A 'little' follow-up to The Dress, inspired by a dialogue Leliana has with the Warden. Usual copyright malarkey: Bioware owns everything except for my character, you guys know the drill.
Leliana enjoyed many things; fashion, jewellery, singing, just to name a few. At this moment in time if you had asked her, her response to what her 'most favourite thing in the world' was, would have undoubtedly have been 'a hot bath,' followed by a flung boot for intruding upon her while in said bath.
Because certainly, after over a month travelling on the road and 'enjoying' cold baths in murky ponds and rivers, it felt even better than that giddy joy the bard had been filled with, when Kallian had randomly appeared in front of her the night after they'd left Orzammar, barely holding a squirming nug in her arms. Just the thought of the elf's vaguely panicked look as she furiously tried not to drop the squeaking animal-along with the adorably cute animal itself-made Leliana smile broaden, as she sank a little further into the stone bath at the end of her luxurious room. That Kallian had managed to secure the group rooms in the Gnawed Noble tavern (separate rooms no less) had managed to impress everyone (Shale and probably Sten being the exceptions).Leliana was startled out of her musings by the sound of the lock in her door turning. Quickly and quietly grabbing one of the daggers at the foot of the bath next to her clothing, she hid it in the water as she turned her body to face the door in order to avoid any exposure of either her or the dagger. Her precautions were unneeded as it was Kallian slipping in, muttering thanks to a servant before she closed the door and turned the lock again. Facing Leliana the elf gave a small wave, hanging back by the door in case the bard wanted her to leave.
"W-what are you doing here my friend?" said human asked, puzzled at her intrusion. After the night with the dress, the two women had reached an unspoken agreement that bath-time was also chat-time; Kallian could talk to Leliana, and vice-versa, with no fear of their conversations being shared with the others. The two had taken to spending more and more time with each other and Kallian was more relaxed around her than with the others. She still never talked about her herself or her past, though their friendship had grown. She involved Leliana in other things, such as small talk on the day's events and discussing her plans. (While Leliana felt that the latter would probably be better done with Alistair, Kallian was still visibly uneasy around the templar, something Alistair had confessed to the bard upset him.) The result of this was Kallian was (despite her behaviour around Alistair) apparently growing more confident; she had started to make, and hold, eye contact with the others more often, even initiating conversation and joining in card games and the like.
So Leliana wasn't surprised that Kallian had come to talk while she was having a bath, but that she'd gone to such lengths as to get someone to open the door for her. Painfully aware of Leliana's puzzled look, Kallian had the decency to look sheepish.
"...you know I can't pick locks," she muttered poutily. Indeed Leliana did-it was one of the reasons she, along with Wynne, was almost invariably in the main group. "So I convinced a servant I'd left something in your room and you wouldn't mind me getting it."
"Even though the servant would know I was bathing?" the staff at the tavern seemed to be assigned wings; whoever Kallian had talked to would have known she was still in there. Her friend shrugged as her dark emerald eyes made contact with her own blue eyes. "I'm good at talking people into things, what can I say. I told him it wasn't as if we hadn't seen each other naked before." The sensation of her legs being swept out from under her filled Leliana as she listened to Kallian's explanation. "I mean, we usually bathe together, right? Though I don't get why he turned so red when I told him that..." The red-haired elf gave Leliana a puzzled look, tilting her head as the red-headed (and now red faced) human sank back into the water at every word Kallian said, until she was burying her face in the crook of her arm. Leliana didn't know to laugh or cry.
"...what? What did I say? Is this some kind of human thing?" Kallian asked, standing there blankly. Raising her head enough for her eyes to meet Kallian's, Leliana realised that Kallian really didn't know what she'd implied and whatever she was feeling was vanquished by amusement of her leader's apparent innocence. Part of her was sorely tempted to enlightened the puzzled elf, if just to see her reaction, but the rest of her decided to save it for another day. She shook her head even as she fought the smile at her friend's innocence. "Nothing, nothing at all."
Remembering she still had a dagger in her hand, she placed it back on the floor by her pile of clothing, making a mental note to clean and oil it later, smiling at Kallian as the she waved her over. "The water will be getting cold soon my friend, come on." With a smile Kallian started to walk over, fiddling with the buckles of her studded leather as she did. Turning her back to her Leliana waited for the elf to finish; she'd picked up Kallian seemed to be very self conscious of her body whenever anyone watched her. Slipping in beside her, Kallian shut her eyes and gave a groan of frustration as she lay down next to Leliana, both resting their heads on the edge. So their ritual began; Leliana talked until Kallian felt like talking or they small-talked until Kallian wanted to talk about what was bugging her. Either way, Kallian didn't start the conversations.
"So dear leader: what are your plans?"
