This may or may not be a one shot. You'll have to tell me whether it's worth continuing. I don't doubt that there's going to be a glut of Alistair/PC fanfiction, because Bioware and David Gaider are evil geniuses. But here it is anyway. Enjoy.
It was just before dawn. Aine pondered something Wynne had said to her, as she stood staring at the slowly brightening sky.
"Like the whole world is holding its breath, waiting for first light," Wynne said quietly.
Aine smiled, remembering the beatific look in Wynne's kind eyes. She was glad that amidst all the strife of the last months, that she been able to do something other than polish her blades with blood. Even so, blood and especially the black sticky blood of the darkspawn graced her dreams far more than she could handle when she closed her eyes. Which was why she was standing outside her tent, instead of curled up warm next to Alistair who still slept inside.
She reached into one of the pouches on her belt and pulled out the rose Alistair had given her. She thumbed the still soft petals, amazed that the flower wasn't dead. It was so strange, that after all the time since Lothering, the flower was still alive. Before the Blight began, despite having met mages before, she'd never really understood the power of magic. But there was magic in this flower; of that she was certain.
She shifted her weight from one hip to the other as she caressed the petals. She smiled to herself, enjoying the now familiar, yet still new feeling of being a woman. It did trouble her a bit, knowing that the precious virginity that she'd so tightly clung to was gone. But then again, she was a Grey Warden now, not just Lady Cousland. Her prized noble virginity was far less of a treasure now. After all, there wasn't any reason for her to worry about a husband in a marriage bed now. That wasn't her life any more.
There was a rustling sound behind her and she turned to see Alistair pop his head out through the opening in the canvas of the tent. His hair was rumpled and his eyes were blurry with sleep. He gave her a worried look.
"Nightmares?" he asked softly. Aine nodded sadly. Clumsily, he dragged himself to his feet, pulling the blanket with him. He stood behind her, wrapping the blanket and his arms around her shoulders. She settled herself back against him. She hadn't realized how cold she was, standing out in the dark in only her shift. She shivered.
"Want to talk about it?" he asked, punctuating his sentence with a kiss on the top of her head.
"No," she replied. "I'd rather talk about something else. Since we both know that there's not a damn thing that will help with my nightmares except sticking a blade into the archdemon."
"There's that," he chuckled. Aine turned around in his arms and reached up, planting a kiss on the tip of his nose.
"Let's go back in the tent," she said, a strange and sad look dancing across her face. Alistair furrowed his brows.
"That good?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing that dire, "she said. "Just not something I really would like an audience for. And the others will be up soon. Well, Sten and Wynne anyway. I don't think either of them sleep very much."
"Good point," he said, holding the flap of the tent open for her. Together they crawled inside. Aine settled herself on the ground, crossing her legs in front of her, setting the rose she still held in her lap. Alistair smiled at it, but didn't say anything. He met her eyes. There was a moment of awkward silence.
"Did you know that I met Cailan once before Ostagar?" Aine said finally.
"Really?" Alistair asked. "I guess that's not so strange. Was it at a Landsmeet?" He shuddered almost imperceptibly at the word, like it had a bitter taste. Aine pretended not to notice.
"It was," she continued. "I was maybe fourteen or fifteen at the time. My father insisted on taking me as well as Fergus this time. He said it was important that I get to know the other noble families . . . well, their eligible sons anyway. I was lucky that my parents hadn't insisted on an arranged marriage for me, but it was expected that I'd pick a nice noble boy on my own.
I didn't have any interest in any of that nonsense. I was young and bored senseless by the dance of backhanded compliments and political posturing of the Landsmeet. During one particularly dull meeting, I slipped out unnoticed and found myself in the palace gardens. That's where I discovered I wasn't the only one that was bored to tears by all the posturing.
Cailan was sitting on a stone bench, fiddling with the straps of the ceremonial armor he wore. He's only a bit older than we are, you know, and he was far more interested in stories and battles than in political machinations. He must have heard me coming, and he looked up at me and grinned.
You really do look a lot like him, you know," she said.
"So I've been told," Alistair said, his voice more sad than most would be when compared to the undoubtedly handsome former king.
"I know you don't want to hear this," she continued, "But it isn't just your face, or the color of your eyes either. You are far more like Cailan than I'm sure you want to be. But before I get sidetracked," she said, clearing her throat.
"Anyway," she started again, "I know that Cailan didn't recognize me, when we met again at Ostagar, but I certainly remembered him. The two of us spent the afternoon in the garden together. Cailan told me stories . . . of all things . . . about the Grey Wardens. He was fascinated with them. And after listening to him, I was too. Now, I will admit that the stories and reality are not exactly the same, but that's another tale.
