A Passing Glance
Author's Note: The one aspect of the game that makes me crazy is how thin on the ground opportunities for romance are. Some of my favorite characters can't be romanced or the romance is almost non-existent. This story is a romance between F. Hawke and Sebastian Vael. My Hawke is not a mage, she's a rogue. There are also lemony segments to this story though I've tried to keep the language polite if still a bit racy in content.
My husband is reading this in hard copy right now and is making notes so I may have to update or make a few changes. I've already got a few scenes in mind that I'd like to add, but for now this is it. I didn't use a lot of the dialogue from the game, mostly because I don't have it written down anywhere and its more fun to make stuff up. I also tried to keep the scenes away from the actual game action as I find reactions to events more intriguing that the events themselves at times. Emotions and dialogue enrich a story, at least that's what I've always thought.
Enjoy and review if you have any constructive criticism.
Sebastian lay back on the simple pallet provided by the chantry and closed his eyes. The day ran riot through his mind again and again, images colliding like scattered leaves in the wind. He recited the Chant in his mind, trying to quell the images, seeking refuge in the words of his faith.
It did him no good, just as the Chant had failed to calm his mind the night before and the night before that. Ever since the news of his family's murders had arrived in Kirkwall nothing gave him peace.
In an excess of frustration he had posted a notice to the Chantry board. The board served as an information and work center, brothers and sisters of the Chantry posting various needs which citizens of Kirkwall could then fulfill for a modest sum. So among the tattered parchment requesting herbs, help with missing people and bandit hunting, there hung, for the moment, his posting of a reward for the death or capture of the men who'd murdered the ruling family of Starkhaven.
Elthina had tried to talk him out of it, the gentle woman who ruled the Chantry of Kirkwall had firmed her jaw and told him his posting was murderous. His reply that what happened to his family had been murder had only hardened her resolve and Sebastian doubted that his notice had remained on the board past the next few minutes.
But as he'd left the square a woman had caught his eye. Truly that wasn't unusual, even after joining the Chantry many women caught his eye, though he did nothing beyond appreciate the aesthetic beauty the Maker had placed in his view. Unlike his days before he'd joined the Chantry, but that was nothing he should think of now, when he was trying to calm his mind. Despite the assurances of the elder clerics and lay brethren, Sebastian still found the urges of the body distracting. Even appreciating beauty aesthetically could be problematic for him; he had too good an imagination.
This woman had been different somehow. Perhaps it had been her companions as they were a motley enough group to hold the attention of even the most jaded man of Kirkwall. They had included a clean shaven dwarf, twirling a crossbow bolt in his fingers, a tall woman with a shield, sword and armor of the city guard and a lovely girl with brown hair, a mage's staff and a nervous air about her. But even among such an unusual group this woman stood out.
Their leader was a woman with almost ragged dark hair, nearly black against pale creamy skin and sparkling blue eyes. She was slender, but delightfully curved, at least to his eye, with daggers on her back and slightly mismatched armor. Her eyes had slanted from his approaching figure to the Chanter's board; she'd clearly seen the arrow he'd shot into the center of his notice in response to Elthina's words.
She'd met his gaze for a moment, and he'd felt his forward momentum pause for that brief time before he continued on his angry path back to the streets. He'd walked off the worst of his anger before he'd returned to the Chantry, but those eyes had remained with him. Something in those eyes had seemed sympathetic.
Sebastian took a deep slow breath and felt his body relax as his mind considered that calm blue gaze. Still contemplating the woman in his memory he finally fell into sleep.
The exiled Prince of Starkhaven paused in his work, sweeping the floor of the chantry wasn't the most illuminating of tasks but the repetition made for an almost mesmerizing state of mind. As he swept his thoughts seemed to sort themselves and he always found his intellect refreshed once the chantry's floors were free of dust.
The alcove in which he stood wasn't an area easily seen by those entering the chantry, and as Sebastian paused in his task it was relatively easy for his presence to be overlooked. The entry hall leading to the main chamber of the chantry was bathed in light from the open doors and the sun slanted on a group of people moving with purpose towards the entrance. The words 'Patrice' and 'Qunari' drifted towards him and Sebastian frowned. The profile of one woman looked familiar.
When the group paused to discuss something in quiet tones Sebastian was able to place the woman in his memory. The woman with blue eyes and dark hair from the day he'd posted notice of a reward for the capture of his family's murderers stood in the entryway of the chantry, talking quietly with a tall, slightly scruffy, blonde man who was obviously a mage, slender black haired elf girl, also a mage, and the same dwarf Sebastian seen before.
The woman's voice was a bit husky and tinged with irony as she spoke to her companions, drawing a smile to the face of the dwarf. Her voice made Sebastian wish he could see her mouth, the color and shape of her lips. The elven girl tilted her head in confusion until the dwarf said something and then she blushed and laughed. The blond man, the other mage appeared exasperated and he shrugged before folding his arms.
They didn't remain long, only a moment more before some decision was made and the four exited the chantry. Sebastian shook his head as he found himself watching the woman's hips sway as she strode away. Thoughts like that could bring nothing but trouble; delightful as it was to contemplate the shape of this mysterious woman's legs and backside, they would only lead to contemplation and curiosity about the rest of her body. She was beautiful but his peace of mind was too hard won to dwell on her physical attributes. He took a deep breath and did his best to banish the shape of her legs and the cream of her skin from his mind.
Sebastian couldn't believe it. As he sought a quiet place in the gardens of the Chantry the prince of Starkhaven felt as if he was reeling where he stood. Finally he sank down on to a bench and considered the events of the past few hours.
The chaos had begun when a group of people had entered the chantry. Sebastian had been standing near one of the alcoves, reflecting quietly on what to say before he approached the Viscount regarding aid for Starkhaven. He'd been surprised when the group approached him, and more so when he recognized the woman leading the group. It was the same woman he'd glimpsed in the chantry several months ago, and prior to that, in the square outside the chantry. The woman with dark hair and bright blue eyes and the… Sebastian cut off his thoughts before they could lead to the shape of her backside.
She had walked up to him and asked if he was Sebastian Vael. When he'd replied that he was, she had told him that the men who'd murdered his family were dead. Her voice had held a sarcastic drawl asking if she'd be smote down where she stood for saying so in the Chantry. Sebastian must have had something of a stunned expression because she'd gone on to explain that she'd seen his notice on the Chanter's board. That Elthina had let the notice stay had amazed him. That this slender blade of a woman had managed to hunt down and kill the men responsible for killing his family had been even more shocking.
The woman had smiled when he'd given her the coin he had set aside for a reward. Finally he'd asked her name and she'd introduced herself as Hawke. After he'd bowed his pleasure in meeting her Hawke had asked him a few questions about his background and how he'd come to be in Kirkwall. Finally she'd offered him her condolences, her voice leavened with irony but her eyes were dark with sincerity as they'd met his.
Sebastian remembered thanking her, remembered explaining his need to petition the viscount for aid, and above all, remembered the feeling her hand in his as she offered a good bye. Her palm had been callused; she was obviously a woman who lived by her blades, but her fingertips were soft, and her grip firm but not rough. Her hand had felt surprisingly delicate for a woman who appeared so warlike.
The prince took a deep breath and tried to turn his thoughts to the chant and contemplation of Andraste. Though he'd renounced his vows to the chantry after the loss of his family, while within its walls and partaking of the Chantry's shelter it behooved him to behave in a chaste manner. Picturing Hawke's body in his mind was hardly appropriate behavior. Even dwelling on the beauty of her face, chaste though it might be, would lead to lustful thoughts, given his nature and history.
Sebastian was troubled, the pots and pans in the kitchen were taking the brunt of his annoyance with being troubled as he thought. Hawke had come back to the chantry several times, the last time just before she'd left on an expedition to the Deep Roads. He'd enjoyed seeing her, the chance to talk with a unique strong personality. She hadn't stayed long each time, their conversations had been necessarily brief, as they'd both been quite busy, but he'd been left with a lingering sense of uneasiness the last time they'd spoken.
He'd known the position she and her family occupied was precarious. Her sister Bethany, was a mage outside the Circle and the family was Ferelden, regardless of their mother's roots in the city. Hawke was driven by the need to protect her family. As the eldest the responsibility and burden fell to her slender shoulders. Sebastian wondered sometimes if Hawke had let anyone take care of her since she'd begun to protect her family.
Now Hawke had been gone for more than a month and Sebastian felt on edge, as if the air was crackling before a storm. The last time he'd seen her, Sebastian had made her promise she'd come to visit within a few days of her return. Hawke had smiled at him, that sweet, sarcastic tilt of her lips that always filled him with the same twist of joy, annoyance and amusement. Every time she smiled like that it reminded him of his days as a rake, a worthless man who lived only for pleasure and knew nothing of responsibility. Worse, when she smiled like that, warmth filled him, desire heated his loins and he wanted to show her he was not only the lay brother she saw before her. But she had promised him finally, laughing over his determination, but a promise just the same.
Sebastian had even gone and inquired of Aveline Vallen if she'd heard anything of the expedition. The guard captain hadn't and it had been plain on her face that she was concerned as well. Hawke had taken her sister, and the scruffy mage Anders along with her, and of course Varric had gone as well, since he and his brother were leading the expedition.
Sebastian stood and scrubbed pots in the chantry's kitchens and tried not to curse even in his mind as he attempted to mentally figure the length of the journey she'd be making and the amount of time it would take to travel. At least two more weeks he thought finally. At least three weeks to reach their destination, whatever it was, and three weeks back, with one or two in the middle for exploring. And before she returned he'd go mad with waiting and worrying and hoping she and her sister were well.
He stood and called himself the biggest fool in or out of the chantry, for worrying so much about a women he's spoken with only a handful of times. But there was something about her that invited friendship, something that invoked his loyalty. She was someone to be trusted, whose advice would be based upon her experience and what she believed, not what she could gain from giving it.
Sebastian sighed and shook his head, rinsing the final pot. He would simply resign himself to waiting, and he would pray for the expedition's safe return.
Hawke looked terrible. It was an awful thing to think, and it would be worse to say, but her blue eyes were tired, and she could have been a ghost for all her pallor. Her dark hair was longer at the back, strands teasing at her neck and shoulders; her bangs still hung in her eyes, more ragged than usual. Her armor didn't fit her as well as it had before, she'd obviously been on short rations. Sebastian was suddenly glad he'd been stuck with sweeping the entry hall again, at least she didn't have to walk far before she caught sight of him. The attempt she made at a smile was pathetic and the prince set his broom aside before taking her arm and escorting her to a quiet place in the chantry.
"When I asked that you visit when you returned I did not mean you should seek me out before you even rested from your journey." Sebastian said quietly. "You look…well, tired." He began to say exhausted and hurriedly amended his words to something less insulting.
"I look like a pack of Mabari ran over me." Hawke said shortly. "I know. Right now I don't care." She looked at him with dull blue eyes.
"Should I ask how the expedition fared?" Sebastian wondered what the right thing to say was. All his instincts told him that she needed to talk, to confide in someone who would listen without judgment. He hoped she trusted him enough for that. If she didn't perhaps a conversation with him would precipitate talking with one of her more trusted companions.
"Oh, by all means." Hawke's smile was brittle. "It was a technical success."
"Technical." Sebastian repeated slowly. "What happened Hawke?" And she began slowly to speak, her voice low, aware of her surroundings. Sebastian listened as she spoke of the expedition, of the idol they found, Bartrand's betrayal and how they'd found great wealth but the worst kind of peril before they'd escaped. Her voice broke as she spoke her sister's name… and Sebastian saw her jaw clench as if to hold back tears.
"Bethany…we had to find Grey Wardens in the Deep Roads, to see if they could save her from the corruption." Hawke whispered. "We don't know if she's alive or dead yet."
Sebastian jerked in shock at her words and took a deep breath. "I don't know you well Hawke, but I can estimate your character from your deeds and our little talks. I haven't seen as much of your sister as I have of you, but if she has a fraction of your strength, she'll live." He said quietly.
His reward was a wavering smile and a slight sigh. "The only good thing to come out of the Deep Roads is at least Varric and I got rich. Bartrand's in the wind, but we'll track him down eventually."
"And what will you do with all your riches?" Sebastian arched an eyebrow curiously. Her answer wasn't what he expected, if he had expected anything truly.
"I'm going to buy the Amell estate where my mother grew up. It's the least I can do for her, considering..." Hawke told him, her voice quietly determined.
"A worthy goal, if short term," Sebastian agreed, smiling slightly. He feared his smile faded too quickly in his concern for her. Hawke seemed to consider herself personally responsible for Bethany's fate. When he voiced this concern Hawke shrugged.
"I know the Maker frowns on excessive pride." She said her voice dry, "but all my life I've watched over the twins. When Father- after he was gone Mother was grief stricken, and I was the responsible one. Once she recovered it was habit for me to take charge of the family. I'm the eldest."
"Responsibility isn't the same as fault Hawke." Sebastian offered, keeping his tone mild. "Surely you don't believe your mother blames you."
Hawke shook her head and shifted as if she would rise from her seat. "No, Mother wouldn't." Her voice was low with regret. "I just thank the Maker that I talked Anders into coming with. Without him...well we wouldn't have even the slim chance of Bethany becoming a Grey Warden in order to survive." She shifted uncomfortably on the hard pew and Sebastian realized she must still be in some pain from her exertions in the Deep Roads.
"I know you must leave. Get some rest Hawke." Sebastian rose with her and put a hand on her arm before she left. "Take my prayers with you, and my sympathy to your mother." Prayers and sympathy were all he could offer and he nearly sighed at the sorrow of that. If he could do more for her he would, regardless of the propriety of it. She was a good woman and deserved her good fortune to come without such a cost.
She nodded, her lips curving slightly. "I'll let you know when we've moved into the estate. Mother would be pleased to have you call."
"A lay-brother of the Chantry?" Sebastian blinked, "If you say so."
Amusement flashed across her face and she offered her hand in a farewell grasp. "See you later Sebastian."
"Aye, that you will." Sebastian watched her walk away, conscious of the lingering feel of her hand in his and took a deep breath, trying once again to compose his thoughts and direct them away from the woman's alluring sway of the hips.
Three years, Sebastian thought to himself, it had been three years since he'd seen Hawke. He'd been working to retake Starkhaven, and she had been busy taking care of her mother after the expedition returned. And now she walked into the chantry and it was as if she'd never left. Everything he'd felt when he'd first spoken with her surged to the forefront of his mind. All the joy and desire and worry he'd felt when she returned from the Deep Roads roiled through him. Sebastian struggled to keep his eyes on Elthina, but he was hyperaware of Hawke standing off to the side, her blue eyes sparkling with humor.
Even three years after they'd last met Hawke's face still made his heart quicken in his chest and her smile tightened every muscle in his body. She looked almost exactly the same. Her hair had gotten longer apparently, the bulk of it was pulled back in a twisted knot, but some still framed her face and blew into her eyes. Sebastian was suddenly glad of those wild dark locks, Hawke wouldn't be Hawke if her hair was completely tamed. Her blue eyes were darker, not in color, but with some emotion he couldn't read.
