Actions

Work Header

Tiny Secrets

Chapter Text

The sound of screams wakes you in the middle of the night.

You roll out of bed and then under it before you’ve fully woken, and in your first, Fade-choked thoughts, your dream continues and you’re a child in Seheron in the middle of the worst battle of your life. But consciousness clears your mind, albeit slowly. This isn’t Seheron… You left Seheron long behind, even if sometimes it feels like it followed you. But the screams are real, too real. What’s happening? More Templars? Did a mage hiding nearby lose their mind to a demon in an attempt to retain their freedom, their life?

You crawl out from under the bed and cautiously grasp control of your aura… If there are Templars or abominations out there, you’re in more danger from the possibility of discovery than anything else. You slip towards a window, open its shutter just enough to peek out.

What you see is…

Your first thought it is, “well, at least it’s not Templars,” but your sharp eyes quickly pick out that the things are, in fact, wearing Templar armor. But they’re no Templars you’ve ever met. They’re glowing a poisonous red, some of them even have horrific growths coming out of their bodies. Information in your mind clicks. You’ve heard of Red Templars, human no longer and corrupted with a bizarre new form of lyrium.

And now they’re in the village, running people down and setting things on fire.

Fortunately, you’re antisocial and an elf, so out of both desire and necessity, your little hut is on a tall hill overlooking the village. You’ll have time before they make their way up to you, if they do at all. But one thing is for sure… This isn’t something you can wait out.

Swearing under your breath, you gather up what passes for “necessities.” You have more in your life than you ever had previously, and now you have to leave it behind… You grab only your clothes, armor, a few priceless baubles and tomes you cannot bear to leave behind. You dart into your back yard, where Bella awaits you. The mule’s eyes are wide and terrified, but she’s not making a sound. She knows better, bless her heart. You saddle her and load up her bags as quietly and lightly as you dare, then spare only one longing gaze back at your house.

You had worked so hard.

But war destroys all it touches. If the war has spread even here, there’s no way you can survive wandering the wilderness alone until it dies down. You’ll be caught and killed, by Templars, by mages gone mad, by one or the other side of the Orlesian civil war, or just by bandits. You need someplace safe… But where that might be, you have no idea. For now, you focus on getting away into the woods… Far away from the screams, blood, and sickening red glow.

Chapter Text

“Fuck! Fuck!” you gasp, your hands tangling into short hair, searching for something to grip. You’re positive this wasn’t what Bull meant when he suggested the two of you work on your wrestling together, but…

“Fuck, Krem, I…” His tongue flicks across your clit, twice, before he pulls it into his mouth and sucks, and you lose it. A long, loud chain of Tevene streams from your mouth as you climax, bucking against his face.

“You know,” Krem comments after you’ve finished and he’s released himself from your grip. “I do speak Tevene.”

Chapter Text

Traveling cross country really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

You had thought that you could handle anything. Didn’t every sixteen year old think, on some level, that they could handle anything? But Ferelden was a cold, angry place that didn’t take so kindly to elves as Rivain. Even in the cities of Antiva, you knew the kind of dangers you would be facing. Here, you worry less about strangers with knives and more about bears. Ferelden has an ungodly amount of bears. Everyone warned you about the dogs and the smell; no one thought to mention the goddamn bears.

Maybe you’re just traveling in the wrong areas. It would have been smarter to find a merchant’s caravan, but no, you wanted your aura free. You were tired of cramped cities and cramped magics. So you left, decided to travel the freaking world, and wound up cold and alone, slowly freezing to death in a cave while Templars searched the woods for you.

Templars really shouldn’t be allowed to be undercover. What good are they if they’re not wearing that stupid uniform at all times? And you’re pretty sure you saw a bear while you were running.

So, to add it all up: being chased by Templars, wet, freezing, and possibly hiding in a bear cave.

Yeah… Maybe you’re just not that great at traveling.

Chapter Text

“Vhenan.”

The way the sound rolls off his tongue makes you shiver. “Vhenan,” you repeat slowly.

“You’re still not saying it correctly,” Solas says, his frustration clear. He bats his hand against the paper he’s holding, as if it’s the one that can’t wrap its tongue around a basic word. “It’s a simple word. You’ve mastered much more comple-” He stops mid-sentence, eyes narrowing, then slowly turning towards you.

Ah, you’ve been caught. You keep your face as blank as the Tranquil upstairs.

“Say ‘the way home.’”

“Vir'vhenas,” you say dutifully, knowing you’ve been found out.

Solas tosses the papers down on his desk, leans back on his chair, and lets out a long, tense breath. “Din'samahlen.

The word sends a pleasant chill down your spine, nearly as much as him saying “vhenan.” When he calls you a brat, at least you know he’s referring to you genuinely, not being tricked into pleasuring you with his voice.

“Oh, I see,” you say blandly. “Vhenan,” you let the word purr through your lips. Satisfying. “Like vhenas. I can’t believe it took me so long.”

“You’re not fooling anybody,” Solas grumbles. “I did not consent to teach you Elvhen for you to waste my time.”

Ir abelas-” you begin, but he cuts you off.

“You said it wrong again. Tel'abelas.”

You snort despite yourself, quickly covering your mouth with your hand. Solas eyes you, looking intensely unamused. “I see why the Iron Bull prefers to train you physically. When you irritate him, he can simply blugeon you.”

“You could train me physically, if you want.” The words slip out of your mouth; something about him always makes you want to escalate. Perhaps it’s the way he never seems to notice the intent behind your teasing. His eyebrows raise at this comment, however. “I’ve seen you in the mornings,” you add quickly, covering for yourself. “I’ve no idea what you’re doing, mind, but it’s certainly physical.”

“Ah,” Solas says, straightening a bit in his chair. “Yes. I find it keeps me… flexible.”

You fight against the burning red heat that wants to color your cheeks. Sometimes, when he talks, you could swear…

“You could show me, sometime,” you suggest, although close proximity to a shirtless, stretching Solas is probably the worst thing you could do to yourself. The word masochist was made for people like you.

“Am I not teaching you enough?” Solas asks dryly. “Will your hunger never cease?”

“What can I say?” You let your eyes coast down his firm jaw line, over his broad shoulders. “I’m ravenous.“

Chapter Text

You’re fairly certain that this isn’t what Bull meant when he told you to “blow off some steam” with Krem.

But there is steam, and things are likely to be blown, so mission fucking accomplished, you suppose.

You push Krem roughly against the wall of the shitty little shed you’d once had a breakdown in. It seems you’ll forever be using this shed for things you’ll regret in the morning.

“Wait, Emma, there’s something I should t-”

“Shut up,” you hiss, sinking your hands into his hair and pulling his head back. As it turns out, when fighting turns into kissing, the fighting doesn’t entirely leave. Not for you, anyway. You run your tongue gently along his neck, contrasting the sharp grip you have on his hair. He lets out a low groan, his body twitching against yours. He grabs you, one hand on the wrist that isn’t gripping his head and the other on your hip. He pushes you down, his superior muscles allowing him to simply brute force you onto the ground. You let out a high-pitched moan of approval as he shoves your arm into the dirt above your head.

“I mean it,” he says. “I need to-”

You push up against him, your mouth colliding with his in a clash of lips and teeth. His shock lets you slip your tongue into his mouth, and whatever pressing thing he had to tell you seems to slip his mind. He shoves you back down again, but this time follows you. The weight of his body feels good against yours; solid, but not as overwhelmingly large as most human men. He’s only a few inches taller than you… you like that. You also like the way his hand slips into your hair as you kiss, yanking out your leather tie and letting your hair cascade out across the dirt floor of the shed.

Your tongues tangle in a mimicry of the way your bodies writhe against each other. When Krem begins to pull away, you let your displeasure be known by nipping his bottom lip. He lets out another low groan; the sound seems to vibrate through you.

“You little-”

Whatever little thing you are will never be known, as you yank Krem back down into another kiss. Words can wait.

Chapter Text

You’d seen this coming, honestly. You’d have been an idiot not to. You’d hoped you were wrong; hoped the Iron Bull had some other, more pure motivation for wanting to be the exception to all of your rules. Qunari were an unknown quality, an alien concept. Maybe they worked different than human men.

Maybe they do, normally. Maybe the Qun prevents them from having red hot gazes that linger too long, prevents them from taking a nip at a friend’s ear and calling it an accident. It certainly prevents them from taking on a string of lovers, each more redheaded and elfier than the last, as if trying to prove a point.

But the Qun stopped reaching Bull, all the way out here, so far from Par Vollen. Maybe he hasn’t realized it, but you have.

Under the Qun, Qunari never marry. You wonder if this means they never fall in love. Is that something to do with the Qun, or something to do with the hardwiring of a Qunari? Indeed, you can’t imagine the Iron Bull ever falling in love, least of all with you. Maybe it’s that little article in front of his name. The Iron Bull. Like he’s not even a person, really.

But he is.

He’s a person who drags you down into the dirt in all the right ways. He’ll mess your hair and force you onto your knees and he won’t apologize for any of it. Just like you won’t apologize for mounting his horns like an Antivan bullrider, shouting derogatory words in every language you know as he struggles to dislodge you. Just like you won’t apologize for speaking filthy, seductive Tevene into his ear, knowing full well it arouses him and full well he’ll just find another handmaid to release his frustrations into.

But you’d apologize for listening in, if he knew. You take care that he doesn’t find out. You listen to the animalistic grunts and groans, the pleasured screams of whatever lucky soul he’s deigned to fuck senseless. But you always make sure to be long gone when it’s over.

Somewhere down the line, he stopped propositioning you. Maybe you simply said “no” enough times. It’s just as well… you’re no longer certain you’d keep saying no. And the way his hands linger on you after a take-down, you have to wonder if he knows that… If he stopped asking specifically because all his Ben-Hassrath training tells him you’ve crossed into just enough deranged perversion to say yes.

But if that were the case, you wish he’d stop finding increasingly creative ways to manhandle you. He looms above you, a knee in you back pushing you painfully into the dirt, one of your arms caught in each of his hands, panting hot breath onto the back of your neck… And you can’t help wishing one of you would get the guts to break this stalemate.

Chapter Text

You often wonder if the Commander thinks he’s being subtle, or if he knows his position of power allows him to take as many liberties with you as he wishes. You’d have to blind and dumb not to notice the way his gaze lingers on your backside when you bend over one of his charts. He might just be a fool, in the end. He seems thick enough not to have noticed that you’ve begun bending over on purpose.

You’ve had this problem for a while, a taste for the dangerous that always has you doing the stupidest things. The Commander is just kind enough to be attractive, just protective enough to be appealing… and just dangerous enough to be arousing.

To fuck a Templar… what a test of your willpower that would be. To keep your aura wound tight inside of you while the rest of you is coming undone. Knowing one little slip means you’ll be run through with an entirely different kind of sword.

A stupid idea. One you could never, ever do. But an appealing fantasy in its own right.

The soldiers think you’re trying to seduce him; trying to rise above your means in life. To take advantage of their bashful Commander. You can’t blame them for thinking it; it matches the rumors that have been circulating around you since you arrived in Skyhold. But it makes them cruel and vengeful. One catches you on the battlements on your way to Cullen’s office and blackens your eye.

The Commander knows, because of course he does. Nothing happens with the men that escapes his watchful eye. What he doesn’t know is how to make it stop.

At his request, you walk with him as he makes his daily lap around the battlements. This will only make it worse, you know that. Maybe he does, too, but he’s stopped caring. His desire for your company seems to overpower his desire to keep you out of harm’s way.

But the fact that a Templar even has the desire to keep you out of harm’s way…

You like pushing it, a little, to see what he’ll do. You turn towards him when he stops to gaze out over the mountaintops, turn your head in such a way that the light catches the darkening bruise around your eye. You take secret delight in the way his nostrils flare, the hardening of his eyes, the clenching of his fists. What you don’t expect, however, is the way his gauntleted hand rises to the side of your face, the way he strokes along the edge of the bruise with his thumb, soft leather against bare skin. Your heart rises into your throat.

He seems to realize what he’s doing a moment too late, and quickly snaps his hand down, away from you. You’re a bit dumbfounded. This… game, with the Commander, has the potential to turn very serious, very quickly.

You can’t decide if you like that or not.

You let your eyes run over the tenseness in his shoulders, like a wound cable ready to spring taunt. His body is pleasing if only in its familiarity… You have forever been taken by larger human men. His face is the only thing that differs… When his eyes glance at you, you see guilt and fear instead of desire and power.

You think that maybe you scare him as much as he scares you.

You clear your throat awkwardly. “Commander, I-”

“I know what the men have been doing,” the Commander interrupts. “I’ve tried… tried talking to them, telling them not to brutalize the elves, but it only seems to make it worse!” His hands are clenched together tight enough that the metal of his gauntlets creaks. You wet your lips briefly with your tongue; so much raw power behind someone who doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. “I don’t know how to make them stop. I’m… I’m sorry.”

The apology stuns you, a little. It always does, when he’s like this with you. As if he’s not the Commander of the Inquisition, and you’re not just an elven servant. He turns his face towards you and you see the frustration in his eyes, the anger hidden just behind it. Maker, for another peek at that anger…

Nervously, you place a hand on his arm. He glances at you in surprise; it’s rare you initiate contact with him. “It’s fine, Commander. It’s nothing I can’t-”

“It’s not fine!” he explodes, turning to face you full on. He looms over you as you take a nervous step backwards, ass thumping against one of the pillars of the battlements. “You know damn well it’s not fine! How can you look at me with that battered face and tell me that it’s fine!” His palm hits the wall to the left of your head, hard. Your eyes are wide and wild; you can practically see the Templar insignia despite the fact he never wears it. He stares you down; his hard, angry eyes quickly soften. Rage begins to turn to guilt again.

You want that rage to come back again. You need him to look at you with those furious eyes, just one more time. Fuck it, you think maybe you’d do anything. You catch his face in one of your hands, pull him in towards you again. It’s enough of a sign for him… He comes in close, covers you against the wall, shielding you from the rest of Skyhold with the broadness of his body. Before you can even steel yourself for it, his lips are pushing against yours. The familiar harshness of a human man, the sharpness that comes with a stubbled face. Questioning at first, but the second you don’t pull away, don’t freeze, he’s shoving against you harder, pushing you back against the stone wall.

The anger is there, the fierceness, just like you’d hoped it would be. He kisses you like it’s his birthright. He kisses you like you owe him money. Your knees go weak… arousal or fear? Maybe both.

He pulls back, leaving you breathless and panting, leaning desperately against the stone for support. At the sight of you, he pulls back further, taking a few guilty steps back. The anger is gone, replaced once again by the nervousness, the fear.

You wonder what you’ll have to do to see it again, next time.

Chapter Text

You’ve an endless list of people who suspect things about you, an endless list of people who hover. They all rank differently on your scale of how much of a threat they are. That’s why you’re so caught off guard when Servis, fucking Servis of all people, catches onto some of your Skyhold shenanigans.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, ser” you say blandly. The kind of shit-eating grin Servis is wearing sends an unpleasant chill down your spine. He’s no magister; you know that, but he’s a Tevinter mage and tricky. It’s your own damn fault he’s so interested in you; you all but rubbed your history with Tevinter in his face on multiple occasions. You should know better; you do know better… But you’ve never been the best at impulse control.

“Right, right, I’m sure that woman was acting purely on her own… After all, elven servants are so known for their trickery. Of course a mere kitchen servant would know exactly where your mage friend practices, as well as when the door might be unlocked–”

Enough,” you cut in. “Whatever she has gotten herself into, she is a friend of mine. I would consider it a…” You grit your teeth for what comes next. “Personal favor if you would simply forgot whatever you saw.”

“Oh? Personal favor? But you’re just a scribe, as you so frequently remind me. What could you possibly offer me?”

“What could I possibly offer a prisoner?” you intone sarcastically. “Where is your Templar leash-holder, by the way?”

“Oh, hadn’t you heard? In light of my service, the Inquisitor has decided that his pet Templars have better things to do than watch me all day and all night.” Servis leans in a little closer, and your hand subconsciously twitches towards your dagger. You hate it when they loom. “I may still have a collar, but I’m free of the leash.

“So,” he says, leaning back slightly and making a show of examining his nails. “I’ll ask again… what could you offer me?”

You sigh. “I have all of the same things to offer as any woman… and a few more, if you’re more interested in pursuits of the mind than those of the flesh.”

Servis’ eyebrows raise, although whether it’s because of your tacit offer of sex or your other, less erotic implications, you have no idea. “I’m a fan of both,” he says, and you repress a shudder. You fucking hate this sort of thing, but the pay-off that Celia’s carrying will be worth it.

“Fair is fair, then,” you say. “You forget what the woman did, and I’ll forget something you do… whether it involves me or not.”

Servis eyes you, considering, then grins. “Is there a time limit on your convenient-onset amnesia?”

“You have until I find another way to slip out of your little blackmail attempt,” you say with a scowl, readjusting Solas’ meal on the tray you hold. It’s going to get cold, at this rate. “So think fast. I’m sure you’ll know where to find me… after all, you pay such close attention to your surroundings.”

Chapter Text

“Cheese it!” Sera exclaims, grabbing your hand and pulling you along the roof, staying low enough to avoid being seen. You think for a moment she’s diving off the side, and begin to expect another dangerous run across Skyhold, but instead of jumping, she hangs down, dragging you along with her, and swings into an open window in the tavern.

You land with a grunt, tangled up and on something soft… in darkness, at that. It takes you a moment to realize, but you’re on a bed, of sorts, your legs all tangled up in Sera’s. You’re practically sitting in her lap. She’s looking out the window, waiting, and pulls you down onto the bed when two men carrying Commander Cullen’s ladder pass by. Your heart is pounding, both at nearly being caught and at being on a bed in a dark room with Sera pushing you down against the mattress. If you were in any condition to dream, you’d wonder if you were asleep.

“I think they’re gone,” she whispers, turning her head from the window back to you. It’s then that she seems to realize how close the two of you are, just how much of your bodies are touching. Your hair has come loose from its bun and strews across the bed underneath you. You feel as much as you see the breath hitch in her throat. “I, uh… I…”

She leans closer, slightly, and your own breath speeds up. Large elven eyes reflect your own as you lift yourself up, just enough… Your lips meet in the middle. Her lips are soft, round, perfect. A voice in your head screams that this is a terrible idea, that you can’t afford this sort of attachment. Sera runs soft fingers across your jaw, coaxing your mouth open enough for her to slip a tongue against yours.

You tell the voice in your head to shut the fuck up.

You push back up against her harder now, as the kiss becomes less of a question and more of a demand. You start to raise your body, she pushes you back down against the mattress. After a few more breathless moments, she pulls back. To your embarrassment, you actually let out a soft whine. It’s been forever since you were kissed. Now you never want to stop.

“You learned to kiss in Orlais,” Sera says breathlessly, but with that fox’s grin you’ve become so accustomed to seeing on her.

“H… how could you possibly know that?” you say with a quiet laugh. She’s right, though.

“I’ve kissed a lot of girls, elfy, and that is an Orlesian kiss. Wanna see how they kiss in Starkhaven?” You barely have time to nod before she pushes her lips back against you. You didn’t have anything important to do, surely. You definitely have enough time for a kissing tour of Thedas.

Chapter Text

People have always lusted after your secrets. For as long as you’ve been alive, you’ve had them. For as long as you’ve been alive, people have wanted them.

None were so tenacious about it as Solas, however. And none of them went about convincing you to be honest in the way that he did.

A groan slips out from your tightly shut mouth as Solas slides dexterous fingers across your slit. It’s shielded from his touch only by your rapidly soaking underwear. His hand had snaked into your pants as if it belonged there, and now it teases you mercilessly as Solas presses you against the wall of his room. He pushes up against you from behind, grinding you between his hand and the rapidly hardening length you can feel straining against his trousers.

“Come now, Emma. What were you doing in there?” he hums into your ear, his voice low, between sultry and threatening.

A single, unnoticed ward had put you in this increasingly tense position. You had snuck into Solas’ practice room so carefully, but triggered a silent alarm. It informed Solas that you had been there and little else. His finger flicking across your clit is his preferred method of interrogation.

“You might as well tell me.” He slides his hand away from your slit, and you exhale a breath of relief through your nose. Then his hand slides into your panties and you let out a muffled yelp, still keeping your jaw clenched shut. “What could you possibly have to hide when we’ve seen so much of each other?”

Whimpering isn’t talking, you tell yourself as a finger slides down past your clit, further, to press against your entrance. Solas drags a hot tongue down the length of your pointed ear at the same time he pushes that wandering finger inside of you, and your mouth finally opens, a strangled cry echoing through the stone room. Immediately, Solas’ other hand is on your mouth, fingers pressing inside as surely as they are probing between your legs. Your tongue rushes to meet them, unbidden, playing against the curious digits. Solas’ hand tastes of salt and bitter herbs.

Your mouth now lodged open, the room quickly fills with gasps and moans as Solas works his fingers in and out of you.

“Nothing was missing,” he says, as calmly as if the two of you were sitting across from each other, sharing tea. “None of my other wards were disturbed. What are you up to, harel’asha? Tell me.”

His fingers make a very convincing argument for honesty. He knows your body well enough now to tease you brutally, bringing you quickly to the edge of coming before backing off. He whispers words of encouragement in Elven, knowing how the language on his tongue makes you squirm. He pushes you back against him roughly, knowing how a bit of force makes you lose your mind.

“You won’t come until you tell me,” he promises, tracing his fingers along your lips as you crash your hips desperately against him. He shoves you back against the wall, controlling your hips with his own so that you can’t thrust yourself against his fingers.

“Solas, please,” you groan, finally breaking your self-imposed speechlessness.

Give me what I want,” he urges in Elven, the words crashing against you like waves. “And I will let you come undone.

“I… I…” You try to bite down on your lips, force yourself to be silent, but Solas fingers dip into your mouth to prevent it. You’re so fucking close. Solas’ fingers still inside of you and you cry out bitterly. “The Era’harel Numinan!” you finally choke out. “I was reading the Era’harel Numinan!

You half-expect Solas to pull away from you as punishment, but instead he curls his fingers inside you, his thumb dancing up to rub against your clit. Your entire body spasms as he masterfully brings you over the edge, rewarding your confession and milking every last moan and whimper from your pried open mouth. He murmurs Elven words of praise into your ear as you arch against him.

You slump back against him as your climax fades, and he half carries, half drags you to his bed, sprawling down across it with you. “That tome is beyond you, da’asha,” he chides gently.

Ir abelas,” you say weakly. “I was born curious.”

“As was I,” Solas replies with a gentle smirk. “I cannot fault your nature, but I will teach you honesty yet.”

Chapter Text

"Ssshhh shhhh, you'll wake someone up!"

"Who? One of the horses?"

"Blackwall sleeps somewhere in here, y'know."

"Seriously? Why does a Grey Warden sleep in a barn?"

Belassan opens one sleepy eye from the hay loft where he sleeps. The Grey Warden does, in fact, sleep in the barn, although he keeps mostly to himself. He's not the only one, however. Despite having been away from the Dalish for well over a decade, Belassan still finds he can't sleep on a human's cot. The hay in the barn is more than soft enough, and the soft, thick scent of the harts makes him feel at home.

He rolls over and glances down over the edge of the loft. Two people dragging a body... should he be alarmed? He watches quietly from the shadows above.

He recognizes one of the people dragging the body. Sera. Most of the elves in Skyhold treat him with a kind of frightened reverence thanks to the white tattoos on his face and chest. Sera treats him with open hostility. He's not sure which one is more uncomfortable.

The two women hoist the body into the stable that contains Revas, and Belassan suddenly bolts upright. Revas is not the friendliest hart, and has been known to both trample and gouge with his horns. If the person they threw in there is not already dead, there is a good chance they might be shortly. And Revas could take the blame if he tramples a dead body.

Belassan hears Revas snort in protest and then let out a confused huff. Then the slam of horns against wood. Fenedhis!

The women are already gone by the time Belassan scurries down the stairs and scrambles to Revas' stable. He rushes to open the gate, but...

Revas has laid down next to the body, and is nuzzling it. And Belassan knows why... from here, he recognizes her. The woman thrown into the stable is Emma, a kind (if grumpy) elven woman whose gentle disdain is possibly the closest thing Belassan has to friendship.

Belassan feels his heart freeze in his chest, crushed as if by the very hand of Fen'Harel himself. He swings the gate open and rushes to drop to his knees by Emma's side. Revas moves his antlers to make space for the Dalish man to lift Emma's eyelids, feel her chest for breath. She is alive. Merely sleeping. Or unconscious, more likely, from the stench of alcohol coming off of her steady breaths.

Belassan's thudding heart begins to slow as the pieces fall into place. Sera is a notorious prankster, and she and Emma are friendly. Likely, they were drinking and Emma simply had too many. For entertainment's sake, the sly woman had shoved Emma in with the hart she loved so much. Belassan breathes a slow sigh.

Revas nickers, snorting gentle concern against Belassan's pointed ear.

"All is well, Revas," he says, rubbing a hand gently over the hart's soft, warm nose. Belassan could move her, but she is likely safest here, where Revas' jealous heart and short-tempered nature can watch over her. Belassan only fetches a saddle blanket to keep the woman warm, covering her as gently as he can.

"Watch her closely," Revas instructs, stroking a hand down the hart's forehead. "Let her rest, but wake me if I am needed."

Chapter Text

But when the panic threatens to overtake you, beyond all sanity, it's Bull you turn to. You find him in the tavern, drink in hand, and beeline towards him. Your heart is pounding in your ears... being inside is almost more than you can bear. It feels like the walls are closing in on you, like every eye in the room is fixed firmly on you and your bloodied hands.

"Bull, I need you." Your voice is quiet, thin. You're amazed he can hear you over the din of the tavern. Bull must see the wild panic in your eyes, because he quickly stands and follows you. Up the stairs, out the door. His room is the closest place you can be alone. That it's his room barely occurs to you. As soon as the door is closed, you practically throw yourself at him, the panic you'd barely been repressing overtaking you.

"Bull, I need you to hurt me." Your voice comes out strained. If you were in your right mind, the look on his face would probably amuse you... He clearly hadn't been expecting you to say that. As it is, however, you just want to know why he hasn't started yet.

"I... don't think you're really in the right place for us to be doing that, kid," he says carefully. You groan in frustration, running hands through your frazzled hair. If you were in a good place, you wouldn't fucking need him to hurt you, now would you?

"Please! I tried hitting a wall!" You thrust your hands in front of him. They're battered and raw, so slippery from blood that you could no longer gain purchase against the rough stone walls. "It didn't work, and Cole's not here! I can't make it stop! You have to help me! You've hurt me before!"

"In training," Bull growls. "That's different."

"Why?" you demand. You shove your raw hands against him, as if hoping to provoke him. It leaves streaks of blood on his chest. "Goddamnit! HELP me!" you beg again, tears coming to your eyes. You punch at his chest; he catches your wrists. You twist them in his hands, desperate for pain. It's there, but it's less than even punching the stone walls. You let out a strained noise of frustration, between a groan and a wail. "If you're not going to help, let me go! I'll do it my damn self!" You're not sure how much worse you can hurt yourself with your hands bloody and useless, but you could probably fall down some stairs or something.

You move to pull away, but Bull's grip on your arms is, true to his namesake, like iron. You let out a frustrated noise, between a growl and a whimper.

"I can't let you run off like this," Bull says slowly, as if thinking something through.

"Don't you dare," you hiss. "You can't just keep me! This won't just go away! It never just goes away!" You wrench your arms again, hoping to either break free or tear your shoulders from their sockets. Bull shifts to hold both your arms in one massive hand. Even like that, you can't break loose. He catches your chin and jaw with the other hand, yanking your head until your eyes meet his. The panic doesn't subside, but he has your attention, at least.

"Are you familiar with the concept of a watchword?" he says, and your frantic mind struggles to understand.

"A what?"

"Seriously? How often do you go around asking men to hurt you? And you don't know a watchword is?" Bull says with a sigh.

"I'm not a regular at that, no!" you snap. "I just thought you would help me! Every damn day you smash me into the ground, and with relish! How the fuck would I know you'd get cold feet?"

"When you've had enough," Bull says, ignoring you completely, "When you want to stop, the word is 'katoh.'" A Qunlat word, for 'ending.' Apt enough, and easy to remember. You're confused by the necessity, however. Doesn't 'stop' normally work for stopping? You don't want to argue it right now, though... If he thinks you'll need him to stop, that means he's planning to start.

"Are you listening?" he asks, snapping your neck up painfully. You inhale sharply; the exposed neck makes you panic more; you feel as though he could snap your neck by twitching. He's so much larger than you. But the pain in your overextended neck feels good enough that you want him to twist you further.

"Yes! The word is 'katoh!'" you cry out. "Does this mean..."

Bull is strong. You knew that from all your training with him. But there, he held back. He had to, so as not to shatter your bones. So when he spins you around and uses his full strength to slam you against bedpost, you're not even slightly prepared. You smash against the solid wood of the bedpost, jarring your head and blurring your vision. It disorients you enough to make you more compliant, for a moment. Bull had released your arms to spin you, but he grabs them again and yanks them over your head. You're too dizzy to fight against him.

"Now. Let's talk about that attitude," he says, his voice a low threat. With surprising grace, his fingers find the knots on the leather strips that you tie your sleeves up with. He undoes them swiftly and pulls the leather from your wrists. Without them, your sleeves fall down, leaving your arms bare from the elbow up.

"You don't make demands," Bull is saying, but you're distracted. He's using the strips to tie your arms together around the bedpost. It sets off a dozen warning bells in your head. Can't he just break your damn arm and be done with it? How hard is it to beat one tiny elf girl, for fuck's sake? Why do you need to be tied up for this?

Bull steps back away from you for a moment, and you yank your wrists against the leather, testing its strength. Fingers as thick as his shouldn't be able to tie knots so well. You're quickly back to desperate yanking, trying to injure yourself on the restraints.

Bull's shadow falls over you as he steps back towards you. You hear the sound before the pain registers. A whooshing noise, and then a crack. That crack was something, something striking your ass. You let out an ungodly screech as the pain hits you. Was that a stick?! You think of the shed in the fog, how he'd handed you a broom handle with which to strike him. Was he hitting you with something like that?

"Paying attention now?" Bull says as you squirm against the leather bonds. When you don't say anything, he kicks at your ankle, sending you off balance. Your wrists jolt painfully as your weight wrenches them. "That wasn't a rhetorical question!"

"Yes!" you cry out. "Yes, I'm paying attention!" Your eyes are damn near rolling out of your head with fear and panic at this point, but the pain had cleared your mind for just a split second. If he'd just go to town on you with the damn thing instead of fucking around like this..

"Legs out," he growls, kicking at your feet again until you step them out away from the bed. This has the unfortunate effect of bending you over, your hands raised up above your head. You jump to follow his kicks until they become nudges; he doesn't stop until you're bent almost completely over, your legs spread wide. You can see where this is going.

The only warning you get is the whipping sound of the stick hurtling through the air. Another sharp crack shatters the air, another explosion of pain. For one blissful moment, the panic fades as the agony pushes everything else out of your mind. This has always been your technique. With enough hurt, you break yourself out of the cycle of panic and paranoia. But Bull only strikes you once, then stops. You let out a frustrated growl, yanking yourself against the bonds.

"Now then. It seems you have a favor you'd like to ask me for... nicely," Bull says, and you let out another angry snarl. He's fucking you around right now? Really? But that stick, with his strength behind it... He can definitely give you what you need. The words choke on your lips even after you decide to say them, however.

"Bull, I..." you clear your throat, suddenly embarrased. It had been humiliating enough to make the demand, to admit you had the need. Panic had been the only thing to push you over the edge to be able to say it. You spit words out like venom, feeling a burning heat unrelated to both pain and panic rising in your face. "Bull, will you hurt me?"

"What's the magic word?" the Iron Bull taunts, and you whine.

But you cooperate.

"Please," you say weakly. "Bull, will you hurt me please?"

This time you barely hear the crack in the air before the pain hits you. You scream, and your knees go slightly weak, but you manage to keep yourself upright. Another strike comes just afterwards, hitting below, where your ass meets your legs. It catches you off guard and you slam forward into the bedpost, face and collarbone meeting wood. It probably hurts, but you're too distracted by the agony in your ass and legs to pay it any mind.

"Talk to me," he orders. "What triggered this?"

You hesitate. The stick comes down again, whipping red hot agony against your skin. The scream rips your throat, but the pain clears your mind.

"The emissaries," you whimper when your scream subsides. You taste blood in your mouth. Had you torn your throat, or bitten yourself?

"The Qunari?" Bull says, his voice caught between understanding and confusion.

"One of them looks... familiar," you manage, but just thinking about it sending you back into spasms of panic. Grey skin and sweeping horns. Tight cells, burning flesh. You see yourself reflected in black eyes. You wiggle your body back and forth, shifting your weight from one foot to the other. "More. Please?" You have to get it out of your head. The only way is to fill yourself with something else, until there's no more room.

The air splits with another satisfying crack as the sharp, narrow stick meets your ass again. You scream, but this one's less desperate.

"You learn fast," Bull says, voice both approving and amused. "So Qunari scared you, but you came to me?"

"You're not... You're different." You manage to stop yourself halfway through what was almost an incredibly unfortunate sentence... You'd been about to say that Bull wasn't a Qunari. He was, of course, and calling him anything else would be bound to piss him off. You'd be implying he's a Tal-Vashoth. You're not too sure what would happen if you made him that angry in this situation... He could either refuse to hurt you, or hurt you too much. Both would be bad.

"Different," Bull says, as if musing to himself.

"Please, Bull," you say again, as if the word itself can get him to focus. "Please, I need it." It seems to. He brings the stick down again, and again, and again. You claw at the wood of his bedpost, clutching it for support as your legs go weak. On the fourth strike, they give out altogether and you slump forwards as they collapse.

"Up," Bull says, nudging at your legs. You know that nudge can turn into a kick at any moment. You kind of want it to. You want him to knock you down and then kick you while you're on the ground, until there's nothing else in the world but his solid boot. "Up," Bull says with more force, and you scramble to support your weight again.

"Don't fall down again," Bull advises when you get your feet back into the proper position. "And remember your word."

He tears into you then, the way you wanted him to from the first. Strike after strike smashes against your legs and ass, varying in position and force just enough to keep you off guard. The Qunari fly from your mind, beaten back into the depths of the Void with every burst of fresh agony. You can focus only on keeping your legs straight, and even that is rapidly becoming too much for you. The strikes are coming too fast, the pain is building to a hellish crescendo. One final hit strikes you. The stick comes down straight across your cunt, and the scream you release feels as though it shakes the rafters. Bull gets one more strike in before you choke out, "Katoh! Katoh!" and let your legs collapse and fold up underneath you.

Bull's hands are on your wrists in an instant, untying the leather straps and letting your arms slump down. Immediately, your hand goes to your backside. You wince as it makes contact with raw, sticky flesh. Your pants have been shredded. Gently, Bull pulls your hands away from your rear. He tries to put something in your hands, but you haven't yet grasped fine motor skills in the wake of your beating. You hear a cork pop, and then there's a glass vial pushing against your lips. You drink automatically, without thinking. It doesn't even occur to you to be cautious. Once someone has tied you up and beat you, it seems as though they needn't bother drugging you.

Almost at once, the sharpest of the pain receedes. A healing potion? Must have been. You feel something wipe across your legs and ass; you flinch away. The healing potion didn't remove all the pain. But a hand rests gently on your waist, and you still, tolerating the pain as wetness is wiped from your back and legs.

Bull half pulls, half lifts you up onto the bed. You curl up there at once, body and mind both exhausted by the explosion of sensation. The panic is gone from your mind. Now you're just exhausted. Too exhausted to think. Unfortunately, even in this state, sleep is the one thing that rarely comes to you. But Bull sits next to you on the bed. He's talking in low, soothing tones, although you can't quite make out what he's saying. He places a hand by your head and you flinch, but when he merely runs a gentle thumb over your hair, you slowly relax again.

You don't know how long you lay like that, half-asleep but unable to fall the rest of the way into the Fade. Eventually, your mind begins to slowly piece itself back together. That's when the embarassment hits. You lift your head up slightly to glance towards where you'd been standing... on the floor is a wooden caning rod, stained red with blood. Your blood. There's even drops of the red liquid on the floor. Your hands twitch towards it. You see a towel, bright red with blood, no doubt what he'd cleaned you off with. You feel the inexplicable urge to wipe the mess up, to clean the stains you'd left on Bull's floor.

"How you feeling?" Bull asks, his gentle voice reminding you of how he always speaks after you've had one of your ridiculous panicked episodes. In retrospect, you suppose this was another one of them. First you beat him, then he beats you. Next time, maybe it'll be a goddamned fist fight.

"I need to clean," you mumble. You lift your head up, but Bull gently pushes you back down. You only get as far as resting your head down onto Bull's lap.

"Don't worry about that," Bull says with a chuckle. "I got the worst of it already. This room has survived worse than a little blood. You feel like you can talk about the Qunari now?"

"Nothing much to talk about," you say with a sigh. "It was stupid... as always. It was his horns. Qunari have such distinctive horns. I didn't expect to see a pair I recognized. One of their Beres-taar is a dead ringer for a... man I used to know."

"In Seheron?"

"Worse. In Minrathous," you say. You roll over towards him, wincing at the pain lying on your back causes. You meant to do it so you could stare up at Bull, but what your head hits has you richocheting out of his lap. "Bull!" you exclaim, horrified.

"What do you expect?" he says with a full-bodied laugh. "Your pants are in shreds and you were just bent over my bed, begging me for more."

You flush bright red as the implications of what you've done finally hit you. "Oh... Oh, Maker," you moan, burying your face in your hands. "What did I do?"

"You came to a friend to help. A little more brusquely than entirely necessary, admittedly, but..."

"You don't mind the, um...?" you gesture vaguely crotchward, eyes adverted. You can't look at it.

Bull snorts. "Please. You get me in this state often enough in practice. I should get an award, honestly."

That isn't helping you feel any less embarrassed. Do all the men you spar with get in that kind of a state, or just Bull? Maker, does Krem...? "I'm, um... I'm sorry," you say weakly, still unable to make eye contact.

"I'm not," he says. "Hey." He reaches out to you again. This time you don't flinch when his hand touches you, when his fingers stroke against your hair. "It's alright. I won't say I wasn't surprised, but I'm not upset. If you plan on requesting any repeat performances, we'll have to talk about it more, though."

You open your mouth to immediately deny the possibility of that, then close it. You never would have considered dragging Bull up to his room and demanding he beat you. It only seemed sensible to your desperate, panic stricken mind. Maker only knows you could do the same thing again. You'd rather have him hitting you than a repeat of the first time, when you beat him. You still haven't recovered from the guilt of that.

"It's the asala-taar," you say with a sigh. You're glad to finally have a word for it, but it doesn't help you actually deal with it.

"I know. We all cope in different ways," Bull says. He pulls your head gently, and you lay it back down, although this time, you rest your head on his knee, far from any danger zones.

"I should clean," you mutter.

"You should rest," Bull counters.

"Your watchword is stupid," you mumble, already halfway asleep again.

Bull laughs. "Oh? What would you use?"

"Kost," you say tiredly. "Makes more sense."

Bull is quiet for a moment, although he continues to stroke your hair. The sensation relaxes you again. You find yourself tempted to let your aura out just so you can sleep... But you can't let your addled brain take that kind of a risk.

