She had almost given it to him.
All of those days spent debating the idea of showing them to him had suddenly meant nothing, and why? Because she had been drinking? It was… reckless, and impulsive.
Athesa rubbed her eyes, leaning on the desk with her elbows. It was a mistake, one that she couldn’t afford to make again.
That was why the Inquisitor didn’t bring Solas when she announced that the Inquisition would be returning to Emprise du Lion to help Cullen with his search for Samson, and why she locked those two small rings in her desk drawer before leaving. She needed to be able to think, without worrying about accidentally bringing it up before she felt ready to.
The Emprise was just as painful as she remembered it. While Athesa very clearly remembered killing most of the Red Templars before, by the time they returned it seemed that the Order was up on its feet again. Everything was red and raw, from the spikes of lyrium that rose from the ground to the eyes of the slaves whom she did her best to save. Although they weren’t fighting Venatori, Dorian seemed more than enthusiastic when it came to cutting down the enemies’ numbers. In fact, the only time they weren’t fighting off soldiers and wolves was when she was collecting herbs and crafting. They were the rare, peaceful moments in between combat that she was even more grateful for.
Their last night in was especially long. When she wasn’t jerking awake thanks to the soft sounds of animals outside, Athesa was having nightmares of the red lyrium. All of those worries about Redcliffe - memories that hadn’t bothered her in months - returned with a vengeance. They made her chest hurt, remembering what it had been like to see her friends slowing being killed by it. It was finally when she dreamt of Solas there, locked away and tainted by something that shouldn’t even exist, that she jerked awake.
She sat up slowly, gasping for air in her small, flimsy tent. She could feel the tainted magic humming from somewhere far away, and her gut clenched uncomfortably. The image of him sitting there, alone, with red eyes that faintly pulsed with her anchor filled her mind every time she blinked. She felt her eyes begin to water and let out a shaky breath.
It was just a dream. It wasn’t real. Hands trembling, the Inquisitor crawled out of her bedroll and over to her pack. She dug through it recklessly, not caring for anything but what she was looking for. After what felt like years, she finally found the potions Vivienne gave her before they left - grateful that she had packed them ‘just in case’. Her mind wandered while she gulped them down, suddenly wanting to see him. A part of her was desperate to know that he was okay, needed some kind of reassurance that it really was a dream, and when she returned to Skyhold he wouldn’t be in that awful state.
Soon enough, she was getting back into her bedroll and rolling over onto her side. It didn’t take long for her eyes to feel heavy, but she welcomed the feeling.
While she wasn’t entirely sure how, Athesa found him in the Fade almost right away. He was in what looked like the Exalted Plains, crouched by a lake that felt familiar but she couldn’t place. Everything was… strangely quiet, too. There weren’t any spirits around, or even stray halla. Only him.
“Solas?” She took a few steps forward, uncertain of what exactly he was doing.
He looked over his shoulder, and she could see the sad look on his face before it quickly dissipated. Regardless, she felt that crushing weight from in her tent disappear as soon as she noticed his eyes. They were wonderfully blue, with no signs of red lyrium, or taint, or anything else that shouldn’t be there. It was just a dream.
She took a few steps closer, and, thankfully, he took it as a sign to stand up. Her hands reached out before she even got to him, hugging him once he was close enough. It took him by surprise, simply standing there for a few seconds before she felt him return it. It wasn’t as real here - she couldn’t smell the candles when she buried her face in his shoulder, or really grasp how warm he was, but he was there.
Solas was okay and Redcliffe had never happened, not really.
Athesa sighed in relief, letting go of any hesitation that she might have had about visiting him here. He wasn’t able to take away her problems, but she found that seeing him helped. Things felt more manageable when she could reach out for him whenever she needed to be grounded again. She pulled back enough to look at him, hands still resting on his sides.
Although he looked confused, he didn’t hesitate to return her gaze. “I did not expect to see you here.”
“I’m not interrupting you, am I?” She glanced over to the spot where he’d been sitting. It hadn’t looked like he was doing anything, but maybe she had misjudged in her rush to see him.
