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Celeste Monroe

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352
#1
((1 Guardian, 36 Dragon; Antiva City; Nicolette O'Hara ))

The weather had grown balmier the further north they sailed, and Celeste’s spirits had risen steadily with the temperatures. Nicolette had almost recovered fully from her injury, and had made it back up to the crow’s nest the day before, with Celeste on deck trying to look like her heart wasn’t in her throat. The minstrel still tired more quickly than before, and still eating enough to make Dax look peckish, but the color was back in her cheeks and the sparkle back in those glorious eyes.

Freed from that worry, Celeste’s thoughts turned ahead. Mostly in anticipation: it was the longest that Gideon had been away from the ship, and she missed her first mate. But there was a sliver of trepidation in the mix, as well: worry for what might have happened to Gid and Téo in Antiva City without the rest of them as backup. Granted, the Tal Vashoth was not one to take needless risks and got on well with just about everyone he met, but there was no denying that life in Antiva was more unpredictable than most other places in the south as a rule. It was one of the reasons that Celeste liked it so much, but that particular blade could cut both ways, and it had been some weeks since the last letter from Gideon had arrived in Kirkwall on a southbound ship. Anything could happen in that time, something that she was trying hard not to think about too much. Duties on deck kept her mind occupied during the day, and Nico provided a welcome distraction at night, as well as a sympathetic ear when Celeste needed to voice her worries.

Except for the one worry that she had voiced to no one, especially Nico: how her dead husband’s brother would react to Nicolette. Gideon had raised no objections when Celeste had begun taking lovers once more a few months after Daniel had been lost at sea, but this was something else entirely. Nicolette was now staying in the cabin that had once been Daniel’s, and Celeste had risked taking the ship to Brandel’s Reach for her sake. It was more than a dalliance, more than the friends-with-benefits arrangement that she had with Bela. It was -

It was something that made her stomach feel as though a flock of gulls were in there fighting over a bit of chum when she thought about it too closely … so she didn’t. Much better to just enjoy the moment, a resolution made easier now that Nicolette was well and truly out of danger.

She stood beside Isabela at the helm as the Wicked Grace glided into the harbor. The pirate stayed on deck every waking moment, and while she willingly pitched in with all the duties, the crow’s nest and the bridge were far and away her favorite places, and Celeste had elected to let her guide the schooner into its berth. Mostly because Bela was the best choice, apart from Celeste herself, but partly to try and hold off the inevitable time that the other woman would go haring off on her own. Not having a ship to command after so many years was eating at her, and Celeste worried that desperation might well drive her back into the recklessness that had consumed her after her escape from Luis. She hadn’t been able to do a damn thing about it then, and she couldn’t do much more now, but she could offer this, at least.

And as a bonus, it left Celeste free to drink in the sight of Antiva City harbor under a cloudless sky: ships anchored or tied up, their crews either hard at work on the decks or indolent, waiting for the time to get to work. She knew most of them by sight: their captains and crews, where they had likely come from and the cargo they were probably carrying. She shouted greetings to some as they passed, exchanged boisterous insults with a few more, momentum bleeding off as the sails were furled with the ease of long practice and Bela expertly maneuvered the schooner toward an empty berth. Slower … closer … slower … closer …

“Nice work,” she congratulated her friend as the final few yards were being closed. Descending from the bridge, she stepped up to the rail and began readying a line, feeling the impatience thrumming through her but determined to do her part to get the ship tied up.

“Here.” Weathered hands lifted the line from hers. “I’ve got this,” Brannigan told her with an understanding smile and nod. “Go before you vibrate off the deck.”

