AN: Set post-game, thus spoilers abound. You have been warned.
Anora is queen. Alistair, Fem!Aeducan, Zevan and the dog are set to rebuild the Ferelden Grey Wardens. The rest of their company has parted ways, at least for a time.
Shale and Wynne have already left for Tevinter, looking for a way to return Shale to a mortal body. Leliana has chosen to assist with the Chantry's attempts to reclaim the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Sten has returned to Par Vollen. Oghren has decided to seek out Felsi and perhaps settle down with her. Morrigan is gone, presumably pregnant with Alistair's child.
This story may fit in to my Of Steel and Stone universe, if you choose to interpret it as such. It can also be read as a stand-alone. Contains Aeducan/Alistair paring, plus Zevran as perhaps more than a friend.
"Remind me again why we're not sleeping in cushy beds and having peeled grapes brought to us on silver trays—" Alistair motioned around the campsite, its comfortable familiarity skewed by its reduced size. It was strange, after so long together, to be missing so many companions. "Couldn't we have enjoyed one more night of being 'heroes of Ferelden' or whatever?"
Two pairs of eyes glared at him from across the fire. Zevran poked at the coals with a stick and raised his brow. "Go back, then, if you'd feel safe sleeping anywhere near that palace. I am certain the lady and I can manage on our own."
"Yes, that sounds like a great idea. What good fortune I hit my head so hard fighting that archdemon, otherwise I might have a problem with that suggestion."
"Would you two just stop it." She shifted back out of her squatting position to sit gently on the grass, feeling the muscles in her legs twinge painfully. It had not been a pleasant few days. "Unless you'd rather I leave you both here to torture each other 'til the Stone cracks."
"Apologies, my friend."
Alistair sighed. "I'm sorry, love. We're all feeling rather grumpy, I guess."
They sat in comfortable silence for a time, broken only by the slobbering sounds of a mabari finishing up their supper leftovers. They'd roasted fish that night, caught fresh from the Hafter River, and it had actually been quite palatable. She still wasn't entirely comfortable with eating fish, but she'd gotten use to fresh air and open skies. What was choking down some slimy water beast compared to that?
Finally, Alistair spoke. "You don't really think Anora would try and have us killed, do you? I mean, what for?"
Zevran chuckled darkly. She rolled her neck, considering her answer. "What I think, Alistair," she said, carefully. "Is that Anora is her father's daughter. The only difference is that her machinations got her a crown instead of your blade in her neck. I wouldn't trust Loghain at my back, and I certainly don't trust her."
Alistair's frown was even wrinkling his forehead. "But what could she possibly gain by killing us? The people see us as heroes. They had a parade and everything."
"I think she sees us as a threat." Glancing over at Zevran briefly, she couldn't help but grin a little. "Two skilled assassins, and a highly trained warrior— accomplished enough to cut our way through royal guards before, not to mention all the other foes we've bested over the past year. She doesn't trust us, either."
"Which is rather smart," Zevran added. "She may make a decent queen yet."
"We'll see. Time will tell." Alistair looked even more confused at his companions' exchange.
"Are you two actually talking about killing the queen? The queen we just helped put on the throne? Is that actually what's happening here?"
Zevran shrugged. "Only if necessary, down the line. Politics, after all, are very fluid."
She tried to look less scheming than she felt when she smiled reassuringly at her love. "It's just talk, Alistair. I know politics, and I know deceit. If Anora tries to undermine the Wardens, I will act. We cannot be broken again."
"So you'd kill her."
"If she forced my hand. We must rebuild the order, and we cannot afford to allow future governments to be poisoned against us. There is a difference between political neutrality and political suicide."
"It's all still rather sinister." He stretched his arms above his head with a groan. "But I suppose you're right. Ferelden can't ever be this unprepared again."
