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Title: What Lies Behind The Throne. Chapter 5/???
Author: blustersquall
Game: Dragon Age: Alternate Universe
Characters/pairing: Alistair x Cousland
Disclaimer: Dragon Age is the property of Bioware, as is Alistair and any other characters mentioned within this piece. Roselyn Cousland is my creation, under the Dragon Age: Origins player character, Cousland.

AO3 Link // FF.net Link // Tumblr Link

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Month: Bloomingtide. One day before the wedding.

--

Roselyn trailed behind her mother and Anora as they walked along one of the gravel paths of the gardens, vaguely listening to Eleanor dictate how the ceremony for her wedding would run.

Tomorrow. It was the next day.

It had come around so quickly. Three months ago she was travelling from Highever and the wedding seemed so distant then. Now it was real and happening. Her dress was finished and hung in her rooms with a veil. The palace was being decorated as they walked the gardens with hanging wreathes of flowers and awning draped across the rafters and in each room. The main hall was decorated in the standard colours of both Theirin and Cousland. Drapes of dark blue and silver were hung around the room, interjected with the Theirin colours of gold and deep scarlet. The tables which normally lined horizontally across the room were pushed to the edges to make space for dancing. A pair of seats was set in the middle of the room where she and Alistair would sit after the ceremony.

The seats were elevated underneath a gauzy canopy, which Roselyn noticed had built on her way out to the gardens. The eyes of every single person attending would be on them and that thought made Roselyn's stomach churn. Her every glance and gesture would be under scrutiny for the first few hours of her and Alistair's life together. She struggled to think of anything worse than being examined and spied upon in such a way.

The number of guests seemed to grow every time Eleanor went through the list. Most people were members of Maric's court, attending because it was a royal wedding and not because they had any real connection to either bride or groom. They were attending in order to seem loyal and dedicated; probably in the hopes they might catch Maric in a good mood and be able to ask favours of him.

The only people Roselyn cared about were her brother, nephew, and sister-in-law. Fergus left Highever in the care of their steward, Ser Gilmore, while he and his family made the trip. They were supposed to arrive that evening and the prospect of seeing her brother and nephew for the first time in three months was the only thing that kept Roselyn's spirits up.

Beside her, Roo chuffed and nudged Roselyn's leg with her head. Startled, Roselyn quickly rubbed her dogs ears and caught up with Anora and Eleanor who were several paces in front of her. Eleanor was concluding an explanation of something. Roselyn shut her eyes in the hopes she would not be quizzed.

"You know what you need to do then, sweetling?" Eleanor asked over her shoulder. Roselyn swore in her head and managed to smile.

"Yes. O-of course Mother."

An eyebrow arched on Eleanor's face. Her mouth puckered into the look of quiet disbelief Roselyn was familiar with. "Are you sure? What do you need to do when you get to the hand-fasting?"

Roselyn clenched her teeth. She knew this. She did. The hand-fasting happened towards the end of the ceremony. As the vows were said, after the rings were exchanged, the bride and groom clasped hands and the Revered Mother bound them in a band of weaved reeds dyed red. Red to symbolise passion and love, the reeds to represent the earthly connection to the Maker's natural world, and the binding was to strengthen the bond between the couple.

Aware of both Anora and Eleanor watching her, Roselyn stared at the ground. She wracked her brain for the answer, opening her eyes wide in the hopes it might to leap to her mind.

"Honestly, Roselyn..." tutted Eleanor.

"We... uhm..." Roselyn glanced at Anora for help who lifted her hands and clasped them together behind Eleanor's shoulder. "We hold hands?" She suggested the most obvious answer, unable to think of anything else.

"You face each other while the binding is happening." Eleanor explained with impatience. "And you only clasp one hand. The hand closest to the Revered Mother - your left - so that you walk back down the aisle together hand bound."

Roselyn pouted down at her hands grasped in front of her. "I knew that."

"You shouldn't have to think about it!" explained her mother growing shrill. "You should know your part in your own wedding. Haven't you heard a single word I've been saying?"

Roselyn shrank back, feeling sick and small under her mother's scolding. It was like she was a child again, being reprimanded for tripping over the hem of her dress.

"Her mind is probably occupied by other things, Lady Eleanor," Anora explained, coming to Roselyn's aid and defence once more. "I'm certain tomorrow she won't put a foot wrong."

"I hope so," Eleanor remarked, her voice tight and sharp. "One hair wrong and the Cousland family will be the laughing stock of Ferelden."

"I'm sorry, Mother."

Both Eleanor's voice and expression softened as she stroked Roselyn's cheek and tucked her hair behind her ear with genuine affection and tenderness. "I'm only trying to make sure you're prepared," she explained. "You're my only daughter. Despite what you might think, I want you to be happy."

An uncomfortable tingle stung behind Roselyn's eyes and she swallowed with force. She knew her mother's sentiment was sincere. That despite everything, Roselyn's happiness was a concern and that she was probably feeling a sense of melancholy at seeing her only daughter married.

"I know." Roselyn leaned into her mother's warm palm and smiled. "I won't disappoint you tomorrow."

Eleanor kissed her brow. "I know you won't, sweetl--"

"Lady Eleanor!"

