre,” she said, reaching for the keys. Rahlen caught her hand.
“I’m not gonna leave you out in the literal cold for an hour,” he said, looking pointedly at her. “But, I don’t feel right making you drive a strange man up on your own either.”
“Mister Bannwyn, miss, but, I know Mister Theirin’s from a good family, met his mam a few times. If you’re willing to take Chessie and her pups up to Skyhold and keep them warm, I’ve got enough layers to keep warm until the tow arrives.”
The mabari at his side wagged her hips and let out a huff of breath that spread fog over Fenlin’s window.
“You’re sure?” she asked. “Well, Rahlen can take the car back down if we don’t hear from you. OKay?” It was a bit awkward, but what other choice did they have? She couldn’t let the pups freeze while the man waited for a tow.
“Sure as Andraste, Miss.”
A few minutes later, Rahlen was holding a pair of potato-like pups in his lap, and there was a massive dog laying down in the back with three more pups tucked carefully against her belly and the back seat. Chessie let out a low whine as Fenlin started the car, but luckily didn’t try to bolt or howl as the car pulled out of the lookout lot.
“They’re so small,” Rahlen was cooing at the potato-sack-pups. Most of them were sleeping, but one in Rahlen’s arms had started licking at his hand. “Chessie, you’re so wonderful to let me hold your babies.”
Chessie let out a low wuff of air, and nudged Rahlen’s shoulder with her nose. Checking on her pups, that they were still alright.
Fen couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Rahlen and the puppies, but she was still anxious, driving slowly and carefully so the pups in the back didn’t wake up and start climbing around the car’s interior.
“Best trip ever,” Rahlen said, scratching behind the more active puppy’s ears. “Fen, if all the visits to you are this awesome, you might never get rid of me.”