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The Folly of Dreams

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The first time Autumn came to him he had been shocked. It was not necessarily unheard of, she had managed to travel the roads of the fade to him once before, but something about her felt different this time. Her energy, while still holding all of the pull that it did in the waking world, seemed to hover just on the edge of being real, like a vital piece of her had flitted away to another part of the Fade, dancing out of his grasp just as she did every day they were together.

Solas watched her as she approached, and her curls caught the false sunlight that danced through the clouds. Even this fragment of her seemed to explode with light, every inch of her exuding grace that could burn down the world if she had a mind to do it. Even half of her was everything, charged with a life that pulsed along with his heart. His breath died in his throat and he stood helpless as she looked to him, her green eyes filled with joy as she picked up her skirts and dashed forward. She was in his arms before he rightly knew what was happening.

That first time they had merely talked. It was almost like speaking with her true self, almost like she were actually there. The difference was that this shade seemed far more enraptured by him than she ever was. She hung on his words like they were ensorceling her, enchanting her syllable by syllable.

They had ended the night with a chaste kiss to her knuckles, and her skin tasted exactly like he remembered from the times he had planted the very same gesture on her forehead. Her smell, her taste, the feel of her was real, as real as it ever was in the daylight, and it sent a shiver down his spine that nearly brought him to his knees.

He hated to admit it, but he was disappointed when he awoke to discover she had no memory of the encounter. Part of him, a part that he refused to acknowledge but was there nonetheless, had hoped that perhaps she had come to him and truly seen him, perhaps she held something in her heart that she merely had not found yet, that perhaps she could be his after all. This time, though, there was no rushed flight down the stairs in the middle of the night, no hushed conversation of wonder about her new experience. It truly had not been her, and even if it had, it was not enough of her to carve a memory into her mind. She was still Cullen’s love, still as devoted to him as she always would be, and Solas felt guilty for wishing anything otherwise.

 

***

 

The second time she had come to him he was hit with her presence like she were the ground and he had been launched form a catapult straight into her. He crashed heavily, his senses filled with her, her smell captivating him, the way her skin felt as she pulled him into an embrace, the way her hair brushed against his cheek like silk across the surface of a still pool, gentle and smooth and creating ripples that turned into waves that swallowed him whole. He was seized with horrible, aching need, and that night the darkest parts of his mind pulled to the fore, emboldening him in ways he never wished.

He rationalized that if she did not remember then it would do no harm. That it would mean nothing, and perhaps if he could just get it out of his system he could stop obsessing over what he could not have. He had the best of intentions when he had dipped his head and brought his lips to hers, but he should have known better. The world was destroyed by people with the best of intentions, and it was the very purest form of arrogance to think he was above such pitfalls.

Her lips tasted like eternity, like the stars themselves were couched within her bated breath, her beating heart the driving force behind the entire universe, spinning them all into oblivion one day at a time. She had melted into him, her mouth parting and granting him access he had no right to, access that by the very act of kissing her made sure he did not deserve it. Still, he took her lips, selfishly delving his tongue into her, tasting such sweet perfection that he knew he would be damned forever after. He was lost in her for a time, what very easily could have been forever, but guilt and shame had eventually brought him up for air. He had stepped back, and the hurt in her eyes had been unfair, but nothing more than he deserved. He fled from her, seeking a quiet corner to nurse his wounds. He pretended that he hadn’t seen her tears as he left.

Again she remembered nothing. It would have been the perfect crime, had it not eaten away at him so keenly.

 

***

 

The third time he tried to keep his distance from her. If she would come to him then he would treat her as he would awake, as though she belonged to another. This piece of her, however, did not seem to have the same ties as her whole self. It was perhaps the greatest injury of all that this part of her, a part that was indeed part of her, seemed to yearn for him. Somewhere inside her there was a bit of her tied to him, that reached out to him at all times, and only through her peaceful slumber could it finally find him. Some part of her belonged to him, and it destroyed him to gain that knowledge.

This time she pressed her lips to his, it was her claiming him, and in the face of such wonder he was powerless to stop her. He hated himself for it, oh how he wished that he could step away and send her off, to draw a line of separation around himself and tell her she had no right to do this, that this could bring no one peace. But as her hands wrapped around the nape of his neck he could say nothing. His mind could toss and turn on the ethics of what was happening, but his body gave in completely, a soft, treacherous moan slipping from his throat as she pressed herself against him. It was an unmitigated disaster, but much like watching a horror unfold before him, he found he could not turn away.