"Asala iss, give me a blanket," you mumble. Bull starts at that, but he does pull one of his wonderfully soft blankets up over you, so you count it as a win. I don't have to deal with this until I get up, you tell yourself. As long as I lay here, I can pretend this wasn't the stupidest thing I've ever done.

You don't ever want to get up.

Chapter Text

My name is Baptiste Felicien Bellerose. My friends call me Baptiste.

The happiest day of my life was the day I met the woman who would become my wife. Terribly Orlesian, I know. It was an arranged marriage, as so many were in that day, but from the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew that I would be deliriously happy every day for the rest of my life if she would consent to be mine. I told her as much. She replied, “If that’s the case, I expect you should spend your time ensuring I am deliriously happy, as well.”

It’s been just shy of forty years since she said that to me, and Maker as my witness, I’ve tried my best.

It seems to have worked. Three years later, we were wed. She’s since born three beautiful daughters, each as perfect and elegant as their mother. They all have her porcelain skin, dainty hands, and endless grace. Fortunately, they inherited only my eyes. And, as their mother would say, my wicked mind. Each one is a clever minx. They caused me no end of grief in their childhood, and watching them blossom into womanhood often sent me into paroxysms of panic. How I managed to get the three of them married off without incident, I’ll never know.

For the longest time, I thought I might have married a descendent of Andraste herself, for how our line seemed determined to only create the fairer sex. Three granddaughters later, however, my youngest has finally born a beautiful, bouncing baby boy. His name is Gaston Baptiste Deniau. He was born last month, and I will get to see him in Val Royeaux.

That’s not the only reason I volunteered for the task, of course. Lady Josephine Montiliyet, my long time friend and associate, needed someone with talent to help smooth over the Inquisitor’s… unique choice in representatives. I know Chancellor Jϋrgen Haulis personally. To say he will be displeased is an understatement. He only consented to allow elves to the University due to strong arming by the Empress, and he sulks about it in nearly every letter he’s sent me since. I doubt the Inquisitor meant it in such a manner, but sending two elves is tantamount to slapping the man in the face. My presence should make the blow a little less potent to our dear Chancellor.

I’ve been assigned four guards to escort myself and my two wards to the city. It seems a bit much for such a short trip. Honestly, I would have undertaken it with as little protection as simply the mage, Solas, and a single armed guard. I suspect the guards have some other task to complete.

It will be wonderful to see Val Royeaux again, not only because of the birth of my first and only grandson. I lived there for most of my life, until Lady Montiliyet came to seek my aid with the blossoming Inquisition. I would have never consented to move to such a dreary fortress if not for her insistence that only I would do. The flattery didn’t hurt either, if I’m being completely honest. Still, it will be wonderful to be back in the city again. Finally, I will be able to obtain a decent cake.

-

The rabbit, Emma, is a positive delight. Oh, how she indulges an old man! She’s fluent in Orlesian, to boot. Josephine told me that she used to live in Val Royeaux, but was born in Ferelden. I didn't expect her to seem so… well, Orlesian. She’s a linguist, apparently quite an accomplished one. That she is the way she is despite her pointed ears makes me wonder what she could be were she not burdened with them. She’s a charming little pixie and has all four of the guards charmed before we’ve so much as stopped for lunch. But she’s eyes only for her elven companion, it seems. She spends more time even in my company than she does with him, but oh, the look on her face when she rides next to him. Peace. And, ah, her gaze when he’s not looking. I have three daughters. I know that look. The apostate is a very lucky man.

Perhaps I should schedule the two of them a bit more free time in the city of love.

Chapter Text

My name is Kelsie.

I’d like to have a word with King Alistair, honestly. Oh, sure, your highness, let all the apostates into Ferelden. I’m sure nothing bad will happen at all! I wish I knew what he was thinking when he made that inspired decision. They wrecked havoc, because of course they did. I can barely even hold it against them. They’re like forces of nature. I can no more blame them for being murderers than I can blame a hurricane. But the end result of both is the same… a wrecked farm and a lot of dead people.

“Stop whining, Lily! You’re such a baby!”

“Shut up, Bevin,” I say, trying to force my voice even. “Don’t bully Lily.”

Bevin snorts, but grows silent. He’s a right snot, but he’s my little brother. I’ve got to watch out for him. I’ve got to watch out for them both. That’s all I can think about right now. I can’t think about our parents’ bodies, unnaturally twisted by the demons forced into them. If I do, I think I might lose my mind, as well.

We should have headed to Redcliffe, maybe. But they’re lousy with refugees, everyone knows it, and the fighting is at its most intense there. Instead, I lead us west. I’ve heard of a group, helping Ferelden refugees. Haven. We need to make it to Haven. Something in the name, maybe, but I’m certain that that’s where we’ll be saved.

-

Divine irony, maybe. By the time we get there, Haven’s been razed to the ground. But as luck would have it, there’s a merchant’s caravan nearby, hunting the same group we are. The Inquisition, they call them. Sounds a bit ominous to me. But if they could survive Haven being burned to ash, they must be holy.

Lily barely speaks, these days. I worry about her. I can tell she and Bevin both are exhausted from the road. Just a little further, I tell them. Just a little further, and then we’ll be safe. But long days in a wagon only give us time to think. I know our minds are all in the same place… we left them with our hearts in that burned out house, cradled in the desiccated corpses of our mothers.

-

I almost can’t believe it when we finally arrive at Skyhold. It’s so… grand. I doubted, on the road, but now that we’re here, I can really believe that this is a holy calling. I saw the Herald of Andraste yesterday. The Inquisitor. He looks so… normal. If a man like that was chosen by Andraste herself, maybe she has a calling for me, too.

I signed up with the military. Commander Cullen Rutherford is a Ferelden like me. He’s reliable; I can tell. Bevin wants to sign up too, of course, but I forbid it. He’s only fifteen. He argues with me fiercely, says I’m only four years older. But four years is enough. He sulks and steams, of course, but he’ll get over it soon enough. He’s a little shit, yeah, but he’s my brother. I can’t let him wind up dead. He’s not like me. I’m handy with a sword, I always have been. Mamae taught me when Ma wasn’t looking. But Lily never took to it--she’s gentle at heart, like Ma is… was. And Bevin was just plain shit at it… All he’d ever do is swing as hard as he could at whatever was in front of him.

He’s set up in the blacksmiths, now. Lily’s in the kitchens. I get to see them every day. Life’s good here in Skyhold… I’m constantly learning new techniques, and I can tell Bevin’s happy in the smithy. What passes for happy with Bevin, anyway. Lily’s even coming out her shell some. She doesn’t smile, not yet, but she talks about whatever the kitchen girls are gossipping about. I think she thinks she’s just supposed to, because everyone else does... but I encourage it anyway. The more she talks, the less she gets that far off look in her eyes. Whenever I see that thousand league stare, I know she’s back in that burnt out house. Those corpses are ash now. We need to scatter them to the winds.

-

I saw a stable-elf today with markings like Mamae’s. I miss her. If she could see me now, she’d be so proud. I’ve never been better with a sword, and I’ve taken to using a dagger in my spare hand. I never was good with a bow like she was, but I can finally fight with a sword and dagger… just like her.

Sometimes I dream about home, and when I wake up and I expect to see her hanging rabbit skins up outside my window. Then I remember where I am.

-

I’ve got a new job today! It’s my first time being sent out of Skyhold… I’m excited. I’m part of a small task that’s escorting some diplomats, or researchers, or something, to Val Royeaux. I’ve never been to Val Royeaux! I’ve never been to Orlais at all! Lily asked me to bring her back something. I’m going to get her the finest silk ribbon in all of Orlais. She can use it to tie back her hair… It’s finally grown back long enough for that. I’ll get something for Bevin too, of course, although I don’t know what.

One of the people I’m escorting is that elf lady, the one that Lily talks about. Rumor says she’s sleeping with all kinds of different people, but Lily says she’s sleeping with her freaky apostate boss. Personally, my money’s on the girl elf she broke her hip to impress. I might be a little biased, admittedly, but I’m the one who carried her to the healer’s tent. I’m a little worried, frankly; she seems really clumsy, and I’m supposed to get her there intact. The Commander was pretty firm about that intact part. He was there when she fell; he must know that she’s a klutz. Her apostate, Solas, is coming too. I’m not really happy about that. They say he’s a blood mage. I don’t know if that’s true… The Inquisitor would kill him if that was the case, wouldn’t he? It’s probably just a rumor. But either way, he’s an apostate, and that makes me nervous. The elf lady works for him… I hope she’s a handler, or something. Maybe I won’t have to talk to him at all.

We leave out tomorrow morning. I’m more excited than scared. I can’t wait to see what Val Royeaux is like!

Chapter Text

My name is Elaine Denholm.

Free Marcher, born and raised in Ostwick. I was going to spend my whole life there. Never felt the need to travel, really. When I was nineteen, I placed second in the sword-and-shield division of the Grand Tourney. That landed me a knightship with the Trevelyans, and I was content there.

Then one of their sons had to go and get himself… deified or whatever. I don’t know if I really buy any of that, but it’s not my job to be an ass about it, so I keep my mouth shut. They were all pissy about it right up until the Inquisition became a real force, with the Templars behind them and everything. Then suddenly he was Eugene Trevelyan, don’t you know? The Trevelyan’s third son! They sent a whole squad of knights to support the Inquisition. And I was one of them.

Skyhold’s not too bad, once you get used to it. It’s got even more variety than Ostwick, somehow. It’s dull, but the soldiers make up for it by gossiping like fishwives. There’s a mercenary company here, the Bull’s Chargers. I normally don’t like mercenaries, but those guys are alright. Their leader is one of those big Qunari. He beat me at arm wrestling, and he has good taste in drinks. I drink with them in the tavern as often as I can. If I stick close, I’m always guaranteed to get entertainment before the night is over.

I’m one of the soldiers, technically. It feels a little bit odd. It’s a real hodgepodge of people, all mixed together… knights like myself, ex-Templars, retired Chevaliers, and, above all, a lot of commoners who decided that this is the cause worth raising a blade for. Sometimes I look at them, and I see their faith. And I don’t know whether to pity them or feel humbled by them. To me, the Inquisitor will always just be Eugene Trevelyan. I’ve known him too long for him to be the Herald of Andraste. But I see the way the people look at him.

It makes me wonder, some days.

-

Varric Tethras is here in Skyhold. Isn’t that weird? Everyone seems to know, and no one seems to care. I wonder if he’s not as popular outside of the Free Marches? I got him to sign my copy of the first chapter of Hard in Hightown. It’s a first printing. He noticed.

-

I got a new job assignment, finally. It seems like a boring escort gig, but I’ll do anything to be out of the fortress for a while. We’re taking some clever types to Val Royeaux. Plus we have an extra job to do once we’re there. It’s something to do. Frankly, the timing couldn’t be better. The Bull’s Chargers are leaving out as well, and I probably would have gone insane from boredom without them. Gossip can only sustain me for so long. I doubt I’ll see any action, since we’re sticking to the Imperial Highway pretty much the whole way, but at least I’ll get out of these walls.

It’s a small squad. That’s how I know they’re not expecting trouble. I’m the most experienced of all four, but Garrick’s the one in charge. Not sure how I feel about that. He’s a reliable enough fellow, but the Inquisition is his first time being a soldier. I hope whatever the Commander sees in him is real.

Other than Garrick, I’ve got Emilio and Kelsie. I could do worse… of course, I could do a lot better, too. Emilio hits on anything with a pulse, but at least he knows his way around a battlefield. Kelsie is the exact opposite. She’s a sweetie, but this is her first outing. If we get into trouble, it may well be her first battle. I don’t want to have to explain to those siblings of hers that their sister died the very first time she drew a blade in someone’s defense.

As for the ones we’re escorting, well… We’ve got some poncy Orlesian, but that’s to be expected. The interesting ones are the elves. They ride out on harts of all things. I don’t know how they ride them. Looks uncomfortable. But I bet those giant antlers are great in a fight. One of the elves is that lady elf everyone’s always gossiping about. I’ve seen her a few times prior, seems like she’s pretty popular with the Chargers, the Qunari and the Vint in particular. I don’t know if any of the rumors are true, but I really wouldn’t be surprised if they were. All I know for sure is that she’s got a mean throwing arm and a really solid right hook.

That boss of hers, or whatever... Solas. He’s coming too. I can’t say I’m overly pleased with that. Mages are trouble. Literally. I’m pretty sure whatever lets them do magic is just concentrated, liquified trouble. It must flow through their veins like blood. He’s old, though. You know what they say in Ostwick. There are old mages and there are bold mages. There are no old, bold mages. None of the Trevelyans are magic-lovers, so if Eugene--er, the Inquisitor--keeps him around, he must be good for something.

Well, if he can throw up a barrier and manage not to get possessed on the way to Val Royeaux, I’ll call that a win. Sometimes a dull trip is the most you can hope for. Maybe Emilio and that elf woman will hook up. It’s bound to be boring; I need something entertaining to watch.

Chapter Text

My name is Garrick.

Farming in the Hinterlands was never easy. But it was a life. Dad was born in Redcliffe, and his dad, and his dad… A long way back. There was never any question what I’d do with my life. I had a knack with the druffalo and all I was really good for was heavy lifting. My brother did all of the hard stuff… getting married, having kids, that sort of thing. I just did the heavy lifting.

My brother has five children. Sometimes I forget their names, but they’re good kids. For the longest time, trying to pretend like I know which triplet is which was my biggest trouble. I kept thinking it would get easier when they were older… they’re twelve now, I still can’t tell the little bastards apart.

It was peaceful, hard work. Before the mages came.

I don’t think they wanted to hurt us, not really. I saw a woman tear up our fields with these giant pillars of ice from the ground. She ran towards me right before a Templar skewered her on his sword. I didn’t see any madness in her eyes… Just terror.

She looked maybe fifteen.

But in the end, the farm was still just as wrecked as if they’d done if on purpose. Our crops were in ruin, our house half destroyed.

I don’t know if it’ll ever be the same. I was the one who said we should leave. But where would we go? We grew up on that farm. We never traveled past Redcliffe village. And Kaitlyn is heavy with child.

Our answer comes in the form of divine intervention.

The Inquisition sweeps across the Hinterlands like a storm. Seemingly overnight, we have support, supplies, and protection. My brother and I stay up all night talking. We make a decision. I will join the Inquisition’s army. They pay good wages, and I… well, I feel called. There’s a hole in the sky. Mages and Templars are everywhere, killing each other. And they say this man was chosen by Andraste herself. That he walked out of the Breach unharmed and renewed, the way Andraste was purified by the Sacred Fire.

Maybe I’ve not always been as pious as I should have been. But I feel like now I can make a change, and help my family at the same time. It will be hard, but, well… I do the heavy lifting.

-

I never doubted the Herald of Andraste. But if I had, I would have been convinced when He pulled me out of the way of a Venatori’s staff blade. He’s the reason I lost a finger and not a head when Haven fell. I followed Him out of Haven and to Skyhold. Andraste must have told Him where it would be… how else could He have known?

We’ve settled in here at Skyhold. It’s a fortress truly fit for the mighty force the Inquisition is becoming. I’m proud to be a part of it. I don’t even miss my finger that much… It was my left ring finger, so I wasn’t really using it, anyway. I’m sure my brother will tease me about it when he sees.

I send him and the children all the money I make. It’s the only thing keeping them alive while they try to rebuild the farm. I hope they’re safe. They say the mages have left Redcliffe, and the Herald has brought the Templars here to Skyhold. Things should be peaceful back home, now. I only hope that the Venatori don’t make it that far into Ferelden.

-

I got a new task today. It’s an odd one. I’ll be part of a small group escorting a group of researchers to Val Royeaux. That might not sound strange, but two of them are elves, and one is an apostate! I was under the impression that our Orlesian neighbors thought even less of elves than my countrymen, but maybe I’m wrong?

In any case, my squad is good. Emilio is a bit of an ass, but he knows his way around bow and blade both. Better than I do, honestly. The Inquisition gave me this big hammer, and I swing it just as hard as I can, but Emilio’s got finesse I’ll never match. The other two soldiers are Elaine and Kelsie. Elaine, especially, is reliable in a fight. She towers over most men; she’s nearly as tall as I am.

The elf woman, Emma, seems nice enough, if a little bit ditzy. She’s staying close to the apostate. I think she works for him, or with him, or something. It’s just as well… He gives me the chills. He speaks funny, and with an accent I’ve never heard before. I thought he might be Dalish, but he doesn’t have the face marks. I have no idea why the Herald wants him taken to Val Royeaux, but it’s not my job to question divine wisdom. I just do the heavy lifting.

Chapter Text

My name is Emilio.

I’m Antivan from my blood to my boots, but I’m a long way from home now. I wanted to see the world! Stupid Emilio. I signed up with a mercenary outfit, and now here I am--fighting monsters in Ferelden, the smelly ass-end of Thedas. Not exactly living the “good life”! And certainly not “seeing the world” while “accumulating riches and wenches both.” In my defense, I was very drunk to believe that recruiter. A lesson to remember, children… mercenaries are filthy, filthy liars. Every last one of them.

Honestly, we were doing fine with just the demons. My unit specialized in demons and other supernatural nasties, so when the sky tore open, all it really meant for us was a lot of business. Almost all of us were out of Antiva and Rivain, and we had more than a few non-Circle mages. But then it stopped being just demons, and, well, everything turned to shit.

We had just finished mopping up the last of the demons that overwhelmed a fortress in rural Ferelden. The Inquisition came through and sealed up all the rifts, but there were still demons wandering about the countryside. It was an easy job. Should have been. But when monster-hunters run into monsters they’ve never seen before, well, things can get ugly.

The red monsters cut through us like butter. They had some way of stopping up our mages, keeping them from casting. Without magical support, we were dead almost instantly. After a certain point, all I can remember is the screaming. I should have died there too, honestly, but I always have been a lucky little shit. When there were only a few of us left, something, someone tore onto the battlefield. I thought it was another monster at first; he was that huge. He singlehandedly turned the tide of battle, slaughtering the monsters left and right. I later found out that they were “red Templars,” once great men corrupted by a strange sort of lyrium. I also found out that the giant of a man was an Avvar.

He called himself Sky Watcher, and I owe him my life.

In the end, I was the only one to survive. Half a dozen of us made it through the battle, but all besides me succumbed to their injuries. I found myself suddenly, dramatically unemployed in the ass-end of nowhere. I think I followed the Avvar just because I didn’t know what else to do. He didn’t stop me. I think he expected me to stop at some point. Honestly, I expected me to stop at some point. But I just… didn’t. Shock, maybe.

Either way, I finally stopped following him when we hit Skyhold. It’s this giant damn castle in the middle of nowhere. And, as it turned out, the Inquisition is always hiring soldiers. I signed up, although honestly, I wish I’d held off long enough to realize they had a mercenary company there. I think mercenary life suits me better than being a soldier. A bit late now, though! Eh, it suits me well enough, even if those Chargers are mopping up all the really choice ladies.

-

Sky Watcher, as it turns out, is one of the Inquisition’s agents. He gets sent out on missions that require some specialized muscle. Perhaps it’s egotistical of me, but my hope is that if I can draw enough attention to myself and my skills, I can reach that myself. Not solely to see more of the man, though I can admit that’s part of it. I do still owe him my life, and dislike leaving such things unsettled. I’ve already moved up the ranks within the Inquisition’s army... It feels comforting to have a goal.

-

I’ve been sent out on another mission. On its surface, it’s a dull one, but the people I’ve been sent out with have me suspecting there’s much more to it than first glance. For one, Garrick is in charge. The man is a beast, a commoner with no military training who took to it like a fish to water. He’s been with the Inquisition since Haven, and the Commander is very clearly grooming him for further leadership. I’ve been on missions with him before; he sees the battlefield in pieces and in a whole, all at once. I can dance my way across a fight with the best of them, but Garrick knows where I’ll be before I do. The Commander wouldn’t send him on a simple escort quest.

There are two others, two beautiful women, I might add. Elaine, a skilled knight sent by the Inquisitor’s family, and Kelsie, a young, feisty sprite I’m quite fond of. I know her well, though only because I was the one placed in charge of training her in the use of a dagger in the spare hand. She’s young and inexperienced, but learns quickly. Isn’t that just the best kind of woman? Between the four of us, we have a very comprehensive and flexible fighting unit. Not the kind of squad you send to walk an Orlesian to his own doorstep.

Garrick has said we have another task to complete in Orlais, but so far has said nothing more on the matter. I wonder often if it has something to do with the three we’re escorting. The Orlesian man seems average enough, but he’s obviously much more clever than he acts. The woman, Emma, is… ah, she’s something. It would have been one thing if she merely spoke Antivan, but I’ve since realized she speaks perhaps half a dozen languages. Antivan and the Common tongue, yes, but she also speaks Orlesian fluently with the diplomat. When startled or in pain, she swears in languages I’ve never heard. I even heard her shout in the short, angry barks of a Qunari. She claims to be the mage’s assistant… What sort of a man is he, then, to have an “assistant” so beautiful, charming, and intelligent?

There is the hundred sovereign question, I believe. The mage, Solas, speaks little, but Emma’s respect and affection for him speaks volumes. She seems an affectionate woman by nature, but she follows that elf around like a lost puppy. I’m man enough to admit I’m jealous; what she lacks in the chest, she more than makes up for in the rear. And she must have a very talented tongue, to speak so many languages so well. She is, in fact, remarkable, in her own way… and this man has attracted her and earned her loyalty. Enough that she speaks openly in the defense of mages, to boot.

It seems clear to me… He is the man to watch if I wish to know why a cohesive battle unit was sent to escort three people to Val Royeaux.

Chapter Text

"Ow! Stramaledetto stronzata, fuck! Merde!"

Solas looks up from his writing as you grab your bare foot, hopping on one leg and swearing continuously in pain.

"I just atasra val stubbed my futuo toe! Fenedhis!" you manage. How much pain do you know how to endure, only to swear like a loon at a stubbed toe? But it was your little toe, damnit, and it hurts.

Solas stands and walks towards you, and you already know what he's thinking. "NO, no, I said I just stubbed it, Solas, I-"

"One time," he says dryly as he walks over. "You came into the rotunda with a dislocated shoulder, and asked me--in a very casual manner, I might add--if I could place it back in the socket. If you are in pain, it's worth examining."

"Honestly, Solas, I'm-" Before you can deny treatment again, however, Solas simply shoves you. Gently, yes, but you're still standing on one foot. You topple over onto the couch on which you stubbed your toe.

"Solas!" you protest as your back hits the couch--no harm done; it's a very soft couch. "Figlio di puttana!"

"Just because I cannot understand you doesn't mean I don't know when you're being crass, Emma. Hold your tongue." The last bit he says in Elven, and your jaw slams shut. You never can argue with him when he gives you an order in Elven.

Rather than kneel on the floor, Solas sits next to you on the couch and cranes your foot up so that he can examine it. This has the unfortunate side effect of spreading your legs and sending the bottom of your tunic riding up to your waist. Even your pants legs, always too baggy, slide down to your knee. You flush as he runs gentle fingers over your injured foot, the other hand grasping your ankle firmly.

"Only you," he says with a sigh. "Could fracture bone by striking a couch."

"...What, seriously?" you say, a little dumbfounded. No wonder it had hurt!

"Amazingly, yes. Be still." That's when you feel the magic, a warm, tingling sensation that fills your foot and steals away the pain. You let out a gentle sigh of relief... it really had hurt quite a bit. No wonder, if you fractured a bone. On a couch! That's what you get for wandering around barefoot, you suppose.

You feel the magic stop, but Solas' grip remains on your ankle. Curious, you glance up at him, propping yourself up on your elbows to do so. You see a familiar glint in his eye.

"...Solas..." you say, warningly. He runs his hand, now free of magic, from your ankle to your knee, slowly, then, not breaking eye contact, brings his head down to plant a kiss on your ankle. Then another, further up your leg. Another. Another. You toss your head back and stifle a groan by biting your lip. It's the middle of the afternoon! There are people upstairs!

"Whatever shall I do with my clumsy woman?" Solas says, his Elven washing over you, stealing any desire you had to protest his ministrations. He tucks your airborne foot over his shoulder and slides the hand that had been grasping your ankle up your leg, slipping into your pants and pulling them up as he goes.

"Solas," you pant, not a warning now, but a desperate supplication. He traces gentle patterns along your thigh, your pant leg now rolled up and crumpled as high as it can go. You really need to purchase pants that fit. ...Or not, as Solas' hand inches towards your underwear under your pants. Baggy clothing, as it turns out, has an advantage. As does clumsiness.

Solas flits long fingers against your slit, still outside of your underwear. You bite your bottom lip hard enough that you fear it might bleed, sharply aware of how sound echoes through the tower. You can't believe he's doing this here!

"That's a beautiful face you're making," Solas murmurs, his quiet Elven beautiful, holy like a prayer. He slips his hand out from your pants, and you breathe a long sigh, relief and regret both. Clearly, he's thought better of--

Solas leans over you, a hand hitting the couch near your right shoulder. Your leg is still tossed over his shoulder; his movement only serves to further spread your legs. You flush as your eyes meet his, and quickly look away.

"Tell me, what face will you make if I...?" He slips his hand back into your pants, this time, from above, taking advantage of your loose waistband. He snakes his way easily into your underwear, and you let out a cry before quickly slapping a hand over your mouth. But he doesn't let up, immediately tracing a finger in circles around your clit. He watches with a lazy grin as your hips buck upwards, then slides his fingers lower to ease against your entrance.

You keep your hand clamped over your mouth as Solas slowly slips two fingers into you. You're petrified of making a sound, knowing that you have several friends within hearing distance. You try to keep your mind on being silent as Solas curls his fingers inside of you, hitting just... that... spot!

A muffled, high-pitched whine escapes from around your hand as Solas brings you closer to the edge, fingers dancing inside you. He leans further over you and you lock eyes with him, panting behind your hand. You're going to... you're going to...

Right as you're on the cusp of coming, Solas wrenches your hand away from your mouth, pinning it up above your head. You let out a single loud cry before he shoves his lips against yours forcefully, swallowing the rest of your moans. You crash against him as his tongue explores your mouth; you want to keep your eyes on his, but they slide shut as you clench wildly around his hand.

He continues to slide in and out of you as you come, flicking a thumb against your clit, pulling out of the kiss and grinning when your whole body twitches.

"S...solas... what the hell," you pant, although your heart really isn't in a lecture right then.

"Are you complaining?" he asks, an eyebrow raising.

"...No," you admit. He plants another kiss on your lips, gentle, this time, as he slides his hand out of your pants. He pulls away from your mouth but stays leaning over you, then licks his fingers off, eyeing you as he does so. You flush bright red. You know what? You're under the library here... It's not like anyone can see you...

You grab Solas' shoulders and pull him down on top of you, nuzzling against his neck before biting down right where neck meets shoulder. He lets out a sound between grunt and groan, and you feel his hardness, swollen inside his pants, twitch against your leg.

"Emma," he begins warningly as you pull away from his neck, but you're already wearing a grin of your own.

"Turn about is fair play, sa'lath," you murmur into his pointed ear before flicking your tongue along its length. He lets out a huff of breath, and you smile. "Don't let them hear you, Solas."

Solas shifts above you, hefting both of your legs over his as he kneels on the couch. Then he thrusts against you, and you feel the outline of his cock rub against the soaked crotch of your pants. Your eyes fly wide open, and he thrusts again, rutting himself up against you. You waste no time being shocked. You shove yourself up in time with his thrusts, rubbing yourself against his length shamelessly, chasing another orgasm as he pants hot and heavy breaths against your ear.

The two of you stay quiet, soft pants and gasps as you writhe against each other in the silence of the rotunda. Solas' thrusts pick up speed and he pushes against you harder, grinding himself against you hard enough that you would think it might hurt. Again and again, his length grinds against your clit, until you're ready to come undone all over again. Without warning, his mouth snaps to your neck and he bites down, hard.

Your loud, orgasmic wail echoes damningly through the rotunda as Solas thrusts against you roughly, shoving you against the couch. He strains against you, tenses and stills, his teeth on your neck a euphoric agony. A trickle of wetness tells you he's drawn blood, but you couldn't care less. You don't even care that you just screamed your orgasm through the tower. Solas' body falls limp over yours; he nuzzles against your neck, gently licking over the spot where he broke your flesh.

"Oh, well done!" comes Dorian's voice from above. "Will you get a room?"

Chapter Text

It happened fast. It all happened so fucking fast. You didn't have any time to think. They came out of nowhere, and you saw the Chargers get swarmed. So much blood. You'd known joining in would just get you killed. You'd watched them getting slaughtered, and then you'd seen Krem go down.

Everything turned red.

Everything turned fire.

Krem is with you now. You struggle with his weight heaved over your shoulders, legs sinking feet into the snow with each step. You have to get him to Bull. Have to get him to the rest of the Chargers. But there's a problem.

"-ma?" he mumbles. "Emma?"

"Krem," you reply. Fear and anger and relief mix into your voice. The result is surprisingly flat, amazingly neutral.

"What happened?"

"What do you remember?"

"...Heat," he groans. "And..."

You stop dead, staring down into the snow. It slowly stains the longer you stand in it, red pooling out from your legs.

"Krem..."

"There was... fire."

"Krem. You're not remembering right. There was no fire."

"There was!" he insists. "And... you..." Now he goes quiet.

"You don't remember anything, Krem."

"I..."

"Tell me that you don't remember anything."

You slide Krem off you back, letting him slump into snow. You turn slowly to face him. It doesn't feel like he's looking at you. It's like he's looking past you, or into you. There's bright fear in his eyes.

"You're..."

"Krem. Please," you say, your voice turning from hard to begging. "Please, tell me you don't remember anything. You didn't see anything. You passed out."

"Emma... are you a mage?"

The world stands still. You sink to your knees in front of him, and your hand goes to your back. "Why couldn't you do it, Krem?" you say hoarsely. "Just said you didn't see anything?"

"Emma? What are you doing?"

Burning tears fill your eyes as you drag your knife out of your sheath. Fire would give it away. Have to make it look like he got wounded in the fight, like he bled out on the way. Your hand freezes around the hilt. You can't do it, you can't do it.

"Krem... Fuck, Krem, why did you... Ugh!" You throw your dagger into the blood soaked snow. "Fuck!" You dig hands into your hair, red stained redder. "You just don't know when to fucking lie!"

Krem's eyes are on the dagger. "...Emma..."

"You're going to tell Bull, he's going to tell his boss... fuck!" If you start running now...

"How long have you been a mage?"

The question is so absurd that your panic bubbles into crazed laughter. You double over in the snow, clutching your ribs desperately as your hysterics enflame the wound on your side. Blood oozes between your fingers.

"Okay... Yeah, I guess that was stupid," Krem admits between your deranged cackles.

"Stupid? Stupid? No... I'm the stupid one." Your laughter dies away, you pull your hand back away from your bloodied side. Blood on your hands. Would you rather it be his or yours? "What was I fucking thinking? I should've... I should've..."

"You... saved my life?" Krem's voice is hesitant, as if he's not sure. "The fire, that was you. I saw it."

"Shut up, shut up," you hiss, blood soaked hand suddenly pushing flat against his mouth as you bear down on him. The fear is back in his eyes. You can see your own eyes reflected in his, terror making them crazed. "I can't... I can't..."

Krem yanks your hand off of his mouth. Blood loss has made him weak. Right now, you could probably overpower him. You have to. Krem is more loyal to Bull than anything. There's nothing you can offer him that will make him lie to that Qunari, not even his own Maker damned life.

A hand hits your cheek. Hard. Your head snaps around from the force of it. Your lunge for the dagger, but Krem grabs your shoulders and shakes you, violently. So much for overpowering him. "Emma! Calm the fuck down!"

You stare at him, confused eyes meeting his panicked ones.

"Just fucking breathe!" he orders. "We can talk to Bull together. He'll understand. He'll be mad, sure, but the Inquisitor is a Templar. Bull won't just hand you over without a second thought."

Your hand found the dagger.

"Krem..."

---Ending One---

"Ir abelas, lethallin. I... can't." You drive the dagger into his side, watch as his eyes widen. Disbelief. He looks down at the dagger, slowly back to you. Then he coughs, once. Blood splatters from his mouth directly onto your face. Then he crumples forward onto you.

"Ir abelas. I can't. Ir abelas. I can't. Ir abelas. I can't." You repeat it over and over, muttering into his shoulder as the snow beneath floods bright red. "Ir abelas. I can't."

---Ending Two---

The dagger clatters into the snow as you wrap your hands around his shoulders. "I can't, I can't, I can't," you repeat over and over like a mantra into Krem's neck. He lets your body shake against his as panic floods you. This is the end, you know it. But you can't kill him. You're done, well and truly, and it wasn't a clever opponent or a Templar that did you in. It was your own fucking weakness.

Krem holds you until the shaking stops, blood from you both mingling in the snow beneath you. Eventually, your mind calms. You know what you have to do. You pull back away from Krem. "Can you walk?"

"Y... yeah, I think so," Krem says. "What about you?" he nods towards your own wound.

"It's fine. You can get back to camp? You know where it is?"

"It's just that way, not half a league. You were already heading in the right direction."

"Good," you say with a sigh.

"Emma, what are you--"

"Ir abelas, lethallin."

"Emma, I know that look, don't you fucking-"

You silence him with a kiss, firm against his shocked lips. He tastes like blood and spice. And then you're gone, a step through the Fade leaving you well beyond his reach.

Chapter Text

You have a new line of defense when the panic comes for you.

You’ve always had coping mechanisms. You would hide, under beds, in trees, anywhere you might feel safe. You would punch trees, or walls, scratch or burn yourself, seeking some pain to remind you of the solidity of the world. You had many coping mechanisms. But now?

Now Cole finds you.

You don’t know how he does it. You no more than have to begin to look for him, out in the courtyard, when he inevitably shows up, all comforting words and soft hands. He never seems to tire of it, taking you to a quiet corner and reminding you of the world, not with pain, but with his own strange magic. He makes the real world more real, makes the land of mist and memories fade back away.

He holds you now as you rock back and forth, whimpering softly to keep from crying out. Your wrist is doubtlessly broken, and Solas will doubtlessly be upset, but it had been an accident. No, what had set you off was the disdain of the soldier who had heard your scream.

“Be quiet, girl, you need to learn to handle pain.”

It feels stupid to be set off by a remembered sentence. You blame the agony in your shattered wrist, tell yourself it made you more vulnerable, try to deny that you’re panicking like a scared child over a dozen meaningless words.

“He’s gone now, long gone. A decade dead, he can’t hurt you. He can’t hurt anyone. Like dogs, she said, butchered like dogs, and you prayed she butchered the dogs, too. She did.”

The thought makes you smile, a thin, frightened grin with no mirth behind it, but a smile nonetheless. “Like dogs,” you repeat with a chuckle. “That’s what Shianni said.”

“She painted the walls with his blood. He cried for mercy, but she gave him none.”

It’s strange, the words that comfort you. But Cole always seems to know them. You lean back against his shoulder, tucking your head under his jaw. “Hamin’atisha, how did I ever live with you?” you say with a soft sigh, the panic dying down as you imagine the man dead, butchered in a pile of his wretched mabari. No, fed to his mabari, that’s better—

Dirth’len, I’m not always going to be here to get you out of trouble. She pats my head, gentle, even as she brings the dagger up out of my reach. Kind, caring, they only see the spines but you smell the sweetness. Atashi qaran, when you see it you think of her. She hides you when Hahren Valendrian comes hunting for you, lies with her fingers crossed behind her back. You were safe then. You are safe now.”

His words wash over you, fill you, lift you up out of the darkness. The panic and pain is below; you are above. You can feel yourself drift gently towards the Fade as you often do with Cole.

“Emma! Cole, is she okay?” you hear the voice as if it’s echoing from a great distance, but it stirs you away from the Fade. You shift, eyes opening slightly to see who’s calling your name.

“Ssssssh,” Cole hisses. You see his finger pressed to his mouth, a mimicry of human motion that makes you smile. “She’s sleeping.” He turns back to you, tucks strands of faded red hair back from your face. “She lets you sleep by the fire like a pup so you don’t have to go back to the orphanage. You dream of your mother, wake up to her face. The look in her eyes when you call her ma’sha.”

Your eyes flutter closed again, as his words send you drifting peacefully to the dreams of the Fade.

Chapter Text

Agent-Jaselin

“She shattered her wrist? How?!” the Iron Bull demands, lowering his voice only when Cole glares and shushes him again. He’s pissed and worried, but Cole is right–she gets little enough sleep that he really shouldn’t wake her.

“She was exhausted, unfocused. She didn’t see the step.”

“The stairs AGAIN?”

“The soldiers are tired of it too. He meant to be spiteful, but not as much as he was. Careless and cruel, his words took her away again.”

Bull lets out a sigh, long and frustrated. He can’t always be there when she panics; he knows that. At least Cole has freaky spirit-powers for this sort of thing.

“I’ll get her to the healer. See if they can heal her while she’s still asleep,” Bull decides.

“You should let her rest,” Cole says, a little too quickly. Bull fixes him with his one good eye. “Woke up weird, where am I? Fear, frenzied flight.”

“…Alright, good point.” Being calm and collected isn’t exactly Emma’s strong point, particularly when she’s caught off guard. Last thing Bull needs is for her to panic and deck a healer with that shattered wrist of hers.

He scoops her off the ground effortlessly. She’s taller than elves Bull has lifted in the past, yet she weighs noticeably less. Malnourished, still. Even with access to Skyhold’s seemingly limitless food supply, she still bears the evidence of a hard life.

Bull rests her against his chest, and she shifts in her sleep. Hands wrap around his neck, she clings to his battle-hardened body the way one would cuddle against a pillow. Bull tucks her head under his chin; she nuzzles her nose against it briefly, and then she’s still, breath steady and smooth.

Bull takes her to his room out of habit; she’s surely becoming as used to waking there as she is to waking in her own bed.

Chapter Text

Agent-Jaselin

“Emma! Hold on!”

He sees her crumple slowly to the ground, arrow still protruding from her abdomen. He wants to run to her now; seconds can be crucial with an injury like that. But if he drops from the fight, the guards will surely be overwhelmed by the bandits’ superior numbers. He keeps one eye on Emma's frighteningly still form while he throws his power into battle, freezing opponents and cracking the battlefield with ice.

The second the last man drops, he’s at her side. The wound is bad, an arrow deep in her gut, but it may have missed vital organs. She’s conscious, but she’s staring blankly into space, a slight haze over her once-bright eyes. He quickly begins pouring magic into her to stop the bleeding and gauge the extent of her injury. He sees her eyelids falter. “Emma! Stay awake! Stay with me!

No matter how he shouts, she seems determined to drift into unconsciousness. If she does, he fears she will never wake up.

“Emma! Banal'era!” he cries with desperation. Her eyes fly open, she opens her mouth to speak, but blood chokes out of her throat. He shushes her. The arrow has a broad head; it will be agony to remove, but he needs her to stay conscious through it if she’s to survive. “Lethallin, banal'era,” he says firmly, and she nods, a slight smile forming on her lips despite the pain she must be in.

Ar banal'era. L-l-lethallin. Lethallin. Ar-” He shushes her, and she falls silent, but her mouth keeps forming the words as she struggles to keep her eyes open. Lethallin. Lethallin. Lethallin.

Chapter Text

“Uuuuuugh. Uuuuuuuuuugh.

“Stop groaning, Varric. It’s a head cold,” you say tiredly, switching out the cloth on his head for one chilled with melting snow.

“Just a cold, she says,” he groans. “I feel like my head’s going to explode.”

