Author's note: This is part of the same series as the rest of my Hawke and Sebastian stories. In one of the other stories Solara Hawke makes a remark about disliking displays of public affection. I wanted to show why she felt that way and also a little bit more of her friends and Sebastian as they all discuss what's going on with Hawke and in some cases plot to resolve whatever has gone wrong between she and Sebastian. I'd really like some reviews of this as I think the writing is solid but I'm curious about reactions people have to Solara's behavior. My thought was its been three years since she's really let herself talk to Sebastian as a friend. Since I've always written Solara as considering Sebastian her closest friend, someone with whom she can be herself three years is a long time to go without that outlet, and the public mask of the Champion might be cracking a bit under the strain. Please let me know what you think.
Oh, and ten points the the first person who picks up the Serenity reference. :-) Happy hunting.
Not For Public Exhibition
Solara Hawke, Champion of Kirkwall rolled her eyes for the third time as she and her companions walked down the street. It was spring and there were young couples everywhere, girls holding flowers, boys holding delicate scrolls of handwritten verse. Varric finally capitulated to his innate curiosity and asked the question that had been on his mind since Hawke had first started to display her displeasure.
"What's wrong Champion? Young love getting on your nerves?" The dwarf wondered.
Hawke turned and bright blue eyes aimed a dark look at him. "Varric, I don't have anything against love, young or otherwise." She shook her head. "Its the... the ones who insist on kissing as if they should be horizontal."
"You don't approve of kissing Hawke?" Isabella drawled. "That's disappointing."
Varric regarded Hawke and then slanted a glance at the silent archer walking slightly behind them. This was one of the few times in the last three years that Hawke had requested Choir Boy join them for a bit of work. Varric had been surprised both he and Sebastian were included in the 'outing' as he'd taken to calling their jaunts up and down the Wounded Coast. Hawke had been avoiding Sebastian Vael since she'd been named Champion. Varric had yet to figure out why as neither Hawke or Sebastian would discuss it.
Sebastian, Varric was interested to see, was paying close attention to the conversation though he was not contributing to it. The archer's dark blue eyes were fixed on Hawke's form as it moved ahead of him.
"Its not that I don't approve of kissing Isabella," Hawke's voice was dry and tinged with humor. "I've even practiced the custom on rare occasions; its the public displays I don't understand."
"Sometimes people can't help themselves Hawke." Varric told her with a chuckle. "I'm referring here to people."
Hawke pursed her lips and made a raspberry noise. "A brief kiss, even a passionate one in the heat of the moment, or out of genuine affection is one thing." She gestured at a seemingly oblivious couple near the stairs to a house. "But standing in the same spot for hours, kissing each other in full view of the entire square is just...ridiculous."
Isabella laughed. "You mean to say your parents never kissed each other in front of other people?"
Hawke's bright blue gaze speared Isabella. "Of course they did. But my parents felt that kisses that spoke of intent to bed each other were something to be kept private."
Varric chuckled. "Sounds like a couple of people with iron control."
Hawke shook her head, exasperated. "You make them sound like...prudes." She told him. "They were affectionate, loving even, but it wasn't necessary to display it like that," she gestured in the direction of the kissing couple, "in order to show their love." She halted in her tracks and turned to look at them. "I know it might sound ridiculous, but if two people truly love each other..." She hesitated as if she had just realized what she was saying. "Never mind."
Isabella frowned. "I wanted to hear this." She objected.
"I'll tell you when you're older Rivaini." Varric grinned at the pirate.
"I'll talk to you all later, all right?" Hawke gave them all an equally distracted smile and hurried away towards Hightown.
"What was that all about?" Isabella threw her hands up in confusion.
"At a guess, I'd say Hawke finds public displays of affection so blatant distasteful." Sebastian offered in his deliberate voice.
"I got that." Isabella flapped a hand at him, irritation written in every line of her body. "But...why?"
Sebastian smiled slightly. "Maybe she doesn't like insincere displays of affection," the archer suggested.
"Hawke does really dislike hypocrites." Varric mused. "And there's nothing worse than people who kiss like they mean everything to each other when it means nothing."
Isabella frowned. "I still think it sounds prudish."
"Hawke is hardly a prude Rivaini." Varric objected in a mild voice.
"Well she can't have a very high opinion of me can she? If she thinks kissing in public is bad." Isabella sounded as if she was pouting almost.
