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The Wrong Choice

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Skyhold. Finally, the Inquisition had a place to call its own. Aeryth smiled slightly as she walked through the halls, trailing a hand along the ancient walls. It was hard to believe that this place had been left abandoned for so long and was still in impressive shape. It had been a stroke of pure luck that Solas had been travelling with them and had known of this place. It was perfectly suited to their needs.

She could hear frustrated grumbling coming from somewhere ahead. Curious, she followed the sound to the library. Dorian was searching through the Inquisition’s meager book collection, a frown creasing his handsome features. “All of these books, and most of them are absolutely ridiculous,” he muttered as he ran a finger over the spines and read the titles.

“Worry not, my darling Dorian. I will personally ensure that Skyhold receives proper reading material just for your viewing pleasure,” Aeryth commented with a dramatic bow.

Dorian sniffed. “I will hold you to that. All of these ‘gifts’ to the Inquisition and the best they can do is the Malefica Imperio? Trite propaganda. But if you want twenty volumes on whether Divine Galatea took a shit on Sunday, this is evidently the place to find it.”

Aeryth bit her lip to keep from laughing, rubbing Dorian’s bare shoulder sympathetically. “Poor thing. How do you endure such hardship?”

“My thoughts exactly,” Dorian agreed with a sigh. “I think I need I drink to soothe away my sorrows. Care to join me? You know I am always delightful company,” he added with a wink.

Aeryth smiled and shook her head. “I’m afraid I must decline; I have a meeting with my advisors. If I can manage to sneak away at a decent hour I may join you later.”

“How disappointing,” Dorian replied with a slight pout. Pinching her cheek slightly in reproach, he motioned for her to precede him down the stairs. “If you are going to make me drink by myself, the least you can do is walk with me part of the way.” Aeryth could only shake her head and grin as she and Dorian made their way towards the main hall.

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Several weeks later, Mother Giselle received a letter claiming to be from Magister Halward Pavus, Dorian’s father, requesting a meeting with a family retainer and pleading with him to return to Tevinter. Aeryth knew that Dorian’s parents had chosen a woman for Dorian to marry and Dorian had refused, choosing instead to leave, but she sensed that there was a lot more to the story that Dorian was unwilling to disclose.

When Aeryth found Dorian later that evening he was so drunk he could hardly sit up on his own. “You… you made it!” he slurred. He somehow managed to grab her arm and pull her into a bear hug.

“Not before you drank yourself into a stupor, I see,” she responded as she returned the hug.

Dorian laughed and nodded enthusiastically. He leaned his chin against her shoulder. “It’s one of the few things I happen to be quite good at, in fact.”

After a few more drinks Aeryth finally convinced Dorian to head back to his room, although she nearly had to carry him there.

“Maybe I should have just done as I was told, married the girl, and lived a false life” Dorian muttered sadly as he flopped down onto the bed. Aeryth sat down beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder, surprised to see that Dorian’s eyes were filling with tears. She pulled Dorian closer and coaxed his head into her lap. He threw his arms around her waist and hid his face against her stomach, his shoulders shaking as he cried silently.

Aeryth wrapped her arms around him and gently stroked a hand through his hair. “No, you shouldn’t have done that,” she admonished gently. “You would have been depressed and miserable for the rest of your life. There is nothing wrong with the way you want to live your life, and wishing to be with another man instead of a woman is nothing to be ashamed of.” She began to hum a Dalish lullaby she remembered from her childhood to try and calm him.

She finally felt Dorian slowly begin to relax in her arms, sniffing occasionally, his ragged breathing becoming more even. Aeryth bent to kiss the top of his head tenderly and Dorian sighed. “Thank the Maker for you,” he murmured into her stomach, causing Aeryth to giggle.

“That’s what friends are for, my dear.”

“Friends. I have had precious few of those,” Dorian admitted with another sigh as he moved to sit up.

“Me neither. It’s quite nice, actually,” Aeryth replied, pinching one of Dorian’s cheeks gently. Dorian snorted and pushed her hand away.   

“Would you… would you stay the night? Your presence is rather comforting,” Dorian asked hesitantly, not quite meeting her eyes.

“Of course I will.” Dorian finally lifted his head to smile at her. The dark kohl he always wore had heavily smudged under his eyes and over his cheeks while he cried, turning his face into a blotchy mess. Aeryth went to the wash basin in the corner and soaked a fresh cloth in the cool water. She came back to the bed and took Dorian’s face in her hands, carefully wiping his face clean.

