Cole stood in the corner, awkwardly gazing at the dancing couples below in the ballroom. The entire scenario perplexed him. Two people, from hence he could discern, moved as one. Connected with sustained harmony, they floated and ushered themselves across the marble in graceful circles. How? Did they tie themselves together? Like a fly caught in a honey pot, they stuck to one another. The crowd was jovial, their empress spared from assassination, a coup defeated, and a country reunited. There was much to celebrate and of all people, the Orleisan elite knew how to party. There was a small, tiny, and minuscule portion of Cole that wanted to join in. He wanted to hold her hand, rest his palm on her waist and twirl aimlessly until they fell from dizziness. He wondered if he would be close enough to smell her hair. Maybe even touch it as the breeze lifted it from her shoulders. Ah! But they were inside. There was no wind. He would have no excuse. Maybe he could stare into her eyes, watch as the gold rims stole the light from every candle. That would be...it would be...well he couldn't think of anything he wanted more in that moment.
So, without his awareness, his feet moved to find her. He leapt from shadow to shadow disappearing and reappearing until he came upon a set of grand doors that were open to a balcony. A pair of soldiers guarded the door, but made no move to stop him. In fact, they acted like he wasn't even walking between them. There she was. Alcmene leaned over the ornate railing. All her weight settled into her right foot, her left ankle rotated in tiny circular motions, relieving the pain in her heels. The moon embraced her in its light, illuminating the shiny threads in her gown and drowning her hair until it was white as snow. She was glowing and he could debate with anyone who dare argue against it. Cole wasn't sure he had seen anything like this in the mortal world, at least not as transfixing as she, in this very moment. Her hand twitched and so did his sight. She had one of those wine goblets that Dorian had been clutching on to in-between her fingers. She sipped on it, grimaced, and then shuddered. He could even tell from behind that she was now glaring down at it. Cole chuckled quietly to himself. However to his surprise, Alcmene quickly downed the rest of it in one gulp. She shook her head and wiped her mouth with her hand, setting the goblet aside for good. He hadn't tried it himself, even though Varric had offered a small amount to him. Though, judging by Alcmene's reaction, he wasn't missing much.
The moon is full. Alcmene noted in her mind. She felt comforted. Slightly. As much as one could be in this distressing, horrid and painful place known as Halamshiral. She folded her fingers and placed her chin on the knuckled pillow. She was trying to relax. It wasn't working. Perhaps more wine? Her mind offered. No. It was just as awful as this palace. How Dorian could stomach it she did not know. She should be in the ballroom, smiling and accepting congratulations. Oh and she had, but, it got unbearably tiresome after the 200th 'Thank you' she had pressed passed her teeth. Sympathetic, Leliana had let her go. So Alcmene found herself some wine and a deserted balcony and she was good to go. Too bad the drink tasted of the bowls of hell. Two inquisition soldiers followed her, much to her dismay.
"We have control of The Winter Palace. Is this really needed?" She groaned.
"Commander's orders Your Worship."
There wasn't anything more she desired than solitude, but she was too run down to argue. "Alright, but please remain inside at least."
They bowed their heads and stood by the doors inside. The entire night's ordeal replayed in her head. Evoking her hand to find the goblet. Wincing, she let it trickle down her throat. This had been a total cluster fuck, to be frank. The only saving grace is that it was over. This part anyway. The downside, being they were the new best friends of Orlais. Alcmene shuddered. Possibly more social arrangements loomed in her future. More tight dresses suffocating her and pointy slippers aimed at smiling masks. The game. The fucking game. The fact that Ruslan had made an appearance. She gulped the rest of the heathen wine down. Strangely enough, he completely vanished after the capture of Florianne. Odd, but welcomed. No need to make the situation worse. Alcmene had a 'knowing'. She was being watched. It was not a sense of dread. She decided to ignore it. Maybe he would go away. Hopefully, he would go away. She hung her head, waiting in silence. For someone so "in-tuned" he seriously could not take a hint. "Cole."
Cole jumped as the sound of his name. He was always startled when she sensed his presence, even when he knew he could not be seen. She awoke him from his haze of staring and dreaming. He stepped closer to her, but stopped a few paces away. "Yes." He muttered. She sighed heavily and peered into her empty goblet. "The friendly nuisance is here." She grumbled under her breath, but Cole heard it, however he wasn't deterred, at least she said he was friendly. "So...are you here because you need something or to watch me incessantly?" Alcmene added emphasis on the last word. Cole couldn't answer. What do you say when the answer is both, not either or? She sighed again when his unmistakable quietness gave her the answer. His feet brought him here, but they abandoned him when it came to broaching the subject of dancing to her. He glared at his foolish feet. Cole had never asked anyone to dance, was there formalities involved? Maybe he would have to offer her something? People around here seemed to like shiny material. They wore it on their head, neck, fingers and wrists. He could easily snatch a ring or two. One glance at Alcmene's gloved fingers all but defeated that idea. Each silk finger bore an exquisite ring that twinkled in the moonlight.
