Dorian arrives at their usual little spot early - or perhaps, the Commander is running a bit behind; yes, that would be better. He would not suffer anyone thinking that Dorian of House Pavus is not fashionably late to any and all social functions. Having settled the matter with himself, he makes a satisfied little nod, and takes to arranging the pieces on the chess board, sweeping them up into a crackling, turquoise cloud of telekinetic magic and conducting their motions with flourishing gestures, as if he were overseeing a tiny orchestra of alabaster-white and ebony-black musicians with heavily chiseled, mask-like faces.
When each musician is in place, ready to play out this day’s performance, Dorian eases, cross-legged, into his curve-backed, padded stool, and casts a leisurely glance over the surrounding gardens.
The Commander is still nowhere to be seen; nothing disrupts the familiar background bustle that always fills Skyhold’s courtyard this time of day. Chirping little Sisters flitting about like round red-and-white birds, their robes flapping like wings; a couple of Josephine’s guests stumbling uncertainly back and forthin the shade of the copper-touched trees, necks craned and mouths agape; a few figures in grimy aprons gliding through the fuzzy, rustling green of the plant nursery, including… Ah, including the Lord Inquisitor himself, whose black and gold formal wear is easily recognizable even from this distance. With subtle Tevinter motifs that go over the head of most southerners (intentionally so; it would not do for the masses to know that their lauded ‘Gideon Trevelyan’ is actually a former cultist who time-travelled a bit too zealously on his master’s orders) but always make a smile curl softly underneath Dorian’s moustache.
He often comes here in what little free time he has in between wrangling demons and Orlesians and other creepy crawlies. It does not look like they will hit a Blight cure discovery any time soon - unless the Hero of Ferelden, wherever she is, suddenly awakens some ancient magics - but the potions that ease the symptoms are constantly being perfected (especially since Felix insists on not bring the only one to benefit from them). This little visit to the alchemy garden does not appear to be any different. The Inquisitor is standing knee-deep in shrubbery and with sleeves rolled up, absorbed in studying a royal elfroot plant that he has uprooted and is keeping suspended with coiling green telekinetic threads, just as Dorian did with the chess pieces (the southerners may wobble about in a fainting fit all they like, but neither of them is about to give up on the ‘useful wonders’ aspect of spellcasting).
Or… Or is he really studying that elfroot?
Dorian narrows his eyes, taking in the figure in the nursery. Watching the Inquisitor watch him. Even with him being fairly far off, he can just sense the aura of tension close in round the poor fellow, like he has been placed insideva a vessel of thick glass with all the air sucked out. At length, the glass shatters; the garden’s serene stillness is pierced by the smoking white arrow of the Fade Step spell; and the next moment, the Inquisitor is already by Dorian’s side, the glow-cloaked elfroot still bobbing over his shoulder, his expression awkward and sheepishl, as though he and Dorian were back in Tevinter, places switched. A teacher that has caught his student sneaking about doing something unsavoury.
‘Do not look at me like that, Dorian,’ he says, trying to sound reprimanding, but failing… rather entertainingly. 'I was just… making certain that you… you were recovering from…’
'I thought we had agreed that the one confession after the Gull and Lantern incident would suffice,’ Dorian cuts him short. He does so detest discussions of feelings that are not done in jest. They are messy, jumbled, and leave his stomach turned upside down, as if after a long ship cruise across a stormy sea.
'Father came south. We talked. Things got heated. You understood. Now let us move on to being the good Tevinter that save the world. And if you want to cluck over someone, Felix will now be available for a few more decades, won’t he?’
The old fellow clears his throat. Or perhaps this was meant to be a chuckle of some sort?
'I wanted to apologize,’ he blurts out. 'I have already penned a letter to Halward, but with you, I can talk this over in person. That… outburst was unworthy of me’.