Dorian flushed and looked away in embarrassment as his face was laid bare to her. This was the most vulnerable she had ever seen him. Aeryth turned his head to one side and kissed his cheek. “Don’t worry, you’re still unforgivably handsome,” she assured him with a smile. Dorian laughed and reached up to tug at her left ear fondly.

Aeryth helped Dorian to get under the covers and curled up beside him. He pulled her closer so that her head rested against his chest. “This is definitely one of the perks of having a friend.” Dorian murmured contentedly as the combined heat of their bodies warmed the sheets around them. Aeryth nodded in sleepy agreement.

Chapter Text

“I have a mind to go and see what shade of red I can turn our dear Commander’s cheeks today. Care to join me?”

Dorian’s eyes lit up. “Now that is an interesting idea. Count me in.”

Aeryth linked arms with Dorian and headed down the stairs. On their way to Cullen’s office they passed Solas setting up his collection of paints. “Hello, Inquisitor,” he greeted warmly. His eyes drifted for a moment to her companion. “Dorian,” he added with a curt nod before turning back to Aeryth. The intensity of Solas’s gaze sent tiny shivers down her spine.

“Hello Solas,” she replied, forcing the words out through a suddenly dry throat. A small smile pulled at the corner of Solas’s lips, as if he could sense her sudden nervousness and found it amusing.

“Please excuse us, Solas, but we have important matters to attend to,” Dorian interrupted, tugging on Aeryth’s arm impatiently.

The smile faded as Solas returned his piercing gaze to Dorian. “Indeed? It must be terribly important if you have bothered to trouble yourself with it,” he replied coolly.

“Indeed it is.” Dorian finally succeeded in getting Aeryth to follow him, giving Solas a final haughty look before closing the door behind him.

“Honestly, I don’t know what you could possibly see in that insufferable elf,” Dorian huffed in disbelief as they traversed the walkway to Cullen’s office, shaking his head. “Especially when you are already in such excellent company.”

“First of all, he isn’t insufferable. Just… a little overly smug sometimes. And to be honest, I’m as surprised by my attraction to him as you are,” Aeryth replied with a sigh. “He definitely isn’t the type of man that I normally go for. I wish I could figure out what’s so different about him.”

“Well, at least you know that you won’t have any competition. He’s not exactly the most desirable man in Skyhold. And he’s definitely not the most handsome. That title, of course, is reserved for me.”

“But of course,” Aeryth agreed with a sly smile. “I think Cullen could give you some serious competition, though. His chantry-raised innocence and blushing demeanour are terribly endearing. Not to mention his ruggedly handsome features and muscular physique.”

“Honestly, I’ve never seen a single human being blush so much. It’s a fascinating sight to behold.” Dorian rapped smartly on the door, barely waiting for a confirmation to enter before throwing it open.

“Ah hello, Inquisitor, Dorian,” Cullen greeted as he glanced up from his mountain of paperwork. “What can I do for you today?”

“We just came to enjoy the view, dear Commander,” Dorian replied, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning one hip against Cullen’s desk.

“The view? Ah…” Cullen’s eyes widened with sudden understanding, a deep flush spreading across his pale cheeks. He hastily cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand nervously. “If you are quite finished, I… um… have a lot of reports to go through at the moment.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you work too much, Cullen?” Aeryth asked as she moved around the desk and peered over Cullen’s shoulder at the paper he was currently reading, gently resting her hand on his furred shoulder. Cullen coughed into his fist and tried hard to ignore their teasing remarks.

“I’ve heard that many times,” he replied with a nervous smile that tugged at the scar on his upper lip. Cullen looked up in time to see Dorian’s eyes trailing over his scar, blushing even deeper when Dorian raised his eyebrows suggestively. Aeryth noticed, with no small amount of amusement, that Cullen became especially flustered when it was Dorian that flirted with him. She tucked the knowledge away for future reference.

“Ah, stubborn I see. Take a break, Commander; don’t think I haven’t noticed that you haven’t left your office since very early this morning,” Aeryth admonished as she glanced around the room. “Perhaps play a game of chess in the gardens,” she added as she spied Cullen’s game board sitting in a corner of the room. “Dorian has been looking for someone to challenge him.”

“That is a marvelous idea, Inquisitor,” Dorian agreed. “Be prepared to lose, Commander; I’m afraid that I am quite skilled at the game.”

