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Little Vials

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Step right, step left. Pivot and turn and duck under that sneaky left cross you know has to be coming. Answer back with your right hook you know would break a jaw if you hit him with your full strength. If you had needed to. The guardsman she was sparring staggered back a step or two, and she straightened from the stance she fought in. The man came up as well, fingers cradling his jaw through a grimace that might have also been tinted with a smile.

“You pack quite a punch, Captain,” he said, admiringly. She didn’t blush through her freckles--she wasn’t some new recruit in the King’s army any longer, after all--but rubbed the knuckles of her right hand absently. If she hadn’t wrapped her hands before their spar, she was sure she’d have bloodied them; she might be able to break a man’s jaw with no problem, but that held its own repercussions on her hands.

“You should keep your defenses higher, guardsman,” she told him instead of the compliment that first came to her mind. If you coddle them, they’ll never learn. “I landed that hit because your guard fell too low. Keep your arms close against your head—especially when you see someone aiming for it.” She watched his eyes fall a bit, and put on a warm smile to soften her verbal blows. They could be just as damaging, she knew. “But… still, a good job. You’re improving well.” She dismissed him with a wave before searching for her water canteen. The days were hot in Kirkwall in spring, hotter than Ferelden had been, but she didn’t mind too much. She could work up a quicker sweat, and she always did feel like she had accomplished something with a good sheen coating her skin.

After taking a long draft from her canteen, on impulse she upended the rest over her head, relishing the rivulets of water as they ran down her face and neck. One thing she found she did secretly enjoy about Kirkwall was its proximity to the sea. Sometimes when she had time off, she would trek down to the coast and slip into the water for a while, pretending she didn’t have to go back to land and her duty to Kirkwall when she was done. She never seemed to have enough time there

Of course, the sea always made her think of Isabela. The pirate captain was a bit of a conundrum for her—she always outwardly appeared so selfish, and demanded her desires and wishes be attended to before anyone else’s, but at the same time… she could have left with the Qunari relic and made her escape. But she didn’t. She came back and tried to do the right thing. And for all her… licentious habits, she was honest, in her own way, and Aveline respected that. More than she originally thought she would have. And, it had to be admitted, she was rather nice on the eyes to look at. And on the ears to hear, in her full, smooth voice. She had become a dangerous road of thought to go down. Or ship to sail, as the case might be. Still, to see the sun off the water reflecting over her coppery skin, and imagining her coated in sweat and salt water… Aveline shook her head.

It must be the sparring, she decided. Fighting or practicing always heated her blood, and that could--would, she told herself firmly—explain the low, pooling heat in-between her legs. That, and it had been a while. That, and sex and Isabela were as stuck to one another as fur on a mabari, so it was only natural to think of it when thinking of her. Aveline snorted. Isabela did it on purpose, in fact. Definitely, perfectly normal.

She headed back to the barracks to change and wash up. The sun wasn’t quite setting low yet over the Hightown rooftops, but suddenly Aveline didn’t feel up to going to the Hanged Man—or anywhere else for that matter—tonight. Hawke could wait another night before beating her again at Wicked Grace again. Aveline wasn’t particularly good at the game—she was too honest, and didn’t have a poker face to speak of. The only ones she could beat were Merrill—which somehow seemed like taking advantage of a small child—and Fenris, who was getting better. Aveline suspected Sebastian of teaching him tactics. It was fun, however, watching the apparent masters of the game, Isabela, Varric, and Sebastian, play. She would have never guessed a brother of the Chantry could be so good at a card game such as Wicked Grace, but Hawke had told her he hadn’t always been part of the Chantry. Aveline supposed they all had their sordid pasts, or at least certain parts, but it was highly amusing watching the Chant-quoting brother give the self-acclaimed Isabela a run for her money. Aveline smiled as she peeled her dirty sleeveless tunic off, soaked with sweat from sparring in the afternoon sun for so long, and tossed it on the floor. It was even more fun watching Isabela teach Hawke the finer points of the game. She hovered like a shadow just behind Hawke’s shoulder, studying the cards in her friend’s hand, her raven’s wing hair tumbling down over the ample display of bronzed skin she always made sure was showing just so. And, being Isabela, she’d glance up and wink suggestively whenever she’d catch Aveline staring.

