Who Ever Loves

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.

There won't be a lot of the game Dialogue simply because I can't find it written down anywhere and I find it a lot more fun to make stuff up. This story has been only partially beta'd so it may be updated with corrections and changes from time to time. This story is strictly from Hawke's POV.

The title for this one comes from an old poem Elegy XVIII: Love's Progress by John Donne. The first few lines of which are:

Who ever loves, if he do not propose

The right true end of love, he's one that goes

To sea for nothing but to make him sick.

Enjoy and review if you have any constructive criticism.

She didn't believe in love at first sight, Solara reminded herself sternly. Attraction or lust at first sight, certainly, but love? Definitely not.

Solara leaned against the wall in Varric's room, carefully keeping her expression neutral while her thoughts raced. She, Varric, Aveline and Bethany had decided that in addition to the jobs Aveline and Varric had scared up, they would check the Chanters Board for other work. If she and Bethany were to buy into Bartrand's expedition they couldn't be choosy about their work.

Bethany had been growing more nervous as they'd gotten closer to the Chantry, and Solara really couldn't blame her, apostates didn't spend a lot of time around centers of worship. But they hadn't seen any Templars and the few sisters were too busy with other duties to notice Bethany Hawke.

Varric had been talking to Bethany while Aveline, as always, kept a sharp eye out for trouble. They'd just entered the Chantry courtyard when the strangest brouhaha had erupted.

An older woman with grey hair had been arguing with a tall man in shiny white armor. He'd had auburn hair, and a bow on his back, that much Solara had been able to see from the edge of the square. She and the others had moved out of the entranceway and further into the courtyard and the argument between the two people had become more clear.

The man wanted something posted to the Chanter's board. Even from where she stood, Solara could see the scrawl of a signature at the bottom of the notice. The Mother had taken the notice from the board and was shaking it as the man walked away. "This is murder Sebastian!"

As Solara watched the man had, in one smooth motion, turned and drawn his bow, nocked an arrow and let it fly. The arrow had flown through the notice, tearing it from the Mother's hand, and reposting it firmly to the Chanters board. "No," The man, Sebastian, Solara guessed, told the woman, "What happened to my family was murder." He turned away from the Mother angrily.

Everyone in the group had been quieter than usual as the archer stalked towards them, pausing almost imperceptibly to meet Solara's gaze, before striding past them and out of the Chantry square. Solara hadn't been able to smile, a smile seemed almost mocking after such a display, but if his family had been murdered then he was as angry as she'd been that first year in Kirkwall, an anger that still occasionally resurfaced. The pain of his loss would be wound up in his fury. Solara knew painfully well, just how that felt.

That little pause of his had given Solara quite a good look at the archer before he'd left the courtyard. Taller than she was, by several inches, with the tanned skin of a man used to the outdoors, he walked with posture straight as an arrow. His hair was a dark auburn, combed back from his face and exposing a noble forehead and slanting cheekbones. His eyes were a dark piercing blue when they'd met hers in that moment, and the pain in them had been terribly familiar.

And he was an archer. It was a weakness of hers, but Solara loved watching archers at practice. Something about the intensity of a man drawing a bow, aiming in a moment and loosing the arrow made her melt. The shoulders and arms of archers were always broad and well muscled. Solara always imagined that intensity and focus aimed at her. The problem with such desires was that the men in question rarely (i.e. never) lived up to them.

Solara shrugged to herself and showed Varric the notices she'd taken from the Chanters board. A few more jobs and they'd have enough to buy into the expedition.

The news was decidedly unwelcome, at least Solara found it so. She frowned as she and Aveline walked into the Chantry. An offhand remark had sent Aveline off on one of her investigations. The next time Solara came to the barracks Aveline had grinned and told her she'd found the archer that took a shot at the Grand Cleric of Kirkwall. Apparently the archer was a man named Sebastian, a lay brother of the Chantry.

Solara fought to keep a scowl from her face, the last thing she'd wanted to hear was that such a beautiful man was sworn to the Maker. Looking around she took a deep breath of incense and dancing candle flame. The Chantry was a peaceful place, Sisters and Mothers leading devotions, voices of Brothers underscoring the words of the Chant.

"There." Aveline nudged her and Solara winced. The woman wore plate mail like men wore shirts. Being nudged by Aveline was like a Mabari charge to the ribs. Before the guardswoman could do it again Solara looked in the direction of Aveline's gaze.

He was just as beautiful. Solara shook her head and took a deep breath letting it out slowly and calming her racing heart. She hadn't exchanged two words with the man; her behavior was ridiculous. "Let's go before we disturb the other worshipers." She murmured to Aveline.

Once they were out of the Chantry and in the sunlight of the courtyard the guardswoman looked at her. "So, curiosity satisfied Hawke?"

"Thanks Aveline." Solara grinned. "If I'd mentioned it to Varric or Isabella you know how they'd get."

Aveline laughed. "Varric might be sympathetic as he teased you at least."

"Well that's something." Solara made a wry face and shook her head looking back at the Chantry. "I just can't help thinking of what a waste that is."

"Too skinny for me." Aveline shook her head, though her green eyes twinkled at her friend. "At least you can't get in any trouble if you admire him, right?"

"Oh yes, there's that." Solara laughed. "I'd better get going. Varric found some work for us. And you still wanted help with that little matter as well right? Tonight?" When Aveline nodded Solara shot her a grin and darted off. "See you tonight then!"

Solara took a deep breath and let it out slowly, using the techniques her father had taught her and Bethany. It helped Bethany concentrate on her magic, but Solara had used the techniques to hone her concentration and keep from going mad with adrenaline before and after battle. She'd had a lot of practice since Ostagar, now the techniques were second nature. Not lost on her was the fact that she had to employ her fathers teachings constantly whenever she thought of the brother of the Chantry, Sebastian.

The Chantry was large and echoing and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim light. Solara looked around wondering if she'd have to ask for him, but he was actually standing several yards away, near one of the alcoves near the entrance hall. Breathe. Solara reminded herself and walked up to him.

"So will I be smote down if I tell you the men who killed your family are dead?" She asked keeping her voice low in volume and light in tone. To say he was startled was an understatement. He stuttered for a moment, blinking and Solara explained that she'd seen his notice on the Chanters board. The man seemed just as surprised that the Grand Cleric had let the notice stay as he was that Solara had killed the men responsible.

A little more conversation, asking about his background and why he was still alive had given her the opportunity to hear more of the wonderful burr in his voice. When he'd asked her name it had been all she could do not to sigh and flutter her eyelashes like a giddy sixteen year old. She'd managed to keep her expression polite and offered her surname. But he'd taken her hand and bowed over it. Solara could have sworn her fingers were tingling from his touch.

His voice had been quiet, almost gentle, when he'd handed her the coin for her service and for a moment she wondered if he was reluctant to leave. He'd smiled at her, and begged that she excuse him, as he had an appointment with the viscount. Solara had managed to keep her smile one of cordiality as she wished him luck with his petition.

Solara sat on her bedroll and looked around. The Deep Roads were nothing but rock dust, lyrium veins, more rock dust and oh yeah, rocks. Definitely not a pleasure trip, in fact, this was coming up against the Hawke family's run from the Blight as worst trip ever. Journey bread, stale water, jerky of some kind and a lot of grousing from Bartrand didn't improve the surroundings one bit. And though Varric was a pleasure to deal with, Anders acted as if she'd stuck a ring through his nose and was dragging him along.

Solara took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Kitty corner from her Bethany was doing the same, demonstrating the technique to Anders as a way of helping the Grey Warden Mage relax a bit. The darkness bothered the mage. Apparently rivers of burning lava and the glow of lyrium running through rock were not enough of a light source for comfort. She couldn't blame him really, there wasn't any wood to burn so there were no cooking fires. Every camp was a cold camp and sleep in such conditions was an exercise in cocooning. She and Bethany had taken to moving their bedrolls together at night, sharing the quilts like they used to share a bed in Lothering.

It wouldn't be her turn for a watch until later, Solara lay back and let her mind drift to something more pleasant. A smile tilted her lips as she considered her slowly growing friendship with Sebastian.

She'd seen him several more times, brief visits at the Chantry where they'd spoken for a little while. He was an unfailingly kind man, gentle in his manner when he spoke with her, and she'd seen no recurrence of that fury he'd exhibited in the Chantry Courtyard months ago.

A sigh escaped her lips as she looked at his face in her minds eye. How the Maker could show her a man so handsome and kind and just plain good and then put him out of reach? It was the cruelest sort of temptation to place in her path. Even his voice, the burr that seemed to shiver over her skin when he spoke, was everything she could desire in a partner.

It was too bad he had sworn himself to the Chantry. She'd asked about that once, if because he had turned from the life of contemplation to seek justice for his family, did he no longer consider himself a brother in the Chantry. Sebastian had smiled and said that he would lead the life his conscience dictated. Having turned from his vows of a life dedication did not mean he turned from everything in the Chantry. His duty to Starkhaven only meant he could no longer be a brother, it did not mean all his vows were to be forsaken.

Solara had only been able to nod and commend him on his unwavering faith in the Maker. The smile he'd given her had sent a flush of heat through her belly and she'd had to bid him farewell before she did something unforgivable and friendship damaging.

Her next visit had been her last before the expedition and Sebastian had been almost stern with her. He'd sat across from her on a bench in the gardens, looking at her somberly for long moments until she'd felt her calm mask near break from his look. He'd asked finally who her companions were on the expedition, and her reasoning. Sebastian's eyebrow had gone up when she'd said she wanted her sister with her, and Anders for good measure. Varric was a given companion considering it was partly his expedition. In a quiet whisper she'd explained that she wouldn't be in Kirkwall to protect her sister so Bethany had to come with. Anders had been a Grey Warden, Solara explained, and he might be helpful given the Darkspawn were always in the Deep Roads.

Sebastian had listened and nodded and then, as if he wouldn't take no for an answer, told her he wanted her to come and visit him when she returned from the expedition. She'd smiled and nodded at him but then he'd made her promise. Once she'd promised he seemed relieved almost and had told her that he would pray for her and her companions while they were gone.

Solara tried to take deep even breaths before she entered the Chantry but to her critical ears her breathing sounded more like sobbing. Gathering her composure she entered, pausing for a moment to let her eyes adjust. She'd gone home first to see her mother and then come to the Chantry, to visit Sebastian as she'd promised. She knew she'd looked awful, but at least she'd gotten as clean as she could without a full bath before coming to see Sebastian. She'd had to chop at her hair with a dagger in the deep roads and it still looked a bit ragged. Thankfully she didn't have to go far to find him, he was sweeping the entryway and came right to her. His expression was concerned but he simply offered her his arm and took her to one of the quiet alcoves scattered around the Chantry, where they could sit and talk.

"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."

"I look like a pack of Mabari ran over me." Solara was too tired to deny it. "I know. Right now I don't care." She looked at him and wondered what she was supposed to say. How was she supposed to tell him she failed?

"Should I ask how the expedition fared?" His voice was slightly tentative, as if he too was uncertain of what to say.

"Oh, by all means." Solara smiled, her face felt frozen. "It was a technical success."

"Technical." Sebastian repeated slowly. "What happened Hawke?" Solara almost wept at the concern in his voice. She began to tell him about the Deep Roads, about Bartrand's betrayal, and how they had found great wealth.

"Bethany-" Solara heard her voice break, gulped back a sob and clenched her jaw, grinding her teeth to keep from crying. "Bethany…we had to find Grey Wardens in the Deep Roads, to see if they could save her from the corruption." She whispered. "We don't know if she's alive or dead yet." She looked at Sebastian, her calm mask fractured.

He looked stunned and after a moment 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.

Solara offered him a smile, knowing it wasn't very wide or bright and sighed. "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 and Solara wished she could kiss him. He looked so handsome and he was so kind and she needed him so badly.

"I'm going to buy the Amell estate where my mother grew up. It's the least I can do for her, considering..." Solara firmed her jaw and resolved she'd find a way. Money always worked eventually.

"A worthy goal, if short term," Sebastian's lips quirked up in a smile before asking if she felt personally responsible for what had happened to Bethany. Solara sighed and part of her wished he was less perceptive.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, hoping it would help. "I know the Maker frowns on excessive pride 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." Solara kept her voice as even as she could.

Sebastian was obviously concerned though he kept his voice fairly calm. Dark blue eyes looked into hers. "Responsibility isn't the same as fault Hawke. Surely you don't believe your mother blames you."

Solara shifted uncomfortably as she shook her head and knew he could hear the regret in her voice. "No, Mother wouldn't. 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 leaned forward and pushed her hair back with her hands, mussing it even more, the hard wood of the pew was unforgiving on her aching muscles but it was worth it to talk with Sebastian. But looking at him she saw concern on his face and knew he'd seen her fidgeting for what it was.

"I know you must leave. Get some rest Hawke." Solara rose with Sebastian and felt her skin take fire when he touched her arm gently. "Take my prayers with you, and my sympathy to your mother."

She wouldn't have thought she be able to smile, but felt her lips curve as she nodded. "I'll let you know when we've moved into the estate. Mother would be pleased to have you call." The thought that she might run into him if he called crossed her mind. And her mother would need the comfort of the Chantry. Sebastian was a good kind man and Mother would need kindness and faith.

"A lay-brother of the Chantry?" Sebastian seemed surprised, "If you say so."

Solara knew it was bad of her but she couldn't help but find his surprise amusing. "See you later Sebastian."

"Aye, that you will." Solara walked away and forced herself not to look back or turn around. She'd have to keep her mother safe and find a way to alleviate the misery of losing both of the twins.

Three years was a long time between talks, Solara thought to herself, a long time between seeing the man she had been fast becoming obsessed during her time in the Deep Roads. No matter how often she'd told herself he was still sworn to the Chantry in every way that mattered, no matter how many times she'd scolded herself when she'd woken from dreams of him, her mind and body persisted in her desires. If she didn't know better she'd think she was falling in love with him. But that wasn't possible, Solara reminded herself, because she was too wary, too practical to fall in love at first sight with a man who could never return any form of her affection besides friendship.

And just as she'd given a slightly self satisfied nod of determination over how she'd wrangled her unruly heart back into line she saw him. It was like a club to the belly driving the breath right out of her.