“That’s just pressure. Drink the tea I gave you and it’ll get better,” you say patiently. He’s been out of commission for a day and a half now, and despite the fact he’s had many well-wishers, it seems you’re the only “fan” dedicated enough to actually stay by his side.

“It tastes awful,” he whines.

“It will get worse the colder it gets,” you inform him cruelly. One has to take a rough touch with the ill… particularly the fussy ones, like Varric Tethras, apparently.

He grumbles and whines, but eventually does try to sit up to drink the tea. You made it yourself, out of herbs from Skyhold’s garden. You have to help him rise; you wrap your arms around his shoulders and lift him up towards you. This has the unfortunate effect of sticking his face right in your chest (what little chest you have), but you know Varric, of all people, won’t care.

Once more you hand him the tea, and this time he drinks it down. He makes quite the face afterwards, however.

“Ugh! That’s wretched! What did you put in it, dirt?”

“Nug droppings,” you say mildly. “Old dwarven recipe.”

He stares at you with abject horror for a few seconds before your composure breaks and the corner of your mouth twitches upwards.

“Don’t taunt an old, sick man!” he scolds, flopping back down into the bed. “It wouldn’t surprise me if nug dropping tea was an old dwarven recipe.”

“Just herbs from the garden, I promise,” you say with a smile. You place your hand gently against his thick neck. He’s still running a fever. High, but not high enough to send you running to fetch the healers again.

“Let’s go to play in the snow, Varric! It’ll be fun, Varric! You won’t catch your death of a chill, Varric!”

“It was fun, and you would have been fine if you hadn’t fallen in that river.”

“I didn’t fall. I was sabotaged.”

“A slippery rock does not count as sabotage, Varric.”

“Who’s the author here? If I call it sabotage, it was sabotage.”

“Planning on writing a story about this, are we?” you ask mildly. His blankets are getting soaked with sweat… time to change them again.

“Nnnn, maybe. Kind, attentive, beautiful woman cares for injured hero is quite popular among a certain crowd.”

You laugh to hide the slight flush. “You’d have to change too many things to make me kind, attentive and beautiful, Varric.”

“Not at all! Icy river turns into a despair demon that freezes the hero’s heart in battle. The only cure for a frozen heart is the burning throes of passion!”

“Are you becoming delirious with your fever, Varric?” you ask as you switch his sheets and blankets out for fresh ones, covering him quickly to keep him from catching a chill.

“It’s possible,” he admits. “Do you have any more of that soup?”

“Depends,” you say dryly. “Am I going to have to feed it to you again?”

“Oh, come on! I’m on my death bed here! Show a little compassion.”

You snort. “Baby. Alright, alright.” You turn towards the fire, which is burning high to keep the room warm and help Varric sweat out the fever. Nearby is a cast iron pot you’ve filled with an elven soup in order to keep it warm. Solas had showed you the recipe; it utilized elfroot in the broth to help promote healing. Much better than just chopping up the bitter herb and mixing it in, which is what you’d done in the past. You spoon more of it out into a bowl and turn back to Varric, who is, once again, struggling to rise. His weakness and the solid burrito of blankets you have him wrapped in prevents it, however.

“Oh, be still, Varric,” you say with a sigh. You help him upwards again with some difficulty. One hand is holding the bowl, so you have to just wedge your other arm beneath his shoulders and lift. His face is very close to yours; it’s fortunate you rarely become ill, or you’d surely catch whatever he has.

Once he’s upright, you shift onto the bed next to him and take your time spooning the fussy man soup. He waxes poetic about heroes and the beautiful women who care for them in between swallows. He’s still vaguely mumbling about it as he leans down against your shoulder. Before you know it, he’s asleep, snoring lightly and occasionally mumbling words like “yielding” and “indulgent.” Maker only knows what he’s dreaming about.

You run a fond hand over his head, ruffling his hair slightly, before taking his temperature with your hand again. It seems to be going down… He’ll be fine, you know, but it’s good that he’s getting some rest. You let him stay leaning against you for now… No need to risk waking him with movement. Besides… it’s a bit nice, having someone smaller than you lean up against you, for once. He rests against your chest, letting you drape your arm over his shoulders easily. The contact seems to soothe him; he’s cuddled up to you as surely as if you were a pillow. You lean back against the wall, wishing you could fall asleep yourself. But someone has to watch over him. Might as well be you.

Chapter Text

Uhtsceatha

You sip dully on your drink, making a face with every swallow, but downing it nonetheless. Slowly, you feel life returning to you as your sleep deprived mind begins churning with thoughts again.

Solas walks into the lounge then, going towards the water cooler and beginning to fill his cup with chill, crisp water. You roll your eyes behind his back. Who drinks water? Seriously. What a boring guy. He glances at you over his shoulder, and you see his nose wrinkling as the smell of what you’re drinking hits him.

“What IS that?” he asks, waving a hand in front of his face as if your coffee is offensive to the nose.

“Coffee,” you say with a scowl, setting your oversized mug on the table, cupped in your hands. He looks at you, unimpressed and unconvinced. “…With espresso,” you admit. “Black.”

He makes a repulsed face, as if you just said you were drinking liquid babies. “That’s… horrifying.”

“As long as I can do my job,” you quip back at him, rolling your eyes. “Isn’t that what you said, sir?”

Agent-Jaselin

“So, wait, how did you get the job?” Thea asks ernestly, leaning over the table in her eagerness to get the latest scoop.

The two of you are sharing coffee after work, something that’s become a routine for you in the months since you began working at INQC. Thea is a tiresome person, but she’s friendly, and you’re not in the habit of turning away anyone foolish enough to befriend you.

“I’m not joking,” you say with a sigh. “I didn’t even apply. Or interview.”

“What, so he just hired you out of nowhere?”

“Well, not out of NOWHERE, I suppose…”

-

You’ve grown so accustomed to having reports thrown down on your desk that you don’t even notice it anymore, don’t even bother to look up at who’s doing the throwing. So when a stack gets tossed unceremoniously in front of you, you look at the papers, not the person.

“These are wrong,” you say with a dark scowl, flipping through the form. There’s a pause, and then…

“Excuse me?”

“These forms. These are wrong. The request is for data on the AGP capacitors, but you’ve used the F-2 form instead of the F-4 form. I can’t do shit with this, fix it.” You push the stack of papers back across your desk. It’s only the sudden quiet across the office that prompts you to actually look up from what you’re doing.

The person you see staring incredulously at you is Vice-President Solas, a man so far above your pay grade that the thought of his paycheck physically pains you. A man infamous throughout the company for his impatience for fools.

You swallow hard, seeing both your job and your life flash briefly before your eyes. You’d been unemployed for six long months before managing to find this job, and now…

Solas flits his eyes away from you, down to the forms. “Hm.” He says, picking the top one up and examining it. You could hear a pin drop in the office. “Right you are, Miss…” His eyes trace down to your name tag. “Emma. Since you’re so familiar, I’m sure you’ll have no problem filling those out for me.”

“Um… Of course, sir,” you squeak. In truth, you’re swamped; it was looking like you might have to stay late even without the added work. But right now, you’ll just be happy to keep your job. Solas doesn’t speak another word, he simply turns and walks off. The whole office seems to let out a long breath, and you get a few apologetic winces as the bustle picks back up again.

-

“So, that’s it? You called him stupid and he gives you a job?” Thea demands, crossing her arms.

“That’s the only interaction I’ve had with the man,” you say with a shrug. “Seeing as how I didn’t actually apply to be his secretary, I can only assume that has something to do with it.”

“If he’s so unpleasant, why’d you take the job?” she wants to know.

“Because it came with a sixty percent pay raise,” you say with a grin, and Thea whistles, long and low.

“Wow! I’d suck Mr. Sol-Ass’s dick for that kind of money!” she exclaims, causing a few people in the coffee shop to look over.

“Yes, Thea, I’m sure you would,” you say dryly. “But I checked, and that’s not in the job description.”

Chapter Text

Emma:

“No… No!” you scream, yanking against the chains until your flesh splits open, then harder, hoping the blood might speed your escape. You reach for your magic, desperately attempt to cast a spell, any spell, but your mana fizzles out. Fucking Templars!

“Struggling won’t do you any good.”

“Don’t do this!” you screech up at the Inquisitor, hot tears running down your face into your hairline. “Please! I didn’t do anything! I didn't do anything!”

“Hush. It will be over soon. And then everything will be... easier." You see him finger the brand, see the red hot tip glowing bright like the eyes of a demon.

“Don’t! No! Please! Kill me, just kill me! Please, no!” The brand looms closer, you grasp desperately for every ounce of mana you have, try to set yourself on fire, anything, anything but this no, no, no –

Searing pain. The worst agony you’ve ever felt.

And then.

Blackness.

Solas:

Cole came to him in a panic. It had taken Solas a moment to calm the spirit down enough for him to be coherent. As soon as he had... Solas was the panicked one.

The Inquisitor had Emma. He knew, and he was going to...

It was unthinkable.

Solas nearly tore a hole in the Veil in his desperate leap to Skyhold. If he'd had the power and it would have gotten him there faster, he would have. But he was weak. Too weak.

Too late.

He slammed the doors open in time to hear Emma's desperate scream, a single, unbroken wail to the heavens as the brand burned through her mind. Two men grabbed him as he summoned lightning to his hands, unthinking to strike the Inquisitor down. Her scream grew quieter, and then faded off into nothingness. For one horrifying moment, her eyes were open, but blank, staring blandly upwards. Then they rolled back into her head, and she was gone.

Chapter Text

Rinniethemouse

 

“Too late, I was too late,” the young man mourned, frantically circling, fingers dug into his shaggy blonde hair.

“We were both too late, Cole,” Solas said, too distracted to be properly comforting. He was holding Skyhold’s newest Tranquil by her shoulder–as if to keep her from wandering off, though she made no attempts to move. She stared placidly forward, glancing around now and then only to watch Cole’s panic.

“If I had been faster getting you, if I, if I-” Cole moaned, beating his head with his hands. Suddenly, he swung around, crossed the rotunda in two long steps and grasped the woman by her shoulders. “I can’t hear anything!” he cried, distressed. “Emma! Emma!” He shook her, and she didn’t resist, simply flopping about in his grip.

“I’m right here, Cole,” she replied, her voice a pleasant neutral. “You don’t need to shake me.”

“This is my fault! This is my fault, Emma, I’m so sorry!” he wailed, pulling her into the tight embrace he often used to comfort her when panic overtook her. Always before, she had embraced him warmly, buried her head into his shoulder, whether full of sorrow or joy. Today, she simply stood, arms by her sides as Cole clutched her to him, wailing his apologies to an uncaring world.

Solas was looking down, to the side, as if that could hide the tears slowly rolling down his cheeks.

“I don’t understand, Cole,” Emma’s dull voice choed through the rotunda. “I’m perfectly fine.”

Chapter Text

The sound of screaming wakes you from your sleep. For a horrified moment, you're back in Seheron, bombs falling from the sky, you- But Solas' familiar form beside you helps bring reality back.

"Mmmm... Solas," you grumble, shaking his arm. "The screaming, Solas..."

"Only one of us has work in the morning, vhenan," Solas mumbles, not even opening his eyes. You sigh.

"I hate you..."

Miserably, you stand up, stumble in the dark to the next room, from where the screaming is originating.

"Alright, you little monster, what do you want?" You trip over to the crib, where a fussing, screaming child glares up at you. It seems your lot in life is just being glared at by piercing blue eyes. You can think of worse fates.

You lift the fussing baby from the crib, and proceed to run through everything you can think of, feeding, bouncing, rocking, a second blanket, but still she persists in her crying. You find some slight success by combining her favorite binkie with rocking, but still she fusses, tiny hands clenched into fists.

Fifteen minutes later, she's calmed somewhat, but occasionally drops the binkie to let out a frustrated wail, jolting you out of your half-stupor. You manage to get her back into the crip, and she's only fussing mildly, but the second you set her down, she lets out a hellish screech that has you scrambling to pick her back up.

"What? What? What do you want?" you whimper at the child.

"The feel of your arms around her," Solas' voice comes from behind you. He wraps his arms around your waist, pulls you back against him. From this position, he can comfortably rest his chin on your head; of course he does so. "I can sympathize."

"One more month," you grumble. "Then the semester is over and you can start waking up at three in the morning to please this little beastie." You bounce your daughter in your arms, trying against hope to settle her enough that you and Solas can both get some sleep.

"Yes," Solas agrees, nuzzling his nose into your frazzled hair. "And then you can listen to my failed attempts at comforting our child, all the while knowing you have to be up in three hours."

Solas moves a hand up to brush a thumb up against the baby's cheek. You watch, a smile conquering your tired face, as she grasps Solas' hand with both of her tiny ones, pulling his thumb into her mouth. She coos softly around it, sucking gently, seemingly finally at peace with the world.

"Ah," you say dryly. "I see what I've been doing wrong. This whole time, I've been using my nipple."

Solas snorts against your head, then quietly chuckles into your hair. "I'm glad to be of assistance, vhenan, but now I appear to be stuck."

"Just let her chew on you until she falls asleep," you insist.

"Mmm... But what am I to do in this position?" Solas says, running a hand over the curve of your waist.

"Solas..." you say warningly as his head lowers towards the tip of your ear, warming it with hot breath.

"I cannot help it, ma lath. We may be here for some time." He pulls the tip of your ear between his teeth, and you suck in a sharp breath. "And you know how quickly I grow bored."

"You're... terrible," you groan as he brings he pulls his lips back from your ear.

"I'm fairly certain you've known that for years," he says with a low chuckle. "Yet here we are." He traces soft kisses against the back of your neck, and you coo with as much delight as the child in your arms. The child who is... now asleep!

"Solas! Solas!" you whisper excitedly. "She's asleep!" He pauses in his gentle explorations of your nape. "Help me get her into the crib without waking her."

Careful not to disturb the resting child, four arms tuck her gently into her crib. She fusses slightly when Solas removes his hand from her grip, but--as the two of you hold your breath--continues to sleep. You both tiptoe quietly out of the room, only letting out a sigh of relief when you've both collapsed back into bed.

"Oh, Maker, we did it," you say, shoulders slumping with relief.

"It was a triumph of parenting," Solas agrees. "Now... Where was I? Ah, yes." He scoots up behind you again, his chest flush against your back. He nuzzles his face against your neck before biting down softly, making you cover your mouth to avoid calling out loud enough to risk disturbing your daughter.

"Right about... here."

Chapter Text

Emma hated boats.

Solas had been on a boat with her several times before, and she had spent every single time near-catatonic, particularly if she had to be below deck for any amount of time.

Today, she followed Solas placidly into the hold of the ship, into the tight little space that would ordinarily send her into spasms of panic. Solas would have loved nothing more than for her to have been upset. Her neutral stare haunted him more than the most alarming of her panics.

She sat idly on a box, glancing around at her surroundings. Her jittery nature had been eliminated entirely. Gone was her desperate need to be doing something at all times. She slept the whole night through now, but Solas would never see her in the Fade.

He knelt down by her, staring up into her bland, unblinking eyes, as he often did. As if he could see the spark of her, the heart of her, still locked behind that dull gaze, screaming. He ran a hand over her cheek, behind her ear. Once, this would have had her blushing bright red, biting her lip. Now, she had no reaction. She never did.

“I will save you, vhenan,” he promised, voice choking.

As always, she steadfastly replied, “I am not in any danger, Serah Solas.” And when a tear rolled down his guilty cheek, as she had so often before, she said, “Serah, I am fine.”

Chapter Text

"You need me to what?!"

A raised eyebrow and stern face tells you all you need to know. You clear your throat.

"You need me to what, sir?"

"Such large ears, and yet you can't seem to hear. I need you to accompany me to the company Christmas party. It's expected of me to bring a plus one."

"...That's used for family or significant others, typically, sir," you point out. That party is mostly for higher-ups; you'd had no intentions of going.

"And yet I'm bringing you," Solas replies shortly. "You do own formal wear, yes?"

You flush, more indignation than embarrassment. "Of course!" You manage not to snap. It's difficult. The truth of the matter is that you barely have anything that qualifies. But you can find something.

-

"Something" turns out to be one of your mother's old dresses. It's old fashioned and very Elven, but whatever. Solas made the mistake of making you go to a party, he could deal with your terrible fashion. You arrive to the party sullen and planning on drinking. This is not how you had intended to spend Christmas Eve.

The party itself is suitably opulent. A giant tree, mistletoe, shiny baubles, fake snowflakes... Argh. It's so damn tis-the-season. Where are they hiding the punch? Unfortunately, however, you are Solas' plus one, meaning you have to stick to his side as he socializes his way through the crowd. Your only consolation is that he seems just as displeased to be there. When there's no one to see his face but you, you see him scowling.

-

You do manage to get to the punch bowl eventually. Unfortunately, you're not left alone for more than thirty seconds.

"Emma!"

"Thea?" you say, surprised. "I didn't think you'd be here."

"I have to represent the archives for all the shareholders here," she says with a shrug. "I'm better at people than Mahvir. But what about you? Does Mr. Solas really need a secretary for a party?"

"I'm his plus one," you say with a scowl. 'Better at people,' your ass. The company just doesn't want this party to look like an Arlathvhen, despite the fact elves make up the majority of their staff. "I'm decoration, essentially."

"You're his date?" Thea exclaimed, a wickedly delighted look on her face.

"No. I'm his plus one," you say with a scowl. "And he's my boss, remember?"

"Oh, when has that ever stopped anyone?"

"All the time, Thea! That stops people all the time!"

Thea snorts. "Whatever! Lookit him, all alone. He brought you, that means he had no one else to invite, don't it?"

You take a long drink of punch and don't say anything. That very thought had occurred to you as well. You had thought Solas just very skilled in the department of separating work life from personal life. Perhaps it's more a matter of work life being all there is. The thought stirs something uncomfortable inside you... although that could very well be the alcohol.

-

A lot more alcohol and a lot more needling from Thea later, and you're still eyeing Solas. He seems content to let you alone for the time being, but he's still making friendly conversation with everyone who comes up to him. This being the man who purposefully has you schedule as few meetings as humanly possibly, brushing them all off onto other people... He must be miserable.

You wonder, idly, if you can get him away from the crowd, maybe give him the kind of break he's giving you. You head over towards him, a little shakily. You're not particularly used to walking in heels, and the alcohol has you a little off-balance. You insert yourself by his side, and wait for a break in the conversation.

"Ah, Mr. Solas, if I might-" you begin, but you're interrupted by a chuckle from the man Solas was speaking with. You don't recognize him... a jolly man with an Orlesian accent. A stockholder, must be.

"Is this your ladyfriend, Solas? Look at where you're standing!"

In unison, both of you glance up. Mistletoe. Who puts mistletoe at a business party?

Solas laughs the comment off, and you mentally blame the flush on your cheeks to the alcohol. But that spoils your plans to get him away; the two of you get trapped in polite conversation with the Orlesian for several minutes before someone else distracts him.

Solas lets out a light sigh of relief, then glances back up at the mistletoe. "I suppose I need to find a new place to st-"

You don't know why you did it. Thea's egging, perhaps, or the thought of Solas alone, every Christmas, year after year... Or maybe the thought of your very empty apartment, not even a pet to keep you company. But you push your lips up against his cheek, the chastest of pecks... but still very unprofessional.

You pull back and for a moment, the two of you stare at each other, him in utter shock and you in growing horror. "Um... Uh... Merry Christmas!" you blurt out, and quickly turn and wobble away. Maker's breath! What have you done?! You'd just landed this job and you threw it away on a drunken mistletoe kiss?! Where is Thea, you're going to kill her!

You hear a low chuckle from behind you, and then Solas replies, loud enough for you to hear even walking away as you are, "Merry Christmas to you too."

Chapter Text

It was panic that drove you to Bull the first time. The second time, it's guilt.

It's these things that have always had you taking blunt objects or even open flames to yourself. Your first thought when the guilt overcomes you is to simply break your leg. You can get it healed later if you absolutely need to. And you're actually at the top of the battlements, judging the best way to "accidentally" fall off when you realize what a bad idea it is.

Solas would kill you. Not literally, obviously. But while most of your friends would give you a gentle scolding and maybe fret a bit, Solas would be livid. And Bull... Bull probably wouldn't even buy that it had been an accident. He knows your tendencies.

And it's that thought that has you pacing around outside the tavern.

It's stupid. He probably isn't even inside. It's the middle of the day. Who's in a tavern in the middle of the day? And what are you going to say to him? "Hey, Bull, remember how you beat me bloody that one time? Let's do that again." No way! He'll want to talk about it again, and you really, really don't want to explain what you did. And you can't explain why you did it.

But, in the end, you're starting to panic, and it's this or go back to jumping off the battlements. You did something horrible. It was necessary. You'd do it again. But you fucking hate yourself. If you don't suffer for it, you'll never have any peace.

You manage to force yourself in the front door and not much further. You'd been half-hoping Bull wouldn't be there, but there he is, relaxing in his corner... with Krem. Shit. You can't. You can't.

You freeze in the doorway, uncertain as to whether you should just turn around and leave. Unable to. Bull, of course, spots you. His expression quickly turns serious, and he turns and says something to Krem, then stands and heads towards you. You're still frozen. Can't move, can't think.

"Emma?" he says gently, that voice he uses when he knows you're not in your right mind. "Hey, c'mon." He snaps large fingers in front of you, drawing your attention. "Do you want to go somewhere? Where?"

You can't talk. You look vaguely upwards. Fortunately, he takes the hint, and leads you up the stairs and out to his room. Once again, you find yourself standing nervously in the doorway. You scratch at your hand until it begins to bleed, a nervous habit. Iron Bull catches your hands, pulls them apart, and pulls you further into the room, closing the door behind you. "Alright, Emma. Hey. We're alone; you're safe."

Safe. You don't deserve to be safe. You're a selfish little shit who always puts your safety above everyone else's. What makes you so damn special? How many people have gotten hurt or killed just so you can--

Fingers snap in front of your face again. You stare blankly at Bull. Large fingers wipe against your face, under your eye. Your face is wet. Why is your face wet? Confused, you rub your own cheek. Tears? You're crying. You hadn't even noticed.

“Emma, talk to me,” he says gently, but you just keep staring blankly. What are you doing here, again?

”Speak,” Bull says, voice no longer gentle. It strikes you like a bolt of lightning, and your mouth is opening before you can even process it.

“I need help again,” you say. Your voice sounds cracked and strained. It doesn’t sound like you, but the words are coming out of your mouth. “P-please?”

“The Qunari are gone. What happened?” He’s still not using his gentle voice. That’s good. You don’t deserve his kindness. You shift nervously from one foot to another. You begin to scratch at your arm; Bull pulls your hand away yet again.

“I… did something. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Emma,” Bull says, his voice warning.

“Please don’t make me!” you beg… more of a whine, really. “I’ll have to leave. I-i-if you c-can’t do anything, or d-don’t want to, I understand, I just... “ Your hands pull together again, once more he pulls them down to your sides.

“Just what?”

“I just wanted to try,” you say weakly. “B-before doing anything else. Because of last time.”

Bull sighs. “I can’t do much for you if you don’t tell me what’s wrong, Emma.”

“I did something bad.

“Hmm… But you can’t talk about the specifics?”

You shake your head, so hard that it hurts.

“Alright,” Bull says. He takes a few steps towards the bed, then glances back towards you. You’re standing still. “Emma, come.” You follow him blankly, your mind a rush of so many clashing emotions that it’s failing you altogether. “Sit.” You sink down onto the bed. Bull sits down next to you, then twists you so that you’re facing him.

“You did something. Bad?”

You nod, shortly.

“Why?”

You hesitate. How much can you tell him? You’re playing a dangerous game, here. “B… because I had to.”

“What would have happened if you hadn’t?”

“I would have been... hurt.”

“Is this something that the Commander needs to know about? Don’t lie to me,” Bull reminds you as you shake your head.

“He doesn’t!” you insist.

“So, if you were just protecting yourself, why do you feel like this?” Bull continues.

“Because it was bad,” you reply promptly.

“Did someone get hurt?”

“Yes.”

“How badly?”

You hesitate. “Physically, they’re fine,” you say finally.

“And the rest of them?” Bull asks pointedly.

“They’ll… recover.”

“So you did something. You know you had to do it, and the person will be okay, but you still feel guilty?”

You nod.

“What would you have done if you hadn’t come to me?”

You bite your lower lip. You don’t really want to say. “Emma,” Bull says, that warning tone back in his voice again, but still you hesitate.

“D… don’t be mad?”

He’s silent for a time, and then nods. “Alright. I won’t be mad.”

“I was going to jump off the battlements.”

The shock on Bull’s face is clear, and quickly grows to horror.

“Not the outside of them!” you exclaim, realizing where his mind is going. “The inside. I wanted… I needed…”

“Pain?” Bull finishes for you. You nod. Bull sighs. “You have some nasty habits, girl.”

You flinch, but it feels right. You do have bad habits, because you’re a bad person.

“Alright. Do you remember your word?”

“Kost,” you reply without thinking. Bull pauses, then nods.

“Good. Now listen very carefully.” As if to ensure he has your full attention, Bull snags your jaw in his hand. He squeezes, painfully. You melt into his grip, eyes meeting his. He certainly has your attention. “If it gets to be too much, use it. If you push yourself too hard, I won’t do this for you again. Understand?”

You want to nod, but his grip allows no movement. “Y-yes, ser,” you squeak, forgetting for a moment that one of the first things Bull said to you was not to call him ser. You never would have thought that a threat not to hurt you would work as motivation, but in that moment, you fear it. Bull nods, seemingly satisfied. He gives you a short, appraising look, then slips his hand around to remove the band from your hair. You shift, nervous, as your hair falls down around your face. You dislike having your hair down for a multitude of reasons. Then, without warning, the Iron Bull backhands you hard across the face.

The blow is strong enough to send you reeling onto the floor. You smack onto the stone, catching yourself on your palms. You taste blood in your mouth; you must have bitten your cheek. Before you have a chance to recover, Bull’s hand is in your hair, jerking you painfully backwards. Your hands fly back to his wrist automatically, and you cry out when he he yanks again, harder, pulling you backwards towards the bed again.

He yanks your head back, craning your neck so that your eyes meet his. The look you see there makes you shudder… appraising. As if he hasn’t quite figured out what to do with you yet. You’ve seen that look in Qunari eyes before.

Your first thought is a reminder to yourself that Bull isn’t a Qunari, he’s different. Your second thought is much worse.

So what if he is a Qunari? Isn’t that what you deserve?

No, no! No one deserves that! ...Right?

How many of them have you killed, directly or indirectly? Don’t they deserve a little revenge?

They’re Qunari, they don’t want revenge. They don’t want anything, they’re not capable of it.

Hasn’t knowing Iron Bull taught you better than that?

Iron Bull isn’t-

Yes. He is.

And you deserve it.

You let out a plaintive whimper, closing your eyes as if to block out the world. You’re caught between fear and need; it’s paralyzing you.

“Let’s start things out simple, then.” Bull’s voice washes over, a familiar sound in hazy, confused world. He yanks on your hair again; you quickly move to follow his rough directions. He drags you over his lap, directs you onto hands and knees. You stay like that for a moment, confused, before he unceremoniously yanks your pants down.

You scream then, fear winning the battle inside of you. You jolt forwards, forgetting Bull’s grip on your hair. The force of your forward scramble yanks your head back painfully. You let out a mighty flail, trying to twist your body away. Your hands leave the bed and go to Bull’s hand.

Your pants are still around your thighs, trapping your legs, when the first blow strikes you. Your smalls are still on, but they’re rather narrow. The flat of Bull’s palm strikes your bare ass cheek, and you screech, though your twisting and flailing stops.

“Calm down,” he growls, striking you again.

Fasta vass! Irrumator, permissum mihi vado!” you shout, a nonsensical mix of Tevene, ancient and modern. You had spoken similar words to a Qunari once before; that’s where your mind was.

Bull grasps you by an ear and twists. Your head follows in an attempt to avoid the pain that shoots through it.

“I don’t want to hear anything out of you that isn’t your watch word or an answer to a question, do you understand me?” Bull says, his voice a low threat. You nod--a mistake, it yanks on your ear painfully. Bull releases your ear and you lower your arms submissively back onto the bed. You don’t struggle as he pulls your pants the rest of the way down to your knees.

He lays into you then. The sensation of bare hand on ass is very different than the cane he’d used before. It makes you feel like a disobedient child, and perhaps that is the intent. Punishment is what you came to him for, after all. This is the most base punishment of them all. That’s the last thing you manage to think before the pain beats all sense from you, until there’s nothing more inside than anticipation of the next blow, the ringing pain in your ass.

You’re facedown on the bed when the steady smacking rhythm ceases. Your arms had given out but your legs remained sturdy--your ass is sticking lewdly into the air. You don’t fight when Bull’s hand lingers on it after the last strike. Your vision has grown hazy. The bed is damp where your face has been ground into it--a combination of tears and saliva.

“Now that you’ve calmed down,” Bull says, lifting you up by simply pulling your hair up and back. “We can get started.”

S… Started? Your ass is already one steady, burning ache, and your mind is somewhat foggy. You’re having trouble remembering why you’re here. But even thinking on it for that short time reminds you. Guilt claws at your chest again. To think, you’d almost forgotten that fast, as if a simple spanking could…

Bull pulls at the leather wrapping your wrists. “Convenient, the way you come with your own ties,” he says, sounding amused. “Kneel there.” He points towards the far edge of the bed. You crawl there on hands and knees, wincing every time the movement of a leg shifts you battered rear. You kneel on the edge of the bed as instructed, wincing as your ass hits your heels.

“Arms up.” You do as he orders without a second thought, and don’t struggle as he ties your wrists to the frame above the bed. The beating had soothed you somewhat, and while your chest is still gripped with guilt, fear, anxiety, self-loathing… You know that soon Bull will beat it out of you. That thought gives you a bit of peace.

You can’t quite rest your ass on the bed with your arms tied so far above your head. You support yourself on your knees instead, ass perhaps a foot off the bed.

“I’m going to ask you some questions now. I expect you to answer them,” Bull says, and a cold chill runs through you. You twist your head around to meet his eye, your own wide with terror. Your watch word rests on the edge of your lips. Surely he wouldn’t take this opportunity to interrogate you… would he? Oh, Maker, please no. Not Bull. Not now.

He walks around in front of you, but not to strike you. Instead, he shifts a mirror that’s leaning against the wall until you can see yourself in it. You flush at the sight. You’re pantsless, clad in just your thin underwear, your tunic hitched up due to your raised arms. You don’t look like someone about to be tortured. You look like someone about to be fucked.

Iron Bull makes things even worse by pulling your tunic up, tucking the end through the collar to keep your back bared. You stare at yourself in the mirror, breastband and panties bare for all to see. Maybe that voice in your head had been right.

Qunari.

What you deserve.

Going to get it now.

You cringe. Bull is to your left now, and there’s something in his hand, and oh god, oh god--

The first hit has you crying out. He’s hitting you with a rod, a reed, something thin and whippy that slices sharp agony across your back. But at the same time, the pain pushes out the unwanted thoughts. You can’t focus on anything else.

“You’re not stupid, Emma, but you’re stubborn,” Bull says. “You never learn your lessons easily, but this is one needs to sink in. And I think I’m the one to teach you.” He strikes you again, and you cry out, tears spilling out of your eyes at the fresh agony on your back. He’s avoided your ass so far, a small mercy. He grips your face roughly in his other hand, pointing it firmly towards the mirror until you’re looking yourself in the eye. “You matter.” he says firmly. “Your safety matters. And you don’t get to leave here until you learn that.”

W...what?

The next blow hits your shoulder blades. You arch forward, jarring your arms as you jolt against the leather binding your wrists to the frame.

“You hurt someone, Emma. But if you hadn’t, you would have gotten hurt worse. Isn’t that right?” You’re silent. He strikes you again. “Answer!”

“Yes!” you cry out. Your mind is getting hazy, but each agonizing slice of pain against your back reminds you to focus on Bull’s words.

“You did it to save yourself?”

“Yes!”

The rod comes down against your back again. You sob out a broken curse despite the order only to answer questions. “Say it! Why did you do it?”

“To save myself!” you shout.

“That's right, to save yourself. Because your safety is important. Do you hear me?” All he has to do is brandish the cane slightly and you’re already straining at the ropes, calling out.

“Yes!”

“Say it.”

“My safety is important!”

The reed comes down across your lower back. The searing pain is more reward than punishment, somehow. The closer he gets to your ass with it, the more you want him to finally strike you there, even knowing how much it will hurt against your bruised, inflamed cheeks.

“That's right, Emma. Under the Qun, sometimes we do things we don't like, to protect the whole. You're not in the Qun, Emma. You are the whole.”

Lessons from the fucking Qun. Except… not. A Qunari should never say something like that. You look over at Bull, breaking eye contact with yourself in the mirror. Gratitude. That’s what you’re feeling; that’s what shines in your eyes. He brings down the rod again and your scream to the heavens is a choir of thanks.

“Good girl,” he murmurs. You’re limp in your bindings, weight hanging from your wrists. When he goes a moment without striking you, however, you start to twist, to writhe against the leather. The rod comes down again, you taste blood in your mouth to match the mess your back must be by now. “One more time. Did you have to do it?”

“Yes! I had to do it!” you call it out without hesitation. You find you believe it.

“Then you're forgiven, Emma. You have to do what it takes to protect yourself. Say it,” he adds, and you wait until the rod strikes to reply.

“I have to do what it takes to protect myself!”

“Good girl,” he coos, and you feel a gentle hand brush across your face. Unbidden, you lean into it. Despite your craving for violence, the tenderness feels good, too. “Do you still feel guilty?” he asks, and you freeze.

“Emma,” he says warningly, after you’re quiet for too long.

“Yes! I’m sorry!” you cry out, fresh tears bursting from your eyes.

“That’s okay; don't worry. You're stubborn; I'm used to it. We'll get you there.”

He lays into you then, not pausing to ask you questions, just one painful strike after another. You scream, you cry, you curse, but with every strike, your understanding solidifies. The guilt and the fear are forced out of your mind; there’s simply no room for anything but the agony. You know this hurts worse than what you did.

“Emma!” Bull says, and you realize he’s talking to you.

“Yes, ser!” you croak out, your voice torn and broken from screaming.

“What did you do?”

“Something I had to!” you reply automatically. You find you believe it. You had to. It was…

“Good girl. Why?”

“To protect myself.”

That’s right. It was bad, but you had to do it. If you didn’t keep yourself safe, no one else would. You knew that. Iron Bull brings the rod down, right across your ass. You feel as though your scream must shake the rafters. The pain is euphoric, however. Your whole body tenses, then goes limp, and all you can feel is a rush, a flood. Adrenaline? Your brain feels like it’s buzzing.

“That's right. What will you do next time you have to do something you don't like, to keep yourself safe?” Iron Bull asks. You don’t know if he’s going to hit you again, but you find you don’t care. Your senses are still overloaded. You can barely hear him over the buzzing in your ears.

“Come to you,” you reply, dazed. You see Iron Bull in the mirror beside you. At your words, he looks startled.

“...Alright. Do you need more?”

“No, thank you,” you whimper.

Perhaps it’s because you hadn’t used your safeword, but this time, Iron Bull gives you the healing potion before untying you, tipping it back into your mouth. You swallow obediently, mind still in a stupefied haze. The pain doesn’t fade entirely, as before, but the majority of it eases off. Bull grabs a towel from a chest in the corner, and moves onto the bed behind you.

He whispers kind affirmations to you while he cleans off your back. “That’a girl, Emma.” “You did great.” “You’re alright; you’re fine.” Each one relaxes you more, although your body still twitches when touched. Finally, he unties your arms, and you crumple.

You realize you’re still whimpering, even though the beating has stopped. You curl up on the bed, limbs quivering with tension and pain. You're sobbing, you realize, but you don't feel sorrow or anguish. It feels like pure emotion leaking from your eyes. You simply felt too many things at once.

Bull is next to you on the bed, laying behind you, running surprisingly gentle hands through your hair. The way he can switch from violence and kindness startles you now, as it has before. He can say such kind things while brutalizing you so completely. He's whispering gentle, soothing words of praise into your ear, still. His hot breath on your sensitive, pointed ear feels good. You arch your head against his hand and he goes from petting your hair to running rough, battle scarred fingers down the length of your ear. You let out a low, gasping moan of approval, arching your back against him. You feel something telling straining against his pants. He shifts backwards, away from you. Perhaps you should leave it at that, but... instead, you roll over to face him.

"Is it the violence that gets you... like that?" you ask softly, your mind easing gently back into the present, although without a hint of your earlier panic. You find the healing potion has healed your cracked and torn throat.

"That's part of it," Bull admits with a slight shrug.

"Part? What's the rest?"

"Who I'm being violent with, and how. I don't get a hard-on every time I run a Vint through, y'know."

You hadn't known that, or even wondered, actually. The crassness of his language makes you flush as much as what he's saying. "Who? You're saying I... get you like that?"

Bull is looking at you oddly... he must see something in your expression. He runs a thumb across your blushing cheek. "Damn near every day," he says, his voice a low growl. You shudder slightly. You find yourself wondering what he does to relieve himself. How often. Does he think of you when he does? The thought should disturb you. A Qunari doing... that? About you? But instead of scaring you, it makes you feel... oddly powerful.

You reach out slowly. It's a deliberate motion, as if you suspect you might be bitten. Bull doesn't move, however, and your hand makes gentle contact with the bulge straining against his trousers. You flush bright red, unable to believe your own actions. You would never, in a thousand years, have believed you would willingly touch a Qunari like this. But... it's Bull.

Bull doesn't move, doesn't say anything, but you feel a hitch in his breath when you move your hand softly up his shaft. Your hand keeps moving until you feel the head... Maker, that's a lot of Bull. How exactly has he been having sex with elven women? You're not confident your stature would allow for that, and you're somewhat tall for an elf.

You wrap your hand more firmly around his girth through his trousers. He doesn't disappoint in terms of circumference, either. Maker, no wonder he's popular, and no wonder Thea is so insufferable about it. Your hand traces along him through his pants a few more times, as if building up courage. Then you shift onto your knees and place nervous hands on his belt.

...How... How does this belt come off? "What the..." you mutter, running your hand along the side. Bull chuckles, and you curse quietly to yourself. “Some kind of Qunari chastity belt…”

“I promise you, it’s not,” he says as your hands find rivets in the side that come off. “Emma,” he says softly as you unbuckle his belt. “You don’t need to-”

You shush him. You don’t want to lose your momentum, or you might never start up again. Without the belt, the tent in Bull’s pants seems somehow more intimidating. You wrap your hand around it again and stroke a few times, listening to Bull’s sharp inhale. Then, with nervous precision, you hook your fingers around the waist of his pants and pull carefully downwards.

You very nearly lose your courage at the sight of it. It’s been a long time since you saw a man… in the flesh, so to speak. And the last man whose modesty you had compromised had been significantly lesser equipped. Its the same silver grey as the rest of his skin… Of course, what else would it be? The color alone, not to mention the size, serves as a stark reminder that this is no human’s erection.

Qunari.

The thought thrills you as surely as it chills you.

Slowly, as if you fear it might bite, you wrap your hand around Bull’s shaft. It’s warm. It’s hard. It’s softer than the rest of his skin. You run your hand loosely up to the head and then back down to the base. It twitches; Bull lets out a soft moan. It’s all the encouragement you need. Something about this is exciting you, more than it has any right to. He’s not rushing you, just laying back and taking it, and it makes you feel strong. Perversion overtaking you, you run your tongue along the bottom of his cock, from the base up to the very head. You watch him as you do, watch his mouth open slightly, his head roll back. When you reach the tip, you pull it into your mouth, suck gently. His fists clench into the sheets.

