Fenlin was lost.
She remembered bits and pieces of what had happened but how she’d gone from lying in the snow to being in the Fade, sitting in a spirit-riddled forest was something she wasn’t quite able to figure out.
She remembered playing dead until she heard the car leave, feeling Potato wiggle out from under her and the feeling of the puppy lapping at her face, whimpering. Her breath kept hitching, her hands had been so red as she wrapped her scarf around her leg tightly to try to stem the flow of blood.
She remembered thinking that she would go into shock and had to act before it set in.
Potato had saved her. The puppy had run out to the main road, and… she thought someone had come back. It was hazy, things swam. The phone had been dropped and broken, left with it’s cracked screen facing her, nestlined in a footprint left by the man with the gun.
But that had been Then. Now, she was sitting in the middle of a snowy forest, alone, watching spirits drift through trees, sniffing at her. Dreaming, but for how long and if she was still alive, Fenlin wasn’t sure.
Who would take care of Potato? And gods, her Mom… she’d been through so much. If Fenlin died, it would destroy her mother. The thought of it caught in her throat, raw and sharp, and Fen forced it down to keep from starting the tears again. Tears drew in the sharper spirits, the ones who would be happy to fight their way into her body and steal it for her own.
She sat, waiting in the snowy fade forest, and watched the slow corruption of snow as her red snow spread further out into the forest. It was still as powdery as the rest, but it smelled like blood, and would lure in the truly nasty spirits if she wasn’t vigilant.
“Fenlin?” the lurking spirits skittered away, flashing their tails and essences like so many deer.
Looking over her shoulder, she stared at the wolf. Man? Both.
“It’s Athim, are… are you okay?” he asked, walking over to sniff at the edge of the blood-snow where she sat. “That was a dumb question,” she said quietly. “I don’t know if I am or not. I’m stuck here. Ive tried to wake up but…” she trailed off.
The wolf-Athim padded forwards to sit next to her, easily taller than she was. She leaned her head against the furry shoulder, eyes drifting back to the trees where wary spirits waited, curious to see what would happen.
“You were shot,” Athim said.
“No shit,” Fenlin muttered. “I remember that part. I just, after the Ambulance arrived, things got… blurry. And I ended up here.”
Athim snorted, a whuff of wolfy breath that smelled like meat and snow.
“Fair point,” he said. “You’re in a medically induced coma right now, the doctors say it’ll help you heal, somehow. There was bleeding or bruising in your brain, but between that and the shots, they thought it’d be best if you just slept the worst of the recovery off.”
Fenlin reached up, running her fingers over the side of her face where she remembered the riflebutt hitting her. “That… that makes sense. Nils told me about that, that they do that sometimes. Is… is he here?” she asked. Then frowned. “Where is ‘here’ anyways?”
“He is, you’re at Skyold General’s ICU. Redcliffe wasn’t able to treat you as well, and your brother hasn’t stopped checking on you since you got here.“
Fenlin smiled softly. “Sounds like him. Tell him that he needs to take a break and sleep, or he’ll forget to.” She added, plucking lightly at the ends of the scarf still tied around her leg.
“Rahlen’s on his way, too. Same with your mom, by the way.”
Fen looked at Athim sharply.
“My mom- she- wait,” she said, frowning. “Why is Rahlen coming? Wasn’t he gone to Denerim?” Athim couldn’t smile in this shape, but Fenlin was sure he would have if it was possible.
“He’ll be here soon. He can explain everything to you himself and give me a break from calling me every ten minutes.” He shook his head, letting out a heated snort and stood up to his four feet. “As for your mom, yeah. She’s coming. She didn’t say if your sister-”
“She won’t be here,” Fenlin said quietly. “She won’t come here. Try to keep my mom from doing anything stupid, okay? Until I’m awake?”
And then she was alone again, with only the cautious spirits lurking in the trees, watching her slowly turn the snow red around her. Through the trees, something enormous moved.
Rahlen jogged into the hospital, heading for the front desk. Having to wait through the airport and flight had been torture, but at least driving up to Skyhold from Redcliffe had let him feel like he was actually doing something. Athim had said he was checking on her, but… While waiting for his flight Rahlen had made the mistake of listening to the phone call.
