Once again, thanks to Bioware for letting us write about their game. This story takes place during the events of the game and depicts how I like to imagine Aedan and Leliana's first kiss. I have used quite a bit of Leliana's actual dialogue, but changed the order of some of her words and her inflection. I have added a lot more dialogue for Aedan where appropriate.
More Than Friends
Aedan watched Leliana from across the camp fire. He had taken to watching her when he thought she might not notice. She was talking Wynne, her hands moving and her face expressive as she related her story.
"She will notice you staring if you do not move your gaze once in a while, my friend," came an Antivan drawl to his left. Aedan turned and grinned at Zevran.
"But this is the best time in which to observe her, she's always very involved when she tells a story," he glanced over at the fire as he talked of her, then looked back at Zevran adding, "That's when she's least likely to notice my attention…"
Zevran laughed and nodded, "Perhaps you would not make such a terrible rogue after all…if you could learn not to yell so much in battle that is."
Aedan joined in the elf's chuckle and leaned forward to stir the stew. It was his turn to cook and Zevran always took that as his personal mission to make sure he did not poison the rest of the companions. Aedan knew he was not the best cook…well, to hear Morrigan tell it he was simply not the worst, that distinction fell upon Alistair.
As if he'd heard Aedan's thoughts the templar strolled towards the fire to warm his hands and leaned forward to inspect the pot. "You know what that needs?" he asked and Zevran immediately stepped in front of him and raised a brow.
From across the fire they heard Wynne's raised voice, "Maker help me, Alistair if you so much as touch that pot I will…petrify you."
Aedan didn't know if he was laughing harder at Wynne's words or the expression on Alistair's face which was one of hurt indignation underlined with his own amusement at the joke. Last time Alistair had prepared dinner they'd been unable to travel the next day. Aedan winced slightly as he remembered the cramps…
Aedan was not to be spared however as Wynne turned to him next and raised a brow, indicating the pot over the fire. Aedan quickly gave it a stir, and grimaced as he had to start scraping things from the bottom. Why did they have to take turns cooking? He hadn't poisoned anyone, yet, but he had a tendency to burn things.
But the companions shared all the tasks of camp, including watch and Aedan cheered as he remembered who his watch partner was tonight. He chanced another glance through the fire and caught Leliana watching him, a smile playing about her lips.
He was pretty sure the fire hid the slight flush that crept up his cheeks.
Morrigan decided to join them for dinner and Aedan fought the feeling she did it just to make him uncomfortable. She certainly didn't come for the food… She was greeted cordially enough and Zevran even made an attempt at conversation with the witch, but Aedan felt her eyes upon him. Alistair must have noticed it too because he leaned ever so slightly toward him and whispered, "What did you do to Morrigan?"
Aedan swallowed a particularly tough burnt chunk of…something…and answered, "Actually, I think it's more what I did not do…"
Alistair was intrigued now and turned to face him, eyebrows raised.
Aedan continued, "She invited me to her tent last night…as least, I think that's what she was doing…"
Alistair started to choke and Aedan set down his bowl to thump his friend on the back. Wynne looked up, alarmed, and set her bowl aside also.
Zevran watched with amusement until Alistair was able to breathe again and commented drily, "Perhaps we should not allow either of our fine warriors cook."
There was a murmur of agreement around the campfire and though it was accompanied by friendly smiles, and in the case of Zevran a quick wink, Aedan scowled, and then set to chewing whatever was in his bowl again.
Alistair leaned over again and whispered, "You think? What did she say?"
Aedan glanced at Morrigan and then back towards Alistair, "She was very unsubtle about it…"
Alistair was laughing softly, "Morrigan, not subtle, whatever gave you that idea?"
Allowing a grin, Aedan put his bowl aside and stretched his legs out before himself, leaning back on his hands. He noticed Leliana had barely touched her food and wondered if she'd tease him about his cooking later. He didn't mind if she did, so long as she spoke and he got to listen…
Alistair followed his gaze and said quietly, "You turned her down, I take it."
Aedan simply nodded in reply, then returning his attention to this side of the campfire said to Alistair, "And now I live in fear that she will cast a spell upon me."
"One quite unlike the spell our bard seems to have you under, I'm sure" Alistair said.
Aedan looked at Alistair and tried to maintain what he hoped was a neutral expression, "I beg your pardon?"
