Parties certainly weren't Kaaras' area of expertise.
He was surprised he could handle all of the court politics and ballroom dancing without making himself look like the biggest idiot on Thedas at the same time, but he made it!
Well. I'm almost there. Just have to make it through the rest of the night. He looked over from where Morrigan was leaning on the railing.
"I shall meet you at Skyhold, Inquisitor." She nodded to him before turning away to walk back inside the palace. "Do enjoy the rest of your evening."
Kaaras smiled to himself as he looked out at the lake from the balcony. "Won't be too hard, long as I stay here."
He shifted his weight and adjusted the collar of his (quite flashy and absurd) formal attire before he heard a cough from behind him.
"Well, I'll be damned if this isn't some party. Wouldn't you say so, Your Inquisitorialness?"
Ah, Varric. Shit.
Kaaras smiled and looked down at his companion. "Between the assassins, demons, and blackmail? I'd say it's been quite the adventure so far."
"Something straight out of a novel for sure." Varric shook his head and grinned.
Kaaras laughed. "Oh, I'm sure you've got plenty of inspiration for your book now."
Varric winked, and something about that made Kaaras's knees go weak. "You know it, Inquisitor. Might have to make the final confrontation a bit more exciting, though."
"It wasn't good enough that I outed Florianne in front of all of Orlais?" Kaaras asked as he pressed a hand to his heart.
"It's not the climax I would have written, but if you think it was the best route to take…" Varric shrugged.
"I'm wounded, Varric! Truly!" Kaaras exclaimed, but he couldn't help but snicker. Varric rolled his eyes and elbowed Kaaras in the stomach. "I- ow! Kidding! I'm kidding!"
Varric scoffed. "You're only saying that to spare my feelings, Inquisitor." He looked away and crossed his arms, his voice small and sad.
Oh. Did I go too far? "Varric, I-"
And then Varric laughed. "Got you!" He turned around and slapped Kaaras on the arm.
"Oh dammit. Varric!" Kaaras chuckled and shook his head as he swatted the hand away. "You are too much."
"Not enough for you to quit dragging me all over Ferelden and Orlais though, eh?" Varric smiled and moved to stand next to him on the balcony. They both looked over the palace grounds in the silence of the night, only occasionally disrupted by the commotion of the party behind them.
"You haven't complained about it yet, have you?"
Varric shook his head. "Nah, it's better than being cooped up at Skyhold all day." He scratched his chin as his expression changed to something Kaaras couldn't figure out. "I like adventuring with you."
Oh, huh. The stupid getup Kaaras was wearing felt far too constricting, and he pulled at the collar of the suit once again. "I- I'm glad. To hear that, yeah," he stammered.
He's just one dwarf, you can control your feelings for him! Just one guy with a lifetime's worth of emotional baggage and relationship issues It's not that hard to keep cool, is it?
And then Kaaras looked down and met Varric's cheerful gaze and dashing grin.
Shit. Maybe it is.
Kaaras gripped the railing of the balcony and looked over the edge. He tried to distract himself with thoughts of anything else, with battle plans and worries about the Empress and-
"Inquisitor!" Varric's voice ripped him from his thoughts, and Kaaras looked over at him.
"Huh?" Kaaras raised a brow as Varric chuckled. "What?"
"Well, that's not very prim and proper of you." Varric set a hand in his hip.
"My apologies, I've just been thinking too much as of late." About you. It's always about you.
"Ah. I see." Varric nodded sagely and tapped Kaaras's hand. "The weight of the anchor too much to bear right now?"
"Among other things, yes." Kaaras scratched the back of his neck and shrugged.
"Hey, is there anything you want to talk about? I'm your dwarf." Varric looked up at him with a frown. His hand burned hot from where it still rested atop Kaaras's own.
"N-no. Nothing I haven't spoken to you about before." Varric's hand finally moved off of his, but his mind was screaming at him to take it back and hold it.
"Well. If you're sure."
Kaaras rolled his eyes. "I'm sure that I've talked your ear off plenty."
Varric snorted. "And you can do it as much as you want! Everyone needs friends, Inquisitor."
Friends, Kaaras thought with a bitterness he was surprised by. Just friends. He forced a smile and nodded.
He cleared his throat after a beat of silence. "I suppose it's a bit rude to ask, but… what brings you out here? Shouldn't you be partying with Cassandra and the rest?"