Following his gaze, Celeste saw a familiar broad-shouldered and horned figure waving from the upper level of the harbor complex. Flashing Brannigan a grateful grin, she launched herself over the rail with a jubilant whoop just as the Wicked Grace bounced lightly against the cork bumpers on the dock.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#2
Even while knowing that they were a few days out from Antiva yet, Nicolette had spent the last week eyeing the horizon hopefully, searching out the gleaming white towers that would mark their arrival. Nearly losing Thibault and then the annoyance of her slow recuperation from being shot had made her more eager than ever to leave Kirkwall and Brandel’s Reach behind. As the days grew warmer, and the sea an ever more glittering sapphire, she felt herself opening up under the sun; her songs were all enthusiasm, and even though she still tired easily she could still dance around the deck in the evenings. The sunsets became glorious explosions of pink and yellow against purple-edged clouds, and her skin fizzed delightfully with the knowledge they would soon be in one of her favourite cities in Thedas.

Where Orlais had decadence, Antiva had elegance. Val Royeaux was certainly beautiful in a very fashionable way, but everything was a little too heavy, a little too rich; the clothes, the masks, the wine. Colour was chosen to display the wealth of the person purchasing the silks or dyed cloth, not for how well it complemented. Antiva by contrast knew how to exquisitely balance its decorations. Clothes were silk or satin, easy to wear in the heat, and vividly coloured. The food was spicy, certainly, but not muddled by an abundance of the most expensive herbs. Even the people seemed more beautiful, given a happy languor by the reliable sun during the day, and as bursting with energy at night as the juice beneath the skin of a perfectly ripe grape.

This all helped with the knowledge that she was about to meet somebody important. Celeste had already explained how important Gideon was to her; not just as her first mate, but essentially as her brother-in-law via Daniel. It had been a long time since Nicolette had been required to present herself to a lover’s family (albeit a tenuous link in this case), and she would have been a little nervous anyway without knowing he was a Tal-Vashoth.

Nonetheless she was brimming with excitement as they got nearer the docks, and Celeste had quite wisely given her some tasks to do helping them to get in, standing by with the ropes to throw to the shoremen. The docks in Antiva bustled with the same life and energy as docks anywhere else, but even here it felt special; the houses were painted white, some with swirling murals of flowers and stars, and many of them had flowers winding down from the rooftops.

She didn’t have long to appreciate the view before Celeste catapulted herself off the side of the ship with a whoop of joy, aiming directly towards a Tal-Vashoth who could only be Gideon. Up at the wheel, Isabela was laughing and waving, as were most of the crew. The first mate had clearly been missed.

Nicolette was tempted to follow Celeste over the side, but gave her captain the benefit of a few moments to enjoy her reunion with her friend, and concentrated on assisting the crew with the remainder of the tasks that would bring them safely against the dock. Only when the gangplank was down and secured did Nicolette glance around at Kali, who nodded her permission for Nicolette to follow Celeste onto the quay. While still a little nervous about meeting Gideon, she all but bounced her way down, breathing in the sea salt air, sun-warmed timber and the thousands of mingling sounds that made up the docks.
 
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Celeste Monroe

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#3
“Cap’n!”

Celeste had covered only half the distance to Gideon when a small form careened into her and hung on like a limpet. Not so small as she remembered, mind you, and after a fierce hug, she leaned back a bit to confirm that the face under the tousled mop of sunbleached hair did indeed belong to her cabin boy.

“What’ve you been feeding him?” she asked as Gideon arrived and caught them both up in a rib-crushing hug. Téo had gained half a head in height, and lost a front tooth.

Everything,” Gideon replied with an emphatic roll of his eyes. “I was about to have to get honest work just to keep him fed.”

“I been earnin’ my keep!” Téo exclaimed indignantly, stepping back and producing a small pouch that he’d tucked out of reach of cutpurses, jingling it proudly.

“That he has,” Gideon agreed. “He’s developed quite the business as a messenger.” Celeste didn’t have to ask to know that the amount that Gideon would have taken for his ‘keep’ would be nominal, though enough to be felt.

“Planning on being a landlubber, then?” Celeste teased the boy, ruffling his hair. Maybe it was that he was the first cabin boy she’d taken on after Daniel’s death, and the first she’d chosen on her own, or maybe it was that he’d always been scrappy, despite his diminutive size, but she’d always felt more protective of Téo than she had of Bailey when he’d held the position. She’d missed him.

