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Short Stories: Var Lath Vir Suledin

Chapter Text

The garden is quiet. Not surprising, given the hour. The edges hidden in darkness, the moon scratching her back. She likes the quiet, it stills her brain. The soil in the pot, moist and rich. There is much to be done, and no one else to do it.

She moves to the next pot. Felandaris for this one, she thinks. Dirt under her nails. She can only hear her own breathing. She is still alive. She is tired, but just a few more. Her bones need to be heavy for sleep to find her. Just a few more things, in the night.

She hears a door, the footsteps. They are not subtle.

“Hello, Cassandra.”

She doubts Cassandra has ever been subtle in her life.

“There you are. Do you know the time, my friend?” Cassandra is standing next to her. Tall and strong, sharp.

“It is night, the time hardly matters.”

“Three hours has passed since midnight. I think the plants can wait until tomorrow.”

“No.” She must insist. She can hear them sprout.

“Iwyn…” Cassandra sighs. “Why are you here so late? Do I have to drag you to your bed?”

“Is that why you are up so late, Cassandra? To keep an eye on me? Did you draw straws with the others?“

She is angry, but her voice is flat. She keeps digging; maybe if her hand is in the soil long enough, she can grow another.

“We are your friends, we’re… concerned.” Cassandra crouches down next to her. Touches her arm. “I know things are not easy. But we are all willing to help.”

She stills. Her eyes close. There are no tears.

“I love him, Cassandra, and he wants to end the world. I need these plants to grow.”

The warrior pulls off her gloves. “I will help.”

Chapter Text

Almost every night, she finds herself in the fade. She wills it. She isn’t sure how it is supposed to work, but despite not be a mage, it almost always happens.

She isn’t sure if it is wise, but she can’t stay away. She senses him, and she knows he can see her. The wolf lurking in the shadows. The Bringer of Nightmares. The dreams don’t feel like nightmares. It is nice and still and quiet, for the most part. She wonders if it is his doing, or her own. She tries. Something got stuck in her, even with her hand and mark gone.

She catches more glimpses of him. Reflections in pools, a gleam of eyes in the dark. She misses him. Desperately, in a way she doesn’t admit to her friends. She calls his name, and reaches for him. In the days after she cannot feel him. She wonders if he stopped sleeping. Madly, she wonders if he is alright. Like Fen’Harel would need her protection. He would, he would, he would.  Her heart beats it. 

During her waking hours, she steels herself. She talks strategy, and what they should not do. She has a plan. She holds it together, barely. She catches a reflection of herself in the glass of the War Room, and she thinks for a moment, in madness, it is the wolf. It is just her own reflection. Her hair is looking scruffy. She reaches out and touches the glass, trying to dispel the image. She sleeps well every night, but she looks tired and worn. Her body is missing an arm, and her face is bare.

She feels him again, of course. He can’t stay away either. She is more at peace at night. She feels whole when she senses him and it part madness and part love. She talks to him, but she doesn’t reach again.

She slides into a quiet determination. There is work to be done, for all sort of things. She pushes away the bitterness and saves the longing for the nights. She is changed, but she thinks that so is he. He exists in this world, and she will remind him.  She is a hunter, and she can wait for her prey.

Chapter Text

“You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into, do you?” Branwen paces the dirt floor of temporary dwelling. “How can you…? How can it be…?” Her brother shakes his head, and pauses, leaning on the pillar in the middle of the room.

“It is not as if I planned it,” Iwyn bites back, frustration creeping into her voice.

“What are you going to do now?” Branwen’s hands comes up, waving wildly in front of him. “Are you going to tell Deshanna? Everyone else? Mom?”

“I have to.“ Iwyn doesn’t meet his eyes, idly touching what is left of her left arm. “I have no idea what… his…” she tries to breathe, but the air thick and she feels like it is made of sludge. “I have no idea what his plans are. How dangerous it is for everyone.” She wants to throw up. She hasn’t thought about, not really. She has been like a ghost, worrying about the inquisition, the many tasks of running it.