"I've seen the way you look at Leliana, I may not have 'licked a lamppost' yet, but I'm not completely oblivious…"
They shared a laugh as each recalled the conversation they'd had a few nights earlier. Aedan did not envy Alistair's time at the Chantry... Though he'd little enough experience with women himself, at least he had some experience.
Aedan sobered and commented, "Well I think looking will be as far as I get…"
Alistair sounded surprised when he said, "Our fearless leader is intimidated by our fair Orlesian bard?"
Aedan wanted to say, 'Yes! She's beautiful, graceful, artful, delicate, intelligent and quite simply the loveliest woman I have ever seen.' There lay the problem, as he saw it, Leliana was a woman, a few years older than he and he doubted she would return his interest. He merely answered, "Yes."
"May I ask why? I'm sure she likes you." Alistair said.
Aedan scoffed quietly before he answered, "As a friend, perhaps. But she is beyond my reach I fear… Leliana is so worldly and well educated, not to mention beautiful…" he paused to collect himself before he started listing the all the other adjectives he'd ascribed to her in his thoughts and added, "and she's a woman, Alistair. Women such as she have no interest in simple country boys like me."
Alistair was regarding him with raised brows and Aedan couldn't help but ask, "What?"
The templar shook his head slightly and said, "You are a year older than me, Aedan, and I don't consider myself a boy."
Aedan couldn't help adding, "Despite the whole lack of lamppost licking thing?"
He laughed then and was thankful Alistair joined him. Aedan hadn't meant to share so many of his thoughts regarding Leliana with his friend. It was definitely time to change the subject before he made more of a fool of himself, so he asked, "Do you think we'll make it to Redcliffe by nightfall tomorrow?"
His mind strayed to the small pouch tucked away in his pack. Within was a single pinch of Andraste's Ashes. Their quest through the abandoned temple and up to the mountain top had been the most difficult they'd encountered thus far. The trials had been physical, mental and emotional and Aedan knew that the gauntlet had affected them all deeply.
Well all of them but Morrigan. But perhaps her invitation the night before had been her way of dealing with the experience. Her tone and behavior throughout had been decidedly…odd. He had sensed she was not pleased by his rejection though he'd tried to keep his refusal polite and friendly. It wasn't that he didn't find her attractive, her appearance was quite… arresting. It was more than he found her terrifying! Add to that the fact that he understood very little of what she had to say and he wasn't quite sure what had prompted her invitation at all…
Alistair responded to his question, drawing his thoughts again to the present, "I hope so. I hope the arl is still alive."
Aedan put a comforting hand upon his friend's shoulder, "We will hope for the best, Alistair. I refuse to believe we climbed that mountain for no purpose."
The companions cleared away the remnants of their dinner then and Aedan walked over to the small stream that ran along the far side of the clearing and attempted to remove the burnt crust from the bottom of the cooking pot.
By the time he returned to the campfire, Leliana was halfway through her tale. As befitted the completion of their quest for the Sacred Ashes, Wynne asked her to relate the story of Andraste and Aedan leaned back against his bedroll and closed his eyes. He let the sound of Leliana's voice fill his ears as he entertained decidedly unholy thoughts.
He was awakened quite some time later with a less than gentle nudge. Opening his eyes, Aedan looked up to find Sten peering down at him, the purple glow of the Qunari's eyes made even more eerie by the soft moonlight.
"Your watch, Kadan," Sten said quietly before standing up and moving toward his own bedroll. Aedan sat up and scanned the camp site. All was quiet. Leliana was still sleeping and he mentally cursed Sten for leaving the task of waking her to him. He hated to wake her, but if he didn't, she'd scold him in the morning. Though he felt perfectly able to sit watch by himself he knew Leliana took her role as companion to the Grey Wardens seriously and would be disappointed if he conveniently 'forgot' to wake her. Besides, the chance to spend a few hours alone in her company, while a little intimidating, was entirely too tempting.
He shook her shoulder gently and her eyes instantly opened. She smiled up at him and his heart gave an odd little lurch. He quickly looked away as he stood up and waited for her to follow.
After adding a little more wood to the glowing embers they moved away from the campfire and walked quietly together for a while, making a circuit of the clearing that surrounded the campsite. Aedan stopped by a collection of boulders that marked the narrow path they had used that afternoon and gestured to Leliana. They climbed up and sat side by side and Leliana made a contented little sigh as she gazed into the night sky.
