Sandtigress (BSN) requested a story that included a family picnic and piggyback rides. I deliver…
WARNING! Rated: F for FLUFF!! Those of you who have read my previous stories know I generally don't write fluff. Well, sometimes I do, but only after doing horrible, horrible things to my characters before allowing them to enjoy the mushy bits. In attempt to atone for my sins I have crafted a little tale that has no plot whatsoever! It's simply a slice of life – a perfect day shared by family and friends.
This story does include a couple of plot teasers for my next Aedan and Leliana adventure.
A Perfect Day
For Sandi, because she asked for it,
For Alistair, because he gives the best piggyback rides,
For Aedan, because he needed a Perfect Day.
It's a perfect day for a picnic, thought Leliana as she gazed out the window. Even this early the sky was clear and the sun had just crested the distant hills nestled within the Brecilian Forest. She pushed open the pane and drew in a breath of sweet, jasmine scented air. Though a cool breeze stirred the vines dangling about the stonework below her, the morning felt mild.
She turned from the window, resting her gaze on the bed. Aedan still slept. He lay flat on his back with one arm dangling over the edge of the bed and the other spread across her pillow. The light wool coverlet had slipped down toward his waist exposing his bare chest. She tiptoed back over to the bed and climbed carefully up, moving soundlessly, and stretched a leg over his so that she sat lightly astride his hips.
He snuffled and she bit her lip to keep from laughing at the sound. He looked so peaceful, but she missed his eyes when they were closed. Aedan's eyes were by far her favourite feature. Though she liked to watch him sleep, when his eyes were open she liked to lose herself in their depths. The lightest blue in colour they always held all his thoughts and all his heart. He always lost at cards; he could not bluff to save himself. And though canny enough, he would not have made the best chancellor for Alistair, not with the fate of Ferelden written across his face.
Leliana leaned forward, sliding her hands gently up his chest until they rested just below his shoulders and dropped the lightest kiss on his lips. He made a soft 'mm' sound and kissed her back. His arms lifted to wrap about her waist. She finally drew her lips from his and he opened his eyes. As she had expected, they were filled with love and light.
"Watching me sleep again, love?"
"Always, my sweet Warden."
He began to move his hands upwards from her waist, bunching up the linen shift she wore, when a soft voice called indignantly from the doorway.
"Mummy, Rory took Dolly and he won't give her back!"
Leliana felt his chest rumble beneath her palms, a combination groan and laugh and she grinned down at him. Dropping another light kiss on his lips she whispered, "Tonight," and pushed herself up and off the bed, landing lightly on the floor.
Grace had worked hard on her pout, she could see that, and she stifled a chuckle at the overwhelming tragedy painted on the delicately featured face. She took the little girl's hand. "Let's go practice our rogue talents, my sweet, we'll slip into shadow and tickle him until he gives it up!"
A bark of laughter came from the bed and she called over her shoulder, "Let's go on a picnic today, Aedan. Alistair and Brenna return to Denerim tomorrow and it's the most perfect day!"
An affirmative grunt followed her out the door.
As promised, Leliana and Grace slipped unnoticed into Riordan's bedroom. The dark-haired little boy had the doll set amidst his toy soldiers. "All right men, prepare to slay the archdemon!"
Grace gasped and broke her shaky stealth, swooping down upon her brother. "No, Dolly, I'll save you!"
Riordan turned around and Leliana felt the same tug she always did when she saw Aedan's features and her eyes together in that serious little face. He had not seen her, all his attention was focused on his sister. He reached for the doll at the same time and a tug of war ensued.
Leliana stepped between them, crouched down and slipped deft fingers between two different arms, locating well known tickle spots along ribs and across stomachs. Squeals replaced the chorus of, "Mine, mine!"
Once she had rendered both children helpless she relented and rocked back on her heels folding her arms over her knees.
"Riordan, where is your archdemon toy?"
"Jack chewed it up!"
Leliana sighed and shook her head. She reached out to ruffle his thick black hair. "I'll get you another one, Rory, I promise. Will you give Dolly back now?"
"Alright." He managed to extend the word by at least an entire breath, putting as much resignation into it as possible.
