Participants:

Garou_icon.gif Valentin_icon.gif

Scene Title Lifelong Love Letter
Synopsis A series of vignettes showcasing important moments in Garou and Valentin's life together prior to Kirkwall.
Location The White Spire, Val Royeaux
Date Multiple times
Watch For Warning: Content of a sexual nature.
Logger Valentin

Guardian 15, 9:26 Dragon

Libraries were good for a lot of things. They were quiet, people didn't ask
a lot of questions, and they had shelves. Not that anyone was, strictly speaking, supposed to be excited
about shelves. Valentin certainly was, though. Shelves were very good for climbing, and from atop shelves
you could hear all sorts of things when people didn't ever bother to look up. Atop shelves, as well, much too
high for people to be worried about the size of the windows, you could catch a warm spot of sunlight, or the
breeze through an old, poorly mended crack that was long forgotten. Furthermore, when the Templars went
looking for the blind mage, they didn't ever bother to check up there. What sort of crazy man was he,
climbing shelves and walking around atop them when he couldn't see?

One who had spent a lot of time at sea, ironically enough. Sometimes, though, even when he did have his
sight, the rain would fall in sheets, and you couldn't see your own hand before your eyes. You made do. You
didn't trust your feet, your feet were liars. Dirty, awful, horrible, deceitful liars. Today, though, Valentin has
gotten reckless. Misjudging which set of shelves he is on, he doesn't realize how obvious his perch is, not
facing a back corner but one of the doors to the room.

Liars? On the contrary, feet were the greatest prophets a melee
fighter could ask for. A fool doesn't watch his feet and they'll tell you what he's going to do well before even
he knows. The off-duty Templar strolling through the Circle in search of his own spot of sun wouldn't so
much classify himself as a fool as… well, riding a wave of bad luck. See? Case in point. Mage wandering
around on top of really tall bookshelves. Nothing good can come of this. Bad. Luck. Obviously, this
means that the only thing Garou can do is stop. Well, stop at the bottom of said shelves. Or close to the
bottom anyway - no sense getting a crick in the neck but no sense in being too far away to help when things
inevitably went south, either. Off duty or not, one simply did not allow mages to walk off of bookshelves.
That's just not on.

The lack of armor completely throws Valentin's interpretation off. But he
can tell which direction someone has entered from, and he curses in Rivaini. Sighing, he pinches the
bridge of his nose. "No, no, Valentin," He says to himself, though his voice travels easily, "You want the third
set, not the second. Learn how to count, love of the Maker…" And with that, he's standing on the top of the
shelf, and moving down toward that mentioned third set of shelves. Really, can't blame the Templar for not
knowing what in the world is up with this one, he's new. Mostly. Kind of. New enough.

Oh this is definitely not going to end well at all. These library
shelves are twelve feet off the ground if they're an inch; a fall from this height would be… not great.
Probably wouldn't kill anyone - probably - but still. Somehow this will all turn out to be his fault and
since that is the inevitable eventuality, there's nothing for it but to minimize the damage. So when the mage
stands and starts walking along the shelf tops like he's taking a woodland fucking stroll, Garou groans and
follows, doing his best to keep abreast of this madman while evaluating the situational variables. There are
a lot of sensible questions he could (read: should) be asking, but only one of them comes out and it's
not… all that sensible. "What's so special about the third set?"

"It's facing the back wall, of course." Valentin says, as though it were the
simplest thing in all the world. For all he is not looking down, it seems he's not going to fall off of these
shelves just yet. Must be the reason for his being barefoot, better sense of edges. And when he's found the
shelf he originally wanted, he sits down again, as though it is quite where he belongs. It is then, though,
that something dawns on him. "Wait… That wasn't me… That was you. Who are you?"

The back wall. Oh, of course. The infamous Wall of Back, how
could he possibly have forgotten. The Templar shrugs - odd how the motion is so much smoother, so much
less strenuous - when not encased in a steel and iron shell. He follows all the same, arms folded across his
chest to better stare up at the bizarre barefooted mage. "Of course it was me. I can't very well be anyone
else, now can I?"

"You haven't answered the question." Valentin says, and though he looks
down toward the other man's voice, he is staring at a spot a good span away from him. Not quite precise
enough. The mage crinkles his nose, and then slips from the side of the shelf, turning to climb down.
Compared to wet rigging, this was nothing. Shelves were at even and predictable distances from one
another.

"Bad habit," Garou bats back, arms dropping to his sides now but
only because the fool man is finally climbing down. Once he's back on dry land - so to speak - then the
Templar can go back to hunting down the perfect napping spot to enjoy his free hours with.

Down he gets, graceful as a cat. He turns, even, a small smirk on his
face. Proud of himself for that one. There weren't even any fallen books this time, what a wonder! What a
glorious day this would be. But see, shelves are even and measured, and the tops of shelves are kept clear.
What is not, however, is the floor of libraries. Piles of books in places they ought not be. "One you enjoy,
apparently…" Valentin quips, and begins to step toward the source of the voice when one such pile of books
is precisely where he needs it to not be.

See? Bad luck - nothing is ever as easy as it should be. Just as the
Templar lets loose a sigh of relief - because both of those bare feet are now on solid ground - the mage is
talking and then the mage is falling and it's instinct (or at least that's how we're going to label it) that
has him darting forward to catch the foolish man before he hurts himself. The problem is that he'd been all
prepared to catch a person's weight from a significant fall. He puts a little too much energy into stopping
this one and ends up only managing to soften said landing from books and stone to… well, him. "Garou."

Okay, look, Valentin had long ago come to terms with his yo-yo
relationship with the ground. And while he curses as his fall begins, he really wouldn't have cared all that
much. He'd fallen on worse than books and stone floors. However, he finds himself, instead, on top of
another man. "Oh." He says through a wry smile, "Well, I normally ask for dinner first but…" The joke trails
off as he reaches down to the man's face, taking note of proportions. It's likely incredibly awkward.
"Valentin."

It is, in fact, incredibly awkward. It is not, however, the most
bizarre thing to ever have happened to this particular Templar, so he indulges it. At least at first. After
about a minute he starts pulling his face into the most ridiculous expressions he can think of. Just to see
what happens.

At first, Valentin narrows his eyes. His eyes which have not met Garou's
gaze at all. Likely makes this even more awkward. You know, unless you've read his file, or know what to
look for. After a few moments of ridiculous expressions, however, Valentin barks a laugh. "I like you." He
says then, "You're funny." And as though it is absolutely the most appropriate and natural thing in the world
to do, he leans to press a quick peck of a kiss to the corner of Garou's mouth before pulling himself up and
off of him.

Garou is not the 'files' sort, nor does he have any immediate
experience with someone lacking vision. Still, with the lack of eye contact and the hands on his face, it's not
exactly the… most elusive logical leap to make. It's not the first time he's been on his back with some pretty
boy sprawled boneless over him, but they're usually not actually quite this pretty - and usually he's
coming down off a pretty good orgasm by that point. If anything's weird about this, it's that. "The Empress
thought so, too." But that's the only thing he can say before he is summarily kissed and left. Which is
usually his line. Huh. Okay.

"Careful." Valentin says with a smirk, "I know the whores have some
creative names for themselves, but people might get confused." And in an act of pure fucking irony, once he
stands, he offers his hand down to the man still on the ground.

Garou shrugs, a useless gesture except that it is accompanied by a
soft, short hum that manages to audibly convey most of the same idea. "People are always confused." But
he'll accept that hand up - because why not? - and take a minute on his feet to brush himself off. These
floors haven't been cleaned very carefully in… a bit.

Think the floors are bad? The back of Valentin's robes are a mess from
the dust up on the top of the shelves. Not that he seems to care. "They are…" Valentin says, stopping as though
Garou has just said the most beautiful thing in all the world with that simple phrase. "Yes, you can stay, Ser
Garou." No one in the Circle had that kind of muscle mass unless they were a Templar.

Valentin may not care, but Garou has been a Templar long enough
that unkempt persons make him just a little bit twitchy. "And you are of course the Grand Lord of the
Library to bestow upon me such permission." Since Valentin had felt a kiss within the bounds of propriety,
Garou feels no remorse in holding his shoulder with one hand while brushing dust off the back of his robe
with the other. "I'd be honored, but you're an awfully messy lord."

"Alright, we are definitely in dinner territory at this point." Valentin
says with a laugh, but doesn't actually move to stop him. "And I am precisely the Grand Lord of nothing. And
that is quite how I like it. Could you imagine how well that would go?" Another barked laugh. And well, he
continues to like this guy. And this guy hasn't just wandered off to write him off as totally insane yet, and his
nose isn't broken from kissing him. All in all, this has paid off pretty well. So, when Garou finishes his task of
removing the dust from Valentin's robes, the mage catches him to kiss him more properly, though it only
lasts a moment. Maybe he's also testing boundaries.

Garou doesn't fight it when he's caught post-robe-cleaning. It's not
like he's in any danger being grabbed by a mage that he isn't in standing across the room from one. Given
that truth, the concept of the boundaries of safety seem a little bit silly. Or a lotta bit silly. Either one. The
kiss is a little more surprising, but the shock value has been ruined entirely by the first one. But when the
mage would make to break this kiss, the templar is the one to catch him with arms fit snugly around his
waist. "This is Orlais," he murmurs, inches away from that testing, questing mouth. "Everyone here is Lord
of Nothing and no one wants to admit it." And then he's stealing a kiss of his own - pushing a little deeper,
dragging it out a little longer - before releasing Valentin altogether and disappearing back into the maze of
hallways beyond the library.

Guardian 21, 9:26 Dragon

The next time Garou gets a day off-duty, he goes specifically in search of Valentin. He comes bearing gifts,
even. Or, well, a gift. It's rich, dark chocolate blended with chili powders and orange oils, fits in the
palm of his hand and some obnoxious chocolaterie has shaped it like the Orlesian lion. "It isn't dinner," is all
he says in explanation.

Valentin, when he is found, is writing. Sure, he can't check his work, but
that doesn't stop him. Perhaps he just trusts himself a lot or maybe he doesn't care about the mistakes, if
they exist. Again, the lack of armor completely throws off his assumptions as someone enters the room. It
isn't until he's being offered a gift does he have any inclination at all of who is there to find him. At the
explanation, the mage laughs. Taking the chocolate, he touches it with delicate fingers, though they are ink
stained, smirking at the shape. "No, it is not." He says, "Though I think it will suffice."

Relinquishing the treat into the hands of its intended recipient,
Garou leans on the back of his chair like he'd already been invited to do so. There is an obvious question to
be begged here, but whether he ignores it or it simply doesn't occur to him, Garou skips it entirely. "What
are you writing?" That's a more practical use of breath, anyhow.

"A whole lot of really boring magical theory." Valentin says with a small
laugh, lifting the chocolate to smell it. "Why are you bringing me sweets?" He asks, though he only sounds
amused as he bites into the chocolate then. It is precisely everything he could want of such a thing, and the
noise it draws from his lips borders on indecent, even for Orlais.

Garou shrugs - again in his weird way that verbalizes the motion -
and does not even try a little bit to hide the crooked grin that indecent sound draws out. "I wanted to kiss
you again. It seemed only fair." Especially with 'dinner' not such a practical option in Circles. "If that's the
kind of noise you make from chocolate, what I want to know is why everyone isn't bringing you sweets."

Valentin appreciates that small vocalization. It is a lot easier to follow
than the rustle of clothing that is normally his only indication of a shrug. Not that it gives him any help about
that grin he's earned. It makes him smile… Or maybe that is Garou's words. His free hand taps a spot on the
desk beside him, checking that it is empty, and he sets the chocolate down gently. "It is good to know that I
haven't lost my disarming good looks since last I was able to check." Valentin says, well familiar with
mocking himself. None the less, he offers his own shrug. "Most people don't know what sort of sounds I
make." A pause as the mage lift his hand to find Garou's arm with a soft touch, "From chocolate or
otherwise." Taking hold of Garou's sleeve, he pulls, encouraging the Templar down.

"If you ever misplace them, just fall on people. That's plenty
disarming." Sharp eyes track the hand questing for empty space and the one setting down its treat. Such
things as ink and chocolate are thus far enough away that when he is pulled down, Garou follows through
without protest. He draws it out a little - running his nose along Valentin's - because he wants to savor it
and the brush-press of lips against lips is slow and teasing.

Smirking, the mage just keeps pulling. It was good, having someone that
could trade quips with him. Oddly, it was additionally satisfying that it wasn't just another one of the mages.
For a long moment, he indulges Garou's slow approach to his lips, the gentle brushes, returning the subtle
movements with his own. "Don't worry," Valentin whispers against the Templar's lips, "You have earned
more than one."

This time Garou's grin is so close to Valentin's own mouth that it's
nigh impossible to miss, spreading quick and sharp and bright. "Tell me when I have run out," he breathes,
just the faintest edge of pleased rumbling around the fringes of each word. Because one hand is going to
brace himself against the back of the chair, but the other one is going to come up and touch at cheek and
jaw, curving back into dark hair while he deepens and sharpens the kiss, too.

Ah, Orlais. Valentin could get used to this. Sure, it was nothing like
freedom, but this was sweet and this was pleasant, and it made his heart race. It was good to feel that
again, to hear his heart in his ears, to feel the heat rising to his face that meant that color bloomed under his
tan. The mage shivers under the touch to his cheek and jaw, groaning against the kiss. His lips part easily,
and the hand on Garou's sleeve moves to his upper arm, holding there, his thumb rubbing against the fabric,
feeling the muscle beneath. This much reaction from one kiss, either he's melodramatic or it's been awhile.
Which… Well… The Circle isn't exactly the easiest place for such things.

Some might say melodramatic, others may say deprived. Garou
calls it 'responsive' and it makes his blood sing. That groan is enough to draw his own shiver and a low
growling moan. Valentin is quick and interesting and very nice to look at - the mouth that goes with it is
sweet and the Templar finds that he very much wants to devour it… or at the very least leave swollen,
tender lips in his wake. He pushes just a little bit further, meaning to lean the mage back in the chair for a
better angle and getting… just a little bit lost in those kisses along the way.

Sweet, indeed. The sharpness added in is just a bonus, and Valentin
inhales sharply through his nose, his hand gripping to the Templar's arm as he leans back. It seems he is, in
fact, quite pliable. At least, when he has a wanton Templar pressing a hard kiss to his lips. Those lips that
are soft and full, and bruise quite easily, actually. His other hand moves to Garou's ribs, trailing down the
Templar's side, further investigation.

Guardian 28, 9:26 Dragon

More writing. It's a little like Valentin spends every free moment he has
doing precisely this. A writing desk, a well loved journal, his fingers stained with ink from how he has to align
his quill with his fingers, lest he write over his previous line. It's a process, but over the years, Valentin has
turned it into its own special art. An art he can only appreciate when he writes when angry, when his quill
presses into parchment hard enough to leave marks. That's another art he's learned, reading backward the
raised letters of hard pressed penmanship. Slow, arduous, but it gave him something to do when he grew
bored.

Garou could empathize with the art of applying pressure when
angry. It's one he's made excellent use of throughout his entire life. But what he used to consider anger
holds not even a candle to the incandescent rage of the night before. He's on-duty today and though he's
not happy about it - with a split lip and a nose broken again among other bruises who would be? - he
isn't actively seeking out anyone. Just a simple patrol done in simple silence. But… but if he slows his steps,
shortens his stride to linger in the spaces he can see Valentin, well… it's only to make sure last night's brawl
was enough dissuasion.

