Tabula Rasa – 5/5 – Vallon

Author: azzy
Title: Tabula Rasa
Rating: M
Fandom: Dragon Age Origins.
Pairing; Warden/Alistair, Warden/Zevran, Warden/Nathaniel
WIP 5/5
Warnings: Angst, smut, violence… big girl hat.
Beta: lisbet
AN: I named the Warden Hashim (Destroyer) Surana to avoid confusion, and for the sake of background story, which Mages don’t really have, I will make Hashim Soris’ brother, which would make him the City Elf’s cousin, and so he originated from the same Alienage. Because I thought, why come up with something when you can bend canon. – Also I should mention that I am messing with timelines. –
AND we’re at the end! – Thank you for reading along =)

Chapter 5 – Vallon

Hashim was sure that if he had not worn his warden uniform, he would have been ushered off to the kitchen or the stables. He had noticed how the guards had looked at him as he arrived at the castle. But they let him pass, and he made his way through the castle, walking up the stairs to the King’s private living space. He heard voices at the end of the hall. The two guards at the hall just nodded at him, and he nodded back as they let him through.

He was not exactly sure why he had thought that this had sounded like a good idea, and he desperately wished that he had not told Nathaniel that he was attracted to him. After all, wasn’t that what had gotten him into this mess to begin with? That he had told Alistair that he thought he was handsome? When would he learn to keep these trivial things to himself? Why couldn’t he ever have an uncomplicated relationship to someone like Zevran? He seemed to breeze through situations unharmed. Hashim took a deep breath and knocked on the frame of the open door.

Anora, Alistair and some nobles he wasn’t sure who was, turned around and stared at him. He felt like a horse in a pottery stall, with him in his armor, and everyone else in beautiful garments. “My queen.” He bowed slightly. “My king.” He bowed again.

“Surana!” Alistair cheered like an excited boy and hurried to the door where Hashim stood. Alistair stopped dead a meter from the mage, and smiled brilliantly. “I’m glad you made it, warden commander.”

“But of course, your majesty,” Hashim said, smiling a tiny bloodless smile.

“Come, meet my son.” Alistair took Hashim’s arm and dragged him to where the others stood.

Hashim looked down into the crib. The most astounding blue eyes looked up at him, before the baby gave him toothless grin. Hashim smiled and took his gauntlet off. His hand hovered over the baby and then he suddenly realised he had forgotten his place. He looked over at Anora. “May I?”

Anora nodded.

Hashim placed his hand on the baby’s stomach, grinning as tiny hands grabbed his thumb. “Hello there, my prince.”

“His name is Vallon,” Alistair said, smiling at Hashim who was completely focused on the baby.

“Excuse me; I have to make the last arrangements.” Anora kissed Alistair and left the room with the other nobles. Alistair wasn’t entirely sure if she trusted him, or was testing him. Alistair looked back at Hashim, who was still cooing at the baby. “You can pick him up if you wish.”

Hashim picked the baby up carefully, tucking the blanket around him so the baby wouldn’t be in direct contact with the cold steel of his armor. “He is… perfect.” Hashim looked up at Alistair, and to Alistair’s surprise, Hashim had tears in his eyes.

“Hashim…” Alistair said softly, wiping a tear away from Hashim’s cheek.

“You have a family now, Alistair.” Hashim looked briefly up at Alistair and then back at Vallon.

“I know,” Alistair said, caressing Vallon’s head. “It’s humbling.”

“Indeed,” Hashim said. “Maker, he is a tiny, delicate thing.”

“It suits you,” Alistair said with a loving smile, which just made Hashim look up in alarm, and instantly hold out Vallon to his father. “What?” Alistair said in a near whisper.

“Please take your son.”

“First tell me why you’re suddenly upset,” Alistair demanded.

Hashim cradled the baby back against his plated chest. “Why must you be so cruel?”

“It was not my intention,” Alistair said, saddened. “Perhaps it would be in poor taste to ask you how you are?”

“I…” Hashim bit his lip and looked back at Vallon. “I came here early for the festivities to ask a favour of my king.”