Here in the Dalish camp, with her brother, it hits her. The Dread Wolf. She knows she sees him in her dreams, and she knows she will find him. Here, the dirt floor, the wolf statues keeping watch, she thinks what it all really means. Her brother goes back to pacing

“They aren’t gods, you know? Just people. Mages,” she says.

It was the wrong thing to say. Branwen stops again, icy look on his face. “Do not say so. Do not come here, after years with the shems, and assume you can tell such things. And if the Creators do not exist, what will protect us then? You, the almighty Inquisitor?” Branwen sneers at her, eyes stormy. She can smell his magic, congealing in the air around him.

“Branwen. It is not like that.” She tries to be calm. “I just wanted everyone to be aware. Don’t trust anyone. Don’t believe calls for change or rebellion.” The words are stuck in her throat. Had she not believed him? Does she not still think he tries to walk the only path he can see forward?

“Did you not say you trusted him? Were you wrong?” Branwen spins and looks at her, chin forward, arms jerking up again.

She opens her mouth to speak, but she has nothing to say. She shakes her head. She doesn’t know, anymore. She feels dizzy, and she sits on a folding chair, drops her head between her legs.

“Iwyn. Sis…” He hasn’t called her that since he was a small boy. Branwen stops pacing and places a hand in her back, runs it down her spine. It is large and heavy. He has become a man while she has been gone.

“I don’t know, Branwen. I don’t know what think anymore. I have to stop him. I love him. I don’t know how.“ She doesn’t look up. She hasn’t said it our loud, like this, to any of her friends. Only shown her calm self. But here; here she can smell the wood burning. The sour note of the tanned halla hides. Taste the herbs from her dad’s liquor at the back of her throat. Nothing to command, no tasks to attend to. Nothing left that gives her a semblance of control.

Branwen crouches in front of her. He puts his hand on her shoulders and pulls her forward, into an awkward hug, until her knees hit the floor, and then she throws herself into his chest. She hasn’t cried, she hasn’t for so long, but her cheeks are wet, and her shoulders are shaking, and Branwen keeps holding her.

Chapter Text

Iwyn wants to travel alone, but both Cassandra and Cullen forbids it. She feels so weary, these days. How long since she has walked alone across the forest floor? She knows the danger, of course. She is still the Inquisitor, by her own choice. Her work isn’t done.  

Peace is a fleeting thing in Thedas, and that is without considering the events only her and her closest friends and allies knows are coming. Solas. Thinking of him, it is like a constant pain that never dulls. She shakes her thoughts away, waves at the children watching her and the company of Inquisition soldiers.

The letter she received didn’t have much information. It would please me to see you at the Ghislain estate. Why there she wondered? Why not the White Spire? We have some matters to discuss. Nothing more. It was probably best to leave details out of written conversation, but it was still a puzzle. She had seen Vivienne several times over the past months, but it was always in Val Royoux, formal business between the Circle of Magi and the Inquisition.

 The Estate is large enough that the soldiers are easily given room in the barracks, and she is lead to room.

“Madame de Fer will see you after you are refreshed, Your Worship.” The human servant bows and retreats.

Iwyn washes her face, and decides to change into less travel stained clothes. It is Vivienne she is meeting, after all.

“This way,” the man says. He must have been waiting outside her suite the whole time. He leads her to a small salon. Plants are crawling up along the windows, and a small table is set with cups and sandwiches and little cakes. She waits by the far window, fingers running over the delicate leaves of a flower.

“So glad you could make it, my dear.”

Iwyn turns and walks to Vivienne.

“Vivienne. It is good to see you too.” She smiles. Despite what differences they have, it truly is. Everyone who is still at Skyhold seem to be either fretting over her or cowering from her, and she misses Vivienne’s poise.

“Come sit, darling.”

The both sit on the soft chairs, and a servant brings steaming pot of tea, pouring for both. It is brewed to perfection, and Iwyn passes on both the milk and sugar.