The circuit of patrol had gone through a number of times since Valentin
began his bout of writing. And by how much the hour candle at his side, kept only for time keeping, had
burned down, that wasn't surprising. What was surprising, was that the last two passes have involved a
falter of step. When he catches the sound of it again, the mage's brow furrows, and he instinctively turns his
face toward the sound, an old habit he had not broken. "Have I managed to get ink on my face again or is
there some other reason you're slowing down?" The mage asks, not sure as of yet who it is that he is
speaking to aside from 'Templar that didn't fit the rhythm.'

Garou had not intended to be this obvious; evidently he's more
out of sorts today than he'd thought. "Studying your 'complex magical theory'." Of course he has no idea if
that's what the mage is actually writing or not, but it's as good a reason as any.

At that voice, Valentin smiles, recognition wiping away his worry. "I
believe my words were 'really boring magical theory' actually, but yes." He says with a laugh. Leaning
forward, he finishes a word quickly so that he can take his hand away without having to start in the middle
of a line on a new page. Turning his attention back to the Templar, he smirks. "Certainly makes the slowing
down make more sense, though, it being you."

Garou clears his throat, shifting his weight and wincing a little with
the motion. "Nothing could be more boring than patrol." So by comparison the magical theory's practically a
bodice-ripper. He shifts again, looking over the mage with a sharp eye for anything amiss. "How has your
day been?" It's polite - damn it, it's small talk - but it's close enough to what he really wants to ask. It will
suffice.

"I can think of something - " Valentin says, twisting his head to the side
to crack his upper back audibly, a terrible habit he'd had for years, "Small talk." The tone is deadpan, as he
levels Garou with a look, just slightly to the Templar's right, really, but the narrowed eyes get the point
across well enough. "If you've something you want to talk about, just say so."

That retort has Garou simultaneously drawing up and folding in on
himself. "Not at all," he replies stiffly. "I should not have bored you." He turns then, slow and stiff and
really regretting the decision to get out of bed this morning. "I apologize."

"No. Stop." Valentin says, sighing, "That is not what I meant." Putting
down his quill, the mage pinches the bridge of his nose. Well, he hadn't gotten ink on his face, but now
he certainly has.

He can't help it. Turning back to look over his shoulder, Garou is
struck by the streaks of black ink going across the mage's nose such that a short, quiet laugh is startled out
of him. "That won't do." He tugs his gloves off - ignoring entirely the six regulations he's breaking - and
reaches into a pouch on his belt, pulling out a little square of cloth and stepping closer. "That won't do at
all." His empty hand goes first, touching Valentin's shoulder and then sliding fingertips up his neck to his jaw
- a tactile warning before he starts to wipe at streaks of black

At first, Valentin is very, very confused. "What won't do?" He asks,
confused. Hearing the Templar approach, his hand falls away from his face and he blinks, tilting his head
inquisitively. The approach continues, and the mage only grows more curious, though a small ripple of
concern settles in his heart, too. Because this approach is getting quite close, reaching out and touching
close and Valentin just despises when people just… Reach out and grab. It's disorienting and aggravating
and rude and… There's a hand upon his shoulder. It makes him let go of a breath he didn't realize he
was holding, following the logic of that trailing hand up his neck, and the small tension that had begun in his
shoulders eases. Laughing at himself then, the mage smiles again. "Ah, yes, I do have a habit of doing this."

This smile on this mouth on this mage in particular may very well
be Garou's favorite thing in the entire world. It makes his cheeks go hot and he finds himself clearing his
throat again mid-swipe. "There." He finishes with a swipe of his bare thumb across now mostly-clear skin.
"All sorted." And the hand holding the cloth moves to tuck it back in where it goes, but the hand cupping
that side of Valentin's jaw stays, thumb brushing across his cheek with surprising gentleness.

The smile turns to a smirk at that clearing of Garou's throat. Valentin's
hand comes up to the one upon his jaw. And then pauses, finding the heat of swelling. His brow knits, and
his other hand raises to touch tenderly over the Templar's face. Finding swelling, a slip lip, his fingers only
trail an inch around his nose before he can tell it is broken and he frowns. "What happened?"

Wounds this fresh are so tender… the fingertips around his face
hurt but there is a gentleness there that… Garou doesn't stop him, doesn't move, doesn't breathe,
doesn't do anything at all beyond soaking up the kindness inherent in those fingertips. Only when it becomes
evident that an answer is actually expected of him does he speak. "I picked a fight."

"And you didn't bother to seek healing for it?" Valentin chides, huffing.
"Let me help?" It's instinctive to just do it, but he's learned better. Especially with Templars, even the
good ones sometimes got jumpy.

"It isn't going to kill me," he grumbles, the only answer to why he
didn't actively seek treatment. Nevertheless, when the question is posed like that… he opens his mouth to
say no thank you, really he does. "…yes." Yeah, real strong refusal there, sunshine.

Sure he does. Definitely. Valentin's heard the word he needs, though,
and his hand presses lightly, but flat, along Garou's jaw. Taking a deep breath, it's like water, his magic.
Smooth and cool and quick, and a just a little bit mad. It flows easily, though when he was young and
untrained, that had been more a hindrance than anything else, how wild it had been, rushing through cracks
and filling any space that was left open to it. Now, he is older, and he has much more control, though the
rippling crash of it is sometimes just a little bit disorienting, even if it is refreshing. A little like standing under
a waterfall. "What did you go looking for a fight about?"

Energy like this is anathema to everything Garou has been trained
to do - to be - his entire life. It is chaos when he has learned to rely so desperately on a few core rules of
order. This… this is thrilling, this is exciting; this is terrifying. His whole body shivers and he has to swallow
around a suddenly dry throat before he can even attempt an answer. "My nose itched." He even manages to
deliver it deadpan, though there's perhaps just a spark of mischief in his eyes. "It doesn't itch anymore."

It's like finding sweet air above water one has been under too long for
Valentin, stretching part of him that so often he kept twisted into uncomfortable positions. Sure, the Circle
allowed magic. He did magic plenty. The Circle only had use for legitimate healing ever now and then,
though, and from the life had once lead, Circle life was dull and stifling. So he relishes this perhaps a little
longer than he ought. Mending Garou's nose, the swelling his face, his lip, the swelling in his hands, and
perhaps easing a little extra tensions before he realizes and pulls his hand away, stopping the flow of magic
with a deep breath. "Very funny." He quips, shaking his head a little, "But really, what was it about?"

For all that this frightens him, Rou does not recoil. There is
something here worth standing for. He doesn't know what, yet, but that sense has never failed him before.
And when the energy withdraws so suddenly he leans into that hand before it can leave him too, nuzzling
slowly against the skin. "Nothing," he says on a sigh. "Sometimes I just fight."

His hand being followed surprises Valentin, but he doesn't try and get the
Templar to stop. Instead he cups the other man's jaw, smiling faintly at the interest. Yet still was this
Templar sweet, in his own succinct way. It was different, and strange, and not something Valentin had found
before and he found it intriguing. More than intriguing, perhaps a little intoxicating. "You, Ser," He says,
shaking his head again, "Are a terrible liar."

Having his face held is a new sensation for Garou. His usual trysts
involve a lot of acrobatics, a feverish blistering race to the finish and then the blissful relief of sleep.
Touching beyond the immediately exciting is not… that's not part of a Templar's life. He's not sure it's part of
anyone's life in Val Royeaux. "Be that as it may." He isn't denying the accusation, but he's not fessing up
either.

If there was one thing that Valentin was, it was unrelenting. Huffing
through his nose, the mage's hand travels down to the side of Garou's neck, exploring planes he has come to
know a couple of times. "So, then - What. Was. The. Fight. Over?" He says, enunciating each word with a
sort of strange mixture of sing-song and serious. It could feel like mockery if it didn't just sound absurdist
and bizarre.

That sliding touch makes Garou hum low in his throat, pleased by
the physical sensation and soothed by something else entirely. He steps a little closer into the stubborn
mage, hands going to his waist and forehead resting gently against his. "I told you, Valentin. It was
nothing."

"I don't believe you." Comes the answer from Val, near immediate.
Though the purr is distracting, as are the hands on his waist, the brow pressed to his own, the warmth of
Garou's breath, the smell of him this near. It makes his heart skip a couple beats, but that doesn't stop his
talking. "If it were - " There's the first skip, made obvious in a stutter of words, "N-nothing, you wouldn't be
nearly this evasive about it. Besides - " There's the second skip, and yes, Garou, it does seem he has noticed
the evasion, "I've already said you are a terrible liar. Now tell me."

"You are persistent, I give you that." Those skips are music and
Garou is entranced. One hand slides down to hold Valentin at his hip while the other wraps back up to flatten
his palm almost up between his shoulderblades. "But you waste your breath." And judging by the way he
noses at the mage's face until he can nip at his jawline, he would prefer to steal it away altogether.

"Yes, I am, it is - " This time his breath hitches, with hands moving his
hips and back and just… How very encompassed that hold makes him. And how very strong these arms are,
and the rigidity of armor now pressed against his chest. Then, though, he stops. Something in that phrase
makes Valentin growl. "It's my breath and I'll do with it as I please." He snaps, though the heat flashes
bright and then dies just as quick as it came. Perhaps because of the nips to his jaw, perhaps something
else. Color rises to his face at those bites, and Valentin gasps quietly. Then, though, he's putting a hand
between them, pushing against that breastplate, and shaking his head. "No. Answer the question first."

Rou freezes at the way that answer is snapped out at him like the
crack of a whip. When the hand comes up to press between them, he does not fight it, arms falling
immediately to his sides. He even takes half a step back, face creased down into consternation that colors
his tone as well. "Why does it matter so much?" But his second question is, perhaps, far more revealing of
the flesh beneath the metal than he'd like. "What do you care? I picked a fight. He came out of it a lot worse
off than a busted face." These are a lot of words in one go for Garou. It leaves him huffing out a breath and
crossing his arms over his chest. "Nothing else happened."

"It just does," Valentin says, sighing, "I have decided I like you. Enough
that I've decided to want to heal you. I think that deserves a little bit of honesty." He's not just talking about
the healing anymore, his tone makes that obvious. "You're a terrible liar, I know you are lying, and I do not
care for it. Stop."

That order at the end lights frustration hot in Rou's eyes. "Fine," he
snaps. "A fight happened and I do not want to tell you the cause." There is a sharp growl to his tone, though
it sounds oddly defensive. "Does that suit you better?"

"Well, why in the world not?" Valentin says, huffing again. There's no
heat, just a… Sharpness? A strange sort of intensity that says he's not going to let this lie, but with an odd
sort of incessant curiosity that gives the whole thing an air of whimsy that is all around bizarre.

"Because it's you!" Garou snaps like a whiplash of his own. He
realizes his mistake as soon as it's out of his mouth and folds himself in over his crossed arms while he takes
a wider stance - a combat stance. Still further the questioning goes and he's not entirely sure who truly
started it but he has to finish it before his latent message gets lost and garbled entirely. "Because they were
crass and rude and it was disgusting listening to them carry on about about doing things I am sure you
did not consent to." Now it's his turn to be sharp. "Like I said. Nothing."

There are not a lot of things that will get Valentin to shut his damn
mouth, but this does it. For a moment, he looks as though he's going to retort, before his mouth falls shut
and he just pauses. He blushes furiously, swallowing and turning away slightly. The whole thing is… He
doesn't know how to feel about it. On the one hand, it makes his skin crawl, the thought of Templars going
on about him like that. It was one thing to get commentary to his face, it was another to think of them…
Plotting something among themselves. On the other hand, Garou had been willing to pick a fight about it
and, stupid as it may be, it makes his heart flutter. "I…" He starts, bites his lip, pauses again, "Thank you."

Garou had been more than willing to pick a fight over it, but the
sound of that soft thank you makes him lift one hand to rub at the back of his neck. "It wasn't…" But how to
explain that it had been as much selfish as selfless - if not more so? How to explain the way he'd felt so
angry he wanted to throw up - a little because they were talking about all the delightful things they could do
with a pretty mage who couldn't fight back, but mostly because it was his mage they were dreaming and
scheming about? There is no good way to explain that. Any of that. So he just… says nothing at all.

Couldn't fight back. That was rich. He'd broken enough Templar noses to
have dissuaded that notion in every Circle he'd been to. This one hadn't given him a reason to yet. Which, he
had been thankful for. Now, though, that gratitude has shifted. "I don't really care why." Valentin says,
responding to statements not even made, a smile flickering across his lips, "Thank you anyway." Turning
back toward Garou, he closes the small distance the Templar had put between them, and reaches out to
once again place his hand upon Garou's jaw, his thumb rubbing gently.

The touch to his face is soothing in a way the Templar almost
wishes it wasn't. If it wasn't comfort he could simply enjoy it for what it was and then move on quite
happily. He'd done it before. A lot. Unlike some, he'd always limited himself to what was willingly on offer.
It's just that… hadn't usually limited him all that much. But this? It makes his insides go soft. He turns into it,
catching the meat of Val's thumb in his teeth without putting pressure on his grip. But he releases it
altogether soon after, hands once again going to hips and waist. "You won't survive long in Val Royeaux
unless you learn to ask 'why', Valentin." His voice is low and not unpleasant to listen to, but… there is
inescapable sadness in that warning. He does not want to see any part of this mage die - even if it's just a casualty of growing much-needed cynicism.

The pressure of teeth makes the mage purr lightly. And as Garou lets go,
he slides his hand up and into the Templar's hair. "I do ask why." Valentin says with a smirk, "All the time.
So often it's earned me a good few broken bones. And worse. I ask it with every breath. But I ask it about
things when I need to know why. I don't need to know why with this."

Rou hums when that hand slides up into his hair, leaning into it like
a hound getting pets. He is quite content to tug Valentin closer still - hold him more firmly against his
armored chest, but mention of broken bones gets a dark, grumpy growl. He will break them if they try.

The protective growl draws a smile to Valentin's lips. There's a shiver as
Garou pulls him closer, and he grips the Templar's hair gently, tugging just enough to encourage him down.
Leaning up, Valentin presses a kiss to the Templar, though it is a brief, fleeting thing. Sweet, full of promise,
full of wanting, but gone in less than a breath. "When is your patrol over?"

This time when Garou growls it's from the match to that promise
that laces Valentin's intoxicating kiss. It's from the wanting that sinks deep in the pit of his stomach. It's from
the hand tugging at his hair and making his breath come short and sharp. "Now?" he answers, as though the
act of simply wishing would make it so. "No. Not quite. An hour, maybe less. Not more." Maker, not more.
He wants to devour this mouth - to crawl inside this sun-kissed skin and make his mage shatter into a
thousand blissful fragments.

Val laughs and smiles brightly, pressing his brow to Garou's and just
lingering in the warmth of fondness for a moment. "Alright," He says, "Then I shall get conveniently lost
down near the store rooms in a little less, but not more, than an hour." With one last little purr, the mage
slips his hand away, "Now go, before someone notices you've not been making your rounds."

