tagCelebrities & Fan FictionThere and Back Again Ch. 160

There and Back Again Ch. 160

byElyssaCousland©

Chapter One Hundred Sixty: Stone Dreams

I went back inside rather than watch everyone leave; I was going to miss them, and worry about Anders and Solona, and somehow watching people go was just harder than it should have been. Or maybe it's just my lack of sleep? Alistair caught up to me before I got far, pulling me against his chest and just holding me. I didn't cry -- and was rather proud of myself for that fact -- and rewarded myself with a soft, lingering kiss with my husband.

"We should get some rest," he whispered to me, his hands gently stroking my face. "I know you didn't sleep much last night."

Contrary to his sweet words, though, the look on his face told me he was thinking about anything but sleep; I couldn't control the matching grin that spread across my own face or the slight hitch in my breath that accompanied the sudden racing of my heart beat.

"That's a wise idea, husband, for both of us." I bit my lip to stop from giggling. "Rest sounds good."

"Nah, nah, no time for that," interjected another voice, and I stopped smiling to scowl at my brother as he walked up, completely ignoring the obvious moment we'd been having. "Not that I'm not happy to see you two have sorted your stupid shit out," his grin was obnoxious and I felt Alistair restrain me from the punch I'd tried to swing, "but there's work to be done."

Zevran trailed up behind Aedan, smirking at me...apologetically? Only Zevran could smirk and be apologetic in the same breath. "Ah, querido, perhaps this should wait? Mia sorella is radiant as always," he winked, "but perhaps somewhat tired after the last few days? Surely a few hours..."

Aedan put his hand on Zevran's shoulder, pulling him closer possessively, and whatever the elf had been about to say lapsed into silence as his side came into full contact with my brother's chest. Aedan's cheeky smile died, and he held his hand out to me reluctantly.

"It's Faren," he said, and my heart skipped a sudden beat inside my chest. I must have paled, because he squeezed my hand and rubbed my fingers reassuringly. "No, no, nothing's wrong! It's just...he was dreaming. Last night. Which is sort of odd, for a dwarf, but in the dreams he seems to remember things, then forget them when he wakes." Odd is putting it lightly -- what the hell? A dwarf, dreaming? "He's frustrated. But Sierra...he needs to know. I told him the basic story of how you were captured, and why you poisoned him. He understands, and he's not so angry anymore. But the memories slipping through his fingers are driving him mad, and I can't explain the details to him like you can. You know more about his recent past than anyone -- you know he didn't talk about himself much. Please? He needs you."

Before I could answer, Alistair had one arm around my waist, holding me to him, and one hand covering my mouth, as he began objecting. It's like he knows me better than I know myself. "No. No! Sierra's already been through a lot in the past few days. She's exhausted. And she doesn't have the sense to say no to something that's going to be even more emotionally draining. No. Just no."

I kissed Alistair's fingers, then peeled them off gently. "Of course, Aedan." I turned to face my husband, holding his hand against my cheek. "It's Faren," I reminded him. "He's my friend, love."

Alistair slumped. "And your guilty conscience." He leaned forward to kiss my forehead. "I'm coming with you, then." He looked intently at Aedan. "And I don't care what he's going through, if he can't stay polite, I'm getting her out of there."

Aedan nodded seriously, and Zevran smirked at me again as I rolled my eyes. "I'm standing right here, you know."

"It's easier to just, what's that saying you use...ahh, yes, it's easier to 'go with the flow', cara mia." He tugged me away from Alistair and tucked my arm through his as he led me towards the staircase that led to the Wardens' quarters. "At least he cares, no?"

I grumbled good-naturedly as I was pulled along, my brother and husband following in our wake.

I was nervous, I had to admit; it felt better to disguise it with humour, but I was afraid to see Faren again after the disaster the day before. My tendency to run isn't limited to just Alistair. I rubbed at my forehead ruefully as I tried to think about what I could possibly say to explain what had happened to us. "Wait, Aedan...does he know about me?"

I glanced back over my shoulder to see him shake his head. "I figured he's got enough to work through. He knows that you're...invisible, I guess, to the darkspawn. And that you're a templar. I thought we could just tell him you knew you'd be able to escape from the Architect, but that you couldn't free him."

I sighed. "Terrific."

