Lavellan presses the heels of her hands to her eyes. Three things are abundantly certain, here beneath the great trees said to cover the graves of her people. Three things she would give so much to unknow- the night is long, her face is bare, and she dares not sleep.
Were she home in Skyhold, she'd take to her usual ritual of walking. Over the past weeks she's walked the fortress so many times she could probably do it blindfolded. Ever since her second escape from the Fade, sleep has been difficult. Unfortunately now it's a torment.
From her cot in the tent she can hear pairs of feet moving about the camp. The halting tread of Rainer's boots, still heavy with shame. Cole's delicate pattering that can be mistaken for a million other things and forgotten so quickly. The boots of the Inquisition scouts cover any other footfalls, and that's both a comfort and a torment. She's always listening for one set of footsteps - his. In fact she has since that snowy lane nearly a year ago. Being of the People, it's important to know whether footfalls bring the approach of friend or foe. Yet in all their time together, she's almost never been able to hear his approach till he was upon her.
Tonight the silence cuts even closer. It's hard to pinpoint exactly how she feels, and it would be harder still to speak of it to him. Thankfully he won't discuss it with her, even though she knows she begged quite pitifully. Perhaps that's what hurts most, the not being able to understand. If she could but understand his reasoning. But she can't, and he's closed himself off again.
She wants him close, and tells herself that he won't be able to sneak up on her if she has him under her eye. It's a lie, and a pathetic one. His nearness hurts worse than anything this world or the Fade has done to her. Yet she'd rather feel that than the yawing emptiness of his absence.
And therein lies the true stink of it. Nightmares aside, she's afraid to sleep with him so near. Their sleeping minds have met so many times within the Fade. Their sojourns kept the worst of Adamant's nightmares at bay. She's asked him endless questions and he's done his best to show her the way he sees the Fade.
Since the Arbor Wilds she's tried so hard to avoid him there; for all the good such effort has done her. Their minds are too connected, and more often than not their spirts brush against each other. The contact bringing fresh pain each time. She doesn't want to count the number of times she's clawed herself back to wakefulness and found her pillow sodden with tears spilled from sleeping eyes.
Thus she had begun walking- about her chamber, through the garden, and out along the battlements. Her advisers no longer comment on her nightly activities and work late hours to accommodate her. Only here such antics aren't an option. Here in the field she needs to sleep at sundown and be ready to move with the dawn. She gnaws at her lip- the night is long, her face is bare, and sleep will do more harm than good.
Finally she can stand the stifling confines of her tent no longer. A breeze kicks through the camp as she emerges and nods to the few who make eye contact with her. She turns and heads for the darkness beyond the fire. She's just past an enormous trunk when a sound stops her.
Lavellan knows even the darkness won't be able to hide her flinch. The face she turns to him is bare, blank and naked as if she were a da'len. She's a mess of regret, hurt and shame with equal measures for him and her alike. She tries to keep her expression from either accusing or begging. But her face hasn't felt right since that night and it’s impossible to keep it neutral now.
"Inquisitor," he says courteous and dignified down to the ground.
For a heartbeat she wonders if he'll say something about the folly of going into the forest at night. Of how she should take greater care of her safety. It's what so many of the others would say. Instead he holds out a hand, offering her something. Her eyes are wary, but she glances at it just the same.
He's holding a small paper packet. Like the kind her people use to keep dried herbs. She cuts her gaze back to his eyes. His face.... his beautiful face ... it's so calm and controlled. She'd call it expressionless if it weren't for his eyes. Creators pity her; it hurts everything inside her to look at them. His eyes that once gazed on her with such delight; but in this moment, he looks sad and as broken as she. His offering is between them and she can't decide whether to take it or turn away herself.
"To sleep without dreaming," he finally says and his voice is rather unsteady.
She swallows thickly, trying to banish the lump in her throat. She sees his eyes track the motion and something spikes across his face. At last she takes the packet and nods her thanks. She dare not open her mouth, too terrified of what will surely come pouring out. She also finds she can't move, and can't watch him walk away again. Instead she closes her eyes before the tears can come.
