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Hitchhiker's Guide to Awkward Circumstances

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My stomach is already churning when I wake up, the movement of the van making the task of getting my limbs underneath me all the more difficult. I manage to groan a response to Lavellan as I get to my hands and knees, settling against the rear door as I shake my head. 

"I'm going to be sick," I say thickly, my hand finding the door handle as I try to keep my composure in spite of the dizzying sensation of my stomach threatening to turn at any moment. I can vaguely hear Aodhagan gathering what belongings he's strewn near me, shuffling back away from me as I tug the handle and get the door open, a rush of cold air and the sound of the road spilling into the van. For a moment, I think the cold is all I needed to feel alright, but it doesn't last for long as I lean over the edge and empty the sparse contents of my stomach onto the road.

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The sudden roar of the road through the open door causes me a great deal of alarm at our high speeds, and I immediately begin slowing down. My attention remains focused on Ljuba as I keep an eye on her in the rearview mirror, her sudden swaying giving me further cause for alarm as she starts to sink dangerously close to the open door.

"Ljuba?!" I call back to her, my head twisting around just in time to catch the first convulsions of a seizure rippling down her body. My eyes are wide as I throw a glance toward Zenovia and back at the road, my mind jumping toward a decision before I've even had time to consider it.

"Fuck," I snap, my hands immediately releasing the wheel as I let the magic rage through my veins. Dark tendrils explode across my skin, quickly consuming the flesh and dissipating my body into inky blackness. I'm only vaguely aware of Aodhagan's startled yelp as a will myself to move toward Ljuba, my shape rematerializing and slowly fading back to pale skin as I snatch the convulsing woman just as she starts to fall - her hand just grazing the pavement speeding by below us.

I can feel my heart pounding with terror as I scramble to hold onto both her and the door of the van as I nearly go tumbling out with her. Managing to get my footing, I yank her back as I jerk the door closed and fall onto my ass, Ljuba's seizing body held tightly in my lap as she tries to twitch and convulse out of my deathlike grip.

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~Z~

I've gripped the steering wheel tight before I have time to register the flurry of magic that's engulfed Ansiel, the arduous task of fluidly fumbling into the driver's seat monopolizing my thoughts. My heart is pounding to heavily it aches as I manage to get the van under my control, though not quite soon enough as the vehicle hits a patch of ice and the wheel jerks in my hand. I can just hear the door slamming behind me as we leave the road, coasting clumsily until the van comes to stop in the shallow ditch a couple yards from the pavement. 

I don't have time to be grateful for safely stopping the van before I'm spinning back towards the back of the van, my jaw set angrily as I come forward to step in front of a trembling Aodhagan. But the words don't come, and the anger remains coating my insides as I watch the man before me never tear his gaze from the convulsing woman, a sort of silent begging in his posture as thick, inky streaks course across her exposed skin. 

"What's happening to her?" I ask roughly, my own hand coming back to rest on Aodh's shoulder as I stay between them.

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"She's dying," I snap, my voice torn between anguish, guilt, and anger. Before I can ruminate on any of it, anger wins out as I glare hatefully at Zenovia. "Why did I agree to take you with us?! She would have been in the front seat if I hadn't brought a fucking guardian into our midst! I never would have had to touch her - I wouldn't have had to hesitate, I could have caught her without having to stop and think, wasting precious time!"

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I'm taken aback by the venom in his words, and the shift in his tone as his attention is pulled back to the woman in his lap. I know that I should be taking Aodhagan and leaving, that we should be putting as much distance between us and this couple as we can, but I can't bring myself to do it. 

I can hear the quiet comforts he offers as he shifts to lay her out on the floor of the van, the sound of her limbs rattling against the thinly carpeted metal unsettling. I twist to shove open the side door, ushering Aodhagan out and into the cold as I linger inside, watching helplessly as Ansiel stroke's the woman's face with an almost scolding sweetness. I look over to see Aodhagan staring from just outside the van, my head shaking firmly as I shoo him away. 

"You don't need to see this," I say stiffly, watching him sternly until he steps back around the side of the van.

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Part of me wonders where the tears are as I continue to shush Ljuba as she slowly deteriorates into a babbling mess, but the rest of me feels cold and hardened to this scenario. My movements are stiff and automatic, my thoughts silently scolding me for letting this happen again. It's been so long since the last time I had to do this, I almost feel like I'm in shock, but I don't miss a beat soothing the woman as my touch leaves dark tendrils of magic every time I touch her skin.

I can't help but think of how disappointing I must be - first Marnin, now Ljuba. They would both still be alive if I had just stayed away. The thought is a numb one, though, and I find myself growing more aware of the time passing as Ljuba's convulsions slowly cease.

"Why is it taking so long??" I demand as though someone might have an answer for me, my grip tightening on Ljuba's wrist. I frown sharply after a moment as I feel her pulse hammering under my fingers. A little fast, but strong. Healthy. "Ljuba??" I say loudly as I kneel over her, forcing her eyes open. Cursing under my breath, I hold my hand up to conjure a dim light in my palm.

I scowl sharply when the light doesn't appear, my gaze instantly turning on Zenovia angrily. "Stop," I order harshly. The light appears - faltering slightly as the guardian keeps a tight leash on it. I don't have time to be angry at that, however, and my attention returns to Ljuba.

Her pupils are responsive, not dilated like they usually are when I've unleashed my magic on someone. My heart skips with hope as I inhale sharply. "Ljuba?" I ask before scrambling forward, fumbling in my bag for what little salve I have left. I slather it on my hands as quickly as I can before I lay my fingers on her again, carefully feeling for the pulse in her neck, my hands flying over her skin as I get her vitals.

