tagCelebrities & Fan FictionThere and Back Again Ch. 043-044

There and Back Again Ch. 043-044

byElyssaCousland©

Chapter Forty-Three: Best Laid Plans

"So, I had something to ask you." His tone was strange, but I couldn't place it.

I stepped across the room, gathering up the pile of clothes I'd left at the foot of the bed when I'd unpacked earlier. "Keep talking. I'm going to change my clothes. Why don't you change out here?"

I ducked into the curtained area, forcing myself to take a deep breath to calm my nerves. As if spending my first night in a bed with a man wasn't enough to make me anxious, the plans I'd hatched with Leliana left me almost hyperventilating. I need to focus. Changing took me only seconds. I planned to spend however long it took Alistair to change trying fervently not to pass out.

"So, you were saying? You had a question for me?"

"Well, sort of. I...Hmm. How do I say this? You'd think it would be easier, but every time I'm around you I feel as if my head's about to explode. I can't think straight!"

I froze in the middle of running my fingers through my hair nervously. It couldn't be.

"I don't know whether to be offended or flattered, Alistair." My voice was wavering, my nerves showing through, and I hoped he wouldn't notice.

There was a strange hitch in his voice too. "I...uh...please don't be offended. It's definitely a compliment. Here's the thing. Being near you makes me crazy, but I can't imagine being without you. Not ever. Maybe this is too fast -- I don't know -- but I know what I feel. I wanted to wait for the perfect time, the perfect place...but when will it be perfect? If everything were perfect, we never would have met."

It couldn't be, but it is. Maker, but we have ridiculous timing. I was briefly proud of myself for thinking in Fereldan curse words. I stepped out from behind the curtain. He was wearing only his soft sleep trousers, as I knew he would be. My plan was always to catch him off guard and half dressed, but when I had imagined it, he wasn't propositioning me at the same time. The realisation that he wanted me -- really, really wanted me -- sent tendrils of heat racing up and down my spine.

Alistair's back was to me, his skin practically glowing in the candlelight, his glorious muscles shifting as he searched through his pack. I knew what he was looking for, knew he wouldn't find it.

I cleared my throat, interrupting him as he opened his mouth to continue. "Are you looking for something, love?"

He jumped a little, but didn't turn around. "Huh? Oh. Yeah, my tunic. I swear I had put it on the bed, but I can't find it anywhere. Have you seen it?"

"This tunic?"

As he turned, I held out my arms, waiting. My gaze was glued to his face, and I couldn't breathe. When he caught sight of me, he froze, staring, his mouth slightly open.

I was wearing nothing but his sleeping tunic, the last piece of relatively clean laundry he had kept out when we sent our clothes to be washed. It was off-white, though I guessed it probably started out actually white. It was enormous on me -- it hung down past mid-thigh, could have wrapped around me twice if I'd cut the seam, and it smelled of him. From his vantage point, with the candle behind me, I was sure he could see the outline of my body through the well-worn fabric. One shoulder protruded through the neck of the garment, peeking out through the mass of my hair which was down, for once, still curly after my bath earlier.

I was feeling self-conscious and afraid, and I had to actively think about breathing, drawing slow breaths in through my mouth, trying not to faint. I was debating what to say -- try to break the ice? Try to pull off the seductress act? -- and completely blanked. I might as well have been mute. When Alistair didn't speak for a while either, I dropped my eyes, looking away and biting my lip anxiously.

Maybe he doesn't want this. Maybe I misunderstood, heard what I wanted to. I was having a panic attack. All of a sudden I knew. In the game, Alistair only ever fell in love with a female Grey Warden. And what was I? A stupid, helpless, useless girl. I had been fooling myself.

I heard quick steps, and then Alistair was there, his gentle hands on my face, lifting to look him straight in the eye as he hunched over to be closer to my height.

"Hey, hey. Sierra. Come back to me. Stop thinking about that guy. It's just me."

I was completely confused. I'd expected him to either touch me, or to reject me...not to ask me about some other guy. "What? What guy?"

"That other Alistair. The one from your performance. I'm not that guy, okay? I'm right here. The one who makes an ass out of himself at every opportunity. Pricks his thumb on the thorn of a romantic gesture. Who's loved you since the day we met." He straightened, his expression frustrated. "I'm not that other guy who doesn't know you. I can always tell when you're thinking about him. You go all distant, and I can see you're a million miles away. And it's always when you're feeling insecure about us. You think about him, expecting a certain response because it's how he would respond. But I'm not that guy! I'm real. I'm right here. I love you. I just...I need you to stay here, with me. I'm sure the reality doesn't measure up to what you expected, but I need you, Sierra. Please."

