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Solas takes a deep breath and continues his point. “It is not just that the Dalish are incorrect in many things, though that is a problem. What concerns me is that they are willfully so. They are set in their ways, unmoving in their beliefs, and they are unwilling to accept evidence to the contrary. Let us consider spirits, for instance. What did your Keeper teach you about spirits?”

Elia watches his pacing, her face serious and thoughtful. She curls her legs up comfortably on the couch before replying. “It’s a Dalish proverb that ‘there’s no such thing as a good spirit’. Spirits aren’t to be trusted.”

Solas nods with grim satisfaction. “And that is untrue, is it not? Consider Cole, a most benign and helpful spirit indeed. Would your clan give him a chance, or would they instantly drive him away as an evil being?”

She tilts her head thoughtfully. “It sounds like you speak from experience. Was there a Dalish clan that was unkind to you when you spoke of spirits?”

Solas frowns; her response is not what he expected. He shifts his weight to one hip and folds his arms. “I have encountered more than one Dalish clan. I assure you that their opinions on spirits are quite inflexible.”

Elia nods her head slightly in acknowledgement, but her eyes hold a hint of apology. “Solas, forgive me for saying this, but you can be quite arrogant sometimes.”

He blinks in astonishment, and without quite meaning to, he barks out a laugh of surprise. Elia thinks him arrogant? If only she knew how incredibly arrogant his compatriots in Arlathan had been!

But Elia has successfully pulled the wind from his sails, and she takes advantage of his deflation to continue her point. “I’m Dalish, and you won me over. You spent time talking to me and making your points, and importantly, you’ve been patient and kind. Perhaps it’s not your message, but the way you deliver it.”

Solas doesn’t mean to pout, truly he doesn’t, but he can feel his chin tightening as Elia continues to speak. “You also said yourself that all Dalish clans are different. Some are more conservative than others. It’s unfair to write them all off because one or even two were too closed off to listen to what you had to say.”

Solas purses his lips, but his ire is swiftly dissolving in the face of her levelheaded logic. He’s been harbouring a year’s worth of frustration and disappointment with this world and its people, heaped on top of a bone-deep weariness after centuries of internal warfare grown from the insidious seeds of immortal boredom and pride.

The Inquisitor is the only person in this world who has been able to soothe the chafing dissatisfaction in his gut. She is logical and calm, listening carefully to his words and using his own arguments to reinforce her points. Such a manner was rare even in the time of Elvhenan, and to find it now, here, in this blunted time and place…

Solas unfolds his arms and gazes down at her. Her face is expectant and her aquamarine eyes warm as she waits for his response, and to his surprise, he finds that he is no longer angry.

He slowly takes a seat beside her. She shifts closer and props her cheek against her fist to listen to his reply. “The Dalish seek to bring back the old ways, but they do not know what the old ways were truly like,” he laments, but his complaint is without heat this time.

Elia sighs. “Even if they did know what things really used to be like, I wonder… can the old ways even be brought back? From what you’ve told me about your travels in the Fade, the world is so drastically different than how it used to be. The Fade has been separated from us for so long that magic can’t be easily accessed anymore, so the ways of ancient Elvhenan can never truly be resurrected.”

Solas shifts slightly at her words - if only she knew - but she’s not finished. “Furthermore, we elves aren’t the only ones living on this continent anymore. We can’t be the only ones whose needs are considered.”

Solas frowns again, but his disapproval mellows as she reaches out and rests a placating hand on his forearm. “I know this is an unpopular opinion among our people. I know you might not agree. But we aren’t alone anymore in this world, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Humans are here, and dwarves, and qunari, and we need to try and live together. Look at all our friends. Look at how we’ve come together under the Inquisition.”

Solas gazes at her earnest face with bittersweet appreciation. She is so very young and idealistic, and Mythal save him, but he both pities and admires her for it.

“Look at all your enemies, as well,” he points out. In truth, Solas understands her point, and the long-buried optimistic part of his mind wishes he could agree with her, but he’s curious how she will respond to his dig.

