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Title: Paradise by the Dashboard Light
Fandom: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
Theme: #26, “I never say the truth”
Characters and Relationship: Nathaniel Howe/Moira Cousland, romantic
Rating: PG-ish for tipsy Wardens, kissy faces and wandering hands
Summary: In vino veritas - explanations as to when lampposts have been licked are exposed.


Moira came to the conclusion that it was entirely Anders’ fault that the room was spinning pleasantly around her after her third – third? Fourth? She’d lost count – cup of wine. He had been the one to remind Nathaniel of the vintage spirits that they’d found in the cellars, and Nathaniel hadn’t objected to opening up a bottle or two.

Moira changed her mind. It was Nathaniel’s fault that the room was spinning, especially since he was in the middle of pouring another cup for her. “We’re going to regret this in the morning,” she said, pleased that her words hadn’t slurred too badly.

“You only live once, Commander,” he replied. Nathaniel hadn’t quite imbibed as much as she had; he was still nursing his first glass compared to the upturned glasses currently sitting in front of her. He, Moira, Anders and Oghren had wandered into the Keep’s rarely used Great Hall at least two hours ago. Now Anders was laying down on the dining table, his foot swinging off the edge, Oghren was last seen falling under the table, Moira was perilously close to slipping out of her chair, and Nathaniel was the only sober one in the group.

It was no wonder that Velanna or Justice didn’t want to have anything to do with them in the off hours.

“I think,” Anders started, still staring at the ceiling. “That we should play a game.”

Oghren’s voice floated up from somewhere near the floor. “If you say pin the nug on the gunlock, I’m gonna have to sit this one out.”

Moira’s eyebrow rose. “Do I even want to ask?”

“It was a painful disaster. Let’s leave it at that.”

“No,” Anders continued. “What I was thinking was that we do a little round of getting to know one another better. Someone asks a question and then everyone answers. The last person to answer gets to ask the next question.” He sat up, disturbing Ser Pounce-a-Lot from his napping spot on the mage’s chest. “I’ll start. What is your favorite color?”

“This doesn’t sound like much of a game,” Nathaniel said, taking another sip of his wine.

“All the same, you have to answer.”

Nathaniel rolled his eyes. “Green.”

“As you can tell by my robes, it’s yellow.”

“Blue.”

Anders leaned on his elbow. “What, not red?”

Moira shrugged. “I see too much red as it is on a near daily basis.”

There was a belch from under the table. “What color is ale?”

***

“All right,” Anders said, opening up another bottle. “Let’s get to the harder questions.” They had already been playing for several turns and the questions had ranged from easy, silly one word answers to the little more complicated ‘there’s a story behind this’ ones. “Who was the first person you ever kissed?”

Moira was in the middle of looking into the depths of her glass when the question was asked. “If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought we’d just been invited to a slumber party.” She had tried to limit her drinks several turns ago, but her head was still fuzzy. “If anyone suggests sitting in a circle braiding each other’s hair and giggling over shoes, I’m leaving.”

“Hey, the question’s a good one. Who was the first boy you ever kissed?”

Moira tilted her head and Nathaniel leaned forward, interested in what she had to say. “That would have had to have been Roland Gilmore. I was twelve, he was fifteen.”

Anders rubbed his hands together in glee. “Oho! An older man! So, what was it like?”

“Messy. I was wondering just what was so interesting about kissing, so I caught him unaware one day in the stables.” She smiled at the memory. He had been so intent on grooming one of the horses that he hadn’t heard her approach. “I got his attention, and when he turned to see what I wanted, I kissed him.” Actually, she had smashed her mouth to his so hard that their teeth had clacked together and the look of abject fright on his face had been comical. “It wasn’t quite what I had expected and I was almost turned off from the whole kissing thing completely.”

“Hopefully there was someone out there that made you reconsider?”

Nathaniel frowned. “Anders, that’s a second question.”

“But it goes with the first.”

Moira swirled the wine left in her glass. “I don’t think this is part of the rules, but I’ll go ahead and indulge you. Yes, there was someone who proved to me that there was something to be said about the whole thing.” Nathaniel swore that Moira’s eyes flickered over to him before quickly looking back down. “His father was a… friend of the family’s. I was sixteen, he was eighteen.”

Anders smirked. “Does this boy have a name?”