I had tears in my eyes by the time he was done. He knows me so well! How did that happen? Because he was exactly right. My Alistair wasn't the game Alistair. Things had changed. I had changed them, for better or for worse. And this Alistair...he deserved more than constantly being compared to someone who didn't really exist. He'd been living in a shadow, a shadow of my own making, and it was a shadow that made me insecure and keep trying to push him away. From the first moment we met, I was hiding behind that shadow. I squared my shoulders, resolving not to do it again. This was my Alistair. I would take him at face value, not assume he'd suddenly become the shadow. I would take my life back and make it what I wanted, what I always feared I'd never have, and I wouldn't let the fear get in my way.

"You have to understand." I swallowed nervously, and continued. "This was hard for me." I turned, unable to look into his eyes for this. "I loved him before you and I even met. Or, I suppose, I would have, had I known he was real. I was lonely, and he was...perfect, in a word. But fairy tales don't come true, you know. I spent twenty-four years learning that the hard way. So when I met you...I knew it couldn't be real. It was just a fantasy, and one that would get me hurt. It wasn't real. It couldn't be."

I turned back, taking his hands and replacing them on my cheeks before covering them with my own, smiling softly. I went up on tip toes, leaning in to kiss his lips lightly. "You're right about me. I'm sorry. I've been so afraid of him, of what it would mean to be with him...I didn't see that I'm not. I'm with you. But you're wrong about something." I kissed his cheek gently, leaning in further. "The reality is so, so much better. Better than I ever imagined. I love you, Alistair Theirin. You. Not him. I'm sorry I didn't see it until now."

I rubbed his nose with my own, and he smiled. He really is my own personal sunshine. When he was happy, everything was right with the world. Suddenly I didn't care -- not about what anyone else thought, not about what would happen in the future; not even about whether we were about to have sex. As long as I could be with him, I'd take what I could get and be thankful for every second of it. And I knew -- my Alistair loved me. Wanted me. And I wanted to hear what he had to say next, instead of fearing it.

I prompted him. "I interrupted you, earlier. You were asking me something."

"I was?" He'd gotten entirely distracted, which had been the point, though it didn't turn out the way I had planned.

I giggled. "Yes. You started by telling me I make your head explode. Then you told me something about how the timing isn't perfect. I was hoping you might finish that line of thought, or was that all? I make you crazy, and it's not perfect?"

He flushed, dropping his hands in embarrassment, though I held on to them so he couldn't get away. His smile faded a bit. "...Oh. Right. That. Um." He gulped, nervous, and examined my face for a long, serious moment. I saw an echo of my own fear of rejection, and watched him over-ride it. His smile returned, a smirk really, as his gaze travelled from my face, down over my scantily-clad torso and my bare legs, then back to my face. "I think you know where I was going with that."

I grinned, face flushing under the smug scrutiny. "I know where he would have been going with that. You, I can't be sure."

His eyes twinkled and his grin widened. "What's that the Orlesians say? Touché." I giggled. "I deserved that. So allow me to pick up where I left off. You do make me crazy, but I can't imagine being without you. Not ever. Watching you downstairs, when that man grabbed you...and having Isabela leering at me like that made me realise. You know I've never," he licked his lips, nervous again, "done anything like this before. But...Maker's breath. I love you. More than I thought possible. Anytime anyone else even looks at you I want to run them through with my sword. I can't wait, hoping against hope no one will steal you out from under me. But even if I lose you tomorrow...I want to be with you. Here. Tonight."

I watched his face closely. Nervousness, undoubtedly, but no hesitation. No reluctance. "Are you sure?" I smiled softly and touched his cheek, the way I had the first time he'd told me he loved me. "Because I'm not strong enough to say no."

We both grinned, the memory sweet. Suddenly he reached out for me, pulling me into a tight embrace. He cradled my head against his chest, his arms locked around me, and I stroked my own hands down his back. I breathed in deeply, smelling only soap and a man-smell I'd associated with him from the first time I'd ever hugged him. His bare chest was almost scorching against my cheek, and the heat of his hands on my back was noticeable through the thin fabric of my only clothing. My breasts were mashed up against his belly, and I could feel a bulge against my own abdomen. I groaned softly, my amusement turning to arousal in seconds.