Without turning her gaze from the sky she said quietly, "I enjoy the nights at camp. The night always seems peaceful to me…safer."
Aedan pondered her words a moment and found he agreed with her. Though it made little sense to feel safer at night, their camp had, as yet, always remained undisturbed. It was a time when the companions might relax in one another's company and exchange stories and songs. He answered, "I know what you mean."
Leliana then articulated his thoughts perfectly by adding, "I feel the night grants us a reprieve from the troubles of the day. Silly, isn't it? The darkspawn never sleep, and they lurk in the shadows."
Aedan found her thoughts far from 'silly' and he told her so, "It's not silly to seek moments to lay down your burdens." He glanced at her then and found she was looking at him as if surprised by his answer. He decided to elaborate, "We travel a difficult path. One that I sometimes think has no end. None of us came to this quest easily…and yet we rely on one another's strength and fortitude day after day. We need these times of quiet when we can relax and tell stories and forget, even if just for a few hours, that the fate of an entire country seems to rest in our hands."
Her eyes had not left his and he was growing discomforted by the intensity of her gaze. He looked down at his hands and thought over his words. He suddenly wondered where they had come from and if he'd ruined the peace of her evening by reminding them both of their duty to Ferelden.
Leliana spoke softly and he looked up at her words, "I…I feared you would find my words careless, and yet you don't. You have surprised me, Aedan."
"In a good way, I hope…" he said.
She smiled at him and his chest did that odd little flip thing again. He returned her smile as she answered, "Yes, of course!" in a tone that meant she was afraid she had offended.
They remained quiet for a while, Leliana gazing at the moon and Aedan turning his head this way and that, idly checking the shadows for darkspawn. He sensed nothing and could hear only the soft sounds of the night.
Leliana shifted slightly next to him and he turned to look at her as she spoke again, "I enjoy the nights we sit watch together, talking to pass the time in these small hours…well, I talk and you listen mostly."
Aedan raised his brows in surprise and just barely stopped himself from answering, 'you enjoy our time together?' instead saying carefully, "I…like to listen to you talk, Leliana," and again refrained from mentioning how the sound of her voice stirred his thoughts, adding only, "You are a wonderful story teller."
She beamed merrily at his praise and continued speaking, "but sometimes I fall asleep and wake to find you still watchful and I know you're watching out for me."
Aedan said, "I wouldn't be much of a leader if I let you die on my watch," but he wanted to say, 'you never have to feel afraid with me'.
A strand of her red hair had fallen across her eyes and his hand twitched with the desire to reach up and brush it gently away. She had fallen asleep twice on their watch. The first time he'd been so wrapped up in his own thoughts he'd not noticed. But the second time he had. He had spent the entire hour of her slumber memorizing the details of her face. The darkspawn could very well have rushed the camp and he would have been ill prepared to defend his companions. He took a somewhat shaky little breath and glanced away then, contemplating the darkness around them.
Leliana continued and her voice had changed, taken on a more tentative tone, one he'd not heard from the confident bard before, "W-What I'm trying to say is…is that I trust you."
Aedan looked at her and held his breath. Her expression had changed along with her voice, she looked…vulnerable. It seemed the night sounds stilled around them and when she continued her voice was soft, "I'm comfortable around you and I know you'll be there when I need you."
Aedan lifted his hand without thought and placed it over her own, which was resting on the cool stone of the boulder between them. He'd meant it as a comforting gesture and when her fingers turned to curl about his he found he could not look up from their hands. He was mesmerized by the sight of her delicate hand resting in his. He spoke to their hands, "Of course I will be here. You may always trust me, and not just because I'm the leader…"
She interrupted him by saying, "Yes, yes, you are our leader and my friend and…," her fingers tightened about his, "Sometimes I think that m-maybe we could be more than that…"
There was that lurch within his chest again. Had he heard her correctly? She wanted to be more than friends? Surely he was mistaken. She was an accomplished woman, so different from the girls he had romanced in Highever. She had travelled far and he was still in awe of the size of Ferelden. She must mean that she wanted a larger role in their party; she wanted to carry the map. Maybe she wanted to cook more often, he certainly wouldn't argue with that. His mind was racing and he knew that he was making no sense even to himself, so he did not dare speak aloud. He gave a soft gasp as her fingers were suddenly plucked from his and he looked up.