"I like parties as much as the next dwarf, but with all that court nonsense? The rumors and gossip? This stupid getup?" He gestured to the clothes he was wearing, identical in design to Kaaras's own. "It's all too much."
"I understand, and I... Ugh, I hate it." Kaaras let his shoulders slouch as he sighed. He fixed his gaze on the horizon as he said, "keeping up appearances is the worst part about all of this."
Varric hummed. "Well, ya don't have to do it around me. I won't tell on you."
"Thanks, Varric." Kaaras relaxed a little more and looked down to see- "Uh. What are you doing?"
"What's it look like? Letting all this breathe." Varric unbuttoned his top down to expose his chest like normal. The tone of his voice was quite sultry, and it almost fried Kaaras's brain.
Kaaras swallowed. "Uh-huh. Looking to cause a scandal, are we?"
Varric shrugged. "This isn't the most bizarre thing to have happened tonight. I'm sure I'll only get a few stares." He carded his fingers through his chest hair and smirked. "Besides, it's part of my charm!"
You'll get more than a few stares, Varric. Kaaras forced himself to look away. "I suppose it is."
"Oh, you don't think so?" The was an edge of mischief in that damn voice. "Can you imagine a world without all this?"
Kaaras laughed and shook his head. "No, I can't."
"That's what I figured."
"Did you just come out here to escape the crowd and taunt me with your chest?" Kaaras asked as he crossed his arms.
"Mostly, but not entirely."
"Oh?" Kaaras raised a brow.
Varric's expression changed from playful to… something else. It looked clouded, like there was a storm brewing inside his mind. His eyes shone with pain.
"Remember the whole Bianca situation? Red lyrium, betrayal, and whatnot?" Varric asked. His voice sounded strained.
"How could I not? I was just as surprised as you were, Varric." Kaaras leaned closer to Varric.
"Well… I've been thinking about it, and I just can't do it anymore." He shook his head and looked up at the sky. "It's too hard, too complicated. Plus she betrayed me, but you were there for that one."
Kaaras felt his heart start hammering in his chest. "So…"
Varric scratched his chin and looked everywhere except at Kaaras. "Saw her at the party in there. Dragged her away from her buddies and told her I couldn't do it anymore. We're done."
Something came crashing through Kaaras's head, but he was too overwhelmed to pick it apart quite yet. "You're not together anymore?"
"Officially." Varric shook his head and crossed his arms. "I don't know if we were ever 'together' in the first place, you know? I was just too stubborn to admit that I wasn't getting anywhere," Varric replied with quite possibly the biggest sigh he'd ever heard the dwarf give.
Kaaras set a hand on Varric's shoulder. "Hey, don't beat yourself up about it. She led you on for so long you just got used to it."
"That doesn't mean I still don't feel shitty about it."
"You gonna be okay? Can I do something for you?" Kaaras frowned, his grip on Varric's shoulder tightening
"I'll be fine, and nah. Just being here with me is enough, promise!" Varric smiled and Kaaras couldn't help but grin back.
By the Maker, he's gorgeous.
"Then I'll stay by your side as long as you need."
Varric laughed. "Now don't go making promises like that! You'll let a guy down if you can't keep them." He winked, and Kaaras couldn't help but sputter and stumble over his own words trying to come up with a reply.
Does he even know what he's doing to me?
"Calm down, Your Inquisitorialness. 'Twas only a jest!" Varric patted Kaaras's back and laughed. "You've gotta grow a thicker skin."
"You'd still find a way to get under it," Kaaras replied with a sigh.
"And that's why you keep me around." Varric winked.
"Maker only knows why I do." Kaaras rolled his eyes, but he couldn't keep a fond smile from his face.
The night grew longer and the sky darker as the sun completed its trip through the sky. The torchlight from within the palace behind them cast an orange glow over Varric's features, sharpening them and making them seem ethereal. Kaaras felt his face grow hot and his breath vanish as he stared.
There aren't enough words in any language to describe how I feel about you, Varric Tethras. Every day I get to know you, the harder you are to define completely.
Varric closed his eyes and folded his arms over the balcony railing before he rested his chin on them. The wind blew through his hair, letting it ripple and flow like water.
Kaaras would hold that image in his heart for as long as he lived.
He looks so relaxed… like he's not in the middle of the biggest party to grace Orlais! How can he feel so calm?
A smile grew on Varric's face as he remained in that position. "So, you gonna stare at me like that all day, Inquisitor?"
Kaaras actually jumped. "I- no! What? No! I wasn't staring!" His face burned hot as he turned around to face the entrance into the palace.
