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It was well past midnight when Elyon gave up on trying to sleep and instead went out to the Great Hall to sit by the fire. He was too tired to read or keep himself busy with something, but too awake to sleep, apparently, so he simply made himself comfortable on the stone step of the fire pit and stared into the fire. It was just warm enough around the fire that he wasn’t cold in his nightwear, a big, soft shirt and loose pants, not even on the cold stone floor. Only his bare feet complained a bit, but he sat so they were resting on the thick carpet leading from the pit to the throne. He leaned on the edge of the pit, resting his head on his arms as he was watching the flames dance, his thoughts circling around the recent events. He hadn’t been naïve when he was first told about his task but there had been quite a few unexpected events along the way… He knew he still had many things left to do to get rid of the lingering darkspawn in the area, to get the nobles to accept him completely and to rebuild the Vigil and Amaranthine…

But tonight he couldn’t think about these problems. His mind was on his new wardens, on all the people under his command. Even before becoming one, he had heard of the wardens being a colorful bunch, and he had experienced it before in Orlais. Now he even had his own squad, all professionals in their area of expertise but so very, very different from each other and not at all disciplined the way troops were. But he didn’t need them to be until they did their job and could tolerate the Deep Roads. He didn’t need mindless soldiers, he needed fierce warriors who didn’t crush under emotional pressure, and they were perfect for that.

There was also the staff of the Vigil, of course. It took some getting used to being in control of a whole arling and Seneschal Varel, Captain Garavel and Mistress Woolsey were all great help in that. They knew everything he didn’t and were prepared to help him out at any given moment. There were so many things that had to be kept in mind to keep the Vigil running and he had no experience in it. He was a mage and a warden, neither of which required knowledge of governing an arling…

He was aware that he hadn’t gotten too close to his people yet. Neither the wardens, nor the staff. He knew quite a lot about them already, what with everything that was going on, but he hadn’t told them much about himself. He was used to just being one of many, of being asked questions like the others and not treated as unapproachable. He missed the easy comradeship he used to have with the other wardens back in Orlais that remained the same even as he advanced in rank. Now he had to work on that…

Suddenly he heard a door open and close, then the sound of footsteps followed, only to halt a few moments later, presumably when the person noticed him. Elyon slowly raised his head to turn towards the source of the sound, only to see Seneschal Varel approach him with a smile. Ah. The Seneschal was also only in his nightwear, a shirt and leggings, with a dressing gown over them that was loosely tied around his waist, so Elyon could see a small part of his chest revealed by the shirt and all those muscles under the thin fabric. He quickly directed his gaze back up to the Seneschal’s eyes and sat up straight.

“Good evening, Commander” Varel greeted him with a small smile as he was walking towards him, and Elyon returned it with a nod. “I didn’t expect to find anyone awake at this hour. Couldn’t sleep?”

Elyon shook his head with a sigh, then leaned back against the pit again as Varel stopped beside him.

“Mind if I join you?” the Seneschal gestured towards the stone step he was sitting on, and Elyon quickly shook his head. Varel smiled and sat down next to him, even if with a bit more difficulty than Elyon. The elf was smaller and, well, younger than the Seneschal, so it was harder for the man to find a comfortable position.

Couldn’t sleep either? Elyon signed and looked at Varel with a curious look.

“No” Varel said with a grimace. “I woke up after an hour of sleep for something that sounded like someone tripped over every spare armor we have and have been tossing and turning since then, so I gave up. I thought about fetching a book or maybe going down to the kitchen for a cup of tea… What about you, Commander? Is there something that’s troubling you? Or is it one of those warden nightmares keeping you up?” he asked with a worried frown.

No, not the nightmares Elyon signed and shook his head. I just have a lot on my mind. About the Vigil and the arling.

Elyon looked down at his feet, shuffling them on the soft carpet.

“Ah, yes, I can see how that all would sound overwhelming at first” Varel nodded at that, still frowning slightly. “But it will get easier over time as you learn how to do your tasks and the people come to trust you completely. You’re not Rendon Howe and just saved them form darkspawn, so you have a good start with that. You’ll also always have your seneschal to assist you. It’s not as bad as it seems at first sight” he gave the Commander a warm smile.

Elyon watched the smile, feeling his heart flutter at the sight but kept a straight face. He let his eyes wander away from the Seneschal’s face again.

I’m an elf and a mage. I know how hard it is to earn trust Elyon signed with a bitter expression and looked back at Varel.

