Chapter 47: Brave New World

Before Alyx could fully absorb the weight of Nate's one-worded answer she found herself decisively trapped between the sturdy oak door and the solid mass of his large body. Suddenly his lips were moving over hers, strong and demanding, and all coherent thoughts flew from her head save one:

Once again, Nathaniel Howe had been holding out on her.

Oh, they'd shared scores of kisses but none of them compared to this. This was not the slow, sensual buildup she'd become familiar with over the past few weeks. This was hot and hungry and incredibly provocative. For once Nate's feelings were loud and clear, plainly broadcasted to her with every possessive stroke of his tongue, and suddenly she felt as if she were unraveling from the inside out. Had he kissed her like this…Maker…she would never have allowed him to deny her for so long, injured or no. As it was, the reminder was not doing anything to ease the fierce beating of her heart.

Weeks of restraint, adrenaline from the battle with Esmerelle's men and the emotional strain of their resulting argument coalesced to create an abrupt surge of need so potent it was nearly unbearable in its intensity. Nate's arms tightened almost painfully around her and she knew without a doubt that it was the same for him.

With a sort of frenzied detachment Alyx began to fumble with the buttons of his doublet. A part of her registered his long, nimble fingers simultaneously working at the complicated fastenings of her gown, but it wasn't until she stood in nothing more than her chemise and slippers that she became cognizant of her attire…or rather her sudden lack thereof. Nate himself still wore his trousers and under-tunic, but a quick glance at their surroundings confirmed that the rest of his clothing had somehow joined hers in a heap on the floor (though how he'd managed to get his boots off without her noticing was truly a fete beyond her current state of comprehension).

Her breathing quickly grew shallow and ragged as his attentions roamed away from her lips; leisurely working his way up the curve of her jaw-line to lightly nibble at her earlobe. This was followed by a series of searing, open-mouthed kisses pressed to the graceful line of her neck as one of his hands began to explore, distracting and yet adding to the myriad of sensations that was left in the wake of his touch. She involuntarily shivered as deft fingers lightly grazed the outside of her breast before trailing down her rib-cage to the subtle swell of her hip. In a single, lightning-fast movement Nate grabbed her leg and swung it up over his waist, simultaneously rocking his hips into hers. Alyx couldn't help the low moan that escaped her lips as her body instinctively arched up to meet his. For the first time she could feel the true measure of his need pressed tightly against her in the most intimate of fashions, and yet it was not enough. Not nearly enough. Nate growled low in his throat at her body's response and his mouth captured hers with a growing urgency.

We're never going to make it to the bed, she mused vaguely through the haze of lust. Mentally shrugging, Alyx reached for his trouser fastenings. Who needed beds anyway?

"Wait," Nate rasped as he pulled back and stopped her wandering hands.

Wait—What? No?!

"What's wrong?" she asked, her brow furrowing in confusion. You better not be backing out on me now, Howe, she silently growled in frustration.

Nate cupped her face in his hands, leaning his forehead against hers as he paused to catch his breath.

"Not like this. Not against the door," his gravelly voice rumbled in her ear.

Why not? Her eyes asked him. Nate cocked his eyebrow at the silent question and then sighed as he registered the doubt that'd crept into her cerulean gaze.

Sometime after they'd first established their relationship the pair had discovered they could hold complete, in-depth conversations without ever actually speaking a word. It was a useful talent in moments that required discretion or brevity, but could also evoke a sense of profound intimacy. Given the intensity of their current emotions, he shouldn't have been surprised that she would begin one of these wordless exchanges.

Do not mistake me. I want you, lass. But I've more respect for you than that, his eyes told her. I want this time…our first time…to be special.

Silence. Nate sighed, running a hand through his hair.

I wish to make love to you. Not rut you like a stallion in heat.

Alyx's head tilted in thought and she eyed him curiously as she absorbed his response.

We do have all night you know, her gaze silently offered.

