Don't own dragonage, Bioware does, ect. If you've not read 'The Dress' and 'Shoes' (in that order) first then bits of this might not make much sense.
"No. Absolutely not!"
Being a best friend's confidante was quite a pain. At least, it was when your friend was the leader of a bunch of gossips and you were stuck with cooking duty that night's camp.
"Pleeease, Leliana? I know she talks to you, we all know-has she said anything?" Alistair begged, with full Puppy-dog Eyes. 'Indeed Alistair, she has talked about you; she told me she was frightened you might force yourself on her last week, and it's because of me she doesn't try and stay five feet away from you all the time now and has actually let you take her aside and talk to her' was one reply the irritated bard considered. She settled for snapping "Alistair, if you want to know what she thinks of you, why do you not just go and ask her yourself?" at him instead. Because he was too shy and nervous: they both knew that. Her suggestion had the desired effect though; Alistair paused and a rosy hue appeared on his cheeks. Seeing her opening Leliana moved in for the kill. "Now if you don't mind, I have to get these vegetables chopped for the stew, so stop bothering me." Alistair opened his mouth to say something but any words he had died on his lips as he saw the look in Leliana's eyes and remembered the knife in her hand. Deciding discretion was the better part of valour, he retreated, Leliana sighing in relief at achieving solitude.
It didn't last. Refusing to yell in frustration, Leliana settled for pointedly refusing to look at her latest company instead.
"I suppose you've come to try and pry something about our leader from me too, have you?" she practically snarled.
"Fuck no," Oghren drawled, grabbing a potato before sitting down and beginning to peel it with one of his own knives, "I'm just soddin' hungry, and the sooner this bloody peeling is done, the sooner I can sit down to eat!"
"One can only hope..." Leliana muttered under her breath. Before Alistair it had been Wynne. Though the mage had at least tact and diplomacy it still hadn't stopped the young woman getting irritated. Alistair had only aggravated it.
"Besides," the dwarf continued, not bothering to conceal contempt in his voice, "certain nug-humpers will be less likely to distract you if you're not alone. I don't get how the boss can stand him. Or that elf, for that matter..." the berserker trailed off, belching before resuming his work.
To be fair to Oghren, they did indeed work solid until the vegetables were done without disturbance, and after the silence Leliana felt much better. As she started skinning and cutting up one of the gutted rabbits Zevran had caught earlier, Oghren staggered off to his tent, swigging from the new hip flask Kallian had bought him last week along with a bottle of something that smelt like it was designed to clean armour. Several minutes after Oghren's departure, Leliana felt a presence.
"If you want to talk, you're doing the other rabbit." If they were going to talk to her then by Andraste's flaming knickers she'd sure to get something out of them other than the beginnings of a migraine.
"My dear Leliana," the antivan replied easily, "there are other things I would much rather do with one so lovely as yourself", sitting down and taking the second rabbit and a small knife from somewhere on his person. After a few minutes of them working in silence Leliana thanked the Maker for giving her a respite...
"I wish to ask you something."
... before swearing under her breath. "Zevran, I'm really not in the mood; I've already had Wynne and Alistair pestering me this past hour," she complained.
"I observed, and I assure you dear Leliana, I understand you are stressed. I wish to ask only one question, one that has teased my curiosity for some time now. If you do not wish to answer, then very well. I shall not press you. For now."
Giving in she stopped cutting the now skinned animal's flesh up for a moment and turned to face him.
"Fine. One question Zevran."
"We have all seen a bond form between yourself and our leader. That much I understand, and that is not what I am curious about. Goodness knows there's no other woman around here she could relate to as easily as you..." as the assassin talked, he never stopped his efficient butchering of the carcass in his hands, Leliana resuming her own as he spoke. Clearing his throat, he picked up where he'd trailed off. "Anyway, my question is this: these nearly two months since your friendship blossomed you have changed. You are very protective of our dear leader for reasons I do not know." He continued unphased at Leliana's 'Get to the point' look on her face.
