Characters: F!Tabris, Alistair, Shianni, Cyrion
Summary: Set in the evening following the wiping out of the Tevinter slavers. While Dorotea Tabris catches up on news with Shianni, Cyrion receives an unexpected guest.
This was written for... hmm... I'm not sure who she is on here, but on FF she is HopeLearningSerenity. She submitted the 400th review of T&S, and so - much as I did with the 300th - I offered to write her a little ficlet. What she asked for was a conversation between her Tabris and Alistair, when he finds out she'd previously been affianced, with a fluffy ending. That didn't quite fly for me, so she gave me some wiggle room and I abused it thoroughly. This is the result...
Shianni took another swig of the harsh wine and passed it along. Dim candlelight filtered through dingy windows of the tenements, beside where they sat, and gleamed on the bottle.
“So, cousin, has your time in the Wardens, and on the road, been all work and no play? That’s a mighty handsome man you’ve got in your group.”
Dorotea’s scowl was as good as a blush on another girl, money in the bank when it came to reading her. “Mind your own business.”
Shianni grinned, not in the least bit put off, and nudged her meaningfully. “Well-built, muscular, gorgeous blond hair, and those incredible tawny eyes.” She made a coarse sound best described as ‘phwoar’, and Dorotea’s ferocious expression deepened. “C’mon, are you and he…?”
“Back off, will you?” Dorotea shoved the bottle at Shianni, nearly pushing her off the fence they perched on. “If you will have it, then yes, Alistair and I are a couple.” Her face softened, the harsh lines smoothing out. “Although I’d say his eyes are hazel, really.”
There was a short silence while Shianni processed this, the cheap wine helping not at all. Eventually her eyes widened and she slewed around on the fence, looking at her cousin with wide eyes.
“Wait, you’re seeing the shem?”
It wasn’t terribly late when the knock landed on the door, but Cyrion still hesitated before answering it. No-one here knocked, everyone knew everyone, and there was no point locking your door when you owned nothing.
The tax collectors wouldn’t come around after dark, and anyway he was up-to-date with his payments. After a moment he opened the door cautiously, taking a step back at the sight of the massive black shape outlined in moonlight. It didn’t even look like a person, huge and thick, with vast spiky shoulders and a tiny head. Cyrion stumbled back further, and the monster took a step forward, pushing the door open a little more.
“I… er… I’m sorry to bother you.” Candlelight revealed the ‘monster’ to be a huge young shem in enormous full plate, bareheaded, and regarding him with anxious eyes. “I mean, I know it’s late, but Arl Eamon insists we prep for the Landsmeet tomorrow, so this might be my last chance and… Maker, I’m babbling, right?”
He was, but Cyrion wasn’t about to say so, not when his uninvited guest was taking up the entire doorway, hunching over slightly to avoid banging his head. Behind his shoulder a sword gleamed with expensive runes.
“So, er, you’re Dorotea’s father?” The hulking young man hovered in the doorway, clearly waiting to be invited in, and it finally clicked into place who this was: the other Grey Warden, Dorotea’s companion. He’d seen him earlier only briefly, and wearing a helm. “I’m Alistair, a Grey Warden.”
“I am. Would you like to come in?” Cyrion opened the door fully and the shem entered gratefully, clearly glad to stand straighter. “Won’t you have a seat?” They both cast a doubtful eye at the rickety wooden chairs. “Yes, well, possibly not a good idea in all that armour. Over here, perhaps?” Cyrion indicated a sturdy chest, where he kept most of his meagre possessions, and Warden Alistair seated himself on it a little gingerly, perhaps still wondering if it would bear his considerable weight.
“I’m sorry I can’t offer you any refreshment, ser.” Actually, Cyrion was wondering what on Thedas the Warden was doing here at all. “What with having been locked up by slavers for a week, there’s nothing in the house.”
