Varric blinked dry eyes and put down the quill, rubbing his cramped hand as he looked around Skyhold’s main hall. It was quiet. The normally crowded area tended to clear out an hour or so past dinner these days and the constant murmuring conversations had faded to nothing now that it was just the two of them.
Mel was asleep on the couch nearby, burrowed in her forest green cowl, book open on her lap. Sleep dropped the stress from her face, smoothed her eyebrows from their perpetual worried kink--the right one with a still healing wound cutting through it, evidence of a recent tangle in Crestwood. It would scar.
She hadn’t fussed over it. Not that he’d expected her to. Melix Trevelyan the rogue who’d run from her noble family and ended up the Herald of Andraste. The woman who was now leader of the Inquisition didn’t let things show on that carved stone face of hers. Not closing rifts, not narrowly avoiding losing an eye, not in Wicked Grace.
But Varric’s trade was stories and watching people came naturally with that. And there were times when Melix Trevelyan’s blue eyes held the shadows of all of Thedas within them.
She didn’t share, even now, six months out from the destruction of Haven, what had happened to her there. Possibly with Curly, with whom she’d struck up an unlikely friendship, but no one else. She didn’t talk about Redcliffe or Haven or Emprise du Lion. Varric had gotten the details of Redcliffe from Dorian, on their way home to Haven. Since then, he clung to the man’s words when his frustration peaked after one too many moments of Mel staring at Cassandra, or Leliana, or him with tears in her eyes but refusing to speak.
The Teviner mage had looked at him with a sad smile and his answer had been quiet, shaking Varric to the bone. “You died,” he said without the slightest hint of sarcasm. “She had to stand and watch or let the whole world fall.”
It explained a lot, actually. Why after Redcliffe Mel threw herself into training and threw herself into fights with a ferocity that even drew an eyebrow from Iron Bull. It explained why she was always first through the door, first into a fight. It explained why she’d stayed behind at Haven--just her, to guard their retreat and distract Corypheus.
It explained why sometimes she put a hand on his forearm, or his shoulder, or his side and dug her fingers in for just a moment, just a moment to reassure herself that he was real.
The noise dragged him back and Varric was out of his seat, crossing to her before his brain caught up. “Mel, hey wake up.” He reached for her and she came up swinging. Varric blocked the first swing, caught the second right in the jaw and muttered a curse as he grabbed for a wrist. “Mel, wake up for me.” The last time this had happened it took Bull and the Chargers to get her under control.
He managed, somehow, to lock up her other arm, but the move overbalanced him and he fell backward, draggin her to the floor. “Mel, shit, come on, wake up.” He hated these dreams. Precious seconds ticked by as his words were lost to the nightmare gripping her. Varric debated--discarded--the idea of headbutting her. The violence would only continue.
She went limp. Thank the Maker.
But then the sobs started and Varric gathered her in, grateful beyond measure the hall was empty. He knew she wouldn’t want anyone to see her like this. “Shhh, it’s okay, you’re okay.” He pressed a kiss to her temple, should have stopped there, but Mel lifted her head and the next one connected with her mouth.
You idiot, Tethras.
There were so many things wrong with this, but he couldn’t seem to get them in order in his scrambled brain and pull away. Her mouth was soft under his and Varric caught her sigh on his tongue as he sank into the kiss. Then he pulled away, staring down into foggy, sleep heavy blue eyes.
“Bad dream, Hero. And sorry. I’m going to owe you a real apology at some point when you’re coherent. Let’s get you up to bed.”
She nodded, still not quite awake and he balanced her with an arm around her hips as they made their way across the hall and up the long staircases to her rooms. He pulled her boots off, caught her coat when she tossed it on the floor and watched her crawl into bed. Ignoring the voice ordering him back down the stairs, Varric pulled the covers up over her and smoothed back a red curl. “Sleep well, Hero. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“M’kay.” She sighed and burrowed. He turned to leave. “Varric?”
“Don’t die again please, I don’t think my heart can take it.”
His own heart couldn’t take the whole of this and for a moment Varric stood in the moonlit room, scrambling for words. “I won’t, Mel, promise.”
You idiot, Tethras.
She was already back to sleep and he had no way of knowing if she’d remember any of this in the morning. But that was a problem for the morning, Varric decided. Right now he was going to the tavern to get drunk with the Chargers.
In the morning he could apologize.
Or you could run, like you always do, the snide voice in his head suggested.
Running it was.
“Morning, Inquisitor. What can I do for you?” Cullen looked up from his desk as Mel walked through the open door. She’d watched the commander of the Inquisition’s forces for a moment before revealing herself, though she suspected he’d known she was there. The man had a talent for knowing everything about the Inquisition and what was happening at Skyhold that rivaled Leliana.
Mel had assumed she’d butt heads with the former templar. He’d wholly embraced the life she’d rejected, after all, and yet--there was a gentleness about the man that put her at ease. Which wasn’t to say they hadn’t butted heads, but their friendship was something she’d come to cherish.
“Have you seen Varric this morning?” She tried to keep the question nonchalant, wandering over to Cullen’s bookshelves. Something like a tremor in her voice must have slipped through though, or maybe it was just Cullen’s preternatural sense of paranoia, because he stopped what he was working on and transferred that focused gaze to her back.
Mel kept her back to him, if she turned now she’d spill the whole silly story of the dream and it seemed to her that the Inquisitor should be above such things. I should have gone to Dorian, she thought with a suppressed sigh. He would have understood the nightmare, teased me about the abrupt shift in the dream to--that, and then it would be off my mind.
Instead her feet had taken her to Varric’s spot in the great hall, which had been empty. Then to his room, also empty.
“He headed out with Bull and the Chargers about an hour ago. They’re making a run to Haven to look for--look over the ruins.”
Cullen blinked when she spun on a heel to face him. “To be honest, Inquisitor, I assumed you would prefer to not go. I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s fine.” She waved a hand, pinched the bridge of her nose, and heard Cullen’s chair scrape against the stone floor as he got up.
“Mel, are you all right?”
“I didn’t sleep well.”
“Bad dreams?” Cullen leaned on the desk so he wasn’t looming over her. That was one of the other things she appreciated. Human though she was, she wasn’t much taller than a dwarf and most people forgot that, or chose to ignore it. Standing too close so she had to tip her head way back to meet their eyes.
Cullen never forgot, not even when he was mad at her.
“Comes with the job, right?” Sarcasm was her refuge, but Cullen didn’t say anything. He simply waited. The man could out patience a mountain. “Redcliffe,” she whispered finally. “Sort of, it was a jumbled mess.”
“Most nightmares are.”
“I don’t want to rehash it. I just wanted to make sure-” The words stuck in her throat and she squeezed her eyes shut. “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to get some breakfast. Do you want to come?”
“For breakfast?” Cullen glanced over his shoulder at the work on his desk.
“I’ll have to sit alone otherwise, you know no one will sit with me. Please, Cullen. When was the last time you ate?”
“Fair point,” he replied, pushing away from his desk with a smile. “Let’s go get breakfast.”
“So, you wanna talk about it?”
Varric looked up as Krem took a seat at the fire next to him. They were camped outside of Haven by silent agreement. No one wanted to camp within the dead town.
“Talk about it?”
“Thought as much.” Krem smiled. “But Bull’s like a mother hen sometimes and when he starts throwing around words like ‘maudlin’ and ‘morose’ I figured I should come check on you before he hurt himself. So--” Krem patted his shoulder. “I’ve got great shoulders for crying on and I promise to only tease you about it when we’re alone.”