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Counting Coins [Complete]

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65
#1
(( 20 Harvestmere - @Varric Tethras ))

Edwin had made a decision. He was going to talk to Aveline. Clear the air, as it were. Discuss what had happened between them, what it meant, and perhaps most importantly, the fact that it had not been just an everyday occurrence for him. He was going to make his way over to the barracks, get a handle on the myriad of confusing and conflicting emotions tumbling through him, and sort out what to do about this whole thing.

...In a bit.

The "conversation" with Josc left his head spinning, and if he went over there now, he was certain he would just babble. Words would come out, yes, but they certainly wouldn't be good words. No doubt they'd be too revealing for his liking, and while he had no intention of lying to Aveline or pretending to be something he was not, he wasn't especially eager to recount every detail of how he found himself in this situation.

So when he'd returned to the common area of the Hanged Man, Edwin ordered a drink. It was intended to calm his nerves and give him some space to think out what he intended to say, but doing so only made him that much more apprehensive. It'd seemed an obvious choice, then, to join in a game of cards that had started up.

The stakes were a bit high for his blood, but his coinpurse was half filled with counterfeits, in any case. Coins he'd long since improved to pass as the real thing in front of all but the most discerning eyes. He could still tell them by the slight difference in weight, and it was easy to scoop out the ones that had dropped to the bottom. Buying himself a seat at the table with less-than-reputable currency, Edwin managed to play through a few hands.

At first, he didn't bother cheating. He was already playing with imaginary money, and frankly it was the mark of an amateur to come out ahead in every hand. He needed to be seen losing, though still playing with something akin to skill. The luck of the draw, as it were. Then, when his opponents were a bit deeper into their cups, his luck would suddenly turn.

This time, however, Edwin never got the chance. As the cards were being dealt for the fourth round, Norah came over, her gaze intent on him. Edwin flashed the woman a charming smile, hoping she wasn't about to tell him that Serrah Hawke wished to have a few more words. But no, if Josc wished to speak with him further, she would have approached him herself, and with nothing resembling subtlety. Besides, Norah rarely spoke on Josc's behalf. She spoke on...

Edwin sighed as the woman told him Varric was asking for him. But it was silly to think Varric wanted the same thing Josc had. Aveline would not have spoken to him about such matters, would she? Then again, the dwarf had enough contacts that... no. He was being paranoid. It was probably about business, and he should welcome the distraction.

"Right." Edwin folded his hand and pushed away from the table. "It seems I'm wanted elsewhere. I'm afraid you'll have to clean out someone else tonight."

There were a few grumbles, but most everyone at the table accepted that they'd gotten enough coins out of him. Fake coins, but they didn't need to know that. Downing the last of his drink, Edwin thanked Norah and head up the stairs to the suite Varric occupied. He hesitated at the door to compose himself, fighting with his paranoia before he finally entered.

"If this is about the card game, I assure you I've not made a mockery of your lessons," he joked. "Two parts tin, one part lead, and just enough naivete to sell it."
 
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Varric Tethras

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Posts
100
#2
Varric took care of his friends. Always had, from the time he was twelve and lying to get Sully Dane out of whatever his latest scrape was. Because his friends were his family, and with Bartrand's betrayal, they were the only family he had.

So most of the coin that he spent these days went to that end, whether paying street urchins to keep an eye on Daisy during her wanderings or slipping Lirene a bit of extra coin to cover protection for Darktown's resident hobo healer (the expense of the tub being protection for his own nose).

This was different. On the one hand, he would have paid well to see Mama Bear loosen up enough to actually sing in public, but the fact that Coins had been the one to do it …

Edwin was a good enough sort, but at the end of the day, he was a criminal, albeit one with a slightly different agenda than usual. The fact that Aveline knew this, and had not only relaxed her guard enough to sing with him, but to kiss him in public was baffling enough, but …

It was worrisome, that was all. Edwin was a con artist, a counterfeiter on a mission of vengeance. Aveline knew Edwin Thatcher, but not Rupert Orland; Varric would bet Bianca on that. Was he using her to get to his father? Damn well better not be. Josc had already pinned his ears back, Varric knew, but Josc didn't know Coins the way he did.

A knock at the door meant that Norah had delivered his message, and a moment later, Coins came in.

"If this is about the card game, I assure you I've not made a mockery of your lessons," he assured the dwarf with a smile. "Two parts tin, one part lead, and just enough naivete to sell it."

Varric didn't return the smile. “You're much improved,” he conceded, which was an understatement. His counterfeits were all but impossible to tell from the real thing these days, “but you still need to be careful who you try to con.”

“Drink?” he offered, sliding a clean glass onto the table and pouring two fingers of whiskey for them each. They were friends, after all. “I hear you and Aveline had quite the time at the Canary,” he remarked as he took a drink. “I didn't know she could sing.”
 
