Note: I haven't written anything in a really long time, and this is un-betaed. Have mercy, if you will.
Disclaimer: All songs, names, parts of the game, etc. are not mine at all.
1 – Kids, MGMT
"My mother died. Recently, in fact."
Grey Wardens did not cry, so Nicola Cousland made sure she did not.
After supper and a bath in the lake next to camp, the blonde Warden perched herself upon a large rock, with her hair still wet, dripping on her sleeping shift, and her sword and dagger nearby. The water had been warm, yet she had never felt colder, opting to scrub her skin roughly and quickly to get out faster. Her conversation with Morrigan about their mothers left her feeling hollow and melancholic, unable to enjoy the rare pleasure of a bath. But between fleeing her besieged home and discovering she was possibly the last of the Couslands, as well as the Fereldan Wardens, Nicola had had no time to mourn. She had not sulked about as Alistair had (not that she blamed him). She had not cried, had not found any consolation whatsoever, save for the darkspawn blood she shed and in which she reveled. To be honest, she barely had time to think about her loss, and for this, she felt as though she were betraying her family more than Howe ever could.
The simplicity of her words to Morrigan struck her as hard as any blade had in quite some time, prompting her abrupt exit. My mother died. Recently, in fact. So, so recently, yet why did it feel like it was years ago? My mother died. My mother died. The words repeated themselves in her head as she gazed unblinkingly at the full moon above. And Mother was not the only one. Father, Iona, Oriana and Oren…Possibly everyone at Highever with whom she shared her life. And they did not simply die, she was reminded. They were murdered, killed in cold blood.
Images from that fateful night plagued her as much as the darkspawn nightmares usually did: the arrow sticking out of Iona's chest, her father's blood on her hands, her mother holding Father to her breast as he gasped his dying breaths, and the last look Eleanor gave her, so heartbreakingly full of trust, pride, and love that Nicola almost turned back around to die with them.
She tried thinking of better times, something Nan told her to do after her first pet had died. Do not focus on the bad things, child, she had said, showing one of her sporadic and rare kind moments, petting her hair consolingly. It shan't do you any good. Green eyes closed as she directed her thoughts towards scenes from her childhood in hope of comfort, trying to curb the stinging tears that threatened to escape.
Nan scolding her and her Mabari, Bandit, for stealing sweets from the kitchen before supper and gorging herself on them until she was sick. Nan making her warm tea afterwards, amused and apologetic, although as per usual, hiding it behind a scowl.
Sparring with Fergus in the courtyard, sweaty and dirty, looking nothing like the fair lady that her noble blood bespoke. Laughing as she bested him over and over again, at his pout and his distress at finding his baby sister was a better fighter, at the admiring looks from both men and women of the castle.
Father taking her out hunting for the first time, much to Mother's quiet displeasure, and his warm hug as she ran into his arms afterwards as a celebration of her first kill. The look of pride in his eyes as they brought the deer back to the castle and had Nan prepare it for supper.
She had led a privileged life, and had a good childhood, one for which she was always grateful. As an easygoing but mischievous child, she had had everyone in the castle wrapped around her little finger. Daddy's little pup also had her fair share of lovers, once she had reached adolescence. She had never been happier than when she was with her family, and was unbelievably lucky to have what she did, Nicola mused. There was absolutely no reason to complain. But the reminder of how beautiful it was in comparison to the horrors she now faced made it hurt even more.
Nicola rubbed furiously at her eyes, breathing in deeply and curling into herself, arms wrapped around her legs. With her face buried in her arms and her focus on nothing else but not crying, she almost wished a Hurlock would ambush her and end it all there. Perhaps then she would find her solace and relief from the pain.
It was in this sorrowful state that Morrigan found her.
Unlike with Alistair, the witch held back the immediate, natural mocking response that came to mind. Morrigan approached the Warden cautiously, yet she intentionally made enough noise so that Nicola would be alert to her presence. She did not want to shame the blonde further, for surely the act of weeping alone was embarrassing enough. Morrigan made sure not to mention this either.
