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Vir Bor'Assan: Bend But Never Break

Chapter Text

It wasn’t the first time they’d been ambushed in the bowels of a crumbling ruin but it was probably the most successful.

 

The room had been large, the walls and ceiling still solid, with deep shadows in the corners. The flasks had come from there, something noxious that burnt the eyes and at the back of the throat. The first had hit the Inquisitor on the side of her head and she’d crumpled as it shattered to smoke against her skull.

 

He’d heard Sera, swearing and coughing. He’d tried to cast something simple to clear the smoke and he’d felt his connection to the Fade severed-

 

Templars

 

Templars and Lavellan was down, Sera as blind as he was and Vivienne as helpless.

 

He’d heard fast footsteps then, in the room in front and in the passageway behind them. The next flask smashed near his feet, making Sera swear again and the third hit Vivienne’s arm with enough force for her to drop her staff.

 

He’d turned towards the passageway, gripped his staff in both hands waited until the blurry humanoid outline of the Templar was close enough. And swung.

 

It must have connected well because the man fell in a clattering heap but there were more behind him and one of them practically ran into Solas which sent him tumbling straight into Vivienne.

 

He felt a sword at his throat before the smoke cleared. He let them drag him aside.

 

-

 

They had rope and they’d set about tying the others. The way Andruil might have tied a deer-

 

Lavellan was breathing and Sera’s loud, pointless defiance seemed to be making her stir. They’d left her sword where it fell, and Vivienne’s staff. Sera’s bow they’d thrown as far as it would go, closely followed by her quiver, spilling arrows across the far corner.

 

The one Solas had hit had taken his staff and was expending an inordinate amount of energy trying to break it in two.

 

He’d…known how it was going to end. It was only a question of ensuring some of them left alive.

 

The sword pointed at his belly had moved casually up to his chin.

 

“Which one’s the other mage, knife-ear?” The man behind it asked.

 

“There isn’t one.” Solas replied instantly.

 

The Templar kicked him and he didn’t manage to move his arm quite fast enough to stop it connecting directly with his stomach.

 

He curled instinctively until the point of the sword pressing at his chin forced him flat against the floor again.

 

“So who’s the other staff belong to?” The Templar enquired, reasonable as could be.

 

“It’s mine.”

 

That earned another kick, the ribs this time. Predictable.

 

“Would you go into the Wilds without a spare weapon?” Solas said in a rush, making sure to sound more hurt, more frightened than he actually was.

 

Thankfully it seemed to convince them.

 

The sword point drifted down to the hollow of his throat and rested there. The man at the end of it changed tact.

 

“What are you knife-ears doing with a lady like her?”

 

As calm and rational as before, as if the wrong answer wouldn’t be a death sentence-

 

Solas lied without hesitation. “Darkspawn ate her guard. She’s paying us to take her to Skyhold.”

 

The Templar turned towards the other prisoners so that his back was almost entirely to Solas, his attention elsewhere and if he’d only himself to worry about…if he was quick-

 

But there were eight of them scattered around the room, only Cole could have made it out unscathed.

 

“You hired a fucking apostate and a couple of Dalish castoffs?” The Templar asked Vivienne incredulously. “Ma’am you must have been desperate.”

 

The Inquisitor had opened her eyes, she was twisting slightly in her bonds, testing them. And both Sera and Vivienne were glancing at her occasionally. He couldn’t have the Templar notice that and think about it too much.

 

So he moved, as if he meant to make a break for it, even if he wasn’t putting enough effort into it to get far-

 

Why waste energy he was likely to need later?

 

The kick landed square in the middle of his back, knocked the air from him and sent him sprawling.

 

He ended up encircled by them on his hands and knees and for a moment he thought he might have misread them, that they would just run him through-

 

“Strip.” The talkative one, probably their leader, ordered.

 

He heard Vivienne let out a hiss and Lavellan made a chocked sound-

 

He’d have thought they’d have caught on quicker.

 

Solas sat back on his heels and took off his jacket, then his shirt while Lavellan cursed a quiet bitter stream of broken Elven. He caught pieces of it, something about the Forgotten Ones eating their souls followed by a request that the Dread Wolf take them which almost made him smirk.

 

And then Sera caught up.

 

“What are you doing?” She demanded. “What are you-”

 

And it must have sunk in completely because Sera exploded.

 

“FUCK! SOLAS! GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HIM YOU SHITTY BASTARDS! LEAVE HIM ALONE!”

 

Solas sighed. It was just so very…Sera. As if screaming would help in any practical way-

 

He met her eyes and gave her a glare that held half the anger he had building for the Templars around him.

 

“Sera,” He said firmly. “Shut. Up.”

 

She looked so young, so distressed as if the very idea this could happen was enough to go to pieces over. He didn’t look at Lavellan, he…couldn’t. But if he could quiet Sera, if he didn’t fight, if they continued to believe he was the only mage and most especially if they didn’t look at the Inquisitor too closely then-

 

“Don’t-” Sera started.

 

“Shut. Up.”

 

He turned away, he didn’t want to look at any of them while-

 

He put it firmly out of his mind, decided to instead be thankful Sera had gone quiet.

 

He took off his trousers and smalls, the floor was as cold as he’d expected. The Templars shifted around him. Some of them were taking off chest plates and putting them aside, making him wish for a small knife to slip-

 

But that wouldn’t work either.

 

The man behind him knelt and grabbed his arms, forcing his wrists together and holding him still.

 

He didn’t struggle.

 

He felt himself starting to panic, some old idiotic instinct from the times before kicking in and urging him to fight, telling him he was somehow more helpless now than he had been moments ago, fully clothed with a sword at his throat. He pushed it away and tried to concentrate on anger instead.

 

Anger had always been more useful for surviving indignities than fear.

 

Their leader kicked his legs apart and knelt between them, laughing at Solas’ snarl and-

 

And what came next would hurt.

 

He didn’t bother to try relaxing, it wouldn’t help and he was unlikely to succeed. He concentrated instead on trying to stay quiet. He was partly successful. The pain, which was enough to making his vision blur, came out as little more than an angry hiss.

 

At least the rest of them would be easier after this-

 

The Templar shoved and thrust and Solas thought of mantras, the silent words so engrained that they came easily and if he concentrated on that then the pain seemed smaller.

 

He tried to focus on them at the expense of everything else. Not just the pain but the thought that his companions were a few feet away, that Lavellan was watching and then he thought of her kiss and that made him furious because the Templars had no right to touch that, to spoil it.

 

Solas glared at the man on top of him with his ridiculous expressions and his face too close to Solas’ and his breath like cheap ale-

 

It was all he could do to turn back to the mantras instead of trying to bite the bastard’s nose off.

 

The Templar finished, withdrew, rose and another had taken his place before he’d even finished straightening his clothes. Solas wondered how much longer they were likely to last and whether they were more likely to try and imprison them or cut them loose-

 

Then one of them grabbed his ear and yanked his head to the side and his mind focused firmly back on the present.

 

A strong hand grasped his jaw and squeezed, trying to force his mouth open. He kept it shut and an eye on the man doing it for any sign of how far he was going to-

 

The Templar punched him, which numbed the pain everywhere except his head, made his vision blur, made his mouth-

 

But apparently that was as far as the Templar was willing to go because he didn’t try again. He was talking though, probably something that Solas was supposed to find demeaning or threatening and which was probably incredibly unimaginative.

 

He was probably regularly called worse by Dalish children-

 

The second one finished and the man who’d tried to fuck his face stepped into the gap he left looking as if he had a point to prove.

 

He put a hand around Solas neck, forcing his head back into the man holding him still. The grip was too tight. In the wrong place to choke or strangle with any efficiency but more than enough to underline the entire point of this; he didn’t have a choice and his life was in the hands of others who might well kill him for sport.

 

Fenedhis lasa.

 

The pressure on his neck made it harder. Harder to focus on other things, harder to take his mind away from the pain, harder to control natural fear and panic-

 

He told himself that he couldn’t lash out, couldn’t struggle. Repeated it like a mantra in his mind. If he hurt them they’d make it worse and probably make it take longer too-

 

He may be he should have just opened his mouth.

 

By the time that one finished and let go of his throat he felt like he was drowning. He had a moment to gasp for air before the man holding his arms pushed him forward into the floor.

 

He turned his head in time to prevent his nose breaking on the stone and there were still more of them and the anger was getting harder to hold, the mantras harder to concentrate on-

 

“Darkspawn!” A man’s voice cried out from the tunnel ahead.

 

That shook them up, swearing and sounds of hurried movement, he forced his eyes back open.

 

From what he could see the Templars were planning to flee, grabbing armour and the packs the Inquisition had brought with them. But they made no move to untie the women or pick them up which meant they were probably being left behind, to speed the Templars’ retreat or slow the Darkspawn.

 

The man on his back got off, releasing his arms. And he could get up, but that was likely to earn him a sword stroke rather than a beating, they were hurrying now after all-

 

He stayed on the floor and hopefully seemed defeated and broken enough that they wouldn’t bother to-

 

A hand closed around his wrist and before he could jerk away he’d been stabbed.

 

No…tethered. A small dagger, glanced off the bone on the outside to pin him to the floor by a strip of his own skin. They probably thought it would be enough to keep him there but it was far less damaging than the things he’d done to get away from Anaris-

 

So he watched and waited until they were gone. And then ripped the flesh from his forearm.

 

Another hurt among many. He breathed, took a moment to regain…focus and sat up.

 

“Solas?” Lavellan murmured softly, there was concern in her tone and sorrow and-

 

He couldn’t dwell on that, not now.

 

“I’m coming.” He replied and staggered to his feet.

 

Standing hurt, walking hurt. He did it anyway.

 

-

 

He went to Sera first and tried, clumsily to untie the knots but a weakened hand and the blood trailing down his arm made it impossible. So he got up and looked for one of the scattered arrows. When he had it he broke it in two; the sharp end would help him get through rope more efficiently than the Inquisitor’s sword-

 

It wasn’t until he turned back that he actually looked at them.

 

Lavellan seemed to be trying, and perhaps failing, to contain her outrage.

 

Vivienne was determinedly not looking at him at all.

 

And Sera-

 

She’d turned her face towards the floor so he couldn’t see her expression but from the way she was shaking he guessed that her eyes would be red if she wasn’t still crying.

 

She was still shaking when he knelt beside her and started working at her bonds.

 

“Sera, I know you have a spine,” He said quiet but firm. “I suggest you find it quickly because we may have to deal with Darkspawn in a moment and I am in no shape to fight.”

 

She stilled.

 

Solas turned his attention back to the ropes. Sera took deep breaths which sounded wet and ragged when she breathed out. But she seemed to be getting herself under control.

 

Eventually he managed to work her free.

 

Sera sat up and pressed her palms into her eyes, grinding the heels of her hands into the sockets as if that would somehow make it all go away. But when she eventually looked up she met his eyes.

 

“Right. Darkspawn. Arrows. Got it.”

 

She surged to her feet and had her bow and quiver back before Solas could stand. She’d scooped together half a quiver full of arrows before he’d made it over to Lavellan.

 

“You know you’re still-” Sera began.

 

“Please help Vivienne.”

 

“-naked and bleeding.” Sera muttered but she went to do as he asked.

 

Lavellan frowned up at him as he knelt beside her and he found he still couldn’t hold her gaze. She opened her mouth several times as though she wished to speak before changing her mind.

 

“We’re going straight back to Skyhold and you’re going to see the healers.” She said finally.

 

“Ma nuvenin.”

 

Solas,” And it was nearly the same tone he’d used on Sera, gentler but the message was clear enough-

 

He was slipping.

 

“Ir abelas.” He murmured and Lavellan shook her head.

 

“No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have- I could have-”

 

“It doesn’t matter.”

 

“It does!”

 

He did not have a reply to that so he stayed silent.

 

She shifted as the ropes came away and rubbed her wrists. He still couldn’t hold her gaze.

 

He staggered back to his feet and found Vivienne was already free and far closer than he’d expected. She reached towards him and Solas found himself flinching from her before he could control the instinct.

 

Her expression remained neutral, her posture nonthreatening. She didn’t move closer as he edged away. Her outstretched hand stayed low. Everything calculated to show that she was not an enemy, as if he was a frightened dog-

 

“Solas,” She began and her voice was as close to lacking scorn as he’d ever heard it. “Let me help you.”

 

Not actually a question or an instruction, he noted, she was assuming that-

 

He shook his head slowly.

 

“No.”

 

She stepped forward then, frowning, perhaps confused? Solas stepped back.

 

“Solas dear, don’t be-”

 

“I do not want you near me.” He snarled, surprising himself with the amount of anger leaking into his words. “I do not want you to touch me. I do not want you to use your magic on me. Can I make myself any clearer?”

 

“Now don’t be ridiculous-” Vivienne began.

 

I am not being ridiculous,” Solas growled. “This is exactly what you advocate.”

 

That made her stop.

 

“Did you enjoy it?” Solas pressed and he should have stopped five sentences ago, should have prevented the bitter, vicious edge he was giving his words but he hurt and his self-control was cracking.

 

“No.” Vivienne stated her face blank. “I took no pleasure in it.”

 

“Oh you should!” He declared because apparently he no longer had the will to be Solas instead of Fen’Harel. “It’s what happens to half the mages in your precious Circles. Since you’re so eager to herd them back there you should at least enjoy the consequences.”

 

“Solas that is not-”

 

“YES IT IS!” He thundered and the outburst made them all start. “Have you spoken to any of the Rebels? Have you listened to Cole? This is exactly what many of them have survived and exactly what you would see most of them subjected to again. So please- LOOK!”

 

Vivienne’s expression broke to a snarl and Lavellan deftly stepped between them.

