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. . .

Vigil of Solitude

. . .

Leliana inhaled deeply, letting the smell of incense linger in her nose. She cast her eyes up, but there was no sign of sunlight filtering in through the high windows of the Grand Cathedral. She didn't know what time it was, but it had to be close to morning. Darkness and silence had already surrounded her for several hours.

The Vigil of Solitude was a sacred duty all new Divines endured, but so far, hers was turning out to be rather dull. According to tradition, it was an opportunity to pray for the Maker's guidance. In practice, it was a chance to reflect on how best to lead the Chantry. It was often whispered that some of her predecessors had been granted visions of the Maker's beauty, or insight into His will—a position the Chantry "officially" disavowed.

Leliana let her head sink again. She supposed she had already been granted enough mystical visions for one lifetime, although she would have appreciated some help. She was honored that she had been chosen to carry on Justinia's legacy, and she had never been afraid of power, but she did have her doubts. The path she wanted the Chantry to take was one that many people would be reluctant to follow.

What did you think of during your Vigil, Justinia? she wondered, closing her eyes. Were your thoughts heavy or hopeful? Of the past or the future? Did you feel as if you had chosen this, or as if it had been chosen for you? Her own thoughts had lingered on the past more than she would have liked. She knew she should be plotting the Faith's course, but instead, memories kept intruding—memories over a decade old, yet still vivid enough to make her feel as if she was reliving them.

And what would you think of if you were trapped in a Chantry for three days, my love? She didn't try to suppress her smile as she pictured her Warden's face. You would probably be scaling the walls within an hour. Although Elissa was Andrastian, she had never felt at home among the mysteries and the traditions. Like several of the colorful people Leliana had met over the course of her life, her lover's faith was sustained from within. It was her greatest hope that she could open the Chantry doors wide enough to make room for those believers.

Her smile faded after a few moments, but her fond feelings lingered for a while longer. It had been almost a month since her last correspondence with Elissa, and she hoped to receive word soon. She had informed the Warden of her ascension to the Sunburst Throne in her most recent letter, although she had yet to receive a reply. Perhaps when the Vigil is over, she thought, folding her hands in her lap. I wouldn't be surprised to find a raven waiting for me when my Vigil is over.

It wasn't a raven, however, that interrupted her thoughts a moment later. A sharp tapping sound came from above, and she glanced up in surprise. There was little light to see by, but she managed to make out a broken window, as well as a shadow among the balconies that wasn't supposed to be there. Under normal circumstances, she would have leapt to her feet and unsheathed the dagger strapped to her thigh. Instead, she sighed, trying and failing not to look amused. "I'll have you know that stained glass was new, and very expensive."

The shadow moved closer to the edge of the balcony. "If you didn't want me breaking windows, you shouldn't have locked all the doors."

Leliana rose to her feet at last, turning to face the intruder properly. "Forgive me not expecting company during my Vigil of Solitude," she teased. "It was very shortsighted of me."

The figure disappeared for a moment, but only to descend the stairs. Leliana's eyes darted toward the lower door, her heart picking up speed. How long has it been? Almost two years, but it seems like an entire Age. But when Elissa finally arrived at the bottom of the stairs, it suddenly felt like only yesterday. She looked the same, tall and broad-shouldered with her fiery hair in plaits. Her square jaw was tilted, and her smile was large and uneven.

"How long is this Vigil supposed to last, anyway? Because it seems awfully boring."

Leliana blinked past the tears of joy welling in her eyes. "Three days, as you well know. You have unfortunate timing."

"I think you mean fortunate timing," Elissa said. "Three days uninterrupted sounds wonderful to me."

"I hope you brought food and water if you are intending to stay," Leliana said. Her voice threatened to crack, and she was swiftly losing the struggle not to cry. It took everything she had not to rush into Elissa's arms. "I only have enough for one."

"I can do better than stale crackers and water." Elissa swung her pack off her shoulder, grinning even wider. "I've got a bottle of liqueur in here. Carnal, 8:69 Blessed. Paid a fortune for it, too."

Leliana shook her head in disbelief, fighting back laughter. "Warden-Commander Cousland, do you mean to tell me you scaled the walls of the Grand Cathedral in the middle of the night, with a bottle of alcohol, to interrupt the new Divine's sacred Vigil of Solitude? Do you have any idea what kind of penances that would earn anyone else?"

