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Sweet Dancer - 30_hugs prompt

Title: Sweet Dancer
Fandom: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
Theme: #15; sweet dreams
Characters and Relationship: Nathaniel Howe/Moira Cousland, romantic
Rating: G
Summary: Anders gets it into his head to play matchmaker, not realizing that his services aren’t required.
Note: After much wibbling over the issue, I’ve decided to have Antiva = Italy. It was either there or Spain, but the audio translator’s Italian pronunciation won me over. Any misspellings/lost-in-translations are my fault, though if anyone can give me a correct phrase where I/the free online translator went wrong, it would be greatly appreciated.


The sound of blades hitting padding dully reverberated throughout the garrison’s training circle. It had been nearly two full weeks without hearing any news of darkspawn; the scouts from Amaranthine had come up empty, as did the small two-person patrols Moira had organized all the other Wardens to perform in shifts. There was something in the air, as if there was something waiting off into the distance, ready to strike once everyone let their guard down. The feeling left everyone on edge, and it seemed as if Moira took her aggression out by beating the stuffing out of training dummies.

From his vantage point in the shadows, Nathaniel watched as Moira spun on her heel, her weapon shining in the sunlight. She’d forgone her secondary blade, choosing to train with a curved knife that looked to be foreign in design. She’d also discarded her armor, fighting in a pair of snugly fitting doeskin breeches and a light blue shirt instead. Nathaniel studied her movements. He had already noticed during the course of their travels that Moira fought in a graceful style akin to a deadly dance, but he’d never seen her perform something that was obviously choreographed before. She’d positioned three of the training dummies around her in a circle, giving herself at least a two foot radius between herself and their padded arms. She took several steps, her knife hand held above her head, and then bent the upper half of her body forward as she turned, striking out hard at the dummy’s unprotected ankle. Turning quickly again, she switched her grip and plunged the dagger into the dummy’s chest before pirouetting to her next victim. She palmed her knife in her hand, circling the dummy before jabbing the blade deep in the back where its kidneys would have been, jerking her arm upward and spilling sawdust over the dirt circle. Still turning, she danced over to the last dummy. She didn’t bother with anything fancy; she merely grabbed at the burlap sack acting as the thing’s head from behind with one hand and twisted, snapping its wooden dowel neck at the same time her dagger sliced through it. Panting, Moira sheathed her dagger and knelt to pick up the fallen dummies, setting them up again, this time in a different arrangement. The third one looked rather sad with its head hanging by a string at its chest and the second one’s ragged back looked like it had seen better days.

“It’s awful pretty, isn’t it?” Anders whispered, making Nathaniel jump slightly. “Hah, it seems like rogues aren’t the only ones that can sneak up on people; I’m surprised.”

“I’m going to make you wear your cat’s bell collar if you keep that up,” Nathaniel replied. He’d been so entranced by Moira’s dance that he hadn’t even noticed Anders come up. “And to answer, yes, it is incredibly pretty.”

“Deadly too. Don’t think I recognize the technique she’s using.”

Nathaniel frowned. “That is one of the many dances taught exclusively by the Antivan Crows. I had the opportunity to witness something like this during one of my scouting missions.” He stroked his chin, wondering who Moira might have learned it from. “Though there had been a lot more blood and dead bodies involved.” And a lot less clothing, his mind supplied. He let himself indulge in a brief fantasy of Moira wearing a tightly laced bodice that enhanced the swell of her breasts yet left her midriff bare and a skirt that swirled with every movement, showing off a long expanse of toned thigh.

“I can see where your head just went,” Anders said slyly, elbowing him out of his reverie. “Not that I blame you, our Commander is exceptionally lovely. I’m sure that she hears it all the time too.”

“What?”

“I happen to have intimate knowledge that Arl Teagan thinks that it must be a crime somewhere for someone as beautiful as she to remain single.”

Intimate meaning you happened to read one of the letters she left on her desk, I’ll wager,” he ground out, watching as Moira picked up a second dagger, her bare feet hardly leaving marks on the dirt as she spun in a tight circle. “Snooping isn’t quite honorable, is it?”

“Actually, she told me about it. Said that she found him handsome and pleasantly charming. In fact, she told me that in the two years she was at court that they were often paired up at galas and he proved to not only be an interesting conversationalist, but also an adept dancer. Rumor is that he’s still single as well.”