 

“Vivienne go watch the tunnel. Solas, we need to leave now, get your stuff so we can go.”

 

His gaze dropped to the floor and he noticed that his hands were shaking. When had they started-

 

He pushed the thought aside and gathered his clothes.

 

The trousers were easy enough, even if they were covered in blood. He considered the shirt for a moment before deciding it would serve better as a bandage and tying it around his wounded arm.

 

And if any of them noticed that he was quite adept at tying his own bandages with one hand they thankfully didn’t comment.

 

He shrugged his jacket on over the top and rose to find Sera holding his staff.

 

She thrust it out towards him awkwardly.

 

“Ummm, here.”

 

“Thank you.” He murmured.

 

They followed the Inquisitor out the way they’d came and thankfully didn’t run into any Darkspawn.

 

Chapter Text

The Inquisitor stared at the top of her tent and tried not to…think.

 

They needed her to be strong now, to get them home safely and then ensure those bastard shemlen were hunted down like the rats they were. May be if she concentrated on that she’d be able to stop thinking about how she’d failed them and-

 

There was a noise, a soft rustling at the foot of the tent. She sat up and reached, slowly, quietly for her sword.

 

Something like a wolf stuck it’s head through the flaps into her tent. Like a wolf, but far larger; the size of a person with blue eyes.

 

“You’re dreaming.” The wolf said.

 

“Oh?” Lavellan asked. “Does that make you a spirit?”

 

“Perhaps.”

 

“Well you’ve come at a bad time.” She observed, hand still on the sword hilt. “What do you want?”

 

The wolf lowered it’s head. “Can I please come in?”

 

“Why do you want to?”

 

“Because my pack is gone,” The wolf said softly. “And I am alone.”

 

She frowned at it. She wasn’t a mage but it sounded awfully like what she’d heard of demons trying to possess the people they found in the Fade and she said so.

 

“You’ve a sword.” The wolf point out. “And I’m already wounded. Please? I don’t want to be alone.”

 

It sounded so sad-

 

Lavellan sighed. There’d been a dagger in the pack she’d lost during the day, come to think of it her tent had been as well, but in her dream both were still there. She let go of the sword and hefted the dagger instead.

 

“Alright. But if you try anything-” She twirled the dagger and left the threat hanging.

 

The wolf limped inside and lay down beside her with it’s head on it’s paws, shivering.

 

Well whatever it was it certainly didn’t seem like the Dread Wolf. She didn’t know enough about spirits to judge really but perhaps Solas-

 

Her throat tightened and she coughed because the alternative seemed to be sobbing and she wasn’t prepared to let a stranger, even if it was a spirit see-

 

Except spirits responded to the emotions of people in the Fade.

 

The wolf whined softly and put it’s head on her lap. Like a dog seeking affection.

 

She stroked it’s ears.

 

“Sorry.” She murmured. “I didn’t mean-”

 

She took a breath and tried again.

 

“You know I’ve got a…friend who comes here a lot. He likes your world. And he told me that our emotions…twist you sometimes. I’m sorry if my sorrow is…affecting you.”

 

She wondered if it was the right thing to say and wished she had a Keeper she could ask. Perhaps if they’d sent the First instead…he may have known what to do and say.

 

The wolf sighed. “We have our own sorrows.”

 

She sat for a while, stroking it’s fur. The dream faded into something else she couldn’t recall but she remembered the wounded wolf when she woke.

 

-

 

The bruises came up over the days it took to walk back and stubbornly refused to go down. It felt like another unnecessary layer of humiliation, as though the whole thing had been written all over his body for anyone who glanced his way to read.

 

His ribs had turned a splotchy mix of purples and fading greens. He hadn’t looked in a mirror but the pain suggested his face was much the same. There were probably fingermarks around his neck-

 

The anger he’d reached for so desperately wouldn’t dissipate. No matter what he tried it simmered below the surface pushing through in his words. Cracking the walls he’d built up between himself and the past.

 

He thought he finally had a hold of it and then they reached Skyhold and-

 

It was natural for them to look, to stare. Not just because of the marks left over his body, their packs were missing, the way each of them moved had changed: it was perfectly obvious they’d been beaten and had been lucky to crawl out alive, mostly unharmed-

 

Their looks were borne of concern, he knew that.

 

But knowing didn’t quench his anger or tame it.

 

So when Cullen tore across the courtyard exclaiming to his Maker and asking what had happened Solas had snarled.

 

“Templars.”

 

For a sickening moment he’d actually felt quite satisfied with the look that had put on the man’s face. Then he’d pushed past into the Keep.

 

-

 

He ran into Dorian on the way to the infirmary and had reacted equally aggressively.

 

Thankfully he saw no one else until he reached the healers.

 

By that point the anger had receded somewhat and left him feeling…tired. He told the first healer he came across what had happened as bluntly as he could with as few words as possible in the hope it would mean he could leave all the quicker.

 

He let them unwrap his arm and half-heard their comments on the state of it.

 

They prodded his ribs presumably in an effort to see if anything had actually broken. Mercifully they didn’t ask him to remove anything more than his jacket.

 

They gave him a quantity of elfroot tincture far larger than his injuries demanded and he took it, fled with it, up to his room in the tower.

 

There was a bath drawn up, still hot, when he arrived and it-

 

It was such a small thing really, a small kindness that shouldn’t have made him hurt.

 

It blanched the last of his rage leaving guilt to fill the gap. But guilt was easier to put aside.

 

And it was a relief to finally be rid of filthy clothes he’d been wearing since they left the ruin. Finally being able to wash some of the dirt away was like shrugging off armour after a week long march-

 

He sank into the water, washed and steadily drank his way through the potions.

 

He started to think that it hadn’t been as bad as the last time and turned forcibly to something else. He remembered enough to know that comparing them was rarely productive.

 

He pulled on something clean, or at least something that didn’t smell of damp stone floors and his own dry blood.

 

Solas collapsed into bed, closed his eyes and let himself sink into the Fade.

 

-

 

Sleep came easily, as it always had afterwards-

 

The Fade, for all it’s demons, had never been as bad as the waking world.

 

-

 

She kept stopping before she reached his door. Holding back, steeling herself but not quite finding the nerve to take the final steps. She’d barely thought of anything else since they got back to Skyhold.

 

And yet Lavellan still couldn’t bring herself to knock on Solas’ door.

 

Because how could she apologise for failing him so completely? How could she even begin to make up for…that?

 

She’d promised to protect him.

 

And she hadn’t.

 

The worst part was they were almost or perhaps might have been-

 

They’d kissed, once, in the Fade and she’d joked that it hadn’t ‘counted’. Now-

 

Now it seemed likely that whatever they had, whatever they might have had, had died in a ruin in the Wilds and she regretted her words.

 

-

 

On the sixth try she knocked.

 

-

 

He called for them to enter and…hoped he was enough himself to deal with company properly.

 

He got to his feet to find Lavellan in the doorway. She shut the door carefully and the way she held herself, with her eyes down and her arm across her chest made her seem smaller.

 

“I’m sorry.” She blurted out in a rush.

 

He sighed but Lavellan didn’t stop.

 

“I’m sorry I couldn’t- But I should have been able to and they hurt you and then they got away and I am so sorry-”

 

“Lavellan, stop.”

 

She did.

 

She looked as though she hadn’t slept since, as though worry was eating away at her.

 

He wished he could hold her but he still couldn’t meet her eyes.

 

“It was not your fault. Any more than it was mine.”

 

He watched her take a deep breath and master herself again. After a moment she gave him a small dark smile.

 

“You know it’s stupid: I spent hours trying to think of what to say and then as soon as I got up here-” She snorted. “And you’re right. I know you’re right. But I still feel like I should have-”

 

“There was nothing you could do.” Solas stated though it sounded hollow even to him.

 

“I know.” She murmured. “I’m sorry.”

 

She shifted awkwardly, glancing from him to the floor to the unfinished painting on the walls.

 

“I care about you.” She said abruptly. “I…realise that this changed things but I need you to know that I do care.”

 

“I-” Solas trailed off.

 

He wondered whether he could last like this, fraying and yet still not entirely being himself-

 

He wasn’t sure he had the energy to keep lying and deflecting and being careful with his words.

 

“I need time.” He admitted finally because he did.

 

Lavellan nodded. “Take as much as you need.”

 

-

 

He’d expected Lavellan to come sooner or later but he hadn’t thought Cassandra would end up at his door so soon.

 

She had a sour expression on her face as though she was furious and trying to contain herself. It was the sort of expression he usually associated with Varric-

 

He wondered if he had truly offended Cullen that deeply or perhaps she’d come to assure him that not all Templars were beasts?

 

Perhaps she simply did not know what had happened and had come to ask.

 

Solas took a deep breath and steeled himself.

 

“What can I do for you Seeker?”

 

Cassandra shifted her weight from one foot to the other, awkward and apparently indecisive.

 

Which was unlike her and did not bode well.

 

“I-” She began. “Forgive me, I will talk to them but I thought that first I should tell you-”

 

Because of course delays and suspense on apparently important matters were precisely what- No that was unfair. He breathed, thought of mantras and by the time he had made it through two Cassandra had found her words.

 

“Sera was talking,” Cassandra said and suddenly Solas knew exactly where this was going. “In the Tavern. About-”

 

“The fact that I was raped?” He suggested blandly when she trailed off.

 

To her credit Cassandra didn’t flinch. Her expression fell somewhat, sympathy for him Solas guessed, despair at what the things she valued so highly had become.

 

“Yes.” She replied. “I have heard that Cole has also been…indiscrete but I’m less inclined to blame him. He does not understand-”

 

Solas nodded. Of course Cole wouldn’t understand, he reached out for anything that hurt and-

 

And try as he might Solas kept going back to the times before. To old wounds. To Anaris and Andruil-

 

Fenedhis.

 

He shut his eyes.

 

“I’m sorry.” Cassandra told him sincerely. “But I thought that you should know.”

 

“I understand.” Solas murmured. “Thank you.”

 

“I’ll speak to them-” Cassandra assured him and Solas shook his head.

 

“No. Don’t.”

 

He opened his eyes in time to see her look almost startled. She shifted awkwardly again, trying to decide if she should move closer or-

 

“Why?”

 

“Because Cole is trying to help and I do not want to discourage that. Sera-” He sighed. “Sera was hurt as well and I will not begrudge her something that helps her heal. I care very little what strangers think of me and I have survived far worse.”

 

Cassandra considered him for a moment then nodded.

 

“If that is what you want?”

 

“It is.” He confirmed.

 

She stepped towards the door paused and turned back with a thoughtful frown.

 

“Solas?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“This…has happened to you before?”

 

“Yes.”

 

She looked briefly down at the flagstones before focusing on him once more.

 

“You once told me you had never seen a Templar’s abilities up close.”

 

Seeker of Truth, of course she’d remembered that and spotted-

 

“I never said they were Templars.”

 

“Maker’s Breath,” She whispered. “I’m sorry.”

 

And then, thankfully, she left.

 

-

 

He hadn’t thought about Cole, hadn’t considered-

 

And perhaps, if he meditated, he could have cleared the worst of the rage in a few days. He could have remade himself at least enough to be of use to the Inquisition again. He had assumed that he would, that after the anger drained he would go back to a close approximation of the way things were until it didn’t feel like an act anymore.

 

But to get to a point where he no longer thought about it would take far longer. And so long as he was thinking of the Templars and recent injuries there was a risk Cole would link it to older ones. Fenedhis, how many times had he thought of Anaris in passing over the past two days alone?

 

And if there was a risk of Cole seeing that and the possibility that he might not…have the self-control to hide it-

 

He couldn’t risk an early attempt at normality.

 

But he couldn’t stay alone in his room for weeks on end and hope to heal.

 

Solas put his head in his hands and cursed. For several minutes he did little more than swear in fluent Elvhen, blaspheming against every God he could think to name.

 

Especially Fen’Harel.

 

Chapter Text

“Inquisitor?”

 

She rubbed her hands over her eyes and if it had been anyone apart from Dorian she might have told them exactly where they could go but-

 

He came in before she gave him permission, something that was trying to be a smile on his face and a bottle in his hand. She tried not to think about how she must have looked; ragged and red-eyed and weak. She wouldn’t have wanted most of her clan to see her like this and-

 

And here she was, the proud Dalish, turning into a crumbling wreck in front of a human. A Tevinter shemlen.

 

The Inquisition had given her the strangest friends.

 

Dorian sat beside her and poured out a small measure of something dark, dark brown.

 

“Now I know,” He said gently. “That as a general rule you don’t partake, but I thought there might be cause for an exception.”

 

She took the glass he offered and cradled it in both hands.

 

“I asked Cullen and Leliana to look for them.” She stated.

 

“That’s a good start.” Dorian encouraged but Lavellan shook her head.

 

“I don’t think they’ll find anything.”

 

“You don’t know that.”

 

She shook her head again but Dorian wasn’t sure what she meant by it. After a moment she raised the glass and took a quick mouthful.

 

She spluttered and swore.

 

“Yes sorry about that, I think it’s Antivan. Best I could do I’m afraid.”

 

She swallowed the rest and then shoved the glass back towards Dorian. He obliged her by filling it again.

 

“I saw him today.” She said finally.

 

There didn’t seem to be a need to clarify who ‘he’ was.

 

“How is he?” Dorian enquired.

 

“I….don’t know.” Lavellan admitted.

 

He’d been quiet, but then he always was. He seemed to want to be alone but then he’d never precisely sought out company before.

 

He hadn’t looked at her once. Not directly. He’d told her that it wasn’t her fault, that there was nothing she could have done and that might have been true but he hadn’t looked at her.

 

And Lavellan couldn’t help wondering if he blamed her all the same.

