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The Story - 30_hugs prompt

Title: The Story
Fandom: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
Theme: #2; rainbows and butterflies
Characters and Relationship: Nathaniel Howe/Moira Cousland, romantic
Rating: PG for vaguely described adult-type touching
Summary: “These stories don’t mean anything when you’ve got no one to tell them to”
Note: And this makes thirty. Claim complete. There will be an epilogue to follow.


Moira had purposely saved Alistair’s letter as the last one to open in her pile of correspondences. Her friend’s banter and humorous commentary on Denerim politics was just the thing to end a day with. Deciding to get out of her office for a little while and make the most out of the waning sunlight, Moira took his missive outside to the inner gardens, settling down on the stone bench before breaking the wax seal and reading his words.

Dear Moira, it began. Congratulations on surviving your first year as Arlessa of Amaranthine. It seems like yesterday that I was marching up to Vigil’s Keep in the rain with a cadre of Templars behind me, intent on welcoming our Orlesian brethren but finding you blood-spattered and surrounded by darkspawn bodies instead. You surely knew how to throw a welcome party back then, didn’t you?

Moira shook her head. So much had happened in a year that it seemed surreal at times. I’m pleased to hear from your last letter that your fair city is recovering well. Trade routes have flourished; I’m especially pleased to hear that several of your farmers are contemplating opening up a dairy farm. Artisanal cheeses from the northern portion of Ferelden will be a big seller, even if I’m their only customer. As requested, I’ve urged merchants from abroad to use Amaranthine as their harbor in hopes that trade with other nations will flourish just as well as trade within our territories.

My condolences on the death of Bann Esmerelle earlier this month. It’s a shame that she lost herself to despair and took her own life. If only she could have held on longer, she would have been able to see that things would soon look up. On another completely unrelated note, I received a visitor a few weeks ago of mutual acquaintance. He said to tell you “Ciao, cara mia” or something like that. I’m horrible with languages. My luck, I just wrote something vaguely obscene, especially considering the source.


She rolled her eyes. Zevran had taken his time, hiding in plain sight in Amaranthine as an Antivan dockhand in the harbor, listening and waiting until the right moment to strike, ridding Moira of another political ambush. He’d visited briefly with her afterwards, joking that now that their contract was completed that he might take to the seas for a time. He’d made several contacts during his months in town and he said that he was due for a change in scenery before heading back to Antiva. She’d laughed, telling him that he’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate, should he ever think of putting aside his assassin profession.

But really, do you honestly think that Amaranthine will recover within another two years? I’ll admit, your people are a resilient sort, but isn’t that estimation just a tad bit optimistic?

“Huh. I see that Eamon has managed to beat at least an ounce of sensibility into you.” She grinned. “Took him long enough.”

But let’s get down to the real reason I’ve written you. I thought you’d rather hear this bit of news straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, instead of from various gossips. I’m to marry. Moira’s breath went out in a large whoosh of air and she sat the letter aside. “Hah! I knew they wouldn’t leave you alone for too long!” she crowed, her grin growing larger. It’s not official, but it soon will be when we hold an engagement feast in five days. Say you’ll come, please? I want you to meet Gwen before everyone else does. It would mean so much to me, to us, really. She’s terrified that you’ll not like her, which I told her was impossible – she’s the type of person that no one could dislike; she’s kind and has this adorable way she scrunches up her nose when she laughs (she gets my jokes!) and she’s beautiful and…