They talk about, but it is about nothing. Bastien’s son. Minor nobles in the Game. Iwyn smiles and eats her cake and drinks her tea. Pretends like this is normal, like anything is normal. Like the world isn’t waiting to swallow her whole, like she doesn’t know it is only a matter of years, or months, or days, before it will be too late for her to change Solas’ mind.

“Vivienne. Why did you ask me here?”

Vivienne puts her tea cup down. “To have tea, of course. And did you know that the spring in the north of the town is said to have an invigorating effect? We will go tomorrow.”

“That… can’t be why I am truly here.” Iwyn looks around, makes sure there is no one here. “Do you have any information for me?”

“I might have a few things to discuss. But first – you are set on this course? Love doesn’t solve everything, you know.”

“I know.” But she isn’t sure. She wants it to, she needs it to. “Maybe.” Iwyn doesn’t meet Vivienne’s eyes, it seems so childish to voice such a foolish, hopeful notion.

“My dear.” Vivienne puts her hand on Iwyn’s. “No matter. I will help, and this is why you are here. Sera, of all people, wrote me a letter. It was almost incomprehensible, but I did understand that you are worrying too much, working too hard.”

“Sera sent you a letter? Sera?”

“Yes. Who else would she turn to? It is not like you to distract yourself organizing troops or wading through the wilderness to find another dragon. No. Tomorrow we are going to the Sacred Springs.”

“I see.” She isn’t sure she does, but there is something that makes Iwyn relax. She has been throwing herself at problem after problem, and none of it solves the real problem.

“I know you would.” Vivienne stands. “I will see you at dinner, the gong rings only once.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

They spend their time together carefully. Measured.

Their conversations quiet. About the future of the inquisition or what is left. About the fade and magic. Not that he doesn't want to discuss those things, but the things that are left unsaid are so many like stones upon stones in a tower waiting to fall.

There are not many people in Skyhold these days. Most of the soldiers were long gone. The inner circle sometimes came by, but none was a constant presence. The Chargers were off on new adventures, though they seemed to have made Skyhold their permanent base.

Currently, Cassandra is visiting. There seemed to always be someone there. It has only been a month since… since he came back. He guesses it is natural enough. They don’t trust him. Maybe they shouldn’t, but he wishes they would, that he still had friends. Everything is still raw and bright and dark. He wishes they would not hover. Discomfort is growing, poison in the blood. It needs to come out, purged, screamed.  

They have breakfast in Josephine’s old ambassador suite. No nobles are clamoring for an audience, and the size is better than the grand hall for taking meals with the current occupants.

“How fares the Seekers, Cassandra?” Iwyn asks.

“it is good, but… slow. Divine Victoria has been most helpful.”

“Of course,” Iwyn smiles, “Let me know if…

As he reaches over for the sugar bowl, his elbow nudges Iwyn’s cup. It wobbles, and as she turns she tries to catch it, but she overbalances. The end of her left arm is moving, in the empty air. In the end, the movement causes the table to move, and the cup crashes to the ground, a million sharp pieces. They both stare at it for moment, then both jump up.

“I’m sorry…” he starts

“Sorry, I can’t…” she looks at him, wide eyed, looking younger than she ever did, like a startled doe. Iwyn jumps and runs.

He stands, confused. She didn’t use to be like this. She is fierce, bold and experienced. Not… this.

Tea seeps over the floor like poison in the courts.

He moves to go after her, but Cassandra’s hand on his arm stops him. “Solas… give her a moment. You were not here,” Cassandra pins him with her gaze, then swallows and looks down. “You left her. On the ground, missing an arm. We had to carry her back.” He did not know this. He wants to move, but the warmth of Cassandra’s hand root him there, paralyzed. Cassandra is back to looking at him, unwavering. “You were not there to pick up the pieces,” – he flinches – she always appeared so strong to him. In the fade. “She wasn’t handling missing an arm well.” He guesses there were other things too, but there is no need to mention it. Cassandra lets go of him. The weight, the burn is still there. He is reeling as if she had smitten him.

