Neva stood at the window, staring out over one of the gardens of Arl Eamon's Denerim estate. The room at her back was larger than the home she'd grown up in, her home in the alienage, the one she thought she would never see again when she left. And yet she had. They had just returned from there. She'd seen Soris and Shianni, had saved her father and the other elves from being sold off to the Tevinter slavers, yet she couldn't help but feel troubled. She idly ran her hands over the stone window sill, trying to sort out her feelings, when she heard a knock on her door.
"Come in," she called.
The door opened, and Alistair entered. He closed the door quietly and walked over to her. Neva attempted a smile.
"We've finally rejoined civilization, yet here you are, holed up in your room. You haven't even taken your armor off," quipped Alistair. "Or are you trying to make a bold fashion statement?"
Neva looked down at herself. "I guess it's been my daily wear for the past year. I don't really even notice it anymore."
"Yes, well, while you look beautiful no matter how you're dressed, I'd suggest changing into that blue gown the Arlessa gave you. You know, the one that shows off your..." Alistair trailed off, gesturing at her breasts.
When Neva made no response, Alistair sighed. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"I'll be fine, Alistair," Neva said.
"Yes, of that I have no doubt, but that's not an answer to my question. Look, you've always been there for me, for all of us, when we've needed someone to talk to. Today can't have been easy for you. Tell me what you're thinking," said Alistair as he reached to begin undoing the buckles on her armor.
Neva's voice was soft as she spoke. "No, I don't think 'easy' would be the word I would use to describe today. When I left, when Duncan conscripted me, I didn't think I'd ever be back. And while it was difficult to leave, I think it was harder to go back. Seeing Soris and Shianni brought back a lot of memories. And then father. What if we'd delayed a week in coming to Denerim? He would have been gone, like Valendrian, with no way to save him. He could have been..." Neva choked on her words.
Alistair set the last piece of her armor aside. "Sit," he said as he guided her to the edge of the bed, then knelt down to begin removing her boots. "You can't think those thoughts. We weren't delayed a week. Your father is safe, at home with your cousins."
"I know," said Neva as she pulled at her thin tunic. She hated the way it felt right after taking off her armor, all bunched up and stiff with sweat. "He's safe, and I'm very grateful for that."
Alistair set her boots aside and sat next to Neva. "Yet you are not comforted."
"It didn't feel like home anymore," said Neva as a tear ran down her cheek. "I guess I didn't realize just how thoroughly I'd put my old life behind me until today."
Taking her hand in his, Alistair said, "I know what you mean. Well, I sort of do. It was like that at Redcliffe for me. It was like going home, yet not home. Of course, the abominations and blood mages didn't help, either."
"That's true," said Neva, attempting a real smile. "Those Tevinter bastards were comparatively easy to deal with."
"Oh, and here I thought you had a fondness for bastards."
Neva laughed, then stood up and walked over to a chest to retrieve a clean tunic. She gestured to Alistair. "Turn around while I change."
Alistair leaned back on the bed, a wide grin on his face. "There's no way that's going to happen. If you're going to put on a show, I plan on enjoying every minute of it."
Neva smirked and pulled the dirty tunic over her head. While she was doing so, Alistair darted forward and grabbed the clean tunic. Neva reached for it, then gave Alistair a look when she realized it wasn't there. She held out her hand. "May I have that back, please."
"You can come here and get it," he said. "But I'm going to want something in return."
Gliding forward, Neva grabbed hold of the tunic and tried to pull it out of his hand, but Alistair reached for her, wrapping a hand around her waist as he pulled her in for a kiss. As he reached up to cup a breast in his hand, Neva ducked out of his grasp, taking the tunic with her. She gave him a triumphant look and pulled it over her head, then walked over to the washbasin to splash cold water on her face. After running a comb through her hair, she rejoined him on the bed.
"Sooo..." said Alistair. "Tell me about your wedding. You said we would talk about it later. I think this is later."
Neva sighed. "There's nothing to tell, really."
She crawled across the bed to lay her head on a pillow. Alistair followed after her, resting his hand across her stomach as he lay next to her.
"Oh, I don't know about that," said Alistair, trying to keep his tone light. "You were betrothed. I think that's something. And here I thought I was your first true love."
"It was an arranged marriage. Most marriages in the alienage are. I'd never even met him until that day. I didn't even want to get married, but I didn't have much choice in the matter. Soris, too. He was to be married that day as well. But before the ceremony, the Arl's son showed up. He and his lackeys treated the alienage like their own personal brothel, thinking they could just swoop in and carry off any elven girl they so desired."
