The handle hooked over one of the courtyard fence posts, River Mahariel used the bucket full of cold water to wash away the sweat that clung to his brow and upper lip. The splash helped cool him from his training in the courtyard against some of the Inquisition soldiers seeking to test their mettle against a Grey Warden. None succeed in bringing him down, though few came close.
Commander Rutherford clapped him on the back, laughter in his smile while his other hand held out a fresh towel. “It’s nice to have a reminder that they’re not the best. Might make them train harder for the next time you’re around.”
River accepted the towel, burying his face into the coarse fabric so that his reply muffled. “I take it this will become a regular thing?”
“That’s your choice, though I won’t stop you.” Cullen paused, a weight on his lips that the elf sensed.
River dragged the towel down from over his doe-brown eyes, stopping just above his nose. “Something bothering you, Commander?”
The Commander flustered, hand reaching to the back of his neck while his gaze traveled into the clouds. “It’s good, having a Grey Warden here. A reminder that not all of you were …”
“It’s good to be that example,” River stepped in to relieve Cullen from his self-inflicted awkwardness.
River dipped the towel into the bucket, soaking the fabric before wringing it out, as a peaceful silence settled between the two men. The towel ends up hanging from around his neck to keep him cool with the heat of the sun beating down on them. He felt so naked standing beside Cullen, in only a pair of loose pants and nothing else. Armor may have been needed in battle, but it weighed him down during training sessions. All his years away from the Dalish, but he still connected with nature in the same way.
A commotion to the right of him reached his ears as they twitched to the sudden cacophony. River reacted first, head whipping to the side to find a familiar dark-haired man apologizing profusely as he attempted to help a glaring merchant pick up goods strewn around a very stationary stall. Apologies quickly shifted to cursing and blaming as the merchant mumbled something pointed in Dorian’s direction.
A quick glance in River’s direction gave away what distracted the mage during his walk, Dorian’s cheeks darkening as their eyes connected. Cullen laughed, realizing for himself what occurred, while River hid his large grin in a feigned cough into his hand.
“Well, if you would just wear a shirt!” Dorian yelled, causing more laughter to pop up from around the situation. That lead to him gathering a few of his dropped books off the ground while cursing in Tevene, then attempting to scurry away, out of sight to deal with his embarrassment.
But River ran after him, ducking in front to block the doorway into the lower part of the Keep. Dorian refused to meet his eyes, mumbling another curse as he attempted to shove past him, but the elf held strong. It also helped that he near towered over Dorian. “Enjoy the show?” River gave a cheeky grin as the blushing across Dorian’s face began anew.
“ Fasta vas , you’re insufferable.”
River leaned in closer, keeping his voice low to avoid any interested parties eavesdropping on them. “If I knew this was all it took to get your attention, I wouldn’t have written you letters.” Dorian scoffed, which only made River’s grin widen. “So you do like the letters.”
“I never implied I didn’t,” Dorian attempted one more shove past him, then relented, leaning back to glare at the immovable man.
With a short shrug and an ever-widening grin, River replied, “You sort of implied. But it’s nice to know that not all my efforts are in vain.” Not wanting to appear exactly of what Dorian once accused him of, he bit back the words, too young and naive, swallowing them down instead of letting them fester on his tongue. And while Dorian running into a stall proved little as far as feelings, it meant that the attraction wasn’t as one-sided as the mage liked to pretend.
Stepping out of the way while holding the door open for Dorian to brush past, River called out, “You know, there’s still some time before I leave again. If you wanted some training of your own. Or, you know, dinner.”
A slight pause entered Dorian’s sharp steps back into Skyhold. Not a complete answer, but enough for River to know he considered it this time.