A servant in Cousland livery raced across the gardens towards them. Dropping her hand from Roselyn's face, Eleanor turned with all the grace and steadiness Roselyn knew her for and approached the young man who was puffing out of breath.

Anora wrapped an arm around Roselyn's waist, guiding her away a few feet so Eleanor and the servant could speak in private.

"Be honest with me," Anora spoke in a conspiratorial whisper. "How are you holding up?"

"Oh, you know." Roselyn gulped hard. "Fine. I suppose." Anora released her waist only to slide her arm through the crook of Roselyn's elbow so they could walk close together.

"And if you were being truthful?" teased Anora, blue eyes glittering.

It seemed to Roselyn the impending wedding had an effect on everyone. Anora's cheeks were almost at a constant flush and she smiled with more ease than Roselyn had witnessed in her time at the palace. She was quick to laugh and even Cailan seemed in a better mood. The two of them were spending more time together and he had been surprisingly affectionate towards her. Not that Roselyn was about to question the reason for it - clearly Cailan's attentions were welcomed by his wife.

"I'm not worried about the wedding," Roselyn explained. "I can do that. It's simply following the steps of a dance and while I may not know the details as much as I should, I don't think I have anything to be concerned about."

"Right." Anora slid a stray tendril of blonde hair back behind her ear.

"It's..." Roselyn hesitated dropping her eyes to her feet, glimpsing the toes of her shoes with each step. "It's the part after the wedding that I'm worried about."

"What, the reception?" queried the other woman.

Roselyn whined, "Anora!"

Chuckling, her lips curled into a wicked grin, Anora guided Roselyn towards the yew hedges which made up the outer wall of the hedge maze. They stood together waiting for Eleanor to finish with the servant. "You'll have to be specific if you want my help."

"You're cruel," pouted Roselyn, folding her arms across her chest. Anora lifted her chin, smiling down at her. Warmth blossomed across Roselyn's cheeks and she could feel herself turning red the longer Anora looked at her and the longer she refused to speak. "It's the..." Roselyn glanced around to make sure no one could hear them and to be extra safe leaned into whisper into Anora's ear. "The wedding night." She hissed, her flush sweeping up her neck and cheeks to stain her forehead.

"What about it?" Anora asked her, earnest in her curiosity.

"Well... I-I--" Roselyn dropping her chin to her chest, nibbling her bottom lip. "I-- I don't know what I'm..." she gestured as she struggled to find her words. Of all the things for her to not know how to express herself on it would be this.

"You don't know what to do?" Anora prompted.

Roselyn shook her head, feeling younger than her age. "No," she muttered, "and I've never-- I mean, what if Alistair doesn't like me? Or I'm bad at it?" Her head shot up. "Sweet Maker, what if neither of us know what to do? And we're just stuck sitting in our room after we're married and we're both lost and it's awkward and strange and-- and--" She grabbed Anora's sleeve. "Anora, what if it hurts?!"

She began to breathe quickly, unable to catch her breath as her anxiety and the gnawing worries she had been suppressing about the night itself began to rear their heads. She had lain awake every night for the last week thinking of the time after the wedding. While the feast and revelry continued, she and Alistair would have to complete the task put before them. She wondered about what they had to do; what she had to do. It was one of duties as a wife after all. And there was no other way to have a child. It was necessary.

Unaware of Anora's guiding, Roselyn found herself on a stone bench, her head dangling down between her knees while Anora rubbed her back. Roo licked her hand, her chin perch on Roselyn's knee. Little by little, Roselyn started to calm down. She sucked air in through her nose, letting out long, slow breaths through her mouth and counting down from five on each one. Her vision grew clearer, the fuzzy black haze which had started to seep into her vision beginning to recede.

"Feeling better?" Anora inquired, rubbing her hand in circles on Roselyn's back. "Panic over?"

"Yes." Roselyn nodded. She took a deep inhale as she sat up. "I apologise. I'm just..." she sighed, twisting her fingers around each other in her lap. Anora placed one hand over Roselyn's to still them. Suppressing the desire to begin weeping, Roselyn tightened her lips into a line and held her breath. "I'm worried and nervous and..." She smoothed her fingers over her forehead, "a little... afraid."

"I shouldn't have teased," Anora told her, her expression warm and almost motherly in how she looked at Roselyn. She swept the loose rings of Roselyn's hair over her shoulders.

"I'm being silly."

"No," Anora shook her head, "It's normal to be apprehensive. I won't lie to you, the first time is often awkward and there was a some pain with Cailan and I."

Roselyn grimaced and tried not to wince.

"You may  bleed, a little bit. It's different for all women."

Another grimace and this time she clenched her jaw.

"Listen to me," Anora turned her whole body to her so the two of them were facing one-another. Anora gave Roselyn her undivided attention, squeezing her fingers. "Remember, you do not have to do anything you are not ready for."

Furrowing her brows, Roselyn gave a subtle shake of her head. "But... but I thought..." She clenched her fingers. "What if Alistair... With it being the wedding night an-and..."

"Alistair will be as nervous as you are," Anora explained to her. "More so, probably. He'll have had Cailan around him, building up sex and the wedding night and how he has to perform. It's all a lie."

"It... is?"

"Mhm-hm." Anora nodded and glanced around. She leaned in closer to Roselyn, "Don't tell anyone," she whispered gigging, "but Cailan had drunk so much he struggled to... do his duty." Anora gestured, "We ended up falling asleep after several failed attempts. We didn't actually consummate our marriage until the morning."