“Oh, right, yes. Dorotea said that you… er… that your people, I mean...” The Warden, Alistair, blushed and stumbled to a halt, fishing inside the top of his long gauntlet. After a moment he pulled out a small, crumpled packet. “She mentioned once that it was rude to turn up without a little gift, so… I hope you like Seheron tea.”
Cyrion stared at the gaudy foreign packaging. “You brought me…? I mean, thank you, that’s very kind.” A shem bringing a gift? What was the world coming to?
“You’re seeing a shem, are you insane?” Shianni boggled at her cousin, all sensible thought having fled before the impossible. That Dorotea, of all people, would… Some small fragment of reality wiggled its way through the shock. “Uncle Cyrion is going to flip his lid.”
Dorotea took a determined swallow of the wine and winced. “I don’t see why.” The words were defiant, but the tone was defensive. “I mean, I’m a Warden. What’s Father going to do, arrange another marriage for me?”
“Well, no, but…” Shianni choked on the half a dozen possible objections and in the end summed them up in one succinct sentence. “Andraste’s ass, Doro, he’s a shem. Uncle Cyrion might swallow it if you shacked up with some man, given your circumstances, but not a human.”
“Alistair’s different; he’s not a shem, stop calling him that.”
“Right, different.” Shianni folded her arms, regarding her wayward cousin half in amusement and half in exasperation. “So, not round eared, six and a half spans and built like a brick shithouse, then?”
Dorotea snorted, slinging the empty bottle into a clump of nettles. “Well, of course he’s human, but you know what I mean. He’s not a shem. He doesn’t care that I’m an elf. I hardly think he even notices.”
There was a short silence, during which Shianni wondered how to say the other thing on her mind, and Dorotea kicked the heels of her expensive boots on the splintered fence. Eventually, Shianni sighed. There wasn’t a good way to ask, but she had to.
“Don’t you notice, Doro?” The question was soft, hesitant by the standards of the fiery outspoken redhead, and Dorotea’s jaw set hard. “Doesn’t it… bother you?” after what happened. The unspoken addition hovered between them, until Dorotea shook her head, a soft look in her eyes that Shianni had never seen there before.
“No, Shianni, it doesn’t. I told you, Alistair is different.”
A little of the precious tea, a rare treat here in the Alienage, was measured into a warmed pot and steeped in hot water. The soothing ritual gave Cyrion time to regain his balance, time to inspect his guest out of the corner of his eye, time to wonder why there was a shem Warden sat in his house in the first place.
A very nervous shem Warden, who didn’t seem to know what to do with his large hands. When Cyrion placed a steaming cup before him, the Warden seized it gratefully, cupping both hands around it and relaxing a little as a result. Cyrion took his own cup and sat in a chair opposite, regarding his guest thoughtfully.
“Warden, your visit honours me, but I have to wonder what has prompted it. Is there a problem with Dorotea? I’m sure the situation you are in is difficult, after what occurred at Ostagar. I don’t see how I can possibly assist, but I can assure you I’ll do anything in my power to help my daughter.”
“What?” Warden Alistair looked up, seemingly pulled away from his own thoughts by Cyrion’s little speech. “No. No! I mean, everything’s fine, well as fine as it can be considering that an Archdemon is on its way and Teyrn Loghain wants us dead.” He grinned, suddenly looking very boyish and young. “Just an ordinary day in the Wardens, right? No, it’s not that at all, it’s…”
Under Cyrion’s puzzled gaze, the young Warden sat up, military straight, and put down his tea cup. His face set into different lines, determination and fear warring with something else, something Cyrion couldn’t quite recognize. The old elf was suddenly quite certain that he’d seen this face before, somewhere, although he was sure it wasn’t on someone he knew. A picture perhaps, a poster or something… The Warden’s next words destroyed his train of thought, stampeding over it and trampling it into the dust.
“I came today because I wanted- I-wanted-to-ask-you-for-permission-to-
A second wine bottle had joined the first in the nettles. The girls had reached the giggly stage.