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65
#3
Varric didn't return his smile. That was Edwin's first indication that something was amiss. There was no sarcastic remark, no witty turn of phrase. He simply responded with a mild concession... and a bit more.

“You're much improved, but you still need to be careful who you try to con.”

None of the people at that table had been a threat to him. They were infrequent patrons, and Edwin had learned to alternate his own appearances at the Hanged Man to avoid bumping in to certain people. Besides, he'd scammed his way into a bar brawl at the absolute most. Nothing some legitimate coin and a few rounds of ale couldn't fix.

What was he getting at, then?

“Drink?” Varric offered, pouring him something far better than the Hanged Man's typical fare when he nodded. He lifted the glass to his lips when the dwarf continued. “I hear you and Aveline had quite the time at the Canary. I didn't know she could sing.”

Edwin would have preferred to remain composed. Some part of him had expected this, after all. But composure was not what the Maker lent him in that moment, and he coughed into the glass, nearly making a hash of perfectly good whiskey.

Naturally, he recovered in a language he knew Varric would understand. "I would deny it, but that seems a bit pointless at this juncture." And... he wasn't interested in denying it. It had happened. For better or worse. "Josc doesn't know about the singing, so you must have had someone there, at the Canary. I don't know why I'm surprised."

Edwin took a slow sip of his whiskey. Was he ready to have this conversation again, with someone other than Aveline? He and Varric were... friends. That seemed safe to say, though it still fit awkwardly in Edwin's mind. And Varric was even more protective of his friends than Josc was. He'd established an entire network for that purpose, the reach of which Edwin couldn't even begin to guess.

Of course he was concerned. Edwin was a liar. A cheat. A criminal whose very name was a complete and utter fabrication. He had no business kissing someone like Aveline. And yet after his talk with Josc--and his decision to speak to the Guard Captain later in the evening--he was feeling oddly protective of Aveline's right to do what she wished with whomever she wished--even him.

Lifting his gaze to meet Varric's, he prepared himself to defend that choice. "Josc already beat you to the question of my intentions, I'm afraid. But just to be concise: No, I wasn't working an angle. Getting Aveline up on that stage was a bit of a friendly 'scheme,' I suppose, but everything else that happened... I didn't plan that."

He wasn't even sure he had the capacity to plan such a thing. Flirtation was one thing, and he usually improvised in that respect. But any commitment beyond that was well out of his area of expertise. Things he should be telling Aveline, not her friends.

"Say what you plan to say, but you should know I intend to speak to her myself after this." He looked away briefly, his last words spoken in a near mumble, "I owe her that much."
 

Varric Tethras

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#4
Coins tried to maintain his usual insouciance, but Varric could see the confusion on his face when conning was mentioned, and he damn near compounded his crimes with alcohol abuse, coughing up damn good single malt Cumberland whiskey when the words 'Aveline', 'Canary' and 'sing' were strung together.

“I would deny it, but that seems a bit pointless at this juncture,” he remarked mildly when he had recovered. "Josc doesn't know about the singing, so you must have had someone there, at the Canary. I don't know why I'm surprised."

“You shouldn't be,” Varric agreed. He had people, his people had people and their people likely had people … which meant that little that went on in Kirkwall escaped his notice, and the Captain of the Guard warbling a tune in flawless Orlesian, then singing a duet with a man she'd had in a cell less than a week earlier was exactly the kind of thing that was all but guaranteed to get back to him. If it was anyone but Aveline, Varric would have been amused. But it was, so he wasn't.

"Josc already beat you to the question of my intentions, I'm afraid,” Coins told him evenly, making no attempt to evade his gaze. “But just to be concise: No, I wasn't working an angle. Getting Aveline up on that stage was a bit of a friendly 'scheme,' I suppose, but everything else that happened... I didn't plan that."

Varric nodded, accepting that. Coins could lie to most people as easily as he drew breath, but Varric wasn't most people. He was telling the truth … a truth that clearly unsettled him.

"Say what you plan to say,” Edwin went on, “but you should know I intend to speak to her myself after this." His eyes darted away as he added, almost under his breath, "I owe her that much."

“That and more,” Varric confirmed, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. “Aveline's a big girl, and it's not my business to decide who she can and can't sing with or kiss, but she is also my friend, and I do consider it my business to make sure that she doesn't get burned by what she doesn't know.”

“She knows what you were arrested for,” he went on, taking a sip of his whiskey. “She knows what you do, but she doesn't know who you are. She doesn't know about Rupert Orland … does she?” It was the first time he'd ever spoken that name aloud, and he hoped that Coins understood what that meant. The Captain of Kirkwall's guard keeping company with a charming small time criminal was unlikely to draw much notice, as Mama Bear wouldn't let it affect her job. The Captain of Kirkwall's guard keeping company with the supposedly dead scion of a noble house out to exact revenge on his family? That might well ruin her if it got out. Barrett Orland would do his damnedest to have her fired or worse.
 