"The Arl's son," said Alistair. "The one you killed. I can't believe I never asked about the circumstances before."
"They tried to start trouble," Neva continued. "But they tried starting it with Shianni, which is never a good idea. She smashed a jug over his head, knocking him out cold. His guards had to carry him off unconscious. But of course they couldn't leave it at that. So they came back, right as they ceremony was starting. He had more men, and they took Valora, that was Soris' bride, and Shianni and some of the other girls... and me."
"Maker have mercy," whispered Alistair. "Did he... did they..."
"They took us back to the estate and threw us in a room with some of the guards. They killed one of the girls right in front of the rest of us, then they took everyone else off to the 'party'," said Neva, saying the last word with such disgust that Alistair flinched. "But not me. Oh no, I was to be saved, special for the Arl's son. I don't think I'd ever been that scared before. But then Soris showed up. He was just there, at the door. He had a sword, and he slid it to me, past the guards."
"Which you then promptly disposed of, I'm sure," said Alistair.
Neva smiled grimly. "That I did, those two and the others we met along the way as we tried to find the other girls."
"And your betrothed?" asked Alistair.
Her voice was very soft, very sad, as she spoke. "He was there. He was killed by one of the guards before I could get to him." Anger grew in her voice as she continued. "I was too late to save him, and I was too late for Shianni, too. When I got to where the guards had taken them all, they'd already..." She paused and closed her eyes before saying, "They'd already raped her." Neva opened her eyes, looking directly at Alistair. "So I killed them. Like the dogs that they were."
Alistair made no response, and the silence stretched, the two of them lying quietly side by side. Alistair put his arms around Neva, pulled her to him, and lightly kissed her brow. "Why did I not already know all of this?"
"Because you never asked?" Neva said meekly.
"Right," said Alistair. "That line didn't work for you when I told you who my father was and you wanted to know why I hadn't told you sooner."
With a sigh Neva said, "I don't know. I mean, you knew parts of it. You knew that Duncan saved me from the gallows by using the Right of Conscription. And you sort of knew about Shianni. The Guardian, or whatever he was, mentioned her when we were retrieving the Urn. I guess maybe I was hoping you'd ask about that. But I didn't feel right just bringing it up. We had other more important things to deal with."
"What was his name?" Alistair asked after a moment.
"Your betrothed. What was he like?"
Neva gave a shrug. "I told you I didn't really know him. His name was Nelaros. He was from Highever. He looked a little like you, now that I think about it. Tall, fair, and handsome."
"But with pointier ears," said Alistair with a grin.
"Yes," Neva laughed softly. "But other than that, I really didn't know anything about him." She twisted a ring on her finger, one Alistair had never seen her without. "This ring was his. I've worn it ever since that night, to honor his memory. He died trying to save everyone. Trying to save me."
Alistair ran a finger down her cheek. "I think anyone who's ever met you would give their life for you. You have that effect on people."
"That's a heavy burden to bear."
"Tell me about it," Alistair grinned. "Why do you think the idea of being king terrifies me so?"
Neva closed her eyes. She didn't like talk of Alistair being king. She didn't want to think about what that would mean for them. And she didn't like the guilt she felt at believing that what she wanted mattered in the grand scheme of things. "Yes, but you frighten easily," she said, knowing that the pause before her words was a little too long.
"I'm not frightened when I have you around, oh great leader of the Wardens. All two of us," said Alistair.
"So I'm supposed to protect you? I thought you just said that you, along with everyone else, would give your life to me?"
"There's something else I'd like to give you right now, Neva. Everyone else can bugger off."
Neva laughed softly as Alistair flipped up the edge of her tunic. He ran his hand up the inside of her thigh. "I don't know why you even bothered putting that thing on," he said. "You know you're just going to have to take it off."
"Is that right?" Neva asked coyly.
"We've been traveling so much, I think we should take full advantage of this comfortable bed we have here. It's the responsible thing to do."
Neva didn't have a chance to respond as he covered her mouth with his. His hand continued moving up her body, over her stomach and breasts before he broke the kiss just long enough to pull her tunic off over her head. His kisses trailed down her neck and across her breasts. Neva moaned softly, feeling the electrical current running through her body that Alistair seemed to set off with but a touch.
"Don't we..." She gasped. "Don't we need to... talk to Eamon about..."
Alistair bit her lightly underneath her breast before looking up at her. "Yes, of course we do. But right now, I think our needs are greater. Do you disagree?" The grin he gave her was downright wicked.
Neva twined her fingers in his hair. "No, I think you're right. He can wait."