Maker, stop me. I’m blathering about like a lovesick fool. I can’t help it; I
am a lovesick fool. Things haven’t been easy for her, especially seeing that she’s a Circle mage. I know what people will say, that I’m marrying her for political reasons only, but believe me, if things had been different and I would have just been a non-royal bastard who had been raised by dogs, I’d still want to marry her. I just…you’ve been one of the closest friends I’ve ever had. I want you to like her, so very much. Please, tell me that you’ll show up. I’ve already had the maid staff air out your old rooms. Once I told her about whom our fellow Wardens were, Gwen would also like to extend the invitation for Anders to attend the feast. Nathaniel is invited as well, though I just assumed that he would arrive with you, seeing as he is your Second-in-Command, not to mention the object of your kissy-faced adoration (your old rooms are large enough for two, which I also assumed would be the preferred sleeping arrangement.) You said that Oghren had taken off for a few months away from the Keep in favor of visiting his family. It’s too bad that he’s too far to make it in time. Then again, perhaps introducing Oghren to Gwen before the wedding might not be a good idea. She might have second thoughts about joining herself to a man who, when prompted, (and don’t think for a moment that Oghren wouldn’t egg me on!) can belch the alphabet backwards and forwards after a few tankards of ale. The careful illusion that I have some shred of class would be shattered and she’d run screaming back to the Tower.

I can’t wait for you to meet her. I can’t wait to see you again either. There is a matter that I wish to speak with you about that I think would be better said face to face instead of in letter format. And yes, I’m using that as a tantalizing teaser in order to get you back to the palace as well.

Until then,

Alistair


Moira carefully folded the letter back and stood up. Oh, like I wouldn’t miss this for the world, she thought, smiling and slowly shaking her head. Alistair in love. This she had to see for herself. The sun was going down behind the courtyard walls and servants were lighting lanterns along the hallways to combat the growing darkness. She made her way inside, where she knew Nathaniel would be busy at work in his study. He’d converted an informal receiving room in the wing closest to the garrison’s barracks as his office, taking furniture from storage and various other rooms and making the space his own.

“What’s so amusing?” Nathaniel asked, looking up from his recruitment list the moment she stepped in.

She made her way around the desk and slipped into his lap, sighing in contentment when his arms went around her. Giving him a quick peck to the lips, she tilted her head. “How does a vacation in Denerim sound?”

He stroked his hand over her knee. “How long of a vacation are you suggesting?”

“Oh, a week, perhaps two.” She ran her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck. “We’ve finally gotten to a point where I don’t think the whole place will fall apart without us if we decided to run away for a while.”

He snorted. “This place could run itself. You forget that Varel, Mistress Woolsey, and Captain Garevel were holding the Keep together for two years before you showed up.”

She shook her head. “Actually, I was banking on that. We don’t necessarily have to spend the entire two weeks in Denerim. I’d like to spend it traveling, just the two of us.” She nipped his earlobe. “Think of it as a one-year anniversary celebration.”

“I like the sound of that.” Nathaniel ran his hand higher along the outside of her thigh and kissed the side of her neck. “Yet why do I get the feeling that you’re not telling me everything?”

“Well, Anders would be coming along for at least part of the trip.” She cuddled closer against him and explained Alistair’s invitation.

“I don’t see how we could ignore a royal summons,” he reasoned. “It would be just plain rude, especially seeing how he asked us to show up so nicely.”

“You do like him, don’t you?” Moira asked, looking up at him. As much as it mattered to Alistair that she liked his choice of bride, it mattered to Moira that the people she cared the most for were on friendly terms with the other. The months following her near-fatal injury had seen a slowly closing rift between Nathaniel and her brother, which she was infinitely grateful for. There were still stilted conversations and awkward silences between the two of them whenever Fergus came to visit, but they were growing fewer in numbers than before.

“He’s not a bad sort of fellow, once you get past the wisecracks and in-jokes the two of you seem to share,” Nathaniel replied with a faint smile. “So, when are we to leave?”

“The feast isn’t for another few days. I’d like to spend as much time with them beforehand, but I think that leaving first thing tomorrow would be a bit abrupt on our end.” She draped her arms around his neck and shrugged. “How does the day after tomorrow sound?”

“I can clear my schedule by then. And you know that Anders has been having itchy traveling feet for a while now. I’m certain that his bag is already packed.” Nathaniel had caught the mage glancing off towards the distant horizon more often lately and he knew that Anders was on the verge of another walkabout. The last one he went on lasted a month, but he came back as quietly as he had left and resumed his duties as if he’d never even been gone. The only thing that had changed was the large, handprint shaped mark on his face from where Serena had slapped him for leaving without telling her. Nathaniel had his doubts that Anders had gone further than flirting with the Keep’s resident healer, but it had been obvious that Serena was starting to harbor feelings for him. She’d been moody the entire month Anders had been gone, and then she’d given him the cold shoulder for several days after his return, even though she’d treated everyone else around her with the same sweet disposition that she’d always done.

