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Nicole scooped up water in her hands, and poured it over her head several times until she felt less miserable. She had underestimated the heat today, thinking the shade from the forest would have more mercy. She wiped off her face and then grabbed her water bottle from her pack to drink, looking around.

It was beautiful here. The river formed a lovely pool just before the water poured down into an impressive waterfall below. The trees around were tall and lovely, the birds singing cheerfully in the trees. She walked further into the river before perching on a boulder to rest. She’d taken off her boots, putting them into the mesh pocket on the outside of her pack, and pulled up the legs of her pants to keep them mostly dry. She trailed her toes through the water, kicking randomly and watching the water sparkle in the sun.

When she was ready again, she slid down from the rock, and began to meander through the river. There was a rustling in the trees around her, but she didn’t pay it much mind, busy picking up a pretty looking rock under the water. When she stood again, she heard a growl and froze. She looked up just in time to see a large brown shape barreling straight at her. She flailed and fell, still trying to move away from the bear, screaming and splashing in desperation.

And then there was air.

As she fell off the waterfall, she looked up into the blue blue sky.

She hit the water with her back, so her bag took most of the damage, but she still lost her breath. She shut her eyes hoping it wouldn’t hurt for long.

She knew these falls, she knew it was shallow water at the bottom and she was not going to live through this. But then she realized she was unhurt, under water deeper than expected. She pulled her arms out of her backpack, pressed against the river bottom when she reached it and swam up towards flickering light. She pulled herself onto the shore, gasping and panting.

When she was able to focus again, she looked around and realized she was in a cave, not on the shore of the river. Light was coming in through spaces in the rock above. The only way out was either back in the water or climbing and hoping to widen some of the openings.

There were loose rocks all around, but the ceiling looked intact enough. At the back of the cave, though, was a mirror. Not just a cheap mirror that someone drug in here for kinky cave sex or something, but a very large, ornate mirror, that looked to be carved into the wall of the cave.

“What the fuck?”

She came closer, but instead of seeing her reflection, the mirror was blank.

She laughed. “I’m a vampire! Or it’s the opening to an evil villain’s underground lair.”

She touched the glass and it rippled, so she jerked her hand back. Slowly a picture formed in the mirror. It was a view into a strange place. The sky was green, with rocks everywhere. Including floating in midair, somehow. It looked cold and empty until a figure stumbled into view. He was large, with horns curling back around his face. She leaned in closer, trying to see details, when he looked up and saw her. He jerked back so she did, too, her heart racing. When she felt brave enough to look again, he was right there, on the other side of the mirror, watching her, looking around her cave.

“Hi?” She tried. He frowned and seemed to answer, but she couldn’t hear him. She went close again. He was frightening at first glance - large, armed, bleeding - but his eyes seemed kind and he wasn’t acting at all aggressive. She reached out again, and he hesitated, changed the grip of his knife to aim it back instead of at her, and mirrored her. They touched the glass together.

There was a flash, the feeling of disembodiment, stark terror, and then nothing.

---

She woke up in a stone room, candlelight making the shadows dance but not doing a great job of illuminating the space. Her body felt heavy and strange. She hurt.

When she sat up, it was extremely strange, her parts not moving like they should. Something was on her head. She lifted a hand to figure out what and then got distracted by her hand instead.

Because that wasn't her hand. It was big and dark. The other one was the same, which probably shouldn't feel so weird because hands generally match, but she could only blink. Also, her legs were gigantic. And her feet. And there was something…

She had a penis.

And horns, it turns out.

“What the fuck.”

And a really deep voice. Though, probably it'd be weirder if she didn't. She was a huge, horned male.

She started to lay down again, hoping to go to sleep and wake up in the right body, except, no, wait, she needed to pee.

“Oh, boy. Peeing. Okay, I can do this.”

She heard a shuffling and realized she wasn't actually alone in here. Through the bars on her cell she could see there was someone standing by a door.

“Oh. Hello.”

The person didn't answer.

“Okay. Going to pee then.”

She pulled over a bucket obviously meant for the task after sitting back up, then tried to figure out how to open her pants. She had a large leather.. Belt? Seemed a bit large to be a belt, but she felt around until she found the buckle - towards the back on her right side - and unfastened it, setting it aside to inspect later. She unlaced her pants but then wasn't sure - should she pull them down? Just get the penis out? She was really tall now and didn't trust her aim standing.

This would be easier without an audience.

She spread her knees and brought the bucket close, taking her penis in hand. Pulling back in the foreskin a bit so she could really see, she let loose.

She might have cackled in delight when it worked and she didn't piss on herself.

Feeling very satisfied, she pushed the bucket back and fixed her clothes. The belt was beautiful and had a few pouches attached, and some empty slots that were probably for knives. She didn’t bother putting it back on.

“Are you not allowed to talk to me? What's going on?” She stood and stretched, trying to get used to these very different proportions.

The guard ignored her.

“That's got to be dull. And difficult. I would suck at your job. I always talk to everyone, even when they probably wish I wouldn't.”

The guard hides a laugh in a cough. She grins.

“Case in point. Alright! I feel like shit, I'm going to take a nap.”

No response. She laid down on her back on the pile of fragrant hay, grateful her horns weren’t in the way, and sleep came quickly.

--

In her dream, she was by the mirror again, but fighting. Something was wrong, displacement, crowded, too full in her mind, there was a contest of wills-

She stumbled clumsily, her body wasn’t right, there was a voice in her head, so scared, so confused-

The light was bright and green and then there was blue sky-

--

When she woke up again, it was to the sound of people coming into the room. The person by the door looked like a different guy, so probably she’d slept awhile.

In front of her cell now there were some women looking at her intently. She nodded in greeting. And then one more person came in. One very large person, with dark skin and horns. Like her. Except this person she knew.

The Iron Bull.

She felt dizzy all of the sudden. Thedas. Bull. Also..

“I'm a fucking kossith.”

Everyone frowned at her. Bull looked amused.

“I really need to work on inner voice versus outer voice, very sorry. Hello.”

She sat up and looked the women over. The lighting was still pretty shit, but with context she recognized Leliana.

“Not Qunari?” Leliana looked her over.

“I.. no. Sorry, that was a weird greeting, I'm sure. I was having a strange dream.” One where I’m a kossith talking to Leliana and The Iron Bull. “How did I come to be here?”

“What do you remember?”

“I was…” Nichole frowned. “I was in the forest. There was a bear, I tried to get away, I fell… off the waterfall..” she shook her head, hoping for a way to help things make sense.

“Where was this?”

“I..” she shook her head. “I'm sorry, did I have a head injury? I’m having trouble tracking thoughts.”

“You did, yes. We weren't sure you'd wake.”

“And so you locked me in a dungeon, alone, with a guard who wouldn't speak to me. That's.. did I fall out of the sky and crush your sister or something?”

Bull looked amused again. The smaller woman by Leliana did, too.

“We did make sure you were healed before leaving you,” the stranger said. “You did actually fall out of the sky, but you landed on the ground. Quickly followed by fear demons, so you'll have to understand our caution.”

“Ah. Yes,” she looked down at herself. “What would I be, dressed like this? Desire demon?”

Bull laughed. “You are very pretty, so maybe.”

She sputtered and blushed.

The stranger smiled. “Yes. Luckily The Iron Bull was there to help carry you.”

“Thank you, the Iron Bull.”

He winked.

“So!” She looked around at them. “Now what? Not that it isn't fun in here, but I do like peeing without a guard watching.”

“Now we learn who you are and what you were doing in the Fade,” Leliana said quietly.

She was suddenly very nervous, but there was also that strange feeling of disassociation and then a sudden wrenching in her head, and she was shifted back somehow. Watching, but not in control.

Bull and Leliana both narrowed their eyes at her, something must have shown.

“What was that?” Bull asked, casually, a finger tracing the hilt of a large knife on his belt.

And then she spoke. Except she didn’t mean to? But the body she was in was talking. “A reaction to a threat. I have caused no harm to you or yours, you have no cause to hold me here or interrogate me.”

“Hmm,” Leliana looked blank. “You think so?”

She?-The body?-They? sighed. “I was knocked into a rift while trying to kill the demons we accidentally came in contact with. I got knocked out. I woke up, I found my way back to a rift and I came through. Apparently I got knocked out again? And now I’m here.”

“We?”

They shifted again. “My kith and I. I need to be returning to them, they'll be very worried.”

Leliana nodded. “I see. You will tell me who they are so I can send word to them of your miraculous return from the Fade.”

They glowered.

Leliana and Bull both looked amused.

“You realize you’ve already given two different stories, yes?” Leliana came closer.

“I..” They frowned. “As I said, I’m having trouble putting the pieces together. There was a waterfall and a bear. And then the demons. The Fade.”

“Mm. I see. We’ll talk again later, after you’ve had time for things to settle, shall we?”

And then they left. The guard stayed by the door.

They grunted and sat back in the hay. Nicole thought for a bit and then focused on her thoughts.

Can you hear me?"

They nodded slowly.

What is your name?

They huffed a laugh. “Kost.”

I’m Nicole. Nic. I’m sorry I’m.. in you. What happened?

Kost stretched and shook his head, indicating the guard. Not a good time to talk to himself.

Right. So I’ll go first and then we can switch and you can tell me about yourself.

She paused and then focused on moments in her life, hoping that he could see what she was thinking. She started with one of her playing guitar.

Did you see that image?"

He nodded again and she could feel his interest.

She showed him a slideshow of her life - her home, her job at the music shop, the different instruments she played, singing with her friends, belly dancing, eating pizza, her family, her world, the afternoon leading up to finding the mirror.

”So that’s me. Single, happy, now in someone else’s body in another world."

She felt his amusement. He sprawled out across the hay and closed his eyes, pulled back out of control of the body, and then - she saw flashes of his life. Growing up in a mercenary group with his family. His dad dying on a mission, his sister marrying a farmer and leaving them, his mother leaving to help his sister take care of her kids. His pride watching his little sister join his mercenary group - his kith. Working their way across Thedas with strong friendships, good fights, and frequently shitty humans. She saw a rift open up and how he shoved his sister aside as a Pride demon charged, knocking him into the rift where he was knocked out. Then wandering blindly through the Fade, finding the mirror and her. Noticing a new rift in the confusion and stumbling towards it before leaping through.

Well, shit. Alright. I’m going to trust you to know how to get out of this mess, because I have no fucking idea. Although..

She hesitated, gave him bodily control again, and showed him flashes of the video games, enough so that he got a grasp that she had an interface into Thedas, explaining that the details were right, but they were possible. That she knew possibilities.

He was very confused, a little scared. He wondered if she was some type of spirit.

I wasn’t before, but I think I might be now. I don’t normally possess handsome Vashoth men, and my body is.. I guess left behind that waterfall..

The sighed together and were quiet.

Eventually they fell asleep.

Chapter Text

They awoke the next day to the beautiful sound of food being delivered. Nothing exciting, but better that either of them had expected as prisoners. It was, according to Kost, turnip and barley stew - though under seasoned and watered down, with some watered down beer. It wasn’t enough, they felt like they could eat 4 bowls at this point, but it took the edge off.

This morning also brought the need to use the bucket for more than just pee, and they were both uncomfortable about it. They settled on him controlling the body, eyes shut, while she sang Oklahoma as firmly as she could. Hard to figure volume with intracranial speech.

That done, they were left alone most of the day. They took turns with the body, whenever one of them had nervous energy to burn off, or needed to stop thinking for a bit. Kost was interested in Nic’s stretches and much amused as she tried to get his body to belly dance (with some success, but she’d definitely need to practice). Kost enjoyed going through fighting forms and Nic enjoyed feeling how the body moved and why certain of her dance moves had been so easy.

They talked to each other quite a bit, especially around their situation. Nic shared with him everything she knew about Leliana and the general idea behind the Inquisition.

Also, The Iron Bull is Ben Hassrath.

Kost abruptly shoved himself out of the body so he could throw a expletive-filled fit without alarming the guard.

Of course, that’s when Leliana came back in. Alone this time. She came near the cell and watched them, but didn’t speak.

Nichole took a deep breath, shut their eyes, and shoved Kost back in charge.

There is no way I won’t fuck things up with her, you’re the Thedan, keep us alive.

Kost smiled charmingly at Leliana, and remained silent.

“Your kith are likely concerned about you,” Leliana started.

“My kith think I’m dead.” He returned flatly.

“It would be a kindness to let them know you are not, no?”

“It would be, yes. Except I do not know your angle and I refuse to endanger them.”

Leliana smiled. “Fair enough.”

She paused and moved closer to the bars, they remained reclined in the hay.

“Things are not simple these days. Things that could never happen are happening. At this point.. We have no reason to think of you as a threat.”

Kost snorted at that.

“Nor do we have reason to think you are a friend. You were heavily armed when you arrived. A mercenary? Hired by whom?”

“We were between jobs. Figured there’d be something soon enough, what with the end of the world and all.”

Leliana hummed. “The Inquisition could use skilled fighters.”

“I just bet.”

She smiled again. “Why don’t you explore Haven. Speak to people. See if this is the kind of cause your kith would think worth supporting. If you don’t think so, we will let you be on your way tomorrow.”

Why does that make me nervous?

“Alright,” Kost said slowly. “And my weapons?”

Leliana smirked. “Tomorrow.”

And she left.

---

They requested a wash before exploring and were provided a bucket of water, a small chunk of lye soap, and a towel. Kost scrubbed up, while Nic babbled on with her nerves. (And to distract herself. It’s weird to be attracted to the body you’re in, but Kost was beautiful and had taken off his shirt for the sponge bath.)

... so I think it’ be really cool if we did stay with the Inquisition. There’s some people I’d freak out to meet, but wow! To actually have the chance… Varric Fucking Tethras might be here right now!..

Kost just shook his head, amused, and finished redressing. The guard had left the door to the cell open, so when they were ready they headed out.

I want to say it’s weird to have a dungeon in the Chantry, but it’s the Chantry and that’s entirely appropriate..

He agreed. The top of the stairs led out into the Chantry, which seemed to be more set up as some kind of field clinic than as a house of worship. There was a small area set in one of the side areas where people were praying and lighting candles, but most of the area was filled with tiny makeshift cloth-walled living spaces.

One of the Chantry sisters was eyeing Kost in a very knowing way and Nic giggled. “I wonder if that’s the one that thanked Bull so thoroughly.

Kost eyed the sister with renewed interest before moving on, out of the Chantry. He muttered quietly, “I’ve never been with a human.”

Nic cackled, and replied in her best pervy voice, “Baby, you’ve got a human In You.

He groaned and looked around.

Haven was a small settlement, that was obviously not built for the current population numbers. There were the permanent wooden buildings, but around them were an impressive number of tents. Tents for living, for working, for shops. Tiny one person tents, a few giant tents that might do for a soldier’s mess, barracks, or something similar. It didn’t take very long to get a general lay of the land, but that was only the first step. They needed to hear people - hear what was happening and what type of people the Inquisition was attracting.

Kost’s purse was, luckily, intact, so they were able to afford a trip to the tavern. They bought a plate with smoked fish, pickled vegetables, some hard cheese and a surprisingly nice slice of bread to go with a large tankard of dark ale.

He chose to sit in a corner, back to the wall. The tavern was larger than the game had made it seem, smokey and crowded with tables, barrels of alcohol, and soldiers.

There were some remarks about Kost and oxes, but The Iron Bull had gotten most people used to the idea of giant horned men being around and generally benign. They were largely ignored.

The fish had some weird seasonging that neither of them really cared for, but it was a good meal otherwise, and the ale was nice.

From the gossip they learned:
-The Herald was well thought of - she was friendly, though shy, and didn’t act more important than anyone.
-Commander Cullen was both dreamy and a sadistic bastard bent on torturing all his men with endless drills.
-Seeker Pentaghast probably ate whiny recruits for breakfast and she was amazing/terrifying.
-That Apostate Elf was really creepy.
-The Iron Bull was a great lay.
-Sister Leliana was terrifying.

Arg, I already knew all that!

Kost smirked into his mug.

Wait! That’s Varric! He’ll know useful things.

“I am not just walking up to a famous author, woman.” Kost muttered.

Fair. Arg. Now what?

He finished up his food and brought his dishes up to leave on the bar for Flissa before approaching a human woman who'd been eyeing him. He smiled charmingly. “Hello. May I buy you a drink?”

The woman narrowed her eyes, but nodded. Kost turned, gestured to Flissa when he caught her eye, and then slid into the chair beside the woman.

“I'm Kost.” He held out his hand, she placed her hand on his, looking fascinated at the size difference. He caught her eye and then brought her hand to his mouth, kissing her fingers gently.

She blushed. Nic cheered in his head.

“I'm Sylvia.”

Her drink came after that, and Kost proved himself surprisingly charming as he talked to Sylvia for quite some time. They found out rather a lot. The Herald was a mage and had a few public arguments with the Commander about the Inquisition mages and Templars. Nothing dramatic, but enough that people understand she took the mage's side in the war. There were also some amusing rumors about Solas being a bit promiscuous, with several different elves seen going in and out of his cabin late at night. (Nic lost it after that and Kost struggled to look calm and interested while filled with Nic's effervescent mirth.)

When Sylvia said she'd better turn in it was late and Kost walked her to her tent. They paused and Sylvia abruptly reached for him, pulling him down for a rather forceful kiss before stepping back, nodding, and going into her tent.

They stood there for a moment, Kost touching his mouth and looking thoughtful before Nic called him a tart, he shrugged, and they headed for the latrines.

Wait! Can I try it again, please?” she chirped as soon as they had privacy.

“What? Why?” He frowned and actually covered his crotch with his hands. Over his pants.

Because peeing standing up is hilarious and something I've never gotten to do before this. I won't look!

“But you'll touch! You already have, in fact.”

Okay, I'll totally look. And touch. But it's a lovely penis and unless you know a way to get me out of your head or you plan to be celibate, I'll be seeing and feeling a lot more.

He groaned and rubbed his hands over his face. “I can't right now. Later. I promise.”

I understand. This is super weird. I'm sorry.” She said quietly, contrite.

He just sighed, hesitated, but then rolled his eyes at himself and peed. “Sorry. I know you've seen me do this multiple times, it's just..”

Naw. It's your body. Consent is important, especially with this.. this mess.

They were quiet after that.

The guard in the dungeon looked a bit bemused as Kost nodded, walked back into his cell and dropped down on the hay pile to sleep. “Hey, I'm tired and no one gave me another place to sleep.”

The guard laughed, agreed, and didn't bother locking the cell.

---

In the morning, they headed back upstairs, where sisters were dishing out porridge. Most people had their own bowls and such, but Kost hadn’t come through the rift with his pack so they needed to use one of the rough bowls for people without.

They took the bowl outside away from the crowd and used a combination of scooping with fingers and sipping to finish it up. It was bland but edible. They went back inside and scrubbed the bowl up in a basin with sand they’d set up inside, so the bowl was immediately available for the next person in need.

They wandered a bit after that, trying to find a place with some privacy so they could make a plan. They decided the best bet was to head out by the lake, finally finding a stretch with no one around.

“So,” Kost started. “I need my kith. The Inquisition certainly seems interesting, and I certainly support anyone working to restore any semblance of calm to this world, but I don’t work without my kith. And I need them to know that I didn’t die.”

Absolutely.

“It.. isn’t a thing I should write about, though. I know where they were headed. We should go there. You don’t tell your baby sister any of this in a fucking letter.”

Nic was amused. “No, it’s rather a lot and if we can travel quickly, it’s not like it’d make that much difference in when she heard.

“I have no idea what to tell them about you. But obviously if I’m sneaking off to talk to myself, or you take control.. They’ve known me my whole life, they will notice right away something isn’t right.”

Will.. Will we be in danger?

“I don’t know. Not if they believe me? At least… I mean..” He blew out a breath. “I really don’t know. Probably not. They would certainly want to seperate us.”

Kost.. I don’t… I don’t have a body here. And it’s been days. I don’t know.. if I’m even alive, anymore. Physically. If we’re separated..

He paused. “You cannot mean to share my body for the rest of my life.”

I hadn’t thought about it. I’m trying not to think about it. But I guess we need to.

He started walking again. “Honestly, not much. Figuring this mess out will take a lot of time and energy, so there’s not really much reason to start fretting yet. I won’t.. I mean, we did this thing together. We both reached out. I won’t let you be hurt, if I can help it.”

His head filled with her mix of emotions - gratefulness, intense grief, fear. He blew out another breath.

“So. My kith. They were heading to Jader, which isn’t so far from here. Less than 10 days if we could get a horse. Or probably 2 or 3 weeks if we have to walk.”

I don’t know how much a horse costs, but we’re going to need supplies and I don’t think you have that much money.

“True. Though I keep mentally thinking we need enough for two people, and we don’t. So that actually is pretty nice. It’s not unlikely the Inquisition is traveling that way, we could ask to join a group. We’d need to tell them where we’re going, but if we’re going to join, it’s not like it needs to be a huge secret.”

Alright. I trust you.

He smiled then. “Thank you. I’m trusting your information on the Inquisition, so hopefully between the two of us, we’re doing the right thing.”

Indeed.

Chapter Text

They were denied a spot on any caravans.

Apparently those were only for people who had officially joined the Inquisition, not for people just very likely to after a conversation with the large group they were a part of but did not lead.

Nic was right about their money, too, especially with the inflated prices caused by high demand, low competition, and Seggrit being a-

What an absolute cockscab! Self-serving, cold hearted, scab on a vulture’s cock!

Kost did manage to get a new pack, a small supply of travel rations, a waterskin, a large heavy oil cloth, rope, a pot and a large bear fur. No tent. No extra clothes. Nothing for personal hygiene. No map.

Leliana did at least return Kost’s knives.

So apparently that was it and people were totally okay with sending one (admittedly giant) man on his own for several week’s travel through demons, crazed templars, terrified mages, asshole bandits, bears, and snow with just a couple knives, a dead bear, and some fabric.

Thedas is terrible and I hate this. I hate everything about this. Can you do this? Is this a thing people even do?

Kost pulled himself back, putting her in charge of the body - all they were doing at this point was walking and there were enough other people around this close to Haven that they didn’t need to be too observant about safety (neither of them trusted Nic’s observational skills).

I can. Probably. With luck. I have the skills, but you never know what you’re going to find. I do find that I’m less inclined to want to come back after this.

She huffed. “No fucking kididng. I mean, you totally-- Just a sec.”

She put him back in charge of the body, and he rolled his eyes.

Sorry, still enough people around that you don’t need to be talking to yourself. You can totally make a different decision. I just know the general outline of how the Inquisition will go, so I feel safer there. That doesn’t in any way mean that it is a safe choice. They lose soldiers. Honestly, if we wanted to fuck off to Ravain for the next couple of years, that might be sensible. Which sucks, I want to meet people I know from the game.

He snorted. “This is a terrible ‘game’. Your people have a very sick idea of fun.”

Being here, I cannot argue.

---

The first night, they found a cave to camp in. Kost cut a bunch of pine branches from the trees around, knocking off as much snow as he could, then putting them near the fire to dry out before they slept.

It was a pretty quiet evening. Both of them were lost in their own thoughts, and dinner was just bread and cheese. When they were done, he made a bed of the pine boughs, covered them with the tarp, and then they curled up in the fur to sleep.

The morning was very rough for Nic. She had had enough time to get past the general freakout of being in Thedas and possessing someone, so she was starting to process her loss. Kost went about his general morning things and headed out to continue walking, sensing her sadness, but not knowing what to do about it. He had his own processing and grief to deal with.

It was strange for both of them. If Nic had the body, it would have been in a sobbing heap, but she didn’t; Kost did. And that made it worse for her, because she couldn’t even cry. She was a parasite. She was trapped in this body and away from her world and she was nothing, she had nothing.

Kost shook his head, trying to concentrate. “It’s.. I mean, it’s not like.. It feels like you’re keening and sobbing, but I can’t hear it. It’s like this.. Buzzing? This overwhelming..” he wiped his eyes. “You have lost everything and I know that, and I’m so sorry for it, but if I give you the body so that you can fully express this, we’re going to be in danger. We've got to get to my kith as quickly as possible.”

It felt like that set her off more and there was heightened sadness and rage and helplessness for quite some time before she settled into a sad, quiet numbness.

She didn’t speak again for days.

Kost almost felt like he was alone in his body, if not for this heavy, persistent, sad helplessness that filled his being. It wasn’t his. He couldn’t work through it, and she didn’t respond to any of his attempts to communicate or help.

He was feeling increasingly helpless himself, though anger was certainly present. Not at her, but at the situation. First he was in the Fade (physically in the Fade!), became possessed, imprisoned, and was now walking on foot through a war-torn country while the sky tore itself apart and spewed demons everywhere.

And he had no privacy! None. Barely even in his own thoughts.

Then one morning he woke up from a very nice dream with a very hard cock. He took it in hand without much thought, rolling his hips until he realized that Nic had finally pulled from her numbness and was feeling very amused.

He hastily removed his hand and covered his face, groaning.

Oh, come on. Go ahead. You’ll feel better.

“Oh, sure. While you watch and laugh at me!”

I wasn’t laughing! Not at you. It’s just strange to feel that in someone else’s body.

“Well, it’s strange to feel that with someone else in your body, too.” His erection was fading, anyway.

No, it’s wilting! Can.. can I? Then it isn’t you performing or whatever..

He paused. “Okay..”

She hastily took control of his body and stretched before running his hands down his body. “Mm. Your body is amazing, in case you wondered.”

Good to know!” Kost laughed in their head.

They weren’t in a big hurry, so she started with his face, lightly tracing his feature with the tips of his fingers. He had sensitive ears and very sensitive lips. It felt nice scratching his scalp and pulling his hair.

She brought his hand back to his mouth and licked, sucked, and scraped his teeth down his sensitive fingers and palm. His erection was back and very hard, it was distracting so she moved on to that, rubbing him through his pants. She panted and hissed with how good it felt. It was so different from her own body, how things felt with she touched herself. She tried a nipple with her free hand and got absolutely nothing interesting from that.

She scrambled to open his pants, pushing them down his hips so she could scratch her nails over his inner thighs, hips, and lower belly.

This is so weird and hot.

She laughed slightly and gently weighed his balls in her palm. “Oh, wow! Okay, that’s.. Huh. How about if I…” and she moved her hand back to trace over her perineum, lightly tracing his asshole. “Yes. Yesyesyes, that is good. But nothing more until we can wash our hands.”

Then she moved a hand up to explore his penis. The foreskin was very sensitive, and the head, but not so much the shaft. She experimented with some different methods, before settling on a basic grip, with a twist around the head at the end of the stroke. That was good. That was --

She whined and thrust into her hand. “Yes! Yes, and-”

She twisted the other hand into his hair as she fisted him faster and then--

It was a rushing feeling, a bright light, focused, so focused --

She fell back panting and sticky.

“Wow! That’s so different! Fuck yeah. We should do that a lot.”

Kost laughed and took the body back. “Let’s get cleaned up. You go ahead and analyze the differences. Thank you for that, I do feel better.”

Hey, anytime!

He cleaned himself up as best he could using snow melted in his pot by the fire, and then had a quick breakfast - the last of the bread, some dried fruit - before heading out for yet another day of walking.

It’s full body for a woman. Like waves of heat and happiness washing over you again and again. We definitely get the better deal. Yours was.. So focused? Just the rush through the groin.

“Yeah? That’s interesting. It does seem unfair that women get to have so many at once and we just get the one.”

I think some men can get multiples with prostate stuff?

“What’s a prostate?”

Oh. It’s a gland. You access it in your butt. It often feels amazing, but not for everyone. My ex just felt a desperate need to pee when I tried it on him. Hopefully you’ll be one of the lucky ones! Have you ever been with a man?

Kost scratched his head and looked around. They were following the mountain, but staying in the foothills. There wasn’t much interesting happening, luckily, and no signs of any people. He was hoping it stayed that way, though it was dangerous if they got into trouble and had no one around to help them.

“Not for anything involving my ass, no. Just hand jobs.”

Oh, but so then you might be open to it? Because I would really like to see how that goes.

“Oh, yeah? Planning all sorts of uses for my body, are you?” He grinned.

When life hands you the body of a beautiful young man, you have sex with as many people as you can manage.

Kost laughed out loud, shaking his hands. “You know, I usually hear that opinion from said young men, not from a woman.”

Yes, well, needs must. And I’ve only had sex as a woman, it’s fascinating to get a new body. And it’s a good distracting from all the impending doom and existential angst.

“True, true. Well, I will do my best to amuse you, though I’m only being with people I want to be with. It is my body.”

Of course. Ew. I wouldn’t ask that of you. So. Tell me about your kith.

“Well, It’s led by Ash, she’s amazing, and my baby sister is in it..”

---

Nights with no handy caves meant a lot more effort. To save time and effort, Kost had wrapped their bedding boughs in the tarp and strapped them to his back. It looked funny and was a bit unwieldy, but there was enough to do without having to cut new boughs. The ground had to be cleared, the rope strung between trees, the tarp properly hung and pinned. Then bed and the fur and hoping for a boring night. Sometimes they could find a deep enough snow to make a snow wall. Once there was enough to dig a snow cave. Nic enjoyed that far more than Kost thought was reasonable.

Tonight they’d found another cave, everything was set up nicely and they’d decided to put in the effort of roasting a nug over the fire instead of eating dried food.

Kost. I realize you don’t have your normal supplies, but your teeth. You never clean your teeth with more than your fingernail. Is that standard for you?

Kost laughed. “No, and it’s been bothering me, too. I should be cutting a twig or something, but I got a splinter once when I used the wrong kind of stick and I’ve avoided it ever since. Hopefully they still have my pack in the group and I can get my cleaning sticks. They’re made of a special wood and are very good for teeth.”

Oh, good! I was hoping this wouldn’t be a fight. We can get by on your teeth scratching until then.

Kost snorted. “Any other ways I’m falling short in your eyes?”

No. Mostly I’m grateful to have you. I wish I wasn’t possessing you, but you have so much skill and knowledge that I do not have. Probably I’d just be dead without you.

“It’s pretty basic knowledge here, unless you’re a noble.”

Really? Just a random city person would know how to safely camp in so many different situations? I still appreciate you.

“Ah. Well. Thank you. I guess it’s probably just basic knowledge for people who travel a lot.”

Mm. Do you sing?

“Sing? Yeah. I think everyone sings?”

I love to sing. And play music! Do you play an instrument?

“A little. Basra has a hurdy gurdy and he’s taught me a bit.”

A hurdy gurdy!? I adore those! I would be ever so grateful if you let me play! Are they expensive? Can we get one?

Kost laughed. “Ooh, I’ve found her passion! Yes, you can play it when we find them. They do tend to cost a lot, but I could probably get you one. It’d take some time, it has to be made since the tiny human sized ones don’t work as well for my hands.”

You’re the best! Can I have your body for a bit? I’d really love to sing.

Nic took control of the body and after some warm up scales to familiarize herself with his range and tone, she taught him “Let’s Dance” by M Ward while dancing slowly around their fire.

“Let's dance, put on your red shoes and dance the blues
Let's dance, to the song they're playin' on the radio
Let's sway, while color lights up your face
Let's sway, sway through the crowd to an empty space
If you say run, I'll run with you
If you say hide, we'll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower…”

When she was done Kost laughed. “That was a nice one! Do another.

“Hmmm.. How about.. There is.. A house.. In New Orleans..”

And they closed out the night with Nic singing songs from her world. She was bright and happy for awhile but she did get quiet at the end, and sad. She handed him over the body and settled into her space in his head to not speak again until morning.

Chapter Text

They arrived in Jader just after sunset. Kost had pushed hard for the last two days, sick to death of the travel and ready to be back in the arms of his kith.

Nic was curious about the city so he tried to look around a bit as he rushed. Maraas Kata, his mercenary group, had a compound at the edge of the city and Kost just hoped they were still there, that his “death” didn’t change their plans.

"I don’t know, I might want my death to change something in the behavior of my loved ones."

“Sure, emotionally that’s true, but we’re mercenaries. Death is less uncommon in our group than in your life. I just want them here so that I can be with them and not have to travel more. Don’t you?” Kost muttered as he headed down a mostly empty street. The buildings were beautiful - stone, mostly light, interesting architecture. Luckily the moon was bright, so they could see pretty well.

Kind of? I assume it’s easier to possess someone away from their friends and loved ones. I really don’t want to have to deal with demon accusations and weirdness.

Kost laughed. “There’s that. Can’t say I’m looking forward to that, myself.”

Then he turned and there it was - a large stone building, it didn’t stand out from any of the other buildings except this one was full of his kith. And there was light flickering in the window - someone was there.

Kost made a desperate sound in his throat as he suddenly sprinted to the door, tearing it open and launching himself inside.

Inside was a large room with a table and many chairs. There were quite a few people there - Vashoth, elves, and dwarves. All of them looked up when the door burst open and then froze. Kost didn’t seem to notice, he was searching desperately until he saw-

“’Randa!”

A young looking woman stood up. She definitely looked enough like Kost to easily assume she was his sister. They had the same horns, though her hair was white and wild around her head.

“...Kost?” Asaaranda managed a broken whisper. “Is it..?”

But he was there, pulling her into his arms, rocking her and crying. Her voice broke as she joined him in crying. They spoke to each other in half sentences, grasping each other desperately. The others came to their senses then and surrounded him, everyone trying to touch him, many of them crying.

Then a voice came from a doorway behind him. “Kost? How are you here?”

Everyone slowly pulled back, giving him space. Except Asaaranda, who kept both her arms around his waist, her face buried in his neck.

“Well, that is a story,” Kost began, kissing his sister’s head. “Do you have anything left from dinner? I’ve been walking for weeks.”

“Of course,” Nazlena, one of their cooks, left for the kitchen and came back with a bowl of stew, some bread and a large tankard of beer. She kissed his forehead as she walked past, setting the meal on the table. Kost grinned, and sat down to take a few bites, and then drink. Asaaranda curled up on his lap, keeping her arms around him.

“So! I fell into that rift. We all thought I was dead,” There was muttered agreement around the room and his sister sobbed a breathe and squeezed him tighter. “But then I.. wasn’t. I was just... in the Fade? There were some demons, but I killed a few and the rest were more focused on getting out, so I was able to get away. I...”

Are we bringing me up? It might actually be better to skip that part at first. Possession does tend to get in the way of a nice reunion.

“There… well, there’s plenty to tell about that, but the basic story is that I wandered for awhile, found another rift and jumped through it. I was… Incapacitated? I don’t know how long I was in the Fade. Distance and time don’t seem the same there. And when I woke up, I was in a dungeon in Haven.”

“Haven? That’s hundreds of miles from where we were!” Vat, a very large warrior, cried. Kost nodded.

“They interrogated me - nothing terrible, just talking. Wanted to know what I had been doing in the Fade. It’s not really a thing that’s common, people randomly falling out of rifts. They had a Hissrad from the Qun there, in case I was also Qun. Not the best awakening.”

There were some angry and startled murmurs at this. A Chantry organization working with the Qun?

“In the end, I hadn’t hurt anyone and that seemed to matter. They told me they were hiring merc groups and asked if mine might join - we should talk about that. I told them I didn’t have say in what jobs will take, so they gave me a few supplies and sent me on my way.”

His sister pulled back. “Sent you- Alone? From Haven to Jader? Are you serious?”

Kost grinned. “It was surprisingly fine. I... didn’t actually tell them where I was headed. I wasn’t thinking very clearly, a lot had happened, and they were very... annoying. But I got here, didn’t I?”

“You did. I’m so glad you did. I missed you so desperately. We have to write to mother right away.”

“This Inquisition,” Ash, their leader, pursed her lips. “You didn’t care for them?”

Kost swallowed his bite and shrugged. “Personally? Not a lot. But that isn’t the most important thing. From what I hear, they’re doing good work. They’re also the only ones able to close the rifts and, likely, the Breach. I think it would be good to help them, if we can. They’re going to need a lot of help.”

People nodded. Ash sighed. “We’ll think on it and talk more tomorrow. For now, you look exhausted. ‘Randa has your pack, I believe, and your bunk is still open. Get some rest.”

Kost saluted and headed to the dormitories, still holding his sister close.

---

Nicole felt like an intruder. Kost was beloved and welcomed back with tears and hugs. He had laid with his sister, squished into one bed as they talked until they both fell asleep still in each other’s arms. His life was good, he was happy.

And he was possessed by some bodiless human with more curiosity than sense. A mopey one. Nic laughed at herself, making Kost pause in his conversation with his sister. They were eating breakfast and he’d been trying to ignore Nic’s sadness all morning.

“‘Randa... There’s something I need to tell you about and... I’m afraid how you’ll react.”

His sister looked at him and nodded. “I’m guessing it’s something private? Shall we go to the office?”

There was an office in the compound for general use, near the ones assigned to people who needed the steady use of one. It was a good place for any private conversations and no one thought anything of people using it..

Once there, Kost closed the door and Asaaranda sat on one the chairs. Kost started pacing.

“So. The Fade. I was in the Fade. And-” He blew out air and flailed his hands around briefly. “Okay, so there were demons, but I killed them or got away from them, I am not possessed by a demon and I’m safe, yes?”

His sister frowned. “Okay. Yes, they can’t possess you without permission, and you certainly don’t look like an abomination. Have you been scared this whole time?”

Kost let out a nervous laugh. “No. No, I - but thank you. So. In the Fade, there was this mirror? Which was vaguely interesting, I mean, there’s all sorts of random things around. But there was this mirror and I glanced at it... Something moved? There was a person there. That got my attention because there wasn’t a person on my side of it. So I looked. There was this woman. A human woman. She was in a cave and absolutely soaking wet. And cold. Honestly-”

Holy fuck, Kost, are you about to make hard nipple jokes??

Kost coughed again. “Sorry. I’m nervous. The point. The woman. Human. At the mirror. We we just looked at each other a bit, I mean it’s a weird thing, right?”

He glanced at his sister who was looking concerned, but not ready to interrupt.

“Yeah. So. Naturally, this woman was as intelligent as I am-” Nic cackled loudly in his head, “And, together, we touched the mirror.”

“Kost, what! Don’t touch unknown obviously magical items, you never know-” His sister stood up to gesticulate at him.

“And so now,” he talked over her. “We’re sharing this body. She somehow was displaced from hers and her world. Which is not Thedas, by the way.”

His sister stopped and stared blankly. “You’re…”

“Sharing my body with a human woman from another reality. Yup. It’s weird as shit.”

“Kost, that is not something to joke about!”

He signed. “‘Randa, I am not joking. And she’s been really sad this whole trip.”

“Sad. You’re possessed by a sad human.” Asaaranda did not look impressed.

Oh come on! That’s it? I’m a ‘sad human?’ Way to make me sound awful!

Kost grinned. “Well. Okay, I’m possessed by a pretty cute human. A musician, in fact, who loves to sing and plays..”

I play six instruments, if you’re asking.

“Six different instruments well, and some others less well. She’s intelligent, funny, and really wanted to have sex with that Ben Hassrath.”

Okay, fair, but you don’t even KNOW, Kost. And thank you, that was better.

Asaaranda looked alarmed. “She- what? Is she... Talking to you right now?”

“Yes. She can actually take over and talk to you, too, if you’d like?”

“Take over? No, I don’t want whatever is possessing my brother to TAKE OVER HIS BODY, KOST!”

“Hey, whoa! No, this isn’t…” He paused. “Okay, yeah, it kind of is, but it’s more of a... We’re both in this together? She didn’t want this, either. And it’s worse for her. I at least have my body, my kith, my reality. She doesn’t even know if her body is still alive, if by some crazy chance she’d be able to get back to it. And this world is so completely alien to her. Her world only has humans, for one. And no magic. They’re very advanced technologically, though, we’re centuries behind them. She is so lost, ‘Randa. She’s so scared.”

Asaaranda looked lost herself. “O-okay. So we’re... Sympathetic to the woman possessing my brother. Okay. And you’re… you’re okay?”

He smiled. “I’m okay. It’s not... Easy? She’s been really depressed, which is reasonable. So I’ve been dealing with my emotions and hers. But we’re okay. Aside from some weird things, she doesn’t want to try to make me do anything.”

Weird things?? I’ve been completely reasonable!

“What kind of weird things?” his sister queried, looking worried again.

“Oh, you know. Like wanting to be the one in charge to draw pee pictures while I pee. And she wants to have sex with people while in charge of the body.”

At that, Nic again cackled and Asaaranda looked blank before laughing herself. “Oh, that’s-!” She laughed some more. “No, that’s not so very weird, I would do the same. It’s a chance to explore all sorts of new things.”

He snorted. “Women. But yes. She’s just a person. She’s okay.”

“If you say so. I don’t know how many people you should tell, though.”

“We don’t, either. Likely not many. Though she does get to take control sometimes. She likes to sing and dance, so it wouldn’t be fair to not let her.”

Asaaranda’s eyes lit up. “Oh, she’ll know interesting new songs! Is their music much like ours? There’s,” she looked around quickly. “A drum! Can she sing me a song?”

Nic shoved herself into control of the body. “I can, yes! I know just the one.”

She went to get the drum and Asaaranda moved back hastily. “Oh, whoa, that’s... That was really obvious, you guys. She talks and uses your bodily very differently than you do. This is... Very eerie.”

Nic frowned. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I got excited. I didn’t realize it was quite that obvious, either. We switched back and forth a few times in the dungeons in Haven. Bull and Leliana definitely noticed but they’re spies. They notice that shit.”

“Bull?”

“Mm, the Qunari.”

Nic got settled with the drum on her lap and got used to its sounds. "You ready?”

Asaaranda nodded.

Nic started singing “I’m only Human” by Rag and Bone Man, drumming on a lap drum that was nicely sized for Kost’s large hands.
“Maybe I'm foolish
Maybe I'm blind
Thinking I can see through this
And see what's behind
Got no way to prove it
So maybe I'm blind
But I'm only human after all
I'm only human after all
Don't put your blame on me
Don't put your blame on me
Take a look in the mirror
And what do you see
Do you see it clearer
Or are you deceived
In what you believe
'Cause I'm only human after all
You're only vashoth after all
Don't put the blame on me
Don't put your blame on me...”
Kost laughed in her head as she sang and Asaaranda looked amused. When she finished, Asaaranda clapped, “That really was perfect! I didn’t realize Kost could sing like that. Thank you!”
“Thank you! I love that song. Never realized I’d have such a reasonable time to use it, though. I imagine in most settings, I can’t get away with singing it anymore, in the body of a giant Vashoth. Shame.”

“Do you have any others that are particularly funny while being my brother?”