"I have already asked Kallian, but she simply gives me one of those devilishly innocent looks of hers, so now I ask you: is your protectiveness because you are being a... what's the Fereldan term...? Ah yes, mother hen... you guard her like a mother hen."
"How do I guard her like a mother hen?" Leliana questioned incredulously.
The assassin laughed. "You practically dragged her to Wynne when you returned from exploring those ruins, insisting she examine her immediately."
"She had an open wound!" Leliana cried defensively.
"That you had helped her with during the expedition," Zevran effortlessly parried, "not letting Oghren or Alistair near as I understand it from them; and then when Wynne insisted you'd taken care of it and Kallian was going to be fine, you bully our mighty leader into staying in her tent to rest instead of helping you prepare dinner!
"B-but she might re-open the wound," Leliana pleaded feebly. Even to herself, her actions seemed ridiculous once Zevran described them to her. Said elf gave her a studious look, before returning to the remainders of his rabbit, allowing the silence to fester. Once he was done and the meat was in the bowl in front of him, he spoke again. "Well my dear bard; you are possessive of her as if you are a mother hen..." Leliana felt her temper snap and hissed angrily at him "If you knew what had happened-" she closed her mouth so quickly her teeth snapped, trying not to ignore Zevran's slightly startled face. "...I am not being a mother hen," Leliana pouted, Zevran effortlessly slipping back into his default roguish look. "I just... worry for her."
Zevran's smile became positively evil. "...if you are not acting as a mother hen, then you act as if you were a jealous lover."
It was a good thing Leliana had paused in her work to listen to Zevran otherwise she might have accidentally removed a finger. "W-what?" She knew her mouth was open and Maker, even Morrigan had reacted to her shriek!
"So, my question: which is it? I must say, you did not strike me as a woman with such tastes... but I certainly see why she might make you feel such things. She is most delightful, isn't she? Such wonderful hips and-" seeing the look on Leliana's face the assassin returned to his original line of thought.
"My point is this; if you are indeed a jealous lover, then by all means say so. I doubt the others," Zevran glanced over his shoulder at Alistair, who was apparently trying to bribe the mabari into letting him enter his mistress' tent (and failing), "except one perhaps, would care much honestly. And it would save us all embarrassment if it was known she was claimed."
"Zevran." Leliana's tone could cut iron, even as she prayed the firelight hid her blush. "We are not lovers. We are friends, something I know you have difficulty understanding sometimes."
Zevran returned her words with a studious gaze. After a few moments with nothing but the sounds of crackling wood and distant pleading from the templar, he turned and walked quietly away. Once he was gone, Leliana released a breath she didn't even know she was holding.
The antivan had rattled her cage more than she cared to admit she would admit to herself as she returned to her own rabbit, imagining it was that smart-arsed assassin. The problem was that she was attracted to Kallian; she recognised the signs and... she sighed, taking the now boneless meat and cutting it into chunks. The problems though...
The first one was quite simply that Kallian didn't see her that way: Leliana remembered her friend's blank look in the Gnawed Noble last week. While the bard could get her elven friend to understand, that lead onto the second problem... she was human. Kallian hadn't said as much, but Leliana knew one of the reasons Kallian was jumpy around Alistair was because he was human. If Kallian realised her friend had started to see her the same way as Alistair...
Finished with preparing the stew, Leliana left it to cook and made to the nearby pond to clean her hands, considering the two outcomes in her mind yet again. The most likely scenario was she would become a pariah to Kallian the same way Alistair had been and even now, to an extent, was. Possibly more so; not everyone was, as Zevran claimed about their dysfunctional 'family', indifferent to same sex relations in Fereldan. The second outcome? Too much to hope for, really... and if it did become reality, then there was the danger that it could create a schism in the group, if not an outright break. So much risk. So much potential for heartbreak. So much potential for happiness. The romantic in her was squealing in delight. The cynic (or as it preferred to be called, the 'realistic') in her was watching the romantic with subdued horror. "Maker's breath," she muttered as she splashed some water into her face. She was acting like one of the lovestruck characters from one of her stories.
