“It’s about time you showed up! I’ve been waiting on you, Athena. We have a lot of work to do.”
Inspiration was impatiently tapping her foot with a joking smirk on her face when Athena arrived in the Fade. She waved at the spirit and walked over, rubbing her eyes as if she were waking up from a nap even though her sleep was just beginning. “Sorry, got a little – er- sidetracked last night. What do you mean work to do?”
The spirit rolled her eyes but came up and poked her in the middle of the chest with an excited grin. “We need to practice dancing, remember? You have been learning the basic waltzes from Orlais?”
Athena nodded, thinking back to her lessons with Josephine with a wince. “Yeah, they are all the same basic formula with a few minor changes. They’re very much what I expected of the tight-corseted bunch.” The spirit led her into the depth of the Fade more, gesturing for Athena to summon an image around them. She gave a sideways glare before reaching back into her mind, trying to think of a place that would be perfect for them to practice dancing.
There weren’t many places she could think of so Inspiration just tapped her on the shoulder. “What about that green place you took me too? Where we first met Harmony?”
The camp? That would work. With a twist of her wrist she brought forth the image of the lake with the large green area in front of it. “Okay, Athena. Now we need some upbeat music. This dance I need to teach you is nothing like the Orlesian waltzes you have learned. It’s, how do I say, fiery?” When she said the word fiery it sounded like the spirit was trying to emulate Dorian. Athena didn’t know if it was on purpose but brought a smile to her face. She was glad the Tevinter was coming to Halamshiral as a political buffer because she didn’t know what she was do if she was alone while the main party explored the grounds. Between the two of the fire mages, they would have a little bit of fun.
I met a girl, in east LA. In floral shorts as sweet as May.
She sang in eights in two-barrio chords.
We fell in love, but not in court.
The tempo then took off and much to Inspiration’s delight it fitted to the dance she wanted to teach. The spirit walked over to Athena, resting her hands on her shoulders while pulsing magic into her Fade-form. “What is this?”
“I’ve taught the dance to your mind, now we must ingrain it into your body. You seem to call on my blessing the most so perhaps it will come easiest to you.”
“You were the first, perhaps it is why you resonate the most within her.” The voice was not theirs and both women looked over to Solas who had strode into her dream without his usual knocking. Athena smiled at him, making a sound of agreement with him before assuming the opening stance of the dance with Inspiration.
“You think so? I guess that makes sense.” The spirit and her began to go through the opening moves while he assessed them with a curious gaze.
“What are you two doing?” There was a twinkle in his gaze when he looked at them both and she couldn’t contain her blush. Athena cleared her throat and slowly went through the next moves with Inspiration, the spirit remaining silent but fixing her poses if they were off or not rigid enough.
“Practicing for Halamshiral. Josephine says there are going to be a lot of eyes on me and thanks to you the whole court is going to think I’m available.” She was mostly joking but there was a small pit of hurt within her gut.
“You did say they introduce me as a servant, did you not?” He did not falter, leaning his back against a tree that was close to them. His voice stayed in that slow, deep cadence that was infuriating in this moment. Come on, where is your Pride that you’re named after? She wanted to scream at him but instead she nodded to answer his question, allowing Inspiration to dip her back with a hand on her lower back so she could arch over it before being whipped back up into an upright position.
“The other option is me being courted by every noble in Orlais and the Grand Duke Gaspard? Great, that option is so much better than me being with the person I care about.” The sarcasm and anger was evident in her voice, her words clipped short while she moved her gaze to the moves in front of her. Inspiration was getting frustrated with her lack of attention, using small pulses of her influence to try and bring her friend into focus. When it wasn’t working, Harmony appeared on the side and his presence alone let Athena know that she must have been off in her control.
She felt for her aura and realized that it was flaring out with her heart beat, heating up the area around them while putting them on edge due to her emotions. She gave them a silent apology, rolling her neck while bringing in her magic until it was pulsing underneath her skin. Athena closed her eyes, focusing on her breaths and becoming aware of the fire that was her magic on her skin. As every day went by it was getting stronger. She could tell that the training was paying off. In her and Dorian’s last drill they had been able to go back and forth for an hour before Dorian called it off due to the fact that the flame they were throwing was their body-size and it was scaring the locals. She was so focused on trying to contain herself, she barely noticed Inspiration step back and Solas taking her place, gently placing a hand on her hip while taking one of her hands into his own.
