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She got the first one on an early Tuesday morning. 

She had thought it was her alarm at first, fingers shuffling through her sheets to find her phone and shut it off. Instead she found she had about 50 minutes left for sleep and one new message. 

—xxx-xxx-6421 7:12am 
Merrill you are late. F.H.

Ellana frowned heavily at the text, the bright screen making her squint. 

…who?

She didn’t recognize the number, even with the same area code. And SHE was not late for anything. (Not that she remembered.) And her name was NOT Merrill. Nor did she know any… F.H.

Her fingers hesitated. The ‘who's this?’ standard question that came with odd texts was interrupted by a telltale ‘…’ animation. Writing more then. 

Groggily, Ellana waited, debating just turning off the phone and going back to sleep. 

—xxx-xxx-6421 7:13am 
Bring 2nd Edition of Ralaferin Archive, Gods and App. Rituals. I forget the author’s name. F.H.

It took her a second to digest the amount of large words in one text. Who talked like this? She flopped onto her back, eyes peeled wider now as her thumbs drew up the digital keyboard. 

—xxx-xxx-4409 7:14am
hey i think you have the wrong number

The sweeping sound alerted her that the text sent and her phone fell ungracefully from her hands back into the sea of sheets. She twisted, curling back up on her pillow even as her mind swirled. 

Ralaferin? Weren’t those the huge old books on Deshanna’s shelf at home? The old ones with the funny pictures of Elgar’nan? 

Her sheets vibrated and chimed. Ellana’s eyes opened. 

She dug it out again. 


—xxx-xxx-6421 7:16am 
Merrill? F.H.

Ellana huffed out a sleepy breath of laughter. Her thumbs danced quickly on the screen. 

—xxx-xxx-4409 7:16am
nope. ellana.

Considering the screen for a moment, she watched the ‘…’ animation pop up once more just as her mind gave her the answer and she raced to interrupt them.

—xxx-xxx-4409 7:16am
but i think authors name is g something

The little typing animation stopped.

—xxx-xxx-4409 7:17am
gash? gishan? gishhhhhh

—xxx-xxx-6421 7:17am 
Gisharel. F.H

Ellana smiled lazily at the reply. They did it. Puzzle accomplished. And she still had about 40 minutes for sleep. 

—xxx-xxx-6421 7:18am 
Sorry for bothering you, thank you for the answer. F.H

—xxx-xxx-4409 7:18am
np. your lucky you happened to text a dalish ;)

They began typing again, then stopped. Then began again. She blinked at it lazily, patience only available due to her tired mind. 

—xxx-xxx-6421 7:19am 
Thank you lethallan. F.H

Her smile widened happily, Dalish helping Dalish then. 

And with that Ellana dropped the phone with a thud to the mattress, turning forcefully away from it and back to the fluff of her pillows. 40 minutes more, maybe 45 if she skipped her hair. 




She got another a few days after during a a lecture on perspective journalism. Not exactly a lecture she was interested in, but Varric had begged her to go with him so they could go for drinks after. 

Ah, the things she did for friends. (Especially the ones responsible for career referrals.) 

She had to dig her phone out behind the secrecy of her notebook, smiling with expectation of whining complaints from Varric in the teacher’s row, but instead finding one from that unfamiliar number. 

—xxx-xxx-6421 5:24pm 
When is the next Arlathvhen? F.H.

Ellana smiled, eyes flickering up to make sure no one was paying her any attention. 

—xxx-xxx-4409 5:24pm
merrill late again?

—xxx-xxx-6421 5:24pm 
She never answers me. F.H. 

—xxx-xxx-4409 5:25pm
its in another year. springtime. not many attend anymore though

—xxx-xxx-6421 5:26pm 
Thank you again lethallan. F.H. 

She smiled tapping her phone and thinking of leaving it at that. Happy with the sudden claim of kin through the odd distance and strangeness. It was a warm feeling, not unwelcome. 

—xxx-xxx-4409 5:25pm 
Np, lethallin.

F.H. didn’t respond, but Ellana spent the entire time thinking quietly of her curious Dalish stranger (a man, since he did not correct her endearment) and the coming Alrthavhen, mind completely absent from the modern critical issues in the field of journalistic reporting. 




Another came on that Sunday, while she was checking out some groceries. Placing the last of the yogurts on the rolling checkout, she fished out her phone.

—xxx-xxx-6421 12:39pm 
Do you know how to delete apps from a main screen? F.H.

Ellana could only glance at it and laugh while she paid and bagged her things. She carried the jug of water and a few brown bags to her car, slamming the back door shut on them and dipping into the drivers seat before pulling out her phone once more, a smile still on her face. 

—xxx-xxx-4409 12:45pm 
how do you not know how to do that?? 

She watched F.H. type, and when the anticipation seemed to make the wait longer she texted him again instead. 

—xxx-xxx-4409 12:46pm 
are you super old lethallin?

It was a little while before they answered, enough to worry that she may have been rude. 

—xxx-xxx-6421 12:48pm 
Old enough to be lost I suppose. F.H.

She chuckled. 

—xxx-xxx-4409 12:48pm 
hold down the icons until they start to shake. 

She drove home and the temptation to look at the sweeping texts sent to her was excruciating. She practically rushed into her parking spot and ripped her bags from the back seat, dropping them to the counters when she was finally inside. 

Grabbing her phone, she checked on him. 

—xxx-xxx-6421 12:49pm 
There they go! F.H.

—xxx-xxx-6421 12:50pm 
Genius. F.H.

—xxx-xxx-6421 12:50pm 
Thank you again Ellana. F.H.

With a proud little smirk she took the time to sift through the options, clicking and typing until she added the new information to the contact. 

She delighted in watched the title of all his old messages change from the series of numbers to ‘F.H’ instead. 

—1:32pm 
np hahren

She waited, occupying her wait with a check on her email and a scroll through a few social media accounts. She was already giddy when the notification popped up on the top of her screen. 

—F.H. 1:35pm 
Oh very funny. I’m not that old. F.H. 

—1:35pm
u text in full sentences w/grammar! only old people do that

His little ‘…’ was immediate. and she thought about telling him he could respond so much faster without all the appropriate flare. 

—F.H. 1:36pm 
And those who appreciate language, da’len. F.H. 

Ellana very nearly rolled her eyes, shaking her head and tossing the phone to the couch before going back to sort her groceries. 


The next time, she texted him instead. 

Her pen tapped idly on the light paper and small leather binder. Dorian had disappeared, probably to the other end of the bar to talk to the big-guy-bartender and left her in a tiny dilemma. 

—9:50pm 
15% of 22 bucks?

She rolled the pen, feeling a bit guilty for texting him so late. He had a similar area code, but that didn’t mean he was in the same timezone, and if he was as old as she had first joked… maybe he was alseep? 

Not that she had been thinking about all this since the last time they talked…

—F.H. 9:51pm 
Really? F.H. 

She quickly defended herself

—9:51pm 
u send me dalish pop quizzes all the time!

She waited anxiously, legs bouncing at in the little booth as she searched the heads of the crowd for Dorian. He couldn’t be talking to Bull that long, could he?

 —F.H. 9:52pm 
This is a tip? How many people? F.H.

—9:52pm 
just me

—F.H. 9:53pm 
3.30. 25.30. F.H.

She jotted down his answer, slipping in her credit card and standing the little folder properly. 

—9:54
youre the best!

It wasn’t until Dorian returned with a puffed up chest and a blushing face and they collected their things to leave that she got a response. 

—F.H. 9:59pm 
Apparently, da’len. F.H.

She cradled the phone in her fingers, cheeks matching Dorian’s as they both walked home, wondering if he had added her to his contacts list too.

—10:00pm
<3

"Who are you talking to Ellana?" Dorian asked, nudging her shoulders with a curious smile. 

"You know, I'm not really sure." 

Chapter Text

—4:35pm  
I wonder, da’len, when it becomes socially acceptable to strike a person for their stupidity. F.H.

The message made a pleasant sound of whisking away, causing a few heads to turn towards him. Pairs of eyes leered at him from across the table.

Solas raised a hand in apology and clicked the silence on the side of his phone. He caught the time on the screen with dread. Had it only been over a half hour?

Was the Orlesian really still speaking?

“…arguably, our culture is just as old as the Elvhen…”

Oh how he wanted to hit this man. But he supposed desire for something did not make it correct, an idea the Orlesian needed a lesson in.

He leaned back in his chair, glancing at the others in the conference room and wondering if they were all as deeply contemplative as they appeared.

If they were, this debate was already lost.

His phone vibrated on the table. More glares.

He ignored them, sliding the device into his cradled hands and swiping to expose the new message.

—Ellana 4:36pm
are there kids on your lawn hahren?

His smile appeared of its own accord, thumb tracing across the message.

She always seemed to—

No, he hadn’t delved too much thought into this exchange and he wouldn’t now.

—4:36pm
Oh you think you are clever. Because I’m old? No. I am referring to the idiocy of people my own age. F.H.

It didn’t take long for her to answer, but as usual the anticipation had his fingers itching. She was…pleasant to speak to. They had been sending messages for nearly two weeks now. He never realized how such simple communication could be so… gratifying.

—Ellana 4:37pm
Im sure they really want to punch you too. lol

He had to cup his mouth with his hand to stop himself from snorting out loud. Right she was.

—4:37pm
I would gladly take a punch if it would liven this meeting. F.H.

“…we must all understand this isn’t an argument of legalities but an argument of honor.”

Solas glared at the man at the podium. His thickly curled accent added to the grating sensation of having to listen to such nonsense. Couldn’t he have just come for--

His fingers warmed with the vibration of a new text.

—Ellana 4:38pm
if you’re bored we can play a game.

He couldn’t answer fast enough.

—4:38pm
A game? Is it my turn to “lol”? F.H.

Solas sat back, ignoring the subtle glances his way as he lost all attempt to appear engaged in the lecture.

But Ellana took longer than usual to answer and he couldn’t control his sudden curiosity.

He tried to ignore it, telling himself he was acting like one of his students, glued to the phone for a conversation of little importance. Funny now that he understood the addiction.

She had done that to him.

—4:40pm
Well? What is this game? I still have some time before I am to speak. F.H.

He felt childish—but forgot the insecurity when she answered.

—Ellana 4:41pm
sorry distracted.
okay I will list you some things and your gonna tell me if you see them. Like I spy. Like...
is there a coffee pot in the room?

Solas read her messages as she sent them, finding himself intrigued by this idea.               

He raised his eyes, peering over the heads at the conference table towards the walls, looking for—ah.

—4:42pm
Yes. Back left corner.
F.H.

—Ellana 4:43pm
hah ok!
anyone wearing a toupee?

Solas straightened, hiding his smirk. What a devious girl she was.

When he glanced around once more, it was very hard not to lose his composure and burst out laughing.

—4:44pm
Do terrible hair plugs count? F.H.

—Ellana 4:45pm
EW yes.
funny moustaches?

It didn’t take long to spot one. And just as he sent off his answer she sent him another message

—4:46pm
Confirmed. Next? F.H.

—Ellana 4:46pm
btw if you are part of any of these things you are in trouble.
next is socks in sandals.

—4:47
Part of what things? F.H.

The next one was hard. He could not find the fashion faux pas without making an effort to look under the table.

As discreetly as possible, he rolled backward on his chair and looked down at the feet of those sitting next to him. His phone vibrated as he made quick duck to look below at those across him.

—Ellana 4:49pm
I mean you better not have a toupee, moustache or wear socks with sandals.

Solas heavily considered telling her that he had no hair of any kind. But something… stopped him. An odd nervousness settled in him at the idea of telling her what he looked like.

—4:50pm
No sock and sandal combination. And no, I promise you I’m not that kind of ha’hren. F.H.

He saw her begin to type, but dangerous curiosity had him cutting her off.

—4:51pm
What about you? Are there others around you at the moment? F.H.

Her typing died before starting again.

—Ellana 4:52pm
yes! tons of bikers and thieves!
im in a gang war!

Solas chuckled soundlessly.

—4:52pm
You did strike me as a delinquent. F.H.

—Ellana 4:52pm
what! how?
no
actually hahren I’M in a library.

Solas’s brows rose even as he indulged her.

—4:53pm
Really? Unusual place for a gang war.
What business do you have in a library, Ellana? F.H.

But he could already guess. There was an inkling in his mind, even as he wished she wouldn’t answer--

—Ellana 4:54pm
studying

—4:55pm
How did I know that would be your answer.
Somehow I knew you must be a student of some kind.
Perhaps I’ve been around students too long. F.H.

She had let him type as he answered her, and he let her respond as his  assumptions sank in. Of course.

—Ellana 4:56pm
I’m not!
not anymore
not really.
wait are you a teacher!?

He had been too obvious, but he supposed it was bound to get out with how much they had been communicating lately. He finished his first response before she had asked him.

—4:57pm
Sounds like you are unsure whether or not you are still learning.
And yes. Occasionally. F.H.

He almost expected her to stop responding.  Instead, she responded with something thoughtful, and he should have known she would. She had been nothing but surprising and intriguing since they had met.

—Ellana 4:58
people who aren’t students can still learn.
and OF COURSE you’re a teacher
all I seem to meet is teachers

A student with many teacher acquaintances? Hopefully not a high school student then. Stars help him if she was a high school—

—Ellana 4:58pm
do you teach math?
dalish culture?

She kept guessing as he typed.

angry public speaking?
snarky commentary 101?


4:59pm
I teach theory of quantum mechanics and interstellar travel.
“Loljk”
Ancient history. Because what could be older.
F.H.

Clapping erupted through the conference room and Solas was startled at the sound. He snapped up to see the haughty Orlesian shake hands with Ellana’s toupee offender while the rest of the board shifted in their seats.

Glancing forlornly at his phone and the stack of his files, he almost wished he had to wait a bit longer in the horrid boredom he had at first dreaded.

As he began to interrupt Ellana, someone tried to interrupt him

“Professor, you’re—“

“Yes. A moment please.”

—5:00pm
It’s my turn to speak, da’len. I’ll be unavailable for a bit. F.H.

And, not trusting himself the temptation, he slid the screen and watched the phone turn off.


 

There was no clapping for his presentation.

Solas slid his papers tightly through his fingers to straighten them on the podium when he finished. It was the only sound made in the room ae he excused himself.

He let the board director know he would not be present for the rest of the day. No one seemed to want to change his mind.

His indifference to their opinions on his lecture was fueled by the eagerness in his fingers.

His phone was a warm welcome in his hand as he walked down the halls, a familiar weight that had itched at him through his entire talk.

As the screen flickered on, it told him that it had been an hour.

Three missed calls.

Five new messages.

A personal record. Still – his steps faltered at the missed phone calls. Had she--?

The ringer was loud in the empty office hallways, phone vibrating just as noisily as a call came in almost immediately.

The name was familiar, however.

“Hello?”

“Solas! My favorite colleague.”

“Dorian.”

“I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all day my good man.”

Well, that explains that.

“Why?”

It occurred to him the five messages however, were probably Ellana’s. He contemplated ignoring Dorian to pull his phone away and read them instead.

“Do you think you could cover for me tomorrow? Anthro 101? Easy stuff for you.”

He didn’t hide his grimace. “Need I remind you that I am on sabbatical? I don’t have time--”

“Yes, you are, and it’s a joke I haven’t stopped laughing over!” Dorian chuckled on the other end almost as if to prove his point. “Sabbatical! For what, bad sweater shopping?”

“Remind me Dorian, you were trying to convince me to do something for you?”

“Ah—Yes. Well, you know I’m only having fun. But it’s important that I miss class for something tomorrow. You aren't busy are you?”

“No.”

“Splendid!”

“No, I meant I will not—“

“I’ll let the Administration know of your kindness! Same room as always!”

The line clicked.

He ripped the phone away from his ear, about to curse quite loudly when he noticed the little notifications. Ellana.

—Ellana 5:01pm
good luck! you’ll be great!
don’t punch anyone.

—Ellana 5:34pm
you know ha’hren
I like talking to you

—Ellana 5:36pm
you make me laugh.

Despite having no standing ovation for his lecture, Solas still felt heated vibrations thrum through him as he read each line repeatedly, alone in the hallway. 

Chapter Text

When her phone first went off, a smile cracked in excitement only to fall slightly.

—Sera 3:24pm
Aaayyyyy wat u up 2?

Ellana started typing, messages constantly filtering in, Sera giving her no time to respond. She chuckled at each text, shaking her head.

I wanna skip dorians!
lets do that new actiony movie
its elfy 2 ;D
ill text kremmy  

—3:26pm
I cant. Im with my Keeper today remember?

—Sera 3:26pm
EW AWWWW DX
skip it!

—3:27pm
skip my Keeper?
no

—Sera 3:27pm
oh fine then after yea?
get me from dorian borians class then we get our explosions on!!!!
>:DDD

—3:28pm
I wont know if I can till later.
 

—Sera 3:28pm
already textin krem krem
well go without ya if you wont come

“Always cordial, Sera.” Ellana let the phone slide lazily to her lap, sinking her chin to her free hand and slumping. 

She listened to the rustling magazine as Deshanna flipped the page and glanced at the women quietly.

Her Keeper was a severe looking woman at first glance, with a tightly drawn braids curled into a traditional Elvhen knot and a sharp pointed nose. But her eyes were kind, and full of immeasurable patience.

…even when Ellana could tell she was displeased.

“Is it normal to be waiting this long?” She asked finally, stretching her legs. Her pumps slid a bit off her heels.

Deshanna’s own booted shoes were neatly tucked beneath their chair.

“I’m sorry to inform you that most of this job is waiting.”

Ellana smiled. “I thought you said this job is mostly talking.”

“It can be both.”

She hummed, leaning back in her chair.

The Ferelden Government Embassies wasn’t as grand as the ones in the Marches, or Orlais. It was mostly practical, with cream walls and cluttered portraits of old figureheads. The carpets down the hallways were uniform, less decorative.

And Ellana didn’t want to be stereotypical, but there were dogs… everywhere. On flags, mugs, little statues and crests – even an actual, live one, at the receptionist desk.

“Do you think they forgot we were here?”

“I’m sure Minister Anora knows we are here and will be with us when she can, Ellana.” Deshanna reassured without looking up from her Crossroads.

She waited patiently for another minute before restlessly leaning in towards the older woman.

“Anything interesting?”

Deshanna made a noise. A scoff or a laugh, Ellana couldn’t tell.

“What is it?”

“It’s about the Sabrae Eluvian.”

Ellana perked a little. “Anything new?”

Deshanna finally looked up at her. “About the Eluvian itself? No. But the Sabrae clan is demanding it.” She shifted the magazine for her to look.

Ellana frowned warily. “To sell?”

“They say it is rightfully theirs and it matters not what they do with it.”

The Sabrae Eluvian had been uncovered last month and it had set the small history world a blaze as well as what was left of the Dalish clans. It had been excavated by a private team near the old abandoned reservations on the crest of Ferelden.

Once it was unearthed however, it was immediately caught in legal limbo. Because, of course, now everyone wanted it.

The magazine had a few pictures, snapshots of an old, dirty and broken looking piece of metal filigree with glass so eroded it looked like rock. Her finger reached out to trace a small scientific painting of the imagined artifact in its original form.

Her eyes caught some of the text.

‘..the Dalish can squabble and stamp their feet all they like, but it still remains that their reservations are nowhere near fit to house such history. Elvhen artifacts such as this one are, sad as the truth us, better in the hands of the Orlesians.’

“Ouch. This isn’t a very nice article.”

“Fen’Harel is never nice.” Deshanna hummed, pointing her finger to the author’s name.

Ellana near laughed, her tone dropping with amused sarcasm, “Really, that’s their pen name?”

“One of the Keepers called them that at the last Arlathvhen and I suppose it stuck. Their articles have always been critical of us.”

“Are they Orlesian? Human?”

Deshanna sighed, handing her the magazine. “No one knows. Anonymous author. I think there was an interview in The Ages a year ago... they might have been a museum critic or… I can’t recall.”

Ellana stared at the painting of the Eluvian, the small illustration portrayed it against a half drawn building façade. “They were doors?”

“Our ancestors say they would allow us to see the future.”

Ellana felt something inside her shift uncomfortably at the idea.

And with hundreds of them, did they not see the future of their collapsed civilization?

“Excuse me…Keeper Istima—er-- Lavellan?”

They both looked up toward a human woman, a secretary badge hanging in a lanyard around her neck. They gathered their things and stood quickly.

“No, no it’s alright.”

She and Deshanna exchanged confused glances.

“What do you mean it’s alright?” Ellana asked.

The secretary gave a smile that pulled at her face, as if it were straining. “I’m… afraid the Minister can’t see you today, but she would happily reschedule.”

Ellana could feel her Keeper’s shoulders fall next to her without even having to look.

“We…We are here from the Free Marches, we’ve had this meeting arranged si—“

Da’len, come—“

The secretary raised her hands politely.

“I’m sorry, there’s been a few issues more pressing that demands her attention. Again, we can arrange something in her schedule in another week or so.”

“That would be fine, thank you.”

Ellana’s brows turned downward, her mouthing opening only to close at her Keeper’s quiet look of chiding.


 

 

—4:01pm
HEY
can you go!?
Eelllaannnnnnaaaaaaaaa!
kremtart is going


Sera mashed her fingers along the digital keyboard before picking out the right emoticons and attached them with vigor.

“Excuse me.”

—4:05pm
pllllzzzz come pick me up elllaannnaaa  ;O;
i know you wanna :PPP

“Miss --

“It’s Sera!” She snapped, looking up at the approaching professor, the roster in his hands.

“Sera.”

Sticking out her tongue made him make a funny face, eyes glaring at her. His ears moved upward with the movement of his brows, a prominent motion against his lack of hair.

“Please put your phone away for the lecture.”

“Where’s Dorian anyways?”

A few other students looked to their substitute who seemed just as irritated with the situation as Sera was.

“Professor Pavus is on an undisclosed leave of absence.”

“Yeah, we can see that, but wher—“

“It’s irrelevant to the issue of keeping your phone in your pocket.” He interrupted, “Please.”

Sera shoved her phone forcefully into her jeans as she glared at him. Ellana wasn’t responding anyway. Stupid Keeper. Stupid Dalish. Stupid elves. 

The silence of the classroom and the droning of Mr. Uptight was going to drive her insane.

“Now, if we can get back to the societal adaptation in the 5th cycle of—“

A loud buzzing filled the room, followed by a short chirp of an electronic charm.

At first Sera had excitedly started to reach for her own phone, before the sound had the whole class looking up at their professor.

He kept his eyes on the book in front of him, but it was obvious it had where the sound had come from as he shifted uncomfortably on his feet.

After a long awkward pause, he turned, fingers reaching for his blazer breast pocket. “Please excuse me.”

“What!? How is that fair!?” Sera called out from her desk, chair squeaking loudly as she moved. “You get to check your blighted phone and we don’t?”

Despite his even expression, Sera could see the red flush his ears, his eyes avoiding them as he read his text.

“I mean if you get to then WE—“

“I'm sure once you have a class of your own to teach, you can adjust the rules accordingly.” He said with a lofty voice, resolutely placing his phone away.

Sera snorted loudly and sank in her chair, determined to learn as little as possible in spite.


 

—4:15pm
I think I know how you felt yesterday hahren
I want to punch everyone!

She sent the text to help vent some of her anger, but it wasn’t until they were on the steps of the Embassy building that Ellana actually raised her voice.

“What are we supposed to do now? We need the Minister’s approval to hold a court hearing on being recognized. And even then--”

Deshanna stopped, turning to smile tiredly at the younger elf. “We try again, ‘ma Sael. You will have to meet with Anora alone and present your case. I’m afraid I can not make the trip back down again.”

“But—“

“For now, continue your studies to refine your speech. You will need much to convince them, as we know.”

“I’m only…”

Deshanna stepped closer, a hand rising to brush at her hair affectionately. “You won’t be First much longer, Ellana. You will need to start with your duties as Keeper some time.”

Ellana swallowed, nodding quietly.

Their walk down the government square was quiet and contemplative. She spent most of it considering her new responsibility, realizing that if she failed to convince Anora, her clan would remain vulnerable. She thought of the eastern clan, now nothing more than a tribute statue upon the lands they sold after their Keeper sold out.

She wondered if the remaining members were fully assimilated in the city now, their vallaslin removed and their heritage coined to all the local museums.

When they reached the street, Deshanna awaiting a cab back to the airport, she thought of the Eluvian.

“Keeper…what do you think? About the Sabrae clan and the Eluvian?”

Deshanna’s eyes traced the city skyline in thought. “You were right.” She turned to consider Ellana. “They must want the rights to it so they can sell it to the highest bidder. Museum or otherwise, they most likely have no intention of preserving it.”

“Then you don’t think they should have it?”

Deshanna chin rose a little. “It is theirs by right Ellana. They should be the ones to profit from it.”

“But… to sell our history when its all we have left…”

“What choices do we have anymore?” Deshanna shook her head. “Fen’Harel is right about one thing; we have no museums, no money, and no resources to maintain our own culture. We couldn’t proudly keep such artifacts even if we truly wanted to. But think how much money such a sale would bring Sabrae’s reservation? Is it so wrong they be the ones to benefit from selling our heritage?”

Ellana thought quietly of the energy curfews in her fellow clans, of their imposed debt and living costs.

“To let the humans take it from us even in best intention; we admit to them our weakness. We agree with them that we have no privilege to make decisions for ourselves.”

The words sank in as Deshanna hailed one of the yellow cars.

“Think on it Ellana. I will speak to you once I arrive and we can talk more about your meeting.”

They exchanged soft smiles and Ellana took comfort in the familiar embrace of her Keeper.

“Sule sal harthir da’len. Keep asking questions.”

“Sule melan’an.”


When Ellana neared the door for Anthropology she saw a figure leaning next to it, leg propped up on the wall in a familiar fashion.

“I see you got the message too.” She called.

Krem’s brows shot up and turned to her with a smile. He shook his phone at her. “More like twenty.”

“That sounds like Sera.”

He chuckled, moving from the wall to nod at her. “How was your thing?”

“Argh—Not good. I think my work just got a lot harder.”

“Just when you think you’re done with school.”

“Yeah, speaking of that, why are we both picking Sera up here?”

“Inviting Dorian maybe or—“

The door burst open next to them and students started flooding out. Ellana caught the handle, pulling it wide to lean forward and peek around.

“YES! I knew you’d come!”

A body barreled into her shoulders and she felt Krem catch both of their unsteady forms as Sera rambled. “Now let’s go, go, go. I can’t stand being in this shoddy old—“

“What about Dorian?” Ellana asked, shifting to look into the classroom behind Sera. She could see the shifting of students through the desks, her finding only a sweatered elbow of whoever was at the front of the room.

“Nah, he’s not here! We had an icky elfy substitute.” Sera wrinkled her nose before looking at Ellana. “No offense or whatever.”

Of course not. She sighed. “Alright let’s go then.”

Sera tried to practically race them from the halls even as Ellana’s phone dinged quietly.

—F.H. 5:03pm
You could punch me if it would make you feel better da’len. F.H.

Her smile broke, spirits lifting at the sight of his message on top of the presence of her friends. Finally texted her back, huh?

—5:04pm
tempting.
you could tell me about your day instead

Ellana half listened to Sera goad Krem even as their conversation carried them outdoors and to the streets.

—F.H. 5:05pm
Only boring professor things I’m afraid. F.H.

—5:05pm
and what now? shots? clubbing?

—F.H. 5:06pm
Ha! Yes!
I’ll get “wasted” with the other teachers. F.H.

“What are you smiling about?”

She glanced up at Sera’s mischievous face. Krem’s taller head peered over her with his own curious look.

“Just—“

“Wait—who you talking to?”

“No one!”

Her phone dinged.

—F.H. 5:07pm
And you? Still studying today?
Or are you all "learned" up? F.H.

Sera tried to lunge for her phone as she read the message.

“It’s just a Dalish friend!” She declared, pulling the screen away from Sera’s glinting eyes. Not completely untrue—so luckily her terrible lying skills didn’t show through her voice.

“Ew!”

“Exactly, so drop it.” She glared. “You should be asking Krem about who he texts lately instead.”

Krem was immediately on the defensive, his protests and lies filling the air as Sera interrogated him about the girls in his life.

 She felt a bit bad, but she needed this right now. It was easier to ignore the worries of her clan between the lines of their messages, the little signature at the end of his texts like a familiar smile in her mind.


—Ellana 5:09pm
im giving up. off to see a movie.
that new one about the emerald knight?
you know, with the dalish hero played by a non dalish

Solas let himself chuckle.

The classroom was empty now and he could indulge without prying student eyes.

—5:10pm
At least it is an actual elf this time. F.H.

He put his phone away and gathered his things, feeling less upset at Dorian and more preoccupied with where Ellana might be. He let himself try and imagine her, or perhaps imagine how she reacted to his messages. Casually? Or did she smile at the sight of them?

As much as him when he got hers maybe?

 

Chapter Text

—Ellana 2:03pm
its raining!!!! 

—F.H. 2:06pm
Oh, is this something we are supposed to be pleased about?  F.H.

—Ellana 2:07pm
you dont approve?

—F.H. 2:08pm
Not on the day I forget to close the windows, no.  F.H.

—Ellana 2:08pm
LOL

—F.H. 2:10pm
No not “LOL”!  F.H.

—Ellana 2:11pm
Hahahahah?


 
F.H.  11:46am
Dirthas vir’dirth’elvhen?  F.H.

—Ellana 11:52am
dirthas!

—F.H. 11:55am
Eman solas i'mar eol! Bel’Dalish tel’dirthas... ane ir lin’sila’on. F.H.

—Ellana 11:56am
whoa maybe not that much!
wow hahren
dirtha felasel. lol

—F.H. 11:58am
Ir abelas da’len, I may have been a bit too excited.
Juneran dirthal i’na. Felas’el.  F.H.

—Ellana 11:59am
Juneran harthal na <3



 —F.H. 6:03pm
I heard a song this morning that reminded me of you. F.H.

—Ellana 6:12pm
oh? what song?

—F.H. 6:15pm
I did not get the name.
It was playing in a store.
Some rock song with the singer yelling “she is a troublemaker” over and over. F.H.

—Ellana 6:16pm
I love that song! 



—Ellana 8:03am
On dhea!

—F.H. 8:04am
Morning.
You are up early. F.H.

—Ellana 8:05am
dont remind me.
but I figured you would be awake so theres one good thing.

—F.H. 8:06am
And what if I had not been awake?
And you have woken me up? F.H.

—Ellana 8:06am
well now we get to suffer together  <3



—F.H. 5:12pm
Which Divine ordered the Exalted March on the Dales? F.H.

Ellana 5:12pm
again with the pop quizzes professor?
are you hoping to catch me off guard?
it was Renata the first

—F.H. 5:13pm
Very good. F.H.

—Ellana 5:13pm
well?
impressed?

—F.H. 5:14pm
No, thankful!
I had actually forgotten. F.H.


  —Ellana 12:21pm
is it white clothes that go in hot water?
or black clothes?

—Ellana 1:02pm
you know
for laundry?

—F.H. 4:30pm
Forgive me, I was on a plane.
White clothes go with hot water da’len. F.H.

—Ellana 4:33pm
too late hahren.
whites and darks went all in cold water
and you can’ just get one a plane without telling me!
where are you?
or did you just get back?

—F.H. 4:33pm
Your laundry skills must anger your roommate. F.H.

—Ellana 4:35pm
I dont have one.
and tell me!

—F.H. 4:36pm
Curious are you? F.H.

—Ellana 4:37pm
YES!

—F.H. 4:38pm
I’m in Parendale. Outside Nevarra. F.H.

—Ellana 4:39pm
thats so far!
are my texts expensive now?

—F.H. 4:40pm
Very.  F.H.

—Ellana 4:41pm
should
I
stop
sending
you
messages
hahren?

—F.H. 4:42pm
Never.
Charge away.  F.H.
 

Chapter Text

—2:18pm
hope your having a nice day : )

She watched the message load and send, then waited a little longer to see if he would respond. She scrolled over their past messages, last one of his responses a few days ago.

He seemed particularly busy.

“Don’t let me forget to get a floor lamp.”

Ellana looked across the car to Cassandra, the woman’s face frowning at the red light in front of them.

“And perhaps some curtains.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to call Leliana?” Ellana tried for the third time that day. “Not that I don’t want to help, Cassandra, but house decorating isn’t really…”

“I don’t want to bother anyone.”

Ellana raised her brows at that, smiling secretly at the memory of the hundred calls Cassandra had made to her this week, making specifically sure she would be available to help her buy furniture for her new home.

And while apparently Ellana didn’t count as ‘bothering anyone,’ she was more happy that she was trusted so deeply than angry.

“Well, I’ll do my best, but my experience with interior design is mostly white walls and frames.”

The Nevarran glanced at her before hitting the gas. “I had meant to ask you about that.”

She shifted, fearing what she knew was already coming. “What, wall space?”

“No.” She soured at the avoidance. “Have you spoken to Josephine yet? About a job in the museum?”

Ellana turned to watch the flickering buildings outside the car window. “No.”

“Why—“

“I just—it seems a little silly to go signing up for interviews when I’m still a First.” She sighed, feeling a bit self conscious as she spoke aloud her reservations. “Say I actually landed a job, I would have to tell them, “Sorry, I’ll only be able to work one day for the next year.””

“A year?”

Ellana could see Cassandra’s frown even from this angle.

“That’s…normally how long the process is.”

“Don’t you just… make your case and apply?”

“Not exactly… there’s sort of a hearing.” Funny how this was exactly the topic she had been trying to ignore for the past few weeks. “When a Dalish clan wants to be officially recognized by the government, they have to convince some…executive power to sponsor them. Without a sponsor, no one is going to show up to your appeal.”

“And this takes a year?”

“No, after the appeal there’s an investigation into your clan, a financial advisor has to come out and appraise the worth of your clan’s land and how much money the government will have to spend on it… then there’s a vote, and if your approved, a ceremony.”

“I forgot how much I hated legal work.”

“In between all that… I don’t know that I’ll have time to go career hunting. ”

Cassandra’s gaze slid over to her before they made another turn. “I hope it goes quickly for you and your clan, though I’m surprised Lavellan is not already recognized. It seems a familiar name. Old.”

“We were almost 30 years ago.”

“What happened?”

Ellana sighed, flipping her phone in her hands and patting it against her jeans. She could use some distracting texts right about now.

“Well… most of our trade goes through the Merchants Guilds, because it’s easier to deal with the dwarves than humans. No offense.”

Cassandra didn’t say anything, so she continued. “And well, our last Keeper wasn’t exactly… on the straight and narrow.”

A raised brow went up and the turn signal clicked on.

“He was smuggling lyrium into the Marcher states with some shady merchant families.”

“So they revoked your recognition.”

She gave a sheepish smile and a shrug.

At this point it was what it was; another rotten apple to ruin the bunch. She hadn’t been born when Keeper Taven had been arrested nor did she remember much of the aftermath. But Deshanna had worked hard to clean the Lavellan name of the disgrace with new initiatives, and new connections; including a new trading partner, the Tethras family.

Which had not only brought a stable living situation to the reservation, but had given Ellana a friend in Varric Tethras. A man she owed her college admission to.

They had helped others, given charity despite their abysmal finances and debt, and taken in a few wayward elves.

Sadly, if every executive’s obvious avoidance of them was any indication, people still remembered the drug rigged Lavellans.

“I still think you should speak to Josephine.” Cassandra commented, eyes searching the lots before them as they pulled in to park. “In the case you don’t—hm.”

She didn’t have to say it.

“I’ll… try.” She ended lamely, unable, as always, to lie.


 

“Maroon towels?”

“Won’t they match—?“

When her phone beeped loudly and vibrated in her pocket, she tried to ignore the way her heart thudded awkwardly. “Ah--the bath mat?” She stuttered, slipping the weight into her hands and clicking the screen distractedly.

—F.H 2:53pm
Thoughts on Ambassador Briala? F.H.

It wasn’t the coziest reply after being M.I.A for three days, but she could feel her smile grow on her lips at the sight of his familiar signature.

She considered ignoring the question and sending a ‘missed you.’ instead. But she couldn’t disappoint her ha’hren.

“Hm…now that you mention that… perhaps I should put these back. The living room is navy.”

“Ah—yeah…”

“Something wrong?”

—2:53pm
more elvhen rights? she has my vote!
if I could vote for orlesian politics anyway

“No!” The message sent and Ellana looked back up with a smile. “And I think bathrooms can be different colors than living rooms. I mean mine is, even if mine’s just—“

A ding.

—F.H. 2:53pm
Disappointing. F.H.

“…a studio.” Ellana frowned heavily, trailing as she read over the single word several times. That was fast… and odd.

—2:54pm
…?

“Alright, these then.”

She kept her eyes on Cassandra, watching the woman pile towels into the filling cart between them. They had been nothing but efficient, the pair of them too practical in personality to hang up on decisions of color or décor. Though she had seen Cassandra picking up floral vases and pillows every once and a while, as if considering them. (She always put them hastily away when she caught Ellana watching her.)

“Do you have soap dishes and toothbrush holders?” She asked, half trying to keep up and half trying to distract herself from the lack of response from her ha’hren.

“Yes- though perhaps not one that… matches.”

Did he mean disappointing in that she would vote for Briala? Or it was disappointing that she could not vote in Orlesian politics? Because the two were very different.

—2:55pm
what is?

She added it before her mind got away from her. He started typing immediately.

—F.H. 2:56pm
I thought her selfish manipulations of elvhen rights to be obvious.
She has done nothing for her people. F.H.

It took a moment for her to grasp the coldness of his messages, the direct punch of his words.

—2:57pm
what are you talking about?
she helped stop labor discrimination against elves

—F.H. 2:58pm
Of course, she knows where her votes come from.
She wants to be President of Orlais, not to raise her people from plight. F.H.

—2:58pm
she wants to raise our wages!
shes pushed for a reclaim of the dales for all elves!
so reservation could be their own country again!

—F.H. 2:59pm
Her high talk of change only comes after the silver spoon was ripped from her mouth. F.H.

“What do you think of these?”

Ellana snapped her eyes up from her phone, her ears hammering her heart in her head.

Cassandra was holding up a pair of hand towels, still maroon, but hemmed with lace and embroidered with roses. The Nevarran looked embarrassed, but determined.

“I need smaller ones and they don’t have pla—“

“Those are great, yeah, put them in—“

She looked back down, her fingers racing against his already typing animation. They sent a flurry at the same time, her eyes widening with each added text.

—3:00pm
why does it matter?

—F.H.3:00pm
Her agenda is laughable once you consider her loyal past in Celene’s staff.
Of course it matters.
Do not be ridiculous da’len. F.H.

“Whats’s next?”

—3:01pm
it doesnt matter when she started caring!
she cares now!
ridiculous!?

“Ellana.”

—F.H. 3:02pm
You are being ignorant to someone who would use your passion to fuel her path back into the favor of humans.
Not elvhen. F.H.

“What!?—What?” She looked up; noticing Cassandra was at the end of the aisle now, staring at her with that tell-tale suspicious expression. Her face immediately flushed, if it wasn’t heated already.

She hurried, pushing the cart forward. “Sorry-sorry, ah, curtains right?”

“Yes…” Cassandra pierced her with scrutiny and Ellana tried her best to look nonchalant as she slid her phone to silent. No doubt the pinging had been loud and obvious.

But their messages continued past the shower curtains, rugs, lamps, and cooking ware.

—3:10pm
its not about her character!
its what shes fighting for!

—F.H. 3:11pm
As if intention is not the most crucial piece!
She is a bigot, another upper class playing games with campaign promises. F.H.

—3:12pm
and what?
You would support celene?
gaspard?

—F.H. 3:12pm
I support no one. F.H.

—3:13pm
because THATS helpful

How could he even--- think like this? Were they both not products of their unprivileged heritage? He sounded like the elves she had met who didn’t like being Elvhen.

An image of Sera sticking out her tongue flashed in her mind.

How was this something they disagreed on? An advocacy on their behalf shouldn’t be criticized, not when--

“Ellana—“

“I like that one.” Her glance at the salt shakers was quick, accompanied with an anxious and hasty smile. She could hear Cassandra sigh loudly, pointedly, even as her phone vibrated restlessly as she fired texts.

—3:14pm
its our responsibility to support each other
we have to take what allies we can

—F.H. 3:14pm
How Dalish of you.
You sound like a Keeper. F.H.

Ellana burned, wanting nothing more than to yell at the words flashing into her screen. What a stupid—stubborn—absolute--

“Ellana—“ Cassandra’s tone was picking up that interrogator’s edge.

“Sorry, give me a sec, I need to go…to the restroom.” She laughed, fingers creaking her phone as she dropped it to her side. “Is there one here?”

Cassandra looked unimpressed but after a pause she nodded her head. “In the front I would think.”

She didn’t waste time, her eyes darting about the shelves and aisles of house ware. She skirted quickly across a section of tables, unable to focus on the maze of the store as her phone vibrated constantly, her ha’hren’s stream of messages boiling her hand.


 

“Should… I call someone for the reports, professor? Or, ehm, shall we just write up some our…selves?”

His brows were drawn tight, pale eyes looking white in the reflection of the screen of his phone. The electronic swooping sound filled the office room.

Merrill guessed that Solas didn’t hear her, but tried continuing anyway. “I suppose we could just write some, it wouldn’t take too long, and we were the first on the dig site anyway.”

She shifted in her seat, staring at her boss as she scratched her arm nervously.

He stood so abruptly, with such a sharp scoff she nearly rocked out of her swivel chair.

“Oh! But of course—she would be!”

“Pro…fessor?”

He began pacing, his angry expression narrowing further as his fingers tapped mercilessly at his phone.

“Oh. You’re not talking to me… no? Right?” She tried to clarify.

Merrill hadn’t ever seen Solas like this.

Fen’Harel was usually utterly composed, to the point of scary, in her honest and quiet opinion. She had seen him irritated, angry even, but it was a dry and sharp rage that never lasted more than a glare and a terribly piercing insult.

But not he looked…

“Me!?” He snapped at his phone and at this point Merrill was absolutely sure he had forgotten she was in the room.

She supposed that had been obvious when he had starting scoffing at his phone some twenty minutes ago. But one could never be too sure.

“P-perhaps I shall go and fetch them, then? It would be easier that way, no writing necessary, and you can have some time alone to—write, or read I suppose. Both. Or, well, alternating—“

She was rambling, she needed to leave.

Her hand snatched her purse from the floor, scooting back in her chair as Solas turned to type away, his back turned to her.

“I’ll ahm, just be gone some minutes, maybe a little longer. I’ll bring coffee, or tea, both!” She stood, slinking from the office and snatching her keys from the immense pile of books littering their desk. “Yes, just be back in a few, with reports!”

Her fingers fumbled on the door handle, but once it opened she did not hesitate in her escape.


 

When Ellana found the bathrooms she didn’t bother to see if anyone else was in there, her hands sliding her phone back to the text log to find the newest list of accusations.

—F.H. 3:15pm
Oh Ellana, do not tell me you are a First.
You are.
It would make sense, would it not?
The studying and the naivety. F.H.

“Naïve!” Ellana neared shouted.

A stall slammed behind her, and she quieted, moving to the length of wall as she began texting, ignoring the stranger coming and going.

—3:17pm
so what!?
im a first.
and as first I can understand that you cant take a representative for elvhen for granted!
NO ONE else is helping us
and you arent either!

—F.H. 3:18pm
Me?
You would support greed and incompetence for a lack of choice.
Childish! F.H.

“A child! Of course, ha’hren!”

And an hour ago, she had missed his conversation, hah!

—3:19pm
if understanding that my rights being advanced is more important than whose doing it is childish
then doing nothing at all is something a stubborn old hahren would do!

—F.H. 3:20pm
Be intelligent, Ellana.
You can not support just anyone.
They would take advantage of your people. F.H.

Ellana let her anger shake her with a mocking laugh, staring at the message in bafflement.

—3:20pm
OUR people

—F.H. 3:20pm
I am not Dalish. F.H.

Wait…what?

“What?”

—3:21pm
?????
what?
??
?

He didn’t answer and Ellana felt her mind race.

Not Dalish? How? He had called her lethallan, da’len--they had considered each other kin. He had spoken their mother tongue and asked her of their history.

She felt her anger curl up, twisting away to confusion and… disappointment.

She let her phone droop slightly in her hand, looking up to the bathroom mirror to catch a glance of the stark Vallaslin on her face.

Looking back down at the texts, she pushed out thoughts of Ambassador Briala and her speeches.

Instead, she remembered her Keeper’s quiet resignation on the steps of the Ferelden building.

—3:23pm
you know what?
it doesnt matter.
dalish or not theres hardly anything left of us hahren.
does it really hurt us to try and stay united than apart?
would we even still be talking if not for gisharel?
our shared history?

“Creators how could you be so—“

“Ellana—“

Her shoulders jumped, eyes finding Cassandra’s, their worry laced with hard questions.

“—who on earth are you talking to?”

“It’s just—“

“No.” The Nevarran accent punctuated the word and Cassandra’s arm opened the heavy bathroom door with an easy shove. “You are going to come and tell me everything.”

Chapter Text

When Ellana had been very young, around eleven, she had gotten completely smashed.

There was a family in the Lavellan clan that exported authentic Elvhen wines. Many countries paid tons of money for quality wines, especially from the reservations where almost all the world’s supply of Elfroot and Arbor Blessings grew. Mixed in with various other herbs and fermented, Elvhen wine was a potent luxury.

She didn’t really remember exactly why she had done it now. Her memories of that day were blurred between the kids laughing at her and the adults telling her that as First, she couldn’t do what others were allowed to.

Either way, she had snuck into their back stocks and gotten completely plastered on one bright, crystalline bottle.

When people had come looking for her, she had ditched the bottle and ran (not the best idea when drunk) all the way home.

Needless to say, her Keeper had found her and confronted her on her missing hours and a broken back door to the Lavellan bottling room.

It had been the very first big lie for her. She had stood hot faced and drowsy, sweating like a maniac and babbling lies to Deshanna. 

Predictably, she vomited on the Keeper’s shoes and passed out.

Ever since, lying had always gave her woozy sensations that swirled in her stomach and threatened to top her over. As if she were cursed to be drunk anytime she had the notion to fib. 

So, sitting there in the department store’s dinky fast food restaurant across from Cassandra, she felt like throwing up.

Not that Cassandra’s hardened glare wouldn’t do that all its own. 

“Have you told him where you live?”

“No!”

“Where you go to school?”

“N-no—“

“Does he know your name?”

“Well…”

“Oh, Ellana…” The woman instantly closed her eyes, pressing her forehead into his hands.

“Only my first name…” Not keen (or able) on making excuses, she had told her friend everything. The initial messages, how long they had been speaking, what she knew of him (teacher, old, Elvhen) and that they had been arguing all this morning.

She looked down at the accuser. Her phone had been completely silent since she had left the bathrooms. Not one message.

“I want to see them.”

“What?”

“The messages.”

“Cass-“

“All of them.” Cassandra gave her such a look of unquestionable authority that she felt didn’t have any choice but to slide the screen open and scroll through her messages to the beginning. She considered deleting them all, but got sick at the idea. Not just because it would be lying, but the thought at losing them made her throat feel tight.

The device slid across the table and Cassandra caught it easily, lifting it up for her eyes to scan as if reading a police report.

Ellana sighed awkwardly, trying not to remember the more silly texts they had exchanged.

But thinking of those only made her think of the ones he had sent an hour ago.

Don’t be ridiculous da’len.

You are being ignorant..

How Dalish of you.

She wasn’t even angry anymore. His words had struck her in places that shouldn’t have been personal but were. Places that had made her more… uncomfortable than angry now.

It wasn’t as if she had Ambassador Briala campaign stickers and subscribed to the woman’s newsletter—she barely paid attention to the issues in Orlais. But…

His anger had made him more… real.

It probably sounded silly. But their exchanges had been light, unthinking, oddly natural without anything to make her really think about what she was doing.

But their disagreement had been a bit of a wake up.

She now knew more than ever, that her ha’hren, her F.H., was somewhere out there sitting behind the screen with thoughts, opinions, feelings, a life she had inadvertently entangled herself with.

She didn’t even know his name.

“Where’s the next page?”

“Huh?” Ellana looked up from her thoughts to Cassandra.

She had expected the woman to appear cross and chiding as she had been, but instead she almost looked flushed—embarrassed?

“Isn’t there more? Another page?” She asked in frustration, her thumb pushing harshly at the screen.

“Page?” She leaned towards her, as if too look, but Cassandra kept the phone close. “Texts don’t really work like that… if you hit the bottom of the scroll, that’s it.”

She almost looked disappointed, but Cassandra cleared her throat and pressed the phone to the table. “Oh.”

Ellana watched her with apprehension.

But when Cassandra just shifted restlessly with hot cheeks looked about the restaurant, Ellana just got confused.

“Well?”

“What?”

“What do you think?”

“I—“ Cassandra stuttered, her eyes fluttering. “He is very… polite with you, Ellana.”

She was amazed she wasn’t getting yelled at. “You don’t think it’s…”

“You should be careful.” Cassandra nodded. “Be wary of what he says from now on. And don’t tell him where you live, just in case.”

“Are you… giving me permission to continue talking to him?”

The Nevarran huffed loudly, but gave no argument except, “Obviously, he owes you a very good apology. For being so stubborn. And…”

She trailed, her eyes looking at Ellana with warning. “If you ever plan to meet with him, you must tell me immediately.”

Cassandra didn’t bring it up again after that. They continued their shopping without interruption, and after thoroughly discussing and deciding on a couch, Ellana even forgot about the texts.

They were able to have a store employee help Cassandra hoist the couch into the back of her truck, but on the way out they were poised with another problem.

“We’ll have to have someone help get it into the house.” Ellana noted.

“We can do it.” Cassandra brushed off, making Ellana laugh as they climbed into the car.

“You—you can do it. With someone else. Not me!” She chuckled. “Have you seen me?” She asked, gesturing to her smaller Elvhen figure, nowhere near the obvious strength in stature as Cassandra.

They paused in thought before starting the car.

“What about your friend? The rugby player?”

“Krem?” She asked. When Cassandra nodded she shook her head. “Funnily enough, he’s playing rugby today. Otherwise I’d just call Bull.”

“Bull?”

“Ah—his coach.”

Cassandra nodded and turned the key. “Then I think I know someone who owes me a favor.”

“Are they available?”

She scoffed. “As if Fenris has better things to do.”




“Considering all your prior contracts, I think I can get you in to take over the process of exhuming the mirror. With some persuasion they will let us do it so whoever ends up with it won’t have to.”

“Good.”