He leaned down to kiss me, and I extracted my arms to wrap them around his neck. It started soft and sweet, but then I felt his tongue hesitantly touch my lip and I opened for him, allowing my own tongue to be drawn into a complicated duel. His hands roamed down my back, and he swallowed my moan as he cupped my almost-bare ass in his big hands, pulling me closer to him.

"Bed," he gasped, turning us to try to back me towards the furniture in question.

Equally breathless, I made a negative noise low in my throat. "Lose the pants."

He pulled back, surprise written on his handsome features. "But...I'd only have my smallclothes on, then."

"And I'm not wearing any smallclothes. You're overdressed, Chantry boy." I stroked my hand over the bulge in his trousers just once, and he growled, sending shivers up my spine.

"Sierra..."

His voice was low and consumed with lust, and it sent sparks straight to my nether regions. Maker, I love his accent. Especially when he says my name like that...I squirmed slightly, and with a groan he grabbed the ties to his trousers, pushing them off in one hurried motion. I watched unabashedly, staring at his almost naked body. His skin was still slightly luminescent in the candlelight, only a light dusting of coarse, blond hair in a trail disappearing beneath his smallclothes. He'd shaved his face before we entered Denerim, and was now sporting just a little bit of stubble on his chin, which suited him well. The muscles in his legs, which I'd never seen unclothed before, matched his shoulders and chest for definition. And the bulge barely hidden by the scrap of linen he called smallclothes was sticking out proudly. Oh my! Overall, he made my mouth water.

While he stripped, his eyes never left me. When done, he reached down, and before I could object, picked me up bridal style, my head on his left shoulder, his right arm under my knees. I gasped and wrapped my arm around his neck.

"Don't drop me."

"Seriously? I've carried you all over Ferelden while you were wearing armour. I think I can make it four steps to the bed."

I nodded apologetically. "Still not used to it. No one, where I came from, is strong like you. It's...impressive."

"Why, thank you, my lady."

He strode to the bed, examining it for a brief moment before adjusting his hold and pulling the covers back. He lifted his leg and levered himself onto the high mattress, not even jiggling me slightly me as he bent to lay me down on the soft satin sheets. He slid down beside me, and suddenly we were lying, side-by-side, on a bed.

"That was...you're really good at that."

He snorted. "I should be. I've practiced it enough."

My confusion must have been plain, because his own expression grew puzzled. "When do you practice putting a woman to bed, Alistair?"

"Well, I suppose a bedroll is technically different, but the process is pretty much the same."

I stared at him, eyes widening in shock. I never dreamed...

"You? Put me in my tent all those times?"

"Well, yeah. Who else? It wasn't Sten."

"I just assumed it was Aedan."

"He did a few times, but it was tougher for him. He's not as strong, he kept bumping you. You'd usually wake up. You really never knew?"

"I..." I trailed off, seeing yet another side of Alistair I'd not expected. "You thought I was sleeping around, betraying Duncan, and you carried me into my tent without waking me?" He nodded. "Whatever for?"

He blushed. "I liked you. I wasn't happy with the situation, but you needed rest, and you wouldn't go. I didn't understand it, and I couldn't ask without revealing my interest, but...I wanted to help you."

I finally laughed. It was too ridiculous. I chortled, and Alistair looked at me like I was crazy.

"It's too late to change it now, but oh, how I wish you'd said something."

He smiled hesitantly. "Likewise! You never did either."

I rolled to my side, facing him. "Yes, but...everyone knew. Except you, that is. Clearly I didn't hide it very well."

"You told the others?"

"No! Of course not. But Duncan figured it out before we even met you -- I was trying to make a good impression on him, and over-volunteered information about you. Aedan guessed that first day. Well, I suppose technically, the second day, after I spent the night crying on Duncan's shoulder in the woods. Leliana and Morrigan both knew by the time we reached Redcliffe. I don't know when Sten realised, but he's not dumb. Even Cailan, as self-absorbed as he is, realised, and Teagan knew by the time you left for Kinloch Hold."

He blushed. "Really?"

"Why do you think Leliana was so frustrated with us? Maker, Alistair, everyone had been trying to get me to tell you. I was too scared."

"Well...they all knew how I felt, too, I'm sure. I didn't get teased like it sounds you did, because I'm guessing they thought I'd run away. Too inexperienced."