That smile breaks open something that feels like it's pouring liquid
sunshine into Garou's chest and before he really knows what's happening he's laughing right along with
Valentin. The loss of that hand and the verbal shooing should be enough of a reminder of reality to send him
packing but Garou presses one more lingering kiss to soft lips, tugging on the lower one ever so slightly
between teeth before he releases his hold and steps back entirely. "As luck would have it, I'll be finishing my
patrol near there. You won't be lost for long." And with that promise, he's gone - off to see to business
before pleasure.

Bloomingtide 10, 9:27 Dragon

Valentin had never been known for his impulse control. In fact, he was
known for precisely the opposite. Thus, it probably shouldn't be surprising just how often it is that he flirts.
These passing comments only are sometimes returned, and are, of those times, usually only escalated to
stolen kisses behind bookshelves. Amusing, fleeting, warm, and they made his heart race, which was a
feeling that he craved like a drowning man craved sweet air. Valentin was not a creature of an idle heart, his
spirit was wild, though he'd allowed himself to be caged behind walls. Every once in awhile, that very wild
heart of his found another looking for that same rush, for one reason or another. Today was one such day,
in a spare dormitory, in the fading evening. Against a wall, his hands laced into fiery hair, lips locked to
another man's, a mage a couple of years older than him, whose hands are pulling at the closures of his
robes. But they've been sloppy, and the door is ajar, and they are not as quiet as they both seem to think.

On-duty, Garou makes it a point to walk away from amorous noises
- so long as none of them sound distressed. Off-duty, like today, it's not so much to be avoided as it is
simply ignored. Not like he's going to walk away from a legitimate call for help, but he's better things to think
about than looking for trouble. Namely? That better thing is finding Valentin. So as he comes closer to the
door ajar, Rou's only real thought is amusement - and that perhaps he'll just shut this for those inside to give
everyone a bit more of a barrier. His hand is even on the knob to pull when he hears a sound that makes his
heart actively stop. That moan… it's a sound he knows but wants to be wrong about - wants so much to be
wrong about - so for the first time in his tenure at Val Royeaux, Garou doesn't close the door, he pushes it
open with a low, feral growl. Having his fears confirmed is… it hurts more than it should and he knows
this is Orlais and he knows no sentiment is more important than the games that everyone plays… and
yet this stings in a way that steals his breath and there's nothing left to do but turn on his heel and go but
he can't move. He can't move, he can't speak. He just stands there in the empty space left behind when his
growl was cut off.

The door being opened is an obvious noise. Obvious enough that it
makes them both stop, Valentin pushing the other mage away from him with a haste, reaching immediately
to the few undone closures to his robes. See, this is the real tragedy here, that Valentin does not know who
it is that has opened the door. The redheaded mage he had been kissing, though? Well, it's not that he
knows exactly, he's a relatively new transfer, but he knows enough to remember a face of a Templar,
and clears his throat, making some pitiful, but polite (honorific used and everything) attempt at an excuse
and moving to try and make his way out of the door before the Templar can get his bearings and stop him.
Good luck with that, man. And Valentin, knowing only now that it is a Templar that has opened the door,
curses quietly under his breath.

In a more rational state of mind, Garou would register that of
course Valentin has no idea who is at the door, but just this moment, with anger and hurt and betrayal and
self-recrimination running rampant inside his skull, it's hard to see anything past the complete lack of
emotion - it's hard to see past the illusion that Valentin simply doesn't care. When the other mage makes a
move, Garou's attention is suddenly riveted on him. And had he said literally anything else, the
murder in those grey eyes would not have stayed there, but that pitiful attempt at an honorific reminds him
of the dynamics of power - and the oath he swore to protect and defend. And so he lays not a single finger
on the red-headed male, but his voice is choked with emotion and danger when he speaks. "Get. Out. Of.
My. Sight."

Don't need to tell this guy twice, he's gone. So very, very gone, down the
hall as quick as he can manage, likely already trying to forget that the whole event occurred. Valentin, on the
other hand, has stopped, hands pausing with one of the closures of his robes still undone. Even through the
emotion and edge, Valentin would know that voice anywhere. "Rou?" He asks, sounding thoroughly surprised
and more than a little bit shocked, as he turns toward the door then and his brow knits. "What… Why?"
Baffled. Completely baffled. For all the Valentin was so very smart so very often, apparently, in this, he is
entirely daft.

That bafflement cools his anger, but only a little, and the exchange
is a weighing of sadness and confusion of his own. "My apologies," he spits out, vicious and bitter. Could he
have misread everything so badly? "There has been a misunderstanding on my part." There is venom in his
voice, a desperate attempt to cover the raw and naked hurt behind it. He had been so wrong. "I won't
trouble you further." Because of course the only reason Valentin would be asking him why is that it had all
been a game and only Garou hasn't known. Of course.

That viciousness takes Valentin completely off guard. It stings, and only
confuses him further. "What?" He manages to stammer quietly after Garou's assertion that there had been a
misunderstanding. The mage shakes his head, taking a step toward Garou's voice with a deep breath. Won't
trouble him further? What? Where was this coming from? "Rou…" He tries it gently, that name, a reach of
tenderness in the face of this venom, "You do not trouble me. What has you so upset? Please, I don't
understand." That was not a sentence Valentin often uttered.

Garou is a man who's lived his hard life with stoicism and
deflection. Few things weasel in deep enough to wound him and even those that do are hidden very well.
But that tenderness nearly brings him to his knees. He can feel a burning behind his eyes and he never cries.
Not even when alone. "It was a game," he says quietly. He cannot do it. He cannot lash out at this
gentleness - no matter how much part of him wants to. It leaves his voice sounding hollow, tight… defeated.
"It was all a game to you and I am a fool." He huffs out a breath of bitter laughter. "I am the fool who did
not know."

"What?" Valentin says, still confused. It takes another moment for the
pieces to fall into place and when they do, he shakes his head. "Oh, Rou…" He says, offering that same
gentle tone as once more he steps toward the Templar, "No. No no. That's not…" He bites his lip, blushes,
suddenly feels utterly and completely terrible, "He was. That's a game. That's a fleeting moment to make my
heart race not…" The mage clears his throat, his head bowing, ashamed of himself, "I didn't mean for this to
hurt you, Rou. I didn't think that it would. You're not a game."

"What?" Now it's Rou's turn to be utterly and entirely confused.
"What could I have possibly done to give you the idea that I wanted this?" His voice is dangerously close
to breaking, but - perhaps tellingly - he does not step back or retreat from Valentin's approach. "I - I thought
I was -" he cuts himself off at first, something very like humiliation making his stomach turn. But Garou is no
coward, not anymore. He refuses to run from this. It will do nothing to hide from his error now. "I thought
I'd been courting you."

"You had…" Valentin says, for once in his life sounding shy. There's not a
lot that makes Valentin shy, but Garou, and his lover's tokens and his persistent affections, and putting a
name to them like this, that does it. He's blushing properly now. "But, Rou, we'd made no promises. I am…"
Valentin sighs, "I have a wild heart, Rou, and I had not said that I…" He shakes his head, "Maybe things are
just different back home. I didn't mean to hurt you, but I can tell that I did. I am sorry." And slowly, very
slowly, he reaches out toward Garou, easy enough to avoid or tell him no, but Valentin is frightened, and this
is his instinct. Then again, we've seen where his instincts have gotten him today. "I promise, I do not think
that you are a game. I am just used to different expectations. There are those you let your heart race with,
and those you offer your heart to. There are a number of the former that come and go from my life and my
thoughts, but as to the latter - " He swallows hard before continuing, "Right now, that is just you."

It did hurt. It does hurt. He hadn't expected this to be an issue
any more than Valentin had - just on two opposite sides of the coin. The acknowledgment of that pain…
helps, in some undefinable way. It eases part of the tightness inside of him and that makes everything
easier. But also harder. Because this is overwhelming and he wasn't ready to even think about this let alone
be face to face with it and his eyes are so bright but he can't let them fall. If he doesn't let them fall,
Valentin need never know they were there. And it is, already, his greatest weakness, but Valentin sad or
frightened or hurt are things that cannot be allowed, that must be soothed. So when the damnable mage
reaches out for him, frightened, Rou takes him up in arms that are gentle, if still trembling a little. Valentin
comes first. "It's not what I know," he replies, voice hoarse and more than a little lost. "It's just… not what I
know." But Valentin comes first. It's a simple fact of his weakened heart that he will acquiesce to this, too, if
Valentin needs, but he is not there yet. There are answers he needs first. "Why?" he breathes, and even as it
leaves his lips some part of him knows it isn't a fair question to ask, but leaving it unspoken would simply eat
at him. "Why? Can't I make your heart race?"

Valentin hadn't necessarily expected to be taken into Garou's arms, but
he doesn't complain about it either. There's a sigh of relief that is perhaps a little premature, but he'd been
scared - Scared than in his own ignorance he had irreparably damaged this beautiful thing that he had
quickly come to cherish - And this soothes that fear, even if irrationally. Gently, kindly, he nuzzles against the
Templar. Affection with no demand, just a softness. "Oh, Rou, of course you can." Valentin says, "You do.
Race, and pound, and rush so much that I can't hear for my own blood in my ears. You're dizzying and
intoxicating and delightful and I - " Valentin bites down words that he's not ready for, that neither of them
are ready for, that are born of raw emotion and a need to comfort frayed relations. "I could get lost with you
forever, Rou. But you're not always there, and there's something… Different about someone who is just that,
just someone. It's dangerous, and… I can't explain it. It's wild and free, and things that I'm not allowed
to have, and I take my rebellion in stolen moments. But you aren't a statement. You aren't a game. You
aren't my tool of resistance."

Rou listens. It's hard and there is a turbulent sea roiling about
inside his chest and that makes everything harder still but he makes an effort. He listens. "It's not
what I know," he repeats finally. And it isn't that he can't grasp what it is the mage is telling him, but it's so
far beyond outside his experience. Oh, Rou had given over his body for pleasure before, but he'd always…
He'd always kept his heart out of it with the naive assumption that if he ever did give it away, that would be
that. "Valentin… do you understand that there was a moment I wanted nothing more than to kill that man?
He was tasting someone whose value he could not possibly -" he stops there and sighs heavily. "He tasted
someone I wanted to call mine. This way of living, Valentin. It's not mine. I can't just…" Put it on a shelf with
the other fantastical things Val's told him of. He presses a chaste kiss to dark curls and carefully begins to
extract himself from Valentin's embrace. "I'm not as smart as you, Valentin. I can't pick through everything
between one breath and the next. I need time to process. I - I want to understand." And he's just a little bit
slow on massive cognitive and emotional changes in direction. "I can't - may I come find you later?"

Brow furrowing, Valentin takes a deep breath. This talk of value, he does
not understand it. What did his value have to do with who he chose to kiss? Why did those people need to
know or understand his value? Was that not something he earned of his own merit and actions toward the
wider world, not the private dallying of who he chose to keep his bed a little less lonely in this cage he was
forced into? Shivering slightly under that kiss, Valentin does not try to hold on to Garou, letting him pull
himself away. The request is reasonable, more than, even if a cowardly little part of Valentin's heart stomped
its proverbial foot and wanted an answer now. Valentin could manage to not be that childish. He nods.
"Yes, of course." He says, trying to keep any waver from that sliver of anxiety that says that he's shattered
this to a million pieces out of his voice, "Take your time. I will… I will be here. And thank you… I cannot
imagine this is easy. I am legitimately touched that, if you come from a world where this is as shocking as it
seems to be for you, you are willing to think on it at all. Many are too afraid of change to bother to stare it in
the face that long." There's a small smile then, "I shall have to add brave to the list of charming qualities."

Bloomingtide 13, 9:27 Dragon

As it turns out, Garou isn't all that brave. Or else there is more
thought required than perhaps he'd originally imagined. From the mages' perspective, he might as well have
fallen off the face of the earth. Inquiries of any kind were met with a simple answer; he is ill, just a cold, will
be back in no time. Not sick enough to require healers, miserable enough to be granted time to rest. His
room remained locked and no candlelight could be seen under door or in windows. This went on for three
days. Three days of whispers and rumors - because gossip is the lifeblood of such insular communities - and
no real definitive answers. Just. Three days. It isn't until the evening of that third day - well after the sun has
set behind the horizon, that any sign of life is found. And what is the Corporal's first sign of life in those three
days? He goes looking for Valentin.

Three days, and Valentin had been miserable. Absolutely and totally
miserable. It had been a fight to get him out of bed, much less eating. He'd never intended this, never
wanted this kind of pain for the man he had come to care a great deal for. This had not been what he'd been
signing up for when he'd let himself get caught up in kissing… He'd never even asked his name. It hadn't
mattered. It wasn't supposed to matter. And that silly little thing which was supposed to mean nothing had
caused so much pain in a heart he held dear, and he hated it. Eventually, though, missing meals and staying
in bed lost their solace as a punishment. So on the third day, Valentin had gotten up. And now, he perches,
as much he did the first day they met, upon one of the library bookshelves. The mage leans against the
nearest window. When the sun had been up, it had been pleasant and warm, but now the glass had turned
chill. And yet, he stayed, seemingly paying it no mind.

Garou almost - almost - misses him, but at this point knows his
lover well enough to look up. "Valentin," he calls softly, standing exactly below the perched mage and
unable to resist the small smile at finding him thus. "Come walk with me?"

At first, for just a split second, when his mind had still been somewhere
that was not here, the sudden sound of his name made his heart race in a way that was not pleasant. He'd
been off in the land of what if's and worst cases and he was a little jumpy. It quickly registers, however, that
it was Garou and the mage lets out a briefly held breath. "Yes, of course." He offers, in a voice that says he's
likely not been sleeping. Which, from the circles under his eyes, it is likely not the only thing giving that
away. Shifting away from the window, he begins the climb down. This is less graceful than the first time (or
any subsequent times, which were frequent and plentiful) for the lack of eating has made him shake a little.
Valentin so rarely felt regret, he did not handle it well when it occurred. Which was likely why long ago he
had sworn off the emotion in all but the most well earned of times. None the less, shelves were still evenly
spaced, and he does make it to the ground without incident.

Garou is too observant by half - it's a good trait in someone of his
profession, but has not, so far, led him to much joy in his personal life. He can see the dark circles; he can
see the trembling grips and lack of grace. So when Valentin is finally on the floor in front of him, Rou already
knows where they'll be going. He also reaches out to take his lover's arm and tuck it into his own - not
because he's being patronizing (he learned that lesson bright and early on) but because he can then cover
that hand with his other and walk the two of them through the halls without anyone even finding the
Templar holding hands with the mage worth even a second glance. "When was the last time you've eaten?"
he asks gently. "Slept?"

It had been long enough that Valentin had learned the trick Garou was
using to hide that contact, and there's not a moment of doubt in his intention. In fact, there's a faint, tired
smile as Rou takes his arm, just glad for the contact. It brings color to his face, but in the way that
alleviating a paleness from lack of sleep. He follows where Rou leads, tired enough that he doesn't actually
mind having the ability to just trust Garou to not walk him into anything. "Doesn't matter." Valentin says,
shaking his head. Also known as 'what's sleep?' and 'I can't remember.'

