"Once"
Dragon Age I Fan Fiction Pairing: Alistair x Female Warden (Ayisha) Summary: The party is not supposed to be this painful.. 
-1-
 
It’s been five years since Ayisha has been in Fereldan, and in Denerim. Her feet feel strange on the land where she helped protected. She looks around and smiles a little despite her injury. It seems like the king has done well for his kingdom. The city is bustling. The people are mostly smiling and looking friendly.

She wasn’t wrong about the fact that Alistair would be a fantastic ruler.

The first night after the landmeet, after he gently told her that he needed to be a good ruler, and that included leaving her, she had been heart-broken. She blamed everything. She blamed herself for telling him to be the king because if she didn’t, then they’d still be together.

But after a while, she realized how childish that thought was. It wasn’t about her. Never was.

Alistair, despite how much he said otherwise, he wanted to be king. It was his wish, and she knew that. That was why she supported him. She loved him and she wanted him to be more confident and assertive over what he wanted, a concept he never knew he could grasp as the hidden child of the late King Maric.

It was time for him to decide what he wanted, not what people wanted of him, and he wish to be Fereldan’s ruler, so who was she to deny him that?

So she didn’t, not even when they had to break apart because of that ambition.

“Maker, look! Is that the hero of Fereldan?”

The murmurs start to break out; Ayisha blinks and hurries her steps. It has been ages since she steps inside these walls, yet it seems like people are not going to forget her face that easily like she has hoped.

Saving the entire kingdom from the Achedemon and survives is probably a big deal, she believes.

That doesn’t matter for now, though.

She has a party to attend, after all.




 
He still looks the same, yet so different.

At least that what’s she has gathered from a quick look over the king of Fereldan, anyway. He is standing in the left sided-center of the room, next to his queen. The former princess of Orlais. She doesn’t look so boastful like others, and has a gentle smile lit on her face most of the time.

She has long, brown curls, and big, wistful blue eyes. Her clothing is not so overly colorful, and looks really tamed yet also very stood out because of its tameness.

She looks like a ruler.

She looks perfect, standing next to the Fereldan’s king.

Ayisha looks down on herself; she is still in her armor. The best possibly armor in the land, but still only an armor. Usually, she adores the suit tp death because it saved her ass time and time again, but right now, it only looks too cold and too hard. Too unfeminine. It’s not remotely beautiful.

She gulps down the wine, already wishing for the second glass.

Ayisha risks another glance to Alistair’s way, and observes his forms silently and discreetly. He still looks almost the same in her eyes, physically.

But in other senses? He looks like a total stranger.

She doesn’t dare go near him. The fact that they used to be lovers is not exactly a secret thanks to Leliana’s ballad, and she can feel other guests’ curiosities prick the back of her head heatedly. They probably wonder if she still has feelings for their king, perhaps.

Or maybe they are just really hungry for gossips.

Probably the latter.

She pretends not to notice all the scrutiny everybody in the party keeps throwing her way, and nurse her second glass of wine in her hands. She probably should go and talk to somebody here. But she doesn’t know anyone.

It’s a party to honor the end of the fifth blight, to honor her, and yet Ayisha didn’t have it in her heart to care.

She feels strangely alone.

She really needs to get out of here.

So, during the dance when everybody is busy with talking, laughing, and dancing with their partners, she slips away.


 
She slipped away.

She can’t go anywhere further than the garden outside, though.

The sky is clear and bright, full of stars and the moon shines starkly contrast to the darkness all around. The moonlight is the only thing except for the lights from the ballroom that keeps the area seeable.

She should feet at peace, but she doesn’t.

“I knew this party is a bad idea,” Ayisha rubs her forehead tiredly. “Should have gone to Free Marches instead.”

“Free Marches, you plan to go there?”

The sudden voice almost makes Ayisha jump and spin around to deal with its owner, but then its familiar texture stops her from beheading the fellow.

“Alistair? I mean, Your Majesty, wha – what,”

“Calm down, Ayisha.”

The Warden Commander straightens her back, knowing she is in deep shit when her name on his lip sends tingle down her spin, like it has always done years ago. Damn.

“Your Majesty, you shouldn’t be out here. It’s too dangerous.” The woman warns the King the moment that she gets over her shock. Her voice is clipped and terse while her eyes narrowing in slight irritation with the man’s reckless behavior.

“Who would dare to harm me when I am standing next to the feared Warden Commander?”

His playful tone, so familiar that it hurts, only seems to deepen her annoyance with the man. She doesn’t want to see him right now, not when –

Not when she just realizes she still loves him.

After all these years, after all those flings, all those men to her bed, she still loves this man. The man who is the king, and married.

And the fact twists her heart in torturous momentum, making her eyes sting and her jaws clenched.

She should have seen this coming, the revelation, she should have known.

Damn it, she shouldn’t be here.

“I need a drink,” she murmurs and moves, intending to walk past the king back into the ballroom. She doesn’t care if right now she appears too stern or unfriendly, she doesn’t even care if the king think her annoyance is treason, she doesn’t want to stand next to him. He is just too close for her to bear at the moment, she needs to get away.

She can hear his breathing, she can feel his taint. Inside of him. Calling out to her.

She has gotten used to the tainted people ever since she joined the Grey Warden in Amaranthine. She has been near many, and when she said many, she literary meant many.

However, none has ever made her feel like Alistair’s did.

Safe and secured.

Warm and loved.

But right now, it is anxiety, it is fear. It hurts that the taint, his presence, makes her feel like this. 

She cannot bear it, cannot bear how things so vile can be so familiar and so warm. 
 