Here in the silence beneath the great trees, she is finally able to hear his footsteps as they depart. And she swallows thickly on a sob before she turns and continues her way into the darkness. The night is long, her face is bare, but perhaps she may yet find rest.
Solas has to curb the desire to reach up and strike his own face. What a stupid, selfish creature he is! His face may be impassive, but he is screaming at himself. Each time he spies her in the Fade a bit of his resolve falters. He is a fool, her face is bare, and both their hearts are broken.
Since he denied her last plea for understanding, she comes no more to the painted chamber. The room practically thunders with her absence. And he wonders if it would hurt less to be alone once again. Or if the worse pain is to be so very close, and still so far from her.
He hates the way her face, by all the spirits of the Fade her beautiful face, is now more branded with pain than it ever was with ink. All he ever seems to do is cause her pain, but he could not keep himself from her then, nor now. He chose the sweet sacrifice of duty, but that hasn't stopped his aching for her.
More than once he's wavered, nearly blurted the whole truth to her. Who knows, she might even understand. Considering everything he knows of her, she might even offer to help. But this is his burden; he can't lay the weight upon her even if she joyfully offered to shoulder it with him. Still, he's tempted every other heartbeat.
She continues on into the darkness, and he follows silently at a distance. She is still the Inquisitor, and still his vehnan. Her people were right- once caught, he’ll never be able to lose her. He knows he'll always be watching her; whether in this world or the Fade. She twirls the packet through her fingers, faster and faster so it becomes something of a blur in the darkness. The spirits can only guess what thoughts occupy her mind, but her pace is easy, almost aimless.
At last she stops and blanches, as if emerging from a trance and surprised at her surroundings. Moonlight slices through the canopy, bathing the statue in light so bright it glows. Even rendered in stone there is something very life-like about the wolf. Though lying in repose, it looks as though it might leap up and bound into the darkness at any moment.
She's frozen, like prey before the hunter. He knows the Dalish see all wolves as Fen'Haral and he frowns slightly. After a few heartbeats her shoulders slump, perhaps even in relief. The statue is not the Dread Wolf come upon her. No doubt she thinks herself safe, and she draws closer until she kneels before the carving.
He wants to call to her, to know what thoughts are guiding her at this moment. But it's his turn to freeze as she bows her head in veneration. Any one of the People would tell her to be wary, to show reverence but never draw near the big bad wolf.
"Did you lead my feet here, Dread Lord? I don't remember choosing this road."
He holds his breath, hand to mouth, afraid he'll make some sound and the moment will shatter. She makes a noise in her throat, like a soft laugh.
"Would it matter if I chose? You lay your paths so cunning, I'd never know." Another beat of silence. “Is there any point to asking why you sent for me?”
He lingers in the shadows ‘neath the trees, and he fights himself to stay put. Everything inside of him is straining to go to her, to answer her every question. She sees far more clearly than any other. Something in her knows, of that he’s certain. And he is coward enough to know he won’t be able to bear the horror in her eyes when all his secrets are laid bare.
Her fingers brush her cheeks, a new self-conscious gesture. "By your leave, Dread One, somehow I think sleep will be easier here." He bites down on the yelp of surprise when she settles herself between the beast’s paws.
She even waits a moment, as if expecting a reply. Instead the breeze answers and she huddles further into the niche as she twirls the packet through her fingers once more. Fire suddenly blooms in her hand and she shakes the herbs into the blaze, inhaling their essence. It is only a few heartbeats before sleep takes her and she lolls back into the stone arms of her protector.
Only then does he approach, with nearly the same reverence as she. He kneels before the sleeping woman and very gently he feathers his fingertips across space where slave brands once marked her. “Did you choose emma lath? I was caught in the snare as well. It never felt like a choice, but as natural as breathing. Will you never cease to surprise me?" He leans close, her breath fans his own cheeks. "Na vehnan ma vehnas" he whispers, savoring the thought that he’ll never be free again.
She is pliant when he pulls her from the cold stone to his arms. And like the selfish creature he is, he holds her close and guards her sleep through the long hours, just as she asked. As the moon tracks across the sky at least three things are clear. The night is long, her face is bare, and he is a fool beyond reckoning.