Suddenly he wished he hadn't spent every waking moment working towards regaining Starkhaven. He might know what put those shadows in her eyes, he might be as good a friend to her as the dwarf that dogged her steps, might have earned many smiles and affectionate words from those lips.
Then Elthina threw up her hands in exasperation with him and left Hawke to talk him out of his course of action. But of course, Hawke being Hawke, saw nothing wrong with Sebastian confronting the Harriman's. Sebastian had to work hard to keep from smiling, Hawke's company would be welcome on such an errand.
If Sebastian never saw another demon for the rest of his life it would be too soon. Especially halfway nude, horned, insinuating desire demons. And when they start to talk and imply that his pursuit of the throne was due to greed for power and not an honest desire to protect his people that's when he really wanted to put an arrow through the bitch's heart.
Hawke, standing at his side, had been also been accused of wanting power, and with the self assurance of a woman who's earned everything she had, had told the demon to get stuffed and proceed to stab it to death. Sebastian that night, as he looked back over the day, thought he might have just fallen in love at that moment. Upon reconsidering his feelings, love was downplayed into strong affection and deep friendship. Certainly his offer to aid Hawke in whatever way she might need was in no way meant as a romantic overture.
Hawke would laugh in his face if he were to do anything romantic, Sebastian thought as he prepared for evening services. He still lived in the Chantry, still participated in the Chant and rites, and considered himself part of Elthina's staff. He didn't want to do anything that could be interpreted as romantic, did he?
Sebastian sighed as he entered the Chantry proper and lifted his voice in praise of the Maker and Andraste. Hawke and her smile and eyes and skin and... he reined in his thoughts and gave himself over to the Chant and contemplation. He was becoming dangerously interested in a woman and due to the events of the day, might end up staying in the Chantry to keep from pursuing power for the wrong reasons. Obviously he had much to think about. Perhaps the Maker would offer guidance in some form or another.
Sebastian looked up from his work to see Hawke walking towards him, an oblong package in the crook of her arm. "Hawke," He greeted her with a smile offering her a seat on a bench. Dropping the old candle stubs in a basket for that purpose he quickly replaced them with new candles and lit them. These flames would illuminate and serve Andraste as the flames that had killed her ultimately had served in the Maker's plan.
Dusting the remnants of wax from his hands he took a seat beside her on the bench. "It's good to see you, a chara. Have you a task I might aid you with?"
He was conscious of laughter in her face and eyes though she politely refrained from giving it voice, as well as a hint of curiosity. Obviously his overly formal words amused her and his grandfather's language intrigued her. He'd intended the latter if not the former. "I actually found something I believe is yours." She handed him the long package. "I took it off one of the mercenaries from Flint company."
Sebastian blinked in shock as he pulled the canvas and twine away from the object. "My grandfather's bow." Impulsively he laid a hand over hers. "Hawke, I thank you, I never thought to see this again! It's hard to mourn the loss of a thing when my family lies dead but I did think on it."
She smiled her fingers turning and curling around his hand and squeezing gently before she spoke. "I'm glad for you to have it. I couldn't be certain until I saw the crest carved in the wood."
"It was my grandfather who taught me to shoot." Sebastian explained. "I was…thirteen, and he began to teach me. He said the day I could pull the string on his bow, the bow would be mine." He frowned thoughtfully. "Three years later my family sent me to the Chantry before I could show him. My grandfather told me he envied me the life I would lead. He said he'd gladly trade the power of a prince for a life of contemplation."
Hawke nodded her understanding. "It sounds as if he was very devout." She offered in her low voice. "I take it you were not pleased when you were first sent to the chantry, despite his words?"
Sebastian shook his head. "At sixteen, I excelled at drinking and wenching; not so much at fighting though I somehow managed to get into a few. I was considered a disgrace to my family name." He looked at their entwined fingers. "I left and then…when Elthina refused to keep me prisoner, decided my grandfather had been right. And I entered the Chantry properly." Her fingers were so soft in his, her touch gentle and her voice kind as she spoke to him.
"But now that all your family is gone, what would your grandfather say you should do?" Hawke's voice was carefully neutral, giving no hint of her opinion.
"That is what I must decide." Sebastian sighed. "Of the paths laid out before me, which would the Maker have me follow?"
Hawke's fingers squeezed his gently before she slid her hand from under his and rose from the bench. "It is not a light decision. I will leave you to consider it." Sebastian watched as she left the Chantry as soundlessly as she'd entered, his eyes drawn to her as they had ever been.
Hawke's mother was a delightful woman, Sebastian reflected as he left the Hawke/Amell estate. It was obvious that she was perfectly comfortable in the villa, but her manner was much like that of her daughter's, down to earth, leavened with kindness and concealing all the old and new sorrows behind her eyes.
It had been a pleasure to meet the lady, though slightly disappointing to find Hawke was not at home. Of course, Hawke had invited him to call on her mother, not on her, so really, Sebastian thought, he should not be surprised to find only Leandra there.
The shout of his name caught his attention and Sebastian turned to find Hawke trotting towards him with three of her companions in tow. Sebastian barely kept from scowling at the mage Anders before he turned his attention to Hawke. It was obvious the man was smitten with his leader, Anders' eyes perpetually fell to Hawke's backside as she hurried along before him.
Reprimanding himself for such uncouth and unworthy thoughts Sebastian moved towards Hawke and bowed slightly. A wry smile tilted her lips as she did the same, her manner reflecting the environment she found herself in. She was good at that, Sebastian noticed, Hawke's attitude always reflected her environs. She was never out of place.
"Hawke, I've just paid a call on your mother," Sebastian gestured in the direction of the villa he'd exited.
"I'm glad, I'm sure she found your company a comfort." Hawke's blue eyes were dark and her words sincere even in their brevity. "I'd hoped to borrow your expertise for a little jaunt up the coast later in the week."
"I am happy to aid you however I can Hawke," Sebastian reminded her. "I would have you take me at my word." Behind Hawke he saw Varric rolling his eyes. Fortunately Hawke didn't find his words overly stilted.
She smiled, "I admit, that's what I hoped for." She turned and regarded Varric, Isabella and Anders. "I'll meet you later...at The Hanged Man to talk about our next move, yes?" She addressed Varric and Isabella.
"Enjoy your talk with Choir Boy." Varric chuckled. He and Isabella walked off towards Lowtown. Anders hesitated for a moment, looking at Hawke and Sebastian and then shrugged before hurrying away.
Sebastian raised an eyebrow. "Something I don't know?" He asked curiously.
Hawke shook her head. "Varric loves innuendo; it's practically a second language with him."
Sebastian fell in step beside her as she began walking. "Usually for innuendo to be effective, it must find fertile ground in someone." He said quietly. "Surely he doesn't imagine a grand passion between you and me?" He was half tempted to hold his breath awaiting her answer.
Hawke just smiled slightly, sorrow touched her eyes as Sebastian watched her and she looked over at him. "Surely you wouldn't describe Varric as usual." She offered.
Sebastian looked at Hawke thoughtfully. "No, I would not." He agreed, his eyes still taking in her face. She was far too competent at hiding her emotions behind humor or serenity. It was as if she wore a mask that few were allowed to look behind. "I hope his...jests don't bother you overmuch?"
Hawke smiled and shook her head. "I had a younger brother whose sole design for years was to taunt me. Varric is a pleasure in comparison." She hesitated. "I hope you are not too insulted by Varric's jests? He takes nothing seriously except friendship I think. And he's kind hearted, he tries to look out for all of us."
Sebastian smiled, wishing he could do something to reassure her besides speaking. "I believe I can master my overwhelming urge to pull out his tongue and wrap it around his neck like a cravat, since he is such a good friend to you."
Hawke laughed as he intended and they began walking slowly towards the chantry once again. She explained what their aim was up the coast and answered his questions regarding the difficulties they might encounter.
When they arrived at the Chantry Sebastian turned and regarded Hawke. "Do you ever think of Ferelden?" He asked her curiously. "Do you ever think of leaving?"
Hawke folded her arms and leaned back against the wall of the chantry's courtyard. "Sometimes I miss it, but we're here now, and Mother is happy here, in her old home. Ferelden was where she was happy with my father. I wouldn't want to go back. We can only go forward." Her blue eyes narrowed at him. "Sounds like a question I should be asking you. Have you decided what to do about Starkhaven?"
Sebastian sighed. "You're right in saying we can only go forward. I'll admit the accusations the demon made hit a mark. Do I only want power?"
Hawke laughed, a short burst of mirth and shook her head. "I've never met a man less interested in power." She told him. "I'm more concerned about the state of Starkhaven and how your people might be suffering. You're the Prince of Starkhaven Sebastian. And that won't change if you don't take the crown."
Sebastian nodded. "I've wrestled with my conscience, beseeched the Maker for guidance, even spoken with Elthina, and still cannot decide what is best. Can I not do more good here, in the Chantry, than in Starkhaven? What need has Starkhaven of me? And do I truly wish to leave the peace and contemplation of the Maker for the viper's pit of politics in Starkhaven?"
Hawke nodded her understanding. "I know you might disagree, but I think a leader who believes truly in the Maker, and lives his life according to the Chant is a better servant of the Maker than a brother in the Chantry. Rulers have a responsibility to the people they rule. Princes and kings are protectors of their lands. We in Ferelden saw what happened when fools or madmen take a throne. The land is still recovering. As Prince of Starkhaven you can guide your city in the ways of the Maker. How many people would you reach from the Chantry here?"
Sebastian smiled slightly. "If there is one thing I've noticed about you Hawke, it's that your council is always true to your nature. I doubt you'll ever be accused of saying what someone wants to hear."
She rolled her eyes at him. "I've never managed to perfect that sort of speech." She retorted. "If someone doesn't want my opinion, then they shouldn't ask for it."
The exiled prince smiled. "A chara, your opinion is always welcome as is your counsel, whether we agree or not. I respect you Hawke." Sebastian bowed his head politely, noting a gleam of curiosity in her eyes again. Perhaps it was bad of him but he enjoyed calling her his friend in the old tongue, he liked that it made her curious, liked that it might make her think of him.
"Well that's a change from most people I deal with who think I'm headstrong or mad." Hawke chuckled. "I'll see you at the end of the week?"
"Aye." He nodded and watched as she pushed gracefully off the wall and began to walk away. Before she'd gone two steps Sebastian found himself calling her name. When she turned he shook his head, the impulse dying stillborn. "Its nothing, I'll see you at weeks' end."
Hawke eyed him curiously for a moment but nodded and loped off towards her estate.
Sebastian found himself in the strangest position at the end of the week. Hawke had fallen in battle, and lay crumpled on the ground behind him. Before him Aveline battled and Merrill cast spell after spell. His arrows served dual purposes, keeping the battle from coming to closely to his fallen Hawke and aiding their comrades in arms.
Finally it was over and Sebastian dropped to his knees, his bow forgotten on the ground as he lifted Hawke's head to his knee and carefully dripped a healing potion between her lips. Aveline downed a potion of her own and watched anxiously with Merrill as Sebastian began to bind Hawke's wounds.
It seemed to take forever but finally Hawke awoke. "You had us worried." Sebastian heard his voice dark with concern; his brogue was thicker than usual with the strength of his emotions. "Perhaps you might consider caution when facing giant spiders, a chara?" He asked. "For the sake of Aveline's heart if not your own health."
"I'm sorry to worry the three of you." Hawke smiled slightly. "Let's not tell Varric about this, he would make too much of your gallantry I think." She looked around and seemed surprised to find her upper body cradled in Sebastian's lap but forbore comment, a tiny smile touching her lips. Carefully Sebastian helped her rise and kept an eye on her as she found and cleaned her daggers. Retrieving his bow, the prince resolved to watch her more carefully and keep such a thing from happening again.
Aveline must have caught a glimpse of his expression because her eyes flicked towards Hawke and she nodded a bit grimly. Sebastian returned her nod and tilted his head towards Hawke in a question. Aveline shrugged and Sebastian could see the sigh that escaped her. Aveline might want to guard Hawke and agreed with Sebastian's intent to watch her carefully but if Hawke was determined, both Sebastian and Aveline were all too aware that there would be no stopping the woman.
It was some time later they all returned to Kirkwall and Sebastian walked beside Hawke, aware that he was somewhat distracted. She could have died today and there would have been nothing he could do beyond guard her body. She might have died and he wouldn't have even known her given name. Sebastian was suddenly aware of an intense urge to back her into an alley and kiss her until she realized he was a man not just a brother in the Chantry.
Hawke must have sensed his mood or perhaps she wasn't in the mood to talk either because when they entered the marketplace of Hightown she moved in the direction of her home, her expression surprised when he followed her instead of splitting off towards the Chantry.
"Sebastian?" Her tone was puzzled as he followed her to her door. "Are you well?"
He shook his head and looked at her. "You frightened me today Hawke." He was aware that she was puzzled. "I've never seen you fall before."
"Everyone falls in battle eventually Sebastian." Her face was still a bit confused.
"Promise me that you'll take me with you as often as you can," Sebastian pressed, "Me or Aveline or Varric; someone who can guard you if you're injured."
Hawke smiled. "I'm sorry I worried you. Sorry I frightened you." She corrected herself. "But this is what I do Sebastian. I have to do these things. Otherwise...what is my life worth?"
He took a deep breath. "You're the center of us Hawke and your life is infinitely precious." Sebastian told her. "Without you, none of us would tolerate each other well. You've had me working with Anders and Maker knows I think he's mad as a hatter."
"I can't promise you that you or Aveline or Varric will always be with me." Hawke told him. "But I'll do my best." She offered a tentative smile. "Will that do?"
Sebastian sighed. "It will have to won't it?"
Hawke grinned. "I'm afraid so." She turned to the door, unlocking it. "Would you like to come in for something to eat?"
Sebastian hesitated, and nodded. It was unwise, he knew, to linger, to enjoy her company more than was proper. He could offer her nothing a woman would want, not even physical affection given his ambiguous position in the chantry. But he could not bring himself to leave her yet. The sight of her near lifeless on the ground was too fresh for him to abandon her company so soon. "Perhaps some tea, if it's no trouble." He suggested.
"Bodahn bought some tea from the East the other day. He seemed to think it was good, and Mother likes it." Hawke opened the door and waved him through. Sebastian entered as she bade and made himself comfortable in the library. A copy of Anders manifesto was smoldering in the fireplace and idly Sebastian poked at it until Hawke returned with two mugs of tea and a plate of sweets.
"I brought us some cookies, just in case we got hungry." Hawke grinned at him and took a seat in the chair across from his after handing him his tea.
"Thank you Hawke." Sebastian sipped the tea and sighed in appreciation. "I suppose I'm still trying to adjust to the sight of you unconscious at my feet."
"I'm still reeling from my position when I woke up." Hawke grinned at him, idly removing the pins from her hair and letting the knot unwind and spill dark straight locks down over her shoulders. "It was certainly the last place I imagined I'd be." Though her expression was teasing her blue eyes were not twinkling at him like they usually did when she smiled. She was hiding part of herself again. Sebastian had the urge to pull her hair and see how she reacted. Taking a deep breath he managed to control his juvenile urges. Maker, the next thing you'll do is hit her on the arm and run away, he admonished himself.
