They brought the prisoner back late into the night. He was still chained. His wrists must have been aching with the cold and the damp and the restraint. Rook wanted to hold them. She wondered if he’d let her.
Cullen’s men bowed their respectful greeting to the Inquisitor and scurried off to tend to the horses, leaving Rook, Blackwall, and Josephine standing in the moonless night, only the ever-lit candle on Josie’s clipboard illuminating them. Rook took a moment to stare beyond the front gates where they stood, eyes fixated near the stables that used to be so comforting.
"Welcome back," Rook said in a hushed voice. It still sounded too loud. Why did this feel so secret and dirty? It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was just supposed to be… private.
"Inquisitor," Blackwall acknowledged her only with his words while he stared firmly at the ground.
"Thomas Rainier," Josephine cut in. She sounded impatient and uncomfortable, but Rook could understand why. "You were brought back to Skyhold for an official judgment from the Inquisitor in regards to your crimes. Do you know your charges?"
"Of course I do," he spat. Josie’s nostrils flared in distaste, and his heavy brows showed his regret immediately. "I know what I’ve done. What I don’t know is why you’ve brought me here."
Rook’s chest ached. “Did you really think I’d leave you to die in Val Royeaux?”
"What did you have to do to make this happen?"
Josephine cleared her throat. “I managed to clear some debts and favors on our behalf for the decision to fall into our hands. It was… difficult, as the crimes against you are solely that against the people of Orlais. However, given your service with the Inquisition, you are, ah…”
"You’re ours," Rook finished her sentence. "Mine." She reached out to him; he jerked away.
He snarled. "You’re jeopardizing everything you’ve built for a criminal and a coward. You’re smarter than this." There was a fire in his eyes that would have scared Rook, but at this hour, it only made her angry.
"I’m not stupid," Rook growled as her hands balled into fists. "I have a fucking heart and I have power to use it when I need to. I needed to. You needed me to."
Blackwall’s head hung again, as though the last thread holding him upright was fading. “I need to pay for what I’ve done. You can’t do that. I left so that you wouldn’t have to.”
"If you think I'm dumb enough to believe that you left for me, then you can go fuck yourself," Rook spat back at him. "You left to turn yourself in like a good man would, but you also hoped you’d be dead before I found out. How is that for me? You wanted the story to be over before I got there, but didn’t you care how I’d feel about the ending?"
"What is there to feel about a man like me?" As his head lifted weakly, Blackwall's eyes scanned her face. "Why would you care to lose me, knowing what I’ve done?"
Josephine interrupted again. “Inquisitor, it is late, and it is cold. He has had more than the time allotted for his defense. What is your judgment?”
Rook pulled a key from her pocket and approached the man before her. He took a step back from her and shook his head. “No. You can’t do this, Rook.”
"It’s already done. It’s all done. It’s over. Please, Blackwall, just let me—"
"That’s not my name," he roared the last word, but the sound faded into a choked cry.
"Thom Rainier," Rook closed the distance once more, and he did not back away again. She placed her hands over his, and he fell to his knees at her touch. Tears stung at the corners of Rook’s eyes as she unlocked his chains and began to unwind them. "You are a free man."
"No," he groaned, his back shaking with the cries he attempted to restrain. "You can’t."
"I can." Rook’s hands rested on his cheeks before slowly gliding into the line of his long hair. She stroked through it gently, knowing it put him at ease in the past. She hoped that was still a piece of him.
Glancing up at Josephine was all it took for the scribe to leave them, in the dark, alone. When the light was gone, desperate arms sought Rook’s support, holding fast to her middle like a surface dwarf afraid to float into the sky. She bowed into him, and his beard tickled her neck where it brushed against her skin
"I’m here," she sighed, still stroking his hair. "It’s over."
"I told you," he spoke softly against her. "I told you I didn’t deserve you. That I’d only bring you pain."
She made a halfhearted chuckle before leaning back to see his face. “I’m no stranger to pain. Causing it or receiving it. You have to trust me.”
He slid back from her and shook his head. “I’ve… fallen out of practice with that.”
"Well," Rook took hold of his hands again, "look at all this training equipment we have laying around Skyhold. I’m sure we can find some use for it."
Blackwall’s lips twitched into a small smile, the kind that only she could coax out of him when he felt so low. “How can you still look at me?”
The impulse to make a joke about the low visibility at night struck her, but Rook thought better of it. This was the time for all that honesty stuff. “You’re a good man.”
"You can’t believe that."
"I do! Don’t ask me a question and argue with my answer, come on."
"I… I’m sorry, it’s just… honestly, how could you see that?"
"You fucked up. I’m not saying you didn’t. You hurt people. Lots of people. But… I can see exactly where you carry it all. There are lines on your face, worry and stress that I didn’t understand before. I thought, hey, maybe humans just age bad. Never dated one of you before, you know? But nope, that’s where you’ve been hiding this stuff. Lugging it around and hoping it makes you better. I think it did, for a while. Now it just… makes you tired."
"You sound like Cole," he grunted.
"Well, we did talk a lot on the way back here. About you. And me. And radishes for some reason. He’s easily distracted."
Blackwall sighed and drew himself up, slowly, to his feet. Rook helped him steady himself, then smiled up at him. “You okay?”
"I… don’t know. It’s followed me for so long. What does a man do when he stops running and hiding?"
"Sleep indoors for a change?"
"I slept inside!"
"Inside a barn, Blackwall. I mean. Rainier? Which… which do you want to be called?"
His brow furrowed. “I don’t know. It’s been some time, and the name Blackwall became familiar, but it isn’t mine to own. I’ll have to think about it. Until then, I will respond to either, as you will.”
"We can feel it out. And hey, if you want to come up with a whole new name, I’ll back you up. You might need to get a tattoo, though."
Gently, his thumb traced the outline of her casteless brand and the castle atop it, a smile on his lips. “I still do not deserve you, my lady.”
"That’s the cool thing about me, though. Nobody deserves me. I just get to be with the folks I want to be with. I call the shots."
He laughed, a genuine sound that brought a smile to Rook’s face. “That you do.”
"Like right now, I’m going to command you to come up to my quarters, spend some time in a heated bath, and fall asleep in a warm bed."
One hand gently ran through the fluff of hair atop Rook’s head. “Will you be there?”
"In the quarters, the bath, or the bed?"
Rook blushed and grinned. “If you want me to be.”
"Oh," Blackwall drew the word out as a sigh. "I believe I may."
"Then I’m yours."
As they walked toward Skyhold’s doors, he placed a hand on her shoulder. “You may have to say those words again before my ears adjust to them.”
She glanced up at him, crooked smirk fixed on her lips. “Buddy, I have a lot of words you’re gonna wanna hear tonight, then.”
His eyebrows shot upward for a moment, soon followed by a surprised cough reminiscent of their first conversations together. “My lady?”
Rook giggled. “Welcome home, love.”