A/N: The thing about the kink-meme is that sometimes a piece will come out not kinky at all. A recent prompt tickled my muse and this is the result.
Elissa rubbed at her forehead, it ached and the pressure of her fingers did nothing to relieve her stress. It distracted her for a while though before her tummy rumbled again. Maker, this warden appetite, she couldn't possibly be hungry again? She had more important things to contemplate than an urge to feed her sweet tooth. Things such as an obstinate fellow warden who refused to take Morrigan's offer, one of them might die tomorrow!
"You just don't want to be King!" Her voice echoed about the room and she immediately regretted speaking so loudly.
"You're right, I don't. But I think ending the Blight is more important than who gets to sit on the throne. If I fall in battle Anora can have the sodding job. Besides, isn't this what a King should do for his people?"
Elissa felt like screaming. This man, this boy, was the most frustrating human she had ever met. But he was her dear, dear friend and the idea that all they had worked for over the past year might come to a shattering end in just two days depressed her. She tried a different tactic. "She's very attractive, Alistair, and you have often bemoaned your lack of experience. This is the perfect opportunity to hit two birds with one stone."
Alistair gave her a look that was at the same time wounded and amused. He had the most mobile face she had ever come across, able to switch from humour to anger at a moment's notice. She counted herself happy that he had chosen not to lose his temper now. He took her by the shoulders and looked at her steadily. "Elissa, I will think about it, alright? That is the best I can give you right now. I know why you are asking. I know this isn't about your life or mine, it's about something bigger and I can appreciate that. But Morrigan? Old magic? It bears just a little more thought."
She accepted this and he gave her a hug and they said goodnight. Now she sat in her room rubbing her head and thinking about cookies. Elissa hopped off the bed and gave into an impulse. She would go to the kitchen and have a snack, and maybe, just maybe she'd have a quick listen at Alistair's door on the way back.
The kitchen at Redcliff looked a lot like the one at Castle Cousland and Elissa experienced a wash of homesickness and longing. It was late and the large room echoed quietly in the dim light of the single lantern she carried with her. Elissa set it down and checked the larder first. She found it nearly bare, which hardly surprised her considering the number of people who stayed in the castle tonight. Closing the door she crept quietly around the kitchen looking for something to satisfy her cravings. Some bread, a little cheese, nothing she really felt like. A sound made her look up and she gasped at the large shadow that loomed in the doorway.
Sten stepped through and into the circle of light and Elissa relaxed and smiled up at the Qunari warrior. "Come for some cookies?"
He grumbled noncommittally and moved to the larder.
"I've already checked, the cupboards are all but bare. It takes a lot to feed an army." As she spoke her eyes landed on the marble topped pastry bench on the other side of the kitchen. A sack of flour slumped against one side. "Hm…"
Sten had discovered the dearth of edibles in the larder and moved toward the bread.
"Sten, how about if I make some cookies. Will you keep me company?"
The large warrior stood still a moment and considered her. She thought she caught a hint of a smile as he nodded. "Perhaps you should not be down here alone. I will keep watch for you."
Elissa grinned and set about gathering what she needed to make Nan's special sugar cookies. Sten would love them, of that she was sure. His craving for sweets far outstripped her own! She grabbed a bowl and located the butter and sugar. Sten watched her curiously as she creamed the butter and sugar together and reached for some eggs.
"How do you know how much to use? I do not see this written down anywhere."
Elissa smiled at the expression on his face. She hardly performed magic here. "Did you never watch your mother cook, Sten?"
"I used to sit in the kitchen with Nan, she was our cook, for hours and watch her bake. There is nothing to compare to the smell of a fresh baked cookie, Sten. Just you wait!"
"Our women only baked sweets for festivals. You must have had many of them at your home."
Elissa scoffed. "Cookies are for every day treats, Sten! Something so simple should not be saved for a special occasion." She sobered a little as she added, "Life is too short."
Elissa finished cracking eggs and reached for the spoon. "Will you build up the heat in the oven for me Sten?" She gave him a coy expression. "Are men allowed to do that?"
"I know how to make a fire, Kadan."
Sten busied himself in front of the oven and Elissa took a moment to reflect how completely unreal the situation felt. Tomorrow they would march to Denerim to face a horde of darkspawn, but tonight they did simple things. Suddenly she was glad of Sten's quiet company, he was restful to be around. As he made up the fire Elissa added her dry ingredients to her wet ingredients and set to mixing them with a heavy wooden spoon. She'd perhaps made the dough a little stiff and as she struggled to move it about the bowl she didn't notice that her tongue poked from between her teeth in concentration. She heard a sound and looked over, Sten was smiling!
"What are you smiling at?"
"You look as though you are killing darkspawn in that bowl. You say this is women's work?"
Elissa put down the spoon and wiped the hair from her eyes. Her nose tickled and she suspected she had dusted it with flour. She sneezed and Sten rocked back a little at the sound before producing a handkerchief. He actually bent forward, as if he intended to wipe a smudge from her face, then simply handed her the large square of material instead.