Sebastian was aware that his expression was perhaps more affectionate than was strictly proper as he regained control over his thoughts. "You're my friend Hawke." He said quietly, uncomfortably aware that part of his mind was fixated on her hair and how it would feel to touch, or see her like this all the time. "The closest friend I have. Without you..." He shrugged uncomfortably and sipped his tea again. "I don't want your mother to hear me speaking...but if something happened to you..."
"I'm fine Sebastian." Hawke's face seemed sweeter, almost tender as she looked at him and Sebastian wondered if he was imagining things. Maker knew she was lovely, strong and disciplined, and good. Even if she disagreed with him, she was still goodhearted. "I feel the same when something happens to you." She said quietly. "I lead you all into danger...and then, if you fall...well, it wasn't your idea to get into battles was it?"
"But it is our choice to follow you Hawke." Sebastian reminded her. "We would not if we didn't believe in what you are doing."
"It might be your choice, but I lead you into danger." Hawke sighed.
Sebastian considered for a moment and decided a change of subject was in order. "May I ask you a very personal question?"
Hawke tilted her head warily. "If you like, though I do not promise to answer."
"What is your given name Hawke?" Sebastian finally asked what he'd wondered for more than three years.
She smiled slowly and he was struck all over again by her beauty. "My father named me Solara." She said quietly. "Solara Gráinne Hawke." She pronounced her middle name as he would, Grawnia, a name from the old language of his people.
"Solara for sun, Gráinne for grace." Sebastian murmured. "It suits you very well a chara." He considered as he looked at her. "You're the most graceful woman I know. And you bring the sun into our lives."
To his surprise she began to blush. "No one uses it, I doubt anyone in Kirkwall besides my mother knows it except for you."
"Hawke is a strong name, for a strong woman." Sebastian agreed. "But Solara Gráinne...that is a name for a beautiful woman." He considered a moment more and decided to risk one more question. "May I call you Solara, when we are not...working?"
She smiled again, the blush still tinting her pale cheeks bright pink. "Sebastian, you may always call me such if you wish."
Sebastian rose from his chair and availed himself of her hand, bending over it in a bow of farewell before he brushed his lips over the back of her knuckles. Her sharply indrawn breath at the touch of his lips hit his loins like a burst of fire. The skin on the back of her hand was soft and delicate under his lips and the roué in him wondered what the rest of her skin would taste and feel like. "Tá tú go h-álainn. Until we meet again." He said in a quiet farewell.
"Yes." Solara murmured, her blue eyes dazed. "Fare thee well Sebastian."
Sebastian left her house and walked slowly to the Chantry and prayed with all his heart to the Maker that he was doing right. It would be wrong to pursue her now, and he would have to be certain of any action he took, but this felt so right, so perfect. "Solara Grainne, a chuisle mo chroí." He murmured to himself as he walked into the Chantry. "I wonder how you would look in a crown."
Leandra Hawke was dead, murdered by a madman practicing Necromancy and collecting pieces of women to stitch an image of his beloved out of their parts. Leandra had been the last of his victims. Sebastian had watched Hawke kill the mage who'd murdered her mother and couldn't call it anything except justice. The few final minutes she had with Leandra were heartbreaking to anyone who watched.
Finally when Leandra was gone, Hawke had used her hand to gently close her mother's eyes and lay the body on the ground. "I don't want to leave her here…" Sebastian heard Hawke whisper, "But I…"
Sebastian understood and from the look in his eyes so did Varric. Hawke couldn't bear to leave her mother in the dirt but she wasn't strong enough to carry Leandra's body home for funeral rites.
In the end Sebastian had carried Leandra and Hawke had followed with Varric supporting her. Merril had disappeared, hopefully to pass the news on to the rest of Hawke's friends so they might support her in her grief.
Sebastian watched as friends came and went, as Hawke spoke with her uncle about his sisters death, sparing him the details and the reasoning behind it, only assuring him that the man was dead. The funeral rites were said, Leandra's body consigned to Andraste and the Maker and then Hawke retreated to her room.
Sebastian watched from the hall as Aveline entered Hawke's bedroom. So far he hadn't dared to invade his friends space so blatantly. He could hear Aveline's voice, Hawke's murmur in replay and then Aveline's voice again. This time there was no reply, Hawke was silent and Aveline finally left the room to look at Sebastian where he stood in the hall.
The exiled prince took the Guard Captain's arm and gently guided her down to the main space. "Aveline, I know you mean the best, and so do the others. But take them out of here."
"We're her friends, we should show our support." Aveline protested quietly.
"And you have, and she knows it. But staying just means she has to keep up the brave front for all of you. Take the others and go…celebrate Leandra's life." Sebastian remained firm in his resolve.
"You don't think Anders would—" Aveline began and Sebastian cut her off.
"Especially Anders. Any comfort he might offer will end up circling back and she'll be comforting him. That's not what she needs right now." Sebastian spread his hands. "Take it from someone else who lost family to violence. She needs to vent her grief and she can't when she's trying to keep a brave face for all the people who follow her."
"What about you?" Aveline asked. "You should come with us."
Sebastian shook his head. "Just leave word with the Chantry that I'll be here for a while. I'll get Bodahn and Sandal to clean up the place and we'll get some food into her."
Aveline capitulated eventually, and even managed to compel Anders to leave. Sebastian removed his armor and set aside his bow. The clothes to go under the armor were necessarily brief, but the padded tunic was far too warm in the kitchen. Barefoot with breeches cut off at the knee and a thin sleeveless tunic he managed to cook up an omelet and toast a few muffins. Too much food would be as bad as too little. Taking a deep breath he mounted the stairs to Hawke's room.
A gentle knock pushed the door ajar and he was able to enter and set the plate beside the bed where she sat unmoving. "Solara," He sat beside her, "What can I do for you?"
She looked at him, her pain laid bare on her face, and shook her head. "What can be done Sebastian? I killed the man who murdered my mother… and now I don't know what to do."
"Eat something." He suggested prosaically and she gave him a rueful smile taking the plate and poking at the eggs without enthusiasm. "Eat it, don't play with hit." Sebastian added sternly and was surprised when she obeyed.
Blue eyes blinked at him and she shrugged. "My father used to say that." She offered quietly taking another bite. "You remind me of him in some ways. Honorable, strong, determined…" She sighed and broke of a piece of muffin, eating it and a few more bites before setting the plate down again.
"I am honored." Sebastian smiled.
"Sebastian…what do I do now?" Her voice was almost broken. "I bought this place for my mother…and she's gone. I wanted status and wealth to protect my sister, and she was taken."
Sebastian wrapped an arm around her shoulders hoping she'd understand he meant to support her, rather than anything romantic, much as he'd like that. "You do whatever you need to do, in order to deal with your grief a chara." He told her. "You're a strong beautiful intelligent woman. There's nothing you can't do if you want it badly enough."
Her dark hair rubbed against his neck as she leaned into him. "Oh, there are things I can't do. Sometimes I think I'll go mad, but they won't be changed by me." She murmured.
"Solara, I can't think of anything you'd want that you couldn't have eventually." Sebastian smiled and pressed a kiss to the top of her dark head. It was odd of him, considering his royal background, but he loved her almost ragged dark hair. It felt like silk against his face and neck and framed her pale face and brilliant eyes perfectly.
"I can." Solara's voice broke on a sob and he saw tears trickle down her cheeks.
It was inappropriate, borderline risqué but suddenly Sebastian really didn't care about what the chantry might think. He pulled Solara into his lap and cradled her in his arms, stroking her hair and back, whispering foolish endearments and words of comfort. Not even thinking of how it would appear he kissed the top of her head as she cried out all her grief. "A chuisle, a ghrá, dear sweet Solara," He murmured, "it's all right…cry yourself out a chroí."
She took a deep shuddering breath finally and looked at him. To Sebastian her eyes were no less beautiful for being reddened by tears. Her pain had left tear tracks on her face; gently he smoothed them away with his thumb. An impulse he should have quelled led his fingers to the twisted knot of hair at the back of her head and he gently pulled the pins out, letting the long locks fall down her back, easing the tension he could feel in her neck. "Do you feel a little better?" He asked softly, making no move to set her away.
"Some." She sighed and laid her head back against his chest and neck.
"You've had a great deal of pain locked up inside." Sebastian noted, tucking a lock of her hair behind one ear and slowly becoming aware of how her body felt cradled against his. She was a strong muscular woman, but in his arms she felt soft and warm and in need of comfort. With all his might Sebastian prayed his body wouldn't react to hers, she surely didn't need or want that sort of interest right now.
"My father, Carver, Bethany, and now Mother, all gone, not to mention the friends I lost at Ostagar and in Lothering." She agreed. "It's been years since I've cried like that."
"Promise me something." Sebastian gently drew her head back so he could look into her eyes. "Promise me that if you need to weep, or wail or scream that you'll come to me." He stroked her creamy cheek with his thumb. "I won't judge you, try to counsel you unless you ask, or tell you you're wrong. I'll just listen. Solara, you need that."
"You're right." She agreed. "I promise to try."
"Solara." Sebastian growled and she smiled at him, her lips a curve of sorrow and joy.
"Sebastian." She settled back into his arms. "I won't make a promise that I could break. But I'll promise to try. There's no one else I would trust to listen to me rant or weep."
"I am again, honored." Sebastian smiled.
"May I ask a favor?" Her voice had grown almost hesitant, not a tone he was used to hearing from her.
"If it is within my power to grant, anything." Sebastian kissed the top of her head again.
"Would you stay with me…just like this… I know you don't…I mean you can't…" Solara's words tumbled out after her initial request as she backpedaled trying to prevent him from taking insult. "I know I'm a mess but...I..."
"Solara, dearling, tá tú go h-álainn" Sebastian quieted her with a gentle kiss to her forehead. "I know you need comfort. Whatever I can offer is yours. If you wish to be held, then hold you I will." He mentally added, and pray you don't notice that I'm still only a man with a beautiful woman in his arms and that my affection for you is anything but platonic.
"Thank you." She sighed in relief and tucked her head under his chin, relaxing in his arms.
Sebastian sat with her for a while, painfully aware of her body in his arms, until he felt her slip into sleep. Carefully he laid her down on the bed and pulled the quilts back to cover her bare feet. The tunic she wore did nothing to hide her body, and he pulled the quilts up to her shoulders. As he was about to leave her eyes flew open. "Sebastian." Her hand gripped his forearm, even half asleep she was quick as lightening.
"Solara," He sat on the edge of the bed, bending slightly to bring his face a bit closer to hers, reminded of how his mother would sit and read before kissing him good night. "You should get some rest."
"Please…" Dark lashes fanned over her cheeks as she closed her eyes for a moment and then looked up at him. "Please, will you stay with me tonight?" Sebastian looked at her body under the quilts and took a deep breath, trying to figure out what he should say. Before he could speak she whispered. "I know your vows preclude…physical intimacy," Sebastian stared, Hawke, Solara rather, was blushing a deep pink, "but…I'm sorry if it's too much to ask…I just… please would you just hold me?"
Sebastian rose and ignored the disappointed look on her face for a moment, moving to shut the door and bolt it. One easy movement pulled the brief tunic over his head and left him clad in only his breeches and smalls. Moving to the opposite side of the bed he tossed his clothing on the bureau and lifted the quilts sliding into the bed beside her. "This is the least of what I will do for you Solara." He told her firmly as he drew her into his arms. "You are my dearest, most trusted friend, a chroí." He kissed her forehead and cheek and the top of her head, feeling her soft hair against his lips. "If you need me to stay with you for weeks like this I will do it. And I will tell Elthina so, should she inquire. Right now you need me more than the Chantry does." Someday, he thought, someday she will realize that she can ask anything of me and I will give it to her. For her…I could see myself taking Starkhaven back. Maker, she would be a fine Lady.
A slow tear slipped down her cheek and she lifted a hand to touch his face, her fingers tentative in the brief caress. "Sebastian, I would trust no one else to care for me like this, I just wish…" She shook her head and subsided, her hand drifting down to his chest stroking his skin almost absentmindedly.
"You wish what?" Sebastian murmured, mindful of the fact that her eyes were half closed and she was near sleep again.
"I wish you didn't belong to the Chantry." She sighed, another tear slipping down her cheek. "I wish we could belong to each other. But we can't… so I'm so glad you're my friend."
Morning brought its own problems, Solara was deeply asleep, exhausted from her grief. Sebastian woke to a tugging on his foot. Opening his eyes somewhat groggily he saw Aveline and Isabella standing at the foot of Hawke's bed. Well, Isabella at least explained how they'd gotten in and past Bodahn. Aveline's hands were on her hips while Isabella's arms were crossed. Both of them seemed slightly annoyed. Sebastian rolled his eyes in exasperation.
Gently he slid out of the bed, make sure Solara's head was laid gently on the pillow and tucking the quilts around her. Absently he picked up his tunic and checked once more to be certain Solara was asleep. Holding a finger to his lips Sebastian made shooing motions with his free hand, ushering the two women out of Solara's bedroom.
Once in the hall Aveline rounded on him, clearly ready to read him the riot act and was forestalled by Sebastian's whisper. "Might we at least adjourn to the kitchen before you begin lashing me?" He pointed to the stairs. "Solara is sleeping and I want her to remain asleep until I can bring her a meal."
"Didn't know you could cook." Isabella chuckled as he led them down the stairs.
"Well you don't know me very well do you Isabella." Sebastian retorted as he pushed through the kitchen door.
"I'd like to know what you think you are doing?" Aveline crossed her arms over her chest and regarded him like she would an errant guardsman. "I got everyone out like you asked and you use that time to sleep with Hawke?"
Sebastian bent to remove eggs and ham from the cold storage area below the chest of drawers. "No, I didn't, not in the way you mean." He shook his head. "I fixed her a meal, which she barely ate, held her as she wept, and when she asked, held her when she slept. Contrary to what you are thinking, I did not molest her or take advantage of her trust."
"He did climb out of the bed with his breeches on." Isabella remarked. "Pity. I'd hoped Hawke's grief might finally have an effect on his stone heart." The pirate woman leaned against the counter and watched as Sebastian began to crack open the eggs.
"I never thought Solara's effect on my heart was in doubt." Sebastian remarked calmly. "But I am barred from acting upon my emotions."
"Unless you make the decision to leave the Chantry and take Starkhaven." Aveline said thoughtfully.
"Exactly." Sebastian began whipping the eggs into a froth. "Hand me the flour and bread from that cupboard." He pointed in the correct direction. "Isabella, go into the cellar and get me some milk and the brown jug next to the milk."
With an amused tilt to her lips the pirate did as he bade while Aveline brought him the items he'd requested. "What are you making?" The guardswoman asked curiously.
"Its like a batter dipped toast." Sebastian explained as Isabella came back up and he took the eggs and vanilla from her.
"Lovely," Aveline's voice was dry as day old bread. "So you're making breakfast. And what do you plan to do about Hawke?"
Sebastian sent the tall woman a sharp look and glanced at Isabella. "Right now she needs care." He said finally. "Solara is the dearest friend I have, an equal. I know what its like to lose family to violence, to curse fate and the Maker and demand to know the meaning behind it. And to wish only for oblivion until the pain fades."