Alistair didn’t answer. He just stood with his arms crossed and looked at Hashim with his son, wondering why Surana looked so small and fragile. If you stripped him of his armor he would look like any other malnourished elf in the castle. Surana used to be bigger than life.

“I wish to resign from my duties as the Arl of Amaranthine.” Hashim didn’t look up at Alistair. “And it is my wish that the title go to Nathaniel Howe. He earned it, and will make you a better Arl than me.”

“Nathaniel?” Alistair blinked, confused, not even sure where Hashim and Nathaniel would have met. “I am not sure that -”

“Nathaniel is a warden now, just like – me.” Hashim said, more to the baby than to Alistair, “So there would be no change in the purpose of the Arldom.”

Alistair couldn’t have been more surprised if he had tried. “Nathaniel has never lifted anything heavier than a bottle in his life, and you are telling me he is a warden?”

“Yes,” Hashim said. “He is a good man, and every bit a better candidate for the Arlhood than I ever was.”

“You do realise who his father -”

“I know,” Hashim said. “But he is not his father.”

Alistair nodded. “But what of you?”

“I will… venture to the deep roads.” Hashim smiled at Vallon as the baby smiled back at him. “Yes I will,” he cooed to the baby.

“But… that is – ” Alistair placed a hand on Hashim’s shoulder. “Have you already heard the calling? That makes no sense.”

“I haven’t, no,” Hashim admitted. “But I – don’t make me explain this, Alistair.” He looked up at the king briefly. “Will you consider my request, or not?”

“Absolutely not,” Alistair said, with a hardness to his voice that Hashim had not heard in years.

“Very well.” Hashim nodded and took a deep breath. “Thank you for hearing me out, my king,” he added flatly.

“I thought you and I would leave the surface together,” Alistair said a little childishly, which made Hashim look up in surprise. “What? You don’t want to be my battle brother anymore? ”

“Of course I do,” Hashim said, studying Alistair.

“Let us make an oath,” Alistair said with a whisper. “When one of us hears the calling, the other will follow, whether they hear it too or not. For our final glory, and death.”

Hashim nodded. “I swear.”

“I would go with you now, were it not for my son. Surely you understand that,” Alistair said.

Looking down at the child who had now closed his eyes and was sleeping in his arms, Hashim whispered back, “I do.”

“There you are!” Nathaniel laughed, relieved, as he tore around the corner and through the open door, seeing Hashim standing with Vallon. “My King.” He bowed to Alistair. “Forgive me for the intrusion, I was just looking for,” he paused to catch his breath, “the warden Commander.”

“Nathaniel.” Alistair smiled widely, and waved him into the room. “We were just talking about you. What a funny coincidence that you are here.”

“You were?” Nathaniel walked over to the two men. He laughed nervously. “About something nice, I hope.”

“Alistair!” Hashim hushed the king with his harsh tone.

“It was quite nice actually… yes, nice would be the word which I would use to describe it,” Alistair said with a slight grin.

Hashim ignored him, and gently placed the baby back in his crib. “It was good to have a chance to talk to you, Alistair,” he said softly. “And congratulations on your son. He is beautiful.”

“Thank you,” Alistair said, watching Hashim and Nathaniel. “I am glad you both made it.”

“Wouldn’t have missed it for anything,” Nathaniel said with a measured smile that only a noble could pull off.

“We should leave,” Hashim said, looking up at Nathaniel swiftly, and then back at Alistair. “We will see you later, and hopefully we will have time to speak again, before we leave.” Hashim backed to the door and bowed. Nathaniel followed him closely.

Alistair stood back in the room, not sure what he should make of all this.

~*~

“Surana, tell me the truth,” Nathaniel said as they walked down to the castle gardens, waiting for the festivities to start. “Did you seek out Alistair to be relieved of your duties?”

“How…” Hashim looked up at Nathaniel in surprise.

“Because I know how your mind works, by now,” Nathaniel laughed mirthlessly. “So, did you?”

“I did,” Hashim mumbled, blushing slightly, ashamed of himself. “You need not worry, he rejected me.”

Nathaniel nodded in understanding. “I see.”

“What do you see?” Hashim barked.

