The bed is cool where she expects it to be warm, and the unexpectedness of it wakes her up.
She shifts drowsily and pushes herself up onto one elbow. Her foot has strayed to his side of the bed and found it vacant. She brushes her messy bangs from her eyes and blinks owlishly into the dark. “Solas?”
His voice emanates from the corner where her desk is: “Here, vhenan.”
He sounds distracted, and Elia smiles in exasperation. Reading late again, she thinks fondly. As her eyes grow accustomed to the gloom, she picks out his shape in the dark; he’s hunched over her desk, and she hears the soft rustle of a page turning.
She slides out of bed and comes to stand behind him. She slides her palms up his naked back and around his shoulders to hug him from behind. He’s wearing only loose breeches, and his skin is cool to the touch, so she presses against him to warm him through her thin cotton shift. She brushes her lips against his temple.
“What are you reading?” she whispers.
He flips the book shut to show her the cover: Dalish Myths and Collected Truths Against. Elia huffs softly. “Written by a Chantry sister,” she murmurs. “I’m sure it’s entirely accurate and not biased in any way.”
Solas grumbles in acknowledgment. “The myths of one people can be the truths of another, but there’s no clarity to be found here. A case of the blind telling the deaf what to see by yelling at them.” He rubs his forehead tiredly.
Elia sits on the corner of the desk and strokes his chin with her thumb. “What are you searching for, exactly?”
He sighs, then leans his elbows on the table. “Those ancient artifacts. I wish to know what the Dalish know of them, but I’ve found nothing of value in this tome.”
Elia murmurs sympathetically. She’s already told him that she’d never encountered such artifacts before. “Remind me what you know about them?”
He runs a hand over his scalp. “It is as you already know: they measure the strength of the Veil, and activating them bolsters it. It may be possible to use them not only to measure, but to predict. To determine where rifts may appear, and to prevent them before they occur.” He shoots her a sidelong glance. “But I have told you this before. Do you truly wish to know more, or are you asking just to hear me speak?”
His expression is sly, and to Elia’s great pique, she blushes. She made the grave mistake yesterday of confessing to Solas how - well, stimulating - she found his voice to be, and he hasn’t let her forget it yet. She ducks her head shyly, hoping he can’t detect her flushed cheeks in the dim light.
“I do wish to know more,” she insists, and it’s true; everything he’s told her has nurtured the natural curiosity she always had about the Beyond. “The artifacts relate to the Fade, and I love knowing more about the Fade.” She folds her arms in satisfaction. “I still can’t believe we actually walked there. The shifting twists and turns, the surreality… It didn’t make sense, but somehow it did. Don’t you think?”
He leans back to look up at her, and though his face is calm, his eyes are bright with enthusiasm, all traces of weariness wiped from his posture. “Yes, indeed,” he agrees. “‘How does one pin down a dream? How can one control a thought so that it might travel always the same course from conception to completion? Only when I let go of my desires and humbled myself was the Fade opened to me.’”
Elia stares at him. He just recited one of those odd scraps of memory from the Fade perfectly verbatim. “Were you taking notes while we were trying to escape?” she asks incredulously.
He shakes his head and clasps his hands over his abdomen. “I have an excellent memory.”
She manages a smile in response, but her composure is slipping. His velveteen voice reeling off those academic words is unbalancing her more than she cares to admit. A breathless lifting feeling ripples just beneath her skin, languid but hungry, and she struggles to find an appropriate reply.
Another question, she thinks desperately. Solas enjoys questions, and she enjoys his answers. Learning is good.
His head is tilted slightly to the side, the faintest hint of a smirk on his lips as he studies her. She resolutely ignores his smugness. “Have you ever made friends with a demon?” she asks.
He hesitates and pouts his lips slightly in thought, and Elia shamelessly eyes the plumpness of his mouth. “Remember, demons are spirits twisted from their purpose by the base intents of men. The Chantry believes them separate entities, but as you know, this is false.” He sighs. “That being said, it is… difficult to befriend a demon. They are spirits corrupted, and the communion they seek with the living is… not like that of a pure spirit. But I have helped demons before.” Solas reaches over and taps her fingers, which are resting lightly in her lap. “As you have done, Elia. A Chantry mage would see my friend destroyed, but you helped to set it free.”
Elia wilts slightly at the memory. “But it died. We couldn’t save it.”