"Solara," Isabella shook her head. "You keep calling her that. Her name is Hawke."
Aveline shook her head, rolling her eyes heavenward as she did. "Her family name is Hawke."
Sebastian nodded as he threw the eggshells into the compost bin. "Her given name is Solara Grainne. I have permission to call her by her given name, else I would not do so."
"It sounds...soft, gentle almost." Isabella mused. "Doesn't sound like Hawke much."
Aveline ignored the pirate and stared at Sebastian. "You'll have to make a decision soon. Its clear you're almost over your head."
"I know." Sebastian gave the tall blonde woman a half smile. "But even if I drown, it would be worth it, if she is saved any pain."
Sebastian had never seen a city in such chaos. The Qunari were everywhere, and people were terrified. Hawke was cutting a swathe through any foes she encountered in her need to reach Hightown and the Viscount's keep. In between skirmishes she told he and the others what had occurred with the Qunari. The Arishok had finally lost his temper with Kirkwall, thanks in no small part to Hawke's decision to help Isabella retrieve the relic. Sebastian applauded Hawke's loyalty to her friends and understood why she felt she had to help Isabella, but Hawke had to have known the Arishok would be furious.
"So he actually attacked you?" Sebastian heard Anders asking in disbelief. "I could have sworn you were the one person he respected in this city."
"I am." Hawke's reply was grim. "But I'm not of the Qun and he can't control me. It makes for a volatile combination." She shook her head. "That's why we have to get to the Viscount's keep. Maybe I can challenge him to single combat or something…anything to stop this madness." A group of Qunari rounded the corner and conversation ceased as the fight began anew.
"Hawke, challenging the Arishok to a duel is madness." Sebastian took up the conversation where they'd left off, ignoring the battle and his wounds in order to argue with the woman.
"Drink this." Hawke shoved a healing potion at him. "And its not madness if it works." She retorted as she tore off a bandage and wrapped it around his bicep. Her left leg received the same treatment. "He's big but he's not as quick as I am."
"Solara, a chroi." Sebastian whispered her name. Her eyes jerked to his, their gazes meeting for the first time since the chaos had begun. "Please…don't do this."
"Were anyone else to ask me… I would ignore them. But you, I know you...and you mean me only good." She paused and took a breath, her voice nearly a whisper. "But I have to do this, Sebastian." She smiled sadly. "All of this is my fault. I have to end it."
"It's not all your fault." Sebastian argued fiercely. "You are not solely responsible for the fate of Kirkwall."
"Perhaps not." She smiled sadly and began to turn. "But that's how it feels."
Sebastian knew she had made her decision, much as she valued his counsel, she was determined to stop the Arishok. What he would do if Solara was killed… was a question he prayed he would never have to answer.
In the end it came down to Hawke's honor. She stood before the Arishok and challenged him to see reason, but before it came to a confrontation, Isabella strolled in, casually tossing Qunari aside as she did so. Sebastian had never before felt so affectionate towards the foolish bawdy pirate woman as when she told Hawke she'd been halfway to Ostwick before she'd turned around. But she presented the relic to the Arishok and Sebastian had hoped that would be an end to it.
Sebastian had gotten a sinking feeling in his gut when the Arishok informed Hawke that he would be taking the thief. Since Isabella had returned the relic Hawke wasn't about to let the Qunari simply kill the pirate. She challenged the Arishok to a duel. And when Isabella, to her credit, protested that she should be the one dueling, not Hawke, she was casually informed that she was not worthy, only Hawke was Basalit-an,worthy of fighting the Arishok.
So it came to a duel after all. Sebastian had felt ill when he looked at the two combatants. The Arishok was monstrously large, Hawke looked tiny compared to him. The two daggers she held were as pins to a sword when contrasted with the Qunari weapon.
And then the duel began. Halfway through it, when Hawke went down to a punishing charge Sebastian was aware of Isabella and Aveline holding him by the shoulders, keeping his back to the wall, while Anders kept a wary eye on the Qunari. A red mist kept dropping before his eyes and his hands clenched into fists before Hawke rose and with the lightening grace that was her hallmark, downed a healing potion and evaded the Arishok's next attack.
It seemed to take forever, Hawke evading the Arishok and striking him like a cat, occasionally taking blows that nearly incapacitated her. Twice more she downed healing potions while Aveline and Isabella kept Sebastian from interfering. Twice more Hawke rallied and continued the fight. And finally it was done, in a trick of gymnastics Sebastian was sure even Isabella couldn't duplicate, Hawke took a running jump and plunged her dagger into the Arishok's heart, riding his body to the ground and nimbly jumping from his chest to the floor.
It was over, the Qunari left without fanfare, leaving the body of the Arishok lying in the audience chamber of the dead viscount.
Sebastian felt Aveline and Isabella release him as Hawke moved towards the three of them. He couldn't keep his eyes from her face, she was pale as death and walked with visible pain. Anders cursed and moved to take her arm, supporting the new Champion of Kirkwall while the healing spell he cast did its work.
Hawke's eyes never left Sebastian and when she could speak she nodded towards the women on either side of him. "Sebastian, don't tell me that my honorable prince was going to interfere in a duel?" The smile she offered was lopsided.
"Your honorable prince had to be held back from rushing to your side." Aveline chuckled.
"Thrice." Isabella seconded and Sebastian felt himself nearly blush.
Hawke limped forward and took his hand. "I am grateful for the thought Sebastian." She smiled gently. "But I am glad you were prevented."
Sebastian curled his fingers into hers and raised her hand to his lips. It was all the affection he could show in public, but it served to bring a tint of pink to Hawke's cheeks. "I fear I was quite...concerned during your duel, my Lady Champion."
Hawke blushed harder, her cheeks turning red. "Varric's going to kill us for not bringing him along so he could write it all down." She tried to turn the subject.
Sebastian chuckled. "Why don't I fix you a meal? You can get Varric away from the Hanged Man and tell him the whole story." He eyed Isabella, Aveline and Anders. "I can make enough for everyone if you want to invite your entire crew." He offered.
Anders sneered at him and shook his head. "I'll have to get back to my clinic." He told Hawke, "Try to stay off that leg for a few days."
Hawke nodded her compliance and watched the apostate slip out of the audience chamber. "Lets get going while we can." She said to Sebastian and Isabella. "I think an absent hero is better than a lingering one."
Aveline grinned at her. "I'll try to get this mess cleaned up. Come find me if you need me Hawke."
Sebastian watched as Hawke began to limp out of the hall and moved beside her, his arm around her waist to take her weight. "Lean on me Hawke." He urged. "I'm sure Isabella will open the doors for us."
"The woman kept the Arishok from skewering me, I'll scrub her bloody floors." Isabella hurried to the doors.
"Somehow I doubt you have more than a passing acquaintance with a scrub brush." Sebastian felt Hawke's chuckle vibrate through her ribs as she spoke. She moved more easily now that he was helping her walk but she was still stiff with pain. The magic Anders had used must have worn off or was very slow acting.
Sebastian sighed a bit and saw they were nearly out of the keep. "Isabella, if you'll get the next door, I'd appreciate it." He gestured with his free arm. Isabella nodded, her eyes flicking from his face down towards Hawke's leg, a shadow of concern on her face. Sebastian looked down and saw Hawke's leg was bleeding again. A curse escaped his lips as they exited the keep. "Hawke I ought to take you to the nearest healer."
"I just need a poultice and I'll be right as rain." She protested, "So long as the Arishok doesn't rise from the grave to bowl me over with those horns of his I'll be fine."
"I'm afraid that's not good enough." Sebastian lost his patience. They'd battled their way through the city, faced down Meredith and Orsino, and then she'd fought a duel with a giant. And he'd had to watch her all the while, unable to do anything more than fight at her side until the giant. Then he'd been helpless while she fought alone. And now she was bleeding and trying to convince him she was fine. Furiously he scooped her up in his arms and began striding down the avenue.
"Sebastian, what are you doing?" Hawke blinked at him in astonishment as he carried her towards the villa.
"Carrying you home so you don't bleed out on the street a chroi," He told her grimly. "Thankfully you don't live far away." Sebastian caught a look at her face and grinned. She was almost pouting.
"Are you saying I'm heavy?" Hawke asked as they neared her home.
"No, I'm saying that too much time in my arms and I wouldn't want to put you down." Sebastian was in no mood to dance around his feelings with flowery words. Behind him he heard Isabella giggle.
"Sebastian, that was almost romantic." The pirate wench teased.
"Isabella, get the door would you?" Sebastian ignored the pirate's words.
Almost merrily Isabella skipped into the alcove with the villa's door, opening it almost as if she had a key. "You know I could have opened it," Hawke remarked dryly. "You wouldn't have even had to put me down."
"Hush Solara." Sebastian carried her through the main hall and up to her room. Setting her on the bed he knelt to pull off her boots. "I'm getting you a poultice and a couple of potions. You're white with lack of blood."
Isabella was leaning against the doorway. "If you're not going to undress her I'll do it for you." She smirked at him as he brushed past her to Hawke's study and the table with her healing potions. Sebastian took a deep breath and noticed his hands were shaking as he gathered up the bottles and bandages.
Returning to Hawke's room he saw she'd managed to get her armor off but removing it only served to expose the wound in her leg. It looked worse than it had with her armor on. Isabella was actually, for once, being helpful. She'd fetched a bowl of water and cloths and was cleaning the area around the wound.
The pirate looked up as Sebastian entered. "I'm not being funny you know, she really does need those breeches and the rest of her clothing off. There's Maker knows what kind of filth and blood on those clothes. You really shouldn't have put her on the bed if she's going to rest here, the dirt will just stay."
Sebastian bowed his head a moment. "You're right...I was just..."
Isabella shrugged. "You were worried." She looked at Hawke's leg. "And you weren't wrong to be worried. She's damn lucky that monstrosity didn't hit something vital."
"If the two of you are finished talking about me like I'm not here." Hawke said coolly. "I think I can hobble to the chair. Sandal and Bodahn can change the bedding, there's fresh in the wardrobe."
Sebastian placed the medicines on her bureau and moved towards the bed, scooping Hawke up into his arms again. "Please allow me." Isabella set the bowl of water by the chair and hurried out, calling for the Feddics.
Hawke looked at him as he placed her in the chair and sighed a bit. "Sebastian, I'll be all right. I promise."
"Solara...you can't make a promise like that and expect to keep it." He shook his head, Maker he adored this woman. He was becoming more certain that she was the sign he'd been looking for, the reason and the helpmate he'd need to take back Starkhaven. There had been nothing else that pulled at him so strongly, no one who had inspired and infuriated him the way she did. He knelt and began to clean the wound on her leg.
"You're right." She sighed and he looked up at her to see the saddest expression on her face. "I suppose I just... I can't stand by and watch people get hurt and not do something to stop it."
Sebastian wondered what she'd meant to say, he got the impression she'd changed her mind after that brief hesitation. "Here," He handed her the cloth. "I think we've done the best we can for now. You'll need fresh clothing before we can do anything else."
She nodded and gestured to a wardrobe near the bed. "There should be a long tunic in there, its probably best I not wear breeches until this is healed."
"Well you'll be a sore temptation." Sebastian teased. "Best bind my hands, a stór." He smiled back at her as he took out the clothing she'd indicated.
"Don't-" She began to speak, eyes dark with emotion, her mouth twisting with pain, and then Bodahn bustled in with clean linens for the bed. Isabella followed carrying a fluffy quilt and an air of impatience.
Sebastian watched as they stripped the bed of the dirtied sheets and quilts, remaking it fresh. "Isabella, will you help Hawk remove her breeches and shirt? There's a tunic here that she can wear so we can clean and heal her wounds."
The pirate grinned saucily. "At last I get to strip Hawke." She laughed and almost pushed him out of the room.
Waiting in the hall while Isabella helped Hawke out of her clothing was an exercise in patience. Sebastian wondered if all the women he'd been with over the years had increased his appetites or if he was just so enraptured with Hawke that he would take any crumb of affection. After her mother had died she'd said she wished they could belong to each other, but she hadn't mentioned it since then. Knowing Hawke she might have buried her feelings since she couldn't do anything about them. Or perhaps she'd decided they it was best they were only friends. But the look on her face, before they'd been interrupted had given him hope and strengthened his resolve on his course of action.
Isabella came out and shook her head at him. "She's being difficult. Says she won't need to stay in bed if we'll just slap on the poultice and give her some healing potions."
Sebastian felt anger welling up in him again. He'd spent an interminable amount of time watching her nearly die in duel with a Qunari war machine and now she wanted to slap on a poultice and walk around? The woman was going to drive him mad. Without waiting for an invitation he pushed open the bedroom door and strode in.
Solara was in the midst of pulling her tunic over her head, so she couldn't see who had entered until he got to the bed. Tugging the tunic down so it covered her hips and her head popped out the opening Sebastian nearly growled at her. "You're staying in bed until your leg is healed, if I have to tie you down." A moment later her hair fell out of its knot, falling down her back as she looked up at him and it was all he could do to stifle his groan as need tightened his body.
She glared at him. "At the risk of sounding childish Sebastian you're not the boss of me. You're not my father, my brother or my husband. You don't get to tell me what to do."
Sebastian bent down and grasped her shoulders. "I told you once that I wasn't a good boy before I joined the chantry. You really should have listened to me Solara."
"What does it matter?" She shot back angrily. "You're in the chantry now."
Sebastian cast an angry glance at Isabella who was laughing in the doorway. "Isabella if you're not going to help go away."
"You're not the boss of me." Isabella laughed as she moved down the hall.
He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Solara, a chroí, a stór, I'm begging you, humor me and let me see to your wounds. I want nothing more than to see you well dearling." He dipped the cloth in water and swiped it over the creamy skin of her thigh, washing off the dried blood.
All the resistance seemed to drain out of her and she sighed. "As you will Sebastian." She lay back on the quilts and allowed him to bandage her leg with the poultice, obediently drinking the healing potions he'd fetched.
Sleep claimed her, as he'd known it would, and Sebastian watched, holding her hand until her fingers slid from his. Temptation pulled at him and he briefly capitulated, bending to press a soft kiss to her forehead, her cheek and finally the sweetest temptation, her soft pink lips. She stirred slightly, her lips parting beneath his and Sebastian nearly groaned, reining his desires in.
Leaving her room Sebastian closed the door and regarded Isabella where she stood, leaning against the wall. "Keep an eye on her would you?" He asked quietly. "She's sleeping now. I'll come back to prepare supper but I won't be able to stay. I need to speak with Elthina."
Isabella frowned at him. "You're just going to leave her alone? While you go scurrying back to the chantry?"
"No, I'm leaving her with you." Sebastian explained patiently. "While I go speak with Elthina regarding my place in the chantry. I don't want to hurt Solara, so I can't say anything to her about this yet. If you would but assure her that could I remain by her side I would do so."
Isabella rolled her eyes. "If you ask me Hawke gets hurt more by the people who try to protect her than her actual enemies."
"Well, I suppose you and I would know wouldn't we." Sebastian took a grim satisfaction in that parting shot as he hurried towards the Chantry.
