(A/N: Ok, so here I am making another stab at this Dragon Age stuff. I know now why it's so complicated…it's because I have so damn much freedom with the character. Honestly I've been trying to keep Aedan in character and I've just realized that he's my character…mind-blowing. Ok. I don't own Dragon Age and this is an M!Cousland/Alistair fic. So that means slash with a sort of lemon and you had better click away now if you don't like that. On with the show!)

Given Time

Aedan Cousland had lost much in his recent history, his mother, his father, nephew and sister-in-law had been lost to Howe's treachery. After that he had lost his fellow Grey Warden initiates in the Joining, it had affected him more powerfully because in that short time he'd come to know them quite well. And when the battle came, he'd lost mentor and King alike, and for all he knew, his brother had perished then as well. After going through all of it, being forced to be so strong, he simply wasn't sure if he was allowed to start crying or if when he did, that he could stop.

"Here, a relatively safe place to make camp," Morrigan said with a bite of sarcasm and a flourish of her arm, indicating a clear patch of ground. The Kokari Wilds didn't seem safe at all, what with all the Darkspawn milling about and the wolves ready to consume them in a few bites. But Aedan knew that he hadn't the energy to make it to Lothering that night, and that only sleep could remedy the darkness clawing at his heart.

So, they silently set up camp, a small, almost makeshift affair, Morrigan claiming her wagon as her own had thrown them a rather small tent before turning in for the night. Alistair tried to give up any rights he might have had to the thing, but Aedan vehemently insisted that there was room enough to share, after all, Gladstone, the Mabari didn't need to sleep in a tent. And the hound seemed more content to keep watch, remaining outside of their tent instead of risking bothering Morrigan, the Witch frightened all of them it seemed. They were quite close together while still managing to avoid contact and lying beside Alistair did give the young man some comfort, but he couldn't still the tears that broke past his control.

He did his level best to stay silent, he knew that he cried loudly when he finally broke down, and was attempting to force the noise away, to make sure that at least Alistair slept soundly. But he'd never had much experience with hiding such things; the castle he called home had muffled sounds quite well. The more aching sobs broke past his lips, and he was certain that even Morrigan had heard them and was already preparing her criticisms for the next morning. It was only when a warm body pressed itself against his back and a strong arm clamped over his chest that he began to calm down. No one had ever bothered to hold him like that before.

"It's alright, really, you can cry. It's amazing that you made it this long," Alistair's voice was soft; it carried a sympathy with it that struck Aedan to his heart. The younger man sighed, no longer fighting the tears and turned over, tucking his head under the blonde's chin and allowing himself to relax. Alistair merely tightened the arm around his companion and kept his breathing even.

"Did you ever…"

"Yeah, the first few weeks were hell for me. I'm sorry you'll not get to know the support system I had, when there were more of us, you could talk to anyone and they all knew what to expect and just how to fix it. And you've just got me, so I guess that means that I ought to be here for you, yeah? I'll give you the best I've got," the senior Warden spoke with soft conviction; it almost covered the pain of loss that still lingered in his tone. He held tightly to Aedan as the young man did a thorough job of crying himself to sleep. After all, it was hard to forget the pain of his own Joining, and honestly he never would be able to let go of the memories of having to deal with it all. Aedan had been slapped with quite a bit all in one go, and even though Alistair had lost Duncan, he was better equipped to grieve at the moment than the young Lord was.

When the morning light woke him—damn clear ground and clear sky above it—Aedan found that he was still in Alistair's arms, the warm embrace had been completed at some point during the night by Aedan's own arms wrapping around the older man. But he was content in the position, it felt safe and comfortable and he allowed himself to drift on a sleepy haze as he waited for Alistair to wake up.

The blonde man began to stir not much later, and Alistair had to smile at the contented look that had planted itself on Aedan's face. Glad that he could at least do something to protect his fellow Warden Alistair placed a kiss on the smaller man's forehead, as one doting female Warden had done for him what felt like an age ago. Aedan, in a foggy state of sleeping and waking sighed at the contact.

"Miss you…Mom," the young man's voice reached Alistair's ears, thick with sleep and still guided by what would become a half-remembered dream. It barely occurred to Aedan that it was Alistair's gentle hands that shook him to waking; he had been caught up in a moment of memory.