I'm awful at this! Why is it so hard to control myself?
Kaaras cleared his throat and stood up straight. "We might want to head back to the party before we're missed. Don't want the others to think we're skipping out on it." He turned to face Varric.
"Yeah, you're probably right." There was a twinkle in Varric's eye that sent a jolt of electricity through Kaaras. "Hey. Wanna do something stupid?"
Of course I do, I hate this party. "What exactly do you have in mind?"
Varric smirked and held out a hand. "May I have this dance, Inquisitor?"
Kaaras opened his mouth. And then closed it. His face grew hot, and he swore he saw a bit of pink flush in Varric's cheeks as well. All he could say was, "Me?"
Varric nodded. "Aren't you tired of those damn nobles and their rules and games? Don't you wanna cut loose a bit and be ourselves together?" His gaze was firm, but his smile with playful.
Kaaras didn't even think. He took Varric's hand. "Yes, of course."
I hope, Maker please let him be into me. Please.
Varric's gaze softened. "Why don't we go give everyone a show, huh?" He asked, his voice impossibly soft.
Kaaras let Varric lead him back into the ballroom and around the hordes of noblemen and women. As they walked down the room, Kaaras caught Josephine's gaze. She smiled and winked at him, as did her sister.
What's that all about? He tried to call out to her but it was already too late. Varric dragged him out of earshot, and they stopped at the staircase to the dance floor where a guard stood at attention.
Kaaras looked over at Varric, who was frowning. He shifted from one foot to the other, but he didn't loosen his grip on Kaaras's hand.
Varric looked up at the guard. "We would like to dance, if you don't mind." The guard stepped aside and allowed them to pass.
Varric bit his lip. "You ready?"
Kaaras nodded while his heart hammered in his chest. "Long as you're not getting cold feet."
Varric's eyes widened, and he scoffed. "You wish!" He made his way down the steps with Kaaras in tow.
And then they were on the dance floor. Kaaras could feel what had to be hundreds of eyes on them, the Herald of Andraste and a scruffy-looking dwarf hand in hand.
It was ridiculous. If Kaaras was watching from above, he would've laughed.
He looked down at Varric. "Well, let's dance."
It was a fast waltz, one that would take them around and around the room like the rest of the dancers. Kaaras held Varric's hand out to the side and placed the other just behind his shoulderblade. Varric did the same, and Kaaras noted that they fit together perfectly despite the height difference.
And then they were off.
Kaaras maneuvered them into place between two other pairs of dancers and sped up to keep tempo. The music was quite fast, but nothing he couldn't handle. Varric was just smiling from ear to ear as the begun, and Kaaras couldn't help but do the same.
"You've done this before," Varric noted while they spun around each other.
"I happen to enjoy the art of ballroom dance, Varric."
"But you hate the parties?"
Kaaras nodded. "Precisely." He felt a bit of confidence grow in him as they moved, the dance floor feeling familiar. "This is much better than the dance with Florianne, by the way."
Varric laughed, and Kaaras took the opportunity to dip him low when they came to a stop. That laugh turned into a yelp, and Varric's face burned red. Kaaras swore he heard a gasp or two from the onlookers above.
So I wasn't imagining things!
Kaaras lifted him back up and they were off once again. Varric's face was still red, but that manic grin came right back.
"You do have some confidence after all!" Varric exclaimed.
Kaaras chuckled. "This is my element, you know. Grew up learning to dance."
"How romantic, Kaaras."
Kaaras almost let go of Varric after that statement, his mind going blank. He was only saved by Varric's iron grip, and it was Varric's turn to take advantage.
He dipped Kaaras nice and slow right in the middle of the floor. Kaaras felt his ears grow hot when Varric leaned in, their noses just a hair's breadth from touching.
Oh, there were more than a few gasps this time.
"I had hoped we were on a first-name basis!"
"You are a demon, Varric," Kaaras replied breathlessly.
Varric lifted him back up and they spun there for a moment. "So, first-name basis? That's kind of important when two people like each other."
Kaaras swore he felt his heart stop while a million thoughts raced through his head.
"Yes." Kaaras could barely get the word out. "You knew?"
"Those stares? Hardly subtle." Varric let Kaaras take the lead once more.
Kaaras's face heated up. "I can't help it, Varric. You-" he twirled Varric around with one hand "-are incredibly beautiful."
"I was hoping more for 'roguishly handsome' but that works too." The blush was still on Varric's face, and Maker was it adorable.