 

“He said he needed time.” She told Dorian eventually. “I…don’t think he wanted to see me but I don’t like the idea of leaving him alone up there.”

 

Dorian put his hand over one of hers and squeezed gently, exactly the kind of affectionate gesture that had confused her in the past. For a while he didn’t speak so she finished her drink.

 

“I’m sure we could find plenty of people willing to check on him, but if he doesn’t want to see you I doubt the rest of us would be welcome.”

 

“I-”

 

If Solas wanted to be alone they should respect that, except leaving him in isolation wouldn’t help him in the long run. She wouldn’t have abandoned one of her Clan in that manner so why do it to Solas?

 

Aside from the fact that he seemed to wish it.

 

“A compromise might be to arrange for someone to go up there twice a day.” Dorian suggested. “He’d not be forced out and we would have a better idea how he is.”

 

She nodded slowly, trying to test the idea around the fuzz the shemlen rot-gut had put over her mind. It seemed the best compromise between his wishes and his health they were likely to reach. Even if the thought that they needed to compromise at all was like a stomach wound, an agony eating her strength.

 

“We can’t send Cole.” She said in a rush and Dorian almost laughed.

 

Maker no!”

 

“Or Iron Bull, after the way he reacted to Vivienne-” She trailed off in part because she was unsure if that had made it into the version of the story that had spread through Skyhold.

 

Whether it had or not Dorian was nodding in agreement. “Varric, Cassandra, may be Blackwell-”

 

“Cassandra? But she’s-”

 

“He likes Cassandra.” Dorian stated and that appeared to settle the matter.

 

He patted her gently on the shoulder and she didn’t- She wasn’t-

 

“Of course,” Dorian said conversationally. “We can’t have you rotting away in your room either.”

 

Which made her smirk. Before she could object he’d taken the empty glass and put his hand back on her shoulder as if he meant to steer her out.

 

“I’ve a proposal, Varric’s organised a game of Wicked Grace, myself, Cullen, the Bull, Josephine, a few others. Join us.”

 

“I don’t know how to play.” The Inquisitor protested but Dorian was undeterred.

 

“Varric can teach you. And it will certainly do you good to get away from…this.”

 

She didn’t have an answer to that, so she let him lead her away to enough liquor to cause serious injury to them all and the chance to lose most of her money at cards.

 

-

 

“It’s not because of you,” Cole had told her from the other side of the table.

 

“The hurt makes it hard. Picking up old pain he’d put aside. The Shadow that kept him safe is gone.”

 

She didn’t know why she was trying to puzzle it out. Especially not when she’d drunk so much over the cards that her footing didn’t come so naturally anymore.

 

“The mask is cracked and it scares him. Should be better, stronger, in control of the Wolf underneath.”

 

It made no sense. Of course it made no sense it was Cole. And it felt wrong to be prying into things Solas wouldn’t share on his own, even if it was through a spirit that was trying to help.

 

But if it wasn’t because of her then she needed to know why-

 

She still hadn’t made sense of a word Cole said when she fell into her bed and slept.

 

-

 

She’d been walking through a forest, beside one of the aravels and suddenly Solas was beside her.

 

“You’re dreaming.” He explained which made perfect sense because no one walked beside a moving aravel and she couldn’t picture Solas among the Dalish any more than she could see him in a Chantry.

 

“Would you mind if we went elsewhere?” He asked.

 

Lavellan shook her head and he smiled at her, took her hand and led her through the Fade.

 

-

 

He led her, almost without thinking, to the safe house Banal’ras had taken him to after they’d rescued him from Anaris. To the small, half-hidden room they’d spent three months in, hiding and healing.

 

He traced a finger over the waves of blue and grey on the wall and before he’d thought enough to decide where he was going he had sat on the bed. And he’d expected Lavellan to take up Banal’ras’ position on the chair by the doorway but she’d walked straight past to the window instead.

 

“Is this Arlathan?” She asked quietly, almost reverently.

 

“No, Arlathan was much larger.”

 

She stared out at the past for some time before turning back to the room, taking in the patterns on the walls, the simple furniture as if they were wondrous. And normally he would have been happy that she’d take so much interest in their history but-

 

“What is this place?”

 

“I….don’t know.” He answered honestly.

 

He’d assumed it was a house, or a shop, perhaps both. But he couldn’t remember being carried in and they’d left quickly under the cover of night.

 

He’d never met the people who’d risked their lives to shelter him here.

 

The Inquisitor gave him a curious look. “So…why here then?”

 

“I’ve been here before,” Solas replied. “And I found it comforting.”

 

“Alright.” She said simply, sitting in Banal’ras’ chair.

 

She waited while Solas tried, and failed, to find the right words.

 

“Did you go to Varric’s card game?” He asked instead.

 

“Yes.” She said, then paused. “How did you know about that?”

 

“He invited me.”

 

She almost told him that he should have gone but-

 

“We’re worried about you.” Lavellan admitted. “You’ve…cut yourself off and I- we want to help you. You…do you understand that?”

 

“Yes.” Solas replied, meeting her eye for the first time in what felt like an age. “But understanding doesn’t necessarily help.”

 

“And things are easier in the Fade?”

 

“Yes.”

 

He smiled at her and Lavellan looked away. She noticed that the paintings on the walls were a similar style to the ones Solas had started in Skyhold. Which wasn’t surprising really, he’d been wandering through ruins and memories in the Fade long enough to draw inspiration from history.

 

“You shouldn’t blame yourself ma vhenan.”

 

He was watching carefully so he saw Lavellan freeze. But she didn’t protest or deny it. She sighed.

 

“I’m….in charge,” She said finally. “That means I’m responsible. For all of you.”

 

“I will be fine.” Solas insisted.

 

“But you’re not right now.” The Inquisitor pointed out. “And….that’s the first time you’ve called me ‘vhenan’-”

 

“If you don’t-”

 

“No,” She interrupted, her eyes still on the walls, the window. “I didn’t mean- It’s just this is really not how I pictured ever hearing that. From anyone.”

 

“No. I suppose it wouldn’t be.”

 

He waited but the silence just stretched out and the closest Lavellan got to looking at him was the floor in front of his feet. She thought of Cole, of what ‘picking up old pain’ could mean.

 

“Has this…happened to you before?” She asked finally her gaze still on the ground.

 

“Yes. A long time ago.”

 

“Fuck.”

 

Solas watched her bury her face in her hands and no, that was enough. None of them had a right to hurt her through him. Not Anaris, not Andruil, not a world’s worth of Templars.

 

He rose and walked the two paces to Banal’ras’ chair. Lavellan looked up and she had time to be surprised that he was so close before he pulled her closer and hugged her tight. After a moment her arms wrapped around him and he leaned forward to rest his head on her shoulder.

 

“Sorry.” She murmured into his shoulder.

 

“Please stop apologising.”

 

He held her a moment longer before drawing back enough to look at her.

 

“Would you mind if I come here again?” He asked.

 

“To my dreams? No.”

 

He smiled at her and he looked so relieved it made her sure he wasn’t planning on leaving that blasted room for a while. And that hurt, more than it should. That he’d prefer to see her in dreams than in reality.

 

But then it was Solas, and perhaps he saw the Fade as more real than the waking world.

 

His hand brushed briefly against her cheek then he stepped back and was gone. And if they’d been in Skyhold she’d have felt abandoned but instead she just dreamt of something else.

 

-

 

The card games became a routine. Most of them would be there every night and it did help, seeing almost all of them regularly, taking time to laugh and chat and forget.

 

At least a little.

 

-

“Dharmika sakti vhen’alas nadas,” Cole said in Solas’ voice. “Sahyena enasalin.”

 

The game slowed while they turned to look askance at the Inquisitor. Cole repeated the mantra.

 

“I…don’t know what that means.” She admitted finally.

 

“None of it?” Dorian enquired.

 

She fidgeted, toying with her cards before replying.

 

“Vhen’alas is the Earth. Nadas means ‘must’. Other than that-”

 

She tapped her cards against the table and turned to Cole.

 

“Do you know what it means?”

 

“Echoes from before when everything sang the same.” Cole replied. “It helps the hurt and clears the mind.”

 

Which wasn’t really an answer.

 

-

 

“He doesn’t want you to see.” Cole told her. “He doesn’t want anyone to see.”

 

And if Lavellan was honest this was part of why she kept coming to play Wicked Grace in the evenings instead of worrying in her room. Not just the companionship, but a morbid curiosity about the painful past Solas hadn’t shared. She’d noticed some themes in Cole’s musings, the masks were obvious enough, Solas was hiding something. She’d known that from the beginning. He never had a straight answer about where he’d come from or what he’d been before he started wandering through ruins. He was hiding something and he was afraid that they, that she, would find out what it was.

 

But she couldn’t imagine what it could be. After the bland way he’d told her he’d been raped before she couldn’t imagine that shame would have kept him silent. They’d talked, quite openly, about blood magic and spirits so she doubted that he had some dark apostate power he needed to hide.

 

Cole had said once that he carried necessary deaths and combined with the way he had talked about war she thought that meant a protector rather than a murderer. A man who had set out to save people and failed.

 

But so had she, so there was no reason to keep that secret either.

 

There were other themes to Cole’s pronouncements too of course. And she wasn’t sure what to make of the shadow he kept mentioning or the wolves.

 

-

 

She’d been thinking entirely about her hand and whether she should discard knights or songs when Cole next piped up a week later.

 

“Banal uth,” It was Solas’ voice, thick and pained. “Banal uth. Banal uth-”

 

Lavellan dropped her cards.

 

“What-” Cullen began.

 

“You should go to him.” Cole said, but Lavellan was already on her feet and half the players following.

 

-

 

The world shifted abruptly and he couldn’t breathe.

 

And first he thought, childishly, that it was unfair because he hadn’t even been thinking of Anaris-

 

Then his heart was pounding so hard he couldn’t hear anything except his pulse. He looked down and observed in a detached way that his hands were shaking, his legs were giving way-

 

And then he was on the floor, curling around himself and breathing far too fast.

 

Not again, but that was a pointless thing to think. The fear was already there, paralysing his mind and making him weak.

 

But it would pass. It had before.

 

He tried to breathe and thought of mantras.

 

And then his door burst open and half the Inquisition seemed to rush in.

 

-

 

“Solas!”

 

He was on the floor, curled up in a ball and she was at his side in an instant. She reached for him instinctively but thankfully thought before she actually touched him and drew back.

 

He was breathing hard and fast, as though he was running for his life. His eyes screwed shut and his pained expression half-hidden by his arms and knees.

 

“Solas.” She said again, more gently and he didn’t respond. “Solas can you hear me?”

 

She heard Dorian ask if he was alright, Cassandra murmur something to the Maker before asking him to look up please-

 

And then Cole spoke, in a woman’s voice.

 

“Ma dirhaa Fen’Harel, ma rah’suledin”

 

And Solas looked up.

 

For a moment she couldn’t think.

 

She caught sight of the wolves he’d painted on the walls-

 

It was impossible.

 

All the things Cole had said-

 

But no one was so fluent in Elven. He’d described Arlathan as if he’d been there and claimed it was the Fade-

 

But he couldn’t-

 

“She. Would never say. That.” Solas spoke thickly in short rushes between breaths.

 

“No.” Cole agreed. “But it’s what she meant.”

 

And then Lavellan was the one who couldn’t breathe.

 

She stumbled backwards without thinking, staggered to her feet and fled.

 

Chapter Text

Cole looked from Solas to the doorway and back as if he didn’t know which way to turn.

 

“Go after her.” Solas instructed in a rush and thankfully Cole did.

 

He was vaguely aware of the rest of them, frozen around him. Dorian, Varric, Cassandra, the first two at least might have an idea what had happened-

 

The Iron Bull stepped into his field of vision and crouched in front of him, blocking his view of the door. Out of reach, posture adjusted to make himself as non-threatening as possible-

 

“Focus on your breathing.” The Bull said calmly. “Try to get it under control.”

 

“I know.” Solas hissed.

 

“Yeah, you’re angry. You’re hurt. I get it. But whatever shit you’ve got going on can wait till you can stand.” The Bull responded.

 

And he was right.

 

Solas nodded, shut his eyes again and tilted his head back until it touched the wall behind him.

 

He breathed.

 

And after (a moment? An age?) he felt that he could do it more easily. So he opened his eyes.

 

The Iron Bull was still crouched in front of him.

 

“How long?” He asked and his voice sounded ragged, weak-

 

“About twenty minutes.” The Bull replied.

 

Solas turned. Dorian was gone but Varric and Cassandra remained. He glanced towards the Bull who shrugged.

 

“Sent Dorian and Cullen after the Boss. They were cluttering up the place.”

 

“Thank you.” He murmured.

 

“Solas?” Cassandra said gently and his heart sank. “What happened?”

 

He shut his eyes briefly and focused on breathing for the space of six breathes. It stopped the panic and fear from taking over again-

 

“I…would rather talk about it when I am not-” He trailed off and held out one shaking hand.

 

“Cole called you ‘Fen’Harel’.” Varric stated and for some reason it made him want to laugh-

 

“Yes.” Solas confirmed.

 

Varric frowned and the Bull huffed.

 

“It can wait.” The Bull said firmly before turning back to Solas. “Any idea what set it off?”

 

He shook his head and the Bull sighed.

 

“Alright. You want us to stay?”

 

“Yes.” He said instantly and then felt weak for it, pathetic for needing-

 

That was also unfair, borne of anger and self-hatred. Banal’ras would have-

 

She would not have tolerated such stupidity.

 

So he breathed and thought of mantras and tried to put emotion aside.

 

And thanked the people he’d been lying to for their kindness.

 

-

 

It took two hours for his heart to slow and the shaking to subside enough that he could stand.