I stood outside Faren's door, on the verge of hyperventilating, for more than a few moments -- long enough that it was quickly becoming awkward, but I was too paralysed to move. Finally Alistair swept me away, just a few feet down the hallway into the next nearest empty room, pulling me into his arms. He didn't say anything, just held me till I stopped shivering. And then he brought me back, knocked, and entered, dragging me behind him.

Faren was propped up in bed, covers pulled over his legs but his shirt off as he slowly lifted one arm above his head over and over. I was shocked -- I'd seen the dwarf lots while he'd been unconscious, but never with his clothes off. During the Blight it had been somewhat unavoidable, seeing people semi-naked around camp or when donning armour. The difference between then and how he looked now was startling. The muscles in his chest and arms were shrivelled to nothing, leaving his skin looking a bit baggy, and his arm shook like a leaf in a hurricane just from trying to lift it above his head. I imagined his legs were the in the same shape, and I winced at the thought of how much work it was going to take to get it back.

He dropped his arm with a huff and reached for a water skin as we came through the door; I darted forward as I realised he wasn't strong enough to hold it, and I caught it just as it started to tip. He nodded stiffly in thanks, and I lifted it to his lips without a word, allowing him to take a few good sips; it was much easier than forcing it into him while asleep.

Aedan came in as I was putting the cork back in the skin, and he and Faren exchanged some sort of non-verbal communication using eyebrows and head tilts.

I ignored it and cleared my throat. "I'm sorry, about before." I waited, continuing on when it seemed he wasn't going to reply. "I wasn't keen on explaining what happened. You have every right to be angry, but I will tell you everything if you want."

Faren's gaze flitted from my face to those of my husband and brother before coming back to rest on mine again. "Could you start with...who exactly we all are to each other, again? I thought I understood, but I'm not sure now that I do." His expression was unreadable, but there was something going on -- something he wasn't saying. He gestured with his head to the various chairs around the room -- we sat, though I perched on the foot of his bed anxiously.

"I can only imagine how confusing this must be for you! Well, let's see. You and I met in the Carta dungeon, and you got us out of our cells. Alistair and some of our other friends rescued us, and when the guard tried to arrest you, we conscripted you to the Grey Wardens." I pointed at my husband, whose hand I held tightly. "I am your friend. Alistair and Aedan are your commanders -- but friends too."

Faren pointed first at Alistair, then at Aedan, then Zevran, then back at me, with one raised eyebrow.

"Oh! Right. Aedan's my brother. Zevran's his boyfriend. Alistair is my husband. You were at our wedding, actually."

"Husband," he repeated in a whisper. "Brother. Right." He looked shocked -- and pale. He gestured to me with his hand, urging me to continue.

I swallowed. "Um, yeah, so you became a Warden and we all went into the Deep Roads for a few weeks. We found Queen Sereda and brought her back to Orzammar—"

"Long story, that," Alistair joked.

I nodded. "We told you a little about that yesterday. And then we left Orzammar and went back to Redcliffe, in Ferelden. Alistair and I got married, and then we all went to Denerim for the Landsmeet."

"Another long story," Aedan interrupted with a wry smile. "We have a lot of those, it seems."

"Right. And then we all went to prepare the armies for when the darkspawn would attack. You were paired with..." I thought about that. "Oghren? I think?" Aedan nodded. "Right, and the two of you helped some of the units of the Military Caste to integrate into their battalions."

Zevran chuckled at Faren's confused expression. "Ah, my hirsute friend, don't worry -- it isn't as crazy as it sounds. Queen Sereda is trying to help the Casteless, yes? They can now join the military -- a discrete unit that fight alongside the Warrior Caste -- or join one of the other Castes in a variety of ways. Another story for another time, I think?"

Faren still looked disbelieving, and I couldn't blame him. "The point is, you, a Duster, killed Beraht and Jarvia, befriended a dwarven Queen and a human King, and fought with the Wardens against the Blight. You're a hero. And afterwards, well, you were assigned here to the Peak for a while, and you and I were heading back to meet up with these guys in Amaranthine when we were captured."

"Tell me about that?"

