Tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
And tears come streaming down your face…
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
He loosens the anxious fist he’s unknowingly formed and forces himself to take a slow, deep breath, but he doesn’t break his gaze from the eluvian. The Inquisitor has been gone for eighteen minutes now - almost nineteen - and he forces himself not to imagine all the ways she could be hurt in such an interminable length of time.
He glares at the eluvian’s inert facade. Its kaleidoscopic surface went dark the moment she stepped through it; otherwise he would have been at her heels, no more than a step behind.
Must be an elf thing that closed it, he thinks idly. Idle thoughts are good: they’re neutral and bland, and they distract him from the horrors of his morbid imagination. Idle thoughts pull him away from the idea of her facing a contingent of qunari on her own. Or another eight-foot-tall saarebas that they didn’t know about. Or-
“You don’t think Solas has... done something, do you?” Dorian’s voice is sharp with anxiety, and Blackwall shoots him a glare. The Tevinter mage is pacing in front of the mirror, his nervous steps a sharp juxtaposition with Blackwall’s utter stillness.
“It’s all right,” Cole says soothingly. He looks both sadder and more hopeful than usual. “Sorrowful, sorry, but safe. A wolf’s jaws hound his heels, but his heart isn’t wholly hardened. She won’t be harmed.” He turns his pale-eyed gaze to Blackwall’s face.
Blackwall gives a tight nod, but he keeps his gaze on the eluvian. Cole might have an uncanny knack for knowing things he couldn’t possibly know, but Blackwall won’t feel calm until Arya steps back through the infernal mirror.
Eons later, when Blackwall is sure that Dorian’s heels are going to wear a furrow into the ground, the eluvian comes to life with a burst of light and colour. Blackwall pulls his sword from its sheath and strides to the mirror’s side, his heart hammering an anxious beat in his ears.
Arya pushes her way through the glass and collapses to her knees, and he’s instantly on the ground beside her, his sword forgotten as he runs his hands over her arms, her shoulders, her neck, searching for injuries, making sure she’s all in one piece. “Are you all right?” he rasps.
She lifts her face to meet his gaze, and he recoils slightly in surprise: she’s grinning.
Her amethyst eyes are overbright, and she lets out a breathy little laugh. “Fucking Solas,” she says. Then she laughs again and starts to push herself to her feet.
He grasps her left hand and helps her rise, then belatedly notices that her palm isn’t pulsing with that sickening green light anymore. A leap of hope leaves him breathless for a moment. “Your hand,” he says. “It’s - is it fixed? Solas fixed it?”
“Let me see,” Dorian snaps. He hurries over and takes her hand, but her eyes are on Blackwall’s face.
“He’s Fen’Harel,” she says.
Blackwall frowns. “What?”
“Solas is Fen’Harel,” she says loudly, as though he’s being obtuse. “The Dread Wolf, the trickster god - no, not a trickster. The rebel god. The big bad rebel wolf.” She breaks into laughter again, and this time she sounds distinctly hysterical.
Suddenly Cole pipes in. “It’s gone,” he says softly.
Blackwall turns to him, his frustration deepening by the second. “Arya’s mark, you mean? She’s better now?” This is all he cares about, it’s all that matters; is she cured or not? Is her bloody hand still killing her or not?
“Cole is right - the mark and its magic are gone,” Dorian confirms. “But-”
Arya pulls her left hand from the mage’s grasp and cradles it close to her chest. “Come on,” she says. “We’ve got to get back. Leliana needs to know. They all need to… Andruil’s tit, they’re going to laugh when they find out. Or maybe they won’t.” She giggles, sounding slightly punch-drunk, then sets off in the direction that they came.
Her steps are weaving slightly as though she’s tipsy, and Blackwall’s momentary relief is swiftly subsumed by worry. He places a solicitous hand at the small of her back, his other hand reaching out to support her left arm, but she defensively pulls her arm away from him.
“Arya,” he says tensely. “What’s the matter? Does it hurt?”
She smiles vacantly at him. “Can you believe it? Solas, the Dread Wolf. We had a wolf in our midst all this time, and we didn’t even know. A wolf in elf’s clothing.” She laughs again, a bright and brittle sound, then hisses and clutches her arm.
His anxiety ratchets higher, and he turns to Dorian in desperation. “Can’t you do something?” he asks.
Dorian’s face is a picture of anxious apology. “I don’t think I can. Her hand is… There’s no magical signature anymore, but it’s just… off. I don’t…”
“Let’s get back,” Arya interrupts, and the men fall into step beside her as she strides along the path in a haphazard manner. “Varric will have a field day with this. It’s the best story I’ve ever heard. How did we not know?” She suddenly stops, forcing Cole to bump into her, and her wide violet eyes are on Blackwall’s face again.