Three years. Sebastian shook his head. Elthina had released him from his vows and he'd been quietly preparing to take back Starkhaven for three years. Truly, Elthina had released him before he and Hawke had confronted the Harriman's but he hadn't been able to decide what path the Maker ordained for him. The duel Hawke had fought with the Arishok and the revelation he'd undergone in the aftermath had helped him decide. Unfortunately Starkhaven had to wait on Kirkwall's crisis, and as Varric said, the city seemed in love with crisis.
Solara Grainne Hawke was as true a friend as ever to him, but she'd maintained a cautious distance when it concerned conversation or any intimate setting. Somehow he'd rarely had the chance to be alone with her, let alone for a length of time where he could explain his plans and hopes for the future. The Maker had guided him to a woman who would be a true partner, someone with a pure and loving heart, but she was consumed by her duties to the city. For three years as he'd worked, so had Solara, but her work took her up and down the coast, into elven camps and alienages, far away from his sight. It was rare that she asked him to aid her in a quest these days, and when she did, she spoke of very little beyond the work they were doing. Sebastian found himself growing slightly desperate for a glimpse of her smile and even more desperate for an actual conversation. How was he to show her how he felt if she wouldn't even speak to him?
After Hawke had excused herself from meeting him alone for the third time in three weeks Sebastian knew he had to take drastic action. Elthina wanted a word with Hawke anyway. That Elthina also depended on him was all to the good. He could easily arrange to accompany Elthina when she spoke with Hawke. Chances were the Grand Cleric would assign him to work with Hawke on the matters she found to be of concern. Sebastian nearly smiled. Elthina had proven to be surprisingly sympathetic to his cause, regarding both Starkhaven and Hawke, once he'd made up his mind completely.
It had worked, Sebastian grinned. Elthina had asked he and Hawke to meet with Sister Nightingale in the Viscount's audience chamber that night. Together they would convince the Sister that there was no great rebellion in Kirkwall, that the Hand of the Divine had no need to declare another exalted march.
Sebastian smiled as he watched Hawke stride down the street. She was as beautiful as ever. And even trying to distance herself from him, she still reacted to his presence. She would glance at him, frown and look away, then glance at him again. Perhaps he was perverse, but he found this hopeful. As they walked he amused himself by cataloguing the changes in her looks and armor.
Solara's hair was still wound at the back of her head, in a braided infinity knot, he wondered idly how far it would fall down her back when it was loose, but wisps of her hair still escaped and flirted with her eyes and neck. Her armor was as mismatched as ever, though the gloves looked newer and the boots were odd pale things he could tell she didn't like much.
Elthina had cautioned them that it would be difficult to sneak into the Viscount's audience chamber, as it had been sealed since his death. Sebastian had been surprised when Hawke asked Isabella and Anders to come along and help but he had to admit, Hawke was usually right in her choice of companions. She had an instinct for knowing who would be the best person to have at her back.
Disturbing though was Anders' demeanor. The mage appeared jumpier than ever and even accused Sebastian of judging him. Considering that Sebastian had been gazing at Solara's back and hips at the time, he wasn't taking Ander's accusations seriously. Isabella was joking with Solara about Varric and his stories. Apparently Isabella had been away for a couple of years but not long ago she'd come back to the Hanged Man as if she'd never left.
Sebastian regarded the doors to the audience chamber and watched as Hawke stepped forward and pressed them open. They gave easily, as if the seal was nonexistent and Sebastian felt a shudder crawl up his spine. A blinding flash of light was a clear indication of battle joined.
Sebastian felt a burning pain stab his side and gasped as he fired another arrow. A gulp of healing potion helped somewhat but the wound pulled every time he drew the bow. Finally it was over and they were speaking with Sister Nightingale. Apparently Isabella knew her personally, and Hawke recognized the woman's name as well. Leli-something, Sebastian thought.
Elthina would not be swayed. Regardless of Sister Nightingale's warning and the Divine's offer of sanctuary, Elthina would not leave the people of Kirkwall. Sebastian looked at Solara. "If Elthina won't shield herself then I will be her shield."
Solara offered him a small smile. "She's lucky to have you to protect her."
Sebastian shook his head, one hand going to his side when it pulled. "I'd be happier if she didn't need me to do so." He sighed. "Starkhaven will have to wait on Kirkwall's crisis a little longer."
"Then you decided?" Sebastian noticed her voice was bare of inflection, as if she was trying not to care too much about his answer.
"Three years ago." Sebastian smiled and drew his hand away from his side. His gauntlet was red; he was bleeding again. Sighing he drew out his healing potion and took another drink. The pain ebbed for a moment.
"Sebastian?" Her voice was full of emotion now, he noticed, but she sounded more angry than he really liked. Why was her voice so distant?
The ceiling wasn't familiar. Sebastian blinked and tried to bring it into focus. That was odd. The ceiling at the chantry wasn't made of fabric. Where was he? Sebastian shook his head and tried to sit up.
"Lie back down for the Maker's sake!" Solara's voice was clear and lovely in his ears. He blinked again, looking for her and finally finding her rising from a chair near the fire. He was at her villa, in her bed. It had been such a long time since he'd been here, he'd forgotten what it was like to stare up at a canopy.
"What happened?" Sebastian did as she bade, finding it all too easy to obey her. "Are you all right? Did something happen to Elthina?"
Solara's smile faded slightly but she shook her head. "Elthina's fine. Its only been a few hours since you spoke with her Sebastian." She sat on the side of the bed and helped him prop his head up on a pillow so he could look at her. "You were wounded and didn't tell me."
Sebastian smiled. "Well, turnabout is fair play Solara." He teased. "How often did you ignore your wounds until I badgered you?"
"I didn't want you to touch me Sebastian." Solara's voice was low and tense. "I couldn't."
"I- I'm that repugnant to you." Sebastian wondered if he'd totally misread Solara's feelings. How could he have so completely misunderstood her?
"No, you're not..." Her voice was even lower and Sebastian felt his hands shaking on the quilts, for all that his fingers were empty. "That's the problem."
"I'm not repugnant, and that's a problem." Sebastian repeated her words blinking as he took in her meaning. "Solara, I'm very sorry, and I have no wish to embarrass you, but for three years you've been avoiding me, I've just found out that both the women I want to protect are staying in the one place where I can't do so. I'm not at my best."
"I'm sorry, I'm not at my best either." Solara sighed. "But...I just...couldn't have you touch me, because when I started to heal, I mean when the pain went away I'd just think about you and how you cared for me..." She shook her head took up a cup of water, helping him to take a drink. "And I'd forget that you look at me like a friend only."
Sebastian swallowed and took a deep cleansing breath, wondering how someone he cared for so deeply could be so oblivious to his feelings. "Solara, I do not look at you in the way you think." He said quietly. "You are much more to me than you know."
"Don't taunt me." Solara's words were heavy with sorrow and worry. "You're tired and you need rest and more healing potion." Sebastian struggled to sit up, determined that she would listen to him this time, and nearly cursed as his side throbbed in reaction. "Don't!" Solara's hands on his shoulders pressed him back down on the bed. "Please just lie down."
"Then give me a healing potion and lie next to me so I can talk to you a chroí." Sebastian suggested his jaw set with resolve. He was feeling more than a little anxious and wanted to get this out so she'd have to hear him. "Solara, I can't stand another three years of you avoiding me and speaking only of trivialities when you do speak to me at all."
She sighed but did as he asked, giving him the potion before she lay on her stomach beside him. He watched as she pushed her hair back and over one shoulder, it fell in a mass of black silk framing her face. Sebastian took a full breath as the potion healed his side and the cracked ribs he hadn't been aware of until they were mended. "Three years ago, after you were wounded dueling the Arishok, I had...something of an epiphany. And I decided you were right, that I should take my place in Starkhaven. But Elthina needed me at the Chantry so I stayed and just prepared quietly."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Solara's voice was soft and a bit worried still. Sebastian touched a hand to her hair and smiled.
"You had decided to avoid me remember? I had left so I could speak with Elthina, to gain her blessing and give her my decision. Before I said anything to you I wanted to be free of my vows, free to be with you. And every time I tried to tell you..." He let his knuckles brush over the soft skin of her cheek. "You wouldn't let me tell you. So I waited for you to be ready to hear me."
"What made you decide?" She frowned in confusion. "You hadn't mentioned anything about it before the Qunari went mad."
"I had been looking for a sign from the Maker, and believed that I had finally received one, or finally seen one that had been before me for years. I was thinking about that and hoping it wasn't only my selfish wants that put such a thought in my head. And then the Qunari went crazy." Sebastian smiled. "Everything that was said today just reaffirms my decision. You asked me years ago who could do more good, a prince who guides a city or a brother in the chantry. Today I realized that once Kirkwall is past the crisis point, I must take back Starkhaven, and prevent the same madness from infecting my home."
"Sebastian, I don't believe that what is happening to mages in Kirkwall is right." Solara's voice and face were troubled. "Bethany isn't a blood mage but the Templars would still lock her up because she's outside the Circle."
"I know love, and I think Meredith is coming down too hard on the mages here, but at the same time, there's more blood magic and madness in Kirkwall than the rest of the Free Marches combined." Sebastian slid his hand to her waist and drew her closer.
"I don't understand what you're telling me." Solara admitted with a sigh. "I mean, I'm glad we're finally talking, but I'm even more confused."
Sebastian smiled, she was tired, and so was he, but he didn't want to wait to tell her any longer. She needed to know the truth or something would happen and he could lose her. "I realized that the Maker had sent you to me." He told her. "I was looking for a sign, to help me decide what path to take, and the Maker sent me this beautiful, strong, intelligent woman who always did what she thought was right, regardless of the consequences. And I realized that my feelings for you were the sign from the Maker."
Solara shook her head at him, still confused, "Your feeling of friendship for me is a sign from the Maker that you should retake Starkhaven?"
"No Solara," Sebastian almost laughed at how much she'd misunderstood. "My falling in love with you, and thinking how well you could lead a city, thinking of how great a partner you would be, that was the sign the Maker gave me. How could he give me such a strong woman to love if he wished me to remain in the chantry? Why would he give me this passion for you and only you, if he wished me to have only a chaste marriage with you within the chantry?"
"You believe that your love for me is a sign from the Maker that you should retake Starkhaven." Solara summarized his words. "That's..." Her blue eyes were very definitely confused.
"I know it sounds odd." Sebastian nearly laughed at himself. "But it took me so long to reconcile my love for you with my need to follow the Maker's plan for me. It wasn't until I thought perhaps you were his plan for me that everything began to make sense."
Solara was still confused but her mind was clearly racing to other questions. "But you wanted me to join the Chantry and have a marriage in name only, without children or physical love?"
Sebastian sighed. "I thought at first it was the only way to keep you by my side. And then I realized that confining you to the chantry would be like caging…well a hawk. It would be cruel and a crime against your nature."
"Well I'm glad you figured out that much." Solara's voice was dry as dust and Sebastian shook his head.
"I've offended you." He sighed. "I'm sorry. It seems as if I've loved you forever, and struggling with the thought that first you'd never want me, and then..." Sebastian let his head fall back on the pillows. "It seemed important to tell you... I didn't want you to think like Elthina did, that this was an impulse, a passion of the moment."
"You told the...the Grand Cleric you were in love with me?" Solara's voice was more like a squeak.
Sebastian chuckled. "She knew." He sighed. "She knew three years ago when I told her my decision. She'd known since Lady Harriman when I started to question my decision. I think she wondered what took me so long to figure it out."
"What did take you so long?" Her blue eyes stared into his.
"I was worried I was confusing love with lust." Sebastian turned slightly and slid a hand into her hair, reveling in the feel of it against his skin. "I finally figured out that lust wouldn't have me beside myself with worry when you were fighting, or trying to attack the Arishok when you were gulping healing potions." Gently he tugged her closer. "What can I say...I'm a male, sometimes I'm not very bright." Her giggle was the sweetest thing he'd heard in ages. "Now...love, will you put me out of my misery and give me some hint as to your feelings?"
Solara smiled, slow and sweet, joy lighting her eyes. "I've wanted you for a long time, and I've loved you... for almost as long as I've wanted you." She admitted. "I think I've loved you...since before you asked me my given name."
"And dare I ask for more than a declaration?" Sebastian pushed himself up so he might lean forward to kiss her and was easily pushed onto his back again. Solara slid over so her body pressed against his and her lips were a breath from his own.
"Sebastian, you're wounded, not even completely healed, and I'm not exactly in peak condition myself." She smiled. "The spirit is all too willing but the flesh is...weak."
"I hate to admit you are right my love." Sebastian snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her lips to his. Solara's squeak of surprise turned into a giggle and the giggle into a moan as his lips slanted over hers. Sebastian wrapped his arms around her and held her against his body, her lips soft and hot against his mouth, her tongue eagerly dueling with his.
When he loosened his grip they were both breathing hard and flushed. Solara groaned and rested her forehead against his. "I told Elthina I'd bring you by in the afternoon tomorrow, once I'd made sure you were healed." She told him. "Now I'm regretting that."
Sebastian looked at her. "I've had six years of cold baths Solara. I'm regretting anything that takes me from this bed for the next week." Even wounded his body clamored for Solara.
"Well I guess that answers my question about whether or not you want to wait for marriage." Solara grinned at him and Sebastian kissed her again, unable to resist.
"If I'd never held you through the night, never kissed you until our wedding night it might have been possible." He admitted. "But I cannot resist you now, not when I know how you feel against me, and how sweet it is to sleep with you in my arms."
Solara smiled at him and looked down at her body, still clothed in the trous and tunic she wore beneath her armor. "Let me get out of these clothes, it's late and we both need rest."
"Solara, if you think sleeping beside me unclothed is a way to rest I'll have to disabuse you of that notion." Sebastian told her with a laugh in his voice as she stripped off her stockings and breeches. The laughter died stillborn in his throat as she pulled off her tunic, leaving only her small clothes as she climbed back into bed beside him.
Her body was warm and soft against his and Sebastian didn't even try to resist, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her again and again, until they were both moaning and panting in need. Sebastian tried to pull her closer and was punished with a stab of pain from his side. Solara pulled away at his gasp and pulled the quilts down to examine his side.
"You need to sleep for the last potion to take full effect." She sighed. "And we'll never sleep like this."
"Right now, I have you in my arms after six years. I really don't care if I sleep or how much pain I'm in." Sebastian knew it wasn't practical but he couldn't bring himself to care.
His beloved shook her head at him and handed him a small vial. "Drink half and I'll drink half." She instructed and watched as he did so. Taking the potion herself she set the vial back on the beside table. "Now we'll sleep and wake early enough to spend time together, but you'll be healed."
Sebastian sighed and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "My apologies love, I forgot to ask." he murmured drowsily. "But you are going to marry me and make me an honest man?"
His question was rewarded with a happy sigh. "Of course I am Sebastian." He felt her smile against his neck. "What would I do without my prince?"
"Then I must retake Starkhaven, because only a prince is worthy of you my love." He stroked her back absently as he felt sleep take him.
Sebastian woke in the morning to the sweet feeling of Solara's body against his. As he came completely out of sleep he realized what had gone unnoticed last night, he wore nothing beneath the quilts. Solara's hands were on his chest, her breasts had escaped from their band while she slept and her skin was warm against his.