I'm sure you've heard them yourself; and you know how Cailan was. He was thrilled to his core by the idea of doing something great. But it wasn't for the reasons that most men desire glory. Cailan wanted desperately to live up to King Maric's greatness. It was obvious that he felt like it was his entire purpose for being alive. And it was also obvious that he was very afraid of failing to do so."
"Really?" Alistair interrupted. "He seemed so confident that he would succeed at everything. I remember thinking he was a fool. And then I felt pretty foolish, reminding myself who I was. His half-brother and a bastard to boot. It wasn't exactly a kind thought."
"You weren't the only one to think that. But that confidence was mostly bravado on his part," Aine said. "Or at least, it seemed so to me, remembering the nineteen year old boy that I spent an afternoon with in the rose garden." She glanced down at the rose in her lap unintentionally.
"Roses, eh?" Alistair snapped, a hint of irritating creeping into his voice.
"Don't," Aine replied, trying not to sound snappish. "Let me finish so you can be mad at me for all the right, stupid reasons."
Alistair grinned despite himself. He nodded, "Go on."
"As I was saying, I was in the garden with Cailan for a long time. He even told me about his arranged and impending marriage to Anora, which he was not at all happy about. I told him how my parent's were allowing me to choose my own husband and he was positively green with envy. And wonderfully flirtatious, especially when I was just a gawky, awkward thing at fourteen.
After the Landsmeet finally ended and we returned home, I had all sorts of wonderfully ridiculous and undoubtedly childish fantasies about becoming the Queen of Ferelden," she paused. "Maker, that sounds really stupid to say out loud."
"I can honestly say I never had any fantasies about becoming Queen," Alistair interjected sarcastically. The grin on his face suddenly fled as he continued. "But I think about being King all the time now. And it makes me feel ill."
"That's the thing we need to talk about," she said quietly. "And it makes me feel pretty ill too." Alistair stared at her, the furrow between his brows deepening. He looked for a moment like he was going to say something, but then thought better of it.
"We had to talk about it eventually," she said. She reached out and laced her fingers through his and he clutched her fingers tightly. His hands were uncharacteristically cold.
"But I don't know what to do about it," she said. "Because I can't decide how to deal with the cold fact that person I love more than anyone in the world is going to be the King of Ferelden."
Alistair looked up at her. "I love you too," he said. "But I don't know what to do about it either."
"If things were different," Aine continued. "Lady Cousland would be an excellent match for the King of Ferelden actually. But I'm not just Lady Cousland any more. I'm a Grey Warden. And I have no idea what that means, when it comes to this."
"Me neither," Alistair said. "I don't know what being King is going to mean for us. But I do know, that no matter what happens, I will always love you. To my very last breath. Of course, King or not, I'm a Grey Warden too, and that last breath might come long before I need to worry about being King."
"I wish Duncan was here," Aine whispered, her voice choking off.
"You're telling me," Alistair replied.
They sat in silence, their fingers still clasped together so tightly both their knuckles went white. Aine shivered again, and only wished it was because she was cold. Slowly the light filtering through the canvas of the tent brightened and the comforting sound of Wynne humming under her breath broke the silence. Sten's terse greeting to the mage, and her good natured reply. Then Zevran's voice, grumbling about how he wished they shut up. Aine glanced up at Alistair under her eyelashes, and saw the grin of her face mirrored on his.
Gently, he reached out with the hand she wasn't holding for dear life, and cupped her chin, tilting her face up.
"Aine," he said quietly, trying to make sure they were not overheard. "I know that since this began, it's all turned into something neither of us could ever have imagined. I know now that no matter what I do, sometimes the future is completely beyond our control. The only thing that we can control is what we do, right now. And right now, I love you more than I ever thought possible. I know you love me, and it makes me feel like I can do anything. I am going to do whatever I can to make sure that I'm worthy of it. I promise, that if it can be so, I will make at least one of your childhood fantasies come true. If I have my way, you will be Queen of Ferelden."
He leaned in and kissed her. His lips were warm and persistent. It felt to Aine like his very soul was in that one simple kiss.
Then, without another word, he pulled away and grabbed his shirt, slipping it over his head quickly. He flung open the flap to the tent and crawled out, standing up just outside the door and offering her his hand.
"Come on," he said, grinning. "We have darkspawn to slaughter."
Aine smiled back at him, took his outstretched hand and the promise it held.