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“You don’t want the earring? You don’t get the earring. Very simple.”

And then the assassin had huffed off, leaving Theron more confused than ever, his heart crumbling a little. Still shell-shocked, the Warden did what he always did when he needed advice - seek out Wynne. The senior enchanter reminded him so much of his Ashalle, with her nurturing sageness. She saw his approach, and let him into her tent.

“I know that look.” Wynne gave him a comforting smile. The elf paused, looking up in surprise. “I was an advisor to many young mages. I know someone troubled by affairs of the heart when I see it.” Sensing his need for calm, she added, “I’ve a kettle of hot water from the fire. Would you like a cup of herbal tea?”

Theron nodded mutely. Soon, she set a mug of steaming tea in front of him, and a glass of wine for herself. It was going to be one of those nights, she could tell.

“Now, what’s on your mind?”

The Warden cupped his hands around his mug, then began to relay what had just happened, between him and his lover.

“I only asked if it was a token of affection, and he started backtracking faster than a frightened halla! And then he called me frustrating! Does he not understand the weight of giving such a symbolic bonding gift?” The Dalish elf set his mug down a little too firmly, and tea slopped over the side. “It is the spoils from his first successful hunt! He told me so! Remember Cammen, who wanted to bring the object of his affections a wolf pelt, to prove to Gheyna he was a hunter worthy of her lifelong companionship? We Dalish do not take gift giving and receiving lightly.” Theron let out a heavy sigh. “Perhaps he does not wish to bond, after all.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” said the senior enchanter, after a big sip from her glass. “He is afraid. Afraid of his feelings for you, but also of what has transpired in the past, and that it might happen again. He lives its shadow, and it clouds his present thoughts. Above all, he is afraid of losing you, too.”

The Warden stared at her, his mouth agape. “How do you do that?”

“The wisdom of age,” Wynne waved her wine glass dismissively. “I have watched you for a time. There seems to be something special between the two of you. His demeanor changes when he’s with you. There is a tenderness in his gaze I’d never seen till now. He is genuine about you, Theron.”

The archer looked a little more hopeful. “You think so?”

“I know so.” She laid a hand on his. The Warden beamed and squeezed back. “He simply has demons from his past to do battle with. Just give him some time to mull over his thoughts, and then talk to him.”

Later, as she watched the exchange between the two elves with her second glass of wine, she smiled to herself. She even pretended to be surprised when the elf Warden came barrelling back into her tent much, much later, almost too late to be decent (clearly, the couple had gotten distracted). The Warden showed her the gold earring, gleaming in his ear, beside himself with excitement. 

“Will you heal it, Wynne? Zevran pierced it for me, but it aches.” Theron pouted. The flesh around his earlobe was an angry red.

“Oh, very well, then. Since it’s a special occasion.” She smirked, and cast her healing magic over the archer’s ear, whose words were spilling all over themselves as he told her about what Zevran had said. His ear glowed briefly, good as new, as though the earring had been there for years. 

“Thank you, Wynne. For everything.” The Dalish elf threw his arms around the mage, hugging her in gratitude. She laughed, holding her glass at a safe distance. As he left her tent, she called loud enough to carry, “Don’t forget to invite me to the bonding celebrations!”

And from the Warden’s tent nearby, she heard the sound of Antivan-accented laughter, and knew those two would do just fine together.