Roselyn pressed the flat of her hand to her mouth, stifling her own laughter as the two women parted. She felt less anxious speaking to Anora about her concerns. She made her whole panic seem unnecessary, like she had blown the whole thing out of proportion. She sighed, pushing her fingers through her hair.

"You don't think Alistair will be angry, do you?" she queried, tilting her head to one side. "If I say no."

"Not at all." Anora got to her feet and grasped Roselyn's hand so she followed. "But if you are so curious you could ask him yourself." Following the subtle nod of Anora's head, Roselyn peered over her shoulder to one of the entrances to the hedge maze. Alistair stood only just visible, peering out from behind the bushes, glancing between Eleanor and Roselyn, trying to avoid being seen.

"What's he doing here?!" Roselyn demanded of Anora. "We're not supposed to see each other before tomorrow!"

Anora rolled her eyes. "Go and ask him what he wants. I'll keep your mother distracted." She dropped Roselyn's hands, crossing towards Eleanor and the servant still with her.

"Wait! Wait-- Anora-!" Roselyn protested but was ignored. Biting her bottom lip, she chanced a look at where Alistair stood, still obscured by the bushes, only the sleeve of his coat visible beyond the leaves.

Holding her breath, Roselyn watched her mother as she crossed the grass towards the opening to the maze. Anora guided Eleanor in the opposite direction with the servant as they both over looked a long scroll of sprawling writing. Roo followed Roselyn into the maze, waiting with her while Roselyn glanced around for Alistair who had disappeared.

"Alistair?" she called for him in a whisper, worried about being heard. "Alistair!"

He poked his head around the corner of one of the hedges. "This way!" He disappeared again. Roselyn lifted her dress and broke into a run to pursue him.

Alistair led her on a chase through the maze, deeper and deeper from the outer edges inwards turning one way then another, avoiding dead ends and the gardeners who were at work keeping the trees trimmed and in good health. Roselyn forgot to care about the rules and how she was strictly forbidden from seeing Alistair the day before her wedding. Supposedly it was bad luck. She didn't care that she was moving further and further away from her mother, that Anora would have to cover for her, and that if she didn't reappear in a timely fashion, half the palace guard would be sent looking for her.

All she felt was the thrilling excitement which bubbled inside her whenever Alistair was around. The sensation filled her up, warming her limbs to her finger tips. She loved how it made her giddy and made her whole body feel light.

It didn't occur to her that this was the deepest in the hedge maze she had ever been. When she turned the final corner she was out of breath and met with a small stone fountain surrounded with a circular walled pond. It was set in a square of hedges with entrances on each side. A wrought iron bench sat in the shade, rusted and looked as though a small wind would cause it to fall to pieces.

Roselyn jumped a little when Alistair grasped her hand from behind her, sneaking out from behind the yew trees to surprise her. She turned towards him, chasing her breath and snaked her arms around his waist, pressing her body against his, cushioning her cheek on his chest. His arms enveloped her, as did the grounded, earthen smell of him that she was coming to enjoy. His breathing matched hers once she caught up with herself. He lay the flats of his hands on her back, following the curve of her spine with slow, regular strokes of his fingers.

It suddenly dawned on her what she was doing: she was hugging him. If they were caught, there would be scandal. She jumped away from him as if he was on fire and smoothed the skirts of her dress out. Her cheeks and neck burned with the sense of humiliation she felt. She could not believe that she allowed herself to behave so improperly in the palace grounds.

Alistair only chuckled and grasped her small, slender hands in his. She watched as he brought them to his mouth, smoothing his thumbs across the bare flesh of her knuckles. He kissed her fingers. Roselyn felt her knees tremble, her stomach coiling in her gut. The pulse in her neck jumped and quickened. She found herself drinking in his features. His kind, warm, honey-brown eyes that seemed to shine almost amber when the sun hit them just right. Then there was the straight, almost perfect slope of his nose and how it hooked just a little at the end. The slight scruff on his chin, a trait she had never enjoyed on other men, seemed to suit him and she found she didn't mind it. To see him without it would be strange. She stared at his mouth.

Maker - his mouth.

She was becoming obsessed with it. When they talked she found herself fascinated by the movement of his lips and the way he formed his words. The way he spoke, his voice. Everything to do with his mouth enthralled her and had captivated her since the day in the fields with the archery butts. That day she had wanted to kiss him. Perhaps it had been the setting, their surroundings, being so far from the palace and away from prying eyes but she could recall the thrill she felt when she felt the puffs of his breath against her lips. If he had kissed her then, she would have never wanted him to stop.

Realising she had been staring at him, Roselyn dropped her gaze. She licked her lips and took a breath to settle the butterflies going wild in her belly.

"I wanted to see how you were," Alistair explained, still holding her hands and stroking her skin with his rough, warm fingers. "I thought this was the best place for us to talk for a little while and avoid getting caught."

"I hope you can find your way out," Roselyn smiled. She caught herself swaying and stopped.

"Oh, I know the maze as well as I know the palace," explained Alistair looking around at the leaves for a moment then back to Roselyn. He fixed his gaze on her. The intensity she saw therein surprised her and she found it difficult to look for too long and difficult to breathe. "How are you feeling? About tomorrow, I mean?"