Why did the Maker have to give him such a handsome face, was her first thought. And why did the sound of his voice hit her belly like raw whiskey? Couldn't the Maker have given him a harmless case of boils or warts when he'd sworn himself to the Chantry? Why did he have to be so perfect for her and at the same time so far out of her reach he might as well be on the moon?

Keeping her face fairly neutral wasn't easy but Solara managed it as she, Varric and Merril approached him. Sebastian was speaking with Elthina, the Grand Cleric, and the woman was becoming quite annoyed with him. Solara kept her lips firmly straight and tried to conceal her amusement.

Sebastian nodded towards her. "Hawke, we were just talking about you." His smile wasn't quite strained but it was obvious something was going on.

"Oh don't stop on my account." Solara grinned then, "I love to eavesdrop." Teasing him was so much fun, even when he was serious about something she could still hear the humor in his voice when he replied.

"I'd rather talk directly if you don't mind." Sebastian went on to explain that he'd learned who had hired Flint Company; a family in Kirkwall by name of Harriman. Elthina didn't want him to go and confront them, but Sebastian felt he had to find out what had prompted once allies to murder his family. However, being the last of his line, going alone would be foolhardy.

Solara grinned and offered to accompany him. Her reputation in Kirkwall had only grown in fierceness and any enemy would think twice about attacking him if she was standing at his side. As Sebastian bowed his gratitude Solara couldn't help but think that helping him regain his throne was a lovely excuse for being in his company.

Solara was sick of idiots who thought they could deal with demons. When would people learn that lack of magic was no safeguard against possession? Anyone could be tempted, and if the demon was powerful enough lack of magic was no deterrent. A desire demon had lured Lady Harriman into moving against the Vaels. Sebastian had been appalled and horrified when they'd confronted the Lady and the demon.

It had been hard to watch Sebastian struggle against the accusation that he only wanted the throne because he had been denied it all his life. He'd denied it and Solara agreed that he only wanted what was best for his people. Then the demon had accused her of desiring power and she'd had to laugh. Everything she had she'd earned with blood and sweat, no demon could tell her different, and she'd attacked the malignant thing with every weapon she had.

The battle had been ugly and Sebastian had walked quietly back to the Chantry. Solara had been tempted to say something but in the end decided that he had to consider everything he'd learned before he'd be ready to talk. About the only good thing to come out of the entire mess had been Sebastian's offer to accompany her on any of her work around Kirkwall or the coast. She couldn't deny it would be good to have him along, for the ranged weapon and just to talk with. She could beat her heart into submission and keep her feelings to herself but to not see or speak with him had felt like starving these past three years.

Solara found Sebastian in the Chantry, clearing away old guttered candles and replacing them with new. He was uncommonly observant for someone in the Chantry and saw her almost immediately upon her entering, smiling and greeting her by name before gesturing to the bench near his workspace. Solara watched as Sebastian finished his task. He worked with an economy of movement and a purposefulness that spoke well of him. Many would ignore a task in favor of a visitor or do it hurriedly. Sebastian did the task he was given well, did it completely, and then moved on to the next.

When he'd finished, the archer sat on the bench angling toward her so Solara could see his face as they spoke. "It's good to see you, a chara. Have you a task I might aid you with?" His smile never faded as he spoke.

She tilted her head curiously wondering what a chara meant, something nice, knowing Sebastian. Solara found her lips curving into a near grin. "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."

As she watched him remove the canvas Sebastian blinked, surprised at what he found. "My grandfather's bow." His hand covered hers and it took every bit of her control to breath evenly. "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."

Solara's fingers curled around his, savoring the feel of his skin, a moment of lost control before replying, "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's expression was faraway. "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 slightly. "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."

She nodded, his grandfather sounded like a good man. "It sounds as if he was very devout." Solara kept her voice low with an effort, trying to keep her tone mild and thoughtful, in spite of her preoccupation with his hand in hers, "I take it you were not pleased when you were first sent to the Chantry, despite his words?"

"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." Sebastian looked down at her hand in his. "I left and then…when Elthina refused to keep me prisoner, decided my grandfather had been right. And I entered the Chantry properly." Solara hoped he didn't find her too forward in leaving her hand in his, all she offered was comfort in spite of wishing she could offer more.

With an effort, she kept her voice low and carefully neutral, "But now that all your family is gone, what would your grandfather say you should do?"

"That is what I must decide." He sighed as if tired, "Of the paths laid out before me, which would the Maker have me follow?"

Solara let herself squeeze his hand slightly before she rose to leave. "It is not a light decision. I will leave you to consider it." It was so hard to walk away from him, but he had to make this decision without her influencing him, even by holding his hand. If he decided to give up the Chantry it had to be for the right reasons.

"Sebastian!" Solara shouted the archer's name as she hurried down the street. He'd been walking towards the Chantry a block ahead of her and the others but apparently hadn't heard her quieter calls of his name. Thankfully this time he stopped and turned so she wasn't required to have Varric or Isabella use their patented bellowing skills to get his attention. Sebastian was scowling as they neared him and Solara wondered if he'd been that annoyed by her shouting. But no, another look and she saw his glare was directed at Anders. Since Anders had made no secret of his dislike for both Sebastian and the Chantry, Sebastian's scowl was understandable.

Solara smiled as Sebastian came closer, and hoped her expression was friendly without being overly friendly. That he might not even notice too much affection from her gave Solara's expression a humorous tilt as she returned Sebastian's slight bow. Humor died as Sebastian informed her that he'd been calling on her mother.

"I'm glad," Solara met Sebastian's eyes, noting how he always looked directly at her and hoped he could see she meant her words, "I'm sure she found your company a comfort." She looked in the direction of the Chantry for a moment debating internally and finally capitulated to her need, telling herself it was his skill with a bow that was paramount. "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, I would have you take me at my word." Sebastian didn't even blink at her request and Solara was immediately glad she'd asked, despite the expression she knew was on Varric's face at the formal reply.

She couldn't help the smile that tiled her lips though, "I admit, that's what I hoped for." Solara angled her body slightly to look at 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." Solara prayed she wasn't blushing at Varric's salacious tone and wicked chuckle before he and Isabella wandered off. Anders hesitated for a moment and Solara wondered if he needed to talk, but before she could ask he'd taken himself off towards Darktown.

Turning back to Sebastian, Solara saw one of his eyebrows had arched curiously. "Something I don't know?"

The Maker was hearing a lot from her today, Solara thought with another prayer to stay her blushes. "Varric loves innuendo; it's practically a second language with him." She began to walk towards the Chantry hoping he'd drop the subject.

Her luck wasn't that good. Sebastian commented as he walked along side her, "Usually for innuendo to be effective, it must find fertile ground in someone." His voice was contemplative. "Surely he doesn't imagine a grand passion between you and me?"

Solara couldn't read his tone, it was curious but strangely neutral beyond natural speculation, as if he was deliberately hiding his emotions. A glance at his face, the concern there, gave her the answer; Sebastian must be worried she would deliberately tempt him from his vows. Greif sliced through her like a blade at the thought of never having him, or being with him at the expense of alienating him. She smiled slightly, her neutral mask dropping into place. "Surely you wouldn't describe Varric as usual." She offered.

Sebastian looked far too thoughtful for her comfort. "No, I would not." His gaze was still evaluating her expression. Solara redoubled her efforts to appear carefree and lighthearted. "I hope his...jests don't bother you overmuch?"

Solara almost smiled in relief, perhaps Sebastian's concern was that she would be offended by a perceived association with him. She actually felt better for the thought and seized on it firmly. "I had a younger brother whose sole design for years was to taunt me. Varric is a pleasure in comparison." She explained and hesitated a moment, then voiced her own concern. "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."

The smile Sebastian gave her was gentle, reassuring and close to affectionate. Solara tried not to let it go to her head. "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."

Solara couldn't help laughing at the image he conjured and began to explain the aim of the trip up the Wounded Coast.

The Chantry doors loomed over them too soon for Solara, but Sebastian didn't seem inclined to enter just yet, turning and regarding her with a thoughtful expression. "Do you ever think of Ferelden?" He asked her curiously. "Do you ever think of leaving?"

Casual, that was the key to replying in a way that wouldn't worry him. Solara leaned back against the cool stones of the Chantry wall and pretended to consider his question. She couldn't say she'd never leave Kirkwall as long as he was here. Finally she had an answer that would satisfy. "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." Solara decided turnabout was fair play. "Sounds like a question I should be asking you. Have you decided what to do about Starkhaven?"

He sighed and she regretted asking he sounded so worried. "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?"

The idea that Sebastian was power hungry pulled laughter in a burst from her throat. "I've never met a man less interested in power." Solara decided to put it bluntly. "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."

For that she got a nod. "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?"

Solara felt like an idiot but she nodded in return, acknowledging his point, but she still had to say what she thought. "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?"

The smile Sebastian gave her was small but genuine, the questions and decisions obviously weighed upon him. "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."

Solara rolled her eyes heavenward. "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."

"A chara, your opinion is always welcome as is your counsel, whether we agree or not. I respect you Hawke." Sebastian's smile was wider as he bowed politely, one of his smiles that made her wonder what he was thinking. And it hadn't escaped her notice that he'd used that same phrase again. One of these days she'd figure out what it meant if she had to go to Starkhaven to do it.

She chuckled though; he was one of the few who enjoyed hearing her opinion. "Well that's a change from most people I deal with who think I'm headstrong or mad. I'll see you at the end of the week?" She added the last as he looked towards the Chantry doors.

An affirmative answer had her starting her walk home, but her name stopped her before she'd gone two steps. Wondering at the odd tone of his voice she turned but he was already shaking his head. Curiosity beset her as Sebastian waved her off, "It's nothing; I'll see you at weeks' end."

Solara nodded her reply, still a bit confused, but as she hurried away, she didn't turn to look at Sebastian again, afraid he wouldn't be watching as she walked away.

Solara woke to find herself almost cradled against someone's body, arranged most oddly so that her head rested against something firm and muscled, the taste of a healing potion on her lips. But it wasn't Aveline's plate armor she felt under her neck and shoulders. Confused she opened her eyes to find Sebastian staring down at her from a very close vantage point, frowning darkly. "You had us worried." He told her and Solara felt his voice wash over her skin like a warm rain, part of her hungry for whatever caring he could show. And then he used that phrase again, unknowingly teasing her senses with his voice. "Perhaps you might consider caution when facing giant spiders, a chara? For the sake of Aveline's heart if not your own health."

"I'm sorry to worry the three of you." She infused her voice with humor as she pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Let's not tell Varric about this, he would make too much of your gallantry I think." Solara regarded their surroundings and blinked. They were not in the same portion of the caves she remembered. Apparently someone had moved her away from the giant spiders. Then Sebastian was helping her to stand, his hands gentle on her shoulders and arms. Savoring the feeling while it lasted Solara collected and cleaned her daggers Sebastian was watching her as if he was convinced she'd keel over again.

Several times she saw Sebastian exchange looks with Aveline and hoped he wasn't going to worry too much. She could count on Aveline to watch her back but apart from Varric, Sebastian was really the only other friend she knew she could count on unreservedly. Isabella liked her, she could tell, but she was a bit unreliable. If Sebastian became convinced that she led her friends into foolish risks then he could decide that she was not worthy of following. Truthfully that seemed unlike him, but when following her meant associating with apostates, blood mages and pirates, it was always a possibility that her upright prince might decide he was better off staying in the Chantry away from her mad quests.

Solara tried not to worry as Sebastian remained quiet as they all walked back to Kirkwall. She hadn't seen any more looks between he and Aveline, but that didn't mean anything. Dropping Merril in the Alienage and Aveline at the Barracks brought only brief smiles of farewell from the archer. Letting him think seemed the best option, so she held her peace and simply smiled when they would have parted at the Hightown Market. To her surprise Sebastian moved with her towards her home instead of walking towards the Chantry.

"Sebastian?" Solara now felt both confused and worried as they came to her door with nary a word from him. "Are you well?"

His expression was almost inscrutable, a hint of concern darkening his eyes. "You frightened me today Hawke." Solara blinked, confused in spite of herself. "I've never seen you fall before."

"Everyone falls in battle eventually Sebastian." She knew she looked and sounded bewildered

"Promise me that you'll take me with you as often as you can," his request was even more surprising given what she'd been thinking as they walked, "Me or Aveline or Varric; someone who can guard you if you're injured."

"I'm sorry I worried you. Sorry I frightened you." Solara gave him as reassuring a smile as she could. "But this is what I do Sebastian. I have to do these things. Otherwise...what is my life worth?" How could she explain the need to do something that helped her adopted city?

"You're the center of us Hawke and your life is infinitely precious." He was breathing deeply, as if striving for control. "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." Solara was still reeling from his earlier words, 'infinitely precious' echoed in her mind like a song. "But I'll do my best. Will that do?" She smiled hesitantly, hoping she didn't sound condescending as it was the last thing she wanted but honestly Sebastian blew her about like a weathervane.

His sigh was resigned. "It will have to won't it?"

Regaining her old humorous mask Solara grinned. "I'm afraid so." Finally unlocking her door she tilted her head invitingly. "Would you like to come in for something to eat?"

He hesitated a moment but nodded. "Perhaps some tea, if it's no trouble."

"Bodahn bought some tea from the East the other day. He seemed to think it was good, and Mother likes it." Solara gestured for Sebastian to make himself at home in the library and escaped to the kitchen for the tea before she could continue to babble like an idiot. Too much of that and he'd leave just to escape her foolishness. If she couldn't have him as hers, at least he was her friend, Solara told herself firmly, be grateful for that.

"I brought us some cookies, just in case we got hungry." Solara grinned, careful to keep anything but humor hidden from her face as she handed him his tea.

"Thank you Hawke." She watched as he took a sip of tea and sighed. "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." Solara sent him a teasing grin, as she pulled the pins from her hair, unwinding the knot and letting it loose around her shoulders and hoped nothing else showed on her face but humor. If Sebastian had any idea that she cared for him as more than a friend he'd not only pity her, he might very well dissolve their association for her own good. He was a very upright honorable man, her prince. Certainly there was no other male in their small company around whom she could literally let her hair down and relax without being concerned he would misinterpret the gesture. Solara couldn't picture Sebastian aware of her heart and simply ignoring it to continue on as they were. "It was certainly the last place I imagined I'd be."