“The roads have been doing well,” Moira said, sliding off his lap. “It would probably be faster travelling by carriage this time of year.” Summer was well upon them and even though it wasn’t as hot as it probably could have been, the temperature made for miserable travel.

He gave her a skeptical look. “I don’t know. We haven’t tested the carriage out for long distances.” Honestly, the last time he’d been in thing was when he had been nineteen and his family had made semi-frequent visits to Highever. He could vaguely remember the experience, mostly because he hadn’t spent much time inside of it, preferring to ride alongside on horseback. He did remember that it had been packed for a family of five, which meant that his father had often ridden next to the carriage on his own horse, if only to try to alleviate some of the crowding.

Moira took hold of Nathaniel’s hands and tugged him out of his chair. “What’s so amusing?” she asked him, rising up on tiptoes to reach his lips.

“Nothing much,” he replied, smoothing his hands down the back of her dress and giving her behind an opportunistic squeeze that had her curling her fingers in his hair and gasping against his mouth. “But are you sure that the carriage is a good idea? I mean, it’ll be just the three of us.”

She shrugged. “I don’t see why not. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?”

***

“I’m dying,” Moira muttered, burying her face against Nathaniel’s shoulder. She groaned when the carriage pitched to the side, causing another wave of nausea to hit her.

“Well, you are a rather unusual shade of green, Commander,” Anders commented from the bench across from them, scratching Ser Pounce-a-Lot under the cat’s chin. Pounce looked up from his nap on his owner’s lap before shutting his eyes and ignoring the rest of his party. “But I highly doubt that you’re near death.”

“Some people just aren’t meant for travel by carriage,” Nathaniel explained, gently combing his fingers through her hair, his thumb rubbing in comforting circles around her temple. “It’s one of the main reasons I used to ride outside as a boy.” Thankfully he’d outgrown his motion sickness, but he knew the all too familiar discomfort that Moira was currently suffering through.

“We often traveled this way as a family; I’ve never been ill before.”

“Well, our family’s carriage wasn’t as good of quality as the Cousland one.”

“If you tell me ‘I told you so,’ I’m going to puke on your boots,” she mumbled, closing her eyes and clutching his tunic. “And that goes double for you, Mister I’ve Never Ridden In A Carriage Before But I Like it.”

Anders scoffed. “I’d never say such a thing,” he assured her, widening his eyes in feigned innocence. “But I do have to ask, are we there yet?”

Nathaniel let his head rest against the back of his seat, wondering if it were too late to try to escape to the relative safety of the carriage’s rooftop.

***

Moira was grateful when they stopped in the palace district. Nathaniel held out a hand to her, helping her exit out of the carriage with some semblance of grace. Had he not been there, she was certain that her legs would have collapsed underneath her.

“Not as green as you used to be,” Anders commented, tapping at her shoulder. She felt the effects of a rejuvenation spell hit her and she quirked her eyebrow.

“Couldn’t you have done that earlier?”

He shrugged. “It would have worn off and you’d have been even worse than before. We can’t have you looking half-dead before the king, now can we?”

She rolled her eyes, but straightened her shoulders and walked towards the castle, taking the time to say hello to the groomsmen who were currently taking care of their horses. She heard her two companions fall into step on either side behind her. They barely made it close to the throne room when Moira heard a familiar voice.

“There you are!” Alistair strode up to them, looking completely at ease in the castle. “We hadn’t heard word from you, so we weren’t expecting visitors tonight.” He stretched out his arms and Moira embraced him, inhaling the subtle hint of metal and honing oil that always seemed to cling to her friend.

“Sorry about that. We just figured that by the time the messenger carrying the letter advising you on our arrival would have gotten here, we would have been right behind them.” She stood back and looked over Alistair’s shoulder. There was a petite woman coming up to them, looking as if she were unsure if she should intrude.

