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Emma Lavellan started the night feeling on top of the world.  It was the holiday party for all the University staff so she knew that Cullen would be here.  She’d enlisted the help of Dorian for the nights plans.  The perfect dress, the perfect make-up, the perfect everything.  It wasn’t that she still had feelings for Cullen, but one had to look good for an ex.  Especially when you’d been in a relationship with the person for years.

The dress was a soft blue that brought out the blue of her vallaslin and her eyes.  It rested off her shoulders to show off her neck and the curves of her breasts.  The dress hugged to the dip of her waist before flowing out.  She’d opted for nothing but a pair of earrings and make-up that was a more natural look, although it was still more than she was used to wearing.  

Dorian had helped her pick out the dress and put on the make-up.  She was more than willing to accept the fact that his expertise on these things far outshone her own and, not for the first time, thanked her lucky stars that she had such a friend.  She still felt grateful despite the fact that he was supposed to be her wingman for the night, but had vanished an hour or so ago.

This had left her with Leliana and Vivienne which, of course, led to a political discussion on the Chantry and its attempts at regulating the University.  An interesting matter of which Emma leaned more towards Leliana’s point of view, which was the Chantry should have very little say over what the university taught, if any at all.  Vivienne was the opposite.  

As much as she would usually love the chance for an intelligent debate, tonight her nerves were too on edge.  Despite her confidence in her looks, she was nervous to see Cullen.  It had been the middle of last school year when they’d broken up and she’d only seen him in passing for the rest of the year.  During the summer she had not seen him at all and, then again, they’d manage to mostly avoid each other the first part of this year.  A rather impressive feat in truth, considering not only did they work together, but their younger siblings were engaged to each other as well.  

The longer the night went on with no sign of him, the more nervous she’d become.  So, as the discussion turned more heated, she excused herself to go get more wine at the bar.

She got up to the bar just a moment after a male elf had walked up.  As she went to stand beside the man, she realized she had seen him briefly across the room as he spoke with Varric.  This must be the new history and mythology professor then.  The one Varric had been so proud of finding and convincing to come fill the position.

He spoke in a rich smooth voice to the barkeep, “Bourbon on the rocks, please.”

The bartender acquiesced and she couldn’t help looking over to the man as he waited for his drink.  Most of the time she thought men who ordered drinks on the rocks came off a bit douche bagish.  It was a drink with the specific purpose of making a guy seem more sophisticated than he was.  

With this man however, it worked.

He was tall, at least a head taller than her, which was odd for an elf.  His face had no vallaslin, sharp defined features, a sculpted jawline, and full lips.  He had no hair, but it was impossible to tell in this light if that was due to baldness or shaving.  He dressed in a formal suit that had an air of old school sophistication to it.  He held himself tall, shoulders back, and she imagined under that suit he would be rather fit.  

No, this was not a man who needed or desired to prove himself to anyone.  He certainly did not need a drink to give himself an air of sophistication.  He ebbed it.  

She watched as he subconsciously pulled at his shirt cuff, the only hint that he was ordering straight up alcohol for a reason other than preference.  It brought to mind her first time at one of these things.  It was overwhelming, she was more of a hermit by nature so having people constantly in her face had made her down far more drinks than was wise.

Emma looked up at him and smiled, “Royeaux is more effective.”

“I’m sorry?”

He turned to look at her fully.  When she caught his eyes, she forgot how to breath.  They were an intense steely blue that seemed to look right through her directly to all her dark secret places.  Which, of course, was ridiculous and she was being an idiot.  Maybe she’d had enough to drink already...

She cleared her throat and gestured to the drink the bartender was sitting in front of him.  “The drink, a royeaux.  It’s more powerful, makes the night go faster.”

“Ah,”  He reached out to take the drink, long fingers wrapping around the glass, “Am I so obvious?”

She gave a light laugh, “Only because I remember my first time.  I doubt anyone else noticed.”  She turned to the barkeep, “A glass of the red, the Antivan one please.”  Then she turned back to the elf, “I’m Emma Lavellan, I teach literature classes here.”

“Solas Fen’harel.  You may call me Solas if you like.  I teach history and mythology classes.  I am pleased to meet you Professor Lavellan.”

“Emma is fine.”  The bartender set her glass of wine down and she took it giving him thanks before turning back to Solas, “So how do you know---”

“Emma.”

She didn’t even have to turn to know who was behind her.  She would recognize that voice anywhere.  Though her heart beat fast in her throat, she managed a smile to Solas, “Sorry.”

“Do not concern yourself.  I am sure we will have another chance to talk before the night is over.”  With that he moved down the bar a bit so he could start a conversation with the barkeep.

She turned to find Cullen standing behind her, fidgeting, “Hey.”

He glanced from her to Solas as he said, “I’m sorry to interrupt I just… I needed to tell you something important.”

“If it’s about our siblings impending nuptials you can tell your brother I’ve already taken care of the emergency.  I told Tess I’d pull some strings to fix the---”

“It… isn’t that.”  He shifted, and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Cullen, just come out with it already.”

Cassandra walked up next to him, looking tall and beautiful, if somewhat annoyed, in a long dress with hints of silver that complimented her skin and hair.  “I think these events get more and more pointless every year.”

Her smile brightened as she looked at Cassandra, “Agreed.  I wasn’t expecting to see you this year Cass but I’m glad you came after all and you look lovely.  I imagine you’ll be fighting them off again this year.”

Cass looked from Emma to Cullen a frown forming on her face, “You didn’t tell her?”

Emma raised a brow and looked between the two, “Tell me what?”

“I was going to.”