“I didn’t know.” He wants to look away, close his eyes as a coward. He doesn’t. “I am sorry, Cassandra.” It is all he can offer, and it is not enough.

Cassandra lets out a disgusted sigh. “I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, Fen’Harel.” She doesn’t pull her punches, warrior through and through. “But if you hurt her more, with the Maker at my side, I will end you!”

He nods his head in acquiescence. “I understand.” She wouldn’t need any help from her Maker. Cassandra is a formidable enemy all on her own. At this point, he is not even sure he can think of a reason to offer resistance should it come to it.

 

 

 

Solas finds Iwyn at the battlements. The former Inquisitor is looking down into the valley. Her breath is misting in the cold, and the air smells like snow. Far beneath them, the valley is covered in it, not a trace of an army left to see.  

“I’m sorry,” he says again. Helplessly. She turns towards him. She is still upset, unbalanced. Maybe he should have waited – no, the longer they wait, the more they will bleed.

“What for?” she asks. “For leaving me? For coming back?” She is close to him, gaze fierce, dried tears on her cheeks. “For taking my arm? For your anchor to find me? For loving me?” She is pushing at his chest with each question, and he is stepping backwards. He has already surrendered, but there is no victor.

“I could never be sorry for loving you, vhenan. I am only sorry for the pain I caused you.” He wants to grab her hand, kiss it. Pull her close and breathe in her warmth. Instead his arms hang loose at his side, the cold stinging his throat.

Iwyn doesn’t relent. “But tell me you aren’t sorry for changing your plans? Are they even are changed? How do I know?” She sounds bitter now, defeated. Angry still. The cold air burns all the way down in his lungs, into his heart. “I am… I will die, Solas. What happens then? Will you go back to destroying the world? Are you just waiting? I sometimes don’t even know why you are here!”

She crowds him against the battlement now, so close. He simply lets himself slide down to the ground. Sits. He looks up at her, glorious in her fury, but flying apart. It is as if all that held her together these past years is gone, and she might shatter, like the cup.

He looks up at her. “Vhenan.” He sighs heavily. “Come sit, my love. Please.”

She does. She sits at the wall next to him. She doesn’t touch him. They are safe from the cold winds down here, hiding.  He thinks this might take a while.  He lets his magic seep into the stone and warm it.

“I’m sorry Solas,” she says then. “The broken cup set me off. I don’t like being clumsy.” She doesn’t move closer. “I do need to know. I… don’t know where we go from here.”

“Do not be sorry. You will never be clumsy to me. You are not only graceful, you have grace, the very fabric of your being is weaved from it.” He knows this is not about her arm, her change, but it is. Cassandra hinted so much, and he needs to tell her this too.

“Smooth talker.” She lets air out through her nose and gives him a little smile. The tightness of his chest lessens. He has to go on, to tell her. He must. She is turns slightly towards him, warmth in her gaze. It helps the words frozen in his throat.

“You are right, though. There are things that need to be said.” He draws a deep breath, steady. “This is hard for me, I am sorry. I can tell you that I… My plans are not stalled, they are stopped. I cannot say I do not have doubts. This world still feels… broken.”

She looks up at him, brow furrowed, angry. He looks away.

“But – its people are not. And – it is not just you. I thought it my ignorance I could put it behind me. That other things mattered more. One thing is to deny myself my only chance for happiness,” the air feels cold now, “but how can allow myself to destroy everything. Again.” He pauses. The air is thin, but it is pressing down on him, like it is going to push him through the stone and deep into the ground. “I feel such a heavy guilty for changing this world for the worse. I feel it every time a mage must reach across the veil, every time an elf is called a knife ear, every time… when time eats at the remnants of the elves, and wrinkles gather and they crumble to dust. It is my fault. My fault alone. I thought – I thought maybe if I could go back…” His head hangs, his word stumble.

