Soris paused just outside the door and turned to Kallian. "I… can't. You do it," he said, suddenly shy.

She pulled a face, frustrated. "Oh, don't be such a child."

Shianni giggled, face flushed. "But Alarith doesn't like him as much as he likes you," she said in a sing-song voice.

Kallian pushed her cousins aside as she approached the back door to the shop. "You know Shianni, I think it's considered rude to start drinking whatever you're providing before you even arrive."

She rolled her eyes. "I doubt that the whole night will be ruined because I had a teensy-tiny bit beforehand!"

Kallian grabbed the bottle out of Shianni's hand and held it up, revealing that it was now half-empty. "If that's teensy-tiny I'd hate to see what you'd consider not-teensy-tiny." She shoved the bottle back into Shianni's hand and knocked on the door twice, pausing briefly before knocking once more.

The din of laughter and conversation lulled slightly. A voice on the other side slurred,"Who'sit?"

"The guest of honor," Kallian replied in her best 'I'm-so-bored-of-this-place' voice.

The door was cracked open wide enough to admit the three young elves, who quickly slipped inside the store's backroom.

The "party" was in full swing, party being the most generous term Kallian could think of to describe the small gathering. "Kallian! And... you guys!" Alarith threw his arms wide in welcome as the rest of the guests laughed. "So good of you to come!"

Kallian glanced around the dimly-lit, smokey room. There were maybe a half-dozen others present, all sprawled on the various barrels and crates that made up the makeshift furniture. There was one other woman, Nigella, if Kallian remembered her name right, and a bunch of Alarith's questionable friends. She shrugged off her misgivings. She was here to have a good time, and if there was one thing Alarith's creepy friends were good for it providing the various substances which would ensure that a good time was had.

"Well, Soris did say this was for our benefit," Kallian said casually, grabbing a mug and sloshing in a generous measure of whiskey.

"It is, it is! Make yourself comfortable," Alarith leaned back, unabashedly leering at her.

"Just like a Tabris to show up empty-handed with a bunch of hangers-on," snickered one of the creeps.

Kallian sauntered over to the shopkeeper, who was sitting into the only proper chair in the place. She produced another bottle of wine from the fold in her skirt where she had hidden it from her thirsty cousin. "I so did not come empty-handed," she declared haughtily as she handed the bottle to Alarith. Carefully, she climbed onto the pickle barrel next to him. "It's Soris' wedding tomorrow too! He deserves a party as much as I do." She felt her old defensive anger rising, the way she always did when somebody picked on one of her cousins.

"Of course, of course," Alarith agreed soothingly. "Soris, help yourself to something to drink. I'd say the same to you, Shianni, but..."

Shianni was in the corner with Nigella, doubled over with laughter at something the other woman had just whispered in her ear. Her half-drunk bottle of wine was still clutched in her fist.

"Anyway," Alarith turned back to Kallian. "You nervous?"

She quickly gulped down the contents of her mug. "Some more of this and I won't be."

"And how would Dear Daddy Cyrion feel when he sees his daughter come stumbling home from my shop, drunk as a Durgen'len, in the wee small hours of the morning?" he asked with a half-smile.

Kallian refilled her mug. "I hate it when you use those Dalish words on me," she said sullenly.

"Now, now, no sulking," he reprimanded. "You remember Pol?"

She whipped around at him, eyes wide. "Pol's coming?"

"Um, no," he replied, a bit irritated. "But he sent us something. This stuff he says they call "Essence of Calm'. Or something."

"Is that what all this smoke is?" Kallian wrinkled her nose and waved a hand in the air.

Alarith laughed lazily. "Yeah." He reached up and took one of Kallian's hands in his. "Come on, I'll light some up for you." He leaned forward, struck a match, and held it to the tacky incense-burner on the overturned crate in front of him.

The smoke was thick and smelled of damp wool and settled sticky over everything. Kallian held her hair back, knelt in front of the crate, and inhaled deeply, biting her tongue to keep from coughing immediately. "Whoa, slow down, girl," the creep with the beard warned. "You can't take it all in one time. You gotta breathe."

She slowly straightened up, keenly aware of the affect her motions were having on the sleazy brigade watching her. "Who says I can't?" She was rewarded with a round of lecherous laughter.

"Not me, I swear," protested Alarith.

Kallian returned to her pickle barrel and surveyed the room once again. Shianni and Nigella, still giggling in their corner, had progressed from whispers to caresses. Soris was lost in his own thoughts, alternating between swirling one of the liquor bottles and drinking from it. The creeps where mostly too drunk or addled on other things to hold any sort of conversation. They were talking, but it was mostly meaningless speculative drivel back and forth at each other. Their eyes glassy, bodies slack, none of them were really listening to one another. She felt the calming effects of the incense begin to affect her. Her neck and spine, which had been wound tight with anxiety for weeks, slowly loosened as they began to relax. Her limbs felt like she were wrapped in a warm blanket, and her head felt only tenuously related to the rest of her body. She took another drink of her mug and giggled at nothing in particular.