She tilts her head chidingly, and he almost smiles. “I have enemies among the elves as well,” she reasons. “Leliana and Josephine have told me what people are saying. There are Dalish who call me a blood traitor. There were elven apostates in the Hinterlands who would have killed you and I both without batting an eye. Every member of every race is not the same. Besides,” she says pointedly, “you’re trying to distract me from my point.”

Solas can’t help it; he grins at her. She smiles back, but continues speaking. “The point stands that we can’t reverse what’s been done. It’s akin to wishful thinking. Empty wishing helps nobody. Learning about each other, however…”

She shifts again, and she is close enough that her warm floral scent wafts towards him as she tucks her feet up beneath her before driving her point home. “The more we learn about each other, the better off we all are. I agree with you that ignorance is a problem. But we’ll only keep being ignorant if we don’t try to talk to each other. Going backwards isn’t an option. Learning how to make things better with the hand we’ve been dealt, that’s the way forward. Not just for the Dalish and for the elves, but for everyone.”

Solas stares at her dumbly, all thoughts of devil’s advocacy and humour gone from his mind. She makes a compelling argument. It’s a point that he himself would have argued for in decades past, before he learned that most people simply do not listen.

He swallows hard, unable to speak. He can’t tell her his hidden truth, but suddenly he wonders what she would say if she knew. Would she maintain her current stance? Or would she understand why he has to do what must be done?

He truly isn’t certain. Elia Lavellan is unlike anyone he’s met in this new world, and he’s genuinely surprised to find that he wants to know what she would think. Her opinion wouldn’t change his mind - he has a responsibility to fix the mistakes he’s made, and halam’shivanas is not something that can be cast aside - but this doesn’t stop him from wondering what her opinion would be.

He struggles to respond. She’s watching him with growing curiosity with every silent second that ticks by, and finally he seizes upon the lamest kind of response: weak humour. “Are you certain that you are Dalish?” he says.

A slow smile lights her lovely face, and she laughs. “I am, I promise,” she chuckles. “But there’s a reason I volunteered to spy on the Conclave. We can’t make proper decisions unless we have as much information as possible about the situation.”

Solas continues to stare at her. This young Dalish woman, this da’len, shines with intellect and optimism and everything his hardened heart has missed for so many centuries. She steals his breath and his heart and his very wits, and he can’t think. After that first impulsive kiss in the Fade, he meant to keep her an arm’s length away, to maintain a certain distance between them, but he realizes now that he’s failed quite spectacularly.

The smile fades from her face as she gazes into his eyes, and her cheeks pinken as he continues to say nothing. Finally she drops her eyes and bites her lip. “Um-”

He leans in and kisses her.

For the first time in many years - uncounted years, centuries - passion overwhelms his cool logic. It happens in the blink of an eye; one moment he’s staring at her like a lovesick felasil, and the next moment his hand is on her neck, his other arm around her waist and pulling her close as he savours her rosy lips.

She wraps her arms around his neck in an uninhibited embrace, and something inside of him relaxes. Elia returns his kiss with a zeal that matches his own, and as she slides closer to him and straddles his lap, he realizes that beneath his mindless burning of desire, he’s relieved at her easy acceptance. He’d meant it when he told her that such things were easier for him in the Fade, where he feels most at home. Here in this tranquil world, he’s unshielded and vulnerable without the familiar malleability of the dream. But this moment - Elia in his arms and her grounding heat on his lap - this is the first time something in this world has felt truly comfortable and tangible and real. The feel of her mouth, the curves of her waist under his exploring fingers, this is real - so real - too real.

Abruptly he breaks the kiss, and Elia blinks in a haze of confusion and desire. “Is something wrong?” she whispers huskily.

Yes, he thinks. He shouldn’t do this. It’s not fair to either of them. He had told her he would carefully consider the delicacy of becoming her paramour, but he delayed thinking about it, knowing what the logical response should be and not wanting to face it: that he should not let their warm complicity go any further than friends.

But Elia disarms him. She is an accomplished young mage and skilled with a staff, but her truest and sharpest weapon is her mind. Without even knowing it, she’s used it to bring him to his knees.