"So you're interested in me as well?" Kaaras felt hope burn bright in his chest as he looked down at Varric.
"If I wasn't, I wouldn't have asked you to dance." Varric sighed with a grin still on his face. "Do I have to spell it out for you?"
Kaaras led them through a particularly complicated series of movements that left him feeling a little lightheaded. "I don't know, you might have to."
"Fine, Kaaras." His name on Varric's lips sent shudders down his spine. "I'm in love with you too. Happy?"
Joy and love bloomed in his chest and mixed in with the already overwhelming feelings he had for that stupid wonderful dwarf. It was like a dream.
"Whenever you're around, Varric? Always."
"You're a total sap. It's gross."
"So says the author." Kaaras blinked as a thought came to him. "All that flirting on the balcony? The talk about Bianca? Was that just-"
"To let you know I'm into you? Obviously." Varric rolled his eyes. "You're just thickheaded."
"Well, I am a Qunari."
"And an idiot." Varric looked up at Kaaras with a soft gaze that made his heart melt. He smiled at Varric and held him tighter as they danced.
It all felt so right.
The music started to crescendo, and with it came an accelerando that had Varric starting to stumble, but he held on to Kaaras.
They were in the center of the floor again, and with the music almost deafening against his ears in the climax of the song and his heart and soul, he dipped Varric one last time.
Right on time with that last chord, Kaaras pressed his lips to Varric's.
And then… oh, then everything changed.
There might have been some cheers from the other partygoers or some shrieks; Kaaras wasn't focused on that. All he could focus on was the feeling of Varric up against him, Varric's hand on the back of his neck, one of his hands pressed against Varric's bare chest.
Kaaras pulled back, and Varric was staring at him with half-lidded eyes and a stupid smile on his face.
"Hell of a first date, Kaaras," Varric murmured breathlessly.
Kaaras lifted him back up and bowed, as did Varric. "But a good one, I presume?"
Varric laughed. "Oh, it's the fuckin' best. You're one hell of a kisser."
Kaaras took one of Varric's hands and lifted it to his mouth, where he pressed a kiss to the back of his palm. "You aren't so bad yourself."
"Aren't you a gentleman?"
Kaaras grinned and held Varric's hand, leading him out of the floor as the song changed and new dancers arrived. They went back up the steps and transitioned back into reality.
And with that reality came the realization of what Kaaras just did hitting him like a pile of bricks.
I just danced with Varric. I confessed to Varric. I kissed Varric in front of all the nobles in Orlais.
Kaaras's legs felt like jelly.
As they walked past groups of people, he was dimly aware of the stares and whispers.
Then he felt a squeeze on his hand, and suddenly it didn't matter anymore. Varric was right there.
"You're reeling too, huh?" Varric asked with a raised brow.
Kaaras nodded. "I- I actually did that. Kissed you. In front of them."
"Still not the craziest thing that's happened here tonight." Varric nudged Kaaras's side. "But I sure as hell enjoyed that dance."
Kaaras smiled. "Me too, Varric." He took a breath to steel his nerves, but he couldn't shake off the feeling that everyone was watching them.
Varric squeezed Kaaras's hand again. "Hey, c'mon. Let's get outta here, take a deep breath."
"Yeah. Good idea."
Kaaras and Varric left the ballroom and entered the vestibule, which was almost devoid of people. They took a seat on a bench, and Kaaras took a deep breath. He didn't let go of Varric's hand.
Varric looked up at him. "Better?"
"Yes. Much better." Kaaras stroked his thumb along the back of Varric's hand.
"You know, hearing about the fallout from Cassandra and the rest is gonna be fun." Varric laughed and shook his head. "Wish I could've seen the look on all of their faces!"
"I'm sure it was priceless, Varric! We gave them a show they won't soon forget." Kaaras chuckled. He tensed up when he felt Varric lean up against him, but relaxed into the touch after a moment.
"Speaking of our friends… Josephine was actually the one who put me up to all this."
Kaaras's eyes widened as he met Varric's gaze. "Wait, really?"
Varric grinned as he scratched the back of his head with his free hand. "Seriously! She could tell I was pining after you for weeks, Kaaras."
Kaaras frowned. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"I was still thinking about how to deal with the Bianca issue. Had to deal with the baggage so I wouldn't dump it on you."
Kaaras's chest warmed at Varric's words, and he leaned down to kiss him. "You have a heart of gold, Varric."
"You're too kind!"