'Yes, you are prone to unworthy outbursts these days, aren’t you?’ Dorian quips mechanically. His next words, however, are a little more sincere, even as his stomach lurches with the first inklings of that emotional sea sickness. 'And that one… that one wasn’t even your fault. You don’t seriously believe that you were the one who caused that rift to open in the middle of the tavern while you were yelling at Father? Rifts… happen, you know. Especially in a place like Redcliffe… A place that you admittedly destabilized with your Conclave-hopping, but… That rift can’t have been your doing’.
The Inquisitor flexes the fingers of his left hand, a green light rushing through his veins and then fading away.
'I cannot be certain of anything, what with… this now marking me. All I know is that the Veil in Redcliffe is very vulnerable - has always been very vulnerable, even before I travelled back from there and… did what I did. And I got… far too riled up by learning what Halward had done… Which almost got both of you killed’.
'Oh, come now, we have fought worse demons than that before!’ Dorian smiles; but the Inquisitor’s eyes remain darkened. A few very sluggish, heavily pregnant seconds crawl by - and then, the old fellow sits down, unprompted, onto the Commander’s empty stool, and leans forward, neck straining.
'I don’t suppose Felix ever told you how his grandfather… my father died?’ he asks.
'No…’ Dorian responds slowly. A discussion of feelings is inescapable, it seems, but so long as they are not his feelings, he does not protest further. In fact, he rather… welcomes the opportunity. The last time they spoke of the trials and hardships of the Alexius family, he was not exactly patient and receptive. And that still gives him that sea sickness on occasion. Especially since they talked plenty of the trials and hardships of the Pavus family the other day in the Skyhold library. Two-way street and all that.
'My father… he… sent assassins after Felix. Repeatedly. Until Livia decided it was time to take matters into her own hands, and arranged a very timely accident’.
Dorian exhales, a little hoarse all of a sudden. Felix, one of the sweetest, most genuine people Thedas has had the honour of having its soil trodden by… A target of assassins? And ones sent by his own grandfather? Why would…
The answer does not take long to come; thirty years kicking about Tevinter are more than enough for Dorian to connect the dots. As his stomach lurches with the violence of being caught in a frothy whirlpool, part of him wished the Inquisitor had never spoken to him - but another part, larger part, warmer part, suddenly finds itself longing to give Felix and his father one if those hug things that southerners are so adept at.
'Oh. I see. Can’t continue the bloodline of perfect mages if you are better with numbers than with magic’, he mumbles in a small voice.
The 'exactly’ that he receives in reply is so strangled that it sounds like it has been spoken by a different man.
'Therefore, father and son relations really are a sore spot for me,’ the Inquisitor concludes after another stretch of… almost tangibly lumpy silence, in a slightly steadier voice.
'Which ought to explain why I lost my temper. But… But that is not an excuse. Not a justification. I am done with blinding myself with those’.
Speaking of justifications… Dorian has to bite down into his lip before he manages the question, but still goes through with it.
'Did you ever… confront him about it? Your father? I mean… Through the Final Conversation, at least?’
Again, the strangled, warped voice of a different man.
'Livia told me about what she’d done, so I had no need to learn the identity of my father’s murderer. And I was too angry to… to as much as think of him again. I spent the funeral drinking myself into oblivion’.
'Ah, so we are more alike than I thought!’ Dorian smirks. Weakly, yes - but he thinks he could have managed a broader smirk, had he not been cut off.
'No,’ the Inquisitor sounds more like himself now, but there is a razor-like edge to his tone.
'I don’t want us to be alike. Not in this respect. I want you to heal better than I did. And I want to… I want to hope… That Halward faces the aftermath of his mistakes with more honour than my father… Or I’.
'We shall have to see, won’t we?’ Dorian sighs, as the sea sickness gradually starts subsiding.
'Perhaps more time apart will do us both some good’.
He chews on his lower lip, collecting himself - and breathes out on an impulse,
'You know, for what it’s worth… After all that’s happened, I think I have found where I truly belong’.
Almost knocking back the chess pieces, the Fade-touched hand seeks out his, squeezing his fingers. The Inquisitor - Gereon, his mentor and, against all odds, his friend - looks into his eyes, and smiles.
'So have I’.