Anders made up her mind for her. “Gwennie!” he said, his voice pleased. He grinned and gave her a low whistle. “Look at you, all dolled up. And to think, the last time I’d seen you, you’d been in the Tower’s greenhouses, elbow deep in potting soil.”

She smiled and shook her head. “Charming as ever,” she said, laughing as she twined her arm through Alistair’s. “The last time I saw you, you’d been planning yet another one of your escape attempts and hiding amongst the fertilizer.”

“Ah. I see that at least one of you knows who this is. For everyone else, may I present my betrothed, Gwendolyn Amell.” Alistair beamed at Gwen, who looked up at him with equal adoration before she faced their guests.

“Oh, none of that,” Moira interrupted, watching as Gwen dipped into a low curtsey. “You’re my best friend’s object of kissy-faced adoration,” she winked at Alistair, whose ears turned a bright shade of red at the way she turned his words back at him, “which makes you my new best friend. We don’t curtsey around here anyway. Come, I want to hear everything on how the two of you met.” She hooked her arm through Gwen’s free one, dragging her away towards the library.

“Oh, it’s great to see you again, Alistair.” Alistair said to their retreating backs, rolling his eyes. “Haven’t seen you in hardly a year; what have you been up to?”

Nathaniel snorted before adjusting his pack on his shoulder. “Get used to it. I’m certain that between the two of them, your betrothed will know far more embarrassing stories about you than you thought possible by the end of the evening.”

“I wouldn’t be so smug,” Anders said. “What makes you think that or dear Commander isn’t going to share the same sort of tales about you in return?”

“Speaking of smug, let’s not forget that they both know you well. You’re not immune either.”

There was a loud peal of laughter down the hallway, followed by Moira’s question of Anders did what? Nathaniel crossed his arms and smirked at the mage, noting that Alistair did the same. “Oh, damnation,” Anders groaned. “It’s far too late in the evening to listen; where’s my bedroom?”

***

It was late when Nathaniel woke up to the feeling of Moira slipping between the sheets behind him. “Well, what do you think of her?”

Moira curled her body behind his, her hand splaying over his chest. She smiled when his hand covered hers, his thumb rubbing over the back of her hand. “I adore her. I couldn’t have thought of anyone more perfect for Alistair if I had tried.”

“Ah. Good. Alistair spent a great deal of time worrying.” He turned to face her, propping himself up on an elbow. “Is everything all right with him? Did he mention anything else in his letter to you?”

She frowned. “Nothing comes to mind. Why?”

“He kept on asking me how things were going in Amaranthine. He seemed distracted, but he really wanted to know what my duties were there.”

“That’s not like him. I’ll talk to him tomorrow before the feast.” She shifted, tangling her legs with his. “I do hope you still remember how to dance.”

Nathaniel groaned. “Please tell me that there won’t be dancing involved.” He’d hated the precise waltzes even as a boy, feeling as if he’d acquired two left feet right in the middle of a complicated turn. He recalled sharing one dance with Moira when he had been seventeen. He’d been distracted by how pretty she had been, never knowing that the rosy blush that had streaked her cheeks had been because she had been infatuated with him for years and finally in his arms for the first time. He’d been struggling with his own infatuation with her for several months by then, and he could clearly remember being embarrassed beyond words when he’d stepped on her foot. She’d winced but never mentioned it and they wound up spending the rest of the song awkwardly swaying back and forth on the dance floor.

“It’s a feast, Nathaniel; of course there will be dancing.” She turned more until she was partially sprawled atop him. “And if it’s like any of the others, my dance card is going to get full rather quickly with men that I’d rather not spend an entire song making idle conversation with. I think Teagan has been invited; at least he’ll be a welcome break from the monotony.”

Nathaniel recalled Anders’ comment on how Moira and Teagan had been paired up for many dances and how Moira herself had commented on what an adept dancer the Arl had been. Frowning, he ran his hands over her sides, his fingers gathering the material of her nightdress up and over her thighs. “And you wish to risk having your feet stepped on yet again?” he asked, nudging her nose with his.