Cass’ face turned stormy, “You said you had already we,”  She paused and took a deep breath, “We will discuss this more later.  Tell her, now.

Cass went off in the direction of Leliana with one more glare shot at Cullen.  He took a deep breath, “I… well, what I mean is Cass, urhm Cassandra and I we…”

Emma went numb, “You’re dating?”

Cullen let out a woosh of air, “Yes, it didn’t happen till you and I had been done for a while.  I was still… well I went to her and one thing led to another… I should’ve told you sooner, Em.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to---”

“It’s fine.”  Somehow she managed to keep her voice even, “Not like your dating life is any of my business.  I didn’t tell you when I got a new boyfriend after all.  So stop fussing.”

His eyes widened a hint and then a smile filled with relief shone on his face, “Oh, you’re dating again too.  Is he here?”

She let out a string of internal curses as she took a drink of her wine and desperately thought out a solution that wouldn’t make her look like a complete loser.  Why?  Why in the world had she said that?  It was---

Then Emma remembered the man that stood only a bit behind her.  She could still hear the soft baritone of his voice as he spoke to the barkeep.  Then, before she could even realize what she was doing, she was turning back to Solas.  She moved closer to him and put her arm in his.  Solas had been about to take a drink but the glass halted inches from his mouth as his eyes shifted to look at her.

She stood on her tiptoes and lifted herself up against him.  She could feel him stiffen beneath her touch and saw his brow arch high.  Still, she couldn’t very well stop now.  She’d just have to hope he’d go with it.

With her mouth almost touching his ear she whispered, “Please, just play along.  I’ll explain later.”  Before he could reply she took his arm and turned back to Cullen, “Cullen this is my boyfriend, Solas.  He teaches history and mythology here.  Solas, this is Cullen he’s the hockey coach.”

“Nice to meet you.”  Cullen smiled his golden boy smile, “I hadn’t even realized that the professorship position had been filled this year.  We’ve been needing one for a while from all the complaining that Em used to do about it.”

“Yes, it would seem tonight is full of interesting revelations.”  He glanced at Emma and set his drink down on the bar, “It is nice to meet you, Cullen.  The University hockey team is in the top ten if I’m not mistaken, though I have not had the pleasure of attending a game myself.”

Cullen chuckled, “Em was never one for hockey, but I’d be happy to get you tickets.  You can sometimes persuade her with a promise of the right restaurant beforehand.”

Emma blushed, “Cullen, seriously… you make me sound like a glutton.  I’m not that easy.”

Solas rested a hand on her back, “We all have our motivators.  It is nothing to be ashamed of.”  He looked to Cullen, “I would love to attend a game, but I would not wish to trouble you.”  

“It’s no trouble at all.  I get a certain number of tickets for each game if I want them.  I’ll send two your way.”

“Thank you.  Now, if you would excuse us, it was a pleasure to meet you but we were on our way to the balcony to get a bit of fresh air.  Were we not, Em ?”

A soft pressure as the heat of Solas’ palm pressed firmer to the curve of her back.  

She cleared her throat, “Uh yeah.  We’ll catch up more later.  You should probably find Cass anyways.”

He led her out to one of the balconies removing his hand from her back only when they’d stepped outside.  Then he walked to one of the empty corners and she followed.  The night was lovely, if cold.  It was cloudless so the stars sparkled in the sky, hints of deep color tangled amongst them in the darkness.  Pity she wasn’t able to fully enjoy it given the current circumstances.

Emma kept her eyes away from him, shifted from looking at the snow covered grounds to the sky.  Her arms hugged to herself only partly because of the cold that nipped at her exposed skin.  Not wanting this to go on any longer than necessary she took a deep breath.

“Look this isn’t… it’s a long story and I’m not really… I mean I didn’t...”

“You do not need to explain.  The situation is clear enough.”

Warmth engulfed her shoulders, soft fabric seeping warmth into the bare skin of her shoulders.  She startled, but by the time she realized what he had done he wasn’t looking at her.  Instead, his gaze was turned to the stars as hers had been.

“I will admit you have made this night more,” he paused for a moment searching for the word, “surprising, than I had thought it would be.”

She gave a soft snort, “You mean you haven’t ever had a random stranger call you their boyfriend before?”

One corner of his mouth turned up just a hint, “Not that I can recall.  Have you suddenly declared many men you just met your boyfriend?”

“Not that I can recall.”

She took another deep breath as her fingers fidgeted with the edge of his suit coat.  It smelled of cedar, old books, and something else she couldn’t quite place but it was… nice.  It made the speeding of her heart that much worse and words seemed to stick to the back of her throat.

“I… uhm, I’m sorry.  This is stupid.”  She shifted and let the coat slide of her shoulders, turning to hold it out to him, “I’m going to go back in there and tell Cullen the truth.”

Solas turned to her.  There was a moment where everything seemed to still around them, the music fading away as her eyes locked with his.  Then he took the coat and slipped it back on, breaking the spell.

“Tonight, I will play along.  After tonight I leave it to you to decide how we ended our... relationship.”

“I...”  She couldn’t decide if she was relieved or not.

“Come.  Let’s go back inside where it is warm.”

She paused, tried to read his expression but he refused to look at her and his face was a poker face if she’d ever seen one.  She sighed, “You don’t have to do this.”

“I know but the game will make the night go faster, if you will continue to play with me.”  He smiled and reached his hand out to her,  “Emma, will you be my date?”

That smile, it made her heart skip a beat.  It had to be the booze and the news about Cullen and Cass.  She didn’t even know this man.  Another reason she should just say no, apologize, and then they could both go on with their night.

She took his hand, “Alright.”