"You're my friend Hawke." Sebastian told her quietly, his expression...Solara had to force herself to keep breathing he looked so affectionate, almost tender. "The closest friend I have. Without you..." His shrug was one of discomfort with the topic and dared she hope his own emotions, "I don't want your mother to hear me speaking...but if something happened to you..."

"I'm fine Sebastian." Solara knew her control over her expression had faded dangerously as she replied and struggled to neutralize her face. "I feel the same when something happens to you." Maker knew when Sebastian was injured she was always utterly terrified. "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." The archer argued. "We would not if we didn't believe in what you are doing."

"It might be your choice, but I lead you into danger." She couldn't restrain a sigh and prayed he would read nothing into it. He seemed to accept her words at face value for he changed the subject.

"May I ask you a very personal question?"

She could feel her face still into an expressionless mask as she tilted her head. "If you like, though I do not promise to answer."

"What is your given name Hawke?" His words were simple, he couldn't possibly know how it felt to have someone ask. A smile spread her lips at the thought of being called by something other than Hawke as she answered quietly.

"My father named me Solara; Solara Gráinne Hawke." She pronounced her middle name as he would, Grawnia.

"Solara for sun, Gráinne for grace." His voice was a murmur that thrilled over her skin and his eyes were burning dark blue as they looked at her. "It suits you very well a chara. You're the most graceful woman I know. And you bring the sun into our lives."

She could feel herself blushing as Sebastian gave her that look of thoughtful evaluation. "No one uses it, I doubt anyone in Kirkwall besides my mother knows it except for you."

His voice was still a caress to her ears but slightly more matter of fact. "Hawke is a strong name, for a strong woman. But Solara Gráinne...that is a name for a beautiful woman." Sebastian didn't seem to notice he'd paid her a very unchaste compliment. "May I call you Solara, when we are not...working?"

Solara knew she was still blushing, and that she should tell him no, but she couldn't. "Sebastian, you may always call me such if you wish."

He rose from his chair then and out of courtesy she stood with him, only to have Sebastian take her hand and bow over it. Solara felt his lips touch her knuckles, and couldn't stifle the gasp of desire from such a simple touch. "Tá tú go h-álainn. Until we meet again." She only understood half of what he said, still reeling in shock and longing.

"Yes." Solara barely knew what she said as she watched him go. "Fare thee well Sebastian." Once he'd gone she sat limply down into her chair and stared at the fire for a full quarter of an hour before coming to her senses and telling herself he hadn't meant anything more than platonic affection by such a gesture. Reality is what you have, not what you want, she reminded herself sternly.

She was covered with blood and it was all pointless. Her mother was a broken shell in her arms. The only thing Solara could do for her was keep up the brave humorous front that had kept her from going mad during the Blight and the year after of indentured servitude in Kirkwall. And then…Mother was gone. Solara wished for a moment she was allowed to scream, to rage and break everything around her, wished for magic for the first time in her adult life so she could destroy an entire city full of indifferent people. Her mother was gone and she was completely alone now.

But Leandra had been a gentle, kind woman and she deserved better than a burning city as her pyre. Solara carefully closed her mother's blank eyes. Speaking was…difficult. "I don't want to leave her here…" Solara heard her voice crack and tried again. "But I…"

Sebastian was there…kneeling beside her, his voice a quiet soothing murmur as he slid his arms under Mother's body and lifted the limp weight of it. Solara clenched her hands and stifled the urge to grab her mother back, the urge to scream rising in her throat again. But Sebastian just looked at her sadly and then Varric was there, helping her walk back to the estate.

Somewhere on the walk from Lowtown to the villa Solara began to breath and watched Sebastian's back as he carried her mother to the estate. He and Varric helped her arrange the funeral rites. Telling Gamlen was the hardest. He'd wanted to deny it. Solara could barely remember what she said, she vaguely recalled sparing her uncle the reason behind Leandra's death. Merril had gone at some point. Solara was dully aware of her coming back and bringing the rest of their friends with her.

The funeral rites didn't take long, Solara knew she should pay better attention, Sebastian had made sure the Sister who said the rites was kind and compassionate. But words wouldn't bring Mother back. Solara waited until Mother's body was consigned to Andraste and the Maker, and went to hide from grief in her room. Maybe darkness, darkness and quiet would help dull the sorrow.

Aveline came in to see how she was after a few hours. Solara couldn't look at her even though she knew the guard captain meant well. If she came out of her room everyone would want her to be strong and brave and the same as she had been for four years. Solara wasn't sure she could do that anymore. "You know where to find me if you need me Hawke," the warrior woman's voice was gentle as she left the room and shut the door behind her.

She wasn't left alone for long, less than an hour later there was a quiet knock on the door and Sebastian entered with a plate of food that he set on the bedside table before he took a seat beside her on the bed. His voice was achingly kind to her ears. "Solara, what can I do for you?"

She didn't have the strength to hide her emotions the way she normally would conceal any weakness. "What can be done Sebastian? I killed the man who murdered my mother… and now I don't know what to do." Solara wished he would hold her, hold her and make love to her and make her forget for a while, but that was as likely to happen as her family coming back from the grave.

"Eat something." The suggestion was so practical Solara couldn't help but give him a wry smile as she took the plate, pushing the food around with her fork. "Eat it, don't play with it." Sebastian told her and she was startled into taking a few bites. His voice had been so reminiscent of her father using the same admonishment.

Solara shrugged as she met his gaze, he seemed puzzled by her compliance. "My father used to say that." She felt tired suddenly and sore with grief. "You remind me of him in some ways. Honorable, strong, determined…" Solara stopped her description before she added handsome and charismatic, eating a bit more before she lost her appetite and put the plate back on the table.

"I am honored." She could hear his smile at being compared to her father. Little did he know that was not how she thought of him.

Sorrow seemed to overwhelm her and before she could stop herself Solara blurted out the question on her mind. "Sebastian…what do I do now? I bought this place for my mother…and she's gone. I wanted status and wealth to protect my sister, and she was taken."

A strong warm arm wrapped around her shoulders, pulling her against his chest and cradling her head in the curve of his neck as he replied. "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."

He had no idea what she wanted, Solara thought, or he'd never say such things. "Oh, there are things I can't do. Sometimes I think I'll go mad, but they won't be changed by me." Her whisper was ragged with unshed tears.

"Solara, I can't think of anything you'd want that you couldn't have eventually." She felt him press a kiss to her hair and it hit like a blow from an ogre, the thought that everyone she loved was gone except for Sebastian, and he would never be hers, never hold her at night, never love her the way she needed. He only held her now because her mother had died and she had no one else.

"I can." To her shame, she sobbed and tears began to leak out of her eyes, no matter how she tried to hold them back.

Warmth and tears, was all she felt as she cried. The gentlest strongest embrace she'd ever known, a tender mouth pressing kisses to her messy hair as her tears wet his neck and tunic. Everything overwhelmed her, sorrow and loss and the joy of his embrace, the way his voice murmured nonsense to soothe her grief. "A chuisle, a ghrá, dear sweet Solara, it's all right…cry yourself out a chroí."

A deep shuddering breath and she was able to look at him, meeting a tender deep blue gaze that held no judgment over her storm of weeping. The sweetest caress she'd ever felt was his thumb smoothing away tear tracks from her face. She felt tender hands tugging the pins that held up her hair, letting it fall, some of the tightness in her shoulders eased slightly. "Do you feel a little better?" He asked, his voice quiet, his arms still firm around her.

"Some." Solara sighed, too exhausted to feel embarrassed by her weakness, her head fit perfectly against his collarbone.

"You've had a great deal of pain locked up inside." Sebastian observed and Solara wished he were a little less observant of her foolishness and more of her better qualities.

"My father, Carver, Bethany, and now Mother, all gone, not to mention the friends I lost at Ostagar and in Lothering." She admitted finally. "It's been years since I've cried like that."

"Promise me something." Sebastian tilted her head up forcing her to meet his gaze. "Promise me that if you need to weep, or wail or scream that you'll come to me." His thumb stroked her cheek again and it was all she could do not to turn into the caress. "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." Solara said reluctantly. "I promise to try."

"Solara." His voice was closer to a growl and did wonderful things to her insides, made her smile a bit.

"Sebastian." Solara put her cheek back on his collarbone, wanting to store up this feeling of being held. "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." She could hear the smile in his voice.

"May I ask a favor?" Solara knew what she wanted, what she needed, she could only hope he'd feel sympathy enough to oblige her.

"If it is within my power to grant, anything." She felt Sebastian kiss the top of her head again and shivered.

"Would you stay with me…just like this… I know you don't…I mean you can't…" Solara fumbled over her words, praying she hadn't offended, but she need him so badly. "I know I'm a mess but...I..."

"Solara, dearling, tá tú go h-álainn" His lips pressed to her forehead and Solara stifled a moan. "I know you need comfort. Whatever I can offer is yours. If you wish to be held then hold you I will."

"Thank you." Solara sighed and let herself snuggle into his embrace. It wouldn't last for long but while she could, she would have his comfort at least. And he'd used different words instead of 'a chara' that made her wonder what he meant. They were vaguely familiar words, he'd used the once before... Exhaustion overtook her and she fell into the doze that had served her so well at Ostagar. She was vaguely aware of him laying her on the bed and covering her with the quilts. It was when he was about to leave that she woke and grabbled his forearm. "Sebastian." She didn't want him to leave, would give anything if he'd just stay with her.

"Solara," Sebastian sat on the edge of the bed and she watched him bed down, his face closer to hers. If she pulled him further she could kiss him, but she didn't dare. "You should get some rest."

"Please…" Solara closed her eyes for a moment to conceal her need. "Please, will you stay with me tonight?" She whispered, her nerve failing slightly, praying to Andraste she hadn't offended him. "I know your vows preclude…physical intimacy," Solara felt herself blushing, what she asked was terribly forward but she need him to hold her, only Sebastian to hold her safely through the night. "but…I'm sorry if it's too much to ask…I just… please would you just hold me?"

She watched as he rose from the bed and felt her heart sink, pain rushing through her at his rejection. Then he pulled off his tunic, exposing his chest and shoulders, beautifully muscled and powerful from years of drawing a long bow, only his breeches remained as he rounded the bed and slid between the sheets and quilts to take her in his arms. The feel of his flesh and body was intoxicating and calming at the same time. "This is the least of what I will do for you Solara." Sebastian said quietly. "You are my dearest, most trusted friend, a chroí." Solara felt his warm lips on her forehead, her cheek and the top of her head, comforting and inflaming. "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."

Solara tried to hold back her tears, grateful for what she was given, but desiring so much more. "Sebastian, I would trust no one else to care for me like this, I just wish…" She shook her head, reminding herself of his vows, and let herself enjoy the feel of his chest under her hand, exhaustion claimed her slowly, like quicksand creeping over her body, even as her brain catalogued the sensations of his skin, muscle and sparse wiry hair under her palm.

"You wish what?" Sebastian's voice was quiet, he seemed able to tell she was close to sleep again.

"I wish you didn't belong to the Chantry." Solara was too tired to guard her words, but she had to tell him how grateful she was, his friendship was everything especially now. "I wish we could belong to each other. But we can't… so I'm so glad you're my friend."

Sebastian hadn't been in bed with her when she woke, though he'd brought her a delicious breakfast a few minutes after she'd roused. Part of her had been disappointed, wishing she'd had the joy of waking up with his arms around her. But he had made no mention of her foolish words before she'd slept and for that she could only be grateful. Perhaps he'd ignored them as grief and foolishness speaking or had thought it best to not remind her of what she'd said in the hopes she'd forget. Either way, he'd seemed completely disposed towards continuing their friendship. Solara had breathed a sigh of relief when the day had passed in his company and his behavior hadn't changed.

Along with breakfast had come Aveline and Isabella, the latter of which kept giving Sebastian odd glances Solara couldn't quite interpret. Aveline was no help in that regard, the woman had the most stoic expression in Kirkwall when she wanted to keep a secret.

Sebastian had stayed with her again that night, held her as she woke up screaming for her mother, and calmed her, holding her while she wept again. He hadn't made her ask him again, perhaps he'd understood how hard that had been for her, but each night inquired if she'd like company. The pattern continued for the next few days until Solara could no longer bear to have him in her bed each night. His comfort had kept her sane, but if she couldn't touch him, couldn't convey her desire or tell him of her feelings she would go mad from trying to conceal her heart. Hard as it had been to ask him to stay, it was even harder to say 'no, thank you' when Sebastian asked if she needed him. He'd become too necessary for her well being, if she did something he found offensive and Sebastian began avoiding her, it would be as devastating as another death.

Going to see Aveline had been difficult. Her oldest friend in the city had seen Solara nearly broken, and she wasn't sure how to face the guard captain after that. But Aveline had given her some sound advice and shared a story about her father. It had been good to get closer to her friend, and realize that strong as Aveline was, she had her moments of weakness too.

On her way back to the estate Solara had bumped into Varric who'd immediately decided she needed some time in Lowtown away from the rarified atmosphere that surrounded the Chantry and Hightown. He'd settled her in his rooms and proceeded to get her if not drunk, slightly tipsy, something she'd avoided for years due to her tendency to ramble after a few ales. Unfortunately she never remained oblivious to what she'd said afterwards, her memory of her behavior crystal clear.

Varric had started out asking about her first year in Kirkwall, which had required her to explain about the Blight and Ostagar. He hadn't been aware she'd been at the final battle, one of the few who'd escaped just ahead of the horde, she and Carver. That had produced a few tears, which he'd matter-of-factly wiped away with a handkerchief and asked her another question. Varric was almost as good as Sebastian for getting her to talk about things she'd rather not.

And then Varric had asked about Sebastian or 'Choir boy then and was a bit surprised when all Solara did was sigh. More questions had produced drunken ramblings on how 'pretty' Sebastian was, and how good and noble and kind. She'd even been drunk enough to tell how he'd held her all night and let her cry on his shoulder when she needed it. Solara woke the next day painfully aware that as intelligent as Varric was, he by now had a very good idea of how she felt concerning Sebastian, the dwarf wasn't stupid after all, her feelings must have been obvious.

At least she hadn't actually confessed to Varric how far gone in love she was with the exiled prince. Gratitude for small favors but what hadn't been said couldn't be repeated. The one thing she could be certain of was that Varric wouldn't mention anything she said to Sebastian. Before he'd walked her tipsy self back to Hightown and her house, Varric had joked about the sanctity of the Hanged Man and what was said in his rooms stayed in his rooms. Solara had tumbled into bed and slept dreamlessly.

