"Do you trust me, Elyssa?" He stopped her just outside her tent, out of sight of the others at the fire.
"With my life, Alistair. You know that."
"What about with your body? Your heart?"
"Always, my love. Though right now you're kind of scaring me..."
"Don't be afraid. Just ... trust me." From somewhere, he produced a dark blue scarf. Steeling herself, allowing the vestiges of anxiety to escape, she nodded, and tied the scarf on, blinding herself. Alistair took her hands and carefully led her into the tent.
Three weeks earlier:
Elyssa was off with Arl Eamon discussing some sort of affairs of state. Alistair found it vaguely ironic that they were doing so without him, given that he was supposed to become King, but it didn't worry him overly. Having been raised a noble in Ferelden society, he knew that she had a much better head for politics than he did. He also trusted her completely, and knew that any decision she made would be the right one. She had proven herself to be brutally moral, utterly uncompromising with herself, but compassionate when it came to others. He would not live to regret any action she and Eamon took together.
Given that they were staying at the Arl's estate, they weren't easily able to find time together. One of them being caught in the other's room would have been scandalous, so they slept alone. Once in a while Elyssa would corner him and drag him off into an unused closet somewhere for a cuddle, and they talked at length at supper and in the Arl's study, but the times they could be alone were too few and far between. The net result was that, for the first time, Alistair felt lonely. So that night, after a bit too much wine at supper, he found himself sitting in the Library, moping, and staring into the fire. He was interrupted by the door creaking open.
"Alistair! I'm sorry, I hope I didn't disturb you." He didn't have to turn his head to know who had entered, her Orlesian accent obvious.
"Hello Leliana. No, no please come in. I'm not doing anything." She entered, her footsteps whispering faintly on the thick rug.
"Nothing? Why not?" She sat down on a small sofa across from Alistair, her eyes on his face curiously. He poured her a glass of wine, and refilled his own. "What's wrong? I don't mean to pry, of course, but if you want to talk..."
"That's kind of you, but I don't want to burden you with my adolescent whining."
"Please. It's no bother. We are friends, no? You miss Elyssa." He nodded miserably.
"I know that she isn't staying away by choice either, but ... Before I met her, I was either in the chantry, or with the group of Grey Wardens. I never had much time to myself, and I had never been in a relationship. I was never lonely. I didn't know what I was missing, so I didn't miss it. I had friends, and my training, and I never felt that I was lacking in anything. Now ... having been with her, and knowing how it makes me feel being with her ... I hate it when we are apart. This whole thing has gotten out of hand. Since when does anyone care whether the unknown bastard shares his bed with a beautiful woman? Since when does anyone care that two Grey Wardens are having a relationship? It's no one else's business."
"But Alistair. You are to be King! I know there is much to go through yet, but starting off your reign by scandalizing the nobles who stand for you is not an auspicious beginning."
"I know, I know. It's not like I'm unaware of that. It's just ... Leliana, I am not whole without her. Not anymore."
Leliana was silent for a few moments, and Alistair looked over to see a pained look on her face.
"I understand, Alistair. I truly do." Realization hit Alistair suddenly.
"You do understand, don't you." Leliana looked up, blushing, as Alistair continued.
"You love her too."
"What? No! I ... no, I would never. I..." "It's okay. I understand. The thing I can't understand is why anyone wouldn't love her."
"You're not ... angry? Jealous? I would never try to come between you, you must know that. Even if, most nights at camp when I hear you two together, I want to scratch out your eyes." She grinned to soften the threat, and he laughed.
"I know. I trust you, Leliana. Frankly, I don't understand what she sees in me, truly. Given her other options, she could do much better. But I trust her absolutely never to betray me, even with a beautiful woman like you. Even if I don't understand why."
"You think you are such a terrible match?"