"Nervous," Roselyn admitted, her voice tight, nodding her head. "A little terrified I'll trip on my dress or stand on my train and knock over the Revered Mother or something."

"Oh, if anyone makes a fool of themselves, it will be me," Alistair laughed and inched towards her. "I know you are going to look beautiful tomorrow."

Feeling herself blush, Roselyn glanced away bashfully, tucking her bottom lip between her teeth. She took one of her hands back to tease her hair behind one ear. She could feel the heat radiating off her cheeks when she brushed her fingers along her skin and down her neck. "Thank you..." she mumbled, dropping her eyes to her feet.

"Are you looking forward to it, at least?" asked Alistair, hope leaking into his voice and his expression. His eyes widened a little and grew a touch brighter. Roselyn was almost certain she heard his voice crack with the weight of his worry. "Maybe a little bit?"

"I am looking forward to it," Roselyn assured him, stepping closer. "More than just a little." She decided not to mention what she was worried about. She didn't want to weigh that on Alistair's mind or embarrass him by talking about something so personal. They could discuss it the next day. After the wedding, once they were alone.

At her answer, Alistair positively beamed, a grin breaking across his mouth making his face light up. He chuckled at himself. His fingers squeezed Roselyn's and she watched him ruffle his free hand through his hair. A sharp breath left his mouth in a whoosh, Roselyn tilted her head, puzzled by his sudden change in demeanour.

"I wanted to..." Alistair began and then stopped. He closed his eyes for a moment and nodded to himself as if drawing on some internal strength or confidence. "Before tomorrow, I wanted to..." A pause and a frustrated grunt. "You know we'll be required to kiss? In front of everyone?"

"Thank you for the reminder," Roselyn shook her head, the idea of being watched as she kissed her husband for the first time turning her blood to ice. "I'm trying not to think about that."

"It is daunting, I know," Alistair agreed. "And... well, I thought..." Roselyn saw the Adam's apple in his throat bob when he swallowed. "I thought that, maybe we should have a... a go. N-now. A... uh-- a trial kiss... if you will. If you want."

"A... trial kiss?" Roselyn repeated. She tilted a brow and kept her feet rooted to the spot. She did not wish to seem over eager, even as her heart and mind both cried out in unison for her to throw caution to the wind and kiss him.

He nodded. "Yes. It... It would be to see that w-we're compatible... you see." He smiled a lopsided smile, tilting his head to one side. "I've heard there's nothing worse than - uhm - than ki-kissing someone for the first t-time and... and realising you're not compatible. Kissing compatibility is very important. So I'm told by a reliable source."

"Who is this reliable source?"

"It's a secret," he chuckled, "I would tell you. But then your life would be in danger..." He curled her hair back behind her ear with his fingers, stroking her cheek and neck. Roselyn felt herself flush, her breath hitching in her throat. "I couldn't have that."

"Oh?" Roselyn stepped closer, diminishing the space between them. She tilted her head, clasped her hands behind her back and peered up at him. "So... this trial kiss, it would be a way to get acquainted? To prevent any second-hand embarrassment for the guests? More for them than for ourselves."

Alistair slipped one hand behind Roselyn's back, his palm sliding over her waist, she grew hotter at the boldness of his gesture. "O-oh, yes. Definitely." He swept his free hand up, through the loose tendrils of her hair and down her cheek. His palm cupped her jaw. Roselyn's heart leapt into her throat, thudding heavily to the sensual brush of his thumb tracing her top and bottom lip. "We would be doing them a service."

"Well," Roselyn's voice shuddered when she spoke. She could feel every inch of her skin beneath her clothes thrumming and pulsating; coming alive, growing excited. Her stomach clenched as an unfamiliar ache pooled in her belly and mingled with the overwhelming heat that settled there. He caressed her lips as she spoke, his eyes watching her mouth as she formed her words. "As long as it's not for our own ends." She pressed her body against his. "Then we probably should kiss." Laying her hands flat against Alistair's jerkin, Roselyn dug her fingers into the material in an effort to stay upright.

"We really should." Alistair nodded. Roselyn fought not to bite the end of his thumb as he swept it across her mouth again. He inclined his head. Roselyn's heart skipped, the butterflies in her stomach growing wild. "If you're sure."

"I'm sure," Roselyn urged, using her hold on his clothes to steady her as she pushed onto her toes. "I am so very sure, Alistair."

Her eyes fluttered closed as she closed the gap. One moment his breath tickled her mouth, the next a horrendous clattering startled them both and she heard Alistair curse under his breath. He released her enough that he could turn and see what caused the interruption. An elderly gardener had dropped his gear, a shovel, hoe, and a fork. Alistair's warm hands left Roselyn's body and she watched him go to assist the older man who apologised profusely.

She tried not to feel the disappointment weigh down in her belly. Tomorrow they could kiss whenever they wanted to. After tomorrow they would not need to slip away and hide to have a moment alone. After tomorrow they could and would kiss in front of a whole Chantry full of people. They would kiss in front of her parents, her brother. They would kiss in front of the King. It was not such a bad thing that they could not kiss now. Watching Alistair help the gardener with his tools, Roselyn pushed her fingers through her hair. She tried to quell the tempest raging in her chest and her stomach, breathing deep to calm the angry fluttering she felt.