"Come on Aedan, time to gather the Witch and be on our way," Alistair said in a gentle voice, the morning not wanting a harsher tone, and Aedan silently pulled away from the warmth of the embrace. They got into their armor wordlessly; everything seeming like it was done in a fog to the minds of both men. They strapped their weapons into place and packed their bedrolls away, getting ready to break camp.

"Alistair," Aedan's hand rested lightly on his fellow Warden's shoulder, stopping him before he could leave the tent. Alistair turned slightly, a smile pulling at his lips as he met the younger man's hesitant gaze.

"It's okay Aedan, really," the senior Warden said brightly and ruffled Aedan's shaggy hair. The young Lord thought that he caught just a hint of a blush blossoming on his friend's cheeks at the action. And though he wondered at it, he let it go, because of Alistair his mind was lighter than it had been in days, and he wasn't about to question that relief.

They found no place to stay in Lothering, and with the extent of the Blight as it spread, that didn't surprise any of them. They did however pick up a plucky young Bard and a stone-faced Qunari that seemed to wish to help them combat the Darkspawn. The Chanter's Board and the Blackstone Irregulars gave them something to do and to gather a little money as their armor and weapons need repair and provisions would run low with new party members. And in the end they had only spent the daylight hours of a single day running about the Town, well, Aedan, Alistair, Gladstone and Sten ran around, Leliana and Morrigan were put in charge of stocking a road party both knowing more about it than the rest of the group. Sten was not the sort to have concerned himself over much with the day to day requirements of human lives.

When they made camp that night it was in the company of a Dwarven merchant and his son, both of whom they had saved on the way out of Lothering. The Qunari didn't seem to require a tent and the Bard had her own—which she seemed strangely pleased about—so once again Alistair joined Aedan in their small tent.

"Do you think we can really trust them?" Aedan asked in a quiet whisper, his brows knitting together with concern, Alistair was the only one he ever truly confided in. The Templar turned carefully, his breath leaving him as he jostled himself too much, a few bruised ribs revealing themselves to the junior Warden. Sighing with concern and a little agitation that the other man would keep silent about his injury, Aedan held up a hand to silence any answer or protest that might be forthcoming. Without preamble he pulled the other man's shirt up, his fingers gently inspecting the extent of the injury before he grabbed a lesser poultice and began to prepare it for application.

With long practiced movements, even with Alistair's squirming about, Aedan managed to apply the curative. After all it was meant for scrapes and bruises that one wished to heal quickly. Alistair's breath hitched as the pain suddenly reduced, it always was a bit of a rush to the head when something like that happened. That task completed Aedan set to work checking his friend over for other injuries that he'd neglected to mention, but the Templar blushed furiously and snatched the younger man's hands in his own.

"I'm fine Aedan, truly I am. Just lie down okay? And to answer your question, I don't know, not much I guess. But you're the one that keeps telling me that we can't do this alone. And you're right, we need help, it can't just be you, Gladstone and I, now can it?" the blonde said with a touch of a sarcastic smile and Aedan gave a nod of acceptance, lying down to catch some sleep.

As time wore on and their little group of misfits and outcasts grew to include a Mage, a Dwarf and Elf and a Golem, Aedan began to realize that Alistair meant something more to him than he ought to. Rightly he knew that he had fallen in love with the selfless blonde man, and though he felt selfish about it, he made a point of keeping his fellow warden close at hand. Alistair came along on every mission, and neither of them had brought up the idea of separating when it came to sleeping arrangements. Of course when prompted they would argue that a tent cost gold that they didn't have to spare what with having to supply an entire army.

"So, Warden, I've a question for you," Zevran said one night as they sat together by the campfire, aside from Sten and Shale—who rarely slept anyway—they were the last two awake. Aedan wasn't sure why, but he began to feel very nervous about the situation they were in.

"Alright" he responded, his voice as calm as he could muster what with the Elf looking at him like a treat to be devoured.

"You and Alistair, the both of you are very attractive men, in your prime. And there has been no shortage of advances from Morrigan, Leliana and myself, yet neither of you has given in to our wiles. Tell me, dear Aedan, Is there something between the two of you that I have not detected? Or perhaps have I stumbled upon two stunningly attractive eunuchs with unbelievably deep voices and delicious muscles?"

"I…Zev…you do realize how horridly inappropriate you are right?" Aedan asked, blushing scarlet.

"Oh, yes, yes I know," the Elf replied with a smile that could only be described as frisky.