Moira opened her mouth, then closed it. “William,” she finally settled on, the tops of her cheeks turning pink as she stole a glance at Nathaniel again. “He found me in my father’s library. One minute we were discussing books and the next…”

Nathaniel took a deep drink from his glass and fought against the smile that tugged on his lips. She had never been a good liar, or at least she had never been able to lie successfully to him, but the other two people were too far gone to notice. He knew what occasion she was talking about. Fergus had been busy touring the lands surrounding Highever with Teyrn Bryce and for lack of anything better to do in the meantime, Nathaniel had wandered the castle, stumbling across Moira reading a book in the library. He recalled that they had wound up talking about a book featuring Ser William’s adventures that was a mutual favorite of theirs, and he could clearly remember the moment that he had decided to take a risk and press his lips against hers. The worst thing that could have happened was that she would have slapped him and then let her brother beat him up, but he had been amazed when she kissed him back.

“That’s all well and good, but I’ve always wanted to know about something,” Oghren said, sitting down on a bench at the opposite side of the table.

“What would that be?”

“You and Alistair. The two of you ever tap the midnight still?”

Moira’s brow furrowed in confusion before the dwarf’s words finally filtered into her brain. “Tapped the…” she paused, thinking the schematics out, and then laughed out loud. She hugged her ribs and slapped her hand against the tabletop. “I can honestly say that I have never tapped anything with Alistair,” she finally said, still giggling as she wiped tears away from the corner of her eye.

“Not even with the whole end of the world business? Not wanting to die without one last boot knocking?”

“You have the oddest way with words,” Nathaniel commented, pouring himself another glass. He had no right to, but he quickly found himself jealous of Ferelden’s king. He drained his glass in one swallow.

“Please,” Moira said. “Don’t get him started. I think at one time he had a whole list of euphemisms thought out.” She leaned against Nathaniel and whispered conspiratorially. “Forging the moaning statue has always been a personal favorite of mine.”

Oghren harrumphed. “Better than licking lampposts, I bet.”

She gasped, covering her mouth with her hand. “You heard that one?”

Game forgotten, Nathaniel turned towards Moira. “Now that sounds like there’s a story attached.”

Moira’s face was quite red now, and Nathaniel guessed that it had nothing to do with the wine. “Well,” she started, tracing the wood grain on the table with a fingernail. “One night while we were on watch, Alistair and I got to talking. I can’t exactly remember how the subject came up, but I asked him if he’d ever…” she gestured with her hands. “You know, and the lamppost reference was born.”

“And had he?” Nathaniel asked, glancing at the table. It was a shame that Anders had already passed out; he was missing the best part of the evening.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” Moira said, sitting up and looking as prim as a person who was more than slightly tipsy could look. “Who knows what might make it into the Royal Biography. The only thing I can say about that conversation was that he asked me the same question and I told him that yes, I had indeed licked a lamppost in winter once.”

“Always knew you were a saucy little minx,” Oghren chortled. “So, who was the lucky guy?”

“William,” she said again. “He made quite an impression on me when we shared our first kiss, so I decided to keep him around. I was eighteen.” She closed her eyes and put a hand to her forehead. It had happened the evening before Nathaniel had been scheduled to leave and she had snuck into his bedroom. The memory of that night and the way that his hands and lips had skimmed across her body in an almost reverent fashion was enough to make her breath hitch. The fact that Nathaniel was sitting so close that she could feel the warmth from his body didn’t do a thing for her composure.

“Are you all right?” Nathaniel asked, reaching out and touching her elbow.

“I’m fine,” she told him. She finally had an opening to leave before she said anything more revealing she’d regret in the morning. “I think I might have to have to call it an evening.” She stood up from the bench and had to catch herself on the table when the room decided to sway perilously.

“Perhaps I should walk you back to your room,” Nathaniel offered, standing up as well.

“The two of you are a bunch of lightweights,” Oghren said, reaching out and drinking straight from the bottle of wine. He looked pointedly at Anders, who was now snoring softly atop the table. “And this one is the worst.”

Moira laughed as she and Nathaniel walked away. They didn’t say anything until they were standing in front of Moira’s bedroom. “Thank you for walking me back,” she said, leaning against the closed door.

“It was my pleasure.” He knew in the back of his mind that he probably shouldn’t say anything more, but the wine had addled his brain enough that he didn’t care. “So, this William…”

She blushed. “What of him?” She opened her door and went inside. She didn’t have to turn to know that Nathaniel had followed her in, but she still jumped when she heard the door close behind them and the lock quietly catch. Her heart thumped in her chest and it felt as if her skin was a size too tight, especially when she felt his breath at the back of her neck. She wished that she was in something a little more feminine besides the plain shirt and breeches she had tossed on earlier in the afternoon, but somehow she didn’t think that he cared what she was wearing.