“Is that how you deal with things in the Alienage?” Nathaniel asked, casually sitting down on a stone bench on the outskirts of the royal garden. When Hashim didn’t answer, and didn’t sit down either, Nathaniel continued. “Do you really make declarations of love that easily, and then try to run? If so, it’s a miracle that your species even exists.”

“I – ” Hashim choked on his words, and finally sat down gingerly next to Nathaniel. “I shouldn’t have told you, none of it – I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Nathaniel asked with a little smile. “For finding me irresistible?”

Hashim looked up at Nathaniel with anger written across his face. When Nathaniel laughed, Hashim didn’t move a muscle.

“Honestly,” Nathaniel said, as his laughter died down. “You never let me answer you back in the chantry. Was that because you were afraid of the answer, or because you didn’t want to hear it, so you could nest comfortably in your cocoon of martyrdom?”

“I… ” Hashim was a loss for words again, which annoyed him to no end. He hated not knowing what to say. “I guess a little of both.”

Nathaniel leaned back against the back of the bench. “When you invited me to come along with you here, I hoped it was because you wanted to be alone with me. I was pretty hurt to find out that it was just so I could inherit your title.”

Hashim hung his head. “I can’t do anything right when it comes to matters of love, can I?”

“If this is your normal procedure, then no.” Nathaniel said, testing grounds as he wrapped an arm around Hashim’s shoulders, pulling him close.

“I wanted to give you a gift. I thought I was giving you what you always wanted.” Hashim eased against Nathaniel, resting his head on the man’s shoulder.

“A year ago, that would have been true,” Nathaniel said, and then turned his head and whispered, “Back then I would have wanted your head on a silver platter, too, but now I would much rather have you under the covers with me.”

Hashim flushed red hearing the suggestion. “Oh.”

Nathaniel actually laughed.

“Stop making light of it.” Hashim pushed away from Nathaniel, and got to his feet. “Maker, I wish I could take those words back.”

“I wasn’t making light, I was laughing at your blush. Surely you have heard words like that before.” Nathaniel looked up at Hashim, holding out his hand to the Warden Commander in a peace offering. But Hashim was having nothing of it, and crossed his arms over his chest, just about to deliver some hard words. Just then, Nathaniel smiled sweetly. “Can I have your permission to woo you?”

“What?”

“Allow me to woo you,” Nathaniel repeated, his gaze steady and confident.

“Absolutely not! That is preposterous! You don’t woo men, you woo women.” Hashim’s lips thinned into an angry white line. “I am not a woman.”

“I noticed,” Nathaniel said with a shrug, not letting Surana beat him down that easily. “And I don’t see why you can’t woo a man.”

“You are mad! I don’t need help with getting on my horse, and I’m not in need of trinkets from the market,” Hashim argued, even if some of his anger had left his words.

“Are you sure?” Nathaniel asked with a little sly grin. “Humor me, then, and let me entice you for a fortnight.”

Hashim looked a little bothered, and actually turned around and looked out over the garden and the elven servants setting up the feast. “Do you really mean that?” he asked, feeling ridiculously vulnerable, but he needed to know.

“Yes.”

“All right.” Hashim turned around to look at Nathaniel again, giving him a shy little smile.

“All right, what?” Nathaniel asked, reaching for Hashim.

Hashim snatched his hand back as soon as he felt Nathaniel touch it. “All right, you can court me.” Hashim blushed again and laughed nervously. He clasped his hands on the small of his back, and cleared his throat. “Are you sure you don’t just want to go find a quiet place to fuck?”

Nathaniel paled and flushed and then shook his head. “Of course, anything else would be a lie.” He said licking his lips nervously. “But what will happen afterwards?”

“Well, nothing really, unless maybe we feel like doing it again some time.” Hashim shrugged, “Nothing wrong with admitting to having urges of a natural order.”

“Is that all?” Nathaniel asked. “You think it’s just sexual tension?”