“How is the project going there? Have you figured out what the team has found?”

“No.”

“Ah-oh. Well I’m more than sure the museum board will be excited to have whatever it turns out to be—and at least this time it’s on Orlesian soil.”

“…”

“Excuse me… Professor, have I called at a bad time?”

“No  I—“ Solas leaned back in his chair, his free hand rubbing at his temple as he closed his eyes. “Forgive me, Ms. Montilyet. I seem to be a bit distracted.”

“Not at all! I imagine the workload for new endeavors is always a handful.”

Solas hummed but didn’t correct her.

He should be distracted with work, but instead his mind kept imagining the biting words in his phone and the boiling frustration that had faded in the wake of Josephine’s call.

“I’ll let you get back to work, you can call me with news later, or have Merrill do it! I do miss her already. You get back in three more days if I recall? You should both stop by this weekend for Varric’s dinner! It’s going to be quite an ordeal and I know Merrill is looking forward to it...”

Solas wasn’t listening anymore, distracted now by the mention of his assistant who was still missing. He vaguely remembered her leaving and wondered if she would even return to the office, or if she went back to the hotel.

“Have her call me when you see her, and let me know when you have more information.”

“Of course.”

When the phone call ended, his screen faded back to his most recent app.

—3:23pm
you know what?
it doesnt matter.
dalish or not theres hardly anything left of us hahren.
does it really hurt us to try and stay united than apart?
would we even still be talking if not for gisharel?
our shared history?

She hadn’t sent anything else since.

Ridiculous, ignorant, rude, unnecessary, impulsive and ill considered. Attributes describing himself, rather than her.

He tried to remember exactly why he had sent her the question in the first place, tried to think of a justification for the argument but even those seemed trivial now.

Very simply, he had assumed she would agree with him.

Because of course she would. She was Ellana, his…

That was the question now, wasn’t it?

A Da’len.

The notion had heated something inside of him from the moment she had began calling him ‘ha’hren.’

He was professor, of course, with years of classes and students in his experience. He was no stranger to teaching, to have others learn from him, to guide them in their education or even their career.

But a da’len was something different. Something he had never had. It was blood, spirit, an Elvhen notion of respect. A bond. A relationship.

He realized that as a Dalish First, she must know this as much as he did.

He didn’t have that. Family.

Though if he were being honest, he hadn’t considered the issue deeply enough to realize he saw her as his actual da’len until now.

She had been another puzzle. A book to open and refer to when he needed. A familiar tool in his hands as he excavated. He had adapted to her presence as he did every new mystery he had come across in his life. A source.

So when he had asked her, he had only expected her to reiterate him. To reaffirm him.

Foolish.

He considered a response, fingers tracing across the keyboard.

This was not a matter of debate da’len. |

No. It was. He had only thought it wouldn’t be.  With a sigh he deleted the characters, dropping his phone to his lap.

She was a woman, with opinions. Dalish, as she had told him numerous times. A fact he had forcefully ignored in light of her enjoyable conversation.

It had been wrong of him to engage her. As ignorant as he felt her opinion was and as right as he considered his, it had been wrong of him to erase the reality of her for some comfortable ideal of his.

He had most likely ruined it, this small piece of social connection he finally had.

Perhaps it had been only a matter of time.




“A little left I think.”

“You think?”

“A little left!” Ellana squeaked, her face flushing under the harsh scrutiny of the two lifting the couch into the living room

Cassandra and Fenris dropped the piece of furniture once they centered it just as a blaring ring echoed off the empty walls. Cassandra stood, lifting a phone from her pocket.

“It’s Leliana. I’ll be just a moment.” She took the call, leaving the two of them to head into the bedroom in the back.

Ellana watched her go before looking over at Fenris, the elf taking a chance to lean heavily against the couch.

She had only met Fenris once before. He had been with Varric that time, leaving a lunch she had just joined.  It wasn’t surprising that he also knew Cassandra, not with how close she and Varric were.  And despite Ellana’s attempts, any friends she made on her own always seemed to know someone in her rag tag group of acquaintances.

Fenris was not like an elf she’d seen before. She knew little about him aside from the fact that he was Tevine. A depressing thought.

“So.” She spoke and he looked up at her, arms crossing over the black button down he had rolled up.

“How do you know Cassandra?”

“She was my parole officer.”

“Oh.”

Ellana frowned. Well they couldn’t continue that conversation.

“I like your…” Vallislin wasn’t the word. Six years of schooling in the city had taught her that most of the Elves she met with Vallislin on their faces had no idea what the gods were that they were supposed to praise. It was a trend now, a fad, and she had learned the embarrassing way that assuming they were Dalish just made her look stupid. “Tattoos.”

She knew it was the wrong thing to say as soon as she said it.

His brows creased at her, lips parting to show a glimpse of teeth, as if he were going to say--

“Excuse me?”

“Your—“

“They’re scars.”

“Oh.”

They shifted awkwardly, listening to the muffled Nervarran accent in the other room.

“You’re Dalish.”

She turned, looking up at him with a bit of surprise.  It should have been obvious, but with the amount of fake-Vallislin-wearing-teens, it was always pleasant to hear someone guess correctly. Instead of “where did you get yours?”

“Yes—Lavellan.”

Fenris made a thoughtful noise, looking away from her and scratching his neck.

“I have a… friend who is Dalish.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I don’t remember her clan. But she assumed my… scars were your blood writing.” He looked up at her with a bit of a smirk. “Which I bet you thought too.”

Ellana laughed and couldn’t lie. “Sorry—I just, you can never tell and—“

“I know.” He considered her. “You’re eager like her. Most Dalish want nothing to do with others. But she was always excited to meet any elf. Myself included.”

She smiled fondly at the idea. Thedas needed more elves like that.

“You two would like each other I think, from what Cassandra has told me about you.”

“I would like to meet her sometime.”

“Her name’s—“

“Ellana!” Cassandra shouted from the hall, both of them turning to watch her peek from the door. “Leliana wants to know if you are going to Varric’s dinner on Saturday.”

She blanked a bit before nodding. “Yeah—sure, I’m up for it.”

“Fenris?”

The dark elf chuckled sharply beside her. “I doubt Hawke will let me escape it.”

“They’re both going.” Cassandra told the phone, closing the door once more.

It went almost awkwardly quiet again.

“Forgive me.”

She looked up in surprise, finding Fenris’ bright eyes looking up at her through his shaded brows. “I judged you quickly and that was rude of me.”

Ellana stared at him.

He had been a little cold, maybe… but the apology was much too intense for the small attitude he had given.

“You don’t have to—“

“No. I do.” He stated, his dark gaze quieting her before it went soft again. “I have been… trying to get better at apologizing. At being kind.” He smiled distantly. “And I find it easier to own up to my mistakes sooner rather than later. Waiting always seems to make saying sorry so much harder.”

Ellana felt a fond smile grow across her features and she laughed, drawing his attention once more.

“You can stop practicing Fenris, that apology would make anyone forgive you.”

He gave a soft laugh, air escaping his grin.

“Thank you.”


 

After spending the rest of the day carefully placing brand new housewares in Cassandra’s house, coming home to her own apartment was a little uninspiring.

Ellana took a short stock of the piles of papers and books now conquering her floor before stepping over them completely. She tossed her keys and purse to the void and dropping onto the couch.

The phone in her pocket jammed into her hip.

“Ah—“

A sweeping sound answered her.

Her heart thudded loudly.

She contemplated ignoring it, but her weak defense was shattered when she saw the small notification on her idle screen.

1 New Message [F.H.]

Her finger slid slowly to reveal it.

—F.H. 9:15pm
Ar de te’olathe’len. F.H.

He was…? She sighed. Te’olathe’len was not one she knew. Judging by her memory of Elvhen studies, he was a ‘person not----‘  something.

Perhaps if he had messaged her with the challenge on any other day she would have had the patience to slip out her notes or call Deshanna.

9:16pm
did your autocorrect change your ‘ir abelas’?

It was petty. And as soon as it sent she remembered Fenris’ genuine expression and his humble words. Waiting always seems to make saying sorry so much harder.

—F.H. 9:16pm
No, but I suppose I should say that as well.
Ir abelas, ‘ma da’len. F.H.

She closed her eyes, the phone dropping quietly to her chest for a moment before she raised it once more, eyes tight as she typed.

—9:16pm
no im sorry too

—F.H. 9:17pm
No Ellana please F.H.

—9:17pm
it was really not important
i shouldnt have gotten so angry

—F.H. 9:18pm
And I should not have either.
Please.
You were right.
I would not have kept talking to you if not for our blood, lethallan. F.H.

The weight that had sagged at her shoulders and the paranoid worry that tingled her spine seemed to settle. She wondered if the effect was the same for him.

And despite him not being Dalish, something clicked. The familiar warmth that had been Fenris’ kindness. An understanding despite differences perhaps.

And maybe selfishly, she was satisfied. After all, if he was messaging her this late, no doubt he had at least thought about their argument once that day. Like she had.

Which reminded her…

—9:20pm
are you still in parendale?

—F.H. 9:20pm
I am. F.H.

—9:20pm
isn’t it really late for you?

—F.H. 9:21pm
It is 3:20am.
Ah, 3:21am now. F.H.

Three in the morning. Ellana felt her face flush. Had he been up because of…?

9:21pm
can I ask you something?

He typed for a bit at that.

F.H. 9:22pm
You can most certainly ask and I can attempt to answer. F.H.

9:22pm
do you think this is weird?
us I mean

She didn’t even get a chance to hold her breath for his answer.

F.H. 9:22pm
Very.
But I  will enjoy it for however long it is determined to last.
Why? Do you think ‘us’ strange? F.H.

Her face was hot at his words and she had to be slow to type without mistakes.

9:23pm
a little.
I mean…
don’t you have other people to text hahren?

F.H. 9:24pm
You think highly of me to assume I have any level of popularity. F.H.

She openly laughed, the cushions of her couch pressing against her. Comfort settled through her and fondness spread down to her toes.

—F.H. 9:24pm
What about you? You are almost always available to my messages. F.H.

—9:25pm
im a student remember? Im ALWAYS on my phone.

—F.H. 9:26pm
And now I am as well, because of your influence. F.H.

—9:26pm
youre fun to talk to.

—F.H. 9:27pm
You have said this before. F.H.

—9:27pm
you are!
and you? not bored of me yet?

—F.H. 9:27pm
Not at all.
You are much too engaging. F.H.

Ellana twisted, suddenly unable to sit still.

9:28pm
you get to make fun of me right?

—F.H. 9:29pm
No, no making fun.
Just having it, da’len. F.H.

She swallowed, teeth gripping her lip to stop her wild grin. The buzzing excitement was nearly uncontainable. She laughed, pushed at her lips and reread a few of his messages, the words making her shiver with a new sort of paranoid emotion.

Realizing this was getting… something, she sent him a message before tossing the phone to the other side of the couch and abandoning it for a shower.

—9:30pm
on nydha hahren

—F.H. 9:30pm
Goodnight Ellana. F.H.

 

Chapter Text

“White Mocha.” Krem announced, delivering her the coffee cup and sitting across from her with his own.

She answered him with a long yawn.

He raised brows at her. “If you need energy you should be drinking real coffee. That sugar stuff will just make you crash.”

She sighed heavily into the cup, letting it warm her tired fingers. She could smell the fumes of the drink already, filling the already delicious smelling air of the favorite coffee shop.  “I need something to look forward to these days. And Dagna’s mocha’s are the best.”

“I can’t believe you’re complaining. A free ride? No work? You aren’t even interning with the museum anymore are you?”

“No—but it’s not as easy as it sounds.” She argued, “Not as runner-up Keeper now.”

“When do you meet with the Prime Minister, fancy-pants?”

“Friday.”

“Three more days.”

“Yeah.” Ellana answered, trying not to think of the giant folders of research at home or the dog adorned hallways of the Ferelden Embassy. It was all making her a little nervous.

“Well at least you aren’t working.” Krem noted, an arm absently rubbing at his shoulder. “I think I pulled something at practice the other day. Bussing tables has been killing me.”

“You should ask Bull for some time off.”

Krem laughed handsomely, drinking his coffee and pinning her with a pointed look.

Ellana smiled. “Just a suggestion.”

“Yeah, a bad one.” Krem paused in a second gulp, “That reminds me, are you headed to Varric’s Saturday?”

Ellana nearly guffawed. “Wait—how are you invited?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“No I mean—how do you know Varric? How do all my friends know the rest of my friends?”

“Varric sponsors the Chargers, Ellana.”

“Of course he does.” She shook her head in exasperation.

Still, she was relieved to hear Krem was going. He was one of her only close friends that were actually in her age range, and at least she could talk to him about other things. Most of her other adult companions seemed more interested in grilling her lately. And she could only take so many “what are you doing with your degree?”’s and “What job offers have you gotten?”’s.

“Well since it sounds like you’re going, we should carpool.”

“Sounds good to me.” She answered, unlatching the top of the cup to get a better access to her coffee. “Aw! Wow!”

A flower was looking back up at her, etched delicately into the foam layer. Its petals were shaded with pinches of cinnamon, creating a bloom of sugar in her cream. “This is amazing!”

Krem leaned over to look at the cup. “It’s an artichoke?”

“It’s an embrium!” She scolded, “They must have drawn it with a toothpick it’s so fine.” She twisted, trying to spot the workers behind the coffee bar. “Dagna really outdid herself! Wherever she is.”

“Neat.”

Ellana looked back to glare at him. ‘Neat’ was not the right reaction to something this amazing.

“What?”

“Oh forget it Krempuff, just help me tilt it to the light.”

Krem frowned at her as she began shuffling in her jacket for her phone. “This doesn’t really warrant a picture does it?” He asked, grabbing the cup and shifting it forward.

“Of course it does—ah! Don’t spill it!” Krem groaned as she carefully arranged his hands and fingers to hold the coffee just right to make sure the flower looked as good on camera as it did in her eyes.

It clicked and she swiped it quickly into a new message.

“Sending it out to the whole clan?” Krem teased.

“Just one.” She smiled, hesitating only for a second before sending.


 

The latex of his gloves caught on the winged tip of Mythal’s figure, his brows furrowing in concentration as he examined the edges of the sculpted vase. 

“Most of the head is cracked, not eroded.” He stated, frowning irritably. “No doubt by reckless inexperience whilst yanking the piece from the ground.”

There was a huff he ignored from the other side of the room.

“I wasn’t the one who excavated it--” Merrill piped worriedly from the other side of the propped artifact, her own gloved hands pausing in their inspection. “I only—“

Solas sighed. “I was not implying you were.”

“Oh!” She smiled suddenly, face flushing behind her Vallaslin. “Sorry. You said that bit about reckless inexperience and I figured you usually mean—“

“No.”

He took a quite step back to inspect the vase in its entirety. A feat impossible now with half of its side dismantled, small remnants tagged and lain out on the table.

“Despite your team trying their best to shatter the left side to pieces, it is easy to determine the purpose.”

At that jibe the Parendale associate stepped forward, his face reddening and his accent curling in frustration. “We did our best under the circumstances.“

Solas decided against telling the man that their best was horrendous. That must already be obvious.

“So aren’t you going to give us your analysis, Professor?”

“It is an urn for offerings, not burials.”

“But—“

An electronic dinging sound filtered through the room.

“The Elvhen around the base describes a gift of flame, not a gift of life.” Solas explained distractedly, shifting into his sweater pocket for his phone.  It was a welcome weight in his hand and he started to smile as he swept the screen awake.

—1 New Message [Ellana]
Attachment: 1 Image

One image. A photo.

His hand faltered, fingers fumbling to turn off his phone and reveal the message all at the same time. The weight leaned awkwardly in his hands before falling completely and he watched it clatter to the floor with a sharp crack.

“Oh goodness!” Merrill said, peeking her face over the ancient Elvhen artifact to look at the phone and then back up at him. “Oh no. That was bad—mine never last a fall that high. Those screens seem to go first and then—“

Solas quickly snatched the device without looking at it. “Merrill, start packing the pieces and tag them with new catalog numbers. Explain to our associate the differences between a burial urn and a tribute urn.”

His assistant gave him a confused and worried look as she nodded, watching him leave the room. “Excuse me a moment.”

The space away from others didn’t seem to help his nerves. He walked a bit down the hallway of the empty offices to collect his thoughts, patting the phone on his thigh.

Image, Photo. She sent him a photo.

Which he probably couldn’t see anyway – a frustrated glance told him the screen had missed death but only barely, a long hair strand of a crack marring the center.

 Still, the notification flashed at him.

He thought about leaving it. He wondered if he could ask Merrill how to delete something without looking at it.

But his curiosity ate him before he could actually consider the idea.  Knowing was always better than ignorance.

As soon as the image opened he took it all in. The flower, the coffee, the wood on the table, the sun from the window, the peek of fingers around the cup.

—Ellana 5:13pm
look how amazing they made my coffee!

The smile on his face was unwarranted and his hand lifted to push it away, back resting against the hallway wall.

It was like the glyphs on the vase in the other room. It was a small hint to something else; a peek into her world or a puzzle unveiling in between digital letters and now, pictures. She had let him further in with a simple snap shot.

At that thought, he wondered at the fingers on the coffee, reaching from the wrong way, leaning the cup just right. Hers? Who elses? A friend?

Either way, she had wanted to share the embrium with him as well. A notion that felt anything but small. 

He saved the picture to his phone before answering.




Ellana followed Krem back to work, her own apartment only a few blocks down and her dread for finishing her proposal papers still present.

The Tavern was unusually occupied for a bar at noon, but Ellana could already tell it was mostly the local regulars.

“Well, well, the all mighty Ellana!”

She laughed, catching sight of Bull on the wrong side of the bar, raising a glass of something bright and forthy.

“Don’t let in too much of that air, come and sit with me. No--not you Krem, you need to clear out those back tables.”

“You know I’m not actually a busser right, Boss? I’m a bartender.”

Bull huffed as Ellana came to sit with him, waving off Krem. “So practice your bottle juggling with the dirty glasses.”

“Don’t you do anything around here Bull?” Ellana teased, drinking her mocha and crinkling her nose at the added smell of stale beers.

“Now why would I have to?”

“Aren’t you the owner?” She asked, just as her phone vibrated impatiently in her jacket pocket.

“Don’t go saying that too loud! I try my best to seem like a customer so I don’t have to deal with the other customers.”

She chuckled, sliding open her screen with nerves tickling her fingers. She remembered the photo and wondered if he would be… angry?

—F.H. 12:24pm
Ina’lan’ehn, Gaildahlas. F.H.

Ellana’s face and ears burned red.

That was—forward!

No, no, that was the Elvhen word for Embrium. She buried her cheeks in her hands as she stared at the words, lips pursing nervously.

He was—sometimes he—

-Charge away.

-I will enjoy it for as long as it is determined to last.

-You are much to engaging. 

Sometimes he flirted with her.

At the revelation she immediately threw away the idea. He had no idea what she looked like, he wouldn’t flirt with a stranger.

Ellana picked up the phone again, smile on her face as she wrote.

A sharp whistle startled her back to Bull.

“Hey Grim! Turn the TV up!” He yelled, throwing one of the bar rags at the man stocking the liquor cabinets. “We’re missing Varric’s commercial.”

Ellana looked up at the flashing screen on the wall, watching the large font blink at her.

-THIS SATURDAY-

The screen transitioned, showing a group of people walking down a hallway before it began a slow motion reel of people turning to look at the camera.

“I don’t know if I’ll watch this one, but it does look good.” Bull commented.

 -SEASON PREMIERE OF THE CHAMPION OF KIRKWALL-

“Is the shorter one supposed to be Varric?” Ellana asked.

“They never cast the right people.” He answered.




He didn’t get a response until they made it back to the hotel, but when his phone chimed it was in his hands in seconds.

—Ellana 7:02pm
it tasted good too ;)

She kept typing and he waited, trying not to feel anything from the cheeky response. 

—how was your day?

He smiled, standing from his desk and abandoning his reports.  He rolled open the balcony door quietly and stepped out. The cold air hit him gently, and he angled his phone up to the view. It was a good sight straight into the heart of the city. He clicked for his camera.

“Solas!! Solas did you see it!?” Merrill shouted somewhere behind him through the adjoining room doors. “It looks so professional! The camera and the big titles—“

The door burst open and his assistant peered through. “Did you see it!? They made Hawke look so gorgeous and I think the lady they got for me looks shorter on camera because when we spoke she was much taller, maybe a bit prettier—“

The picture snapped before he turned back to her.

“I assume you are talking about Varric’s show?”

“Yes! Did you see it?”

Solas gave her an amused smile, glancing at his own television, obviously off. “No, I am afraid I missed it.”

“Oh, well!” Her face fell before lighting up just as easily. “They must play it again, it’s so grand looking—but all the words were in Orlesian and the subtitles were in Tevine for some reason, but I think I understood most of it—I mean, it couldn’t be more different than my own life story! Maybe—“

“I am quite sure they will.” He nodded distractedly, texting quickly and sending the message off.

“Oh so it isn’t broken?” Merrill perked curiously, sitting on the bed to look over at him.

“Thankfully not, only a battle scar or two.” He flashed the phone at her and she laughed.

“How lucky! Mine’s broken more than four times now, almost always because I’ve left it somewhere—Oh! That reminds me I should find it and call Hawke!” She stood, bounding back through to her room in excitement.

Solas followed, silently pushing the door closed behind her.   




The phone rattled against the book about State and Federal Law Developing Regulations.

Ellana looked up from her computer, pausing in her final edit of her plea for sponsorship.

For a moment, she dreaded it being Deshanna.

But when the phone vibrated once and didn’t ring, she smiled excitedly instead.

—F.H. 2:05pm
It looked a little like this.

The picture he sent her wasn’t something she’d seen before. Parendale wasn’t a place she had ever visited. It was much too west from the Marcher states and there were no Dalish there that she knew of.

She could see little gold domes from old architecture and only a few other tall modern hotel buildings.

There was a plant on his balcony and the sunset shined off the silver railing.

She leaned back from the computer in her lap and the papers and books scattered across the sheets to fall into the pillows.

It was already night for him then.

She started typing.




Ellana 7:07pm
well that proves your real hahren

He chuckled, sitting down on his bed and loosening his collar with a free hand.

Real?

He considered that, thinking of all their past messages and getting a slight unsettling sensation for some reason.

—7:07pm
You thought me a liar da’len? F.H.

Thinking that a little heavy, he tried to lighten his words.

—A figment of your imagination, perhaps? F.H.

She messaged back quickly.

—Ellana 7:08pm
No a robot!

He laughed, allowing himself to actually make the sound now that he was in privacy.

—your texts brighten my day
especially stressful ones
tell me more nice things!

He watched the messages come in, the calm content and languid heat from seeing them making him feel bold.




F.H. 2:10pm
Nice things about you or nice things about life?
It is funny how often the two coincide for me these days. F.H.

Her breathing hitched. She had meant it more casually, but realized now how implicative she might’ve been.

Not that she regretted it too much.

This was… bad. Wasn’t it? She had no idea what he looked like, sounded like – what his name or actual age was.

Ellana swallowed.

He was bold with her, had had been since day one. Even their argument had been bold and passionate on his side. Maybe he was some sort of writer?


—2:11pm
well I definitely feel better

—F.H. 2:11pm
Hah! Pleasing you comes naturally to me
It is hardly a challenge. F.H.

She shot upward, drawing her knees together as her heart thudded against her chest.

Lips parting, her fingers danced across the letters.




—Ellana 7:12pm
what else comes naturally to you professor?

Solas stared at the screen, his finger caught against the second button of his shirt.

He tried to clear his throat, standing momentarily to cross the room away from his phone.

Didn’t they stock drinks somewhere? Preferably something alcoholic.

He went for the water instead. A smarter choice.

But, when he reached for the pitcher of ice he realized his phone was still in his hands. That little ‘professor?’ staring back at him as if the font was a blaring color of red.

He paused, hesitant laughter escaping his lips as he stared at her message, both hands grasping it to type.  The phone made him feel much too safe. It was easier to… say things to her like this. He was being absurd.

 —7:13pm
A particular proclivity for embarrassing myself.  F.H.

—Ellana 7:13pm
Id say being charming.

Charming!

He turned, walked, and sat back down on the bed restlessly.

—7:13pm
You think so da’len?
I am not so sure. F.H.

—Ellana 7:14pm
you could woo an avvar you are so charming.

He laughed, but then it died in a rush of hot breath when she continued.

you woo me.

His eyes flickered, thumb tracing across the name at the top of the message. A more satisfied smile took his features, a smirk, as he realized…

..she was asking for it.


 

—F.H. 2:14pm
Then it seems I have a talent for wooing you in particular, Ellana. F.H.

She fell back down to the sheets, a book smashing to the wood floor of her apartment at her hasty movement.

Bad, bad, bad, bad—She could hear her Keeper scold her somewhere in the back of her head, or Cassandra glare at her.

Who was she kidding? Cassandra would force her to respond at gunpoint.

—2:15pm
are you sure this isnt a joke?
you’re a prank robot
or an app I downloaded on accident.

—F.H. 2:16pm
No joke here. I contacted you first remember?
And I find you quite enchanting. F.H.

She nearly threw her phone across the room.

—2:16pm
there you go again
wooing
trying to get into my ‘keyboard’ hahren?

He typed and stopped several times. Ellana glared as she bit her lip.

—F.H. 2:17pm
You could say I am all hands when it comes to you, ‘ma da’len. F.H.

“Wow—okay.” Ellana stared at the message, aware that it was a pun as well as an innuendo. Unfortunately, without a voice it was hard to tell which he emphasized more.

“Oh hahren you—“

The phone flashed and vibrated, the ringtone jolting her from the cozy (and heated) position.

This time it was actually her Keeper.

Chapter Text

—F.H. 9:10am
I am officially leaving Parendale
Thought you might want to know. F.H. 

—Ellana 9:13am
dareth shiral!
take a picture from the sky and send it when you land! 

—F.H. 4:45pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—Ellana 4:52pm
this is a horrible picture.
I can see more of your tray than the view!
is that champagne?
are you a snobby first classer hahren?

—F.H. 5:01pm
Jealousy suits you da’len.
Shall I send you a picture of my town car? F.H. 

—Ellana 5:01pm
only if you can get your driver to give me a thumbs up 

—F.H. 5:07pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—Ellana 5:08pm
you werent joking

—F.H. 5:08pm
No.
Should it be the helicopter next? F.H.

—Ellana 5:09pm
Really!?

—F.H. 5:09pm
No, not really. F.H. 

—Ellana 5:10pm
too bad
I would have actually been impressed then


 

—Ellana 2:03pm
I know you arent dalish
but I really miss elvhen bradh
you know the roped ones dipped in melted sugar and butter?
no one here knows what im talking about. 

—F.H. 2:05pm
You live in the city do you not? Downtown?
I guess only because of the area code. F.H. 

—Ellana 2:05pm
Why? 

—F.H.2:06pm
3396 W. Crossings Av.
An Elvhen bakery, called Enaste.
They should have your cravings, you could visit some time. F.H.

—Ellana 2:38pm
This place is amazing.
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—F.H. 2:40pm
You went!
So quickly! F.H.

—Ellana 2:40pm
I ordered so many things! 

—F.H. 2:41pm
I enjoy the frilly cakes if you are interested in recommendations.

—Ellana 2:42pm
These?
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—F.H. 2:42pm
Exactly those.
You are tempting me now, no more pictures or I will have to head there myself. F.H.

—Ellana 2:43pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]
[Attachment: 1 Image]
[Attachment: 1 Image]
[Attachment: 1 Image]
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—F.H. 2:44pm
Ha! This is an invitation to join you then, da’len? F.H. 

—Ellana 2:44pm
too late hahren I bought them out!


 

—F.H. 9:22pm
Do your ears tingle when it is going to rain? F.H.

—Ellana 9:24pm
lol do yours??

—F.H. 9:24pm
Ah, forget I asked. F.H.

—Ellana 9:25pm
I think that was the most hahren thing youve said
do your knees ache when a storm comes too?
hahhahaahah!

—F.H. 9:25pm
Hush. F.H.

 




—Ellana 3:56pm
hey wish me luck?
in an hour I’ll know if all this studying paid off.

—F.H. 4:00pm
You are not a human, you do not need luck lethallan. F.H. 

—F.H. 6:32pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]
That Emerald Knight film you saw is on. Worth watching? F.H.

—F.H. 7:00pm
Is the annoying child sidekick alive throughout the film? F.H.

—F.H. 7:34pm
This is terrible.
Historically and realistically inaccurate. F.H.

—F.H. 9:02pm
Was today alright, Ellana? F.H.

—F.H. 10:23pm
Da’len? F.H.

 

Chapter Text

“Ellana come on!”

The wood of the apartment door rattled in the jamb as he knocked again.

“It’s five—dinner’s at seven—are you even ready?”

Cremisius shifted hastily on his feet, but no answer came.

He ducked his head, pulling keys out from his leather jacket and fingering them before picking out the bright green one.

“Okay Ellana, jig’s up, I’m coming in.”

The lock rattled, the heavy door squeaking as he shouldered it open.

Ellana’s small studio was a brightly lit one, sunlight pouring in through open windows. The cool air hit him in the face, bringing in the smell of outside and something heady. Like sleep and earth.

“Ellana?” He asked, stepping over a discarded set of shoes and a purse. He spotted car keys and her phone on the floor.

With a sigh he scooped up the phone, flicking the screen.

3 New Voicemails
3 Missed Calls [Deshanna]
4 Missed Calls [Krempuff]
3 New Messages [Krempuff]
7 New Messages [F.H.]
1 New Message [Josie]

“I’m here Krem.”

He turned, spotting a lone hand lazily raised from the bed in the corner. He saw more of her head and tired expression as he neared.

“You’re popular.” He waved the phone at her.

Ellana groaned, dropping from her elbows to the sheets.

Krem looked over the shaded corner, the bed littered in books, papers, and clothes.

“So what, you were gonna ignore me until I left?”

He shoved some books ungracefully from the bed to plop down next to her. Ellana watched ‘Dalish Rights of Culture’ fall with indifference.

“Yeah… sorry.”

They were quiet a moment and Krem slid her phone across the mattress to her.

“Been calling you.”

“I’ve sorta been…” She cringed a little. “…avoiding my Keeper.”

He nodded, giving her a somber look. “The Prime Minister? She said… no, right?”

Ellana shrugged, looking up at the ceiling. “I… didn’t even get a chance. I had everything ready, all my arguments, all my points—she called me in just to say no.”

“Was there a meeting or—“

“No! I didn’t even get a word out, she just told me her supporters wouldn’t appreciate her affiliating with the Dalish.”

“Ouch.” Krem frowned. “Well there’s always someone else right? You knew it wasn’t gonna be easy.”

Ellana huffed at him from her pillows. “I knew the process would be hard. I didn’t know I was never going to actually start it.” She shifted, “Anora helped bring rights to the alienage here. I thought she’d help the Dalish. But now… do you know any other politicians willing to help elves?”

Krem couldn’t give her an answer.

“I just… wanted to wait a little longer before telling Deshanna the news. Maybe… think of something to fix it. She was counting on me and…”

“It’s not your fault if Anora already made up her mind.” He tried to encourage before rubbing a hand at his jaw thoughtfully. When he continued, it was with a stern look of determination she recognized from his rugby games.  “Look… I’ve been meaning to ask you, because nobody else will--”

Ellana looked at him warily, as if she knew what was coming. He wouldn’t be surprised if she did.

“Do you even want to be Keeper?” Krem looked away from her, staring at the piles of books and papers she had been working on for months. “You’re one of the only Dalish to ever attend college in Ferelden. You took so many classes and when you graduated—you stayed longer for your Masters. And because you didn’t want to go back home.”

“I—“

“You used to talk about traveling, backpacking across Thedas and stealing things from museums.”

She laughed, “I wasn’t serious about—“

“You know what I mean.” He pointed out. Ellana went quiet again. “Then your Keeper dumped all this reservation stuff on you and what? No more backpacking? Ellana, you’re the—“

“I know—I know.” She agreed, finally shoving herself up to sit next to him. “But… just because I… might not want to be Keeper doesn’t mean I don’t care what happens to my clan. And you can’t just… not want to be a Keeper. There is no--quitting being a First unless you quit being… Dalish.”

She sighed, joining him in silence as they stared at her messy floor.

“Well now we definitely have to go to Varric’s party.” Krem announced, shoving off the bed.

Ellana groaned. “No—look, I can’t—“

“It will make you feel better.”

“Everyone’s just going to ask about what happened!”

“Yeah, and they’ll ask in two days, or a week, or whenever you see them if you don’t see them tonight. Just say it didn’t work, nod sadly, and then drink some beer.”

“I hate beer.”

Krem smirked, leaning forward with a wink. “So I’ll mix all your drinks.”

“You planning on getting me plastered?”

“I plan on getting you happy.”

Ellana shook her head, but the smile was on her face again and Cremisius knew he had won.

“Come on, get dressed and get ready. Horns up, Ellana.”


 

“What do you mean you’re not going!?”

Solas cringed, pulling the phone from his ear and staring at the screen.

“You better be going!” Dorian’s voice called out from the device. “It’s seven already, you can be fashionably late but you can’t be absent.”

He sighed, placing the phone back into the crook of his shoulder so he could turn back to the fresh pieces of kale and laurel on the counter. He picked up his knife again, and started trimming the herbs for his dinner.

“Give Varric my congratulations and apologies.”

“No! I shan’t. You shall. In ten minutes when you get over here.”

“Dorian, I have no obligation to attend. I have only recently returned and plan to spend my night—“

“No reason to—Merrill is going! You have no excuses if she doesn’t. And I’m here and I thought we were very good friends!”

Solas clipped the last of the kale sharply before sliding the knife back to its place with a snap. “We are not—“

“You owe Varric. He was the one who got you Merrill – AND Josephine, who is also here by the way, and deserves a nice hello for all the hard work she’s done on your—“

He frowned heavily, thinking of both Merrill and Josephine’s overly happy smiles.

“You know what—fine. We lot will have a good time without you, Solas. Enjoy your frozen dinner and your nature show! Evening!”

When Dorian clicked off he pulled the phone away to end the call and toss it to the counter.

He stared at the crack in his screen as he considered his dinner, not frozen, but not exactly companionable either.

He… did owe the pleasantries to Varric. Even if Merrill was not a first choice for the position, she did a well enough job, and Varric had always been friendly to him. More than.

And… Josephine Montilyet had got him the contract for the Parendale job, not to mention access to the Sabrae Eluvian again.

He sighed heavily, reaching out once more to check the time on his phone and dip into his messages.

Nothing.

He swallowed, ignoring the urge to send another text when he had already sent so many.

It wasn’t as if she had been gone more than a day. He had been absent without notice for days at a time, and she had not been alarmed.

Even if that had been before, when they hadn’t been talking every day.

He tried to shove off the anxiety. The small worries that, if something had happened to her, he would never, ever have a way to know— She could be hit by a bus and no one would ever think to message the stranger in her phone—

He closed his eyes, shaking the paranoia from his mind.

Maybe a night out would be better than sitting alone with his thoughts.


 

When the door opened, loud music and laughter washed over them and Josephine rocketed from the entrance.

“Ellana!!” The Antivan yelled, her curly hair bouncing in Ellana’s face. “It is so good to see you—you’ve been so busy and the museum has been so dull without you!”

“Josephine! I know—it’s good to see you too!” She laughed, pulling back to grasp her elbows. “Sorry we’re a little late.”

Josephine looked over her and then to Krem, motioning them inside. “Nonsense! As if anyone is keeping track now that it’s started—well, except me I suppose.”

The noise amplified in the large foyer, the high walls decorated in flowers and pictures frames not helping to dull the chatter.

Ellana was busy being surprised over how many people were packed into the narrow hallway, when Krem commented, “This is Varric’s place? It looks—“

“No, no, don’t be silly! It’s mine!”

“Yeah, that makes more sense.” Krem smiled, looking down at the neatly arranged row of shoes and colorful umbrella stand.

“Come in, get a drink, enjoy—“ Josephine pressed, leaning to point through the crowds. “Varric’s through there, straight down to the kitchen—we’ve decided against tables now, there are too many people for a simple sit down party. There’s food, and if you—“

“We’re fine Josephine—you don’t have to—“

“Eat what you like! The premieres at ten, though it may be way too loud for anyone to hear—“

A thumping bass erupted from the large room adjoining the entrance, a few people standing around with drinks, laughing loudly.

“Honestly.” Josephine frowned, hurrying in towards the music.

Ellana and Krem tried to rise on their tiptoes to see what was going on beyond the small crowd.

“Oh. My. Go—“ Krem began, his hand lunging out to latch onto Ellana’s shoulders as he shook excitedly. “That’s Isabela—The Isabela!”

“Hu—“

“Ellana---Ellana it’s really her—“

“Okay—“

She could barely make out the woman he was talking about, a bright blue scarf and dark hair obstructed by others. The name was slightly familiar, and she could only guess it was one of people who had inspired Varric’s tv show.

Krem started walking excitedly forward and Ellana laughed.

“You’re not even going to see Varric first?” She asked, thumbing towards the kitchen.

Krem turned to her with a handsome smirk, walking backward to the opposite room. “Ellana—Isabela.” He emphasized, raising his hands in a smooth curve.

She watched him leave and sighed.

Abandoned at the first hour. Go figure.

Ambling through the hallway was about as annoying as she figured it would be, squeezing her shoulders to and fro between pairs and groups chatting and drinking.

When she emerged into the kitchen she was greeted by a loud cheer and the sound of glasses clattering to a table.

“The Herald!” A familiar voice yelled.

Varric sat at the head of the kitchen table, seated with about ten others, and many standing around him. He was smiling at her, throwing down some cards and raising his hands.

“The Herald of Andraste everybody.”

Ellana smiled nervously at the many pairs of eyes turning to look at her.

“Varric, please I—“

“Wait—“ The woman sitting beside Varric paused, a wine glass dangling from her hands. Her strong brows furrowed, freckles scrunching. “The Herald as in—the scholarship Herald? The Student of the Nations?” She asked.

Ellana had been right hours ago, coming was a bad idea.

“The very one.” Varric smiled proudly, waving her over. She came warily. “Aveline, Ellana – and vice versa. You’ll have to forgive me; I’ve introduced way too many people tonight.”

Aveline’s strong jaw settled into a light smile, a large hand reaching across for a shake. It was firm. “An honor—“

“Oh! No.—you really, really don’t have to—“ She tried, but Varric was already interrupting.

“Hey! How did your big meeting go—No, wait—“

Her upset expression halted as he waved her off. “Don’t tell me now, I’m in the middle of a good round and I want to hear the story when I can get all the little details.”

“Good round? You’re about to lose your winning streak.” Someone laughed from down the row. Ellana caught sight of a cut lip before the stranger looked back down at their cards.

“Shut up and throw down your ante Curly, we only have an hour before you all get glued to the tv screens. Ellana—sit! Join us!”

“I—“

“We were supposed to have an actual dinner—oh! I’ve been meaning to introduce you to Chuckles, we can seat you two together it would be the perfect –Eh, actually on second thought, Chuckles isn’t really fond of the Dalish...”

“Varric I just—“

“Daisy! You and daisy… ah, no—on the other hand, it’s the Dalish that aren’t really fond of Daisy--”

“Varric.” Ellana demanded in her best Keeper voice, leaning over to grasp his hand with a smile. “Listen—Congratulations.”

His grin spread further, and he patted her elbow. “Thanks. Thanks for coming too, now go get a drink and come see me later when we can talk.”


 

He shifted quietly on his heels on the porch, staring at the door before looking down at his phone, waiting for his knock to be answered, or his texts.

Still nothing from Ellana.

He had tried to resist the temptation, but faced with a night of forced social interaction under his duress for her, Solas pulled up the message logs and drew a thumb across the keyboard.

The sweeping sound accompanied the smacking lock of the door opening.

“Solas!”

Josephine’s smile was a surprised one. He tried to return it as his fingers slid his phone away.

He did his best to ignore the desire to turn around and walk back to his car.

“Ms. Montilyet.” He nodded, stepping through as she opened the door for him. The house was loud, and the smell of people and alcohol mixed oddly with whatever fresh scent candles were burning throughout the home.

“Now, now—I promise not to call you professor so long as you call me Josephine.”

“An acceptable offer, Josephine.” He chuckled.

“Can I take your coat or—“

“No—please, I can’t stay long.” He insisted. His hand grabbed at his jacket, feeling the reassuring weight of his cell phone.

“I know for a fact you have no work requirements until next week—“

“I do not just work for the museums.”

Josephine shook her head, but was smiling. “Alright--I’ll let you keep it, but you should at least stay long enough for some food.” She pointed down to the kitchen. “Varric’s hosting a card game if you’re interested, and I think I saw Merrill somewhere in my study with Hawke…”

“I suppose I should not be surprised that the Champion is here for their own show’s premiere.”

“Unfortunately, everyone is here tonight.” Josephine laughed.


 

With no Cremisious Aclassi to mix her a fancy drink, Ellana was left to fend for herself.

She pressed through the rowdy kitchen, looking over the many orphaned glasses and bottles, trying to find a source of something passable.

“Ellana?”

She paused, her eyes finding ones that had found her.

“Fenris?”

He was leaned against the back corner of the counter with his arms crossed, somehow looking comfortable and irritated at the same time. There was a tall blonde man standing with him, looking as if he had just been talking.

“We meet again.” He nodded, “You are well?”

Ellana chuckled. Fenris had a demeanor she found she liked. No wasting time. “I am, well—yes.” She said definitely, ignoring memories of Deshanna’s calls.“You?”

“I have been in better places, but I can’t argue about it at the moment.” He picked up a glass on the counter beside him, gesturing a toast. She was pretty sure he was drinking wine in a coffee mug.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me?” The blonde asked. Fenris made a noise into his drink.

The man turned, raising his hand. His smile was genuine, making his face look friendly and handsome. “My name’s Anders.”

“Ellana Lavellan.”

“I think Varric has mentioned you before but I—“

“Wine?” Fenris interrupted, raising a tall bottle.

“Oh, no, thanks. It sort of makes me sick.”

He shrugged, setting it back down before reaching for something else on the counter. He handed it to her. “Here.”

It was a cold bottled daiquiri, and it fell neatly in her fingers. “Thanks! I do like—“

“Hey!” Anders protested. Ellana flushed with realization.

“I’m only offering up your chivalry.” Fenris said.

Anders sighed but shook his head when she tried to hand it back to him. He smiled. “No, no, I would have offered it to you had I actually been given the chance.”

Fenris grunted.

“Before I was interrupted… I was trying to ask how you know Varric.” Anders continued. “You sound familiar.”

“He’s the trade merchant for my clan.”

“You’re Dalish?”

“Is that not obvious?” Fenris intoned, a brow rising.

“I’m only being polite.”

Ellana looked between them awkwardly. “Yes, I’m Dalish… Varric also helped me get into the university down here.”

“That’s it! That’s—you’re the Herald!”

She nodded, but tried to preoccupy herself with opening her drink as casually as she could.

“I can’t believe you’re Dalish.”

She looked up at the slight accusation and found Fenris staring obscurely at Anders too. He faltered, his hands rising immediately in embarrassment.

“I don’t mean that in the way you think—“

“No, it’s alright. It’s not really something anyone expects. It is an Andrastian title and a lot of us don’t leave reservation grounds.”

“Good for you, getting out of there.” He encouraged. “It’s quite impressive. You could do anything you wanted with that scholarship under your belt.”

Ellana kicked back the daiquiri, swallowing a cold gulp of the sugary mess as well as any response she could have come up with.

“Hey… would you be interested in something along medical lines?” He started, eyes looking over her face with an eagerness she couldn’t place. “I would like hear about your opinion on lyrium usage in—“

Fenris’ face soured, lowering his wine.

“Oh, would you leave her alone?” He snapped.

Anders glared. “It’s a legitimate question!”

“About lyrium.” The word was hissed, like a curse.

“I only wanted to know her opinion, someone in her standing—“

“Would help your Manifesto?”

“--would have a good insight into the topic!”

Ellana pressed her mouth to the lip of her bottle, eyes shifting hesitantly between the two as they argued. She wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to stop them, or a better idea to walk away.

A vibration stopped her from doing either. The phone in her pocket sent a shiver up her spine that sped up her heart. At first she thought it another call from her Keeper, but when the vibration cut short she relaxed. Just a text.

A text.

Her eyes widened, not hearing Anders’ comment about advanced medicines as she yanked out her phone and revealed her screen. The newest notification updated to the top of the list.

8 New Messages [F.H.]

Shit.

She opened them, feeling guilt settle in her stomach as she read over the comments she had missed, the earlier ones that would have made her smile only swelling her guilt as they grew more concerned until--

—F.H. 9:12pm
You are beginning to make a hahren worry, Ellana. F.H.

She felt a cold sensation tickle her as she read it. She had been so stupid, selfish – she had been such a coward to pick up the phone she had forgotten about him completely.

“Can’t you, for one night, just drop it.” Fenris groaned, looking over at her pointedly. “She doesn’t want hear about it.”

Ellana looked up. “No sorry I—“ She looked down distractedly, her fingers flying across the screen. She couldn’t just let him wait longer. “I just—“

9:13pm
hey.
ir abelas hahren
please don’t be angry
im so sorry

“Well maybe if you hadn’t interrupted she would have been interested in what I had to say!”

F.H. 9:14pm
Angry!
I am nothing more than relieved.
Are you alright?
Or perhaps I have been an old fool with too much time to himself? F.H.

Ellana smiled, feeling a rush of warmth run through her as Fenris and Anders argued in a blur. She let his words wrap around her, let them take over her worries about Anora and her failing clan.

9:15pm
just a bad day.
really bad
worse than that movie

“Oh please! You only want to rub elbows with those that can further your own agenda.”

Anders stiffened, the offense clear on his face. “I only wanted to ask someone with better education than you what their—“

“Children, children!”

An arm thudded around Ellana’s neck and she jumped, fingers clutching her phone to her chest in a hurried protection. She didn’t even see anyone walk up to her. Their arm slung her closer into a lazy hug. The smell of leather and something burning permeated her nose. 

Ellana shifted, her gaze finding a sharp jawline, dark black hair and bright blue eyes.

“Don’t worry about these two, Herald.” The stranger laughed, turning an attractive smile down to her. “They may look like they hate each other, but one has to wonder why they stick together in the corner.”

Anders and Fenris flushed red, and Ellana chuckled. The change the newcomer had on them was obvious; both had stood up straighter, their eyes alert and watchful.

“I was waiting for you to show up Hawke.” Fenris explained, looking only slightly less abashed then Anders.

“Oh, don’t worry Fenris, I won’t make you two admit that you’re actually friends just yet. We wouldn’t want Lavellan here to get the wrong idea.” Hawke laughed again, nudging Ellana close and winking at her.

She felt her nerves flop over.

Ellana had heard about Hawke many times. Even if Varric hadn’t been a friend, how could she not have?

The Champion had been plastered over every magazine and tv show for months after the Kirkwall Penitentiary jail break.

Ellana had still been in the Marcher States when it had happened. She remembered the helicopters searching for the runaway inmates, the news outlets covering the mass trials, Hawke’s press speech, and the pardons being handed out left and right when the prison’s abuses had come to light.

The true life story had inspired hundreds of people, started a movement, created a book, and contracted a tv show.

“So! Varric tells me you’re a very special lady.”

Ellana laughed vigorously at those words coming from someone who had made thousands of dollars for being a federal criminal. Hawke continued to smile, an expression that despite being shown on the media so many times, looked just as flooring in person.

“Herald of Andraste. I like that, we should trade titles some time.”

“I don’t think anyone could mistake me for you.” Ellana teased, sipping her drink.

Hawke frowned. “Maybe not. But we should have lunch uptown sometime, if only to see the amazing headlines the paparazzi come up with. ‘Herald and Champion Take On Chicken Salad!’”

The group laughed. Ellana even saw Fenris chuckle jovially.

“I don’t have any paparazzi, no one actually knows who I am.”

Hawke’s eyes gleamed. “Not yet.”


 

“Oh! So the lonely elf decides to show his face! Quick – someone check the calendar it must be a full moo—“

“No need, one could not see the moon with your ego eclipsing it, Dorian.” Solas chimed, cutting of the mustached man’s happy smile. He returned one of his own, glancing up from the phone in his hands.

She was fine.

He felt his shoulders ease as he approached his colleague.

“Who invited you again?” Dorian deadpanned.

Beside him, Merrill stood, blinking curiously. “Didn’t you? I did as well, and I do believe Josephine mentioned it to both of us after Varric suggested—“

Dorian glared at Solas’ satisfied smile as Merrill rambled.

“Oh—I missed a joke didn’t I?”

“You utterly destroyed it, but only you could have done it with such an adoring style.” Dorian chuckled, clinking his small tumbler against her own bright pink drink. Merrill smiled happily.

He couldn’t resist the chance to turn back to his conversation as they toasted.

—9:22pm
I am positive that your day could not have been as bad as watching Dalish actors use casual Elvhen  in a period drama requiring ancient formality. F.H.

“Well Solas, have you seen Varric yet?” Dorian asked, leaning back against the wall comfortably.

Solas looked tiredly down the rest of the hall towards the kitchen, having only left Josephine for a moment before Ellana had finally replied.

“That has been the goal, but I do not seem to have made any progress.” He shifted as a couple moved past them, their laughter drowning some of his words. That had been another problem. “This event seems near its capacity.”

He really hadn’t expected the party would be this busy or occupied; the amount of faces seemed to drown out his ability to distinguish the crowd. Josephine had implied something more like a dinner, but he guessed at her frazzled welcome, she had expected that too.

His phone rattled in his fingers.

Ellana 9:23pm
hah! I missed you hahren
I would have given anything to watch that bad movie with you instead of being where I was

Solas wondered at sitting next to someone on his couch, alone together and chuckling quietly in sweet voices.

It was the first time she had mentioned any desire to physically meet.

His hands felt hot, holding such a message in a very crowded and public place.

But embarrassment left him as he began his reply. The relief from her once more incoming messages spurred something else in him. A rush of boldness he could no longer contain.

9:24pm
I would gladly invite you for another viewing.
Though I doubt either of us would be able to focus on such things. F.H.

“Varric does seem to know everyone, doesn’t he? I thought I even saw my gardener somewhere by the restrooms.” Dorian’s expression frowned as he looked past them, his comment trailing. “Speaking of which—“ He whistled, loudly. “Aclassi!”

They turned to look at who Dorian was calling for and saw a figure turn from across the hall with dark raised eyebrows and cleanly cut hair.

The stranger approached with alert curiosity and Solas determined that their looks and name might be Tevine.