“No chance!” he asserted, shaking his head vehemently. “I’m ready to go, cap’n!” His shining eyes turned to the Wicked Grace, following her lines with possessive pride.

“She looks good,” Gideon proclaimed with satisfaction. “Any trouble?”

Celeste chuckled. “Let’s just say we’ve got plenty of stories to tell,” she replied.

“If that’s Bela I saw at the helm, I’d imagine you do,” he replied with a grin. He’d witnessed many of their escapades over the years.

“Those aren’t even the wildest ones,” she told him, and had the satisfaction of seeing his eyebrows arch in surprise. There would be hours’ worth of catching up to be done over drinks and food. “Any problems here?”

“Nothing worth mentioning,” he responded with a negligent wave. “Been staying at the Golden Galleon. Tonio gave us room and board in exchange for bouncing on busy nights, and - Hel-looo! Who’s that?”

Celeste didn’t need to turn to know that he’d just caught sight of Nico. The sudden dip into that familiar velvety purr was enough; less familiar was the sudden twist of apprehension in her gut. It wasn’t jealousy, exactly; she and Gideon had shared lovers before I Isabela being a case in point - though never together. He was too much like a brother for that to feel right. And if Nicolette took a fancy to him, that was fine, it was just -

“She’s pretty, Cap’n!” Téo proclaimed, hazel eyes shining with admiration.

“Passenger?” The query was casual enough, but the curiosity in Gideon’s expression indicated that he’d noticed her trepidation.

“No. She’s -” Celeste took a deep breath and plunged forward. “She’s part of the crew.” Téo’s elated whoop made her laugh softly, and the gulls swooping in her belly eased up some. “She’s a minstrel that I met in Kirkwall. She’s … special.” Maker’s balls, she had never been this tongue-tied in her life! Her eyes met Gideon’s, pleading for understanding, absolution. She wasn’t trying to replace Daniel. “She took a bolt for me off Brandel’s Reach. Had to put in there to find a mage to heal her.”

Gideon’s eyes narrowed at this; he knew well enough what the dangers of that area were, the risk she had taken with the ship and crew, and how much magical healing had likely cost. A big hand reached out to give her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Sounds like someone I need to meet, then,” he told her with a little smile.

She nodded at him gratefully, then turned to catch Nicolette’s hand as she approached. “This is Nicolette O’Hara, ship’s minstrel,” she introduced her lover with a note of pride in her voice.

“First mate Gideon Augustus Nicodemus Santiago Darius Monroe,” Gideon gave his customary salutation with a flourishing bow, catching up Nico’s free hand for a courtly kiss. “A pleasure to welcome a new shipmate.”

“I’m Téo!” the pint-sized paramour announced as he barged in with a gap-toothed smile, taking up the minstrel’s hand almost before Gideon had released it and bestowing a kiss of his own in a passable imitation of the Tal Vashoth.

Someone had been taking lessons. Celeste looked to Gideon with one eyebrow arched, and he shrugged modestly. Well, the boy couldn’t find a better teacher, both in how to woo women and how to treat them properly.

“I’m the cabin boy!” he went on, whipping a small bouquet of slightly battered but bright hothouse flowers from behind his back and presenting them to her. Where had the little scamp come up with those so quickly? Glancing around, Celeste spotted an angry looking bloke stalking toward them from one of the numerous stalls throughout the city that sold the blooms.

“Be right back,” she said, releasing Nicolette’s hand and setting an intercept course.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#4
Celeste had only made it a little way along the dock towards the towering figure when she was sidelined by a small form barrelling into her. Nicolette assumed this was Téo; Bailey confirmed this with a chuckle. “He’s grown some. I bet Gideon’s been having a fun time keeping him busy.”

