Chapter 1 - The Calm

"So, you understand my dilemma?"

Drawn back from her wandering thoughts, Solona Amell blinked lamely at the Queen.

The pair of women sat in private conference in Arl Eamon's Denerim estate, the Landsmeet looming just days away. Following the Queen's rescue from Arl Howe (and her subsequent betrayal), Anora had managed to lure Solona into the meeting with the promise of aid against her father. So far, the meeting had proven fruitless; Anora made only some half-mention of rumours within the Alienage, instead nattering on and on about her own importance to the nation.

Solona nodded, wanting nothing more than for the meeting to end. She stilled her tapping toes and tried her very best to feign interest.

The Queen carried on, not waiting for further response.

In truth, the Queen had requested Solona's audience almost immediately upon the Wardens' escape from Fort Draken. Battered and bloodied from their ordeal, Solona had managed to avoid Anora for several days. Despite her very best efforts to avoid the meeting entirely, Eamon's constant badgering had eventually worn upon her, and she gone to face the Queen, a bitter taste lingering in her mouth.

And Maker, but Anora was the least personable human she had ever met! Every careful word that fell from the Queen's mouth sounded as though it was meant for the ears of a child. Solona fought the urge to cringe each time the woman spoke.

Having endured nearly a half-hour of Anora's prattling over lukewarm tea, Solona was ready to snap. Her magic itched upon her palms, protesting its prolonged disuse. No matter how much of the damned tea she drank, the dryness in her throat scratched on, begging for even a few drops of sweet lyrium. Solona was ready to stand up, throw down the cursed teacup, and declare herself a mage of the Circle and a Grey Warden, not some common fool to be led along. She wanted to command that Anora just get to her demands and be done with it.

Instead, she held her tongue and nodded on like that common fool.

The matter was much simpler than Anora would have had her believe. The Queen wanted to keep her crown, but her father was a power-hungry lunatic. And thus, Anora wanted Solona's support in the Landsmeet. That was it. It really was that simple. Of course, that Alistair had the strongest claim never even broached the conversation.

Alistair. Solona stifled a sigh at the thought of her lover. He was the heart of the problem, wasn't he? The man who should be king. The man who would give anything not to be king. Solona rubbed her brow and gave another wistful thought to the lyrium potion awaiting her in her chambers. She had no doubt that Alistair could be a brilliant king; his sense of justice was unparalleled and his loyalty was unending. He would do what was right for his people, no matter the cost.

As Anora prattled on about how she would be best for Ferelden, Solona's gaze dropped down to the Queen's hand. The Queen fiddled with her fingers like a hapless Circle Apprentice, picking and pulling at her cuticle. Solona wrinkled her nose. It was all so ... unregal.

With a sigh, Solona continued to nod as Anora carried on and on. In truth, Ferelden seemed to carry on well enough under Anora's rule. If rumours were to be believed, it was supposedly she, and not Cailan, that had run the country for the past five years. Yet, Anora had a ruthless streak - there was no denying it. Solona had seen the glint of vanity and hunger in her eyes.

Was she a perfect queen? No. But was she good enough? Solona pondered for a moment, before deciding. Yes, she supposed she was. Anora would do whatever was best for Ferelden - no matter the cost to its people.

"Yes." Solona finally spoke up, interrupting Anora's speech. "Yes. I will support you at the Landsmeet."

"Oh." The Queen looked surprised. "Very well then," she replied, relieved but still picking at her fingers.

With a final nod, Solona rose and departed for her chambers. She barely made it to the door before the voice of guilt took root in her heart. Had she chosen Anora in the interest of the nation? Or had she done it to keep Alistair for herself?

Hidden in the dressing closet of Solona's chamber, Alistair giggled silently to himself. Despite an earlier mishap, this was still an excellent idea - perhaps the best he'd had in days. Compounding the upcoming Landsmeet with the Blight and a country on the verge of civil war, matters had been dire for far too long. He had seen the weight of it wearing upon Solona. With dark circles beneath her eyes and a lyrium potion constantly in her hand, Alistair knew she was wearing thin. It seemed like a lifetime since he had the sweet ring of joy in her laughter.