“Not at all,” he reassured. “I simply thought that you would be preoccupied.”
“Preoccupied?” she asked, as he lead her to his previous spot. Her legs stretched out in front of her when she sat, watching the edge of the lake.
Solas, however, seemed skeptical of her feigned confusion. “I have seen the letters from nobles demanding your attention on your desk. Not to mention that the situation with Samson has kept you busy lately.”
Her toes curled in her boots, staring out at the water. “I wanted to see you,” she admitted, leaving out the part about the nightmares. Her ears felt warm, but the soft breeze seemed to help. Her hand reached for a piece of spindleweed and began to tear it up into pieces, each one smaller than the last. “You’re more important than a group of nobles from a place that doesn’t even bother learning how to spell my clan’s name.”
“Yes. It is good to know that however many people choose to call me knife-ear, you will always view me as above those who take pleasure in asserting their dominance over others,” he told her dryly. “I can only imagine what you thought of me before.”
Letting the shredded leaves fall to the ground, she laughed. “Is that still not better than how you first saw me? A misguided Dalish who was bullheaded just like the rest of her kind?” she pointed out, not needing to look at him to know that there was a faint smile on his face.
“A good point,” he accepted.
Maybe it was the dream still pestering the back of her mind, but she felt that concern from before returning. Something felt off-- wrong. Everything was too clear for this to be a place they hadn’t been to. She reached to cover his hand, noting that it was cool while she tried to remember where they were - why it was so hazy but still so familiar.
It didn’t take long for the realization to hit her, to be reminded of his face when he saw the Pride Demon. He had rarely mentioned it since that day when he returned to Skyhold, but suddenly she understood. “... Are you alright?”
“Why would I not be?”
“You haven’t spoken about your friend lately,” she answered. “I didn’t know if it was still difficult for you.”
His face relaxed in understanding. “You are worried that being here will upset me.”
“Should I be?”
“No. I won’t let it distract me from completing our task - that includes my time spent in the Fade.” His voice turned harder, just enough that she could notice it.
Sighing, she turned to him and her hand reached up to hold his face. “I didn’t ask if you were distracted, I asked if you’re alright.”
His face softened. “I am fine, vhena-”
She woke up shivering, knees curled up to her chest with Dorian’s voice ringing from outside.
It took all of her will, along with repeatedly reminding herself that he was one of her closer friends, to keep herself from asking Sera to hide away all of his belongings that afternoon.
* * *
Athesa sat on the edge of her bed, staring at the tall bottle in her hands. It was made of dark glass, with an Orlesian label that was covered in cursive writing. She had purchased it on their trip back to Skyhold, not able to fully understand the label but knowing that she recognized it from the ball in Halamshiral. Her fingers traced over the seam in the glass idly. It was hard and cool, the liquid inside sloshing around.
Truthfully, she was wasting time before Solas was due to arrive. She had asked him to come to her quarters with the promise that she had a gift to share with him. It wasn’t that he was necessarily late, but more the fact that she’d been pacing her quarters all evening waiting for him to be finished with his work. Of course, there was the usual pile of letters waiting to be answered, but it remained untouched.
Walking over to her desk, the Inquisitor set the bottle next to the two glasses before sitting down. There was a pause, followed by the sound of wood grinding against wood when she opened the drawer to look at the rings. They sat on top of a few scrap pieces of paper, waiting for her to make a goddamn decision already.
Sighing, she shut it before standing up again.
It wasn’t much longer after that when Solas finally came with a short knock before letting himself in. His hands held a couple of small books, which he set on the desk while he walked towards her. Without thinking, she reached out to hug him eagerly. He returned it at first, arms wrapping around her easily, but pulled away to remind her that she’d said that there was something she wanted to show him.
“Yes,” she nodded, and gestured to the bottle and two glasses. “Here.”
Looking at it for a moment, he directed his attention to her. “Wine?”
Nodding again, she picked it up. “It’s the kind they served at Halamshiral. You said that you had liked it, didn’t you?”