“Hmm… heh. Yes.” And she happily started singing “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” by Britney Spears. Asaaranda had to sit down with her giggles and Kost would have if he had control of the body.

Nic decided that if she could have this, these moments when she could be herself, with friends and music, she could make it through this.

Chapter Text

Having made due with washing himself as well as he could from bowls of hot water since Nic had joined him, Kost was very grateful is was finally “non-human day” at the public baths Maker forbid humans be forced to bathe with “lesser” races.

Are we skipping all the way to the baths, or maybe you’re going to burst into song and dance all the way there, singing the praises of the inventors of soap and deep soaking tubs?”

Kost just laughed and shook his head, continuing to walk (with a little extra bounce, but certainly not skipping) to the baths with Asaaranda, Basra, and Vat.

“Laughing so early in the morning, Kost? You must have slept well,” Basra commented, looking pretty cranky and half asleep.

“You’d be gleeful, too, if you were me. Remember I haven’t been curled up comfortably in the compound all these weeks. First we were in the woods, then I was in the Fade, a Chantry dungeon, weeks on my own walking here, only to be greeted with a bowl of hot water and a towel to scrub with. I feel like I need to peel off my skin and send it to the laundress, but hopefully a bath will suffice.”

Now there’s a visual.

“Delightful. I’ll scrub your back, if only to prevent Randa from having to inform your parents that you decided to skin yourself,” Vat smirked.

Kost grinned and bowed dramatically in Vat’s direction, “You honor me, m’lord. Perhaps I’ll do yours as well.”

Asaaranda scoffed, “Not this again. Please don’t get us kicked out for indecency while you’re so busy ‘helping’ each other that you forget that there are limits to what bits of each other you should ‘help’ oil after bathing. Again.”

WHAT?” Nic took control of the body, trying to pay close attention to how Kost had been moving so that she didn’t do anything obviously different and quickly looked Vat over with this new information in mind.

Oh, for-” Kost took control back and elbowed his sister. “Shush you. I am extremely proper at all times and would never get distracted by the way the light glistens off his cock while I-”

Kost got a rather forceful elbow to his gut from his sister while she muttered, “No. Bad. Stop it.”

Nic giggled wildly in his head, adding to Kost’s already ridiculously cheerful mood.

Basra just rolled his eyes, “You two, I swear. I’m pretty sure you only do this to torment Asaaranda.”

Kost gasped dramatically. “I’d never! I have a deep lust and affection for that wall of muscle over there. That we ignore each other anytime anyone better comes along is irrelevant.”

Everyone rolled their eyes at this, and then they turned a corner and the bathhouse was in front of them. They paid their 3 silver and Asaaranda waved as she went down the opposite hall the men went down.

Bath houses aren’t so different between worlds. There were soaking pools, and benches with troughs of water beside stools with various scrub brushes. Basra patted Kost on the back before heading off to talk to a friend he saw across the way - a young looking elven man. The room was not crowded but it had about 20 people - elves, dwarves, a few humans and one other vashoth with a broken horn that turned away when he saw them.

Oh, Kost. You bring me to such places. You sure know how to cheer a girl up!

Kost stripped, putting his clothes in a bin along one of the walls before heading over to a stool to scrub. Vat walked up behind him, dragging his nails across Kost’s shoulders. “Shall I?”

Kost grinned back over his shoulder. “Absolutely.”

For all the innuendo, Vat just soaked a scrub brush in the scented water and scrubbed vigorously while Kost scrubed his limbs and front. When he was scrubbed clean, Vat got a jug and poured it over him a few times, rinsing him off, then rinsed the brushes again and sat on his own stool, where they repeated the procedure with Kost on back and rinse duty.

“Hair?” Kost asked, scratching gently at Vat’s scalp.

“Yes, and then yours.”

Kost poured water over Vat’s head before getting a bar of soap to rub over his head, working up a lather and the scrubbing it through with his fingers, giving a lovely scalp massage. He bent and kissed Vat’s forehead before rinsing and then they traded places again.

I like Vat. He gives really good scalp massages. And is so pretty. So big.

They moved to soak in one of the hot pools, joining Basra.

“Do you remember Kym?” Basra indicated the elf he’d joined, who was sitting pretty closely to him.

Kost nodded. “Your potions have saved my life. Good to see you again.”

Kym smiled shyly, “Glad to help.”

Vat slid closer to Kost, putting his arm around him and stroking his shoulder idly. “This feels so normal, which feels strange because it was a month that we thought you were gone.”

Kost closed his eyes and leaned more into Vat, nodding. “It makes no sense that I’m still here, but I’m grateful.”

Kym frowned. “What did happen? All I heard was that you died in a fight.”

Kost hesitated. “I don’t really want it spread everywhere. You know how people can be.”

“I won’t tell. I understand. I trust you with my secrets, you can trust me with yours.”

“I fell through a rift. I was in the Fade. I found another one, went through, and ended up in Haven, which was ridiculously far from where I started. Then had to walk all the way here to find everyone.”

Kym’s eyes widened dramatically. “Physically in the fade? And you lived? That’s…”

“Weird as shit, right?” Kost finished for him.

“I would expect you to be.. Changed. Did you meet demons?”

“I killed a few demons, yes. But they seemed to cluster around the rift, so after I moved away, it was pretty clear.”

Kym eyed Kost for a bit. “Well, you don’t look or act possessed, so I guess you were incredibly lucky. I’m glad you’re back. I certainly see why this wouldn’t be a story you want bandied around - Templars would kill you ‘just in case.’”

Nic giggled nervously in his head. “Oh yes. Not possessed. Totally your own man. Came out of the scary old Fade just as you entered. Yup.

Kost just nodded.

They continued chatting, Kym and and Basra slowly drifting closer until Kym ended up sitting on his lap, leaning back against his broad chest. Kost slowly getting closer to Vat until he was snuggled up on one shoulder, their legs tangled and Vat’s arm tight around him.

I like your friends. They’re good people. Also hot. And being clean is wonderful. This is the best day yet.

---

Kym joined them heading back to the compound, Asaaranda having left by the time they’d pulled themselves from their relaxing. They all ate lunch together - sausage stuffed squash with dark bread dipped in herby oil. Basra winked at them and took Kym’s hand to head off towards his room and Vat put his hand on Kost’s thigh.

“Shall we then?”

Kost grinned. “Yes.”

Oh hell yes, I think you mean. Rub your nose if you want me to shut up so you can pretend I’m not here. Pull your ear if you don’t care.

Kost just took Vat’s hand and drug him down the hall to his own room, several of the mercenaries catcalling them as they went.

When they were in Kost’s room with the door closed, Vat pressed him up against the door and carefully pressed his face in to Kost’s neck. “I never thought we’d be able to do this again. You’re my best friend and I.. I’d lost you. It broke something inside of me that I didn’t know I even had, Kost.”

Kost sighed and cupped Vat’s face in his hand, aiming his face up so that he could kiss him. It started soft, but quickly got rougher as they groped each other and Vat pressed their groins together.

Kost did manage to get a hand up to his own ear to pull before moving that hand to wind through Vat’s hair, pulling his face back so that Kost could bite and suck his neck.

Vat slid a hand into Kost’s breeches, pressing and pulling at his erection and Kost pulled back, breathing roughly. “Fuck. Get naked. Get on the bed.”

They both hastily stripped and Kost pressed Vat back on the bed, crawling on top of him. “You’re so beautiful. Fuck.”

Vat reach between them, getting both their erections in one hand. Kost groaned and thrust into his grip, leaning down for more of the long wet kisses. Vat’s other hand went to Kost’s neck, holding him in place as they kissed and then slid lower as Kost buried his face in Vat’s neck, biting and gasping as they both increased the ferocity of their thrusting and then came messily all over their bellies.

Kost kissed Vat sweetly on the shoulder and then pulled his head back to kiss him slowly and deeply until they both started to feel sticky and gross. They groaned and laughed and cleaned themselves up with the ewer and cloth that was always on a small table in the rooms and then curled up together.

Okay that was amazing and we should do that a lot. Though now I want him to go away so we can talk about this and why you didn’t mention anything about it in all that time we had.

Kost huffed a laugh and shook his head.

Vat hugged him tighter, “What?”

Kost kissed the skin in front of his face. “Nothing. Just thinking I wouldn’t have minded more near death experiences if it led to this.”

Vat smacked him and grumbled. “Go to sleep, trouble. Right here, so I know you’re safe.”

---

A few days later, the Breach closed abruptly just after lunch.

A week later, the news of the destruction of Haven slowly filtered through Vader.

“All those people. Shit.” Kost was in his room alone for the moment, curled up in bed. “And we could have been there.”

Oh, no way in hell. I knew this was coming and we would have absolutely not been there.

“Really? You knew when to predict the attack of people made of red lyrium?” He snorted and then said quieter, “And you didn’t think to warn them?”

Nic was quiet.

I.. I did know. I know the events of the Inquisition, like I know the people of the Inquisition. I know what happened in my game. And I know that in the end it works out. In my world, we explore the idea of time travel in stories a lot. If you could go back to change things, what might happen? And the smallest things can change so much, you can never know. We already had this change, with us showing up. Another person in the Fade. I didn’t know how much that would change. And if I warned them, and they were somehow able to do something about it - then what? They stay at Haven? And then I am lost and don’t know what will happen next. At Haven, people died, but people also lived. And the story of the Herald dying in Haven, but then coming back to lead them helps to bolster people to the cause. It brings the Inquisition together like simply continuing on in a shitty town would not. And I could say, ‘hey there’s a giant ruin of a castle randomly in the Frostbacks.’ but where? They only went there because there weren’t really options - they were already randomly in the Frostbacks, they lost any kind of position they might have had to get supporters who might give them a place to be, and they couldn’t go back to Haven in case they got eaten by a fucking Blighted Dragon. So yes. I knew that people would die and I made sure I wasn’t there and I let it happen.

They were quiet for awhile. Kost sighed. “You’re right. You can’t know. And you can’t know that things will actually happen the same way as the game, that would be foolish.”

Yeah, the game had Influence Points and you had to do things to gain them, to be able to do certain actions. But it was somehow the same if your Inquisitor was a fucking noble, or a Vashoth mage, so we know that wasn’t going to be the same in person. Adaar had to work a lot harder for everything she got.

“It’s still bizarre to me that Herah Adaar is being called the Herald of Andraste. And that we didn’t find that out until we were in Jader - why was no one in Haven mentioning that when talking about her? ‘Oh, she argues with the Commander about mages!’ but no “she’s got horns, drinks like a fish, and kisses like a desire demon.”

You probably shouldn’t mention that you got drunk and made out with their holy figure, honey.

He waved a hand dismissing her. “That was years ago. And you’re sure she’s okay?”

Yes. As sure as I am about everything. She should have fallen into an old mining shaft as Haven was being buried. She was fucking hurt, but she’ll find her way back to them. When she wakes up, everyone’s all stressed out and Mother Giselle sings The Dawn Will Come, everyone bows, and BOOM. She’s leveled up in the Holy Figure category enough that it’s pretty much just cemented at that point.

Kost snickers. “I do vaguely wish I could be there to see a group of traumatized people randomly bursting into song together.”

Eh. I mean, it’s hilarious, but then you’re also a traumatized person out in the snow in the Frostbacks and I think it’s like a month of hiking to get to castle ruins and start trying to piece your life back together. I much prefer the part where I could go down the hall and suck Vat’s cock if I wanted, and then have a warm dinner and go to sleep in a cosy bed.

They both laughed at that, and then got distracted by thoughts of Vat’s cock, which they hadn’t actually been near since after the bath house.

“He’s a very good friend, but it really is just a random thing here and there. We’ve never tried for anything more steady, because we never really want anything more steady.”

Yeah, I know, and I get that. Still a very nice day to have had. So. Inquisition. Do you want to join?

“Yes, I do. I’ll talk to Ash about it when we’ve heard that they’re settled in Skyhold. No sense talking about it when everyone thinks it’s over.”

They say in quiet for awhile again.

---

After dinner, the group sat together, talking about Herah Adaar, remembering the fun times they’d had together. Even knowing she was still possibly alive, Kost was filled with bitter sadness about the loss of a good person. She would never be able to be their Herah again, no matter what happened. Her life had been taken from her because she was kind and tried to help someone. She was caught up in a war with actual gods and immortals.

Nic started singing in his head, a thing she’d been doing more and more, as a way to work through thoughts and feelings they were having. She couldn’t hear his thoughts, but his feelings were heavy, and she knew his “history” with Adaar.

“Hey,” Kost spoke quietly to the group. “Would you mind if I sang a song? It’s bursting from my heart right now. It’s not one you know, it’s one I learned… from a friend.”

Everyone murmured agreement and Kost grabbed one of the large lutes they had in the room. Nic had been practicing in the evenings and she’d be able to make it work for the tune. He took a deep breath and when he opened his eyes again, Nic was in control of their body.

She played gentle at first, starting her song quietly as she slowly built in intensity singing, “She Used to be Mine” with all the pain and the longing Kost was feeling (changing a few words so that made more sense).

“She's imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won't ask for help
She is messy, but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine”

When she was done, she stayed in control and sang and played with the kith through the evening, until it was late and they’d all shed many tears.

Chapter Text

Crestwood!

Nic had been quiet all morning, so the sudden thought startled Kost enough that his hand slipped and his arrow went wide, hitting the ground behind one of the far targets, which naturally brought on much mockery from the others training in the courtyard.

“Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. I am a brilliant archer with perfect focus, you're obviously all seeing things,” he called as he pulled out a new arrow and refocused.

Sorry. I just realized that Crestwood would be a good place to go. There's going to be a rift opening in the lake, and undead. There's a fort, but bandits take over it. The Inquisition goes there, and it just can't have been going on that long before they arrived. We might be able to get there first, keep the bandits out, save the town.

Kost frowned and grunted, continuing his target practice. After this was lunch, and then likely blade practice. He'd been settling back into the rhythm of his kith and Nic had been impressed with how much work it was.

Yeah, I'm not sure how to sell that to the kith, but it would feel so good, to be able to use my foreknowledge for something useful. To help. The undead are from the Blight, the old Town was flooded, drowning a bunch of people. That's a bad way to die, being killed by your undead son who died a decade ago.

Kost nodded before shooting his last arrow. He stretched, retrieved his arrows, deflected some more mockery and headed in for a quick wash and drink.

“Why was there an undefended fort? Bandits shouldn't be able to just take over a fort for a long period of time, the Lord in charge of the area would quickly intervene,” he wondered when he was back in his room, stripping down for a quick sponge bath.

You'd think. I don't know. Maybe it's just a game mechanic, but from what I know Ferelden and Orlais are both just totally falling to shit with demons, mages, Templars, and bandits wrecking havoc. Hell, Orlais has even decided to add a civil war to that. So it's possible it will actually be handled, but it's also possible that the rich assholes are guarding themselves, giving up on everyone else because there's too much going on and they can't manage it.

Kost snorted. “Okay, yeah, that I believe.”

Nic pushed to take over the body, as she generally did when they were alone in a room, and started wiping down his body. Not without appreciation, she still thought he had an amazingly beautiful body, but she was getting more used to it. The wipe down was mostly efficient with only a little pausing to appreciate the especially nice parts.

“Your ass should have sonnets written about it, I swear,” she muttered as she gave it a squeeze with a grin.

Aren't you a song writer? Get on it, then. First, though: Undead, and how to get the kith to Crestwood. I'm not sure I can go with ‘the Earthling human possessing me thinks that probably there will be a rift sometime soon that might wake up the somehow still intact corpses from a decade ago and bandits will just happen to take the only defensible cover, leaving everyone to get eaten.’

“No? That's pretty convincing to me. Maybe if you try it naked.”

She could feel his amusement and frustration.

“Fine, fine. Ferelden is a mess, the mages and Templars both went there en mass, and did a lot of damage. Rifts likely open up in places where there was a lot of emotion or death, and there was a lot of that in the Blight. The other option is Orlais, there are some things there we could maybe help with, but Orlais is terrible and honestly, I'm not sure of we'd be able to do as much good without more people. Crestwood just needs that fort to be kept clear of bandits so people can hide between the time the shit hits the fan and when the Inquisitor fixes it.”

'Shit hits the fan?’

“Oh, a fan is like a small fast windmill. So if shit hit it, it'll spray everywhere and be a big horrible mess.”

Good saying. Alright. Do you know where Crestwood is?

“Mostly. It's on the Imperial Highway, you can get on North of Lake Calenhad and head towards Denerim. It's before you get to the Storm Coast and Highever.”

On the Highway helps a lot, we can just ask to travel the road looking for work. Anything we do along the way is likely helpful, and we hopefully get there in time. And then think of something to keep us there after we deal with the bandits.

“There is a dragon.”

Kost sparked with a fascinating mix of excitement and fear, with an amusing splash of arousal. Nic chuckled and started dressing him.

“That's what I thought.”

---

They decided to give the full explanation to Asaaranda, who agreed it sounded like a good plan.

“Being able to swoop in before the killing sounds wonderful. Though it’s completely creepy that you know the future and I half hope it doesn’t happen like you say because no one should have that power.”

Nic laughed and agreed that she would shed no tears if she was wrong in a lot of the things she “knew.”

Between the two of them, and the logic of the plan, the rest of the kith agreed, and a week later they were on their way across Ferelden. Nic was delighted at how much easier it was to travel with full supplies and friends, though she missed the privacy of their room where she got to take over the body without worrying about detection.

Toniiiiiiiight, we are yoooung, so let’s set this world on fire! We can go higher than the suuuuuuun!

Kost abruptly signaled that he was using the bushes and headed away from the group into the trees. “You have to stop! Please stop!”

It’s such a good song! And it’s stuck in my head.

“Yes. Yes, I have noticed. Also, you only know that one little section and please stop. How about another song? About anything else? Maybe tiny bits of other songs, but then you move on to another song after singing each one once and then Kost doesn’t have to lose his mind.”

Nic laughed in his head. “Yeah, fair.

Then she shoved him out of his body and proceeded to pee against the tree, though she could feel Kost rolling his eyes in his head. “Always with my penis.

“It is the only one I can pee with. You’re the one who said you needed to pee. I am making you an honest man, my love.”

Then she did dramatic spinning jumps out of the woods to the path, where she turned backwards and and walked towards the group.

 

Why are you walking backwards?

“I’ve been cooped up. I have restless energy. It’s this or singing.”

“Cooped up, Kost? We’ve been marching for two days. And what’s wrong with singing? Sing!” Basra called. Nic quickly turned around, not having realized they had waited instead of continuing to walk.

“Glorious! What shall we sing, my magical musical friend?”

There was laughing around them and Basra grinned. “Surprise me. Something new if you have another, though I do wonder where you’re getting them.”

Nic hummed. Kost muttered in her head, but didn’t take over. Asaaranda looked amused.

“Hmm. A dramatic one, fitting of the situation we find ourselves in, I think. I need a drum!’

Basra handed her one of the rawhide drums and a stick from one of the pack mules. Nic got a drink of water, and put her pack over the back of the mule.

First a beat and then she began singing Lorde’s version of Everybody Wants to Rule the World.

“Welcome to your life
There's no turning back
Even while we sleep
We will find you acting on your best behavior
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world..”

She slinked and danced around dramatically while she sang, raising the drum above her head to hit it, ending face to face with Vat, who she kissed cheekily before turning to give the drum to Basra.

People were smiling, but also looking at her a bit strangely and she realized she was acting far too Nic. She signed internally, stretched up one last time and shoved Kost back in control of his body.

“I do enjoy this new musical side to you Kost,” Basra said as he strapped the drum back to the pack mule. “It’s strange, and the songs are very different, but at least it’s entertaining.”

Vat was watching him with a little frown and Kost smiled at him. Vat searched Kost’s face briefly, before smiling back and turning to continue walking.

“I guess falling into the fade, getting held in a dungeon, and then walking by myself through the mountains for two weeks had a more of an effect than people expected,” Kost tried, shrugging his pack back on.

“Maybe you were touched by a Wisp of Whimsy,” grinned Asaaranda, nudging him. “My song! One from Ravain, yes?”

Several of the kith, including Kost, joined with her, and the strange looks settled into smiles and songs.

Sorry.” Nic said, when they were done, singing and back to walking. The sun was setting, and they were keeping their eyes out for a place to stop.

Kost put her in charge of the body so he could talk. “I do understand. I don’t blame you. I hadn’t thought about traveling and lack of time for you to get to be physical in the world. We’ll figure it out. Maybe we should spend some time in the evenings writing songs, so it makes sense that I know new ones. I could become a bard!

She smiled and let him have the body back. “I’m so grateful that I’m possessing such a nice person. Thank you. We’ll figure it out.

And then it was time to set up camp.

---

“You’re acting increasingly strange. Not just when it’s not you in charge. You are starting to add in phrases that she uses, smiling at things you didn’t used to smile at.”

Kost frowned, bending to pick up more dry branches for the fire. “It makes sense, ‘Raanda. We share nearly everything every moment of the day.”

His sister frowned and looked miserable. “I don’t like it. None of it is bad, but..”

“But your brother is changing. I’m so sorry. I would leave if I could,” Nic had taken over the body. “I try to stay back, but I can’t stand it. To only watch all the time. I don’t want to lose myself, either.”

“Yes. And people notice. Mostly we can shrug it off, but you were in the Fade. People worry at the changes. And I can’t say they’re wrong, or that he came out fully himself.”

“Hey!” Kost took his body back. “I lost nothing. I am fully myself. With extra features, like a bizaar need to sing constantly. Even in my head. When I don’t know all the words to the song.”

Toniiight, we are yoooung!”

“No! No! We are not young! We are so old! We’re older than anyone could ever be and we’re starting no fires except the dinner fire!”

Asaraanda looked at him askance and then burst out laughing. “Do I want to know?”

“It’s this song that she gets stuck on all the time! She only knows a small portion, but she has so much enthusiasm for it anyway. Honestly, you’re right to be worried, I’ll likely be mad before the week is through at this rate.”

Well, I’m so very sorry that I didn’t bring my phone and an internet connection through so that I can check my lyrics. Shall I move on? Let’s try-

“NO. Thank you,” Kost rubbed his temples. “I need to buy a journal next time I see one. She can start to write down the lyrics and possibly remember them more fully. Or invent new ones to fit the tune. Plus, if I’m writing songs, it’ll be less strange to know new ones.”

“That makes sense,” Asaaranda said. “I think our next town is Crestwood, in fact, so that works nicely. Tell me about it again?”

Nic took the body back. “I don't know a lot, honestly. Old Crestwood was attacked by Darkspawn in the Blight, and they flooded the town to kill them all. It worked, but also killed a lot of people. They rebuilt on higher ground. A rift will probably open in the caves under the old city, which is under the lake, and then demons start to come through, sending undead to attack the current city. And then, as I said, assholes take over the nearby defendable fort and lock out the townspeople to die. I just hope that we can either get there before all this happens and prevent the fort take over, or get the fort back so people can have a safe place to wait.”

“Seems simple enough.”

Nic nodded, and reached out and took Asaaranda’s hand. “I really am sorry. I adore your brother, I want only good things for him.”

Asaaranda squeezed her hand and then grinned. “Really? All that time in his head and you still don’t realize what a pain in the ass he is?”

Nic grinned back. “Hey, any of that is made up by how gorgeous he is, and I get to wash him!”

Asaaranda groaned and covered her face. “I do not need to know what you two get up to.”

“Less than you’d think. Although-”

Kost took control back of the body. “Really not much. She just has weird opinions on what’s fun.”

Asaaranda just shook her head with a smile, gathered her wood pile, and headed back to camp.

---

Crestwood was intact. There was no rift. The locals were wary when a large group of horned mercenaries came into town, but aside from a lot of “oxmen” talk, they had no troubles. They replenished their stores at the shops, Kost found his journal to start his new song writing hobby, and they had a pleasant meal in one of the pubs.

They did not, however, try to stay in town, heading out and setting up, with Kost’s gentle nudging, near to the fort.

The next day, they were approached by a local merchant who asked if they might be for hire. There had been an increase in bandits and other “dangerous folk” about since the Mage and Templar war had started, and he figured there wasn’t likely to be another group as threatening looking as Maraas Kata.

“And you were right respectful to everyone in town, unlike most of the groups we’ve been seeing. You likely wouldn’t need to do much, just having you around and known to be protecting the village would go a long way to keeping us safer.”

Ash frowned. “What of your Lord? Is he not protecting you? There’s this fort here, is no force holding it?”

The merchant shifted. “We keep the fort up ourselves, as we can. After the Blight, we know the value of a strong wall. We keep stores there, and the like, but the Bann is too busy to fuss with our little town, what with all the troubles. We take care for ourselves, like we always have.”

“I see. I will speak with my kith and let you know. It was our intent, however, to find this type of work. So many would take advantage in times such as these.”

“They would indeed. I’ll be at my shop all day, if you need me.” The merchant nodded at them and headed back to town.

Ash watched him go and then gathered everyone to discuss the offer. It was a reasonable one, and exactly what they had been looking for. It bothered people that the supposed rulers of this area weren’t doing more to help their people, especially those who grew up in the Qun where things were run more efficiently.

They would accept the job.

Yes. Good. We did it, Kost!

Kost smiled.

Chapter Text

“She’s alive!” Asaaranda shouted as she rushed back into their camp the next day.

Everyone looked up.

“Who?” Kost asked, looking up from his page of lyrics. Nic had been trying to get through Sound of Silence, but knew she was missing bits and was very frustrated.

“Herah! She’s alive! They found their way to an old castle in the Frostbacks and have been growing again. Everyone’s more certain than ever that she’s the Herald of Andraste now, they say she died in the avalanche she used to bury the army attacking them, to save everyone. And then several days after, she came back to life and found her people again - to lead them to safety again.” Asaaranda smirked. “Of course, it’s a lot harder to kill a Vashoth, she just lived unexpectedly. But they’ve made her Inquisitor! She’s in charge of the whole organization now, and it’s growing.”

The whole group sat in silence for a moment, allowing the information to soak in. Then Ash started laughing, and Kost joined, and then the rest. They laughed and cheered, exalting in the return of their friend, and nudging each other in amusement at the fact that a Vashoth was now in charge of an increasingly powerful organization, and that she was now more firmly established in their very human-centered religion.

---

When the rift opened, everyone held their breath. For a week, nothing seemed to happen aside from the pretty light show above the lake. Strange noises and lights followed, but there were no obvious threats until a week after that when the first rotting corpse decided to take a stroll into town.

The people, having been through the Blight, quickly dispatched them, and a watch was put on the lake.

The numbers coming from the lake increased, and tensions did as well. Meraas Kata moved into the fort, along with a large percentage of the population. The people sent a messenger to the Inquisition, requesting aid with the rift, and they waited. As the undead wandered past the fort, archers were set to shoot them down. Every evening there was a mage-assisted pyre, making sure the bodies were properly laid to rest (and unlikely to rise again.)

There was never a problem with mercenaries trying to take over the fort, though several armed groups wandered by, saw the problems and Meraas Kata, armed and watchful, and they politely continued on their way.

---

We should drain the lake. That is not a fast process. How can we do that?

Kost looked out over the lake. They were on night watch, alone for the moment. “We should bring it up tomorrow. It’s obviously got to be done, if anyone is going to be able to access the rift in the lake. Getting it done before the Inquisition gets here just makes sense. Give the ground some time to settle, too.”

Oh, ugh, yes. They don’t have waterproof hip waders in Thedas. More’s the pity. The Mayor would have a chance to go down and destroy any evidence or whatever, too, if he needed to. The way it goes in the game isn’t good for him, he’ll see reason. And there’s no way to ignore that it needs to happen.

“What do you think we should do after this?”

I don’t know. Join the Inquisition? There are a few people who might be able to help us there, actually. There’s an option to bring in an Avaar, and I would be interested in his opinion. The Avaar teach their mages magic by joining them with a spirit, and then releasing the spirit when the training is complete. They might have a way to seperate us. There’s also a possible spirit companion, and some mages that could have some ideas. One who might know what happened and how to reverse it in full, actually.

“How could he know that?”

He’s like that. He’s.. it’s a secret, it’s one of the things that I know that could get us all killed. I.. we should see who is around and what our options are before we settle on an idea, or talk too much about that kind of thing.

Kost laughed briefly. “Keeping secrets are we, darling? You realize I can do the same.”

Of course I know that. I’m just being careful not to overburden you. I know too much about all of them, there’s no reason to put that on you until it makes sense. It’s polite to keep people’s business their business until there’s a good reason to spread it, yeah? Even if I’m living in your head.

He sighed. “You’re right, I apolygize. I look forwarding to meeting these people, especially if they can help. I’m afraid I don’t see many options that would keep you intact, which is something I require. I can continue on like this for the rest of my life if the only option is your death.”

He felt her gratitude fill him, warm and bright. “Thank you.

---

“You want to what?”

Ash looked at the Mayor in confusion. “Drain the lake. We’ve called the Inquisition asking for help, they’re going to need access to the rift. Unless you intend to move the water with buckets? Or did you expect them to be able to breathe underwater?”

Kost had brought up the lake draining plan over breakfast, and everyone agreed it was an obvious thing to do. Most were confused that they had to be the ones to bring it up as it should have already been draining.

“But the controls are busted! The Darkspawn busted them and flooded the town!”

Ash frowned. “That was a decade ago. You never thought to have them fixed? We’d better go see if we can get them working.”

She motioned to the group and they headed towards the control room.

“Wait! The door is locked!” The Mayor called desperately. “You won’t be able to get in.”

Ash turned and looked at him in confusion. “I don’t understand. You do want the rift closed, right? You don’t enjoy having undead in your village? Right? And you do understand that to close the rift, people are going to need to be near it. And that it’s under a lake? What am I missing here?”

“I..” The Mayor looked around desperately before signing and sagging against the nearby wall. “No. No, you are correct. I have the key in my home. I will go retrieve it.”

“I’ll come with you,” Kost volunteered. “There’s been some activity in the town today, I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Yes. Yes, thank you,” the Mayor nodded, leading Kost to the village.

Nic was nervous he’d try something desperate, but he didn’t. He simply retrieved a box from a shelf, handed Kost the key that was inside and sat on the bed.

“You go ahead. I have some things I need to do here before heading back. Thank you.”

Kost eyed him, but nodded and left.

He’s going to run. That’s what he did in the game.” Nic commented as they walked.

“Yeah, he just might. Better for him to stay, though, since you said there was evidence in his old home. This way he’s got time to check. Or run. Up to him.”

The controls were, of course, undamaged, and they were able to set the lake to draining quickly, though with continued confusion.

The Mayor actually did return to the fort that evening, though he avoided speaking to anyone. He stood and watched the lake for awhile, before quietly shutting himself in his room.

---

Several days later, they all looked out at the mud flat that was Old Crestwood. They could see spirits and demons wandering about through the remains of the buildings. It was helpful really, because they could more easily see when the undead were possessed and started heading towards the town. They planned to go out when the mud dried out to walkable and collect what bodies they could find for cremation. It had started raining, though, so that process would be slowed.

Kost and Nic had found a rarely used storage room and holed up to figure out more lyrics and get them written down.

I just think a love song would be a good idea. They’re very popular.” Kost had let her have the body for this kind of thing.

“Yes, but which? Let me think.”

She was coming up blank, which always drove her crazy. Her life was music, she should know more songs, this shouldn’t be so hard.

“Wait! Yes! Come with me, my love! Cat Power!” She started hastily scribbling, singing under her breath. “Wait. The day I knew you were my what? Pet? That’s not very loving, is it? That can’t be right. But it rhymes? I mean, that.. Hm.”

Kost was amused. His life had taken such a strange turn that day in the Fade.

Nic was still muttering. “Actually, I could contrast that with something-- TIM MINCHIN! Yes, absolutely. If I didn’t have you, someone else would do. How in the fuck does that one, ah, lemme…”

She scribbled and mumbled for awhile until she signed and sat back. “This is absolutely incorrect, but it’s a start. I could use that idea to..” she paused. “You’re feeling awfully amused today, Kost, care to share with the class?”

Oh, no. Just contemplating the strange turns that life takes.

She snorted. “It certainly does. Speaking of, do you think you’re going to do try anything with that village girl who’s been mooning at you?”

There was more than one, really, the young women of Crestwood were certainly finding perks to being locked away with a group of fit healthy mercenaries, but one was more blatant in showing her interest.

I’m thinking about it. Her dad watches her like a hawk, though, so it would be tricky, I think.

“She’s gorgeous, that seems reasonable. Anyone can see she likes the idea of climbing you like a tree and that isn’t generally the plan Ferelden farmers have for their daughters.”

Yeah, it’s a shame, to be sure. I certainly wouldn’t mind her exploring that idea.

Nic was about to ask for details, when the door suddenly opened and the aforementioned village girl stepped in, shutting the door firmly behind her.

“I thought I saw you sneak in here. I finally managed to slip away,” she grinned, her dimples showing in her rosy cheeks.

Kost hastily shoved Nic out of his body and smiled crookedly at the girl. “You’ve caught me. May I be of service, my lady?”

“Did I hear you in here singing?” she asked, coming closer and looking at Nic’s scribbled notes. They wouldn’t be much help to her, as Nic wrote in English.

“I was writing some songs. Having a bit of trouble with this one. Trying for a love song, but I’m finding that I lack the proper inspiration.”

Really? That’s your line? Oh, my god, you were smoother in Haven.” Nic was interrupted by the girl giggling and sliding herself down onto Kost’s lap.

“Inspiration, is it? Maybe I can be of service to you then?” She slid her hands up Kost’s broad chest and bit her lip, looking up at him with big eyes.

Kost slid his hands slowly up her legs, bunching her dress around her hips, grabbing her ass with one hand as he slid the other up into her hair. “Oh, my lady. I hope so.”

He bent to kiss her and she kissed him back with enthusiasm. It took some adjusting to get the angles right, neither of them having had a human/qunari tryst before, but with her up on her knees and him bracing her with a tight grip on her ass, they were doing quite well.

She started working at the ties on his pants, gasping when she realize just how big he was, and he laid her back on the ground, still kissing her, shoving his pants off. He started to settle between her legs, grabbing his cock to aim, but Nic interrupted.

Wait! Wait, you can’t just jump in like that, holy shit, Kost!

He paused, confused.

She’s young and human. Your penis is huge. You need to go down on her, get her relaxed and ready first.

He nodded and then started kissing down the girl’s body. He pushed her dress up to see her groin more clearly and then paused. She was panting below him, looking up with big eyes, pupil’s blown, but offering no suggestions. Kost carefully raked his fingers through her pubic hair and then ran a single finger down between her labia. Nic felt his anxiety rising.

Kost..? Have you done this before with any woman? Oral sex?

He bent down to kiss the girl’s thigh, getting comfortable between her legs. He subtly shook his head no.

Ah. Well. I have. So I could show you, if you wanted. Or just shut up and leave you to it.

He shoved her into the body.

There is no way I’m doing this with you analyzing and judging what I’m doing. I totally get it, I’m not upset. Show me.

She grinned up at the girl and lowered her head for a taste.

Three orgasms later, three of Kost’s large fingers inside her, the girl was begging. Nic gently kissed her belly and handed the body back over to Kost.

This part you know better than me, love. Enjoy, start slow.

He crawled up the girl’s body, kissing her desperately, and she wrapped herself around him, rubbing against him, reaching her hand down to grab his penis, but finding it just a bit too far away. He huffed a laugh and moved back, sitting against the wall.

“This is bigger than you’re going to be used to, my lady. Climb on up, take it at your own pace.” He rasped, licking his lips. She tasted amazing.

She blushed and climbed on his lap, tugging at his erection a few times before awkwardly positioning it and starting to slide down.

It took some time, but eventually she got in as much as would fit. She couldn’t work out a comfortable way to ride him, so he gently laid her back on the floor again, staying inside her. He started thrusting gently at first, figuring out the depth and rhythm, but eventually built up until she was gasping and crying out with each thrust, writhing against him, digging her nails into his back. When she came against him, he quickly followed, gasping, thrusting into her hard for a few strokes, filling her up. Then he carefully rolled over onto his back, taking her with him, so she laid on his chest.

They laid there together catching their breath as he gently ran his fingers through her hair and she clung to him.

The girl began to giggle then, and looked up at Kost with a grin. He raised an eyebrow. She giggled again. “What’s your name, anyway?”

He laughed then, too. “Kost. What’s yours?”

She blinked at him and started giggling again. “Amalyn. A pleasure to meet you, Kost.”

They laughed together again, until Amalyn sat up, moving so that Kost’s cock finally dislodged from her, spilling semen on his belly between them. She was giggling again, pulling out her handkerchief to mop herself up, and letting herself out of the room with a quick, “Don’t tell anyone!”

Kost grinned to himself, scratching his belly before pulling out his own handkerchief to clean himself, and redressing.

I like her. Have you.. been with a woman before?

“Eh. A few drunken trysts, but it was with Nazlena, so there wasn’t the dramatic size difference. And she just went right for it, so I thought that’s how it went with women. That’s how it gets talked about, most of the time.”

Well, most men are terrible in bed. This girl, though, was thoroughly satisfied. I just hope you didn’t get her pregnant.

He groaned. “Yes, me, too. It’s unlikely. It’s a lot more difficult to manage than humans and elves. I also assume she’ll know how to handle such things, with her coming in so bold. Not quite the innocent country lass her father thinks he’s protecting.”

Or maybe he knows, and that’s why he’s so vigilant!” Nic laughed. Kost joined her.

“Well. Either way, I certainly feel better. More songs? Or a nap?”

Nap.

“Excellent,” Kost grunted, heading up to his room, a definite bounce to his step.

Chapter Text

When the Inquisition Scouts came, they were impressed with how the town had dealt with the undead issue, and grateful that the lake was already drained. The mud was still awful for walking, but a path was laid out with stones and boards so that it was easy enough for a group to get to the entrance to the tunnels giving the Inquisitor access to the rift.

They set up the Inquisition base camp closer to Old Crestwood, lessening the load of the locals who had been watching the entire coastline near the town. They used the fort for storage, however, because the rain had yet to let up.

“I have to say, it’s so nice to come to an area that is so well supported. Crestwood is lucky to have your group here,” Scout Harding was saying to Ash as they relaxed over drinks that evening. “adding that you’ve set up everything to make the Inquisitor’s job as easy as possible, and I think this might be one of my favorite places yet. Minus the rain.”

Kost smiled to himself and drank. It was very distracting trying to follow the conversation with Nic freaking out in his head. Apparently Scout Harding was one of her favorites, and he was getting a very enthusiastic run down of various wonderful things about her, how beautiful she looked in the firelight, and then a few lusty daydreams.

He wandered off to join his sister by another fire.

Quit being so amused at me! Those freckles! You cannot tell me I’m wrong, she’s amazing. Look how tiny she is compared to you! Aaaaa! I want to carry her everywhere and rub her feet while she talks to me. About anything.

As he sat, Kost saw Amalyn walking past with her father. She grinned and winked at him, which her father noticed, gaining Kost a suspicious glare from the man. The father started a heated whispered conversation with his daughter. She glared at him and hissed something back before storming away. Her father sighed, leveled another glare at Kost for in case the first didn't take, and then hurried after her.

“That man!” Asaaranda huffed beside Kost. “As if we’re all panting after his daughter. I swear, he doesn’t let her out of his sight, and he's always looking at us like we might steal her away.”

Kost grinned. “She does just fine for herself, don’t worry.”

Asaaranda paused and glared. “Tell me you didn’t.”

Kost gasped dramatically, bringing his hand to his chest. “Just what are you accusing me of, darling sister? I would never seduce innocent human farm girls!”

She eyed him. “Right. You disappear quite frequently these days.”

“I’ve been holed up writing songs, not chasing farm girls.”

“‘Not chasing,’ ‘not seducing,’ you’re being very specific in your wording, brother. So if a young woman were to seek you out…”

Kost grinned and shrugged. “I am but a simple mercenary. Who am I to deny a beautiful woman something when it’s in my power to provide it? I live to serve.”

“Kost!” his sister laughed. “I can’t believe you. If he catches you two, you know there will be trouble.”

“It was just the once. He really has kept her within arm’s reach every moment since then. I’m surprised she was able to slip away at all, really.”

“You poor baby. I didn’t know you slept with humans.”

He took another drink. “She’s the first, so I wouldn’t say it’s a habit. I was writing songs and she just let herself into the room and crawled onto my lap. What was I to do?”

Asaaranda laughed again. “That is definitely a girl who knows what she wants! I wish her father luck.”

“He’s definitely going to need it.”

They grinned at each other.

“So aside writing songs, and surrendering to the lustful whims of humans, what else have you been up to? What do you think we should do next? I like the Inquisition people.”

“I like them, too. Nic is head over heels for the lead scout, speaking of the lustful whims of humans.”

HEY!

“Did I lie?”

No. She’s glorious. Shut up.

Kost laughed.

“She is very good at her job,” Asaaranda said, looking amused .

“She is. I think it’s likely that we can move on from here after the Inquisition comes. This is a nice fort, they could man it if the Bann doesn’t decide to. I would like to join the Inquisition. There’s some people in it that might be able to help us.”

“What kind of help?”

“We're not sure yet. Hopefully in at least understanding-”

Nic took over the body. “Would you like to hear my new songs? We can go to the space I’ve been writing in. Good private spot.”

Asaaranda paused and looked around, noticing that there were certainly people around who could overhear their conversation. She nodded.

Whoops.

Nic put Kost back in charge.

Not a problem, but I wouldn’t mind talking through it a bit more and that definitely needs to be private. You were actually mentioning me by name in this conversation and that’s dangerous, love.

Kost ran his hand down his face and motioned his sister to follow as he made his way to their storage room.

---

They settled in, getting comfortable on the floor and Nic took the body.

“So, in the Inquisition, there might be three people who could likely to be helpful. Herah might or might not bring them in, is the thing, so we can’t know until we get in there. One is Solas and he is an expert on the Fade. He’ll have a good understanding and I think he can be trusted with what happened. Though I do not want to tell him that I have information I shouldn't have. One is a spirit of Compassion who has become embodied named Cole. His recruitment is optional, but I hope that she has him, I adore him. Since I don’t have a body of my own, talking to someone who willed their way into one seems good.”

“He what? He’s not possessing someone?” Asaaranda raised her eyebrows.