Cleaning herself up, Leliana made her way over to their leader's tent. Zevran had been right about one thing: she'd had to shout Kallian down into staying in her tent to rest and said elf had Not Been Happy about it. So after after nearly two hours to calm down, 'Or stew,' her mind helpfully supplied, Leliana was going to try and make up with her. First she had to get past the war dog lying by her friend's tent flap though. Ear cocking towards her and an eye opening, the mabari Kallian had taken to naming Brutus growled, increasing in it's volume as she got closer. The meaning was clear: 'Mistress doesn't want to see anyone right now. Especially not you.'
However, Leliana was prepared.
"I got this for you," she practically cooed, slowly waving the large bone in front of Brutus. The mabari sat up and his nose wrinkled as he scented the bone, his intelligent brown eyes lighting up as he licked his mouth.
"If you let me in, I'll let you have it right now."
Brutus whined. Leliana gave him a wry smile and leaned forward conspiratorially, whispering in the dog's ear as she kept the bone behind her. "We both know if Kallian's really angry with me, you'll have to protect me from her."
The dog sat still, clearly considering the bard's words. Apparently agreeing, Brutus moved over slightly; he hadn't been blocking the flap in the first place, but the message was clear. Smiling in triumph the bone was removed with nearly part of her hand when she offered it to the mabari, stumpy tail wagging in delight as he started to noisily chew it. Pausing at the flap, she called in.
"Kallian?" For a couple of seconds, no reply.
"...you've bribed my dog, haven't you." Leliana felt her lips quirk.
"Maybe," she replied playfully. Something sounding suspiciously like an elven curse drifted out.
"Fine, come in."
Slipping through into her friend's tent Leliana scrunched up her eyes as the heat started to dry them, followed by the scent of stale air, poultice, oil, sweat and leather. In the centre of the tent was the elf herself, unclothed from the waist up except for the blanket pooled around her hips and a bandage circling her waist, holding a large gauze pad to her body, just under her right breast. She hadn't even bothered to look up while she repaired what she could with her damaged armour. Trying to ignore the sight, Leliana was the first to speak.
"How's the wound?"
Oh dear. Even a hammered Oghren could tell Kallian was still Very Angry with her. Leliana stood by her friend's side; when she was like this she was quick to lash out but even quicker to apologise, so best just either cool her down or get it over with.
"Do you need some help with your armour? You might re-open the-"
"That's it," the elf snarled. Before Leliana could react her arm was grabbed and the next thing she knew she was lying on her back with Kallian's irate face in front of her own. She may have been weaker then Leliana, but she had a knack for throwing people off balance.
"You're worse than Shinanni for Gods' sake! I am fine, Leliana. What I am not fine with is you undermining my authority as leader!" She continued with a growl. "You bloody well bullied me into staying in my own fucking tent! I'm the leader! I can't show weakness like that!" Leliana suddenly remembered Sten's dirty look at them-Kallian-while they had argued outside, the others listening eagerly. At least Wynne and Oghren had the decency to at least try and pretend they weren't.
"I mean yeah, it hurts, and my armour was badly damaged so we couldn't really keep going, but you didn't have to drag me up in font of her like I'd been some kind of naughty girl. Why are you so hell bent on looking after me so suddenly anyway?" the anger had already faded from Kallian and she leant back again, replaced with curiosity. "You know I've had worse wounds. Fought with worse wounds." That Leliana did-Kallian had been carried back to the camp several times due to injured limbs or head injuries. Usually gained trying to protect one of the others. Or that time she'd been coughing up blood when they fought one of the Revenants, just to name one such incident.
