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No Man is an Island, Elsa/Sebastian

Title: No Man is an Island
Rating: G
Pairing: Sebastian/Elsa
Summary: Even the strongest of people need someone to lean on sometimes.
Note: While I thought Aveline showing up after the events of All that Remains firmly cemented her spot as Elsa’s best friend, especially when you add on the Captain’s Condolences quest, I was still upset that Sebastian didn’t show up to at least offer a friendly “I’m sorry” sort of scene. So, here’s my take.
Note the second: After writing tons of cute, fluffy stuff for a while, going back to something serious was hard. I also realized that Elsa is around two years older than Sebastian, if I read the wiki correctly. Is that right? It's late and my math skills aren't at their sharpest.


It was dark by the time that Elsa made her way into the Chantry. She had planned it that way – going after the evening service guaranteed that she would miss the majority of the crowd and not have to deal with empty condolences from her neighbors. There had been plenty of those already. Bodhan was Maker-sent; he tactfully fielded all attempts at social calls, telling Elsa’s would-be visitors that she had taken to her bed.

The truth was that after Leandra’s ashes had been scattered, Elsa had spent the day sitting on the floor of her mother’s room, staring blankly at the wall and feeling as if someone had ripped her heart out of her chest. When they had left Ferelden, Elsa’s mother had grabbed some of her husband’s belongings she hadn’t been willing to part with. Elsa had taken them out, wrapping herself in one of her father’s favorite robes that even underneath the cedar scent from the planks Leandra had tucked into the pockets to discourage moths, still somehow smelled like him. Elsa wondered how her father would have dealt with this, had he been there. She wondered what he would have said to her, if he might have looked at her with the same anger and self-loathing that she felt for herself. Her eyes burned with unshed tears, but like with Carver and Bethany, she couldn’t bring herself to cry.

She slowly climbed the stairs to the top pews, the scent of incense wafting through the air. Sebastian’s clothes always carried a trace of it wherever he went, probably from spending the majority of his time in the Chantry. She’d come to associate the spicy, slightly piney scent with him and it never failed to calm her frazzled nerves. Going over to the memorial wall, she was surprised to see a candle already lit for her mother, her name neatly scratched in the wax base. Touched, she put a hand to her throat, thinking that Sebastian would have been the most likely person to do this for her. Opening the pouch at her hip, Elsa took out a handful of gold coins and placed them into the offering box with a muted clink. Using one of the tapers provided by the Sisters, she touched it to Leandra’s flame and lit three other candles nearby.

“I don’t really know how this works,” she murmured to no one in particular. The last time she had been in a Chantry to actually pray had been in Ostagar, and even then it hadn’t been a proper chapel, just a wooden scaffolding for one of the Mothers present to stand on while she gave her sermon. Carver had been off with the rest of their company in the makeshift barracks, but she had knelt there, praying with all her might that her little brother would make it through the upcoming battle unscathed. She hadn’t had a proper prayer in mind then, just a desperate plea of please, protect Carver and let him live past this night she had repeated over and over.

In a way, her prayers had been answered; she and Carver made it out of the doomed fight without so much as a scratch between them. It was only when they were trying to flee their home with their mother and sister that Carver had been killed by the ogre.

Bowing her head, she tried to think of any prayers for her mother’s departed soul, but came up empty. Her family hadn’t been the most devout group of people by any means, but she could remember visiting Lothering’s Chantry with her mother when she had been a girl. Later on, Carver joined them, but Bethany and her father had never come along. It had been too risky to have two apostates in the same building as so many templars and eventually the three of them went less and less until they stopped going altogether.

“Hawke?” Elsa’s head snapped up and she looked to her right. Sebastian stood there a few feet away, looking just as surprised to see her as she was to see him. Another wave of guilt washed over her. If she hadn’t been so busy pining over the one unattainable man in Kirkwall, would her mother still be alive?