As soon as the words left his lips, she began filling the glasses. It didn’t take long before she was finished, and Athesa took a long sip before reaching for the tome he’d brought. “What’s this?”
Solas gulped down part of his drink, setting down his glass back on the desk to answer her. “A book on the Avvar warriors.”
Her hand ran over the cover in interest. She knew little about the Avvar, mostly due to the fact that her clan had never come across any while they travelled. Picking it up with her free hand, she used her thumb to open to the first few pages. Her eyes scanned over it while she walked across the room.
She stood next to the bed, unable to put the book down. Athesa could feel his eyes on her, waiting for her to do something, but honestly, she hadn’t thought of much past these initial moments. Her toes curled impatiently as her mind drew a blank. Eyes glancing at the mattress, she turned to sit on the edge of it while her hands busied themselves with setting the tome down on the table next to her.
His footsteps were soft but steady, as always, when he finally decided to join her. The bed creaked slightly, mattress moving against the boxspring after finally taking a seat. After another second of shifting, the apostate sat next to her while the two of them leaned against her headboard together.
The wine tasted strangely fruitier than she had expected, with some sort of spice mixed in. Whatever it was, she found herself drinking it quickly. He watched her finish the rest of her drink from his spot with slight amusement. “I must admit that I am surprised you’re so eager to do this again.”
Setting the glass down, she turned to him. “This will be different.”
“Really?” he asked skeptically.
“This time I’ll be with you.” Athesa inched forward, gaze dropping to his mouth before meeting his eyes again.
“Of course, I had forgotten how the effect of myself alone could outweigh such a strong drink.”
She nodded, mind wandering too much to pick up on his sarcasm. He was right there, using that dry sense of humour as if she hadn’t just come from a week of travelling and fighting Red Templars. He was being lighthearted, like he let himself forget all of that pain she always saw in his eyes, if only for a moment. She leaned forward to rest her forehead against his temple, closing her eyes. “You’re in a surprisingly good mood.”
He hummed questioningly, but she couldn’t bring herself to break the small silence to elaborate. It had taken days for the faint, red singing that nagged at the back of her mind to stop. And when it finally did, the migraines had managed to kick in. Sitting there on her bed, though, it was completely quiet, aside from his breathing and the faint buzzing that came with her drink.
She listened to that lovely silence as she pressed a light kiss to where her forehead had rested, smiling against him until he leaned back to look at her. Her eyes glanced down to his wolf jaw, remembering the way it had pressed into her uncomfortably before. Without thinking, she pulled it over his head before leaning in to kiss him.
Solas must have known what she was going to do, because his mouth met hers sooner than it should have - impatiently closing the distance between them. The action threw her off, her stomach dropping even as she squeezed her eyes shut. The times when he kissed her like this were rare - they’d only happen when they were completely alone, but it was always full of eagerness, unafraid, like he was willing to lose himself in it, in her. It was just like how he’d kissed her at Haven.
The buzzing in her head grew louder, but she didn’t try to stop it, not even when his hand moved to rest on her knee. She wasn’t even away from Skyhold for very long, but he still mumbled under his breath about how much he’d missed her. Her grip on his neck tightened, and she wanted to tell him that she had missed him, too, but it was hard to get the words in when he seemed determined to not be apart for longer than strictly necessary.
That wall she’d been rebuilding - growing stronger each day she spent thinking about those rings - came crumbling down just as easily as before, possibly even more quickly. All she could think about was how good it felt to reach out and hold him, what it was like to know that he wanted her. At one point a moan escaped, and the next thing she knew, Athesa was pulling herself onto him - arms wrapped around his neck and legs loosely around his waist. She noticed it all: every heavy sigh and quiet moan, each time she would do something innocent like break away to press a kiss over his closed eyes, and he’d try to pull her closer to him.
She had spent so long feeling irresponsible and childish, but there he was - groaning into her mouth as she let her hips roll down lightly. He might have considered her just another stubborn, misinformed Dalish before, but now she was Athesa - and she could see it in the way his fingers grasped at her, digging into her skin under the back of her shirt.