Situation righted Leliana stood up and took a small hand in each of hers. "Let's get some breakfast. I want to go on a picnic today!"
The family dining room catered to the five Couslands with one chair left over for the occasional guest. When they had company to Gwaren they tended to use the more formal dining room. Leliana chose the smaller room for breakfast and found Alistair already seated at one of the chairs. Obviously he considered himself family. Thanking the Maker she had stopped for her robe, Leliana glanced down to make sure she had remembered to tie the belt before greeting the King.
"Good morning, Alistair!"
"Leliana, Riordan, Grace!" He greeted them with a fond nod each, his hazel eyes sparkling with warmth. He held a swaddled bundle in his arms and Leliana's heart melted at the sight of her dear friend with his own daughter, finally. A most beautiful babe, Sara had fulfilled Alistair's wish. With hair the colour of a raven's wing and dark eyes that tended toward green, she resembled Brenna in every way.
Alistair tended to tune the world out when gazing into those dark eyes and Leliana had to repeat her question. "Is Brenna still sleeping?"
"She is. The Princess does not seem to want to keep the same schedule as we do."
"They never do, Alistair, a lesson best learned early on." Aedan spoke from the doorway and his voice conveyed fond amusement. He tousled the hair of his two children and made of the kitchen. "Martha, where are my pancakes!"
Who would have thought a fearsome warrior could have such a sweet tooth? Leliana smiled as she caught sight of her husband working his charm on the matronly cook before the kitchen door swung shut behind him.
She turned back to Alistair. "Do you think she will be up for a picnic today? We could go down by the river. There is plenty of shade and the water is shallow by the bend."
"I think she's too young to swim, isn't she?" Alistair's face creased in concern and Leliana bit her lip to keep from chuckling over his panic.
"I meant Brenna, Alistair."
"Oh." But his eyes had glazed over again as he beheld his little miracle.
Brenna wandered sleepily into the dining room just as they finished eating and Alistair reluctantly handed Sara over to her. The queen's face resembled Alistair's as she gazed down at the babe and Leliana caught Aedan's eye. They gently shook their heads at one another and shared a chuckle. New parents! Had they been like that over Riordan? Surely they had been more relaxed about Grace?
The last person to enter the dining room was Luke. At barely twenty Luke had become a man but Leliana still saw the gangly little thirteen year old Aedan had brought home from Lothering. No matter how tall he got, he would always be her little boy. She gave him a good morning hug.
"Morning sleepy head, hurry up and eat, we're going down to the river bend today. Bring your fishing gear."
"'Right Leli." His deep voice still sometimes took her by surprise. He sounded gruff and sleepy this morning but he smiled and kissed her cheek.
The sun had nearly reached its zenith by the time the two families set out for their picnic. Alistair and Aedan each held a heavily laden basket in one hand and had several rolled up blankets stuffed under the other arm. Brenna and Leliana corralled the children. Luke carried the fishing gear. Jack carried something that looked suspiciously like a chewed up archdemon and Schmooples trotted along at the end of her leash.
Leliana set the men to spreading out blankets and setting up the picnic and she took Riordan and Grace down to the river with Luke. Brenna followed along, Sara sleeping peacefully in her arms.
The two children dashed into the water, both of them dressed in short pants and light linen tunics that had survived the river many times before. They splashed and played and generally made so much noise that Luke grumbled and moved his fishing spot further upstream.
"I don't remember Luke grumbling so much as a youth." Brenna spoke softly after the young warden.
"I think he's in love, Brenna. Aedan said he caught Luke in the storeroom with one of the new recruits, and they weren't kissing! It's just too sweet; he was holding her hands and talking to her!"
Brenna giggled delightedly. "He definitely didn't learn that from Aedan! Sounds more like Alistair. Luke did spend a lot of time at the palace."
Sara woke with a hungry cry and Brenna set to nursing her. Leliana looked on, a wistful pull in her chest. Though every year with her children held new delights, nothing quite compared to a newborn babe. Brenna would never know what she and Aedan had been through to guarantee the King and Queen an heir and they had not known for sure that it would work. Alistair knew few details, except for the part he'd played. That it worked had been enough and the three had never talked of it since. Her and Aedan's journey was not a story Leliana had added to her repertoire.
