This time, Alleyana Tabris of clan Lavellan took her tea over to his wide sofa and sat on the front edge, watching Solas pour over his research. He had three different books open, their masses enough to hold themselves open flat on his desk, and he braced his hands on either side of the one in the front and center, neck bowed, head low. Now and then he lifted a hand to turn a page in one of the books, his eyes going from one tome to another and back again, then to the third, then sometimes he stayed there a while before going back to one of the other two.
He'd claimed to not mind it when she watched him. It was no more troubling, he'd said, than being watched by spirits from across the veil, or in the fade when he walked there in his dreams. Solas was a man used to having an audience, although he clearly didn't play up the things he did for one. Unassuming, that was how Dorian had described him once. Though he certainly had an ego, and his namesake was 'pride' in the elven tongue, he didn't seem to feel he had to prove anything.
It suited Alleyana fine; she liked to watch him. It was calming. He was calming to be around, like sitting beside a slow river, deep in the forest. Or slow in appearance, at least; one never knew what currents lie beneath the surface of calm waters.
"You could bring books of your own," Solas noted without looking up, his tone gently teasing.
"And join you at your desk?" Alleyana asked, amused, slowly rotating the mug in her hands around between her crooked, armored fingers. "Hunched over like you do it, putting kinks in my spine? A sad report that would be of the battlefield; 'the Inquisitor's back went out mid shield bash, the Venatori were easily captured after; laughing too hard'."
"An unexpected tactical decision, I would think," Solas conceded, "but not an ideal one, true."
He returned to his reading for a while longer, and Alleyana continued to watch him, content with the silence, sipping at her tea and letting her thoughts become still. This was one of the only places she let herself be truly idle, and it was nice sometimes to simply... be.
Time went by in peaceful silence, and Solas eventually straightened, peeling himself away from his books to pad over to her on the couch. He sat down beside her, quite close, and leaned briefly closer yet to bump his shoulder into hers. "Surely, I am not so fascinating to observe," he prompted.
"Of course you are," amusement and affection warmed her gravel-rough voice, and Alley took a drink of her tea. "You watch all sorts of things, don't you? Every time we're talking to someone out on the road, I can feel you watching. Sometimes when I'm training with Lord Chancer, too, or sparring with Bull."
"But all of those involve more than staring at someone while they pour over a book," Solas pointed out, lifting a hand to tuck a stray bit of her hair behind her ear for her. Some of it was starting to escape the braid. It was such a colossal hassle for her, with her damaged fingers, that it often grew far worse than this before she'd take a stab at re-braiding it.
"I thought you didn't mind being stared at?" Alley asked, raising an eyebrow at him. "If it bothers you..."
"No," the mage was quick to head that off, after all the times she'd fled, early on in their time here. "I was just curious, I promise you."
"Are you calling yourself boring?" she asked, and then snorted softly when his -- brief! -- worried expression betrayed that this was, in fact, his concern. "You're not boring, you're fascinating," Alleyana shook her head, "and of course, you can't see it for yourself. You're the subject; you're too close."
"Perhaps I should just take your word for it, then," Solas offered, but doubt had wormed its way into his gentle voice, and Alleyana found that simple acquiescence wasn't enough, this time. She wanted him to understand, and not feel that he was boring her when she visited him while he worked.
"Solas," she looked down at her armored hands, wrapped so carefully around her mug of tea. "Do you want to know why my hands were crushed?"
"Of course," that caught his attention completely, she felt Solas straighten up where he sat, twisting slightly to look at her more directly, "I will gladly listen, if you are willing to share the story."
But still, Alley hesitated, because it was still difficult, even though she'd offered the information this time. She gazed at the frescoes he'd laid onto the walls around them. "I sculpted clay, before. They knew that; it's part of how my family earned a little money. I didn't..." she tapped armored fingers against the mug in her hands, before noticing and forcing them to go still.
"...When my brother was born," the warrior continued after a moment, "I didn't want to just be a sell-sword; didn't want to just be hired muscle. I wanted out of that life, so it wouldn't take me from my brother, like it took my mother from me. His mother died right after birth, so he needed me to look out for him, to live. But... some of the humans I'd run as a guard for in the past took... exception to that. They didn't want me getting out."
"So, they removed your ability to do anything else," Solas was staring down at her hands, too, when she glanced over at him. "I see."
"They took my hands," Alleyana said quietly, "but not the way I used to find peace in the clay. That's what spending time with you feels like."
Solas blinked a few times, the motion rapid, startled, but the little smile that bloomed on his lips was a pleased one. "If I help to bring you a bit of peace, then I am glad of it."
"You bring more than a bit," the warrior admitted, mirroring his much earlier gesture by leaning closer to bump their shoulders. Very gently, because the leather and chain mail covering her shoulder wasn't as forgiving as the mere clothing covering his, and she was eternally aware of the difference. "Wherever you are, it feels... quiet. Calm. Like coming in out of the desert sun."
"Are you calling me your oasis?" Solas asked, quiet amusement and just a touch of... something else, worming its way into his voice. Flattery? "That was very nearly poetic."
"Don't get used to it," Alleyana grumbled down at her tea mug, embarrassed. "I'm terrible at this."
"As you say, ma vhenan," his soft, teasing tone warmed her heart, and she leaned against his side when he wound an arm around her shoulders, content.