Varric shook his head and would have spoken but Sebastian beat him to it. "She cares for you a great deal Isabella." The exiled prince said quietly. "I don't believe she judges you for your actions or the way you choose to lead your life."
"Says the man who's lived in the Chantry for fifteen solid years and hasn't done anything wrong, ever, in his life." Isabella sniffed pointedly.
"I have done plenty wrong." Sebastian's voice was implacable. "But we weren't talking about me."
"Rivaini, I don't think Hawke finds seeing people kissing offensive." Varric tried to explain. "Its more people who make a deliberate display of it. Like finding the most public spot to do their embracing."
"It still feels like I'm the one who comes out of this looking bad." Isabella was only slightly mollified.
"If Hawke hurt your feelings then tell her." Sebastian suggested firmly. "I guarantee you she meant no such thing. She would apologize did she know you felt hurt by her words."
Varric nodded, seconding Sebastian's words. "Choir Boy is right Rivaini; you know Hawke was worried sick when you were gone. She was at the Hanged Man at least twice a week if not more checking to see if you'd come back or if I'd heard from you. Last thing she'd want would be to insult you."
Isabella looked at the two of them. "Well, when the two of you agree then it must be the truth." She remarked with a wry twist of her lips. "Come on, I'll buy you two a drink."
Sebastian smiled, genuinely for the first time that day. "Thank you Isabella, but I have been away from the Chantry too long. Another time I hope?" He gave a slight bow. "Perhaps you'll honor me with a game of Wicked Grace in a day or two."
"You'll lose." Isabella warned him with a grin. Sebastian merely smiled and gave her a salute with his fingertips to his temple before nodding to Varric and turning in the direction of Hightown.
"What is going on with those two?" Isabella wondered. "Have they been like this since I left?"
Varric shook his head. "Worse Rivaini, worse. This is one of the only times she's brought him with on one of her outings." He jerked his head towards the Hanged Man. "Come on have a drink and I'll tell you about it."
Sebastian frowned as he walked towards the Chantry and changed direction heading towards the Keep. Aveline and he weren't terribly close but he felt like talking to the Guard Captain. She and Solara were friends and talking to Aveline sometimes made him feel like he still was able to talk with Solara. Solara was still not speaking to him beyond the absolutely necessary talk when they worked together, if they worked together at all.
At least working with her had been enjoyable in a strange, fighting bandits and getting covered in blood sort of way, the archer half smiled as he entered the Keep. He'd been bringing up the rear of the group, ostensibly to watch their backs, but also it kept Solara from having to talk with him directly. Much as he missed talking to Solara if she wasn't going to speak to him at least he'd had the enjoyment of walking directly behind her and watching her hips and legs move. Of course, that led to thoughts of what he'd like to do to her in the privacy of her room on the bed he knew was big enough for the two of them. Those thoughts only gave him uncomfortably heated blood and the need to grab Solara and carry her off.
Sebastian sighed as he rounded the corner and trotted down the steps that led to the Guard quarters and Aveline's office. The door wasn't closed but Aveline was busy, Solara's voice floated through the air to Sebastian's ears. The archer grinned, if he waited outside Aveline's office until Solara came out she'd have to talk to him, possibly. He shook his head, rethinking his spontaneous plan, she also might get upset thinking he'd been eavesdropping. Sebastian pushed a hand through his hair mussing it and wondering if he should just turn around and leave. And then the Maker tempted him...
"I know I shouldn't get so annoyed about it Aveline, especially at this time of year." Solara was telling her friend, "But honestly? Everywhere I looked today were all these men and women making out. I was seriously starting to wonder if someone decided to stage one of those pranks Isabella is always on about."
Aveline's voice was slightly bemused. "Hawke I still don't quite understand why this is such an issue for you? People act like fools all the time and you've never let it bother you before. You mock them and move on."
Solara sighed heavily enough that Sebastian could hear her from his position outside Aveline's door. "Part of it is...just being able to see that more than half of them aren't in love; they're posing."
Aveline snorted. "And? So what?"
"And it bothers me, physical love hasn't ever been something I took lightly Aveline," Solara snapped. "The two men I've been with, in my life, I truly...well I wasn't in love but I thought I was, and I thought they loved me." Sebastian felt his chest tighten at the blatant hurt in her voice. "They didn't. All they wanted was my body in their bed, to display me like those couples were doing today."