The panic of actually hearing the shots and hearing Fenlin cry out in pain had gripped his chest so tight he hadn’t been able to breathe. That she’d admitted before –just before– that she had feelings for him only made everything worse.
“The ICU?” He asked, breathlessly to the elf behind the front desk. “Fenlin Lavellan, she was brought here a few hours ago.”
He watched the woman’s face spark recognition then soften. “She’s out of surgery now, second floor and down the left corridor. There’ll be a nurses station there that can direct you.”
“Thank you,” he said quietly. He had to force himself not to run to the elevators.
As he followed the left hall down to the nursing station, Rahlen swallowed, realising he’d been clenching his fists so hard his knuckles were white. The thought that someone would do this… and send him a picture? Why? Fenlin was so sweet and, Maker. If he ever found out who had done this, there wouldn’t be much left of him to turn over to the police.
He heard Athim’s voice, and followed it to where the elf was speaking with a blond doctor, the man’s face drawn tight with worry. Rahlen’s gut twisted and he jogged up to them.
“Is this her room?” He asked, looking at Athim, then the Doctor.
“Ah, Rahlen, right?” The Doctor said, holding out his hand. “Nils, I- I wish I’d been able to meet you under better circumstances.”
“Fen’s brother,” Athim explained. Rahlen glanced at the doctor, human to all perceptions, but the questions could all wait. All except one.
“How’s she doing?” Rahlen asked, looking at the door. “Is she awake? Can I go in?”
Nils sighed, running his hand over his hair and letting it rest at the back of his neck.
“She’s in a coma, medically induced until the brain bleed lessens,” Nils said, the man’s voice soft and even. How he was being so calm in a situation like this, Rahlen didn’t know. “She’s lucky, the bullets missed major organs. It’ll be a while before she walks again but she will, and she’ll skate again if she wants to.” Nils sighed.
“You can go in, just be careful of the instruments. If they get dislodged an alarm will go-”
He stopped as shouting erupted from the nurses’ station.
“Shit, Mom is here,” Nils said, “I’ll be back.” He hurried off to intervene, but the small elven woman was already stalking down the hall towards them, face hard. Behind her hurried a Skyhold police officer, looking ashamed and unsure of what to do.
“Nils, how is she?” Fenlin’s mother asked, embracing the doctor, who was at least a full foot taller than her. “Has anything changed?”
Leaving the family to catch up, Rahlen slipped into the room, closing the door behind him. This didn’t seem real. The room was dimly lit, and there were so many machines and tubes and wires, he almost didn’t recognise the small figure lying in the bed. One leg was in a cast, and there was heavy bandaging around one of her shoulders.
“Fen…” he whispered, walking over to where a chair was pulled up o the bed. Potato was laying in it, chin resting on the seat and ears drooped. Spotting him, the puppy lifted his head up and whined softly.
“I know buddy,” Rahlen said, picking up the pup and taking his spot on the chair. Potato licked at Rahlen’s hands half-heartedly before settling down on his lap with a heavy sigh. “She’ll be okay. Her brother said she’ll be okay.” But looking at her right now, how could she be?
Swallowing hard, Rahlen took the limp hand, and held it gently, careful not to dislodge the iv that was taped in at her elbow, or any of the wires stuck to her. Surrounded by all the equipment, Fen looked so small. How could this be the same woman who’d smiled at him and surprised him with a puppy not even twelve hours ago?
“Maker, keep her safe,” Rahlen whispered, pressing her hand to his cheek. “Please.”
The door opened again, and this time it was Fenlin’s mother who slipped through, closing it behind her. She froze, spotting the dog on Rahlen’s lap. Taking a shaky breath, she edged closer to the bed, looking over her daughter’s resting body.
“I shouldn’t have asked her to drive me to the airport,” Rahlen said quietly. “I’m so sorry, if she hadn’t- If I’d had another flight, a later flight-”
“This isn’t your fault,” Milliara said quietly, pulling up another chair and gently taking her daughter’s other hand. “Whoever did this would have found a way. They always do.”