A branch split under the weight of Morrigan's foot, and Nicola abruptly looked up, hand automatically reaching for the hilt of her sword.
"'Tis only I," the mage said calmly. Nicola slowly moved her hand away from her sword, regaining her bearings. "As difficult as it may be to get along with me, hopefully you shall not have to resort to murder."
Despite herself, Nicola's lips quirked in a small smile. "Come to have a bath as well?"
"Are you suggesting that I need one?" Morrigan asked, tilting her head playfully.
"Yes," the Warden deadpanned. Her eyes were red, yet there were no sign of any tears upon her face. So, she had not been crying. Morrigan felt a twinge of approval, but rolled her eyes nonetheless at the retort as she situated herself next to Nicola.
"Although I am sure you would very much like to sit here and watch me bathe, no, 'twas not my intention," said Morrigan, at which Nicola snorted. As unbecoming for a Warden as the gesture was, Morrigan couldn't help but be a little charmed (and aghast that she was). "I came to…to see if you were all right," she added slowly. "I have noticed that people tend to enjoy talking about their feelings. 'Tis strange, but, alas," she shrugged.
Warmth blossomed in Nicola's heart, as an amused smile came to her lips. She desperately wanted to tease Morrigan for actually having feelings, but she knew it wasn't wise. She was secretly pleased that the usually cold woman actually cared, and did not want to discourage her. "I'm fine," she replied. "I was just…just thinking about my mother. My family."
Morrigan nodded her understanding. "Ah. I had assumed as much." She looked thoughtful for a moment, and hesitatingly asked, "I do not suppose you would desire to…discuss it, would you?" At Nicola's small look of surprise, she quickly added, "Not that I am particularly concerned about your despair. 'Tis only that we cannot have our glorious leader in such a sorry state, falling on her sword instead of wielding it against darkspawn."
There was a hint of bitterness to Nicola's laugh as she tugged absently on the wet strands of her hair, a nervous habit Morrigan had noticed during the first days they traveled together. "Of course, Morrigan," she said, obviously placating the mage's desire to save face. She sighed. "I just haven't had much time to think about them. After Howe betrayed us, I was forced to flee my own home with Duncan to become a Grey Warden, instead of seeking the revenge I owe my family. And then, at Ostagar…" she trailed off. "Well. You know."
Morrigan did know, for it was she that tended to the Warden's wounds after Flemeth healed them, and it was she who had watched over the unconscious woman. "'Tis understandable," Morrigan agreed. "You have not had time to yourself. 'Tis difficult to do so when every poor, helpless soul begs you to save them."
"Lest you forget, I am technically saving you and yours," Nicola teased lightly, at which Morrigan glared. "Too many people have died already," she said quietly, sobering instantly. "I have a duty as a Grey Warden to serve others, and I refuse to be selfish."
Morrigan paused. As much as she did not enjoy nor see the point in idle chatter about feelings when actions mattered more, she did find herself oddly caring about the Warden's. Her curiosity also overwhelmed her, for it was interesting to see how people coped with things. The only method of consolation Flemeth ever demonstrated was to trick men into her bed and kill them afterwards. While the thought of the Warden in her bed was not entirely unpleasant for reasons unbeknownst to her (and ones she refused to analyze), she knew that that would not be the most appropriate plan of action at the moment. "What was your family like?" She asked, opting for a change in subject.
Still surprised that Morrigan was even remotely interested, or was at the very least, pretending to be, Nicola paused. After brief contemplation and with a wistful smile, she replied, "My parents were completely and disgustingly in love." A faraway looked reached her eyes. "My mother…Mother was a strong, beautiful woman. Only her competence in battle could rival her looks, my father always said. Or her penchant for scolding me," laughed Nicola. "I was kind of a handful," she admitted, "But Father always just looked the other way."
Holding back any criticism of love, Morrigan asked, "And what of him?"
