Their cottage lies nestled between towering trees and underneath shimmering canopies. It is quiet, it is remote, and it is surrounded by wards and glyphs that dilute the sounds of life after war. The village is not far, just on the other side of the brook where the forest trails into rolling meadow. They know, but they keep their suspicions to whispers in exchange for the healing services of a god.
There are many that were not satisfied when the dust settled. There are many that dream of stumbling upon this forest, this tentative home, and burning it to the ground. There are many that seek a sort of closure for things he took but cannot give back. She knows his wards are impenetrable, but she still flinches at the sound of cracking twigs or scraping branches outside her window, she cannot lose him, not again.
It is not perfect, but she loves him.
Josephine used to braid her hair every morning. Every morning after that first morning she found her, just days later, barely healed, wooden hairbrush surrounded in glass below a now-shattered mirror, ribbon between her teeth, tears in her eyes. She did not say a word, just picked the brush up off the floor and ran it through tangled blonde hair that, at some point, had lost its shine.
She tries one last time, to braid and tie with one hand. She will not ask him. She does not ask him, she just stares into his eyes through the mirror when he walks in to see her sitting in front of her reflection. She stares into his eyes when she takes a knife to the same strands he had run his bloody hands through so many times and holds his gaze as they float like feathers to the floor around her feet. All that remains reaches down only a little past her chin. It is severe. It suits her.
She loves him.
They are packing their things for a trip to Orlais when she empties out a long-abandoned satchel, the leather worn, and still smelling of elfroot and ash. A light purple, cylindrical crystal clatters to the floor at her feet, and she feels her skin tingle - then go numb. She reaches out slowly, straight-faced, jaw clenched but hand trembling, and taps the crystal, once, twice. She knows what will happen. It lights up, it glows, the other side is silent.
When she turns over her shoulder and throws the glowing thing as hard as she can against the wall opposite her, a scream ripping open her throat, he is standing in the doorway, wearing the same expression she has seen so many times. She is sick of it. The crystal slams into the wall. It does not shatter.
It is not perfect.
Her belly swells, and she will never say it, but she is glad she is no longer alone. He waits on her hand and foot, cannot stop touching her, caresses and desperate contact. He hums to it, sings to it, she tells him it can’t understand him. He asks her to stop calling it “it”.
The village dissolves into absolute chaos when Divine Victoria walks into town to procure some herbs. She isn’t the Divine anymore, not when there’s no Chantry to lead and no Maker to pray to. She is just Leliana, right now, but she has a sort of presence that precedes her. Some of them still remember, before, when God stayed in his sky. “I'm finally going to be an Auntie!” she says with a face-splitting grin and a lilting accent that is foreign here, and practically skips out the apothecary door and into the woods.
She holds his hand with her one, and screams unlike anything he’s ever heard. “Almost there,” Leliana’s rhythmical voice feels out of place between the curses and shrieks that bounce off the wall and ring around in his skull. He has heard many screams, far too many, and never have they made his bones shake like this. He will never tell her how terrifying it was to watch the way her face contorted in pain. He has done it to her before, he doesn’t know if he can watch it again. Her screams end, and a high-pitched cry pierces the forest in its place.
She has her platinum blonde hair and her father’s cool blue-grey eyes. She loves her more than she has ever loved anything. There are so many people she wishes she could meet. She never will.
She loves him.
“Solas.” Her voice cracks so hard she winces. He is there in moments, already scanning the room for any danger, any injury, anything that might rip them away from him once and for all this time.
She is looking at her daughter in her little nest of pink blankets, the tufts of golden hair on her head look like a halo, her eyes are closed. She is glad she can’t see their blue, not right now. She looks at his, instead.
“I can’t pick her up.”
His jaw goes slack, just a little. She can see the guilt weighing down on it, wonders how someone who hasn't aged in ten thousand years can look so old.
“I can hold her. I can’t pick her up. Not with one arm, not without trying to balance her on my forearm but if she moves - If she wiggles I'm gonna drop her I can't – I’m not going to risk dropping her - she’d probably start screaming again anyway because I’d be jostling her so much just to fucking get her to my chest I can’t even fucking pick her-“ She takes a deep breath.
His mouth opens and closes as he tries to find something to say. She wonders if anyone else has ever made the Dread Wolf speechless. He must find something he deems adequate to soothe her because he begins to speak “Vhe-“
“Don’t.” Her eyes are closed and a tear rolls down her bare cheekbone, gliding over freckles but not vallaslin, not anymore. Another loss of many. “Hand me my daughter. Please.”
My. It stings. It’s cruel, she knows it. She wants it to hurt. She wants it to hurt like every time she goes to brush her hair off her shoulder before it meets nothing but air and she remembers it no longer reaches past her chin. She wants it to hurt like every time she runs a finger along the messenger crystal she keeps next to their bed. She wants it to hurt like when she goes to feed her daughter and can’t hold her without fear of dropping her. She wants it to hurt like the loneliness she feels in this stone cottage in the middle of nowhere, when she should be changing the world like she was born to.
She wants it to hurt as bad as loving him does.
He places their daughter in her arm, against her breast. She begins to walk out the door into the kitchen when she stops. He hasn’t moved. He just looks at her, but it’s not the same look he’s given her a thousand times. It’s different, she can see the thousands of years he’s seen and millions of deaths he’s caused etched into every line of his face. She turns back to him and kisses him, softly. The kiss does not linger, and neither does she.
She loves him.
She does not forgive him.