“Where is your partner in crime?” Dorian asked with a frown. “I haven’t seen her all night and I wanted to ask how—“

“No—“ The boy shook his head adamantly, a hand rising to gesture across his neck. “Don’t mention it—don’t ask her, she’s really upset—“

“That bad?” Dorian’s brows shot upward. “Well I hadn’t expected the best news but… where is she now?”

Merrill and Solas watched silently as the two spoke, Aclassi looking nervous at the question, eyes glancing over the heads of others. “She… went—ah, let me find her.” He rushed, pushing easily through the long narrow hallway full of loiterers and disappearing.

“Did something bad happen to your friend?” Merrill asked with concern.

“An old student of mine actually—oh that reminds me! Solas! Could you cover for my class aga—“

His shoulders nearly sagged, the distraction of the exchange and his own disappearing into irritation. So far the night had yet to convince him the benefits of social gatherings such as these.

And now, with Ellana firing messages at him once more, he wanted nothing else than to head back home where he could give her more of his attention.

“No Dorian—and if you do not mind, I should congratulate Varric before I take my leave.”

“Leave? So soon?” Merrill frowned, looking at him worriedly. “But the show hasn’t started yet and they were going to have everyone watch the first episode!”

“I am afraid I will have to leave before then.” He tried to smile, but it was tight expression as he parted from them to head towards the kitchen, too focused on the letters forming in the device in his hands.


---

“Aclassi—you’re Tevinter?”

“Yes sir, and from your accent I would guess you are too.”

“Hm. Not happily, but yes.”

“That would make two of us.”

Ellana was barely listening, not quite catching Krem give Fenris a firm handshake as she stared at her phone, cheeks hot and ears burning.

This was so not the place for her ha’hren’s conversation.

At least, not with what she thought he was implying.

9:26pm
what exactly are you implying professor?

“Look how sweet! Two Vints, bonding over mutual hatred of Vints.” Hawke interjected, “I could shed a tear.”

Ellana heard Anders sigh tiredly.

F.H. 9:26pm
I did not imply. I stated.
What exactly do you suppose we would do should we ever meet da’len? F.H.

9:27pm
a handshake?
maybe a nice talk about dalish history?

“Hey, Ellana.” Krem tried.

F.H. 9:27pm
Your curiosities differ from mine greatly. F.H.

“Ellana – aren’t you gonna go see Dorian? He was looking for—“

“Right, right sorry!” She yanked the phone away to smile red faced at the others, Hawke was staring at her with a cheeky grin while the others looked confused at her state. “I’ll ahhh—be back.”

---

“You’re leaving? Already?”

Solas gave Varric the best smile he could, which was actually not bad considering the turn his night had taken.

“Forgive me, I find I have some things that… require my attention.”

“You really don’t take days off, do you Chuckles?” Varric shook his head, leaning back in his seat. “And here I was hoping to see you unwind and maybe lose some money tonight.”

Solas had every intention of doing one of those.

“Sorry to disappoint, I am positive you will find some entertainment other than watching me bankrupt myself.”

Varric laughed, raising a hand to pat the elf’s elbow, his other hand flipping some cards. Someone cursed on the other side of the table. “Alright, get out of here then. But promise me you’ll at least record the show. I want to hear what you think of it.”

“Of course.”

Varric waved at him, already lost once more to the game and the sliding chips.

Solas began his walk back to the front door, squeezing in the hallway as his eyes found the screen in his hands once more, waiting for the typing animation to end.

When it did he felt the thumping noise of music slow in his mind.

Ellana 9:33pm
tell me what you would do if we met then.
what would you want to do?


 

Ellana hadn’t actually made it to Dorian.

Her hand and half done daiquiri rested against the wall of the hallway, crowded by people drinking and swaying to the music, cornering her there with the phone’s light reflecting off her face.

She really, really shouldn’t be doing this.

Maybe she was being rash after everything that had happened. Impulsive for some thrill after the crash and burn she had at the embassies. Deshanna would kill her anyway, so why not? She needed distraction—or—

He started typing.

She swallowed.

The party was gone. She couldn’t hear the lyrics to the muffled music, or the joke the group next to her was reiterating.

The only thing was that little animation, ticking dots blinking in dreadful anticipation.

Maybe she shouldn’t have asked--

A shoulder bumped her back and she shifted immediately, a body sliding past her, forcing her off the wall.

“Emma saranna ma—“ The person excused, and she barely glanced up at them to move so they could get by, a glimpse of a pointed Elvhen ear.

“Sorry.” She managed as she looked back down at her phone. A hand grasped her shoulder, holding her steady as they squeezed through. She lifted her drink up. 

She shifted, her jacket sliding against theirs until they broke past, people once more filling the gap.

Ellana fell back against the wall once more, watching the clock click another minute until his answers poured in.

F.H. 9:35pm
Talk.
Drink.
Laugh.
Maybe dance.

Her smile couldn’t get wider, that same anxious race in her heart back again but this time for something utterly more invigorating. She took a drink, liking the sweet sting of the alcohol and the heat that followed it. 

She began typing, her happy response at the ready when he added one last thing.

Definitely kiss. F.H.

 

 

Chapter Text

—F.H. 9:35pm
Talk.
Drink.
Laugh.
Maybe dance.
Definitely kiss. F.H.

Ellana 9:36pm
kiss?
is that how all your first meetings go?
handshakes and kisses?

—F.H. 9:38pm
Handshakes, yes.
Kissing, no.
But it would hardly be a first meeting for us. F.H.

—Ellana 9:38pm
weve never met before hahren!

—F.H. 9:39pm
How could I act as if I did not know you in an intimate capacity da’len? F.H.

—Ellana 9:39pm
you have no idea what I look like

—F.H. 9:42pm
Is a person defined by their appearance?
Would your personality change the moment I laid my eyes on you? F.H.

—Ellana 9:42pm
I could be horrible looking
or a man

—F.H. 9:42pm
And yet you would still retain your conversational charm and humor. F.H.

—Ellana 9:43pm
someones confident

—F.H. 9:44pm
Through no attempt of my own.
You simply inspire. F.H.

—Ellana 9:45pm
alright
we kiss
then what?

—F.H. 9:47pm
Hah! Are we taking that route now?
Am I to play into this particular cliche?
Tell you about the manner in which we would clash, the details of me undressing you? The reckless abandon with which we would fall upon…
Your bed? My Bed?
I can’t decide whose place we would be at.

—Ellana 9:48pm
creators hahren!
I meant what would we say or talk about!

—F.H. 9:50pm
Forgive me, I jest.
I could not resist F.H.

—Ellana 9:51pm
where are you?

—F.H. 9:54pm
Driving. F.H.

—Ellana 9:54pm
and texting!
telam professor.

—F.H. 9:56pm
Tuas isalan sura rahnen'telam. F.H.

—Ellana 9:56pm
oh??
should I stop and wait?

—F.H. 10:00pm
No. F.H.

—Ellana 10:01pm
headed home?

—F.H. 10:05pm
Yes. Nearly there now. F.H.

—Ellana 10:06pm
take a picture?
I want to see what your place looks like

 —F.H. 10:17pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—Ellana 10:19pm
wow hahren
doing well?
nice couch

—F.H. 10:20pm
I am comfortable.
And yours? F.H.

—Ellana 10:22pm
Im not home.
show me around!
kitchen?

—F.H. 10:24pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—Ellana 10:24pm
so clean!
and fancy

—F.H. 10:25pm
Hardly.
Now show me something da’len. F.H.

—Ellana 10:25pm
I’m not home hahren!
show me the bedroom

—F.H. 10:26pm
Tell me where you are first. F.H.

—Ellana 10:26pm
watching tv at a friends
drinking too
now bedroom, satha

—F.H. 10:27pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—Ellana 10:28pm
our beds are the same right now
books and papers
looks cozy

—F.H. 10:29pm
Is it the bathrooms next?
Pantries?
Or shall I tell you the square footage and included utilities? F.H.

—Ellana 10:30pm
im just curious!

—F.H. 10:31pm
As am I.
Will you be home soon? F.H.

—Ellana 10:31pm
probably not
youll have to wait to see my place

—F.H. 10:32pm
Forget about your place. I was just hoping for your undivided attention. F.H.

—Ellana 10:32pm
You should find something else to do than pester your dalen
people are getting mad at me not paying attention

—F.H. 10:32pm
Is it my influence on you now? F.H.

—Ellana 10:33pm
I might be a little buzzed
but I know your flirting

—F.H. 10:34pm
I would do no such thing. F.H.

—Ellana 10:34pm
im getting my phone threatened now
so goodnight
sweet talker

—F.H. 10:33pm
On Nydha, Ellana F.H.

Chapter Text

At first she didn’t really register the ringing.

Her body shifted in the mass warmth of blankets and her head tried to find a better position, while her hand sought out her cell phone instinctively.

She could feel the vibrations more than she could hear the ring, and the metal shook her finger when she found it.

Her eyes kept resolutely closed as she answered.

“lo’” She muffled, before trying again quickly. “Hello?”

“Ellana.”

She shot upward, consciousness flooding her as fast as light from the windows into her eyes.

“Deshanna—Savha—“

“I’m not a fool da’len.”

She swayed, ripping the covers to pull herself from the bed. “N-no I never—“

“One’s silence speaks quite loudly.” There was a long sigh as Ellana tried to rub the sleep from her eyes, dread and anxiety already filling her. “By not telling me at all, you must know you’ve already told me.”

She knew that. Of course she knew that.

Avoiding her Keeper after Anora’s cold words hadn’t been about avoiding telling her the bad news. It had been about not wanting to hear that quiet, tired…

“It is not unexpected… the work we put forth into the world never comes with expectation for reward.”

That. She hadn’t wanted to hear the sound of Deshanna’s faith, weakening with each setback the world had set against their clan.

“Anora—ah.” Ellana swallowed harshly, pulling together her sleep and her nerves to have the one conversation she had been trying to escape. “She said that it wasn’t about our… history of illegal activity as a clan… she just said her supporters wouldn’t look kindly on her taking to Dalish rights.”

“It’s because we have no vote.”

She shifted, looking around her blank apartment absently as her Keeper spoke. 

“She has no reason to earn Dalish favor when we can’t vote in their elections. It doesn’t benefit her.”

“You said that her work with the alienages—“

“Was something to be hopeful about.”

Ellana frowned heavily, a sinking feeling filling her stomach. She could hear the final breath of effort in her Keeper even before she continued.

“You did your best Ellana, I am…”

Her eyes narrowed, throat thick.

“…so very thankful for your hard work. We would have never made it as far as the Minister’s doors without your new title, and your cleverness.”

“But we can still—“

“No, da’len.”

She stood quickly, as if to stop the words more effectively, staring at the wall as she heard her Keeper resign.

“This has been a long time coming, you know that. And we have done well without federal standing. There always comes a time when one must think on what they have and weigh it against the cost of trying for anything more.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to—“

“Hush Ellana. I know you did your best, but you do not need to hide your relief to me.”

Her chest tightened, a hand rising to push back her bed ridden hair.

“I see the restlessness in your eyes. You are kind and silent but again, your silence says more than you know.”

She wanted to protest, to argue, but her heart was heavy, her weight unbalanced standing there in the middle of the room. She felt woozy at the idea of opening her mouth and lying like a coward.

“Besides Ellana. I’ve been through more politicians these past years than I can remember. Anora was our last resort. What politician do you know of that would rally for elves?”

“I know I just—“

And then it clicked.

Thoughts on Ambassador Briala? F.H.

“For now, perhaps we can work on a request for our res—“

“Wait—Just, I have—I know something.” She interrupted, tearing across room to her computer.  Her foot hit some books, a pile of printouts scattering over her floor.

“What wa—“

“I think I have an idea but I don’t know that it would work I just have to—“ As the computer booted she ripped the phone from her face to check the time.

Ten. On a weekend. She had two hours before the post office closed early. Her eyes raced over the piles of her research and drafts of her appeal.

“Ellana?” Her phone called distantly.

Her hands started shuffling the piles of paper together on her desk as she called into the speaker loudly, “I have to go, I’m sorry but—“

“Ellana—what has—!”

She lifted the phone, eyes cringing. “I’m sorry, I have to go, I promise I’ll call you.”

“Da’len—“

“I’m hanging up! Ir abelas!”

The phone clicked before dropping to the desk.




“Do you want that to go?”

“Hm?”

“To go?”

Solas looked up from the email on his screen, eyes having to adjust to the unexpected height difference in the woman before him.  Her perky face was crowded by her uniform hat and strands of red hair. It took him another moment to realize what she was asking. He frowned.

“I only ordered a drink.”

She shrugged with a sheepish smile. “I kinda have to ask you anyway.”

“Then yes, to go, please.” He commented distractedly, turning back to look at his email.

[…and I heard something interesting. You were the one who managed to scrounge up the initial person who uneathered the Sabrae’s poor Eluvian. A new assistant, Dread Wolf? Perhaps just a fancy way of getting in to see the artifact for your own endeavors? What would the community say I wonder. Or the Sabrae clan, themselves? Considering that little girl betrayed them with false waivers to dig the thing up. Curious, curious… I expect to be updated if you want this information to stay hushed. I’m interested to how intact the artifact still is. And my benefactor would just love to have it, eventually. ]

[ Morrigan ]

Solas glared harshly at the message.

Not exactly the most positive reading on an early weekend morning.

“Your latte, sir?”

He hummed, reaching for the cup without looking up before moving to the small stand of sugars and straws.

He’d be damned to ever willingly send the woman anything concerning that Eluvian. It was one of the biggest archeological discoveries in some time, and he had landed being its lead analyzer. And while he could care less which museum won the fight over the blighted thing, he would rather send it back to the dirt than see it taken to Celene’s gated mansion as a party favor.

Still. Morrigan had his pseudonym under her knowledge. And being outed as Fen’Harel would mean no more excavations at all, not with his biased journalism damning each person he had exhumed for.

He would have to give her updates. Morrigan wanted knowledge, not the artifact itself.

Still, unable to resist, he sent a reply as he popped the lid off his coffee.

[And how is your mother, Morrigan?]

Baring a satisfied smirk as the email sent, he set his phone down to reach for the sugar.

Only to stiffen entirely as his eyes found the foam of his latte.

Gaildahlas.

The embrium stared up at him, unmistaken. He could feel the thrum in his chest shake through to his fingers.

She had been here, his da’len. Ellana. In a small coffee shop only a block away from his condo.

She could be here now.

He let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding and tried to concentrate on ripping open the small sugar packet. But he couldn’t bring himself to disturb the small flower, nor could he stir it away.

His eyes slowly lifted to flicker over the café, glancing quickly at the faces of the customers, as if afraid to find one there he would somehow know.

Impossible really. Ellana was a slate of canvas to him. An empty dream he couldn’t begin to try and construct. He could guess at her Vallislin perhaps, but even that tradition was faded away to most clans.

She could be the girl by the window or the woman reading the menu and he would have no way of knowing.

He could have already met her.

The thought sank in him heavily and he twisted, turning to look back at the Dwarven barista as he picked up his cup. “Excuse me.”

Her small eye level snapped up to him. “Can I help you?”

Solas hesitated.

What exactly could he ask? How could he even breach the topic of Ellana? Her name? Perhaps ask for any young Dalish women that frequented here?

“This is quite beautiful.” He commented instead, raising his coffee.

The barista’s eyes went as wide as her smile, hands grasping at her apron. “AH! Oh! Well! The trick is to do it when the milk gets textured with heat.” She explained, her cheeks flushing as she gestured excitedly with her hands. “Just hot enough and it’s a different weight so you can draw with it.”

Solas smiled at her enthusiasm, sticking his hand in his blazer pocket for his wallet.

“Of course, depending on what you want to make you have to pour in certain areas but, flowers are usually just straight to the middle.”

“Fine work.” He nodded pulling out a note to drop into the tip box.

“Oh goodness! Thank you!”

He left, trying desperately not to look at any of the faces seated at the café tables.

But outside did little to calm his hectic thoughts.

She was so near him it was unfathomable. He had always known she was in Fereldan, and after her visit to Enaste he had known she lived here in the city.

In fact, he had perhaps been subconsciously avoiding the Elvhen bakery since her visit.

Solas couldn’t think about it. He couldn’t consider the possibilities of them having already been in the same place. It would be a possibility that would frighten him as much as it would frustrate him.

Instead he sighed, staring at the embrium. The coffee lid forgotten on the counter inside.

He shifted his phone into his free hand and brought up the camera. Angling the cup there in his hand, he snapped a quick photo before swiping it easily into Ellana’s message log.

Their texts from last night made him pause.

Perhaps… it would be best to take a few steps back.

He had been unforgivably bold.

He could blame it on his eagerness for her replies, but the blaring fact that he had only been without her for a few hours shamed him.

No. Solas knew what this was.

Trouble.

His finger flicked the screen, and the photo loaded before sending.

He had never been very good at avoiding trouble. 


 

“If you want it shipped to Orlais overnight it’s gonna be really, really expensive.”

“How expensive?”

The Elvhen boy rubbed at his hair before punching in the numbers and twisting the computer around to show her.

Ellana stared at the bright digital numbers. She cringed, hands grasping her wallet to peel a shiny silver card out. The Chantry seal winked at her. She handed it to the boy, nodding. “Yeah… that’s fine.”

She didn’t like using the sponsor money for personal expenses. But Ellana couldn’t help the small rebellious idea that the Andrastian money would help fund Dalish rights.

“Okay, just fill out the customs form.”

He charged her as she picked up the pen to describe the package of papers. Her entire month’s research sat on the counter. It was a collection of historical records, appeal drafts, and her own personal recommendations and college credentials. All topped off with a small handwritten letter on scrap paper.

Not exactly the most professional work. But this was a long shot anyway, wasn’t it?

“I like your Vallas.”

She paused, glancing up. “What?”

The boy motioned to his face, which was bare and smooth. “Your Vallas?”

Understanding hit her. “Oh, you mean my Vallaslin?”

“Yeah, Vallas.” He shortened, grabbing a large cardboard envelope to shift her papers into. “I’ve been thinking about getting some myself but I don’t know what kind.”

“Oh..?”

“Yep, I’m Dalish too—well. My mom was half. I think it was her dad?”

“Huh…” Ellana stared. Her phone vibrated in the pocket with a loud ding, and she shook her head. “Sorry, one second.”

When her phone opened, she tried to pretend her heart didn’t flutter and her cheeks didn’t heat in anticipation.

—F.H. 11:32am
[Attachment: 1 Image]
Guess where I am da’len? F.H.

Dagna’s. She would recognize the cup’s logo anywhere let alone the intricate latte art.

But more importantly…

“Mother and Father…” She cursed quietly.

—11:33am
hahren is that your hand!?

She sent the message before continuing to stare.

It was so normal, so simple. His hand, right there. She could see the sleeve of a dark green blazer and the shadow of his phone.

His long digits stretched over the cup, an index finger delicately balancing the lip near the foam. They looked like they could play instruments.

Ellana felt like she hadn’t seen anything more vulgar.

She saved the image immediately.

—F.H. 11:33am
Forgive me, I could not take it without. F.H.

Ellana actually laughed out loud, startling the elf at the register as he taped her package closed.

—11:34am
im not complaining professor.
its a very very nice hand.
please send more pictures of these hands.

She shouldn’t tease, not after how bad things had gotten the night before.

But how could she not after the first glimpse of him?

A glimpse that made her want nothing more than to see just a little bit more. The length of his arm. His shoulders, maybe-- his neck. How tall was he? What did his hair look like? His smile?

Come to think of it… Dagna’s was only two blocks away.

She was on Shayna Street and 7th. Dagna's was on 5th.

Ellana’s spine tingled at the thought. She looked up, glancing out the windows of the shipping store to the corner light, where people crossed back and forth.

—F.H. 11:35am
A good morning to you too, Ellana. F.H.

“You’re all set.”

Ellana glanced up at the boy, his ears tipping upward with his smile. “Thank you.” She nodded, still cradling her phone as indecision rocked through her.

Pushing the door open and leaving, she couldn’t help but continue to glance toward the light.

A left and straight down past two more streets. And she would be there.

And so would he.

“Oh.” She breathed, a heavy exhale leaving her lungs feeling weak.

It wasn’t a good idea.

She tried to convince herself that it wasn’t. Because it really, really wasn’t. She had no idea what he was really like, what he looked like, what he sounded like—

Her hand gripped her phone as her feet moved, walking for the light.

It would be horrendous really. And more than likely, he would be opposed to actually seeing each other. They had never talked about it. Not really. Jokes and teases could not be called invitations, could they?

She wondered if she should text him, tell him to just wait there.

Her eyes flickered over the people traveling alongside her on the sidewalk.

He could be leaving, actually.

Ellana’s steps hurried to the crosswalk, the light turning just in time to continue this very dangerous direction to her favorite coffee shop.

She would, she would do it. Her hand yanked her phone free again, determined to tell her ha’hren to keep still, to wait there so she could join him.

Her phone rang in her hands.

She slowed on the new corner, answering it and raising it to her ear.

“Cassandra?”

“Where are you?”

The Nevarran sounded worried and irritated.

“I’m just leaving the post office. Is something wrong?”

“You were supposed to be here an hour ago.”

Confusion flooded her. Be where?

“Leliana and I have already started to talk about lunch since breakfast would be considerably late now.”

And then she remembered Cassandra pegging her with threats to take her phone away at Josephine’s, pulling her aside at the party and telling her that they needed to talk. More than likely about her failure at Anora’s, and her pressuring future as the Herald fated to nothing but Keeper work.

“Ah—I’m so sorry Cassandra, I forgot and Deshanna called---“

“Are you still coming?”

Ellana stared down the side streets, past the buildings, to the distant bad idea she had almost walked straight into.

She turned around, hand rising for a cab. “Yeah, of course, just give me fifteen minutes.”

Chapter Text

Leliana’s house was actually an old hotel building that had been renovated into these Orlesian style penthouses that towered over the center of downtown.

It somehow managed to pull off looking cozy and quaint while simultaneously looking intimidatingly exclusive.

Ellana figured it was probably the fancy looking doorman and the hand painted wallpaper.

She had met the woman through Cassandra of course, and had been over several times after. They had all gone shopping together, and it had been their teamwork that had found Cassandra’s new house when she decided to move.

As she waited for the elevator to reach the top floor, Ellana realized she didn’t actually know much about Leliana’s personal life.

The woman loved clothes, cooking , old vinyls and (for some reason) any new and expensive technology. She was friendly and funny, with a repertoire of embarrassing stories about everyone. But Ellana didn’t actually know where she was from. Or what she did.

Well, she knew the woman knitted patterns for a blog and sold some of her crocheted hats and pillowcases, but she didn’t think that paid the bills on a penthouse.

Did it?

The elevator dinged, and Ellana found the front door open too.

“I’m here!” She called past all the white and floral furniture.

There was some light music coming from the kitchen, and she followed it to find not just Cassandra and Leliana but two others as well.

The first she recognized as the woman from the night before that Varric had introduced. Aveline. The other was most definitely Isabela.

The Isabela.

Krem would flip.

“I thought it was unrealistic.” Cassandra spoke, sitting at the kitchen bar.

“No! It was good!” Isabela protested, perched on the counter where Leliana was arranging a meal of some sort.

“It was an exaggeration.” Aveline agreed, sitting beside Cassandra. “Hawke didn’t kill three guards on the first day. It was one. And it was an accident.”

Isabela laughed loudly. “Oh but it was much more exciting that way. And Hawke is delicious on screen.”

“You two ham up every second you get on that show.” Aveline glared. “I pity all the actors who have to work with you two amateurs.”

“Don’t be sore just because you didn’t get cast, big girl.”

Strong red eyebrows formed an angry straight line. “They asked me. They asked all of us. You two were the only ones egotistical enough to play yourselves.”

“Hey.” Ellana interrupted, smiling with a small wave.

“Ellana!” Leliana piped, abandoning the counters to round the kitchen and come in for a hug. “So good to see you. I’m sorry I didn’t catch you last night.”

“It’s alright, it was really busy.”

“It wouldn’t have hurt you to have come at the right time.” Cassandra drawled behind them.

“She said she was busy with her Keeper, isn’t that right?” Leliana smiled, releasing her and gesturing for a free chair near the table.

“Yes, sorry—she called early and I had to rush to the post office.”

“How was the meeting at the Embassy?”

“Wait a minute, everyone stop.” Isabela interrupted, hands dropping to slide herself off to the floor. “No one is going to introduce me to the gorgeous girl who just walked in?”

Ellana flushed as Isabela came toward her and Cassandra let out a disgruntled groan.

“Hi—sorry, I’m Ellana Lavell—“

“Ellana! Are you the pretty lady Varric keeps raving about like you’re his little girl?”

“Ah—Probably—“

“Oh! You have no idea, he will talk all day long about he helped anoint the Herald of Andraste.” Isabela leaned forward, grasping at her shoulder and giving her a wink that flushed Ellana’s cheeks. “He doesn’t talk about how stunning you are. I love your blood writing, it’s the real thing, isn’t it?”

Normally, Ellana didn’t like when her Vallaslin was mentioned anymore. But Isabela commented on it in a way that shot butterflies through her chest.

“Yes.” She answered, the word tiny and pathetic.

“Leave her alone. She doesn’t need that much of an introduction.” Aveline called. Isabela drew back with a laugh.

Cassandra sighed. “Ellana, Isabela. And that’s Aveline.”

“We met actually.” Ellana nodded, looking over to the redheaded woman. “At Varric’s last night.”

“Yes, though it wasn’t much of a meeting. I used to work with Cassandra before she got promoted.”

“As a parole officer?”

“Prison Guard, actually.”

Ellana’s brows shot up.

“It’s how I met Hawke and the floozy over here.” She gestured to Isabela who just smirked mischievously.

“You know that boring guard in the episode last night? That told Hawke to behave and try to get out on an early parole? That was Aveline.”

Ellana remembered the character.

“A voice of reason, in my opinion.” Cassandra defended.

“All right everyone, to the table please, we have lunch to eat.” Leliana called, her hands raising platters from the counter to bring to the table. Isabela hurried to help her, and there was a quiet shuffling as drinks and tableware were set out.

“Josephine should be here in another hour.” Cassandra announced, looking at her phone briefly.

“Seeing her family again, I’m sure.”

“Perhaps it’s best if we don’t wait for her.” The Nevarran continued.  “Ellana.” She nearly jumped when Cassandra’s strong and determined eyes landed on her, stilling her from reaching for any fruit tarts. “We’ve been meaning to speak to you.”

“Wait Cassandra—“ Leliana begged, sitting down last and shaking her head. “We should ask about the Prime Minister first!”

And that’s when Ellana got a bad feeling about this light hearted lunch. Something about all of this suddenly felt staged. And Cassandra’s eyes had never looked more police-like.

“Oh, you’re right.” Cassandra looked a little thrown off, but continued.  “How did it all go? Krem said it went…”

Ellana felt four pairs of eyes turn to look at her.

The day before, she probably would have hated this, but since this morning the bad news didn’t seem so final now. Not with her package shipped off to Orlais. It was almost like she didn’t have to admit to failing. Not just yet.

“Anora denied us the sponsorship.”

Everyone looked a little fallen, even Isabela and Aveline, who probably didn’t understand the situation.

“But… I have an idea for someone else to represent our appeal. So…” She trailed. “It’s… only another last resort but it’s not… over yet.”

“That’s good to hear. Who do you have in mind?”

Ellana smiled at Leliana. “I’d rather not say, so I don’t have to make it too big a deal if they say no.”

She nodded in understanding.

Cassandra was still staring at her.

“Why do I get the feeling… this isn’t what you want to talk to me about?”

Leliana turned to busy herself with dishing out some finger sandwiches to everyone.

Cassandra’s face went red. “We—we have discussed—we need to talk to you about…”

“We want to talk to you about the stranger you have been texting.” Leliana interrupted, her bright eyes looking much more serious than Ellana had ever seen.

“Y-you—“

She had expected something along the lines of her career; her future. She was sure they would try to convince her to leave her clan to pursue her own ambitions. Maybe they might even pressure her to use her Herald title to needle her way into the world. Creators knew that companies had already sent her letters begging for consideration when they were able to figure out who she was and where she lived.

She had not expected…

“You told—“

Cassandra’s brows twisted as she hurried. “I did not think—I only thought to ask opinions on the matter—“

“Oooh what’s going on?” Isabela chimed across the table.

“Ellana has been texting a stranger personal things.” Aveline explained.

“You told Aveline! I don’t even know Aveline—“

“She is my colleague!”

Embarrassment was rampant as she sank in her chair, hands grasping at her head to hide her face.

“Sounds sexy!” Isabela claimed. “Is it like a pen buddy? Or a fuck—“

“We only want to make sure you aren’t doing anything too reckless, Ellana.” Leliana’s hand brushed her shoulder at the words. “It isn’t exactly a normal situation.”

“I haven’t been—“

“Let me see them.”

Ellana’s eyes shot upward to Cassandra, a sudden flood of memories of all the most recent texts rushing to the forefront of her mind. Creators--

“No!”

“Ellana, you were on your phone the entire time last night. You cannot fool me that it hasn’t gotten more serious.”

Her phone burned in her pocket.

“I told you if you decided to meet—“

“We haven’t!” She protested her voice high and tight in her throat.

“What have you told him?” Leliana pressed.

This was insane. This was---private. And completely—

But they wouldn't leave her alone otherwise, would they?

She closed her eyes and yanked the device free from her jacket, shoving it towards Cassandra.

The woman relinquished it from her, immediately swiping away, presumably to read through all her messages.

“I want to see!” Isabela squealed, standing hurriedly to rush around the table.

Ellana shoved her cheek onto her hand, staring at her plate.

“Do you know his name?” Leliana questioned. Her tone was gentle but insistent. And while Ellana could feel her humiliation bubble beneath her skin, she knew that her friends wanted only to care for her.

She had to admit her luck. Varric had introduced her into the city world away from her clan. The Chantry had deemed her their Herald, flinging her into political desirability. Both experiences were a challenge to someone who lived out in unmodern fields and farms. She had been overwhelmed, lost and more than a little naïve.

And she still managed to find very good friends.

 “No… I didn’t ask.” She answered. “I don’t ask. And neither does he—we don’t… pry.”

“You talk every day!” Ellana tried not to glance over as Cassandra read the texts and Isabela spied over her shoulder.

“We’re…” She swallowed. “Friends.”

Creators, was that it? Ellana could not deny their intimacy, and she got the feeling that neither could he. And… she could. She could consider him her friend. Name or not, she knew that should he ever ask for a favor she would do it for him. If only because he made her so…

“Oh sweet thing, this is more than friendly.” Isabela cooed.

Ellana’s hand snatched the phone out of their sights from Cassandra’s hand. Both of them protested loudly with dewy eyes and red cheeks.

“No—stop—come on!” She argued back.

“Have you thought that maybe he knows who you are?” Leliana interrupted again, making everyone go quiet. She had a piercing look on her face. “The Herald, I mean.”

Ellana did not know how to respond.

Or think.

“No—he seemed surprised when you told him you were First.” Cassandra pointed out. And suddenly Ellana was thankful for her avid remembrance of their exchange. Even if it was a bit too excitable. “Anyone who knew the name of the Herald would know that you were also Dalish. But knowing your name does not mean he knows you are the Herald.”

“Oh forget about that—what does he look like?” Isabela asked. “Isn’t that the most important part? What if he’s fifteen? Or sixty-five?”

“He’s not.” Ellana shook her head, remembering the graceful curve of his fingers and the smooth expanse of his palm. She tried not to look guilty.

“Fine. What if he’s extremely ugly?”

“Isabela!” Cassandra turned as if to swipe at the Rivani, who laughed.

“Am I breaking the fantasy!?”

“It’s not just a fantasy—“ Leliana began.

Ellana watched them jibe at each other with the supposed reality of her ha’hren, her stomach churning.

“What if he’s married?”

Everyone went silent, all eyes turning to stare at Aveline.

“What? As if it’s not possible?” The prison guard was leaning back in her chair with her arms crossed. She looked towards Ellana. “Please tell me that has at least crossed your mind?”

It hadn’t.

Her mind couldn’t even begin to apply the concept.

“Ellana.” Leliana tried, a hand reaching out to touch hers. Those fierce eyes looked scary once more. “If you give me his number, I could figure out who it really is.”

“I—“

“You have to think ahead don’t you? Where is all this talking going? Will you meet eventually?” Leliana continued to press.

“Why do they have to?” Isabela frowned, looking almost offended. “They’re having fun—who cares where it ends up?”

She felt dizzy. Breathless. The serious pressing questions she had been avoiding all along were being thrown right into her face. Leliana seemed to wait for an answer, for her to spew the digits so they could begin a mass investigation.

“I—“ She pressed her phone to her chest, shaking her head. “N-No! No! This is ridiculous!”

“Ellana—“

“If you arrange to meet—“

“Just ask—“

“Listen!” Her voice curled sharply and they all stared at her. She felt her chest vibrate with a sound like Deshanna’s would when she addressed the clan. “I am being careful. I am being cautious. And so is he.”

She sighed, thinking of his always precise words and his concern. “We both know this isn’t normal… but we enjoy talking to each other. Right now, that’s all this is.”

No one looked convinced.

“…And if it’s not, then as adults, we will both figure that out.” She hurried, shoving her phone back into her pocket. “When the time comes and he wants to tell me, he will. And same for me. I…”

She didn’t want to say trust. Not when she knew none of them would believe her. Or worse, they would believe her and grow even more concerned.

But it was true.

She trusted him. Maybe not with everything. She was still frightened to tell him more about herself. But she trusted the little bits she did give him; her happiness and his cause of it.

This stranger. Her F.H.

The fact settled somewhere comfortably in her heart.

“I promise I will let you all know if he turns out to be a murderer.” She sighed.

They seemed satisfied with that, oddly. The air grew less static as the scandal faded.

“Well!” Leliana piped. “Lunch—anyone want some deviled eggs?”

“Let us know when he sends you a picture of his cock.”

“Isabela!!”


She didn’t get back to her apartment until late.

When she came crashing through the door, it was with bags of crocheted hats and knitted scarfs, as well as  a ton of leftovers, a bottle of wine and an expensive pair of sunglasses Isabela had insisted on buying everyone.

Lunch had been followed by shopping, naturally.

The mismatched bags were deposited to the ground with her shoes and keys, before Ellana began the train of stripped clothes to her welcoming bed.

She was enveloped immediately, her social energy draining into numbing warmth of being alone again.

Her mind seemed to want to make up for being interrupted from sleep that morning, eyes closing tiredly.

So of course, her thoughts from earlier that day came rushing back.

The small ‘intervention’ had brought up worries she had ignored until now. And it was almost disheartening enough to not want to message him for a while.

Her hand reached down for her jacket, digging out her phone.

She rolled to her back, shifting through screens to his messages.

Ellana traced over the image of his hand once more. The lines of his fingers the subtlest clue to his age. They were really quite handsome. A compliment she never knew she would have of a pair of hands. (Or one of a pair.)

With a huff of determination, she typed.

—7:48pm
Hey.

Nice start.

Ellana waited.

—F.H. 7:49pm
Da’len? F.H

It was funny how quick it was. The shaking nerves that riddled through her skin and heated her stomach when he replied.

—7:49pm
How old are you?

He typed a while. Stopping and starting often. A good sign? A bad one?

—F.H. 7:49pm
Older than you. F.H.

She rolled to her side, knees curling up to her chest as she typed furiously.

—7:50pm
no I mean it.
we havent asked each other anything.
and I know it’s weird

He interrupted her, the last line she intended to write dying in the text box.

—F.H. 7:50pm
Older than you by at least ten years. F.H.

That was… something of an answer.

—7:50pm
you dont know how old I am

—F.H. 7:51pm
I can tell. F.H.

She almost wanted to roll her eyes. Could he?

—7:51pm
37 then?

She asked, her heart rushing as she also inadvertently (on purpose) gave him her age too.

—F.H. 7:51pm
No.  F.H.

—7:52pm
38?

—F.H. 7:52pm
No, I said at least. F.H.

—7:52pm
39?

—F.H. 7:53pm
Ha! Shall we go through every number up from this, Ellana? F.H.

She smiled, she couldn’t help it. But she bit her lip to stay focused.

—7:53pm
no
but dont you wonder about it too?
about me?

—F.H. 7:53pm
Constantly.
I wonder everything about you. F.H.

Ellana’s breath was shaky as her eyes flickered across his words. Everything.

“Wow ha’hren.” She whispered. Her fingers typed, even as she tried not to fall into the trap she knew was coming.

—7:54pm
what sort of things?

His replies were fast and seemingly endless.

—F.H. 7:55pm
The color of your hair.
The length.
If your smile has dimples.
Are you tall enough for your lips to reach mine?
Would you have to hold my shoulder?
Do you have scars?
Lately I wonder about the color of your eyes. I imagine them often when I think of you reading the things I send you. F.H.

She couldn’t… really… breathe. The heaviness of his honesty made her hot, nervous and bold. Like she had been shot up with lyrium. Electrified and calmed all at the same time.

—7:56pm
do you want me to tell you?

—F.H. 7:56pm
No.
I do not want to be told.
I want to wait until I can see. F.H.

She stared, reading all his messages over and over again. He was bold. Of course he was, he always had been. And the amount he told her seemed so honest... so genuine and unafraid.

Ellana lifted her phone, swiping here and there determinedly.

She could hear everyone’s worries in her mind, hear the raised concerns and the pressure to be cautious.

It was shoved all away.

She twisted the phone sideways, watching the screen focus and adjust as she brought it down, close to her face

The digital square centered on her eyes, cutting away everything else but them.

Only her gaze stared back at her. 

Ellana stared back at the camera, smiling with something thrilling when it clicked.

It took a second to load.

And almost no seconds to send.

Chapter Text

—Ellana 5:45pm
its been weirdly hot lately.
the weather.

—F.H. 5:50pm
I agree.
Though I must admit I have enjoyed it.  F.H.

—Ellana 5:51pm
dont like the cold?

—F.H. 5:52pm
No. I just prefer the heat.
Though I must take care to guard against it, my skin does not seem as immaculate as yours. F.H.

—Ellana 5:54pm
oh haha very funny.
im not going to hear the end of it am I?

—F.H. 5:55pm
Can you blame a me?
You have a difficult pair of eyes to look away from. F.H.

—Ellana 5:56pm
okay.
turning my phone off now.



—Ellana 10:02am
[Attachment: 1 Image]
My apartment! As promised.

—F.H. 10:05am
It suits you, it is very bright.
And clean. F.H.

—Ellana 10:05am
the clean part may or may not be staged.

—F.H. 10:05am
In the back corner, what is that?
Is that a Dalish Keeper staff?
Your clan could not be as old as that, to still hand them down, could they? F.H.

—Ellana 10:06am
you would notice the most historical old thing out of everything else.

—F.H. 10:07am
Ah, you are right.
I should be asking to see your underwear drawer.
Now let’s see it. F.H.

—Ellana 10:08am
my underwear!?

—F.H. 10:08am
No, the staff da’len! F.H.

—Ellana 10:09am
lol alright professor.




—Ellana 4:04pm
[Attachment: 1 Video]

—F.H. 4:06pm
Where are you, a sporting event?
Is that you yelling obscenities? F.H.

—Ellana 4:06pm
haha no! thats my friend
and you couldnt tell?
its a rugby game!

—F.H. 4:07pm
Apologies, I was never one for sports. F.H.

—Ellana 4:08pm
me either.
I actually have no idea whats going on
but I have friends in the game so I have to pretend

—F.H. 4:09pm
Are your friends winning? F.H.

—Ellana 4:10pm
not sure
our team has the most points
but also the most penalties



—F.H. 12:43pm
I think you have a fancier phone than I do.
That might be out of the blue, but my camera quality is not comparable to yours. F.H.

—Ellana 12:45pm
are you sending me something?

—F.H. 12:45pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—Ellana 12:46pm
oh hello hands
scandalous

—F.H. 12:46pm
The point, Ellana, is what I’m holding. F.H.

—Ellana 12:47pm
what is it?
an animal skull?

—F.H. 12:48pm
Part of one.
The jaw to be specific.
I found it in fragments a few years ago and it has been finally sent back whole.  F.H.

—Ellana 12:49pm
very cool.
now send me a picture of your arms.

—F.H. 12:50pm
Ha! You are incorrigible.  F.H.

—Ellana 12:50pm
fairs fair hahren!

—F.H. 12:51pm
Not always.   F.H.


 

—Ellana 7:08pm
hey.
professor.

—F.H. 7:09pm
Ellana?
I was just thinking of you. . F.H.

—Ellana 7:09pm
if you aren’t going to send me more of you.
tell me something
Im just as interested as you are.

—F.H. 7:10pm
Oh, I doubt that greatly. F.H.

—Ellana 7:10pm
I am.
tell me something.
anything

—F.H. 7:18pm
Hm.
Sometimes these hands of mine paint. F.H.

—Ellana 7:19pm
youre an artist?

—F.H. 7:19pm
I would not call it that.
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—Ellana 7:20pm
you did this hahren?
its a building blueprint?

—F.H. 7:21pm
Scientific Illustration is a very small part of my work.
Sometimes I have to imagine old things new again. F.H.

—Ellana 7:22pm
its amazing

—F.H. 7:22pm
Hardly.
It is very boring subject matter. F.H.

—Ellana 7:23pm
no im being serious
its beautiful.

—F.H. 7:25pm
Thank you, Ellana. F.H.


 

—F.H. 1:10pm
You are not currently at Enaste are you? F.H.

—Ellana 1:12pm
nope.
im in a museum!
sounds amazing right now though.
why?
hahren?

—F.H. 1:22pm
Just wondering.
You should visit very soon. F.H.

—Ellana 1:23pm
why??
are you there?

—F.H. 1:23pm
I just was.
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—Ellana 1:25pm
is that a cake with MY name on it!?
are you serious?
this is real?

—F.H. 1:25pm
Seems that way.
I believe it is waiting for you, da’len.  F.H.

—Ellana 1:26pm
im going im going!!

—Ellana 2:10pm
you paid for this?
its so pretty!
hahren you cant expect me to be able to eat this whole thing.
wow this is so delicious!
I cant believe this is from you!
you gave me something!!

—F.H. 2:15pm
I am glad you enjoy it.
I thought I would leave you a small surprise after picking something up myself.
Perhaps I have been thinking of you too often. F.H.

—Ellana 2:22pm
im pretty sure you have officially become my most favorite person.
im speechless
ma sarannas hahren.

—F.H. 2:23pm
Then we are finally even.
For now. F.H.

 

Chapter Text

—F.H. 10:03am 
I find it harder to keep you off my mind. 

Each new place I visit, I wish I could show you. F.H.

She got the text right after sending one of her own to Josephine, letting the woman know she was coming by the museum again to pass the time.

It took her off guard. Something about it seemed… softer than his usual messages.

She couldn’t keep the smile off her face when she replied.

—10:04am
oh? find a place you want to take me hahren? 

She let it digitally whisk away to him as she picked out her clothes for the day, her mind occupied with his words the rest of her morning. Even when she started breakfast.

He answered when she finished pouring some juice.

—F.H. 10:18am
There is a new café by Lake Luthias, it looked quaint.
Maybe not the first place I would take you were we ever to meet.
But one of them. F.H.

Her hand tightened on her glass as she read it.

‘…were we ever to meet.’

The thoughts and ideas sprung from those words were endless. He had been careful though, implying instead of assuming or offering.

Casual then.

Ellana relaxed, but only a little. 


—10:19am
not the first place?
what would that be?
what would be the first place you would want to meet me at?

—F.H. 10:20am
Such possibilities, da’len.
Somewhere memorable, preferably. F.H.

She smiled, shaking her head and putting her juice back into her fridge before answering. 


—10:20am
well thats promising.
come on, give me a real idea.




He thought about an answer the rest of his morning, gathering his tools and reports into his car and heading across town to pick up Merrill.

He would be lying to say it was the first time he imagined it. Meeting her.

He had thought about it more than he cared to admit and definitely more than he should. Especially recently.

At Enaste a few days ago, he had almost considered staying to see her.

But the idea of it, the reality of her—it was almost too much.

Still, as he pulled in to park in front of his assistant’s apartments, he took a moment to answer her.

—11:10am
I just drove past an Antivan dance club.
Maybe there?
Do you dance, Ellana?

He didn’t wait long, her responses coming out with his. 


—Ellana  11:11am
you want to go antivan dancing with me?
no no no!
I dont dance.
not like that.

He smiled idly. She might not dance, but he wondered if he could help her enjoy the experience regardless. She was open minded—perhaps she would indulge him.

Solas tried not to paint the picture in his mind, his arms around her, looking at those eyes and dancing to her happy laughter.

—11:12am
Well do you have any bright ideas then? F.H.

—Ellana 11:12am
a fancy dinner is too cliche isnt it?
I know.
skydiving.

He laughed loudly in the privacy of his car, the seat belt tightening as he leaned forward in mirth.

He answered immediately, his grin nowhere near leaving.

—11:13am
Very conducive to the conversation.
We can shout introductions at each other in the sky. F.H.

—Ellana 11:13am
it would be memorable!

—11:13am
You are adventurous as usual.
A trait I quite enjoy.
But perhaps something more tame. F.H.

She began typing, but his phone shook in his hands, Merrill’s name popping on screen.

He answered his voice still full of his relaxed amusement. “Yes, I am here… no I can wait. Perhaps we will stop along the way for lunch. No harm in being late.”




—11:46am
what about some coffee and a walk?
or a bookstore professor?

Ellana considered the message as it sent, having been thinking about it since leaving her house and heading into the museum.

She tried to tell herself that it was idle talk. A game. 

Her fingers shifted the phone as she waited for him to type. The labels on the desk in front of her were long since abandoned, and the small gift she had been working on for him in the meantime lay undone in her lap. 


—F.H. 11:47am
This I like.
There is a fantastic bookstore on East Rd.
They have coffee. F.H.

The change in her skin was instant. It felt clammy, nervous, a tingling rushing down her spine that made her shiver in her seat, alone in the museum office.

She swallowed, trying to keep her smile from earlier that morning as she replied.

—11:48am
wait.
is this serious now?
are you saying we should go there and just…?

She didn’t want to say meet. Not yet. Not unless he did. And even then--


—F.H. 11:49am
We could  both show up and see who recognizes the other first.
No plan. F.H.

—11:50am
that wouldnt be a fair game!
you get too look at faces at least!
I would go around staring at everyones hands.

Ellana’s nerves lessened a little, hoping to keep this suddenly… borderline conversation on the safer edge.

Her eyes flicked back up to the door, wondering if Josephine would be done with her meeting yet.

—F.H. 11:51am
That would be what I would look for.
The elvhen girl bothering strangers about their hands. F.H.

—11:52am
I could cheat and just call you.
listen for your ringing phone.

—F.H. 11:53am
Brave strategy. Calling me. F.H.

Ellana chuckled, feeling a bit proud of herself for the idea.

This was all hypothetical still then. He was teasing and pushing like he always did, her strange ha’hren.  And she would get--

—F.H. 11:53am
I wonder why you have not done it yet. F.H.

Her exhale came out shaky, both hands reaching for her phone now, her fingers sliding across the keyboard in slight haze.




—Ellana 11:55am
are you inviting me to call you?

The message was quick and yet not.

Solas stared at it, his lunch forgotten on the table in front of him.

He glanced up, spotting Merrill still babbling to herself in front of the menu at the register.

They had time. More than enough – they were on their own schedule now. Work could wait.

But Ellana couldn’t.

—11:57am
Not now.
But you do not need an invitation da’len. F.H.

It was sent before he could berate himself. Before he could dare to wonder if she would be upset, or challenged.

Besides—hearing her voice—

Ellana 11:58am
are you really thinking about it?
us meeting?

He almost laughed, because he honestly had no idea. The conversation up until this point had been fanciful. A thoughtful daydream he really, couldn’t, shouldn’t possibly consider arranging. And yet he still wondered…

Where exactly this would all lead.

—11:59am
It does sounds exciting, does it not?
And so very dangerous. F.H.




She fell back heavily on her chair, skin feeling flushed and heart feeling to snug and tight in her chest. And maybe it was the bold exhilaration he influenced in her or the buildup of all these teasing talks – but she wanted him to say it. Wanted him to push just a little harder.

—12:00pm
how would it be dangerous?
are we going to rob a bank together?

She bit her lip, watching him type.

—F.H. 12:01
You would suggest a crime, trouble maker. F.H.

Ellana’s head shot up as the conference door rattled, jarring open to reveal a giant stack of papers and manila folders.  

She dropped her phone instantly, embarrassment flooding through her as she tried to look preoccupied, picking up the small project in her lap.

“Agh! They make these doors so heavy!” Josephine muttered somewhere behind the sight.

“Need help?” Ellana called, her fingers stopping their own work as she began to stand.

“No-no—“ The door shifted open, knocking on the Antivan’s shoulders before releasing the woman into the room. A smiling face peeked out from the papers. “I got it.”

Ellana chuckled, sitting back down as Josephine placed the stack onto the already cluttered desk. “What is all that?”

“Requisition orders, because apparently this museum is not already full to bursting.” There was a long sigh as Josephine began organizing everything, her distracted gaze turning to her. “What are you working on?”

Ellana’s fingers tensed a bit nervously as they twined, the long cords in her fingers tickling her wrist as she braided them. “Sorry—I’m just taking a small break from cutting all those labels.” She answered instead.

Josephine waved her off. “You don’t intern here anymore Ellana, no one expects you to work when you visit me.”

“I know, but I like doing it.” She smiled, pausing her fingers once more.

Josephine sat with her, sharing the kind expression.

The National Fereldan Museum and Research building was one of Ellana’s favorite places to be. Either because of the actual history in it, or because of her own personal history with it, she didn’t know. She had fond memories of spending college days in it, doing homework as well as record work. It was a nice nostalgia the days when the only things she had to worry about were assignments and studying new things.

One of the few things she could call her own.

Not to mention Josephine’s presence; a friend and her intern supervisor as the Museum’s Director of Collections.

“That looks like those friendship bracelets I used to make in camp.”

Ellana cringed a little at the reference. She glanced at the length of the braided strands, hoping that it didn’t look that childish or that unauthentic, “It… sort of is. Those things are originally inspired by this.”

“Something Elvhen?”

Ellana nodded. "Ara'lin'hasal."

“Do you give it to a friend?”

Ellana made sure not to look at Josephine as she answered, or else her face would turn red. “Yeah. Or a family member.”

Or a lover.

Josephine hummed before trailing. “…that reminds me, how is your clan?”

“Fine, I suppose. I haven’t actually seen them in a long time besides seeing Deshanna.”