She leans closer. Takes his hand in hers. His strength returns and he can look at her again. “I’ve seen the world, now, vhenan, I’ve seen it. You made me see it, but others too. It took a while, but I cannot forget how it felt, to have… friends.” He tastes the word, and it is bitter. Are they willing to give him a chance, like her? “I wish to reassure you, my love, but I have been alive for so long, and I am used to being alone.” He gives her a small smile, thin like the air.

Iwyn looks at him, her eyes turn from a hard emerald to a soft moss. “You are not alone now. I am glad you are telling me what is on your mind. You can tell me anything. I understand that you will doubt, I just had to know how much. I doubt too. And I am sorry. I waited for you so long. I waited and waited for you. Now you're here and I don't know how long and I don't dare to ask most times. I just want to pretend that…”

She gestures vaguely, but he understands. He pretended for so long and there are times he wished he'd never stopped. But now there can be only truth. Brittle, light, heavy, and strong. Truth cannot be broken.

“There is no more reason to pretend, vhenan.”

“I know. I think.” She lets go of his hand and rubs her right eye with the heel of her own. “I’m afraid of the future and of the past. I don’t understand your past, Solas. It frightens me, I can barely comprehend it.”

Suddenly he wants her to know, everything. Everything he has done, everything he tried to do. Everything he need to atone for. Everything he is still proud of. Everything that is so far away, it is almost lost in time. The flower crowns his sister fashioned out of discarded stems and magic. The times he regretted fighting, and the times he didn't.

Their relationship has always been defined in the present - not tomorrow, not the past. Now they are beyond that, like a tree with both roots and a crown.

Ar lath ma, vhenan. Of the past I can tell you anything you wish to know. The future is what we make it.”

Iwyn looks thoughtful for a moment. “I like the future.” She leans in and kisses him, deeply. Now she turns and crawls in his lap. Their foreheads touch.

“Hold on, vhenan,” is all the warning she gets and then he moves them. Across half of Skyhold, directly into the soft linens in her bed.

“What – how? “

He laughs. “I know the geometry of Skyhold very well. As well as the fade around it. It was like a fade step, in a way.” He turns serious. “I hope I didn’t alarm you.”

"You did not. Maybe a little, but I can see the advantage.”

She leans and kisses him again. Summer and honey. She pulls him closer, deeper, nearer, down.

She breaks the kiss. “That was… I am not sure anyone truly understand that kind of power.” He sees the doubt creep back in her eyes.

“I am here, and I am yours, a man.” He locks her gaze. “I promise you. This world is now mine, too.”

He kisses her again, and then there is nothing else but the two of them.

Chapter Text

It has not even been a month since Solas returned. They are still getting settled, they are still finding their rhythm. They are still careful around each other, tentative in their love. Solas especially, his worry warring with his relief.

They cannot spend every waking moment together, and he has taken to repairing more of Skyhold, working on the wall that still were in crumbles. He works with both his hands and his magic, though mostly the latter. It feels good to use the power, the magic that fills him, to have it spill from him and into the stone.

He misses her already.

He makes his way to her… their room. He climbs the stairs, he closes the door silently behind him. He smiles when he sees Iwyn in the bath.

"This stupid --! Ugh why won’t you!"

She is struggling with her hair, frustrated by band she tries to loosen one-handed. He is frozen, paralyzed.

"Fuck!"

Her arm drops into the tub and she closes her eyes. He walks closer, she hears him now and turns her head.

"You don't have to - I can help," he offers.

She frowns, her eyes suddenly hard.

"How did you think I managed for the past year? I can do this."

She doesn't say I don't need you. This is your fault. He hears it all the same.

"I apologize. I only wanted… if I may… I can leave, if you prefer."

She sighs, and her eyes soften.

"I'm sorry, Solas. Of course you can stay. I'd love some help. Please, vhenan."

He doesn't know what to say, words stuck in his throat. He swallows, and he hurries to her side. He drops to his knees, and gently put his hands in her hair. He undoes the knot of her hairband. He cards his fingers through her hair, the red locks like silk against them. They are shaking, just a bit.