Garou sighs softly, but does not press the issue. One of the lessons
he's been learning most recently is that there are times to pick the fight with Valentin and there are times to
just bypass the fight and fix the underlying problem. He knows his lover well enough to be able to guess -
now that the initial rush of intense emotion has run its course and let his cooler logic prevail - at some of the
causes underlying the causes, but he knows he can alleviate at least the symptoms. They don't move all
that fast, but his small room is not far from the library. Guiding them both inside, he closes the door behind
them and squeezes the hand on his arm before releasing it. "The chair is still by the fire," he offers quietly,
stepping around him to get at the tray of cold dinner left for the recovering Templar. He arranges some
things on one of the plates and holds it out for Valentin wherever he finally settles. "Here," another gently
spoken offer. "Summer sausage, cheeses, bread and apple slices." Because yes, they need to talk, but
Valentin comes first.

For Rou, Valentin might come first, but Valentin is not well inclined to this
notion himself just at the moment. This room was familiar enough, and the reassurance that it hasn't had
significant change makes him nod. To that offered chair he moves, settling after a little more orienting than
usual. Valentin's sureness in his sense of a room goes right out the window when he's tired like this. "Rou,
that is sweet, thank you…" He says to the offered dinner, though he shakes his head, "But I really can't eat.
Food makes my stomach tie itself in knots."

Rou's mouth presses itself into a thin line, but an extended exhale
is his only argument. The plate is returned to the desk and he folds himself down to sit cross-legged on the
floor in front of Valentin. "I want to begin by saying I'm sorry. That was an outburst of temper I should have
handled better." Because even in extreme circumstances, Garou does not like feeling out of control. "You
were right. No promises had been made. My expectations were based on assumptions and that's not fair."
He pauses then, taking a long, deep breath. "I'd like to remedy that now, if you're willing. I think I know
better now what I can do and what I can't do and… frankly I do not like being at odds with you."

Valentin shakes his head. "You don't need to apologize." He says gently,
leaning forward to reach for the Templar's shoulder. It's a terrible, selfish, hypocritical habit of his, Valentin's
near constant need for contact, but he can't help it. It's not even conscious to him anymore. It was just what
he had done, for years. It was grounding, in a way little else was, in a world that never felt entirely whole or
real for him anymore. It was real, he was right where he had put himself, he knew that, but habits
born in the first months after a life altering change die very, very hard, and perhaps his healers had been a
little too indulgent. "And of course I am, I - " He takes a deep breath, "Rou, I'm sorry. I am so sorry. I
wasn't trying to hurt you - " Despite Rou's own saying that he didn't like being at odds with the mage,
Valentin's speaking before he's completely thinking it through, and the fear is obvious, the genuine apology,
too, the regret that comes so very rarely to him. "I just want to make this better." Of course he does.
Valentin had an unceasing and deep need to 'fix it' with just about anything.

"Easy," Rou croons, shuffling closer to Valentin's feet so that he can
reach out and take that reaching hand in both of his own. He caresses the skin with both thumbs, as
soothing as he knows how to be. "Be easy, sweetheart. I know now. I know. It's alright. I…" His smile is
rueful and comes through just a little in his voice. "I do very much still want to hold your heart, if you'll let
me. And if… if you'll hold mine in return." He sounds almost bashful, but pulls in another deep breath and
pushes on. "However you need to make yours race. I just… there are some things I don't think I can live
with. And I need you to know, so you can decide if you still want to try."

That hold to his hand makes him feel less adrift, a feeling that normally
he can pus aside but when he's sleep deprived becomes harder to ignore. That simple anchor allows him to
breathe easier, makes it easier for him to think before words jump his lips, flying at the pace of his heart. It's
easier, then, to listen when Rou tells him to be easy, and the shivering eases some, though not all, as some
really is just the effects of a few days of sleep deprivation on a man who normally sleeps quite soundly,
actually. That bashfulness makes him smile fondly, and is followed then by a nod. "Then tell me." This in a
tone that is soft, a subtle pleading that doesn't tread into begging, just a genuine want to hear, to assess, to
know whether he can hold on to this beautiful thing he's had. Because beautiful as it was, as much as he
wanted that heart offered to him, as warm as he felt in Rou's arms, Valentin knew himself. He knew there
were some requests he could not fulfill. Certain promises, he would not be able to keep, and thus he would
not make them.

Rou finds that now, on the cusp of what he needs to happen, he is
now so very, very afraid. So he swallows hard and plunges forward. "This is more of an extension of trust
than I think I've ever dared in my life. In all likelihood I won't ask much because I won't want to know much,
and you can always tell me you don't want to answer but I need to know you won't lie to me. Even if you
mean well, even if it's something I won't like, I can't do this if I'm second-guessing you."

Valentin nods. Leaning forward, he places a soft kiss to each of Rou's
hands, reassuring and warm. "Thank you." He says, voice moving into the realm of soothing now that most
of his own fear has settled. "And no lies. That, I can do. That, I can promise." Really, he wasn't a fantastic
liar in the first place, once you learned how to read him.

The affectionate gesture is comforting, providing enough support
that Rou feels like he can breathe a little easier. Like he can go on. "I will probably always be… grumpy is
the word I hear most often. And there is a certain amount of possessiveness that's ingrained in me deeply. I
don't - I have lived a life where precious things are always taken away. Be patient with me, please. It's… I
promise you I will do everything I can to curb it, but it will take practice."

At that, Valentin gives up being up on this chair away from him. Slipping
from the chair, the mage quite unabashedly settles himself into Rou's lap and nuzzles into the Templar's
shoulder. "Of course." He says gently, "Thank you, Rou." And he means that. It warms his tone, a deep
gratitude that is better expressed by his sudden need for nearness. "You are beautiful, and you may have
every ounce of my patience."

Valentin in his lap is a relief strong enough to kick the breath right
out of him in one great rush of air. Garou wraps around the mage immediately, hands stroking over his back
and then crossing to hold him snug against his body. It is so much easier to breathe this way, but Rou still
finds that his inhalation shakes. "Two more things. First, if either of us comes up against something
uncomfortable we sit right back down and we do this again. No more assumptions. We talk." Because the
kind of misery that comes of not communicating on this uncertain ground is more strain than Rou can bear.
"And second…" Here his voice cracks a little bit and he has to swallow before he can finish this. "If you find
that 'heart racing' becomes 'heart holding' I need to know. Even if I don't ask I need to know. Because if
you're going to hold my heart that's part of me involved and I don't - " he sighs. "I don't know what I would
feel about that arrangement and if I found that out the way I did this? I think it would break me beyond
repair." It isn't the words. It isn't. This is Val Royeaux and Rou isn't frankly sure 'love' is real. But this is still
his heart, his soft and vulnerable places bared to Valentin in a way they have been to no one else.

More nuzzling, warm and affectionate and soft, this time into Garou's
neck. He can still feel the shaking, can hear the pain in the way his lover's voice breaks, and he just wants to
take it away. "Agreed." He says, simple and sure. HIs hand lifts to cup Rou's jaw, a soft thumb across his
lover's cheekbone. "But Rou, I can tell you now that it will not happen. I know how to share physical
pleasure around freely, I do not know how to split my heart into pieces and share that. If I am wrong, I will
tell you, but I cannot fathom that I will be."

The relief at Val's reply is so profound that Rou goes physically limp
against him. He would have tried - oh he would have tried - but it was this that had frightened him most of
all. He's not proud of it and he's almost certain he could learn to live with it or he would not have… "Thank
you." His thoughts are all jumbled now and he finally understands all those strange people who cry without
sorrow. He doesn't, mind, but the urge is there. What he does do is fold himself around Valentin as much as
he can, like he's trying for the most surface area of connection he can get. "I am… glad that the chances of
my trying to learn that art are slim." It's the best he can condense thought and feeling into spoken word and
for a little while he is content to leave it at that, basking in contact and the little kernel of hope stirring in his
chest now that the entire affair seems very close to settled. "You know what I ask for, Valentin. What do you
need from me in return?"

Valentin makes no complaint about Rou's wrapping himself around him.
In fact, it makes him smile, and he returns that want of contact easily. More nuzzling, even a small purr, a
noise of affection and approval more primal than words allow him. A noise that just happens when he
feels warm and safe. He places a kiss to Rou's cheek then, letting there be quiet for a moment. Because he
has an answer to that question, but he wants to word it correctly. "I need what you are already offering me,
trust and understanding. The knowledge that I am not doing any of this to hurt you. And I need you to tell
me if you want something to stop." He answers quietly, little more than a whisper with how close they are,
he doesn't need to speak any louder. There were other things he could say, explanations he could offer as to
why it was that he needed this, but he didn't need to offer them, even if his instinct is to overexplain
everything.

Rou doesn't ask for further explanation; he took what was said the
first time at face value, rolling it over and over again in his head while he figured out his own needs and
fears and stance on… well, everything. "I promise all of those and gladly," he murmurs back, soothed by the
comforting familiarity of that primal purr and the kiss to his cheek.

It's still something Valentin is getting used to, having someone who
understands him the first time he explains something. He appreciates it. Really, he does. But it throws him
off balance sometimes, so used to having to reword things three or four times before people follow along
with him. And yet, here they were. One explanation, when they had both been emotional, and it was
enough. What was he supposed to do with that? It seems, he's settled on this answer: Cherish it. For a
moment, he just lets the quiet be. Then, softly, he turns to catch a tender kiss from Garou's lips.

And Rou opens to that kiss, for once not pushing back - not taking
over - just yielding and gentle and hopelessly romantic. It's not a primal response, but a deliberate one -
touched by passion but not driven by it.

Each time that Valentin thinks he's found the extent of Garou's
sweetness, he managed to surprise him. Purring pleasantly, he lets that kiss linger for a moment before
letting it break with a small series of swift, soft pecks to adored lips. "You are delightfully sweet, my dear."
Whispered against his lover's lips.

That's enough to break Rou's mouth into the kind of open, playful
smile that is all too rare across his face. "I would say don't tell anyone," he rumbles, laughter coloring his
voice. "But no one would believe you, anyway." He's got Grumpy down to an art and a science. All the
same, he ducks his head to nose up under Valentin's jaw with little soft sucking kisses. Not enough to mark,
but enough to spark pleasant sensations. It's a trail of kisses around his neck until Rou breaks off with a
contented sigh, chin resting on his lover's shoulder so he can ask the most important question of all. "Will
you please eat something now?" The most.

"That's fine. It can be our secret." Valentin purrs back, smiling brightly.
The little kisses to his jaw draw small pleased whimpers from the mage. But then there is that question and
Valentin sighs. "Yes. If you insist."

Rou tilts his head down to press a kiss against Valentin's shoulder.
"I do," he says quietly, simply, unwinding one arm from about his mage to let him lean back and pluck the
plate from the corner of the desk. "Thank you," he adds, setting the plate on the floor beside him and lifting
a slice of apple to hold against Val's lips in invitation.

"Oh, well, that is a much more agreeable arrangement." Valentin says
with a soft laugh as he realizes Garou intends to feed him. He takes that slice of apple with another small
purr, making a point to kiss at fingertips.

Garou's pleased smirk can be heard in his voice. "I was hoping you
might approve." Little kisses to fingertips earn pleased purring and light shivers and Rou absolutely intends
to deliver the meal this way, breaking off bite-sized pieces when need be and making the entire affair
something much more akin to affection than necessity.

This certainly makes his agreeing to eat a lot more enjoyable. He takes
the food without complaint, thanks given in little kisses and feline licks to clean fingertips. As the hand fed
meal finishes, he leans his head against Garou's shoulder with a contented sigh.

When Valentin lays his head on Rou's shoulder, he pops the last
bite of the summer sausage into his own mouth and hums contentedly. He nuzzles his cheek against dark
curls and echoes that happy sigh. "Feel better?" It's a gentle question, but it encompasses more than just
finally having food on his stomach.

"Yes." It's an easy answer and one given fully aware of the multiple
facets of the question. It is punctuated by a yawn that he he tries to keep down but fails, ending in an small,
undignified noise that borders on the realm of squeaking.

It is - quite literally - the most adorable noise to ever come out of
Valentin. At least in Garou's hearing, anyway. It makes him smile, lazy and indulgent. "Will anyone in your
dormitory kick up a fuss if you aren't in your bed tonight?" Because the Templar is already shifting his body
and getting his legs under him such that he can roll to his knees and then stand still holding Valentin. It's a
ridiculous endeavor - that he does only because he can - but he doesn't look at all apologetic about it.
"I'll sleep better with you here - and unless I'm very much mistaken, so will you."

As Garou shifts to pick him up, Valentin laughs. There aren't many people
that Valentin will let do this. Not having his feet on the ground makes his adrift feeling more profound, but
he trusts Garou. "They shouldn't, no." He says. He'd been here long enough to make friends, and he'd been
lucky enough to not get any True Believers in his dorm. He nuzzles against Garou again. "I would very much
like to stay."

"Then stay you shall." Garou's voice is as gentle as its rougher
quality allows, reaching to slowly undo the clasps to this particular set of robes. Their secret. Undressing his
lover for bed is a slow affair, with more attention paid to nuzzling and lipping at each new inch of exposed
skin than to doing it in any particular rush. "I have one last day of grace and a lazy morning doesn't sound
quite as appealing without you in my bed to wake to."

Valentin purrs at this patient gentleness. This is a happy, warm,
pleasantness that he didn't share with anyone else. "That… Sounds like the best thing I've done in weeks."
He says, his fingers lacing into Garou's hair.

"It does," Rou agrees, loosing a low moan at the fingers brushing
and tugging at his scalp. He tugs away at the heavy robes, fully intending to leave them in a pile on the
floor. He tugs at the hem of the shirt beneath and then begins to strip himself down for bed as well.

Again, Valentin purrs. "You make the most delightful noises." He says,
pleased and low. Letting the shirt be pulled away, he smiles. And as Rou pulls himself free of clothing,
Valentin reaches out to trail his fingers down his lover's chest.

"Second-most, I'll give you," Rou shoots back, lazy playfulness
warming the tone. "But I've yet to hear anything more delightful than the sounds you make with a mouthful
of good chocolate." He shivers under those fingers and kicks off boots and trousers too before stretching his
arms up over his head. "It's sin, is what it is. Pure, decadent sin." And he doesn't sound like he's complaining
one bit.

"You know, it's a little like your Chantry makes anything worth doing into
a sin. Are you sure they aren't just trying to make a convenient list of life goals?" Valentin says, his hand
continuing downward with gentle touches. Nimble fingers tracing the curve of Garou's hip.

That draws a laugh out of Rou, releasing the stretch and reaching
to lace his fingers with those playing at his hip. "I doubt it. I can see arguments for some of them, I
suppose, but rape is not a life goal. Neither is betrayal or murder or abuse." When he turns to crawl into
bed, then, he tugs gently on those fingers he's captured, a gentle encouragement to follow. "They go
overboard in a few key areas but they didn't get everything wrong."

"I suppose that's fair." Valentin says with a small nod. He was kidding,
but this was a decent point even for him and his displeasure with the Chantry. He follows as he's lead,
smiling and leaning to press a kiss to Garou's shoulder.

Rou finds it a little hard to be displeased with anything in the world
when he can feel Valentin's warmth there in his bed - when he can feel the affection tucked into something
as simple as that peck to his shoulder. He twists enough to lie on his back, arms open and fingers tugging at
arms without any real force in the motion. It's a 'come here', just without the words. He wants to taste that
mouth again. And again and again and again and again.