"So you find public displays of overt affection distasteful because you've had men kiss you like that and knew they only meant it as...what a mark of possession?" Aveline voice was slow and measured as if she were considering her words carefully.
"That's a huge part of it." Solara agreed. "If someone ever kissed me in public, like that, I wouldn't mind if I knew that person truly loved me, just needed to kiss me at that moment, felt like he had to show me how much I meant to him." Sebastian could almost hear Solara shrug. "I adore Isabella, she's a better person than she pretends to be, but I'm not like her. I can't consider my body to be an instrument to be played whenever the whim strikes. If my heart isn't involved...what's the point of it all?"
Sebastian smiled to himself, in his youth he'd been similar to Isabella, chasing pleasure like a child chasing butterflies. He'd had his heart engaged and broken and never realized until meeting Solara Hawke just how trivial those affections had been. To be with her, to love her physically as he loved her in his heart would eclipse every other encounter he'd had in his life. The Maker had truly chosen well for him, what he'd taken years in the Chantry to learn, Solara understood instinctively. Physical love was a gift from the Maker to those who loved truly. Without that it was empty words and physical lust.
Aveline's voice recalled him to his surroundings. "I understand that Hawke, I even agree with it to a point." She moved then, Sebastian could hear her armor creak. "What was the other part of why it bothers you?"
"The other part?" Solara sounded confused.
"Yes, you said that lack of obvious love was a huge part of it, or words to that effect, so what's the other part of why it bothers you?" Aveline obviously wasn't going to let the issue go.
"Jealousy." Solara bit the word out as if it tasted bad.
"You? Jealous?" Aveline sounded as shocked as Sebastian was.
"Because at least they have the illusion." Solara's voice was sad. "Its been... a very long time since I've had even the illusion that someone looks and me and sees a woman."
"You can't tell me you don't get a dozen admirers a week sending flowers or invitations or wanting you on their arm in some way." Aveline retorted as Sebastian ground his teeth at the thought.
"Oh the Champion is in high demand socially." Solara's voice held a bitter note. "And it wouldn't matter to them if I was the ugliest woman in the Free Marches."
"You've had men tell you that you're beautiful Hawke." Aveline sounded slightly impatient.
"No, I've had them tell the Champion that." Solara retorted. "None of them even know my first name. None of them care to. And they certainly don't care about what I might need or want. All they care about, all anyone has cared about since I got to Kirkwall is what I can do for them." She sounded, to Sebastian's ears, angry and sad at the same time. "There was one person who never asked anything of me and I screwed that up beyond repair."
Sebastian blinked and prayed to the Maker she meant him, but at the same time was baffled, how did she think she'd broken their friendship? Aveline's voice was puzzled as well. "Hawke, there are people who see you as something beyond the Champion."
"I know that you and Varric and the others are my friends and you care about me Aveline." Solara sounded tired. "That's not what I meant."
"Then what did you mean Hawke?" Aveline's tone was a bit gentler as if she could hear the pain in her friend's voice beneath the exhaustion.
"When you were...not with Donnic, did you ever see those couples around you and feel like you would never have that again? That there was no hope he'd ever see you the way you needed?" Solara's voice was low and Sebastian had to strain to hear it.
Aveline made an affirmative noise in her throat. "When I lost Wesley, I thought I'd never find someone who loved me like that again." She paused as she always did when she spoke of the Templar before she continued. "When I fell in love with Donnic I didn't think there was a chance he'd see me as anything beyond his Captain. And then he did, thanks to your help."
Sebastian looked up to see Aveline's husband coming down the stairs towards his wife's office and held up a hand to hold Donnic off. "Wait a moment, she's with Hawke." The archer murmured. To his credit Donnic simply took up a position opposite Sebastian and regarded the archer curiously.
Solara didn't say anything for a long moment and then Sebastian heard her voice. "Well imagine that feeling of knowing you haven't got a chance with the man you love...and take away any hope for it in the future." She said her voice bleak in Sebastian's ears. "That he'll never see you as anything other than a friend. That if you say anything about your feelings you'd be hurting him beyond repair, damaging everything you value in him." She took a deep breath. "And then think about working with him day in and day out for the rest of your life with all those feelings inside you."
"Hawke..." Aveline's voice was concerned.
