A/N: For Crisium, for writing as beautifully as she does.
The Untaken Path
She is sacred and beautiful, emanating light and grace and he is transfixed by her. With each sway of her hips he is drawn in further and impossibly he thinks she is always brighter than the rest, somehow. She moves in a gauzy cloud of the passionate and the fierce, her laughter as dangerous as her bow.
He cannot take his eyes from her.
"You are grieving."
Alistair raises his head, blinking the firelight from his eyes and regarding her for a moment. "So?" he says, roughly.
She slides to the ground beside him, the pink of her Chantry robe glowing in the light from the flames. "I do not cast judgement, Alistair." Her voice is soft and she folds her hands in her lap.
He looks back to the fire. "I'm sorry."
"We all grieve in different ways. For some, it is easier to lash out at others, yes?"
Her gaze has joined his in the fire, her voice growing even softer. "Kaillan has lost very much, I believe. So very much has been thrust upon her."
He wants to snort at that, to be play the petulant child and declare that his loss is much greater.
But she is looking at him now and there is such knowledge in her eyes. He knows she is right, and his shoulders sag. "You're right, of course."
Leliana only smiles.
In the aftermath of Redcliffe Castle, he shakes with anger.
Hours since he had stalked away from camp, hours past his expected watch, and fury still blooms hot under Alistair's skin.
They had killed a child.
He had stood there, had watched Kaillan raise her blade and... He feels sick to his stomach. Anger and nausea fighting for dominance within his body and he isn't sure which would be more welcome. He had not stopped her. He should have done more. None of this is right.
It is almost sunrise when Leliana finds him.
She steps carefully over branches, holding the skirt of her robe and approaching him quietly.
"What do you want?"
She does not smile, does not offer words of comfort or wisdom. In the darkness of the forest she drops to her knees in front of him. Her arms wind loosely around his shoulders and when she draws him to her breast, he finds himself holding on.
In her embrace he finds benediction.
In Orzammar, they wait.
Kaillan has gone, into the Deep Roads with the dwarf, the witch and the assassin at her side. Left behind in the Royal Palace, Alistair waits.
Leliana leads him by the arm, taking him out into the commons and into the city. He watches her as she explores the Shaperate, listens as she tells him how fascinating the dwarven tales are. She tries to plead the case of Brother Burkel and when her face falls with failure, he wishes he had a clue how to comfort her.
Kaillan would have been able to persuade them, convince them to allow this Chantry... Leliana looks to him with sadness in her eyes and he wants to shake their leader for her carelessness. How easily she had scoffed at the suggestion, unwilling to help...
For a moment, he considers stepping in. Maybe he could succeed where Leliana had failed?
But as quickly as the sadness crossed her eyes, it is gone and she takes him by the arm once more.
Triumphant and bold, Kaillan is there when they return.
The Tower is like a nightmare.
So much death, so much violence. So much that has been torn apart at the hands of Maleficarum and every remaining instinct the Chantry has drilled into him surges to life. He cuts through them without mercy, their blood staining his armour but he does not care.
Only hours have passed and Kaillan wants to leave, to get back on the road and seek out the Dalish.
He ignores her, seeking refuge in the Chantry room. Leliana kneels beside him, her hand squeezing his gently before she bows her head in prayer.
Together, they seek salvation.
She comes to him in moonlight.
Alistair blinks at her in the silence of his tent, her small smile reaching places inside of him he hadn't known were dark. She guides his hands to the hem of her robe and there is something faintly blasphemous in his mind as he lifts the fabric from her body.
Then her mouth is on his own, the faintest brush of her lips as her hands slide his own clothes off and when he tries to speak, to voice his inexperience, she only smiles, guiding him beneath her and taking him inside.
The silver sword of mercy dangles between her breasts and above him she is the fire at the heart of the world.
Comfort is only theirs to give.
He knows he cannot tell her.
From across the fire, he can tell Kaillan is lying. So effortlessly, so easily she tosses untruths and for a murderous moment he wants to rush over, to take Leliana into his arms and tell her the truth. The ashes, the cult, the Dragon... she deserves to know it all.
"If we tell her, she will leave." Kaillan's eyes had been harsh, and from her shoulder the assassin was laughing.
But she had been right.
Leliana comes to him that night. She takes him in silence, throwing her head back and rocking her hips. With each wave she takes him closer, pulls him towards release and through the desire, Alistair feels bitter and unworthy.
She meets his eyes after, naked and silhouetted in the moonlight.
He is to be king.
The weight of it is staggering, the reality hitting hard. He had not expected Kaillan to do this, to name him... but the fire in her eyes as she spoke of the crimes in the Alienage had burned with a passion he had never seen in her.
And now he is to be king.
Leliana does not come to him, then.
He turns down the offer.
Kaillan is raging, spouting selfishly about their chances to live and it takes all of his willpower to just walk away from her.
The mantle of Grey Warden has never felt heavier upon his shoulders and for the first time since Duncan died he dares to think he has made his mentor proud.
He goes to Leliana's room, taking her into his arms for the first time since the landsmeet. She is breathless beneath him, holding tightly and gasping with every thrust. He takes her with force to rattle the bed frame and she only begs him for more.
Afterward, she lies curled against his side and he tells her everything.
Leliana's eyes are clear and warm as she slips from the bed, returning to press something into his palm. The Steel symbol of Andraste.
"Blessed are the righteous, the lights in the shadow. In their blood the Maker's will is written." She quotes, kissing his temple.
There is no goodbye.
The battlefield is hectic, the calm never coming. He glances to her only once, their eyes meeting for just a moment before he follows Kaillan into the city.
They never meet again.
He thinks of her when he pushes Kaillan aside. His sword in his hands, he thinks of Leliana as he charges for the Archdemon. Her strength and her light, her beauty and her grace.
When he takes the killing blow, he does it for her.
Blessed are the peacekeepers, the champions of the just.
A/N: And we're out! Just a quick thanks to the Dragon Age Wiki, without which I never could have dug through the codexes for the Chant quotes.