Garou doesn't need to put any force behind it, Valentin understands.
Shifting, he holds himself over Garou, riot of dark hair falling forward. Leaning down, he presses a more
fierce kiss than the last to Garou's lips, accompanied by little nips and low purrs. Lingering as long as the
Templar lets him.

Solace 18, 9:27 Dragon

Summer in Val Royeaux is a hot and sticky affair. Even the nights
don't always bring relief. So on nights where they don't have duties to perform (in armor that makes most of
them want to die) there is a fountain in the Circle courtyard that Templars have a terrible habit of
swimming in. Garou's made good use of the escape tonight and lounges on the still-warm stone lip now in
nothing but a pair of slowly-drying pants. He's not quite asleep, but nor is he entirely awake. He is loose and
lazy and almost entirely content.

The Templars are eschewing armor, the mages cutting down the layers
of robes as much as they are able. Valentin is wearing thin his excuse that he 'didn't notice this morning' but
it's held out for at least today. So it's in the most basic of layers that he makes his way out into the
Courtyard, the breeches and tunic that make the base layer, and the first over robe not even bothered to be
tied closed. To the Void with that. Sure, he'd gotten some questions from Templars that he'd waved off,
especially as he's asking after the location of one of their number. No matter, though, he has a delivery to
make. For held in his hand in a small, cloth wrapped parcel. Exiting out into the Courtyard, Valentin pauses
a moment to listen, though the fountain does make things more difficult.

One of the things Garou has developed over the course of his life is
a finely-honed sense of when he isn't alone in a room. Lazily - like a cat caught napping in the sun - he
stretches his arms over his head and twists his torso enough to see who it might be. "Valentin," he calls
softly, his laziness taking on an undeniable warmth in just the way he says the name. "Over here." It's
enough of a directionary guide for the most part, he knows, but still he swings his body up and over to sit
where he'd been laying - ready to catch the mage's hand when he's close enough to pull gently closer.

At least the Courtyard, unlike the library, was generally kept clear. He's
learned the layout by this point well enough to know, more or less, where he's going. The warmth in the
greeting makes the mage smile. Not that he needs to do all of the work himself, as as he approaches Garou,
the Templar catches his hand, pulls him over, and he laughs. His free hand rests upon the Templar's
shoulder then, catching only then that Garou is both a) damp and b) shirtless. Well then. "Just the man I
was looking for." He says, sounding pleased.

Garou takes the hand in his own and lifts it, pressing a kiss to the
knuckles like any good courtly gentleman would greet his perfectly respectable lover. The pleased tone to
Val's voice brings with it a very happy hum and with the mage standing safely between Rou's knees he can
lower that hand back to his knee and lean forward to bury his damp face into the fabric of his shirt. "Then
I'm either in trouble or I'm very much about to be," he guesses. "What did you want of me?"

There is the flushing that comes along with passion, and the one that
comes with anger, and Valentin is very familiar with those. What he is not familiar with, however, is the color
that rises to his face as Garou places a perfectly chaste kiss to the back of his hand. Nor is he accustomed to
the way it makes his heart flutter, and it makes him laugh quietly, biting his lip and swallowing down a
bashfulness that is all together foreign. He'd known wild and exciting passions plenty of times, but this small
act of courtly attraction, that he had never known. It is strange, really, but not unpleasant. It is that hand,
too, that bears the small parcel he has brought with him. His other hand leaves Garou's shoulder as he leans
into his chest, lacing into the Templar's wet hair. "No trouble, I don't think." Valentin says, "At least, I have
no intentions on trouble," That might be a first, "Though it does have this nasty habit of finding me."

Garou is as entranced by the comfort to be found here as he has
been by anything in his life. Touch is simple here. It doesn't have to have a purpose - it exists sometimes
just to exist and not to lead them somewhere. It's entirely novel and that rush of affection every time it
happens hasn't dimmed yet. The idea that it might never dim is absolutely terrifying. So his breath shakes a
little on its long inhale but he can't quite bring himself to draw away from this. "Get out of these ridiculous
robes and you can hide in the water with me," he mutters against his chest. "Best kept Orlesian secret.
Trouble can't find you in the water."

Valentin had always loved water, always, since the time he was young.
So such an offer has him smiling a little bit like a madman. "Alright, but first…" He says, pulling away just
enough so Garou can see him beginning to unwrap the pacel in his hand, "I have made you something." The
fabric comes unwound, and now sitting in his palm is… A silvery jumble of metal. At first, from how it sits, it
is difficult to tell what it is. But as Valentin takes it and offers it gently to Garou, it's obvious it's a bracelet.
Silver chain ringed with beads in all manner of color, Rivaini beads, the bright ceramics often worn in hair,
and silver leaves and petals, so it is something like a summer wreath, if the madness of it didn't lend it an
edge to take it away from being anything so fae. The metal and ceramic jingle brightly on one another, a
subtle sound, but distinct.

Garou isn't a man of unwanted force. When Valentin makes to pull
back he does not resist, sitting a little more upright to get a better look at what he's being shown. The color
and the chaos of it is simultaneously captivating and unsettling. It fits Valentin to a 't'. The sound doesn't
escape him either - in fact, that's what brings out his bright, open smile and quiet, understated laughter.
"Like belling a cat." But he seems to be exactly the opposite of offended. "Does this mean you've decided to
keep me, then?"

Oh good, he got it. Valentin smiles like daybreak, one hand coming back
to Garou's shoulder to trail down his arm, take up his wrist, and begin putting the bracelet on him. He'd been
guessing size from memory. Luckily he has a good memory. "Precisely." He says, though the word is laces
with the warmth of fondness, "And yes, I think it does mean that. If you'll be kept."

Valentin has different smiles. Garou has only lately started to feel
any sort of confidence in reading them. But this one… the one that looks like a slow-breaking sunrise - this
one has to be his favorite. He holds his wrist out to let Val fasten on his new adornment. "I - " his breath
hitches mid-sentence and he can't help but turn his hand over once the metal has been fastened, taking the
other hand and squeezing them both. "By you? Yes, I can be kept."

Valentin had felt his heart skip beats before, but this is something else
entirely. He's lightheaded, a little dizzy, but smiling like a complete idiot. Leaning down into the Templar, he
nuzzles against his cheek and then catches his lips with his own. And while it starts sudden and sharp, his
mouth softens, turning tender and affectionate in the next breath.

It is in moments like this when Rou feels as though everything
slows down - like he's not so much in his own body experiencing it as he is a little bit distant. It lets him see
more, hear more, taste more, taking in every detail he possibly can and clutching them just as tightly. He's
slower, softer, more open and pliant and … and tender. Because moments like this do not come often and
happiness never lasts but if he just holds onto this… he'll have it even when the world goes cold again. But
for now? For now he'll kiss his mage and hold the hands in his and stave off reality just a little while longer.

Lingering on that kiss, Valentin purrs. It seems he is also perfectly willing
to forget the rest of the world exists. Eventually, though, he pulls away, freeing his hands gently. Slipping his
robe from his shoulders, his shirt follows swiftly after. Then, bracing himself against the Templar's shoulders,
he begins to pull off his shoes.

The transition from bone-melting kisses to swift undressing isn't
necessarily a strange one, but given where they are, the ridiculousness of their position makes Garou break
out into full, rich laughter. His hands no longer occupied, he wraps both arms around Val's waist and beams
up at him with an expression so lopsided and goofy it's probably a good thing Valentin can't see just what
kind of dork he's signed up for. Even so, the playful delight is nearly as evident in his voice. He has just one
question. "Trust me?"

It is ridiculous, isn't it? And yet, it was hot in Val Royeaux, and Valentin
loved water, and there was this very lovely Templar convincing him to join him… What else was he to do?
He was but a mortal man. That laughter makes him smile, and he makes a small, surprised noise at the hold
about his waist. "Always." He answers, though perhaps it is a naive one.

That answer is a burden Garou is not prepared for, but such
thoughts are not for nights like this. Nights like this are for the young - and specifically for the young who
are foolish and reckless with their hearts. "Hold your breath." And he gives only enough time to suck in one
last gulp of air before he's throwing them both backwards. It's a maneuver that should be awkward. The fact
that it isn't says impressive things about the strength in the body cradling Valentin. Rou arcs them both
backwards, slipping into the water like a great fish. He holds tight to his passenger, one arm still around his
waist and one hand cradling the back of his head so that any miscalculations will skin his knuckles and leave
his mage out of it. It's dark enough that senses of 'up' and 'down' can get a little murky even for those with
excellent sight, but Rou has spent a lot of time in this stupid fountain. He's even named the fish. So
before lungs can even burn he's kicked them both upright - plunging up to breach the surface with a boyish
grin splitting his entire face and that laughter picking right back up where they'd left off. Because you know,
he's a mature, responsible adult.

Look, he'd spent a lot of years a sailor. Someone says hold your breath,
you hold your damn breath, and if they're making a joke of it, you break their nose but at least you won't
risk drowning to death. So there's no hesitation, and it serves him well as Garou pulls them both into the
fountain. Up, down, it didn't matter, really. Valentin knew how to right himself if he needed to, exhaling a
little, feeling which direction the air traveled, he wasn't worried. In fact, he is perfectly and completely
relaxed even up until they break the surface of the water again and he takes a breath, shaking out his hair.
He smiles then, and joins in with that laughter that is infectious. "You don't need to hold me up, just so you
know, I can swim." He says, informative and not chiding.

Val soaking wet is exactly as appealing as Rou thought he would
be. He ducks his head to lick a random drop of water from his shoulder. Just because it seems like a good
idea. "Shhhh, don't ruin my excuse." Because he's enjoying this closeness. "This was my last bright idea for
the day, I need it to last."

Valentin laughs again. "Alright. I'm not complaining… Just saying you
don't need to panic if you let go." He says, purring at the lick at his shoulder. His hands run down Garou's
chest, exploring planes made slick with water, and then softer and surreal by submersion. Any tension at all
that the mage had is gone, vanished like it never was, washed away the minute they'd hit the water.

"That won't be a problem," Garou growls, though whether he
means the letting go or the panic is not clarified. No, he's too busy loosing an obscene groan at the slide of
wet hands over wet skin and moving to suck at the pulse at his throat. The change in Valentin here in the
water is not missed and he can't resist the urge to lift his mouth where he can nip at an earlobe and growl
softly right against the shell. "I knew you'd look magnificent soaking wet."

Valentin smiles, never one to turn down compliments, much less ones
growled into his ear. It makes him gasp, these touches, nips, lips upon his skin. This, this is pure bliss for the
mage. This place here, in these arms, in cool water, his hands trailing further down, nimble fingers drawing
shapes over the Templar's naval. "Always thought so myself, anyway." He quips good naturedly.

Rou's chuckle this time is softer, somehow darker. "Modest, too."
Muscles tense and quiver under Val's playful fingers, sending sparks radiating out on a journey toward the
Templar's spine. His own hands are not idle; the one at the back of Valentin's head tangles in wet curls while
the one at his back slides down to let him take hold of a handful of the mage's ass. "Should we add chaste to
your list of virtues as well?"

"The most chief among them, surely, is that one." Valentin says with a
laugh, starting slightly at the grab to his ass, though he does not actually seem to mind in the slightest.
Leaning into Rou's neck, the mage purrs, taking water-sweetened flesh between his teeth. His fingers
continue their playful shapes, enjoying the tremors that run under his fingers.

"Chastity, Modesty, Patience - or do you think that should come
before modesty?" It is a new and fragile thing, for Rou, this realization that so many more of his thoughts
became words around the talkative mage. He isn't sure how he should feel about such things and so
chooses to feel nothing at all. There is plenty to feel in the teeth at his neck (and doesn't that get a pretty
purring moan out of him) and the fingers teasing over his stomach. Plenty.

"No, that seems about right." Valentin says, parting his lips from wet skin
just long enough to speak. His tongue trails over the Templar's throat, drawing a warm path up to the soft
space just behind his ear, before he nips at Garou's earlobe and purrs. "You're delicious, has anyone ever
told you?"

Low, soft laughter interrupted by and then mixed with breathless
moans makes for a pretty little melody. "No." His hand at the back of Val's head tugs a little at the hair in his
grasp. "Then again, I don't exactly laze about while people sample my skin like a selection of fine wine, so
perhaps that's where I'm missing out."

It is a pretty melody indeed, and that music of mirth and pleasure gives
Valentin a sweet ache in his chest that calls out for more of it. Before he can return to nipping and lapping at
skin like a cat, his hair is tugged, and the mage gasps, pulling his head back just a bit, to ease the tension
despite his low purr. "Someone's forceful." He says, though the way it's practically moaned, turning the
words into indecency all on their own, says he doesn't mind.

"I can be," Rou purrs back, easing his hold on dark hair and trailing
small bruises down one side of Val's throat. He uses the hold on that lovely ass to pull the mage closer - so
that Rou could situate one thigh between Valentin's legs. "If I find someone who can keep up."

"Must be your lucky day, then." Valentin says with a small, breathless
laugh. "Let go of my hair, and I'll show you a neat trick I've picked up." The offer is practically purred, even
as the mage rolls his hips against the thigh between his legs.

Garou is compliant, releasing the hair in his grasp with a final
soothing caress to the water-heavy strands. The rolled hips and grinding against his thigh are vastly
pleasing, but there is a challenge in storm-colored eyes. "Very well then, Valentin. Do your worst."

Firstfall 3, 9:27 Dragon

The courtyard was about to close to freedom as he was getting, but it
would do. In fact, for Valentin, it managed to do fairly well much of the time. And today, he's even found
something to do that was productive in a way that actually fulfilled him. Drawn near a bush by erratic
chirping, the mage had found a wounded bird. Taking the small sparrow into a gentle hand, he is now
assessing its injuries, small inquisitive tendrils of magic finding what is wrong as the Healer eases the
creature's, and anyone else's within a good few feet's, pain.

Garou is never in danger of sneaking up on anyone, now. The soft
sound at his wrist took some getting used to, he'd have to admit, but after a while it had sort of… become
part of him. Like an ear or a leg. So now he makes noise on his approach, an alert to anyone paying enough
attention but specifically to the healer as he crosses the courtyard toward Valentin and his new friend. "What
have we here, hmm?"

The sound of ceramic and metal carries to his ear and it brings a small
smile to his lips. Belling this particular cat had been one of the better decisions he'd ever made. Though he is
concentrating, and thus does not raise his head from his work when Garou approaches. Finding broken wing,
the mage begins the gentle process of healing it, careful with how he does so, as to not startle the small,
delicate creature in his hands. "A wounded bird, her chirping concerned me…" Valentin answers up to Garou,
possibly in the softest tone the Templar has ever heard him give, quiet and gentle, the tone for a lullaby.

The tone is a surprise, though not at all an unpleasant one. On
the contrary, Rou finds himself drawn in by it and when he crouches next to the mage his voice is equally as
soft - even if it's natural roughness prevents it from ever being as gentle. "She's lucky you were here, then.
Another healer might have missed her."

"Perhaps. She was quite loud about the whole thing." Valentin says,
though he's blushing now, and the warm affection for the man beside him sort warms the whole aura around
him. He's never been terribly good at keep his emotions from his magic. "Only quiet now because she'd gone
into shock when some giant creature picked her up." Not that he's not working on easing that too, he is, but
it's a bit more difficult. He can't remove the stress, just its concerning effects upon her body. But as bones
knit and her breathing slows, Valentin smiles. The hand not supporting her weight reaches out toward the
bush he'd found her in, the ground just beneath it, finding a spot that is soft and well hidden before he sets
her down gently.