Hearing the gravel crunch behind her, she turned to see Alistair approaching her wiping his hands on his trousers and the gardener was gone.

"We're not very lucky, are we?" Alistair asked her, coming to a stop about a foot away from her.

"Not really." Roselyn thought for only a moment, her eyes drawn to his lips and his mouth curved into a sheepish grin. She made a decision, swallowed hard, closed the space between them, and curled her fingers into Alistair's jerkin as she rose up onto her toes.

"I should prob--" Alistair grew silent at the light brush Roselyn applied to his lips with her own. His hands encircled her waist. She tightened her grip on his clothing, he dropped his head, opening his mouth a little, and suddenly it felt to Roselyn as though she was flying and falling.

His lips were against hers, soft and warm and insistent. His kiss was confident but clumsy in its enthusiasm and Roselyn found herself fighting laughter which threatened to bubble up within her chest. Laughter at herself for how nervous she had been. Her fingers curled into fists, heart crashing in her ears, and her stomach tightened into a knot.

Alistair arched his head, changing the position of his mouth. Roselyn's desire awakened, flooding over her like a hot bath. She slid both hands up over his chest to his shoulders, one arm she wrapped around his neck, the other she moved further, fingers pushing into his hair. He lifted a hand to her jaw and it curved around the base of her skull, tempting her to arc her head back and relinquish to his inexpert but eager lips.

Roselyn had been kissed before. She kissed boys her own age at dances, celebrations, and at Wintersend as she grew up. They were pecks, quick brushes where she wiped her mouth on her sleeve a moment later. This was nothing like those kisses. It wasn't perfect, the rawness between the two of them was plain, but every passing second was a second they learned. A soft, breathless moan escaped from between Roselyn's lips as she stole a breath. Her urge to laugh was gone, replaced by a desperate eagerness to keep kissing him. His lips and his mouth had distracted her from so early in their acquaintance, she was pleased and keen to enjoy them now.

The tip of Alistair's tongue quivered across Roselyn's bottom lip in a quietly bold but experimental way. The sensation tickled, it made her insides tremble and her mouth opened against the touch. She gasped against his mouth when he did it a second time, curling her fingers tighter into his clothing and his hair.

"Alistair..." She sighed his name without thinking, heat and desire swimming through her body making every inch of her grow warm and shiver pleasantly.

Alistair chuckled against her mouth. Roselyn could feel him grinning into the kiss and felt his hands press into her back through her bodice and her stomacher. She could feel the curl of his fingers enmeshed in her hair at the base of her skull.

She relinquished to his embrace as his hand lowered from her head to envelop her back, bringing her impossibly close to him. Alistair almost picked her up off the ground when she began to break away. He pressed light kisses to her lips, loosening his hold.

Pressing their foreheads together, Roselyn caught her own breath while listening to Alistair chase his. Her cheeks ached from the smile she could feel plastered across her face. Alistair's face was a deep scarlet. It took him several seconds to open his eyes, when he did she saw they were shining and he met her gaze. For a moment there was silence, then laughter as it erupted up inside them both.

"Maker's breath..." Alistair's voice was hoarse when he spoke, and it appeared to Roselyn that he had to concentrate to remember how to form words. "That... that wasn't too soon, was it?" He asked her, his wariness and concern cracking through his heightened mood. He tilted his head at an angle, inching closer leaving only the slightest gap between their lips.

"No." Roselyn shook her head debating for a moment how to respond. "No. I... I liked it," she told him, wanting to remain demure and controlled; not allow her enthusiasm to overwhelm her.

"Good," grinned Alistair. "I'll take that as a good sign." He leaned in to kiss her again, which she allowed for a moment before being the one to pull away.

"What do you think? Are we compatible?" she asked him smiling from beneath her eyelashes.

"I think so," he nodded. "Though we should definitely have a few more tries." A small devilish grin broke out across his mouth as he inclined his head towards her, eyes on her lips. "To be certain."

"Of course," Roselyn said breathless but unable to fight her grin. "I should hate for us to embarrass anyone."

Alistair made a soft noise of agreement, before his lips crashed against hers once more.

===================================

Denerim's brothel, The Pearl, was not where Alistair imagined he would be spending night. He had envisioned pacing his room after finishing his duties, his lessons, and dinner. He thought he would spend his hours awake, trying to sleep but unable to succumb because he would spend his time recalling the kiss with Roselyn in the maze. The exciting tremble he felt on that first connection, and how it had only grown and built the more comfortable they had become.

For weeks he wanted to kiss her. Now that he had, he found he could focus on little else except his own anticipation for when he could do so again. He was glad the wedding was the next day. He wasn't sure he would have been able to wait much longer than that.

Rather than being allowed to disappear to his room and prepare as much as possible for the following day, his brother and father had stolen him away after supper to sneak him out of the palace (as much as the King and Princes of Ferelden could sneak out of the palace). Protesting the whole way, Alistair now sat at a round table in the Pearl. His uncle Teagan sat to his left, as sober as Alistair was where they both still nursed their first tankards of ale. Maric and Cailan were both merry and set  to become more so as they ordered stronger drinks.

