(Though the 'party' system in the game limits you to three companions and yourself for most quests, in my mind, except for particular situations, I imagined that all the companions participated at all times. Therefore, all of them are currently present in the Deep Roads.)

'Til Death

(Part One)

Aedan was leaning gingerly against the stone wall of the small alcove the companions had decided to camp in. None of them knew if it was truly night, it was always night in the Deep Roads, but they were exhausted and Wynne had not been able to cope with all their injuries yet.

His eyes were closed and he was trying, unsuccessfully, to relive in his mind the previous night. He was in love with Leliana; last night had only confirmed that for him. But the disparity between night and day was too great and though he'd much rather dwell upon the first night spent in Leliana's arms, images of darkspawn and the disturbing figure of the hopelessly tainted dwarf, Ruck, kept infringing upon his thoughts.

He opened his eyes and picked idly at the crust of blood and gore that clung to his armour, he would be sleeping in this tonight, as best he could. None of the companions dared to remove a single piece while the threat of darkspawn loomed near. They wouldn't have stopped at all if not for the need to rest.

Aedan glanced around the small hollow they had tucked themselves into. Alistair was similarly propped against the wall near the entrance. His eyes were closed and his chest rose and fell in the rhythm of sleep. Sten sat across from the ex-templar and though his eyes were closed, he did not look restful. The Qunari looked watchful.

Shale resembled nothing more than a pile of rock outside the alcove altogether. Aedan had never 'met' a golem before and as he considered their recent acquisition, he couldn't help the small smile that stretched his lips. Maker's breath but Shale made him laugh, particularly when the golem referred to him as 'it'. Aedan had found it so funny he'd started referring to Alistair as 'it' and his friend had joined in, referring to Sten as 'it'. The joke had, unfortunately, ended there. Sten didn't get it.

"Argh, leave off yer fussin', a bit of ale will fix what ails me." This was followed by a burst of gravelly laughter and the follow up, "Get it? Hahaha."

Aedan turned his attention to their newest companion, Oghren. The surly dwarf was pushing ineffectually at Wynne who was trying to check the bandage she had wrapped about his head. Aedan could hear Wynne's voice but not discern her words, only her tone. She was using her disapproving voice. And now she was turning around and coming towards him. Oh Maker, was he in for another tongue lashing as well? Wynne seemed to do nothing but lecture him lately whether it was what it means to be a Grey Warden or his relationship with Leliana. After listening politely to the first few minutes of that particular lecture he'd told her to stop meddling in his affairs.

She crouched down beside him and he saw the concerned look in her eyes as she channeled her mana and let a final heal spell wash over him. Aedan felt the tingle slip down the back of his neck and couldn't help the groan that escaped his lips as something in his side shifted, knit and ceased to plague him. Had he really been so tired he'd not even noticed a broken rib? The Deep Roads were going to be the death of them, he was sure of it.

Wynne gave voice to his thoughts, "I'm doing what I can, Aedan, but we should not linger here for long."

"Thank you Wynne, but I want you to rest before we move on. We won't make it much further without your ability to keep us on our feet." He said.

Wynne glanced over at Morrigan, who was curled up in the darkest recess of the cave, looking for all the world like she was asleep. Inclining her head toward the witch, Wynne said, "I have tried to convince Morrigan to learn one of my spells, but thus far she refuses. We could really use her help."

Aedan growled softly under his breath and said, "I will talk with her, Wynne." Though he still felt awkward around Morrigan, she had been more amenable of late, even pleasant. After it had become obvious that he and Leliana had eyes only for one another he'd endured quiet words, teasing and unwanted advice from most of his companions. He'd expected Morrigan's attitude toward him to become all the more cold and distant, but in fact it had not. She seemed more relaxed, and dare he think it, friendly? He shook his head, just one more indecipherable facet to Morrigan's personality.