“So then, right, right, you listenin’, then he pulled out this rose, I’m not kidding you, an actual rose. An’ gave it to me, to me.” Dorotea swayed a little on the fence, finely-honed instinct kicking in just in time to keep her from going arse over tit backwards. “I thought he was taking the piss, ‘spected any minute that he’d start laughin’ but no. Instead he told me… told me…” Her sharp face softened. “Told me I was somethin’ special. Told me I was the one bright spot in a dark world.”
She realised that Shianni was hooting in helpless laughter at this idea and poked her crossly. “Hey, no laughin’, it’s true.” There was wonder in her face. “He really believes it.”
Alistair stuck a finger under the collar of his gambeson, feeling it was far too tight.
Only a few moments had passed since the fatal words had tumbled out of him, but to Alistair it felt like a lifetime. Cyrion’s expression was vacant, dumbfounded.
“You… you want to marry Dorotea?” The blank amazement in Cyrion’s voice made Alistair wince.
“Look, I know I’m not much, I know she deserves better, but I love her, ser.” In the privacy of his room in Arl Eamon’s estate, he’d thought out exactly what he’d say. Not one word of it now came to mind. In desperation, he stumbled over difficult words, skirting a subject that held so much fear he barely dared even look at it directly lest a dire fate overtake him. “They- I- There’s something… something terrible that they, he, Eamon I mean, wants from me and I can’t. They’d take me away from Doro; make me be something I’m not.”
Maker, there were so many things he was not allowed to say. I’m the King’s bastard, for a start. Eamon wants me to be King; that was one of the whopping ones. And the ones he hadn’t even had the courage to say to Doro: if I’m King they’ll make me marry someone else. If I’m King I won’t be permitted to be with you any longer.
Alistair shoved the confusion aside. “Ser, there are only two things in the world that I am absolutely certain of. One is that I’m a Grey Warden, now and forever. The other is that I belong to Doro, now and forever. I swore an oath to reinforce the first. Please,” the plea was heartfelt, “permit me to ask Dorotea to marry me, so that I can swear my oath to her also.”
The old elf’s face was alien, inscrutable, just as so many had been when they arrived here earlier to face off against the Tevinter slavers. Alistair’s heart plummeted into his mail-shod feet. Perhaps this hadn’t been such a good idea. He’d hoped… it didn’t matter what he’d hoped, it was stupid, he wasn’t good enough, he’d never been good enough.
The bang of the door opening caused both of their gazes to fly in that direction, startled by the sudden noise.
“Alistair! What in blue blazes are you doing here?” Doro, her face flushed with wine and cold, her cousin peering past her shoulder. “Were you looking for me?”
She was so beautiful, so utterly and completely perfect. His fingers twitched to reach out to her, even as she edged towards where he sat. “I-”
“Your young man came to see me, Dorotea.” Cyrion’s words held an edge of reproof, but the substance of it was beyond Alistair’s ability to fathom. It was enough to bring Doro’s chin up, the colour in her cheeks flying flags of war now, rather than of wine.
“Oh, he did?” She regarded Cyrion accusingly. “What have you said to him? Just… don’t start anything, Da. I’m not a little girl any more; I kill darkspawn for a living. I’ll do whatever I like.” Her gaze slid to where Alistair sat, doing his inadequate best to be invisible. “I’ll snatch whatever happiness I can.”
Cyrion’s voice was mild, his eyes on hers. “Don’t disturb yourself, my daughter. I haven’t done anything other than offer him some tea. Which he very kindly brought as a gift, respecting our customs, I might add.”
Doro regarded her big, clumsy man with something approaching wonder. “You did?”
“He did.” Cyrion’s voice was firm, stronger now that he spoke to his daughter, demonstrating none of the timidity he’d displayed earlier with his strange guest.
Doro’s cousin, Shianni, had sidled into the room behind her and was staring at Alistair in a way that made his ears burn. He shifted slightly, turning so that he didn’t have to see the knowing look in her eyes.
Doro was looking between Cyrion and Alistair, gathering suspicion in her gaze. “Why?” The single syllable fell flatly from her lips, mirroring the suspicion in her eyes.