“He’s also twice her age. He’s old enough to be her father.” That was a lie, but Anders didn’t have to know that there was only a thirteen year age gap between Moira and Teagan.

“Since when has that stopped political marriages? Just think, a Guerrin and a Cousland match would ensure that the lands from here to Redcliffe are under the same rule. If you think about it, she’d practically rule all of Ferelden too, seeing that her brother is the only remaining Teyrn and her best friend is King.” Anders tapped a finger over his chin. “You know what? Forget Teagan. Queen Moira sounds particularly nice. She keeps on talking about Alistair; I feel as if I know him already. I think he’s a nice enough fellow, she could do much worse for a husband.”

Nathaniel blinked, realizing that he had bunched his hands into fists without knowing it. “You’re trying to see if I get jealous, aren’t you?” he asked, arching an eyebrow.

The broad grin and hands clasped innocently behind the mage’s back confirmed his suspicions. “I don’t know; are you?”

He scoffed. “Absolutely not. I have no reason to be.”

“Oh, don’t you now? And just what is going on with you and her anyway? When I asked her what the deal between you two was, all she said was that you’d worked through your differences.”

“That’s one way of putting it.”

Anders leaned closer. “And how would you put it?”

Nathaniel frowned. Clearly the man had no issues with personal space. “I…” He paused, staring at Moira. She’d thrown both of her knives into the center body mass of two different dummies and was performing a series of cartwheels towards them. His eyebrows rose; danza delle pale rotanti was one of the more elaborate of the knife dances he’d witnessed over the years, usually because the joining dancers would also be armed as well. “We’re friends.”

“Just friends?” Anders pressed. “Or friends-friends?”

“I don’t see how that’s any business of yours.” In truth, he didn’t know how to respond. While he wished that they could go back to what they once had eight years before, he wasn’t going to push Moira into anything. These past two weeks had been stressful as it was without him adding any pressure to jump into a relationship. He watched as she shook out her arms and took a more traditional knife fighting stance. The material of her shirt clung to the middle of her back, the fabric there just a little darker than the rest. His mind went back to his previous fantasy, thinking how beads of sweat would have slid down over her exposed skin and…

Maker’s breath, get a grip, Howe, he silently berated himself. Even as an untried youth you hadn’t been this easily distracted. He figured that he hadn’t been so distracted because he hadn’t known what had been underneath Moira Cousland’s clothing at the time. Eight years might have changed some things, but surely it hadn’t changed the fundamental shapes that he had memorized that night so long ago. “Why do you want to know anyway?”

Anders grinned. “Well, if you’re not involved, then I was going to make a run for her myself.”

Nathaniel rolled his eyes. “You’re not her type.”

“Then what’s her type, hmm?”

He fumbled for words. “Not…”

“Not…?”

“Not scruffy, tall mages, that’s what.” He frowned again, crossing his arms in front of him.

The grin had transformed into a full-blown smirk. “So, she doesn’t like tall guys? Perhaps I should go ask Oghren if there’s anything going on between them instead.”

“You are impossible to talk to.” Nathaniel uncrossed his arms and stalked towards the weapon stand. There was another pair of daggers hanging from the pegs - it might be good to take a page out of Moira’s book and vent some tension out by stabbing defenseless things with pointy objects. Besides, he needed to brush up on his knife work for times when close quarter combat nullified his bow.

“Need a sparring partner?” Moira asked, moving her hair out of her face.

“Only if you’re offering.” He picked out the daggers and spun one around in his hand. As was true for all the practice knives, the edges were blunted to prevent accidental stabbings between opponents. The fact that Moira had made a fine mess out of the practice models with similar blades told Nathaniel just how hard she had to have worked to get them to pierce the canvas bodies, even though her moves had all looked effortlessly easy.

She began to slowly circle him. “I wouldn’t have said anything otherwise.” Nathaniel patiently waited for her to make the first move before blocking it, his body remembering years of training without his brain having to tell it a single thing.

“You dance well,” he said, catching her blade with both of his.

The pink that colored her cheeks wasn’t from her exertions. “You were watching?” She stepped back and swept her right dagger towards his unarmored chest in a reverse grip.