"Why are you suddenly so worried about me?"
"Because I care for you." It would be such an easy thing to say, Leliana realised. She could just say it and-
"Well I care for you too," Kallian said to her with a slightly puzzled look, before returning her attention to her armour. Oh Maker... feeling her cheeks colour slightly Leliana willed herself to control the blush forming. Oblivious, Kallian continued as she attached a new piece of leather to her armour. "but I can take care of myself. If I've learnt only one thing from all this, it's that."
Sitting up to take a place by her leader's side, Leliana apologised. "It's just... after everything that's happened to us, I do not wish for you to be... You are the greatest friend I have ever had." As Kallian stopped her repairs and looked, Leliana realised she truly meant it too. "I feel safe when I'm with you, that I can ramble on about things and you'll listen to what I say, or at least put up with it. When stay on watch together and I fall asleep, I wake up with my head on your lap and with you still awake guarding us both."
Kallian sheepishly turned back to her armour, mumbling "It's nothing" or something like that with that looked like a faint blush. After a few moments of akward silence, Kallian broke it.
"Gods' know what I'd be without you." She said, staring at the armour in her lap unseeing. Leliana opened her mouth to reply but she continued, unaware or uncaring. "After... after everything that has happened to me... growing up in the alienage, of my wedding day, Ostagar, the way people... no, humans treated me, still treat me sometimes..." Gathering her thoughts, she ran a hand through her hair. "When Duncan recruited me I hated him. I hated that prat of a king, I hated Alistair, I hated everyone. Because they were all human. And I was terrified. Random thugs were bad enough in the alienage, but these were soldiers and I was alone amongst them all. I don't think I spoke until Morrigan found us. When we arrived at Lothering for the first time I..." She'd started playing with her hair again. "I just didn't care. I was thinking to myself 'So, some humans are going to get slaughtered, big deal, serves them right..." evidently not liking where her trail of thought was leading her, she held her left arm and sighed. "The... the point is, I just didn't really care about humans. Until I met you. You helped me... cool down. Realise not all humans were animals... so..." Turning her head she gave Leliana a small, genuine smile, before she returned to the task in her lap. "...so... thanks."
They sat like that for some time, Kallian carefully riveting the fresh leather into place, Leliana watching her fingers work, the only sounds in the tent being their breathing and the occasional tap of a hammer against rivet. As she worked Leliana's eyes started to drift up, following her friend's arms, eyes flicking to her chest for a moment, before continuing up to her shoulders, to her neck and finally to her face. Beads of sweat, her green eyes shining with concentration, her messy red hair... she was gorgeous. Leliana somehow knew it was now or never. She swallowed, throat dry with nerves.
"Have... have I ever told you I really like your hair?"
And here we are the latest (and most likely final) instalment. My muse has proven to be a fickle bitch and left me about halfway through, so it's neither as long or as polished (I feel) as the other two works. The penny dropped when I was editing and adding the final bit of dialogue (the 'I hated humans until I met you' bit if you're curious) that what I've done is shift the 'Wingman' or 'Lancer' role from Alistair to Leliana with these stories. Which I suppose makes sense; you (or at least, I) usually bond with Alistair fairly quickly and get a good friendship up.
With this Kallian Tabris though, that bond didn't happen with Alistair, or at least it certainly didn't form to the strength of anything beyond 'fellow Grey Warden'. The strange bit is one of the defining scenes that inspired this third instalment got the chop; I was going to have Leliana confess and show Kallian's reaction (instant covering of herself in a kneejerk reaction before she essentially goes 'Wait, hang on, she's already seen me naked. And helped wash me...') . Almost as soon as I started writing though, I realised this would be a much better ending.
What is Kallian's reaction in this story though? What happens next? Is Leliana's and her desires reciprocated? I'll let you decide...
Pre-read by Yuffie the starfish again. Please R&R-it was nice getting more than 2 reveiews in Shoes.