"I only speak the truth." Kaaras winked. "And there's much more I could say to describe how wonderful you are."
"Oh, stop. You're gonna make me blush."
"Of all the things to be embarrassed about." Kaaras shook his head. Especially after the spectacle we created in the ballroom. "You're a funny guy, Varric."
"You make me think the craziest things." Varric pulled Kaaras down to kiss him this time. "Guess that's what being in love is like, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is."
Varric glanced over at a grandfather clock nestled in a corner of the room. "It's midnight." He groaned. "How long is this damn party supposed to last again?"
"The invitation said it would last all night. I suppose that means until the sun comes up."
Varric hummed and stroked his chin. "We don't have to stay all night, do we? We've been here long enough, I don't think any of these folks would mind if our crowd slipped away back to Skyhold."
"We should take that up with Leliana," Kaaras replied. "It is a long way back to Skyhold, after all."
"Ugh, yeah." Varric tapped his foot against the ground. "Nobody'll miss us if we just stay out here for the rest of the night, right?"
"I doubt it. Bull hasn't left the refreshments table all night and nobody asked about him, so we should be fine." Kaaras wrapped an arm around Varric's shoulders and drew him close.
"Nobody asked because you don't get between that man and his food and live to tell the tale." Varric chuckled.
"You speaking from experience?"
"Not directly! We were playing Wicked Grace a few weeks ago, and Cullen decided to 'share' Bull's food without asking. He was lucky Dorian was there to calm Bull down before he could do any… lasting damage."
Kaaras snorted out a laugh as Varric delved into the details of the story, which brought him to tears by the end of it. Varric started laughing as well, and Kaaras wiped the tears from his eyes with a sigh.
Oh, I needed that. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.
"Thanks for the story, Varric."
"Don't mention it!"
"I'm glad I brought you here with me."
"Me too. That dance made it worth the trip. Also… Josephine would've found a way to drag me along anyway." Varric grinned sheepishly as he scratched the side of his face.
"Did you lose a bet to her or something?"
Varric shook his head. "She was just tired of my pining. She talked about 'smuggling me in with the baggage' or something."
Kaaras snickered. "You know that would've worked, right?"
"Yeah, probably," Varric conceded.
Kaaras reached over to grab Varric's hand again and looked down at him with a smile. Varric met his gaze with a small smile and red cheeks, and it made Kaaras's chest fill with warmth.
"Aw, don't say it. You'll make a guy embarrassed again," Varric teased.
"Am I not allowed to call my lover beautiful? Or would you prefer wonderful, dashing, perfect?" Kaaras grinned.
"I said roguishly handsome! I'm roguishly handsome!" Varric pushed against Kaaras's chest as he protested in laughter.
"I figured someone of your profession would appreciate my eloquence on the subject!"
"You're obnoxious, Kaaras!" Varric still didn't stop smiling.
"And that's why you adore me, Varric." Kaaras leaned in.
"Something like that," Varric breathed as he kissed Kaaras. Kaaras closed his eyes and placed a hand on Varric's back to draw them flush together. Varric's stubble scraped against his skin in such a way that it sent jolts down his spine. The feeling was addictive and he couldn't get enough. It was perfect.
They pulled apart a moment later, both breathing heavy. Kaaras laughed as he pressed a hand to Varric's cheek.
"Well, sucks we can't retreat to your bedroom for the night," Varric snarked with another of his winks.
"How about as soon as we get back to Skyhold?" Kaaras raised a brow as he spoke.
"Oh? Is that a promise, Inquisitor?"
"What do you think?"
Varric hummed. "I think… you better show me you're not all talk."
"That'll be easy." Kaaras shot him a lopsided grin.
"Maybe I'll even get some writing inspiration from it." Varric waggled his eyebrows as he spoke, and Kaaras groaned.
He pressed a hand to his forehead. "Varric, that was terrible!"
Varric laughed. "I know, I know! I had to!"
The two of them calmed down a few moments later. Kaaras smiled as he felt Varric reach for his hand.
"This has been a great first date," Varric said as he stroked Kaaras's hand with his thumb. "And you are a wonderful guy, Kaaras."
"I'm glad you think so." Kaaras leaned in and kissed Varric on the cheek. "So are you."
This definitely wasn't how I expected the night to go down, but it got me here. With him.
Kaaras smiled to himself and held Varric close. There were still many hours until the sun was due to rise, but that was alright. He had the only person he needed right there with him.
There's nowhere else I would rather be.