“I do not wish to distract you from your duties, Athena.” His voice was soft and in a way broken. The familiar language caused her face to pale, her eyes shooting open to drown in the depths of his. Those words, they were the start of something she was terrified to hear.
Dancing forgotten, she brought his hand to her face and steeled her gaze. “You are not a distraction, Solas; you are my foundation. I would not be able to endure Orlais if I did not know you would be there to help me through it and stitch my soul back up at the end of the night.”
He paused, bringing her closer by pulling on her lower back as a smile twitched at the corner of his lips and eyes. “Alright, Athena. Now, why were you trying to learn the Rivainese tango? I did not think that was a standard in Orlais.” He tried to get a reason from Inspiration but the spirit remained silent, giving Athena playful wink before allowing the pair to spend time together. They went back and forth through various dances for the rest of the night, talk of distractions and nobles long forgotten by the time morning came around for the Inquisition.
There wasn’t much time in the morning for fooling around so when she came into the physical world it took all of her strength to open her eyes and glare at the sun coming in the crack of the door. She had turned over in the middle of the night, her hands lazily clutching onto the necklace around his neck. Now that her eyes were open, her breath caught in her throat, eyes slowly falling to look at his bare chest. Her hands released the necklace and lay flat on his skin, slowly feeling his breaths rise and fall under her now shaky touch. He was perfect in the morning light, a blush crawling to her cheeks as she took in the sight of his toned chest and abdomen. The darkness of the blanket hid away what was below his waist but there was a sudden need that wanted to know. He stirred in his sleep, pulling her close one last time before he was fully separated from the Fade.
“Good morning, Athena.”
She hummed wordlessly in response, groaning while sitting up from the bed and stretching towards the sky. Kain took the opportunity to sit up and lick both her and Solas’s face in a gesture of approval towards the couple. Happy? The wolf asked his eyes sparkling with curiosity as he pressed his forehead against hers. Athena smiled, pressing her lips to his head as an answer. She then got up from the bed and casually sauntered over to the wardrobe, picking out a basic pair of black pants with a formal white blouse. While she was picking her clothes from the hangers and shelves she felt his hands on the outsides of her thighs, bringing her back towards the bed so he could kiss the small of her back.
Athena yelped as she lost her balance, falling back into his lap unceremoniously. She tried to brace her hands on opposite side of him but he already had his arms wrapped around her waist, pulling her into him while kissing her cheek. “Be careful! You don’t want to fall this early in the morning.” It might be too late for that. She thought, turning her face and kissing him on the tip of the nose before escaping his grasp and grabbing the pair of pants she had dropped.
“It would be a lot easier if somebody was more cooperative with the morning. I’m not strong enough to fight you off so I need a little help here or else we will never leave.” He put his hands up in defeat, his eyes never leaving her body as she struggled to pull the freshly tailored pants up her legs. She put her boots on before messing with the blouse so she could just leave when she was done; plus the floor was cold probably no thanks to his magical presence. Solas collected his shirt from the nightstand on his side and put it on in a smooth gesture. Athena caught one last look at his bare chest before, instantly looking away when he tried to catch her admiring his form. He smirked, pulling the wolf necklace over his shirt and patting it into place.
“We are running late. Allow me to fetch some breakfast? Something portable for the road perhaps?” She looked up packing her chest, nodding feverishly while realizing she had stopped halfway in buttoning up her shirt. It was designed to nearly go all the way up to her chin. Athena promptly said ‘fuck that’ and buttoned up past her black chest wrappings, but that was it. She needed to breathe and high-necked shirts always made her feel claustrophobic. As Solas was about to leave the room she scurried over to him, nearly tripping over her lute, kissing him on the cheek.
“Just one of the breads should tide me over. Thank you, Solas.”
He slowed her by capturing her chin with his hand, lightly brushing his lips over hers before leaving without another word. It took a few moments to collect everything, including her frantic thoughts, and rush out of the room with her lute over her shoulder and with Kain at her side. There was already an attendant there to help bring her things down to where the large Inquisition party was getting packed and started. The moment she descended the stairs from her tower she was greeted by a magical slap in the body that was made of pure heat.
Athena paused, her eyes scanning the group to find its source. Dorian was standing with his arms crossed over his chest, an annoyed expression on his face. That must be it.
“Do you know what I heard this morning? From Sera of all people!”
