Characters: Aeducan, Alistair, Anders
Pairings: Alistair/Sereda Aeducan, Alistair/Anora
Spoilers: Yes, for both DA:O and DA:A
Notes: Bunnied, a long time ago, during my first playthrough of Awakening, by the conversation between Aeducan and Anders that opens the fic. It struck me as odd that Sereda had the option to make flirtatious remarks to the companions in Awakening, even though she was in a well-established relationship, and I thought it might strike Anders similarly. Add that to my fascination with making stable triads work, and, well, you get this. Look for other stories that continue this theme, as I finish up WIPs with the ending of the year!
"Pretty girl, right here," she had said; Anders had laughed and acknowledged the fact that the Warden-Commander was attractive, and then let the conversation move on. But the memory of it nagged at him as they walked through the town, distracting him from the task at hand, and the next time he and Sereda were alone -- Howe having disappeared with his sister and Oghren drooling over battleaxes at the nearby arms shop -- he cleared his throat.
Anders looked down at his new commander and decided that bluntness would probably be the best course of action. Not like he was capable of much else, of course. Except sarcasm, and the situation didn't really seem to call for that. "Before. When we were talking by the trees. Were you-- flirting with me?"
Sereda arched a brow. "Do you disapprove? You seemed to enjoy it. But if you think it's unbecoming behavior from a superior officer--"
"Oh, I'm not particularly concerned about causing dissent in the ranks. I'd find that entertaining as much as anything." He winked, and she chuckled. "No. What concerns me is the King of Ferelden." Anders crossed his arms and tipped his head to the side. "Or did I imagine the part yesterday where His Majesty greeted you as 'love' and then kissed you farewell?"
First surprise, then understanding passed across her face. "Ah. Well. Not much point denying something that obvious, is there? Yes, the king and I are lovers, and we don't particularly make a secret of it. But a hundred miles and likely many months separate us, not to mention the small matter of his lady wife." She shrugged. "Seems hardly fair for him to object to a bit of flirtation, under the circumstances."
"And if it came to more than flirtation?" Anders studied the Commander more carefully, taking in her generous mouth and imagining the soft curves hinted at beneath her armor. He had never even considered sleeping with a dwarf before, but he had to admit that Sereda was as attractive as most any woman he'd met, with her dark auburn hair and large blue eyes, that smattering of freckles across her snub nose. And if she'd taken human lovers before, especially a man as tall and broad as the king, then... well. The possibilities were intriguing, to say the least.
"That would be the question, wouldn't it?" Sereda leaned back on her heels, and Anders shook himself from his inappropriate reverie. "It's not a topic we've really discussed, and we should. The rules are different among my people, you know." She looked up at Anders. "No, I suppose you don't know, do you? I forget, sometimes, how little contact most surfacers have with our culture."
"That would be correct," Anders said, spreading his arms in acknowledgement. "I haven't the faintest idea what you mean."
She smiled. "Among the dwarves, liaisons outside marriage are not only tolerated, they're encouraged, because our birth rate is so low. And since almost all marriages are arranged, even among the lower castes, no one begrudges their spouse if they take an appropriate lover, as long as they're discreet about it." She shrugged. "I understand that the surfacers are far less relaxed about these things, especially in Ferelden; only the ancestors know why. But yes, I do suppose I should talk to him about this sometime. I'd think he'd be understanding, but..." She stopped then, and tipped her head up to look at Anders with a wry smile. "I don't know why I'm telling you all this."
"I'm not sure either," he said, returning the smile. "But once you've figured it all out, let me know."
Through the rest of their tour of Amaranthine City, other, more pressing topics took the forefront of Sereda's attention, but as they returned to the Keep, her thoughts drifted back to her conversations with Anders and the questions they had raised in her mind. It was true, she realized as she entered her quarters and took off her armor: she had been making her own very particular set of assumptions regarding what boundaries she and Alistair would set in their relationships. He would be intimate with his queen, of course; how else would they produce heirs? And it would help create the bond they would need to forge in order to rule together. Sereda did not begrudge him that. How could she, when she had maneuvered him into accepting the marriage in the first place?