Solas shakes his head. “It could not have asked a kinder fate. It was a gentle spirit, broken by cruel bindings. We set it free together.”
Elia meets his eyes. His face is serious but warm, and his hand has drifted from her fingers to her knee. His palm is hot through her shift, a comforting weight on her leg, and a fluttering of warm complicity lifts her heart, even as a ripple of excitement traces up her spine.
He gazes at her for a moment longer, then takes her hand again and rises from the chair. “Come. Let us retire.”
She lets him to lead her back to bed. He slips under the covers and flops down on his back with a contented sigh, and she slides in beside him and props her chin on her fist. She feels wide awake now, and she’s not finished asking questions. “Solas, you once said that blood magic makes it harder to enter the Fade. Why is that?”
He folds his arms comfortably behind his head, and Elia steals a glance at the pale expanse of his chest and the lean lines of his abs. “It starts with mana: the potential for magic,” he explains. “It is the strength of one’s mana that makes for a stronger mage, and it is mana that allows you to draw magic from the Fade. This power diminishes with heavy use of blood magic, like pulling from wind instead of water. Unfortunately, you cannot use heavily of both. Those who rely too much on blood magic will find their mana depleted. They may lose their ability entirely to connect with the Fade. It is a risk I would never dare take.”
His voice is soft and calm, like a spring river rolling over mossy stones. She forces herself to breathe normally as she listens to him talk. Solas is a wellspring of information, always with an answer or a suggestion for where to find one, yet Elia knows she’s the only one he truly permits to dip into his depths. She’s a moth to the flame of his intelligence, drawn inexorably into the glowing light of his knowledge.
He continues to speak. “There is another difference between the two, from which the superstitions must surely have risen. True Fade magic requires patience, and a certain… oneness with the uncertainty of the Fade. An ability to balance two realities in a single hand. In the days of Elvhenan, some spells took years to cast. Echoes would linger for centuries, harmonizing with new magic in an unending symphony. Blood magic can be faster and more direct: a brief burst of power instead of a long-lasting pull. If one turns to blood magic in desperation or impatience, this is where the danger lies.”
His voice is like melted butter, basting the simmering warmth in her centre. His tone is serious and thoughtful, his words heavy with the weight of wisdom, and she swears she can feel them skimming over her skin like a hot summer breeze, lifting the fine hairs on her arms and at the back of her neck.
She nestles down beside him and skims her hand across his chest, and he curls his arm around her shoulders as he continues. “This, of course, is a simplification,” he says. “Magic obeys no strict dichotomies. Blood magic can manifest as a slow and gradual rise, just as Fade magic can erupt in raw surges like the stonefist spell. There are exceptions to every alleged rule that the Chantry tries to teach.”
Elia murmurs a preoccupied agreement. She’s pressed against his side, and his voice is vibrating through his chest and into her body, drawing a growing proportion of her attention. “I see what you mean about a oneness with uncertainty,” she says.
“Mm,” he agrees lazily. “Nothing is ever certain about the Fade. That is what makes it so fascinating and beautiful, a study both academic and artistic.”
His voice is poetic and confident, and Elia presses herself subtly against the angle of his hip. The soft fabric of his breeches grazes her inner thigh, and she inhales slowly to try and calm herself, but the depth of her own breath betrays her, lifting her perversely higher into her own restless libido.
“Academia and art: your areas of expertise. No wonder you love the Fade,” she whispers.
He chuckles softly. The sound is deep and warm, emanating from low in his throat, and Elia bites her lip, wondering how long she’ll be able to hide her arousal from him. She does want to continue this discussion, she does, but she’s tumbled into the very trap he teased her about just a few short minutes ago: she wants him to keep talking, but her reasons are entirely lascivious now.
She has one more question for him, and it’s a question she would normally never ask, but her inhibitions are swiftly dissolving as her desire fans higher. The mere press of her own smallclothes between her legs is pleasurable, making her feel slightly reckless, and her wayward mouth opens of its own accord. “Solas… Do you remember when Blackwall asked you if you knew any spirits as more than friends?”
He turns his head to look at her with one eyebrow raised. “Will we be speaking of your past lovers next?”
Through the haze of her arousal, she feels a spike of triumph. Ah, confirmation, she thinks. He’d talked his way around answering Blackwall’s ribald query, but now she knows for sure: he’s had sex with spirits. “We can if you like,” she replies. “But I’m not trying to pry. I’m just curious. What is it like?”
