Summary: Another one in which Alistair leaves, and Tabris is sad. And regretful. And naive, and somewhat selfish. Why would Tabris make such a decision, and how does she handle the repercussions? As a wise man once said, "You'll see."
Word Count: ~3700
A/N: This isn't my Tabris, because my Tabris was smart enough to let Anora have her bleeding throne, Maker only knows why she wanted it. Alistair approved +forever, they rode off into the sunset (or at least Amaranthine) and pulled Zevran along happily on a leash. Or somesuch delicious tomfoolery. This was an exercise for me, after reading much DA:O fanfic, trying to figure out why anyone would ever put Alistair on the throne. What my sleep-deprivation-addled brain came up with is this fic. Any hypocrisy in the flow of ideas is meant to be the characters' own rationalizing (and people are very good at denial, in my experience)… anyway, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!
So… on to my first fic ever! Please don't beat me too hard if it's very bad. D:
But I do like reviews! I do!
"So… what now? Where do we go from here?"
"We stay together, no matter what happens."
"Right, I can handle that... I hope."
That Alistair approached her in the dining hall of Eamon's estate, in front of the full audience of their entire party, lead Tabris to believe at first that this was actually a very bad dream, or perhaps an even worse joke.
Surely the man had enough tact to say these things in private. All that business about how the Chantry raised him to be a gentleman, and those stories she'd heard about courageous templars… somewhere among these things, surely a sense of decency had been impressed upon the young knight.
But instead, he was all puppy dog eyes and regret, full of predictable and wholly unconvincing lines that sounded a lot like this-hurts-me-more-than-it-hurts-you and all the proper contrition expected from a knight in such shiny armor. And how could you argue with or hate him for such purity and righteousness?
Tabris believed it like she believed that Anora had actually called upon them for help, open to compromise.
Fortunately, his comically miscalculated choice to break up with her in near-public – Honey, did I mention to you, the mage, the witch, the giant, the giggly Orlesian bard, the berserk dwarf, the assassin, and THE DOG that your heritage and barren, uninhabitable womb may put a bit of a stopper on our relationship? Oh… I didn't? Well… – quickly backfired with no need for any prompting on her end. She simply called the shemlen King out as the ass that he was, and before she knew it Zevran was wiping those I-wish-you-wouldn't-say-that eyes away with a solid right-hook (and he'd said assassins were subtle). Sten was all but ready to finish off this simpleton of the bas, king or no, for his honorless behavior. Lelianna seemed to be entertaining plans of castration or some other horror unbefitting of a former lay sister of the Chantry, while Wynne's disapproval cut at him like daggers from across the room, and Morrigan's ever-present disgust was even more palpable than usual. Even the dog tensed at her side, teeth bared, ready for the defense of his master, even against the goofy human they both adored.
Alistair may have thought for a time that they'd spent the past months raising an army together. But in the midst of Eamon's dining hall, the new King quickly realized that the allies were all hers, and in this battle he stood fiercely outnumbered.
So he excused himself, since excuses were all he had now that charm and awkwardness and humor had all been exhausted, and he had failed so terribly at seriousness. I… need to go back to the camp. Be by myself for awhile. (…and avoid murder by my comrades.)
He made a swift exit, tail between his puppy dog legs, and for one fleeting second, Tabris' heart clenched for the genuine sadness he must be feeling. And she was so used to pain, so used to suffering and loss and the hopeless knowledge that the happy endings had never been written for her, that when she let out an angry yell and flew into a destructive rage that threatened to smash everything Arl Eamon owned into a thousand, million tiny pieces, it might have been more for the knowledge that she'd destroyed Alistair's only chance at continued innocence, sweet naïveté, the bliss that is ignorance, in her attempt to create her own selfish happy ending.
There would be years to come for resentment, after all.
"My duty isn't going to stop being important to me. I can't change who I am. I… I wish I could. I really do."
For all the ardent breath Alistair wasted speaking of duty, he was really very bad at it.
His first duty, she told herself angrily, was to the Wardens. The Grey Wardens were meant to be neutral. Nonjudgmental in their recruitment process, the Wardens' only concerns were Blights, darkspawn, and Archdemons. Kingships, bloodlines, politics, and pretty elves were secondary to the fact. Duncan had saved him from a future he dreaded. Alistair had pledged his life to the Grey Wardens, to stopping the Blight.
Even entertaining the idea of accepting the Kingship once it was offered to him, or thrust upon him by his lover, as the case may be, was to betray that oath – for Kings could never be neutral.