Cullen smiled. “Is that so?  Very well, Lord Pavus, I accept your challenge. Lead the way.”

“Do behave, boys,” Aeryth warned playfully just as they reached the doorway.

“Me, behave? Never.” Dorian waved a hand dismissively at her.

Aeryth shook her head grinned at their retreating backs.

Chapter Text

“You are positively swooning, my dear,” Dorian observed with raised eyebrows as Aeryth joined him in his library corner. He carefully marked his place in the book he was reading, setting it aside before patting his knee. “Did something happen with Solas, by any chance?”

Aeryth dropped down onto Dorian’s lap, splaying her legs over the chair’s armrest. “Something might have happened,” she hedged.

Dorian poked her in the side. “Don’t give me that!”

“Okay, okay, something happened,” Aeryth replied as she tried to grab Dorian’s hands and pin them down.

“Give me every last detail.”

Aeryth laughed. “I will, but… you’re going to think it’s stupid.”

“Try me.”

“Okay well, Solas and I… kissed… in the Fade.”

She hadn’t thought it was possible for Dorian’s eyebrows to rise any higher, but they did. “Are you… you’re quite serious, aren’t you?” he asked incredulously after a few moments.

Aeryth groaned and hid her face against Dorian’s chest. “I knew you would think it was stupid,” she mumbled, her cheeks reddening in embarrassment.

Dorian kissed the top of her head in apology. “You have to provide a little more information than that before I can make my final verdict, my dear. The details, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Alright, alright. So it all began in Haven,” Aeryth explained as she remembered the details:

“Why here?” she asked him as they walked side by side through Haven.

“Haven is familiar; it will always be important to you,” Solas replied. He went on to explain how he had sat by her side while she recovered from her injuries and studied the anchor, unable to unravel its mysteries. He described how he had almost given up on their quest, how he had been ready to flee, until she had first closed one of the rifts.  

“It seems you hold the key to our salvation,” he said. “You had sealed it with a gesture, and right then I felt the whole world change. You change… everything.”

Aeryth note the slight pause. “Everything?” she asked quietly, sidling closer to him.

“Everything,” Solas whispered, turning his head away.

Suddenly feeling bold, Aeryth put a hand underneath Solas’s chin and turned his face back towards hers. She stretched up and brushed her lips against his in a gentle kiss. She lost her nerve then and pulled away, preparing to apologize for her inappropriate behaviour.

She didn’t get the chance; Solas grabbed her arm and pulled her roughly against him for a long, passionate kiss.

“It was only after the kiss that he told me we were in the Fade., and shortly after I woke up in my bedroom. And that’s what happened.”

“I didn’t think it was possible for him to have a romantic side; I’m almost impressed,” Dorian replied, rubbing his moustache thoughtfully. “Then again, it was a little cowardly not to have done it in person.”

Aeryth slapped Dorian’s arm lightly. “He was trying at least. And speaking of romance and making an effort, have you made any moves on Cullen yet?”

“What makes you think I want to make a move on that man?” Dorian huffed indignantly, although Aeryth could see a faint blush tinging his cheeks.

“Because he’s your type.”

“What nonsense are you going on about? Fereldans are much too simple creatures for my tastes,” Dorian protested.

Aeryth rolled her eyes and, realizing she wouldn’t win this argument, changed the subject.

Chapter Text

There was a sudden commotion at the front gates. Curious, Aeryth tilted her head to one side and listened as she stood in the doorway of the tavern. Her sensitive ears picked out the sounds of raised voices, followed by the distinct sound of steel being unsheathed from a scabbard. Cursing the fact that she had left most of her weapons in her room, she hurried toward the gates to investigate.

“Tell me where Marian Hawke is,” a deep and angry voice demanded. Aeryth gasped slightly and increased her pace, her heart racing as she realized there was only one person in Thedas who would barge into a fortress full of soldiers at this time of night looking for the Champion of Kirkwall.

Aeryth arrived at the gates to find dozens of soldiers surrounding the intruder, swords and spears pointing at his chest. To his credit, the elf did not appear to be at all disturbed by the danger he was in; he looked around at the soldiers calmly, back straight, his hands at his side but tensed in preparation to grab the large two-handed sword strapped to his back. The striking tattoos that appeared to cover a large portion of his dark skin glowed and pulsed with a strange blue light.

His large, emerald green eyes shifted to Aeryth’s approaching form. “Do not harm him,” she ordered, motioning her soldiers to put down their weapons as she moved through them. They hesitantly let her pass, concerned for her safety but unwilling to defy her direct order.

