Stars. Glittering stars that seemed to wink at him as Theron’s vision cleared and he sucked in a shaky breath to calm his heart. Blackwall’s warm hand had released him at some point before lucidity returned, but he could still feel the warrior’s breath against his neck and his hard length against his cheeks.
It took a few moments more to realize the warrior was moving. The grip around his neck shifted to grip his upper arm. “We’re out of time. We’ve got to go now.”
“But… you haven’t…” Theron turned slowly, bracing his hand on the warrior’s chest while his eyes traveled down and his mouth watered. “I could…”
Blackwall growled and gave his arm a shake, the action pulling Theron’s gaze right where it belonged, into his eyes—which were narrowed and resolved. “You didn’t see the light show you just put off, did you? Fucking hell, you’re a walking liability. We’ve lost the ground we gained.”
Theron paled. “…my eyes?”
“They’re fine. Come on and get dressed.” His words were rough, but the grip on his arm was gentle as was the pull.
Theron swallowed his complaints and followed. If Blackwall left him now, he’d get by. He wasn’t helpless…but his presence and acceptance… both were far more than he’d expected and it made his throat swell. It probably didn’t help that he was still floating a bit. It finally made sense why you should never say I love you after good sex. The whole experience fucked with you and Theron was still kinda yearning to get on his knees, discovery be damned. “Are you going to be okay?” he murmured before thankfully mounting on his own.
Blackwall chuckled and settled in behind him. “I’ll be fine, Killer. I’m not a young thing anymore; the beast is easily contained. Plus…I’m the one man you won’t try to fuck, right?”
“No. Nope. It’s… you can’t do that to me and expect me to respect boundaries.” Theron whined, leaning back into the warrior and maybe eating up the way the man’s beard made him shiver yet again. Tried and true.
“I can and I will.”
“You’re smiling, aren’t you? You’re a sadist. You’ve hidden your devious tendencies behind a professional veneer because you were trying to gain redemption, but since I’ve provided an alternative path, you’ve just said fuck it, and are showing your true self.”
“You’ve been traveling with that writer too long.”
Theron felt the vibration of the man’s chuckle against his back. He opened his mouth to retort, but Blackwall beat him to it.
“I would think my restraint is exactly the opposite of devious tendencies. If I had devious tendencies, I could fuck you on this horse. Fill you up and make you hold it until we make it to Dennet.”
By all that’s holy, please let me stay the hero of my own story. Don’t kill me off now.
Theron swallowed, honestly trying not to imagine how close he’d come to actually being filled. But was Blackwall playing with him? Well… undoubtedly yes, but was it only playing? Did Thedas have queer-baiting? And was it baiting if he’d given him a handjob? Probably not…right? Or…
Awkward inability to parse social matters…check.
“Ah, so that’s what it takes.”
Unable to resist that bait, Theron mutters, “…to what?”
“To shut you up.”
“Oh my god.” Theron groaned and jerked his elbow back, damn near preening when he heard the bear grunt. “So, Master of No One, how is going to Dennet going to get us to Jader and on to Val Royeaux before the Inquisition?”
“Kirk and Leland headed south back down to the cabin by the lake, and then they’ll circle the Crossroads. We’re up north of the falls. We’ll stop by and trade out the horse with Dennet and stay north past Redcliffe and take a boat up Calenhad.”
Theron blinked. “We’re…going to Redcliffe?”
Blackwall huffed in his ear. “We’re not gonna stay the night, but we’ll be passing by.”
“I don’t know if they’ll let us in.”
“They’ll let us in.”
Theron balked at the pure confidence of the man. “Are you kidding me? Who is the one between us that knows things? From what I remember, Redcliffe was always closed to outsiders until they’d received an invitation.”
“You yourself said things have changed… and they wouldn’t let the inquisition in. Unless you hadn’t noticed… we aren’t the Inquisition anymore.”
Theron sighed. “That’s… I really fucked up, didn’t I.”
“Nope. I mean… you’re a walking disaster, Killer, but I don’t think anything you’ve done has been the wrong thing.”
“I still doubt they’ll let us in.”
“I have a plan for that.”
“You do, do you.” Theron turned his head and gave him a side-eye. “Are you going to share this plan?”
“And give you a chance to overthink it? No. Not a chance.”
Theron made a hmming noise and faced forward again, chewing on his lip as he thought about what this meant. He found himself leaning into the warrior again, his eyes drifting closed without realizing it.
The first thing he noticed was the soft feel of fur on his cheek. It tickled and Theron rubbed his face into it and inhaled.