He felt along the Veil for the slightest disturbance that would signal the approach of a mage. Solona should not be long now. He could hardly imagine her spending hours chatting away with Anora as she could with Leliana.

The thought of the bard cast a slight shadow upon Alistair's mood. He liked Leliana - he really, truly did - but he did not like how she touched Solona. At first, she had just fussed with Solona's hair. Then it became the occasional shoulder rub and later the frequent overly-long embrace. Now, Maker's breath, Leliana practically clung to his lover day and night. More than one dark evening he had snuck across camp to Solona's tent, intent upon some very intensive canoodling, only to the find the pair curled up asleep together. Alistair scowled. Sure, hot, right? But that came as small comfort when he was forced to relieve himself, alone and ashamed, in his own tent. Solona shrugged off his complaints, claiming they were just sisterly friends. Sisters did not cuddle like that. Alistair was sure of it.

And then there was Zevran. At least the Crow had the decency to be honest about his intentions, though it did little assuage Alistair's ire. The elf had propositioned Solona, Alistair, Solona and Alistair, and even Solona, Alistair and Wynne, on more than one occasion! Of course Solona laughed it off as impish teasing. Maker, was the girl so naive that she did not realize Zevran would happily leap into bed with any and all three of them?

The Veil trembled, interrupting his thoughts. A mage approached. Having learned from a rather unfortunate incident with Morrigan earlier, Alistair cautiously peered out through a crack between the doors. The chamber door opened, and through it walked his lover. He grinned. Success!

She closed the door gently behind her, leaning back against it, biting at her lower lip. Alistair watched, his breath caught in his throat, as she considered some unknown dilemma. Maker, but she was beautiful. The dark braids that tumbled through her hair. The soft dove-grey of her eyes. The blue tattoos that skirted her right eye. Her sweet pink lips.

He was enraptured by her.

Alistair's chest grew tight as his heart seemed to swell. How he loved her. Too much. Too madly. He loved her in ways that were beginning to make him question his own sanity. What had started as foolish puppy-love had burned brighter and deeper than he ever thought possible. He had long since passed Adoration and now teetered dangerously close to Infatuation. He feared Obsession loomed just beyond.

As a child at Eamon's estate and into his days in the Chantry, Alistair had been forced into independence. Even as a Warden, with mentors and brothers aplenty, he had been comfortable in solitude. But now, he feared he needed Solona. The thought of ever being apart from her drove him mad.

He loved her. And it burned.

Across the room, Solona seemed to come to a decision. She stepped away from the door and walked quickly to the desk against the far wall. Alistair strained to see as she opened the top drawer and removed a small bottle. With a unceremonious flourish, she pried off the cork, raised it up to her lips, and consumed the contents in a single pull.

Lyrium. She had been drinking too much of it lately. Alistair had trained as a Templar - he knew well enough the damage it could do. He vowed to speak to her about it when he got the chance. But not now - he smirked as he rolled his shoulders, readying himself - now, he had other plans...

In a single breath, he cast a Cleansing Aura, burst forth from the closet, and threw his beloved over his shoulder.

As he charged towards the bed, Alistair felt her pull at the Veil, only to find it hidden behind his Templar tricks. Solona shrieked and thrashed against him; he grimaced as her kneecap thudded against his ribs. Tossing her onto the mattress, Alistair stood back to enjoy admire his handiwork: her robes were twisted about her legs, her hair already a mess.

Solona stared back at him in confusion. "Alistair?" she gasped. "What in the Maker's name are you - "

Leaping onto the bed next to her, Alistair cut off her questions with a kiss. Her shout of surprise was muffled against his lips.

In her shock, Solona lay board-stiff in his arms; her eyes held wide as he began to nibble at the corners of her mouth. After a moment, she gave in, trusting in him. Her hands slid up his chest, drawing him nearer. She opened to him, the taste of lyrium still upon her lips.

When they broke apart, she tried again. "Alistair?"

"Shh," he whispered as he began working at the dreadful clasps of her robes. "I'm not your incredibly dashing and handsome lover. I'm a dastardly rogue, come to have my evil way with an innocent maiden."