Leliana knew she'd never bear Aedan another child. Riordan had turned five last month and she'd yet to fall pregnant again. Riordan truly was a gift. She glanced up at Grace with her blonde curls and grey eyes. Perhaps Aedan would bring her another orphan. He had a knack for finding abandoned children it seemed.
Jack started barking and took off into the woods. Schmooples attempted to follow, her squeaking cry only becoming more urgent as she reached the end of her leash. One of the men had apparently remembered to attach the other end to a stake this time. Leliana sighed with relief. Then she noticed that Aedan and Alistair appeared to be chewing.
"Aedan! Are you eating already?"
His throat moved and he made an effort to swallow something large before offering a weak, "Maybe?"
She chuckled and beckoned the children.
"Quickly, before Uncle Alistair eats all the cheese!"
At Alistair's guilty look, her prediction had not fallen too shy of her mark. Wardens and their appetites. This is why they had to bring two picnic baskets instead of one.
As she approached the spread of blankets Leliana heard the term 'treaty'. She waggled a finger. "No talking politics, you two, let us not spoil a perfect day."
Aedan turned to Alistair. "I've been trying out a new sword. Garva in Orzammar designed it."
Alistair's eyes lit up and they were off and running on their new topic, comparing the heft and shape of various blades.
Everyone reclined on the blankets and they discussed little of consequence as they ate. Oghren had two children now and Leliana could not help her smile as she pictured the two dwarven lads, incongruously named Aedan and Alistair. Oghren had promised to name his first daughter after Leliana and Brenna suspected Felsi might be pregnant again. "Though it's a little hard to tell with her, she's, ah, quite round."
"Oghren likes her that way, Brenna. You know she loves it when he calls her his Bronto." Alistair looked faintly embarrassed but chuckled as he shared this tidbit of information. He had Sara snuggled against his chest as he ate and he kept stopping mid chew to gaze adoringly down at her. Brenna gazed adoringly at the pair of them and Leliana exchanged an eye roll and a grin with Aedan.
Jack burst from between the trees and Schmooples squeaked in delight, bouncing around on her pink legs as her friend bounded over to the picnic. He ran right into the middle of the blankets, knocking Leliana aside with a light thump to her shoulder and deposited something on the light blue wool. It did not appear to be a chewed up archdemon toy, it looked more like a… dead rabbit.
Grace squealed and Riordan reached out to touch it. Luke's eyes opened wide and he reached out to touch it. Aedan laughed, Brenna recoiled and Alistair gathered up Sara as if the dead rabbit would bite her at any moment. Leliana grinned.
"Boys, do not touch that rabbit!"
She reached out to poke Aedan in the ribs. "Stop laughing." He laughed harder and Grace squealed louder. Jack whined and Aedan wrapped an arm about the mabari's shoulder. "Good boy Jack, you never can be too careful with those rabbits."
"They can be sneaky and it might have stolen all our cheese!" Alistair added.
Riordan succeeded in touching the rabbit.
"Maker's breath, Riordan, ugh!" Leliana gently batted his hand away and picked up the rabbit by a dangly rear leg and carried it away from the picnic. Jack followed her.
"Eat it over here, Jack." Jack cocked his head at her and she pointed to the rabbit. He whined. She patted his head. "Good boy, Jack. Now eat it over here, please?"
Aedan and Luke wandered back to the river to see about the fish. Leliana watched them go with a fond smile. They were an odd pair, father and son, yet also brothers. They shared the bond of the Grey Warden taint. In the last four years they had become very close and sometimes Leliana found herself envying their bond. But she did not begrudge them it. It lightened her heart to know they were at Amaranthine together when duty called her to Denerim and beyond.
Riordan stood up and brushed off his hands. "Are you going to play with us, Uncle Alistair, or just sit there and stare at Sara?"
Alistair handed his daughter to his wife with a small smile of regret before he swooped down to pick up Riordan and swung him over his shoulders. Riordan screamed in delight as he flew over Alistair's head and Leliana hoped he wouldn't decorate the king's hair with his lunch.