“What is what like?” he murmurs. His stroking thumb on her shoulder grazes the edge of her collarbone. It’s a simple caress, inherently innocent and light, but in her current state, Elia almost moans at the touch.
She gulps back the sound and tries to control the cadence of her own voice. “Being intimate with spirits. Is it difficult? Or…? They don’t have bodies that we can touch, so how…?”
She trails off vaguely and closes her eyes as his fingers slide along the back of her neck and into the short tufts of her hair. “That’s neither entirely true nor false,” he says quietly. “Some demons can strike us physically. Their claws are as real and solid as any bear’s. Their form matches their purpose, which is to maim.”
Elia is listening; she is. But his voice is more resonant than thunder, rousing the slow and steady roar within her core. His fingers are a gentle fist at the nape of her neck, persuasive and sweet, and she cranes her head back into his grip and arches slightly into his chest. “That’s true,” she breathes.
“It is the same with sex,” Solas says, and a tiny whimper of longing finally slips from her throat. The mere word in his silken voice ignites the smouldering tinder of lust in her body, and she can’t help herself; she slides her leg over his, trapping the lean line of his thigh against her groin, and presses shamelessly against him.
Meanwhile, Solas continues to talk. “A spirit becomes more corporeal if this best suits their purpose. If the purpose is intimate and the partner is kind, a spirit can become quite solid indeed.”
His voice is pitched low and deep with secrets. His fist tightens in her hair, and she arches obediently against his chest. Her nipples are budded and hard, aching for his touch, and she silently curses the veil of her cotton shift for standing between them.
She rubs herself shamelessly against his thigh. She’s absolutely wet with desire, her smallclothes clinging to the apex of her thighs, but she’s beyond caring now. “I want to know more,” she breathes. “Tell me more.”
He releases her hair and strokes her neck lightly before acquiescing to her demand. “Courting a solid spirit is a simple matter, if your intentions are pure,” he says. “But intimacy with a noncorporeal spirit is possible too. It simply requires a different set of skills. A certain type of magic.”
Abruptly he rolls towards her and traps her between his forearms. His eyes flare with a brilliant blue glow for the briefest instant, and Elia gasps with surprise. Despite her shock, she lifts her hips eagerly to meet him, but he holds his hips torturously out of reach.
Solas lowers his mouth to her ear. “Shall I show you?”
His voice is rough, a feral growl of desire, and Elia arches towards him with desperation in every inch of her spine. “Yes,” she begs. “Show and tell?”
“Of course,” Solas purrs. He sits back on his heels.
Elia keens with distress and spreads her legs in a desperate bid to tempt him close. “Solas, please!”
“Patience, vhenan,” he says. His voice is a soothing command, sharp and soft in one. He pushes her shift up above her belly and rests his palm carefully on the flat on her abdomen. “Hold your mind in that liminal space between our worlds.”
Elia’s body is thrumming, wild with heat and desire, but she forces herself to breathe slowly and do as he taught her: with eyes closed tight and a few deep, careful breaths, she slips into the threshold of the Fade. The sheets are still tangled around her feet, the pillow pressing against her head, but she’s weightless at the same time, occupying a self slightly separate from her own.
His voice slides against her mind as his hands slide her smallclothes away. “The flavour is unique with different spirits, much like a tasting of wines. A spirit of curiosity seeks a different kind of lover than a spirit of pure desire.”
Gentle licks. Playful lapping. His magic brushes over her naked body, impish and flighty: a wisp between her toes, at the back of her knees, sliding over the hopeless moisture between her legs. She whimpers and arches into it, but it’s already moved along. It dips into her navel, slides up and over the puckered peaks of her breasts, curls into the hollow of her throat and through the strands of her hair.
His voice skims over her body, playful and light, yet sinking deep beneath her skin and coursing through the rivers of her veins. “A spirit of curiosity wants to explore,” he explains. “To touch and be touched. To discover what touching means. What areas make a lover gasp, and the meaning behind that very sound.”
Elia holds her breath in frenzied anticipation. Her fists are clenched in the sheets as the feathery fingers of his magic flit across her body. It skims across each of her ribs, slides into the hollow of her hips, then floats lightly over her heat.
She moans uninhibitedly, wanting to encourage him to stay in place. His palm is steady and grounding on her belly, but the flicker of his magic skips playfully away, then returns in a scintillating wash between her legs that makes her cry out.