The nightmares still haunted her sleep but Solara wouldn't allow Bodahn to fetch Sebastian, no matter how easily the archer could drive the terrors away. Eventually the dreams of her mother would subside, just as the dreams of Carver and Bethany had, and she couldn't presume upon Sebastian's good nature until then. More to the point if Sebastian continued to spend nights with her she'd forget herself and try to seduce him; any chance of keeping his friendship would be doomed. It wasn't worth the risk.

Isabella was gone, Solara didn't find that surprising, sadly enough. Unfortunate, but also unsurprising was the Qunari reaction to Isabella and the relic's disappearance. Solara's spine had shuddered alarmingly when the Arishok had greeted them, for the first time he held a sword. The Arishok had lost his mind and it was by the skin of their teeth that Solara and Aveline had made it out of the compound. Aveline had lost several guards and Solara was grateful that she hadn't been allowed to take Sebastian and Anders in with her. Now it was a race to the Viscount's keep to try and keep the Arishok from killing everyone in Kirkwall out of hand. Anders was still trying to grasp the situation as she'd explained it. Since they were all running and fighting, the conversation tended to get a bit muddled.

"So he actually attacked you?" Anders obviously had trouble getting his brain wrapped around that as Solara had said it twice now. "I could have sworn you were the one person he respected in this city."

"I am." Solara evaluated the street ahead of them. "But I'm not of the Qun and he can't control me. It makes for a volatile combination." She shook her head, not liking the look of the shadows ahead, something said ambush… "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." Her instincts proved sound as a group of Qunari rounded the corner and attacked.

"Hawke, challenging the Arishok to a duel is madness." Solara looked at Sebastian as he spoke, noting the blood seeping from a wound on his arm.

"Drink this." Exasperated Solara gave him a healing potion and began bandaging his arm. "And it's not madness if it works." Once his wound was wrapped she hurriedly did the same to her left thigh. "He's big but he's not as quick as I am."

"Solara, a chroí." His voice was a near whisper, something so tender in it that it pulled her gaze to his. "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." Solara took a deep breath as she tried to explain that this was her fault, if she hadn't let Isabella leave, the Arishok wouldn't be killing people. "But I have to do this, Sebastian." Solara knew her smile was half hearted at best. "All of this is my fault. I have to end it."

"It's not all your fault. You are not solely responsible for the fate of Kirkwall." The archer argued and Solara knew he feared for her, for his friend.

"Perhaps not." She tried another smile. "But that's how it feels." Solara turned and got everyone moving again.

Solara had stood before the Arishok and as firmly as she was able told him to see reason. She'd been prepared to challenge him but before she could get the words out Isabella had waltzed into the audience chamber, kicking Qunari guards out of her way like they were flies. The pirate woman had made it clear that if it weren't for Solara's pernicious influence she would never have come back, she'd been halfway to Ostwick before her conscience had caught up with her. Solara had been relieved, but relief had been accompanied by the uneasy feeling that the relic alone wouldn't satisfy the Arishok.

It had not.

The Arishok had casually told her that he would take the thief and the relic. After Isabella had put herself in danger to return the relic there was no way Solara would let the Qunari just take her. So it came down to a duel regardless. Isabella, in one of her sweeter moments, said the Arishok should duel her, but the Arishok wouldn't have it. Only Hawke, he said, was Basalit-an. Solara had heard the term before, and had asked Seamus what it had meant. The Viscount's son had looked wistful and impressed and told her it meant literally 'an outsider worthy of respect'. Solara had been pleased in part but also a bit disturbed. The Qunari weren't a particularly compassionate or worthy people in her mind, did she want to be Basalit-an to them?

But that was beside the point. She had five minutes to prepare for her duel with the biggest Qunari she'd ever seen. "Won't this be fun." She quipped to Isabella. She didn't dare look at Sebastian or she'd lose her nerve.

Dueling the Arishok was worse than fighting the Ogre that had killed Carver. He was faster than the ogre for one, and he was terrifyingly intelligent. Her best chance was dodging his running charge and slicing him in the back whenever she could. Solara had never been so grateful for the odd fighting style she'd learned over her years as when the Arishok charged her the first time. Nimble feet would save her life if she could outlast him.

When he hit her it was like a battering ram. Solara swore she felt her ribs splintering and downed a healing potion as quickly as she could before jumping him and landing a flurry of blows to his back. He hit her twice more and each time she had to drink a potion to keep from bleeding out. The last time she felt the wound on her leg open again as she jumped and landed a dagger through the Arishok's heart. The duel was over, and just in time.

She was peripherally aware of the Qunari leaving, of cheers going up around her, of Meredith proclaiming her Champion of Kirkwall and none of it seemed real. She turned and moved towards Sebastian, surprised to see that Aveline and Isabella had to let go of his arms before he could move away from the wall. Limping she moved towards her friends and blinked when Anders took her arm in support and cast a healing spell on her leg.

Solara didn't have eyes for anyone but Sebastian. When she finally caught her breath, she nodded towards Aveline and Isabella with half smile. "Sebastian, don't tell me that my honorable prince was going to interfere in a duel?" She could only pray her heart wasn't in her eyes as she looked at him.

"Your honorable prince had to be held back from rushing to your side." Aveline laughed.

"Thrice." Isabella added with a wicked smile and Solara saw the archer's cheeks flush slightly.

She was still limping but at least she could take his hand now. "I am grateful for the thought Sebastian. But I am glad you were prevented." She offered him a smile, hoping he'd ignore anything but friendship no matter what he found in her face with those dark blue eyes that saw too much of her.

Sebastian enclosed her hand in his, and he lifted it to his lips, pressing a kiss on her skin, Solara could feel herself blushing. "I fear I was quite...concerned during your duel, my Lady Champion."

At his words, she blushed even more and tried to change the subject, putting all her weight on her good leg. "Varric's going to kill us for not bringing him along so he could write it all down."

His laugh was like music, she thought distractedly. "Why don't I fix you a meal? You can get Varric away from the Hanged Man and tell him the whole story." Sebastian's offer encompassed their companions as well. "I can make enough for everyone if you want to invite your entire crew."

Predictably, Anders sneered and turned the invitation down. "I'll have to get back to my clinic." He was a little more polite to her, "Try to stay off that leg for a few days."

Solara nodded, watching to make sure he slipped away without drawing the attention of the Templars and turned to Sebastian and Isabella. ""Let's get going while we can. I think an absent hero is better than a lingering one."

Aveline grinned at her and Solara smiled despite the pain in her leg. The guard captain was in her element. "I'll try to get this mess cleaned up. Come find me if you need me Hawke."

The newly named Champion began to limp out of the hall only to have Sebastian slip an arm around her waist. "Lean on me Hawke." He said, completely oblivious as to how his near embrace was affecting her knees. "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." Solara chuckled and then stiffened with pain as they began to walk towards the doors. Moving was a bit easier but putting any weight on her leg was still excruciating. Taking deep even breaths to control the pain Solara concentrated on walking and thought of her poultices and potions at home. She'd be fine if she could just get there. Thank the Maker for Sebastian's strong arms.

"Isabella, if you'll get the next door, I'd appreciate it." Sebastian gestured towards the door ahead of them and Solara saw Isabella look at her leg. The pirate had noticed the wound was bleeding again, something Solara had been well aware of considering the amount of blood soaking her breeches. Sebastian looked down and Solara knew to the second when he saw the blood because he cursed; an ugly phrase she could have sworn he'd never use. "Hawke I ought to take you to the nearest healer." He threatened.

"I just need a poultice and I'll be right as rain." Solara shook her head. "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's voice was a snap of steel. Blood loss must have made her woozy; before she could react he'd scooped her up in his arms and was carrying her through Hightown.

"Sebastian, what are you doing?" Solara nearly groaned. She sounded like a moron or one of the idiot girls in Isabella's smutty novels who waited for the hero to rescue her. It was embarrassing enough that she almost couldn't enjoy how it felt to have him carry her, or appreciate how strong he was to do it, considering she and her armor and weapons weren't feathers.

"Carrying you home so you don't bleed out on the street a chroí," Sebastian's voice was grim even on the last words, more unfamiliar phrases. "Thankfully you don't live far away." Solara frowned; did he think she weighed too much? He smiled and she could appreciate even through her pique how lovely his face was and how nice it was to look into his eyes from this vantage point.

"Are you saying I'm heavy?" Solara frowned at him dangerously.

"No, I'm saying that too much time in my arms and I wouldn't want to put you down." It was the bluntest phrase she'd ever heard from him and it more than implied that he was attracted to her. That was dangerous…if he felt that touching her would lead to breaking his vows then she had to put a stop to it. If she made him break his vows he'd never forgive himself and he'd eventually despise her.

"Sebastian, that was almost romantic." The pirate wench teased.

"Isabella, get the door would you?" Sebastian didn't seem to be in the mood for Isabella's teasing and Solara wasn't paying much attention either. She'd have to get him to put her down and take care of herself so he could leave. She couldn't let him keep touching her like this, not if it meant losing his friendship. Too much of his hands on her and she'd forget every good intention she had when it came to Sebastian.

Isabella managed to open the door of the villa as if she had a key. The pirate woman must have loved that. "You know I could have opened it," Solara forced her humor into tone. "You wouldn't have even had to put me down."

"Hush Solara." Sebastian carried her up to her bed, knelt to pull off her boots and rose again. He didn't seem in any mood for arguments. "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 Sebastian as he passed her and then looked at the wound with a shake of her head. "That needs to be cleaned." She pulled the washbasin and towel from the stand by the window and began to clean the area around the wound while Solara pulled off her armor.

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."

He looked almost disturbed that he'd forgotten. "You're right...I was just..."

Isabella shrugged. "You were worried." Solara watched the pirate look back down at her leg feeling more and more irritated with her friends. "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." Solara finally spoke, well aware that her voice was chilly, did they think she was an idiot? "I think I can hobble to the chair. Sandal and Bodahn can change the bedding, there's fresh in the wardrobe."

Before she could finish speaking Sebastian had put the medicines he held down and scooped her up, placing her in the chair. "Please allow me." Isabella set the bowl of water by the chair and hurried out, calling for the Feddics.

Solara could hold back her sigh, she didn't want to get angry with him but he had to leave before she lost her mind. He was her friend, losing him was...unthinkable. "Sebastian, I'll be all right. I promise."

"Solara...you can't make a promise like that and expect to keep it." He knelt, cleaning the wound carefully.

"You're right." Solara sighed, he had no idea what he was doing to her, touching her, acting like he'd be devastated if something happened to her. He didn't mean his actions or words the way she wanted to take them and it was torture being around him. "I suppose I just..." She started to declare she couldn't stand to have him touch her like this when he only wanted to be friends. Her self control wasn't that strong. "I can't stand by and watch people get hurt and not do something to stop it." She mentally called herself ten kinds of coward for not saying what she truly needed to say.

He didn't seem to see anything odd about her words. "Here," Sebastian 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."

Solara nodded pointing at the wardrobe. "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." The archer's voice was teasing and affectionate. "Best bind my hands, a stór." Sebastian smiled back at her as he took out the clothing she'd indicated.

"Don't-" Solara almost lost it, felt like screaming at his casually affectionate teasing. It was all she could do to bite back the words and then Bodahn bustled in with clean linens for the bed. Isabella followed carrying a fluffy quilt and an air of impatience.

The archer kept an eye on the dwarves as they changed the bed before he spoke to the pirate. "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, her expression wicked. "At last I get to strip Hawke." Solara watched as the woman laughed and nearly shoved the archer out the door.

"Isabella, just help me with the tunic and putting the poultice on all right?" Solara felt like begging to keep Sebastian from coming back in her bedroom.

"I'm not going to try and seduce you Hawke," Isabella shook her head as she began to pull the bloody clothes off her friend, making approving noises as she stripped Solara down to her smalls. "Arms up." She said merrily as if Solara was a child and needed help dressing.

"Really Isabella?" Solara said dryly, allowing herself to be helped. "If I'm going to be treated like this I can dress myself and put the poultice on without two mother hens trying to keep me in bed the rest of the day. A couple more healing potions and I'll be up and about."

"Oh I don't think so." Isabella sounded annoyed but halfway into the tunic as she was Solara couldn't see the pirates face. She could only hear Isabella opening the door to slam out of the room. "Damn." Solara muttered. "This can't end well."

Solara heard Isabella's voice in the hall and cursed to herself again, she was stuck, like a child, in the stupid tunic with the lower half of her body exposed when the door slammed open again. Rough hands tugged the tunic down and Sebastian glared down at her, his face dangerously close to hers as her head finally came out of the neck of the damn tunic. Solara felt her hairpins finally give up the fight and her hair tumbled out of its knot. His voice was the sexiest angry growl she'd ever heard from a man. "You're staying in bed until your leg is healed, if I have to tie you down."

Solara frowned at him furiously. His voice might make her want to melt but he wasn't her commander or lord. How dare he order her about! "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."

Large hands grasped her shoulders, firm but still careful not to hurt as Sebastian returned her glare. "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 snapped back the crux of her problem. "You're in the Chantry now."

She was supremely conscious of Isabella laughing in the doorway when Sebastian snapped at the pirate. "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.

As she watched all the anger melted out of him and his voice gentled. "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." His hands were infinitely tender as he cleaned her wound and skin of the dried blood.

Solara sighed, feeling her temper ease leaving her with the urge to weep. "As you will Sebastian." She lay back on her quilts and felt tears seep out of her eyes. If she never told him how she felt, she would never have him as other than a friend. If she told him, she'd lose even his friendship. Unresisting she drank the potions Sebastian held to her lips and let him tuck the quilts around her, he was so kind and sweet, he was going to break her heart. She could feel him sitting on the bed beside her, holding her hand until she slipped into the half doze healing potions induced when she took them after a battle.

She felt the bed shift, felt him bend over her and warm breath on her skin. Soft kisses brushed over her forehead, her cheek, tender caresses igniting fire in her body. A kiss pressed to her mouth, fire in the sweetest honey as his lips pressed to hers. Solara couldn't help but stir, parting her mouth under his, and felt his shudder before he pulled away.