"Imagine not being able to talk about it to anybody because no one else ever listened to you or paid attention the way he did." Solara's voice sounded as if it held tears and Sebastian clenched his hands into fists with the effort of remaining where he was and not comforting her. "The only respite you have is if you avoid him, but not seeing him is almost worse than seeing him. Imagine he has no idea how you feel, would pity you and try to comfort you if he knew." She took a breath that was almost a sob. "So you keep everything inside until you feel like you'll scream if you see another set of lovers parodying everything you're denied. And then tell me its ridiculous to feel jealous of them for having even a shadow of what you want."
"Hawke, why haven't you talked to me before this?" Aveline asked quietly as Sebastian nearly thumped his head against the wall in frustration. "I know I'm busy but you know I'd make time for you."
"Maker Aveline!" Hawke's voice was rampant with frustration. "Haven't you got enough on your plate? I shouldn't have dumped all this on you now, let alone when it all started."
"Aren't I here for that?" Aveline snapped back. "You helped me, 'friends push' you said, and Donnic..." Her voice softened over her husband's name. "And I got a miracle and Donnic loved me. Don't you think I want that for you? Don't you think I believe you deserve someone in your life just for you?"
"Ah Aveline, I know you believe that, or you wouldn't tolerate all of my shenanigans." Solara's voice was ruefully amused. "But it isn't a matter of getting me in the same location as someone and giving me a chance to talk to him. You can't change who someone is or their aim in life in order to..."
"In order to get this person to fall in love with you." Aveline sighed. "Damn Hawke, you never do things the easy way do you?"
"If I did, I probably would be dead by now," Solara retorted. "My entire life has been doing things the hard way, why would I stop now?"
"Maker help us." Aveline muttered. "Will you at least promise me that if there's anything I can do you'll come to me? I'm not...well you know what I'm not. But if I can ever help you with this you know I will. I'd even arrest the fellow if you like."
That got Solara laughing, music to Sebastian's ears, even though he could hear the pain underneath it. "I must be a sorry case if you're offering to do that."
"Well, lets say I've never seen you like this Hawke, you're... you're worrying me." Aveline finally admitted what had clearly been on her mind all along.
"Its all right Aveline, no one ever died from unrequited love." Solara's voice was dry, her sarcastic personality at the forefront once again.
"No, but they can take stupid chances and get themselves killed." Aveline retorted.
"I won't." Solara moved then and Sebastian held a finger to his lips as he looked at Donnic. The guard grinned as Sebastian moved like lightening to the top of the stairs and turned as if he was just coming down. Solara came out the door as Sebastian reached the last three steps and looked at the two of them in surprise. "Donnic, Sebastian, sorry, I didn't know you were waiting on Aveline."
Donnic gave the Champion an easy grin. "Just got here so it wasn't much of a wait." The guard tipped a salute at her and entered Aveline's office, shutting the door behind him.
Sebastian regarded Solara with concern. The mask she'd worn in public was back on her face, and that saddened him, in the past she wouldn't have hidden from him like that. "Hawke," he greeted her. "I'd hoped to speak with Aveline but obviously she's busy."
"She'll probably be little while but if its Chantry business I'm sure she won't mind if you want to wait." Solara offered him a polite smile and Sebastian wanted to pound his fist into the wall in frustration.
"It wasn't anything important." He said with a smile. "I wouldn't want to bother her, I know she and Donnic rarely have time to themselves anymore."
"Well, I've got to get going." Solara gave him a falsely bright smile and darted past him, practically running up the stairs.
Sebastian sighed. "I am going to get the woman alone and talking to me if it kills me." He muttered turning to leave himself.
Sebastian looked at Aveline and then at Anders and Solara. When Solara had come to ask if he would accompany her, Aveline and Anders to the Bone Pit he'd, of course, agreed. Anders had come up with a way to separate himself from Justice, a cause Sebastian could only approve of. Even Aveline had agreed to help. So to the Bone Pit they went to collect ingredients for the potion. Unfortunately at the Bone Pit they'd found, in addition to the ingredients Anders needed, a very large, very irate dragon.
Sebastian had done everything possible to keep Solara from getting hurt and it had worked, to an extent. Sebastian's mouth quirked into a wry grin. Nothing he planned ever worked perfectly around Solara, the woman was too unpredictable. But her injuries were minor and Aveline was patching her up. Anders was regarding the two women with a strange expression on his face and as soon as Aveline left Solara alone, the mage hurried up to speak to the Champion.
Sebastian's smile faded as he watched Anders with Solara. The mage was acting a bit oddly to his thinking...Sebastian tilted his head, his scalp crawling. Something wasn't right about Anders and the way he was looking at Solara...