“He’s not. He tried to comfort a dying boy, and somehow he made himself a copy of that boy. I don’t know a lot about it. There was a book, but I didn’t read it. He can tell us, anyway, if he’s around. He’s very interesting. Also, Herah could have brought in an Avaar. The Avaar teach their mages magic by having spirits possess them, train them, and then with a ceremony, unpossess them.” Asaaranda opened her mouth like she was going to talk but then closed it again and nodded, frowning. “But with a combination of someone who might know about how I got here and what I am, someone who knows about how to pull a spirit from a body without harming anyone, and a spirit who knows how to make his own body… well. That seems promising. Hopefully.”

“It really does. Oddly perfect. What would you do here, if you had your own body?”

“Fuck your brother six ways to Sunday, and then I don’t know.”

Kost shoved her out of his body and burst out laughing. “What! Don’t tell my sister that, Nicole!”

Asaaranda was also laughing, and shook her head, making a face. “You two, I swear. That does seem promising, though. Why didn’t you want to go right to the Inquisition? Why come here first?”

Nic popped back into the body. “First of all, they were in the middle of the Frostbacks in a ruin of a castle. The game might think that’s move-in ready, but it is going to take a lot of time and work to get their systems up and running and to get the place habitable. Enough people were going there already, I didn’t want to strain their resources right off. And this was a place I thought we could help. When we were with them before, we were suspected of foul play. It’s better to be recruited like this; we were doing good work, making things better for people here and more efficient for the Inquisitor. Possibly we could be used for this kind of work in the future, going in with the scouts to help stabilize things.”

“That makes sense. Alright. I hope for your sakes that she’s recruited these people.”

Kost pushed forward again. “I think it’s not unlikely. She always has been open minded, and the more non-humans and non-Andrastians, the better in any organization.”

“I’ll drink to that!” Asaaranda raised her mug and drank with a grin.

---

It was another couple weeks before the Inquisitor’s group came in. While their system was good, the town was starting to feel worn down, and if the dragon and the rift weren’t dealt with soon, there would be trouble with food shortages. It wasn’t safe for people to be out doing their normal farming work, there were sightings of Red Templars now on top of the demons and undead, and everyone was steering well clear of them.

So when Herah rode in one evening, a cheer went up. Runners quickly alerted the Keep, and a small feast was prepared in her honor. She stopped to talk to the scouts in the Inquisition camp and to get settled in there, but soon enough, she was walking into the Keep with her companions - Solas, The Iron Bull, and Dorian.

“Oh dear, do try not to swoon,” Kost smirked, looking over Iron Bull as he came through the gates. Bull had a smile, but was taking careful note of all the Vashoth around.

Shut up. Look at him. And he’s all wet. Fuck. Can’t we just..

“No. Stop that. He’s dangerous.”

Nic grumbled and continued filling Kost’s head with ridiculous mushy/lusty feelings as Kost headed over to the group to say hello to his friend.

“Ash! Kost! Randa! I’m so glad to see you guys!” The Inquisitor threw herself at her friends, trying to gather them all up at the same time, but failing. They surrounded her, hugging her back and laughing, before letting go to allow the rest of the kith to get hugs, too.

Herah wiped her eyes and grinned at them. “I heard a Merc group was here, but I was so busy, I missed the name. It’s so good to see you all, you have no idea!”

Kost grinned. “We have a pretty good idea. We’re the ones who thought you died, after all. It’s one thing to hear you were alive, but I’m delighted to be able to touch you and know it is really true.”

“Yeah, you and Kost have that in common; Both of you falling into the Fade, making us think you died.” Asaaranda said, hugging Herah again.

“Kost what?” Herah frowned, turning to him.

“Oh, Kost, is it?” Bull grinned. “Good to see you again.” He turned to Herah. “He fell out of a rift near Haven. Red held him for a bit.”

“You were in the Fade? And Haven? What? Why wasn’t I told?” Herah demanded, turning to Bull.

He shrugged. “Red’s deal. I was just there to see if he was Qun. He wasn’t, and he left pretty quickly after. He didn’t tell us anything about himself, so I didn’t know you were close.”

“Of course I didn't. I woke up in a dungeon, got questioned by him and another lady - nothing dramatic, don’t make that face. Very minimal questioning, actually. After a night, she told me they could use skilled fighters, and then I was sent on my way with only the supplies I could scrounge. No tent, no mount. They knew I didn’t have anything, I’d fallen out of a rift with only the weapons on my body. She did at least return those,” Kost frowned. “I was less than pleased. It was a long walk to Jader. Luckily I’ve heard better things since then, and your scouts here are excellent.”

“I’m..” Herah looked lost. “I’m so sorry. Everything was so scattered in the early days. We didn’t know the shape of the problem yet, or how to work together. There were several things then that were not done the way I..” She frowned and shook her head, noticing the local humans starting to group around them, too. “I am pleased that you are here and safe. This is The Iron Bull, head of the Bull’s Chargers Mercenary group. This is Solas, he’s my Fade expert, and Dorian of House Pavus. And these fine people,” she motioned to Maraas Kata. “are Maraas Kata. Friends, and an excellent mercenary group.”

Everyone greeted each other.

Dorian is a Necromancer, so I wonder if he’d have any insight into this. I love him. You should definitely sleep with him.

Kost rolled his eyes and laughed softly.

Then they noticed Solas eying them. Kost smiled awkwardly and edged back to be out of his eyeline. Herah was busy speaking with the Mayor and Ash about the situation in Crestwood, so he wandered off to grab some dinner.

He settled around a fire out of the way of the main groups, settling his mug on the ground in front of him and digging into the goat stew.

I wonder if they were expecting something more formal with an indoor dining area and tables. Fires in the courtyard are so weird.

“Hey, at least it’s covered, that’s all I care.”

Mostly covered. Like eating in a circus with all this canvas. Do you have circuses?

“Excuse me, may I join you? This area seems to be the most quiet.”

Kost looked up to see Dorian with his own food bowl and mug, looking beautiful in the firelight.

“Yes, of course. Pull up a log and have a seat!” Kost smiled and took a bite of his soup.

Dorian chuckled and settled on the dryest looking log. “I have to say, this is nicer than I was expecting. Especially in this dreadful weather. Whose idea was it to string up the canvases?”

“I’m not sure. It’s good, though. There’s too many people, and to little indoor space to do anything else and this rain is merciless.”

Dorian agreed and they ate in companionable silence.

“So, do you think you will close the rift tomorrow then?” Kost mopped up the broth from his soup with a chunk of bread.

“I do hope. It seems to be straight forward enough at this point, thanks to you all draining the lake and setting up the path across the mud.”

I made Dorian happy!! He's so charming. And that voice! And everything else. Perfection.”.

Kost grinned. “Though it would be a shame to have you leaving so quickly. We've only just met.”

I fucking LOVE YOU, Kost! YES!

Dorian smiled slyly and looked up at Kost through his lashes. “Indeed. Efficiency isn’t always the most rewarding path, after all.”

“The waterfall. There was a rift at the bottom. That’s why the water was so deep. The bear was frightened when it opened and then you fell.”

Everyone paused and looked over to where a person with a large hat had suddenly appeared.

“Ah, hello, Cole. This is--”

“Yes. They need to speak with Solas. Hello.” Cole looked up under his hat and tilted his head to look at Kost with wide eyes. “And hello. We can help.”

Chapter Text

Cole disappeared as soon as Kost stuttered out a greeting, leaving Dorian and Kost in an awkward silence.

“Well. I’m not sure what’s going on, being sadly unable to read minds, but if Cole thinks it is important, I offer my help as well.”

Kost smiled and winked. “I can think of all kinds of things I’d like your help with.”

Dorian paused, a strange look on his face before laughing. “If that’s what Cole is getting Solas for, I’m not sure if I’m intrigued or.. No, I’m definitely intrigued.”

Kost threw back his head and laughed. “No, that is certainly a different matter. What I have in mind for you does not require a Fade expert or a mind reader.”

Dorian rubbed his thumb along his bottom lip with a smile. “Good to know.”

Kost followed the thumb with his eyes and groaned. “Right. Well. I’m not sure if he disappeared to get Solas or not, so I’m uncertain what my next move should be here.”

“Knowing Cole, Solas will appear the minute things get interesting, so I recommend finishing our dinner and sighing about timing.” He saluted with his mug, took a drink, and turned most of his attention to his dinner.

Kost sighed and wished for another drink or three.

How can a person really be so damned attractive? Damn! I want to meet with Cole and Solas, but the timing is so painful right now.

Solas joined them soon after. “Hello, I am Solas. Cole has informed me that I should offer you my assistance, though he was not as forthcoming on what form that assistance might take.”

“Yes, he was rather cryptic here as well, just popping up to say that Kost should speak to you, saying hello in a strangely deliberate way, and then popping off again.”

”We do have a.. delicate situation. Assistance would be most welcome, but.. Well, once you hear it, you’ll understand the vagueness and the unease in asking. It’s likely magical in nature, and there are definitely things that could be misread and misunderstood.”

“This sounds like a conversation that should happen in private. Is now a good time?”

“Yes,” Kost nodded. “I would like that. I have spoken to a mage about it, but a Fade expert would likely have more insight.”

Ha! So much more. Let’s see how many times he tells us ‘I have seen it in the Fade.’

“That is likely, yes,” Solas nodded.

“And I shall come along as well, seeing as how I am oh-so-very curious.”

Kost found Asaraanda and whispered that he was going to the storage room for a private conversation, and snuck another hug from Herah while she was talking to the Crestwood Mayor, and then started to lead Solas and Dorian to do the storeroom.

---

The room felt crowded, but they were able to settle in comfortably enough. Kost and Solas sat on the floor easily enough, but Dorian had to unstrap the books on his belt to be able to sit comfortably.

“Cozy, isn’t it? Is this where you sneak off for all your secret meetings?”

Kost grinned. “Yes. This fort is very crowded. Few other people come down here, so it works nicely for anything private. I don’t really talk about my time in the Fade, or the consequences of it. I’d rather it not become gossip.”

Solas looked Kost over. “Consequences?”

Kost sighed. “I realize that I do not know you and you do not know me. My friend is telling me we have to tell someone to be able to get help and that Herah and Cole trust you. I don’t much like trusting strangers with this, to be honest.”

“Who is your friend? You haven’t spoken to anyone but me since you met Cole. And this friend knows Herah and Cole?” Dorian was frowning and shifted back.

“I’ll try to explain. From the beginning,” He ran a hand down his face. “My kith and I were in Orlais, traveling, when a rift opened. We were fighting the demons when I saw one go after my sister. I got between the demon and Randa, but I slipped. I fell into the rift. I assumed I would die when I realized what had happened, but after I fought a few demons, they paid me no mind. They were more interested in the rift. I got away. I found a… mirror? It was large, elaborate. And in it, there was movement. So I got closer. I’ve always been too curious. There was..”

Nic took over the body, not subtly. Both Dorian and Solas started and looked wary. “I was out hiking in the woods. It was a really hot day, I was sweating terribly. I took off my boots and was cooling off in the water above a waterfall, when out of nowhere this fucking bear runs at me. I scrambled to get away and then I was falling over the waterfall. I remember the sky was so blue. I hit water, but.. The water under those falls was shallow, I know it was. I should be dead. But the water was deep. When I hit bottom and I swam up towards flickering light and I came out in a small cave, only accessible from the water. There was this elaborate mirror carved into the cave wall. I looked into it and it was this strange world. Everything was green, there were floating rocks. And then there was this giant horned man. I was terrified at first - we only have humans where I’m from - but he wasn’t threatening. We both got close to the mirror, looking at each other. And then we both reached out. And touched hands through the mirror. Because we’re both idiots.”

Kost took the body back. “I remember being very disoriented and overwhelmed, stumbling towards a new rift, and then we woke up in Haven. She had control of my body, but I was there. We were confused, but we managed to stumble our way through the interview with Bull and Leliana. I managed to take over halfway through, which was good. Nic tends to ramble and be too trusting. And now.. I’ve got a human from another world in my head, able to take turns using my body.”

Nic took the body back. “My body is back on Earth, I assume. It’s… it’s got to be dead by now. And we’re hoping.. I was hoping that between a Fade expert, a very open minded Necromancer, and hopefully Cole? I was hoping that we could find a way to seperate us safely. Ideally with me getting some kind of body. Not a stolen body! Maybe like Cole? Or maybe my original one?”

Kost took the body back and waited. Solas and Dorian were both frowning at them, and glancing at each other.

“Well,” started Dorian. “That’s very..” He nodded. “Well.”

Solas half smiled and glanced at Dorian. “Indeed.”

“Cole, when he met us, I think he told Nicole that she fell over the waterfall and into a rift. So the water that she fell into wasn’t the water at the bottom of her waterfall. I was in the Fade, it was very different from the living world, but she looked to just be in a normal cave.”

Nic took the body back. “Yes, I didn’t notice anything odd about it, except the giant mirror.”

“And your world, you said it is only humans? How very strange,” Dorian mused.

“Yes. Also, no magic, no dragons. No nugs.”

Dorian laughed. “It sounded terrible, until the nugs.”

“Would you allow me to use magic to better understand what might have happened and how you are now connected?” Solas requested.

“That should be fine,” Kost took the body back. “As long as there’s no risk to Nic. She’s a good person, I would rather share a body my whole life than put her at risk.”

“Understood,” Solas murmured as he started casting.

They all sat in silence as various colors glowed around Kost’s body, and the mages murmured to each other.

It is appalling to me that I find this boring. However, the was looking like you might get to hook up with Dorian and now we’re in a closet playing glowworm.

Kost rolled his eyes.

“Problem?” Dorian asked.

“No. She’s just ridiculous.”

You love me.

“Hm,” Solas pursed his lips and stopped casting. “Dorian, did you have anything you wanted to check?”

“No, that was very thorough.”

“Nicole has been displaced. She’s not a spirit the way we think of Spirits of the Fade, she has - not more, but different - substance than that. I need to look into it further before I have a solution, but I find it very intriguing. I do wonder where your body might be, if only to better understand how you came here. A world with no magic is connected to this one?” Solas paused, his gaze intent on Kost’s face. “I hope that we can speak more on the subject, Nicole.”

Nervous laughter filled Kost’s head and he tried to hide a grimace. “She wants help, but she’s hesitant to offer much information about her world. In the wrong hands, it could be dangerous.”

Solas nodded. “Ah. Yes, a world with no magic would be vulnerable, if discovered. A person with malicious intent and magic could be devastating. I understand your concern.”

Solas stood. “If you will excuse me, I had several tasks this evening, and your situation is not one to be solved quickly. I will inform you when I have more information that might be of use.”

He nodded to them all and left quietly.

Kost and Dorian stared at each other.

Dorian sighed. “This was the situation I was very interested in being in earlier this evening, but I have to admit that I was hoping it’d just be the two of us.”

Kost signed. “Yeah. I can definitely keep control, but she will be there cheering in the background.”

Dorian choked. “Cheering?”

Kost laughed. “You have no idea. She’s so.. Enthusiastic? I have never met anyone as enthusiastic. The amount of time she’s spent telling me every amazing detail of every freckle of Scout Harding, just how much I should ignore the Ben Hassrath bit about the Iron Bull, because fucking him would be amazing, the amazing way the light shines off your hair, and the beautiful broze of your skin.. It’s so much.”

Nic stole the body. “He also gets to hear my enthusiasm about his own body. It’s fantastic. So yes, cheering. You guys would be so hot together, holy shit.”

Dorian laughed again. “Yes, we rather would, wouldn’t we? I suppose it’s better to be possessed by someone engaged and enthusiastic instead of angry or apathetic?”

“I like to think so. He didn’t enjoy me when I was moping, for sure. It’s.. it’s been a lot to deal with. The loss of my entire world, and body. My probable death. It’s diverting to be in a hot male body, but this isn’t me.”

“No. Trapped inside a body not your own, that..” he shook his head. “You’re both very brave, making this work, and asking for help.”

“Practical, in any case. I lucked out. Anyway. Have Kost back.”

She pulled back.

Kost looked at Dorian with a rueful smile. “Well. Tell me about yourself?”

“Even the field a bit, eh?” Dorian twirled his mustache. “I am the Scion of House Pavus. I'm from Tevinter, obviously, most recently Minrathous. I joined the Inquisition in Redcliffe, before the mages joined. I was brought here because I am a Necromancer, and apparently Crestwood has a problem with the undead.”

“They do. A disgusting problem. If I never see another waterlogged corpse walking in to town, it will be too soon.”

Dorian made a face. “Yes, well. Hopefully we can help with that tomorrow. Tell me about yourself? Outside of your most recent adventures.”

They chatted for awhile, getting to know each other. Kost pulled out a bottle of wine that he’d hidden and they shared it.

After a while, they quieted and looked at each other.

Kost reached out his hand toward Dorian who considered it briefly before taking it and allowing himself to be pulled forward until he was straddling Kost’s lap. Kost slowly ran his hands up and down Dorian’s back while Dorian brought his hands up to measure the breadth of Kost’s shoulders.

Kost rubbed his cheek over the top of Dorian’s head. “While I cannot offer you romance, or even privacy, I can offer you sincerity.” He brought a hand up to tilt Dorian’s head back. “And I sincerely think you are just about the most beautiful human I have ever seen.”

He rubbed his jaw against Dorian’s breathing him in.

“Hmm,” Dorian brought Kost’s head down to bite at his earlobe. “I do like sincerity.”

Kost’s breath caught in his throat. “Also lust. I can offer you a large amount of lust.”

Dorian laughed against Kost’s chest and then looked back up at him. “I have rather a large amount of that on my own. Maybe a trade.”

He rose up as Kost leaned down and they met in an enthusiastic kiss.

Nic cheered.

Chapter Text

Maraas Kata had a meeting the next day, discussing their future plans. After the rift was closed, there wasn’t much reason for them to stay in Crestwood. They decided they would head to Skyhold to officially get hired by the Inquisition.

Ash headed off to speak with the merchant who had hired them, and the rest of them continued on their normal routine, patrolling the lake, and dealing with any undead.

Kost was removing an arrow from the throat of an undead (redead?) woman he’d just shot down when suddenly his back was hit hard. He staggered and gasped for breath, turning to see what hit him. Behind him, with another arrow notched and about to fly, was a terrifying creature - half man, half glowing red crystal. The arrow released, but Kost was able to dodge it, barely. The arrow sliced into his side, but didn’t embed. The thing was pulling back his arm, about to hit him again, when there was a yell and Vat ran at the creature, cleaving it in two with a swing of his great ax.

Kost relaxed a bit, panting.

NO! Red Templar! Did we get shot? WE GOT SHOT!? What the fuck, Kost? Kost are you okay? Fuck. Ow! Ow. Oh, no.

Nic continued her panicked rambling, starting in on how she’d read about arrow removal and it was “Not Good. So not good, holy fuck, no, this is terrible!” Kost laughed a bit, under his breath.

“‘Not good’ about covers it.”

Vat was at his side then, helping him up. Anaan came as well, keeping watch around them, spear ready, as they moved Kost back to the fort.

“Kost!” Asaraanda came running when she saw him come in through the Keep gate. “What happened?”

“He got shot by.. I don’t know what that was. The Inquisition said there were ‘Red Templars’ around, I think that’s what it was. Part man, part red crystal,” Vat shook his head. “Someone needs to go let them know. I think they said there was something special to do with their bodies.”

They got Kost to the healer's room and settled him on a cot. Asaraanda cut away his shirt around the arrow and hissed. “This is a bad one, Kost. Focus on your breathing to say calm, so I can get you cleaned up. Vat, get Savin or Olelah!”

Kost nodded, still not quite able to catch his breath. Savin came quickly, the dwarf didn’t speak much but he was an excellent healer. He tisked, and then dug in his bag for a potion. Kost drank the potion when it was held to his lips, focusing on Nic still freaking out in his head.

Everything got fuzzy as he sat. Nic started to calm, finally, as Asaraanda gently pet his hair.

Then nothing.

---

There were voices. Everything was fuzzy, and his body felt very heavy.

Someone touched his face, and brought something hard and cold against his mouth. There was liquid. He swallowed. It tasted terrible, he retreated.

His eyes opened. He didn’t want his eyes opened. His body moved.

“That was terrible. Blech. Why are you all.. OW!” he was talking, but he wasn’t controlling it. He started to panic.

“Calm down, Kost. We’re okay.” His body was talking again, what -

What? What’s going on? Who are you?"

“Kost? Look at me, Kost,” It was his sister. But he couldn’t move his body, what was-

His body turned to look at his sister. That wasn’t right, that wasn’t him -

Something tried to shove at him, but he resisted. Something was in his body with him. His fear spiked higher.

“I can’t.. He’s freaking out that he isn’t in control, but he won’t let me put him in control.”

Suddenly there was a human right in his face. Big blue eyes, pale skin, a large hat.

“Kost,” the man’s voice was urgent. “The medicine has made you confused, confined, cornered. The arrow went deep, you are hurt. Nic is not a danger.”

..Nic?” Kost’s fear stilled, settling into confusion.

“Yeah, babe. Just your friendly neighborhood body stealing human. You back with us?”

Fuzzy. Can you see right?

“We share eyes, so no. But I see Cole,” she reached up and cupped Cole’s face in Kost’s giant hand. Cole smiled. “And Asaraanda. Your sister is here and she won’t let anyone hurt you.”

Right. Right. Yes. Nic. I remember. Why are you less effected?

“I don’t know,” She looked to Asaraanda. “Why is he reacting more than I am?”

“I don’t know. I expected him to be out of it, but not like this,” she fretted, taking his hand and squeezing.

Nic tried again to move Kost back into control of the body and he allowed it.

Oh, thank you. You okay, love?

“Yeah. I’m okay. Sorry, Randa. Everything healing okay?”

She moved her hand on his cheek, smiling. “Yes. You’re going to be sore for awhile, they had to cut deeply to get the arrow out, and it was poisoned, but everything is clean and healing well.”

He nodded. His mind was clearing rapidly, and he felt foolish. He opened his mouth to apologize again for his behavior, but was interrupted.

“Worried, wondering, weary.. He has to be okay.” Cole’s voice was low and pained.

Everyone looked at Cole, and then the door opened and Dorian poked his head in.

“Is he..” he looked at Kost on the cot and smiled. “Oh, good. Awake and handsome as ever, I see.”

AWWWWW! He was worried! He likes you! He looks tired. Also is that mud on his face? Did he come here before even getting fully clean?

“Hey, Dorian. Come on in, I’m just waking up.” Kost tried his sexiest smile.

Asaraanda snorted. “I’ll go get you some food, brother dear. Try not to over exert yourself, hm?”

“Randa!” Kost hissed, glaring.

She just giggled and waved as she left the room.

Cole smiled one more time at Kost and disappeared, as well.

Dorian took Asaraanda's chair.

“Well. I spent the day envisioning all the ways I’d come back to you to be comforted after my extremely muddy and unpleasant adventures, and instead I come back to hear you were shot by a Red Templar. Do try to avoid that in the future, it’s very hard on my nerves.”

Kost grinned and reached to take Dorian’s hand. “I did it just to vex you. I wanted all the attention for myself.”

Dorian huffed and looked put upon. “I knew it! Well, I will certainly tend your woes, but I will do so while regaling you with tales of mine.”

Kost pulled their linked hands up to his mouth, kissing Dorian’s knuckles. “I look forward to hearing it. I’ll be sure to get swoony at all the important parts, and tell you that I’m sure you looked extremely dashing, mud be damned.”

Dorian grinned. “I knew I liked you.”

"You two are going to be the death of me."

--

It was decided that Meraas Kata would travel with the Inquisitor when she left. She planned to spend a week or more in Crestwood before heading out.

Kost was moping, however, because he was forced to recover and couldn’t help with anything. He smuggled a bedroll down to their storage room and sprawled on it.

“A dragon, Nic. You know I wanted that dragon. Half the reason I came here was that dragon. And now, where are they all right now while I’m laid up in bed writing down other people’s songs?”

They’re killing that dragon. If your group is anything like Bull, the dragon slaying will then be followed by celebratory drinking and possibly an orgy.

Kost groaned and threw his good arm over his head, still wincing as it pulled his back. “A dragon slaying orgy, Nic, and I’m just stuck in here! I hate everything.”

You.. Would have joined this dragon slaying orgy with Bull…?

Kost grinned. “Honestly, woman, did you just have sex constantly when you had your own body? I swear you’re worse than a teenaged boy.”

NO! I mean, sometimes. If I was dating. Or if someone was really hot. But these people here were stories to me. Stories that I loved. Characters that I loved. I wrote about them. I wrote about fucking them. I wrote about them fucking each other. So being here and having them here, and real.. You can’t blame me for wanting to jump at any chance to make those daydreams real.

“Well, I could, but it wouldn’t do much good,” he signed. “I do understand that, I do. It’s just amusing.”

Nic took the body and ran her finger down his chest, with a little swirl around his navel. “Well. I have a few ideas of what we can do while they’re off fighting dragons.”

Kost’s laughter filled his head. “Go on, have your way with me, then, my little desire demon.

She scratched her nails down his chest, grinning as Kost’s body started to respond. “Oh, I shall.”

---

Kost was pulled from his nap by a loud knock, and the door opening. He scrambled to sit up, hissing as his shoulder screamed at him.

“Kost! We did it!” Asaraanda grinned handing him a bottle that smelled strongly of alcohol. “Come celebrate with us!”

Kost grimaced. “I’m not really feeling up to celebrating, Randa.”

She blinked. “What? Kost. Kost, there’s a dragon head and everything. Of course you’re coming.”

“I just..” he signed. “I really wanted to be there. And then I was stuck here. I really don’t feel up to celebrating.”

“Ah,” she looked around. “Alright then. I will bring you some dinner?”

Kost looked at her, frowning. “You’re.. Just accepting this?”

“Of course I am. You were shot. You can’t be feeling very good yet, and then missing a dragon fight? I’m a reasonable person, Kost,” she huffed, leaving.

Kost stared at the door. “I don’t trust that for a minute.”

Nope. She’s absolutely up to something. You should get up and ready for whatever it is.

Five minutes later there was another knock at the door, and Kost laughed. “Yes, sister dear?”

The door opened and Dorian came in with a plate of food and a large bottle of wine. “Not quite, no. I’ve come to feed you and then drag you kicking and apparently pouting to the celebration. Please don’t scream, I’ve had enough of that today with the dragon.”

Kost failed to hide his grin. “Fine, fine, give me that food and then you can regale me with tales of your heroism. It’s likely less painful to hear about while I get to distract myself with your smile.”

Dorian passed Kost his dinner, joining him on the floor. “Very likely, in fact.”

If I had eyes, they would be rolling.

Kost just laughed, and took a bite of his dinner.

---

There was singing when they arrived in the courtyard. One of the Inquisition soldiers was being held aloft by two friends in front of the dragon’s head, singing a lovely song about a historic dragon fight. Most of the Kost’s kith was dancing and singing along, Asaraanda was dancing with Scout Harding, Vat was curled up in a corner with Cassandra, both of them smiling, talking intently. The Iron Bull was sitting at one of the fires drinking, laughing, and snuggling with an older village woman.

“Now Nic was predicting dragon fighting celebration and then an orgy; I haven’t missed the orgy, at least.”

Dorian laughed. “Not yet, no. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to get quite a few people to agree to that. It seems the right crowd for it.’

“Kost!” Kost looked to see Basra waving him over. “Come sing with us!”

Dorian looked up at Kost with a half smile. “Oh, all this and you sing, too? This I have to hear!”

Oh! Do I know a dragon song? Lemme think...

Kost nodded at Basra and headed over to where he was sitting with the more musical members of the kith, and, surprisingly, Solas and Cole.

Kost joined them in singing the Maraas Kata song, and then a song about a Rivaini dragon fight.

“What do you think, Kost? With all your new songs lately, do you think you have one fitting for the night?” Karaas asked, winking.

What do you think about Natural? It’s not about dragons, exactly, but I really like it, and I finally got all the words ready.

“I do, I think. I just finished it. I will need a lute!”

Kost looped the lute strap around his neck and closed his eyes briefly before Nic took control. She opened her eyes with a smirk and began playing.

“Will you hold the line?
When every one of them is giving up or giving in, tell me
In this house of mine?
Nothing ever comes without a consequence or cost, tell me
Will the stars align?
Will heaven step in? Will it save us from our sin? Will it?
'Cause this house of mine stands strong”

She danced around a bit while she sang, and people picked up the refrain easily enough and joined when she came back to it. Most of the group was dancing along with her, though Solas just watched her intently with a soft smile, and Cole was tapping his feet and watching with wide eyes. When she finished, she started over at the beginning, this time other musicians joined with drums, and people sang easily as they danced.

When she was done she did a dramatic bow and sat down to join in other songs, picking up new melodies on the lute. After several songs, she looked up to see Dorian watching with a strange smile on his face. She smiled back and winked.

“Alright, it is time for me to turn in. Randa is going to kick my ass for playing so much, with this shoulder. Worth it, though.” She handed the lute back to Anaan, and moved away from the group. When she looked back at the fire, Cole was watching her intently. She smiled at him, and moved away.

Dorian joined her. “That was beautiful. It is interesting to see the difference between Kost and Nic.”

Kost took the body. “She lights up when she gets to perform, doesn’t she? She is a musician, a talented one.”

“Yes, I see that,” Dorian smiled. “So. I'm feeling rather tired, but I do think it might be nice to continue to celebrate a bit more privately. If you’ve a mind.”

“I have two, in fact, and both of them are in agreement that a private celebration is exactly what we need.”

Chapter Text

“On the road again. I just can’t wait to get on the road again,” Nic sang under her breath as she doodled in her notebook. She and Kost were all packed and ready for the trip to Skyhold, they were just waiting for everyone else to be ready as well.

Nor can I. I look forward to getting away from here. Can’t say I’m looking forward to the Frostbacks, however.

“A derelict castle in the middle of the mountains, far away from any other settlements, what could possibly go wrong?”

Right. It will be great. Nothing to be alarmed about, just keep me away from Leliana.

Some Inquisition people came close to where they were sitting, loading packs and chatting. Nic pulled back and put Kost in charge.

Yes, staying away from her will be a goal. I’m so excited, though. The game showed a lot of it, but they show such a small sample of things. It had to have been bigger, and I’m very curious about the sanitation situation, bathing facilities. There’s a waterfall running through it, that had to be on purpose, and surely it’s put to use. And I don’t expect verdant fields growing all their food needs, but they did have a nice little garden area, and I expect it’s likely larger, or that there are actual multiple gardens. Surely a kitchen garden would be there. And the stables! They were very small, because the horses really were just one horse, and you had a menu. I want to see the real size of the stables in a castle large enough for an army. The game did keep emphasizing that Skyhold is enormous, and that they could never use all the room.

“Interesting,” Kost started doodling on Nic’s doodles, adding geometric designs to her swirls and dots.

Although, what I'm more interested in right now is this thing with you and Dorian. You keep refusing to talk about it, but we’re going to be traveling together for about a week. Having a bit of a thing when you’re together in an outpost is one thing, but traveling together for a week, possibly living in the same castle for long periods of time during the possible end of the world.. It’s good to think about it. What might happen if things go sour. What might happen if they don’t go sour. He’s going back to Tevinter after this.

Kost sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. He nodded.

I don’t want to nag or anything, and I know it’s annoying that I’m here all the time and you get no privacy in anything. I just.. I know that my being here has changed what you guys would have been. Without me, you would have.. Well. You would have never met, but if you did meet, you might have had a couple nights of really amazing sex, and then probably that would be it. But I am here, so sex feels awkward and you spent that time getting to know each other. And now we’re traveling together. How will that look? Will he be in the shared Inquisition tents? Or yours?

Kost smiled a little, thinking back to the night of the dragon slaying party. He and Dorian had ended up making out for awhile, and then talking, and then falling asleep together in Kost’s bed.

Dorian had been gone in the morning, however.

“I don’t know.”

That’s a long time and a lot of intimacy. And then we’d get to Skyhold, and he’ll have an actual room, and we might end up in tents. Would that intimacy then extend to you staying with him in his room while we’re at Skyhold?

Kost sighed.

Sorry. I have anxiety. I want things to be smooth and easy and for no one to get hurt. And the Qun doesn’t care for monogamy, I don’t even know your stance on that.

“I haven’t had much chance for it, so it hasn’t been a thing I’ve thought about,” Kost muttered, moving to drawing cranky looking faces.

Yeah.” She paused briefly. “Hey! We share a body. What if.. What if Solas and I fall madly in love and want to start a relationship? If you and Dorian were in a monogamous relationship, and Solas and I were in a monogamous relationship, but we just.. took turns with your body to fuck the shit out of them, then what? Is that really monogamy?

Kost burst out laughing, attracting the attention of the Inquisition soldiers. They smiled at him and nodded, and he grabbed his things and moved into an empty room with a row of cots against one wall.

“Is this a thing you’re wanting to do? You haven’t mentioned him much before.”

I mean, I wouldn’t turn him down-

“Is there a person you would turn down in this world? I'm starting to wonder.”

Nic took the body, flicked Kost in the ear, then gave the body back. Kost rubbed his ear and grinned.

As I was saying, I wouldn’t turn him down, but I wouldn’t pursue that one. He’s just someone that knows about us, which would obviously be a required thing to me having a relationship with anyone.

“There’s always Cole. That could be helpful because you two could speak to each other even when you aren’t in control.”

Nicole was quiet.

Kost scratched his head and peaked out the door to see if people were closer to being ready, leaving it open a small amount so he could watch while they talked.

He actually has a questline where he can become either more human or more like a spirit. If he becomes more human, he ends up in a relationship after this whole thing is over.

“Uh,” Kost hid a laugh in a cough. “Really, Nic? Even the mind reading spirit guy?”

Oh, shut up. Cole is lovely. He’s probably the person most like me here.

“You think so? Huh. I guess in the ‘got here without a real body’ way, but he’s not-”

If you try to say he’s not a person, just stop. He is a person. Spirits and demons are people. They’re just different. We can’t judge them all by the ones driven mad by the rifts or spells.

“I..” Kost shook his head. “It’s all weird and confusing. You are certainly a person. Cole seems to be a person. I have not experienced spirits or demons that acted like people, but I have also had very limited contact with demons and none with spirits until Cole. So. I’ll just bow to your superior knowledge and say that I am too ignorant on the subject to form a defensible opinion.”

Oh, very nicely said, ser. Dorian will enjoy an intelligent lover.

“Oh yes, lover. That's going to happen. ‘Oh, Dorian, we can’t actually have sex because I’m possessed by a woman, but please be my lover - and by lover I mean shall we hold hands and skip through flowering fields together while giggling?”

“Well, that wouldn’t be my first choice, but after a bottle of wine, I might be willing to give it a go,” Dorian pushed the door open and came in.

Kost shut his eyes tight and then slid down the nearest wall, burying his face in his arms. “You did not hear that. You didn’t. No.”

Dorian grinned. “Oh, I certainly did. I don’t think I’ll get that image out of my head for a good while. There’s something very special about the thought of a man your size skipping and giggling.”

There really is. I’m enjoying it so much.

“I’m glad you’re both happy. You’re horrible people. Are you ready to go?”

“I am, in fact. I think we’ll be heading out in an hour. I have to say it’s been nice having the late departure. We usually have to leave places before daylight, and I hate it.”

“Yes, it was nice to get a good night’s sleep and a lazy morning before being on the road again. Not that we should be thankful that Herah was hurt yesterday. Those Red Templar assholes are all cleared out?”

“She’ll be fine. She’s up and impatient to leave. And yes, we cleared them all out. Nasty things.” Dorian closed the door and squatted down in front of Kost, reaching out to cup his chin. “When we met, I didn’t expect we’d have quite so much time together.”

“I didn’t, either. I thought we would probably join the Inquisition, but the organization is very large, and the likelihood of seeing you again seemed slim.”

“I am..” Dorian licked his lips, moving his hand away from Kost and standing up again. “In Tevinter, things like this, two men.. It isn’t accepted. I am.. unused to,” he waved his hands around.

“Ah. Yeah. We tend to travel a lot. I have some friends that that I can blow off steam with, but I also am not used to spending quite so much time with someone I didn’t already know. Especially one so beautiful. Nic was asking about this before you came in. How this might go.”

Dorian nodded and sat against the wall beside Kost, though they both stared at the far wall, not looking at each other. “Thoughts?”

Kost signed. “Quite a few of them. None particularly useful.”

“Me as well,” Dorian paused. “I.. There are things in my past that make it so I am very uncomfortable sharing more than we have, sexually, with a woman involved.”

Kost nodded, frowning.

“But! There are intelligent people working on the issue, it’s very possible you two will be seperated in the near future.”

“Hopefully. And not just so I can get laid.”

Dorian laughed. “Oh, come, I’m worth quite a bit of experimental magic, don’t you think?”

Kost grinned and leaned to rest his head on Dorian’s. “You are rather charming.”

“And handsome.”

“And you smell nice. How do you manage that? Is it Blood Magic?”

“Oh, no,” Dorian lowered his voice. “It’s a secret process we developed in Tevinter.”

Kost lowered his voice as well. “Is it? Is it very involved?”

“Oh yes. We call it ‘bathing.’”

Kost recoiled, eyes wide, covering his mouth. “Bathing?! I’ve heard tales of such things, but I never thought I’d find out they were true! Is it true you use… what’s it called? Sooooap?”

Dorian nodded, grimly. “Yes. Also water, and scented oils.”

“Maker forbid.”

“If you two are done flirting, we’re ready to go,” came Asaaranda’s blandest voice from the doorway.

---

Chapter Text

I spy with your pretty eyes, something that starts with B.

“Woman,” Kost sighed under his breath. “Your nonsense alphabet has no power here.”

It isn’t nonsense. It realizes there are shapes other than triangles and lines.

“There are not, you stop this heresy right this instant,” Kost smiled, looking around. It really was a lovely day. After all the rain in Crestwood, any dry day seemed special and worth note.

As I was saying, I spy with your stinky eyes, something that is brown. I figure brown is a simple enough color for a Thedan to recognize.

“Dorian’s ass again, is it?”

You know it. Your turn.

“Oh, Kost, my dear friend,” they glanced up to see the Inquisitor bring her horse back to ride with him. “What are you back here muttering to yourself about with such a sweet smile?”

“Just the view, my darling Inquisitor,” he returned with a winning smile. “It’s so lovely out today, don’t you agree? No rain, no corpses, no people being turned into minerals.”

She snorted. “I never trust it these days. Just you wait, by the end of the day, some terrible weird thing will happen.”

“True,” he reached over and patted her thigh. “But, my dearest love, at least we’re together at the end of days!”

She swatted his hand. “Don’t you even start, troublemaker. Why must the pretty ones always be so much trouble?”

“So that you love us, naturally. We wouldn’t want to be dull.”

“You’re not that, for sure,” she rolled her eyes. They rode together quietly for awhile. “It feels good to be with you guys again. The Valo-kas is helping, but mostly in Orlais, so I don’t see them as much as I’d like. Being surrounded by humans all the time is maddening.”

Kost nodded. “I haven’t been trapped with humans, but it’s still good to see you. Good to see that you’re still you, even with all of this.”

“I hope I am,” she said quietly. “I try to be. They all want so much for me to be someone else, though. Someone impossible. And Andrastian.”

They both shuddered.

“We’re here. You are always welcome to come shelter in our sanity.”

What little you have.

“Ha. Like you have any to spare.”

“Hmph.”

---

The weather was clear, so camp that night was pretty simple: Lean-tos blocking the wind, several bedrolls under each. Some of the soldiers didn’t even bother with that much, rolling themselves up in a fur on their bedroll and calling it good.

Kost set up his own, but lingered at the fire after eating, talking with Dorian. They’d both slowly inched toward each other, until Dorian was curled under Kost’s arm and they were slowly falling asleep against each other.

“Oh, Kost, my dearest sweetest love?” a voice chirped from just behind his Dorian-less shoulder, making them both jump.

Kost and Dorian looked as one to see the Inquisitor’s very amused face. “Uh, yes? Precious Herah?”

Herah and Dorian both huffed a laugh at that. “You two need to go lay down before you fall asleep and tumble into the fire. I went ahead and moved Dorian’s bedroll next to yours so you two don’t need to be awkward about it. Please keep your pants on, though, seeing the two of you together might melt people’s brains.”

“Too much beauty all at once?” Kost kissed her cheek.

“Yeah. That. Desire demons everywhere are weeping at the thought.”

“Goodnight, Herah.”

Goodnight boys.”

“Yes, goodnight, Inquisitor.” Dorian smiled a little tightly. She left with a wave.

“That okay, Dorian? We can easily move it somewhere else if you want to-”

“It’s fine. Of course it’s fine. It might be nice out to Southerners, but I can always do with a handsome bedwarmer. I’m just not..” he shook his head. “Everything is fine. I promise. Let’s go to bed.”

From a lifetime of being told he was wrong and bad for sleeping with men, to his boss, the Herald of Andraste herself, being completely at ease with it and supporting him. It’s a lot. I’m so glad he’s here and away from those awful people, even if just for awhile.

Kost stood, pulling Dorian up to stand, and linked their hands as he lead him to bed. There were some catcalls as they passed his kith but he just smiled. When they got to the tent, Kost took a moment to pull the pads together neatly, then unbuckled his weapons belts, and armor pieces, setting them carefully near his pillow.

Now the rest of the strip tease. We need music. Maybe a stripper pole.

Kost mentally rolled his eyes at Nic, and laid down on his bed, looking up at Dorian, who just stood quietly watching.

“You joining me, handsome?”

Dorian started, coming back to himself. “Ah. Yes, of course.”

He then carefully stripped down to what was comfortable, setting his books, his staff, his armor aside. Kost pulled out his large bear skin and covered them both with a grin, pulling Dorian close. They shifted a bit until Dorian’s head was on Kost’s chest, their legs entwined, Kost slowly tracing Dorian’s ear with his finger.

“Well, this is nice.”

“Yes,” Kost smiled. “It’s different when you do this deliberately instead of just falling asleep. Much more comfortable, for one.”

“Unless the ‘falling asleep’ is done after several rounds of sex, yes.”

Kost slide his hand down, gripping Dorian’s ass firmly. “I mean, if you insist..”

“Don’t even think about it,” came Meraad’s sleepy voice. “We have an early morning and I’m tired.”

Kost muffled his laughter in Dorian’s hair, moving his hand back up to hold Dorian’s shoulder. “I’d say I’d try to be quiet, but there’s no way it’d be quiet enough for this situation. Rest easy, Meraad.”

Dorian sighed, but shifted so he could kiss Kost, long and slow and deep. They looked at each other after, quietly. Kost ran the backs of his knuckles down Dorian’s cheek and smiled. “I’ll take whatever I can get of you, whenever I can.”

