This chapter is rather short, but the scene . . well I just couldn't get away from it. I pondered keeping this more in the timeline of the game, but considering the way the characters have become in my little AU, it just didn't make any sense that it wouldn't come up before things were . . . settled. So yes. Here it is.
Alistair looked for all the world like he was about to walk into the Black City itself, not accompany Arl Eamon to Denerim. It seemed that in his mind it amounted to the same thing. Kaei knew there was nothing she could say that would make it any easier on him, or on herself for that matter. Lanaya's question kept replaying itself in her head. And no matter how many times she heard that question, she just didn't have an answer for it.
What can an elf be to a human king?
What indeed. Kaei knew exactly what she was to Alistair. She didn't question that for a moment. A man in love with an elven Gray Warden is nothing to get terribly excited about, rare though it might be. But a King? Is that even possible? Alistair seemed to be pondering the same thing. Although they made it a point to not avoid each other as they promised, it was awkward. When the Arl's servants sent them predictably to separate rooms, they both fled to their privacy.
They'd be leaving for Denerim in the morning, which gave them one sorely needed night of rest. More than rest, Kaei was looking forward to a hot bath. Despite what some people thought about the Dalish, they weren't wild, unwashed creatures. It had always been a rough hewn wooden tub, behind screens at the back of an aravel. Certainly her childhood bath wasn't as grand as the steaming copper tub in the corner of this room. As she slid down into the warm, foamy water, Kaei realized there were some advantages to life inside a building of stone.
The scent of the water was sweet, but not cloying. Flowers. Andraste's Grace, Kaei realized and very faintly roses. She had a rush of butterflies in her stomach once she recognized the scent. She wondered if she'd ever smell the perfume of a rose again without thinking of Alistair, or manage to think of him without feeling that the earth had been pulled out from under her feet. Kaei closed her eyes, resting her arms on the rim of the tub, trying to ignore the trembling ache behind her ribs. Kaei felt herself drifting into sleep. She thought for a moment about getting out of the tub before she did, but the idea of leaving the soothing water was as abhorrent as a darkspawn.
There was a soft rapping on the door.
"Yes?" Kaei said sleepily.
"It's me," Alistair's voice came through the door.
Kaei felt her cheeks flush. "Come in," she replied. The door creaked open and then closed with a quiet click.
"Are you hiding?" he asked quietly.
Kaei chuckled. "No, I'm in the tub behind the screen."
"Oh," Alistair said. Kaei could hear the smile in his voice. "That makes my day better already." His head peeked around the corner of the screen. He was grinning, but then he gave her a mock pout.
"No fair," he said, coming around the side of the screen and kneeling next to the tub. "Bubbles."
Kaei stuck the tip of her tongue out between her teeth and tried not to laugh. "You poor thing," she said coyly. "Whatever will you do?" She fought her grin and failed. No matter how dire the situation, Alistair had an uncanny knack for making her forget all about it. For a moment or two, at least.
"I have some ideas," he smirked. "But before I . . . get distracted, I need to talk to you."
Kaei grimaced. "Why do I have a bad feeling all of a sudden?"
"Don't," Alistair said, putting his hand over hers where it rested on the rim of the tub. Kaei looked at him questioningly, but didn't speak. "I've been thinking a lot," he continued. "About us."
"Gods have mercy," Kaei muttered, looking down into the water with a sullen expression.
"Stop it," Alistair snapped. Kaei couldn't bring herself to look up at him. He sighed and sounded frustrated.
"Look," Kaei said finally, "I don't expect you . . . ."
Alistair cut her off. "I said stop it. And I mean it." Kaei snapped her head up and glared at him. Alistair cocked his head and sighed again. "Please. Just listen," he murmured. "This isn't what you think."
"What is it then?" Kaei asked, trying very hard to meet him eyes without wavering.
"I want to give you the choice," he said. "I don't want . . . I don't want to walk into this blind. I'm not so foolish as I look."
"What choice?" she replied.
"I would very much like to live in a perfect world," Alistair continued. "You know, the one where we all stand in a circle and hold hands and have all the cheese we want. But you and I both know that isn't the real world."
Kaei gave him a half hearted smile.
"The thing is," he said. "I think I have to be King, even if I don't want to. If I don't, then Ferelden will fall and the Blight will swallow us all. I never thought I'd feel like this, but it's the only way."
"You're right," Kaei replied, her voice raspy.
"And no matter what I say or do, or how I scream about it, the nobility . . . well, they're going to have a hard enough time accepting a bastard as the King. I don't think that they'd be very keen on me having an elf for a Queen," he said.
Kaei snorted. "Who said anything about . . . ."
He cut her off again. "I did," he said. "Because if I have to be King, there's nothing I want more than you to be my Queen. But I know it can't be."
"So, it is what I thought," Kaei sighed.
"It isn't," he said, frustrated. "I don't want to give you up, no matter what. But the only way that can happen, is if . . . ."
Kaei furrowed her brow. "If I'm willing to be your mistress, and let someone else be your wife."
"Yes," he said. His voice sounded choked. "I don't want to be unfair to you. To the Black City with whoever I have to marry. Yes, I'll have to have a child and all that, but I won't love her, no matter who she is. But . . . I don't want to lose you."
"A king can do whatever he wants," Kaei replied. "At least outside of court. That's at least the way it was in Orzammar."
Alistair laughed mirthlessly. "I'm living proof a King can do whatever he wants."
"I suppose being King shouldn't be a punishment," Kaei said.
"I agree," Alistair said. "But it's your choice."
"So if I can handle . . .sharing, then . . . ?" Kaei couldn't finish her sentence.
"Only have to share the King," he replied. "Alistair is all yours, if you'll have him."
A crooked smile tugged at the corner of Kaei's mouth. "If that's true, than I can handle anything."
Alistair grinned and leaned forward. His lips brushed against hers fleetingly. He stood up, still grinning and slipped his shirt of over his head, letting it fall to the floor in a heap.
"Good," he smiled. "Now that we have that settled." He reached down and pulled off his boots one at a time. They thumped to the floor. "I think," he said, untying the laces on his trews, "I'm getting in this tub and I'm going to make love to you." His grin turned into something decidedly predatory as the cloth fell to the floor. "I think it'll make me feel better." He took a step into the tub, the water sloshing out on to the floor. He kneeled down.
"I think it'll make you feel better too," he said. And before Kaei could even think of a witty reply, he moved forward, his skin sliding smoothly across hers. More water splashed out on to the floor.
There were going to be some strange looks in the morning, when they realized Alistair wasn't in his room and the bath water was all over the floor. But at that moment, Kaei wouldn't have cared if her own mother had returned from the Beyond and was standing outside the door scowling. Propriety be damned.
Anyone that thought what passed between them was dirty or wrong or somehow less because she'd never be his wife . . . they were fools. Love was what mattered and Fen'Harel could choke on the rest.