The sensation finally comes to rest where it’s most desperately needed, and it’s unlike any she’s ever had before; it’s like the gentlest current she could imagine, buzzing ever-so-lightly against her clit. The buzz of magic expands in electric tendrils from her swollen bud up to the hardness of her nipples, and she arches her back like a bow and keens with rapture.
Solas speaks again, his voice equally far away and directly in her ear. “A spirit of curiosity is both patient and not. It may linger for time uncounted, or it may rush all at once towards the promise of pleasure. All you know for sure is that it will never play the same way twice.”
She’s buzzing, alive, electric and sparking; his magic flickers and vibrates against her, sculpting itself along the length of her cleft and possessively entrapping her clit, rippling over her breasts with a combination of sweetness and bite. The delicious buzzing between her legs is gentle yet firm, determined but patient, swirling and vibrating against the bud of her pleasure with the perfect combination of light and hard. She gasps for breath, then suddenly she comes with a burst of glory, her vision going white behind her closed eyelids.
She cries out, a pleading cry of pleasure, and Solas’s hand strokes the flat of her belly until she calms. Then he speaks again. “A spirit of pure desire calls for a different sort of touch. It is voracious, eager, and unrelenting. And yet it is a spirit, and it relies on its partner to provide the shape of its hunger.”
His voice is hotter and more intense than before, and somehow Elia knows just what to do; slowly but confidently, as though in a dream, she pushes herself to her knees and turns to face the head of the bed. She leans her forearms against the wall and arches her back, offering herself to her lover’s skillful hands.
But it is not his hands that he uses to please her; he remains sitting back on his knees, his palms resting peacefully on his thighs as he continues to talk. “A spirit of pure desire is rendered witless by a firm magical touch,” he tells her.
Suddenly Elia pounds the wall with her fists and lets out a guttural cry. A smooth spear of magic is filling her up, stretching and pulsing deep inside of her. His magic curls against her sweet spot, that tiny bundle of nerves, and she sobs with sudden pleasure and grips her hair with her fingers.
The magic inside of her swells and contracts hard and fast. Another spear of magic appears, sliding against the periphery of her clit with an equally single-minded focus. With every powerful pulse, pleasure courses through her veins to the tips of her fingers and toes, rendering them slightly numb with intolerable ecstasy.
As the pulsing in her core waxes and wanes, sinuous ropes of his magic twine around her wrists, stretching her arms against the wall and squeezing with a light pressure. Ropes of magic slide up her belly, over her breasts and around her throat, squeezing gently and carefully, and she mewls with unconcealed bliss. His magic both ties her and fills her, fulfilling fantasies she hadn’t yet had the chance to express aloud.
Faster than she could have imagined possible, her climax is upon her again, crashing over her like a Storm Coast tsunami, and she sobs unabashedly with pleasure. Through her mind-numbing rapture, she can hear his voice: “A spirit of pure desire can peak and crest in perpetuity, never stopping until their partner decides to go.”
His caramel-smooth voice is like a breeze against her sweat-dampened skin, and she suddenly bursts out a breathless laugh. Orgasms forever? she thinks, with a combination of bliss and hysteria. She’s already feeling boneless, and she gets the sense that Solas is only just getting started.
As though he’s read her mind, he speaks again, and his tone is slightly apologetic. “Unfortunately, a man can only resist temptation for so long. Have I answered your questions to your satisfaction?”
“Yes,” she gasps.
When Solas replies, his voice is no longer completely controlled; it now holds a distinct thread of greedy need. “I would claim you now as only a mortal lover can, if you would have me.”
“Yes!” she wails.
Suddenly he presses against her, the heat and hardness of his chest flush to her back and his right palm flush to the back of her hand, his fingers twining with hers. He curls his left arm around her waist and slides the length of his cock to tease between her legs.
It’s too much, and not nearly enough. “Now, Solas,” she begs. “I want you now.”
“Ma nuvenin, vhenan,” he breathes. With one smooth thrust, he sheathes his cock inside of her to the hilt.
Elia cries out with shameless pleasure, and Solas groans against her ear. The broken sound of his pleasure is vulnerable and true, the unmistakable sound of a man coming home, and Elia’s eyes suddenly burn with tears. His magic was incredible, indescribable, a surging of pleasure the likes of which she’s never before experienced, but this - her tender and mysterious lover clutching her close, wrapping her in the shelter of his arms as he buries himself in her - this is something that no amount of magic can ever replace.