“Did you find him handsome?” Nathaniel moved until he had her cornered against a bedpost, one of his hands resting on the wood above her head. As close as he was, the faint lavender scent she always wore was making his head pleasantly spin and he could feel the warmth of her body through their clothes. Not for the first time, he was grateful that they neglected to wear armor while they were off-duty.

She turned around to face him and licked her lips, watching as his eyes focused on her mouth. “Indeed. He had the most striking eyes, and hair that I loved to run my fingers through.”

“Anything else?” I should leave, he thought. I shouldn’t be taking advantage of her in this state, I should be a gentleman… All thoughts flew out of his head when she reached out and slowly slid her hands up his chest, her fingers catching on the laces to his tunic.

“The way he kissed me made me go up in flames.”

He really couldn’t help himself. With a low moan, he closed the small space left between them, his mouth moving hungrily over hers. Her arms linked around his neck, pulling him closer to her while his hands clutched at her hips. She tilted her head back, gasping for air while he burned a trail down her throat with his teeth and tongue before capturing her mouth again. They might have only had the one night together, but the taste of her mouth was familiar and eight years hadn’t dulled his memory as to which places on her body to touch in order to make her tremble and gasp against him.

“Oh, Nate,” she cried out, arching her back when his hand fully cupped her breast. “Please.” It was her plea that brought him back to his senses. They had somehow made it onto the bed, his weight balanced on his elbow and her legs wrapped around his hips. She had managed to take off his shirt and the feel of her fingers against his bare skin made him shiver. Her own shirt was partially unlaced, baring a swath of soft skin and her hair was spread out like a dark sunburst against her pillow. This is what he had dreamt of for weeks, but now that it was a reality, he knew that the timing was all wrong.

He groaned, carefully untangling himself from her legs and sitting on the edge of the bed. “We can’t do this,” he rasped, his voice caught in his throat as he raked his fingers through his hair in frustration. “Not now.”

She stared up at the ceiling, not bothering to close her shirt so that it wouldn’t expose one pale shoulder. “You don’t want me.” His heart sank when he saw her eyes glisten with unshed tears.

“It isn’t that,” he whispered, leaning over her, his hands stroking her cheeks. “I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life.” He lightly kissed the corner of her mouth before moving up to catch her earlobe in his teeth. Even though he knew that it would be best if he left, the idea of not touching her, even for a little while, physically hurt. “You have no idea how hard it is to be a gentleman right now, when all I want is to make love to you.”

“Then don’t be one,” she told him, moving her head so that she could reach his mouth. He closed his eyes and momentarily gave himself over, his hands sinking into her hair to hold her in place. He should have thought to pin her arms; her dexterity picked an opportune time to come back as she deftly plucked at the laces to his trousers, cupping him through the cloth and making him groan and thrust helplessly against her hands. Lost to sensation, he bent his head and paid attention to her breast, his tongue running across the peak that strained underneath her shirt. She gave a high, keening cry and arched up towards his mouth in response, freeing one of her hands to clutch desperately at his hair almost to the point of pain. Panting, he leaned back and looked down at her face. Her lips were swollen from his attentions, but her eyes were unfocused due to the wine.

“You won’t remember this in the morning,” he said, kissing her forehead before getting up and starting towards the door, stopping only to retrieve his fallen shirt. “When we do finish this, and we will, I want us both to be able to recall everything.” He was going to say something else, but he noticed that Moira’s eyes had already slid closed and her breathing was deep and even. Sighing, he grabbed a thin blanket from the foot of the bed and draped it over her, his fingers gently combing her hair out of her face before walking out, silently shutting the door behind him.

***

Moira moaned at the way the morning sunlight filtered into her bedroom window. Her head ached as if an ogre had just finished stomping on top of her skull and she had an unpleasant taste in her mouth. Very carefully, she wiggled her way out of the previous evening’s clothing and slipped a dress over her head before making her way downstairs to the throne room, her stomach protesting any sudden movement. Maker, but she hadn’t overindulged like that since…well, since ever. She’d always had a weak tolerance to alcohol.

At least she wasn’t the only one suffering the ill effects of the previous evening. Anders looked like something Ser Pounce-a-Lot had dragged in, his hair loose and the stubble on his jaw looking thicker than usual.

“Feeling all right, Commander?” Nathaniel appeared at her side, holding a large glass of water. Clearly, he hadn’t suffered any harm from the night before, seeing as he was standing before her looking awake and alert. He pressed the glass against her hands and she gratefully took it, downing it in several gulps. “Now drink this,” he said, handing her a small vial filled with something thick and dark.

“What is it?” she asked, looking at it skeptically. She took a tentative sniff, not recognizing anything except the sharp herbal scent of elfroot over the pungent odor of something else that smelled strongly of sulfur.