Riordan slipped down Alistair's shoulders and fastened his legs around the king's waist. When those skinny arms wrapped about his throat, Alistair choked dramatically and quickly moved to loosen the grip, grinning all the while. Then he took off, bounding across the grass yelling and whooping as Riordan bounced up and down on his back.
They dipped into the woods briefly and appeared again by the river before Alistair galloped back to the picnic. He squatted down and Riordan slid off his back. They boy's face was flushed with delight and he hugged his uncle about the shoulders. Alistair hugged him back and dropped a kiss on top of the dark head.
Grace stood up. "It's my turn! Can I have a piggyback ride, please Uncle Alistair?"
Alistair panted and made a great show of fanning his face. "More piggyback rides? Don't you know I'm a King, not a mabari!"
Grace produced her best pout, very near the same one she'd been practicing that morning, and Alistair dissolved instantly. He scooped her up the same way he had Riordan and her high pitched squeal would have broken glass had they been at the castle.
The king covered the same route with Grace and made sure his gallop produced extra bounce on the return trip. Leliana suspected he liked the pleased giggle he got as a reward each and every time.
He deposited Grace back onto the blanket and glanced over at his diminutive wife. "What about you, my love, can I tempt you with a piggyback ride?"
"Go on, I'll watch Sara, she's sleeping anyway," Leliana urged.
Alistair handed her gently up onto his back and took off for the woods at a more sedate pace. He did not reappear by the river.
"Where is Uncle Alistair?" Grace asked.
"He and Aunt Brenna are playing in the woods, Grace, why don't you lay down and take a nap."
Riordan had already passed out and Grace curled up next to her brother. They often napped together and it touched Leliana's heart to see them share such affection. She had just tucked Sara in beside them when she felt a light touch on her shoulder.
"Where is the royal couple?" Aedan dropped down beside her.
"Playing in the woods."
Aedan grinned and reached up to stroke her cheek. She placed her hand over his and leaned over to kiss him. A moment alone. With three children and house guests, such moments became rare. Leliana loved Alistair and Brenna, they were as family to her and this long weekend together away from the city had been magical, particularly today. But sometimes she felt she saw more of the king than her own husband and every minute with Aedan became precious.
Their kiss became more than a touch of lips and they lay down on the blanket together, arms slipping about one another. Aedan broke off the kiss, pressed his nose to hers and looked into her eyes. Leliana lost herself in his gaze, her heart beating faster as it always did when she was with her love. They smiled contentedly at one another and he moved to kiss her again.
"Ugh, all this cuddling and kissing, when are we going back to Amaranthine?" Luke dropped a bucket of fish with a great slosh and sat down huffily.
Aedan leaned back, but did not loosen his arms from about Leliana and she snuggled against his chest. "Eager to get back to Lisia?"
Leliana chuckled, she could hear the blush in Luke's voice as he answered, "No."
"Are you going to do more than hold hands when we get back?"
"Not every man undresses women with their eyes like you, Aedan. Anyway I was telling her a story, I told you that. You can't kiss and tell stories at the same time." Luke's voice was a touch indignant and a touch wistful.
"Sure you can!" Aedan leaned into kiss her, punctuating each touch of lips with, "Once," "upon," "a…" and Leliana's lips curved beneath his attentions as she enjoyed the light kisses as well as the banter between father and son.
Luke laughed. "Alright, alright!"
Aedan murmured for her ears alone, "And for the record, I only undress you with my eyes, my dear wife."
At a shuffling step Luke looked over his shoulder and sighed dramatically. Leliana disengaged herself from Aedan and sat up. Alistair and Brenna approached with their arms about one another's waists. Their clothing looked disheveled and Brenna's cheeks were flushed. Alistair had a stick in his hair.
As they sat down, Aedan reached over and pulled the stick out of the king's reddish gold hair and brandished it before him. "Have fun in the woods, kids?"
Alistair winked and Brenna looked down, biting her lips as she hid her smile. Then they looked at one another and shared that secret smile only known to lovers and Leliana grinned widely. Luke rolled his eyes and set about poking the fish in his bucket. "I should get these to Martha. Looks like fish for dinner tonight!"