“And…” Josephine shifted and Ellana looked up to see her looking oddly nervous. “…and your appeal?”

“Oh, fine!” She answered, laughing at the cautiousness her friend took bringing up the subject. “I mean, I’m just waiting for mail. I won’t know until then.”

“You don’t seem… worried.”

“I’ve decided not to think about it until I get my answer. Or no answer, I guess.”

“That’s a good outlook to have.” Josephine agreed. “Hopefully it all goes well for you then you can come back and work here again if you like.”

Ellana glanced at her but said nothing.

It wouldn’t happen, even if the appeal went well and she eventually got her clan officially recognized.

She would become Keeper. That had been the plan since she had been eight years old and college wasn’t going to ever change that.

Her friends didn’t seem to understand that yet.

“I suppose you could work anywhere you wanted though.” Josephine continued. “Or even… work for yourself.”

The statement was said with such careful solidity that Ellana had to look at her curiously.

“What do you mean?”

“Has Cassandra talked to you at all?”

Ellana tried not to think of the lunch a week ago, or the questions the girls had asked about F.H. 

“About what?”

Josephine looked less sure now, but there was a slight gleam of excitement in her eyes. “Have you ever thought about having a museum for Dalish history?”

The question seemed to come out of nowhere. The braid in her hands lowered to her lap. “Ah…”

“Or at least, an international museum where—“

“Isn’t the Orlesian museum international?”

Josephine scoffed a little. “Only because it has to say that if it wants to steal from others legally.”

Ellana grinned. That much was true.

“I’m talking about a museum—or rather… an organization that was actually international.”

“So… an organization that would gather history from everywhere?”  Ellana asked, obvious confusion leaking from her voice.

“Yes. Well… no. Not just for history and… museums. But for delegation, too. A group that would assess and determine issues or… items, for the rest of Thedas.”

It was an odd concept to wrap one’s head around and a bigger idea than what Josephine had first introduced it as. “Isn’t that what the Chantry does? Determine things for other countries?”

She didn’t mean it as a slight. Not really.

Josephine shook her head, occupying herself with leafing through the folders in front of her. “That’s the issue with the Chantry. It’s the Chantry. A religious sector that doesn’t apply for the entirety of the World.”

“I doubt the Chantry or any other country would want some organization telling them what to do.” Ellana pointed out.

“Not unless they had representatives in it to voice their votes— and maybe not an organization. But an Inquisition—“

“This more than an International museum, isn’t it?”

Josephine paused. The excitement in her expression seemed to backtrack. “I know it sounds strange. It’s just something Cassandra and Leliana have been talking about with me. An idea for something to better for the world.”

Ellana smiled knowingly. “You three would get together for a knitting circle and think of ways to re-organize governments.”

Josephine laughed at that. “Alright, true. But I thought you might be interested in the idea. The Dalish surely want representation of their own and with you as Herald…” She trailed, her head bobbing slightly as if to imply the rest of her meaning without saying it.

Ellana sighed. Herald. She didn’t think she’d ever stop hearing the word.

“Yeah, as Herald I’m sure the Chantry just wants me to be a good little scholarship student and tell all the other little Dalish elves how great they are. Not conspire against them.”

“I’m not saying you should, but think about the entire Dalish heritage that—Oh!!” Josephine shot upward, a few papers sliding across the desk and making Ellana jump in her chair. “I forgot to tell you!”

Her eyes were wide with surprise at the abrupt change, “Creators Joseph—“

“The Eluvian!”

Ellana’s mouth snapped shut.

“The Eluvian—it’s here! Do you know about it, the Sa—“

“The Sabrae Eluvian?”

“Yes!”

It took a second for Ellana’s mind to catch up with their conversation, but when it did, she felt excitement lace through her body. “Here? Why is it here? In Ferelden? I thought it was in legal custody until they figured out who owned it?”

“Well that’s just it! The most neutral place for it to reside until the trial is here! Ferelden! That, and the original archeologist to analyze it is contracted here.”

“So—“

“Do you want to see it?”

Ellana stared. Her mind went blank as Josephine’s face turned mischievous. An expression so rare she had to take some time to recognize it.  

“I can sneak you—“

“Yes.”


 

Ellana knew almost the museum’s entire maze of exhibits and research departments like the back of her hand.

She had spent most of her time walking them summers ago, and even more in Josephine’s back office learning about curatorial records.

Conservation, however, had always been off limits to her. No matter how badly she begged.

So when Josephine led them down white halls to the back rooms of Conservation, Ellana began to get giddy.

“They shouldn’t be in today—at least, they didn’t say they were coming.” Josephine assured, looking back and forth through the hallway as they approached one of the doors. “I hope they aren’t—well, we can just be very quick—“

Her keys jangled as she reached for them and Ellana turned to make sure no one was watching as Josephine unlocked the door and slid through it.

“Come on!”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this.” She said, eyeing the shifty looking manner that her friend beckoned her.

“Well then hurry, because I can’t believe it either.”

Ellana slid through the door with her, squeezing into the dark lab as Josephine locked it behind them.

“Hit the lights, would you? There on the other wall there.”

It took a grope or two, but she caught the switch.

When it flicked on, Ellana could do nothing but stare.

It seemed surreal, the old eroded metal twisting upward to the ceiling. Florescent lights made the pieces of mirror still intact with the frame gleam.

 It was utterly broken. The top half looked like an unfinished puzzle, metal and mirror cut and jagged and lost to time.

Well, almost.

On the tables around the room were hundreds of pieces, big and small, tagged and laid out precisely.

“They’re… putting it back together?”

“That is the idea. Though they say it might be impossible for it to be completely whole again.”

Ellana stepped forward, glancing at the shards laid out on the tables, some still wrapped in bags or lying in plastic bins of water. Most likely being cleaned.

“I don’t know a lot about the Eluvians, but I still think it’s one of the most amazing finds in some time.”

Ellana silently agreed with Josephine, looking up at the broken mirror as she got closer to it. She didn’t realize how large it was. How tall.

The entire thing must have been shattered when they found it, because there were cracks inlaid over the whole surface. The small foggy reflection of herself was slashed into a handful of versions looking back at her.

“This is…”

It was incredible. She had never seen something of her own people this old, this important, or this close.

Deshanna would have loved to see it. Her clan would have.

Her ha’hren--

She twisted, turning towards Josephine as she snatched her phone from her pocket.  

He would love this.

“You don’t think I could take a picture?”

Josephine’s expression looked a bit more paranoid than before. “Ah… well… I would—that might be…”

“No it’s alright, I don’t want to get you in trouble I just…” she turned to consider the mirror again and frowning. “… I know someone who would love to see this.”

A loud smack on the door had them both jumping on their feet.

“Ah!” Josephine let out a noise and suddenly the sound of keys scraped the lock behind them.

Ellana had never seen Josephine move as fast as she did to dive for the door push it closed.

“What’s—who’s!?”

“It must be Solas!” Josephine yelled in a hushed whisper, her eyes wide.

“Solas?”

Josephine planted her feet on the ground and shifted to lock the door once more.  “Give me that door jamb!”  

She pointed, and Ellana raced across the floor to snatch the rubber wedge and run it to her hands.

Josephine smashed it into the top corner of the door, whacking on it to get it stuck even as the handle began to rattle impatiently.

“You need to get out—Solas will murder me if he finds out I let you in here!”

“What do we do!?

Ellana could feel her heart race as Josephine lunged, grabbing her shoulders and rushing her to the other side of the room.

“Who’s Solas?!”

“Shh!! He’s the head archeologist—now go through the window!”

“Are you insane!?”

“Shh!” Josephine replied hastily, reaching across a few file cabinets to the large blinded windows. They tangled harshly as she reached her hands through and shoved them open.

“Josephine—no—this is ridiculous!“

“Go Ellana!”

“I’m sure if we just apologize—“

“You don’t know Solas—Just go, I’ll buy you dinner later I promise, just go!”

“Creators!—Fine!—“

Ellana looked behind her as the door shook harshly, vaguely hearing a voice protest behind it.

“You owe me so bad Josie.” She cursed, climbing on the cabinets and shoving her head beneath the blinds.  She could feel her friend’s hands push at her back as she slid through the window, legs awkwardly stepping through to fall ungracefully onto some gardening.

“I’ll call you later—sorry!”

The window thudded shut behind her and Ellana found herself glaring at the museum’s courtyard behind some bushes.

She rose, wiping her jeans off and turning to try and peek back into the window, hard as it was through the blinds.

Muffled, she could hear Josephine’s voice, “Oh Solas, how strange! The door must have…” Ellana rolled her eyes before standing.

Well, that was quite an experience.

It took a few maneuvers to get past the intricate shrubbery and she had hardly stepped foot onto the pavement when her phone rang.

“Josephine I swear—“

But the number was unrecognizable when it flashed on her screen. She swiped it, standing oddly there as she answered.  She double checked the window behind her to make sure she still hadn’t been caught. “Ah, Hello?”

“Please hold. You are receiving a call from a member of the Orlesian Republic Ministry.”

“What?”

“Connecting you to Ambassador Briala.”

Ellana’s world seemed to pause completely as the line clicked.

“Savhalla lethallan.”


 

“Are you sure you want to stay Solas? It’s already nine thirty!”

He didn’t glance at Merrill as she gathered her bags.  “I will be fine. Besides, I would only continue to work at home as I would here.”

“Well if you like I can have someone deliver something for dinner. There’s a place on the corner that may still be open and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind a delivery if they are already—“

“No need.”

“Alright. I suppose I am leaving then.” There was some shuffling, a click of the door and a pause. “Are you sure you don’t want anything?"

Solas chuckled that time, turning to glance at his hesitant assistant.

“Dar’eth, Merrill.”

She smiled, trying for a small wave even with her hands full of her bags. “Goodnight!”

The door closed after her, sound leaving with his assistant as well as his careful countenance.

He let his spine relax in his chair, his head leaning backward.

They had spent the entire day in the lab.

His eyes slid over to the Eluvian, looking no more whole than it had that morning. It stared back at him unforgiving, taunting him with the secrets laid closed behind it.

He glanced back at his desk, the shards scattered across his graph where he had been measuring and cataloging each one.

Perhaps Merrill’s suggestion to head back home was an apt one. Exhaustion was threatening to creep on him, and the familiarity of his condo was vivid in his mind.

Comfortable, easy--

A pair of eyes flashed through his thoughts and his hand went to instinctively pull at the phone in his sweater pocket.

He sighed.

Addiction.

But it slid into his hands anyway, the crack of the screen a small reminder of how much she had affected him, still marred from when he had dropped it weeks ago.

He was as broken as the Eluvian now.

—9:36pm
What about my place? F.H.

Dangerous. The word seemed to repeat in his head. 


—Ellana 9:37pm
what about your place?

He typed fast, eager to have the bad idea laid out before he lost the instinct.

—9:38pm
It’s comfortable.
I have space, no need to go out.
We could stay inside, I could cook.
Perfect place to talk.
Plenty of privacy for whatever trouble you have planned.
We could arrange our next heist. F.H.

Her response took much, much longer than it should have.

Ellana 9:40pm
should I bring ropes and explosives?

His hand went to his mouth, hiding the grin and stopping his breath. His eyes closed slightly to feel the delicate tingling sensation down the back of his neck.

Solas decided to be honest with her. 


—9:41pm
I half expected that message to end at ‘ropes.’ F.H.

—Ellana 9:42pm
have I told you how terrible you are yet hahren?
someone should.

—9:43pm
Perhaps once or twice. F.H.

He shifted, ready to say more when she took him by surprise, firing away and leaving him very aware of how alone he was.

And how interested.

—Ellana 9:44pm
so your place.
privacy.
candles?
music?

—9:45pm
Candles, but not for lighting. No music, it is only a distraction.
We do not need background noise when we can make our own.
Talking, I mean. F.H.

It was like a fire with her. Started, it was hungry and so easy to let loose.

—Ellana 9:45pm
of course.
talking.
that’s all we want to do.
talk.

Something softer hit him then. Fascinating that she could do that with him, make him restless and yet so utterly relaxed in the next heartbeat.

—9:45pm
You do have a beautiful mind. F.H.

He waited, but she didn’t type.

And the silence was maddening. The only fault in communicating with her was that the wait was excruciating, painful sometimes. His mind was always on the edge of her inevitable responses.

He stood then, turning as if intending to look over the mirror once more.

His eyes glanced over it like it wasn’t there. He twisted his phone in his fingers, wandering aimlessly to the wall, leaning an arm on it and waiting quietly as he stared at his phone.

—Ellana 9:47pm
you make it really hard to think sometimes.

His laugh was silent, puffs of breath through his lips as his eyes creased in adoration.

“If you only knew, da’len.”

—9:48pm
I often find that over thinking can be a detriment. F.H.

Ellana 9:49pm
somehow I dont think you think that.
you just think that with me.

He pushed his phone against his lips, endlessly smiling. How well she already knew him.

—9:50pm
If I think too much with you I realize how much danger there is to you.
I like how reckless you make me, Ellana. F.H.

—Ellana 9:51pm
you make me sound so bad.

—9:51pm
You are.
I do not need to hear a voice or see any more of your body to know that about you. F.H.

He waited the tightness in his chest no longer amusing, but worse. Intimate; carnal and not. 

He had never experienced missing someone without ever having met them before.

But then she answered, and his fingers curled on the wall to steady himself as the lasts bits of restraint left him. 

—Ellana 9:52pm
so…
how bad do I need to be then?
to see you?

Chapter Text

—12:02pm 
weekends coming
you dont happen to have any plans this saturday do you hahren?

“ELLIE!”

Ellana shoved her phone in her jacket and turned around sharply, catching Sera looking cross.

Funny how intimidating the younger elf could look even with her arms stacked full of cds and her head adorned with a funny looking cap.

“Ellie? Really?” She asked defensively, hoping Sera hadn’t caught her texting.

“Yea, it’s not my best. But it’s hard to find a good nickname for you that isn’t Chantry’s greatest most elfy person.”

“Herald.”

“Yea, I’m not calling you that.”

Ellana smiled fondly at the statement, thankful for the fact more than her friend could know. She walked down the rest of the aisles of rock albums to meet the girl.

“I thought you were off already? You texted me to meet you for lunch.”

“I am!” She replied, before her eyes shifted warily and a smirk appeared. “Right after you help me stock these at the front.”

“Sera!”

“What!? It’ll only be a second an' now less with you here!” She turned on her heel and with a long sigh Ellana followed her.

“I should be paid half your wages for the amount of times I’ve helped you.” She commented, even as she helped Sera with the bundle of cds.

“You're my friend! That’s what friends do. Friends work for their friends.”

Ellana gave a breathless laugh at the concept. She wasn’t completely wrong.

“Besides you haven’t come here in months. You’ve been too busy with your elfy life and your elfy Keeper—“

“Hey.” She admonished, pausing from setting the cds down in stacks on the floor to give her friend a serious look.

“I’m just saying it’s been awhile since you’ve even tried to hang out with me.”

“We saw a movie together!” Ellana defended.

“That was a month ago!”

She stopped at that. Had it really been that long?

The time lately seemed to have been flying by. Whether that was because of everything with her clan or because…

The weight of her phone felt apparent in her jacket pocket.

“All this stuff since you went an’ graduated. You’re forgetting about me an’ Krem an’ you know… fun peoples. Because of the Heraldy stuff an’ the elfy stuff.”

“…sorry.”

“No don’t say that just—Argh!” Sera’s hands lifted to push at the records store’s hat on her head, fingers ruffling at her hair. “Just help me organize cds more!”

Ellana smiled at her, watching the younger elf’s cheeks and ears tinge red.

They sat together on the shop floor in front of the wire display, shifting stacks of albums and matching their names to the empty spots on the racks.

“How does it work anyway? The Heraldy stuff?”

“What do you mean?” She asked, glancing distractedly at case in her hands. “Is this… lute music?”

“I mean, you won a big contest and got a bunch of money for school, right?”

“No, I applied.”

“To a contest?”

“No… the Chantry created this new program to find a… model representative. Someone with potential for… “ She  trailed, not really sure how to explain it to Sera of all people. “They were looking for an ambassador or… someone they could basically invest in. Mold, really.”

“And… they pick you. They elfiest elfy—“

“You have got to stop saying that.” She shook her head, shoving more cds on the rack. “And no. They didn’t know I was Dalish when they picked me.”

Sera burst out laughing, rolling backward onto the floor. “What!? You mean they didn’t ask!?” She managed through her loud mirth.

Ellana smiled to herself, shrugging. “Actually no. I think they just sort of assumed that wouldn’t happen. And there wasn’t a rule that you had to be Andrastian eith—“

“Can you picture their faces!? They pick the smartest, the best of the bunch and bingo! An elf! They must have been right mad—“

“It was awkward.”

Sera continued laughing heartily.

“Varric thinks they went through with it for political reasons. After what happened to the Orlesian Elvhen that year, it would have caused some protests for them to reject their Herald candidate just because they were an elf.”

It was almost perfect in retrospect. When Ellana thought back on it, the hundreds of tests she seemed to have to do, the essays about history and all the human researching she did.  She and Varric had both known they were tricking the Chantry by never mentioning her heritage. But the leaked news that an elf had been picked—Varric’s knowing face when she got the letter—

She suspected it had all gone as it should.

“If I were you I’d take all that money and buy everything they’d hate. Drugs and lyrium—“

“It doesn’t really work like that. Someone checks what I buy and what I’m doing—It’s like I’m on a foreigners visa or a green card.”

Sera didn’t seem to hear her. “A car! Ellana we should go get a big fat fancy car—“

She laughed, yanking some of the last cd’s from her friends hands and stacking them herself. “They check!”

“But you have someone paying for everything forever!”

Her shoulders dropped slightly. “They don’t pay for everything. They pay my rent – I get a stipend, alright? And they expect me to do something… great for them.”

“Like what?”

She sighed. “I don’t know. I suppose they want me to be the first Elvhen Cleric or something.”

“And what if you don’t?”

“Then they stop paying and I stop being Herald.”

“Well that’s alright then innit? They already paid for all your schooling. Fooled them. ”

“Yeah.”

Yes. That had been hers and Varric’s plan all along.

But still. Ellana sometimes wondered if things were ever that easy.

“Come on—I did your work for you, let’s go eat. I have to get back home to watch something by three.” She resisted looking at her phone.

“Three!?” Sera immediately argued, her face taking on an actual expression of hurt. “But it’s the big Chargers game tomorrow an’ I want to make a big sign that says ‘Suck Dirty Bees You Shits!’ for the other team!!”

Ellana had nearly forgotten about that. Krem had called her about it twice and she had nearly forgotten. Sera was right, she might be a bit too wrapped up in her own world.

“I’ll call you after and you can come over. “

“YES! I’ll bring some paint an' sparkly stuff!”


 

When he returned from the meeting with the Directors board he found the lab room empty.

With the third batch of pieces untagged and freshly cleaned for his work, he assumed Merrill had left for lunch.  Setting down his bag and a small stack of notes, he headed for his jacket at his desk.

Perhaps if he called her quickly enough, he could have her bring something back.

But the thoughts escaped him when he found his phone.

Four new messages.

His smile was immediate and misplaced—he had expected them all to be from his da’len.

But the first he opened wasn’t.

—Dorian Pavus 1:23pm
Call me when you can!

His teeth grit into his frown as he shifted the screens into a call, listening to the ring as his mind soured.

“Ah, Solas! Merrill had said you were in a conference with the—“

“Dorian, for the last time; do not send me texts.”

He heard the Tevinter hum thoughtfully. “You know, I would understand if it was because in your delicate ripened age you've lost grasp with the ability to learn new technology—at least that’s what I thought this ‘no texts’ business was all about—“

“Dorian—“

“But then Merrill said something interesting to me the other night—‘He’s always texting! Probably his wife!’”

His mouth closed, eyes boring into his desk in front of him. Dorian’s impression of his assistant was poor, but the accusation was too close for comfort.

“And after having taught with you for some years, I’d like to think I’d know whether or not you have a wife—“

“This is, and has always been, a business phone.” Solas amended. “It was at your insisting that I hand over my number. Which you promised would be for work purposes only.” He tried to stress the last word. “So if I have been forced to turn my calls into personal use, you can understand my desire to keep messaging strictly for my work.”

Also not a lie. Or at least it hadn’t been before one fateful wrong number.

Now his messages were definitely of personal use.

“Museums don’t text their archaeologists, Solas!” Dorian accused.

No. But it was one of the only ways his contacts in the paper could request his attention. Or rather—Fen Harel’s.

Not something Dorian need know about.

“So I was wondering, this wife of yours—“

“Did this phone call have a purpose aside from being frustratingly time wasting?”

Dorian made a sound like sucking air through his teeth. “Someone’s quite prickly today—ah, yes. I suppose I should get right to it. Are you busy tomorrow?”

“I will not cover your class—“

“And I would never ask! I only wanted to know if you’d be available for a little party tomorrow at a bar downtown—“

“No—“

“I have some friends celebrating and I want to bring someone along so I’m not stuck with too many people below my age. Besides, I’ll look so much younger next to you.”

His hand rose to rub at his forehead. “Goodbye Dorian.”

“No wait—please—! I don’t want to keep going there alon—“

The call ended with a simple click and Solas sighed as the screen faded from his colleague’s name to his list of unread messages.

Ellana’s name stuck out to him, but there were two others that, coincidentally to Dorian’s claims, were actually work related.


—Madame De Fer  12:39pm
FH, Darling.
You may want to check RBN this afternoon. Interesting news to be seen that I’m sure the Circle Report would love to feature. An issue perhaps you and I could agree on. Contact me to confirm.

Elvhen news? In Orlais?

His eyes glanced back toward the Eluvian, standing tall and broken in the center of the room.

Had the courts been settled? He hadn’t known them to be in session at all. He would be sure that he wouldn’t hear of it from Vivienne of all people had there been a verdict. She was not usually interested in the more archaeological aspects of his writing. They hadn’t worked together in over a year at least.

Elvhen society had been quiet besides the findings of ancient relics.

He checked the time – closer to 2pm.

The third message was even less appealing.

—Morrigan 12:30pm
I am very excited indeed to read what the Dread Wolf has to say about this mess tomorrow. Front page perhaps?

The Eluvian then.

It must have been settled in favor of the Orlesian museums. They would get it, as they had gotten almost all of the Elvhen history recovered in the past ten years. No doubt the Sabrae clan would be completely distraught – he could hear the interviews already.

He should call Merrill.

It wasn’t really any interest to him, but she would be hurt over the news. It would be one more thing for her to feel guilty about regarding the mirror.

At least they had gotten back in charge of restoring it.

Sitting down, he considered calling Merrill first.

But Ellana’s name was too welcoming a sight—and always more tempting than any job offer.

—Ellana 12:02pm
weekends coming
you dont happen to have any plans this saturday do you hahren?

Saturday.

Two days away.

And suddenly nothing else seemed as pressing at the idea that she might be asking him to meet.




She couldn’t sit.

She had tried to when the clock hit three and the news had broken into a new segment.

 

AMBASSODOR BRIALA CLAIMS SUPPORT OF FREE MARCHES RESERVATION LAVELLAN—

The words kept crawling across the bottom of the screen as the Orlesian Elf spoke into the speakers of the podium, her eyes sharp and hard.

“It’s… “

The voice was hesitant when it came out of the phone pressed to her ear. But is contained a timid excitement that made Ellana’s heart swell.

“I never expected it to be so…”

Deshanna trailed. She had been more or less quiet the entire time, both of them watching together from miles away.

The nervousness Ellana had been bottling up for the past two weeks seemed completely expelled as she listened.

“…There’s no difference between Elvhen in the Free Marches, Fereleden, or here in Orlais. When I say I represent my people I mean all of them.  My sponsorship towards clan Lavellan has nothing to do with territorial gain, but heritage gain. Next question, please…”

“Oh, Ellana—I never expected it to be such a big deal but… this is what we need. The attention she’s drawing could only help shed light on the appeal. With enough of it there isn’t any way we could be turned away from recognition.”

It was hard to hear everything being said as her Keeper spoke, but she was smiling as she did so.

“This is an amazing thing you have done da’len. I had my doubts about the title you earned with Mr. Tethras but this proves it’s usefulness.”

 “She won’t mention that. Not yet.” Ellana made sure to clarify. “I asked her not to. I don’t want anyone thinking of us getting anything special because I’m the Chantry’s Herald. Or worse--“

“Should the Chantry find out you—“

“Yeah.”

They went quiet again.

“She is admirable in her stance, is she not?” Deshanna asked.

Ellana couldn’t disagree. Briala seemed comfortable with the crowd of press in the room and more than at ease with the several questions targeted at her intentions. Not to mention her sudden support in the first place. An issue more controversial than Ellana though any politician would take on. 

Boasting Elvhen rights for those in the city was one thing.

Talking about Dalish rights was another.

“She knows what she’s doing…” Ellana trailed.

“And apparently so do you, ‘ma Sael. I’m so proud of you.”

Heat flooded her at the words. It was easy now. She had been preparing her actual appeal for more than half a year. And now she would finally be able to present it.

Her phone vibrated against her cheek.

She pulled it away to glance at the screen, careful not to hang up on her Keeper.

—F.H. 3:15pm
No plans that I would not drop if you had something in mind. F.H.

Her nerves came back again full force.

“Hey, Deshanna—I have to go. A friend’s coming over tonight—“

“Do well to celebrate da’len, we’ll talk more later.”

They gave a short goodbye and Ellana glanced up at the screen once more as her mind organized her thoughts.

She had tackled the sponsorship.

Next she had to help Sera make a crude poster for the game tomorrow.

And then she had to figure out how she was going to meet her ha’hren the day after.

 

Chapter Text

He heard his phone chime with new messages as he made his way back to his desk.

He cradled the warmth of the coffee in his hand, but it was nowhere near the heat that spread through his chest at that sound.

Perhaps a bit too eagerly, he set down his drink, shifting the papers of research from his work last night to snatch the device.

But almost immediately his excitement was diminished.

—Felassan 10:07am
Saw your work for Circle Report this morning.
Crossroads will have our version live by the afternoon.

He really shouldn’t have expected any different.

Ellana had been elusive yesterday and his phone had been put back to its original use.

He responded, all the while his mind somewhere else.

—10:08am
Contact me when you need any follow up pieces. F.H.

The other messages were from Dorian, begging him to go out to a bar tonight. Also not a surprise, and not warranting a response either.  He checked them and deleted them accordingly.

Solas sat easily back into his chair, settling into it and ignoring the computer screen open to his writing.

There was more he could do. Vivienne would more than likely ask him for a spread on the issue for next week, or perhaps to follow the story to report it once it progressed.

But instead his fingers flickered through his phone to his messages from Ellana, scrolling through the past few days with a careful smile on his face.

And now…

He considered messaging her.

But it was early still.

And the last messages they had exchanged were about plans tomorrow.

And while he had been told to be at the bookstore on East at four, he hadn’t yet confirmed.

Because the thought of it all was overwhelming.

He had mentioned meeting several times, but the idea that Ellana might actually be arranging it made him want to call the entire thing off.

It was easier like this, with no face or even a voice to commit his attachment to. He could control this easier through messages. How she perceived him was based entirely on how he picked out his words. And while sometimes reckless, it was nowhere near the risk that a physical meeting would be.

A risk against his content. His normality. It would be something as dangerous as he had warned her it could be.

Solas slid his phone back to the desk and took up his coffee instead.

He would wait until she messaged him again.

Perhaps then he could reserve some sort of escape plan.


 

She spotted him when she was trying to look for someone else.

 “Dorian!”

“—Oh, Ellana! Thank the Maker-“

Her former anthropology professor squeezed through the barrage of people clustered around the door of The Tavern, looking more haggard than excited.

“Please don’t tell me it’s already this bad this early—“

Ellana laughed loudly, reaching to grasp his shoulder as people bumped her from behind.

“You should have seen them on the field after the game.”

“Did they win?”

Dorian asked with honest curiosity, but Ellana just frowned with obvious puzzlement. “No. They didn’t—they got fourth.”

“Fourth!?” Dorian’s shout twisted into a loud whisper as he leaned toward her dubiously. “I’d hate to see what a first place party looks like.”

She nearly snorted.

“Now please—tell me Cremisius is in charge of the hard liquor. If I am to be subjected to all you young children invading my space and shouting, it will be under the influence.”

“I thought you were bringing a friend to keep you entertained from us!” Ellana accused, already pushing through the crowd back towards the bar.

“Oh yes—well, I keep forgetting that ‘friend’ means something else to people these days.”

The Tavern was much too small for the amount of people there tonight.  Its rustic décor was barely visible beyond the bodies bustling about each other. If she hadn’t been there a million times, she might have gotten lost.

The music booming beneath her feet was harsher as they neared the bar and she could make out the backlights glistening off the bottles lining the walls. 

No seats though.

They shifted awkwardly as people leaned over and called for drinks, both too short to see over the row of heads.

“Have I mentioned how much I just adore this place?” Dorian commented somewhere behind her.

“Ellana! The Righteous!” A voice boomed from their left, down the length of the bar. “Everyone move!”

Heads turned, and the shadow of a familiar figure stood, large hands sweeping across the air. “Now!”

“Bull!”

A strange path through the crowd opened for them, people hastily grabbing their drinks and letting her and Dorian hurry to the seats near the corner.

“There she is! Just the woman I’ve been looking for—and oh, lookie here.”

She was smiling even as she heard Dorian groan harshly beside her.

“Come out to play tonight Vint?”

Dorian leaned slightly in front of her to glare at Bull properly. “That is very offensive to just call someone, you know.”

“I seem to remember you spitting out Tevinter curses about Qunlat the last time you saw me.” He called back.

Dorian retreated, trying to preoccupy himself with looking for a bartender even as he continued the argument under his breath.

“Congratulations!” Ellana said to carry on conversation, smiling up at Bull’s cheery looking face. He was nursing a glass of something dark and red in a small tumbler, looking quite comfortable in the bustle of the party around him.

“Me? I’ve been trying to congratulate you all day!” He laughed, the sound a rolling and thick one.

“Sorry--Sera and I got in late after the game, and I lost her before finding Dorian on the way inside.”

“Ah—the scamp’s off to challenge Grim to a dart game I think.”

She shook her head. Typical. They had barely made it past the parking lot before Ellana had turned around to find her friend gone.

“And Krem?”

Bull lifted his drink, a large finger jabbing toward the other end of the bar.

She turned, finding Krem grasping bottles from the shelves and flipping them in his palms to pour skillfully into glasses.

He caught sight of them when he finished, nodding his head with a smile and hurrying his orders.

“I can’t believe you’re making him work tonight!”

“Hey! Someone has to make the drinks for us to celebrate with.”

“Is it always this terribly loud and foul smelling?” Dorian interrupted on her other side, near shouting to get her attention over the music and chatter.

“You like it that way big boy, it’s why you keep coming back here.” Bull grinned, looming over Ellana’s head and making Dorian cringe.

His moustache seemed to curl at the comment, but Ellana caught his cheeks tinging red beneath the neon lights. “I am dragged here by mutual acquaintances. Congratulations on you’re fourth placing by the way.”

“Not bad right? They only misplaced us because they don’t want to intimidate next season’s players. It keeps the challenge fresh.”

Ellana had thought it was because of all the fights breaking out on the field and the red penalty cards.

 “I’m sure.” Dorian huffed.

“Alright break it up you two.”  Krem announced, setting down a set of glasses in front of them all. “What’s everyone having? The usual?”

“Yes, my good man—A Sun Blonde—“

“You’re kidding.” Bull intoned, even as Krem began pulling the appropriate ingredients. Dorian ignored him. “You’re gonna drink that weak Tevinter backwash on a Chargers win night?”

“You didn’t technically win if it’s fourth.”

“Fourth! Here, here!” Krem called loudly, making them cringe from his sudden shout.

A ricochet of yells sounded around them and then a thumping of fists hitting tables in awkward coordination, christened by a rally call of ‘Horns Up!”

“Exactly!” Bull nearly roared.

Dorian closed his eyes to it all, sliding the tall liquor into his hands and drinking once Krem had finished.

“Ellana—don’t leave me hanging.”

She gave Bull her most sheepish smile. “I’m sorry I don’t really drink all that… intensely.”

The look Bull gave her was hard to sit straight under. But Krem said nothing as he mixed together a sugary bright pink liquid that she favored.

“Come on elf! Fruit and herbs —“

“Sorry!” She laughed, watching the shaker whisk the concoction in the bright lights.

A vibration tickled her stomach as her phone went off in her pocket.  It continued, longer than a text message would.

“Sorry—excuse me I’m getting a call—“

“You should be drinking Dragon's Blood—“

“You Qunari would be all about drinking blood—“

Her phone’s screen was another neon light flashing across her face, adding to the many already in the bar.

Deshanna.

Ellana frowned, looking at the time.

It was near ten thirty. Sort of late for a Keeper call.

“Hold on—sorry guys!” She slinked out from her seat, but neither Dorian nor Bull seemed to notice she was taking her leave.

“I’ll hold it for you Ellana.” Krem waved.

“Thanks! Congratulations by the way—“ He smiled as she cradled her phone close to her chest, turning back to the flurry of people.

She tried to hurry, but her requests for others to move went deaf in the boom of the speakers and the roar of laughter.

Her phone went silent again, the missed call flashing across her notifications. She would get outside and then just call back—

But Deshanna called again, the ringing lost to only vibrations in her hands.

Squeezing through a few others, she answered, raising her free hand to cover her exposed ear. “Hey! Deshanna—“

“Ellana—Ma Sael—Have you—“

“Hold on, sorry! I can’t hear—“

“It’s terrible—“

“Just a second!”

When she finally pushed out the heavy exit door, it wasn’t much quieter outside.  The cold air hit her hard, wind passing through her fingers into her ear. The dark of the night seemed to amplify the echoes of the groups of people loitering by the entrance.

“Wow—it’s really windy—“

“—I can’t get them to stop calling.”

“Wait, what? Sorry, I couldn’t hear you.”

“Have you read it da’len?”

It was then that she heard the shakiness in her Keeper’s voice.

Something about it made her smile fade until she forgot about Bull, Dorian and the Chargers. The excitement and cheering from the field sidelines at the game today were instantly far away from her mind.

“Read what?”

The words came out in a puff of cold, white and billowing from her lips into the air.

“The article—it’s everywhere. The Report, Crossroads, it’s even been featured on Ages. And they won’t stop calling. I knew when this whole thing, the sponsorship, was announced that there would be those calling. Clans—but humans?”

“Humans? Calling?”

“Ellana the article is about us. The Lavellan clan—because of Ambassador Briala.”

“That’s normal though right? It was on the news, and she’s pretty big—“

“It’s by Fen’Harel da’len. It is not a nice article.”

Ellana shifted there , looking up towards the streetlights along the city. A bottle clacked on the ground behind her and some people starting laughing.

“You need to read it Ellana.”

“I will—“

“I should go, we’ll talk in the morning.”

The phone clicked with no elvhen parting, and she pulled her phone away to look at the blank screen oddly, her breathing seeming to get harder against the cold air.

Her throat tightened as she brought up the small browser on her screen, pulling up a keyboard.

‘Lavellan’ wasn’t hard to type after all these years.

And a small Marcher state Dalish clan like hers did not have a lot of results—except now it did.

The recent news flickered headlines at her like shocks of electricity through her skin.

‘Ambassador Briala’s Legally Recognized Lavellan Drug Corruption,’

The article was listed several times. Six hours ago.

She stood there silently, staring at the words as if she were numb, or dreaming. It felt surreal. Her name, there on the headline links of Ages.

She clicked it, the same headline expanding to take up her whole phone, black and ominous as she scrolled passed it to the article.

But she couldn’t read it. She couldn’t. Her eyes could not manage to focus on the characters. It was like she had forgotten to read properly. So she scrolled instead, up and down, catching sentences as her eyes darted around the words as if to avoid looking at them.

“...the benefits of official recognition come with a privilege of funds that the Lavellan clan has questionable motives to……history of illegal activity and poor standards of behavior in their kin. Lyrium being their game of…”

“… their Keeper, Istimaethoriel has inherited the legacy of the crimes. A Dalish tradition it seems, in these times of political ladder climbing—…a reckless and obvious admission to her ignorance of the elvhen rights, Briala has aligned with the most desperate and disreputable clan she could find in order to…”

Her phone lowered limply and Ellana looked around, her throat tight now and her jaw aching from clamping shut.

It felt as if she was breathing in too much air—or maybe too little. She felt hot, or cold, or maybe she was gonna be sick.

Her phone clipped her skin in her fist and she tried to exhale, but it came out weak and rattled.

She couldn’t—think.

“HEY! There’s the elfy elf! Ellana you got to come an’ see the shot I got off the board! Right in the guitar man’s junky bits on that poster!”

A body thudded into hers, but Ellana was gripping her phone, staring dazedly at the street, thinking of her Keeper’s words.

‘I can’t get them to stop calling.’

She swallowed, not quite hearing Sera as she continued to ramble, her long arms wrapping about her shoulders.

“...What?” She asked, almost listlessly.  

“What are ya doing out here!? I'm freezing my ears off!”

Sera sounded miles away.

‘’...most desperate and disreputable clan…’

“I… got a call and—“

“Let’s go back in! Come on we came to drink like mad an’ break things!” Sera pulled away from her, and when Ellana turned to follow everything felt slow, wrong. Her stomach was heavy but her head was light, like she was nervous.

She should be calling someone, yelling about it—shouldn’t she? But what… was there to do?

“Are ya comin’? You’re not just gonna sit out here are ya?”

She shook her head, following back inside.

The boom of the music and the heat of the bodies inside slammed against her senses oddly. It was like the beat and thumping had slowed, each vibration making her feel like her heart was syncing with the harsh bass, trembling her spine.

‘…Lavellan Drug Corruption…’

Sera was yanking on her arm, and the words flashed through her mind like the lights off the walls.

People bumped into her, and the light headedness seems to fade away with something else, something bubbling hot in her skin.

“Ellana! You can’t just go and leave me here with atrocious company!”

Dorian’s voice was familiar, but Ellana could only stare at the bright pink drink sitting on the bar where she had been not even ten minutes ago.

“Ay! Teacher came out to party with us! Not so dull as doorknobs yet Dorian-Borian?” Sera laughed.

“I’m not a teacher—I’m a professor!”

Ellana didn’t sit, her hands gripping the bar as her heart seemed to finally balance out from its slow pace before rocketing into a harsher one.

“Bull.” She called, maybe too loudly, as her friends all stopped to look over at her.

The Qunari paused his drinking with raised brows.

“How do I get from 0 to 10, right now?”

There was a short silence before he grinned, wide and gleaming. “Now that’s what I’m talking about Herald.”


 

When the ringing came, it was hazy.

His body shifted, the sheets of his bed warning him against waking from his sleep with their softness.

But his mind was already lifting into consciousness with rationality.

Merrill perhaps? Or the papers—Vivienne asking for a secondary response editorial.

Solas creaked open his eyelids, the cold light of his cell phone glowing in the dark as the chiming ring interrupted the dark silence of his bedroom.

He closed his eyes a bit irritably, a hand sliding across the sheets to the corner of his nightstand.

The phone vibrated against his palm before it went limp when his finger slid across it. He considered sliding it again to hang up.

He debated the idea for a few seconds behind his eyelids before placing the phone to his cheek and ear.

Rolling his tongue to a swallow, he silently worked his throat before answering.

“Hello?”

The silence he got in return didn’t encourage him to wake up any further really, but he shifted, a free hand rising to pinch his nose.

“Is there someone there?”

His voice was quiet in the echo of his room.

“He—“

“Ah-Oh… wow.”

The voice drawled, and a soft exhale whispered into his ear.

“Hello?”

“Hello.” They repeated, a lilt indicting a smile or a laugh.

“Hello.” He intoned, brows frowning against his pillow. “Can I help you?”

An actual laugh then, cut off and muffled away from the phone.

“Hm—I don’t know ha’hren, can you?”

The roll in their voice at the name flickered something through his chest and his eyes opened.

He lifted his phone from his ear, eyes gleaning over the screen as his skin went cold.

Ellana
2:35am
00:12…13...14…

His lips parted, sleep escaping every inch of him as he sat upwards. The phone went right back to his ear as he listened to the sound of a short laugh, a breath—his—

Da’len.”

Ah! Ha—yes—“

His hand went to his mouth, listening to her stutter sounds into his ear.

“Mmhmm.”

“Ellana.”

Professor.”

The word shot through him with a burning heat that made him stand, walking immediately away from his bed.

The fingers on his phone were stiff, but his other hand shook, grabbing at his neck and mouth.

She had called him, it was her. Ellana, his da’len, his—she had—

“You sound… so….”

He laughed, he couldn’t not. He let the rising heat fill him and the uncontainable mix of exhilaration and nerves expel with his mirth.

“Ah… your laugh, you laugh so…”

“So what, Ellana?” He confronted. How strange it was that it felt suddenly natural. Surprising and new and yet it felt… so pleasing. 

“So that—even my name, just—hot.”

“Hot!” He exclaimed, a chuckled escaping after the word. Not at all expected.

“No, hot like hot water, like a bath or—“ She paused, breathing sharply. “Wait, are you sleeping?”

“Obviously not any longer. But if you are asking if I was sleeping when you called, then yes.”

“Oh! I’m sorry, I just—I wanted to talk. But I couldn’t, can’t—the letters weren’t right when I pushed them and then I just hmm—“ She trailed, her voice a lazy humming sound of bare emotions.

“No, it is not a problem.” He answered quickly, despite how odd it actually was to be calling at… he checked the phone again with surprise and wondered at her choice of time and the abnormal hum of her voice. It sounded slow, heavy. “Were you asleep when you decided to call me? ”

“No! I’m not tired I just wanted to talk. You’re, you’ve—you’re my best friend and I thought I should tell you that.”

He swallowed, adjusting the phone to avoid his heated ears.  The statement had seemed so innocuously genuine he couldn’t get himself to address it. “If you were not asleep then why do you sound so strange Ellana?”

“I don’t. I’m not.” He could hear her breath puff against the speaker of the phone, the sound sending tickling sensations against his skin.

“Where are you?”

She hummed again, sounding lethargic and relaxed. “I’m at Kremmy’s, my friend’s—house. Place. On top of the bar.”

“Ah, a bar. That answers more than one of my questions.”

Ellana laughed in response.

He found himself smiling at the sound.

They were quite a while, listening, or waiting.

“Where are you?” She asked, it was a soft and slow question as if worried about asking.

He considered the empty room around him, standing there oddly and talking to her.

“I’m home.”

“I know what that looks like.” She stated quietly.

He remembered the photos and suddenly felt his skin heat. “So you do.”

More silence.

Her voice seemed to echo through his chest, and he took a few aimless steps to calm his sudden restlessness. The sound of it was foreign and yet so undeniably real that it was hard to bear.

“I… I’ve wanted to call so bad, but now I don’t know what to say.”

His breath of laughter was silent, a smile of fondness unabashedly on his face.

“I am glad that I am not the only one. On both accounts.”

“Mmm.”

He paused in thought, letting his steps take him to lean against the wall, cradling the phone as close to his ear as he could manage, lest he miss the nuance of her sounds.

“Would you mind me asking what brought this on?”

“What?”

“The call. Or perhaps the state of inebriation.”

Ooh.” She hushed. “Say inebriation again.”

He barked a laugh even as his cheeks grew hot with the lull of her request.

“Ellana.”

She started laughing and the shifting sound of something made him imagine that she must be laying down. He glanced at his bed distractedly.

“Your voice is just… really… really great to listen to. Can—we, I can’t—we’ve just been texting this whole time!”

“Ha! Remorseful now?”

“We could have done this a long time ago!”

“We could have.” He agreed.

“I think I could die just listening to you professor.”

“Ah—“ He swallowed thickly, a hand pressing against the wall beside him. The sound of that rolled down his body in ways that made him weak, tired. “Don’t—Do not call me professor.”

“What, why?”

“Partly because of the way it sounds when you say it, and because of the dangerous ramifications it could cause.”

“Mmm... Rammifications…”

Da’len.”

“What! Wait—don’t tell me professor has a student fetish--”

“It is entirely inappropriate—“

“Oh creators ha’hren, are you the kinky—“

Ellana.”

“Hm.” She stopped at his use of her name, to his dignity and to his restraint. “What do I call you then?”

It was a question of his name.

He knew it was, in the serious silence of her lilting voice.

And the utter temptation to hear this voice speak, Solas, was nearly uncontrollable.

But the nervous shaking through his spine couldn’t let him. It would be too easy. She could look him up; figure him out, with a simple search.

And it would make this… so much more real.

So much more dangerous.

“Ha’hren would do just fine.”

“Oh—how is that fair? You get Ellana.”

His mind ignored her ignorant use of grammar while his body did not.

“Not everything is always fair.” He replied simply, stepping away from the wall.

“How—“

“Why did you call?” He interrupted, remembering his original curiosity and her avoidance of it.

She went quiet.

A long sigh escaped her lips, blowing gently on the speaker.

“I had this—something, well I just---everyone—“

She sighed again with an awkward chuckle. “Some bad… stuff happened today and you—your… always making me feel so happy I thought maybe…”

The warmth of her words knew no bounds in his chest. He sat carefully back down on his bed, memorizing the exact tone of her, just in case.

“What was it?”

“No I—really, it’s… I really don’t want to talk about it.”

His eyes flickered around his room, thinking of the words to say but finding none. “Then we won’t.”

“Hm.” Another sound of a smile and a short silence of content.

He laid back down, the nervous flitting of his anxiousness slipping into a different kind of restlessness. A heat.

“Are there any other words you want me to say to make you feel better da’len?”

“Ha!” A change in the volume let him know she had pulled away or laughed right off her phone. He could hear her mirth in the distance and he chuckled along with her.

“Oh ah—I don’t know, let me think, wait—“

“Well?”

“Say… hmm… say, ‘indomitable.’”

“Such a word to request!”

“Say it, professor.”

His eyes flickered, the sensation of her voice in his ear making everything tighten. His tongue, his chest, his stomach-- everything.

Indomitable.”

There was a tentative inhale, a sweeping sound that excited him beyond his expectation.

“Ellana?”

“Are you alone?”

He breathed out an amused noise. “I am. Why?”

“Are you…”

He waited, the slur of her voice clearing to something weaker. Exhaustion maybe.

“…ah…”

“Am I…?”

“Are you married?”

He nearly laughed the question was so sudden and out of place. But he caught himself, her question almost… bracing.

“I am not.”

He remembered the teases Dorian had for him on the phone the other day, about a ‘wife’ Merrill had assumed he had been messaging. It was almost amusing that Ellana was the one asking now.

“Really?”

“I am not married, Ellana.”

She breathed out shaky and he realized that maybe it had been something she worried. Perhaps in the same way he worried that his… interests were not equal.

Funny how the question solved both answers.

“Are you married?”

“Ah! No—creators, no I’m not.” She breathed deeply and for a moment he thought she wouldn’t continue. “I… just think about you… a lot… lately…”

He didn’t reply. He wasn’t sure how.

“And I… is it… would it be strange if I said I miss you?” She laughed, rushing before he could respond. “It doesn’t make sense I know, I’m—we’ve—since you know we don’t know each other but we do in some ways and it’s just—hmm..”

“It is not so strange a thought.”

“No…?”

“Without much intention, I find myself doing the same. I think about you nearly—” He hesitated only a moment. “Obsessively.”

“Ah…” A shuddered breath, “That’s... well you, ah!”

“Forgive me, that was probably too forward—“

“No—it—I’m, I agree with—just—Yes.”

“Yes?” He chuckled softly, listening to the wonderful smile that filtered so perfectly through her voice.

“Yes, agreed... obsessively.”

“Obsessively?”

Mm.”

He closed his eyes to the sound, the heat of the phone warming more than just his cheek and ear.

Fascinating.

 

Chapter Text

It was the heat that woke her.

The back of her neck felt slightly damp and warmth blanketed her skin from the thick layers of sheets and blankets.

Not to mention her cheek felt like it was on fire.

Opening her eyes seemed like an excruciating task, their heaviness making her head throb. Her limbs wrestled pathetically with the mattress as she tried to shake away the thick sleep from her brain.

“Ugh—“

“Oh watch out, the Archdemon awakens.”

Krem’s voice was as loud as it was familiar.

She pried opened her eyelids as she began to sit up. The burning heat of her cheek suddenly lifting as something hot and heavy slid from it to thud on the bed.  

Her phone.

She stared at it, not quite comprehending… well, anything.

“Aren’t you going to say good morning?”

Ellana found Krem sitting across the room at his desk, twisted to look back at her where she laid in his bed.

“Wha—“ The words died in her dry and grimy mouth, thick with sleep and the taste of something sour and rancid. “Urgh—“

“Ellana if you’re gonna throw up—“

The notion hadn’t occurred to her until Krem has said the very words and suddenly her hands went to her mouth at the thought.

“No—not in my bed, not in my bed!”

She shut her eyes, listening to Krem thud across the room towards the bathroom. The rustling of a trash bin came back with him.

“No… I’m okay.” She answered, swallowing thickly and feeling her stomach roil and churn back into place.  “Just…”

“Completely hungover?”

“No—“ She defended immediately, but when he sat down on the bed and dipped the mattress with a bouncing motion her chest lurched. “Maybe.”

“How’s your head?”

She took some time to think about that. Her fingers lifted to trace the imprint of her phone’s shape on her cheek. “Hot.” She answered, twisting to look for her phone buried in the sheets.

“That’s not so bad. Not after a bottle of Bull’s good stuff.”

The memory of the smell of said good stuff had her pausing to cringe. 

“He was surprised you were actually well put together.”

“Was I?”

“You don’t remember?”

Ellana stared at Krem for a bit as her mind tried to piece back fuzzy images and words like a broken videotape. She shook her head.

“Well you missed a good arm wrestling match then.” He smiled wide, leaning over to pat her shoulder.

“Oh no—I do remember that.” She groaned, flashes of Grim’s thick mustache curling in front of her as they stared each other down, fists locked and everyone screaming around them. “And oh god Sera—“

“Screaming at the top of her lungs from Boss’s horns?”

“I was gonna say shooting darts at the back bottles.”

He laughed. “So you do remember.”

“I think so.”

It came back to her slowly but surely, the loud music and dancing with Dorian, the games and Elvish. She had been speaking Elvish with Dalish near the end of the night before Krem had dragged her to the apartment.

“Oh, I’m so sorry—“

“Hey no—“

“I didn’t mean to crash on you like that.”

“It happens. We thought it better you stay here than stumble your way back to your place.”

She couldn’t disagree with that. And Krem’s bed had been comfortable, quiet enough for her phone call—

Her eyes stared blankly at the room as she felt her heated body grow cold.