“If he is anything like my brother, I imagine it is hard to keep up with him.” Nicolette felt a wistful twinge at the thought of Michel, as she always did. He always wanted stories from her travels, and she longed to bring him on an adventure and be the one to introduce him to the wonders beyond Cumberland, but Maman and Saul had been firm. He could venture abroad when he was a little more grown, but for now they wanted to keep him close, learning how Saul’s business was run. Fortunately, he seemed happy enough on her visits home with this arrangement. It did not stop him from haring all over the estate with a pack of other boys from the nearby farms and houses, occasionally earning a rebuke for helping himself to various fruit yields. On her most recent return, he’d had a story about being chased out of the tavern. It was strange to think that he was no longer quite so little anymore.

Nicolette finished helping bring the ship to shore, then made her way down the gangplank. Her breeches were a pair she had borrowed from Celeste to augment her meagre collection of travelling clothes, as skirts were not especially practical on the ship, but the tunic was a pretty one in dark green with pomegranates embroidered around the neckline and hem. Slightly anxious to make a good impression, she had chosen the best she had available.

She descended carefully down to the dock, then looked up to find Celeste, Gideon and Téo all looking in her direction. Both seemed a bit surprised, and she sought to reassure them with a smile as Celeste introduced her. The note of pride in her captain’s voice was not something Nicolette was used to hearing in association with herself, and it caused a warm, happy feeling in her chest as she gently squeezed Celeste's hand. “This is Nicolette O’Hara, ship’s minstrel.”

Nicolette had noticed in the past a few qunari who were objectively attractive, but had not been especially interested herself; looks were one thing but she liked character as well, which did not seem to be an attribute amongst the ones she had encountered. Gideon, on the other hand, had it in spades. Before she could speak, he was introducing himself in a mellifluous voice, before bowing deeply. “First mate Gideon Augustus Nicodemus Santiago Darius Monroe.” He then caught her hand with surprising gentleness and kissed it. “A pleasure to welcome a new shipmate.”

“The pleasure is all mine-” Nicolette’s own attempt at a greeting was immediately interrupted by Téo, but she could not be the least bit annoyed as the boy gave his own version of Gideon’s courtly introduction, also gracing her hand with a kiss. Nicolette could not help beaming at him, but fortunately managed to resist the urge to ruffle his hair. He was so cute!

The impression was only increased as from behind his back he produced a fistful of blooms, shedding petals but beautiful nonetheless. “I’m the cabin boy!”

Nicolette accepted them, then felt Celeste shift beside her and followed her captain’s gaze in the direction of an annoyed-looking shopkeep heading in their direction. Ah. Celeste headed forward to intervene, leaving Nicolette free to actually introduce herself to Teo and Gideon properly.
“It is a pleasure to meet you both.” In recognition of Gideon’s own bow, she curtseyed to them, then straightened up. “Téo, these are beautiful - thank you so much. Do you mind if I put them in my hair? That way I won’t be able to drop them if somebody jogs me.”

Téo gave her a gap-toothed grin. “You can do as you please with them, my lady.”

Gideon made a sound that might have been muffled laughter, but he definitely looked approving of his little protegée when Nicolette’s gaze met his. She started weaving the stems together. “Celeste has told me much of the two of you. I look forward to getting to know you both properly.”

“And I gather she has much to tell us of you,” Gideon responded. “How did you come to meet her?”

Nicolette grinned. “Well, I was employed to run a secret message to her on behalf of a dwarf who was convinced all of Kirkwall was in danger. Then she persuaded me to come along helping her collect bat guano from the Kirkwall Chantry roof, and the evening ended with us escaping from the Grand Cleric’s balcony moments before we were discovered, after planting a pair of bloomers in her desk.”

Well, it had not quite ended there, but there was no need to to share those details in front of Téo. It earned her a bellowing laugh from Gideon, and Teo was almost hopping up and down as she placed the finished flower crown in her hair. “What?! How did you end up there?”

Celeste was still talking with the shopkeep, so Nicolette started spinning the tale from the beginning, as she had headed down to the docks to deliver the message and being startled by Celeste promptly eating the letter.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#5
It wasn’t the first time that Gideon had spent time away from the Wicked Grace, but it had definitely been the longest span by a considerable shot, and while there were few places better to while away a few weeks than Antiva City (as opposed to, say, Kirkwall), but he’d missed the sea, missed his ship, missed his crewmates.