“Maybe…” Hashim dragged his words, not sure what to say. “I don’t know… Look…” He looked seriously at Nathaniel. “I have no reason whatsoever to think it anything else. But as I said, we can fool around until something better comes along on your dance card. That is all right.” He smiled a brilliant smile at his seated companion, holding out a hand to Nathaniel. “Come on, then.” Nathaniel didn’t take the outstretched hand, and gradually Hashim let it fall, until it hung limply at his side. He didn’t know what to say, and fidgeted with a clasp on his breastplate. “I shouldn’t have said that either, Maker…” He looked up into the sky. “I keep getting this wrong.” He took a deep breath and bowed lightly to Nathaniel. “We can talk later at the feast. Hopefully it shall be less – awkward.” He turned and started walking away from the corner of the royal garden, the bench, and Nathaniel.

“You really think that little of yourself?” Nathaniel called after him.

Hashim didn’t stop. He kept walking toward the gates; he had had enough of making a giant idiot out of himself. He had entertained the idea of Nathaniel courting him for a second. It sounded nice. He smiled as he walked, imagining Nathaniel bringing him flowers and lifting him down from his horse. He had scoffed out loud at the very idea, but he had to admit that he secretly would love it. He would absolutely love the attention. He would, of course, always deny it, but he would soak it up like a sponge. But he knew better. Nathaniel was a Howe, he was a noble, and no matter how many Archdemons he slayed, he would still just be Hashim from the Denerim Alienage. Not someone you would parade off as your lover at social gatherings with other nobility. The people of Amaranthine had accepted him because their king said so, but he heard the muttering in the corners.

“Brother!”

Hashim looked up and saw Soris come down toward the castle with his wagon, sweating under the heavy load. “Soris,” he smiled and walked over to him. “Stop.”

Soris stopped and put down the wagon’s handles on the ground. “I said I would have this at the feast as fast as possible, Hashim. I don’t have time to stand here.”

“Let me help you, then.”

Soris looked surprised as his brother unclasped his breast plate and tossed his weapons into the back of the cart. “Okay,” Soris muttered as Hashim lifted one of the handles off the ground, and Soris picked up the other. “You do realise that we’re building a stage, right?”

Hashim laughed. “I don’t know the first thing about carpentry.”

“You don’t have to, to do what we’re going to do,” Soris laughed.

~*~

It was warm. Hashim wiped his forehead in his sleeve as he and Soris built the stage. He was glad that he had happened onto his brother when he did, otherwise Soris would either have built this alone, or would have had to find help amongst the other elves at the castle. “Soris, hand me some nails, would you?” Hashim asked, while he pulled his shirt off and tossing it aside. Soris handed him a handful from his utility belt, and Hashim was just about to start on the left side of the stage as he saw a shadow in the grass behind him. He looked up over his shoulder. “Nathaniel, what are you doing here?” he asked, eyeing Soris who looked very focused on his own work.

“What are you doing, Surana?” Nathaniel asked, puzzled.

“I’m building a stage with my brother,” Hashim answered acidly.

“Oh.” Nathaniel chewed his lip. “Need more help?”

Soris almost disappeared behind the low wooden crate they were building. Hashim stopped hammering and turned around, shielding his eyes from the sun with his hand. He smiled. “Would you get us something to drink?”

“Of course,” Nathaniel said, smiling back. At least it was a task he knew how to do. He felt like he should offer his help, but he was not much use with manual labour.

“Are you crazy?” Soris whispered as soon as Nathaniel was gone.

“Maybe,” Hashim grinned, “but I still outrank him.”

“I swear…” Soris mumbled something into his arm as he continued working.

Soon after, Nathaniel came back with a pitcher and two glasses. He filled one and handed it to Soris, who took it hesitantly, and then he filled one for Hashim and sat down and handed it to him. He held it a little longer than necessary and looked Hashim directly in the eyes. “You walked out on me earlier, again. It’s a very rude habit you have there, Surana.” He smiled sweetly. “Still, would you attend this party with me?”

Hashim looked down into the cold water. “I invited you to come, didn’t I?”

Nathaniel shook his head, placing a long-fingered hand on Hashim’s thigh. “I mean will you attend this party as my escort?”

“A date?” Hashim coughed. “I… we shouldn’t… what if…”

“Just answer me,” Nathaniel said softly, not moving his hand an inch. “I would love to attend to this party with you as my companion.”

Hashim looked over at Soris, who smiled like an idiot. “What are you smiling at?” he barked at his brother.

“You.” Soris laughed, “You’re still as dumb as ever.”

