The night air in Haven was cold, but Mel reveled in the burn against her cheeks as she walked with Varric across town. It was late, few people out except for soldiers on their watch.
"So I bowed to them and Hawke and I walked out with four chests of gold."
“You are a horrible liar,” she said with a laugh as Varric finished his tale.
“I beg your pardon, I am a fantastic liar.”
Mel pinched Varric, pleased when he yelped and squirmed away. Though the problem, she realized quickly was that he’d been the only thing holding her upright. She toppled forward as the world spun and came to an abrupt stop, her face just inches from the ground.
“Well, talk about sweeping a girl off her feet.”
“Don’t make me laugh, Hero, I’ll drop you on your face.”
Mel got her hands underneath her and pushed as Varric hauled her upright. She leaned into him, felt his arm tighten around her waist.
He stopped her with a hand over her mouth and a shake of his head. “You’re drunk, Hero, and so am I.”
“So?” Please, it’s the only time I have the nerve.
Varric sighed, but then he smiled and it was like looking at the sun. “Tell you what, Hero. Come see me when we’re sober. Maybe I’ll break my no humans rule.”
“Mel, as your friend-”
She squeezed her eyes shut. “Cassandra, I appreciate what you’re doing, but it’s not necessary.”
“I am the last person called to defend Varric, you know this. He is impulsive, occasionally thoughtless-”
Mel’s laugh snapped through the air like a whip and Cassandra winced.
“He knows he hurt you. He would like to apologize, which is a rarity for him.”
“He already tried to apologize. I told him to go tell it to Corypheus.”
A sound suspiciously like a muffled laugh came from the Seeker, but her face was blank when Mel turned around and she gently took the younger woman by the shoulders. “This has started to affect your focus, Mel. You cannot keep pretending it doesn’t. It’s time to make a decision.”
Cassandra nodded. “Accept his apology and figure out a way to move on from this or, if you prefer, I will tell Varric the Inquisition no longer has need of his services and it’s time for him to move on.”
Mel gaped at Cassandra, startled into silence by the ultimatum and shocked by the sharp pain the thought of Varric gone drove into her chest. “I-no.”
“Mel.” Cassandra reached out again, laying a hand gently on Mel’s bandaged arm, the limb still strapped down against her side to help it heal. “You are the Inquisitor. We cannot risk you, not like this. He is a distraction, it’s as simple as that, and he will be removed if you say so.”
Varric sat in a chair next to Mel’s bed with his head in his hands. The Venatori flames had scorched her left arm and side, and it had taken all of Solas’s skill to beat back the magic. Mel was healing, though slowly.
A single lick of flame had left its mark on her cheek near her ear as though to remind them all of how close it had come to consuming her whole.
She’d been in and out of consciousness for days.
He whipped his head up. Those blue eyes were looking at him, through him. “Mel, I-” He reached for her uninjured hand, but she pulled it away, turning her head.
“No … you’re gone. You died in Redcliffe. I couldn’t save you.”
“I’m not, Hero. I’m right here.”
“You’re not. It’s just a dream. I’ll wake up soon and you’ll be gone.”
Varric closed his eyes, so stunned by the pain he didn’t hear Cassandra come up the stairs until she spoke.
“Varric? Are you all right?”
“Fine, Seeker.” He cleared his throat, grateful the tears hadn’t gathered in his eyes just yet and busied himself with standing. “Your turn.”
“Varric, it wasn’t your fault.”
He stopped at the top of the stairs, hand on the bannister and turned to look at Cassandra. “Oh, but it was, Seeker. Top to bottom, this whole thing was my fault.”
“You know the world is ending.”
Mel dragged her gaze away from where Varric sat in the corner of Haven’s tavern. He had his glasses on and was scribbling away at something he wouldn’t let her look at. She’d thought it was accounts at first, but those he left scattered around the table and the desk in his tent with such wild abandon that anyone could see them. Whatever he was working on was different.
Bull grinned as he sat down in the chair next to her. “If you’re looking for an excuse.”
The Qunari raised his eyebrow, took a drink, and leaned in. “To drag that dwarf back to your room and fuck him. There’s a great big hole in the sky. The world’s ending, Mel, it’s the best possible reason.”
“I was not - am not. Maker, you are awful.” She knew that her babbling response was a lie the minute it left her mouth and Bull did too. Though he at least had the grace to hide his smirk behind his mug and change the subject.
“We going to Redcliffe to meet with with this Tevinter tomorrow, boss?”
“Yeah,” she said. “You, me, Cassandra, and Varric.” She forced herself not to look back toward the corner where the dwarf sat. “Dorian said he would be there.”
“You trust him?”
“I know it sounds strange, but I do.” Mel smiled at his suspicious grunt. “Everything will be fine, Bull. Don’t worry about it.”