Title: All Who Remain
Game: Dragon Age
Characters/Pairings: Sebastian Vael, Eilidh(OC), mentions of past Sebastian/f!Hawke
Disclaimer: Dragon Age universe and all its characters/locales belong to BioWare. I just enjoy torturing myself with feels
He couldn't keep going like this.
Sebastian wrestled with that truth as he stared at the wall. He couldn't, and he knew it.
Couldn't keep pretending the world ended at their-- his bedroom door. Couldn't keep ignoring Alaric's demands he act like the prince he'd claimed to be. Couldn't keep avoiding his daughter--or The Question in her eyes. When's Mum comin' home?
It didn't help that, unlike every other time he'd lost nearly everything that mattered to him, there wasn't really someone to blame. Flint Company, the Harimanns, Anders,
they had all paid for the lives they took. Astrid had made sure of it. But who did he blame for her
loss? Who should pay? The Wardens? The Inquisition? Varric, for sending her that damned letter in the first place, knowing Astrid would never refuse to help? It boiled down to his wife making a choice. Her own
choice. And there was really no one to blame for her sacrificially protective streak.You can't keep going like this
. Sebastian groaned and ran his fingers through his hair. He knew that, he did
. But he was so afraid of venting his grief and rage on the wrong person; terrified that person would be Eilidh
, that he almost didn't trust himself to leave the room.
But Starkhaven needed its Prince, and Eilidh needed her father--not to mention an answer--so later that morning, when Alaric pounded on his door once more, Sebastian actually opened it and faced the man.
"I will be at the council meeting this afternoon," he assured the steward. "After I spend some time with my daughter."
He could almost feel Alaric's surprise roll off him. "Very good, m'lord. The council will be most pleasantly surprised." The steward scurried off to inform the council members of the news.
Sebastian sighed deeply, unable to shake the overwhelming sorrow, and not looking forward to the conversation he needed to have with Eilidh at all. But it was
needed, and no matter how badly losing Astrid hurt, he couldn't use that as an excuse to abandon either his daughter or his city. So with one last deep breath, the Prince of Starkhaven set off for the nursery room where his daughter was most likely to be.
She squealed when she saw him enter. "Da!"
Sebastian barely had time to kneel down and open his arms before she barreled into him. "Hello, my sweet girl."
"I missed you," Eilidh mumbled, almost losing her flower crown as she nuzzled into the crook of his neck and hugged him tight.
"I'm sorry, m'darlin'," he whispered, feeling a pang of guilt as he held her close. His soul-shattering grief may be an acceptable reason for ignoring his city, but it was no excuse for neglecting his daughter. Not for days on end.
If Astrid were here, he'd be getting a piece of her mind. The thought sent a fresh shudder of repressed sobs through him.
Eilidh pulled back, placed one small hand on either side of her father's face. "What's wrong, Da? Your eyes're all red an' your face is scratchy." She wiggled her fingers against the three days' growth tenaciously clinging to Sebastian's jaw. "Yu never let your face get scratchy, even though Mum likes it." She cocked her head and examined his face. "Are yu still sad?"
"Aye," he managed, the word strangled by emotion as he fought to keep from shattering at the innocence in her voice.
Deep breath. You have to tell her.
"I got a letter from your Uncle Varric. Remember how Mum went to help him and some of his new friends stop a bad man from hurting people?"
"Uh-huh. Did he know when Mum ken come home? Is it gonna be a long time? Is that why you're sad? 'Cause yu miss her, too?" She snuggled close.
He'd thought stringing together the words Astrid is dead
in his mind was the worst anything could hurt. He'd been so very, very wrong. "Eilidh, my sweet girl... Mum's not comin' home."
He felt her stiffen, one hand curling in the fabric of his shirt. "Why not?" Eilidh demanded, voice already wobbling in hurt bewilderment. "Doesn't she love us?"
"Oh, my sweet darlin' girl, your mother would never stop lovin' yu. She's not comin' back because she died. She was protectin' people from a monster an' it killed her."
She was quiet for a long moment, sniffling occasionally into his shirt. "Da? What's 'died' mean?"
Sebastian closed his eyes and wondered how he explained the concept of death to a three year old who had never even lost a pet. "Do yu remember goin' to the Chantry service with all the candles? And your mum lit ones for her mother an' sister?"
"An' yu lit a whole
bunch? I 'member," Eilidh nodded. "Is Mum like Granna-L'andra now?"
"Yes," he replied simply. He would never be able to explain it any better. Astrid had been the one who had a way with words. "She's with the Maker now, watchin' out for us."
The little girl let out a disgruntled snort. "Why's He need her there
for that? I want her back here
"So do I, Love." Sebastian stroked her hair and held her close as the tears finally hit.
"I want Mama back!" Eilidh wailed into his shirt, the fabric doing little to muffle her cries. "Ev'rybody says th' Maker loves yu, Da. Make Him give her back!"Oh, Andraste, why? Why would you take a little girl's mother from her?
He kissed the top of his daughter's head and held her even closer. "Oh, my darlin' I wish with all m'heart it worked like that, but it doesn't. People don't come back when they're dead, Eilidh."
She just cried. And Sebastian sat on the floor and held her until his back ached and limbs cramped. And he would have stayed longer, if not for his promise to Alaric.
"Eilidh, sweetling, I have to go to a meeting--" her grip tightened-- "yu can come with me, but I have to get changed."
"And make your face not scratchy anymore?" She peered up at him, eyes now just as red as his probably were.
Sebastian chuckled sadly. "I think I'll leave it scratchy for a while, darlin'. C'mon." He stood, with her still clinging to his shirt, and headed back toward his room.
And that was how he entered the council chamber half an hour later; three days' worth of stubble trying to pretend it was a beard clinging to his jaw, and a red-eyed, barefoot three year old clinging to his tunic. Sebastian couldn't really bring himself to care about the surprised murmur that rippled through the room--they were lucky it was a clean
tunic--but he knew how the game went. So he forced a solemnly neutral expression and played along.
"I do apologize for th' state I'm in, lords and ladies. I fear my daughter is doin' near as badly losin' her mother as I am. Y'don't get me without her today." One arm tightened around Eilidh's back. "She'll not cause trouble. We jest need each other right now." The warning underlying his words--protest her presence and I leave, too--was clearly understood by those seated at the table. No one said a word. And it didn't take long before Eilidh--emotionally exhausted and hours overdue for her nap--fell asleep nestled in close under Sebastian's chin.
He participated in as much of the meeting as he could with the overwhelming loss of his wife fraying the edges of his sanity with every heartbeat. By the time things wound down, one fact was abundantly clear to him: he couldn't do this. Not well, not right now.
"I have one thing to say before we end here today," he spoke up, fingers playing with Eilidh's hair. "I will be temporarily ceding the majority of my responsibility to Steward Alaric." He waited for the ripple of gasps and disapproving murmurs to end before continuing. "Normally I'd never do such a thing so soon after yu trusted me as your Prince, but th' last couple days have made it very clear tae me; I cannot give this position th' attention and focus it is due while grievin' my Astrid. So, startin' now, everything goes through Steward Alaric. I trust him to make fair decisions on smaller matters, and issues of national importance will still come tae me. I will endeavor to resume my place as Prince as quickly as possible; no more than a month or two at most."
The lords and ladies who filled various advisory roles slowly, reluctantly, nodded their understanding.
Still holding Eilidh close, Sebastian rose and left the room, already mentally preparing for the next few months to be among the longest of his life.