Shit. She chuckled, trying to bring him into a good-morning embrace but he pushed her back, a sliver of actual anger lighting his voice. Prince looked over his shoulder from his position in the group to see if she was okay and she waved him off with a quick gesture.
“Fucking. Sera. Athena. Maker help me I thought we were friends, family almost. I feel betrayed.” The Tevinter looked particularly groomed that morning and she made sure to save a compliment for later when she was warming him back up.
“I’m sorry, love, it. . .wasn’t supposed to be announced that way. Otherwise yes, you would have been the first to know. Will you forgive me?” She plead with him, taking a step closer to where she was nearly nose to nose with him. He scoffed, rolling his eyes before dropping his facade to bring her into a hug. She chuckled into his chest, wrapping her arms around his lower back.
“Of course I do. Now if there are anymore scandals - I demand you come straight to me first, alright?” They separated and he finally broke into a smile, which caused Athena to rub the back of her neck and fight off a blush since he now knew like everyone else knew. The teasing would be endless. Solas appeared at her side, silently handing her one of the hearty breads they had in baskets in the main dining hall. With a sheepish smile, she put the bread in her mouth to free up her hands so she could stroke Prince’s mane before climbing onto the saddle. Once she up there she bit off a large chunk of bread and cherished in the taste of the sweet and salty pastry. The group was about ready to go, the bulk of them on their mounts while the carts carrying their chests of clothes and necessities moved on ahead.
The last people to show up were the Inner Council and Rathein, who was dressed her most formal of attires with a freshly trimmed haircut and shaved sides. Bull smiled when he saw her and that little bit of affection brought a warmth to Athena’s heart. The Qunari mercenary was a giant teddy bear if people could get past what he looked like. Once Rathein was mounted on her horse the entire party moved forward. The Inner Council was at her back and the rest of them followed. Vivienne seemed content near the front of the group, no doubt she wanted to be close to where the real power was. Which left Cassandra, Solas, Dorian, and Athena in the back to keep each other content.
It didn’t take long for them to descend the mountain and join the Imperial Highway, where there were carriages waiting for those who wanted them. Athena refused the offer, looking inside the cramped albeit fancy things. Josephine attempted to hide her frown but she smiled. “Are you going to be joining us, Lady Athena?”
She shrugged looking down to the Ambassador while patting Prince’s side. “It has been a while since I’ve rode with my friends here and I can feel a few members of the Plains Pack close by. I think you would rather have me separated from the group if I’m going to talk to them. Unless. . . you want me to invite the pack of wolves here? Allow me to scout. I will join you in those boxes with wheels after first camp in the morning.”
Vivienne scoffed across from Josephine, looking out the window of the carriage with an unamused expression. The Ambassador quickly reconsidered, shaking her head before shutting the door. While everyone else took their time in loading the chests on the back of the carriages Athena moved with Prince down the highway a few paces, her eyes on the edge of the horizon, feeling for any enemies.
The whispers of the extended pack grew louder as they left Skyhold. Claw and the original six led them to the tree line before returning to their patrols in the surrounding forest of the castle. She hoped to maybe see Fang and introduce him to Kain while he was running by her side. She also had a feeling that Josephine hadn’t informed Gaspard’s people that she was bringing a full sized black wolf to stay with her for the evening.
Boy wouldn’t they be surprised.
Athena looked over her shoulder, catching Solas and Dorian getting their carriage ready. The two men looked to her with different smiles. The Tevinter winked at her and wiggled his fingers towards her while Solas raised a brow in her direction, a smirk of affection playing on his lips. Could the Dread Wolf sense her impending shift? Could he hear the call of the wild swirling within her head, fueling the beating of her heart? Prince could. He gave her a small buck to get her from his back and closer to the ground.
Run, Athena. Prince’s voice echoed within her mind with the memory of Solas’s words at the edge of Crestwood. Knowing her friend’s eyes were still on her she began to run. The wonderful brown mount sprinted with her until she jumped into the air, losing her mind to the pack and shifting into the stark white furred wolf that brought her a sense of joy. When she landed, she looked over her shoulder towards the pair. Solas was smiling with pride on his way into the carriage while Dorian’s eyes widened, his hand going to the back of his head while a string of what she was assuming was Tevinter curses fell from her lips.
The steed called for her, anxious for an unbridled run and so she followed, chasing him into the plains at the edge of the highway while the carriages began their travel to Halamshiral.