Secondly, she raged on to no one (and anyone who would listen, or simply sat still long enough, much to the dismay of several of the castle's servants), he had most certainly promised her his love, had he not? Words swam in her head as disjointed images with no real beginning or end, forming a tapestry of Alistair's now-tarnished silver tongue. I would never hurt you, Alistair.
Nor I you.
Bastard. Royal, royal bastard!
You were the first woman I spent the night with, and I want you to be the last.
That lying, shameless whoreson! (No offense meant to whoresons, she mentally added, Zev was really very nice to her, all things considered).
I've come to… care for you. A great deal.
It was too much. The Alistair she remembered was such a far cry from this thoughtless shem who now walked around inside his skin, that she could draw no other conclusion then that he'd been possessed, or kidnapped, or possibly replaced by a very sneaky demon who hated her very very much. She knew she should have done away with that desire demon in the Circle Tower! Fate had returned to steal her templar from her now, hadn't it? No morally ambiguous decision goes unpunished, after all.
But the real travesty was that she, an elf who had been born in the Alienage's dirt and filth and despair, who had killed an arl's son and felt sickly sweet pleasure without the slightest regret because it had been justified, had trusted another damn shem so easily.
He said he loved me, she protested to the gods. He promised me!
And somehow, that had been enough.
Enough for her to love him in return, and believe that as king, his promises would hold true for her. For he was so very enamored with duty.
What stung most was that of all his duties, it seemed to her that he considered his duty to her – to them – the very last on the list.
Guilting him into sleeping with Morrigan – for it was guilt that made him agree to it, even if she refrained from openly acknowledging the fact and hid behind claims of logic and reason – was just one more attempt at selfish pleasure piled atop her other failures. For even though the look on Alistair's face as she left him to the witch's whim resembled a lamb approaching the slaughter, she felt no joy, no relief at the knowledge of his unease.
He only did it because she'd asked.
He'd only agreed to become king because she'd asked.
She was no better at this duty thing than he was, but at least she had not pretended to be.
Wracking her brain, she could not think of one good reason to place Alistair on the throne beyond her own selfish, desperate hopes. He had not even remotely wanted it, in any sense. He regarded it with fear. Terror, even. To lead, to fail at leading, was an ominous possibly, as she knew only too well.
It could not have been blood, either, as Eamon claimed. To have Theirin blood on the throne was to unite Ferelden, he'd said as if it were simple fact. But Tabris had been careful not to even mention Alistair in the Landsmeet until it was time for the final decision, lest she alienate the nobles and drive them to support Loghain. His blood had not seemed so unifying then.
But she had not for a moment considered Anora, though she'd lied and promised the teyrn's pretty daughter her position as queen was safe, for her support in the Landsmeet was essential.
No, she'd decided on Alistair as soon as the question even arose. To have her friend — her lover — lead Ferelden? Think of all the good she could have done as his confidant. If that was not duty calling her, what was?
She had not considered that his twisted idea of duty would clash with her own. The one piece she had not realized was missing until the puzzle was nearly complete. How in the name of Andraste's bucked teeth had he figured that leaving her was the only option? The only kingly thing to do? Once the coronation was over, he could have announced his betrothal to Zevran's Antivan leather boots and no one could have stopped him.
As for an heir—pregnancies could be faked, children adopted, magic of all types called upon, and Maker, it wasn't like they hadn't been spending a fair amount of time trying already.
For him to have wed the Hero of Fereldan – the elven Hero – she could have closed the Alienage. Integrated elves into Fereldan society. How could her people continue to be so horribly oppressed when the next generation would swear fealty to the Hero and her King's half-elven heir? The thought brought a chill to her spine, like the pages of a fairytale book turning in the wind.
No. More. Hatred.
No. More. Loss.
No. More. Suffering…
Beauty and romance and passion and her and Alistair in disgusting, unending love, forever.
But she was so selfish to grasp for this.
She feels like Cailan, dreaming of legends and marching gloriously into the thick of the darkspawn, unaware that his demise creeps inevitably closer, aided by the hand of the one he trusts most.
Knowing what she knows now, she would gladly put Anora on the throne. Damn her people, damn Ferelden, damn the Blight.
I want you to be the last.
He does not understand, though he says he does, and tries so hard.
When she announces to the Landsmeet that he will be king, he feels as if she's just plunged his head into a bucket of ice water, and as a few moments pass, he begins to realize she is not letting up and suddenly he cannot breathe.