Elissa took several steps forward, closing most of the distance between them. She set her pack on the floor, and Leliana shivered as a square, callused, and achingly familiar hand reached out to caress the side of her face. "Shhh, don't tell anyone, but I think I've got an in with Divine Victoria. She'll let me off the hook if I ask nicely."

She finally allowed a few tears to fall, not caring when the trail hit the pad of Elissa's thumb. "How nicely do you intend to ask?"

Elissa leaned down, resting their foreheads together. "Nice enough that she'll want to marry me once I'm done."

Leliana didn't answer. She threw herself into Elissa's arms, searching desperately for her lips. When they finally kissed, her heart broke and mended itself all at once. She had no idea how she had managed to survive this long without Elissa's touch—how she had managed to survive at all. Her tears became twin rivers, but she ignored them completely, focusing instead on Elissa's mouth. It was hot and sweet, and it made her hungry in ways she had almost forgotten.

Unfortunately, breathing was a necessity. They broke apart, and Leliana's cheeks hurt from smiling. "I was hoping for a sign from the Maker during my Vigil, but you, my love, are the best vision He could have sent me."

"That's flattering and all, but I'm no vision. See?" Elissa took one of her hands, guiding it around her waist until it settled on the firm swell of her ass. "Told you. Solid flesh and blood."

Leliana gave an obliging squeeze, but couldn't bring herself to let go. She rested her other hand on Elissa's shoulder, trembling with shock and joy. "I can't believe you're here," she murmured, staring hazily at Elissa's face. There were, perhaps, a few more worry lines, but the love shining from it hadn't changed a bit. "I was hoping for a letter, but I never expected this..."

"You didn't think I'd miss your election, did you? I'm only sorry I couldn't make the coronation. I came as soon as I got your message..."

"I don't care," Leliana insisted. "You are here. That's the only thing that matters." Elissa's lips were too tempting to resist, hovering an inch away from hers. She dipped in again, sighing with relief as the loneliness of the past two years lifted from her shoulders. Being in Elissa's arms made her forget they had ever been apart.

Soon, they were lost in each other, stumbling back in search of a flat surface. The Grand Cathedral didn't have much in the way of furniture, so they clung tight to each other instead, whispering against each other's mouths. "Don't suppose... there's... a bed in here?" Elissa panted between kisses.

Leliana shook her head no, nipping at Elissa's bottom lip.

"A table?"

"Mm-mm." She curled her fingers around the back of Elissa's neck, unwilling to let her withdraw for more than a few seconds.

"A chair?"

That finally got Leliana to stop. There were pews in the balconies upstairs, and some benches built into the walls behind the decorative archways on the first floor, but they were much too far away. She had already waited for two long years, and she couldn't be bothered to wait any longer. Instead, her eyes wandered to the only part of the room with any furniture at all—the large stone altar with its five high-backed thrones.

Elissa's jaw dropped. "You aren't serious. Up there?"

"Where else?" Leliana busied herself with Elissa's shirt, untucking it from her trousers. She was grateful her lover had chosen to dress light. This was far easier than peeling her out of her plate armor. "If you have any better suggestions..."

"No, it's just..." Elissa remained uncertain, but Leliana got her voice to waver by sucking on her pulse point. "Isn't it a bit inappropriate?"

Leliana released the soft patch of skin where Elissa's heartbeat lived, pleased with the faint mark she had left there. "If you were worried about being inappropriate, you would not have broken into the Grand Cathedral to see me."

"I couldn't not see you." Elissa hesitated for a moment, then gave in, pulling their bodies closer. "All right. Which one?"

"Mine, of course," Leliana whispered against Elissa's ear. When the suggestion earned a sharp gasp, she tugged the lobe between her teeth, finally sliding her hands beneath Elissa's shirt. Elissa's skin burned beneath her palms, and she drank the heat in greedily. "It would hardly be polite to make a mess of the Grand Clerics' thrones."

Elissa laughed, but the sound was lost in a long moan as Leliana began unfastening her pants. "At least take off the hat. That's too blasphemous, even for me."

Leliana made a noise of disappointment, but she released Elissa's trousers without pulling them down. She removed her headdress, scattering a few pins to the floor. "You will have to get used to it," she teased, shaking her hair loose. It had grown a little over the past few months, but still hardly passed her shoulders. "The headdress is an integral part of the job."

Elissa combed her fingers through it, and a soft look came over her face. "Your face is still the same, and your eyes still say they love me. I can deal with the silly outfit. Although right now, I'd really rather see you out of it."

