A/N: Bit of a change up for me. I know I've stuck to ME fics, but after completing DA:O with a different ending (no ultimate sacrifice this time!), the idea for this story came to me.
On her knees by the chamber pot, Elissa braced a hand against the wall, heaving up the contents of her stomach. The candlelight flickered over her sallow features, and she brought a handkerchief to her lips to wipe away the spittle. The ache in her belly bit deeper, like a stab wound. It had been so long since she'd felt such pain, but the remembrance was clear. It was coupled with an entirely different sort of distress.
She'd lost another child. It had been a boy. She'd carried it long enough that the healers could tell. Their expressions were a softened mirror of her own wretched defeat. Each babe Elissa had miscarried tore another wound into her fraying heart. There had been four now in the five years of their rule.
The curtains fluttered in the spring breeze. They had planned to stay in Denerim that summer. They hadn't wanted her to travel. She could smell the apple blossoms in the courtyard. The trees had been gifted to the king and queen at their wedding, a hearty variety that was able to survive Ferelden's long winters.
The door of the bedchamber creaked open, and the timber of her husband's voice betrayed his distress.
Before she could reply, Alistair was by her side, gathering her up as she tried to stand. She lifted her chin, trying to collect strength, but meeting his eyes she crumpled. Her reddened eyes bore tears again.
"I am so sorry, my love."
Alistair wrapped her in his arms, shaking his head.
"No... no, no sorry's. You should be in bed."
Elissa's feet moved with his direction, her limbs weakening as Alistair sat her down.
"I lost it. I lost our baby. Our baby boy."
Running his calloused hands through her hair, Alistair sighed, lying back with her in his arms.
"It wasn't you.. what about you - are you alright?"
Swallowing thickly, Elissa blinked the tears from her eyes, having trouble focusing. Some Hero of Ferelden. The past years had taken their toll on her physical form. Try as she might to keep fit and active in her knifeplay, the start and stop of failed pregnancies had left her sickly. More then she let on to anyone.
"I.. I will recover."
Alistair's hands tightened around her, one hand combing the russet tresses through his fingers again. It drew a sigh from Elissa.
"I worry about you more than any of it. Maker's breath, I don't know what I'd do without you."
Elissa stayed quiet, pulling her legs up as she curled on the bed. Alistair's arm tucked around her back to squeeze her against him.
"They wouldn't tell me how you were."
"I threw them out as .. as soon as..."
The queen's hand drew into a fist in Alistair's tunic, and his fingers massaged over her scalp. He kissed her hair, breathing in the clean scent of her. It always calmed him. Because it was only there when she was close, when they warmed each other, when she was safe in his arms.
The nausea was lifting, even if she still felt ripped apart inside. That physical rawness would fade, she had learnt. They had the best healers in the kingdom tending to her.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here."
Elissa's tongue thickened with emotion again, the memory of the pain as her body rejected the baby sickening her again. Her breasts ached, sensitive for a need that wouldn't be filled. She sat up with a start, reaching for the mug of water at the bedside. Gulping it down, she stumbled forward off the bed onto her knees again. A sweat on her brow, she rested her forehead on the stone.
Sitting up, unsure how to act, Alistair could only look away as she heaved again, the water coming back up.
"Pl.. please get me more water..."
Her voice was weak. He could never resist her. She stayed on the floor as he scuttled away and retrieved the water for her. Elissa sunk onto her side towards the bed, reaching a hand over his shin as she drank the entire glass.
"We have our duties, Alistair. You know you never have to apologize for doing your duty."
Elissa looked up to him as he took the glass and sat down beside her on the ground. Alistair reached to pull her close, and she laid her head on his shoulder. His voice cracked.
"I know. It doesn't change how I feel for it though."
Brushing the hair from her forehead, Alistair tucked down and kissed her skin, leaving his lips resting against her. They sat in quiet on the cold stone, listening to the sounds of their breathing and the rustle of the heavy curtains on the windows. The guards in the hall were chatting, though the door muffled their voices.
"I have the dreams whenever I've... lost one..."
Alistair's brow furrowed, and he gathered more of her russet tresses into his hand, fingers massaging down her scalp and neck. Her skin was clammy under his lips, and he turned without a word to scoop her up into his arms before much of a protest could rise in her throat.