Fine. She's fine!

"How are you fine?!" I demand of her loudly, accusingly, the relief still evident in my voice despite her lack of response. She's only barely awake, her head lolling as she looks around in a baffled daze. "It was just a seizure," I breathe, my hand coming to linger on the mark I'd left on her skin. Unlike the rest of the dark tendrils, this one hasn't faded, but rather, it appears as though the skin has died and necrotized where I'd grabbed her in my panic as she fell from the van.

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I've been all but entirely forgotten as the woman slowly comes to on the floor, a wealth of tears rushing forth almost immediately as she looks around the van in confusion. She moves slowly, with a heaviness in her limbs, as she reaches to catch Ansiel's arms, her grip clumsy as she tries to hold onto him. 

"I'm sorry," She whines quietly, her tongue sticking to each sound as she repeats the words endlessly, "I'm sorry, please, I'm sorry."

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"You should be," I scowl, forcefully dragging Ljuba into my arms to squeeze her in what I hope is a calming embrace. "What the hell were you thinking, opening the door like that?!"

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Ljuba clutches to Ansiel as she cries against his shoulder, my gaze averting from the exchange as I glance out to see Aodhagan still hovering outside of the van. Moving slowly, I turn to the front seat to reach around for my bag, digging into it for a bottle of water and a small tin of crackers. 

"Something for her stomach," I say quietly, holding them up innocently as Ansiel glares at me suspiciously.

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I glare at Zenovia before pointedly ignoring the offered food as I reach back over for my bag. It takes me a moment to find some of the food tucked into a side pocket, though Ljuba doesn't show much interest as I try to coax her to eat something.

"We'll get you some of your tea, Lju," I say quietly. "Don't worry."

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I sigh as I turn back to drop my offerings into the front seat, glancing into my bag hesitantly before turning to look at them. We should leave. I should get out of this van and take Aodhagan and just go, but it's freezing and with the night far from over, it'll only get colder out. 

"She's withdrawing," I say a bit more loudly, "Isn't she? From what?"

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I can't help the insidious look I turn toward Zenovia, my gaze looking her over suspiciously for a long moment. Finally, I respond, albeit reluctantly. "A moppy concoction," I say stiffly. "For her seizures, and pain."

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Frowning, I turn to my bag without a word as I sift through for the small first aid kit tucked into the bottom. I made certain to stock it before setting off on any long trips, especially with Aodhagan in tow. Pulling it out, I don't bother opening the leather case before turning to hand it to Ansiel, though I don't dare take a step towards him as I glance towards Ljuba warily. I don't exist to her, not in this moment. Her world is little more than the dried fruit in her hand and the man at her side, who she leans heavily against as she stares at the food trembling between her fingers. 

"It's a small medicine kit," I say simply, "It's got about two decent doses of moppy in a vial inside, along with a syringe."

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I stare between Zenovia and the kit blankly before taking it cautiously.

"Why..?" I ask when I find my voice, my distrust painting the word with dubiousness.

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"Because her withdrawals almost killed her." I respond, shaking the kit slightly. "This will hold her for a bit."

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I don't argue that as I take the kit and open it carefully. I inspect it cautiously, tasting some of the moppy on the tip of my tongue before I begin the process of preparing it for Ljuba's use.

"Lju, I need you to hold still," I say after a moment of trying to get her arm to hold still without having to say anything. My hand squeezes her arm lightly as she finally stills, my thumb holding off the vein in her arm so I can pierce it with the needle.

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I wait tensely as he injects her with the moppy, the way her body goes limp against him causing my chest to tighten until I note the steady rise and fall of her chest. She's out, but alive, but I can't help but hold my breath as Ansiel goes through his own checks to confirm this. 

"Who are you two?" I ask the moment the tension leaves his posture, confident the girl's not dead as he begins packing the kit back up.

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"We're nobody," I say flatly, giving the stern looking woman a warning glare. "We're just passing through, and then we're going on our way."

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"Try again," I say harshly, keeping my voice low as I hear Aodhagan shuffling outside.

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"How about none of your god damn business?" I respond icily as I move Ljuba into a more comfortable corner of the van.

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"You're in Chantry territory parading as a guardian, my charge is outside, it is my business!" I hiss as I step towards him, my posture as stern as it can be given the confines of the van.

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"You think so?" I snarl back as I close the distance between us to glare at the woman. "Well, I'm in Chantry territory, and you're in the middle of no where with me and my friend, and I've a touch that's killed every guardian that's tried to drag me in. And now you know that I'm not a guardian. That makes you a threat in the most inhospitable place I could possibly be."

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"We're turning around," I say firmly, "You're dropping us at the Inn, and you and your friend are leaving. 

"I'm not stupid enough to try and apprehend you, and you shouldn't be stupid enough to think you're getting any closer to the capital without a fight."

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"Who says I didn't expect a fight?" I ask as I draw the small pistol from my belt, pointedly leveling it at her and no where near the young man in her charge. My voice remains even as I see her stiffen at the threat.

"We're going to the Capital," I say flatly. "My friend and I want no trouble. We just need some supplies, and then we're leaving. But we are going - and if that means killing you and your charge... well, you wouldn't be the first."

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"You know I can't let you go any further," I respond quietly, glancing towards the open door before looking back to Ansiel, "I took an oath to protect the Chantry, and all who serve it - to let you go would be to break that oath."

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