But if she took another lover... Sereda frowned. Right now, casual flirtations aside, she could not even imagine it, not even a fine, competent surfacer dwarf like Voldrik, or an elegant, witty man like Anders-- besides, upon reflection, Anders was too much like Alistair for comfort, with the blond hair and the sharp tongue; they even looked a bit alike, the resemblance strong enough that Sereda found herself wondering if Alistair's unknown mother was of Anderfel heritage. Yes, she decided, the innocent flirtation with Anders would have to stay just that: innocent. Nathaniel Howe, now. There was a man who might pique her interest, if only he weren't under her command and of conflicted loyalties.
She sighed. It was all theoretical anyway, until she could speak with Alistair, and their next conversation might be months away. A sharp pang of longing pierced her through as she flopped back on her bed, hands laced behind her head, and stared up at the ceiling. Spending ten minutes with him in the courtyard had almost been worse than not seeing him at all. How had a human become this important to her? She had certainly never felt this way about any dwarf. But somehow Alistair had worked his way into her heart, and there he would stay lodged, probably for good. She closed her eyes and pictured his smile, remembered his strong hands, and willed her memories to be enough. At least for tonight.
It was, as Sereda had expected, some months before Alistair returned to Vigil's Keep, a few weeks after the last of the darkspawn had been repelled from its walls, to tour the region and examine the damage, make promises of support and quick restitution. He said the words easily enough, but Sereda saw the strain behind his eyes, and she wondered how many other Blight-stricken regions of Ferelden had received similar assurances, and how far the treasury would go to back them up.
A more intimate reunion in Sereda's bedchamber followed, and afterwards she lay back in his arms, using his chest as a pillow. His face dropped down into the crown of her head, planting soft kisses there; she shivered with pleasure and nuzzled him in return. "Why were you gone so long?"
He kissed her hair once more. "Because I'm a idiot."
She chuckled and pulled herself even closer to him. "Sounds like raiders in the Bannorn had more to do with it."
"That too." Alistair sighed and tightened his grip around her, running a hand up her bare arm. "But can we not talk about that right now? This is the one place I don't have to be king. It's a nice illusion, and one I'd prefer to enjoy a little longer."
"Mm, of course." Sereda closed her eyes and tried to relax, let herself be surrounded by the reality of Alistair: his muscular arms, his broad chest, his musky scent... all of the things she loved about being with him. She nestled there, felt the rise and fall of his chest, heard the slow beating of his heart, luxuriated in the gentle rhythm of his hand moving over her skin. It should have lulled her into a contented sleep, but instead she found herself coming more awake, the thoughts of the conversation she had intended to have with him in the morning poking at the edges of her mind. Inwardly, she groaned -- why couldn't she just enjoy this moment? Why did she always have to move ahead to the next challenge, the next battle?
"Sereda?" Alistair must have felt her fidgeting, because he brought his hand up to her chin, tipping it so she could look into his warm eyes. "Is something wrong, my dear?"
"No, just thinking." She shook her head. "But it can keep."
His expression spoke of profound, and probably justified, doubt. "If your brain works that loudly all night, it'll keep us both awake."
She sighed. "Well. All right. But if this goes badly, remember that you asked."
Alistair pulled himself from beneath her to sit up, resting his back against the headboard, an eyebrow raised in alarm. "That sounds serious."
"Not as serious as all that," Sereda assured him as she raised herself up as well, leaning in close to kiss him, resting her fingertips on his chest. Then she pulled away. "Like I said, I got to thinking, the other day, about us, and all the time we have to spend apart. And it occurred to me that we might have different... expectations."
Brows raising even further, Alistair's response was slow and cautious. "About what?"
"How do I put this." Sereda looked down at her hands, at the muscles beneath them, and swallowed. "You know that, among my people, our situation isn't anything out of the ordinary. Kings and nobles take lovers outside marriage all the time, and usually no one bats an eye. But things seem rather different in Ferelden."