You remember how those hands had been brutalizing you not moments earlier. He could beat you. He could break you. But he’s not. Here, with your mouth around the head of his cock, you have the power.

You lower your head, stretching your jaw as wide as you can. Even then, you doubt you’ll be able to keep the shaft from bumping against the edges of your teeth. You test your limits as well as his comfort, pushing the head of his length against the back of your throat. The mental image of Bull grabbing your head, shoving himself in further, sends a burst of hot arousal between your legs. The guilt that brought you to Bull’s room originally couldn’t be further from your mind as you slip a hand into your smalls.

You moan around Bull’s cock as your hand finds your slit slippery with your own fluids. You had barely noticed; how long had you been like this? Maybe Bull isn’t the only one who enjoys violence. You trace a finger around your clit and then slip lower to push two fingers into your slick entrance.

You bob your head up and down on Bull’s cock, running your other hand along his shaft as you do. You’ve no hope of getting all, or even most, of his length in your mouth, but you make up for your comparatively diminutive size with enthusiasm. Each time you feel his cock bounce against the back of your throat, you shove your fingers inside you. You gasp for air through your nose, push your head down harder, groan as you feel the rounded head of his cock pushing into your throat. You can’t quite make it fit, and you don’t want to injure yourself. You come up for air, gasping as you trace wet tongue and saliva-coated lips along the side of his length.

Bull’s breath is coming hard now, each exhalation mingled with a breathy groan than borders on a growl. The growling makes you tingle in new ways, and you thrust your fingers into yourself faster.

“Say something… in Qunlat,” you demand, your voice a breathy moan. You wrap your lips back around his shaft, sucking it into your mouth with relish as you grind against your own hand.

“Eva-lok defransdim,” Bull growls, and you moan hopelessly around his cock. It’s the filthiest thing you’ve ever heard out of a Qunari’s mouth, and you love it. “Taarsidath ashaar.” Your moan turns into a whimper and you buck against your own hand, fingering yourself furiously as you stroke Bull’s shaft. You thrust his cock against the back of your throat hard enough that you feel you might bruise, tears forming in the corner of your eyes as his groans become louder, more insistent. He places a hand on the back of your head, wrapping his thick fingers into your hair, and thrusts, once. His hips are like a piston, strong enough that he head of his cock pushes down into your throat.

Your eyes roll back in your head as you come thunderously around your own fingers. You feel Bull’s cock spasm in your hand and a burst of heat down your throat. You pull back, and Bull lets you, despite his hand on the back of your head. The next burst of come hits your tongue. It’s hot and salty and you swallow without a second thought. You move to pull back further, but this time, Bull does stop you. You groan between gulps at the little show of force. Bull keeps your mouth on his cock until you’ve milked every last drop of come from him, and only then does he release his grip on your hair.

Your lips make a lewd popping sound as they leave the head of Bull’s cock, your head unexpectedly shifting backwards at his release. You hadn’t even realized you’d been fighting his grip, enjoying the sensation of your hair being pulled, your head being forced in place.

You pull your hand out of your smalls. It’s drenched, slick with your fluids. You make a bit of a face and move to wipe it off, but Iron Bull catches your arm. You look up, surprised, as he sits up. He pulls your hand to his face; you’re already flushed, but you turn bright crimson as he slips your fingers into his mouth. You stare down at the corner of the bed as he sucks them clean, his tongue slipping and dancing between your fingers. You bite your lip to avoid moaning; his tongue is slick and soft and it makes you think about how good it might feel other places… Places you haven’t felt another person touch for a long time.

For now, however, you’re exhausted. When he’s done licking your hands clean, he pulls you up onto the bed by your arm. Rather than cooperating, you ragdoll, enjoying the fact he can lift your weight so easily. You remember the sensation of him dragging you about by your hair and exhale a soft little gasp. You’ll never be able to spar with him again without being aroused, you suspect… But you suppose that’s only fair. To hear him tell it, Bull’s been having that problem with you for a very long time.

You curl up against Bull’s side contentedly. There will be much he’ll want to talk about--and much for you to think about--but for now, he lets you rest, curled up in the crook of his arm and finally at peace.

Chapter Text

You hate the transit home. Long ride on the subway, pushed and prodded and bumped. Walking up the stairs, Maker, why are there so many stairs? You’re ready to collapse the second you walk in the door. You drop your bag unceremoniously on the floor. No rest for the wicked, however.

“Vhenan?” Solas’ voice comes from the kitchen. You let out a low whine, knowing what comes next. “Will you come in here, please?”

You sulk around the corner, knowing Solas has had a day just as long and stressful as yours. You thought it would be easier to go to work and leave him alone with your child this semester, but it very much is not. You have new sympathy for the months he spent working after your daughter was first born.

The sight in the kitchen reminds you of just how much it’s all worth it, however, and fills you with renewed energy. Solas is barefoot in front of the stove, attempting to stir a bowl of cake batter with one hand while balancing his daughter on his hip. He’s even wearing your apron, likely out of a desire not to mess his clothes. A wise choice, the front of the apron is smeared with batter–likely thanks to your daughter.

You cover your mouth to hide your grin, but a giggle escapes your lips.

“Yes, yes, I’m sure I’m quite the sight,” Solas says tiredly. “If you can spare a break in your mirth to help, however…”

You slip closer, putting an arm under your daughter to help support her weight. She coos happily and leans back, reaching her arms up towards you. You lift her with a grunt–she’s getting heavy! Solas sighs in relief and shakes his arm. “Finally, reinforcements arrive.” You smile and place a hand on his shoulder.

“Vhenan,” you say, unable to keep the mirth from your voice. He’s somehow managed to get a bit of the chocolate cake batter on his face. “You’ve got… Hold still.” He looks over at you, puzzled, as you lean in, standing on your tiptoes to reach him. Rather than wipe it off with your hand, you lick the bit of cake batter off of Solas’ cheekbone. You can feel heat rise in his cheeks. “There,” you say, your voice sounding satisfied. “All better.”

Chapter Text

You shouldn’t have done it. You shouldn’t be doing it. You know that. You suspect he knows it too, on some level.

Your shoulders brush as he points up at the night sky, explaining the alignment of the stars.

“Those stars are likely long dead, but we’re basking in light millions of years old.”

He notices the way you shiver in the chill night air. His suit coat goes over your shoulders. Warm. Soft. Too big.

“The same stars seen by the ancients—”

Afterwards, coffee in a dinky, dirty, 24-hour diner. The coffee tastes like dirt. Are professors still professors after midnight? Or do the rules change when the sun goes down?

His hand brushes against yours. The coffee tastes amazing.

“I believe this went on a great deal longer than any extra-credit assignment should have,” he says with an easy laugh. It’s two am. The two of you are standing in front of your dorm, a steadfast reminder of how many ways in which what you’re thinking is wrong.

“I enjoyed it,” you say, your heart soaring and your mind screaming. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for extra credit… professor.”

It’s the way you say it. He hears it too, judging by the way his eyes widen and a slight flush comes to his cheeks. Why did you say that? Why did you say that?

“That would be… well,” he says, and you bite your lip, pulling it into your mouth. Bad idea. Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea.

It isn’t until you reach your dorm room that you realize you’d flustered him enough that he forgot to take his suit coat back from you. You wrap it over you like a blanket as you collapse into your bed. The collar covers your nose—you inhale deeply.

Elfroot and old books. It smells like him.

Warm and soft and too big and just right.

When you sleep that night, you dream of ancients and stars and how little time must matter, in the grand scheme of things. One year. Two years. Twenty. A drop in a bucket unfathomably wide.

You watch him closely in class the next day. He won’t look at you. You wanted to wear his suit coat to class. Display it like a trophy. See his face. But you didn’t want to get him in trouble. His coat is in your backpack, folded tightly between textbooks, a precious secret. You can feel it in there, glowing through the layers of your bag, burning like your chest. You wonder if he can, too.

You return it to him during office hours, quiet gratitude all that escapes your lips when you have a dozen things you’d rather be saying.

Your hands brush again as he accepts it from you.

You glance back through the little clear window of the door as it closes behind you. You see him press the collar to his face, inhaling deeply.

Tea leaves and ink. It smells like you.

A smile traces over your lips. He glances up just before you can leave, sees you looking, knows you know. You can see his cheeks turning light crimson.

You place a single finger over your lips. A sign of discretion and a wink.

After all, before midnight, he is a professor.

Chapter Text

I’m in the bar when the news comes. I think I’ll probably remember that in the future… But not because I was worried. I knew it would take more than a fire and a bunch of Templars--red or otherwise--to kill Emma. Obviously. So I wasn’t worried at all.

The news comes from Jean, of all people. I’ll confess I’m a bit irritated. Why did she go to him first? Well, he was probably just the easiest for her to contact; he says she’s doing research at the library. For the Inquisition of all things. I’m more interested in this elf mage she’s supposedly “serving.” I tell Jean to keep an eye on him, learn what he can. I’ll do some of my own research on this “Solas.”

-

She wants to sneak into the White Spire. Of course she does! I wonder if she’s coming out of retirement? I knew she couldn’t stay away from this. I can’t believe she stayed in that stupid cottage in the countryside for as long as she did. How did she not just die of boredom? Not that I mind, or anything. It gave me a chance to do my own thing. Still, with her back in town, it only seems right that we do something together. I’ll help her out with this.

-

She’s doing the break-in with that mage, Solas. She told me not to be seen! All that grief she gave me about not working with others and she goes and drags in the first asshole she picks up out of Ferelden? Ugh. There’s obviously something going on with this guy. Now that I know she’s been in Skyhold, I can try to get some information flow coming out of it. I can’t find anything on this mage of hers.

And I know there’s something there. Emma would never suffer to be involved with the mundane. Unlike her other “friends,” I know her. This retirement was never going to last. She can no more resist the call than I can. It’s in our blood.

-

It’s the night of the task. I watch her progress from the rooftops, crouched low and very curious. The man is still a mystery. I find that I must know who he is to Emma. Is he a Circle mage? Surely not. Emma has no trust and little tolerance for Circle mages. Broken wolves, she calls them, with freedom beaten from their minds with a stick.

All I have to go on are what little reports I could gather from his time in Val Royeaux. His life before that is still a mystery. But if my reports are to believed, this man--this Solas--is someone Emma trusts implicitly. She took him to the theater. She takes no one there. Not even me.

I suspect he must be an apostate. As evidenced by yours truly, Emma has a weakness for apostates. But that can’t be all; he must be something special. Something unique. Emma would not trust lightly. She loathes working with others, as I well know. To use him for a task like this… I can barely comprehend it. If she was in need of magical assistance, she could simply have gone with me. Instead, she tells me to stay back, to stay out of sight! She’s using me like a contact. Were I not getting the tomes I seek out of this, I would say no out of pride alone.

-

In the end, I get my revenge in the form of some minor taunting. In truth, I needed to see this man closer. Needed to see how he and my Emma interacted. I can’t say I like what I see.

He’s an older man, as I’d heard. That alone does not surprise me. To earn Emma’s respect, he must be knowledgeable. The easiest path to knowledge is simply taking one’s time with it. We can’t all be born geniuses, after all. Despite his age, however, he moves with a grace I recognize. He is fit, unusually so for a man of his… extended years. I remember Emma teasing about the importance of dexterity in lovers. The way he moves to protect her from me sends irritation coursing through me. Moreso when he reacts with obvious jealousy when I imply Emma and I had been lovers.

Emma and I have never been lovers. The idea that this doddering old man has had part of her that I haven’t is infuriating. Whether I want her myself is irrelevant. The fact he may have had her at all is enough.

I watch as the two of them walk through town together, shadowing them on rooftops. I sulk outside their inn for some time before ghosting off to move the books to a safer location. I don’t want to think about how she’s soothing that apostate’s hurt pride.

-

I had thought I might not hear from her again. I won’t say I was relieved when I got another message from her. Particularly not when it’s just her asking for another favor. This one is interesting, at the very least. There’s an orphan in the alienage she wants me to pick up. Why this one? Not a mage, she says, already knowing what I’ll think to do with a little orphaned elfkit. She clearly simply wants me to move the child into a better life.

But when have I ever done exactly what she asked of me?

Chapter Text

In the history of the world, two women stole the Dread Wolf’s heart.

The first he loved in Arlathan. She was beautiful, wise, and above all, compassionate. Her hair burned like a fading sunset, and Solas loved her when he was only Solas.

She was a slave, as were so many of the People in that time. Solas saw the abuse heaped upon her, the abuse heaped upon so many, and knew it was wrong. He vowed he would change it. For her. For all of Elvhenan. And thus he became the Dread Wolf. He fought to free her, to free them all.

For a time, they were happy. They were at war, yes, but they took small comforts in each other. Away from the bloodshed, they could lose themselves in tender, stolen moments.

“Read to me, my love,” she would say, Elven from her lips holy like a prayer. “I adore the sound of your voice.” Fen’harel, whose voice shook the world, would read to her until his throat cracked if she so asked.

“Come, Dread Wolf,” she would tease–for to her, he was and would always be Solas. Hands and knees on their bed, ass wriggling high in the air, she would taunt. “Let’s see that wagging tail of yours.” And he would take her, and love her, and swear to change the world for her. For them both. One day, there would be peace, he vowed. And they could spend all of time in each other’s arms, in the world the Elvhen deserved.

But the war dragged on. More and more lives were lost to it every day. And then, one life too many.

Mythal, the All-Mother.

In grief and rage and desperation, the Dread Wolf formed the Veil, trapping the false gods away in an eternity of torment. But it weakened him. His love held him in her arms as he fell into a deep slumber from which he could not be awakened.

She stayed by his side as he slept, but she was not as powerful as Fen’harel. With the Fade locked away from the world, his heart’s immortality was gone. And slowly, slowly… she aged. Hair that burned the color of spun copper faded to silver. And she, with the rest of the Elvhen, began to die.

Solas watched from the Fade as she grew old without him and, finally, passed. Her light would never grace the world again. Because of him. Because he thought he could fix the world.

He awoke thousands of years later to a broken existence, faded echoes of the past ringing through empty, desolate space. He vowed once more to fix a shattered world, to try yet again to bring the peace he knew the Elvhen deserved. He would tear down the Veil and start anew. But as they had so long ago, his plans went awry. More people suffered, and he willingly entered a glass cage to try and fix it.

It was in that cage of his own making that he saw something peculiar.

Hair the color of faded sunset.

She was beautiful, wise, and above all, compassionate.

Chapter Text

“Nn… Aah…”

“Emma, I was wondering if you’d–oh for–” Solas stops short in the doorway to your room, his hand meeting his forehead in exasperation.

“Oh, shi- Solas, this isn’t what it looks like! She was just, um… giving me a massage!” you insist quickly, sitting bolt upright off the bed and covering your chest with your arms.

“Shirtless,” Isabela adds, not making any attempt at covering her breasts.

“I could almost understand the need for you to be shirtless,” Solas says dryly, staring determinedly away from the two of you. “But both of you?”

“Old Rivaini technique,” Isabela says at the same time as you say, “I was going to do her next.”

“I am quite certain you were,” Solas replies.

“That’s not what I-” you begin.

“So were you wanting to join in, or what?” Isabela interrupts. The flush that rises to Solas’ cheeks is almost worth this whole, humiliating ordeal.

“I’ll just come back later,” he says quickly, and turns to leave.

“Oh, man… I’m never gonna live this one down,” you groan.

“Oh please, he’s going to jerk one out right now, guarantee it,” Isabela says with a snort. “Now, what were you saying about doing me next?”

Chapter Text

Your home was closer to the mountains than it was to Val Royeaux. To reach the city, you would have to cross the Dales, which are currently rife with soldiers and conflict from the civil war. It reminds you sharply of the civil war in Ferelden ten years prior. Can there be no major conflicts in this world without idiot men deciding now is the perfect time to bid for power? Loghain and Gaspard are the same, and you would have seen them both humiliated and dead were it within your power.

Unfortunately, nothing is within your power right now, possibly not even your own survival. You have already traded Bella’s life for your own—regular Templars, not even the red ones, had demanded you give her to them. Whether they were part of the Inquisition or rogue, you’ve no idea, but you handed over your old friend’s life to spare your own. It had worked. It’s possible submission and humiliation were all the Templars had been after. You tell yourself they’re just using her as a beast of burden when you try to sleep at night.

And now this. Red Templars, the very thing you’d run to avoid, and they can’t be reasoned with. Maker knows you try, stammering out offers for assistance, for supplies, for the scant food you have, for sex. Nothing stems their approach. When one draws a sword, you know you’re in serious trouble. And there are seven of them! You’ve not a single chance. You bite your lip, let your aura out of its knot in your stomach. The Templars are surrounding you, so you start with an explosive blast of fire out in every direction. You bite your lips as you feel the fire singe your own arms and back, blacken your skin and ignite your clothing. You’re panicked. You need to calm down, or you’ll seriously injure yourself.

Once the Red Templars realize they’re dealing with a mage, however, their strategy changes. You took out two with that first burst of fire, injured others, but there are still too many. You try to fend them off, but…

An arrow in your shoulder. You stand.

A blade across your back. You stand.

A dagger in your stomach.

You fall.

It’s such a stupid, stupid way to die. How much have you survived in your life, to die at the swords of madmen? You conjure the last of your mana and ignite the very air around your rapidly dying body. You will make this as painful and difficult for them as you can. You will take them with you. And burn yourself to a crisp in the process, ensure your body doesn’t end up a demon’s plaything. The last thing you want is for your corpse to become an arcane horror, spreading more chaos and destruction.

You almost don’t see him through the flames. But as you lay on your side, burning blood soaking into the frozen ground, your vision catches sight of a man. You use the term loosely, for he is glowing. And with your aura out and whipping through the air, you’ve no chance of missing what he is.

An abomination.

Hilarious, honestly. You hope he kills the Red Templars after you’re dead… a small comfort. A little vengeance for your last moments.

And as brutal magic tears your murderers apart, the world fades to blood-filled darkness.

--

You didn’t expect to wake up. When you do, it’s with intense confusion.

Then the pain hits.

You let out a low, loud groan, only because you can’t manage a scream. Everything hurts. You’re good at dealing with pain, but this is nearly overwhelming. You struggle through the haze of it, attempting to understand your surroundings. You try to sit up—the pain nearly doubles. This time, you do scream.

There are hands on your shoulders, pushing you down. Thoughtlessly, you reach for your aura, but it’s barely a ghost of itself. You spent your mana too completely; you’ve no way left to defend yourself.

“Calm down. You’re safe.”

You don’t recognize the voice. You glare blearily up at the vague form above you. Rounded ears… a human, a human man.

“Get… get off me!” you cry, trying to shake him off. You’re not strong enough.

“You need to calm down. You’re going to tear your stitches,” the man insists. Stitches? Are you…?

“Wh… what happened? Where am I?” you groan, laying back and ceasing your struggles, if only because it’s becoming too painful to continue.

“I saved you from the Templars. We’re in a cave nearby. You’re severely injured,” the man explains. Your mind races to catch up. That’s right, the red Templars. But the person you’d seen…

“I only saw an abomination,” you croak out. You can feel the man stiffen. “Did you kill it too?”

“I… Yes.”

You squint at him. “You’re a shit liar,” you say, too agonized to be tactful. “Fuck. It was you, wasn’t it? Did I get my ass kidnapped by an abomination? Maker’s balls, of course I did.”

“I didn’t kidnap you! I saved your life!” the man snarls.

“Why?” you ask pointedly. “Why bother?”

“Would you rather I hadn’t?” he says snippily.

“If you saved my life just so I could be an abomination’s new plaything?” you reply through gritted teeth. “Hard to say.”

“You have got to be the rudest person I’ve ever saved.”

“Really? I must be doing it wrong,” you say, staring up at the ceiling as the world around your blurs and begins to fade. “Everyone I’ve ever saved was a fucking asshole.”

-

You don’t know how long it’s been when you wake again. Your sleep was dark and dreamless, which has you worried. What if you’re not connecting properly with the Fade? You won’t recover your mana. The abomination could be doing something to you. You awaken to liquid in your mouth, and splutter and choke on it. Firm hands hold your mouth closed until you swallow. You can’t help the tears that spring to the corners of your eyes; the sensation is a horrifyingly familiar one. In your weakened state, you can’t fight off the surge of unpleasant memories.

“Swallow or suffocate, it’s all the same to me.”

“This is for your own good, you know. Slaves have to know how to obey. An unkind master would have killed you for your blood by now.”

“Please stop,” you choke out when the hands release you.

“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t waste the potion, and I need you awake.”

You stare blearily as the man comes into focus. Shaggy blonde hair… the unshaven human man. Memories, the proper ones, come rushing back to you. Not a human, but an abomination. He’s holding you up, one arm supporting your back. The touch frightens you, but you’re too weak to fight it.

“What for?” you say weakly.

“To avoid you slipping into a coma,” he says flatly.

“Why are you doing this?” you ask again. “What do you gain?”

“Is helping a fellow mage not reason enough?”

You bristle. “We’re nothing alike.”

“No? You’re an apostate, as much as I am.”

“You’re an abomination, not an apostate,” you snap. His face is barely a foot from yours; you have an up-close view of it contorting in anger. But there’s no hint of glow to him, not like earlier. Whatever he is, it’s not rage. Waking you up means he’s definitely not sloth, either. He’d better not be pride. You’d almost prefer it to desire, however. As comfortable as you are with handling desire demons, desire abominations are a nightmare. Those two are looking more and more likely, unfortunately.

“Are you normally this much of a bitch, or is it just the pain?” the man asks rudely.

“I’ll have you know I’m normally quite the charmer,” you reply, hissing in pain when you try to move. “Could you at least set me down?”

“Unfortunately, no, and I doubt you can sit up on your own.”

“You say you did this because I’m a mage. Are you hoping to put a demon in me too, once I’m healed enough to survive the ordeal?”

“I’m not putting anything in you!”

“Do you say that to all the ladies?” you taunt, testing for desire.

“You need to be conscious, but there is absolutely nothing stopping me from tying your damn mouth shut.”

“Kinky,” you say flatly. “Well, if that’s what gets you off, I guess.”

The man drops you unceremoniously, and you thud back against the bedroll with a cry of pain. To your surprise, he winces. “I’m sorry, that was…”

“Utterly expected.” You glare at him through one eye, the other one closed from the pain. You try to get your arms underneath you so you can sit up. “Just tell me what you have planned. It’s not as though I can stop you. You’ve got me rather perfectly at your mercy.” An appeal to pride, but rather than enjoy it, he looks even more upset.

“I’m just trying to help!” he exclaims, and you’re surprised by what sounds like genuine hurt in his voice. “Is that so hard to believe? I have a spirit inside me, so I must automatically be a mustache twirling villain? You shouldn’t believe everything the Chantry teaches you!”

You catch the way his voice hitches around the word ‘Chantry.’ A soft point?

“The Chantry has our best interest in mind, as mages!” you snap. You see the slightest flash of blue in his eyes. You’re getting close.

“The Chantry’s only interest is in subjugating and persecuting mages! They would see us in chains, locked in prisons!”

“The Chantry’s interest is in protecting people from abominations like you!” You’re getting dangerously dizzy, but you’re too close to stop now. Not desire. Not pride. Nothing so simple. This one has something odd inside of him. “If mages would just submit—“

We will never submit! ” his voice cracks into a roar, his eyes glow with the burning blue you’d seen before passing out in the fight. Light cracks along his body. You throw your arms up, ignoring the screaming pain that lances through you, to protect yourself from a strike that never comes. When you peek out past your arms, the light has already faded, and the man is panting, head cradled in his hands. Oh, that’s interesting.

“This isn’t normal possession. You’ve got control. Did you invite it in, or did it get put in you?” you ask curiously.

The man stares at you, incredulously, realization dawning in his eyes. “You… You did that on purpose!

“I thought you were something else,” you admit.

“You’re an idiot!” he snaps. “Do you know what could happen if I lose control?”

“Nope. Wanna tell me?”

“I… really, really don’t like you,” he says through gritted teeth, still panting slightly.

“Sorry,” you say, and this time it’s genuine. “I had to know. If it’ll make you feel better, you can poke me in the ribs. I think it’ll probably feel about like a punch right now.”

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he says irritably. “Although I might use considerably less anesthetic in the future.”

“Freedom?” you hazard a guess. “Were you… in a Circle, maybe, and Freedom wanted to help?”

“You’re… just… Be quiet,” he says, clearly exasperated.

“What about—“

“I will absolutely gag you,” he promises. “You have to be awake, not heard.”

You shut your mouth. You suppose you’ve learned enough for now.

“You’ve torn your stitches,” he says irritably. You glance down. Red is seeping through bandages around your torso. “Hold still and be quiet.” With that as the only warning, he pushes his mana into you, warm, soothing healing suddenly permeating your body. Your aura is barely a whisper, but when his brushes against it, you let out an embarrassing moan. You’ve never felt the sliding of an aura against yours like this before. The sensation is… something else. He pulls his magic away from you, and your aura is too thin to chase after his the way you want to.

And then… something new. You feel a pulling at the Veil, a beckoning, and then a touch of another kind entirely. Your body jolts in the bedroll. Compassion is touching you. Not the spirit inside of the man, although that would be damn brilliant—can that even be done?—but one called through the Veil for your benefit.

“Spirit healer,” you gasp out. “No wonder, I—aaah!”

“Quiet,” the man says again. The warm energy flooding through you feels like nothing else. You wonder if this is what being awake in the Fade would feel like. You wonder a lot of things, but when you open your mouth again to voice some of your questions, a hand clamps over it. You’re too weak to protest; you simply groan into his palm until the spirit is finished with you. You can feel it flicker away, back through the Veil. Content to rest in the Fade once again, having helped.

The man releases your mouth, but the intense healing has left you fatigued. You can feel darkness pulling at the corners of your mind.

“Oh no you don’t,” he says, an arm slipping under your back and pulling you carefully upright again. You slump against him, struggling to stay conscious. “I’d love nothing more than to have you quiet again, but you need to stay awake.”

Mamae, emma ir’neras. Mamae, vellam…” you murmur into the man’s shoulder.

“Sorry about this,” you hear him say, and then he snaps his fingers under your nose. A repugnant stench snaps you awake; you gag violently.

“Magical smelling salts?” you exclaim when your stomach stops twisting. “Who makes a spell for that, you sadist?”

“A mage who doesn’t want to carry around smelling salts,” he says dryly. “Stop squirming. If you tear your stitches again, I’m just going to let you bleed out.”

“You’re a spirit healer. Is that connected to the spirit inside you?” You put a hand against his chest, but your aura isn’t cooperating. Were you stronger, you could go spelunking inside of him, identify the spirit by touch if it was one you were familiar with. You had never felt the touch of Compassion before, but it couldn’t have been anything else. It had been like Love, but different.

“No,” he says with a sigh. “Now, will you be quiet?”

“You can have me awake OR quiet, not both,” you say, and beyond the teasing, you’re somewhat serious. It’s hard for you to keep your mind focused.

“Then talk about yourself, instead of needling me. What were you doing before the red Templars found you? Were you a Circle mage?”

“Yes,” you lie without so much as a blink. “I was an Enchanter at the Circle of Montsimmard.”

“Ah… Ground zero. But you’re not with Fiona and the others?”

“I voted against the Grand Enchanter’s movement.” You feel him stiffen. “I thought, on my own, I could lay low. I thought I’d be less likely to attract Templar attention. I didn’t count on these red… things.”

“You were halfway into the Frostback Mountains,” he points out. “Hardly a good place to hide.”

“Red Templars burned down the village I was hiding in,” you explain. “I was heading for the Inquisition.”

“The Inquisition?” he exclaims. “So much for avoiding Templars.”

“I have my reasons,” you say irritably. “Besides, what else was I to do? The mage rebellion offered me no alternatives.”

“So you would… what? Prostrate yourselves before the Templars, hope they caged you instead of just making you Tranquil?” he snaps.

“Yes,” you say shortly. “I’d rather be alive and in a cage.”

“That’s not living.”

“What about you? Were you in a Circle before this whole mess? How long have you been possessed?”

“That’s not really any of your business.”

“Boring,” you complain. “Can I lay back down yet?” You’re not entirely comfortable with leaning up against his arm and shoulder the way you are.

“Depends. Do you think you’ll be able to stay awake? And don’t bother lying, because if you start falling asleep, it’ll just be the smelling salts again.”

You groan in displeasure. “Fine. But I’ll have you know, there are easier ways to find women to hold. They have entire buildings dedicated to the holding of women, in fact.”

“Believe me, I’m having trouble thinking of someone I’d like to be holding less.”

“What a charmer! Your accent is Ferelden. Were you from the Circle tower there?”

“No. What about you? You don’t sound Orlesian.”

“Ferelden. I grew up in Denerim, actually. What’s your name?” He looks startled, and doesn’t reply, so you press in more. “You know, your name? It’s this thing humans have, if you’re planning on not getting pegged for an abomination, you should come up with one.”

“My name isn’t important.”

“No? What am I supposed to call you, then? Should I give you a name, like a stray cat?” you say with a snort. Your head feels heavy; you give up supporting it and let it rest against the man’s shoulder.

“I’m sure ‘hey you’ would work for your limited needs,” he says dryly.

“That’s a terrible name,” you mutter, eyes growing heavy.

“Hey!” he says, snapping his fingers in front of your face. “No sleeping. Tell me a story.”

“Why the Void would I do that?”

“Because you don’t want to fall asleep and die,” he says irritably. “Tell me… about life in the Circle in Montsimmard. I’ve never been there.”

“Was shit,” you mutter, shifting so that your nose is pushing against his neck, trying to block out the light from the fire. “Templars always watching.”

“I’ve heard the Circle in Montsimmard was one of the nicer ones.”

“I’ve heard that too,” you grumble. “I dunno. The kids were always scared. I heard them whisper about the Harrowing. And the Templars… the one they assigned me, I hated the way he watched me move. ‘M so tired…”

“If you grew up in Ferelden, how did you come to be in the Circle in Montsimmard?” he says, seemingly searching for a topic to grasp your attention. It succeeds, but not for the reason he thinks. Your mind spins through possibilities.

“I was transferred,” you manage, barely able to focus through the haze. The pain the spirit had chased away is coming back. “From the Circle Tower in Ferelden, when… things went sideways, during the Blight.”

“...Oh? You must have been young.”

“I was. Just a kid,” you say through gritted teeth. “The pain…”

“There’s no helping it. I can put on a fresh coat of elfroot but it’ll only do so much. You’ll just have to endure. Tell me, how young were you when the Templars found you?”

“I dunno… eight, I think? Around that. Y… you said something about elfroot? I… I want to lay down, I…”

“If you think you can stay awake, I’ll lay you down and change the elfroot out,” the man says. “Talk through the whole thing, so I know you’re awake.”

“Alright,” you say, already feeling nauseous from the pain. You search for a safe topic, something true you can talk about even when distracted, that fits in with your story. “Denerim. I was an orphan in Denerim.”

“In the Alienage?” the man says as he lays you down gently. His hands move to your stomach. “This is going to hurt,” he apologises. You should be more concerned with the realization that you’re naked save for the blankets and the bandages, but you’re not. If he was going to do something, he would have by now. You’re in too much pain to care.

“Yeah, the Alienage. I hated it, but it was better than just being alone, I guess.”

“Have you been alone for a lot of your life?” he asks. You feel sharp, burning agony on your stomach… where the dagger had gone, you remember.

“That’s a stupid question,” you say dizzily. “I’ve been in a Circle. You’re never alone in a Circle, even when you want to be. Always… always watching.” You scream. You didn’t want to, but a peeling, burning, acidic sensation had swept over your stomach.

“That’s the new elfroot. It’ll get numb soon,” he promises.

“Do I really have to be awake?” you whimper.

“For now, yes. You can sleep again in an hour.” The numbness is starting. You let out a sigh of relief.

“Oh… That’s so much better. Thank you.”

The man snorts. “I think that’s the first time you’ve thanked me.”

“If you’re waiting for me to drop to my knees and blow you, you’ll have to wait at least until I’m healed,” you say dryly.

“I’d sooner be fellated by a hurlock. Seems safer.”

You laugh. It hurts. He lifts your head, props it up with something… rolled up clothing, probably. “You’re not going to tell me your name, are you?”

“It’s really not important.”

“Fine, then I’m calling you Freedom. I still think that’s what’s in you. Maybe it’ll annoy you into telling me.”

“You haven’t told me your name,” he points out.

You’re quiet for a moment, considering. “...Emma. My name’s Emma.”

-

Freedom still hasn’t told you his name an hour later. He finally gives you permission to sleep, and you do so within a few minutes of falling silent. This time you dream, a little fitfully. Demons are attracted by the amount of pain you’re in, but even in your weakened state, they’re easy enough to deal with. The presence of the gentle spirits Freedom has been calling through the Veil to help heal you seems to keep them mostly at bay. You even think you get a glimpse of the one that had healed you--the touch feels familiar--but it’s so hard to tell.

You awake slowly, confusion setting in before pain. It takes you a moment to get your bearings… When you do, you realize it’s because you’re laying on your stomach. You shift slightly, testing your body. That’s when you realize there are hands on you. Your body reacts automatically, your arm snapping backwards to grab a wrist, skin of your hand heating up. You don’t have enough mana yet to summon proper fire, you realize irritably.

“Calm down, it’s just me. I’m treating the injury on your back.”

Your grip relaxes. “Freedom,” you say in realization. “Sorry. Reflex.”

“I can imagine why. You know, you talk in your sleep?”

Goddamnit.

“Do I?” you say warily.

“Mmhmm. Can’t imagine you were having very pleasant dreams.” You feel a numbness in your back.

“What are you doing? And--hey! Watch the hands!” you snap as they journey far too low.

“This cut goes from shoulder to ass,” he says sourly. “Trust me, I’m not enjoying this any more than you are.”

“The hell you aren’t, wandering hands,” you grumble.

“There’d have to be something here for me to enjoy,” he says snarkily.

“Oh, sure, mock the invalid,” you say darkly. “I’ll remember that when I can move again.”

“Can you sit up a bit? It’ll make bandaging you easier.”

You manage to support your weight a bit on shaky arms. “How long have we been here?”

“Two days,” he replies. You drop back to the bedroll as he finishes bandaging around your back and waist, just enough to help keep the large, flat bandaging across your back in place. With some difficulty and a great deal of help from Freedom, you roll back over onto your back with a grunt of pain.

“Do you think you can feed yourself while you’re awake? I’m tired of pouring broth down your throat. I’m convinced you haven’t even got a gag reflex…”

“Curious about that, are you? Strange, coming from a man who professed no interest in my ass.”

To your satisfaction, he flushes slightly, and looks annoyed. You’re not quite sure why you’re so invested in aggravating him. You’re just not particularly good at dealing with feelings of helplessness. And the fact that he knows you’re a mage makes him part of a very small, very unfortunate group of people with a nearly 100% mortality rate. It’s really only a matter of time before he joins the rest of them. You’re not sure how you feel about that.

-

It’s the next day when trouble finds you and Freedom. You had trusted his word when he said you were unlikely to be found in this cave, but apparently, it was likely enough.

“Hey, I think there are people in here!”

The two of you freeze. His hands are on your stomach, once again changing out bandages. You see guilt and fear flash through his eyes. He’s no doubt thinking what you’re thinking: a cacophony of anxieties about how it could be any number of troublesome people, and about how this is the first chance the two of you will have to betray each other. A test of trust that neither of you particularly asked for.

He throws a blanket over you and you lay back down, unable to support your own weight for long without his assistance.

Of all the people who could have appeared, the worst do.

Templars.

Not red, however, and only two of them. Still, the second you see the insignia on their armor, you gather the wisps of your aura together and tuck them deep inside. You’re not going to die from a Templar. If they kill Freedom, you can claim innocence. They’ll be suspicious, watch you closely to ensure you aren’t possessed. And you’ll pass their little tests, and the person who knows your secret will be dead. Honestly, it’s a best case scenario. But perhaps Freedom can yet talk his way out of it. Despite the fact his death would be a convenience, you find yourself hoping it doesn’t happen.

“What are you doing here?” the second Templar asks. Freedom’s staff is near you; you quietly shift it under the blankets with you. No need leaving it in plain sight…

“My friend was injured. We’re holding up here until she heals enough to travel. We were on our way to the Inquisition.”

“We’re with the Inquisition,” the first Templar says. “We can help.”

Maker, maybe your luck is finally looking up? But no… once they see the staff, it’s all over. Or not? Will Inquisition Templars kill mages on sight? Honestly, you have no idea.

“Wait. You look… familiar. Do I know you?”

“I assure you, you don’t,” Freedom replies evenly. “I just have one of those faces.”

“No… No, I know you! I’ve seen you on posters; you’re And--”

The Templars weren’t prepared for the explosion of flame. Freedom’s aura whips around the room, a whirlwind of fire that tingles against your skin. His eyes tint with the slightest glow, but he manages to keep the spirit inside him under control. However, his eyes are still flashing with the strain of it when the Templars fall, burnt and melting horribly, flesh into armor. You hate the smell of burning flesh. Like pork. Humans smell like pork when you cook them, and it always turns your stomach.

But you’ve no time to be traumatized, because Freedom’s eyes are on you, not his handiwork.

“How are you doing that?” he demands.

Oh. Your aura.

He pushes his against your skin, hunting for yours. When he begins to push it through your skin, you release your locked aura and let it push back against his, to satiate his search.

“How?” he demands.

“Anders,” you say coldly, forcing yourself to sit up. He freezes, both physically and in his magical molestations. “They were going to say Anders, weren’t they? It’s not Freedom inside you. It’s Justice. You’re Anders.

Irritation fades slightly to fear--he’s scared of you? “I…”

“It fits. You’ve got the accent, you fit the description. How many abominations like you could there possibly be?” You shake your head. “What are the fucking odds…” His eyes are on your hands… you realize why. You’re gripping his staff, knuckles white with the effort. “Scared I’m going to attack you?”

Anders says nothing.

“Please,” you snort, throwing the staff angrily at his feet. “I couldn’t even survive a stiff breeze at this point. You’re safe.” You spit the word.

“You’re angry,” he says. “But you’re an apostate. Not a Circle mage. I doubt you ever were.”

You glare at him sharply, searching for an explanation.

“I was at the Ferelden circle. I would have remembered a little redheaded elf brat like you. And why lie about that if you weren’t lying about everything? But if you’re not a Circle mage, why the anger?”

“I was doing fine right up until your little stunt!” you snap. “And now look at me! I spent over a decade dodging Templars successfully and you have to fucking rile them up! Suddenly it’s Templars, apostates and abominations all in my backyard!”

“And that’s my fault?!” he shouts right back. “I did what needed to be done! The Templars could have left the mages well enough alone when they voted on their freedom, but rather than let us have any say in our own fates, they’d kill us all!”

“I don’t give a single shit!” You pause, clutching at your stomach as your sudden movement causes an agonising spasm of pain.

Anders is on you in an instant, hands on your shoulders, pushing you back down onto the bedroll.

“Don’t you fucking touch me, you bastard!” you shout, but you don’t have the strength to fight him off of you.

“You’re bleeding! If you’d rather die than suffer my touch, tell me now, and I’ll leave, but otherwise, you need more healing!”

You fall quiet, bite your tongue and look away. Your anger is nothing in the face of your life. You’ve grovelled to far worse than Anders. Taking your silence for the acceptance it is, he begins to work to stop the flow of blood.

“You’re as bad as Hawke,” he says accusatorily.

