Skyhold was bathed in sunlight that morning, shafts of bright gold cutting across the bleak, grey stone of the courtyard. Varric strolled across the grounds, breathing in the air, which still held a bite of chill from the dawn.
As much as he enjoyed the raucous sounds of the others, there was no denying the peace that his own solitude could bring.
He paused when he saw a hunched figure sat cross-legged on the ground near the towering gates of the fortress. With a small smile, he strode his way over and drew to a stop at the figure's side.
"Hey kid, what you up to?" Varric asked.
"Listening," Cole replied, swaying back and forth as he spoke.
"Oh yeah? Who's troubled head are you diving into this time?"
"I don't know. It's heavy, weighted by troubles and memories of death…" he trailed the words, his rocking growing frantic.
Varric placed a hand on Cole's shoulder, but it seemed to do little to help calm him.
And then the boy stilled, the dull light in his eyes brightening. "Why am I here? I shouldn't have come, it hurts to remember. True pain, metal against magic. It bores into me, I can't shake it."
Sitting down beside Cole, Varric shivered as the remnants of dew on the grass soaked into his trousers. Though the shiver also helped hide the shudder of uneasiness that passed over him. He was never comfortable listening to Cole spill the thoughts of whichever poor sod he'd latched onto.
Still, the boy looked like he could do with some company, so Varric settled next to him.
"I shouldn't have come, I shouldn't have-" Cole continued. "But I'm here now. The pain is raw, but something stronger, something deeper courses; it makes her heart beat faster, her chest tight." The rocking began again. "There he is. Now she remembers, remembers why she came." Cole flicked his gaze to Varric so suddenly the dwarf's eyes widened. "She didn't come because the world needs saving, she came because he asked her to." Cole turned his focus back ahead of him."Stupid dwarf, if only he'd see that. If only he'd see I'd risk the world for him."
Varric frowned, his curiosity piqued. "Who-" But before he had chance to ask, a voice cut through his question.
Staring up, Varric flinched as the morning sun pierced into his vision. After blinking back the sudden intensity, he dared to open his eyes again, his breath hitching in his throat to find Hawke staring down at him, a grin on her face.
She was just as he remembered.
"I can't tell him the truth. He wouldn't want to know," Cole muttered from beside them.
Realisation of who Cole was speaking of struck Varric like an arrow, and his chest tightened.
Hawke's face crinkled into a confused frown. "What did he say?"
"Uh, nothing." Varric sprung from his place. "Come on, I'll get you settled in before you have to face the all mighty Inquisitor."
"Should make for an interesting meeting," Hawke replied with a chuckle.
As the pair walked away together, Cole watched them go. "In another life," he whispered, before returning his focus to the daisy that poked up between his boots.