He shakes his head, but he can’t stop himself from sliding his hands from her waist to smooth along her thighs. “It’s not right,” he says. “It would be best for us both if we remain professional.”

Elia tips his chin up to look into his eyes, and the look on her face is so knowing that suddenly Solas feels like the young one. “Have you been listening to a word I said?” she replies. “There’s no such thing as going backwards. There’s only moving forward now.”

A tiny smile lifts the corner of her mouth, and he helplessly traces the curve of her lip with his thumb. She’s snared him with her teasing and her logic, and who is he to ignore a cogent argument?

He kisses her even more enthusiastically than before, and Elia responds in kind, grazing his scalp with her nails and running her tongue along his lower lip. He slides his hands along the fine curve of her back and grips her hips, unable to stop himself from lifting his hips up and into hers.

A soft whimper of want ghosts from her lips, and a vague part of his mind recognizes that they should leave the rotunda for somewhere more private; in the standards of today’s people, their activity is unseemly and exposed, and anyone could be watching. But as Elia curves into him, her breasts pressing against his chest, he can’t pretend to care.

Elia is nothing if not considerate of others, however, and after another glorious and too-short moment of necking, she leans away and cradles his neck in her hands. He watches her throat bobbing as she swallows hard. “Solas...” she whispers, then bites her lower lip nervously.

He knows what she’s about to ask; it’s clear from her needy panting, the nervousness with which she absently rubs the cord of his necklace between her fingers. He tries to brace himself, to summon the power to turn down the request he knows is coming, but his mind is filled with the comforting heat of her thighs through their clothing, the reassuring weight of her body pressed against his own…

She runs a nervous hand through her hair before lifting her chin to look him in the face. “Come up to my quarters?” she murmurs.

He swallows hard. I can’t, he thinks. It’s not fair to either of them. He knows what is coming at the end of all this, and he must curtail any needless grief and pain. It’s the right thing to do in a mess of wrongness and things not-meant-to-be. But Elia’s hand is on his neck, and her eyes are limpid pools of anticipation, and she’s the most vivid and magical and real thing he’s seen in this entire world.

I can’t. I can’t, he thinks insistently. It’s his last chance to refuse her. He has to say no. He must.

He reaches up and cradles her chin in his fingers. “Lead the way, Inquisitor,” he says.

She smiles brilliantly, and her fingers relax on his shoulder. “For a moment I thought you were going to turn me down,” she quips.

Solas can’t speak. The words clamouring on his tongue are a confusing jumble of refusals and preemptive apologies and heartfelt confessions, and he can’t release any of them. Instead, he lifts his chin and tastes her lips again.

Her hands slide down his chest towards his abdomen, and she captures his lower lip between her own. With every delicate flick of her tongue, every languorous pull from her luscious mouth, he becomes more lost in her, his guilt drifting apart like a defeated demon as she stokes his lust with the sultry heat of her mouth.

Suddenly she nips his lower lip with her teeth, then slides swiftly from his lap. “Come on then,” she says. She throws him a coquettish glance over her shoulder, and the roar of hunger in his groin paralyzes him for a split second. Then he’s standing and following the hypnotizing sway of her hips towards the door.

They make their way through the great hall, and he can’t keep his hands to himself. His palm drifts over the small of her back and lower, his fingers tracing the length of her arm until she captures his hand and laces her fingers with his, and he can’t resist leaning in to taste the warmth of her neck just behind her delicately pointed ear.

She inhales sharply through her nose and presses her lips together hard, and Solas grins at her attempt at control. But as they approach the throne, something odd makes its way through the fog of lust that clouds his mind: nobody is looking at them. It’s late afternoon, and the great hall is bustling with people, yet nobody pays them any attention.

He almost laughs out loud when he realizes why, but he doesn’t want to distract her. So he remains quiet until Elia opens the door to her quarters and leads him up the stairs to her suite.

Once they step into her bedroom, she exhales quietly and releases his hand, and Solas turns to her. “You hid us from sight,” he says, amused.

