It had been a memorable Satinalia, at least. Alistair could not deny that.
It had all started with that mess of a reunion with Goldanna. She had turned from surprised to furious to pure loathing in the space of a minute, and he had been left reeling at the reality of his 'family'. Replaying the moment in his head over and over, he had returned to camp alone to think on the situation, eventually succumbing to a troubled sleep.
The moon was out by the time he woke again, and the rest of the group had returned somewhat buoyant with revelry. Zevran had dragged him out of his tent, bewildered and confused, to announce that it was in fact Satinalia – a realisation that had shocked Alistair. Had they really been on the road so long? Nonetheless, Leliana and Oghren were providing the music (the dwarf a surprising baritone when sober enough to carry a tune) and Zevran and Wynne led the dancing. Just beyond them, he could see his fellow Warden as she somehow managed to persuade Morrigan to join them for a short while.
He took his place at her side as she called the group around, and told them the tale of her last Satinalia with her family, revealing to the group finally the truth about her conscription into the Grey Wardens. Alistair could scarcely take his eyes off her. Despite the tragedy, there was still the ghost of a smile through the sorrow, and that struck a chord with him. How could he have been so blind to her pain? She must have carried this within her for months... and Duncan had been her saviour, only to be struck down. He reached out to take her hand, and she ducked her head as she squeezed his fingers back.
Then she turned everything around again, bringing out gifts for each of the group. They made no sense to Alistair, but they seemed to mean the world to their individual recipients, and he could not help but marvel at how attentive she had clearly been in listening to their companions. When she finally turned to him, he was curious to know how she had read him – and when she dropped a small bag of figurines into his open palms, he knew he would never find anyone who understood him better.
In a rush of madness, he had hauled her away as the dancing struck up again and presented her with the flower, picked in Lothering and kept perfect by magic. He had felt lucky when she had announced her intention to go to the Circle tower first, and Wynne had found his odd request wonderfully endearing. It had been about timing, he had said at the time, and that had turned out to be the perfect truth. He had nothing to give her other than his admiration – and this rose, representative of the wonder that she was as she somehow kept a smile on her face in the midst of such darkness. He promised there and then to stop letting things get to him so much, and she had shaken her head, smiled, kissed his cheek and walked away. He wondered if it were possible to be less of an idiot around her. The Antivan managed it... but he was not about to ask for Zevran's help.
Darkness fell quickly, the fire dwindling as their companions turned in for sleep, and the night finds the two Wardens keeping their vigil in hushed voices.
"Well, I was never really big on the party that the Chantry threw every year, but the Wardens knew how to celebrate. I think that was the first time I ever really got drunk. It wasn't long after my Joining, see." He chuckles at the memory of the morning after. "The hangover was terrible. I kept complaining that it was worse than the Joining. It certainly felt like it!"
She giggles. "I only got drunk once, and Mother was not happy with me for it. I think she knew that it was entirely my father's fault, though. He kept slipping me drinks he didn't like." She leans against him, sighing as she smiles. "You would have liked him. He was very fair."
"What will you do? When this is all over, I mean." The question is out of his mouth before he can stop himself.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you're the last Cousland, aren't you? I mean, obviously you're a Warden and we don't hold to our titles, but this is... kind of an exceptional circumstance, I guess." He swallows. "Will you have to rebuild your family name before you come back to the Grey?"
She thinks on this in the quiet before shaking her head. "I'm a Warden first. I've got cousins, sensible cousins. I trust them to do the right thing." She giggles again. "Guess you're stuck with me."
He grins into the darkness. "Such a shame. I was so looking forward to the peaceful life."
"Besides, I can't leave you on your own. You'd be hopeless without me."
"I'm sorry, but need I remind you who's leading this ridiculous venture?"
"That does not mean -"
"I seem to remember something was said about you losing your pants if you led."
"That was one time, okay? One time."
She mutters something that he does not quite catch, and he nudges her to make her repeat it. "Shame," she giggles, and his stomach flips as she sits up and looks at him properly, smile wry in the dying light. "You'll have to tell me about that some day."
"Oh no. It wasn't a proud moment for me."
"Which is exactly why you have to share it!"
"So you can use it against me in the future? I think not."
She nudges him. "I won't even tell Leliana!"
"I knew you two gossiped about the rest of us!" He nudges her right back, almost shoving her over, and she laughs before launching herself into a flailing wrestle with him, a short scuffle that somehow manages to involve elbows far too often for his liking. Suddenly her arms give way and he falls forward, trying to regain composure enough not to crash into her. Hands catch his shoulders, holding him mere inches away from her face. He blinks, and she giggles, before leaning in to kiss him softly on the lips. His brain, having previously been scrambling for the right apology, gives out. Ladies and gentlemen, the Maker is wrong. The Golden City is right here, in the hands – and bloody fantastic lips – of this woman. And she wants to share it with me.
After what seems like forever, she pulls away and he is left reeling. Words fail him, so he settles for a simple reaction. "Oh."
She blushes. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have -"
"No no, it was just, uh... unexpected. I mean, I had no idea, really. That you. Uh. Well. That you liked me." He grins then, elation spreading through his body like the fireworks that usually ended the festival. They were definitely a welcome replacement. "So I fooled you, did I?"
"Into thinking I was someone other than a bumbling idiot, clearly."
She giggles. "Clearly."
"Good to know," he smiles, leaning in for another gentle kiss.