Maker, she’s going to be furious, thought Alistair, suddenly recognising the enormity of what he’d done: gone behind her back, come to see her father to ask him that, without her knowing. But it was the right thing to do. If you wanted to marry a girl, then you asked her father’s permission.
“That’s between me and him, Dorotea.” Alistair wasn’t sure he would have been brave enough to say that, not with Doro glaring at them both. Cyrion demonstrated, in his opinion, unsung courage in doing so. “What I want you to tell me is this: what is there between you and this sh-, this young man?”
If Doro had appeared annoyed before, she looked positively incandescent in the face of such a pertinent parental enquiry. “It’s none of your sodding business, Da.” She moved to Alistair’s side, and he felt her fingers lace through his. There seemed little doubt that Cyrion had seen it, also. “I don’t live here any longer.” Beneath the rebellion Alistair could hear the note of anguish, of loss, and he squeezed her fingers with his own. “I can’t be like… like… them.” The gesture she made with her free hand encompassed the Alienage, with its mysterious values. Her chin came up, fighting back emotion, regaining control, just as she had from the moment he met her. She was the strongest person he’d ever met, ferocious and wild, and he loved her so much it burned. “Me and Alistair, we’re all we have, Da. Just us against a Blight, against a Regent and a Queen, against the whole Maker-damned world.” The anger and resentment bled out of her voice, replaced by something Alistair couldn’t name but which his heart sung to hear. “He’s everything to me.”
There was a silence following the words, or at least Alistair thought there was. In truth a brass band could have paraded around the room blowing trumpets and he probably wouldn’t have noticed it. All the breath was squeezed out of his lungs by her statement. She’d told him she loved him, told him lots of times, but to hear her say such a thing publicly, to her family, well… that was so huge he couldn’t do anything except hold tight to her hand.
“I see.” Cyrion’s gaze was on his daughter, and he somehow managed to look weary, sorrowful, and elated all at the same time. “Maker, Dorotea, you are so, so like your mother.” An ancient sadness infused his voice, and he moved across the room to stand before his daughter, running a loving hand over her cheek. “I miss you as much as I miss her, but you’re right, you don’t live here anymore.” Doro pressed her face against his worn hand, and Alistair turned his eyes away, feeling as though he trespassed on a private moment.
Cyrion stepped back quite quickly, his gaze now encompassing both of them. “In answer to your question, Dorotea, Alistair came to ask me for permission to marry you.”
There was a gasp from the farthest corner of the room, where Shianni had retreated, and Doro’s head spun around to stare at her beloved with wide eyes. “You did what?”
“And you may have it.” While Alistair gasped and stuttered his thanks, Doro’s head spun back the other way to regard her father with narrow suspicious eyes. Cyrion chuckled, his expression lightening for the first time. “After all, she’ll have you anyway, headstrong as she is, so we may as well add a modicum of respectability to the proceedings.”
“And do I not get a say in this?” Doro’s voice was low, hard and dangerous, presaging a storm of monumental proportions. Alistair jumped in hastily, before anyone could add fuel to the fire.
“All the say in the world, love.” It was awkward going down on one knee in armour, and he could feel a blush rising at the prospect of doing this in front of an audience. But, like asking Cyrion in the first place, it was the right thing to do. “I know I’m not much of a catch, and if you don’t want me, I’ll understand, I really will.” A lie, that. He’d understand why, of course he would, but he’d never get over it, not really. “But I love you, Doro; I love you with all my heart and soul.” She was deathly still, her eyes wide, looking down at him. No-one else made a sound. Alistair pulled forward the hand still laced with his and laid his other hand upon it. “Dorotea Tabris, will you marry me?”
He thought for one awful moment that she’d refuse, thought he saw a shadow cross her face at his words. Then he saw the tears welling up in her eyes and she nodded. “Get up, you big fool.” Her hand tugged at his insistently, and the moment he regained his feet in response to its command she threw herself into his arms.
It was the finest moment of Alistair’s life.