Aedan took Grace and Riordan for another swim as Leliana and Brenna packed away the picnic. They had to leave one blanket beneath Alistair who had decided to round out his afternoon with a nap. He held Sara loosely to his chest. Leliana glanced away from the king with a smile to check on her family. Though he loved all his children equally, the way Aedan looked at Riordan especially touched her. He had the boy in his arms now and was talking to him while Grace tugged at his pants for attention. He tipped Riordan upside down, swishing his head over the top of the water before letting him go and reaching for his daughter. He set her upon his shoulders and waded out into the water, chasing after the black-haired boy who screamed with delight. She spared a quick thought for another little black-haired boy and wondered if Aedan ever thought of his eldest son, Cian. Another story missing from her collection…
Even the bickering of two tired children could not dampen Leliana's spirits as they all trouped back to the house. The sun had just touched the tops of the trees on the other side of the estate and the air had taken on the first chill of evening.
Dinner consisted of Luke's fish and left over picnic, a casual, family affair once again served in the smaller dining room with an extra chair pulled up. Everyone praised Luke's catch and the young man accepted his due graciously.
Riordan fell asleep in Aedan's lap and he kissed the head softly. "I'm going to take this little soldier up to bed. Come on Gracie." He hefted the boy against his shoulder and held out a hand to his daughter and led them out the door.
Brenna watched him go then turned back to Leliana with a smile. "I can't wait to see Alistair with Sara when she's that age."
Leliana smiled softly. "Children melt warrior's hearts, it's a wonderful thing."
"Thank you for today, Leliana, I had a wonderful time." Brenna stood and plucked her baby from Alistair's arms. "I'm going to turn in, I think."
Leliana bid them a good night and leaned back in her chair, watching Luke talk with Alistair. Luke did not look unlike the king, he had the same skin tone and slightly darker eyes, but his hair was brown, not that distinctive reddish gold. She derived such contentment from having them all under one roof, even if only for three days. She and Alistair had traveled to the Free Marches recently and Aedan split his time between home and Amaranthine, when he wasn't caught up with Grey Warden business. They all led such busy lives.
The fresh air had obviously caught up with the pair as Alistair soon stood and stretched and also tendered his good nights. "A wonderful day, Leliana!"
She smiled and accepted his brief hug. Luke stepped up next and she hugged him too. She tended to strike before he could shrink and for the most part he accepted her affection. "'Night Leli."
"Goodnight, son, sleep well."
Leliana went to find her husband. She found him snuggled in the middle of Riordan's bed with a child on both sides and a book open in his lap. All three of them were asleep. She leaned against the door frame and just watched them for a while before setting to the task of removing Grace to her own bedroom. When she returned, Aedan stood beside Riordan's bed and had just finished tucking the boy back in properly. He smiled sheepishly at her. "A long day, I needed a little nap."
He took her in his arms and hugged her close. "Now I'm refreshed and yours alone for the rest of the evening, my love."
Leliana chuckled and slipped her hand through his, leading him from Riordan's bedroom.
"Good, because we have unfinished business." She continued to lead him across the hall, into their bedroom and towards the bed.
Aedan turned around and took both of her hands and leaned forward to brush his lips over her ear murmuring, "Now where were we this morning?"
Leliana grinned. "Hm, let's see, I think you were over here." She pushed him back toward the bed and he sat, pulling his legs up and leaning back against the pillows. She climbed up, slipping a leg over him so that once more she sat astride his hips, her hands resting lightly on his chest. "And I was here."
"I think we had less clothing…" She halted his words with kisses and his hands made to correct their error, unbuttoning her dress. They managed to finish what they'd started that morning without being interrupted by children.
Afterwards Leliana lay in the circle of his arms with her head resting on his chest. She listened to the beat of his heart. She always felt so safe and secure in his arms, her favourite place to be.
His voice was soft and sleepy. "I love you, Leli. Did I remember to tell you today?"
She kissed the warm skin of his chest. "You tell me every day in one way or another, my sweet Warden. I love you too."
"Thank you for today, I will remember it forever."
Leliana smiled and snuggled closer to him. "It was, in every aspect, a perfect day."