And yes, missed his captain … and worried about her. Losing Daniel had hurt Celeste in a way that she had not experienced before, and in the months following, Gideon had more than half expected her to descend back into the recklessness that had marked her earliest days aboard the Wicked Grace, braced himself to kick her ass if need be, because he knew that his brother would expect it of him.

Instead, she had risen to the challenge, maturing into exactly the kind of captain that the ship and crew had needed, seeing to business while keeping the irreverence and love of mischief that added spice to the workaday routine. She’d shown the steel in her spine when she’d put off the two in the crew who declared that they wouldn’t follow a woman, shown her heart when she’d given the scrawny sprog who tried to lift her purse a berth on the ship, and had more than earned the rank she had claimed. The Wicked Grace danced through the waves with her at the helm, and the crew would follow her through fire.

Daniel would have been proud of her.

The damage that the storm had done to the ship had been bad enough, but the loss of Piper and Julian had hit Celeste hard, and being stuck in what was arguably the least appealing city on Thedas had been guaranteed to test her further. Normally, nothing would have pulled Gideon away. Celeste was more than his captain: she was his sister and his friend. Just shitty luck that a dreadnought’s worth of fucking qunari got stranded in the City of Chains, too, and one close call had been all that was needed to convince Gideon and Celeste alike that he couldn’t stay. He’d end up dead, because no fucking way was he going to submit to re-education.

So he’d gone, taking Téo because they’d already seen how Kirkwall’s dark underbelly devoured the innocent. And he’d stayed, taking the odd job here and there more because idleness felt strange than from any real need for money; the coin from the engraved counterfeiting dies that he’d delivered had been more than enough for them to live on (and yes, he’d made damn good and sure that the gold royals he’d been paid with were real). And he’d tried not to worry what might be happening in his absence as the weeks turned into months.

The familiar lines of the Wicked Grace were a welcome sight, gliding into her berth with the broken mainmast restored and white sails fluttering as they were furled. Gideon searched the deck as they tied up, his eyes picking out each of the crew in turn; no one missing, and a couple of new faces in the mix, along with a very familiar blue bandanna at the helm that brought a smile to his lips. No big surprise that they had picked up a stray or to after that long a stay. Nor was it any surprise that Celeste had taken a lover; it would have been more remarkable if she hadn’t, and hopefully the amorous shenanigans had kept her distracted from too much of the kind of mischief that could be problematic with a busted ship.

What was surprising was the hesitant, almost shy expression that appeared on Celeste’s face as the pretty brunette approached. Her liaisons ranged from one night stands to her friends-with-benefits arrangement with Isabela, but since Daniel had died, any such relationships had stopped on this side of the sheets.

No more, apparently, and Gideon wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that. Much would depend upon the character of this new paramour, but with Celeste looking as vulnerable as he’d seen her in a long while, he wasn’t going to say as much outright. The mention of Brandel’s Reach had him itching for a full account, but two things were immediately clear: the girl had guts as well as beauty, and she was definitely more than a casual bedmate if Celeste had been willing to risk a stopover in the raiders’ port.

A third fact was apparent as soon as introductions were made: Nicolette O’Hara was nothing like Daniel Monroe. None of his swagger or cocky confidence. Nor did she seem to be like Isabela, who - truth be told - he’d figured Celeste had hooked up with the moment he’d seen her on board. The minstrel returned his greetings with gentle grace and a light Orlesian accent that rolled pleasantly down his spine, but it was her reaction to Téo that cemented Gideon’s affinity for the newcomer. The kid was definitely growing into a ladies’ man (and just maybe Gideon had been giving him a bit of instruction on such matters), and Nicolette accepted his unabashed flirting - and his flowers - with a warm smile.

“It is a pleasure to meet you both,” she responded, accepting the flowers and dipping a graceful curtsy as Celeste broke away to . “Téo, these are beautiful - thank you so much. Do you mind if I put them in my hair? That way I won’t be able to drop them if somebody jogs me.”