“Fool,” Dorian tutted, and settled down for more kissing, until someone’s balled up shirt hit them.

They laughed, and settled down to sleep.

---

This set the pattern for the entire trip. They rode together, they ate together, they slept together. They talked about their lives, their families, their experiences in this mess. They talked philosophy, religion, about magic and the Fade.

They could not talk about Nic, of course, with so many people around, and they were so intent on each other that she felt bad even thinking about getting time in the body herself. She chafed, though. When the others were singing at night, Kost and Dorian were off by themselves teasing each other and talking, or curled up in bed making out. She spoke less and less; there was less and less space for her to do so without feeling like she was intruding.

And Kost didn’t seem to notice. Maybe he was even grateful. She thought he might be, to have this chance to fall for someone without an obnoxious human in his head rambling on. She did her best to keep her feelings to herself, and it seemed to be working as he didn’t comment.

And then on the fourth evening like this, Cole settled near Kost and Dorian. They glanced up at him with friendly smiles, but then settled back into their conversation about the horrors of nug feet.

“It isn’t on purpose,” Cole said, face hidden by his hat. “It’s a rush, something new, beautiful, so beautiful. How can this be for me?”

Yeah, I know. Mostly.

Kost froze.

“These times, rushing pleasure, gentle touches, wanting in the dark, so sweet, so sharp - you miss them, too. You’re happy, but it hurts, because what if you never have it again? They can’t touch you, flesh yielding, burning bright, again and again - you’re trapped. You’re trapped and you might never get that again, and it stings. Lost, lonely, are you even real? Just a piece clinging to a man who never deserved this mess.”

Kost felt sadness swelling up, overwhelming him again.

“Oh, Nic. Nic, I’m sorry. I just..”

No, stop that. You’re not doing anything wrong. You two have this time and you should take it. I would.

“I want to help. Solas has been looking into the old ways. We need to get back to Skyhold, and the pieces can line up again.” Cole comforted.

They were all quiet for the rest of the evening.

---

Herah was frowning, talking to Ash. There had been a message when they stopped at their camp, just two days out from Skyhold.

Ash called the members of Meraas Kata to join them.

“There has been a change of plans. The Valo-kas are stuck on another job, so we’re needed in the Exalted Plains. There’s an Inquisition camp and they’ve got soldiers, but they need more support. We’ll be heading out in the morning. The Inquisitor and her group will be a week or so behind us.”

Everyone nodded. They’d been looking forward to a break in the castle, but civil war in Orlais would do. Killing Orlesians was good stress relief.

Kost and Nic nodded as well, hoping this trip would be simple, and that they could get a chance to be in Skyhold with Solas and Cole again soon.

---

Exalted Plains. That place is such a mess, dude. The civil war, obviously, but demons. So many demons. I am looking forward to the ruins, though! There are beautiful ruins, and the homes are quite lovely, for all that they’re destroyed and burning. There’s a Dalish clan! Oh, Kost! How do you guys do with Dalish? Have you met any?

“Once. They’re wary around us, but nothing like they are around humans; once they realized we weren’t there for trouble they were very nearly friendly.”

They were laying in Kost’s bed, Dorian wasn’t there yet, instead he was in a discussion with Solas and Herah about something.

Well, I look forward to it. And the ruins. And maybe it’s warm enough we can bathe in the waterfall! Bathing sounds so good.

“It really does. I was really enjoying the idea that Dorian might teach me how to do it 'properly.’”

Same. I quite enjoyed your method with Vat.

Kost grinned. “Exactly.”

---

The Exalted Plains was another 11 days of walking. The less said about that, the better. Kost was very tired of walking.

They arrived at the Inquisition camp mid day, set up their base camp, and relaxed for the rest of the day. They set up using their own supplies, though they happily joined the Inquisition for meals.

Naturally, the next day they were up early to spend the day walking; Doing patrols to kill random demons, helping any locals who might need it, and generally trying to support the area without engaging with the soldiers.

It was beautiful and dangerous, but Kost couldn't settle into the work as he usually did. He liked Nic, he did, but he was starting to view every problem as an obstacle between him and returning to his normal life - alone in his head, and then ideally in Dorian's bed. He resented every delay, every foe, every helpless refugee, and his temper was enough that his friends were giving him a wide berth.

Even he and Nic were having trouble getting along.

Eight days into their stay, Kost’s patrol group was at the river to wash. They scrubbed all but their least dirty set of clothes, and then themselves. Kost spent some time letting the waterfall massage his shoulders before diving into the water one last time, and then getting out to dress.

As they were walking back to the path, they saw flashing lights up ahead - lightening and fire.

“Mages,” Kost squinted.

Mages, by the river.. Kost, you have to go right away. If they call a spirit to- go! Don’t kill any summoned spirit!

Kost put down his laundry, and the rest of the group did the same, joining him in heading towards the fighting. Nic filled him in about Solas’ quest and how things always went as they walked.

They showed up right as the summoning circle was complete. They rushed forward as Wisdom came through, watching her twist in horror as she was commanded to kill. She fired a bolt of energy from her hands, killing one of the bandits before Kost’s group got to them. Kost's group quickly dispatched the bandits before looking towards the mages.

Behind them, the spirit had turned into a large Pride demon.

“Please,” Kost said. “We’re with the Inquisition. We’ve just arrived, we’re patrolling, keeping the roads safe. We aren’t here to hurt you. Please, let us help you disarm the summoning circle to let the spirit go, and we can go to the Inquisition camp. You’ll be safe. I promise.”

The mages hesitated. They looked exhausted, and there were several dead mages on the ground near them.

“It's a demon. If we break the circle, it will attack us.”

“No,” Kost said firmly. “We all saw it when you called it. It only twisted into Pride when you forced it to kill. Releasing it will take away the compulsion and it will revert back.”

Asaraanda came forward. “I’m a mage, too. Let us release the circle. You will be safe with the Inquisition.”

They nodded, hesitantly. Nic directed Kost who directed the rest, and they quickly worked to release the summoning circle. Asaraanda and Kost moved to one of the towers to destroy it.

Except that when Kost accidently stepped inside of it, he felt a wrenching feeling, Nic gasped, and Asaraanda let out a muffled scream. He looked up to see if Randa was hurt, but she was looking at him with wide eyes. He quickly looked down at himself, and saw a glowing arm sprouting from his chest.

“What-”

Something is wrong. Get out of the circle, please!

He quickly did as directed, the arm flickering and vanishing as soon as he stepped out. The circle quickly fell after that, and the Pride demon collapsed down into itself until it was a spectral woman.

Kost moved forward quickly. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” the spirit said. “My thanks for your timely assistance.” She looked more intently at Kost, seeming to peer through him. “I thank you for remembering me. I am pleased that you escaped intact.”

I.. I think I did? I don’t feel the same at all. Something has changed. Are you really-

“Kost?” Asaraanda seemed nervous.

“It’s okay. She.. she isn’t a risk right now,” He rubbed his hands over his face. “You guys should get the mages back to camp. Asaraanda and I can stay here, to see.. what we can do.”

Randa nodded, and though they were eying him, the rest of the group left, leading the mages back to the Inquisition camp.

Can you hear me?” Nic asked Wisdom.

“I can. Something was loosened when you entered the circle. You might have been pulled completely out of his body, had you stayed. I do not know that you would have survived.”

There was the sound of rushing feet behind them and they turned to see Solas leading Herah, Dorian, and Cole over the hill to them.

“Oh,” Solas gasped. “Oh, my friend.”

Nic tried to take the body, but she couldn’t. She felt.. Off. She started to panic.

Solas moved to Wisdom and they started a quiet conversation in Elvhen. Cole moved to Kost.

“It shifted, pulled you loose.” He reached out a hand to where the arm had reached from Kost's chest, setting his hand there. “Come.”

Nic paused and then pushed towards Cole. Kost shuddered, there was a flash and then the shining hand was pressing against Cole’s.

Everyone stopped speaking.

“Uh. Kost..?” Herah started.

Chapter Text

Solas turned at Herah’s voice, and his eyes widened. “Cole, I do not believe this is the best-”

“Compassion, you must use caution,” Wisdom stated, moving towards Cole. “She has become destabilized, but I do not know that her essence is yet stable enough to support herself.”

“Wait. No one is acting surprised. What is going on?” Herah hadn’t taken her eyes off the hand coming out of Kost’s chest.

Cole looked up and nodded. He let go of the hand, and stepped back. “Sorry.”

Nic brought her hand back into Kost’s body. She felt shaky and joyous and terrified. “I touched someone. Me. I never thought I’d do that again. Thank you, Cole. Thank you so much.

“You are welcome.”

“We should go somewhere safer,” Asaraanda said. “We’ll explain everything, Herah, I promise. You weren’t left out on purpose, you were busy with the Mayor when we asked Solas and Dorian for help. We thought we’d talk to you about it at Skyhold where there was more time and privacy.”

“Right. And we’re… not panicking,” Herah looked around at everyone, noticing they seemed calm, though intrigued.

“We are not,” Dorian smiled. “Though we’re excited. This is promising. Her name is Nicole, by the way. She’s human, and loves to sing.”

“She..” Herah stared at him blankly. “Right. It’s always something weird. Solas. Your friend. She’s okay?”

Solas smiled. “Yes. She was summoned and forced to kill which did briefly change her, but they were here moments later. She was able to come back to herself quickly.” He turned to Kost and Asaraanda. “There are not words in any language that would properly show you the depth of my gratitude. My friend is a Spirit of Wisdom, and their loss would have been devastating.”

Kost smiled. “I’m glad we were able to get there in time. Nic was frantic as soon as she realized what was happening.”

Solas turned to his friend again, taking their hands and speaking again in Elvhen. There was a light green flash, and Wisdom was gone. “I was able to send them back to the Fade. I will seek them out in my dreams tonight, but there should be no ill effects.”

They returned to the camp, the whole of Meraas Kata was waiting. This was unusual, they should have been on patrols. Kost said as much.

“Don’t worry about the patrols, the Inquisitor brought enough troops that it’s covered. Kost,” Ash said firmly. “It’s time we have a talk. We were waiting for you to bring it up, but you haven’t and this has gone on long enough.”

Kost closed his eyes and nodded. “Herah? Want to join for this? And the rest of you? Might as well do it at once.”

Herah nodded and went to speak with the Inquisition members still at the camp, asking them to give privacy to the kith. The Inquisition people moved quickly, settling with their backs to the kith.

Everyone sat.

“I did talk to Asaraanda as soon as I got back,” He started, feeling defensive. “I didn’t hide it from.. everyone. Just..”

He sighed. He spoke to his hands in his lap.

“In the Fade, there was this mirror. There was a human in it, looking into the Fade. I was curious.”

There were comments at this, low, so he couldn’t understand them.

“So. Yes. I stood in front of a mirror in the Fade looking at a human. And she looked back. And we.. touched hands. Through the mirror.” More muttering after that, sharper edged.

“And then it was a muddle. I fell through a rift. I woke up in a dungeon. She.. Nic. The human. She had control of my body, was talking to the Inquisition people. She was so.. trusting. Open. I took control back as soon as I figured out how to do that. Anyway. We spoke when we were alone again. I can hear her in my head. We take turns using my body. She’s…” he looked around at all the disbelieving faces of his kith. “She’s nice.”

“Nice. She’s nice. You’re possessed, but she’s nice,” Vat looked horrified.

“I..” Kost looked helpless. “Yeah. She is nice. She’s a good person, and she’s lost everything. We both made the same stupid mistake, but at least I’m here. She’s not even..” he sighed. “She’s not even from Thedas. She lost everything. Her body, her friends and family, her world. And she’s stuck here with me while our world is falling apart.”

“She,” Asaraanda started, and wilted a bit as the frowning faces moved to focus on her. “She is nice. She’s funny. And she loves music. You can’t say her songs haven’t brightened your days. I met her that first day, and I’ve been watching. He’s my brother, I wouldn’t let anyone hurt him, but she’s a good person. Weird, but good.”

Kost looked at her and smiled gratefully.

“Okay,” Ash sighed. “So Kost is possessed by a human. How do we get her out?”

“If I may,” Solas spoke up cautiously. Everyone turned to him. “Cole brought the situation to my attention when we first arrived at Crestwood, and I have spoken to Kost and Nicole. We planned to discuss things further when we arrived at Skyhold, not expecting the change in plans. Today when they stepped into the summoning circle Nicole was effected, but we do not yet know how. Nicole is not a dangerous person and the situation does not seem to have adverse effects on either of them. We are working on a solution, as neither of them would prefer to stay together indefinitely. The delicacy comes in finding a safe way for Nicole to leave Kost’s body, without a body to return to. We need to find a method which won’t result in her death.”

“But isn’t she already dead?” Solet asked, frowning. “If her body is dead?”

“It is more complicated than that, I’m afraid. She is not a normal spirit, nor is she what you would call simply a soul of the dead. We should be able to find a solution, however.”

“I want to hear from her,” Basra said. “When I know it’s not Kost speaking.”

Nic tried to take the body, but when she pushed forward, instead of taking the body, she moved forward in space. Everyone jerked back, and many of those who didn’t actually pull a weapon, suddenly had their hands on their weapons and ready.

“Oh,” Nic murmured. “Well, that’s new.”

She turned to see Kost behind her, but she was only half out of his head, so suddenly all she saw was darkness. She moved back some more, until her torso was out of him and she could look into his face. “Hey, you!”

Kost was blinking rapidly. “Hello.”

“We can sing duets now!”

Kost laughed. “Of course that’s your first thought. You know, you don’t have a face. It’s very strange.”

“Oh,” she murmured, bringing her hand up to rub over her face. She seemed to be made of golden light. “That’s really creepy. I’m like a glowing shadow?”

“Does that… what does that feel like, Kost?” Vat was frowning but he wasn’t armed. Everyone took that moment to realize it was safe, and put their weapons away.

“It doesn’t..” Kost paused and thought. “I feel less full? I don’t have all her emotions added to mine. I hadn’t realized that was a thing, I’d gotten used to it.”

“Hey Kost,” Asaraanda smiled. “Stand up.”

He glanced at her, but did. It was a bit weird, because he had to tilt forward into Nic. He stood, and Nic was still half out his torso.

“Nic, where are your legs?” Randa asked.

Nic and Kost both looked down. Nic turned so she was facing away from Kost again, and then glowing toes poked out of Kost’s knee. Nic burst out laughing. She concentrated and then her whole body slid down, so her face was poking out of his chest and her feet were on the ground.

She started to take a step away from him, and suddenly Cole was at her side. “Not yet. They were right. You have to stay connected.”

She nodded, but reached up a hand to touch Cole’s face. He smiled at her and put his hat on her head. “You’re real.”

She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “Thank you.”

“So what does this all mean?” Ash asked.

“We don’t know yet,” Kost said, still looking down at Nic. “This part is new, and we don’t know anything about what it means.”

“Okay,” Herah nodded. “You need to go to Skyhold. They can cover this without you, and frankly, I’m uncomfortable with how much you don’t know. Solas can go with you, we have enough people here.”

“I would request Cole as well, Inquisitor,” Solas said. “He would be of great assistance, I believe.”

“Yes,” Herah agreed. “I’m sorry, Dorian, I know you likely wish to join them, but I need you here.”

He nodded. “I understand. Though I do request a return to Skyhold as soon as this area is stabilized, instead of moving on to your next adventure.”

“Agreed. I’ll send word and have a replacement group send here right away. I’m thinking Varric and Blackwall, and Bull, now that I’ve had a look around.”

“May I go, too?” Asaraanda was looking at Ash. Ash nodded. “Thank you.”

Everyone paused, seemingly lost in thought. Nic gave Cole his hat back.

“Well, before we lose her, possibly for good, I say we should get some more songs. What have you got, Nic? It doesn’t have to be new.”

“With my own voice, too! That changes things. Let me think,” She paused. “Oh! Yes.”

She started singing Scarborough Fair. Kost knew this one, so he joined in for the harmony.

“Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
For once she was a true love of mine”

When they were done, everyone was quiet.

“That was lovely,” Asaraanda said smiling.

“Thank you,” Nic said, her voice happy. “If I had eyes, I think I’d be crying. Getting to sing with Kost? That was very special. Thank you, Kost.”

“You’re welcome. I think we should be done for the night, though. The rest of the group will be wanting their meals, and we don’t want to explain to everyone that I’m possessed.”

“True,” Nic sighed and pulled herself back into Kost’s head.

Nodding to the group, Kost went to the clothes lines and checked his clothes, grateful that someone had picked his up and hung them to dry after the fight. They weren’t quite dry, but would be good by morning.

They joined the Inquisition for dinner and chatted with the new mages. Solas stayed well away from the mages who'd summoned Wisdom, but they didn’t seem to notice. They were grateful to be safe and fed. They would not be leaving with Kost and Solas, but would leave a few days later with a group soldiers returning to Skyhold.

Dorian came up behind him just as Kost was thinking to go to bed, running his fingers through Kost’s hair. “Hello.”

Kost grinned up at him. “Hello, handsome.”

“While sleeping in the group tents sounds charming, I was hoping to get at least this one night in a tent a bit more exclusive.”

“Oh, I know just the one. Placed on the finest spot you’ll find in these Exalted Plains, a bit of a rustic vibe - I know you nobles love that - and your bed warmed by a very attentive man. There are a few other perks, but they’re a surprise.”

Dorian laughed softly. “Oh, I do love surprises. Please show me the way, my dear Kost.”

They walked together to a tent in a row of identical tents, and Kost gestured grandly. “Your tent, my lord.”

Dorian went in first, joined quickly by Kost and they quietly stripped down to their pants and undershirts, curing up together in their favorite cuddling position, and laid without speaking for awhile.

“That went well tonight. I worried. It could easily have gone very poorly.”

“Yes,” Kost kissed the top of Dorian’s head. “They’re good people. Some of them worked with my father, they’ve known me my whole life.”

“And now you’re heading off to Skyhold, and I cannot be there. I hate that.”

“I would love to have you there.” He reached to pull Dorian up into a kiss.

“Now,” Dorian pulled back after a thorough kiss and sat up. “Nic. You seem to be fine, you performed quite well, but I wanted to check in.”

She poked her head out the top of Kost’s head. “I can’t take over his body anymore, this is very strange. Probably good overall, but a lot harder to hide if I want to talk. I’m okay. Still feels strange, but not in a bad way? It’s nice to be able to touch things for myself.”

She reached a hand up and poked Dorian’s nose. He paused and took her hand. “Hm. You feel solid, but not quite… definitely magical. Like a humming at the back of my tongue.”

“Interesting. You just feel solid and normal, to me.” She petted his hair. “It’s awesome to be able to touch again.”

“I imagine it is. Though I have to say, seeing you like this really cements your presence and makes all my plans with Kost feel very awkward.”

“I am sorry. I would absolutely give you privacy if I could.”

“I know. Thank you. I guess it’s time for sleep, then.”

He curled up with Kost and they soon fell asleep, exhausted by the day.

Nic did not.

She sighed and sat up after what felt like forever. “Oh, hell. This is going to suck.”

Chapter Text

In the morning, Kost left the tent to find Solas and Cole speaking with the Inquisitor. Herah motioned him over.

“Good morning, Kost and Nic. Solas was telling me about a change in plans he would like to make.”

They turned to Solas who smiled. “After finding Wisdom last night, we spoke extensively about your situation. She feels we would have more success in a location where the Veil is very thin.”

“The Spire. It’s where I came through, where I became Cole,” Cole tilted his head. “Rhys was able to do his studies there because the Veil is so thin. It is empty now. It would be safe.”

Kost blinked. “The Spire? Val Royeaux?”

“Yes. There are Inquisition agents in Val Royeaux, so you could stay with them in the Inquisition house. Cole knows how to sneak in and out of the Spire so that you don’t have to worry about people poking around to check on you.”

“The sewers.”

Kost grimaced.

Are there… like… poop free paths…?

“Yes. There are many paths, and I have taken the ones you would not like. I don’t want to go that way again. I will keep you safe. And clean.”

Kost nodded. “Sounds good, then. Mostly. I’ll go get packed up. Thank you.”

After he packed up and joined a sleepy Dorian at the fire for breakfast, he noticed that people weren’t speaking to him as they normally would. Things had seemed to go well last night, but now he realized that most people hadn’t spoken at all.

Apparently his kith was more reserved in their judgement that he’d realized.

He spoke to Ash briefly, explaining the change. He noticed she was kind, but also stiff. She also was uncomfortable.

He knew it was reasonable, but it still stung.

He distracted himself by cuddling Dorian and getting a very thorough kiss goodbye.

They headed out as soon as it was light enough to see, on foot.

Val Royeaux was much closer than Skyhold. It would be several days to walk to Lydes, and then another to walk to the coast where they’d catch a boat across the water to Val Royeaux.

They packed only one tent between them to be efficient.

And hey, just keep a foot out of the tent and I can keep watch. Apparently I don’t sleep anymore.

“You, what? You don’t sleep? What did you do all night, then?” Kost asked as they headed away from the camp.

Quite a lot, really, it was a very long time. I thought about things, I daydreamed about things. I stood up and danced for awhile. It works fine, I just have to remember to keep in contact at all times. I stared creepily at you both while you sleep. You know. Anything to pass the time.

“Nic’s sleeping patterns have changed?” Solas asked.

“Yeah, she says she couldn’t sleep at all last night.”

“She had a lot of fun finding different ways she could leave your body. Like a fish jumping, or like a bird, wings spread wide.” Cole said, tilted his hat their way.

Do you sleep, Cole?

“I do sleep. Yes. I’m sorry.”

Nic’s laughter filled Kost’s head, making him smile.

You get to sleep, sweetheart. It’s good. Hopefully I can again, too.

“This is going to be strange, traveling with five people, but without being able to hear one of them,” Asaraanda commented, lost.

Solas smiled. “Yes. It will be an interesting challenge.”

Nic focused and poked just her face out of Kost’s chest. “Hello, good morning!”

Asaraanda smiled. “Hello, Nic. That’s very weird, but less likely to be noticed by anyone nearby, I suppose.”

“Yes, I was thinking I could peak out his armpit, but while I’m solid for other people, I’m not with Kost’s body. So his arm would just be constantly in my face and would make it annoying.”

“That is interesting,” Solas commented as they turned onto the Imperial Highway from the woods. “Expectation made real, perhaps?”

Nic pushed her arm out and tried to poke Kost in the nose, but her hand just went into his face. “Yeah, I don’t know. It is convenient, I suppose, so I can quickly enter and exit, but it means I can’t properly annoy or fuck him.”

Kost sighed. “Yes. That.”

“Hey, babe, I’m just thinking of you. How often do you get a change to bang a Being of Light,” she paused. “If that’s a thing. I don’t have a face, I wonder if I have-”

“SO!” Kost interrupted, shaking his head with a smile. “Val Royeaux. And you were.. Born? In the Spire, Cole? Can you tell us about it?”

“Yes,” Cole said. “A broken body, bloody, banged on the stone cell, guts gripping in the dark dank, a captured apostate. They threw him into the dungeon in the Spire at Val Royeaux. They forgot about him. He starved to death. I came through to help... and I couldn't. So I became him."

“Shit,” Asaraanda breathed.

“Indeed,” said Solas, grimly.

They walked in silence for awhile, each lose in their own thoughts.

“That’s promising, though,” Nic said quietly. “That makes it feel real that maybe if I have enough focus, I can become myself again.”

“Yes,” Cole tilted his head her way. “Light, laughter, love; singing and playing, a smile to warm people’s hearts and lift their burdens.”

Kost grinned at the confused rush of joy, pride, love, and embarrassment rushing through his body but belonging to Nic as she hastily disappeared inside him again. “Am I blushing? I feel like I should be blushing from everything she’s feeling right now.”

A golden hand flailed up from his chest and into his head, making him laugh. “You cannot hit me, woman!”

Hmph!!

---

When they arrived in Val Royeaux, it was evening and they were met at the docks by an Inquisition agent, who showed them to the Inquisition home. The bedrooms each had several sets of bunk beds in them instead of being private rooms, but it was still better than a tent or a ship. Kost and Asaraanda hadn’t fit in the hammocks on the ship and had had to sleep on the floor. They did not enjoy it.

They ate dinner gratefully, as it was delicious, fresh, and plentiful. Roasted meat, crusty bread, vegetables.

“I think we should go tomorrow,” Solas said, finishing a slice of boiled pudding with a caramel sauce. “I would like to speak with Wisdom again before we begin.”

Everyone nodded. They finished eating and gratefully headed to their beds. Kost and Asaraanda didn’t really fit these beds either, but they were used to fitting themselves into human beds and slept well.

Nic spent the evening trying to focus, as Solas had advised after learning she couldn’t sleep. She focused on who she was, how it felt to be in her body, how it was to be seperate from Kost. There had been some change with her form from doing this. She had blue glowing eyes now, and hair that glowed red instead of gold. Hilariously, she’d also gained small horns. They were the same shape as Kost’s, but in proportion with her smaller body.

She decided she’d keep them.

The bunks made it awkward to try to move while Kost slept, but she still tried. Stretching her limbs and remembering how they used to move, how it felt. It was different than Kost’s body, but she’d been in his so long, it was hard to remember.

She had to remember.

---

Crawling through secret tunnels under an old city is overly romanticized in stories.

In reality, the air is heavy, fetid. There are heaps of things that either washed in, washed out, or were brought and discarded.

There are also skeletons. Mostly small animals, but some human.

“And you can’t even know if they came down here themselves and died, or if this is just a convenient dumping ground,” Nic commented as Kost stepped over a skeleton wearing a heavily stained dress.

“She was stabbed. Running through the dark, desperate. A templar. He laughed.”

“Ah. Shit. Can we… do something for her?” Nic asked, looking back at Solas. He nodded.

“We will bring supplies and come through with purpose. I’m sure there are others.”

They were quiet the rest of the way through the sewers, and the dark of the Pit. They made their way carefully through the dungeons and up through the Templar quarters, to the rooms where mages had practiced magic. There were comfortable chairs around, books, tables, and room enough to do whatever they needed to do.

They settled comfortably in the chairs and ate before doing anything else.

“Soap. You guys need so much soap after that trip,” Nic said, watching them eat after just wiping their hands on wet clothes to get the visible dirt off.

“I would enjoy that, yes,” Solas nodded. “Next time we will search out the bathing rooms before eating, perhaps. They likely still have soap.”

Asaraanda got up to inspect the book shelves, finding something interesting to read and settling in. She was here more for support and she’d realized during her trip that she wouldn’t have much input on the process.

“Now,” Solas began. “I would like to again inspect you both with magic. First together and then separately. This may take some time, so please get comfortable.”

When he finished the scans with them combined, he asked Nic to come out most of the way.

“Does it feel differently here? The Veil is extremely thin.”

Nic pulled out of Kost until she stood in front of him, with her foot in his foot. “Wow, yes. Yes, it does. I feel… more? I couldn’t tell as much when I just had my head out but this..”

“Good. That’s good. I will try to be quick with these scans so you can move to the next stage.”

Nic felt the spells as they moved through her, which she hadn’t before. “Kost? When he does the spells on you, do you feel them?”

“I do, yes. Not very much, but it’s a buzz. Why?”

“I didn’t. When I was in you. I do now.”

“Interesting.”

Cole stepped closer to her then. “Close your eyes. Focus. Remember. You are Nicole Sams. Remember the moments you were the most yourself.”

Solas cast a spell then, eveloping Nic in brilliant green light.

“Ah,” Solas muttered, stopping his spell. “Nicole, I have an idea for better stabilization. It will take some setting up, but I think it will bear fruition.”

He left them and went to discuss his idea with Asaraanda.

Nic turned to Kost. ‘’You know, it’s weird, but now that it looks like we really might separate.. I’m scared. I’m going to miss you. What the hell am I going to do in this world?”

Kost smiled at her. “I don’t know, Nic, but I’ll be here with you while you figure it out. You aren’t alone in the world. I don’t know how physical you’re going to be, but Thedas loves music. You can bring joy in this world as you did your own.”

“People are going to freak out, though, if they know about me.”

“Likely. But people accept and care about Cole. They will get to know you. You’ll see. You may yet get your big Thedosian orgie.”

She laughed. “You know just how to cheer me up!”

Solas and Asaraanda returned to the group. “We are going to set up a circle similar to the summoning circle, with the intent to exert a slight pull and then support.”

Nic and Kost both nodded, silently.

“I find myself wanting to grab you and run out of the room, I have to admit,” Kost said quietly, watching his sister and Solas cast.

“I wish I could hold your hand, but I’ll just have to… put my hand in your hand, I suppose,” Nic returned.

A hand appeared in her view and she looked up to see Cole looking at her. She smiled and gripped his hand tightly. “Thank you, Cole. I’m only brave enough to do this because you did it.”

“Thank you.”

“We’re ready.”

Asaraanda gave Kost a big hug and then moved back.

Kost took a deep breath and stepped into the circle.

A soft green light wrapped around him as he walked into the circle. He stood in the middle of the runes on the floor and waited.

“Focus, Nicole. Focus on who you are,” Solas urged.

She did. She thought about her childhood, her family, how much they loved her. And how much she loved them. She thought about her music. Her relationships. The times she felt the most alive. The times she’d used her body to its fullest, feeling power in it, and the limitations. She put herself back to her world, and the feeling she had as she flew over the waterfall, remembering everything, feeling everything, wishing for life.

She stepped out of Kost, still half in him, and heard Asaraanda gasp.

She ignored it.

She was Nicole Sams. She was her own person in her own body.

She took another step.

She was alone.

She felt her being wobble a bit, but she took a deep breath - her lungs, her body and stood firmly rooted.

Alone.

She was Nicole Sams and she was her own person in her own body.

She looked up and saw Cole looking right at her, and she smiled bright enough to light the room.

“I’m real, Cole.”

Chapter Text

“You are real,” Cole smiled at her. “A new you, different from before.”

She felt someone grab her horn and heard Kost’s laughter. “Wait, I have horns?”

She hastily grabbed put her hands up tracing the curve of her new horns. The curled back and around like Kost’s did and she laughed. “I got to keep the horns, Kost!”

She turned then, to smile up at him. When their eyes met, suddenly the reality of the situation hit her and she burst into tears.

“Hey,” he reached and cupped her face gently. “Oh, wow. Nic, I can touch you.”

She threw herself at him then, clutching at him desperately, as he held her tight.

“You’re so beautiful,” she cried into his chest. “I never thought I’d get to see you with my own eyes again. And to touch you!”

The others turned away quietly, giving them a little privacy.

“Is she,” Asaaranda started quietly. “Human?”

“I would need to test to see. It feels unlikely, however. I suspect we will find her to be similar to Cole. She willed herself into this form, as he did his. I do hope that she can continue to hold it while in areas where the Veil is thicker.”

“Oh, is that in doubt?” Asaaranda frowned, glancing at the pair still holding each other and speaking in low voices.

“Cole was here for years before attempting to leave the area,” Solas commented, glancing at Cole. “It might be that it was necessary, that the time helped him settle into this form. We cannot know without testing.”

“You’re so tall,” came Nic’s voice with a laugh. “I feel like you’re a tree that I would very much like to climb.”

Kost groaned. “It begins.”

“Oh, babe, it began quite a long time ago; it continues. This is amazing, though. Does anyone know where there’s a mirror?”

“I do, yes,” Cole murmured. “I will show you.”

“Before you attempt to leave the circle, I would like to performs a few tests, if you do not mind,” Solas said, walking closer.

“Of course, Solas,” Nic said. She turned to face him, but she and Kost still had an arm around each other.

Solas smirked. “I am sorry, but I’m going to ask that you are not touching while I do this, to be sure of the results.”

Nic and Kost both laughed, but it was harder than they wanted to admit for them to finally pull away from each other.

“Okay, have at me, dear wizard!” Nic called, putting on a smile and hoping it didn’t take long. She was her own person, but it felt safer to be attached to Kost in some way still.

It didn’t take long. A few flashes of light, a strange tingle that made the hair on her arms stand on end, and Solas declared that he believed she was stable enough to exist the circle.

“Right,” Nic pursed her lips. “Now we could be all boring and just walk out, or Kost! Kost, you could be Patrick Swayze! I can be Baby. You stand there and get ready and I can run and jump and you’ll catch me!”

Kost laughed. “Just catch you?”

“Well, if we’re doing it right you’ll put me over your head and I’ll have my arms out, but that would take some practice and the horns make me nervous. So. Probably I’ll just walk. But! Kost. It would have been amazing if we’d had time to rehearse.”

“Oh, dear,” Asaaranda commented with a smirk. “I have a feeling our lives just got a lot more interesting.”

“Yes,” Kost said heavily, eying Nic. “You don’t know the half of it. But you will now. You can join me in shaking your head when she gets going.”

Nic huffed. “Cole! My darling Cole. Can you see it in my mind?”

Cole smiled. “Shirt getting shorter, clinging in the water, sweet kisses on the floor. It’s better over the water, in case you fall.”

Kost blinked. “Kissing now? Of course kissing. Tisk.”

Nic laughed and then walked to the edge of the circle. With a deep breathe she closed her eyes and hopped over.

Nothing changed. “Fuck yeah! Come on beautiful, let me see what other odd things I’ve done to my appearance.”

---

“Huh. That’s…” Nic’s words trailed off. She was looking at a large standing mirror in some mage’s old bedroom. “I look mostly right. I mean, minus the horns. But my hair is red. I wonder if it’ll naturally grow that color now or if this will grow out to be my natural color? And I look.. like how I wish I looked. Like how I think of myself in my head, but then I see a picture and am always disappointed that I don’t look like that. Plus horns.”

“A picture?” Asaaranda asked, sitting on the bed.

“Yeah. Like.. like a really accurate portrait? Made instantly by a machine. We took them all the time. If you felt cute, or were out having fun, or bored and wanted to make faces, you just got out your phone and took pictures. Hundreds a day if you wanted. There were all these jokes about the pictures you’d chose to represent to yourself to people and then the pictures other people took of you. You’d always pick the ones that made you look hot, and then other people’s pictures would have you looking terrible. The truth was generally in between the two. Except somehow now I get to be Hot Nic. Nice.”

She turned to them, looking away from her ass in the mirror and shrugged. “I love the horns, but I’m not super sure how to explain them. Nothing about me looks like you guys otherwise. Unless I was a mix? If we made babies together, would it be incest now, Kost? Since I seem to have taken at least some bits from you.”

He waggled his eyebrows and gave her his crooked grin. “I don’t see you at all like a sister, Nicole.”

Asaaranda rolled her eyes at them. “I think a mix would be the best explanation. It’s extremely rare, so people won’t question it.”

“So what’s next?” Nic asked, turning to Solas.

He smiled. “At this point, all that’s left is to wait. There is not currently a prescribed method of separating people in your situation.”

“There used to be, though, I assume. Since the mirror existed.”

Solas paused. “Yes. Finding those who would be able to help us, however..”

“Yeah,” She sighed. “Where’s Fen’Heral when you need him?”

“Why,” Solas said slowly. “Would he be needed?”

“Well,” she shrugged. “The eluvian is from the times of ancient elves, yes? And everyone was locked away except him. So he’d be the go to for all things ancient and elven.”

Cole looked at her and smiled.

“Yes, well,” Solas murmured. “We shall make do without.”

---

They spend the day poking around the Spire. Nic seemed stable so far, though she and Kost preferred to keep in contact with each other. They all made use of the bathing facilities as well, and changed into the clean clothes they’d brought with them.

As the sun started to set, they decided that Solas and Asaaranda would return to the apartment while Kost, Nicole, and Cole stayed. Nicole was nervous about leaving the safety of the thin Veil, and Cole was staying in case he needed to run for help.

They said goodbyes and then Cole showed them to the nicer bedrooms. He took one next door to theirs.

Nicole went in first, immediately running to throw herself on the bed, as Kost quietly shut the door.

She looked him over as he approached the bed and grinned. “I hope you’re not ready to sleep.”

He shook his head, reaching out to trace the line of her jaw with gentle fingers. “I’m not, no.”

She reached up and started unbuttoning his shirt. “This is my job at least one last time, hm?”

“Mm,” he looked down to watch her hands work. “Though this time I get to make things a bit more equal, I think.

She kneeled on the bed to push his shirt off his shoulders and he abruptly threaded his hand through her hair, pulling her face to his in a rough kiss. Her arms immediately went to his back, digging her nails in as she returned the kiss full force.

He pressed her back against the bed, crawling on top of her, moving down her neck with his teeth, hastily shoving down her leggings, cupping between her legs with his hand.

“Fuck, Kost,,” she hissed, rolling them so he was on the bottom. She yanked her shirt over her head, and then her bra, before crawling down to work his pants open. He helped, and within moments they were naked together.

He rolled her back under him, moving back for a deep kiss as she wrapped her legs around him tightly. He put his weight on one arm, bringing the other hand up to play with her breast while she moved to lick and bite his ear and then his neck.

He moved, his mouth licking and biting and kissing his was down her body before settling between her legs.

“Let’s see if I learned anything, hm?” He licked into her then, showing he’d paid very good attention to her lesson. She grabbed onto his horns, crying out and begging for more.

He gave it.

When she was ready, he rolled onto his back again, pulling her over him, grinding himself up into her wetness. She rode him this way for several moments, until they were panting and the fact that he wasn’t inside her yet began to feel painful.

“Kost, love. It’s your turn now,” she reached down to aim him. “You get to be inside me now.”

He laughed through his groan as she lowered herself onto him. “Why do you have to make me laugh now of all times, woman? Koslun’s balls, you’re so tight.”

“So you know it’s me. Now,” She grinned. “Shall we fuck?”

“Indeed we shall, madam.”

He rolled them over yet again, and fucked her until she was screaming, clinging to him with legs and nails, teeth in his chest.

He thrust one last time, filling her up, pressing as deeply as he could as he looked in her eyes.

They held each other tenderly after, softing tracing each other’s bodies, until Kost was erect again.

They second time was more intense than the first. They clung, grinding into each other, never breaking eye contact. She was on top this time, and when they finished, hissing and clinging tighter to each other, they didn’t pull away. They fell asleep with him still inside.

Nicole woke in the night to find him back between her legs, licking her to completion again and again. She pressed him to his back when she had had enough and sucked him promptly into her mouth. He came down her throat with four of her fingers up his ass ten minutes later.

The curled up together and went back to sleep.

---

They were awakened the next morning by Cole.

“They’re back.”

Nic grinned from her spot in Kost’s arms. “Thank you, love. We’ll get ourselves decent and join everyone soon.”

“I’ll let them know.”

Cole vanished and Nic slid her hand down Kost’s belly. “Once more for the road?”

He grinned and moved his hands down to her ass. “You’re insatiable. Yes.”

---

Upon presenting themselves to Solas and Asaaranda, they were instructed to bathe and then return for further testing before they tried bringing Nicole out of the Spire.

Two hours later, Nic was exiting the sewer tunnel, blinking into the sun.

“I’m still okay!” She launched herself at Solas giving him a tight hug, and then did the same for Cole, Asaaranda, and then Kost. Kost leaned down and pulled her into a kiss.

“You’re still okay. We did it,” he murmured against the top of her head.

“Fuck yes. Now we need to go find Dorian so you can celebrate properly!”

Asaaranda snorted. “He hasn’t already? What were you two up to all night, if not that?”

“Fucking like crazy, naturally. But it’s different, yeah?” She patted Kost’s chest as he groaned. “They’ve got something special, and I’ve been in the way of it. We obviously have something, too, but it’s not.. It’s like Kost and Vat, except way closer because of circumstances.”

“Skyhold,” Cole said, look at them from under his hat. “It’s time to go to Skyhold.”

Chapter Text

Skyhold was enormous.

The road from Jader to the Hold was busy, with small hamlets popping up anywhere there seemed to be space. In the lower elevations, there was quite a lot of animal husbandry, and small farms. Closer to Skyhold there was less food, but more Inns and boarding houses.

Nicole hadn’t thought about the road to Skyhold, generally imagining it empty and just used for Inquisition people. Now that she was on it, she realized that was ridiculous. Skyhold would need supplies, and there would need to be housing for everyone providing those supplies, petitioners, visitors, the families of soldiers and servants.

When they finally got close enough to see the Hold, Nic lost her breath. Perched on the edge of a mountain, wreathed in clouds, it looked like something that couldn’t be real.

It was real, though. She went through the portcullis and looked around with interest. It seemed larger than the game, with more outbuildings. There were also children running everywhere and dogs - not just mabari, either.

Their group headed first to the stables, which were enormous, with a paddock off the the side. There had been large stables in the nearest settlement to Skyhold, as well, with a larger area for the animals to run.

Nic dropped her horse with a stable hand and then froze when she looked into the nearest stall and saw-

Kost! Kost Kost Kost, holy shit, look!”

Kost turned from his discussion with his sister, and blinked into the stall. “What in the void is that?”

“That’s a Bog Unicorn, naturally,” came a familiar voice as Dorian strolled into view. “A favorite of the Inquisitor’s, especially around the nobility.”

“Dorian!” Nic grinned. “You’re here! We missed you.”

“We did indeed,” Kost murmured, biting his lip and looking Dorian over.

“Of course you did,” he sauntered over. “I was hoping to offer you a little tour, if you’re not too tired.”

“Oh, I’m so very tired,” Nic said with a grin. “You might have to tour without me, Kost.”

“It is very good to see you, Nicole, darling,” Dorian smiled. “I expect a full rundown of everything I’ve missed. Tomorrow.”

“Oh yes. If you’re not too tired.”

“I will show the ladies to the housekeeper, who will show them to their rooms,” Solas murmured with a smile. “There will likely be interest in your situation soon enough, I recommend resting up.”

“Ah,” Kost frowned, “should I-”

“You are going with Dorian, brother dear,” Asaaranda said firmly. “We are fine, and will continue to be fine.”

“Right,” Kost hugged his sister and Nic, nodding at Solas. Cole had disappeared as soon as they got in the gates. “Should I bring my pack or..”

“Bring it,” Dorian smiled. “Unless you’d rather..”

“Right,” Kost shouldered his pack. “After you then.”

Nic and Asaaranda watched them leave and then looked at each other with big grins, shaking their heads.

“Shall we, ladies?” Solas shouldered his own pack and gestured towards the door.

---

The rooms inside the castle were much smaller than in the game, which Nic expected. Heating large spaces would have been cost prohibitive, especially in the mountains.

The great hall, however, was large and beautiful, with arched ceilings, stained glass windows, Inquisition heraldry, impressive wooden carvings. Interestingly, Solas’ frescos were in the hall as well. They were stunning, and had several admirers pointing out different aspects as Nic and Asaaranda were herded through the hall and into a long corridor.