“It was difficult not to. Who taught you?”

“A… friend from Antiva.” Zevran had been on her mind lately. He had openly flirted with her so often in their travels that she had developed a way to ignore his more seductive come-ons. She had hoped to do the same for Nathaniel, to deflect his praise and compliments until the task at hand was completed, but it was proving impossible to do. His words were too genuine to ignore, as were the silent looks from across a room that had her heart beating almost out of her chest and the casual touches that made her want to lean into his hands far more than what was proper. One of the main reasons she was even out on the training circle in the first place was because she had been cooped up in her study, staring at the same document for nearly an hour due to daydreaming about Nathaniel. She’d gotten fed up with the dreamy smile that seemed to be frozen on her face and had decided to work out some frustration. When she fought, all other thoughts emptied out of her head and for the first time in weeks, she’d been able to ignore the ghostly imprint of teeth at her neck or the memory of the taste of him on her lips.

Unfortunately, the training models took the brunt of her aggression; she’d left several in tatters.

Nathaniel lunged towards her, but she deftly darted out of his reach. “You move quite gracefully.”

Zevran had stayed on at the palace long enough for her to master several of the many knife dances the Crows had invented. She had been aware of their deadly endings, but to see Zevran perform had been breathtaking. It had taken months of constant practice, but he had finally nodded his head in approval. And to think, he had said, if this were Antiva, one of the Grand Masters would have appointed you an official Crow right about now. Then again, you would have had to have killed at least five of your fellow initiates with that last dance, so it is a good thing we are not in Antiva, yes? “I’m out of practice,” she replied, pivoting to avoid his left attack. She used his momentum to shove him to the side and away from her, but hadn’t counted on his fast reflexes. Quicker than she could blink, Nathaniel turned her defensive move into an offensive one, enveloping her in a restraining hold that immobilized her arms.

“Could have fooled me,” he told her, breathing heavily from their fight. No, he thought, Anders is definitely not her type. She’d wind up killing him within a week. His arms tightened around her and she couldn’t stop herself from melting into the hug, her body relaxing against his. “Do you yield?”

She turned her head, not surprised one bit that his mouth was now inches away from hers. “Best of three?” she asked, wanting nothing more than to rock herself up on the balls of her feet to close the gap between them. She didn’t, and he let her go, stepping far enough away so that he could circle her this time.

Anders, for his part, merely leaned against the garrison wall and stared at the two fighters. He entertained himself by conjuring up a heart shaped ball of flame at his fingertips before shaking it out and doing the same with a ball of ice. “Merely friends, my foot,” he said, shaking his head. He looked down to where Ser Pounce-a-Lot had wound his way around his ankles. “It looks as if our services won’t be needed after all, Pounce.” And here he had been looking forward to giving both Moira and Nathaniel none-too-subtle hints that the other was interested. Matching them together would have been so much fun, but… He refrained from using lightning, seeing that the crackle of electricity put Pounce’s fur on end. A peal of laughter had him looking back at the training ring, where both Wardens were now attacking the other seriously.

“Oh well,” he said, stooping down to pick up the kitten. Ser Pounce-a-Lot purred and made himself comfortable in Anders’ arms. “Watching the two of them bumble around the whole relationship process is just as entertaining.”

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
annikainen
Jun. 17th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
Yes yes yes! An update! Me like. <3 On to the next one...

And oh, ms. know-it-all and her meager skills in Italian present the following, minor correction: danza _delle_ pale rotanti. It's plural. :) (though if someone actually speaks italian and says it's otherwise, then I stand corrected too... But I think it's like that. I use the language in my profession but I read more fluently than produce.)
iceprincessd
Jun. 18th, 2010 02:37 am (UTC)
Ooh, thank you! I'm relying 100% on the online translator I found, so it's great to have someone that knows the language. :)
annikainen
Jun. 18th, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
:) Yay! Online translators tend to go a bit off here and there, I've seen hilarious stuff even in big screen films when people haven't bothered for a translator. I don't remember which film it was, but someone had faked a Finnish passport and the texts there were clearly from an online translator... It was all this suomi -lta passi -n valtio mess, because the babelfish doesn't understand suffixes. :D Of course the closer the languages are related, the better it works.

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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