Then he remembered, a masked man bowing to a masked lady with an outstretched arm and an unfolded hand. The masked lady took his hand with her own and he led her to the dance floor. He studied his hands, closing and opening his fingers. He bent his back and attempted to emulate the pose he saw the masked man make, he pressed his left fist behind his waist and extended his right arm, flexed his fingers and offered his hand to her back.
"I honestly don't know what to do with you, Demon." Alcmene lazily slurred, the wine finally hitting its mark. "You just stand in the corner and stare at everyone. Is it fun? Must be fun."
Cole held himself in position, "umm..." He mumbled. "Also," She slapped the marble banister, "Why in Maker's name can you not enter a room normally?! You just-poof! Appear!" She waved her arms in an erratic motion. "Orchestra plays one more time, melodies insinuate and swirl, my hands around your waist-" Alcmene spun around, "That!" she pointed. "And that! That babbling!" Cole squeezed his eyes shut, suddenly bashful but he didn't regain his posture. Alcmene tilted her head, "Why are you in such a position? Oh...ah." It suddenly dawned on her. She hunched her shoulders and rubbed her face. Silently thanking her advisers for not going through the hassle of reapplying the silver leaf to her brands.
"Really...you don't know what you're doing do you?" Cole didn't dare open his eyes. "I...I...w-would..." "Cole, I've never even danced before. Go ask Josephine. She would be more than happy to oblige you."
"I do not wish to dance with Josephine. I want to dance with you, Alcmene." He opened his eyes and his gaze bore into hers.
Those puppy dog eyes. Alcmene grimaced. She hated the effect it had on her. This demon's manipulation was indomitable. She found herself accepting his hand as she slid her gloved one into his palm. Cole rose and he assumed her waist with his arm bringing her much closer to him than he expected. His face was flush with red and worst of it being he didn't have his hat to hide under. Now he froze in place while Alcmene looked away from him, from which unbeknownst to him was just as embarrassed. She placed her hand on his shoulder, mostly because she had no idea what else to do with it. She cleared her throat, hoping he would take the lead or say something. But of course, there was nothing more reliable than Cole's silence in these sort of situations. She started to become keenly aware of her palm sweating inside his hand, soaking through her glove, and despite the dropping temperature it wasn't helping.
The music from the orchestra engulfed the palace, and even in far balconies such as this one it could still be heard bleeding through the walls. It was a slow cadence at least, nothing like the obnoxious rhythm before it. Unable to stand the bubble of awkwardness between them Alcmene blurted out, "I think this is when we start to move. I-I think." She was chest to chest with this insufferable boy and could barely let herself breathe, lest she brush her bare skin against his blue sash. When he didn't answer she hissed, "Demon!" Out of his reverie, Cole whipped his head to make eye contact with her, "Yes?" It was the first time he had actually responded to her slur. Alcmene wished with all her heart a despair demon would come and freeze her to death. Now she was staring at his grey eyes and she couldn’t look away. The guards that had been forgotten even peeked in, looking for the demon they had just heard her hiss. Alcmene hid her face, burying it into Cole's shoulder. "Maker preserve me." She whispered. One of the guards muttered a small "Oh." And they resumed their prior positions.
Just as the music swirled around them, so did Cole's emotions. Joy, nervousness, excitement and the most contradictory one of all contentment. He had never let himself dream this far, her moonlight colored head's weight on his shoulder. It was almost like a hug. Almost! The smell of her hair, it was pine mixed with something he couldn't place. Inwardly he praised his foolish feet for leading him here. At this point Cole began to believe he could fly or possibly burst into smoke. He was grateful for her slight anchor to the earth. For the first time he felt compelled to lie. To whisper in her ear and tell her they were still watching, but of course, he didn't and Alcmene straightened, her face a new shade of rouge. However, she was glaring, right at him. "My feet hurt, I'm dreadfully tired, this was a shit show, and there isn't enough wine in this fucking place to make me do it all over again, for the love of the maker would you dance with me." It was an order, one that, Cole recognized right away. Nothing could shake the smile on his face for the rest of the night.