One of his hands reached for her face, holding her there carefully while he gave himself some time to breathe.
“If I knew that this was going to happen, I would have dragged you to the tavern earlier,” she panted in a rush of boldness.
Solas laughed before raising his head. “Is this the only reason you asked me to come here tonight?”
She let out a breath, suddenly unsure of how to answer. “No.” A beat. “It is nice, though.”
“And here I thought you were scheming to seduce me.”
Now it was her turn to laugh, her grip on his sleeves tightening. “Would you have said yes if I was?”
“It does not matter now, does it?”
“I think so,” she hummed. Her heart raced, the meaning behind her words only hitting her after she spoke them.
His hand reached back so that his fingers could tangle themselves in her hair, brows drawn together slightly while in thought.
“... You’re right, it doesn’t matter,” Athesa backtracked. She could feel him growing tense, and immediately knew that the conversation wouldn’t be worth it. Not now, at least. “No, there wasn’t any scheming on my part.”
She gave him a lingering kiss, eager to take away that look that clouded his eyes, before brushing her lips over the freckles on his cheeks. She moved slowly, carefully along the top of his ear, only leaving light kisses every so often. His hand slowly dropped from the back of her head to wrap his arms around her, hugging her.
“Ma’arlath,” she whispered. He repeated the phrase so quietly that she had almost missed it. It was such a simple thing to lean in and press their foreheads together, but she was all too aware of the way he relaxed when she did.
Solas eventually pulled away to kiss over her vallaslin lightly, and she found herself smiling. It would be so easy to just give him the ring now. It was right there, over on her desk -- she could get up, walk those few steps, and be back within two minutes. That voice in the back of her head tempted her with the idea over and over. It would be so easy.
Her eyes slid shut, and that heaviness on her chest back but she did her best to push the feeling away. “Can I ask you something?”
“Now?” he questioned, his hands freezing at her sides.
Still, she nodded, swallowing hard as she worked up the courage to voice her question.
Solas stopped to give her his attention, his nose barely brushing over the corner of her jaw. “What would you like to know?”
“... Do you dislike my vallaslin?”
He tensed under her. “Why would you think that?”
“Please, just answer.” She sounded more desperate than she would have liked, most likely giving away just how much it had been bothering her. However, if she wanted to even consider giving him that ring, then she needed to not only know this, but also not be afraid of his answer. It was as difficult as much as it was ridiculous. She’d spent so many afternoons asking him to tell her about the Fade, yet hesitated when those questions really meant something to her.
“As a Dalish elf, I can only imagine how important it is to you,” he told her before pressing a chaste kiss over the spot where he’d been hovering. “So no, I do not dislike it.”
“You’re always tracing over it.”
“You are beautiful,” he told her simply - as if that explained everything. “That would be true with or without it.”
Although she didn’t respond, his answer seemed to cause the knot in her gut to ease. Athesa exhaled loudly in relief. One question down, one more to go.
“Was that all?”
Her gut clenched, and in that moment she almost said No, almost asked him if he thought all Dalish traditions were wrong. Thankfully, she thought better of it and nodded, before quietly thanking him for answering. Everything felt warm, and he felt so close, and it was just like when she had returned from speaking with Bull in the tavern but somehow better. And she - ultimately - was a coward, too afraid to ruin the night.
Slowly, he began to leave a trail along her neck until reaching just under her collar, where he bit down lightly. Her arms wrapped around his neck and he did it again, this time higher on her neck. It left her gasping, hips moving against his again when she tried to shift herself closer. She tilted her head to give him more room, quickly losing her train of thought.
Eventually, she felt his mouth move even higher - far higher than where her shirt or armor would be able to cover - and tore herself away.
“Varric’s going to write a serial about us if you keep doing that,” she threatened, still trying to catch her breath. Just the mention of their companion at a time like this brought a shade of red to her cheeks, as if the dwarf could sense that they were talking about him and would burst into the room. “A terrible one filled with inaccurate metaphors.”