He glanced at Wynne who had decided to sit next to him and noticed how weary she looked. That she had neglected to offer any unsolicited advice attested to just how tired she must be. He should let her rest, but he did have something he wanted to discuss with the mage, so he inquired softly, "Would you have a moment to talk, Wynne? If you're too tired, I'd understand…"

She turned her head toward him and smiled gently, "What's on your mind?"

Aedan lifted a hand to gesture the darkness about them, the alcove was lit only by a single torch and entrance was shrouded in shadow, and said, "I can't help but wonder what we are doing down here. Certainly, there are darkspawn about," he shuddered, "plenty of them, but this feels like catching water with a net. We should be up there," he lifted his hand toward the ceiling this time, gesturing vaguely, "The Blight is happening outside these tunnels, not within."

Wynne answered in that neutral tone of hers that meant 'I'm listening', "You gave your word to the dwarves, young man, that is why we are here."

Aedan looked at Wynn a moment before continuing, "See, that's the bit I don't really understand. Why am I suddenly responsible for putting two men on the throne?" He glanced over at Alistair, "As if getting one there weren't enough. Doesn't anyone understand that we are in the middle of a Blight?"

When he looked back at Wynne he saw she understood and her expression was sympathetic.

Aedan lowered his voice a little before continuing, "Do you think Bhelen is the right choice?" He glanced quickly at Oghren who was holding an upturned pouch over his mouth, squeezing and shaking the last drops of liquid out. Amber liquid, was that ale? Holy Maker, would he be able to lift that great axe of is anytime soon?

He looked back towards Wynne and said, "The dwarves seem to put little stock in blood relationships and though it is my first instinct to put a king's son on the throne, perhaps for Orzimmar it might not be the best choice?"

Wynne was still regarding him with a steady, quiet gaze and he realized she was waiting for the part he had not said yet. He lowered his voice a bit more, the words so soft he barely heard them himself, "Maybe the dwarves have the right of it? Maybe the blood isn't as important as the aptitude. Do you ever wonder if…maybe…" he hesitated and glanced over at his friend, the man he was trying to make king, and felt his cheeks flush, "maybe we should just let Anora rule instead?"

Aedan's gut twisted and he felt a sickening twinge of shame at his words. How could he be so disloyal? He glanced down at his hands, suddenly feeling he'd said too much, but these thoughts had plagued him the whole time they'd been in Orzimmar. How did one decide who was fit to rule? In Ferelden that right had been decided by blood, but in Orzimmar they had other methods…and to Aedan's analytical mind, those methods held merit.

Wynne asked, "Do you think Alistair would be such a terrible king?" Her voice held no judgment, only simple curiosity.

Aedan studied Alistair then, and brought to mind all the reasons he felt the man should be king. Though his friend had slept in the stables until he was ten, he was the most noble man Aedan knew. Alistair always stood for what was right, no matter the consequences. He was comfortable with people and he could speak to commoners and nobles alike, with no division between social standing. He was a warrior of distinction, skilled with his sword and shield and was brave beyond measure. Alistair would not hesitate to lead his people into battle. He was smart, despite his naiveté, and could think his way out of almost any problem. What he didn't know, he would learn. And though it probably didn't count as a kingly attribute, Alistair was kind. He was a good man and a good friend. He cared for people and his heart would extend to all of Ferelden, of that Aedan was sure. Alistair would be a great king.

Aedan sighed with relief, his faith restored. He looked back towards Wynne and smiled, "No, I think Alistair will be a great king. Thank you, Wynne, you have been a help."

Wynne returned his smile and patted his arm, "All I did was listen, Aedan. But perhaps sometimes that is all that is necessary."

Aedan caught a fleeting expression of contrition in Wynne's eyes and raised his brows, "Oh?"

Wynne cleared her throat and said, "I owe you an apology."

Aedan was surprised and he asked, "What for?"

Wynne continued, "I was perhaps too harsh in my judgment of your…relationship with Leliana."

Aedan flushed again, he couldn't help it. Though it had been two weeks since Wynne had pulled him aside for that particular little conversation he hadn't entirely forgiven the mage her opinions.