"Mooch about here for a few days-gods know we deserve it. Check shops for equipment. Help Watch. Kill Zevran." Staccato sentences: Kallian was stressed. "Is Zevran being a pain again?" the elf sighed, closing her eyes: two months ago she wouldn't have done such a thing; she'd have kept her eyes on Leliana to see what she was doing.
"He's baiting Alistair. I'm sure of it," her friend replied, a sneer appearing on her face for less than a second before disappearing. Leliana had learnt that in 'Kallian' that meant 'I'm annoyed and irritated with what I'm talking about.'
'Well, that was fast,' Leliana thought-normally she had to ease Kallian into talking about her problem. A faint feeling of concern clawed at Leliana's heart: Kallian was looking visibly stressed now. She felt a a guilty thrill at it; everyone else just got the stoic Grey Warden that almost never reacted, but Leliana got to see Kallian.
"I don't understand Kallian. Zevran's favourite pastime seems to be baiting poor Alistair, after flirting with all of us ladies." It also usually didn't culminate in Kallian fleeing to Leliana in order to vent.
Another micro-sneer. "I know that but Alistair is..." she turned her head, locking eyes with Leliana, another action she did more regularly now. "...he keeps... looking at me, when he thinks I can't see." Her right hand moved to hold her left arm, just above the elbow-'I'm nervous'. "And he keeps trying to get me alone, or at least to one side, away from you all. It's got worse recently." Leliana quickly filled in the gaps to her friend's line of thought, her eyes widening as she sat up with a gasp.
"You don't honestly-"
"Of course I don't!" Kallian cut her off, head turned away from her, discomfort visible. "Not... not seriously anyway. I mean... it's just... he's at least a foot taller than me and... even Wynne's stronger than me."
Feeling this chain of thought needed to be cut swiftly, Leliana knelt down in the water, next to Kallian. "Kallian, listen to me," Leliana began in a tone that brooked no argument, "this is Alistair we are talking about. He would never do such a thing to you or to anyone. We both know it would be against everything he stands for and believes in." Before Kallian could reply Leliana added "Besides, I would kill him if he tried it, and so would everyone else" drawing a small smile from Kallian before she sat up as well, face once again pensive.
"I know... it's just... he keeps looking at me. His eyes, they look... almost hungry." 'Doe eyed' would be Leliana's own interpretation, but she kept silent. One thing she'd learnt during their talks was that staying silent was a good way to get-and keep-Kallian talking. "I wish I knew what he was thinking when he looks at me. I just don't know what he wants from me. What I should do..."
The bard smiled. Kallian just didn't seem to get it; time for some subtle prompting. "Kallian, you must have seen that look in the eyes of both men and women before?" Said elf just replied with a uncomprehending look, dark emerald eyes blankly holding Leliana's blue.
"But he's human." She said it so matter-of-factly Leliana had to suppress a wince. Still, she forged ahead. Maker knew that if Alistair didn't appreciate what she was trying to do then... urgh.
"...And? What difference does that make?"
"...I'm an elf? Leliana, I know we're friends but I really don't see what you're getting at here."
Leliana crushed the urge to sigh at her friend's density. "Is it really so hard for a person to find another attractive?"
Kallian responded with a confused look and "But he's human. I'm an elf."
This time Leliana did sigh. "Kallian, you know Alistair sees you as an equal. Why is it so hard for you to understa..." Leliana trailed off, feeling her cheeks colour in shame at her own insensitivity. Of course Kallian would find it hard to accept the concept of a romantic relationship between an elf and a human, with her experience of humans as she grew up in the Alienage. What a stupid and inane question. The first bit had apparently got through however, because what had at first been a pink tinge on Kallian's face was now a healthy red that even the delicate tips of her ears were sporting.
Said elf didn't react, apparently too lost in whatever was going through her head. Maker, even her neck was red now! Leliana's smile become predatory as she leant in, whispering huskily into her pointed ear, drawing a shudder as her breath tickled it.
"Alistair is very handsome, isn't he."
A small nod.
"Do you like him?"
A pause. A nod so small, Leliana wasn't sure she'd seen one at all.
She leant closer and almost silently whispered "Alistair and Kallian, sitting in a tree-"
With an undignified squawk her friend practically lept to the other side of the bath, water splashing everywhere. While Kallian gave Leliana a look wavering between mortified fury and embarrassment, the source of the elf's feelings was leaning against the edge of the bath, giggling and cackling furiously, filing away a mental note that Kallian was apparently very shy. "I'm so sorry Kallian, it was..." she paused for a fit of giggling while her friend glared, "...too good an opportunity." The sincerity was spoilt somewhat by her dissolving into giggles again at Kallian's hurt puppy-dog eyes, while she tried to glare at the same time. Eventually Kallian huffed in mock irritation at Leliana as she made her way back over.