And then it occurred to him that it was weird. Even clean fur rugs had something of an earthy smell, a remnant of the cleaning process or of the animal itself, at least.
“You know. On retrospect, I agree. Humans really are the strangest animals. Even my goblins would know better than to writhe against a predator.” The smooth voice was familiar in a way that started to penetrate Theron’s sleepy fog.
The Wolf’s low, rumbled laughter was the final knife that cut through it. “While their intelligence varies, this one is unique in his behavior. For now, I’ve deemed him the most powerful idiot I’ve ever met.”
What the fuck, really?!
“That’s just mean,” Theron murmured, moving to push away from the Wolf’s warmth and missing it almost instantly. No sooner had he opened his eyes; he groaned and closed them again. “How long have I been here and how are you having a conversation with him without me?” It made little sense.
“You don’t own me, Traveler.” Jareth’s voice was moving, the sound of his boots grinding into pebbles louder, if only because Theron was anticipating it.
On the nickname, though, Theron opened his eyes and narrowed them. “Why do you call me that?” Had he been talking to Niall? Is that possible?
“That is what they call you, isn’t it?” They who? Was everyone in the fade terrible gossips?
“Some…some people that I wouldn’t have thought you could talk to if you’re my dream.”
“Your dream.” The Goblin King cuts a glance at the Wolf and Theron swallows because he doesn’t like how they seem to talk without words. “You think everything you see and hear is your dream?”
Theron swallowed again, glancing at the Wolf whose brilliant eyes just seemed to observe with a glimmer of curiosity. “…yes. In some ways.”
“In what ways?”
Feeling both of their penetrating eyes was just the nightmare he’d imagined it would be. “In so much that none of us can prove that we are more real than the other… Like whether we are a construct of each other’s dreams. And if we can’t prove it, then the easiest albeit tentative truth is that we are all each other’s dreams and that maybe we all share a universal consciousness.”
The Wolf’s answering growl startled him, and Theron reached a hand to curl into his thick fur. “It could be wrong. That’s the thing about theories, right… they are just ideas until they are proven wrong.”
“Your foolish words don’t take into account loss. If we are all just dreams to each other, then how does anyone die.”
“Maybe they don’t,” he murmured hesitantly. “If you consider alternative timelines and alternate dimensions… the idea that you and Jareth can even possibly exist in the same place at the same time… and me. I shouldn’t be here if everything were finite.”
Theron stumbled as the Wolf’s nose pressed hard into his chest, pushing him backward with the force of impact. “And we circle round again. Who ARE you?”
The silence stretched for longer than it should have. Enough that it was Jareth that broke it first. “He is a Traveler. Like me… and like you.”
The Wolf snarled, shooting a glance back at the Goblin King as if cornered. “We are not the same.”
“The Fade.” Something seemed to catch and linger long enough for Theron to break his stupor. “The Fade is another world, even if the veil between it and Thedas is thin. You do travel here, do you not? Into realms and dreams found only here, maybe often reflections of Thedas, but isn’t that just because it’s easier? Easier to build something you have seen every day for most of your life.”
Gaining confidence, he glanced at Jareth and let out a breath when he saw the king’s approval before looking back at the Wolf. “It’s the same for me, isn’t it? You’ve traveled in a car with me down a highway in California—a place where I’m from. Because it’s someplace I have a fond memory of, but here, too.” He glanced around at the familiar red sky of the goblin kingdom. “I’ve never been here in person before, but it’s a place I’ve dreamed of many times.”
“I always found it interesting how hard you fought to go home when it was clear how much you wanted to stay.”
Theron threw a frown at him. “I’m not Sarah.”
“Like you aren’t the Inquisitor?”
Theron’s lips pressed together and a quick glance made him swallow hard. The Wolf had moved back, but he couldn’t read the expression on his face or the look in his eyes. Solas was giving him nothing. “…I am not the Herald,” he states pointedly, looking away from them both when the pressure became too much.
“But you have been before. Much like you have been Sarah for me more times than I can count.”
“How can you even know all of this?” Theron couldn’t keep the frustration out of his voice or off of his face.
“I told you. I am also a Traveler. I have been to her human world and I’ve been to yours, and many others. Once you’ve been untethered, it becomes harder to stay in one place for long… not to mention boring. I can’t believe anyone thinks I steal human babies simply to make more goblins.” The king scoffed, moving around Theron and the Wolf slowly, circling. “They breed like rabbits on their own. I play games to stay entertained. Sometimes to see if I can break through and untether someone else, but it’s extraordinarily rare. I wish I could take credit for you, but I can’t. You and I have danced many times and yet you never thought I was real. Wished, maybe… but never hard enough.”