Leliana has holding both hands to her cheeks and saying, "Maker…look at me stumbling over my words, some bard I am…" By the soft light of the moon he could see that her cheeks were flushed and she was patting at them delicately. Was she embarrassed? He had to say something and before thought could catch up with reason he blurted out, "I would also like for us to be more than just friends."
Her hands paused in their patting of her cheeks and simply rested either side of her face. Her eyes widened and her mouth opened and closed and then opened again, and she said, "Really? You…you felt the same way and didn't do me the courtesy of informing me?"
Oh Maker, was she angry with him now? Aedan could not tear his eyes from her gaze, he felt trapped and uncomfortable. He'd said the wrong thing! Maybe she really had meant she wanted to carry the map… No, she had said 'the same way'… right? Maybe he should just kiss her? He lowered his eyes to her mouth and stifled a groan. Her lips were the sweetest pouted shape and looked very soft…and they were moving again.
"Y-you made me say all those things! Why couldn't you have said them first? Oh, you, oh. How very awkward," she said.
Aedan could feel his own cheeks flushing now. Leliana had dropped her hands to her lap and her fingers tangled together anxiously. She looked quite upset and he could not quite understand why. He'd harboured feelings for her for some time now with no inkling that she might have done the same and yet when it had seemed the perfect opportunity to say such, she was angry with him for not saying so sooner? Maker's breath, were all women this difficult to understand?
He asked quietly, "Ah…you still like me, right?" He tried to read her expression.
He received another furious little torrent of words in reply, "Oh, chivalry is so dead making the lady spill her guts like that…"
Without a moment's hesitation Aedan did the only thing that made sense then, he leaned in and kissed her. It was the merest brush of lips, the surest way to stop her words. He had the feeling anything he said at this point would be wrong…
He leaned back and she blinked and uttered a little, "Oh…"
He sensed she might be going to say more, so he leaned in again, lifting his hands to gently frame her face he kissed her. Her mouth seemed to form a word beneath his and then stopped as she responded, their kiss more than a light touch this time. His heart felt like it was skipping beats and the flush from his cheeks was spreading…he could no longer feel the slight chill in the night air.
Aedan dropped his hands from her face and drew his lips from hers. Her eyes were closed and as she opened them he let out a soft sigh. They were the blue of a summer sky, a colour much more intense than the pale blue of his own, and he felt lost within their gaze.
Leliana cleared her throat and said, "Well…I…hmm…that settles it then."
Aedan smiled at her and she returned it. He took her hands again, looking down, and he felt pleasure in the simple gesture as their fingers entwined.
They leaned toward one another again, and each time their lips joined they moved closer together on the boulder until their hips lightly touched and their arms could reach around one another. Aedan shivered to the feel of her fingers behind his head, tracing his hairline and resting upon the back of his neck. He felt her tremble lightly beneath his own hands as they moved down her shoulders.
At the sharp crack of a twig, the night around them returned and Aedan pulled away from Leliana to look up. Zevran was approaching. That the rogue had allowed such a sound meant he'd probably been standing there for sometime and Aedan felt a flush of embarrassment. He dropped his hands from Leliana and glanced awkwardly about, as if expecting darkspawn to slip from between the surrounding trees at any moment, but all he could hear was the soft stir of the leaves about them and sound of Leliana's musical giggle beside him.
Zevran stepped up beside them and said, "I believe it is my turn at watch, my friends. I can only hope the night continues to be as enjoyable for me as it has been for you…" He inclined his head towards his watch companion, Aedan's mabari, Jack.
Aedan glanced up at the moon then and noticed just how much time had passed. For once his watch had seemed too short. He scooted forward on the boulder and felt Leliana catch his fingers as he dropped to his feet. He held her hand to steady her as she dropped lightly beside him and their fingers remained entwined as they walked back toward the camp.
As they stepped within the rosy glow of the fire, Leliana tugged upon his hand and he stopped and turned toward her. She leaned in and he circled her with his arms, holding her close for a moment before drawing back to drop a sweet goodnight kiss upon her lips.
After a whispered exchange of 'goodnight' and 'sweet dreams' they stood apart a moment, each having taken single step toward their respective beds. Leliana touched her fingers to her lips and blew him a final soft kiss before turning away and Aedan's heart did not lurch this time, it simply filled. He smiled at her and then turned to his own bedroll. He lay down on his back and crossed his arms behind his head, and stared up at the sky. It had started to lighten around the edges before he finally drifted off to sleep, still smiling.