He left her then, left her alone and wanting, fire in her veins, until she curled on her side and wept. He could have had her but he didn't want her in that way. Sebastian didn't find her enough of whatever he needed to leave the Chantry. Didn't feel about her the way she did about him or he would have stayed and let her wake to his kiss. Whatever he felt for her, temptation, desire or plain old lust for his friend, wasn't enough for him.

Breathing was the hardest thing she'd forced herself to do; breathing through the pain like needles in her lungs at the thought of Sebastian never loving her. There was nothing she could do. There were no spells for this, no military strategy, no strength of arm or roguish trick that would gain her Sebastian's heart. It was over.

Solara lay in her bed and promised herself that she would stop tempting him. No more intimate talks, no more visiting the Chantry just to see him, no more tea and cookies, no more adventures unless it was absolutely necessary. Her hair would stay firmly braided and bound up on her head and her armor on. She couldn't be trusted around him, so she would have to avoid his company until she could be satisfied with friendship only.

Three years, Solara fumed. Three years of carefully avoiding any situation in which Sebastian might find himself alone with her for more than a minute. Three years of wanting and praying and complete celibacy because even the touch of her own fingers on her flesh reminded her of how she wanted him to touch her. Three years of pining and weeping and seeking any and every task to busy her mind and exhaust her body. Three years of hardening her heart and wearing nothing but the mask of Hawke the Champion around Sebastian Vael and now the Grand Cleric wanted her to partner with him on a task for her?

Elthina had summoned her to the Chantry for their little chat and there was Sebastian in the same place as always, across from Elthina. He'd smiled and greeted her by her surname and his eyes had been a warm deep blue as if he'd been particularly pleased to see her. Solara had done her best to not take out her temper on the Grand Cleric but seeing as the woman had with a few words overturned three years worth of work, an even neutral tone had been the best Solara could manage.

Varric and Aveline had been hugely helpful in avoiding Sebastian and the Chantry. If Varric did not have a task then Aveline did. And for three years unless the need was enough to outweigh the pain the only archer Solara had in her company had been Varric. None of her companions were stupid but she'd managed to evade their questions as to why she was avoiding Sebastian. Surprisingly Varric, whom she'd thought would have questioned her incessantly, had not even mentioned 'Choir Boy' more than once. He'd also come around to see her surprisingly often considering how itchy Hightown made him.

Solara slammed her front door and shrieked her frustration. She was instantly sorry as Orana jumped and cried out. Apologies bubbled to Solara's lips but the girl ran to Bodahn and Sandal. Groaning Kirkwall's Champion hid in her room until Isabella and Anders came to meet her for Elthina's task. Sister Nightingale, Solara snorted inelegantly, how much more melodramatic could the woman get?

Solara stalked through the streets of Hightown almost hoping they got ambushed. The mood she was in she'd be happy to take on a gang of thieves. And she couldn't stop sneaking looks at Sebastian. What was worse was that he kept catching her at it. Three years later and one look from him still made her want to tear his clothes off. Solara felt herself scowling and tried to avoid his gaze.

Anders made for a fine distraction and his attitude towards Sebastian would have been comical had the mage not been so jumpy and plain old paranoid. In the short walk to the Keep Anders accused Sebastian of judging him. Considering Sebastian was probably more worried about fulfilling Elthina's task it was a nonsensical accusation. Solara sighed and shook her head, stealing another peek at Sebastian.

Getting into the Viscount's audience chamber hadn't been as difficult as Elthina cautioned. The doors swung open easily. Of course that was because of the ambush. Solara cursed as a burst of light near blinded all of them. The battle actually didn't last that long though the spells being thrown about were nasty.

Solara regarded the red-haired woman and wondered if she was just too suspicious. She didn't like this woman much, the Orlesian accent rubbed the wrong way and she giggled too much. Isabella knew her and the name was familiar. Then the Hero of Ferelden was mentioned and Solara remembered the tale. It wasn't enough to make her like the woman but the tale had said Leliana had a history with the Chantry, as well as being a bard.

Looking around to see if anyone was injured Solara saw Isabella downing a potion and Sebastian sipping from a small flask. Concerned, she looked at him but Sebastian took another sip and nodded at her to indicate he was well.

Solara sighed and shook her head. It was as she had thought. Elthina would not leave Kirkwall. And as his next words proved, neither would Sebastian. "If Elthina won't shield herself then I will be her shield."

"She's lucky to have you to protect her." Solara forced herself to smile.

Her eyes narrowed as Sebastian put a hand to his side as if it pained him. "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?" Solara kept her voice even, suddenly terrified.

"Three years ago." Sebastian smiled and she watched as he put a hand to his side and drew it away to regard his fingers with a puzzled expression. His gauntlet was red with blood and so was the white mail at his side.

"Sebastian?" Solara could do nothing but cry his name as his knees folded under him. She was vaguely aware that she'd caught him and crumbled to her knees in the Chantry, cradling his upper body in her lap. He was out cold, his head cradled on her thighs. "Anders," Solara looked at the mage. "You and Isabella help me get him home. He's hurt."

Isabella blinked at her. "You've avoided the man for three years but he gets a scratch and now you want him where you can take care of him?"

Solara glared up at the pirate, partially aware that Isabella was teasing as she always did, but mostly not caring. "Motivations later, help me; now please."

The next half an hour was a blur as Solara convinced Anders to give Sebastian healing, sent Bodahn to the Chantry to tell Elthina the archer was hurt and got Sebastian stripped of his bloody mail and dirty clothing. Isabella helped with the last part, keeping most of her remarks to herself, though she commented extensively on Sebastian's physique until Solara threw her out of the room. Maybe it was foolish but when it was time to remove Sebastian's breeches and smallclothes, Solara didn't want the pirate woman present. It was too likely Solara would want to hit the woman out of jealousy.

Solara pulled the sheet and quilts up to Sebastian's waist and took a seat in the chair near her bed. Anders had grudgingly examined the archer and told her that the man had broken ribs and most likely a bruised lung as well as a great bloody gash in his side. While she wasn't a terrible nurse she wasn't the most skilled either and until he woke she couldn't do more than put a poultice on the wound. She simply couldn't get a healing potion down his throat and had already wasted one trying, much to her chagrin. She'd had to replace the pillows due to the potion soaking them. On the bright side she probably had the healthiest pillows in Kirkwall now.

Solara sighed and moved the chair closer to the bed. For now she would enjoy looking at him, time enough later to worry about how she would exorcise the thoughts of him in her bed once he was gone again. Maybe a new bed once he left...

Typical of Sebastian, when he woke the first thing he did was try to sit up. Solara cursed to herself as he looked around, obviously trying to place his surroundings. "Lie back down for the Maker's sake!" Solara rose from her chair so he could see her offering a faint smile as she did so.

"What happened?" Sebastian's head fell back to the pillows as he spoke. "Are you all right? Did something happen to Elthina?"

Solara felt her face stiffen into the neutral mask that had become her habit. "Elthina's fine. Its only been a few hours since you spoke with her Sebastian." Taking a seat on the side of the bed she lifted his head and placed another pillow beneath it, elevating his upper body slightly. "You were wounded and didn't tell me."

He had the nerve to smile at her, that same charming adorable smile she had loved to see when he teased her. "Well, turnabout is fair play Solara. How often did you ignore your wounds until I badgered you?"

"I didn't want you to touch me Sebastian." Solara knew she sounded awful but with her feelings, she'd had to avoid his touch. "I couldn't."

"I- I'm that repugnant to you." Solara cursed to herself over the pain in his voice, he sounded shocked, almost dismayed by her admission.

"No, you're not..." Solara finally confessed, her voice so low it was almost a whisper. "That's the problem."

"I'm not repugnant, and that's a problem." His repetition of her words indicated his lack of comprehension. "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." She sighed and gave in to the urge to simply tell him the truth, or at least part of the truth. Damned if she'd give up all her pride by confessing she loved him. "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..." Solara poured a cup of water and held it to his lips, helping him drink, her touch as gentle as she could make it. "And I'd forget that you look at me like a friend only."

Sebastian sipped at the water, swallowed and took such a deep breath that she worried about his ribs. "Solara, I do not look at you in the way you think." He told her finally. "You are much more to me than you know."

"Don't taunt me." She couldn't find the energy to get angry with him, she was so tired and so...miserable with unrequited love. And to top it off she felt like the biggest fool in Kirkwall. "You're tired and you need rest and more healing potion." To her horror, Sebastian's reaction was to try and sit up again, an effort which pained him considerable from his expression. "Don't!" It was more a cry than an admonition and she put her hands on his shoulders to press him back. "Please just lie down."

"Then give me a healing potion and lie next to me so I can talk to you a chroí." His words were grim and he was setting his jaw, frowning at her furiously. "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."

Solara sighed and gave him the potion, watching him carefully as he drank it before gingerly laying on her stomach as close to the edge of the bed as possible and pushed her hair over one shoulder so it was out of her way. She saw him take a good deep breath and felt some of her tension fade, his ribs were better at least. "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 frowned worriedly, had he been angry with her for how she'd acted before he'd left that day? His hand rose and touched her hair, a soft caress that tightened her throat with need.

"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..." Sebastian's knuckles rubbed gently over her cheek and her heart skipped a few beats. "You wouldn't let me tell you. So I waited for you to be ready to hear me."

"What made you decide?" Solara felt confused and a little annoyed. "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." He 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 wished there was some middle ground between mages being imprisoned or declared apostates. "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's words made sense but Solara was far more aware of Sebastian's hand on her waist, pulling her closer to him. Resisting seemed foolish when he was wounded and she was capable of leaving the bed quite easily.

"I don't understand what you're telling me." She sighed, it was wonderful to be with him but the conversation made no sense. "I mean, I'm glad we're finally talking, but I'm even more confused."

He smiled at her and his expression was breathtaking. "I realized that the Maker had sent you to me." Sebastian said quietly. "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, he seemed to think he made perfect sense, but she was still confused, "Your feeling of friendship for me is a sign from the Maker that you should retake Starkhaven?"

"No Solara," His smile spread to a grin, a flash of humor in his tanned face, dark blue eyes twinkling. "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 blinked as she summed up his words. "That's..." She had fallen in love with the oddest man.

Sebastian's face was filled with humor and affection as he looked at her. "I know it sounds odd. 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 frowned, still trying to sort out everything he'd told her. "But you wanted me to join the Chantry and have a marriage in name only, without children or physical love?"

He sighed a bit. "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 muttered sarcastically and Sebastian shook his head.

"I've offended you." Another sigh, this time he sounded exhausted and Solara frowned. "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..." His head fell back on the pillows and Solara worried that talking was taking too much energy even as her heart pounded to hear he loved her. "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?" She couldn't have been more shocked if Sebastian confessed he was a mage, first he said he'd loved her for years and in the next breath casually mentioned the Grand Cleric knew all about it?

He chuckled wryly. "She knew." Sebastian 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?" Solara had to ask, finally meeting his gaze fully, wanting to see his eyes.

"I was worried I was confusing love with lust." He turned slightly, onto his good side and his hand slid into her hair, caressing her scalp and toying with the dark locks. "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." Solara felt him tugging her closer to his body and didn't resist, the feel of his hand on her waist was enthralling. "What can I say...I'm a male, sometimes I'm not very bright." That startled a nervous giggle out of her. "Now...love, will you put me out of my misery and give me some hint as to your feelings?"

Solara looked at him and finally confessed, smiling a bit shyly. To be able to speak of her feelings was like dropping a full pack after a forced march. "I've wanted you for a long time, and I've loved you... for almost as long as I've wanted you. I think I've loved you...since before you asked me my given name."

"And dare I ask for more than a declaration?" Sebastian asked as he pushed himself up to attempt a kiss.

Solara frowned as she pushed him flat again, and slid over so her body was pressed against his, her lips almost brushing his. He was so enticing, even wounded she was tempted to give him whatever he wanted. "Sebastian, you're wounded, not even completely healed, and I'm not exactly in peak condition myself." She gave him a smile, grateful she could drop her mask and show him how she felt now. "The spirit is all too willing but the flesh is...weak."

"I hate to admit you are right my love." His seeming acquiescence was a ruse as his arm whipped around her waist and pulled her down, her lips meeting his. Solara squeaked in surprise and giggled and, as his lips nipped and stroked hers, lost herself to him and moaned into his mouth. His kiss was everything she'd tried not to dream, lips and tongue and the taste of his mouth. His arms were banded around her body, holding her in place as he kissed her with all the aggression of a man starved for affection.

Solara groaned when he loosened his grip on her, her forehead touching his as she tried to control her breathing and hot blood. "I told Elthina I'd bring you by in the afternoon tomorrow, once I'd made sure you were healed." To her ears her voice was a groan. "Now I'm regretting that."

Dark blue eyes stared up at her desire hot in them. "I've had six years of cold baths Solara. I'm regretting anything that takes me from this bed for the next week."

"Well I guess that answers my question about whether or not you want to wait for marriage." Solara grinned down at him and was rewarded with another searing kiss.

"If I'd never held you through the night, never kissed you until our wedding night it might have been possible." Sebastian told her, his air that of a man who knows his own weakness. "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."

She smiled and remembered she was still wearing the clothes from under her armor, sweaty and dusty. "Let me get out of these clothes, it's late and we both need rest." She reluctantly removed herself from on top of him.

"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, and she could hear the beginnings of laughter in his voice as she began to strip off her breeches and stockings. The laugh died in his throat as Solara pulled off her tunic, and in her small clothes slid into the bed beside him.

His body felt firm and warm, delicious against her skin and Solara didn't resist when Sebastian pulled her into his arms and kissed her over and over. It was such a delight to feel him, to know he loved her, to be free to show him how she felt and not guard against luring him, or tempting her own heart. When he made to pull her closer Solara felt him stiffen and gasp. Frowning she pulled out of his hands and looked at his side, pushing down the quilt for a better look.

Solara was reluctant to say it and sighed. "You need to sleep for the last potion to take full effect. 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 muttered rebelliously.

Solara grabbed a potion and shook her head. "Drink half and I'll drink half." Watching to be sure he did, she followed suit, feeling the soporific effect. "Now we'll sleep and wake early enough to spend time together, but you'll be healed." She settled into his arms and felt him take a deep breath.

Warm lips pressed to her forehead. "My apologies love, I forgot to ask," his voice was tired. "But you are going to marry me and make me an honest man?"

Solara sighed in delight, overwhelmed with joy for a moment. "Of course I am Sebastian." She smiled against his skin. "What would I do without my prince?"