Leliana didn't need any further encouragement. She started shedding her heavy robes, although she couldn't help stopping to stare as Elissa struggled out of her shirt. "You haven't changed either," she whispered breathlessly when Elissa's flat stomach came into view. The muscles there were as prominent as ever, and her fingers twitched with the urge to stroke them.

"A few new scars, but no big surprises." Elissa tossed her shirt to the ground and kicked her pants aside, but made no move to take off her smallclothes. "I want to feel you do it," she said after a slight pause, almost shyly. "It's been so long, and your hands are always so warm..."

Leliana hurried to finish undressing. Spending a moment longer than necessary outside of Elissa's arms was unacceptable. They fell into another kiss, and she hurried to unwind the loose bindings that covered Elissa's chest. Unwrapping them didn't take long. Her fingers remembered how instinctively. She cupped Elissa's breasts as soon as they fluttered to the floor, thumbing the thick pink nipples to hardness. "You're perfection," she breathed, gazing down at the freckled flesh in her hands.

"Isn't that your new title? Your Perfection?"

"One of them, yes." Leliana's hands roamed across the rest of Elissa's torso, tracing the grooves of her ribs. "But there are other things I would much rather you call me."

"As long as I can still call you mine," Elissa muttered. "Come on. Let's go defile your fancy chair."

"The Sunburst Throne is far more than just a chair," Leliana said, but she hurried to lead Elissa up the short, wide stairs. She took them backwards and from memory, refusing to turn away for even a moment. They continued trading kisses as they went, and by the time they made it up to the raised platform, her lips were swollen and the last of her robes had been shed.

"Who knew the Most Holy didn't bother with smallclothes?" Elissa laughed, staring between her legs. A visible shudder coursed through her, and Leliana's face flushed with anticipation. "Not that I'm complaining about the view..."

"All the easier for you to perform your penance." Leliana eyed the final scrap of fabric shielding Elissa's beautiful body from view. A dark stain was already spreading across the front, and she couldn't help feeling proud of herself for causing such a visible reaction. "But first, these have to go." She nudged Elissa toward the throne, urging her Warden to sit as she dropped to her knees. Once she was at the right height, she dragged Elissa's underwear down and off, eager to have it out of the way.

Warmth spread over her fingers at the first touch. Elissa was wet and hot against her hand, and she soon got carried away. Everything else flew from her mind as she learned her lover again, rediscovering secret places. Elissa still liked having her clit rubbed through its hood instead of directly on the tip. She still groaned deep in her chest at slow circles, and gasped when they changed to shorter strokes. She still chewed at the inside of her cheek to try and stifle the noises, although she always failed.

Leliana watched in awe, torn between the sight of her hand working between Elissa's legs and the beautiful flicker of expression across Elissa's face. She wished she could watch both at once. Her eyes were just as hungry for Elissa as her skin was, and she drank in the sight like a woman dying of thirst. "Th—this isn't... I'm not going to last," Elissa hissed through gritted teeth. She gripped the arms of the throne hard enough to make her knuckles turn white. "I... Leliana, it's been so long, I—I can't..."

"I wouldn't ask you to wait." Leliana leaned in, trailing kisses down along Elissa's flexing abdomen. The strong muscles there quivered, and she latched on for a moment with her teeth. "Not tonight. Not this time."

"I couldn't wait," Elissa whispered, a breathless confession. "Couldn't wait to see you, kiss you, taste you..."

Leliana draped one of Elissa's knees over her shoulders, spreading her thighs wider. The word 'taste' made her mouth water. She stopped teasing Elissa's clit with the pads of her fingers and used them to peel apart her outer lips instead. The wetness she had felt covered everything, leaving Elissa slick and silky and glistening. She could only stand to admire the view for a few seconds. Elissa needed her, and she needed Elissa just as much.

The first taste almost made her start sobbing again—not with need, but with relief. She hadn't realized how much she had feared this moment wouldn't come to pass. Their last time together had been desperate and selfish and clutching, full of tears and vows that what they had wouldn't end. Not from separation, not from the Calling, not even in death. Now, here was the proof. Elissa had returned, and Leliana considered it nothing short of a miracle.

Somehow, she managed to gather all her whirling thoughts and focus on a single goal: making Elissa come. It wouldn't take long. Elissa's hips were already rocking forward, searching for more of her mouth. An insistent hand tangled through her hair, pressing at the back of her head, and Leliana followed the wordless request. She flattened her tongue, dragging it up in a long, slow swipe.