 

-

 

The Inquisitor paced as if walking over the same patch of floor might eventually make stone rooms feel less confining. Strange how she only seemed to notice it so much when there was something larger on her mind. Then suddenly it seemed wrong to have so much of the sky cut off from her view and that the view she was allowed was always the same. Being surrounded by sheml- by humans hadn’t turned out as badly as she’d feared but it would never be the same as having her Clan around her. However close they became there were times her friends felt distant, things they didn’t understand and an insistence on physical space, privacy, walls that was baffling. She could drape the Keep in Dalish colours but it wouldn’t warp the stone into something she recognised.

 

And she just couldn’t stop thinking about-

 

She’d given up on sleep.

 

Which meant she heard the tentative knock on her door.

 

She considered leaving it unanswered, whoever it was she doubted they were bringing good news. She went to open it anyway and wasn’t entirely surprised to find ‘Solas’ standing at her door.

 

If he hadn’t looked so haunted she might have shut it in his face.

 

But he was far too pale, which made the last lick of yellowed bruise stand out against his cheek. His hands were still trembling, although he seemed to be trying to hide that by keeping them close to his sides.

 

“What do you want?” She asked, more tired than angry.

 

“May I come in?”

 

Lavellan sighed and stood aside.

 

“You haven’t answered my question.” She pointed out as she shut the door behind him.

 

“I-” He started and stopped.

 

His eyes flitted around the room never quite reaching her face.

 

“I don’t want to be alone.” He admitted finally.

 

She sighed again, he sounded so small-

 

“I know, I’ve no right to ask-” He began and she raised a hand to cut him off.

 

“You lied to me.” She stated. “But you’re still a member of the Inquisition and you’ve been through more in the last two weeks than most of the rest of us have in our lives. You want to stay here tonight you can sleep on that.”

 

She pointed to the long, low, cushioned piece of furniture that had appeared in her room because Josephine thought she might need it. She wasn’t even sure what it was for, somewhere between a bed and a series of fused chairs-

 

He went to it, apparently automatically and sat staring at the floor. She stayed by the door, not sure if they were talking or-

 

“Am I?” He asked.

 

“Are you what?”

 

“Still a member of the Inquisition.”

 

So they were talking. She strode across the room and sat beside him.

 

“Do you know of any other experts on the Fade I could recruit?” Lavellan enquired.

 

“No.” He admitted.

 

“Then you’re staying.” She informed him. “Unless you particularly want to leave?”

 

He shook his head.

 

“Good.” Lavellan stated simply and let the silence stretch.

 

He didn’t look up and the Inquisitor stared. When she thought about it he was built differently, even with his shoulders hunched like that it was clear they were broader-

 

And if he wasn’t genuinely upset…then her people had been right about one thing: Fen’Harel was the best liar the world had ever known.

 

“And then?” He asked quietly.

 

“And then what?”

 

He closed his eyes, breathed and she watched as he schooled his face back to blankness.

 

“After you have sealed the breach. When you no longer need an expert on the Fade. What then?”

 

Lavellan leant back, considering.

 

“The Chantry might make more trouble over an apostate when the world isn’t ending.” She observed. “I assumed, well after what Cole said today I assumed you wouldn’t want to stay.”

 

“I-I can’t.”

 

She sighed. “I won’t stop you leaving if that’s what you’re hinting at.”

 

His eyes shot open and he gave her such an intense look of disbelief it could probably have summoned a spirit of Doubt.

 

“You don’t-” He began and trailed off.

 

Lavellan waited. Fen’Harel glanced back at the floor.

 

“You don’t intend to have me answer for what…happened to The People?”

 

“And what? Try you on the basis of legends older than Andraste?” She snorted. “As you took so much pleasure pointing out the Dalish have been wrong before. I’m not going to lock you up because of stories I heard as a child.”

 

But that just made his shoulders hunch further, made him look smaller, sadder-

 

When he looked up, at her, his face was that careful, polite mask again.

 

“And what would you do if I confessed?”

 

She blinked, stared at him.

 

“Confessed to what?” The Inquisitor wondered.

 

“I…caused this.” He admitted.

 

She waited and he closed his eyes, turned away.

 

“I…removed our leadership. Which left Tevinter free to plunder and enslave what was left of our cities. The loss of countless lives, more than a thousand years of slavery, the loss of our culture, the oppression of our People, the fact Corypheus is using Elvhen artifacts against us- It is all, ultimately, because of me.”

 

Lavellan sighed. Of all the impossible things she’d seen with the Inquisition this, this would be the one no Dalish would believe: that Fen’Harel would confess remorsefully to everything the stories accused him of.

 

“Do you want to die?” She asked softly. “Is that what this is about?”

 

He slowly shook his head.

 

“Then what? You want me to punish you for something that happened thousands of years ago, to people I never met and probably wouldn’t understand? Why? Come to think of it how? Lock you in a dungeon for a thousand years? That wouldn’t end well.”

 

“You don’t want revenge?” He sounded as though he couldn’t quite bring himself to believe it.

 

“No,” She said. “I don’t. Not for that.”

 

They sat in silence as he tried and failed to speak. It struck her suddenly how surreal it was, that the Gods existed, that one of them was here, and so unlike everything she’d been taught.

 

It made her wish, paradoxically, for Solas. Because the questioning, thoughtful, mage she’d known would have found it fascinating.

 

“I’ve questions.” The Inquisitor said finally and he nodded so she went on.

 

“How much of it was a lie?”

 

“My name. My age.” He began simply. “How I knew about the Fade, Skyhold, other things-”

 

He trailed off, staring at the window. “I didn’t lie about my opinions, my beliefs, my feelings, my current capacities. Only so much that you wouldn’t know…what I am.”

 

Lavellan nodded. It made sense, because no one in their right mind would ever think anyone from the time of Arlathan still survived. It was an easier lie, the one everyone would want to believe and none would think to question.

 

She thought of her vallaslin and wondered if she’d chosen wisely. If she was wearing the symbol of a woman she’d admire or despise.

 

“Would you have told me?” She asked.

 

“I don’t know.” He admitted.

 

Which wasn’t the answer she wanted but it was the most reasonable one and that made it more likely to be true.

 

She gave him another nod and rose. There was a backlog of reports to deal with, pleas for help, a diplomatic maze she was gradually learning to navigate. The cooling pot of tea on her desk would help her through the rest of the night.

 

“Is that all?” He called after her.

 

Lavellan stopped but didn’t turn.

 

She could have asked why he was here, why the Inquisition. Why her-

 

But she suspected she already knew. And the rest…the rest could wait.

 

“For now.” She replied finally, taking the last few steps to her desk.

 

“Inquisitor?”

 

She sighed. “Yes?”

 

“Before we met, I had almost given up on the People.” He trailed off briefly and she was tempted to look his way but-

 

But that would be giving him too much.

 

“You give me hope lethallan.” He finished simply. “For that, however this ends, ma serannas.”

 

Strange to think that if she’d heard that a handful of days ago she’d have been overjoyed.

 

She took a breath, a moment to find the correct path when her mind and heart were all astorm. It was almost lucky that his secret had turned out to be so…

 

She could have been furious at a smaller thing, as it was she wasn’t sure she had taken it in yet. The Gods were real- And if it had been something simpler, if she had absorbed it all, she might have been too angry to extend the simple compassion any survivor deserved.

 

Lavellan breathed out, slowly, steadily and sat at her desk.

 

“Solas, get some sleep.” She instructed before turning to the paper work she’d ignored all week.

 

-

 

Dorian wasn’t surprised that Lavellan didn’t show up to their next card game, that it had gone ahead at all was rather more unexpected especially since no one seemed inclined to talk either about last night’s incident or Lavellan’s empty chair. Varric and the Iron Bull kept up a stubbornly frivolous conversation about the Free Marches for a game but by the second hand it had petered out. No one else appeared willing to break the silence.

 

He was considering weighing in himself when Solas appeared.

 

The game stopped.

 

“I owe each of you an apology. And an explanation.” He said coming to a stop behind the Inquisitor’s chair. “May I join you?”

 

“Sure.” The Bull replied, which made Dorian wonder if the oaf hadn’t bothered to look up ‘Fen’Harel’ in the library after the exchange he clearly hadn’t understood-

 

Solas sat. He stared at the table for a moment sighed and turned to Cullen.

 

“Firstly I would like to apologise for the way I spoke to you and Dorian after we’d returned from the wilds.”

 

Dorian glanced at Cullen who had an amusingly poleaxed expression which didn’t give him the slightest clue what Solas was talking about. After they’d-

 

Oh.

 

Oh-

 

He bit down on his first instinct, which was to ask what in Andraste’s name Solas was talking about.

 

“Already forgotten.” Dorian assured him smoothly.

 

Which was perfectly true because whatever Solas had said then had been rather wiped away by the news of what had happened to him.

 

He drummed his fingers on the edge of the table and glanced over them all. Assessing, Dorian thought and he wasn’t sure if that bode well.

 

“Should I assume you are all aware of what the name Fen’Harel signifies?”

 

“Harillen tel’harellan.”

 

“Anyone aside from Cole?” Solas enquired.

 

Dorian quickly scanned the table, most of them looked apprehensive but only Cullen and Blackwell looked truly confused. Varric sighed and filled the silence.

 

“The Dread Wolf’s the Elven trickster God. He betrayed the Gods and locked them away with monsters.”

 

It brought a small smirk to Solas but he didn’t deny it.

 

“So that’s what it was about?” Cullen asked doubtfully. “You’re-”

 

“Clearly not a god.” Solas stated.

 

“But I was part of Elvhenan.” He admitted after a moment. “And I did play a part in it’s downfall.”

 

He paused, leaning back a little and staring more at the walls than the people in front of him.

 

“For any of it to make sense you have to understand that we lived for a very long time. To die after an Age was to die little more than a child. It meant that even simple change took decades and it meant that once a course was decided it could take hundreds, thousands of years to alter.”

 

Solas sighed and his gaze drifted back down to the table.

 

“To simplify: there were two factions, each powerful and entirely opposed to the other having power. For a long time we avoided war through a…compact? A treaty? On each side there was an individual who was supposed to uphold it: which worked until Mythal, who was one of these enforcers, was betrayed and nearly killed.”

 

“Each side accused the other. Each side raised armies and each set about slaughtering the People and each other in the name of proving the other wrong.”

 

He glanced briefly at Josephine then pinched the bridge of his nose. After a moment he went on.

 

“Neither was prepared to compromise and they were…destroying everything. I thought-”

 

He stopped, took a deep breath-

 

“I thought that without the ringleaders, without their supposed betters telling them to fight, it would end. We would be gone, but the People would continue.”

 

He trailed off and abruptly went back to staring at the far wall. “I imprisoned them. I will not tell you where, only that it will still hold for a time. I trapped myself in the Fade in the process and-”

 

He shut his eyes. “And it did not stop. They continued to fight for absent generals, in the name of causes that no longer made any sense. Until the point that Tevinter came to pick over the ruins. For so long I could do nothing but watch and now-”

 

Solas sighed. “Now I am unsure it matters.”

 

He opened his eyes again, fixing them on the people around him. “You’ve questions. Ask them.”

 

For a long moment no one spoke. Blackwell fiddled with his cards. Josephine frowned at her drink. The Bull scratched at the base of his horns.

 

“Chuckles,” Varric said finally. “You look like you could use a drink.”

 

“Desperately.” Solas agreed.

 

Chapter Text

Blackwell brought out the strongest spirit he could find, a greenish volatile fluid that sloshed against the side of the glass as if exposing it to air was halfway to setting it alight. Solas poured himself what looked like at least a four finger measure and downed it in two quick swallows.

 

“You alright, Chuckles?” Varric asked.

 

“I think,” Solas began carefully. “That whoever brewed this didn’t know which end of the still they were supposed to collect from.”

 

“A regrettably common affliction.” Dorian agreed.

 

They lapsed into silence.

 

“So,” Josphine began stiltedly. “You’re actually claiming to be an Elven God?”

 

“I believe I mentioned that we were not gods.”

 

“Magister?” Dorian suggested and Solas shook his head.

 

“More akin to your Divines-”

 

“How old are you?” Blackwell interrupted.

 

“Old.” Solas stated making the Iron Bull snort.

 

“Not gonna answer?”

 

“I don’t know when I was born. It’s difficult to tell how much time is passing in the Fade. And your calendar makes no sense whatsoever-”

 

“You don’t know when you were born?” Josephine put in.

 

“Some time between forty and fifty Ages ago.” He guessed. “Does it matter?”

 

It was surreal the casual way he said it. Alone it wouldn’t have been enough to get Dorian half-way to accepting it but Cole was always right and Lavellan already seemed convinced. And that seemed to be enough for all of them-

 

“What are you?” Cullen wondered aloud.

 

It earned the poor man a look that really shouldn’t have made Dorian feel like laughing. It was almost the same as the expression Lavellan used when someone appeared to have forgotten what shape her ears were.

 

“I am of the People.”

 

“Elves don’t-” Cullen started before thinking better of it and sighing. “I’m not going to get a better answer am I?”

 

“It seems unlikely.”

 

“So we’re asking questions but you’re not answering?” The Iron Bull mused, smirking across the table.

 

Solas scowled. “And what do you consider your self to be: Qunari or your horns?”

 

“The power attributed to the Elven gods-” Josephine interrupted. “Was that…true?”

 

“Yes.” Solas said, toying with his empty glass. “Though it took hundreds of years to gather.”

 

In the lull that followed Dorian thought about the little pieces of Elven lore he knew. One of the gods had supposedly made the halla and the idea that that was possible, that someone could design a living creature, it was intriguing-

 

“I don’t think further investigation or the use of-” Josephine shook her head slowly. “It wouldn’t benefit the Inquisition.”

 

“No.” Solas agreed. “It wouldn’t.”

