POINTS FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR
Summary: The Warden does not seduce an unsuspecting Dalish girl, nor ruin her chance for happiness.
Characters/Pairings: Cammen/Gheyna! Includes a male Surana (Dorian), Alistair, Wynne & Leliana.
Word Count: ~2700
Disclaimer: Dragon Age belongs to Bioware. I just love it dearly.
Warnings: None. Maybe tiny spoilers if you haven't met the Dalish yet.
A/N: I've been working on a much longer pre-game fic about my usual m!Surana. He has been behaving terribly, and I'm kind of running into a wall in writing it (ugh). So I wrote this fic instead, from a one-line comment made in (an as of yet unposted) chapter, so I could remind myself this Warden does have his nicer side. Chronologically this is placed probably a little bit before or during the beginning of "Questions," before Zevran shows up. Since it doesn't really fit in anywhere else but I don't want to let it gather dust, I figure I'd post it.
Reviews loved and cherished as always. Thanks for reading!
The Warden had been speaking to her for a few minutes, at best. After listening to the clan's storyteller regale them with the tale of the fall of the Dales, they had run into Cammen. Dorian had seemed a bit irritated already—he had mentioned to Alistair on their journey into the Brecilian Forest that he had read about Arlathan and the Dales at length as a child, wishing desperately that he had been born into a clan, to the point that he had learned all of the elven tales available in the Circle Tower's library by heart. No doubt their Dalish hosts' cool reception and automatic condescension—pity but do not trust the flat-ear—was coming as something of a disappointment.
Cammen's tale of hardship and woe in his quest to woo his beloved seemed to move him, however, especially once he heard the apprentice hunter had not so much as kissed the object of his affections. This seemed absolutely unfathomable to the Warden—falling in love with a girl you hadn't even kissed—but the conundrum had sufficiently piqued his interest.
"I suppose I could talk to her for you," Dorian had suggested upon exhausting every other option he could come up with, and learning that apparently even gift-giving was out of the question.
"Oh, what good would it do?" Cammen had said, that look of forlorn woe once again overcoming him. "I've already tried everything!"
"I would hardly go that far," the Warden chuckled, looking at him skeptically. "But nevertheless, I assure you, I can be… quite persuasive."
Cammen sighed, resignedly, and Dorian couldn't help thinking that was exactly his problem. He was too ready to accept whatever fate he was presented with. "All right. I… I'm willing to try anything."
So the Warden had walked off across the camp to where the girl in question sat at the opposite firepit. His companions stayed behind, waiting and watching his progress curiously. The girl, Gheyna, was pretty, with fiery red hair, and looked quite young. If she was a full hunter, she hadn't been one for very long.
Cammen took a seat at the campfire near where Alistair, Wynne, and Leliana were settled. He kept glancing nervously between the strangers and where the Warden and his beloved stood, talking.
It only took a few moments of conversation, accompanied by the Warden's easy smile, before he had taken the redhead's hand and led her off in the direction of one of the aravels. She muffled a nervous, girlish giggle with her other hand, following along obediently.
Cammen looked back at the others, his eyes sad. "I don't see how he'll ever convince her."
They exchanged hesitant looks—none of them were certain if the Dalish boy was that naïve, or simply in denial. When he made no further comment, or expressed any sort of anger at the Warden's chosen method of "persuasion," the answer seemed painfully obvious. None of them wanted to be the one to break his heart.
The lines in Wynne's face seemed to be deepening. "Nor do I. I had hoped he would have left these sorts of antics behind now that he has become a Grey Warden. I see am to be disappointed."
"This isn't right," Leliana agreed, standing up. "They are in love! He shouldn't use her like this!"
"He wouldn't," was all Alistair managed to add in shaky defense of his friend, although the evidence did seem to suggest otherwise. Leliana stalked off in the direction of the aravel, leaving Wynne and Alistair to attend to Cammen's continued pathos.
Wynne's lips were set in a disapproving frown, and the way her eyes squinted slightly suggested she was composing the sternest of lectures for when the Warden returned. Alistair actually found it somewhat unsettling— Wynne was usually the picture of calm, grandmotherly kindness. It only served to remind him that she was one old lady not to be toyed with.
"I really don't think he would," he said again, and Wynne sighed.
"You didn't know him in the Tower, I'm afraid," she said tiredly.
To be honest, Dorian had flirted with her out of habit—really, he would flirt with anything that glanced at him more than once given sufficient opportunity, and he had never tried to deny it.
But he really wasn't sure what he had intended when he suggested they go somewhere else so they could speak more about this issue in private. Well, he knew what he meant, but he didn't have any idea at all what he actually intended to do.