They ended up in separate rooms - both rooms with bunk beds and roommates, but Asaaranda was in one with beds large enough for qunari, and Nic was placed in a standard room. They quickly put their things in the available chests. Nic missed her old word locks as she used one with a key, and put the key in her shoe.

When she’d willed herself into a body, she’d put herself in clothes from Earth. They had raided the Spire to find her some more Thedan clothes, but she was keeping her Earth shoes as long as they lasted. (Her underwear, too. The Thedan versions were fine, but bulkier and she didn’t like so many layers if she could avoid it.) She wondered at the lifespan of clothing imagined into being. She hoped it was long.

Asaaranda met up with her in the corridor, and they walked together back to the hall for a meal, sitting at one of the long tables that were meant for the general populace after filling their bowls at one of the large pots set over one of several fireplaces. There was a large table at the end of the hall that was raised, and certainly for more important people.

Nic was glad to be unimportant. She’d rather not be a spectacle while eating.

She imagined that area is also where the throne would be if it was needed. It wasn’t in the room currently.

The tables were crowded, with bowls of bread, platters of hard cheese, and large pots filled with pickled cabbage. The soup was rice and bean with some kind of sausage that Nicole was enjoying very much. She sat her mug out, and eventually a servant came by and filled it up with the ubiquitous weak beer.

“No sign of Kost or Dorian,” Asaaranda said, as she took a sip of her own beer. “I’m shocked.”

“I won’t traumatize you with details, but ah,” Nic grinned. “I wouldn’t expect them until tomorrow. Possibly late tomorrow.”

Asaaranda laughed. “Well. If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it well.”

“Indeed. And they shall,”

When they were done, they washed their dishes in barrels at the end of the hall set aside for just that, and then put them back in their rooms, before returning to the main hall. After dinner, there was always music, apparently, and Nic didn’t want to miss it.

“Do you think this is what you’ll end up doing?” Asaaranda asked, as they settled to listen to the small group of musicians as they sang and played their instruments.

“I guess so? I don’t know what else to do. I’d need to learn more songs, though, so I can play the ones people ask for.”

“We can help with that,” they clapped as the group finished their song. “And the library might have something. We’ll ask.”

“I’d need an instrument, as well. Kost had talked about getting me a hurdy gurdy. It wouldn’t even need to be a specially built one, now, which will make it simpler.”

“Oh, did he? That’s very generous. That would certainly help get attention. They’re more expensive and uncommon.”

“Hopefully they’re similar enough to the ones back home.”

They were quiet after that, listening to the lovely Thedan music in the dark Hall, lit only by the fireplaces.

When Nic was struggling to keep her eyes open, they went to bed. Nic fell asleep promptly, but not without realizing it was her first night in Thedas without Kost.

It felt wrong and liberating at the same time.

---

Kost woke up with someone sprawled across his chest. He lifted his hand to stroke gently up and down their spine with his fingertips as he slowly realized where he was.

Stone walls, rich scent of sandalwood, bed just a little too short.

Dorian.

He rotated his fingers slightly, turning the rub into a gentle scratch.

Dorian hummed and shifted against him.

Kost tangled his fingers in Dorian’s hair, pulling gently. “So. After I roll you over and suck your cock until you’re begging and then fuck myself on it, would you care to show me the baths?”

Dorian started laughing and pressed up to look at Kost, smile on his face. “Oh, I suppose.”

Dorian rolled off Kost and spread his legs out gently, gesturing to his erection gracefully. “So demanding.”

Kost laughed as well, moving into position, smoothing his hands up Dorian’s delicious thighs as he settled in, taking Dorian straight to the root with a wink.

---

“You know, I don’t think I’ll ever get that image out of my head,” Dorian murmured, scrubbing Kost’s back with a soft brush. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen or imagined anything as beautiful as you riding my cock. And I have quite the imagination.”

“Pleased to be of service,” grinned Kost. “Though I doubt it compares with the one I had of you yesterday. You can ride my face any time.”

Dorian groaned and leaned forward to bite Kost’s shoulder. “I rather think we’re clean enough at this point, yes? I find I have something rather important for you to see to in my room.”

Kost dumped a bucket of water over his head to rinse, and turned to Dorian, who they'd washed first. “I think I could find the time.”

---

The Inquisition’s library was large. Where most of the tower was closed off into small rooms, the library was an entire open floor.

This tower was very different from the game, with no open roof, no holes in the floors. Just a tight spiral staircase with openings into small hallways with multiple doors off them.

Asaaranda had gone to see the practice yard, leaving Nic to explore on her own. She found a woman tending the shelves, and asked if she might know of any song books. The woman did, and retrieved several for her. Nic shuffled through them excitedly before realizing she didn’t have Kost.

She couldn’t read these.

She groaned and dropped her head into her hands.

“Do you need assistance?” Solas’ voice came from behind her. She looked back with a smile.

“Kost isn’t here. I forgot I couldn’t read these. I was hoping to start learning more of the local music.”

“Ah,” Solas paused, narrowing his eyes in thought. “I wonder.. I might be able to help. Come with me?”

“Of course, Solas, thank you.”

Solas took the book and manuscripts from her, leading her down the stairs. He went quickly to one of the doors in the tower, putting the materials on a desk. “My office. Not what we need for this experiment, however.”

She nodded. They walked through the Hall, to a doorway near the Important People Table, which he unlocked with a key. From here, they went down a floor to another locked door. Behind this door was a small sitting room with several doors leading off of it. He chose the second on the left and led her through, into a small bedroom.

He closed and locked all the doors behind him.

Nic was nervous, as one would be when behind three locked doors in the bedroom of a near stranger who was also fucking Fen’Heral.

“Please try to relax, if you can. I know it’s rather unusual to be quite so locked away with a near stranger, but this is for your safety, I assure you,” He smiled. She tried to do as he said.

“We have not yet explored your rather unique situation. Cole went through a similar process, but he began as a Spirit from this world, and he continues to have many Spirit tendencies. I am wondering if you might as well.”

“Oh, that would be interesting! How would we find out?”

“I would like to visit you in the Fade. It’s very possible that, like a spirit, we can exchange information in large pieces so that you might learn to read Trade with a simple transfer. You are still sleeping, correct?”

“Yes. Luckily. Ever since I got the body. Which is weird, I think. Why would I not have slept before?”

“It might be that you would have, after a time. These matters are rarely simple. Or sleep is an expectation of your form, much like elbows and being solid.”

She nodded, looking around at the very plain room. “So how do we do this?”

“Lay down, and I will put you to sleep and then join you.”

Yeah, Nic. Just lay right down in SOLAS’ BED.

She laid down on Solas’ bed, looking up at him expectantly. He touched her forehead, and she was asleep.

---

She was at work, digging through sheet music, trying to find Meet Me on the Battlefield. She needed the page for the lute, she couldn’t quite remember..

“What is this place?”

She turned to see Solas behind her, looking around. “Oh! Right. Dream. This is where I used to work. A music shop.”

‘Fascinating. And these?” He moved beside her to look at the pages in her hand.

“Sheet music. I have been trying to remember and write down as much music from my world as I can. I was trying to find the lute page for this song, which is not likely to be found.”

“Lutes are not a popular instrument in your world?”

“Not anymore, no,” She focused. “Let me see…”

Nic moved to one of the pianos in the shop and played him the song. “Do they have pianos in Thedas?”

“They do not. How does it work?”

Nic opened up the piano and showed him.

“Interesting. An excellent instrument. Now,” he turned to her. “Let us see if this will work.”

Solas closed his eyes, focusing. He reached out his hands and gently cupped her face, pulling her close enough to kiss. She was distracted by his freckles, so sweet across his nose, when suddenly he exhaled, a bright yellow light moving from his mouth to circle around her head before slowly fading.

When he opened his eyes, she was staring wide eyed at him, blinking. He grinned. “Let us see if that worked. Wake up.

---

It had worked.

Nic spent the next few hours gleefully reading through Thedan song books curled up in the library. She didn't have the tunes yet, but the words were the more important part for now.

Chapter Text

Solas and Nic took lunch together and were having a quiet conversation about some of the more interesting songs Nic had found when Kost and Dorian strolled into the room. Nic didn’t notice them until a bowl of beans and rice was placed next to hers and Kost settled down beside her. He tugged her horn in greeting making her laugh.

“Hello, my dearest love,” she looked him over. “You look worn out.”

He waggled his eyebrows at her. Dorian coughed, settling on the other side of him.

“Yes, sorry for stealing him away from you so abruptly, darling. How are you finding Skyhold?”

“Well,” she winked at Solas, who was sitting across from her. “Solas and I spent most yesterday fucking, but now we’ve moved on to the love song portion of our relationship.”

“Yes,” Solas said blandly while Dorian choked on his wine. “She’s found some rather fascinating songs from the Blessed Age. I think you’d find them rather inspiring, Dorian.”

Kost eyed them. “While I don’t doubt for a single minute that she’d get up to that, she looks far too cheerful and rested for me to believe it. The songs sound interesting, however; I would love to see what you’ve found.”

“What, cheerful? You think I look too happy to have gotten laid? What?” Nic laughed.

“Mm. He has a point. When Asaaranda and I returned to the Spire, ‘cheerful and rested’ were not words that would describe either of you,” Solas murmured, taking a bite. “Exhausted and a bit feral, yes.”

“Feral,” Nic said blankly. “How do you figure?”

“The wild hair and the bite marks, to start.”

Dorian burst out laughing.

Kost buried his face in his hands. Which, incidentally, put his neck neatly into Nic’s view, where she saw a lovely new bite mark. She joined Dorian in the laughing.

They continued eating, then, with only mild teasing aimed at Dorian and Kost.

“So,” she turned towards the rest when they were done eating. “What’s the plan today?”

“Our general plan with you two has been to wait and see. I suppose that continues, though things seem to be completely fine somehow.”

“It does seem a bit anticlimactic, doesn’t it? It’s completely alien to sit here being near Kost and not know exactly what he’s been up to, but I don’t have a desperate need to jump back in.”

“I like that part,” he muttered. “Though I do miss your commentary. You’re more restrained out loud.”

“I actually need to spend some time in the library on a project, but I should be free this evening,” Dorian said, carefully wiping his face and fixing his mustache.

“And I will be in my office if you have need of me,” Solas nodded.

“Well, then. Kost and I shall brave Skyhold and explore on our own, I suppose.”

“I can help,” Cole appeared in the seat on Nic’s left. She grinned.

“Sounds perfect, Cole,” She rose and went to clean her dishes and return them to her room. “Meet here and head out, yes?”

---

Cole showed them around the grounds first: The bakery where large amounts of bread were baked for the kitchens, and where residents could bring their own dough to be baked as well, the brewhouse, barracks for the soldiers, a beautiful kitchen garden, a granary, an enormous barn where they stored wood, and the stables. They spent a very enjoyable time wandering through the various vendors, as well. Nic was completely fascinated by the range of things being sold, and enjoyed working with Kost to pick out fabric to be made into appropriate clothing for her by one of the seamstresses.

They went to the Herald’s Rest last. They paused just inside the door, letting their eyes adjust. It was a large space with many tables and a long bar. There were stairs along the back wall leading up, and was lit only by the light pouring through the windows and the fireplace. There were candles behind the bar ready to be brought out when the sun went down, but they were too expensive to use all day.

It smelled like everywhere else smelled - strongly of animal dung, piss, sweaty humans, but with the addition of vomit, greasy food, and alcohol.

It was currently filled with soldiers, mostly men. Cole led them to the stairs and up. Unlike the game, the floors were completely separated, with no open ceilings. The second floor was similar to the first, without the bar. There was another floor above that, which held small rooms for rent. A door at the top led out to the ramparts.

Nic wished she could say it smelled better outside, but there was a nearby garderobe, which obviously emptied down the outside wall of the keep, so she couldn’t.

“I know where we can go,” Cole said, looking up at her from under his hat.

He lead them to a tower then, and up the small stairs running around it’s interior.

Kost did not enjoy the tiny staircases in the castle, but didn’t complain, especially when they came out a trapdoor at the top, and on to the top of the tower.

It was mostly empty, with a few benches around, and an empty wine bottle on its side.

Nic breathed deeply. “Oh, Cole, I could kiss you! Thank you. I can smell the mountain and very little shit.”

Kost laughed. “You think it’s bad for you, my nose is far more sensitive than a human’s. There is another kiss on offer for this bit of mercy, Cole.”

“I like it here,” Cole murmured, moving to look out over the mountains. “It’s peaceful.”

Nicole joined him, kissing his shoulder. “It is.”

“I see Dorian,” Kost said from behind her, and she could hear the smile in his voice. “Do you mind if I-”

“Oh, go on, loverboy,” Nic laughed.

Kost left then, and they stayed quiet for awhile, looking over the mountains, enjoying the peace.

“Hey, Cole?”

“Yes?”

“Do I.. feel human? Like a normal human?” She fidgeted.

“No. You’re..” he paused. “I’ve been in the Fade before. At Adamant with Rhys. You feel like that? Where you are here, and you are real, but apart, askance, not quite settled into your form.”

She nodded. “It feels like that, too. Like I still maybe have some wiggle room.”

They were quiet.

“Do you think I’ll settle into something that’s… right?”

“I think that you are right. You are you. You aren’t a born human here, you made yourself. You don’t think that I’m wrong or bad, why do worry that you are?”

She shrugged. “Hey, Cole?”

“Yes?”

“Do you cuddle? I’m feeling kind of sad all of a sudden.”

He looked at her briefly, before wrapping his arm around her, pulling her closer. She smiled, wrapping both her arms around him and pressing her face into his shoulder. He shifted then, until they were chest to chest hugging, with her face pressed into his chest.

They stayed there a long time, until the sun started to go down.

“I’ll take you to your room,” he murmured into her hair. “It’s tricky in this light.”

---

They were careful down the steps of the tower, taking them all the way down to the ground floor.

“What is this tower, anyway?” she asked, gesturing down the small hall on one of the floors.

“People sleep here. Workers.”

When they got out of the tower, the sunlight was at the tricky phase where depth perception was difficult. Cole took her hand without comment, helping her stay steady as she stubbed her feet on things she didn’t see, and took too tall steps over others she thought were bigger than they were.

“Do you have a room in the tower like Solas?”

“Yes. The same floor. It’s strange having a room that’s mine.”

“It’s good, though. I’m sharing with some people, who seem nice enough. It’s weird, though, sleeping alone. I mean, I’m not alone, but..”

“You are, though. Alone in your head, alone with your thoughts. You were excited to be apart, yourself, a woman again, who could touch, but you miss him.”

“I do. I..” she sighed. “It’s silly.”

“It feels strange to him, too. He misses your humor, your knowledge, the way you touched his body. Dorian helps, but he doesn’t feel right yet, either.”

She held his arm firmly as they went up the stairs to the main hall. “These stairs need rails, this is terrifying.”

“You can sleep in my room.”

She missed a step and nearly fell, but he gripped her tightly.

“Not for sex,” he smiled. “You don’t want to be alone with strangers. I don’t mind sharing.”

She was quiet until they got to the top of the stairs. “Is that.. I don’t.. You are Compassion. I don’t want to take advantage of that. You get to have your space to rest.”

“You are like me,” he lowered his hat so she couldn’t see his face. “When I became Cole, I was alone. It was difficult for a long time. I didn’t know if I was real, or if I was a ghost. When I wake up alone, sometimes I worry that I am back there. That none of this was real. That I am still alone, lost in the dark.”

She squeezed his hand, and he squeezed back.

“I don’t want sex. People think that I would, if I was real. Solas thinks I won’t, because I’m a spirit,” He looked up at her from under his hat. “I know that you want it, all the time.”

She grinned. “Some people do. Some people don’t. Sex isn’t what makes you real, love. I use it to distract myself from the reality of this situation, honestly. It’s a little less scary when I focus on things like that.”

“Yes.”

“Well. So it would help you, too? To not be alone?”

“It would help me, too. I think. When we travel, we’re all close, even in the tents. I do like the tents, it’s much nicer than sleeping outside.”

“Oh, right, your walk to Adamant chasing Rhys. That sounded miserable.”

“Yes, it was.”

“Well. Okay then,” she shifted awkwardly before grinning and continuing with dramatic formality. “I accept your offer, kind sir.”

He just nodded and led her through the hall. “There will be food in the room, if you want. Or we can eat here?”

“I’d rather be done with crowds for the day, thank you.”

When they arrived in the small sitting room at the bottom of the stairs, they found Varric reading in front of the fire. He glanced up absently, noticed Cole and started to look back down before abruptly looking back up when her presence registered.

She supposed it wasn’t often that Cole showed up with a woman on his arm.

“Hello, Varric,” Cole commented, locking the door behind them.

“Hello Cole,” Varric smiled, putting aside his book. “And friend.”

“This is Nicole. She’s new,” Cole murmured, moving into the room. Nic kept hold of his arm as she was busy being completely star struck.

Varric Tethras. In his socks.

“Do the socks matter?” Cole ask, glancing up at her. She shook her head, laughing. “This is Varric. He normally wears shoes.”

“Good to meet you,” Varric smiled, looking her over. “And what are you two up to tonight?”

“She’s going to sleep with me,” Cole said. Nic grinned. Varric had a rather complicated looking expression, where he couldn’t seem to tell if he should grin or be concerned.

“Just sleep, Varric,” Nic had mercy. “Don’t worry. He’s precious to me, too.”’

Varric rocked back, looking her over again. “Is he. Where did you two meet? Or are you in a hurry to get to bed?”

Solas came in then, locking the door before looking up. He started when he saw them all. “Oh. Hello.”

“Hi, Solas,” she smiled. “We can sit and talk for a bit if you’d like, Varric. I was in a rush to get out of the hall, but this is okay.”

Solas headed over to a sideboard which had fruit, cheese, bread, and a small keg. “Are you hungry, Nicole?”

“I am, thank you,” she joined him, making herself a cheese sandwich and pouring herself some of the ale in a spare cup set out for that purpose.

“So you know Nicole already, Solas?” Varric asked.

“Ah, yes,” he murmured. “I recently helped her with a personal issue, and she returned here with Cole and I.”

“And Kost.”

“Yes,” Solas smiled at Cole. “And Kost. Kost is, I assume, back with Dorian.”

“In, on, under,” Nic muttered, biting into her sandwich.

Varric just looked them all over.

“Nicole is like me,” Cole said, nibbling an apple. “We went to the Spire so she could make herself a body.”

Nic grinned while she chewed, watching Varric try to process that.

“It’s slightly more complicated than that, but essentially yes,” Solas murmured, looking her over. “She has had an interesting journey to get here. We’ve come to Skyhold to monitor the situation and be sure that things are stable.”

“Like Cole? Another Compassion spirit, or..?”

“No, not quite like Cole,” Nic frowned and looked at Solas for some direction. He helpfully shrugged. “Do you know about Kost? We were in Haven briefly. He was physically in the Fade.”

“I do, yes.”

“Right. So in the Fade, he found an Eluvian. I was on the other side. And he was on the other side of the one I found after a fall in my world. It somehow combined us, so that I was sucked into his body and lost my own.”

Varric looked concerned and inched back briefly.

“Yeah. I know how that sounds. But anyway. While officially I'm just a rare half qunari, in reality I’m a human from another world who possessed a really hot Tal Vashoth and recently willed myself into my own body with the neat addition of horns. Nice to meet you, Varric!’

He burst out laughing.

Solas sighed.

“Yeah. But really, I’m safe. I’m a musician. I’ll be focusing on learning more Thedan songs, and trying to perform,” she finished her sandwich. “Ready for bed, love?”

Solas blinked and frowned at her.

“No, Solas, I’m not going to molest Cole. Not until or unless he asks,” she rolled her eyes. “We both find it comforting to not wake up alone.”

“I do apologize for the pause,” Solas smirked. “But you do have a bit of a reputation at this point.”

“Does she?” Varric looked between them all.

“But come on! Have you seen the people around here? Varric. Scout Harding. You cannot deny for a second that she’s beautiful and amazing.” He grinned and nodded agreement.

“Also, you haven’t met him, but Kost is fucking stunning, and I was trapped in that body for months, of course I fucked him thoroughly when I got out. And I bet every one of you has at least had a thought about riding Bull. Solas has the most amazing thighs, Varric is famously charming and very handsome, Cole is the sweetest person ever. Honestly, who here am I supposed to meet and think ‘Eh, no thanks!’?”

They all blinked. Solas looked down at his thighs. Varric laughed. Cole smiled.

“Your face, too, Solas. And holy shit, your hands.”

He joined Varric in laughing, shaking his head at her. “I see why Kost dispairs of you.”

“Yeah, yeah. I talk big, but I’ve only even attempted sex with Kost,” she smiled at Cole. “You ready for bed, lovely?”

“Yes.”

"Me, too. Goodnight all!"

Chapter Text

As she closed Cole’s door behind herself, she heard Solas cautioning Varric, Nicole’s history was obviously not something to spread without thought.

Cole was already hanging up his hat and and removing his jacket.

“Cole,” he looked up. “I generally just sleep in my shirt and underwear. Would that make you uncomfortable?”

“No,” Cole smiled. “Dorian told me I can't sleep in the clothes I wear during the day because they will wrinkle and gave me a nightshirt."

“Nice,” she smiled as they stripped together. “I am having proper clothes made but that takes time."

Cole unselfconsciously got naked, hung up his clothes carefully, and then pulled a nightshirt over his head. Nic smiled at him and folded her pants, socks, and bra, setting them neatly on his side table.

Nic crawled into bed first, settling against the wall. The bed was small. Not quite a twin, but not much bigger. Cole got in next and they laid quietly side by side.

“Cole,” she started again, then hesitated.

“Yes?”

“I always thought you didn’t sleep, until you told me that you did on our trip.”

“I don’t have to, but I like to.”

“It’s boring as fuck to be awake all the time when people sleep,” she grimaced. “I don’t blame you”

“Yes,” he smiled. “People spend a lot of time eating and sleeping, and if you don’t do those things, it’s hard to be around them.”

“You’re not kidding,” Nic sighed and turned on her side towards him. “Thanks for letting me sleep here.”

“You’re welcome. I hope it helps.”

“It does so far. You always feel safe.”

Cole smiled.

They lay quietly together until they drifted off.

---

Nicole woke up warm, with her butt pressed against someone else. “Mmph.”

The person rolled over and pulled her close, snuggling their face into the back of her neck. She put her hand over the one resting on her bare belly, pressing back against their body, slowly coming awake and realizing it was -

“Good morning,” his lips moved against the back of her neck, making her shiver.

“Good morning, Cole. Did you sleep well?”

“Yes. It helped. Thank you.”

She patted his hand gently. “Thank you. This bed is far more comfortable than the one I had before. And warmer.”

“Your skin is soft,” he nuzzled her neck again.

“Yours is, too. Have you cuddled anyone before?”

“No. It’s nice, I like it.”

She rolled over to face him. “I like it, too.”

He looked very different in bed. Probably the lack of hat, leather, and knives. And the nearness of his face.

The fact that his bare legs were touching hers also changed the dynamic.

“Are there baths here, Cole? They had them in Jader and it was lovely.”

‘Yes. I can show you.” He moved his hand up to touch her cheek and she smiled.

“Sensual, not sexual?”

“I haven’t touched anyone's skin like this before. It feels nice, a warmth over my body,” he traced her ear. “But nothing like what people feel and think when they want sex.”

She nodded. “Touch is really important to people. People who aren’t touched get sick more. Babies who aren’t touched die. It’s hard because so much about touch is sexualized, so people get the needs mixed up.”

She cupped his cheek and then slowly moved her hand down his neck, his shoulder, down his arm to hand, which she pulled to her mouth for a kiss. “But I’m here for you, babe. I’ll let you know if the signals get crossed too much, and we can keep good open communication about it.”

“Thank you,” they heard someone open and close a door in the sitting room. “We should go. You’ll want breakfast and then I’ll show you the baths.”

She grinned and kissed his forehead. “You’re the best.”

---

Nic was proud of how little she ogled Cole as they got dressed. He didn’t own a comb for some reason, so she braided her hair after a thorough finger combing, and twisted it up into a vaguely stable bun. The horns were still weird to work around, but she figured it out.

The sitting room was filled with the smell of fresh bread, and they found Solas sitting in front of the fire absently eating an egg with..

Nic blinked.

He was eating a hard-boiled egg with marmalade on it. She recognized it from breakfast the day before.

“You can eat,” Cole told her, gesturing to the food. “They bring enough every morning. Varric won’t be up in time to eat it, and I don’t want to eat right now.”

“Thank you,” She smiled. She popped an egg in her mouth and then cut herself a slice of bread and mashed two more eggs onto it, adding salt from the salt cellar. She sat down, happily munching and looked around the room. There were two small windows, and the furniture was simple. Two chairs by the fireplace, a small couch, a small table with three chairs. The sideboard with a pitcher of water, small keg of beer, a box of tea, tea cups and some plates, the food.

“Good morning,” Solas murmured, finally seeming to notice they were there.

“Good morning, Solas,” she smiled, taking a bite.

“Any changes that you’ve noticed since being in Skyhold?”

She frowned. “Not.. changes. I was so excited before, it was hard to process all of it. I’m slowly realizing the differences in how I felt compared to how I felt at home, and how I felt in Kost.”

He nodded.

 

“I feel.. and Cole agreed, that I’m certainly not human. Not like the humans around here. He.. Well, he can say what he feels, but I do feel like a dream of a person. Not quite right, not quite solid. Like I have some wiggle room in my form?”

“Interesting,” he frowned, looking like he was thinking. “I wonder if you could change still.”

“I wonder a lot of things. Still. It’s better than sharing. I hope.”

“May I run some tests again?”

“Of course,” She finished her eggs. “Just let me get a drink.”

She grabbed a cup of water, and sipped while Solas cast spells at her.

“I think we should bring Dorian in, he would have a different perspective. I am curious what the people here would be able to sense about you, if anything.”

“I’ll get them,” Cole said, and was gone.

Solas eyed her. “What are your intentions with Cole?”

Nic sighed, sitting on the other chair near the fire. “I don’t know. He feels.. special. We understand each other. He’s the the only person who is anything like me, you know? I know that our origins are incredibly different, but.. It’s a kinship. I like him as person. He’s sweet, killing aside. I.. You know, I watch him with other people, and he mostly is quiet. He rarely expresses an opinion of his own, he tends to just broadcast from other people, or ask questions. But with me, he talks about himself. He invited me here and said that my presence would help him. He talked about his own fears.”

Solas raised his eyebrows. “Did he? That is very interesting. He likely feels that kinship as well. He is very protective of you.”

“But we do talk about things. He does not feel sexual attraction. I wouldn’t disrespect that.”

Solas’ mouth curved up on one side. “Though you are not saying you don’t feel that towards him.”

She shrugged. “He’s lovely. But anything like that comes from him. I will direct my sexual energy elsewhere, and treasure him as a friend. Not a 'friend' creepily hoping he’ll change his mind.”

He nodded. “Thank you for speaking with me about it. He is important to me.”

The door opened then, Cole bringing Dorian and Kost. Kost looked around, interested. “This one is much less fancy than Dorian’s.”

Solas smiled. “Dorian and Vivienne have different needs than Varric, Cole, and I.”

Nic laughed. Kost sat on the small couch, Dorian joining him. Nic eyed them.

“Kost?”

“Yeah?”

 

“Can I sit on you? I miss you.”

He huffed a laugh and opened his arms. She wrapped herself around him, breathing him in. “You smell like Dorian now.”

“That will happen.”

She mushed her face into his armpit and just breathed, relaxing. He blinked down at her, rubbing her back gently.

“Well,” Dorian said. “Cole said you wanted my opinion?”

“Yes,” Solas murmured, watching Nic and Kost. “Nicole has been noticing more about her physicality. You and I approach things differently, and I wished to hear your opinion. We are wondering what might be noticed by others.”

“Ah,” he stood then, and faced Nic. “May I cast, darling?”

She just nodded.

“I might ask to repeat these things with you two not touching, in case somehow there’s a change.”

She nodded again.

“The horns are the thing people would notice right away. I don’t believe most people would notice much more than that. She does have a,” Dorian frowned. “Sensitive Templars and mages will likely notice something. Let me see..”

He cast several spells, humming to himself. “Nic, would you mind letting go for just a moment, so I can check.”

She slowly pulled herself off Kost, feeling off balance.

“Nicole, may I check something as well?” Solas asked. She nodded.

Solas and Dorian cast several spells quietly and then motioned that she could go back to Kost.

“You do not register as a spirit, so that’s good news. Not by the spells most people would use to check. A skilled Necromancer would notice you’re not quite what you seem, certainly, but there are few of those in the south,” he frowned then. “There is a difference when you’re touching Kost, however, which is.. I’m not sure if that’s concerning or not, honestly.”

“It might be,” Solas commented. “When you are touching him, you are far more stable. I do wonder if it might be the same with other people, or if it’s just Kost.”

“Shall I sit on Dorian, then?”

“You may,” Dorian smiled.

“Do as you did with Kost, please, we want to reproduce it as closely as possibly.”

She settled onto Dorian who had sat back down. It took a moment to find a comfortable position to snuggle in with all his straps. She breathed deeply into his neck and laughing. “You somehow smell like Kost.”

He patted her back. “Yes, well.”

She relaxed, settling onto him and focusing on his body the way she had Kost’s. Kost was more natural because she was used to him, but suddenly she felt Dorian. Not a connection like when she was in Kost, but she could feel..

“I can feel Dorian. Not like Kost, but.. I can feel a.. faint whisper. Not quite his emotions, his.. I can’t explain. I sit here and I know him.”

“That’s.. Hm,” Dorian tensed. “I’m going to cast now.”

Solas joined him.

“Yes, you have shifted again, very slightly. Fascinating.”

“I can feel him casting. I can feel the magic moving through him. That’s awesome.”

“It’s certainly something,” Dorian muttered. “Solas next, then?”

Nic’s eyes popped open wide. “Uh.”

There was a pause. “That would be illuminating.”

She laughed nervously and moved to stand in front of Solas, who had sat himself back in the chair. He smiled and put his arms to the side, making room.

She crawled onto Fen'Harel's lap.

It was really nice. He was smaller than Kost, but still bigger than her. His clothes were soft, unlike Dorian’s, and he smelled really nice. She settled onto him, breathing him in. He gently placed his hands on her back and waited.

He did not feel like either of the others. There was no way she could say what she felt, he was alien. Ancient.

“I feel you,” she murmured. And didn’t say any more.

Solas and Dorian cast then.

“That.. is strange,” Dorian said, sounding confused. “She seems less.. Cole, your turn.”

“This is very much like a terrible sex party, but with fewer bodily fluids. ‘Pass the girl around, see what rubs off.’”

“I think we would have had me go last in that case,” Kost smirked.

She giggled and pulled off Solas. Cole sat in the other chair in front of the fire. She curled up on him easily, spending the night together got rid of any hesitation. He hugged her close, pressing his cheek to hers, though no one could see that through his hat.

“I suppose that makes sense,” Solas commented after casting. “She feels the same as she did this morning.”

“Why would that make sense?” Kost frowned.

“They slept together. Even if they did not sleep wrapped around each other, that was long enough to cause a change.”

“She what? Really Nic?” Kost sounded exasperated.

“Oh, sure, you get to have days of sex with someone but god forbid I share a bed.”

Dorian laughed. “She has you there.”

“Yes, but,” he signed. “Never mind.”

“Cole is asexual, Kost. You needn’t worry for my virtue.”

“What is interesting is that you pick up energy from the people you are close to,” Solas said. “I would be interested to see what happens if you do not do this. It could be that you solidify more into yourself, or possibly that there might be a deterioration instead. It is important to know.”

She was still wrapped around Cole, and didn’t bother moving. He felt so peaceful. “That sounds terrible and I don’t want to.”

She felt Cole smile against her cheek.

“The trouble comes if we leave. If Kost rejoins his group, and the rest of us are out of the castle, what will you do?”

“Hmph.”

“Let’s try the day?”

“Alright. Though now I want go to spitefully makeout with Kost just to fudge the results.”

“Oh, only for that reason? I’m hurt.”

“Also because you’re hot, love.”

Dorian sighed dramatically.

“Fine, fine,” She kissed Cole’s cheek and peeled herself off him. “If you are done studying me, Cole was going to take me to the baths. Sadly going to skip the planned orgy.”

“Oh, that sounds good,” Kost said, standing. “I’ll join you.”

“Are they not gender segregated?”

“They are not,” Solas said, standing himself. “There are guards, so it is safe.”

“Oh, damn. Sure, let’s go hang out wet, hot, and naked together when I’m not allowed to touch. Fucking grand.”

Chapter Text

Nic was so happy.

They'd gone by her room to grab her things - it was recommended that she bathe in a shift, plus she wanted spare clothes and her comb.

On her way from her room, she ran into Asaaranda, who happily joined them.

They all stripped their outer clothes in a front room with sectioned off private changing areas, before heading into the main bathing chamber, Nic and Asaaranda in simple white shifts and the men in the thin linen breeches Thedas called underwear.

The baths were awesome.

They were two floors down from the main hall, a large, high ceilinged room with two large pools in the middle, several small pools in little nooks against the wall. There was an area with a slanted floor where people scrubbed down with buckets and rinsed thoroughly before going to soak, the water going down an intricately carved grate. There were arches and wall carvings, and several areas where people were just hanging out in not much clothing talking or napping.

And somehow it was warm. Smelled a bit like sulfur and quite a mix of herbs.

Dorian and Kost helped each other scrub down, with much flourish and distraction. Nic was both delighted for them, and wistful.

She hoped someday she got to molest someone in the baths.

Until then, she'd make due with trying to find the best way to wash herself while dressed and in public.

She dumped a last bucket of water over her head, and they headed together to one of the smaller pools to soak.

They chatted and caught up with each other - Asaaranda had gotten caught up with a group of mages, delighting in the openness of the discussions and the wide range of skills.

“Soren was showing me his way of combining fire effects, and it gives you quite a large amount of damage with surprisingly little energy spent.”

“Oh, yes,” Dorian nodded. “He’s quite talented with fire, I’ve been very impressed.”

“And Nic,” Asaaranda turned her smile to Nic. “How are things with you?”

“Well, so far. Figuring out all the ins and outs of my being. You know, like you do. We’re doing an experiment right now and I’m not allowed to touch people. I hate it.”

“Not allowed to touch people so you head right to the baths?”

“Yeah, the timing stinks. Possibly we should start the experiment after,” she eyed Cole and he smiled.

“We would have to tell Solas.”

“I can hear him now, so disappointed.” Dorian smirked at her from Kost’s lap.

She glared.

“Skin tightening, nails scratching down his chest, I’m real, I’m real, I’m real-” Cole broke off.

Kost looked sad and moved Dorian off his lap. “We can at least not rub it in. You finally got your own body, and then get ordered to not touch anyone. I’m sorry, Nic.”

“You are correct, and I apolygize,” Dorian dipped his head. “I wonder how long Solas will want you to refrain from touch.”

“Good question. I’m going to stop by and ask after this.”

---

After the baths, they split up again. Asaaranda to the mages, Dorian to the library, Cole disappeared, so they weren’t sure where he went. Nic and Kost went together to see Solas in his office.

“I am uncertain as to the timing. I would like to check you throughout the day to see changes and document. How are you feeling so far?”

“I’m fine. I went longer than this yesterday researching.”

“Then I ask that you continue. Let me know if you have need of me.”

From there they went to the library, where they immediately spied Dorian. Nic rolled her eyes at Kost’s puppy eyes, and went to retrieve the books she’d been using, settling at a table. Kost joined her.

Together they carefully copied over the lyrics for more popular songs, and songs that might be fun. Kost knew quite a few of them already and promised to teach her the tunes.

“Nicole,” Dorian’s voice came from behind her. “I can’t believe it took me this long, but seeing you here sparked my memory. Here.”

And he handed her a lute. She blinked up at him. “For me?”

“Yes, of course. It’s mine, but you may borrow it until you get one of your own.”

Nic stroked the lute gently and got teary eyed. “Kost. I can’t touch people. Go fellatiate Dorian in thanks.”

Dorian sputtered and Kost rolled his eyes. “Is that what you’d do if you could touch?”

“No, he wouldn’t have me, but it’s what this gift deserves. Go on now. I’m going to go find a place in the garden to figure out how to play it.”

“I will accompany you, to show you the fingering and such before accepting your thanks,” Dorian smirked.

“Perfect.”

---

The lute was beautiful. It had two more strings than the one she's played in the kith, which would take some adjustment. Dorian showed her the basic set up and tuning, and then some simple practice progressions to teach her the different fingering. She would definitely need more lessons and help - the moveable catgut frets were an added variable she was found both exciting and intimidating without Kids always there to help.

Still, the hand position for plucking the strings was actually nicer on her wrist than the one for guitar, and she had a lot of fun playing with the different sounds and movements. She didn’t try
to play any song in particular yet.

Cole joined her after some amount of time, quietly sitting in front of her and humming along.

---

In the evening, Solas asked that she continue the no touching experiment until at least the next day, as she still had remnants of her contact from the others. He did try to explain what those looked like, but she was tired and wasn’t following him. With a longing look at Cole as he went back to his room alone, she reluctantly returned to her own bed.

One of her roommates brought someone back with her, so there was the sound of attempting-to-be-discreet fucking. Nic rolled her eyes and sighed, eventually able to slip into a restless sleep.

At breakfast she joined everyone, but felt listless and not hungry. She nibbled a piece of bread, not able to focus well on what people were saying.

She got up while someone was talking and left to get her lute, hoping it would help her focus.

She didn’t notice her friends watching her with anxious faces.

Cole followed, silently.

---

Nicole spent the entire day in the garden with the lute. Eyes closed, fingers finding their way over the strings, singing softly. She could feel the history of the lute, the previous players, the feelings they poured into their playing. It guided her gently, like a whisper only barely heard.

When she finally opened her eyes, it was night. The moons and stars were bright in the sky and she lost herself watching them, feeling small, but somehow more tethered.

“They were worried, watching, wondering if they should intervene, but I told them I would stay. You were safe, but they didn’t understand.”

She looked down from the sky and smiled at Cole who was quietly sitting at her feet. “I don’t know if I understand either, love.”

“You are fresh and new, like dough. Soft and easy to press into different shapes. Solas was right, you have to have space, room to find yourself.”

“I feel.. Different. Not like I was before. Any of the befores.”

“What did Solas feel like to you?”

She laughed. “Now there’s a question I’ll only ever tell you the answer to. He felt..” she bit her lip. “Like looking at the stars. Enormous and.. Ancient and.. Like nothing I’ll ever understand. Like a part of the fabric of the cosmos. Tired and sad on a scale that I could never comprehend. What does he feel like to you?”

“Like the Fade. Like before. He doesn’t like me to hear.”

She nodded.

“So, do you think I can touch people yet?”

“You can touch me. I like when you touch me.”

She grinned, and he smiled up at her from under his hat. “I like touching you too, but will Solas think it’s okay?”

“Yes. You know what it feels like to be yourself better now. You’re still soft, but all new things are soft at first. You will grow and change and that is good. You didn’t fade away without touch, you came quietly into yourself.”

“I haven’t eaten all day and I’m not even hungry.”

“You aren’t made like other people. It’s okay, you’ll learn what you need.”

“I’m so glad you’re here, Cole.”

He stood and held his hand out for her. When she accepted and touched him back, she felt a rush of energy around her whole body. “You.. feel.. Hopeful. You missed me and.. You’re happy I’m here, too. You feel less alone, more understood.”

She blinked and looked into his eyes. “Oh, Cole, is this how you feel people?”

“No,” He pulled her along carefully, leading her safely in the dark. “It’s how you do.”

She burst out laughing and followed him in.

Chapter Text

Nicole was in the garden with Dorian’s lute in the late afternoon. She’d gotten proficient enough with help from Dorian and Kost. She’d played the lute in Kost’s body, which had helped, but there was still a challenge to learning it on this particular lute in her new body.

She was working on the song Hurt, her notebook open in front of her with the lyrics, which she was marking up with chord progressions as she figured them out.

"What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt
I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair"

She paused to scribble down another note on the page. As she absently glanced around the garden, she realized she was being watched intently. She smiled at the man, he was handsome. Blonde, in plain but good quality clothes. He looked tired, resting on a bench near her, both of them out of the way of most of the garden traffic.

He smiled back. “I don’t mean to intrude. I hadn’t heard this song before and it spoke to me.”

“No, you’re fine. If I minded an audience I would be hiding better.”

She started the song over again and he sighed against the wall, listening. When she finished he rubbed his face with his hands and turned to her again. “Did you write this song?”

She shook her head. “No, it was written by a man named Trent Reznor, but I learned it from a man named Johnny Cash. He’d lost so much in his life, it broke my heart every time I heard it. I am hoping to do it some justice.”

“Ah,” he nodded. “I don’t know those names, but I agree about the song.”

“I’m Nicole.”

“I’m Commander Cullen. It’s a pleasure to have you at Skyhold, Nicole.”

Nicole’s eyes widened. She was completely appalled with herself for not recognizing him. Of course he didn’t always wear the giant hairy coat and his armor! She tried to keep her freak out internal.

“It’s a pleasure to be here! I haven’t been here very long, but everyone has been very kind, and the castle is lovely,” she laughed. “And that’s aside from the fact that the Inquisition is saving the world. I’m very enthusiastic about that as well.”

Cullen smiled, and Nic felt a very large tug of want deep in her belly at the sight of him. He really was lovely when he smiled.

“Nicole,” Cole’s voice came from beside her and she jumped, turning to him quickly. “They’re coming back. He’s afraid to see them again, unsure of his welcome. You should go to him.”

“Kost?” She blinked. “Oh! Meraas Kata are back?”

“Soon.”

“You’re with the mercenaries?” Cullen asked, looking confused.

“I.. kind of? I’m with Kost, who is with the mercenaries. I’m..” she sighed. “I’m sure you’ve heard about me. Or will soon, when the Inquisitor comes back.”

He frowned. “Kost.. you.. Oh!” He sat back abruptly. “You’re the..”

“Yeah. Probably. I came here with Kost, his sister, Solas, and Cole. From the Spire.”

“I see. Well. You.. seem..” he gestured aimlessly.

She grinned. “I do. I think I’m very similar to Cole, except that he began as a Spirit of Compassion, and I began as a human woman. It’s very weird. I’m harmless, though, I swear. I’m just a musician. And not like a Bard, literally just a musician with no fighting skills.”