“Andraste’s tits,” Aveline swore, dropping down on her bed to tug off her boots. “Isabela again. What is wrong with me today?”

Swiftly, the Guard Captain stripped off her remaining clothes and dug around in her closet for a clean towel.

“A nice, refreshing scrub will fix me up,” she said to herself. She always found Isabela attractive, sure, but never felt quite this frustrated when she thought of her. And if the wash couldn’t cool her off, well… that could still be remedied. And then she could get Isabela out of her system once and for all.

Slinging the towel over a shoulder, she went naked through a door on the other side of her personal chambers. Being Captain of the Guard did have its perks, she had quickly discovered, one of them being a small, private bathing room. She kept it fairly spartan—just a few soaps on hand to with, with a rough cloth to lather them in, and a few small vials of scented oils: one for her hair, one for her skin—when she was feeling a little indulgent—and one for her aching joints if they bothered her. She wasn’t so old yet, but plate armour was not a kind master, and the full-contact style of fighting and sparring she did was starting to take its toll on her after so many years.

Hanging her towel on a peg by the door, Aveline pulled on a lever that activated the old Tevinter plumbing system to bring water from deep wells up into her bathing room, and she appreciated her position once again. Even more so when she tapped a small glyph carved into the stone of the bath once to heat the water just shy of warm.

“Magic does have its practical uses,” she said to the water, stepping down into the sunken stone tub, a sigh escaping her afterward in satisfaction as she lowered into the water.

The bands that held her hair back and in place out of her face came off her head with a few quick motions, tossed in the general direction of the door. She drew in a breath and dunked the rest of her body and head beneath the water, holding herself there a moment and relishing the lukewarm water pressing against her skin like silk. Coming back up, she tossed her head back to fling her hair out of her face and lifted her hands to smooth it down. She hadn’t even begun scrubbing yet, and still felt miles better than what she had felt before. This was good. Not looking, Aveline reached over to grab one of her soap bars, but her fingers found nothing.

“Hm—?” she began, turning to look and coming face to face with a pair of glowing amber eyes. “Isabela!” she exclaimed. “How did you get in here?”

The woman in question held Aveline’s soap in her hand and a smirk on her lips. “Really? I’m a rogue, sweet thing. I break into places far more secured than this for fun.” Her smirk widened into a grin, and Aveline felt her face heat. “Not that this isn’t fun, because it is.” Isabela’s eyes trailed over Aveline’s body, and she resisted the urge to cover herself—that’d be letting Isabela know she got to her, and Aveline wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of her embarrassment. “You’re right,” the pirate said. “You do look good naked. Very good.”

Aveline watched as Isabela set the soap down, then straightened and began unbuckling and unlacing things. The guardswoman’s face reddened all the more.

“I—Isabela! What on earth are you doing?”

The other woman didn’t stop or pause in her disrobing. “Joining you. That tub looks big enough for the two of us, and the water is something I’ve never been able to resist.” Her eyes slid to the oils Aveline had perched along one edge. “And I’m really interested to know what you use all of those for,” she added, the last of her clothing dropping to the floor. She bent over to loosen her bootstraps.

Aveline averted her eyes from the amount of bared coppery skin before her, and struggled to find her voice through the sudden dryness that pervaded her throat and mouth. “Those—they’re for my hair! And the other’s for my knees and wrists. A numbing salve,” she explained, though it sounded rather lame even to her ears.

The water shifted and rocked against her body as Isabela slipped in like an eel.

“Mm. That last one sounds exciting. But, there are three, sweet thing.”

Oh, her voice was close, low and almost a purr. Why, of all days for Isabela to be her intrusive self, why did she have to pick today to call on Aveline? Any other time, Aveline would have simply ushered her out without further ado or ceremony, but today…

“Skin,” she heard herself saying. “It’s for skin.”