They looked alike, mother and daughter, but Fenlin’s skin was olive when her mother’s was near-white, and her eyes gold compared to her mother’s lilac. It was more than that though, Fenlin’s features were finer, delicate. Her mother had lived a harder life. Vallaslin, scars, harsh lines on her face as she pressed her lips together in grief.
“They sent me a picture of her,” Rahlen said quietly. “It’s my fault. Somehow, part of it, otherwise why would they do that?”
Milliara shook her head, reaching over gingerly to run fingers over her daughter’s hair. The angry swelling along half Fenlin’s face was in the process of purpling, and there were matts of blood in her white hair.
“I’m going to find out who did this,” Milliara said quietly. She looked up at him, those strange eyes hard and sharp. “You came back. You care about her, don’t you.” It wasn’t a question, but Rahlen nodded.
“I do. Very much.”
Milliara nodded, glancing warily at the puppy in his lap then back to her daughter.
“I need you to help her, to take care of her when she wakes up,” she said quietly.
Rahlen nodded, watching as the older elf stood, giving her daughter’s hand one last squeeze. He almost asked where she was going, but remembering how he felt about whoever had done this, Rahlen realised he didn’t have to. It would be better not to ask at all.
“I will.” He said, looking back at Fenlin’s bruised face. “I will.”
The wolf was massive, eight eyes glowing as it’s head swung in her direction and sniffed at the red-snow. Fenlin held her breath, back against a tree and watching the dreadwolf with wide eyes. The other spirits with sharp teeth and sharper intentions had fled, leaving only those that were curious and neutral.
“This should not have happened,” the wolf said, in surprisingly gentle words. Articulated and sad.
“Did she tell you?” Fenlin whispered, staring up at wolf. It snorted, agreement? “Mom needs her, if… if you tell her, please. Please tell her that Mom is going to need her.”
“She makes her own choices, Fenlin Lavellan. As do you, as we all do. But know that she still cares, even if she is too stubborn to ever say so. I will tell her you are recovering.” Dipping it’s massive head, the wolf turned and disappeared into the forest.
Time passed. Minutes or hours, it was too hard to tell.
She turned, pushing herself up to her feet. Her leg, wrapped with her scarf, buckled, and gasping, Fenlin fell back into the snow. Strong arms wrapped around her, pulling her into a tight embrace. Hands checked over her, the ache of her face, the red stains on her shoulder and leg, and then finally pulled her into a kiss.
“Rahlen?” she mumbled against his lips, and he pulled back, brushing her hair from her face.
“Fen I’m so sorry,” he said quietly, “I’m so sorry. I should have stayed, I- shouldn’t have gone. But I’m here now, and I’m not going anywhere.” He kissed her again, soft and gentle. “I don’t want to be anywhere else. With anyone else, and I’m going to be the most annoying and supportive boyfriend ever if you’ll let me.”
Fenlin blinked, staring at him. Then she squinted, pressing a hand to his cheek and smooshing it.
“Uh,” he said, kissing her palm. “Fen?”
“Desire demon…” she muttered, squinting and moving his cheek “I was wondering how long it would take for one of you to show up.”
Rahlen blinked, then laughed. “No, Fen, it’s just me. Just Rahlen. I’m holding your hand in the hospital room, but I think I fell asleep. I, I haven’t been able to rest until I got here.”
Squinting at him still, Fenlin poked his nose then tugged at a strand of hair. Surely a demon wouldn’t suffer through all this. When he patiently let her poke and prod, slowly Fenlin realised that this might actually be Rahlen. Rahlen had said…
“You’re sure?” she asked, narrowed eyes widening. “About- but, I thought we were friends?”
“We’re still friends,” Rahlen said, wrapping his arms around her and resting his forehead against hers. “But I care about you more than just as a friend. Maker, Fen when I heard the message I thought I was going to lose you, I was so scared. I don’t want to lose you.”
Fenlin swallowed, the familiar sharp heat rising up in her throat and behind her eyes. But with Rahlen here, she didn’t have to be so vigilant. She could curl up into his arms and just let some of the feelings out.
“I’m really scared,” she whispered, sniffing as the tears started to run down her cheeks. “Can… you just stay here a bit?”
She felt Rahlen rest his cheek against her head, pulling her closer to him.
“I’m not going anywhere, Fenlin.”