It is not a question, but she answers anyway. “Yes,” she says. “Just a weak kind of fade-cloak, I suppose you could say. I thought you might prefer privacy - I know you don’t like too much attention. I’ve never extended that kind of magic to another person, though. I hope it worked.”

His amusement fades into an aching affection as he studies her solemn expression. Even with the raging lust between them, Elia had the presence of mind to shield them from view with his feelings in mind.

He steps close to her and tilts her chin up. “It was perfect,” he tells her. “You are perfect.”

She exhales a breathless laugh and ducks her head shyly, but he cups her face in his hands and gazes at her seriously. “Elia,” he says softly. “You walk these halls as humbly as a servant, yet you hold the very fate of this organization in your hands.”

She frowns slightly. “Is that a bad thing? You think I should be… proud? Arrogant?”

“No,” he says emphatically. “Quite the contrary. Your humility is refreshing. It is surprising in one who has been handed such power. I…” He trails off, fearing that he’ll say too much. There is so much he cannot tell her, but the one truth that he can offer, the one that’s been steadily growing in his heart during the months he’s spent in her company, is too much of a weapon. Elia is vulnerable in ways she doesn’t realize; her openness is her greatest strength but also her greatest weakness, and as she gazes at him with her heart in her eyes, he realizes he cannot speak the truth of his own heart. It will hurt her too much in the end.

He shakes his head slightly. “You are perfect,” he says instead, and pulls her in for another kiss.

Their embrace is soft and tender this time, a slow and leisurely kiss that reminds him ever more forcefully of the dreamlike pleasure of the Fade, and desire resumes its slow simmer in his blood as she presses herself against him and traces his neck with her fingers.

He pulls her clothing away piece by piece, and all the while their lips never part. He licks the plumpness of her lower lip as he undoes her belt. She pulls her gloves off and shucks her coat, then slides her tongue against his as he untwines her scarf. He reluctantly releases her lips to pull her blouse over her head, then pushes her back on the bed with an insistent hand on her hip.

She leans back on her elbows, her eyes hot and fixed on his face, and he peruses her half-nude form with unconcealed appreciation. Her skin glows in the half-light of late afternoon, the dusky peaks of her nipples like the finest garnish for the ivory of her skin, and Solas simply stares.

Eventually Elia shifts awkwardly and sits forward, and he realizes he’s been gazing at her for far longer than the average mortal probably would. Indeed, her words reinforce his hypothesis. “What are you looking at?” she asks self-consciously.

He smiles fondly at her nerves. “I should think it obvious,” he replies gently. He steps towards the bed and slowly unbuttons her trousers. “Forgive me,” he whispers. “It has been a very long time. I’m afraid my wits are no match for the sight of your body bared.”

She releases a breathless laugh as he gently tugs her trousers and smallclothes away. “Sweet talker,” she quips, and he smiles at the reminder of their first kiss in the Fade.

He takes a small step back and drinks her in. She’s long and lean as their people tend to be, but there’s something about her, about this particular Dalish woman, that nearly brings him to his knees. With unabashed longing he eyes her delicate collarbones, the peaks of her breasts, the jutting angle of her hip and the midnight curls between her legs. She’s already slick with arousal, the sheen between her legs highlighted in the half-light, and he swallows a rush of saliva at the thought of tasting her.

Suddenly she speaks, and her voice is quiet but authoritative. “Take off your clothes.”

He lifts his eyes to her face in surprise, even as her bold demand strikes a breathless bolt of lust into his belly. “Excuse me?” he manages.

Her eyes are heavy with heated intent, and a mischievous smirk lifts the corner of her lips. She takes a sinuous step toward him and trails her fingers over his belt. “You heard me. Take off your clothes. There’s something we need to take care of.”

He’s uncertain about what exactly she means, but his hands are already eagerly obeying her command; his belt hits the ground with a clatter, and he pulls his necklace and tunic over his head as she unties the laces of his breeches. Soon he’s as naked as she, and he waits with feverish anticipation to find out what she has in mind.

Then Elia drops to her knees and runs her hands up his thighs, and before Solas can express surprise or appreciation or anything at all, she takes the hard length of his cock all the way into her throat.