Hadn't she—didn't she promise Anora her support? At what point had he not made it clear enough that he would make a terrible, awful, bumbling mess of a king? Was it when he flailed madly at the idea, or when he'd said, "Actually, no, I don't want to be king, but thanks for offering"?
But now Eamon is looking at him almost proudly – and what more had he ever, ever truly asked for – and he wills the knot that's formed in his throat to loosen so he can say something that sounds remotely like it came from someone with access to an ounce of intelligence, instead of a fool who loves cheese and was raised by dogs.
Somehow he makes it through, though, and when she smiles at him and calls him her King he is almost certain that his feet are going to carry him straight out of the palace and into the Archdemon's comforting, mercifully talon-filled embrace.
But it is worse when they all leave, somehow, and Eamon and Teagan and all these people are talking to him, but all he can think of is: Wait, let's just pause for one sodding minute and have someone explain to me… why did she do this to me, again?
Duty, duty, duty, duty.
The word swam hazily in his mind, as if to suggest something, and when someone says the word heir Alistair is rudely jostled from his reverie. An heir? But everyone knows that one Grey Warden is hardly able to sire a child, let alone—
And Maker's Breath, he realizes, he has lost her, as well.
It's not really a decision he comes to, but more like an ugly truth he must accept, a force of nature he has no ability to control, much like the Broodmother or Duncan's death, and just as before he feels like it is slowly pulling away a piece of his soul. He thinks of the rose he saved from the taint, and his insipid metaphor about beauty blooming among the carnage, and realizes that all roses once plucked must die. There are reasons that templars are not poets.
He doesn't even consider for a moment that perhaps this is not a truth she has also considered. He never thinks that perhaps this is not just one more hard decision she has made along their journey that he's having a hard time coming to terms with, but instead the clumsy attempt to weave a fairytale by a young woman, still a city elf in her core, who for ages knew nothing but poverty and persecution and dreamed, no, despaired for paradise.
Before he thinks her cold, and unmindful of his feelings, he tries to admire her dedication to her duty to Fereldan. A duty he would joyously have given up for her, but now that she has bid him embrace it, it is one he can no longer forsake, because he does as she commands and always has.
When he walks into the dining hall, surrounded by their comrades, he thinks that she expects and has made peace with what is about to come, and hopes that she will show him pity.
And he is disappointed again, and back into the bucket of ice he dives.
Tabris awakens after the final battle to the beautiful canopy of her bed in Arl Eamon's Denerim estate. In her dreams, the specters of the Fade had whispered to her, their voices both comforting and devastating. Shianni. Her parents. Daveth. People she could not save. Those she had chosen not to. And most of all, Alistair. Each of them had something to say to her, their voices fully recognizable, and though she could not parse out the words they spoke, she understood their meaning for as long as the Fade still held her. She stirred uncomfortably and shook off the last of their smoky tendrils that grasped at the corners of her mind as consciousness fully reclaimed her.
It is only a moment before she realizes that she is not alone.
Zevran is keeping a vigilant watch over her, and tells her it has been a few days since she plunged a sword into the Archdemon's neck and miraculously did not perish with it.
She smiles, and waits for him to make her blush with some smutty Antivan pick-up line, but instead he leans towards her very solemnly, almost delicately, and says, "Today is Alistair's coronation."
"I'll sooner return to Haven and lie down in front of the High Dragon Andraste than attend," she hisses.
"Then I shall inform everyone that you have not yet awoken," Zevran answers smoothly, with a sly smile. "Is there anything the beautiful Hero of Ferelden wishes from this humble assassin in the mean time?"
Forgoing her usual mask of bashfulness, she simply tells him she's sure she can think of a thing or two, and grabs the front of his tunic and yanks him towards her.
He does not quite feel like a fairytale, but it will do.
If that bloody Antivan does not let him see her right now, he will— he will— well, he's the King now, and he can do something to get the damn elf out of the way, can't he?
Zevran doesn't seem to agree, however, being Antivan, and Zevran, and just generally disinclined to be impressed by Alistair's newly acquired titles.
Not that Alistair is particularly impressed with himself, either.
He thinks that maybe he should talk to Wynne, because Wynne is older and grandmotherly and likes him even when it seems like everyone else does not, and this would qualify as one of those times. Oghren has done little more than grunt at him lately and Sten's unwavering glare is beginning to make him lose sleep, although luckily Leliana at least has been too worried about Tabris to spend much time glowering at him. And Morrigan is just gone, thank the Maker for small favors.