“Poor Dorian had a hard time getting Sera home though, with her screaming about Elves having harder stomachs and Bull egging her on.”

“Without much intention, I find myself doing the same. I think about you nearly—“

“Fuck—“

“What?”

“—obsessively.”

But it hadn’t been real, had it? The conversation piecing back together in her head felt hazy, surreal, to perfectly imagined to have actually happened.

Her fingers ripped at the blankets, dived past the pillows to snatch the phone from where it fell.

“What’s wrong?”

“I—“

When her screen slid on, her phone shouted at her.

Low Battery
20% of battery remaining.

She dismissed the warning, ignoring Krem as she filtered through her apps to her most recent phone calls.

And like cold wash of water over her, there it was. 

F.H.
2:35am   Outgoing    2 hours 14 minutes

“Ellana?”

Real, more than real.

Her body was on fire again.

And worse, while she could remember…

“Da’len.”

“Don’t—do not call me Professor.”

“Indomitable.”

“Ellana.”

--most of it, another hour and 14 minutes was apparently missing from her brain.

“Hey—“

“Sorry I just realized that I might have—“ Her eyes glanced at the dying battery on her phone and then the time.

3:21pm.

“Fuck! Overslept! Shit!”

“Whoa—!“

She shot up, ripping past Krem and stumbling over her shoes abandoned on the floor.

Krem stood after her, calling as she raced to his bathroom and shoved on the sink to wash her face.

“You know it’s Saturday right? Nothing to do—“

“No I—I have to meet someone—“ She yelled back, in between rinsing her face. “At four!”

Krem laughed and she heard him disappear back to his desk. “Better cancel that one Ellana. I figured you were out for good once it went past noon.”

She breathed shakily, eyes catching sight of her reflection in the mirror.

‘A mess’ was the only descriptor she could come up with. Still in clothes from the night before, she probably smelled like a bar. And any makeup she had was gone, or not where it should be.

And with only 40 minutes and counting, there would be no stopping by her apartment.

There was no way she could see him, or anyone really, like this.

Not that she had been feeling up to this meeting ever since—

And then she remembered the one thing she had been trying to forget all night last night.

“… Legally Recognized Lavellan Drug Corruption.”

That nearly made her retch by itself.

Still—she stared at her face before glancing down at her hands, where the two bracelets she had made this past week still sat tried around her wrists.

“Krem! Can I borrow a pen and paper?”

 




She didn’t actually leave Krem’s until 3:52pm.

Which meant she didn’t round the corner to the bookstore on East until 4:13pm.

Ellana then proceeded to stare at the building for another two minutes.

She hadn’t had time to think – to process. Her mind was a riot of thoughts and memories. Her fingers pressed hard into the crease of paper in her hands, an envelope dangling delicately in her hands as she shifted on her feet.

Did he even remember? 

Had they ever actually confirmed this… meeting?

When she had first suggested it, she had meant it as a game. As a fun chance to see him in passing or maybe even… maybe actually –

But now…

Now she was standing on the corner in Cremisius Aclassi’s extra rugby jersey and a pair of his ratty jeans. Her hair was a nightmare to match the state of her face and the feeling in her stomach.

She was nowhere near presentable, let alone ready for something like this.

Especially not with memories of his voice.

She shivered there in the open air, staring at the glass doors of the two story bookstore, blindly imagining the roll of his accent and the curl of her name on his lips.

It was so—

“Argh…” The noise wasn’t one of eager frustration, but overshadowing anxiety.

Because while her skin crawled with thoughts of her ha'hren, this stranger that had encompassed her for weeks , there was something impossibly more pressing in her mind.

That damned article.

She couldn’t meet him like this. Not on the verge of an utter breakdown.

Ellana watched the customers come and go from the doors. It was predictably busy on a Saturday afternoon, even for a small quaint looking place.

A few kids pushed out as a woman in green walked in. A tall man in glasses talked on his phone outside the entrance. Another shorter man with long ponytailed hair passed by him.

Technically, he could be any of them. And at nearly 20 minutes late now, he may be sitting in there somewhere. Watching for her.

Ellana rubbed at her Vallaslin self-consciously before staring determinedly at the side walk and making her way toward the bookstore.


His fingers curled on the leather, twisting about his steering wheel to find comfort in the humming of the car’s engine as it idled.

According to the signs along the street, he had another half hour before he would get a ticket for parking there.

His eyes slid to the clock on his dashboard.

4:24pm

His body felt heavy and light all at the same time. Drugged.

His fingers grabbed at the keys in his ignition, yanking them to shut off his car and pull them into his hands.

But then he sat and another minute went by marked only by the people walking by his car on the sidewalk.

He cursed, leaning back into his seat with a sigh.

The chances that his da’len had actually come through with their plans today were slim. He had told himself that this morning.

He had convinced himself that he should brush off the meeting even as he had dressed and left his apartment.

He had gotten there at 2:00pm and subsequently spent the hours moving his car to various one-hour spots as he debated the madness of this entire charade.

And of course, his phone had been silent.

Ellana had sent no messages, no confirmation of meeting as planned. No hints of their chat the night before.

Not that she was likely in a state to do anything of the sort.

He smiled, not the first time, at the memory of her seemingly unending laughter. That breathy sound of joy whispered to him late into the night until it had become the steadier sounds of sleep.

She had carried on with half answers and incoherent questions for as long as she could. Leaving him with nothing to do but torturously contemplate their interactions and intimacy well past morning.

He hadn’t been able to hang up on her, opting instead to watch the seconds tick by on his phone screen.

As if each second marked something… more.

Something very, undeniably frightening.

He swallowed, turning in his seat to look back down the street to where the bookstore stood.

The desire to see her, wholly, to know her – to hear that voice in front of him, tangible and real –was something he had tried to ignore the more they had interacted.

And while there was no denying anymore what he wanted…

He couldn’t. Not like this.

Not as… he was.

She would see him and leave, almost assuredly.

Or perhaps it would be worse. She could see him and be kind, kind and only that.

Not something unexpected, nor nothing he couldn’t handle. But he was frightened of it, a look in her eyes that meant what they had now would be lost forever to unforgiving reality.

This… vague relationship they had now. This limbo of voices and words wasn’t worth losing. Not yet.

Was it?

Solas slid his fingers in the door handle of his car, popping it open and sliding out into the air. He locked it, checked the sign once more, and pulled on his phone.

4:29pm.

He could text her, of course. Perhaps she had forgotten in the celebration of the day before (and the assumed haze of the morning.)

He glanced down the street.

Or he could call her.


Avoiding people in a bookstore was a lot harder than she expected it to be.

Ellana had never felt so paranoid in her life.

Every look was like a stab through her mind and her only reprieve was avoiding them entirely by racing through aisles to back corners.

She had a plan, of course, but it had still required coming inside.

With a narrow goal and anxiety driving her, she focused on finding the history section.

It ended up being on the second floor and she took the stairs two at a time, passing maps and dictionaries lining the railing.

It was quieter up there, less populated.

There would be no way her ha’hren would be lurking in corners would he? Surely he would be in the corner café downstairs that she had very purposefully avoided.

Glancing at the shelves, she moved past Orlesian art history.

The aisles converged, the walls cornered out into a nook of the smallest Elvhen section she had ever seen.

There was someone there, sitting on the floor in front of the shelves with stacks of book piled high to their left and right, sorting. Working.

Not her ha’hren. Good.

The Ralaferin Archives weren’t hard to miss. Even in this store the covers looked as aged as the ones she remembered back home. The silver typeface on the spines were worn but not cracked. Not used, just forgotten.

Not that she could blame anyone; those books were the worst for boring historical accounts for Elvish culture.  

Still, she was smiling as she stepped forward to look down the series of books, scanning over Gisharel’s name for…

“Gods and Applicable Rituals.” She identified, pulling the book out just a bit.

The employee on the floor glanced at her as she dropped the envelope next to the propped spine.

She tried to ignore them, stepping away and wondering if the written ‘Professor’ was visible enough.

It was.

There. She could leave now. Text him and go home.

Ellana turned, getting just far enough to the end of the aisle before turning back to the little white letter sitting there innocuously.

She came back with worry.

This was stupid, wasn’t it? What if he wasn’t even coming today?

What if it got tossed, or stolen? Then it would look like she had stood him up or flaked completely.

She turned, looking around before spotting the employee sorting on the floor. She twisted to get a look at their face.

A younger boy, a student maybe. Some part timer.

Their name was stitched into their shirt.

“Excuse me, ah—Cole?”

They looked up, big eyes and surprise on their faces. Their hands paused midway, shoved in the shelf to hold their heavier texts upright.

“You know my name?” He asked, shoulders tense.

“It’s on your shirt.”

He seemed to relax.

“Sorry—I used to forgot about it at work too.”

He stared.

Ellana tried to smile in a friendly way, but it probably came out weird.

“Listen, hey—I know this is probably stupid but could you do me a favor? Since you work here?”

“I don’t work here.”

Ellana stared down at him.

Cole looked back up at her, his hands continuing to organize the books back into place with a serious and odd expression.

“Oh… sorry. I just figured since you’re…”

‘Working’ seemed almost insulting, even if it felt… obvious.

The boy scratched his arm before glancing behind her, to the shelves where her letter sat.

“You… need help?”

She smiled.

“Will you be here awhile?” She asked.

He nodded, glancing at her. “I still have all those to do.” He pointed somewhere down the aisle.

“Do you think you could make sure no one steals or throws that away? It’s for someone specific; they should be here soon to get it.”

Maybe. She really had no idea.

He nodded again, but this time he stood, gangly limbs stretching out to crowd nervously by the shelves. “Don’t let it get thrown away or stolen.” He repeated.

“Yeah—is that okay?”

“Who’s not going to steal it?”

“What?”

“How will I know it’s not getting stolen?”

“Oh ah… my friend should come get it…” Even as she began, Ellana could see the problem.

“What does your friend look like?”

Ellana swallowed, suddenly feeling even more foolish, in Krem’s clothes, hiding letters and talking to strangers in bookstores.

“I don’t…”

The boy stared and Ellana felt like she was looking back at her own nervousness.

Telling the boy a description of long hands and rounded fingers was out of the question.

“I don’t know what he looks like.”

If she was expecting a judgmental expression, she didn’t get one. Cole just nodded in some misplaced understanding.

“What’s his name?”

“I…ha, I don’t know!”  And then she was laughing, trying to keep quiet as she turned to stare at her letter.

Cole didn’t laugh, but he didn’t look at her like she was crazy either.

“Maybe… maybe put it in the book then.”

She turned, catching blue eyes looking a bit excited.

“That way only they will find it. And I can see them looking?”

“That’s—that’s a good idea.”

She twisted, heading back to the scrap and sliding out the spine. Cole came with her, watching over her shoulder as she pressed the letter into the pages. It was a bulky fit, but the book slid back into place.

“I’ll make sure to guard it.”

“It’s really not that big of a deal.” She tried to assure at his adamant words.

But Cole looked vigilant already.

“Hey, thanks - and please don’t think you have to stay. If they don’t get it today I’m sure it will still be here tomorrow or… you know, they don’t really need it or anything.”

He gave her what she might call a smile, saying nothing as he retreated back to his circle of books.

“Thanks Cole.”

His face went slack again.

“You know my name?”

Ellana’s brows rose. “It’s… on your shirt. Remember?”

He looked down again before turning back up. “Oh, yes.”

She gave a wave, feeling a bit wary about the whole plan already.

Heading back through the aisles, she fished for her phone to send a message as she made her way downstairs.

Low Battery
10% of battery remaining.

“Creators, yes, I know.”

She hushed, avoiding the populated register lines.

She drew up her texts typing furiously, avoiding everyone and walking quickly to the exit doors.

Her message sent – or tried to, when her phone vibrated loudly in her hands.

Her screen flickered.

F.H.
4:36pm

She nearly dropped the damn thing, and in her attempt at texting her thumbs slid across the call as it appeared.

And she answered.

“Fuck—!“

F.H.
0:01…02…03…

She heard something—even as her heart pounded like drums in her ears and all the people in the store around her seemed louder than a concert.

Ellana rushed to the doors, gripping the phone like a hot coal as she escaped and tried to head quickly down the street. Only when she was far enough did she raise it to her ear.

“Hey—“

A beep sounded loudly before a chime.

She pulled her phone away.

Dead.

Chapter Text

—Ellana 4:36pm
Im sorry Im not going to make it today hahren but I left something for you with Gisharel upstai-

Solas traced his thumb over the message.

That was all he had gotten since yesterday.

“This one seems…”

Merrill’s voice had him snapping back to her attention.

She trailed, her fingers rustling with the newspaper in her hands as she flipped the pages. “Oh, I’ve lost it now. I never know how they fold –“

“Page 10.”

“Ah oh—“

Solas paused, his fingers lifting from the digital keys on his phone screen.

Merrill fumbled a moment longer before finding the continued article and reading. “It just seems a little…”

He waited.

“Terribly mean.”

 He gave a short sigh, one that sounded more like a huff.

“Well—I mean only that it seems a bit direct. Too blunt perhaps—or maybe just too harsh, considering—“

“Do you know the Lavellan clan?”

Merrill’s large eyes came up to meet his from across the table.

“No. Not really.”

“They are a Free Marches clan.” He reminded.

“We didn’t meet much with other clans. And even as First I wasn’t exactly permitted to…well.” Merrill looked a bit embarrassed and her face buried deeper behind the newspaper. “Talk with others.”

“Well they hardly deserve a sympathy born of blood alone.  They are just another clan amongst many whom used Elvhen history to claim wisdom and prestige only to use it for their own selfish pursuits.”

“But lyrium isn’t illegal on clan reservations. We used it often on sickness—“

“They were not using it medicinally. They sold it to Carta for profit.” Solas went back to his phone, scrolling through his email with disinterest.

His day had been terribly unexciting since yesterday’s bookstore escapade. And his phone even more woefully silent.

Not that he had been trying to amend that either. 

His eyes caught the sliver of the twisted braid on his wrist, slipping beneath his sleeve.

“Oh.” Merrill shifted. “I wonder if Varric knows anything about—“

That had his attention again.

“Am I to remind you not to tell anyone of my pseudonym?”

“Oh! No I wasn’t—of course!”

The waitress came by with their meals and after a bit more quiet reading; Merrill set the paper down to take up her fork instead. “Do you think they’ll answer your editorial?”

“The Lavellans?”

“Or Briala?”

He thought about that, turning to consider the people passing by them as they sat outside under the shaded umbrella.

“I could not be certain. The Ambassador does not seem the type to answer criticism.”

“What about Keeper Istimaethoriel?”

Solas shook his head. “That I hardly know. I have never met her or the Lavellan clan.”

Merrill’s nose wrinkled as she chewed, looking at him with a hint of disapproval he didn’t miss. He ignored it though, finally sliding his phone out of his hands and gathering some bread onto his plate.

“Who is their First?” She inquired.

Solas just shook his head again.

“You didn’t see it in your research?”

“My research entailed the clan and their history. Not their generation of Firsts.”

Merrill looked further disappointed with him but just gave a lengthy sigh and continued eating, clanking her fork on her salad dish. Solas wondered if they had been working together long enough now that she knew not to argue anymore.

“I wonder what this all means for the mirror now.”

“Considering they are not related, nothing.”

Merrill looked at him with a furrowed brow, her voice turning into something wistful. “But, Briala is very popular in Orlais isn’t she? I see her in pictures all the time at parties… and even the Dalish talked of her now and then. If she’s Orlesian and being nice to the people then maybe… maybe the court would be more sympathetic to my—ah—the Sabrae getting the mirror. Well. Legally.”

Solas continued to cut his bread, reaching for the margarine.

 “Well... maybe not if everyone ends up hating them because of your articles—“

“I’m sure the Orlesian courts have already decided that the Eluvian is theirs. Sympathy or not, it does not benefit their government to simply hand over such artifacts.”

“It… really doesn’t bother you, does it?”

He stopped then, looking up to find Merrill’s expression turned hurt and slightly confused.

It was a conversation they had often since first meeting. With Merrill being the mirror’s direct discoverer, and a former First of the Sabrae clan, he wasn’t surprised. He was surprised by how often she pressed the issue with him though,

“I don’t understand Solas. You work so hard to restore it, catalog it, and you don’t care where it goes when it’s finished—“

“Merrill.” She stopped, her lips turning inward as she near shirked from his cold tone. “I care that it is preserved. The Dalish cannot do that. With nothing to say about their stubborn society as a whole—refusing help offered to them and yet demanding privileges they do not fight to earn—they know as much about preserving Elvhen artifacts as they do about the history of such items. Can you honestly name a person in your clan now that would be knowledgeable enough to care for the Eluvian aside from yourself?”

Merrill was quiet then.

Solas bit back his own urge to sigh at her.

He would never understand the Dalish devotion to their clans. Even when, like Merrill, they had been nothing but full of disloyalty and degradation 

“I only think it would help. Marethari would have thought so.”

His hand pressed at his nose briefly, glancing at his still-silent phone, the blank and cracked screen reflecting nothing but the sky above them.

“Let us focus on restoring it then. Or there will be no reason to argue in the future.”


 

“Could we get some beer when your—“

“No—Creators—no beer, please.”

Varric’s grin burst wide but he nodded. “Alright, alright—one beer and a refreshing and boring water for my friend here.”

The waitress jotted it down with a nod.  “I’ll bring it out with your fries.”

“Thanks.”

Ellana watched the woman disappear and ignored Varric’s glib smile, her head resting on her crossed arms draped over the table.

“Still feeling Friday night, Herald? Two days later even?”

She glared and didn’t bother asking how he knew about the party the other night. Not when everyone seemed to know everything about her life.

Well except one thing.

She ignored the thought of her phone and looked up at him. “I’m not in the mood.”

Her expression must have looked serious because his shoulders lowered and his hands fell to his sides. “Yeah, alright. But listen—I did my homework after you called and I found some interesting things.”

Ellana shifted, not trying to be too hopeful as Varric twisted, shuffling through his bag beside him.

He brought out a few magazines and printed papers to join the newspaper that sat between them.

“This Fen’Harel guy gets around, let me tell you.” He shook his head, spreading the issues across the table. “The Circle, Crossroads, Dailies, Ages—he’s non-contractual by the looks of it.”

Ellana grabbed one of the magazines, flipping to a page that was tabbed by a piece of paper.

She still hadn’t been able to read the full article about the Lavellan clan. She had sought out the links, sat staring at her computer screen with short breaths and skimmed over the words – but she couldn’t get herself to actually read the damn thing.

She was hoping she didn’t have to.

Instead she read the one in her hands. “’The Elvhen Sink Arlathan; A Study in the City’s Self-Destruction,’ is he Tevinter?” She asked out loud, actually shifting away from the article in her bafflement.

“One would start to think so.” Varric chuckled, opening another and sliding it toward her. “I don’t know a lot about Elvhen stuff—but everything he writes about seems to piss off your people.”

“’The Misgivings of the Elvhen Pantheon---‘ Wow, no kidding,” She frowned, skimming down the paragraph.  “Is he always so angry?”

“Dunno, I didn’t read a lot of it. I hate technical jargon and all those annotations—bah! Where’s the prose? The juicy intrigue and dialogue—“

Ellana’s eyes flickered to Varric with an amused smile.  He caught her eyes with a less than sheepish look.

“What can I say, I’m a critic too you know.”

She laughed before looking back down.

“Did you find out anything else?”

“Eh… not much surprisingly. He’s anonymous and usually that just means I have to track down a publisher and an agent. But this is journalism not fiction. And he’s freelance. “ Varric’s hand scratched at his beardless chin in thought, looking more frustrated than she usually saw him. “So I just found some sad zine interview with him where he talked about his opinions and how he works for museums.”

“Museums? Doing what?”

Varric pushed through the magazines to find the one in question. “It didn’t say. He could be a janitor or a ticket pusher for all we know. Maybe if I give Leliana a call—“

“I’ve got a beer, an order of fries and a water?”

They both pulled away to take in the sudden appearance of their waitress and Ellana hurried to gather up all the papers and magazines into a stack to make room for their order.

As the waitress set their plates down and left, Ellana stared at the pile towering next to the salt shakers.

“That’s… a lot of publications.”

“Noooo!” Varric drawled, putting on a much too exaggerated look. “It’s not that much. Not at all. Not for a writer that….ah…..”

Ellana glared at him.

“Alright. It’s a lot. Especially since that’s only four months—“

“Four--!”

“He’s good, alright? And unfortunately… he’s popular.” Varric pulled the fries between them closer to himself, plucking up the ketchup. “Not with your kind of course, but the humans seem to like him. Or maybe it’s because he rattles the Dalish so much that they like him, who knows.”

She had hoped that meeting with Varric about the entire mess would make her feel better, but instead she felt the weighty thickness of dread grow larger in her throat. She didn’t want to think about how many humans had read the article. Neither did she want to think about how many had been calling the reservation asking questions. Or worse.

He would ruin her.

“The Ambassador hasn’t called you yet?” Varric asked.

Ellana continued to stare at the magazines, not in the least bit hungry.

“No. I mean, it’s only Sunday. I figured she hadn’t seen it yet or—“

“Oh believe me, she saw it.”

“You really aren’t being very helpful.” She pointed out.

Varric gave her a sad smile and reached his hand across to pat at hers.

“Look Ellana, this is how this world goes. These politicians…” He trailed, considering his beer before continuing. “This is what they do it for. The slander, rumors, and betrayal—“

“This isn’t some TV show Varric.” Ellana interrupted. “This guy doesn’t even know us and—“

“It’s all a TV show. Politics are a game; a very cruel, meticulous game with lots of casualties.” His voice went softer. Reassuring. “And you better believe that Briala was ready for it. Heck, I don’t doubt a woman like her gets excited about these things.”

Ellana pursed her lips before slumping her head into her hands. “I guess.”

“Come on. You had to expect a little bit of this.”

“Well…”

And with that retrospect, she almost felt tired. As if she kept forgetting the obstacles in her way for simply being Dalish. Or Elvhen even. “I just wish they hadn’t caught my Keeper in all of it.”

“Deshanna’s a strong woman. And even if she’s not, don’t you worry about anyone bothering her.” Varric looked up, his normally softer eyes stiffening beneath his brow as he took a drink. “I’ll take care of that.”

It wasn’t the first time she had seen that look in his eye, but this time Ellana didn’t try to persuade him from whatever scheme he had in mind.

“Thanks.” She smiled, finally reaching for some food.

“Don’t mention it. Although—” His lilt had her looking up, pausing with fries in her fingers. “If you came out as Herald…”

She openly laughed, a loud sharp whistle of a laugh.

“I doubt anyone would knock down the Herald of Andraste for lyrium smuggling.” He persisted through her mirth.

“Yeah—except the Chantry! Are you insane?”

“They’re going to find out sometime that you aren’t spending your post-scholarship days singing prayers and whittling the ears off Shartan.”

Ellana shook her head. “Just a little longer—I know this plan can work without me.”

Varric gave a pointed sigh. “Well keep it in mind would you? I’m sort of excited to write another script or two. Something dramatic, with long helicopter shots of cityscapes and rain—“

A loud rattling on the wood of their restaurant table had them both turning to stare.

Ellana’s phone beeped and flashed before going quiet.

A text.

And the tightness in her throat seemed to release into a different kind of dread.

“Ah, ah!” Varric chided when Ellana’s hand reached out quickly. She stopped.

“No phones when you’re eating with me, remember? You start texting and you can cover this whole bill.”

She smirked, picking up the phone with vigor. “It’s a good thing the Chantry has a tab then, isn’t it?”

Varric laughed but shook his head, raising his hand and waving over their waitress. “You kids and your 140 characters…—Yeah, can we get the check? My friend here obviously has more important people to talk to.”

Chapter Text

—F.H. 1:02pm 
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—Ellana 1:34pm
you got it!
I cant believe it
I thought my message never went through?
my phone died

—F.H. 1:36pm 
Ah. That explains your silence.   F.H.

—Ellana 1:36pm
ir abelas
when I didnt get anything back I figured
you didnt even show up
or changed your mind

—F.H. 1:37pm
And here I was thinking the same as you.   F.H.

—Ellana 1:38pm
well
now we match!

—F.H. 1:38pm
Glad to know you have done this correctly.
Might I see yours da’len?   F.H.

—Ellana 1:39pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]  

—F.H. 1:40pm
From the same material even.
I’m impressed Ellana.
More so by your boldness in this action than the accuracy.
I admit I was surprised when I found it, as if you and I are not what we are.
Whatever that is.   F.H.

—Ellana 1:42pm
you mean…?  

—F.H. 1:43pm
Ara’lin’hasal.
Perhaps you do not know what it means.
And yet I am even more amused to have been given it.   F.H.

—Ellana 1:45pm
I just wanted to give you something that meant more than you know…
pastries.
and I know youre not dalish
so maybe it was too much
sorry
I just feel
that with you sometimes
ma’av’in.

—F.H. 1:48pm
I was just about to tell you how the practice of Ara’lin’hasal predates the Dalish many times over.
But it is suddenly not important.
Veraisa   F.H.  

—Ellana 1:48pm
hah!!! no hahren 
this isnt how I thought this would go

—F.H. 1:49pm
Oh?
You give me a Lover’s Knot and this is not your expectation?
We clearly have different ideas of how we would handle one another.   F.H.  

—Ellana 1:50pm
hah! believe me
I have
so
many
ideas

—F.H. 1:51pm
Would that I had the time to hear each one.   F.H.

—Ellana 1:51pm
sooooo
I should call?  

—F.H. 1:51pm
Gods no.
I tremble at the thought of my self-restraint wavering under sways of your words.
And ignoring current company to get to know you better instead is tempting.   F.H.

—Ellana 1:52pm
your expectations of me are intimidating

—F.H. 1:53pm
Would that the other half of my ara’lin’hasal were here.
I would show her something truly intimidating   F.H.

—Ellana 1:53pm
your messing with me now
teasing me
making fun

—F.H. 1:53pm
Maybe a bit of both. Honest play with a bit of fun.
The interest is sincere, but so is my desire to amuse you.
As you so greatly amuse me da'len.   F.H.

— Ellana 1:53pm
And here I was thinking about your hands in very bad places.

—F.H. 1:53pm
As if there is a place on you that would be bad for my hands to be.
It seems like every inch of you would be just fine with my hands.   F.H.

—Ellana 1:55pm
 maybe more than fine
 I remember calling you
I remember your voice
Mar lah palasha

—F.H. 1:56pm
Ha! Ah
I must insist on a level of self-restraint.   F.H.

Ellana 1:57pm
scared hahren?

—F.H. 1:58pm
Completely.
And excited all the same.
But I prefer to savor the things that taste the sweetest and I would very much like to memorize wild step we take.
You are not helping with your haste.   F.H.

—Ellana 1:58pm
I have some indomitable focus
and dont act like you arent a troublemaker either
professor

—F.H. 2:00pm
Ellana satha.
Its not as if
Im not
Ha’mi’in my heart   F.H.

— Ellana 2:01pm
can I call you?

—F.H. 2:01pm
Yes.
No.Dont'
im nota-
I can’t.   F.H.

— Ellana 2:02pm
later?

— F.H. 2:04pm
Yes.  F.H.

 

Chapter Text

Ellana nearly crashed straight through her door.

Her rush had the stack of newspapers and magazines in her arms sent banging to the floor at her feet. Her hand twisted on the key in her lock and she stumbled forward, using all her focus not to drop her phone as well.

“Shit—“

She kicked the magazines across the floor and released her key, shutting the door quickly.

A bag dropped to the ground, a jacket, and her shoes followed quickly after.

Her heart felt like it was in her throat. A pulsing throb that made her fingers twitch.

She tried to ignore it, to preoccupy herself with turning on her lights in the apartment.

“Can I call you?”

“I can’t”

“Later?”

“Yes.”

Ellana exhaled, stopping in her pace in the apartment to grab at her face and stare blankly around her.

Why? Why had she asked? She was in no—there was no way she could call him.

And yet.

She wondered if it was already ‘later.’

Phone still in her hands, she glanced at the clock as if she had forgotten, despite having checked it since that last exchange.

6:00pm. More than enough time now, right?

And she was home.

Her lunch with Varric was far behind her now. And surely her ha’hren was also out of his own engagements.

Ellana purposefully tossed her phone to the bed and ignored it.

This was stupid. She had other things she needed to do. Writing up her speech for the ever coming Appeal being the most pressing.

She glanced to her desk, already set up with paper and littered textbooks. Her laptop sat open but blank and she realized that perhaps sending Braila an email after that wretched article was a good idea too.

She caught the site of Fen'harel's scattered published works by her door and glared. Then again, she could see about writing a rebuttal to that too.

Somehow her mind ended on the idea of cleaning instead.

A few empty glasses clattered in her hands as she pulled them from her desk to place by the kitchen sink. But she didn’t have the energy to turn the water on and really set to work, so she paced back to the front of the door and started piling the papers and magazines into her arms, carrying them across the room.

But her mind was a mess.

It was anywhere but on her clan, a thought that made her subconscious guilt sting her to the core.

Or maybe it was because of the tragedy that the entire issue was right now, that all she could think about was him.

Her stranger.

It only took a wistful look at her phone on the bed before she dropped all the magazines to the floor again and crawled across the sheets and pillows to snatch it.

Ellana’s fingers rushed across screen to find his contact, lying on her back as she stared at his number.

Her lip curled as she stared at it.

She had called him before. This wasn’t the first time. She tried to remind herself of that fact even as she silently argued that before she had been backed by a large red bottle of Dragon’s Blood and memory loss.

What she wouldn't do for a bottle right now.

Her thumb pushed the little phone icon and the screen faded into a call.

She ended it with a touch of the big red button.

No.

No, not a good idea.

I tremble at the thought of my self-restraint wavering under sways of your words.’

She could almost remember what his voice sounded like. What it would sound like to hear him say that instead of read it.

Calling him could only end in so many ways. And it couldn’t end with her meeting him at some bar down the road. Bad.

Or inviting him over.  Worse.

No. She couldn’t call him.

Ellana left her phone on the bed, dragging herself away from the sheets and into her bathroom.

She washed her face, fixed her hair, and changed her clothes.

…only to come back and snatch her phone, push the contact into a call, and press it into her ear.

He was probably busy.

It rang.

Maybe it would just go to voicemail.

Another ring.

Oh fuck if she had to leave a voicemail of all things she would just die—

The phone clicked and the silence changed.

The thumping of her heart stopped. She sat down hastily, staring at her wall.

“Hello.”

‘Hi,’ ‘Hello,’ ‘Oh hey there,’ ‘What’s up,’

They all flew through her mind even as her mouth didn’t move.

The silence dragged and his voice, the pure sound of it, seemed to echo in her brain.

Talk dammit.

“Easy now, it’s not like we have not done this before.”

The roll of the sentence snapped her and she just laughed, falling backward on her bed. “Ha—sorry. Hello. Hi.”

“Hello.”

She stared at her ceiling.

“Savhalla.”

A chuckle. “Savhalla.”

“Hello.”

“Is that all our conversations are going to be? Many greetings?”

She went quiet, stifling more nervous laughter. Her skin felt cold.

“Sorry-I ah, h-how are you?”

“I’m well.”

Ellana nodded at no one.

“Better now.” He added. She knew him to be smiling, but couldn’t picture it.

“Oh, ha.”

Silence.

Ellana twisted, sitting up once more, not seeming to be able to figure out how her body worked as she focused on the steady quiet coming from the phone.

“I don’t-“

“You—“

They paused and she grimaced at her obvious and terrible awkwardness even as he continued in a rush that left the sound of his voice a haze in her brain.

“If I might say something before we continue da’len?”

“Yeah. Yes.”

“I am… just as—” A breath, “unprepared as I imagine you are.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“I just—I don’t know what to say.”

“I do not think there is anything either of us should say.” She could hear the phone shift as he spoke. Like he was moving. “It is about what we want to say. I know there are many things I want to say to you.”

“Like what?”

“You want to hear all of them now?” He asked incredulously, with an amusement that spread to her own smile.

“No—Yes—Sorry. I have a lot I want to say to you to it just—this is so weird. Isn’t it weird?”

“Only as weird as we are making it. Which yes, at the moment, is quite.”

“I mean when you think about it. Really-really think about it. We hardly know each other. I don’t even know your—where you’re—where are you right now?”

“Always so curious about where I am.”

“I’m not the one who flies first class to Parendale.”

“Do you ask because you will come and meet me when you find out?”

Ellana sucked her lip into her teeth and pulled it hard.  “No.”

“I will admit that is the reason I so often do not ask where you are.”

“I’m at home.”

He laughed loudly, the sound rumbling from the phone and thrumming through her chest.

“Well don’t tell me!”

She felt her face flush red, but her lips broke into a smile.

She waited, his mirth fading softly, a hum in his throat.

He spoke so heavily. It wasn’t what she was expecting, but she couldn’t really imagine anything else now.

“So what occupies you at home, Ellana?”

Ellana shifted, turning lazily to glance at her desk of papers, and remembered the pile of magazines on the floor.

“I was ah—reading. Sort of.”

“Anything of interest?”

She couldn’t stop herself from scoffing loudly. “No, not at all.”

He chuckled. “More studying I presume?”

Her nose wrinkled. “Yes, lots of history and culture. Going to lecture me, Professor?”

“No—then I would still be working.”

She laughed.

“Are you like me? Do you do nothing but work?”

Ellana shifted, sitting up as if to properly defend herself. “No—no I do lots of—“

She remembered her argument with Sera, and Josephine’s insistence of her coming around more often, or Dorian’s constant phone calls.

“I do things.” She ended lamely.

“What sorts of things?”

“I went to lunch with a friend today to talk about—“

“Work?”

“What do you do ha’hren?”

“I just admitted that is all I do as well.” He reassured. “However I have a hobby or two.”

“If they are related at all to your work they don’t count.”

“Now, that’s not fair.”

“How many things can a teacher get up to anyway? What is it you people do?”

“You people!”

“Well I mean—I have a few friends who are teachers and they all hang out together like a—“

Ellana thought of Dorian and what he did on the weekend.

“We are not all alike. It is not a cult.”

“A clan I was going to say.”

“Ah yes, of course. A clan.”

Something in his voice hitched. Like something exasperated.

“What?”

“Nothing, I only wonder at what a clan full of teachers—Keepers, would be like.”

Ellana laughed, pressing her feet into the sheets.

“Probably a lot more responsible.”

“Hmm. Debatable.”

“I keep forgetting you’re not Dalish.”

As soon as she said it she wished she hadn’t. They hadn’t mentioned their argument in the slightest since it happened, what? A month, ago now? Two?

“You are probably the only one to make the mistake. I am not anything like them.”

She frowned. “I don’t know. You know a lot more about home than anyone I’ve met out here.”

“I know ancient elves very well.”

“It’s the same.”

“It is not.”

The silence was different this time. Ellana stared at her knees.

“I only meant—“

“The Dalish are mere children in comparison. Acting out stories misheard and repeated a thousand times.”

Ellana felt her body go cold at the quick sharpness of his tongue.

The phone was hot on her face as she waited, the swirling uneasiness that she had from the past week bubbling to the surface.

Funny how no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to get away from this. It wasn't surprising that she was too tired to muster any anger.

“I only meant that you know things I know. It makes me less homesick.”

The silence pricked at her skin. She swallowed, as if waiting to hear the click of the phone hanging up.

“…I am sorry.” The slowness of his voice made her head swim. “Perhaps I too forget you are Dalish.”

“I’m guessing your classes aren’t on Dalish culture.”

“You would be correct in that guess.” He laughed and the tenseness of the moment all but disappeared again.

“You teach Elvhen history though, right? Like what? Tell me something.”

“How odd the world must be that I happened to accidentally text the one Dalish that is interested in such things.”

“Teach me something professor.”

“I—ah—“ He coughed, the phone shifting away. “Well should you have been in my lectures—“

“Sitting front row.”

“—We would overview maps and land territories first.” He rushed.

“…maps.”

“Boundaries more like. Roads.”

“Roads?” She asked her teasing flattening into honest curiosity once more.

“Well there are no historical indications of any roads in or out of any Elvhen territories let alone Arlathan.”

Ellana shifted her phone to the other ear, rolling to her other side. “I hadn’t really thought about that. Do you also teach why?”

“Of course.”

“And that would be…?”

His voice went low as he explained, and she could almost taste the excitement dripping from his words.

“One has no need for roads when Eluvians are abundant.”

Eluvians. Ellana frowned. “I thought they showed the future.”

“Ha! No—a common Dalish assumption. They have been recorded as doors, passageways.”

“Tunnels.”

“Something like.”

“Did you hear that they found one?”

She thought of the image in her head, when she stood in front of the broken thing in the Conservation department at the museum. Back when Josephine had shoved her through the door.

She had wanted to take a picture for him, and regretted not having the chance even more now.

She wanted to tell him she saw it then, but Josephine’s secrecy made her anxious.

“Ha’hren?” She asked, realizing he hadn’t spoken yet.

“I had heard.”

“It will probably be put on exhibit soon. Wherever it goes.”

“Where ever? Do you think it should go somewhere specific?”

Ellana sighed loudly into the phone. “That’s the big question isn’t it? I don’t know – It seems only right it should go to the reservation it came from.”

“Who will sell it back to the Orlesians.”

Ellana laughed. She had said the same thing to Deshanna weeks ago. And she felt proud, smart even now having changed her mind since.

“Why not? If they insist on taking our things they can at least pay for it. What do we need with an Eluvian anymore? We need money for staying alive rather than crying over how great we used to be.”

It went quiet again and Ellana fiddled with the sheets beside her as she waited.

“Sorry. I guess I’m just frustrated with all that stuff. I know we aren’t perfect. But you can’t blame us for trying to take back everything we can just to have something of our own. Something to share with just us. To make us feel proud when even humans are getting Vallas slapped on their faces and their kids make Lover’s Knots at camp.”

This isn’t at all how she pictured their phone call. Especially after the obvious intentions of their texts from earlier.

And here they were, talking about the ways of ancient Elvhen and the politics of Dalish culture.

“Shouldn’t we be talking about other things than work and studying?” She suggested.

“What?”

“Can we not talk about work—“

“Ah—yes.”

“I mean, unless you want to go through your entire syllabus with me.”

“I assure you I enjoy it as little as my students do.”

“Why? Do you go around smacking students with rulers, professor?”

“…With you in my class perhaps I would have to.”

And just like that the bed was suddenly too warm. Her smiled appeared, accompanying the restlessness in her bare legs against the sheets.

“I’ll have you know that I was always a good student.”

“And yet I still don’t see you behaving in my class.”

“Well maybe if the teacher wasn’t so outdated—“

“Outdated! An age joke!”

“How old are you again? Didn’t you tell me the other night?”

“As if you remember a thing from our last phone call.”

“No—but maybe that’s because you just weren’t that memorable.”

He laughed again, enough that she had to wait to say anything or he wouldn’t hear it.

But when he calmed, his voice took on a different edge than she had ever heard up until now. A subtle new curl to the accents of each syllable that made her spine shiver.

“Then perhaps I’ll have to leave you with something you won’t forget.”

Her breath hitched and her smile died to the heat escaping her lips.

“Where are you right now?” She asked quickly.

“Home—“

“Where?’

“Ah… I am standing in my kitchen.”

“Cooking?”

He chuckled and if she knew his face she could imagine him shaking his head. “No.”

“What are you wearing?”

“Clothes. Must I describe them? What are you wearing, Ellana?”

Ellana bit her lips, blinking against the light of her apartment before closing her eyes altogether to focus on his voice.

“I could tell you what I’m not wearing.”

His laugh was nervous for the first time, a chuckle that wavered into a weak sound.

When he didn’t respond her fingers pulled at the shirt on her breast and she continued.

“I changed before I called you.” She said honestly. “I know that seems stupid, because you can’t see me but I still wanted to dress like… maybe you could. Like we’ve done this before.”

“And if I could… what would I be seeing?”

“My legs. Arms, shoulders… my stomach and—“

“Your hips?”

She pressed the nervousness away with the giddiness of her smile. “Yes.”

“And… would I see the small of your back?”

“Yes.”

“Wou—“ His voice wavered and when he spoke again it sounded a little forced. “Are you in bed, Ellana?”

“Should I get out?”

“No. Stay there.”

“I mean, I could sit if you like. You have a kitchen counter don’t you?”

Da’len.”

“Are you tall enough for that?”

He didn’t say anything.

“I know you at least have a desk.”

“I do. Yes. But it—“ He almost huffed. “It’s full of papers—“

“Then we can just shove them all off.”

“Ha! We are using the entire desk?”

“You want to sort the papers into neat piles before we do it?”

“I—“

“I guess there are walls.”

Ellana.”

“What?”

But she knew exactly what. Her legs shifted against each other and she smiled into her phone, the softness heating through her as she imagined something else. The fabric of pants or the shifting of skin.

She couldn’t think anymore though. His voice was driving her mad.

Especially when it got low like that.

“I really… must ask you to sto—“

No.

“I think the best way is the countertop. You’re already there and I’m not wearing anything that would get in the way.”

Silence.

“And if I’m lying on my back, we could still kiss.”

Ellana’s hands pressed against her lips at the statement.

“Have you thought about kis—“

“Yes.”

Her stomach flipped, a tingling settling in her lower stomach that made her thighs tense.

“I have too.”

Her hands pulled at her lip, pinches to tease at the fake sensation. “I’ve thought about kissing your hands mostly. Probably because it’s the only thing I’ve seen. Kissing your fingers and putting them in my mouth. Thanking them for all the messages they’ve written. Unless you want to use them for other things.”

Ellana considered the thought, swallowing as she imagined digits pressing into her sides and sliding against her ribs.

Her own hands tried to imitate the feeling, pushing past the loose night shirt to scrape her nails against her skin. It gave her goosebumps.

“It depends on how loud we are being.” Ellana continued. “If your hands are all over me I don’t think I could be quiet. I could scream if they were in my mouth though.”

The silence was thick enough that Ellana opened her eyes, turning onto her back to gaze at the ceiling.

“Ha’hren?”

There was a muffled noise, and she frowned as it twisted.

She could hear his breath, harsh as it paused before hurrying once more, a hot pace of inhales and exhales.

Her eyes widened as she listened to him pant, her body simmering in her embarrassment and realization.

“Ha’hren are you…?”

There was a shift, a guttural sound before he answered.

“Ellana… t-tel’dianaan.”

She shot upward, curling her heated body around her as she pressed the phone close, listening to his heated words stutter, incapable and weak, through the harshness of his breath.

She could hear the utter rhythm of him. His pace, the unheard thud of his body as it moved.

Her hand dropped to press deep against the curve of her hips and trace into the dip of her legs.

She wet her lips.

“Lying on the counter like that, I could hold your shoulders. Your neck—“

“Ah—“

“You could bend over and kiss me. Kiss my neck, ears…” She swallowed, feeling hazy and her fingers swirled lightly against her skin. “Would you bite me?”

“Yes.” It was so rushed and eager she had to close her eyes again.

“Bite me hard—everywhere, press your hands in my mouth and tell me what you want with me.”

He gasped, she could hear it. A hold in his breath before he exhaled against his will.

“Nuvenan—“

He shuddered, unable to get the words out even as her hand jolted and dipped into the wet slickness between her thighs. The sensation relaxed her muscles and sent her to her back even as his breathing tightened every nerve in her body.

“Nuvenan inana mar'len'palas.” She finished for him.

“Ah—!“

A loud bang erupted from the phone, making Ellana gasp loudly and shoot upward, her hand ripping away as the other dropped the phone from her cheek.

The noise echoed even as she scrambled to pick it up again, pulling it close.

“Hello?”

She heard the obnoxious sound of fabric ruffling and a distant cursing voice.

“Ha’hren?”

“Ellana—I—forgive me I…”

She waited, his voice shaking as if he were cold, or had been running.

Her cheeks heated and she tried not to think to hard of what they had just been doing.

“I dropped the phone…momentarily…ah...damn, the whole screen now…”

They were quiet a little while, the shifting on his end continuing as Ellana bit her lip.

“Did you…” She tried.

“Yes I—yes.”

She nodded even though he couldn’t see it. “Oh, good.”

“Yes… good.”

The silence stretched until her lips twitched, her mind not comprehending the last hour as her breathing hitched and bubbled. The warm content of the sensations, the haziness of his voice, and the absurdness of it all combining until—

She laughed. Loudly and happily.

And somewhere in her ear she could hear him laughing too.

They laughed together, warm and heated into the phone.

Chapter Text

He was sure that his headache had already started when he heard the clack of heels outside.

Merrill had heard it too, her head snapping to look over his shoulder as the door opened.

“Oh, I think she’s here.”

His fingers pressed into his brow.

“She’s very…” Merrill whispered.

The clacking stopped.

“Is this how famous archeologists keep their labs? Muddled and misused?”

Solas watched Merrill’s brow furrow into hurt at the sharp voice.

“Or should I say… infamous?”

“Morrigan.” Solas finally acknowledged over his shoulder, refusing to turn completely from his work. “You are early.”

“I found that I had a bit more time to spare than originally planned and decided to get this affair out of the way. My trip is short after all.”

The woman smiled, letting the heavy Conservation door close behind her with a clang.

“Are you—“ Merrill started.

“You know, the laboratories of Val Royeaux are quite extensive. They even have proper sifters, thin-section resin-mounts, and –“ She paused, her eyes trailing over their tabletops and the pieces sitting atop towels. “…drying racks.”

“Actually, the pieces of mirror need exposure to the—“

Morrigan didn’t seem to hear Merrill.

“In fact, I think they were awarded as some of the best facilities in the industry. A few years in a row.”

“Oh? Does it take time getting used to such advanced equipment after working in… Korcari, was it?”

His voice was louder than Merrill’s and it stopped Morrigan’s smile in its tracks.

 “Ah, no, forgive me—it was your mother that had worked long enough to remember those labs. I seem to confuse the two of you.”  He turned away, back to the papers in his hands.  Merrill was staring at him widely. “You are both so alike.”

Solas could practically feel her anger, but it was satisfying.

He had nearly forgotten that she was supposed to be arriving today. He had been so preoccupied with--

Well.

“Let’s not waste each other’s time Dread Wolf.”

He felt his shoulders tense and it was his turn to glare at the woman as she came to stand next to him, her eyes looking up greedily at the mirror before them. 

“I’m only here for my copies of the research. And to make sure you haven’t pieced this together wrong.”

It was blackmail. Plain and simple.

He had agreed to her terms only because she threatened, unprofessionally, to oust his work.  

Not that it mattered; Morrigan would have been bound to get her hands on the mirror eventually. And while Solas detested her methods and presumptions, it mattered little to him what she researched or reported. Wrong as her work may be, it had never truly affected his.

Her human hands reached forward, tracing along the shattered reflection. “’Tis much taller than I had first assumed.”

“Oh, you really shouldn’t-“ Merrill tried to point out, shifting to grab an extra pair of latex gloves from her pocket.

“How many pieces did it arrive in?” She asked Solas.

“208 upon exhuming, but the baths have loosened most of the eroded pieces into smaller ones. It rests at 234 now.”

“236.” Merrill corrected.

Solas gave a breathy smile at his assistant, but Merrill was staring warily at Morrigan.

“You’ve cataloged each piece so far?”

“Half that.”

Morrigan tsked through her teeth. “Slow work for you, Solas. Distracted lately?”

She meant his writing. He knew that, but he could not help but feel the burning shame of his phone in his pocket.

“Well no matter. I suppose if it isn’t finished in time it can be finished once it’s transported.”

The words took both him and his assistant off guard.

They both exchanged looks before Merrill’s anxious expression completely broke.

 “Wait, why would it not be ready in time?” She hurried, stepping close. “What do you mean by transported—it has not been--we still haven’t finished and it will be some time before...”

Morrigan said nothing and Merrill looked desperately toward him for an answer.

He could already guess.

“Merrill, would you gather the catalog and the site research and fetch copies for Morrigan, please?”

“But—“

He didn’t need to tell her twice when she caught his eyes.

They watched her turn from them quietly, gathering stacks of manila folders and binders into her arms before shifting awkwardly backward.

“I… I shouldn’t be too long now.”

“Take your time.” He reassured.

It wasn’t until the heavy door closed behind her that Morrigan eyed him.

“You must know the dangers of letting someone with such conflict of interest—“

“The trial of Orlais vs Sabrae?” He asked.

“It began near a week ago.”

“And when did such a public issue become so secretive? Surely Elvhen artifacts do not stir Orlesian governments into such hasty excitement.”

Morrigan smiled, head dipping to the side in a bare and brutal honesty. “Strangely,  Celene had quite an epiphany the other day. Suddenly she decided that it was a matter worth pressing. History is precious after all.”

Solas almost sighed.

He glanced at the broken mirror and felt a pang of something angry and regretful knowing he may not be the one to see that it was fully restored.

“It sparks such wonder even like this.”

The wistfulness of Morrigan’s voice made Solas glance at her.

“I wonder which place lied behind this one in particular.”

She caught him looking oddly at her and a smirk grew on her cheeks.

“Don’t tell me the world’s foremost expert in ancient Elvhen didn’t know that each Eluvian was a door to a different place.”

Solas stared at her.

When she turned away he couldn’t stop his silent and secret laugh.

What ignorance.

Each Eluvian led to every place.

“Indulge yourself Morrigan, some of us have work to do.” He commented, pulling his phone from his pocket and retreating to his desk.

Ellana’s name flashed at him in welcome on his screen.


 

“Yes.”

She paused and Josephine leaned forward.

“Of course, I can have it done by—“

“Make sure you tell her about--”

Ellana’s finger pressed to her lips to shush her as she listened.

“—tell her that the museum has international sanction for—“ Josephine continued, her voice whispering hurriedly.

“Of course.  I understand.”

“Ellana—“ the Antivan urged, edging closer from her seat across from her. She was practically talking into Ellana’s phone herself.

The elf leaned backward from her. “Thank you, Ambassador.”

She was corrected on the other line and smiled.

“Thank you, Briala.”

“But tell her--!”

“And you. Yes. Sule sal harthir.” She paused, nodded, and the line clicked.

Josephine nearly jumped at her as she put her phone down on the table.

“Did you mention—“

“Briala wants to try and sponsor the appeal in Orlais first. If it doesn’t work out she suggested this museum anyway.”

“Oh—“ The woman sighed, finally relaxing in her chair. “Wait—” A pearly smile broke across her face, one that was contagious on Ellana’s own expression. “That means it’s still on. Your appeal! You’re—“

“Yes. I make my plea for recognition on the 15th of next month.”

“Oh!” This time she did jump at her, arms enveloping her shoulders and curly black hair tickling her face. “What good news! I’m so happy for you!”