“You can do as you please with them, my lady,” Téo proclaimed with a delighted smile as Celeste broke away to intercept the vendor that he had apparently liberated the flowers from.

“Celeste has told me much of the two of you,” Nicolette told them as she began plaiting the stems together, barely glancing at her hands as she spoke. “I look forward to getting to know you both properly.”

“And I gather she has much to tell us of you,” Gideon answered. “How did you come to meet her?” He was definitely curious, though it had likely been at a performance. Celeste had always enjoyed having a minstrel on board, and an attractive one would have been a bonus.

That, apparently, was not what had taken place. “Well, I was employed to run a secret message to her on behalf of a dwarf who was convinced all of Kirkwall was in danger,” she began with a bright smile. “Then she persuaded me to come along helping her collect bat guano from the Kirkwall Chantry roof, and the evening ended with us escaping from the Grand Cleric’s balcony moments before we were discovered, after planting a pair of bloomers in her desk.”

Classic Gaddrick, and Gideon didn’t try to hold back his laughter, while Téo capered gleefully at the account. “What?! How did you end up there?” he demanded.

Finishing the floral wreath, Nicolette placed it on her head and told the tale from the beginning, her voice settling into a cadence that held the ear without effort. A skilled storyteller, indeed.

“She ate it?” Téo exclaimed when she reached the part about disposing of the missive, turning his incredulous gaze back to Celeste as she rejoined them. “How did it taste?”

“Dry,” Celeste responded, pulling a droll expression that faded as her gaze shifted to Nicolette. Clearly, she approved of her lover’s new adornment; her eyes shone in a way that Gideon hadn’t seen in a long time. Just over two years, to be precise.

Not gonna lie, the Tal Vashoth felt a bit of a twinge in his chest, but didn’t let any of it show on his face. If she was happy, he’d be happy for her. “What did Gaddrick want?” he asked.

“She tells it better,” Celeste demurred, slipping an arm around Nicolette’s waist and kissing her cheek with gentle affection.

Gideon accepted this with a nod (he could rib her about it later, in private), and turned expectant eyes back to the minstrel. “What did you think of Gaddrick?” The dwarf was a good many things, but dull was nowhere on the list, and few people were neutral in their opinions of him.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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#6
Nicolette was most in her element when spinning stories, and the tale of how she had met Celeste was one of her favourites to tell. It had all the elements of a good one - intrigue, subterfuge, illicit activity and hints of something new to come. She had not known that Celeste would be important from the moment she saw her, but she had liked her, and from the very start of their acquaintance Celeste had emboldened her to do things she would not have considered doing. First had been the thrill of daring new things, and then the realisation that she felt safe taking those risks precisely because of the woman who encouraged her to try. And now it had crossed over that line to the point where she would do decidedly dangerous things for Celeste.

In the past, realising she’d reached that point with other partners had made her uncomfortable, and she’d eventually detached - or been thrown over for somebody who was willing to settle down. But at the moment each day made her more sure she’d done the right thing in joining the Wicked Grace, and Celeste showed no interest in trying to change her. Sometimes she found herself just gazing at her captain, waiting for that sting of apprehension to warn her that it was time to move away, and instead she found herself simply watching with unabashed appreciation. The sun-bright hair, the proud set of her jaw and the joyous energy that lit those grass-green eyes; Celeste was a wonder.

Maybe someday she would be able to tell her that.

Even if she could not, Nicolette got the distinct feeling that Gideon knew. There was a knowing humour in those red eyes as Nicolette spun out the tale of her first meeting with Celeste, and how her day had gone from simply playing the messenger to ‘saving Kirkwall.’ Celeste returned in time to hear Gideon’s query as to what Gaddrick wanted, and Nicolette leaned happily into the kiss that was pressed to her cheek. “What did you think of Gaddrick?”

“He is a highly unusual man,” Nicolette stated, without censure. “A genius, of course, and I cannot deny his generosity, although I am not sure he knows what monetary value is.” The amount he had poured into her hands simply for passing on a message had covered her tavern costs and meals for nearly three weeks. “I found looking at his workshop fascinating. I have no idea how any of his mechanical marvels work.”