“You little..” Hashim tossed his water at Soris, which just made his brother laugh harder.

“Hashim.” Nathaniel said with an amused smile. “Answer me.”

“I – I..”

Nathaniel nodded sadly, “I understand.” He stood up and brushed the grass off his knees with annoyed swipes of his hands.

“Wait.” Hashim could hardly believe he was doing this. “I would love to.” He smiled a little shy boyish smile up at the figure in the sun.

“That is… ” Nathaniel raked a hand through his hair. “Where do you want to meet?”

Hashim looked over at Soris again, who was still chuckling. “At my brother’s hut. I’m going to help him get home with this cart when we’re done. You can come there.”

“In the Alienage?” Nathaniel asked, knowing his voice would give his shock away.

“In the Alienage,” Hashim confirmed. “It’s the third hut on your left when you enter through the city gate down at the market.”

“See you there,” Nathaniel said, trying to sound chipper. “In about three hours?”

“Absolutely.” Hashim smiled again before he returned to his work.

“I take it back,” Soris whispered after Nathaniel had left. “You’re not mad. You’re stark raving mental! A Howe? It’s fine that you want to share his bed, but why bring him to the Alienage?”

“He won’t come,” Hashim shook his head. “I know how that place makes him feel. He’s a noble, Soris.”

Soris leaned in over the stage frame, and grabbed his brother’s arm. “Sorry to tell you this, little brother, but so was Alistair. And still you cried plenty of tears over his betrayal.”

“Exactly,” Hashim spat, pulling his arm back. “Why should Nathaniel be any different?”

Soris shrugged. “I don’t know. And neither will you if you don’t try it out.”

Hashim nodded. “True.” He picked up the nails and hammer again. “So you think he’s going to come?”

Laughing, Soris nodded. “Judging from the way he looked at you – with bells on!”

“Oh dear,” Hashim whispered, mortified.

~*~

Hashim tried his hardest not to think too much about it. He leaned up against the Vhenedal and helped his cousin’s daughter, Alwa, braid her hair. She was chattering on about how beautiful the queen Anora was, and how the banners on the castle had pretty purple colors. Hashim hardly listened. It made him sort of sad that he was prettying her up for standing in the marketplace, or maybe just staying here in the Alienage slum and having their own feast for prince Vallon. The only elves attending were servants, and him. He frowned, Alistair had promised a change, but nothing had changed. “There,” he said with a smile, “pretty as can be.” He pulled her close to him and pointed up into the tree tops. “Look, when I was a small child I used to dream myself out of here, staring up into the branches. Almost looks like a different place if you squint.”

“Yeah,” Alwa said dreamily. “Uncle?”

“Yes?”

“Are you really going to the party at the castle, or are you going stay here with us?”

Hashim sighed and wrapped his arms around the tiny elven girl. “I don’t know, maybe I will just stay here with you and look at the fireworks and have some of your mother’s potato soup.”

“You’d do that? You’re crazy!” She was baffled and was about to ask something more when she suddenly sat up and pointed. “Look!”

Hashim turned his head and looked, expecting to see something like a dog that was stuck in a crate or something, but what he saw was Nathaniel who came riding into the Alienage. “I don’t believe it!” Hashim whispered to himself.

“He looks like a prince, too!” Alwa said with a childish cheer.

“He does, doesn’t he?” Hashim grinned, his smile widening as Nathaniel jumped off the horse, and walked towards the vhenedal.

“Surana,” he said with a smile and a slight bow.

“Which one of us?” Hashim asked, winking toward Alwa.

Nathaniel was confused at first, but then caught on. “Actually I had brought something for Hashim, but I think they are better suited for this young lady.” He turned and pulled something from the saddle, holding out a small bouquet of flowers to Alwa. “For you, my lady.” He smiled.

Alwa’s eyes went impossibly wide. “Flowers! Look, uncle! It’s flowers!” She carefully took them from Nathaniel. “They smell wonderful. I… I have to show them to my mother!” She sprinted off to a hut nearby.

“You made her day,” Hashim said, letting Nathaniel pull him to his feet. “I don’t think she ever saw flowers like that in her life.”

Nathaniel looked around. “I have to admit this place is pretty depressing.”