Nate blinked in shock and then laughed heartily as he scooped her up into his arms and deposited her on the edge of the bed. Alyx squeaked in surprise at his sudden movement, and inwardly groaned at the unladylike sound despite the mirth dancing behind his eyes.

When he knelt in front of her she froze, much like a deer caught in the hunter's sight. A wicked grin crossed his lips as he took one of her ankles between his large hands and slowly slipped the shoe from her foot. The other soon joined its fellow on the floor, but Nate did not immediately drop her leg. Instead his thumbs whorled over the delicate bones at her ankle, eliciting a shiver that traveled up the length of her leg despite her attempts to remain nonchalant. When she moved to scoot back further onto the bed he stopped her with a light touch to the thigh. She shot him a questioning look, but he simply took her hands and stood, pulling her to her feet as he did. Without a word he led her around to the side of the bed where the moonlight was strongest.

Silence stretched out between them as Nate breathed in long and deep, silently bidding himself to maintain tight control over his screaming libido. As his eyes glided across the frothy material of her chemise it was all he could do not to physically react to the teasing hint of her curves, made visible by the same silvery light that imbued everything in its path in an otherworldly glow. Her hair, her skin, even the lush curve of her eyelashes was silver-tipped by the muted light of the moon; standing out in stark relief against the shadowy backdrop of her bedroom. Were there such a thing as fairies or nymphs or other such things, he fancied she could pass for one of their ranks…and yet looking into her face he saw only frank hunger mixed with an unmistakable undercurrent of uncertainty…startlingly human qualities if he did say so himself.

Alyx froze as he reached out unbidden to trace the delicate line of her collarbone, his hooded eyes following the path his fingers took. When his hand stopped just over the laces of her bodice she drew in an unsteady breath and held it. It took only a couple quick tugs for them to give way beneath his touch. Then, with painstaking care, he pushed the straps of the delicate fabric away from her narrow shoulders. All at once her shift plummeted to her waist, where it briefly caught on her hips before pooling around her feet. She swallowed hard as Nate's eyes silently traveled over her bared skin. She suddenly felt acutely vulnerable; exposed in way that she never had before, and fear unexpectedly crept into her chest.

The years had not been kind to her body, she knew. Skin that was once smooth and unblemished was now riddled with the scars of countless battles. What curves she had gained from her pregnancy had been robbed by her most recent brush with death, causing her to look more like a twelve year old boy than the full grown woman and mother that she was. It made her feel painfully inadequate under the intensity of his heated gaze. Without thinking Alyx's arms rose to cover herself but Nate stopped her mid-movement and pulled hers arms out and away from her body so that he might continue his perusal of her unobstructed.

"Beautiful," he rasped when his eyes finally rose to meet hers. When she opened her mouth to argue he stopped her words with a gentle kiss. "Beautiful," he repeated more adamantly, his eyes daring her to dispute his words.

Something inside of her relaxed at his solemn insistence and suddenly she found she could breathe again…at least until he reached for the hem of his tunic. Time seemed to slow as she watched him lift the light-weight fabric up over his head and discard it in a single, smooth movement.

Every line, every detail of him was committed to memory as she studied the sleek lines of his chiseled physique. She could not help but compare him to Alistair in that moment, though it was akin to comparing a rapier to a battering ram. Whereas Alistair had been broad and thickly built from years of wearing heavy plate armor, Nate had a leaner, more elegant build that suited his long, lanky frame. Years of drawing a bow had sculpted his arms and chest into a perfect symphony of tightly corded muscles that bespoke of a deadly, supple strength lying in wait just beneath the surface. Her mouth went dry as her eyes followed the light dusting of hair smattered across the hard plains of his chest, down the angular lines of his abdomen until it disappeared altogether beneath the waistband of his trousers. Like herself he, too, carried the physical telltale signs of a warrior's life; though most of his scars were nothing more than subtle nicks and lines that gave character rather than detracted from the overall beauty of his appearance.