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65
#5
Oh, this was going to be such a fun conversation, he could already tell. Varric was rather easygoing under most circumstances, but not where his friends were concerned. An admirable quality, except when it was pointed squarely at Edwin as though the dwarf were wielding Bianca.

“That and more,” Varric agreed. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. As much as Edwin tried to relax his posture, there was only so much he could do. “Aveline's a big girl, and it's not my business to decide who she can and can't sing with or kiss, but she is also my friend, and I do consider it my business to make sure that she doesn't get burned by what she doesn't know.”

His jaw clenched and he drew in a sharp breath. Edwin's eyes met Varric not in challenge, but in silent question.

“She knows what you were arrested for, she knows what you do, but she doesn't know who you are. She doesn't know about Rupert Orland … does she?”

Maker, that name. He nearly winced when he heard it, and reached for the whiskey as if it would somehow wash away the feeling. "No, she doesn't." And he'd planned to keep it that way. Until... this. Whatever this was. "I suspect she will at some point. I have a terrible habit of being honest with her. Very problematic."

He knew why. Aveline was everything he'd hoped to be when he was younger; everything he'd idolized. She'd gone through hell herself, and yet she'd still become what he had not.

"Are you going to expedite the process and tell her yourself?" Edwin shook his head a moment later. That wasn't Varric's style. "No. You'll give me the opportunity to do it first."

He would, at some point. Probably some point much sooner than he'd like. And what then? Rupert Orland was dead, and that alone could cause a great many problems for Aveline.

Edwin dragged a hand over his face and let out a frustrated sigh. "I didn't plan any of this," he said again. "Do you think I really want someone to get that close? It's dangerous for both of us."

Though frankly he wasn't all that concerned about his own safety. He took another drink and considered the possibilities. He knew Aveline well enough to know that if he told her his entire story, she would want to help. This burden had been his for so long that he wasn't sure how he felt about that, beyond the obvious concern.

He supposed he could just... not. Not talk to Aveline tonight. Not talk to her outside of a professional capacity ever again. But the thought of doing so stirred a strange ache in his chest. He had no idea where this was going, but ending it now seemed like a terrible waste.

"I don't know what to do," he admitted. "The damnable thing is that if I was Rupert Orland--if I'd never been sent to Starkhaven--this would all be a great deal easier." Easier, but would he still find himself in this position? His father would have married him off, and if he hadn't, what would Aveline possibly want with a lord's son? "Edwin Thatcher, however, doesn't know which way is up presently, and he'd welcome some advice."
 

Varric Tethras

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#6
Coins could hide his emotions with the best of them these days, so it was telling that he either couldn't do it now or didn't bother to try. "No, she doesn't,” he answered Varric's question heavily, taking a healthy swallow of the whiskey. "I suspect she will at some point. I have a terrible habit of being honest with her. Very problematic."

“She has that effect on people,” Varric agreed, though not too many that he could name had that effect on Coins. By Varric's own count, Aveline brought the count up to a grand total of one … if it was true.

"Are you going to expedite the process and tell her yourself?" Coins thought about it, then answered his own question with a shake of his head. "No. You'll give me the opportunity to do it first."

“Good guess,” Varric congratulated him with a faint smile. The odds that this was a scam that Coins was trying to run on Aveline were rapidly dwindling, so the dwarf's mood was improving, though he remained worried for obvious reasons.

"I didn't plan any of this," Coins said with a sigh, scrubbing a hand over his face. "Do you think I really want someone to get that close? It's dangerous for both of us."

“You don't always get to pick who you care about,” Varric told him, adding, not unkindly, “but you can always pick what you do about it.” Tearing down everything that Aveline had built for herself in the name of love – or lust, or whatever – was not what Varric considered a viable option, but at the very least, she needed to go into it with her eyes wide open.

"I don't know what to do," Coins replied, a bit plaintively. "The damnable thing is that if I was Rupert Orland--if I'd never been sent to Starkhaven--this would all be a great deal easier. Edwin Thatcher, however, doesn't know which way is up presently, and he'd welcome some advice."

“Tell her,” Varric replied simply. “And soon, because if she finds out from anybody but you, she's not going to be happy. And no, that's not a threat.” He lifted the tumbler to his lips, took another drink of the whiskey, but his eyes never left Edwin's. “You're right that I'm going to give you the chance to tell her, but if you don't, I guarantee that I will. She's got too much to lose, and she deserves to know what's at stake. And if she wants to help you with what you're doing – and I honestly don't know if she will or not – you need to tell me so that I can have people watching her back.” More than he already had. Most of Lowtown's thugs already knew that trying to take out Kirkwall's guard captain was a very bad idea, though none of them knew who was behind the beatdowns that had been administered to those who had tried.