“But back to the story; he was convinced he had stumbled across something that threatened Kirkwall as a whole, and he needed Celeste to help him procure a particular ingredient. My part in the story might have ended there, but she asked me if I might be interested in joining her.” Nicolette shot a look back towards Celeste; partly cheeky, but mostly affectionate. Celeste’s choice to involve her further had been one of the better happenstances of her life.

She grinned at Téo initially, assuming this would be more amusing to a teenage boy. “Gaddrick needed us to fetch him some bat merde.” She then included both men in her address. “And the largest bat colony in Kirwall happens to reside within the Chantry roof. So, we crept in past the priests, and filled the sacks as required, but on our descent, we needed to duck into a room to avoid detection. As luck would have it, it was the Grand Cleric’s room.”

Téo’s eyes nearly bugged out of his skull. “Did you get caught?”

Nicolette grinned; she was having as much fun reliving the night as she had back then. “We had to sneak out onto the balcony, but not before Celeste left a little surprise in the Grand Cleric’s drawers.” She would leave that detail for Celeste to furnish. “Then we had to wait on the balcony until the coast was clear.”

Téo was just young enough that she wasn’t going to go into details about what happened on the balcony, although judging by the knowing look in Gideon’s eyes, he’d figured out how they’d passed the time. “Eventually, we had to make good our escape, and rappelled down from the balcony. And that is how we - apparently - assisted Gaddrick in saving Kirkwall, although how we did that, I still have no idea. Since then, I have found it decidedly difficult to leave Celeste’s side, considering there is never a single dull moment.”

Nicolette leaned over and kissed Celeste’s cheek, briefly. She knew from her captain that Gideon was essentially her brother-in-law through Daniel - she wasn’t going to flaunt their relationship, but neither would she hide it. "And so, here I still am - and have no regrets for it."
 

Celeste Monroe

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#7
New crew members on the Wicked Grace weren’t exactly a regular occurrence, but when a vacancy did occur, it often took time to fill it. Sailors accustomed to the way most ships were run were often taken aback by the crew's extracurricular activities, while those who were accustomed to illegal activity were not accustomed to the strictness of the few rules that governed shipboard life. It was common for an empty berth to filled and vacated repeatedly over a period of months before a satisfactory fit was found, and once that happened, they stayed.

Piper had been part of the crew since before Celeste had joined; Julien had been a relatively new addition, but one who had seemed likely to stay. Gideon hadn’t been expecting either of them to be replaced soon, particularly from Kirkwall, but Celeste had always had a knack for picking up strays in odd places. He’d already spotted the elf they’d rescued from the slavers working the deck with the rest, and from the tale that Nicolette spun for them, it definitely seemed that the captain’s luck was holding. Gaddrick alone was enough to make most folks take a hasty step back, but being tasked with stealing bat shit from the Chantry, then ending up in the Grand Cleric’s quarters, should have sent any sane individual scurrying for calmer waters.

She didn’t look crazy, mind you.

“Did you get caught?” Téo looked to be well on his way to worshiping the newcomer, crazy or not.

“We had to sneak out onto the balcony, but not before Celeste left a little surprise in the Grand Cleric’s drawers,” Nicolette continued.

Gideon looked expectantly to Celeste, who did not disappoint. “Remember Josc’s asshole business partner Hubert?” she smirked. “I finally found a new home for his monogrammed undies.” Green eyes danced with smug amusement. “I heard that the three hours that the templars spent grilling him was nothing compared to the ribbing he got from his mates once it got out.”