Elissa almost shouted to the high ceiling. She tilted her head back, clearly overwhelmed, and Leliana's heart swelled with an intense wave of love. She ran one of her hands along Elissa's thigh, soothing the tense muscles there as she sucked the stiff point of Elissa's clit into her mouth. Her tongue painted over the swollen bud, but she left just enough room for her fingers join beneath.

A rush of heat ran over her chin and into her palm as soon as she brushed Elissa's entrance. It allowed her to slide in with a single thrust, and she hooked her fingers forward, finding the right spot on the very first try. Elissa bucked and shuddered, and Leliana nearly melted along with her. She hadn't forgotten. Would never forget.

"Leliana..."

The tightness and warmth around her fingers was almost overwhelming, but the sound of her name, her real name, encouraged her to move. She repeated the motion, curling and searching, but never withdrew. Now that she was inside of her lover at last, she didn't want to leave. She drew Elissa further into her mouth, savoring the way her clit and her front wall both swelled. Each reaction Elissa gave her was intoxicating, and she craved more.

She wasn't disappointed. "Leliana, please," Elissa begged, clutching the back of her head even tighter. "I need..."

But she already knew exactly what Elissa needed. The next time she curled her fingers, she kept the pressure constant. She stopped swirling her tongue and sucked hard, refusing to let go. A breath later, Elissa shattered above her. Her hips went wild for a few jerking thrusts, then froze, locked in place over the seat of the throne. Her entire body clenched, then relaxed with deep, rolling shudders.

Leliana savored Elissa's release as long as she could. Part of her wanted it to last forever. She felt as if she could spend her entire life lost in the smooth heat between Elissa's thighs, savoring the sweetness that spilled over her chin. She alternated between pulling at the stiff point of Elissa's clit and curling her fingers, instinctively knowing that doing both things at once would be too much for her lover to endure. The rippling pulses came faster, and Leliana felt a surge of pride. She didn't want to leave until she had exhausted Elissa's body of everything it had to give.

She wasn't sure how long it took for Elissa to stop coming, but it was a good while later. Her lover's first release had run over into a long string of orgasms, one right after another, until Leliana couldn't separate them out. But when Elissa let go of her head, breathing heavily and staring into space with glazed eyes, Leliana knew she had done her job well. "Maker's breath," Elissa said in a shaking groan, still clutching the arms of the throne for support. "I... I don't think I can get up again. They might need to make me the new Divine instead."

Leliana laughed, brushing back a few strands of hair that clung to her cheeks. Elissa had left her face something of a mess, but she didn't care. She climbed onto the throne, straddling Elissa's lap. There wasn't much space, but that hardly mattered. She was hungry for the press of skin anyway. "You can stay right where you are, my love. But I still need you to return the favor."

"Always." One of Elissa's hands left the armrest to cup between her legs, and Leliana saw stars. She didn't know how one unfocused touch from her lover could feel a thousand times more intense than her own hand, but she wasn't going to question it. She was merely grateful. Grateful that Elissa had returned unharmed, grateful that Elissa still loved and wanted her, and grateful that they were finally about to make up for all the time they had lost.

She reached out to grasp Elissa's shoulders, desperate for something to hold. They were more than strong enough to support her, and she sagged forward a little, trusting her lover to carry her weight. Elissa's fingers were swiftly proving that she wouldn't be able to stay upright on her own for long. They found her opening, dipping into the pool of wetness there before sliding up to skim the aching bud of her clit. The extra slickness made every stroke count, and it took an effort of will not to jog her hips. She didn't want to do anything that might offset Elissa's touch.

Of course, her lover sensed her struggle. "You can move," Elissa murmured, bending to kiss the top of her grasping hand. "I'll follow you."

A short cry of relief broke in Leliana's chest. She hoped those words were true, and not just until she came. Letting Elissa go now was almost unthinkable, and she wasn't sure if she could survive another parting. But then she started moving, and all those thoughts were banished from her mind. Each stroke of Elissa's fingers was blissful, and when they slid down to tease her entrance, she took them in with a single push of her hips.

The fullness was everything she wanted. Her inner walls fluttered, and all the while, she couldn't forget that it was Elissa stretching her. Elissa inside her. Elissa curling and thrusting and driving her closer and closer to bliss. She bent down, offering her lips for a kiss, and Elissa surged up to meet her. Heat coursed through her the moment their mouths met, and she surrendered to her need. Just like Elissa had said earlier, she couldn't wait.