Solona stared at him for a moment before laughing. "Is that so?" she asked with a smile.

"Mhmm," was Alistair's only reply as he began to reign light kisses up her jaw and down her neck. He breathed in the scent of her: soap and lyrium and sunshine. His fingers fought blindly at the cursed clasps. He had surely battled the legion of hidden buttons, buckles and ties that secured Solona's robes a thousand times by now. She had even once sat him down and conducted a tutorial for him - a lesson he had enjoyed far more than any from his Chantry days - and yet, as soon as he had her in his arms (her hands stroking at his back, her lips against his neck) it all became so very complicated. Surrendering, he was forced to content himself with running his hands up beneath the hem of her robes and along the soft skin of her thighs.

"Well then, Maker preserve me!" she laughed, her voice ringing high and sweet. "If only there was some strong, brave, handsome knight to rescue me..."

He smiled against her neck as she played along. Maker's breath, he loved her.

"Sten!" she shouted. "Save me!"

Alistair drew back, scowling. "That's not funny."

She met him with an impish grin. "I thought it was pretty funny."

"Yes, well, it wasn't. And now I'm utterly put-off. Ravishing cancelled." Sitting back upon his knees, he managed his very best pout. "You know, you're pushing into my territory here," he complained, crossing his arms before him.

"Your territory?"

"That's the deal, remember? I make the witty one-liners, you burn things."

Solona stifled a laugh. Sitting up, she nodded gravely. With hair mussed and robes pushed up past her thighs, she did her best to feign a look of contrition. "My deepest apologies, my love. Can you ever forgive me?"

Alistair sniffed. "Just don't let it happen again."

They stared at each other a moment before dissolving into laughter. And then she leapt upon him, sending them both tumbling back onto the bedding.

They rolled together, hands and limbs and mouths colliding until somehow they came to rest with Alistair flat upon his back and Solona sprawled upon his chest. Her lips sought his, her kisses sweet and playful as she nipped at him.

His hands slid up her sides, coming to rest as always at her breasts. He kneaded the soft mounds through the fabric of her robes. Alistair wanted to be a skilled lover for Solona - the sort that could leave her trembling with the slightest artful touch - yet he could not seem to break himself of the desire to grope at her when given the chance. She sighed against his lips, arching her back to thrust her chest towards him. He smirked; then again, from the way Solona ground her hips against his own, he supposed she didn't mind the occasional bumbling squeeze too terribly much.

Too soon the dulled contact through fabric was not enough. Alistair longed to feel the soft glide of her flesh against his own. With a groan, he tried once more to divest his lover of her robes. He managed to undo a few of her belts and sashes - the heavy Circle seal upon her belt clanked as it hit the floor - but despite his very, very best efforts, her robes remained closed.

"Sol..." he ground out in frustration, begging her assistance.

Solona chuckled. Her poor, sweet, helpless lover. She kissed him soundly, the dance of their tongues drawing a moan from his throat, before pulling back to straddle his hips. The gaze that met her own was heavy with desire, his pupils blown wide. She gave her minx's smile as she drew her hands up to her side and, with an agonizing slowness, flicked open one of the buttons waiting there. As her fingers worked, she rolled her hips against him.

Alistair's hands gripped impatient upon her thighs. She was playing with him, sweet agony he wanted to enjoy but found himself too weak to endure. He groaned after what seemed an eternity as she made her way to the second and then third buttons. "Sol, have mercy," he begged.

She laughed at his torment, but sped up her pace. When, a lifetime or so later, she reached the final button, she stepped back off the bed to stand before him. The tip of tongue peaked out to wet her lips as she let the garment slide slowly down to pool forgotten upon the floor. Her smallclothes quickly followed, tossed thoughtlessly to the ground, until at last, she stood bare before him.

Alistair swallowed as he took in the sight of her. Seeing his lover in some state of undress was hardly a new experience - he had likely kissed or licked every last inch of her from head to toe by now - and yet, seeing her still made his throat go dry.