He gasps with shock and delight. Her mouth is hot and wet and perfect, and the sudden rush of pleasure is so overwhelming that his vision goes black for a moment. Elia rises high on her knees and angles her head slightly to take him even deeper, and he groans in ecstasy as she squeezes the head of his cock with the muscles of her throat.

She slides one hand between his legs and caresses his balls, and almost instantly he feels his climax roiling and rising. It’s too soon, though, far too soon to be fair, and he’s almost offended by his weakened body’s inability to spin out its own pleasure for longer.

He grits his teeth and tries to delay his climax with slow meditative breaths, but it’s no good; the exercises hold his orgasm back as successfully as a thread would tie down a rabid wolf, and all at once he bursts, emptying his release into Elia’s willing mouth. She suckles him for a few long, delicious moments more, then pulls away.

Abruptly Solas hits the ground on his knees, gasping and shuddering from the aftershocks of his pleasure, and Elia graces him with a cheeky smile. “There,” she says smugly. “Now that that’s out of the way, we can take our time.”

He eyes her complacent expression, then starts to laugh. She’s usually so modest and unassuming, and her boldness in this realm is unexpected and marvelous. He slides toward her and cradles her neck in his palm. “Take our time, you say? And how much time does our bold Inquisitor have in mind?”

“We have all night,” she purrs as he strokes her jawline with his thumb. “I’ll take all the time you can give me.”

Her choice of words is innocent, but a surge of regret strikes him low for a moment. Their affair has barely begun, but already it is fated to end, and Elia has no idea. Already Solas knows that their inevitable parting will be agonizing, and any measures he takes to lessen the pain will be palliative at best.

He hopelessly studies the clear turquoise of her eyes. If their time is limited, he refuses to waste another moment of it.

He stands and tugs her to her feet, then pulls her body flush to his and kisses her hard. Her skin is hot and smooth and perfect, and he relishes in the feel of her, the firm solidity of her body against his own and her tongue in his mouth.

Elia grips his back with insistent hands and presses her groin against his thigh, and a flare of hunger lights his belly at the feel of her enticing wetness. He cups her bottom with one hand and pulls her more firmly against his leg, and she abruptly breaks their kiss with a moan.

Her sharp breaths waft across his cheek, and her nails dig into his hips as she grinds against his thigh. Her passion is urgent and blunt, a wholehearted and hedonistic roar that almost has a life of its own, and he marvels at how strange and new this feels. Solas may appear as a relatively young man, but he is neither of those things, not truly; he has had his share of lovers in the Fade, of flesh and spirit both, and he is well-versed in the lazy flow of pleasure when faced with an infinite river of time. But he is slowly realizing there is something unique and quite exquisite about the art of love in this weakened form. He is not truly mortal, but with Elia’s arching body enfolded in his arms, he feels so very unequivocally and mortally alive.

She whimpers pleadingly against his lips, so eager now that she is practically riding his thigh, and Solas decides it’s past time to give her some of the pleasure she’s so enthusiastically searching for. Abruptly he lifts her up, then falls onto the bed with his Dalish lover beneath him. Elia immediately arches up toward him, her nipples insistently brushing his chest. Her body is a lovely play of contrasts, her dusky nipples juxtaposed with the soft creamy swell of her petite breasts, and Solas is more than eager to taste every multifaceted inch of her.

He nips her lips, then gently but firmly turns her head to the side and nibbles her fragrant neck just below her ear. She keens with rapture and lifts her hips pleadingly, and Solas makes a mental note of this particular spot on her neck. Already he knows he will spend countless hours teasing this tender little patch of flesh in order to make her sing her desire.

With utmost care and devotion, he trails his mouth over the landscape of her body, his tongue tracing the curve of her collarbone, the smooth path of her sternum, the exquisite swell of her breast. She arches into his mouth as he tugs at her nipple with his lips. “Yes, gods, please,” she gasps, then gasps more desperately still as he abandons her breast and slides lower, his lips drifting lightly over her belly to kiss her navel, the angle of her hips, the upper edges of her raven-black curls.