Excuse me?!” you snap, damn near moving to push his hands off of you again.

“His sister, Bethany, she was free of the Circle too. Even after she was caught, he used his power and influence to keep her safe. She was one of the only mages to survive Meredith’s rampage… Because of Hawke. As long as he got his, he didn’t care about the other mages. Aren’t you the same?”

Your stomach isn’t the only thing bleeding now. You’ve bit your lip so hard that blood is trickling down your face.

The worst thing is, he isn’t as wrong as you’d like him to be.

“We can’t win every battle, Anders,” you say, voice hollow and tired. It sounds older than it should. “I pick the fights I can win, remember my goals, and do nothing that does not further them.”

“Your goals? And what would those be?”

“Freedom,” you say darkly. “But I can free no others if I’m encaged, and this bloodshed is senseless.”

“Nothing else worked.”

“Maybe you’re right,” you say with a weary sigh. “I wasn’t lying; I’ve been to the Circle in Montsimmard. They say it’s one of the loosest with its mages in all southern Thedas. They did not even know I was a mage, yet I was watched day and night. It was exhausting. Terrifying. Maybe I’m not the one to judge your actions.” You fix him with a steely glare. “But I know you’re in no position to judge mine, either.”

He’s silent for a while a magic seeps into your wounds.

“Truce, then?”

“Truce.”

-

Not that it keeps you from sniping at each other over the next few days. As soon as you’ve strength enough to move on your own, you ask for your dagger back. He’s understandably reluctant. He’d proven that he’d no plans to kill you in your sleep by simply not doing so. You hadn’t been tested in the same way.

Anders is, in fact, safe from you, although you don’t blame him for his doubt. He’ll never be in a position to tell the Templars about you or your peculiar talents. While he doesn’t know your personal track record, he doubtlessly knows the questionable things a mage on the run must do to survive. And he has an awful lot of people trying to kill him. If you were a less secretive person, bringing Anders head to the Inquisition and the Templars would be an excellent way to be able to out yourself as a mage and still retain your freedom.

But you have no intention of being that honest to the Templars. Whatever contribution Anders had to the ruin that is your current life, the Templars had infinitely more blame.

Still, you miss the few days where he had simply been Freedom.

“You know my name,” he points out, one night before the two of you part ways. “Do I know yours?”

“You know more than most. Be content with that,” you say simply.

“You still haven’t shown me how you do that thing, with your aura.”

“I’ve no intention to.”

“Why? If all mages--”

“Again, you think too grand. It takes the Templars discovering this trick a single time, and then they’ll begin to cultivate ways to tell. Worse, what if they can’t? They’ll be paranoid that every peasant that gives them a sidelong glance is a hidden mage.”

“...I see your point, but--”

“Enough, Anders,” you say with a chuckle, leaning back against the stone wall of the cave. “I’ve been a captive audience for your justice rants for, what… two weeks? Give me some peace.”

“Are you still planning to go to the Inquisition? To the Templars?”

“Yes.”

“But why? If they find you…”

“Then I’ll die,” you say with a sigh. “But I don’t have any other options. If I stay on the run, I’ll die. The condition you found me in is proof enough of that. A woman traveling alone is easy prey.”

“...What if you weren’t alone?”

Your gaze snaps to Anders, eyes narrowed, but he’s staring at the fire, poking it idly with a stick.

“...I wouldn’t be any safer with the most wanted man in Thedas.”

He winces. He knows you’re not wrong, but it still probably stung.

“You still don’t trust me,” he says, more a statement than a question or accusation.

“It’s hardly your doing. I don’t trust anyone. And you still haven’t given me my dagger back, so I’m sure you understand.”

A rustle of movement, and then your dagger clatters to the ground by your feet. When you look back up at Anders, his eyes have gone from the fire to you.

He looks lonely.

“...Ir abelas, falon,” you say sadly, picking up the dagger. “I can’t.”

Chapter Text

“We… we did it,” you say, collapsing to your knees in the aftermath of the fight. You’re too relieved and too scared to feel anything else. It’s not like you to throw yourself into these situations. Ordinarily, you would have stayed hidden and let the slavers take the humans. You didn’t live this long by taking risks like this. But… Solas was there. And, selfishly, you hadn’t wanted him to think you the kind of person who would let women and children be taken by slavers and just watch.

And you’d known that if you threw yourself into danger, he would rescue you. He always does.

Another apology you owe him, one of many.

The shems aren’t even waiting to thank you. They’re running… you can hardly blame them. Two blood-covered elves were probably damn near as scary as the slavers to them, especially considering the magic Solas had been throwing around. That’s fine, though. You hadn’t done it for thanks.

Solas is on you before you can even regain your breath. “Ir abelas, ir abelas. Don’t be mad,” you pant, wincing as he grabs your arms. He kneels down onto the ground in front of you, twisting you about as if he’s checking you for damage. He hunts over every inch of you for injuries, but finds only minor flesh wounds: a cut on your cheekbone from a barely-dodged dagger, a slice on your side where an arrow had grazed you.

“You… you…” he huffs, hands on your shoulders. His pupils are like pinpricks. There’s a thin sheen of sweat over his head and face. His lip has been cut, perhaps from a similarly close call, or perhaps from being struck in the face with something blunt. You reach a hand out to it, wiping at the blood despite your lack of ability to heal him.

“Please don’t be mad, Solas,” you beg. “They were slavers, I couldn’t… I couldn’t just…”

Your words are cut off as Solas jerks you forward by your shoulders, shoving his lips against yours with a forcefulness you’re unaccustomed to from him. You taste the metallic tang of his blood as his lips crash against you, rough, demanding, desperate. Your eyes slide half-closed as he pushes harder against you, tongue demanding entrance to your mouth. You part your lips for him and he’s devouring you. A painful clinking of teeth as he kisses you with starving passion, and then his hand is in your hair. He pulls your head back, parting your lips further for his needful explorations. You let out a sound into the kiss, something between a groan and a whimper.

You have no damned idea what’s going on, but your head is lost in the rush of adrenaline from the fight, and now a flood of endorphins telling you to just let Solas do whatever he wants with you. He certainly intends to, pushing you down against the earth with just the force of his kiss. Your tongue traces across the cut on his lips; he lets out a grunt, shoving you down harder until you thud onto the ground, his hand still roughly gripping your hair. He follows you down, moving his body over yours. You feel burningly aware of how he’s larger than you, broad shoulders and strong chest.

He’s flush over you when he finally releases your lips, his knees on either side of your hips, one elbow and forearm in the dirt, his other hand still clenched in your hair. He pulls your neck back further still, and you groan, caught between pain and pleasure.

“S-Solas?” you moan, confused, aroused, and just the littlest bit scared. It’s the blood, you think. You don’t have the best memories with the taste of blood, but this… You’ll be happy to replace them with this. Solas pulls back briefly, sitting up slightly. He lifts his spare hand up to wipe dripping blood from his lips. The sight transfixes you. You lick your own lips, taste his blood again.

He leans back over you, his lips nearly touching your long, pointed ear. “Yes, vhenan?” he exhales against your skin. His breath is hot and damp and you lose your words entirely as he traces his lips down to your cheekbone. He lavishes a long lick along the cut there, and you feel a familiar tingle… healing magic. You let out a long, low moan, and give up on figuring out why Solas is acting like this.

He kisses along your jawbone and back to your lips, catching you in another kiss, which you eagerly reciprocate. You push back against him, delighting when he pulls on your hair to yank you back onto the ground where he wants you. The hand not entangled in your hair moves to your collar, rapidly unsnapping the front of your shirt. Your eyes fly open, you make a muffled whine against Solas’ tongue.

He gives a last nip to your bottom lip before kissing down your neck and chest with a heated urgency. He traces lips, teeth, and tongue over cuts and bruises, and each one tingles with warm mana as he heals them.

“S-Solas, we can’t,” you groan, hands finding his shoulders. “We’re in the middle of the woods, Solas.” He pauses, lips scant inches from your nipple, and there’s a moment where you seriously regret saying anything at all.

“Ah, of course…” he says, glancing around as if just realizing his surroundings. He sits back, but as he’s still straddling you, all this really does is place his hips and weight directly onto your pelvis. You bite your lip so hard that you feel you might develop a bloody lip to match his. He’s disheveled from the battle, your blood and his both on his mouth. You’re enamored. As he gazes down at you--shirt torn open, flushed and panting and no doubt as messy as he is--he seems similarly transfixed.

“A bath, then,” he says, his voice low and slightly husky, bordering on a growl. You give a pleased shudder. “We both need to clean off… and I need to see where you’re injured.”

---

You had passed a stream not far back. Solas takes you directly to it, his direction almost alarmingly certain. It’s as if he has an arrow in his mind pointing him straight where he wants to go. His steps through the woods are urgent, his hand warm and tight on your wrist. You almost have to jog to keep up. The power inherent in his stride keeps the warm tension in your chest bright and alive; you arrive at the stream no less aroused than when he’d been straddling you. You’re uncertain precisely what to expect, but Solas leaves little room for doubt. He pulls you flush against his chest by the side of the stream, catching your lips in a long kiss. His lip has stopped bleeding now, but his face is still smeared with blood; you suspect yours is, as well.

His hands continue where they’d left off, undoing the snaps on your shirt and then pulling it open. You hadn’t bothered with a breastband in your haste that morning, a fact he quickly takes advantage of. Gloved hands cup your meager breasts, thumbs tracing over your nipples. You gasp softly into the kiss, then bring your own hands to Solas’ clothing. You yank his shirt up, running eager hands over his chest. Then one of your hands explores downwards, sliding down his stomach before pausing at his waistline. You hesitate only an instant before slipping your hand into his pants, fingers wrapping swiftly around Solas’ shaft. He inhales sharply, breaking the kiss.

Vhenan,” he says, his tone one of gentle scolding. You pout, but he removes your hand from his trousers. You don’t make it easy for him; you tighten your grip, so that when he pulls you off, you give him a firm stroke. You feel his body tense, shudder. “I do need to see where you’re injured,” he tells you.

“If you’re intending to bathe with me, Solas, you’ll need to lose your clothing, as well,” you breathe.

Eager little minx,” he murmurs in sweet, sweet Elven. “Very well, if it’s what ma’asha desires.”

He doesn’t even step back from you, he simply releases your wrist and begins to strip. You’re as shameless as he; as he pulls off the last layer between you and his skin, you run curious hands over his torso. His superior fighting talents show here; whereas you’re bruised and cut, his chest is unmarred. Your hands leave little bloody trails along his pale skin, down towards his waist.

“You’re getting me dirty, Emma,” Solas says with a chuckle as you wrap your fingers around his waistband.

“So that I can get you clean later,” you agree. You hesitate at his waistline, however, glancing up at him. “M… may I?”

Solas catches your chin in a hand, runs a fond thumb over your cheek, wiping off blood still smeared there. He tilts your head up, catches your lips with his. You lift up onto your toes to meet him. You’re surprised when you feel his hands on yours, think that perhaps he’s going to remove them from his pants again. Instead, however, he covers them with his own and, slowly, pulls his pants down with you.

His lips locked onto yours mean you cannot look down; his hands still gripping yours mean you cannot reach to feel. It’s an exquisite torture, knowing that his rigid length is just out of reach, just out of sight, but bared nonetheless.

Without releasing your hands or your lips, he begins stepping forward. You stumble back, and he follows, walking you backwards towards the stream. For a moment you fear he’s going to shove you right in, wet clothes be damned, but instead, he stills by the edge of the water. He finally releases your hands to finish his removal of your shirt, yanking it down off your shoulders and tossing it to the side. Then he steps down into the creek. It’s a good bit lower than the bank; you pause to enjoy the sensation of being taller than Solas, if only by an inch or two.

Your train of thought is interrupted as his fingers find your belt. A few deft flicks and your belt is undone; without it, your pants fall straight down. The downsides of baggy clothing. Although, as Solas’ hands run over your hips, fingers slipping around the waistband of your panties and dragging them downwards, you feel like it might be more of a benefit.

“Come into the water, vhenan,” he says, a lovely grin on his lips. You step down cautiously, with his assistance. You certainly take note of the way one of his hands slides to cup your ass as you step into the creek.

The water is cold, but not freezing, and it’s deep. In the middle of the stream, the water rushes around the very tops of your thighs, brushing against the burning heat between your legs. You expect Solas to pull you in for another of his sweet kisses, but he does not. He’s frowning, and the sight worries you.

“Solas?” you say nervously. “What’s wrong?” Anxiously, you cover your chest, no longer so confident about being nude in front of him.

“You’re more hurt than I thought,” he says, moving your arms back to your sides. “When you ran into the middle of those slavers, I thought… I thought you…” He traces fingers over bruises forming on your chest, magic leaving your skin tingling.

Ir abelas, Solas,” you say. Not for the first time, and certainly not for the last.

“So fragile,” he murmurs, leaning down to trace gentle lips over your collarbone. “So easily lost. And losing you would…” You pull your bottom lip into your mouth, biting down to silence yourself as he leaves a trail of kisses down your body. His lips slide over every bruise and cut, the tingling of his magic only making you more sensitive as he goes. Then his lips reach your hips, and he slides down between your trembling legs.

“S-Solas! I’m fine there, I promise!” you exclaim as he runs a hand between your legs, up against your heat.

“Really? Are you sure?” he asks coyly, running his fingers across your slit and then pulling them away. His hand is glistening with your moisture. “You appear to be losing fluids at an alarming rate.”

“That… has to be the corniest… aaaah!” Your words are cut off as Solas nestles his face against your crotch, spreading your legs open by force. He flicks his tongue across your clit, and you struggle just to remain standing. You can only imagine how much river water he must be getting in his mouth, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He taunts and teases you with tongue and lips until your legs shake and bend so much that they threaten to drop your dripping cunt under the water.

He doesn’t stand, but merely pushes you backwards until your ass thumps against a rock protruding from the water. He hefts one of your legs over his shoulder and lifts you up onto it, then immediately buries his face back between your thighs. You dig your nails against the sides of the rock, trying to find some degree of balance against the bucking of your hips, lest you fall.

Solas is kissing your core the way he kissed your lips, with a burning hunger. He grips your hips like he fears you might slip away from him, tighter still as your body shakes and twitches. You might bruise, but you’ve no doubt he’ll simply heal that, as well. It’s an appealing thought: to come apart underneath him, knowing he’ll put you back together when he’s done. It’s that alluring image and his oh-so skilled lips that bring your pleasure to a crescendo. He focuses his loving directly onto your clit, gripping your hips meanly and holding you down until your screams turn back to moans and your spasms die down into little twitches.

He brings his head up from between your thighs. He looks very satisfied with himself, a little smirk on his lips and blood still smeared on his cheek.

“You look pleased,” you say, meaning to sound sarcastic. Your voice, however, comes out breathy and soft. Your whole body is still aglow, tingling with fading pleasure.

“I am; I assure you,” he purrs, and you shudder slightly.

“Good. If I’m healed to your liking, perhaps I can now have a look at you?”

He tilts his head slightly, a faint smile on his lips; he knows what game you’re playing. “Me, vhenan?” he says innocently. “I assure you; I am uninjured.”

“I’d rather be sure,” you reply, just as straight-faced, sitting up.

“Very well, then.”

You stand and grab your underwear from the side of the river. They’re all but ruined with your wetness, destroying them further will hardly change anything. Plus, you rather like the idea of Solas knowing you’re without panties for the rest of the journey. You dip them into the cool water, soaking them thoroughly, as you walk back to Solas.

You start at his neck, rinsing and wiping smeared blood off of him with your panties-turned-washcloth. He’s more dirty than he is injured, but you clean him diligently, squatting down into the water as you trail down his abdomen. Before long, you’re knelt in front of him, his rigid erection all but staring you in the face. Still, you ignore it, cleaning carefully around his length despite the fact there’s no blood, then cupping his balls gently in your hands, carefully rinsing them.

You go as if you intend to move on, wash his thighs and legs, and his cock twitches with want, the tiniest drip of pre leaking from the head. You grin wickedly.

“Ah, Solas… It seems you’re losing fluids as well,” you say coyly.

“Is that so?” he says, his voice tight. “Perhaps y--aah!”

The sound he makes is an undignified yell, and it pleases you greatly. You’ve planted your lips around the head of his cock, given a powerful suck and a swipe of your tongue across his slit. He groans as you pull away with a lewd pop.

“There we go,” you say with a smile, and place your panties on his thigh again, preparing to continue washing him.

It seems he’s had enough of your teasing, however. His hand snaps from behind him and tangles into your damp hair roughly, jerking your head back. You let out a desperate cry; he knows how much you love the sensation of your hair being pulled.

“Open,” he says roughly, and that’s all he has to say. Eagerly, you open your mouth, and he pulls your head onto his dick, cramming it between your lips. You moan around it and Solas lets out a pleased hum. He doesn’t release you, however, instead using his grip on your hair to pull you back and forth, dragging your lips along his length. You run your tongue frantically along the ridge along the underside of his cock.

When he shoves a bit too hard against the back of your throat, you take it as a warning sign and ready yourself. When he next pulls you onto him, you shove forward, pushing the head of his cock into your throat. Solas lets out a satisfied moan that only has you struggling to swallow more of it, deeper.

Your taunting has Solas’ control strained. You use it to your benefit, taking advantage of his loosening grip. You push his cock deeper into your throat, struggling to reach the base. You delight when his other hand wraps into your hair as well, controlling your movement, but let out a displeased noise when he uses that grip to pull you off of him.

“Over-eager,” he hisses, his voice an octave low. The sound of it makes you moan, your tongue dancing towards the head of his cock. He only pulls you further away. “Clearly I can’t trust you to your own devices at all today.” Your only response is a soft whimper. “Open,” he says, and your mouth flies open almost before he finishes the word. This time, he holds your head in place and shifts his hips. He teases you with his length the way he’s teased your slit in the past, running the head along your lips before pushing gently into your mouth.

He fucks you then, and then sensation amazes you. He pulls your head against him when it suits him, pushes his cock against the back of your throat but refuses to push it in further, despite your moaning protests. The only control you have is of your tongue and the amount of suction; you use both to your best advantage. But he takes your mouth at a languid pace, seeming content to enjoy himself. Eventually, your eyes slide closed and you simply enjoy the sensations yourself, the taste and feel of him.

You swallow as much of your saliva as you can, delighting in the way he groans when you do. Then he begins to pick up both speed and force and you can no longer keep up, lost in the sensation of his head shoving against the back your throat, too distracted working your tongue and remembering to breathe. Wet slurps and the occasional gagging sound when he pushes too deep fight to be heard over the gentle rushing of the river. Your eyes are watering slightly, but all you want is more. He’s going far too slowly.

“Are you ready?” he says, his voice breathy and strained. You let out a loud, affirming hum, enjoying the way his jaw clenches at the sensation. Then he shoves in, down your throat, pushing your mouth to the very base of his cock. You fight with your gag reflex and lose, your throat spasming wildly around his length. He stays like that for a few glorious seconds, and then pulls your head all the way off of him, not releasing your hair but letting you cough and gasp for air.

“Still good?” he murmurs, dropping a hand from your hair to run along your jawline. You nod, as much as you can with one of his hands still tangled into your dripping hair. You don’t quite trust your voice. “More?” You nod again, eagerly, already straining against his grip on your hair again. He lets out a low, throaty chuckle, and pushes himself back through your eager lips.

He sets a rougher rhythm than before, pistoning his hips and shoving himself repeatedly back into your throat. You focus on breathing and sucking, trying your best to tame your gag reflex. His pace picks up and you think for a moment that he’s going to finish in your mouth. You moan eagerly, but he pulls your head back again. You gasp for air as best you can, eyes stinging with tears. You’re probably a mess, but at least it will be easy enough to clean up; you’re already in a river.

Solas’ erection seems to be throbbing. You can’t believe he stopped, and you very much wish he hadn’t. You struggle against his grip, trying to get your lips back around his cock, but he holds firm.

“Up against the bank,” he orders, helping you along by pulling you in the correct direction by your hair. You scramble eagerly through the water before resting your arms on the bank, feet still in the water and ass tantalizingly raised. You wiggle it back and forth, as it that were necessary. Solas is already taking up position behind you. You need no further preparation; your cunt is as slick with moisture as your mouth. You feel his grip on your ass as he lines up. You want him to shove in roughly, pound you into the dirt, but he teases.

“Solas, please, please,” you beg as he runs his head along your slit, pushing in slightly and then pulling back.

“Patience, ma’asha,” he murmurs, but you have none. You realize only then that his grip on your hips isn’t that sturdy, and grin wickedly. The next time his head pushes gently between your folds, you brace your feet on the river bottom and slam your hips backwards against him. Whatever satisfying groan he makes is drowned out by your lustful cry to the heavens.

Hamin’asha! ” he exclaims with a short laugh, delivering a ringing slap to your ass. You groan again as he doesn’t pull out, but leans over you, dropping his lips near your ear. “So rash today. Have you no sense for danger?”

I could never be in danger from you,” you reply, not caring if you’re butchering the language.

“No?” he asks, this time in Common, his voice low. He pulls out then, only to slam himself back into you with brutal force. His cock slams against something deep inside you, and you let out a scream to the heavens. “We’ll see.”

And then… he takes you. Maker, does he take you. Your fingers dig into the soft, wet dirt by the riverside as he smashes his hips against your ass time and time again, seemingly deaf to your orgasmic screams. Indeed, the first time you come, clenching wildly around his length, he doesn’t seem to take any notice, fucking you the whole way through it. It’s only after that, when your screams die down to pitiful moans and his fingers find your clit that you realize he wants your screams.

“Solas, please, please,” you whimper between cries, not quite sure if you’re asking him to slow down or keep going. He pulls your hips back against him with each thrust, and you can’t remember ever having been filled so fully or taken with such vigor. “Please, I’m going to--aaaaah!”

A tiny spark of electricity directly across your clit sends you careening over the edge again, your throat beginning to grow rough and torn from your screams. Only then does his pace become erratic, his hips jerking roughly against you. Yes, yes, yes! He slams into you one final time, and you feel nothing but heat.

He lays down over your back again, kissing gently along your shoulder and neck, as if reluctant to pull out of you. You let out soft, pleased noises, not quite trusting yourself to speak just yet. Your legs feel like jelly; you’re not certain you can move.

“Perhaps now,” he says with a final sigh, shifting his hips to left his softening member slide out of you. “You’ll think before running off into danger.”

He glance back over your shoulder at him, eyes still hazy from your orgasms, but a stupid little grin already on your mouth. “Was that supposed to discourage me, ma lath? You’re a terrible teacher.”

“No," he says, giving your ass a firm squeeze. You let out a groan, more of pain than pleasure. Your entire lower half is throbbing. “You’re simply a terrible student. But perhaps riding back to camp on Revas will teach you what my scolding could never accomplish. I’m feeling a trot may be the perfect speed.”

You stare at him, horrified.

“How far away would you say we are?” he asks innocently. “Three hours? Four?”

“Solas, no,” you say warily, eyes on his, trying to gauge is he’s serious or not.

“Oh yes,” he says, a tiny smile smirking across his lips. “Perhaps you’ll be more reserved by the time we get back to our tents. And perhaps next time, you’ll warn me before charging headfirst into slavers and giving me the fright of my life.”

“If I say I’m sorry, will you give me a blanket to sit on?” you ask hopefully.

“Not a chance.”

Chapter Text

I am the Herald of Andraste.

Oh, it surprised me when it first happened, sure, but I’ve gotten used to it now. Just like being the Inquisitor took some getting used to. But some people are just destined for greatness, I suppose... Whether they feel equipped to deal with it or not.

It’s not easy. I often find myself caught between trying to micromanage things within my fortress, Skyhold, and, you know, actually trying to be out saving the world. As much as I tell my advisors to just do their jobs, they always seem to want to bog me down with the petty details. That’s why I have them!

And now, not even a week after I’ve returned home from rescuing my troops from Avaar, I’ve got them breathing down my neck again about requisitions. Requisitions! Books, of all things. It’s enough to give a man a headache… Although the fact that I was present at a celebration at the tavern the night before admittedly has a lot to do with the headache, I suppose.

I can’t tell Josephine I don’t know what in the void she’s saying, half the time, if only because these are probably things I should know. They sound like things I learned in lessons, things I was never good at. Things that made my family extremely happy that I had three older siblings. I used to resent the way they cast me aside to focus on the superior skills of my brothers and sisters… Now I just see that Andraste had her own purpose for me. She couldn’t let me get caught up in my family’s politics. She had to ensure I would be the one they sent to the Conclave.

It all makes sense now.

There’s a sort of peace in that.

But that doesn’t help my eyes from glazing over every time Josephine starts talking.

“Can’t we just… send some people to the University?” I say finally, exasperated. “They owe us a favor, and weren’t we going to send some of Cullen’s people out that way?”

“Well… Yes, Inquisitor, but the University’s politics are extremely delicate. Chancellor Haulis--”

“Who’s put in the most requests for books?”

“Er…” Josephine flips through her papers. “That would be Solas, Inquisitor.”

I roll my eyes to the heavens. Of course it would be. Even I know that. He’s mentioned them to me, as if it’s any of my trouble that he wants the most obscure, boring, sometimes-banned books in existence. There are few things in this world I care about less than what that Maker-damned apostate wants.

“Just send him then.” It would get him out of my castle for a few weeks, at least. I could use the break, frankly, after listening to his passive aggression the whole trip to and from the Fallow Mire. If I have to hear one more thing about the "wisdom of the ancient elves," I swear to Andraste herself...

“Uh… That would be ill-advised, Inquisitor. The University has a somewhat rocky history with elves, and--”

“No. No. I’m not going to let Orlais racism stop us from sending the best person for the job,” I say with a scowl. “Does the University have any explicit rules preventing us from sending an elf?”

“Well, no, but--”

“Solas, then. Maybe it’ll get me some points with those damn fickle Orlesian elves,” I say, leaning back in my chair and blocking the light from my eyes. Has it always been so bright in this stupid room?

“Well, we can’t send him by himself,” Josephine points out.

“I have several people who could assist,” Leliana interjects.

And then she starts talking, and I can only understand her slightly more than Josephine. She can never state anything plainly, I swear. She’s an excellent spymistress, of that I'm certain, but I'm probably better off not really knowing the details of anything she’s doing or saying at any given time.

I really wish they wouldn’t bother me with this sort of thing. Does it really matter who I send? They probably know better than I do. All I really do when making decisions is go with my gut; it gotten me this far. And thinking about Solas while hungover is never a good idea. I’m already getting irritated, just contemplating going into that stupid rotunda of his. Even speaking five words to him is more than I can stomach. The look he gives me! Like I’m a roach who just started talking, and I’m the Inquisitor! He’s just some homeless apostate who I’m protecting from the Templars, I might add.

And now he’s got that… woman with him. A troublemaker already, although I can’t for the life of me decide if she’s doing it on purpose or not. But ever since she showed up, there’s been more discontented murmurings from the elves. Sera even tried to punch me! I mean, it’s Sera, so it’s not that surprising, really. But that woman’s name keeps coming up on the lips of elves who are pissed at me.

I haven’t really been listening, but I make a decision, if just to end the meeting.

“Send the linguist,” I say shortly, interrupting whatever stupid diatribe Josephine and Leliana were going on.

“The… linguist? You mean Emma?” Leliana says, sounding baffled.

“Yes. You said she needed tomes and materials to finish the tome, and it’s imperative she does so. She clearly works well with Solas. Send them both, with the soldiers so that they get there and back alive.”

“I don’t think we should send two elves,” Josephine begins, but I wave my hand irritably to shut her up.

“I don’t give a shit. We don’t cater to the Orlesians’ racism. I’ve never cared to indulge their ridiculous knife-ear fetish, and I’m not starting now. Send Solas and his linguist. Maybe they actually will shack up and he’ll stop being such an uptight ass. Now, I’m going to the library, where it’s quiet. Don’t bother me again unless it’s something that actually matters.”

Chapter Text

"Really? THAT'S your costume?" Varric says, eyeing you up and down.

"You don't like it?" you ask with a frown, spinning around to show it off. "But it's so authentic!"

"I know it's authentic! I think you probably just stole it, actually. But you don't think it's in... poor taste?"

"You're just worried about what'll happen when Fenris sees it," Dorian says from behind you. "Which, admittedly, I'm looking forward to. Don't listen to him, dear, you look fantastic. You were born to wear that robe."

"A poor choice of words, maybe," Varric says dryly.

"I like it," Iron Bull comments. "Actually, you and Dorian standing next to each other like that is giving me ideas."

"Shut up, Bull," you say, at the exact same time Dorian says, "Be quiet, Bull." Predictably, the Iron Bull just grins.

"Where'd you get it, anyway?" Sera asks curiously. "Looks weird on you."

"I beat up Servis and took his clothing," you say dryly.

"Did you really?"

"Absolutely," you lie straight-facedly. Actually, you'd simply asked him for it, then tolerated the five minutes of solid laughter.

"Is that his staff, too, then?" Varric asks, pointing at the Tevinter-styled staff on your back.

"One of mine, actually," Dorian says cheerfully. "She looks quite natural with it, doesn't she?"

"No!" Sera exclaims. "It's weird!"

"I think it's a good costume," you protest. "The whole part of Halloween is to dress as something scary... something you're not." You wiggle your fingers at Sera. "Or are you scared I'll put a speeelll on yooouuu?" you ask in your spookiest voice.

"Oh, har har."

"What's all this, then?" You stiffen at the sound of Solas' voice, but quickly force your posture relaxed again.

"You're not in a costume, Solas?" you ask, pouting. You'd hoped you might see him in something other than knit and furs, for once.

"No. But I see you are," he says dryly. "Really? A Tevinter mage?"

"A magister," you say loftily. "I didn't spend eight years at the Circle in Minrathous to be called a mage."

"Oooh, you're so believable!" Dorian coos, as if you're a child or a particularly precocious dog. "You've got the attitude down pat."

"Yes, almost as if she learned it first hand," says Varric, sounding strained.

"I have to admit, it's sort of funny to see those robes on an elf," says Iron Bull. "Come to think of it, all the Vint mages I've fought, and I don't think a single one's been an elf."

"That's because all the elf mages in Tevinter are praetori," you say with a snort.

"Not all of them!" protests Dorian.

"I have to wonder why, of all costumes, you chose this one," Solas comments. You can't tell if he's amused or not.

"It's called dramatic irony, Solas."

"The real drama will be when Fenris sees you," Varric interjects.

"Nah, it'll be good for him!" Bull insists. "Therapeutic role-play! He ties her to a bed, dominates her, and it's like he's dominating every Vint mage that ever fucked with him."

You can feel your cheeks beginning to turn crimson. "Bull!"

"If he asks, do it," says Dorian with a cheeky grin. "I'd consider it a favor if it got him to calm down."

"You shut up," you hiss. "If you want him to fuck his problems away, you bend over and take one for the team."

"Do I even want to know?" comes a familiar, dry voice. You freeze. "Alright, why is everyone just standi--"

You turn and grin sheepishly at Fenris from behind the hood of your Tevinter mage robe. "Happy Halloween."

"Oh, for the... Really?" he says, clearly exasperated. He rolls his eyes to the heavens, and you can't help laughing.

"It's a good costume!" you protest between giggles.

"You look ridiculous," he replies sourly.

"That's because it's about four sizes too big. Wh... Wait, are you dressed as a wolf?" you ask, grinning.

"It was Hawke's idea," he says darkly.

"And you had the audacity to say my costume was silly. You could have at least put on some extra eyes and gone as Fen'harel, or something."

"Am I to take this as confirmation you'll be missing our lesson this evening, Emma?" Solas interjects. You blink, and then realization dawns on your face.

"Ah, shit! I... just assumed you'd be joining the festivities as well, Solas," you admit.

"I had no such intentions."

"You should, Chuckles! I'm sure we could put together a costume for you," says Varric.

"No, thank you."

"Are you sure, Solas?" you ask, grabbing at his sleeve and pouting. "It will be so much more fun with you there."

"I... Well, I..."

"Please?"

"I... Do not use that look on me!" he says warily.

"I have no idea what you mean," you reply, tilting your head down and gazing up at him with wide eyes.

"Harel'asha," he says darkly.

"So it's settled, then!" says Bull cheerfully. "Let's find him a costume!"

"I did not say--"

"Thank you, Solas!" you say cheerfully. "I think I've got something you can wear, actually--"

---

"This is in terrible taste," Solas says sourly, pulling at the robe you've stuffed him into.

"I agree," says Fenris darkly.

"I think it's cute! They match!" protests Lady Montilyet, who you seriously hadn't been expecting to see, let alone dressed as a rabbit.

"Why did you even have TWO sets of Tevinter robes?"

Chapter Text

Someone must have told the Inquisitor.

That’s the only explanation you can come up with. Your luck cannot be this bad. Solas would never have mentioned your fear of ships, but any of your other companions might have mentioned your malaise around sea travel to him. And why else would he send you on a voyage to fucking Antiva? Antiva, of all places! You’re part of a diplomatic attaché, arguably there for translation and research. But… Antiva. And you’re going by sea, because how else does one get to Antiva from Ferelden?

And, just in case you thought things couldn’t possibly get worse, there was the matter of the ship.

It’s a fucking pirate ship.

Oh, apparently the captain is some ally of the Inquisition’s, but you really do not care. This is a fucking pirate ship! You are surrounded by pirates! Raiders of the Waking Sea, as a matter of fact. A ship of the Felicisima Armada. The last time you were on a ship of the Felicisima Armada, you were twelve, trading your body for an chance to escape slavery. Now you’re much older, and you’ve long been free of such shackles, but the memories are fresh and bitter in your mouth.

You’re curled up in a corner of the mess, attempting to force down food. It’s a long journey. You can’t spend the entire time catatonic, and neither Cole nor Solas is here to comfort you. But it’s proving difficult. There’s a pirate attempting to chat you up while you stare nervously at your plate, fingernails digging into the wood of the table. If you stab him in the eye with your fork, will the rest of the pirates turn on you? How bad could this get?

“I noticed you gotta nice pair o’ sea legs on ya,” he’s leering as you stare blankly at the scant food before you, screaming mind trying to formulate a plan that doesn’t involve a bloodbath. “If you want, I could show you how to--”

The man’s voice is cut off as a hand grips his head and suddenly, dramatically, slams his face into the table once, twice, three times. You jump backwards, scrambling off the bench. A fight? Your eyes flicker to the person who had attacked the pirate. You expect another pirate… Well… You’re not wrong, per se.

It’s the captain, a woman you’d only seen a few times in passing since you’d boarded the ship. You had been surprised—and a little relieved—to see that the captain was a woman. The last pirate captain you’d met, well… At least you didn’t have to worry about that from her. Probably.

“Take a hint, Smithe, she’s not interested,” the captain says with an amused smirk.

“Sorry, captain,” the pirate groans, and she releases her grip on the back of his head. He thuds down onto the table. You’re still on the ground, not trusting your legs to hold your weight at the moment.

“You don’t have to worry about them,” the woman says, rolling her eyes. “They’re all talk. They wouldn’t touch you without your say so—they know I’d have their hands on a string if they did.”

You can’t find your voice right away. You’re grateful for the rescue, but this mess hall is closer to the hold than you’d like to be. The rocking of the ship makes you feel ill. This ship is all but indistinguishable from the one you’d been in over a decade ago, and you just… You just want to dive into the fucking ocean to be rid of it, to be rid of the memories that flash unbidden in your mind at every turn. You close your eyes to force them down, then manage to speak.

“Thank you… Captain,” you choke out, your voice more strangled than you would have liked.

“Admiral, actually. I don’t think we got a proper introduction when you came aboard.” She offers you a hand. You can’t think of a way to turn down touching her that wouldn’t be rude, so you grip it as lightly as possible and pull yourself up onto shaking legs. “Admiral Isabela, at your service.”

“Yes, sorry, thank you, uh, Admiral,” you manage, releasing her grip like she’s made of acid the second you can be considered “vertical.” “I’m E-Alix, with the Inquisition. Um, obviously…”

“Right, right! The Orlesian one. I thought you’d look different honestly, and you don’t sound Orlesian.”

“My name is significantly more Orlesian than I am,” you reply, trying to catch your balance. The “admiral” seems friendly enough, and if she really cuts off the hands of overly-amorous men, you’re in for a more pleasant journey than you might have feared. Although it clearly doesn’t stop them from at least trying. “I was born in Ferelden.”

“Aaah, Ferelden. Now there’s a place I have some fond memories,” she says, a little smirk forming on her lips. “I used to dock in Denerim. You ever been to the Pearl?”

You can’t help frowning. “I lived in Denerim for a time, when I was young. The only way I would have been to the Pearl is if they had decided to branch considerably younger in their services.”

“Shame you never went back. It’s a nice place. Come on, walk with me.”

-

Isabela is a very smooth talker. You say Isabela, rather than “Admiral” or “Captain” because after the third shot of whiskey, she insisted. How precisely had you wound up in her quarters, sharing “Antiva’s finest” with her? It’s getting pretty blurry, probably because you’re downing whiskey into an empty stomach. You don’t even particularly like being in her room. Isabela herself is fine company—she has a hilarious story about everywhere in Thedas, it seems, but despite the windows, you’re feeling jittery and boxed in.

“And then she said, ‘wait, but if you don’t have the talisman, and I don’t have the talisman, why did we just have sex’?”

You laugh despite your nerves, but Isabela still seems to notice how twitchy you’re getting.

“You look like you want some air. C’mon, we should be out in the sea breeze!”

She grabs your arm to help you stand, and you feel a pleasant tingle. “Say, this might be rude, but where are you from?” you ask as she drags you towards the deck. You’re actually a bit sad when she releases you.

“Rivain. Isn’t it obvious?”

“Exceedingly, but I didn’t want to assume,” you say with a grin. “You know, I spent a few years in Rivain.”

“Really? Maker, I haven’t been back in… a long time.”

“I promise you, nothing has changed,” you say with a snort. “Seers avoiding foreign Templars and Qunari alike, dancing, drinking, and more farming than anyone ever seems to realize.”

“What was a Ferelden girl with an Orlesian name doing in Rivain?” she asks, and despite the casual tone of her voice, the question makes your grin fade slightly. You make yourself focus on her despite your blurred vision. You need to remember who you’re talking to here, no matter how charming she is.

“I may not be as well traveled as you, Captain,” you say cheekily. “But I’ve been my fair share of places.”

She laughs, a light but hearty sound, and the conversation continues on—though you’re a bit less relaxed for the rest of it. You can’t let the fact you’re off-balance here lead you to make a fatal mistake.

Of course, that would be easier if she’d stop pouring you whiskey.

-

You awaken the next morning in a very odd situation. You’re on deck, for one thing. The piercing sun in your eyes is what wakes you, and it only serves as a very unpleasant reminder of how much whiskey you’d drunk the night before… and how you’d still utterly failed to eat anything.

You stumble to rise and realize your limbs are all caught up in what appears to be a blanket. Some well-meaning soul had at least tossed it over you rather than let you catch your death of chill sleeping on the deck of a ship all night. You manage to untangle yourself in time to stumble blearily to the side of the ship and empty your stomach of any whiskey that might be left in it.

When you finish heaving, you lean against the railing and attempt to reaccustom yourself to the steady rocking of a ship at sea. Before you can register someone is nearby, you feel something being pressed into your hands. You look down and find a cup filled with water, but when you look up, the man—pirate, you remind yourself—who handed it to you is already backing away. Odd.

You sniff the water cautiously, but it really seems to be just that. You sip nervously and begin to head towards the mess. Something in your stomach would do you good, and maybe there won’t be too many pirates in there so early.