 

Which apparently meant the end of asking how an elf mage might live five thousand years. They were right of course, politically speaking, ethically speaking, but that didn’t make Dorian any less curious. Perhaps if they’d started as something like Cole…but Solas ate and drank and breathed and Dorian wasn’t sure Cole did.

 

“That why you kept it a secret?” Varric asked.

 

Because of what the Inquisition might have done.

 

“In part.” Solas admitted, reaching for the bottle again. “I also doubt very much any of you would have believed me at the beginning and-”

 

He paused to pour himself a more conservative measure and swirled it idly around his glass.

 

“She’s Dalish.” He said finally. “Their Keepers swear to protect the People from me. They use my name as a curse. They wish their enemies cross my path.”

 

He drank, a small tentative sip that made him wince, presumably at the flavour.

 

“There are also…other considerations,” Solas confessed. “When the Breach is closed I intend to leave. I would prefer that none of you followed.”

 

“Why?” Cullen prompted, arms folded.

 

“Because I will likely have to answer for the fall of Elvhenan soon and-” Solas sighed. “I want no more deaths for my mistakes…and I would prefer to be remembered as I am now.”

 

“You’ll die?” Cassandra asked softly.

 

“Everything ends da’len.”

 

“That’s a pretty fatalistic attitude Chuckles.” Varric opined.

 

Solas smirked. “I am quite fatalistic.”

 

They lapsed back into silence. Solas finished his drink and Dorian fingered his cards. It hadn’t been a bad hand all considered, but it seemed unlikely they’d return to the game.

 

He thought, rather suddenly, of home. Everyone in Tevinter knew that they’d destroyed Arlathan, they’d broken the Elven empire, they’d-

 

Except apparently they hadn’t.

 

So much of his homeland’s puffed up pride, their sense of superiority over the elves and the ordinary people untouched by the Fade was based on a lie. It was something he should probably think more deeply about, later, when he was entirely sober.

 

“What do you believe in?” Cassandra wondered.

 

“You’ve asked that before.” Solas pointed out.

 

“Is your answer any different?”

 

“Elvir teaches many things.” He began carefully. “It holds that the world naturally tends towards the greatest good, whether we see it or not. It emphasises self control and compassion, moderation in all things. It also proposes a natural hierarchy of people: that our souls are born many times and that where and what someone is born is dependant on sins they committed previously. Which neatly blames the poor and oppressed for their own suffering.”

 

Cassandra frowned. “Do you have Gods?”

 

And Dorian sighed. He’d heard enough for one night and if the aim of playing Wicked Grace together was to relax then a religious debate was the last thing they needed.

 

“Well,” He interrupted, earning Cassandra’s ire. “I think we should probably retire this hand but there’s still time for a few more games.”

 

Dorian slid his cards to Varric and they must have been in agreement because the dwarf launched straight into a story about Hawke as they collected up the deck. He’d shuffled and begun to deal when Blackwell interrupted.

 

“Oh no. Not again. If he’s playing,” The Warden said, pointing at Solas. “Then I’m not. Once was humiliating enough.”

 

“What d’you do?” The Iron Bull asked with a smirk.

 

“Beat him at Diamondback. Once.” Solas responded, a picture of innocence. “He’s exaggerating.”

 

It descended, briefly, into debate until curiosity won out and Varric dealt Solas in. Blackwell refused to play and Dorian smiled.

 

Because as bizarre as it all was for the first time in what felt like months things seemed almost normal again.

 

-

 

They only let Solas play once.

 

-

 

He wasn’t staying in his room anymore, which was probably a good sign even if he seemed to be avoiding Vivienne and Sera seemed to be avoiding him. More than usual anyway-

 

Lavellan was getting reports from him again, a sudden rush of information and paperwork. She wasn’t sure if it was meant as an apology or as proof he was still useful, still himself.

 

She knew he wasn’t ‘better’, whatever that was, because he was still sleeping in her room-

 

Because he still snapped, sometimes, at things he would have ignored before-

 

Because Leliana and Varric had both found him curled up in an unlikely corner breathing too fast more than once now.

 

She wasn’t sure how many of them knew exactly. Those who’d been around the table playing cards certainly and Leliana somehow knew everything that went on within Skyhold’s walls with a worrying amount of what occurred outside besides. She knew that most of them had talked to him about it, she’d found him explaining halam’shivanas to Cassandra the day before, but they hadn’t talked to her-

 

And may be she should have been worried, that they didn’t truly understand what Fen’Harel meant, what the Dread Wolf was capable of-

 

But the Dread Wolf had turned out to be rather disappointing. Certainly not the wild monster from her childhood stories, the beast that Keepers had to keep at bay.

 

Lavellan had never been a ‘good’ Dalish child, too fearless, too curious, too willing to ask awkward questions and too slow to accept that things were so because her elders had said it. A benighted fool who believed in what she could see and touch, wondered why it was wrong to eat halla, why humans were to be feared.

 

The Dread Wolf was a man, all loneliness and wounded pride.

 

By the time it had all sunk in, by the time she’d worked that out and could see the man again clearly he’d stopped coming to her room at night. As the Inquisitor she knew she should have been happy about that, a small sign he was healing.

 

And yet-

 

-

 

It…eased, in a way he never would have expected it to.

 

That they believed the truth was incredible. That they hadn’t had him killed for it or worse seemed almost absurd. And yet-

 

And yet instead he was safe to be himself, perhaps more so than he had been since he’d last seen Banal’ras and Ghilan-

 

It was a relief, even if it had cost whatever tentative connection he’d had with the Inquisitor-

 

It had made many of them wary but it hadn’t cut the ties between them. Lavellan had been right, he was still a part of the Inquisition and he’d found more pleasure in the sudden freedom to be truly honest then he’d expected.

 

He hadn’t realised just how much effort he had been spending hiding things from Cole. He hadn’t anticipated that so many of them would want to- that Cassandra would be curious about the Vir, Dorian about history, that whatever their differences the Iron Bull would want to make sure he was healing.

 

In a few years and another lifetime he’d have gladly called them all kin.

 

He wondered if it was selfish to be disappointed that he wouldn’t have that time.

 

-

 

He’d been painting when Sera finally came to see him, scowling at the floor, the scattered books, the walls, everything apart from him. He’d sighed inwardly but at least she’d been gracious enough to give him time.

 

If she’d come soon after Cole had announced he was Fen’Harel he probably wouldn’t have had the strength to stand stoic while she railed.

 

“I wanna talk to you.” She announced, crossing her arms and bracing herself as if they were squaring off for a fist fight.

 

He put the palette and knife down.

 

“Then speak.”

 

She turned from his gaze to glare, disgusted at the corner. For a moment she was silent which couldn’t possibly bode well.

 

“Urgh!” Sera whirled suddenly to face him, all anger and tension. “You know what? Fuck the weird elfy demon shite. You know what I want to know? Those Templars, why’d you-”

 

She stopped, breathed, her hands clenched to fists, relaxed, curled again-

 

“Why did you let them do that to you?”

 

“You think I wanted-” Solas interjected, furious.

 

“Maker no!” Sera interrupted and some of his sudden anger drained away.

 

He stood, silently waiting while Sera struggled to find words. She looked as though she’d have been happier hitting him. Perhaps she would have been.

 

“You’re quick.” She said finally. “And you fight smart. None of that flashy shite Dorian does that doesn’t do anything. And you got blades hid in your dumb elfy clothes. The others didn’t notice that but I did. So I think-”

 

She turned, aiming a snarl at the corner, the walls. Breathed an irate, violent hiss.

 

“I think,” She repeated. “That if you really wanted to you could have got away from those bastards. Didn’t quite notice it at the time but later, when I thought about it-”

 

She trailed off, gave the floor a mirthless smile and turned finally back to Fen’Harel.

 

“So then I started wondering, ‘why would anyone do that?’ And you know what I worked out?”

 

He sighed and looked away.

 

“Well?” Sera demanded. “Go on Mister I’m-always-fucking-right! What-”

 

“If it had not been me,” Solas interrupted, so quiet and gentle he was half-surprised Sera didn’t just speak over him. “It would have been the Inquisitor. Or you.”

 

Her shoulders fell. She wrapped her arms around herself, gripped ribs and elbows so tight he could see the tendons across her knuckles, so tight she’d leave a mark.

 

“Yeah.” Sera said finally. “That’s what I figured.”

 

She stared at the floor, apparently unwilling to either leave or continue their conversation. Perhaps she was actually trying to justify whatever it was she wanted to say about elves or their ‘gods’. He considered telling her to go but-

 

“What do you want, Sera?” He asked finally.

 

“You hate me,” She choked out, more a protest than an accusation. “You hate me and you hate Vivi and if you hadn’t lied about that fucking staff it would have been her! So why?

 

He breathed, thought of mantras, considered turning back to the painting but he wasn’t certain that Sera wouldn’t attack him and if she did it would be better to see it coming.

 

“If you think so little of me,” He stated, calm and even. “That you honestly think I’d want any of you to be raped then I don’t understand why we’re having this conversation.”

 

“I’m TRYING to say THANK YOU, you ELFY DEMON MORON!”

 

She was trying-

 

He sat heavily and thankfully retained enough meagre self-control to lean forwards on to his knees instead of back against the wet plaster. No sense in ruining hours of work with a moment of weakness.

 

After a while Sera stepped forward and crouched not-quite-beside him. Almost within arms reach.

 

“Your face!” She snorted. “It’d be funny if this weren’t so fucked up.”

 

He didn’t dignify that with a response. Sera stared at the ceiling.

 

“How’d you do it?” She asked, more serious then he’d ever heard her. “How’d you just keep going?”

 

“I locked myself in a room for more than a week.” Solas pointed out. “I don’t think that’s a sign of stability.”

 

Sera shrugged. “Didn’t set anything on fire. I’d have gone with fire. You didn’t even shank Lady-Fancy-Pants a little bit-”

 

Which startled a smile out of him and made Sera chuckle.

 

“Thought about it though? Don’t blame you.”

 

There didn’t seem to be any point denying it or trying to explain to Sera that destruction didn’t help. She’d argue and then he’d have to explain and given how affected she’d been by simple Templars-

 

“This wolfy demon stuff, it’s weird and wrong.” She began. “But I figure after…after that, I can may be ignore it.”

 

“How magnanimous of you.”

 

She turned enough to catch his eye, giving him a stern glare.

 

“You’re not a god.”

 

“I never claimed to be.”

 

“And I ain’t gonna start treating you special because elves-

 

“I wouldn’t want you to.”

 

“I believe,” She said firmly. “In the Maker.”

 

“And I hope it brings you happiness.” He replied.

 

“That’s it?” She asked, apparently surprised. “No elfy lectures or poncy titles or dumb things you want?”

 

Solas smiled. “Well if you’re going to insist, you could be nicer to Cole.”

 

“Creepy? Forget it.”

 

“A pity.”

 

They drifted into silence. Sera shifted to look at the painting, making a noise that could have been distaste or grudging approval while Solas wondered what she might have been. Ghilan would have loved her for her brash irreverence, her fearlessness-

 

Solas sighed.

 

“It wasn’t all…what you imagine.”

 

She snorted. “What? Full of demons and poncy shite?”

 

“There was good too.” Solas insisted. “Markets. Ordinary people-”

 

He fell silent and for some reason she did not interject. Solas shook his head and smiled.

 

“You would have liked some of it.”

 

“Now you’re full of shit.” Sera accused but she was smiling so-

 

“I’d wager,” He said, with a smirk and a hint of challenge. “I can find one thing you’d enjoy.”

 

“That’s a dumb excuse to start being elfy at me all the time.” She rejoined, but she looked an inch from laughing.

 

“Would three tries be acceptable?” He asked and she did laugh.

 

“You’re shitting me.” Sera said smirking while Solas insisted that he was perfectly serious.

 

They settled on the princely sum of two silvers and shook.

 

Chapter Text

He’d said he wanted to leave Skyhold again and if he thought he was ready Lavellan was prepared to take him at his word.

 

Making sure she picked something simple, something that wouldn’t take long was just common sense.

 

Determining who else to bring had more potential to backfire. Not Vivienne, or Sera not unless she wanted an argument or to watch Fe-Solas relapse. Not Cole-

 

She considered Dorian but his presence would probably have been more reassuring for her than for Solas and there was Blackwell but she hadn’t spent that much time with the Warden which made him feel like a risk.

 

She wondered if wasting so much time fretting over who to kill a pack of rapid wild animals with was normal. It was hardly the most momentous decision she’d had to make as Inquisitor and he was getting better.

 

He’d lived through it before, he’d know when he was ready to fight again. He was one of the damned Gods-

 

So why was it taking her so long?

 

-

 

Five minutes out of Skyhold Varric decided to start a debate over whether Cassandra, the Spymaster or Josephine was the toughest member of the Inquisition.

 

And may be she should have stopped him: after the second ridiculous re-telling of how the Seeker had killed a dragon Cassandra was starting to look annoyed-

 

But it made her laugh and Varric grin and brought a small, sincere, smile to Solas’ face.

 

-

 

“So,” Varric said once they’d set up camp and got a half decent fire going. “How’s a man come by a name like ‘Dread Wolf’ anyway?”

 

“He earns it.” Solas replied which clearly wasn’t an answer Varric was going to let him get away with.

 

She glanced at Cassandra who seemed curious although not hugely so. Lavellan wanted to know of course but-

 

“Aw come on Chuckles,” Varric protested the beginning of a gentle badgering that just kept going.

 

It was part of her People’s history, what the Dalish were supposed to be dedicated to preserving. Of course she was interested in his past, that was only natural. He had seen Arlathan at its height and at its fall and the only elf she could think of that wouldn’t want to hear more was Sera-

 

So she joined them near the fire when Solas seemed to relent and tried to tell herself it was entirely interest in history not in the man telling it.