The room they were in was the back room of the brothel. Alistair knew there were guards positioned outside to keep them safe and that anyone coming or going would have been silenced with coin in case anything untoward occurred during their visit. Alistair knew Cailan could be a grabby drunk, but even he was amazed and appalled but his brother's behaviour. How he pawed at the waitress who kept their tankards full and how Cailan pulled her into his lap when he could.

Maric was little better. He didn't tell Cailan to stop, he only laughed and drank deep from his cup, his laughter echoing back at him.

Twisting his tankard around between his palms, Alistair nudged his uncle. "I can't tell you how glad I am you're here," he told him in an undertone. "This is not my idea of a good evening."

"Your father wanted you to mourn your last night as an unmarried man. To celebrate its passing."

"Is that something to mourn?" Alistair asked him. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I'm excited to marry Roselyn."

The brows on Teagan's face shot up. "You are?"

"Yes," Alistair shrugged. "I like her." He drank from his mug, the thought of his bride back at the palace making a slow smile come to his lips and a contented warmth settle in his belly. "I think she likes me."

The surprise on his uncle's face settled into a fond and approving look, almost fatherly. "I'm glad." He patted Alistair's arm. "The two of you make an attractive pair. I think... I hope you'll make one another happy."

Cailan lurched towards them, grabbing Alistair in a headlock. "Of course she'll make him happy!" he guffawed. "Pretty little thing. I bet she's as good as the whores here under the sheets. They won't be able to keep their hands off each other."

"Get off, Cailan." Alistair shoved him and watched his brother fall into his seat and wobble while he straightened himself. "And mind what you say about my wife," he added, almost snarling.

Rolling his eyes, Cailan called for more drink. "Don't be so protective, Alistair," Cailan snorted into his drink, peering up over the rim of his tankard. "She's not your wife yet."

"You may mistreat Anora, but I have no intention of following your example," barked Alistair, feeling his hackles raise and his skin warm under his thin veil of anger towards his brother. Cailan glared up at him, his eyes dark and almost murderous with intensity. Unafraid, Alistair leaned back in his seat to fold his arms. "Roselyn is going to be happy with me. And me with her. You'll see."

"You keep telling yourself that, little brother," Cailan sneered. He tossed his empty tankard at Alistair's head. It went wide and hit the wall about a foot from Alistair's head. Alistair steeled himself and did not flinch, knowing if he did Cailan would only make fun. "How are you going to make her happy if you don't know what to do."

"What to do...?"

"With yourself. With her."

Alistair rolled his eyes. He glanced between his father and Teagan. Maric was silent, drinking heavily from his cup enjoying the back and forth between his sons. He knew Teagan was listening carefully, ready to jump in if things got too heated or personal.

"Maybe we should get him a whore?" Cailan suggested, nudging his father. "What do you think father?"

"No," Alistair retorted coolly.

"Probably for the best," Cailan gave a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders retrieving a new tankard. He took a long swallow, ale dribbling from the corners of his mouth. He wiped it away with his sleeve, smacking his lips. "Once you've had one, anything your new wife will do will seem tame and boring."

Alistair bit the inside of his cheek to keep from speaking. He wanted to go. Wanted to leave his father and Cailan to their drinking and get back to the palace. He wanted to see Roselyn. To kiss her again and be able to hold her in his arms without the risk of breaking any decorum or code. He wanted to sleep and make the next day come quicker. He wanted her to be his wife already. He was eager, perhaps too eager, to start their life together.

"You do know what to do tomorrow night, don't you?" Cailan leered across the table. "With her? With your cock?"

"Your Highness," Teagan spoke up, a soft growl on his voice.

"You know you'll be expected to fuck her."

"Cailan." Alistair folded his arms, his voice rumbling up from within his chest. He fought the flush sweeping across his freckled cheeks. It burnt the tips of his ears. The thought of the wedding night had crossed his mind. He was nervous, terrified, and excited by it in a way he found hard to explain. He worried that Roselyn wouldn't like him. That she would be disgusted or appalled by his appearance. He was worried he would hurt her. That he would do something wrong. Touch her in a way she did not like, or do something inappropriate. He was terrified by the prospect of it; of being intimate with someone for the first time and the pressure that came with it. "Shut up."

"Look at that," Cailan nudged Maric who had a contented, absentminded smile on his face. One only gained by being pleasantly inebriated. "He's blushing." Cailan barked with laughter, clutching his stomach. "You really are clueless with what you'll need to do, aren't you?"

"I can learn," Alistair replied as fiercely as he was able. "Roselyn and I can learn together."

"How romantic," his brother sneered, flicking his hair. "Let me give you some advice." He almost lurched across the table.

"Don't, Cailan."

"First, get her on her knees in front of you. Grab her hair and push your cock into her mouth. She'll probably gag, but it feels incredible." Cailan leaned back, dangling his head over the back of his chair. "If she's a good wife, she'll let you come in her mouth, or on her face."

Alistair narrowed his eyes, his stomach clenching. He glanced at Teagan who was staring awkward at his hands around his flagon. Alistair fought the sick feeling rising up his throat and growled. "Do you do that to Anora?"