"Let me see. You are tall, handsome, strong. I haven't seen you without armour, of course, but you do not seem malformed in any way. You are a Grey Warden, and the only person she knows who could possibly understand what she is going through. What she will go through. You share the same morals, the same love of Ferelden, and the same compassion. You are kind, and gentle, and you love her. And let's not forget – you are going to become the King. Some women would find that incredibly attractive. Have I missed anything? So what, exactly, makes you so unsuited for her?"
"I ... but ... I thought you wanted to scratch my eyes out."
"And if I thought for one minute that you were a bad choice for her, I would have. But frankly, I can think of no one I would rather see her with, in the end. Even me. I am hopelessly in love with her, but a life on the road with a traveling Minstrel would never be enough for her. She ... lights up, when you are around. You are the right choice, Alistair." He was quietly thoughtful for a while, his heart temporarily lifted by her words.
"Does she know, Leliana?"
"No. At least, I don't think so. She knows that I ... like women, she guessed that a while back with the whole messy Marjolaine situation. But I have never said, and she has never brought it up."
"I'm sorry. You must hate me."
"A little bit. At times. But knowing she is happy is all I want. And she is."
"But ... how can you be so sure, Leliana? I just ... I cannot possibly make her happy."
"Why do you think that, Alistair?"
"Well, for starters, I am about as sophisticated as a country toad. She's the daughter of a Teyrn, for crying out loud!"
"You know her even better than I Alistair – has being around those political types, pretending to be something she's not, being used as a pawn in someone else's game – has that ever made her happy?"
"So ... you know about her past? Her mother?"
"I guessed. I am familiar with Ferelden politics, through my former life as a bard. I may have lived in Orlais, but Marjolaine dabbled in the Ferelden games also. I don't know the details, but if what I have heard about other noble families is even half true, I'm sure her training was ... brutal." Alistair nodded.
"That's an understatement. And that's yet another reason she deserves someone other than me. Her past ... she was taught that she is there only to please someone else. She will never put her own needs, her own pleasure first. And I ... well, you know how the Chantry is, Leliana. I was very naive when we met. I don't have the knowledge to ... to ... teach her that she is wrong. I get so caught up in what I'm feeling when we're together, and then I just ... Look, she says she enjoys it, and I have to give her credit for a good performance, both at the time and in acting interested in between, but ... I do not know how to..." He gulped, the wine helping him get out what he wanted to say. "I do not know how to pleasure a woman. There, I've said it, Maker help me."
"Oh, Alistair. Our Elyssa is nowhere near as good an actress as you believe. Maybe she could fool you, though I doubt it. But even only listening, I know she could never fool me. She truly does enjoy her time with you."
"No. For women, Alistair, the vast majority of pleasure happens above the neck. It's not our bodies, but our minds that create pleasure for us. She loves you, she trusts you completely, and while naïve, you are not oblivious either. You make her happy, Alistair. Believe me. If I didn't think it was true, I wouldn't say it. You know that."
"But Leliana, I don't even know what I'm doing! Ask me where to stab someone to make sure they're dead, no problem. Or to disable but ensure they live. I've got all that. Ask me where or how to touch a woman, and I'm all thumbs."
"Andraste's Flaming Sword, Alistair! Alright, listen. There are things ... if you want, I could ... try to teach you. Don't give me that look, I'm not suggesting we sleep together! I can explain to you, if we have some parchment I'll even draw some pictures. At least it might give you some confidence! The best, really, would be to show you on someone else, but that isn't going to happen for either of us."
They talked for hours that night, and then eventually retired to bed. But the conversation continued periodically whenever they were alone over the next few days. Finally, after another long, boring dinner party, Elyssa was again whisked off to meet with their noble allies to discuss last-minute strategy before the Landsmeet. Alistair, lonely and anxious about the outcome, again drank too much at supper, and found himself back in the library steadily drowning his sorrows in a bottle of whiskey. Leliana joined him, and for a while they drank together in silence. Inevitably the conversation came up again. Eventually Leliana just let Alistair babble, having covered all the same ground before. His confidence had not improved. But he caught her attention again, after a while.
.... There is more of this story ...