He reached for her, and when her hand met his own, Alistair tugged hard and send her sprawling across his chest. Then, with more finesse that he would have thought possible, he managed to roll them so that Solona lay flat upon her back, and he, like a dark shadow of desire, loomed over her. His kiss was demanding before his lips travelled south to latched on to his favourite spot: the soft cord of her neck, just a hair above her collarbone. Nipping and suckling at the soft flesh there, he was pleased to note it would leave a love-bite for later. Good, he thought. Let them all see it. Let Zevran and Leliana and the rest of them see it and know that Solona was otherwise engaged.

Alistair groaned as he felt her fingers run into his hair, tugging and twisting its short strands. Although he had begun to fantasize about long, slow, burning love making sessions where his lovely mage would be reduced to a quivering puddle of heaven in his arms, it was obvious to Alistair that this was not going to end that way. He felt Solona tug at the ties of his trousers, and was only too glad to come to her aid. He wrapped his hands around hers, and somehow, together, they managed to free him from the cloth's suffocating grasp. Laces parted, he gasped as he felt her hand slip down the front to stroke at him.

Her touch was feather-light as she brushed her fingertips along his length a few times before withdrawing her hand. She then pulled at his shirt, her hands gliding across each inch of his chest as it was bared. "Off. Now."

Alistair's heart raced as he sat back to divest himself of the last of his clothing. He managed to remember to tug loose the laces at his collar before pulling his wrinkled shirt over his head. His legs were clumsy as he shifted to sit at the bed's edge and kick at his boots.

He heard Solona shift upon the bedclothes as she came to kneel behind him. Pressing herself against his back, she slid her arms about his chest as her lips found his neck. He felt her smile against his skin as she flicked her thumb against one of his flat nipples. Alistair groaned, his task suddenly much more complicated. How was he expected to get anything done with such a distraction?

He playfully swatted her hands away. "Be good," he warned.

Her laugh was soft as she ignored his demands. Alistair shivered, fighting with his other boot now, as her wandering hands drifted south once more. When her hand grasped his length, stroking and squeezing, the tip of her tongue tracing the shell of his ear, his boots were quickly forgotten. His eyes fell closed. His hands dropped to the grip at the bed clothes. Her touch was hot and cold, soft and firm, and it stole his breath away. He leaned back against his lover, letting his head fall to the side to give her better access. He gasped in short pants.

Gently grasping his earlobe between her teeth, she tugged. "Boots, my love," she breathed, reminding him of his task.

Alistair shook himself back to the present. What had happened to his game, he wondered. Wasn't he supposed to be the one in charge of the ravishing?

Turning suddenly, Alistair grabbed Solona's wrists, and planted his lover back onto the bed. Holding her hands above her head, he kissed her hard, trying desperately to retake control. "Stay," he ordered, trying very hard to be intimidating despite his opened trousers.

Never one to lose at their games, Solona resorted to cheating. As she settled back against the pillows, she pouted sweetly at him before a smirk cracked through her lips. Holding Alistair's eye, she drew her hands up the flat plane of her stomach, gliding, stroking, wandering. One hand came to cup at her own breast, rolling its weight in her palm, squeezing gently before plucking at the pouting rosebud at its centre. She hummed softly in her pleasure. Her free hand drifted back downwards, sliding down past her navel and brushing over her soft curls. She bit her lip, her eyes falling closed.

Miraculously, Alistair managed to remove his pants in record time.

And then he was upon her. "Now you've done it," he warned as he pinned her to the bed. Leaning over, it was his turn to tease as his attention shifted down her chest once more. He nuzzled, kissing and nipping about one soft globe and then the other. When at last he took one straining bud between his lips, she sighed in relief.

Her hips began to twitch beneath him, suddenly impatient to have him. She shivered as he scraped his teeth over one nipple. "Alistair," she begged him. He grinned against her flesh; it was always gratifying to know she wanted him just as badly as he wanted her.

With lips still busy in their work, Alistair let one hand stroke down Solona's stomach. Her soft mewling sounds echoed in his ears. His sneaking fingers trailed down over her mound and finally to her core.

She jumped at his first stroke, nearly bucking him off.