Sebastian slid his hand from her back to her hip and felt the ties of her smallclothes. His life before the chantry and the skills he'd learned wenching his way through Starkhaven came back to his fingers. With a smile he deftly tugged open the ties of her smalls and slid his hand over the bare skin of her hip and bottom.
Solara sighed in her sleep her hand moving slightly on his chest in tiny caress. Sebastian looked down at her and smiled with affection. She looked so young in sleep, her hair spread around her, the tiny furrow of worry between her brows smoothed out and her black lashes fanned over the creamy skin of her cheeks. Carefully he lowered her onto her back, keeping her warm with the quilts and his body pressed to her side. Maker she was beautiful, her bare breasts the same creamy white as her face, her nipples a darker pink than her lips, tightening in the cooler air and a triangle of dark curls between her pale thighs.
Sebastian felt his body tight and hard, pressed against her hip and mentally sent a fervent prayer to the Maker that after so many years of abstinence he wouldn't disgrace himself. Then he bent his head to her lips, kissing her gently, and let his hand slid up to cup her breast. She felt full and ripe in his hand, her nipple tight against his palm, the feel of her sending blood and fire rushing to his groin.
Her lips parted under his mouth and her hands rose to slide up his ribs and over his back, a sweet welcome to his caress. A moan in her throat and her body arched up to his hands, and Solara gasped into his mouth. His name moaned from her lips was the most erotic sound, and he groaned into her mouth. Tearing his lips from hers he pressed a kiss to her neck. "You've been awake this entire time haven't you." Sebastian managed to gasp out the question.
Her chuckle turned into another moan as his body covered hers. "Did you really think you could untie my smalls and I wouldn't notice? I'd have been dead long ago were I truly that oblivious." Solara's hand slid down to grasp his member and squeeze gently. "And you have a mighty sword, for an archer."
Sebastian pressed himself against her hand in reply and put his mouth to her breasts. For long languorous moments he nipped and sucked at her breasts, feeling her shiver and moan beneath his mouth, her thighs parting to cradle his body between them. Every muscle in his body grew taut with desire as Solara opened to him. Finally she sighed and her hands grasped at his shoulders and pulled at him with not entirely surprising strength. "Sebastian please... prove to me later how splendid a lover you are, just have me now before I go mad with need."
Sebastian groaned his agreement, his lips finding hers as he rose over her body, he felt his body throbbing and his erection near painful, pressing against her mound. With one surge, he pressed up into her, Solara's sheath tight and damp around him, drawing a gasp from them both. Her hands slid to his back, drawing his body down to hers, her breasts rubbing wonderfully against his chest.
She moaned and writhed under him, meeting his thrusts with her hips. Sebastian could feel her body drawing tighter around him, slick wet flesh pulling him deeper within her with each stroke. She arched up to him with a cry, shock and ecstasy filling her voice as her body throbbed, pulsed and exploded around his. He lost his reason, lost all thought of anything but completion, his hips pounding to hers, hearing her cries of need as she strained against him.
Sebastian felt his fingers dig into the flesh of her hips, pulling her body further onto his, impaling Solara on his flesh. She'd wrapped her arms around him, her hands tight between his shoulders, her legs wound around his waist, meeting every thrust of his hips, until he nearly growled his need against her skin, twisted his hips and felt his body push further inside her. Solara cried out, his name a scream as her body exploded around him. Her pleasure ignited his, he felt his seed, like lava erupting from his body and flooding her womb, hot wet bliss that drained him of all thought but to remain in her arms.
They were panting, Solara gasping beneath him and Sebastian tried to breathe more evenly, all his strength gone. "Maker help us love, if that is what we're like when we aren't trying to impress."
He felt her laugh beneath him and sigh with repletion. "Sebastian, I was just thinking that I thought we were going to ease our thirst before proving how inventive we could be." Her blue eyes were bright with love and desire. "Just think how we'll exhaust each other when we aren't recovering from wounds."
Sebastian laughed, happier than he'd been in a decade, and rolled so she lay atop him. She grinned and looked down at him. "So how was your first girl in...how long?"
"Its been... Maker help me..." Sebastian shook his head. "Don't remind me. A life of contemplation is wonderful, truly a spiritual experience, but one tends to ignore the desires of the flesh. I've been struggling with my nature ever since I saw you by the Chanter's Board."
Her expression was surprised as she heard that and Sebastian grinned, a ghost of his old naughty self rising mischievously to the fore. "Exactly. I was posting a notice of reward for the death of my family's murderers, arguing with Elthina, and yet, when I saw you I still did double take. You made an impression even then love."
"Well I have to admit you caught my eye as well." Solara chuckled. "I'd never seen a man so handsome." She shook her head. "Or so lost to reason as to fire an arrow near the Grand Cleric's person."
"I was very angry." Sebastian admitted. "But that night, I tried to calm myself, and the thought of your eyes followed me into sleep." He stroked her cheek with his fingers. "This is a dangerous time for Kirkwall. I know you don't support Meredith, or how she rules...but someone must keep order."
Solara sighed and her fingers touched his hair, a caress that seemed to satisfy something in her before she answered. "I think Meredith is more than a little mad. But I agree with Elthina that peace must be sought. I don't think that seeing blood magic in every mage is going to bring peace."
"Perhaps I am naive to think that there is still hope for peace." Sebastian said quietly. "But I cannot support war."
"No." Solara shook her head. "But fanaticism never brought peace to anyone. After all, what was the Arishok but a fanatic. I didn't care for Meredith when I met her before that duel and she's only grown worse in the last three years."
"She is...not an easy person to deal with." Sebastian conceded. "I'm curious, were you not the child of, and sister to, mages, would you hold the views you do?" He raised his hands in mock surrender. "I do not mean to say your perspective is invalid, I'm simply wondering how much of it is personal when you consider Meredith."
His love sighed sadly. "I don't know how much is personal. I just know that not every mage outside the circle surrenders to the lure of blood magic or demons and spirits. My father used to tell my sister that magic should serve the best of us, not the base of us."
"He sounds like he was a wise man." Sebastian smoothed her dark hair away from her face. "I might not agree with you, nor you with me, but at least we can respect each other's opinions."
"Unlike some." Solara shook her head.
"Is Anders giving you trouble?" Sebastian understood why she liked the mage. He could be charming and had helped save Bethany. The clinic he ran in Lowtown helped many refugees. But in the past three years he'd grown more unstable. Sebastian had found himself concerned more than once about the way Anders spoke and acted around Hawke, as if the mage felt the Champion owed him something.
"You remember all the running around we did, looking for ingredients for that potion of his?" Solara said softly. Sebastian could see her eyes were troubled, the bright blue clouded with worry.
"Yes, as I recall we had to fight a dragon before we were done with that mess." Sebastian chuckled. "At the time I thought it was worth it if Anders was freed from Justice."
"As did I." She nodded. "But the other day... when I spoke with him, he..." Her voice broke for a moment and she took a deep breath. Sebastian found himself pulling her close and stroking her hair in an effort to calm her. Finally she spoke again, her voice still ragged. "He wanted me to help him sneak into the chantry. At first he said the ritual had to be done there."
"That's rather odd." Sebastian murmured. "How would he expect you to do that?"
"He wanted me to distract Elthina, which struck me as odd." Solara shook her head. "I told him that it all sounded...odd. And I felt he was keeping something from me." She wiped a tear away from her face angrily. "When I said that, and asked how being in the Chantry would help him divide himself from Justice he told me that if I wanted to help mages I would do this."
Sebastian felt himself frowning. "What does that have to do with-"
Solara nodded. "Exactly. I told him that no, I would not help him sneak into the Chantry. And I told him whatever he was planning he was on his own."
"But you're nervous still." Sebastian was still thinking.
"Very. I don't know what he's planning, but whatever it is will not be good." Solara sighed. "Varric told me he'd have someone keep an eye on him, and if he started acting...stranger he'd send word."
Sebastian nodded his understanding and made a mental note to increase the Templar presence at the Chantry. Setting aside the issue for now he looked at Solara. "What time did you tell Elthina we'd be at the Chantry?"
"This afternoon." Solara smiled. "Which by any stretch of the imagination is many hours away."
"Then if you will let me, I'd like to spend some time showing you just how grateful I am that you are mine and I am yours." Sebastian kissed her gently. It was sentimental and perhaps clichéd but something in the air warned him that Kirkwall's time before the storm was fast fading. If he didn't tell her and show her now, he would regret it when they were caught in battle and unable to speak.
Solara seemed to catch something of his mood, or perhaps she was of the same mind, that Kirkwall was due for war, because their kiss deepened until they were entwined in loving each other again.
Sebastian set aside the scrolls he'd been sorting for Elthina and regarded the Grand Cleric. He'd spoken again of his concern for her, of his wish that she would seek sanctuary with the Hand of the Divine in Val Royeaux. Once again Elthina had refused.
"Is there another reason you would see me go Sebastian?" Elthina inquired, her eyes twinkling. "You did not return to the Chantry last evening."
Sebastian didn't quite blush but he felt distinctly warm under Elthina's gaze. "I spoke with you three years ago, regarding my intentions." He kept his voice mild. "My goal has not changed."
"I wondered, considering the last three years," Elthina tilted her head, "I had the impression Hawke wasn't speaking to you."
"You weren't wrong." Sebastian smiled slightly and spread his hands. "There was a slight misunderstanding which was exacerbated by the fact that Solara wouldn't speak to me for more than a few moments at a time."
"And somehow after you spoke with Sister Nightingale this communication issue was resolved?" Elthina regarded him thoughtfully.
"After I was wounded," Sebastian resigned himself to explaining entirely. "I didn't tell Solara that I was hurt, the wound was worse than I thought. After we spoke to you, I started bleeding again, I collapsed."
"And Hawke took you to her home rather than call for help in the Chantry?" Elthina's voice was dry and Sebastian shrugged slightly.
"I did not ask her what was in her mind." The exiled prince rolled and unrolled a scroll. "I only know I awoke perhaps an hour later and was told I was wounded, scolded for not mentioning it, and given more healing potions."
"She sent a message saying she would bring you back when you were recovered." Elthina informed him. "I was surprised when she wrote that it would likely be afternoon before I saw you."
"Solara gave me a sleeping potion after the healing potions." Sebastian said truthfully. "My ribs had been broken apparently."
"And did you rest well?" Elthina sounded as if she were teasing him almost. "You seem...pleased with something."
Sebastian smiled and bowed his head. "I am pleased." He offered finally. "Solara...has...I finally was able to speak completely with her." He looked into Elthina's understanding eyes. "I told her I had made a decision. And asked that she...be my wife once I have retaken Starkhaven."
Elthina smiled fully. "Then you finally told her of your feelings." Her eyes twinkled at him. "And presumably they were pleasing to her?"
"I did yes." He felt his smile widen into a grin and knew he was beaming. "Solara returns my feelings."
"I am happy that you have found light in these dark times Sebastian." The Grand Cleric smiled. "I will be sad to see you leave us, but I presume that you will begin your campaign to take back your home soon."
Sebastian nodded thoughtfully. "But we will not be leaving immediately. Solara and I both feel that Kirkwall still needs us here, that there is a storm coming." He regarded Elthina soberly. "We disagree on the nature of it. Solara believes that Meredith will persecute the mages to the breaking point."
Elthina sighed. "I wish I would say you were wrong. Just do not let the chaos that will storm over Kirkwall divide you from Hawke. She is far more important than any city."
Sebastian offered his superior a quiet smile. "She's mine now Elthina, I will never let her go."
It was several weeks later that Sebastian saw Solara slip into the chantry and take a seat in a pew. She seemed pale and exhausted, but a quick smile jerked her lips upwards when he tilted his head towards Elthina. A small wave of her hand motioned him towards the Grand Cleric indicating she could wait until he was finished with his duties.
Several hours later Sebastian was no longer needed. Solara was still sitting in the same spot. Sebastian frowned in concern. Her shoulders were slumped and she'd leaned back in the pew, discarding her proud carriage, the exhaustion he'd noted had deepened. There were dark circles under her eyes and blood smeared on her armor. She'd clearly made an attempt to clean up before she'd come to the chantry but something had gone badly wrong.
"What happened a chuisle mo chroí?" He asked quietly.
"Oh, just everything that could go wrong, did go wrong." She smiled weakly. "What do your words mean Sebastian?"
"Pulse of my heart." He replied taking her hand and noting the bruised knuckles. "What work were you doing?"
"Finding runaway mages."
Sebastian blinked in surprise. "You've done work for Meredith, in spite of your dislike for her?" Sliding an arm around her waist he helped her rise. "What happened?"
"One of the mages was just a foolish young man who wanted a night of love and to experience ale." Solara's smile was amused. "And he turned himself in to the Templars as soon as he'd accomplished those aims."
"But the other two did not." Sebastian surmised as they walked towards the Hawke mansion.
"No. They both turned to blood magic, one of them killed his own wife." Solara sighed. "Then Orsino's task was...complicated."
"More blood mages?" Sebastian asked curiously as they entered the house. His beloved sighed and led him to the library and Sebastian watched as she pulled off her boots. Her feet and legs were scratched and bloody, whatever healing potion she'd downed hadn't been strong enough.
"Possibly, but someone I helped once was involved and he told me..." Sebastian watched as the strong woman he loved crumbled. "They have Bethany...took her to keep me from interfering." Tears streamed down her face and when Sebastian took her in his arms she broke, weeping passionately.
"We'll get her back a chroí, I promise." Sebastian pulled her into his lap and cradled her. Seeing Bodahn and Sandal in the doorway looking alarmed addressed them, "You two, go find Varric and Isabella or Fenris, and Merrill."
"Not Fenris...he'll slaughter everyone. These are Templars and mages working together." Solara whispered. "If anyone can be saved...these are people who only want peace and believe Meredith will bring war."
Sebastian nodded to Bodahn and the dwarf left quickly. Sandal brought the tray he'd been holding and set it on the table near the chair where they sat. "Tea help Hawke." The dwarf said helpfully and left the room scratching his bum as he did.
An hour later Varric and Isabella had entered the villa, they hadn't been able to find Merrill, and Hawke had resumed her leader's persona. Only Sebastian knew how much it cost her to strategize and plan to rescue her sister without breaking down. Solara had turned into Hawke before his eyes, wiping her face as she'd heard the door open and climbing out of his lap to stare into the fire.
It was finally agreed on what they would do, and how they would approach the camp. Sebastian listened as the others agreed to meet back at the Hawke estate at first light, and departed. "A ghrá, do you wish me to find Merrill? Would you rather a mage at your side than my arrows?" He asked gently. "Strategically, a mage is worth more than an archer."
Solara looked at him and her bright blue eyes were surprised. "Sebastian Vael, if you ever imply that Merrill or Anders are more valuable to me than you are..." Her voice was hard and angry.
"You'll what Solara?" Sebastian rose and faced the Champion of Kirkwall. "Call me a fool and throw me out of your house?"
She looked up at him and shook her head. "I don't know what I'd do. I thought you understood that you are more important to me than anyone else in this city?"