Sebastian wiped the last of the grime of his bow and restrung it, holding it at his side as if he was simply prepared for another attack. Aveline moved beside him and regarded the way he held his bow and his stance with a practiced eye. "I see you're taking no chances." She murmured quietly. "So I'm not the only one."
Sebastian shook his head, his voice very low. "He...treats her as if he owns her Aveline." His other hand was clenched in a fist, he realized, and had to fight to relax his fingers. "They aren't..." he couldn't say it and risked darting a quick glance at the Guard Captain. "Are they? That he treats her so?"
Aveline shook her head. "No." She murmured back. "Hawke likes him, finds him charming I think, but they way he acts is all on him. She's never encouraged it."
Sebastian let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "In a way, that's even more frightening, considering what I see before us."
Aveline looked at him thoughtfully. "I agree...but if he manages to separate himself from Justice, perhaps we'll finally meet the real Anders."
"To be devoutly hoped." Sebastian agreed, finally able to put his bow away as Anders moved away from Solara.
"I don't know what's going on between you and Hawke," Aveline muttered, "but find a way to fix it would you? I can't be with her every time she goes out and neither can Varric. It used to be we could count on you but..."
"I know." He said grimly. "But Hawke has been avoiding me." He looked at Aveline. "I promise you, one way or the other, I won't let this go on much longer." He glanced at Hawke who was cleaning her daggers. "Can I count on your help if I need it?"
"When or where do you want me to tie her up?" Aveline quipped.
Sebastian chuckled. "I've an idea but if it comes to that I'll most definitely let you know. I thank you Aveline."
"She's my friend, and without revealing any confidences I know she's not happy." Aveline said quietly. "Varric noticed it too, but we haven't been able to do anything."
"I know you and I aren't close." Sebastian told her. "But we both care about her."
"Why do you think I talk to you?" Aveline sent him a grin before she moved off to speak to Hawke. "So are we going back to Kirkwall or were you going to set up house here?" She asked the Champion, startling a laugh out of Hawke.
Sebastian watched the two women and smiled. Hawke was good at hiding but he was far more patient than she was and he would find out what was wrong between the two of them.
Sebastian waited patiently while Elthina spoke with one of the younger Mothers. The Grand Cleric of Kirkwall had a great deal to do and though her staff did their best, there were decisions only the Grand Cleric could make.
Finally Elthina had time for him and Sebastian smiled as she beckoned him forward. "Sebastian." She tilted her head. "Still with us I see. How are your preparations coming?"
"I am confident that with a bit of help I may be able to take back Starkhaven with a minimum of fuss or difficulty." Sebastian smiled. "But if I cannot convince Hawke to accompany me I fear the victory will be hollow."
"Then you are still having difficulties." Elthina surmised. "This has not changed your mind yet again, or altered your feelings?"
"I appreciate that you feel you must ask your Grace," Sebastian have her a half bow. "But my feelings for Solara have not changed in the six years that I've known her. They have only strengthened." He smiled. "If I cannot have her as my wife then I will not marry. I will rule Starkhaven alone and make my cousin's children my heirs, after I find him an extremely intelligent wife."
Elthina smiled. "I appreciate your candor Sebastian." She gestured to a chair and took a seat across from him. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Actually your Grace there may be." Sebastian hoped Elthina would agree with his plan. "You mentioned earlier your intention to ask Hawke to speak with the Divine's agent. Is that still your intention?"
"It is." Elthina nodded. "The Champion is the most powerful advocate Kirkwall has right now. She should be heard."
"I would like to accompany her when Hawke speaks to the agent." Sebastian said quietly, careful to keep his voice even and calm.
"And how will that aid your plans?" Elthina wondered.
"Hawke avoids me unless she is forced into my company. Avoids speech with me unless it is of trivialities." Sebastian explained. "If I accompany her to speak with this agent of the Divine, then she will most certainly have to speak with me regarding preparations and after the meeting is over when making her report to you."
"You hope that if you are in her company enough you will learn why she has begun avoiding you." Elthina surmised. "And if your plan is unsuccessful? What will you do then Sebastian?"
Sebastian sighed. "I may be required to enlist the aid of the Guard Captain." When Elthina merely regarded him patiently, Sebastian elaborated, "Aveline offered to lock Hawke up so that I might speak with her."