“Inquisitor, this man burst into Skyhold without introduction or invitation and refuses to give up his weapons,” one of the soldiers explained, but he lowered his sword obediently when she looked pointedly at him.

“You must be Fenris.” Aeryth stopped a few paces from the elf, arms folded across her chest. “I am Inquisitor Lavellan. I apologize for the poor welcome you have received, but appearing at our gates with no word this late at night has naturally set my soldiers on edge.”

“Hawke left suddenly in the middle of the night several months ago without a word, leaving only a letter to explain where she had gone and why. Her instructions led me here. I followed as quickly as I was able. I will not let her do this alone. Where is she?” he asked again, brushing strands of his white hair off of his forehead and mirroring her crossed arms, his eyes boring into her.

“Fenris?” Cullen appeared at Aeryth’s right shoulder, his eyebrows raised in surprise.

“Knight-Captain,” Fenris responded with a nod.

Cullen shook his head. “That is not my title anymore. I am Commander of the Inquisition’s army now.”

“As much as I want to hear about the history between the two of you, I think it has to wait for another time,” Aeryth interjected as she glanced around at the soldiers milling around restlessly. She motioned for them to disperse and go back to their posts.

Aeryth motioned for Cullen to come closer. “I’m going to take Fenris to my quarters so we can speak in private. Can you please find Varric and send him up to join us? I think seeing a familiar face might be nice.”

“Are you sure you’re going to be alright until Varric gets there?” Cullen asked. “I can accompany you and send a solider after Varric instead.”

Aeryth shook her head. “I can take care of myself. And I’m not a mage, so I am not a threat to him.”

“If you’re sure, Inquisitor.” Cullen nodded to Fenris and went in search of the dwarf.

“Please come with me, Fenris.” Aeryth beckoned for him to follow her up the stairs.

“Why all of this pomp and ceremony? I just… I just need to see her.” For the first time Fenris appeared unsure, pacing in front of her couch. The brightness of his tattoos had finally faded but his fingers continually flexed in agitation.

Aeryth motioned him to sit down. Fenris shook his head but she touched his arm—gently because she remembered Hawke telling her that he was sensitive about physical contact—and motioned again. Raising an eyebrow, he indulged her without further protest. She sat beside him, resting her hands on her knees, carefully deciding how to continue.

“Something happened to her,” Fenris murmured. His voice was dangerously soft, and his eyes pleaded with her to argue with him. Aeryth’s voice caught in her throat as she looked into those eyes and felt tears forming against her will.

“She’s… she’s not here.”

“What do you mean, she’s not here? Where did she go?”

Aeryth described the events that had taken place at Adamant Fortress. “Hawke, she… she insisted that she would remain behind in order to give a chance to return. I’m so sorry, Fenris.” Tears began to roll down her cheeks.

Fenris grabbed her arms in a grip of steel. “No… no! That can’t be,” he growled, his tattoos flaring again. “She couldn’t… she wouldn’t… no.” His grip was painful, but Aeryth was silent except for a small whimper. “You speak the truth?”

“Yes,” Aeryth whispered, her head bowed.

The anger suddenly drained out of his body, his eyes closing as they filled with pain. Realizing that he still held her arms, Fenris slowly lowered his hands. After a moment he surged to his feet. “She promised that she would come back to me,” he said, so softly that Aeryth didn’t think she was meant to hear it. He gave her one long final look, in which his loss and agony was heartbreakingly apparent, before turning on his heel and descending the stairs.

Aeryth made no move to follow him, understanding his need to be alone. Moments later, Varric appeared at the top of the stairs. “Inquisitor?” When he received no response, he walked to her side and gently touched her shoulder. “You’re bleeding,” he added. She looked down at her arms in faint surprise; there were small cuts on her arms where Fenris had gripped her, one for each of his clawed fingers.

Finally, Aeryth found her voice. “Fenris is here,” she croaked through her tears. “He wanted… to see Hawke. I had to tell him… Oh, Varric, I watched his heart break as I told him she wasn’t coming back!”

Varric sighed and swallowed thickly. “I was afraid this would happen,” he admitted. “I just didn’t think he would get here this quickly. I haven’t even had a chance to finish the letter I was going to send him. I should have been the one to tell him; I’m sorry that it was left to you.” Varric gently wiped a tear from her cheek. “Are you alright?”

