Krem goes weeks without seeing her and doesn’t notice it all, not until she’s back from scouting, occupying her usual spot outside the Herald’s Rest. He’d asked her once why outside, why there. She’d shrugged one shoulder, squinted up at him—the sun had been at his back—and smiled. I like it here, she’d said. I’d rather be outdoors.
Why not the garden? he’d asked, noticing the way her skin had gone pink and brown in the sun, her hair more copper than gold.
Here is better for people watching.
He thinks about that later, sitting in his corner of the tavern, doing his own surveillance. Wonders who she’s watching. Wonders what she thinks.
Krem notices when she’s there and when she’s not, now. When she is, he tips his head to her if he’s with the Chargers. If he’s alone, he stops, says hello. Asks her how she’s holding up, stuck in Skyhold with the rest of them.
She laughs, a musical sound that fills the air. Where is she from, he wonders; he cannot imagine her underground.
She laughs and says it’s not so bad, stuck here. Everyone is nice—though Vivienne is scary—and they’re all a lot more attractive than some of the things she’s seen on the road. She winks at him when she says it, and Krem feels his cheeks flush, thanks the Maker that the sun is at his back.
“I’m sure you know how I feel,” Harding says.
Her smile is small, a private thing held close. “You have to travel with the Iron Bull,” she says. “Can’t be a pretty sight, from in front or behind.”
“Hey!” the Bull yells from just inside the door. She must have seen him passing with his tankard of ale. “I resemble that remark!”
“You are that remark, sir,” Krem says. Harding grins at him, and his chest aches.
Later, after the Inquisitor has saved the empress from assassination in Orlais—Iron Bull tells them about it in great (drunkenly exaggerated) detail later—Krem’s reading the notices in the Herald’s Rest when he sees Harding’s name appear. Dancing lessons, it proclaims, with Harding as instructor.
Krem has no reason to need dancing lessons, not really, other than the fact that he can’t dance. He doesn’t go on missions like the chief does, though, doesn’t need to sneak and spy. He’s a soldier, a warrior. A blunt instrument to be used for…
He shakes himself, signs up in the space provided anyway.
Forgets about it after that, for the most part, what with working with Commander Cullen and his men, the Grey Wardens that join them after Adamant. He notices Harding isn’t at her usual post near the door, hair shining like a beacon, but he doesn’t let it bother him. She’s busy, sent off to scout the Hissing Wastes—Maker, what a piss-hole that must be, with a name like that—and do her job, which he hears she’s quite good at.
The Bull claps Krem hard on the shoulder when he notices him staring at the door, hands him another tankard. Tells him to stop fretting and just grab the bull by the horns for once.
“You’re not my type, sir,” Krem says, taking a drink. “But the offer’s appreciated.”
The Bull gives him a knowing look and drags him over to the rest of the Chargers, challenges them all to a drinking contest. When Krem wakes up in the morning, head throbbing and neck aching, there’s a handwritten note added to the sign-up sheet. Harding apologizes for her absence, promises that the lessons will commence as soon as she stops getting sent to the middle of nowhere. Her handwriting is neat and compact, to the point, slanting slightly to the right.
He wonders when she got back, if she saw him in the tavern, what she thinks of him. If she thinks of him at all.
Feeling sick, he blames the alcohol. Refuses to leave his dark corner of the tavern, tells himself he’s avoiding the sun, its light. Blames it on a hangover he doesn’t quite have.
“You signed up!”
Krem jumps, looks to see Harding coming down the stairs that lead to the commander’s quarters. She’s smiling at him, bright and white, pleased.
“For dancing lessons,” she says. “I was afraid no one would, or everyone would. But there have been a few, which I can handle. When they stop sending me off to the ass-end of Thedas, that is. I was, uh, pleased to see your name.”
Her cheeks are pink. He wonders if it’s the sun, a new burn from its rays reflected off sand, or something else.
Nodding, he crosses his arms. Uncrosses them. Wishes he knew what to do with his hands. “Seemed like it would be a good skill to have,” he says. “Just in case.”
“In case you ever have to infiltrate a ballroom filled with nobility? Or in case you ever want to sweep a girl over her feet?” Her cheeks turn pinker. “Or a boy. I mean. You know. Sweeping works for everyone, no matter your preference. At least, that’s what I gather from Dorian.”
Krem laughs, feeling shaky. It might be the blow the Bull landed on him earlier; it might be nerves. “Does, uh, does it work for you?”
“Sweeping?” she asks, her eyes wide. “Given the right partner, yes.”
In for a copper. “What if it were someone…new to sweeping.”
Harding bites her bottom lip, the corners of her mouth lifting slightly. When she releases it, it’s soft and pink and plump. “I think it would work very well for me.”
It turns out Krem has two left feet.
It also turns out Harding—Lace—doesn’t mind.