Téo giggled, and Gideon had to chuckle. Her escapade with Hawke had become legendary among the Jennies in Kirkwall, but this would take it to new heights. Hubert fancied himself quite the ladies’ man, but an elderly Grand Cleric would not be viewed as an enviable conquest

“Then we had to wait on the balcony until the coast was clear.” The minstrel’s face gave no clues, but Gideon was willing to bet that if the cabin boy hadn’t been present, there would have been more to hear about that particular interlude. “Eventually, we had to make good our escape, and rappelled down from the balcony,” Nicolette concluded with noteworthy aplomb. “And that is how we - apparently - assisted Gaddrick in saving Kirkwall, although how we did that, I still have no idea. Since then, I have found it decidedly difficult to leave Celeste’s side, considering there is never a single dull moment.”

If she truly felt that way, she would be a good fit on the Wicked Grace, but it was the kiss that she bestowed upon Celeste that cemented Gideon’s approval of her. Gentle and almost chaste, it was unmistakably tender, and the softness in the captain’s expression as she leaned ever so slightly into the contact was something that Gideon had not seen in far too long.

"And so, here I still am - and have no regrets for it."

“Welcome aboard, then,” he told her with a smile. It was too soon to make a final judgment, but his first impressions were favorable enough. Time would tell if the attachment was a lasting one, and knowing when to leave tomorrow’s worries to tomorrow was a skill that both he and Celeste had learned from Daniel.

“What’s Bela doing on board?” he asked Celeste, lifting his gaze to the harbor in search of the Siren’s Call. Her crew was more than capable of bringing her in, but the ship was the pirate’s pride and joy.

“Storm.” The single clipped word brought his eyes back to Celeste, her grim expression telling the rest of the tale. “She’s the only one that made it.”

“Fuck.” He’d known some of them, and if he hadn’t always agreed with how they did business, they’d had each others backs on more than a few occasions.

“Yeah,” Celeste agreed tersely, a smirk softening her face a bit as she added, “and no, she didn’t join the crew; she’s just along for the ride. She doesn’t like being landlocked any more than I do.”

“Can’t say that I blame her.” But Gideon was just as happy that the arrangement wasn’t permanent. As much as he enjoyed Isabela’s company (in bed and out), she and Celeste were a volatile combination. Had been from the start, and he had been concerned about what turn their relationship might take after Daniel’s death. Granted, it wouldn’t have been dull, but there was such a thing as too much excitement.

“Ho, Bela!” he called out as the crew finished the process of securing the ship and swarmed up the docks toward them.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

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DAO/DA2 Timeline
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#8
Nicolette forgot her audience for a couple of heartbeats as she gazed at Celeste, and saw in her eyes a softening expression that added to the gentle sensation of warmth that filled Nicolette’s chest. But only for that length of time; while she could easily get lost in just watching her captain during moments of idleness, her manners didn’t deteriorate to the point of ignoring company. When she looked back at Gideon, she thought she read faint approval.

“Welcome aboard, then,” he smiled, before his attention was directed back towards the ship. Isabela had popped back into view after tying off various ropes, blue bandana bold against the sails as she positioned herself at the top of the gangway like an illustration straight from a story. “What’s Bela doing on board?”

Nicolette had heard the story by now, and still felt a clench of sympathy as Celeste described Isabela’s loss. It was by several magnitudes worse than anything Nicolette had experienced, and that was without going into what the reality must have been - icy water, howling winds, fingers burning on rope and against the wheel, fighting the storm itself and then being pitched into the water and buffeted about helplessly, never knowing whether the next surge might finish her or dash her against the rocks.

Sometimes having a vivid imagination could be a bit of a curse.

Isabela’s spirit didn’t seem dented by the experience by much. The captain grinned broadly at Gideon’s salutation, hip out to one side, one hand resting easily on the rail. Out from under Kirkwall’s murky skies, she had cheered, walked with an easier gait; in the clean Antivan sunshine, it was like watching a flower explode into bloom. More than a few people turned their heads as Isabela sauntered with deliberate slowness down the gangplank.

“Ho yourself, Gid.” Her fingers trailed lightly over both Celeste and Nicolette’s shoulders as she passed them by, and then rested her hand on the broad plain of Gideon’s chest. Nicolette was amused; the pair were very obviously at ease with each other, in a way that was making some people passing by stare. “How’s my favourite horny man?”
 
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