"Will you talk to me when we are finished with Corypheus?"
Her words haunt him.
Waking, sleeping...he even hears them as he traverses the Fade. There is nowhere he goes that she is not there in some form.
A ghostly whisper that plagues his consciousness, not real or material but so very familiar that his heart cannot tell the difference. And the memory of it remains as fresh, as vibrant as it was the first time.
The anguish in her eyes, held back , held in control by a heart that is breaking under the strain. He will never forget that expression, the last time she truly looked at him.
How confident he had been, how foolhardy.
Had he learned nothing? Of others, of himself?
He had thought himself far removed from the young hothead he had been as a youth, and yet the mistakes he made felt too similar to have been coincidence. What arrogance, to think that he knew what was best, for her, for them both.
"If we are both still alive afterward. Then I promise you, everything will be made clear."
A promise he had no intention of keeping. He had said what she needed to hear, what he thought she needed to hear, and had watched her walk away.
Hurting but satisfied, he had consoled himself with the knowledge that he had set her on the path, had removed himself so that she could focus. What did it matter that in order to do so he had cut out both of their hearts?
How had he not seen that?
They would both live, she would live, and could spend the rest of the days hating him once the world was saved.
He hadn't counted on her own brand of heartache.
No, not once had the thought even crossed his mind.
And the surprise of it was so terrible that he even now the memory leaves him almost mute in horror.
She allowed herself to be cut down.
Because she did allow it to happen.
She had to.
That was the only reasonable explanation for why, in the midst of battle, she was suddenly without guard or protection. Why she did nothing to stop Corypheus' final desperate attack even as she lunged forward to finish the task.
She had allowed herself to be struck.
Her blood was everywhere.
Even now he can feel that terrifying splash of warmth across his face as he raced towards her, can remember the twist of his insides as he assessed the damage to her person.
It was a nightmare, one which he is not sure he will ever wake from.
Not even his hoarse cries of denial could change what had happened.
There was no saving her.
The realization was immediate, brutal.
There was too much, too much...
His hands tremble at the memory of her blood on them, at the feel of her life slipping through his fingers. A life she had offered to spend with him had he but the strength to let her in.
Could he have changed their fates? Had his own failing courage wrought this conclusion for them both?
In the end, it was her expression that undid him. That wounded him more deeply than any sword or casted magic.
The smile, the relief. As if her death was a respite from the world she had found herself, the path she had been placed.
There was no time for explanation, and even less time for affection, but he could not stop himself.
He had accepted he might live the rest of his life away from her eyes.
But never had he imagined he might have to exists in a world where she did not draw breath.
"Dareth shiral ma vhenan."
Her words, the faint brush of her fingertips across his heart shattered what was left in his chest. And in her wake she left nothing but a splintered mess, the pieces so twisted and numerous he knew it would never be whole.
Farewell my heart.
Those were the last words she ever spoke to him, and when the light faded from her eyes, it was as if he had died along with her.
The orb that lay broken beside him had never mattered less, and he remained where he was until Cole and Cassandra gently pulled him away.
But that night he found no rest nor respite from his guilt, nor the night after that. Even those who he had worked with, traveled with, seemed to look at him with sad eyes.
It was too much, all of it.
Haunted by the memories of the fight, by the thoughts of her, escape had seemed the only thing to do. The only way to keep what small shred of sanity was to leave. Forever would not be long enough.
He had not expected to be stopped, to be forcibly unhorsed, in the middle of his departure.
"Leaving are you?! Running away in the middle of the night?"
Sera was furious, livid as she stood over him. Cheek stinging from where she had struck him, he looked up and could not stop the temper that rose so ferociously to the surface.
"What does it matter?" Snarling, he rolled to his knees, pressed the heel of his hand into his cheek, "There is nothing more for me here. You were there when we fought the Elder One, she is dead by her own choosing and I am leaving by my own choice."
He stood, steadied himself as he reached for his mount's reins.
" You stupid man." There was temper in Sera's voice, but perhaps pity as well. It scraped Solas' already raw nerves, "You blind, daft man."
Swinging up on the Hart's back, Solas said nothing, posture stiff as he turned toward the gates once more.
"You think she chose to die out of spite?" The elven woman scoffed, shouted after him, "You know better than that, you idiot. That attack she took -the one that killed her - that was aimed at you!"
And when Solas swung around to look at her, ready to deny her gross accusation, he found her dashing furious tears from her eyes.
"You bastard." She wept as she shouted, disappointed in him and his blindness, "The only one who doesn't know the truth is you. We all saw it. Ask any of them and they'll tell you."
She pointed to the keep, to the hundreds of lives that had been witness to their Herald's final act.
One of bravery, not cowardice.
One of love.
He could have asked any of them.
But he never did.
Instead he turned and fled, chased by demons so dark and terrible they could only be the product of truth.
It is not until much later, years later, that he finally returns to the words that had started and ended everything.
"Will you talk to me when we are finished?"
Her words echo in the dark, never to be forgotten.
Just as the pain and guilt remain.
But maybe there is a way they can both find peace.
His heart knows what must be done.
"Will you talk to me?"
She looks at him with those pained eyes, emotion held back by a crumbling heart.
This time he nods and takes a seat, in the dark, in the Fade.
"Alright, Vhenan. Let us talk."
And so he begins to explain everything.