"Vhenan. May I wash your hair?"

She smiles, small and gentle. She leans her head back.

"Yes."

He finds the jug of water, the soap. He rolls up his sleeves. He washes her hair, rubbing her scalp. She sighs in contentment, her eyes closed. He kisses her neck and he rinses out the soap. He finds her towel, and he holds it out for her, as she rises from the bath.

He wraps it around her, along with her his arms, holding her tight.

"I'm sorry I got angry, ma lath. Thank you for your help."

"You have the right to your anger. Vhenan, I should have - "

"There is no changing the past. I'm grateful you are here now, ma lath."

"As am I."

Chapter Text

They’re still careful around each other. Quiet and deliberate. It’s only been a few days since Solas walked through her door, and she hugged him, and they cried.

Iwyn has her work, there is still so much to do. One day, the Dales will belong to the elves, but the day has not yet come. Solas has books to read, or missives to keep his organization working, or maybe dismantle it. She thinks it could be useful, for what she does, but they haven’t talked about it. Not yet.

They eat together, and they walk on the bulwarks, and they sit together and they share their space.

He still asks, almost every evening.

“Can I stay?”

Sometimes he says the words, standing in the doorway. Sometimes he just looks at her, where he sits across from her on the couch, a question in his eyes.

The answer is always yes.

Tonight, Iwyn takes his hand and smiles at him. He is here, in her room, in Skyhold, high above the ground. The moon is partly hidden, behind the balcony doors and the clouds.

“Come to bed, Solas.”

He stands and he follows her and they embrace. It is their room and their bed and she tells him and they fall into it. She doesn’t want him to ask again.

They undress and they kiss, they kiss and they undress.

They’re naked.

“Ma lath,” she says, her lips on his shoulder, his throat, his chest.

He groans and his hands roam her body, her breasts, her ass, between her legs. She guides him closer, and he is inside of her.

“Vhenan,” he says.

There is no room between them, and no world outside their room.

Chapter Text

Iwyn wakes with the sunlight streaming through the windows. She is alone, and it takes her a while to remember that she shouldn’t be. She can smell Solas in the linens, and she smiles. Then she wonders where he went.

She has a brief flash of panic.  She doesn’t want to be alone, again. She looks around, and the bedroom is filled with his things, his books, his clothes. No need to worry. Just a slight puzzle. She considers getting out of bed when she hears footsteps on the stairs.

She snuggles back in the bed then. The blankets are warm, and the air in the room is still cold from the night.

Solas comes to the bed, wearing a thin shirt and pair of loose pants, carrying a tray. A delicious smell of freshly baked bread hits her nose.

“You brought breakfast? Fresh bread?”

“Ah. Yes.” He looks bashful, suddenly, a small blush on his cheeks. She can’t help but smile. “I didn’t bake,” he clarifies, not meeting her eyes. “I just went to the kitchen. I wanted to…” he doesn’t complete his sentence.

“Loss of words, vhenan? So unlike you.” She can’t help but tease, his embarrassment a novel thing.

“I wanted to surprise you. I thought it might be nice, to eat here, just the two of us.” He sets the tray down on the bedside table, and sits on the bed. “I…” he stops again.

There are a million unsaid things. He wants, maybe, to make up for the times she ate breakfast alone. Do something he never allowed himself to do, earlier. 

It doesn’t matter, Iwyn decides. What was, or what could have been, doesn’t matter at all.

“It is lovely,” she declares. There is no need to dwell. “I love it. Thank you.”

He smiles, but his blush stays.

She decides she likes the smile, the blush, the sun through the windows. She likes the carefree time they have, to do this. The bread does smell delicious. Now, however, she wants to find out if his blush extends past the collar of his shirt.