But none of it matters because she's awake now and that bastard little elf-assassin won't let him in.
"But I owe you a little something, don't I?" Alistair asks, out of nowhere, his words the middle of a train of thought he hadn't been sharing aloud, and then Alistair just thumps the Antivan square on the head and he goes down like a sack of bricks because Alistair is just bigger and really, no one seems to expect him to act autonomously these days (he's pretty sure he has an advisor for everything from dressing to mealtime choices) let alone stand up for himself, which is getting horribly constricting and frustrating.
It's the first time he's ever gotten the best of the assassin since the day they met, but he's too fixated on seeing her to be proud or even care.
He rushes her bedroom like the war-hound engaging a favorite chew toy, all sloppy grins and animalistic elation. It's stupid of him, to think she'll react kindly, but he can't help it, because if she spits in his face it'll be better than not seeing her at all.
He is hopeless and he knows it. He bursts through the door, and she is sitting on the edge of the bed, and her cloudy eyes meet him readily.
"Your majesty," she says politely, but it both sounds and tastes like poison. He looks crestfallen, and more canine comparisons come to her mind but she refrains in favor of thinking up more ways to be spiteful.
But she can't, because he has decided that he is too clumsy with words, and better with kisses, and she cannot disagree after missing him for so long.
His embrace feels like both heaven and the taint of the Black City itself. But she drank of the taint willingly once, and she'll do it once more.
He wants to ask her so many questions. He wants answers, damnit, answers no one seems to want to give him, and he also wants a magic wand and some sort of device that can rewrite history so when their lips touch she won't shiver like she's been grazed by the fingers of death itself (though she has, he is quite certain they were not his fingers, and he wants to do far more pleasant things to her than kill her).
"I knocked out an Antivan Crow to get to you," he tells her between kisses.
"You big man," she drawls, almost bored. "I'm supposed to be impressed that you finally managed to hit Zevran?"
He does not answer. They are still in each other's arms, but it's nowhere near as intimate as Alistair had hoped or imagined.
"I thought you were dead," he says finally.
"I wanted to marry you," she answers matter-of-factly. Before he can accuse her of digging her own grave, she continues, "I wanted to be your queen. I wanted to save the world."
"You did," he says desperately, and it is almost a whine. "You did, you headstrong, fierce, unstoppable woman." What more could she want?
"And still it is not enough."
He wants to tell her it was always enough. That she had been enough from the moment he lay eyes on her in Ostagar, he just hadn't known it yet, which was a very nice and romantic sentiment, one which he might have used had he still been a would-be poet-templar, desperate for her approval. But he knows now, for better or for worse, that it is not enough. He wants to tell her that he will marry her. He wants to be Charming and Whisk Her Away into that vast and beautiful Sunset. And perhaps he could. He is the king, after all, and theoretically he may do whatever he wishes. But in practice, something is holding him back. He tells himself that he has reality to deal with, and it's a reality he has her to thank for, in more ways than one. But he knows the wrong part of him no longer has the desire to do everything she commands, and—
and Maker's Breath, he is tired of people implicating his incompetence and trying to hand him his own balls on a silver platter!
"Not enough for me, or for you?" he asks finally, because no one else matters, and he knows the answer as well as she.
She wraps her arms loosely around his neck and he places his hands lightly but firmly on her waist, pulling her closer to him. She rests her head on his shoulder, and thinks that if she cries now, it's all over. She isn't even entirely sure what's going on anymore, or what she feels, except that it's like she's been chasing a dream for a very, very long time now, and she's only just woken up.
He whispers her name in her ear, before they kiss and it feels like the world is beginning to crumble around them, a cheap facade. When they part, he leaves as the king she made him.
She sits alone on the bed, Zevran's feet and those Antivan leather boots still visible in the doorway, and she laughs once, wondering how long it will take for her to get to know this woman she has made herself, and hopes that she has inside her as large an arsenal of forgiveness as she's had conviction and certainty.
She gets up to check Zev's head, and when she sees those big golden eyes flutter open to greet her, she smiles and feels grateful for his friendship and loyalty as he cheekily discusses the state of her bosom and the fate of certain Fereldan monarchs. Perhaps she is not a Queen. Perhaps she may never be a doting wife to a Shining Knight (though, perhaps, she is already something better—deeper, more significant). But she is not a failure, either. She thinks of Ser Jory's dying words—what a whining fool she had thought him then—There is no glory in this!
And maybe sometimes she prefers that it should be that way.