You blame your hangover for why it takes you so long to notice what’s going on. In fact, you’re in the mess before you realize that grown men, actual pirates, are stepping out of your way when you pass. Some are giving you a respectful nod of the head—one actually salutes. What… what in the Void is going on?

You would swear the chef winks at you, and when you sit down at a table, every pirate shifts slightly away to give you more space. The fuck… did you kill someone last night? Admittedly, the last half is kind of a blur.

Still, their weird fear, or respect, or whatever the hell, gives you enough peace--or maybe just enough of a distraction--that you’re able to down some toast and gruel. But you leave the mess and the sailors just keep genuflecting and it’s getting weird. Finally, you gather enough courage to stop one, a young man perhaps closer to your age than most of the people on the ship.

“You, stop. Tell me what’s going on,” you demand, trying for bravado since you can’t quite manage actually bravery.

“What do you mean, ma’am?” he says, either respectfully or nervously… or maybe both.

“Why is everyone suddenly stepping to the side when I pass? And averting their eyes! Yesterday, I couldn’t walk from port to bow without getting leered at half a dozen times.”

“Well, Captain Isabela told us you was a bit touchy, ma’am,” he says delicately. “And that the next person wot made you upset would get thrown off the side of the ship.”

“She… she what?”

“She dangled Smithe down there a bit, too,” he adds. “You’re, uh… you’re not upset I told you, are you?” he asks nervously. “Cause I’m not the best swimmer yet, and--”

“I’m not upset,” you cut him off, rubbing at your eyes. “Did she… No, never mind. I’ll ask her myself. Where can I find the captain?”

“This early? Her quarters, for sure.”

You pause. Do you really want to go interrupt a possibly hungover pirate captain to demand why she’s making her sailors treat you with actual respect? Because no matter how you shake it, that sounds like a fucking terrible idea.

“I… Just… Just ask if she’d mind seeing me sometime today, please,” you decide. You’re quite certain she mentioned something about sleeping nude, last night. You know trouble when you see it. You can just wait.

-

The pirates avoiding you is a pleasant turn of events, you have to admit. Far from the leering and awkward come-ons you’d been getting since you boarded this damned ship, now they’re dodging your gaze like you could turn them to stone with eye contact. Considering that some of them are damn near as huge as a Qunari, it’s more than a little amusing. You stick to the deck despite the fact that you’re still feeling queasy and hungover. You’d used all of your boldness for the day already, going into the mess for breakfast and approaching a pirate… even if it had been a small, young one.

It’s nearing lunch when the Captain finds you. You’re leaning on the railing near the bow of the ship and gazing out at the endless expanse of water. The rocking of the boat has you feeling dodgy, and you’re still ill, so when you suddenly become aware of a person beside you, you jump, stumbling several feet away before you realize who it is.

“Still a bit jumpy, huh?” she says amicably. Ridiculously, you find your eyes first drawn to the bottle in her hand. “Haven’t you ever heard ‘hair of the dog’?” she asks with a grin, shaking the sloshing bottle slightly.

“I’m from Ferelden; they translate that literally there,” you reply with a snort. The Captain crinkles her nose--it’s kind of cute. “So, I woke up this morning and suddenly I found I’d be selected as Pirate Princess, your highness,” you say dryly. “What’s the occasion?”

“Wondering if you said something while black out drunk that you shouldn’t have?” she asks, and your grin vanishes as if it had never been present. “You didn’t,” she admits. “Or not much, anyway. You didn’t need to. You’ve been a nervous wreck since you stepped foot on my ship. At first, I thought you just didn’t like sea travel, but…” She nudges at your leg with one of her feet. “People who hate ships don’t tend to have sea legs like that.”

“I do hate ships,” you say firmly.

“You hate sailors,” she corrects blithely.

“It can be both.”

“But look,” she says, pointing out at the horizon. You do, but you don’t see anything. Just an endless expanse of blue, as far as the eye can see… and you know for a fact that your eyes are better than hers.

“I don’t see anything.”

“That’s wrong. You see everything. It just goes on and on. This is freedom. This is being alive. How could you hate that?”

“It’s freedom for you,” you correct, “Because this is your ship. These are your men. You decide where we go and how we get there.” You gesture out at the ocean. “That’s death. If I didn’t have this ship underneath me, I would be dead in the water. I can’t leave. I’m trapped. That’s not freedom; it’s just a prison that moves.”

Isabela is looking at you strangely. You probably shouldn’t be antagonizing a pirate captain--or admiral, or whatever--like this. “Well, why don’t you decide where we go, then?”

“I… Y… What?”

“I said I’d get you to Antiva. I never said where in Antiva,” she says with a smile. “Why don’t you pick? Any city on the coast.”

“What… Why? ” you exclaim, bewildered. “Why in the Maker’s name would you do that?”

“Because for a few minutes last night, while you were drunk, I saw you stare at the moon reflected in the ocean, and you saw freedom, instead of a cage. I want you to be able to see that again. I want to see that again.”

You stare at her for a moment, then shake your head. “I don’t see the point.”

“Well, your group is going to Antiva City, right? But if you, say, wanted to go to Bastion instead, you could take the last legs of the journey on land.”

“That would take us longer,” you point out.

“Yes. But it would be your call.”

You pause, considering. Would it be worth it, to get off this blasted ship a few days early? Antiva is a beautiful country, and actually not experiencing any chaotic civil war. Although it seems a bit silly, when travel by sea is so much faster.

“You don’t have to decide right now,” Isabela tells you. “But maybe being able to call the shots for once will help. ...And if not, maybe a manservant?” she says thoughtfully. “Those always make me feel better.”

You snort. “What, going to have your biggest, burliest pirate carry me around and feed me grapes?”

“Do you want me to?” she asks, and you burst out laughing.

“You know what? Yes. I’m calling your bluff.”

“Hey! Get me Pierre!” she shouts to a man nearby, who immediately salutes and scurries off.

“Wait, are you serious?”

“Good choice, too, Pierre’s a sweetheart,” Isabela says with a grin.

“Hold on, I--”

“What’d you need me for, boss?” asks a giant of a man, lumbering over.

“Wait, I didn’t actually--”

“This is Alix. Your new job is making her happy.”

“Isabela, please,” you try in vain to interject.

“Alright, captain,” he says, not even blinking. Does she do this a lot?

“Have fun, you two!” she says cheerfully, stretching and then beginning to walk towards the galley.

“Wait, Isabela, I don’t--” But she doesn’t wait, and then it’s just you and… Pierre.

“What can I do for you, miss?” You rub your forehead.

“...You know what, no, two can play this game. I’m going to take a nap in the crow’s nest. If Isabela wants anyone up there to actually spot trouble, she can climb up and get me herself. Punch anyone else who tries,” you say darkly.

“Yes ma’am,” Pierre says, with a grin that says he’s going to enjoy the trouble you intend to cause.

Isabela wants you to be comfortable? Fine. You’ll make yourself as comfortable as you please.

Chapter Text

Solas is a deep sleeper, but the ringtone on his cellphone is loud, blaring, and insistent for that very reason. He barely opens one bloodshot eye before he grabs it off the nightstand, flicks to answer the call, and holds it vaguely to his ear.

"'Ello?" he says groggily.

"P... professor?"

Solas recognizes the voice instantly. Emma, one of his graduate students. A particularly stress-inducing one at that, hence why he recognizes her voice. He glances at the clock on his nightstand. Just after three AM.

She would not call him for nothing.

"Are you alright?" he says immediately, sitting up and shifting the blankets off of him.

"I... I crashed," she says, and he recognizes the slur of intoxication in her voice. It chills the blood in his veins. She had been driving, under the influence? "I-I'm sorry, I tried callin' other people bu' they weren't answerin'." She sounds like she's about to cry. "I-I'm l-like t-two miles 'way I think b-b-but I don' wanna walk home alone at nigh' an' I don' wanna sleep in my car an'--"

"Where are you?"

"E-eighty-five, 'bout two miles out..."

"Are you injured? Stay there, I'm coming to get you." Indeed, he's already yanking on proper slacks over his sleep pants and roughly throwing on the nearest shirt.

"N-n-not from the crash," she says. He doesn't like the specification.

"What happened?"

"I-I was tryna be careful but I couldn't see straight, I drove off the road an' hit a pole," she whimpers, a sound that drives straight through his chest.

"Can you wait in the car for me to get there?"

"Y-yeah..." she replies shakily.

"I'll be there in a few minutes. I need to hang up to drive now, Emma, but I will be right there, do you understand? Don't go anywhere."

"Yes, professor," she replies dutifully--he'd likely been using his teaching voice without realizing. It matters not... so long as she remains safe.

--

When he arrives, he finds Emma's car with a pole lodged half a foot into the hood. She's sitting in the backseat, arms wrapped around her legs and face hidden in her knees. She doesn't look up when he approaches--has she passed out? He taps hesitantly on the glass and her whole body tenses, her face shooting out of her knees to glare at him with wide, terrified eyes. She relaxes only slightly when she recognizes him.

He opens the door and she flops vaguely forward. She seems drunker than she had sounded over the phone. He reaches in and hooks his hands under her arms, helping to pull her out of the vehicle. Her knuckles and hands are bloody, she has a split lip and her jeans are torn on one knee, revealing even more blood.

Not from the accident...? Had she been jumped, prompting her to dive into her car and drive away despite her intoxication?

He assists her out of the car and she attempts to stand, though he has to steady her. Her arms are shaking as he guides her towards his car.

"Emma, what happened?" he asks.

"I w-wen' to a party with some underclassmen," she says shakily, voice slurring more heavily than before. "W-was only gonna have a drink or two, then sober up 'n' drive home, cause it was out in the sticks... Bu' I only had half a drink an' started feelin' really weird."

If Solas was chilled before, now he's frozen, mind already filled with what he's going to do when he finds those party-goers. But he helps her into the passenger seat of his car.

"'M not stupid," she murmurs vaguely as he buckles the seat belt around her. "I know when I been drugged. I went for the exit but one o' the guys came after me. I f-fought him off." She gestures vaguely to her injuries. "I think maybe someone helped? An' then I ran to the car. I though' maybe I could get home before it kicked in all th' way. An your number w... number was..." She's slurring fairly heavily now, but she's still conscious.

"It's alright, Emma," Solas says, his voice thick. "You're safe now."

Perhaps he said the wrong thing, because the young woman bursts into tears. They roll down her cheeks in rivers, as if she was a dam that burst. "I-I-I w-was s-s-so scared!" she sobs. "I-I-I c-c-couldn' s-see straight! I w-w-wanna g-go h-home!"

"Home" for Emma is an old dorm building with no elevator and five stories. She's on the fourth. He's not optimistic about his chances of carrying her up four flights of stairs successfully. He also doesn't particularly want to be seen bringing a drugged and intoxicated student of his back to her dorm room on a Friday night... or Saturday morning, as the case may be.

"Emma... would it be alright if I brought you to my house? You could crash on my couch," he says cautiously.

She stares at him with hazy, unfocused eyes, and for a moment he's scared he's lost her, that she can no longer comprehend what's being said. But after a moment, she nods blearily.

"Alrigh'. You coul' rape me as easily there as in my room anyway."

The car swerves violently as his grip spasms on the wheel. Pure shock from her words. Emma's body flops uselessly with the inertia of it, her head smacking back against the headrest.

"I'm not going to-!" he begins, not sure if he's feeling outraged, or hurt, or terrified. How could she think...?

"Sorry, I don' mean... I don' think you will, s'just... risk assessmen'," she slurs tiredly. "It don' matter... I jus' wanna go home. Take me home."

He's silent for the rest of the drive, knuckles white on the steering wheel. Emma flops listlessly against the door of the car; Solas actually thinks she's passed out. But when he parks in his driveway and moves to the passenger door to pull her out, she stirs.

"Are we there yet, Mamae?" she mutters senselessly. She flops uselessly in his grip. Eventually, he just shoves one arm under her knees and one under her back and lifts, carrying her bodily out of the car. He slams the car door shut behind them with a well placed kick.

He hands grip his shirt--a simple white t-shirt, the first thing he had grabbed. Technically, an undershirt. "Mmm... 'fessor Solas," she murmurs into his chest, apparently now recognizing him. "Nice... shirt."

He snorts quietly to himself at her near-delirium. He'll have to be careful with how he positions her; she may yet pass out, and that could be dangerous if she is sick in her sleep.

Getting the front door open is... a challenge. He drops the keys and has to squat down to get them, a real difficulty while carrying her. She's absolutely no help, nuzzling up against his chest and neck as if she thinks he's a stuffed bear. Finally, he manages to get the key in the lock and the door open, and stumbles into his half-dark house, legs and arms both threatening to give way under her dead weight.

Front door still wide open, he wobbles into his lounge and all but falls to his knees in dropping her to the couch. She apparently has enough strength in her to cling, however, wrapping her hands around his neck and yanking him down with her. He winds up with his face buried in her chest, a position no less embarrassing for the modesty of that area on her.

"Ma ashi'lana," she mutters as he carefully unwraps her arms from him, not wanting to yank and injure her despite his discomfort. He manages to dislodge her and leans backwards, giving her a once over. She's injured. He should take care of that before retiring, and it will let him keep an eye on her for a time. It's not as though he has work in the morning.

She's still awake when he returns the couch with a bucket of water and some gauze and bandages, though barely. She mutters a few things, the only one he can clearly make out being "voulez-vous coucher avec moi," a phrase even he is familiar with. But at the very least, she doesn't grab at him again, and he's able to clean her wounds and bandage them with minimal wiggling from her. She's the rest of the way unconscious by the time he finishes. He arranges her carefully on her side, the bucket--now empty--beside her in case she gets ill.

It's fortunate he lives alone. It would be very, very hard to explain a passed out twenty-four year old graduate student on his couch to... literally anyone.

Still. He's glad she called. He hates to think of what could have happened to her... her night was one of a dozen near-misses.

Solas is admiring how peaceful she looks in her sleep when he realizes this has, at some point, descended into him watching her sleep. He stands quickly, brushing himself off. He'll change into his pajamas and get what sleep her can. He wants to be awake when she rises... It's likely he'll have to explain to her what happened.

He stands and--despite her seeming unconsciousness--she catches his hand. He glances down, startled.

"Ma serannas, ma vhenan," she mutters, and a chill followed by a burst of heat travels through his core.

She's unconscious, delirious. She doesn't know what she's saying.

He's being foolish.

He carefully loosens her grip on him, and lets her arm flop back onto the couch. He gives the girl one last, worried look before retiring his to his own quarters.

Chapter Text

Things have been a little… weird around Emma, lately.

All told, Varric can’t quite put his finger on when, exactly, it got weird.

It’s entirely possible that it was the time he got sick from falling into a freezing cold river and she nursed him back to health. That would be more than enough to spark things off in any of his novels.

It’s also possible it was the time they all got together and played way too many drinking games and got way too drunk and he can’t really remember everything but he distinctly remembers sitting on her lap after she drunkenly discovered that she just wasn’t the right size for his.

Also possible: the time she wheedled him into letting her shoot Bianca “just once, please Varric?” with those giant, blue-green puppy dog eyes of hers. It could very well have been the sight of her pale, thin fingers tracing over the curves of the crossbow, familiarizing herself with it. Might have been the way her cheek looked pressed against the wood as she gazed through the sight. Or even the feel of her cold hands in his, too thin and too bony and callused from writing, as he showed her how to hold Bianca level. It’s entirely possible that it was the way she stuck out her tongue and bit her lip as she focused, or even the way she whooped with joy when the bolt hit the target--not even that close to the center.

There were a lot of possibilities, all told.

But Varric was pretty comfortable pretending it wasn’t a thing; honestly, that was one of his most finely tuned talents. He was working on the next chapter of one of his serials now. He’d introduced a character shamelessly based on Emma. She’d either be thrilled or furious; hard to tell, really. Her reaction isn’t the problem here. The problem is that “Em,” once he’d introduced her into the story, had gone almost immediately off course.

It had been enjoyable at first. Varric liked introducing characters and watching them bounce off each other. But now…

“Seems to me your heart's been frozen for a very long time,” she said, her voice a seductive murmur. He could feel her breasts, flattening themselves across his chest as she pushed ever closer.

“Did I seriously write that?” Varric grumbles at the page. His editor would love it; she was always encouraging him add in more ‘adult’ situations to titillate the readers. But it had not been where he was expecting this character, or this plotline, to go. Was it really okay to leave it this way? Although he hates to think about tossing the scene and rewriting it entirely. Sometimes you have to, but ugh.

In the end, he just puts the story down for a while. He’ll go for a walk, he decides, clear his head. Then come back later and look at the piece with fresh eyes, decide what he’s going to do.

He wanders through the courtyard largely unbothered. Every now and then at Skyhold he gets approached by someone who’s figured out who he is and is a fan of his works--like Emma--but for the most part, people don’t pester him too much in his day-to-day.

He gets all the way across the courtyard and towards the stables before he sees anything that catches his eye. There’s a bit of a commotion over at the little would-be farm Emma had set up. He hadn’t seen her doing it--he’d been off trying to keep Hawke from doing anything stupid, which was essentially a full time job--but he’d heard about it. That was so like her. He made a mental note to maybe have the Em in his story do something with orphans. It would make her more sympathetic, right now she was a bit too femme-fatale…

The commotion in his mind dims as he sees who’s at the center of the little gathering of elves. Emma. Of course. And she has… baby animals.

Of course.

Varric watches with interest as a scene almost too cheesy and forced to be in one of his novels unfolds. There she is, in the middle of a crowd of orphans and ex-slaves, a baby goat in her arms, drinking milk excitedly from a bottle.

It looks like something Solas would paint on a wall, honestly. And should, because that kind of beauty and kindness really deserves to be immortalized. Andraste has hundreds of paintings and sculptures dedicated to her. That none of those artists were here, observing the quiet generosity of a little elven woman no one notices… It’s genuinely unfair.

Now she’s handed the bottle to a little girl, no older than twelve. One of her hands is on the girl’s back, gentle and encouraging, the other is on the baby goat. She’s kneeling in the dirt, and there’s a circle of children and animals around her and--

Why are there no swooning Orlesian painters materializing out of thin air from the sheer perfection of this scene?! Varric can feel his fingers practically twitching to do something with the concept, though it doesn’t fit too well into any of the stories he’s currently working on. But… hmm… Maybe something with Dalish lore? Daisy was always talking about that stuff, he had a base enough knowledge to do something. Maybe the one that was all animal-y? Ghilan'nain?

Hmm.

Yeah. That was the one Daisy said had a god fall for her and lift her into divinity, right? He could see something like that happening to Emma, honestly. She had the kind of demeanor that gods normally rewarded in stories, anyway. When she saw someone hurt, she stopped to help. She adopted orphans and injured animals and helped them find a home, so that they wouldn’t need help again. She even nursed old, sick dwarves back to health.

He had been watching her for a very long time when she finally notices him. Her eyes scan the horizon and latch onto him. There’s a brief moment of stiffness--she always does that when she notices someone watching her--and then she recognizes him and the tension melts from her shoulders.

Her smile is the parting of clouds in the sky, her wave is a breeze shaking the trees. Despite having been struggling to write earlier, Varric suddenly finds words pouring from his mind. Maybe he should head back and write… The walk had clearly done the trick. But Emma is straightening, wiping the dirt off her knees. Are those elven leg wraps she’s wearing? They’re much tighter than the overly baggy pants she normally wears. He can actually see the curve of her calves, a peek of knee between where the wraps stop and her short pants start.

She’s coming closer. She’s dirty and disheveled, but somehow more inspiring because of it, as if the dirt and sweat serve to make her more grounded, more real. His mind immediately provides a half-dozen metaphors for the juxtaposition of the sky in her eyes and the earth in her hands. It’s a bit silly, honestly, but they’re really good metaphors.

“Varric!” she says, smiling as she says his name. She pulls herself up onto the fence near where he’s standing, and he notices her feet are bare save for the foot wraps. Dirt is pushed between her toes, which… glitter? She follows his gaze and one foot twists to cover the other, as if she’s self-conscious.

“Is that… polish?” he realizes.

“It was from J… Lady Montiliyet,” she mutters, and when he glances up, he sees a flush on her cheeks. “That sort of thing is too annoying on my fingers, so…”

“Oh, I can just see the two of you, painting each other’s nails and gossiping about Antivan politics,” he begins, and grins as her face flushes further.

“We did no such thing! It was just a thank you for my work in Val Royeaux! I think she just had some left over, honestly, and green wouldn’t go well with her skin anyway…”

“It suits you,” he says without thinking. Her ever-reddening cheeks are a sunrise, breaking over the mountains and lighting snow-covered ground. His fingers twitch for a quill. “So, you’ve adopted an entire farm and an entire orphanage, I see,” he says, pointing over towards where the kids are still playing with and caring for several of the animals.

She snorts. “Nothing of the sort. I was just helping some of them learn to take care of the new kids. See that taller one there, the blonde boy?” She points to a boy perhaps fourteen years of age, pointed ears poking out of a mop of pale curls. “He’s something of the goatherd, but he’s never seen a goat before. So he needs help now and then.”

“Have you taken care of goats before?” Varric wonders aloud. He swears, she has the weirdest hodgepodge of skills.

“Yeah,” she admits with a shrug. “Not like these… big ones. But the general principle is the same. If anything, these little ones are a lot easier. They don’t kick as hard.”

“When did you take care of goats?” he asks with a snort. He’d meant the question as harmless, almost rhetorical. But she fixes him with that steely, sharp-eyed look of hers, too-large elven eyes narrowing.

“Asking for your book?”

A moment’s paranoia--how did she know, he hasn’t even started--before he realizes she means the one he’d teased her about writing before, about her escape from Seheron.

“Not everything’s for a book, Stutter.”

“Liar,” she says with a snort. “Everything’s for a book. If we don’t write it down, it might as well not have happened.” She hops off the fence, bare feet back in the grass. She shifts her feet, seeming to enjoy the sensation. Had he ever seen her walking around barefoot before? “Besides, that’s just the way you see the world. You even write in your sleep.”

“In my sleep?”

She grins, and his heart thuds in his chest. “Burning throes of passion? Yielding? Indulgent? I didn’t know dwarves could talk in their sleep; you don’t dream. I guess you still think. A shame, really. I bet any dream that went along with ‘yielding’ and ‘indulgent’ would have been a good one.”

Now it’s his turn to feel heat rising to his cheeks. She must notice, because her grin widens.

“I can’t be held responsible for things I said while delirious with fever,” he insists, crossing his arms.

“Mmmmhmm,” she hums cheerfully. “Whatever you say, Varric. Say, are you up for a card game? Solas is insisting I take time off from work, and I’ve run out of other things to do.”

“You mean other work to do?” he says pointedly. Her grin turns a little sheepish. “Sorry, Stutter, but I’ve got some work of my own to do. Stories about yielding indulgence don’t write themselves, you know.”

She snorts. “Fine, fine. That’s not fair, though, running off to work when I’m not allowed to.”

He shakes his head. “Not ‘allowed’ to. Don’t you have any hobbies?”

“Not that Solas wouldn’t also consider work if he got wind of them,” she replies blithely. “If I go to visit Revas, I’ll wind up helping Belassan with the stable work. If I go to the gardens, I’ll wind up helping pull weeds or something. If I go to my room, I’ll just wind up reading some of the work-related tomes I have there.”

Damn. She’s right.

“At least you’re self-aware,” he mutters. “Maybe go to the tavern?”

“No way!” she laughs. “Then I’ll wind up drunk!”

“There are worse things to be than drunk, Stutter,” Varric replies with a smirk. “Maybe you’ll actually get up the courage to hit the next level with one of your many, many suitors.” He regrets saying it immediately, from the way her smile falls.

“It’s not like that!” she snaps, but then sighs. “Which you know. You’re just teasing. I’m sorry, Varric.”

“Rumors starting to get you down?” he wonders.

“A bit,” she admits. “It was easier to laugh them off before… Well.” She sighs again. “I can’t even talk to a man without rumor having us in bed by the end of the week. After I helped you recover from that sickness, they even paired us.

He’s not sure if he should be relieved or hurt that she finds the idea laughable, really. “At least you won’t get lonely,” he says with a grin, trying to lighten the conversation.

She chuckles, a little sadly. “The rumors started because a maid saw us both in your bed, you asleep and leaning on me. They won’t even let me have that much. If I touch a man for longer than a few seconds, the rumors start. Like my very touch has the power to sully reputations. Like I’m...” she trails off, staring blankly at some point in the distance. “Sorry, I should… I need to… Work, I have to work.”

Varric catches her wrist as she turns to leave. He realizes how little he actually sees her touch people. Normally it’s when drunk, or when Bull has reached out to grab her. When sitting next to others on a bench, she shifts slightly away. When people stand too close, she moves. He had thought her just shy, but…

“Work can wait,” he decides. “How about that card game?”

She hesitates.

“I know places they won’t see us,” he promises, and her face cracks into a small smile again.

Sunlight breaking through clouds.

“Alright.” Her wrist shifts in his grip and he releases her. For a moment, she returns the grasp, her hand feeling small and too-thin in his. Holding hands. Is he fourteen? This shouldn’t make his heart pound. But her smile…

Her eyes meet his. Watery but bright, light reflected in a desert oasis.

“Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

At first, you try to work through it. You’ve done that before, dozens of times by now. But it’s been a while; herbs and malnutrition both had stymied the time for a long time. But you don’t have access to the herbs in your garden any more, and in eating so readily with Solas, you’ve begun packing on the pounds. Steady access to meats and fruits has you plumping out around the hips, and it shows now in the constant flood of blood from your nethers.

And the cramping!

Dear Maker, the cramping. You hadn’t remembered it being this bad.

You doubt Solas knows what’s wrong--you dearly, dearly hope he doesn’t--but you doubt your poor state has gone unnoticed. You shift uncomfortably in your chair, stabbing pain making your legs twitch and your back ache. You’d like very much to lay down, but… his couch is white. You’ve blood moss wrapped in cotton stuffed inside of you and you’re sitting on a pad made of similar material, just in case, but you’re still absolutely paranoid about leaking and leaving a mess. You feel like your trailing filth wherever you go. A white couch is simply out of the question entirely.

Another agonizing cramp splits through you. Maybe you could just lie down on the ground. The nice, cold, hard ground. It’s beginning to sound seriously tempting; that’s how much your back aches.

You stand up, maybe a little too fast. Maybe that’s why the world spins suddenly. Vertigo overtakes you, a wave of dizziness and pain, and--

“Emma!”

--then everything goes dark.

-

You don’t pass out all of the way, you don’t think. You’re vaguely aware of your surroundings, of cold, hard stone, stabs of pain, and an overwhelming dizziness that threatens to make you lose your scant breakfast. Then you’re flying, somehow, and that doesn’t really help the dizziness. You cling to something hard but warm and try to ride it out.

When you come the rest of the way to, you’re someplace familiar… You recognize the warmth and the softness first. Your room is never this warm, your bed is never this soft. You shake your head to clear the remnants of darkness and fog. How did you get into Solas’ room? You shift, and something is wrong, but you’re immediately distracted by an agonizing spasm through your nethers. You groan, clutching at your abdomen as if that will stop it.

Solas must hear you, because he enters the room from the side chamber that houses his bathtub.

“You’re awake--ah, no, don’t sit up,” he says, moving to the side of the bed.

“What… why am I here?” you mumble.

“You collapsed in the rotunda,” he replies.

“Why bring me to your room? Why not just put me on the couch?” You grit your teeth to avoid groaning as another cramp feels like it’s kicking you repeatedly in the pelvis.

“Ah… Well,” Solas says, and his eyes flit away from yours. You’re instantly curious. And a bit worried. “The couch is… white. And…” Your eyes immediately fly to your crotch, horrified. Noticeably, you are laying on a towel.

Nooooooooooooo.

“You should have just left me on the ground,” you groan, covering your face with your hands. Is it possible to be more mortified than this? No. No it is not.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve drawn a bath if you would like to get clean, and I had a maid bring a fresh--”

You cheeks are flaming crimson. You’re literally so embarrassed you cannot speak, but you hold up a hand just to try and get Solas to stop talking.

“I-I-I’ll clean up,” you stammer hoarsely when your voice begins to return. “I-I’m s-so… I-I can’t b… I…”

“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Solas says, sounding a bit confused. “It happens to all healthy, fertile women of childbearing age--”

“Don’t say fertile!” you groan.

“You’re Andrastian,” he points out. “Doesn’t the Chantry consider it a blessing?”

You snort. “The Chantry considers a woman being burned alive a blessing.”

“That sounds vaguely heretical,” Solas says, clearly deeply amused.

“I’m an Andrastian elf,” you grumble, sitting up. “My existence is heretical.” Solas moves aside as you clamber out of the bed, but moves to catch you when you stumble. You’re a little woozy… Blood loss? No, probably just some wretched side effect of the torment your body is putting you through. You don’t even want children. This is unfair.

You let Solas help you to the bathroom. He gets about two words into an offer to help you into the bath before you close the door in his face. Your entire lower half feels uncomfortable and sticky. The least you can do for yourself is go through this humiliation as privately as possible.

You peel your pants off, wincing. They’re not too bad, thankfully. You wore dark brown for a reason. They can definitely be salvaged with some scrubbing. Your underwear is a nightmare, as is the cotton pad you’d been using. After a few minutes of trying to figure out the logistics of throwing away a pad in someone else’s washroom, you just ball it and the cotton you had inserted into the panties and throw the whole damn thing into his trash bin. Then cover it with some other trash. Just in case.

You take note of a change of clothes and clean supplies, and try very hard not to think about the fact Solas had them brought here. When this is over, you’re hoping you can just have Cole legitimately erase this entire day from your memory. You ease into the tub, wincing as the water immediately begins to twinge pink around your legs. There’s not actually enough blood on you to color the entire tub’s water supply, though; it quickly dissipates. Still, you simply kneel in the water and wash yourself off as quickly as possible. The water is delightfully hot and feels magnificent, but you’ll be damned if you’re going to soak right now.

As soon as you’ve scrubbed the blood from your skin, you get yourself… resituated. You make a face at the provided underwear--plain, off-white cotton that you’re going to ruin by the end of the day, no doubt--but at least the pants are dark.

Your cramps had lessened somewhat in the warm water, but within a few minutes of emerging, they start back up again. Solas must hear your groan of pain, because a gentle rap comes on the door.

“Emma? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine!” you rasp back, hands on your lower stomach. You pause to bundle up your “used” pants and stumble to the bathroom door. Solas is there when you open it. “I’m so sorry for this, Solas.” You trip past him and head towards the door. You almost make it.

“You need to lie down,” he insists when a cramp stops you dead in your tracks, nearly buckling your knees. What the fuck is happening in your body right now?

“No, I should work. If I can get to the rotunda, I can just sit and--” OW OW OW.

Solas’ hands find your shoulders, and he leads you back towards his bed. You don’t really have the will or the strength required to fight over it.

“Sit,” he instructs, and you do, though you pull over the towel you’d been lying on earlier to sit on. You’re being a bit silly. You’ve got four brand new layers of protection between Solas’ bed and the Blood Production Area. But one more can’t hurt. Solas pulls his chair from his desk to the side of bed and sits before handing you a cup of something from the bedside table. You stare blankly at it as he pushes it into your hands.

“Tea, Solas? From you?”

“Just because I dislike it doesn’t mean I don’t know your tastes,” Solas replies pointedly. “This is chamomile and elfroot. It will help.”

You take a cautious sip. It’s warm but not hot, and mild, with a sweet twinge of honey. He really does know how you like your tea. Well, you suppose he has been watching you drink it for quite a long time at this point. Still… You eye the tiny plate that had been by the cup of tea.

“And that?”

Solas clears his throat. “Something else I’ve been told relieves the pain. I have my suspicions about whether it actually has any such properties, but it certainly can’t hurt.” He uncovers the plate, and you laugh.

“Where in the Maker’s name did you find chocolate on such short notice, Solas? Who’d you have to kill?”

“I was saving it for a special occasion, in fact,” he replies.

“Solas, I don’t want to eat your special chocolates just because I’m… under the weather,” you protest.

“The special occasion was going to be with you,” he says matter-of-factly. Your mouth stops mid-protest, still open slightly. “So it’s no inconvenience.”

“..........oh,” you manage, weakly. “Well.”

He holds the plate within your reach, and you pluck a chocolate from it, rather self-consciously. He had gotten chocolate… for a ‘special occasion’... with you? He probably meant something romantic--Solas had more of a mind for those things than you. Your mind had instantly gone some place utterly filthy. The pooling sensation between your legs is normally pleasant, but right now all it seems to be doing is making you hypersensitive to the painful cramps. You wince as you swallow the chocolate--which is utterly delicious--and wash it down with the rest of the tea.

You have just enough time to set down the cup before you’re doubled over again, arms clutched to your front. Solas’ hand is on your shoulder immediately, a concerned look on his face. “It’s not normally this bad!” you whine. “I hate this…”

Solas runs his other hand over the blanket beside you, and you feel a surge of magic through your skin. “Lay down,” he instructs, and then when you flop over listlessly, he chuckles and clarifies. “On your stomach, vhenan.

The endearment sends other pleasant-then-painful thrill through you. You shift onto your stomach, arms up to rest your head on. That’s when you realize what the flare of magic had been… you’re laying on a fire rune. You recognize it quickly; you’d seen Solas lay down one similar dozens of times by now for heating water or the inside of a tent.

You shift slightly so that the rune is right under your abdomen. Ooooh, Maker, that feels good. As it had in the bath, you can feel the heat unclenching muscles you hadn’t even realized were tense, tight, and knotted. You stiffen when Solas rests a hand on the back of your neck, and then relax further as he begins to rub his fingers in tight circles, pushing into the tension and urging it to unknot.

Oh. Ooooooooh.

When you don’t bat him away, he shifts his grip, massaging deeper into the muscles where your shoulder meets your neck. Your mouth opens in a silent O as he continues, and you don’t protest even when he stands for a better angle, bringing his other hand into play. His hands work along your shoulders and then down onto your upper back. Your eyes slide shut. This isn’t the first time Solas has given you a massage, but in the past, it’s been because you’d managed to injure yourself or worked for far too long and strained your back, neck, or shoulders.

The bed creaks slightly as he climbs on, hands still on your mid back. Your eyes fly open, particularly when you feel his knees settle on either side of your body. He’s straddling you! But then his thumbs dig in next to your spine, hitting just the right spot thanks to his new angle. You let out a noise between a pained grunt and a groan, and Solas seems to take that as a sign to continue.

He works his way down your back, eventually resting his weight somewhat on your ass. You’re not complaining. His hands are working miracles, as is the steady heat pouring off of the blanket you’re lying on. If you’d realized this was the treatment he’d give you when you bled, you might have told him earlier.

Alright, no, you wouldn’t have. But still.

You barely even notice when his hands slip under the bottom of your shirt until he begins pulling up. He’s not trying to seduce you, is he? Any other time of the month, it would be a done deal, but you physically can’t right now! What’s he thinking?

“Solas,” you say, the first word you’ve spoken since you started. “I can’t…”

“It will be easier to massage you without your shirt in the way, vhenan,” he explains gently. “Though I can continue through it if you prefer.”

Oh.

Oh, this man.

You sit up slightly and let him pull the shirt off over your head and along your arms. It’s cold, at first, and you get chills further when his hands brush over your bare skin. Then he reaches back to that side table and grabs something, and then… Warmth and slickness pools briefly on the small of your back, and then Solas’ hands are on you again, warm and soft and… slippery?

The smell of lavender hits your nose.

Oh, this man.

You don’t even try to stifle your little gasps and groans as he works warm lavender oil into your skin, working you over slowly as if he intends to touch every single muscle and sinew until you’re simply a puddle on his bed.

If that’s his plan, it’s working.

You tense up occasionally as your abdomen cramps painfully despite the combined efforts of the heat, oil, and massage, but Solas simply rubs your back gently until it subsides, each time. Soon you’re more or less a relaxed lump of skin and oil. A lump that’s still cramping, admittedly, but a much happier one than you had been an hour ago. Solas shifts his weight backwards, finally ceasing his seemingly endless massage.

“Are you feeling better, ma vhenan?” Solas asks.

You let out a vague, incoherent moaning sound. Even as you do so, however, another painful cramp starts, causing you to flinch and curl partway into yourself. Owwwwwww.

“Still hurting,” he says with a sigh. “Emma ir abelas, ma lath.

“Your voice alone should be able to cure me,” you groan softly. “I don’t know why that’s not working.”

He chuckles. Another sound that should be able to cure you outright, in your opinion. “There is another thing we can try.” He shifts again, and his hands are back on you, but with new purpose. They glide over you softly, rather than pushing insistently at sore muscles. His fingertips dance across your skin, raising goosebumps wherever they touch. Up, up, to the back of your neck, and then a slow finger traces along the edge of your ear, making your whole body shiver and confirming for you what Solas is attempting to do.

“Solas, no,” you say, and he freezes, his hands quickly withdrawing. “I’m sorry, I just… can’t. You know that. There’s blood, and…”

Solas chuckles softly. “Vhenan, you know by now there are many things you can do to get relief. And this kind of relief has been known to sooth cramping.”

You flush. “You can’t possibly want to… I’m disgusting right now, Solas,” you protest. The idea of his fingers on you right now, let alone his tongue--you get momentarily distracted on that thought, but force yourself back to reality quickly--on you, or Maker forbid anything in you when you’re essentially pouring blood...

“You are not,” he replies.

“There’s blood--” you begin, all but burying your face into your arms to hide your embarrassment. But he cuts you off.

“It’s perfectly normal, ma lath, and you are hardly the first woman in all of time to deal with this. But… Perhaps a bath? A proper soak. I should rinse the oil off of you, in any case.”

You should rinse?” you ask, raising an eyebrow and glancing back at him over your shoulder.

“Of course. It’s my washroom, is it not? And you should relax.”

You hesitate, considering. You do have cotton in, and you can leave it in, even in the bath. It would be nice to soak in the hot water… and your back does feel slightly sticky from the oil. As for Solas being there, well…

He won’t do anything you don’t want him to, you remind yourself. He never has. It’s difficult to keep in mind, at times; your instincts react to everything as a threat. You’re still trying to unlearn that behavior with Solas. He deserves that much.

“...Alright.”

-

You really should have expected this outcome.

You did, sort of, on some level. You knew his hands would wander some, but you didn’t quite expect his hands on your breasts, twisting and teasing each nipple between finger and thumb.

Solas isn’t even in the bath with you. No, he simply removed his tunic, rolled up his sleeves, and knelt by the side. You’re trying not to splash overmuch, but you give up on not getting him wet around the time your head rolls back on his clothed shoulder, splaying soaking wet hair over his shirt.

He takes advantage of your new posture to trace his lips along the length of your ear. You shudder--the tightening in your gut is causing more cramping, but the heat of the water is helping somewhat. And it feels so good… When he nips the very point of your ear, your lips part and a soft moan echoes through the stone washroom.

“S-Solas…” you groan, as one of his hands delves lower, palming across your stomach and then dipping under the water.

“Just relax, ma asha,” he murmurs into your ear. How you’re supposed to relax when one of his hands is still a steady torment on your breast, you’ve no idea.

You flinch when his hand drops between your legs, and he begins to raise it again, tracing soft circles across your pelvis as if that had been his intention all along. He drops his mouth to your exposed neck, licking droplets of bathwater off your skin as if it were ambrosia.