"Well…for me he's everything. I fell for him ages ago, I realized this just recently. But I can't tell him now can I? I mean he was practically raised in the Chantry and I'm pretty sure that they frown on that sort of thing. Moreover it would kill me if I lost him, so keeping my heart in check is all I know to do," Aedan admitted softly his eyes downcast as he drew on all the tender moments that he'd shared with Alistair to get him through the darkness in his heart. He could recall so many nights spent huddled up with the other man, arms around one another for warmth after losing yet another set of bedrolls to a bandit's sword. There were more still where one or the other of them had wept against the other's chest or soothed one another's hurts with shaking fingers and inadequate health supplies. And there were brief flashes in his mind of Alistair's lips on his forehead either late at night or early in the morning; those brought the most warmth to his heart.

"I think dear Warden, that he feels the same way about you. You have spared my life, called my friend, and given me a freedom I would have never known otherwise. You have stood beside me against my former clan and rescued me from their blades at the cost of your own flesh. I owe you more than you could possibly know. I will not sabotage you here," Zevran said softly and shooed Aedan away, indicating the tent in which Alistair was sleeping.

Aedan walked slowly toward their shared tent, contemplating how he would break the news to the man that he loved without totally frightening the innocent creature that was Alistair out of his skin. Of course Aedan himself knew next to nothing of the pleasures of the flesh, he had mostly secluded himself to his schooling and the library as a young man, and then the practice of the sword and shield as an adult. He was surprised to find Alistair awake when he entered the tent; after all, he had turned in over an hour ago. But what disturbed him more was that the other man was crying, it was a silent shuddering sort of cry that seemed like it had been going on for awhile. Alistair didn't even notice Aedan's presence until the smaller man had pulled him into his arms.

"Alistair, what's wrong? You can tell me," Aedan spoke in the gentlest tone he could manage with the fear that had jumped into his throat. His friend hadn't cried over Duncan or the other Wardens for a couple weeks, not that he expected Alistair to get over it, but it was shocking. Aedan stroked the larger man's hair, fingers caressing blonde locks fondly as he brushed tears from reddened cheeks.

"I can't lose you Aedan, please don't make me lose you, I couldn't bear it," Alistair's voice was quiet and pained, his fingers hooked into Aedan's shirt and clinging there.

"Why would you lose me? I'm not going anywhere you silly man."

"Because…it's Zevran. I've seen the way he looks at you; he wants you all to himself. How am I to stop that? I…just can't lose someone else that I care about."

"Alistair, Zev is my friend; he and I don't have anything going on. Believe me, he's never going to be my lover, no matter how good those massages are, he can't pull me away. And is that to say, my dear Alistair that I won't lose you one day to a pretty face and soft curves?" Aedan said it with a soft sigh, his face pulling into a frown. The day that he had to witness Alistair fall in love with another, it might just prompt him to seek out Zevran's more deadly of embraces.

"You won't," Alistair's tears had subsided slightly, he was trying to put the tough guy mask back into place but it wasn't quite working. "You won't lose me that way. I'm not that sort of guy Aedan…"

"Not what sort of guy? You…look at you? How could women not throw themselves at you?"

"I'm not saying that they haven't tried. But you know…women are pretty and all, but to me they are all either as delicate as flowers or as harsh as winter. I've never…by the Maker this is hard to say…why do you have to make me say it?" the big blonde man bit his lip and averted his eyes from Aedan's. The younger Warden smiled faintly.

"He was right…Zevran was actually right. You owe our Assassin a thanks in the morning…I'm sure he's never going to let this go," Aedan said, bemused excitement making him smile like a fool. Alistair looked up confused, his puffy eyes barely focusing on the younger man before Aedan kissed him soundly on the lips. Aedan had expected to have the upper hand of confusion in the encounter; he didn't expect to be tackled to his bedroll or the strength of the kiss that responded to his. Alistair certainly seemed confident as his kissed the younger man senseless and both showed equal resolve in their efforts to remove the other's clothes. Before long they were both bare chested, gasping for breath as their bodies pressed together and their lips moved against each other with desperate passion.

"Aedan…I love you," Alistair said with conviction shining in his eyes and hesitation in his voice as their heated make out turned into slow steamy kisses. The hesitation came purely from the shy nature that Alistair had always had, and probably from the underlying idea that his love was wrong.