"Anora?" repeated Cailan. "No. But Roselyn isn't Anora. Who knows what they tricks they teach women in Highever." He took another long swallow from his tankard. Alistair dug his fingers into the sleeves of his jacket, clenching his jaw until he felt a sharp pain shooting down his neck. "When you get down to it," continued Cailan his words beginning to slur, "Make sure she's on her front with her arse in the air. You can fuck her from behind that way. She'll enjoy it, it feels good and you don't have to look at her face."

"I'm going back," Alistair got to his feet in a rush, his chair falling back and clattering on the floor. "I am not listening to anymore."

"I'm trying to help you," Cailan retorted savagely. He got to his feet too and wobbled. "You ungrateful fucking inbred. Any children you have will probably look like twisted half-elves anyway."

"Cailan, enough," Teagan barked, his voice gruff. "This is unbecoming of you. This is meant to be a celebration. Not an opportunity for you to attack Alistair."

"Don't lecture me, Teagan," huffed Cailan. "You're older than both of us and yet to take a wife. What's wrong? No one wants the leftovers of the Guerrin family?"

"Cailan," Maric finally spoke, his voice heavy. "Apologise to your uncle."

Dropping his tankard to the floor, Cailan crossed his arms. "No." He was unsteady on his feet, swaying with the weight of his drunkenness. Maric slowly got up and stood at his full height. Alistair wanted to disappear. He always felt small around his father, always blanched when he was upright and towering over him. Now was no exception, even though Maric's attention was firmly on Cailan.

Cailan lacked the same sense Alistair had and met their father's quiet but furious eyes with a defiant stare. Alistair saw the only betrayal of fear in his brother's stance, that he clenched his hands on his arms and tightened them across his body.

"Apologise," Maric repeated with soft anger. Alistair had heard him use the tone before in council meetings. He also witnessed what happened afterwards, when Maric's full fury was unleashed.

"Why?" Cailan demanded. "What is he to me?"

"Your uncle. Your mother's brother," Maric told him, "He deserves your respect. He demands it."

"Your Majesty, it--"

Maric raised a hand, silencing Teagan. "Apologise, boy," he spat his words at Cailan.

Alistair saw his brother grit and lock his jaw into place. He willed Cailan to swallow his stupid pride and apologise. Hoped that even in this drunken state he held on to some sense of when to do as he was told.

Knowing that Cailan was not going to back down, Maric sighed through his nose. He closed his eyes for a moment, rubbing his thumb and forefinger across them. "You foolish, spoiled boy," he began. Alistair heard the vague tremor in his father's voice as he controlled his anger. "Talking like you know about the world. Talking to your brother like you can teach him anything - anything - about women or loving his wife. How often do you lay with Anora, hm?"

"I--"

"I didn't say you could speak!" snapped Maric. Alistair winced. Cailan fell silent and Alistair watched him swallow down on his words. "The answer is rarely. You were given the daughter of my closest and truest friend, a jewel in Thedas and you squandered it. For what? For whores and wenches who would sooner give you a disease. A disease you've no doubt passed on to her."

"It's not my--"

"She's barren because of you, Cailan!" boomed Maric, losing all control. "Because of your ways, my line is not secure! You and Anora have been married five years and there is yet to be an heir! I have to turn to my bastard for hope." He gestured in Alistair's direction. "A half-elf bastard, Cailan. And a daughter from a family so desperate for power, she will likely fill his head with ideas!"

Teagan placed a hand on Alistair's arm to stop him from interjecting. Alistair bit his tongue, hard. He wanted to step in and defend Roselyn. He wanted to defend himself, but he had no desire to have his father's fury turned on him. He ignored the slow throb of hurt which made his chest constrict and made it difficult for him to breathe. He knew his parentage would always be held against him by those who knew, but he had no idea his being a bastard of half-elf was something his father viewed with so much shame.

"My hopes lie with them because you were given everything in the world and it was never enough."

"You never asked if I even wanted Anora!" Cailan snarled. "I never did! I courted her and married her and loved her because you made me! Because it was all your plan!" Cailan grabbed a tankard off the table. "You never cared what I wanted!" He slammed it down, the liquid within sloshing over the rim. "Some father you are! All you care about it yourself and your stupid lineage!" He slammed it again. "If you cared at all about me or my mother, then Alistair wouldn't even exist!"

Anticipating what was about to happen, Alistair threw the table aside with a strong push and lunged across the space. Cailan swung back with the tankard in one hand and threw it forward, still clutched in his fingers. The wood and metal scratched Alistair's face. He heard a soft crack and closed his eyes.

He stood for a moment, tasting blood on his tongue and feeling it drip down his face. He touched his cheek and followed the line of his face up to his eyebrow. He hissed, touching his fingers across an open wound.

"Andraste's Grace! Alistair!" Teagan gaped passing between a stunned Maric and Cailan to see to him. "Let me see."

"I'm fine, Teagan." Alistair assured him, smiling. He made himself laugh through the sharp pain as if to prove a point. He turned to see his father unhurt, staring at him with wide eyes. And Cailan barely comprehending what he had tried to do and done. The tankard sat on the ground, Cailan's hand open and shaking. Alistair saw his brother's eyes were wide, his pupils almost pin pricks.

Approaching him, Alistair wrapped his hand around the back of his brother's neck. "Cailan." He shook him gently. "Cailan."