"What's so funny?" asked Alarith.

"Nothing. 'Cept," she giggled again. "I'm getting married tomorrow." The idea that had caused her endless anxiety for weeks now struck her as unbearably funny. She took another drink, and was hit by a fit of giggles in mid-swallow. She clapped a hand to her mouth to avoid spitting everywhere, and felt a horrible burning as the liquor backed up into her nose. Alarith laughed as she choked and spluttered. "Why you gotta be so mean?" she pouted.

"Hey," he glanced around and beckoned her to lean closer, "you wanna try something else?"

Some sensible part of Kallian informed the rest of her that she had already had quite enough of everything for one night. Silly sensible self. "Sure."

Alarith slowly got to his feet and draped a languid arm across Kallian's shoulders. "Come on, then." He led her into the main part of the shop, completely dark except a lantern on the counter. "I have something special," he tightened his hold around her shoulders and nuzzled his nose against her ear, lips tickling her neck. "One of my cousins at the Circle Tower managed to nick some lyrium dust."

This also struck her as unbearably funny. "What!? Why? What does that do? I thought Templars needed it."

Alarith laughed with her, "They use it, sure. It also can be really... Well, here, just try some." He pulled out a hand mirror, a long shaving razor, and a small leather bag. He sprinkled a bit of the dust on the mirror and separated it into two thin lines. In the low light, the dust appeared to glow shimmer, lighting up the mirror with a seemingly unnatural glow. "Like this." He held one of his nostrils closed with a finger, leaned over, and snorted up one of the lines of sparkling blue dust. He flung his head back with a gasp, rubbed his nose, and coughed several times. "Now you."

Kallian slinked over, and slid in between him and the counter. She leaned over the mirror, making sure to press her backside against him, and copied his actions. The dust hit her like a punch to the face. She stood up and leaned back against him. She all the blood rushing to her head and she began to sweat. Her whole body turned into one pulsing beat. "Whoa," she said, raising her hands to her face. Her skin tingled, her vision sparked. "Wait, Templars use this? Like, daily?"

"Mm-hmm, or at least my cousin says so," he murmured against her neck as his hands began to wander up and down her body.

Kallian melted against him as he cupped her breasts, sending electric tingles radiating through her body. "Oh, Maker. The Chantry is evil to give stuff like this to guys they then force into vows of celibacy."

"Can we stop talking about Templars," Alarith wasn't really asking as one of his hands pressed between her legs.

She gasped as she was wracked by a wave of intense desire. She leaned her elbows on the store counter and pushed back against him, grinning lasciviously as she felt his growing interest. "What else did you want to talk about?" she asked, voice low and sultry.

He grabbed her hips and pulled her even closer against him. "I'm not really interested in talking anymore, Kallian."

She lifted her head up and looked around the shop. It was tatty and dusty. The counter was scarred with graffiti. Her eyes landed on a scratched figure she had contributed at the age of ten. "Um," she said, head swimming. "Can we go somewhere else?"

"Sure, sure, we'll go upstairs."

Alarith's rooms were even more tatty and dusty but at least they weren't familiar. At least she wouldn't be arriving there on a weekly basis, attempting to do business. The sensible part of her pointed out that it would be awkward enough dealing with him anyway, the actual location of the act wouldn't change that. She drank from her cup again. Sooner or later the sensible part would stop bothering to chime in.

They tumbled into the bed, and Kallian began giggling again as she accidentally spilled some of her drink on his shirt. He looked annoyed for a moment, but seemed to forget it as she started peeling off layers of clothing. Kallian leaned back on the bed, feeling languorous from the incense and still throbbing from the lyrium. She lifted one arm and bent her elbow, resting her head on her forearm. Her eyes traveled down to his body, free hand following. She drifted her fingers along his rapidly increasing girth. She looked up at him through her lashes, a lazy smile growing on her face.

His expression grew serious, troubled. "Kalli, what's going to happen..."

She flopped back. "No, not now. Don't get me all addled and then try to have a serious conversation. Maker's Breath, why do you always do this..."

"Forget it." He brushed her hair from her forehead and then trailed his hand down to one of her breasts. "Forget I said anything."

"Already forgotten," she sighed and wrapped her fingers around him and squeezed gently.

Senses dulled but aching with need, they completed their fumbling attempts at coupling. Alarith collapsed on top of her, panting and slick with sweat. She lay for a while, staring at the ceiling while the room spun lazily around her. Pinned between the man and the bed, she tried to figure out a graceful way to leave.

She heard some commotion downstairs. Shianni was yelling at somebody. "I should go take care of that," she mumbled, extracting herself from Alarith's embrace.

"That's our Kalli, always taking care of everybody else," he said ruefully.

She shrugged as she pulled on her boots. "Gotta keep busy with something, you know?"

"Are you coming back?"

"Tonight? No. I have to get home."


She paused at the door and looked back at him. "Where else am I going to go?"

Author's Note: This was written for the celebration of fifty members in the lj comm "Arlathan". One-stop shopping for all your elfy needs!