Sebastian shook his head and kissed her, hoping passion would say what his words could not. When she was clinging to him and dizzy with the heat of their kiss, he sighed. "I was jealous of Anders for so long...the easy friendship you seemed to have with him, the heat he was allowed to show in his eyes when he looked at you." Sebastian confessed. He started taking the pins out of her hair, letting the soft stuff fall down her back so he could feel it in his hands. "Part of me still is jealous..."
"I never gave myself, my heart or my entire trust to Anders." She whispered, his Solara again, the mask of the Champion discarded with her anger. "How could I trust him with my body, with my heart, when he'd divided himself. I knew he could never care for me wholly."
"So you did what?" Sebastian decided she needed distracting and began to kiss the soft skin of her neck. She tasted sweet and hot under his mouth, her moan was soft and breathy.
"Oh...I fell in love at first sight with a man I could never have." She moaned, "And spent the next six years desperate for his smile and the barest touch of his hand."
"A chroí, I am yours." Sebastian murmured against her skin. "And you are mine." He picked her up and set her down on the couch, pulling her tunic off her body. Her breast band and smalls followed. Solara's hands on his clothing were impatient and he was quickly divested of his garments.
Under his hands, she trembled, his thumbs stroking the sensitive tips of her breasts before he knelt between her thighs and put his lips to the tight pink buds. A moan burst from her lips and Sebastian felt his body react to the sound of her pleasure. Her hands slid down to stroke and tease his body, tugging on his erection until he grasped her wrists and stilled her fingers. "If you keep that up a chroí, I'll never last to see to you."
Solara chuckled in her throat and twisted her wrists out of his hands. "I wouldn't want that...but I need you Sebastian... I need you very badly right now." She put her hands on his shoulders and drew his face to hers, kissing him passionately. Sebastian found himself suddenly desperate to be inside her.
"Solara my love," Sebastian pulled her forward and off the couch, until he was lying on his back on the rug and she was straddling him. "Have me, dearling." Her hands slid down to his chest, caressing him teasingly. He groaned and set his hands on her hips, lifting her body until his erection was poised at her entrance. The feel of her, hot and sweet and damp on his skin was like being caught in the backwash of a fireball. She squirmed impatiently in his hands and slid down his body, impaling herself upon him in one deep stroke.
A cry burst from her lips and Sebastian groaned. Maker she felt like hot wet silk wrapped around him. She slowly began to ride him, her hips undulating in a slow torturous movement designed to make him go mad. Wanting to return the favor Sebastian slid a few fingers between her thighs, seeking her clit and stroking the sensitive flesh until she shuddered and moaned and began lose control around him.
Sebastian couldn't help moaning as she came around him, her body squeezing his erotically. Solara in the throes of pleasure was a sight even the Maker could appreciate. Her pale skin gleaming in the fire, her cheeks flushed pink and her eyes bright and dazed with bliss. He pulled her forward and rolled her beneath him, hooking her knees over his arms and driving into her in hard, deep thrusts guaranteed to drive them both mad. "Come for me, a chroí," He gasped the words, feeling his seed ready to burst through his body. "A ghrá, let me feel you."
A wail of his name and a trembling that grew into a maelstrom wracked her body as Solara found her pleasure again. Sebastian felt the pleasure from the base of his spine, filling his veins like lava as he thrust into her one final time, a guttural groan of her name on his lips as he spilled his seed deep in her womb.
It seemed a lifetime later that Sebastian heard Solara chuckle for the first time that day. "I always seem to end up on my back with you love." She teased. "I think my prince is more...commanding than he likes to admit."
He couldn't help it, Sebastian laughed. "I was hoping to slip that past you before it was noticed." He rolled her on top of him again and let his hands slide up to her breasts. "But I notice that you don't seem to mind it Champion...in fact..." He slipped his fingers between her thighs, stroking her clit and enjoying her trembling. "When I tell you to come for me...you always do...could it be my Champion is a tiny bit...subservient?"
Solara giggled. "And I was hoping you would overlook that." She moaned as his fingers continued working on her body. "Are you trying to wear me out so I'll sleep or keep me from worrying?"
"A chuisle mo chroí," Sebastian sat up so he could kiss her. "Would I do something so underhanded?"
Her smile was radiant as she looked at him when his kiss had ended. "I think you would do anything to ensure I rested." She kissed him again. "But if we're going to sleep, perhaps my bedroom would be better?"
"Wise words my love." Sebastian smiled. "I just want to hear you scream my name a few times more before I let you sleep." Solara shuddered erotically and kissed him again. Sebastian groaned and lifted her off of his body to scoop her up in his arms, loving the feel of her silky skin against his body as he carried her to the bedroom.
Dawn, and the ensuing chaos of a rescue and battle, came far too soon and in the aftermath Sebastian watched Hawke systematically moving among the bodies of the slain and the wounded. To some she offered a healing potion, and the Templars would take their treasonous brethren back to the Gallows. Others were beyond help and prosaically she removed the valuables, trinkets that looked personal, or letters she gave to Knight Captain Cullen.
Bethany had been saved, that was the one bright spot of the morning. Sebastian watched as, duty done, Hawke approached her sister and the two women spoke at length for the first time in years. Varric and Isabella were joking about something, those two were never serious if they could help it, at least not where there were witnesses and Sebastian listened to them idly as he kept an eye on Hawke.
Taking a seat near the dwarf and the pirate the prince began to clean the sand and grit from his bow, replacing the slightly worn bowstring as well. Since this was something he routinely did after one of their tasks was completed, the other two didn't even stop their banter to see where his gaze was directed. But as he ostensibly cared for his equipment, Sebastian's eyes remained on Hawke. Solara was talking with her sister, the tension slowly draining from her shoulders.
When he'd stalled as long as he could Sebastian slung his bow over his back and walked up to the two Hawke women, positioning himself where he could see his beloved's face. She was doing her best to retain control of her expression but her eyes revealed everything to him. Her love for her sister, gratitude that Bethany was unharmed, regret that the girl had even been placed in harms way, simply because of their relationship and joy that Bethany had forgiven her for the results of the expedition that had landed Bethany in the Grey Wardens.
Bethany turned a smile on him as Hawke said introduced them formally and Sebastian bowed over the younger girl's hand. "A pleasure to meet you Lady Bethany." A polite perfunctory kiss on the mage's knuckles satisfied his need for courtesy.
"I remember you from outside the Chantry." Bethany's smile was flirtatious. "I thought for certain your title would become truth before long."
"He is the Prince of Starkhaven Bethany, regardless of who sits the throne in that city." Solara told her sister, a slight edge to her voice.
Sebastian shrugged. "I am needed by the Grand Cleric for a while longer, but the preparations to retake my home are near completion." He explained, slanting a glance at Solara. "I am pleased to remain in Kirkwall for as long as I am required, your sister has been putting my skills to good use."
"Oh, I'm certain you're very skilled." Bethany smiled in a slightly feline way and tilted her head looking at her sister. "What a shame you're not being fully utilized."
"Bethany." Solara's jaw clenched, though her expression remained personal, and not the assumed mask of the Champion. "I wouldn't."
Sebastian smiled slightly as he realized that Bethany was both flirting with him and teasing her sister. The young mage must think that he and Solara were merely friends, or that his vows to the chantry had not been dissolved. Sliding an arm around Solara's waist, Sebastian pressed a gentle kiss to her temple. "I have no doubt that your sister knows how best to utilize my abilities and skills." He stated the words as a fact, keeping his voice mild. "Solara knows me very well after all."
The smile Solara gave him was blinding in its joy and Sebastian felt the warmth of it wash over him like a gentle spring rain, a soft breeze or morning light. Sometimes her smile was like a blow, desire balling in his belly like a fist and other times it was like this, warmth and love enveloping him. Peripherally he was aware of Bethany's mouth falling open and then snapping shut, he'd obviously shocked her.
"I see." Bethany finally said and then her gaze flicked past him to the ominously quiet dwarf and pirate woman. "And I think they finally see as well."
Sebastian didn't quite sigh but he did take a deep breath before he and Solara turned to face Varric and Isabella. The pirate woman had a wicked smile on her face, clearly she was thinking bawdy thoughts. Varric was just grinning from ear to ear. "How long has this been going on?" The dwarf inquired cheerfully.
Isabella snorted. "Don't you mean, how long have they been fooling us?"
Sebastian bowed. "Varric, Isabella, may I introduce Solara Grainne Hawke, my betrothed." He could feel his smile turning into a sinful grin.
Solara slid her free arm around his waist in return and gave a brief bow of her own. "And may I present to you, Sebastian Vael, once and future prince of Starkhaven, my affianced."
Behind them Bethany was giggling as Varric blinked excitedly. "Once and Future Prince… what a great title…I'll have to use that."
Sebastian could feel himself cringing and felt Solara shake with repressed laughter. "I told you," he muttered out of the corner of his mouth. "I told you that blasted dwarf would seize upon that phrase like a Mabari after mutton."
Her whoop of laughter as she leant against him, shaking uncontrollably with mirth was worth the aggravation of Varric's renewed muttering with Isabella over tales. Solara and her sister were laughing together, to Sebastian that was worth any price in pride.
The mirth of weeks past had long since faded. Tensions in Kirkwall had reached the breaking point. Sebastian had quietly stood by while the Champion of Kirkwall met with the King of Ferelden, a quirky humorous man who hadn't quite been able to conceal his presence. Meredith had reached the king before he could meet with Hawke, and the result had been a bit uncomfortable for everyone involved. The Knight-Commander didn't feel that royalty deserved respect unless that royalty agreed with her views.
Sebastian found himself made distinctly uneasy by the Knight-Commander's behavior. King Alistair was gracious but clear in that he did not control the Circle in Ferelden and had no wish to do so. Considering the man's Chantry upbringing he was very moderate in his views, similar to Elthina, in hoping for peace. Meredith seemed to have no patience for moderation; either mages should be imprisoned or destroyed. He found himself wondering how the Templar would have treated him were he more vocal in his own moderate views.
Hawke had made clear to the King that she wouldn't be returning to Ferelden, and to his credit, the king had immediately understood why. He'd also dropped oblique hints regarding Orlais and the Divine, which Sebastian had seen Hawke take in with a slight frown. Sebastian hoped the Divine had more sense than to declare another Exalted March. Sending armies of Templars to Kirkwall would set off revolutions throughout Thedas. Surely the Divine didn't wish a Holy War covering the world.
Hawke slipped her hand into his and startled, Sebastian looked around. They had reached the villa while he had been woolgathering. She seemed to understand though, her face was somber and her eyes dark with worry.
"I think the storm is due to break soon." Hawke pulled off the black and red armor she'd donned to meet the king. Sebastian began to do the same, his mind contrasting the white of his armor with the black and red of hers. To some, Hawke did belong in black and red, harsh raw colors that denoted war and corruption and he belonged in the Chantry's white, for purity and grace. But looking at her face, the worry and fear that she suffered daily in her fight to keep Kirkwall stable, Sebastian couldn't believe she was entirely wrong. The world wasn't black and white the way the Chantry insisted. It was pretty to think so, but it wasn't true. The decisions he and Hawke made daily, dividing problems into shades of grey, were never simple, but they were real.
"I cannot disagree with you a chroí." Sebastian sank down onto the couch beside her, watching as she pulled off her boots and Hawke became Solara. "Meredith's behavior troubles me."
"I know." She sighed as he wrapped his arms around her, sliding her legs over his so she sat half in his lap. He never felt so content as when he held her in his arms, before or after loving or simply at the end of the day like this. Solara, relaxed with him was the greatest reward the Maker could bestow on him. "Do you see…why I cannot… why I feel I must help the mages?"
"In a way, but I do not believe the fault is one sided." Sebastian said carefully. "Mages are dangerous in many ways, they carry their weapons within themselves, and not all of them have the restraint and morals of your sister."
"I know." Solara tucked her head under his chin. She liked to rest her head on his chest, listening to his heart, she'd said once, knowing he lived and loved. "And yet, politically the Templars hold all the power. And the mages are helpless against the skills Templars wield against them."
"I fear you are not a political creature a ghrá." Sebastian smiled, kissing her hair. "Orsino has power, but his is held in check and Meredith exploits the fears of the people and the Templars of blood mages and abominations. I do not agree with her methods, or her extremism, but I understand her fears."
"They are the fears of everyone who is not a mage, that the power another person has will be used against them. Only look at Fenris." Solara agreed. "I understand that fear, we've fought enough blood mages and demons to know how dangerous they can be."
"I wish there was a way for the mages to be of the Circle without being imprisoned, or for the Templars to teach mages without…without…" Sebastian found himself lost for words.
"Without succumbing to their own fears?" Solara finished thoughtfully. "We are all only people. And fear is an infectious condition."
"It is." Sebastian looked at her. "I hope you know, I will follow you, wherever you lead."
For a moment, Solara was gone and the Champion looked up at him, dark eyes and implacable countenance, "I will hold you to that Sebastian Vael, Prince of Starkhaven." Then she sighed and was simply Solara again. "And I pray with all my heart to Andraste and the Maker that it does not come to that."
"As do I, a chroí." He kissed her gently and began to rise. "Let us…retire love."
"Feeling the effects of the day my prince?" Blue eyes twinkled at him teasingly and Sebastian grinned at her.
"I am feeling that I must take what time with you that I can, for if the storm breaks…it will be some time before you are in my arms again." He told her half seriously and half smiling.
The smile she gave him was sad, and her kiss was bittersweet as they mounted the stairs to the room they shared, now more often than not.
A whirlwind of fire and blood, that's all that he could see of the Chantry. A column of evil red light, piercing the building and the heavens, and then an explosion like one of Hawke's firebombs, only a hundred thousand times worse, and then the Chantry was rubble, rubble and fire.
Aveline was holding him back, keeping him from the fire, preventing him from going any closer than where he stood in a far corner of the courtyard. He was weeping, Sebastian realized and couldn't stop and didn't care. Elthina had been in the Chantry. A good kind wise woman who only wanted peace, the one person of power besides Hawke who had worked for peace, and she was murdered.
Hawke! Where was she? She'd sent a note saying she'd meet him at the Chantry, she had written she wanted to talk with Elthina about Orsino… where was Hawke?
The scream that tore through the air was anguished and it took Sebastian a moment to realize it wasn't coming from him, that it wasn't his heart ripping in two though it felt like it. His training in meditation and contemplation deserted him; Sebastian looked around the courtyard wildly, aware that Aveline was saying something, but he couldn't hear her. All he wanted was to find Hawke.
There! She was near the broken steps leading up to the Chantry, fighting with Isabella and Varric, trying to break their holds on her, every free movement she made brought her closer to the steps and the fires.
"Stop her." Sebastian moaned the words. "Aveline…stop her…" The hellish fires and smoke drifted through the broken courtyard, and Hawke was too strong, too angry and desperate. He heard Aveline's voice again, and then heard her say a name.
And one set of arms holding him was loose and he struggled to get away from Aveline as Fenris sped with his rune quickened muscles to where Hawke still resisted Varric and Isabella. The free elf was like a blur of light as he moved and collided finally with Hawke.
Sebastian sagged to his knees, Aveline's grip following him down as he saw Hawke stop fighting. She wasn't going into the fires, she wouldn't burn in that unnatural evil heat. And he struggled to breathe in the dust and smoke, taking a knee in a compromise between collapse and erect stature.