“How did I not know?” she demands. “All that time - he came with us everywhere. He was so fucking knowledgeable. Always with an answer about every fucking thing. How could I not have known? So stupid, thinking he was our friend. I…”
Blackwall cups her face as she trails off. “You’re not stupid,” he says firmly. “But you’re hurt, and you need help.” Then he frowns as he realizes she’s not looking at him anymore; her eyes are fixed on the ground.
He follows her gaze down to find a faint golden glitter, and the bottom falls out of his stomach.
A gold ring lies on the ground: the wedding ring Blackwall gave her, shaped like a halla’s horns.
It’s attached to a finger. Arya’s finger, which has fallen off.
A fuzzy kind of silence fills his ears as he stares at the finger on the ground. Arya slowly bends down and reaches for the ring with a trembling hand. As she touches the glittering band of gold, the flesh of her fallen finger crumbles into ash.
A shiver of horror runs down his spine, and his eyes snap back to her wounded left hand. Sure enough, the skin of her fingers is cracking like a dried riverbed, wisps of flesh crumbling and trickling away like burnt-out coal.
She lifts the golden ring and rises to her feet, and in the time it takes for her eyes to land on his face, her first two fingers crumble and drift apart.
He stares at her in stupid, breathless shock as she holds the ring out to him. “Hang on to this for me?” she says. “I might be a few fingers short.” A sick sort of smile lifts her lips, then she falls to her knees.
Blackwall ignores the bile rising in his throat as he sweeps her into his arms. Her swiftly dissipating left arm is still tucked against her chest, her thumb now gone, the knuckles flaking away as though they were made of nothing more substantial than sand.
“Damn it,” Dorian hisses. “We need to move. Quickly.”
But Blackwall is frozen. Her feverish eyes are glued to his face, empty and unfocused, and he can’t look away.
She smiles once more. “I’m going to fucking murder him,” she mumbles, then her eyes roll back in a dead faint.
“It’s gone,” Cole repeats in a calm and tragic voice, and suddenly Blackwall is running, clutching Arya’s unconscious body close as he sprints for the eluvian that will take them back to Halamshiral. He hears Dorian’s panicked breaths to his left, Cole’s soft and rapid tread to his right, his own harsh breathing in his ears, but none of it matters.
All that matters is what he can’t hear: Arya’s voice, the voice he loves the most, and the one that’s fallen silent for now.
Her arm disintegrates completely before they make it back to Halamshiral. She’s left with a perfectly clean stump without even a scar. It’s as though her left forearm never existed.
When Arya wakes in the Winter Palace, she can’t bear to look at it.
She turns her face away from the missing arm, her eyes squeezed shut. Her voice is hoarse when she finally speaks. “At least he didn’t leave me bleeding all over the place. I guess that’s something.” She opens her eyes and smiles, and Blackwall’s heart quails at the tears shining in her eyes. “I’m still going to kill him, though.”
Blackwall strokes her right palm soothingly with his thumbs. “Does it hurt?” he asks. Celene’s finest mage healers have been in and out all night, applying unguents and bandages and whispering spells and infusing her with various potions. She doesn’t look uncomfortable, but he can’t help but ask.
She shrugs, and a tear spills down her face to soak into her pillow. “No,” she says. “It doesn’t hurt. It’s just… gone.”
Her words are a mirroring of Cole’s. He swallows his own distress and squeezes her hand encouragingly. “We’ll go back to Skyhold right away,” he assures her. “You’ve been through enough-”
“No, we can’t go yet,” she interrupts. “I need to speak to Leliana. She needs to know what Solas is planning. And the bloody Exalted Council - there’s no way they’re shutting us down now, not after this.” She makes as though to push herself up from the bed - with her missing left arm.
Her face goes blank with dismay at the ineffectual gesture. Blackwall’s chest aches with sympathy as her jaw clenches, then she takes her right hand from him and pushes herself into a sitting position.
Her eyes move around the room until they land on her formal uniform, hung neatly on the door of the armoire. “I need to change,” she says. She rises to her feet and takes two purposeful steps, then stumbles slightly to the right.
He’s at her side in less than a second, one hand on her back and the other grasping her right hand, but her face is creased with anger and not with pain. “Fenedhis,” she curses, then barks out a bitter laugh. “Fucking Solas.” She rights herself, then continues walking toward the armoire at a more careful pace.
“What-” he starts to ask, but she interrupts impatiently. “Can’t balance properly,” she snaps. “Bloody missing arm. It’s fine. I’ll get used to it.” With her right hand she pulls off her filthy shirt, then unbuttons her pants and awkwardly pushes them off, all the while averting her gaze from her left arm.