He laughed and her chest swelled at the sound. “You have a point.”
“He’ll say that I was the unlikely Herald of Andraste,” she told him between kisses, “and you were the apostate who could kill anything if you scowled at it for too long.”
“If that were the case, I think that our Tevinter mage would be long gone by now,” he replied dryly.
A giggle bubbled up at the thought. She rested her forehead on his shoulder, trying to contain it but she couldn’t. All the Inquisitor could think about was the chapter of Swords and Shields Cassandra had wanted so badly, and how awful it would be if Varric tried to write another romance serial. She wondered how he might describe the apostate and the phrase angry cat came to mind. One of the arms she had draped around him dropped, desperate to smother her laughter.
“I did not realize I was such an entertainer,” Solas muttered, raising his hand to brush her hair away when she finally looked at him again. “Perhaps after this is all over I should look to become a bard.”
“And give up the Fade?”
“I have other interests, too.”
This time her laugh was shorter, disbelief apparent. “Such as?”
“I’m sure you do not need me to answer that.”
Her nails raked along the back of his neck lightly, coaxing a sigh out of him. “I’m flattered.”
“As you should be.”
He kissed her again, this time not pulling away until he unhooked the first few clasps of her tunic with his free hand - just enough to pull away her collar. As if sensing what he was about to do, she felt her body tense. When he bit down it was harder than before, and her mouth dropped, threatening to swear loudly. However, all that came out was a strangled gasp.
Creators, he was trying to kill her.
“What are you doing?”
She felt him kiss over it softly. “You do not wish for your people to see anything, correct?”
“That doesn’t mean…” That didn’t mean he could go ahead and do it where they weren’t likely to see. Athesa exhaled shakily. He continued to press open kisses over the small area gently, as if he was trying to be apologetic. Her heart was still racing in her chest, though - that knot in her stomach returning.
Her face burned when she quietly told him to do it again.
She was ready for it this time, although that didn’t stop a noise from escaping. The hand he rested on her hip moved, reaching for hers to interlace their fingers. Immediately, her thumb began to trace up and down his absentmindedly. It was a good distraction, keeping her from being overwhelmed by the feeling of his mouth hot on her neck.
The gesture made him let out a shaky breath. It was strangely comforting, to let her know that she had as much of an effect on him as he did on her. Just as before, he pressed his lips over the spot softly. A shiver ran up her spine as her free hand dug into his shoulder blade. He needed to be closer, but at the same time, each kiss seemed to burn into her. A part of her had expected him to be smug about it, just like so many times before, but when Solas finally pulled back to look at her he just looked happy.
“I’m going to need to find a shirt with a bigger collar,” she blurted out.
He chuckled. “That would certainly be one alternative.” When he kissed her it was hard and searing, followed by a second, and finally a third - each one more muted than the last. It seemed crazy to think that months ago she had been worried about pressuring him into being with her - not that his affection for her didn’t still surprise her at times.
Her fingers traced up and down the nape of his neck again, closing her eyes when she listened to him exhale.
* * *
Athesa half-heartedly brushed the front of her hair out of her face as she stood in front of the war table. Her mind had been reeling all day with memories of the night before with Solas. After spending breakfast feeling so flushed that she was half-convinced she had a fever, she was desperate for some sort of distraction. However, at this point visiting Solas wasn’t an option, and would only make the pink that tinged her ears worse.
So, after spending a considerable amount of time in the courtyard watching Bull and Krem train, she found herself heading to the war room to look over strategies for Adamant. Cullen had mostly been the one to help her, giving advice on how to approach the area so that they could be as efficient as possible.
The table was covered in markers over a map of southern Thedas, as well as a small pile scattered to the side. She picked up one of the pieces and began to roll it around in her hand, staring at it while she felt the sharp edges dig into her skin.
She had gone to bed alone the night before, Solas leaving a good hour or two after the majority of Skyhold was likely already asleep.