“Because there’s a difference between wanting something and believing you can have it. It’s why I’m terrified I’m going to fuck up here.” Theron directed his gaze right into the abnormally quiet Wolf and let his desperation show. “I need you, Fen’Harel. We can rebuild everything better than it was, if you just give me—” Theron felt himself jerked backward as the Wolf lurched forward with an open maw. As he fell to the ground, Theron realized Solas had attacked him. The Wolf’s fur was bristled as if he might again.
The Goblin King shifted closer, his gracefully long fingers curling into Theron’s hair as he kept a hand pressing him down and behind him. Theron huffed after the second time he tried to stand and the grip just curled and tightened.
Okay. I guess I won’t stand up to be eaten. I’ll just…hang out… down here.
“You cannot be that foolish,” Jareth murmured, and Theron chanced a look to see that he was talking to the Wolf, at least.
Which makes sense because I absolutely CAN be that foolish.
The Wolf only answered with another fade-shaking growl.
Theron felt a touch, a cool breeze on the back of his neck and he tilted his head down… resisting the urge to look behind him and draw attention. Could Niall be here without being detected? Though Solas looked…not himself, so maybe.
“Are you…” Jareth started and then stopped. He was quiet for a moment. Long enough that the Wolf’s growl faded, but the fierce glare did not. “You are.”
Theron startled at the abrupt bark of laughter that followed. “What…why are you laughing? This isn’t funny at all.”
“Oh, dear Traveler… it is. It very much is.” He seemed almost unable to stop the chuckles that kept reigniting every time he tried to talk. Whatever it was, it had given the Goblin King the giggles. “You see… he’s corrupted. This prideful welp isn’t in control of himself and he doesn’t even know it.”
“What?” Theron blanked. Sure, maybe Solas looked a little otherwordly at the end of Trespassor, but he’d been a solid voice of reason up until the orb shattered. Prideful, of course. But also kindhearted. Not a demon. Right?
“YOU KNOW NOT WHAT YOU SPEAK.” The ground shook and the words hit Theron with a force that made his stomach flip and the cool touch against his back concentrated at his ear and that was when he heard a quickly whispered, “Wake UP.”
He woke to his world tilting again and groaned. This time, warm arms were there to catch him. It was a moment before he realized he was being leaned against the fence outside Dennet’s. Theron moved slowly as if to stand, but Blackwall’s warm hand just pat his head like he were a puppy.
“Just stay and rest. I’ll trade the horse out and be back in just a minute.”
“Mmmmkay,” he murmured, tilting his head back and blinking for a moment as the stars came back into focus. Was Solas really corrupted? How deep did corruption go? He wasn’t evil… if you look past the part where he doesn’t care if he destroys everyone to bring back his civilization. Or, from what Tresspasser revealed, doesn’t think anyone else is real.
Theron couldn’t blame him for that. Hell, he wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t. He would just always prioritize what he could see, hear, smell, and touch before something he couldn’t. Even if the perception of everything was a little dubious. In all honestly, it just didn’t matter what was real. It was good enough. It could be better and so it was always worth the effort to make it so, but not… not at the cost of so much.
Theron groaned, realizing he’d been woken up before he could even find out how the argument went. Who would win between Jereth and Solas? On the one hand, he’d always assumed the Fade was Solas’s realm, his creation, but in the game… Solas never showed his prowess over denizens of the fade. The Nightmare had almost won. Had Solas really been still growing his power or had he chosen not to show it and therefore cost either Stroud or Hawk.
God help me if it’s Alistair in this timeline. I never finished that game because I hadn’t hardened him enough to make him bed Morrigan nor had I been able to handle the bitter man he’d become when I died killing the dragon. I froze and did nothing.
The soft nicker of a horse broke his thoughts and Theron glanced around his fencepost to see Blackwall guiding a newly saddled horse their way. “Come on, Killer. You can finish napping on the way.”
“I really can’t,” he murmured, mounting and leaning forward while the warrior settled behind him.
Blackwall didn’t respond until they were off and away from the horse master’s property. “Having problems with demons or something?”
“Or something.” Theron considered if there was anything he could share. “It’s…”
“Strange shit?” the warrior offered.
“Fucking hell, yes. Strange shit.”
“Sounds about right. You don’t gotta explain it. Just tell me if you need my help.”
“Just what you’re doing, B. Just what you’re doing.”