He’s going to drive you insane at this rate. But maybe that’s his intent. The room seems full of heat and steam and the sound of your soft gasps and moans. Pain and blood slowly slip from your mind as Solas’ tongue traces the outline of your jugular. His hand is inches above your slit, drawing intricate patterns across your skin.

Just… just a little bit lower…

Your legs spread the slightest bit in the tub, causing the water to delicately slosh up against the edges. Solas seems to take this as a go-ahead, and his hand slips down, down… He slides his fingers out, around the edges of your mound, down, and then up again, still not touching where you need him to. You tilt your head, moan his name into his ear. His left hand tightening its grip on your breast is the only indication he heard you.

Hamin, ma vhenan,” he murmurs against your collarbone. His fingers slide closer, tracing along your lips. Unbidden, your legs spread wider, your hips rise. He’s coming so close, but not quite, so close-- His fingers slip against your labia and you let out a tense groan. He’s still not raising his fingers to the place you so desperately want them, and you’re getting frustrated.

 

“Solas,” you half-growl. “You should be more giving when your ear is within range of my teeth.”

He chuckles against your neck, a warm vibration that ripples through you. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds, ma’asha,” he says, and you can feel his smirk against your skin before he gently bites the center of your throat, just hard enough to hurt the slightest bit. Your hips buck, sending bath water splashing, and suddenly his hand is on you properly. Not content to tease you with a single finger against your clit, he all but grips it, with a finger on either side and one over it, rubbing and sliding and--oh Maker oh Maker!

Your soft moans turn into loud, echoing cries punctuated by Solas’ name and “yes” in every language you know. He’s built you up so much and his hands are such a screaming pleasure between your legs that it takes you barely any idea time before sparks are shooting behind your eyes, your body arched halfway out of the water. Solas continues to torment your clit the whole way through your orgasm, only stopping when your body slumps back down into the water.

He keeps his arms around you and lets you rest your head on his shoulder as you pant hot and heavy breaths against his neck. After a moment of letting you recover, he finishes washing you off while you lounge in the hot water, limp as an overcooked noodle. He practically has to lift you out of the tub and dry you off himself; your legs don’t want to work. He has you wrapped in a towel and sprawled out on his bed by the time your mind returns and you realize it’s been something like ten minutes without a cramp.

You run a tentative hand over your abdomen. Nothing. Not even poking at it provokes a reaction.

Cavolo! It worked!” you gasp.

“Good,” Solas replies blithely. “I was running out of ideas.”

“I should get dressed… I can get back to wo-” You can’t even finish the word. Solas is pushing you back onto the bed.

“You will eat another chocolate and then rest, vhenan.” he says firmly.

“No, no, I can work now,” you insist, trying to sit up. You see the irritation in his eyes, but ignore it. “I’m already behind--”

“I thought you might be difficult. That is why I sent your clothing out to be laundered.”

“...You what?!

“You can return to the rotunda clad in nothing but your good spirits, I suppose. Or perhaps you could announce our activities to all the world by attempting to clothe yourself in one of my tunics? But I suspect it might be easier for you to rest until I can send for more clothing.”

You collapse back against the bed. “You’re an asshole,” you say with a sigh.

“And you’re an overachiever,” he replies, placing a gentle kiss against your forehead. “Now rest. If you get too tense, I’ll have to do the whole thing over again.”

Chapter Text

“Ah! Ah! Solas, I’m–”

Rey tumbles over the edge, you watch her face with interest before turning eyes to Solas just as her clenching walls around his length send him over as well. It’s interesting to see their faces like this when you’re not distracted by your own pleasure. You’d had your “turn” earlier. That’s probably why you only stick around to let them recover for a few seconds, assist with clean up, and leave. Maybe it was more quickly than you normally leave? It didn’t feel like it, but something about it must have set Rey off.

She finds you not long after, working away in the rotunda as always. Solas isn’t there; you’d assumed he was still with her. They tend to linger after, if neither of them have any pressing needs to deal with.

“Emma, can we talk?”

Hm. Could be a lot of things, but her face tells you it isn’t work related. She’s here as “Rey,” not “the Inquisitor.” Maybe it’s finally that time. Trying not to look resigned to your fate, you close your book and follow her as she leads you out into the garden–one of the few places where she’s found to have some privacy.

She reaches that quiet corner and turns to you, a somber look in her eye. You knew this was coming; it was only a matter of time before they tired of you.

“I noticed you… left really quickly, after,” she says, cheeks flushing slightly at the memory of what the three of you had been up to not an hour ago.

“I apologize. I hadn’t thought it was faster than I normally–”

“Well, that’s what Solas said!” she blurts out. “I was just wondering if… something in particular…?”

She trails off, but you’re not sure what she wants you to say. “If something in particular…?” you lead, uncertainly.

“Did something bother you? Are you upset? If it’s just personal taste, I… that’s fine, but if something’s wrong…”

She trails off again, but at least you have a better idea of what you should be saying, even if you’re still confused. “No, Inquisitor, nothing’s wrong.”

You see the tiny flinch when you call her “Inquisitor,” even before she mentions it. “I really wish you’d call me–”

“We discussed this, Inquisitor. I’m sorry, but outside the bedroom, you are the Inquisitor. It’s best to have those sort of lines clear throughout this sort of thing.”

“This… sort of thing?” she says, and the slight hint of steel behind her voice informs you that you said the wrong thing again. “And what’s that, exactly? What is this, to you?” She gestures back and forth between the two of you. If Solas was here, you’ve no doubt she’d be gesturing to him as well.

“I… assure you, Inquisitor, I’m fully capable of separating out what the two of you… what the three of us,” you correct quickly. You’d noticed already she doesn’t like when you use the passive voice with yourself in these situation. Doesn’t like thinking of this as something that’s being done to you. “What the three of us do,” you finish.

“You didn’t answer my question. What is it you think this is?”

“I…” There’s a right answer and a wrong answer here, and you really can’t tell. She obviously wants to hear something, specifically, but… “It’s… whatever you make of it, Inquisitor,” you say finally. A bit of a cop out, but you really aren’t the one who decides ‘what it is.’ This is her and Solas’ relationship. They decide. “If you want for me to stay around longer afterwards, I will. It wasn’t my intent to offend you.”

Ah, Maker, she looks frustrated. “But what about you? What do you want? Would you rather stay, or go? What do you want out of the relationship?” she presses.

The…? “I’m content with the arrangement as it stands, if that’s what you mean,” you reply, confusion evident in your voice. “I have no preference for staying versus leaving. If there’s a need for… aftercare, or some sort of closure, each time, I can stay and–”

“Emma, are you… under the impression we don’t want you there?”

The question only serves to confuse you further. “I assume you still want me there, or you would have told me to leave by now!” You’re getting slightly frustrated with your seeming inability to say the right things today.

She latches onto that right away. “By now? Are you expecting that we’ll tell you to… leave?”

“I… It… It will last as long as it does!” you snap, finally losing your handle on yourself. The knowledge that this is by definition a temporary arrangement claws at your heart regularly; particularly when you see Rey and Solas being affectionate. There will come a day when his hands pull through her hair still, but no longer through yours. A day when her lips still press against his cheek, but never again grace yours.

There will be a day where she’s just the Inquisitor again.

That doesn’t mean you like thinking about it.

“I… I’m sorry, Inquisitor. I need to get back to work.”

Chapter Text

You hadn’t asked for an assistant. You want that on the record. The woman is, in fact, a “gift” from Lady Montiliyet, who is tired of you beginning to doze off during tea.

The woman is admittedly talented. You keep her out of the rotunda for the most part, not wanting to clutter up Solas’ work space. She works upstairs, in the place that is, technically, still assigned to you. You mostly have her doing busywork, but she’s good at it, and it does streamline your process somewhat. You’ve had assistants in the past and know what to do with them.

Unfortunately, she’s not just skilled.

She’s also a romantic. And one of those horrifying types who insists that the world is an inherently good place and that all people really need is just to understand each other.

It’s a little nauseating.

It took her about a week to stop being terrified of your sharp-eyed glare and realize that you are essentially fangless. She shows signs of beginning to go through the same process with Solas, who is far too amused with the situation.

“I think the Commander likes you,” she announces one day while she’s bringing you tea--something you never asked for but she nonetheless has taken to doing about halfway between lunch and dinner. You startle at your desk, nearly splotching your writing. Your only comfort is the sound of Solas choking--he’d been drinking and was apparently just as shocked as you at this announcement.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” you snap. Of all the rumors involving your nethers, this one is the most dangerous. “He’s the Commander of the Inquisition!”

“That doesn’t matter,” she says stubbornly. “Today, he came to me about your ‘schedule,’ wanted to know when you had ‘time off.’”

“I promised him a rematch,” you say sourly. At her blank, confused look, you explain further. “Chess. The Commander and I play on rare occasion, simply because there are only so many people in the fortress who know how.”

“So you have a hobby in common,” she muses, hand rubbing thoughtfully at her chin.

“Stop that. Tie that line of thought up, then throw it out of the Undercroft with the rest of the garbage,” you say darkly. “A hobby in common does not a match make, and he is the Commander of the Inquisition.

“And you’re a clever, kind woman!” she says with a pout. “Don’t sell yourself short! Besides, love pops up in the most unusual places!”

“Enough!”

“Alright, alright… you have a point, I suppose. There are other people you have more in common with…” The second her eyes flit over to Solas--who is reading a book and politely pretending not to be listening to every word--your hands are on her shoulders and you’re pushing her towards the door.

Out.

“Alright, alright! I’ll come back when I’ve finished the annotations for A Study of High Dragon Mating Behavior!”

---

“So, how long have you and Solas known each other?”

You glance up from your work. It’s late. Solas has already gone to bed, with an irritated reminder for you to at least attempt sleep. You’ve put out the other lights in the rotunda and are working by the glow of a few candles near your desk. You hadn’t realized your would-be assistant was still awake, but she’s brought you a much-needed cup of tea. You lean back from your work and accept the cup, taking a sip, and then frowning.

“This isn’t…”

“You don’t need that dark tea this late at night,” she interrupts. “Besides, Solas told me not to give you any stimulants after dinner.”

“Taking orders from Solas now?” you ask irritably, setting down the cup on the corner of your desk. “I thought you were my assistant.”

“Why wouldn’t I? You take orders from him,” she points out. “If anything, I’m just following the chain of command. Besides… he’s not wrong. You already work too hard and don’t sleep enough. Will you answer my question?”

You sigh, taking a moment to stretch your limbs. “What was it you asked? How long have I known Solas? An odd question. Since some time after I arrived at Skyhold, of course.”

“So you didn’t know him before you came here?” she continues, sitting down on Solas’ couch.

“No, of course not. Is there a reason you’re asking?”

“The two of you seem… close. I thought you might have known him from before,” she says. Your frown deepens. She’s asked you about your relationships with the Commander, Krem, Iron Bull, Sera, and even Dagna at this point. The real surprise is that it’s taken her this long to quiz you on Solas.

“No,” you say simply. “I met him shortly after I arrived. That’s all.”

“So how did you wind up working with him?” she asks curiously.

“I used to work where you do now. What do you think of the location?”

“Huh? Well… It’s fine, I guess?”

“How is the noise level? The amount of foot traffic?”

“Uh…” She seems confused by your line of questioning. “More than I’m used to, but I mean, it’s fine; it doesn’t really bother me.”

“I’m not so tolerant as you,” you say, scooting back to your papers and beginning to work again after taking another long sip of tea. “I found it loud and unpleasant, and Dorian pestered me daily. I grew frustrated, and one day I simply picked up my things moved down here.”

“...Wh-Really? Just like that?”

“Yes. I expected him to chase me out before long. He never did, so I stayed.”

“That is…”

Oh no. Her eyes are starting to do that sparkling thing. You need to curb this off. “If you’re done interrogating me for the evening, I still have things to do before I retire.”

“Oh… Alright,” she says with a pout. “But don’t stay up too late.”

-

“You love Solas, don’t you?”

It’s a credit to your ironclad will that you don’t spill your ink, though the suddenness and bluntness of the question has your hand spasming around your quill and your whole body going rigid. You force yourself to relax, and don’t turn to face your assistant, lest something on your face give you away.

“This again? You said the same of the Commander, and Krem, and Sera,” you say tiredly.

“No, I said they liked you. I thought you might not have known. But you like Solas.”

“No,” you say bluntly. “Not like that.” It’s not even a lie. Love? Don’t be ridiculous. What you have is lust. In no small amounts, but still. “Keep trying. Maybe I have a secret love interest, and if you keep guessing at random, you’ll find it and I’ll confess out of sheer frustration.”

You can feel her pouting. “It’s okay, you know. I’m not going to tell him!”

“Of course you’re not,” you say icily, your eyes sliding closed in irritation. “As there is nothing to tell. Any wild fairy tales you concoct in your own time are no different then the rest of the rumors about me that flit around the place.”

“If you told him, I’m sure he’d take it well. The man’s not made of stone, after all, and he seems fond of you…”

Maker, now she sounds like Cole. Tell him, tell him, tell him on constant repeat, though Cole isn’t insisting you tell Solas about your ever-insistent arousal in regards to him. You let out a long sigh. You can’t even tell her that the man already knows, that you kissed him in a dream. Solas didn’t even bring it up after, content to let you think it had been simply a dream. To spare you the humiliation of rejection when he knew you hadn’t meant to “confess” in the first place.

He was not interested. If he was, he would have acted then.

But you can’t tell her any of that, so you simply stay the course. “There is nothing to tell him. Now. It seems you have far too much free time on your hands. Begin indexing the collected works of Ines Arancia, Ilian Gravire, and Stephan d'Eroin.”

“Oh, but that’ll take--”

“Alphabetically by plant name. And proper name! I had better not see ‘Arcanist Deathroot’ under A.”

Now it’s her turn to sigh. “Yes, serah.”

---

“Oooh, that’s… that’s quite bad. I’m sure it’ll heal though!”

“Please stop talking.”

“Should I maybe get a healer? Solas. I should get Solas, he can--”

“No! Maker, no.”

“But I don’t think you should just leave it like that, I mean, that’s a lot of blood and it’s sort of everywhere. I mean, um, I’m sure it will be fine, but, maybe to be sure, um…”

Please stop talking,” you groan again.

“Solas, I should get Solas, he’ll know what to do,” your assistant decides. Her alternating between mild panic and trying to assure you that you’ll definitely be fine, completely and utterly, is exhausting.

“Solas is gone,” you say between gritted teeth. “Left on a short mission this morning… with Vivienne, Dorian, and some crippled Circle mage. Can’t say I’m sad not to be included this time.”

“Oh. Ooooh. Well, um. That’ll be fine too, I’m sure. But we should really--”

“I’m bandaged. The bleeding will stop,” you hiss. “Please just shut up.”

Blissfully, she falls quiet… for all of two minutes. “Okay, but--”

Tiredly, you reach up and shove a blood-stained hand across her mouth. “Enough. I don’t need a healer and I don’t need Solas. I simply fell. People fall every day.”

She grabs your hand and moves it off her mouth, blood smearing against her face. “Onto knives! Into a literal barrel of knives! Why was that even there?!”

“I’m fine.”

“I… I’m sure you are, but, you know, to be safe…” You glare again and you can see her thinking, and then that wretched little light in her eyes that means she has an idea. “A-after all, if someone were to get word to Solas, and he had to either spend the whole trip fretting about you or turn the group around and come back, he would be awfully sour…”

Your eyes narrow. “You wouldn’t.”

“Of course not! If you went to a healer and we all knew everything was fine, there would be no reason to bother him with it at all.”

Oh, this little wretch.

“Fine! Fine, I’ll go to a goddamn healer. You try to tell them I fell into a barrel of knives, see if they believe you!” you grumble sourly, struggling to stand. She moves to help you,and supports your weight as you limp steadily in the direction of the healer’s tent.

---

“Perhaps if you had more of a layman’s understanding of the--” Solas is saying, and for once, you want to cram his mouth shut. Your fists are clenched by your sides, your posture as aggressive as his is passive-aggressively casual. Relaxed, with his arms crossed and one hip jutted out, as if to say “I see that you’re about to slap me, and deign to react by leaving myself as open as possible.”

Layman’s understanding?!” you snarl. “Some of us are actually educated, you know, rather than--supposedly--being homeless apostate wanderers!”

“Human education falls depressingly short when compared to the knowledge held within the Fade--”

You throw your arms up in frustration. “Oh! Well excuse me for not having the spirit cheat-sheet to all of life’s questions, you pompous son of a--”

“Emma fell into a barrel of knives!”

Both you and Solas stop mid-fight, eyes slowly turning to your assistant, who had been standing, distressed, to the side for some time. She’s desperately clutching a sheaf of papers to her chest, eyes wide, wild, and panicked.

You’re the first to break the silence. “You traitor!” you hiss. “You said you wouldn’t--”

“She fell into a bucket of knives and one of her injuries is still bothering her, that’s why she keeps standing like that and why she’s so irritable!” she blurts out.

Solas’ hands are already on you, as if you hadn’t just been shouting at each other. “Why didn’t you tell me? Let me see.” You grab his wrists to stop him--he is grabbing your waist.

“I didn’t tell you because I already went to a healer about it back when it happened. It was while you were gone, I-- Solas, stop, it’s under my shirt; I’m not taking my shirt off here!”

“Go back to the healing tent, then, if you don’t want me to see it,” he snaps. “You can’t just let it fester! I thought you were acting feverish.”

“I’m fine! It’s fine! It was fine then; it’s fine now! Don’t… augh, fine!” Frustrated, you storm over to the couch, somewhat out of sight, and yank your tunic off over your head. This, of course, skews your hair something awful; wisps of red hair fall around your face and back. You brush at them irritatedly, then lift your shirt. “As you can see, it’s bandaged.” You say, glaring between the two of them. Solas is walking towards you. “So we can all just…”

Your tongue tangles into a strangled sound when Solas slides his hands onto your stomach where the wound is. He doesn’t even bother unwrapping it; just prods the very sensitive area with his magic, then sighs. “Sit down.”

“I--”

He doesn’t even need to say anything. He just fixes you with that Look. Despite the fact you’d been ready to tear him a new one not five minutes ago, you plop silently--if grouchily--onto the couch. He pushes your shoulder until you lay down, and then works your wound over with healing magic in silence while you glare angrily at the swiftly retreating form of your assistant. You’re going to kill her. Why’d you even go to the healer if she was going to tell Solas anyway?

You lay in sulking silence as Solas heals you, but… your sulking diminishes noticeably as the pain begins to fade. You feel lighter, and even your headache is lessening somewhat.

You don’t even notice Solas is done healing you until he sighs. His hand is still resting on your bandage, despite the fact no more magic is traveling into your body. “You make an old man fret,” he says, and you’re surprised--and, if you’re being honest, relieved--to hear a slight joking tone to his voice.

“I really thought it was healing,” you reply, voice much softer than it had been a few moments ago. “I… apologize.”

“As do I,” Solas says, surprising you further. “I suspected you were feeling unwell, but I chose to bicker with you instead of investigating. It was unworthy of me.”

“It’s… fine. I was picking a fight. I’m sorry. You do know more than me, it’s just… frustrating, sometimes. I’ve spent my whole life studying these things, and to be simply told I’m wrong so flatly, I… Perhaps have a bit too much pride still,” you say with a light chuckle.

“Your knowledge is admirable, Emma. Not simply for one who cannot walk the Fade, but in and of itself. You are much further along than I was at your age.”

“I… Thank you, Solas.”

The two of you sit there for a bit longer, you on the couch and him kneeling beside it, hand still on your bandaged stomach. Any second, something will happen, and the moment will be lost. But for right now, a brief… quiet moment, before the rest of the world comes rushing back in.

Chapter Text

“That was Ashkaari Bissette, messieurs! Simply marvelous.”

You wipe a bit of sweat from your brow as you take your bows and soak in the “affection” of the crowd. It’s all for show; dancing for such large crowds isn’t something you're particularly comfortable with, let alone enjoy. It worked for you better than anything else, however; just getting into this banquet required a lot of string pulling. You never would have gotten in without your rather well-established dancing alter ego.

It had been your teacher’s idea. Most things were. You eye your mark--a Ser Ronald Bartram--as you smile broadly and blow large, two-handed kisses to the crowd. This is a big job. Bigger than anything you've been trusted with before. If you can pull it off…

Your eyes linger too long on your target; he catches you looking. You quickly flash him a smile, and risk a little wink. Too forward? You're not exactly an old hat at this.

But it seems to have worked. He seeks you out as you're mingling with the crowd, chatting politely in Orlesian and answering questions. You tolerate a few hands on your clothing; it's made of a thin, gauzy silk, and you're used to Orlesian nobles being curious about such things. You only dodge grasps that come a little too close to your breasts, and that with a coy smile.

“That was a beautiful dance, miss,” the man says, his Ferelden accent making him stick out like a sore thumb. “Very… sensual.”

You smile blankly but politely.

“How long have you been dancing?” he tries again.

You give him the same blank, apologetic smile. “I'm sorry, sir.” you say in a thick, barely intelligible accent, curtsying.

“She doesn’t speak a lick of Common,” someone says, smiling a bit smugly behind their mask. “Just Orlesian and some bizarre, barbarian dialect.” Enjoying the Ferelden making a fool of themselves, no doubt.

“Ah! Pardonnez-moi Mademoiselle, mon orlésien n’est pas très bon,” he says, a bit clumsily.

You allow your eyes to light up with recognition and relief. “Il n’en est rien, vous êtes très doué!” In truth, his Orlesian is good for a Ferelden. They're not exactly lining up to learn.

Where did you learn to dance?” he inquires, Orlesian a bit stiff, but understandable.

My mistress taught me, sir.

Your mistress?

“Do intend to ask for her life story, Ron? She's a dancing rabbit from exotic lands. Just enjoy the spectacle for Andraste’s sake!”

A laugh ripples through the crowd, and the man gives you a bit of a lingering glance before allowing himself to be hustled off. You've got a bit of his interest, at least. You catch him looking at you over his comrade’s shoulder a few times. You make sure he catches you looking, as well, with a bit of blushing and looking quickly away, for good measure. You're not much of a seductress yet, but men don’t make it difficult. They’re always willing to believe you're interested in them and whatever insipid thing they're saying at any given time. You barely even have to feign interest; simply not running away is sufficient.

Once socialization is over and the curiosity about you has worn off, you retire to the courtyard garden. You make sure Monsieur Bartram sees you exit. It's not five minutes before you see him exit into the courtyard as well. You pretend not to notice him, instead kneeling down to examine a rose bush. You glance over, and then up, only when a shadow falls on you.

“Oh! Monsieur!” you exclaim. You turn towards him before standing, making sure he gets a good look at you on your knees--and a good look down your dress--before you stand. You don't have much in the way of breasts, but all that means in this case is that when your dress gapes open in the front, they're plainly visible.

I apologize for my friend,” he says, offering you a helping hand as you stand--which you accept and then hold for a beat too long. “He has no tact whatsoever.

It's fine, sir.

“I was wondering, were you born here in Orlais?” he asks. Small talk, but you’re good at this part.

“No, sir, though my mother was Orlesian. She ran away and joined the Qun; I grew up in Rivaini.”

“The Qun!” the man says, clearly shocked. “Were you raised in it?”

“Yes, sir. But I didn't like it.”

“I imagine not. The Qunari are barbarians. That's no life for a delicate woman like yourself.” He says this with a winsome smile. Testing the waters, you suppose. You feed into his ego as best you can, raising a single hand to your a blushing cheek.

“You flatter me, sir!”

“So, made your way back to Orlais, did you?” he says, moving in a little closer.

“It was a happy coincidence, sir. I fled from my mother and the Qun both, and found myself in the service of a wealthy Rivaini woman.”

“Ah! So that's what you meant by your mistress teaching you to dance.”

“Yes, sir.”

You string him along to the best of your ability, telling him as much of your fabricated life story as he wants and waiting for the chance to turn the conversation to him. Eventually it comes, in the form of him not knowing a word in Orlesian and becoming visibly frustrated with himself. You assure him that his Orlesian is magnificent, and then comment on believing he is the first Ferelden you’ve spoken to. Once you’ve got him hooked on the idea that you find his homeland fascinating and him interesting for that reason, it’s pretty much a cakewalk from there.

He begins to walk with you, maneuvering you towards a more isolated, shadowed section of the garden. It’s convenient; you would have done it yourself if he hadn’t. You let the conversation heat up--fortunately, he’s clearly interested, so it doesn’t take much more than responding to his come ons in a positive manner. He seems to find the innocent blushing act appealing, which is humorous considering the outfit you’re wearing. But whatever; less effort for you.

Before long, he has your back against a pillar. It’s a classic pose, but he doesn’t seem to be a man who minds the classics. In fact, judging by the way he’s leaning over you, he’s a fan of them.

He says something insipid about your “midnight hair”, and then your “luxurious lips”, as he leans in further, hiding you against the wall. His head drops as yours rises, and he catches your lips in a demanding kiss. The stubble on his face picks at you as you part your lips, letting him tongue your mouth as he pleases.

One of his hands falls to the slit of your dress, hiking it up your thigh to cop a feel of thigh and then ass. You’re starting to think you might have to say something; you can’t let this be a quick tryst in the garden. After a few minutes of rough kissing and hungry groping, he pauses, pulling back. You don't have to pretend to be flustered; you're short of breath and your anxiety is tight in your stomach. Fortunately, you don’t need to protest your innocence or your need for privacy; he suggests a move first.

“You know… the Baron’s given me my own room here…”

Perfect. Nice how he’s doing most of the work for you here. Banal’ras was right. This one is easier for you than it would be for him.

--

Of course, easy is a relative term, you remind yourself as your heart pounds uncomfortably in your chest at the sight of the man’s bedroom. This is it. Deep breaths. Just grit your teeth and do it. This is what being a bard is. You can’t reap the benefits if you can’t do this sort of thing when push comes to shove.

It’s not like this is the first time.

There’s no point in playing coy; this is happening whether you like it or not. Might as well get it over with. When your hand goes to the strap of your dress, however, he stops you.

“No need to rush. What’s the point of bringing a dancer to my room if I don’t get a private show?”

Oh.

Great.

Now this is something you’ve no experience with. You’ve never combined your dancing with stripping before, and you’re not used to dancing without music. You doubt he’ll throw you out if it’s not perfect, but you have to at least try to put some effort into it. You find a rhythm with your hips and find that tapping the ground with your foot helps create something akin to a beat. There’s no seductive way to take off your bottom--it’s held together with a piece of string, and once that comes off, the whole thing is falling down--but you do your damn best. You untie the knot and open it slowly like it’s the fucking curtains at the Grande Royeaux Theater. He seems to be enjoying himself, judging from the tenting in his trousers, so you must be doing something right.

You turn around before removing your top. Let him stare at your ass for a while. Your tits aren’t going to be knocking him off his feet any time soon, but you’re not wearing any kind of breastband and you’re pretty sure the point of strip teases is to tease. Ugh. Your underwear comes off last, thrown into a pile with the rest of your clothes. You only ever wear that sort of thin strip of cloth when you’re dancing.

You almost lose it and flee the room when he pushes your naked form onto the bed. The worst part is that you can't just “go away” and wait for it to be over. You have to remember to moan and gasp at appropriate times, for one. And then he starts murmuring things to you in Common, urging you to repeat them. You do, clumsily and with a thick accent, and he slips into you. You close your eyes and try to pretend you're with an attractive elven man, someone who you actually want. But it's difficult with the man grunting against you, moaning reminders of the filthiness he wants you to speak. It only gets increasingly disgusting and lurid. Taking advantage of the fact you “can't understand” what you're saying.

If only you were so lucky.

He spends himself inside of you, because of course he does. You moan as if the sensation is out of this world, but you're just glad it's over.

The man breaks for wine, and hands you some as well. It's difficult to look him in the eye, smile, and speak cheerfully in Orlesian as if you didn’t just have to repeat the most foul of dirty talk. He makes a bit more small talk before getting randy again, and you’re not looking forward to having to do the whole thing over. But it’s for the best--you were worried when he finished so quickly that he’d simply toss you out and the whole thing would be for naught. You take more control this time, needing to drag it out. You’re on a schedule here. You flip him over and ride on top, slowly, pulling moans from him as your grit your teeth and slur out the filth he enjoys in thickly accented Common.

Fortunately, men don’t fire off so quickly the second time. He’s just gotten impatient and gripped your hips, beginning to thrust up into you himself, when a knock comes at the door. He swears, and you pretend to be startled, trying to roll off, but he holds you there. For a moment, you’re terrified he’s going to ignore the door, or just tell them to come in while he’s still fucking you. Some Ferelden! Aren’t they supposed to be shy? But instead, he just grinds up into you--hard enough to hurt--before shoving you off.

“Ne vous avisez pas de disparaître, mon amie,” he says, in a voice that would probably be teasing if he didn’t sound so legitimately irritated. “Cela ne prendra pas longtemps.”

Your clothes are across the room, so you cover yourself awkwardly in one of the bed sheets as he pulls his trousers on.

It’s his friend from earlier, the one who called you a “dancing rabbit.” So that’s the spy? You shouldn’t be surprised. The man seems surprised at his friend’s state of undress, but laughs when he sees you.

“The dancer? I don’t know if I should congratulate you or scold. You’re using protection, at least?”

“What does it matter to me if the wench gets knocked up?” your would-be lover says with a scowl. “Let’s hurry this along, I’d like to get back to enjoying myself.”

“Shouldn’t you have her leave?” his friend points out.

“Why bother?” Ronald laughs. “She can’t understand a thing we’re saying.”

“You sure about that?” the man says with a frown, squinting at you. “It could be a trick. Any entertainer in Orlais could be a bard, Ron--”

“Trust me. There’s no way that fool understands a word of Common. Not even the damn slurs.”

“Should I ask how you know?” the man says dryly as he finally closes the door behind him.

“Only if you want the lurid details. Now come on, she’s getting cold,” he says with a laugh.

You listen attentively while looking anywhere but at them, as they plainly hand you everything you need to know on a silver platter. Perfect. Finally, something going off without a hitch. The man should count himself lucky. You have to finish now, to avoid suspicion, and he has to live. If you’d gone the night without getting the information you’d needed, you would have castrated him, set him on fire, and thrown him off the damn balcony.

“I don’t suppose you’d share? Or send her to my room when you’re done?” Ron’s friend jokes with a laugh as he’s leaving, and for a horrified moment, you think you’re never going to be done. You didn’t sign up for an orgy, damnit! But fortunately--sort of--Ron laughs.

“No way. She’s not leaving her tonight, and I doubt she’ll be walking in the morning.”

He sincerely overestimates himself.

But at least you won’t have to fuck any of his friends.

You repeat the information to yourself in your head as he returns to bed and has you work at getting him hard again. Not because you need to in order to remember it, though it won’t hurt… But just for something to distract yourself with. You’d prefer he do the work now that you’ve no reason to draw things out, but he wants you to ride him again. You do until he gets tired of your pace and flips you over so that he can be in control again. He shoves your face into the pillow, hand on the back of your head, as he drives into you, and you struggle to breathe until he finishes in you again.

After this second time, he falls over onto the bed, seemingly exhausted, and you think you're finally finished, at least. No such luck. He's essentially spent for the night--at least you pray to the Maker that he is--but still instructs you to pleasure him with your mouth while he simply lays back and enjoys himself.

It takes a lot of willpower not to bite as he slurs horrible things at you in Common.

Do it for the job, do it for the job, do it for the job. You hear your teacher’s voice in your head over and over again. Maintain cover at all costs. It takes time and money to create a persona, so don’t waste them.

Eventually, the son of a bitch passes out, a combination of wine and a good time--for him at least. It takes a lot of self control not to just ignite him on his bed, but since his friend--the spy--saw the two of you together, he’d know he was compromised. No, everyone has to leave thinking a good time was had by all.

You dress quickly and exit the room, well aware of the servant’s whispers as you tie your black hair back in a quick, sloppy braid and exit the building.

--

Your teacher finds you sitting on a rooftop near your regular meeting spot. You wouldn’t say you’re sulking, particularly… maybe brooding. You’ve changed into your street clothes, and since they include pants, your underwear for the evening are currently a smoldering heap to your left. You go through a lot of underwear that way, but it makes you feel better.

“I found a charred Chevalier on the way here,” he says dryly, voice sounding strange and altered behind the mask, as always. “Was that necessary?”

“He had a sword,” you reply dully. In truth, you had been glad for the hassle on the way to your equipment stash. You’d been hoping for an excuse to let off some steam--figuratively and literally. “And I had no dagger.”

“And you left him there because…?”

“Because I knew you were coming and wanted to give you the chance to scold me, of course. I know you live for it,” you respond sardonically.

“Brat. I assume you’re taking an attitude with me because you succeeded?”

“I know who the spy is, what they’re planning, and which servant has been a naughty little elfling. And more. Looks like the Baron won’t need to clean house after all.” One elf dead, but he’d been in over his head anyway. His antics would have gotten the whole lot of them culled. You’re not sorry your actions will lead to his unpleasant torture and death--you saved more lives than you cost. Net win, especially for elves.

“I’ll make sure he gets the name. Good job, Emma. Perhaps we’ll make something useful out of you yet.”

Chapter Text

You hadn’t known he was here. No one had told you. No one told you anything. And, honestly, no one except Solas would think to. Whether or not Solas knew and kept it from you, you have no idea.

All you know is one early morning, just before dawn, you’re walking through the courtyard when you hear one of the most terrifying sounds in the world.

Barking.

You freeze instantly, terror flooding your features. You know that bark, recognize the slight baying quality. Instantly, you’re back in Denerim, a terrified child again. No, no, no, it’s getting louder. You spin around, unable to quite identify which direction the barking is coming from, and then take off in a panicked run. Logic would dictate you simply duck into a building, but you’re not thinking logically. Doors had always been shut to you in Denerim. You look for something to climb.

You never get the chance, though. Your running turns into panicked sprinting as the barking gets louder, but before you can hide or climb, something huge hits you from behind. You let out a piercing scream, curling yourself into a ball as fast as you can to avoid the worst of the mauling.

Of course, this isn’t Denerim, and you aren’t a child, and this isn’t the mabari you’re used to, so what you get instead of a mauling is a frantic licking. You don’t even realize, still waiting for the pain, until you feel the dog being pulled off of you.

“I’m so sorry! He doesn’t normally take off like that,” a Ferelden voice exclaims. You cautiously open one eye, vision blurred by tears and panic. “Are you alright? You were screaming; did he hurt you? Bad! Bad dog!”

The dog lets out a plaintive whine. You scoot back away from it as you sit up. It lunges towards you, but the man has a firm grip on it. You still flinch and kick your way backwards along the ground, further away from it.

You hate dogs. You hate mabari in particular. It’s one of the many reasons you had decided to settle down in Orlais rather than Ferelden. And you’d hoped you wouldn’t have to deal with them in Skyhold.

“Are you alright?” the man says again. “Here, let me help--”

“Just keep that thing away from me!” you yelp as he moves closer. He and the dog both freeze, the dog tilting its head slightly and whining.

“He’s not trying to hurt you, I promise. Duncan, stay. I mean it.” The dog whines, but sits down, and the fellow moves to help you stand. It’s only then that what he’s wearing registers.

“Grey Warden?” you ask, confused, as he squats down next to you.

“Last time I checked,” he says jokingly, offering you a hand. You don’t really want to touch him, but you take it anyway. You never have figured out a good way to politely turn someone down for physical contact. “I’m sorry about him. He’s normally much more well behaved, I promise.”

You look at the dog and shudder. It’s staring at you. “It’s fine. I just… I’ll just… Go.” You turn to do just that, only realizing when you take a step that you’ve injured your leg, or to be more apt, that wretched beast had injured your leg. You stagger, unable to put your full weight down on your left leg. Well, it doesn’t matter. You can get it healed later. It’s not actually your fault, so maybe Solas won’t be cross. You just need to limp--

“Hold on! You’re hurt!” the Warden exclaims, rushing once again to your side to offer support that you didn’t fucking ask for.

“Yes, almost like Mabari are huge damned dogs that hurt when they tackle you!” you snap. The man flinches away from you slightly, but still perseveres. Ass.

“At least let me help you to the healing tent. It’s my fault, after all,” he insists. You scowl. At least he’s aware that it’s his fault, or rather, his stupid dog’s fault.

“And have your dog follow me the whole way? No, thank you. I can get there on my own,” you say firmly. You try to take another step, and then fall sideways onto the Warden. “Putain de chiens,” you swear irritably.

“Aaah, Orlesian,” the man says blithely. “That explains it.” He helps you stand again, but doesn’t quite release you. You sort of half-shove at him, hoping he’ll just let you limp away in peace, thinking you Orlesian. “Est-ce que je peux aider vous pour le marcher?” he says, with one of the thickest accents you’ve ever heard. You can’t help laughing.

“Oh Maker, is that how I sound to Solas when I speak Elven? Please, never do that again.”

The man pouts. “And here I was thinking my Orlesian was getting better,” he says jokingly.

“Better from what?” you ask with a snort. “Fine, fine, get me to the healer’s tent. Just leave the damn dog behind.”

-

“Why was she giving me that look?” the man wonders as you sit up stiffly, rubbing your newly-healed leg.

“I have a reputation,” you say by way of explanation.

“That’s all? ‘I have a reputation’? Ominous.”

“I can walk now,” you say sourly. “I don’t need you to escort me anymore.”

“I am sorry,” he says.

“It’s fine,” you say with a sigh. “Just, please, keep that dog away from me for however long you’re here, Ser Warden.”

“It’s Alistair,” he says, and you freeze. You stare at him blankly, eyes growing wide.

“...A...Alistair?”

“Oh, Maker, I’ve been recognized.”

“Alistair Therin? The Alistair?” you say dumbly.

“No, see, I’m a different Ferelden Grey Warden named Alistair.”

“Holy Andraste!” you exclaim, completely floored despite his sarcasm. “What are you doing here?”

“Look, I’d appreciate if you would keep your voice down,” he says with a wince. “I’m not here for long, and I don’t want this to become a thing.” He stands and begins to leave, and you stumble to your feet. “Look, I’ll keep my dog away from you, so just--”

“Wait, wait, please!” you exclaim, tripping after him as he walks swiftly out of the tent. “Please stop, I knew Leah!”

He freezes dead, shoulders stiffening. Slowly, he glances back at you. His eyes are that of a wounded animal, and you wonder if perhaps you’ve said something you shouldn’t have. “...How…?” he says cautiously.

“She was… I grew up in Denerim, in the alienage,” you explain desperately. “Sh… she was like my sister, or my aunt. Please, I never got to see her after she left to join the Wardens, and then… I never… Before she…”

“You knew her… when she was young?”

“I… yes. She was older than me, by almost ten years, but…”

He turns to look at you fully, appraising eyes full of hurt. Maybe you shouldn’t have brought it up, but… You never have had the courage to speak to Leliana about her. And this is Alistair. Her Warden. Her friend. He’d been with her since Ostagar; he’d known her the longest. He would know what really happened, be able to peel away all the legends and give you the truth. And unlike Leliana, you have little to fear from him.

His eyes narrow slightly, and you wonder, for a moment, if he thinks you’re lying. Just trying to get close to a celebrity. Your mind flits through different ways to prove your relation to Leah, but when he opens his mouth, it’s with a cocky little grin, and what he says is,

“You know, that ‘stupid dog,’ was hers.

-

“I can’t believe her,” you grumble, hand shaking as you reach it out tentatively towards the dog--whose name, you’ve learned, is Duncan. “All the shit I’ve been through with Mabari, she knew about all of it, and the second she leaves my sight she gets one of her own. Traitor. Oh, fuck!” you screech as the beast slurps a long tongue across your hand. “It’s tasting me! It’s planning on fucking eating me, I just--”

“He’s just being friendly,” says Alistair, sounding amused. “Don’t you know anything about dogs?”