“I needed to get out,” she stammered. It wasn’t exactly what she had planned on telling him, but it seemed that once she opened her mouth, she couldn’t stop the flow of words. “It was too claustrophobic at home and…” she bit at her lip. Even though she had gotten rid of the vase of lilies, the sickly sweet smell lingered in the front entranceway like an unwanted specter, making Elsa’s throat close up. Orana had been so upset that she had taken a bucket and scrub brush out of the supply closet, but even after the hall gleamed and smelled like fresh soap, the stench was still stuck in Elsa’s nose, prompting her evening escape. “Mother loved visiting the Chantry.”

“I remember she would often come for the sunrise services,” Sebastian tentatively said, standing closer to her. “She had a lovely singing voice.”

“She did,” Elsa agreed, her voice hushed in the quiet of the Chantry. She let Sebastian lead her towards one of the back pews. “Father loved to hear her sing. When he died…” It had been horrible when her father had passed on. He was someone she and her siblings had seen as being so strong and invincible, for him to succumb to an illness when he had healed all their scraped knees and bruises over the years with a simple touch of his hand had been a shock. “Mother tried to cry only when she thought the twins and I were asleep, but we could still hear. Bethany took it hard; mostly because Father had been spending more time with training her on how control her magic. Carver tried to be strong for Mother and his sister, but he was just a boy who had lost his father.”

“How old were you?”

“Twenty-one.”

“And you were just a girl.” He could easily picture her; younger and stoically putting up a strong front.

She shook her head. “Mother tried her best, but there were days where she wasn’t able to force herself out of bed, let alone function normally, that first year. Someone had to take up the family duties and as the eldest; it was only fair that I do it. Our neighbors kept on telling me how brave I was to make sure that our family kept going.” Elsa looked down at her hands. “In reality, I missed Father just as much as everyone else. But the twins were only fifteen; they deserved to have someone around that reminded them of what normal in our house used to be like. If I did cry, I made sure to do it far away from home.” She had spent a lot of time by the river, going off by herself on the pretext of doing laundry and staying away long after the few clothes she had taken with her were dry to be sure that her eyes wouldn’t be red when she went back home.

“Then Carver grew up and decided to join the army. Mother was so afraid of losing him that I joined just so I could keep an eye on him for her. Looking back, that probably made him resent me even more than he already did. I never meant for him to feel as if he were living in my shadow, but by the time that I finally found out how he felt and could confront him about it, it was too late.” She closed her eyes and shuddered. “Even now, I can still hear the way that his body sounded when it hit the ground and how Mother had screamed out for him. I spent the two weeks we were at sea thinking about how I could have saved him. If I had been faster, if I had pushed him aside, if I had done anything differently, he could still be alive. Bethany buried herself in work to cover her grief, but she once told me that it felt as if someone had cut off a part of her that had always been there. This time, Mother didn’t bother to hide her tears from the two of us. In a way, I think that she blamed us for Carver’s death just as much as we blamed ourselves.” By that time, Elsa had slipped into the role as the head of the household and she hadn’t had much time to mourn her brother, not when there was work that needed to be done in order to keep her family in Kirkwall and put food on the table. Later, she had run from the guilt by throwing herself into earning as much as possible in order to fund Varric’s expedition, hoping that with enough money and a higher standing in society they would be untouchable, that she could protect Bethany from the templars where she had failed to protect Carver from the darkspawn.

“When I first met you, I had no idea what was going on,” Sebastian said, sitting closer to her. Elsa looked as if she were boring a hole in the back of the next pew, her jaw clenched and shoulders tense. He remembered the first time he had talked to her, how she had reminded him of an avenging spirit, proud and fierce yet with an undertone of compassion when she told him that she hoped the deaths of the assassins that had murdered his family gave him some measure of peace.

“No one really did. We were new refugees; any sort of weakness we might have shown had the threat of being exploited. I refused to have my brother’s memory used against me like that.” She looked at him. “We had to leave his body where it fell; Aveline’s husband Wesley said a few words over him, but that was all Carver got.”

“You were running from the Blight. Necessity dictated that you leave his earthly body behind, but be assured that he is walking alongside the Maker now.”