Hashim nodded and was about to say something when Shianni tore out from the hut with Alwa in tow. “Cousin Hashim, these belong to you.” She held out the flowers, leaving the pouting Alwa behind her leg.

“No, they are Alwa’s,” Hashim said.

“Are you aware what these cost?” Shianni huffed.

“I am,” Hashim blinked, unimpressed. “And they are Alwa’s. Please, cousin, I want her to have them.”

“All right,” Shianni sighed, handing the flowers back to her daughter. “I admit they are very beautiful.”

“We can use them to make the tree pretty for the party,” Alwa said to her mother.

“If that is what you want to do with them, then that is what we will do.” Shianni said, picking one out and sticking it behind Alwa’s ear. Shianni then took another one out and handed it to Hashim. “I believe they were meant for you,” she smiled knowingly.

“Oh… well, it’s okay. I have no need for flowers,” Hashim said, squirming slightly, now that more elves had come out to see what all the ruckus was about. “Not that I don’t appreciate the gesture or anything, it’s just…”

“Don’t worry,” Nathaniel said. “I can get you another one if you wish.”

“That was not what I… oh… thank you.” Hashim blushed slightly, much to Shianni’s amusement.

“Well, are you ready?” Nathaniel asked, not sure what he should do or say in front of what seemed like the entire damn Alienage.

“I am,” Hashim said in a near whisper, and he didn’t know if he should be mortified or get weak in the knees, when Nathaniel took his hand and gallantly kissed the knuckles ever so gently. He tried to ignore the exited giggle from Alwa. “What are you doing?” he whispered.

“I am appreciating my date.” Nathaniel shot him a sly grin. “Come on, let’s go.”

Just as Hashim had secretly daydreamed, Nathaniel swung up on the horse behind him, pushing close up against Hashim’s back to reach the reins of the horse. Hashim winked at Alwa just as Nathaniel wrapped an arm around his waist, while the other held the reins. The horse turned and slowly walked out of the Alienage.

“Hashim,” Nathaniel whispered, “they are going to have a feast in the Alienage? I didn’t know they did that.”

“They are,” Hashim answered, trying to ignore how good it felt to have Nathaniel pressed up against him. “They always did. I remember Prince Cailan’s birthdays when I was a kid.” He rested his head against Nathaniel’s shoulder and sighed contentedly. “Everyone chips in, putting away as many potatoes as they can, so they can make a huge bowl of potato soup for everyone. Sometimes it even has carrots.”

“Potato soup?”

“It’s a feast, compared to what they eat normally,” Hashim said, trying to keep the sharpness out of his voice.

“That’s horrible.”

“I know.”

“Potato soup is vile.” Nathaniel said, and when Hashim was about to turn his head to argue, Nathaniel saw his moment to kiss the long slender neck. “Just kidding,” he whispered.

“It’s not funny.” Hashim closed his eyes and wished that he would never have to get off this horse.

~*~

Nathaniel jumped down from the horse and held up his hands to catch Hashim. “Stop it.” Hashim felt an insane giggle bubble up from inside. But nonetheless, he slid down into Nathaniel’s waiting arms effortlessly.

They went into the Royal garden, and after a minimum of mingling, they sat down and watched the ceremony of Vallon getting his name, the Revered Mother blessing the little baby, and then his name was written down in the family tree. The dinner was uncomplicated and pleasant. Nathaniel was seated next to him and they had made light conversation, and Hashim had to admit that even if he had thought that it would be awkward, he found Nathaniel to be a pleasant conversation companion. Finally a band went on the stage that Hashim and Soris had built. Nobles would slip to the dance floor.

“So, Elf,” Nathaniel said placing a hand on Hashim’s. “Want to dance?”

“I don’t know,” Hashim whispered. “Might not be a good idea if you plan on getting back together with your own kind.”

“Excuse me?”

“These people.” Hashim gestured at the dancing, talking nobles.

“They are not my people, the Grey Wardens are my people. And last I looked, you were a warden as well.” He smiled, pleased with himself for making that point.

Hashim groaned. “You know what I mean. I might have killed the Archdemon, but most have forgotten, and the other half are not aware who killed it. I suppose they think it was Alistair.”