He pauses and admires her pussy with all the hunger of a starving man. Her labia are plump and slick, her inner thighs shining with evidence of her ravenous need, and his mouth is watering already. Without wasting another minute, he lowers his mouth to the juncture of her thighs and slicks his tongue over her coyly hooded clit.

She is veniras’thai, the perfect balance of salty musk and sweetness. Elia cries out, a sharp cry of delight, and her fingers clench in the sheets. Solas reaches up to take her hand, and she grips his fingers tightly as he devours her, his tongue delving into her sweet cleft and sliding lightly around her perfect tiny nub.

As he pleasures her with his tongue, he listens carefully to the sound of her bliss. She moans fitfully as he slides the flat of his tongue across her clit, then pants with eager longing as he strokes his lower lip along the sensitive folds of her labia, and all of it is a symphony. She is uninhibited and vocal, a most intriguing contrast with her careful quiet in matters of the Inquisition, and Solas can’t decide whether he most enjoys the sound of her pleasure or its taste.

Elia’s rapture finds her sooner than he would like. Her climax pulls a beautiful keening from the depths of her throat as she arches her back and thrusts her hips against his mouth, but Solas isn’t finished, not by far. As she shudders and gasps her pleasure, he slides two fingers into her wet heat and curls his fingers slowly.

She throws her head back against the pillows and cries out. Her nails gouge crescents into his wrist as she thrusts her hips against his other hand, and he accepts the flare of pain as his just due. With every moment they spend in this bed and every inch of her body that he masters, he knows he’s making this harder for them both, and some self-flagellating part of him accepts her mindless scratches as punishment.

He lowers his mouth to her pussy again and brushes his lower lip lightly over her clit, and his fingers slow to a careful swirling stroke inside of her. The muscles of her belly go tense beneath their joined hands, and he diligently savours the sweet little bud of her pleasure until she releases a wild cry of pleasure.

“Solas, please!” she sobs, her hand pulling pleadingly on his own, and finally Solas rises over her, penning her between his forearms as he settles between the sweetness of her legs.

He gently nuzzles her cheekbone. “What would you have of me?” he purrs.

She grasps his face in her hands, and he’s surprised by the seriousness of her expression despite the passionate flush of her cheeks. “All of you,” she tells him breathlessly. “I would have everything.”

Her answer is heartfelt and free of guile, and as he returns her aquamarine stare, he can feel his heart breaking in his chest.

She jerks her hips pleadingly towards his, and a perverse spear of lust strikes his belly as the hot wetness of her pussy grazes his cock. “I want you,” she pleads. “I just want you. Right now. Please!”

Her plea is reckless and candid, and Solas gives in: he slides into her welcoming heat with one long smooth stroke.

An uninhibited groan of bliss escapes his throat, and Elia mewls with rapture and tightly wraps her arms around him. She presses her lips to his shoulder, and he buries his face against her neck. Elia envelops him in every sense of the word: her perfect scent of sweat and sweetness fills his nostrils and steals his breath, and her tight embrace grounds him while her tight heat lifts him into the heights of pleasure. She’s an endless pool of passion and logic and playfulness and reason, and he’s so thoroughly wrapped in her that he feels like he could drown.

She lifts her hips eagerly, a wordless demand for more, and Solas slowly withdraws, then flexes his hips to meet her.

“More,” she begs. “I want more.”

He smiles despite the bittersweet ache in his chest. He withdraws slowly, taking her yearning whimper along with him. “Patience, Inquisitor. We have all night, do we not?”

She gasps out a pleading whine as he slowly gives her his cock again. “Yes, but…” She breaks off breathlessly as he pulls out of her heat, then pauses teasingly.

She arches her back and whines with frustration. “Damn it, Solas, Fen’Harel take you!” she cries, and his heart almost stops.

It’s a foolish Dalish curse, nothing more, and he must react as such. He forces himself to breathe normally, then pulls away slightly from her embrace and slowly thrusts into her. He lowers his mouth to her ear. “Am I so terrible, that the Dread Wolf should steal me from your grasp?”