Garou is not unaffected by that magic, feeling tension bleed out
from tense and knotted muscles even as that wash of warmth soothes something deep and raw inside his
soul. He waits until the tiny creature is delivered safely into the hollow, then rests a flat hand against the
small of Valentin's back, a return of that warmth in the only way he knows how. "I think sometimes,
Valentin, that you might have the only good heart in Val Royeaux."

"Oh, that isn't true." Valentin says, though he's smiling still, and certainly
blushing more. One hand touches the arm that is against his back, an acknowledgement. Then, the the
mage stands, moving away from the bush to let the still calming bird have space. "You would think with all
the decadence there would be some worse hearts out there but most seem to be in fairly decent working
order…." Yes, humor is the BEST choice here, Val, he was DEFINITELY talking about heart conditions.
Absolutely. Prat.

Garou stands when Valentin does, following him away from the
bird's hiding place. He follows, but he's absolutely not following - brow creased in confusion and then
consternation fading into something much more like exasperation. "That is not what I meant." But he
doesn't push the matter further, if the mage wants to deliberately misinterpret him, that is his own affair.
Rou has been part of the Grand Game since his birth. His experience of genuine, unselfish affection is almost
nonexistent; his experience with unselfish anything else even rarer. But force in these arenas is not his way.
No one has to listen to what he has to say. "I spoke to the Knight Commander today." He had other
things to convey anyway, it would seem.

"I know." Valentin says, smirking, though his tone has a gentleness that
he does not offer often. Yes, he knew full well what Garou meant, really. It was sweet, but Valentin was
stemming how much he wanted to blush just yet. Though, then, he pauses. Canting his head, he turns
toward the Templar again. "Oh? About what?" That opener had never been a good one for him, and he
sounds more than a little worried.

Rou isn't looking at Valentin anymore, scuffing the toe of his boot
along the courtyard while he formulates his answer, unsure how his actions will be received. "There's been
another outbreak of plague in the Alienage." It's not the most promising beginning, admittedly. He seems to
realize his mistake and makes a hurried addition, tripping over his words a little bit in an uncharacteristic
display of… nervousness? "It's bad this time, Val. There was talk of purging the whole ghetto with fire." And
knowing Orlais as he did, that would not be a post-evacuation step. "I don't know that anything will come of
it - I'm not one of the Captains, there are only so many strings I can pull - but he seemed receptive enough."
And now he's managed to successfully dance all the way around the thing without making much sense at all.
This is why emotional entanglements are such a hazard in the Game. Thank the Maker he's only attached
and not anything worse. "If permission is granted, I volunteered to take you into the Alienage to try and
save as many as can be saved."

Strangely, from the very beginning, Valentin seems to follow. Reaching
out to Rou, Valentin finds the Templar's arm, and nods. "Thank you for making that request. I will do what I
can, if I am permitted." He says, that same gentleness still present. It's direct. Garou was basically the only
person that Valentin was ever this linear with. There's a flicker of a smile, though the topic is serious.

The touch to his arm settles Rou, that little smile reassures him. He
steps closer, though still leaves a respectable distance between them. Well. Respectable for Orlais, anyway.
"I don't presume to - " He's a man of few words. He can do so much within the confines of his own mind,
but words just tangle up one over another until he makes a mess of everything. "It seems to make you
happier. When you can… properly heal."

Respectable distance. Valentin was not one for respectable distance. So
with a small step, he closes that space, his hand moving instead to the Templar's chest. That Garou would
think of such a thing makes his chest ache. He blushes, despite his want to avoid just this thing. "Thank you,
Rou," He says quietly, a nickname he's taken to over time, "It helps… This…" His free hand gestures in the
general direction of the walls of the courtyard, "Makes it less unbearable when I feel like I can…" Do
something? Breathe? "Matter."

The simple truth of that statement may not be what Valentin had
intended to convey, but its impact on Rou is almost physical. Struck by impulse, he wraps both arms around
his wild mage and buries his face in riotous dark curls. "You always matter." It's another simple truth
murmured for his lover's ears alone, less of a mess to make when only a few words are needed. "But I think
I understand."

Taken up in these arms that have come to mean home for him in a way
he had not known in a long time, Valentin smiles. "Oh, Rou," He says, "You great sap." There is no mockery
in his tone, though, just warm, bright fondness that is impossible to miss. There's a moment of silence then
as Valentin considers something. My often does he filter himself so obviously. But a few of the heart later, he
speaks again, little more than a whisper. "I love you."

Those three words. Those three damn words. They make Garou's
chest go tight and his heart race. The sentiment is so obviously returned that he shakes with it, but it is
not the only thing growing within him. There is a tension stringing him so tight he feels brittle - like the
wrong move might break him entire. "Valentin," he says quietly, carefully. "Valentin…" He pulls away just
enough to hold that precious face in both hands, wishing for the first time that there was sight in those
beautiful eyes so that he could make the indelible impression he absolutely does not want to make; the
indelible impression he must make. "Sweetheart, if you value your life, you will never say those words
again. If you value my life, you will forget that you ever said them at all." These words are too much,
but he has to make them clear. It lends weight to each one that drags his soul down into dark and dreary
places. "Do you understand?"

Oh this stings. This stings in a way he can't take. That shaking, the tone,
those words. A smart man, Valentin understands why these words are coming from this voice he
adores but he hates it. It burns and crushes and makes tears sting at his eyes as he pulls his face away
from Garou's hold. And words utterly fail, he can't speak, swallowing down rage that bubbles in his throat
and dries his mouth.

Garou doesn't fight when his heart pulls away from him. He
releases, he surrenders, feeling as though he's about a thousand years old and made of lead. There are
words to explain this, words to tell the light of his life that it's no failing of his, that Valentin simply has the
misfortune of loving the Game's least powerful, most valuable Knight. But the thoughts require too many.
They tumble over each other and tangle up inside his head until there's nothing left he could say except the
bald and naked truth and that… that would be too dangerous. He will not risk Valentin. So he says the only
thing he can say, knowing full well that it will never be enough. "I am sorry."

Those three words are not the ones he wants and they hurt just as much
as those that came previous. "Don't fucking apologize to me…" He says, growing heated despite the tears
that are falling before he can stop them. "Don't. Don't invalidate the only fucking thing that makes this
respectable by acting like you regret it." And yet he's not moving any further away. And while rage flares hot
in his voice, he mostly just sounds horribly defeated.

There is a monster that sleeps deep in Garou's belly. So often the
only time he finds peace from its ravages is in the company of this one phenomenal man. The rage in
Valentin wakes it now, but though there may be a vicious reckoning for anyone else who might cross his
path today, with this mage in particular there is nothing but a howling agony. "There is nothing respectable
about the Game," he spits, though it is more bitter resignation than outright fury. "I am who I am. I do not
act anything." And there is, beneath this one statement, something more of that whimpering beast, the
hurt that says he thought Val knew him better than this. The hurt that says he was not ready to be
mistaken. "Nor will I discuss this in the open like a sitting duck." Those tears falling gut him like a knife
and the fact that he caused them twists it and pulls until it is a physical pain. "You may not value your life,
but I do." He cannot stay here. It is too much. It is all just… just too much.

Valentin reaches for Garou's wrist, understanding dawning on him with a
wave of guilt. He had assumed, and he had assumed wrong. "Rou please…" He says, and it is not often that
Valentin begs, "Just once. Please. I will forget I have said anything, if you just…. Just once." His words are
hoarse from tears and keeping his voice low.

Garou cannot - he cannot deny Valentin. Anything his mage has
ever asked for - ever even hinted that he might possibly want - Garou has tried his best to offer. It is that
weakness that started them down this road tonight in the first place. So when that gentle hand takes his
wrist, when that beloved voice begs for this one thing - this one admission - the Templar wants nothing
more in this world than to give in. There is a low snarl that leaves his throat, but he turns and steps right
into his lover's space, close enough to crowd back anyone with a normal sense of boundaries. He lowers his
head until his mouth is right at Val's ear, breathing words in a rough and ragged voice that reveals much
more of that beast sleeping in his soul than he ever wanted Val to see. "You are the only good thing I have
ever been allowed to call my own. I will live for you. I will kill for you. One day, I will die for you." He shakes
his wrist once so that the metal and ceramic clink sharply off one another. "Until that day I belong to you.
Can - " His voice breaks and gains an edge of breathy desperation. "I have offered you literally everything I
can give. This is the reality of who I am. Can't that be enough?"

"I don't want your blood, I don't want your life, Rou…" Valentin says,
practically whimpered, though he turns his head slightly to offer the softest, smallest of nuzzles against his
lover. A small, beautiful touch made sad by the dampness of his tears. But it is there, this small sign that he
does not hate him, that he is not angry. There is just this pain, this desperation, this fire and this ache that
he can't make cease and it burns and it hurts and he just needs. He needs so deeply, and there are no
good words, but unlike Garou, that does not stop him trying. "I will cherish them. I will cherish you, always,
and everything that you give me. But I… I do not know how to tell you why I need this. I am sorry. I am
sorry I have made this need, for I did, when I said those words. But I…" Valentin chokes on his whispers, "I
know I am asking for the moon, and for your pain, and for your fear but I… Rou, please. Please." A hand
comes to Garou's shoulder, gripping there, his touch making obvious further his desperation as he trembles
from this raw pain, "Do you not see? I don't believe you don't. I can't believe you don't. You have my fear,
you have my pain, in the palm of your hand, in every way, every moment, every breath… And I trust you. I
trust you will not use it, but I cannot… I can't… I've made this wound upon myself and I know that but
please…" It's babbling, and doesn't make a lot of linear sense but it's the only way he can think of to put the
problem. The problem that after having said those words, he's made a hole in himself that only Garou can
mend, or the feeling that somehow, perhaps it was unfair, but if he could offer Garou his pain and his fear,
did he not deserve the same?

This is… this is so unfair that Rou actively whimpers against
Valentin's ear. It's a soft, choked sound that in a weaker man would have been an actual sob. This is
anathema. This is everything his entire life has taught him will hurt him - will kill him. But Valentin crying
and begging this way is an agony he cannot describe. It calls to the basest parts of him that want to comfort
and protect. These two halves of him are at war, leaving him tense and trembling for long, hollow moments.
In the end, there is really no choice - there never has been. "Of course I love you, you idiot." He inhales
then, sharp and long and shaking. "You are my heart, Valentin. How could I not?"

Valentin will hate himself for this later, hate that he could take such
solace in something he knew was causing Garou so much pain. But right now all he can feel is being able to
breathe again. The relief of that raw edge knit closed. "Thank you." He says, breathing out, taking a steadier
breath in, his trembling slowing and then ceasing, "Thank you, Rou." The hand on his shoulder moves to
Rou's hair, petting him softly. His tone is genuine, warm and touched, fully appreciative of the weight of the
thing that he has asked of his lover. "And I know. I knew. I just needed to hear it. You are beautiful."

That is it. That is literally the last shred of what Garou has in
him to offer today. He's done everything he can and now he feels only raw and hollow. "Don't - " he cuts
himself off and turns away. "Don't thank me. You don't know - just… don't." Because saying things out loud
makes them real in a way the veterans who have plagued his life can read in you like ink on the pages of a
book. He is what he is. That's not the kind of thing he's good enough to hide. But he's beautiful? No. "I am a
fool." And he just can't be here anymore. He really, really can't. So when he turns away this time, he
doesn't look back.

This time, Valentin does reach after him. He has the solace that he
needed, and demanding more would be more than Valentin can bring himself to do. His heart aches at that
tone, at the pain he knows is there, at the fear he's made. But there is that light. There is the memory of
those words, still ringing in his ear. Still sweet though they'd been received in such a way. To that, he will
cling, soothing his heart in his own way, letting his Templar walk away. He moves to the side of the
courtyard, finding a small, shaded spot to sit down in, and listening to the sound of that bracelet intently,
straining to hear until the moment where it is just too far away.

Guardian 15, Dragon 9:28

It took Garou a fortnight to piece enough of his armor back
together to stop avoiding Valentin entirely. It was a month before he trusted himself to be alone with him.
Now, three months down the line, most everything has fallen more or less back into its usual place and
rhythm. On the surface things are wonderful. There is peace in Val Royeaux, the powers that be have
decided they like him well enough - and trust him far enough - to look the other way if he wanted to warm
his bed with the crazy blind mage. At least it kept the separatist too busy to cause trouble. It's a disgusting
spin on the entire affair, but Garou knows better than to try and disabuse anyone of that notion. It lets him
have what he wants, what he needs… but still he cannot seem to sit still. He cannot seem to sleep. His
always stern manner has devolved into borderline aggression. The beast of anger inside him is touchier. It
comes out to play more often these days. So when he finds one of their unvowed recruits - a freckle-faced
beansprout whose voice is still cracking - throwing his weight around one of their un-Harrowed elven
apprentices, he places himself bodily between them and snarls and snaps a litany of everything wrong with
the youth's behavior in the most vicious and brutal way. By this point the poor kid looks about to piss himself
or cry - or possibly both - and yet the Knight Lieutenant does not seem at all like he's winding down from
this. Not at all.

Valentin had been pulled down this hallways the sound of raised voices.
Though as he drew nearer it became obvious that the voice was hearing was Garou's, and he walks a little
quicker, trusting as much as he dares that the halls have no changed. Newly made an Enchanter, he's had
more freedom. Perhaps allowed the promotion in reward for the settling of his behavior, facilitated by the
allowance of Garou's attentions. So when he walks in the room, rounding the corner, he walks entirely as
though he belongs. And listens, trying to discern what in the world it is that is the matter.

"…and if that is what you think you're training for, there's the
door." Garou, eternally spoiling for a fight and having taken it out on a Captain, another Lieutenant and
three Corporals without relief, has had enough of literally everyone. "We're not thugs and rapists here, boy.
You want to be here? You'd better want to serve, not abuse." Valentin, sadly, does not have the same
'tell' of ceramic and metal that jangles at his wrist, so it's not until he's entered the room that Garou knows
he's here at all. He doesn't so much settle as he forcibly reins himself back. "Get out of my sight." This to the
ignorant teenager. Before he does something everyone will regret later.

There is the faintest flicker of a smile from Valentin at the tail end of the
tirade that he catches. Otherwise, though, the mage remains near the door. Moving out of the way, mind, so
he's not walked into, but his shoulder leans upon the outer edge of the door frame. He waits, letting the last
statement from Garou settle in before he speaks. Ideally, even, long enough for the recruit to be off on his
way. "Has anyone been hurt?" He asks, quiet and gentle. It's a valid question, with the context of the rant.
He had no idea at what point in the debacle Garou had managed to step in.

Oh yes, that boy is absolutely going to high-tail it out of there as
fast as his skinny legs would carry him. "No," Garou answers simply. "Not - not this time." He knows they are
not always so lucky, but perhaps scaring the little sprouts shitless before handing them power was the way
to go. "I am… sorry if I - if this disrupted your classes."

