For Jess - the Alistair to my Leliana.

He winces as he stands, leaving the bard and the assassin to their discussion. His talk with Leliana had given him a small glimmer of hope, though it was slim at best. Be yourself? Easy to suggest when you're not a bumbling idiot like me, he thinks ruefully.

"Showtime," he murmurs, advancing towards the tent. Pulling aside the tent flap, he tries not to reopen his wound scuttling in, and she looks up, quirking an eyebrow at his odd movement.

"Oh no, don't mind me, I'm fine," he drawls, smiling as he slumps down next to her. She plants a kiss on his cheek and grins back at him, before becoming absorbed in the small book she found in Redcliffe – a history of the Guerreins, he notes, tilting his head to catch the title. Sighing, he closes his eyes before speaking.

"Wynne's gone back to the Circle."

"What!?" She drops the book, slack-jawed.

"Something's.. wrong, with my wound. She went back for books. Oghren and Shale went with her, so we'll be a couple down for watches tonight." She smacks his arm.

"Don't you dare scare me like that again! I thought she'd left us for good, the way you just started like that." He opens his eyes, rubbing his arm ruefully.


"But that's not important." She shuffles onto her haunches, peering at him worriedly. "What's wrong with your wound? I thought it didn't hurt anymore." He pulls off his shirt, revealing the bandages underneath, new but already slightly bloodied. She winces on his behalf.

"It doesn't. But apparently.. that's a bad thing. It's like my body's.. not fighting the infection." He does not even notice how tense he is until she rests a hand on his arm.

"Wynne will work this out. Don't worry."

"I know. I just.. don't like the idea that my body's not fighting. I don't not fight.." He sighs deeply. "But anyway. Rest and changed bandages and waiting, I suppose. A thrilling few days, I'm sure." She smiles, lifting his chin gently with the tip of her finger.

"I'm sure you'll live through the boredom," she grins, kissing him lightly on the nose. He blushes slightly at the contact, and her smile broadens, before pulling back to sit next to him, hand reaching for the book again. He takes a breath, thinking hard about what exactly to say right now, before remembering Leliana's words - say what you mean and be who you are.

"You know.. in all the short time I've known you, I think you surprise me most when you're thinking," she says suddenly.

"What?" He looks up to find her eyes on him, searching. "Enlighten me, oh wise and all-knowing leader."

"Well.. when you're fighting, I know what you'll do. You protect us to the hilt, and your shield is always up. When you're cooking, I know what you'll do. It's usually the same stew," she adds, smiling. "And when you're talking, you have a certain way of holding yourself, depending on who it is. But when you're thinking.." She pauses, looking him up and down. "I don't know what's going on in your head, or what you'll do next. It's always a surprise." He raises his eyebrows.

"What brought that on?"

"You looked like you were thinking. It kind of just.. slipped out," she says, blushing. He is struck by just how adorable she is when her face is slightly reddened, and suddenly his courage is bolstered just enough.

"Half the time I'm trying not to make an ass out of myself," he chuckles. "You make me crazy. Literally. It's like my insides are all shaken up and.. and my brain just doesn't work properly." He looks away just before she tries to catch his gaze, determined to get through without distractions. "I mean, you must have noticed by now just how much of a nervous wreck I am whenever we talk, or..don't talk, as the case may be." And he can feel her smirk, on the edge of his vision. "But.. here's the thing. All of that mess and chaos – it's the best feeling in the world. You've got my heart in a vice, but I wouldn't.. I wouldn't change a thing." Here, he finally looks up to meet her gaze. Her mouth is slightly open, her eyes glittering, and he takes a running jump into the abyss that is the next step. "I love you." And he cannot help but smile at this, the admission that has been biding its time in his mind for so long, finally out in the open for all to see.

She suddenly bursts into a brilliant smile, cheeks blooming red as she tries to hide her face.

"Really?" He laughs, pulling her close.

"Yes, really. I, Alistair, being of reasonably sound mind – shush, you," he adds, as she giggles, "do freely and happily admit that you are the woman that I have fallen head over heels in love with." His grin now refuses to be wiped from his face, thankful that she has not shunned him, laughed in his face, downright kicked him out. That is enough, he thinks, holding her close as she laughs and showers him with tiny kisses.

"You want to know a secret?" she whispers, pulling away to look at him through her eyelashes.

"You have secrets from me, dear lady? Oh, such a wound to my manly pride!" he chuckles. She rolls her eyes, placing a single finger on his lips to quieten him for a moment.

"I.. I love you too." And she smiles, such an honest and joyful look on her face as she moves her hand to cup his face. "Maker only knows why, but I love you," she whispers, before closing the gap between them with a kiss.

His heart is on fire in his chest as he runs a hand through her hair, coaxing her as close as she can get, and he thinks that there will never be a feeling like this again in his life – she loves him! She really loves him! He cannot stop the smile on his face, and she has to pull away to laugh at him, but he does not care. He has everything he could desire in the world right next to him, and he could very well die from the wound in his side but right now he has love, pure and new and so very hopeful, and he dares to think that it will keep him fighting until the end of his days.