I sighed. "Well, you know about how I'm invisible to the darkspawn, right? And I'm a templar? Aedan told you?" The dwarf nodded, still looking skeptical. "Just go with me on this, okay? It's relevant to the story. So anyway, we were surrounded by darkspawn. You wanted me to run away, but I wouldn't leave -- and Maker, were you mad at me for that! -- so we fought them. But they outnumbered us by a lot. They killed everyone else, captured you -- but they couldn't capture me, because they couldn't see me. Only the Architect could, but he wouldn't approach me because I was using my templar skills to prevent him from using magic.

"He bargained with me -- he said if I didn't go with them, he'd kill you, but if I went and didn't cause trouble, he'd keep you alive. So I went."

"Sodding stupid thing to do," Faren commented, and everyone chuckled.

"That's what you told me at the time, too. But I was hoping we would be rescued, so I wasn't about to let them kill you and drain all the blood out of your corpse for some gross darkspawn experiment. Anyway, they took us underground, locked you in a cell, and took some of your blood. The problem was, I had to stay awake to keep the Architect from using his magic, or else he'd be able to capture or experiment on me too. I was his goal all along -- if you'd been travelling without me, you wouldn't have been captured."

"No, just dead, most likely." He rolled his eyes at me, and it was so much like the old Faren that I couldn't help but squeeze his arm. "Sounds like there were more than enough darkspawn to go around."

"She likes to take responsibility for every bad thing that ever happens to anyone whether she had control over it or not," Aedan interjected. "You get used to it after a while."

I stuck my tongue out at him, and Alistair guffawed.

"Anyway, so they had run out of food, and were giving us this disgusting charred horse meat, and I was losing my mind because I'd been awake for so long. You were convinced that if it wasn't for you, I could have escaped, so you kept trying to convince me to kill you -- I had a poison capsule with me, and you wanted me to put it into the water -- and then escape. You didn't want the darkspawn taking more of your blood and you knew I wouldn't leave while you were still alive. I didn't want to, but we'd sort of run out of hope that we were going to be rescued, and I was hallucinating...and so you managed to talk me into it. I put the poison in the water, you drank it and passed out, and then a little while later these guys showed up. And you weren't dead, no thanks to me."

I'd recited the entire stream of consciousness in a big, anxiety-fueled rush, not making eye contact, not even stopping for breath. I was braced for the anger I expected, and I clung to Alistair's hand tightly as I waited for a response. In a few moments, when it became obvious no response was forthcoming, I finally glanced up.

The dwarf's expression was a mix of bemusement, sympathy, shock, and still caution -- but he wasn't glaring at me like he could have been. "I can't..." He reached his hand out sort of spastically, but pulled it back before he touched me. "I don't remember, which makes it hard for me to trust what you're saying. But if we really were...friends, it lines up. I wouldn't want a friend trapped or hurt because of me. Thank you for telling me."

"I'm sorry." I grimaced. "For what that's worth. You wouldn't be wrong to hate me."

Alistair squeezed my hand again. "She's been castigating herself constantly since it happened, in case you thought she didn't care. And trying to take care of you. Between her and Sigrun..." He trailed off, wincing, and I knew he was kicking himself for opening that can of worms.

Faren shifted a little, looking interested. "Who's Sigrun?"

I shook my head slightly. "A dwarf from the Legion of the Dead. She took care of you the most while you were unconscious."

"I haven't...met her, since I woke up, I don't think. If we were so close...?"

I shrugged, suppressing a grin. "You don't, uh, didn't know her. You didn't meet before you ended up unconscious. She just happened to be someone who was around when you needed care, and didn't mind helping. I'll bring her by later."

The dwarf's confused expression was kind of adorable, and I laughed. "So, do you have any questions?"

We spent a little bit of time talking about Rica and Orzammar again, and generally answering questions about the events of the past year. We all told personal anecdotes about our time together, and he relaxed and seemed to be able to see himself in the stories we told. It was...nice.

Before we left, he asked to speak to me alone. Alistair frowned, squeezing my hand anxiously. "What for?" he asked, trying not to look upset, but clearly worried.

I tugged his hand gently and smiled reassuringly. "It's okay, I don't mind."

"I'm not going to yell at her, surfacer," Faren replied with a tolerant grin. "Just have a personal question."

I nodded at Alistair again, and he kissed my forehead and promised to wait for me outside. Aedan and Zevran followed him out.

Once the door was close, I turned to Faren nervously. He was watching my face, his eyes roving across it restlessly, but he looked away when he realised I'd noticed. He frowned, avoiding eye contact.