Chapter Text

They meet them by chance, as much as meeting anyone here is really by just chance at all. Solas worries what Morrigan seeks here, in the Vir Dirthara. He doesn’t like being here at all. Ruins and failure. 
But Iwyn wanted to find something she saw when she was here before. His footfalls are heavy with memories, and everything here is broken. He hopes his heart stays whole. Now the former Inquisitor and Morrigan are talking like old friends, and Solas stays back.

“Hello,” says a voice next to him. The boy. Older now, but still a boy. He gets up from where he sat cross-legged and holds his hand out to Solas in greeting. He takes it. “Hello, Kieran.”

“It was inside me, and I gave it to her. But now she is no more. Except for the part that you took.” Kieran looks Solas directly in the eyes.

 "I am sorry. I thought it necessary at the time. Perhaps it still was.” His gaze doesn’t waver from the boy. “Those who live very long lives, sometimes they forget how to love. It is very hard to remind them,” he continues.

“She tried to be kind to me. But she didn’t really know how to. She was very sad about that.”

“She used to…” he pauses, the pain suddenly fresh and raw in him. “She used to be kind to everyone.”

Kieran thinks a little about it. “Mother says she wasn’t important, and that I should try and forget. Will you forget her?“ 

He shakes his head. “Not in a million years. Not until the stars falls from the sky, and moon crashes to the ground.”

Kieran looks at where his mother quietly speaks with Iwyn. Looks at the one-armed woman, and then back at Solas. 

"Maybe it is time you should. You could try. I will remember her for you. Don’t worry, I will not tell Mother.” Kieran smiles gently. 

Chapter Text

They are gathered in front of the fireplace in Josephine’s old ambassador suite. Iwyn is pleasantly tipsy, and feeling warm and relaxed. Everyone, save Leliana, made it to Skyhold for Midwinter.  It is good to feel the friendship again, after everything. It is just too bad the duties of Divine Victoria keep her from the reunion. 

Cullen’s mabari is sleeping against the door - apparently, the dog prefer the cold to the warmth of the fireplace, but he never lets Cullen out of sight. The man himself is relaxing in a chair with mug of the mulled wine they are all sharing, discussing some shield training technique with Cassandra and The Iron Bull. 

Iwyn is resting against Solas, leaning her whole body into him. She loves to feel his solidness next to her. He is here, and her friends are here and the warmth of the fireplace and the wine is spreading through her body. 

Josie is sitting in Thom Rainier’s lap, and Vivenne is sipping brandy and discussing something about alchemy with Dorian. It is like any disagreement anyone had is gone like the smoke through the chimney. 

Sera is petting Cullen’s mabari and humming to herself. 

“So…” says Varric. He is reclining in a chair, looking comfortable and relaxed. “I got some good sales for ‘This Shit is Weird’ in the end. I have been thinking of writing a sequel.”

“What will you call it? Weirder shite?” Sera says and laughs a little. 

Solas has his arm around her, tracing patterns on her hip. 

“Maybe,” replies Varric. “I haven’t decided yet. I was thinking trying romance again, I mean the tale of star-crossed lovers should be compelling. Maybe more along ‘This love is weird?’ or 'Veiled love’? Too obvious, maybe…I do have some questions, Chuckles, if you would…”

Varric doesn’t get to say more before Iwyn sits straight up. “NO!“ 

Solas tenses besides her, then relaxes forcibly.  "If you do, I might change my mind and bring down the veil anyway. Out if spite.”

The conversation stutters and an awkward silence fills the room. Solas is squeezing her hip, almost painfully. She knows he has missed the friendships, even if he doesn’t vocalize it. 

Vivienne breaks the silence. “I believe this is what you would call 'too soon’ in polite society.”

Solas opens his mouth to speak, when Sera laughs. “Out of spite, bwahaha. I’ll kill you if you do.”

“Thank you, Sera. That is a comfort, in a way,” Solas then offers. His grip relaxes, just a bit. She takes his hand in hers. 

“Another round?”  says Bull and gets up to fetch the warm wine. “To old friends.”

Everyone seems to need more to drink, and then it is just all they are. Friends, keeping warm on the darkest night of the year.