Standard disclaimers still apply. Here there be happyrompytimes. Still T, I think, but I'm terrible at these sorts of estimations.
His thoughts are still swimming hours later as he stares at the campfire. The stars are high in the sky and silence has settled snugly over the camp like a blanket. Only the crackling of the fire and the cacophony of insects and woodland creatures breaks the stillness. On the far side of the camp clearing, Sten's silhouette towers stark in the moonlight, his shadow stretching long and dark, but he has not spoken or looked Alistair's way since taking up his post over an hour ago, and Alistair rather enjoys the sense of solitude. He's had a lot to think through.
But the solitude doesn't last long.
There is a brief touch on this shoulder and he starts, muffling a curse. Holy Maker, the woman is so quiet at times, it's almost unearthly. She mouths an apology and he shakes his head, smiling up at her like a fool. He hadn't been able to keep his eyes off of her since that moment in the marketplace, and the struggle throughout the evening to keep his hands off her in front of the rest of their party was almost unbearable. It is a lost cause now, as the low flickering firelight catches in her hair, casting a nimbus of light about her. It lends her an ethereal quality beyond even her usual self-possessed beauty and he shakes his head in wonder, all the overwhelming emotion from the earlier in the day threatening to spill over once more.
"Please, sit," he murmurs, gesturing to the spot beside him in the trampled grass. "I didn't realize you were still up."
She braces hand against his leg and lowers herself to the ground at his feet. "I didn't feel like sleeping," she says softly, plopping to the ground. She nudges herself between his bent knees, elbows landing on either side of his hips, and settles back against him with a long sigh, as though it were the most natural act in the world. "I just walked the road a bit, getting a feel for where we'll be going tomorrow."
"Do be careful," he says inanely, body and mind buzzing with her proximity. "I'd be very cross if you stumbled into some grand midnight adventure without me."
She laughs silently against him and shakes her head. "Never fear; I won't leave you behind." The weight of her against his chest is at once comforting and intoxicating, and he slides his arms around her, emboldened by the heady feeling of having her so close to him. He adjusts their position slightly and bends forward to rest his chin on her shoulder, reveling in the nearness. Love, love, love, love, his heart sings to him cheerily. Hush, he tells it sternly, and just enjoy this.
And he does. The warmth of the fire drifts over them as they curl together in a tangle of hands and legs, each content with the comfort and nearness of the embrace. She softly traces his roughened fingers with her own, humming a soft song that rumbles against his chest pleasantly as he winds a strand of her hair round and round his free fingers. The Blight, Ostagar, his sister... all are momentarily pushed aside in favor of this simple moment of bliss.
Alistair lets his thoughts wander hazily in the comfortable silence for many long minutes before finally speaking again. "I wanted to thank you again for coming with me today, to see my sister," he says softly in her ear. "And... for everything you said. It really meant a lot to me, you know. Even though things didn't turn out exactly how I hoped."
"Of course, Alistair." He feels her smile a little against his cheek. "I still wish you'd let me teach the ungrateful harpy a lesson or two in manners."
"My ever-valiant defender," he teases lightly. "The heavens tremble before your righteous wrath; woe to those poor wretches who offend your sensibilities."
She swats at his knee and he chuckles deeply, pressing a kiss to the curve between her shoulder and her neck. She makes a soft, contented sound and arches back towards him infinitesimally. The moan and motion shoot straight to his groin and he shudders lightly. Oh, yes, he could get used to this.
He lets his lips linger gently at the hollow just beneath her ear, and after a moment he feels her chest hitch. "Alistair...." she says, her voice low. He can't tell if it's a warning or an invitation, but he rather thinks he'll take his chances.
"Yess?" he whispers between dropping soft, trailing kisses along the length of her neck. He groans lightly in objection when she suddenly jerks herself away and turns to face him, hands planted firmly on his shoulders. He automatically settles her more comfortably in his lap, and then his breath catches in his throat at the look on her face: dark and desperate and wanting.
"Don't start something you don't intend to finish," she hisses, her fingers curling softly against the back of his neck.
"Who says I don't intend to finish?" he asks. The attempt at playing coy sounds ridiculous to his own ears, but it's always worked to his advantage with her in the past – if not always in the way he planned.
This time she just blinks at him, startled. "You... but I thought... you said... when I wanted...."
"Yes, about that," he sighs, smiling at her ruefully. "I know what I said. And it was true then. But now, I – well. I've just been...." He blows out a breath in frustration. Smooth, he thinks. Very smooth. "It's just... every time I'm around you, I feel like my head's about to explode. I – I can't think straight."
The side of her mouth twitches up in amusement. "A back-handed sort of compliment if I've ever heard one. That's... very sweet."
He pulls her closer and she slides her arms around his neck, sobering instantly as his expression becomes serious. "Here's the thing. Being near you makes me... crazy... but I can't imagine being without you. Not ever." Alistair takes a breath, and then continues softly. "I know I've been... hesitant. I wanted to wait for the perfect time, the perfect place, but when will things ever be perfect? If they were, we wouldn't even have met."
She opens her mouth to speak but he rushes on, needing to get this out while there is still a shred of coherence in his brain, needing her to understand. "Maybe this is too fast, I don't know, but... I know what I feel."
In the resounding silence following his declaration, they sit almost nose to nose and stare at each other.
"What do you feel, Alistair?" she whispers after a score of heartbeats.
"I love you," he says hoarsely, without hesitation. "This – you and me – this is it for me. I - I don't want to wait anymore. I've never done this before. You know that. And I want it to be with you. I want it always to be with you. "
She gives him no words in answer. But the brief gleam of triumph in her eyes before she closes them and her urgent hands and her hot mouth and her quick tongue offer the only answer he needs.
Before he can think, she's straddling his waist, pushing and pulling, and she's never kissed him like this before, hot and deep and demanding, and Maker's short pajamas, why had he refused her when she'd offered this to him weeks ago?
Alistair can't rightly remember, and at the moment, Alistair can't bring himself to think about it (or much of anything) too hard.
He gives up on keeping balance and remaining somewhat vertical as an utter lost cause, and just buries his hands in her hair and falls backwards, his calluses catching in her tangles as she tumbles forward atop him. The warmth and the pressure of her body aligning with his, just so, take him a little by surprise. For someone without much experience in these sorts of matters, she surely seems to know exactly what she's doing.
Not that he's complaining either way.
His hands are on her bare back before he realizes he's pushed her tunic aside, and the dissenting sound she makes in her throat as she pulls back is the most frustrating thing he's ever heard.
"The tent," she gasps in explanation, trying to tug him towards it. Alistair has a brief, vague impression of the eyeful Sten might receive otherwise, and agrees.
"Yes," he laughs softly against her lips, "That would be a good idea." Unwilling to break contact, he moves when she moves, steps when she steps, sliding his hands down her arms and across the small of her back, pressing against her as she fumbles with the ties of the tent flap and curses colorfully under her breath.
Together they manage to fasten it suitably enough, and then her hands are at his belt and his lips are on her neck, and when he pushes her down on the bedroll, his eyes and fingers sliding sinuously up her body, the look of trust and want on her face is breathtaking.
"I love you," she finally whispers back, and he knows then that she was right. He isn't going anywhere either.
We sort of… stumbled into each other and despite this being the least perfect time, I still found myself falling for you in between all the fighting and everything else. Will there be time later? You don't know that. I don't know that. I'd like to be able to say that I threw caution to the wind at least once.