"Very well Sebastian." Elthina's eyes twinkled at him. "I will insist that you accompany the Champion on her mission for me." She smiled. "You will have several days to prepare as the agent is not expected until weeks end."
"I cannot thank you enough Elthina," Sebastian smiled. "And I must offer my continued gratitude for allowing me to lodge in the Chantry while I prepare for my return to Starkhaven."
"Well, I have only one thing to request of you in exchange for our continued hospitality Sebastian." Elthina smiled.
"If it is within my power your Grace." Sebastian inclined his head.
"I should like to be the one to perform your marriage ceremony." Elthina's smile spread widely as Sebastian regarded her in astonishment. "Come, you have been part of my life for fifteen years Sebastian, I consider it my right and privilege to send you into the next part of your life."
Sebastian smiled and nodded. "I cannot promise that without first speaking with Solara." He said quietly. "But if she agrees, or leaves the decision to me, you shall be the one to marry us."
"That is all I ask." Elthina smiled. "Now if you will excuse me."
"Of course your Grace." Sebastian rose and left the Grand Cleric's presence, hoping that soon he would be able to finally speak with Solara about his feelings.
Solara took a deep breath and entered the Chantry. She'd stood in the shadows and watched until Sebastian had left, his tall proud form striding away on some errand. She'd gone to the Chantry many times in the past three years, finding peace and comfort in the walls and Chant even if the words were not spoken by the one voice she longed to hear. But today she was here for a different purpose.
Solara walked quietly into the Chantry and took a seat on the steps leading up to the confessionals. There were several people in line ahead of her but she had nothing but time unless Sebastian came back unexpectedly.
Finally it was her turn and she entered the cabinet and took a seat on the bench. The Mother on the other side of the screen took a deep breath and began the Chant of Absolution. When the ritual was completed the question came. "Child how have you failed in the Maker's eyes? What sin have you committed?"
Solara sighed. "I have killed, those who would kill me." She said quietly. "I have killed those who would harm others, in order to protect the city I call home."
"Do you regret these actions Child?" The voice of the Mother asked gently.
"I regret that I was not able to stop them before they harmed others." Solara said softly. "I regret the need to kill. But what I did made the city safer. Perhaps it is my pride that is the sin."
The Mother chuckled. "Perhaps, but perhaps this is not what brings you here child. What is in your heart that you feel you must confess? If it is not your intention to change your ways, confession is useless to you. But something drives you here time and again."
Solara took a deep shuddering breath. "I am drawn to a man." She said finally. 'A man I cannot have, must never have."
"Drawn to," the Mother said sharply, "You lust after a man who is wed to another?"
Solara laughed a bit sadly. "I can't ever admit it, to him, to my friends...they wouldn't understand...and him." She sighed. "He is happy in the life he has chosen. Happy without my heart in his hands." She looked toward the screen wondering if the Mother could see the torment she lived with. "He is married to Andraste, he lives in the Chantry."
"Then you have not acted on this lust." The Mother seemed relieved. "You deny yourself his companionship?"
"I love him...so I cannot be with him in the way I want." Solara confessed. "Even when, when I had opportunity, I did nothing to deliberately tempt him."
"Then you are doing all you can to move beyond this Child?" The Mother asked implacably. "You have sworn to avoid his company, to never tempt him from his path?"
"Now and then, we work together, but I have avoided situations in which I might be tempted to deepen the friendship we have." Solara explained. "I think I have damaged my friendship with him, which is a pity because he is a good friend to me and I tried to be to him. But it grew too hard for me to remember that was all we were."
"Did he tempt you deliberately?" The question was sharp.
"Not in the way you mean," Solara denied. "He tempted me by caring for me, for giving me what I needed in a time of great sorrow. He didn't try to use my presence or affection to betray his vows." She took a deep breath. "He is a man of great honor, the most honorable I have ever known, and has only ever sought to be a friend to me. It is my shame that I fell in love with a man who will never return my feelings. It is my shame that each time I am with him I am tempted. Mine alone that his heart and mind and form make me wish he were mine."
The Mother's voice was gentle. "There is no sin in love my child. Only in trying to take the choice from someone else."
"I would never do that to him Mother." Solara swore. "Even when it would benefit me to sway him from the Chantry, when he asked my advice, I never tried to push him to a path that he would not take on his own." She pushed a hand through her bangs, wiping hair from her eyes. "He has asked my opinion on matters that would change his life. I could only give it, but I never pressed him to heed only my counsel."