When he remained silent, Wynne spoke again, "Seeing you two together… your happiness is like a light in all this darkness," she gestured the dark tunnel they were sitting in and Aedan understood her clearly. She finished with, "Cherish your time together Aedan…"

She did not have to add, 'it may not last'. He knew it, they all did. He forgave Wynne then; she'd only been looking out for them, as always. He patted her hand and said, "Thank you, Wynne."

Wynne looked wistful as she added, "If you truly love her Aedan, and I see that you do, tell her. Don't leave it too late."

Aedan blinked and nodded. He knew that there had been someone in Wynne's past and that the mage had a son, but she'd never elaborated on the relationship. He was about to ask, feeling that now might be the time to listen to her for a change, when there was a scuffle at the entrance to the alcove. He looked up and his heart filled as he broke into a smile. Leliana and Zevran had returned from patrol.

Patting Wynne's hand again, Aedan stood up and stepped toward the rogues. He suddenly felt awkward. He wanted to hug Leliana and kiss her and tell her how glad he was to see her safely returned, but this camp was such a confined space. They couldn't simply melt off into the woods together here, or slip into a deserted alleyway. Leliana displayed no such unease and stepped lightly up to him, and his arms circled her of their own accord. They hugged, and though he relished her closeness, their armour kept them apart. Aedan cleared his throat to ask, "What did you see?"

Zevran answered, "The tunnels are clear for quite some distance in every direction, how is your sense of the taint?"

Aedan said, "It's everywhere," he shivered, he'd never felt anything quite like the overwhelming and oppressive taint that seemed to hang in the very air of the Deep Roads. He continued, "But not close, I think, not right now…I think we should be safe to rest here a while."

Sten spoke up then and Aedan started, not having realized the Qunari was still awake, "Kadan, I will watch…sleep while you can. Nothing shall pass my blade without you knowing of it."

Aedan nodded quietly and faced those companions that were still awake, "Let's all get some rest," he said.

Leliana caught his hand and he allowed himself to be led away, only a short distance as the shallow tunnel allowed. They slid down the wall together, sitting side by side and in the quiet shadows he leaned over to kiss her softly. Their fingers were entwined and she squeezed his as they kissed. He broke off with a smile. He thought over Wynne's advice and though the words were on the tip of his tongue, he didn't want to say them here, not in a dark tunnel beneath the world. He wanted it to be special, like the night they'd shared their first kiss – the two of them alone with only the light of the moon upon them and the trees about them. He had to believe they'd have nights like that again.

Now that she was here beside him his senses filled with her and he easily remembered the night before. He should have told her then. They had been given rooms at the royal palace, courtesy of Prince Bhelen, and all the companions had relished the opportunity to enjoy a proper bath and a soft bed. Aedan had been simply reveling in the sensation of being clean and had been sitting quietly in his room lavishing attention on his weapons, buffing both his sword and dagger to a respectable shine when she'd knocked at his door.

He'd invited her in and had been unable to tear his eyes from the sight of her dressed in something other than her drakeskin armour. She was wearing a dress of the palest blue and the material was so fine thought that in the right light, he might actually be able to see through it. He'd simply said, "Wow."

She had chuckled softly and said, "I take it you approve!" He nodded, still unable to look away. He had then stepped forward and taken her into his arms, and kissed her deeply, his hands exploring the softness of her dress.

Leliana had eventually pulled away, with reluctance, and said, "We are going to be late to dinner…"

Aedan had shaken his head and caught her hands, pulling her back into his arms and whispered hoarsely, "Nope… not going… I've something entirely different in mind…"

Though they'd been extraordinarily hungry for breakfast and had endured the amused and questing glances of their companions, one missed meal paled in comparison to their first night together.

Leliana squeezed his fingers again and he brought his mind back to the dark alcove and looked over at her with a smile. He dropped another light kiss upon her lips and then leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. He felt her lean gently against his side and they slept.