Bull's Softer Touch
Helsi never would have thought Bull could be so gentle. But when she came to him with puffy eyes and a runny nose he took pity on his kadan. He scooped up the dwarf without a word, (though not as forcefully as he sometimes did when they were having fun). He held her against his broad chest and carefully made his way up the tower to her quarters.
By the time he reached her room, she was dozing lightly against him, mouth open because she couldn't breathe through her nose. He held her in one arm as he pulled down the sheets to her bed. Slowly, so slowly she hardly felt the transition from arms to mattress, he eased her under the covers.
She opened her eyes groggily. “Care to join me?” Helsi asked in what she had been hoping would be a sultry voice, but was interrupted by a coughing fit.
The Iron Bull chuckled. “Alright, Boss. But how’s about you get some sleep first?"
“‘m not even tired,” she argued weakly. She made a face, but her eyelids felt heavy.
She wasn't sure how long she slept, but the sun was in a different place when she woke up, sneezing in fits.
“Easy there, Kadan,” Bull said. He was sitting next to her bed in a chair he was comically too large for.
His name for her made her cheeks flush more than they already were. “What do you have there?” she asked in a raspy voice. Her blankets were pulled high up to her chin, but she poked a single finger out enough to point at a tray of items next to him on the nightstand.
“Ancient qunari remedies,” he said. He took a rough ceramic cup and poured something out for her. He helped Helsi sit up slightly in bed, smoothing the pillows she leaned against, but held the cup to her lips for her to sip from. “Drink it all down in one go,” he said.
The minute it hit her tongue she sputtered through a cough that had nothing to do with her cold. “This is pure alcohol!” she choked.
“Oh there are some other things in there too, but yes. Quite a lot of alcohol. Drink up. It’s good for your throat.”
Helsi muttered to herself but swallowed it down, trying not to make a face. She knew Bull would tease her about it later. But right now he was looking at her with soft eyes, with a thumb gently massaging her tender throat as she swallowed. She leaned into him, reveling in the warmth and soothing touch.
“There. Did that help numb it?”
Helsi took a practice gulp and was pleased to note that she was able to swallow. She also took notice of her vision, which was already blurring. Whatever he’d given her was strong and worked fast. She sniffed loudly and tried to pull the blankets up to cover her face, pushing his hand away. She knew how she must look and felt self-conscious with Bull watching her.
“I bet you wish you could breathe through that nose, huh?” Bull said.
Helsi, now not much more than a blob of blankets, nodded with a rustle under the fabric.
“You’ll have to come out of hiding then.”
She pulled the blankets down. Her dark red hair was damp with sweat and messy; her braid had come undone and had left her hair crimped in its absence. The freckles that usually spread across her face had all but disappeared into the red skin that had been rubbed dry and chapped from overused handkerchiefs. The deep green tattoo that ran through her eyes only seemed to highlight the greenish yellow tint she had taken on since becoming sick.
“There she is,” he said as she reemerged. Bull looked at her with the same hunger he always saw her with, undeterred by her appearance. Helsi smiled weakly and noticed a tiny red pepper held out for her in his large hand.
“What’s that supposed to do?” she asked.
He chuckled darkly. “Hurt you at first,” he said. “But I know from experience you can handle it. Might even like it.” There was an evil glint in his good eye that made her shiver. Or maybe it was the fever. He held the pepper to her mouth and slowly she bit into it.
The fire spread into her mouth all at once, overtaking her. Her eyes streamed and her nose ran but she grinned; for the first time in days she could smell the musky scent that she had come to associate with Bull. Pheromones and sweat and dragon’s blood. She took a deep breath through her nose before leaning into Bull’s side with a soft sigh.