Nicola looked thoughtful. "Wise. Fair. A good father, and beloved teyrn to his people."
The mage's eyes widened briefly in surprise. "You are of noble blood, then?" Catching herself, she added wryly, "Shocking, considering how you choose to inhale your food rather than chew it."
Laughing, Nicola shrugged. "Being a Cousland has never been that important to me. Titles, labels. Meaningless in the face of reality, especially now. I never wanted servants, and I did not like being treated as if I were made of glass because I was a woman, and a noble one at that. Of course, my situation is nowhere near the realm of Alistair's…but, it did make it easier for me to understand why he kept that a secret. I did not like fancy balls, dresses, or sitting around knitting. I liked talking with the guards, sparring with them, hunting with my brother."
"I suppose that explains your disinterest in the 'Witch of the Wilds' name of which your companions were so fearful and insisted upon calling me," Morrigan mused, thinking of the first time they met. "And also, your rather unladylike affinity for drinking contests with Oghren," she added with disgust.
Nicola chuckled. "Certainly you've gathered that I'm no lady, Morrigan."
There was a lull in the conversation that neither woman found unpleasant nor uncomfortable. Then, "So, you have a brother as well?"
"Yes. Fergus. Thankfully, he was not at Highever when we were attacked, but I honestly do not know where he could be. He was supposed to be out scouting the Wilds, last I heard at Ostagar," said Nicola. She looked away. "I wish I had time to find him, to inform him of Howe's betrayal, to see if he's even alive." The blonde sighed again, tired of all the death and sacrifice she had to go through in the face of the Blight. She was still hesitant to complain to Morrigan, for she was sure to receive nothing but a scathing remark or scolding. But she had not spoken to anyone about this, and it was simply becoming too much to keep to herself.
"I wish I could be selfish, just for a little, and put aside darkspawn for a moment. Do what I want, and not have that be at the expense of others." Shaking herself out of her thoughts, she smiled a sad smile Morrigan knew she saved for dying soldiers or distraught villagers. "Look at me. Acting like a foolish child when I should be acting like the Grey Warden that I am. To be honest, I am surprised you have not shot an arcane bolt my way already! But alas, there is no point in wishing and sulking for things you cannot have," she said, keeping her tone light. Nicola shook her head, and put on a smile that did not quite reach her eyes. Morrigan understood the purpose for wearing the Grey Warden mask, but felt a twinge of something in her chest when Nicola did it to her.
Morrigan rarely felt helpless, but as much as she was loath to admit, when it came to matters of the heart, she was at a loss. She did not know why she found it so…so displeasing when the Warden was upset. Morrigan reasoned that it must be because she hated seeing any weakness, and left it at that. Surely, whatever her purpose for wanting it, there was a way to solve this problem, wasn't there?
Nicola moved to gather her things, when the sound of Morrigan's voice stopped her, her tone thoughtful and interested, like she just discovered a novel idea. She looked somewhat amused and particularly pleased with herself, so Nicola listened warily. It was never good when Morrigan looked like that. "And what is your opinion of things you can have? If you desire them, do you take them?" Morrigan asked.
More than slightly confused at the segue, Nicola responded, "I … I suppose so… Yes. If you desire something and you may have it, take it. But I desire many things that I probably shall not have." Somewhat uncomfortable with the intense, thoughtful look Morrigan's bright eyes cast upon her, and the change in conversation, she shrugged. "Such is life, is it not? Come, it is getting late."
Nicola chuckled nervously. "So, now it is you who is so full of questions. How very cute." She paused, adding, "And to answer your question…well, just parts of my old life, of course."
"Like what?" Morrigan insisted, and Nicola felt as though she were aiming for something that the Warden could not see, leading her down a strange road with an unknown destination. She did not like being confused, or being badgered, and she felt the tendrils of frustration forming.