Hightown, however, was a very different pond, filled with big fish with big teeth, many of whom believed themselves above the law and hadn't welcomed a guard captain willing to prove them wrong. Any hint of impropriety on her part, and they'd be on her like a school of sharks.
 
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65
#7
“You don't always get to pick who you care about,” Varric reasoned, “but you can always pick what you do about it.”

The first was certainly true. If Edwin had his way, he’d care about no one. It just made things more difficult. Vengeance, especially. Being friends with Varric and Josc was bad enough, but this? This was… something else, and honestly, he had no idea what to do about it, a fact he expressed soon after.

“Tell her.” A simple response, and one Edwin honestly expected. That didn’t make it any easier to hear, though. “And soon, because if she finds out from anybody but you, she's not going to be happy.”

No, she wouldn’t. But he imagined it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to her. He’d already told Aveline more than he intended, and it wasn’t much of a stretch to put together his identity if she wished to. The fact that she respected his secrets was one of the reasons he found himself in this predicament in the first place.

“And no, that's not a threat.” Varric’s gaze was steady, and Edwin didn’t look away. “You're right that I'm going to give you the chance to tell her, but if you don't, I guarantee that I will. She's got too much to lose, and she deserves to know what's at stake. And if she wants to help you with what you're doing – and I honestly don't know if she will or not – you need to tell me so that I can have people watching her back.”

“Her helping me is out of the question,” he stated quickly, shaking his head. “This is my family, and it’s my fight. No one else needs to be involved.” He’d told Varric as much in the past. “It’s too dangerous. Especially for Aveline.”

Oh, he suspected she might disagree. If he told her everything--and if he did speak the truth to her, it would have to be everything--she’d get that look in her eyes. The same look he’d had when he learned of the gross injustices being committed by his own family. Whether she’d put her career on the line, he could not guess, but he didn’t plan to even offer that up as an option.

“I’ll tell her,” he said, gaze returning to Varric, “though I can’t guarantee it’ll be tonight. There’s… other things to sort out first.”

Maybe this would all be a moot point. Maybe she’d want nothing to do with him, at least beyond their professional relationship. If that was the case, he’d have no trouble keeping her out of harm’s way. Leaning back in his chair, Edwin took a long drink. A familiar warmth spread through his limbs, but it did nothing to ease his coiled nerves.

“It’s not as if there’s any sort of future here, anyway,” he said, that bitterness edging into his voice. “You and I both know how this story ends, Varric.”

He’d never truly expected to make it through this. The cynical part of him imagined he wouldn’t even get the chance to ruin his family the way they’d ruined him. But under ideal circumstances, he would be jailed for his crimes--there was nothing Aveline could do to stop that. More likely, though? Edwin Thatcher would be killed somewhere along the line, just like the man he’d once been.
 

Varric Tethras

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#8
“Her helping me is out of the question,” Coins spoke up without hesitation, proving that he still had a bit to learn about Aveline. “This is my family, and it’s my fight. No one else needs to be involved. It’s too dangerous. Especially for Aveline.”

Varric chuckled. “You can try telling her that, but don't be hurt if I don't bet on it working." He leaned forward, resting his crossed arms on the table. "She's loyal to the people that she cares about, Coins, and she believes in what's right. Trying to keep her out of a fight like that is like trying to stop rain from falling.”

“I’ll tell her,” Edwin told him quietly. “though I can’t guarantee it’ll be tonight. There’s… other things to sort out first.”

“Doesn't have to be tonight,” Varric agreed. “Just soon.”

Coins raised the whiskey to his lips and drank deeply. “It’s not as if there’s any sort of future here, anyway,” he remarked, descending into resigned self pity. “You and I both know how this story ends, Varric.”

“Do we?” Varric cocked his head, considering it as he took a sip from his own glass. “I've never been a fan of predictable endings, myself. By yourself, maybe it was a foregone conclusion, but with some help -” He shrugged, his mouth slanting in a crooked grin. “Who knows?” He'd been trying to figure out an angle that would let him help Coins despite the kid's stubborn insistence on going it alone, but if Aveline insisted on being involved – and she would – he'd need no other excuse.
 
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#9
“You can try telling her that, but don't be hurt if I don't bet on it working." Edwin let out a soft snort. No, he wouldn't bet on that, either. "She's loyal to the people that she cares about, Coins, and she believes in what's right. Trying to keep her out of a fight like that is like trying to stop rain from falling.”

Not the metaphor he would have gone with, but who was he to question the words of the great auteur? Edwin was, if anything, a mere apprentice, and an unofficial one at that. So instead of offering some witty retort, he simply admitted his intentions. Varric seemed appeased, and while that should have settled his mind, it didn't.