When her orgasm hit, it consumed her entire body. Every inch of skin sang and every stretch of muscle tensed. The pounding pressure inside of her finally became too much, and she screamed as she spilled over into Elissa's hand. Her pleasure swelled to bursting when Elissa's thumb found her clit, and the trapped bud twitched in time with her shudders. It was almost too much, but that didn't stop her from wanting more. She kissed Elissa with everything she was, refusing to still her hips or release the fingers buried within her for even a second.

The next several pulses made her vision swim. She had to close her eyes, but that didn't stop her from feeling Elissa's mouth move down from her lips to explore her chest. It glided across her shoulder, sucking at the line of her collarbone before sealing around one of her nipples. The warmth, the pull, and the barest edge of Elissa's teeth had her arching her back and coming all over again. She sobbed, shivering wildly as Elissa's curling fingers coaxed a fresh flood from deep within her.

Blackness crept in around the edges of her eyes, but before she lost the ability to form thoughts, something drifted through the burning landscape of her mind. How could anyone claim that this is not one of the Maker's greatest gifts? She helps me feel His light more strongly than anything else. I can't—I won't give her up again.

When she came back to herself, she was no longer straddling Elissa's hips, and her lover's fingers weren't inside her. She was curled up comfortably in Elissa's lap, still shuddering with occasional aftershocks. "What happened?" she asked, struggling to form words with kiss-swollen lips.

"I was about to ask you the same thing. You kind of... slumped over. I had to keep you from falling."

Leliana gave a happy sigh and snuggled deeper into Elissa's arms. It shouldn't have been comfortable, sitting tangled with her lover in a large stone chair, but somehow, Elissa's body was still in the perfect position to rest against. "You should be proud of yourself," she said, placing a soft kiss at the corner of Elissa's jaw. "You have single-handedly convinced the Divine to make the Chantry's vows of celibacy optional from now on."

"Single-handedly, you say?" Elissa drawled. "I'll gladly take credit, but weren't you going to do that anyway?"

"Of course," Leliana said. "Andraste did not forsake her mortal lover for the Maker, and neither shall I."

Elissa snorted. "Then I promise not to have you burned at the stake." A guilty look flashed across her face, as if she feared the joke was in poor taste. "I can't help feeling like I'm about to be smited. I'm not going to end up a pile of ash on the floor of the Grand Cathedral for all this, am I?"

"Only if you don't do everything in your power to keep me happy," Leliana said. She lifted her head off Elissa's chest, gazing up into her eyes. "How long will you be staying this time, my love? I hate to ask, but… I need to know."

Elissa's face brightened. "Actually, I have good news. I've got a very promising lead on how to stop the Calling. Here, help me find my trousers."

What followed was a slightly awkward scramble to pick up their discarded clothes. Leliana let Elissa do most of the work, stretching luxuriously and taking her time on the way down the short staircase. After a bit of fishing, Elissa withdrew a small black brooch from one of her pockets, holding it up proudly. "It took some doing, but Fiona's directions led me to the right place."

Leliana's brow knitted with worry. "Elissa! Do you honestly think it is a good idea to carry such a dangerous magical artifact around in your pocket?"

"Don't worry," Elissa said, tossing and catching it in her hand. "It seems to be inactive. No creepy Calling voices yet. How long do you think it would take Morrigan to understand something like this and come up with a way to cure me like Fiona?"

Leliana's heart soared with hope. She had been overjoyed to see Elissa again after so long, but the thought that her lover might actually stay for good this time almost had her crying again. "I have no idea where Morrigan is hiding at the moment, but I know someone else who might be even better equipped to study it. Dagna the Arcanist is currently at Skyhold. If anyone can help us, she can."

"Dagna?" Elissa let out a laugh of surprise. "You mean the enthusiastic little dwarf I sent to study with the Circle mages all those years ago? I should have known she would end up doing something special."

"It seems she will have her chance to repay you. If she can use that brooch to remove the Taint…"

"We'll worry about that in a few days," Elissa said, closing the distance between them. "First, you need to finish your Vigil of Solitude… which won't be very solitary now that I'm here, I'm afraid."

Leliana smiled. "Are you sure you're prepared to stay confined to a Chantry chapel for the next three days, with only me for company?" Warmth coursed through Leliana's body again as her Warden embraced her. A soft kiss was her answer, and she closed her eyes, winding her arms around Elissa's waist. She didn't want to let go, and for the first time, she finally felt as though she didn't have to.