"Alistair?" His brother blinked owlishly. "Alistair, Maker. I didn't mean to--"

"It's fine." Alistair promised. "Things got a bit heated, that's all." He smeared the blood dripping from his eyebrow across his forehead and grinned. "I'm fine. I've had worse from you during sparring matches. This is nothing."

Cailan gave a sharp, breathless laugh. He pushed his hands through his hair, his voice shaking when he exhaled. "Maybe Roselyn likes scars."

"Maybe." Alistair's lips quirked into a soft smile. He would have to find a way to explain the injury to her the next day. He hoped she wouldn't be upset. Turning to his father, Alistair saw Maric had calmed a little. His shoulders were no longer ridged, his body was less wound up and tense. "I think we should go back to the palace, Your Majesty."

Maric stared at him for several long, tense seconds. Alistair looked back, not cowering from his father's gaze. Maric was staring at him like he was looking at a different person, seeing him for the first time. Often, Alistair saw little in his father's eyes when it came to him except a sense of loss and sadness. Now there was something else, a small glimmer of respect. Alistair had impressed him in a way that his victories in tourneys never had.

"Good idea," agreed Maric with a curt nod. "We'll get one of the healers to look at that for you."

"It doesn't bother me."

"Be that as it may, Alistair," Maric grabbed Cailan's arm where he lurched. He helped wrap it around Teagan's shoulders in order support Cailan's swaying body. "Your wife won't thank me for letting you get married with a black eye and a scar."

"Really," Alistair protested, "I don't want to wake anyone when we get back to the palace."

"Alistair," Maric turned to him, "learn when you're beaten." They both watched Teagan heave Cailan out of the room and towards the door of the Pearl. Alistair hoped the cold night air would help in sobering his brother. "Thank you for stepping in." Maric said, not looking at him.

"You're my father and the King." Alistair explained awkwardly and shrugged. "What else what I meant to do?"

"Hm." Maric rocked on the balls of his feet, a habit Alistair also had. "Don't do it again. I don't need you to you to protect me. I'm not a frail old man."

"I... I know that."

"Cailan needs to learn he can't get away with whatever he wants," explained Maric. "If he had struck me, he would have finally learned his lesson. You stepping in and playing hero..."

Alistair clenched his hands at his side, digging his nails into the palms of his hands. Anger pushed the blood through his veins, made his ears burn and the sound of his heart beat akin to that of thunder in his ears. "I won't do it again," he told his father through gritted teeth.

"Good." Maric started walking and summoned the guards with him. "Let's get you back so you're bright for the wedding tomorrow."

Watching his father depart for a moment, Alistair released a breath he had been unaware he was holding. He gathered up the table that he had pushed aside, and also his chair setting them both straight. He tucked the other chairs underneath the table and placed each tankard on the surface in a neat group for ease of clearing. He apologised to the waitress who came to tidy as he was finishing up.

Once calmer, he ruffled his hands through his hair, and followed Maric outside.
Title: What Lies Behind The Throne. Chapter 5/???
Author: blustersquall
Game: Dragon Age: Alternate Universe
Characters/pairing: Alistair x Cousland
Disclaimer: Dragon Age is the property of Bioware, as is Alistair and any other characters mentioned within this piece. Roselyn Cousland is my creation, under the Dragon Age: Origins player character, Cousland.

AO3 Link // FF.net Link // Tumblr Link

:bulletred: First Chapter
:bulletred: Previous Chapter

- Massive credit to my beta readers, razerathane and bluvixen Who are magnificent birds of paradise.

- Chapter Rating: T

- Summary: Roselyn is able to offload some of her worries about her impending wedding to Anora, and steals a brief moment alone with her future husband. Alistair’s last night as a bachelor ends in raised voices and blood.

- Cover credit to Pri0r


Third chapter! I hope you guys enjoyed it! Let me know what you think. <3
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:iconqueen-scribbles:
queen-scribbles Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2015
I just... WOW. One of the few things I love more than sweet, blushing 'I want this to be right' Alistair is 'on the warpath to defend his lady(either her honor or her, physically)' Alistair, and I got both in this chapter. :happybounce:

Also, "Kissing compatibility is very important. So I'm told by a reliable source." may be one of the most Alistair lines ever written. It's so perfectly him.
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:iconbluster-squall:
bluster-squall Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2016  Hobbyist Artist
Haha, I love that kissing compatibility line. I was very pleased with how Alistair it sounded when I wrote it. XD

I loooove defensive and assertive Alistair. Mhm. Yummy. (Super late reply is super super late because I suck).
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:iconqueen-scribbles:
queen-scribbles Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2016
It's one of those lines I read in the character's voice it was so perfect(for the record, all of Alistair in this fic is in his voice, cuz you've nailed his characterization so perfectly).

It is a crazy turn on when he gets assertive/protective, that's for damn sure. (You absolutely don't suck, especially in comparison to me XD)
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:iconsoldiermom1973:
soldiermom1973 Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2015
The little bit I saw of Cailin in Origins I grew quite fond of him.  I pictured his marriage to Anora as a fairy tale to start & then things turning sour when they couldn't conceive.  I imagine that if he knew about Alistair, they would be really close.  However, I can totally see him behaving like this if the things you've written actually had happened.  And I wasn't fond of Anora in the game (I think I mentioned that in another comment) but I really love how you've made her like a sister for Roselyn.  I'm looking forward to the wedding & even more so the wedding night.
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