“As you say. I am sure that we’ll be meeting again, soon. The Inquisitor promised a meeting about.. you.”

“I expect so. Ideally you’ll all find me boring! Or helpfully musical. I don’t know. Sorry for adding extra things to deal with on top of everything else.”

He looked confused again. “As you say.”

She stood, nodding at him, and followed Cole to find Kost.

---

They settled against the wall near the gate; out of the way, but near enough to see who came through. Kost and Asaraanda were teaching Nic a rowdy tavern song, while Dorian and Cole watched quietly. Well, Cole was quiet, Dorian added in tidbits as he thought of them - there was a similar song in Tevinter, but some of the verses were different in ways he found very amusing.

She was just finishing up her third go through when there was a horn blown to announce an approaching party at the gates. Kost and Asaraanda stood, moving to intercept the party, but Dorian, Nic, and Cole stayed where they were. They watched in nervous silence.

As Meraas Kata came through the gates, they greeted Kost and Asaraanda enthusiastically. Mostly. A few did still keep their distance, but there was still friendliness on all the faces. Nic let out a breath she didn't realize she’d been holding.

A soldier also met them, and spoke to Ash. The group quickly followed the soldier as she led them to the barracks. Kost hugged his closer friends again, before heading back to Dorian and Nic. “They’re going to settle in, we’ll go see them this evening. No sense in being in the way right now.”

Dorian smiled up at him, catching Kost’s hand and kissing it. Kost sat down and blew out his breathe. “It shouldn’t be so stressful to see my family again.”

“It’ll be okay,” Asaraanda assured him. “They’ll meet Nic again, and understand better.”

“Or they’ll kill us all!” Nic said with a grin. “I met Commander Cullen today. The Inquisitor should be here soon, and then we get to speak to the heads of the Inquisition. No pressure there, either.”

“Did Cullen know who you were?” Dorian asked.

“Not at first, no. He just liked my song,” Nic started to absently play Hurt again. “But we spoke enough that it came out who I was. It was.. awkward. But okay? So we’ll see.”

“We will indeed. What song did he like?”

Nic smiled and sang it for them, learning that Dorian really enjoyed Johnny Cash as well.

---

It was decided that Nic would sit out the Meraas Kata reunion. They all headed to the Herald’s Rest, so Nic went to the great hall instead. Dinner was a soup with a lot of peas, which she did not like, so she improvised, making a sandwich of cheese, boiled eggs, and bread. The musicians played again, and Nic sat as close to them as she could, taking notes in her notebook of the songs, and little doodles to help her remember the tunes of the unfamiliar ones.

She felt someone settle in near her, but didn’t pay them any mind until there was a break in the music. She looked up from her notebook to see Varric watching her, looking amused.

“Oh! Hello, Varric. How are you this evening?”

“I’m doing well. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone so studious while listening to music.”

She laughed. “I’m learning. A bit less 'relaxing in the evening' and more ‘I need to learn these quickly.’”

“You did say you were a musician. What do you play?”

“Oh, several things. Currently Dorian’s lute, as he’s been kind and loaned it to me. I dream of a hurdy gurdy, but life keeps taking us weird places. One of Kost’s kith had one, but it was at the shop being repaired when we were in town, sadly.”

“Where are your friends tonight? It’s odd to see you alone. Usually there’s Cole, at least.”

“Yeah, I’m not sure where he is, actually. I think one of the barn cats was going to have kittens soon. The kith came home tonight, so the others are with them at the pub. I’m.. a bit of an awkward subject, so we figured they should go without me this time.”

“Ah. I think the Inquisitor will be getting back in the next couple of days, she’s bringing in her old group, too. It’ll be interesting having so many qunari around.”

“That will be nice for her, though. Let her blend in a little.”

"Yeah, it can get to you after awhile. Everything is always made for humans, so dwarves are always too small, and qunari are always too big. With so many in and out, and a Vashoth in charge, we’ve got things for all sizes here. It helps.”

“Elves are close enough to humans to do okay?”

“Yeah, for the most part. Especially taller ones like Solas and Sera.”

“I haven’t met Sera yet.”

“No, she took my place replacing you guys. I had some things I had to be here for. She’ll be back with everyone else. I wonder what she’ll make of you.”

“We shall see!”

The musicians came back, so Nic smiled at Varric and got her notebook back out, scribbling and singing along as they went.

---

Nic slept that night in her own bed, heading to sleep after the music in the hall was over.

She woke up with Kost curled around her back, realizing her dream of having someone come to her in the night was not actually a dream. She reached behind herself to pat his butt in greeting.

“I really like it that I know it’s you without even having to open my eyes.”

He grumbled and pulled her closer. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. You feel like home.”

She felt his laugh, though it was silent; his ribs shaking, his breath on her neck. “You’re very romantic first thing in the morning.”

“Well, I mean, I could mention the giant erection poking me in the ass, but I was trying to be polite.”

He poked her with it more purposely and then rolled on to his back, pulling her to lay on his chest. “I missed you.”

She kissed his chest and tried to find a position for her head that wouldn’t be annoying with her horns. She could sleep on her side in bed because she’d learned the right pillow tuck from Kost, but without a pillow, the horns could be really annoying. She settled on propping herself up to look down at him.

“I missed you, too, but what are you doing here? What about Dorian?”

“Dorian's probably still sleeping. I just feel like I never see you anymore. Silly, I know, but compared to every moment, it’s a big change. I just..” he poked her on the nose. “I couldn’t sleep. I needed to be here.”

She smiled down at him. “I love you, too.”

A quick glance showed that they had the room to themselves, her roommates were early risers. “So, tell me all the things.”

He sighed happily. “We've had so much sex. Mostly like I have with Vat, but also more. I topped the first time. I was really nervous but it wasn't significantly different than things I've done before. Your training in getting humans warmed up was much appreciated. Then I tried bottoming - it was amazing, Nic!”

“Man, I wish I hadn’t missed that. On a Lusty Level. On a reasonable level, that’s so awesome and special, and I’m glad it was private.”

He laughed. “I understand. He’s so beautiful. And kind! He tries to hide it with bluster, but he’s.. I’m really happy.”

She touched his cheek. “I’m so glad. I knew he was, which is why I encouraged you. I’m glad that you two are happy. Have you talked about your relationship dynamics yet?”

“Yes. Quite a bit last night, actually. I didn’t want my coming here to be misunderstood. He understands that you and I will always have a closer than normal relationship. And that I’m not coming here for sex, just.. closeness.”

She sighed dramatically. “Most of me is glad, but quite a bit of me is pouting loudly right now. I had the most beautiful man in Thedas - who was also intelligent, charming, and kind! - and handed him off to someone else. I am very generous idiot.”

My generous idiot. And I appreciate it. Tell me all of your things, it's so strange to think you’re getting up to things without me!”

When Dorian came to find them several hours later, he found them both still naked in bed, sitting facing each other, chatting happily.

He rolled his eyes dramatically, and then tossed Nic the shirt lying on top of her trunk.

“The Inquisitor is back.”

---

The Inquisitor being back was actually pretty anticlimactic, because she was exhausted and went immediately to her room. While she, Kost, and Vat were eating lunch together, they did see her exit her room and go into the hall leading to the War Room, with Leliana, Cassandra, and Cullen entering shortly after.

After lunch, they headed to a little grassy space near the training yard, joined by Basra, Meraad, and Solet. Nic quickly got into musical conversation with them and, after everyone ran off to grab instruments, they settled in to play together.

After about 6 songs, some played through multiple times to help her learn harder bits, Nic put down her lute.

“Well, my hands are sore, I’ve been practicing too much lately,” Nic said, stretching her fingers. “I was kind of hoping to get back into dancing, though. Would that be weird to switch over to singing and dancing?”

Kost narrowed his eyes at her, noticing that The Iron Bull had meandered into their area, following the sound of their music, and she smiled innocently. “No, dancing is good. Perhaps I’ll join you, I was enjoying learning it before.”

Everyone else looked amused, and nodded to them. “What type of song are you wanting then?”

“Something with a strong beat, what do you think, Kost?”

They decided on a dancing tune from Rivain with no words, Solet and Vat switching to drums, while Basra stayed on lute. They played through it once to let Nic familiarize herself with it and then she got up, facing Kost. She smiled at him sweetly while she took off her coat, and tied her shirt up to show off her belly.

The men grinned and cheered her on.

The Iron Bull joined them then, nodding to the group who gestured for him to join them. They all settled in to play.

She started dancing and Kost followed. He had told her that belly dancing wasn’t similar to any kind of dance he’d seen in Thedas so they definitely had everyone’s attention, with other people wandering over to watch as well.

And if Nic just happened to be doing the more suggestive moves when near Bull, well, sometimes these things just happen.

She paused in the dancing to help Kost with the belly rolls, and then they grinned and spun away from each other to do more hip circles and end with a full body shimmy and then a dramatic pose, popping their chests up with a grin.

Kost started laughing across from her, and she joined him, both of them breathing hard and feeling good.

Then a messenger came. “The Inquisitor has requested the presence of serahs Kost and Nicole in the War room, please.”

Their smiles faded, and Nicole quickly fixed her shirt, moving to grab her coat.

“Of course,” Kost said. “We’ll be right there.”

They said goodbye to everyone, and Nic noted Bull was watching her intently.

She felt like she could feel his gaze on her until she was out of sight.

Chapter Text

The War Room looked more like a meeting room than anything. There was a large beautiful table, currently with a tea service, and chairs all around. There was nothing visible that would have given information to anyone in the room about plans. There were several cabinets, however, which likely held such things.

Currently present were the Inquisitor, Leliana, Cullen, Solas, and Cole. Kost and Nic hesitated inside, before the Inquisitor smiled and motioned for them to sit.

“It’s so lovely to see that the plan worked. Solas has told us about the Spire, and what he knows, but we needed to speak to you two as well, obviously.”

Kost and Nic nodded matching nods.

“Our first conversation makes more sense with this information, I must say,” Leliana smirked.

Nic laughed. Kost sighed.

“Yes, I woke up in his body and had no idea what was going on,” Nic shrugged. “Not the best time for questioning.”

“And now you’re..” Cullen frowned. “What are you?”

“I.. don’t really know. I was human. The eluvian changed me, but I’m not sure how. I assume it yanked me out of my body and that I have a corpse back there, but hey, maybe not. Maybe it took all of me? Can’t know unless we look, I suppose. But I’m just a person, that’s all. Nothing weird.”

“You’ve got horns,” he pointed out.

“Yeah. Yeah, that part is weird. I mean, I’m a big fan, I think they’re nice, but they certainly complicate matters, don’t they? The thing is, willing yourself into being isn’t an exact science, is it? I’m not sure how often it’s done, but Solas says probably not very. Cole did it, and he changed everything about himself, physically, didn’t he? And I’d been in Kost’s body for quite a lot of time. I’m probably lucky I’m not a weird amalgamation of the two of us.”

“Aside from the horns, this was how you looked before?” Leliana asked.

“Actually, no. Close. This is how I felt I should look? You know how you think you look a way, but when you see yourself it’s not always what you expect? So I’m better looking now than I was, really. A perk.”

Kost and Solas looked amused, while Cole peaked at her from under his hat looking thoughtful.

Leliana frowned.

“Cole has certain powers - mind reading, the ability to make people forget. Do you have anything like that?” The Inquisitor leaned forward, resting her arms on the table.

“Nope. Not that I’ve found. I’m pretty new, though. Cole’s been around for years, so he’s got a better understanding of himself. I don’t feel hungry as often, but I do eat. I sleep. I don’t seem to be magical in that way. I can get an impression of someone? But it’s not mind reading. It’s.. like a summary of their being? The feel of them, their..” she waved her hands. “But I don’t get thoughts or whole emotions. At least not so far.”

Leliana looked interested in that, leaning back and looking thoughtful. Cullen looked uncomfortable.

“And Kost, what have you noticed since you separated?” Herah smiled at him.

“I feel like me again. It’s still very strange. I don’t think I’m different from before, just alone in my head now.”

She nodded. "I'm glad."

“And going forward, what are your plans?” Cullen asked.

“I am a member of Meraas Kata, that has not changed. And I will be taking care of Nic. She is a musician and intends to do that. Skyhold seems very welcoming of musicians, it’s been a good place for her to learn local songs.”

“You don’t intend to go back home?” Leliana raised an eyebrow.

Nic looked to Solas and Cole. “I.. would like to. I don’t know how that would be possible, however.”

“Nicole fell into a rift before finding the eluvian. She was then taken from her body and placed into another, moved through the Fade physically where they once again traveled through a rift. As the rift they fell through together has been closed, the likelihood of being able to find that eluvian is very low. Adding to that the need to then find a way through while staying intact..”

“Also, I fell off a waterfall and apparently fell through the rift on the way down. I then hit deep water and when I swam up, I was in a cave only accessible from the water. So. yes, I’d love to go home, but no. I’m not going to hold out hope for that.”

“Surely you can travel by more mundane means,” Cullen was frowning again, leaning back in his chair.

“No,” Cole said. “She cannot get there from here. Her body has been remade, reshaped, repurposed. She has to stay here.”

“Where are you from?” Leliana asked.

Nic leaned back in her chair and sighed. “Not Thedas.”

Leliana’s eyes narrowed. “Being from overseas, while fascinating, doesn’t explain not being able to return.”

“No, it does not. The Breach tore a hole in reality. You’ve got rifts between worlds, here. The Fade is one that you know, but it’s not so strange to realize it might be opening into others you don’t. I’m from one you don’t know. I’m from a world with no known Fade, no magic, no dwarves, elves, or qunari. No dragons, no nugs, no Blight. One moon.”

There was silence.

“We do have pianos, though. Which is a perk.”

“What’s pianos?”

“A large stringed instrument played with keys. The keys move hammers which strike the strings. It’s beautiful. Not a thing I could ever teach anyone to make, sadly.”

They blinked at her.

"Well. We certainly can't tell people that, " the Inquisitor muttered.

“Right,” Cullen nodded.

“I’m just a musician. A friend of Kost. A rare human/qunari mix.”

“Is that possible?”

Everyone looked around at each other and shrugged.

“We’ve never heard of it happening, but people don’t generally think too hard about things that make sense. There are half dwarves and half elves, why not half qunari? Most people haven’t even seen a qunari before,” Kost supplied.

"The Iron Bull would know. The Qun would know.”

“Yes,” Nicole shrugged at the Inquisitor. “But it’s not even really a lie. They’re totally Kost’s horns. I’m a mix of the two of us. And Bull is nice to Cole. So possibly we could explain it a little. Ideally leaving out the other world bit. Magical mishaps aren’t uncommon, surely.”

“True,” Cullen muttered.

“Then that’s settled. We thank you for your time,” the Inquisitor stood up. “Let us know if anything changes. I would like to speak with you about your home sometime, once I've had time to process that. We have issues that must be discussed today, so we don't have enough time right now.”

"Yes," said Leliana quietly. "That will need to be discussed."

“Yes, we can do that. Thank you,” Nic smiled. Kost nodded to everyone.

Solas and Cole joined them when they left, and they silently all followed Solas down to his and Cole’s common room and sat.

They were quiet for a moment, everyone lost in their own thoughts.

“That went well, I think,” Solas said. “The Inquisitor is very accepting, it’s something I admire about her.”

“She’s a good person,” Kost murmured. “I don’t love them knowing Nic’s background. I don’t trust them.”

“That’s wise,” Solas nodded. “I think in this case it will cause little harm, but we will watch. Do be cautious in how much you reveal about your home.”

“I will strive to be uninteresting,” Nic grimaced. “I’m just glad that’s over. I mean, obviously, they can grab me in a more private manner, but the main reaction is done, and it went okay. Thank you for your comment, Cole. You helped.”

“They needed to know. Leliana had imagined things that were dark, dangerous. Now you make sense and she can move on.”

Kost blew out a breath.

They sat quietly again.

“Well. I’d like a drink,” Nic announced.

“Yes. Let’s do that. The Rest?”

She nodded. “You two want to come?”

“No, thank you. I have things I should be attending.”

“No.”

---

They drank and talked for about an hour before Dorian came in searching for Kost. They both stayed and chatted with her a bit, but she sent them away with a laugh when they couldn’t keep their hands off each other.

She wasn’t ready to leave yet, though. She sipped her ale and leaned back, watching Maryden playing Sera Was Never. Nic smiled that she at least already knew a few Thedan songs.

Someone walked behind her. She was at a table with her back to the door, so that wasn’t unusual, everyone walked past her to get into the bar.

“Hey, Nic, right?”

She started and looked back to see The Iron Bull. “Yeah. The Iron Bull?”

He grinned and she swooned a little. Internally. Mostly internally. “That’s me. Mind if I join you?”

“Please do,” she smiled up at him.

He settled beside her at the table, with his back to the wall, the same seat Kost had taken. He gestured to a passing barmaid for two drinks.

“So, you’re new here. What brings you to the Inquisition?”

“I came with Kost. Now I just stay for the excellent view,” she looked him over and winked.

He threw back his head and laughed. The sight made her nerves buzz in a very distracting manner. “What, Kost wasn’t pretty enough for you?”

“Oh, Kost is likely one of the most beautiful people in Thedas, no question. He’s rather busy with Dorian, however," she shrugged with a smirk.

“Yeah, that I’ve noticed. Good for them. Dorian needed that,” the barmaid brought their drinks and he smiled at her, before taking a long drink. “You been with Meraas Kata long? You don’t really seem the type.”

“No, I’m really not. Though I like them very much, and I’m happy I found such a musically inclined mercenary band.”

“They really are, aren’t they? I’ve really enjoyed them. They were great after the dragon fight in Crestwood.”

They chatted idly about the Inquisition for a bit, until Bull finished his drink. “So. I’ve got to ask. The horns.”

She smiled and traced a finger along the curve of her left one. “Fucking sexy, right?”

He laughed again, and shook his head. “Fuck yeah. But you’re a human.”

“Am I?”

“You are. And humans and qunari don’t breed.”

She raised her eyebrows and looked interested. “Can they really not?”

He tilted his head and narrowed his eye, looking her over. “They really can’t. So..”

“So me, Kost, stupidity, a magical artifact. When I came back to myself, this is how I look. Bit awkward. I like them, but they certainly make blending difficult. We figured we’d just tell people I was a mix. Most people won’t know that’s not a thing.”

“That’s true, they won’t,” he grunted. "Too much weird magic lately."

“I don’t know, without it I wouldn’t be here. Solas and Cole helped us. The situation is being monitored, but it looks like it’ll all be alright.”

Another tankard was sat in front of Bull, who winked at the woman who put it there. “That’s good to know. So what do you do around here?”

“I am a musician. And a dancer. I haven’t gotten an official place here, I’m just learning songs and having fun at this point.”

Bull gave a wicked grin. “I did like that dancing. Where’d you learn that?”

“From a good friend. I really enjoy it, though it’s better in the proper clothes.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I should just be in something small to cover my boobs and a large full skirt. With a belt that jingles when I shake my hips, and pretty jewelry. Lots of clothes that highlight the body and move well with the dance.”

Nice.”

“Yes, I rather think so. Maybe in the future.”

“Hey, Chief!” called several voices from behind her and he grinned and nodded at the people who walked past. When she looked, she didn’t recognize them. Two humans, dark hair. They headed to a table in the back corner.

When she turned back, Bull was watching her intently again. She smiled and leaned forward on the table, with her hands between them. “Do you dance, The Iron Bull?”

“Oh, I’ve been known to,” he smirked.

“Mm. I would like to dance with you sometime.”

He leaned forward, too, large hands across the table but not touching her. She could feel the heat of him and her pulse started to race. “Now that does sound like a good time.”

He was watching her so intently. He was so large. Her hand look like a child’s next to his, his arm was far too close to the size of her leg. The shadows moved across his face, and the violence carved into his body became real to her in a way it hadn’t before. It suddenly felt overwhelming and she closed her eyes briefly, breathing him in and relaxing. She smiled again, a friendly smile, backing off the flirting abruptly . “Next time we all play together, if you can join us, yeah?”

He watched her for a second more and then smiled, leaning back, relaxed and friendly. “Yeah. Yeah, that sounds good.”

“I,” she finished her drink and stood. “Am going to head up for dinner. Have a great evening, and thank you for the drink.”

“Anytime. We’ll talk again soon.”

She left, once again feeling his eye on her until she’d closed the door.

She moved to a darker corner and leaned against the wall, closing her eye and breathing.

This wasn’t a video game. He was literally a spy from a nation and religion that taught him she was bas. A thing.

Yes, he would likely leave them, but that wasn’t guaranteed and that wasn’t now.

Kost was right.

“What the fuck are you doing, Nic?” she muttered, digging her palms into her eyes.

Chapter Text

She woke up the next morning with Cole curled around her. Apparently her new life was going to regularly include men sneaking into her bed while she was sleeping to cuddle.

She was on her back this time, with his head on her chest, one hand holding her boob, and a leg stretched to settle between hers. She smiled and moved her hand to finger comb through his hair. He shifted, curling tighter around her briefly before relaxing again.

She felt a surge of deep affection for him, this beautiful spirit man. Without him to pave the way to understanding and acceptance by the people here, she doubted she would be alive today. It amazed her that her situation had been so easily accepted by so many people, and she was so fucking grateful. She shifted and wrapped her arms around him, trying to envelope him in the affection she was feeling.

He sighed against her chest and lifted his head to smile sleepily at her and the door opened.

“Nic, are you -WHOA! I’m sorry!” Kost quickly exited and closed the door.

Nic started laughing and Cole looked sweetly confused.

“Good morning,” he tried.

“Good morning, Cole, did you sleep well?” She picked up the hand he still had on her boob, kissing his knuckles and moving it to the bed beside her.

“I did. You needed me yesterday, but I couldn’t be there. I came as soon as I could,” he moved away from her to sit up, cross legged on the bed. She stretched and smiled up at him.

“What were you doing?”

“There were men sent to hurt people. Now they won’t.”

“Ah. Dead, or?”

“Yes.”

She frowned, nodding. “You okay?”

“Yes. You were scared.”

She laughed. “Yesterday? Yeah, a little.”

“The Iron Bull likes to kill people. He doesn’t think he would like to kill you, though. He sees you; bright, bubbly, beautiful, but something isn’t right. He likes puzzles.”

“I’m quite sure he does. This isn’t a very safe puzzle for me, though. I don’t want to Qun sniffing after me. Or Earth.”

There was a knock. “I hear you guys talking, can I come in?”

“Oh, yeah, Kost! Sorry. Just waking up.”

He came in looking wary and shut the door behind himself. “I just wanted to see what you were up to today. I’m going to be heading out with the kith next week.”

“Oh,” she frowned, feeling lost. “Okay. And so then I will..”

“Stay here, I hope. You really shouldn’t be out in the field.”

She sighed. “You’re right. Alright. I’ll be alright.”

She crawled out of bed, still naked and moved to her trunk to start getting dressed. Kost watched her briefly before looking at Cole, who was also watching her. “Good morning, Cole.”

“Good morning.” Cole had undressed to his underwear before sleeping, his usual nightshirt still in his room. He started dressing as well.

“So. You two, then..?” Kost tried.

Nic laughed. “No. I mean, I absolutely know what you saw when you walked in, but no. He had cuddled up to me when he was asleep. I had just had a big wave of emotional mushiness wash over me, so I woke him up with a hug. He literally woke up and lifted his head when you walked in the door.”

“His hand was definitely cupping your breast.”

“It was soft,” Cole commented absently as he pulled on his pants.

Kost blinked at him and then smiled. “Yeah, they are definitely soft. Sensitive, too.”

“And pretty!” Nic cheered, sitting down to comb her hair.

“Yes, and very pretty, Nic,” Kost rolled his eyes. “Alright. So casual sleepy groping, then. Why are you two sharing this bed instead of his private one?”

“I went to sleep alone, he just joined me. Apparently that’s going to be a thing here. I wonder who I’ll wake up with next. Do you think Solas? Cullen?”

“I think you’re definitely safe from Cullen, he’s attracted to you, but also terrified of you.”

“He is,” Cole nodded.

“Yeah. That’s not unreasonable, really,” she pulled out her teeth cleaning stick and went to the basin to do her morning ablutions.

“It’s really not,” Kost neatened her bed and then sat on it, watching Cole buckle up his boots. “So, today. Plans.”

“Well,” she said when she was done rinsing her mouth out. “I think first we should start with cunnilingus, I could really go for some of that about now, and then we could do a little DP, hit the baths and have a nap after lunch?”

Kost looked thoughtful. “Yeah, that sounds pretty excellent, where are you getting the second P?”

She pursed her lips, “Fuck if I know, where am I getting the first?”

“I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find someone.”

They paused.

She rolled her eyes. “Breakfast.”

“Breakfast,” he agreed.

---

There was a terrible lack of group sex at breakfast. Just oatmeal. Kost did make enthusiastic gestures with two of his sausages, but then ate them. Nic made dramatic sad faces at him, gazing at all the sausages longingly and not taking any for herself.

It was symbolic. Symbolism was important.

Cole seemed confused, offering his sausage at one point, and Kost’s snorting giggles made Nic lose it.

“Thank you, Cole, but I’m living the sausage free life right now. You keep yours until you feel ready deep in your soul.”

He blinked at her, looked at his sausage, and then said, “Oh. Sex.”

And then he ate his sausage, looking thoughtful.

Kost’s giggles continued through breakfast, and Nic did her best to eat in a dignified manner, ignoring him.

After breakfast Nic and Kost headed for the seamstress, who had Nic’s clothes ready. She took them to her room and changed again. She’d had some breeches made, not the standard style for the area, but to her knee, cuffed, and a bit poofy. She wore them with a black bodice over a loose white shirt, with knee high boots, and felt very cheerful.

She dragged Kost back to the area where they’d played music before, and they played and sang together for some time. Then Nic handed him the lute to use upside down as a drum, and she practiced her dancing. Boots off, happily singing a wordless tune, she spun and danced and laughed until she eventually fell gracefully in front of him to catch her breath.

She felt full of love and happiness.

Bull wandered over while they were still smiling stupidly at each other.

“Looks like I only just missed the fun.”

Nic smiled at him, not getting up. “You did, in fact. Terrible timing. Give me a bit and I might have a bit more in me.”

“I always enjoy a second round,” he smiled easily, settling down on one of the benches.

Kost rolled his eyes, and tried not to seem too tense. He still was not a fan of The Bull. “What brings you here today?”

“Just finished training and thought I heard Nic’s giggling. I was hoping to find everyone playing again.”

“Just us fools,” she said, sitting up and taking the lute from Kost. She started picking out a song, quietly. “Do you guys know when you’ll be heading out again?”

“No. My boys will likely head out same time as yours, but I’ll be staying in. Boss likes to give us solid down time, and mine was interrupted before.”

“What’s this song, Nic, I haven’t heard it before.”

She paused and then laughed. “Oh, no. I’ve been working on it on my own, I didn’t realize I was even playing it. I couldn’t remember all the words, but I got enough and was able to patch in my own where I forgot.”

“Play it for us?” Bull asked.

She laughed. “It is really not the type of song you would expect. Kost would sigh and despair of me.”

“Oh, now you have to,” Bull grinned.

Kost sighed. “I’m already despairing. Go on then. Give me a reason for this feeling of dread.”

She stood, dancing gently as she played. Her version was softer, Trent Reznor never intended the song to be played acoustic with only a lute. Gentle plucked cords with the lyrics sung sweetly.

"You let me violate you
You let me desecrate you
You let me penetrate you
You let me complicate you"

Kost frowned as she went on, and Bull’s eye narrowed. When she started the refrain, grinning at Kost, both men’s jaw dropped.

"I want to fuck you like an animal
I want to feel you from the inside
I want to fuck you like an animal
My whole existence is flawed
You get me closer to god"

She finished with a dramatic flourish and sat down.

Kost’s mouth moved a bit as he tried to think of what to say to that.

Bull coughed, and grinned. “Well. This is not going to be boring.”

“Koslun’s balls, woman, what kind of song is that?” Kost finally managed.

“With different instruments and a good drum base, a really hot one,” she smiled. “Good for dancing.”

“Dancing? I’m afraid to even ask!” he managed.

“You sound like a maiden aunt, Kost, I didn’t realize,” she murmured.

“Maiden-! Nicole, that is-! UGH!” He covered his face in his hands.

She patted his shoulder comfortingly. “I’m sorry sweety. I start off the day asking for oral sex and a threesome and then sing about fucking in front of someone you barely know.”

Bull’s laugh boomed and Nic tried to keep a serious face. Kost frowned. “I’m going to be leaving you for I don’t know how long. I don’t- You can’t- Nic, I can’t keep you safe when I’m not with you.”

“Hey,” Bull said, smiling, but looking more serious. “She’s only doing this because she knows you are here. I’ll watch out for her while you’re gone.”

Kost looked like he wasn’t sure that was a comforting thought or not.

“Hey,” she kissed his cheek. “Remember that you’re the only person I’ve slept with here. I’m all talk. It’ll be okay. I won’t be alone. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

He pulled her up onto his lap, her back to his front, and hugged her. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s a… Well, it’s not a bad song, I just wasn’t ready for that. The beginning was a bit close to home.”

She waggled her eyebrows at Bull. “He means the part about me penetrating hi-” she yelped as he covered her mouth with his hand.

“Hey, nothing wrong with some penetration. The Tamassarins have this thing called a Saartoh Nehrappan. It's a leather wrapped rod on a harness.”

“Oh fuck yes!” Nic pulled Kost’s hand away, eyes alight. “I want one.”

She felt Kost sigh. Bull grinned. “They’d have them in Val Royeaux for sure.”

“This is my life now, I see,” Kost muttered. “Babysitting a desire demon in a castle full of horny soldiers.”

She snorted. Bull nodded. “I do not envy you that task.”

“I’m not a demon,” Nic said, primly. “I’m going to tell Dorian you’ve decided sex is a bad subject. Give him a little heads up.”

“Fine,” he sat her down and stood up. “I will go and leave you alone with this very large man you barely know who you’ve been taunting with sex, since I am apparently being ridiculous.”

He kissed her forehead. “See you later, dear.”

He nodded to Bull and headed out, leaving them alone.

She suddenly felt ridiculously young, small, and vulnerable. She blinked, eyes wide. Bull laughed.

“I find that I see his point, all of a sudden.”

He laughed again, shaking his head. “Yeah, he certainly had one. I don’t know where you’re from, Nicole, but here? You need to stick to songs about dogs and war. Especially without him around to chase off interested parties.”

He reached towards her - his arms were so long, his reach was so far - and took her hand, pulling her close. Way closer than she expected. She felt the heat of him. The sheer size of him. His face was inches from hers and she took a moment to just look at him. His eye was really lovely, his mouth looked soft. Nothing else about him was soft. He was an enormous man, strong enough to easily kill her with one hand and little effort.

And he was The Iron Bull, so she knew he had already thought of the easiest ways to do so.

“Yeah. I’ll do that.”

He smirked, hooking a finger under her chin and pulling her in for a kiss.

Just a brush of lips, a nip of teeth.

“I know you’re afraid of me,” he murmured against her mouth. “That’s good. You should be. You should be a lot more afraid of everyone here.”

He ran his fingers up her arm and tangled them in her hair, looking at her with his eye narrowed. “But you’re not. It’s interesting to me.”

He nuzzled her ear, nippling her earlobe, making her hiss and catch her breath. “You also want me. Badly.”

She raised her hand slowly, and stroked her fingers across his cheek. “Yeah.”

“But not yet, hm?” he kissed her again, deep and hard, fingers pulling her hair, his other hand pressing her hard again him. He kissed her until she was breathless and writhing against him.

He then gently released her and smiled, watching her face. “Not just yet.”

And he nodded to her before walking back the way he came, going into the Herald's Rest.

She sat down with a thump. “Holy shit.”

Chapter Text

The Inquisitor left, taking Cole, Varric, Dorian, Cassandra, Solas, Sera, and Blackwall heading towards the Western Approach.

Kost and Asaaranda left with Meraas Kata, joining the increasing forces across Orlais. They were to aid in the stabilization of Orlais, and to be available to join the main army if military action was needed with the Warden Issue.

Nic felt out of sorts with all of her people gone. She was also terrified that something would happen to one of them. Any of them. Anyone in general. Suddenly everything felt terrifying and violent.

She’d taken to spending her afternoons in the garden practicing her Thedas songs. She’d had enough of Earth songs for the time being, after the reaction to Closer.

(Though she would never forget Kost's and Bull’s faces as she sang. Worth it.)

As she was nearing the end of a sweet love song from Ferelden one afternoon, she was joined by Leliana, who gestured for her to finish with a smile.

“I had heard you were good,” Leliana commented when she was done. “They say you practice every day and are starting to have quite a following.”

She gestured to the people in the garden gathered close enough to listen unobtrusively.

“Yes, I like it here. It’s peaceful.”

“I am glad you find it so. Maryden has written songs about the Inquisition, have you learned those as well?”

“I have,” Nic smiled. “They’re very catchy.”

“They are. Sometimes she travels, plays these songs in other places. It is a good way to spread the stories of the Inquisition.”

“They must miss her in the tavern when she’s gone. I haven’t seen the performers from the hall singing in the Rest.”

Leliana laughed. “No, they do not enjoy that atmosphere.”

They sat quietly for a few minutes.

“I had wished to speak to you again. I have some questions about some of the things you told us.”

Nic’s stomach knotted. She suddenly missed Solas and Kost desperately. “Yeah?”

Leliana just smiled, stood, and gestured for Nic to follow.

She followed.

---

Settled in Leliana’s office with tea, toast, and thinly sliced smoked fish, Nic tried to relax.

She failed.

“You say you are from another world,” Leliana started, sipping her tea.

“I am.”

“Would you tell me about it?”

“Yeah,” Nic said, thinking. “It’s large. We freely communicate and trade with people all over the globe, with vastly differing cultures. It seems like Thedas is mostly isolated from the rest of the world?”

“For the most part, yes. Our oceans are not easily crossed, and many speak of horrors along the borders of Thedas.”

“Our world isn’t like that. Maybe because we only have one moon? The moon affects the tides, so two moons would be intense. Anyway. Big world, thousands of languages, hundreds of countries. We do the same things you have done - colonialism, erasing the cultures of the people defeated in wars, slavery, the upper class deciding they’re the only people worth anything and wrecking everything for everyone else. Invented cheese.”

Leliana looked amused.

“But there are enormous differences. Likely because of the Blights? Our technology progressed with time, where yours mostly hasn’t. We don’t have magic, so we’ve had to find other methods of doing things. We don’t have dwarves and elves and qunari, so we’ve had to find other reasons to hate, descriminate against, and murder each other.”

“Tell me something your world has done that would amaze me.”

“People have gone to the moon. And we’ve sent unmanned craft out of our solar system. We get pictures back; of the other planets in our solar system, of our own planet. Of worlds unimaginably far from ours.”

“How did you do this? Without magic? What is it like? What is a solar system?” Leliana leaned forward, eyes bright.

“The main issues are getting up there - we used controlled explosives. And then having enough air and protection from the sun. The world is surrounded by the atmosphere and it blocks harmful solar rays. And there’s no air in space, or on the moon, so they had to bring it with them. And the solar system is all the planets and such that revolve around the same sun. There are systems with more than one sun, but the term still works.”

Leliana stared at her in silence, looking thoughtful. “Well. That is impressive. Well beyond our understanding of our own world.”

Nic nodded, feeling awkward. “Honestly there are many amazing things about my world. And terrible. We’re still people. We’re just people with more efficient communication and travel options. And more accessible education. And better understanding about health and hygiene. And elastic.”

“Elastic?”

“Yes. It’s stretchy and makes clothes a lot more comfortable.”

“What.. No. I could ask questions forever, but I did have other things I wished to discuss,” Leliana shook her head. “Would you be willing to travel as Maryden does? Spreading the word of the Inquisition, building up, if not good will, at least interest in our cause."

Nic frowned. “I.. don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t. I do wonder if my appearance might be a hindrance? I know that non-humans are generally looked down upon.”

“They are, that is true,” Lelianna nodded. “You would attract attention. People would want to see you. This brings more people to hear your songs. In this way, it’s helpful. You appear to be a human with horns. They won’t know how to categorize you, and that is in our favor.”

“Unless a Templar decides I’m a demon and stabs me.”

Leliana inclined her head. “We would not send you alone or unprotected. I cannot promise you will not be harmed, but I also cannot promise your complete safety at Skyhold. Thedas is not a safe world.”

Nic sighed. “No. No, it is not.”

---

Maryden found Nic just after lunch the next day, and asked if they could speak. They discussed Leliana’s plans, and what things were like as a traveling singer. Nic was to sing in the Herald’s rest that night, to start practicing.

They played through the most popular songs together, Maryden correcting as needed, but it wasn’t needed much, to Nic’s delight.

When Maryden felt she was ready, they headed to the rest, Nic taking Maryden’s usual place.

She looked around the room, smiling at familiar faces. With a deep breath, she started with a jaunty Ferelden song celebrating Calenhad.

At the end of the evening, Nic was feeling good. She’d remembered most of the lyrics, managed her flubs with grace, and people seemed to be enthusiastic about her music.

“Last song!” she called, looking around at their faces.

“Play something we haven’t heard before!” She heard Bull call from behind her. She laughed.

“I have just the one, Bull!” she called back, stretching her fingers briefly before starting the arpeggios for Meet Me on the Battlefield. She enjoyed that she literally had to change one word of the lyrics to make it work for Thedas.

"No time for rest
No pillow for my head
Nowhere to run from this
No way to forget

Around the shadows creep
Like friends, they cover me
Just wanna lay me down and finally
Try to get some sleep

We carry on through the storm
Tired soldiers in this war
Remember what we're fighting for

Meet me on the battlefield
Even on the darkest night
I will be your sword and shield, your camouflage
And you will be mine
Echoes of the shouts ring out
We may be the first to fall
Everything can stay the same or we could change it all"

She finished her song, bowing and smiling to some applause, before moving to the bar to ask for a drink.

A large hand covered hers as she moved to pay, offering his own coin instead. Cabot took it and moved away, and Nic looked up to the smiling face of a handsome soldier.

“Thank you,” she said, smiling back.

“Of course. Join me while you drink it?” he gestured toward a small table in the corner by the bar, a few mugs on it, but no people sitting there.

“I-” Suddenly a large arm wrapped around her shoulders and moved her subtly away from the bar.

“She’ll have to join you another time, Avery, she had plans with me tonight,” Bull commented casually.

Avery frowned, looking between them before turning an overbright smile on her again. “I’m sure I could give you a much better time than him, darling.”

Nic paused, and then leaned into Bull. She didn’t get the feeling he would do this for no reason. “Very sorry. It’s my first night singing in the tavern, Bull and I made plans for after.”

Avery’s face tightened and he nodded, turning away. He left the bar entirely, rather than returning to his table. Bull kept his arm around her and led her up a floor to a quiet table.

“Trust me, that is not a person you want to spend time with. Especially alone. Ever,” Bull murmured as he sat.

“Ah,” she nodded, sipping her drink and sitting. “I gathered. I didn’t think you’d be a cockblock for no reason.”

Bull threw his head back and laughed, “No, that’s not my style. He’s one of those that never does anything bad enough for leadership to step in, but certainly he does things bad enough that friends should.”

“I’ll be sure to write to Kost that you are taking your promise to watch me seriously,” she raised her mug at him, drinking with a smile. “I really appreciate it. I.. feel rather off balance, having almost everyone I know suddenly gone.”

He nodded. “I enjoyed your singing tonight. Good song choices, you followed the mood of the crowd nicely.”

“Oh, thank you! I’ve played in taverns before, but it's always scary the first time in a new place.”

“Have you?”

“Yes, that’s what I did, generally. Not as my main job, I worked in a shop, but when I could. I love to perform. Actually,” she licked her lips and frowned. “Leliana has asked me to travel, she would like me in Denerim, singing Inquisition songs, spreading tales of our glory and all that. I feel like I’d like to talk to someone about it, but they’re gone, so.”

“You want to talk through it with me? I can do that. That kind of mission is a good one. You can open a lot of ears with pretty songs played in the background while people are drinking. You learn a lot from how you’re received, where you’re invited. Maryden does well in Val Royeaux, bringing back solid information and contacts.”

Nic nodded. “Yeah, it seemed okay. She says she’ll send me with people, so I won’t be unprotected, in case someone thinks I’m singing offkey and tries to stab me.”

Bull smiled. “That can happen, people taking offence to the message you’re spreading. Ferelden is much better than Orlais; they’re much more up front and generally less murderous over trivialities.”

“And.. and I’m worried about my reception with the horns,” she muttered, looking down.

Bull hummed and leaned back. “Now, I won’t say that won’t be an issue, because it will be. You’re human, and horns are generally on demons, animals, or qunari. And a lot of people group qunari in with the other two groups, so that isn’t going to win you anything.”

She frowned. “Fucking asshole humans.”

Bull snorted. “Yep. You can go several ways with that. You can just have horns and act like a human, seeing what they do. You can skulk about being ashamed of them, trying to hide. You could even wrap them and make them look like an elaborate headpiece that you just never take off. Depends on what angle you’re going for.”

Nic snorted. “I guess Madam Vivienne certainly enjoys her horned hats.”

“So do a lot of people. Because humans know horns are awesome and they’re terribly disappointed they can’t have them.”

She grinned up at him. “Hell yes. Very sexy.”

He did his long blink/wink, and she giggled. “I say you just go as you are. Sing your songs. Not the songs about fucking, the songs Leliana is asking you to sing, along with whatever the locals seem to like. Act like you belong there and people will believe you.”

She kissed her fingers and then patted them on Bull’s hand. “Thank you, Bull. I needed that.”

“Hey, anytime. Now,” he smiled lazily, and reached over, took her hand and pulled her around the table to sit on his lap. He nuzzled near her ear and spoke quietly. “Avery’s poked his head in here twice, from below and then from above.”

She stilled, before wrapping her arms around his neck. "Ah."

“Do you need to go by your room?”

“No, not really.”

“Then come,” he sat her down and patted her ass, before finishing his drink. “It’s time you for you to get that ride.”

She followed him, wide eyed. Through the courtyard, through the hall, into what Nic thought of at the Main Cast's Tower. Two doors unlocked and locked and she found herself in another small sitting room. More like Cole’s than Dorian's, it was simple and utilitarian.

“I share this floor with Blackwall and Sera,” he said as she looked around. “Not always, sometimes I stay in the Barracks with the Chargers, but they like me up here better.”