That cynical, defeatist attitude reared its ugly head--that belief that he didn't deserve happiness. Not in the long-term.

“Do we?” the dwarf asked of what Edwin thought inevitable. “I've never been a fan of predictable endings, myself. By yourself, maybe it was a foregone conclusion, but with some help - Who knows?”

Edwin leaned back in his chair and let out a long, steadying breath. Varric had never pushed, but it was naive to think the dwarf hadn't been looking for some way to assist him. He knew what Edwin was up against, and by now he knew the depth of Edwin's character, as well.

"Maybe." He looked away, his gaze focused on nothing in particular. He was silent for a long moment, lost in his own thoughts. "I wrote to them, you know. To my father. To my sister. Even to my mother. I wrote a letter every day for two weeks while I was in Starkhaven, begging for help. No one ever responded."

His own family hadn't been willing to support him in his darkest hour. Why would he ever let himself believe that anyone else gave a damn? Except... he knew they did, in their way. If he turned up dead in an alley, at least three people would care. And they obviously cared enough to do something before it reached that point.

"This has always been my battle. I'm not sure I know how to let it be anyone else's," he said, gaze returning to Varric. "To put innocent people in harm's way, just because of what happened to me years ago? I'm never going to be okay with that."
 

Varric Tethras

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#10
Coins had the sense to see that Aveline wasn't going to be kept out of this fight so easily, and Varric was both surprised and a bit unsettled as he realized just how uncomfortable this was making the younger man. This wasn't just a con that Coins was running on the Captain of the Guard. Edwin cared about Aveline.

Which automatically made all of this Varric's business, whether Coins realized it or not, and he had no intention of anything but a happy ending for Mama Bear, whatever it took. She had been through enough in her life, and so had Coins.

"Maybe,” Edwin mused when Varric told him as much (though not in so many words) and dealt himself in. He was silent for a long moment before he went on, his eyes lost in the past. "I wrote to them, you know. To my father. To my sister. Even to my mother. I wrote a letter every day for two weeks while I was in Starkhaven, begging for help. No one ever responded."

Varric's eyes narrowed at that. “Shit.” There didn't seem to be a lot else to say on the matter. He leaned back in his chair, swirling the whiskey in his glass, watching it before taking a drink and raising his eyes back to his companion. “My mother drank herself to death when I was ten,” he began in a matter-of-fact manner. “My father got himself shanked in a back alley trying for easy money, and my brother locked me and my friends in a forgotten thaig in the Deep Roads and left us to die.” Only when mentioning Bartrand did an edge appear in his voice. He'd made his peace with the rest, but until he got the chance to look his brother in the eye and kick his ass, that one was going to remain a sore spot.

“Sometimes the family you're born with sucks,” he went on with a shrug, back on the level once more. “So you pick one of your own, on your own terms.” He'd been doing that since he was a kid, starting with Sully and some of the others he'd run with, and continuing right up to Hawke, Mama Bear, Daisy and the rest.

Coins didn't seem sure what to do with that. He'd been on his own for years, and Varric had let him stay that way because he didn't believe in forcing anyone to change their way of thinking. The boy was growing up, though, and maybe he was ready to consider something past the vengeance that had been his life's pursuit for as long as Varric had known him.

"This has always been my battle,” he said, his focus returning to the present and the dwarf. “I'm not sure I know how to let it be anyone else's. To put innocent people in harm's way, just because of what happened to me years ago? I'm never going to be okay with that."

Varric snorted. “Who is? That's generally what family boils down to: trying to keep each other out of trouble. Most of the time, it's only partly successful, and we wind up back here with a few interesting scars and some stories that I'll have to tone down to get my readers to believe if I put them in a book.”
 
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#11
“Shit.” Varric's response to his tale of woe was succinct. What more needed to be said on the matter, honestly? “My mother drank herself to death when I was ten. My father got himself shanked in a back alley trying for easy money, and my brother locked me and my friends in a forgotten thaig in the Deep Roads and left us to die.”

Edwin sat back in his own seat and reached for the whiskey. "Shit," he concurred, because what else was there to say?

He'd guessed Varric hadn't come from the most... conventional of homes. No one who ended up calling the Hanged Man home could claim as much. The extent of it was worse than he'd imagined, and there was some soft part of him that wanted to better express his sympathies. He wouldn't want that from Varric, though, and so he kept them to himself.

“Sometimes the family you're born with sucks,” Varric said with a shrug. “So you pick one of your own, on your own terms.”

He honestly did consider the dwarf's words, but the situation was... complicated. Edwin did his best to explain as much, though to his own ears he just sounded like a man who had no idea what he was doing. Probably because he didn't. Not when it came to this.

