AN: Nothing like having to re-read my entire story because I can't remember if I actually wrote certain scenes or if they were just in my mind. For the answer, yeah they were only in my head. Transcribing it can be such a pain. Ruby is being difficult so I am just posting the first part of this chapter until the tricky dwarf lets her section complete.
The soft light of a candle was all that Ria had to work with. It was long before dawn, the day after, or perhaps still of, the third day since Ruby had left. Ria felt her grasp of time slipping just beyond her. Instead, her mind was half fuzzy as if she had been imbibing as her days bled into a series of repetitive actions. It was subtle, the vice that slowly crept tighter across her ribs with each day her Stone was gone. The nightmares were getting worse, the anxiety she felt as all the Should's and Could's and losses began to pile up in her mind. Without her Stone there to chase them away and help her to focus on the Now, Luria was very much in danger of having a breakdown. Her blood's taint boiled in her veins and made the urge to scratch deep into the flesh and marrow, to rend apart her own frame to get it out seem almost sensible. The pounding song in her memories sometimes felt like it was intruding on her regular day. Logically, she knew this would pass in time. The cold she felt was just memories of all the times her feet had traversed the Deep Roads. The echoing sensation in her ears when the only sound was her heartbeat was not a warning that she was about to be fighting for her life. For all that knowing the truth did her, the adrenaline still would pound through her system in a screaming awareness that had kept her alive.
Ritual became her salvation as it had many times before. Training, teaching, paperwork, greeting the dawn, her own patrols. She sank herself into a rut by only a few days later because she could not count on the tea Solas provided being there and thus a crutch. Nor could the elven Templar count on the sanctity of her brotherhood found in the Templars for all that was precisely what their training coached for. Once this Inquisition was handled she would be without them all once more and her bonds snapped. Such a feeling, to one like herself who held almost nothing back, would be akin to actual physical pain. She suffered now because allowing herself the relief that was there beyond the bare minimum would only make her suffer ever so much later.
So she was not precisely in her best mindset when Lily fluttered in.
Slowly, however, Lily's current problems of the heart and her own concerns as she tried to be too much of a perfectionist in regards to the situation she found herself in was helping to ground Ria. It was hardly the first time a strange romantic entanglement snared one of her precious mage charges or Wardens in general. Honestly, Ria had expected this little dramatic event to occur far sooner, but she knew far too well how having fears of your own great secret revealed could make everything that came up during such an event seem almost trivial by comparison. That day she and Bull had watched the two dance around their own secrets had paved the way too easily. There was a reason that such negotiations as were done after a battle tended to be better than before one.
With the ease of long practice, truly, Ria had been the one giving relationship advice from the outset far more than she had ever been in one herself; the templar elf rested her chin on her hands, lips twitching as she watched Lily pace too and fro. Robes snapping as she swirled, hands gesturing wildly. It was indeed a familiar sight. As the slim human woman moved, however, it was helping to pull Ria to the focus of just the moment, her nightmares and memories softly slipping away from the forefront of her mind. All she was doing, was trying to understand what Lily was saying.
The words were too rapid, a blend of Fereldan accented common and Orleisian that did not stay even on the same thought pattern for long enough to make sense of. Ria had little need of that to guess what had her dear little nug in such a state. No doubt the reality of Krem's physical and mental peculiarities had finally settled into Lily's brain more than the own looming truths of her being a blood mage and Grey Warden that the woman had been so concerned with telling Krem.
Ria knew from her own experiences that when you had a secret it pressed hard against your shoulders and robbed your thoughts, making everything else that could reveal itself at such a time as your own words fell from your lips that everything seemed conquerable and hardly of so much concern. It was only later in the silence and peace that came after that the true depth of it would curl in one's stomach cold and solid and you would realize how severe the other truths that had come to light were. How small they always seemed compared to one's own troubles! It was that precisely, that was setting Lily pacing.
For of course, in fear of revealing her being a blood mage and Warden, to hear that Krem was in truth born a girl was little concern. To make certain that Krem would not object to the physical in the future also – from what Ria made out with Lily's ranting- was fine.
"Except when I picture those acts, and..especially with Krem, he is just that. A He! How do. I can't. Krem is not a girl or woman in my mind and I .." Lily finally slowed and dropped to the ground. Her visions of a future with Krem involved the physical, yes, but she simply could not picture her beloved male as a girl. In one way this was no doubt precisely the truth but it did not mean that in certain activities that biology was against them. "I hate myself for it, my Sky. That I dream of kissing and laying with him but the idea of him as ...as her..I have no interest in being with a woman!" Lily knew that much, she had certainly had the chance to explore if she had felt so inclined while with the Wardens, it had never even been something halfway tempting no matter how deep into her drinks she was.