“I wonder if it’s better for security or scary, to have all the Inquisitor’s people in the same tower.”

He huffed. “Both. Easy to guard, but if that guard fucks up, you lose everyone in one go. You’d think they’d learn from the Conclave, but,” he shrugged.

“Well, you’re mostly not all here at the same, anyway, so that’s less of a problem that if you were here all the time.”

“Very true. So!” he slapped his hands on his thighs. “I’m not fucking you.”

She laughed, startled. “But Bull, the conversation was so sexy and inviting.”

“Oh, I know, I’m like that. You can sleep in here on the couch, you can sleep with me. No one else is here, so you’ll be fine either way. I just don’t want you where he can easily find you.”

“Is this going to be a thing?” she felt sick.

“No,” he waved a hand. “He should be okay. I’ll posture a bit more, but he should back off. This isn't the first time I've done this, that's why he doesn't like me. I’ll mention it to his squad leader. Again."

She hugged herself, staring at the striped blue fabric of the couch. “Okay. Well. This couch looks nice enough, I guess."

He looked her over. “Hey. You seem spooked.”

“Well, I wonder why. I’m hiding from someone who isn’t taking no well. That goes so well for women historically.”

He sat down and pulled her onto his lap. She moved to straddle him, carefully resting her face against his chest so she didn’t poke him with a horn, wrapping her arms around him. He wrapped his around her, one hand moving up to rub her scalp. “I’ve got you, Nic. You’re safe here, and you have enough people watching you that they’ll notice if he tries something.”

She laughed. “Safety because I’m not trusted. Hey, a perk.”

“You’re welcome to sleep in mine, Nic. I’m not Cole, but I’m a warm body at least.”

“Not Cole?” she leaned back and looked at him curiously.

“You and Cole sleep together,” he shrugged. “People talk about it.”

“Ah. Yeah. We both feel better not sleeping alone.”

“Offer’s open.”

She looked at his face for a bit, and then settled into his chest again, breathing him in, feeling him. She nodded against his chest. He felt safe. “Lead the way, handsome.”

Chapter Text

Nic woke up with a heavy weight across her lower belly. She moved a hand down to inspect, finding it to be a very large hand.

“Kost?”

She discovered there were some missing fingers.

“Not Kost.”

She rubbed her eyes and picked up the hand to inspect it more closely. She heard Bull rumbling a sleepy laugh beside her. They were mostly lying side by side, though she’d angled herself so that her feet were on his leg, and he’d had his arm across her belly, palm down. The cosy cuddling of people with horns that limited head comfort when lying down.

She lifted Bull’s hand over her face and let it drop, smacking herself in the face. She grinned. “Your hand is so fucking big.”

He removed his hand, ruffling her hair before moving to sit up.

She smiled up at him. “Everythig about you is so fucking big.”

“Maybe you people are just tiny.”

“That’s right. You’re visiting the Land of Ants. Please do not crush us, Ser Mountain.”

He reached out and took one of her hands, looking it over, scratching his nails against her palm, then slowly up her arm, watching her face. She stopped smiling and watched his hand.

“What are you doing here, Nicole?” he murmured, his hand tracing across her chest and then slowly moving down between her breasts over her shirt.

“I.. don’t know,” she laughed, a bit nervously.

Bull smirked, laying his hand flat on her ribs, one finger resting in the notch between her collar bones, feeling her heart race. “I’ve been trying to figure you out, but the pieces don’t make a lot of sense.”

She cupped his hand in both of hers, moved it to her mouth to kiss it, and then pressed it back towards him. “I’m just a normal girl caught up in some weird shit, Bull. The events might be interesting, but I’m not.”

He huffed a laugh. “Now there’s an answer.”

She shrugged. “I literally don’t know what to tell you. Except thank you. For last night. Unless that was an elaborate ruse wherein you interrupt a man flirting with me, claim he’s creepy, and then swoop in to protect me from someone that was never a danger.”

“Ha!” He grinned at her. “That’d be a good one, but no.”

He shrugged elaborately and gave a winsome smile. “I just can’t let a sweet girl like you go off with a guy like that. Better to take you to bed myself.”

“To not fuck me, yes. You rogue.”

He circled her knee with a finger before drawing it up her inner thigh, stopped just before hitting the seam of her pants. “Well. That was last night. Morning comes with new options.”

She reached a hand out to rub over the curve of his belly. “Does it then. Hm.”

He gave her a lazy smile, rubbing his full palm up and down her thigh.

She sat up, moving away from him a bit. “It doesn’t feel right, though. You’re still uncomfortable around me.”

He laughed. “You’re in my bed, Nic. I even slept.”

“We’ll you’re smart enough to know I’m not going to hurt you,” she laughed. “But you know what I mean. We’re still dancing.”

“That’s true,” he leaned back then and she noticed he was definitely aroused. And looked larger than Kost from what she could guess with his pants on. “But these things don’t need to be so complicated.”

She pulled her eyes away from his dick and looked at his face seriously. She rose on her knees and gently traced his features with her fingertips; his face, down his neck, measuring the incredible breadth of his shoulders.

“Well. You’re fucking gorgeous. I would love to spend a day or two exploring,” she gestured at him. “All of that. But I haven’t brushed my teeth.”

He blinked at her.

She groaned, leaned down and licked the head of his cock through his pants until he swore, and then she crawled out of bed. “We should definitely do that. Not today. Today I have to meet with Maryden to do some more planning for my trip.”

“You- seriously?” he looked at her askance.

She was pulling on her socks, but she turned to look at him. “Bull, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m way torn, so it seems like we shouldn’t? I want to. So much. But it doesn’t feel casual.”

Bull rubbed his hands over his face, nodding. “I get that. Okay.”

Nic pulled her bodice on, lacing it carefully, and then pulled on her boots. “I’ll just head out-”

“Just a sec,” Bull said, grabbing a bottle and taking a sip. “Drink some of this.”

She eyed him and then took the bottle, sniffing it. “Alcohol?”

“Yeah. It’ll clear the morning breath.”

She laughed and took a sip, dramatically sloshing it around her mouth before swallowing. Bull laughed and then pulled her close. “Can I kiss you?”

She smiled and kissed him instead. He threaded his hand through her hair, grabbing her ass with his other hand, deepening the kiss and upping the intensity until they were digging their nails into each other, biting lips, and Nic was grinding into Bull’s stomach while he did the same against her leg.

Bull pulled her down onto his lap, pressing her hips against his, guiding her with hands on her hips while she bit at his chest, and he muttered profanities into her hair. They got off at nearly the same time, and then Bull fell back against the bed, pulling her up to kiss lazily while their heart rates slowed.

She pulled back and looked down at his face. He smirked. She laughed. “Well.”

He hummed.

“I feel okay about that,” she laughed “That felt great, I mean.”

“It did.”

“But my point still stands. Frottage and making out acceptable, more than that no.”

Bull laughed and pulled her down for one more filthy kiss before patting her butt and smiling. “Fair.”

---

Nic spent most of the next several days preparing for her trip. Since it was an Inquisition assignment, she was given supply money. Thankfully Leliana was happy to help her draw up a list of what she might need - she couldn’t ask Bull without raising all sorts of flags. Surely these would be things she already knew.

She likely spent too much money on the things she needed to buy, bartering was not a skill she had.

She spent many hours with Maryden, learning and practicing songs, and writing up three solid setlists. She also had a list of taverns that she should visit in Denerim, and fun places to visit while in the city.

The night before she headed out, she joined Bull in the tavern. He was also set to head out the next day, though with a different group and a different destination.

“Have you met your group yet?” he asked, tucking in to a rich druffalo stew.

“I haven’t, no,” she replied, taking a bite of her own soup. It was delicious. “I do know that it’s a group of soldiers, and I’ll get to ride in the wagon. That sounds far more pleasant than walking or riding a horse.”

“It can be, for sure. You’ll likely do a mix of both.”

“I can play them jaunty marching tunes while we go.”

Bull snorted. “Yeah, I”m sure you’ve got a few things to get their blood pumping.”

Nic winked and took a bite.

---

She woke up overheated and a bit sweaty and quickly kicked off all the blankets and moved away from the wall of heat she’d been cuddled up to, flailing.

She heard Bull’s laughter and opened her eyes, trying to get oriented.

She’d spent the night with Bull again. They’d traded massages and made out a bit before falling asleep naked.

“Good morning,” Bull laughed at her. “Very graceful start.”

“Oh, fuck off. Hot.”

He waggled his eyebrows and pulled her on top of him so she was straddling his hips. “Mm, come get sweatier with me."

She laughed and patted his belly. “I'm gross enough already, I don't need to get sweatier.”

Bull just smiled up at her. “You are rather lovely to wake up to, I have to say.”
,
She smiled back, fondly. “You going to miss me? Or do you have a nice scout or two lined up while you’re away?”

“Hey, you never know. Though I’m heading out for a far less enjoyable place than you.”

She crawled up to give him a quick kiss, and then clambered off him to start getting ready. “Early start today, I better get to it.”

She gave herself a quick wipe down with a cloth and a bowl of water, scrubbing her teeth and fixing her hair. Bull came up behind her and kissed the top of her head before pulling her into a hug.

“You be careful out there. The soldiers should have your back, but they’re still soldiers. This is your first time out with a group of strangers since you got the horns and started sticking out, so.. Just be careful.”

She patted his butt. “I will try. I’m scared, too.”

He started cleaning himself up while she got dressed. They headed together to the nearest garderobe, and then down to the gates where she was meeting her group. He figured it wouldn’t hurt for people to see that she had a large friend back at Skyhold.

They were chatting happily, until Bull saw the group waiting. He suddenly swore under his breath.

Avery was in the group.

Bull casually put his arm around her. “I did talk to his commanding officer. He’s in the group as well, Landon. He’s alright, though he downplays a lot of things I don’t think he should. Stay friendly, stay around other people. You should be okay.”

“Yeah, okay. He’s not.. violent?”

“Nah, not really. He doesn’t take no well. He’ll grab when he shouldn’t, he doesn’t listen to no, and he treats you like shit if you do sleep with him. He isn’t going to force sex, he isn’t going to hit you.”

“Yay,” muttered Nic.

Cullen joined the soldiers then and gestured for Nic to come over. “Captain, this is Nicole. Hello, Iron Bull.”

They all exchanged greetings and then Cullen and the Captain went back to their work. Nic dropped her bag on the ground and reached her arms up like a child asking for a hug. Bull smiled and picked her up, hugging her tight and giving her a quick kiss. “You’ll be alright. They’ll love your songs, and I’ll be seeing you soon.”

“Alright. You take care, too. Pass on my love to people that I know if you see them.”

“Will do.”

He helped Nic into the wagon, getting her settled comfortably, making sure she had her water bottle and snacks.

The soldiers generally ignored them, though Avery certainly had a smirk for Bull as they headed out. Bull just gave him a level look, arms crossed.

And then she was gone from Skyhold with a group of strangers.

Nic looked up at the sky, framed by the mountains, and felt very small, out of place, and vulnerable to the whims of the world.

Chapter Text

My dearest Darling Kost,
I cannot write Common well enough to write you a letter. You cannot read English enough to read a letter. That fucking sucks. I am writing to you anyway, and you shall bring it to me upon our next meeting so that I can recite it to you in a dramatic fashion.
Riding in a wagon is terrible. I do not like it. It's nearly like riding in a car, except for that you're completely exposed to the weather, the glaring sun, and anyone bored enough to watch you try to get comfortable.
You cannot actually get comfortable for long, because Thedas has not invented shocks. They ought to. I tried to invent them to be helpful, but only came up with ways to use springs and I don't actually think that's a thing that would work.
We are not a bouncy horse.
The soldiers are generally alright. Avery is a dickwad, but there's plenty of other people to offer a buffer. I cannot believe I'm trapped on a trip with him. What are the odds??
But, most importantly, there's this soldier named Mara that is so fucking hot. It is possible that you will receive poetry I have written about her. And she's funny! I don't get to talk to her, because I'm stuck in the wagon, but she often rides behind me so I can stealthily listen in on her conversations. She's so smart. Witty. She's really tall and her hair is short and her shoulders are broad and strong. She was out of her armor at camp and holy fuck, her shoulders. And her ass! Wide and strong and perfect. Thighs that could crush a skull.
I just. Unf.
Okay, bedtime. I'll write more later.

Ser Kost-a-lot,
Mara spoke to me. It was amazing. I was entertaining the pages while we traveled - they travel beside the wagon while the soldiers are generally in front and behind and the scouts….. scout about. Anyway. They're teenaged boys and ridiculously pervy. They try to keep it polite when they remember I'm right there, but they generally fail and settle back into their Normal Setting of bragging about getting laid or seeing a boob, or growing a vaguely decent mustache. They're hilarious and I love them.
Anyway. Singing with my sons and then Mara rides forward a bit and TELLS ME I SING BEAUTIFULLY.
And requests a song.
That sweet Ferelden love song with the roses that Basra taught me? Anyway, she requested a song and I fucking knew that song so I sang it to her and she looked so happy.
So I'm pretty much dead.

Kost, holy fuck!
She talked to me! Me!
I mean. Obviously we talked before. But she sat near me after dinner and asked me to play for them. Which, yeah, I do anyway, but still. Mara!
So I played all my favorites, and the requests, and she sang along to the songs she knew.
The boys have caught on to my mooning and are giving me shit, little fuckers. I just say they'd never know what to do with a woman like that, anyway.
So they asked me to teach them.
Bold! But ew. No.

Kost,
Mara's in the team that's splitting off in Denerim to go do a thing in South Reach.
I'm so sad.

Kost,
Avery finally decided to make his move. Fucker. He caught me getting dressed for bed. Made a bunch of comments about my horns and using them as handles and grabbed me. It's not out of nowhere, he flirts all the time, thinks he's so charming. And I'm polite. It's never enough to not be polite. Anyway, Mara was the one who came in my tent when I was loudly voicing my opinion of him and she punched him! It was beautiful!
And then she wrapped me up in a blanket and let me cuddle her until the shaking stopped.
And then she left long enough to grab her bed roll and dinner and we hung out all evening and she slept with me. I really enjoy this Thedas thing where very amazing people sleep with me.
I mean, I realize it's a cultural thing, and people in cultures of this stage are less private than people in my culture, but still. It's nice.
The horns got in the way a bit, but I still managed to get cuddles in.

Well. She's gone now. Headed out this morning. Fucked each other's brains out last night, she tasted like heaven and her thighs have actually inspired me to start a new religion.
Crush me, o goddess, for I have been a good girl, please.
I hope she makes it through all this.

Chapter Text

She finished her set to appreciative applause, the dancers stopping with smiles before heading for drinks. She turned down a few requests for just one more song with a joke, heading to the bar for her own drink. She’d earned it.

This was her final tavern before they headed back to Skyhold, and she’d only be here a few more days She’d had a good reception so far, seeing some of the same faces following from place to place, bringing friends. People had been singing along to her Inquisition Propaganda nicely by the third place, and she was feeling very satisfied.

This tavern was dark, as they all tended to be, with small candles on tables and a fire burning in the hearth, but it was rather full of people tonight. She settled in a seat at the bar, her back to a group of Inquisition soldiers, feeling that was a safer bet than other places.

Until she heard Avery bragging to his friends about fucking her, and the handiness of her horns for holding her still. He really had a thing about the horns.

She turned around then, catching the eye of one of Avery’s tablemates, who looked amused and raised an eyebrow at her. She rolled her eyes expressively and shook her head. He nodded at her and made some comment to Avery that made everyone laugh.

Avery looked over his shoulder and saw her, his face tightening with anger.

“Afraid to admit to it, sweetheart? Don’t worry, they’ll all be gentle when it’s their turn.”

Nicole burst out laughing and strolled over, sitting next to the guy she’d been making faces at earlier. “Afraid to admit what, Avery?”

“How much you liked me fucking you,” his eyes narrowed and his hand tightened around the handle of his mug.

“Ah, I see. And I heard you obsessing about my horns again. What is it with you and the horns? I’m starting to think you’ve got a fetish.”

“They’re the only interesting thing about you.”

“Mm,” she pursed her lips, nodding. “You find me uninteresting. That does explain the weird fixation you seem to have. You do realize I have zero issues discussing my actual sex life? And also that you give me quite a lot of power if you tell people we’ve fucked. Like, sure, some women would be embarrassed and let you say whatever, but others go about it differently.”

He frowned.

“Like, yes, I finally gave in to your pleading and let you fuck me. And it was terrible. Your cock tastes like you haven’t ever washed it, but luckily you only lasted until you touched the horns. Also, you make really stupid noises and faces when you come.”

The soldiers erupted in laughter and Avery looked shocked. “I! No, that’s not-! You fucking-”

“Which obviously isn’t true, because the first night you tried to get in my pants, I went to bed with The Iron Bull, and the time you followed me into my tent on our way here and tried to force something, Mara decked you. I fucked her, too. Actually, you do tend to get me laid, there might be something we can work with here,” Nic looked thoughtful.

Avery’s face turned very red at that. He slammed down his drink and stormed out of the tavern. Two of the soldiers finished their drinks quickly and followed him, sparing mildly cranky looks at her. Most of the soldiers stayed amused and nodded at her before going back to their conversations.

The soldier next to her smiled. “You’re going to want to watch him, but you’ve been doing that for a long time, anyway. I’ll talk to the Captain about it. He’s already been told and he’s getting tired of Avery’s bullshit.”

“I appreciate it, thank you. I am also tired of it.”

He smiled and raised his mug at her before drinking. “The Iron Bull and Mara, huh?”

“Go big or go home,” she smiled.

She was about to say something else, when a man she recognized from previous taverns walked up to the table looking nervous. She smiled up at him, “Hello, it was nice to see you again.”

His eyes got big and he nodded, hastily handed her a single ear of corn and practically ran out of the tavern.

She held the corn and stared at it blankly. She looked up to the soldier she’d been talking to, but he looked as confused as her.

“Well. Corn, then.”

“Pardon me,” a lovely voice came from Nic’s side. “I do not mean to interrupt, but I was hoping to buy you a drink and I thought I had better come now before you were offered a goat to go with the corn, and then ended up married before the night was over.”

Nic grinned and turned to see --

She blinked and her mind blanked. “Ah..”

The elf bowed to her with a grin. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Zevran, and I have been entranced by your singing since you came to the city.”

Nic swallowed, trying to remember how language worked, and what a normal smile might look like. “Gah.”

“Are you alright?” the soldier murmured behind her, shifting to see what had her unable to speak.

“Yes. Yes, right,” she shook her head. “I’m terribly sorry, my brain forgot how to function. Yes. A drink. Yes. Thank you.”

Zevran narrowed his eyes at her, looking amused. “I have a table against the wall, if you wouldn’t mind joining me there?”

She nodded, not trusting her ability to speak. She didn’t particularly trust her body to remember how to walk, either, but she was hopeful that if she didn’t try talking, she might manage walking.

She followed him first to the bar where they picked up a drink for her, and then to his table. She stumbled a bit, and likely walked like a marionette, but she was pleased with her walking ability given the situation.

Zevran was amazing, she adored him, and he was talking to her.

And hopefully not here to murder her.

He helped her into her chair before sitting across from her, with another brain melting smile. He looked differently than in the games, obviously, his appearance had changed dramatically from Origins to DA2, but he was still distinctive. Beautiful, with dark skin, blonde hair, and the tattoos.

She sipped her drink, probably a bit more desperately than she should, but she was doing her best here.

“How are you finding Ferelden’s lovely capital city?”

“It’s,” she paused to think of the correct description. “Well, it’s a city, so it stinks, and is crowded. It smells less like dog than I was led to believe, the people have been generally kind, and I’ve enjoyed playing here.”

“It looked like you were having a bit of trouble with one of the soldiers at the table?”

“Ah, yeah. He would really like to fuck me and doesn’t take no well.”

“That is not always a safe situation to be in. He is from the Inquisition?”

“Yes. My friend blocked him at Skyhold, but Bull isn’t here now. Another soldier stepped in at camp, but now she isn’t here, either. So. Yeehaw,” she raised her cup in a toast and drank. He raised his back and drank as well.

“If your group sleeps in the same building, do you think he will be a problem tonight?”

She blanched. “That’s not a terrifying thought at all. And I hope it’ll be okay? That other soldier seemed supportive, and the Captain knows there’s an issue. But in the end, he’s a soldier and I’m..”

“Also a member of the Inquisition, and I would hope that would mean you would be protected.”

“Yes. But humans get preferential treatment in nearly all ways, as much as we like to pretend otherwise with a Vashoth leading us. And people frequently look the other way about things like this.”

Zevran tilted his head, looking her over. “You say human as if you are not one.”

She shrugged. “Mostly I am, but the horns are what people focus on. Bull - he’s a qunari - said I should possibly find a way to wrap them so that they looked like a fancy headpiece.”

Zevran laughed. “That would be amusing to see, I admit. The horns are certainly eye catching, that is true. I have never seen a person who is part qunari.”

“No, it’s very rare,” she smiled. “But I like the horns. They remind me of where I come from.”

“That is important,” he nodded. “So! Tell me about yourself. A rare beauty like yourself must surely have an interesting story.”

She laughed. “Not so much. I enjoy singing and have performed as much as I can these last few years. I fell in with a Mercenary band more recently. Not fighting, but singing - they really enjoy their music; we have a great time. We joined the Inquisition and since the fighters are off doing more dangerous things, it was decided that I should do what I do best. And bringing stories of the Inquisition is important work - everything is so strange these days, people need to know that it’s good people fighting for them.”

They continued talking for several hours, until the tavern started to empty and they realized it was really too late to stay.

“I will accompany you, so that you might survive the walk back, yes?” Zevran smiled.

“Yes, please. I wasn’t looking forward to my impending death, and was hoping it would be quick.”

He looked serious at that and shook his head. “As beautiful and eye catching as you are, my dear, it would never be quick. Come!”

Feeling rather sobered by the truth in that sentence, Nic followed him quietly, trying her best to match the way he moved, and to notice even just half of what he was noticing. It was difficult, because the way he moved was extremely distracting.

“How is the view, my beautiful songbird? Hopefully not too distracting?” came his voice, and she heard the smile in it.

She snorted. “Zevran, everything about you is distracting. You’re most of my lusty daydreams personified. I am, however, managing to walk pretty straight, and I think I’m keeping the drooling to a minimum.”

She heard his quiet laugh, and smiled to herself.

He went with her into the inn. It seemed deserted, so she led him up to her room. He went in first, checking it quickly before motioning her to come in. He surprised her then, closing the door.

“Your man is watching your room. I do not think it would be safe for you to be alone tonight.”

She felt that jolt through her nervous system, fear, hope, lust. “Ah.”

“You did tell him that when he made advances, you end up in bed with other people,” Zevran moved closer to her, eyes locked on hers. “He should expect it at this point.”

She gulped.

She was in a room with Zevran. With a bed. And he was..

She looked up from her slowly inspection of his body to catch his eye and he smirked. She laughed and grabbed him by the shirt, yanking him into a kiss.

“He absolutely should.”

She felt his grin against her lips, before his arms were around her, one hand going to tangle in her hair, the other scratching down her back in a firm line that made her arch and gasp. He moved his glorious mouth to her neck then, nipping and sucking in a way that had her gripping his shoulders, trying to keep her knees from buckling.

It was a losing battle, especially when he pressed a knee between her legs, using his hand on her back to guide her into a dizzying rhythm against him.

“Zevran, fuck! I can’t-”

He moved her quickly to the bed, and he was over her, he had her shirt pulled up and his teeth between her breasts and his hands scratching over her ribs and that knee was pressing just -

She came, vision sparking white as she called out. He unfastened her pants then, shoving them down, moving to bite and lick her thighs as his hand pressed between her thighs, fucking her firmly with two and then three fingers as she shook and came again.

“You are so responsive, bella,” he hissed against her lower belly. He set one hand to grind on her mons as he fucked her firmly through three more orgasms, flooding the bed and his hand.

“Fuck, wait, I want to touch you-” she brought his drenched hand to her mouth to lick and suck it clean and he grinned down at her. She smiled back and shoved him flat on the bed before crawling over him.

She looked down at his face in wonder. Zevran. The Zevran. In her bed.

She kissed him gently then. Straddling him, grinding gentle circles against his cock while she gently cupped his cheeks and worshipped his mouth. Kissed his face gently, scratched through his hair.

He helped her remove his clothes, and she took another moment just to look at him.

“You are so beautiful, Zevran. I’m so fucking lucky.”

She worshipped his body slowly. Not gently, he responded best to scratching and biting, but she took her time, teeth scratching in the bend of his arms, behind his knees, turning him over to explore his beautiful back and lick his perineum.

He came on his hands and knees, face pressed into the bed, three fingers deep inside him, her other hand on his cock. He was beautiful as he shook and panted, sweat glistening over his skin, muscles clenching.

She pulled him back to sit against her, wrapping her arms around him, kissing his neck and ears.

“You are amazing. I could watch you come apart in my hands every day and never not be in awe.”

He laughed and turned to kiss her, pressing her back into the bed. “This would be no hardship for me, bella, you are a most generous lover.”

She fell asleep with him curled against her back, whispering dirty stories, arm around her, thumb stroking gently between her breasts.

---

Zevran kissed her goodbye in full view of most of the soldiers the next morning while they were having breakfast. He took a moment to say something quietly to Avery that had Avery blanching stark white and nodding, before kissing her once more on the cheek and heading out in the city.

---

Her last nights in Denerim, she decided to add in the song Meet Me on the Battlefield. I seemed oddly perfect for Thedas, even mentioning a “tainted” history, which could easily reference the Blight and the fact that Coryphaeus was bringing that bit of history back to the forefront.

Plus it was catchy, and invited them to join the Inquisition on the battlefield to protect their children.

By the second night, people were singing along easily to the chorus, and on the third several had the verses down. Perfect.

She left them with a grateful heart. Denerim had been good to her and she felt strong in her ability to actually do something to help. Bringing people information, hope, and inspiration in song was a powerful tool, and she hoped she’d get to do more of it.

She was going back to Skyhold, and hoped desperately that Kost would be there soon. She missed him with a surprising intensity.

-*-*-

He couldn’t get warm.

He’d washed himself as best he could with a bucket of water and a towel, he’d changed his clothes into his least dirty, and he was sitting by a fire, endlessly rubbing his cold hands together, trying to get the warmth back.

His kith sat around him, all silently staring into the fire as well. They’d lost six members in the fight and they ached from it.

Adamant. An ugly place in an ugly world.

Asaraanda sighed beside him and leaned her forehead against his shoulder, turning to straddle the bench they were sitting on, and wrapping her arms around him. He tugged her horn briefly in greeting, before wrapping his arm around her.

A runner came to the group with a pile of messages, handing some of them off to Ash before hurrying away again. Ash quietly sorted through them, handing them out to various people. Kost was surprised when she handed a thick roll to him.

He got his arm back from Raanda and unrolled it, frowning briefly in confusion at the unfamiliar characters before recognizing them and snorting.

Apparently Nic had seen fit to write him an entire novel in her ridiculous alphabet. She also decided to illustrate it and he had a confusing series of cartoons throughout.

“She seems to have spent a considerable time drawing the back view of this woman - do you think it’s the same woman, or was she writing a treatise on women’s backsides?” Raanda asked, looking over his shoulder at the paper.

“Knowing Nic, it could be either. At least it seems she’s having a good time, though I’m curious about the man being punched here.”

“And whose penis this might be,” Raanda sounded amused, Nic’s ridiculousness bringing her lighter feelings back.

Kost squinted. “You know, that might be mine, though I’m uncertain why she’d feel I needed to see a picture of it.”

Raanda shoved him. “You two, I swear.”

Kost’s mouth lifted slightly in a smile while he poured over the letter, wanting desperately to read it. Nic would know how to help lighten his spirit. He recognized some of the characters, but not enough to make any kind of sense out of it. He sighed. He’d have to make her read it when he was back with her.

“She’s drawn a map here, I think maybe she went to Denerim? Why.. I guess maybe to play music. That’s a smart use for her, she’d like that. I wonder whose idea that was,” he muttered.

There was a doodle of The Iron Bull, making him question the identity of the penis picture, but there was no real way to be sure right now. Also a doodle of the back of what looked to be an elf with beautiful tattoos.

At the end, in carefully written, terribly spelled Common, she’d added, “I love you. I miss you. Will see you in Skyhold when you get back.”

He touched the words, and smiled softly. He was incredibly grateful all of a sudden that she’d come into his life. She was very strange, but very bright, and in these times he needed that to cling to.

He didn’t realize, but he’d stopped feeling cold.

---

Chapter Text

One thing Nicole could never get enough of was the night sky in Thedas.

She’d seen pictures, of course, of what the sky on Earth would look like without all the light pollution, but pictures couldn't quite catch the awe of it.

She could lay on her back and look into eternity; she could see stars and planets and galaxies with amazing clarity.

She wondered if she could see Earth.

She’d found a spot away from the campfire one night and was staring up at the stars, absently playing her lute, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when someone coughed to get her attention.

She looked up to see Avery, who was looking awkward, like he’d rather be anywhere than there.

“Avery,” she nodded.

He nodded back and cleared his throat.

“What’s that you’re singing?”

“An old lullaby from home.”

He nodded and then sat down facing her.

“I owe you an apology.”

She stopped her playing and raised an eyebrow.

He grimaced. “I have been informed that you have done me no wrong and I have been,” he looked away. “Mean. And behaved in a way that a real man would not. That a good soldier would not.”

“I can agree with that. You’ve made me afraid to sleep in the same building as you, and made this entire trip unpleasant and frightening. And I’m supposed to be among allies.”

He scrubbed his face with his hands. “Yeah.”

She looked at him expectantly.

He caught her eye and grimaced. “I apologize. I will not bother you further.”

“And the next girl?”

“What?”

“The next girl who turns you down. Don’t bother her, either. Women are people. We are not required to want to suck your cock. We get to tell you no, and you have to deal with it gracefully. Treat all people with respect and you will get much further in life.”

His fists clenched and he looked a little lost but he nodded, and left her alone again.

She watched the space where he’d been, thoughtful, before turning her face back up to the sky, wishing Kost was with her.

---

“She misses you,” Cole murmured, appearing next to Kost as he sat staring at the fire.

Kost jumped, his hand going to the knife on his belt, before huffing. “She?”

“Nicole. She feels lost, lonely, longing to be held. She looks at the stars, sees eternity, and wants the safety of your arms, the beating of your heart.”

“How can you know that,” Dorian asked, leaning around Kost to look at Cole. “Is she nearby?”

“Her hurt touched his hurt,” Cole murmured, angling his head so he could peak at Dorian from under his hat. “He misses her, too.”

“She’s been alone for so long now,” Kost frowned, burying his face in his hands. “The world is falling apart and she’s.. So bright. So.. untainted by all of this death and.. evil. And she’s just out there alone. No one familiar to ground herself in. By the letter, I’m guessing she found some bed partners, but I don’t know them, what if they were bad people? What if it changes her to have been with them, without one of us to notice?”

Dorian leaned against Kost, wrapping an arm around him. “We will see her soon. And Cole can apparently sense her from across entire nations, so he would be able to tell you if her ‘hurt’ was dire, yes?”

“Yes,” Cole murmured.

They were quiet, then, Kost leaning into Dorian as they all stared into the fire, thoughts miles away.

---

Early the next morning, Kost awoke to muttering and cursing coming from the foot end of the tent. He squinted down, seeing Dorian glaring at a pile of clothes he’d strewn about.

“Problem?”

Dorian huffed, gesturing dramatically at the clothing. “I need a bath and a laundress, neither of which are currently available in this march home from hell to mountain top. My socks are stiff enough to walk by themselves, and the smell is getting strong enough, it might join the army itself. It’s not to be borne. I cannot wear these things again without washing, I can not.”

He threw himself dramatically backward and glared at the tent roof.

Kost managed to keep a straight face, reaching down to rub his fingers through Dorian’s hair. Dorian growled and moved his head away. “My hair is also disgusting. You can’t possibly enjoy touching it.”

Kost grinned to himself before rolling over and then crawling on top of Dorian. He rubbed his face back and forth in Dorian’s admittedly greasy hair, snuffling. Dorian squawked and flailed under him.

“You smell like,” Kost said, sounding like he was considering carefully. “Human male. Sweat, blood, something herby…”

He moved down, kissing across Dorian’s face, avoiding his mouth and then moving to bite and lick his shoulders, careful not to poke Dorian with his horns.

He started to move down further but then started laughing instead.

“What?”

“If I went down any further, my ass would start to leave the tent. Move up so I have room to inspect you properly.”

“You cannot really think to have sex in the morning, in a tent, with both of us unbathed for I don’t want to even think about how long?”

Kost sniffed his own armpit, grimaced and said, “You might have a point.”

He crawled off Dorian, laid back down and then opened his arms, gesturing for Dorian to join him.

Dorian did, curling up with his head on Kost’s chest, tracing the line of Kost’s shoulder absently with his fingers.

“Dorian,” Kost kissed the top of his head. “We are all equally disgusting and if anyone tried to use it against you, they’re ridiculous. Orlais has plenty of places for us to wash, we’ll get to one soon. Though obviously a one day wash in a river isn’t going to get things perfect, it’ll help a bit.”

“I might never feel clean again, at this rate.”

“And likely your socks will be better replaced than repaired if they're starting to gain sentience.”

“We should have a pyre. The Socks of the Soldiers of Adamant. Possibly put up a plaque.”

Kost grinned. “Be sure to mention that to Herah, I heard her going on about her socks yesterday, she will enjoy the sentiment, and possibly the distraction.”

They laid there quietly for a few minutes.

“None of that helps me brace myself to put my feet into any of those socks today, however. Nor the rest of my undergarments. Or outer.”

“If you need to go naked today, I can’t think of a soul who would complain. Bull especially might ride closer.”

Dorian grumbled, and eventually forced himself into his ‘least disgusting’ set of clothes. Kost did the same, sharing the distaste and wishing desperately to be back at Skyhold.

--- ***

She didn’t play at every tavern they stayed near, but when the mood struck and the owners were open to it (they always were, performers brought in more customers), Nic would bring out her lute and play for a couple of hours in the evening.

They generally camped outside of settlements, inns rarely having enough space for their party, but they’d go into town for drinks and food they didn’t have to cook.

They were sleeping tonight in a field outside a reasonably sized town along the northern banks of Lake Calenhad. She’d had a lovely time chatting playing that night, joined by an older man with an obviously well loved and well used drum. He’d taught her a few new songs, and they’d stayed together chatting and eating dinner after they were done.

Nic didn’t think a thing of leaving with him, walking him to his home, which was on the way to where her group was set up. As they said goodbye with hugs and bright smiles, she felt like she was finally finding her feet in Thedas. She had a vocation; something that she loved, and that was prized. The people were so kind. She knew that she was lucky in who she was meeting, because there was so much ugly in Thedas. She had managed to avoid it, so maybe it was more fringe than the games indicated.

With a light heart, singing a new song, she headed down the road past a grove of trees. It was dark, but the moons were bright enough to light the path.

She heard footsteps behind her, and she turned to see who it was - likely one of the soldiers, she figured. She saw one of the village men walking rather quickly behind her. She smiled and nodded at him, turning back around to watch the road in front of her - it was a bit uneven and she didn’t want to trip.

When he grabbed her, she froze, completely shocked, but then she fought back. In the tussle, her lute fell on the path, but he left it as he dragged her towards the trees. She fought and she yelled, but she was no match for his strength. When he got her out of visual range of the road, he had her face down, pinned in the dirt with her breeches at her knees, breathing threats in her ear as he tried to unfasten his own pants with one hand.

He shoved her legs apart with his knees, getting into position when suddenly there was a rustle and a strange sound, followed by the man jerking and falling over to the side.

“Nic?” Avery was behind her, and she shakily rolled herself over to look up at him. “Nic, are you okay? Did he-?”

“No,” she shook her head. “You got here just in time.”

Her hands were shaking. She tried to pull up her pants, but she couldn’t coordinate, something was very wrong with her shoulder.

“Do.. do you need help? I can.. I saw your lute in the road, I heard you yelling, I-” he carefully helped her up, and pulled up her pants, fastening them as quickly as he could. “Do you.. Can you walk?”

“I,” she couldn’t focus. “Yeah.”

***

Avery was gentle and kind as he led her out of the woods, gathering up her lute from the road, before bringing her to the camp.

There was quite an uproar when they got to camp, and she was sent to the person acting as their healer while Avery went with the Captain to explain. Nic did her best to explain as well, and her disjointed explanation was enough to assure people that Avery had helped her, not hurt her. Several soldiers were sent back to the town to explain to the Mayor.

The rest of the trip back to Skyhold, Avery stayed near her. He didn’t try to talk to her, they weren’t ever going to be friends, but she was never alone and he glared away anyone who paid her what he deemed as ‘too much attention.’

She was grateful.

---

“Something happened,” Cole appeared inside Kost’s tent.

“What?” Kost was immediately alert, sitting up, reading for his weapons.

“To Nic. Something happened,” Cole said, shifting nervously.

“Is she okay?” Dorian asked, rubbing Kost’s shoulders to soothe him as Kost froze.

“She will be. She needs us. I will go,” Cole’s head tilted so they could see his face finally. “I can get there faster. I can meet her at Skyhold.”

“Please,” Kost rasped. “Thank you, Cole. We’ll try to get permission to go ahead of the group so we can be there faster.”

Cole nodded and vanished.

Kost sank back on his sleeping pad, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”

“She’s okay. Cole said she is okay. He will be with her. We we get there as soon as we can,” Dorian curled up on Kost’s chest, trying to press in as much comfort as he could.

Kost eventually fell into a restless sleep full of nightmares of all the things that might have happened.

---

When Nicole got to Skyhold, Cole was there, waiting. She knew that after Adamant, he was going to be a mess, so she immediately pulled him into her arms. Avery hesitated, but Nic sent him off with a smile to do whatever it was he generally did when he was in Skyhold.

Nic let Cole lead her first to his room to drop of her stuff, and then into baths where he helped her get cleaned up from the road. He filled her in on how all her favorite people were faring on the road.

Even when she knew the main Inquisition crew got through everything in the game, it was still a huge relief to hear it confirmed, and that Kost, Asaraanda, and Vat were okay.

He tried to bring up her assault, but she told him that she wasn't ready to talk about it, yet. Maybe in a few days when she felt more grounded.

“What about you, Cole?” she asked as they curled up in his bed after their bath.

He shook his head and clung tighter to her. “I went into the Fade. The Nightmare said I was like him. He was wrong.”

“Oh, fuck. I’m so sorry,” she kissed his head where it rested on her chest. “What can I do?”

“I don’t know,” he whispered. “Tying, twisting, turning against their purpose - I can’t be that. Not again. Not like Him.”

“No,” she rubbed his back. “No, you would never be like the Nightmare, Cole. Even when you were hurting, you were doing it with compassion. You weren’t hurting people to enjoy their fear or pain.”

“No. I didn’t understand. Rhys helped me.”

“How could you? You were new to this world, you didn’t even know who you were. We all get help from people with more experience. That’s the whole of childhood. Hell, even adulthood.”

Cole nodded and they were quiet then, finding comfort in the peace of each other, and the familiarity of each other’s arms.

---

There was a knock at the door to the sitting room one evening a week later. Cole extricated himself from Nic’s arms and answered it. Nic heard Kost’s voice and was out of bed like a shot.

“Kost!” she ran at him, jumped as if to land in his arms, but instead of him catching her, with a flash of light, she jumped inside of him. He stumbled back, unsteady, and Dorian caught him with an exclamation.

Kost! I missed you so much, I love you so much, holy fuck, what just happened?

Kost laughed unsteadily, allowing Dorian to lead him to a chair to sit down.

“Well. Hello, Nic. I didn’t know you could do that.”

Me neither. Oh fuck, I hope I can get out again. But. Not just now? Can I stay for a bit?

Kost smiled softing and Nic felt an overwhelming rush of love. “You can stay a bit. At least I know you’re not getting up to any trouble this way.”

Chapter Text

After a brief conversation between Dorian and Nic, followed by an awkward hug - full of sincerity, but hugging Nic while she was in Kost’s body sent mixed signals to his body, and they all laughed together at the absurdity - Cole offered Nic and Kost his room so that they could catch up in privacy.

Kost had taken control of the body back and entered hesitantly, not being in the habit of making himself comfortable in bedrooms without their owners, but Nic just took the body and flopped down comfortably.

“Hello, Kost, I have missed you.”

I have missed you as well, though I certainly didn’t expect this.

She traced a finger down his horn. “No. I didn’t either. Sorry, it’s just been..”

Hard. Yeah. I know. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to keep you safe.

She started crying, but then pulled inside the body, putting him back in control.

They had a disjointed conversation after that - a mix of words, and flashes of images of what they’d seen while they were a part. They hadn’t done the sharing of images frequently, both much more comfortable with words and feelings, but in the situations they were sharing - assault, Adamant - a few pictures were more efficient. Words were insufficient, and emotions were overwhelming, but not descriptive.

The pillow was wet from tears by the time they felt they were done, and Nic was wiping her eyes when she had a thought and hastily popped back into the body and presented the beautiful image of Mara riding in front of the wagon as they traveled.

Kost laughed. “That view looks familiar, I think you wrote about her in your letters?”

Mmm. Mara. Yes. Yes I did. Do you have the letter on you? I can read it for you, I know you can’t have read it.”

Kost went back to the main room, grabbing his pack and a glass of beer.

They settled back into Cole’s bed and discussed the far more pleasurable parts of their journeys, though she politely didn’t flash images of the racy bits.

---

They decided to head to the tavern for dinner. They sat with Asaaranda and Vat, but decided not to tell them that Nic was possessing him again. Nic was able to settle and enjoy the atmosphere and people with no pressure or obligation to join in, and it felt wonderful to her.

When Avery settled at a nearby table, Nic pointed him out. She had mixed feelings about him, still, but he had saved her life, and really seemed to be trying to be a better person.

Kost, naturally, narrowed his eyes, frowning while he inspected the man, and Avery noticed, blanching.

“You’re terrifying, you realize.”

Kost huffed and quirked his finger at Avery, summoning him to the table.

Nic felt for Avery, she did. Kost could look terrifying when he had a mind to, and Asaraanda and Vat were very intimidating.

But he stood and came to the table, sitting when Kost gestured.

“You’re Avery.”

“I am.”

“I’m Kost. A very close friend of Nic’s.”

Avery looked nervous, but nodded. “She has quite a few of those.”