"I would think that you, of all people, would discard this thread of conversation as it is pointless and utterly useless," Nicola bristled. She wanted her family back. She wanted to slit Howe's throat herself. She wanted to know if Fergus was even alive. She wanted things to be simple again, to spar all day, drink all night, and find someone to bed until morning. And she wanted Morrigan to go back to doing nothing but sitting there, being pretty, and making rude comments. "Must you probe me so?" She threw the mage's own words back at her as she turned to walk back towards camp. She was stopped when strong, small hands grabbed her shoulders, spun her around, and shoved her roughly against a nearby tree. The wind knocked out of her, she squawked in outrage, "Morrigan, what-"
Suddenly, Nicola felt Morrigan's hand slowly cup her cheek, surprisingly gentle and unsurprisingly seductive. The mage's face neared hers, so that their lips almost brushed together, and Nicola ceased to breathe.
"W-what… you…?" The normally well-spoken woman stuttered, looking every bit like a startled fawn.
"For once, yes. I shall be the one doing the probing," Morrigan murmured. There was a gleam in her eyes as she added, "Do not think that I have not seen the way you look at me, and do not think that I do not know what that look means." Her thumb stroked Nicola's cheek, smirking, as Nicola continued to do her village idiot impression involuntarily, gaping and stuttering.
Perhaps Morrigan did not know matters of the heart, but Morrigan knew this. She knew how to seduce, how to make people want and how to satisfy them. And she knew Nicola wanted that from her. And she was tired of talking about everything but not doing, feeling helpless and useless. For once, her plans did not involve pleasures of the flesh simply for dominance, for her own selfish reasons, or for power. Her desires coincided with Nicola's, of course, but most of all, she wanted to…to care for the other woman. To lessen the pain that this darkness brought and keep her mind off dreadful things, just for a moment. To give Nicola that chance to have one thing she wanted in a world that she was supposed to save, where selfishness had no place. Most of all, to stop talking and fix this just so that blasted, strange feeling in her chest would dissipate. Morrigan would do this in the only mutually beneficial and pleasurable way she knew how.
"Come now, Warden," Morrigan said loftily, "Be selfish, just for this moment, hmm?"
"I don't know as to what you're referring," Nicola balked. Control yourself, keep calm, the voice in her head insisted as she forced her hands to stay at her side instead of reaching for the other woman's waist. This is a dirty, nasty trick.
The mage laughed, her eyes roving between the Warden's slightly parted lips and wide, green eyes. "I thought you did not like acting like a child," Morrigan chided playfully as she moved her hips so that they were flush against Nicola's. The blonde's attempt at stifling a groan was unsuccessful. "So stop playing this little game. 'Tis quite simple, really," she continued airily, as her hand drifted to the back of Nicola's neck, fingers stroking the sensitive skin there. "You desire me, do you not?"
Nicola scowled as she tried to stop from trembling. The pressure and weight of Morrigan's body against her was making it difficult to concentrate. She did not like being toyed with, however, and being the prey when she was usually the predator was a jarring thought. The way the mage was looking at her was as though she was a mouse, and Morrigan was a cat, lazily playing with her simply because she could. "You…" Nicola sighed. "Fine. You are a very beautiful woman," she conceded. "I would probably not kick you out of my bedroll, should you happen to slip and fall into it."
Morrigan hmm-ed and chuckled, a little throaty laugh that Nicola found delightfully and deliciously wicked. She did not like being bested at the game of seduction, but Morrigan continued, interrupting her thoughts. "Following your own logic," she said in a low voice, a pleased little smirk still on her face, "You desire me, and it is quite clear that you can have me, no?" Morrigan moved so that her cheek caressed Nicola's as she brushed her lips against a delicate ear.
Frustration and arousal welled up within the blonde. "So?" she challenged, fed up. She was tired of the conflict warring inside her, unable to decide whether she wanted to shove this…this witch away from her or shove her against a tree, and…and Maker, preserve her, was that Morrigan's tongue? All thought vanished, however, when the other woman pressed a quick but sensual kiss against her ear, nipping as she pulled away.
"So…" Morrigan purred. "Take me."