Ellana was laughing.

The phone call was an utter relief. She had only been dreading it for a few days, but it had felt like weeks.

“Did she even mention the articles?”  Josephine asked, pulling back curiously.

“She did, she talked about some publicity in Orlais too. She said that it’s normal and that’s its good for us.”

“Ah, any new is good news, no?”

“Yeah, she said that. The more people following the story the more chances I have for supporters.”

It was still intimidating, Ellana had to admit. But Briala was a confident talker. The woman hadn’t even seemed phased by the topic of Fen’Harel’s criticism. She had brushed it off as if it were just another question in a press conference.

Briala hadn’t even thought to question Ellana about the lyrium or her clan’s history. She didn’t seem to care.

Instead she had filled her in about the upcoming appeal.

Ellana would finally give her speech. She would make the last move she had to before her clan was judged for their place in legal equality.

 Of course, that also meant she would be coming out as the official representative of her clan.

…and consequently, the Herald of Andraste.

“We should celebrate!”

“Oh—no, please—“

“I’ll call Leliana and Cassandra—“

“It’s really not necessary, I mean, I already got the sponsorship. I knew this was going to happen—“

But Josephine was standing already, hurrying to her purse across the room.

“Don’t you have work?” Ellana tried to distract, looking around the museum office at the towers of paper work.

“Oh Andraste’s—“ Josie shot up straight, gripping her phone. “—toes.”

Ellana almost laughed, and the Antivan flushed dark in her cheeks.

“I forgot, I have a meeting in Conservation soon!”

A buzz startled Ellana and she watched her phone skitter on the table. She shot forward to silence it, finding a text flashing across the screen.

She smiled, heat furling through her fingers.

“An Orlesian archeologist is coming to arrange transport back to Orlais.”

—F.H. 3:02pm 
Might I trouble you a moment?   F.H.

—3:02pm 
trouble? what kind of trouble?  ;) 

“It’s actually a little worrying, I know they had negotiated the Invaded Vases of Tarnib—“

F.H. 3:03pm
Hah! Not that kind of trouble da’len.
I was hoping to pick your brain.  F.H.

“Ellana! I’ve lost you already?”

She snapped up, caught with a bursting smile and warm skin. “What? No! I’m sorry—“

“I was just saying I have a meeting.  It might take a while but we can meet and get the girl’s for dinner later?”

Ellana stood hastily from her chair as Josephine picked up her clipboard.

“Sounds good.”

Her phone vibrated, and she struggled not to read the new message as she followed Josephine out of the office.

“I’ll give you a call, yes? Leliana will know a good place, maybe text her while you’re busy texting friends already.”

Ellana laughed a little too nervously but agreed, the two giving each other a quick hug.

“See you soon.”

“Congratulations again!”

“Thank you!”

“Text Leliana!”

“I will!”

She watched her friend walk the hall towards Conservation, smiling as she left. 

If there were plans for dinner, she would need to hurry home to get ready. And she would need a chance to give her Keeper a call and tell her about the good news.

For the moment however she leaned against the wall, inhaling the quiet smell of the museum as she slipped back into the little screen in her palm.

F.H. 3:03pm
We were discussing the Eluvian before.
I wonder what you thought of the loss of such artifacts to those of the Imperium and Empire.  Or do such things not impact you, Ellana?  F.H.

“What… weird timing.” She mused quietly.

Funny that she was standing in the very museum currently housing the mirror.

Her fingers considered the digital keyboard before she typed.

3:05pm
thats a little heavy
debating with students professor?

He was typing immediately. Lots of free time then?

F.H. 3:05pm
I was simply curious.
..for a Dalish perspective.  F.H.

Oh? She typed, answering honestly and feeling intrigued.

3:06pm
well it sucks

She waited, but when the little animation that meant his reply didn’t appear she clicked through her screens, finding Leliana’s number and sending her a text about dinner.

An email check and a scroll through a few apps and she shifted back to his messages. Nothing.

3:09pm
 were you expecting something more concise?

That seemed to prompt him.

F.H. 3:09pm
Perhaps, yes.
Although maybe I should not be so surprised.
Most of the Dalish seemed resigned to their fates without a fight.
You do not think more could be done, da’len?   F.H.

Her lips pressed together as she read the lines, as if to stop from cursing or laughing at him.

3:10pm
no
I WISH more could be done.
but we almost have to accept what we can get these days.
why do you expect us to fight for that?

The thoughts barreled through her. Months of research and struggle. Months of filling out ridiculous amounts of forms, of essays, of diligent and careful write ups of her clan and its responsibility.

3:11pm
have you ever lived in clan ha’hren?
on reservation I mean

F.H. 3:12pm
I am aware of the lifestyle.   F.H.

This time Ellana did laugh, shouldering her bag and settling more comfortably against the wall as she began typing.

3:13pm
say the sabrae clan fights for their mirror like they are right?
every reservation sits on land legally owned by the country around it
they tax us you know?
we basically have to pay rent on our own land that was stolen and then loaned back to us.

Ellana didn’t wait to see if he would type as she continued.

3:14pm
I bet you the sabrae clans rent went up as soon as they started fighting.
if you complain or ask for more rights or cause a stir
they cut your power
they lower your school budgets 
stop your exports or send only spoiled imports
why would any clan fight when they make it so hard already?
most clans just try to find other ways to get what we need

She breathed, her own words filling her head with a deep realization that came in a slow wave.

Keeper Taven. The Lyrium smuggling.

She pushed the idea away, letting it subside as she watched him slowly reply.

F.H. 3:16pm
I was aware of such troubles, yes.  F.H.

He kept typing and Ellana waited, pushing of the wall and beginning her walk towards the exit.

F.H. 3:16pm
I understand battles must be carefully chosen.
It stands to reason then that most clans would not benefit from obtaining artifacts in need of careful expertise.  F.H.

She smiled slightly before sobering at the thoughts the conversation had stirred.

3:17pm
I wonder how badly they are being punished

F.H. 3:17pm
By that you mean? F.H.

3:17pm
the sabrae clan
they took all of orlais to court
cant imagine what they are doing to that reservation
they must really really want that mirror
or they very badly need the money

He typed as she took the stairs down past the administration offices out towards the lobby.

3:18pm
Questions worth answering.
Forgive me, I’m aware this conversation is hardly as heated as…our last.  F.H.

Ellana sucked a lip between her teeth to stop her smile.

3:18pm
what do you mean?
the plight of our people always turns me on.

F.H. 3:19pm
Hah! Perhaps I should unload my second semester lecture on Halamshiral’s destruction later tonight.  F.H.

Ellana laughed, before turning a corner and slamming into someone hard and fast.

The conversation dashed completely from her mind as pain burst in her forehead and the sound of rippling papers assaulted her ears.

She barely had a moment to throw out hands and catch the falling piles in the corner of her eye.

Her arms enveloped in a tangle of someone else’s, both trying to snatch a binder from the air before it skid across the marble.

It did anyway.

“Oh Creators—“

“By the Dread Wolf!”

“I’m so sorry—I wasn’t paying attention at all, completely and terribly my fault I always—“

“No!” Ellana hurried as the woman rushed to the floor to gather the papers. “It’s my fault I was staring at my phone like an idiot—“

She joined her and they both sat on their knees and shoveled piles into stacks.

“No I must insist, I was clearly daydreaming, I always am, I know it—and should I have been—“

“It’s really-“ Ellana tried, and looked beside her to finally take in a face full of Vallislin. “—alright.”

Large eyes stared back at her, seemingly just as surprised. “Oh! You’re an elf!”

And the smile that found Ellana’s face was instant. “Yes—and ir abelas lethallan. I did not see you.”

The woman’s cheeks flushed red at the spoken Elvhen, “Oh there’s no need for, oh—“

They both laughed then, smiling happily at each other.

Ellana shuffled the pile as neatly as she could, grabbing a few others before handing them over to the woman’s lap. “Here.”

“Oh, yes, ma sarannas.”

Ellana stood then, and helped her stand, face still tinted and eyes down turned. “You’re alright?”

“Oh, I am. Just humiliated. I was just so worried about—Oh no!” Green eyes went wide and worried. “I have to get her the copies!”

And suddenly she was off again.

“Dar’eth!” Ellana tried, calling to the petite back as they hurried down the hall.

They paused, turning with a bright smile thrown over their shoulder.

“Oh yes! Dar’atisha! Sal sura!”

Ellana watched her go, the sudden encounter and her ha’hren's conversation leaving her nothing but homesick.

Chapter Text

—Ellana 9:46pm
hahren i need your help
im at trivia night with friends
category is history
what is the full name of the tevinter divine?
none of us are tevinter

—F.H. 9:47pm
Are you allowed to text others in such games?  F.H.

—Ellana 9:47pm
I wont tell if you wont

—F.H. 9:48pm
In that case the full name of the current 'Black' Divine is Urian Nihalias.
Coincidentally he usurped his predecessor after some rather unsavory political maneuvering.
The man might as well have killed him.
Ridiculous affair within the magistrate at the time. F.H.

—Ellana 9:49pm
just needed the name not the lesson professor!

—F.H. 9:50pm
But where is the fun in that, da’len? F.H.

—F.H. 9:56pm
Well Ellana? How many points? F.H.

—F.H. 10:00pm
Ellana? F.H.

—Ellana 10:12pm
they disqualified us and took away my phone


 

—F.H. 2:22pm
Are you near a Television?
Switch to the news. RNB if you have that station. F.H.

—Ellana 2:24pm
who even says television anymore?
just say tv

—F.H. 2:25pm
Are you watching? F.H.

—Ellana 2:26pm
no Im not home
whats happening?

—F.H. 2:26pm
They are releasing the Elvhen Murderer.
Twelve young girls in the Free Marches.
Insane they say, but convenient when his father is a judge. F.H.

—Ellana 2:28pm
I heard about that!
he was arrested really close to my clan
scary

—F.H.  2:29pm
Close?
I did not think you from the Free Marches.
Somehow I assumed you were Ferelden or an Orlesian settlement. F.H.

—Ellana 2:29pm
no
I moved here for school

—F.H. 2:29pm
That is a very far journey for school. F.H.

—Ellana 2:30pm
and where are you from ha’hren?
you don’t sound ferelden.

—F.H. 2:31pm
Hah! Nice try. F.H.

—Ellana 2:31pm
oh come on
the dales? rivain?
you sound sort of from starkhaven

—F.H. 2:32pm
Ah yes, you’ve caught me now Ellana.
I am a rogue Starkhaven teacher of ancient history living in Ferelden for the lenient taxes. F.H.

—Ellana 2:33pm
thats it
im assuming youre secretly a dwarf then


 

Incoming Call [F.H.]
1 Missed Call  [F.H.]
Incoming Call [F.H.]
2 Missed Calls [F.H.]

—F.H. 4:40pm
Forgive me. F.H.

—Ellana 4:41pm
lol what is happening!?

—F.H. 4:41pm
Apologies, I am not meaning to call you.
The screen has broken and seems to misunderstand my direction.
You are listed in favorites and it reverts to calling you. F.H.

—Ellana 4:42pm
oh
im in your favorites?

—F.H. 4:42pm
Naturally.
You are actually my only favorite, if I am being completely honest. F.H.


 

—Ellana 11:21am
hey
been thinking about you today

—F.H. 11:24am
It is only morning.
The day has just started.
Have you been thinking of me since waking? F.H.

—Ellana 11:25am
no
well yes

—F.H. 11:26am
Is this the sort of thing I should be telling you as well?
Whenever my mind thinks of you?
I would text you much too often. F.H.

—Ellana 11:26am
I wouldnt mind
you and me
we’re
friends

—F.H. 11:27am
Friends? F.H.

—Ellana 11:27am
arent we?

—F.H. 11:27am
I certainly consider you a friend.
But more than that Ellana. F.H.

—Ellana 11:28am
Im dalen
right?

—F.H. 11:29am
That is what I like to call you.
However rather than thinking of you from the moment of waking, I would much rather wake with you.
Arasha. F.H.

—Ellana 11:30am
is that some kind of promise professor?

—F.H. 11:30am
A hope, more like, for the opportunity. F.H.


 

1 Missed Call [Ellana]

—F.H. 8:36pm
Forgive me, I am at dinner with company.
I can call you later this evening? F.H.

—Ellana 8:37pm
oh sorry
its not important
just looking for advice

—F.H. 8:37pm
How can I advise?  F.H.

—Ellana 8:38pm
I have to give a speech to a bunch of people soon
and ive never had to do that before
they probably wont like what I have to say
im wondering if I should give a untrue speech theyll like or
you know

—F.H. 8:40pm
It is important to believe somewhat in what you say.
Nothing is as swaying as passion.
And I know you have deep reserves of it da’len. F.H.

—Ellana 8:41pm
im not sure my seducing tactics with you will work on them haha

—F.H. 8:42pm
It is simply a different form of seduction.
You could imagine me in the crowd if it would assist your confidence F.H.

—Ellana 8:42pm
thats more terrifying
also youre a really shady teacher you know that?

—F.H. 8:42pm
Hardly.
I am simply aware that to make anyone interested in indulging something they normally would not, one must deploy persuasive language and tactics. F.H.

—Ellana 8:43pm
oh yeah hahren?
what about pictures?

—F.H. 8:44pm
Presentations are effective, yes. F.H.

—Ellana 8:45pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—F.H. 8:45pm
Ah, you meant    F.H.

—Ellana 8:45pm
what does a picture of my legs get me? your age? hometown?

—F.H. 8:45pm
Da’len I am not alone. F.H.

—Ellana 8:46pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]
what about my thighs?

—F.H. 8:36pm
please
I cant F.H.

—Ellana 8:38pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]
[Attachment: 1 Image ]
a name gets me to stop

“I—forgive me, I-must excuse myself—“

He spoke too loud, he could tell. Both Dorian and Merrill nearly smashed their glasses together mid-cheers at his sudden jump from the table.

The silverware rattled and multiple eyes turned to glue onto him.

“What in the world—“

“Creators!”

“Everything alright down there, chuckles?” Varric called.

“Yes—I simply—“

He swallowed harshly, extracting his legs from his chair and bumping into his assistant.

“Solas is something—?“

The restaurant was much too hot and he could no longer concentrate on small talking with Dorian or Merrill’s friends. Not that he had been since his phone had vibrated in his pants pocket.

He clutched it now, saying nothing as he fled the table, barely hearing Varric remark on his odd behavior or Dorian’s flippant response.

At first he tried to find the bathroom, but when another photo buzzed into his palm he switched direction, hurrying through the lobby and shoving open the front door to let the cold night air kiss his burning skin.

He paced alongside the sidewalk, holding the screen preciously close as the newest image loaded with a nervous flick of his screen.

Beyond the cracks her skin glared back at him. Sculpted more perfectly than any artifact he had ever had the pleasure of laying his hands on.

And he so badly wanted to lay his hands on them.

She was in her bedroom maybe, timid but deliberate fingers peeking into the shot as they angled to the mirror, sending him the scandalous vision of her naked legs from her thighs to her Elvhen feet.

A hand grasped the wall next to him while the other pressed harshly on the screen.  

Calling [Ellana]
0:00...

She answered laughing.

“Da’len—“

“Oh, someone’s mad!“

She laughed again and he relished the sound as it thrummed through his ears into his chest.  It broke him and he smiled despite himself until her was laughing with her, alone on the street.

She excited him, burned him.

Provoked him.

“You are walking quite a dangerous line, Ellana.”

“Sorry, yeah—“ Her laughter sobered a little. “Was that too much? I sort of just—“

“No.”

They went quiet and his hand pressed the cold air on the back of his neck, the image of her legs burned into his mind.

He wondered how they tasted and had to lean against the wall.

Solas closed his eyes, holding his breath awhile before whispering into his phone, into the night.

“You are so beautiful.”

Chapter Text

 

 “Panahedan Hawke. I do not hope you die.”

Hawke paused before walking away from the cell block, the camera panned towards the Arishok.

“Well that’s reassuring.”

“I gotta tell Boss how much cooler he’d be if he spoke some more Qunari.”

Ellana twisted on the couch to look over at Krem sitting near her kitchen counter.

“Doesn’t he?”

Krem chuckled and shook his head, “Not like that he doesn’t.”

“This guys horns are bigger than Bull’s!” Sera perked from her small blanket fort on the floor.

Ellana frowned, looking back to the tv only to see commercials. “Doesn’t Hawke kill him?”

“Hey!!”

“Spoilers!!”

Ellana cringed. “Sorry—I just figured—wait, come on, you guys you haven’t read the book!?”

“No!”

“It’s Varric’s book!” She urged, meeting Sera’s glare with her own incredulous one. “It’s Varric’s life, actually!”

“Nooooo-- it can’t be that real, loads of this is lies.” Sera shook her head, flopping backward on the blankets to find the tv remote.

She held back the urge to roll her eyes. Her phone buzzed beside her, buried in the couch cushions that had been melting beneath her from their marathon. She stretched her feet , snatching the device and swiping.

“Is that Josie? She here yet?” Sera asked, flipping through channels.

—F.H. 2:22pm
Any advice for headaches, Ellana?  F.H.

“No.”

—2:22pm
lyrium?

“Ugh she was supposed to be here already! I’m starving!”

“I can cook this frozen pizza.” Krem called from the freezer.

—F.H. 2:23pm.
Ha! An extreme suggestion.
A student should not know of such things. F.H.

“No don’t eat that-- She’ll be here soon.” She interrupted, not looking up from her phone as Krem and Sera both sighed. “Josie agreed to cook a real meal for us for once, let’s be patient.”

Ellana decided against reminding him that lyirum wasn’t illegal on reservation lands.

—2:23pm
im only kidding.
you can always use elfroot.
prophets laurel too but its more expensive.
are you sick?

—F.H. 2:23pm
No.
Was your major in medicine? F.H.

She almost laughed.

—2:34pm
nope. I studied museum curation

—F.H. 2:34pm
No. You did not. F.H.

—2:35pm
please dont make fun of my useless degree like everyone else

A knock had them all looking up.

“I’ll get it! Me!” Sera yelled, practically flailing as she tumbled upward to the apartment door. “YES JOSIE! FOOD!”

The door swung open, and it wasn’t until Sera snatched a box and ran to the kitchen with it that they saw Josephine.

“Josie!”

“Sera! Help her more than that!”

“Sorry I’m late.” She gave a soft apologetic smile, her arms still full of bags and boxes.

“I’ll help.” Krem announced, leaving the counter to cross the room and help the Antivan inside, taking a few groceries.

“We started the episodes without you!”

“It’s alright! I was held up with some of the archeologists—“

Ellana stood from the couch, letting her phone fall to the cushions as she made her way over.

“This was on your doorstep, Ellana. From Orlais?”

Josie handed over a package, her and Krem heading to the kitchen.

“Huh.”

The package was light in her arms; a small box with ornate stamps all over it and a fancy seal on the back.

She followed them slowly, shutting her door before she began opening it.

It had to be from Briala. She didn’t know anyone else living in Val Royeaux.

“It’s been quite a day! The museum has been busy with the Nevarran dragon hunting exhibit and the Eluvian will be making it’s transfer—“

“What dragons?”

“Oh Cremisius, you should come by with Bull, they have all these fossils—“

“Food first! Boring museum talk later!”

Ellana joined them, tossing the opened box  to the counter with the unpacked groceries. A series of envelopes slipped into her fingers, bright ivory and blue, with gold folded on the edges.

Sera sat heavily next to her.

“Why so fancy for?”

She shrugged, flipping over the envelope to tear it open.

“Oh Ellana!”

Josephine’s shout was enough to have them all staring at her in shock. “Ah—“ Her face flushed when she realized just how loud she had been, but reached out to snatch the letter from Ellana anyway. “This—this is for Celene’s Masquerade!”

They all continued to stare before Sera cocked her head. “You mean big blue? Queenie?”

“She’s technically Empress, but yes, Celene! It is for the Annual Conference of Achievement.”

“What?”

Josephine frowned, looking between the three of them, seemingly disappointed in their obvious ignorance to the subject. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, you did all beg me here because you’ve been microwaving too often.”

Ellana shifted the other envelope in her hand, popping the seal open to slip out a few loose papers with fancy lettering.

“Duchess Florianne grants admittance one, honored guest, for the Winter Palace Masquerade to celebrate the achievements of the great and profound in the expansion of Orlesian—“

“Is that words your speakin!?” Sera whined, snatching the tickets from her fingers. “What a load a bullsh—“

“It’s a high honor!” Josephine chided, handing back the heavy invitation. “The Duchess hosts per tradition at the Winter Palace. It’s really hosted by Celene of course, but it’s a seen as an award ceremony for those who have contributed politically or substantially.”

“Yeah, you’re not speakin’ any words either Josie.”

Ellana skimmed over the invitation, the words ‘honored guest’ making her uneasy.

“I don’t get it, why did I get this?”

“My guess would be you are invited by extension to Briala. No doubt she’s the one who arranged for your invitation.”

“Wait—“

She looked down at the tickets in Sera’s hand before looking back at the invitation.

“In Orlais? They want me to attend this event… in Orlais?”

“But of course? The Winter Palace is in Halamshiral. It’s a city outside Val Royeaux with lots of political build—“

“Josephine, I know what Halamshiral is.”

Josie stuttered, once again letting embarrassment tint her cheeks. “Oh, of course you do, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Ellana brushed off, too preoccupied to be annoyed with the blunder.

Briala had invited her as a guest of the Winter Palace. For a soiree? Reception? Ceremony?

In Orlais?

Nearly a year ago when she had begun the process of clan recognition with Deshanna, she never would have imagined that she would be sitting in her tiny apartment with two private invitations from the Queen of Orlais.

“Oh Ellana, this is amazing! A guest of Briala—you’ll be on the frontline of everything, this is—well it’s huge!”

“I hadn’t really expected to do anything like this… at least not yet. I was already worried about my speech on the 15th.”

Josephine gave her a sad smile. “The Masquerade is on the 1st.”

“W-what?”

“Two weeks, I’m afraid.”

“HAHAH! Better get your spoon sizes right Ellana!” Sera barked.

“I really…” She trailed, feeling her stomach flutter at the thought of even taking the airplane to Orlais, let alone walking through some ornate old building with Ambassador Briala, or shaking hands with human politicians richer than every Dalish clan combined.

“Need a drink?” Krem spoke, somehow suddenly at her side and giving her a wry smile.

“Yeah, a few.”

He chuckled.

“It isn’t so bad Ellana, I promise. Many of the museum representatives get invited each year. Some of our archaeologists go, and usually they say it’s quite fun!”

Ellana didn’t cheer any.

Briala had made no contact since their last phone call. And she definitely had not mentioned a Masquerade ball, or being brought to the public eye so much earlier than her appeal.

And she had been under the impression that the appeal would be mostly private.

Attending this would mean being the official face of the Lavellan clan. To the press.

And eventually, with any news outlet digging even just slightly more…

And if the press didn’t find out, the Chantry most certainly would.

Ellana nearly groaned.

“It will be alright, I’ll help you prepare, and I’m sure Leliana and Cassandra would love too as well!”

She nodded, but in her head she didn’t remember accepting the invitation yet in the first place.

“Show’s back on.” Krem said. Sera practically knocked over her chair to get to the remote and turn up the volume.

They all quieted as Hawke flickered back on screen, looking determined under dark lighting and a close up.

“It’s a shame Hawke’s dating Isabella. The things I would do to get just an autograph…” Krem trailed.

Josephine crossed her arms and glanced at him. “Hawke’s not dating Isabella, Hawke’s dating Anders.”

“What? No Hawke’s with that elfy girl they showed in the last preview. They were together in interviews weren’t they?“ Sera called at them.

They all paused in confusion, before looking to Ellana.

“Why are you looking at me? I thought Hawke was married to Fenris?”


 

Merrill’s house wasn’t far away from the museum, at least, it was much closer than his own.

They had agreed on the car pool early on in their work. As convenient as it was for transportation, it had mainly been arranged to keep Merrill from being late.

So it didn’t take long to get to her apartment after work.

It did take a little longer for her to leave the car though.

“Do you think they may need a consultant? If I reached out with an application maybe I could transfer to Orlais for the final phase of restoration. We already have all the work—‘

Solas said nothing as he listened, but his lack of confidence must have shown on his face.

Her large eyes darkened before looking away. “I know it’s silly. But leaving it like that today… it’s… it’s so close to being complete.”

He sighed but couldn’t deny the shared feeling.

The mirror had only a few weeks left until it was completely restored, but by order of the Orlesian court, it was to be transported back to the capitol to be ready for the final hearing.

They had stayed well past work hours today to see if they could, in vain, get a little closer before saying goodbye.

Merrill shifted in her seat, gathering her bag and a box of binders and research into her lap. She hefted open the door.

“I… I suppose we won’t be working for some time then, without any projects aligned after this then it’s unlikely we’d be called in for work unless—“

“Merrill.” Her worried face blinked back at him and in a moment of sympathy he gave her a nod and a smile. “I am sure I will see you soon, regardless of work.”

“Yes.” The shine in his assistant’s eyes looked bittersweet as she smiled and left the passenger seat. “Goodnight Professor.”

“Dareth, Merrill.”

She shut the door with a foot and gave a clumsy wave before heading into her building.

Solas watched her go pensively, making sure she didn’t lock herself out in her distraught state.

He leaned back into his seat as she disappeared, waiting in the quiet hum of his idling car as he thought.

“…cant imagine what they are doing to that reservation
they must really really want that mirror…”

His phone fell into his palm with the ease of frequent use. His keyboard appeared at command and he typed quickly before he could think too hard on his actions.

—7:03pm
I am calling in my favor. F.H.

The message whisked away easily, as did the long paragraph detailing his instructions.

But it wasn’t until he had pulled away and driven a few miles out of downtown that he got an answer.

At the red light, he leaned forward to the mounted phone on his dash, reading the messages as they chimed in.

—Madame de Fer  7:21pm
This is an easier favor to ask for than to carry out.
They were expecting to show the thing off at Halamshiral!
But very well, FH, I will enjoy the challenge.
Consider it done.

Oddly, or perhaps not oddly, something lifted from his shoulders at the sight of the messages.

It may be presumptuous to call Merrill, but maybe giving her something  to—

His phone flashed before it started ringing through his car speakers.

Incoming Call…
Ellana 7:22pm

His hand gripped the steering wheel, heat rushing through him and a vision of smooth skin and long legs—

His finger hit accept before he thought too long on it.

“Ellana.”

“Hey—ah—sorry, are you busy?”

Her voice rolled through the leather of his seat, contained close around him and yet slightly overwhelming.

For a moment he considering telling her he was.  He probably should.

“Not at all. Something on your mind?”

“No. I mean—well, you are.”

There was a lilt in her voice, something sweet, a coyness that had him smiling as he stared at the road in front of him.

“You must not be very busy either to be thinking of me then.”

“I could be busy. I probably should be busy, but I wanted to call and see how your headache was.”

“I am a distraction then? Alright. Well I did not take any lyirum for it if that is what you’re asking.”

She started laughing and the sound seemed to hum as warm as the engine in the small darkness of the car.

“I was joking!”

He smiled, waiting for her lull in mirth before answering.

“My head is fine, thank you. It passed as soon as those causing it did.”

She hummed suspiciously. “Oh I see. You know ha’hren I get the feeling you aren’t the most popular teacher in school.”

“You would be right. Although the word is Professor, not teacher.”

“Right, excuse me, Professor.”

Solas closed his eyes, fingers pressing into the leather wheel as the brake pedal lurched. He walked right into that one. He should have known better.

His legs shifted restlessly and he quickly continued. “Are you calling me from home, da’len?”

He made sure to call her da’len.

“Ah, yeah. I’m home. You aren’t though, are you?”

“No I am not.”

“You sound strange.”

“I am driving.”

There was a pause and Solas looked at his phone as the time stamp ticked by.

“Am I on speaker?”

“Yes you are. And before you get the wrong idea, no, there isn’t anyone else in the car.”

“No, it’s just—haha! It’s awkward, my voice—“ She trailed as if pulling the phone away before returning. “You would be the type to have a car phone. Professor’s a little fancy—“

“Are you home from work already then?”  He interrupted, not wanting to risk swerving from another cheeky comment.

“I don’t really… I didn’t work today.”

Or she didn’t work. Solas frowned, the question had only been a distraction but his curiosity stirred.

And then he realized, “Ah, I forget. You’re a First, are you not?”

 “Yeah—and I, well I don’t have much to do out here.”

She meant Ferelden, the city.  At least if he remembered right that she was from the Free Marches.

A First, living outside her clan in the city, with no job.

“We talked before about you being a student. You are not… still in school are you?”

“No, remember, not for a while. I graduated about a year ago.”

 “Four years and no job offers yet da’len?”

“Actually, ha’hren,” She mocked, and he glanced amusedly at his phone. “It was seven years and… no I… have a job. Just, at home…”

She trailed and that’s when Solas frowned even more deeply.

A Masters degree? No job offers – or rather, she could accept none as First. So then why…?

Actually…

“It’s a little odd for a Dalish First to go to college.”

“Hey! We have colleges on reservation—“

“And yet here you are in Fereldan.”

His phone was quiet for a while.

“My Keeper thought it would be a good idea.”

Solas considered the road as it passed around him. “Perhaps she thought you best suited to something more than work as a First.”

Ellana’s laugh was an idle one, one that trailed off tiredly.

Not that then.

“I don’t know. I had a chance to go to a big university and I took it. It was fun.”

He nearly glared at the phone. She talked about it as if spending seven years in school had nothing to say about her interest in something other than preserving the misgivings of the Dalish.

But he swallowed, remembering their arguments in the past.

“You would surely make a great Keeper Ellana, but last I remember there are no Dalish museums.”

She laughed again and he was happy to hear it even if the subject was spiraling in his head.

“I know, right? I still—I don’t know. I already asked you not to make fun of my useless degree. Argh—Masters even—“

“No! Quite the contrary I—“ Solas stopped. He had his own Curatorial degree framed in his home. But something stopped him from telling her. He couldn’t. To be that personal… perhaps it was unfair with how much he knew of her but his selfishness had him say instead, “I studied some curatorial myself. There is a vast usefulness to it. At least there is outside of a clan.”

Ellana sighed tiredly. “I got interested in the idea of it. Going to different places to find things that determined some amount of history. Or some amount of truth to it all. Coming from a clan makes you realize how important it is even if we can’t do it ourselves.” 

He waited, listening as she described his own enjoyment of his work.

“I like the idea of running a museum. I did some intern work here and there. Cataloging was fun, and I loved filling requisitions.  But maybe something more like Conservation. Not that it matters now. But at least I learned some administrative skills for when I become Keeper.”

For when she becomes Keeper.  A definitive. Odd that she also spoke of her education so wistfully, as if she had not already devoted so much time to leaving her clan to go to a Ferelden College in the first place.

Solas couldn’t seem to wrap his head around it. And he found himself getting frustrated at the idea of it, her obvious ambition and more disappointingly, her obvious resignation.

“What about you? I don’t envy students having to answer to ah… Mr…”

He had to shake his head of thought to keep up with her and nearly laughed when he realized what she was alluding to.

“Ha’hren.”

Ellana tsked through the speaker, a sound that made his ears flick.

“They do not call you Professor Ha’hren.”

He chuckled back at her. “Perhaps they do, you have no proof otherwise.”

“I tell you about my school, I suffer through job talk with you, and I gave you headache advice. I can at least learn your name. Or should I just call you F.H.?”

Solas nearly swerved, his heart seemed to squeeze to his throat.

“What?”

“F.H? In your texts? It’s what I put in my contacts.”

The wave of realization was nearly paralyzing.

It had been there since his publisher had set up the phone under his contract. The automatic signature added for every text so his unknown number would be recognized to all his clients.

He had gotten so used to seeing it he hardly saw it anymore. Just another set of letters, like the details of an email, unimportant print—

He hadn't even thought about her seeing it, every single time.

“You have to admit, it’s a little weird now to keep calling you ha’hren considering we’re…”

Her voice went low.

“…well we’re , you and I…”

The sudden change in her tone seemed to clash against his thoughts of his mistaken signature. The quiet sound of her timid request, her shy urging. Her want to know him palpable in the air her voice filled. As if she were sitting in his passenger seat and asking him for his name.

And his heart twisted in his chest, because now as FenHarel, he could never tell her his name was Solas.

“No, you are right. You can’t keep calling me ha’hren.”

“And Profess—“

“Absolutely not.”

“Then… what should I call you?”

“Vhenan.”

The silence of the car was warm, thick on his skin and nearly stifling. He jaw clenched, his mind blank of any reasoning behind the sudden word that spilled from his lips.

“I…”

He tensed, ready to force a laugh or an apology when—

“Alright.” She breathed, the whisper loud in its softness, her voice curling around him in the night.

“Vhenan.”

 

Chapter Text

She angled the phone to the right, avoiding the glare of light on the satin before snapping the photo.

She took another moment to take a picture of the dress behind the one in her hands before sliding both images into a message.

—3:04pm
[Attachment: 1 image]
[Attachment: 1 image]
which color do you like?

“Ellana, what about something off the shoulder?”

She turned, Leliana approaching her from down the aisle, dangling a dark red dress from her hands.

Ellana frowned. “I’m going to a ceremony, not a tango lesson.”

Leliana laughed and shimmied the dress in the air. “You underestimate the scandal of these affairs, believe me.”

“I was under the impression that it was a fancy dinner for accepting awards and listening to speeches.”

“But that is the most tantalizing kind of dinner.” She insisted, but dropped the red dress to a random rack. “Dinners like these are about reading between the lines. Who is seated with who, what ambassador is chosen to make the toast, and who laughs at his jokes.”

She nearly rolled her eyes, but Leliana seemed so excited about it all she resisted.

“I’m not a politician.”

“Everyone is a politician if they have opinions about the world.”

Ellana looked at her at the thoughtful response, but Leliana was already sliding through the racks again.

“I should ask you about more interesting things.” Her friend chuckled, “Like if you have decided on your plus one?”

She cringed.

That was not more interesting.

“Have you asked anyone?” Leliana looked at her with an expression between suspicious and coy. Not a good combination. “Have you asked your—“

Already knowing where this was going, Ellana rushed. “I asked my best friend Krem.”

“…Oh?”

“We used to take classes together in college. He works downtown. He said he might be able to go with me.”

No.

Krem had said no.

“As fun as Orlais sounds Ellana, I have to work remember?”

She ignored Leliana’s unbelieving look and twisted to walk down the aisle to the longer gowns.

Her phone buzzed in her hand.

—F.H. 3:05pm
If it is an opinion on which would look best on you, I can say that you will be the one to make the color, not the other way around. F.H.

Ellana couldn’t stop the tickling in her palms or the heat on her face as she read.

—3:06pm
youre charming vhenan
but not helpful

“Is that…?” Leliana began behind her, and Ellana looked up at her sharp gaze before pocketing her phone quickly.

“It’s nothing.” She looked around, leaning on her toes to glance over the racks. “Let’s see if Josie found anything.”

Her phone vibrated in her pocket, and she frowned, irritated at having to wait now as they crossed the store.

“Ah, there you are! I think I found one you might like.” Josie called from the corner of the store, her arm waving a blue dress back and forth.

But Josephine herself was leaning out from the dressing room halls, head to toe in gold.

“Josie, that looks phenomenal!” Leliana smiled.

“Ah-this, well- I thought maybe—“ She stuttered, her smile nervous and her eyes staring down at the length touching the floor. “Of course, I’m only there as a representative of the Fereldan museum, not under any—“

“Could it be that Josie has a date too?”

The Antivan flushed red. “No! Not at all! Wait—Ellana you have a date?”

“Krem might be my plus one.”

“Oh, wonderful!”

“It’s perfect Josephine.” Ellana distracted, hurrying off the topic. “You should get it.”

They had found out that morning that Josephine had received her own invitation to Halamshiral, which is why dress shopping had been in order for the rest of the day.

Apparently the museum was being thanked for their services regarding the Eluvian and as the administrator in charge of the main archeologists of the project, Josephine had been acknowledged with the rest of the team.

Ellana was just happy not to be alone in Orlais.

“Try this one Ellana. You do like blue don’t you?”

She didn’t hate the color. And she supposed that even if she was still undecided about the whole affair, she would need something to wear to it eventually.

“Yeah, thanks.” She took the dress, smiling back at both of them and heading into the small curtained rooms.

But when she hung the long blue gown up she closed the curtain and pulled out her phone instead.

—F.H. 3:06pm
What is the occasion? F.H.

She sighed, leaning against the wall.

This whole event had come out of nowhere.

Of course she had known that she couldn’t avoid it forever.

For a moment she didn’t know whether that meant avoiding the Chantry’s revelation about her motives, or actually stepping into the Keeper shoes that had been ready for her all her life.

Because if anything would push her towards those things, appearing at Briala’s side at the Winter Palace most definitely would.

There was no saying no, really. Briala had made a follow up call to her package to explain the schedule for the night and email her everything from plane itinerary and hotel room information.

And since Briala was the only reason her clan would make it as far as the appeal, Ellana figured she needed to give something back to the Ambassador to make it worth her while.

If coming out as the Chantry’s chosen poster child in wild support of the elves was it, then so be it. It wouldn’t be the worst cause to lose her Chantry card for.

Funny. Maybe Leliana was right.

She was a politician now.

Ellana looked back down at her phone and thought of calling him instead.

It would make her feel better, the distraction. But he was probably teaching class at this hour or something.

—3:13pm
you tell me.
are you busy this saturday?

She meant it more as a joke.

But even as she watched the ‘delivered’ change to ‘read,’ her heart raced.

She couldn’t shake the distant thoughts she’d had about telling him of her extra ticket, of visiting Halamshiral with her Professor, of some sort of fantastical whisking away—

He started typing.

 


 

Solas paused, his finger hovering over the letters.

Was she…?

“… mess really. He has no family to speak of and at this point in his life you would imagine that signs would start to show. He’s just so unreadable—“

He supposed he could just not answer her.

But the idea of ignoring her wasn’t one he could consider.

—3:13pm
Are you arranging to meet, vhenan?  F.H.

“...ahhhh... why do you even ask me about case work when you aren’t going to listen, Solas?”

—Ellana 3:14pm
its not a big deal

Solas almost laughed.

Oh, quite the contrary.

It was perhaps the biggest deal.

Since their latest phone calls and messages they had made no mention of trying to meet again. Not once.

And now suddenly she was asking him for plans.

“Honestly, you are worse than some of my students with your damn phone. At this point if it isn’t some strange love affair I’m just going to be disappointed.”

Solas snapped his head up and glared at Dorian, pocketing his phone with a burning in his ears.

“I was being contacted for work.”

The lie tasted about as convincing as it seemed. But the fellow teacher seemed convinced.

“Ah. Well, we can’t all be flown out to Orlais for fancy masquerades now can we?” Dorian said, turning back to the display before them. “Now, what do you think about a bowtie instead of a tie?” He reached forward to grab a bright red one from the many on the table before waving it in front of Solas.

“As I was trying to tell you this morning, I do not need assistance choosing clothes for this weekend. I already bought—“

“Not for you! As if you could pull off a bowtie—for me!” 

Solas stared before walking  away down the aisle of suits.

“Wait, Solas! Red or Gold?” Dorian called after him. “Alright, alright! I only jest! But you have to admit that whatever you picked out is probably not the best you could do.”

"What I already have is completely appropriate.”

“Egh—“ Dorian made a sound, rounding on him with a slightly disgusted look. “Solas, what you are wearing now is completely appropriate. That doesn’t mean it’s… good.”

They stood, staring back at one another until Solas sighed.  Relenting.

“Tell me, what color is the suit you got?” Dorian asked again.

“Brown.”

“Brown! Solas, this is the Winter Palace. In Orlais! Brown!?”

He glared back.  It had fit him well, and it was unassuming. A trait he wanted more than ever, considering it was the Winter Palace.

Perhaps at an Arlathvhen, he’d wear gold instead.

“Are you wearing a mask?”

“No.”

Absolutely not.

“It may not be the daily fashion anymore, but you better believe there will be hundreds of masks that night. They still bring out the pomp and glamour for these things.”

“I’m not wearing a mask.”

“Fine. No fun then.” Dorian huffed, his hand skimming over the racks beside them, fiddling with the collars. “But at least let me try to be a good friend?”

Solas stopped at that, turning to look at the Tevinter. But Dorian wasn’t looking at him as he spoke, sliding the coats back to find a proper size.

“I know that’s hard for you, but I’m actually proud that you’ve been awarded by the Orlesian Queen and her ridiculous government. You and Merrill.”

“Dorian—“

“Just let me help you pick out something. Wear your blasted brown suit if you must but—“

Solas laughed and the sound had Dorian turning to look at him.

He gave his friend a smile, even if it was small and worried with his brow. “If you insist upon it, there is a pocket for a handkerchief and the cuffs will need links.”

Dorian’s surprise lasted a few seconds before his mustache curled. “See! There we are. Progress! Pocket squares and cufflinks—“

He let Dorian lead them, smiling at the man’s back.

But his phone vibrated.

Her question was almost tempting. Because, not only would he finally see her, but he would consequently miss the trip to Halamshiral completely.

His phone was heavy in his pocket as he considered.

Solas hated ignoring her, but he needed to think.

He thought of her much too often, considered her in too many of his decisions…

Because the curiosity and the longing to feel her presence before him rather than through the small device was beginning to tear at the edges of his restraint.  Enough to abandon the risks of her turning away from him.

And she would.

Coming forward and meeting now—it didn’t just mean hearing her say his name, or letting her know his skin, his thoughts, his feelings.

It meant knowing all of Fenharel’s too, thanks to his reckless forgetfulness.

But…

It was getting harder to fall asleep without the burning temptation to call her in the night and listen to her soft laughs again.

His phone easily lifted in his hands as he turned it over.

But his eyes narrowed in surprise.

Madame de Fer 3:20pm
It is done, my dear.

And a weight lifted from his shoulders that he didn’t expect.

 


 

Ellana ended up coming home with no bags.

She tossed her keys across the kitchen counter and watched them slide and fall to the ground with a long sigh.

He didn’t answer.

To be fair, it had only been a couple hours since her last text.

Dropping her bag and jacket, she followed the trajectory of her keys to get a drink from the fridge.

It wasn’t like she had really meant it, asking him that. If he ended up agreeing to meet, she would most likely turn him down.

She couldn’t skip out on the ceremony, even if she really wanted too.

But…

If he agreed to come…

Her phone rang and the sound had her jumping from a barely open fridge, slamming her hand against the counter and knocking her foot on the leg of her table as she scrambled for her phone in her jacket.

Heart beating, she nearly whined in dejection when she saw the name.

Incoming Call…
Deshanna 5:55pm

She answered, taking her phone to her bed and falling on it a bit dramatically.

“Savhalla Keeper.”

“Da’len.”

How absolutely weird it was to hear that and want something else. He had forever ruined the endearment.

“Briala called here this morning.”

Deshanna sounded much better than the last few calls they had. In the wake of the Fen’Harel  article, her Keeper had been frantic and anxious. Not that she could blame her, what with the other journalists harking her every move.

“Is everything alright?”

“Oh, yes. She just wanted to reach out for assurance. She spoke some Elvhen.”

“Really?”

“Yes, it was kind. She speaks well of you and the Dalish.”

Ellana smiled a bit at her ceiling.

“She spoke of Halamshiral. You leave Friday ‘ma Sael?”

“Yes, in the morning. I was going to call you before the plane left.”

“And not before? She says you will most likely have to speak on our part.”

“I know.” Ellana rolled to one side, staring at her clothes and wondering briefly if she had anything of her own that would suit her for the night. “I’m ready for that part. I just need something to wear.”

“I’m sure anything will be fine.”

“Yeah…”

“Have you spoken to Mother Giselle?”

“No.”

The Chantry had not contacted her for months. But why would they? They had no idea she was aligned with Briala to redeem her clan beneath their sponsorship.

Unless they read the news, of course.

Still. She had received no word from the Chantry Mother that supervised her, and no official looking letters had come in the mail.

“No, they haven’t called. But seeing that it’s a ceremony in Orlais, I don’t doubt that they will have representatives there. They’ll know who I am as soon as Briala introduces me.”

Deshanna hummed but didn’t say anything.

“It may… be bad. When they find out.” She warned, listening to the silence worriedly. “I’m sorry about the reporters and that—“

“Don't worry about it Ellana. Mr. Tethras sent someone out last Monday and we haven’t had much trouble since.”

Bless that man.

“I know I was not strong in the face of it. That was my own weakness. But you were always good at holding together, Ellana. I put my faith in you as you do our people.”

She swallowed back the heaviness those words imparted. It was as touching as it was nerve wracking.

“Perhaps the Chantry will not look lightly on your manipulation, but it’s what we always expected. Just remember that if human faith is so fickle that they cannot reconcile their outcast Andraste with an outcast Dalish, then they deserve to be rattled with doubt.”

Ellana was quiet, but a smile spread across her face.

“I know I’ve said it before da’len, but I am proud of you. You’ve done so much. And in new ways that protect the old ways. I can only imagine that you will repaint the walls of Halamshiral with our own colors again this Saturday.”

“Ma sarannas.”

They talked some more about home. Ellana asked about the children and the school year and Deshanna laughed at her stories of Varric’s TV show and how no one knew how to make their own ice cream in the city.

When she hung up, her thoughts were on home instead, and Deshanna’s soft encouragement.

She stood, tossing her phone as she headed to the closet, pushing back the hangers of her clothes and dresses.

She pulled out her wardrobe and climbed up on it, reaching into the boxes on the high shelf she had left there when she had moved in years ago.

Ellana grasped hold of a dusty box near the bottom, yanking the wide thing out and carrying it back down to the bed.

When she opened it, the smell of her clan assaulted her through the dust.

Wood. Heady and smoked. Most likely from the wooden trunks carved into rods that crossed the back fields of Deshanna’s home, where she would let laundered clothes dry.

There was oil too, from polished leather. And the wrapped paper reeked of cut grasses and powder to keep it dry through the rain.

Her fingers delved passed the wrapping to gently pull out the Keeper’s robes, the sash and woven leather soft in her hands.

They had been given to her to wear when she finally took the role. The event had been postponed when she left for college and then applied for her masters.

Ellana couldn’t think of a better time.

What a better way to paint Halamshiral?

Chapter Text

She spent most of her Thursday packing.

The cardboard box with her Keeper’s robes went at the bottom of her rolling suitcase, followed by some casual clothes and her heavier jackets.

Socks went in, then a bag of toiletries, sleeping clothes—and then she had gotten distracted.

Dorian had called, wishing her good luck and then complaining about work for an hour.

When they had hung up, she was laying on top of some newly done laundry on her bed, the warmth heating through her skin on the bright afternoon.

So she had made the mistake of reading through her phone.

“Arasha…”
“The interest is sincere.”
“..text each time I think of you?”
“So many places where I would take you. “
“If we were together I doubt we would focus on anything else.”
“You are entirely too engaging.”

Her body changed from buzzing heat to a cold tingle across her skin, his words some impossible mixture of nostalgia and longing.

She read backwards, trailing days into months.

Months.

It had been months now since his first message.

And yet it had been a whole day and a half since their last text, when she asked him about his weekend plans.

Such a stupid move.

Not for the first time, Ellana hit the call button only to end it again immediately.

How was it that she always found herself lying in bed thinking of him?

She sat up and tossed her phone into the laundry.

No. She had to pack.

And he was probably just as busy.

And even if he wasn’t, if he was fretting about meeting her, let him. He had been the avoiding one, not her. And she hadn’t actually meant it. Not really. She couldn’t cancel her trip to Halamshiral if he accepted. And if she invited him to come with her he would probably immediately decline.  Plane tickets to Orlais weren’t exactly cheap.

Funny how they had made plans to meet so easily weeks ago, and now it was…

“I tremble at the thought of my self-restraint wavering under the sway of your words.”

Well things had escalated hadn’t they?

Ellana preoccupied herself with gathering together some shoes, pushing the thoughts of her phone and her vhenan out of her head.

So when her phone went off, she couldn’t be blamed for practically tripping over the open luggage to dig through the laundry and swipe her screen.

But the text wasn’t from F.H. It was unknown.

—xxx-xxx-2424  12:10pm
HEY DONT YOU LIVE AROUND HERE?
Attachment: 1 Image

Before she could even guess who the message was from, they sent an image.

The picture loaded into a blurry photo of a sandwich shop. She recognized the logo and the small chalkboard sign outside its open door. It was a block away from the corner light of her apartment.

She had only been once by herself, and had not returned. The sandwiches had been a bit too large to finish.

She didn’t answer, but the texts continued anyway.

—xxx-xxx-2424  12:11pm
DID YOU EAT LUNCH ALREADY?
COME EAT WITH US HERALD
MY TREAT

To say she was uneasy was an understatement. Someone awfully close to her house was calling her Herald? Not the best sign.

—12:12pm
who is this?
who is us?

She didn’t have to wait long, the stranger typed immediately.

—xxx-xxx-2424  12:12pm
OH YEAH SORRY
Attachment: 1 image

When the picture loaded, Ellana laughed, her eyes widening as she saw one large smiling face and another, not so amused glance. Both parties standing outside said sandwich shop in an awkwardly cropped selfie.

—12:14pm
on my way!



Solas didn’t have to wait long before the door opened.

“Chuckles! You made it.”

“Is Merrill inside?”

“Yeah, come in—“ Varric stepped aside from the large entrance, pulling the door open to reveal the clean wood floors and tall hallway.

The author lived in a secluded loft, in a part of downtown that Solas didn’t often visit. It had a bar in the lobby of the building, with a doorman Varric knew by name.

“Now, don’t get too worried. She’s just—“

“Oh! SOLAS!”

The shout took both men by surprise as they turned the corner into Varric’s living room.

He barely had a moment to catch the sight of Merrill’s crumpled crying face and her outstretched arms before she grasped at his jacket and her face smooshed into his lapels.

“S-solas, you wouldn’t ever believe it even if I t-told you, I co-couldn’t quite believe it myself but oh it’s true and so-so-so—“

He stiffened entirely, hands grasping her shoulders even as her own scrambled along his forearms and chest.  “Merrill, please—“

“I got the phone c-call from Alvaen first even though I’m not on speaking terms with the clan he said that he knew that I would be interested to—“

“Daisy, slow down a bit for the poor guy, will you?” Varric tried also, smiling amusedly even as his brows furrowed.  He raised his hand from his height to pat her hip.

“But I couldn’t possibly when I have to explain the phone call, or the first one, because I c-called again after when I forgot to ask about Itha’s words—“

“Da’len.”

Merrill’s mouth shut. Her wide glass eyes stared up at Solas.