Kost smirked and nodded. “You’re lucky I wasn’t here when you were giving her shit, that would have gone very badly for you. The Iron Bull has to show restraint, but I have no issues kicking your ass for the things you pulled.”

Avery winced and looked down, clenching his fists.

“But you saved her. I wasn’t there, and she got hurt and,” Kost rubbed his hand over his face. “And you were there. And you stepped up. Thank you. She means the world to me.”

He felt joy and love welling up from Nic and smiled.

Avery looked wrong-footed for a moment and then smiled shyly. “She.. she’s a good person. And beautiful. I.. handled myself very poorly, I have been told this most firmly. When I found her..” he swallowed and looked away. “Well. I killed that sonofabitch without thought. I wish I could have made it last longer, but I just wanted him off of her.”

Asaraanda gasped, covering her mouth. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know - is she okay?”

“She is. He got there in time.”

“And then we got back to camp and people honestly thought it might have been me that hurt her,” Avery looked stricken, looking up into Kost’s eyes. “To see that happen, how awful it was, how scared she was.. She could barely walk! And then people thought.. They thought I would do something like that. They thought I did. People I work with, people I respect. I don’t… there’s no words for that kind of feeling. That level of self loathing. So. I’m doing what she said, I’m going to do my best to not be that type of a person.”

“That’s good,” Kost said. “Let people help you, and you’ll do alright. Just remember how that felt and you’ll never want to be that man again.”

---

Nic took the body on the walk back to the castle from the bar. She was feeling good, being with Kost and getting to talk about all the things with him again made the world feel right again. She was not in any kind of hurry, humming and looking up at the stars when she heard people at the gates. She looked and saw Bull come through, leading a horse and her heart leapt.

Without thinking, she ran to him and jumped into his arms, kissing him with enthusiasm as he stumbled but managed to catch her.

As soon as their lips met, she realized her mistake. A combination of Bull’s shock and stiffness and Kost screaming in her head.

She jumped back and covered her mouth, at a loss for how to fix the situation.

“Kost,” Bull frowned, rubbing his mouth thoughtfully. “Good to see you, too.”

Nic burst out laughing hysterically, unable to stop until she sat down wheezing in the dirt.

“Nice night at the tavern?” one of the soldiers who called in with Bull asked, moving around them with his own horse.

“Yeah, we’ll go with that,” Nic managed.

Fuck, Nic. You have to explain this. I can’t deal with this. Do you think he can handle it?

“Bull. I owe you an explanation. It’s weird as fuck, I hope you understand. We should probably get Cole and Dorian, probably. Maybe Solas?”

“Yeah,” Bull frowned. “Dorian. That would be a good move. Can I put my things away first?”

“Oh! Yeah, totally. I was just really happy to see you. I’ve.. well. After the explanation so this isn’t too weird. Not that it’ll be less weird. Well, it’ll be less.. It’ll be differently weird. I’ll go get Dorian and Cole and then we can.. Go on with making it differently weird. You look really handsome.”

Bull blinked and then laughed waving a hand at them. “Yeah. You go do whatever it is that you need to do and I’m going to just put all thoughts on this on hold. I’ll meet you…?”

“Cole’s living room? If it’s Cole and Solas, that makes sense.”

“Living room?” Bull paused at the unusual term. “Alright. I’ll see you there. Kost.”

Nic paused to watch him walk away, sighing a bit.

Seriously, Nic? You make my life so ridiculous. We should find Solas, anyway, to see if we can seperate without a trip to fucking Orlais.

“Yeah. We should. I think he’s limping.”

He’s definitely limping. He looks exhausted. And filthy. I realize now that your enthusiasm about my handsomeness is less flattering than I previously thought.”

Nic laughed, and headed inside to find her soon-to-be-exasperated friends.

“Oh, he’s fucking handsome,” she muttered. “But he’s got nothing on you, don’t you worry.”

She could feel his eye roll.

---

“You,” Solas paused, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Yes, of course you did. Hello, Nicole, I’m pleased to see you again.”

“Hi, Solas! You’re looking lovely this evening.”

“I do appreciate you refraining from greeting me the same way you greeted The Iron Bull. He can catch someone Kost’s size with little problem, but I cannot say that I could do the same.”

Nic eyed him with a smile and then cupped his cheek, moving closer so they were nose to nose. “So no jumping with enthusiastic kisses, but maybe a gentle romantic one?”

“What, romantic kisses already? You are a musician, I expect to be serenaded first,” he raised his brow. “I don’t think you’ve written a single song about your love for me.”

Nic grinned and kissed his cheek, moving back. “I could.”

You two are very weird.

“To the point at hand,” Solas moved on. “I think we should just test it.”

He held his hand up as if asking Kost to dance. “Nicole?”

She pulled herself back into Kost and focused before carefully placing her hand in Solas’. It was her real hand, not the light hand.

“That is so much weirder than the light hand,” Kost muttered, looking down.

It really is,” Dorian said, looking disturbed. “More disturbing than watching Kost nearly kiss Solas, and that was very disturbing.”

Kost turned his head with a laugh. “You’re telling me! That was less weird than being made to leap into Bull’s arms and kiss him, though.”

“Yes,” Dorian pursed his lips in displeasure. “I’m sure it was.”

Nic poked her head out, looking apologetic. “I’m really sorry, you guys. Once you’re used to interacting with people independently, it’s hard to remember you’re possessing someone again.”

There was a knock on the door and Nic squeaked, disappearing back inside Kost abruptly. Solas sighed and looked exhausted. Nic popped back out, grabbing his face and kissing him firmly. “You’re the best, Solas, and I appreciate how much you’re helping us.”

She dove back into Kost.

Kost, Dorian, and Solas had a quiet moment, exchanging amused/exasperated looks, and Cole opened the door.

“Hello.”

“Hello, Cole,” Bull followed him in. “Kost said he had something to explain.”

---

“What.”

Bull was sitting very still, eyes on Solas as he explained.

Nic fretted, making Kost want to fidget to deal with the nervous energy.

“I realize the situation is.. complicated, but she is, for the most part, a normal human woman.”

“A normal human woman who has horns because she’s really a spirit from another world who was possessing a vashoth and decided to keep a momento.”

“Heart racing, muscles clenching, trying to resist because he won’t want her, not her, but he’s overwhelming, smiling that smile, he smells so good, everything she hoped he’d be, so beautiful, she wants, maybe just a little is okay.”

“Can she do that mind reading crap?”

“No,” Nic said, still in Kost’s body. “She can’t.”

“She does have some empathic abilities that go beyond the normal human variety,” Dorian clarified. “But they take deliberation and physical contact.”

“Not-,” Nic cut in. “Not like.. I didn’t.. I just.. I can tell that you are a good person. I can’t read your thoughts.”

She finished in a whisper, looking at her lap,”I can feel that you are a good person. That’s all.”

Bull looked at her blankly. “Well.”

“Before you came, we were testing to be sure she could come back out without a trip to Orlais,” Solas murmured. Would it be acceptable to you, The Iron Bull, if Nic were to come out?”

Bull closed his eyes and breathed carefully. “Yes.”

Nic poked her head out first, meeting Bull’s blank stare nervously. Then she pulled the rest of the way, ending up standing in front of Kost, wringing her hands. Bull looked at her for awhile, before meeting the eyes of everyone else in the room, nodding once and saying, “Okay.”

He turned and left the room, shutting the door behind himself gently.

“Shit,” Nic hissed before flopping down on the floor and burying her face in her hands.

---

Bull came to her a few days later while she was playing in her spot in the garden. She paused when she saw him coming her way, but he waved his hand and she continued singing.

He leaned against the wall nearby, listening.

When she was done with the song she had been singing, a Fereldon love song, she decided to play one of the songs she’d mostly remembered from home. She was able to fudge some lyrics that she just could not remember and obviously no one would know better here.

It's not true
Tell me I've been lied to
Crying isn't like you
Oh-oh-oh
What the hell did I do?
Never been the type to
Let someone see right through
Oh-oh-oh”

When she was done, she told the people listening that she was finished for the time being, and waited to see what Bull would do, her hands still in position on her lute.

He came and sat down beside her, elbows on his knees, looking straight forward.

“Look,” Bull sighed, glancing at her. “It’s weird.”

She burst out laughing. “So fucking weird.”

He laughed a bit, too, throwing her that brain melting grin before sobering again.

She signed. “I get it. I really do. It’s why I was so unsure. False pretenses and all that."

She hesitated and then reached out to put her hand on his shoulder. He didn’t flinch, but he didn’t lean into it, either.

“I care about you, Bull. You’ve been one of my support people here, and I don’t want to lose you.”

“Yeah,” he nodded and patted her hand comfortingly. “I mean, You’re less weird than Cole. Mostly. Though Cole hasn’t tried to have sex with me.”

“Cole is asexual so he wouldn’t, no. Though he does really enjoy touch, so he’d like that part of it. Maybe just go for a cuddle.”

He looked at her like she’d lost her mind and she grinned cheerfully back. “I’ll leave that to you, thanks. But yeah. I think.. We’ll see. Let me get used to being around you while knowing what.. Who? You are.”

“Okay. I am really sorry, you know,” she leaned her head against his shoulder. “For making you think Kost lost his mind and wanted to make out with you. He really doesn’t.”

“That,” he put his arm around her, laughing. “Is disappointing. He’s gorgeous.”

Chapter Text

That night in bed, Cole curled around Nic tighter than usual.

She pet his hair gently, humming idly.

“Nicole.”

“Yeah, babe?”

“I’m leaving tomorrow.”

She twisted some hair around her finger. “Where?”

“You know.”

She nodded. She did.

“I can see your worry - caring, comforting, comfortable, Cole. Which will he choose? Will they let him choose? It helps me to know there are answers. I didn’t tell them.”

“What did you tell them?”

“I don’t want to be bound, I can’t be that again. The amulet did not work, we need to find out why. I can’t see everything in your head, just the pieces that hurt.”

“You will be safe,” she kissed his head. “That’s the important part.”

“Would you still care about me if I changed?”

Nic wrapped her arms around him tight. “I will always love you, Cole. You make the decision that feels right for you. Whatever happens, we will adjust and I will love you.”

He nodded and held her tightly back.

---

Kost found her in the library the morning after Cole left trying to distract herself from fretting. Solas’ spell allowed her to read Common, but apparently reading and writing were very different skills and she was sick of not being able to write to people. She was copying songs over and over, using a quill and a bowl of water, writing on the desk. She’d gotten some panicked looks at first, until people realized it wasn’t ink.

“Writing a treatise on the impermanence of thoughts?”

She looked up at him with a grin. “This is a song about a massacre, so that fits. The impermanence of us all.”

He sat on the desk and laughed. “Cheerful.”

“Ferelendons. A mighty hero avenged the deaths, very exciting. How can I help you?”

“Today we are helping you. I realize I made a mistake and we need to remedy it.”

She looked nervous. “What.”

“Self defense. You’re going to start learning it.”

“Dude, I cannot fight, I wouldn't know the first-”

“Oh, I know. I didn’t say fighting. But defense. Escape. You’re going to learn it right now.”

She sighed. “Fine.”

To her surprise, Kost led her to Bull, and they headed outside of Skyhold, to a small clearing.

“Right. So, first things first - Nic, get in me.”

She batted her lashes and fanned her face. “Oh, Kost? Right now? With an audience? You should have told me ahead of time, I would have brought the good lube.”

“I’m sure Bull has some with him at all times,” Kost rolled his eyes as Bull laughed and patted the pouch on his belt. “In me. I’m going to show you the moves this way so you feel it right, and then you’re going to try it.”

She blinked. “Oh. Fuck yeah, that’s really smart.”

It took a few tries, with her bouncing off his chest awkwardly, but she eventually managed to stop being physical enough to get back inside Kost.

"Sure didn't have to work that hard last time!"

"It's actually comforting to me that it's hard for you to do that, though having you ram into me repeatedly was not dignified."

Nic's amusement filled his head.

"Ready?" Bull asked, standing a bit further away from them than he normally would.

Kost nodded and moved so that his back was to Bull. Bull came up behind them and grabbed Kost, putting him in a headlock.

Oh, no. Spending my day with two hot half naked men wrestling. Oh woe. My life is so hard.

Kost snorted. “Yes, Nic, this is totally about sex right now. Pay attention.”

They went through several holds, showing her how to get out of them - it was different with the horns, Kost showed her several ways to use them to her advantage, and they also showed her several ways they made things more difficult.

She practiced first in Kost’s body, so that she could do the moves exactly as she’d felt him do it, and when they thought she had it well enough, she pulled away into her own body again.

“Does that ever get any less weird?” Bull asked, frowning.

“No,” Kost shook his head. "It is increasingly weird. Helpful in this case, I believe, but having a person walk in and out of your body - and be able to control your body? No. It’s weird.”

“And she can only do that to you?”

“We think so,” she said, stretching. “Even when I was just a glowing light person and couldn’t touch Kost, I could touch other people. I thought I wouldn't be able to do it anymore with Kost, either, but here we are!”

Bull shook his head, frowning. “Right. I think a break for some food and then we’ll see what you can do in your own body.”

“So many things, Bull,” she muttered, accepting bread from Kost. Kost laughed.

“Really hot things, too,” he agreed. “Has Bull not seen them yet?”

“Some,” she shrugged. “You’re the only person I’ve let fuck me.”

He looked surprised.

“Sex is a wide range of activities, dear, you can have a very full sex life without risking pregnancy or certain diseases being transmitted.”

“Diseases?” Kost looked worried.

Nic shrugged again. “Where I’m from we’ve got a big emphasis on ‘safe sex’ where you try not to have bodily fluids mixing without a lot of thought and testing to be sure you don’t have something you will give your partner. I admit not having condoms and STI testing makes me very nervous about sex here. Especially when sleeping with people who I know have slept with a lot of other people.”

“STI?” Bull asked, as they all sat down to eat.

“Sexually transmitted infection,” she shrugged. “Infections mostly spread by sexual activity. Penises going into vaginas or anuses being the easiest way to spread things. You can also catch things with oral sex.”

Bull chewed thoughtfully. “Makes sense. We don't have the same understanding, but the Tamassarins do regular checkups, and people with open sores or rashes are not permitted to have sex with Tamassarins until they're gone. Humans aren’t as fastidious, however.”

“Humans are generally gross,” she nodded.

“I wonder if you are human enough to catch diseases. You haven’t been sick yet, and that’s abnormal when in a new area.”

Nic paused. “Oh, that’d be fucking awesome, if I wasn’t human enough to get sick. I could definitely do without another cold. Or syphilis. Have you been sick, Kost?”

“Yeah, on the road to Adamant. Nothing bad, just a cough and runny nose.”

“Huh,” Nic pursed her lips. “I guess we wait and watch and if I don’t get sick when most of the other people around me are sick, I can consider myself immune and then I can get my planned Thedan Orgy.”

Bull choked and started coughing, “Your what?”

“Oh, she just always wants to fuck everyone, she’s ridiculous. An orgy would be an efficient method.”

Bull laughed, shaking his head. “You’re something else.”

---

Nic practiced her self defense with various people over the next few weeks, and she acquitted herself decently. Certainly with anyone well trained, she would be in trouble, but she could hold her own against an average person not expecting her to fight back. Against anyone particularly drunk, she might be able to get in a few kicks before running.

It did help, she found. She knew the limits of her abilities and knew to be cautious, but she had a chance at getting away next time someone decided she was easy prey and that felt nice.

She finished playing in the tavern one night and found herself disinclined to go right to bed. Bull was busy with a rather handsome soldier, Dorian and Kost were off doing whatever, and she decided to find a cozy spot on the battlements to watch the stars before heading to bed.

She found a nice corner, out of the path of the soldiers walking, but near enough to them that if there was trouble, they could hear her.

With a happy sigh she laid back on the ground, put her feet on the wall, spread her arms out and smiled up at the stars.

The sky was so clear. She still hadn't lost her feelings of awe, being able to see so much so without a telescope. Tonight she could see the two moons easily from where she lay, beautiful in the field of stars. She completely lost track of time, letting her mind wander as she followed the movements of the heavens.

“Good evening, bella,” a voice spoke from the shadows behind her. She flailed and sat up as quickly as she could, finally looking up into the very amused face of Zevran.

“Zevran!” She grinned and tackled him, kissing him with enthusiasm. “What are you doing here, you gorgeous thing?”

“Visiting a friend,” he said with a smile, tracing her ear with his finger. “I listened to you singing tonight, you were lovely as always.”

“Why didn’t you come say hi? I could have introduced you to my friends!”

“I am not here, officially,” he smiled, his teeth gleaming in the moonlight. “But I could not resist saying hello to you when I saw you heading off alone.”

“Ah,” she smiled. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“I heard about your attack and that Avery saved you! What a change of heart he had,” Zevran pulled her to rest between his legs, letting her lean back against him while he held her.

“Yeah, that was weird. I think whatever you said, combined with several of the soldiers confronting him, broke him down enough to apologize. Then he saw the attack and it upset him. When people thought he might be the one to do it, he finally understood. What did you say?”

“That is not for your ears, but I am glad to have gotten through to him. Especially as he was the one in a position to help you. And yet here you are again, off on your own, being surprised by men in the dark.”

"I did make sure to be close enough to the patrols that I could yell and be heard easily.”

“Mm, but I could have hurt you before you ever had a chance, Nicole.”

“I know. I just needed the space. I can never be perfectly safe, but I’ve been learning self defence, and I am weighing risks with less ignorance.”

“Good,” he kissed her neck. They sat quietly together watching the stars until she starting fall asleep, comfortable with his heat and softness at her back.

“Do you have a room, bella?”

“Not really. I sleep in one of the group rooms when I’m on my own, or in Cole’s room if he’s here. He’s out right now, though.”

“Oh, a lover?”

“No. A dear friend.”

“I see. There is a small room blocked off by rubble with an intact enough roof, if you wanted to head a bit further out of sound range from the patrols and let me visit with you properly before I need to go.”

“Oh, absolutely.”

---

Another night with Zevran was completely worth having to wake up and stumble back to her room after only an hour of sleep in the freezing pre-dawn hours, kissing him sleepily before he left for wherever he was heading next.

Less appreciated was Kost coming into her room bright and happy in the morning, when she felt like she’d just barely managed to close her eyes.

“Good morning, Nic! I was thinking we’d head down to one of the little towns today, get you out of Skyhold for a bit.”

“Mph. Sleeping,” she pulled the blanket over her head and turned away from him.

“It’s rather late,” he sat on her bed and started poking her.

“I was up very late, I swear I only just shut my eyes.”

He frowned. “Up doing what?”

“Fucking Zevran.”

Kost blinked. “What? He’s here?”

“Briefly. I went to stargaze after I was done playing and he found me. We had an enthusiastic reunion and now I am le tired.”

“Le tired..? You know what, never mind. Does that mean he’s gone?”

“Yeah, he left at stupid early o’clock. You can’t pretend you were never here if you stay around when people can see you.”

“I suppose. Would have been interesting to meet him.”

“Mm. Now I’m going to daydream about him fucking you. Delicious.”

“And when you say you were fucking…”

“This time I do mean fucking. I decided that if I’m going to catch Thedan syphilis from someone, it might as well be him. Plus, there’s healing mages here, and Bull said Stitches knew the common cures. I’m less worried. And it was worth it. There are definite differences between elf and qunari cock, but both are fantastic when used correctly.”

Kost bent and kissed her head through her blanket. “Alright, then. You sleep and recover. I’ll go tell Dorian we’re not going today. I’ll come back in a few hours and haul you to the baths, yes?”

“Yes, thank you,” she rolled over and pulled him down for a kiss and a hug. “I love you, Kost. You’re the best person I could have gotten into this mess with. Thank you.”

He smiled and kissed her mouth, then nose, then forehead. “I’m glad you found me, too. I’ll see you later, love.”

Chapter Text

The Inquisitor’s party had been spotted coming up the mountain pass through the lower settlements, and it resulted in the usual flurry of activity - runners to all the necessary groups so that people were available to debrief, beds were made, water and food was put into rooms, and hot water for the Inquisitor’s private bath would be ready when she went into her room.

Nicole was pacing anxiously around the keep, always within view of the front gate, watching for Cole. She honestly didn’t even know which way she wanted him to go, she just wanted him back, safe from binding and content with his decision.

She just wanted to know.

Finally, when she was standing on the wall overlooking the bridge, she saw what she thought was Cole’s party coming over the hill. She flailed and walked back and forth a few times, unable to decide if she wanted to stay and keep her eyes on them while they came into the Keep, or run down to meet them right away.

He might be tired, he might not want to be ambushed right away.

She could see his hat now, it was definitely them. And they.. Definitely had all the usual body parts and were riding in on the normal horses at the normal pace and none of this was helpful.

She flailed and sat down abruptly, blowing her hair out of her face. Then she took her hair down and finger combed it, since it was obviously falling down anyway. But then that was annoying, and she started to braid it back up again, except her fingers kept getting tangled, and she whacked her hand on her horn, which hurt.

She put her face in her hands and screamed before laughing and then laid down on the ground, breathing deeply to calm down.

“It’s just Cole. You know that. Nothing is wrong. Everything is going to be better now, because you don’t have this big unknown.”

She stood up and brushed herself off. She closed her eyes, breathing deep, getting calm so that when she saw Cole she’d be supportive of whatever thing - because she was-

“It’s okay.”

She flailed, accidentally bumping Cole’s hat, then she burst into tears and jumped into his arms. “I’ve missed you so much, I love you so much!”

He gently wrapped his arms around her, one hand smoothing her hair because he knew she liked that.

---

She didn’t even ask. It didn’t matter. They stayed on the battlements for a long time, eventually sitting next to each other, still holding each other, not bothering to talk.

“It’s different now,” he finally commented, exploring her hand with his fingers.

“Yeah?”

“Will you teach me?”

“Whatever you need, love.”

---

They went to Cole’s room to drop off his things, joining Solas for a simple meal in their common room instead of going to the Great Hall.

“What about him changed, Solas?” she asked around a bite. The kitchens had provided crusty bread, roast druffalo, roast veggies, and a creamy cheese. Nic made herself a delicious sandwich.

“It is a difficult thing to put into words, especially for someone who doesn’t understand spirits and states of being,” he mused. “Had I not experienced your transformation, I would not have thought it possible.”

Nic grinned. “You’re welcome. So he’s more like me?”

“No, that’s not it, exactly. He’s more in this realm,” he sipped his cider. “Enough so that I believe he would be protected from any binding, as you are. As safe as most people who are not from the Fade.”

“Meaning mostly, but blood mages do find ways.”

“They do, but it is more difficult.”

They all chewed, lost in their thoughts.

“So I’m safe, then?” Nic asked. She’d been wondering.

“Yes,” Cole said. “I spoke to Solas about it before.”

Nic grinned at him. Solas nodded.

“He did. He also offered to give the Amulet to you after it failed to work for him. I feel, however, that it is unnecessary.”

“Because I’m Extremely Human.”

Solas gave her a bland look. “Indeed. You are not similar enough to the spirits of the Fade.”

Nic finished her food, and looked to Cole who caught her eye and put his last bite of carrot in his mouth. “Baths next?” Cole nodded. “Join us, Solas?”

“Yes, thank you.”

---

Nic and Cole had a routine when they bathed, having gone together frequently. Solas rarely joined them, and declined help with back scrubbing or water pouring, efficiently washing and rinsing himself before joining them in their favorite soaking tub.

Cole was looking around the room curiously, which was new.

“What are you noticing, Cole?” Nic asked.

“I thought..” Cole frowned. “‘The drop of water sliding down her back, the shadows moving over her skin. How would it taste, how would she move.’ I thought I would feel those things now. Like a person.”

Nic abruptly sat up and climbed onto his lap, hugging him tight. “Oh, no. No. You.. You are a person, Cole. You have always been a person. Maybe there’s a line between person and a Compassion Spirit, I don’t fucking know, but certainly since you came through and took a name and put on pants, anyone arguing against your personhood only did so to be an asshole. Sexual feelings aren’t what makes a person.”

“She is correct,” Solas said, frowning and looking at Cole intently. “There is no one way to be a person, Cole, and how one experiences sexuality varies hugely from one person to the next."

Cole pressed his head to Nic’s shoulder. “Are you sure? You like it so much. It is in so many of your thoughts.”

Nic grinned. “Me or Solas?”

Solas laughed and leaned back against the pool, relaxing.

“Both of you, but-”

Nic burst out laughing, and Solas smirked at her. "I knew it! But Cole, really. You are an amazing person as you are. You were an amazing person as you were before. If things change in the future, I find it very hard to imagine you as anything else. Experience what is, and if any of that changes, you can explore it then. You have enough to deal with without trying to convince yourself to like boobs."

Cole looked down at her chest. "I like breasts. They're very soft. But I don't want to have sex with you."

Nic grinned and kissed his nose. "Then I will absolutely not have sex with you, and will love you exactly the same as I did before."

---

Things fell into a new rhythm with Cole. He spoke frequently with his closer friends about different changes he was noticing. He struggled especially with dealing with anger, and Varric was helping him with that. He clung to Nic, finding the quiet time they spent cuddling in bed soothing, more than it had been before. She understood him better than most, understood the confusion about changing fundamental parts of yourself.

Solas was able to help with the parts no one else could ever understand, and he kindly kept his feelings around Cole choosing to become more human to himself.

---

“There you are!” Kost came up behind Nic and picked her up, throwing her over his shoulder. “I thought you might have left, I haven’t seen you since Herah got back.”

Nic laughed and pinched his butt, making him jump. “I’ve been busy. Cole’s been through a major change and he needed support and cuddles.”

Cole watched them from under his hat with a soft smile.

“You have missed practice. Cole will understand your need to be able to defend yourself.”

“Yes.”

She huffed. “Fine. Now?”

“Yes, now.” He hauled her near the practice rings, to a small area they’d been using for her work. The practice rings were too visible, she was always uncomfortable thinking people were watching her. Cole followed.

Kost and Nic went through their usual warm ups and then faced off. Cole watched for a while before stepping in. “Wait. Like this. You learned how his body moves, but yours moves better like your dance; try.”

Cole showed her the move and she made the connection right away, quickly using that idea to change her technique, and she was able to easily throw Kost with her next attempt.

“Ha!” she grinned down at him, before hugging Cole. “Thank you! That was very helpful.”

“Yes, thank you, Cole. She’s really struggled with that move. Why don’t you go against her this time?”

Cole and Nic faced off. It was very different, fighting Cole. He would get her into a hold and then vanish, reappearing in front of her to fix her stance, and then appear behind her again like he’d never moved, to talk her through the next part. It was like working with multiple people at once, who could read your body perfectly and knew exactly how it moved.

Kost stood nearby wide-eyed watching them work. When she worked with Kost or Bull, there was always a tension with the touch, but she and Cole were completely comfortable together, no hesitation to touch or ask questions. He realized then just what it meant that they slept together. He’d written it off before as nonsexual and therefore somehow not important, but what he was seeing was a deep level of connection, intimacy, and understanding.

He frowned. He had assumed, he realized, that he and Nic would always have the strongest connection, the deepest intimacy level. What could be more intimate than sharing a body for months? It was the understanding that was the difference, maybe. And the lack of sexual tension.

Nic hit the ground with a grunt, rolling Cole over, sitting on him and throwing her arms in the air. “I got you!”

Cole smiled up at her and poked her in the side with his thumb. “Dead.”

She grabbed her side and rolled off of him, dramatically groaning. “Tell… Kost… I’m sorry I never wrote the sonnet about his ass.”

She went limp and stuck her tongue out to the side.

Kost snorted. Cole got up and put his hat over her face. “Nicole has started the sonnet, but she gets distracted by giggling every time and hasn’t been able to finish it.”

Nic heard Bull’s laugh then and grinned, not moving. She felt a boot nudging her foot and then Bull’s voice, “She was doing really well until the end there. I was impressed.”

“Yes,” Cole said, sitting near her hip on the ground.

“Cole was the teacher she needed at this point,” Kost said, sitting near her head. She heard Bull slowly ease himself down to sit near her feet. “It’s a shame she died.”

“But at least I was on top!” she said, crossing her arms but not bothering to remove the hat.

“Oh?” Bull laughed. “That makes it better, does it?”

“He might have killed me, but I would have bled all over him. It would have been really gross and unpleasant for him.”

“That is true,” mused Kost. “I suppose if you can’t beat them, you might as well bleed all over
them.”

---

“What,” Nic’s mouth hung open.

“Maryden will be there as well, I think that you will be well suited,” Leliana commented.

“But. Orlais. You think I’m ready for Orlais? For a ball? With the Empress?”

“I do,” she said, tilting her head. “Do you not? Your trip to Fereldon went very well, and you have played around Skyhold. The Orlesian visitors frequently mention your playing in the garden.”

“Yeah, but,” she tried again. “The Game and.. Fighting and death and all that.”

Leliana smiled. “Indeed. You will need to go to fittings for your new clothes, I will send a runner for you when they’re ready.”

She opened and closed her mouth a few times, mind filled with horror and displeasure, but unable to articulate it. Especially not to Leliana. She nodded and left, heading straight for the Herald’s Rest. Kost was training with Maras Kata, she didn’t know where Cole was, but she knew this time of day-

Yes, Bull was in his usual chair at the bar, laughing with the Chargers. She headed straight towards him and crawled onto his lap, burying her face in his chest. He blinked down at her but she shook her head, and wrapped her arms around him. He rested his hand on her back and went back to his conversation.

His voice was soothing, and she felt safe in his arms, so she eventually fell asleep listening to his heart beat steadily under her head. When he noticed, he smiled and shook his head a bit, smoothing her hair and settling her more comfortably.

---

She woke up in a strange bed, curled up with Cole, but with the heat of another body behind her. She blinked, trying to get her eyes to see better in the dark, and then settled for reaching back to see if she could learn who it was by feel. She could. It was Bull, he was on his back and she rested her hand on his belly enjoying the feel of it rising and falling rhythmically.

“He didn’t want to wake you up or walk you all the way to my room,” Cole said quietly.

“Makes sense.”

“I tried to sleep in my bed, but I missed you. Bull said it was okay,” Cole continued.

She smiled and kissed his cheek. “I prefer you to be here, too.”

“You're afraid.”

“Leliana wants me to go to Halamshiral. Maryden is going, too, they hire musicians for the gardens so that there’s music everywhere.”

Cole was quiet for a moment. “People will die.”

She nodded.

He pulled her closer, rubbing her back. “I will try to keep you safe.”

“Thank you.”

Chapter Text

Halamshiral was fast approaching and Nicole was not thrilled. She’d started spending a chunk of most days with Maryden, learning songs, but more importantly learning about Orlesian culture and how to play music there. She and Maryden weren't exactly friends, but they shared a passion for music and enjoyed playing together. The customers at the Herald’s Rest appreciated the nights they spent singing duets, or having competitions to see who could get the most people dancing.

Tonight, however, was going to spent with Kost and Dorian on top of the tower Cole had shown them with a platter of snacks and several bottles of wine. Kost was leaving in the morning with Meras Kata, heading back to the Exalted Plains.

“Are the stars the same in Tevinter, Dorian?”

“No, in Tevinter they are far superior,” he smirked, eating an olive.

“I miss my stars,” Nic said, laying back to look up without straining her neck. “Though I’ve found a dipper substitute! Just right over there.”

“Dipper?”

“We had the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. One or both of them were part of another constellation, but I forget what. Or.. I think it was someone’s belt. Maybe Orion? Eh. But they looked like dippers. You know, for wells; Cups on sticks.”

“Ah. Creative, I suppose.”

“Do you know about galaxies?”

“We might have a different word for it, what is a galaxy?”

“A group of stars. The Universe is just…. Everything, right? And then in the universe there are stars and planets and moons and bits of things. And those things tend to group together in clusters… like, look over there - that really large bundle of stars.” She pointed and Kost and Dorian focused on it. “That’s actually billions of stars, and planets. And we’re in one here. And my planet was in one, obviously. We were on Earth, which was the third planet from our star, in a solar system - meaning our star and everything orbiting it. And our solar system was one of billions in the galaxy called the Milky Way.”

Kost snorted. “Milky Way? All of that and you called it the Milky Way?”

She grinned. “Yes. The part of it we could see from our planet with our naked eye, or with telescopes, looked a bit like glowly milk strewn in some water. It is beautiful. I don’t know. People name things weird. That’s just the name for it in English, I’m sure other people have named it better things.”

“Oh, that’s right, you have quite a few languages in your world,” Dorian said. “Do you know how many?”

“Oh, hell no. Hundreds. Though there was a concerted effort to destroy quite a lot of them, so we have lost languages. Some places are trying to bring them back, which is amazing. I hope they can. Languages are fascinating.”

“I think so, too. There were more languages here, of course, but most have been lost or are used so rarely that they might as well be," he frowned and crossed his arms. "I’m cold.”

Kost pulled Dorian to sit between his legs, wrapping his arms around him. Dorian sighed happily and leaned back on his new pillow to look at the stars.

“It’s terrible that you’re leaving tomorrow. I will be cold and all I’ll get is mocked if I mention it.”

Nic grinned. “You can cuddle up with me, Dorian, don’t worry. I can pretend to be Kost pretty well."

“You really can’t. You’re impressively terrible at it."

She cracked up. “Yeah. That’s really true. I’m very glad we weren’t killed as an abomination.”

“Me, too,” muttered Kost. “Pass me the wine."

Nic passed him a bottle before laying back down, throwing her legs over the men's legs and looking dreamily at the sky.

"I wonder if my world is up there."

"Do you think it could be?" Kost asked, drinking from the bottle.

"No idea. If so, those mirrors are fucking impressive," she mused. "'Other worlds' is so vague. The Fade seems to take up the same space as Thedas. Maybe my world is a weird overlapping thing like that. Or maybe.. maybe we're a nearby solar system. But that sounds too weird."

"We take it for granted that we have access to another world, I hadn't considered other meanings of that word," Dorian commented, looking at the Galaxy she'd pointed out. "What a strange thought. If there are people on your world, then how many other worlds also have people? And you seem human, aside from the horns, would there be planets with only elves or dwarves?"

Nic started giggling. "Are you sure this is wine, we're getting all existential; sounds like we're up here smoking elfroot."

"We'll do that next time," said Dorian, patting her legs.

"Absolutely," Kost smiled. "I just realized she never has."

---

Halamshiral was fast approaching and now Kost was gone.

Not that Nic was freaking out, she was entirely fine.

Except the runner had finally come to bring her to her first fitting. She’d been measured several days ago. She knew she was being a brat, but she hated everything about having to go to Halamshiral and so every bit of the fitting and measuring was terrible. In the game, she was pretty sure Maryden was able to wear her normal clothes. Though, in the game, everyone had only one outfit forever. Nic had been able to wear her own clothes to Denerim. Denerim obviously wasn’t Halamshiral, but Orlesians could deal with it.

Or not, obviously.

Not that the clothes were bad. Leather pants, a lovely flowy-sleaved blouse, and a leather bodice over top. They were working out some kind of a mask for her, apparently, which she dreaded. The clothes would have armor built in, which was nice, but also terrifying. She had tall boots that had a cleverly hidden knife as well.

She really liked the boots.

She really did not like the knife.

The knife had necessitated adding knives to the defence practice she was still having with Bull or Cole when they had a chance. She hated every second of it and had cried the first time her knife was taken from her and held to her throat during practice. And several times after that.

The fitting was easy, just a few adjustments to be made, and she left the tailor that evening feeling conflicted. Nice clothes, but possible death. Her ass looked amazing in the pants, but also.. death.

“I like the boots, too.” Cole’s voice came from her side as he joined her and she grinned at him.

“Sexy as hell, right? I’m going to wear these all the time.”

He blinked and looked her over carefully. “They make you light up inside, more confident, but the knife still scares you.”

“Yes. Being stabbed can’t feel any better than being shot with an arrow and that was terrible. I don’t want to.”

“It hurts, yes.”

She blinked at him and had to clench her fists to avoid snatching him up for a day or two of ridiculous pampering.

“Why do you want to take off my clothes?” Cole wondered, and she heard Bull laugh as he came up behind them.

“Oh, Cole, I thought we talked about this,” he grinned, joining them. “Nice boots, Nic.”

“Hell yes they are. And to inspect you for injury, Cole. You reminded me that you get hurt, and I hate that so much.”

“Is that what we’re calling it these days?”

She grinned and traced one of the scars down Bull’s arm. “I don’t know, Bull, do you need inspecting?”

He leaned down and kissed her firmly - a first since she told him her origins story - and shook his head. “Not just now, but maybe tomorrow. We have somewhere to be right now.”

“We do?”

“Yes. I was going to bring you.” Cole hid his face with a tilt of his hat.

She blinked at them both and shrugged. “Lead on, my dear sirs!”

The lead her through the great hall, up stairs, through a door and out to a path overlooking the garden. She peaked down and grinned, “I could get into so much trouble up here with a bag of pebbles when certain Orlesians are visiting.”

“That’s why this area is generally restricted,” Bull muttered. “Sera.”

“I still haven’t actually met her. I’ve seen her at the tavern, of course, but we haven’t spoken.”

Cole opened a door to a room three doors down from the hall and held it out for them. Inside were Dorian and Varric playing cards at a small table.

It was a bedroom with a full sized bed in one corner, a nice fireplace with a kettle and a pot nearby for cooking, a cabinet against a wall with kitchen type things, currently holding a small party’s worth of food and several casks. There was a wardrobe, the table with two chairs, and a large warm looking rug.

Nic noticed her lute near the bed and smiled, apparently they wanted her to play for them.

“Hello! This is a nice little party,” she smiled in, sitting on the bed. Bull joined her, but Cole stood near the door, moving his hands nervously. Nic frowned at him.

“Well, hello! Took your time, didn’t you?” Dorian called. “Care to join us for a game? We can move the table.”

“Sure,” Nic said. “I’m terrible, but they you get to feel superior. And I'm not late, I was getting a fitting, and didn’t know we were having a party.”

“Surprise!” called Varric, helping move the table so that a corner hit between Bull and Nic on the bed, allowing them to nearly be as comfortable as if there were four chairs. “Hey Kid, I think you can squeeze in by Songbird there.”

"Songbird?" Nic asked, delighted.

"Feels right," Varric winked.

"It does," Cole said, sitting next to her, and they dealt the cards.

Nic ended up having Cole play with her. Together they were still absolutely terrible, but they had a lot of fun.

“You know,” Varric said, sweeping up his winnings carefully. “I can't believe the Kid is the first one to shack up with someone.”

“Shack up?” Nic laughed, confused. "That seems a bit.."

Everyone blinked at her, and Nic paused, realizing she was missing something.

“I mean, yeah, I sleep in his room a lot, but ‘shacking up’ usually means a shared place, and I can't even go to his room without him, I don't have a key," She looked around again. "What am I missing here?”

“Kid,” Varric said carefully.

Cole placed a key in front of Nic on the table. “A home for us.”

She blinked and turned to face Cole fully. “A.. a home for us?”

He reached out his hand to hold hers. “Yes. This room. A place for you to be with me, even if I sometimes have to go. A home is the place where family is, and where you can always go. You don’t have to not have a home anymore.”

Nic looked at him blankly, and then back down at the key on the table. And then around at all the men, who were looking very nervous, now that they realized they were celebrating something she didn’t know anything about.

She looked back at Cole and burst into tears.

He pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her. “I’ve got you.”

She laughed through her tears and pulled back to kiss him full on the mouth. “Yeah, you do. And I’ve got you, too, Cole.”

He grinned, the guys cheered, and she buried her face in Cole’s shoulder, digging her fingers into him.

She had a home.

-

The party went on with cards, stories, songs, and lots of drinks.

“We had multiple meetings, you know,” Varric said, when Nic was sleepily curled up on Bull’s lap on the bed. “The Kid asked Chuckles and I first, and we were fine with you just moving into the tower. But then we had to ask Nightingale, and she had a series of meetings with everyone because you’d be getting a key to the whole tower, access people just don’t get. Most of us saw no problem with it because we know you, but some-”

“Vivienne,” Dorian cut in.

“And Buttercup,” Varric nodded. “They don’t know you and weren't comfortable with it. Nightengale wasn’t either, as it’s the same tower as the Inquisitor. She thinks you’re harmless, but didn't get where she is by trusting.”

“Hey, it makes sense. Bull and I have talked before about how much of a nightmare it is to have all of you together. Just one misjudgement and there goes all your rooms.”

Varric nodded. “It was unexpected. People getting together, that’s nothing new, but no one expected it of the Kid. And he was so certain and so stubborn. And here we find out he hadn’t talked to you about it all!”

Varric and Bull laughed.

“I could see her hurt,” Cole murmured. “I knew how to help.”

“I hope you didn’t give up your room just for my happiness, Cole," she frowned. "Yours matters, too.”

“You make me happy. Being with you makes me happy. A home is something I want as well.”

“Yeah,” Bull commented. “You know it’s serious when he crawls into bed with me because you’re there.”

Varric sputtered, sprayed his drink on the table. Dorian luckily hadn’t been drinking, but joined Varric in the incredulous look.

“Oh, come on,” Bull rolled his eyes. “No, I didn’t have a threesome with Cole. Nic fell asleep on me in the tavern, so I just put her to bed in my place with the Chargers. No point in hauling her all the way to the hall. Then Cole popped up sometime later and asked if he could stay, too. They don’t like sleeping apart if they can help it.”

“I was alone in the Spire. Sometimes I wake up and forget that I’m not there. She helps. She helps me to be here, now. More myself, more.. Real. She makes me real, and she loves me. She loved me before, and she would love me as much if I had decided to be less human. Most people don’t remember me. No one has ever thought to love me.”

Nic crawled off Bull to curl up on Cole’s lap, wrapping her arms and legs around him. “Because you’re amazing. It feels trite to call you kind or sweet when you were literally formed from Compassion. The foundation of your being is one of the most nobel and rare things in the world and how could anyone not love you?”

“Sera says I’m creepy.”

“Well,” Nic paused. “I mean, there’s certainly something to that, from some perspectives. But so am I. I can literally walk into Kost and control his body.”

“Yeah,” grimaced Bull. “I like to ignore that part, thanks.”

Dorian raised his cup in a silent toast.

“So, you see,” she winked at Cole. “we’re a very good match.”

“You seem to be,” Varric said. “You two together, and then Songbird with…”

“I don’t want sex,” Cole said tilted his head to meet Varric’s eyes. “But Nic does. I choose her for who she is, as she chooses me for who I am. If she has sex or loves someone else, that doesn’t change us.”

Varric smiled at them, his eyes soft. “Yeah, Kid. It doesn’t. I’m happy for you both.”

---