 

“Mythal added ‘Harel’ after a battle,” He told them finally. “Before that I was simply ‘Fen’.”

 

“I’ve never heard anything…positive about wolves in elven culture.” Lavellan said carefully.

 

She hadn’t voiced her actual question and before he would have used that to weave around it. But now…now there was nothing left for him to hide so perhaps-

 

He sighed and responded softly in Elvhen.

 

Lavellan frowned. “To…become a wolf?” She guessed.

 

“It was a term for when someone abandoned their ‘rightful’ place in society.” He replied, almost flatly. “It implied that anyone who saw flaws in our civilisation was a mindless beast.”

 

Cassandra looked up from cleaning her shield. “It’s an insult?”

 

“I imagine many of our…nobility if you will, saw it that way.” He allowed. “But it was given as a sign of acceptance and I took it gladly.”

 

The idea of Solas as a savage probably shouldn’t have made her smile, not when he’d been sleeping in ruins for long enough to be able to give advice on living with giant spiders. She tried to picture him surrounded by rogues and runaways and almost started laughing.

 

“Are any of the stories right?” She wondered almost rhetorically.

 

Her smile faltered when he looked away.

 

“Most of them are nonsense. Some are indicative of a way of thinking I encouraged…”

 

He trailed off, stared into the fire and she knew she’d made a mistake.

 

“Have you heard of Anaris?” He asked and she nodded dumbly even though he wasn’t really looking.

 

One of the Forgotten Ones-

 

“Fen’Harel tricked him into fighting Andruil so he could escape them both.” Lavellan murmured when Cassandra gave her a questioning glance.

 

“He ambushed us.” Solas said slowly, as if he had to think on every word. “Eight dead. Twelve captured. Myself among them. I was his prisoner for twenty seven days before Banal’ras rescued me. I couldn’t walk for three months afterwards.”

 

“Solas-” Lavellan began but he went on.

 

“I had several disagreements with Andruil, towards the end of the war she found me and bested me. She wanted me to give my followers to her. As slaves. I refused. She attempted to persuade me and when that failed she arranged to hand me back to Anaris. I was…lucky-”

 

“Chuckles,” Varric began gently. “You really don’t have to tell us all this.”

 

He looked up and gave Varric a small sad smile. “Who else is there to tell Master Tethras?”

 

-

 

He had changed in a hundred tiny ways and she wasn’t sure what-

 

She wasn’t sure.

 

He smiled more often but the grief he carried seemed sharper, closer to the surface.

 

She hadn’t realised, when he was Solas, that it ran so deep.

 

He’d claimed that he’d lied very little and she believed him now. Fen’Harel was too like the man she admired for it to be otherwise. It was…difficult not to fall back into feeling the same way she had before-

 

But he hadn’t called her ‘vhenan’ since she’d found out his real name.

 

Even after that first (and only) kiss he’d been hesitant. He’d said there were…considerations. At the time that had seemed rather pretentious now it seemed rather more like an understatement.

 

He couldn’t stay. Not beyond the point where the Breach was closed.

 

She didn’t want to think about how old he might be and how young, foolish and inexperienced she’d seem by comparison-

 

She would grow old and Fen’Harel, presumably, would not.

 

And all of that, in addition to him being one of the Gods, to his messy past and dark hints on what the other Gods might do mattered less than-

 

She had seen what had happened to him. She hadn’t had a choice and she was beginning, slowly, to accept that there was nothing she could have done.

 

But he’d given no sign since that he wanted anything beyond her…affection, made no move to touch her except in the Fade-

 

And that was once, platonic, meant to comfort-

 

She couldn’t imagine pursuing him after…after what had happened. And if he no longer wanted, well she could understand perfectly even if it made her wish for all the things that could have been.

 

It wasn’t as though he hadn’t given her a dozen other things to worry about.

 

She’d assumed that Vivienne and Fen’Ha-Solas would eventually fall back into something approaching civility. The first time they had gone back into the field together had given her some hope: Vivienne didn’t badger or pry the way Varric did-

 

She’d asked about his new name and nodded once when he told her what it meant. For the most part they’d been silent which Lavellan almost thought an improvement.

 

It turned out that instead they’d taken to having their arguments out of her earshot. Which she found out from a harassed looking Cullen after she’d made the mistake of leaving them both in Skyhold unsupervised. Because apparently they needed her breathing down their necks to act like adults now-

 

She’d taken in the shell-shocked look Blackwell had given her and decided that she was never leaving those two alone again.

 

How that had led to her tramping out of Skyhold with Dorian, Solas and Sera was another matter-

 

They were quiet all day, which was surreal enough in itself because Sera was never quiet. And it just made Lavellan worry more about the inevitable explosion.

 

She tried telling herself she was being ridiculous, that Sera might have a dozen reasons to be silent and she didn’t go to Varric’s card games so she probably hadn’t heard and if anyone wouldn’t know the significance of the name ‘Fen’Harel’ it would be Sera.

 

None of which helped her get any sleep.

 

-

 

The morning light was just getting strong enough to filter through the tent making her stir. She could smell something almost like fresh bread and for a moment she felt like she was back with her Clan. The Inquisition was a dream, the sky was whole and everything was-

 

“SHITE!” Sera bellowed.

 

Lavellan sighed. It had started. She wanted to roll over and go back to sleep-

 

She forced herself to her feet and staggered out to stop them killing each other.

 

-

 

Lavellan had been expecting…well she hadn’t been expecting to find them all sitting together mostly calm and not at all like they were on the verge of violence.

 

She took a moment to look over them all properly, just to be sure. Sera seemed annoyed rather than truly angry. Solas had a small, smug smile that went a long way to making Lavellan believe the myths. Dorian wore a bright innocent grin that was probably as trustworthy as a dragon’s.

 

“Ah Inquisitor, breakfast?” He offered, gesturing at a stack of . . . they looked somewhere between flat bread and pancakes.

 

“What’s going on?” Lavellan asked.

 

“He cheated.” Sera accused, giving Solas an open handed swat as she reached for another of the pancake-things.

 

“I did not cheat.”

 

“You did too.” Sera protested. “Biscuits is cheating.”

 

“You owe me two silvers.” Solas replied calmly, making Sera hit him again.

 

The Inquisitor sighed and slumped down beside Dorian. He gave her a commiserating pat on the back.

 

“What’s going on?” She repeated.

 

“Breakfast.” Dorian replied, handing her one of the pancake-like-things. “Apparently it was something to do with a wager.”

 

Lavellan sighed and took a bite.

 

The bread burst into a sweet red sauce that was fruity and peppery and-

 

“MmmMMM!” The Inquisitor observed.

 

“I know. They’re delicious” Sera agreed, miserably.

 

“You made these?” Lavellan asked and Solas nodded. “How d’you learn to cook like that?”

 

He shrugged. “My lieutenants were all len’alas.”

 

“In real words?” Sera muttered.

 

“Bastards.” Solas translated making Sera snort.

 

They lapsed into a mostly contented silence. Lavellan finished her bread. Dorian and Sera scuffled over the last few pieces. Solas started to make more, pouring batter on to a clean flat stone that Lavellan guessed he was heating with magic.

 

“So you’re making these tomorrow right?” Sera said as if the matter had already been decided and she was just seeking confirmation.

 

“I hadn’t-” Solas began but Dorian interrupted.

 

“After the camp food we’ve been forced to stomach for the last few months you certainly are.”

 

“Dorian!” The Inquisitor admonished.

 

“Do you know what their bet was about?” Dorian put in before Lavellan could scold him further. “The aim was to make Sera admit she liked something Elven was it not?”

 

“I don’t see-” Solas started before Sera cut him off.

 

“Yep.” She confirmed with a grin.

 

“In short,” Dorian summarised. “Your favourite apostate has been holding out on us all.”

 

“I am not going to force him to cook.” Lavellan stated.

 

Sera made a face and Dorian let out a small disappointed noise.

 

“Thank you, lethallan.” Solas replied.

 

“Of course,” Lavellan began carefully. “If you’d like to cook tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that-”

 

Sera cackled.

 

“Well that backfired didn’t it your Wolfyness?”

 

“Fenedhis.” Solas responded making Sera laugh louder.

Chapter Text

Lavellan sank into her chair and somehow resisted the urge to put her head to the desk. An Orlesian royal ball, of all the ridiculous things the Inquisition had demanded-

 

Well perhaps it wasn’t the most preposterous thing they’d asked of her but she was having difficulty imagining anyone less qualified to untangle intricate human politics and end a longstanding civil war. They’d barely been back two days and already she’d spent hours locked away in the war room trying to wrap her head around the Orlesian court. Just when she thought she’d grasped it Leliana mentioned another possible player or Josephine brought up another obscure piece of etiquette she’d have to remember.

 

She was going to end up being coached in every tiny finicky detail until the damned ball started she could tell-

 

And they were probably going to make her wear shoes.

 

There was a knock on the door and she shouted for them to come in without looking up. May be, since the Gods were apparently real, one of them would take pity and make sure it wasn’t Josephine-

 

“Inquisitor?” Solas enquired and Lavellan managed to stop herself from chuckling.

 

She twisted in the chair to smile at him. “What can I do for you?”

 

He hesitated making her wonder if he was going to ask to share her room again even though he hadn’t in may be a month.

 

“The Ball at Halamshiral,” He began and her heart sank.

 

“I know,” She replied mournfully. “We’ll look ridiculous. I guess the Inquisition’s uniforms just weren’t designed with elves in mind. But if you’re worried about it I suspect Iron Bull will look even worse. Just stand next to him all evening and no one will notice what the hat does to your ears.”

 

Fen’Harel gave her a small smile. “That wasn’t my main concern.”

 

“It might be after you see what Josephine wants us to wear.” Lavellan rejoined. “What’s on your mind?”

 

“Your choice of escourt to the Orlesian Court.” He stated and Lavellan sighed.

 

“You too? I have already heard it from Leliana.”

 

“You’re planning to walk in to tense human court with a Qunari spy, an elven apostate and a noble from an enemy nation.” He picked his way across the chaos of papers and books on Orlais she’d left scattered behind her and sat near by. “I can understand the reasoning behind your choices lethallan-”

 

“But you think I’m making a mistake.”

 

He nodded.

 

“Whoever else I bring in it isn’t going to round my ears or cover up my vallaslin.” She pointed out.

 

“No, but they will see Dorian, Iron Bull and myself as enemies at worst and outsiders at best.”

 

“I know-” She sighed.

 

“You have other options.” Solas stressed. “Vivienne plays the game exceptionally well and she will know the details and intricacies of the Orlesian Court far better than I. Or if you were relying on their nobility mistaking me for a servant Cole would be better suited; they’re unlikely to notice him at all.”

 

She frowned but he seemed to take that as a sign she was considering it and went on.

 

“Cassandra may not have Dorian’s manner, but her presence won’t be considered an insult or a provocation. And Varric lacks formal training but he is more likely to be accepted by the court and as a result he’ll be able to gather information that Iron Bull-”

 

“Solas,” She interrupted forcefully.

 

He stopped. Lavellan sighed again and poked despondently at her paperwork.

 

“I know all that. I didn’t choose you three for what you can do I-” She shrugged. “Look I know I’m going to be out of my depth and that it’s going to be dangerous. The last thing I need is people arguing or second guessing my decisions in the middle of all that. You three support me and I trust you.”

 

She wasn’t sure what to make of his expression. But with the little he’d said about the other Gods and the Forgotten Ones she guessed that a royal court might not be a place he’d feel comfortable. Perhaps he was trying to find a graceful way to back out of this one.

 

“If you don’t want to go for any reason that’s fine.” She reassured him.

 

Solas shook his head. “No. Thank you, lethallan.”

 

And he left.

 

-

 

They’d cut through the last of Florianne’s troops with ease and made it back into the ballroom with moments to spare. Cullen appeared at a jog to accost the Inquisitor asking what they should do-

 

“Wait here.” Lavellan ordered. “I’m going to have a word with the Grand Duchess.”

 

“There’s no time,” Cullen protested but she was already striding away.

 

Cullen let out a long suffering sigh.

 

“Alright, Bull stay there in case she tries to run.” He commanded. “You two stay up here, find somewhere where you can get a clear shot at the Duchess and if you need to take it. I’ll try to get our people covering the other doors-”

 

With that he turned, walk almost turning into a run, fast enough to draw attention to himself but thankfully not enough for the nobles around him to think he was anything worse than rude.

 

Solas glanced over his shoulder, the Iron Bull was leaning casually back against the doorway but-

 

“There?” Dorian suggested gesturing towards a corner on the other side of the hall which would give an adequate view of the Empress, the floor of the ballroom and several potential escape routes.

 

He nodded and they took up positions either side of one of the pillars.

 

And watched while a Dalish elf who hadn’t known the first thing about Orlesian politics a handful of days ago took down one of the leading members of the court with words and a smile.

 

When the Grand Duchess fell to her knees they glanced across at each other, Dorian grinned.

 

“Well you must be positively elated,” Dorian observed. “That’s the closest I’ve seen to a proper smile from you.”

 

“She’s done very well.” Solas responded.

 

“Yes,” Dorian agreed. “She has.”

 

They watched as Lavellan strode away with an Empress, a spymaster and a general. As if she’d been born in to their world and it was the most natural thing for her to do. She could have been-

 

Solas looked away.

 

Dorian clapped him on the back. “Drink?”

 

Somehow he managed to get hold of two, quickly and he’d foisted one on Solas before he’d thought to refuse.

 

“We might be celebrating prematurely.” Solas pointed out which didn’t deter Dorian in the least.

 

“You honestly think after that performance she won’t come back with a country in her pocket?”