"If you weren't my friend I'd hit you," she pouted while Leliana giggled. After a few moments she gave a small hmph of acknowledgement of the water's temperature. "Come on, we'd better get cleaned up, the water's getting cold." Deciding not to push her luck, Leliana decided to relent and do so too.
Midway through washing Kallian broke the silence. "What do I do Leliana?"
"With Alistair?" Leliana replied, without pausing her washing.
"I cannot tell you what to do!" the bard exclaimed with a scandalised tone. "It is a matter for you and your heart to decide." Kallian just groaned and muttered something in elvish before speaking again.
"I know he wouldn't do anything. Well... anything deliberate. I heard that conversation he had with you. That 'You're a woman, right?' thing."
At Leliana's slightly surprised look-Alistair and Leliana had been sure their leader couldn't hear-Kallian pulled some of her hair back to reveal an ear. "These do more than frame my face and draw insults you know." Resuming her cleaning she continued. "I know he fumbles when he talks to people, and he's kind it's just..." the elf trailed off uncertainly, pausing her washing to give Leliana those puppy-dog eyes again filled with uncertainty. Coupled with the brilliant deep emerald colour of her eyes and her natural beauty Leliana suddenly realised why Kallian had such little trouble getting people to do what she wanted.
"I understand Kallian." Too well she understood. That quiet little niggling doubt chewed away at the back of her own mind even now, even after three years. Kallian didn't need to know about that though. Not yet, anyway.
"Alistair has... no, everyone, in the group wishes to know more about you my friend." Leliana's voice became conspiratorial. "It is quite the source of gossip."
Kallian didn't visibly react. "Morrigan suggested you joined in order to escape the alienage and for personal gain." As Leliana's voice became her 'story telling' voice Kallian raised an eyebrow. She knew the others gossiped but did they really have nothing better to talk about then some elf's reasons for becoming a Grey Warden? Oblivious to her friend's incredulity Leliana continued "Wynne's suggestion was that it was perhaps your strong sense of justice that inspired you to follow Duncan the moment her entered the alienage and announced he was recruiting" Kallian cut in.
"That sounds like something you would believe Leliana. And stop, please. I really do not want to know what Oghren and Zevran think about it." Despite the flat tone she was smiling.
"Do you not want to hear Alistair's theory?" Leliana asked teasingly.
Kallian went rigid. "He agreed with Wynne I dare say."
Leliana decided to try a new angle of attack. "You must know one of the reasons Alistair is being so earnest is he doesn't understand why you're so..." 'scared of him' were the words her mind suggested. "...nervous around him." were the words her mouth used. She had to tread the next bit carefully."He has asked me about you, Kallian. If I have learnt anything about you."
That got her friend's attention. Kallian tilted her head and played with a damp lock of hair: 'I am curious (tilting my head) and I am worried (playing with a bit of my hair).'
"I didn't tell him anything, don't worry." The hand left the lock of hair. "As far as I know, I am the only one who knows why you joined the Grey Wardens. Perhaps if Alistair knew why-"
"-then he'd hate me," Kallian dismissed, that same sad look on her face all those nights ago, in the pond with her dress. "To him being a Grey Warden is an honour. A privilege. I'm just one because they were desperate and it let me get away with murder. Literally."
"But you did it for a good reason and regret it had to happen," Leliana countered, determined not to let her friend descend into angst again. After several minutes silence, Kallian finally spoke.
"...I don't think he'd see it that way." Her words, face, posture, voice, all carefully neutral. Full Grey Warden mode. With that, she resumed her cleaning.
It was when they had left the bath and were drying off (at least, Kallian was drying Leliana's hair, being already dry and dressed) that Leliana decided to try and strike up conversation again. "So... why not Zevran?"
Kallian paused in towelling her friend's hair while she sat behind her on the bed. "What?"
"Why doesn't Zevran..." Leliana tried to think of a 'nice' way of saying it, "...intimidate you?"
"Oh." The elf understood the implication, and explained, resuming her drying. "He's... straightforward. We both know what he wants but for Zevran... a large part of his enjoyment is the thrill of the chase. He's said as much to me himself."
'And you believe him?' Leliana couldn't help but think incredulously, though she kept silent. Besides, when she thought about it, it was reasonable enough: Zevran was handsome, had a silver tongue and he knew it. He could talk his way into almost anyone's underwear. Seducing Kallian could easily be the fun behind sleeping with her. The idea him using her friend like that made her stomach twist. Her thoughts were interrupted by Kallian speaking again.
"Sten and Oghren? I think they're just not interested." That Leliana would believe. Neither had shown much interest in the ladies they travelled with, beyond (in Oghren's case) lewd offers made while drunk, and Sten had actively discouraged Morrigan's interest in him. At least, she hoped it was discouragement. If Qunari really did do that...
"There, all done," the elf said as she dropped the towl next to her own, and Leliana pulled her tunic on. Checking the inside of her boots Leliana gave a quiet growl of irritation.