Ria licked her lips for a moment, wishing she had something to soothe her dry throat before she leaned back and watched Lily mentally fall apart as she tried to reconcile her daydreams with reality.
She wanted to laugh. She wanted to throw the truth in her face as much as she adored Lily to pieces, but she would not. It was not what the girl needed right then. Instead, she rubbed her tired eyes. "Lily, you have to figure this out for yourself. Is a lifetime of celibacy save for cuddling and kisses if that is all you two can ever tolerate with..physical aberration from what you two expect..and I dare say it's just as bad for Krem if not more so, worth the way he makes you feel? Or is it that you'd rather a man's cock -" Here Ria smirked as Lily coughed at the notion, it was amusing to the Templar how often she could shock people with her bold words for all they were only simple facts. "To honest affection? Love is precious but be it fleeting or lasting the years you have left." Ria nodded then seeing Lily's face slowly drained of color.
"You forgot, Lily, the small span of years? I don't blame you, it is far too easy for most of our brethren to do the same. So ask yourself this my dear friend. Is a decade perhaps with someone who makes you happy and you are loved by, look forward to each day with worth the chance you will never physically join together again if neither of you can overcome that? Or is instead the risk of being alone or finding someone who is everything to you that Krem is now, but with the parts born to them that you would miss?"
"I...I don't want to be lovers with a woman, and to me, Krem isn't.." Lily started and Ria nodded. Her demeanor softened as she looked at the younger Warden. Truly that Lily wasn't just sobbing out about things not being fair had helped Ria keep her own temper at bay. No doubt Bull had to listen to something similar from his second in command at some point in time. Though doubtless, it would take a lot of alcohol to get there.
"Lily, I will not tell you to do or not do anything, it is your life and only you may live it. But, let me assure you I regret none of the chances for happiness I took and let them go as far as I could take them." Ria's voice was faint as she spoke, her eyes stinging as much from exhaustion as remembered pain. There had been many over the years she would have loved to stay with, the chance to grow old together. Not one had been her choice as in time they changed how they saw her. She was the Sky to the Wardens of her outpost, they put her on a pedestal and forgot she was a woman first before anything else they said of her. She had never an interest in her own gender but Warden's had stamina and appetites that were not just for food. Something about the taint urged them to couple for all their abilities to have children dwindled to nothing, perhaps a way to try and balance that out. Still, for all those side glances and flirtations that had the chance to go somewhere, in the end, Ria always found they shifted. She was the Sky first and foremost, and it was a lonely position though she never doubted the affection of her fellows back in Tirashan, it didn't really make it better.
No wonder she kept her lips pressed so tightly when around Solas, she did not even wish to have him think how much farther from what he had seen in his wanderings of the Fade, as elves should be, had been..how utterly different she was. Ria had come to savor their moments when they sparred or talked and for many, the brutal truth of being a Warden could not be ignored. Ria did not know how Solas felt about them, but could not imagine if he learned the truth of how they were made Warden's, he would look at her the same. As unlike Krem and Lily, they were still utterly far from taking a step to a true relationship beyond the tentative friendship they had, Ria did not feel guilt over keeping her words locked behind her teeth.
As the truth of Ria's words sank in Lily sighed then and nodded. "I suppose, I should talk to Krem about this, shouldn't I? For all I know he has just as much trouble with the idea or with either of my own secrets.."
It was amazing, really, how much Lily clearly loved Krem. Ria could only watch the shift in body language and lament that there was such a cruel fate as to bind someone to a body that was just slightly off, no doubt as hard to explain to those who had never been through it themselves as it was for a Warden to a recruit. There was something inside that was different and wanted to scratch through the skin and make it fit better, for all theirs was a darkness that could never be indulged without losing themselves to the Darkspawn taint. For those like Krem, certainly not the first of his kind nor Ria knew, the last, it was existing in a constant state of 'other' that was cruelly unfair.
"Yes." Was all Ria said aloud. "You know I have long been a holder of the belief that one should always talk to their partner about what it is that troubles them. Dear as friends are, and we are certainly tighter bound than most may claim, this is between you and Krem. For all you know he is struggling with the ideas as well and it is his own form that has gone against him as it were." It was a gentle rebuke, all things considered, but Lily flinched anyways
"What if my ..fears..hurt him?"
A soft chuckle was her answer, but it was the cold slightly distant sound that Ria only took when she was stepping out of a situation and Lily knew that. Knew that she would never get an answer of what to do, no assistance in making up her mind. "You two need to figure that out yourselves. This decision needs to be his just as much as your own."