Varric found his floundering amusing, at least. “Who is? That's generally what family boils down to: trying to keep each other out of trouble. Most of the time, it's only partly successful, and we wind up back here with a few interesting scars and some stories that I'll have to tone down to get my readers to believe if I put them in a book.”

Edwin let out a dry laugh, shaking his head. "I suppose you won't be sharing those versions any time soon." He swallowed a fair amount of whiskey, his throat growing ever more numb to the burn of it. That wasn't the point, and they both knew it. "My experience with family thus far is quite the opposite. Though I apparently don't have to tell you that."

To their credit, his father had kept him out of trouble. Only Barrett Orland's definition of "trouble" was associating with the servants--or worse, the tenants--and being enough of a bleeding heart to consider their needs as though they were actual people. Those protections hadn't extended to not shipping him off to a conflict in which he had no right fighting, funnily enough.

"How did you do it?" he asked after a moment, returning his glass to the table. "You went through hell. By all rights you shouldn't trust a single soul. And yet you do. You trust those you call friend enough to let them in. You even trust complete strangers who put too much lead in their fake coins."

To an extent. Edwin dug out one of the much better counterfeits and rolled it between his fingers, needing something to do with his hands. There was nuance to it all, much as there had been to Varric's recommendation of how he should mix the metals. But was nuance something he could even afford in this situation? He just didn't know, and the last thing he wanted to do was test those tentative steps on Aveline.

"It's... a very long way from where I've been to," he gestured vaguely, "this. I don't even know how to start that journey."
 

Varric Tethras

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#12
Varric wasn’t looking for sympathy with his abbreviated version of his fucked-up familial dynamics; just making the point to Coins that he wasn’t the only one with a lousy past.

“Shit.” That worked just as well for Varric’s tale as it had for Edwin’s.Varric tried his best to explain how he’d gone about creating what he hadn’t been born with, but he could tell that Coins was having trouble wrapping his head around it.

"My experience with family thus far is quite the opposite,” he remarked, downing more of the whiskey. “Though I apparently don't have to tell you that."

“Family isn’t blood,” Varric told him. “It’s the people who stand with you … and the ones you stand with. Blood doesn’t mean a damn thing unless it’s backed up by action.” He’d spent years letting Bartrand hammer him over the head with ‘family’, but in the end, it had been Hawke and the others who had been the reason he survived after ‘family’ had left him for dead.

"How did you do it?" Coins asked after pondering his words. "You went through hell. By all rights you shouldn't trust a single soul. And yet you do. You trust those you call friend enough to let them in. You even trust complete strangers who put too much lead in their fake coins."

Varric chuckled, watching as he withdrew one of said fake coins - now all but indistinguishable from the real thing - and flipped it deftly between his fingers.

“Trust … but verify,” he replied. “Words can lie; actions rarely do. I didn’t trust you at first, but I gave you the chance to show me that I could.” He held the younger man’s eyes as he took another sip of whiskey. “You made some mistakes, but you didn’t let me down.”

“It’s a balancing act,” he went on. “You learn how much to hold back until you see that you can trust someone … and you learn to accept that there will be some people that you can’t trust completely, no matter how much you like them.” Sully Dane was a prime example. Varric could count on him in a fight, but not when money in any amount was involved. “Doesn’t mean you can’t like them; you just know up front that there are certain places you can’t go with them.”

Edwin’s expression was pensive as he watched the dance of the coin. "It's... a very long way from where I've been to … this.” An encompassing motion from his free hand. "I don't even know how to start that journey."

“One step at a time,” Varric replied with a pragmatic shrug. Trite, but true. “Aveline’s as solid a person to make the first step with as I can think of, but -” He held up a cautioning finger, “- there are some places she can’t go with you. Not because you can’t trust her, but because going there would compromise who she is.” Not just Kirkwall’s Guard-Captain, but someone who sincerely believed in law and order. Varric took pains to keep her well away from any of his more questionable ventures, not because he worried that she might turn him in, but because he knew she probably wouldn’t.

“You want her beside you all the way, you’re going to have to leave some things behind, sooner or later.” Reaching out, he snagged the coin from Coins, rolling it through his own fingers as he leaned back in his chair. “She deserves nothing less … and so do you.”
 
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#13
“Family isn’t blood,” Varric asserted. “It’s the people who stand with you … and the ones you stand with. Blood doesn’t mean a damn thing unless it’s backed up by action.”

No, it didn't mean anything, did it? The only action most of his family had taken was to be absolutely heartless and actively damaging. Even the least of the bunch--his mother--was willfully absent the majority of his life. The only good Orland was his sister, and... she might not be that anymore.

With everything that had happened, how was he supposed to just live a normal life? How was he supposed to let people in? Even the people he apparently wanted to know him, like Aveline.