Pleased with the result, Alistair redoubled his assault with his tongue, sucking and nipping and driving Solona mad. He tried to time the lashings of his tongue with the long strokes of his finger, the gentle nips of his teeth with the circling of his thumb upon her nub.

She writhed beneath him. Her fingers clutched at the bedding, his back, his shoulders, his hair - anywhere that she might find an anchor against the onslaught of sensations. Her long legs shook, toes curled, as she angled her hips up towards him, insistent and demanding.

Alistair drew back for the slightest moment to watch - her eyes were heavy with desire - before at last sliding a finger to where his lover so ached. Her back arched up to meet him as he returned his attention to her breasts.

He groaned at the way her channel pulsed against him, imagining how it would feel gripping at his manhood. Her wanton moan when he added a second nearly had him spend upon the bedclothes.

Unable to wait any longer, Solona's fingers slid into the hairs at his neck, twisting and tugging. When he ignored her urgings, she pulled him up to meet her lips. "Please," she breathed, pupils wide in desire and leaving no doubt that in this, Alistair was very much in charge.

Alistair swallowed the knot in his throat. She always asked so politely - the manners they must teach in the Circle, he mused.

As if he would deny her this.

As if he would deny her anything.

He nodded, giving in to her impatient demands. With a final tender kiss, Alistair drew himself back over her and thrust into her core.

He groaned against her lips. He would never get used to the sensation as he fell into the tight heat of his lover.

Once, they had come together as fumbling virgins. They had blushed and stuttered and stumbled through their first attempt at making love. Alistair had very quickly embarrassed himself and Solona had gone to sleep confused and unsatisfied. But that was long ago. They had persevered. Now, they knew each other's bodies - where to touch, how to tease, how to pleasure themselves and each other. They could make each other shudder and gasp with ease.

They fell into an easy rhythm, practiced lovers drawing out their pleasure. Alistair felt his beloved grasp and stroke the length of his back. Her little pants brushed against his cheek. When she shifted her hips just slightly, her soft legs sliding up his sides, he groaned as he slid in deeper. Their eyes met for a moment, and she nodded, urging him onwards. Harder. Faster.

Alistair lost himself within her. He pulled Solona tighter to his chest, greedy in his affections, desperate to have all of her at once. He needed to hear her every moan, feel each inch of her of skin against his own. He wanted to taste her desire, breathe in her scent.

She was his everything.

"Please," she begged now. Her moan was muffled by his lips as he devoured her.

Bracing himself upon one forearm, Alistair drew one hand between them to stroke at her nub. She gasped at the added sensation. Her eyes fluttered open and she met his gaze. "I love you," she breathed, so very close to the edge.

Alistair kept his eyes open, watching each and every expression as they danced upon his lover's face: the bite upon her lower lip, the flutter of her eyelashes, the blossoming flush across her cheekbones.

From the way her breath came is sharp gasps, her fingers clutched, grasping, clawing, into his back, Alistair knew she was close. She began to speak nonsense words of love and desperation.

He muffled her cries with a kiss. He tried not to grin - she would be mortified if she ever realized just how noisy she could be. It was tempting to let her shout. Her cries of pleasure, and specifically knowing that he drew them out from her, were music to Alistair's ears. The primal, animal, part of his mind wanted to let her scream down the whole damn manor - let Zevran and everyone else hear that she was his. Yet out of respect of Eamon and Wynne, Alistair did his best to keep his and Solona's nocturnal activities from disturbing the entire household; he kissed her hard and full.

Solona gasped as she tumbled over the edge. Her neck wrenched to the side as she lost herself in the coursing waves of pleasure, her fingers grasping at his shoulders. She fluttered and clenched about him in a sweet, beautiful agony that begged him to join her. And yet, Alistair forced himself to wait. It was always so much better when he could force himself to wait, to delay his pleasure and let the fire consume him.

When she came down from it, her breath still coming in short gasps, Solona looked at him in wonder. She looked at him - foolish, bastard Alistair - like he was the Maker's Chosen. But Alistair did not care if the Maker or Andraste had chosen him or not; all that mattered was that she had chosen him. Not Zevran. Not Leliana. Not any of the hundreds of wide-eyed boys that filtered madly with her. Him.