He had not used the term on her before, adverse as he had been to Merrill’s Dalishness through their time working together. But after its effect he realized , perhaps that had been a mistake.

“Breathe.”

Merrill inhaled.

“Again.”

She exhaled, her arms leaving his to rub at her stained cheeks. “R-right. Of course. I-I’m sorry Professor. I suppose I’m a tad excited, aren’t I?”

“If that’s what you call excited.” Varric laughed. “Didn’t I get you a glass of water? Where did that go?”

“Oh! I must have left it on the—“

“I’ll get  it, I’ll get it.” He stopped, shaking his head. The dwarf left them to head to his kitchen.

They watched him go before Solas sighed.

“Now... As easily as you can manage, explain to me why I got a phone call full of tears to come to Varric’s today.” He said, not being able to help the slight exasperation in his eyes and his voice.

Merrill’s brow furrowed. “Oh, I’m sorry but it was just the most wonderful news!”

At that Solas blinked.

“Wonderful?”

“Oh yes, you’ll never believe it!” Merrill smiled then, tears squeezing from her eyes passed her blood written cheeks. “The Eluvian, Solas! It was ruled in Sabrae’s favor!”

He paused, watching as Merrill clasped her hands before him in contained excitement.

“The court must have been in session this whole time in secret—or perhaps it was only a short time… but it doesn’t matter, they still ruled in favor of the Dalish. The mirror is ours, our property! Orlais doesn’t get to keep it, not even for fixing! It’s legally required to go back to my clan!”

“Ah.”

“We did it! Or well… they did it. The clan. Or the courts. Someone.”

She waited.

“Isn’t that wonderful?”

Solas gave her a smile, a soft and easy one. “I am very happy for you Merrill.”

So his initial information had been right. And here he thought that Vivienne had lied to him, when Merrill had called him crying a storm.

He walked then, passing her to head further into Varric’s house.

“Oh, I know you don’t care much where the mirror goes Solas, but you must be happy a little at the news. It means so much for us! The Dalish. Elves even! The entire country of Orlais had to submit to a little Free March clan! It’s never been heard of—“

“I’m sure the board did not mind the decision knowing they could purchase the mirror if they could not acquire it legally.”

“No, no, no!” Merrill called after him, sweeping in front of him again with a wide smile. “They can’t!”

And now Solas was confused.  She must have noticed, because she continued.

“They won’t I mean. My clan. Itha decided they aren’t selling.”

“What?” He asked, eyes narrowing.  Ellana’s words raced through his mind.

“They are keeping it! Oh—I was so proud to hear it. Even if the price would have been good—it means so much that Itha is going to hold it on our reservation. I asked her to consider letting us finish restoring it—and even if I am still eject from the clan she said that the others may agree to it—“

She continued, but Solas was staring at nothing as he considered her words.

He had not expected the Dalish to keep the Eluvian. He had contacted Vivienne out of a sympathy to Merrill. And perhaps to…

He swallowed, remembering Ellana again.

But even though his favor had been born out of pity for the clan, their rejection of their unkown charity almost stirred… pride in him?

“—would be such a scandal!”

He blinked, looking back up at his assistant. “I’m sorry?”

“At Halamshiral!”

He shook his head. “What about Halamshiral?”

“The Eluvian! Orlais must have been so smug thinking they would get it, it has its own display at Halamshiral. Itha and the clan said they could keep it until after the event, but oh! Can you imagine their faces! Their biggest exhibit on loan from the Dalish!”

Merrill laughed, her fingers pressing against her mouth. “I can’t wait to see their faces!”

Solas chuckled a little at that, imagining a certain rival archeologists own irritated face.

“We are still going aren’t we? I didn’t want to before, but now I need to see it, and I believe some of my clan would be there.”

He smiled, tightly this time. “Unfortunately it is not something we can miss, especially after this news.”

His phone felt like a rock in his jacket pocket.

Solas would have to text her now, and tell her he was officially unavailable.

A phone rang loud between the two of them, and for a few seconds his heart stopped beating in an uneasy fear.

But Merrill revealed her buzzing device first.

“Oh it’s Hawke!! I texted earlier—oh, do you mind?”

He shook his head, watching as she hurried about him and wandered into the living room. “Hawke! Oh you’ll never believe the best news I just—“

He listened to her for a moment before considering using the phone himself, and calling Ellana then.

But he had been avoiding her. Her proposal of meeting this weekend was too much of a temptation to take and he couldn’t bring himself to say no.

He would have to now, but perhaps only by text. And perhaps he could wait just a little longer.

Instead, he found Varric in the kitchen.

“You get the news out of Daisy?”

“At an eventual point, yes.”

Varric looked over his shoulder at him from the counter, where he seemed to be pouring a few drink from a cold pitcher.

“I do not need—“

“Oh don’t start Chuckles. It’s some tea for Daisy and I figured I was already getting it.”

Solas frowned at the word, but said nothing in the face of Varric’s generosity. Instead he sat at the counter’s bar.

Or he tried to.

Most of entire surface was covered in stacks of papers and magazines.

It was a clean clutter, the stacks neatly in place in all corners, with pens at the ready in front of a quiet laptop.

“Excuse the work, would you?” Varric said, strategically placing the cold tea glass in front of Solas.

“No matter, I would expect no less from a writer.”

Varric huffed but said nothing, sliding his own drink closer to him.

Solas glanced at the work, and found no manuscript lying around, only a clean legal pad with notes. Addresses and dates.

Perhaps financial work then?

“Are you filing taxes ear--"

Crossroads.

He stared at the magazine’s cover. A February issue. Old.

Crossroads was an Elvhen magazine. Not exactly a common household purchase.

There was an article in there about entrance rituals to ancient temples. Page 23.

“Shit. Taxes. Thanks for the reminder. I gotta do those or Aveline will be pissed again.”

Solas slowly wiped the condensation from his cold tea as he read the titles along their spines beneath Crossroads.

Circle, Ages, even a two year old copy of the Apostate.

His jaw hardened, his eyes turning toward Varric.

“Are you finding a hidden ancestry in the Elvhen, child of the stone?” Solas asked, voice even and calm.

Varric laughed, he always did at that name. “Very funny, Chuckles.” He shook his head, drinking and crackling the ice in his glass. “No, a friend of mine is trying to track down a writer.”

“An Elvhen one?”

“It seems that way, but at this point they could be a Qunari and I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s….” Varric sighed, hands smoothing back his hair. “…turning out to be a lot harder than I thought. But I owe her. I think I may have to go to the Nightingale at this point.”

Solas said nothing.

“You would think so much publishing would mean… hey.”

He waited.

“You wouldn’t happen to know anything would you?” Varric asked, reaching forward to snatch a magazine. “The guy writes a lot about history, maybe stuff more intense than what you teach but I found some articles on some dig sites too. Fenharel? That ring a bell?”

He took the open magazine from him. “Fen’harel, is the Elvhen word for the Dalish interpreta—“

“Big scary dog, yeah I get it. But that’s the pseudonym. I asked Daisy about it but she just blabbed the same stuff.”

Solas stared down at his own article from February and hummed in thought.

“Have you contacted the magazine’s Editor?”

Varric gave him a look. “They seemed to know about as much as you right now.”

Solas doubted that.

“Well, perhaps check their publisher.”

“I’ll do that, thanks.”

It was useless advice, Solas knew, and Varric seemed to as well, taking the magazine back with more than a little disappointment.

They talked only a little longer, before Solas excused himself both from him and Merrill’s emotional state. He left her with promises of their trip to Halamshiral in just one more day, and with a new anxiety to add to the rest of his recent unease.

It seemed with each resolution he created, two other problems always took its place.



“Herald!!”

Ellana nearly ducked even though she saw it coming.

The sandwich shop was practically empty save for the two customers standing in front of the man behind the register.

The Champion of Kirkwall was waving at her, smile bright and gleaming as she crossed the shop.

Ellana recognized Hawke even with the giant dark sunglasses. But that could also be because of the shock white hair Fenris had, standing next to Hawke.

The two couldn’t look casual if they tried.

“I knew it! Varric told me you lived by here. And I always pass by here on my way to see Fenris so I thought – why not both!?”

She smiled feeling a burn in her cheeks at getting this close (for a second time) to the Champion’s charming laugh. She gave a short wave to Fenris too, but he was staring confusedly at the menu.

“I have to admit, I’m surprised you texted me.”

“Oh, were you busy?  We’re in the area if you need anything, but you don’t have to stay.” Hawke said, not so worried, but with a genuine curiosity that Ellana could easily see why so many people went to the Champion for help as so often as they did in the TV show.

“No, no.” Ellana nodded. “I could use some lunch.”

“Perfect.” Hawke grinned.

They all took turns ordering, more or less. Fenris seemed to just sit and read the menu while Hawke ordered for him, without comment.

There were a few minutes of argument between them about paying, broken only by the register employee.

“Wait… aren’t you…” He trailed, staring at Hawke with a raised finger.

“No.” Fenris growled, sliding enough money on the counter for all three of them and grabbing their trays to lead them to a back table.

When they sat to eat, Hawke did most of the talking.

“I got your number from Varric after the premiere at Josephine’s place. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have. Especially with all this work talk from him and Cassandra.”

“Work talk?” She questioned, leaning in with a shake of her head. “You mean the TV Show?”

“What?” Hawke frowned, staring back at her over the sunglasses. “No! That’s all been filmed. I mean this Inquisition thing they’re brewing up. All that paperwork Varric dumped on my doorstep and expected me to read.”

“Inquisition?”

“Oh right, I don’t know if he’s told you. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to tell you.”

Hawke paused for a second, before shrugging and taking a bite of sandwich.

It took a while before Ellana realized where she had heard the word before. But her conversation with Josephine had seemed like weeks ago now. And neither Cassandra nor Varric had been mentioned then.

“Anyway, Varric’s been getting political. Maybe because of his new friends, Josephine and Leliana. Or that Templar. But there’s been talk of doing some governmental work. With you.”

Ellana was already shaking her head in confusion, her hand lowering as she forgot her sandwich.

“You might be mistaken… Varric and the others have been helping me with clan work. But that’s not something….”

“No, I’m talking about the international union stuff.”

The looked at each other, both obviously lost.  

Finally Hawke just laughed. “No one in this damn circle of friends seems to know how to talk to each other.”

It was something Ellana could agree with.

“Well maybe this was good if useless. Varric said he wanted to start—“

A sound interrupted them. A short annoying chime that had Hawke digging through a jacket.

Ellana watched Hawke pull out a phone with one hand and switch from the sandwich to a soda with the other. “Oh—Merrill texted! Shit... Merrill. Hang on a second.”

They watched Hawke leave quickly to make a phone call outside, replacing sunglasses and beginning to talk almost loud enough to hear through the glass windows.

She put down her sandwich as she turned to consider the other elf across from her.

“Have you been busy Fenris?” She asked suddenly, seeming to nearly startle him. She forgot momentarily about Hawke’s talk of work.

“Hm…” He looked away from her before answering. “I’ve been looking for full-time jobs instead of a part-time one.”

“Any luck?”

He leaned back, crossed arms. “No.”

She nodded.

Ellana almost forgot how conversations with Fenris worked.

“Where do you work now?”

He looked away again. “I make deliveries. Mail mostly. Packages.”

They were quiet again, watching Hawke laugh and wave a hand in the air like the person on the phone could see it.

“Listen, Fenris… what are you doing Saturday?”

 The elf stiffened slightly, eyes flickering to hold hers for the first time since she came into the small shop.

“Saturday?”

“Yeah. There’s this thing I have to go to. In Orlais.”

“You mean Halamshiral?” He asked, his voice slow as his strong brow slowly rose in suspicion.

“Yes. It’s an award ceremony.” Ellana hurried, trying to ignore her fingers curling hard into the small table they sat at.

Fenris was quiet as he considered her before asking, “Do you need… a delivery?”

She laughed then, she couldn’t help it. “No- no I mean, if you aren’t doing anything, I need a date.”

Fenris instantly leaned further back, his eyes flickering elsewhere. “Oh. Ah—hm.”

“I have tickets for a plus one but… well it is sort of fancy.” Ellana explained, her eyes staring as she watched red spread from the tips of his ears and through the bridge of his nose.

“I… “

Fenris looked up with a frown, brows drawn. “I can’t.”

They were quiet, but Ellana nodded with a small smile.

It wasn’t exactly heartbreaking. It had been more of a long shot than a hope.

She had been avoiding calling and asking who she really wanted to. And now there was finally no other excuse.

At that depressing thought it wasn’t hard to not be embarrassed by the rejection.

“It’s alright, I figured you and Hawke—“

“No.” Fenris stopped and then faltered. “Well yes… Hawke and I… we’re..” He looked confused. “But that’s not—I can’t.”

Ellana blinked. “What?”

“I am not allowed to fly out of Fereldan.”

“Oh… because of—“

“My parole. It’s federally illegal.”

“Oh.”

“I apologize.”

“No don’t—“

“Hey! Sorry about that.”

They both leaned away from each other, Hawke settling back down next to Fenris.

“Good news all around it seems.” Hawke commented, picking lunch back up. “Anyway, where were we? Work?”

They didn’t get that far with that conversation though, so they ended up talking about the TV show, where Ellana would ask about specific characters or events and Hawke would affirm their truth or validity.

Most of the time Fenris would shake his head silently, or vocally object.

 As they left, the two insisted on seeing her back to her apartment.

Hawke asked about Orlais and her planned trip, telling her to be wary about Orlesians and their cheeses. It made even Fenris laugh, who gave her a few wines to try.

They wished her luck and Ellana went back to packing with a little more enthusiasm. 

Chapter Text

—F.H.  5:05am [Roaming OST]
I had thought to accept your offer, extremely tempted even.
But now urgent business has come up I must attend this weekend.
Forgive me.  F.H.

—Ellana 6:23pm
irlahnash vhenan
it wasnt a big deal remember?
maybe I was just looking for a way out of my own plans

—F.H.  5:06am [Roaming OST]
Your messages always manage to reach me at the best times.
And yes, I remember. You still have my apologies.
I perhaps gave it more thought than I should have.  F.H.

—Ellana 6:25pm
what do you mean best times?
are you in bed?
what time is it?

—F.H.  5:07am [Roaming OST]
I was in an unpleasant conversation. I was allowed to excuse myself thanks to you
It is 6:30pm? Roughly.
Can you not see the time on your phone?  F.H.

—Ellana 6:26pm
oh wow no wonder im hungry for dinner
I just got off a plane to orlais
I knew the flight would be long but I didnt know the difference was this big

—F.H.  5:09am [Roaming OST]
what1
Wha?
Really?
For how long?  F.H.

—Ellana 6:28pm
just a few days?
its a short vacation I guess
have to do some clan stuff
sorry I didnt tell you it was sort of sudden

—F.H.  5:10am [Roaming OST]
It is alright.
I will most likely just miss you.  F.H.

—Ellana 6:29pm
what?
what do you mean?

—F.H.  5:10am [Roaming OST]
I will be in Orlais tomorrow.
But I will be busy for the first three days or so for business.  F.H.

—Ellana 6:30pm
really!?
no way!
how crazy is that?

—F.H.  5:11am [Roaming OST]
Indeed, how odd.
You and I are a tale of happy coincidences it seems, Ellana.  F.H.

 


 


—Ellana 10:32am
whens your flight today?

—Ellana 12:02pm
is it now?
its now isnt it?

—Ellana 3:15pm
okay professor explain to me what this ugly statue is about.
[Attachment: 1 Image]
is that supposed to be vallaslin?
why do orlesians think we put vallaslin on our feet?

—Ellana 3:44pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]
[Attachment: 1 Image]
these cakes though!

—Ellana 4:36pm
how much do all these boat rides cost?
i tried asking but the man only spoke orlesian

—Ellana 6:02pm
my hotel room
[Attachment: 1 Image]
when you get in i want to see yours

—F.H. 7:11pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]
Ha! Let us see if I can answer all of this.
That is SUPPOSED to be Shartan.
He was revised in most public displays, but that particular statue and its replicas, were left intact because the Emperor at the time enjoyed the artist VERY much.
If you get my meaning.  F.H.

—Ellana 7:14pm
wow professor!
did you just get in?
also ew.

—F.H. 7:16pm
Those little boat rides generally cost whatever you deem appropriate to ‘tip’ the rower.
I have ridden one. It is nice the first time.
Repetitive and boring afterwards.
Also, if you do not care for Orlesian song, do not take one at all.
Night rides are the best in my opinion. F.H.

—Ellana 7:18pm
lol that explains some things

—F.H. 7:18pm
I landed an hour ago but I just got into my hotel.
[Attachment: 1 Image]
Why is your room bigger than mine? F.H.

—Ellana 7:19pm
oh jealous?
first class professor cant match the salary of an unemployed dalish girl for once?

—F.H. 7:19pm
Oh you think yourself witty, vhenan.
Someone has been sitting on savings.
Yes, a tad jealous.
Tell me though. How big is your bath?
[Attachment: 1 Image]  F.H.

— Ellana 7:20pm
hahren your feet!

—F.H. 7:20pm
Ah, I had not noticed they were in the shot.
Please ignore them.  F.H.

— Ellana 7:21pm
such handsome feet!  

—F.H. 7:21pm
Your bath, Ellana.
How big is your bath?  F.H.

—Ellana 7:23pm
okay okay
[Attachment: 1 Image]

—F.H.  7:23pm
I was hoping my bath was at least more luxurious.
As that is not the case, my embarrassed feet and I will now be getting in.
I will text you tomorrow vhenan.  F.H.

—Ellana 7:24pm
Mine is big enough for two though, professor. ;D

—F.H. 7:24pm
On nydha veraisa. F.H.

—Ellana 7:24pm
<3

Chapter Text

The buzzing came from somewhere above her.

Ellana opened her eyes slowly, taking in the pale pink sunlight passing through the frilled curtains.

It painted her wallpaper a pastel purple and made her blankets look like seafoam.

Orlais.

She yawned, her hand rising past the intricate carved headboard to snatch her phone from its rattling surface.

Her screen greeted her happily, and the name made her legs draw up into her stomach with giddiness.

Incoming Call…
F.H. 7:46am

This time, there wasn’t any hesitation as she drew the phone to her ear after answering.

“Vhenan?”

It was quiet, a quick drawn breath the only reply.

She waited, working her mouth of sleep. She listened to his breath and the sound of the curtains wafting against the thick carpet almost like they were one in the same.

“Ha-

“Forgive me. I suppose I am not used to the endearment yet. At least not the vocal version of it.”

“Mmmm.” She smiled, sinking further into the sheets with the accompaniment of his voice.

“Is it too early to call you?”

“Not really.” She answered, resisting another yawn.

“But you were in fact sleeping.”

“Yes, but I’m not going complain about you waking me up.” She smiled.

“Ah—” she could almost hear his grin. “That is the tone I was hoping for. I wanted to fill my mind with your voice this morning. This may be my only time to speak with you today and I hoped it would be full of your languid teases and wicked chuckling.”

Ellana’s toes curled.

“Do you have any plans today?” He continued.

“I don’t have to be anywhere today until noon.”

“Oh? Sightseeing tour?” He was shuffling something near the phone.

“I wish.” She groaned. “Today is my event. Thing. For my clan.”

“You do not have to explain if you do not want to.”

“I don’t.” She agreed, frowning at the idea of the Winter Palace.

She had an appointment with Ambassador Briala at noon at the Halamshiral governmental offices. She had stopped by the building the day before after her flight during her little adventures around the city. It was huge.

Afterwards it was back to the hotel for a shower to start getting ready for the Ceremony and dinner tonight.

It was all today.

“To be honest I’d rather just ditch it and tag along with whatever you’re doing.”

“I do not believe we are in the same city.” He answered simply.

“Oh yeah. Probably not.”

She hadn’t through of that. He was probably in Val Royeaux, not Halamshiral.

 “And aside from simple geography, I do not think you would enjoy my work today either.”

She was quiet, listening to him rustling. Getting dressed? Doing his hair? “I would just enjoy your company emma lath.”

Her whispered response made the noise stop.

She felt her face flush at her slip. Too much. Way too much.

Still, she called him Vhenan! Emma lath was not so far from the term. Was it?

It was just a little closer to…. Well…

Ar lath ma.

Ellana swallowed, sitting up suddenly, the bed crumpling about her. She fought to ignore the phrase completely.

“W-What are you doing here anyway? Some teacher conference or college field trip? One of the abroad programs for A-list students? Or is this something with your scientific art stuff.”

“A bit of both, but I would play hooky for some sightseeing with you if I had my choice as well.” He chuckled. “You did some touring yesterday it seemed? Enjoy what you saw?”

“It’s very different. The streets are wider and cleaner. But it almost seems too big in scale. Every building looks like a palace. Even the post office. Or I think it was a post office. There are no bilingual signs here. It’s all just Orlesian.”

“They do not cater to foreigners, no.” He agreed. “Do you not know Orlesian?”

“No!” Ellana laughed. “Well, no… I know Merci, S'il vous plait… and Arrêtez.” She frowned as she spoke the words before scratching her head, trying to remember Leliana’s short lessons. “A friend taught me ‘tiens-moi nu courent’ or wait—“

Tiens-moi au courant.” He corrected.

“Oh is that—“

Votre prononciation n'est pas mauvais, ma vhenan. Eman solas i'mar eol.”

The twisting lyrics of his words from Orlesian into Elvhen were so effortless and rapid it took her breath away.

It had felt like hot water flowing against her skin and had sounded like the hissing kiss of steam.

“Ah… wow… you’ll have to run that by me again professor.” She breathed. “Slower. And deeper.”

His laugh reverberated through her chest, like he was beside her, vibrating his mirth and heat into her skin with his voice.

“Even the Elvhen, da’len?”

“No—no I got that, but the Orlesian. Are you fluent?”

Non seulement en Orlésien. Une seule langue n'est jamais suffisante.”

She heaved a breath, closing her eyes. Not that Orlesian was her favorite language, but his voice had already been something that made her body ache. To hear it slither through the rapid language was almost too much to bear.

“Was that something inappropriate?”

“Not at all.” He paused, and then spoke again, this time with a slow intention she knew had to be naughty. “Je veux te lécher des hanches jusqu’aux pieds.  Now that was inappropriate.”

Ellana shivered. “Are you going to tell me what you said?”

“Ir’tel’din.” He denied. “And I would much rather seduce you in our own people’s language.”

Ellana felt something soften inside her at his use of ‘our.’ It stood out more than his suggestion.

It was maybe the first time he had referred to their heritage as something they shared.

“Oh?”

“Of course. Isala'gara'seia'vallas ma vhenan.”

The heat of the sentence had Ellana’s free hand gripping the fabric of her shirt at her breast. Her face flushed as she pieced together her vocabulary.

“Seia? Seia’vall—Ha-Hahren!!” She accused loudly.

“Ah! Ir abelas! I—” Her professor stumbled over his words, and she heard something clatter on his end of the line. “I did not think you would know—“

“I mean it took me a second—!“

“I thought that would be too advanced—forgive me. Now I am the one embarrassed by my own words.”

“Are they…” She swallowed, but couldn’t stop herself from grinning. “True?”

“Ellana.” He said simply.

She laughed this time. There was so much frustration and reservation in that one word that it was almost ridiculous.

“Alright, alright.”

“I should go soon, there’s a car downstairs for me.”

“Oooh a car—professor you—“

“No. Hush.” He chided, but chuckled. “I will not be made fun of for calling for a towncar when you have a honeymoon sweet all to yourself.”

Ellana paused at the word honeymoon, but said nothing.

He grew quiet too.

“I can only imagine you in that bed.”

Her smile drifted along with his words.

“You could… come back to bed and imagine with me right now.”

“Ah…”

“It’s probably still warm.”

“Vhenan…I can’t.”

“Nasvaraanan na.”

He made a noise, a soft broken noise gone as quickly as he made it. Ellana bit her lip.

“Satha.” He sighed. “You impress me as much as you break my heart, knowing that much of our language.”

“Just go to work already then.” She urged.

“Now that I have permission.”

“Professor—“

“Ah—I am going. But I might… call you later tonight? If you are free?”

She thought about that.

“I would like that. Though I might not be done until late.”

“Neither will I.”

“Then it’s a date.”

“Indeed.”


 


Solas left his hotel room in a mood like contained fire. Warm and excited.

Orlais was never his favorite place to visit. And Halamshiral itself left something rotten in his mouth whenever he thought of it. And despite exciting challenges the Winter Palace was sure to bring that night, he could not help his desire to return to Ferelden as soon as it was over.

But now he lingered at the window before his elevator, staring at the city with a new fondness.

He thought of what little restaurants or cafes he would take Ellana to, if he could.

‘Could’ being the word that made him frown.

He was in Halamshiral after all. Ellana was most likely Val Royeaux. Most Dalish affairs were settled in the capital, where there was a bureau to register them.

As odd as it was that they were both in Orlais, they were most likely farther apart now than when they were both at home.

Solas rode the elevator in relative silence, trying to hang onto what he could of his phone conversation before he was forced to face his actual reason for being in the city.

The elevator dinged to the lobby.

“Well, well. Fen’harel?”

His face fell.

That happened faster than he had expected.

“Morrigan.”

The woman was standing curtly in a sharp suit in front of the lobby. She was a dark pillar of maroon and black that broke the gold and white of the ornate hotel with a suddenness he had not been ready for.

It was much too early for this.

“And here I thought it would not be until tonight that I got to see your familiar mask.”

Solas stepped out of the elevator.

“I would appreciate some discretion on your part if you expect any on mine.” He scolded, rounding her form as she stuck out her arm to force the elevator to stay open.  “Especially if you insist on spending your time stalking my presence.”

“Do not flatter yourself, Solas.” She said his name with raised brow, as if she were testing the realness of it. “I’m not at this hotel for you, I’m here for Empress Celene’s much more honored guests. Ones in higher floors than those reserved for uncontracted journalists and archeologists.”

“That reminds me, Morrigan.” He asked, watching her step in and press the level button as she also pressed the ‘close door’ command. “Which uncontracted archeologist gets the Sabrae Eluvian now that it is theirs to keep?”

The golden metal doors closed on her cold glare.

“Well, she remembered you at least.”

Solas nearly turned into Merrill behind him as she spoke.

“Oh! Sorry! I didn’t mean to creep. I was about to call you when I crossed her coming from the gift shop!”

He steadied himself before his assistant, her arms full of bags.

“Shopping already?” He asked.

“I wanted to get something for Hawke and everyone! But I knew I would forget if I waited until the trip was over. So I figured I would do it first thing.”

“The car should be out front already.” He nodded. “Josephine called already from concierge. We will need to meet with her and head to the curation association if we want to—“

“Oh! Oh! Could you tell them to hold the car a few minutes? I’ll drop off my bags and be down again—“

“Quickly now, Merrill.” He hurried, pressing the button for on the silver plaque.

“I will! Oh this is so exciting! Maybe we can stop by a few clothes shops after the meeting before we go to the Winter Palace? I would love to buy some girly things for Isabella and—“

“One opened on the other side.” Solas interrupted, pointing to the automatic doors down the line of elevators.

“I’ll hurry! Thank you Solas, be back down soon!”


 

 

It was so amazing that she had not gotten lost in the city; it was almost inevitable that she could lost in the governmental building.

The Ambassador offices of Halamshiral (Department of Parliament Affairs) were a series of hallways absolutely covered in gilded filigree and naked statues of people.

Elves too, which was unsettling for more reasons than just seeing ones so similar on each corner that she got even more confused to her direction.

Ellana had gotten up early enough after her morning phone call that she had time to try out a fresh bakery and café, take a boat ride down the canal, and buy a magazine outside the parliament square before heading inside to meet with Briala for her meeting.

But now, at 11:36am, she was planning on being late.

She stared helplessly at the sign before her, the engraved Orlesian letters informing her nothing but the insistence of cedilla’s in their alphabet.

She had already asked two people where exactly she was supposed to be heading, but both had waved her in opposing directions and staircases.

So with another two floors, she found herself more lost.

Ellana walked the length of the hall before turning around. She could head back to the square and start over.

She could call Briala here too. But calling her here with a lame “I’m lost in the hallway that has a painting of an Andraste” would be less than helpful.

There were a million of those.

“Excusez moi, Mademoiselle, les bureaux d'enrôlement pour la Garde des Ombres et le personnel militaire ne sont pas ouverts sur—“

Ellana shot p straight, twisting around to the voice clearly addressing her. The speed of the words made her eyes go wide, but the man paused when she turned.

“….overt pour—“

“I’m sorry.” She began to shake her head. 

“Oh.”

He stood taller then, almost at an attention.

He was holding an envelope in his hand, one that he dropped to his side as he stared at her, his dark eyes frowning in an expression that made the beard on his face ruffle slightly against the heavy lapels of his jacket.

“Es-tu perdu?”

She shook her head again, raising her hands. “I’m sorry, Pardon, I don’t work here. And I don’t—“

“You’re not Orlesian, are you my lady?”

Ellana stopped at that. A whole morning of Orlesian made the switch to tradespeak almost jarring. If relieving.

“No, no I’m not!” She laughed, a hand rubbing at her forehead as she considered the taller, broad man before her.

“I guess that much is obvious. Forgive me.”

It wasn’t said with snide. His brow creased almost at himself even if he was remarking on her Dalish face being the obvious thing.

“Are you here to enlist then?”

The question confused her completely.

“Enlist?”

His hand rose, leather gloves pointing at the hallway door behind her. “That’s the office for military enlistment.”

She turned before glaring. “No, oh Creators, I’m trying to find Ambassador Briala’s office.”

He laughed then, a hearty laugh that had Ellana unintentionally smiling back.

“Yes, that does seem more fitting.” He chuckled. “Not that I do not doubt your ability in modern warfare my lady.”

Ellana laughed, shaking her head. “Maybe next time.”

“I can show you the way, you’re a bit far off but you were headed in the right direction.”

“That would be… so helpful.”

He turned, shuffling aside to beckon her back down the hall. “It’s on the north end, with the much bigger offices.”

“Bigger than this? Can they really fit more paintings in these halls?”

He laughed again, his free hand fisting against his mouth and beard as if to stop the noise.

“I’m sorry, I’ve just—“

“One would think they would get tired of them, to be sure. But Orlesians love their things big just as much as Fereldens do. They just prefer lions over dogs.”

Ellana smiled at him but shook her head. “I’m not Ferelden.”

“I would not assume you anything but your own my lady. Aside from Dalish, but that is also a presumption these days.”

“Ah—you don’t have to call me lady.”

He looked confused before he looked away abashedly, thick brows worrying in embarrassment.  “Oh, an old habit. And an Orlesian one, sorry miss.”

Ellana was surprised at how easy it was to read emotion on his face.

The man was big, but not like Bull. He was sturdy, like a soldier. Or maybe an older athlete. If she had not spoken to him she might have though he was mean looking from afar.

But his voice was kind and quiet instead of loud and brash. And his Orlesian had been finer than his common. Flowy.

“Are you here on business for your clan then? Or was that in fact, the wrong guess?”

“No you’re right. I’m Dalish. I have an appointment with Briala about my clan. But I’m actually here on visit for the Masquerade.”

“Oh?”

He looked back at her as they climbed some stairs she had not been across before.

“The Conference of Achievement?”

“Yeah—actually, why does it have so many different names?”

He huffed, the smile almost lost in the corners of his mouth. “They like writing the all the capital letters on paper.”

“HA!”

“That or they hope that with all the different names, all the guests will get confused and show up to different places. That way they can be left alone to honor no one but themselves.”

It was a biting sentence that felt more serious, but the truth made her laugh no less than before.

 “Not a fan?”

“Not really. Doesn’t stop you from getting invited though.”

“Oh, are you going?” Ellana blinked, waiting as they paused in front of some double doors. He stepped in front to open them for her.

“I’m getting an award.”

“Really?”

“Well… my men and their station crew are. I’m invited by honor to… stand and clap for them I suppose.”

Ellana grinned at the stranger, his resignation obvious as they crossed into a larger hallway filled with bustling people.

“That sounds better than what I have to do. I think they want me to talk to people.”

“I do not envy you my lad-madamoi—ah.” His mouth shut and he looked at her as if expecting to get chided.

Ellana just smiled at him with raised brows.

“You’ve made it harder than it was before now. How about we introduce ourselves?”

“My name is Ellana. Ellana Lavellan.” They stopped in the middle of the hallway.

“I’m Warden Blackwall.”

Warden.

Ellana’s hand was gripped by his leather glove as her eyes widened. A Warden. She had never met one before.

“Blackwall?”

“It’s what everyone calls me anyway. Now—“ He looked over her shoulder, his hand pointing again. “Beyond those doors at the end are the Ambassador’s rooms. Check in with the receptionist there. They’ll probably have you wait for another hour on their lousy couches, but you’ll be where you need to. Briala is usually quick about things.”

She twisted before looking back at him.

“Thank you, Warden.”

“Blackwall is fine my lady, no need to make it more than a job.”

“I’ll make that deal if you don’t call me lady again.”

He laughed, making someone passing by stop and stare, but Ellana smiled. “Right, of course.”

He waved her off, the smile on his face making his eyes warm.

“Thank you!”

“Good day, Ellana.”



“They will know of your name as soon as you arrive on the carpets and the photographers will not relent to make sure everyone knows your face.”

“I had figured as much. I only warn you that the Chantry knows both already. I’m sure they will be the first responders the day after.”

“All the better for us then, Herald. Unless you don’t see it fit. Your title will bolster our efforts with any judges or patrons but if you are not ready--”

“No. I’m prepared for it. I can’t keep it a secret for longer anyway.”

Ambassador Briala was an excellent speaker.

Shorter than Ellana had first thought, but her presence seemed to make up the rest of her stature.  The woman had been direct from the start. As if they had known each other a long time or as if Ellana worked for the woman already, Briala had wasted no time in sharing every technicality she could cover and referred to her for new direction. 

“I know that it is less than ideal for you to be in the public’s eye. I can only promise that most of the discomfort will be at the beginning of the night only.”

“You aren’t expecting me to speak?”

“Speak, no. Comment, yes. If the media asks you for one, that is. ”

Briala stood from her chair, sliding a folder of papers off her desk and into her hands.

“Then after the red carpet…?” Ellana asked, standing too as Briala came to meet her in front of the large desk.

“I will have other business to attend to throughout the night and you are free to enjoy dinner as you please.”

The woman gave her a disarming smile that made Ellana feel surprisingly at ease.  She had been nervous about the meeting for days. With her luck through the entire process, she had expected the Ambassador to be like most politicians she had met recently.

Instead Briala had welcomed her in Elvhen and supplied reassurances about their arrangement, the Conference, and her coming Appeal.

“I have some notes on disclosure. There are certain things I would like to keep out of the press until we are ready to release them. And your seat number is in here. I have you placed with a few other Fereldans from your museum.”

“Oh, with Josephine—” When she handed Ellana the folder, Briala caught her fingers with her own.

“Ellana, one more thing.”

They paused. A breath of air between them for the first moment since she had entered and they had poured over details.

This close, Ellana could see the odd quality of Briala’s eyes and their near colorless appearance.

But there was something familiar in them she recognized.

“I cannot thank you enough for reaching out to me in this time. Your letter influenced more than just my campaign, but my own motivation to see our plights gain a voice.”

Ellana shook her head.

“Ambassador, you’re the one who answered my call for help. Not the other way around.”

Briala let her hands go then, relinquishing the folder. “Only after I had given up reaching out to the clans settled in and out of the Dales. After months of searching for a partnership with the Dalish, your proposal for a sponsorship came like an answer to fate.”

“But why would you be actively seeking a partnership with the people? We can’t legally benefit your campaign. I thought your acceptance had more to do with my connection as Herald.”

“I cannot deny that being supported indirectly by a Chantry officiate does help. The devoutly faithful will follow their word and therefore yours, knife-ear or not.” Briala looked away for a moment to think before looking back at her. It was then that Ellana realized what she recognized on her face.

Pride. It was the same pride that her people wore like shields.

“But to have the Dalish speak alongside the voices of those from the cities… we are strong unified. And while our tradition is not shared our oppression is.”

Her fingers curled harshly into the folder she held.

“But we can talk more of wistful beliefs when we have time. I will see you tonight on the carpet before the cameras.”

“Of course.”

Briala led her to her office doors, opening them into the small waiting room beyond.

“Thank you, Herald.”

“Ma sarannas Ambassador.”

They waved and Ellana quietly left the Ambassador’s seating area while a fierce determination started bubbling through her.

It was everything she had hoped it would be. This had been the right choice. All the work, the writing, the hoping, it was finally amounting to something good. Something more than just her clan. Something maybe she could even—

“My lady.”

“Oh!”

Ellana had nearly smacked right into Warden Blackwall, his stout form positioned right in front of the offices she exited.

Almost exactly where she had last seen him a half hour ago.

He stared back at her as she did him, but his face was paling, crossed arms tensely stiff even as his fingers jittered on his biceps.

“Warden Blackwall?”

“I…figured that you may be lost on your way out of the building since you were so lost on your way in.”

It took Ellana a second before she put his thoughtfulness together and then she was grinning widely.

“You waited for me?”

“I can be a gentlemen when I remember to be.” He seemed to grumble. “And it helps that I can have an excuse to leave this blighted place earlier than usual.”

Ellana laughed and it seemed to relax the Warden.

“Now, why don’t we make a run for it to the parking lot?”

“Lead the way.”

“I had better.”

Blackwall waved her along, taking her through a different way than they had originally come. He waved his keycard through a door, the Warden symbol a shiny griffon reflecting off the plastic.

He must work in the building then. Or he was at least high enough rank within the Wardens to warrant a flexible access to all the governmental buildings.

She had always assumed most Wardens were out near the borders of old Orzammar or stationed in Weisshapt when there wasn’t a pandemic of Blight spreading.

The last blight had been years ago now.

But maybe there were Wardens placed in certain cities for recruitment and precaution?

She thought to ask him, but they had approached the exit and he held the door open for them into the busy steps outside.

“There we are, with enough daylight to waste getting ready for more political work later.”

Ellana laughed at his joke and he smiled at her in an almost timid way.

“Thank you so much for helping me. I would have missed my meeting.”

“Or you would have ended up in a hazmat suit.”

She chuckled again and his hand grabbed at the back of his neck.

“Well then. A pleasure to meet you my lady. I wish you well tonight.” He took another step down the stairs, looking out to the square before pausing to look back at her. “Maybe we will cross paths again.”

Ellana looked down at him from her new height, smiling and thinking.

He was a sturdy man and charming. And he had helped her selflessly.

What’s more, he could speak fluent Orlesian.

“Goodbye Ellana.”

“Wait.”

He paused.

“Do you have a date for tonight Blackwall?”


 

“Oh no, oh no, where have I put the curling iron now?”

“I just saw you pull it out from your bag—“

“I wandered about looking for the plugs and set it down somewhere.”

Solas peered into the open hotel room, knocking loudly on the door. “Merrill, Josephine?”

“Is that Solas!?”

“Is it five thirty already?” Josephine answered him, coming out from the bedrooms in a long golden evening gown.

“I am afraid it is.” He announced and somewhere adjacent to them Merrill cursed.

“Is the car already here?” Josephine asked again, hurrying to her table where a golden mask was set aside with a purse and some jewelry. She fitted it around her head just as she looked up at him properly. “Oh, why professor! You look very nice.”

Solas didn’t need to glance at his suit, he just nodded, brushing over the compliment.

“Thank you.”

Merrill burst in the room to join them.

“Is my hair alright!? I had thought to curl it but I don’t want to keep anyone waiting. What about the dress?  Is it wrinkled? I could use the curler to smooth out the edges perhaps but--”

They both assessed the girl with smiles.

“You look fine Merrill.” He answered. Merrill looked over at him in her own mask, twisting silver that made her eyes look impossibly larger.

“Thank you—oh I like your suit! It looks very finely made! The pocket is quite colorful.”

“I will pass the compliment on to Dorian.”

“He does have quite the eye for color.” Josephine grinned.

“The car is downstairs already Merrill.”

“Oh no! Alright—just let me grab my ticket!”

“Quickly now.”

She bustled away as fast as she could, her evening gown tight about her legs. The movement reflected in Josephine too as she shuffled toward the door.

“Give me moment Solas, I need to make a call.” She paused as she handled her phone. “Do you not have a mask?”

“I am not wearing one.”

“Oh… alright.” She looked as if she was going to say something but thought against it, dialing on her phone and stepping outside the room.

He had seen no need for masks tonight, aside from the one he always wore.

 


 


“You have a date!? Who? An Orlesian?”

“A Warden.” Ellana responded, balancing the phone on her shoulder as she closed the hotel room door behind her. She hid her keycard into her robe.

Her toes sunk into the rich carpet of the hallway.

“A Warden? Who? Do I—“

“You can meet him at dinner Josephine. I’ll be sitting with you.”

“You are!? Oh that’s good news! I was worried that I wouldn’t see you at all tonight after—What?”

Ellana waited, listening as she walked down the hall to the gleaming elevators.

“—Alright. Thank you, Solas. Yes.”

Ellana hit the button on the plaque, staring at her reflection in the polished metal. Her face stared back at her, matching the patches of exposed skin across her silhouette.

“We have to get going, but I’ll catch you at dinner?”

“Yeah, I’ll see you then.”

“Bye! Good luck on the carpet!”

“See you!”

She hung up, smiling at her phone and placing it with her hotel key and tickets.

Ellana looked back up at her reflection then, feeling her nerves swell just under the surface of her skin. She tried to shake it off when the doors opened, stepping inside.

Her confidence had been through the roof when she had been getting ready.

Each tie and belt of her robes had felt like putting on the straps of battle armor. She felt more connected with the history Deshanna had always spoke of than ever. Her mind had been full of thoughts on the many Keepers before her that had wrapped their legs in weaving leather. Of Emerald Knights who had strode through human cities in dyed wools of green and brown.

But standing in the metal reality of an Orlesian elevator clad in thin robes had Ellana feeling foolish.

The doors dinged open and the marble of the lobby was cold on her feet.

She tried to ignore the goose bumps on her flesh as she strode hastily past the hotel patrons. She was suddenly very aware of how much shorter she felt without shoes, or how high the slit of her robes ran up on her exposed thighs.

A few people turned to look at her.

“Lady Lavellan.”

She paused, having almost made it to the doors of the car park when someone called her from the concierge desk.

Blackwall.

The Warden was head to toe in uniform. The rich blue was interrupted only by black belts and shiny silver buckles. His dark hair and beard looked almost a part of his regalia, framing the domino like metal mask around his eyes.

She would have been utterly intimidated by the sight of him, if he wasn’t cradling the biggest bouquet of roses she had ever seen.

“Ehm… these…” He seemed to realize what she was staring at, stepping forward to meet her. “These are for you.”

Ellana felt her sudden nervousness slide away.

“Every single one?”

Blackwall chuckled. “No, just those three there.”

He hefted the entire thing to her, paper crinkling beneath their fingers.

“Let’s just say I couldn’t decide which was best.”

Ellana laughed loudly then, enough that a few people stopped to stare at the two.

“This is amazing!”

He shuffled where he stood. “It’s not so… I had…”

Ellana glanced at him wryly.

“If I am being quite honest my lady, I have no idea what the exact rules are for Conference dates are.”

She just smiled. “I love them.”

“Good. That’s a start. And you look…”

His arms made a slight movement as he looked her over. “Well…”

“Dalish?”

“I was going to say practical. At least more comfortable than I.” He motioned to her toes. “No shoes. Good idea.”

“Do you think the Orlesians will mind?”

Blackwall barked in his laugh but shook his head. “No. Of course not. Though, oh—you forgot your mask.”

“I’m not wearing one.”

“Oh?”

“No, I’ve already got a permanent one, see?” Ellana joked dryly, shifting her shoulder to point at her face since her hands were occupied. A rose skimmed across her chin.

It made Blackwall laugh and he didn’t press the issue.

“We should be on our way then.” He nodded and stepped forward. His arm came out, shoulder crooked.

Ellana raised her eyebrow, her arms enclosed around her flowers.

They were awkwardly quiet for a moment as realization set into his face and Blackwall’s cheeks burned red.

“I suppose I did not think of what you would do with them after I gave them to you.”

“Let me ask concierge to take them to my room.”

“Right. Of course. Then we’ll go.”

She laughed, enjoying his embarrassment.

 


 

“Can you believe how many people are out there? All calling out and taking pictures! Oh, I did not think anyone would be taking pictures of me! And where do they go? Do they post them online, will we see them?”

Josephine laughed at Merrill as their party pushed through the crowds of people into east entrance of the Winter Palace. “If we are in any photos, it is only by accident!”

Solas was thankful for that.

There was music pouring from somewhere to their left, above the crowds and lights. People were moving to gather further inside, or crowding together to take photos or talk.

“I’ve never been on a red carpet before! I suppose I’m not famous enough for it—“

“It’s mostly politicians, but the press loves a good show. Especially a Masquerade. There’s only so many in the year these days and celebrities take the chance to show up for the fashion of it.”

“Oh, Hawke would have loved it! Or—maybe hated it.”

Solas was half listening as they moved past tables of program cards and stands for organizations vying for political attention. His eyes glazed at the sight of it all.

It wasn’t his first time attending, nor was it his first recognition. It had been enjoyable at a time when he had been eager to meet and discuss work with other associates or gain knowledge he could use in the future. There was nothing like a Gala or Masquerade to find secret news, allies, or enemies.

But his mind was not in it tonight. It hadn’t been when he had gotten dressed or on the drive over. And their small run through the carpet and dodging photo ops hadn’t spurred it either. Not that anyone wanted photos of a few archaeologists.

Still, for his writing…

But even that fell flat.

He could only think of the weight of his phone in his pocket and Ellana.

Had she gone boating? What Dalish meeting was she sitting in? Would she go for dessert after? Had she seen the Chantry d’Orterre or the Market Square in the west end? He wondered if she would enjoy the stalls of tourist trinkets more or if she would rather visit the shops of Pierre-Marie.

“Solas, do you know where our table is?”

He looked over at the two, shaking himself back into work. “We should be seated near the southwest doors, but they won’t open the dining hall for another—“ He checked his watch. “Forty five minutes.”

“So much time!” Merrill exclaimed.

“They have to give the guests enough time to make their appearance and comments for the press. We will all sit and eat together just before the awards are given. It’s really more about this time, for people like Ambassadors or well, the Empress and her entourage.” Josephine explained. “In Antiva we all ate first. But I suppose that says something about Antivans.”

“Shall we look around then? They have pieces on display! The Eluvian should be here somewhere!”

“And Hors d'oeuvres!”

They giggled together, leading the way in trailing dresses through the crowd of shining masks and golden floors.

Solas wondered if there were cocktails.

 


 

 

“No mask Ms. Lavellan?”

“I have a permanent one already.” She commented into the small microphone mounted on the recorder. 

The crowd about the metal fence laughed and she smiled with them, staring at the flashes of light since she couldn’t see the reporter’s faces behind it.

They all seemed to like the joke.

“Thank you—“

She kept walking, her arm hanging closely around Blackwall’s as he pulled them through another wave of notepads and cameras.

“…an honor for the Dalish and my guest Miss Ellana Lavellan of the Lavellan clan.”

She could hear Briala introduce her for what seemed like the umpteenth time and she nodded her head, raising her hand in a wave.

“You know.” Blackwall suddenly said, low and close to her ear so no one could hear them. “You could have warned me you were famous.”

She laughed then, genuinely, and it helped soothe the nerves firing through her entire body. “I’m not!”

“When I attend these things my lady, I am part of the guests behind us. The ones not being stopped as they stroll inside. Now there are reporters asking me who I’m wearing?”

“Who are you wearing?”

Blackwall frowned.

“Carinus if memory serves.”

“Orlesian designer?”

“No, the first Warden.”

Ellana smiled and they stopped again for a photo. The barrage of flashes made her head spin a little.

It was utterly overwhelming. Somewhere in her mind she had known the concept of what she was attending tonight, but not the reality of it.

Though who could really imagine such a thing without experiencing it?

Briala stopped before them, coming back to stand with Ellana for a photo, her head held straight and high. Briala didn’t smile for photos, she nodded curtly and waved them off when she was finished.

The Ambassador caught her eye then and did smile.

“Grey Warden, I think we have both made enough appearances for now, could you escort Ellana and I inside?” Briala prompted, maybe sensing Ellana’s short leash on her anxiety.

“Yes my lady.” He nodded, a sudden stiffness setting in his shoulders at the order. He offered her his hand, raising his head.

“Alright, thank you, no more photos. Thank you.” He began excusing as they walked the entrance.  “They’re done now, thank you.”

The two elven women grinned at each other, leaning across Blackwall’s wide chest to speak.

“A good choice to bring such command with you tonight, Ellana.”

“Ma sarannas, Ambassador.”

“Perhaps I should get a Warden for myself.”

 


 

 

The Eluvian was in the Grand Library, past the Hall of Heroes.

They had created a stair podium for it, viewable on every side as it sat under controlled light and a temperature monitored glass casing.

Solas had to admit that it was a stunning sight in the high ceilings of the Winter Palace.

But there was something odd about it under the aesthetic of intricate filigree and ornate flooring.

It wasn’t finished of course. The remaining broken pieces must be cataloged in private somewhere, as the mirror stood like an unfinished puzzle in the scrutiny of crowds of people.

But the detailing of its frame was simpler, sharper. There was nothing floral about how that metal was tempered and formed.

It was unforgivingly Elvhen and his eyes softened at the sight of it.

“It’s so beautiful.” He glanced at Merrill, watching as her large eyes sparkled behind her mask.

Josephine noticed the expression too and tucked Merrill’s shoulder into hers. “You should have the opportunity now to see it finished Merrill. After the board meeting this morning, you’re the only one the Dalish authorized to help its transport.”

“Itha was kind to let me.” Merrill whispered, blinking fast to stop the tears on her face.

Something warm spread through his fingers as he stared at his assistant’s obvious happiness.

He smiled, turning to look at the mirror.

They had been right.

Beautiful or not, it did not belong here.

“Already gloating, I see?”

The three turned then and a swish of material shifted in front of them as a familiar cold stare met his.

“Morrigan.”

“I found it quite odd when the announcement was made.” The woman nearly cooed, stepping forward to meet them and motioning to the mirror. “Can you believe that every single one of the judges on the board is Orlesian? And all of them non-patrons of most arts. Unethical and biased to be sure.”

Solas said nothing as she continued, but he could see the knowing anger in her eyes, a trained calm emanating from her.

“But with a board like that it’s almost obvious what they would vote in favor of. So I find it strange that more than half of them swayed the other way.”