“I know about Mabari,” you say darkly. “They’re beasts of war. Attack dogs.”

“They’re also highly intelligent.”

“So are men, I keep hearing, and yet that doesn’t make them any less dangerous.”

Alistair snorts; you glare over at him. “No, sorry, it’s just, that is exactly something she would say.”

You can’t help grinning a little wryly. “Well, she taught me a lot about dogs and men both,” you joke. You run a nervous hand over the dog’s head. You’d pet wolves before. It was kind of like this. Only the wolf hadn’t smelled so bad.

“You must have been really young when you knew her,” he muses.

“I was. Just a kid, really. I was in the orphanage.”

“The orphan… oh,” he says, his face falling. “We… we saw the orphanage, when we came through Denerim. It was… bad. Where were you?”

Now it’s time for your smile to fade as well. “I’ve heard that you and the Hero broke up the slave ring in the alienage.”

“Yes, Loghain was selling elves to Tev… ...oh.”

“Yeah,” you say quietly. “You guys got there a few weeks after I was shipped out, from what I hear.”

“Oh… Oh, Maker. I’m so sorry. Leah… Leah never mentioned, she didn’t say--”

Not quite what you wanted to hear. You stare hard at the ground, trying to ignore when Duncan sticks his head into your view, tongue rolling out of his mouth. “I’m sure she had a lot on her mind by that point,” you say, voice strained and cracking even to your ears.

“I’m… Wow. That, uh… That’s… really awful,” he says, and you laugh, a low, hollow sound.

“Yeah.” She hadn’t mentioned you? Really? Well, it’s quite possible she meant more to you than you did to her, but… “I remember the day she left, you know. Everything was shit. Did you know, she was engaged to be married?”

“She mentioned it once,” Alistair says. “An arranged marriage? She didn’t talk about the specifics much. Just that the man was dead. I… didn’t want to press.”

She hadn’t even told him that? You don’t know if it’s your place to share, even though she’s dead. “I remember the day. Things went… pretty bad. She killed the Arl’s son.”

“That, uh… that came up too, yeah,” he says with a chuckle. “Another thing I didn’t want to press about, from the look on her face. I assumed that’s why she was recruited into the Wardens.”

You nod. “Butchered like dogs,” you say softly. “Butchered the dogs, too.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Did… did she like being in the Wardens?”

“I don’t think she ever got to feel what ‘being in the Wardens’ is,” he says. “The day she joined, everything turned to shit, and then it was just… one long, non-stop mess until the battle in Denerim. Why? Are you thinking about joining?” he asks jokingly. Trying to insert some levity into a very dark conversation, no doubt.

“I’ve considered it,” you admit. “Mostly because of her.” And other things. “But I’m not the kind of person to dedicate my life to fighting an unstoppable force only to die in agony leagues underground.”

“Oh, well, when you put it like that...”

“Yeah, you guys don’t really put that on recruitment posters,” you say with a snort. “Join the Grey Wardens! Guaranteed death! Merchants will hate you, everyone will assume you’re a criminal, and the griffons are all dead!”

Alistair snorts, and you smile, just a bit. You have so many questions you want to ask… you hardly know where to start. You suspect he might feel the same.

“I just-”
“You know-”

There’s an awkward pause, and then both of you start laughing again.

“This is awkward, isn’t it?” he says between chuckles.

“Trying to hold a conversation where we both dance around the fact we’re only talking because we’ve a dead friend in common? Not awkward at all.”

“You know… I can’t help feeling like this would be easier with a drink in my hand.”

“I don’t think they let dogs the size of dwarves into the tavern,” you point out, looking at Duncan with barely-withheld distaste. The dog whines.

“He can stay out here; it won’t kill him, although he’ll fuss like it will,” Alistair says. “Let’s go inside.”

-

“And then she tells me, ‘There were rapists. And we got the wrong cake. Disastrous!’”

That’s how she told you?!”

“I wasn’t even sure if she was joking, at that point. It could be hard to tell with her, sometimes.”

“She was always that way,” you say with a snort, pausing to take another long drink from your mug. Your head is buzzing pleasantly. “When I heard she was ‘signing up’ with the Wardens, she told me they’d promised her a white griffon. That she’d only said yes because white was her favorite. It takes a certain kind of woman to lie to a terrified orphan, honestly.”

“Were the two of you actually related?” Alistair asks curiously. “I imagine not, what with the orphanage and all, but…”

“You imagine correctly. But she let me sleep at her place some nights, when I didn’t want to go back to the orphanage. She and her father fought about it sometimes. He caught me stealing… several times, admittedly. As soon as she was gone, he never let me back in that house.” You sigh. “I had stuff stashed under one of the floor boards too. Asshole.”

“Yeah, I got to meet her father. He was… a little too thrilled to meet me. I’d thought he’d be a bit less pleased about his daughter seeing a human, but apparently--”

“Wait,” you say, looking over, eyes wide. “You guys were....?”

“Well, yes. Oh, I guess you wouldn’t… wouldn’t really have had any way of knowing that, huh?”

“Wow,” you say. You stare down at your drink, then up at the ceiling. “That’s… wow. ...Really?”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” he says dryly. “I’ll have you know I had her seduced from the word go.”

You snort. “Liar.”

“Is it so hard to believe in my charms?” he asks loftily.

“Absolutely. I can’t believe she was with a human man at all. And Hahren Tabris, he was happy? That hypocrite… All that shit about keeping the line strong goes out the window when there’s a cute blonde involved, huh?” you grumble.

“You think I’m cute?” Alistair says, and you whip your head around to glare at him.

“That’s not what I--!”

“Oh, it very much is.”

“Watch out, she’ll hit you with that mug,” quips the bar maid.

“You stay out of this!” you snap at her as she scurries away.

“Is there a story there?” he asks with a laugh.

“It’s stupid,” you grumble. “One of my first nights here, I got really drunk and threw a mug at a Templar’s head.”

“Something against Templars?” he says with a grin. “Or just a penchant for throwing tableware?”

“Neither! I was just really drunk,” you insist. “I can’t even remember doing it, but no one’ll ever let me forget.”

“You’ve thrown a mug every time you’ve been drunk since,” chimes in Cabot, the dwarf who runs the bar. “We give you the shitty mugs on purpose.”

“Just because people egg me on!” you snap back. “And one time, because Maryden slipped me a silver.”

“Wait, she did? She won that bet! Cheater!” The music gets a bit louder as Maryden pretends she can’t hear.

“I better watch my step, then,” Alistair says with a grin. “I was in training to be a Templar, a long time ago.”

“I remember reading that somewhere. That Leah, I can’t believe her... a human ex-Templar, really?” you snort. “I guess I can’t really blame her, though. Situations were pretty dire. If I thought I was going to die tomorrow, I’d probably shack up with the nearest warm body too.”

Harsh.

“Was it more than that?” you ask. You have trouble imagining that it could have been. Leah, with some shem goofball? Well, she did always like people with a sense of humor, so that part isn’t as hard to believe... But she had already given you harsh lessons on humans, and after what happened on her “wedding day” it’s hard for you to imagine her doing anything with a human man’s prick other than cutting it off.

“I... Yeah,” he says, his humorous expression faltering. He gazes down into his drink. “Yeah, it was.”

You blink. “Oh. ...I’ve been an ass, then, sorry.” From the expression on his face, it had been a hell of a lot more than just comfort, especially given that it’s been about ten years since she died.

“Frankly,” Alistair says slowly. “I’m beginning to think that’s just your natural state.”

You snort and give his shoulder a drunken shove, but you’re pleased to have him joking again. You would have felt bad if you’d killed his mood.

“Not denying it, though,” quips Cabot.

“Oh, bugger off; shouldn’t you be trying to fuck one of Leliana’s nugs?”

“My bed is filled for the night, thanks. What about yours? Going to sleep with that hart of yours again? Watch out, lad,” he adds to Alistair. “After that fella, I don’t think you can satisfy her.”

You bring up your mug as if to throw it, and he ducks. You grin, and Alistair starts laughing. You expect it to be a short chuckle, but it actually grows, until you’re wondering if he can breathe.

“If it’ll make you that happy, I’ll actually smack him with it,” you offer, as Alistair tries to catch his breath. He wipes off the corner of his eyes.

“It’s not that, it’s just... one time in camp, Oghren had broken out this ridiculous brew of his. Wasn’t half bad, really, but with the exception of Sten and Shale, we all got pretty drunk that night around the campfire. After a bit Leah and I found...” he clears his throat, and you could swear his cheeks are getting rosy from more than just the alcohol. “You know, a more private corner of camp...”

“For a Warden ritual, I assume,” you say dryly.

“Yes, exactly,” he says with a somber nod. “Very important one, often performed drunk and in shadowy corners.”

“You should advertise that one more for the recruits,” you suggest.

“It’s how they got me!” he says cheerfully. “Anyway, we were... ritualizing...” You snort, interrupting him. You can’t help it, it’s the way he said it, over-enunciating the syllables as if the word had serious meaning. “When one of our companions, a rather loud-mouthed assassin--”

“The Crow,” you interrupt again.

“You’ve done your homework,” Alistair says, sounding surprised. “Do I have a fan?”

“I tried to keep up with the news of the Blight. It was over by the time news hit Tevinter, but... I tried.” And after, too. You’d known she was dead, by the time you got back to the south, but you’d chased her shadows anyway.

“Well, you’re right. It was Zevran. He shouted something that he probably meant to be helpful instructions. Then he shouted something else. And I guess Leah got just as tired of it as me, because she picked up my mug--mine, mind, not hers, ‘cause we both still had drink--and chucked it. Clocked him right on the head and bounced into the fire, which of course, practically exploded and turned a remarkable shade of purple, as I recall.”

“You’re kidding me,” you say, laughing.

“Dead serious! I guess it runs in the family, so to speak.”

“That’s incredible.” It’s a coincidence, you’re sure. Although thinking about it, you’d seen her throw plenty of things at plenty of heads in the time you’d had with her. Maybe that was where you picked it up. It was nice to think so, anyway.

--

“And then I said to him, ‘That’s very nice, Ser, but that doesn’t solve the issue of Madame Rosier’s missing strap-on.’”

“No! To a Templar?

“Absolutely. You should have seen the color he turned. Stammered he didn’t know anything about that and ran out.”

“You have absolutely no respect for authority!” Alistair says with a grin.

“None whatsoever,” you agree cheerfully. “It really helps, when authority has no respect for you.”

“Why’d you wind up settling in Orlais, anyway, if you were born in Ferelden? Why not go back to Denerim?” Alistair asks.

“I did, at one point. Went to Denerim. Saw... the state of it. It’d been years, by then. Half a decade, I think. But they were still rebuilding. Went to zero point... You know, they have a statue there?”

“Yeah. Decent likeness, all things considered.”

“She’s wearing a helmet,” you say. Gazing off towards the wall, you can almost see the statue like it’s right in front of you, even though you only saw it once, six years ago. “To cover her ears, I think. They’ve got her listed as Leah Tabris, Hero of Ferelden. Humans never use elf family names.”

“Sign of respect?” Alistair suggested.

“Sign that twenty, fifty years from now, it won’t be common knowledge Leah was an elf. She died for those assholes, and for what?”

“I tried to stop her,” Alistair says, apologetically. “She left me behind, and I wanted to get to her, but it was all fighting, all over the city, and I couldn’t...”

“Not your fault,” you say, glancing up from your drink. “A lot of things about that war were a lot of people’s fault, but I can’t see how any of it was yours. Least of all that.”

The two of you grow silent for a while, and then Alistair says, “Say, did she ever teach you the song about the hedgehogs?”

--

It’s several hours and many amusing anecdotes later. You’ve notice that Alistair wrinkles his nose and snorts when he laughs, just like Leah. He’s just noticed, and commented on, the similarity between your smile and hers.

“You’ve got her sense of humor, too,” he says dryly, voice a little slurred with intoxication. You’re not the last two in the tavern, but only because Skinner and Dalish have passed out on a bench. “All dry wit and sarcasm, with no appreciation for a good pun--ah!” He points at you. “That eye roll. Exactly hers. You sure you’re not related?”

You snort. “Spent nearly as much time around Leah Tabris as I did my own mum, in a lot of ways,” you reply, sounding just as drunk as him... if not moreso. You aren’t a heavyweight when it comes to drinking, but somehow that never seems to stop you from packing them away like you are. “Like an aunt, or an older sister. Cousin, maybe? Everyone in that damn place was cousins, or so it felt.”

“Was your mom from the Alienage, too?”

“You ask a lot of questions.”

“That’s uncanny. Say it again, same intonation, but call me a ‘shem.’”

You give him a withering look; he grins.

“Is privacy a cultural thing, or is it just you two?” he asks.

“It’s privacy. Everyone wants it.”

“Not me!” he protests. “I’m an open book.”

“Oh? So if I asked you anything, right now, you’d answer it?”

“Well, the way you said that makes me nervous, but yes.”

You fix him with an even gaze, or as even as you can manage under the circumstances--which are probably a whole keg of ale between the two of you.

“Did you love Leah?”

He looks surprised, hesitates briefly, but then nods. He even flushes a bit as he does so. “I... yeah. Yeah, I did. More than anything.”

“You love anyone else since?”

It’s not really any of your business, but you know how to make someone regret claiming to be an open book. And you still want to know more about this shem that seemed to steal your Leah’s heart before she died.

You’d always assumed she’d killed herself fighting the Archdemon because she had nothing left to live for. Most of her family dead, the Alienage in ruined tatters, blood soaking the gutters because of the “crime” she’d committed... You’d just assumed it had been grief that killed her in the end, as much as any dragon.

But now, hearing these stories, seeing this man...

Was she happy, in the end? Did he make her happy?

He rubs the back of one of his hands. He must have picked that up from Leah; it’s her nervous habit.

“Not like her, no,” he says finally. “There’ve been... other women, yes, but nothing... nothing...”

The two of you hold eye contact for a while, thinking.

“You remind me of her,” you say, in unison.

The silence stretches out for a few beats longer, and then either he kisses you or you kiss him; you can’t quite remember. It’s a stupid reason to kiss someone, but he knew her and he loved her, and when he laughs you hear her giggling, and when you smile he sees the flash of her teeth.

You don’t know if you kiss like her, but you kiss like yourself, and that seems to be good enough for him.

--

You awake the next morning in a bed, with vague memories and hot flashes of the night before that make the hangover seem less dire. You seem to be in one of the rooms above the tavern; you’re fairly certain this is more or less why they’re here.

You’re not quite sure how you feel about what happened.

Alistair’s certainly not a bad catch, by human standards. A life of soldier training left him remarkably hard, and a Warden’s appetite had left him thick. The combination is someone who, as you recall, can pick you up and fuck you against a wall. And then there was that Grey Warden stamina, a long lasting rumor that, you’re pleased to have discovered, is absolutely true. You’re not going to be able to make eye contact with Blackwall for a while.

If Alistair had just been a good time in Orlais, you would have probably left quite pleased with yourself. No, it wasn’t his performance that was bothering you, or even your own foolish spontaneity. He’d be gone in no time at all, and you’d probably never see him again. Wardens traveled a lot and had a short shelf life.

It was the druffalo in the room. Leah.

He’d even called out her name.

You didn’t take it personally.

But you do wonder if what you’d done was a betrayal, or just sort of creepy. You’d slept with her lover, specifically because he’d been her lover. That seemed like very odd behavior, grieving or no. If she was alive, it would be much more clear cut. But she was ten years dead. You’d been just a little thing when she and Alistair had been together--something you’re in no hurry to point out to him--and it had been ten years. Surely after that long, someone was fair game.

But you’d still only done it because of her, which brought it right back around to weird again.

It’s not helping that Alistair is still attractive in the light of day, without the help of a Qunari’s share of strong dwarven ale. All the things you hadn’t paid attention to before--because you don’t make a habit of admiring the physicality of human men in general--seem to be standing out to you now. And he’s cute when he’s asleep, and you can’t help remembering the desperate pounding heat of his hips against yours, and now he’s smirking in his sleep and you’re remembering the way he’d smirked when you moaned out after his lips traced your ear.

“I knew it,” he’d said, and you’d known then and there that your “auntie” Leah had liked having her ears nibbled too, wasn’t that something.

And none of this is helped by the fact that certain parts of men are most active in the morning hours.

You can’t help looking at it; it’s been like that since you woke up.

You can’t do anything while he’s still asleep, of course. He’ll probably wake up feeling just as conflicted as you. Maybe more.

He begins to stir, and you’re not sure whether you’re relieved or disappointed.

He wakes up like a bear emerging from hibernation; extremely disoriented and hankering for something to drink. You hand him the jug of fresh water you’d been sipping from, and he downs quite a lot of it all at once. Water drips out of the corners of his mouth, down his neck, onto his shoulders. You watch.

He sets it down with a gasp when he’s finished.

“That is really refreshing. Wow.”

“Comes standard with the room, courtesy of a friendly spirit,” you reply, tilting your head to the side a bit as you watch him. He doesn’t seem panicked to have woken up in an unfamiliar bed with a naked woman. You can see it starting to dawn on him, though. Well, something’s dawning on him. The naked part, at least, as he seems a bit startled, or possibly entranced, by the sight of your bare chest.

“Don’t bother telling me my tits are like hers too; I’ll know you’re lying,” you say dryly, deciding to break the ice with a sledgehammer. He flushes bright red and brings his eyes back up to your face, then quickly away, deciding he’d rather admire the headboard. “I can go, if you want,” you offer.

“No! It’s not... I just... Oh, Maker,” he says, rubbing a hand from his mouth down over his chin. “I’m just not very experienced with this sort of thing, you know, waking up next to a woman and...”

You’re trying very hard not to laugh. You fail.

“Yes, har har, have a good laugh at the bumbling Warden; it’s all very funny,” he says snippily.

“I’m sorry, it’s just sort of an amusing turn around. You didn’t seem very inexperienced last night.”

He blushes deeper red. You could get used to it; he’d been the one turning you red the night before.

“Well, you know, Leah and I shared a camp every night for over a year, and we were both Wardens, so...”

“You must have been perpetually exhausted.”

“We weren’t sleeping much anyway,” he says, shrugging. “Might as well have some fun with it,” he adds with a coy smile in your direction. It reminds you of several sensations from last night, as well as the remarkably determined pitching of the sheets around his crotch.

He follows the track of your eyes down, then begins to flush again. “Yeah, uh... mornings. It’s really a bitch when you have to pee, honestly.”

“Is it just going to stay there?” you ask, amused. “We could have a talk about our feelings, that might do it.”

“‘Fraid not. It’s like an adamantine arrow. Normally I just dunk myself in some cold water.”

You bite your lip, considering, then decide you’ve already thrown caution to the wind, and all the things that were true last night are true now and will still be true in a few hours. You shift your weight a bit closer to him, and grin.

“I’ve got something else you can dunk it in, if you want.”

--

Alistair makes really cute faces when your lips are around his cock.

You hadn’t had the chance to learn that last night, so you’re enjoying yourself now. He’s sprawled out against the headboard like you’re ravishing him--you suppose your are, in a sense, but it’s still cute. His hands are tangled up in the sheets, knuckles white with the force of his grip. An idle thought of his hands tied to the headpost with the sheets flits through your mind... but that would require stopping.

Instead, you find one of his hands with yours as you bob your head up and down on his cock. His grip loosens slightly, and you intertwine your fingers with his, briefly. It’s a surprisingly intimate feeling; you ruin it quickly by bringing his hand to the back of your head. Although perhaps less intimate, generally speaking, the way his fingers tangle right into your hair, gripping just as hard as he had the sheets... Well, let’s just say you prefer it to classic intimacy anyway.

His hips are bucking now, thrusting himself deeper into your mouth, shoving into the entrance of your throat. With any other man, you’d take this as meaning he was almost done, but you’d learned your lesson there the night before. You suspect your jaw would get quite sore before he finished, but you’ve always been a determined individual, and who’d even notice, anyway? You only share a workspace with Solas, and he won’t notice even if you spent all day rubbing your jaw.

He’s observant in many ways, but he seems patently oblivious to anything in that direction.

You wonder if Alistair is aware of the fact he’s effectively crossed the line into facefucking. His hand is clenched into your hair, holding you in place; he’s thrusting upwards into your mouth, cockhead shoving in and out of your throat. You have some experience in this area, and you’re using all of it to keep from gagging, but your eyes are starting to water a bit with the effort. Still, the lack of air isn’t bothering you much. If anything, it’s the opposite; you’re probably forming a puddle on the bed.

You’re struggling to maintain any form of suction, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering Alistair. His eyes are closed, face flushed, as he thrusts up into you with abandon. He’s clearly having such a good time that you put off tapping out for as long as you can, losing yourself as well to the sensations: heat and force and salty flesh.

You can see why it would serve a useful distraction when every day could bring death. You’d been tempted in that direction, for that very reason, many times in the past month. Alistair is a good exception because he’ll be leaving and you’ll probably never see him again. Wardens are like that. He’s also a good example of why it’s a bad idea with anyone who’s sticking around longer...

Complications ensue.

Though he’d probably be quite cross if you described his relationship with Leah as a complication, you privately wonder if she’d thought that way herself, a few times, or if she really was as head-over-heels infatuated as he’d been.

Funny, the things you wonder about while choking on your dead friend’s ex-lover’s cock.

And you are choking, no matter how much you try not to, which catches Alistair’s attention and snaps him out of his little euphoric reverie. He releases your head and you pull back like your neck had been a coiled spring. It was an automatic reaction, but you do enjoy being able to take a few gasping breaths.

“Oh, Maker! Are you alright?” he asks, sounding seriously alarmed.

“I’m fine,” you wheeze in a very unconvincing tone. You hold up a finger and clear your throat, then say again in a much more normal voice. “I’m fine. More than fine, actually.”

“You’re crying!”

“Actually, my eyes are watering. If I shoved something repeatedly down your throat, your eyes would be watering too, no matter how much you enjoyed it.”

You suspect the only reason he isn’t turning redder is because he’s reached some sort of maximum capacity for how flushed he can get.

“I don’t think I would enjoy that!”

“I did,” you say with a bit of a smirk, and that effectively ends that argument.

Alistair makes a case for his own point by delving between your legs... though that’s assuming his point is “turn about’s fair play.” But you make your own counterpoint about how much of a good time you’d been having when you shift him underneath you. Sitting on someone’s face is perhaps a bit different than fucking someone’s face, but you feel like the overarching theme is still there.

This was something you’d experienced last night, but as his tongue dances tight circles around your clit, you’re definitely not complaining about the repetition. You suppose you have Leah to thank for this, too; she’d trained his tongue better than any lover you’d tripped over in the past. He doesn’t seem to tire of it, either, and it’s your turn to sweat and writhe and clutch the headboard to avoid accidentally suffocating someone.

Now it’s your hips that are bucking against his mouth, but you’re no Warden, and your climax is fast approaching. Your legs shake and tremble, threatening to drop your whole body weight unceremoniously on his face as you struggle to support yourself. Alistair seems oblivious to your difficulties, however, as he plants his lips around your clit and sucks. You screech, and when his tongue flicks over it inside his mouth, you fall backwards, bent in two at the knees. A compromise of collapsing, onto his chest instead of onto his face.

He’s still licking. You come like a wave hitting the shore, all force and passion and a roaring you can feel in your bones.

When the rushing fades, you’re aware of how uncomfortable it is to have your knees bent this much, and also that his cock his hard as a rock and twitching slightly, not that far from your head.

You’d been a bit concerned about a sore jaw, earlier, but as you shift your weight back up onto your knees and then shift yourself down over Alistair’s body, you’re not really that concerned about what places might become sore and who might notice.

You hesitate briefly with your slit just over his rigid cock, looking down, searching his expression. He answers your unspoken question by gripping your hips and thrusting up, up, UP into you.

You’d been drunk when you’d last taken him, and it had been years before that when you’d taken your last cock. You’re aware of slightly uncomfortable stretching, and then just fullness. Then that’s all you can really feel as he keeps pounding up into you, finding a rhythm and sticking with it. You’d intended to ride him, but your legs have gone weak. You feel like you’re on fire with the pleasure, the steady thrusting forming a drum beat that fills your whole body. And when you meet the rhythm and pound back, your clit hits his pelvis and your world narrows to just that one spot, just that one sensation.

One more time, everything else drifts away, and you can lose yourself, however briefly, in the screaming pleasure of the here and now.

Warden stamina means you have a long ride, and the two of you shift around each other, finding new positions and new ways to make your bodies cry out. Alistair may have the benefit of a lifetime of warrior’s training to protect him from muscle cramps, but your own body is far from exquisitely trained. By the time Alistair’s thrusting is reaching an erratic peak, you’re suspecting that rather than a pleasant start to a day, you’ve just given yourself reason to go back to bed for another four hours.

You are, frankly, exhausted, your mind swimming in a half-conscious haze of pleasure. But somehow, that doesn’t stop you from shoving Alistair off of you and finishing him with your mouth, enjoying the ability to watch and smell and taste as he finally climaxes down your throat.

The two of you flop limply down onto the bed, sweaty, panting, and satisfied. You’ve definitely missed training with the Iron Bull and you’re arguably late for work, judging by the angle of the sun through the window. But you’re willing to bet Solas won’t give you any grief if you just tell him you slept in. Bonus points if it’s true... right then you feel like you really could pass out.

“Would this be a bad time to mention that Leah also preferred I finish in her mouth?”

You smack Alistair with a pillow. “There is never a good time to tell me that!”

Chapter Text

It had been a long, long trip out of Tevinter.

He had been on the run for over nine months now. It was easy for him to remember, because a child had been born recently. It and its mother had been left behind in Jader. She’d been lucky enough to find employ with a kind-seeming human baker who’d had a lot of sympathy for a rag-tag bunch of escaped slaves, elf or no.

The south was a strange and very cold place. The going to get out of Tevinter had been so slow and terrifying, and it seemed for so long like they’d be stuck in Nevarra, trapped until slavers picked up their scent. Rescue had come in the form of a white-haired elf named Fenris.

Slavers had picked up their scent, but that stopped being an issue once the slavers were all dead.

Fenris was a very effective man.

Elpis didn’t really like the smell of blood, though, and the man’s tattoos made his teeth hurt.

Fenris had taken them all the way to Cumberland, where they met a pirate captain who took them across the ocean to Ferelden. Elpis was old enough to realize that their group had fallen in with important people, but he kept quiet. That had always worked for him. Fenris, Nell, and the man called Hawke had accompanied them all the way to their destination, but he privately wished the pirate had come instead.

The last week of travel had been some of the roughest, up through freezing mountains that Fenris called “the Frostbacks.” Elpis thought the name was appropriate. Apparently, they were going to a place called Skyhold, where the Inquisition was. Elpis had overheard a little bit about the Inquisition, but he didn’t really care at all by the time he got there. He just wanted to stop walking for a bit.

For such an isolated place, Skyhold is bustling and chaotic. A red-haired elven woman is seemingly assigned to getting them set in place, which happens with just as much bustle and chaos as everything else here. The woman doesn’t seem happy about it at all... and when Fenris mentions that they’re ex-slaves...

Elpis isn’t very good at reading expressions, but she looks angry. He’s nervous; angry people are always trouble, but she settles them into a strange, round room with painted walls, filled with things that make his skin tingle, things they’re not allowed to touch.

Food comes before the red-haired elf or Fenris, brought by an elven woman with long black hair and kind eyes. There’s more than they can eat, but the all the kids try their best anyway. Elpis makes sure the other children have eaten enough before going back for seconds, but it quickly becomes apparent that there would be enough for thirds if he only had the space in his shrunken stomach.

After they eat, they’re hustled into rooms along the castle walls. Elpis is sharing a room with all the other young boys. There’s a fire and enough beds for them to each have one. Elpis’ bed is clearly designed for a fully grown man. He likes the space, and the blanket. Despite how unnerving it is to look out the window and see nothing but snow and mountain peaks, he sleeps the best he has in nine months.

--

The adults talk amongst themselves about whether they’ll stay or keep moving. Most are nervous about the idea of staying in a shem-led military fortress. Elpis is well aware that the choice isn’t actually his; he and the other children will have to go wherever they are sent or taken. But that much is familiar, if not comforting.

Before the adults have a chance to decide, however, the red-headed elf sweeps through once more. Her name is Emma, a fact he’d learned earlier but only now impresses into his mind as important. She has obtained goats and wants to build a farm. So far he’s heard several explanations for the presence of the goats: they were brought in by traders; they were a tribute to the Herald of Andraste; they were captured in the wild outside the fortress; they were a dowry presented to Emma by a suitor; they had been catapulted over the castle walls, presumably by a mob of angry shepherds.

But wherever they came from, Emma’s decided to rope the elves into this farm business. Elpis is confused at first, but quickly realizes she means to give them something useful to do. Elpis’ family were farmers, so this turn of events is a comfortable one for him. He hasn’t seen tame goats since he left home, and even though there’s only three, he feels more comfortable in their presence than he has in months. Words that had previously refused to grace his tongue begin falling rapidly from his lips, and to his amazement, the other children listen excitedly, wanting to learn everything there is to know about their new hooved charges.

And in the middle of everything is the woman Emma, never holding still. People seem to gravitate towards and around her. She even attracts an impossibly tall elven mage, who, to Elpis’ amazement, begins to help as well. The other children are mostly scared, and Elpis is too, but that fear can’t overpower his fascination. He’s never seen a mage put together fences before, with or without magic. He’d never seen an elven mage, either. And the air around him tingles. Elpis never noticed that before, but then, there wasn’t a lot of magic on the average farm. It leaves a taste in his mouth like sucking on a copper coin.

The mage notices him watching, and Elpis almost bolts when he realizes he’s caught the man’s attention. But he’s comfortable there in the freshly tilled soil, surrounded by the smells of earth and animals. It makes him bolder than he would ordinarily be. Also, he’s aware that Emma is watching as well, and doesn’t think she would let this friendly mage do him any harm.

Also, Fenris is right there.

The mage squats down near him, and asks him if he’s curious. Elpis nods cautiously, and the mage holds out his hand, producing two balls of light that spin around each other.

“Hold out your hand,” the man instructs, and thoughtlessly, Elpis does. With a little flick of the man’s fingers, the balls arc through the air and land just above Elpis’ palm, where they continue to rotate.

“Can you feel them?” the man asks, and Elpis nods, eyes wide. He can feel them tingling through his skin. The mage smiles. “One day, perhaps I’ll show you how to do this yourself.”

“I can’t do magic, though!” Elpis protests automatically, surprised at his own voice.

“Have you ever tried?” the mage says with a smile. Elpis pauses, frowning.

“...I don’t think that’s how it works,” he says finally, with a scowl. The man just smiles.

“You may be right. But if, perchance, you aren’t, or your dreams begin to trouble you, I might recommend seeking out one of the Dalish mages here in Skyhold. I know of three, by the names of Dalish, Cillian, and Neria. At least one of them should be here at any given time.”

“What about you?” Elpis asks curiously.

The man chuckles. “I’m far less reliable.”

“What about her?” Elpis asks, pointing over at Emma.

Solas follows his gaze to the woman, who quickly busies herself with some potato seeds, pretending she hadn’t been watching.

“Why do you ask about her, specifically?” the mage wants to know.

“Because Dalish are scary,” Elpis replies promptly, and the mage laughs.

“They certainly can be. But I don’t think Emma can help you with this.”

“I still think you’re full of it,” Elpis informs him.

“Well, I might be,” the mage says thoughtfully. “You are... around twelve, I believe? That’s a very wise age.”

“Are you making fun of me?” Elpis demands with a scowl.

“Absolutely not,” the man lies with a mild smile. “Remember those names.” Then he stands and begins to walk back towards the still-uncompleted fence.

“Wait! What am I to do with this?” calls Elpis, holding up the balls of light, which are still slowly rotating in his palm.

“They’ll go away on their own,” the mage says, then shrugs. “Or they won’t.”

--

The little orbs don’t actually go away for a long time. They stick around all day. Elpis isn’t quite sure what they are, but when he sticks them in his pocket, they stay there, and he finds he can pull them back out again as well, despite the fact they don’t seem to be at all solid. The other children are fascinated by them. He tells them all that the mage gave them to him, and they all stand in awe of his bravery. He has the good sense to hide them from the adults.

He sets them on his bedstand when he goes to bed, and falls asleep watching them rotate around each other, ever slower. They’re gone when he wakes up.

Three months later, his dreams begin to grow troubled.

Chapter Text

"It's not safe for you to be here," you whisper, voice tense, fear cutting you colder than the icy storm outside Skyhold.

"I had to come." A familiar smile glints white in the whirling snow, a hand reaches out to intertwine with yours. Warm despite the freezing cold, a heat coming from within, with such fervent strength that the blizzard has no hope of stealing it away.

Would that the whole world had no such hope of stealing the heat of that heart away.

"If they see you," you protest again.

"In this blizzard? No one would know to come but you."

Your lover's body presses closer against you, that fierce heat from inside warming even you in the snow... not that you really needed it, either. The two of you could probably walk, hand in hand, through this storm and out of these mountains, with no fear between the two of you.

For a moment, with that burning warmth in your arms--not cold, finally you're not cold--you're sorely tempted. To leave everything behind, to forget it all. To just run into the night with that littlest piece of happiness you've found in this world. To go and never look back.

"Ma vhenan," a voice full of longing against your ear. "Ma vhenan, ar lath ma." You hear a catch, a little strain in a voice normally so full of confidence.

You both want to do it, walk hand in hand to the summit of these mountains, to see the world spread out beneath you. To tear down, to build up, neither of you can ever agree on the proper way to do either.

"You can't be here," you murmur again, a reminder more for yourself. "You have to go."

"Eventually," comes the agreement. And then, ruefully. "Soon." A hand reaches up to cup the side of your face, almost hot against your skin. "I don't want to."

You don't want it either. But if you say that, and no refusal comes...

"We both have duties," you say, hardening yourself to the reality of it. "And if the Inquisitor finds you this close, he will kill you."

"Let him try," comes the laughing reply, but you see the seriousness of the threat behind blue-green eyes. A kiss is pressed to your lips, first chase, then burning hot as the rest. "Let him try," this time a growl against your mouth.

Sometimes, you wonder if you wouldn't both burn the world down for the other.

A risk you really can't take.

"I'll see you in our dreams," you promise, and feel a sigh against your lips.

"It's not enough."

"It's more than we deserve."

"We deserve the world," comes the snarling reply. "We deserve our birthright and then more. We are owed everything."

"Emma..." you say softly, trying to tame the fire behind her eyes.

"Tell me I'm wrong, Solas. Look in my eyes and tell me I'm wrong."

You can't, and she knows it.

She curls her arms tighter around you, curling against your chest. "I'll fix it."

"No one can fix this, ma vhenan. You cannot reshape reality."

"Not the way you can, maybe," she chuckles, pressing another kiss to your lips, gently. "But I have my ways."

Chapter Text

You look up, bemused, from your work desk. "You too?"

"I have absolutely no idea what you mean, Valo-kas," Sataareth says evenly, placing a tiny plate with a muffin on it onto your desk. It looked comical coming out of his large hands.

"Who roped you into this?" you say, unable to be as annoyed as you should be at the concept of your allies conspiring against you. "Was it Belassan? It had to have been. I never see either of you on this side of Skyhold."

"I was possessed of an extra pastry," Sataareth begins explaining, and you wave your hand to silence him.

"Yeah, and thirty minutes ago, Krem was possessed of a cup of strong tea that I know he doesn't drink because he's a mercenary not an Orlesian maid. And a while before that, Belassan just so happened to have some very warm bacon he hadn't finished. Is this because I skipped breakfast?"

Sataareth points an accusatory finger at you. "You are the one who told me it was unnacceptable to miss a meal."

"You are the one who's recovering from a starvation diet," you counter, but he's already turning to leave the room. You have not even an hour of peace--interspersed with muffin-eating--before someone else finds themselves possessed.

"Fenris?" you say with flat shock. "Et tu?"

"I have no idea what you're saying, in the literal sense," he responds, setting down a mug of something warm and then settling down onto the corner of your desk as if he belongs there. If anyone else tried that, you'd probably throw them full-body out of the room. "I merely discovered they'd made a batch of warm cider, down in the kitchens, and thought you would enjoy some."

"That would be deeply flattering if it wasn't so obvious you're all up to something," you say, taking the mug nonetheless. The turning apples of the season had no doubt been repurposed to last through the winter, in the form of jugs of cider. This, however, is fresh and sharp-scented with spice.

Fenris tsks loudly from his spot on the corner of your desk. "Must I be up to something to bring my friend some warm drink on a cold day like this?"

The word 'friend' effectively chases out any sharp retorts you might have, and you busy yourself drinking the cider, instead.

This tomfoolery continues throughout the day, with a steadily growing list of people bringing you warm drinks with decreasing amounts of caffeine, various snacks, and at one point, unsubtly, you're even gifted a pillow by Cole. It's obvious, but ultimately too Maker damned cute for you to actually be annoyed.

Celia wanders in sometime after you should have had dinner--inexplicably, you weren't that hungry, almost like you'd been given snacks all day. She has, rather than a snack, and entire plate of food. You meet her gaze, looking unamused despite the fact that it's gotten pretty funny by this point.

"Don't you like me specifically because I do this job for you?" you ask sardonically.

"I was coming back from delivering dinner to Solas," she begins. That makes sense; Solas has been in his work room all day, which was exactly why you thought you'd be getting some peace and quiet for once. "And it occurred to me that you hadn't been to the kitchen since lunch..."

"No it didn't," you say blithely, cutting right through the bullshit to what's become suddenly, extremely obvious. "You never care about that nonsense. If you even noticed, you'd probably just assume I went to the mess hall or ate with another friend since Solas was occupied. He put you up to this, didn't he?"

Celia doesn't make eye contact with you, pretending to admire a portion of Solas' murals.

"Mmhmm. He probably... wait." Your eyes narrow. "He was behind this whole thing, wasn't he."

"All what thing?" Celia asks, and her patently false innocence tells you all you need to know. She's a terrible liar.

"Maker," you swear. "How in Andraste's name did he even convince this many people?"

"I have no idea what you mean, serrah."

"Don't say serrah, you never call me that," you groan, rubbing your face. "You're the worst liar I've ever met."

She blinks blankly, face the most over-the-top visage of befuddled innocence you've ever seen.

"Just... set it down and go," you say with a sigh. "I'll kick Solas' ass later."

"Pardon me for intruding," she begins, voice still solidly in servant-mode.

"Stop that, you're creeping me out."

"But if I understand correctly, you're saying Solas has arranged for things to be brought to you all day?"

"Yes! People have been in and out of here constantly, dropping off tea and cider and all manner of snacks and sweets," you say, gesturing, frustrated, at the small pile of empty mugs, plates, and apple cores.

"Perhaps it's because I'm not from this area--"

"Stop doing the ignorant-servant routine or I will throw that soup at you."

"So, a man arranges for you to be sent all manner of gifts and treats throughout the day, coincidentally giving you leave to see all number of your friends, and your reaction is to fight him?" she says, much more bluntly.

"...Yes," you mutter sourly. When she puts it like that...

She shrugs. "Well, far be it from me to judge your foreplay."

"Celia."

"Enjoy your dinner!" she says cheerfully, exiting the room.

You let your head rest in your arms, flopping against the desk.

That asshole.

...Maybe you'll only kick his ass a little, though.