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til voices wake us and we drown

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The searing, throbbing pain is sharp in places she can't name. She thinks there is something else that hums through the air at pitches different from the agony. Bright and soft, high and low, but it isn't her pain and she only knows her pain.

Pressure that is not from her, here and there, and some softness in the dark and sensation.

"Please wake up." She doesn't know what that is. It is not her pain.

She knows the pressure there. Then she knows nothing at all.

She drowses against his shoulder, eyes sliding shut and her head resting heavy against him. The soothing sound of his voice as he translates from the enormous tome spread across both their laps ceases. She makes a soft, sleepy sound in protest but he doesn't seem to understand.

He laces his fingers with hers, her grip on the book gone lax, and sighs softly into her hair.

"This is unfair of me," he murmurs against her temple.

Like so many times before, she says nothing. Instead she nuzzles sleepily against him and hopes that this he understands.

She can't remember the last time she was this content. The mild discomfort of sweat dampened skin and mild burn of underused muscles barely filter into her delighted exhaustion. The warmth and weight of his presence at her back as she drifts closer to sleep more than makes up for it.

A hand on her hip slows her descent into unconsciousness. He pulls her closer but leaves his hand on the delicate curve of her hip. She sighs, eyes sliding closed again. His thumb, slender but callused, traces circles on her skin. The affection in his touch makes her smile.

He presses a tender kiss to her shoulder, whispers, "thank you for waiting for me," against her.

Sleep overtakes her before she can think to respond.

She resists waking up. Everything is still warm and dark, if she just keeps her eyes closed she may get back to sleep. She's vaguely aware that though the bed is still warm, there's no longer another body in it. That worries at her slow-waking mind; rather than give in she tries nuzzling closer to her pillow and makes a little noise of dissent.

There is a responding sigh from the other side of the bed. He pushes some of the wayward hair out of her face with unspeakable tenderness.

"If you knew…" But he doesn't finish the thought.

Keeping her breathing as even as she can, she pretends to sleep until he is finished dressing; only allowing her eyes to open after she hears the door shutting quietly behind him.

She lies awake for a long time after he's gone.

She's not sleeping but he's no longer close enough to tell. She quiets her breath and hopes he keeps his distance. His hands trembled when he was near, like he wanted to touch her or clench them until the desire went away. She left a safe space between them, to make it easy on him.

One of the others might have seen it as his due for breaking her heart. She was mostly concerned that he'd broken his own.

Cole saves them both, noisily entering the tent. He stutters around a sound in his mouth, like he's going to start reading one or the other. Instead of his poetry composed of pain, he says, "I can do it."

Solas stops as he leaves, says, "I am sorry," but she doesn't think even Cole knows who he's apologizing to.

Once he's gone, she sits up. Cole drops down at her side, pulling his knees up to his chest and watches her comb her fingers through her hair.

"Someone was supposed to wake you," he tells her, "Watching, waiting, whispering breath. Please don't hurt anymore because of me."

"Yes," she says, smiling at him, "Thank you."

and one thing you said when we both knew I was pretending.
"They'll be waiting for you, vhenan."

For a few seconds, she considers continuing to pretend. She has responsibilities that she can't ignore, no matter how tired she is or how comfortable her bed (and her lover's embrace) is.

She opens her eyes and tilts her head back to look at him. He smiles, tugging gently at a lock of her hair and she can feel a smile forming in response.

"I suppose I can get up," she says, and leans up to leave a light kiss on his jaw, "for you."

"Ar lath ma," she whispers softly in the dark room and he realizes she thinks he's sleeping.

"I love you," she says just as softly, tasting the human words. It's a rough language but it's sweetened in her mouth and on her lips.

He'd said it first and meant it first. It's a relief to hear but the guilt of intruding on her as she works out her feelings is heavier. He steadies his breathing and relaxes, reaching the Fade is easy enough for him.

"Ar lath ma," she says again and her voice lilts pleasantly with their shared language and her own confidence.

He'll tell her in the morning that he wasn't asleep. He's keeping enough secrets as it is but for now, he takes comfort in her certainty lets her have the time she needs.


He wakes to her leaning over him, bright-eyed and smiling.

"Ar lath ma," she informs him.

He can't stop the pleased half-smile from forming, "I know."

She pouts, pulling her body completely over his. "You know? Don't tell me you saw it in the Fade."

He cups her cheek, thumb touching her pouting lower lip. He feels fond and uncertain in equal measure as she sits astride him.