And anyway, that line about her "needing a real man" honestly shouldn't have worked on anyone, regardless. So he lead her off to the first semi-secluded spot he could find in something of a haze—behind one of the aravels at the edge of the camp—unsure of his own intentions as they settled down a few inches apart, backs against the aravel and completely obscured from view by both the bushes and the landship's massive form.
It was stupid, really, his hesitance. Everyone always knew what his intentions were. Half the fun of having trysts in the Tower had been carrying on with brash indiscretion and categorizing the various shades of pink the templars turned when confronted with the debauchery of a couple of amorous apprentices.
This was no different. And it was his first opportunity since being recruited, ever since his attempts to flirt with Alistair had turned more from a serious attempt at seduction into a sort of affectionate way to tease his friend about his awkwardness in any situation involving sex. There was no reason to pass up this chance for a bit of fun.
Gheyna smiled at him, shy, but with a glint of understanding that told him she wasn't so completely innocent as to be expecting nothing more than serious chat about whether or not she should bond with Cammen. So this would be easy, then. Come up with a few sweet lines of empty sentiment, lean in for the kiss, and then…
He just couldn't do it. Maybe it was the fact that he knew it would probably ruin her relationship with Cammen forever, but since when had he cared about consequences? Or maybe it was the fact that he could almost taste Alistair's disappointment. Alistair would never criticize him openly, of course, but the sad, disenchanted look in his eyes would be enough. Despite the routine of flirty banter he had established with the other man since Ostagar, they had become close enough that one little incident probably wouldn't put a rift in their friendship, but… Alistair respected him. Looked up to him, even, and had supported each of his decisions since this whole mess had begun.
No one in the Tower had respected him. Tolerated him, yes, of course; used him, got into trouble with him, maybe a few had even cared for him. But actual, genuine respect? That was… new.
And new experiences called for new habits. If he had somehow gained Alistair's respect, his friendship, without sexual manipulation… the thrill of bedding this unsuspecting girl simply to put himself in a position of control—something he had always sorely lacked in the Tower—seemed suddenly entirely unappealing. Unnecessary.
It would be a shame to tarnish Alistair's good opinion of him with a stupid fling with a Dalish girl, anyway. Maker, since when had he begun caring about other people's opinions…?
He shook the thoughts away and smiled warmly back at Gheyna, keeping his distance.
"Look," he said with a sigh, shifting so he was facing her fully. "About Cammen…"
"I told you, I wish I could bond with him," she said. "But I couldn't bond with a boy who would never even be able to provide for his family by bringing down a deer, could I?"
Dorian took in a deep breath and licked his lips, trying to find the proper angle to come at this problem from. Surely, if he had been confident that he could convince her to sleep with him, he could be equally confident in his ability to talk her into marrying someone she already liked.
"You know, Gheyna, I know a bit about what it's like to be considered an… undesirable," he began. "You're very lucky to have been born Dalish. For the other elves—us flat-ears—we're just outcasts. And mages are doubly so. Even in the Circle, surrounded by fellow mages, I made certain I wasn't exactly… normal."
"Still, I bet you could have brought back the pelt of a beast in less than two moons," Gheyna said, both a little sullen and wistful. Dorian couldn't help laughing.
"Perhaps… well, yes. I suppose if the only way you wanted to be provided for was with the product of a successful hunt, I would make a fantastic Dalish bondmate," he said, though even just uttering such a phrase makes his chest tight. Bonded. Him. "But I think Cammen already has something for you that... not everyone gets to have. Something that, I've noticed, many people spend lifetimes dreaming about."
"He loves me," she said, nodding. "I think I love him, too. Are you saying we should bond simply for love? What if he never completes his hunt?"
Dorian shrugged, feeling tense, uncertain. These were questions for Leliana to muse on, not him.
"I don't know. My expertise with love usually takes more of a… hands-on approach," he said honestly. "But I always recommend doing what makes you happy, even if your elders disapprove. Especially if they do. Never allow yourself to be miserable because of someone else's rules."
She giggled nervously again. "I should disobey the elders?"
"You mustn't be so opposed to the idea. You're already sitting behind a bush with a stranger from outside the clan," he said with a sly smile. "What manner of awful things must they think I'm doing to you? And nothing has gone wrong yet. If they think that bonding with Cammen will end badly, but you… care for him, then prove them wrong."
Gheyna turned her head away from him, thoughtful. She picked at the grass idly, her blue eyes focused intently on her hands as she contemplated his words. Dorian settled quietly beside her, watching, his arms folded neatly in his lap. The only sound between them was their breathing and the tiny snap as she broke off each blade of grass. The far-off noises of the rest of the camp seemed remote, almost unreal.