"Then you tried to be a true friend to him, in spite of the demands of your heart." The Mother observed. "Can you tell me who this man is?"
"I am not certain I should Mother, he has done nothing wrong." Solara said quietly. "He was only ever my friend, the dearest truest friend I had." Her voice broke and she wiped away the tears that had trickled from her eyes. "I will not shame him by naming him. To name him would imply fault."
"I will not press you on his name child." The Mother said quietly. "Instead I would ask of you, as penance, that you do a task or two for the Chantry. Your sin is one of willfulness for not once did I hear you say you prayed to the Maker to take this burden from you. And you are proud, perhaps sinfully so, that you would assign fault or blame rather than letting the Maker do so."
"I shall do whatever task the Chantry next asks of me Mother," Solara agreed. "I am proud, and willful, I have been told so many times. I have tried to heed the wisdom of those around me. And I will pray to the Maker, that he resolves this...burden...as He sees fit."
"Then go with the blessings of the Maker and his Bride Andraste." The Mother lifted her voice in the ritual blessing and dismissal.
When it was over Solara almost stumbled from the confessional walking blindly out of the Chantry. Nearly crashing into Sebastian did nothing for her composure.
"Solara?" The archer took her by the shoulders and looked closely at her face. She was obviously upset, "What has happened?" He held her shoulders and gave her a little shake to make her look at him. "Solara, a ghrá, what is wrong? Talk to me." Sebastian wondered if begging would work.
Solara took a deep breath and did her best to compose herself. "Sebastian, there's nothing you can do." She said quietly, "I simply went to confession. You should know how difficult that can be."
"I do, but I like to think I never made anyone weep." Sebastian retorted. "Will you not talk to me?"
"I'm sorry, I can't." She offered him a weak smile. "I really need to get home, Bodahn will be worried."
"May I escort you?" Sebastian looked at her face and knew she was going to refuse. "Solara, please, its been..."
"Sebastian," Solara interrupted him firmly. "I cannot allow you to escort me home when you have duties to the Chantry and Elthina, as I know you do." She shook her head. "Elthina must come first and you know that." She lifted her hands to his and took them from her shoulders gently but firmly. "I must go."
Sebastian watched her stride away and frowned. One of the Mothers taking confessions had pushed and prodded Solara so far that she'd wept in a semi public place. Someone would answer.
Striding into the Chantry the archer walked towards the confessionals and was shocked to see Elthina leaving the Mother's place there. "Elthina?" He wondered if he had begun to go mad. "It is unusual for you to hear confession."
"One of the sisters saw Hawke waiting her turn for confession and thought to inform me. I deemed it wise to be the one to whom the Champion made her confession." Elthina took his arm and began walking back to her office. "She is very troubled, your friend."
"She is." Sebastian wasn't certain if he was agreeing or asking. "She nearly crashed into me on the Chantry steps, she'd been crying your Grace."
"I thought that was possible from her voice." Elthina agreed. "She found the thing she'd come to confess difficult to speak of."
"I cannot imagine Hawke having so great a sin it brought her to tears." Sebastian shook his head. "She's more pragmatic than devout but never have I seen her do or say anything that would suggest her conscience should be questioned."
"She believes that she has done something terrible." The Grand Cleric told him quietly. "You know I cannot tell you what she said."
"No, I remember well the sanctity of the confessional." Sebastian nodded.
"I would instead give you some advice." Elthina smiled at him as he opened the door for her.
"I would welcome it your Grace." Sebastian hoped it was to the point and helpful.
"Don't take no for an answer when you are finally trying to talk with her." The older woman said simply. "She is honorable, and truly has a noble and loyal heart. Push her Sebastian, make her listen to you."
"Elthina, did Hawke say something about me in confession?" Sebastian shook his head. "I beg your pardon for even asking, that was wrong of me."
She simply smiled at him before she shut the door to her office. "Use whatever tactics you deem needful Sebastian, for truly you will need all your strength and stubbornness to deal with her."
Sebastian regarded the closed door and shook his head. "Maker help me." He uttered the words and went to prepare for the evening.
Author's note: So? What did everyone think? I know this was short on plot and long on character interaction but I always thought Hawke's friends were a lot more interested in her life than the game showed. In 'A Passing Glance' I hinted at Elthina's involvement in getting Hawke and Sebastian together and I wanted to elaborate on that a bit.