"I can be here the next fortnight. The bannorn will understand."
He threw back the bed covers, laying his wife onto the soft sheets and tucking her in. Kissing the corner of her mouth, he dismissed her words.
"Sorry, you're stuck with me."
Moving about the room, Alistair pulled the windows shut and drew the shades completely. Adding another few logs on the fire, he undressed and slipped into bed beside Elissa, settling her back into his arms. She was shivering.
"We need to name him. He... he will be put on the pyre tomorrow. The Chantry sent a messenger asking."
The memory of the small, frail form in her hands pushed a dizziness through her senses, and Elissa tightened her grip on her husband's arm. They hadn't wanted to let her see the baby. It had been a moment that proved how much command her voice could still hold, despite being removed from the armies of the kingdom to try and fulfil her duty to the crown.
Alistair weakened in the breath he sighed out, but he kept his arms firm around his wife.
"All these good men whose memories I want to honour, but..."
The silence hung. Neither of them needed to say it. What honour was there in a man's name being granted to a dead child. Bryce, Duncan, Cailan, Oren... even the smallest deserved their name being given the chance to live.
Alistair swallowed the lump in his throat, staring at the heavy brocade canopy over their bed. The guards in the hall had quieted.
Through the years since Alistair became king, Elissa had been a stiff rod in his spine, helping guide his hand in all affairs of military and court alike. She made him more, as much his closest friend as she was his lover and wife. She spoke her mind and rarely minced her words.
"You need a mistress who can bear you a child."
Alistair choked on his breath, unsure of the brevity of her words.
"Oh yes, I'll just gather myself up a harem. The first to bear a bastard gets the crown."
Elissa's chilly cheek pressed against his chest, and he could feel the muscles move into a faint smile.
"Would you even know what to do with yourself?"
"Well I am king, I don't think I'd really need to know. They'd have to be more concerned with pleasing me, right?"
Alistair grinned as she shook her head. Drawing Elissa close, he kissed her brow again, eliciting a sigh.
"I was being serious. I.. I don't think I can do it again."
There was a threadbare quality to her voice, the strain of fatigue in it that aged her features. Her scars from battle showed more when she was tired. They reminded Alistair of her strength, of the reality of their past.
"We'll keep trying, my dear. It... you were close. Almost into the third season, right?"
Elissa trembled again, swallowing the bile in her throat as she licked her lips.
"And if it kills me? Even if the babe survives, its unknown if it'll be some kind of abomination."
Alistair was quiet again, hearing her voice the truth that they had hopefully ignored in the passing years of their marriage. Elissa ran her hand under the covers and over his abdomen.
"If I gave you a child, if it were healthy, I could ... dying wouldn't be so terrible. I've been living a selfish pipe dream."
"Yes, I have, Alistair."
Elissa sat up, turning, and the covers fell away. She brought trembling hands over her face. The pregnancies always brought a weakness with them. She hated how unchecked her emotions became.
"I made myself your queen. I wanted to be the one to bear your children. We've ignored it for so long, no matter what we learned to the contrary. It never leaves my mind that s-somewhere out there..."
Alistair sat up after her, running a hand up her back and throwing off the covers. Elissa stopped herself, hands coming over her mouth. It was something else they never spoke of. The child of his that roamed the world with a maleficar. It was the price of their lives. Of the happiness they had.
When had she become this weak woman? Elissa sobbed into her hands, but the sound soon clipped away.
Rolling her tongue in her mouth, Elissa wiped her tears away, looking into her lap even as Alistair moved closer still, pulling her back to him. His expression creased.
"I was raised a noble, Alistair. I always knew what would be expected of me."
"You are my rose... I love you like no other."
She couldn't look up to him, thinking of the young nobles at court, the bright-voiced women whose glances he never noticed. He only had eyes for her. For all her scars and indelicate ways, he loved her. But it didn't change their duty, the need for a Theirin heir.
Her abdomen and loins ached like she'd taken a beating, and Elissa's pallor was still sickly, even if her skin had warmed against him. There was no question it was the taint that rendered her womb inhospitable. It would only worsen.
Her words barely broke a whisper.
"This isn't about love."