She smirked. “Only if it’s you doing the stepping.” She straddled him properly, causing both of them to moan. “We have an entire morning to practice, if you’re really worried.” The last was said on a sigh, her back arching sweetly when Nathaniel pressed up and into her. He swiftly sat up, guiding her legs around his hips with his free hand, his other hand pulling her nightgown the rest of the way over her head.

“Wouldn’t you rather be dancing with Teagan?” he asked, gritting his teeth when she moved in a manner she knew drove him crazy. He snapped his hips up sharply in response, loving the way her mouth opened on a silent moan and how she involuntarily tightened around him.

She looked at him confusedly, her eyes glazed over in pleasure. “Who?” she asked, her fingers in his hair. She dragged him down for a long, lingering kiss and he smiled against her mouth. Tipping her backwards, he covered her with his body and proceeded to drive every thought out from both of their minds.

***

Moira sat at her old dressing table and frowned at her reflection. A maid had come in earlier and had helped her gather her hair into an elaborate hairstyle that was already tugging at her scalp uncomfortably. It was a far cry from the simple style she had brushed her hair into the evening she had been introduced to the nobility of Amaranthine, even if the dress she wore was the same.

“You look lovely,” Nathaniel said, standing behind her. He was dressed all in black, from his doublet with the intricate embroidery along the hem and sleeves all the way down to his leather boots. They made for a dramatic pair: the understated simplicity of his formal wear brought out the gold and greens of her gown. “Although I believe you’re missing something.” He dug into his bag until he came up with a wooden box. Opening the lid, he lifted out a golden necklace that Moira had only seen once before.

“You brought your family’s heirloom jewelry with us?” Moira asked, watching in the mirror as he fastened the piece around her neck.

He was again struck with the memory of his parents doing much the same thing and how happy they had looked. Shaking his head to bring himself back to the present, he kissed the edge of her ear. “I thought you might like wearing it tonight.” He’d always admired the gown she had on, especially how it perfectly matched the Howe family colors. “Is something on your mind? You’ve been awful quiet today.”

She bit her bottom lip, her hand going up to trace the teardrop-shaped emerald pendant. “Alistair asked me to stay here,” she blurted out, turning in her stool to face him. “He wants me to come back to Denerim for good.”

Nathaniel took a step backwards. “What?” He hadn’t been expecting her to say anything even remotely resembling what she just said and the news hit him like a physical blow.

She twisted her hands in her lap. “He told me just a while ago.” She had meant to speak to her friend first thing in the morning, but she’d forgotten all the intricate details that made up his daily life. By the time that all his meetings were over, it was nearly nightfall.

I miss you, Moira, he had told her. This past year hasn’t been the same without you here. And I don’t mean just having you here as my Second, but havingyou here, as my friend. I miss what we once had.

“But…” Nathaniel crossed his arms over his chest. “What of the Wardens? You can’t command us from a day and a half’s ride away. What of Amaranthine?” His mind raced, his thoughts scattering save for a panicked refrain of she’s leaving. She’s leaving me.

She looked down. “That’s why he suggested that I give the title of Commander over to someone that I trusted to do the job in my stead. Someone that I could entrust the arling to that I knew would care for its people as much as I’ve come to care for them.” She looked back up at him. “The only person I can trust to do the job is you.”

He shook his head. “No, I refuse,” he said, frowning. He paced the floor, practically glaring a hole in the stone. “Give it to Anders. Hell, give it to Varel. He already has the run of the place; make him Arl.”

“I love Amaranthine.” She understood what Alistair had been saying earlier that evening. She did miss him. She missed working with him, missed having him finish her sentences or handing him a document he’d been looking for without him having to ask her for it. She missed the quiet moments when they could joke around and just be Alistair and Moira again, not His Majesty and the Hero of Ferelden. She even missed Denerim, which had become her home for the better part of two years while they helped the rest of Ferelden recover from the Blight. And yet while she missed all those things, she knew that she would miss everything and everyone she had come to know in Amaranthine even more. “And I know that you feel the same way. I could never take you away from your home.”