"Yes. I've been a fool to push Cammen away. I love him, and that's what matters," she said finally, looking back at him. "You're right."
"I'm always right," he affirmed with a laugh. "Now what are you going to do about it?"
"Tell him, obviously. We can be bonded very soon, with my consent," she said. Dorian nodded agreeably and turned away, bracing himself against the side of the aravel as he got to his feet. Gheyna reached out and grasped his wrist, pulling him towards her again.
"Why did you do this?" she asked, letting go of him and drawing her hand away with a slow hesitance. She looked up at him with wide, guileless blue eyes. "I… I'm not stupid. I know this wasn't what you intended. Before. When you said…"
He grinned and held out his hand for her to retake, and he pulled her to her feet.
"I have a reputation to maintain," he said simply, though she didn't look like she believed him. "My companions wouldn't know what to do if they saw me being a perfect gentleman, working to bring together two strangers who are in… who care for one another. It's better if they just think I'm an awful, lecherous pervert who lures girls into bushes."
"That sounds like an excuse to me," Gheyna scoffed. "Like the last time Cammen was out with group of hunters, and he let Mithra kill the doe they encountered because he said he was too far away to get in a good shot. He was the one who tracked the doe. He was closer than any of them."
"What's that supposed to mean? I assure you, I didn't consider myself too far away to take a shot," he teased. "I just like my good deeds to be… anonymous."
The Dalish girl just giggled again, though she sounded less girlish and much more mischievous than she had previously. "The next time Cammen finds a doe, I will not let him convince himself he can't make the kill, when he is perfectly capable. And one day, someone will help you see that you don't have to be hiding behind an aravel to do something nice for someone else."
Dorian followed her with his eyes as she stepped past him, a cheerful bounce in her step and contented grin on her face. With a slight shake of his head, he turned and traced her steps back into the main camp, where they parted ways.
Sitting pressed up against the adjacent side of the aravel from where the Warden and the young Dalish girl had conversed, the leaves of the thick bushes tickling her face, Leliana smiled.
"Look at them," Leliana said, pointing across the camp to where the two young Dalish hunters in question were embracing and chatting excitedly about their upcoming nuptials. "He didn't do anything. He just wanted us to think he did."
"I knew he wouldn't," Alistair said proudly, a pleased smile on his face.
"It was really very sweet of him," Leliana agreed. "To help young love be allowed to flourish like that. He shouldn't be so embarrassed about it, you know? Maybe we should say something to him."
Slowly, Wynne shook her head, but her eyes were bright with amusement at the turn of events.
"No… I think we should let him believe he has gotten away with his little deception," she said lightly. "Let's just encourage his good behavior by not embarrassing him."
Leliana shook her head in disbelief, and patted Alistair on the arm. "All the effort he goes through to tease you. Who knew underneath it all he was secretly a romantic? You'd best be careful, Alistair. You may break our Warden's heart."
Their conversation tapered off as Dorian sauntered over to them and took a seat on a bench next to Alistair, the smirk on his face daring any of them to scold him for his presumed exploits with Gheyna. When none of them met him with any of the resistance he had been expecting, he threw an arm around Alistair's shoulders casually.
"How about you, then, Alistair?" he asked. "Care to join me in the bushes next?
"No thanks," Alistair said slowly, putting the best uncomfortable waver in his voice that he could. "I feel sorry for the bushes for even having had to lay witness to your debauchery, ser."
"It was quite scandalous," he agreed. "Scandalous can be fun. I could show you sometime."
For once, Alistair wasn't thrown off by his friend's flirtations. He was almost used to it by now—he'd been propositioned in much more colorful fashions than this.
"If you promise to use whatever it is you said to that poor Dalish girl with me, I will stay in those bushes with you all night," Alistair said matter-of-factly.
The Warden blanched and lost some of his steam. "I… don't think that would work."
"Hm. No loss then, I suppose," Alistair said cheerfully.
Whether or not Dorian noticed the furtive, amused glance Wynne and Leliana exchanged over their shoulders, he made no indication. He did, however, withdraw his arm and give them all a good, sour glare before rising abruptly and motioning them to follow him towards the south end of the camp.
"Come on, if there aren't any more young, nubile Dalish hunters to seduce, I hear there's an intriguing werewolf infestation in the forest," he said, his voice upbeat, but guarded. "We should probably get a head start on that."
With a last glance spared back at the celebrating couple that their Warden had brought together, the party followed him forward into the woods.