"I don't know about that. They certainly didn't figure it out within minutes, the way they all seemed to with me."

"So...this is going to sound really conceited, I'm sure, but if you were so certain, so soon, how did you..."

"Resist you? Sheer terror."

"I still have trouble understanding why you were so afraid. I'm not very intimidating."

"Are you crazy? The best looking man in all of Ferelden? The heir to the throne? Strong enough to carry someone all over Thedas without complaint? You underestimate yourself. But that's not really what I was -- am -- afraid of."

"You still are?"

"Think about it from my perspective. My possibilities aren't stellar, really. Either I'm insane, and none of this is even happening, or it's real and we have no idea how or why. I could get yanked back at any time, never to return, in which case I never get to see my brother or the man I love again. And even if it's real, and if I manage to stick around...who am I? I'm a liability, politically, and no one of real importance. Aedan may believe that I'm his sister, but no one else will. I have no skills, can't even go to the bathroom without the risk of picking the wrong leaf and giving myself a very unfortunate rash. If I disappear in front of the wrong person, I'll be arrested as an apostate. And if somehow I manage to make a life for myself despite all of that -- in thirty years, give or take, I'll be alone. You and Aedan will head into the Deep Roads, and I'll be left behind in a strange world with no family."

His expression was what I'd call 'shocked and appalled'. His mouth hung open, and I could practically see the wheels turning.

"Maker, Sierra. I never...I never thought about it like that. I'm an idiot. You must have been so scared!" He crushed me to his chest, one hand stroking my hair, the other pressed against my back. I snuggled there comfortably for a minute, just enjoying the feeling.

"It's okay. I've come to terms with it, really. I realised -- staying away from you wouldn't actually make any of those options better; I'd just be lonely while I was here in addition to all the rest. Once I realised that, I was staying away from you for your sake, or at least I thought I was. And anyways, I said this to Aedan way back when, and it was true -- if you'd spent five minutes trying to convince me, I'd have crumbled. I did, in fact, if you recall."

"Why didn't I try sooner?" His face looked aggrieved. "We've wasted so much time!"

"That's exactly it. Like I said -- I wish you'd said something sooner. I wish I wasn't such an idiot." I giggled, and he flashed me an embarrassed grin. "We're ridiculous."

"Yep. Now, speaking of, are you going to tell me what this is all about?"

He gestured down at my near-nakedness, and I giggled again.

"I was trying to tempt you."

"What?"

I sighed. "It's Leliana's fault, really. She was teasing me about us sleeping together, and I told her I didn't think you were ready and I wasn't going to push you. She insisted that you were, but that you were afraid I'd turn you down. She convinced me that you would have taken me making you put your shirt on the other night as a bad sign. So she talked me into trying to...tempt you."

He raised his eyebrows, not saying a word. I continued. "I was trying to make myself hard to resist. And Leli tells me there's nothing sexier for a man than a woman wearing nothing but his shirt. It was supposed to give you an unsubtle hint that I was...receptive."

"But I beat you to it."

"Yeah."

"I win!"

"Yeah."

"Leliana's sort of smart."

"Oh?"

"You do look amazing in my shirt."

Chapter Forty-Four: The Night Before

Lying side-by-side on the bed, he smiled. "You do look amazing in my shirt."

"It was the only clean one you had."

"It's perfect. You're perfect."

He stayed there, looking awkward for a moment, smiling at me but clearly nervous. I reached up to stroke his cheek.

"Hey. You're overthinking things. Just relax, okay? It's going to be okay."

He leaned into my hand, his eyes closing momentarily. "I just don't want to do something wrong."

"What's the worst that could happen?"

"I could hurt you. Or embarrass myself."

"You won't hurt me. And seriously, with all the embarrassing things I do on a daily basis, it's really only fair if you do something at least mildly silly."

He grinned at me, a flash of the more confident Alistair that I'd been getting used to breaking through. He leaned down and pressed his lips to mine, softly at first, his hand stroking my hair. He brushed my ear, making me shiver, and then my neck, which elicited a gasp. The kiss rapidly deepened, and then his tongue sought entry, stroking alongside my own. His hand splayed across my stomach over the tunic, and he rubbed softly, just shy of tickling. His other hand wiggled underneath my head, grasping a handful of my hair and tilting my head back. We kissed for an eternity, wrapped up in each other, mostly even oblivious to our states of undress. My hand was on his chest, enjoying the feeling of his firm muscles underneath the smooth skin.

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