“Come with me, vhenan”
She is his weakness, his distraction, his love, his vhenan, and she deserves the truth. She is ready to find out, and he is ready to tell her, has been ready to tell her for weeks. His subconscious mind has run the conversation in his head over and over again, distracting him from his painting, from his studies, as he imagines how he will reveal himself to her, imagines her reaction. Even in his dreams he has been unable to stop himself from constructing her image night after night, telling her who he is over and over again. Her reaction was always the same; he knows her too well, and even in his dreaming state he cannot lie to himself. Yet he clings on to hope. His vhenan has surprised him many times since he has gotten to know her; for a Dalish she has been surprisingly quick to adjust to new situations, new lore, new revelations. She deserves the truth, and he hopes that she will understand.
She is his weakness, his distraction, his love, his vhenan, and he brings her to Crestwood, to the Glenmorgan Mines.
He tells himself that it is because of the elven history there; the statues of his kin that stare coldly at the world with eyes carved from stone, the paintings which have been drawn on rock walls by his people, telling their stories to an age where time and loss has muddied their history. In truth, he brings her there because the journey is long, and he wants to take as much time as possible to enjoy the softness of her lips on his when she kisses him, the touch of her bare skin on his when they make love, the open affection in her voice and eyes when she looks at him and whispers Ar lath ma, vhenan.
She is his weakness, his distraction, his love, his vhenan, and she deserves the truth.
It is what he reminds himself when he kisses her under the starry night sky, wrapping his arms tight around her body while his tongue seeks entrance to her mouth. He wants to remember the taste, her touch, her lips, her moans, her fingers at the nape of his neck when she deepens the kiss.
“Ar lath ma,” he whispers afterwards and her lips curve into a shy smile.
“Ar lath ma, Solas,” she replies, and he stares into her eyes for a long moment before he gives her a kiss on her forehead, only to hide any signs of pain that may have poured through his walls.
She loves him, but she loves a lie. She loves Solas, the elven apostate he has pretended to be for years, and in that moment, with her wrapped in his arms, her eyes looking up at him as if he is the only other person to exist in this world, he wishes that he simply is just Solas. Solas would be able to imagine a future where she would let him remain by her side, would be able to hope for a future filled with love, children, old age. Solas would be able to hope for a future where she would let him wake up every morning with her by his side, wrapped in his arms. But he is not just Solas. He is Fen’Harel, and Fen’Harel is uncertain if she will allow him to have those hopes and dreams, no matter how much he longs for them.
She is his weakness, his distraction, his love, his vhenan, and he is trapped under her spell.
He releases her from his embrace with reluctance, gives her a smile and another kiss on her lips before he takes her hand in his.
“Come,” he says while he masks his turmoil that threatens to drown him, “we are almost there.”
Her fingers intertwine with his and she leans against him slightly while they walk as she talks about anything and everything. She is less guarded when she is with him; the hard edges that usually grace her face are replaced with a relaxed softness that she reserves only for moments like these, moments with him. Her heart lies bare and open, a precious gift she has given only to him, and he feels his own grow heavy with guilt. He will hurt her, and it does not matter if it is the last thing he wants to do. Even though he hopes for her forgiveness, for her acceptance, for her to love him as he is, hurting her will be inevitable, and he only has himself to blame for it.
Sometimes we must give people what they need, not what they want.
It is what he had once told Cole, and he knows that he would do well to follow his own advice.
They walk up the footpath that leads to the cave, pass large shards of red lyrium that jut out from the ground, glowing angrily in the dark night as they wreathe around the statue of Falon’Din’s owl like an ominous crown. His vhenan is still talking, but he can barely focus on her words as he stares at the dark tunnel ahead. He can hear his blood rush in his ears, knows that things will change in just a few moments. Doubt fills him, but he grasps on to hope.
She is his weakness, his distraction, his love, his vhenan, and he hopes.
Her voice breaks him out of his reverie and he looks at her, notices the small crease in her forehead before he meets her gaze. There is concern in her eyes and he forces himself to smile, hopes that is looks reassuring.
“Forgive me. My mind wandered away from me.”
Her concern is replaced with affection and she chuckles, presses his hand gently before the corners of her eyes crinkle.
“Growing tired of my company?” she teases and her question causes his heart to squeeze with love, guilt, pain, hope.
“I will never tire of being with you, ma sa’lath,” he murmurs in reply and means every word.
“Good, because you will never get rid of me,” she whispers with too many emotions than he can name in her voice.
They walk through the dark tunnel in silence, listen to the sound of rushing water that fills the air around them, growing louder and louder as they near the exit on the other side. He feels his courage falter when they take their first step into the grove, and he almost changes his mind; wonders if he should tell her something else.
No, she deserves the truth.
As they walk further into the grove he feels the familiar prickle of the Veil on his skin, and it calms him. He takes a deep breath before he looks at her while they move towards the pond at the other side of the grove. She is looking around them in astonishment as she takes in the scenery. They have been here before, fighting wyverns that had made the grove their home, but this is the first time she truly looks at the murals that cover the walls, the first time she notices the statues of harts that towers over them, soaring into the sky.
“The Veil is thin here, can you feel it on your skin, tingling?” he says, lifts a hand up in the air in front of them, as if the Veil is something he can grip in his hand, and she looks at it with a small smile on her lips but says nothing.
They stop walking and she moves to stand opposite of him while her hand remains in his. His heart pounds faster in his chest while the seconds tick by, drawing closer to the inevitable moment he has brought her here for. He cups her cheek gently, lets a shuddering breath escape his lips when she leans into his grasp, and her smile gives him renewed courage.