“Do you really believe that?” she asked. “I don’t mean to be blasphemous, but has anyone actually died and then been brought back, confirming that they walked with the Maker?”

“Well, no, but I have faith that it is our fate once we leave this world. I don’t need anyone to verify what I believe in order to believe it.”

Her shoulders slumped. “I envy you, Sebastian. You have this unshakable faith in everything that you do; I wish that I could be like you sometimes, but it seems like for every step I take forward that I’m shoved two steps back.” They might have received riches beyond their imaginings, but it had cost Elsa her sister. Like Carver, necessity had forced her to leave Bethany in the deep roads, but at least she, Varric and Fenris had built a cairn over her body with rocks and rubble they had chipped off the walls so that it would remain undisturbed. “If Mother had taken Carver’s death poorly, it was nothing compared to how she reacted when I returned without Bethany. She had begged me to persuade my sister to stay behind, but I had assured her that everything would be fine, that we’d both be back before she knew it.” Elsa knew that her parents had tried hard not to play favorites with their three children, but while Bethany had spent more time with their father to nurture her magical talents, she had been Leandra’s little girl through and through, just like Elsa had been their father’s back before the twins had been born. Even after, when affections were constantly juggled around between the three of them, Malcolm had made time for his eldest, cuddling together during bedtimes while spinning stories about the far-away places he had traveled or instructing her on how to properly handle daggers in the afternoons.

“I only met with your sister a handful of times, but the two of you seemed close.”

The briefest of smiles flitted over her face. “We were. You tend to form a solid bond with someone when you have a little brother who used to love nailing braids to the bedposts and sneaking frogs into the house. In some ways, I think Bethany and I were closer than she and Carver.” She closed her eyes, imagining for a moment that she could hear her sister’s outraged shrieks at finding a toad in her sheets. Bethany would never fail to run to their mother and bury her face in her skirts and even though their father was supposed to be scolding Carver for his pranks, Elsa could clearly remember the amused tone he had often used.

“My brothers and I would often roughhouse around our home,” Sebastian said. “There wasn’t a day that went by that one or all of us weren’t sporting bruises somewhere on our bodies. There might have been a set hierarchy between the three of us, but even with the age differences, we were as close as any brothers could be.”

“It never stops hurting, does it?” she asked, wringing her hands in her lap.

He shook his head. “No, it doesn’t. People say that it gets easier to bear, but that’s a lie as well. There are some days where you can almost forget about your loss, but there are others where it feels as fresh and as sharp as it did the day you first heard about their deaths. No one can tell you when to stop mourning or how you’re allowed to mourn.” Sebastian had been worried about her- while she had a gentle disposition, Elsa hit him as the type of person who kept her troubles to herself, bottling everything up until her feelings had nowhere else to go. He wondered just how long it was going to take before she boiled over.

“Gamlen said it was my fault that Mother died,” she whispered, her breath hitching. “He was right; I was more concerned with earning money than protecting my mother, as if a big house and status would somehow make up for the loss of two children. If I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my own affairs, I would have noticed that something was wrong. If only I had been faster, if I had only seen the clues. If…”

He reached out and held onto her hands. “Don’t blame yourself for this. There was nothing that you could have done to stop that madman from doing what he did to your mother or to any of those other poor women. Your uncle needed to place blame on someone in order to make sense out of what happened; he spoke out of grief, don’t take it to heart.” He let go of her hand and impulsively wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “You’ve said that you’ve had to be the one that others held onto in times like this.”

She shrugged her shoulders helplessly. “It’s all I know how to do.”

Without thinking, he tightened his arm around her. “Then let go; let me be your rock, if only for a little while.” It seemed as if that was all he had to say – Elsa felt her lips tremble and her vision blurred in front of her. The choked sob that came out had her pressing her hand to her mouth to try to muffle the rest, tears finally spilling over her cheeks. She turned her head against Sebastian’s shoulder and shook against him, accepting the comfort he freely offered, dimly aware that he was slowly rocking them back and forth, his hand smoothing over her hair while the other ran over her back in comforting circles. She didn’t know how long they sat there like that, but she felt like a limp wash rag once her tears subsided.