"I don't know how to ask you this, but..." He trailed off and cleared his throat awkwardly.

"What is it?"

He sighed and looked back at me, brow wrinkled in confusion. "Did...Aedan, your brother...did he tell you that I had dreams last night?"

I nodded. "And couldn't remember once you woke up. Yes."

"I remember some of them. Bits and pieces, not enough to make sense of. But...I remember you."

"Oh?" I wasn't sure whether to be elated or anxious. Did he remember me putting poison in his water? Did he remember how suspicious he was of me when we'd first met?

He nodded slowly. "I'm just going to blurt it out, because I don't know how else to...ahem." He coughed slightly. "Sodding Ancestors' saggy tits, this is awkward. Look, were we having an affair, or something?"

Eyes wide in surprise, I clapped a hand over my mouth to muffle the surprised squawk that slipped out. "Um, no! Maker, no. I was already with Alistair when we met. We never...no. Nothing personal, or anything, that's not what I..." I sighed.

I glanced up and saw Faren shaking as he suppressed a laugh. "Alright, I get it, we didn't."

Embarrassed, I was sure my face was purple. "Sorry, didn't mean to make it sound quite that bad." He snorted and I face-palmed. "But no. Mind if I ask where that question came from?"

"I just...I remember snatches of conversation. Nothing in context, of course, but it's...I remember you telling me you might leave me, and apologising. And I was...angry, and confused, and I..." He rubbed his forehead irritably. "I couldn't think of any sort of context that would make that make sense unless you were breaking up with me." He shrugged, clearly confused. "Was I...I can't imagine, what with you being human -- no offense -- but...maybe I was interested and you weren't?"

I sat there for a minute, mind racing. Faren? Attracted to me? I couldn't imagine so, had certainly had no indication of that...but I thought I knew what conversation he'd remembered part of, and the context was going to be...complicated.

"Not that I know of." I avoided his eyes. "But I know what conversation you're thinking about. I just...it definitely wasn't a romantic thing. There's..." I sighed. "Look I need to ask Aedan something, and then I'll be right back, okay?"

He nodded slowly, obviously confused; I slipped out the door to find the three men chatting amongst themselves in the hall. I eyed all three, forming a plan. "Zev, I need to ask you something."

The elf blinked. "Anything, bella donna."

I grabbed his arm and dragged him down the hallway a little way. "In private." I slipped into the unoccupied room down the hall and closed the door behind me. "Weird question, but I need you to be honest. Was Faren interested in me? Like, as in, romantically?"

He laughed, and I was so relieved I slumped against the nearest wall with a huff.

"No, cara mia, I do not believe so. Oh, I am certain he was not blind to your many," he winked, "charms, but I do not believe he harboured any feelings deeper than that. Why do you ask?" He was still chuckling.

"He asked me, actually. He's remembering bits and pieces of conversations, but out of context. He thought we were having an affair. I told him no, of course, but I wanted to make sure I hadn't missed something. That would be the last thing I need -- my husband, or Sigrun for that matter, thinking Faren was in love with me." I rolled my eyes. "Alright come with me."

I led the way back out into the hallway and slipped my hand into Alistair's as he stood talking quietly with Aedan. His expression was concerned, but I smiled broadly and he relaxed. I squeezed his hand in reassurance.

I turned to Aedan. "We have a problem."

At the confused looks from all three men, I went on to tell them about Faren's question. "He's remembering conversations -- from when we first met -- where I told him I might disappear, and I apologised in advance. He's misinterpreting that to mean that he and I were having an affair and that I broke up with him."

Aedan choked on a laugh, but Alistair's complexion looked slightly flushed. I rushed to reassure him. "We weren't -- you have to know that." My husband nodded, mollified but embarrassed at being caught looking insecure.

He leaned down and kissed my forehead. "I know. Just don't like thinking about other men looking at you like...like..."

"Like I'm a woman?" I teased, and Alistair nodded ruefully as I laughed.

"Yeah, well, no one seems to care that I don't want to have to think about anyone -- including you! -- looking at my sister like that, so just...suck it up." Aedan scowled playfully at my husband and I punched his shoulder.

"Anyway, I just can't imagine how to explain what he remembers without telling him about me." I shrugged anxiously. "It's all going to sound insane, and with how much things have changed since I came here, I can't even use the accuracy of my predictions to convince anyone."

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