Kallian gazed innocently at her, her boot wearing feet dangling off the edge of the bed. "Maybe you shouldn't tease me so horribly," she suggested in an innocent, almost sing-song, voice. She was rewarded with a dirty look. Flopping backwards onto to the bed the elven rogue gave a happy sigh. "I feel clean again. Gods that bath felt good." Leliana could only voice agreement as she leant against one of the posts of the four poster bed, eyeing her friend thoughtfully. Noticing her friend's thoughtful look, Kallian raised herself up so she was resting on her elbows and the friends exchanged glances, Leliana pensive and Kallian confused."What?"
"I was thinking how you would look in a gown. Blood red to match your hair, or perhaps deep emerald to bring out your eyes."
Leliana was met with a blank look.
"But... why would I wear a dress?" The look of horror on Leliana's face made her realise she'd just made a huge mistake, before Leliana launched into a lecture of the differences between a gown and a dress in Orlais (gown was for formal events, dress for 'normal' events, apparently) before drifting towards fashions in them. As she talked Kallian saw Leliana's eyes become wistful and a faint note of longing crept into her voice. While in the middle of explaining how in one summer the fashion had been elbow length fur gloves she interrupted her.
"You miss Orlais, don't you."
Leliana paused mid sentence. Thinking over her friend's words, her smile became nostalgic. "I miss the fashions," she replied, "the dresses, the gowns, the furs and of course, the shoes. One cannot mingle amongst nobility with bad shoes you see." Kallian felt herself smile as Leliana's eyes became distant and her voice became warm. "living with those ridiculous trends was worth it for the shoes."
"I wouldn't know," sighed Kallian with a wistful smile, eyeing her own boots thoughtfully. Noticing Leliana wince, Kallian shook her head. "No, no, I didn't mean it like that, honest! Please, carry on! I like hearing about it!"
Mollified, Leliana continued.
"When I left Orlais, the fashion was shoes with a delicate tapered heel, and embellishments in the front, a ribbon perhaps, or embroidery. In soft colours of course, it was spring. I had an eye on a pair my shoemaker was working on; it was covered in pale blue silk with amber beads on the toe."
"Orlesian shoes sound wonderful," Kallian sighed with a wistful-but happy-smile, swinging her boots at the foot of the bed slowly.
"They were. so unlike clunky Fereldan boots." Leliana made a disgusted noise. Looking at Kallian's, she smiled. "Yours are an exception though. They fit you and highlight your calves, and those vine patterns a truly beautiful. Come to think of it, I've never seen you wear any others. Where did you get them?"
The bard realised she'd stumbled onto something sensitive when Kallian's glassy smile appeared. For a few moments, her gaze was empty as she remembered, before a sadness marred her features. "My mother made them for me," she explained, her voice soft. "They were to be my sixteenth birthday present from her." Sitting up, Kallian hugged herself. "She died j...just a few weeks before she could give them to me herself."
Leliana sat down on the bed next to her and pulled the elf into a hug. She didn't resist, resting her head on the human's chest. "I don't mind, you know. I mean, I miss her but... when I see the boots, I remember the good times. Like when she played with me and my cousin Soris when we were still little... or when she started training me after I was attacked." The bard felt her friend chuckle. "When Soris had carried me into the house covered in my blood, while I was out cold, mum had a fit I was told. Dad had to practically tie her down until she'd calmed down while he took care of me. Or... or when she surprised me with my very first dress that she'd made herself." Leliana felt Kallian smile at that memory. "It wasn't very good... mum was always best at practical things, but she'd spent days making it and... and that was what mattered. Or when she'd hug me and kiss me on the cheek when I fell over when I was little and banged my knee and started crying. None of the bad times. Just... just the good ones."
Leliana couldn't bring herself to complain her tunic was wet.
Somehow Leliana was not surprised when, the day after the shopping trip, she found a pair of shoes lying on her bed. Shoes with tapered heels, covered in blue silk, with amber beads decorating the toes...
I tried to go for something a bit more light-hearted this time, and look what happens: Tabris ends up thinking Alistair wants to rape her and she cries over her 'sequel' was inspired by the talk of, what else, Leliana's love of nice shoes. Got me thinking how our 'I-grew-up-in-poverty' Tabris would react. Look where that idea went...
Also, Alistair fangirls, please don't beat me up; I figure when you grow up in a world where humans are implied to treat female elves as rape-fodder, noble intentions aren't the first thing that's going to spring to Tabris' mind. Besides, even Leliana's taken aback by Tabris' thoughts.
Thanks to the people who reviewed my other submission by the way (all, er, 2 of you). Here's hoping I get more this time! As with last time, pre-read by Yuffie_the_starfish, and thanks to her the story's alot better. Cut nearly 500 words worth of framing out and it barely changed the story, thanks to her imput.