“I’ll be fine, Varric,” Aeryth replied, wiping the other side of her face with her sleeve. “Go to Fenris; he needs you more than me right now.”

As Varric left, Cole appeared suddenly next to her. She was so used to it that she wasn’t even startled. “My fault, it’s all my fault. I should have made her come back with us. I knew she had someone waiting for her when she returned, but I did nothing. He hurts; he needs her. I know what it’s like to feel so alone, so empty. I wish I could comfort him, but I don’t know him, don’t know how to approach him,” he intoned as he settled next to her and leaned his head against her shoulder. Aeryth nodded and pressed her cheek against the top of Cole’s head and stroked his hair. “You did what you thought was right. You know that, and yet the hurt is still there. You have to pull it apart so that it can heal.”

“I know, Cole. It’s hard, but I will try. Thank you.”

“I’m glad I could help,” he replied with a smile. He touched her cheek and squeezed her hand before disappearing once again.

Aeryth took a few moments to compose herself, then went back into the main hall. Cullen had taken up position outside of her door. “Is everything alright, Inquisitor?” he asked quietly, his voice filled with concern. She nodded and gave him a small smile, briefly touching his shoulder. He squeezed her hand warmly and smiled back.

She suddenly longed to be comforted and went in search of Solas. She went to his work area but he was nowhere to be found. Aeryth sighed in disappointment, slightly annoyed. She should have known better, but she still felt a small pang of hurt at the realization. He never seems to be here when I need him the most.

“He’s been gone for hours; I don’t expect he will be back anytime soon. Come on up, darling,” Dorian called from the railing upstairs, as if sensing her thoughts. Aeryth climbed the stairs to Dorian’s corner of the library and sank into her usual place on Dorian’s lap, snuggling into his warm chest. At least she could always count on him. Dorian wrapped his arms around her, one hand gently stroking her hair. “Whatever is the matter, my sweet Inquisitor?” he asked in concern.

Aeryth told him about her conversation with Fenris. “Even though Hawke made the decision to stay, despite my protests, I feel like I am responsible for his pain,” she admitted with a heavy sigh.

Dorian scratched her scalp lightly with his fingernails in small, soothing circles. “You can’t try to make yourself personally responsible for every decision made on behalf of the Inquisition,” he scolded gently. “She made the choice to stay so that the rest of us could make it back. She knew exactly what she was doing.”

“It just makes me feel terrible. I spent enough time with her to know what a lovely person she was. We are… were… very much alike. I wanted to know about Kirkwall and she wanted to know about living with the Dalish. I told her about my strange half-relationship with Solas. She spoke with me about Fenris and how they came to be together. She loved him so fiercely, and from what she told me, he loved her just as much. Now he is alone and surrounded by strangers.”

“Ever the romantic, Lavellan,” Dorian replied with a small smile and a kiss to her forehead. “Speaking of Solas, what’s been going on with the two of you lately?”

Aeryth shrugged her shoulders. “He is putting some distance between us because he feels that he is distracting me from my purpose. He’s also spending more and more time away from Skyhold. I just don’t understand why he is acting this way; he seems to want a relationship, but for some reason he is holding himself back.”

Dorian huffed. “That man is only half in this world; sometimes I am not sure that he knows the difference between here and the Fade. I find it hard to believe that whatever is wrong has anything to do with something you’ve done.”

Aeryth sighed. “If he is truly uninterested it makes me wonder why he allowed me to pursue him in the first place. Maybe someday I will find out.” She yawned, trying to stifle it against her hand.

“Hmm I supposed it is time to sleep, yes?” Dorian murmured as he covered a yawn of his own. “Would you like some company, since your beloved is neither here nor willing to share your bed?”

“What about Cullen? Won’t he be expecting you?”

Dorian snorted. “I think he can live without my much coveted company for a single night. Besides, I can’t bear to see my beloved Inquisitor upset.” Dorian lifted his hands to pinch her cheeks. Aeryth laughed and pushed his hands away. “See? You need me.” Dorian positioned his arms underneath her body and lifted her as he got to his feet. Giggling, she let him carry her down the stairs. “Besides, if his loneliness becomes too unbearable, he could always come and join us. The Maker knows that your bed is large enough for three.”

Aeryth chuckled loudly, the sound echoing off the walls of the staircase. “Wouldn’t that be a sight! It would definitely keep you warm, darling.”

“Don’t tempt me,” Dorian replied with a smirk, carrying her up to her bedroom.