A soft, throaty noise came from Isabela, but she held her tongue on any lascivious comments, to Aveline’s surprise. Daring to look, Aveline turned her head to see the dark-skinned woman in her bath reaching for the vials, picking up the middle one. As if she knew which was which, Aveline thought suspiciously. Isabela opened it and wafted the vial beneath her nose, eyebrows lifting in approval.

“Mm! I like it. What’s the scent?”

Aveline’s eyes narrowed. “Not that it’s any of your business, but heather.”

“It’s very ‘Aveline’. Earthy, but still just a bit feminine.” Those amber eyes wandered along the lines and subtle curves of her warrior’s body again. So different from Isabela’s pronounced curves, the slopes of her breasts and hips--visible through the water--the soft, toned strength in her legs and arms. Aveline was much harder than that, her muscles more defined, and her body leaner and straighter from years and years of fighting in plate armour. “Just like you.” As if she appreciated the lack of femininity of Aveline’s own body.

That did it. Blushing furiously still, Aveline furrowed her brows at Isabela in disapproval, pooling heat be damned. “What are you doing here, Isabela? And why, by the Maker, are you in my tub?”

Undaunted, as usual, Isabela’s lips turned up in a smile again. “You looked very strong out there in the practice field,” she said instead. “And very sweaty.”

Aveline’s gaze went up to the ceiling to avoid looking at Isabela’s eyes. Or collarbone. “You were spying on me?” She let out a sigh. “Yes, well, it’s hot out. And fighting makes you sweat.” The water slipped and rippled as Isabela moved through it, drawing closer to Aveline. Her eyes darted back down to the dusky woman. “What are you doing?” Isabela held the vial in her hand.

“I bet your poor muscles are sore from all that excursion,” she said in a soft voice. “Your skin hot and tight from baking all day in the Kirkwall sun.”

Aveline’s flush crept down her neck and Isabela smiled. Head built higher between her legs as Isabela spoke and came close enough for Aveline to smell and feel her body heat.

“Isabela…” Aveline said, meaning it as a warning, though it came out sounding more like a plea. She couldn’t help but watch as Isabela opened the vial with the nimble fingers of only one hand and poured small dab of oil onto the other.

“Let me do something nice. Just for you,” Isabela said to her, her voice a murmur.

“But,” Aveline weakly protested. “Why?”

A chuckle came from the darker woman. “When the wind blows in your favour, sweet thing, you don’t question it.” She was so close now, and Aveline could feel her heart pounding in her chest and throat. “You just let it take you where you want to go.”

And then her hands were on Aveline’s shoulders, strong and slick with oil, and a sound came from one of them—it took a moment for Aveline to realise she had been the one to make it. Isabela’s fingers kneaded into her muscles, and despite her best efforts, Aveline relaxed. A low breath escaped her, and her eyes fluttered shut of their own accord.

“That’s it. Just relax, for once,” Isabela crooned. “Let Isabela work her magic.”

At her words, however, Aveline did the exact opposite and stiffened, pulling away and turning to face Isabela, once again on the defensive. “If you think you can get into my pants so easily—”

Her laugh cut Aveline short. “Please. I only take advantage of the willing. If you tell me to stop or go, and you really mean it, I will.” She fixed her eyes on Aveline’s. “Do you want me to stop?”

Aveline was quiet for a moment, thinking about the way Isabela’s hands felt on her bare skin, and the heat and want growing in her. It wasn’t so bad. It could just me a massage. A… naked massage, true, but when was the last time someone had rubbed her shoulders? Or her back? Or anything else, for that matter? Drawing in a breath, she turned her back to Isabela once more.

“No. I don’t.”

She could hear the smile in Isabela’s voice. “That’s my girl.” Her fingers returned to Aveline’s shoulders and resumed their ministrations.

Aveline shouldn’t let her go any further than the massage, she knew. No matter how much Isabela might try and convince her for more, she was determined to remain resolute. No matter how much she ached to let her do more. She just didn’t think she wanted to open herself to anyone like that just yet. Least of all someone as promiscuous as Isabela. She would just enjoy this for what it was, and nothing more.

No matter how good her fingers felt against Aveline’s skin.