“Who cares what they think? You know the truth, and so does everyone else who was there that day.” He held his glass of wine to Hashim’s mouth. “Taste.”

Hashim gave Nathaniel a smoldering look, parting his lips to drink, and leaving poor Nathaniel biting his lip, trying not to make a very undignified sound. Hashim just smiled knowingly. “You asked for it.”

“I did, didn’t I?” Nathaniel said with a little laugh. “So, a dance?”

“Since you asked so politely,” Hashim smiled, hoping he remembered whatever dancing he had been taught at the Tower of Magi.

They may have been the most unlikely couple dancing, but Hashim thought that now that they were there, they might as well go all in. He wrapped his arms around Nathaniel’s neck and let him pull him close with warm hands on his hips.

“You’re a better dancer than I thought,” Nathaniel mumbled.

Chest against chest, they danced, laughing. A warm hand appeared on Nathaniel’s shoulder. “Do you mind if I borrow your companion for a moment?” Alistair said to Nathaniel.

“Of course, my King.” Nathaniel let go of Hashim and disappeared into the party.

“Walk with me,” Alistair said, guiding Hashim away from the party.

“I hope you are not going to lecture me, Ali- My king,” Hashim said following Alistair into the dark of the garden.

“I’m not,” Alistair said, “even if I have to admit that I am slightly jealous of your date.”

“Then what?” Hashim asked, puzzled.

Alistair stopped and looked down at Hashim in the dark. “I thought about your request. And I will grant it to you if you still want it.”

“I do, but Nathaniel doesn’t,” Hashim admitted. “It would be unfair of me to force it on him.”

“You didn’t think so earlier,” Alistair stated.

“True,” Hashim said, and he really wished he had an answer as to why.

“Good,” Alistair said with a little smile.

“I don’t follow,” Hashim said, confused.

“It means that you’re not desperate to leave anymore,” Alistair stated with a satisfied smile.

“Maker, Alistair!” Hashim groaned. “You make less sense than my brother, and that is not a lot.”

“So little Howe, huh?” Alistair laughed. “Who would have thought?”

“Don’t marry me off yet,” Hashim laughed. “I just agreed to be his companion for this party.”

“From the looks of it, you’re doing an excellent job,” Alistair laughed. “You are the talk of the party, and all you did was dance. Imagine what the gossip would be like if you were to kiss.”

“Alistair.” Hashim stopped dead in the dark in the outskirts of the party. “No matter how hard I try, I don’t think that I can find it in me to be your friend.” His tone was sad and hard, “And I just can’t… I can’t have this conversation with you.”

“I understand,” Alistair nodded. “And I admit that I might have been cruel, and that I resented you for this.” He gestured toward the party. “I was quite content just being a grey warden, being at your side. I had no need for this.”

“I was wrong,” Hashim said with a sad sigh. “And don’t you think you have punished me enough?”

Alistair nodded. “Maybe so.” He was silent for a moment, looking out over his own son’s celebration. “Yes, yes I have.”

~*~

Hashim has been drinking, laughing and dancing. He had enjoyed himself more than he had ever thought he would when he came here. He couldn’t explain it, but just to hear Alistair fumbling for a way for them to come to peace, it had been like the last shroud of regret and guilt had been cast away. Some of the guests had been outright mortified when Hashim had handed his drink to an elven servant. But Nathaniel had just rolled his eyes at it, knowing that Hashim was right. No matter how far Hashim made it, most of the nobility would never be able to see past his elven features. And they would always count him as less, and always expect him to do outrageous things like handing a drink to a thirsty fellow. Nathaniel had leaned in and whispered, “What do you say we swipe a couple of bottles and take them to your family?”

Hashim lit up. “You know what? That is an excellent idea!”

When they left the feast, they were stumbling arm in arm down the cobbled streets, singing a lewd song about a chantry sister and a farmer. Hashim fell to his knees laughing, letting Nathaniel haul him back to his feet. As he stood, he wrapped his arms around Nathaniel’s neck. “Nathaniel,” he said, still giggling, slurring slightly. He gave up on talking and just rose on his toes and crushed their lips together in a sloppy drunken kiss.