 

He was smirking, as though it was a joke. With the letters and witnesses they’d been collecting all evening Sera could have forged an alliance. The Inquisitor would have her pick of Orlais’ leaders and she would likely make the right choice.

 

“You’re right.” Solas murmured.

 

“I’m sorry,” Dorian said, smile widening. “I didn’t catch that.”

 

“You’re right.” Solas repeated simply and something about the way he said it destroyed any lingering pleasure Dorian had in hearing it.

 

“You sound remarkably unhappy about that,” Dorian replied. “Especially considering how much this will likely benefit the Inquisition and the elves in Orlais.”

 

Solas made a noncommittal noise. Dorian didn’t take the hint.

 

“But perhaps your mind’s on something else hmmmm?” He suggested lightly. “Or rather someone else.”

 

He glanced meaningfully towards the balcony where the Inquisitor was busy deciding the future of a nation. And knowing Dorian if he was allowed to continue he’d quickly make himself insufferable.

 

“Dorian,” Solas cut him off half way through an insinuation. “Please stop.”

 

Somewhat surprisingly Dorian did.

 

They stood in silence for a moment. Solas sipped his drink and Dorian played with his.

 

“I’m sorry.” Dorian said finally. “I meant no offense.”

 

“I know.” Solas replied.

 

“Is it because-” Dorian cut himself off abruptly and when Solas shot him a questioning look Dorian shook his head.

 

“No, I’m sorry, that’s…unfair. Pretend I didn’t-”

 

“Say it.” Solas commanded wearily.

 

“Why are you letting her slip away?”

 

He considered telling Dorian it was none of his business but the human would likely counter by pointing to his friendship with Lavellan and-

 

Solas sighed. “I would have thought that was obvious.”

 

“Templars.” Dorian murmured disgustedly and drank.

 

Solas frowned and shook his head.

 

“Truly?” Dorian asked, eyebrows raised. “Then no, it’s not obvious.”

 

Solas closed his eyes. “I doubt she wants the attentions of a harellan.”

 

“A-?” Dorian enquired.

 

“Traitor.” Solas said simply.

 

Dorian stared at him, evidentially surprised. He could have elaborated, told Dorian about the places, the people he’d helped destroy or about the Dalish and their scraps of lore but-

 

Dorian was right, they should have been celebrating and his dark reminiscence about a lost past had already started to poison his companion’s mood. Banal uth- It was all impermanent, which made it more important to seize on the good, the moments of peace, while they lasted.

 

He was about to apologise for his melancholy mood and steer the conversation to something more pleasant when Dorian finally spoke.

 

“Solas,” He intoned, grim and utterly sincere. “You are an idiot-

 

-

 

She’d vanished after Celene’s speech and he’d found her at one of the balconies, leaning out and staring at the garden beyond. He hesitated for a moment before joining her.

 

“I’m not surprised to find you out here.” Solas observed. “Thoughts?”

 

She gave him a small, quick, smile. “We achieved all our goals but I can’t help feeling this is only a temporary reprieve.”

 

He nodded. “I’m sure there’s much much more trouble ahead-”

 

“But we should probably enjoy the peace while it lasts.” Lavellan finished.

 

“Precisely.” He smiled.

 

In the background the band was still playing. And he wanted-

 

What he wanted was selfish beyond belief. Would cause them both pain, compounded by what they were, by what duty would demand of both, by the marks on her face, her hand-

 

And yet-

 

Of course such conjecture was pointless. She would never, not with the Dread Wolf-

 

And yet-

 

“Solas?” She asked, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder.

 

“Will you dance with me?”

 

For a moment she seemed confused, then she took a graceful step back and offered her hand.

 

“I would love to.”

 

She drew him away from the balcony’s edge. His hands settled at her waist and shoulder.

 

Lavellan led.

 

-

 

She’d intended to take everything so much more slowly but a few days back in Skyhold and they were kissing. She was kissing Fen’Harel-

 

And it was only a few minutes ago but try as she might Lavellan couldn’t recall which of them had started it. Just that they had come together. She had pulled him close and his hand had tangled in her hair.

 

He clung to her, in a way that made their last kiss seem hesitant, halting. As if he was trying to fit a hundred years into an hour. Desperate, hungry-

 

They formed a rhythm, breaking apart for gasping seconds before falling together again. If she’d been thinking she’d have stopped, asked if he was sure, set a more cautious pace. But she didn’t think. Not when his hands moved to her waist, encouraging her slowly forward until he’d backed himself against her bed. Not when he used the brief pauses between their kisses to tug off his tunic and tear off his undershirt.

 

She should have stopped earlier, at least when her hands came up and met skin instead of clothe.

 

But she didn’t even pause. And when he leaned back, she’d leaned forward. They’d ended up on the bed and that was when she had finally thought, finally hesitated.

 

She’d pulled back a fraction.

 

“Do you want-” She began.

 

“Yes.” He breathed and closed the gap.

 

For a moment she allowed herself to get lost in it again but-

 

But this wasn’t…she needed to be sure.

 

So she opened her eyes and pulled back.

 

Creators but he’d looked so beautiful. Spread out underneath her like an offering, his lips kissed pink, his chest bare. He was perfect; sleek pale skin with the slightest scattering of dark hair, impossibly free of scars. And that alone would have made her pause, suddenly self-conscious-

 

He’d stretched his arms upward, over his head. And it made his whole torso look more appealing, exposed, as if….as if he was really hers-

 

And he seemed to have done it naturally, automatically. Crossed his wrists above his head as if they were bound, yielded to her-

 

She stepped away, swallowed and tried not to feel guilty as he propped himself up on his elbows. He looked…concerned.

 

“Vhenan?”

 

“Solas,” She sighed, resisted the urge to look away. “Do you want this?”

 

“Yes.” He didn’t hesitate but he was quiet, subdued. “Do you?”

 

“Yes.” She murmured.

 

“But you have reservations.” He observed.

 

She sat on the bed beside him, fiddling with the hem of her jacket.

 

“I- Are you sure? That you want this? Now?” Lavellan asked.

 

“Yes.” He repeated. “Do you?”

 

She flopped back on to the bed with a sigh and stared at the ceiling. She couldn’t quite bring herself to ask if he was ‘ready’ as if he was a blushing, virginal bride from a human story. She didn’t want to remind him of the Templars.

 

“I don’t want to hurt you.” She replied finally. “And this…..the way you held your hands-”

 

As if you were tied, as if you were captured, as if you didn’t have a choice, there was no considerate way she could see to voice that fear.

 

“Are you sure you want to do it like that?”

 

“I’d prefer it.” He said cautiously. “Does that surprise you?”

 

“Yes, I thought-” She trailed off.

 

“That the ‘gods’ might habitually use their power to assure their dominance in everything, even this?” Solas suggested blandly.

 

“That it might remind you of…other things.” Lavellan corrected.

 

“Ah.”

 

He shifted beside her until he was flat and staring at the ceiling as well. He lifted her hand gently and kissed her knuckles, which Lavellan took to be an apology.

 

“I can’t promise that it won’t,” He said finally. “Whatever we do or do not do. And if-”

 

He paused. His fingers intertwined with hers, tapped gently at the back of her hand.

 

“If I am reminded of such things,” Solas said carefully. “I would rather think myself a prisoner again than imagine that…you are the victim and I the aggressor.”

 

“That’s not a choice you should have to make.” She murmured.

 

“Perhaps.” He replied, letting go of her hand.

 

They stared at the ceiling.

 

“You’ll tell me if you want to stop?” Lavellan asked. “If you’re uncomfortable?”

 

“If I can, yes.”

 

If he could-

 

That seemed like a bad sign, another hint that they were rushing things, that he wasn’t ready, that she’d end up hurting him. She wondered if it was still taking advantage if he’d said yes, told her he was ready and he wanted to with both of them aware that they didn’t have much time-

 

It struck her that it was ridiculous. That his trust here with this shouldn’t scare her, not when he put his life in her hands nearly every day, with every battle and skirmish. And yet-

 

She turned and kissed him, slowly this time, gently. He sighed when she broke away.

 

“I’d like to keep my shirt on for the moment.” Lavellan told him.

 

“Ma nuvenin.” He murmured.

 

She reached across, stroked a line from his cheekbone down to the corner of his lip. She set an unhurried pace, kissing him leisurely, thoroughly. His arms rose as she eased him onto his back again, fingers tangled in the sheets above his head.

 

She kissed him and explored his body with her hands until he was gasping and hard. Then she eased his trousers down as far as his knees and-

 

He gasped when she touched him, whimpered when she slowed down-

 

She took her time and watched as he gradually came apart. Until he was writhing under her, his head thrown back, begging in Elvhen for her to please-

 

She wanted to draw it out more, until he was sobbing and utterly incoherent. She could practically see it, as uncomfortable as it was arousing. As if accepting this, letting him yield to her somehow put her in league with Templars.

 

His back arched as he finished and she stared, drinking in his expression, the trembling muscles over his stomach and the taut ones in his chest. Lavellan leaned over him, as he was trying to catch his breath, to plant a quick, chaste kiss on his lips.

 

“You’re beautiful.” She murmured.

 

“Ma serannas.” Solas replied and she grinned.

 

She rose to rummage through her things for something she could use to clean him up. By the time she came back he’d moved his arms down near his sides and propped himself up on an elbow. She settled beside him again with a smile and, since he didn’t object or make any move to stop her, she started to wipe his chest clean.

 

He kicked off his trousers and smalls when she’d finished. He reached for her, fingertips stopping an inch or so away, as if he was asking permission.

 

She shook her head and his hand dropped.

 

And he didn’t ask her why but his concerned expression had returned. Lavellan sighed.

 

“It’s not what you think.” She said, guessing that he was wondering if she’d ever been with a man before, or perhaps if he’d glimpsed some of her scars while they travelled whether she’d survived as much as he had.

 

“I had an accident when I was a child.” She explained simply. “I have a lot of scars.”

 

She gestured in a sweep from her shoulder across her breast and stomach.

 

His expression changed, curious and thankfully not pitying. “May I see?”

 

“Yes,” She promised. “But not tonight.”

 

Chapter Text

He hadn’t realised that she wore so many layers. But helping her out of her jacket had revealed a jerkin, cut strangely so that it was thicker on her right side. Under that was a loose, long sleeved shirt and beneath that an under-shirt-

 

Standing in that thin, simple thing it was suddenly obvious that her body was asymmetrical. Through the clothe her right breast seemed flatter, smaller, moulded differently, as though it had been pushed down and outwards. The texture of her skin changed at the shoulder, subtly darker and pinker than the flesh around it, with an odd sheen. He ran the tips of his fingers over the point where her skin changed and found it smoother.

 

“I thought you were undressing me?” Lavellan enquired.

 

He smiled and planted a quick kiss at the nape of her neck. “Ir abelas.”

 

She moved to make it easier as he pulled off her last layer and…stopped. But his expression was quizzical rather than repulsed and when she followed his gaze she realised he was looking at her underwear rather than her.

 

“I take it they didn’t have these before?” She asked, thumbing the piece of clothe around her breasts with a smirk.

 

“No.” Solas admitted, and he seemed amused by the idea.

 

“Should I explain what it’s for?” Lavellan wondered.

 

“I think I might be able to guess.”

 

He unhooked the clasps and let it fall away, reached for her, paused-

 

“Go ahead.”

 

He traced the burn marks down her torso with his fingers, from the smattering at her shoulder to where they engulfed one breast, skirted the other and striped her stomach before vanishing under the waistband of her trousers. In places it was merely darker skin. In others her flesh was more like half-melted wax with ropey, red lines in thick, clumped spider-webs where the scars had stretched as she grew. From the way red flecks dotted her left side rather than truly marking it he guessed it was from boiling water, or hot food.

 

He kissed her shoulder, her collarbone, leaving a trail along the same route the water had taken which ended with him on his knees in front of her. He undid her belt and peeled the last of her clothing down until she obligingly stepped out of it.

 

The streak of scar ended in a smattering of curved red droplets on her hip and the top of her leg. Like down feathers.

 

“Tell me how to please you,” He asked.

 

And she did.

 

-

 

If the first two times had made Lavellan think it might be easy the third disabused her of the notion.

 

He’d been on his back underneath her almost exactly the same way he’d been the first time and he’d gone suddenly quiet. She paused, hands over his ribs, mouth grazing his hipbone. But he didn’t ask her to stop, didn’t say or do anything. He lay still and silent and after a moment she went back to teasing the curve of his hip.

 

But his silence, his stillness was disquieting. So she hesitated again, it would hardly do any harm to check-

 

“Solas?”

 

He didn’t answer.

 

She rose and-

 

As soon as she withdrew he started shivering and she knew he wasn’t with her anymore. His eyes were screwed shut, his jaw clenched-

 

“Solas!” She grasped his shoulders, almost shaking him before she realised what that might feel like to him and let go.

 

His trembling increased, until it was…similar to when they’d found him curled on the floor in his room.

 

“Solas?” She whispered and he didn’t respond.

 

And- and she didn’t know what to do.

 

Cole had known what to do, what to say. But she wasn’t a spirit and she didn’t know more than a handful of Elvhen.

 

“Fen-” She murmured and found she couldn’t quite bring herself to say the rest of his name.

 

He opened his eyes.

 

“It’s OK,” She told him, trying to keep her own helplessness out of her tone. “It’s alright, you’re safe. I promise.”

 

He responded in breathless Elvhen.

 

Lavellan sat beside him, whispering pointless assurances and wishing she could hold him.

 

-

 

The shaking had subsided eventually. His breathing had slowed. She’d asked if she could hold him again and pulled him into a tight hug when he’d nodded.