He promised himself it would go no farther, that the kisses tainted by shame over his violation of her would be the end of it. He didn’t want to do this, and knew that if it ever came to light she would hate him for it, probably as much as he hated himself. He thought he could maintain control, to force his will on the perilous situation and ensure he did not sully himself further with his base need for her.

He should have known after all this time that he, in fact, had very little control over anything at all; least of all himself.

Being near her every day took its toll on his resolve. Her closeness to him in the name of friendship did not help matters, and he feared every brush of their fingertips might cast him into the abyss, every time she playfully bumped their shoulders together he might topple over and shatter into a million pieces. And then, cruelest of all, he would sink into the fade and she would find him, and she would feel the same, only this time she was devoted to him. This time her fingers would linger on his skin, searing tracks across his muscles as her eyes fluttered closed with a heated sigh. Despite his sternest refusals to give in, in the end Solas was no more effective than a man presented with his first love, unfettered and without any semblance of hesitation from her, and he stood no better chance at refusing the temptation than a mere mortal would. It was a truer explanation of what was happening than he liked, for Solas had, in fact, never loved before. He had certainly lusted, had certainly explored the delights of the physical world with women countless times before, but he had never felt anything close to the attachment he felt towards her. In all the years, all the powerful women that had graced the world, all of the beauty he had brushed against in the steady flow of time, he had never, ever found someone that made it feel like the world was stopping when she looked at him. It was infuriating, it was humiliating, and all at once it was the only thing keeping him alive. It was possible he had always belonged to her and never even known it, and he wondered if others had been able to see it in him, written across his soul like he were an open book. Was that the thought that made Mythal quirk her lips whenever she thought he did not see? Had she seen this in her mosaic of visions that patterned together into the shape of the world? She was not omnipotent, but he would not put it past her to have kept this knowledge from him, knowing full well that he would be lost to this as surely as he had lost the world.

It would be so very like her to see some divine poetry in the matter, some corrupted sense of justice being derived out of the entire situation. If not because she actually sought revenge against him, then possibly just to see another lost in the way that Flemeth had been lost, lost in the way that Mythal herself may have once longed to be, perhaps even was a time or two. Or perhaps she merely watched, and was as shocked as he when it happened. Perhaps she knew even less than she pretended, and would be as upset over the interference in their plans as he was. It mattered little, in the end. It had happened, he had fallen in love, and there were no steps that could take him from this path any longer.

As these realizations dawned on him, he lost the last tethers of restraint that had been binding him together, and when her fingertips brushed against his hips one evening it was like he had been drawn from the bottom of the deepest ocean, gasping for air while his heart beat as though it had never moved before.

The feral growl that escaped his throat as he lightly bit her bottom lip was a surprise even to him, and her answering moan rolled through him like thunder. His hands roamed across her body, feeling the soft curve of her backside and pulling her into him, the silk of her dress a rustling whisper. Her hands made the first venture underneath clothes, dipping under the hem of his robe to ghost across his stomach. His breath hitched in his throat, and part of him cried out for mercy from whatever forces would judge him, but most of him was too lost in the moment to think beyond sating the horrible, vicious, all-consuming need that had been driving him to madness every night.

He took her. In a carnal fit of passion that was unlike anything he had ever experienced he became one with her, and the connection felt like coming home, like waking up to discover everything that weighed on his shoulders had all been a dream. In her embrace, no lives had been lost, no innocents locked into eternal slumber. As they moved together, Arlathan rose from its ghostly grave and the glories of the past could live once more, his people walking again in the world without their petty struggles to damn them to ruination. It was more than sex, it was more than simple gratification, and it broke his heart just as it made it beat. He was hopelessly bound to her, hopelessly devoted to something that could never actual happen, and as they lay couched in the warm glow afterward, he hated himself for loving her.

She was too much, too pure for him. She was the salvation of an entire age and he was the dread wolf lurking in the shadows, the beast that had slaughtered the lambs and sought forgiveness from the mob without true contrition. This piece of her that lay in his arms and murmured soft nothings against his skin didn’t’ know who he truly was, and if he could help it she never would. He didn’t actually know what would destroy him more thoroughly, telling her who he was or telling her what he had done. And now this treachery could be added to the list, the long catalogue of things he never should have done but didn’t seem to be able to stop.

He had never agreed with the assertion that he was a god, but he was a more pitiful example of the idea than even he had thought. He was no wolf, but a pup, whining at the foot of a master who didn’t even realize that she could command him to do anything and receive unquestioning obedience. If she had come to him and asked him, he would have abandoned his purpose, abandoned his agreement with Mythal, abandoned the love he had for the people he had turned his back on once before. If she demanded it he would throw himself into the abyss, and happily so, so long as she smiled while he disappeared.