“I’m sorry,” she sniffed, uncurling her fingers from the front of his tunic and stiffly moving away from him. “I got your shirt all wet.”

He shrugged. “It will dry,” he said, reaching out and wiping away the tears that clung to her chin with his thumb. Elsa was not a pretty crier; her face was blotched red and her eyes were swollen, but he guessed that she had needed to let things go for quite some time. “You helped me once before, it is only right that I help you in your time of need.”

She wiped at her face with the heels of her hands. “So we’re to keep score then?” The sarcastic tone was just a way for her to hide her true feelings and he knew it.

“No. Just know that you’re never alone. You have friends who care about you, Hawke.” He reached for her hand again. “Any time you need us, we will be there for you. All you have to do is ask.”

She looked up at him and for the first time since coming back from the foundry, Elsa felt as if a weight had lifted off her chest. “Thank you,” she said, leaning against him and giving him a heartfelt hug. “For Mother’s candle. For everything.”

He rested his cheek against her hair. “You’re quite welcome.” Sebastian grudgingly sat back and put her at arms’ length. It wasn’t right for a brother of the faith to feel the beginnings of something that went further than affectionate friendship with Elsa; one, it wouldn’t be fair to her to lead her on when nothing could come of it and two, she was in a vulnerable state. To toy with her emotions, even unintentionally, would be inexcusable. He gave her what would hopefully be translated into a just friends smile. “That’s what friends are for.”

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
reconnoiterer
Aug. 4th, 2011 05:49 pm (UTC)
I had totally forgotten that you can lose one of your siblings in the Deep Roads - SO SAD lkshdlgss But in hindsight, Mama Hawke's reaction seems almost more fitting for that kind of situation.

As bummed as I was that there was no Sebastian comfort-scene when you romance him, I feel like it left a really great void to be filled with fics like this.

I always think of Hightown Hawke and Sebastian - somehow I always seem to forget that durrrrrr he is a PRINCE and she starts out as a lowly refugee from Lothering (not the ritziest establishment).
iceprincessd
Aug. 8th, 2011 03:53 am (UTC)
I'm kinda glad that there was a lack of Sebastian romance/comfort scenes in-game for that reason as well. There's so many great fics and pieces of artwork that neatly fill in the empty spaces.

I like the fact that they're on equal footing for most of the game, with her climbing up and him taking a vow of poverty. I'd like to say that it's a humbling experience for both of them; that money and status can be taken away on a whim and that one has to work hard for what they believe in.
phoenixblaze
Aug. 5th, 2011 05:27 am (UTC)
Damnit woman! Quit reading my mind! It's actually a little freaky because on my mini vacation to Maine I started writing a fanfic along the exact same theme. It takes place the night of and Belle wanders to the Chantry. It's at least a little different because since it's the night of Sebastian doesn't know. And mine falls way more corny because that's what Belle and Sebastian do in my head.

Also wanted to tell you something silly. I'm having crazy dreams while coming off the antidepressants, and I don't remember most of it, but somehow Nate and Moira were in my dream and Moira was *very* pregnant. But that's all I remember. XD
iceprincessd
Aug. 8th, 2011 04:02 am (UTC)
Hive mind, I tell you! And there's nothing wrong with corny - every couple needs to cut up once and a while. (also, Belle and Sebastian, like the band? I see what you did there. *grin*)

Moira blames you for her sudden case of grouchypants. I almost feel bad for having her pregnant during the hottest portion of the summer. Almost. She's waddling about the Keep sweaty, swollen, and irritated and nothing anyone can say can make her feel better. Nate's taken to hiding her daggers, especially after this one attempt at cuddling where he wasn't aware that she was in her "touch me and you die" mood.

TL;DR: thanks for the plot bunny, hon. :)
forest_rose
Sep. 5th, 2011 12:22 pm (UTC)
Ohhhh, you made me cry! I love this - it' so heartbreaking, and the grief feels so real. I'm glad Sebastian was there to comfort her.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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