Everything comes in cycles, doesn't it? Each great new civilization rises from the ashes of the previous, until it too is burned down, and another rises anew. Her Inquisition was built on ashes, itself.

(literally, she thinks darkly and nearly laughs)

Solas sees nothing but ashes. It's such a tiring way to live, Lavellan thinks. She has personal experience in the matter, after all, as her people sat stagnant in the shadows of a civilization long dead. She may have joined him, then, when she was content in longing for a time she knew nothing about.

But this world-despite all of its miseries, it has potential. The Inquisition was proof of that, before treachery and politics made it come undone.

She told Solas, all of those years ago, that she will make the world better. And she will, even if it means dragging every duplicitous noble, every stubborn elf, every cynical soldier, kicking and screaming into the new age.

She will prove him wrong. She will drag his sorry arse home. She will, she will.

Lavellan has traveled all over damn Thedas for this-she's given and lost and hurt so much for this-Solas in a corner, at the (possible? probable?) end of the world, and nowhere to run.

(they counted her out after the loss of the anchor, but here she is, a god at her mercy)

There has been so much suffering, in this world. Her people have paid in blood many times over. She has paid in blood. She did not lose her clan and her hand mending the damn sky, only for some bone-headed elf (who is capable of so much good, if only he allowed it) to tear it open again.

"You need to turn back, Vhenan," Solas say, urgency hidden in his voice. You are not safe here, he means. Solas, about to tear the world open for a second time, and he fears for her safety.

Hypocrite. Traitor. Coward. Those words are on her tongue, but she bites them back.

She takes a step forward. No weapons. No armor. It's all or nothing, here. No need to be weighed down.

"I'm dead either way, aren't I?" Lavellan says, unable to hide the bitterness in her tone. "There's no other way about it, is there? But here, you have to watch."

She ignores his flinch. It is not a low-blow if it is deserved. "I'm the only thing real to you, here," she says, remembering Cole's words from years and years ago. "Everyone else, what are they to you? You act like we are shadows, living some half-life. You speak of regret for our fate, a fate that you control. But how can you regret it when you don't even see us?

"My view has evolved since then," Solas says, voice matter-of-fact, as if he is only discussing the weather. "And it cannot change my path. I… owe a great debt and I will see that it is paid."

"But it hasn't! How could it have, when you are paying your debt in blood that is not yours?"

"I do regret it. You do not know the extent of my remorse, to have others suffer the price that is rightfully mine."

Solas sounds so determined, despite arguing such madness.

"Clearly not enough to not impose it upon them!" The words come out in a shout. There is a pause, as Lavellan forces herself back into her false calm. This war will not be won with hasty, ill-thought words. "So I will be the first to pay the price."

(so it will be real)

"You cannot." His mask breaks for a moment, replaced with anger.

"But that is what you ask of me! But I am not content to die in the background. I will not die, sight unseen, so that I may soothe your guilt." Her heart pounds in her chest and she is scared, because she can lose, no matter how well she thinks she has figured out Solas. There is a chance that whatever bond remains between them is not enough to talk Solas down from this path. She knows well enough that if she loses, it will not be a pleasant death.

"I assure you," he says, and there's that righteous tone again. "There is nothing you may do to 'soothe my guilt.'"

"And yet you delay discharging your spell, now that I am in your sight." She hesitates, here. "Clearly it matters, if only a little."

"It matters very much," Solas admits. Lavellan does her best to hide her relief.

"Think about it," she urges. "I am real to you, and so you pause at the idea of my death. The others-they are as real as I am. You might see this world as a mere shadow of yours, something you can sacrifice to make up for everything-but this world is real. The people here, they're real. Some are cruel, some are thoughtless, set in in their ways-but they are real. I know you long heavily for the world that was, before the Veil, but look! We're here now, and we are alive and the world is such a vibrant place, if only you'd look. I'd prefer not to give it up all up for a maybe, so the world might be restored to your liking. But if we must die, let me be the first, so in the next world, perhaps you will remember the sacrifice that you claim weighs so heavily on your heart."

For a moment, there is nothing but the sound of their breathing. And then, she asks, "Are you so ready to make this decision?"

"I am not," he admits, voice heavy. "But this is my course."

"With all due respect, bullocks to your course," she says. Maybe she is winning. She will not breathe easy yet. "A very, very long time ago, you told Cassandra that few with power are brave enough to change their course. Are you one of them? It is not too late, now. Are you really such a coward?"

For the first time in their acquaintance, Solas is truly silent. He offers no clever diversions, no half-truths.

"You spoke a big game about choice, when I only knew you as a curious apostate. Were those only pretty words, Dread Wolf?"

He sighs. Is that defeat? "You ask for so much, Vhelan."

(not defeat, but a new chance)

"I ask for nothing at all, except for you to simply stay your hand," she says. She pauses here, considering her next worlds. She already allowed herself to be vulnerable once, why not again? "And to stay with me, if you are willing."

"Ah, such simple requests," he laughs. It's such a rich sound. Lavellan missed it, though she still does not know if it bodes well.

"They are, if you allow them to be." Hope swells in her heart, a fragile thing.

"They won't accept me so easily."

"The ones who matter know where I stand with you, though they may not like it. They do think enough of you to have no desire to see you walk a dark path. I would not be here without them." Lavellan thinks of the nobility of Ferelden and Orlais, who will likely be less impressed.

She is no longer the Inquisitor, however.

Lavellan decides that they can shove whatever opinions they may have right up their arses.

"I have much blood on my hands, some of it very old. I am by no means a good man. Are you sure you would have me?" There is something vulnerable in his face. She wants to kiss him until the look goes away, but now is not the time.

She thinks of Thom, of Cullen, of Leliana. She thinks of herself. The Inquisition. Bound in blood and errors and regret, but-

"There is good in everyone," she says, and in that moment she truly, truly believes it. "There's good here, in this world. So much good. You have much to atone for, but you can atone."

Lavellan holds out her hand.

"You can do so much good," she says, echoing her thoughts from earlier. "If only you would allow yourself to do it."

"It's that simple, is it?" he asks.

"It's that simple," Lavellan smiles. "Come home."

Solas takes her hand.