"Yes." Alistair shook his head. "I would once have said I didn't understand how anyone managed it. And sometimes I can barely believe that Anora puts up with it. For the crown, I suppose, but it seems a poor incentive."
"It isn't Anora putting up with it I care about," Sereda said. "It's, well, it's you."
Alistair's eyes narrowed, brow showing sudden deep furrows, and his next words were slow, heavy with suspicion. "What are you trying to tell me?"
"Nothing!" She sat fully upright, willing him to believe her. "Nothing happened, I swear. And it's not as though I have plans to go looking. But. My love, we're going to be apart for months at a time, at least. That's a long time to sleep alone."
"You think I don't sleep alone?" Alistair's eyes snapped with a sudden flare of anger. "I... do my duty by Anora, yes. But I take little pleasure in it, I assure you. And after..." His headshake was furious and quick. "My bed is as empty and cold as it was when I was with the templars. Except worse, because I know what's missing. And what's missing is you." Grasping her by the shoulders, he looked down at her, face flushed, eyes bright. "Never doubt that. Never." He dropped his mouth to hers in a passionate kiss, prying her lips open with his. She let her head fall back under the force of it, all her resistance slipping away, helpless to do anything but kiss him in return, sliding her hands up his chest and around his neck, answering the claim of his mouth. "Mine," he whispered, first against her lips, then her cheek, her temple, her ear. "Mine. And I am yours. For always."
"Always," she whispered in return, and then she could speak no more, breath robbed by his kiss and the strength of his embrace.
The noontime sun beat down on the walls of Vigil's Keep; Anders could see gouges and cracks where the darkspawn had tried to break through during the siege, but everything had held, and he said a silent prayer of thanks for the dwarves who had built them, and for the dwarf Commander with the foresight to ask them to do so.
The commander in question stood next to him now, looking down into the courtyard as the king's party made ready to leave. He had stayed for a week, just long enough to greet the Warden reinforcements, finally arrived from Orlais earlier today. They were lining up in the courtyard now, intermingling with the surviving Ferelden Wardens and Vigil's Keep militia, creating ranks for King Alistair and his knights to ride out between. Anders supposed he should be down among them, but he was more comfortable up here, a little distance away, at least while he felt out these new arrivals from Orlais. One never knew how a stranger was going to react to a mage. That didn't explain why Sereda was here, though, and he glanced down at her.
Sereda acknowledged him with a nod. "Anders," she said, calmly. Then she returned her attention to the courtyard below. Anders found himself watching her still, noting the intentness of her stare as the king mounted his horse with care, then turned it around to face the battlements, raising one hand high in farewell. Anders responded with a salute, but Sereda waved back, a warm smile on her face as she and Alistair locked eyes, just for a second, before he changed direction and rode between the ranks and through the gate.
They stood together in silence, Sereda shading her eyes with a hand as she watched him go. Once he was out of sight, she let out a soft breath, then turned to Anders with a cheerful smile. "Ready to go meet your new brothers?" she asked.
"I suppose," Anders replied, a bit of melancholy slipping into his tone, and she laughed. He raised an eyebrow at her. "You're awfully cheerful for a woman whose lover has just ridden away for an indeterminate amount of time."
"Am I?" Sereda paused at the top of the stairs, then shrugged. "We had a nice visit. Worked some things out, set plans for my next trip to Denerim. So it's fine. Besides, I knew what I was signing on for when I convinced him to take the throne." She lifted her chin and focused on the horizon, her smile softening. "It's worth it."
Anders couldn't help but smile back. "Guess I'll have to find my pretty girl elsewhere, then," he commented.
She snapped out of her reverie with a snort, and she looked back at him. "Afraid so. Sorry to disappoint. The meal, at least is already arranged; shall we head back down?" He chuckled, and she gestured toward the stairs. "Lead the way, Warden."
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