He thrusts into her slow and deep, his cock driving perfectly along her sensitive inner walls and peeling whimpers of pleasure from her throat. His lips braise her shoulder blade, a wash of kisses that travel along her shoulder to the nape of her neck. He tastes her neck with tongue and teeth, his fingers clenching slightly against her belly.
Elia pants breathlessly as his thrusting hips find a perfect driving rhythm. His fingers drift low to ghost ever-so-gently over the sensitive bud of her clit. He kisses her neck, then presses his lips to the pointed shell of her ear. “Ar nuvenal ma hima’mah elgar’lath, ar’an nuva saron elgar’vhenan bellanaris.”
His voice is strained and breathy, and a tear runs down her cheek even as a fresh wave of pleasure begins to build in her core. She couldn’t catch every word he said, but she heard ‘love’ and ‘the Fade’ and ‘forever’, and the melding of these words together takes her breath away.
Solas flexes his hips against her, his cock filling and stretching her in the most exquisite way as his fingers slide careful and light over the tenderness of her clit. “Come for me, vhenan,” he murmurs.
Her body surrenders to his command. She arches back against him and cries out, her fists clenching and her body spasming with helpless pleasure, and he squeezes the fingers of her right hand as she shudders against his chest.
As she grows calm and boneless again, his fingers slide away from the curls between her legs to cradle her breast. Slowly but surely, the driving of his hips picks up speed until he’s fucking her ferociously. He bites her neck, and she gasps with pain and pleasure and grips her hair in her fingers. She bucks back against him, eager to take every inch of him, to feel him reaching deep, deeper than his magic could ever hope to go. When he finally comes, his body shudders against her back with a comforting weight, and her name ghosts from his lips like a breathless benediction.
They remain frozen in a brilliant tableau of love as they recover. Solas’s lips brush her back as he pants for breath, his forehead pressed to her spine and his left arm tight around her waist. Eventually he pulls away, finally releasing her right hand, and gently tugs her into his arms as he settles back down in bed.
Elia snuggles happily against his side, relishing in the slight stickiness of their skin. She kisses the tendon in his neck, then licks the salt from her lips. “Solas, what did you say? During… when you were… you said something in Elvhen. What was it?”
He sighs heavily. “It was nothing. I should not have… It was a foolish man’s fancy.”
Elia frowns. He sounds suddenly weary, and not just with the night's exertions; he sounds tired down to his bones.
She opens her mouth to question him further, but he rolls slowly towards her and cups her face with one palm. He strokes his thumb over her vallaslin, wiping the lingering queries from her mind. His eyes are soft and deep, and Elia drowns in their granite depths before he shifts closer and kisses her.
She parts her lips dreamily as he wraps his arm around her waist and pulls her flush to him. She slides her palm along the wiry strength of his arm and clasps his neck, her fingers stroking his jaw and the tip of his ear. His tongue slides against hers in a gentle dance before tracing delicately along her lower lip.
She tightens her fingers against his neck. “Ar lath ma,” she whispers.
“I love you,” he replies. His tone is unexpectedly fierce. “More than any other thing in this world.”
His arm is tense around her waist, clutching her close, and she strokes his neck soothingly, uncertain where his sudden tension is coming from. She kisses him sweetly until his muscles become smooth beneath her fingers.
Eventually her languidly closed eyelids refuse to stay open, and she nestles into his chest, tucking her head under his chin. “Good night, Solas,” she murmurs. “I’ll meet you in the Fade.”
He chuckles sleepily. “You haven’t yet tired of me?”
She wraps her leg over his and hugs him close. His tone is teasing, but her answer is serious. “Never,” she says. “I’ll never tire of you.”
He’s silent for a long time, and Elia’s mind drifts in and out like the lapping of low tide. The rise and fall of his chest is a soothing lullaby, his fingers in her hair like a gentle breeze.
She floats over Skyhold, skimming over the Hinterlands and the Emerald Graves and Val Royeaux. His voice is wise and calm, and it carries her like griffon’s wings.
Don't make such promises, vhenan. I could never hold you to them.
Elia smiles. Solas doesn’t have to hold her to anything. With the strength of his voice lifting her high, she’s completely free.