That's when she saw the long, crude scar that marred his side and her heart dropped clear to her toes. Without thinking her fingers reached out to trace the jagged black mark that started just above his right hip bone. Nate merely watched her in mild amusement.

"Velanna and Anders did what they could, but this," he said, waving his hand at the blackened scar, "goes beyond the limits of their combined knowledge. They say dark magic corrupts. In this case it is my very flesh that has been marked, though the wound itself has long since healed."

"Oh Nate," Alyx breathed. "If only—"

"Don't. Don't blame yourself."

"But if I hadn't—"

"Stop," Nate growled, and then sighed as her lips pinched in silent petulance. A brief smile flitted across his lips as he tucked a russet lock of hair behind her ear and lifted her chin until her gaze met his."I would gladly suffer worse if it meant having you here by my side."

Alyx stared up into his silverite eyes, made brighter by the moon's soft glow and saw only truth in their steady gaze. Her heart threatened to burst with the love she felt for this man. She could not possibly deserve him. Yet here he was, staring down at her as if she was the most precious thing to him in all of Thedas.

Once again her fingers moved purposefully to his waistband of his trousers and this time, he didn't pull away. Even so his hands stopped her progress once the fastenings were undone and he pushed the material down past his hips himself. Despite herself Alyx could not keep her eyes from dipping…and then widening…once he divested himself of the last of his clothing. A smug smirk of masculine pride flitted across his shapely lips as he took a dominant step towards her, and her pulse jumped in response to his sudden proximity. He was close enough that she could feel the heat leaping off his skin. Close enough to see every silvery speck in the depths of his beautiful eyes. Yet he did not move to touch her.

Nate hissed sharply through his teeth when curious fingers reached between them to brush feather-light up the velvety length of him. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise when he abruptly stopped her wandering touch and crushed her small frame against his chest. Breathing became difficult all over again as he kissed her with renewed passion.

Alyx shuttered at the delicious feel of his heated skin pressed firmly against hers, and although his mouth ravaged hers with devastating skill she was inundated once again with the feeling that it wasn't quite enough. Her arms instinctively twined around his neck, tangling in the silky raven locks at the back of his neck as she pulled herself up and against him in the desperate attempt to get closer. This, of course, was a physical impossibility, lest she somehow transcend the laws of physics, but that didn't stop her from trying despite the futility of her endeavors.

When her hands wandered from his neck to his back she barely stifled the gasp that jumped to her lips. She paused in her ministrations when his muscles stiffened beneath her touch, and then quickly resumed their exploration in unspoken reassurance. Only once he relaxed again did Alyx allow herself to fully absorb what her fingers had found…dozens of long, ridged scars that criss-crossed the entire expanse of his back. Through the lust came an unbidden wave of anger, but then the feeling was overridden by the ever-growing fervency of their mutual desire and the scars were forgotten as quickly as they were discovered.

Nate subtly guided her backwards towards the bed, though she only seemed to notice when the back of her legs brushed up against it. She shot him a small, seductive smile before collapsing back against the sheets, pulling him down on top of her as she did. She sighed into his mouth at the familiar yet foreign feel of his weight pressing her down into the soft folds of the feather-down tick. All at once the need for him overwhelmed her and her eyes met his in a single plea. Yet despite his initial burst of passion Nate seemed more than content to draw things out.

"Oh no you don't," he growled when she arched her hips greedily into his.

"I swear to the Maker, Nate—"

"Patience," he whispered into her ear, his gravelly voice causing a jolt of lust to go lancing through her like a bolt of lightning. Then he was exploring her, meticulously and expertly, first with his hands…then with his mouth.

Alyx's frustration grew with every attempt to hurry him along. Each time he would simply shackle her wrists in his large hands and pin them securely above her head. Then he would drive her into such a frenzy of lust that she would forget who she was, let alone what she'd been doing. Again and again he brought her to the very edge of desire. She soon lost count at how many times he licked and nipped and teased her into a near state of blissful completion, only to back off long enough to start the sweet torment all over again. Time in itself had no meaning in his arms. It could have been minutes or hours that she writhed beneath his skillful touch, calling his name into the night like a prayer. All she knew was that when he was finally there between her thighs she had never been more ready in her entire life.