Nathaniel turned them around pushed Hashim up against a building without ending the kiss. “We shouldn’t…” he mumbled against Hashim’s lips.

It took a moment for Hashim to register the words, but when he did, he broke the kiss and looked up at Nathaniel. “Why?”

“I just don’t want you to think that I’m taking advanta – ”

“You’re not.” Hashim grabbed Nathaniel’s hips and pulled him close, close enough to feel Hashim’s erection beneath his leather pants. “I want it, too,” he said, smiling devilishly. Nathaniel sucked in his breath. This was not exactly the way he had expected things to go. He had imagined that he would cater to Hashim to soften him up to the idea, but when he felt the battle rough hands push down his pants, he knew that the time for wooing and preparing was over. This was how it was going to be.

“Here?” Nathaniel couldn’t hide his grin as he undid Hashim’s pants, too.

“Mmhhmmm.” Hashim purred, stepping out of his pants, letting Nathaniel lift him up and he hooked his legs around Nathaniel’s waist. “We have to be quick, before someone sees us.”

Nathaniel nodded. He turned his head and spat into his hand, smearing the spit over his erection. Repeating that two times, he figured it wouldn’t get much better. “I love the way you think, Warden,” he whispered, guiding himself with his hand.

Hashim licked a wet trail along Nathaniel’s chin. “Less talk, more action,” he whispered back, trying to angle his hips better for Nathaniel to push inside him. And when he did, the pain made Hashim grind his teeth, but the delicious knowledge of it being Nathaniel who filled him so, gave him goose bumps. Nathaniel pushed them up against the wall again, holding on to the wall with one hand, and taking Hashim’s rapidly decreasing erection in his hand, pumping it none too gently. Hashim clung to Nathaniel, moaning as Nathaniel finally started thrusting. “Shit…” Nathaniel panted. “This won’t work…”

Hashim let go of Nathaniel and for a second lost the body contact, as he turned around and placed a hand against the wall. Nathaniel caught on and wrapped an arm around Hashim’s waist, moaning softly as Hashim reached back and impatiently pulled him closer. “Maker… yes,” Hashim gasped.

Nathaniel knew they had to be quick about it, and grabbed hold of Hashim’s hips, fucking the elf under him with ruthless abandon, and judging from the way Hashim’s voice, hoarse from drinking and singing, would moan and mewl, he knew it was just what his lover wanted.

It took about as long to get their pants on, as it had done to get them off, because they were still kissing and touching while they tried to get dressed. Flushed and grinning, they made their way out of the alley. They had to find a proper bed, but at least they didn’t have to hide their true motives anymore.

End-

EPILOGUE:

Hashim had been a little hesitant at first, if not directly mortified. But Nathaniel had taken absolute delight in offending as many nobles as he could with his newfound affection for the warden commander. And when they left Denerim at last, Hashim could have sworn that the only thing separating Nathaniel from the elves were his physical features. He was amazed at how many intelligent questions Nathaniel had asked, trying to blend in at the Alienage. Not that he would ever blend in, but Hashim didn’t have the heart to tell him. At least he didn’t offend anyone, and the elves at the Alienage, including Hashim’s own family, all seemed to like him a lot.

The trip home had been eventless, apart from them wasting too much time in camp. Hashim was worried how this would pan out once they were back at the Warden’s Keep. But all his worries were quickly smashed. Nathaniel acted no differently than he had in Denerim, if he didn’t count that the rogue moved his belongings into Hashim’s quarters without really asking him. Hashim could have been angry, but he was truthfully flattered. In Nathaniel, Hashim found the loyalty and companionship he had always longed for, and never truly gotten.

Hashim wet his quill and wrote, ‘Most strange are the places where love is found. It can hide in any nook or cranny, and a wise man would leave no stone unturned. Who would ever have thought that I would call a man of the Howe bloodline my heart? Not me. And who would have thought that love would grow roots beyond physical pleasure, or flowery phrases? I didn’t know that, and daily I thank you, Nathaniel, for showing me thus.’ He blew on the ink to dry it, and placed the quill back in the holder. “Are you done yet?” Nathaniel called from the bed. Hashim turned in his chair and smiled. “I am.”

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