“The men in the Free Marches used to swear by this as a remedy for hangovers. I’ve never had an occasion to use it, but I have seen how quickly it works.”

Moira tilted her head back and swallowed the vial’s contents. “Ugh!” she coughed. “It tastes vile.”

He bit back a laugh at the expression on her face. “But your head is clearing, isn’t it?”

Moira blinked, realizing that her headache had already diminished in size. Something was nagging her about the night before, but she was almost afraid to ask. “Last night,” she said, walking with Nathaniel to his customary spot in the corner, “I didn’t do anything…odd?”

He smirked. “What? Besides stripping to your smallclothes and running about the courtyard?”

She let out an exasperated sigh at his teasing tone. “I’m serious. The evening’s events are a bit of a blur, especially at the very last.” She twisted her fingers together. “I didn’t happen to take advantage of you, did I?”

He grinned. “I don’t think it was possible for you to have managed a seduction attempt on anyone. You were having a hard enough time merely trying to stay on two feet.”

“So, we didn’t…” she leaned in closer to him, her eyes darting out to see if they had any onlookers paying attention. “I didn’t kiss you last night?”

Nathaniel tilted his head and stared down at her. He had several choices: the first would be to tell her the truth and see what her reaction would be. His strategy for courting her had consisted of mostly compliments and small gifts, nothing overtly physical. They’d all been so keyed up with the darkspawn threat that he feared anything more would cause her to shy away, thinking that his intentions were linked to that instead of him being genuinely interested in her. The second choice would be to lie, to tell her that after walking her back to her room, he had retired to his. It had the possibility of backfiring on him, should she remember anything later on. Then there was the third option…

“Nathaniel?”

He smiled. The third choice was to slightly stretch the truth. “No, you didn’t kiss me last night.” That was the truth; he had been the one to kiss her, not the other way around. His eyebrow arched at the relieved sigh that slipped past her lips. She just didn’t have to know about it. “The only way that would have happened would have been due to some particularly naughty dream you had.”

She blushed, a nervous sounding laugh spilling from her lips. “That must have been it.”

His eyes gleamed. “Then I’ll consider myself flattered that I was the star of your evening.” He couldn’t let the opportunity pass. Stepping closer until there was hardly any room between them, he traced the outside edge of her arm with a finger. “Tell me; was it at least enjoyable for you?”

Moira bit her lip and wondered just when Nathaniel had gotten so bold. Besides the incident when she had given him his grandfather’s bow, he normally refrained from the casual, harmless flirting that she and the other members of their group often indulged in from time to time. To be the object of such banter from him made her stomach dance in nervous knots just like it had when she was a teenager. “I think it was,” she told him, her head pleasantly spinning from his close proximity and the scent of leather that always seemed to cling to him. “Although it was such a brief encounter that I’ll have to revisit that dream to be certain.” With that, she gave him a wink and walked towards the main dais where her seneschal was already standing, the day’s paperwork in his hands. If she put a little bit more sway in her hips than usual, Nathaniel’s rarely heard yet deep, appreciative chuckle was well worth it.

She felt safe enough with her back to Nathaniel to rub at the neckline of her dress. Her clothing covered it up, but while getting dressed, she had spotted a small mark right near the center of her breast. It could have come from her armor, but she couldn’t remember it being there before the morning and it vaguely looked like a faint outline of teeth. Hazy memories flitted through her mind and she could have sworn that she could still feel Nathaniel’s hands on her body and his mouth against hers.

Next time, she swore, greeting Varel and taking the papers he offered her. I’m going to make sure that I remember. She pressed her lips together, feeling them tingle and shot another glance towards Nathaniel. He never could lie well to me.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
annikainen
Jun. 17th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
You... you... naughty person, you! If they soon won't do it I'll probably explode. And work on a kiss meme between my Cousland and Nathaniel X)
iceprincessd
Jun. 18th, 2010 02:40 am (UTC)
I love the kiss meme you've got going on! It's very cute!

If they soon won't do it I'll probably explode.

Ack! No exploding! It's an awful mess to clean up, and nobody wants to do that, right? :) I'd try to get them to hurry up with it, but apparently they're stalling for a few more chapters.
annikainen
Jun. 18th, 2010 11:18 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'll have it done today, I suppose. :D

Ok, I'll try to refrain from exploding... As long as something eventually happens.

I recognise the giggling effect, though... I get that a lot when I'm trying to do completely serious smut... XD
annikainen
Jun. 22nd, 2010 07:51 pm (UTC)
iceprincessd
Jun. 23rd, 2010 01:55 am (UTC)
I'll have you know that it's now acting as wallpaper for my laptop. :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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