This was turning into more of a strategy meeting and less of a quiet evening by the fire, and it was hardly the time for such things. She felt her eyes grow heavier. "The Orlesians are due tomorrow or the next day. We'll return to Denerim to meet them, then all head to Amaranthine." Her eyes strayed over to the tent— her pack was in there, and tucked away inside it were Riordan's files. "I don't relish putting others through the Joining."
Before Alistair could voice his opinion, Zevran spoke up. "What do we know of the Orlesian Wardens' intentions? Do they mean to leave any of their number here permanently? Perhaps attempt to install a new commander?"
"They're welcome to try." She realised, belatedly, that her voice was too flinty. The other Wardens were their allies, after all. Ostensibly. "If they can produce another candidate who's looked an archdemon in the eye, I might even consider it."
She relaxed marginally when both of her companions nodded in firm agreement; with the three of them together, the Orlesians could go pound sand. It would definitely not be a good idea to try and install an Orlesian Warden-Commander in Ferelden within the current political climate.
Exhaustion washed over her. She lay back, pressing one hand over her eyes and revelling in the cool grass against her neck. Her head ached, and she'd been hideously nauseated since she'd plunged her sword into that great blighted dragon's skull. It was a testament to her fatigue that she startled when her shoulder was touched.
"Hush." Zevran had moved closer, and she hadn't even noticed. "Sit up and I will take care of your tension."
She could only imagine Alistair's expression, and blindly reached up to pry the hand off her shoulder. "Zevran—"
"Hush, I said. I offer only as a friend, and your watchful lover should have no objections to such an attempt at reducing your obvious pain. I do have some skills in this area, and I say that without lasciviousness." It was clear most of that had been said for Alistair's benefit, but it rang true. Zevran sounded concerned, and it made her feel a little warmer. So many of her friends had left to pursue their own adventures…
"It's fine," Alistair growled, after a moment of silence. She sat up enough to look at him, but he just shook his head. "Really, it's fine. You look like death warmed over."
"How romantic your lover is," Zevran murmured, using her move as an opportunity to insinuate himself behind her back.
"Just shu—" She wasn't able to finish the thought, powerless to stop the moan escaping her lips when strong thumbs suddenly bit into the knots at the base of her neck. The pain was glorious in the relief it promised.
"You see?" Zevran's voice was still no more than a murmur, and was perhaps too close to her ear. "Much better, no?"
"Mmhmmm." She leaned back, tilting her head to allow more access. Zevran kneaded her muscles firmly, releasing tightness she hadn't even realised she'd been carrying. Sooner than she thought possible, her neck was rubbery and she felt wonderfully boneless. She didn't have the energy to move from what had become almost an embrace, lying in the circle of Zevran's arms.
She felt the body behind her shift and she whimpered, then two more arms slid around her and lifted her away. Zevran's breath shuddered over her throat as she was removed from him. Her eyes opened lazily, and she looked up at Alistair. He had her cradled against his chest like a child, and his face was flushed.
"Thank you for staying with me," she mumbled, only half aware. Then she flopped her head around and looked down at where Zevran still sat. "I love you both so much."
Later, once she was rested and less distracted by politics and intrigue, she would remember saying that. At first, she would regret it— she and Zevran had come to an understanding about their friendship, and Alistair certainly wouldn't have appreciated her sharing such a sentiment with a man he still viewed as his rival for her affections. But, she'd then realise, neither of them had brought up her declaration afterwards. There hadn't been any excess tension, any fighting between them— quite the opposite, in fact.
Over the next few months, her lover and her dear friend seemed to come to a sort of arrangement. The bickering petered off, and something of a balance was reached. She felt quite content, there in their new fortress, commanding their small but promising group of Warden recruits.
Then, late one winter evening, Alistair rose to answer a knock on the door to their private chambers. She was sitting in one of their armchairs, legs curled under herself, reading training reports by the light of the fireplace. When Alistair stepped back and Zevran slipped inside, she looked up with some surprise.
Alistair was blushing, she could see that, and then Zevran was smiling at her. Not smirking, but really smiling in a way she knew he rarely allowed himself.
Then everything changed.