If she was being honest with herself, she was avoiding him. The fact that she had been so ready to tell him about the rings again was... unsettling. A part of her considered that maybe her eagerness proved that she should, and just-- get it over with already. However, the Inquisitor quickly pushed it away, shaking her head to herself. It wasn’t something to be taken lightly. She knew that, and knew that Solas would likely take it seriously, too. Yes, he spoke poorly of the Dalish, but even he still spoke elvish, still took an interest in his people's’ history.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the door opening loudly, likely echoing down the hall and all of the way to Josephine’s office. Her body jumped from the sudden noise, air leaving her lungs immediately. Before she knew it, her head was whipped around and she was face to face with Cullen.
“Commander,” she greeted loudly. Well, this was off to a great start.
Thankfully, her skittish behaviour didn’t seem to concern him. He paused in the doorway, as if he was unsure if he should come back another time. “Inquisitor. I’m not interrupting you, am I?”
“Not at all.” Athesa released her grip on the marker, and let it roll onto the desk quietly. “Since you’re here, I was actually wondering if we could talk.”
“Oh, I-- Of course.” His hands moved to hold onto the pommel of his sword, his weight shifting back and forth for a moment before settling. “What was it that you needed?”
Brushing her hair out of her face again, she leaned back against the edge of the desk. “I wanted to make sure that everything is going well,” she paused, swallowing, “with the lyrium.”
“It’s been…” He let out a breath, and suddenly she could see all of those years of Templar duty trying to hold him down. Cole had called them chains, and in that moment she couldn’t think of a word that described the look on his face better. The Inquisitor had never set foot in a Circle, but she could still barely feel that pulsing magic that hung onto him. “Difficult, at times. However, you won’t need to worry.”
While she wasn’t sure if she was prying into matters that weren’t her business, her curiosity won out in the end. “I’ve heard that the withdrawal can cause nightmares, is that true?” She could feel her stomach tighten in anxiety. Whenever she’d spoken with her Commander, it had always been friendly, but still very much professional. Yes, he had told her a bit about his life as a Templar, but she still didn’t know what boundaries he needed. Suddenly unable to find something to do with her hands, they shifted from the edge of the desk, to tightening her ponytail, to crossing her arms. Eventually, she settled on holding them in her lap.
When he spoke he sounded guarded, his eyes glancing away for a moment while lost in thought. - as if he was debating on whether or not it would hurt to confide in her. It took a moment, but eventually Cullen pulled himself back to the present. “Sleeping can be troublesome, to say the least, yes.”
“And the headaches, are they bad, too?” The question left her lips without thinking, and she cursed herself for pressing the subject so easily when it obviously pained him to think about it.
Sighing, his posture relaxed a bit. She could see the dark purple that stained under his eyes even from where she stood, speaking for him. “Some days are worse than others.”
“The tea they make in the kitchen helps with them, especially before going to bed,” Athesa offered lightly.
“Thank you,” he breathed. “Ever since our encounter with Maddox, they’ve grown much more... persistent.” He frowned at the last word, as if just the thought of them gave him a bad taste in his mouth.
He ended up staying with her for a bit, going over strategies to find Samson and Maddox for what felt like the millionth time, as well as reports he’d been working on that week. She was impressed, not only by his organization with the troops, but by the fact that he was so dedicated to their cause. It was obvious that he was determined to locate Samson, no matter how much it took.
It turned out that he was even more determined than she expected, because the Commander insisted on travelling to the Shrine of Dumat when her, Cassandra, Iron Bull, and Varric. He wasn’t unpleasant to travel with, however the longer it took to arrive at the temple, the more he seemed to grow impatient.
By the time they arrived, Samson was nowhere in sight. Instead, they were met with tainted Templars, abominations, and shards of red lyrium. She could feel it in the air, pulsing and humming faintly. The only thing that seemed to drown it out was the blood that pounded in her ears as she pushed herself to fight despite it. They managed to fight all of them off, although it was a messy battle to say the least. All of her cuts burned from the lyrium, had her crying out whenever a shadow leaped out from behind. Even she couldn’t deny the small satisfaction that rushed through her when she finished off the last one.