She shakes her head furiously, her hips sinuously rising up to meet his cock. “No,” she gasps. “Not terrible. You could never be terrible. You’re… I… Solas, I…”

She trails off and bites her lip, her eyes feverish with a feeling that's deeper than simple lust. Her marked left hand grips his neck, and his feeble attempt at lightheartedness quails. She’s wrong: he is terrible, no matter that he never meant to be. He’s made choices that have torn the world apart, and the choice he’s making now will tear something just as infinitely precious. But as he gazes at the unshielded adoration in her eyes, as he feels his heart pounding and the burn of undeniable emotion at the back of his throat, he can’t bring himself to regret this.

This joining, this entanglement of souls and spirits, it cannot last. He knew that from the moment she first kissed him in the Fade. But Elia is real, the only real thing he’s encountered in this world, and he knows without a doubt that he’ll cherish her for every moment that this finite world can provide.

Finally he gives her what she’s begging for: he drives into her with every ounce of conviction in his heart.

Yes!” she wails, and all at once they’re fucking with the ferocity of wild beasts. He grasps her bottom with one hand and drags her hips forcibly against his own, and her nails bite into his arms in the heat of their lust. Their skin slaps together with the satisfying crashing of their passion, and he roughly nuzzles her neck, then bites that tender secret spot just beneath her ear.

She arches viciously into his body and screams his name, and the intensity of her passion is like a spell, lighting his frenzied lust into a blazing inferno. He pants desperately against her neck, heedless of the marks his teeth are going to leave, then he gasps and cries out as his climax pours over him in a rush of mind-numbing ecstasy.

She clasps his shoulders close, her lips light and gentle against his ear as he shudders in the wake of his orgasm. Her fingers leisurely stroke his skin, and his racing heart gradually slows to a deep, contented beat under the comforting influence of her touch. He lifts himself slightly and pushes her sweat-dampened bangs away from her forehead, then gently kisses the salt of her lips.

They lie together for time uncounted, their limbs tangled together and their lips meeting with butterfly-light kisses as the evening’s waning sun gives way to the sprinkling of stars. Eventually Elia begins to shiver, and Solas solicitously pulls the blankets up to cover her chilly skin.

She smiles at him, her lips soft and cheeky. “Are you trying to hide me?”

He pulls the sheets down playfully to eye her nakedness. She laughs and slides closer to him, and he wraps his arm around her. “I would hide you only for selfish greed,” he murmurs. “I do not wish to share your nakedness with anyone else.”

She chuckles, her hand rising up to stroke his neck. “That’s more than fair.”

Solas gazes at her seriously, his humour fading as he recalls something he meant to address earlier this evening. “As we are on the topic of hiding…” He strokes her cheek with his thumb. “Your fade-cloak was a beautiful display of magic, but you need never hide us from sight. I am not afraid to be seen with you.”

She lowers her gaze shyly, but a smile lights her lips all the same. “All right,” she murmurs. “I just thought, since you’re so private…”

He shakes his head in a gentle negation. “I prefer my privacy, yes. But this is something I am happy to share.” He gives her a mischievous half-smile. “Besides, Skyhold is a small castle with large ears. We will be discovered sooner than later. I am sure a certain Tevinter mage would waste no time in sharing the news with anyone who would listen.”

Elia snorts indelicately and pinches his earlobe. “That’s why you want to go public? Because gossips will find out eventually anyway?”

He smiles, but shakes his head again. “No,” he says firmly. “It is because I am proud, vhenan. I am proud to be seen with you. Never question that.”

Her eyes widen at the endearment, her cheeks pinkening with pleasure, and Solas holds her gaze steadily. She may only know that he called her a term of affection between lovers, but he knows the full gravity of his words. It is no accident that he called her his home and his heart. He’ll give as much of himself as he can for whatever fleeting time that this world survives, and as long as she returns his love, he won’t be alone.

There’s no such thing as going backwards, Elia said. As they nestle together in the tangle of her sheets, Solas decides that he will follow her wisdom in this. They’re bound together now, her body wrapped around him and her delicate hands cradling his ancient shielded heart, and there is no going back.