“I know that people are prejudiced” the Seneschal agreed, nodding at that. “But you have already showed them what kind of ruler you are. You put yourself in danger to save them and protected them, and brought the arling back to the way of life they had before Arl Howe went mad. Your accomplishments won’t be forgotten easily, just as Howe’s deeds won’t be forgiven in a while. Have patience” Varel said and put a hand on the Commander’s arm reassuringly. He let it linger for a few moments before pulling it back.

The touch surprised Elyon but he didn’t pull away and didn’t jump, just let himself enjoy the warmness coming from it. He also kept the disappointment off his face when Varel pulled his hand back. He enjoyed the man’s company, more than it was advisable, and he knew he wasn’t young enough anymore to have silly daydreams. He was aware of how stupid he was being, even thinking about it.

People usually don’t like having a stranger thrust upon them to rule over them. It’s you who’s too kind with me from the beginning Elyon signed with a neutral expression. He was simply stating a fact. I’m not sure anyone at all would have sided with me if you hadn’t been here, too.

“Even if that was the case, that doesn’t mean you haven’t proved yourself since then” Varel said, looking straight at the Commander with a reassuring and warm look. “Cheer up, Commander, don’t let these things keep you up at night! If you keep an eye open and don’t get too comfortable in your position, nothing horrible can happen. But this is true to everyone in charge.”

You comfort me so easily. I wasn’t aware that this was part of your job, too Elyon actually gave a small smile as he glanced up at the Seneschal.

“Not exactly, but I aim to please” Varel laughed at that, shifting slightly in his seat, trying to find a more convenient way to lean against the fire pit, then looked at the Commander again. “You can turn to me with any kind of trouble you have, be it arling matter or personal. I’ll be happy to help you in any way I can.”

Elyon smiled fondly as the Seneschal spoke, torn between hiding it or letting him see to show he was grateful. Then Varel put a hand on his arm again, his welcomed warmness returning, but this time he was closer and with all these matters they were discussing, it was a so much more intimate gesture than before… Elyon, although he rarely ever did so, blushed. He knew he did because he felt his traitorous face heat up, and he quickly glanced up in fear to see if Varel had noticed. His gaze met with the Seneschal’s and then the warm hand was gone and Varel was getting up.

“Forgive me, Commander, I didn’t mean to-” Varel started to apologize but was stopped by a hand on his wrist that was pulling him back down. He unsurely looked back at the Commander who was watching him wide-eyed, his hand firmly wrapped around his wrist, and obediently sat back down beside him. Only when he was steadily on the ground again did the Commander let go of him.

You don’t have to apologize. I don’t mind your closeness Elyon signed as he stayed facing the Seneschal, just as close to him as before, and knew his blush was still very visible on his cheeks.

“Commander, I-” Varel started and his voice was trembling slightly, giving away his own uncertainty, which comforted Elyon. His eyes moved from the Commander’s hands to his eyes, looking back at him with a questioning look.

Elyon didn’t sign anything, but moved closer instead, keeping his eyes locked with Varel’s, and put a tentative hand on the Seneschal’s thigh, under the gown that was slipped open. When there was no objection, he leaned forward, relieved, merely smiling at the soft ‘oh’ sound Varel let out before their lips met. It was a slow, careful kiss, with the both of them slowly easing into it, adjusting to each other. Varel hesitantly put a hand around Elyon’s waist, bringing him closer, while Elyon put his free hand on the Seneschal’s shoulder, completely leaning against the man’s chest.

When they pulled away, Varel watched the Commander with hazy eyes and a dreamy smile. Elyon was sure he wasn’t any better, but he didn’t care. He buried his face into Varel’s neck, breathing in his scent, and closed his eyes. Varel wrapped his other arm around him as well, pulling Elyon into his embrace completely, and settled back against the fire pit.

They stayed there for some time, enjoying each other’s closeness in the peace and quiet of the Keep in the night, with only the fire crackling beside them. It all seemed like a dream, but Elyon knew it wasn’t because every brush of Varel’s hand as he was idly stroking his back felt so vivid, so intense, it had to be real. Then a hand turned Elyon’s head upwards gently and Varel leaned down to press a kiss to his lips again before he pulled away and sat up straight.

“I think we should both go back to our beds. It’s late and you should catch some sleep before the day is starting” Varel smiled at him, his thumb gently stroking the Commander’s face.

Elyon nodded, even if he wasn’t too thrilled to have to part from Varel.

Are we going to discuss this tomorrow?

“Yes, I think we will have to” Varel nodded with the sweetest smile Elyon had ever seen on him, and it took all his restraint to not kiss him again. They stood up and started walking towards the door that led to the bedchambers, Varel taking his hand on their way. “Good night then, Commander” Varel said as they arrived at Elyon’s room, and with a final kiss, the Commander retired for the night, his heart fluttering like a teenager’s at the promise the next day held.