“The legal writing is above most of our heads, to be sure.” Josephine butt in. “It happens all the time in our museum too. We had issue with a few artifacts dug from a Dwarven team once and even though they had found it in Fereldan it was the elevation below ground that ended up being claimed by the Orzammar.”

Morrigan wasn’t looking at Josephine.

“Oh that’s odd! I had not thought that the Deep Roads would change the boundaries of a dig site!” Merrill responded.

“It seems obvious now, but at the time it was slightly baffling.”

“Ms. Montilyet is right.” Solas suddenly interrupted. They all looked at him as he stared back at the mirror. “Perhaps it was a small legal technicality they realized must mean the Dalish were to inherit the piece that was found, in fact, on Dalish grounds.”

He noticed a shine from the corner of his eye and raised his hand, waving as a tray of glasses neared them. The waiter noticed his signal and came over quickly.

“Legal technicality.” Morrigan repeated. “Why, of course. Three weeks of court sessions only to end in a sudden piece of new information.”

Solas thanked the waiter as he lowered the tray of champagne, handing one off to Merrill and Josephine before taking his own.

He pressed the rim to his lips, taking a drink as he met Morrigan’s gaze.

“Merrill… why don’t we go look at the plaque at the front? Your name is probably—“

“Oh Creators your right! Oh we must go look, I need a picture of it! Varric and the other will want to see it oh—“

Josephine gave Solas a look, but smiled at Merrill, pulling the girl along with her through the crowd.

They were quiet a moment longer.

“If you think for a moment that I am not intelligent enough to see the Dread Wolf’s work—“

He glared hard at her and the spoken title.

“I know that you had something to do with it. I have enough information that one Madame de Fer was on the board with the others.”

“There are many Orlesian authorities on board—“

“The only one on that board whose also published works of—“

“Perhaps you would like to ask The Minister of Justice herself.” He interrupted, nodding curtly to the crowd behind them. “Vivinne’s only right there.”

Morrigan turned and Solas took his escape where he could find it. “If you’ll excuse me.”

 


 

 

It was more complete than when she had last seen it.

Ellana stared up the height of the mirror, remembering it as it had been in the Conservation room of the museum in Fereldan.

That had been weeks ago though.

Funny to see it here in Orlais.

She leaned over the roping to the small podium where the plaque stood. It was an ornate stand, the polished oak gleaming in its own little spotlight.

 

The Sabrae Eluvian
2.44.7650 12.15
Floated glass on melted ore weathered in dipped iron.
Courtesy of the Clan Sabrae.
Restored by the Ferelden Conservation, head Archeologist Solas. Cr. Merrill Sabrae.

Ellana grinned.

“Here we are.”

She stood straight, turning to see Blackwall reach her through the crowd.

He extended a stem of champagne, the golden drink fizzing.

“Oh fancy.”

“Now, what’s this then? The piece you were talking about?”

“Yes, it’s the mirror from my museum.”

Blackwall took it in, frowning before leaning in to read the plaque like she had. “Sabrae. That’s not your clan is it?”

“No, no. I’m Lavellan.”

She smiled, leaning forward with him to point to the podium.

“Look, this plaque is made from plastic.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, and there’s nailing at the corners above the edges.”

Blackwall straightened, scratching his head with his free hand. “That means…?”

“They mounted another plaque here first and then had to take it down and place in a new one. A cheaper one.”

Blackwall chuckled, catching on. “Well, it wouldn’t be the first time we Orlesians were a little too hasty.”

Ellana stared at the plaque and shuffled through her robe to take out her phone.

Her vhenan would love this.

She sent the first photo quickly before leaning back to take another of the whole mirror. She had regretted not getting a photo for it the first time, she wouldn’t make that mistake again.

She balanced the glass in one hand as she texted sloppily with the other.

So she almost missed Josephine’s sudden hug.

“Ellana!”

“Josie!”

“Oh, Ellana I’m so glad we caught you!”

“You look gorgeous Josie!”

“Oh—No, I—You look-where’s your mask?”

“I’m not wearing one Josie, I’m not Orlesian.”

“Well neither am I or Merrill- Merrill!”

Josie twisted, her hand reaching out to snatch someone else’s.

She pulled the girl through, the silver mask framing large eyes that were gleaming with excitement.

“Oh, are you Ellana? Josie has—Oh!! It’s you!”

“Oh hey!”

She blinked, taking in the familiar face she had seen some time ago. The Dalish woman at the museum.

“Josephine mentioned you were Dalish! I should have realized it was you!”

Ellana found herself smiling as big as she had all night. “And you must be the same girl Varric speaks of! Daisy?”

“Yes! Then you’re the Herald! I’m Merrill.” Merrill stuck her hand out eagerly, nearly spilling some of her champagne in the other hand. “Tuelanen i'na!”

“Oh! Merrill--” They shoke hands and Ellana smiled. “Enastesha. It’s weird I feel like I’ve heard your name before.”

“Did I say it when I hit you that day?”

“Maybe!”

“You know each other?” Josephine asked in confusion.

“We ran into each other, yes.” She joked.

They were laughing then and Ellana nearly forgot herself when Josephine interrupted.

“Ellana, won’t you introduce us to—“

“Oh right,” She turned to look up at Blackwall, only to find the man shock still and staring at the women, the small exposed patch of his cheeks burning bright underneath his beard.  “This is Warden Blackwall.”

The girls smiled at him, Merrill exclaiming at his title. Josephine put out her hand to shake his.

“A pleasure to meet you Sir Warden. Ellana only briefly mentioned you but I was excited when I heard you would be her date.”

“Yes—I, your—pleasure.” He sputtered, his eyes staring at Josephine’s masked face. His hand grasped blindly at hers, missing once before drawing it close. “I’m Blackwall my lady.”

And then he leaned down and kissed the top of her hand.

Josie nearly squeaked, but her trained propriety had her purse her lips tightly. “Oh, please, call me Josephine.”

Ellana stared at Josephine with raised brows. The Antivan blinked fast in response, standing straight when Blackwall did, grasping the curls of her hair with her free hand. She coughed, “Pleasure, pleasure—“

“Oh this is all so exciting! Here we all are drinking fancy drinks in Orlais! Oh!” Merrill was saying, giddy and bouncing. “Where did Solas go?”

“Have you been here long, Ellana?”

“We were on the carpet for some time.”

“You wore your robes!”

Merrill stopped looking around the crowd at that. “Oh yes, I wanted to say! It’s so beautiful too see Keepers robes here of all places! A brave thing—and no mask—“

“I have a permanent one already.” Ellana said in habit.

Merrill’s laugh was sharp as it turned into a snort. “Because of vallaslin! Oh, that’s hilarious.”

“If I may say so it is an honor to meet all of you. Fereldans or not, I never expected to be in the company of the most beautiful guests.”

They all looked at Blackwall then, full of smiles.

“That most certainly deserves a toast.” Josephine said, raising her glass. It gleamed in the hall lights.

The four raised their champagne to clink harshly with a cheer.

“Oh there he is! Solas!”


 


“Solas!”

He turned, spotting a flashing silver mask through the crowd.

“Merrill.”

“We’re over here! Come look at the plaque!”

He shifted his shoulders through the people and spotted Josephine beside her.

They were standing right in front of the mirror, its edges gleaming above them.

His phone vibrated in his pocket.

Solas instinctively put his hand over its shape and thought of Ellana again. He glanced away through the crowd. Maybe there was a smoking room somewhere he could escape too.

“Merrill, give me a moment—“

“No, don’t wander again!”

“Let me introduce you first, Professor.” Josephine hurried.

He sighed, taking a drink from his champagne as he turned to the two beside them. 

And everything seemed to stop within him.

He swallowed hard.

“This is Ellana. She’s the one I was talking to Merrill about earlier, she interned with me in Fereldan.”

“Hello.”

“And Sir Warden Blackwall, her company tonight. From here in Orlais, correct?”

“Yes, my lady.”

“Ellana, this is Solas. He is the archaeologist working with Merrill on the Eluvian. I’ve mentioned him before haven’t I?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Oh Solas, Ellana’s here in robes! I should have thought of that. Your feet aren’t cold are they now? Has no one stepped on them yet? That’s what I would be most afraid of. “

“Oh I hadn’t noticed that Ellana —“

“I'm fine! Pleased to meet you Solas. En'an'sal'en.”

The Elvhen rang through his mind like a clear chime piercing through muffled water.

The lights around them seemed blinding.

The eluvian was tall behind her, reflecting her back, showing him his cracked visage as he stood before her.

Her eyes—her hair, her face, her chin, her ears, her neck, shoulders— the swirling collection of vallaslin forming a mask he had never seen complete. It was a blur, a heat, a broken—no.

It can’t- he couldn’t, he wasn’t—

En’an’sal’en

Her voice.

His fingers gripped the cold glass in his hands.

The phone in his pocket burned against his side.

Da’len.

Vhenan.

Ellana.

He realized her hand was extended, fingers reaching for him as steady as the eyes she stared at him with. Those eyes.

And when he glanced down he saw it there on her wrist.

The twin, the other half, his heart, hers—

Ara’lin’hasal.

The identical knot wrapped about is own hand seared into his skin.

His hands.

“Hahren your hands!”

His eyes widened and he shoved both his hands behind his back, drink and all.

“Solas?”

“Are you alright Solas?”

If she—he couldn’t—

He had to leave.

Excuse me.

Did he say it? He couldn’t know.

His voice seemed to retreat inside of him, pulled by the strings that were wrapping around his heart and crowding his chest. There was nothing in his mind but the harsh rhythm of his breath as he tore his eyes away from that face.

Her face.

And left.

 

Chapter Text

He didn't stop until everything went silent.

One moment everything was glittering, gold, laughter, noise, and then with a bang, it was quiet.

He inhaled, blinking fast against the bright lights around him.

The bathrooms.

He hadn't even recognized where he had been taking himself. Only that he had needed to get away from— from Ella—

No. No. It wasn't. It hadn't been.

He stepped further into the deafening silence of mirrors and linoleum, crossing the floor to reach the sinks. He brought his hands forward to use them, almost habitually and was surprised to find a champagne flute dangling in his fingers.

He nearly jumped at the sight and the glass clattered on the edge of the sink before sloshing the remaining drink onto his pants and the floor.

"Fenehdis!"

His phone buzzed in his blazer pocket and he let go of the flute completely.

It shattered on the tiles and Solas stared at the pieces of glass almost in a daze. Seeing pieces of mirror in his mind, the same ones he had been washing, cataloging and sealing back into the Sabrae's Eluvian.

The one she had stood in front of, face caught in its visage like a dream.

Ellana.

No. It hadn't been her. She was... Ellana was...

In Orlais.

His elbows braced the gilded edges of the sink, hands trembling to hold the cold.

“En’an’sal’en.”

That voice.

And he remembered the images of evening gowns and talk of important plans, clan business— what a fool—

Oh, what a fool he had been. Because even with some desperate attempt at logical coincidence he could not deny those eyes.

Those eyes of glass and stone.

Creators.

She had been perfect.

Skin kissing the air in a sea of masked metal and gold. She had been flesh, ink, color.

Beautiful, she was beautiful.

Solas felt his fingers tremble before realizing that his entire body was shaking.

So real.

He always had known that she was. Real. Of course. Of course, she was. The sweet curls of her laughter through the phone or the imagined cadence of her thoughtfulness through texts had been something that had been alive more than anything he'd encountered.

But this, she had, what—What was—

What was she even doing here?

Solas almost laughed at the thought, straightening, hands pressing at his suit and then his throat and his cheeks. Frantic with elation and nervousness and excitement. And it was almost offensive, her being here. Catching him off guard as she always seemed to. Since the moment he had messaged the wrong person, she had always been the one full of surprises.

In fact, he wouldn’t have been surprised—

Any small mirth was replaced with a sudden dread.

Had she… known?

Solas paced backward, heel cracking the champagne glass suddenly enough to make his heart jump. He paused, leaning down to gather the glass with shaky hands.

No, no, no— there was no possible… She hadn’t. Couldn’t have known. He had never sent her an image. Nothing. No information, not even the name she had begged for. He swallowed. No. He was sure she had no idea.

Her face had been calm, passive, a still water of beauty and intrigue.

And his Ellana was easy to flush, easy to smile and crumple, from his voice alone. He had heard those expressions and burned them into his mind.

Oh, gods, what he wouldn’t give to see her actual face flood with red. The desire unfurled in him like wildfire and chased away the edges of his worry and nerves. What little resistance he had left after the escalation of their relationship couldn’t compare to this. She was here, now, real, breathing, out there amongst people, carrying around a phone full of the same exact messages.

She was there, laughing, smiling, shaking hands. And he could so easily be a part of that.

At last.

He had to—

No.

Solas stood, crossing the sink to let the shards of glass fall from his hands into the bin before twisting the sink on and plunging his fingers in the shocking cold of the water.

No, he had to leave.

They could not— should not meet. He wasn’t ready.

Because she was undeniably beautiful in the face of his own reality. Older, alone, and decidedly not as charming as he could make himself through words alone. Especially… since..

Solas thought of the swirling vallaslin that had framed her eyes. Each aspect pinning him with two things he could not deny. The unavoidable evidence that Ellana did not live in a vacuum of sweet nothings and love notes on his phone. She was real. Full of everything he was known to dislike about this world.

And so full of potential to reject him.

How could she not?

And Solas was selfish.

No. He had to leave.

Merrill would be upset, but he could sacrifice her expectation to avoid something much worse from Ellana. He would get back to the hotel and wait. And when she called him tonight he would breeze over it, ignore the situation entirely.

It would be better— his phone vibrated in his breast pocket, reminding him of the unanswered message.

His hand snatched it before he could think better of it.

Solas stared at the backside of the device, debating.

He shouldn’t.

He was leaving.

Solas flipped it over and saw her name, breath and heart stopping as he swiped to open the message.

—Ellana 8:24pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]
look what I found!
isnt it beautiful?

The cracks of the Sabrae mirror reflected the cracks of his phone screen. The shattered lines intersected, twisting, like a forest of trees, silhouetted in an odd white digital sun.

He looked at it for a long time.

Solas let his fingers dance along the surface, pressing the keys gently as not to disturb the screen or cut himself. Traversing the text message as carefully as one would a battlefield.

He took one last look at the bathroom mirror, eyes flickering over his image in a suit, crisp and clean beneath the ornate filigree and bright lights.

He looked real too.

For once.

Solas slipped the phone back into his pocket before shoving the Ara’lin’hasal on his wrist up into his sleeve.

Hidden.

— 8:25pm
I can think of something more breathtaking than a broken mirror, vhenan. F.H.


 

“There are so many dishes I can barely see the table!”

“That is one good thing about these affairs. The food’s not bad.”

Ellana smiled down the table at Merrill and Blackwall, both passing her even more dishes as dinner began arriving.

“Everything’s prepared in the kitchens but much of these ingredients come from all over Thedas,” Josephine explained, attempting to see them through the forest of candelabras and flower arrangements. “See that there, that’s spice from Rivain, and there's— oh! Antivan croquetas! Sir Warden, would you mind—”

“O-of course m’lady, let me get that for you—”

Blackwall practically scrambled at the table, grabbing the requested dish to pass to Josephine.

Ellana tried to shoot the woman a knowing look but she was too busy flushing red beneath the attention.

So far, so good.

The hard part seemed to be over. And while the endless rounds of the press had been a bit overwhelming, it was still not the disaster Ellana had worried it might be. She was a bit proud at how she had held herself and it felt good knowing she had done her best.

Hopefully, she had put a new face on the Lavellan clan.

Her eyes flickered to the empty seat across from her.

Then again maybe not.

Merrill must have caught her looking.

“D-don’t worry about it, lethallan!” The younger Dalish called between careful sips of her glass. “I’m sure Solas… ehm… he has… well…” She trailed and her elbow nudged at Josephine, who rushed to put together her most political look of reassurance.

“Ah, he—he has a complicated view on the… Dalish.”

“A rude one you mean?” Blackwall defended. Ellana tried to resist the smirk inching on her face. She had picked a good date.

Merrill and Josephine both cringed.

“No, no, no, no—” Merrill tried.

“Yes,” Josephine admitted.

“It’s fine.” Ellana finally spoke, pressing her hands down on her lap and straightening the napkin there. “I’m used to it. And I’m sure I look even worse with no shoes. I mean, think of what Sera would say.”

Josephine smiled at her kindly. “Well, perhaps it’s for the best. Solas doesn’t like parties much anyway and we can make do without him.” They grinned at each other. It was easier then, to forgive and forget Josephine’s (perhaps bigoted) friend who had turned tail as soon as he had seen her try to shake his hand.

Especially when her phone vibrated, startling her mind blank.

She snuck the phone out from the leathers of her waist and the screen flashed secretly into her eyes.

‘...more breathtaking than a broken mirror, vhenan…’

Ellana smiled, feeling her body relax in the only way that reading his messages could.

— 8:25pm
sweet talker
are you enjoying your night?

“I can’t believe how many people there are. Will we have to sit through every award?” Merrill questioned.

“They go by category normally. My squadron will be third, for military achievement.” Blackwall answered. “But yes… there’s a lot of waiting and clapping, waiting and clapping.”

“At least we get to see all the dresses!”

“Ellana will you receive an award?”

“Ah—”

It didn’t take long for him to answer. She barely cut into anything on her plate when the buzz came again.

—F.H. 8:25pm
Incredibly.
The view is breathtaking. F. H.

“No. I’m just here for show really.” She answered as she texted.

— 8:25pm
oh?
send me a picture!

The message whisked away and Ellana made to slip her phone back into her leathers when a voice interrupted their entire table.

“Excuse me, but might I speak to the Herald of Andraste?”

They all turned. Merrill, Blackwall, Josephine and her. Their heads cocked wildly to spy a woman looming over Ellana, clad in silvers, mask and all.

It was almost as if the entire grand ballroom went quiet at the woman’s arrival.

With dark skin and a darker edge to her voice, she rose a hand and snapped her fingers before speaking. “Warden, would you be so kind?”

Blackwall moved immediately.

The girls watched him stand at attention, nearly saluting before whisking forward to circle about the table and pull back the empty chair beside Ellana.

“How kind, Warden dear, thank you.” The stranger smiled as if she had not asked him to do so in the first place. “Now, I know it’s a little rude to interrupt your dinner but I simply will not wait through an entire ceremony to speak to the one guest everyone’s talking about.”

Everyone?

Ellana frowned at the coy expression on the woman’s face before looking around the ballroom. A few staring guests looked away.

Ah. She hadn’t noticed that yet.

“Well to be fair, I’m not wearing pants.”

The woman laughed. It was a beautiful thing. She threw her head back and elongated her neck, elbows propped and long fingers falling elegantly in her careless mirth.

“How delightful! No wonder the press is so charmed. Ellana Lavellan, what a pleasure it is Orlais has you at its court.”

She talked like an aristocratic Duchess from the age 9:40. Like the actors had in that Emerald Knight movie.

“But look at me being the rude one, allow me to introduce myself, I am Vivienne de Fer.”

“Madame Supreme Justice!” Josephine exclaimed, before pressing her fingers to her mouth. Pink heated her cheeks. Merrill oohed and awed from down the table.

“Quite.” The woman smiled.

Supreme Justice? A judge? And not just any, but one of the entire Orlesian Court. Well. She certainly looked the title.

Ellana couldn’t really reason why the woman was speaking to her.

“But, the Herald of Andraste can, of course, call me Vivienne.”

Oh yeah. Herald. That would do it.

“Herald?”

The entire table turned at the new voice, and Ellana was surprised to find the elvhen man from earlier staring straight into her face from across the dinner table.

He was shock-still from the act of beginning to sit, hands on the table and his empty chair

“Solas!” Merrill exclaimed, an uneasiness to her voice. “You’re back!”

Ellana would have made to glance at her, but the man’s eyes were intense in their surprise and scrutiny. It was as if he were peeling her away to see what was underneath. Not quite like the stare of a shemlen but... she shifted uncomfortably. His eyes were extremely pale. As if one could see through them.

Vivienne didn’t seem to mind the bustle. “I think we are all simply surprised to see you here, Ellana. The face of the Chantry has been hidden from society for some time. I was beginning to think it was all a fake publicity stunt and there was no one at all in the position.”

She turned her attention back to the woman with a strained expression. “It wasn’t my intention to make a scene.”

“And yet here you are, with Dalish robes and bare feet.” The woman chuckled.

Ellana flushed. She couldn’t argue with that point.

Her phone vibrated with a text and her fingers curled around the small device in her lap. But Vivienne had her gaze.

“Now, now. I admire the boldness. It’s enjoyable to watch the rabble in the higher rows squirm, or know that those at home are watching you on their TV’s and phones or rewinding your interview to catch a better glimpse at what you’re wearing.”

Another thing she hadn’t thought about. “I don’t think it’s any more scandalous than most of the Orlesian celebrity—”

“Nonsense! The Andrastian faith is a strong thing across all of Thedas. And now, we of the church have you to look toward as a model for our actions. Or a model for anything, really. Why, women will be drawing blood writing on their faces in the coming weeks to match the days of the week.”

Ellana shook her head. “That’s not really what I want—”

“What is it you do want?” The voice asked again. And this time it sent a shiver of odd sensations down her spine.

“I…”

She looked again toward the Elvhen man beside Josephine. He was sitting now, his face golden through the candles of the table. Pale eyes even more intense. It was intimidating.

“S-Solas, haha, please..” Josephine trailed, her hand patting his shoulder as if to settle him.

This was Merrill and Josie’s friend? Why?

Between the two women, Solas looked out of place. In muted matte browns and a clean shaved head. He looked like a teacher. Or a librarian. Sitting in a grand ball and staring at her as if she were something he’d never seen before. Face full of bare intrigue.

Maybe that was it. He wasn’t wearing a mask.

Like her.

“The point is, Herald dear, that we are all trendsetters whether we like it or not. It was Celene herself who inspired sun hats in last year’s catalog for summer fashion. All because she sported on during her promo week for Orlesian orphans.”

The Supreme Justice drew her back into the conversation, but only in a way Ellana frowned at. “That just sounds like a bunch of people focusing on the wrong thing, doesn’t it.”

“You could make that argument. But adoption rates are up 32% since last year, as are most tastes for headwear.” The woman cocked her head. She looked like a model when she did it. “It is something to think about.”

“So are you implying that I wear socks and sandals that will make a political statement?” Ellana asked, not without a hidden chagrin smile.

“It’s not such a far-fetched idea is it?” Vivienne asked back.

“Maybe.” Ellana thought about it, flipping her phone in her hand idly. “Maybe that is what I want then.” She added, turning to pin the sentence on the man across from her. She would not let herself be intimidated by a bigot. “Maybe I want people to realize that just because a knife-ear wears blood in their skin, they are no less pure than a Chantry sister with her rosary beads.”

Merrill gasped at the sentence, Josephine and Blackwall sharing tense looks, and Madame de Fer laughed with abandon.

Solas smiled. It unnerved her and she looked away.

It wasn’t something she had expected from a Dalish-hating-hand-unshaker.

“That is exactly the charm I’ve been hearing about.” Vivienne adored. “Remind me to introduce you to another Andrastian Elvhen friend of mine, yes, Ameridan and you would have much to talk about. In fact, remind me to introduce you to a lot of connections of mine. I could use someone to rattle some of my enemies. Or even some friends.”

Her eyes flickered across the hall, but Ellana couldn’t pinpoint the vague statement.
“Now, with the fun had, I shall take my leave—”

Blackwall stood once more to give the Supreme Justice his chivalrous service, pulling out her chair and grasping her hand to help her stand, the long trailing ball gown sweeping along her legs like a train of stars. When Ellana stood with her, the fabric tickled her toes.

“It was an absolute pleasure, Herald. The Chantry might not agree, but it’s only you that I can imagine restoring my faith to the church.”

Ellana wasn’t sure what to say to that, so she shook the woman’s hand instead. “An honor, Vivienne.”

Vivienne smiled, her lips curling up into her mask, before leaving with a sashay. This time, Ellana noticed the many heads that turned to watch the Madame go. And the extra glance they threw at Ellana herself.

She wasn’t sure if it was a bad interaction or a good one. But it had made her think. And made her realize more than ever that this night was probably the start of something more.

“I had never met the Supreme Justice before,” Josephine said from the table behind her.

Ellana twisted, and Blackwall helped her sit again, both settling back down in front of the two, now three, museum representatives.

“She was very beautiful.” Merrill nodded. “And well spoken! Don’t you agree, Solas?”

“No,” Solas answered.

Ellana caught his cold tone, if only because she had already caught his gaze. He wouldn’t stop looking at her.

“Ah, ehm, well—” Merrill fumbled.

“That’s good though isn’t it, Ellana?” Josephine tried quickly, noticing the odd looks shared between the archeologist and the Herald. “To have made a connection like that would be good for any work you might want to do.”

Ellana blinked away from Solas to smile at Josephine. “Of course. I mean it must mean something that she approached me at all.”

Blackwall hummed beside her, “I admire Madame Vivienne. She is fair in the courts if more biting than a Warden’s blade at parties.”

“Is she—”

“I must agree with Supreme Justice’s words about you, Herald.” Solas’ voice demanded everyone’s attention once again. Ellana would find it tiresome if it wasn’t just surprising. She met his staring eyes once he interrupted. “To wear the trappings that you are, to the Winter Palace of all places.”

His expression was amiable. And his voice… unguarded. Friendly even. Familiar. Had they met before? Ellana racked her brain with the summers she had spent interning at the museum, trying to remember the man in the hallways as if she has seen him there.

She answered as she thought, a biting comment that had more defense in it than she had meant, “Do you have a problem with Dalish clothes?”

The table went silent at the exchange and Ellana reached for some champagne to swallow the grudge she didn’t know she’d had at having been slighted at the beginning of the night.

Blackwall gruffed beside her, his shoulder’s rising. “I think Ellana is fetching in her robes.”

But Solas was laughing. Had been laughing, since her accusation. “No! I have no problem with Dalish clothes. Or clothes of any kind.” His eyes were glassy with mirth or amusement.

Or maybe the man was drunk.

Ellana’s eyes narrowed, leaning into the table until her leathers clinked along the china. He seemed to catch the action, his smile stilling, and his face flushing. Good, let him be embarrassed. “You do know that we sit on Halamshiral first, and the Winter Palace second?”

“Of course.”

“Then you must realize that I am the one entirely more appropriately dressed than anybody else here.”

“That is not the word I would use.”

“Are you calling me inappropriate?”

“I am calling you a troublemaker.”

It made her draw back. Enough for her to realize how far they’d both leaned in to argue. The flowers at the center jostled as she stared at him. Still smiling. Now more than ever.

Troublemaker.

Something twisted in her stomach at his eyes and the sound of his voice. The timbre. The deepness of it. Something was off. Or something wrong. Was he being rude? Was his confrontation getting to her?

“Forgive me.” Solas suddenly said, turning and seeming to realize the rest of the table was staring at him. “Perhaps that is too forward of me. I simply mean you seem the type to make a stir. Herald.”

It was quiet again. Very, painfully, awkwardly so.

This night was not chalking up to anything Ellana had expected. Between the bombarding press, the approach of a famous court judge, and the odd behavior of this, Solas.

Josephine was staring at her now, with a face full of similar thoughts and a silent apology.

Merrill interjected this time, “D-Did everyone like the dinner? I thought it was delicious, with all the little sides of different things? Remember? Yes? Ahm… Perhaps they will be starting the ceremony soon now that it’s over…”

“Yes.” Blackwall agreed, maybe louder than needed. “The presentation screen has changed on the stage so they’re preparing the categories now.”

Ellana tried to keep her eyes on her date as he explained the different classes of people to be announced, but found her eyes kept flickering the pale ones staring at her.

Solas seemed to look her over from top to bottom. His eyes blurry and half-lidded with his head rested on his fist. As if content to just stare at her with rude abandon. It made her cheeks puff and grow hot.

The literal gall of this man.

“...there will be several presenters, but it’s more like a graduation line than it is some award show for celebrities. No acceptance speeches.”

“If you have something to say, Solas, I would suggest you say it now.” Ellana suddenly chimed, louder than any polite clink of silverware on a glass.

Blackwall and Merrill deflated beside her.

Solas seemed to snap at his name. Straightening, mouth parting. Maybe he hadn’t realized he’d egged this on himself.

“I—ha!” He laughed, hands shaking as they gripped the table before him. “N-no, I, I don’t mean to look—”

“If it has something to do with my heritage—”

“No! Forgive me, I didn’t mean to offend. Ir abelas, da’len.”

Da’len.

His eyes softened, the smile he sported growing small, but not losing its vibrancy. His eyes still glued to her face.

Da’len.

Her mouth felt thick. A heavy weight settling in to press against the back of her throat. She swallowed, but it didn’t leave. It only seemed to tighten everything. From the hearing in her ears to the beating of her heart.

Which made the sound leave her senses and her chest heave.

Da’len.

Her hands clenched, finding her phone still there. Her phone.

She’d received a message when Vivienne had been there.

“Right… well, maybe— oh! The presenter! The awards are starting, thank the Maker.” Josie trailed.

A cacophony of clapping erupted about them.

Ellana tried to look down at her phone, but couldn’t seem to let her gaze drop from his, level and even. This man with eyes as crystal clear as the Eluvian and a voice that rolled from sculpted lips that felt like hot water.

Hot water. Troublemaker. Da’len.

No.

No, it… that was…

Ellana tore her eyes away then, head shaking as her fingers flipped her phone in her hands. Unable to hear from the commotion of the crowd speaking and the sudden inflection of a voice booming from a microphone.

“Welcome Monsiuer et Mademoiselle, et—”

No, it wasn’t. He was off. Gone. Working. Far away in—

Orlais.

She swallowed again, and a third time to see the text notification, swiping frantically.

It was hot in her hand. Hot like a burning coal, as hot as the feeling of those eyes on her head.

—F.H. 8:30pm
[Attachment: 1 Image]

It loaded too fast and too slow at the same time. And Ellana had to race over the earlier words to remember why he had sent an image in the first place.

—F.H. 8:25pm
Incredibly.
The view is breathtaking. F. H.

— 8:25pm
oh?
send me a picture!

It was her.

Her breath seemed to expel all at once.

The image was only slightly blurred. A perspective of the dining hall, zoomed close to see her, Ellana, her profile, looking contemplatively to the right, as she spoke to Vivienne.

Her.

Him.

Da’len.

“Ha’hren.” She whispered, her head rising once more. Staring at the spot where the photo had been angled from.

And he was staring at her, half raised in his seat, his face flushed and a hand rising to cover his mouth.

Hands. His hands.

Ellana shot up from her seat.

The dishes jostled, it sounded like the clapping. Clapping, everyone was clapping again.

“Ellana! Are you alright?”

“Ellana?”

“Herald are you—”

They were staring at each other. They. They were staring. At each other. And Ellana couldn’t breathe. That was him. Him!

Him. F.H. Solas. Ha’hren.

Vhenan.

“I have to—to— ah! Excuse me.”

“Ellana!”

It was-- It wasn’t—

“Excuse me, I’m sorry, I’m trying to pass.” She hurried, pressing through chairs and tables and nobles and masks as a cacophony of clapping turned into loud crashes of oceans in her ears. She was freezing, her toes curling as her body shook on the marble. She wavered, toiled, skirting through crowds like she used to trees in the back forests of her home.

Someone calling her name now like they did then.

“Ellana, please, vhenan—”

But she couldn’t— she needed to breathe.

She broke the forest when her feet hit the carpet. Manufactured and plush. And then she tore down the hall too, leaving behind the noise so her head could catch up.

It was him.

He was in Orlais, he had said. Of course, he was. They’d spoke this morning—creators they had done more than just that. And then her body was flush, thinking of whispered kisses and promises of sex explicit—

“Ellana—!”

She turned, twisting around so fast she hadn’t realized she’d done it.

And he was there. There in the hall, obscuring all of Orlais behind him as he filled her vision.

Tall. Broad. A man. One wrapped in brown and greens like a forest that had followed her. The thought was odd but not unwelcome. A speck of color in his blazer pocket lit up his eyes, showed her the burning in his skin. The shock there. Shock. He was shocked.

“You’re—” She started.

But she didn’t know what to say.

He was steps away. Two or three maybe. Steps!

They were silent. Nothing but the muted hum of an unintelligible garbled microphone.

His nose— his eyes— his hands, those hands. Even as part of her mind argued that what she was seeing wasn’t possibly him. Her ha’hren, she could still feel the odd crazy feeling of a smile cracking through her face to laugh because—God’s! His hands!

If the adrenaline in her beating heart hadn’t made her look at every piece of him for her new memory, she would have stared only at those.

“I...”

Her eyes met his again. Even as she noticed his shoulders heaving.

One of his arms reached out to grasp the hallway wall.

They went silent.

Taking the moment to stare.

She faltered, her weight settling as her racing mind started to slow.

He was so much taller than she’d—and no hair! But his chin, his neck, the clean straight line of his button up as it emerged from his vest. The wrinkling at his belt and— this was a dream. Or no, a mistake. A coincidence— what was he doing here?

She remembered their talking. Orlais. What were the chances? She had texted that. Texted!

Her hand fisted around her phone. It was unreal. He was supposed to be... in there, not here. But here he was, and it was something she had wanted so badly but couldn’t imagine.

And yet now she could not imagine anything else.

“You…” She started again, quietly.

They met eye to eye, hearts racing and chests heaving.

“You, you’re... h-ha’hren.”

He laughed. It was a broken, perfect sound. His hands desperately tried to stop it from leaving his mouth. That chuckle. That crazed, shocked, overwhelmed joy and burned nerves.
“I—! Y-yes— Ellana— I—”

He was looking away, hanging his clean face down and hiding from her gaze. Just like before when he’d ran off.

Wait.

“Y-You knew? Did you know I was—”

“No!” He near shouted, stepping forward. Three steps away now and anxiousness creasing in brows so unfamiliar, yet so expected. “No— I, Fenedhis da’len, did I seem like I had been expecting you? You gave me a heart attack.”

And it was her turn to snap. Ellana laughed so hard her back hit the hallway wall and her hands grabbed at her chest. The champagne burned in her as she laughed. Because those words, his voice, oh—

Oh!

“It’s you!” She accused, smile breaking so hard and tears heating her cheeks up to her nose. “Y-You’re here!”

His eyes melted, shoulders drooping. Anxiety leaving him to a quiet smile. The kindest, most beautiful she’d ever seen in her life. “Yes. It’s me. I’m here.”

“Gods!” She shouted again, looking around. She was beginning to forget where she was. “Wh-what are you doing here?”

“M-Me!?” He questioned, laughing, head back in a short almost snort. He stepped forward again. “I could ask you the same thing!”

“But I told you— I’m—” She trailed. They both did, their smiles getting small. She hadn’t told him, had she?

Creators. He was here. Now. And this was no space between letters in a text message. Or the corners of sound in a whispered phone call. There was no getting away from his eyes. The realness of him. The presence of who he might be. Or who she was.

It was like Ellana held all that she knew of his affection in the warmth of the phone in her hands, but the one single step between them held everything they didn’t know of each other.

She swallowed.

The silence was a little heavier now, as they traced each other’s faces.

There was clapping in the distance.

“I… had thought you in Val Royeux.” He said quietly.

Ellana shook her head with a breathy laugh of irony. “I thought you were.”

“Ah.”

She let her shoulder carry her weight as she leaned on the wall, where his hand still held him steady. They were avoiding looking at each other now.

“You… know Josephine?” She tried.

“I’m… yes. I work for her.”

Ellana shook her head at the floor. All this time. Of course, he had known someone in her circle, she never seemed to meet anyone new.

“You and I are a happy tale of coincidences. Didn’t you say that once—”

“You are beautiful, Ellana.”

She let go of her thoughts immediately, eyes finding his bearing down on her with an affection she’d only heard before.

“Forgive a foolish ha’hren his brash words, but if I do not say anything more to you it will at least be that.”

She was warmed in between the layers of her robes. Steam had pressed the seams of her skin. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to stretch in the smooth sensations of his compliment or curl up to the sight of him. She was speechless.

“I’m a coward.” He continued. “I’ve been since the beginning. Texting you in wild abandon because you are so— entirely captivating.”

“P-please—”

“No. It’s true. I saw you there and knew, by those eyes you’d teased me with.” He was smiling. Ellana looked down at the patterning of the carpet. Listening to the cadence of the microphone reverberate as her ha’hren whispered over it. “And I fled, but I didn’t have the strength to go far. Not without at least telling you how beautiful you are.”

“Why… why would you leave?” she asked, brows furrowing, looking up at him through her embarrassment to show him her curiosity.

This time he looked down. A laugh much sadder than she’d ever heard through their phone calls making her heart tighten.

“I am… not…” He struggled, fingers splaying and fisting on the wall beside them. “I’m not a man worth dalliances like this. Forgive me… I must not look as you… expected.”

She barely heard him. Her eyes caught on the gleam of a band on his wrist. It was tucked, carefully, in the spaces of his suit. Hidden behind cufflinks and silk.

Ara’lin’hasal.

She felt a warm wetness hit her lashes as her hand reached out to grab it, not noticing how close she already was.

He straightened completely.

Her fingers brushed on the knot she’d woven in her hands not months ago. It had disappeared and Ellana realized now that she hadn’t exactly expected to ever see it again.

But here it was, the other side of her heart, bringing her home.

“You’ve kept it.”

He was staring at her. And she could see color in his eyes this close. Color in his eyes and color in his cheeks and color in his lips.

It was strange, Ellana had tried to picture him so many ways, for so long. And now, she couldn’t imagine anything than exactly what was before her. Nothing but this. It was perfect. He was.

“I do not take it… off.” He admitted, seemingly surprised by his own words.

“No?”

“No, da’len.”

She smiled at the tone. Something so tangibly familiar and real to her now with the added layer of the quirk of his lips and the downturn of his brows. Lips. Brows! He had them! Her ha’hren.

Ellana smiled in the small secret space between them, tipping her head to laugh into his shoulder.
Her hand brushed over his knuckles on the wall. His index finger caught her thumb. Her skin rippled in goosebumps, starting somewhere in her fingers and shivering down the exposed skin of her thighs. Her toes curled on the carpet.

Ellana turned back up at him, her other free hand rising, pointing cheekily at the tweed of his lapel. “Well, ma vhenan—”

Darkness took her vision and wet heat took her lips.

A soft plushness that tipped her backward. Silk and flesh.

He kissed her.

They kissed.

He was so incredibly soft. Soft and firm. Heady. Smell—His smell! He smelled like home. Leathers and oils and the creaking aged papers of Gisharel’s Gods and Applicable Rituals. The paper was between her fingers as she leafed his blazer jacket. Like she’d done it a thousand time before.

She inhaled, her nose pressed into his skin and just breathed. Ellana’s closed eyes saw nothing but darkness, all the better to focus on the soft-hard texture of his lips, of the wet pressure slipping in from a dash of his tongue on the edge of her teeth.

His hand was in her hair, on her neck, slipping between weaved linen to flick fingers on the sturdy ties of her leather. She relished the contrast of his silk tie and the rough button of his shirt and vest.

“Uhn.” Ellana heard him speak into her mouth, as they tipped their necks, stepping backward, caving, falling, breaking down until her shoulder hit the wall. Then her back.

His legs crowded hers.

“Mm.”

And then they broke, finding each other’s eyes in an instant, shoulders rising in tandem huffs..

“I’m sorry.” He said immediately.

Ellana shook her head.

His arm rested somewhere next to her on the wall.

Hers were in his suit.

“We shouldn’t.” He tried to stand straighter and it made his belt clink against her’s, his hips seeming to lean into hers where he could slide his knee between her thighs. “Not… not here.”

And Ellana shot upward, shoulders stiffening as she looked down the hall toward the ballroom. Because—

“Shit—” Halamshiral. This was the Ceremony of Achievement. Or the Winter Palace. She could hear distant words, announcements. And they had been on each other like teenagers in the hall where anyone could see them by just looking to their left— Creators—

His knee pressed up against her and her eyes found his own again.

“We shouldn’t.” He said again, looking at her lips.

“No?” She found herself asking, hot heat in her cheeks making her sudden smile sweet in it’s burning. “Why not… professor?”

His grin grew with the shake of his head as his lean body— he was so lean! So tall!—shook about her. “Veraisa!” He accused and his laugh, the feel of it, Fenharel take her, it vibrated through her chest and not just her ear as it had for months.

“We could go somewhere else.”

“Ellana—”

“To talk.” She countered. Honestly. And their eyes met for the millionth time.

She couldn’t go back to that table now. Not with him across from her. Close enough to smell and touch and feel but constrained by polite conversation and stealing glances. She couldn’t. Not when everything had suddenly changed.

“Alright. To talk then.”


 

They got as far as the coat check.

They had practically raced the halls of Halamshiral, stepping quickly past other attendees straggling in the halls, trying to look discreet with their fingers entangled, and throwing each other bright smiles and flushed faces as they hurried.

Ellana wasn't sure where they were headed, but when they pushed open the door to the empty room deafened by its thick walls, she’d turned to kiss him again.

And he’d caught her, pulling her close to lay his hands on her again.

It was too much! Too tempting. The all overwhelming feeling of his breath smoking her face or his nails on her thighs in sweet delicious contrast to the warm softness of his tongue.

She paid him back for the hallways, her bare feet nudging the slick leather of his shoes until they were stepping backward, her weight forcing him until his back collided with the wall.

A sharp, sick crack made them jump in pause. Halting the speed of their hearts.

“What! What was—”

“Ah. I broke—”

He shifted beneath her, his hand leaving the refuge of her neck to fumble with the wall behind him. His hand went into his pocket, pulling out the sliver of metal that was his phone.

“Shit, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean— ” She exclaimed.

But he was already laughing, “No, please, it had already begun to…”

Glass trickled through his fingers to the floor. The black screen peeled out of its case.

His thumb patted it on his thigh, shaking bits of, before replacing it in his back pocket.

“Besides, I do not need it any longer.”

His smile was tender then, a longing that somehow matched the spaces between the letters of all his messages. Her ha’hren. Her vhenan. Her-- ah--

Ellana dipped her head to press her forehead to his chest in embarrassment.

“Oh? Something the matter?”

She laughed as she told him. “I… I can’t remember your name.”

His arms clenched her shoulders, squeezing her close into him as he chuckled.

His nose came to nudge against her cheek. And that hot-water voice poured down into her soul.
“My name is Solas.” He whispered. “If there are to be introductions.”

“Solas.” She mimicked, remembering, discovering. She thought of their exchanges. Of Dalish quizzes and pastries.

“Yes.” His fingers threaded into the tie of her Keeper tunic, plucking softly, lifting the elvhen weave like he knew how the thing was made. How it came together. How it came apart.

“Solas,” Ellana said again, this time speaking into his lips as his eyes closed.

He smiled like that, nodding, tickling her own lips before licking them open into another kiss.

And it was to the void again.

His hand was splayed on her exposed thigh, dipping into the divot of skin that dimpled her hips. A good place to hold her steady as she stood high enough to kiss his face aside and seek the flesh of his neck. His ear.

“Ellana.”

She bit, sucked, felt the tickling sensation of newness flood her to the space between her thighs until she shifted on her legs to feel more of it. To feel wet. His hand helped hoist her and she mirrored the action, grabbing the cliff edge of his belt and feeling the wave of his body beneath the warm tweed of his suit.

Creators. He was so real it hurt.

Solas lifted his knee when she flicked her tongue on the hidden crevice of his collarbone. A breathy laugh turned into a groan that made his body curl about hers. His thigh shoved upward into the slickness of her through her robes, and she gave her own gasp of pleasure.

They caught eyes again. Made sure each other was real before she rocked on his leg, and he claimed her lips again.

He was shaking. She could feel in this most recent kiss. His steady jaw fought the shivers of his body. He jittered, fingers a delicate tracing over her like if he pressed too hard she might evaporate. It made her press harder. Made her hands find the back of his head to force his teeth to bite her.

“Ahn—”

The sounds, the sounds he made. The feel of the sounds he made! She pulled his hands with her own, yanking them further down her stomach. She got one to grab the bottom of her thigh, Keeper robes pushing sacredness aside for his hand to lift her. The slick of her cunt rubbing the fabric of his pants until Ellana rose like a wave, her legs practically on his hips now.

“Da’len, you break me.” He hushed, somewhere between the space of them. “W-we can’t.”

“Please— it’s you—”

“Damn you—” And he was lifting her then, twisting her around to slide her back on the wall instead of him. Her smile was wild and wicked, and he grinned back, bucking hips in punishment. Her laugh cut short, feet clenching around his legs, toes curling. “Troublemaker.”

“Professor.”

His hands grabbed the side of her breast as he silenced her lips, kneading gently until her spine went slack and he was looming over her, letting her rock on him in a rising pace too close to that of fucking.

“My! My!”

“Ellana!?!”

The voices ripped fear through her body like a cut on flesh.

Solas’s teeth pinched hers as he pulled away, hands squeezing her shoulders as their legs disentangled, both of them heaving breaths with wide eyes.

“J-josie—”

Josephine. The Antivan woman was there, bright as the gold statues all around, covering her face and trying to look away, standing next to a stranger Ellana had never seen. Gods— she hadn’t even heard or seen the door open. Shit—

Ellana dropped inches to the ground, her body pressing forcefully against the wall behind her to brace herself in the shame and humiliation— of being caught— Gods— like that—

“El-ellana— Solas— I hadn’t— Morrigan was looking for you and I thought to join her bu—- we hadn’t meant—”

“Josie—p-please—”

She couldn’t look at them. Couldn’t even look at him. So stupid! So reckless. Was she some sort of exhibitionist? Here? At halamshiral? Ellana felt woozy, frantically trying to find a place to keep her gaze.

Solas was silent beside her as Josephine ranted, his body a mess of shaking and heaving shoulders in the corner of her vision.

“How odd. I did not think the Lavellans were acquainted with Fen’Harel.” The stranger spoke. “And yet here they are… thick… as thieves…”

Ellana was rubbing at her face and neck, looking away and trying to calm when the words slowed. Trailed. Ellana had to look at the woman to understand them.

She stared. The woman stared back.

Silence fell over them, her erratic heartbeat more like a thud now. A single beat that rocked her whole body to a cold shiver.

“Lavellan,” Solas whispered.

“What…?”

Solas’ head snapped to look at her. And the motion was so fast, Ellana couldn’t not meet his eyes as they stared at her. With some strange and horrified look.

“What?” She asked again when Josie only looked between them in confusion and the woman smiled.

“Fen’Harel.”

“Morrigan!” Solas near yelled.

The shocking level of his voice made her heart thud again.

Fen’Harel?

It… didn’t make sense. It was so far a word from her heart in the past hour that Ellana didn’t—

F.H.

Her eyes flickered to his.

“You’re—” She almost laughed. She almost screamed. The connection was so completely absurd and unreal and…”You’re not—”

“What’s going on?” Josephine asked, somewhere far, far away.

“Ellana please—”

“Oh, my word. I do not think Ms. Lavellan had any idea.”

He was him.

Him.

Her feet stepped against the wall, eyes looking him over, feeling cold. The fire beneath her skin nothing but a figment of a dream, now somehow so, so, so long ago.

He was him. Had been the whole time.

“Ellana.”

She didn’t understand it even as she did.

Her ears hurt.

“Ellana. Vhenan.”

She shook her head. “I... I have to go.”

“Ellana, is everything alright?” Josie was suddenly asking, breaking past Solas to grab at her elbow in worry. “What’s going on?”

The woman in maroon was laughing. It sounded terrible.

“I have to go. I want to go.” Ellana repeated.

And when Solas stepped toward her she stepped back, shaking her head.

“Ellana, I can explain, please.”

And she left Josie then, sliding her arm free to leave the coat check, to leave out the hall.

“Ellana!”

Dread Wolf. Fen’Harel.

Gold and marble blurred like it had been all night. Masks seeming to assault her as she walked fast, without purpose, feeling naked in her bare feet and the memory of hands that had just been about her, over her, around her.

“Ellana!”

“Stop it!” She yelled, turning to see him. Him. Ma vhenan! Hah! F.H.! Stupidity wracked her down into a blinding fury.

Solas froze, his maskless face caught in the sea of those who’d stopped in the hall to turn and stare at them.

“What—what was this?” She asked, a voice not like her own escaping her lungs. “A trick? A trap to catch me in some scandal and slander—”

“No!” He yelled, “I—”

“That’s why you didn’t tell me— You knew!”

Fen’Harel.

All those nights of coy teases and little nicknames. Of love and affection. She was so stupid. So reckless and stupid. Young and dumb. Blind.

He had never told her. Never wanted to.

“You knew this whole time. You knew and you belittled me while you... What? Seduced—”

“I did not!” Solas yelled back, stepping forward, silencing her, echoing his voice against the chamber of Halamshiral. “I— I had no idea. Morrigan— had not— I had no idea you were…”

“What!? Dalish? A savage?” She accused, almost laughing at his face.

Solas cringed, that brow so tenderly worried from earlier now creasing to disgust. “No. Do not be ridiculous, da’len.”

“What then? A lavellan?”

“Yes. I— I had no idea—”

“You disparaged my people!”

“No— not you—”

“You lied to me!” He stopped then. His anger quelling into a cold numbed look that held him at bay. “I begged you like an idiot, for anything. And you knew.”

“I did not, Ellana, please—”

“You knew who you were!” She laughed, almost hysterically. “You knew who you were, even if you truly didn’t know who I was. You would have written that, those lies, even if we’d never have met!”

Solas said nothing.

“You didn’t tell me, because of some stupid pride in your prowess over my people. Over me!” Ellana was staring at the floor now. The space between them.

At the floors of marble and gold and glitter, and the Winter Palace and the Ceremony of Achievement.

Laid heavy over the real Halamshiral.

The reflection of her vallaslin stared back at her.

“I’m so sick of everyone telling me who I am. What I am to do. Of what— And I thought you were one with me. A falon, lethallin, someone I could—but you don’t even respect who I am.”

Ellana turned her eyes back up at him, swallowing. Feeling her heated face once flushed with lust, flush with the tremble of wetness on her lashes. Gods. Creators.

“Ellana… satha,—let me explain.”

But she shook her head.

“Da’len—”

“You are no ha’hren of mine.” She snapped, stepping away from him. Stepping far enough that he seemed a stranger.

Ellana realized with a cold shiver that he was one. He’d always been one.

He had made himself one, on purpose. Even as she had sent him pictures, and calls, and love.

Ellana didn’t let herself blink tears before she turned away.

Leaving.

The Orlesians parted for her, a crowd of masks like puppets, stringing away as if the were yanked across the floor. She didn’t look at any of them as she left, eyes straight ahead to the shadows of cars outside that would take her away.