She takes the formal coat down from its hanger, and Blackwall takes a step forward. “Arya, let me-”
She cuts him off again. “No, I’ll do it myself.” She tosses the coat onto a nearby chair and takes down the pants, but almost falls over while trying to pull on the left leg, and he catches her before she can hit the ground.
She grits her teeth as she buttons her pants one-handed. A tear rolls down her face as she laboriously pulls the formal coat over the stump of her arm; one of the castle staff has already pinned the arm of her coat at the elbow.
Blackwall watches in painful silence as Arya shuffles the coat on slowly, then does up the gilded buttons one by one. Her fingers slip at times, unaccustomed to doing their job without the help of their left-sided analogues, and she’s breathing hard by the time the final button is fastened.
She finally meets his eyes. “What? Are you going to just stare at me?” she demands.
“No, my lady,” he says automatically, but in truth, he can’t look away. Her cheeks are flushed with exertion and her amethyst eyes are hot with rage, but he can’t stop staring. She’s got dark circles of fatigue under her eyes, and her posture is slumped with strain, but she’s standing on her own two feet and her tongue is as sharp as ever. Arm or no arm, she’s his Arya Lavellan, bolshy and lively and alive, and she’s the finest thing he’s ever seen.
He reaches out and pulls her against his chest. Her survival of this whole ordeal is a fucking miracle, and he’s so damn relieved. “I love you,” he blurts.
Her anger abruptly crumples, and she buries her face in his chest. He clutches her tightly, one hand stroking the back of her neck as she shakes silently against him. She clenches her right hand in his shirt, hot tears soaking through the fabric, and he breathes deep and slow to hide his own dismay. He’s sure she doesn’t mean it when she rails about wanting to murder Solas, but in this moment, he would gladly end the traitorous mage’s life if it would end her suffering.
A long, agonizing moment later, she pulls away and wipes her face roughly. “I have to go talk to the others. They need to know about Solas.” She doesn’t quite meet his eye as she slides from his arms. She inhales deeply to regain her composure, then takes a few steps toward the door before suddenly stopping.
She glares intently at her left arm, and Blackwall gazes at her with fresh concern. “What’s the matter?”
“I don’t... It felt for a second like my hand was still there,” she says. She pauses for a moment, looking distinctly uneasy, then shakes her head and continues toward the door.
Blackwall hurries after her, his anxiety sharpening again as he watches her gait. The sway of her slender hips is the same as always, but she weaves very slightly as she strides down the hall, her balance shifting slightly as she tries to accommodate for the missing weight of her arm.
He catches up to her and places a supportive hand in the middle of her back. “Arya, slow down. The Council knows you’ve been injured. It’s all right to take a moment.”
She frowns and pulls away from his hand, stumbling slightly as she does so. “My murderous glowing hand hasn’t stopped them from breathing down my neck the whole time we were here,” she retorts. “And Thom, please, stop hovering. I’m not made of glass. I’m not going to break.”
Her use of his given name is a tiny punishment, and he bows his head slightly at the rebuke. “I’m sorry, my lady,” he says. With an effort of will, he drops his hands to his sides as he follows her down the hall.
They reach the private office where she’s been meeting with Cullen and Josephine and Leliana during their time in Halamshiral. She stops at the door and looks up at him. “I’ll see you later?”
Her words are phrased as a question, but her brusque tone is a clear dismissal, and Blackwall knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s dealing with this new upheaval the same way she deals with any Inquisition-related crisis: she’s shunting aside her feelings in favour of a healthy dose of pragmatism and a pinch of snark. It’s a productive outlook most of the time.
But this time is different; this time is personal. She just lost her arm, and Blackwall almost lost his wife, and he’s not sure her usual brusque approach will work this time.
But Arya is the Inquisitor, and following her is his way. He swallows hard, then nods. “Yes, Your Worship. But before I go…” He fishes around in his pocket, then takes her right hand.
From his pocket he pulls her golden ring. He carefully slides it onto the ring finger of her right hand. “I kept it safe,” he says quietly.
He looks up and meets her eyes, and his heart thumps in relief at tenderness softening her face. She squeezes his hand tightly. “Thank you,” she whispers, then tilts her chin up for a kiss.
He happily complies, savouring the warmth of her palm and the softness of her mouth. She pulls away with a wan little smile and disappears into the office, and Blackwall makes his way back to their guest suite. Arya might be missing half an arm, but she holds his heart in the hand that remains. She’ll need time to adjust to this change, and he’ll be at her side for as long as it takes.