"I love you too Alistair, I have for so long now…You can't imagine how scared I was to say something to you…" Aedan sighed and tucked his face against his lover's neck, breathing in the musky scent that was Alistair. The senior Warden's fingers trailed languidly through the junior's hair and both men smiled content with their level of closeness and intimacy. Aedan was a virgin and meant to stay that way until he and his partner were ready for a higher level of commitment, not even Zevran could sway him from that idea.

"As I was afraid to say something to you. I don't exactly have confidence in being allowed to love you, but I know that I do, regardless of what the Chant says," Alistair breathed softly, his lips brushing softly against Aedan's cheek.

More time passed and Aedan found that his love for Alistair only grew, their relationship deepened and the bond they shared grew to a point that neither of them could deny. Alistair refused the Throne, Ferelden would not stand for two Kings, and the Wardens needed them. They continued their journey together, they and the group they had collected and the armies they had built. No one questioned their continued sharing of a tent or the rings that each had taken to wearing on their left hands; everyone knew that the men that meant to save the world from the Blight were in love.

"Zev…I need a moment," Aedan said gently as he sat beside the Elf at their campfire. Zevran's face broke into a smile, his pale hair tumbling into his eyes as he turned with too much enthusiasm to meet the Warden's request.

"Yes my Warden?" Zevran asked with a cheeky smile that made Aedan think the Elf knew exactly what he was about to ask.

"I need your advice again. Alistair and I…umm…how do we you know…" Aedan went scarlet and put his head down waiting for the mockery to start. But the Elf just gave a sigh and placed a calming hand on the young Warden's shoulder.

"You're sure you're ready for that?" Aedan nodded fiercely. "I'm amazed you haven't yet, but your control is better than mine. I don't really know how to explain it without thoroughly embarrassing you. But I have a book you might find useful, and a couple…items among my possessions," Zevran said softly and retreated to his tent for a moment, his face a placid mask.

"it is in Antivan…I don't expect you to understand the words, but the images are universal," Zevran said, placing a palm-sized book into Aedan's left hand, and two vials of what looked to be scented bath oil into his right. Although blushing Aedan smiles brightly.

"Thank you Zev…for this and for Alistair," Aedan whispered and kissed the Elf on the cheek, leaving before he could notice the blush that had blossomed over the blonde man's cheeks.

The hands that trailed over his chest, the fingers that dug so desperately into his hips and thighs were rough, calloused from countless hours training. It was not a touch that he could confuse with any woman that he had ever known, and it was one that he truly, desperately couldn't do without. His head fell back and a low, throaty groan escaped his lips as pleasure washed through his body. For all their initial inexperience and uncertainty, they had learned quickly enough, and in Aedan's opinion, they had gotten quite good at it.

Clenching his jaw, and squeezing his eyes tightly closed, Aedan did his best to fight off what he knew to be coming, attempting to draw out every last drop of that which made him moan so uncontrollably. He was only successful for a moment longer than usual before a screaming groan passed his lips and he found his release. It was mind-blowingly earth-shattering and mere seconds later his lover followed him into blissful oblivion, not fighting the moan that bubbled out of him and pressing their bodies together with as much power as was left in him.

"Al…Alistair," Aedan's voice was a whisper, breathless and fogged with pleasure, but Alistair loves hearing it no less.

"I love you Aedan, I love you so much," Alistair breathed, kissing the smaller man's lips and curling their bodies together on the bed that they'd come to share. It was more than big enough for both of them never to have to touch the other, but they for the most part ignored all the extra space. It was more comfortable to be wrapped around one another anyway.

"I love you too Alistair, I always will," Aedan replied softly, kissing a warm trail along the Warden Commander's collar bones and neck.

They had fallen in love in travel and combat, in blood and the brotherhood formed by drawing it together, by bleeding together. Neither had at first been willing to admit it, and nothing would have ever been said were it not for the perceptions of an Elven Assassin. The same Elf now taught the new generation of Wardens the preparation of poisons and the proper use of daggers. Their only proper way of thanking him for the gift that he had given them. He seemed to enjoy the work. Alistair would never be King, but he had never wanted to. And they were happy.

(A/N: Ok, that was way freaking longer than I intended, but I hope you liked it none the less. Please leave me a review to let me know what you liked or didn't like, and while I ask that you don't flame me, I would like you to give me any advice you see fit to help make my work better.)