Finally, Athesa leaned on her staff for support, out of breath but finally safe. Her stomach twisted, a mix of dread and illness finally settling deep in her gut just like during those nights in the Emprise. All she could do was stand there and clench her teeth, hoping that the waves of nausea would eventually go away.
With some time to catch her breath, the Inquisitor took in her surroundings. Everything around them was crumbling, a temple that might have been restored if Samson hadn’t let his abominations and shadows loose on it. Her grip on her weapon tightened. It was so selfish, and thoughtless to throw something so important away only because he was too cowardly to face them himself. Samson had sacrificed all of it, including Maddox of all people, to save himself. Eventually, her gaze landed on Cullen. He looked frustrated, disappointed, but not as cold as before.
Regret threatened to swallow her up when she watched Varric pull a bolt out of a Templar, remembering just how much he hated talking about the lyrium, much less being around it. At one point he tried to joke about how they needed to look on the bright side: at least it wasn’t as painful as when the Guard Captain of Kirkwall found out that he used her for the cover of Swords and Shields.
No one laughed.
By the time she finished collecting the remains of Maddox’s things, Athesa’s companions looked more than ready to go. With a snap of the lock on the toolbox, they began to head back to Skyhold.
The trip back felt shorter than the trip there and, thankfully, the effects of the tainted magic wore off more easily once they were on the road. She wondered if she was growing an immunity to it, or if somehow the anchor had an effect on it. Her mind quickly wandered, though, apparently too tired to think about it after such a stressful trip. The others were quieter than usual, too. They seemed to take the loss hard, although from the way they acted, it seemed like no one really expected Samson to be there. Still, the Inquisitor did her best to be encouraging - assuring Varric that the next time they went to the Hinterlands they’d finish destroying the clusters of lyrium that grew in the area.
Once they finally arrived to the grounds, Athesa opted out of visiting Solas after returning her mount to the stables to instead go straight to her quarters. The room was dark, lit only by a few candles and the light from outside. Thankfully, it was quiet, too. There weren’t any yelling soldiers, or feeling of the Veil raising goosebumps on her arms.
She changed out of her armor immediately, letting it hit the floor with a loud thump, before sitting at her desk. There was a pile of letters and paperwork left by Josephine and Leliana, but she pushed them aside without a second thought. She could feel her pulse pick up, and she forced herself to exhale slowly. If she wasn’t careful, the ceiling would begin to press down on her like so many times before.
Slowly, Athesa pulled open one of the drawers. The sound of wood grinding against wood made her recoil, inhaling sharply. There wasn’t anyone else around, but a part of her was still fearful that one of her companions would jump out, possibly from under her bed - most likely Sera, if she was being honest with herself. After getting over her hesitation, though, she took the two rings out of the drawer and carefully set them on the desk in front of her. The week away from Skyhold had helped to clear her mind. However, she was no further on coming to an actual decision on it.
She slid the ring onto her finger, feeling the wood while she watched her hand. It was pretty - covered in intricate designs that mirrored the ones she’d seen as a child. More importantly, it feltgood to be wearing it. Her chest was tightening the longer she kept it on, but it wasn’t painful, only grounding - just like all of those times when Solas had grabbed her wrist.
Her thumb twirled it around her finger over and over, committing the feeling to memory. Her eyes were locked on the second one that stayed on her desk. There was a sense of urgency building up in her; one that told her that if she was going to give in, it needed to be soon. They would be going to Adamant in a couple of days, and while she wanted to be optimistic about it, she knew that nothing from the past few months had ended exceptionally well. Who knew what would happen when they arrived in the Western Approach?
There had already been two different times when she’d almost asked if he wanted it. How many more would it take before she finally broke down and did? That voice still nagged at her, told her that all she’d have to do is go see him, show it to him. Solas may not understand completely, but at least she’d tried - at least she could finally let it go.
It would be so easy.
She didn’t even realize that she was standing until her hand had closed the door behind her.