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He was the only thing in Haven that I could understand.

There was no understanding the chains around my wrists, or the angry interrogation. There was no understanding a thousand charred bodies, or the sickly green glow that poured from the sky. There was no understanding the throbbing pain that split the palm of my hand, or the twisted magic that seemed to poison my mana. No understanding demonic ichor strewn across the snow, or a beardless dwarf laying gentle kisses on a blood splattered crossbow.

But an elven mage slinging a barrier of protection around me? An elder grabbing my hand to teach me new magic? A soft spoken hahren, explaining my purpose in the chaos? That was a world that made sense, and everything I knew about being First. If such an elf would lend his magic to their cause, I could do no less.

In those early days, Solas was a lifeline.

When the initial crisis had passed, I was given another thing beyond my understanding: a little house in Haven. I often awoke in a panic, the walls seeming to close in around me, blocking the comfort of the stars with something as insane as a ceiling. I’d slip out the door, onto the roof, and over the walls of the settlement to stealth past the troops in their tents.

I’d scramble across the frozen river and into the woods, to a place where I’d stowed blankets and a flask. That’s all I needed. Just an hour under the stars, with a tree against my back, and enough pilfered brandy to burn away the ragged edges.

And then one night he was there, barefoot like me in the snow, long fingers secured around an arrow. One slender ear quirked at my approach, and a tug at the corner of his mouth told me I was safe. He held himself motionless for a moment more, adjusted his aim, and let the arrow fly.

I couldn’t see his prey from where I stood, but I’d no doubt that he’d made a kill.

“If you can run headlong into the woods without startling a doe, it seems the Dalish may yet have some skill to pass on.”

I ducked my head into an approximation of a bow, “Ma serannas.”

Somewhere along the way, my people had wronged him. That an elf as soft spoken and subtle as Solas made no effort to conceal his disdain spoke to the depth of the injustice. It was a shame as sure as The Long Walk, because we so desperately needed people like him if we were to ever reclaim what was lost.

That was the night I showed him my little cache, and built a fire while he dressed the deer (as skillfully as any Dalish; not that I told him so). Huddled next to him by the fire, I could close my eyes and pretend that I was home. We shared the flask and he told a story of when the Hero of Ferelden had traveled through these woods. She was an elf and a mage too, but circle trained and thus strange to us both.

“Have you ever been with a human?”

He was thinking of her Alistair, I’m sure. There was enough age between us that I felt no tension in the question, no judgment hanging on my answer. I’d heard it said that elven and human bodies made ill-fitting puzzle pieces, though some smirked their appreciation of the mismatch.

“I have not. My clan kept clear of cities, for the most part. We occasionally welcomed shemlen into camp, particularly apostates, but none caught my eye. You?”

“Once,” he said, almost too casually. “I do not recommend it.”

His candor surprised a laugh from me. “It's the hair, all over their faces! I've no stomach for fur.”

“I take it Bianca need not be jealous of your affection for Master Tethras?”

I laughed again, this time in earnest. “He sports a marvelous carpet, but the Lady Crossbow has nothing to fear.”

He smiled to himself, took a nip from my flask. Despite myself I noticed the smoothness of his scalp, like carved marble. And those ears…I capped the flask when he returned it to me— clearly I’d had enough.

“I know it must not seem like it now, but you’ll grow to appreciate those human beds da’len. Their fine linen and down, the herbs strewn in the bedding and the sandalwood posts. Give it time. Let yourself sleep there, however much you’d rather be under the stars. You’ll find it easier to step into their world if you let yourself wake in theirs.”

The night air was so very still, and for the first time since the explosion it felt as if I weren’t drowning in chaos.