That pride is a double-edged sword, lighting up a warmth in Rou's
chest that makes him ache to cross the room - to go sink into his lover's arms and bury his face in dark
hair and let go of this rage coiling in his gut. He once could do it only in Val's arms - Val's bed. But he
doesn't remember how he did it without acidic fear burning holes in what had once been hale and whole and
perfect. So he doesn't. He says nothing of it at all. "Great power comes with great responsibility. It has to.
Anything else is tyranny." And Garou may be many unsavory things, be he takes his role as caretaker - as
protector - with painful, almost religious seriousness.

This distance feels like a chasm in his heart. "Rou," He says gently,
feeling the want and the distance, "Come here." It's not an order, but an offer, stepping away from the wall.

One syllable should not be enough to pull gooseflesh all up his
arms and the back of his neck. One syllable. It isn't even his proper name, but it's become somehow
something new, something infinitely more precious. His stomach twists and turns over into fresh knots, but
he is, as always, powerless to resist his heart. So he crosses the room, charms playing music at his wrist as
he lifts one hand to play in Valentin's curls with tender gentleness. "I'm here." It's an answer but also
reassurance. He's lost, sure, mostly he's terrified. But he isn't running.

"Oh, Rou," Valentin says on a gentle breath, his hand coming up to cup
the Templar's jaw, "I know the world is cruel. I know. But please, this distance. I know you don't feel it but
you are safe here. With me. At least your heart is." His thumb rubs gently against his lover's skin. And really,
Valentin was not inclined to violence but this man was probably one of the few things he would fight for.

Garou turns into the hand at his jaw, nuzzling against it before
pressing a chaste kiss into the palm. He's been thinking about this on a seemingly endless loop for weeks
now. It isn't much, but he thinks he might have the right words to explain this time. "It isn't you I fear."
There aren't many. "It is the lack of you I could not abide."

"Everyone must part eventually. Through death or other circumstances.
Let us not waste what time we could have on fear." Valentin says gently. He smiles at that kiss. "Our lives
are not ones that will likely be long, no matter what we do. Let them at least be sweet."

"Don't philosophize at me," Garou growls, still actively nuzzling into his lover's palm. "It isn't that simple."

"I philosophize with every breath, Rou, it's how I grow so unbearable for
most so swiftly." Valentin says, trying hard to keep the ache from his voice. Because his riddles and loops
and strangeness and tendency toward the unnecessarily profound and poetic had never been a problem here
with Rou. He had followed, every time, the nuance in the poetry hadn't been lost until now and it sets an
insecurity to twisting. "But I am not trying to make anything simple…"

The hints of ache not hidden away make Rou hurt just as surely as
if weapons had been drawn. His own suffering he can live through, but Valentin is different. Valentin should
never hurt. Stepping closer, he wraps both arms around his lover in a display he hasn't let himself indulge in
for months, bending to press a slow kiss to soft lips. "We've been over this, sweetheart." He even smiles
softly against Val's mouth, the words breathed across the most intimate of spaces. "Your lack would be
unbearable. Never your presence."

The wrap of arms around him makes Valentin melt. These months have
been hard. Cold in a way he has hated, though he would not push or demand, not after what he had asked.
He would wait, and this waiting coming to an end is a relief that is sweet as mountain air. Returning that
kiss, it is full of fondness, the insecurity falling away, and then solidly locking it up in a deep, dark corner at
the words that follow. He smiles, nuzzling against the Templar. "You know." Two words offered, no context
save the trust that once more Garou would follow his twists of logic to recognize his substitution of two
words for a certain other three.

"I do," Rou answers, low and rumbling with something that is
unquestionably devotion - tinged at the edges with a wariness that makes him cautious and foolish all at
once. He tightens his arms, pulling Valentin against his chest and tucking his head under his chin. "As do
you." Two words to stand for three, three words to stand for four. The cipher continues, but understanding
has never been their problem.

Valentin nods at those words. He does. And this was a way that Valentin
could manage of saying what he needed without saying what Garou needed him not to. "The world is so
much colder when you're not around."

"I run hot. I know." It's a deliberate misinterpretation, though one
done with a smile and not a grimace. The distinction is important. "Have they - " he starts and stops and
clears his throat. "Have they assigned you new quarters yet?" That shit was supposed to come with rank, but
sometimes their quartermaster was a bit of a twat. "It would be nice to wake next to you again." And that's
not a comfort they have often been afforded.

Valentin laughs, warm and pleased, at the misinterpretation. That humor
was familiar and pleasant, and another part of what he had been missing. But that question makes him
smile, the one that breaks like dawn, though he is still pressed under the Templar's chin and it is unlikely to
be seen. "They have." He says with a small purr, "Just today, actually. Have yet to even sleep in the bed."
What a day it had been for everyone. "And yes, it would… I have missed that more than…" Just about
anything.

Missing his favorite smile is truly lamentable. Rou hoards them - the
memories of each one - like a hall full of collectible paintings, always looking out for the next and the next.
But that laughter warms him in a way he has almost forgotten and it's like the first breath of air after nearly
drowning. "Then I will bring up dinner when I am relieved for the day. We can celebrate properly."

"Dinner this time, even?" Valentin says, sounding shocked, but in the
melodramatic manner that is the nature of his jesting, "Am I dying? Has no one told me? G - Maker have
mercy." The little stutter of catching his Rivaini beliefs before they spill from his lips. "But good, I look
forward to it."

"Dinner this time, even," Rou parrots back, hiding his impossible
grin in his lover's hair. He catches that stuttered slip and his grin widens. Shifting, he lowers his mouth down
against Valentin's ear and purrs. "Save your prayers to heathen gods for later, sweetheart. I promise
you'll beg for each one's mercy before I'm finished with you."

Oh sweet fucking gods that was not fair. Not fair at all. That purred
promise makes him weak in the knees, shivering, his breath catching in his chest in this sharp ecstasy. The
noise it pulls from his lips is wholly and completely indecent. "Fuck," He starts, breathless from a simple
enough statement that on anyone else, someone less known for their responsive nature, this reaction would
be absurd, "Are you trying to kill me? I am but a mortal man…"

"Only a little," Rou purrs, smirking against his lover's ear like the
smug Orlesian bastard he is. He moves his hands to stroke along Val's strong back - pleasant even with
those foolish robes between his palms and the skin he wants. "And only once I've thoroughly exhausted
you."

Valentin smirks at the play on words, laughing delightedly. "You," He
says, some of his breath returning, "Are the most exciting lover I have managed to find south of Rivain and I
adore you." Then, though, he places a gentle hand to Garou's chest, not pushing, just there, the smallest
movement of distance. "But you'll stop my heart if you keep on like this when I must wait for you, so go…
Do whatever it is they have you do before they let you be for the evening. And I will be waiting."

"South of Rivain?" The wound to pride and vanity is enough to have
Garou jerking upright and sputtering in a most entertaining fashion. "South of Rivain?" But his incredulity
becomes a wicked grin with alarming speed and while he accepts that enforced distance it is not without
swooping in to kiss his lover senseless. "Challenge accepted," he growls against that mouth. And then
he's gone. There is work to be done.

Excellent. Mission accomplished. Valentin says nothing. Just grins,
accepting that kiss and it does leave him senseless. Totally and completely senseless and as the Templar
moves away, Valentin braces himself against the wall to catch his breath. But as his breath comes back to
him, the smile he has is wicked and pleased.

Haring 30, 9:30 Dragon

Winter. The middle of the night. The Circle is quiet as death. Or, would
be. Except for one room, where things become very not quiet incredibly swiftly. Advances turned down,
pushing the point, further rejection, grabbing a wrist, furthering the point, insults. It escalates quickly from
insults to… Well, it just turns ugly. It's a blur from there. A wall, a hand, a muttered threat, a pull, the burst
of pain in his jaw from a strike to his face, his hair being grabbed, and then his elbow connecting with…
Something. It lead to cursing, and letting Valentin go, which is really all he wanted. But he can feel the
warmth on the sleeve of his robes, the place where the Templar's blood make the fabric stick to his skin, and
it makes him recoil. On instinct, he's heading down hallways, in possibly the worst instinct, toward the
Templar housing, though he only seeks one of them, hoping no one else runs into him in the halls. He's
counting doorframes, but he's not entirely sure his count is accurate and it makes him hesitate.

Winter is not Rou's season. This far south, it's cold and dark and
damp and makes him feel stiff and sore and, well, crankier than usual. He doesn't sleep at all on nights he
can't invade Valentin's bed or drag him back to his. So when he hears the unique sounds of someone
moving-fast-but-not-running through the hall at this time of night he is out of his chair and in the doorway
just in time to catch Valentin against his chest. One arm goes around his shoulders, pulling him inside and
swinging the door closed behind them. "Hey, shh, I've got you. What happened, sweetheart? What's
wrong?"

It's then that the fear sets in. Or, maybe, then that he realizes he had
been afraid. That he feels at all beyond the silver clarity of physical sensation, in fact. Pulled into those arms,
hearing that voice, knowing that his Templar is here…. All of his fight response stops, he's flown to where
'safe' was, and he begins to cry. His breath comes ragged and gasping, and the mage shakes violently.
Words don't happen, he can't. He can't even think in words. Just bright flashes of feeling, of replaying
scenario over and over again, of horror quickly quelled by the safety that was Garou only to have the
emotional process start over again like some sort of sick ocean current.

This is something very close to approaching Garou's worst
nightmare. Turning the door's lock, he bars it - an addition that is certainly not regulation - and herds his
mage further inside. There's an armchair near the fire, it's enough light for him to check his lover for injury.
No matter how many times Val explains that it's not the end of the world, his crying makes it really hard
not to panic. "Valentin," he calls quietly. "Valentin, sweetheart, talk to me."

A bruise is beginning to bloom on his jaw, and his wrists are hot and red
and bruising, but despite the blood on the sleeve of his robe, and the tear in it from when he had tried to
pull away, it does not appear Valentin is seriously injured in any way. He goes where he is lead, sitting down,
breathing a little easier when he heard the bar on the door go down. "I don't want to put words to it…"
Valentin says, "Please don-" He chokes on those words before they finish, too bitter and battered in his throat
from the… He doesn't even know what to call it, think of it as… His heart is pounding, and he can't stop the
tears, and he's just… Shaking. Shaking so very much and reaching out for any part of Garou he can reach,
anything to anchor him to where he is, the now, the who.

Never before in his life has Garou ever, ever wished for magic.
Not once. But the sight of that bruise, those raw wrists, that blood… Rou wants more than anything to be
able to soothe it as his lover so often eases his hurts. Since he can't, he drops to his knees in front of his
chair, taking one hand in both of his and raising it to his lips. "Valentin," he swallows. "My love, you are safe
here. Breathe. Come back to me."

Normally, Valentin would just make his own bruises go away before they
were ever in danger of being noticed, but this time he's panicking too much to even notice they exist. The
trembling doesn't cease, nor the tears, but his breathing does, in a few moments of consistent contact from
Garou, slow. Eventually, the shaking sobs quiet, and it's just tears and tremors he can't control. But it's the
shock of that term of endearment that gets him back to the now and who and where fully, and the mage
nods, his other hand coming to rest atop Garou's. "I broke a Lieutenant's nose…" He says, voice quiet and
still fearful. Seems we're going to start with the ending.

The ending is more than enough to start with. This is his healer
- the man who stops to care for injured birds and does not stomach violence. If Valentin broke a lieutenant's
nose it's for the kind of reason that inspires bloodthirst in the Templar. The growl rumbling in his chest is
vicious and not at all directed at his mage. "What. Did. He. Do."

Valentin hesitates, swallowing hard. "If I tell you…" He says, still shaking,
still obviously afraid, though not of the man before him, even if he is growling, "Promise me you won't go
make it worse. I can't… I don't want it to be any more of a problem than… And I can't… I can't…" The mage
fights to steady his breathing, "I don't want to be alone right now. So just… Promise me you'll stay with me,
and not run off to hurt him."

There is death in Rou's face, but as ever it is Valentin who comes
first. The rumbling growl becomes louder, but when he stands it is not to leave. Instead he bends, picks his
lover up off the chair and turns to sit in it himself with Val in his lap. Cradled in his arms, perhaps his mage
can trust that he is not alone - can maybe find some peace.

With Rou shifting to hold him in his lap, Valentin curls into himself, but he
does not protest. Leaning against his lover, the mage buries his face into Garou's neck. For another long
moment he is quiet, just settling into this new hold, but eventually, he speaks to explain. "He was… Forward
with me. And I…. Told him I wasn't interested… And he wasn't…" The tremble down his spine makes his
breath catch, "Inclined to let that answer stand."

One arm stays wrapped around Velntin, the other coming up to pet
his hair, stroking gentle fingers through soft strands. The explanation makes him see red, but Val had
asked not to be alone. Rou would give him this. "My claim on you is no secret among the Templars. Even the
Commander does not object." Not when it keeps a historically disruptive mage complacent. It's a disgusting
way to look at any of it, but one must work within the system as it exists. "None of the other Lieutenants
would risk my retribution." Not that he's doubting Valentin, but this requires some thought. "Unless… was it
the bulky one? The one only recently promoted?" He can't remember his name and he doesn't really care,
but if it's who he's thinking of… well, it'd be an explanation, though not one he likes.

One must. Or… One does, when they are given little other options and it
is the justification that keeps light in one's life. Such politics, though, are not things Valentin is entirely in a
place for. He whimpers, raw and frightened and still shaking. Eventually, however, when the overwhelming
cacophony of feelings eases just a little, he nods.This sort of thing often came along with promotions. Power
does things to people. Change does things to people. And maybe, just maybe, Valentin had this nasty habit
of poking at those things which were the most uncomfortable, whether he meant to or not.

That is the answer he had expected. Turning to pillow his cheek on
the crown of his lover's head, Rou hums soothingly, low in his throat. "You did the right thing, sweetheart.
Even though it might not feel like it, you did." The hand around his mage reaches in to stroke gentle fingers
over skin exposed by the tear in the fabric, affectionate and soothing. "The first time you ever healed me, I
had a broken nose." It had been years ago, now, but the thought still makes him smile. "If the tit that did it
/still hasn't learned - and it sounds like he hasn't - I'm proud of you. It's less than what he deserves, at
any rate."

Somehow, through the tears and the shaking and the fear, that makes
Valentin smile. His rand trails upward, over shoulder, neck, jaw, light fingers brushing gently against that
same nose. "You did." He says fondly, "I suppose I can be glad that I returned the favor to him, then." It's
not the first time Valentin's had to do this. It's always shaking, though, and it usually ended up with some
sort of upheaval. Rarely would the Order sit still when one of there's had actually been wounded, even if
they'd earned it. The thought of that here… It makes him tremble again, his hand falling away from Rou's
face so he can cling to his Templar, whimpering again. "This never ends well, Rou, when this happens, when
I do this. I didn't think… I just did it…" He says, "I've never been let stay in a Circle after something like
this."

That gentle finger makes him smile, tipping his head back enough
so that he can place a kiss to the tip before settling again. "It may not come to that," he soothes. "The
Commander likes the way things are. He likes the prestige of having a Spirit Healer in his Circle - especially
one with a 'handler' he can send outside the Circle when it suits him." Even saying it leaves a taste like ashes
in his mouth, but the truth is that a leashed healer is a powerful asset in the Game. "Be easy. I will talk to
him. You have, what? Five years without a major incident? Perhaps he can be reasoned with."