"Then I must retake Starkhaven, because only a prince is worthy of you my love." Solara felt his hand stroke down her back and still as he finally slept. Snuggling a bit closer she gave herself a moment more to appreciate how he felt in her arms in case she was dreaming.

Solara woke to the feeling of a hand sliding from her back to her hip. Warm and delicious it stroked her skin before fingers nimbly untied her smalls. A tiny smile curved her lips as Sebastian slid his hand from her hip to her bottom. She couldn't help but sigh at that and felt her breasts bare against his chest, her nipples tightening at the feel of his chest hair and her fingers flexed over his heart as he caressed her.

She felt Sebastian moving her, sliding her so she was laying on her back instead of face down and half on his chest, tucking the quilts around her body. He was lying on his side, pressed against her and she could feel how aroused his body was by hers, urgent against her hip. His lips pressed to hers then, as if coaxing her from sleep, and his hand slid from her hip to palm her breast, his palm scraping deliciously over her nipple and Solara couldn't pretend slumber anymore.

She parted her lips, returning his kiss and sliding her hands up his chest and back. His hand tightened on her breast erotically and Solara arched up to his palm, a moan deep in her throat as she gasped against Sebastian's lips. The feel of his naked body against hers was intoxicating and she moaned his name, feeing him groan into her mouth. His lips pressed a hot kiss to her neck before he spoke breathlessly. "You've been awake this entire time haven't you?"

Solara's chuckle became a moan as Sebastian covered her with his body. Maker, he felt impossibly good. "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." Wickedly she slid her hand down and stroked his erection. "And you have a mighty sword, for an archer." The greedy part of her wanted him inside her, now.

His body pressed hungrily against her hand and then Sebastian bent his head to her breasts, and began to feast. Solara moaned her entire body set aflame by his wicked mouth as he pleasured her. His lips suckled and teased, moving between her breasts to torment each one until she was writhing under him, his hips and loins cradled between her thighs as she shuddered beneath him, his body pinning her to the bed. Solara couldn't take anymore, she had to have him, she needed him within her, and pulled at his shoulders until he lifted his mouth from her skin. "Sebastian please... prove to me later how splendid a lover you are, just have me now before I go mad with need."

He didn't speak, but groaned his accord, pressing his lips to hers and kissing her as his body lifted and then pressed against hers. Solara caught her breath and heard him gasp as Sebastian pushed inside her body filling her in one hard stroke, easily pressing into her wet sheath. Full, so full and hot and deep inside her, Maker he felt wonderful, she slid her hands up his back, pulling him down to her, his chest pressing against her breasts in erotic pressure.

Solara moaned as Sebastian began to move inside her, pressing her hips up to meet him with each stroke. She was close, he felt so good and it had been so long, it felt as if he was getting harder with each thrust. Solara couldn't hold back, everything boiled up inside her, pleasure overwhelming her mind and twisting her body with need until she pressed up to him and cried out with everything he made her feel.

She wrapped around him, clinging to him as he began to thrust wildly inside her, every sensation magnified as he strove for completion. Solara felt him gasping; his mouth on her neck, his hands tight on her hips, pulling her onto his flesh as if she could never be close enough to him. Her kind, controlled, elegant love had lost all his grace in his need for her. Sebastian growled deep in his throat and Solara felt his hips rotate and slam hard into hers. She saw stars, light, screamed as she came around him again and felt him, deep in her belly, a hot thick flood, filling her, her womb draining him of his seed.

Solara took a breath and then another, for a few minutes that was all she could do was try to breath as she and Sebastian lay entwined and exhausted in each others arms. Sebastian's burr was thicker than usual when he finally spoke. "Maker help us love, if that is what we're like when we aren't trying to impress."

She laughed and reveled in how limp and satiated she felt. "Sebastian, I was just thinking that I thought we were going to ease our thirst before proving how inventive we could be." Solara looked up at him and thought he'd never looked more handsome. "Just think how we'll exhaust each other when we aren't recovering from wounds." He laughed with her then and rolled so that she lay on top of him, his arms still circling her. Mischievously she grinned. "So how was your first girl in...how long?"

"It's been... Maker help me..." He 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."

Solara blinked in surprise and Sebastian grinned up at her wickedly. "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." She chuckled and gave a little shake of her head. "I'd never seen a man so handsome. Or so lost to reason as to fire an arrow near the Grand Cleric's person."

"I was very angry." Solara rolled her eyes at that obvious statement. "But that night, I tried to calm myself, and the thought of your eyes followed me into sleep." His fingers stroked her cheek. "This is a dangerous time for Kirkwall. I know you don't support Meredith, or how she rules...but someone must keep order."

Her sigh answered his and she allowed herself the long desired touch of his hair. "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." Her lover's voice was quiet. "But I cannot support war."

"No, but fanaticism never brought peace to anyone." She shook her head again. "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." At least he agreed with that, Solara almost sighed. "I'm curious, were you not the child of, and sister to, mages, would you hold the views you do?" His hands spread in the universal sign for peace. "I do not mean to say your perspective is invalid, I'm simply wondering how much of it is personal when you consider Meredith."

She did sigh then. "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." His hand smoothed her hair out of her face tenderly. "I might not agree with you, nor you with me, but at least we can respect each other's opinions."

"Unlike some." Solara frowned slightly as she thought of the apostate hiding in Darktown.

"Is Anders giving you trouble?" Sebastian inquired gently perceptive. Solara knew he didn't like Anders though Sebastian conceded the Apostate did some good with his clinic.

"You remember all the running around we did, looking for ingredients for that potion of his?" She asked quietly.

"Yes, as I recall we had to fight a dragon before we were done with that mess." He chuckled at the recollection. "At the time I thought it was worth it if Anders was freed from Justice."

"As did I. But the other day... when I spoke with him, he..." Solara's voice broke as she remembered the argument, the way Anders had acted. Sebastian's arms wrapped around her and he stroked her hair until she was able to speak again. "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. How would he expect you to do that?" Sebastian asked obviously confused.

"He wanted me to distract Elthina, which struck me as odd." She shook her head. "I told him that it all sounded...odd. And I felt he was keeping something from me." Angrily she dashed her tears away. "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."

She saw Sebastian frown as he came to the same questions that haunted her. "What does that have to do with-"

"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." Solara didn't regret that but how much damage was already done?

"But you're nervous still." She could see Sebastian considering her words, reading her worries in her eyes.

"Very. I don't know what he's planning, but whatever it is will not be good." She sighed, weary of Anders mania. "Varric told me he'd have someone keep an eye on him, and if he started acting...stranger he'd send word."

Sebastian was clearly thinking still but he nodded. After a moment he looked up with a question. "What time did you tell Elthina we'd be at the Chantry?"

"This afternoon." She smiled teasingly. "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." Solara sighed into his mouth as he kissed her and thought she'd never been so grateful for an ambush or a wound. The thought that she could have lost him, could still lose him filled her with need and their kiss became more urgent. Soon the two of them were lost to everything but each other.

Solara slipped into the Chantry and took a seat in a pew. Sebastian sent her a look of concern but she waved him off and closed her eyes reflecting on everything that had happened during the day. No matter what she'd done, disaster had occurred. Meredith had wanted to her to hunt down blood mages and in an effort to maintain a neutral perspective Solara had agreed. Orsino had asked her to help with problems and possible conspiracy between Templars and the Circle mages.

It took several hours before Sebastian had finished his duties with Elthina and Solara looked up as he took a seat beside her. "What happened a chuisle mo chroí?" His voice was so gentle she wished she could wrap it around her.

"Oh, just everything that could go wrong, did go wrong." Solara let herself be distracted. "What do your words mean Sebastian?"

"Pulse of my heart." He took her hand in his, careful of her bruised flesh. "What work were you doing?"

"Finding runaway mages." Solara's expression was dry as she anticipated his reaction.

Sure enough he was surprised. "You've done work for Meredith, in spite of your dislike for her?" Solara was grateful for his strong arm helping her rise. "What happened?"

"One of the mages was just a foolish young man who wanted a night of love and to experience ale." She smiled the humor in the situation appealing to her. "And he turned himself in to the Templars as soon as he'd accomplished those aims."

"But the other two did not." Sebastian once again proved his ability to read between the lines.

"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?" The archer inquired as they entered the estate. Solara led them to the library with a sigh, glad to be able to pull off her boots. Every part of her body ached as she sat and finally was able to tell Sebastian the worst news.

"Possibly, but someone I helped once was involved and he told me..." Solara looked at him feeling the mask of strength she wore breaking. "They have Bethany...took her to keep me from interfering." She couldn't help but weep then grateful for the strength of his embrace as her tears overtook her.

"We'll get her back a chroí, I promise." Solara clung to Sebastian as he cradled her in his lap drawing comfort from his words. Bodahn and Sandal must have come to the door because Sebastian issued commands. "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 contradicted him, she didn't want more death and neither would Bethany. "If anyone can be saved...these are people who only want peace and believe Meredith will bring war." She vaguely heard Sandal bring in tea and was grateful for his concern. Perhaps tea would help her behave like the Champion again when her friends arrived.

It was an hour before Isabella and Varric arrived and Solara had needed every moment to compose herself. Sebastian had held her up until the last moment, reminding her of her sister's strength, of how feared the Champion was and how he and her friends would stop at nothing to get Bethany back. Solara had clung to him right up until she'd heard the sound of the front door opening. Then, Maker how it had cost her, but she refused to let her friends see her behaving with so little faith in their combined abilities. She'd forced herself to rise from Sebastian's lap and stare into the fire.

A strategy for rescuing Bethany was decided upon, though Solara had little faith in battle plans, they tended to fail after meeting the enemy. She watched the dwarf and the pirate leave, both promising to return at dawn for their trek down the Wounded Coast. "A ghrá, do you wish me to find Merrill? Would you rather a mage at your side than my arrows?" Sebastian asked, clearly meaning to hunt the elf girl down if need be. "Strategically, a mage is worth more than an archer."

Solara hadn't been so surprised and angry in a while. "Sebastian Vael, if you ever imply that Merrill or Anders are more valuable to me than you are..." How could he wonder if she would rather have Merrill or Anders when he was all that had kept her sane this evening? Didn't he understand she'd let Kirkwall burn rather than let him be harmed?

"You'll what Solara?" Sebastian rose, staring down at her. "Call me a fool and throw me out of your house?"

Solara shook her head, looking up at him as her anger drained away. "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?"

The kiss he gave her then was so passionate Solara felt her knees weakening, Sebastian kissed her as if he had never done so before. It was the kiss of a man afraid of rejection and determined to overwhelm the object of his affection with his desire. "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 told her when he finally released her mouth. The feel of his hands in her hair, pulling out her pins and taking it down, weighing it in his hands made her shiver. "Part of me still is jealous..."

"I never gave myself, my heart or my entire trust to Anders." Solara murmured, resting her cheek against his neck, "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 wondered, beginning to kiss her neck. Solara moaned under his mouth, her entire body catching fire from his lips.

"Oh...I fell in love at first sight with a man I could never have," she confessed, his mouth pulling the words out of her, "And spent the next six years desperate for his smile and the barest touch of his hand."

"A chroí, I am yours." His words against her skin were the sweetest caress. "And you are mine." Solara nearly squeaked as he picked her up and carried her to the couch, pulling off her clothing until she was stripped bare for him. She wondered vaguely if he would ever understand how she delighted in his strength, in the corded muscles of his arms, the broad smooth might of his shoulders and chest; how beautiful he was to her, to touch, to feel against her body. Sebastian's habit of scooping her up and cradling her against him, surrounding her with his strength, protecting her, she who hadn't been protected from anything in ten years, would he ever see how deeply she valued his love for her? Solara began tearing off Sebastian's clothes, anxious to feel his skin against hers.

Solara shuddered as his hands roved over her body, palming her breasts and using his thumbs on her nipples to devastating effect. He had the hands of a scoundrel, a man who knew how to see to a woman's needs, fingertips slightly rough from his work with a bow but subtle and strong. Then he knelt between her thighs and put his mouth to her breasts, making her feel even more. She had no words for what his touch did to her, could only moan and reach for him; hard and ready in her hand. Solara let her fingers tug and stroke over his flesh, teasing him as much as he did her, until Sebastian manacled her wrists in his hands and held her still. "If you keep that up a chroí, I'll never last to see to you."

She chuckled and nimble twisted her wrists out of his grip. "I wouldn't want that...but I need you Sebastian... I need you very badly right now." She slid her hand up his body to his shoulders and gently but firmly pulled his face to hers, kissing him urgently putting all her love and need to his mouth from her lips.

"Solara my love," he pulled her down to straddle him as he lay on the rug, his hands sliding from her hips up her ribcage to palm her breasts again. "Have me, dearling." Solara grinned mischievously and let her fingers caress his chest, teasing him as he had her. The groan of need that erupted from his lips was little warning. Sebastian, in one of his flashes of movement, put his hands to her hips and lifted her body, holding her over his erection, the tip of his body probing hers. He felt hot and hard between her thighs and Solara lost patience, squirming in his grasp until she was able to slide down his body, taking him in one slow deep stroke.

Solara cried out, he was so deep inside her, made her feel so filled, she stilled a moment, feeling his body throb in hers. Wanting the sensation to last she began to roll her hips, slowly riding him, moaning deep in her throat. Solara knew she would drive him mad, neither she nor Sebastian were known for their patience once they were joined like this. It was torture to them both but it felt so good, to concentrate on how she could make him feel, to forget the world around them. She slid up and down his body and saw through lazy lidded eyes Sebastian's lips curve wickedly. His hand, his fingers, moved from her hips to the apex of her thighs, deftly slipping between her nether lips to find that hot swollen bud of flesh and stroke it.

She'd been ready since he entered her, needing only that one touch for ecstasy to blow through her, her body gripping his like a fist as she came. Sebastian moaned under her and pulled her down to his chest, a moment of disorientation and Solara felt the rug beneath her back. Her body was still trembling in aftershocks of her pleasure as Sebastian pulled her legs over his arms and drove into her, hard powerful strokes designed to bring them both to pleasure without mercy. "Come for me, a chroí," She looked up at him as he gasped, could see in his eyes that he was close, could feel her own orgasm ready to rush through her again. "A ghrá, let me feel you."