“Trust … but verify,” he said. “Words can lie; actions rarely do. I didn’t trust you at first, but I gave you the chance to show me that I could.” Edwin lifted his gaze to meet Varric's. “You made some mistakes, but you didn’t let me down.”

Not yet, anyway.

He pushed down that voice in his head and took another drink as the dwarf continued. “It’s a balancing act. You learn how much to hold back until you see that you can trust someone … and you learn to accept that there will be some people that you can’t trust completely, no matter how much you like them.” Strange, but he'd never realized trust didn't have to be an all or nothing thing. “Doesn’t mean you can’t like them; you just know up front that there are certain places you can’t go with them.”

What about Aveline, then? He fidgeted, rolling a coin between his fingers before asking that very question in a roundabout way.

“One step at a time,” Varric said with a shrug. “Aveline’s as solid a person to make the first step with as I can think of, but -” Of course, “- there are some places she can’t go with you. Not because you can’t trust her, but because going there would compromise who she is."

"I know," Edwin said softly, "and I don't want that to ever happen. Certainly not because of me."

“You want her beside you all the way, you’re going to have to leave some things behind, sooner or later.” Varric plucked the coin from his fingers with ease; Edwin was too distracted by his words to do anything about it. “She deserves nothing less … and so do you.”

"Well, at least we agree on the first part," he said with a half smile before even that faded. "I don't know what I want, Varric. A part of me wants that--desperately--but I'm not that person anymore."

Were he still eighteen and oblivious to much of the world around him, Edwin would have gladly thrown his whole heart into this, despite how little time had actually passed since he met her. He would've just... believed things would be as they were meant to be. The stars in his eyes would have blinded him to any potential problems. Now most of what he saw was the problems and the obstacles along the way, with brief glimpses of what could be.

"Those people that you let close enough to see you. Aren't you afraid that they're..." he let out a heavy breath, "that they're not going to like what they see? Even if I leave the worst of me behind, that doesn't change who I am now or what I've done, and it only makes it slightly less irresponsible to let someone know me." His fingers flexed around his glass and he looked at Varric. "I don't know everything you're involved in or what you've done to get to where you are now. I suspect I'm one of those people you like, but can't share those things with. I'm not having a go at you," he quickly clarified, "I wouldn't have told you even half of the things you know about me."

He tapped absently on the edge of his glass, averting his gaze for a moment before returning it to Varric. "But you do have people who know those things. Isn't it... dangerous? Even if you're not leading them where they shouldn't follow."
 

Varric Tethras

Bullshitter Emeritus
Canon Character
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
100
#14
Coins sipped his whiskey pensively while Varric summarized his life’s philosophy: trust but verify. It wasn’t much as philosophies went, and it wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but it had gotten him through so far without too many disasters.

"Well, at least we agree on the first part," he conceded with regards to what Aveline deserved, but the smile he tried for dissipated like smoke in the wind. "I don't know what I want, Varric. A part of me wants that--desperately--but I'm not that person anymore."

“I’m guessing that she’s interested in the person you are now,” Varric countered. He hadn’t actually talked to Aveline about it, and had no plans to do so - though he likely wouldn’t get much choice in the matter if she found out about this little chat. “I doubt she’d have given the person you were a second glance; dealing with Kirkwall’s bluebloods has left her a bit jaded where the nobility is concerned.”

"Those people that you let close enough to see you,” Coins ventured hesitantly. “Aren't you afraid that they're..." he huffed out a sigh, then plunged ahead, "that they're not going to like what they see?”

“Some don’t,” Varric admitted with a shrug, “but if I care about them, it’s only right that they get to make that choice for themselves.” His moral compass would likely tie a Chantry sister in knots, but he had one, and while he only took suggestions from it a good part of the time, other directions were not flexible in the least.

“Even if I leave the worst of me behind, that doesn't change who I am now or what I've done, and it only makes it slightly less irresponsible to let someone know me," Edwin reasoned, blue eyes regarding Varric somberly. "I don't know everything you're involved in or what you've done to get to where you are now. I suspect I'm one of those people you like, but can't share those things with. I'm not having a go at you," he added hastily. "I wouldn't have told you even half of the things you know about me."

Varric chuckled. “Kid, I don’t have anybody that I share everything with.” Which might be a cause for self pity, were he inclined to it, but he wasn’t , so - “Sharing too much with one person can put another person in danger. It’s a dance of sorts, I guess … or maybe dancing through a room filled with traps is a better description sometimes. You learn the steps, learn what to look out for, what to avoid.” A corner of his mouth slanted upward. “It keeps me on my toes.”

The blue eyes dipped away briefly, fingers toying with the rim of the tumbler before Coins met his gaze once more. "But you do have people who know those things. Isn't it... dangerous? Even if you're not leading them where they shouldn't follow."