Valentin calms some at those words. They're a soothing logic. Garou was
ever the steadier one, a precious stabilizer for his wild heart and mind and crashing logic that he loved to live
in but that sometimes overwhelmed even him. So he'll take it, he'll take this balm for his worry, and he'll put
hope in it, and he won't add that pain to his already wounded heart, not yet. He nods, not even protesting
the reference of having a 'handler' and the concept of his being some sort of status symbol. "I have never
not wanted to leave before."

"I know, sweetheart. I know." Garou is as soothing as he can be,
petting his mage. He holds and strokes and does his best to ease, to calm. "You'll stay here tonight, of
course." Not only for the sake of Val's nerves but his own. Sleeping with the mage in his arms sounds about
like the only way he will relax enough to get any. "And in the morning I will see what I can do."

At that, Valentin just nods. There was no power in Thedas that was going
to get him to leave this room, or these arms. He just settles there, quiet, and slowly beginning to stop
shaking. Most of the peace comes the knowledge that Garou is right here, holding him, but there is no small
measure of it that is supplied by the door bar that Garou most assuredly did not have if anybody asked.

Wintermarch 2 9:31 Dragon

The initial meeting with his Commander had been promising. For all
that the old dog had something of a fierce reputation, he has always been a fair man who believed in the
spirit of a law rather than its letter. And he likes Garou. He's always liked Garou. He was outraged on his
behalf - not as much on Valentin's, but for someone practically raised by the Chantry in its seat of power,
any concern at all is… no. Not even loyal Garou can paint it in a good light, but still there had been real
promise. The next fourteen meetings, however, had been a series of one unmitigated disaster after another.
Bruno - and no, the irony of that particular named has not escaped Garou - had kicked up a fuss about
doing his duty and being assaulted for his trouble. And since there were no witnesses it comes down to
Valentin's word against his… Under any other circumstances with almost any other Lieutenant, Garou's
vouch for the mage and the condition in which he found him after would have been enough. But Bruno has
enough friends in high enough places that the Commander's hands have been thoroughly tied. He's fought,
he's ranted and raved and raged against all of the injustice - seemingly more influenced by the impassioned
separatist than even he knew - but none of it had made the least bit of difference. And now he just feels
empty. So he sits, defeated, staring into his fire and trying not to imagine the scene undoubtedly going on
on the other side of the Circle complex. Trying not to see beloved eyes bright with tears when the news is
delivered and the killing blow is made. Trying… trying not to think about the fact that the first and last light
of his entire life was about to leave him in darkness. Trying to ignore the fact that he could feel it creeping in
already. Trying to ignore how much it had already left him cold.

The Knight Commander had at least been good enough to deliver the
news himself. That was something. No messages delivered that Valentin would have to have read to him. No
random Knight sent to tell him without care. And for all it hurt and he hated everything he was being told, he
actually kept his composure surprisingly well. Not pleased, he had things to say, and he said them, but there
was no screaming, there was no posturing, just questions. Just the requirement he felt to try one last
attempt at convincing the Commander to not do this. But there was nothing to be done for it. Even Valentin
knew that. And perhaps it is that composure that leads the Knight Commander to even tell Valentin, as he
left him after their conversation, to go see Garou. And thus does the Enchanter make his way down to Rou's
door, and for once, he knocks.

The knocking is what throws him. It's been so long since either of
them behaved like guests in each other's lives that he expects it to be his Commander or another of the
Knights - anyone but his mage - on the other side of that door. "Enter." It's a single word command, but
even that sounds low and hollow.

It's his own numbness that makes him knock. Or perhaps some worry
that Rou would be talking to… Well… Anyone. He didn't want to see anyone else. So when that singular
word comes through the door, Valentin opens it gently, slipping inside and closing it behind him, all silent.
He's pale, drained from the news that he's received, and from all that it means.

Once the door is open, it takes no more than a breath to know who
comes. Valentin has always been bad at keeping his emotions from his magic and after almost five years,
Rou has learned to 'listen' for him. It's not a very Templar talent - and he doesn't ever mention having honed
it over the years - but he's also not exactly a very good Templar anyway. He doesn't turn, he doesn't move;
his voice is low and soft and hollow. "So they've told you, then." It is not a question, though it could be
interpreted as one. "They've told you that I failed."

"Rou, you didn't fail." Valentin says gently, moving toward the sound of
his Templar's voice, knowing the layout of this room as well as his own at this point. "This isn't your fault."
Hand coming to the back of the chair, from there he finds Garou's shoulder with a soft touch.

"It is and it isn't," Rou acknowledges flatly. "This is what the Game
does." He doesn't look up when that hand finds his shoulder. The flesh beneath Valentin's palm is tense. "I
did not ask to play, but that has never stopped anyone from losing."

Putting himself behind the chair, Valentin's other hand comes to Rou's
opposite shoulder. One does not learn to be a magical healer, much less a Spirit Healer, without knowing
something of physical healing and easing as well. So practiced fingers work at knots of stress and the weight
of consistently worn armor. "Rou, this is not your fault. Game or no." Valentin says, "He made the choice he
did, I made the choice I did. Even if he did this to hurt you, that isn't your fault. Not any more than his
actions towards me were mine. And… This decision of the Commander's isn't your fault either. It's his, and
those who have pressured him." Because Valentin could read between those lines.

"But I was not ignorant of these risks," Rou argues. He does not
pull away from those hands, but there is tension beneath the strain of armor that is not so quick to be
chased away. "There's a proverb, isn't there? About the insect who indulges in plenty through the summer
rather than preparing for winter's attempt to starve him entirely?" His voice is so bitter, distant beyond what
has been asked of it in this man's presence… ever before. "I could have prevented this and did not. Some of
the blame is mine - if only for being a fool."

"How?" Valentin says, "How do you think you could have prevented this,
my love?" For what did it matter now, what name they called one another by now that Valentin would be
leaving? Surely it did not. "How could you have done so that would have not robbed us both of the beauty of
what it is we have? I would rather have the sweetness. Always. I would rather have the joy than the
security. Every time. Especially with this, with you."

My love.It's everything Garou has wanted and everything he
was not allowed to have and everything he is now losing. It brings bile to the back of his throat. "But now
we have neither." And that loss is going to choke him. It adds a bite to his tone that he doesn't like, so for a
while he simply says nothing at all.

"That isn't true." Valentin says, his hands continuing on knots. His chest
aches with his love's pain, and he can't help, with his own tumultuous feelings, the trickle of magic through
his fingers and into the tension in the muscles under his hands. He's doing it before he realizes. "We have
the joy. They cannot take the memories…" Well, they could if they really were desperate to be
sadistic, but that was very far left field, "And the sweetness, though I will be going elsewhere. I… They can
move me, but they cannot make me stop loving you." Realizing then that the magic is happening, he pulls it
back, removing his hands to the back of the chair. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that." It's not often
Valentin apologizes for much of anything.

"You will find very soon that you wish they had," Rou bites out,
jerking away from the unexpected touch of magic. "Don't! Just - " The apology mollifies him, but he's still
crossing the room, still leaning against the window with his arms wrapped around his middle like a self comforting
child. "I had plenty of joy with my father and sister, too. I still have those memories, but they
didn't stop my sister being sold into marriage to a man over twice her age. They didn't save my father from
the executioner's axe." This wound is deep and old and festered; it has not seen the light of day once from
his lips before now. But at least perhaps it will explain a few of his more bizarre eccentricities. "He chose to
play. He lost. We all paid." And that is without mentioning his own personal punishment. Rou clenches his
jaw and screws his eyes shut. "I swore I would never live through that again, Valentin, but here we are."
There is laughter that escapes from low in his throat but it is a bitter, mirthless thing. "You even predicted
this for me once, remember? I tried to protect us both and you said everyone must part… Everyone must…
part."

"Yes, I remember. Of course I remember. I will never forget that day, or
that conversation." Valentin says, sighing. He doesn't move to close the distance. He overextended, he
knows that, and he'll let Rou have what distance he wants, at least for now. His tone is gentle, trying to be
soothing, especially with the exposure of this old wound. "Rou…" He says the name like a prayer, "My
beautiful, wonderful Rou…" There's a step toward where he's heard the Templar move to, but he stops
himself, "I wish I could make those pains cease as I can knit wounds of your flesh. I wish I could… Go
back." He says, sighing, "And… Make it so this wasn't…" The implication there is dark, very dark, but it
doesn't sound disingenuous.

"You did," Rou chokes out. "For years, you did. I was…" He shakes
his head, slamming down hard on the part of him which wants nothing more than to curl up into a little ball
and weep. "You have done nothing but be kind and good in all the time I've known you." There is a formality
in those words that enforces distance, one he seems determined to maintain. "You have my gratitude, not
my censure. I - for your sake, I pray you will forget quickly and not suffer unnecessarily."

"Gods, Rou…" Valentin says, the distance tearing at his heart, "Please.
Please don't do this. Don't put this distance here already. They'll do that for us soon enough." He can't take
the formality, "I don't want to forget you, forget this. Don't you understand? It's not as though… As though
there are other things for me to…" He chokes, tears he's managed to keep at bay falling hot and bitter.
"You've been the thing that has made any of this worth it, bearable… Enjoyable. If it weren't for you… Rou,
I wouldn't trade these memories for anything."

"Other things for you to what, Valentin?" The distance is eroded
a little by pain as Garou's voice escalates in pitch. "What good does it do you to remember that pears are the
best thing you've ever tasted in your whole life - guaranteed to make even the worst day better - when
you're in a country with no pears? All that's left are unsatisfied cravings and hollow memories of once-upona-time
happiness." But the volume drops as he sighs, slumping hard against the window frame. "That's no
way to live."

"To live for!" Valentin says back, Rou's volume calling forth an increase in
his own. "No, Rou, it's not about hollow memories and cravings. It's about hope. It's knowing that something
as good as pears exist. That if you keep trying new things you might find… Something like a pear. Different,
always, but good none the less. It is knowing that goodness exists."

It's irrational. It's irrational and contradictory and it paints him in a
low, petty and unflattering light, but the words coming out of Valentin's mouth are like physical blows and
the Templar finds himself winded. Bitter. Sick with agony and burning with an unreasonable envy. He has
always loved his mage's wild, labyrinthine mind, but when he is already hurting? The philosophical platitudes
hurt like he has no words for. "Keep trying new things…" Another Valentin philosophy burned into his soul.
"Everyone must part, but it's alright because if you just keep trying new things sooner or later you'll find
someone to replace them. Different but still good." And none of these things are untrue statements - they're
not even bad statements - but right now he cannot step back from his own heartbreak enough to care. The
idea of holding anyone else makes him physically sick. The idea of Valentin content in other arms makes him
feel like he's going to pass out. This is… "I think you should go."

"It's not about replacing," Valentin says, shaking his head, "I could never
replace you, Rou. I wouldn't want…" But he breaks then, that suggestion to go cutting like a knife. "No,
Rou, no." He says, "Don't. I know this hurts. I know. I know this is hard. But don't… Don't send me
away. Not when…" And all of the composure he has tried so hard to keep just dies. He's scared, so scared,
wanting so bad just to… "You hope I will forget and I can't take that, Rou." His knees give up completely
then, his resolve built up from the conversation with the Commander dying, as he crumples to the floor,
sitting back on his heels, his head falling, riotous curls shadowing his face. "I can't take forgetting this. I
wouldn't trade a moment of this. Of this time where I have mattered. Where I have loved and not had - " His
voice dies, choking on tears.

The Maker hates him. That's the only explanation Rou has in this
moment for the compulsion that drives him across the room the moment Valentin hits the floor. Once
there, he hovers, stayed by the crushing futility of everything he does now. What good does it do to soothe
away this pain when it will all too soon be repeated where he has no way of ameliorating anything? What is
the point of any of it, now? But still he is drawn, still he drops to his knees, still he takes his love's wet
face in both hands. "You always matter," he says softly, sadly, repeating again an old conversation. "But I
don't understand, sweetheart, what do you want me to say? That I am not devastated? What do you want
me to do? Go on as though I'm not missing my soul? I'm not you, Valentin. I'm no man for philosophical
ideals, I can't reach them. There is only so much of which I am capable so tell me, please. What would you
have me do?"

Those hands on his face, this nearness, Valentin clings to it. Literally.
Putting his arms around Garou, he holds tight, burying his face into his lover's neck, sobbing for a moment.
"Just love me, Rou," He says, "Just… I know it doesn't make sense. I know it will just hurt later but… I don't
want to lose you before I have to."

Maker's breath… "You are a fool if you think I know how to stop."
And he kneels there shaking as Valentin clings to him, trying so hard not to give in and failing almost
entirely. "I am not any better than I am at saying no to you." Even at his own peril. So both of those arms
come up around his mage, but still Rou does not allow those burning tears to fall. "Will it help you, if I can
do this?"

"It would not be the first time I've been called that." Valentin says with a
laugh that is small from his sadness. Holding tight, he nods, though his closeness leads it to be much more
like a nuzzle against his Templar's neck. "It would." His selfishness is winning out in his life… Again… He'll
regret this later, surely. But, frankly, his selfishness was so often put aside, and Garou was his safety, was
the place where he felt like he could be selfish, that he could want without that want being his downfall.

Garou sighs heavily, arms coming up to hold his mage properly. "I
love you, Valentin. I have been in love with you for years." Even now there is fear that chokes him just for
saying these things, for acknowledging his one great weakness. But that does not stop him. This man will be
his death, he knows. But when Valentin asks, Valentin gets. Always. "How much time were you given?"

"Oh, Rou, oh my sweet, precious Rou, that's not…" Valentin says,
immediately sounding apologetic, "I love you, as I always have, as I always will. That is not what I meant. I
would not tear those words from your lips again. Not after the promise I made you, and I adore you - I
cherish your willingness to give me all I need, even if it be breaking oaths to you." None the less, the
Templar receives another nuzzle, tender, soft kisses placed to his neck. "I only need you to show me. Hold
me, be, just be. Like they have not given me but a week." The trip to Kirkwall to begin in a week, when a
shipment of documents and letters and traded supplies would be going as well.

At any time before, this would have been Rou's preferred option. It
was so much safer, after all, to love in silent gestures that could all be mistaken for selfish, shallow pleasure.
But now? Now when he knows agony is coming? Part of him craves what Valentin is asking for, that is a
certainty. Part of him wants to rip and tear and claw so that when he goes down he is not alone. Mostly,
however? Mostly he just wants to go find a dark hidey-hole and weep until some of this poison is drained
from him. A week. He can survive any pain for a week. And beyond that… well, he'd face that dragon when
he got there. For now, he is needed. Strong arms tighten around Valentin and then ease, sliding under knees
and shoulders to let him stand and cross the room - to settle him gently and undress him enough to be
comfortable in sleep. He is brittle and fragile - always just on the knife's edge of a total breakdown - but he
can dote on his mage in silence. He can at least give him one last happiness. That's something, right? One
week.

There is no resistance to Rou picking him up. It's generally something
Valentin doesn't care for, being carried, but his Templar functions on a different set of rules. And when he's
settled down in bed, undressed and with Rou there, he clings to his lover like a shipwrecked sailor to
wreckage. He's desperate for nearness, no matter how much is offered him, as though holding tight enough
would stave of the inevitable progression of time.


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