His words, those words always drove her mad, as if she had no control when Sebastian asked for her pleasure. Solara cried out, knew it was his name she screamed and felt her hips buck against his, driving him deeper. He groaned, a hot gasp of her name as her pleasure ignited his, and Solara felt his seed shooting inside her, feeling him deep in her womb.

Several long deep breaths later, the inevitability of her position made Solara chuckle, "I always seem to end up on my back with you love." She smiled up at him. "I think my prince is more... commanding than he likes to admit."

Sebastian laughed at her words. "I was hoping to slip that past you before it was noticed." His hands were gentle as he rolled her so she lay atop him again. "But I notice that you don't seem to mind it Champion...in fact..." His hand dipped between her thighs, stroking over her sensitive clit and making her tremble under his fingers. "When I tell you to come for me...you always do...could it be my Champion is a tiny bit...subservient?"

Any other time Solara might have been appalled at her giggle, "And I was hoping you would overlook that." A moan burst from her lips as Sebastian's fingers kept toying with her. "Are you trying to wear me out so I'll sleep or keep me from worrying?"

"A chuisle mo chroí," He sat up and kissed her ardently. "Would I do something so underhanded?"

Solara had never felt such joy after feeling such sorrow in one day. "I think you would do anything to ensure I rested." She brushed her lips over his, loving how he felt and tasted. "But if we're going to sleep, perhaps my bedroom would be better?"

"Wise words my love." His smile was wicked. "I just want to hear you scream my name a few times more before I let you sleep." She couldn't help but shudder with need at his wicked look and voice, kissing him again. Sebastian groaned into her mouth and gathered her into his arms, carrying her up to the bedroom. Solara spared a moment to thank the Maker for giving Sebastian the life he'd had. A rake was the most interesting kind of man, and a reformed rake was the best kind of rake; Sebastian definitely met both criteria.

Solara hated the butchery after battle. It was the worst sort of carnage, the bloodshed she had caused in many cases, and all of it required attention. Healing potions had to be distributed, bandages or poultices applied, the dead checked for precious belongings and letters. Knight Captain Cullen was a reluctant companion for those duties. To say he was displeased with his brethren was an understatement, but he never treated the dead with less than respect.

The mages were also taken back to the Circle, the few that had survived and hadn't practiced blood magic. And then Solara was finally free to talk with Bethany. Sebastian had made himself comfortable on a rock near Isabella and Varric, and Solara could see that her archer was deliberately taking his time cleaning his weapon in order to give her some privacy with her sister.

It was good to talk with Bethany, to hear how she was, that her sister was glad that Solara had come for her. Bethany didn't blame her for the kidnapping, for which Solara was grateful. And she seemed to have gotten past her anger at being made a Grey Warden. Bethany didn't seem completely happy with her Grey Warden status but she seemed resigned to it. Then her sisters brown eyes lit up and her stance changed slightly. Solara saw Sebastian had risen and was moving towards them. "Prince Sebastian Vael, may I introduce my sister, Bethany Hawke of the Grey Wardens." Solara tilted her head at Bethany. "Bethany, this is his Highness, Prince Sebastian Vael of Starkhaven."

Solara watched as Bethany smiled flirtatiously and Sebastian bowed politely over her sisters hand, murmuring his pleasure at the introduction. The brief kiss the archer bestowed on Bethany's knuckles meant nothing to Sebastian, though Bethany would take it as license to flirt further. Sure enough her little sister's smile tilted enticingly. "I remember you from outside the Chantry. 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 couldn't quite keep the edge out of her voice. Bethany loved to flirt and Sebastian was definitely worthy of attention but... Solara looked at Sebastian curious to hear how he'd handle Bethany.

He simply shrugged as if he were unaware of Bethany's flirting. "I am needed by the Grand Cleric for a while longer, but the preparations to retake my home are near completion." Solara met his eyes as they flickered over her. "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's smile and the way she tilted her head towards Solara set the older woman's teeth on edge. "What a shame you're not being fully utilized."

"Bethany." Suddenly Solara felt very much like an older sister and at the same time wanted to defend her territory. She knew Bethany was doing it on purpose, teasing her and flirting for the fun of it, but considering how few folk knew about she and Sebastian it wasn't as funny as Bethany meant it to be. "I wouldn't."

Sebastian must have also realized what Bethany was doing and that it was irritating her for he slid an arm around Solara's waist and kissed her temple tenderly. "I have no doubt that your sister knows how best to utilize my abilities and skills." His voice was mild but firm as he addressed Bethany. "Solara knows me very well after all."

Solara couldn't help but smile at him. It was such a relief at times that he knew her so well and reacted to what he saw on her face, and not only what she said. She didn't particularly care for public demonstrations of affection beyond a light touch or a gentle kiss and knew Sebastian felt the same way so his willingness to convey his affection in front of Bethany meant a great deal. Her smile tilted in amusement as Bethany's mouth fell open.

"I see." Bethany finally uttered a few words before her gaze slanted past Solara and Sebastian. "And I think they finally see as well."

Solara didn't groan as she and Sebastian turned as one to face their friends, but it was a near thing. Isabella's bawdy jokes were part of why she and Sebastian had kept their intimate relationship quiet. The pirate woman's expression didn't bode well for their future peace, though Varric had a pleased grin on his face. Solara wondered how long he'd seen this coming. "How long has this been going on?" The dwarf inquired, his tone jovial.

"Don't you mean, how long have they been fooling us?" Isabella gave an unladylike snort.

As Solara looked at him Sebastian bowed to their friends. "Varric, Isabella, may I introduce Solara Gráinne Hawke, my betrothed." The smile on his face was joyous and wicked both.

Well she couldn't let him outdo her. Solara wrapped an arm around his waist and gave Isabella and Varric a slight bow. "And may I present to you, Sebastian Vael, once and future prince of Starkhaven, my affianced."

Varric was blinking in excitement and Solara heard Bethany giggling behind her. "Once and Future Prince… what a great title…I'll have to use that."

She could feel Sebastian cringe next to her and had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing. "I told you," the archer grumbled under his breath, "I told you that blasted dwarf would seize upon that phrase like a Mabari after mutton."

Solara lost her composure at his words, her laughter mixing with Bethany's helpless giggles. She was aware of Sebastian's arm around her waist, supporting her in her mirth, and leaned against him. His lips pressed to her temple again and Solara sighed happily. At the moment, there was nothing on Thedas that she wanted, she felt so happy with her love and her sister and friends.

Solara was aware of Sebastian deep in thought as they returned to the villa. She hadn't tried to make conversation as she too had been considering the meeting they'd just attended. She hadn't mentioned to Sebastian beforehand who the meeting would be with so he'd been a touch surprised to see Knight Commander Meredith berating the king of Ferelden. Apparently King Alistair's efforts to go unremarked while in the Free Marches had been unsuccessful. Even though she'd gone immediately upon receiving the king's message Meredith had still beaten her to the keep.

King Alistair had spoken with her after Meredith had left but it was plain from his demeanor and conversation that the true purpose of his visit had been thwarted. Still he'd inquired politely as to her future plans, had seemed to understand her reluctance to return to Ferelden and introduced her to his uncle. He'd also dropped a few hints regarding Orlais, and the intentions of the Divine regarding the Free Marches. Solara slipped her hand into Sebastian's as they entered the villa. He seemed startled at first but smiled as she led him into the study.

"I think the storm is due to break soon." Solara pulled off her armor and sank down onto the couch, watching Sebastian remove his shiny white armor. Their friends loved to tease him about the armor, calling him a lacquered pilot whale, saying how reflective it was, suggesting that it was too shiny and drew fire, but Solara thought the armor suited him.

"I cannot disagree with you a chroí." Sebastian sat down beside her, his handsome face bearing a frown of dismay. "Meredith's behavior troubles me." Solara tugged off her boots and sat back in relief.

"I know." Solara couldn't help but sigh as Sebastian pulled her into his arms, arranging her so she was half in his lap. She could feel some of the tension leave his body as he wrapped his arms around her and let herself relax for a moment before continuing the conversation. It was growing increasingly rare that they had quiet moments like this. The nights seemed to grow shorter and the chaos of the city ever increasing, and it seemed nothing could be done without the Champion's help. "Do you see…why I cannot… why I feel I must help the mages?" She asked quietly.

"In a way, but I do not believe the fault is one sided." From his tone of voice Sebastian was choosing his words with care. "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." She indulged herself by tucking her head under his chin, listening to his heart as he spoke. So often in battle he was far away from her, it was hard for her to see that he was well. Hearing his heartbeat was the most reassuring sound in the world for her. "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." She felt him kiss the top of her head. "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 clearly had the same difficulty trying to determine how to deal with mages as everyone else in Kirkwall.

"Without succumbing to their own fears?" Solara offered her opinion. "We are all only people. And fear is an infectious condition."

"It is." He gently tilted her head back so he could look into her eyes. "I hope you know, I will follow you, wherever you lead."

Solara frowned, holding his dark blue gaze and considered him thoughtfully. This was no light thing he promised, "I will hold you to that Sebastian Vael, Prince of Starkhaven." Solara sighed, he was a prince and was promising to follow her, for there was no doubting the oath in his voice. With all her soul she hoped she would do nothing that would give him cause to break that promise. "And I pray with all my heart to Andraste and the Maker that it does not come to that."

"As do I, a chroí." Sebastian's lips captured hers in a gentle kiss that sent fire through her veins nonetheless. "Let us…retire love."

"Feeling the effects of the day my prince?" Solara teased as he began to rise.

"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." Sebastian's voice was solemn though he smiled.

Solara kissed him feeling the same way as they mounted the stairs. She was so grateful that Sebastian spent his nights here with her as often as he could. Elthina didn't often assign him duties that took Sebastian away from Solara at night and when she did it was always an urgent matter. It was funny to think the Grand Cleric conspiring to match make but according to Sebastian that's just what Elthina had done when she'd sent for Hawke to meet with Sister Nightingale.

She'd never seen anything so blatantly evil, not even the Darkspawn at Ostagar or in the Hawke family's flight from the Blight. For a moment it looked as if an evil beam had tried to reach the heavens before it enclosed the Chantry. A tornado of red light, the color of carnage, encompassed the Chantry and reduced it to nothing but dust and rubble and fire. The Chantry and everyone inside it...was destroyed...

Solara screamed. She couldn't stop screaming. Isabella and Varric were fighting her, why were they fighting? Sebastian was in there, was inside with Elthina, if she could get to him in time he might yet live. Her friends were strong, but still no real match for her, she was slowly gaining ground to the steps. She was so close, could feel the heat of the fire on her face...

Light and muscle collided with her, knocking her away from the steps, forcing her to the ground. Fenris straddled her, holding her down easily, his face set in a feral fury. "What are you doing?" He snarled down at her.

"Sebastian." Solara tried to buck Fenris off her, tried to squirm away, she had to get to the Chantry, Sebastian was with Elthina. "Fenris let me go...Sebastian!" She screamed again as Fenris held her to the cobblestones. She was vaguely unconcerned that tears were streaming down her face, that she'd lost all control of her emotions and actions.

"Aveline has Sebastian." Fenris' hands were like steel holding her down, the lyrium on his skin glowing with the effort. "He's with her," The elf took one hand from her arm and pointed towards the opposite side of the courtyard.

Solara sagged against the cobblestones, for a long moment dizzy with relief, and then became conscious of Varric sitting on her legs and Isabella holding her ankles. "All right." Her voice was hoarse from screaming and her throat felt raw with dust and fire.

"All right as in you won't run like a suicidal imbecile into the fires?" Varric asked, "Or, all right as in, I don't believe you and I'm humoring you and I'm going to make a run for it."

"Varric," Solara felt her voice break, not sure if it was from the fire or her fear. "Let me up before I go mad. I need to see him, touch..." Fenris, looking down into her eyes seemed reassured by something because he turned and gave the other two a look before they all climbed off her various body parts and Fenris helped her up.

Solara could see Sebastian now. Aveline holding him by the shoulders, his white armor smeared with dust and dirt, on one knee at the entrance to the courtyard. The remains of torment shadowed his face, his tanned skin bore streaks of moisture, tears through the dust that smeared his face. Solara ran, gasping in the hot air, and stumbled before she got her balance and threw herself into Sebastian's arms. "Sebastian."

Solara felt his arms come around her like a miracle; his hands pushing her hood back to touch her hair. His lips fused to hers, and she gasped into his mouth, returning his kiss with need born of fear. Sebastian was alive and breathing in her arms and that was all that mattered.

His mouth moved over her skin, touching her cheek, her forehead as he spoke, as if he couldn't bear to stop kissing her. "Solara...Maker help me...I thought you were speaking with Elthina..." He murmured. "I thought you were..."

"I thought you were in the Chantry with her." Solara finished, understanding flashing through her. Sebastian had received her note that she'd meet him at the Chantry and thought she'd been with Elthina when the Chantry was destroyed. That had been why Aveline had been holding him, why he'd been almost to his knees. Sebastian had believed her dead. It was a wonder they didn't make love in the courtyard in front of everyone, they were both been so relieved to see the other alive.

"Touching as this is, and pleased for the two of you as we all are, this is not the time." Fenris' growl was unfortunately correct and Solara sighed before she pulled her hood back up over her head and rose to her feet. She wrapped her hand around Sebastian's forearm helping him to stand and noticed that Aveline had finally let go of his shoulders.

Solara turned, her gaze following Fenris' sightline to see Orsino and Meredith at the other courtyard entrance. Of course they were arguing. Those two couldn't say good morning without having a fundamental disagreement. Shaking her head Solara began to move towards them, aware of her friends following her.

The voice that filled the air was dreadful, all the more terrible for being the voice of someone she'd called friend. As horrid as the sound of that voice was what it said was far worse. "Now there is no possibility of compromise." Solara felt more than a little sick as she saw Anders standing across the courtyard. If someone had thrust a knife into her liver she could not have been more surprised to assign this carnage to him. The wind from the sea blew in and capriciously erased the smoke and dust from the air, clearing the area so everything was painfully apparent.

Anders was still speaking and Solara felt her face and heart freeze. The mage was talking loudly of how he would die to prevent mages and Templars from reaching a compromise. Vaguely she was aware of Aveline touching Sebastian, and that Sebastian had been reaching for a dagger. Then Meredith proclaimed she was ordering the Rite of Annulment, she would cleanse the city of foul magic stone by stone. Orsino was protesting, nearly begging for Meredith to see reason, to let innocent mages live, kill any blood mage she found without mercy but let innocents live. And Meredith, of course, refused.

