The Inquisitor and her party have been riding for several days towards the Storm Coast outpost. Her thighs ached, her gear felt too heavy, and her boots - slick with mud - couldn’t find purchase on the stirrups. A steady mist obscured their view as they drew closer. The moisture stuck the loose hairs from her bun to the skin of her neck and temples. It was growing late. She dearly longed for a bed.
It was in this state that the party trudged into camp. She did not wish to speak with anyone as she dismounted, releasing the reins to a nearby soldier and patting her horse's flank. It was not her first trip here. She felt the familiar tension in her jaw at the sound of crashing waves against unforgiving shore. It conjured memories of a dragon and giant silhouetted black against the sky, dwarfing the beach around them. Trevelyan eased her stiff legs to squat in front of the weak fire. Although activity buzzed around her, the others kept their distance for the time being. She had lost herself again in thought when gloved fingertips appeared at her elbow. Most of her troops knew better than to touch without warning. Her closest friends treated the Mark of the Rift with a level of distrust. She turned to see Scout Harding withdrawing her hand.
Trevelyan and the dwarf were at eye-level thanks, Trevelyan’s seated position. The happy glint in Harding's eyes belied her business-like manner. Harding blushed when their boots briefly touched. “Inquisitor,” Harding folded said hand behind her back. “Some news on the darkspawn. Our reports are saying that they’ve nearly been eradicated. Your work was impressive, Ser.”
A smile tugged at Trevelyan's lips for the first time in weeks. A word from Harding seemed to always lift her mood. There have been murmurings of favoritism among the soldiers. She could admit to a swell of affection in her presence bordering on desire. It felt as if she and Harding had served decades together. She and Harding. Decades spent building a rapport. All of the struggles had been a little more bearable when Trevelyan had Harding’s face to greet her in an unfriendly, new terrain. Harding had begun to mean a great deal to her. More than Varric’s jests or Vivienne’s motherly advice. Even The Iron Bull and Crem’s drinking games were less entertaining when Harding was not invited. Maybe the soldiers' mutterings were not so unfounded after all.
Not long ago, the prospect of working with so many disparate peoples had intimidated Trevelyan. Now it thrilled her. Before the Inquisition, Trevelyan had been sheltered in a primarily-human village. Her idea of dwarves came from books and rumor. None of her preconceived notions prepared her for the loveliness of Lace Harding. The Inquisition's Scout Lieutenant was captivating. Trevelyan had tried to keep her thoughts from drifting toward anything beyond a passing appreciation. Yet over the course of long journeys, her mind went back to the shape of Harding - the generosity of her lips, the stout line of her shoulders, the humor and intelligence of her gaze.
“You’re far too kind.” Trevelyan replied at last. She had started unclasping her armor. Gauntlets and vambraces fell beside her onto the neatly packed ground. Tevelyan allowed herself to fantasize briefly of a hot bath. Perhaps even a bathing pool large enough for two. “I certainly couldn’t have done it alone," she continued. "Who knows where I’d be without a mage in tow.”
“That may be true. But if you don’t mind me saying, we were struggling before you created the Inquisition. You took control of the situation. You made things better for so many of us. I think that's why I love - I mean your people. I mean, I think that's why you’re so beloved by your people. I think I have to go...I forgot something. Excuse me.” Harding's face was burning as she turned to go.
Trevelyan reached for Harding and caught her wrist. Somewhere Cassandra was addressing Solas about their supplies, but Trevelyan couldn't care less. It wasn't the time or the place, but she didn't know when they would get another chance. What if a bear knocked her off her horse tomorrow? What if Harding didn't make it back from an expedition? What if Corypheus won? Her heart had begun beat faster. Harding's own pulse thumped hard where Trevelyan's fingers touched her skin. The scout kept her back turned even as Trevelyan started speaking. “My people? I'm glad to hear it. But there is someone in the Inquisition who I admire beyond professional terms.”
Trevelyan's hand dropped from Harding's wrist, but not before her fingers slipped across her palm. Harding finally turned around. Her mouth contorted between happiness and uncertainty. “I’m sure she feels that way about you? Heck, half the Inquisition does.”
“I don’t care about half the Inquisition.” Trevelyan replied. The rain had tapered off, although a cold breeze still bit at her exposed ankles. The sea was unforgiving. She braced against it and focused instead on the countless freckles embellishing Harding’s wind-red cheeks. “It is you who I am concerned with, Lace Harding.”
“May I?" The dwarf’s legs appeared unsteady as she sat next to the Inquisitor. Trevelyan realized how little distance was left between them. Harding’s feet only just touched the ground. Trevelyan caressed the side of Harding’s face where strands of auburn hair had come free. Her eyes stayed fixed on Harding’s face for any signs of discomfort. She moved her hand again to cup Harding’s cheek.
“Love,” Harding muttered so quietly that the roar of the sea nearly carried it away. The trees around them sparkled, drops of water illuminated by the weak light escaping from the clouds. The dwarf’s breathing picked up speed. The hot puffs of air were felt on Trevelyan's own mouth. She scanned to either side for onlookers, yet the majority seemed to have taken refuge from the weather. Harding turned her head a centimeter. This allowed Harding to press her soft lips against the palm of Trevelyan’s hand. Trevelyan marveled at the sight.
“Will things change between us?” Harding whispered even as her lips dragged across soft skin.
“I certainly hope so.” Trevelyan said before stealing a kiss.