 

She wanted to tell him she was sorry but-

 

“Do you know what…caused it?” She asked gently and he shook his head. “Alright, that’s…that’s alright.”

 

For the longest time they simply held each other.

 

She wanted to ask him about what…they’d done to him because perhaps knowing something about the wound would have helped her find her way around the scars she couldn’t see. But she couldn’t ask when the past made him shake. And she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear it.

 

“Who was Banal’ras?” She asked instead and felt his shoulders tense.

 

“A friend.” Fen’Harel murmured. “Why do you ask?”

 

“Cole talked about him a lot,” Lavellan replied. “‘The Shadow that kept you safe.’ I thought he must have been important.”

 

And thinking of old friends might distract him from present pain-

 

“She.” Solas corrected. “She was…one of my lieutenants.”

 

“A lover?” Lavellan enquired, startling a smile from him.

 

“No. We were…incompatible.”

 

Which made Lavellan think of Dorian.

 

“What was she like?”

 

Solas hesitated. She rubbed small circles into his shoulders and waited.

 

“Stubborn.” He said finally. “Quiet for the most part. Opinionated and usually right. Trying to argue with her was like running into a wall.”

 

“A mage?”

 

“She had some magic.” Solas replied. “But…it would have been unusual if she hadn’t. She was ada- She had been given to one of the gods, I’m not sure which. She’d tried to remove the marks herself before she came to me. They might still have been decipherable but she had more scars than you and only half an ear-”

 

He turned to face her and traced seven or eight long jagged lines over her face with a finger tip. The poor woman must have been missing most of her nose as well as her ears-

 

“When you say marks-” She frowned. “Do you mean vallaslin?”

 

He almost flinched.

 

“Solas?” She prompted and he sighed.

 

“Yes.” He said finally. “What they have…come to mean to you is not what they meant to us.”

 

“And what did they mean?” Lavellan asked when he didn’t elaborate.

 

Solas turned away.

 

“They’re slave markings. Or- they were.”

 

“They’re-” She stammered.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

She sat up, pulling her legs up and wrapping her arms around them. She thought of the months she’d spent considering the teachings of the Gods, trying to find her place in their ways. She’d considered Andruil for the longest time; Lavellan had been a hunter after all. And she could follow vir bor’assan, bend like a bow rather than break, but she wavered, she questioned and changed her mind. She wasn’t and would never be Andruil’s straight-flying arrow.

 

She’d chosen Ghilan’nain instead: a woman who had risked and dared and questioned, a mortal who’d become a God.

 

“I was taught,” She said eventually. “That they were symbols of the Gods.”

 

“Yes, that’s right. A noble would mark his slaves to honour the god he worshipped. After Arlathan fell-”

 

It almost made her want to laugh. The proud Dalish, strong and free, and this was what they had kept-

 

“So these are…just one more thing the Dalish got wrong?”

 

“I’m sorry.” He murmured.

 

She felt him shift, his hand settled gently between her shoulder blades and she sighed.

 

“If you like,” He began cautiously. “I know a spell…I can remove the vallaslin.”

 

“You’ve done it before.”

 

“Yes.” He admitted. “Many times.”

 

“These are…part of who I am.” She hesitated and glanced away as he moved closer to avoid his gaze.

 

The vallaslin; carefully chosen and applied, a sign of adulthood, of her clan’s love and acceptance were probably more of a deformity to him than the burn marks over her chest. Slave markings. And yet-

 

“I don’t think I can just let you erase them.” She said finally. “Not without at least considering it first-”

 

“Vhenan, stop.” Solas interrupted and she did.

 

He turned her head gently back towards him and gave her a soft smile.

 

“You are perfect. Exactly as you are.”

 

Lavellan snorted. “I’m perfect? After everything you’ve said about slavery, about the Gods- After telling me your friends mutilated themselves to get rid of these marks?”

 

“They didn’t have a choice.” Fen’Harel said simply. “You do. Whatever choice you make I will honour it.”

 

“It’s that simple?”

 

“Yes.” He pulled her closer, until they were embracing properly again.

 

She closed her eyes. “Do I want to know anything about Ghilan’nain?”

 

She felt his shoulders shift as he shrugged. “I had no quarrel with her.”

 

“Well that’s unusual.” Lavellan observed. “You seem to have quarrelled with everyone else.”

 

It made him laugh and she realised suddenly that he wasn’t trembling anymore.

 

-

 

Sometimes it was easy and at others it seemed like every minute in the thousands of years between them was an Age. Sometimes he went abruptly quiet or started to shake but it happened less.

 

She knew they would, eventually, defeat Corypheus and that he would leave. And it would hurt but banal uth, surely it was better to take the happiness you could find while you could?

 

She was hunched over the War Table, considering the message Morrigan had sent from the Arbor Wilds when Leliana beckoned her away. In the relative privacy of a side room the Spymaster’s expression grew grim.

 

“Inquisitor, my people have come across a small band of renegade Templars-”

 

Chapter Text

She spent almost an hour lying beside him, tense and pensive before finally finding the nerve to tell him.

 

“Leliana’s found the Templars who attacked you. They’re…they’re bringing them to Skyhold to face justice. They’ll be here in a week.”

 

She turned to study him. He didn’t seem distressed-

 

“I didn’t know she was looking for them.” Solas responded.

 

He didn’t sound distressed either.

 

“I asked her too.” Lavellan admitted. “The day after we got back.”

 

“Oh.”

 

He didn’t seem particularly inclined to say anything else which worried her. His expression and his tone were both perfectly neutral but that could have been a mask.

 

“Do you want to be there, for the trial?” She asked.

 

He gave a half-hearted shrug. “I trust your judgement vhenan.”

 

-

 

Which was apparently highly unusual in the current Age: lacking a desire to personally see individuals who had wronged you punished. A cultural feature from the human tendency towards retributive justice perhaps?

 

At least that was the conclusion Solas was rapidly arriving at based on the number of times Cassandra or Cullen had appeared to ask whether he’d changed his mind. And the number of times Dorian or the Iron Bull had turned up to ask how he was feeling or distract him from his research with trivia. Even Sera had periodically poked her head round the door to ‘see if he’d set anything on fire yet’-

 

It had turned into an unproductive week.

 

And he knew they were trying to be…supportive, helpful. It wasn’t their fault they were absolutely aggravating- No that was unfair.

 

He’d only just started writing again when Varric wandered in-

 

“Hey Chuckles-” Varric stopped when he caught the look on Solas’ face. “Bad time?”

 

“I’ve been interrupted five times already today.” Solas stated. “If you’re here to check on me I’ll save you some time. No I do not wish to see them sentenced. I do not particularly care what Lavellan sentences them too. I am perfectly fine, thank you and I do not want company. Now can I please have some peace so I can finish this report?”

 

It would have worked on Dorian, may be even Cassandra but not on Varric.

 

“No one’s gonna be mad if it’s a little late.” He pointed out calmly. “You want to tell me what’s on your mind?”

 

He sighed and put the quill aside. “Why is everyone so insistent that I confront them? Is it some…essential component of human justice?”

 

“I think they’re just worried about you,” Varric replied. “Can’t be pleasant knowing those assholes are here.”

 

“And seeing them condemned is supposed to alleviate that?” Solas asked dubiously. “Is that the theory?”

 

“I don’t know.” Varric sighed. “I guess they all think it’ll help-”

 

“I disagree.”

 

“Alright.” Varric murmured. “Hey, if they’re bothering you that much I could sneak you down to the tavern? It’s louder sure but it’d probably take them a month to find you.”

 

Some of the tension seemed to ease from Solas’ shoulders. He smiled and Varric grinned back.

 

“Thank you,” Solas responded. “But no.”

 

“Alright, but it’s an open offer. You change your mind come find me. May be I’ll even be able to scrounge you up a decent drink.”

 

-

 

Varric might not have been able to keep his promise on the last one but the Maker knew everyone with any sanity had to lay low and let Cassandra blow over now and again. He stepped out in to the corridor and was wondering if he should have a word with Tiny or Sparkler about bugging Chuckles before the poor guy actually exploded and-

 

And that was the sodding Seeker heading his way. Varric took a moment to reflect that he was probably going to regret it before stepping into her path.

 

“You errr might not want to go up there.” He suggested.

 

Her eyes narrowed as if it was a challenge rather than just a piece of advice.

 

“Why?”

 

Varric genuinely considered telling her the truth but informing her that the immortal elf apostate looked an inch away from levelling everything probably wasn’t a good plan.

 

“He said he didn’t want company. Something about finishing a report. It’s probably best to leave him be.”

 

But of course she wasn’t having that. Cassandra pushed past him, heading up towards Solas’ room.

 

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Varric muttered.

 

He didn’t hang around but it obviously didn’t take long for the Seeker to say something stupid-but-probably-well-meaning because they caught up with him on the stairs. And Cassandra actually looked a little cowed. He’d have commented but the murderous look Solas was sporting explained it pretty well.

 

“Taking me up on the tavern offer Chuckles?”

 

“No.” Solas replied curtly.

 

“Where are you heading?” Varric asked keeping his tone light and curious.

 

“The dungeons.”

 

The- well if that wasn’t the worst idea he’d heard in-

 

Varric fell back so that he was in pace with Cassandra, trailing along behind Solas.

 

“Maker’s Breath what did you say?” Varric hissed.

 

“Nothing!” Cassandra protested in a whisper.

 

“Nothing?”

 

“I said that he was still safe here.”

 

“And?” Varric encouraged.

 

“And that if he felt he couldn’t face them it was understandable.”

 

“Oh crap.”

 

So the Seeker had challenged Fen-fricking-Harel. Wonderful. He half wanted to bow out and he could easily go to the tavern, wait for the whole thing to blow over but-

 

Someone had to stop both of them from doing something exceptionally stupid. So Varric sighed and followed them down.

 

-

 

It took them a while to get in because the Inquisition’s guards weren’t completely stupid and assuming the enraged elf had stormed down there to kill the bastards was perfectly natural. Varric had hoped it would be long enough for Solas to calm down and get some sensible second thoughts.

 

No such luck.

 

He’d never been down there before but it was pretty much like every other dungeon he’d ever seen; dingy and depressing with a strong smell of unwashed bodies and irregularly emptied latrines. Maybe the dumb brontos wouldn’t recognise Solas and this would all be over quickly and painlessly.

 

Varric noticed a couple of the prisoners stirring. Might just have been that they didn’t get many visitors down here though. Hopefully-

 

But it didn’t look like it was heading that way. One of the younger looking ones was staring pretty determinedly at the flagstones radiating shame it was more than a little too late for. A couple of them got to their feet and one of them stepped forward. Their leader, Varric guessed, all spite and swagger even unarmed in a ratty tunic that let anyone with eyes see he’d been more than a little roughed up recently.

 

“Come back for another go knife-ear?”

 

Solas didn’t react but Cassandra tensed. Like she wanted to leap between them even though the bars were plenty of protection. Wind her up enough and Solas might not be the one the bastards needed protecting from…even if it seemed like she was trying to find words harsh enough instead of leaping straight in with her fists.

 

“You are spectacularly unimaginative.” Solas observed, and Varric had to admit the elf had guts looking the Templar straight in the eye like that.

 

“Do you know what a Dreamer is?” Solas continued, cool and calm.

 

“I look like I care what sort of tricks you can do, maleficar?”

 

“It means that I can enter the Fade whenever I wish,” Solas explained. “Reshape the Fade, manipulate dreams. It means that if I’d wished to I could have found you in the Fade and killed you as you slept at any time I chose. And your skills with a blade would not have mattered any more than your ability to suppress magic. It would not have mattered how far you ran and nothing you are ever likely to encounter could have protected you.”

 

That- OK that hadn’t been how Varric had been expecting this to go. He glanced at Cassandra who had gone several shades paler which probably meant Chuckles was telling the truth.

 

Damn.

 

“You’re a lying fucking knife-ear.” The Templar snarled and Solas smiled.

 

“Of course killing you is merely the most direct approach,” He went on levelly, “I could have given you to spirits. Turned you into a….what is it you call them? Abominations? Or I could have broken your minds completely. I could have gradually driven you mad and manipulated you into torturing your companions to death. Or I could have taken the time to discover what you value most before twisting your mind until you utterly destroyed it. Should I go on?”

 

“A lying knife-ear whore-” The Templar spat.

 

“You’re repeating yourself.” Solas pointed out.

 

He turned, almost casually, to Cassandra. “I appreciate your concern Seeker, truly. But if I had any interest in their fate I’d have taken care of it myself. As it is these pathetic thugs have already taken up too much of my time. They are not worth the effort it would take to break them.”

 

And with that he walked away.

 

It took Varric a couple of minutes to stop gawking and catch up, but the whole thing seemed to have had a similar effect on the Seeker so he didn’t feel too bad about it.

 

“Varric,” Solas said, making him start. “Please feel free to embellish that story as much as you desire.”

 

“I-” Varric began before his brain caught up. “Yeah. Sure thing, Chuckles.”

 

He glanced back towards the cells but Solas didn’t so much as pause.

 

It might have made a good story. Leave out the part about ancient elves, gloss over exactly what the villains had done-

 

And he could tell it wouldn’t work.

 

It wasn’t the sort of ending people wanted or the sort of strength they wanted to see.

 

They liked hearing about how the Seeker had taken down a flock of dragons singlehanded and to hell with the dozens of soldiers and mages that’d helped. They liked hearing about how Fenris had slaughtered slavers and blood mages using the marks his Magister master had engraved on his skin.

 

They didn’t want to hear about ordinary strength. About turning around and walking away and living instead-

 

Varric shook his head, another story he’d probably never tell-

 

Then he charged up the stairs to reach Chuckles and the Seeker and tried to persuade them both it was great idea to blow off the reports and the missions and go down to the tavern instead.