“Don’t you understand? Home is wherever you are. I thought that I had lost you twice already; I’m not about to lose you for a third time when there’s something I can do about it.” He knelt in front of her, taking her hands in his. “Amaranthine or Denerim, I don’t care where you go; I’m going with you. I love you.”

She bent her head until their foreheads touched. “I told Alistair no. I know that I’ve only been there for a year, but the people there are my people. I can’t abandon them. I can’t abandon you.” She freed one of her hands from his grasp and stroked the side of his face. “I want to stay in Amaranthine. I want to make a life there, with you.” She took a deep breath and looked into his eyes. “I love you too; I’ve always loved you. Marry me.” He didn’t answer right away and a knot of dread gathered in her stomach. “Nathaniel?”

He stood, pulling her to her feet as well. “That was supposed to be my line,” he said thickly, holding onto her hands.

Butterflies fluttered in her stomach and she searched his face. “Well?” she asked, trying for a joking tone, but her voice cracked.

“It feels as if I’ve waited my entire life to ask you,” he told her. “But would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

The butterflies that had bounced about in her insides suddenly broke free. “Oh, Nathaniel,” she breathed, her lips trembling even as she broke into a brilliant smile and threw her arms around his shoulders. “I’ve waited for you to say that since I was a girl.” She broke away from him only long enough to pull the necklace she usually wore out from her vanity drawer. “Seeing as I’m going to keep with tradition and use my mother’s wedding ring, I’d like for you to have my father’s. He liked you very much; I’m certain that he would have approved.”

“I’m going to make you the happiest woman ever,” he vowed, crushing her to him. His fingers ruined the carefully constructed curls at the back of her head, but at that moment, she couldn’t bring herself to care. Laughing as he spun her around, she framed his face with her palms and kissed him, slow and deep.

“Can’t you see? You already have.”

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
reconnoiterer
Jul. 31st, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
Happily ever after!! I have loved this series, and I have to admit I'm a little sad now that it's over. I hope you'll keep treating us over at nathaniel_howe with your fics!

I loved the dynamic right at the end of her thinking about the two lives she could lead, the two different types of love she's choosing between (well not really because it's not like it really has to be one or the other but still).

Also: Artisanal cheeses from the northern portion of Ferelden will be a big seller, even if I’m their only customer. LOL Amaranthine artisan cheeses!!
iceprincessd
Aug. 1st, 2010 07:00 am (UTC)
:) I'm still trying to figure out what exactly I want to do in a sort of short prequel (because Teen!Nathaniel makes my little heart go squee) but once I get things sorted out, I'll definitely be posting it over there.

Oh Alistair. You're ruling the country with your stomach again and we love you for it. His term as king will be forever recorded in the history books as the growing popularity of dairy farms.
reconnoiterer
Aug. 1st, 2010 07:02 am (UTC)
You're not the only one who has a heart-squee over teen!Nathaniel lskhdgls Just imagine his sweet little face!
ssrobajo
Aug. 1st, 2010 02:01 am (UTC)
I love happy endings. Good job!

Also, I'm going to watch Princess Bride now.
iceprincessd
Aug. 1st, 2010 07:01 am (UTC)
Thanks!

Zevran would make a kickass Dread Pirate Roberts, wouldn't he?
annikainen
Aug. 6th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
I feel like such an idiot! I'd COMPLETELY missed the update! And I checked every day! Wtf, I wonder. Now to read it then.
annikainen
Aug. 6th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
Awwwwwww! Now I'm actually quite glad I missed this earlier. I've been on a pretty lousy mood lately, mainly due to a terrible social shortage (I'm working in my parents' home town and I haven't seen ANY of my friends for two months. Some of them I miss so bad I start crying every time I even think about it. Not healthy XD)

Anyway, thanks for making life better with your wonderful writing <3<3
iceprincessd
Aug. 7th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
Being away from friends is really difficult. Hope you feel better soon!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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