But more than that –

It hammers the truth home, it makes her realizes one fact that she unknowingly avoided.

Everything is not the same.

She thought she could do it. That was why she agreed to come here in the first place.

She could not.

She cannot stand there and talk to him. Not anymore.

Well, she should have known that Alistair would not let her go that easily and anticipated the protest; maybe she could have escaped his tight grip on her forearms then.



-2-

His life is good.

He is a good king, or at least believes himself to be. He married a good wife. She is even a good queen, always ready to hear about the kingdom’s problems and discusses them with him with that gentle voice of hers. And she bears him an heir, a boy.

The prince would turn three this fall.

Alistair loves the boy, his son, very much. He is a smart lad, that is for certain. Smart and handsome just like his mother is.

Of course, he is fond of the queen, too.

She does not question why he wakes up sweaty, gasping and shivering in the middle of the night, she merely sits there with him until he calms down, and then goes back to sleep herself with her arms around his stomach.

She also never questions him about the old, wilted rose kept in glass, hiding inside the desk in his study. She saw it, but she never asked him what it is.

He explains to her briefly, once, that the nightmares he keeps having are all because of the taint he carries inside his body. What he didn’t say was, however, the fact there are some dreams that made him feel hurt and pained even more than those darkspawns nightmares.

It’s the dreams that involve her.

Sometimes the dream’s about her dying. Somewhere. Sometimes. Some place where he could not go. And she is all alone. Dying and bleeding profusely, all alone. Without her companions, without him. She cried, her tears red like blood and she reaches out for him, but he could never go to her side like he desperately wanted to.

He was always chained there, watching as the life seems to seep out of her body agonizingly slow. Her eyes become dull. Her breathing stops. Her arms drop to her side.

He always woke up then, and proceeded to feel incredibly dirty with the way the Queen arms draped over his torso. He knew he should not think such sinful things, but at the moment, he would give anything to see all those messy hair and lean body of the lover he left behind.

Other time, it hurts even worse because it is not just a nightmare. 
 
They are the memories of the time when they, Alistair and Ayisha, were still together day and night, young and blissfully naïve from all other responsibilities in the world other than killing those monsters.

Her laughs. Her smirks. Her teasing. Her smiles.

He remembers their first kiss, their secretive glances and their loving embraces. He remembers them all.

Those memories, they lull him to the sense of belonging, of security. Then it drags him away, throwing him harshly into the real world when the sun creeps into the room.

He realizes, his life without her continues.

It numbs him for the rest of the day.

Every day he thinks that maybe – maybe he does not deserve the wonderful woman he calls his queen, maybe he is too lucky already. So, he promised her that he would never stray. While he could, he would never commit adultery. It is the only thing he could do for his good, poor wife.


(He should have known that Ayisha would come back to Denerim that year, stronger and more fragile, while at the same time more tired and more beautiful that he ever remembered)



The music is played, familiar sound that Alistair vaguely remembers from his journey across Fereldan, with his companions, with Ayisha.

Oh Ayisha, she is in his eyesight.

With great effort, Alistair manages to have mild interesting discussion about the kingdom affairs with his councils while sipping onto his wine – which he still does not think is tastier than Radcliff ale – with practiced manner which were drilled into him by his own advisor, the former Arl Eamon.

But even with his greatest restraint, Alistair still cannot stop himself from throwing glances in her direction. Ayisha is still standing alone, nursing the same shape of glass in her hands while looking around the ballroom with uncomfortable frown on her pale, worn out face.

Some would say that she disrespects the Fifth Blight anniversary with how she obviously does not bother to dress up for occasions, he heard some even had a gall to say that she is here to start a coup, but he does not care. He never agreed with other nobles about how brightly party-like this anniversary appears to be anyway, he never remembers the battle and his quest to be anything joyful.

There were deaths. Real deaths. Deaths of the people he cared about.

And yes, true, he has gained his kingship, but at the same time, he lost everything else. Was that called happy, lucky occasion? No. Not at all. But everyone seems to think that he must be so overjoyed with the way everything is so cheery.

Moreover, in his eyes, she is the most gorgeous girl in the room.

Maker, he misses her.

He excuses himself from the crowd when he saw her slipped from the ballroom out to the garden, his heart thumping loudly at the opportunity to talk - just talk, because he does not want to regain anything more than their old friendship back.

She narrows her eyes at him after she has gotten over her surprise, and he has to fight his hardest to fend off a grin and grimace that is trying to show up stupidly on his face because of the way the corner of her eyes tightens in obvious irritation. Ayisha he remembers never was good at hiding her emotions, after all.

He would have believed her cold demeanor if his eyes had not detected another thing, another hidden feelings that she hastily hid the moment she realized herself that he was standing in front of her. The familiar love that appeared made his whole world, even though the pain that was very apparent as well hurts him a great deal, too.

Still, he misses her. And he realizes right now how much he has craved her presence. Alistair longs to draw her into a soft and fierce embrace, to caress the soft scar on the edge of her beautiful face and to kiss her so deeply that it leaves her just as breathless as he would be, to ensure that she is really here in his sight.

That she is alive.

‘I would never betray you, my queen.’

His happiness falters.

She tries to escape.

‘Oh no, you don’t.’ He thought, catching her arm in his hand, and as she slowly turning her face to meet his desperate gaze with such strong intensity that might scare away lesser men, he realizes that her eyes look red. Like she is about to cry.

He lets her go quickly. 

He feels the familiar urge to cry, too. 
 
But no. He is the king. He cannot cry.

“Thank you.” She murmurs, and disappears.

Later, among the crowd, beside his wife, laughing with his advisors, Alistair is alone again.

 

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