The awe in her gaze spurred him onwards; his heart swelled in adoration. He thrust hard and wild into her, forcing his lover to take the full burden of his desire.

"Alistair," she sighed his name like it was sacred. It was too much. The sight of her. The sounds she made. The hot silk within her that clenched and rippled about him.

The fire pooling at the base of his spine broke free. He clutched her tight enough to bruise, and finally allowed his eyes to clench close as he buried his face into her neck. He managed to choke her name as he spent himself within her.

He collapsed atop her, his forehead tucked into the crook of her neck, his cheek against her collarbone. His breaths slowed and the sheen of sweat upon him began to cool. In a distant, hazy corner of his mind, Alistair knew he must be crushing her, and yet Solona never complained. Instead, she stroked his back, comforting him, loving him. She let her fingers drift up and down, brushing down over his shoulder, and drawing up into his hair.

For all that he would be pleased to stay like this forever, when he was able, Alistair lifted himself up and off of his lover. He paused to kiss her, long and tender and slow. Rolling onto his side, he drew Solona up against his chest. He wrapped himself about her, content to never let her go. He sighed against her hair, murmuring soft lover's praise as he pressed lazy kisses across her crown.

They lived in the midst of a Blight and on the very edge of civil war, and yet somehow, Alistair had never been happier.

Settling deeper into the bedding, Alistair was quite certain there was no way in the Maker's Thedas he was leaving Solona's bed tonight - propriety be damned. He could sneak back into his own room early the next morning. Tomorrow would be another long day, but at least tonight, he could enjoy some comfort in his lover's arms.

Solona's magic swelled as the candles in the room extinguished and the fire died down low. Alistair drifted on the edge of sleep. Peaceful. Contended.

And then, her sudden whisper pierced the darkness, "I agreed to support Anora at the Landsmeet."

"What?" Alistair asked, sitting up. He stared at Solona, uncertain of what to say. This wasn't exactly their usual pillow talk. They had just shared a rather perfect evening, and now it seemed spoiled by even the mention of politics and crowns. He heard her swallow; her voice cracked as she spoke.

"You said you never wanted to be king."

Even in the low flickering light of the dying fire, Alistair could see how Solona had paled, fearful of his reaction. The way she worried her lower lip tugged at his heart.

"No ... ah, you're right," he managed.

It took him a moment to fight down his initial shock, but Alistair supposed she had made the right choice. He may not like Anora, but really, what other choice was there? Ending the Blight was their foremost concern - who sat upon the throne afterwards mattered little, so long as it wasn't him.

He heard Solona draw a deep breath before asking, "You're not upset?"

"I don't want anything to do with the crown," he promised.

She swallowed down her fears. "You're sure?"

Alistair nodded; he was certain. He didn't want to be king. He didn't want anything to do with nobles and politics. He drew Solona tight against his chest. All he wanted was this.

He kissed her once more. "Go to sleep, love. Tomorrow will be a long day."

Despite his own advice, Alistair remained awake for many hours after he felt Solona drift into sleep. He watched silently as his lover murmured in her sleep, moving only to brush away the hairs that fell across her brow. He could not help but feel that something was very wrong about Anora taking up the throne. She had proven herself to be a competent ruler, and Maker knew he did not want the crown himself; yet something boded ill.

Solona tossed suddenly, and whimpered gently against Alistair's chest. He worried about her dreams; even sleep could be dangerous for mages. He pressed a gentle kiss upon her brow. With Anora on the throne, he would be free to live his life with Solona.

Yes, this must be the right course of action.

"Shh," he whispered, as he curled in closer to her. "I love you. Always."

AN: Oh look: a rewrite. I wanted to really hammer home how happy and naive they both were before the Landsmeet. Also, I had sort of hoped that all these years later I would suddenly have become much more comfortable writing smut ... but not so much. Whelp, here's hoping it's at least better than the original.

For those of you just joining us, welcome! I update about once a year (seriously). Enjoy!