“Hey,” Fenlin murmured into the sleeping man’s ear. Rahlen hadn’t moved from where she’d left him an hour earlier. Dawn was only just creeping pink fingers into the sky, and the cabin was still lit only by the dim embers from last night’s fire. Still sprawled with an arm draped over where she’d slipped out from, Rahlen murmured something indistinct and rubbed a hand over his face. Still asleep, though, Fenlin thought.
She held the puppy in her hands over him, and let it start licking him eagerly.
It was super effective, Fenlin thought to herself with a grin as Rahlen started awake, eyes flying open to stare up at her and the puppy she was holding.
“Morning sunshine,” She said, laughing at the startled look on his face. Blue eyes looked to her, then the puppy in her hands then back up to her.
“That’s not Potato,” he said, pushing himself to sit up. The blankets slipped to settle around his waist, and Fen bit her lip, slightly distracted by the way his muscles shifted and flexed to hold him upright.
“Mh?” she said, handing him the dark mabari puppy who was wiggling so hard she was sure the pup would squirm free if she held it any longer. “Oh, no. Potato’s sniffing my boots. This little girl’s yours.”
Rahlen looked down at the puppy then up at Fenlin, eyes wide.
“Mine?” He said, staring back down at the happy mabari who wasn’t able to stay still. “Fen you- but, you said you couldn’t afford,” he stammered, brain still catching up to what was happening.
Fenlin shrugged, smiling. She wasn’t going to bore him with the details. About how she’d gotten the breeder to agree to an installment plan, or how she’d be spending the award from last night’s win on the puppy. She also wasn’t about to say that the Breeder had given her a discount, saying that the puppy had already bonded with Rahlen and it was the least he could do after they’d helped him out.
“All yours-” she managed to say before he cut her off by pulling her into a hard kiss, the puppy squirming out from between them. They’d be late getting into Redcliffe, but as Rahlen pulled Fenlin onto his lap, already peeling off her sweater, she wasn’t about to stop him.
“You should come up and visit me in Denerim,” Rahlen said abruptly. Fenlin had just pulled up to the Arrivals dropoff at the Redcliffe airport. The still unnamed puppy was in Rahlen’s lap, dozing after watching the window pass by for the last hour.
“I…” Fenlin said, blinking. “Okay? Uh, when?”
Rahlen smiled at her, leaning over and stealing a last kiss before he reached for the care door.
“Soon, I hope.” He walked around to the trunk to pull his bag out, the sleeping puppy cradled in one arm. Fenlin waved through the window, trying to ignore the twisting feeling in her belly. In the back seat, Potato whined, pawing at the door.
“I know buddy,” Fenlin said, looking over her shoulder. “I’m in trouble.” She sighed, looking back at the door that Rahlen had just walked through. She was in such deep trouble, because she knew that Rahlen wasn’t just a friend anymore, not to her at least. But he was… he was Rahlen, he didn’t do relationships. He didn’t do ‘more than friends’ and augh.
“Let’s go for a walk before we drive home, hm? Clear my head a bit,” Fenlin said, checking her blind spot before pulling out from the drop off lane and heading out of the airport towards the town centre.
Potato whined from the backseat, and Fen sighed, tossing ideas around in her head for how she was going to tell Rahlen she didn’t think could do this anymore. But, he was so great and…
“ARugh,” she groaned, smacking her forehead with the flat of her hand. “I’m so stupid. So. SO STUPID. This was always going to happen. I don’t know why I thought I could just be okay with the no attachments thing. Ugh, Potato why am I this dumb?” She asked. From behind her the puppy barked twice and whined.
“You’re right,” she muttered, pulling into a small parking lot by the old windmill estate. Historical, or something, it had fields that Potato could run around in and burn off his puppy energy before they drove back into the mountains.
“I should call.” He’d be on the plane by now, she could leave a message and then hide until he got it and then he’d be nice and understanding like the considerate ass he was and he’d call her back to see if she was fine and gently tell her that he was sorry that she felt that way and to still be friends when she was ready.
That or he’d laugh and share the voice mail with his- ugh. No. Rahlen wouldn’t do that.
Turning off the car, Fen grabbed her purse and stepped out, letting Potato out from the back of the car, and the Puppy trotted out towards the field, sniffing along the snow as he did.
Pulling her phone out, Fen dialed Rahlen’s number, swallowing her thudding heart as it went to voicemail.
“Hi, it’s uh, me. Fenlin. I just wanted to say I had a really great time this weekend, but… I shouldn’t come visit. Not soon, anyways, like you suggested.” She swallowed hard, walking along in Potato’s trail of pawprints, her head down. “I… I’m sorry. I can’t do this whole… thing anymore. I know I’m being a bad friend, and that there was never any expectations of more than just a friendship and… gods I’m rambling. Sorry. I just, can’t. I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad at me, I don’t think I could handle you being mad at me, but I’d understand it.” She bit her lip, looking up.
That’s odd. There was a car that had pulled in behind hers, blocking the exit.
“I just, sorry, I’m bad at not having feelings I guess. And, until I get over them, seeing you would just make things worse, i think.”
A man got out of the car, and pulled something out along with him. Long and dark, Fen froze as her brain registered the shape of a long gun, her phone still by her ear.
Should she run? Should she throw herself down and hope he wasn’t here for her?
Potato’s angry bark stirred her into action. Fen sprinted to where her puppy was standing, scooping him up and darting for the limited cover of the old windmill. She dropped the phone as something punched into her shoulder, staggering her and sending her slipping in the snow to fall. The snow had started turning red, and it took a moment to realise why.
Curling up around the dog, Fenlin reached out to try to grab the phone.
The man had caught up with her. Kicking it away, he lifted the rifle butt and slammed it down into her face.
“Nothing personal, bunny rabbit,” he said. “But business is business.” Something sharp and hard cracked through her leg, and from far away, Fenlin heard Potato whimper.
Rahlen yawned, rubbing his face as the plane taxied towards the gate. Turning flight mode off on his phone, he waited for the inevitable onslaught of alerts. Two missed calls, four texts, and an ungodly number of social media alerts.
He smiled, opening the text from Fenlin first. Whatever he’d been expecting, it wasn’t the photo that popped up. Curled up into a fetal position, her hair was matted red, and surrounded by a stain of bright red on snow.
The warmth in his chest turned to ice, and Rahlen stared at the picture, his mind trying to figure out why Fen would send a joke picture like that. But as he stared at the picture, sent an hour ago but just received, he noticed a small ear poking out from under her arm. Potato.
No… no no no.
With shaking hands he dialed the emergency line, near shouting once it was picked up.
No he didn’t know where she was. Redcliffe still, probably. He was in Denerim but- no he couldn’t be sure. The only thing he was sure about was that he was getting on the next plane back to Redcliffe.