"Sebastian." He looked up and she was there, a dark armor smeared with dust and grime and some blood even, throwing herself down to embrace him.
Kissing her suddenly seemed more important than breathing, more vital than anything in the world around them. He pushed her hood back to slide dusty hands into her black hair and pulled her mouth to his, passionate and desperate for the taste of her alive and whole in his arms. "Solara…Maker help me…I thought you were speaking with Elthina… I thought you were…"
"I thought you were in the Chantry with her." Hawke completed his sentence and Sebastian realized that she'd believed the same of him. That through some miracle of the Maker he'd been sent on an errand and she had been delayed. Elthina had been alone…without her protectors when the Chantry burned.
"Touching as this is, and pleased for the two of you as we all are, this is not the time." Fenris' growl sounded in their ears and reluctantly Sebastian let go of Solara and watched her become Hawke, the Champion, the woman in love carefully concealed.
Hawke rose from his arms and pulled him upright, Aveline finally let go of his shoulders and Sebastian's gaze followed Fenris' and Hawke's to where Orsino and Meredith stood at the edge of the courtyard. They were, of course, arguing. Hawke strode towards them, the rest of her friends following…
And then, a voice, familiar and terrible, loved and despised, filled with criminal righteousness, cut through the dusty air. "Now there is no possibility of compromise." Anders. Anders was standing across from Meredith and Orsino and as the wind from the sea blew the dust and smoke away, the courtyard became clear as day.
Sebastian watched as Hawke jerked, as if someone had struck a blow to her heart, and turned to look at Anders. Sebastian had never seen her face so cold and calm. She listened as Anders spoke, proclaiming that he was willing to die to prevent a compromise being reached. The prince became aware of Aveline's hand on his shoulder again, and realized that he'd been reaching for his dagger.
The red mist that had been dropping over his eyes receded as Meredith proclaimed that she was ordering the Rite of Annulment. Every mage in the tower would be put to death, the city scoured clean of foul magic stone by stone. Orsino protested, begging her to search the tower, destroy blood magic if she found it, but let innocents live. And Meredith refused.
Anders was speaking again, his fury spewing forth as he heard Meredith speaking. Hawke's fists were clenched as she tried to reason with Meredith, but the Knight Commander was lost to reason and so Orsino proclaimed. The First Enchanter declared that the mages would fight the Templars with all they had, because to do otherwise meant death for certain with the Rite of Annulment.
Anders smiled then. A lovely charming smile that gave Sebastian the sudden urge to drive his fist into the apostates face, it was obvious that this was what he wanted.
"Hawke," Sebastian spoke firmly and clearly. "He must die for what he's done."
She looked at him, her eyes as clear and cold as his voice and inclined her head in acknowledgement. "And the rest of you?"
One by one the companions gave their opinion and Sebastian studied their faces. Merrill was the most forgiving, but even she couldn't understand why Anders had killed all those people. Varric's face twisted with pain and betrayal, the same betrayal Sebastian knew Hawke felt under her cool mask. Isabella was disgusted and angry and Fenris was nearly vibrating with the need to take off Anders' head. Aveline was furious but dispassionate, her training as a guard and captain helping her maintain control.
When they were done speaking Sebastian looked at Hawke. "If he lives…Hawke I cannot… I will not..." His voice nearly broke at the thought of giving her up and Hawke's gaze hardened, predatory like her namesake for a moment as he shook his head. "I will not follow you if this murderer lives. Elthina was a good kind woman and she and the other clerics of the Chantry did not deserve what he did to them."
Hawke's eyes were hard and cold, like blue ice as she stared at him and slowly nodded her understanding. Sebastian knew that his words had hurt her, hurt Solara, but they needed to be said. If she chose to let Anders live, she would be choosing the apostate over him and she needed to know that. When she spoke her voice was quiet and cool. "I understand." And she turned and looked at Anders.
"I don't care if I die. My name will live with what I have done for mages everywhere if I'm a martyr for this cause." The mad mage rambled.
Hawke's face twisted, disgust and fury riding her features and her dagger punched through his back and out his ribcage. His death was faster than Elthina's and she snarled as she pulled her blade out. "It's quicker than you deserve, you thrice be damned traitor."
Relief nearly made him dizzy. Sebastian kept his posture straight through sheer will and kept his expression calm somehow. Hopefully she would forgive him for his harsh words someday. And then her gaze speared him and she spoke calmly and carefully. "I do not by any means agree or condone the action Anders took. But I must tell you all, I will fight to my last breath to prevent Meredith from carrying out the Rite of Annulment. There are mages as innocent as Elthina in the Circle and I will not leave them to die."
Sebastian felt his lips pull into a slight smile and he took a knee before her. It was foolish and dramatic and possibly inappropriate but he had to do something to show his faith in her had not faltered. "In this Champion I am your man, whatever befalls, if you will have me I will follow you anywhere." He did his best to fill his words with fervent sincerity, and prayed she would forgive his fury and words of a few moments ago.
"A chroí," Her first words were whispered, like the kiss of a breeze, before she continued in a stronger voice. "Aye, I'll have you and the Maker help you." Her strong hand was on his, pulling him to his feet the second time that day. For a moment they looked at each other and Sebastian felt something loosen in his chest. She had forgiven him. Then he caught Aveline's murmur to the others and nearly laughed.
"She reminds me of my training sergeant," Aveline's whisper was deliberately loud, "Put your soul in the hands of the Maker, your arse belongs to me."
Hawke's lips twitched and she had to take a deep steady breath to compose her features before she turned to look at the others with an arched eyebrow. "Questions, comments, concerns?" She inquired blandly.
"Maker no, Champion," Varric shook his head, "Though I'm a little worried about my arse right now."
"Then let's get to the Gallows before the city goes up in chaos. Again." Hawke grimaced.
Chaos reigned. It was worse than the Qunari had been. At least the Qunari had only a few mages, and they didn't turn into abominations at the drop of a hat. Instead, at times they'd come upon a cornered mage and she'd turn into something they had to fight as well as fighting the Templars. Sebastian remembered how he'd thought of all the shades of grey and wondered how Hawke felt about the decision she'd made. But then they found a row of mages, orderly and resolute, facing down the Templars without a hint of blood magic, and he understood why she'd made the decision she had. Just as Elthina hadn't deserved to die, neither did people who were born with magic and had made every effort to follow the chantry's teachings.
One good thing came of their race through the city. Bethany Hawke had heard of what was happening in Kirkwall and came to fight at her sisters side. Joy and worry clashed on Hawke's face when she saw her sister but she didn't deny Bethany had the right to fight on the behalf of mages. When Bethany commented to Aveline that she didn't see any guardsmen, the Guard Captain had smiled grimly and said that her husband Donnic was in charge of the guards and they were keeping civilians safe from the fighting. The Templars would find no help from the city guardsmen. Sebastian found that both heartening and appropriate. Guards were never meant for Chantry duties, they were meant to protect the common folk from being caught in the middle.
When they finally reached the Gallows Meredith met them as they battled through the gate. Strangely enough she gave them time to prepare, telling Orsino that he had half an hour.
Hawke moved from companion to companion as Sebastian watched. She spoke with each of them, talking of their friendship, of how grateful she was to have them here. She embraced Aveline, Isabella, Bethany and Merrill fondly. Fenris, she told what an honor it was to fight at his side. Varric, one of her oldest friends, clasped her hand and gruffly told her that she'd better live, he had a great story to finish and the Champion dying wasn't included.
Finally she came to him, and took his hands. "What can I possibly say to you to tell how…grateful I am, for you in my life a chroí?" She asked softly. "Without you, the world goes on…but I would not go on with it. I'd be a dead thing, without hope or love."
"A chuisle mo chroí," Sebastian took a deep breath and raised her hands to his lips, kissing her bruised knuckles. "Never have I found life to be so confusing and wonderful, as when you are in it." He slanted a glance at Orsino and the rest of their companions. "The Champion will have to be undignified for a few moments. Because if I don't kiss you before this battle begins I might go mad."
Her blue eyes were bright and warm and hopeful as they looked into his. "Well, the Champion's dignity can stand a bit of kissing." She teased him. "So long as—"
He cut her off, yanking her forward and kissing her with everything that had welled up inside him. All the grief, anger, sorrow, pain and relief and joy and love he had felt in the last few hours filled his kiss. A soft cry died in her throat as his mouth slanted over hers and Sebastian felt her arms wrap around his neck, her body pressing to his, armor seeming a flimsy barrier for a moment. "A ghrá, a chroí, a chuisle mo chroí," he breathed the words. "You are in my heart forever. Ón saol seo go dtí an saol eile."
"You've used new words a chroí." She smiled at him wryly.
"From this life to the next," Sebastian kissed her again, hard on the mouth. "Now I think Orsino wants a word."
He was right. The First Enchanter spoke with Hawke, thanking her for defending mages, and telling her to give her people orders. From whom she spoke with first, Sebastian had a sinking feeling he knew what Hawke's plan was, and he didn't care much for it.
"Sebastian, you and Merrill are best at long range. I want each of you to choose a vantage point and pick off the enemy. I can trust the two of you to fire into the fray and not hit any friends." She looked straight at him. "I know you want to fight at my side. And I wish that were possible. But you are our best chance of survival. I need a sniper and you're the best I've got."
"Solara—" He murmured her name in protest.
"Sebastian Vael you swore you would follow my commands." Hawke's eyes turned cool and appraising. "Are you forswearing yourself now?"
"I am not, Champion." Sebastian ground the words out from between clenched teeth.
"Then you have your orders." She turned and he caught her by the elbow, yanking her back.
"So help me Solara, if you fall, if you are harmed in anyway, I will heal you until you are at the peak of health and then I will spank you until you can't sit for a week." Sebastian finished by swearing a blue streak, drawing an impressed expression from Isabella and a look of awe from Varric.
"I could have sworn he didn't even know those words existed let alone what they meant." Isabella muttered to the dwarf.
Solara ignored them and gave him a nod, a quick wink of her eye and began to turn towards the entrance of the Gallows. "Same goes for you, a ghrá." She murmured and Sebastian had to be content with that.
There was no way to describe the battle that followed. Knight Captain Cullen threw in his lot with them against Meredith when she refused to see reason. Sebastian had positioned himself at the entrance of the courtyard until he could find a higher vantage point and saw the look of horror on Hawke's face as Meredith branded her great sword. Varric's exclamation clarified the situation and after a moment of mental searching Sebastian realized that Meredith had bought the idol from Bartrand; the idol that had driven the dwarf mad. Suddenly everything was clear. Meredith was mad.
Sebastian and Merrill had found a good place for the final battle but getting down again wasn't easy. Once they were on the ground Merrill was murmuring quietly that perhaps they should go back up again. Cullen and a group of Templars were looking from Hawke to the remains of Meredith with disturbed eyes. Obviously the Knight Captain wasn't sure if he should try to arrest Hawke or praise her.
Sebastian saw Hawke turn and stare at Cullen, challenge written on every line of her body, and the Knight Captain backed down. Slowly the group of friends backed out of the central courtyard. Sebastian and Merrill caught up with them in a corridor. "I take it that this could have ended better." Sebastian murmured as Hawke led them at a run back to the entrance of the Gallows and the skiff they'd used to arrive on the island.
Hawke slanted a look at him, her eyes annoyed and sad at the same time. "I'd hoped Cullen would take charge of the Circle, show some sense once Meredith and her madness were extinguished. All I ever wanted was for the mages to live. If the Circle wasn't a prison there might not have been so many problems here." She gestured for the rest of them to get in the skiff while she and Isabella took care of the ropes.
"I take it Cullen did not see reason, from what little I saw of the end." Sebastian busied himself with pulling out poultices and healing potions; Varric and Fenris in particular were beat up.
"To be fair it was a lot to take in." Varric put in once he'd quaffed a potion or two. "But in the meantime, leaving Kirkwall might be our best option."
"Handy that I've finally found a ship," Isabella chuckled. "She's in a cove outside the city." The pirate explained as everyone stared at her. "You think I'd leave my ship at Kirkwall's docks?"
"Hawke, what should we do?" Bethany asked softly.
Sebastian looked at his love. She was sitting against the bow of the ship, silent and looked shaken by their words. "A chroí, are you all right?" He crouched beside her, touching her knee so she'd look at him.
"The last thing I promised Elthina was that I'd help you retake Starkhaven." Hawke whispered. "I know we all have to run, but I want to keep that promise. How can I if we're hunted?" Her bright blue eyes were haunted with worry.
Sebastian smiled. "For certain you're not born to a crown Solara," he teased, "Its getting on the throne that's hard, keeping it is just politics." He took a seat beside her and slid his hand into hers. "If our friends will help, we can retake my city. And it could be a refuge for us all, in this troubled time."
She smiled at him. "I just didn't want to bring more trouble than I'm worth." The Champion of Kirkwall had been left in the Gallows and only Solara looked out of her eyes. "Won't the Templars try to stop us?"
Sebastian took a deep breath and for the first time since he'd met Hawke, decided to assume the lead. "Let me worry about the Templars Solara, I spent near a decade in the Chantry and I know how to work around them." He turned and looked at the rest of the group, conscious of how close to the docks of Kirkwall they were. "We dock, split up and get whatever valuables we can carry. Nothing too heavy, we're not exactly in peak condition here."
Isabella blinked but when Hawke said nothing to contradict him offered a smile. "My ship is only a few miles away from the city. Its near the place they held Bethany when she was kidnapped."
"Then we'll meet there in a few hours and go to Isabella's ship." Sebastian said firmly.
There was a slightly delayed chorus of agreement and then the skiff bumped against the docks. The group split up. Bethany sent her sister a smile as she left the boat. "I'll go with Varric and Isabella, they're both at the Hanged Man anyway. I don't really have much with me."
Aveline's boots thumped on the wooden dock. "Let me find Donnic and we'll join you for a while. I won't leave without him, fair warning if I don't show up."
Hawke nodded and gave the warrior woman a brief hug. "I understand."
Sebastian set his hands on Hawke's shoulders as Fenris and Merrill both raced off to their respective homes. "Lets get what we can from your villa, and make sure Bodahn and Sandal are safe. Then we'll be on our way."
Hawke tilted her head and looked at him thoughtfully. "Why haven't you taken charge of all of us before this Sebastian? You were obviously capable of it all along."
The once and future prince of Starkhaven grinned wickedly. "It wasn't my time yet. Now it is and my Lady Champion had best obey my orders as I did hers."
She smiled wryly at him as they began walking. "You know I'll do my best…but I never did follow orders well."
In spite of the chaos in the city, the death they'd left behind them, and the uncertain future ahead, Sebastian could only laugh. "Somehow I knew you would say that my love."
A chuisle mo chroí - Pulse of my heart - Pronunciation (a khish-la muh cree)
Tá tú go h-álainn – You're beautiful – Pronunciation (taw two guh haul-inn)
A chroi – my heart – Pronunciation (a cree)
A ghrá – my love – Pronunciation ( a graw)
Ón saol seo go dtí an saol eile – From this life to the next
A Stór – My treasure – Pronunciation (a shtore)