"I'm surprised you aren't at the seminar."
Solas looked up from his computer. It was rare that Vivienne came to his office. As a junior lecturer with inferior credentials and prominent ears, they had shoved him in a glorified broom cupboard in the coldest corner of the department.
"Did we have a visiting speaker today? I did not receive an email."
"Oh, not us, darling. The physics department. I know you have your little interests. This one, I hear, has quite some strange ideas about the veil."
Vivienne gave him the details of the seminar. If he left now, he might even be early enough to grab a good seat. The physics department always had superior snacks compared to the art history department.
Encountering the Dean of the Graduate School was a surprise, at least on his part. She seemed to be waiting for him.
"I had hoped you would attend this lecture, Professor."
He poured himself some coffee. "Are you interested in physics as well, Leliana? I have not seen you at other seminars."
"No, my interest here is in the speaker. The topic is a bit over my head. But recruiting talented students with unorthodox ideas who might otherwise have been overlooked... this I can do."
The speaker was an elf, then. Leliana had been on a warpath to integrate the university since her appointment.
"I think you will like this talk, professor. Cassandra tells me her theories are quite... unusual. And of course, it would change how we understand history."
Solas froze. He had a sinking feeling in his stomach. He kept his tone light with the Dean. "I look forward to fresh ideas."
He kept his head down as he took his seat. He studied his coffee. Over a thousand years and all the technology to improve and change how it was consumed, and it was still bitter and unpleasant. He was growing more certain of what he would see when he looked up. Of who he would see. He stirred in another packet of sugar. Dr. Pentaghast introduced the speaker, and he allowed himself to look up. There she was. Vhenan. He wondered what her name was this time. A theoretical physicist. All this time and she could still surprise him. He struggled to focus on her presentation. Instead he was wondering what drove her to choose Mythal's vallaslin this life, what scars she had and how she got them, and how she would humble him this time. He stared at his coffee so as not to stare at her. He would have liked to ask her a question at the end, let her know that her theories were well-delivered and well-received, but he couldn't think of something to say. Thankfully, others in the audience had paid attention to her actual words. He saw Dorian eagerly raising his hand.
Instead, Solas approached her after the seminar as students and faculty filed out. "Your theories on the veil are fascinating." He still hadn't caught her first name.
She pushed her hair behind her ears. She wore it long this life. "Ah, well, I'm afraid I'm considered something of a heretic. It was a nice crowd today, though. I normally get more aggressive questions." She smiled at him. "I didn't know there were any elves in the physics department, Doctor..."
"Professor. Solas. And I'm afraid I'm not in the physics department."
"Oh! Maths then."
Her smile went brittle. "Well. I guess I knew there would be a number of people in the audience here to gawk at the tattooed elf talking physics. If you'll excuse me, professor, I have a number of meetings this afternoon."
Solas could have laughed as she walked away from him. Without fail, he always managed to offend her during their first meeting. He watched her cross the room to Cassandra and Dorian. More of the Inquisition had converged in one place than he'd seen in ages. He'd have to probe Varric to see how many others there were.
"We're trying to convince her to move here," Leliana was at his side again. "It's not standard for graduate students to transfer schools like this, but her adviser agrees that she would have far more opportunities at the University of Orlais than at Wycome."
"And you wanted her to see that there are elven professors here. You recruited Vivienne to encourage me today." Leliana simply smiled. "I'm afraid I might not have had the effect intended."
"Perhaps. But I would not be so sure." Leliana frowned. "Her test scores and undergrad work put her among the top students in her field. But she did not even apply to our university. Had the last dean been worth his salt, he would have been out recruiting talent instead of sucking up to old families. Diversity of background breeds diversity of thought."
Solas hummed to himself. "I think your schemes will bear fruit, Leliana. I have a feeling she will be transferring here."
"I am glad you think so. Getting Cassandra to agree to take her on as a student required far more effort than I am willing to waste."
Solas walked slowly across campus back to his office. He always missed her when she was gone. But he wasn't certain he was ready to face another new Lavellan, to start their cycle again. He could leave. There were always half a dozen ways to escape whatever life he was inhabiting. Taking a position at such a high profile university had been a foolish risk to begin with. He could leave. But he knew he wouldn't.