Please, her eyes silently beseeched as she pressed invitingly against him.

Nate cursed colorfully under his breath and then in one long thrust of his hips, he took her. Alyx gasped at the exquisite feel of him inside of her, of the heat emanating from him as he filled her completely. He paused to allow her body to adjust to him and then slowly, he began to move. Alyx wrapped her legs around him, pulling him in deeper, matching the rhythm of hips with her own. They moved together in perfect cadence, faster and faster until they were both sweat-slicked and desperate, their conjoined breaths coming in shallow gasps.

Before long, the tension that had been steadily building inside of her burst forth in a single, fiery explosion. She cried out as the world shattered into a thousand tiny pieces around her and then endeavored to rebuild itself all at once. Stars danced in front of her eyes as she convulsed with pleasure, each wave more intense than the last. Nate moaned deep in his throat as her legs tightened reflexively around his hips. A few seconds later he followed her over the precipice, his body shuddering against hers in heady release.

Afterwards they collapsed to the bed together, remaining entwined through the aftershocks of their lovemaking. As their hearts beat in steady tandem, Alyx could not help but feel as if they had crossed the threshold of some strange new world, leaving behind the husks of their former selves. The new Alyx looked into the depths of new Nate's eyes and suddenly she felt as if she could do anything, so long as he was near. It was a good feeling.

"Worth the wait?" he asked once he was able to speak, breaking into her thoughts.

"I don't know," she replied, her brow furrowing in concentration. "Perhaps we should do it again. You know…just to be sure."

Nate chuckled at the wicked gleam in her eyes and then rolled until she was lying on top of him. His hands traveled seductively down the expanse of her back to curl deliciously around the luscious curve of her bottom.

"Anything to please my Lady," he murmured teasingly, his voice dropping a scintillating octave. Both of Alyx's eyebrows shot up at the feel of his arousal pressed firmly against her stomach.

Already? Her eyes asked in genuine surprise.

"Warden…remember?" he replied, eyes dancing in silent mirth as he showed her just how willing he was to appease her.

*Author's Note: I cannot express just how difficult this chapter was to write. Love scenes do not come naturally to me to begin with. Add to that the intense desire to do right by these characters and to you, faithful readers, who have been waiting forever for the culmination of Nate and Falcon's relationship…and bam! Instant writer's block! I found myself agonizing over every word, wondering if I had struck the right balance between fluff and steam…then I would throw the whole thing out and start from scratch with a growing sense of impending doom. I don't think I'll ever quite get there…"there" being that place where all the words just seem to effortlessly click into place (at least when it comes to his subject matter)…but I hope that some part of me was able to find the happy median I was looking for.

Thanks again to all of you who continue to read and support this story, and a big thanks to all of you who have added or reviewed. Without you guys I would never have worked on this story as long as I have. Hmmm….Perhaps it is because I'm inching ever closer to the finale that I find it so much harder to write then it did at the beginning. I sincerely hope that you guys stick it out with me to the end. I promise to do my utmost to make it worth your while. Anyway, if you like my work...found glaring errors or inconsistencies (as it is just after four in the morning here, I'd say there is likely to be any number of these)...just want to say hi, etc., etc…please tell me about it! I always love hearing your opinions! ~Prose

P.S. Up next…pillow talk, inner-reflection, and more steamy moments. Stay tuned!

Muse Tunes: "Vesper" by David Arnold ("007: Casino Royale" OST); "Secret Wedding" by James Horner ("Braveheart" OST); "Whisper of a Thrill" by Thomas Newman ("Meet Joe Black" OST); "After the Storm" by Mumford & Sons, "Noisy Sunday" by Patrick Watson.