"I was awake," he says and her brow wrinkles with confusion, "I apologize for my intrusion. I thought it a private moment for you."

She stares for a second, two, three, he pulls his hand away and he counts to four, to five, to six. And then she laughs and leans down, pressing a tender kiss to his lips that she can't maintain for her laughter. He can't help but laugh with her, the rough exhale of his held breath turning into a chuckle.

She kisses him again as her laughter subsides, slow and warm.

"Next time just say something instead of letting me talk to myself like a fool," she says, eyes gentling as she rests her forehead against his.

"Ma nuvenin, vhenan."

He'd spent the day immersed in his research. Driven to find answers, unsure if he even had the right questions. Some days it was an obsession. Possessed of the need to know, to understand, to fix what he had broken.

He'd missed meals and denied it when the Inquisitor herself had brought him bread and fruit. He had said something about her station that he hardly remembered now. He regretted it, though she seemed unperturbed by his absent minded solecism. He apologized when he came to her quarters that night. She accepted easily, smiled readily but only with her mouth. There was a lingering sadness in her eyes, another thing he couldn't fix.

Now lying in her bed with her body pressed against his back, one of her hands resting over his heart, it seemed to be a simple thing, accepting her kindness when she offered it.

"I don't know how to help you," she whispered. He could feel her lips against the flesh of his shoulder, hear a tremor in her voice. He wanted to admit to his wrongs, to whisper, "Neither do I, vhenan," back to her. He wanted to start speaking in the dark with her small hand holding his lost power over his heart and not stop until she knew everything.

He closed his eyes and said nothing.

Some days they don't see each other at all unless he comes to her quarters. Some days he doesn't, busy with his own work or too caught up in his guilt and anger to look at her, to have her reach for him with tenderness when she knows so little (and that increases his guilt, her love increases his guilt, the fact that he wants to let her comfort him increases his guilt).

She rarely comes to him anymore. She waits patiently through his periods of distance. He comes to her in his own time and she never questions, allowing him to control the space between them.

He'd gone to her earlier, fallen asleep in the her bed waiting for her as some calling of the Inquisition held her attention.

He wakes when she slides into bed beside him. He drowses, resisting sleep until he feels her nuzzle against him. She's a warm comforting presence at his as the sound and feel of her breathing him begins to lull him back to sleep.

"I've missed you," she says softly, holding to him more tightly.

He wants to comfort her but the insistent pull of sleep keeps him silent.

His side still ached where the bear's claws had grazed him before he Fade Stepped out of its reach. The spicy scent of elfroot and embrium mixed with wet earth and leather from the tent. The soothing sound of rain was lulling him back to sleep.

She entered quietly as could be and knelt at his side, smelling of damp skin, sweat and blood, and beneath it the faded scent of some sweet flower. The hand she touched to his forehead was cool. He hadn't realized how hot it was before.

Her hand lingered over his cheek. He wanted to lean into her touch but his head felt heavy. As healing sleep crept over him again, he heard her murmur, "At least a fever is simple to tend to."

He wakes when the door to the rotunda opens, having fallen asleep reading, the prospect of his lonely bed unappealing even though he had ended the relationship.

"Solas--," She stops short and he keeps his eyes closed, his breath steady.

"I'm sorry," she says reflexively and makes an amused sound.

Coward, he thinks, and regrets.

He keeps his eyes shut, not wanting to see the place where she'd stood, to imagine her there looking at him as kindly as ever. Instead he focuses inward, intending to slip back away from the waking world.

She comes back. He listens to her soft tread drawing closer and hopes she doesn't notice the catch in his breath. For a desperate minute he's sure she's going to touch him.

Please, he thinks, and is ashamed.

She doesn't touch him. She takes the book he'd been reading away and settles a soft warm blanket over him. She only lingers long enough to say, "I'm sorry," again, soft and deliberate.

Monster, he thinks, and doesn't sleep.

and one thing you said when we both knew I was awake.
He's immensely thankful that neither Vivienne nor Dorian are present. It's shameful enough to have tested his limits so (and found them so wanting) at least he doesn't have to tolerate their snide remarks on top of the pain.

She's aware of what he'd done but instead of sassing him for his mistake, she'd offered her lap and gentle hands. The light touch of cooling ice magic in her fingertips as she rubs his temples is almost worth the fool mistake.

The way she occasionally slides her fingers along the length of his ears is definitely worth it.

"You can sleep, if you like," she says.

His lips curve at the corner but he doesn't open his eyes. "I would rather not."

It wouldn't hurt in the Fade. But she wouldn't be there either.