She is his weakness, his distraction, his love, his vhenan, and she gives him strength.
He smiles at her while he tells her that he has been trying to determine a way to show her what she means to him. His vhenan returns his smile before she places a hand on his chest, over his heart and tells him that she already know what they mean to each other, he does not have to prove anything. Ar lath ma, Solas, ma sa’lath. She whispers the words while her eyes never breaks away from his, and he places a hand over hers, weaves their fingers together, and wishes that her feelings will remain the same after the evening is over.
He wants to lose himself in her, wants to show her how much she means to him, but she needs to hear the words; she needs to hear how much she means to him, before he tells her who he really is.
“You are unique. In all Thedas I never expected to find someone who could draw my attention from the Fade. You have become important to me, more important than I could have imagined.”
“As you are to me,” she responds without hesitation and he knows that there is no turning back now.
For the fraction of a second he doubts. He can tell her about something else instead. The true nature of the vallaslin comes to his mind, and he almost decides to reveal it, but then he pushes it away.
She is his weakness, his distraction, his love, his vhenan, and she deserves the truth.
“Ar lath ma, vhenan, ma sa’lath. Whatever happens, never doubt that my feelings for you are anything but real.”
Her smile falters, brow furrow above eyes that searches his face. He can sense the tension in her body, feels her hands in his stiffen.
His words were meant to assure her of his feelings for her, but when he looks at her now she looks hesitant, uncertain, preparing for pain. His hands squeeze hers gently, and he exhales a breath he did not know he had held.
“That is not my real name, vhenan.”
She is his heart that beats outside his chest, and she deserves the truth.
He pushes forward, tells her of Arlathan, of Elvhenan, of his rebellion. He continues even as he sees her grow paler, even as her eyes grow wider, even as he feels her hands tremble beneath his. She still listens, does not speak when he tells her of the war that waged across their once beautiful empire, of the murder that put an end to any hope for peace.
It is when he tells her of what his pride had once wrought, what it has wrought once again, that the light in his vhenan’s eyes vanishes completely and nothing but raw pain remains in its wake.
She withdraws her hands from his grip, and the moment she takes a shaky step back from him he feels his heart ache. Her face twists and contorts between disbelief and anguish, and she only shakes her head while she stares at him. His voice sounds hollow to his ears when he finally says the name that he is better known as, the name that she has been brought up reviling.
“No,” she whispers thickly. “No, no, no, no.”
She takes another step back, keeps shaking her head while she raises her marked hand in front of her, as if she is trying to defend herself from him, and he slowly feels his heart sink while he watches her.
“It is the truth,” he states, glad that he manages to keep his voice clear and steady.
A strangled noise of pain escapes her lips and soon her eyes shine brightly with tears that do not take long to well over. In the short years he has known her, she has revealed many sides of herself to him, but he has never seen her cry before now. It shocks him enough to tear down his walls and rip away the masks he has struggled to keep up. His pain, regret and guilt lie bare for the world to see, but he does not notice nor care, as the only thing he focuses on is her.
“I trusted you, I took you into my bed, I fell in love with you.” Her voice is strangled and cracked, barely louder than a whisper, and then he hears the fire underneath. “Was I just some naive Dalish to trick, Dread Wolf? Were you having fun tricking me into loving you, into giving myself to you?”
“No.” His answer is immediate and desperate, and he reaches his hand out, but it merely makes her flinch away, back away further. “Ir abelas, vhenan. I never wanted to hurt you. You are a rare and remarkable spirit. What we have is real.”
“No!” she snaps, “No, that word means nothing to you. Banal’vhenan, Dread Wolf. You have already broken my heart,” she continues bitterly. “There is nothing more for you to take from me.”
Sobs begin to escape her lips, slowly at first, then more panicked, and she covers her mouth with her hand, tries to contain them, but he sees the way they wrack through her body and his heart grows heavier. She has disregarded the confession of love he told her before, cannot see beyond who he is, who she thinks he is. Whatever else may come, she needs to know that it was real; that what they have – had – was real.
“Vhenan,” he whispers through the thickness in his throat and she winces, but she does not move away from him when he takes a step towards her.
“Ma sa’lath,” he whispers and her responding sob fills the air. He takes another step, what little hope he has growing stronger when she still does not move away.
“Ar lath ma, vhenan,” he breathes out shakily when he is finally in front of her.
“Ar lath ma,” he repeats when he takes her in his arms, kisses her hair while she clutches on to him and sobs into his chest. He holds her tight, each sob that wracks her body shakes his own and while he keeps kissing her hair, keeps whispering his love to her, he notices his own unshed tears blur his vision. Yet he remains hoping while she remains in his embrace, hopes for forgiveness, for understanding, for her to still love him, the real him.
She is his weakness, his distraction, his love, his vhenan, and he only wants her love.
She has stopped crying. His chest is wet from her tears, but he does not care. They remain where they are standing for what feels like an eternity, embraced and quiet. Her hands are on his back, clutching on to the fabric of his tunic, and he feels her warm breath on his chest, the wetness making it even warmer.
Finally, she stirs in his arms and he moves down to kiss her head once more before kissing the tip of her ear.
“Vhenan,” he whispers into it and he feels her sigh softly into his chest, pulls him tighter against her.
Then she lets go. His heart freezes when she removes herself from his embrace, shatters when he sees her eyes. There is no love there, not for him; she is only mourning the man she loved, the man she believes does not exist. She takes a step away from him, then another. She looks at him for a long moment, a crease forming between her brows, and then she utters the four words that will remain with him through the ages.
“I can’t. I’m sorry.”
She is his weakness, his distraction, his love, but she is no longer his vhenan.