Solara had never seen anything go so wrong so quickly, not since the Qunari battles, as Anders began to spout his angry righteousness in response to Meredith's words. Ignoring the traitorous mage for a moment Solara attempted to reason with the Knight Commander. Clenching her hands into fists probably wasn't a sign of respect but even so, Meredith would hear nothing beyond 'mages must die' as a mantra. Solara felt like screaming as Orsino proclaimed the Knight Commander was lost to reason and that the mages would fight the Templars rather than meekly submit to death by Rite of Annulment.

And then Solara saw Anders smile. The same charming smile he'd always given her suddenly gave Solara the urge to gut him. She'd never felt so betrayed, not when her father died leaving her to take care of her family, not when Bartrand had abandoned them in the Deep Roads, not even when Bethany had left without a backward glance during the Qunari battles. A glance at Varric's appalled face told her that the dwarf, her oldest friend in Kirkwall, was just as shocked and hurt by what Anders had done as she. They had all trusted Anders, believed him when he'd said his potion would separate the spirit of Justice from his body. Anders had lied, that was painfully obviously clear. This carnage was what the mage had wanted; destruction and death for any who would compromise or work towards a middle ground where peace could be achieved. Anders had never wanted peace. He'd always considered war the only answer to the plight of Mages in Thedas.

Sebastian spoke then, his voice low and determined. "Hawke, he must die for what he's done."

Solara regarded her lover coolly and nodded an acknowledgement. "And the rest of you?" She asked the others in a quiet voice.

Solara listened as her friends offered their opinions. Merrill was a forgiving woman by nature but she couldn't understand why Anders had killed all those people. Varric's face twisted with pain and betrayal, his face mirror of Solara's own heart. Isabella was disgusted and angry, it was obvious she didn't see the point of this massacre. Fenris was as close to losing control as Solara had ever seen, Anders had manifested the elf's greatest fears. Aveline's expression was cold, controlled and containing her absolute fury at what Anders had done. Solara regarded Anders and took deep controlled breaths, concealing her fury over what the mage had done.

Sebastian's voice broke through her carefully maintained calm. "If he lives…Hawke I cannot… I will not..." His voice nearly broke and Solara stared at him with narrowed eyes, waiting for the ultimatum she suddenly knew was coming. "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."

Solara stared at her lover, at the man who'd promised to follow her only weeks ago, and wondered if he truly believed that she would ever let Anders live. His words were hurtful, but born of the same agony she had felt upon seeing the Chantry explode. Were their positions reversed she would have thrown the same demand at him. Elthina, a good kind woman who'd done her best to help Sebastian find his way, who turned a Mother over to the law rather than shield the woman from her crimes, who had worked towards peace for six years, had been murdered in cold blood. Her life and every other life in the Chantry cried out for blood.

Beyond that heartache, Anders had made her believe that Sebastian was dead, that everything she loved was lost. But Sebastian... That he could believe of her that she would allow Anders to escape unscathed. That she would let such a man live to do more harm went against everything she believed. She'd thought Sebastian knew her better than that. Perhaps it was his anger and his grief and the remains of the despair he'd felt when he believed her dead. Solara was conscious that her face had gone chilly and grim. Sebastian had better do or say something in apology when all this was done or he'd learn to his detriment how uncomfortable and cold his life and bed could be when she was wronged. Speaking of her hurt or her anger would avail her nothing right now, she simply held Sebastian's gaze in acknowledgement, "I understand." Solara 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." Anders babbled madly.

Solara felt her mask dissolve with her rage and disgust. Part of her, a sick twisted part, wanted him to suffer as Elthina had, he deserved torture. But Elthina wouldn't have wanted that, and Solara, quite practically, didn't have the time for it. Nor did she wish Sebastian to see her become so twisted with hate that she turned into a monster like the man before her. The Champion pulled out her dagger and thrust it into his back and up through his heart, aware that her voice was coming out in a snarl. "It's quicker than you deserve, you thrice be damned traitor."

Solara turned and looked at her friends, Anders' body at her feet, and let her gaze meet Sebastian's eyes. By the Maker if he argued with her on this she was going to start screaming at him like a fishwife. For a moment she wished she could bring Anders back and kill him again, for giving Sebastian cause to doubt her loyalties. "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."

As she watched Sebastian's lips curved into a small smile and he moved forward slightly so he faced her directly, and bent to one knee. The words he spoke were solemn and fervent and filled with conviction as he stared up into her eyes. "In this Champion I am your man, whatever befalls, if you will have me I will follow you anywhere." Solara mentally uttered a fervent prayer to the Maker that she didn't weep at the look in his eyes. If his gorgeous blue eyes had been unyielding and furious when he'd issued his ultimatum, now they were filled with tenderness and loyalty and made her breath catch in her throat.

"A chroí," Solara murmured the endearment he'd called her so often, the only way she could let him know his earlier anger and lack of faith were forgiven, her mother had always said, love forgives flaws and foolishness. "Aye, I'll have you and the Maker help you." She took his hand and pulled him to his feet and for a bare moment their eyes met. Solara felt her breathing ease as Sebastian looked at her. They would be all right. They might argue about this later, and she could tell him how hurtful he'd been, and he could say he'd been an idiot or make excuses or just apologize for being so lost to anger, but she and Sebastian would be all right. That was assuming they both lived through this coming battle.

The moment was cut abruptly short as Solara heard Aveline speak. "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."

Solara compressed her lips to keep them from twitching into an entirely inappropriate grin as she turned to regard the rest of her companions. "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." Solara made a face and led them towards the Gallows.

Solara had thought after her father's death she'd never see anything worse. Then when a Qunari had murdered an entire family in Lothering she'd thought the same. At Ostagar she'd revised her thinking again and yet again upon fleeing from the Darkspawn to Kirkwall. And as bad as the Qunari battle had been, it could have been far worse. The Qunari had been an outside force, for all that they had lived within Kirkwall, the Qunari had been in the city but not of it. This…the battle that raged through every street and square, turning courtyards into battlefields, this was civil war, citizen against citizen, mage against Templar, and this was by far the worst thing she'd seen in her life. This was what Ferelden would have been before King Alistair had taken the throne and united the kingdom with the Landsmeet. Solara took a moment to pray she never saw anything to exceed Kirkwall in quality of horribleness.

Solara wasn't certain she was pleased to see Bethany. It was always wonderful to see her sister but lately the visits hadn't been under the best of circumstances. She'd tried to tell Bethany that it wasn't safe in the city. Bethany, her tone matching Solara's most sarcastic drawl, had said that the lack of safety was pretty much the point of her arrival. She wasn't going to sit by safely while mages fought for their lives. She hadn't even bothered to get permission from the Grey Wardens, she'd just decided to come to Kirkwall. Solara just hoped that her little sister would survive the city. Kirkwall wasn't known as a city full of fun times on the best of days and this certainly was not the best day.

Of course Bethany had managed to worm out of Aveline the reason the city guard wasn't out in force. Aveline had simply told the young mage that Donnic was supervising the guard in protecting citizens, and that the guard had orders to keep out of the mage and templar battles. Solara slanted a look at Sebastian and saw that he seemed fairly pleased by this news as well. She had to admit, not fighting or worrying about the guard being involved was a relief.

Getting into the Gallows wasn't as difficult as Solara had feared. Once they were through the gates Meredith met them and gave them a half an hour to prepare. Orsino seemed surprised but Solara was grateful for whatever time they could have. She spoke with her friends in that time, waiting until she'd talked with everyone else before speaking with Sebastian. Truthfully she could barely remember what she'd said to the others. They were her friends, would always be her friends, but Sebastian was her heart and the rest of her life. With luck and skill that life would be a long one to spend with him. She took his hands in hers and felt at a loss for words. "What can I possibly say to you to tell how…grateful I am, for you in my life a chroí?" Solara whispered. "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," Solara's breath caught as Sebastian raised her hands to his lips, pressing gentle kisses to her bruised knuckles. "Never have I found life to be so confusing and wonderful, as when you are in it." His dark blue eyes flicked over to Orsino and their companions before gazing at her determinedly. "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."

Solara smiled teasingly, trying to lighten both their moods. "Well, the Champion's dignity can stand a bit of kissing. So long as—"

She never finished the sentence, Sebastian pulled her forward, his mouth hot on hers, kissing her as if he feared he would never do so again. Solara couldn't help kissing him back, all her hope for a life, a future with him rushing through her as she wrapped her arms around him. "A ghrá, a chroí, a chuisle mo chroí," Sebastian murmured against her lips. "You are in my heart forever. Ón saol seo go dtí an saol eile."

"You've used new words a chroí." Solara smiled and wondered if he knew what his voice in that other language did to her, how it filled her with need to hear his voice for the rest of her life, tempting her to forget every other demand on her honor.

"From this life to the next," He told her before kissing her again, hard as a brand on her mouth and just as possessive. "Now I think Orsino wants a word."

Unfortunately Sebastian was right. Orsino thanked her for her aid and advised her to determine a plan of action. Solara looked around and considered her options. Sebastian wasn't going to like her plan but it was the best use of the talents she had available to her. The fact that it would ease her mind in regards to his safety was besides the point. She began to explain her plan to her friends and saw the gathering darkness on Sebastian's face as he realized what she had in mind.

"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." Solara met Sebastian's gaze and kept her face neutral. "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—" Her name on his lips was as good as an impassioned argument.

"Sebastian Vael you swore you would follow my commands." Solara stared at her love and refused to be swayed. "Are you forswearing yourself now?"

"I am not, Champion." Sebastian was clenching his jaw, she could see it.

"Then you have your orders." She began to turn but Sebastian caught her arm and pulled 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." Solara blinked as Sebastian began cursing in language that would make a soldier blush.

"I could have sworn he didn't even know those words existed let alone what they meant." Isabella muttered to Varric, her voice deliberately loud enough for the couple to hear.

Solara intentionally ignored Isabella and gave Sebastian a wink and a nod. "Same goes for you, a ghrá." She could only hope he understood that she would never leave him, not while there was breath in her body.

Solara had to put her fears for Sebastian and her friends out of her mind. The battle that followed consumed every thought and instinct and couldn't be described. Thankfully Cullen and a few of his like minded Templars had sided with the Champion of Kirkwall but it was still a struggle. And then Meredith had brandished her suddenly, wretchedly, familiar sword. Varric's exclamation echoed her own recognition. Meredith had been the woman who'd bought the idol from Bartrand. That Meredith was insane wasn't exactly town crier news, but that she was possessed by the idol certainly explained a lot. And then Meredith attacked, flew around, animated the statues and everything went to the seventh level of hell.

Solara was staring at Meredith's suddenly statue-like body frozen before her when Cullen came running up, a troupe of Templars behind him. His shocked look quickly turned into one of blame and Solara was fairly glad she hadn't put away her daggers. She stared at Cullen, fury filling her over the nightmare her life in Kirkwall had been. She knew her posture was a picture of menace and her reputation one for no mercy in combat. Cullen backed down and his Templars with him. Solara jerked her head at Varric and the others, and they all backed out of the central courtyard. Sebastian and Merrill caught up with them in a corridor on the way out. Solara had never been so grateful to see someone in her life.

"I take it that this could have ended better." Sebastian asked as Solara led them at a run back to the docks at the Gallows entrance.

Solara just felt irritated and a little sad at how things had ended. "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 and Isabella began working on the ropes holding them to the dock, motioning for everyone else to board the skiff.

"I take it Cullen did not see reason, from what little I saw of the end." Sebastian remarked as he began to distribute healing potions and bandages making sure Fenris and Varric weren't shy about quaffing the potions.

"To be fair it was a lot to take in." Varric added after he'd drunk 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. You think I'd leave my ship at Kirkwall's docks?" Solara sat in the bow of the ship, too exhausted to even smile at Isabella's reasoning.

"Hawke, what should we do?" Bethany asked softly. Solara didn't know, it seemed strange that even her sister called her Hawke, like being the leader was all that she was. And now, with the Chantry in ashes, with the Circle destroyed, Orsino in league, or at least aware of the mage who'd murdered her mother, and now dead, the Templars ready to arrest all of them or worse...she didn't know what to do.

Sebastian crouched down beside her, his face concerned, his hand touched her knee to gain her attention. "A chroí, are you all right?"

"The last thing I promised Elthina was that I'd help you retake Starkhaven." Solara whispered to him. "I know we all have to run, but I want to keep that promise. How can I if we're hunted?" It was the one promise she hadn't kept, the one she most desperately wanted to keep.

He just smiled at her. "For certain you're not born to a crown Solara. It's getting on the throne that's hard, keeping it is just politics." Sebastian sat beside her and took her hand in his. "If our friends will help, we can retake my city. And it could be a refuge for us all, in this troubled time."

Solara tried to smile. "I just didn't want to bring more trouble than I'm worth." How could she go to Starkhaven if she brought the weight of the Templars with her. "Won't the Templars try to stop us?"

To her relief, Sebastian simply took a deep breath and began issuing orders. The man who so easily took the lead when it came to their personal lives seemed to emerge. "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 to the rest of the group, still speaking. "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 Solara didn't countermand Sebastian the pirate smiled. "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 told them.

There was a slightly delayed chorus of agreement and as the skiff met the docks the group split up. Solara met Bethany's eyes as her sister smiled and told her. "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."

Solara hugged Aveline tightly but kept it short. "I understand." Aveline had once remarked that she'd never been so happy as when she was with Donnic; Solara would never ask her to leave him.

Sebastian's hands rested on her shoulders as he spoke. "Lets get what we can from your villa, and make sure Bodahn and Sandal are safe. Then we'll be on our way."

Solara regarded him curiously. "Why haven't you taken charge of all of us before this Sebastian? You were obviously capable of it all along."

Sebastian just grinned at her. "It wasn't my time yet. Now it is and my Lady Champion had best obey my orders as I did hers."

"You know I'll do my best…but I never did follow orders well." Solara replied drily.

He laughed, "Somehow I knew you would say that my love." And in spite of everything, knowing they had a future together, Solara had never been happier.


Gaelic Translations

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 chroí – 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)

Tá ghrá agam duit – I love you - Pronunciation (tah graw ugum ditch)