“Life is dangerous,” Varric replied bluntly, though not unkindly. “You live without any risks, you’re probably not rally living, not in any way that matters. Given the choice of going through life alone or trusting enough to let some people in -” He shrugged. “Some people are a safe bet. And some people are worth a bit of risk.” The lopsided grin took on a sly edge. “I’ll let you decide which group you belong to.”
 
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#15
Varric made good points. He had a pesky habit of doing so, which had both benefitted Edwin in the past, and stopped him from going through with some of his plans. He didn’t have any plans with regard to Aveline, though, and he wasn’t sure the dwarf’s words were a benefit so much as a “don’t fuck this up.”

A tall ask, considering, and he expressed how dangerous it was to let people--Aveline--know him.

“Kid, I don’t have anybody that I share everything with,” Varric said with a chuckle, “Sharing too much with one person can put another person in danger. It’s a dance of sorts, I guess … or maybe dancing through a room filled with traps is a better description sometimes. You learn the steps, learn what to look out for, what to avoid.” An amused smirk followed. “It keeps me on my toes.”

That wasn’t exactly alleviating his fears. Varric had said it himself. There were ways he could put others in danger. Some of them he could actively avoid, but others were a byproduct of who he was. Barrett Orland obviously knew he was alive somewhere, after all. Considering the lengths he’d gone to to remedy that fact before, Edwin didn’t doubt the man had a contingency plan for ensuring he was not able to disrupt the grand plan.

“Life is dangerous.” There was no need to soften that blow. Edwin was well aware, and so was Varric.“You live without any risks, you’re probably not really living, not in any way that matters. Given the choice of going through life alone or trusting enough to let some people in - some people are a safe bet. And some people are worth a bit of risk. I’ll let you decide which group you belong to.”

Edwin’s lips curved just so, and he shook his head. On the whole, he still didn’t know if he was worth the risk. But it was Varric’s investment, and he wasn’t about to argue. Especially considering he had been useful, and there was a marked difference between who he was now, and who he’d been when they met.

“Fair enough,” he said, taking another drink.

His fears weren’t exactly calmed, but the ones that rose now were not something Varric could address with a few insightful words. They’d taken root within him, and he doubted they would give up their hold so easily. Those were things he’d have to deal with himself.

The rest? He supposed the rest could only be assuaged by Aveline, which meant he needed to be on his way before his nerves got the best of him.

“I suppose I should head to the Keep if I want to have any chance of catching her tonight.” His fingers flexed, then eased around the glass and he took one more drink for good measure. Pushing out of his chair, his eyes met Varric’s. “Thank you. For a lot of things, ultimately. But… for taking that chance. I doubt I would be here if you hadn’t, and I certainly wouldn’t be here.”
 

Varric Tethras

Bullshitter Emeritus
Canon Character
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
100
#16
Varric didn’t have any easy answers for Coins. Life was risk. Trusting people, letting them in, alleviated some risks, elevated others and created entirely new ones. You had to decide what risks were worth it. For Varric, trusting no one, being completely alone, wasn’t a way that he wanted to live. Bartrand had been like that, and look how it had ended; Varric hoped that idol was good company.

Actually, he hoped that it was cursed and that his asshole brother was stuck with a thirst that no amount of water could quench or a perpetual itch someplace that he couldn’t reach to scratch. Something cheery like that.

Varric had met others like that: in it for themselves and nothing else. Almost without exception, they were assholes. He did business with them when he needed to, but he never trusted them, never let them near what really mattered, never wanted to be like them. Coins had tried to be like that, but it wasn’t who he was, and he was beginning to realize that. Judging from his reactions, it was as scary for him as it had been for Varric, but he listened, though he plainly had his doubts about what he was hearing.

“Fair enough,” he said at last, taking a drink of whiskey and visibly steeling himself. “I suppose I should head to the Keep if I want to have any chance of catching her tonight,” he went on in a moment. He was speaking mostly to himself, but Varric nodded his agreement to give him an additional nudge, and after another drink, he got to his feet. “Thank you.” The blue eyes were serious, without the sardonic gleam that had been their shield for as long as Varric had known the younger man. “For a lot of things, ultimately. But… for taking that chance. I doubt I would be here if you hadn’t, and I certainly wouldn’t be here.”

“The chance paid off,” Varric assured him. “In more ways than one.” Good counterfeit coins and forgeries had all kinds of profitable uses, but if he had to bet on it, the dwarf would wager that Coins’ more illicit activities would be coming to an end. Which was fine; Varric had learned long ago not to keep all his eggs in one basket … or even in two or three. Lost opportunities for profit would be more than offset by the satisfaction of seeing two people that he considered friends find some well deserved happiness together.

And maybe he could write a book about it. With all names changed to protect his own ass, of course.
 
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