"Thank you, Sten. I think the butter is still a little hard. Nan always said I was too impatient."
The Qunari raised his brows in question.
"The dough is stiff, it's hard to stir."
Sten peered into the bowl. "This does not resemble a cookie."
Elissa laughed. "Well, it hasn't been baked yet."
He touched the spoon and tried to move it. "You expect to make this look like a cookie?"
"Here, turn the spoon through the dough. You have the strength of the Beresaad, do you not?" Elissa giggled and Sten gave her a look but turned the spoon. He actually became quite absorbed in the task, his strokes of the spoon firm and methodical and Elissa cleared off the marble surface to make it ready for the dough. She peeked over the lip of the bowl and then up at the warrior's face. "You never watched your mother cook, not once?"
His purple eyes took on a faraway look and he murmured, "Maybe when I was small. Very small." He came back to the present. "Before I knew better."
He thrust the bowl at her then and stepped back. Elissa smiled and thanked him, he waved a hand, but did not move further away. He loomed over her instead, watching as she shaped the dough into a ball and turned it out onto the marble surface.
"You are always so stoic, Sten. Is that how all Qunari men are?"
So they were back to monosyllabic answers. That was fine. Elissa merely smiled and reached for the rolling pin. She asked the next question that came to mind. "Do you feel fear? Or do you just not show it?"
Sten studied her a while before answering. "Do you feel fear, or do you just not show it?"
Elissa blinked. "Of course I do, and I show it all the time!"
"You look quite fierce in battle. It is most unfeminine."
Elissa smiled at the mental image this conjured. She'd never stopped to think about what she might have looked like in battle, she focused on the task at hand, which often included backstabbing the same target as Sten.
"Are you worried about the coming battle, Sten?" She thought of Alistair's refusal to participate in Morrigan's ritual and continued more quietly, "We may not live to see the end."
"Worry does not fight, Kadan, strength does."
Elissa nodded quietly as she began to roll out the dough. Sten looked on curiously and after a moment made a noise of approval. "This appears to be more cookie-like, but bigger. I approve."
"Here, do you want to cut out a cookie?" Elissa held out the round cookie cutter and Sten simply stared at it as though it might bite him. Elissa pushed it forward, touching it to his fingers and he took it. She picked up the other one and showed him how to press and turn it through the dough. He copied her and Elissa giggled at the sight. He gave her a look and she drew her mouth into a straight line again.
Sten proceeded to cut another cookie and Elissa let him finish the work while she transferred them to a baking sheet. When it was full, she slipped them into the oven and gathered up the leftover dough to roll out again. Sten looked on. After she had rolled it out he picked up the cookie cutter without being asked and proceeded to cut out another tray full of cookies. They were perfect, regular and round.
The first batch had started to smell good and Elissa checked on them. She felt a presence at her elbow and Sten craned forward to peer into the oven. "Those look like cookies. When can we eat them?"
He had flour on his cheek. Elissa closed the oven and reached to wipe it off and he flinched away from her touch. "You have some flour…"
"I am hardly surprised. You look as though you had been dusted in it."
Elissa would never understand what possessed her then. She took a pinch of flour and flung it at him. His look was priceless. He blinked, shook his head, and the white flour dusted across his dark skin. He laughed, it was an amazing sound. Elissa's hair almost stood on end. She joined in and they both laughed and it felt good to just laugh at nothing.
Elissa caught her breath and pulled the cookies out of the oven and slid the second batch in. When she turned around Sten had a finger in his mouth. "They have to cool down, Sten!"
He simply nodded. They stood in silence, a comfortable silence while waiting for the next batch to cook and the first batch to cool. Elissa handed him a cookie and then selected one for herself. She noted that he had waited for her and they both took that first bite of fresh warm cookie together.
"What do you think?" Elissa asked.
"This is a good cookie."
Elissa grinned. They ate a few more each, not talking, merely chewing and enjoying. Elissa set the rest out to cool properly and cleaned up a little. When she turned around, Sten had eaten about half of what they had baked and looked a little guilty.
"Eat as many as you like, Sten. We may not see any more cookies for a while."
Sten ate a few more and Elissa just watched him.
There were only two cookies left when he was done and Elissa put them on a plate, thinking to take them up for Alistair.
She picked up the lantern and waited for Sten to leave the kitchen ahead of her and they walked the hallway together.
Her room was upstairs and his was around the back, so she paused to say goodnight.
"Thank you, Sten. I haven't had so relaxing an evening in quite some time." She wanted to hug him, but she felt that might be pushing it, so she simply smiled and tried to as much warmth and friendliness into her expression as she could.
Sten smiled in return. A small smile, as his were, but it reached his eyes. "Perhaps you could give me this cookie recipe. After the battle."
And the way he said 'after the battle' made Elissa feel a sense of hope that maybe they would live to see that day after all.